Saturday, September 20, 2014

For Austin, a few days before his birthday

Every time I'm pregnant, I get this weird paranoia that I'm going to die in childbirth and leave Austin with 1 (or 2 or 3) small children to raise all by himself. I have no doubt that he'll do the best he can, but he works long hours and three small children need a lot of attention. So I go over the worst case scenarios in my head and it's pretty much him giving the children up to someone else to take care of. Hiring a nanny is pretty much out of the picture on his salary, as is full time daycare unless he cuts out a LOT of extra costs, of which there aren't actually that many. We're pretty frugal with our money, so I'm always worried about how he's going to pay for these kids without me around.

I don't actually think I'll die, but, at least for me, in both labors, there was a brief moment where I thought "this is never going to end and this is how I will die." For Asher, it lasted about five minutes, for Elijah it didn't even last as long as it took me to type it out because he came so fast. It's generally when the baby is just about to crown and everything hurts SO MUCH and it has for what feels like forever no matter how long you've been in labor. You KNOW it will end, but part of you can't see that because the pain is so intense you can't see past the here and now.

Austin's a great dad. He's present, which is the biggest thing, and he seems to actually enjoy his kids. So many dads are absent, either physically or emotionally, for various reasons. Maybe they weren't ready to be dads, or never wanted to be in the first place. Maybe they travel for their jobs or are in the military and are sent away for weeks or months at a time. There's lots of reasons for a father to not be around, both good and bad, and luckily, we don't have to deal with any of them. Austin works in another city, but it's only about 45 minutes away, so he's here for dinner every night and does bath time and reads books and plays tag and hide and seek and games with them every night. Or most nights anyway.

Ours is a different type of relationship than you ever see represented on tv or in movies and books. We (or at least I) never had much in the way of that all consuming "gotta have it" passion for each other. Yes, we had that some after he came back from Denmark mostly because he'd been gone the entirety of our dating and we'd only seen each other the equivalent of about 2 weeks in the 10 months we'd been a couple again. I like to say I'm too practical to really allow myself to get caught up in romance and passion and whatnot. I didn't want a guy I couldn't live without, I wanted a guy I could live with and not be devastated if he left.

Austin and I don't remember the first time we met. We were both involved in IVCF (InterVarsity Christian Fellowship) in college and we most likely met at one of the new student mixer type things they had at the beginning of the year. I was aware of who he was because he was in the praise team and played the guitar and had blue eyes (I'm a sucker for blue eyes). He mostly knew who I was because I was new and a girl. He was a sucker for girls.

My first memory of him as an individual was during my spring semester at Tech. I had a class in the math building, which wasn't necessarily all that close to my dorm, but was about midway between our dorms. I was coming out of my class and heading to my room and there he was, just walking down the sidewalk. He recognized me and started walking and talking with me. We got a block or so before I asked if he had a class in my direction. He said no, he had some free time and was going to either study or play the guitar or something (I forget what exactly). I pointed out that as it was broad daylight and I knew my way around campus now, he didn't have to walk me to my room, but thanks for being willing to. He looked so startled and disappointed but said "Oh, ok. Bye." and turned and walked away. I thought that was odd but went on my way and didn't give it much more thought.

I didn't really notice him again for about another year. I lived in a house with three other girls and we called our house the Hen House, mainly because four women lived there and we fancied ourselves nurturing, motherly types (and for the number of teenage boys we seemed to feed maybe we were). We were in charge of the Super Bowl party in 2004 and of course I had a cold. It was exhausting and fun and at the end of the night there was a huge mess to clean up. Which no one really wanted to do. My roommates went to bed and I was debating how much to do before going myself when Austin returned with a car full of the aforementioned teenage boys and they did a pretty decent job of getting most of the mess cleaned up. Trash got taken out, furniture got put back in place, dishes got put into the dishwasher and sink to soak. Afterwards, instead of going to bed, he and I stayed up on AIM to talk for a while before I finally gave in and went to bed. We started dating on February 29, about a month later.

I dumped him in July when I realized he didn't really see me for me, just as some idealized version of woman that he'd made up in his mind. I didn't want to be put on a pedestal, I wanted to be an equal. Two years and three total relationships later, I convinced him over international phone call that now that we'd matured and seen what we didn't like in other relationships, I was what he wanted and needed. He took some convincing, but he eventually came around. A year after that we were engaged and then in May of 2008 we got married.

We've always been somewhat practical people. We're equals (I hope) in most everything in our lives: child rearing, finances, major decisions. He doesn't necessarily care what our house looks like or where we go on vacation or what we do when we get there, but I still get his input. The main reason I think we work? We're friends. We actually like each other most of the time. Which is good, considering we've got a third kid on the way.

We support each other and while he's the dreamer and if I say something about "Maybe I could sell a loaf of bread I made" he starts coming up with business ideas. I'm the realist so when he starts talking about when he wins the lottery, I say "Well, if we did, there's a couple things we need to do first: pay off the car, pay off the house, and set up savings accounts for the kids for whatever. Then we can buy you guitars and whatever." Because he usually wants musical type things and I want books and to fix up the house.

Marriage is a give and take. It's balancing what you want with what they want. It's not holding grudges or constantly bringing up past mistakes. The passion wanes with time and familiarity, but hopefully a friendship will last you a lifetime. To find someone you don't mind sitting across the table from for 50 years, someone you don't mind sharing parental responsibilities with, someone you can laugh with and talk to, that's a gem. Getting to watch your husband fall in love with your child the first time he holds him is better than any romantic novel or movie.

So maybe we don't have a passionate romantic fairy tale relationship, but you know what, I'd rather have our reality, that will hopefully last for a lifetime, than a fairy tale that might wane after a few years of watching each other clipping toenails or wearing old holey underwear or any other manner of gross things you witness in a marriage. Instead, we get the romance of children and family holidays and going to the grocery store and picking up dinner on the way home and date nights. That's the best kind of romance.

Right after we started dating in 2004

Literally minutes before he proposed.

At our wedding, in case the white dress didn't tip you off.

Our current family this past June

Our newest addition, coming soon to a crib near us!

Monday, September 1, 2014

What's in a name?

Naming a kid is hard. Between agreeing with your partner, coming up with a name that doesn't randomly rhyme or sound Seussian, and trying to make your little angel stand out, it's rough going. Not to mention when you throw in the opinions, solicited or not, that you get from anyone who you tell.

I'm a lot like my parents in that I thought ahead. My dad had a name selected for his first son long before he met my mom and she for her first daughter. John Anthony Walke and Carylyn were named before they were born. The only thing that changed was the spelling of Carylyn from Carylynne or something else wackadoo like that. 

The rest of us got saddled with whatever popped into their heads. My next brother's middle name was courtesy of the area they lived in at the time, near the Ethan Allen farm. I'm not sure where my youngest brother's name came from. Either way, any of the boys, had they been girls, would have been Laura Louise. 

Having been gypped out of Laura Louise twice, once my dad realized I was a girl, he thought "ok, Laura Louise it is!" Mom said "Oh, no, I don't like that name right now." So Talitha Jane was picked. Dad rebelled, he didn't like Talitha, said it was too difficult (or something) and they compromised and he picked my middle name, Joy. 

As a kid, I really didn't like Talitha. Joy didn't bother me, it seemed kind of kitschy, but whatever. No one called me that except when I was in trouble. I decided I would give my kids names that people could look at and immediately know how to pronounce. 

I liked E names for a while: Edward (thanks for messing that up, Twilight), Ephraim (or Efram), Elijah, Emma, Elizabeth, Eliott, Esther, on and on. I liked Biblical names: Eve, Rebekah, Matthew, Benjamin, Levi, Gideon. I liked family names: Emma Geneva and Oliver Ashmer. I liked old fashioned names like Margaret. 

When I was about 13, I saw Kenneth Branaugh's Much Ado About Nothing and fell in love with the name Hero. My friends thought it was nuts, but I decided about that time that my first two daughters were going to be named Emma Geneva and/or Hero Elizabeth. I couldn't decide which I liked best so felt like I should have two daughters. A few years later, I changed my top two names to something else. 

Cut to meeting and getting serious with Austin. He had no real preference on names, he just had a family tradition of the first son being named A Moritz Mullins. Since our family has a tradition of John "X" Walke, I was ok with that. I don't particularly like Moritz, but I get traditions. 

Once we found out the first baby was a boy, the hunt for the perfect A name began. I decided I loved Ash. Not anything longer to be shortened into Ash, just straight up Ash. We met resistance. People didn't like Ash once we told them where it was from: a movie called Army of Darkness that I grew up loving. The main character is a badass zombie/deadite killer with a chainsaw for a hand. I KNOW! How cool is that character?!

Anyway...other people in our lives didn't like it. A few did, a few were like "Really? Well, ok." And a few were anti Ash. So we started looking for names we could shorten to Ash. I immediately mentioned Ashmer, the middle name of a grandfather a few generations back. Austin didn't like it. I don't remember exactly who brought up Asher, but I really liked it. So Asher was named before we even fully moved to Abilene. An alternate girl's name was tricky, because Austin was thinking we should stick to the AMM for her initials. Mom suggested Annessa May, which was the only name that was moderately ok. I like May better than Maurissa, Austin's suggestion. Thankfully, we got Asher, and we were very pleased. 

Ash - Housewares

Then there was baby #2. A girl's name was either of my top two picks. A boy's name was harder. I didn't like ANYTHING. Neither did Austin. We pulled out the family trees and started going through them, looking for a cool family name from my family to give the baby. We decided that a first name would be from the Bible, so settled on either Elijah or Ephraim. And then we hit the middle name jackpot: Blackstone. We announced our two names and were again met with "oh I love those!" and "really? Ok." and "No, You're not using that name. It's horrible." which made me want to immediately pick that particular name. We literally decided on Elijah's name about 5 hours before he was born. Since Asher's name was a fandom based name, Elijah's needed to be as well. Elijah is an original vampire on the TV show The Vampire Diaries, a show that I really enjoy. 

Elijah - not a vampire to mess with

And now we've got another baby. I still haven't gotten to use my girl names. I'm dreading having to pick another boy name. I did, however, stumble into a boy name that we both actually really like. It's pretty great, in our opinion. And the number 1 girl's name is also fabulous. But this time, we're not talking. A few people who've paid attention over the past few years will probably guess the girl name and might have a stab at the boy name. But, to avoid the comments about how awful it is, we're not telling anyone our baby's name until he or she is  born. 

Rest assured, though, that both names are
ALSO fandom names of a sort. The boy name is from a book I love and the girl name is from a different book I love and a book Austin and I read together when we were dating. This baby is going to be literary! 

Telling someone you hate the name they have agonized and debated and searched and researched is just hurtful and unnecessary. I know people who have given their children names I personally think are ridiculous. I would never tell them that. "Hey, you know what? X is a terrible name!" No. 

That being said, there are ways of telling a loved one you're not a fan of the name they've chosen. I might MIGHT suggest a more normal spelling for it if they're going with something odd (seriously, how many ways can you spell Amy/Kristen/Ashley/Carolyn/etc?). Think about your kid's future teacher trying to call roll the first few days. Have some pity on them. I got the double whammy with Talitha Walke, so I know that weird spellings and pronunciations and names in general are going to be difficult for the kid their whole life. Think about nicknames (a couple people were certain Asher would be shortened to Ass. Ok.) Think about your child as an adult running for office or being a respected member of society. Is that name going to work for an old person? 

So, come January, our baby will be born and you will know his or her name at that time. Until then, hazard as many guesses as you want. I won't tell you if you're right or not.