Academic Leigh Speaking

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

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.

 

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!

 

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!

Activities:

  • 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

Sledding!

When convinced that mittens would help…

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

Action!

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!