Mama Letters: Your Naming Stories

Sidenote: Sorry about the one week delay! We are having some chronic pain struggles over here and you never know when systems will be down. Which is really unnerving. Trying to get me in for corrective surgery, but between now and then, I have good days and bad days. We are hangin’ in there, though! Please humor me a bit until I can get back on track. Here is my first Monday Mama Letter, and a new writing prompt at the bottom!

Dear Ben & Alina,

I started dreaming about what I would name you when I was just a little kid. I wrote short stories about what you would be like and all the fun things we would do together.

When I first met your Daddy, I loved his middle name, which is Benjamin. I thought it went beautifully with his other two first names (wink) and it actually reminded me of the handsome star of a drama I used to watch in college called Felicity. The star who played Felicity, Keri Russell, used to say his name (Ben) in this serious angsty voice and it was just the coolest. So, your name had some fond memories for me. I dreamed that you would be very handsome and confident, and you are.

We decided very early on that if we ever had a boy we would name him Benjamin, but I don’t think it was until we were trying to have a baby that we decided on Philip as your middle name. I wanted you both to have family names of some kind, I think that ties you to your roots and is a wonderful way to pay respect to the generations that paved the way for us. And, it’s a tradition. I was named for both my grandmothers, Mary for my maternal grandma Mary Robertson, and my Nana, Frances Lee (who goes by Lee) and her daughter, my aunt Linda Lea.

So we named you for your father and for Grandpa, John Philip, who was named for his father, Philip. For the first year of your life we just called you “the boy”. Haha it sounds so strange written out but it was said in the most endearing way imaginable, much the way we still call Alina “Baby Sister”.

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Alina! You were very nearly named something completely different. We had lots of girl names in mind that we loved but had decided on Irelyn Alyson, back when we were trying to have Ben. Your Dad saw that name on a show about a family that had quintuplets. They named one of their daughters Irelyn and your Dad loved the name. We also love Ireland and that was a huge part of deciding on that name, since we had made a trip there when we decided to have children. Alyson is your auntie’s middle name, and I chose it for her when I was a kid. My parents were sweet enough to make me feel like I was a part of the process, which was so huge for a seven year old.

But then when we were just about to head to our ultrasound appointment to find out if you were a boy or a girl, we had to decide on a boy name just in case, which was really, really hard. We came up with Callen (we liked it but it also happens to be a character name on one of our favorite shows) Windsor (after my Nana’s family). Then suddenly, we were just not that attached to Irelyn anymore. I still have a sheet in my journal of names circled, numbered and crossed out. Your dad wanted Kylie, I really wanted Kyra (keera) but we finally both agreed on Alina, a name I had always liked and only heard of once- my very sweet college roommate. She also happened to be living with me when I met your Daddy. I always knew that Ben would be a boy and I always knew that you were a girl when you both were in my tummy and that was exactly how I dreamed it would be.

Of course, it doesn’t really matter whether you are girls or boys or what your names are, I am just so thankful that you are you, and I feel so honored that I get to be your mama.

You guys are just the best and I am so glad that you are ours.

Love,
Mama

Link Party!

Here is another naming story written by Renee over at My Life In a Nutshell. If you wrote a Naming Story for your blog, or if you eventually post one online, link up in the comments! I would love to read them.

Next week: Write to your child about a time that they faced a challenge and overcame it, or if you think your child is a little too young to find significance in that topic, write to them about a time that you faced a challenge and how you overcame it.

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Help Your Spouse Cope with Family Portraits

I remember this- my whole family would lock up like a bunch of icebergs when I would mention family portraits, and it would feel like I loaded the lot of them up on a sled with ice picks and pulled them there through the snow in a harness.

Yes, that appealing. After flat-ironing my hair, of course.

This year, with two toddlers, it is so much better. I worry a little bit about starting on time so that the kids don’t hit a wall too early, but for the most part, it’s smooth sailing. These small steps made all the difference:

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1) I stopped overdressing us.

My husband hates uncomfortable restrictive clothing. He also hates it when I am stressed out. I still wear nice shoes and do my hair and make-up, but I don’t dress the kids in white linens and I don’t put my husband in a button down shirt. I put the kids in cottons, layers, and jeans, that can take some playing. Honestly, white linens are fine, they are easy to fix in Photoshop, but they just stress me out. I make sure that I am comfortable. If I am tugging on my shirt or constantly tucking something in, I am going to lose it over the tiniest thing. It’s an easy fix to put my husband in something nice, but on the softer side. He is happy and more willing to go with the flow.

2) I asked my husband what bothered him.

He said that he fed off my stress, didn’t feel like he could act naturally and that he hated the way he smiled. I told him that thirteen year old girls created their own extra-curricular pastime called “Smiling at Ourselves in the Mirror” and followed that up with “Taking Copious Selfies” in our college years, so by now, our obsession with our own image has solved this problem. Short story: if it bothers you, smile at yourself every morning and memorize how your muscles feel when they are in the perfect position. Totally ridiculous, but it works. My next job was to chill the hell out.

3) I let go of the Holy Grail of family portraits.

Every time we would show up, I would be anxious about my children’s mood, expressions, behavior, the whole thing. I would be trying to execute my vision, and trying to put on an adorable show so that the photographer could capture it. I would have something in my mind and I would want it to happen that way and it would invade the whole experience before I knew it. Now, I mostly focus on being the most relaxed, happy mama I can be, to give the kids room to have fun, to act like we are there just to spend time with them and listen to everything they have to say- and really, we are. They are happier, my husband is happier, and everyone feels that energy and magic happens. I always get a beautiful photo that I fall instantly in love with. I didn’t have to put on a show, I just had to genuinely relax the expectations I had for my family.

4) Supplying sustenance

You can’t make kids eat, but I offer them snacks every five minutes while I am getting ready and hopefully follow that with a brush. I also make sure that we have a nice dinner planned, a date night or we can take the kids somewhere fun afterward. I want the day to have a positive vibe for all of us, it helps everyone look forward to it. Or at least, not turn and run the other way.

5) I realized how fast that shutter really was.

Basically, we invested in a session, and another session, and another, and I realized, even if I thought nothing was working, there were beautiful moments happening. Now, knowing how much you can get out of only five minutes of getting along, I just don’t stress about my kids and what they are doing. I try to refocus them, I go with the flow, I pick them up and hug them. I try not to worry about whether they are looking at the camera. Once you find a photographer you trust, you know they will give you something great, and you can relax.

In the end, I can’t make it the singular highlight of my husband’s day (or mine, really). Our lives are chaotic and exhausting and adding something outside of our routine feels really difficult. I can, however, make it something achievable within reason, that we can expect to enjoy, and that won’t send any of us into fits.

I always offer him a beer when it’s over.

 

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