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The Only Time I Ever Played Scrabble

It was a cold, dark and stormy night way back on December 22nd, 2011 and Lisa and I had a 684 kilometer journey ahead of us. We were headed home for the holidays and had eight hours to kill in the car together. The conversation ran wild and eventually we started to dream about the future and the topic of kids came up. We confirmed what we had known since we were 16; and that was that we still wanted four kids. But we had never discussed names. We wanted two boys and two girls so, we started spitting out names. Both good ones and bad ones. As we went along, we established rules for the selection of names. No exes. No past roommates. No duplicate of someone else in the immediate OR extended family. No negative connotations - sorry Jason… neither one of us have ever met a “nice” Jason. Furthermore Jason was disqualified for the roommate reason. We didn’t want names that had alternative spelling or automatically assumed nicknames. We even went so far as to cross references initials to ensure the acronym didn’t spell anything awful - like SOB. We wanted the first and middle names to sound good together and have meanings. We wanted them to flow nicely. And if that wasn’t enough, we wanted the four names to blend well together. This wasn’t asking too much… was it? You might find it hard to believe that we completed the project long before we arrived at our destination. It was almost anticlimactic how quickly and easily we selected and agreed on our names.


We named Liam first - even though we both wanted a girl first. We loved that this name means, “strong-willed warrior" and "protector." We envisioned our oldest boy being exactly that.

We were excited to land on the name Madison next as we had hoped she would lead the way as our first child. Madison means, “son of Matthew”. Wait… what?!? That didn’t work out too well for us, but we both loved the name anyway. Little did we know everyone would be so eager to called her “Maddie”. Please don’t.

After that we circled back and came up with Ethan. A name that means “firm and strong”. Not only did we really like that definition as we had a feeling our middle child would be just that, but we were sold when we discovered that the name is often paired with siblings named Liam and Madison.

By this time, we were so deep in the activity, the names were just rolling out and we ended up with two final girls names. We liked both of them equally, but somehow finally settled on Kaitlyn. It simply means “pure” and while it was the only name on our list with multiple spellings variants, we selected it anyway.

We spent the rest of the trip doodling their names, combining them with the middle names we had selected, and just imagining what life would be like if and when these four kids ever arrived. What would it be like yelling their name down the hall when they were late for school? What would it be like introducing them to others and hearing others use their name? What would it be like at Christmas, stitching their names into their own stockings? What would it be like hearing their name later in life as they achieve greatness - like at the NFL Draft or as the lead dancer of a sold out ballet or as a Nobel prize recipient?

All of a sudden, the names started to merge together on the piece of paper like a game of Scrabble. Lisa found a way to connect all of the names together using common letters. It was at that moment we could have laminated the piece of paper. We were done. It had been decided. We weren’t going to change our minds. We’ve kept that piece of paper for the past ten years with that doodle on it, and finally this year as our fourth child arrived, we had it printed on a huge canvas and hung in our living room as a focal point. I’ve tried unsuccessfully for six months now to get a family photo taken with all of us sitting on the couch underneath it to go along with this post on the anniversary of it being created, but not all dreams come true. Instead I’ll use a photo from Kaitlyn’s newborn photo shoot we did in July.


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