Picking a baby name

I’ve been naming my hypothetical children for as long as I can remember. I like to think my taste has changed and matured over the years.

My mom clearly picked a popular name for my birth year. In fact, a few years after I was born, a book came out called “Names Beyond Jennifer and Jason.”
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It’s only a little bit ironic that my cousin, born six months before me, was named Jason. My family latched on to the J names, way before those Duggars started popping out kids. I have two siblings and seven first cousins, and their names are: Jamie, Joey, Jeremy, Jason, Jerid, Jonah, Jacob, Justin and Jolene. ¬†What we lack in naming creativity we make up for in love. ūüôā

There’s some debate in my family over how my name came to be spelled with an “i” instead of the more traditional “y” or the dreaded “ie”. First, it seems very logical to me that when you take the -fer off of Jennifer, you get Jenni. Why is that so hard for everyone else? But indeed, I wind up correcting the spelling of my name constantly. And I cringe when I see it misspelled. Plus, I was never able to buy trinkets with my name on them, because they were ALWAYS made for a Jenny, not me. I imagine my life would have turned out differently if I had a Lisa Frank pencil with my name on it.

So, I have a certain sensitivity to giving our child a name that they will always have to spell for people. Same goes for pronunciation, although I haven’t had any trouble there.

When I was in grade school, I just knew I’d have a daughter named Felicity when I grew up. She was the most beautiful, and classiest, of all the American Girl Dolls. For a boy, I was obsessed with the name Tristan after Brad Pitt’s incredible, life-changing (for me anyway, at age 11) performance in Legends of the Fall.¬†¬†If I had another daughter, her name would be Anastasia, from my favorite character in The Babysitter’s Club. She went by Stacey, but her full name was Anastasia Elizabeth McGill. How classy is that?! This name stayed with me for a long time, as my interests changed from Ann M. Martin books to the Russian Romanov empire and the famous story of Anastasia.

I was much more sophisticated in high school, and I read every Danielle Steel book I could get my hands on. One of my favorites, to this day, is called The Ring. The main character’s name is Ariana, and I thought it was the prettiest name in the entire world. I was set, no need to look any further on names!

Then, in my mid-twenties I found the ultimate baby girl’s name – Ava Grace (me and the rest of the US, apparently). JR’s good friends S & B had their first baby a few years after he and I started dating, and named her Ava Grace. I was crushed. The fact that I wasn’t pregnant – or anywhere close to having kids – was irrelevant.

Once, JR and I were on a long car ride and baby names came up. I told him my then-obsession was the name Keegan. Now, my version of the story goes like this. After I told him the name, he pondered it for a bit and said he thought it was an okay-sounding Irish name. In my mind, I thought the matter was settled. Months later when I revisited the topic, he told me he hated the name and would never consider it. I reminded him of our conversation in the car. According to him, it was unfair for me to start talking baby names in the car while he was trapped with me for a set period of time, and he just nodded along to what I was saying to change topics and hopefully stop discussing babies. How rude. ¬†Even now, from time to time if we pass an unfortunate looking guy on the street, JR will say “that’s probably a Keegan.”

Now that this conversation is no longer hypothetical, it’s funny how easily we agree on some things, and yet we are MILES apart on others. ¬†The first time we had to pick out bedding together, it seemed like our relationship was doomed. ¬†Hopefully our marriage can survive this baby naming business.

Early appointments

This is another post I began writing back in September. It’s about pregnancy and babies, and if you aren’t a big fan of those things (at the moment, I find them both to be overrated), you might want to skip this one!

By joining the Foreign Service, we knew that life would be a bit different for us than if we lived and worked in Ohio (or anywhere in the States, really). Although I don’t have a direct comparison point, I think we’re getting some exposure to how different things can be overseas.

First, we told our families very, very early on about the pregnancy. It just so happened that we found out while we were in Ohio over Labor Day when we were there for JR’s sister’s wedding. Under normal circumstances, we think we would have kept the news to ourselves for awhile, but honestly, I never thought we’d have the chance to tell our families in person, and I didn’t want to miss out on that. And my mother’s reaction absolutely made it worthwhile! She almost fainted and had to be propped up by JR!

When we arrived back in Kosovo, I called our health unit at the embassy and made an appointment. I assumed at the first appointment they’d just do a blood or urine test to confirm the pregnancy, and then we’d schedule a follow up down the road. Our main medical officer, J, was out of town, so G, her assistant, was able to meet with me. She asked me some questions and gave me a bit of information about what would likely happen during the first trimester. Then she said, “We would give you a pregnancy test here to confirm, but ours are expired, so…we’ll just go with your results.”

Now imagine your American ob/gyn telling you they can’t give you a pregnancy test because theirs are expired?! I was a bit concerned.

G told me that our health unit doesn’t have a lab, so they have an agreement with a European Union agency here, and we’d do lab work there. Then we’d go to a local clinic for my first ultrasound. G schedules the appointments, and she accompanies me to them and to ensure my comfort, translate, etc… As promised, she took care of the scheduling and called me to say that we had two appointments that Friday.

The lab was a quick stop, just a blood draw and then with JR in tow we went to the clinic for our first ultrasound. We were previously warned (by my mom, mother in law, and the internet) that it was unlikely we’d see anything this early. Truthfully, I don’t know if she scheduled one so early because I seemed nervous, or if it’s standard practice here. Either way, we were excited to get some actual from-the-doctor confirmation that I was pregnant.

The clinic is run by a German husband and wife and they are both ob/gyns. My appointment was with the wife and for the life of me, I can’t recall her name at this moment. Her English skills are…not so great. She says she can understand it, but she’s more comfortable speaking in German. Luckily, G speaks German and acted as a translator. We were already quite nervous, but it really added to our nerves that we couldn’t understand a word the doctor was saying, and we had to wait patiently for a translation. It was particularly hard during the actual ultrasound, because both women were pointing at the screen and having a lively conversation back and forth, while I just laid there and JR held my hand. Thankfully, G translated that everything looked to be okay, and we scheduled a follow up appointment.

So far, we’ve been paying out of pocket for the tests and appointments. They give us receipts (in Albanian and German, no less) that we can submit to our insurance company in the States via e-mail. We were concerned about translating the receipts, but our insurance company said that was unnecessary and we can submit them as-is, which is a relief!

This is all very new to us, but we are slowly figuring things out. We are grateful for the care we’ve received here, and we know we are in good hands (language barriers be damned). It’s incredibly convenient to have such an accessible medical unit, and to be able to make an appointment or walk in anytime we need something. Talking to parents with small children at post, it seems that it’s a great benefit to have such access to medical care.

More London

Our first stop Friday morning was to walk across the Tower Bridge, and then take a tour of the Tower of London. The Tower is guarded by Yeomen Warders, more commonly known as Beefeaters, who are retired members of the Armed Forces and technically their job is to guard prisoners of the Tower. Now they act as tour guides, and we had a really enthusiastic and funny guide to show us around. We saw Traitor’s Gate, the spot where Anne Boleyn was beheaded, and the Crown Jewels. In a stroke of pure genius, they have those moving sidewalks (people movers, like in airports) that move slowly past the Crown Jewels display so that people can’t stand in front of each item forever and prevent others from seeing things. So smart, those Brits!
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After that we started the bus tour to see the the city. One unexpected sight while in London was the amount of signs promoting the NFL and people wearing NFL jerseys. There was a huge promotion of the NFL going on in the days leading to the game on Sunday where San Francisco was playing the Jacksonville Jaguars at Wembley Stadium. One of the tour guides on the bus was explaining this game to the tourists and remarked that San Francisco was playing the “Jacksonville Jackals.” JR corrected the tour guide and said that they’re actually playing the “Jacksonville Jaguars” but he then went on to say “it doesn’t matter, the team’s rubbish anyway.”

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We saw several street performers – playing bagpipes, guitars and other instruments, but I was most impressed by these guys. I could have stared at them for hours! Seriously, how do they do that?

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We also did a walking tour called “Ghosts and Gaslight”. Our tour guide was fun and showed us around to several local pubs while telling us legends and ghost stories.

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JR tried a Sherlock Holmes Ale at this stop.

On our last night, I still hadn’t found my cheeseburger. I knew I needed to visit an American establishment to ensure I got what I wanted, and JR made quite a fuss when I suggested Five Guys. So, I convinced him to let us eat at the Rainforest Cafe (he’d never been to one before). Oh how I will pay for that choice. First, even though we went at a random time, it was beyond packed with kids running around screaming. JR kept saying “why are we eating at a Chucky E. Cheese in London??” I didn’t even care because my dinner was so delicious, and I followed it up with a fantastic dessert. I was also excited because they appeared to have fountain soda, which we never get here in Kosovo (or really in Europe anywhere). I had 3 Diet Cokes with my dinner and enjoyed each one. Free refills, hurrah! Until our bill came. We were charged 2.85 pounds PER Diet Coke.

I spent $14 in Diet Coke. Oops. JR’s face looked something like this.
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Overall, we had a great trip and hope we can visit again soon!

‘Ello, Ducky

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I can’t even remember where it started, but in college my friends and I would say “Ello, Ducky” with a British accent. I think it was a combination of our trip to Salzburg, Austria, and wishing we had accents and trying to pretend we did, and also our obsession with the classic Amanda Byne’s film, What a Girl Wants. A certain someone’s college boyfriend constantly reminded us, “You’re not British.” Apparently fake accents are only fun for the people doing them. Anyway, that was in my head the whole time that JR and I were in London.

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We also said this to each other often during our trip. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a great movie.

For certain posts throughout the world, the quality of local medical care is such that they med-evac (medically evacuate) FSOs or their dependents to that location. London is the med-evac point for Kosovo, and that’s where they wanted to send me to get some standard tests at the end of the first trimester. Because I was considered on official “med-evac” status, my flight and hotel were covered, but we had to pay for JR’s flight. It saved us a decent amount of money for him to fly on a separate flight, so we planned to rendezvous at London’s Heathrow airport. We also decided, since we would already be in London from Wednesday to Friday, to extend our stay by two days and leave on Sunday (the hotel and any costs for extending the stay were paid by us).

We arrived at Heathrow on Wednesday afternoon, and while waiting for a cab, JR was having some flashbacks to his last visit to London during a study abroad semester in Wales his junior year of college. Something tells me that first trip to London – all carefree and young – was a bit different than this visit with his pregnant wife!

We took a cab to our hotel, and after checking in, I was determined to find a pub with a cheeseburger. He was excited to visit a pub for different reasons. Unfortunately, the British aren’t known for their cheeseburgers. We had a decent meal, and then went back to our hotel for naps. We found a great italian place for dinner – garlic bread, delicious. We passed by at least 100 bars advertising champagne and cocktails and I was quite disappointed that I couldn’t partake!

The next morning we woke up early for our appointment. It was walking distance from our hotel in a residential neighborhood. I was very, very nervous. I mean, I spend my life in a perpetual state of nervousness, but I was almost sick with worry. Luckily, we didn’t have to wait long and the ultrasound tech called us back to the room to get started. In prior ultrasounds, you really couldn’t see much (well, JR said he saw the flicker of a heartbeat, but I really didn’t. I faked it for the doctor though, because I felt like a terrible person since I couldn’t see it.) This time, as soon as the image came up on the screen, it looked like an actual baby. Holy cow. We were able to hear the heartbeat, and take video of the images. It was a huge relief and a happy moment for us.

The doctor, who goes by Mr. instead of Dr., met with us briefly, told us that everything looked great and they just wanted to do a quick blood test and then send us on our way. The whole thing lasted less than an hour, so we had an entire day to check out the city.

It was sort of a last minute trip, which meant we didn’t really budget for it, and holy cow, that was a mistake. I mean, the city was very neat to see and we had great weather, but I was kind of put off by the crazy high prices for everything. We’ve become used to the lower prices of of food and drinks in Kosovo. And although we lived in DC, where the cost of living is quite high, the majority of the sights are free admittance.

So imagine our surprise when we walked up to the London Eye, excited to take a spin, and tickets were 18.90 pounds each. JR did a quick conversion in his head (the perks of being married to man who likes to budget) and we realized it would be $61 USD for both of us. Where I come from, you can ride a ferris wheel at the local carnival for two bucks! We wanted to make the most of our visit without breaking the bank, so we did a bit more research to figure out which places we were most interested in seeing, and we bought tickets for a hop on/hop off bus tour of the city.

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London Eye that we did not ride.

We did have one major splurge during our trip. We bought tickets to see The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. It was such a great show. The performances and music were so cool to see live, and we were really glad that we treated ourselves to it.

Some more pictures, and another post about our trip to coming soon!

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Me and Big Ben

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Westminster Abbey

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Churchill

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Lion King!

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View from our seats

An Important Test

I wrote this post shortly after finding out I was pregnant. I’ve written a few other posts about the experience so far, and now that we’ve shared the news, I’ll publish those soon.

I’d been looking forward to our trip home for weeks. I was excited for JR’s sister’s wedding, to see our families, to eat great food, and also to have a fabulous day of shopping, topped off by dinner and drinks with my friend Elizabeth.

Elizabeth knew we had talked about trying to have a baby in the fall, and would occasionally ask me if I was going to accidentally get pregnant and lose the ability to drink while I was home. I reassured her it wouldn’t happen that way!

On the Sunday before we came home, I reailzed I was one day late. I did not think I was pregnant, I just thought something was up. (I’m very much a worst-case scenario worrier, so I actually thought my ovaries just up and quit working).

I had purchased some local pregnancy tests the last time I was near a pharmacy. They are only 1 euro each, and from the packaging, they look nothing like what I’m used to seeing at home. But when in Rome, right?

So Monday morning I took one of those tests and it was negative. Same result on Tuesday. Elizabeth was checking in with me regularly, and it was nice to chat about it, because JR was very unconcerned about my status. This is probably due to the fact that in the past, I’ve had a few times where I was CERTAIN I was pregnant, and I’d scared him half to death. So he takes everything I say with several grains of salt.

We traveled all day Wednesday. At the Dulles airport, as we were going through security, there was a very pregnant woman in line beside us. She asked to skip the scanner and be patted down instead. JR jokingly touched my stomach and said maybe I should do the same. I swatted his hand away and told him to stop messing around! Thursday morning when I woke up, I took another Kosovar test. There was the faintest pink line. Now, it’s like 6am. JR is asleep, and I’m furiously Googling “What does a faint pink line mean”. All signs on the internet (which is never wrong) pointed to pregnant. I woke JR up to tell him that I thought I could really possibly be pregnant. He said “hmm okay” and rolled back over to sleep.

We had to pick up a rental car that morning, and I was going to be gone all day visiting two of my friends. I had a lot of anxiety and didn’t trust the Kosovo test, but I wanted answers! We picked up two fancy digital tests at CVS (much to the chagrin of my very frugal husband who thought the digital was an unnecessary expense), and headed to get the rental car. I realized that we wouldn’t have time to go back to his parents’ house to take the test, and I did not want to wait until that evening to figure it out (plus, if this was all a big misunderstanding, I wanted drinks a drink at dinner!).

This led to me taking the test in the bathroom at the Budget Rental Car store. It came back invalid – basically saying I’d done something wrong and it couldn’t give me an answer. Seriously, expensive digital test?? I was really bummed, but I had to get going. I know JR felt bad that I had to leave right then and we still didn’t know.

I had a lovely day with my friends, and Elizabeth and I did lots of great outlet shopping. She was convinced I was pregnant, and teased me about buying pants and dresses that might not fit for long. I was becoming more convinced that I wasn’t. We had dinner at Cheesecake Factory (where I refrained from the booze, but not the cheesecake). At the end of dinner, she said, why not just take the other test right now?

So for the second time that day, I took a test in a public bathroom. Keeping it classy! But this one came back with an answer – pregnant!

Secrets, Secrets are No Fun

One of my biggest shortcomings in my personal life is that I’m a terrible, terrible secret keeper. Most of my friends know this about me, and accept it (and by that I mean, they either choose not to tell me secrets or they spend an hour stressing the importance of me keeping my mouth shut before they share anything). I’m kind of an open book, and I just don’t do great with secrets and especially something that requires me to not tell the entire truth. I’m even worse at lying. This makes it difficult for me to do things like participate in surprise parties or events.

It also made it really tricky to not tell people that we are having a baby! Today is Halloween, JR’s FAVORITE holiday, and it seemed like a good day to share the news. Although, I’m feeling a small bit of guilt over not doing some cutesy announcement. So, for those who like a visual representation and can appreciate my laziness and lack of creativity, here you go!

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Funny little backstory. Knowing that we would most likely be living overseas when we started a family, JR and I didn’t know if our children would be born back in the States or wherever we were living at the time. The reality is that JR’s work strongly encourages all children to be born in the US, which somewhat eliminates that decision for us, but we didn’t know that back before he actually started the job. So we were discussing the pros/cons of having a child born outside of the US. JR got really excited thinking that if we had a baby in Kosovo, it could potentially have dual citizenship. And with Kosovo being a very small and very new country, he thought our future child could be an Olympian for Kosovo (where the competition would be likely not as intense as in the US). In his mind, being an Olympian is one of life’s greatest achievements, and our child would be able to train with great coaches in the US, but then compete as a Kosovar.

I don’t even know where to start with how crazy that seemed to me. What about me makes you think – yep, she’s a parent of a future Olympian? Nothing. More importantly, if our child wasn’t born on US soil, I’m pretty sure he or she couldn’t be President. Or if it happened, they’d be constantly harassed about a birth certificate. (I realize this is a debatable issue, but it seems like a birth in the US would give the child the BEST chance to be President without being hassled by Donald Trump down the line.) That’s not fun for anyone. So we went back and forth over what would give our potential kid (which at that time was still very much in the wayyyy future) the better future – a chance at being President, or a chance at being an Olympian. Because we are kind of ridiculous.

Anyway, after discussing the matter with our doctor here, the decision was made and we will be back in the States in the spring to have our baby!