Disney World Part I: CiCi's Revenge

Monday, March 31, 2008

Part of being a normal Mormon husband is taking the annual family vacation to ensure that we are hitting our quota on wholesome recreational activities. Because we live in North Carolina and all of our family is in Utah, our vacations have normally been saving just enough money to buy four plane tickets and then enjoying a week or two back home. This year we ended up with a larger than expected tax return and decided to take a week-long vacation to Disney World in Orlando. Our son, Brandon, is six and our daughter, Whitney, is almost four. They are the perfect ages for the Magic Kingdom.

Instead of describing the parks, rides, shows, etc., I decided to keep a running diary of the odd, quirky, humorous moments that make vacations like this so much fun. There was so much bizarre zaniness that this post will be broken up into two parts and I will post Part II later this week. So for now, here are some of the random moments of the normal Mormon family vacation to see Mickey Mouse:

Day 1: Pioneer children watched as they drove, and drove, and drove, and drove.....
9:12 a.m. - Just passed the first gas station of our 1,500 mile round-trip journey. I am overjoyed to see that gas has fallen to only $11.86 per gallon.
11:48 a.m. - The kids have been watching their DVD players for nearly three straight hours. Meanwhile, Andrea and I have been having wonderful, uninterrupted conversations the entire time. I hope the kids watch those things for the next nine hours. Does this make me a bad parent? Lazy? Normal? Outstanding? Call me a parental slacker if you want to, but portable DVD players and Game Boys that can mesmerize kids on day-long road trips are my best friends on the planet right now. Bless the nerds who invented them!
3:46 p.m. - We have traveled approximately two miles in the last sixty-seven minutes. Our Georgia interstate is at a complete standstill. But in the Easter spirit, instead of people honking, punching, and brandishing firearms at one another, complete strangers are getting out of their cars and talking and laughing on the freeway. Kind of a surreal moment. I love the South.

9:58 p.m. - Arrived to our Hotels.com $39/night special - the Kissimmee Best Western. Oh, wait. A large tarp is covering the Best Western logo and this place is now called the Florida Inn and Suites. Not a good sign when a place is bad enough that even the Best Western wants to distance itself from it.
10:11 p.m. - Go to our room only to find that there are no sheets, blankets, or pillow cases. There are cracker crumbs on the floor and I'm pretty sure a family of raccoons is living in the closet. The room smells like feet, but none of us have taken off our shoes off yet....Hmmm......
10:24 p.m. - Placed in a new room that we will call home for the next seven days. Fortunately, it also smells like other people's feet.

Day Two: EPCOT (Extremely Politically Correct Outdoor Themepark)

9:15 a.m. - While waiting in line, my three-year-old daughter reaches up to hold my hand but accidentally grabs the hand of the man in front of her. I am about 6'6", 215 pounds, and Caucasian. The man whose hand she just grabbed is about 5'1, 115 pounds, and Indian. In fact, he looks quite a bit like Ghandi during his younger years. Me. Gandhi. What's the difference?
11:32 a.m. - I have been blessed with three supernatural gifts - 1) A hair that grows straight out of my forehead that we loving call "The Unicorn". 2) The ability to see potential car accidents a split second before they happen and then avoid them (17 accident-free years and counting). 3) The ability to spot European tourists from six miles away. My "Euro Alarm" has been beeping since the moment we entered the park. They are everywhere! My spidey senses perk up when I see a person wearing a fanny pack on both hips, a tattered backpack, a dangling camera, soccer jersey, oddly colored and striped shorts, Birkenstocks or leather shoes, and unwashed hair. I mentally say to myself, "He's got to be European" , and then my suspicions are confirmed as he walks by saying, "K├Ânnen Sie langsamer sprechen?" So far I'm 13 for 13 while playing Spot the Europeans. Does anybody else play this or a similar game?
12:32 p.m. - Whitney and I are in the waiting room for Circle of Life: An Environmental Fable. It was the only option to pass twenty minutes before rendezvousing with Andrea and Brandon. There are television monitors all over the waiting room showing Exxon Valdez footage and then displaying stats such as, "14 billion pounds of garbage are thrown the ocean every year", and, "Driving makes up 30% of air pollution." We were then treated to a movie informing us that humans are the most evil plague ever unleashed on mother earth and that we should all be ashamed of ourselves. Good times! Look, I know that we do need to take care of the planet and be wise with our resources. But having Disney Corporation shove the "earth first" message down my throat makes me want to give Goofy a black eye. There were probably 30,000 cars in the parking lot from Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas, New York, Canada, and Outer Mongolia. Thousands of people literally flew half way around the world to enjoy the Disney experience. Disney probably leveled about twenty thousand acres of pristine Florida grassland to build the Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, etc. There is probably enough food thrown away at Disney every year to feed tens of thousands of starving people around the world. Disney's 2007 revenues were $35.5 billion with Net Income (earnings) of $4.7 billion. Disney corporation does more damage to the environment in an hour than I could do in several lifetimes, yet they want me to feel guilty for driving from North Carolina to Orlando? How does that scripture about beams and motes go again?
3:53 p.m. - Just visited the Norway exhibit and met employees with name tags that read Ingri, Kiim, Jan, and Stian. They were all blond and at least 6'8. The Euro Alarm just exploded.
4:41 p.m. - Just visited the Mexico exhibit. They must have been short on staff today because I am almost positive that I just saw Ingri from the Norway exhibit dressed in Mexican garb and with a name tag that said, "Rosalinda". Tramposos!
5:23 p.m. - It is raining outside and I just put on my enormous neon yellow poncho. I look and feel like a dork. If Nelson Muntz walked past me right now, he'd slug me in the gut, laugh, walk away, and then punch the next tool wearing a poncho. After looking at how silly we all appear, I had a an amazing realization - ponchos are the great societal equalizer! When you see a person in a poncho, you cannot tell if they are fat, skinny, wear expensive clothes, have multiple visible tattoos, etc. We all just look like nerds! I am proposing right now that when dating, both parties must wear ponchos for the first three dates to look past any superficial external beauty or expensive fashion. Presidential debates and high school student body elections should also be conducted in ponchos so that the constituency focuses solely on the messages at hand. Behold the power of the poncho!

6:50 p.m. - I am sitting down outside of a gift shop next to an Indian grandmother who is holding a sleeping infant. She has no backrest but manages to sit as still as a stone for twenty minutes while the baby sleeps. My rear end and back are killing me after two minutes. How does she do it? She is also not wearing any shoes. The callouses on the soles of her feet are so large that it looks like she walked through wet cement and then let it harden. She could strike matches on those things!

Day Three: Easter in the 'Hood
11:30 a.m. - Attended the block of church meetings on Easter Sunday with the Kissimmee Ward. I always enjoy being a visitor to other wards. There are no callings to worry about, assignments to accept, or lessons to prepare. You simply show up, listen, learn, feel the Spirit, and go home. We obviously grow spiritually from our callings and the Lord needs each of us to serve, but an occasional weekend off is also nice. We even had the pleasure of hearing from the Mission President and his wife in both sacrament meeting and in a combined Relief Society/Priesthood meeting. Does it get any better than this?
3:30 p.m. - Pull in to Golden Corral for dinner and I jokingly say to Andrea, "Today at Golden Corral you will enjoy our Easter menu - the menu is the same but the prices have gone up." Sure enough, they jacked up the price and even had the gall to charge for kids! I drove away on principle and we decided to go to CiCi's Pizza Buffet even though the only time I've been there I got violently ill and threw up for two days.
4:45 p.m. - Waddle out of CiCi's Pizza Buffet after eating enough pizza that you would have thought I was in some sort of extreme eating contest.
5:41 p.m. - Go to a local park with a playground to let the kids burn off some steam. The park is not in a good neighborhood, but it was the only one we could find. There is a large, loud family doing an Easter egg hunt at the park while we play. Most of the adults are shouting and cursing as they remember the true meaning of Easter by looking for a golden egg with $40 in it. A chromed-out car across the street is blaring Snoop Dogg with the bass turned up as loud as it can go. Ahhhh, another peaceful Easter.
5:56 p.m. - I just figured out two of the phrases being yelled by the adults from the other party. I'll edit out the profanity for you. "You whame bayou whun doze?" = "Do you want me to buy you one of those?". "Das ah de eh's!" = "That all of the eggs!". Have I mentioned that I love the South?
9:30 p.m. - Uh, oh. Tummy rumbling. Taste of stomach acid in the back of my throat. Mild stabbing pain in my stomach. Darn you, CiCi's! I can tell I'm going to throw up.
9:41 p.m. - I throw up everything I have eaten for the past two days. The mild stabbing pain in my stomach has been upgraded to, "piercing".
10:12 p.m. - I thought I had lost everything at 9:41, yet my body managed to find more food to expunge through my mouth. I really should have just paid the extra money and gone to Golden Corral. Why do I have to have so many principles?

Day Four: I'm Ill (Not in the cool Snoop Dogg way, but in the lame sick way.)
8:20 a.m. - Decide I'm too sick to go to the Animal Kingdom with the family.
10:12 a.m. - Get my first work-related cell phone call and spend the next thirty minutes discussing strategy for our upcoming union negotiations. Vomiting and HR strategy calls? Now that's a vacation!
2:30 p.m. - Look up the Spanish translation for "spill" to tell the non-English speaking housekeeping staff that a drink was spilled on the sheets. I served a Spanish-speaking mission to Chile from 1994-1996 and am still pretty fluent, but I just wanted to verify that "derramar" was the correct verb. I looked it up on WordReference.com and learned that derramar is, in fact, the right word. It even used it in the following sentence, "Sorry, I've spilt some whiskey on your sofa." Now there's a sentence that an active LDS returned missionary uses all of the time! What Mormon doesn't know how to say that in Spanish?
4:30 p.m. - CNN showed a segment that studies have shown that marriages are happier and more enriching to both partners when the wife is more attractive than the husband. No wonder Andrea and I have been so happy for the past ten years.
6:18 p.m. - Stomach is settling down a little bit. Hopefully I can make it to the Magic Kindgom with the family in the morning. The only two things I have eaten today are two graham crackers and two cups of Jell-O. Best. Vacation. Ever!

Come back in a few days to see if I live or die from the CiCi's food poisoning and what hilarity awaits us at the Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios. Assuming, of course, that I live to make it there.

Hoops Heaven

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, you are reading the words of a person who accomplished something very, very important in an LDS man's life. Unfortunately it does not have anything to do with impressive spiritual milestones, such as achieving 100% home teaching for 12 consecutive months, baptizing your oldest child, or giving up watching the NFL on Sundays. While this accomplishment will not help my spiritual progression in any way, it is still something church-related that I am incredibly proud of:


That's right, baby, the Lakefield Ward Lakers are your 2008 men's basketball stake champions! (Our team name is not officially the "Lakers", but come on, it's the perfect name. I know many of my teammates will take umbrage at the name since they hate the Lakers as passionately as I support them, but what else could we have been? The Lakefield Cougars? The Lakefield Devil Rays? The Lakefield Out-of-Shapers? For the purposes of this blog, I'm sticking with Lakers.) The victory was especially sweet this year because we could have won the tournament last season but two of our starters missed our game because their flights got delayed returning home from business trips. (We think that a member of the opposing ward had an inside connection with the FAA and targeted those specific flights. We asked the Stake to investigate, but the findings were "inconclusive".)

I could not have asked to play with a better group of guys this year. We had a great time and worked together as a team to accomplish something that may seem trivial, but we are proud of. It tends to be easier to enjoy your season when you win your last five games by at least 15 points each, which we did. Our coach was a big part of our success by setting the tone in our first practices back in October when he made us run 5 laps and do calisthenics before we picked up a ball. (I was having flashbacks of Normal Dale from Hoosiers at that point.) We appreciate Coach Bob and his wonderfully supportive wife for all of their service this year. They even made sure that our jerseys smelled like Downy instead of sweat-related biology experiments after every game.

I look forward to church basketball more than any other activity each year. It has become my adult version of Stake Lagoon Day as a kid (sorry to the non-Utah born people who may not get the reference.) Between work, family, and church responsibilities there is precious little time for hanging out with my buddies, playing sports, and just enjoying myself. Church basketball gives me and thousands of men just like me this opportunity every year. I thought that I should share my perspective on church ball and identify some of the general categories that we as weekend warriors fall into. I am not saying that every person on the Lakefield team fits into one of these categories, nor did any of my current teammates inspire any of these passages. So Lakers, please do not read too deeply into this or feel that you are being singled out because you are not. In my 12 years of adult church basketball, I have probably had 150-200 different teammates and played against upward of 1,000 opponents due to repeated moves in my 20's. This is a collection of my entire church ball experience (career?) and not an attempt to pigeon-hole any of my Lakefield buddies.

Guys, please comment on which of the groups you would place yourselves into. Ladies, please also feel free to comment about where your husband/boyfriend falls. (I think a future post involving the different types of wives/girlfriends who go watch their men play basketball will be coming out shortly....)

-The Dominator: Usually is in his twenties and played Junior College ball at Snow, SLCC, or somewhere similar. He has somehow managed to stay in great shape, never gets tired, and can score at will. He is two steps faster, jumps a foot higher, and has better body control than anybody else in the gym. If he wanted to score 40 points in a 32-minute running-clock game, he could do it. When he strolls into the gym five minutes before tip-off, everybody on the other ward's team sighs and says, "Awwwwww crud! He showed up."

-The Fat Lip Waiting To Happen: Every team has at least one FLWTH. He is usually a really nice guy who would never intentionally hurt a soul, but blood and carnage seem to follow him when he checks into the game. His feet are usually size 12+ and he accidentally trips at least one person per possession. The FLWTH is normally about thirty pounds overweight and is a step slower than his brain thinks he is. When he sees a guy going up for a layup, his brain tells him, "You can totally swat this shot and look like a stud!", but when he tries to get his body to respond, everything happens just a fraction of a second slower than it needed to. Instead of rejecting the shot, his elbow manages to split a lip or bloody a nose. The FLWTH never means to hurt anybody, but his abuse of others is as inevitable as a Primary child forgetting he was supposed to give the talk in Sharing Time.

-The Oliver Grangers: Thanks to Brother Sherwood for a recent spiritual thought from D&C 117 acquainting me with Brother Granger. In a talk called "No Less Serviceable", President Howard Hunter said that while Oliver was not a famous, high-profile leader during the restoration, he was a "quiet, supportive individual" who played a key role in early Church history. He served three missions, helped build the Kirtland Temple, and successfully settled the Church's debts in Kirtland after the Saints were driven from the area. On a ward basketball team, the Oliver Grangers are the guys who consistently score 8-12 points per game and shoot over 50% from the floor. They play smart help-side defense, set clean picks, get key offensive rebounds, and rarely turn the ball over. Good church ball teams have at least two Oliver Grangers - and we salute every one of them!

-The Powder Keg: He perpetuates the stereotype that, "Church basketball is the only fight that starts with a prayer." For some unknown reason, he thinks every pick is dirty, every call against him his cheap, and he gets murdered on every shot but never gets the call. His personal life is usually very busy and stressful. He tends to have a job that requires cellphone calls at home at all hours of the day (e.g. production supervisor, call center manager) and his children range in age from his difficult teen-aged daughter to the infant twins who are still not sleeping through the night. Unfortunately for everybody on the court, he figures church ball is his only opportunity to "blow off some steam". Once he feels the refs are against him and the other team is playing dirty, his solution to the perceived injustice is to elbow, shove, slap, bite, noogey, and crane-kick everybody not wearing his color of jersey until one of three things happen:

1) His teammates see the warning signs of the imminent explosion, substitute him out of the game, and never let him come back in.
2) He gets a technical and is forced "cool down" for 10 minutes. While sitting on the bench, his wife gives him daggers from the stands and he wisely does not check back into the game.
3) Punches are thrown and the Stake cancels its men's basketball program for six years.

In my vast experience, I truly believe the Powder Keg is much less prevalent than most church basketball legends would have you believe. Every ward seems to have stories of church ball fights that get past on from one generation to the next that begin with, "We were killing the 2nd Ward 68-35 with two minutes left when Nephi Johanson undercut Alma Wells and both benches just cleared....." But when you do the research, there never was a Nephi Johanson in the 2nd Ward and the "fight" was actually Alma Wells blowing out his ACL going in for a layup during warm-ups. While church basketball brawls happen on occasion, I think most of us who play are just average guys trying to stay in shape by doing something we enjoy. But when the rare exception of the Powder Keg signs up to play on the Elder's Quorum team, you may have been safer giving the roster spot to Ron Artest.

-The Break Glass In Case of Emergency: Most wards have one guy who is friends with everybody on the team who says, "If you are going to forfeit, give me a call and I'll show up. Just don't pass me the ball." They want the ward to do well, but have no interest in getting bloodied by the FLWTH or punched out by the Powder Keg, but in case of emergency, they will be the fifth name on the roster. These are truly unselfish, service-oriented men. They loved their missions, set up chairs for funerals without being asked, serve in the cannery, and happily give blessings at 10:30 p.m. when their neighbor's child swallows a large piece of his Bionicle. Oh, and by the way, they tend to have some of the happiest wives in the ward.

-The Uncle Rico: I love the scene from Napoleon Dynamite when Uncle Rico and Kip are talking on the porch and Rico says (paraphrasing), "In '82, if coach would have put me in, we would have taken state! I would have gone on to play in the pros, made millions of dollars. How much do you bet I could throw a football over them mountains?" He then nails Napoleon in the face with a huge piece of steak as he rides by on his bike and Kip mumbles, "That's what I'm talkin' about." (That scene made me laugh harder the first time I saw it than any other scene in movie history.)

Uncle Ricos are usually in their early thirties and played varsity basketball in high school. When asked if they played ball in college they usually tell a story that begins with, "I could have played in college, but....." Uncle Ricos still have good instincts and can dominate a game on occasion, but are having a hard time coming to grips with the fact that their bodies are starting to break down on them. They try to make two or three plays every game that would have ended up drawing "ooh's" and "aah's" from the crowd five years ago, but now end up with a turnover. While they like playing church ball, the enjoyment is tempered by their frustration of not being a Dominator anymore.

The Gunner: Follows the mantra, "When a shooter is hot, he keeps shooting. When a shooter is cold, he keeps shooting until he gets hot." He almost never goes inside the three-point line yet manages to launch 15 shots a game. His usual box score line is something like this: "4-13 shooting, 12 points, 1 rebound, 0 assists, 8 angry teammates."

The Ringer: Easily identifiable. The Ringer is obviously not a member of the ward, is normally at least 6'4", wears a warm-up consisting of a matching top and bottom, has a $150 pair of shoes, and a barbed-wire tattoo circling his sculpted biceps. He tends to be the "friend-of-a-friend" of one of a ward member who rarely shows up for the games but told him he could come play. Once in the game, The Ringer turns into The Dominator. But while he is dropping his 30 points, everybody on the floor keeps thinking, "I've never seen this guy at Stake Priesthood Conference before...."

As for myself, I am definitely an Uncle Rico. At 33 years old it's hard to get up and down the court on a surgically-repaired ankle, bulging disks in my back, and dealing with other random body parts that decided to hurt when I rolled out of bed in the morning. But man, you should have seen me back in 1992! Have you ever heard the story of why I didn't end up playing at Ricks College.......

Baby Name Scoring Results

Thank you for all of the submissions on the baby name scores. Since most people were understandably uncomfortable sharing full names on the internet, most of the scoring is honor-system which will prevent the March Madness name bracket. After watching BYU lose to Texas A&M tonight, it's probably better for many of you reading this blog to not have your hearts broken again by seeing your baby's name lose to somebody else's child. (I can just imagine an irate BYU fan yelling at the TV, "What in the heck is Tavernari thinking pulling up from 30 feet with a full minute remaining!" and then opening a browser to check the Baby Name Bracket and screaming, "How can our Rachel Jessica Stewart lose to Elizabeth Ruth Thompson!? That's a horrible name!" Believe me, it's just better this way.)

A total of 43 submission have been received and the average score is 76 points, which puts me toward the bottom end of the spectrum with my score of 67. I was surprised to see all of the scores that kept flooding in that were in the 80's. I had always thought that my name was at least average, if not above, but I was apparently mistaken. It's not like my parents named me LaDoyle Humphrey or anything like that, so what gives? One of the problems with any scoring system is that there will always be subjectivity in the process. I call this the Paula/Simon effect.

The differences in the way that Paula and Simon judge the singers on American Idol is hilarious. A performer could forget her lyrics, sing completely off key, dance awkwardly, and fall off the platform trying to preen for the crowd and Paula would say something like, "You look absolutely beautiful tonight. You took a risk and made the song your own. It might not have been your best performance, but you should be proud of what you have accomplished." Simon? He would say, "I hope somebody has a breath mint because I'm going to need one after throwing up halfway through that ghastly train wreck of a performance. (Pause for booing). I don't mean to be rude, but you should be drawn and quartered for that hate crime against music."

I am going to assume that there is some Paula/Simon bias in the process, but it is still worthwhile to see how the total scores came in:

While a name can definitely determine how rough childhood may be, I wanted to see if there is any correlation between how a name scores and how successful a person becomes later in life. I took five well-known LDS figures and put their names to the test. Had they all scored in the 80's then the argument could have been made that there is some correlation between the score of the baby name and the likelihood of future greatness. This was not the case. Those of us who scored below average can take solace in knowing that we are not necessarily doomed to future mediocrity. The five names I analyzed were Donnie Osmond, LaVell Edwards, Mitt Romney, Gladys Knight, Steve Young, and Thomas S. Monson. Here is how they fared, from lowest to highest:

-LaVell Edwards - 53 pts. Perhaps the originator of the "La-Utah" phenomenon, he also scored low on the Mean Jay test (any boy's name that starts with "Love" can be torn to pieces), and the Logistical Nightmare test since LaVell appears to be made up.

-Donnie Osmond - 63 pts. The Mean Jay test was brutal for our buddy Donald (Donald Duck, Ronald McDonald, etc.) There could also be some Here Comes Pat issues with Dawn vs. Don.

-Steve Young - 64 pts. His first name is actually Jon, which nailed him on the Salem test as both John and Steven were among the top-10 names in 1961. The Mean Jay test warns parents against naming any child after a bathroom and harshly penalizes those who do. Jon Young also violates the Moe's Tavern rule with the potential prank call centered around the age of Moe's restrooms.

-Gladys Knight - 70 pts. Again, it was the Mean Jay and Moe's Tavern tests that got Sister Knight. There are so many jokes that can begin with "Glad it's......" that I don't even know where to start. Also, the name sounds like "Glad It's Night" which violates the Moe's Tavern rule.

-Mitt Romney - 72 pts. Interestingly enough, his first name is Williard. Who knew? The Mean Jays of the world do not even have to try to make fun of either Williard or Mitt. Since he goes by Mitt, he also lost points on the Back Porch Shout test. Just try yelling the name Mitt. It just doesn't travel well.

-Thomas Monson - 82 pts. Appropriately enough, our beloved leader scored the highest of the five. (And no, there is no personal bias here). Thomas is a definitively male name, is easily spelled, has scriptural roots, and is hard to make fun of. Also, the TSM initials hold up well. The only real snag was the Salem test as Thomas was the 11th most popular name in 1927.

Boy am I relieved to realize that even though my name scored in the 60's I can still make something out of my life. I am not doomed to mediocrity like...oh, I don't know...perhaps a college basketball team that will remain unnamed but manages to lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament every year. Thanks again for sharing all of your insights and experiences with the good and the bad of baby names. Perhaps a young couple will stumble upon the Baby Naming Manifesto and decide against the name LaVernal Almah Young. This blog may not change the world, but if one baby can be saved from a childhood of teasing and swirlies because of his name, it's all worth it.

Play The Mormon Baby Name Game!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Let the fun begin! The Mormon Baby Name Game is now available. The possibilities of this thing are endless. Please feel free to score your own name, children's names, friend's names, future baby names, etc. to see if we can collectively come up with the perfect Mormon baby name. If any of you expectant couples out there have been debating between several possible baby names, please let us know if the Baby Name Game helps you resolve your disagreement and restore harmony to your home. Conversely, feel free to comment on some of the....ummmm....weirder names you have come across with their associated scores. Who knows, maybe we can also determine the all-time worst name as well.

Please pass this test along to friends, family, etc. and get them involved as well. The more the merrier. I would like to see if we can get at least 100 names and scores submitted and then have a head-to-head March Madness-style showdown to crown the best and worst Mormon names ever invented. Based on the comments thus far, I cannot wait to see how this turns out.

If you are understandably uncomfortable posting full names in your comments, just post the last initial. For example, I could post that my name of Dennis Andrew S. scored a total of 67 points. I scored the maximum on all tests except for the following:

-Mean Jay Test: 3 points because of the "Dennis the Menace" insults.
-Helaman Chapter 5 Test: 3 points since Andrew, Peter's brother, was an Apostle, but few people think of the New Testament linkage they hear the name.
-I'm Changing My Name to Salem Test: 3 pts. because Andrew was the 28th most popular name in 1974.
-Back Porch Shout Test: 3 pts. for a two syllable name.
-Moe's Tavern Test: 3 pts. because any first name with my last name can sound like a prank call.
-Letter Hog Test: Angie, Andrew, Anthony, Amy......

Also, version 1.3 of the Manifesto was updated on 3/13 to include the "Moe's Tavern" test (thanks, T-Boar). I also dropped the "Hero" test due to lack of interest and relevance. (It was like Maude Flanders - it contributed little and will be remembered in death more than it was in life). If you need more detail about each of the tests described below, please scroll down to the Baby Naming Manifesto Version: 1.3 post. You will also notice that some of the tests have higher amounts of points assigned to them than others. This was done based upon your comments as to which rules were the most important in the naming process.

Good luck, have fun, and keep the comments coming! Without further ado, the Mormon Baby Name Game:

The "Here Comes Pat!" Test:
Give boy name to boys and girl names to girls:
10 pts. - No mistaking the baby's gender (Nathan, Robert, Rebekah, Elizabeth).
5 pts. - Some ambiguity, but the name is predominantly associated with one of the genders (Courtney, Shannon, Jerry).
0 pts. - Interchangeable between boys and girls (Pat, Chris, Taylor, Cameron, Jamie).

The "Queen Lili'uokalani" Test: Do your child a favor and make the name easy to spell. Especially if the name is somewhat common, do not alter the spelling just to be "original":
10 pts. - Common name, common spelling (Samuel, Tyler, Grace, Faith).
5 pts. - Most people should be able to spell and pronounce the name. If the name is hard to spell, it is not our fault (Sara vs. Sarah, Erik vs. Eric).
0 pts. - We took a perfectly common name, replaced common letters with "cute" letters, and our child will change the name the day they turn 18 (Nykkol vs. Nicole, Jaysun vs. Jason)

The "Mean Jay" Test:
Think like the meanest kid in school and ask yourself, "How could I make my kid cry by using his/her name?"
10 pts. - Almost impossible to logically make fun of the name (this should be a very rare score because mean kids can be very, very evil).
5 pts. - I could see how the name could be twisted to be made fun of, but our child should not grow up hating us because of it. (Earl can easily be called "girl", "squirrel", "hurl", etc.)
0 pts. - Bullies won't even have to try (Melvin will get constant wedgies, for example).

The "Helaman Chapter 5" Test: Give your child a name to live up to, and she just might do it!
7 pts. - The name is prevalent in the scriptures or in church history (Leah, Rachel, David, Joseph).
3 pts. - Minor scriptural name and/or church history reference. At minimum, the name does not have a negative connotation associated with it.
0 pts. - We are praying the child does not live up to the namesake (Jezebel, Osama, Paris, Cain, Madonna).

The "I'm Changing My Name to Salem" Test:
Avoid names that are so popular that your child will share a name with half of his/her kindergarten class. Click here for the list of most popular names (you can even change the year as needed):
7 pts. - The name is ranked #75 or higher.
3 pts. - Ranked between #21-74.
0 pts. - It is currently in the top-20.

The "Logistical Nightmare" Test: Avoid making up names that mean nothing, but sounds "pretty" when said:
7 pts. - Traditional, recognizable names (Daniel, Samantha).
3 pts. - Sounds like a name, but has no real roots (Tristan, Jalynn, Dania, Briley).
0 pts. - That's a name? (Zephyr, Temptress, Efren, Traxler, Lyric).

The "Back Porch Shout" Test: If you yell the child's name from the back porch or in a crowded mall, how well does the name carry:
7 pts. - The name can be clearly distinguished amidst a cacophony of sound - usually three syllables (Jennnn-iffffff-errrrrr! Zaaaakkkk-aaaaaa-REEEEE!"
3 pts. - The name carries well, but could get drowned out - usually two syllables (Maaa-thew! Haaaa-naah!)
0 pts. - The name will get confused with all of the other noises out there - usually one syllable (John! Anne!)

The "Moe's Tavern" Test: Avoid giving your child a first and last name that make an embarrassing combination (e.g. Amanda Huggenkiss) or a repetitive first and last name (e.g. John Johnson).
5 pts. - No embarrassing first name/last name linkage.
3 pts. - With a little creativity, the combination could sound funny.
0 pts. - We have always loved the name Stormy Weathers and we are sticking to it!

The "I Got An F In Geography" Test: If the name is found on a map, don't put it on the birth certificate.
5 pts. - No city, state, country, peninsula, or fjord shares a name with your child.
3 pts. - A little cross over with the name of a place, but the baby is not being specifically named after the city/state.
0 pts. - The baby is blatantly named after an important location.

The "La-Utah" Test: Do not put the Utah-inspired "La-" before the baby's name.
5 pts. - Does not start with "La-" (Mitch, Sadie).
3 pts. - The name starts with "La-", but not in the corny Utah style (Larry, Lauren).
0 pts. - We took a perfectly normal name and slapped "La-" at the beginning (LaVern, LaDell, LaSarah, LaBrandon).

The "Ghosts From the Past" Test: The child's name cannot be the same as a former boyfriend, girlfriend, or high school nerd.
5 pts. - The name carries no baggage with it.
0 pts. - The name brings back bad memories for one of the parents.

The "Wayne-Ray-Lee" Test:
Approximately 63% of all male inmates have Wayne, Ray, or Lee in their name somewhere. Avoiding the name could mean preventing a visit to Juvie in 14 years:
5 pts. - Free of all such "perp" names.
3 pts. - The first and middle names bleed over to include one of the names (Kyle Erik, Ezra Yusuf).
0 pts. - We are naming our son after grandpa Wayne, even if he is not granted parole to attend the blessing.

The "B.A.D. Initials" Test: Every time your child beats the high score on a video game or gets a new set of scriptures, his initials need to be entered into the system or embossed on the outside cover in gold leaf. Don't embarrass the lad with lame initials:
5 pts. - The initials do not spell or mean anything, especially something that could be made fun of (M.J.A., C.R.W.)
3 pts. - With a little creativity, the initials could potentially be embarrassing (D.F.S. = Doofus, W.D.O. = Weirdo).
0 pts. - Really bad initials. (L.S.R. = Loser, J.R.K. = Jerk, D.U.D., B.U.T., etc.)

The "Letter Hog" Test:
When you have seven children and all of the names start with the same letter, you are going to paint yourself into a corner.
5 pts. - We are proudly not letter hogs and this child's name will start with a different letter than all other siblings.
3 pts. - We are letter hogs, but we are using a common letter that offers a lot of flexibility (R,S,T, all vowels, etc.)
0 pts. - We are letter hogs, and we are officially running out of additional names with the letter we selected (Zachary and Zoe were good names, but what's next? Zeniff? 'Zabella?

Baby Naming Manifesto 1.2 Now Available

Monday, March 10, 2008

Please check the Manifesto version 1.2 which now includes two additional rules. Thanks to The Wiz and Bwebster for making them happen:

-The "Logistical Nightmare" test: Make the name something people have heard of before. Don't just make up a name that can be phonetically pronounced but nobody has any idea what the heck that's about.

-The "I'm Changing My Name To Salem" test: If your child will share a name with twelve of his or her classmates when school begins, beware.

These will most likely be the last two rules before the scoring system is unveiled. The last rule that I almost created was the "Moe's Tavern" test as recommended by my little bro, Tony. The Moe's Tavern test asks if the first and last names combined sound like one of the fake prank call names that Bart Simpson uses with everybody's favorite depressed, psychotic bartender. Our last name is "Sweat" (no, not "sweet", but good ol' perspiration) so our family may be hypersensitive to the Moe's test. In his comment, Tony mentioned that he briefly considered naming his son Noah, but then realized he would be subjected to a lifetime of "No Sweat" jokes.

When I first returned home from my mission I went on a date with a girl whose last name was Goates (to protect the innocent, let's say her first name was Rachel). I knew right then and there that Rachel and I had no future together, regardless of how well the date went. Just think about it. If we had ended up getting married, her full name would have been Rachel Goates Sweat. Seeing how Jay Leno has been yucking up the "Goates-Sweat"-type wedding bit for years, maybe this is more widespread than I initially assumed and there is a legit need to create to the Moe's Tavern rule.

Right now I've decided against the Moe's Tavern test because I think it falls under the general umbrella of the Mean Jay test. What do you all think? Does Moe deserve his own rule?

Coming Soon: The Ultimate Baby Name Smackdown Championships

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Great comments everybody on the Baby Naming Manifesto. I have incorporated some of your feedback and Version 1.1 is now available below. Here is a quick summary of the changes:

New Rules:
-"Here Comes Pat!" test
-"Back Porch Shout" test
-"I Got An F In Geography" test
-"La-Utah" test

Updated/Revised Rules:
-The "High School Nerd" test was renamed the "Ghosts From The Past" test and now includes the names of former boyfriends and girlfriends.
-The "Wayne-Ray-Lee" test was revised to exclude girls who have this name since they are far less likely to become future felons.
-The "Difficult To Spell" test was renamed the "Queen Lili'uokalni" test because I wanted to show a name that is difficult to both pronounce and spell. (Well, unless your parents shipped you off to Hawaii when you were 14 years old to pick pineapples all summer instead of staying home and ending up in Juvie.)

I was talking with the NMW (Normal Mormon Wife) about what the next step in the Baby Naming Manifesto should be. We came up with an idea that I am absolutely giddy to roll out - a baby name points system! Therefore, I am currently developing a points system for each of the rules so that you will be able to give an overall score to each of the names you are either considering or have already slapped on your kids.

Once the points system is finalized, I am going to ask everybody to attempt to create the perfect Mormon baby name using the rules in the Manifesto and the points system. Check back soon. Should be lots of fun. I am hoping that we can have some sort of March Madness bracket and pit Mormon baby names head-to-head and end up with the ultimate champion. (In my best Dick Vitale voice) "These diaper dandies are going to be awesome with a capital 'A' baby!!!!!"

The Baby Naming Manifesto: Version 1.3

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A February 26th, 2008 Pew research study found that, "Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have the largest families in America, among both religious and nonreligious groups." I did not read beyond that section, but it probably went on to also report that members of the LDS Church tend to have the most success on reality TV shows (the American Idol finals will come down to David Archuleta and Brooke White, mark my words) and that LDS children between the ages 18 months and 3 years know the words to "Once There Was A Snowman" better than any other religion.

Since we as a people tend to have more offspring than most, we have also learned some parenting lessons that we are obligated to share with those with less experience. For example, we know that there is one major decision that parents make that influences a child's future emotional well-being and overall success in life more than any other single factor. The secret to raising successful children is not dependent upon whether or not you use formula, expose the child to classical music in-utero, or deliver the baby in the hospital with a doctor instead of at home in a Mr. Turtle pool with a woman you met on the internet. The key is this:

Choose the right name!

My wife and I are happily expecting our third child in May (thank you, thank you). Our experiences in naming our children have varied dramatically each time we have gone through the process. We discussed the names of our first and third children for all of three minutes and we both loved the outcomes.

But baby number two? We disagreed on that one for months and then ended up selecting a name that was neither of our top choice (though in hindsight our daughter ended up with the perfect name for her). I mention this because it is pretty remarkable for the two of us to disagree on anything. Our relationship reminds me of the Seinfeld episode when Jerry begins dating a woman, realizes that she is almost exactly like him, and says, "All this time I've been waiting for me to come along, and now I've swept me off my feet!" If naming a baby can become such a serious matter that it caused even the NMH and NMW to dig in our heels and not back down, there needs to be some sort of guide to help couples through the process. Here are some of the lessons that I have learned and would like to pass along to the world, but please comment with your pearls of baby naming wisdom and I will update the list as needed:

New: The "Moe's Tavern" Test: Thanks to my little 'bro Tony for this rule, which has received strong support from the comments thus far. Bart Simpson would frequently call Moe's Tavern with bogus first and last names that sounded funny when said together, such as "Amanda Huggenkiss" and "Seymour Butz". One real life examples of this is former professional baseball player Joe Carter (Joke Harder). I'm going to expand this rule a little to include avoiding giving your child the same first and last name. For example, one local news anchor is Neill McNeill and the Carolina Panthers play-by-play announcer is Mick Mixon.

New: The "Logistical Nightmare" Test: Credit to The Wiz for this rule when she said that a name should be, "Something people have heard of before. Don't just make up a name that can be phonetically pronounced but nobody has any idea what the heck that's about." First of all, great point. Secondly, very appropriate use of the word, "heck", given the Utah roots of many of the readers of this blog. So why call this the "Logistical Nightmare" test? One night when my wife and I were first married we were watching a movie in our teeny, tiny Provo apartment when one of the actors said, "This is a logistical nightmare!" Neither of use knew what the word "logistical" meant and it took us about three years to figure it out. (From 1997-1999 I thought a "logistical" was either an Italian pasta dish, a deep sea creature, or a bone near the scapula.) To us, the word logistical looked good on paper, but it meant absolutely nothing. Several of you have voiced your support for this rule, which discourages made-up names like the following ones that have been shared thus far in the comments - Arvilla, Maristine, Eeston, Lundyn, etc.

New: The "I'm Changing My Name to Salem" Test: Thanks to Bwebster for inspiring this rule and for sharing his wisdom after having nine children and twelve grandkids, "When my (former) wife Marla and I named our last daughter 'Emily', we had no idea that roughly 40% of the US population was doing the same thing. 'Emily' now goes by 'Salem' and wears tattoos and piercings. Sigh." Most of the comments on this topic have recommended avoiding the top fifty most popular names for a given year, otherwise your child might suffer from an identity crisis. Failure to adhere to this rule will result in future dinner table conversations with your 1st Grade son named Joshua that sound like this: "I was trading Pokemon cards with Joshua P. and then he left to go play football with Joshua N. and Joshua R. But then Joshua T. sat down next to me and traded me an Infernape Level X for a Beedrill and a Raticate that Joshua Q. had given to him...."

The "Here Comes Pat!" Test: Thank you Jami for having this rule included by saying, "Must be able to identify gender by name. (A holdover from the 'Jami is a boy's name!' days.)" Well said, and we can all tell the wounds are still pretty fresh for you. This rule is so obvious that I am ashamed to have left it off Version 1.0 when it was released. If we learned nothing else from Saturday Night Live in the early-to-mid 1990's it is this lesson - using androgynous names like "Pat" makes life unnecessarily hard on young children. I discussed this with the NMW and together we came up with a few other names that could get you into hot water with this test - Cameron, Taylor, Jerry, Chris, and of course - Jamie.

The "Back Porch Shout" Test:
Emily made the following comment and gets credit for this rule, "My hardfast rule is it's got to sound good shouted from the back porch." This rule is very creative but also serves a practical purpose. It made me remember a girl named Carrie Anne who lived kitty-corner to me when I was growing up. Every evening at about 6:50 p.m. her mom would open the front door, take two steps on to the porch, cup her hands to her mouth, and yell at the top of her lungs, "Carrrrrr-iiieeeeeee-ANNNNNNE!" Halfway through the second syllable, poor Carrie Ann was already halfway home. As a parent, I have been amazed at how many times I have to shout my childrens' names in crowded places - the mall, Wal-Mart, Primary activities, Trick-or-Treating, the library (which for some inexplicable reason does not go over well), etc. - to get their attention. Before naming your child, go in you backyard and yell it three times to make sure that it carries well. You'll need it someday.

The "I Got An F in Geography" Test: Credit goes to Megan Hall's comment for this one. Apparently, most of you do no approve of naming children after cities, states, or countries. This rule says that if it appears on a map, it should not appear on a birth certificate. I have to admit that this rule makes me swallow my pride. We have absolutely loved living in North Carolina for the past five years and we are naming our soon-to-be daughter after our state. That's right, we are naming her "Northie". Just kidding. She is going to be named Caroline. If we we ever have another boy, we have discussed naming him Logan (we were sealed in the Logan Temple). Are we wrong for doing this?

The "La-Utah" Test: Megan either has too much time on her hands or is a very experienced baby namer, because she struck a nerve when she said, "Utah Test: Does it start with La-? (LaVerl, LaDawn, LaNye). I am glad that the "La" prefix was addressed, because I see this becoming an increasingly popular mistake as more and more professional athletes have "La" in their names. Here is a small sample of a few current pro athletes - LaMarcus Aldridge, LaBrandon Toefield (that's right - LaBrandon!), LaRon Landry, and LaDanian Tomlinson. The Tomlinson family takes the cake, however, as LaDanian's wife is named LaTorsha. Keep an eye on the "La" phenomenon, it could be the next baby name plague.

The "Ghosts From The Past" Test
: (Thanks to Erin for this update, which now includes the names of former flames.) Some names from your past or your spouse's past are forever tainted. Do not, under any circumstances, name your child after either of your former boy/girlfriends. Also, if the nerdiest kid in your spouse's high school was named Kyle, and Kyle just happens to be your all-time favorite name, it's over. The name comes off the list. No additional discussion is justified. Each of us have certain names from our past that evoke bad memories. When the "Ghost From The Past" card is played by your spouse, just respectfully remove it from your list of favorite names, ask no follow-up questions, and move on to the next one.

The "Wayne-Ray-Lee" Test: Credit to Shelley for the following revision: ***(The Wayne-Ray-Lee test is only applicable to boys. Girls are exempt since they are far less likely to end up in the Big House regardless of their name. Shelley's daughter has the middle name "Rae" and my niece is often called "Ray Ray", and their names suit them perfectly.)***When watching the news tonight, listen for how many people being arrested have the names Wayne, Ray, and/or Lee somewhere in the mix. Credit for this rule go to my sister Angie and her husband Forrest who brought it to my attention several years ago. I have put their theory to the test and it is remarkably true. About 63% of all convicts are cursed by the Wayne-Ray-Lee syndrome. In fact, I heard that in Georgia a boy by the name of Ray Wayne Lee was born. Instead of taking him to the nursery, he was immediately 'cuffed, taken to prison, and placed in solitary confinement. Ironically, the name of the prison is Wayne State Prison in Wayne County Georgia. Even if your favorite uncle was good ol' uncle Ray, avoid these three names at all costs.

The "Mean Jay" Test: When I was growing up there was an older boy who lived down the street who went by the name, "Mean Jay". He would do horrible things like pretend to be a burglar and break into our house when he knew our parents were not home, or pin us to the ground and not let us up until we sniffed smelling salts. (I'm actually crying right now amid the flood of repressed Mean Jay memories). Parents need to remember that every neighborhood has its own Mean Jay. Therefore, when considering baby names you have to ask yourselves, "If I were the meanest kid in school, what could I do to make fun of this name?" The Mean Jay test eliminates names like Melvin (eternal wedgies), Duncan (could not go near a swimming pool), Ralph (so many vomit and Ralph Wiggum jokes, where do I start?), and Chastity (Jr. High would be miserable). For example, my full name is Dennis Andrew. Even with those seemingly normal names, I was subjected to my fair share of "Dennis the Menace" slurs and Mean Jay used to walk by me and say, "An ugly kid drew...and drew....and drew...and drew...man was he ugly!" If the name fails the Mean Jay test, spare your child the trauma and leave it behind.

The "Helaman Chapter 5" Test: The Book of Mormon prophet Helaman named his sons "Nephi" and "Lehi" so that they would remember the good works of the original Nephi and Lehi and act accordingly. Sometimes it is good to give a kid a name to live up to. This test explains why the names Joseph, Spencer, Talmage, Gordon, Eliza, and Rebecca are so popular within the Church. It also explains why if you ever meet two brothers named Alma and Amulek, they were probably born within an 80-mile radius of Vernal. Parents need to keep the Helaman test to within reasonable limits and remember that this does not justify you naming your daughter Abish or your son Teancum. If the name you are considering is scriptural or meaningful in Church history without becoming too obscure, go for it. (The only excusable obscure name from Church history is any of the following - Orrin, Porter, or Rockwell. A boy with any of those names would automatically become the toughest kid in his class. Hmmm..now I'm seriously considering "Rockwell" for a boy's middle name. How cool would that be?)

The "Queen Lili'uokalani" Test
: Queen Liliuokalani was the last monarch of the kingdom of Hawai'i. Her name is so difficult to both spell and pronounce, she deserves this rule to be named after her. In short, the Queen Lili'uokalani test encourages parents to choose names that are easy to spell and just as easy to pronounce. However, this is the rule that my wife and I could not agree upon. When we were expecting our second child, both loved the name Allison and wanted to give this name to our baby. I wanted the traditional spelling while the NMW wanted it spelled Alisyn because she felt the "-son" ending was too masculine. I felt like our poor little daughter would spend most of her life telling people, "No, it's not pronounced 'Alley-sign', it's just plain Allison". I am pretty sure the reason that Asia'h Epperson got the boot tonight from American Idol was due to the Difficult Spelling Test. Please help us settle five years worth of debate and post comments to tell us if you would have used "Allison" or "Alisyn" if you were naming your daughter. While we get that debate cleared up, my advice is to avoid names that require people to sound it out three or four times before they attempt to pronounce it.

The BAD Initials Test: With the amount of texting that most kids to today, the wrong set initials could doom your son or daughter to a difficult childhood. Families with the last name of Thompson, for example, cannot, under any circumstances, name their daughter Felicity Amber, regardless of how much they like it. Other initials to avoid - LSR, DRK, NRD, LOL (unless you want a really silly little girl), and JRK.

The Letter Hog Test: A lot of families end up with this type of a problem: The first pregnancy results in twins and they are named something cute, like Nathan and Natalie. When baby number three comes along, the parents feel obligated to continue with the "N" names and come up with Nancy. By the time Naphtali, Nebuchadnezzar, and N'Asia'h are born, the parents have violated almost all of the previously mentioned baby naming rules. The lesson, if parents are going to be letter hogs when naming their children (my family, for example, consists of Angela, Andrew, Anthony, and Amy - I think Amtrack and Aurora would have been next), use a letter that will leave you with plenty of wiggle room. This is especially true if both you and your wife have a lot of siblings. Afterall, it is inevitable that one of the cousins will eventually be named one of your pre-determined letter hog names, so you need to be able to adjust on the fly.

Those are the first few rules that I could think of. Now your help is needed: Please comment with the following advice:

1. Which rules listed above are the best.
2. Additional rules that should be added.
3. Help settle the "Alisyn" vs. "Allison" debate.

Through our combined efforts we can create the most effective baby naming system in the known world. As a result, a young set of parents could be influenced to switch their baby's name from Gadianton Ray Johnson to Thomas Michael Johnson. On behalf of the almost-Gadianton's out there - thank you.

Bound on Earth

Monday, March 03, 2008

While this blog is a little off-beat and good for a laugh once in a while, I know that many of my readers appreciate quality LDS literature as well. For those who do, I strongly recommend Angela Hallstrom's debut novel, Bound on Earth. Portions of Bound on Earth have won awards from Irreantum magazine (2003); Dialogue's "Best of the Year Award: Fiction" (2005) ; honors from the Utah Arts Council (2006); and the Salt Flats Annual Emerging Writer Fiction Contest (2007).

This novel is about three generations of a modern-day LDS family and deals with the power of family and staying together in the face of trials. In a series of interconnected stories, you are able to see life through the points of view of a young man with bi-polar disorder, an older daughter who always tries to do what is right, and a mother who struggles with her ability to be an effective parent, as well as many other contemporary issues. Bound on Earth can be purchased from Amazon.com where additional reviews are also available.

More information on the author can be found at AngelaHallstrom.com. The cover illustration was provided by Anthony Sweat, and his additional work, both LDS and non-LDS themed, can be viewed at AnthonySweat.com.

In full disclosure, the author is my sister and illustrator is my brother. I am incredibly proud of both of them and am awed by their talents and professional abilities. Looks like I better start picking up the quality of the NMH blog. My siblings set a high standard.