Tempe & Helena
Tempe & Helena

Today’s Reader Baby Name Story comes to us from Kate of My Kids Eat Off the Floor. Beyond her fabulous blog title and adventures in motherhood, it is the home of some great recipes. I’ve linked to her before when she discussed her perspective on nicknames, so I’m truly delighted that she’s sharing her story here today!

I’d love to share the naming stories for my two daughters, Tempe Joann and Helena Louise! And Baby #3 is due in 10 weeks and I have a fabulous (at least I think it is fabulous) name picked out for her.
Tempe Joann
My husband served a full-time mission for our church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) when he was 19 years old. He was assigned to serve in Tempe, Arizona, and the surrounding areas for two years. Serving a mission had a big impact on him and we wanted to honor that. Using a name from the father’s mission has also become somewhat of a tradition for his family–his father served in Texas and named one of his sons Austin; my husband’s brother served in Madagascar and named his daughter Maddy. So before I was even pregnant, we thought Tempe would be a great name for a girl.
When I was pregnant, we chose not to find out the baby’s gender and we were absolutely convinced it was a boy. Because of that, we didn’t even discuss girls names at all. Jason wanted Lincoln; I wanted Jonas; we both felt ok about Asher. We were still discussing (and arguing about) names in the delivery room, and it came as quite a shock when the doctor called out “It’s a girl!” The nurses asked what her name was and we looked at each other and one of us said “Tempe, I guess…” And Tempe it was!
Her middle name was easy. My grandmother’s name is Joanne and Jason’s grandmother’s name is Joan (but pronounced Joanne) so we wanted her middle name to honor both of them. We decided to spell it Joann so that neither grandmother was “honored” more than the other!
People often think Tempe is telling them her name is Debbie, and when I say “No, it’s Tempe,” they often think it must be short for Temperance. I say “No, it’s just Tempe!” and they always say “Like the city in Arizona?” Our Tempe is named after the city in Arizona, but Tempe is actually a Greek name. The Vail of Tempe was where ancient Greeks gathered laurel for the crowns for their Olympic games. I love this unique bit of history!
I will admit that for a few weeks after she was born, I had a little bit of naming regret. I worried that we had made a bad choice, giving our little baby such an unusual name. That didn’t last long; our little girl is such a Tempe and everyone who meets her is forced to agree!
Helena Louise
Just 10 months after Tempe was born, I found myself pregnant again. This time, I wanted to find out the gender so badly that I told Jason he could name the baby if he was ok with us finding out. He agreed, and I immediately tried to take it back, but he was too smart to relinquish the naming rights I had so foolishly given up!
When we found out we were having another girl, I started making a list of names to “help” him. I suggested everything from Pallas (another Greek name) to Roxanna to Violet. He listened patiently, but wasn’t really thrilled with any of my suggestions.
He wanted something somewhat old-fashioned and kept coming back to Helena (pronounced Hel-AY-na). We had first heard the name around the time we got married–it was the name of a popular song by the band My Chemical Romance. He liked that it had an old-fashioned feel, but wasn’t common at all (it was ranked #609 the year she was born). Jason didn’t want to commit to anything before seeing the baby, so we went to the hospital with four names on his short list: Helena, Stella, Delia, and Eisley. When she was born, he took one look at her and said “Can we name her Helena?”
Helena’s middle name was pretty easy, too. My other grandmother’s middle name is Louise, and my only sister’s middle name is Louise, so we decided Louise would be our baby’s middle name the day we found out she was a girl. I tried to convince Jason to use Louise or Louisa as a first name, but he wasn’t crazy about the nickname Lou.
We’re not really nickname people, but I thought I might want to call her Lainey. I tested it out while we were still in the hospital. I was holding her in my arms and I whispered “Hi, Lainey!” and almost gagged. Lainey is a perfectly fine name, but it is NOT my baby’s name! She was so obviously not a Lainey. To this day, we call her mostly Helena when talking about her, but call her Lena when we are talking to her. That fits her much better.
Helena is usually mispronounced as Helen-uh, and I’m sure she’ll have to correct people for the rest of her life, but that’s life 🙂
What great stories, Kate! Your family tradition of choosing names from significant places in your lives is just such a great idea. And I love the way you helped your husband. Didn’t he do a great job choosing her name (mostly) on his own? Sending you best wishes with baby number three. I’m sure we would all LOVE to hear the name you’ve chosen for Tempe and Helena’s little sis.

About Abby Sandel

Whether you're naming a baby, or just all about names, you've come to the right place! Appellation Mountain is a haven for lovers of obscure gems and enduring classics alike.

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  1. I’m so excited to read the stories behind the names! I checked out the blog a month or two ago and looked for the name stories but couldn’t find them. I thought Tempe MUST have a story behind it…and it does! Plus, we also have a Helena, pronounced the same way and often called Lena as well (we also have an Asher, so I think our naming tastes might be similar). I cannot wait to hear what you’ve chosen for #3. Keep us posted!

  2. I remember trying to help name Helena! Love what you chose for both, and can’t wait to hear what # 3 is named. 🙂

  3. Your daughters are beautiful, and I love their names. Tempe is really pretty and interesting, and I just love Helena.

  4. Thanks for featuring our naming story! I’ve become quite a name-nerd over the last few years and I love reading about other people’s naming decisions. I will definitely send you the naming story for #3 in about 7 weeks!

  5. Fabulous naming story! Your husband made an excellent choice in Helena, and both of your daughters’ names go very well together. We’re currently expecting baby number two, but just found out that you can’t find out the gender in the province we just moved to without paying $100.00! We really enjoyed knowing that Roseanna was a girl before she was born, but aren’t sure that $100.00 for a five-minute gender ultrasound is in our budget.

  6. Great story. I think your kids have such awesome names, and I like how the hold such meaning for you, especially Tempe.