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.


Decompression April 17, 2017

Filed under: Food,Friends and Relatives,Travel — leighj @ 8:00 am

We drove out to the country on Saturday where we visited with Patrick’s aunt and uncle. It was so nice of them to host us. His aunt had prepped an Easter Egg hunt for the kids, which they loved (and I loved because it was orderly!). We had a lunch of Mexican food with platanos, excellent mole, and a funny dish called huraches. We had resisted eating Mexican in the city so we’d be in the mood for it, and boy Howdy! we were so happy. Porter put away a lot of rice!

Then we spent time playing with the dogs, working in the garden, and trying to stump each other and Alexa the smart device with riddles.

Harlan Loves the Doggie (except he kept saying Kiki).

It’s funny with kids and dogs. I think each of them has gone through a phase of being afraid of dogs, no matter the size or personality of the dog. Even today, Seamus is still skittish around dogs, but Gilbert loves them. Not to be outdone, Seamus insisted on a turn walking the dogs this time. And the boys wanted to go out and throw a ball for them. Harlan, though, was hilarious. He LOVED the dogs. He laughed when they licked him, clapped when they came near, and took off with no thought for the hard rocks when they came near enough to pet. He pitched a (very rare) tantrum when he saw them outside without him. He wanted to go play! Porter was a little reserved, but he came around as long at the dog didn’t steal his bouncing chicken. These really are the sweetest, fluffiest, friendliest little dogs!

For dinner, we had quite a treat! We went out with Patrick’s aunt and uncle to a pizza place (The Parlor) where the atmosphere was hip, the service was friendly, and the food was beyond amazing. I had a special English Pea pizza with fontina, peas, and something else that I missed in the description, but unlike the pizzas I had in Romania, where they would dump a can of peas, corn, and carrots on the pizza and call it vegetarian, this pizza was memorable in a good way.

Seamus got his heart set on the Razor Clam special, which was met with general incredulity from the staff. And, if I’m being honest, me too. I tried to talk him out of ordering it, but he seemed so dejected when I questioned his choice, I quickly walked back. He got a lot of attention as he put each one but the last away.

He says, “Why do pictures of me always look weird?” “Because I tell you to smile, and this is the face you make instead.”

So Seamus ate his food well. Gilbert ordered Chicken and Waffles, against my better judgement. I told him on Wednesday I’d be ordering for him the rest of the trip, since he ordered something and didn’t eat it. I had done pretty well with that plan, but I was feeling relaxed and hopeful that he’d eat it all. He ate all the waffles! But, I still win. He ate the chicken for lunch the next day. Everyone is happy.

This is the face of a boy who is planning to only eat the waffles…little does he know.

We were so happy to see family and get in a visit, even if it was super quick. We are grateful for people who enjoy spending time with our kids, who have fun, creative ideas,  and who know the places to find the most delicious food in Westchester county.


Kentucky Visit March 12, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Totally Me,Travel — leighj @ 3:25 pm

I took the four kids to Kentucky for a Spring Break (mine) trip. It was totally worth it. The flight out was easy with Porter by the window, Harlan and me in the middle, Gilbert on the aisle and my diaper bag helper, and Seamus across the aisle from us in his own row. The morning flight worked well because everyone was in good spirits. The return flight was a little tougher, since it overlapped with Porter’s naptime. Seamus took the window, Porter the middle, Harlan and me on the aisle and Gilbert across from us. On both flights the older boys were helpful if they were in the row with me or quiet if they were by themselves.

Activities included gardening, sewing, cooking, walking, bathing, going to the creek, chopping wood, playing at the park, learning disc golf, watching Robin Hood, going to the Simpson Co Jail (the historic¬†one–don’t worry!), reading at the library, looking at teeth, and eating. I was happy to see my grandmother and aunt, as well as a few friends. It was a low key trip for me, but the boys had fun since the weather really cooperated.

We’re planning to go back for a much less weather pleasant trip in July. Activities will include a lot of water (I hope!). It’s been almost six months since we visited, but the boys love the farm and all the work it entails to get there. Harlan learned to say Kitty, Porter made a game of petting Snakey, Gilbert learned about wasps, and Seamus got a new brace. All exciting!


Pictures to Support Recent Posts February 21, 2017

I wasn’t able to put up pictures from our weekend away, so here they are.

The children’s museum was educational, if a little overstimulating in places.

"Scares me!"--Porter

“Scares me!”–Porter

They had a space where children could pretend to be a dentist and work on a patient.

They had a space where children could pretend to be a dentist and work on a patient.

Porter and Harlan both loved the train exhibit.

Porter and Harlan both loved the train exhibit.

We put on a puppet show! Porter loved the theater part of the children's museum.

We put on a puppet show! Porter loved the theater part of the children’s museum.

The colored dots were pleasingly psychedelic.

The colored dots were pleasingly psychedelic.

Gilbert rocked the goggles.

Gilbert rocked the goggles.

Skiing with cousins is more fun!

Skiing with cousins is more fun!

The weather has been so warm, this may be our only good winter picture this year!

The weather has been so warm, this may be our only good winter picture this year!


A Weekend Away–Skiing with Kids February 13, 2017

The kids have the first weekend in February as a long weekend. The first year they were in school, we didn’t realize that was the case, but ever since, we’ve put it on the calendar and tried to make the most of it. This year, we took them out to Bryce Mountain for some skiing and fun. It was a blast. I ended up taking Porter and Harlan down to the Children’s Museum in Harrisonburg. Porter loved playing on the train, in the ambulance, and with the chicken eggs. We put on a puppet show and pretended to be TV newscasters. He was terrified of the large mouth of teeth! Harlan also enjoyed himself. In the grand tradition of Children’s museums, I had a child throw a tantrum upon the need to leave.

Porter is generally cooperative, but when he’s not, it’s a sight. We were leaving the museum, and I had a hold of his arm. I had to let him go to readjust my grip on Harlan. Porter took the opportunity to bolt back down the street and around the corner to the museum! He also bolted another time when I told him “No gumballs” at the entrance to a Food Lion. It’s unexpected because it’s new behavior, so I have to fight the urge to laugh with the imperative to engage cooperation. One of the parenting points in the How to Talk book is engaging cooperation. Usually, I can manage that technique with each kid, even though it sometimes requires a step back and extra thought.

On our weekend away, Seamus and Gilbert really enjoyed skiing. They especially liked the individual attention they got, eventually moving off the bunny slope onto the big hill. I have some cute pictures, but they’re not accessible to me at the moment, so I’ll post some later. They both took some falls, but we tell them that in skiing, if you’re not falling, you’re not getting better. We also had a day of skiing with their cousins, which was fun. It was warm and sunny, and I took the younger boys to meet up and bring some snacks slope side. We enjoyed watching them and picking them out as they skied down. Bryce is a great place to learn because it wasn’t too cold and the mountain is very manageable.

It is a ridiculous thing to take kids skiing, but it was so fun and will be a great memory.


Christmas Recap December 28, 2016

Filed under: Childhood Memory,Friends and Relatives,Holidays — leighj @ 7:16 am

As school was out for me, I took advantage of a few days off to get things positioned to an easier holiday break for the family. First, I galavanted off with my friend Indigo to relax for an afternoon. Patrick and I rediscovered the joy of White Russians (but not too many!). On Tuesday, we prepped the house for Santa–wrapping the Santa presents for the first time. This was done so my parents could see the kids on Christmas morning without us trying to coordinated wake up times. I also biffed the Sign Up Genius for Gilbert’s class gingerbread party. Somehow I had made is so people could sign up for one of 22 slots for a gingerbread cookie. A long story, but I ended up on the hook for making 22 gingerbread people that morning. (To answer the question from the last post: I didn’t make more cookies for the neighbors, since I had to make cookies for his class.) Gingerbread is fun to make because it smells so good. Last year, when I made it, one batch turned out good and one batch turned out bad, and I could not remember what the difference was! It was all fine though.

Wednesday, the kids were excited and wiped out from school. We headed to the lake on Thursday to celebrate with Nana and PopPop. I forget what it’s like traveling with newly potty-trained kids. Porter was great (no accidents) but we did stop a lot. And then Gilbert needed to stop! But we made it. We had fun with Nana and PopPop. The kids liked jumping in the leaves that PopPop had raked up. I’ve almost forgotten how sick Harlan was, but we managed to get him a late in the day appointment at the doctor. Good thing, because they would be closed the next three days, and he did need meds for his ear.

Christmas Eve, the boys wrote their letters to Santa, we watched the cartoon Grinch, my parents came, and we put the kids to bed relatively early. I was too excited on Christmas morning trying to organize times, and so forth, but when Seamus got up to go to the bathroom about 6:05, I told him it was still really early. He peeked to see if Santa had come, and satisfied, he went back to bed.

The last few days have been a blur of cousins, food, coffee, toys, books, and more. Yesterday was balmy and the boys played outside all day. I got a haircut (finally!).

Hot Tub fun at Nana's.

Hot Tub fun at Nana’s.

Seamus played Lego all morning.

Seamus played Lego all morning.

Porter loved the house Santa recycled for him.

Porter loved the house Santa recycled for him.

Harlan was feeling much better!

Harlan was feeling much better!

Gilbert built a fire and kept it going.

Gilbert built a fire and kept it going.


Cancelled Plans (Or How Four Children Ruin Your Social Life) November 27, 2016

Filed under: Family Life,Fourth Baby,Friends and Relatives,Growing up — leighj @ 1:46 pm

I am well know for what we call over-scheduling–packing too many events to comfortably participate in into too little time. I have been working on this for the last several years. I have finally met my match. For the last five weekends, I have cancelled plans with friends and family because one of the kids (or me or Patrick) has been sick. I wouldn’t allow any sickness to get us down. Oh no. Instead we’ve had fever or vomiting in various combinations on one of the family for the last many weekends. If someone had a birthday party that only affected them, I did allow them to go if they were well. That was it.

I remember reading an article recently about how cell phones make it easy to make plans and then easy to cancel plans since there’s no need to talk to people. It also had something about how cancelled plans make people feel good, like they got extra time back. It makes me feel no such way. I’m just annoyed that my kids are sick and that we’ve had to cancel so often that I feel like I haven’t kept up with anyone at all.

I’m really hoping we’re better after Thanksgiving weekend.