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.


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.


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.

Jolly Old St. Nicholas

I’ve been thinking deep, profound thoughts about Santa Claus. No, really, come back.

While I am all for holiday cheer and celebrating Christmas, I can’t help but think that the entire Santa thing is sort of… well, a lie we’re all foisting on children. I’ve always been kind of ambivalent about whether I would go in with the Santa thing when I became a parent. I figured I would play it as it lays.

However, now that we have the Bean, it’s not very obvious how to handle this. For the first time this year, she’s really excited about and aware of Christmas. We have our advent calendar, our wreath on the door, our mistletoe sprig and cuddly St. Nicholas Day reindeer (thanks, Grandmama!) on the mantle. We are putting the little ornaments on the advent calendar tree every morning, and counting the remaining sleeps until Christmas.

Mistletoe looks better in a vase!

Mistletoe looks better in a vase!

To really drive the point home (and because I like bratwurst) yesterday I took her on a Mom-only outing to the German Christmas Market in town. Continue reading

38 weeks 3 days

Hello, far-flung friends and relations (and strangers brought here by Google), and welcome to our little family’s blog.  This is intended as a means of updating people who know us about how our baby girl (nearly fully baked and feisty) is adapting to life on dry land, and about our domestic state of affairs generally.  For Trev and I it will also be a nice way to record and reflect on our life as new parents. For Bean, it will eventually be used as evidence for an emancipation suit sometime in the 2020s.

The current plan is to update on Friday mornings (GMT), but I will probably write a few extra posts this week to catch people up on how the whole process has been unfolding. Also because I have nest-brain syndrome and find it difficult to think about anything other than Baby. My inner monologue goes a bit like this: “Baby baby baby Jon Kyl is a tool baby baby baby FOOD baby baby baby oh, another rejection letter, baby baby baby”.

I should clarify that our baby’s name is NOT going to be “Bean”.  She was the size of one when we found out about her– she is more of a watermelon now— and we used “Bean” as a gender-neutral shorthand for her. By the time we knew she was a she, the nickname had stuck.

There are some horrible names out there nowadays. I and anyone else who has spent time teaching in the last few years will have a store of doozies, and the story behind many of those names is that the parents wanted something “different” or “creative” or “unique”.  Most family members know that the Mr. and I fancy ourselves “creative” types and probably were worried that any offspring of ours would end up with names more suited to a pop star’s spawn, or else culled from the appendices in The Lord of The Rings, e.g.:

  • Arwen Lothlorien
  • Balbo Aragorn
  • Gandalfina Jeanne

But no.  I have a litmus test for naming children, in which you complete one of the following two evening news ledes:

A: “On Capitol Hill today, Senate Finance Committe Chair [First Name] [Last Name] met with Treasury officials…”

B: “Contra Costa County Police say they have apprehended [First Name] [Last Name], otherwise known as ‘The Booger Bandit’, following a low-speed moped chase through a church bazaar.”

If the name sounds reasonable in “A”, it’s a possibility. If it sounds more suitable for “B”, back to the drawing board.

Babies are not pets. We are happy naming our cats things like Quinn or Zeno or Sgt. Podge because they are small creatures with walnut brains that we keep around largely for our own amusement (if we’re going to be perfectly honest– though I would cry if something happened to them). Children are more important. They are here to replace us, hopefully in a new and improved fashion, when they mature. They may start out tiny and drooly and adorable, but they spend most of their lives as grownups. You don’t want them to be embarrassed every time they bubble in their name on a standardized test or sign their tax returns.  

Therefore our daughter will not be Heavynn Dixie Cup Judson but Eve Judson (a/k/a “Bean”) instead.  We really can’t wait to meet her.