Saturday, September 30, 2006


I was at yoga on Wednesday, which I love. My friend Jen is our instructor and it's an afternoon class with about 10 women. We were all reintroducing ourselves at the start of class. The intros came around the room to me. I said, "I'm Emily Dunbar" and the woman in front of me turned around; took a little breath in; raised her eyebrows slightly and gave an "Oh--" of recognition.

I know this Oh Of Recognition. It is followed invariably by, 'You are Pastor Paul's wife." Not this time.

To my great suprise she said, "Oh--you're Emily Dunbar, the singer."

And I cocked my head, looked down at myself to see if I was indeed Emily Dunbar The Singer, sat up a little straighter in the lotus position (okay, okay..half-lotus) and said, "Well, yes. Yes, I am!"

Friday, September 29, 2006

I've got a peg leg at the end my stump (shake your rump)

Halloween Costume Roster:

Phoebe: Lifeguard
Ollie: Mummy
Moses: Pirate

Oliver decided a year ago that he would be a mummy. That costume will be easy enough to whip up. Phoebe, after much discussion, decided on a lifeguard. She idolizes them. Everyday at the pool she looked upon them with stars in her eyes and wished she could one day be a lifeguard. It all seems pretty glamorous to a seven year old--the red suit, the whistle, the first aid fanny pack, the life preserver. Moses is prettty psyched about being a pirate--there is one problem though. He really wants a peg leg. If you have any good ideas for a faux wooden leg, please let me know. I said, "The only way I can think of to make you a peg leg is to actually cut your leg off, and we can't do that." To which Mo replied, "Well...maybe..." That's how much he wants one. He actually considered amputation. Now that's commitment to character.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Love, Logic & Spiderman Shoes

Last summer our friends who live about five blocks away went out of town and we took on the task of feeding their goldfish (singular). The kids took great joy in getting to be in Zip's house when she wasn't there and would have rifled through her drawers if allowed. Each day fight erupted when it came to who actually got to administer the flakes. Again, it was one measly goldfish, so there was no chance of everybody doing a little bit. Only one kid per day got to feed the fish.

On the last day of our fish feeding Mo really wanted the job, but alas, it was not his day. So when I handed the fish food can to whichever sibling's turn it was, Moses stormed out of the house. And I mean straight out of the house, down the driveway, and onto the sidewalk stomping toward home.

That's a gut check moment for a mom. Do I do what I want to do, which is leave the other two kids in the house go running and hollering after him, pick him up and drag him back into the house? In other words, exactly what he wants me to? Or do I stop and remind myself that he is five--not two, this is a quiet street, it's a good two city blocks before he reaches an intersection and by the time he gets there he'll be settled down and will wait for us? In an uncommon moment of mental clarity I chose the latter. We fed the fish, locked up the house, and headed toward home about a block behind Mo.

He became aware of us behind him and chose to show his displeasure in this way: he stopped, pulled of his tennis shoes, threw them down on the sidewalk and kept walking in his stocking feet. How weird is that?

I will interrupt myself here and tell you that I am no parenting guru, but I have one. Our director of family life ministries, Vicki, teaches fantastic parenting classes. She has trained at the Love & Logic Institute and now teaches Love & Logic classes open to the community and incorporates it into adult Sunday School and Sunday School teacher training. Founded by Jim Fay and Foster Cline, Love & Logic's approach to parenting and classroom management has literally changed my life and the way I raise my kids. I can't recommend them enough. Here is how they describe their philosophy:
Children learn the best lessons when they're given a task and allowed to make their own choices (and fail) when the cost of failure is still small. Children's failures must be coupled with love and empathy from their parents and teachers.

So, a big Love & Logic thing is not to yell and lecture, but as they say, demonstrate empathy, while allowing a decision’s natural consequences to occur. And sometimes that is very very hard, because I can lay on a lecture as good as the next crummy parent. And it is very hard for ME to verbalize empathy in these situations without sounding sarcastic, which is totally unhelpful and unempathetic and is absolutely my natural tendency.

So, I checked my temper. I took a deep breath. I kept walking until I got to those stinky, worn down, shoes that needed replacement anyway and half formulated a plan. The first step being to step over the shoes and say nothing. I used the rest of the walk to figure out my next step, and the rest of the afternoon to sort out it out completely. That’s another thing I appreciate about Love & Logic -- AND -- about my kids getting older. I don’t have to know what I’m doing all the time; consequences don’t have to be immediate. My kids are old enough to remember what happened a couple of hours ago which gives me time to formulate a consequence (if one doesn’t happen 100% organically--but sometimes it does). The trouble is you have to think a lot, to make sure the consequence actually suits the choice (how would being sent to his room get his shoes back?). And you have to stifle the urge to solve all your child’s problems for them.

Moses did wait for us at the intersection. We crossed together and he ran ahead again but waited for us at the next intersection, which is one door down from our house. It was there that I said in my calmest voice, “It’s too bad you left your shoes back there.” Moses scowled. “I don’t think they’ll let you into wrestling camp without tennis shoes on. Man, that would be sad if you had to miss wrestling camp” We had signed Mo up for a two day wrestling camp at theYMCA, which he was desperately looking forward to. He stared blankly at me for a moment. “Well, I’ll go back and get them,” he said, still with a hateful edge to his voice. I kind of laughed and told him we couldn’t go back now, it was too late, those shoes were blocks away. “Well, then I’ll get them tomorrow when we go feed the fish.” He still sounded mad, but only slightly. I held my cards close to my chest and bided my time until we walked through the front door, safely in the house, and said as convincingly as I could, as though I'd just thought of it “Oh, no! The Johnsons are coming home tomorrow. Today was our last day to feed the fish!”

By now the anger was completely out of his voice as he asked, “What am I going to do?!” I told him I didn’t know but I was sure we could think of something and left it at that for a couple of hours, in part so he could sweat it out and also because I didn’t know exactly where this was going.

Later, I asked Moses if he had any money to buy new shoes. “No.” I asked him how people earned money to buy things. “Jobs.” I proposed giving him jobs to earn a new pair of tennis shoes. He’s only five so money doesn’t really mean much to him -- calculating the cost of shoes and a pay schedule seemed a bit much. Instead we decided that he would complete ten jobs without complaining or being nagged by the day before wrestling camp started and then we'd get him new shoes. So over the next week he picked up sticks in the yard, he unloaded the dishwasher, he cleaned up the basement--stuff like that. He did great. He completed his mission. He picked out some awful Spiderman shoes, that, were I spending my own hard-earned-money I would have avoided, but they were his hard-earned shoes, so Spiderman it was.

Flash forward two months to yesterday.

We’ve been having a hard time getting out the door on time. We’re never late. It’s not life or death, but I really, really don’t like the last minute dash and scuffle. I give a fifteen minute warning. I give a ten minute warning. Everyone is sitting around playing legos or picking their noses or whatever and then I say, “It’s 8:00! Time to go!” And the kids start running around and screaming, “But I don’t have my shoes on! “ or “But I don’t know where my backpack is!” It just doesn’t have to be that way.

So I instituted this rule: At 8:00 we go out the door, regardless of the state you are in.

That is very Love & Logic. There are simple, predictable natural consequences.

A few days passed without incident. Then yesterday Moses was very involved in building a lego dragon. He ignored my 15 and 10 minute warnings. I gave the “It’s 8:00! Time to go!” Phoebe, Ollie, and our neighbor Annie who walks to school with us, filed out into the yard. Moses ran into the living room, aforementioned Spiderman shoes in hand, laces still tied in double knots from when he yanked them off his feet (my pet peeve, by the way--not untying laces) and said, “But I need to put my shoes on! You need to tie my shoes!”

I bolstered myself for the wrath which was to come and said, “It’s time to go. I guess you’ll just have to take them with you and we’ll put them on when we get to school.” He looked at me with disbelief until I walked out of the house. He came pattering behind in his socks saying “I can’t walk to school without my shoes on!” “Sure you can!” Boy, was he mad at me. He growled. He stomped (rather ineffective in just socks.) He ignored my cheerful questions like, ‘Aren’t you lucky it’s not raining today?!” And, “Boy, what a good deal! This could have happened on a snowy day!” We got to school. He sat down on a bench and we got his shoes on. He ran and got in line. I tried to hug him, no dice. Paul & I waved goodbye to him and he turned his back on us.

Love & Logic is not for the thin-skinned, but it really works. Today Moses was the first to get ready and was waiting out in the yard at five till eight. Will that happen everyday? Absolutely not. Next week he may have to carry his shoes again, but he’s learning. And given the choice between being pissed that his shoes aren’t on and begrudgingly cramming his little feet in, grumbling while all the other kids wait and then having it happen again tomorrow -- OR -- letting him have one bad morning, but learning what happens when you're late….it's a no brainer.

If only I can keep that presence of mind when, in barefeet, I step on that prickly lego dragon that is left on the floor, or when they flatly refuse to go to bed…I guess we’re all learning….

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

wishes unfulfilled (what i did last night)

Lucky Number Slevin
wished it was
The Usual Suspects
(it was not)
Josh Hartnett

wished he was

Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles

(He, also, was not)

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Best Sunday School Questionnaire Yet

I often start off my high school Sunday School class with a questionnaire. They fill it out; I read each one aloud; they guess who wrote it. I admit, I often do this when my lesson is a little thin. I don't feel too badly about it -- fellowship is important, right? And it's fun for me to get to know them and it's fun for them to get to know each other better.

So, here is this morning's questionnaire. Please feel free to leave your own answers.

1. If you had a theme song, what would it be?

2. What actor would you want to portray you in the made-for-tv-movie of your life?

3. If you could do anything this afternoon, what would it be?

4. If you were a high school teacher what subject would you teach? (And you could teach anything--not just regular classes. Maybe you know good pick-up lines, maybe you‘re great at algebra--or-- maybe you know how to pick out the right shoes to go with a homecoming dress)

5. If you started a band, what you would you name it?

Here are my answers:
1. theses are the days - 10,000 maniacs
2. drew barrymore, i guess (gwyneth platrow just seems unrealistic...but so does jaeane garafalo)
3. take a short nap, build a fire outside, sit around, crochet, drink coffee and have friends drop by
4. open craft hour
5. the emily dunbar band (okay, that's a cop out. making up band names has been a favorite passtime for the past 15 years. i couldn't possibly pick ONE. that's why i'll remain a solo act).

Friday, September 22, 2006

why bother teaching non-violence?

When this is what lives in Mo's imagination regarldess of what Jesus, Jimmy Carter or I have to say. At least he understands the consequence...and yet he's gleeful....
Bow + Arrow + Poison


Wednesday, September 20, 2006

wedding decorations

I will eventually write something about the wedding itself, but in the mean time, here's how the decorations turned out. As always, I'm having a hard time posting pics, so even this portion of the wedding recap will have to be done in installments. I'm sure you're all on the edge of your seats.

The Head Table:
Jean's friend Elpi has a party decoration business, so the table clothes, arch & garland are hers. The plants and luminaries are our design.

We used white mums and variagated grasses still in their plastic green pots from Walmart. The luminaries are white lunch sacks with a canning jar (I bought about 100 from good will @ 35 cents/jar -- I just noticed there is no "cents sign" on my keyboard, I suppose it's obsolete now...wierd), a scoop of sand and a tealight.

On a side note, I just finished planting all those mums and flowers in my yard, that's a perk I hadn't really considered in helping with the decorations. Nice!

More luminaries. The number of luminaries seemed excessive, but once they were all lit, the room had a nice, soft glow.

Here's the grapevine chandelier in all it's glory. It's suspended from a big metal hoop that can be raised and lowered from the ceiling. The canopy is simple plastic table sheeting bought by the roll. The plastic is taped to the hooped and attached with clothespins to the balcony of the auditorium. We were planning on installing the canopy ourselves but there was a wedding the weekend before and the building supervisor left their canopy up --SCORE! We just changed out their chandelier (ugly) for ours (lovely).

Below you can see the hoop lowered so we can install the chandelier. It took forever to get it all straight. In retrospect I should have just assembled it on site. I'm glad my mother-in-law is very detailed oriented and took the time to even it all out. I was ready to just launch it up there and be done with it.

Good Morning & Welcome to Southwest Airlines

Two Things:

1) I am still recovering from a great but tiring wedding weekend. I went to yoga this afternoon and fell stone asleep. I had a dream and everything. So, pardon me, please, for not writing much. I'm going to get back into a groove here shortly.

2) Please listen to or download the song MGM Grand by Caroline Herring. I've heard her play twice and both times this song just killed me. I don't know what it is exactly...the slice of life quality to it...her going back and forth between singing and talking (like Nanci Griffith in Deadwood South Dakota)...or lyrics like "I've never staked a claim with the rich folk--though I am one." You can listen to most of it here or download it for a buck here (and won't it feel good to support independant music?)

photo of Caroline by me at Folk Alliance in Austin last February

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Chalk-Full of Kirkwoody Goodness

My Sunday School kids were all aflutter about homecoming--who has a date, who has a dress, which schools have their dance/game on which day. This sent me reeling down memory lane. As many of you dear readers know, at my high school (your high school) we did not have a Homecomeing Game per se, but the Kirkwood vs. Webster Turkey Day game at 12 noon every Thanksgiving. Three weeks prior to T-Day, the rival schools joined together at Friendship Dance. Both schools together at one location. Wierd.

I have two stories.

Not long into my junior year I started dating Sean, who I would have dated long before but he had a girlfriend (that sounds familliar). So, I bided my time and she went off to college and eventually we started going out. All was well. I really like him, we had a great time together and though we hadn't talked about it, it was customary to go a dance with your boyfriend. So I went looking for a dress. I found a dress, though in retrospect...yikes (if only I had a scanner I could show you a photo of this monstrosity).

One day I'm sitting at pommie practice (that's pom pon danceline or drill team...but NOT like cheerleading). We're sitting in Ms. Stein's room after having watched a video of our last performance....or waiting to watch one...either way. We're all sprawled out on the floor and gabbing, mostly about the upcoming Friendship Dance. I say casually to my friends, "Well, I have a dress, but not a date...yet." Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. Heidi, the captain of the pommies and, it is safe to say, the hot senior babe, upon overhearing this, turns around and says, "Huh...I have a date, but no dress."

"Oh?" I reply, "Who are you going with?"


And time stands still.

I see it now with Matrix-like special effects. We seem to freeze but actually plunge into super slow motion (and total silence) as the camera circles around us. Sean's name spills out of Heidi's mouth with that low gurgling sound of a record being played at the wrong speed. The word literally spills from her mouth and the letters form themselves into a bullet which then shoots, very slowly...with the camera still 360-ing around...straight into my heart.

Time and sound resume.

My girlfriends try to hide their gasps of horror as they quickly turn their backs and fall into mock conversation, not in abadonment but in trying to save me the embarrassment of witnesses. I manage some lame reply ("Really?" "Huh." "Nice.") to Heidi who seemed not to notice the sound of my heart creeeeaking out of it's rightful spot in my chest and hitting with a clang somewhere down in my bowels...or the blank expression on my face as I flip through the rolodex of facts in my brain and try to reconcile them with what I just heard. Strangely enough, she also seemed not to notice that I was dating her date.

It worked out okay in the end. It turns out it was one of those, "if neither of us are married by the time we're thirty we'll get hitched" kind of deals, where a couple of senior guys and a couple of senior girls who were all good friends planned over the summer to pair up and all go together to their last Friendship Dance. It was a deal struck before the previous girlfriend had even packed her bags for college. Or that was my understanding and I was fine with it.

I actually ended up going with Heidi's younger brother. I made endless akward jokes about Sean & I picking up our dates at the same time, or double dating, or whatever would milk the absurdity of it. "We could all get our pictures taken together!" It was fine. Sean and I dated for a year and a half after that...obviously no hard feelings.

But that was one of those moments, heightened by the hormones and emotions of being sixteen and maybe in love or at least totally crushed out, where the floor drops out and your head spins and you're left with the choice of falling to pieces or laughing your ass off. For whatever reason, I was able to pick the latter. And I still think it's a funny story.

It's senior year. Sean and I were either broken up temporarily or unable to go to Friendship Dance together because he was away at college. I was nominated to be Friendship Queen, which added pressure to the pressure of finding a date. I simply couldn't imagine who would ask me. I decided to take matters into my own hands and ask my very favorite boy, who is still my very favorite boy (husband aside), Nate.

Kids often asked the boy or girl of their choice to dances in creative ways. Girls were sent on scavenger hunts. Boys went to the parking lot to find their cars filled with balloons with shoe polish messages scrawled on the windshield -- that sort of thing. I decided follow suite in asking Nate.

Two things happened at every football game. 1)The Boy's Pep Club Officers would go down onto the track between the third and fourth quarters and lead a cheer called "Down to the River." Nate was a Boy's Pep Club Officer. Yeah, man. 2) The cheerleaders had loads of little rubber footballs that they would throw into the crowd when Kirkwood scored a touch down.

I caught one of those footballs and wrote on it with a Sharpie "Nate, will you go to Friendship with me?" and threw it to him when he was down on the track leading "Down to the River."

Now, Nate was my best guy friend. We had gone to school together since sixth grade. We did school activities and Young Life and hung out. When boyfriends and girlfriends, for that matter, were fickle or mean or just plain nuts, Nate was always there to hang out with and talk to. When I needed spiritual advice or encouragement or needed someone to kick my butt into line with a little straight talk, Nate would do it. And then there was camp. Enough said. Unless he already had a date, which I didn't think he did, I thought Nate would want to go with me. And we always had a fun time. It seemed like a good idea.

So, third quarter ended. The boys in their matching shirts (JCrew rugbies, I think it was, how very preppy & Kirkwood, I could almost puke thinking about it) went down on to the track. I was nervous and giddy. I stood up on my seat shouting Nate's name and waving until he looked up at me. I chucked the football at him. He caught it, then read it and his face lit up. "Score!" I thought to myself, excitement building. I raised my hands, palms up and gave him that... sort of..."SO?" gesture. He cupped his hands to his mouth to make a little megaphone..I took a breath and waited... he yelled, "WHO IS THIS FROM?!?!"


With a grand roll of the eyes I had to yell, "It's from ME!" DUH!

To this day I have no idea who he thought it might be from. Did he think I was playing matchmaker? Was I working on behalf of a third party?

There was a slight pause (eternity at seventeen years old) while Nate regrouped. He shrugged and shouted, "Okay." Ta-da! The not-so-big finish.

Again, I found all this hilarious. And again it worked out great in the end. We went to Chuck E Cheese before the dance. It rocked. In the year book photo of Nate escorting me up the aisle for the crowing of the queen (not me...wait till May and we can have nostalgic prom posting) you can see a Chuck E Cheese sticker still stuck on my dress (tartan plaid with a big black velvet bow at the neck!). Fifteen years later (15?!?!) I see Nate and his lovely wife Gina whenver I'm in town. And he's Oliver's godfather--all this despite his lack of enthusiasm at my invitation to the dance. Hey, now that I think about it, that night we doubled with our friend Stacy and her date Cam, Heidi's brother, my date the year before.

So, those are my two homecomingesque Friendship Dance stories. Nate or Sean, if you are reading, feel free to set me straight on how it really happened.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Nothing to Hide

I think it's time to let go of the Dudley Moore joke. I got my hair cut shorter and like it a lot better. Remember Northern Exposure? I always wanted Maggie's hair but I've always been too chicken. I'm pretty close now. I had this whole idea of waiting until I lost a lot of weight before I hacked my hair off, but I began to see that it just wasn't gonna happen. So here I am. You can't hide behind this haircut!

This is me in the triple door medicine cabinet before church this morning.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Let The Wedding Crafts Begin!

Exactly one week from today my sister-in-law Jean is getting married, or rather, having a celebration of marriage. They actually got married at the court house but the big ta-doo is next Saturday. It's going to be a hoot to have the whole family here. Plus, it's reason to go all out with the craftiness.

Today I made the chandelier for the reception hall. The pictures don't do it justice. And I'll post photos of it in coxtext--it'll make much more sense, and look a lot better than it does hanging from the rafters of my garage. It's three grapevine wreaths of graduating sizes, hung with wire and wrapped in garlands of flowers, lights and tulle.

I also made the pillow for the Ring Bearer (Oliver):

I put the finishing touches on a wedding day purse for the bride--crocheted with chenille and lined with the liner from the bride's maids' skirts:

And almost finished Phoebe's outfit (still need to cut and hem the bottom of the skirt). She and Mo are Guest Book Attendants. I made her a skirt out of the same satin as the bride's maids'. Her top is a reconned shiny t-shirt (instructions in this fab/crazy book) found in a bag of hand-me-downs one of our babysitters gave us. Therefore, this cost $0. I also crocheted her a shrug out of the same chenille from Jean's purse, I just have to sew the seam.

The rest of my projects can't really be done until the day-of. We're hosting the rehersal dinner in our backyard. So Friday I'll be setting up tables & chairs, colored luminaries, tiki torches, and these cool scrap-fabric "car lot flags". We'll also set up white luminaries and potted mums & ornamental grasses (which I bought today in the driving rain. I left my purse in my cart inside, kicked off my shoes, rolled up my pants and went outside in the Walmart Garden Center to buy 10 mums and 10 grasses, carrying them back in by the arm load and got totally soaked. The Walmart Garden Center employees thought I was insane--and boy is that gonna keep me up at night), plus the chandelier in the reception hall. Then Saturday morning, make the bouquets and bouteniers (sp?) and floral centerpieces. Sounds like a lot, but there will be all hands on deck.

The worst part of all this will be cleaning my house, specifically cleaning my bathrooms. Yuck. Want me to build a chandelier, make 8 bouquets and bouteniers, and host dinner for 35 in my backyard? I can do that without breaking a sweat. It's mopping the bathroom floor that will throw me for a loop.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Date Night

I pulled off a coup at our house last night. I orchestrated a suprise for Paul and managed to keep the cat in the bag. I'm terrible at surprises. I open birthday gifts as they arrive--no waiting until the actual birthday. I get so excited about things I'm making, giving or planning for others that I have to tell them right away, completely spoiling anyone around me's chance at having a surprise. But I kept my lips sealed on this one.

About four years ago we saw a musican named Jalan Crossland at the Listening Room in Hastings. He is an unbelievable picker (guitar and banjo--five and six string). He has a whole old timey vibe going. Many songs have a traditional feel but with hilarious and bizzare lyrics and a dope smokin' hippy bent. We bought the one cd he had at the time and later sent away for the newer one when it came out. We listen to him all the time.

Once I got my mp3 player up and running -- yes, I did get an mp3 player and I love it in an obsessive and perhaps unhealthy way -- Paul had Jalan in heavy rotation. About this time I got an email that he was going to play at the Bieroc in McCook. I hid said email and made reservations for the show. A couple days later Paul asked if I would go online and see if Jalan had any new cds. Of course, I'd already been to his web site to investigate such things. But I didn't tell Paul that.

So, I told Paul to take off work early on Thursday Sept. 7 for a surprise. And bless his heart, he just said "okay" and never asked another question until Wednesday when he wanted to know if we were leaving town and what he should wear. I arranged for the kids to go next door after school until their aunt Jean could pick them up after dinner and stay with them the rest of the night.

I told Paul right before we got in the car and -- HOORAY--he was very excited. The show was great. Dinner was good. We met some nice folks. Got to talk to Jalan. Had a great date, just the two of us. Despite having to drive through awful storms on the way home, the drive was fine. We rolled in a little before 1 am. Matt from the Bieroc made us lattes before we left and gave us an awesome coffee cake that we had for breakfast this morning.

I'm a little sleepy at the moment, but --hey--all the kids are in school.....I might...just...zzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

Friday, September 01, 2006

where i'll be tonight

a conversation in the van between me (e) and ollie (o):

o: hey, mom, did you know that sometimes at night i hear god talking to me?

e: you do?

o: yeah. late at night when i'm in my bed i hear him talking and i know it's not phoebe or moses or papa or you. it's god.

e: wow, what does god say?

o: i don't know really but sometimes he tells me about good things.

e: how does it make you feel when god talks to you?

o:, does god ever talk to you?

e: i don't think so, ollie, he has not talked to me with his voice so i can hear him.

o: well, sometime you should come in bed with me. we'll have a snuggle in my bed and if we wait a long, long time...maybe we'll both hear him.