Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Another Year Passes By

My 34th birthday passed by quietly this month. I've spent past birthdays across the country -- Seattle; Chicago; Washington, DC; Fargo, N.D.; and, of course, New York City. I spent my birthday this year overseeing the installation of our new oven and doing a load of laundry.

Twenty years ago I started a tradition of writing a letter to myself on or around my birthday. I reread the stack every year and add one more letter to the top. After perusing two decades' worth of letters, it's clearer than ever that my life isn't the same as it was even at 30, let alone at 14.

My letters used to be full of the fun things I had done in the previous year, like vacations, weekend trips and special occasions. Now, I suppose, it's quality over quantity. I mean, no number of weekend trips can equal the excitement of a new child -- but it isn't exactly the same kind of fun as a two-week trip to Europe.

I have no regrets. It's inevitable that lives go through stages. Families change, priorities change, day-to-day life changes. Hopefully for the better.

Fun game: Can you name the best years of your life? Do you think they are still ahead of you? On second thought, it can be a pretty depressing game, too.

Yes, I can name the best years of my life. But I also hope that even better ones are yet to come.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Photo Friday: Silly Cousins

We visited my family earlier this month to see my new nephew, born on July 1, and his big brother, who is just three months younger than Edith. Of course, that called for photos.

All photos from July 11, 2015

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Atticus in the News: The Good & Bad

Atticus -- the name, not our almost four-month-old baby -- has been all over the news this month.

The headline on a Today.com article sums up the hubbub: "Atticus is top trending baby name: Can he survive racist portrayal of namesake?"

Two things happened that spurred the article: "Go Set a Watchman," the sequel to Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" was released, portraying character Atticus Finch as a racist. Around the same time as the book's publication, website Nameberry declared Atticus to be the top-searched boy's name during the first half of 2015.

I'm pretty dismissive of the Nameberry "news." Why? Top name searches seem to have little to do with what names parents ultimately choose for their children.

Case in point: Last year, before we found out that we were having a boy, Imogen was on my short-list for a girl name. Lo and behold, Imogen was Nameberry's top-searched girl's name during the first half of 2014, as well as in 2013 (this year it dropped to No. 14). But according to the Social Security Administration, Imogen hasn't been in the top 1,000 girls' names since at least before the year 2000. Will we see a spike in the next couple of years? It's possible, but I highly doubt it will break the top 10 ... or even the top 500.

The Atticus Finch reference is more complicated. Of course, no one wants a name with a bad association. Not too many Adolf's around anymore, eh? I haven't yet read "Watchman" (I'm still on the library waitlist), but by all accounts Atticus Finch in this book is not a man with his feet planted firmly in the footprints of justice, as he was portrayed in "Mockingbird."

At best, that makes Atticus Finch more realistic. An English teacher not far from where I grew up in Northwest Ohio, who also has a son named Atticus, explained this well in a column written for the Washington Post. At worst, strangers will think we named our son after a fictional racist.

The funny part is that our Atticus isn't named after Atticus Finch at all. Paul and I both sincerely like the name independent of any associations. The strength and moral rectitude of Atticus Finch didn't hurt, but it held about equal weight as the background of the only other halfway famous Atticus, a man of ancient Rome and Athens. Paul is a big history geek and liked that the name means "man of Attica." With my writing background, I liked that he was a publisher.

When Paul and I first heard about the release of "Watchman" several weeks before our son's birth, we discussed how that might affect the popularity of the name. But by that time we had firmly settled on the name and didn't even consider changing it. When I heard that actress Jennifer Love Hewitt named her son Atticus in June, I thought that might have a greater impact on the name's popularity than the book.

I have mixed feelings about Atticus in the news. On the one hand, I dislike that the name will have a negative connotation, at least for a while. On the other hand, perhaps the association with the new book will make Atticus an even less common name (despite its use by celebrities) while "Watchman" fades behind the more popular "Mockingbird." Atticus is by no means the most fashionable name in the country, but it has grown in popularity over the last decade, rising from number 937 in 2004 to 370 in 2014, according to the Social Security Administration.

Interesting SSA footnote: "For 2014, the number of births with name Atticus is 846, which represents 0.042 percent of total male births in 2014." Believe it or not, Edith is an even less common name.

But perhaps the most disappointing article I've read recently about the name Atticus is this New York Times one. The featured couple has two kids. One is named Atticus, of course, and the other is named Edith. “We’ve always wanted to have names for our kids that aren’t super-popular,” the father says in the article.

My disappointment: The confirmation that I'm not as unique as I think I am.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Photo Friday: Edith and Atticus

Edith & Atticus, with his new hat! June 30, 2015

July 2, 2015

July 2, 2015

July 8, 2015

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A Weekend with Family

Atticus wasn't the youngest in the family for long. The day before he turned three months old, his newest cousin was born. We visited him for the first time this past weekend.

It was a weekend of firsts. Our first time meeting Hayden. Atticus's first visit to Defiance, where I grew up. And Atticus's first road trip -- he'd never been in a car for more than about a half hour. But he took the 2.5 hour trip like a trooper, pretty much sleeping the whole way there and back.

It was a pleasant weekend, filled with family and food. Both sets of my grandparents came for lunch at my parents' house, along with my sister and her growing family. I loved holding my newest nephew, and Edith had a blast playing with another cousin, just three months younger than herself.

Although I still miss New York (hard to believe we've been in Ohio two years this month!), it's weekends like these that make me glad I'm back. I'm happy our kids are getting to know their family in ways that would have been much more difficult from 500 miles away.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fourth of July in Clintonville

This past weekend was our first Independence Day in Columbus in about eight years, and our first in Clintonville ever. Although we lived in Clintonville last July, we spent the weekend in northwest Ohio visiting family. So this was an inauguration of sorts.

It almost wasn't much of a weekend. Paul found out Thursday that he unexpectedly would have to work on Friday. Then on Friday we got some bad news -- our oven needs to be replaced. And then Friday evening my slight headache turned into vomiting and tossing and turning on the couch all night.

I still wasn't feeling great in the morning, so Paul and Edith went to a holiday parade in nearby Worthington while I stayed home with Atticus. But luckily by the afternoon I was feeling much, much better.

We had been waffling back and forth about whether to attend the neighborhood's fireworks. On the one hand, they are within walking distance. On the other, they don't start until an hour after Edith's bedtime. At the last minute we decided to go.

Atticus slept through the 20 minute display. Edith seemed to enjoy them but was distracted. (Paul said the parade definitely was better at keeping her attention.) I'm glad we went, if only so I don't remember the holiday as the weekend I got sick and bought a new oven. Blah.


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