Academic Leigh Speaking

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

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.


Holiday Fun Continued December 18, 2016

Filed under: DC Exploration,Family Life,Holidays,In My Neighborhood — leighj @ 2:42 pm

We’ve been to some holiday parties (the boys love a party when there are other kids around!). We’ve also baked and delivered cookies to our neighbors, gone to Union Station to see the train and go to the postal museum, and run out for the Santa fire truck. If that sounds like we’re batting a thousand, well that’d be the glossy image, and not the truth of the matter. For instance, when we delivered cookies, we delivered to our next door neighbors. Three neighborhood girls were there. We’d only baked enough cookies for two of their families. Now I don’t know–bake more cookies and take them around to the left out neighbors this week, or say, whatever we don’t see them that much anyway? Either way, I feel hamstrung. A friend told me the other day, “Oh, don’t worry about that; I don’t think you need to feel bad about it.” I said, “Oh, but I can find a way to feel guilty about anything!”

As far at the Union Station event, that went pretty well, except the train wasn’t on. Nevermind, there was a huge tree gift from Norway to look at. Haha. There were displays about the melting polar ice all around it. The Postal Museum is cool–definitely worth a visit if you live in the area. Empty, lots of hands on exhibits, with some inappropriate humor thrown in for adults. I like to park at Union Station because it’s convenient, and if you get your parking validated, relatively inexpensive. Today…I lost the ticket…so we had to pay the daily maximum…which, if you’re wondering, is not relatively inexpensive for a Sunday morning.

The Santa fire truck is fun. The kids were totally wound up about it coming by. It didn’t make it to our street until 9:07 pm, and we yanked them out of bed to go see it. We missed it though, as it’d already turned the corner by the time we got to the corner. We tried to run, but it didn’t work. Porter was freezing, and instead of magic Santa looks, he just asked if he could go back to bed.

Mostly though, it’s been fine. I played a game with Seamus and Gilbert yesterday morning while Harlan napped and Porter was deeply involved in his trains. Today, Harlan and Porter are having a simultaneous afternoon nap, and Patrick has taken the older boys bowling. One thing they are loving is Egg Nog. I’ve bought some organic egg nog, and we’ve tried all the vegan varieties (Silk Nog, Almond Nog, Holiday Nog–Coconut). The boys have it for dessert at night, and they love sprinkling their own nutmeg on top. Overall, even if the big events aren’t a shining success, they are memorable, and we’re having lots of nice smaller moments. I’m planning to make a Yule Log for Christmas dessert. I’ve never done that before, so it should be a fun project.

And now, for the big question: Should I bake more cookies?


Passport for Fairfax County Parks Discovery August 31, 2016

Adventures at the parks.

Adventures at the parks.

Seamus and Gilbert picked up a passport for the Fairfax County parks a few weeks ago, and we’ve been going to the different parks to see what there was to see. The passport definitely achieved its goal to get people checking out new parks they’ve never been to before. If you go: Many of the visitors centers are closed on Tuedsay, even though the park is open.

Hidden Oaks Nature Center: A fun park! It has two easy hiking trails, blazed orange and blue/gray. The orange trail has animal prints to guess at certain points, and the blue/gray trail crosses a little stream. The visitor center is big with lots to play with/touch. It was a little crowded in there the day we visited, but the trails were almost empty. Nice little suburban park.

Huntley Meadows: We’ve been there many times. The visitor center closes early on weekends. However, the boardwalk is a ton of fun for a hike. Lots of birds, turtles, and beavers.

Riverbend: We like this park because you can hike through to Great Falls Park without paying the parking fee at Great Falls. They rent canoes and kayaks here. Lots of close to the river hiking and interesting bird sightings. On our trip we saw a huge caterpillar, lots of spiders and daddy long legs, and ducks. A very productive nature walk, in which we learned about clearing spider webs, rock scrambles, and water buoys.

Frying Pan Farm: I trekked there with my four boys and a friend, the same age as Gilbert. I got a lot of looks. This was really neat, and not particularly well advertised. Lots of animals, the 4-H barns, a country store. The old farmhouse and kitchen was terrific. We took a wagon ride, and Porter was a little afraid of the animals, but he liked them from the safety of the wagon. The pigs made the boys nervous, after listening to the terror of the hogs in Old Yeller, they didn’t want anything to do with them!

Wagon Ride

Wagon Ride

Lake Fairfax: We’ve camped here, been to the skate park, and seen a band in the amphitheater. On this visit we saw the marina, geese, and playground.

Hidden Pond: Seamus’s class had a field trip here earlier this year. The pond has a lot of scum on it, but it also lives up to the name. There are turtles and ducks easily spotted. A couple of nice hiking trails. Porter liked the visitor’s center, which had a copperhead, several different turtles, fish, and motion sensor water fountains. There’s also a nice playground at the park.

Green Spring Gardens: A surprisingly fun place with ponds, plants, and a cool greenhouse.

Ellanor Lawrence Park: I am so happy we went here because I got to see a friend I haven’t seen in a year, but. I should have worn the Ergo despite the heat. I tried the stroller, but the trails were too bumpy. The redeeming part for the boys was wading in the creek. And hearing the story of my friend being trapped in a sleeping bag. Also my friend announced, “Hey, my mom got married here!” which was awesome!

The Prize!

Both Seamus and Gilbert received a terrific prize pack with coupons for mini golf, wagon rides, carousel rides, camping, swimming, boats rentals, and more. They are all to use at the parks in the future.

This is one of the most spontaneous and fun things we decided to do this summer. Right on, Fairfax County!


Pirate Cruise August 5, 2016

Filed under: DC Exploration,Family Life,Summer Vacation — leighj @ 1:24 pm

We did one of the pirate cruises, which was excellent, in large part because of the crew (energetic 20somethings), the weather (low 80s and breezy) and the boys (deeply enthusiastic). Seamus and Gilbert weren’t sure what to expect, but after they got their new pirate names (Salty Seamus and Gruesome Gilbert), tattoos, and markered-on facial hair, they were very excited!

Shooting the water cannons

Shooting the water cannons

This dude loved posing for photos. I have no idea how many of my photos he would show up in when I was taking them, but in almost all, he’s looking at the camera. Hilarious!

Anyway, the boys liked dancing, the pirate story time, learning pirate words (booty and poopdeck), getting dressed up, etc. But they loved when the real adventure started and they got to shoot the water cannons at the bad pirate in the little boat. Gilbert and Seamus were laughing so hard and they swear they shot him on the tongue he was sticking out at them.

At the end came one of my favorite moments, when we entered negotiations with the pirate. He asked for Max’s shoes in exchange for the treasure. Gilbert bent down and immediately started telling Max that it would be okay to give his shoes to the pirate, because he could get some more, and those were getting old. Gilbert really wanted to get the treasure. I was impressed by how into the whole thing the boys got, wanting to read the note, offer their ideas, and more. Usually, the boys are a little slow to warm up in these kind of events. Porter also had fun shooting the water cannons.

It was a fun excursion. I don’t ever need to do it again, unless Harlan is really into pirates, but I’m glad we did it once. It’s pretty fun for ages 5-9, I think. Patrick pointed out that they have just as much fun riding their bicycles, which is probably true.


Glen Echo Puppet Theater Excursion August 2, 2016

Filed under: DC Exploration,Family Life,Summer Vacation — leighj @ 6:49 am

This summer is personally fantastic! (Not so sure about the bigger world.) I’m not pregnant (last two summers), so I can move around easily and enjoy the occasional margarita. Patrick had a successful program, the kids have been swimming and working hard. We’ve had a good balance of friends, family, and quiet time.

July wrapped fast. One notable thing in the last week of July was that I took Porter and Harlan to the puppet theater at Glen Echo park with a friend and her son. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the show was short (30 minutes) and really cute (no narrative, just puppets bouncing around the stage doing tricks). Porter was enthralled, but a little nervous, meaning he was glued to my lap. That made it a little hard to hold Harlan, but I managed to get them both on my lap. Harlan, surprisingly, was also interested in the puppet show. His eyes were tracking it. Afterwards, we rode the Carousel in the park. It was fun, but fast! I think it was Porter’s first time on the Carousel, and again, nervous, but enjoyed it.

And, Porter’s up. I’m going to try to blog more this week, but I have some work obligations and Harlan does not enjoy taking a bottle! So more on that later.


Lots of Activity July 25, 2016

Filed under: DC Exploration,Family Life,Summer Vacation — leighj @ 8:48 am

Part of being home with the kids is balancing the out of the house activity with in house activity, and quite time with active time. Also, I have to make sure Porter gets a nap, and that Seamus and Gilbert take a little down time. Dinner needs cooking and laundry runs constantly. How to get it all done?

This week:

Monday was Harlan’s appointment. I hired the girl next door to babysit the three older boys while I took him in. I had to wait 45 minutes in the little room. I tried to be philosophical and say, well it could be worse. I could have four kids in this room for 45 minutes! It was a painless appointment. He’s growing well and I even squeezed in a trip to to the grocery. (Honestly, that’s the hardest part of being home with everyone. I cannot face taking all of them to the store.) In the afternoon, we wanted to swim, but it came up a big thunderstorm. Patrick’s dad came over, and I picked Patrick and our CSA goods up from the metro.

Tuesday we did a day trip to Baltimore.

Wednesday, we ended up going to the zoo in the morning. It was really fun, until Gilbert and Seamus got in a fight over the binoculars. So I fussed at them and got them free lemonade with our zoo member coupons. Note to self, must get to the zoo before 10 am, because the parking is gone at 11. We did have a pretty enjoyable day. I’ve been making a lot of unscheduled stops so small children can pee out of the door of the van. I made them go at the zoo before we got in the van, and they weren’t quite sure which building was the bathroom. I pointed it out, reluctant to walk up the hill pushing the stroller again. Seamus got very serious and told me I was not allowed to move from the spot I was in because we’ve had a few snafus lately where he hasn’t been able to find me and he panics. Another treat at the zoo–we ran into friends! They weren’t able to join us as they were on a school field trip, but it was nice to see them!

Also on Wednesday, our neighbors came over for a playdate. Sometimes I figure the only way to get through the day is to have more kids around, so we added their four to our four, and I was able to make dinner for Wednesday night and Thursday night while the kids were playing with each other. All I had to do was cut a watermelon for them. I also didn’t insist they go outside (it was so hot), but they did anyway. Then when they came in, it was fine.

Thursday we went to meet my parents at Union Station. We treated the boys to lunch in the food court while we waited. They were pretty thrilled with their crepes. Union Station is kind of fun. Lots of escalators, big ceilings. We swam and visited and had a great time.

Also–Porter calls Gilbert BoopBoop, Seamus Maymus, and Harlan Harnin. He watched me give Harlan a wipe down the other day and said, Hot dee–which is what he calls the washcloth we use to clean Porter up after meals.

Honestly, the time goes so fast!


Back in Town: The Alexandria Sprayground Version July 8, 2016

The last few days. It’s been fun for us as a family to be together, so I simply can’t imagine how tragic it is for the families of Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile and the officers in Dallas.

We returned on Tuesday evening. Gilbert, who’d had too much junk food in the car, announced that his stomach hurt. Then he announced he needed to burp. Then he vomited all over the kitchen floor. Poor kid. Thank goodness he didn’t do that in the car. Or on the carpet.

On Wednesday, I wanted Patrick to get a chance to work, since the program he’s doing starts on Monday. I thought about where to take the kids. Mostly, though, I thought about where I could lure my friend Liz and her little boy into joining me. I decided on the Sprayground in Alexandria the the Lee District RECenter. On Google, it looks like the place opens at 9:00 every day (but we decided that’s probably the RECenter). The actual water area opens at 11 on weekdays.

We got there at 9:30, and there’s a pretty nice play area for kids while they wait for the water area to open. The older boys were a little disappointed because they were hoping for water slides, more along the lines of a water park. At 10:30, people started lining up for the spraypark. There’s a capacity of 247, and it was met right when the place opened. We made it in and the kids cooled off, but they were done with the place by 11:30. Also, it’s a madhouse, and I lost Porter at one point. Found him before we left though.

Photo Jul 06, 11 21 31 AM Photo Jul 06, 11 21 12 AM Photo Jul 06, 11 04 50 AM

I’d go back.

Things to know if you go: It’s nice and big. There’s some shade for parents, but not much. Kids have to wear sandals or aquatic shoes with straps on the back. There’s bathrooms, but water fountains only on the side with the water park. There is usually a line to get in. It’s FREE.