Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Baby Grows Up! March 21, 2017

Filed under: Fourth Baby,Growing up — leighj @ 5:41 am

Some Photo Evidence of Harlan’s Growth.

Harlan is a climber!

He managed to push this toy over to the table, get it next to a chair, and climb onto the toy, the onto the chair, and then onto the table! He is like a cat, watching for the opportunity to swoop in and get into mischief when you’re not watching.

Climbing again!

He loves to knock the basket of kitchen towels off its shelf here and climb up. He can get down, but why bother, when you’ve achieved your Everest for the day! Just like Seamus used to love to get into the cabinets and take everything out, Harlan too loves to take all the kitchen appliances off their shelves.

We had mimosas to celebrate Harlan’s birthday. Porter, Seamus, and Gilbert got OJ and sparkling water. Someone was very pleased!

The older boys enjoyed Harlan’s birthday celebrations. It probably helped that Harlan didn’t get any presents from us. The one present he did get, Gilbert can’t leave alone. I can’t believe there was snow on the ground for his birthday. I looked back, and for Gilbert’s first birthday, I did not post until a full month late! And for comparison: Porter turned one most recently.


HTG Games 2017, Fun Weekend, Basketball March 20, 2017

Filed under: Events,Family Life,Growing up,School for Boys — leighj @ 1:40 pm

On Friday, I took Seamus and Gilbert to the PTA fundraiser. It was loud and fun. However, the fire alarm went off, and we ended up leaving. I guess they tried to finish the games, but I don’t know how well that worked out. I had told the boys they didn’t need jackets because the gym would be so hot. Oops! As we stand in the 20 degree weather waiting for the fire department. I had a couple of extra kids with me, and I was so glad the fire alarm hadn’t gone off earlier. Seamus kept saying that someone must have burned some popcorn! Later, we had a good discussion about what to do if a friend wants to do something foolish or dangerous like pulling the fire alarm and you’re with them. They already know “I’m going to tell on you” is ineffective. Expressing disapproval on coolness would help, and we also talked about how you could say, “If you do that, it’s all on you. I’ve got nothing to do with it.” Life lessons.

We had a great weekend otherwise. Poor little Harlan got his booster shots and he’s been under the weather since. Every time I take him in for a well child visit, he gets sick. Grr. He is the smallest, at 20.5 pounds. However, he was putting on a show at the doctor’s office, waving, and yakking away. Patrick took Seamus and Gilbert to a sports bar on Sunday to watch some games while I worked in the quiet house. I was a little envious because it sounded like fun, but I finished my work for the the coming week. I told Patrick if Seamus picks Gonzaga and they win, he’ll probably imprint on Gonzaga and want to go there for college. Gilbert already got mad and threw away his bracket.

We went to some friends house on Saturday night. Seamus and Gilbert settled in to play, and the next thing you know, we couldn’t find Porter. He was off playing so quietly and nicely that we almost left him there. Not really. We also had friends over in the morning to celebrate Harlan and Miles’s birthdays and doula days. Six boys–ages 7, 6, 5, 3, 2, 1. (The three year old was turning four in a week.) It was not as loud as you might imagine!

We are starting to think about new room arrangements for the kids. We won’t make any changes until May (when my school gets out), but we’re thinking about how to maximize space, compatibility, and reading/sleeping time. Harlan loves to go into the other boys’ room. I think he wonders why he doesn’t get to sleep in there. The other night, he had a late nap, so all the older boys were in bed before he was. We turned our backs for a second, and he had disappeared and broken into their room! Giggles from all!

They were playing the “Good night” game.


Snow Day! Heavy Wet March Snow Version March 15, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Fourth Baby,Growing up,Outdoor Pursuits — leighj @ 7:27 am

We had a snow day on Harlan’s birthday! So glad that didn’t happen last year!


  • Breakfast–pancakes. Porter had his with a side of tantrums.
  • Filling out brackets for March Madness. I picked Louisville, Gilbert picked Duke, Seamus picked Gonzaga, and Patrick picked Oregon. Gilbert taped them to the wall. Then Porter got a pen and scribbled all over them.
  • Outside to shovel and play in the snow. A mishap with the hook for the shed, but the three older boys were able to sled down the back slope toward the bike path. Patrick did a lot of shoveling of the heavy snow.
  • Harlan napped. I wished I could.
  • Hot chocolate and lunch.
  • Then somehow, Seamus started talking about cursive writing, and wanted to do some. So I printed some worksheets off the internet. Seamus did two worksheets and lost interest, and Gilbert’s been going forever. He’s on Q now. Seamus read his Star Wars choose your own for a while and went back outside to sled.
  • Porter finally got interested in lunch. Then he built some block towers and finally decided he’d like to read some books. Then he napped and I wished I could.

It’s kind of a long day inside because this snow is fun for a little while, but it’s disappearing off the hill fast.

Pancake Making


When convinced that mittens would help…

Here, Seamus, hold Harlan while I put on Porter’s mittens.


Porter was DYING to go down the hill too. He finally made it and got some help from Seamus.

Harlan is a big ONE YEAR OLD!


Harlan at One Year March 14, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Fourth Baby,Growing up — leighj @ 7:15 am

It’s Harlan’s Birthday! To celebrate, we’re having pie–pizza and pumpkin. After all, it’s pi day.

He’s a delightful baby, with a pretty big vocabulary. He says: Mama, Dada, Hi, Soooo big, Uh-oh, Kitty, More, and he might have said Gilbert, but we’re not sure. He mimics a lot (he can clear his throat if he hears someone else do it) and it’s big fun for him to do so. He looks surprised if he manages to change his environment (like turning the lights on and off–FUN!) and he loves to bang on pots, pans, and anything else.

Physically, he’s a climber, which is brand-new for Patrick and me. We’ve found him on various tables and chairs looking mighty pleased with himself, and we’re still not sure how he got up there. He can take six steps, but he prefers to crawl if he has to get somewhere fast. And by fast, he might need to get into an unguarded trashcan, bathroom, or brothers’ room. He’s still not great with a sippy cup, but he is practicing and making some progress. He loves to eat and will go to town on whatever’s being served at dinner.

He’s still called Harnin by Porter sometimes, and Puffy Buff by Gilbert and Seamus, and we call him Bubba or Buffers a lot. He answers best to Harlan, but he doesn’t like to answer to no. If one of the other children is being corrected and he thinks the correction is directed at him, he’ll sometimes cry. He also cries if one of the bigger boys steps on him, bumps his head, or otherwise inadvertently hurts him. This scenario plays out in slo-mo. The boy at fault does something, then worriedly tends to Harlan hoping he won’t cry and the culprit won’t get in trouble. Harlan takes a deep breath, then collapses on the floor, then opens wide and releases a wail of misery. If the offending brother would just run, nobody would ever know what got into Harlan.

All in all, though, he’s a very good-natured baby. He only reliably cries when I appear in the room after being at work. Then he acts as though he’s just remembered that I abandoned him all day and puts on a show. He did come to work with me last week and “helped” by putting a bunch of my books in the trash can…

He’s intensely interested in what the other kids are doing. If he can manage it, he’ll climb all over Seamus while he’s reading; he’ll get up in Gilbert’s latest art project to eat a marker or impale himself with the scissors; and he love, love, loves Porter’s train set and cars. He knows he’s up to something. He also loves attention from them, and lately, when he takes some steps and falls, he gets back up and claps for himself, looking around to make sure everyone else is clapping too! He still makes his funny face grin–which is kind of a sneer–and he always positions himself at the table when the older boys are having a snack.

We love our little Harlan. He’s the perfect baby for our family.


They Grow Fast March 13, 2017

As I think about this Sunday last year, I’m struck by how the kids have grown and changed. It’s easy for me to feel exhausted and frustrated with the daily (hourly) physical and emotional effort of parenting four children at different ages. They don’t need the same things–but in some ways they do. Each one needs conversations that challenge his thinking and develop vocabulary. They need nutritional food and space to practice physical accomplishments. They need baths!! If I can slow down and focus on some of these things they need, I can marvel at their growth.

Getting from newborn to one is full of incredible moments, but seven to eight brings its own joys. Seamus can get his own breakfast (and get breakfast for Porter, since they’re my early birds). He has a lot to say and think about school and bullying and now I feel weird about going too much in depth about his social life, since (of course) it’s not mine to talk about anymore. He still needs Patrick and me to be present and helpful, but our job now is to coach him through some difficulties but not to be overly involved in how he chooses to handle scenarios. We do work on losing gracefully and winning charitably to no so effective ends!

Porter is entering a difficult phase of transition problems and understanding compliance. He’s hilarious with his stories and comments, but he is getting to be a royal challenge when we say no to an activity he’s enjoying. This can also happen with an activity he’s not enjoying but has decided that he’s not ready to quit. The upshot is that he’s loving to take baths and play with his toys quietly, but naps, bed, and food times are a little more difficult. He’s really excited about school and has plans for his backpack all laid out.

Gilbert is helpful most of the time and is fully immersed in being part of the family. He loves these Table Topics (cards with ideas for conversation around the table) that our neighbors passed over to us. They are kind of fun to spark conversation, except that Porter answers Elmo to everything–mostly spurred on by Seamus and Gilbert. He likes to feed Harlan. Occasionally this backfires with a bonk to Harlan’s head, which nearly always results in delayed action tears. Even when Gilbert’s frustrated or wrongfully accused (which I admit I do more than I’d like), he manages to hold it together better than he has in the past. I’m really trying to get an answer from him before admonishing him. We did work on engaging cooperation together and it’s been helping. A process.

So, back to my initial contention. I feel like I’ve learned a lot in almost eight years of parenting, but not really enough to make it easy. We’re supposed to get snow tonight. One snow day plan is to fill out March Madness brackets with Seamus and Gilbert. Patrick taught them to play Blackjack today, so I think gambling problems are just around the corner….I’m sure I’ll feel differently about the glow of them after time cooped up in the house!

Working on steering the trike! Gotta keep up with the others!

Part of what gets me is the body. How does it become strong and capable? Plus I just bought these HUGE shoes for him!

We loved the park before the storm. I also love how they dress themselves. Button-down and athletic shorts? Why not?

Porter loved the change of scenery at the park. He can climb!


Kentucky Visit March 12, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Totally Me,Travel — leighj @ 3:25 pm

I took the four kids to Kentucky for a Spring Break (mine) trip. It was totally worth it. The flight out was easy with Porter by the window, Harlan and me in the middle, Gilbert on the aisle and my diaper bag helper, and Seamus across the aisle from us in his own row. The morning flight worked well because everyone was in good spirits. The return flight was a little tougher, since it overlapped with Porter’s naptime. Seamus took the window, Porter the middle, Harlan and me on the aisle and Gilbert across from us. On both flights the older boys were helpful if they were in the row with me or quiet if they were by themselves.

Activities included gardening, sewing, cooking, walking, bathing, going to the creek, chopping wood, playing at the park, learning disc golf, watching Robin Hood, going to the Simpson Co Jail (the historic one–don’t worry!), reading at the library, looking at teeth, and eating. I was happy to see my grandmother and aunt, as well as a few friends. It was a low key trip for me, but the boys had fun since the weather really cooperated.

We’re planning to go back for a much less weather pleasant trip in July. Activities will include a lot of water (I hope!). It’s been almost six months since we visited, but the boys love the farm and all the work it entails to get there. Harlan learned to say Kitty, Porter made a game of petting Snakey, Gilbert learned about wasps, and Seamus got a new brace. All exciting!


Richmond and beyond  March 3, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — leighj @ 8:04 pm

We took a day trip to Richmond last weekend. The science museum there was so much fun. A huge plus was that it isn’t crowded, so the visitors get a chance to really interact and spend time with the exhibits. We all loved it, as there was plenty to keep all ages occupied. 

We had lunch at Station 2, which was delicious but had service hiccups. It was an old fire station. The kids really worked to behave. Then we went over to check out the river. Since we were last in Richmond, there is a full pedestrian bridge across the James river. We’ll have to do more of that next time. 

At home, we had an exciting week. Harlan took his first steps. At work, I had an immensely stressful and difficult week, and subsequently, I’m thrilled it’s Spring Break!