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.