The Name Game

baby names for dummies

Image by alist via Flickr

The kids are in bed, the TV is off, but we’re sitting on opposite sides of the table, me typing furiously on the NEO, Christian shuffling iPhone, bills and checkbook. I sigh irritably. This is not how we should be spending a Saturday evening. I’m tired. Really I just want to sleep. But now that I’m getting up once an hour all night, between kids and round ligament pans, bedtime isn’t as appealing.

He finishes paying bills and clicks his phone off. “Well?” he says.

 “So…what did you think of my idea for the boy’s name, really?” I ask.

His lip curls briefly. “I like mine better.”

Opening salvo. He pulls out the phone.

We have certain rules about names. Any name in the top ten is automatically out. The top 25, we have to think carefully. It has to have been around for generations, but it can’t be boring. Then there are the names we like but won’t use because we don’t get along with someone who owns them already. And after Alexander, Julianna, and Nicholas, we have a style to match.

One website lets you see what names “go” with the names of your current children. Christian types in Alexander and reads the list. He types in Julianna. The same fifteen names come up. Nicholas: ditto. He pauses. “Hey. All these names seem to be coming from the Greek.”

He types in Greek names.

“Amethyst! It means ‘without drunkenness.’” We both crack up, then subside into silence on opposite sites of the table. Christian hunches over the phone, his finger glowing blue in the light from the screen, and I smile affectionately at the top of his head.

“Drusilla!” he says. (Who would DO that to their kid? Haven’t you watched Cinderella???) “Achilles! Agamemnon! AJAX!”

The phone falls into his lap, and we both laugh so hard that we’re crying. And I realize maybe it’s not such a bad way to spend an evening, after all.


On In Around button


The RemembeRED prompt this week was to write a “pivotal” conversation. This doesn’t quite count as pivotal, but it is important, and I thought it would be fun. This is also the first word count I’ve missed. I’m over by twenty-some. Mea culpa.

What I Will Miss About Pregnancy


 I’ve reached that point in pregnancy now where I just want it to be over, where it’s all too easy to think only of how miserable it is. This is the point for which I wrote my advice on being pregnant with grace. So today I’m going to come up with ten things I love about being pregnant…things I will actually miss if, as I expect, this is indeed the last one.

1. Cute clothes that actually look good on me.

2. Ultrasounds. I had another one at 32 weeks—they found fluid in the kidneys at 24 weeks and wanted to check in again. I’ve never had a high-powered ultrasound so late, and even though it was only 2D, I was watching my baby’s face in motion, and I could almost see the contours well enough to know what s/he will look like. It was amazing.

3. Anticipation. Not finding out the gender. Coming, slowly or quickly, to an opinion about which it is, and finding out that I’m right. Or not. Either way, it’s a ton of fun.

4. Baby movements. At least, as long as Baby’s not trying to perform the C-section from inside. Or tickling me under the ribs. Or punching the bladder nerve. But I love being able to feel the contour of an entire limb. It’s so cool.

5. Having little boys press their lips against my belly and call “Good night, baby! It’s time to go to sleep now!”

6. The built-in-opportunity for sex ed with my child who is old enough to get it. If Julianna was at age level, I’d have two kids this would apply to, but as it is Alex is the only beneficiary. Still, it’s good for him to see the process in motion, and see it as holy. I want my kids to grow up with a sense of sexuality that is north of repression but south of promiscuity. And I think seeing the process in action is a great way to achieve that.

7. No underarm odor. I know, that’s gross. (And it’s weird. But it’s true. And I LOVE it.)

8. People being willing to do things for me that I’m perfectly capable of doing myself. Although frankly, that stage is past. Because now most of those things I really can’t do.

9. The motivation to eat carefully and keep my weight as much under control as possible. Because I think that’s good discipline for after.

10. The chance to participate in something truly miraculous, something that truly changes the world.

There you go. I assigned myself the number ten and wondered if I would be able to fill it, but I did. And it puts me in a better frame of mind to face this day, which is T minus five weeks (please God, no snow storms on the 14th or 15th of December!!!)

When It’s Time To Say, “Enough”


In natural family planning circles, there are certain words you’re not supposed to say. Like: “This is the last baby.” The very definition of openness to God’s will is that you never close off the possibility of another child, that you should be asking instead, “Is this month a good month to try to conceive, or do we have a good reason to postpone pregnancy?” It may not be—it may not ever be again—but you should never fix a number and say, “Okay, done.”

So I have been somewhat circumspect about this pregnancy. But I do expect it to be the last. Four C-sections take a toll on a body. I’ve never been sick as much as I have been the last five years. Right now I seem to be on a schedule: sick for ten days, healthy for fourteen.

Last week, my mother went with me to St. Louis for my 33-week appointment; she visited her mother and watched my kids while I saw the doctor and had meetings at Liguori Publications. On the way home, she gently chastised me for the close spacing of my children, and how much of a toll it takes on the body. She wanted us to stop planning everything so much, and just let God give us children on His own schedule.

We have chosen to have our children close together because infertility got us off to a very late start, and because we wanted our children to have built-in playmates. But now we have a child with special needs, sandwiched between two boys who have their own needs and concerns. These three and the baby they already love on in utero are a gift to each other, and to us as parents, but they need time and attention from us, too. They have gifts that need nurturing, too. I need to have time to teach them all about responsibility and chores, to teach them to cook and bake and clean, not to mention how to love God and others through what they do from one day to the next.

As an NFP teacher and a writer for our magazine, I feel terribly conflicted. Many of the families I encounter have six and seven children and thrive. Many of the women I interview show such grace as full-time mothers. They don’t try to write (or anything else) from home. They pour all their energies into the tasks I outlined above, and are at peace with that as their calling. And it’s beautiful. It truly is beautiful.

I always thought I would be one of those mothers, but I’m not. There’s this restless need in me to make an impact on the world through the gifts I’ve been given. That’s actually what I was aiming toward when I began writing today, but it’s becoming clear that the two are separate posts. Are not all the gifts God gives us meant to be used, even if we are the only ones who can bear children?

Yet when I think of the women and men out there who long for children and haven’t been blessed—when I see the great beauty that comes with every baby and the way he or she expands the capacity for love felt by the older siblings—I think, “How could any other concern possibly justify not doing this again, if we can possibly manage it?”

But then I spend a week barely functional because of low-grade nausea. And my entire pelvic girdle aches at every step after walking two miles in the morning. And I spend five minutes on my feet in the middle of the night three times as round ligament pains rouse me from slumber and force me out of bed to walk them off. And I realize that I can’t do it all. At some point, I have to take care of me, too. And it makes me a little sad. But at the same time, I look forward to graduating from this phase of life and into the next.

I know many of you are beyond this point. How did you discern when it came time to move on?

Too Much Of A Good Thing (a Unisom story)

Let Sleeping Children Lie

Image by stewickie via Flickr

I should have known it couldn’t last. Frankly, I didn’t even really believe it would work. After all, I wasn’t actually taking it to help me sleep…though Heaven knows, I could use it! No, this little blue (generic) (Walgreen’s) pill was part of a cocktail to ease third trimester nausea. I didn’t want to drug myself, so I suffered through two extra days after the doctor told me to try it before giving in.

Nothing has ever knocked me out the way that tiny pill did. I slept from 9:30 p.m. until 5:30 a.m., post-time-change. Nine hours in bed? Me? Madame I-function-on-five-hours-of-sleep-a-night? I slept through the night? (Well, except for that time Nicholas woke up wailing, and Christian would not wake up. “Oh, for crying out loud!” I snapped as I hauled my pregnant body out of bed. “I’m the one who took a sleeping pill!”)

At 5:30 I went downstairs and turned on the computer. While it warmed up I went over to the couch…and conked out again.

It was a single parenting day…Christian had the mother of all announcements coming out at work in the afternoon, so he went to early Mass and returned home to find that I had dressed and fed the kids…and gone back to sleep.

I had to lead the choir. From the piano. The queasiness was somewhat better, but that sleepiness…wow. I wasn’t sure I was going to make it through Mass without toppling off the bench.

With help from an obliging alto, I got the kids to the van and back home. In a fog I put lunch on the table. Answered Christian’s phone call. “Is it possible this is the Unisom still making me feel this way?” I said blearily.

Pause. “Oh, crap,” he said. “I’m not going to be home till at least 6:30.”

I hauled myself up the stairs after the little ones, muscled them down for naps. “Alex, you can play computer games,” I said, and collapsed into bed. And woke up an hour and a half later. Mustered the energy to make the first fresh meal in four days. I didn’t have the energy for a side dish. I offered microwave popcorn instead. And a movie.

Christian walked in at 7p.m. At 8:30 p.m., the fog finally began to clear.

Ah, Unisom. My one and only one-night stand. It was nice knowing you. Or not.

Just Write      Write on Edge: RemembeRED

7 Quick Takes, vol. 148



31 weeks, and…am I still running?…I don’t really know, because I haven’t been able to exercise since Monday. I did run on Monday. Does that count?


Yesterday I was asked twice how I’m feeling this late-pregnancy, and I realized I haven’t acknowledged something important: I am doing much better this time than last. I would never have believed that simple crunches and leg lifts would be sufficient strengthening to ward off the I-can’t-walk-or-support-my-weight pain that followed me all the way through the third trimester last time. I have hints of it, but so far, so good. The other thing that I fought last time was constant nausea, which I also don’t have–but that, my doctor told me, was a result of relaxin in combination with eating too much roughage and grease at the same time. I’m thinking a lot about the grease factor in my meal planning this pregnancy, and it’s really made a difference.


The thing about me and illnesses during pregnancy is that they are kind of like atmospheric blocking. Christian brought that term home from work one day and I thought it applied perfectly. When I’m pregnant and I get a cold, it lasts forever. Usually a cold sweeps through a person’s system, pounding them with symptoms and then clearing out. But when I’m pregnant, I get one symptom at a time, and they last for days. So, from Saturday to Wednesday this week, I had no voice. That time span included Mass with the choir, in which I was half the women, a presentation to the med students on Down’s, and leading choir rehearsal on Wednesday. Grr.


The onset of cool weather means two things: first, I am no longer boiling hot all the time, anymore! Second, I was finally able to cook my pie pumpkin this week. Here’s the recipe I used. Although I haven’t made the pie yet, only the pumpkin. Small bites, folks. Small bites.


Julianna and I went to talk to the med students for the second time this week. I was slightly concerned going in; how could we possibly top the last time? But this time, she waltzed into the room yelling “hi!” and hit the flirtation running. She was awesome, people. Umm…except for that little part where she knocked over the table that had a computer on it.


Last week the post that generated the most conversation was about Christmas shopping. In case others are as interested as I was, I thought I would share that this week I received in the mail a catalog from Heifer, International, which gives you the option of purchasing a whole animal or a share in one to give to impoverished people around the world. They suggested using these as gifts for teachers. I was astonished. What a good idea! I know nothing about this organization–it’s the first time I’ve received this–but I know in the past I’ve gotten catalogs from Food For the Poor along the same lines. I’ve thought of it in terms of donations, but never, never in terms of gifts. Any teachers out there want to weigh in? How would you feel about having something like this given in your name in place of gift cards and cookies and hot chocolate mugs?


Those of you who are fellow bloggers know that there are certain watersheds you’re supposed to celebrate on a blog. Like when you reach your first anniversary, or your fifth, or the biggie: the 1,000th post. I passed that milestone about six weeks ago. You’re “supposed” to give out prizes and host drawings and giveaways and all sorts of stuff. I started thinking about what I would write for that post, and decided that it would be a reflection on numbers and why we’re obsessed with them. Only when the time came, I realized I had much more important things to say. I kept that post on my list for two more weeks, and then gave up. I mean, it’s just a number, right? 🙂

Have a great weekend!

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 148)

Baby Magic, volume 2


Alex and me in November of 2006, 2 1/2 months before Julianna's birth

The magical thing about waiting for a baby is the anticipation of falling in love all over again. But the thing I wasn’t expecting is this: the magic of watching my children fall in love, too.

Alex is 6 ½ years old now, old enough to sit around drawing during natural family planning classes, which inevitably leads to him coming over and asking me what we’re talking about. And he’s preparing to read at Mass for the first time next week—the reading is Romans 8:18-25, which aside from being the most unfriendly 1st grade reading ever, sparked this question: “Mommy, what’s ‘labor pains’?”

That was a moment to whisper: Holy Spirit, help me explain this in an age-appropriate manner. (If you’re interested to know how I explained it, let me know.)

The upshot of all this is that Alex is in a very different place now than he was preceding the birth of either of his siblings. He’s even asked to miss school and come to the OR for the birth. Although I’m pretty sure we said no and left it at that.

Every night for some time now, he’s wanted to say good night to the baby. He comes over, gives me a hug and a kiss, and then hunches over to press his lips against my belly. A few months ago he whispered. Now, thanks to the great WWW, he knows the baby can probably hear him, so he just baby-talks to it, incorporating all the lessons he’s learned along this journey. “Good night, baby! Now you go to sleep and wake up in the morning. Remember what I told you! It’s time to start acting like a human now, because you are one!”

Not to be outdone, Nicholas pops up out of his bed and pats my belly, too. “Doo-night, beebee!” he says. “I yuh you, beebee!”

Julianna looks at her brothers and giggles, because they’re talking to Mommy’s belly, but she also comes over and pats the baby and does a little baby-talking. It sounds something like “deh-beh-bdeh!” in the highest pitch she can muster…the same noise she uses for “cat.” And although from this paragraph you might not think it, I do believe she knows what’s going on, even though it is such a conceptual (read that non-concrete) thing to understand.

And however gray and grumpy my mental state, my heart warms a few degrees.

7 Quick Takes, vol. 147



Pregnancy update: At 30 weeks, I’m still running. Although it hardly qualifies anymore. I’m also (finally) having Braxton-Hicks. I’ve been wondering when they were going to show up; seems like it came on a lot earlier last time. Not that it matters, as I’m a surgery girl.


It’s also officially impossible to find a comfortable position to sleep in. Perhaps getting up 5-6x a night is why I’m getting another cold, after only ten days’ health. Maybe I’ll get all my sickness out of the way BEFORE baby. Anyone want to place bets?



I dreamed about the baby for the first time this week. Mostly good, with a side of seriously weird at the end.


Alex told Christian this week that “mostly they have good food at school. Not like at home.” Christian thought he was pooh-poohing our lunches, which are admittedly uninspiring, but Alex said, “No, the hot stuff too.” “This,” I said, “from the child who goes to other people’s houses and asks for creme brulee and crab quiche. I think we’re raising a food snob.” 😉


I’ve hit the final ascent to the climax of my novel, and I’m having way too much fun writing it. Not looking forward to having to knuckle under and do some, you know, paid assignments next week.


Can’t stay off the pregnancy. We’re back to Ye Olde Name Game. It gets harder with every baby. I can’t begin to imagine how people who have for-real big families manage to name all their kids!


Sleeping through the night is a myth, and last night was proof. 10:15 and 10:45: Julianna. 12 and 1: Nicholas. 4: Alex. That’s on top of the four round ligament pains, three of which were so excruciating that I had to actually stand up and walk around to ease them. And being awakened at 4a.m.? That’s the end of the night for me. It’s 5:30 a.m. and I’ve already done my morning run. 😦

It has to get better, right?

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 147)

Just Before You Start


“The scariest moment is always just before you start.
After that, things can only get better.”
Stephen King

You know what already worries me about my upcoming C-section? I’m terrified of the back shot.

You’d think repetition would inure me to the experience. But I’m so ticklish. What if I jump at the wrong moment and end up paralyzed? And the side effects! Hot flashes, nausea, inability to swallow—I’ve had it all.

These were the fears that kept me awake the night before my third child was born. While Christian slept, I tossed and turned. Past midnight, I couldn’t have water. Misery. Sometime close to 1a.m., I finally drifted off.

Moments later, I woke to piteous moans. I found Christian rolling around on the bathroom floor, clutching his stomach. I thought he was dying, four hours before I had to deliver a baby.

I called 911. The ambulance whisked him to the ER; I followed. The night attendants said blankly, “Wait a minute. You’re having a baby, and he came in the ambulance?”

3 1/2 hours later, Christian lay sleeping on a bed of two vinyl chairs while I tossed and turned on a hospital bed. Three months of nausea that intensified on insufficient sleep. You can’t get much more insufficient than zero…and now it was time for a spinal?

The door opened, and a gentle-faced man came in. “I’m the nurse anesthetist,” he said. “Can you tell me what your experience of a spinal is like?”

I started crying. He patted my leg and said, “Don’t worry. We’ll take care of you. Just tell me whatever you’re feeling, and we’ll take care of it.”

An hour later, beneath bright lights and gentle hands, I said, “Are you ready to put it in?”

“It’s done,” he said, and I felt the familiar warmth flooding my legs.

And I knew then I was going to be okay.

7QT: The Third Trimester Edition



Believe it or not, even before Simcha stole my thunder, I had been planning on doing a Quick Takes-Pregnancy edition this week. I can prove it. I’ve been writing notes in my calendar all week for it. But if we’re comparing Simcha to me, I need to be honest: mine is not funny. Hers is. If funny’s what you’re after, you need to go read this. (But please come back!)


I am 27 weeks, and I do have to go look it up on a pregnancy calculator to remember. It’s enough to know I’m in the third trimester. And I’m still running. Sort of. I run to the top of the hill (that’s one block) and then the round ligament pains hit, so I breathe deeply and force myself to walk. In my fourth pregnancy I’ve finally learned that round ligament pains, as much as they hurt, hurt less and go away sooner when you stay vertical.


Speaking of running, here’s the weird thing. I only have hip pain after I run. Actually the whole pelvic bone hurts all day, and all the muscles attached to it. It makes me want to quit. But I can’t quit exercising, that would just be stupid.


Anyway…I’ve just done two “takes” without getting to the point. The point is that I’m in THE THIRD TRIMESTER. And I look like this:

Yet people are still afraid to assume I’m pregnant. At a school event late last week, one of the teachers took my arm and chuckled. “People keep asking me if you’re pregnant again!” But that’s only the half of it. My new primary care doctor, a lovely woman whose eyes kept flickering to my midsection, steadfastly refused to ask point blank. Instead, she kept asking oblique questions like “Are you on birth control?” and “Are you having regular periods?” Finally I took mercy on her. Her face cleared immediately. “I never ask!” she said. Come on! I thought. If DOCTORS are hamstrung by fear of offense, what hope is there???? 🙂


Interestingly enough, I’ve gotten hardly any of the annoying questions this time around. Maybe everyone’s finally given up on converting us to find-out-and-tell-everyone-the-name-ers. In fact, people aren’t even offering predictions on gender. So I was startled last week at choir when our drummer told me definitively that I was having a girl. Since I had finally just about made up my mind I was having a boy, I threw my hands up in the air and gave myself over to having no idea. After all, really, nobody else knows either. In this picture, if your eyes are eagle-sharp, you’ll see that with Julianna, I had people tell me “You’re having a ____, and I’ve never been wrong.” Obviously one of them now has been. 🙂


This munchkin is a CRAZY baby! If the little things give us indications of later personality, I must admit I am beginning to quake in my shoes about the destructive potential about to be unleashed on our already chaotic household!


I’m really not sure I’m ready for the whole newborn experience again. Even though my heart squeezes at the thought of silky cheeks, it also quakes at the nursing-all-the-time thing. How will I ever keep up with my house full of children who are getting into such trouble??? However, the goals I set for our family are progressing nicely. Nicholas is almost toilet trained—wearing underwear 75% of the time—and talking. Nonstop. Julianna’s toilet trained and making really good attempts at talking—some of them even recognizable. Hurrah! Obedience…that one’s still pretty high maintenance. But hey. I still have twelve weeks. 🙂

7 Quick Takes, Vol. 142



It’s been so long since we got to experience it, I forgot how much I love the learning-to-talk stage. Nicholas is just adorable. “It too toe in da pool,” he says at random times during the day. “Tan I tan up? Tan I hop you?” (Can I stand up—on the toilet, he means—and Can I help you. “Tan I teh da ta-el?” (Can I set the table?) It’s also fun because Alex wouldn’t say anything until he could get pretty close, while Nicholas just opens his mouth and says whatever’s on his mind, whether or not he knows how to make the sounds. It sharpens my ears, trying to interpret.


Of course, it has a down side, too. He’s been cranky and whiny lately, and that translates to unintelligible when he most wants to communicate. And he has a toddler’s stubbornness, too. He finished watching a home movie and asked to watch Thomas the Tank Engine. I told him no, you already watched your movie, and had to put up with a child following me around the kitchen for ten solid minutes, crying, whining and repeating, “Wa…Thoma…moy” (his word for movie). It doesn’t sound like that long, but imagine how many times in a row you can hear that phrase in ten minutes!


His cutest one, though, took a while to recognize. He kept wanting to open up the pop mower’s “tank” and put grass in it. Finally I realized his lack of an “r” sound makes him not realize there is a difference. “Put…gas…in…won wohr,” he says, and dutifully picks strands of grass from the lawn to drop in his toy. Everybody say “awwww”!


I can never remember at what point during pregnancy I give up on running and become a walker. So I’m recording in black and white (well, black and tan) that at 25 weeks plus, I am still running, although it’s considerably on the decline. I’m thinking about the 18 pounds I’ve already gained, and the 14 weeks to go, and the 5 pounds I was already over my prepregnancy weight, and the 10 pounds below that that I’d like to get back to. Looking to the post-nursing area.


The dark side of pregnancy is also beginning to manifest. The hip pain that plagued me last time around is back the last few days. I had hoped my exercise regimen would stave it off, but apparently not. Trying to discern whether PT or massage is the way to go. I was limping yesterday because I couldn’t support my own weight. Yikes.


We’re changing doctors. The most maddening thing about the process is that asking for recommendations did no good, because not one of the doctors people recommended is accepting patients. So I’ve had to make another switch relatively blind, and hope for the best this time.


Can’t decide if discretion would be the better part of valor in this case, but seriously, after having it in my head ALL NIGHT LONG, I just need to say: In my personal opinion, every copy of “On This Day O Beautiful Mother” should be burned out of every hymnal in existence. I know it’s a song that has great sentimental value to many, but yikes! “Lisping children”???? And people denigrate contemporary music for saccharine, shallow texts????

(Bracing for incoming! Although really, if Simcha can bash Thomas Kincaid, why can’t I express revulsion for On This Day? Then again, she has a lot more readers than I do. Oh, how I hate controversy.)

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 142)