Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Summer! May 14, 2018

Filed under: Events,Family Life,Totally Me — leighj @ 2:56 pm

I finally feel like it’s summer time. Grades are in, most of my work is done, I went to yoga, friends came over for a playdate, and I finished an entire novel (for fun) in two days. Win, win, win!

Seamus had a good soccer game over the weekend. His team really needed a win for their morale, and it was Silent Saturday in the league, so parents and spectators were supposed to only clap politely for goals or saves. This really cut down on the number of parents yelling at the kids and/or ref on the sidelines. I enjoyed the game much more this way. I think it was more relaxing for the kids and coaches too, since they could play and hear the coach more easily.

I figured out our Nova Scotia ferry this summer. Turns out, I’d been trying to book a day the ferry doesn’t run, because it was still low season. It’s a huge relief to have figured that out. Our CSA started, and we are loving having fresh veggies around. We do a pretty good job with veggies normally, but it’s really handy to have some that we just know we need to eat. It reduces the angst of trying to decide what to buy each week, and increases the number of leafy greens in our house by a lot.

Harlan is ready to be a big boy. He loves the big boy swing:

Holding on and proud!


Busy End of Winter March 19, 2018

Filed under: Events,Family Life,Friends and Relatives,House Improvement — leighj @ 4:41 am

I am so READY for spring time. It’s been cold and dreary too long.

  • March Madness. Seamus was so anxious to fill out his bracket. I think he was afraid the games would start without him! He picked Kansas to win, and sadly, his bracket is looking to best out of all of ours on the wall. Gilbert picked Villanova, Patrick picked UVA, and I picked Tennessee, just for something different. I want a do over! But Gilbert has actually taken to erasing things on his. It makes Seamus furious–I don’t really see why, since we aren’t competing..
  • #MeToo. I was on a faculty speakers panel on campus to talk about the #MeToo movement and how sexual assault and sexual harassment affect campuses. I got to talk a little about how we think about bodies and personal space, and my comments got some good questions from the students, so I felt vindicated.
  • Spring Break. It’s not very spring-y but we went to Kentucky. We rented a Kia Soul, picked out by the kids. I liked that I could see out of it, but it didn’t have much pick up. I’m going to do a separate post about the visit. Keep an eye out later this week.
  • Yard work. Our yard looks terrible! The kids have killed all the grass with soccer, baseball, basketball, and football playing. I got some grass seed and tried reseeding it. We’ll see how it goes. I really want there to be grass, so that wen we have a party or just have kids playing in the back, it’s not a mud pit.
  • It’s been a very frustrating month, with lots of things breaking. We had a wind storm that sent flying debris into out back window of the van. It broke. Ugh. And then it took two weeks to get the part and get it replaced. Our dryer gave up the ghost too, so we had clothes drying all over the house. Our landlord came back to town and hunted down a new one. So at least both those things are better, but it was difficult to deal with, while I was also dealing with a really busy time at work.

    Fixing the van for the ride home.

  • I wrote a lot recently. That’s nice, since I’m going on sabbatical next year.
  • We had a fun trip to the Richmond Science Museum. They boys tried to fly blimps through a hula hoop, experimented with upright and recombinant bikes, and played with the light tables. It would have been more fun, if that hadn’t been where the debris hit the van, and we had to drive 2 hours home with the window broken! But it was kind of cool to go back inside and watch the video of the umbrella hitting it…

    Trying out the bikes.

  • Harlan says all his brothers’ names now. Porter is PohPoh, Gilbert is BoopBoop (again!), and Seamus is Missh.
  • St. Patrick’s Day was fun. Green bagels, a birthday bowling party for Porter to go to, and just hanging out. Patrick didn’t dress up in any crazy outfits, but we all had fun, and all the boys had a lot of green on! They kept calling it St. Dada’s Day!

    His vintage St. Paddy’s Day shirt.


Harlan Turns Two! March 18, 2018

Harlan turned two a few days ago! He was pretty excited about his birthday. He didn’t get too many presents, just enough to have something new to explore. He was mostly interested in the cake, to be honest. He has a sweet tooth. At my parents’ house, he was so excited to see the lit candle coming toward him, that he started huffing and puffing at it before it was even remotely close enough to blow out. He knows the drill!


We came back from our visit, and he had another birthday celebration with another set of grandparents. He was pleased with his cupcake, but when he realized Porter hadn’t eaten all of his, Harlan went thoughtful. He pointed to the leftovers, and said to his grandude with sage observation: “Cake. Mo cake. Me cake?” He didn’t eat it, because soon, we was distracted by something else. I don’t think he totally forgot about it…

More Cake!

At the doctor’s visit, he wanted to go to the potty 4 times, mostly because he was having fun washing his hands. He was 24 pounds (14th percentile!), 35 inches (63rd percentile), and his head is big! He’s a delightful little one! His most favorite place to be is outside.

Birthday boy!


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!


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.


Happenings–Last Day of Summer and Gilbert’s Birthday Weekend September 4, 2017

Filed under: Events,Family Life,Growing up,Outdoor Pursuits,Summer Vacation — leighj @ 3:12 pm

Well, it’s been a long time since I posted anything, but largely that’s down to I went back to work two weeks ago! This weekend was Gilbert’s birthday. He’s seven! I feel like he was too old to be six, but it’s funny that his birthday is always coming to quickly (maybe because it is the last bit of summer). We celebrated with Lego Figure Cake, some legos, a book, and time with grandparents. He declared it the “Best Birthday Ever” so you know it was fine.

In other recent events:

Gilbert at the batting cage.

Seamus awaits a pitch.

It was a rather cold day for the water park.

I took all four kids to the water park and batting cages, even though it was a bit overcast and cold. They enjoyed themselves immensely anyway. It’s been too cold to swim the last two weeks, but here’s hoping we get a couple more days in before the end of the season.

We enjoyed a beautiful evening on the Georgetown waterfront.

Harlan’s language has exploded. He said ducks, airplane, I go, fountain, and some more words this night. We also cut off this cute little mullet over the weekend.

Early morning duck feeding.

See the trim?

Gilbert wanted to swing. It was pretty funny.

Best Birthday–to be Davy Crockett, or Daniel Boone?