Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Holiday Cheer December 4, 2016

Filed under: Holidays,In My Neighborhood — leighj @ 12:20 pm

We finally made it out of the house!

The Old Town Alexandria Scottish Walk was yesterday, so we trekked down there, found a long term parking spot, and strolled over to the parade. It was a chilly day, but the sun was out, and the geese/ducks/seagulls were out on the Oronoco Bay. We had a leisurely walk to the parade, and set up in front of my friend’s office. She and her family came, and we watched (there was a lot of candy collected!). I love the bagpipers and the dog rescue groups that walk in the parade. We enjoyed the old cars and the Hoverboarding Grinch and Cindy Lou Who. When our hands went numb, we went inside and watched the parade through the windows.

After the parade, we visited a bit with our friends and then Patrick and Porter went home so Porter could nap, and the other three boys and I went to a work party. It was fun and festive. Harlan, after sharing blocks with his little baby friend, decided to whack his friend with the blocks. I did not see that coming.

Now that there is a slight sense of hope in our house, we have a lot to make up for. This week is members week at Zoolights, so we’ll go tomorrow night. We also are hoping to see the Santa fire engine, go to the Postal Museum and Union Station, and maybe catch a Nutcracker puppet show.


Cancelled Plans (Or How Four Children Ruin Your Social Life) November 27, 2016

Filed under: Family Life,Fourth Baby,Friends and Relatives,Growing up — leighj @ 1:46 pm

I am well know for what we call over-scheduling–packing too many events to comfortably participate in into too little time. I have been working on this for the last several years. I have finally met my match. For the last five weekends, I have cancelled plans with friends and family because one of the kids (or me or Patrick) has been sick. I wouldn’t allow any sickness to get us down. Oh no. Instead we’ve had fever or vomiting in various combinations on one of the family for the last many weekends. If someone had a birthday party that only affected them, I did allow them to go if they were well. That was it.

I remember reading an article recently about how cell phones make it easy to make plans and then easy to cancel plans since there’s no need to talk to people. It also had something about how cancelled plans make people feel good, like they got extra time back. It makes me feel no such way. I’m just annoyed that my kids are sick and that we’ve had to cancel so often that I feel like I haven’t kept up with anyone at all.

I’m really hoping we’re better after Thanksgiving weekend.


Thanksgiving 2016 November 26, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — leighj @ 9:07 am

This November has been tough for a variety of reasons. I was pretty grouchy Thanksgiving morning after little sleep (sick baby). I told Patrick about the only thing I could think of to be thankful for was that he and I are partners facing the world. Then he said I should be thankful I don’t live in Syria. Which was not helpful, but also was a little helpful.

We made food (apple and pumpkin pie, green beans, stuffing, peas, corn, mashed potatoes, marshmallow sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, cornbread, fried zucchini, and gravy). Seamus requested the gravy. My parents arrived at 1:30 and ate with us.

We did the ritual of thankfulness and everyone was thankful for each other. Then we said more mundane things involving Seamus being thankful for gravy, Porter for peas, Gilbert for yams, and more. Last year Seamus brought home a Thanksgiving turkey that said he was thankful for school, teacher, family, veterans, and Jesus. This year Gilbert brought home the same activity with school, family, friends, food, Harlan, and Seamus. We asked “Where’s Porter?” And he said he’d run out of space.

Thanksgiving fire pit and walks in the woods have rounded out the holiday.


Want to Walk!



Update Since My Last November 19, 2016

Filed under: Growing up,Just Thinking,Politics,Totally Me — leighj @ 12:10 pm

I’ve done some specific things that have helped me cope. I won’t lay them out here specifically, since I think everyone has to find their own way on this, but I’ve found ways to express my opinions on my body, in my office, and through my wallet. If you want to know, I’m happy to talk about it the next time I see you or text with you. Mostly, it’s helped me address concerns I find most urgent and those I see as being long term entrenchments.

I’ve also continued to go to class, raise the kids, and only rant to Patrick occasionally. My students are smart people who form their own ideas from myriad inputs (I do not believe that academia brainwashes students into liberal thinking–that would give me far too much credit). Rather, if I’ve done my job (and most of the time I believe that I do), I will have contributed my expertise in critical thinking, writing, reading, and information literacy to my students. Then it’s up to them to be people who will come to their own ideas through carefully examining information they encounter.

And because I don’t want to forget this precious, fleeting time in Harlan’s life, I make a few comments. He loves to eat pretty much whatever he’s offered. He says, “Mmmm” when presented with food. He also said “Mama” the other day. I’m 100% certain of it. I think he said “more” about his food last week. He pulls up easily, and he likes to sneak down the hallway to see what the other boys are up to in their room. His favorite people are me and Patrick, but Seamus, Gilbert, and Porter run pretty close! He gives anyone who looks at him a smile, and he’s finally cut his top two teeth, so he looks goofy. Porter’s latest expression is “Oh, wow!” and I think I mentioned that he has a Knock, Knock joke he likes to tell. Gilbert is popular with his friends (and has a new obsession with Shopkins…don’t ask), and Seamus’s current obsession is making paper airplanes.


Helping Each Other and Hunkering Down November 9, 2016

Filed under: Politics — leighj @ 3:31 pm

I’d been waiting until after the election to get back to blogging about my usual stuff. Of course, I’d been assuming that Hillary Clinton would win, and that “Getting Back to it” would be “getting back to normal.” I’m not sure what normal means now.

I haven’t been able to eat since this morning. I just have a roiling nausea that threatens to erupt in bile. I’ve lost my voice (literally). I recognize other women wearing sunglasses, even though it’s raining, because we’re making an effort to not burst into tears from a sympathetic face. It’s not working.

I’m already tired from my own choices to have kids and to work full time. I’m newly exhausted by the work ahead of us. I know we who care can do it, but I didn’t want to have to work this hard. We have to work to protect those who are vulnerable. We have to use our privilege (whatever it is, education, wealth, time, identity) not to advance ourselves, but to make sure we can help others.

When America was “Great” so the narrative goes, white people were in charge and everything told them they deserved their place and that others were less than. There have always been allies who think the body politic can’t be great when the greatness is based on entitlement to others’ labor, families, lives. Women have helped each other end pregnancies that they can’t cope with; women have protected each other from sexual and racial violence (see my research on the California women in the face of Anglo invasion); the Underground Railroad existed; men and women rode buses, blocked entrances, and sat at restaurant counters; women have taken up the picket lines when men were arrested; Catholic priests and Chicana activists worked together to smuggle refugees from Central America to safety. I had hoped we had reached a point where we could agree that blanket social goods could be valuable. I was wrong.

In Harry Potter, the Wizarding community has to cast protective charms on Muggle neighbors (non-magical people). These spells are done in the hope of using their privilege (as under attack as it might be) to keep their neighbors safe from the dark elements. Throughout our history as a nation, people have sacrificed their own material and social interests to ensure that others can have a chance to have human dignity. We are here again.


Halloween–Jawa, skeleton, cowboy, cow November 3, 2016

Filed under: Events,In My Neighborhood,Uncategorized — leighj @ 9:50 am


We had a pretty fun Halloween. Seamus wanted to be a Jawa, so we made him a costume, with a brown hoodie, baby sling, and a mask with red reflector eyes. Gilbert really wanted to wear the skeleton costume, even though it was a bit too small. Porter was an adorable cowboy, and Harlan suffered the indignity of being dressed in a cow costume.

Since Halloween was on a Monday, we tried to get out and back somewhat quickly. A quick neighborhood picture, then trick-or-treating! Porter loved it. He had his bag and he sweetly said “thank you” to everyone. The older boys embellished with “Happy Halloween!” We ventured off our street into the neighborhood between us and the public library. One of the streets was closed, which made it really nice! All the Star Wars costumes make it a little unsafe in the dark (why are they all so dark!?). Best costume of the night was a child in a wheelchair who had become a tie-fighter. Very creative. The boys loved it!

They had a couple of pieces of candy, then donated the rest to my poor students who never get any candy.



Civic Engagement October 28, 2016

Filed under: Events,In My Neighborhood — leighj @ 1:53 pm

Our road is busy and dangerous. Every morning we watch cars flying by as the bus honks and makes people stop. In the afternoon, forget having a playdate and crossing the street. So we took our issues to City Council to ask for traffic calming and a crosswalk. Seamus and Gilbert both submitted forms to speak at the meeting. They practiced ahead of time and were ready when their turns came. They were both called forward by the mayor afterward to get a city pin. They’ve learned about rhetorical strategies and civil discourse. And we about burst with the awesomeness of it!



Porter, of course, said he had to go potty while the older boys were speaking, so we missed part of it. You win some and lose some. We did win this one though, with City Council voting 4-3 to give us a crosswalk.