Thursday, April 19, 2007

What we lack

No, I've not fully committed this blog to mirroring everything Tracey does and says on hers. Although I have to confess that such a move isn't completely out of the realm of possibility, considering that "You're copying me! Stop copying me!" has become a near-daily cry at the F5 household. Oh, the joy.

Also, on the off-chance that you haven't heard me giggling and shrieking about this from wherever you are, Tracey is coming to town this weekend for a rock-star celebrity visit and (this is big) is staying with us for the night. It's possible that Mr. F5 thinks I'm a wee bit off my rocker for opening our house up to a total stranger, but he's being a real sport about it. As if, you know, he had a say in the matter.

So tonight, as he is fully immersed in the challenge of recording his favorite songs (you can find his esoteric list here), and the kids are gleefully jumping along the length of the couch as I hack and cough and pray that the doctor prescribes me a large box of antibiotics tomorrow, I decided to launch Tracey's favorites game. Wherein I ask the children, separately, and with total disregard for their attention spans and levels of comprehension, what their favorie things happen to be. Here, with no editing, are their answers:

What's your favorite color?
Carter: Purple and blue
Katie: Brown
Spencer: DON. Yukit.

What's your favorite dessert?
Carter: Dreamsicle!
Katie: Pound cake (mumbled, with a mouthful of pound cake)
Spencer: Yellow (at which point I suggest: do you like ice cream? Ice cream, he repeats to me, with this incredibly hopeful expression and tone. D'oh.)

What's your favorite TV show?
Carter: Little Einsteins' Treasure (an episode with pirates and treasure that is watched with some regularity)

Katie: Little Einsteins' Treasure
Spencer: Green (What about Maisy? I suggest. He nods his head.)

What's your favorite princess?
Carter: I don't like princesses.

Katie: Katie (with a smile, and without skipping a beat)
Spencer: Green

What's your favorite food?
Carter: Pizza
Katie: Pound cake (still chewing)
Spencer: My mouth

What's your favorite story?
Carter: Racecars that talk! And My Truck is Stuck. (Two recent acquisitions from the library.) And Tintin. (Handed down with care and caution from his dad.)
Katie: Bee crocodile (Hmmm, I think. Do you mean Tumble Bumble? YES! she beams.)
Spencer: Red light

What's your favorite number?
Carter: One hundred!
Katie: Two
Spencer: Duddee (which I initially recorded as thirteen, until he pointed to Trey. Ah: Daddy.)

What's your favorite holiday?
Carter: I don't know. I don't like holidays either. (Really? I ask, and offer a brief definition with examples.) Oh, I like Christmas.
Katie: Halloween (after definition and examples are repeated)
Spencer: Green light

What's your favorite sport?
Carter: Football
Katie: Basketball
Spencer: Green light

What's your favorite kitty cat?
Carter: Marbit. A kind of cat we sing about at school.
Katie: John's cat
Spencer: Meow

What's your favorite doggy?
Carter: Muddy
Katie: Sarah's
Spencer: Ruf ruf ruf!

Who is your best friend?
Carter: SophiaandSauravandAubrie (breathlessly)
Katie: John
Spencer: Katie

Who is your favorite mom?
Carter: Aubrie's mommy (after interminable pause. What about me? I can't resist asking. Yeah, he allows; I try not to sulk.)
Katie: Nana
Spencer: Spencer (which I totally interpret as Spencer'S MOMMY.)

What is your favorite song?
Carter: Crazy Car
Katie: Peanut Butter and Jam
Spencer: Yellow

What's your favorite game?
Carter: Soccer (Is there a board game you like, too? I ask. He surveys the room and spies a box. Animal puzzle pieces! And begins spilling the contents across the kitchen floor.)
Katie: A chair game
Spencer: My jumping

What's your favorite movie?
Carter: Firefighter Dave
Katie: TV. I wike TV, Mom.
Spencer: A, B, C, D...

These three kids: I just love them so, so, so much. Even if I'm not their favorite mommy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sing a song...

Today, my houseguest-to-be, Tracey, chunked a gauntlet at my feet. The challenge, issued with little fanfare and not much muss, was for me to name my seven favorite songs. Well, allrighty: I love music. And this sad and dusty blog could certainly use an update.

The dig is that Tracey crafted this deceptively simple but absolutely perfect list of seven diverse songs that have crowded my brain and left me incapable of considering any other music ever recorded.

And then my fellow challengee, the divine Annie, rather sadistically raised the bar even higher by creating seven complete soundtracks of seven spot-on songs to complement just about any occasion or activity.

So now I have to whittle down the entire musical universe to seven harmonies that represent me, what I love and who I am, after these two birds have taken ALL THE GOOD SONGS.

And as I told Annie, the surest way to immobilize me in just about any situation is to demand that I choose something. What's your favorite book, movie, quote, hobby? Ask me any one of these simple questions, and then sit back and watch as my eyes glaze and smoke wafts from either ear.

So: deep breath. I won't attempt to choose my seven favorite songs of all time. This isn't my list for life or even for the week. It's just a mental soundtrack for this evening, as I'm feeling old-school sentimental and more than a little sappy, fueled by the traveling-husband blues.

Drumroll, please:

1. Move On Up: Curtis Mayfield. Impossibly cool and every bit as fresh as when it was recorded in the year of my birth. If this doesn't elevate your heartbeat just a little and bob your head up and down or side to side, well, then I don't know what.

2. Tell Me Something Good: Rufus. Please. Just: please. Every single time I hear this, I wonder: why didn't we name the twins Rufus and Chaka?

3. My Sweet Song: Toby Lightman. Bringing the tempo down a bit with this new-to-me torchy tune. You like Norah Jones? Cue this up.

4. Lenny: Stevie Ray Vaughan. There are no words. Literally. But it's the most lush and tender love song, played by the man who, in part, lured me to Austin.

5. Easy (As Falling Apart): Kelly Willis. Love her, love her husband, love her sister-in-law, and am willing to overlook the fact that she makes my husband's heart skip a full beat.

6. Watershed: Indigo Girls. This is the tune that plays in my head whenever my blood pressure soars for any reason. It instantly chills me out and soothes my frazzled mind.

7. Into the Mystic: Van Morrison. He has no equal, as far as I am concerned. And this song just soars.

Tomorrow I'll want to conjure up another list to suit a totally different mood and frame of mind, and I might post that one, too. But before I do that and pollute your head with any extraneous ear worms, why don't you post your list?

In fact, I'm going to tag some friends who steadfastly refuse to blog no matter how much I nag and needle them. Shigeta, Jenina, Debelah and TraBilCobb: report to the comment section immediately.

Oh, and mi familia loca: you didn't really think you were going to get off the hook that easily, did you? Mom, Ellie, Sar and Mar: let's hear from you, too. Remember: I know where you live.

And while I'm issuing demands and calls for action, here are a few more for you to consider.

First, something musical: we've been grooving to Pandora ever since my brother, John, brought it to our attention. So it was quite the bummer today to learn that internet radio is under new attack. Interested? You can get more information and, if you're so inclined, sign a petition here.

Second, something fun: do you know about the Blogger's Choice Awards? Neither did I, nor did I particularly care, until a few of my friends were not only nominated, but have beaten out significant competition to nab top-tier spots.

It takes a minute to register, but then you can peruse the best of the blogosphere to your heart's content and cast your votes where you may. And if you may, please consider Jen for Best Photography Blog, the aforementioned Tracey for Best Blog About Stuff, and the amazing Jenny, et. al. for Best Charity Blog.

Third, something moving: another blog nominee and fellow Southerner, BooMama, has an incredible story to share. It's a story that you can be a part of, by sharing your thoughts, your words or your offering.

That's enough out of me; now I want to hear from you. Songs, thoughts, rants: bring 'em.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Here's mud in your eye.

Here's a two-part quiz.

First, what on earth could I have done to warrant my marvelous mother-in-law sending us not only yesterday's impossibly large box of Chicago pizza love, but also a package of the Second City's most unbelievable cookies? Answer: I have absolutely no idea, but I am oh, so very happy. Love. That. Woman.

Second, what happens when your big brother, without any warning or provocation, decides to turn your sandbox into a moat? Answer: you respond with a mudfight so fierce and so filthy that the instigator is almost instantly driven away. To the victors go the spoils! Which, in this case, is an early bathtime.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Without much in the way of introductory conversation or doctrine, the kids somehow know: it's Eastertime. This year, we're hopping down the bunny trail to Nana's house.

Holidays like Easter get me thinking about family traditions. Despite scattered but well-meaning intentions, I haven't yet established what our standard Franklin Easter celebration should comprise. So I find myself in observation mode: what are typical Easter traditions?

Some are... well, fairly traditional: buy three times your average monthly consumption of eggs. The regular weekly debate about les oeufs: organic, brown, cage-free, enhanced with infusions of omega-3 fatty acids? may be shelved for this special occasion. Really, any plain, white, no-fuss eggs will do.

The eggs go home, where family members elbow for the chance to dye them shades never seen in nature, leaving the countertop scarred with irreversible fluorescent stains. After you gingerly arrange the still-damp eggs in your Easter basket, you may begin counting down the hours till you're presented with your own slippery plate of deviled eggs. Heaven.

Speaking of: there is, for our family, the tradition of going to church on Easter Sunday. Because we consider ourselves fairly nomadic, both geographically and spiritually, we have yet to settle on a church in Dallas. But when we visit Nana, we know where we're going. And we know what we're doing: singing the year's happiest hymns. A favorite Easter tradition of mine includes the particularly upbeat anthem "He Arose."

On the whole other end of the spectrum, I just learned of one Easter tradition that calls for a burial of sorts: planting parsley on Good Friday. Anyone?

In keeping with the times, some Easter traditions are electronic. If you're a friend of Shigeta Applewhite's, you can expect to be bombarded with e-mails this week, warning you that The Ten Commandments will be airing on Saturday, and that you will, as her friend, be expected to tune in faithfully and marvel at the shirtless majesty of Yul Brynner.

Me, I e-mail the same essay every year to a select circle of friends and family. It's a wildly irreverent observation of the cultural differences of holiday celebrations around the globe. And what I consider "irreverent observation," I suppose that some might call "vulgar and heathen," despite including a lovely, wide-eyed ode to the marvel of faith.

So consider yourself warned and please, direct all credit and blame to the fabulous David Sedaris. Then have yourselves a happy little Easter.


Jesus Shaves
from "Me Talk Pretty One Day" by David Sedaris

"And what does one do on the fourteenth of July? Does one celebrate Bastille Day?"

It was my second month of French class, and the teacher was leading us in an exercise designed to promote the use of one, our latest personal pronoun.

"Might one sing on Bastille Day?" she asked. "Might one dance in the street? Somebody give me an answer."

Printed in our textbooks was a list of major holidays alongside a scattered arrangement of photos depicting French people in the act of celebration. The object was to match the holiday with the corresponding picture. It was simple enough but seemed an exercise better suited to the use of the word they. I didn't know about the rest of the class, but when Bastille Day eventually rolled around, I planned to stay home and clean my oven.

Normally, when working from the book, it was my habit to tune out my fellow students and scout ahead, concentrating on the question I'd calculated might fall to me, but this afternoon, we were veering from the usual format. Questions were answered on a volunteer basis, and I was able to sit back, confident that the same few students would do the talking. Today's discussion was dominated by an Italian nanny, two chatty Poles, and a pouty, plump Moroccan woman who had grown up speaking French and had enrolled in the class to improve her spelling. She'd covered these lessons back in the third grade and took every opportunity to demonstrate her superiority. A question would be asked and she'd give the answer, behaving as though this were a game show and, if quick enough, she might go home with a tropical vacation or a side-by-side refrigerator-freezer. By the end of her first day, she'd raised her hand so many times, her shoulder had given out. Now she just leaned back in her seat and shouted the answers, her bronzed arms folded across her chest like some great grammar genie.

We finished discussing Bastille Day, and the teacher moved on to Easter, which was represented in our textbook by a black-and-white photograph of a chocolate bell lying upon a bed of palm fronds.

"And what does one do on Easter? Would anyone like to tell us?"

The Italian nanny was attempting to answer the question when the Moroccan student interrupted, shouting, "Excuse me, but what's an Easter?"

Despite her having grown up in a Muslim country, it seemed she might have heard it mentioned once or twice, but no. "I mean it," she said. "I have no idea what you people are talking about."

The teacher then called upon the rest of us to explain.

The Poles led the charge to the best of their ability. "It is," said one, "a party for the little boy of God who call his self Jesus and . . . oh, s--t."

She faltered, and her fellow countryman came to her aid.

"He call his self Jesus, and then he be die one day on two . . . morsels of . . . lumber."

The rest of the class jumped in, offering bits of information that would have given the Pope an aneurysm.

"He die one day, and then he go above of my head to live with your father."

"He weared the long hair, and after he died, the first day he come back here for to say hello to the peoples."

"He nice, the Jesus."

"He make the good things, and on the Easter we be sad because somebody makes him dead today."

Part of the problem had to do with grammar. Simple nouns such as cross and resurrection were beyond our grasp, let alone such complicated reflexive phrases as "To give of yourself your only begotten son." Faced with the challenge of explaining the cornerstone of Christianity, we did what any self-respecting group of people might do. We talked about food instead.

"Easter is a party for to eat of the lamb," the Italian nanny explained. "One, too, may eat of the chocolate."

"And who brings the chocolate?" the teacher asked.

I knew the word, and so I raised my hand, saying, "The Rabbit of Easter. He bring of the chocolate."

My classmates reacted as though I'd attributed the delivery to the Antichrist. They were mortified.

"A rabbit?" The teacher, assuming I'd used the wrong word, positioned her index fingers on top of her head, wiggling them as though they were ears. "You mean one of these? A rabbit rabbit?"

"Well, sure," I said. "He come in the night when one sleep on a bed. With a hand he have the basket and foods."

The teacher sadly shook her head, as if this explained everything that was wrong with my country. "No, no," she said. "Here in France the chocolate is brought by the big bell that flies in from Rome."

I called for a time-out. "But how do the bell know where you live?"

"Well," she said, "how does a rabbit?"

It was a decent point, but at least a rabbit has eyes. That's a start. Rabbits move from place to place, while most bells can only go back and forth--and they can't even do that on their own power. On top of that, the Easter Bunny has character; he's someone you'd like to meet and shake hands with. A bell has all the personality of a cast-iron skillet. It's like saying that come Christmas, a magic dustpan flies in from the North Pole, led by eight flying cinder blocks. Who wants to stay up all night so they can see a bell? And why fly one in from Rome when they've got more bells than they know what to do with right here in Paris? That's the most implausible aspect of the whole story, as there's no way the bells of France would allow a foreign worker to fly in and take their jobs. That Roman bell would be lucky to get work cleaning up after a French bell's dog - and even then he'd need papers. It just didn't add up.

Nothing we said was of any help to the Moroccan student. A dead man with long hair supposedly living with her father, a leg of lamb served with palm fronds and chocolate. Confused and disgusted, she shrugged her massive shoulders and turned her attention back to the comic book she kept hidden beneath her binder. I wondered then if, without the language barrier, my classmates and I could have done a better job making sense of Christianity, an idea that sounds pretty far-fetched to begin with.

In communicating any religious belief, the operative word is faith, a concept illustrated by our very presence in that classroom. Why bother struggling with the grammar lessons of a six-year-old if each of us didn't believe that, against all reason, we might eventually improve? If I could hope to one day carry on a fluent conversation, it was a relatively short leap to believing that a rabbit might visit my home in the middle of the night, leaving behind a handful of chocolate kisses and a carton of menthol cigarettes. So why stop there? If I could believe in myself, why not give other improbabilities the benefit of the doubt? I accepted the idea that an omniscient God had cast me in his own image and that he watched over me and guided me from one place to the next. The virgin birth, the resurrection, and the countless miracles - my heart expanded to encompass all the wonders and possibilities of the universe.

A bell, though, that's f---d up.