Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Mardi Gras with Friends February 15, 2018

Our friends from Baton Rouge came up for some Mardi Gras fun. They really came up to see snow, but there wasn’t any this weekend, so that was a bust. We did have a lot of rain. Even with the rain, we managed to get out for some adventures. We like the hike along Pimmet Run, which has a creek, some fun crossings, and suburban nature animals. Porter managed to cross the creek with lots of help–but he did it! He really pitched a tantrum about going, but enjoyed himself once he was out. One of the highlights for him was showing Harlan how to throw rocks in the creek.

A worthy pastime.

In the background of this picture, you may be able to see Seamus and Gilbert playing on a downed branch that goes across the creek. They enjoyed making multiple crossings while our friend built a “shelter” for the kids to play in.

Daniel Boone channeling.

Well, you can only cross a log so many times before getting overconfident. Gilbert fell in the creek! He was fine, but he and Seamus went back to the car ahead of us, so he wouldn’t freeze.

Fun in the woods.

It started raining around the time we left, so we considered it a top notch adventure day.

Pretty proud of himself on the crossing.

Later on Saturday, Seamus had his basketball game while the little ones napped. Sunday we took the three year olds to a puppet show. They enjoyed it, but as my friend pointed out, the show wasn’t all it could have been. She said, “I was itching to get up there and make a real story for the puppets!” And she probably could have improved a great show. Monday had us taking the kids downtown for a visit to the American Indian museum and a quick visit to Air and Space. We even got to have a ride on the carousel. Porter looked up and said, “Hey, this isn’t the zoo!” because I’m pretty sure he only remembers the carousel at the zoo. The ride on the metro was the crowing point to the morning!

In the afternoon, since it had dried out, we went to the park. Porter asked if he could stay home, and because Patrick was staying back to work on dinner and his bike, I let him. He needed some alone time with his toys. I guess he forgot Patrick was there, because when we got back, he announced, “Hey! I’ve been home alone. Dada isn’t here. I went outside and said, ‘I’m not afraid anymore!'” I’m not sure what was funnier–that he forgot Patrick was there, or that he decided to act out a scene from Home Alone.

Anyway, it was a fun visit, and we’re hoping to go to Louisiana for Mardi Gras next year!

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Ski Day! February 6, 2018

The kids were off school on Monday, and since part of my self-care this semester is not going in on Monday (even though I do work at least 5 hours at home on Monday), I also had the day “off.” I’d been bugging Patrick to take Seamus and Gilbert skiing, but then I realized, I really wanted to go too. So we did some research, and found a mountain in PA with fresh snow, thanks to the storm that went through Sunday, and daycare for little ones onsite. We put on the top box, got down our gear, and packed a big picnic–goldfish, bagels, granola bars, apples, and more. I sat in the back with Seamus and Gilbert, and graded papers, prepared for classes, and read. They listened to their audio book which kept distracting me with its funny parts.

All in all, it was a really fun day. There were a few glitches, but that’s always the case. The first though, was our overly ambitious plan for Porter. We thought he would want to ski. He did, until he actually got on his skis. Then, he was TERRIFIED. He started crying and said, “They’re too slippery. I’m really scared!” I helped him and he did seem to enjoy himself a little, but then he’d get scared again. Then the little carpet lift was turned off, and people were walking up it. He was then crying that he’d wanted to go ice-skating, not skiing. That made zero sense, but it was at this time that we decided to take him over to the daycare and let him hang out with Harlan. The daycare was great. They were the only kids there, and they played with the play kitchen for an hour and a half.

Porter’s last smile!

When we got to daycare, he said he needed to go potty, so I wonder if I’d gotten him to go before we went out if he would have done better. Who knows, but he said he’d be willing to give it a try again when he gets bigger.

Seamus and Gilbert were little demons on the hill. They had a ton of fun, skiing blues and greens with no problem. There was some snowmaking going on, which made it a little unpleasant on the face. We found a trail that had the blowers off, and we skied it over and over, until the boys got too comfortable and tried to race down, not watching for other (slower) skiers.

A beautiful day!

We had plenty of food, lovely weather, and a lot of family fun. The day did make me miss New Mexico when everyday was beautiful and sunny on the slopes.

 

Happy New Year! January 11, 2018

It wouldn’t be a new year if we weren’t traveling and doing stuff! I had a busy start to the year with my friend and her baby visiting. Then the rest of her family joined them a few days later. I got to babysit her 9 month old for a few hours, and ended up taking the baby to my office for a few minutes (while I looked for a wayward textbook). My colleagues looked at me suspiciously, “Leigh, where did you get that baby?” as if they thought I stole her! Harlan was intrigued by the baby, but I’ll say that she made me appreciate Harlan so much. He can talk,  and feed himself, and take a nap, and go potty. It’s just so much easier, even though she was sweet.

We made a visit to the Natural History Museum with our friends. It’s been a while since I’d been there, and we usually spend all our time on the first floor ocean and human origins exhibits, but this time we did the gems and minerals.

The best sign in the place: Please Touch!

Porter and Harlan really enjoyed the rocks and the mini mine that you could walk through. When they boys started to get just too wiggly, we went back home. Our friends killed it downtown, walking to the White House and all over in very cold weather. I guess when you’re a tourist in a place for only a few days, you get out there despite the weather!

Snow moved in the next day, and the older boys school was canceled. I was so happy that my friend’s hotel had a pool, and that we could get there to swim. The roads were dicey, but the boys had fun jumping and playing. Porter refused to bring his floaties and then was sad he couldn’t get off the stairs. Natural consequences…Anyway, he did get off the stairs at one point and got into a little more water than he wanted. Gilbert was right there to help him to the wall. I was about to grab him, but I was pleased that Gilbert was watching too and automatically helped him with no prompting from anyone.

Swimming with friends in the snow.

We made some resolutions. The boys’ were pretty silly, and I can’t think of them right now, but you can bet they’re tucked away in the secretary for bringing out when needed.

 

Time for Family December 18, 2017

I finished up the semester on Saturday morning–I’ve had a few complaints roll in today, but I’m just savoring being done for a few weeks. (Of course, I think I’m going to put in another day or two this week, but just for fun.) It snowed again! I can’t remember the last time it snowed twice before Christmas. We’ve been busy, but having a lot of family time to enjoy each other.

I call him the blue marshmallow in this suit.

Making snow angels.

Various things of note:

  • We sent out our first batch of cards. I had a lot of helpers, so my system got slightly catywhumpus, so I’m sending another batch out today.
  • I’ve had a lot of helpers lately. Porter actually was a help at Harris Teeter the other day, and I let him carry a bag across the parking lot and then into the house. He got a lot of praise for it, and Harlan got so mad and jealous that he wanted to carry the other bag. Well, the other bag weighed 10 pounds! (Porter’s was very light, just a few plastic containers for treats.) When he realized he wouldn’t be able to carry or drag it, he laid down in a puddle of misery, also known as a tantrum. We call Harlan’s tantrums “puddles of misery” because he melts into them. He recovers, most of the time, without intervention, but occasionally he needs more mollification. I tried to give him a bag of pretzels to carry, but he was having none of it.
  • We’ve been playing Settlers of Catan with Seamus and Gilbert. What a delight to be able to share with them some of our favorite games that they can understand and develop new strategies!

    I can do the bridge shuffle!

  • We made treats for our neighbors. It’s called Christmas Crack, and I was glad when we got it out of the house. Ha! I also had a lot of helpers with this project. Harlan loves being on the step stool in the kitchen for any kind of project. He really loved this cooking project, but the problem came when we were boxing up the treats, and he was screaming for them! We delivered them to the neighbors in three separate runs, as they have to cool overnight. I also tried my hand at a cheese ball for the first time. I was surprised with how well it turned out. I might become cheese ball lady…
  • Our theatre outings have been wonderful. Porter went to Frosty the Snowman, sat through the whole thing totally enraptured, and came home excited to tell us all about it. I took Seamus and Gilbert to a fun production of The Phantom Tollbooth to see our neighbor perform. They really enjoyed it, and said it was in their top two favorite shows they saw this year. Next up is Mr. Popper’s Penguins with everyone but Harlan! So excited that Porter is good with theatre now!

    Silly props at the theatre.

    With Princess Pure Reason. I think it’s the first time they’ve known someone in the show.

  • He ought to be. The latest obsession is Robin Hood. He gets the ukulele and wanders around the house pretending to be Alan A Dale and sings songs from the movie. I caught him trying to shoot an arrow from one of the strings, but I had to put a stop to that role playing! He just gets so immersed in his imaginary world, and sometimes he’ll tell stories that I’m not sure where they come from, but he knows the whole series of events.
  • Seamus has started playing basketball. Games start in January. He likes basketball, but I think, as of right now, he prefers playing soccer. We’ll see. Both Seamus and Gilbert have improved their swimming by strokes and dives! They can do a passable butterfly, and are pretty good on freestyle and backstroke. They still bellyflop their dives, most of the time.
  • Gilbert and I went to the library book sale, and they had a lot of the books in his favorite series, The Secrets of Droon. I got a bunch, and I dole them out for good behavior–like sitting quietly and finishing the previous book in the series. It’s a fantasy series, and he loves to explain the plots to me. They sound really fun and they’re not too hard to read, leading him to more success and high interest. He also was a big fan of the Dragon Masters books. Gilbert: loves fantasy and dragons.

    Pretty happy!

  • Patrick is reading The Hobbit to the older boys. They are really into it. I’ve been reading a lot of Goodnight, Moon to Harlan. His favorite books are Chugga Chugga Choo Choo, Little Blue Truck, and Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? Harlan especially likes the Knock, Knock sound in Mr. Brown and he loves the end of a book Tap Tap Tap What’s Hatching? when it says, “I’m a baby boy, did I hatch from an egg? No!” He giggles and grins, and shakes his head vigorously. Porter adores a book recommended by a friend on her blog: Gaston, about a little bulldog puppy in a poodle family. He also loves a million other books, and he’s taken to wanting to sleep with them under his pillow.
  • We celebrated the end of the semester by taking Porter and Harlan to the zoo today. Porter really wanted to see the elephants, and thank goodness–they were out in force! He also wanted to see the lion (who obliged him by roaring a lot), a tiger, and the gorillas. He had wanted to see the pandas, but as we were walking back up the hill, he said, “I’ll see the pandas next time. I’m ready to go home.” I said, “Oh, are you getting tired?” “No, getting hungry.” I love it when they can tell you what they want!

    A beautiful zoo day!

Well, this has gotten pretty long. I’m so ready to read more, blog more, and just enjoy some time with the kids.

 

Outings December 3, 2017

Filed under: DC Exploration,Events,Family Life,Holidays,Travel — leighj @ 1:55 pm

It was fun having Seamus play soccer this fall, mostly because he enjoyed it so much and developed some good sportsmanship and teamwork skills. On the other hand, it wrecked our social life. Since he had soccer practice on Friday night and games on Saturdays, we had few options for getting together with friends. We also missed taking family day trips on Saturdays. After soccer ended, we did a trip to Richmond. We had so much fun doing that (which I did manage to write about), we tried to go to Philadelphia the next weekend. Unfortunately, they were having their marathon too! We bailed out and went to Wilmington, DE. The Delaware Natural History Museum was fun and interesting. There was a scavenger hunt to keep S&G entertained, and the shells at Harlan level were lots of interesting textures for him.

In front of the museum.

Then we tried to go to lunch, but we had a mega miss. The food was good, but the atmosphere was way too stuffy for a family. We were particularly alarmed that the internet had suggested the place as family-friendly. To us, family friendly is loud and paper tablecloths. It was fine, though, and everyone got plenty to eat, but Harlan fell off the bench right at the end, so we did have to make a loud exit, even if they’d held it together pretty well up to that point!

We enjoyed our post-Thanksgiving outing with our friends and their kids. The puppet show was entertaining, and Harlan was interested, but he couldn’t sit quietly for 45 minutes. I had to take him out after 25 minutes, and I was able to bring him back in for the dragon and Russian dancers, but he started talking too much about the “DOGGIES” during the sheep scene, so he had to leave again! Soon, we’ll all be able to enjoy a show. I hope.

Scottish Walk 2017!

Yesterday, we went to the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade in Old Town. It seems to get to be more fun every year. The kids waved flags, cheered for the Star Wars characters, petted the doggies that went by, and bounced to the bagpiping. We then went to a party afterward for my colleagues (just Seamus, Gilbert, and me). They ran around the yard for 4 solid hours with all the other kids, and then we caught Metro home. It’s been a long time since we were on Metro, but we got one of the new cars! It was something different from how I usually spend time in transit with the kids, and I found myself thinking it would be fun to metro with them downtown soon.

So, yeah. Our holiday fun is in full swing!

 

Senior Seminar–English November 26, 2017

Filed under: Academic,Books,DC Exploration,Teaching — leighj @ 6:15 am

I took my senior seminar students downtown to the National Portrait Gallery to see the short-term exhibit on Sylvia Plath. Our theme for the course was Questioning Author-ity, and we did some theory reading, including Barthes “Death of the Author,” Foucault “What is an Author?”, Derrida “On Roland Barthes,” Walker “Feminist Criticism and the Author,” Cixous “Laugh of the Medusa,” Paglia “Sex and Violence, Nature and Art.” All of these forced questions about how we read and what we can ascribe to an authorial presence or the “author function.”

We also read items by anonymous authors, unfinished work, work published from archives, and other items in which the authorship was not in question, but the intent of the author regarding the work certainly was.

We had a really fun time with the Plath memorabilia.

Some Senior Seminar with Sylvia Plath.

 

Holiday Fun Plans November 25, 2017

We are gearing up for our family (generally low-key) lead up to the nice time off for all of us. So far, we have some fun stuff planned to get into a festive spirt.

  • A puppet show (The Nutcracker), with friends at Glen Echo Park. We have an almost annual tradition of the Saturday after Thanksgiving with them. It’s always fun, but this year…
  • Seamus to Nana and PopPop’s for a fun by-himself visit.
  • Putting up the tree and other decorations.
  • Zoolights, members week. It’s always more fun when we don’t have to pay, and they give us tickets for the carousel!
  • Santa Fire Truck. This might be my favorite! Falls Church fire truck gets all decked out, and goes down all the streets with Santa on top waving to the kids.
  • A play at the Kennedy Center–Mr. Popper’s Penguins. It’ll be Porter’s first time at the Kennedy center; we think he’s ready to sit still and enjoy a show.
  • The Old Town Scottish Walk and Boat Parade. This is always fun too, especially if the weather is nice, as we have a place to warm up and sit right in front along the parade route.
  • A showing of Charlotte’s Web. This is at the children’s theatre, and we’re taking Seamus and Gilbert.
  • Work Christmas Party. We already have a babysitter, and I’ll be ready to turn in my grades and say ciao to this semester!
  • Seamus and Gilbert have a cookie party to go to.
  • Porter is going to go see Frosty the Snowman with his grandparents. Hmm…we have a lot of theatre!
  • My friend is singing in a Chorale concert, so we’re hoping to get to that too.

We’ll probably try to get in a few other events that sound like more fun than crowds! Mostly, I’m just really excited to have time to spend with the kids that I’m not worried about finishing something else.