What’s in a Name?

When we left Arizona for Utah, we knew one of the things we were leaving behind was glorious, sunshine-filled winters.

We’d moved to Arizona in mid-July, when the temperatures were soaring daily to 117 or 118 and everyone commented how how unfortunate it was to arrive smack-dab in the middle of summer.

But come January and February, when much of the US is buried in snow and freezing gray weather, Arizona is basically heaven on earth (since I’m writing about this in January, I can’t talk too much about Arizona winters or I’m going to just be too sad).

So we decided that each January or February, our family would visit somewhere warm for at least a few days.

When we told the girls about this, I called it our “Winter Escape Trip.”

This year, our “Winter Escape Trip” was to Las Vegas.

It’s less than a 6 hour drive, there is endless sunshine, and, since my parents live there, it’s about the cheapest trip possible (bonus for free babysitting from my parents so Bart and I can steal away to see a movie after we tuck our girls into bed).

We’ve visited Las Vegas dozens of times over the years, so this was not a new or novel destination for our family.

And yet, I noticed something fascinating.

By giving this trip a name, it felt so much more exciting and intentional.

For weeks, I heard my girls telling our babysitter or friends or family members all about our “Winter Escape Trip.”

That name framed it differently in our all minds.

Instead of it just being three days at the grandparents’ house, it was our Winter Escape Trip.

We talked about it as we packed short-sleeve shirts and when we picked up the girls from school, they shouted, “It’s time for our Winter Escape trip!”

On our first morning there, we took a long walk to two different neighborhood parks with my parents, with a stop on the big pedestrian bridge that connects them where we jumped over cars as they passed under our feet and counted how many trucks we could get to honk at us. As we basked in the sunshine, we all kept saying, “This is the perfect Winter Escape Trip!”

On Saturday, when we went for a hike at Red Rock, it felt crazy to be wearing just light jackets. 

The whole trip just felt a little more special and intentional with a name (and let’s be honest, not even a very creative name at that).

I was commenting on this phenomenon to my mom on the phone and we talked about how much a name matters.

She reminded me of Gretchen Rubin’s weekly “Power Hour” where she moves as quickly as possible through the unpleasant tasks (bill paying, phone calls, setting up a new device, etc) that can easily pile up in adult life. Naming that “Power Hour” makes it feel more intentional and slighlty less awful with a name.

Similarly, our Christmas Eve meal, I think, would be less delightful if we just called it “Christmas Eve Dinner” instead of our “Shepherd’s Meal.”

Now that I’ve noticed this, I’m looking back on my own childhood and thinking of things that had specific names.

“Saturday Jobs” sounded more important, official, and grown-up than just doing chores.

Our family scripture reading was always called “Devotional” and if you asked any of my sibling, that one word would probably conjure up very specific memories, including early mornings and the blankets my dad would wrap us in when we got out of our warm beds to sit on the couches together for 15 or 20 minutes.

“Family Home Evening” sounds better than “a night of the week where we’ll all be home together, have a lesson and possibly play charades, badly.”

It takes almost zero effort to give something – a weekly routine, a holiday tradition, or a trip – a name, but that name, even if it’s a relatively dumb name, can make the whole thing more delightful.  

Have you noticed this phenomenon too?

Some year, I hope our Winter Escape Trip will be to Hawaii or the Bahamas or somewhere else warm and exotic, but in the meantime, while our Winter Escape Trips lean hard to the budget side, I’m glad that giving it a name is a free way to make it feel more purposeful and thrilling.

Do you have routines or traditions with names? I’d love to hear!

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  1. I love this whole concept. In the days of recalibrating after my 4th baby, I was struggling with the endless meal making that comes with homeschooling a slew of young kids. My husband suggested having set easy lunches on certain days. Thus “Chicken Nugget Wednesday” was born. We heat up frozen chicken tenders and make strawberry applesauce (frozen strawberries+applesauce in the blender) and listen to Circle Round while we eat. My younger ones ask me nearly every day what day of the week it is, and someone always excitedly announces when it’s Chicken Nugget Wednesday. It’s a fun easy tradition that gets us through the middle of the week.

  2. I love this idea! Especially the idea of the “power hour” for adult stuff. That mess is never fun, but I feel like I could motivate myself (and my husband) into doing that stuff if we had a name, and “set time limit.” Definitely stealing that idea.

  3. What a great post. The traditions my kids love and reference the most are ones with names they associate to the event. “The Conference Store” weekends twice a year with General Conference. “Late Nights” each child had their own night of the week to get 30 min one-on-one time with mom/dad when other kids are in bed. They do not forget or miss a night. It’s spectacular. “Read aloud time” all thanks to you and Sarah MacKenzie’s books.
    I will be using this concept for naming future events. Thanks!

  4. We started having “snuggle supper” which has become an intentional choice from something that used to be me not wanting to cook and just wanting to veg. We order pizza or have a picnic style meal and eat in front of a movie. Before our renovation it happened on our bed with an old sheet protecting it because that was where the tv was. Now it’s in the media room and the snuggle supper blanket still covers the pullout couch that become a bed for this purpose. It’s my favorite and now I look for chances to have it!

  5. Our first two weeks of the summer are our “magical mystery tour”. I may not even tell the children where we are going. This year, it’s Niagara Falls, Ben & Jerry’s Factory, LL Bean, Acadia National Park, whale watching on Cape Cod, visiting grandparents, Living Treasures Animal Park, Hershey, and Pittsburgh. Maybe. If I can do all that in like 12 days.

    It is an awesome idea to name other stuff. I’ll give it a try and report back. Maybe our weekly visit to see my mom can be our “senior trip”.

  6. That same week that you left in January… we GO to Utah (from California). We call it Birthday Week because it’s my dad’s birthday, my husband’s sister’s birthday, and two nephews. It’s our ski week and we eat so much cake.

  7. I agree that event names can be powerful. I’ve been performing improv comedy for seven years and I decided to take a full month off shows for the first time in five years. I began referring to February as my Improv Show Sabbatical and not just “a break”, and it feels intentional and exciting.

  8. Love this! The 1st day of the month we call “Calendar Changing Day.” We go around changing all the calenders and then have a simple, yet special pancake breakfast together, discussing all the exciting things we have to look forward to that month.

  9. My husband and I have opposite schedules–no days off together. Not ideal but we’ve made it work by naming the days that we each get with our son. Mondays and Tuesdays are “Fella’s Days.” I’m at work and my husband is home with our son. Lots of board games and time outside. I work late on Wednesday evenings so those are “Fella’s Nights.” Eggs and potatoes for supper. Every. Single. Wednesday. And they love it! Those days are so valued by my husband that even when he has the choice of taking our son to preschool, he keeps him home so they have that time. I have Fridays and Saturdays off–“Play Days.” So simple but so special to us. My son asks about these days during the week–“Is tomorrow Play Day?”

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