Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Potty Training April 22, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Third Baby — leighj @ 8:42 am

All of our boys (with the exception of Harlan) have been potty trained around their second birthdays. We’ve learned a few things over the time, and honestly, after potty training is done, it’s so easy to forget they ever wore diapers. Patrick made a video with tips and tricks, and he was playing with fast motion.

 

Because the fun never stops! A Nats game April 18, 2017

Filed under: DC Exploration,Events,Family Life — leighj @ 7:19 am

We took in a Nats game on Easter Sunday. It’s an unconventional way to celebrate. We drove back from NY early Sunday morning after a challenging night’s rest, but we only had to make one stop the whole way home. I debated stopping after Baltimore to avoid emergency situations on the Beltway, but by not stopping, we missed a major backup on the Beltway. Traffic. This city. I could tell we were home.

Anyway, the game. (I swore when we moved here I wouldn’t talk about traffic all the time, but I guess I’ve devolved…) We ate a quick lunch, and then threw everyone back in the car for the game. We made it to the stadium and our seats in time for first pitch–a feat we have never, to my memory, achieved. It was an exciting game between the Nats and the Phillies. Seamus was torn about who to root for: the Phillies had done well in this series against the Nats, and Seamus loves to win, and PopPop is a Phillies fan, and we were sitting on the visitor’s side. On the other hand, the Nats were up 3-2 for a lot of the game. When the Phillies looked like they might take it in the top of the 9th, he was feeling good! Then there were two runners on in the bottom of the ninth, Bryce Harper had 3 balls, 2 strikes, and 2 outs, and he hit a home run! Seamus was bummed, but he was still happy it had been a close, fun game to watch. I usually find baseball slow, but this was a game I could get behind. The usher was brand new, and she was so thrilled to have been there for the hit. It was cute to see how happy she was.

The weather was hot at first, and we were glad that we’d remembered to bring water. At the top of the 4th, I thought I might have to call it a day, but then the clouds moved over the sun, Porter relaxed, and Harlan moved to Patrick’s lap. By the time the 9th inning rolled around, I wouldn’t have minded extra innings! A beautiful evening.

We had debated the configuration of who should go, especially thinking that Porter would need a nap. However, we decided it might be the only game we go to this year, so we should all go and have the best time we could have. That was the right choice, as you can see above.

 

Decompression April 17, 2017

Filed under: Food,Friends and Relatives,Travel — leighj @ 8:00 am

We drove out to the country on Saturday where we visited with Patrick’s aunt and uncle. It was so nice of them to host us. His aunt had prepped an Easter Egg hunt for the kids, which they loved (and I loved because it was orderly!). We had a lunch of Mexican food with platanos, excellent mole, and a funny dish called huraches. We had resisted eating Mexican in the city so we’d be in the mood for it, and boy Howdy! we were so happy. Porter put away a lot of rice!

Then we spent time playing with the dogs, working in the garden, and trying to stump each other and Alexa the smart device with riddles.

Harlan Loves the Doggie (except he kept saying Kiki).

It’s funny with kids and dogs. I think each of them has gone through a phase of being afraid of dogs, no matter the size or personality of the dog. Even today, Seamus is still skittish around dogs, but Gilbert loves them. Not to be outdone, Seamus insisted on a turn walking the dogs this time. And the boys wanted to go out and throw a ball for them. Harlan, though, was hilarious. He LOVED the dogs. He laughed when they licked him, clapped when they came near, and took off with no thought for the hard rocks when they came near enough to pet. He pitched a (very rare) tantrum when he saw them outside without him. He wanted to go play! Porter was a little reserved, but he came around as long at the dog didn’t steal his bouncing chicken. These really are the sweetest, fluffiest, friendliest little dogs!

For dinner, we had quite a treat! We went out with Patrick’s aunt and uncle to a pizza place (The Parlor) where the atmosphere was hip, the service was friendly, and the food was beyond amazing. I had a special English Pea pizza with fontina, peas, and something else that I missed in the description, but unlike the pizzas I had in Romania, where they would dump a can of peas, corn, and carrots on the pizza and call it vegetarian, this pizza was memorable in a good way.

Seamus got his heart set on the Razor Clam special, which was met with general incredulity from the staff. And, if I’m being honest, me too. I tried to talk him out of ordering it, but he seemed so dejected when I questioned his choice, I quickly walked back. He got a lot of attention as he put each one but the last away.

He says, “Why do pictures of me always look weird?” “Because I tell you to smile, and this is the face you make instead.”

So Seamus ate his food well. Gilbert ordered Chicken and Waffles, against my better judgement. I told him on Wednesday I’d be ordering for him the rest of the trip, since he ordered something and didn’t eat it. I had done pretty well with that plan, but I was feeling relaxed and hopeful that he’d eat it all. He ate all the waffles! But, I still win. He ate the chicken for lunch the next day. Everyone is happy.

This is the face of a boy who is planning to only eat the waffles…little does he know.

We were so happy to see family and get in a visit, even if it was super quick. We are grateful for people who enjoy spending time with our kids, who have fun, creative ideas,  and who know the places to find the most delicious food in Westchester county.

 

NYC By the Numbers April 16, 2017

Filed under: Academic,Family Life,Growing up,Holidays,Travel — leighj @ 8:58 pm

3: nights we stayed in the city

4: children we took

8: playgrounds visited

I was joking with my mom that we were on a tour of Manhattan playgrounds, and that we’d seen them all, when I realized that was a gross misstatement, and in fact, we had probably barely scratched the surface of the playground situation. It was funny; they were all crowded, but at times that entirely depended on which schools were taking their recess there at a certain time.

Monkey bars are a hit no matter where you go.

5: restaurants visited

We love the food in NYC. We ate a few meals by necessity out, but our favorite way to go with kids is to eat the heck out of the free hotel breakfast, then eat out for lunch if that’s part of the plan, and order take-out for dinner. This is mostly because the delicious ethnic food restaurants are so tiny I couldn’t face taking a stroller inside. So we brought Thai and Greek food back to the hotel room. We ended up doing Greek two nights because it was so tasty! (And there’s a story about Indian food that I was going to order, but when I got to the restaurant someone was being arrested by 10 cops, so I decided that was a sign I should go get Greek food.) Otherwise, we ate at the museums we visited–not great food, but serviceable. And one day we happened on a Biergarten with outdoor seating. The food was much better than expected there! I’ll tell you about the food on the second leg of our trip in a separate post.

4: movies watched with hotel Netflix

We don’t do much screen time at home, but we do movies on non-school nights. It was very helpful that we restrict because in the hotel, we let them go nuts on the Netflix, which was hilarious and kind of sad. We didn’t feel too bad about it because the room was small (soooooo small), and it was a way to keep the three older boys contained on the bed.

3.5: books listened to in the car

This is how we prefer to pass the time. Although, if I have to hear Stockard Channing read one more Ramona book in a whine, I might have to stab myself in the ears….

2: science museums checked off

We had planned on going to Battery Park on our way into the city, (bonus drive through Brooklyn), but as we approached the city it started raining, and we went for plan B: the Liberty Science Museum and Liberty State Park. The science museum was interesting, but not as great as Richmond’s. A highlight was that the rain cleared and we were able to get out of the car and get good views of the back of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Playing in the infinity climber. Seamus and Gilbert are in the middle.

2: visits to Central Park

The weather was so lovely, we had to spend some time in the park. We watched part of a softball game, explored the fun playgrounds (epic slide!) on the Southern part of the park, and saw horses and pedicabs. We rode the Carousel, but missed the Chess and Checkers house (next time!).

Balto the Medicine Delivery Dog!

Honestly, they didn’t even need play equipment.

The rocks in Central Park were fun enough for the boys to have enjoyed for hours. They also like thinking about Peter Hatcher in the Fudge books. He has a special rock he likes to sit on in Central Park. This really came alive for them after exploring the rocks on their own.

I love photos of kids in the park with the buildings in the back.

4: Ice cream cones eaten.

I took Seamus and Gilbert to the park while Porter napped, and I figured I’d get them a treat. They were enthralled with the street food carts, so we did ice cream. But not before they saw the Plaza Hotel, which I’m embarrassed to admit wasn’t recognizable for literary reasons, but for Home Alone 2: Lost in New York!

The Plaza, and the Handsome Cabs.

Checking out Times Square.

And in Times Square, they liked seeing the ball and all the giant TVs. They weren’t very interested in the costumed performers, but Gilbert wanted to go in the M&M store badly (we didn’t). As far as I can tell they paid the nearly naked people no mind.

1: Cool thing I’d never heard of

We walked on the High Line, and elevated train track that has been turned into a park. Great views, and the helicopters going out into the Hudson nearly clip you. This also allowed us to see the Mega Buses loading (and I will never take one. That was a circus.) and experience a truly interesting set of art installations.

Brr! It was cold in the wind.

Beams to climb on and use as a maze.

3: days I spent at the conference doing work

It’s nice to combine family fun with work, and the best part about the conference was that I could really do that. I could go to a panel after the kids were settled, but before bed (so interesting on the Latinx v. Latina/o v. Latin@), and I could get in a full day with panels, including my student’s paper who came up to present, and then I could get in a day on Saturday before we had to leave out. I have lots of new ideas for writing and texts to teach! Plus, my paper generated some good feedback and ways to think about the work more.

I know there’s more, but at 1000 words, I’ll stop here. More in a few days. Here’s the blog from the time we went to NYC when Seamus and Gilbert were little, and the blog from the time I went by myself.

 

 

Taking Children to University Lecture April 7, 2017

Filed under: Academic,Family Life,Growing up — leighj @ 1:58 pm

I took Seamus and Gilbert to a lecture on veganism, animal research, and Christian beliefs. It started at 7, and I figured it would be over by 8. It wasn’t. However, the boys were engaged, interested, and eager for tasting the vegan food promised in the reception afterward. I felt a little funny having them there when I realized how much concentration would be required. They really got it, though, and enjoyed the ways in which the presenter brought together Michael Vick (dogfighting), factory farming, experimentation on primate brains, and verses from the bible.

Afterwards, they tried the spring rolls, potstickers, veggies, and vegan cake. They asked how you would make a cake without milk (and I explained about soy milk “Oh yeah” they said as they remember that we’ve bought that before). Gilbert and Seamus loved the cake and asked if they could be vegans. Maybe they thought vegans only eat cake?

Seamus, who had paid a lot of attention to the lecture, was just dying to ask a question at the end. He finally turned to me and said, “I thought of a question, ‘Why can’t Christians just be vegetarian? Why do they need to be vegan?'” and I discouraged him from asking. The very next question came from another professor, and was essentially the same question Seamus asked. Afterward, I was really upset with myself for stifling his innate curiosity. He loves to ask questions, but people don’t always respond well to him asking constantly so he’s learning to stop asking. I wish I weren’t one of the people who had stopped him.

Anyway, I think it will only get to be more fun taking them to lectures, events, and performances on campus. They go for the food and stay for the love of learning.

 

Surviving Three Days in the Parenting Trenches April 5, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Totally Me,Uncategorized — leighj @ 12:14 pm

Patrick had a work conference to go to. I embarked on a long weekend of hanging out with the kids and working. Here are some tips:

  • Use the village! People really helped me out. My neighbors had us over, grandude made room for watching the kids while I was teaching, friends shuttled my kids around, a last-minute playdate eased the pressure off the whole group, and when all else failed, the teenager next door stepped up to babysit.
  • Find a low key activity to get out of the house. We went to a STEAM day at my school. It was perfect. I realize this exact thing might not be feasible (especially since I knew there would be a lot of faculty and support there), but it provided a tangible reason to get out of the house.
  • We had easy dinners that I didn’t have to wash many dishes for, and yet, there were still plenty of dishes.
  • I put the kids to bed at the regular time. Seamus was very helpful with Porter, getting him water or helping him go to the potty. He even read to him one night.
  • Gilbert and Seamus and Porter entertained themselves outside a lot. Porter was happy to nap (he’s so cute right now, saying “Play five minutes” right before nap time, so he plays, then we tell him to pick out a book, and read the book and he’s ready to nap). He likes to pull the cover over his head for naptime.

It was a sprint, but we pulled through and I’m glad for the time I got to spend with the kids. Also thankful I got to go to yoga!

 

Tenure! April 4, 2017

Filed under: Academic,Totally Me — leighj @ 1:46 pm

Well, it’s been busy around here. The best, most exciting news from my perspective is that I received the official word that my tenure application was approved. I’ve been drinking bubbly ever since. It is a good feeling to know that I will have a job (as long as the university stays solvent).

I have a big old file of information that supported my application, and now I guess I don’t know what to do with it. I bequeath it to the future. Things people have said:

  • Congratulations! (this is the best one)
  • Now you don’t have to write anymore! (um, I didn’t retire)
  • Now you can tell everyone where to go! (I still have to work with these people)
  • You’ll be here forever now! (I guess)
  • What a relief! (I’m not sure if what this means)
  • Let’s have some bubbly! (THIS is actually the best one!)

I’m also super happy that my colleagues who went up for promotion also got their good news.