Friday, May 30, 2008

Up With People

Today's Wonder of the World is...People Movers!
Like elevators and escalators and moving sidewalks.

We used to ride some really cool elevators in France. When you can see the ropes/chains in an elevator, it reminds you what a wonder they really are!

Kids know a good wonder when they see one, and most kids LOVE elevators.
They even like ordinary ones where you can't see the ropes.

Some kids are weird and like to flash their bare stomachs at the security cameras in elevators. And then they flash their stomachs to their dad, who is holding the camera.
Weird children.

Even cooler than an elevator is a dumbwaiter.
Here's one with a person stuffed inside.

That can't be comfortable.

Whenever I hear the word dumbwaiter, I think of this.

Don't you LOVE this book? I do.

Escalators are also amazing.
When we moved back home to the States, I had to retrain my children how to step on one and how to get off.

These look a little evil.

And then there is the wonder of the Moving Sidewalk.
Look. What a cute traveler!

My kids never just stood there on those things. They liked to dance, or walk backward, or jog ahead. (Yes, sorry, those were my children two-stepping past you.)

Moving sidewalks always make me think of this.

I thought I'd be like Daughter Judy by now. But no. I still walk my Astro--I mean Tanner--the normal way. And I like it like that.
But maybe someday.
There's always Tomorrow. Land.

Have a happy weekend everyone!
Love, Becky

PS. All photos except the bare chested one are public flickr photos that I downloaded when I should have been writing my book. Thanks, Arlette, Netters!, loudstyle, and Express Monorail!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Big Birds

Today's Wonders of the World are... really Big Birds.

But no, not that one. (Thanks random embarrassed children and Cliff.)

I'm thinking more of the kind I've been looking for down by the river.
Remember where I walk Tanner the Slobber Dog? (here)
I used to see blue herons there. Have you ever seen a blue heron?

Now you can, thanks to free spirit at flickr..

I've seen them gliding over our little ribbon of the Enoree River, fishing and enjoying the shade.
But now that Tanner is a big doggy, he makes a lot of noise when he walks, whimpering because I won't let him chase the squirrels and the birds and the cats. Maybe its the noise that keeps them away.

I keep looking, but I haven't seen one in months.
They kind of remind me of these.

(Thanks, McSkeletor.)

I have a thing for storks too, even if they didn't bring babies and work for Walt Disney or Vlassic pickles.

Before I moved to France I hadn't ever seen a real live stork.
I thought they all looked like this.

Cute hat, stork.

Then we moved to France and went to Alsace at Christmas time. That place is a fairytale land at Christmas.
We stayed at the ecomusee near Colmar. If you like, hop on over to its website, here.

It was one of our favorite vacations. I couldn't stop looking at those houses...until I looked up. See what's on the roof? And the chimney?

And look at this...

And this...

(Stork pictures in Alsace thanks to cpf1 and garethac on flickr.)
Stork nests are a definitely a Wonder of the World.
If you have any doubt, watch this video. What a good mommy stork and daddy stork. So tell me, who brings their babies?

And have a Wonder-ful Thursday!
Love, Becky

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Home, Home on the Grange

Today's Wonders of the World are...French Barns!
Remember when I did my post on barns? (See HERE if you want to relive the moment.) Well, my dream life has been going wacko lately and French barns keep popping up, so I'm going with it.

Besides, they certainly deserve to be called Wonders. See?

Mmm. Can't you just smell the garlic?

The French word for barn is la grange. Get it? Home, home on the grange?

Anyway, I took that garlic photo my very own self. Or maybe Todd did it. I can't remember. We found that barn full of garlic on one of our weekend hikes. Have I told you about our hikes? They were heavenly. They gave us a chance to get out in nature, see beautiful French villages, and tire out our three active children, all at the same time!

This is Ben on one of our walks. He is listening to a grasshopper he just caught. Click on the photo for a better view. You can see the beautiful Auvergne countryside, complete with vineyard, French barns, and the far away puys (extinct volcanoes.)
Oh. I just clicked on it and now I feel the homesickness flowing in. Shoot.

It was like strolling through a painting, as you can see. Those hikes were called ballades, public planned hikes through private and public land--through farmers' fields, or winding village streets, or who knows where. We'd hike just about every weekend, and on Sunday afternoons after lunch we'd see plenty of others hiking, sometimes grandmas in heels and skirts--the whole extended family. So fun.

And afterwards, there was much peace and quiet.

But I digress.
Back to barns.

Here's one from a field trip with my son's maternelle class to the farm.
That's a mighty big pig.

Here's another. That's Sam in the green shirt. You can see how happy he is in that barn. That's because they're about to cut loose and start to throw hay on each other--I mean feed it to the animals.

And here's a picture of the dairy barn. I wrote about this trip to the farm in French By Heart, and how the farmer let the kids drink warm milk right out of an old bucket. I wish I had taken a picture of Sam with the foam all over his mouth.

Ooh, have I got a French farm video for you. And it's all in rap. And it has a cow dressed up in a hat. What more do you want? It's amazing.

But first, take a look at a few more sights from our ballades. There may be a barn in there. Or

Have a Wonder-ful Wednesday!
Love, Becky

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Root of the Matter

Today's Wonder of the World is... Roots!

Isn't this an amazing tree? There's Sam standing in front of it. It's part of Falls Park, in downtown Greenville. The tree is surprisingly healthy and beautiful, clinging to the hillside like that.

I have always been amazed by roots. Haven't you? I remember sitting in biology class, staring at diagrams like this,

and it would remind me of roots and trees. Pretty soon I'd want to write a poem.

In my college botany classes, I learned all about roots and how they serve to obtain water and nutrients for the plant but also to anchor it to the ground. (Actually that's sort of a first grader's version of what roots do. I'd try to impress you with my college- level root knowledge, but I've forgotten everything I ever knew about roots, so let's just leave it at that, okay?)

You may remember that I have a high school senior and graduation is a little more than a week away. So right now whenever I see roots, I have this urge to think slightly cheesy thoughts about my Sarah. And about her friends.

Hi Katie! Hi Sarah! Hi Erin! There you are before Senior Sunday at church.
Back to my slightly cheesy thoughts, my collection of cliches...
Have we given her strong roots? Have we nurtured her and given her what she needs to grow? When the strong winds blow and toss around the soil in her life, will she stand tall?

Enough of that. Sarah is a strong girl, and I'm not worried about her. Not at all.
Well, maybe a teensy-tiny bit. A normal amount, considering that my daughter is such a together person and I'm a little paranoid.
I'm more worried about me and what I'm going to do without her.

But I'm not going to think about that now.
No, I'm going to focus on roots. Roots are not bittersweet. (Well, some probably are, but we'll ignore them for the moment.)
Roots do not leave home after almost eighteen years of being my buddy, even though they're ready and must leave home or it just wouldn't be healthy.

Roots do not make me search my messy purse for Kleenex at the mere sight of them looking so happy and grown up in their graduation attire.

Let's move on.
Let's look at some roots, shall we?

Remember these? The ones that look like a scary jungle spider, but are actually just asparagus?

And what about these beauties, bizarre as they may be?

Thanks acc78 on Flickr.

And here's another root that makes me happy.

Mmm. Ginger.

And last, but not least, North Carolina's Official State Vegetable...the Sweet Potato!

Hey, I think that sweet potato is smiling at us!
And it's got dimples!
Do you see it, or is all this graduation madness making me lose my mind?

Anyway, enjoy the roots in your life, whether you're eating them or stepping over them. (Be careful--don't trip!)

Have a wonder-ful Tuesday!
Love, Becky

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day!

Sarah says, "Happy Memorial Day Everyone!"
Actually, she's probably saying, "Whoo hoo! Mommy let me play with this stick that could put my eye out, and it has a pretty flappy thing on it that matches my precious outfit!"

That picture was taken back in 1991 during a welcome back cookout for Todd's brother Stu, when he had just gotten back from the first war in Iraq. Stu spent his time there riding around in a tank, talking to pilots, giving them information they needed to protect the soldiers on the ground. We were so glad to get him home.

On this Memorial Day I think of people like Stu, men and women with responsibilities and families who were willing to serve their country in countless brave ways.

I also think of Glen E. Kuhn, my maternal grandfather.
I wanted to find a picture to show you. My mom gave me several copies of photos of my grandfather, but I put them away for safe keeping, and now I can't find them. I wanted to show you how handsome he looked back in 1943. There's a picture I'm remembering of him in his uniform, with his hat slightly askew, smiling at my Granny Farley. He was quite a looker.

Glen Kuhn lied about his age so that he could join the army early. He fell in love with my grandmother, Sarah Mae, and they married, and then my mother came along. He was shipped off to France during World War II and he died on July 29, 1944, on my mother's first birthday.
Mom has has no memories of him of course, but she does have his trunk and several treasures from his life: his flag and his photo albums, a Limoges tea cup he planned to bring home to his little family, and several postcards he sent to my grandma and to her while she was just an infant. My favorite is the one on which he said that the war would be something to tell his grandchildren about one day. I've always liked that he thought of me and my brother Steve.

He's buried at the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-Sur-Mer, France. My family visited his grave for the first time when I was in college. It was powerful, seeing my mother stand before his cross, close to her father for the first time since he held her as a baby. I always felt sad for her that he died on her birthday, that the two days were so intertwined in her life, but guess what? On July 29, 1992, something wonderful happened. My son Ben was born! It's nice how things happen sometimes.

When we lived in France we visited his grave, and each time we did the experience blew me away. A guide would go with us to the cross and would fill in the letters with sand so that his name would stand out among the thousands of crosses. Then the guide would signal the playing Taps on the loudspeaker, and the minute the music started, old men and women all over the cemetery would stop what they were doing and put their hands over their hearts. Try not tearing up at that. It can't be done!

Once while we were in Normandy, we met a British veteran who had piloted a glider that landed at Pegasus Bridge and had helped seize the bridge. He told us his story, and I was so glad to listen. What a history lesson for my children-- and for me and Todd!
Here they are.

So today I'm thinking of that little old man and men and women like him, who served their country, those that died and those that live.

And I'm thinking of military families everywhere.
Families like this one.

Hey Stu and Swanee! Hey Mary and Kerry (my in-laws) ! Hey Amelia, Bailey, Cassie, and Jill.
Sorry that I had to use a picture from 1999 (?) to find one of you five together! The girls are all in middle and high school now. That's just ridiculous. We must take more photos!

Stu is an F-16 pilot and just found out Thursday that he has to leave again for Iraq today. Today! For four months.
To say it nicely, that's just the pits. Swanee is a pro at this now (this is his third trip to the desert) and will handle things fine. But still, it's four months.

So if you haven't already, would you say a prayer for military families all over?
We love them and thank them for their service and sacrifice. And we pray for our government, that it will only send them when absolutely necessary.

Have a great Memorial Day!
Love, Becky

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hail to the Chefs!

Today's Wonder of the World is my set of kitchen chefs!

I love these guys!
Look at them.
That Salt, he thinks he's big stuff, stepping forward like that.
Wait, I think he's saying something...
That's it! He's saying to stop in on Monday for my Memorial Day post!
Have a happy weekend!
Love, Becky

Friday, May 23, 2008

Toy Land! Toy Land!

Today's Wonder of the World is...Old Toys!

It's a wonder to me how happy I can get just by looking at my old toys. Like Snoopy Sniffer. With his felt ears. How I loved those felt ears.

This post all started when I couldn't stand how messy my office was (okay, I admit it-- I was really procrastinating rather than working on a difficult chapter in my new book) so I decided to tackle the junk piling up.
In the junk I discovered some old pictures!
Yey, old pictures! I abandoned my cleaning straight away and sat down for a look- see.

It's Christmas of 1969. Look, I'm pulling the string of our See and Say. And there's my Barbie case! With it's plastic-y smell. I LOVED that plastic-y smell!
And look! There's my plastic-y smelling doll house on the right side of the picture, the one that had a little elevator and a wall that could be snapped shut for easy carrying around my house! I carried that thing everywhere!

Since I wasn't ready to get back to my writing, I started thinking more about that doll house. Here are the questions I pondered:
1. The house was too small for my tall Barbies. What kind of dolls lived in that house?
2. How did that elevator work? Did the elevator door snap shut? Or not?
3. Wasn't there a patio on the back from a little part of the wall that flipped open?
4. Why did all my favorite toys emit a strong plastic-y/vinyl-ish smell, and just what were those chemicals doing to my brain?

So I decided to do some research.


See! It's the same one in my Christmas picture! OH, the memories. I could smell the plastic-y/vinyl-ish heavenly aroma! I could see the little yellow crank that moved the elevator up and down. And the faux fireplace and the faux pond and faux walkway. And the bed that folded down! I LOVED that bed! (Here I go with the exclamation points again. Sorry. I'll try to calm myself.)

They even had a back view!! (I can't help it.)

There's the latch that you twist to let down the patio floor! And that cat in the tree and the dog in the window!
I felt such satisfaction. Such joy!
But what about the dolls that went with it? It's a Liddle Kiddle House. They must be Liddle Kiddles.

"I could get back to work," I thought, "but I will probably blog about this. I must find the dolls. For my readers' sake." (See how much I think about you people?)

Look what I found.
Liddle Kiddles!

I remember these Kologne Liddle Kiddles. (I am aware that I misspelled cologne, but that is how they spelled it. These toy makers have no respect for spelling. After all, they named it Liddle Kiddles.)
They're Kologne Liddle Kiddles because they had a scent. This one was honeysuckle, I believe.
Honeysuckle! I just blogged about honeysuckle!
I love when things come full circle. It fills some need that I have.

On my way out ebay's front door, I happened to see this beauty.

Our old chime ball for the bathtub. Do you know I still beg Sam to take a bath in the tub any time we go to my parents' house, just so I can bounce that chime ball around in the water and listen to the tinkly sounds before he gets in? (He's too big to let me stay in the bathroom while he bathes, but he does let me get the water ready. While I'm in there I play with the ball and the plastic purple cat that my mother still has that I used to bathe with. Steve, I want that cat someday. I'll fight you for it. Maybe when all the grandchildren are in their twenties Mom will let me take it home.)

The thought just occurred to me that perhaps I shouldn't reveal all this to you. That I still like to play with my old bath toys.
I'm forty three.
Oh well.

Here's something else that I probably shouldn't admit that I LOVE.

I will not explain myself.

And this.

Except I think we had a slightly older version.
Oh my gosh. I just you know what song this teaching clock played when you wound it up?
Ah, once again, I've come full circle.
(If you missed the blog on clocks and this song, you must click HERE. Otherwise you'll never see a Japanese man play the song on the slide-radish and that would be a tragedy.)

So there you have it. Happiness through old toys.
Did you have any of my same toys? Which toys were your favorites? Was your mother nice enough to give them to you, or did she hog them up for those darn grandchildren? (Grandchildren get all the fun!)
Tell me, tell me your toy stories.

(But before you do, take a look at this video. You won't believe it. The first minute is the best!)
Have a wonder-full Friday everybody!
Love, Becky

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Art of Shopping

Today's Wonder of the World is...
The Ability to Shop and Browse Through Incredible Art...In My Pajamas!

I love shopping in my pajamas! Or in my slouchy writer clothes.
(Thanks, random cute children in footie pjs!)

Or I could have titled this post...

In case you're confused like I was at first, this says "I heart etsy."
(The heart is taking a little nap.)

Now you probably know all about Etsy, being as wise and sophisticated (not to mention stunningly attractive) as you are, but I had never heard of it until I started this blog.

I started visiting nice people's sites, and on the sidebar of several of them there was a little sign that said something like My Etsy Shop.
I like shops, so I clicked on it. And oh, how I broadened my horizons!

I entered a universe full of incredible artists with all sorts of amazing art--collages, paintings, really cool jewelry, birds made out of found objects, even clipboards decoupaged with vintage sewing patterns. Can you believe that? I LOVE vintage stuff. I LOVE cool stuff and handmade stuff. I was in heaven.

Computer window shopping was fun. And addictive. Whenever I should have been washing dishes, I would sneak into my office and dart from store to store. The dishes piled up, but they always pile up anyway when I sneak in to watch TV. And Etsy shopping is so much more light-hearted than Hardball with Chris Matthews. I love Hardball with Chris Matthews, but a person can only take so much news.

So I lurked in the dark corners of Etsy stores from sea to shining sea, and even across the seas. It was so satisfying.

But then one day I saw this.

I swooned.

The necklace was featured on one of my favorite blogs, A Bird in the Hand, written by my new friend Colette Copeland. She said she had just added it to her Etsy store. I hopped over to her store to lurk, I mean look.
I couldn't take my eyes off that necklace.

"Look at this," I said to my husband, who had crept up behind me and caught me in the act of swooning.
"That's beautiful," he said.
"I know," I said.
"Let's get it for Mother's Day," said he.

And so we did! It was easy. All Etsy needed was my email address, and the account was set up.

I just realized I sound like an infomercial. But it was easy! As simple as ebay.

I went back to Colette's Etsy store and bought it. I was happy because I was getting a necklace I was thrilled about and because I had bought it from a real live person who writes a cool blog. My husband was happy because he had bought me something that I love, and he didn't even have to go to the mall and wander around aimlessly, which makes him depressed.

A few days later I received a package in the mail.
You'll never guess what was inside.

Isn't it cute? A little purse! With a cute tag! (Sorry if all these exclamation points are giving you a headache, but I get excited about stuff like this.)

And get ready for this...
Inside the purse was this.

Except it looked neater before I got all thrilled and unwrapped it and then tried to wrap it back again for you to see.
A little bird card! And blue tissue paper!
Okay, no more exclamation points. But really, isn't that darling? And I love my necklace. I've worn it almost everyday since I unwrapped that blue tissue paper.

I just may buy all my gifts from Etsy and artists like Colette.

If you haven't ever perused Etsy stores, you could always go to and search their directory for whatever interests you. But there are thousands of stores, so that seems intimidating to me. Allow me to direct you to some of my favorites that have merchandise at this moment. (Or at least they did Wednesday night when I put this post together.)

Colette's shop for my very favorite necklace, paintings, dolls, collages, all sorts of fun artsy stuff
Charlotte's shop for sweet cards, at the moment
Susan's shop for all sorts of artsy stuff--I love her collages. She made my blog banner. I'm a big fan.
Julie's shop the clipboards I was telling you about, and other fun stuff with vintage patterns
Jeanette's shop cool art made from found objects
Alicia's shop artist's aprons-love these
Britt's shop really interesting charms and jewelry
Grace's shop fun charms and handmade miniatures

And one more I just discovered...
Dollface design fascinating collage work

If you have an Etsy store that I don't know about, please leave a comment and tell everybody about it! And if you want to give a plug to a friend's Etsy site, come on and do it! Or tell me about your experience with Etsy. Or just say hello.

I live for your comments. (Did that sound desperate? I don't really LIVE for them. But they do make me happy!)

And before I go, here's an Etsy spot with Rachel Ray. It's delish!
Have a happy Thursday, everybody!
Love, Becky

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

But...It's Still Spring!

Today's Wonder of the World is a little scary.

That doesn't scare you?
It threw me into a full blown panic attack. Well, almost. At least I felt like hyperventilating. But I held myself together for the children's sake. I'm so brave.

Allow me to explain.
My minivan was beginning to look like dogs lived in it (really it was just one dog and five human beings,) so my dear husband wanted to take it on Saturday to a fancy car wash where they clean it inside and out. I am too cheap to go to those places. "Whatever happened to washing your car in the driveway?" I asked Todd, but then he said, "Fine, if you're really dying to do it." Then he looked at me.
I meant him, not ME!
So I sighed and sent them on.

While Todd and Sammy were at the car wash, my sweet nutty husband told Sam he could pick out any air freshener he wanted to hang from our rear view mirror. Any one at all.

First of all, this may sound snobby, but I don't really find tree shaped air fresheners to be very stylish or attractive. I'm already in a minivan. Must I dangle a fake tree from my rear view mirror?

I've tried telling Todd that tree shaped air fresheners distract me when I'm driving and might even cause an accident, but he never buys that excuse. I decided that I'd just have to live with the tree in the name of marital bliss. Besides, I do often haul around very sweaty boys with stinky feet. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad.

At that point I hadn't yet sat in my car.

The next morning we got in to go to church, and my passenger seat was enveloped by an invisible cloud of suntan lotion and salt air.
"What is this?" I shouted.
"Isn't it great?" said Sam.
"Mmm," Sarah said, breathing it in. "The beach..."
"Ahhh," said Ben. "It smells just like vacation. Did you know we only have thirteen days of school left?"

That's when my throat started to close up.
Thirteen days?
But it's spring! It can't be summer already! I've got stuff to do! I'm not ready! What happened to spring?

I do love my children like crazy, but I'm not ready for vacation.
That dern dangly tree.
If Sam hadn't picked it out himself, I'd sneak out there and fling it into the trashcan.

Then I'd replace it with this...

It's my favorite spring scent. (Okay, and summer too.) I get big whiffs on my daily walks by the river. It's heavenly.
I would cut a big bunch of it and hang it off my rear view mirror, but there's the bee problem. I'm thinking bees could be even more distracting than swinging fake trees.

I looked all over the internet for honeysuckle swinging trees but I couldn't find any. Shoot.

But at least Sam didn't pick one of these.

Yuck. I hate to leave you with bacon and sushi breath.


Go HERE, and watch the kids explain how to "eat" honeysuckle. It will bring back memories. Or if you have no honeysuckle memories (are there people like that? Poor people!) it will make you want to create some.

Have a wonder-ful Wednesday, everybody!
Love, Becky