what is in a name?

When Frank and I were considering names for our twins, we had to come up with four names – two boys and two girls – since we did not know what the genders were of our children.

What initially sounded like a fun proposition turned out to be more daunting than I originally thought.  Sure, we had one “gimme” name – we definitely knew one of our boys names would be Frank the sixth.  Beyond that, we just weren’t sure.

The other complicating factor was that while I’d always thought I’d name a daughter Alleene, it seemed almost unfair to use that name and not have a name of equal importance to share with a second girl twin.  So, we went back to the drawing board.

After several months of text messaging, researching, reading and telling each other horror stories of people with names we were considering, we finally had four names for our children.  Phew.

And, as you all know, we had two lovely little girls and named them Elliana Mary and Carrigan Jean.  I wanted to share with you all (and with our little girls), why we selected the names we did.

Elliana Mary

Frank and I wrote down the name Eliana on the same day and texted it to each other as an option, without knowing that the other liked it.  Eliana is a Hebrew name meaning “God has answered.”  We felt that it was a perfect name after all of the challenges we went through with fertility and losing Lily.  The only problem was that we felt like the spelling was not exactly what we were looking for and so we added an extra “l” to the name to make it Elliana.  Even now when I look at her and think of her name, I am overwhelmed with gratitude to God for all that He has done for our family.

We selected the middle name “Mary” after my mother specifically and also after all of the important “Maries” that shaped our family as it is today.

Mary Kay, my mother, is the oldest daughter in her family (like Elliana).  My mom has a vibrant, warm personality and she is fiercely loyal.  Since the death of her mother in 2006, my mom has been the matriarch of our family, bringing everyone together for family holidays and events.  She is the glue that holds us all together.

My mom has a fantastic sense of humor and a tremendous ability to laugh at herself.  Wherever my mom is, there is a gathering of laughter and happiness and delicious food.  Mom is so gifted in hospitality!  In naming Elliana, I wanted to endow her with a name that represented some of the dearest and sweetest parts of my family.

While Elliana is named for my mother, my family has a strong tradition of great women bearing the name Mary.  My mother’s mother was named Rosemary and she was a talented artist and a model.  Rosemary had a knack for entertaining that she passed along to my mother.  As an artist, it was important to her that her grandchildren would be able to spend lots of time drawing and coloring and painting with her.  Her home had a perfect order to it – beds were always neatly made with crisp hospital corners and her closets had a faint smell of mothballs as she meticulously cared for all of her clothing.  Rosemary was a fashionista in her own right and was a talented seamstress who made many of her outfits.  Rosemary even made wedding dresses for her daughters and one of her daughters-in-law (Aunt Judy).

My father’s mother was named Mary Ruth.  While my grandmother Rosemary was born in Chicago and lived in the Chicago suburbs, Mary Ruth grew up in the country and lived in a small town called Roanoke just outside of Peoria.  Like Rosemary, Mary Ruth was born and raised Catholic and her faith was an extremely important part of her life.  Mary Ruth was a kind and sweet soul, always thoughtful and warm-hearted.  She had 18 grandchildren, but when I spent time with her, I always felt like I was her favorite.  Whenever we’d visit Mary Ruth, we’d find her sitting in her easy chair watching the Chicago Cubs and Country Line Dancing on The Nashville Network (now Spike TV – oh, how Mary Ruth would’ve wept!).  While I have many fond memories of Mary Ruth, one of my favorite things to remember is her singing while she scrambled eggs or poured cereal.  She’d invent songs about whatever she was doing in the kitchen and chirp them out as she went about her morning.

Carrigan Jean

We loved names that started with “C” or “K”s, but had a hard time picking a name since we already had a Caitlin, Karen and Kathryn in the family; a myriad of close friends named Kristin and Kelly; and then we have the Kardashian family to contend with (ugh – Kourtney, Kim, Khloe, Kendall and Kylie!).  Frank and I have very little in common ethnically speaking, except that we both have a little bit of Irish heritage.  Frank loves Irish names, so after pouring over all of the options, we kept coming back to the name Carrigan.  The name Carrigan means “spear” and while we did not see any immediate importance of the meaning, as Frank has been reading through the Bible, the word “spear” comes up frequently.  Just searching the word “spear” in the Bible reveals numerous occasions where the word spear was used.  In fact, it was a spear that pierced Jesus’ side confirming that he died.

Carrigan’s middle name Jean is in honor of Frank’s mother, Sandra Jean.  Sandy was also the second daughter in her family and the name Jean means God is gracious.  Sandy is a talented artist who loved both creating art and teaching her children how to create art.  Sandy is one of the sweetest women you will meet – and yet firm at the same time.  Sandy has a gentle sense of humor and is incredibly smart – she is more well read on many world issues than most people and she rarely speaks on anything that she is not informed on.  Her love of learning and interest in world issues was passed along to my husband.  Sandy loves the Lord and has dedicated much of her life to gently sharing the Word of God with her family and her friends.  Our hope is that both of our children will inherit that ability.

Sandy has an innate ability to be content with where she is in life.  That’s not to say she is complacent, but rather she has been able to discern when she can change her circumstances and when she simply needs to weather the storm.

Like Elliana, Carrigan’s middle name embodies several generations of our family.  Frank’s grandfather was named John (from which Jean is a variation) and Frank had many fond memories of spending time with Grandpa John on summer mornings as they went to a local diner for breakfast.  Grandpa John was a great businessman who loved God, his family and his friends.  Grandpa John was known for throwing great parties – a tradition that Frank likes to carry on with an annual K-Fest party.  Fair and just, Grandpa John was also known to get a touch feisty when provoked.

And so my hope is that Elliana and Carrigan would be encouraged by the women that have preceded them and add abundantly not just to our family’s story, but to God’s story.

From a purely aesthetic standpoint, we liked that their names weren’t too “twinny” when you used their full names, but that their nicknames Ellie and Carrie sounded similar.

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