Monday, November 29, 2010

Getting Away from the Demons

Last weekend was my annual Girls Weekend Away.  Every year, on the weekend before Thanksgiving, one of my best high school friends, Heather, and I meet and pretend that we are childless for 48 hours.  We shop, drink, eat, dance, watch non-animated movies, and bond over Bravo reality television. (I want to add that I am now completely addicted to Intervention, and I am really looking forward to planning one for my husband's dependence on sporting events.)  We strategically plan this for the weekend before Thanksgiving so that we are very thankful during the holiday.

(Photo courtesy of Heather Licker)

In order to make the separation easier for everyone, I begin preparing the children a few days before my departure: 
"Mommy is going on a special girls' weekend on Friday and you get to stay with Daddy!"
"Why?" they ask.
"Because, sometimes mommies need a break to relax and take time to themselves."
"Because being a mommy is hard and is giving me gray hair."
"Children take a lot of energy to birth and raise."
"Because I was in labor with you for 36 hours, the epidural I got with Maisy left me with a spinal headache for a week, and I have forgotten how to shower on my own."
"Do you want to watch The Cat in the Hat?"

After the weekend I am expected (by my husband, my children, and myself) to be relaxed, calm and prepared to jump back into mother-mode- full force.  While the time away does help me to appreciate my family, and yes absence does make the heart grow fonder, the serenity of the pampered mother is short lived.

Last year, as I was picked up curbside from the United terminal, I was bombarded with extremely needed toddler hands and a husband who was so happy to see me he went for a long walk the moment I set my suitcase in the foyer.  The children wanted hugs, kisses, and presents, all of which I readily provided, and Ted just needed a few hours to himself (which I also provided).  Unfortunately, after the warm affections were complete I had the chance to look around the house at the unmade beds, the dirty laundry, and the dishes in the sink.  Take-out containers from McDonald's and the local Chinese restaurant littered the garbage can, and it seemed that the girls have not bathed, nor brushed their hair, in days.  Maisy, who was 8-months-old at this time, was starving since she had been exclusively bottle fed all weekend (Ted felt that it was too complicated to also give her solids).   My overwhelming sense of calm steadily dissipated and I began the countdown to this year's weekend.  There was only 363 more days to go.

I wised up this year, and pleaded with my mother and stepfather to assist my husband during my trip.  I was chastised by many friends for bringing in backup: "He'll never understand the role of a mother unless he is completely alone with the girls," or "You are enabling him."  Yeah, they make a good point, however, I am much more likely to come home to a clean house and clean children with my mother's obsessive-compulsive need to vacuum daily.

Traveling alone was absolutely everything that I imagined it to be. Even though I mistook the PM for AM on my itinerary, and arrived at the airport 12 hours early, I was there without a stroller, infant carrier, or diaper bag.  I could wait in the Pete's coffee line without a child tugging my arm begging for something smothered in chocolate.  I was able to fly stand-by on the next flight not worried about seat selection or finding room for ten carry-on bags.  And best of all, I could read whatever I wanted during my flight; no toddler entertainment necessary.  During this incredible flight it did phase me in the least that across the aisle from me sat a family traveling with a two-year-old daughter and an infant son.  The toddler whined and the baby cried for much of the flight, however it wasn't my responsibility. As we were landing my male seatmate gazed out the window and asked me about the stadium to the west with the retractable roof.  "I'm sorry," I apologized. "Please don't be offended, but this weekend I am disassociating myself from all things balls, especially men."

In my experience mothers need at least biannual vacations away from the kids.  I prefer to take one trip with the husband, and one without.  These vacations do not need to be week long trips to Europe or Hawaii.  A two-night stay at a hotel on the beach or in the country can provide just the right cocktail of relaxation and adventure needed to recharge the mommy batteries.  For those of you who are like me, guilt-ridden, yet still with a primal need to occasionally pamper yourself, Kara Williams, author of Vacation Gals, offers these six tips for a guilt-free getaway:
  1. The kids will survive without you!  You are not leaving them home alone with an ax murderer, it's just Dad.
  2. Single ladies, get the help of friends and family.  If it takes a village then get those villagers to start doing their share!
  3. Prepare meals in advance.  (I so do not believe in this!!!  See my travel tips below.)
  4. Make sure you and your travel partners/fellow moms want to do the same things.  It might make for a contentious weekend if your gal-pal only wants to shop and you only want to drink.
  5. If you are on a tight financial budget, search the web for some great deals, or ask a friend to borrow their vacation home for a weekend.
  6. Remember, you deserve this!!!  It's no easy task raising children.  Some time away is not a privilege, it is a necessity!
For the single moms there is a travel club just for you.  At "Mommy Getaways Travel Club" you can meet other single moms and enjoy great deals on relaxing vacations, without the kids!  Find them on Facebook at Mommy Getaways Travel Club for Single Moms.

There are other sites that offer ideas for a "stay-cation" (maybe the most ridiculous word in the English language).  I'm not going to bother boring you with these details, just please know that unless you are separated from every responsibility (including all spawns) it is not a vacation!  My tips for creating a successful weekend get-away are much more practical than Ms. Williams'.  I suggest that you read these carefully before embarking on your adventure.
  1. Do not, by any means, leave prepared food in microwavable containers for your spouse to heat and serve.  It is time for him to learn what being a mother is truly like.
  2. However, do not be upset if the children survive on McNuggets, fries and McFlurries for 48 hours.  Believe me, a few days to yourself is well worth the malnutrition and extra cavities.
  3. Do not expect your house to remotely resemble the house you left.  If less than three main pieces of furniture/appliances are not completely destroyed, consider this a success.
  4. Do not be alarmed that your well-groomed children may appear to look homeless when you return.  This is normal consequence of not bathing for three days and staying in the same clothing all weekend.
  5. Conveniently "forget" your phone charger.
  6. Most importantly, travel somewhere far enough away that if you are telephoned by a desperate husband/partner who is about to run down the street naked screaming "E-I-E-I-O", it would take you a good six hours plus an extra $250 to return early.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Friday Giveaway- Win This Book

I just finished reading Alternadad, by Neal Pollack, and I can't wait to pass it along to a reader.
In this book Neal recounts his adventures into parenthood.  He's honest and raw, and a parent that we can all relate to.  Here is what John Hodgman had to say about Mr. Pollack: “Neal Pollack has a well documented history of putting himself into ridiculous positions, but never so literally… If Eat, Pray, Love had been written by a sweaty, aging, male smartass, then that book might be called Stretch, and Elizabeth Gilbert would be named Neal Pollack.”

To win this book tell me what you are thankful for this holiday season (you can be sarcastic or not).  Winner will be randomly chosen on Sunday.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The top 10 things I'm thankful for:

(Picture courtesy of Amanda Dixon Leung)

10.  That most restaurants can make a bowl of plain pasta with butter (no cheese) and charge only $12.

9. Drop-off kid classes and the childcare at my gym.

8. Madeline cookies, the perfect bribery for the kids when I need to stop by the coffee shop for my caffeine fix.

7.  Duck, Duck, Moose- and all their iPhone apps that occupy my tots during long periods of waiting.

6. That I am finished bearing children.

5. That most childrens' art supplies are washable.

4. That my husband no longer expects a nightly homemade meal.  In fact, he is happy if I cook once a week.

3. The most wonderful and talented babysitter ever- the TV (sorry MTN).  It's free, never late, and the kids are always happy to see it.

2. The hours between 8 PM and 6:30 AM.

1.  My family

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Father That I Thought He Would Be

While I have fallen so far from the pedestal of perfect parenting that I had imagined for myself, my husband has neither fallen nor risen.  He is almost exactly the father I thought he would be.  Ted changes the occasional diaper, calls chewable Tylenol “candy”, and feeds the kids chocolate croissants whenever he is in charge of breakfast.  He wavers between the role of authoritarian and good-time father, not quite sure where he fits.  He loves the kids deeply, but isn’t all-consumed with every milestone and personal achievement.  When Elana took her first step, or when Maisy said her first word, he reacted genuinely excited over the phone when I called to tell him.  However, there was no “I can’t believe I wasn’t there” guilt/sadness that plagues the mother who misses her child’s first anything.

Ted is a good father, and a good husband, yet he is also the traditional father/husband.  He often has to leave for work before Elana brightens the rest of us with her high-pitched wailing and refusal to get dressed.  Maisy, our farm rooster, is always the first up.  And Ted gives her a loving, quick kiss on the forehead before dashing out the door to his luxurious 30-minute commute.  At night, Ted usually arrives home as the girls are emerging from the bathtub and he is able to spend a good half-hour playing with them before helping with bedtime.  And this seems to work for him.  Again, there is no guilt/sadness of the mother who feels that she isn’t spending enough quality time with her children.  To him, like most fathers I know, this is enough.  

Last year Ted attended a parent education night at Elana’s co-op preschool titled “How to talk so you kids will listen, and listen so your kids will talk.”  From the gossip around the co-op kitchen the day after I gathered that the evening quickly became a seminar on “How to get your kids to eat/sleep/stop hitting/stop screaming/etc”. That night, as Ted climbed into bed after the meeting, I asked him how it went- what did he learn?  He exclaimed how lucky we were to have such an obedient and well-behaved child.  The other parents at the event had so many concerns about how little their child ate, the difficulties of bedtime, and various other toddler misbehaviors.  “Elana,” he said without a hint of sarcasm, “is just so perfect.”  First of all, I wondered what child he was referring to; secondly, I didn’t know whether to find his attitude charming- oh he is just so enamored with the children that he is completely blinded by their inner demons- or if to find it obnoxious that his few minutes of parenting a day leaves me to deal with the heavy lifting.  I chose to see it as obnoxious.

It’s not that society has no, or low, expectations for fathers.  It’s more like society does not know where to set the expectations.  When a father brings his kids to the playground on a weekday, he is flocked by his adoring fans (mothers whose husbands are off at work, drinking coffee in boardrooms and flirting with office assistants).  This rare sighting, of a XY-chromosome above the age of ten, pushing a child on the swing, is as close to flirting as most stay-at-home mothers get in the average week (unless you call it foreplay when the checker at Trader Joe’s asks me if I want to double bag).

A few years ago our good friend- let’s call him David- was flying alone with his one-and-a-half-year old daughter from Chicago to San Francisco.  His wife had to take a flight a few days later.  Given she was under two years old they shared a seat in coach.  David sat at a window seat next to a nice couple in their early 60s from Wisconsin who were headed to SF for vacation.  He apologized in advance for the potential of any child crying.  David held his daughter on his lap, played with her, read to her, lulled her to sleep (all the things parents do on cross-country flights).  During the flight the husband asked if he could borrow David’s Sports Illustrated Magazine.  Thinking nothing of it he gave the magazine to the man.   As they departed the plane David thanked them for their patience and understanding and headed off thinking nothing of it.  Apparently, his seatmates were quite taken with David and his daughter.  A few days later, David received a lovely note from the couple praising him for being such an exemplary father (it seems that he found his address on the address label glued to the magazine).  The handwritten note espoused praise, surprise and admiration. Now, David is a terrific father, but his wife, who is an absolutely amazing mother, has made this solo trip numerous times with not one, but two kids.  Never has she been so highly praised and adored, or even slightly praised.  David was surprised by the letter and even more surprised by his wife’s reaction to the perceived double standard.

Let’s look at a few more situations and how they are perceived differently depending on the gender of the parent.

The Mother
The Father
Parent buys the child a chocolate croissant for breakfast.
Bakery patrons admonish the mother for giving her child a sugary pastry instead of a homemade meal.
Bakery patrons marvel at the lovely father/daughter meal.
Child behaves unruly in a restaurant
Fellow diners wonder why the mother has not provided better boundaries for her children.
Fellow diners sympathize remembering the difficulties of raising young children.
Public diaper changing

Does she really need to do that here?
Isn’t it great to see such hands-on parenting?
Parent works twelve hour days, travels all over the country for work, and is often on duty during the weekends.
This mother does not have her priorities straight.  She needs to place family above her career.
He’s just a man providing for his family.
Baby barfs all over the parent during a turbulent flight.
Passengers plug their noses and turn away from the stench.  (True story, happened to me.)
Passengers offer napkins, water, even their own shirts as a towel, as well as offer to hold the puke-drenched babe.
Yes, I know that a father’s role has been changing dramatically over the past 30 years.  According to the US Census, there were 62% more single fathers in 2000 than in 1990, making up nearly 7.5 million households.  Dads of all kinds are now more involved in housework, cooking, and child rearing, than their fathers and grandfathers.  My lovely, well-meaning mother-in-law is quick to praise her sons for changing a diaper, or bathing the children when she remembered raising three boys without that sort of help from her husband.  It was his responsibility to work and provide for the family, which he did, putting long hours in at the office and building a strong career in the newspaper business.
(Photo courtesy of Amanda Dixon Leung.)
However, it seems that we are now in sort of a fatherhood limbo period where we want more from dads, but not sure how much more to expect.  I know that I am fortunate that I have an involved husband.  When Ted is home, we divvy up the chores pretty evenly.  However, he nearly always opts for the manual labor chores, versus the parenting ones.  Who’s going to do the grocery shopping and who’s going to take kids to park?  Do the dishes or read stories on the couch?  Clean the backyard or give the kids a bath?  Before I can ever pick up a dirty dish, Ted is at the sink, claiming stake to the non-child involved chore.   Should I be satisfied to have a husband who helps around the house at all, or frustrated to have one who is able to remove himself so effortlessly from the hard labor of parenting? What do you think?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday Giveaway- Another Demon Spawn Hat (Quick Poll)

Winter is quickly approaching, and I am sure that your devil offspring (or some other mischievous sprite that draws on walls with permanent marker) needs a hat like this to keep warm.

Answer these three questions:
1.  If you bring a toy to the playground, do you expect your child to share?
2.  If another child hits/bites/pushes your kid at the playground, and her parents do not interfere, do you have the right to talk to the offending child?
3.  Is it OK to bring a child with a runny nose to the playground?

Winner will be randomly selected on Sunday.

Hat comes in sizes Impious Infant, Terrible Toddler, Pain in the Ass Preschooler, or Evil Elementary Schooler. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Mother that I Thought I Would Be

Yesterday Maisy had a lollipop for lunch.  Granted, it was an organic, Vitamin C enhanced, made-with-real-sugar lollipop from Whole Foods, but it was still sugar on a stick.  I was driving back from the East Bay trying to feed Maisy a lunch of apple slices and whole wheat bread about to pick up Elana from preschool.  Maisy was listless in the back seat, her eyes slowly drooping into nap land as she neglected her apple.  I knew that if she slept the 15 min it takes me to cross the Bay Bridge to Noe Valley, she would wake up when we got to school and completely skip her afternoon nap.  (Not napping at home = no down time for mommy.)  So, I did as any sane mother would, I pried her with candy.  Immediately Maisy perked up and happily sucked her bribe.

As I monitored Maisy carefully in the rear view mirror (for drowsiness not for choking) I was reminded of a funeral I attended some ten years ago.  I was teaching in DC, part of the Teach for America "Let's save all the poor kids by giving them high-energy, privileged teachers from good colleges" campaign.  One of my homeroom student's grandmothers died (this grandmother was also the primary caretaker of the student and her younger brother) and I went to the funeral accompanied by Ted and a few fellow teachers.  In the pew in front of ours sat a mother and her toddler daughter, maybe just over a year old.  The mother quietly shushed the baby while trying to listen to the eulogy.  When the shushing and the patting stopped being effective the mother pulled out a lollipop.  The baby happily grabbed the treat and popped it into her mouth.  Occasionally the baby would drop the sucker on the floor and the mother would pick it up and stuff it back into her daughter's eager mouth.  Obviously, I was mortified.  What kind of mother would let her precious, innocent baby rot her teeth with that garbage?  I would never, ever, not in a million years do that!  (By the way, I wonder how I would have judged that mother had she let the baby throw a tantrum during prayer?)

Have you been to a nail salon lately and seen a 2-year-old getting a pedicure? That was never going to be us!  Never mind that nail salons let off toxic fumes and the polish is laced with lead, what kind of mother would tart her daughter up in pink polish and pay ten bucks to do so?  Do you know how many starving children in Africa $10 would feed (I don't either, but I am sure that it is a ten-spot could buy a goat or two)?  Well, that mother would be me.  It's not that I think that my toddler needs the rose-petaled foot bath, or the pumice scrub.  Rather, it provides me an opportunity to have a rose-petaled foot bath and a pumice scrub.  While Elana is pampered by the lovely Vietnamese nail technicians, I can relax in my massage chair and catch up on the latest issue of Us Weekly.

Here are the other ways I have deviated from the ultimate mother I intended to be:

Before I procreated
Children should not watch TV, especially before the tender age of two.  Television only hinders their imaginations and creates obese children.
The electronic babysitter allows me to accomplish so many things that would otherwise be neglected (like personal hygiene).  Rarely does a day go by that both kids do not watch some TV.  Maisy, by the young age of 15 months, learned how to demand Super Why.  She would point to the TV in our bedroom and plead “Why, Why, Why, Why!” 
Epidurals are for wimps.  Mothers have been giving birth for centuries without these drugs, and so can I.
After 12 hours of labor with the first, I happily accepted the drug.  From there on it was known as “The Best High Ever”.  When Maisy came, and she did fast, I staggered into triage screaming “Give me those damn drugs NOW.”
My children would work around my schedule.  Ted and I would not become slaves to their napping needs.
While, in theory, I still hold some hope for this, my children have demonstrated countless times how horror films are envisioned when they’ve missed a nap.
Although spanking has been taboo for a few decades now, I thought one step ahead- I would treat my children with dignity and never scream or lose control.
Does it count as losing control if my face turns bright red, veins start popping out of my forehead, and I pound my head against the steering wheel while shrieking  “Stop yelling and kicking my seat!!!”
My children would learn how to sleep soundly through the night in their own room, and in their own BED, by 6-months of age.
At midnight the baby would wake and I’d feed her and put her back in the crib.  At 2 am, Ted would try to calm the screeching babe for a few minutes before I would shove him aside with a grunt and feed her again.  At 4 am, I would bring the baby to my bed, lift up my t-shirt, and give her full access to the milk machine while I tried desperately to go back to sleep.  Neither of my kids slept well until we sleep-trained.  We actually upgraded to a California King to accommodate the girls’ frequent nighttime visits.

I asked a few fellow mothers- mothers that I find to be amazing and near perfect- how their values have been tested by the task of raising children.  Many lamented about what I call "The Chicken Nugget Conundrum".  Before pushing out kids from their nether-regions, almost ever mother I talked to would have gladly plucked her eyelashes out with poisoned tweezers than give a child McNuggets.  (Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, writes that these chunks of "chicken" contain 38 ingredients, including tertiary butyl hydroquinone, a byproduct of petroleum.)  However, after the reality of parenthood set in, during a busy afternoon with a hundred and one errands to accomplish and a hungry, cranky toddler in the back seat, the drive-through option is not scoffed at lightly.
Here is the rest of their list:

Before Procreation
Disney Characters- princesses, Tinker Bell, Buzz Lightyear, etc. 
Disney controls the minds of children, forcing them to dream in Princess Pink and Lightening McQueen red.
When a $5 toy brings 2.5 hours of happy playtime, it is well worth turning your house into the Magic Kingdom. 
When women let their personal appearance take a back seat to that of their child’s they are allowing their self-worth to be less important, too.
Many mothers find it hard to shower more than three times a week, and yoga pants have become the status symbol of the exhausted mother.
As an avid backpacker, Amanda never imagined planning an all-inclusive package vacation.  She wanted her children to explore different lands, foods, and cultures.
Who needs diversity when you have Kid’s Club and poolside drink service?
When it comes to discipline, counting to three is degrading.  When parents talk to their children reasonably children will respond reasonably.
“That’s 1.  That’s 2.  That’s 2 and a half!  All right mister, I mean it this time!  That’s 3, TIME OUT!!!”
Cloth diapers all the way!  And, no chemical-laced formula for our perfect offspring.
Both are fantastic ideals, but in reality cloth diapers leak at night, are a nuisance on the go, and washing out poop is nobody’s idea of a good time.  Formula may not be the best option, but it isn’t a death sentence either.  

After reviewing my and my friends' lists I've concluded that fulfilling these lofty, pre-breeding,  mothering goals would leave us as exhausted, cranky, tantrum-y mothers.  This makes me ask, what is better for my children- an hour of Sprout a day and the occasional lollipop and Chicken McNugget lunch, or an exhausted, overextended mother with premature graying and vodka in the coffee mug?  A little petroleum has never killed anyone.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday Giveaway: Perfect for your Cheerio littered, rancid milk smelling car!

Answer these two quick questions:
1.  What percent of the household chores do you do?
2.  Are you satisfied with the division of chores? (yes/no)

Winner will be randomly selected on Sunday.

Monday, November 8, 2010

An Isabella by Any Other Name

Against all my warnings, my dear sister-in-law is about to give birth to her second (subsequent) child.  To make matters worse, her first is just 18-months-old.  I plan to bring to the hospital a lovely gift basket filled with Excedrin and scotch.  Although she knows the gender of the baby (power to progesterone!) she hasn't divulged the name, yet.  So, to help her with this decision, I decided to write a little post on how baby names are often chosen.

I started by looking at the top ten male and female names of last year, according to the Social Security Administration.  The column to the right of the name shows the number of babies given that name in 2009.

Male name
Number of
Female name
Number of

To compare I looked up the top ten baby names thirty years ago.

Male name
Number of
Female name
Number of

There are a few important things to note when comparing these two tables.  First of all, it is evident that boy names are pretty boring.  Parents just don't seem to get that creative with their sons, not even venturing into uncommon spellings like Jasmine vs Jasmyne.  Only two of the top ten male names in 1980 (Jason and Robert) are not in the top 50 male names of 2009.  In comparison there are only two of the top-ten female names from 1980 that make the top 50 of 2009 (Elizabeth is #11 and Sarah is #21). I attribute this to the machismo factor; a son named Eucalyptus just doesn't seem that assertive, powerful, or dare I say manly.

The second observation is that in past decades, the top names, like Michael and Jennifer, were much more popular (by numbers) than the current top names.  Notice how the 10th most popular boy's name of 1978 (Joseph) had more babies bestowed that name than the 1st most popular boy's name of 2009 (Jacob).  During my school years you could not swing a stick on the playground without hitting at least one Jennifer and tripping a few Heathers.  (Not that these are bad names, but in my phone's contact list there are at least four Jennifers and three Heathers.)  If you happened to name your child Jacob or Isabella, they are much less likely to be seated next to another Jacob/Isabella than the Michaels of the 1970's.

Steven D Levitt and Stephen J Dubner wrote a fantastic chapter on baby names in their book Freakanomics.  In this chapter they analze the socioeconomic and racial backgrounds of the most popular names of the 1990's.  What they found is that after a few years the top baby names among the upper class are passed down to become the top names of the middle class and then the lower class.  Based on this, Steven and Stephen predict these names to be the most popular baby names of 2015.

Most Popular Girl’s Names of 2015
Most Popular Boy’s Names of 2015
This book was published in 2005.  Five years later I already see their predication becoming reality.  In my circle of friends I know three Ava's, one Aviva, countless Clementine's, a gaggle of Grace's, numerous Emma's and Ella's, as well a multitude of Maya's (and that's just the girls).

Ted and I had a very difficult time naming our first child.  We decided to be surprised by the gender so we had to come up with two names.  This proved to be practically impossible.  First of all, Ted refused to talk about any name choices until I was dilated five-centimeters and clawing the bedrails in pain.  (I think that this was his way of fighting off the life-changing task we were about to embark upon.  At the time it seemed annoying, but now I totally get it.)  When I did go into labor, four weeks early, we had some brutal decisions to make.  He liked names such as Jessica or Brittany.  I immediately axed those telling him “I didn't realize I was giving birth in 1985.”  I liked names like Abigail (he said too snooty) and Ivy (he said it sounded like a cheap hooker).

Eventually we googled Hebrew baby names realizing that if we can’t decide on one name, we could never pick two.  We found the name Elana to be agreeable and it didn’t have too intense a spiritual meaning (it means tree).  We also decided on Isaac if the baby happened to have a third appendage between his legs; it didn't.  Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until the birth certificate was signed and I was being pushed out the back doors of California Pacific Medical Center that Elana rhymes with Rhiana.  Bleh.  Now people think I did that on purpose!  We gave Elana a middle name that wouldn’t put too much pressure on her to achieve greatness: Wrigley.  If she does something spectacular in one out of every hundred years, she will exceed all expectations that anyone has ever set for the Cubs.

Maisy was much easier to name; we just left it in the hands of our then 2-year-old.  Elana’s favorite character was Lucy Cousin’s Maisy Mouse, so when I asked Elana what the basketball in my tummy should be called, she said “Maisy”.  Ted and I were just grateful that she didn’t choose “Elmo”, or "Curious George".  As Maisy’s middle name we chose to name her after Ted’s maternal grandmother, Jane.  Luckily it can, however obscurely, be traced back to Hebrew lineage so we didn’t have to find a third name for her.

 There are many ways to pick a name for your child.  Many people often baptize their child with the name of a beloved grandmother or grandfather.  I like this approach, but as with all good intentions, it can be hazardous.   What if your ancestors were named Mildred or Percival?  There is a nice loophole, but only for those of you who happen to be of the Jewish persuasion.  There is a Jewish tradition in which you use just the first letter of the name of the dead relative you wish to honor.  My beautiful niece has a middle name of Maya, in tribute to her great-grandfather Milton.  (I never met the guy, and I am sure that he was a wonderful man, but please don't name your baby Milton, unless you think that he will stay bald for the rest of his life.)

Other parents like to name their children after great literary characters, or talented musicians.  My peace-loving, long-haired, hippie parents named my older brother after Bob Dylan and me after a Fleetwood Mac song (to this day my brother refuses to admit that he is named after the iconic folk singer with a raspy voice).  Bruce Willis and Demi Moore named their daughter Scout, after the character in To Kill a Mockingbird (not a bad choice, but a bit in-your-face).  Other parents have named their children Sherlock (Sherlock Holmes), Daisy (The Great Gatsby), and even Lolita (Lolita).  I do not understand these at all.  Sherlock is the name of a boy who gets beaten up at recess, Daisy is just a snooty, spoiled, snot, and Lolita will undoubtedly hit on her middle school teachers! Parents!  Please think of your child's future before naming her!
Even more unfortunate than the parents who try to display their wit through naming, are those who try to be ironic.  No child should ever walk this earth burdened with the names Carrie Oakey, Paige Turner, or (shudder) Tim Burr.  (According to the BBC, these are names or real, honest-to-goodness, living humans.)

And, what about the parents that name their children after everyday objects like- Pickle, Delta, Bread, Harry Pitt, and yes Leukemia?  If you like those names, then you will love my picks: Blender ('cause kids are just loud), Doritos (they just taste so good, why not name your first child after the cheesy and crunchy snack), and Vasectomy (this one is self explanatory).

If you are currently in the market for a name, I would advise choosing one that can easily be converted to the opposite gender, should the need arise (we do live in the Bay Area after all).  Elana can drop the final letter and form the masculine Elan.  Maisy has many options including Mason, Macey, or Maynard.  When the time comes for her to transition, I'll put my hopes in Maynard.