Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Visit From Friends June 21, 2017

We were so excited to see our friends from Albuquerque, who now live in California, that we got all discombobulated and got our schedule messed up. It worked out fine though, in the end, and I hope that they got a good balance of time to explore DC with their kids and time to hang out with us. We recommended some things, but this is always hard for us because the things we like aren’t things that you’d go back to California and say that you did (we saw some boats and airplanes!). Doesn’t really have a ring to it. Anyway, we settled on having a picnic at Haines Point, where there were several families having family reunions, but we staked out a picnic table and enjoyed the beautiful weather, the river, sailboats, planes landing, helicopters circling, and the kids playing. The older boys found a game of soccer with the kids at the family reunion, and they all had a great time.

Saturday evening was a little complicated by Seamus having a sleepover, but it worked out. He had a fun time with his friends and Gilbert got to have the little brother of Seamus’s friend over for a sleepover here. They played, ate, watched Robin Hood, and actually went to sleep by 8:30. Seamus had stayed up later, and he was pretty tired on Sunday. We made him lay down and read for the afternoon.

On Sunday, we did a nice Father’s Day lunch at home with Grandude and Grandma, and then we had a fun time hosting our friends for dinner. We were even able to have a fire and make s’mores. The kids found we’ll of energy that surprised us, and they went to bed later than I will admit here. We planned to do a picnic and a visit to the Udvar-Hazy Air and Space Museum the next day, so the older boys skipped school. They looked around at the museum for a while, but then got tired and wanted to see an IMAX. I loved that we just did what the kids could handle, and we all got our needs meet. We are already strategizing for a visit to California!

It is so hard to get a decent shot of four kids! This clearly isn’t it!

Porter took a rain check on the IMAX.

After we were home, Seamus asked if he’d missed anything in the IMAX because he’d let his eyes shut just for a second…There were lots of tears when our friends departed.

 

Things We’re Looking Forward to This Summer June 17, 2017

Filed under: DC Exploration,Events,Family Life,Holidays,Summer Vacation — leighj @ 3:26 pm

This post will probably come off as really annoying, so sorry in advance. Don’t read it if you’re not someone who likes to gleefully gloss over the potential pitfalls. I simply cannot wait for the kids to be out of school and for us to start the summer. So forgive me (and ignore the hypocrisy) in a few weeks when I’m ready for them to go back! In no particular order:

I’m looking forward to so many things. I don’t know if eight weeks will really be enough:

  1. Travel plans (Cape Cod, Southeast, Jersey Shore, Virginia)
  2. Visits from friends
  3. The water parks and exploring our immediate areas
  4. Reading for fun (I think I have more stacked up than I can do)
  5. Writing two articles (maybe three, if I can eek it out)
  6. Watching the kids grow and learn (the pool is a huge marker of success so far–I set a goal to swim every day it’s not raining, and that we’re here. We haven’t quite made that, but we’ve been close.)
  7. Yoga
  8. The CSA and the garden
  9. Getting out on the bikes with the kids. This year the two younger boys fit on the seats on the adult bikes, and the older boys are proficient on their own bikes.
  10. Our neighbor babysitting the kids some

I guess you could say I’m caught between two wonderful tensions of being home for the comforts and delights that home promises and being away for the excitement and adventure that vacation promises.

The older boys want to swim and travel. They want to see grandparents and friends. They especially want to do things like go bowling, play mini-golf, have a baseball game with friends, eat ice cream, and get their summer reading prizes. They even are looking forward to the reading and listening to books on tape.

Porter wants to swim and play. He dreams of going to his friend Max’s basement. He also is ready to go to school. The other day, he came across Gilbert’s unattended backpack and put it on. He proceeded to have a whole dialogue with himself about going to school.

I’m not sure Harlan knows what summer means, but he’s pretty excited about the pool and being outside every minute he can be. Patrick has some wonderful professional things in the works, but those are his story to tell.

 

More Sundries, and Harlan is 15 months old June 16, 2017

Again, nothing momentous, but still some fun things.

  • Harlan is fifteen months, and to celebrate, he joined the 15th percentile on weight and the 80th on head. So he’s carrying a big brain on a little body. He has 15 (or so) words to share: more, uh-oh, hat, bus, ball, byebye, hi, hello, shoe, dada, mama, nunu, up, thank you, (something that means water, but the sound is hard to render in letters). He climbed up on the freezer and the table recently. He also took all the books off my shelves in my office, so I’d say he right on target to cause a rumpus. He also has taken to wanting to play with the hand-held vacuum.

    He’s into everything! So curious, but such a delight.

    Helping to make pancakes! Hey, when you’re up at 5:45, might as well make somebody happy.

  • Porter built a Duplo house and he told my parents on facetime that the people were playing outside. Oops, it’s raining now; they’re going in. When he realized Patrick was outside mowing the grass, he put his shoes on and ran out to mow the lawnmower too! Porter loves his friends (not that he has a lot of them!), but every time he has a playdate or people are coming over, he draws a picture for one of his friends and presents it with much fanfare. His big thing is wheels.

    Gilbert used to do this too!

  • The garden is growing. I’m a little bit obsessed with my garden. I look online to see why my plants are behaving in certain ways, and at night, I go out to tend to them, offering water, compost, a loving touch. So far we’ve had 10 green beans, about 10 snow peas, radishes, mustard greens, cilantro, Swiss chard, and basil. I’m looking forward to more, but honestly, stuff doesn’t make it into the house half the time! Our CSA has started, and since we reduced the size of our share this year, we are feeling much better about the produce and our ability to use it. We had delicious bok choy, lettuce, sorrel, onions, and garlic scapes. We still need to use kale and eggs, but that’s manageable.

    Squash, tomatoes, chives, Swiss chard. Love the garden.

  • We have a saying around her: “TWO BABIES ON ME!” which is kind of an SOS. It means you’ve sat down on the floor and been attacked by Porter and Harlan, and now, you’re in a pickle and can’t get up. Seamus found himself in this predicament the other day, and Gilbert, who would usually run to join the fray, sat serenely by himself, reading his book, ignoring the commotion. I have been waiting for this day.

    Brothers!

    Is he feeling okay?

  • Our friends from Albuquerque who live in California now are arriving today. We can’t wait to see them. We looked at pictures of our families from 6-7 years ago, and the kids were babies! So were we.
  • I worked on two crafty projects recently. The Lego cake mold (which I will not be posting pictures of) and a tie dye project. We’ll see if I post pics. The Lego cake was hilarious. I bought the mold and make a cake. Then I iced it and let the kids decorate it. A sugar bomb! However, it was hilarious, and Patrick encouraged me to share some pictures and tell our friends I was thinking of going pro with the cake decorating business. That would have been a cruel joke to see what their faces looked like in trying to deal with the news. It’s especially funny, because we went to visit some friends, and she had actually done a beautiful job on her son’s birthday cake. My cake looked like a five year old had done it, and I can’t even blame the kids that much.
  • Speaking of, this should probably be it’s own post, but my friends were talking about opting out of taking on so many activities and travel and social engagements. After we visited with them, we opted out of our evening plans for several reasons, the most persuasive of which was that poor little Porter was just exhausted and could not find it in himself to be happy. Often you feel like a slave to the baby, but a two year old requires special attention too.

Summer is just around the corner! I’m so excited.

 

Nothing and Everything June 9, 2017

Filed under: Family Life — leighj @ 3:00 pm

Since I last wrote, nothing much new has happened, but then again, lots of things have happened. So goes the (almost) summer.

  • We got in the pool for the first time this season. It was a bit chilly, but not too cold, and the boys loved it. Gilbert had so much fun, he turned blue. Seamus was perfecting his cannonball. Porter used his floaties, stuck his face in the water, and worked on his kicks. And Harlan. We set him down on the concrete near the pool, and he immediately toddled off toward the pool. He howled when we grabbed him up to put his swimsuit on, but when he realized he was going to be allowed to play in the water all he wanted, he mellowed out. Seamus gave him a little spin around the shallow area (it was too cold for me to go in more than my ankles!), and he grinned like it was Christmas.
  • We got a hand-held cordless vacuum cleaner. Now that we have one, I’m not sure how we ever managed to live without one. We have carpet and babies, for Pete’s sake! My neighbor was talking about hers, and it hit me that this was one place I wouldn’t mind keeping up with the Joneses. The boys clean up messes they make, and they each take turns cleaning up Harlan’s mess from his tray. The area around the table is much cleaner.
  • Patrick and Harlan are outside swinging while Porter naps. I was cooking mushrooms for pizza toppings and I thought, “If I know a baby Bella, she should be called Crimini until she gets bigger.”
  • I checked out David Sedaris’s diaries out of the library. They’re hilarious, and I think reading them will help me notice minutia more for a short period of time.
  • Harlan waves to the bus every day. He also says bus now. And whenever the timer goes off on the stove, he runs for the kitchen. This is a little dangerous, because usually the timer is going off for the oven, and he does not need to be right there when it’s open! He also likes to pick up my phone, hold it to his ear, and say bye-bye. He mimed spraying sunscreen on himself yesterday. He’s an outdoor kid. Totally happy outside, and a wild menace inside. Porter used to be that way too, and he still loves to play outside, but yesterday, after playing for awhile, he came in and said, “There’s bees out there.” And he was done.
  • My snow peas are bearing veggies! So far Gilbert and Patrick have had one each. It’s a good thing we’re not trying to live off the garden.
  • I went to volunteer in Gilbert’s art class yesterday. They were tie-dying. Super fun, but what a mess! I enjoyed myself immensely though. It was fun to see them working, and the art teacher is creative and interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing how his shirt turns out.
  • Seamus declared there were no more interesting books in the world. But then he found some. He’s really into the You Choose books and he’s currently resisting Percy Jackson. It might be a touch too hard, but I think he might come around by the end of summer. We’re listening to the Sam books by Lois Lowery. I loved the Anastasia books when I was a kid, and I did read the Sam ones too, but I’ve forgotten them. In the car on Wednesday, we were all listening and cracking up.
  • Porter loves going to the library. His grandfather has been taking him regularly, so he has a whole routine he likes to complete every time we go there. He goes in, gets a few board books, goes to the stairs or a table and reads quietly to himself for 15 minutes. Then, when we pick the books to take home, he goes to the children’s desk and gets a sticker. We are looking forward to summer reading, and the Fairfax county Summer Discovery Maps. Mini-golf, gardens, paddle-boats!

See? Everything and nothing.

 

Pivots June 1, 2017

Filed under: Books,Family Life,Fourth Baby,Growing up — leighj @ 1:39 pm

Harlan has learned to pivot his body when he’s walking. Now he is even faster than before, and he goes down the hallway, waits to see if you’re coming after him, and then he reverses course and races back to make sure you’re looking and noticing. Unless, of course, he’s really after going somewhere he shouldn’t and disrupting the environment. He loves to go into the other boys’ room and take their clothes out of their drawers. I was fussing at them about it, until Gilbert said, “That’s Harlan doing that!” Well, okay. Harlan also loves to be outside; yesterday, Seamus was carrying him around during a rainstorm, and Harlan was laughing his head off. Today, he played in the garden, got super dirty, and then got his other favorite thing–a bath!

Porter had his last art class today. He loved it, since it involved painting, drawing, stickers, feathers, and more. He’s developed an imagination! Today, he set up a nest, and put an “egg” in the nest, and then he was Horton sitting on the egg. He acted out the entire story with the excitement in his voice evident on “My egg how it’s hatching!…An ELEPHANT BIRD!” Books are a huge source of inspiration for his world he’s created, and he knows the Franklin the Turtle books inside and out. He uses them like canon to create his own fan fiction stories. While Seamus reads Harry Potter to keep up with his friends and to understand the teeniest details, Porter wants us to read, and he studies the pictures to add more building blocks to his fantasy world. The other boys want to know why he’s abandoned Elmo, but he assures them he hasn’t. And last night, he was Cookie Monster at the table.

One thing I’ve noticed about the boys reading Harry Potter is that they use that world to create their own play. For instance, I discovered them playing Wizard Chess with each other. They’ve made wands, and they’ve worked out a way to play Quidditch with Lacrosse sticks. Reading as an adult, I never thought about how to use the games of Harry Potter to make up my own games. That’s fun to see.

Patrick and I worked on the garden today. We’ve had a long stretch of rain, but here’s hoping for some sun and growth!

 

Memorial Day Festivities May 31, 2017

Filed under: DC Exploration,Events,Growing up,Holidays,In My Neighborhood — leighj @ 3:17 pm

We had a great Memorial Day weekend, with the exception of the rain which kept us on our toes. We had some friends and neighbors over for hot dogs on Saturday; on Sunday, we visited with Patrick’s cousins (I played a mean game of Can Jam for the first time!); and on Monday, we lived it up in our community. In the morning, there is a family 3K fun run. We let Seamus and Gilbert go ahead of us, with a prearranged meeting spot at the finish. They loved doing the run with friends (and by themselves). We’re trying to let them build independence in ways that are safe, with the idea that when they’re 18 they’ll be ready to leave home for good. Haha. I think the tight quarters will convince them of that! Anyway. Seamus very much wanted it to be a race, and we think Gilbert just ran along thinking thoughts to himself and drinking from every water station. I had expected the boys to stay together, but they didn’t, which was fine. Patrick pushed the stroller, and we walked in the throngs then finally jogged, and toward the end of the run, it thinned out so we could run. I haven’t run in about five years, so that was both delightful and painful.

After the run, we collected our t-shirts and went home to rest up before the parade. Both older boys completed their Operation EarthWatch activities this year, thus were eligible to march in the parade:

Seamus has the four Rs (Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, and Repair), and Gilbert wants you to “Save the Earthworms”

I have to admit that I was much more comfortable with the logistics this year, so I could get them easily and know where to drop them, etc. Porter wasn’t too impressed with the parade:

We planned for him to sleep in the stroller.

The regular parade fare: marching bands, dancers, school mascots, and more. When the Earthwatchers went by, Gilbert had a surprise for me:

Here’s my tooth!

He had lost a tooth as he was marching along! That evening, he hid it in his bed, and the tooth fairy couldn’t find it. So the TF left him a note saying that he’d get his money when the TF got the tooth. He said the handwriting looked like Grandaddy’s and maybe Grandaddy was the Tooth Fairy! So he did a better job the next night, and got his four quarters.

Between walking to the Community Center and back twice, marching the parade route, and running the 3K, I think we easily logged 5 miles on Monday. The kids were pooped! And so were we. It was a wonderful family weekend.

 

 

´╗┐The Last Time May 29, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — leighj @ 6:19 pm

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Here’s the last time (I think) that I’ll hold one of my sleeping babies on my lap. Harlan was cranky before we flew away on Wednesday, and I was holding and rocking him, and he fell asleep on my lap. I asked my mom to document the last time. With so many of my friends, we lament that we never know when it’s the last time one of our babies does something. Like, Porter says Harlan (not Harnin) now, and I didn’t note when he was able to make that change. On the other hand, I vividly remember the last time Gilbert dirtied a diaper. Life is gradual, until it isn’t.

These reflections are more poignant since my grandfather’s funeral and burial last week. I had been planning on seeing him and my brother this summer, so the “last time” hadn’t really entered into my head. The funeral was special, with my family spending some quality time together. Porter and Harlan were delightful little creatures, and we gave him a good sendoff. As I reflect, though, I can tell you that the food ordered for the post-funeral lunch brought back a slew of memories. It was Louden Square, and I didn’t even need to know that to tell from the taste.

The only other thing that occurs to me is the Rolling Stones song “The Last Time”–“I told you once and I told you twice, but you never listen to my advice; it could be the last time, I don’t know.” Some last times I’m looking forward to–the last diaper; the last time out; the last tantrum. But some things I’ll be sad to let go–the last kid sitting in a box; the last tooth lost; the last family vacation…I’m sure there are more…What were you sad to see go?