Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Updates on the Family May 10, 2017

Filed under: Events,Family Life,Growing up,Outdoor Pursuits,School for Boys — leighj @ 11:50 am

My semester is winding down erratically. I had a final on Saturday and Monday and then am waiting for one on Friday. Grades for two classes are done and in, but I like to get it all wrapped up neatly. Then I have next week, when I have work on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

We went to Charlottesville to celebrate Seamus’s birthday, and we hiked up Humpback Rocks with all the kids. It was a long way up! They did great, though, and we enjoyed the beautiful (if terrifying) view.

Yah! I’m not going to fall off!

Some of us took the easy way up! 

Afterwards, we stopped at Wegman’s and bought food for a picnic lunch. Then we headed back to Nana and PopPop’s and cooled off in the lake water since it was 95 degrees in April.

Then we had an incredibly busy week in which we registered Porter for preschool at the community center (he’s super excited!), tried to wrap up the semester of teaching, went to an evening event, and planned and hosted a party for tenure. While our sanity was in question, we had a pretty low key prep for the party–our biggest worry was whether the ground would dry out a bit. The kids had a blast at the party. Harlan rode in the ergo the whole time, Porter played with the other kids his age, and Seamus and Gilbert played wiffleball in the front yard with all of the kids ages 6 and up. They were exhausted afterward, but we did manage to feed them before the party really got going. At one point, Gilbert returned to the food table for a veggie dog and bun; I asked if he wanted ketchup. He said, “No, I’m just eating this to get my calories refilled.”

Gilbert and Patrick had stashed some wood in the shed so they’d be dry wood for the fire. Smart thinking!

Seamus’s birthday continued on Monday when I took him and two friends to play minigolf. He had wanted to go bowling, but he changed his mind to minigolf when he remembered how much he enjoys playing. Three 8-year-olds are pretty easy to manage when they are involved in a fun activity. They played two rounds and loved every minute. I was worried that one of them would get upset if he was “losing” but from the get go, they agreed not to keep score. I would put up a picture, but I don’t like adding pictures of other peoples’ kids without their permission.

Porter drives the tractor.

We went to play at a friend’s house, and Porter loved getting on and off the tractor and peddling it. One of his favorite books right now is Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site. The front loader on the tractor intrigued him. His other favorite books are all the Franklin the Turtle books. Seamus and Gilbert loved those too, and honestly, I don’t get tired of them. Porter is engaged in imaginative play almost all the time, and he likes to tell stories. It’s astounding to hear what’s going on in his head. Funny, most of the time, and pretty clear that we shouldn’t talk about things in front of him that we don’t want him to process, because he is actively listening and thinking.

Harlan is a backyard boy!

Harlan is a demon in the backyard! He is into everything and for the most part, I don’t mind. I just don’t like it when he gets in my garden and tries to eat the dirt. The other day, he said “bath.” Gilbert taught him to say backpack. And he consistently says Bye bye, Hi, Thank you, Dada, and More. He says ball when he feels like it, book sometimes, and water fairly consistently. He’s a motor mouth if someone will sit down and talk with him. He tried to take his shoes off when he came in the house (as is our custom!). He’s all over being part of the family. But the biggest point in his favor right now is that he’s night-weaned and sleeping through the night. I feel like a new person.

We’re rolling along. The garden is starting nicely, too!

chives, rosemary, radishes, mustard greens, and squash/cukes


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.


HTG Games 2017, Fun Weekend, Basketball March 20, 2017

Filed under: Events,Family Life,Growing up,School for Boys — leighj @ 1:40 pm

On Friday, I took Seamus and Gilbert to the PTA fundraiser. It was loud and fun. However, the fire alarm went off, and we ended up leaving. I guess they tried to finish the games, but I don’t know how well that worked out. I had told the boys they didn’t need jackets because the gym would be so hot. Oops! As we stand in the 20 degree weather waiting for the fire department. I had a couple of extra kids with me, and I was so glad the fire alarm hadn’t gone off earlier. Seamus kept saying that someone must have burned some popcorn! Later, we had a good discussion about what to do if a friend wants to do something foolish or dangerous like pulling the fire alarm and you’re with them. They already know “I’m going to tell on you” is ineffective. Expressing disapproval on coolness would help, and we also talked about how you could say, “If you do that, it’s all on you. I’ve got nothing to do with it.” Life lessons.

We had a great weekend otherwise. Poor little Harlan got his booster shots and he’s been under the weather since. Every time I take him in for a well child visit, he gets sick. Grr. He is the smallest, at 20.5 pounds. However, he was putting on a show at the doctor’s office, waving, and yakking away. Patrick took Seamus and Gilbert to a sports bar on Sunday to watch some games while I worked in the quiet house. I was a little envious because it sounded like fun, but I finished my work for the the coming week. I told Patrick if Seamus picks Gonzaga and they win, he’ll probably imprint on Gonzaga and want to go there for college. Gilbert already got mad and threw away his bracket.

We went to some friends house on Saturday night. Seamus and Gilbert settled in to play, and the next thing you know, we couldn’t find Porter. He was off playing so quietly and nicely that we almost left him there. Not really. We also had friends over in the morning to celebrate Harlan and Miles’s birthdays and doula days. Six boys–ages 7, 6, 5, 3, 2, 1. (The three year old was turning four in a week.) It was not as loud as you might imagine!

We are starting to think about new room arrangements for the kids. We won’t make any changes until May (when my school gets out), but we’re thinking about how to maximize space, compatibility, and reading/sleeping time. Harlan loves to go into the other boys’ room. I think he wonders why he doesn’t get to sleep in there. The other night, he had a late nap, so all the older boys were in bed before he was. We turned our backs for a second, and he had disappeared and broken into their room! Giggles from all!

They were playing the “Good night” game.


Halloween–Jawa, skeleton, cowboy, cow November 3, 2016

Filed under: Events,In My Neighborhood,Uncategorized — leighj @ 9:50 am


We had a pretty fun Halloween. Seamus wanted to be a Jawa, so we made him a costume, with a brown hoodie, baby sling, and a mask with red reflector eyes. Gilbert really wanted to wear the skeleton costume, even though it was a bit too small. Porter was an adorable cowboy, and Harlan suffered the indignity of being dressed in a cow costume.

Since Halloween was on a Monday, we tried to get out and back somewhat quickly. A quick neighborhood picture, then trick-or-treating! Porter loved it. He had his bag and he sweetly said “thank you” to everyone. The older boys embellished with “Happy Halloween!” We ventured off our street into the neighborhood between us and the public library. One of the streets was closed, which made it really nice! All the Star Wars costumes make it a little unsafe in the dark (why are they all so dark!?). Best costume of the night was a child in a wheelchair who had become a tie-fighter. Very creative. The boys loved it!

They had a couple of pieces of candy, then donated the rest to my poor students who never get any candy.



Civic Engagement October 28, 2016

Filed under: Events,In My Neighborhood — leighj @ 1:53 pm

Our road is busy and dangerous. Every morning we watch cars flying by as the bus honks and makes people stop. In the afternoon, forget having a playdate and crossing the street. So we took our issues to City Council to ask for traffic calming and a crosswalk. Seamus and Gilbert both submitted forms to speak at the meeting. They practiced ahead of time and were ready when their turns came. They were both called forward by the mayor afterward to get a city pin. They’ve learned about rhetorical strategies and civil discourse. And we about burst with the awesomeness of it!



Porter, of course, said he had to go potty while the older boys were speaking, so we missed part of it. You win some and lose some. We did win this one though, with City Council voting 4-3 to give us a crosswalk.


Miscellany September 8, 2016

Filed under: Academic,Books,Events,Family Life — leighj @ 2:16 pm
  1. Seamus and Gilbert started back to school. They were thrilled to be back in the routine, and the first day, there was a lot of interrupting to tell us all about it. I’m glad they had fun. Of course, we’ve gone back to school bedtime (7:30, if not earlier), and packing them with full calorie snacks. The first week just wears them out.
  2. I read an interesting book (We Love You, Charlie Freeman) about a Black family that goes to dedicate their lives to science and adopt a chimpanzee and live in a primate facility. It was delightful and weird, and I’m glad I read it. Next up is a book set in Egypt. I’m going for shortish, high interest books these days.
  3. I’m teaching a fantastic class on Ethnic Literary Traditions. My focus is Chicana memoir and poetry. It is SO MUCH fun to teach a class I’m really good at. It helps that my students are really into it too.
  4. Harlan can crawl.
    Up and at 'em!

    Up and at ’em!

    He’s highly motivated to go for anything Porter has played with.

  5. My parents visited for Gilbert’s birthday. It was a really fun visit–nice and cool, before heating up again this week. We did get in some swimming, despite the cool temperatures.

    I like this shot of my mom with the four kids competing for her attention.

    I like this shot of my mom with the four kids competing for her attention.

  6. Porter did his repertoire of animal sounds last night. We said, “Are you a Porter-cat?” and he said, “Meow.” Then he did donkey, cow, duck, snake, frog, sheep, rooster, fish, goose, and dog. He calls himself “Port-ay”
  7. We had the English Department over for a party.
    Three partying boys.

    Three partying boys.

    We’re a big group!

  8. My tenure portfolio is almost done. I’m putting the finishing touches on it and then I turn it in next week. Here’s to a hopefully uneventful wait.
  9. Seamus and Gilbert went out to play with their cousins.


    Fun waterslide set up!

  10. I’ve been really tired, but I’m nothing if not hopeful for that getting better soon.
  11. I’m working on Lego storage solutions. I’ll post something when I get it organized.

Anniversary Party August 16, 2016

Filed under: Events,Family Life,Summer Vacation — leighj @ 3:31 pm

We headed out of town one last time for an anniversary celebration. We had no idea that we’d meet such fun and interesting people. Patrick’s aunt and uncle were celebrating their 10th anniversary, and they invited his family and her family to celebrate with them. I met some of Patrick’s cousins who I’d never met (and there were so many, I’m not sure I’ve got everyone placed right!). The boys made friends with Patrick’s uncle’s nieces and nephews on the other side of the family. It helped we all stayed at the same hotel with a pool, because when you’re six, all it takes to make friends is a pool, some goggles, and a competitive (or cooperative) spirit.

Patrick’s aunt hosted a beautiful party on Saturday, despite the oppressive heat. Kiddos got their faces–and arms–painted, and they challenged the balloon man to make pirates, pirate ships, swords, crowns, and all sorts of things. I don’t think anyone asked for a puppy dog, which is what every balloon artist starts with, I’m pretty sure. This crowd was cosmopolitan. The food was great. Seamus indulged his newfound love for crab cakes, and even Gilbert could be convinced to sit and eat.

What was really fun–aside from the kids in their matching shirts–was the sense of family and community. I always enjoy seeing people gather and celebrate being part of a community, even if they don’t agree politically, religiously, or otherwise. It is also astounding how people can be raised in the same family and come to very different conclusions about the world, or that two people raised in very different families come to similar conclusions and decide to make a go of it. A few years ago, the family gatherings we attended convinced us that we were ready for more children. That’s not the case this year, because we could see how much fun we’ll be having in a few years when they get just a touch older, but we also feel that having a bigger family was right for us. Anyway, we are also grateful people will host us, now that we’re a big commitment!

Happy anniversary, John and Denise! Thank you for including us in your celebration!