Academic Leigh Speaking

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

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!

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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.

 

New Routines September 11, 2017

Filed under: DC Exploration,Family Life,Growing up,School for Boys — leighj @ 1:47 pm

With the start of school, we’ve settled into our new routines.

  • Seamus and Gilbert were both really tired this week. In Seamus that manifests with sitting and not hearing anyone talk to him. In Gilbert, we see it when he tells us about all the excitement of the day, and he clearly had fun, but he loses his temper easier at home and doesn’t settle to read, like he normally does.
  • Porter went to Meet the Teacher day, and he very sweetly told me afterwards that when he goes to school, he’s going to stay in the classroom, and I’m going to go home. This seems to indicate that he’s processing that idea as a new idea.
  • Harlan is in a very solid potty routine. It’s young, but he tells us when he needs to go, and then he goes. We haven’t really been trying with him, just getting lucky occasionally, but he seems to be ready to go.
  • Seamus started soccer. He had his first practice recently, and it was super stressful as we were trying to get most of us to a different event. However, Patrick said the coaches were excellent and that Seamus had a wonderful time, so we’re keeping an open mind.
  • Harlan starts art class next week. I’m very curious how he’ll handle structured time, but I know he’ll love getting messy!
  • Gilbert loved his birthday. He told us his teacher asked what he got for his birthday, and she was surprised when he told her all about his Daniel Boone hat.
  • Porter had a wonderful time at a party bouncing on the trampoline with a bunch of other kids (we were supervising closely). He sobbed when he had to leave, and he cried in the car for a bit too. Finally, when he was able to talk, he asked in a small voice if we were going back tomorrow? I said no, but acknowledged how much fun he’d had. He said, “Yeah, I was jumping and jumping! But I didn’t go up to the trees. Maybe when I’m as big as Seamus I can jump to the trees.” He has recently come into Seamus worship stage. Seamus is cool because he can read and play baseball.
  • We got our green chile, roasted it, and peeled it. Delicious! I only ordered 10lbs of medium this year. Much better idea!
  • We went on an interesting outing to the Colvin Run Mill. I ¬†was really impressed with the park and how much you could learn about old time milling operations in such a short time.

A working water wheel mill.

 

School’s Out and Summer Has Arrived! June 26, 2017

The boys were excited to be done with their school year, even though they’d had lots of fun in the last week(s) of school. It’s a little adjustment around the house to have them home. Mostly I notice the noise and the interruptions to when I’m doing stuff that has to be done, like making breakfast, doing dishes, changing the laundry. We’ve been encouraging Seamus and Gilbert to pitch in, especially if they want something from us. They’ve taken to going outside to play to get out of doing the work. Not too often, but occasionally. However, there’s also small chores to do outside, so we’ve got them coming and going! The other biggest challenge is Porter. He’s used to having a lot of attention and conversely, quiet independent playtime. With the older boys home, someone is always around to play with, but someone is also likely to take away a toy you’re enjoying, or sit on the couch cushion you were using. That will even out and he’ll miss them when they go to camp or back to school, but it is an adjustment period. Porter is excited for his own school adventure, and a few days ago, we peeked in the window of his preschool room. He was thrilled to see a little kitchen, and a firetruck, and lots of books.

Last Day of School!

I committed to getting to the pool every day it’s been sunny and we don’t have other plans in stone. I’ve done pretty well with this, and I think it means that Gilbert doesn’t need lessons this year, because he’s getting better just being in the pool and practicing on his own. They never want to get out, even when they’re blue! Porter asks to go swimming all the time, and Harlan is a fool for water. Do not turn your back on him in the vicinity of the pool: he heads straight for the water…usually via the stairs.

School’s out, swim all day!

And I have set up the kiddie pool for the backyard.

It’s a hit! Round two.

Having Porter and Harlan this summer is a big contributor to my sense of memory and doing it all over again. We’ve watched an old video where Gilbert gets upset with Seamus for taking something from him and says, “NO SAMEOUS” and today, Harlan took something from Porter, and Porter said, “NO SAMEOUS!” with the same intonation. Tonight, we watched the end of Cars, maybe in preparation to go see Cars 3, but maybe not. After it was over, Porter cried a bit and climbed on my lap. He said, “I’m not sleepy at all!” and then he laid his head on me and sighed. Then he laid over on the couch, yawned and rubbed his eyes and repeated his mantra. I wish I had a video of that I could show him in the future! It was endearing, even it was a little frustrating, since he still needed to go to bed right away.

Harlan said “No” today. It was inevitable. He also can get out of (both!) of the backyard gates, so extra patrolling is required. We’ve had the girl next door babysit him and Porter together and tomorrow, she’s doing Harlan by himself, so here’s hoping he gets his fill of attention. We’ve used babysitting so far to do individual projects with the older kids. Patrick and Gilbert went to the auto store and then changed the oil. Seamus and I walked to the library with me watching him navigate. He’s been begging to walk places by himself. Seamus is dying for the independence of a 12 year old, but we’re still working on judgement, problem solving, and attention to detail. It is fascinating how the desire for independence manifests in each of the ages we have at home right now, and how it will change with each child’s wishes and needs.

Since school let out, we’ve gone swimming, had playdates, gone to a party, had friends join us for dinner, played in the backyard, signed up for summer reading, prepped and stored CSA bounty for our trip, and gone for a nature walk at Huntley Meadows. At the wetlands, we saw a nice array of wildlife and especially animals that are featured in the Franklin the Turtle books. Porter loved it, even though Gilbert kept taunting him that he wouldn’t see any bears. In the wild we did see a heron, turtles (painted and snapping), beaver dams, a frog, some geese and goslings, tadpoles, dragonflies, some orioles, and hawks. They were enthralled.

Porter walked the whole way.

 

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.