Academic Leigh Speaking

A professor, four kids, and a crash course in work/life balance

Cute Things May 15, 2019

Filed under: Family Life,Fourth Baby,Growing up,Third Baby — leighj @ 10:17 am

There’s been a few cute things the kids have done/said lately:

  • Harlan has moved on from saying “You yelled at me, Mommy” and getting upset. Now he says, you hurted my feelings! And the other day, when we were getting ready to do a Facetime call after he’d been crying, he looked at himself on the screen, and said, “I have to wipe off my feelings.” Those were his tears. It was so sweet and sad. And now, he’s so sensitive, that he accidentally threw something the other day and I looked at him with some sternness and he started crying. But I think it’s mostly that he needs more sleep. I walked him yesterday in the stroller and he conked right out.
  • Porter twice now has code-switched around Spanish speakers. There’s a man who works in facilities at his building and he said, “Hola! Como estas?” to the man the other day. I was lagging behind and when I came up the guy asked me if I speak Spanish, and told me the story. And another day, the neighbors has folks working on their yard who were all speaking Spanish in the back where Porter was. When we went to the bus stop, we passed a pile of mulch, and he said, “Eeww. Sucio!”
  • Porter and Harlan have been watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood sometimes, and the show that’s on PBS Kids is the one about anger. Lately, Porter has been pretending to get angry, acting out the scene, and then repeating the little ditty to himself: When you feel so mad, that you want to roar, take a deep breath, and count to four. Another day, I reminded him of that, and he said, just like Daniel, “I’m still mad, but I feel much calmer now.” So funny! I think he’s just trying out the feeling.

Bike to School Day May 13, 2019

Last week, we had a killer Wednesday. There was Kindergarten registration for Porter, piano lesson, early release for the older kids, a parent-teacher conference, preschool pick up and drop off, soccer practice, and a quick night out with an alumna for me. Patrick had to take a day off so we could deal with everything. However, because he did take the day, we were able to participate in Bike to School Day. We biked to every school! (Four total) It was so fun. Seamus and Gilbert rode their bikes and parked at their school. Then Patrick and Porter were on the tandem and he dropped Porter at his preschool. I had Harlan in the child seat on the back of my bike and I took him to school. He loved it and requested to be picked up that way.

Bike to school day!

Then we biked him to his other preschool, and went to pick Seamus and Gilbert up from their school. We had the key to the lock, and they still have to cross a busy street, so safer as a group. Patrick took Harlan’s new bike to pick him up from preschool, but by then he was so tired it was a little too much.

It has rained for four days. We had a party in the midst of the rain to celebrate my colleague’s tenure. It was a fun, if soggy event. The kids enjoyed themselves. Mother’s Day was rainy but we got together with friends for dinner. We cooked, they hosted. Worked out great because we just walked the food over. A nice division of labor.

A snowman.

I got the new phone with the portrait feature. Good times and good photography to come!


Bike Family May 1, 2019

Patrick deserves a lot of credit for getting all the kids on bikes very early. Everybody used the balance bike up until age 3 to learn to glide and ride. The transition to pedals has been pretty smooth for all the kids. The Woom bikes have even made it easier for the kids to transition and learn, because they’re lightweight and have hand brakes. This weekend, Harlan learned to ride with pedals. He’d been doing it some in the driveway with my parents but when we got to to the cul de sac, he was ready to take off!

A biking family!

Seamus got a new bike in a bigger size, Gilbert got Seamus’s old one, and these guys were excited about their bikes coming out for the spring/summer!

After our trip to New York, the younger boys were a little jealous, but happy that they had gotten some quality grandparent time in. Gilbert and Seamus were really happy to see each other, and happy even to dress alike, sort of!

Seamus’s souvenir from the Nintendo store.

We were glad to have a day to recover before going back to work! Seamus’s birthday always seems like the start of summer to me, but I guess we still have a little ways to go. No travel for us in May! You heard it here first.


NYC for Seamus’s Tenth Birthday April 30, 2019

Filed under: Family Life,Growing up,Travel — leighj @ 6:08 am

Seamus’s 10th birthday fell on the same day as an important conference that I wanted to go to in New York City. So, after much deliberation, Patrick and I decided to go up on the train with just Seamus for his birthday. On Friday, we got in early, so I was able to spend all day at the conference and give my presentation in the last session. Patrick and Seamus headed off to explore (unfortunately, it rained a lot on Friday!). They had pizza and got haircuts and went to the Museum of Mathematics. Seamus got to try out the square bike:

Now we know why circles are better for wheels!

They also checked out the Flatiron building, because a long time ago, Seamus had a Lego set of the Flatiron and he built it a couple of times. It was cool for him to see the actual building. They cruised past Bryant Park and the Public Library, in search of the Nintendo Store near Rockefeller Center. They saw the statue of Prometheus and headed over to the Hershey store in Times Square. Seamus liked Times Square a lot and asked to go back the next day. Then they checked into the hotel to wait for me to get done with the conference. All told, we all walked about 4.5 miles that day (in between, and during, rain showers). I really enjoyed the conference and catching up with old friends and colleagues.

We got Macarons for Seamus’s birthday.

He got Nutella, Vanilla, Coconut, and Pistachio.

The next day, Seamus and I were up and ready to get some bagels! New York bagel shops are so stressful. I didn’t even notice all the different cream cheeses until we’d already ordered and gotten our stuff. It was fine though, and the bagels were so good, they didn’t need anything fancy.

We headed down to the 9/11 Memorial, which Seamus said he wanted to see. I’m not sure what he was expecting to see, but it was a somber place. Lots of names on the wall. We meandered around, checking out Trinity Church graveyard (where Hamilton is buried), the NYSE and Charging Bull. We wound up in Battery park looking out into the harbor and the Statue of Liberty. But we decided not to take that trip, and headed off to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. What a fascinating experience!

In Battery Park, Lower Manhattan.

There was SO much pedestrian and bike traffic on the bridge it was hard to notice the car traffic! We ended up wandering around Brooklyn looking for a bathroom. When none were to be had, we boarded a Subway bound for Penn Station, since we were going to try to honor Seamus’s desire to go back to Times Square and look at the M&M shop.

Eating standing up, like a real New Yorker!

Hungry, we grabbed some pizza. Seamus embraced vertical eating. The garment district caused our eyes to pop out with all the fabric and trim stores. My mom would’ve died! M&M store was, as you may imagine, hilarious and completely ridiculous. We walked a bit longer, caught a Sikh parade along Madison Ave, and then headed back to Penn Station to catch our train. All told, that was at least 6.6 miles of walking. We were all tired, but I was so pleased that Seamus did all that walking without complaining even once. He did ask to take a cab back from Brooklyn so we didn’t have to go over the bridge again, but we did a subway instead.

It was such a treat for him and us to get to spend that time together. I really hope we can make it a tradition for the kids to take them to NYC (or somewhere special) for a night for their 10th birthdays.


Easter Weekend April 29, 2019

Filed under: Family Life,Holidays,Travel — leighj @ 11:07 am

We had a longish drive on Friday, through the rain, but we did get off I-95 and drive the backroads a bit, which was nice for all of us. We caught a cute little cafe in Dunn, NC for lunch and a leg stretch. We were all pretty tired by the time we got to Lake Monticello, but pizza awaited and we had fun.

Always fun to find a caboose. This was the 15 minutes it wasn’t raining on us.

Saturday, the kids got the best gift–three Easter egg hunts! One was out in the community, which was well-organized and had crafts and face painting prior to the hunt. Harlan was really excited about the Easter bunny, but was a little too shy to really say hi to the person in the costume. We collected a lot of eggs and got very excited about it.

Everyone had a special spot to hunt eggs.

Harlan really liked making his crown.

We returned to the house for some food and to get ready for the hunt at the lake. The eggs were hidden all over the playground and in the woods. It was a little chaotic, but excellent, because after the hunt, the kids enjoyed playing on the playground or the basketball courts. It was very exciting, in the big kid area when a snake was found lounging among the (plastic) eggs. Gilbert was thrilled! (It touched his foot.)

This was right up Porter’s alley.

We were back at the house, and the older boys set up a hunt in the basement for the younger boys. They did that over and over for 45 minutes, as it was so much fun for both sets of kids. Then, Gilbert got in the hot tub and had a terrible reaction to the water on his sunburn. That consumed the next several hours.

He recovered unscathed, and we had a pleasant evening of movie and dinner and relaxation. On Sunday morning, Pop Pop was the Easter bunny, and that was the best (hardest) hunt yet. We weren’t able to find some of them! We drove home, and I hid some eggs around the house for the kids to find. They were sad for it all to come to a close, so they consoled themselves by eating their chocolate bunnies’ ears.

Spring break was over. It was a little hard to gear up for work and school the next day, but we enjoyed the beautiful Sunday weather (and cheered that the grass in the backyard is coming along). It wasn’t long before we were off on another adventure, which I’ll chronicle next!



Spring Break: Savannah and Tybee Island April 22, 2019

Filed under: Family Life,Outdoor Pursuits,Travel — leighj @ 9:29 am
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On Wednesday, we continued the fort theme, and headed to Fort Pulaski. I think it’s interesting how these sites sell themselves as Civil War forts, but they were mostly constructed to defend against the British during the War of 1812. Seamus kept asking questions about that war, which I didn’t know much about other than: Andrew Jackson made a name for himself; Davy Crockett fought in it; Johnny Horton wrote a song about it; and Francis Scott Key wrote a song about it (one of those is more famous than the other, haha).

Anyway, we’d picked up a shadow. Some people from our hotel were following us to Fort Pulaski and Tybee Island, and we of course, ran into them. I also noticed that cars that had been parked next to us the day before at Fort Jackson were also at Fort Pulaski. The fort was pretty cool, with a drawbridge, big section and a prison. However, the top was open and I was pretty freaked out trying to keep track of the kids. Gilbert had to use the bathroom, which was back at the visitor’s center. We checked with everyone else, and then after Patrick and Gilbert left, Harlan announced a need to go too. Sigh. That was the end of our visit to the fort.

More cannons.

Well, then we headed to Tybee Island to go to the beach. We weren’t sure what to expect, but it was really wonderful. The kids went bonkers for the water, sand, and sun. Patrick and I enjoyed an Attitude Adjustment daiquiri on the beach. Seamus was able to go out to his neck in the water, Porter and Harlan played in the tame waves, and Gilbert dug a fort in the sand. We spent a very pleasant two hours and then headed over to a restaurant for some lunch. The sun was just what we needed!

Building a fort.

They were daring the waves to chase them!

Porter used a shovel to write his name in the sand. I found it when we were getting ready to leave. So funny!

Lunch was fine, but the kids were so happy it was hard to leave. We ended up going back to the hotel and swimming. I couldn’t believe they would want more water play, but it shaped up to be one of their favorite days. Seamus was bummed that he didn’t get to finish exploring the fort, but he also said he wanted to try out the lighthouse, so we went with that the next day.

Loving the weather!

The next day, Thursday, we didn’t have a plan we were set on, so we decided to go back to Tybee Island. It’s about a 25 minute drive from where we were in Savannah. We did the lighthouse, 178 steps up. It was fun and the view was amazing, but it again was nerve-wracking with the kids. Seamus liked seeing the lighthouse keeper’s cottage.

Spiral stairs!

The lighthouse was so pretty!

Next to the lighthouse was a battery and museum. The battery was built for the Spanish-American war. Inside was all kinds of strange ephemera related to the island, including soe fun stuff from the beginning of resort era travel. Old amusement park cars and things were a hit with the kids.

Checking out the periscope.

Porter says “AARGH!”

Gilbert was unhappy about the rules associated with climbing the stairs, so that made him difficult until we got to the beach. But, once we got there, he changed completely and was happy and sunny.

Loving the water.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get his back sunscreened enough, so he got a burn. I felt terrible. We drove back into town for lunch at the Crystal Parlor, but Patrick and I agreed we should have done Sweet Potatoes again! Overall, though, the food in Savannah was great, and there were always good veggie options available. We swam again that afternoon and everyone headed to bed early so we could get a good start on our drive home.

Next up: the drive and Easter egg hunts in excess!


Spring Break: Savannah and the Carolinas April 16, 2019

The kids are swimming in the hotel pool, and when I moaned about being tired, Patrick said, “Go back to the room and do your blog or something.” So here I am. It’s quiet and calm! Love it. I used to blog on vacation while the kids were napping, but that doesn’t really happen anymore!

We headed out on Saturday, aiming for Raleigh/Durham. My friend suggested meeting at the Durham Life and Science Museum. We made it there in time for lunch, and while it was a bit rainy on and off, the food was delicious and my friend showed up right as we finished. The butterfly exhibit was interesting, even though the kids were far more interested in an interactive light and sand display. There were some extremely disgusting insects! Then we went into the main building. At this point, I’d say we’re connoisseurs of science museums, and this was one of the best we’ve ever seen. It had stuff to engage kids at all ages and abilities. Everyone had fun. For a long time. That’s a win in our books. There were undergrads doing research, so Seamus, Gilbert, and Porter participated in a project about values and kids vs. adult values. Then they got prizes that were recorded by the researchers. So interesting!

Then we checked into our hotel and my friend brought her kids over to swim. The pool was tiny, but it served its purpose. Dinner in the room rounded us out and everyone conked out ready for the next day.

We drove from Durham to Savannah on Sunday, with a longish stop in Florence, SC. We were dismayed to discover that the fancy park in Florence didn’t have a basketball hoop. Rather, it only had a playground, tennis courts, and a baseball field. The kids ran it out for about an hour after lunch, but then the clouds opened up again and we moved on. It felt like a long drive, and when we checked into the hotel, I’m the only one who ventured back out for items to make dinner. Swimming was a hit and the kids were tired.

Monday, we went out to Skidaway Island State Park and hiked a 3-mile loop trail. The scenery and the experience made much of the long haul of the day before worth it. There were palm trees and Spanish moss galore, along with a beautiful lookout, some salt and fresh water sloughs, alligator ponds (although we didn’t see any), an abandoned liquor still, earthworks from the Civil war, and oyster mounds from Native Americans. It was a high-reward hike with lots to see and experience along the way.

Look at these cool trees!

From there we drove out to the aquarium, which would have been far more fun without the school group visiting at the same time. We did enjoy the touch tank and the exhibits, but then we went out on the trail for some real fun.

They saw this boardwalk, and like Forrest Gump, they were RUNNING!

The short hike had a several points of interest, which was good, because they were starting to get hungry and antsy to go back to the hotel.

This 1000 year old oak inspired us to try to ring it, but we didn’t even get close.

We had a delicious lunch at a little place called Sweet Potatoes. Seamus was disgruntled thinking it would only have sweet potatoes on the menu, but we were all delighted with the variety of vegetarian friendly Southern cooking, including the Best Banana Pudding on Earth.

Swimming and playing at the hotel rounded off the day.

Today, we killed it out at Old Fort Jackson (named for the Revolutionary War hero James Jackson–not the other one). It was well-preserved, not very busy, and interesting for all of us. We marveled at the cannons, the privies with a natural flushing system, the game with sticks and hoops, and the barracks. The view from the fort gave us unique insight into Savannah’s harbor.

Harlan could have watched the barges all day.

Porter stuck his head in a cannon.

Seamus gets locked up.

We decided to forgo the cannon firing, as it would have meant 45 minutes in the sun (we did that later, never fear). So we went back into town to walk along the water and see the Waving Girl statue. We grabbed lunch at Moon River brewery on their patio, but that wasn’t our best choice as it got really hot and uncomfortable. We switched tables right before our food came, and it all perked up. We had vaguely suggested ice cream for after lunch, but the famous Leopold’s had a line 80 people deep. Not a single kid made a peep about skipping it. We had ice cream sandwiches in the room, and all were appeased, except, as Gilbert noted, the portions would have been bigger at Leopold’s!

I love that we are able to travel and have fun. Not work quite as hard as we used to in order to make everyone happy and part of the team. Tomorrow, we’re hoping to see Fort Pulaski (we see a lot of forts!) and Tybee Island. On Thursday, our plans are up in the air, but maybe Forsyth Park and more of downtown. The squares are just breathtakingly serene. We’ve been eating out at lunch and having dinner and breakfast at the hotel, and for this trip, it’s working like a charm! Every trip is different, so I wouldn’t swear to it.

Also, there’s something about traveling with kids in southern cities. It just seems easier than doing the northern cities. Maybe it’s because I grew up in the South and am more comfortable there. But I suspect that part of it is that there’s more room and fewer people, so things are a little more forgiving across the board. Some of our best vacations have been Austin, New Orleans, Birmingham, and now Savannah. We’re going to Boston this summer, so we’ll see!