Academic Leigh Speaking

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

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.

 

More Sundries, and Harlan is 15 months old June 16, 2017

Again, nothing momentous, but still some fun things.

  • Harlan is fifteen months, and to celebrate, he joined the 15th percentile on weight and the 80th on head. So he’s carrying a big brain on a little body. He has 15 (or so) words to share: more, uh-oh, hat, bus, ball, byebye, hi, hello, shoe, dada, mama, nunu, up, thank you, (something that means water, but the sound is hard to render in letters). He climbed up on the freezer and the table recently. He also took all the books off my shelves in my office, so I’d say he right on target to cause a rumpus. He also has taken to wanting to play with the hand-held vacuum.

    He’s into everything! So curious, but such a delight.

    Helping to make pancakes! Hey, when you’re up at 5:45, might as well make somebody happy.

  • Porter built a Duplo house and he told my parents on facetime that the people were playing outside. Oops, it’s raining now; they’re going in. When he realized Patrick was outside mowing the grass, he put his shoes on and ran out to mow the lawnmower too! Porter loves his friends (not that he has a lot of them!), but every time he has a playdate or people are coming over, he draws a picture for one of his friends and presents it with much fanfare. His big thing is wheels.

    Gilbert used to do this too!

  • The garden is growing. I’m a little bit obsessed with my garden. I look online to see why my plants are behaving in certain ways, and at night, I go out to tend to them, offering water, compost, a loving touch. So far we’ve had 10 green beans, about 10 snow peas, radishes, mustard greens, cilantro, Swiss chard, and basil. I’m looking forward to more, but honestly, stuff doesn’t make it into the house half the time! Our CSA has started, and since we reduced the size of our share this year, we are feeling much better about the produce and our ability to use it. We had delicious bok choy, lettuce, sorrel, onions, and garlic scapes. We still need to use kale and eggs, but that’s manageable.

    Squash, tomatoes, chives, Swiss chard. Love the garden.

  • We have a saying around her: “TWO BABIES ON ME!” which is kind of an SOS. It means you’ve sat down on the floor and been attacked by Porter and Harlan, and now, you’re in a pickle and can’t get up. Seamus found himself in this predicament the other day, and Gilbert, who would usually run to join the fray, sat serenely by himself, reading his book, ignoring the commotion. I have been waiting for this day.

    Brothers!

    Is he feeling okay?

  • Our friends from Albuquerque who live in California now are arriving today. We can’t wait to see them. We looked at pictures of our families from 6-7 years ago, and the kids were babies! So were we.
  • I worked on two crafty projects recently. The Lego cake mold (which I will not be posting pictures of) and a tie dye project. We’ll see if I post pics. The Lego cake was hilarious. I bought the mold and make a cake. Then I iced it and let the kids decorate it. A sugar bomb! However, it was hilarious, and Patrick encouraged me to share some pictures and tell our friends I was thinking of going pro with the cake decorating business. That would have been a cruel joke to see what their faces looked like in trying to deal with the news. It’s especially funny, because we went to visit some friends, and she had actually done a beautiful job on her son’s birthday cake. My cake looked like a five year old had done it, and I can’t even blame the kids that much.
  • Speaking of, this should probably be it’s own post, but my friends were talking about opting out of taking on so many activities and travel and social engagements. After we visited with them, we opted out of our evening plans for several reasons, the most persuasive of which was that poor little Porter was just exhausted and could not find it in himself to be happy. Often you feel like a slave to the baby, but a two year old requires special attention too.

Summer is just around the corner! I’m so excited.

 

Nothing and Everything June 9, 2017

Filed under: Family Life — leighj @ 3:00 pm

Since I last wrote, nothing much new has happened, but then again, lots of things have happened. So goes the (almost) summer.

  • We got in the pool for the first time this season. It was a bit chilly, but not too cold, and the boys loved it. Gilbert had so much fun, he turned blue. Seamus was perfecting his cannonball. Porter used his floaties, stuck his face in the water, and worked on his kicks. And Harlan. We set him down on the concrete near the pool, and he immediately toddled off toward the pool. He howled when we grabbed him up to put his swimsuit on, but when he realized he was going to be allowed to play in the water all he wanted, he mellowed out. Seamus gave him a little spin around the shallow area (it was too cold for me to go in more than my ankles!), and he grinned like it was Christmas.
  • We got a hand-held cordless vacuum cleaner. Now that we have one, I’m not sure how we ever managed to live without one. We have carpet and babies, for Pete’s sake! My neighbor was talking about hers, and it hit me that this was one place I wouldn’t mind keeping up with the Joneses. The boys clean up messes they make, and they each take turns cleaning up Harlan’s mess from his tray. The area around the table is much cleaner.
  • Patrick and Harlan are outside swinging while Porter naps. I was cooking mushrooms for pizza toppings and I thought, “If I know a baby Bella, she should be called Crimini until she gets bigger.”
  • I checked out David Sedaris’s diaries out of the library. They’re hilarious, and I think reading them will help me notice minutia more for a short period of time.
  • Harlan waves to the bus every day. He also says bus now. And whenever the timer goes off on the stove, he runs for the kitchen. This is a little dangerous, because usually the timer is going off for the oven, and he does not need to be right there when it’s open! He also likes to pick up my phone, hold it to his ear, and say bye-bye. He mimed spraying sunscreen on himself yesterday. He’s an outdoor kid. Totally happy outside, and a wild menace inside. Porter used to be that way too, and he still loves to play outside, but yesterday, after playing for awhile, he came in and said, “There’s bees out there.” And he was done.
  • My snow peas are bearing veggies! So far Gilbert and Patrick have had one each. It’s a good thing we’re not trying to live off the garden.
  • I went to volunteer in Gilbert’s art class yesterday. They were tie-dying. Super fun, but what a mess! I enjoyed myself immensely though. It was fun to see them working, and the art teacher is creative and interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing how his shirt turns out.
  • Seamus declared there were no more interesting books in the world. But then he found some. He’s really into the You Choose books and he’s currently resisting Percy Jackson. It might be a touch too hard, but I think he might come around by the end of summer. We’re listening to the Sam books by Lois Lowery. I loved the Anastasia books when I was a kid, and I did read the Sam ones too, but I’ve forgotten them. In the car on Wednesday, we were all listening and cracking up.
  • Porter loves going to the library. His grandfather has been taking him regularly, so he has a whole routine he likes to complete every time we go there. He goes in, gets a few board books, goes to the stairs or a table and reads quietly to himself for 15 minutes. Then, when we pick the books to take home, he goes to the children’s desk and gets a sticker. We are looking forward to summer reading, and the Fairfax county Summer Discovery Maps. Mini-golf, gardens, paddle-boats!

See? Everything and nothing.

 

Pivots June 1, 2017

Filed under: Books,Family Life,Fourth Baby,Growing up — leighj @ 1:39 pm

Harlan has learned to pivot his body when he’s walking. Now he is even faster than before, and he goes down the hallway, waits to see if you’re coming after him, and then he reverses course and races back to make sure you’re looking and noticing. Unless, of course, he’s really after going somewhere he shouldn’t and disrupting the environment. He loves to go into the other boys’ room and take their clothes out of their drawers. I was fussing at them about it, until Gilbert said, “That’s Harlan doing that!” Well, okay. Harlan also loves to be outside; yesterday, Seamus was carrying him around during a rainstorm, and Harlan was laughing his head off. Today, he played in the garden, got super dirty, and then got his other favorite thing–a bath!

Porter had his last art class today. He loved it, since it involved painting, drawing, stickers, feathers, and more. He’s developed an imagination! Today, he set up a nest, and put an “egg” in the nest, and then he was Horton sitting on the egg. He acted out the entire story with the excitement in his voice evident on “My egg how it’s hatching!…An ELEPHANT BIRD!” Books are a huge source of inspiration for his world he’s created, and he knows the Franklin the Turtle books inside and out. He uses them like canon to create his own fan fiction stories. While Seamus reads Harry Potter to keep up with his friends and to understand the teeniest details, Porter wants us to read, and he studies the pictures to add more building blocks to his fantasy world. The other boys want to know why he’s abandoned Elmo, but he assures them he hasn’t. And last night, he was Cookie Monster at the table.

One thing I’ve noticed about the boys reading Harry Potter is that they use that world to create their own play. For instance, I discovered them playing Wizard Chess with each other. They’ve made wands, and they’ve worked out a way to play Quidditch with Lacrosse sticks. Reading as an adult, I never thought about how to use the games of Harry Potter to make up my own games. That’s fun to see.

Patrick and I worked on the garden today. We’ve had a long stretch of rain, but here’s hoping for some sun and growth!

 

It Takes Three May 20, 2017

Filed under: Childhood Memory,Family Life,Just Thinking — leighj @ 7:18 am

My grandfather died last week. My brother was with him and has been making many of the arrangements, alongside my aunt. I’ve been providing moral support from afar for my brother. My other brother has also gone to Lexington to help out. I’m going to bring Porter and Harlan with me to the funeral (leaving tomorrow). It will be nice to all be together. Seamus and Gilbert have school. I probably wouldn’t have brought them anyway, because they’ve met my grandfather, and I’d rather leave their memories of him as they are.

When my other grandfather died, I was home from college before my semester abroad, so I hadn’t gone back to campus yet. I remember getting the call at the office, and all of us going to my grandmother’s house to be there with her and celebrate his life. There were margaritas, laughter, a cat, and three generations. I think because my dad’s mother died so long ago, it feels like there isn’t as much need to support a survivor (with perhaps the exception of my brother). In this case, it seems like a moment for part of the family to come together and remember why they are a family.

My Grandmother Evelyn and me, 1980-81

“That’s me Grandfather” (I always think of the line from the Beatles Movie, Hard Day’s Night)

A few times, my parents had to be out of town, and my grandfather stayed with us while we were in high school. That went about as you’d imagine. I attempted to repent my actions the next day by going to church with my grandfather; we did go to church, but then I was in the truck for the rest of the day, while we went “one more place.” When I got back home, I knew I’d paid.

 

May Rolls (Reads) On May 17, 2017

Filed under: Books,Family Life,Growing up — leighj @ 11:29 am
Tags:

The news. Holy Moly. I just don’t know what it’s going to take for everyone (or people in power?) to say “Enough.”

In our little corner of the world, we’re mostly fine (and I realize what a privilege that is!). I turned in grades; my yoga teacher is back in town, and I’m back to a morning practice; the weather has been bonkers, but manageable; and the kids have been pretty fun to hang out with. We’ve been planning our really busy summer, but we’re excited that we’re only missing one week of our CSA, since he’s pretty flexible about what day you can pick up in the week. I’m so excited for the summer, but I’m also hoping to get my writing done and out before the boys finish school. To that end, wish me luck.

Seamus is reading Harry Potter. I relented and said he could read books 1-4 and the supplemental books, but that he needed to wait until he’s older (4th grade) to read the others. Patrick wonders how much he understands, but from his questions to me and his answers to my quizzing him, he seems to get it. Of course, then Gilbert wants to read too, but to give him a break I told him he has to stop after book 2 until he’s in late 2nd grade. One Wednesday they set up in the yard to read. They get out of school early on Wednesdays, and usually they play outside, but I want them to get some time to calm down and read since the other boys were sleeping. On this afternoon, I sat out there with them enjoying my recent copy of The Atlantic:

What better way to enjoy the outdoors?

Of course, I’m having to share my books, and it makes me cranky if they don’t return them when they’re not reading them and if they leave them about for Harlan to tear up. I might have issues. Porter also loves to read. The other day he wanted me to read to him, but I was busy with Harlan, so I said, “You read to me.” And he tried to! It was so funny. He has a little bit of an obsessive memorizing personality, and he likes to act out stories. I don’t understand why Seamus always reads in the living room where there are a million distractions instead of in his bedroom where it’s quiet. Here he is reading when Porter came up to join him:

Loves Franklin the Turtle books!

Even though we’ve been doing a lot of reading (the semester was tough, so I indulged myself with a Bossypants re-read), we’ve also been getting outside to enjoy the weather when we can. We bought two flats of strawberries at the farmer’s market and froze 8 quarts. The rest, we ate! I started a Sticker Chart Challenge in hopes of eliminating two really annoying behaviors (one from each of S & G)–we’ll see how it goes.

Nothing like a little game of catch!

Even Harlan likes to play! Can you see the ball he threw?

I had to fill out the form for Gilbert’s teacher next year. I didn’t put on there that he could chop wood independently for hours, but I did say that he likes to work on projects outside. Harlan and Porter have been playing together. They were in Porter’s room standing on the beds and laughing their heads off the other day. Harlan is just now 14 months, and I can see how we’re entering the next phase. We’ve been here before when Seamus and Gilbert were little, and it’s bittersweet because the infant stage is so lovely, but this next stage is really fun–only marginally less exhausting!