Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Fourteenth Birthday Interview With Righty





Here's Righty, laughing in anticipation at the idea of the sparkler candles being lit on his third birthday cake. He's always been so good at living in and appreciating the moment, someone who truly understands how to enjoy today. We are so thankful for his lighthearted, happy, creative, busy presence in our family.

What is the adventure you would most like to have?  Probably Will Treaty’s journeys from the Rangers Apprentice books series. They’re exciting and feel so real that I can imagine myself in the stories.


What would you like to do when you grow up?  I actually don’t know.


What's that going to be like?  I’ve not really thought about it recently. Normally I think about that but I haven’t lately.


What's your favourite supper?  I like so many things. I really enjoy the chicken vegetable pie we had for our birthday meal. 


What's your favourite cake or pudding?  Chocolate cream pie, and lots of other things.


What's your favourite book[s]?  Rangers Apprentice series, The Outlaws of Sherwood, King Solomon’s Mines.


Who do you like hanging out with?  My family, the Costellos, the Crawfords, Layton, Seth, Anna and Nathan. I like playing games with Grammy and watching movies with Grandpa. I like playing Chinese checkers with Nanny and playing the Wii with Grandad.


What do you enjoy doing with me?  Calling you ‘Mevvy'. Playing games and learning history together.


What do you enjoy doing with Dad?  Playing chess, working with him on the house, listening to him read to us.


What do you enjoy doing with Coo?  Having tea parties together.


What do you enjoy doing with Lefty? Playing chess and football [soccer].


What do you enjoy doing with Mr J? Play fighting.



What's your favourite thing to do on your own? Read a book, listen to music, play with my football cards.  

(Righty also loves to draw when he's on his own. This is his own version of Paddington Bear, created for Coo's Paddington birthday party earlier this year.)


What's your favourite family day out together?  Going to English Heritage sites or National Trust houses in England. Here in America, I like it when we go hiking in state parks.



What makes you happy?  Food.


What makes you sad?  When Coo cries.


What do you enjoy learning about the most?  Interesting facts, football [soccer] statistics, facts about weather and geography.


If you could choose any time in history to live in, when would that be?  During the time of the Roman empire.


Is there anyone famous that you'd like to meet?  The Brazilian football player Neymar Jr.


If there were any imaginary/pretend things you could choose to do, what would it be?  I would be someone who could disappear and hide in the forest, so that my enemies couldn’t find me, like a wizard or a ranger.

You can read Righty's twelfth birthday interview here.  Somehow we missed his thirteenth birthday, which is a shame, but never mind! 




Fourteenth Birthday Interview With Lefty





Out of our three boys, Lefty --pictured above at left :)-- is the one who is most likely to be leading the pack in every outdoor adventure. His planning skills are beyond my own sometimes! Whether it's a woodland walk or an afternoon of football (soccer) training, he has a wonderful gift for leading with grace and a genuine care for others. I am so thankful to be his mother and grateful for his presence in our family.

What is the adventure you would most like to have?  I’d like to be in a Sherlock Holmes mystery adventure, like in The Hound of the Baskervilles story.


What would you like to do when you’re a grown-up? I’d like to be a detective or a football manager.


What's that going to be like?  Exciting.


What's your favourite supper?  Homemade chicken and vegetable pie with sweet potato mash and green salad.


What's your favourite cake or pudding?  Homemade chocolate cream pie.


What's your favourite book[s]?  The Cats of Seroster, King Solomon’s Mines, and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories.


Who do you like hanging out with?  the Costellos, Joel, Layton, my family, people at the coffee house. I like hanging out with lots of people and being in a group, working like a team. Sometimes I enjoy just being by myself. 


What do you enjoy doing with me?  Talking with you and helping you with cooking or cleaning.


What do you enjoy doing with Dad?  Working with him at the house, having conversations with him about chess, football and other things.


What do you enjoy doing with Coo?  Whatever she wants to do.


What do you enjoy doing with Righty? Playing chess and football [soccer]. Arguing with him about everything.


What do you enjoy doing with Mr J?  Playing football [soccer] with him.


What's your favourite thing to do on your own? Playing with my football  [soccer] trading cards.


What's your favourite family day out together?  In England, I enjoyed it when we went to National Trust houses, looking at the old houses and having hot drinks in the tea room afterwards. Here, I like going camping together, and sticking it out in spite of the rain!


What makes you happy?  Food. Playing football.


What makes you sad?  When I have headaches. Sometimes when I miss England.


What do you enjoy learning about the most?  Right now I’m really enjoying our science studies and experiments.


If you could choose any time in history to live in, when would that be?  The 1930s and 1940s, pre and during World War II, because I’d like to have been a spy then.


Is there anyone famous that you'd like to meet?  the Queen.


If there were any imaginary/pretend things you could choose to do, what would it be?  I’d like to be a hobbit, eating hobbit food and doing general hobbit things like going to the Green Dragon Inn and being outdoors.



You can read Lefty's twelfth birthday interview here.  Somehow we missed out on doing his thirteenth birthday interview last year!

Friday, August 12, 2016

Eleventh Birthday Interview With Mr J



I'm so thankful for this boy.  He loves birthdays and every year, it's just that little bit more fun to spend the day celebrating him. 


His eleven years have been wild and crazy. Not every newborn boy has the privilege of putting up with older twin brothers, or keeping up with them as he grows. Mr J has made an excellent job of both, and he's survived!



What is the adventure you would most like to have?  I would love to go on the adventure from The Hobbit book, just like Bilbo. And I’d like to go into a forest to camp and survive in the wild.


What would you like to do when you grow up?  I’d like to be a farmer who grows vegetables and has chickens and goats.


What do you think that will be like?  It will be fun and peaceful.


What's your favourite meal?  Hobbit food (sausages, eggs, bread & jam, mushrooms, beans, tomatoes, chicken, apple tart and seed cake). I also like fish and chips from the chip shop.


What's your favourite cake or pudding?  Chocolate banana cream pie, baked lemon cheesecake.


What's your favourite book[s]?  The Hobbit, the Rangers Apprentice series, Lord of the Rings, anything adventurous.


Who do you enjoy hanging out with?  My family.


What do you enjoy doing with me?  Learning to sew with you, playing games with you.


What do you enjoy doing with Dad? Playing card games and board games with him. I like going out to eat with him and going bowling and playing mini-golf. 


What do you enjoy doing with Coo?  Making miniature hobbit houses, playing Lord of the Rings, playing with Lego and Playmobil together. 



What do you enjoy doing with Lefty?  Going outdoors with him, shooting bows and arrows, playing with figures with him.


What do you enjoy doing with Righty? Building Lego together, going outdoors with him.


What's your favourite thing to do on your own? Play the ukulele and the guitar, play with figures and cardboard footballers, sew, write stories and draw.


What's your favourite family day out together?  Hiking and camping.


What makes you happy?  Music, seeing other people who are happy, creating something, being with my family, playing games, seeing Riaan smile. [our friends’ eight-month-old baby]


What makes you sad?  People dying, people getting hurt, people having miserable days, when I break things or call people names.


What do you enjoy learning about the most?  Maths, history, languages, zoology.


If you could choose any time in history to live in, when would that be?  When Jesus lived on earth.

Is there anyone famous that you'd like to meet?  
Newton Faulkner [musician], Wayne Rooney [footballer], the Queen.

If there were any imaginary/pretend things you could choose to do, what would it be?  I’d like to fly, or be a hobbit. I’d also like to be able to jump really high, above the trees.



Mr J was born at home and you can read his birth story if you like.

You can read Judah's tenth birthday interview here. Our birthday interviews were an idea from Lauren, who blogs at Sparkling Adventures. They're a great way of seeing the changes that take place as our kids grow older, as well as noting the things that remain the same!


Friday, June 24, 2016

Seventh Birthday Interview With Coo

photo credit: Anna Frederick


This little girl is seven! She loves pretty dresses, fairy gardens, chocolate, dancing, and colouring. She loves her brothers intensely but holds her own among them with a fiery intensity. She loves being outdoors, reading and being read to, and "doing crafty things". Most of all, she loves it when we take time to slow down and listen to her quiet but strong voice.


What is the adventure you would most like to have?  
Go back to Wales.




What would you like to do when you grow up?  
Have a fruit shop.

What's that going to be like?  
I can eat all the fruit I want.  I’ll have extras and I’ll eat them.

What's your favourite tea?  
Cheese quesadillas with salsa, refried beans, and green salad.

What's your favourite cake or pudding?  
All of them.

What's your favourite book[s]?  
Roxaboxen, Laura and Mary series, Paddington series, Grandma’s Attic series, Children of the Forest.

Who do you like spending time with?  
My family.

What do you enjoy doing with me?  
Making cakes and puddings.

What do you enjoy doing with Daddy? 
Playing games in maths.

What do you enjoy doing with Righty?  
Having tea parties.

What do you enjoy doing with Lefty?  
Playing Lego.

What do you enjoy doing with Mr J? 
Jumping on the trampoline. 

What's your favourite thing to do on your own? 
Sit and read, play paper dolls.

What's your favourite family day out together?  
When we lived in England and we went to National Trust houses. In America when we walk to the cave at Spring Mill state park.


What makes you happy?  
Having a birthday. I love birthdays.

What makes you sad?  
Sometimes when people don’t listen to me.

What do you enjoy learning about the most?  
Maths.

If you could choose any time in history to live in, when would that be?  
When there were pretty, pretty queens about.


Is there anyone famous that you'd like to meet?  
Darcey Bussell.






If there were any imaginary/pretend things you could choose to do, what would it be?  
I would have a real, talking bear like Paddington Bear, who I would love and cuddle.


You can read Eve’s sixth birthday interview here.  Our birthday interviews were an idea from Lauren, who blogs at Sparkling Adventures. They're a great way of seeing the changes that take place as our kids grow older, as well as noting the things that remain the same!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Charlotte Brontë: a life (book review)







Published in the US as Charlotte Brontë: a fiery heart, this new biography by English writer Claire Harman surpassed all my expectations.

I've long possessed a keen interest in the Brontë sisters, not merely because of the unusual books they endowed to posterity. As a group of writers their ability to decipher human emotions and psychology is astonishingly acute for women whose lives offered very little in the way of human society. How did they grow into this and what influenced them? I was keen to find out and excited about reading this new book. 

Claire Harman has delved deeply into the entire Brontë catalogue of research, particularly the hundreds of surviving letters that passed between Charlotte Brontë and her closest friends. She spent hours at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, immersing herself as much as possible in the world of the Brontës, their home as well as the drearily beautiful surroundings of the rugged moor and the "strange uncivilized little place" in which they spent most of their short lives.

Charlotte Brontë and her sisters existed in a world --an entire culture of dependence-- that is almost completely forgotten in today's Western society. The reliance of women on the benevolence of their fathers and brothers was absolute, unless they were able to receive an education or marry. Fortunately for Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, their father was a Church of England vicar who was unusually well educated for a man who had been born into poverty in Ireland.  He made his way to England and never looked back, possessing a will to forge ahead and compartmentalise. This indomitable will kept him going through his wife's early death, pushed him to educate his children himself away from the "uncivilized" world of Haworth, and probably influenced his elderly manipulation of his surviving daughter Charlotte.

The pre-Jane Eyre part of Charlotte’s life makes for a dark preface to her future success. After being cocooned in a home environment that was marked by the oddly detailed creation of imaginary worlds with her siblings, she goes to Brussels with her sister Emily to round out her education. Experiences incurred here influence her writing for the rest of her life.

Upon her return home from Brussels, she and her sisters Anne and Emily embark on an almost feverishly intense quest to publish their writing. Here Jane Eyre comes into being, written in a fury. The three sisters finally publish their first books under gender-neutral aliases: Acton, Currer, and Elliot Bell.

One of my favourite scenes in this book is the one in which Charlotte reveals her true identity to her London publisher, Mr Smith. Chased by rumours that "all those Bells" were actually one and the same author, Anne and Charlotte set out to disprove the gossip by visiting London in person to prove their identity.  Wisely, Harman allows Charlotte to relate the story herself through a letter to a friend. After she tells Mr Smith she is Currer Bell, handing him a letter from himself to confirm it, he "looked at it-- then at me--again--yet again-- I laughed at his queer perplexity-- A recognition took place--. I gave my real name--Miss Brontë..."

What would pass for a cute "mistaken identity" anecdote in today's society was a profound shocker in early Victorian England.  What a triumph for these Brontë women who were so ahead of their time!

Any of us who have some familiarity with the Brontë saga are aware that their era was plagued by high mortality, caused by disease, lack of access to clean water, and poor nutrition. Anne, Emily, and Charlotte endured the sorrow of losing their mother when they were small children, and less than a year later their eldest two sisters died in short succession after virulent attacks of tuberculosis. Their one surviving sibling, Branwell, wrote brilliant poetry and attempted portrait painting but could not control his addiction to opium and alcohol. He died not long after his sisters' initial writing successes. Within months of his death Emily and Anne both died of tuberculosis, leaving Charlotte to care for her elderly father.

Claire Harman writes carefully and honestly about this time in Charlotte's life, adroitly avoiding a sense of melodrama that has pervaded other accounts of the Brontë family. The grief that controlled Charlotte's existence and the immutability of her beloved sisters' deaths is obvious without being overdone. Charlotte also had to endure critics who did not recognise her sisters' genius, in a total misunderstanding of the nature of their novels. In her newfound status as a bestselling author, she wrote biographical prefaces to new editions of Emily's Wuthering Heights and Anne's Agnes Grey in the hope that they would not be forgotten.

For Charlotte the next four years were marked by constant writing, most notably a rewrite of her first novel, The Professor (published posthumously) and her usual personal correspondence with friends. Shirley, published right after Anne's death, did not possess the brilliance of Charlotte's first novels. She was clearly feeling a profound sense of loss. I find this a telling clue that Charlotte's own creativity was fed and fanned into flame by the close proximity of her sisters, their ideas and intensity. I wonder what different novels we might be reading today if not for the fact that their writing burst from a creative bubble that collectively enveloped the three of them. 

In the final year of Charlotte's life, she married her father's curate after an intense period of emotional manipulation by her father, who preferred that she take care of him rather than marry. The marriage was finally agreed to under the condition that the newly married couple live with him in Haworth.  Just months after Charlotte's marriage, she died abruptly of what Claire Harman surmises was "hyperemesis gravidarum" --an unusual condition of pregnancy that causes the sufferer intense sickness: in the 1850's, virtually a death sentence.

As in the case of Jane Austen, I've always wondered: what would Charlotte have written had she lived into old age?  

"Of all the subjects I have written about, hers is the most unquiet ghost," Claire Harman says of Charlotte Brontë. 

And as much as I enjoyed this biography, indeed, I finish reading it with a sense of "unquiet".

Charlotte Brontë: a fiery heart@ Barnes & Noble.com

Charlotte Brontë: a life @ Waterstones.com


Related post: read my review of 2011 Jane Eyre film