September 23, 2011

Asher at One

by Sarah

Asher’s birth was different from Elliot’s in everyway. Rather than an unexpected earth mother whirlwind, Asher came as planned and requested, on the full Harvest Moon. It was convenient for me emotionally, and convenient logistically for Dr. Wu, who was delivering him. “Thursdays are good,” he said, checking his calendar. When Asher was born, there were bright, worried surgical lights and dull, worried nursing staff, all hanging out in a preventive sort of way. Asher was breech and people don’t know much about delivering breech babies anymore; things can go wrong. Nothing did, but they took Asher off for testing and prodding anyway, which was fine (as it turned out) because the epidural made me nauseous and I spent the half hour after his birth puking over the side of my hospital bed while Brandon followed our newborn babe around the NICU ward and Michelle Gerber held my hair.

I’ll have more to say about all that some other time, I imagine. It was fine. The good part was that, an hour or two after he was born, I got some time with him alone and it was bliss immediately. He was this alert blossoming person in my hands, and I could recognize him as my son, my love, his own sweet self. It’s hard to recognize a newborn! They’re so unformed. But Asher—though he wasn’t Asher then, we hadn’t yet named him, he was just our Blue—was absolutely just the one I was looking for. I loved him so much, even then.

Here are some things you might not know about Asher. He likes to stomp around. He has discovered some of the bolder and shriekier parts of his vocal register. His favorite book is This Little Chick, which I would recommend to anyone. He seems to but may not know that a cow says “moo” and the word “dance” means to dance and that “mommommom” means me. But sometimes he definitely dances. He both likes and dislikes letting Ada lick his neck. He loves all foods but his favorites are avocado and mango, and all that good avocado makes me happy for his smart well-oiled California brain. He watches Elliot like a hawk.

He doesn’t like it when you leave, particularly. He likes to rest his head back on a pillow. If you can’t find him he’s probably somewhere dangerous, like crawling into the washing machine (!) or the shower. If a phone rings, he’ll pick up whatever’s convenient—a toy car, a piece of paper—and hold it to his ear. He may or may not say hi. He knows more about iphone maneuverings than you would have thought possible if you didn’t know about babies or iphones.

His grin is the biggest grin in the history of grins. His crawl is the stompiest crawl in the history of crawls. His basic mood is cheerful and his basic mode is interested and once when I held him too close to the ocean and a wave frothed full and salty in his face, he laughed with joy.

Oh, Asher Asher Blue. Sweet maker; sweet finder. In the still moment before you were born, when they told me the time had come but the lights were not yet lit and the nurses not in a row, I turned the page to find words to hold until they put you in my arms. “It is no little matter,” I read, “this round and delicious globe, moving so exactly in its orbit.” Blue, you pass from a babe, learn to articulate and walk. You are so beautiful I nudge myself to listen. “And that my soul embraces you this hour, and that we affect each other…is every bit as wonderful.”

August 29, 2011

The first day of the rest of your life

Elliot is starting kindergarten! He is there, right now!

I have not written here for a long time, but felt today was a milestone that deserved some attention.

The main thing I have to say is that Elliot was so completely awesome, such a sweet trooper, such a clever autonomous guy. Which is not to say that he was leaping with joy about the whole thing; he was definitely not “oh, yay, I cannot wait to plunge into an entirely new environment full of strangers speaking German!” He was, I know, lingeringly concerned.

But this morning, he was level headed and cheerful. He did not balk at getting dressed. He did not resist or mourn, walking into the schoolyard. He smiled at the PTA volunteer greeter lady, at the other parents who he’d met, at his teacher. He did not want to get his picture taken, but then was a good sport when I told him it was a rule (which, okay, is basically true). He was only somewhat intense about getting in the right line and following it in the right way.

When we got to his classroom, he gave Brandon and I hugs, solemnly each in turn. I'm actually going to go ahead and say that he embraced us, because it felt like that sort of thing, like a hug with serious gravitas. Then, unbidden, he walked straight to the center of the room and sat down for circle time, shoulders squared. It was, absolutely, a great moment in my life.

I expect this week will be super tough on Elliot, despite this beginning. But to see his composure was a spectacular thing. I hadn’t realized until the moment that I'd been gearing up for some serious reluctance and melancholy. He takes things hard, that one. So it was great to witness his strength on display, to see that boy, starting his third school in three years, knowing he had a job to do, and walking right into it.

As for myself, I really don’t feel melancholy, or like the time has flown by. Parenting young children has been full of joys, but, I can’t lie, it continues to be pretty hard on me. It doesn’t really play to my strengths. So, I feel glad that he’s growing, and that school time has finally arrived. Check out that kid!

I overheard the mom behind us in line prepping her son on what was going to happen, and I loved what she said: “Now we’re going to walk with you to your room, and then you get to do it.” I wish I had found exactly those words for Elliot, because that sort of enthusiasm, the thrill of getting to do it, is just what I wish for him. Our code, for what it’s worth, is borrowed from Elliot’s current favorite story, Riki-Tiki-Tavi: “the motto of all the mongoose family is, ‘Run and find out’.” Whatever the week and year brings, I’m feeling so amped and happy right now. It’s great to be so full of respect for this sweet scholar mongoose, whose life we are privileged to share.

June 27, 2011

Forward Motion Week 6

Forward Motion, plus jaunty scarf. (Unstaged.)

November 23, 2010

Asher at two months

by Sarah

We took Asher to the pediatrician this morning for his two month poke and prod; he was a good sport about it all and made meaningful eye contact with the doctor ("oh! he makes good eye contact!") and weighed in at 12 lbs, 4 oz, which is, in our world of small babies, a rather big number.

In other news, he sleeps inordinately well for a two month old, and he is pretty social and chatty most of the time (see video, which features me using a twee momish voice). What else? He doesn't love a bottle. He likes to nap on your chest. He (unlike Elliot) likes a pacifier, and this pacifying seems like a small miracle to us. He looks good in black and grey. He was pretty well behaved at his first academic lecture; better at his first paper workshop. He has not yet been to the beach. When he snuggled (at one month) with Liz Hamilton she was impressed that he smelled like Chanel #5, and that was pretty exciting, but later we learned that it wasn't his own natural couture scent but rather rubbed-off perfume from Aunt Megan. In Elliot's all-starwars-all-the-time lexicon, asher is most often referred to as a droid. Asher looks at you when you talk to him, most of the time. He, like his brother, is a bit of a cottage cheese factory. He likes to say, "allah!" very enthusiastically. He is his own little call to prayer.

November 03, 2010

Hello, what's your name?

by Brandon

Asher Blake Mesle.

For a few days it stayed strange, to hear your name, and awkward.  I remember feeling that way before.  But at some point we suddenly forget to find it strange, what we've done -- that we've named someone.  So now I look at you and I feel that it has settled around you.  That it took.  That it's good. 

Asher because of no single reason -- but a good sound, above all.  We passed over many, many names (me especially) to find something compact, but something that would ring, something that would read.

Asher is two opposite elements passing through each other and fusing somehow.  That strong, voiced, open throat A, a singer's tone, an upstanding tree, an assertion.  And then it's swallowed by the hush of the wave receding.  Those two elements paired without a seam.  (See the Hokusai picture on the fridge?)  We took a tree name for you -- Ash -- a piece of the living wood; but we also gave you ashes.  We gave you, in other words, the tree and the end of the tree.  The beginning and the end.  You'll need both.

Asher is also an old Biblical name, though that's a book I try to avoid relying on, as a rule.  It's got a tribe of Asher in there, and some arrangement between Jacob and his wife's maid.  I haven't looked up the passage.  For me, the name might as well be cut straight from the tree in the mountains, where there are no books.  But the fact that it IS in a book is probably what suggested it to us.  In the end, it's hard to go into the mountains and cut down a brand new name and get it all the way home again, intact, so we had assistance in this.  We have to admit the limits of our powers.

The Hebrew 'meaning' of your name, 'happy' or similar, is not a bad 'meaning', as far as name 'meanings' go.  Maybe it will prove some use as well.

Blake for Blake, a printer.  And of course a poet.  But he worked for a living and handled money, lived with ink under his nails, even as he bent the larger arc as well.  He lived a long time.  He was a visionary and also a student, a tinkerer, an inventor.  Sarah likes him well.  Honestly, I know less about him than I should, and your name can remind me to keep at my studies.  I'm glad to have old Wm. Blake along with us for this ride. 

If some of this name-baggage has no utility for you at all, then it hopefully won't be a weight upon you either.  Partly your name is a prop for us folks, you know.  Something to tell ourselves, a tune to whistle while we go past the birthyard, the place of raw newness and inchoate novelty, the nausea of a new world -- that is rapidly sweeping us right out of the picture.  There it is again, the certainty of our own march to the hush, the shhhh of Ash.  You're a signpost of how far we've come.  And that is hard to take. 

Mesle, an old French name; because this is America, after all.  We're working toward a more perfect union, exactly as the man says.  You my sons are equal.  You and I and your mother are equal.  If we are equal, then why is it, again, that one group is asked to erase their names?  It's something I would have a hard time explaining to a Martian who just landed, and you, my friend, are a Martian who just landed. 

Of course your last name, being different from your brother's, is, among other things, a story about how equality is a tough and uneasy practice.  You're equal, but you're not the same.  There probably isn't equal at all, says your name, just effort on the scales, pushing now this way; now that.  There's a hope of equal -- which we carry.  And then there's the actual seeds we have to scatter, the varying seeds.
There's an idea of a horizon where things are actually equal, but it's out in front of us.  We have to live in the here and now, with you two boys who have an unusual (but not that unusual, frankly) gap in your labelling.  We did struggle with the idea of giving two boys different last names.  We felt it to be vaguely absurd.  But we didn't have a better idea.  We know people who have combined their two names; some who have composed entirely new family names, or resurrected and rekindled old family names and taken those.  The parents as well as the children have gone through the act of naming together, that awkward and strange event.  But nothing came to mind in that direction, for us.  Hypenating has (in our case) no poetry, only legalisms.  And it's always bothered me, as a systems thinker, that it simply doesn't scale beyond one or two generations, and defers the hard part to someone else.  The hard part is this: entropy increases, and information is lost.  The names all get erased soon enough anyway.  The shhhhh of the wave receding.

Sarah and I came into the world as Mesles and Harveys, and we will send some more forth. 

Asher Blue, it will become quickly obvious to you that America is a work in progress.  Maybe if you have children -- and I hope that you do -- you will have the courage and Yankee ingenuity not to name them Mesle or Harvey or anything backwards-facing at all.  Maybe you'll have some new idea.

May 29, 2010

What to call it?

The thing about this new embryo, this fetus, gestating as it is only a short distance from the University of Michigan football stadium, one of the largest stadiums in the whole world . . . is that, as a fetus, it just seems so damn sporting.  It's springy and athletic to no end.  It twirls.  Elliot was, we now realize, a sedate and sober thing by comparison.

Michigan sports has suffused our 9 month retreat to Ann Arbor.  During the football season, we could hear every Michigan Wolverines football game from our house.  And nearly every evening, we could also hear, more faintly, the marching band out practicing their songs and routines.  We often went to watch them practice; the public can sit, if they want, in a set of bleachers facing an exactly-football-field-sized parking lot, and see the band go through their paces.  This activity, coupled withs some raisins or a sippy cup of milk, was a sure way to please a grouchy early-evening Elliot.  On the flip side, telling him we were NOT going to watch band practice (which he could, of course, HEAR!) was often a touchy proposition.  So we did watch a significant amount of band practice.

Elliot memorized the Michigan fight song before we knew what had happened (he can do that??) and it's been a staple of his existence ever since -- he played it on the kazoo this morning, in fact.  They also have chants which he likes.

      It's GREAT...
      To BE...
      A MIchigan WOLverine it's
      To BE...
      etc., etc.
      etc., etc.

Elliot generally misheard "Michigan Wolverines," though, as "Michigan Mulberries" (which does make sense, if you say it the way they say it in the chant).  That tickled us, so when this new embryonic creature came along (high five!), we semi-christened it a Michigan Mulberry.

But . . . that name already wore off, and usually we just call it Blue, as in

We also declare that this new Blue is ALL IN, as in

And we bought Sarah a five-dollar Michigan T-shirt that simply says ALL IN on the front -- in huge collegiate block lettering.  Then we bought the same shirt again, in a huge pregnancy size that she can't even wear yet.  ALL IN.
You may, for some reason, not find this as funny as we do.  But please rest assured that it is, in fact, funny.  Maybe you just had to be there.

May 26, 2010

A playlist for LA

The first thing to do, if you are moving to California, is make a soundtrack. Here's a start.

Unfortunately, not all these songs in this weird little player actually . . . play!  But here is a bundle of all the songs, for download to your own computer.

May 24, 2010

High Five

It's all settled now: the baby you see pictured here is going to be born in September, in Los Angeles, California, where both of its parents have accepted new jobs.

Brandon will be taking a job at Oblong Industries.

Sarah will be a Mellon Visiting Professor at UCLA.

March 13, 2010

Food Substitutions

When there are certain foods of great interest to a small person, but that do not pass your sniff test, what do you substitute?  Here are a few of ours:

Chocolate milk.  1.5 cups of milk or soy milk, 1 ripe banana, 3 heaping spoonfuls of unsweetened chocolate powder, 1 heaping spoonful of (unsweetened -- sad to have to specify) peanut butter.  We both drink this.

Typical yogurt (sweetened).  Regular whole milk plain yogurt and a small amount of unsweetened apple sauce or low-sugar jam.

Granola bars.  Larrabars are pretty cool.  I like the one where the entire ingredient list is: "Cashews, dates."

Cheerios.  Trader Joe's whole wheat Cheerios.

Cheese nips.  There is no substitute for Cheese Nips which are a (fortunately occasional) passion of his. It's just got be Cheese Nips.

December 15, 2009

robot story about the origin of thanksgiving

once upon a time there were some people
named pilgrims, and they had a ship.
they also had a robot with them.
they were looking for a place called america,
across the ocean.  it was so far,
and they had eaten all the food they had on the ship.
they were very hungry.
when they finally got to america, 
they looked around, but they didn't see anything to eat.
there was a beach, but they couldn't eat sand.
there were trees, but they couldn't eat wood.
there were bushes, but they couldn't eat leaves.
so they decided to split up.  they said,
'robot, you go that way, and we'll go this way.
let's meet back here when we find some food.'
the robot said: OKAY, and off he went.
the pilgrims found some people who already lived
in america, and these people shared some seeds with them.
they shared pumpkin seeds and corn seeds 
and bean seeds and potato seeds.  
the pilgrims planted the seeds in the ground, 
and waited for them to grow.
it was almost winter, and the seeds did not grow.
the pilgrims were getting hungrier and hungrier.
just then, they heard a noise in the sky.
it was getting closer and closer.  
what was that coming toward them?
it was an airplane!
the little robot was flying the plane. 
he waved to them through the window.
he zoomed right above the pilgrims' field
and from his plane he dropped down boxes and boxes,
and the boxes had parachutes on them
and all they floated down through the sky.
when the pilgrims opened the boxes
they found food and candy
and chewing gum and matches
and they were so happy.
and they said 'Thank you, robot!  Thank you!
Where did you get all this?'
And the little robot said: FROM THE FUTURE.
And he flew away.
The pilgrims had a big meal to celebrate 
and they decided to call it Thanksgiving.

a robot story from october

once upon a time there was a robot.
he lived in a cottage in a field, a little house that he fixed up,
but that was in another story.
he also had a helicopter, parked out in the field.
when the propellers went around and around
they made a huge wind.
one day, the robot decided to fly his helicopter into town
and play robot music with his friends in the plaza.
he landed it in the plaza, next to the big fountain.  
but when he found his robot friends, they told him
that they couldn't make music because they had no instruments.  
the drummer robot had no drum,
and the saxophone robot had no buttons on his saxophone,
and the trumpet robot had no mouthpiece on his trumpet.
they said that a big gust of wind came
and blew away the drum, 
and blew the buttons right out of the saxophone,
and blew the mouthpiece off the trumpet, 
and they were all lost.
so the robots started looking around 
to try to find the pieces of their instruments.
they looked up at the bell tower, and the robot said,
"IS THAT YOUR DRUM UP THERE?"  so they climbed the bell tower,
but it wasn't really a drum, it was a bell.
and they looked in the fountain, under the water,
and the robot said, "are those the buttons of your saxophone?"
but no -- they were coins, shining at the bottom of the fountain.
and they looked through the windows of a coffeeshop, 
and the robot said, "is that the mouthpiece of your trumpet?"
but instead, it was a shining silver coffeecup.
so the robot decided to use his helicopter to look around.
he flew all around the town.
he didn't find the instruments, 
but when he got back to his robot friends
they said that a huge wind
blew the pieces of their robot instruments right back to them.
the drum blew off off the top of a building,
right into the drummer robot's arms.
all the buttons of the saxophone came skittering down the street,
with the wind pushing them along.
and the mouthpiece of the trumpet came sliding down a drainpipe.
so the little robot got out his guitar
and they all played music.

another robot story, with many key elements dictated by elliot, especially the sleeping

once upon a time there was a robot
who was sailing a pirate ship
looking for somewhere to be alone.
he sailed and sailed, and on a day
when the sky was very blue and the sea was very green
he saw some birds flying around.
he said: HEY BIRDS
And the birds said: Just keep flying west
A little farther
And you'll find something
The robot sailed all day and all night,
and the next day the sky was very gray,
and the sea was very purple.
The robot saw some dolphins swimming and jumping
and he said: HEY DOLPHINS
And the dolphins said: West a little farther,
And you should find an island.
The robot kept sailing,
all day and all night,
and the next day the sky was very white,
and the sea was very blue,
and the robot found some big turtles swimming.
And he said: HEY TURTLES
And the turtles said: Yes,
Only a little further west and you will find it.
Just then the robot caught sight of the island
And he sailed closer and closer,
And finally he was in a little bay,
pulling his pirate ship up on the sandy beach
with his strong robot arm.
Then the robot went to sleep under some trees
because he was very tired after all that sailing.
When he woke up, he looked all around the island.
It was a small island,
with tall trees good for climbing
And rocks in the bay for sitting on.
The sun was shining again.
And the robot said to himself
And just then, he saw the birds flying into the bay,
and the dolphins swimming into the bay,
and he saw the turtles crawling their way up onto the beach.
And they all had a party together
And it was so much fun.

October 14, 2009

Two bedtime stories about robots

Just for fun, we will now share two stories from our rolling repertoire of made-up bedtime tales. The first story is a month or two old; the second one we just made up tonight. These stories tend to sort of mutate over time; I'll get bored with something, or Elliot will suddenly demand some change. These are really just snapshots.

once upon a time, there was a robot
who liked to eat ice cream every night before he went to bed.
but as everyone knows,
when a robot eats ice cream, it makes his mouth stick together.
the robot was lying in his bed, almost asleep,
and there was a full moon in the sky,
shining into the room.
and then, coming down the moonbeam, down and down,
a tiny silver beetle
came right into the robot's room
and he sat upon the window pane,
and he said: Robot, robot, awaken
for i am a magical beetle
and i will grant you one wish
anything that you desire, just say it,
and i will give it to you.
and the robot said: Mmffmllnlmnnn.
and the beetle said: What?
and the robot said: Nrmflmflltrrmnmmm!
and the beetle went away.

one night, a few weeks later,
the robot ate his ice cream and went to bed.
it was a full moon that night, a big round moon,
and the moonlight was shining through the window.
the robot was almost asleep
when suddenly a tiny silver beetle came down the moonbeam,
down and down,
right into the robot's room,
and sat upon the windowpane.
and he said: Robot, robot, awaken,
for i am a magical beetle
and i will grant you one wish,
anything you desire, just say it.
and the robot said: Flmrnmlmnrlrmr.
and the beetle said: What was that again?
and the robot said: Wflmnrrrmnrrrmlm!
and the beetle said: I don't understand what you're saying!
and he left.

well, a few weeks later,
the robot was about to eat his ice cream,
but he discovered
that there was only one spoonful of ice cream left
in the whole house.
and he said: Only one spoonful of ice cream in the whole house??
and he ate that spoonful of ice cream,
and he went to bed.
the robot was almost asleep,
when suddenly the full moon came out from behind a cloud.
and down the bright moonbeam came
a silver beetle, down and down
right into the robot's room,
and sat
upon the windowpane.
and he said: Robot, robot, awaken,
for i am a magical beetle
and i will grant you one wish,
anything you desire--
and the robot said: I WANT SOME ICE CREAM PLEASE!
and so the beetle gave him a big bowl of ice cream
and it was

once upon a time there was a robot who had nowhere to live.
he mostly walked around the town.
one day, he came across an old house in a field.
it was old and broken down.
he said (in a robot voice): HELLO HOUSE
the house said, hi, robot.
the robot said: HOW ARE YOU
the house said, well, i feel little bit sad. my front door is all broken down.
the robot said: DON'T WORRY I'LL FIX IT FOR YOU
and the robot jogged back into town
(clomp clomp clomp)
and he found a big wooden door in a dumpster.
but it was a little too big for the house,
so he turned his arm into a saw, and he cut it to the right size.
then he put it over his shoulder, and he jogged back to the field.
and he put in the new front door.
the house said, thank you!
now i have a new, beautiful front door made of wood.
and the robot said: YOU'RE WELCOME
the house said, but i'm still a little bit sad.
I have lots of broken window panes.
the robot said: I CAN FIX THAT
and the robot jogged away, down the road, to the beach.
(clonk clonk clonk)
and when he got there, he turned his arm into a laser.
he melted down some sand,
and turned it into brand new window panes for the house.
then he carried the windows panes over his head,
and he jogged back to the field.
he put the new windows into the house.
and the house was very happy.
the house said, thank you, robot! that is so much better.
now i have no broken windows.
the robot said: NO PROBLEM
the house said, but i'm still a little bit sad.
i have holes in my roof, so when it rains,
the rain comes inside.
the robot said: I KNOW WHAT TO DO
and the robot jogged into the forest.
(crunch crunch crunch)
he found some reeds, and he turned his arm into a scythe.
he cut the reeds, and he bound them together, and he made a
whole new roof for the house. he rolled up the roof,
and he carried it back to the field.
he ripped the old roof right off the house,
and he rolled on the new reed roof.
wow! said the house.
i feel so much better now!
thank you, thank you for fixing me up.
the robot said: IT WAS NO TROUBLE
but then the house said, you know, i'm still a little bit sad.
and the robot said: WHY IS THAT
and the house said, i'm sad because no one lives here.
i'm an empty house.
would you like to live here?
and the robot was very happy, and he said: YES
and he moved into the house,
and they were friends.

This was the first night I told this story, and Elliot already has changes he wants to make. He said, "Next night, can it have a mama in it? And can they all go to the beach?"