Friday, November 27, 2020

greta is 7!

dear sweet pea, 

you have grown up so much this year! when i look back at pictures and videos from last November, it's hard to believe that was only twelve months ago. and yet, at your core, you are still the same observant, thoughtful, creative, sensitive, dubious person you've been since birth. 

"what the heck is going on?!"

as expected, you've had lots of mixed emotions about our return to Pittsburgh from Rome. mostly, you're happy to be back in our house, with our big backyard and the new swingset Daddy built, and your bike (you and your best friends Maeve and Shayden learned to ride two-wheelers within days of each other this summer!). you've spent a few glorious weekends at Nana and Pappy's house, and i can still hear your shrieks of joy when you discovered your beloved friend Yaya was also at the "summer camp" daycare program at ABCs. but of course you miss your friends in Rome, especially Qing Qing, Louise, and Polly. we found out recently that Qing Qing's family has also left Rome now, and you were very quiet for a moment and then asked, "but someday can we go to China to see her?" someday, kiddo, someday!! 

Maria Vittoria, Greta, and Qing Qing on Carnevale

Candlemas at the NAC

sharing their drawings of rainbows with their Italian friends
during our 14-day quarantine after returning from Rome

your biggest transition this year was starting first grade at St. Philip School. you love your teacher, Miss Rodgers, and i've been very impressed with all the measures the school has taken to allow for in-person learning. you started off the year feeling pretty discouraged about reading -- you had spent so many hours learning Italian phonetics and pronunciation over the past two years that the rules in English were understandably baffling! but things are really starting to click for you now, and you've built a lot of confidence and reading fluency by reading Mo Willems' books, with their repetition, hilarious illustrations, and heartwarming storylines.  

you love to play teacher, and i often find your stuffed animals and dolls lined up on the couch or on the bed as you essentially recreate your school day for them (including the weekly school mass). for better or for worse, you also love to make your own videos based on makeup tutorials or prank videos you've seen on YouTube. (i guess it's the 2020 version of the cassette tapes i used to create using my little Fisher Price tape recorder!) one thing is for sure: your selfie game is stronger than mine! 

this fall marked your first foray into school sports. originally, you thought you might want to join the cross-country team, so we met up with the kids for a free run one August evening. but at the end of the run, i could see your glare from all the way down the trail as you stomped back and told me, "i didn't know we were going to be running the whole time!" instead, you decided to join the soccer team. it was a great learning experience for you to do something completely new, and to stick with it even when you recognized that the other kids had all been playing soccer for at least a year. you started ballet at a new studio this year, and we were so impressed with your performance at the little in-studio show your class put on last week. you've asked about starting gymnastics too -- maybe we'll try that in the summer! 

for posterity, here are a few of your favourite things:

  • TV show: Bunk'd on Netflix
  • food: spaghetti and meatballs, cheese pizza, frozen green beans, black raspberry ice cream
  • book: The Chronicles of Narnia series (we just started reading these aloud this year!), the Junie B. Jones books, and The Book with No Pictures
  • hobbies: making up your own ballet dances, playing with your Barbies, recording videos, making rainbow loom bracelets (and shh! you're getting your own kit for your birthday this year!)

in Sainte-Chapelle, Paris

in Ocean City, MD, with Nana and Aunt Becca!

we love you so much, Margaret Kathleen! happy seventh birthday!!

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

giving thanks

what. a. year. 

i expected there to be some bumps along the road as we transitioned back to life in the States, but as we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving here for the first time in three years, i've been blindsided by how much i actually will miss Thanksgiving at the NAC. that place really knows how to celebrate a feast in every sense of the word: emotional, spiritual, and gastronomical! the entire day was filled with purpose, from the sunrise Turkey Trot around Vatican City to an incredibly gorgeous liturgy to the gourmet meal, and necessary leisure time in the afternoon. moreover, our first Thanksgiving in Rome fell on St. Cecilia's feast day, and so that evening, we walked down to the Basilica of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere to hear none other than the Sistine Chapel Choir sing for mass. as we walked back up the Gianicolo hill, Nick and i marveled at what incredible memories we were making.

Thanksgiving 2018:

Thanksgiving 2019:

napkins shaped like bishops' miters in honor of the Ad Limina visits

Altoona's own Bishop Bartchak, showing the girls his pectoral cross

remembering these experiences is especially bittersweet this year. the hardest part of being away on Thanksgiving was, of course, being apart from family. our Thanksgiving celebrations over the years have been a joyful time to gather with family, whether that be in Washington or Pennsylvania, in our own dining room or that of our parents. in 2013, Thanksgiving fell the day after Greta was born, and in 2016, it came just a few weeks after Cecilia was born, so our Thanksgiving meal was simple (and prepped mostly or entirely by my mom!) but even more poignant. 

Thanksgiving 2005 (in Ireland!):

Thanksgiving 2010 (at Camano Island, WA):

ping pong in the garage: a Geiger family tradition

Thanksgiving 2011 (my first turkey - in Pittsburgh):

Thanksgiving 2013:

Thanksgiving 2016:

Thanksgiving 2017:

so i'm missing not just Thanksgiving in Rome, but Thanksgiving in pre-pandemic America -- as i know everyone must be. and yet, as i sit in the aching embrace of nostalgia, there are still many things for which to give thanks. we are so grateful for God's timing in bringing us to Rome when He did, and also in nudging us to come home this year (a decision we made prior to knowing about Covid). even though we still aren't able to see family and friends as much as we had envisioned, it's far easier to coordinate conversations without such a significant time difference, and we're grateful for the people we have been able to see. the girls are flourishing in their respective schools. my own experience with Covid in August was mild, and the rest of the family stayed healthy. i am still overcome with joy every single time i use my American washer and dryer. 

this week, even though our gathering will be small, i'm soaking up the comforting rituals of being back home: filling up the back of my SUV with a turkey, French's fried onions, whole cranberries, cream of mushroom soup, and white peppermint mocha coffee creamer, and then storing all the perishables in our second refrigerator in the garage (so unabashedly American!); digging out the roasting pan from the basement; washing the china; and re-working my trusty Thanksgiving dinner timeline to make sure everything makes it to the table piping hot. 

we'll carry some traditions from the NAC forward with us, too. i plan to run my own solo turkey trot in last year's fluorescent orange shirt, and i'm going to add pumpkin ravioli to our Thanksgiving dinner menu from henceforth and ever more. in fact, this afternoon i had to laugh at the inevitable compare-and-contrast with Italian life as i set forth on my quest to find such ravioli (pre-made -- i'm not that ambitious yet). it was advertised as being available in the fresh pasta section of the gargantuan Giant Eagle Market District, but alas, there was no pumpkin ravioli to be found when i went in search of it today with Cecilia. a quick Google search revealed that it was reputed to be in stock at the Fresh Market, a 25-minute drive away, and i would have just enough time to make it there and back before Greta got off the school bus this afternoon. so Cecilia and i made the mad dash, and after scouring the store, finally, in the last corner, discovered the last three boxes of the stuff (purportedly Made in Italy! i'm skeptical, but i'll take it!). we made it home about five minutes before Greta alighted from the bus, and i had to laugh: even this "mad dash" required me just to drive longer than i had anticipated, whereas a similar search in Rome would likely have involved traveling on multiple buses, at least a mile walk, and probably multiple inexplicable store closures. 

so yes, there are many things for which to be thankful.  this year, we may not have a champagne toast while close to three hundred people sing "America, the Beautiful", but we have each other. and, ultimately -- che basta. that is enough. 

(p.s. yes. cecilia is apparently chewing on a wine glass while her mother apparently doesn't care. i promise no babies or wine glasses were harmed in the making of this video! 😂)

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

cecilia is 4!


dear cecilia-bedelia, 

as i type this, i'm sitting on our front porch on this gorgeous November afternoon (70 degrees!) and you are flying up and down on the swing attached to our magnolia tree, singing with all of your might. "la la la la! la la la la!" then you hop down, run into the house, and emerge with a plastic cup full of water. "mommy, i meed to water the tree so it can grow new leaves!" a few minutes later, you've run back to the backyard to get a shovel so you can scoop up the dirt that spilled when our chrysanthemums fell over in a gust of wind a while ago. "mommy, i meed to water these petunias, too!" then the singing resumes: "ay-o, ay-o, five little ducks went out one day, over the hill and far away! ay-o, ay-o, ay!" 

this little vignette so perfectly encapsulates your exuberant personality. you are always singing, always aware of the people and things around you. you deal with some big negative feelings, too -- tears of frustration if Greta is bothering you or if i tell you that you can't do something. but your sunny mood soon returns, and you make our days so bright! 

Father Aron gave you and Greta beautiful princess dresses! 

this year has been quite the year of adjustment for you, as we moved back from Rome in March, four months earlier than planned due to Covid-19. you really loved being part of Maestra Agata's classe rossa (the preschool class). the language barrier didn't deter you at all, and you still talk about your best friend Francesco and ask if he can come visit you here. even though we haven't done much to formally continue your Italian language learning, you still remember a lot. just last night as we were walking back from our neighbors' house, you said, "why don't i see a pipistrella (bat) in our yard?" and when you swing (still working on learning how to pump by yourself), you chant, "su e giu!" (up and down!). 

at the Vatican Museums with our friend and tour guide!

sometimes you still talk about our house in Rome and how you miss our friends there, especially Sophia, Leo, Edward, Penelope, Elizabeth and Sebastian (all children of the two expat families we became closest with). you frequently ask me how old Edward is and are shocked to find out that he will also be turning four next month. and just today you asked if we can go to see the Castel Sant'Angelo, pronouncing the full name properly. yes, kiddo, absolutely some day, we will again! 

last night in Rome

since we moved back here and i started back to work three days a week, you have been back at ABC's, the same daycare you and Greta attended before we left for Rome. your teachers frequently tell me how well you listen and how you love to help the other kids (sometimes perhaps more than the other kids would like to be helped!). you are always noticing the people around you and picking up on their emotions. you plaintively told me one day, "so many kids want to be my best friend, but i can only have one best friend! but i don't want them to be sad!" #CeciliaProblems 

thank you, Nana, for the Easter treats! 


you love to sing the "mumps" (months) of the year song, inevitably leaving out a few. you know all your letters and letter sounds, and after several instances of you starting to sound out short words on your own, i decided to pull out the Alpha-Phonics book that your older sister didn't want much to do with. after two or three short sessions over the past few weeks, you're up to lesson five and can sound out and read several CVC (consonant vowel consonant) words like "dad", "tax", and "sat". your personality is so silly, but you are also one smart cookie!

between your vocabulary and your height (you're solidly in 5T clothes now), you often seem older than you are, especially since you do your best to keep up with the neighborhood squad (who are at least three years older than you). you started riding Greta's old two-wheeler with training wheels this summer and you jump on the trampoline with the crew and yell at them if they bounce you too hard. you've never met a stranger and you'll often go up to adults and start chatting them up, which is so hilarious to watch given your sister's deep-seated skepticism of anyone she doesn't know (and most people she does). the only thing that really scares you is dogs, which is so sad to me because you don't remember Kaiser (he died when you were just over a year old). but you've gotten better at recognizing that their licks and sniffs aren't meant to hurt you. 

at Ocean City, MD, this spring with Nana and Aunt Rebecca!

you love to eat, and i wouldn't be surprised if you ended up with a food-related career because you take such delight in your meals. a frequent refrain within an hour after a meal is: "i'm hungwy!" your favourite foods are spaghetti and meatballs (which you requested for your birthday dinner), hot dogs, babybel cheese, any and all kinds of fruit, pancakes, peanut butter and jelly (cut into isosceles triangles, which i taught you to request because it's so stinking funny to hear you say it), and your all-time favourite: Happy Neals from McDonald's (with 6-piece nuggets, apple juice and apple slices). i'll be so sad when you finally start pronouncing the "m" correctly. 

your first taste of baked Brie in Paris in February. i'm confident it won't be your last.

this fall you started your very first extracurricular activities: ballet and soccer (with Soccer Shots at ABCs, and then the last two practices with the preschoolers on Greta's school team). you love both activities and you were so sad when soccer ended for the season. i love the one-on-one time we have driving to and from your Monday morning ballet class, and at the end of each class, you solemnly report to me whether or not you were a good listener (most of the time, you were!). 

you loved getting to wear your Halloween costume to ballet class!

oh, cecilia, we love you to pieces. please never stop being your hilarious, confident, extroverted self! happy fourth birthday!