Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Update on Harlan April 28, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Fourth Baby,Growing up — leighj @ 6:12 am

Harlan, at 13 months old, is coming along. He walks more than he crawls now, even though he still falls down. He is proficient at yelling “more!” at the table. He holds his own against all the other kids, even Gilbert. He tries to say “Thank you” because Porter gets such a positive reaction when he says it.

In the backyard, he loves the little push toys and cars. He is not a huge fan of the swing (I think he knows he’s being put in there to keep him out of the way). He likes going into the garden, and he climbs and descends the two concrete steps (I’m torn between not watching and hovering).

In the house, he’s a terrible menace with the trash and recycling. He can also reach the table and pull things off. But he loves a ball and throwing it around the room. He loves music and dancing, and he loves to watch the older boys at play. He can climb onto Seamus’s bed by himself. A bath is a real pleasure for Harlan.

When my folks were here, I took Seamus and Harlan to the hotel pool. Seamus swam like crazy, despite having played basketball and baseball all morning. Harlan LOVED the pool. I felt guilty for not taking him earlier; I also felt guilty that at Harlan’s age, Seamus was having Parent Child Swim lessons. He kicked, he splashed, he laughed, and grinned, and squealed. He let Seamus tool him around the pool. He tried to scoop water and propel himself along. When another child about his age got in the pool, he yelled “HI!” to him over and over. Sharing the joy! He had so much fun that when I accidentally let his fingers slip off mine and he dunked himself, he came up smiling and ready for more.

Here’s a little video of Harlan’s first year: (I made this one, so production values are much lower than the one Patrick made that I posted last week.)

Seamus enjoyed his birthday. He had a pancreas blowing day, but it didn’t seem to make him cranky. Rather, he enjoyed it more than usual. We are back on the no sugar bandwagon though!



Baby Grows Up! March 21, 2017

Filed under: Fourth Baby,Growing up — leighj @ 5:41 am

Some Photo Evidence of Harlan’s Growth.

Harlan is a climber!

He managed to push this toy over to the table, get it next to a chair, and climb onto the toy, the onto the chair, and then onto the table! He is like a cat, watching for the opportunity to swoop in and get into mischief when you’re not watching.

Climbing again!

He loves to knock the basket of kitchen towels off its shelf here and climb up. He can get down, but why bother, when you’ve achieved your Everest for the day! Just like Seamus used to love to get into the cabinets and take everything out, Harlan too loves to take all the kitchen appliances off their shelves.

We had mimosas to celebrate Harlan’s birthday. Porter, Seamus, and Gilbert got OJ and sparkling water. Someone was very pleased!

The older boys enjoyed Harlan’s birthday celebrations. It probably helped that Harlan didn’t get any presents from us. The one present he did get, Gilbert can’t leave alone. I can’t believe there was snow on the ground for his birthday. I looked back, and for Gilbert’s first birthday, I did not post until a full month late! And for comparison: Porter turned one most recently.


Snow Day! Heavy Wet March Snow Version March 15, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Fourth Baby,Growing up,Outdoor Pursuits — leighj @ 7:27 am

We had a snow day on Harlan’s birthday! So glad that didn’t happen last year!


  • Breakfast–pancakes. Porter had his with a side of tantrums.
  • Filling out brackets for March Madness. I picked Louisville, Gilbert picked Duke, Seamus picked Gonzaga, and Patrick picked Oregon. Gilbert taped them to the wall. Then Porter got a pen and scribbled all over them.
  • Outside to shovel and play in the snow. A mishap with the hook for the shed, but the three older boys were able to sled down the back slope toward the bike path. Patrick did a lot of shoveling of the heavy snow.
  • Harlan napped. I wished I could.
  • Hot chocolate and lunch.
  • Then somehow, Seamus started talking about cursive writing, and wanted to do some. So I printed some worksheets off the internet. Seamus did two worksheets and lost interest, and Gilbert’s been going forever. He’s on Q now. Seamus read his Star Wars choose your own for a while and went back outside to sled.
  • Porter finally got interested in lunch. Then he built some block towers and finally decided he’d like to read some books. Then he napped and I wished I could.

It’s kind of a long day inside because this snow is fun for a little while, but it’s disappearing off the hill fast.

Pancake Making


When convinced that mittens would help…

Here, Seamus, hold Harlan while I put on Porter’s mittens.


Porter was DYING to go down the hill too. He finally made it and got some help from Seamus.

Harlan is a big ONE YEAR OLD!


Harlan at One Year March 14, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Fourth Baby,Growing up — leighj @ 7:15 am

It’s Harlan’s Birthday! To celebrate, we’re having pie–pizza and pumpkin. After all, it’s pi day.

He’s a delightful baby, with a pretty big vocabulary. He says: Mama, Dada, Hi, Soooo big, Uh-oh, Kitty, More, and he might have said Gilbert, but we’re not sure. He mimics a lot (he can clear his throat if he hears someone else do it) and it’s big fun for him to do so. He looks surprised if he manages to change his environment (like turning the lights on and off–FUN!) and he loves to bang on pots, pans, and anything else.

Physically, he’s a climber, which is brand-new for Patrick and me. We’ve found him on various tables and chairs looking mighty pleased with himself, and we’re still not sure how he got up there. He can take six steps, but he prefers to crawl if he has to get somewhere fast. And by fast, he might need to get into an unguarded trashcan, bathroom, or brothers’ room. He’s still not great with a sippy cup, but he is practicing and making some progress. He loves to eat and will go to town on whatever’s being served at dinner.

He’s still called Harnin by Porter sometimes, and Puffy Buff by Gilbert and Seamus, and we call him Bubba or Buffers a lot. He answers best to Harlan, but he doesn’t like to answer to no. If one of the other children is being corrected and he thinks the correction is directed at him, he’ll sometimes cry. He also cries if one of the bigger boys steps on him, bumps his head, or otherwise inadvertently hurts him. This scenario plays out in slo-mo. The boy at fault does something, then worriedly tends to Harlan hoping he won’t cry and the culprit won’t get in trouble. Harlan takes a deep breath, then collapses on the floor, then opens wide and releases a wail of misery. If the offending brother would just run, nobody would ever know what got into Harlan.

All in all, though, he’s a very good-natured baby. He only reliably cries when I appear in the room after being at work. Then he acts as though he’s just remembered that I abandoned him all day and puts on a show. He did come to work with me last week and “helped” by putting a bunch of my books in the trash can…

He’s intensely interested in what the other kids are doing. If he can manage it, he’ll climb all over Seamus while he’s reading; he’ll get up in Gilbert’s latest art project to eat a marker or impale himself with the scissors; and he love, love, loves Porter’s train set and cars. He knows he’s up to something. He also loves attention from them, and lately, when he takes some steps and falls, he gets back up and claps for himself, looking around to make sure everyone else is clapping too! He still makes his funny face grin–which is kind of a sneer–and he always positions himself at the table when the older boys are having a snack.

We love our little Harlan. He’s the perfect baby for our family.


The Recovery Conference in Houston February 14, 2017

Filed under: Academic,Fourth Baby,Totally Me,Travel — leighj @ 10:55 am

The 25th Anniversary Conference for the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Conference was at the University of Houston last weekend. I went and took Harlan. Work conferences with kids can be a challenge, but they can also be inspiring and rewarding. We had considered taking everybody, but then we realized that their school was out last week and that it would not be good for them to miss so much, especially if there was also snow to contend with. I’m really glad we didn’t take everyone because while the U of Houston is very convenient for a conference, it’s not particularly rife with activities for the family.

The conference itself was great! There were interesting panels that sparked discussion and collaboration opportunities. I felt inspired afterward to write and work harder to get my ideas out. This is important because I’ve been struggling with feeling really dispirited lately in my scholarly work. I also got to see some friends and colleagues and we cooked up ideas for future work. It was 80 degrees on Saturday, which was fun, but also made me glad I don’t live in Houston year-round.

Harlan was a good travel companion, sleeping from take-off to landing on both flights. Thank goodness we had nonstops both ways. Travel was smooth, and I enjoyed the surgical precision of the conference (fly in and out) but I was also pretty tired when I got back. I’ve recovered from the intense travel now. We’re now ready to night wean to sleep train Harlan!


Back to School January 18, 2017

Filed under: Fourth Baby,Growing up — leighj @ 2:23 pm

I’m back at work!

Porter is definitely two and a half. He is mostly sunny and happy and talkative and cooperative, but he does have his moods. He likes the tag reader, playing with his cars on the couch, Elmo, hanging out with Harlan and his other brothers. He likes soy sauce on everything, and in the morning if we make PB&J for Seamus and Gilbert’s lunch, he wants one too! For breakfast. Which he doesn’t get. He loves his Spanish class, and every now and then says something like, “Me llamo Porter.”

Harlan is standing for extended periods of time. He hasn’t walked yet, but he’s balancing on his own. He also waves, claps his hands, says “Hi,” Mama and Dada, says MMMM and mo for food. He’s starting to eat a lot more food.

Gilbert and Seamus are working on making paper airplanes all the time. We did haircuts and played outside a lot this weekend. We did a family hike, and planned some fun for the summer.



Clean Spaces January 11, 2017

I cleaned my office on Friday last week, and we’ve been keeping the house a bit neater (when possible–the kids are pretty good at messifying it). It is nice to have some open space–makes it easier to think. However, I find that I’m not quite ready for work as I’m now wandering about wondering what I should do.

A long time ago, I wrote about using KonMari methods to tidy our space. We didn’t do full bore tidying, but we did a lot of work around the house, especially with regard to clothes, papers, toys, and books. I am pleased with our efforts on nights like last night when cleaning the house up just meant returning everything to the bins they had been in! Last night, Gilbert was the biggest helper in cleaning up the common space. I think it was because he and I had been silly instead of antagonistic earlier in the evening. (It involved singing Andrea Bocelli’s (Time to Say Goodbye) with the words, “Gilbert doesn’t want to get dressed but if he doesn’t it will be “Time to GO TO TIME OUT” sit in the kitchen for hours, now he’ll go brush his teeth, get all clean, comb his hair… etc.) Pretty hilarious, except Porter got upset and wanted Gilbert to actually go to time out.

And, per the new recommendations, we gave Harlan some peanut butter. I want to say that nothing happened, but that would be untrue. He grinned, and clapped, and squealed, and demanded more peanut butter! It is the best thing he has ever tasted! (Friends with a young baby were laughing with us that it’s funny with babies because this is the first time in their lives that they have ever tasted a food, so it’s novel and exciting–I’m not describing the feeling well.)

Ok, the most fun thing that happened recently was snow:

Porter's snow bibs!

Porter’s snow bibs!

Harlan practices standing without holding on!

Harlan practices standing without holding on!