Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Choosing a Baby Name - Conventional or Unusual?

I was never meant to be called Ann. My mother had chosen the name Rachel but changed her mind when a friend insisted that she could not possibly call her newborn 'Rachel' - it was 'far too Welsh!' So she opted for Ann without an e, a very English name. I used to consider it rather old fashioned but I liked the meaning - 'graceful'. I used to think this meant 'elegant' but in another baby names book, I found it was better translated as 'full of grace' or 'God has favoured me'.

Perhaps it was this story that made me adamant to have definite names picked out for each of my children, well in advance and not to be swayed by the opinions of others. My husband and I always came to a swift agreement, found names we both liked and never had to debate names - until now! With four weeks to go until the arrival of our seventh baby, we have two names chosen - one is conventional and it was one I had suggested - it is a Biblical name and has family connections. It is a name I have always liked and was always on my list of desirable names.

And as for the other name - my husband heard a name, a most unusual name and declared that he liked it and guess what? I liked it too, in fact I loved it. I looked it up in my baby names book which has 75,000 choices for names - it wasn't there. Looked in my other book - no, there was no mention of this name. I had to google it and I did find it and it had a lovely meaning. I had been ready to reject it if the meaning was not to our liking.

So here is my dilemma - do I go with the familiar, conventional name that everybody has heard of or do I choose a name that most people will be unfamiliar with? It is not difficult to pronounce or spell. It is not a 'whacked out' name that only Hollywood celebrities would choose but it is different. I can guarantee that there will be no other children in the Sunday school class who have this name - probably very few in Australia actually!

And I quite like that - there are so many lovely names and as a Christian family we do like to choose names that have a Biblical connection or are derived from the Hebrew or Greek but as is the case with so many Bible characters, it is highly likely that there will be many Joshuas, Calebs, Daniels, lots of Sarahs and even quite a few Noahs around these days ! I like all of these names by the way - some are classics that have been popular for many years and will continue to be used for future generations, others fall out of favour and you can sometimes guess the decade a person was born in, simply by their name!

I love the names of my children - they were carefully chosen. I not only look up the meaning but if they are a Bible character I use a concordance and look up all the references to that person. I was particularly impressed with the attributes of the men of God that my boys are named after and this influenced our decision to give our boys their names.

My girls have names that I find beautiful and many people comment on their names, especially the names we chose for our twins which are a little more unusual.

Another factor which influences me is popularity and association. There are certain names which become associated with personalities, celebrities, cartoon characters or trademarks. For example, say the name Calvin and most people would think of a certain fashion designer. It also means 'bald one'! Apologies to any one reading this who chose this name for their son - it is actually quite a nice name! I also once considered Brittany for one of my daughters - I think it is such a pretty name and close to my husbands name of Brett but I could not help but think of Brittany Spears and so it was crossed off the list - I wonder if names lose their popularity as a result of poor celebrity behaviour? Did you cross 'Paris' off your list of girl's names even though you liked it?

So here I am, still torn between two names but leaning towards the more unusual one especially when I heard our conventional name on 'RSPCA Animal Rescue' the other night ( no, it was not Rover!) but as I remarked to my husband 'People call their dogs by this name, another reason to go with the unsual name.' But opting for the unusual name presents a second dilemma, we now have to find a second name that goes well with this first name and sounds right with our surname! Surnames can sometimes pose a problem. My headmaster at school was a 'Mr Duckworth' - guess what his first name was? Yes, it was 'Donald' - the kids used to have a field day and made quacking noises as he passed by! Poor man!

My mother chose just one name for me - I am Ann, plain and simple - I have no middle name and sometimes that causes problems when filling in forms which ask for 'full' name. I saw these gorgeous vintage style, paper dress up dolls in a gift shop the other day with old fashioned names - if you wanted to buy one for your son or daughter you would have been disappointed, the name choices were limited but there on display in the window was 'Ann'. I could not resist - I had to buy 'Ann'. Funnily enough, I used to have blond curls just like these as a child!

She also came with a selection of outfits, specifically designed for her! And she was Ann without an e! Yes, that's me, without an 'e'!

I know we should not be concerned with what others think about the names we choose for our children, after all we are the parents and is our privilege to do this - to name the children that God blesses us with and so we will prayerfully consider the names that are on our hearts, state with confidence the name we decide upon when our baby enters the world and the midwife declares 'It's a boy/girl and then asks 'Name?' her pen poised to write it on the little ankle band. Can't you tell I'm now more than a little excited about welcoming our new baby. Just one question regarding the name - conventional or unusual?

With Love and Joy,

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

I will look after this BEAR!

As a child growing up in England in the 1970's, I adored the stories of Paddington Bear, the very polite, lovable character from 'Darkest Peru', created by Michael Bond, who stows away on a ship bound for England and ends up on Paddington train station with his suitcase, half a jar of marmalade and the infamous label that reads 'Please look after this bear. Thank you' and is taken in by the Brown family who reside at number thirty-two Windsor Gardens, where he creates mayhem and forever changes their day to day life as a family. Paddington Bear is a true British institution! Want to teach your children about life in Britain - read to them from the Paddington books!

Sadly, I never owned a Paddington Bear - I longed for a proper Paddington but somehow he never joined my collection of bears, soft toys and other British 70's icons such as 'Sooty and Sweep' and my favourite 'Womble' Orinoco (I still remember the words to 'Underground, Overground Wombling Free' - for those not familiar with the Wombles - they were, well, 'Wombles', who urged children to 'Keep Britain tidy' by picking up all the litter on Wimbledon Common in London and long before 'reduce, reuse, recycle' became a catchphrase, the Wombles were 'making good use of the things left behind'! Somehow, this message eluded the kids (and most of the adults) in my neighbourhood which was always littered with cigarette butts, sweet wrappers and crisp packets.

There were no such things as 'pooper scoopers' and this is why I think my parents preferred me to play inside - my mum was tired of cleaning the soles of my shoes whenever I stepped in the offending messes left behind on the pavements by neighbourhood hounds - grass was rare, the playgrounds were concrete and broken glass scattered under the swings which were usually out of order due to vandalism, meant I was never allowed to venture inside the local recreation ground.

Was I deprived? I didn't seem to think so and played lots of imaginative games inside. I actually homeschooled my bears! My toys did not sit behind desks in rows but rather in a circle. I would read to them from Enid Blyton books and I enjoyed giving them geography lessons. I can actually remember teaching them the 5o states of the USA - something I taught myself from a book as a child -Why? I have absolutely no idea!

Who would have thought that one day I would teach my own children at home and read to them from books by Enid Blyton and another favourite from my childhood - 'Milly Molly Mandy'.

My only deprivation was not owning a Paddington and I determined that one day my children would own one for sure. Fast forward to the 1990's. I had come to live down under after meeting my kiwi husband in London and marrying there in December 1989. We will celebrate 20 years of marriage at the end of December! There were not too many Paddingtons on the shelves of the toy stores in New Zealand. A certain, purple dinosaur and those silly Teletubbies were the toys of the moment when my children were little and it was not until I made a trip to England in 2001 that I decided to look out for a Paddington for my son who was 15 months old. I found one - but I could not believe the price tag - Sixty British Pounds for a decent sized Paddington. I could not justify paying over $120 for a soft toy and reluctantly left him behind.

In the morning I had painted these wooden stars 'duffle coat' blue and 'gumboot' red (Paddington Bear's colours!) to disguise the pink stenciled roses on the wardrobe which is now my son's toy cupboard! I came across Paddington that very afternoon!

So after more than thirty years, my dream of owning a Paddington has been fulfilled. Where did I find him? Not on Ebay - though you will find Paddingtons for sale there. I found him on my local high street - in the front window of a shop that sells all sorts of vintage items - clothes, furniture, home wares and last week their window display was featuring vintage nursery items.
He stood propped in the corner of an old cot and the price tag read $15. I did not hesitate - I raced in and checked to see if he was genuine - yes, he was! The label confirmed that he had been made by 'Eden Toys'. When I realized he was a vintage bear from 1981, I gladly paid the asking price and brought him home to live at 'Eight Acres of Eden' - how appropriate was that maker's label? I now realize why I had to wait so long and he will be treasured and not resold on Ebay! Despite the fact that he is in mint condition, has genuine red Paddington wellington boots and the label is intact stating 'Please look after this bear -Thank you' I did not discover this until I brought him home, the label was tucked inside his duffle coat!

I will look after this bear! I have decided to place him under the Christmas tree - a special gift for our new baby. I could not grant joint ownership to the twins, who will likely squabble over him - they think he is adorable too. The bear I always wanted as a child will be a family bear, for this is what Paddington was - a member of a family - such a lovely reminder of my childhood and for my own children their English heritage.

With Love and Joy,


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