Monday, September 25, 2017

The Happiest Anniversary on Earth

photo by One Photo Gallery

This November we'll be celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary!  We were just a couple of wide-eyed kids back then, so it was only fitting to honeymoon in Walt Disney World.  While we were there, we promised ourselves that every five years, we would celebrate our anniversary "someplace Disney."  So this fall, we're going back!


Of course, you may remember that a certain little girl was born on our first wedding anniversary, meaning this November will also be her fourth birthday.  We are insanely excited to go back to Disney, but I think our almost-four-year-old is just a tad more excited than us :)


We've been planning this trip literally since last November, and I'm so excited to share the details with you.  I'm so excited to tell you where we're staying, where we're eating, and how we're planning to spend our time.  In the meantime, take a look at our recap posts from our Disneymoon!


Disneymoon Adventures: Magic Kingdom


Disneymoon Adventures: Animal Kingdom


Disneymoon Adventures: Hollywood Studios


Disneymoon Adventures: Epcot

Have you ever re-lived your honeymoon?  Did you bring your kids along?  Do you think we're nuts?  We're probably nuts.  That's fine- crazy people have the most fun :)

Much love,
The Geeks

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Peanut's Birth Story, Part 2

Read part one here.

Some family friends were in the area, so we were heading out to meet them for dinner.  I was 41 weeks and 2 days.  My mom had been in town for about 2 weeks now, and my dad had just showed up.  Mr. Geek's dad and his wife had been in town for about a week, and she'd already had to leave- she didn't even get to meet little Peanut, he was so late!

We were pulling into the parking lot when I felt my first contraction.  It was definitely a real contraction, lasted about 45 seconds, and 15 minutes later I felt a second one.

Oh no, no, no, little Peanut.  You made me wait this long, you're gonna let me eat a good dinner before this show gets started.

Dinner lasted just over 2 hours, and contractions came like clockwork every 15 minutes.  I quietly informed Mr. Geek of what was going on and told him not to say anything.  I didn't want anybody getting overly excited, and I wanted everyone to have the chance to finish their meals.  I carried on conversations and ate a nice little steak with a side of spinach (protein!  and also iron!) and drank lots of water.  When the two hours was over and conversations were wrapping up, I excused myself, stepped outside, and called the doctor's office.  The on call nurse asked me which doctor I'd like to speak with; I asked for the midwife.  In the ten or so minutes that I waited for her to call me back, I missed a contraction.  While we spoke, I missed another.  I told her that maybe it was a false alarm; things seemed to be slowing down again.  She said to go home, try and get some rest if I could, and to call back when they intensified again.  I rejoined the dinner party and the contractions came back, once again at regular intervals, but still weak enough that I could talk normally.

Our group posed for a picture outside the restaurant.  Just before the photographer took the shot, I said, "Everybody say 'Mrs Geek is in labor!'"

"If only!" replied my mom.

"I am, though.  Have been the whole time."

(There are a series of pictures on my mom's phone of everyone smiling for the camera, then looking at me, then her mouth falling open in shock, and then an enormous group hug.)

We all went our separate ways; my mom came home with us and my dad went to the hotel they were going to spend the next week in.  We wanted Chief to be able to sleep in her own bed through all of this, and since it was likely we'd be going to the hospital late that night, my mom agreed to stay at our house with Chief.

After a lot of pacing, a lot of breathing exercises, a lot of double-checking of our packed bags, and a bit of silent prayer (I didn't forget your intentions!), Mr. Geek and I got in the car  and headed to the hospital around 11pm.  I prayed some more on the ride over- including some prayers that labor would not slow down in the car the way it had with Chief's birth.  Because it was the middle of the night, we had to go in through the ER- they were supposed to just buzz us in to the maternity ward, but I guess the guy at the check-in desk was new, because he made us go through the entire check-in procedure with him, where he got multiple details wrong, and then made me ride in a wheelchair to the labor and delivery floor.  At this point, contractions were closer together and sitting was no longer comfortable.  Of course, we had to check in again at labor and delivery, and our wonderful midwife met us in triage.

She asked me to tell her about Chief's birth- anything I thought was important.  So I walked her through the high points- mentioning how pitocin did not help me progress and how the epidural made my pushing ineffective.  She asked what concerns I had about this birth, and I told her that I didn't want to tear quite so badly this time, so I really did not want an epidural if I could avoid it.  However, I knew that was probably the reason I progressed at all last time, so I told her that Mr. Geek and I had agreed that I would ask for an epidural at the 12 hour mark if I still hadn't started pushing (which would be around 5:30am the next day.)  She left us for a little while as a machine monitored my contractions.  When she came back, she explained what she felt needed to happen for a successful delivery, explaining everything thoroughly and asking for my thoughts.

It was the first time during this pregnancy that someone from the OB-GYN staff treated me like a person- like an adult with valid opinions who deserved an explanation before something just happened.  It was so refreshing.

She began by explaining that since they considered me to be High Risk, our number one priority was to get Peanut out faster than his sister had come, and to minimize bleeding.  She explained that she could administer a drug that was an alternative to pitocin to speed up contractions- that it could be more effective at helping me progress than pitocin had been.  She said she wanted me to stay on my feet as long as possible to try and make my water break on its own, but that they would eventually break my water if I wasn't progressing quick enough.  Finally, she said that when it was time to push, she wanted me to try different positions than I had last time- even if I had another epidural.

I agreed to the drug (I can't remember what it was called).  It came as a pill, not an IV drip, and she only gave me half of one tablet.  It definitely intensified contractions, but they were not nearly as awful as pitocin contractions had been.  (Then again, I wasn't having back labor, either.)  I walked around our labor and delivery room and tried to venture out into the hallway, but I didn't want to be too far from the bathroom in case I got sick.  (I'd just eaten quite the hearty dinner, remember!)  There was a birth ball in the room, so I bounced on that in between contractions, and stood up to lean on the bed during the contractions themselves.  I'm not sure how long it took, but my water did indeed break on its own after enough bouncing.  We hadn't quite reached 5am yet, but I was starting to wear out.  Although it wasn't back labor, contractions were indeed getting very intense, and I was reaching my breaking point.  I apologized to my husband (who immediately responded that there was nothing to apologize for) and went ahead and asked for the epidural.

Once again I was able to rest for a short while, and I finished progressing.  It was time to push out a baby!

...except, once again, the epidural made me completely useless from the waist down.  I could feel the contractions, but I couldn't move my legs on my own.  So, Mr Geek took one leg and the nurse took the other and they helped me push for about an hour.  I started to tear almost immediately, so my midwife performed some perineal massage- only instead of using baby shampoo like my last birth, we had brought some personal lubricant in the hopes that it would be more effective at preventing a tear.

Remember that steak dinner?  It made another appearance.  (That was absolutely awful.)

The midwife could see how exhausted I was and that pushing was just not accomplishing anything.  She suggested I lie on my side with what she called The Peanut- an oddly shaped inflated ball that she stuck between my knees.  I rested like that for a while, then we pushed again, this time lying on my side, bringing my knee to my ear each time.  Except I still couldn't actually lift my leg, so I was just grabbing my knee and pulling.  It sounds like that would be the same thing, but the difference is important.  The midwife had the same thought, so she asked me frankly what I thought about having the epidural dialed back a bit- the pain would come back a little, but so would the feeling in my legs, and I'd be more productive when pushing.  Once again I was so grateful for the respect she was showing- she was asking for my thoughts and making a suggestion, not an order.  I agreed that this was the right thing to do, so the anesthesiologist was called back in to reduce the intensity of the epidural.

Feeling came back- in one leg.  My right leg was still dead and useless, so we dialed it back some more.  I could basically feel everything now, and pushing became really difficult.  I needed to vomit again, and I felt like my lungs were going to explode.  The OB showed up at some point and mentioned seeing Peanut's head...but the midwife quietly disagreed.  The baby wasn't going anywhere.

And I'd started to feel back labor on my right side- sharp, paralyzing pains in my lower back with each contraction.  I couldn't take both those pains and the pain in my lungs with each push- I begged to up the epidural again.  No one argued, so it was turned back up again.

There was more useless pushing, and although my nurse continued to cheer me on, she was also suggesting that I rest more in between, and didn't argue when I asked to skip one or two.  The pain in my back was still there, just slightly dulled.  The midwife and the OB were conferring in quiet voices at the foot of the bed, occasionally looking over with a half-hearted "you can do it!"

Finally, the OB came over to speak to me.

"Listen," she said, "technically, there's nothing wrong with your baby.  He's doing just fine.  There's not technically anything wrong with you, either.  You could keep pushing for hours if you want to.  But you've been at this all morning-"

"-it's been probably 3 hours of active pushing," interjected the midwife.

"-and the baby is just not coming.  And it seems he rolled over which is why your back hurts so much.  We don't think he's engaged at all at this point, and, since he's so late, I'm betting his head is too hard to cone the way it should.  I don't think this is going to work."

I looked at all the faces in the room.  They all had the same sympathetic look on their face, frowning down at this pathetic girl who would never be capable of doing this right.  My husband squeezed my hand, and I asked him what I should do.

"It's entirely up to you," he replied.  "I'll support you no matter what."

I took a deep breath and gave the okay for a c-section.  And then I burst into tears.

I could not stop crying- I was such a failure, and I hurt so, so bad, and I had no idea what was about to happen.  Everyone, including the midwife, kept telling me I'd made the right decision and everything was going to be okay- but I didn't want this to be my decision anymore, I didn't want this to be my fault.  I wanted it to be something they had forced on me, I wanted there to be no other choice but this.

They brought Mr. Geek a gown as they got an OR ready for me.  They wheeled me out of the room with him walking by my side, but when we arrived at the OR down the hall, someone said, "Okay Dad, you wait right here!"

He stood by the door as they wheeled me in, waving at me like he was saying goodbye.

I started crying again- silent tears this time.  Was he not allowed in?  Was I going to go through this alone?  I thought my dad had been in the room for all of my mom's c-sections- was something different about this one that they wouldn't allow him in?

I was moved to a table in this small, white room full of too many people.  A radio was turned on and people were discussing their plans for later that evening.  My body was scrubbed and poked and prodded and stripped and moved and I was just lying there, tears rolling down my face, no one actually noticing me.  The anesthesiologist told me he'd be pumping up "the juice" and that it would be perfectly okay if I lost all feeling from the chest down.

I could no longer feel the contractions, but I still felt the periodic stab in my lower back.  I told him, and he bumped it up some more.  The back pain went away, but there was a soreness on my left side, like the baby was kicking me in the rib cage still.  I moved my hand to touch the place where I felt the pain, and I was immediately chastised- "Don't move anymore!" someone said, and I dutifully returned my hand to its place out to the side on the table.  I briefly noticed that I looked like I was being crucified.  I told the anesthesiologist about the chest pain, and all he said was "Well, honey, this is childbirth- it's just going to hurt."

Someone took something sharp- I couldn't see what it was- and started poking me below my belly button.  They instructed me to tell them if I could feel any pain.

"I feel the pressure, but it doesn't hurt," I said after the first poke.  The same response came from the second.  Then they started poking the right side of my abdomen.

"OUCH," I said loudly, but calmly.  "That felt sharp and painful."  "The juice" was again "pumped up" and the experiment started again.

"OUCH," I said once again.  "It still feels sharp."

"Oh for heaven's sake," grumbled the anesthesiologist.

I closed my eyes.  I knew that some women didn't respond well to this kind of pain medicine- some of them felt the entire surgery, or sometimes doctors decided to just put them under entirely.

I also knew that my grandfather had died during routine surgery at the hands of an incompetent anesthesiologist.

"Excuse me," I said quietly.  "Will my husband be allowed in?"

"Of course, honey," someone said off to my left.  "As soon as we're done prepping you."

One more poke test; this time, no pain.  Eventually, Mr. Geek showed up and held my hand.

I don't remember much of what happened next.  The actual surgery was incredibly fast.  At 12:17pm, a loud cry was heard, and somebody started taking bets on how heavy he was.  They seemed to take forever to weigh and measure him- and when 9lb 5oz!" was announced, everyone in the room gasped in disbelief.  "He's huge!" was the consensus.

Finally, they brought him to me.  My arms were still outstretched as they tucked him into the top of my gown so we could have that ever-important skin-to-skin contact.

"You can move your hands," laughed a nurse.  I placed one hand behind Peanut's head, covered in thick brown hair, and the other still held Mr. Geek's.  I closed my eyes and breathed him in.  He nuzzled into my neck, breathing deeply, no longer crying.  Again, there were tears in my eyes- I've never cried so much in one day, or for so many different reasons.  

We made it.  He's beautiful.

I won't bore you with the details of recovery- I'm actively trying to forget them myself.  Suffice it to say that I never, ever want this or any other surgery ever again.


So yes, I have a healthy baby, and I made it out with no lasting physical damage, as far as I know.  That should be all that matters.

But this was the single most terrifying experience of my life, and I'm not at peace with it, even after writing this.

Much love,
The Geeks

Comments are turned off for these posts, because this is a monologue, not a dialogue.  I need to say all this to help myself move past it, but that doesn't mean I necessarily want to hear what anybody else has to say- and I mean that in the most charitable way.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Peanut's Birth Story

Read the beginning here.

My first birth was a long one- 32 hours in total.  Labor started with my water breaking, contractions were very slow to begin, I wasn't fully dilated until hour 29, and I pushed for nearly three hours.  I asked for an epidural which removed all feeling from my legs, even a couple of hours after I had delivered.  I had a third-degree tear and I lost enough blood to require a transfusion.

In the weeks leading up to Peanut's birth, my doctors were all very concerned with that last part- the blood loss.  They did not want that to happen again.  Starting around the second trimester- when my blood pressure started to go up and when it was later determined that I was anemic- I received the label High Risk.

My OB-GYN practice has a staff of several doctors and one midwife.  Throughout the pregnancy, you have to rotate through seeing all of them, because you never know who will be on call when you deliver.  The thing is, each of these highly experienced medical professionals has a very distinct opinion on...everything, including what exactly constitutes a high blood pressure reading.  One doctor told me that my high reading was due to sitting in terrible traffic; he had me lie down and then they took another reading half an hour later that was "better".  A different doctor suggested the equipment was to blame, and sure enough, a manual cuff-and-scope produced a lower reading than the fancy automated machines they normally use.  Another was not concerned so much with the numbers themselves, just that they stayed within some undetermined range that constituted my own  personal "normal".  Another doctor was less concerned with my blood pressure and more concerned with the swelling in my legs- but the next doctor said my legs were swollen only a "normal" amount.  They also couldn't seem to agree on whether I needed to take iron supplements.  One said a pre-natal with iron was fine, while another said to take a separate supplement entirely.  One insisted I take it every day, while another suggested waiting a few days in between doses so as to give my upset stomach a break.

And then, at my 38 week appointment (which was really about 38-and-a-half weeks), when the midwife was searching for Peanut's heartbeat, she was concerned about his positioning.  She poked around for several minutes and declared that she believed him to be transverse- but wanted me to have an ultrasound to be sure.  We scheduled one for the end of that week (39 weeks and 1 day) and she gave me some information on exercises to "spin" babies.  I spent the next few nights standing on my head, praying that Peanut would flip himself to where he needed to be.  Either the prayers and exercises worked, or the midwife had just misjudged, because the ultrasound showed that Peanut's position was nothing to worry about- he was perfectly head down, even facing the right direction.

That's not to say I escaped this appointment worry-free, however.

This time, the doctor I was seeing was very concerned about my blood pressure levels.  Not only that day, but the previous 4 or 5 readings were simply too high, in her opinion.  On top of that, there was protein in my urine (not that anyone had brought that up with me before).  This, on top of the details of my last birth and the High Risk label appended to my chart, led her to order some blood work to check for preeclampsia.  "There is a very real chance that you have it, but then again, you may not.  Better safe than sorry."

All I knew about preeclampsia up to that point was that high blood pressure, swollen legs and hands, and protein in the urine were the symptoms, and that it could kill you during or after delivery if not treated.  I didn't know there were blood tests that could be run to check for anything definitive, or what treatment looked like.

She didn't explain any of those things, just told me that, since it was a Friday, I would receive a phone call with my results over the weekend.  Three vials of blood later, I went home, propped my feet up on the sofa as I'd been ordered, and started Googling.

What I found was that yes, there were blood tests that could be run to check for the other, less obvious symptoms, but that doctors still weren't sure exactly what causes the condition, exactly.  I also found that it's the leading cause of death during childbirth in the US, and that doctors tend to be more focused on the health of the child and tend to miss the signs in the mother until it's too late.

I never did get that phone call with my results that weekend.  Though I was dutifully doing my part to relax- barely leaving the sofa, even indulging in a glass of a good red wine- I was more stressed out than ever.  I confided in my husband- I was afraid I was going to die.

He didn't tell me I was being silly.  He did tell me to stop researching and to talk to my doctor, but he took my fears seriously.  And then he suggested that I go to Confession.  It had been a while (a long, long while) and it would be cathartic.

So that Monday, while my mom watched my daughter, I drove up to the church and went to Confession.  And as I knelt in a pew afterwards and said my penance, I cried.  I cried from the hormones swirling around that triggered my emotions at the slightest provocation.  I cried from the feeling of peace and relief that always washes over me after absolution.  I cried for my baby, worried that his birth would be full of complications that could put him in danger.  And I cried for myself- I was still so scared of what would happen next.

Later that day, I called the doctor's office myself and asked for the results of Friday's blood work.

"Oh yeah, sorry," came the response.  "We probably should have called you yesterday, I guess they forgot.  Everything's fine, no preeclampsia."

Gee, thanks.  I really appreciate that.

The next two weeks were a whirlwind of appointments.  When I saw my doctor (a different one than the one who had ordered the blood work, of course) at 40 weeks, he clarified- everything's fine now, but I wasn't necessarily out of the woods.  I still had to do whatever I could to relax and bring my blood pressure down.  He wouldn't go so far as to call it bed rest, but he told me to sit or lie down as much as I could and to let someone else take care of the housework.  Every few days, I came into the office for cervical checks, weight checks, blood pressure checks, fetal heart rate and movement checks, and at week 41, they asked me what day I'd like to be induced.  (I chose 41 weeks and 6 days as The Deadline- the day we'd give up on this baby coming naturally.)

Yeah, so, it turns out that all that hard work I'd been doing to bring down my blood pressure- that is, the lack of any work at all- was also probably responsible for the fact that Peanut was content to stay in his warm, happy, comfy place with not the slightest inclination to come out.

Tough luck, Peanut.

And so began Coach Daddy's Let's-Have-This-Baby exercise regimen, consisting of many long walks around the neighborhood, the shopping mall, and up and down the stairs of our town house, along with some exercises we'd learned in our birth class all those many years ago.  I drank orange juice, did squats, washed every scrap of dirty laundry, and cleaned the toilets.

It took only a couple of days of this intense regimen for the baby to get the picture.  At dinner time, 41 weeks and 2 days, I finally felt my first contraction.

Come back tomorrow for the rest of it!

Much love,
The Geeks

Comments are turned off for these posts, because this is a monologue, not a dialogue.  I need to say all this to help myself move past it, but that doesn't mean I necessarily want to hear what anybody else has to say- and I mean that in the most charitable way.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Peanut's Birth Story: Lessons Learned

Well, it's been seven whole weeks since our little Peanut was born.  That's long enough for him to have been baptized, moved out of newborn-sized clothing, and experimented with bottle feeding in preparation for daycare.  It's long enough for me to have lost twenty pounds (although, if we're being honest, half of that was just him), begun a modest freezer stash of milk, and received the go-ahead from my doctor to begin an exercise regimen and engage in other activities which I am nowhere near mentally prepared for quite yet.  Seven weeks is a long time.

And yet it's not quite long enough to recover.

I've recovered physically, at least according to my doctor.  But I'm not really over it.

With our daughter's birth, I wrote up a little list of "lessons learned" as if giving birth is an exam that you study for, and everything will be fine if you know the right answers.  I do think that is a list of valuable takeaways from that particular birth, but if I learned anything from conceiving, carrying, and giving birth to this baby, it's that you just can't plan these things, not truly.

I had a very solid, smart plan for this baby.  I had planned exactly which month I'd get pregnant, so that maternity leave would line up just right with everything else going on in our lives.  I had planned to exercise more regularly during this pregnancy, enabling me to better endure labor and have a successful, trauma-free delivery.  I had planned to labor in different positions than I had the first time, to stay away from the stresses of the hospital for as long as possible, and to have the stamina to just not need an epidural and all the complications it brings.

It took us six months to conceive this baby.  I know that doesn't sound like a very long time to those couples who struggle for years to conceive, but when our first child was a total surprise- when we didn't even have to try- we sort of expected an actual planned pregnancy to be easy to achieve.

I was so, so tired during this pregnancy.  I couldn't sleep, and even when the sickness of the first trimester had passed, I still had a lingering nausea most of the time.  By the end, my feet and legs were so swollen that just walking from my car to my desk every day at work was painful and exhausting.

And though I had the perfect Birth Plan, I was completely unprepared for the way this child was going to enter the world.

Now, don't get me wrong- I still believe that Natural Family Planning is an incredible tool for understanding your fertility, I still believe that birth is like a marathon for which you have to train, physically and mentally, if you want to reach the finish line, and I still believe it is incredibly important to do that training with a coach whom you would trust with your very life and to have a clear list of priorities for your birth.

However.

God's plans always, always, always trump our own.  The best we can hope for is to acknowledge what His plan is, and be flexible enough to adapt to the situation we find ourselves in.  In other words- go with the flow!

Says the girl who still occasionally has nightmares reliving this particular birth experience.

The actual story is much shorter this time.  Come back tomorrow if you'd like to read the prologue, and Wednesday for the meaty part.

Much love,
The Geeks

The story continues here.

Comments are turned off for these posts, because this is a monologue, not a dialogue.  I need to say all this to help myself move past it, but that doesn't mean I necessarily want to hear what anybody else has to say- and I mean that in the most charitable way.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Call for Prayer Requests

Hello everyone!  I realize I haven't posted since Easter, but we've been a little busy!  We moved (just across town) in early May, a certain tiny dancer had a recital, and, you know, we're getting ready for this little boy!

School photo
This is Miss Chief's pre-school spring photo- they brought in this glamor shots- type photographer who provided the outfit, props, and jewelry.  Apparently the big sister is officially not a baby anymore!


And here's our little diva at her first ever dance recital.  She did the cutest little jazz routine and we are so proud of her.  She overcame a bout of stage fright at the dress rehearsal, got out there, and did her absolute best.  Of course I got teary-eyed, and Mr Geek and I applauded louder than anyone else in that auditorium because she was just so very good.  The best part is she loves dance class and wants to continue, so we'll be doing classes every week this summer and fall, too!

My due date is just around the corner- June 29.  Last time, I was so focused on figuring out this whole childbirth thing that I didn't have the chance (or, if I'm being honest, the inclination) to offer up my labor.  This time, I'm feeling much more prepared, and I have some special intentions on my heart anyway, so I'd like to ask you, dear readers- is there anything I can pray for during labor?


Feel free to leave any prayer intentions either in a comment here, on my Facebook page, in a private message on Instagram, or in an email to ourgeekyadventure {at} outlook {dot} com !

I can't wait for you all to meet the little man!  Please pray for me, too- that this labor goes smoothly and that our baby boy is healthy.

Much love,
The Geeks




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

Monday, January 30, 2017

Introducing Little Ones to the Culture of Life


Pretty much every year in high school and most of college, I went to the March for Life.  Since graduation, however, I've been less actively involved in the pro-life movement, outside of the occasional prayer vigil at an abortion clinic (though I haven't done that since before getting pregnant with Chief).  Of course, having a family and not shying away from bringing our children out in public is one way of living a witness to the culture of life, but it's high time we got active in our activism once again.

The stars happened to align such that all three (well, four) of us could attend this year's March for Life- and I think this year it was more important than ever to show up in  person and remind our elected officials that we're going to hold them accountable to the values they claim to have.  So on Friday, we bundled ourselves up and headed down to our parish to catch the bus into DC.

During the week, we prepared our three-year-old by telling her she wouldn't be going to daycare on Friday and that instead, we'd be going to church to pray and then ride on a bus.  (Buses are a big deal right now- the big kids at daycare take a bus to school and she wants to ride a school bus more than anything.)  We made it to church for the tail end of holy hour (she'd be more of a distraction than a participant in a quiet hour of prayer without the Catholic aerobics and musical interludes of Mass) where I pulled out her big wooden rosary and showed her how to use it to pray.  We loaded the stroller into the cargo compartment on the bus and boarded for the quick ride.

Before we started the (very quick) highway rosary, Chief asked us where we were going on the bus.  We told her that we were going to save the babies- we told her that some people don't know how special babies are, so we needed to tell them.  She agreed that babies are special- that she loves the baby in Mommy's belly and will take care of that baby when he or she gets here- so we asked if she could tell everybody else, and she responded with a very sincere, "Sure!"  Then she listened to the whole bus say the rosary, and participated in the Our Father every time it came around.



As to the actual March, I knew I'd be comfortable bringing her to this one as opposed to other demonstrations that go on in this town.  People defending the rights of the unborn are never crude or vulgar, and there's never rioting or violence.  The counter-protesters normally are only allowed at the end of the route and are always too small in number to hurt anybody or even be heard over all the praying.  (Although there was an interesting breed of counter-protester along the route this year- radical evangelicals who were protesting neither for or against abortion, but protesting the Catholic Church itself which seemed a little counter-productive in this context.)  Chief napped as we walked past the graphic images, thankfully- although I do believe that the best way to defeat abortion is to show the world what it actually looks like, I think three is too young to be exposed to it.







When we got back on the bus to head back to the parish, Chief looked at the people putting away their signs and climbing back on to the other buses.

"Did we save the babies?" she asked thoughtfully.

"Yes, Baby, I think we did," Mr Geek replied.

"Does everybody know that babies are special now?"

"They sure do.  You did a great job."

We teach our pro-life values by showing our daughter how to love and respect all people because everyone was created in the image and likeness of God.  But the older she gets, I think it's important to show her how to speak for those who can't speak for themselves, and to appreciate this great nation she lives in, whose laws are written and the behest of its people and not just its leader.

Have you ever been to the March for Life?  How do you talk to your kids about the sanctity of human life?

Much love,
The Geeks