Beatrix Potting

Part 2: The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin.

In essence, the is a respect-your-elders-or-face-the-consequences morality story.  In a nutshell (Get it?  Nudge, nudge.), while all the other squirrels are working hard collecting nuts and paying respect to the old owl who guards said nuts, Squirrel Nutkin is acting childish, avoiding work, telling nonsensical rhymes, playing games and generally disrespecting the owl.  This goes on until the owl has enough and decides to eat him instead of one of the offerings.

But, the tale does not end there, Beatrix Potter interjects.  It has a happy ending:  Squirrel Nutkin escapes from the owl by snapping his tale in half and being scarred for life, no longer able to speak, instead talking in broken, stuttering sounds.

Like Peter Rabbit, this is a story about an anthropomorphized animal child coming face to face with the reality of the world and embracing the natural timidity of their species.  But whereas Peter Rabbit involved nudity to achieve this end, Squirrel Nutkin ups the ante by incorporating dismemberment and post-traumatic stress.  Thus far it appears that in the world of Beatrix Potter, children are stupid, irritating things constantly on the verge of annihilation and adults are scarred husks, beaten (practically literally!) into conformity.


Pooh Thoughts

While Elisabeth was pregnant, I read Winnie The Pooh to her stomach.  I'm fairly well versed in Winnie the Pooh and didn't feel the need to comment on it.  Also, I was lazy.

With Henry's bedtime routine fairly set in stone now, I've been reading to him every night.  We plowed through Beedle the Bard fairly quickly as I wasn't very good at picking up on his I Want To Go To Bed Right Now signals and read to him for far too long.  The House on Pooh Corner has been a bit of a long slog but last night we finally got through it.  what really stood out for me was how different it was to the first book, especially as I realized while reading it that I'd never read it before.  These are my random and poorly developed thoughts on it:

1) Walt Disney ruined Pooh.  A.A. Milne's characters are so strongly realized (And linked to the original illustrations) that when reading Pooh, there's a weird dichotomy where it's easy to confuse the two interpretations.  I'm happy that I never watched the cartoons beyond the original adaptations because it would mess with my brain too much.  Like Harry Potter, this is something I'd like Henry to experience before he watches the movie (fat chance!)

2) A.A. Milne got the 'Pooh' double entendre and used it to excellent effect, never milking it.

3) While the first book is filled with the whimsy of childhood, Pooh Corner focuses on the confusion of growing up.  The animals bicker about who is smarter; Christopher Robin is absent and becoming Educated while the animals feel threatened, not just by Tigger's sudden arrival but by Pooh and Piglet's perceived stupidity.  All the while those who claim to have something other than fluff for brains come across as curmudgeonly, dull, petty and, in the end, dumb.

This is a central conceit with Pooh Corner:  There is an awareness through Christopher Robin becoming Educated that the magic is coming to an end.  The animals are petty, bicker more, have an awareness of the dangers of the world and are jealous towards each other.  These are all externalizations of the fear an adult (A.A. Milne) would project on a child growing up and seeing less and less magic in the wonders of his toys and imagination.

Pooh Corner ends on an especially depressing note with Christopher Robin trying to articulate his fears and the reality of his leaving of the forest, accompanied by Pooh's vain attempts to understand what he's not able to articulate.  In the end, Christopher Robin gives up as neither of them are able to communicate any more.  There is a final promise that Pooh will wait for him for 100 years (Which I take to mean his death - at which time he might be able to re-cnnect with his childish ways) and a coda, almost as badly tacked on as the final chapter to The Deathly Hallows which promises, almost too desperately, that things will be all right.

At least that's how I read it.


Book Review

Elisabeth picked up the complete hard cover collection of Beatrix Potter (minus two books) from our local charity shop for a grand total of thirteen bucks.  The missing volumes are winging their way over to us via Amazon.  What follows is part 1 of a 23 part series in which I review in order (And, I imagine, become increasingly dismissive of) her works.

I don't know if I've even read any of the books in their entirety before.  Mom says that I didn't like them but concedes that she was the one who didn't like them and most likely never bothered reading them to me.

Part 1: The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

It probably does the book a disservice by reading it at 4:30 in the morning after only three hours of sleep to a five month old whom you desperately want to go back to sleep but has the Let's Play look in his eyes after you've spent ten minutes changing his diaper because you're half asleep and somehow the diaper keeps getting put on backwards no matter how you turn it around.  As such, the book felt quite long.

This is a vague memory I have of Beatrix Potter's books and I'm interested to see how this stacks up to reality.

What I liked the most about this book was how Peter Rabbit's arc is from anthropomorphized young boy/ rabbit to, literally, a real rabbit.  As he loses his shoes, he goes from biped to quadruped and once he has lost his coat, he is no longer a little boy looking for adventure but a nervous rabbit facing the very real and deadly dangers of the world (As exemplified by Peter's father being caught, killed and baked into a pie earlier in the story).

So I suppose then, The Tale of Peter Rabbit is about the loss of innocence.  While his siblings are good kids and do as their told, they keep their clothes and humanity while Peter ends up sick, scared and a grown up rabbit scared of the world, aware of its dangers and to possibility of being turned into someone else's dinner.

It's also interesting to note that, according to this story, having camomile tea before bed is a bad thing yet I do this several night a week and find it quite pleasant.  Oh dear, it looks like I've lost my innocence.


Broccoli Lasagne (With Broccoli)

  1. Grab 2 1/2 fistfuls of chopped onions out of the freezer
  2. Chop up the rest of the red onion laying around in your fridge plus 1 red pepper.
  3. Mince, I don't know, 5 or 6 cloves of garlic.
  4. Add a gollop of olive oil and fry'er up.
  5. Meanwhile, dice up 2 heads of broccoli & steam them until they're kinda steamed but not steamed enough.
  6. Add the broccoli, fry, add a tin of chopped tomatoes & season.  If you're lazy, go for the kind that comes pre-herbed & seasoned.
  7. Add the tomato sauce Elisabeth had set aside for super burritos without telling her.
  8. Bring to a boil then simmer until Henry gets bored & you have to put him to bed.  Leave on a low heat.
  9. Mix 1 pack of (Or, if you're feeling not lazy, 1 bunch of blanched and) chopped spinach with 1 thing of ricotta.
  10. Open your pack of insta-lasagne noodles.
  11. Layer: Noodles, tomato sauce, more noodles, the cheesy spinachy mess, more noodles.
  12. Grate a shit load of mozzarella on top of it all.
  13. Get Elisabeth to bake it at 350 for a while with the foil on.  Then bake some more with the foil off.  Feed Henry.  Take it out, serve, realize it's too cold, eat it anyway, cook it some more, bathe Henry, you're not hungry any more, leave it in the oven for too long, drink too much wine.
  14. Enjoy and happy Valentines Day.


Blogging Thoughts:

  1. The prior entry took over 24 hours to finish and by the end was rushed otherwise I'd never have finished it.  Thus is why few entries get posted.  I've started a few, saved them to drafts & deleted them 2 weeks later when I couldn't remember the point of them.
  2. I really don't want this to be a blog about babies/ kids/ parenting but since I won't post anything regarding my work, there's not much else to say since my life is pretty much that.  I'm currently considering another theme but can't think of anything I'm obsessive enough about that I'd want to write about it.


Mea Culpa

Or, stupid baby books, the rant continues.

For whatever reason, Elisabeth & I have been have more child development/ parenting conversations than usual.  The usual things get covered; what we're doing right, what we're doing wrong, what could be done better, too much, too little andcasting broad accusations and unfair judgements on others.  Fairly standard stuff.

The interesting thing is that it seems that in every conversation two of the following three terms come up: "The Baby Whisperer," "Penelope Leach," "What to Expect in the First Year."  Yes, the bloody baby books rear their ugly heads and control our lives once more with their infantilizing advice, digitally altered too cute to be real babies and idyllic white upper class Ikea backgrounds.  (There is something soul destroying about seeing the exact same furniture or toys in these books that we have bought for Henry.)

Caveat: Elisabeth is the one reading the books.  She continues to read them and absorb their  "knowledge."  I make fun of them and rely on her to tell me the stuff I need to know.

Aside: Infant Potty Basics by Laurie Boucke is possibly the worst thing I have ever looked at with regard to child rearing.  It encompasses all that I hate about hippies.  From it's grainy black and white photos of humourless women with bodies shaped like nylons stuffed with cotton and personalities like yogurt, holding inbred babies destined to grow up to be stock brokers or mormons, to it's Everyone can do it! attitude without concrete guidelines as to actually do it, to what amounts to the praising of poverty, the encouragement to raise as first world child as though you were living in the third world and the attempt to normalize the wearing of assless chaps by toddlers, this is something I just can't get behind.  In a nutshell, it's a book more interested in spreading a washed up ideology by conservative people confused into thinking their liberal because instead of using diapers, they take their 4 month old to the park, whip off its pants and let it have a pee off the park bench.  Practical stuff when it's -20 with a windchill.  If you want to order the book, click here.  Laurie Boucke also publishes a diverse selection of books which include... Beating up Daddy... Killer Pics... and Limericks of the Heart (And Lungs).  This one is my favourite:

Did you know that the first time you smoke
In addition to making you choke
It burns your lung hairs?
And there aren't any spares -
Healthy cilia make those germs croak.

But I digress...

There has to be something said for accumulated knowledge.  In one on Our favourite programmes, G.B.H., there's a scene near the end where Michael Palin addresses a room full of very misguided revolutionary socialists and brings up the core problem with ideology.  To paraphrase: "You've only read one book.  You need to read a variety of books, and then decide."

This, in essence is my issues the, yes I can't leave her alone, The Baby Whisperer.  Out of all the other books we've (Elisabeth) has read, this is the only one to actually tell you not to read other books.  Not to become well rounded.  Not to dare consider anything other than her highly structured routine schedule whatever.

Loath as I am to admit it, The Baby Whisperer has given us good advice.  Tips on things to look out for, what to be aware of, as well as some pretty good strategies at how to train Henry.  But so has Penelope Leach.  And so has Heidi Murkoff and her think tank of What to Expecters.  I'm open to advice and looking for information.  But when one person tells you to listen to them and only to them, it's clear that they're no longer offering you advice but an agenda.


Henry's Bedtime Routine

Submitted for approval at the request of Wifey, my bedtime routine with Henry:
  1. Lay Henry down in his crib facing the opposite way to which he sleeps, let him chill out with Mr. Pickles & look at his mobile.
  2. When he requests it, give him his bedtime top up bottle.
  3. Burp him while gently rubbing his back in a circular motion, quietly counting down from 30 as the circles become slower and lighter.
  4. Lay him down in bed, place Mr. Pickles on top of him and announce each blanket as they're laid down on him: "First your soft yellow and white duck blanket (Tuck him in)... Then your blue bamboo blanket (Tuck him in)... Now your satin-lined Henry blanket (Placed slightly higher than the other blankets so he can rub his face on it)... And finally Ganesh, the Remover of Obstacles (Elephant blanket placed on top)."
  5. Then I sit in the rocking chair next and read to him while he holds my finger (Current reading: The House on Pooh Corner) until he lets go and suffles around with pickles and starts to fall asleep.
  6. Move the chair to the other side of the room and give Henry a kiss goodnight which, I've noticed he won't properly fall asleep without.