Monday, April 17, 2017

We are an Easter People


Happy Easter everyone!  This year's outfits were assembled by Little Miss Chief herself, who is having quite the Belle moment, hence the yellow.  We had to snap this photo after we got home from Mass because we had to rush out the door to get to the 9am on time.  (We got there with 5 minutes to spare, but had to sit in the cry room.)

Yesterday was also the 10th anniversary of the tragedy at Virginia Tech, April 16, 2007.  I felt so blessed to be able to spend the afternoon with my dear friend I met that year, our freshman year in engineering school.  It's hard to believe it's been 10 years since that awful day, and there's something profound about spending the Triduum reflecting on how death touched all of us that day, and how we as a university community came together to heal in the aftermath.  We will certainly neVer forgeT, and I'm so proud to say that this day has become not one of sorrow or despair, but a day to celebrate the lives of the 32, and to enjoy, with our fellow Hokies, the beautiful spring day that was stolen from us all those years ago.  This year, that spring day involved my friend and I watching our daughters play in the sunshine, hunting for Easter eggs; we celebrate Christ's victory over death and the blessings in our own lives over the past 10 years.

So how was your Easter?  Who dictates the family color palette in your house?  And for my fellow Hokies- how did you observe April 16th?

Much love,
The Geeks

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Lent for Pre-Schoolers: Fasting



I like the idea of a family Lenten sacrifice.  Growing up, the whole family gave up TV; we had a big entertainment center with doors you could close, so the television was literally locked up during Lent.  We sometimes took on our own individual sacrifices, too, but it was a nice way to keep each other honest if we're all giving up the same thing.

The past two years, The Geek Family's sacrifice has been not going out to eat during Lent.  Last year it wasn't terribly difficult, but it was a great way to save money which we turned around and gave to the Bishop's Lenten Appeal (the annual diocesan fundraising campaign to support the various ministries in the diocese).  This year it's been much harder to say no to fast food for lunch or to resist ordering pizza and whip up something on the stove instead...mostly because I'm pregnant, tired all the time, and turned off by the sight of raw meat or the smell of cooking food.  We have allowed ourselves to "cheat" on Sundays (which has mostly meant a big after-Mass lunch at Cracker Barrel, since their biscuits are my current craving) and have found it prudent to cheat when it would be impolite to decline (like when my team at work wanted to go out to lunch to welcome our newest members- it would've been rude to stick with my Lean Cuisine and sit out for that team building activity) or otherwise impractical (like when Mr. Geek was supposed to finish his shift at work at 4pm and instead was asked to head straight to the train station and transport some equipment to New York without any time to go home first- he let himself eat dinner that night and breakfast the  next morning at restaurants rather than a self-imposed fast with no warning).  So while this year we didn't quite make it 40 days without eating out, it still felt like a difficult sacrifice.  (We didn't allow ourselves to cheat just because we forgot to grocery shop or Mommy didn't feel like cooking- we got creative or powered through, which was admittedly difficult sometimes.)

It was even a sacrifice for Miss Chief this year.

This winter, we established a new Saturday morning breakfast habit (or even weekday mornings when Mr. Geek was working night shift)- we would go to The Coffee Store (Starbucks) or The Breakfast Store (Panera), get a pastry and chocolate coffee (chocolate milk), and talk about the errands we were going to run or our plans for the rest of the weekend.  To be told that we wouldn't be doing that anymore for quite some time was a bit of a shock for her, and for the first couple of weeks she asked if we could go (even throwing in an extra "Please?" or two).  We told her that it was good for us to make breakfast at home together, to eat around the family table, just us, but we have the same conversations- and the same "chocolate coffee".  So she doesn't quite get the connection to Lent yet- we're still working on grasping the concept of Lent in general- she does understand that she's not being punished, and that it's good for our family to cook and eat together at home.  (Okay fine, sometimes "making breakfast" around here means opening a package of Pop Tarts.  But we open it with love, okay?)

Little ones don't have to fast during Lent, so how do you introduce your pre-schoolers to sacrifice?

Much love,
The Geeks

Friday, April 7, 2017

Lent for Pre-Schoolers: Prayer


I don't know how many prayers a 3-year-old is supposed to know, but ours knows The Lord's Prayer and Grace Before Meals and if she's in the mood, she can follow along with some parts of the Mass.  (She likes when the sung bits are in Latin because they're more fun than regular English words.)  She's heard the rosary being prayed, and the last time was our bus ride to the March for Life, when she prayed along with The Lord's Prayer and counted the beads the rest of the time.  But those are pretty much the only types of prayer she's been exposed to thus far.

For the past few years, I've forgone attending Friday night Stations of the Cross because they start at what should be her bedtime and I've felt it was unfair to everyone to drag a baby or a toddler along who would rather be sleeping.  (Well maybe she wouldn't rather be sleeping, but her little body would.)  We've made Friday night into Movie Night in our house lately, though, meaning she's up past her bedtime anyway, so I figured if we're not going to honor bedtime on Fridays, we may as well squeeze in some holiness.  (And we can watch movies on Saturday night.)

Maybe I overestimated how good of an idea this was.

A different group hosts a meatless meal right before Stations every week, and so far, that's been her favorite part.  "Is it Friday today?  Are we going to have supper at church?"  But if we're going to have supper at church, we're going to stay for "special prayers" and that is apparently less exciting.

The first week, Mr Geek had to work night shift, so she and I went on our own.  She didn't want to sit still or look at the pictures in the booklet, but she didn't make any noise and she stayed in our pew so it was okay.

The second week, it was once again just us girls, and she had much more energy.  This time she wasn't content to stay in our pew and went further and further away, all the while grinning at me with a look that said "I know I'm breaking the rules, and I know you won't get loud about it because this is church."  She eventually came back and threw a stuffed animal at me, so I put it in my bag and whispered that we were going to go home.  As I started to gather our things she panicked and began yelling, "No!  I don't want to leave!  No!  I don't want to go home!"  And I mean yelling.  So I scooped her up and quite literally ran out of there- coats dragging on the floor, screaming child in my arms.  She definitely knew she was in trouble and leaving church was a punishment that had impact, but I felt so defeated.  There were plenty of other children there, many her own age or younger, who had been sitting quietly and even trying to follow along.  What was I doing wrong?

The third week, Mr Geek was on day shift and therefore available to attend with us.  Having both parents definitely helped- we could physically bound her movement, and the not-currently-pregnant parent could hold the 35 pound wiggle worm more securely, letting her turn the pages of his booklet and eventually encouraging her to participate in the kneeling and standing and kneeling again.  She still wasn't quite paying attention- until the end, when she started asking me about the figures in the pictures- but it was the best Friday yet.

The fourth week, everyone had a head cold.  We stayed home, ate scrambled eggs and Eggo waffles for dinner (because #pregnancy), and went to bed early.

This week, the Youth Group is putting on Living Stations.  I've spent all week preparing Miss Chief for what we're going to see- I explained that it's kind of like a show (a word she currently associates with a performance on stage at a theater) where people will be dressed up in costume, and one of them will pretend to be Jesus carrying his heavy cross.  She's been asking lots of questions about it and is looking forward to eating supper at church AND seeing a show there.  I'm hoping this will keep her engaged enough to want to pay attention.

Wish us luck.

When did you start taking your little one to Stations of the Cross?  How do you observe Lent with small children?

Much love,
The Geeks

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wordless Wednesday: Snow Day 2017





Did you get a snow day from this nor'easter?  How did you spend it?

Much love,
The Geeks

*all photos by Mr Geek*

Monday, March 6, 2017

Lent for Pre-schoolers: Almsgiving

Our three-year-old is at the age where she's paying attention to everything, learns just by watching and listening, and wants to feel like she's contributing.  So this is the perfect time for family Lenten activities that she can be involved in!

I signed us up for Ginny's weekly writing prompts over at Not So Formulaic, and for the first week's prompt she was able to draw a picture for us and then I wrote down her description on the back.  We're going to keep our family letters in a nice little binder and look back on them when she's older as a fun way of remembering how much she's grown.

But I'm also trying to get her more involved in the three tenets of the Lenten season: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.  These are pretty big concepts for a pre-schooler- she only knows two prayers, she's exempt from the regular fast, and she doesn't own anything she could give away.

Still, we've come up with some ways to make this season more meaningful for her.



Every parent is familiar with the ritual post-Christmas purging of the old toys.  Every January finds our house stuffed to the brim with things she just doesn't need- it all seems to come in a rush since her birthday is in November and then Christmas comes right after.  I don't necessarily save this purging for January, either- pretty much after every gift-giving occasion I'm culling our inventory of unnecessary plastic objects.  (And since, on my side of the family, Chief is The First Grandbaby, any given Tuesday could be a gift-giving occasion.)  I've always been able to go through her things and decide what can be kept for future babies, what needs to be thrown out, and what could be given away while she's distracted by the Shiny New Thing (let's be honest- Things).

This year, though, I want things to be a little different.

For Christmas, Chief received a big, beautiful doll castle with a few dolls, and it just so happens to be a good size for a collection of little princess dolls she already had, too.  She's played with it probably every day since she opened it; it's definitely one of her favorite new toys.  For a couple of weeks, it sat on the floor next to the doll castle she'd gotten for her birthday last year.  At first, the little princesses held parties in both castles and visited each other and their new friends.  Pretty quickly, though, the princesses set up a permanent residence in the new castle.  As the old castle was kind of in the way, it was moved up on top of the toy box, where it remained, untouched and unnoticed, for about a month.

At the beginning of February, I asked Chief if she still played with her old castle.

"No, I like my new one."

I suggested that maybe, since she has a new castle for her princesses, she didn't need the old one anymore.  Maybe there were other little girls who might like to play with it.  She was initially pretty horrified at the thought and didn't want it taken away from her, so I dropped the subject.  She didn't return to playing with it, but we didn't talk about it, either.

I could have donated the castle without asking her, but she would have noticed- even though she doesn't play with it, it's huge, and had been a fixture in the playroom for just over a year.  I didn't want her to think she was being punished, or that it was being taken away from her, though.  I wanted her to come to the conclusion that she didn't need it anymore and that it could make someone else happy.  For a few weeks, I would periodically talk to her about it, probing to see if she was comfortable with the idea yet.

Finally, the day after Ash Wednesday, she told Mr Geek that she thought maybe some other little girls might like to play with that old castle.  So they gathered up its accessories and put it in his car, and drove it to the local charity thrift shop to donate.  She was really hoping to be able to see the castle's new owners immediately, but Mr Geek explained that they didn't know who was going to have it next.

She really is pretty selfless, and loves to share.  When she's playing with any of her massive collection of stuffed animals, she'll pause and say, "When the baby gets here, I'll let him play with this one."  (And it's often her most cherished toy that she's willing to share, not just the forgotten or neglected ones.)  Giving away an old dollhouse may not be the same as the old woman donating her last two coins, but it's a step towards a detachment from material goods, towards charity, towards the type of sacrifices Lent is all about.

I'm really proud of her.

What sorts of activities do you do with your little ones during Lent?

Much love,
The Geeks

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Mini Babymoon Getaway

Although Mr Geek and I have taken trips away from Miss Chief individually (me for business, him for a funeral), we've never gone away together and left her with someone else.  Now that my sister lives so close- about an hour away- and now that our baby girl is three years old (and therefore not a baby anymore), we thought maybe we would risk a night away to relax and enjoy some grown up time before Peanut (my unofficial nickname for Baby Boy) arrives and all thoughts of relaxation go out the window.

Of course, we spent literally the entire time talking about our big girl, wondering if she was enjoying her "spend-the-night" (not a sleepover, a spend-the-night) with her aunt and uncle, hoping she wasn't giving them too much grief about bedtime, planning what we would spend the rest of the weekend doing with her...but still, it was nice to have some time away during which we could have theoretically discussed things other than Elmo.  (Somehow, while waiting for our fancy grownup entrees to arrive at dinner, we found ourselves discussing our favorite Sesame Street  episodes.  I think maybe we need therapy.)

I did not receive a single panicked phone call or desperate text from my amazing sister, and everyone enjoyed the special Friday night.  We were back by 10 am the next morning- turns out there is literally nothing to do in Fredericksburg on a Saturday morning- so we were only apart for just over 12 hours, but still, this was a big step for us.


We stayed at Kenmore Inn on Princess Anne St in Fredericksburg.  I had always considered staying at a bed and breakfast to be something that fancy grownups did, so I figured the weekend after St. Valentine's Day was the perfect time to pretend to be fancy grownups.  Although the Inn is but a mere 15 miles from my sister's house in Stafford, it took nearly 45 minutes to drive there on a Friday night.  We arrived after 7, giving us just enough time to check in and make ourselves look nice before our 8:00 dinner reservations at the on-site restaurant.  The food was delicious, the wine sure smelled good (I'm not gonna lie, I really miss wine, but I don't force Mr Geek to be a tea-totaler while I'm pregnant), and the ambiance was cozy- the perfect place to discuss the logistics of taking the Metro to see Disney on Ice later that weekend.  (Yes, that was another topic of conversation at our fancy grownup dinner.)  Because the restaurant is in the cellar of the b&b, guests can use the back staircase to get back to their rooms- meaning dinner was just far enough away from our room for me to regret trying to balance my big ol' preggo belly in heels.  There was a full-service breakfast the next morning in a quaint little dining room that would be perfect for hosting a small rehearsal dinner for a wedding, and then checkout was simply dropping off the key with the front desk.  (There's something so charming about actual keys, rather than key cards.)  We had planned to walk around and take in the sights, but the only things open that morning were antique stores (which Mr Geek kind of hates) and coffee shops (but we'd already had breakfast), plus we really did miss our little girl, so we made our way back to pick her up.


The Kenmore Inn sits on property originally owned by George Washington's sister's father-in-law.  (How's that for history!)  It sustained damage during the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862 but stood strong.  Throughout the years it's been a family home, a tavern, a boarding house, a coffee shop, and finally the bed and breakfast it is today.  It's really quite a charming house, and is decorated with period antiques.  We stayed in the Regal Kenmore room, with a king-sized bed and wood burning fireplace (though we opted not to have it lit as it wasn't really that cold that night).  The Inn also has a family-sized suite, so it could be a lovely alternative to a regular hotel if you find yourself needing a place to stay in Fredericksburg- it's not just for romantic getaways!

So tell me- when you're away from your kids, do you spend the whole time talking about them?  How old were your little ones before you left them with someone else overnight?  Have you ever stayed in a bed and breakfast (and did you feel like a fancy grownup)?

Much love,
The Geeks

Friday, February 17, 2017

Oh, Internet... {92}

So obviously I've been away from blogging for a few months and, I'm sad to say, I've been away from reading blogs, too.  (Pregnant-Me mostly just wants to watch The Grand Tour on Amazon, shop online for baby clothes, and sleep.)  But this week I opened up my good ol' RSS feed again (how old school!) and followed my favorite bloggers this week and boy did I find some good stuff!

If you read nothing else from this list, definitely read this post from A Gentle Mother.  "...[T]here’s a big problem, for me, when it comes to balance. Namely, that’s it unachievable."  I needed this post.

Alison at Reconciled to You makes a very good point as she urges us, "Please Don't Give Up Social Media this Lent."  If digital witnesses to Christ all abandon ship during the most important season of the year, could we be missing out on opportunities to evangelize?

Katie at The Catholic Wife provided a wonderful reflection on the Fifty Shades trilogy- what are women really seeking when they read and watch these stories?

What awesome things happened on your internet this week?

Much love,
The Geeks

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

My Bloody Valentine


Although his name is one of the most well-known of all saints in the western world (other than that guy Patrick), the actual details of the life of Valentine the man are pretty hazy.  There are many different stories of why, exactly, he drew the ire of the Romans and ended up in prison- probably had something to do with converting people to Christianity (frowned upon at the time), probably had something to do with marrying couples in the Christian rite (also frowned upon, and explains the romantic love angle of his patronage).

One thing all the stories have in common?

He was martyred for the faith.  Specifically, he was beheaded.

How romantic!  Let's share a box of chocolates.


Gives a whole new meaning to "Be my Valentine," doesn't it?  "Be the guy who gets his head chopped off for me."

But you know, maybe it is kind of appropriate.  I mean, that's marriage, isn't it?

Not decapitation- our life is not that similar to Game of Thrones.

But being married means dying to one's self- putting aside all thoughts of I want and even I need and devoting time instead to what we need and what we want for our family.  Mr Geek dies to himself every day by waking up before 3am some days or not coming home until after midnight on other days working at a job that will mean good things for our family in the future.  He dies to himself by crawling on the floor and playing dolls with our daughter on evenings when he'd much rather put his feet up.  He dies to himself by running out in the middle of the night to find whatever very specific food my big pregnant self is craving.

I die to myself by...occasionally doing the dishes.  If he begs me to.  (I hate doing dishes.)

Okay so maybe I need to try a little harder at being his Valentine, since he's so good at being mine.

So tell me about your Valentine!  What sacrifices do they make for you?

Much love,
The Geeks

*These are two of my favorite engagement photos, taken FIVE YEARS AGO by the illustrious Emile Frey

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

And the baby is a...

BOY!

We're having a boy!  Our little princess is getting herself a baby brother and she couldn't be happier.  She came with us to watch the ultrasound and was blown away by the idea that the weird little wand rolling through the yucky gel on Mommy's belly could actually look inside and see her baby brother.  And my was he active!  He kept rolling from side to side, making it hard for the tech to capture a picture of his head that was good enough to measure his big ol' brain.  And his little profile looks just like Chief's did, with the same little button nose.

Mr Geek and I are beyond excited about our healthy, beautiful, BIG baby boy- he's measuring a week farther a long than our due date estimation, which is not enough to actually adjust the due date but leads me to believe that he's going to be larger than his sister was.

So, moms of boys- any advice?  Moms of both- how are baby boys and baby girls different?  (Or is it more that babies are people and therefore they're all different?)  Any advice for preparing the big sister for life with a little brother?


Much love,
The Geeks

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Throwback Thursday: In Summer


Here's a little throwback to when the weather was warmer and my baby girl was, well, a baby girl.

Now this big girl is excited to find out whether she's having a brother or sister- and she'll find out next Tuesday!  We're so excited :)

Much love,
The Geeks