Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Mardi Gras with Friends February 15, 2018

Our friends from Baton Rouge came up for some Mardi Gras fun. They really came up to see snow, but there wasn’t any this weekend, so that was a bust. We did have a lot of rain. Even with the rain, we managed to get out for some adventures. We like the hike along Pimmet Run, which has a creek, some fun crossings, and suburban nature animals. Porter managed to cross the creek with lots of help–but he did it! He really pitched a tantrum about going, but enjoyed himself once he was out. One of the highlights for him was showing Harlan how to throw rocks in the creek.

A worthy pastime.

In the background of this picture, you may be able to see Seamus and Gilbert playing on a downed branch that goes across the creek. They enjoyed making multiple crossings while our friend built a “shelter” for the kids to play in.

Daniel Boone channeling.

Well, you can only cross a log so many times before getting overconfident. Gilbert fell in the creek! He was fine, but he and Seamus went back to the car ahead of us, so he wouldn’t freeze.

Fun in the woods.

It started raining around the time we left, so we considered it a top notch adventure day.

Pretty proud of himself on the crossing.

Later on Saturday, Seamus had his basketball game while the little ones napped. Sunday we took the three year olds to a puppet show. They enjoyed it, but as my friend pointed out, the show wasn’t all it could have been. She said, “I was itching to get up there and make a real story for the puppets!” And she probably could have improved a great show. Monday had us taking the kids downtown for a visit to the American Indian museum and a quick visit to Air and Space. We even got to have a ride on the carousel. Porter looked up and said, “Hey, this isn’t the zoo!” because I’m pretty sure he only remembers the carousel at the zoo. The ride on the metro was the crowing point to the morning!

In the afternoon, since it had dried out, we went to the park. Porter asked if he could stay home, and because Patrick was staying back to work on dinner and his bike, I let him. He needed some alone time with his toys. I guess he forgot Patrick was there, because when we got back, he announced, “Hey! I’ve been home alone. Dada isn’t here. I went outside and said, ‘I’m not afraid anymore!'” I’m not sure what was funnier–that he forgot Patrick was there, or that he decided to act out a scene from Home Alone.

Anyway, it was a fun visit, and we’re hoping to go to Louisiana for Mardi Gras next year!


Birthday Surprise! January 28, 2018

Filed under: Friends and Relatives,Totally Me,Uncategorized — leighj @ 5:43 pm

I really enjoyed my birthday. The weather was more beautiful than I can remember having on my birthday, ever! 62 degrees, sunny, pleasant light breeze.

Friday night, we had coconut layer cake, in a reprise of my 30th birthday, of the four cakes. It was a relaxed evening, and then Saturday morning, two kids woke out of sorts, but once they had breakfast, it was a little better. I kept itching to go to the farmers’ market, since the weather was lovely and I needed to get out of the house of cranky kids. Patrick was stalling, cleaning, washing dishes, vacuuming (I haven’t mentioned our new vacuum, but our old one finally died, and this new one is much quieter–love that), and generally not getting ready fast enough to suit me. But, we were almost ready to go, when a knock came at the door.

It was our friends from Kentucky! Pat brought a letter that I’d written when I was 18 (but already in college), entrusted to him with the notation that it was to me at 38 years old. I remembered that it existed, of course, but I wasn’t expecting to get it on my birthday. What a treat! The letter was uncanny, but also reassuring in that I have memories of myself sort of being a train wreck my first semester of college (homesick, insecure, lost), but I knew myself pretty well, and I still think things are funny that I thought were funny then. I even wanted to be a professor, which I don’t remember as being the goal at the time. It was just too wild. I’m still thinking it all through.

We went to Seamus’s basketball game, by way of the park and farmers’ market. The park isn’t technically open, but it was too pretty to not play there. Seamus had a great game, and Harlan lasted through most of it. The rest of the day was quiet, finishing the summer photo book, naps, dinner, and a nature documentary.

This morning, we were invited to our friends’ house for brunch. It was yet another wonderful birthday surprise! I learned something new about LC and got a t-shirt to remind me. And, this:

How amazing!

That’s a cake! I knew my friend was talented, having seen cakes she’s done for her boys’ birthdays, but I did not expect this beautiful creation. So much fun. We had a great morning full of laughter, stories, food, and good times.

I feel lucky to have a wonderful family, friends, and space to enjoy them. Thirty-eight seems pretty good so far.


Granny Day Party January 12, 2018

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Holidays,Travel — leighj @ 6:19 am

On Saturday, I headed to Louisville to celebrate my granny’s birthday. Porter and Harlan came along. We had a pretty good flight, with the exception of Porter throwing a tantrum and kicking the chair in front of him. GRR. There were so few people on the plane, but of course, there was someone sleeping (or trying to) in front of him. We had a fun visit, even if we did get banned forever from some stores. Haha.


Before the party on Sunday, I took Porter and Harlan downtown to the Kentucky Science Center. They enjoyed Naked Boy (can you see the gold replica of David in the background) and the giant Louisville Slugger bat (not pictured, but visible in this post). Maybe Louisville has some phallic issues? Hmm? It was slightly warmer on Sunday, but 29 degrees feels downright balmy when the day before was 9 degrees and windchill!

The Kentucky Science Center was a Hit! I do think one of the best things we did this year was join the science center passport program. So fun, and we visited so many!

Concave Mirror outside museum.

They got a kick out of everything, but they especially loved the gravitron, the dangling beads, the build a roller coaster and sitting in the Smart Car.

So fun to play with the hanging beads.

At my cousin’s house, which was drop-dead gorgeous, they played with Wall-E, the cats, and had a meal of chili and fruit. Everyone was in good spirits, and it was fun to catch up with the family.

Harlan jumped in there.

I got worried about my flight getting cancelled, like the last time I was in Louisville. See above post with the bat. I was a neurotic mess, and as such, I got my flight changed and flew out of Nashville the next day. That ended up being great, but another two hours of driving for my folks. The boys were very good on that flight and getting home was much easier at 4:00 than 5:30. We’re back now, and the best part was watching the brothers reunite!


Happy New Year! January 11, 2018

It wouldn’t be a new year if we weren’t traveling and doing stuff! I had a busy start to the year with my friend and her baby visiting. Then the rest of her family joined them a few days later. I got to babysit her 9 month old for a few hours, and ended up taking the baby to my office for a few minutes (while I looked for a wayward textbook). My colleagues looked at me suspiciously, “Leigh, where did you get that baby?” as if they thought I stole her! Harlan was intrigued by the baby, but I’ll say that she made me appreciate Harlan so much. He can talk,  and feed himself, and take a nap, and go potty. It’s just so much easier, even though she was sweet.

We made a visit to the Natural History Museum with our friends. It’s been a while since I’d been there, and we usually spend all our time on the first floor ocean and human origins exhibits, but this time we did the gems and minerals.

The best sign in the place: Please Touch!

Porter and Harlan really enjoyed the rocks and the mini mine that you could walk through. When they boys started to get just too wiggly, we went back home. Our friends killed it downtown, walking to the White House and all over in very cold weather. I guess when you’re a tourist in a place for only a few days, you get out there despite the weather!

Snow moved in the next day, and the older boys school was canceled. I was so happy that my friend’s hotel had a pool, and that we could get there to swim. The roads were dicey, but the boys had fun jumping and playing. Porter refused to bring his floaties and then was sad he couldn’t get off the stairs. Natural consequences…Anyway, he did get off the stairs at one point and got into a little more water than he wanted. Gilbert was right there to help him to the wall. I was about to grab him, but I was pleased that Gilbert was watching too and automatically helped him with no prompting from anyone.

Swimming with friends in the snow.

We made some resolutions. The boys’ were pretty silly, and I can’t think of them right now, but you can bet they’re tucked away in the secretary for bringing out when needed.


Christmas Recap December 27, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Growing up,Holidays,Travel — leighj @ 3:27 pm

It’s been a whirlwind of a holiday. On Thursday, my friend had a beautiful baby, and I was feeling really lucky to get to go visit on Friday morning. He was alert and just a squishy adorable little thing. We had a solstice party at our neighbor’s house, which was festive and exciting to see everyone gathered. Friday night, we spent with Patrick’s cousins–including four of their children. It means 8 kids between 9-1. You can imagine that it was loud, but delightful to see them all together. Some of the older kids took Harlan and Porter under their wings and played with him. He liked the attention, but kept close tabs on me, lest he be left with a “babysitter.”

The older boys (all three!) enjoyed Mr. Popper’s Penguins, although it was the loudest audience I’ve ever seen at the Kennedy Center. Right now the Kennedy Center is all lit up with rainbow lights at night, and it’s one of the best things about driving the GW Parkway currently. We had a quick and pleasant visit at Nana and PopPop’s. The boys loved their gifts (Porter calls the remote controlled cars “Rocomo cars”).

Seamus was excited!

The best part of the cars is that they’ll clean the floor so they can run them around!

Porter got a truck from his other grandparents and he joined in on the fun, until we discovered that two of them are the same hertz or something and can be controlled by one controller. Harlan wasn’t super interested, but he was pretty sure he needed in on the action too. He liked his baby; and he really likes “reading” to her.

Here he is on the step stool trying to give baby a bath.

His language has exploded! I can’t count all the new words, but he does say step stool, Hi Grandaddy, Hi PopPop, Hi Grandude, and he likes to point at strange men and say “Dada!” He also says night night for Pajamas, deep deep for diaper. He loves to be on the step stool in the kitchen shredding cheese, stirring pots, measuring things, putting clean dishes back in the sink, and more. He’s a little scary around the hot pans, knives, and the oven door. We have to keep a close eye on him, but he’s quick!

Christmas Eve we joined friends for pizza and champagne and play time. It was just the perfect evening for us, but then again, we didn’t have to do clean up. The boys wrote letters for Santa, we checked the Santa tracker, read “The Night Before Christmas” and hustled the kids to bed. That’s our tradition. My friend has a tradition of writing her thank you notes in a bar the day after Christmas, I think we need a New Year’s Eve tradition of that, or something–to think about gratitude, and tying up loose ends. Anyway, Patrick and I stayed up not too late waiting for Santa to come!

Christmas morning, we did Santa presents, and it was mildly disappointing, as Santa had not procured Pokemon cards, but had provided binders with pages to store the cards. Gilbert also claimed to have “proof” that Santa didn’t exist because he left some trash behind in the recycling can. Then we had Christmas lunch with Grandude and Grandma–lovely and the kids would have played all day, but we had more to do! My parents arrived and they set up “Santa” on the couch for the boys. By then they had a lot to play with and show off.

Keeps showing everyone his cards.

Finally my mom revealed the big present she made for Porter:

A Real Robin Hood outfit!

Gilbert loves it too of course, and wore it the whole Settlers of Catan game during nap time yesterday. Seamus and Gilbert are off swimming at the hotel, the older three have enjoyed breakfast at the hotel, and Patrick and I agree that it’s been a wonderfully full time of friends and family–just a perfect way to celebrate the end of the year and the beginning of the new year. Hope you’ve had fun too!


Time for Family December 18, 2017

I finished up the semester on Saturday morning–I’ve had a few complaints roll in today, but I’m just savoring being done for a few weeks. (Of course, I think I’m going to put in another day or two this week, but just for fun.) It snowed again! I can’t remember the last time it snowed twice before Christmas. We’ve been busy, but having a lot of family time to enjoy each other.

I call him the blue marshmallow in this suit.

Making snow angels.

Various things of note:

  • We sent out our first batch of cards. I had a lot of helpers, so my system got slightly catywhumpus, so I’m sending another batch out today.
  • I’ve had a lot of helpers lately. Porter actually was a help at Harris Teeter the other day, and I let him carry a bag across the parking lot and then into the house. He got a lot of praise for it, and Harlan got so mad and jealous that he wanted to carry the other bag. Well, the other bag weighed 10 pounds! (Porter’s was very light, just a few plastic containers for treats.) When he realized he wouldn’t be able to carry or drag it, he laid down in a puddle of misery, also known as a tantrum. We call Harlan’s tantrums “puddles of misery” because he melts into them. He recovers, most of the time, without intervention, but occasionally he needs more mollification. I tried to give him a bag of pretzels to carry, but he was having none of it.
  • We’ve been playing Settlers of Catan with Seamus and Gilbert. What a delight to be able to share with them some of our favorite games that they can understand and develop new strategies!

    I can do the bridge shuffle!

  • We made treats for our neighbors. It’s called Christmas Crack, and I was glad when we got it out of the house. Ha! I also had a lot of helpers with this project. Harlan loves being on the step stool in the kitchen for any kind of project. He really loved this cooking project, but the problem came when we were boxing up the treats, and he was screaming for them! We delivered them to the neighbors in three separate runs, as they have to cool overnight. I also tried my hand at a cheese ball for the first time. I was surprised with how well it turned out. I might become cheese ball lady…
  • Our theatre outings have been wonderful. Porter went to Frosty the Snowman, sat through the whole thing totally enraptured, and came home excited to tell us all about it. I took Seamus and Gilbert to a fun production of The Phantom Tollbooth to see our neighbor perform. They really enjoyed it, and said it was in their top two favorite shows they saw this year. Next up is Mr. Popper’s Penguins with everyone but Harlan! So excited that Porter is good with theatre now!

    Silly props at the theatre.

    With Princess Pure Reason. I think it’s the first time they’ve known someone in the show.

  • He ought to be. The latest obsession is Robin Hood. He gets the ukulele and wanders around the house pretending to be Alan A Dale and sings songs from the movie. I caught him trying to shoot an arrow from one of the strings, but I had to put a stop to that role playing! He just gets so immersed in his imaginary world, and sometimes he’ll tell stories that I’m not sure where they come from, but he knows the whole series of events.
  • Seamus has started playing basketball. Games start in January. He likes basketball, but I think, as of right now, he prefers playing soccer. We’ll see. Both Seamus and Gilbert have improved their swimming by strokes and dives! They can do a passable butterfly, and are pretty good on freestyle and backstroke. They still bellyflop their dives, most of the time.
  • Gilbert and I went to the library book sale, and they had a lot of the books in his favorite series, The Secrets of Droon. I got a bunch, and I dole them out for good behavior–like sitting quietly and finishing the previous book in the series. It’s a fantasy series, and he loves to explain the plots to me. They sound really fun and they’re not too hard to read, leading him to more success and high interest. He also was a big fan of the Dragon Masters books. Gilbert: loves fantasy and dragons.

    Pretty happy!

  • Patrick is reading The Hobbit to the older boys. They are really into it. I’ve been reading a lot of Goodnight, Moon to Harlan. His favorite books are Chugga Chugga Choo Choo, Little Blue Truck, and Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? Harlan especially likes the Knock, Knock sound in Mr. Brown and he loves the end of a book Tap Tap Tap What’s Hatching? when it says, “I’m a baby boy, did I hatch from an egg? No!” He giggles and grins, and shakes his head vigorously. Porter adores a book recommended by a friend on her blog: Gaston, about a little bulldog puppy in a poodle family. He also loves a million other books, and he’s taken to wanting to sleep with them under his pillow.
  • We celebrated the end of the semester by taking Porter and Harlan to the zoo today. Porter really wanted to see the elephants, and thank goodness–they were out in force! He also wanted to see the lion (who obliged him by roaring a lot), a tiger, and the gorillas. He had wanted to see the pandas, but as we were walking back up the hill, he said, “I’ll see the pandas next time. I’m ready to go home.” I said, “Oh, are you getting tired?” “No, getting hungry.” I love it when they can tell you what they want!

    A beautiful zoo day!

Well, this has gotten pretty long. I’m so ready to read more, blog more, and just enjoy some time with the kids.


Snow! December 9, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Growing up,Outdoor Pursuits — leighj @ 11:38 am

This morning, it started snowing about 7:30 am. Porter and Harlan are the only kids home, since Seamus and Gilbert are off with their grandparents for a party and some fun. Porter was excited to see the snow, and Harlan was antsy, so I took him outside to walk around in it. Then Porter came out too, and said, “Oh, you have a snowflake in your hair, Harlan!” and he plucked it off, not realizing he had many snowflakes in his own hair. He was surprised when the snowflake melted on his finger. It’s so pretty, falling outside the window now onto the turf field while I sit in a room with about half my students who are finishing their final exam.

Yes, we’ve made it to finals week! I have a ton of grading to do, but I’m feeling really happy that the semester is winding down. I had many wonderful students this term, but I also felt overly busy in many ways.

Yesterday, when the grandparents came to get S&G, Porter was showing off and entertaining everyone, or so I heard (I had a long day on campus and couldn’t be there to see them off). I think he was trying to convince his grandparents to take him with them! This morning, he thought they would all come back and pick him up for breakfast at the hotel (this is what my parents do when they’re in town). He was disappointed when we said that wasn’t the case, but he was mollified with egg nog and snow. Porter has been very three lately with pretty wild swings in behavior and mood, but he’s mostly a delight and he does want to do the right thing, we just have to figure out a way to make that easier for him.

I hope they get to enjoy the snow some more this afternoon! Porter wanted to find his snow boots and wear them around.