The Amazing Barking Bean

Bean hasn’t been very well this week. She seemed a bit low at first, sleeping more, playing less, regressing in some of her behaviors. Then the coughing started– deep, wet, angry coughs that leave her exhausted and whimpering. That wake her (and us) up at night. That make us both stop what we’re doing when we hear her, to make sure she won’t vomit anything up.

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This morning, the fourth day of the Cough, T. took her to the doctor’s office. The kindly pediatrician asked Bean how she was feeling. T explained that Bean isn’t super-verbal, owing to the autism, and the pediatrician looked at her notes, flummoxed. There was nothing about autism in E’s notes at our GP’s office. That could be read as a sign that:

  • The Worcestershire authority that evaluated Bean did not communicate with the Birmingham authority in which we live;
  • Bean has hardly needed the doctor in her five years of life (at least not since her debut).

We’ll focus on point two, because we like to stay positive around here. Anyway, she now has an updated file down at the GP’s and an amoxicillin prescription. She went to bed with much less barking tonight– though she had lost her voice, and sounds like she’s been smoking 20 a day since she was capable of holding her head up. We’ll prop her up outside tomorrow and see if the sunshine helps the healing process.

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If that doesn’t work, there’s always ice cream.

Bean’s Screening Room: Sleeping Beauty (Walt Disney, 1959)

Vintage Sleeping Beauty poster art, property of Buena Vista Distribution

Sleeping Beauty shouldn’t be called Sleeping Beauty. It should be called Fairy Ganglands or Wandfellas or Maleficent’s Sweet Badass Song or something like that. Because, you know, it’s not actually about Sleeping Beauty. She doesn’t really do anything.  She has about as much agency in this film as Oliver Twist does in the book about him. Which is to say, none.

No, the story’s really about a wicked fairy who gets snubbed by a local dignitary, exacts revenge through a curse, and is ultimately thwarted by the interference of what can only be described as a magical sewing circle of ditsy great-aunt types. Like all fairy tales, it has the potential to be a really dark, gruesome story. In the fifty-odd years that have elapsed since the original release of Sleeping Beauty, Disney seems to have worked this out, so on May 30th they will be releasing a film called Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie:

Which looks all right, I guess. I would still prefer to see the original set of fairies hashing out the details of their assault on the Forbidden Mountain like mooks in a Scorsese movie. But you can’t have everything in life.

The original film itself is worth watching, though. Bean likes it for for the scary dragon at the end, and for its “danciness”– having borrowed heavily from Tchaikovsky’s ballet for the score, Disney decided that his animators should put a lot of balletic bounce into the characters, using live-action models who were also dancers in many cases.

And it really shows. I always marvel at how much better the quality of movement and character design is in the older Disneys than it is in the newer ones. Here’s Aurora and Phillip dancing to the “Once upon a Dream” ballad:

It’s just a joy to watch them all move: the animals, the prince and his horse, Aurora. Even though her feet are too small for her body, and her waist circumference is smaller than that of her head, she really has weight and balance like a dancer– she even spots her turns when she spins!

Additionally, her physical proportions are always constant and her looks consistent throughout. This consistency came at a cost– it took seven years to finish Sleeping Beauty, and its insistence on a kind of flat, modernist interpretation of medieval art turned some people off at the time. However, I think it stands up.

Compare that clip to Beauty and the Beast (1991), which was nominated for Best Picture:

Watch Belle in the scenes when they’re outside. Sure, she’s pretty, but her face and eyes don’t always look exactly the same from shot to shot, and the Beast sometimes seems bigger or smaller compared to her in proportion. The black lines outlining their figures seem sketchier– and not in the way that the characters in The Jungle Book were, either. There’s less discipline in the art.

Nowadays, computer animation makes it possible to keep characters looking like themselves no matter what, because you can build yourself a virtual model. And in the right hands, it can make for great fun:

(The dude with the potholders on his hands at 3:01 in that video will never fail to make me laugh.)

However, it lacks a certain charm, don’t you think?

 

Occupational Hazards of Parenting: The Earworm

I’m not talking about a literal worm in the ear. I am talking about the German ohrwurm: a song that gets stuck in your head. (Bonus unrelated German word: backpfeifengesicht, “a face that cries out for a fist in it”.)

Anyone is susceptible to the earworm. As a parent (or child minder or school teacher) you are susceptible to particularly awful ones. I can only imagine the searing groove songs like Hakuna Matata and Baby Beluga wore in the brains of parents unfortunate enough to have kids in the target audience at the time. I myself have lain awake many a night with the theme song to Peppa Pig going round and round in my brain. It literally goes like this:

Pe-ppa Pig!

[bink, bink-bink BINK-bink, bink-bink bink-bink-BINK-bink]

Pe-ppa Pig.

[bink, bink-bink BINK-bink, bink-bink bink-bink-BINK-bink]

Pe-ppa PIG!

[bink, bink-bink BINK-bink, bink-bink bink-bink-bink-BINK!]

Lately, however, the makers of music for children– specifically those making music for children’s movies– seem to be giving us a slightly better class of earworm. The Despicable Me movies especially:

(The whole song is here, and it’s pretty fab.)

You can also go the Devo route with the LEGO Movie. This song is used in the story as an illustration of mindless corporate pap, but it’s actually pretty catchy:

Plus the lyrics are kind of hilarious:

I feel more awesome than an awesome possum
Dip my body in chocolate frostin’
Three years later wash off the frostin’
Smellin’ like a blossom, everything is awesome

However, nobody does earworms like Disney. If you gather together any number of women who have raised (or who have been) girls in the last 25 years, and begin singing “The seaweed is always greener on somebody else’s plate–” 

You are very likely to get a sing-along going very quickly. I have found myself belting out Disney hits in the shower, chanting them on runs, crooning them as lullabies. And, most recently, horrifying my husband while cleaning the kitchen:

Name your children’s music-related earworms in the comments below, please.

Five Alive!

Well! Her Beanliness turned five in style yesterday, opening a few small gifts in the morning that reflect her varied interests (princesses, lego, and Spider-Man). But we saved the big gift for after school. Her current love is a show about talking trains called Chuggington. Until a year or two ago, you could buy a set of the three main Chuggington trains with track. They had an interactive component that made them “talk” to one another when you play with them, or react to some of the props in their environment– honking their horns when you roll them through a tunnel, for instance.

Spot the difference!

These playsets aren’t made anymore, but T. was able to find a few on eBay. As soon as she came in from school she knew what they were. This is probably because we still tend to talk about her as if she is two or so– discussing plans, remarking on what she’s done, etc.– and on one occasion while she was in the room, we had talked about how high T should bid on the one playset. I think he had also made a remark when one of the boxes arrived in the post, and she obviously noticed, because when she saw it, she said: “It’s the Chuggington box!”

And oh my word, this gift was a huge hit.

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She played with it, she talked to it, she narrated it– when the little red engine, Wilson, chirped “Wheels to the rails!” Bean added “Said the red Wilson!” T and I were pressganged into playing with her, and she happily tootled her trains around until a good fifteen minutes after bedtime.

Later that night, as I was going upstairs to bed myself, I heard Bean call out in her sleep: “Chuggington! Train!” I congratulated T when he came to bed: if she’s sleep-talking about her present, it hit the sweet spot.

Possibly slightly too sweet: this morning just after six, she woke T up so she could go downstairs to play with the trains right away. When I hauled my carcass out of bed forty-five minutes later, I could hear her squealing, “Traintastic!” through the floor.

She hadn’t even had her party yet. That happened this evening at a soft-play place. Nearly all of the children we invited turned up, along with a parent or two. Because I don’t do the school run, I had to introduce myself to many people for the first time. More than one parent said “Ah, that’s where Eve’s accent comes from!”

Bean is more of a natural hostess than I am, though. Having been to so many parties, she knew what to do. She greeted her guests and said “It’s nice to see you!” She even asked one boy if he wanted anything to drink. She waited until the end of the birthday song to blow out her candles. At the end of the night, she helped me hand around goody bags to the children and said “Thank you for coming,” to everyone, including many of the parents. What nice people we know!

It's all a blur, man

It’s all a blur, man

After everyone had gone home, we packed up her presents– two huge bags full!– and went out into the night. It was clear and chill, but with a smell of fresh-turned earth on the air. Off to the west a faint glow of twilight hung soft over the horizon. “Oh!” said Bean. “Mommy, Daddy, look!”

She pointed up at the sky, where a crescent moon hung bright among the stars and planets. “The moon is huge! What a beautiful moon.”

It is a beautiful moon. And a beautiful Bean. Happy birthday, Kidlet.

Five More Sleeps

I’ve been taking a trip down memory lane this evening while procrastinating researching articles for work. In the last 24 hours I’ve learned that

Neither of these things shock me quite so much as the idea that Eve is about to be five. FIVE. I was running this morning and the air tasted the same as it did the morning we left the house with my Mom, clutching the go-bag, tracking contractions, and chasing Quinn and Zeno back inside.

Seems like five minutes ago that we were celebrating her first birthday with cupcakes:

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It is delicious cake.

The party is a go: we’ve opted for an after school thing at a play place, sort of a happy hour for the under-sevens. We’re hoping a ton of her friends can make it. 

Beginnings of Word Play

Wordplay and weird jokes! They are dear to my heart, and my husband’s. Our lives are basically endless variations on this scene:

I’ll leave it up to you to decide which of us is Inigo and which is Andre the Giant.

While there are so many wonderful and precious things about the Bean, it has been hard on us sometimes that she is limited in her ability to use and understand language. Don’t get me wrong, the things she says are frequently hilarious, but it’s mostly unintentional. She twists up her sentences and scrambles her syntax, and it’s really hard not to laugh when she’s bellowing at you:

“Mommy is a nappy-poo! I am angry-mad Evey!”

 

I'm a Tigerrrrrrrr

I am a scary tiger!

However, we think there are glimmers of hope. On a recent car journey, Bean was in the back, happily singing about the Gingerbread Man. You know:

Run, run, as fast as you can

You can’t catch me, I’m the Gingerbread Man!

She is big on repetition, and she repeated this, I don’t know, several dozen times– we learn to let it wash over us. Then she started riffing:

Run, run, as fast as you can

You can’t catch me, I’m the Banana Man!

Trev and I both laughed and praised her. Then we tried to get her to do a bit more: Ice Cream Man! Sausage Man! Fish Finger Man! She told us we were silly, or that we were too noisy, and to “stop talking now, please.”

So we lapsed back into silence. After a few moments, she started up again:

Run, run, as fast as you can

You can’t catch me, I’m a Biscuit Man!

We’re going places, people.