Saturday, August 27, 2011

Come on, Irene!

I have this weird affection for extreme weather. Strike that: I LOVE extreme weather. Give me a blizzard, torrential thunder storms, or anything that demolishes decorative shrubbery and sends average people speeding (and by that, I mean driving like entitled psychopaths) to Wal-Mart to stock up on bottled water and canned soup. I'm not the type to panic (probably because I have no decorative shrubbery, and keep a well-stocked pantry at all times regardless of weather), so I mostly just love bunkering down and watching nature bitch-slap our built environment. On some primal level, it feels like justice. As the eastern seaboard prepares for the onslaught of Hurricane Irene this weekend, I am bracing myself with childlike fascination for the show to come.

I've always loved seriously messed up weather, and a lot of that adoration can probably be blamed on school cancellations (for obvious reasons), but also on a baby squirrel. When I was too young for summer camp and definitely too unruly to bring to work, my parents hired a teenager or early twenty-something to come to the house and basically babysit me all day, every day. My memories of this girl are fuzzy: I know she had a kind of crappy car (which I only identified as "kind of crappy" because it was clearly older than either of my parents' cars, and I think my Mom made some disparaging comment about it once), I'm almost positive she was in college (but she mostly just registered as "older" since I was only six at the time), and she had some kind of weird birthmark on her leg by which I was absolutely captivated (because it made her different in some unique way, and therefore in my eyes far superior to basically every other person I knew). Let's call her Stephanie, because I was fairly certain that every super cool, college-aged girl in 1991 was named Stephanie.

Stephanie typically came to the house before my parents left for work, then left at the end of their work day. We would play games, occasionally run parent-sanctioned errands or visit parks, and even more rarely (but excitingly) visit her parents' lake house, where she had an orca whale pool float, which kicked ass. I had fun with Stephanie, to be sure, but her greatest virtue as a caregiver (from my perspective) was her willingness to humor me. She good-naturedly played along with my often day-long imagined scenarios, making her assigned My Little Pony (original ponies, none of these crazy new ones) trot and verbally engage with the story as my prompting dictated, and seemed almost as enthusiastic as I was to engage in an act of humanitarian aid when Hurricane Bob struck.

My parents had left for work, knowing that they were leaving me with essentially another kid alone at the house during a hurricane. We knew the weather would be bad, but my only partially-developed mind was in no way prepared for the madness that ensued. There is a picture window in the front room of the house I grew up in, as well as a massive window looking out into the backyard, so we had ample viewing options through which to observe the carnage. Branches were flying everywhere, rain was coursing down at every possible angle, trash cans and yard equipment that hadn't been properly secured were flung haphazardly around the neighborhood, and even the most stable trees looked ready to fling themselves suicidally onto waiting power lines. Stephanie and I filled pitchers and pots with extra water, made sure everything nonessential was unplugged, and spent the day moving from the windows at the front and back of the house, drinking hot chocolate despite it being August.

Sometime in the middle of the afternoon, chaos still rampant outside, I saw something tiny and gray drop from the maple tree in the front yard. I was (and still am) one of those kids who absolutely flipped out over animals. I could spend days at a zoo, and the dozen small animals at the tiny science museum across town provided sufficient amusement for my parents to probably want to hug them all, so when I ascertained that the tiny falling thing had been a baby squirrel, Stephanie was faced with a choice. Did she explain to me that sometimes nature is cruel, and not every adorable creature is meant to survive, or did she run out into the front yard, dodge catapulting branches and dirt clods, and scoop up a baby animal with a slim-to-nil chance of survival?

Stephanie kicked ass. She was outside in a heartbeat, kitchen towel at the ready, and before she had even dried off, that baby squirrel was nestled in a shoe box nibbling condensed milk off her fingertip. She called a local animal rescue group who told her how to make sure the squirrel (who at this point we had named "Lucky") stayed warm and safe. We planned to drop him off at the shelter as soon as the storm calmed down, because Stephanie did at least have the good sense to explain that however cute and helpless he may be, Lucky would make a crappy pet because of being wild and possibly carrying nonspecific disease. (Also, given that my parents had a hard time consenting to getting goldfish, a wild orphaned rodent seemed like a tough sell.) The next day, Stephanie and I drove Lucky to a local childrens' museum/animal rescue organization, and while I was somewhat heartbroken to give up my new little friend, I had learned a vital lesson: hurricanes can yield adorable little animal friends, or at least exciting adventures.

Granted, I have always lived in geographic regions are that more or less disaster-free. In Connecticut, where I grew up, one is more likely to be snubbed by a rude waiter than stranded on a rooftop during a hurricane-induced flood. The dangers are minimal, even humorous compared to elsewhere. Where we are in Maine is at least considered coastal, and is therefore occasionally subject to storm surges and vaguely nasty storms, the greatest natural threats come in the forms of large wildlife, which really only give you trouble if you mess with them first (say, with a car). Even in Upstate New York (home to fewer hazards more serious than a sub-par bed and breakfast), there were no earthquakes, no hurricanes, no floods (except that one really weird thaw-related mess in 2005, but that was a fluke), and barring some nasty blizzards, no major weather-related hazards.

I keep hearing murmurings from elsewhere along the coast of grocery stores literally emptied of all but shelves, and New York City is more or less shutting down (which is really weird), but up here, the biggest worry seems to be having enough cookies and/or alcohol to stay entertained in the unlikely event that power actually goes out for more time than it takes to charge a laptop. Still, even a greatly diminished hurricane is pretty major excitement around these parts, so out your Dad and I tromp to buy toilet paper, yogurt (a storm essential), and the juice I've been craving. It may not be a luxury premium plus survival kit, but I'm pretty sure we're going to make it. It's your first natural disaster, Batman! Here's hoping we have enough snacks for me to make it through without getting too cranky.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Musings on edibles

From roughly week seven of your existence, food has been a pretty epic component of my existence. Given that I have been trying pretty damn hard to build a strong foundation of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and whatever other good stuff I'm supposed to be ingested, both for your healthy growth and mine, keeping an eye on what I eat was just smart to begin with. Add to that, your father and I are both pretty avid foodies, which means that I had a lot of dietary interests and habits that were going to need negotiating.

I figured I would pursue a well-balanced but diverse diet of not only favorite foods, but also those with substantial nutritional value...then morning sickness struck. As I've previously ranted, and will likely continue to well past your thirtieth birthday, NOTHING - literally none of the "normal" remedies - made my nausea even a teensy bit better. Saltines, ramen noodles, store-brand "Creamy Wheat," beef broth, and sometimes, if I was feeling really bold, green grapes became the only foods in my diet...and by in my diet, I mean in my stomach for up to forty minutes before making a rather drastic reappearance. Even after my midwives opted to medicate me, I still had to tread incredibly carefully or face another tete-a-tete with the porcelain gods. Sometime in the last few weeks, however, things have started to resolve themselves. Now I can think about food again without retching despondently! I can eat food that is not just beige! I can look at a menu at a restaurant, a grocery store, or even our fridge, and WANT things!

Sadly, with all silver linings come a cloud. With my newly reclaimed dietary freedom, I've discovered a few foods for which I am rapidly developing a desire to shiv nuns in order to obtain (some off-limits, sadly), but also a few items that I would sooner see launched into the sun than put on my plate. I give you my second trimester bottom to top five list.

#5: Eggs. If you have ever wondered what the single most hideous thing is that a human being can regurgitate, the answer should be obvious. (It's eggs.) One of the first days I was REALLY sick, back somewhere around week seven or eight, I thought it would be a good idea to make myself an egg and cheese quesadilla for breakfast. About twenty minutes later, I realized how utterly, painfully, gut-wrenchingly wrong I was. I've had a few small breakfasts containing some of your father's excellent cheesy eggs - heavily tempered with something bready and safe - but I'm still wary, and often just don't want to go there.

#4: Coffee. Seriously? Coffee? This coming from a former five plus cup a day drinker: how the HELL did I lose interest in coffee? I still drink a small cup most days (yes, judge away), mostly because the caffeine actually does kind of make me feel better, but the smell does nothing for me, the taste is just...meh...and I take little to no pleasure from it. It doesn't make me sick, but it sure as hell makes me feel weird for losing touch with my former partner in crime.

#3: Pickles. I'm a stereotype. I've been really digging pickles since I could stomach more complex foods than a saltine, and daaaaaaaaaaamn are they easy to eat. When your Uncle Cameron was visiting, he and your Dad picked up a gallon jar of kosher dills for me, and I have put a serious dent in them. They aren't one of those "I MUST EAT THIS ALL THE TIME OR I WILL CHEW THE ARM OFF ONE PERSON FOR EVERY MINUTE I DON'T HAVE ONE IN MY MOUTH" foods, but I am pretty damn fond of eating a few of them off a paper towel at any odd hour of the day.

#2: Tomato sauce. Okay, don't get me wrong, I've always loved red sauce; this is nothing new. If it's covered in tomato sauce, I can more or less eat something I have no room left in any of my vital organs, and still want to eat more of it as soon as some has digested. Things have escalated since you came along, Batman. My one "holy crap, I'm a crazy person" pregnancy eating moment to date was catching myself standing in front of the open fridge, three spoonfuls in to a tomato sauce-only snack. I'm mildly concerned that I might start hunting for justifications for 

#1: Sushi. I love sushi. Really, truly, I do. There are few foods in the world that I get quite as excited about as I do about sushi (bacon notwithstanding, though I've become oddly ambivalent towards bacon in the last few months, which is weird), and it has been one hell of a strain to resist shoving roll after delicious roll into my face any time I am confronted with the opportunity to do so. My hormone-addled brain has also decided to define "opportunity" somewhat loosely, as I have several times now found myself standing in front of the sushi case at the grocery store contemplating how quickly I could down a spicy tuna roll before the dude standing five feet away making more sushi would notice and start chasing me down for shoplifting. I've discovered the magic of many rolls that I previously neglected for more tuna- and yellowtail-filled specialties, such as eel and avocado, a glorious assortment of pickles, and any of those fancy rolls filled with a crapload of tempura-fried stuff. I miss my tuna, but that's why someone will be appointed "sushi retrieval specialist" right before you're born so that I can inhale at least two spicy tuna rolls as soon as the cord is cut.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Baby elephant dance, anyone?

Whew. We're four months along in this magical growing process, but I'm still working on accepting the whole reality of the situation. Clearly, there is a tiny Batman in there: ultrasounds, Doppler heartbeat-listening-thingys, morning sickness, and a slew of dubious other hormone-related side effects don't lie. I'm even fairly sure I've felt you kicking around a few times (although it might be so early that what I think is you is just, I dunno, dinner or something), but the idea that a pile of cells is rapidly turning into a human being inside me is just...well, it's almost too weird to wrap my head around. At least you're only in there for a bit over nine months, rather than the almost two years it takes for an elephant baby to grow, right?

I've been feeling a weird kinship with elephants lately. In fact, I keep feeling like I see them everywhere, and have developed a powerful affinity for anything with elephants on it (there may or may not be an elephant-patterned, erm, lotsa stuff on your registry). I'm sure, like so many pregnant women before and to come, this is just a funky side effect of feeling kind of huge. Now, my butt is not about to take over the living room, nor am I running for the store to buy a muumuu or dramatically oversized ironic t-shirts. While I have been eating a lot, I don't think that I'm in any danger of accidentally consuming a cat in a fit of indiscriminate inhalation. Your father (bless his heart) told me the other day "you know, you actually look good." I really needed to hear that, since I've been going over again and again and again in my head the fear that embracing my inner elephant is some subconscious - or not so sub-conscious - reflection of my rapidly expanding waistline. I've always been fond of elephants, but growing up with a body type that didn't immediately evoke comparison to a swan or antelope, appropriating the elephant as a personal icon seemed ill-advised.

When I was in seventh grade, my amazingly cool art teacher (whose name I feel just awful for having forgotten, but I guess that's why I need to keep better journals or blogs or something) set everyone the assignment of creating a dreamcatcher-esque representation of what we believed to be our spirit animal, as ascertained from a comprehensive list of animals and their totemic traits. Partly to be unique, and certainly because I trusted how good I smelled on a day-to-day basis, I chose the reputable skunk. Anyone who knows me well knows that my two REAL spirit animals (as they are) are a goldfish and a fox. More on them later, I'm sure, but my point is that the skunk was really just appropriated to avoid any negative flak that I perceived I would have gotten from my peers, had I selected an animal that I found more appealing, such as an elephant. That would have ended poorly for someone, either for me (crying in the bathroom after that jerky boy I had a crush on made some snarky comment) or for that jerky boy I had a crush on (dry-heaving in the cafeteria after I punched him in the junk).

Granted, I'm not sure I've been nearly as active as an elephant lately. It's been kind of a force of will to get up in the morning, eat something (which is a whole other affair in and of itself), and drag myself into whatever task I need to undertake that day, whether it be driving forty-five minutes to teach summer pottery classes (why the hell did I sign myself up for THAT?) or working on reorganizing our apartment, both so you have your own space and so we don't go insane trapped for weeks under a pile of books and extra empty boxes from all the appliances we got for our wedding. This summer has been kind of rough on the proactivity front, and I can only imagine that the school year will be rougher in it's own exciting way, not least of which being because I will need to wake up about four hours earlier than I have all summer just to get to work on time. What would an elephant do? (WWED...?)

Well, first off, an elephant would probably have a much easier time of things. Elephants don't have to go to work, but they do have to spend a massive portion of their days eating (to consume up to 5% of their body mass' worth of food, which I feel like I have been doing lately), often needing to wander around in search of plentiful food and water for their herd. While their gestation period is massively longer than mine will be, they do give birth to babies that can get up and start rudimentarily fending for themselves almost instantly. They don't have to deal with morning sickness. They might have babies that grow tusks, but they wean their young as soon as those tusks show up. They spend most of their time with their loved ones, just hanging out and snuggling. Seriously...I'd be an elephant in a heartbeat. 

 My personal connection with Ganesh aside, I'm thinking elephants might be our new thing. You might arrive home to a somewhat elephant-filled world, Batman, and I apologize in advance if this is just my kind of alternative version of splattering some crazily specific (and possibly hideous) theme all over your living space. I promised myself never to force any affinities upon my child (aside from a love of diverse foods, passion for all things literary, and probably a hefty nerdy/dorky/geeky streak), but you may not have much of a choice here. Just don't grow tusks, okay?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Aunt Erin introduces the concept of rocking on, and the need for all to do so.

It's our very first guest post, Batman! With love from your Aunt Erin, here you have it:

Dear Batman,

I want you to know that your Mom just danced her ass off at a rock show on Saturday.
You were there too, but since I think you are perhaps more like a fish at this point, and
less like a thing that rocks out, I’m not sure how this first concert experience affected you,
if at all, but regardless, it is an important milestone.

Your Aunt K-chan was the real dancing champion of the evening, so much so that she
is concerned that she might need a warning label, if a sticker that says "may cause
excessive dancing" is the sort of thing that one must be warned about. (Other warnings
about your Aunt K-chan: May cause extreme snuggling and May cause blindness due
to sun-like energy, so you’d better wear your shades. Consider yourself warned.) But
your Mom kept up for all of her having a Batman growing in her body and yours truly,
Aunt Erin, made a decent accounting of herself for being the less physical sort. (I do
love to dance, but by the second encore, I wasn’t sure that I was going to be able to keep
standing up.)

Whether or not you were able to sense a certain amount of singing, dancing, jumping,
screaming, clapping, and being able to feel musical reverberations through your body, a
rock show is an important thing. Knowing about this particular experience is important
for two reasons. First, is that the experience is proof that your Mom is really a lot of fun.
This is something that you will forget from time to time because she’s your Mom and you
will have different complications in your relationship where you grow and change and
have conflict. But the knowledge that your mom rocked out with you before you were
even born is an image that might serve to remind you of the coolness of your parent in
times of need.

The thing that’s really important about going to a rock show, or finding some other way
to sing and dance and jump around and just generally exalt, is the joyous experience
of it. There you are in a room full of people all experiencing the powerful sensation of
rock ‘n’ roll, your senses trained on the band, feeding them your attention, feeding on the
sound and the lights and the antics and joining together with the rest of the audience in
shared experience. It is a powerful thing. When you bounce up and down in time to the
beat. When you raise up your arms and scream at the top of your lungs. When you keep
dancing even when your feet hurt. When the whole audience is singing along. This is
an experience where you know that you are part of something larger than yourself, part
of a great big singing and dancing musical organism, but also part of an unfathomably
huge singing and dancing universe. All that energy created by rocking out surrounds you
and connects you to all that there is to connect to. It doesn’t matter how precisely you
choose to think about the implications of this. All that matters is that you feel it and that
throughout your life you find ways to connect to it. Rock is love. (In as much as so many
things, and perhaps most of all just connecting, are love.) When you arrive, you are going
to have so many people who love you and who want to rock out with you. So rock on,

Monday, August 8, 2011

The land of the free, and the home of the...babysat?

Some unfortunate information was uncovered, and I had a long, ranty, self-deprecating, angry post worked up, but instead of pissing and moaning about how utterly stupid I feel for not reading between the lines more carefully when it came to maternity leave coverage, let me share something fun about the world. America thinks it's hot shit. Ask your average American citizen why we're so super awesome, and they will likely list a range of only vaguely-informed reasons for our glory, including how massively successful we are as individuals, how our glorious economic prowess lets us sit court as a major world power, how our ass-kicking military kicks EVERYONE'S ass, and probably something about our Renaissance-like music and culture. Also, anyone can be in politics, no matter who (Sorry I had to wave my political flag in your face for a minute there; I'm disgruntled.)

One of the funny things about living in America as a citizen of this supposedly glorious nation is that while many of my problems are decidedly first world problems, many are also legitimately problems. Don't get me wrong: I love and cherish the freedoms I am afforded, not least of which being my rights to present myself (sort of) however I want, say (sort of) whatever I please, associate with those whom I choose (assuming I choose people who are considered "safe"), and go wherever I want to, as long as I want to go somewhere I'm allowed to go. Waaaaaaaaiiiit a minute...

Okay, my right to run around naked on a military tarmac screaming insults about the GOP while dancing with a bunch of non-white friends notwithstanding, I am really pissed off about America's policies regarding maternity coverage. Only a scant handful of countries (including Botswana, Lesotho, and Papua New Guinea) have maternity coverage worse than or comparable to that legally allocated in the USA. In fact, nearly the entire world has better coverage for maternity leave than America, including countries that my less-than-geopolitically-informed brain didn't even realize were still in existence. Tunisia, where mothers only get 30 days off at two-thirds of their pay, offers almost exactly the same coverage I will be getting when I have you, Batman. I will need to take some time off without pay - possibly up to a month - in order to both recover from giving birth to you and to, hm, gee, I dunno, bond with my newborn child before needing to plop you into daycare with people I hardly know.

This sucks. Your father might not even get more than a week to get to know you before returning to work, as he (not the one pushing you out into the world through part of his body) is not entitled to any paid time off beyond the five "Family Sick Leave" days that every employee in his school district gets annually. I don't even have that: I have three personal days, fifteen sick days, and probably ten rollover sick days from last year, and beyond that, I'm on my own. Both of our districts allow for up to twelve months of time off following the birth of a child during which our jobs are considered "safe," but neither of our schools are obligated to pay us for ANY of that time off. I understand that this is pretty standard in most schools, and potentially more generous than many other employers in other industries, but still...WTF? The Federal laws addressing maternity leave - and any sick leave - are pretty damn weak if you ask me.

Now I'm all worked up. I've got visions swimming around in my head of how much BETTER so many of my students might be - as learners, as friends, as people in general - if they had been given time to bond with and be supported by their families immediately following their births instead of parents needing to rush frantically back to work after a matter of days of leave. I know of parents who have gone back to work after - no joke - fives days of leave; one father didn't even miss work the day his son was born, and returned to work the next day because there was no one to cover his shift. What the hell kind of place do we live where this is okay? I know I'm better situated than many, in that I get ANY paid time off, and we (technically) make enough money to be able to afford childcare and feed ourselves at the same time, but there are definitely going to be months when we eat a lot of rice and beans...and maybe don't use a lot of electric devices.

Let's end on a high note, shall we, Batman? Your father and I stopped in to Border's this afternoon, both to scavenge cheap books and to check in on some of my former coworkers (oh, wait, that's kind of depressing, too), and we ran into one particular friend who supposedly possesses the super power of being able to feel the gender of a baby just by placing his hands on a pregnant woman's stomach. He's pretty sure you're a boy, which confirms my gut feeling. Boy, howdy are we going to feel silly if you're a girl.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Rock out with your Batman out!

I don't want to brag, but the fact that I brought you to a concert by a fairly ass-kicking band when you weren't even four months old - in utero - clearly makes me awesome. I'll have a full gushy post soon (when it isn't quarter after midnight and after something like three hours of flailing and dancing and screaming lyrics) fact, your Aunt Erin has offered to do so, so I'll hunt down the set list so I can make you a mix CD, and she'll provide narrative documentation.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A brief rant about literature (if one can call it that).

Okay, so while engrossed in my baby name research of earlier this morning, I made a discovery that until about thirty seconds ago did not resonate with the full impact of it craptastitude. The #1 boy's name since 1999 (and before that, it was still in the top ten farther back than I had the patience to check) has been Jacob. Now, don't get me wrong: this is a lovely name, and in fact the name of one of my favorite people in the world. It has some powerful and significant Biblical significance, some really fascinating international variations, and has culturally gained both strength and credibility. I would fault no one for naming their son Jacob...unless it was after JACOB FRIGGIN' BLACK THE GODDAMNED EMOTIONALLY MANIPULATIVE WEREWOLF. Does anyone really want their child to assume the charming characteristics of random uncontrollable rage, five-year-old-style sulking and whining, and the intellectual prowess of a tampon? Might as well just name him Ned...after Ned.

Surely, naming your kid a completely normal name that you associate with a crappy character from a crappy series of crappy books is better than, say, naming your kid a not-completely-normal name that has some really negative connotations due to the misbehavior of the namesake. In either case, if the kid ends up with a name she or he can live with, super duper. Just...don't tell them your inspiration if it turns out to be something embarrassing later on. (This goes out to you, next person who wants to name their daughter Sarah after a certain political...gem...just name her after me instead, okay?)

Why you will not be named Bahtmanne, Batte-Man, B'atmayn, or...erm...Batman.

In the last three or four years, I have cultivated a deep and abiding passion for NPR. This love has blossomed from a private lust indulged only while alone in my car to full-blown spouting of stories, facts, discoveries, and quirky tidbits with the disclaimer "I heard/read/saw the most interesting thing on NPR the other day..." Yes, this brackets me into a particular intellectual class, and yes, it probably only serves to enhance the image that many might perceive of me being a total snob, but oh well. I have every intention of NPR-listening being a common household activity for us, especially some of the really fun weekend shows, so you have a lifetime of excellently prepared cocktail conversation ahead of you, too!

Sadly, NPR is not the be all and end all of news sources. There are times when I am on their website and (ooh, a shiny thing...) get too distracted by blogs I hadn't noticed, articles about rituals in some tiny country I'd never heard of, recipes for food I didn't realize one could actually make from scratch...yeah, I'm doing it again. When I just want to know what the heck is up with some major event somewhere in the world, I often consult additional news sources. Since pretty much all of them are hideously biased in some direction or another, I often have to surf around to find a few perspectives. A source that, to my surprise, is at least, to my taste, acceptably slanted to a perspective I am comfortable nit-picking, has been CNN. Now, I don't want to convey the impression that CNN stays either objective or exclusively focused on major breaking news: they are equally guilty of peppering distracting and utterly irrelevant (but fun) news stories among the serious and relevant.

One such CNN gem was this story on a recently released book entitled What yo nayme is?: What not to name your child. I am compelled to run out and purchase this book immediately, if for no other reason than to hear more about the possible social and emotional impacts of names. Growing up, I had quite a few friends with truly beautiful, unique names that were unusual, sourced from either family or their non-American nationalities, and almost every single one of them went by an Americanized moniker. I know that one friend in particular (whose name I never quite knew how to pronounce) still goes by her nickname in the workplace. While her name came from her Vietnamese roots (and is therefore entirely understandable), I have encountered students whose parents gave them equally or more challenging names for funsies. No joke: I had a student a few years ago who went by "Mike," but whose given name had four consecutive vowels somewhere in the middle of it, and which contained several accented letters. Why? His mother thought it looked cool on paper. The story I watched on CNN (not NPR, but you get the idea) hinted at the possibility - even the probability - that this delightful, bright, capable young man might be seriously hindered in his future endeavors by his mother's choice to give him a deliberately wacky name.

This got me thinking. Now, despite many people's concerns (and even suggestions) that we will actually name you Batman, I can assure you that this is not the case. Even though some of the names your father and I love are a little out there, not one of them will get you beaten up on the playground: I promise. Furthermore, they can all be easily pronounced by anyone capable of reading and understanding the basic phonetic rules of the English language. Perhaps even more importantly, none of them are creative re-spellings of names that have a commonly accepted spelling. (Consider Ashley, Ashlee, Ashleigh, Ashlie, Ashlea, Asheley, Ashli, or Ashly...not to diminish Aiden, Ayden, Aden, Adan, Aaden, Aayden, Aidenn, or Ayedan.)

Having grown up with an insanely common name (#5 nationally in my birth year), I likewise have a pretty strong aversion to overly popular names. As much as I like my name now, it was not easy being one of three or four Sarahs in a class, especially when I was young enough to believe myself to be the actual center of the universe. Why the hell was someone else answering when the teacher was talking to ME? What kind of audacious psychopath would try to take MY name? As a teacher who has seen the flicker of sorrow in the eyes of Alexis, Alexis, Alexis, and Alexis as I try to distinguish them by their last initial or a nickname they never really wanted (sorry, Lex: I do think your nickname kicks ass, though, and I hope you grow to love it), I would personally not give an overly common name to my child unless there were a truly extraordinary nickname possible.

To be completely honest, your father and I were talking about possible baby names something like a year before we even got engaged. We figured that having some consensus on what we would name our future progeny was a good gauge of how well-suited we were as a couple, and thankfully we agree on a small handful of names that we both really love...ergo, we are an awesome couple, right? In any case, your name has probably already been decided, if not definitively, but we will not be telling anyone our choice for a very specific reason until you are actually out and kicking. 

Why? What kind of reactions do you think A'Quonesia Franklin's parents got when they told, say, a random coworker their baby name choice. Likewise, what about Michael Jonathan Smith's? These are both pretty stellar names, and (only knowing the latter personally, I can only assume for the former) good fits for the people they title. Still, SOMEONE must have had some gripe with those name choices at some point prior to those children's births. Some family member, coworker, friend, associate, or someone must have said "Are you kidding me?" or given that polite, slightly high-pitched coo of "oooOOOooh...that's a nice name..." before rapidly changing the subject. There's just no point in giving people something ELSE to judge about when pregnancy and birth are already some of the most judged, criticized, and widely accepted as topics about which anyone and everyone can impose personal opinions.

Batman, there will always be times in your life when it's worth opening the floodgates for everyone you know to share their opinions about something that really matters to you. For example, when you want to buy your first car, ask everyone and their mother (also your mother) for their suggestions and ideas for both what to buy and how to do it successfully. Same goes for picking a college, choosing a place to live, or any major financial investment: the more input, the better. You never need to take peoples' advice in situations like these, but it really helps to hear a range of perspectives. On the other hand, when it comes to picking a significant other, making major decisions about your relationship with that significant other, and basically every decision surrounding children, my advice (sorry for the hypocrisy) is to just listen to yourself and the other person directly involved. It's really awesome to hear other perspectives, with the mutual understanding between you and the advice-giver that you are mostly listening to hear some different ideas, and that you will pick and choose that which you want to adopt. Speaking from experience, being told "this is how you are SUPPOSED to do X,Y, or Z" is...well, crappy.

I promise we will not name you Chylamidia or Cuervo, nor will we name you Schtievhann or M'aerriey, and we will definitely not name you the exact same thing as every other kid in the hospital at the time of your birth. I can also promise you that your name will be entirely of your parents' choosing: we'll listen to family and friends' ideas, and we might even directly consult a few of them just to get balanced perspectives, but - Batman or otherwise - your name will be OUR gift to you.