Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Rusty, Plus Bonus Stories on Boys May 20, 2014

Because I taught an overload last semester, and I’ve been sort of preoccupied with upcoming changes to the house and family, I hadn’t been focusing overmuch on my scholarly work. I probably wouldn’t be too focused on it this summer, except I have a very eager student who applied for a summer research grant to help me with my research. She’s great and has already found a bunch of interesting poetry and fiction for me to take a look at.

However, today, I am back on the horse. I finished a short blog post on The Factory Girl for the Just Teach One project from the American Antiquarian Society. They pull obscure texts from their archives and challenge American literature instructors to use the text in a course, write a blog post about teaching it, and publish the post as a part of a series on teaching these neglected works. I’m a little rusty on opening a blank document and starting to connect the dots and pieces, but I had teaching notes on the text, a quiz I’d made for my students, and some ideas about how the work fits in with the questions I pose to my students about their understanding of the mythos surrounding the American Dream. It’s part of a unit that attempts to determine whether hard work or good luck contributes more to achieving the American Dream.

Next up, I need to revise my essay on embodied close readings of texts. I have a couple of other revisions to finish this summer, and then I’m going to take a little break (six weeks to be exact), and then I have to start working on my book again.

Over the weekend, the boys and I worked on some projects. I had senior awards on Saturday night and graduation Sunday morning, so Saturday morning was my day to get to play with the two boys.

We walked to the farmers’ market for some basil plants, eggs, and other sundries. Then I needed to go get a planter for the little plants. The boys and I took off, but first we were distracted by a yard sale. I saw a single jogging stroller, so I decided to stop. The stroller fit the bill (right price, and our jogger is for 2 kids), and there were plenty of baby toys; Gilbert was itching to pick one out for the baby. I let him, and he picked out a boy baby doll that drinks water and wets its diaper. I had planned to get him one anyway, but baby dolls are expensive and boy ones are scarce, and I’d been putting it off as an unnecessary item. He said it was for the baby, but it became immediately clear that it was for Gilbert.

We picked out the planters, and Seamus wanted to guard the wagon. He and Gilbert picked out a couple of herbs to grow for themselves–KY mint and dill for Gilbert, Mojito mint and basil for Seamus–and they were ready to go home and plant their plants. We did it up right on the back porch (transplanting the little plant Seamus had started in preschool), and I let them paint the planters along with their birdhouse. Now they’re obsessed with checking on their little plants and making sure the birds don’t eat the herbs. I’m not really sure why they think that might happen.

Seamus has been very worried lately that when the baby comes he’s going to have to do things that are too hard for him or that we will be mean to him. It’s taken reassurance, but last night we had a breakthrough. He had a really tough evening that ended with him and me having a talk while sitting on his bed. He tested some boundaries, finally asking if he could throw away his comb. I said yes, but he didn’t do it. After story reading, he gave me a hug and said, “I think I’ll keep my comb because I might want to comb my hair someday.” OK, then, Seamus. He carries a lot of anxiety about things that Patrick and I are not even aware that he’s absorbing. Like on the way to the airport, we have to be really careful about expressing any worry about making it on time, because Seamus immediately takes that fear as his own. We’ve explained that he doesn’t have to worry about it because we’re watching out for those things, but I think he still finds it stressful.

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One Response to “Rusty, Plus Bonus Stories on Boys”

  1. Heather Says:

    Seamus is so sweet. He has a serious head on his shoulders.


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