Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Last Leg of Our Trip: Vermont July 19, 2018

The last leg of our trip was to Vermont to spend time with Patrick’s Aunt and Uncle who have recently moved there. Nana and PopPop were there too, so we had a fun family visit to cap off our long vacation. It was so nice to have a place to stay with people who wanted to hang out with the kids after being just us in Nova Scotia! An added bonus were the two pups, who Porter and Harlan fell in love with. Seamus and Gilbert were more enchanted with the video game system! Haha, no surprise there! Seriously, though. Porter and Harlan loved playing with the dogs:

Get this boy a dog!

If you ask Harlan what his favorite part of Vermont was, he says “Penny Wane.” He’s also started saying his name. Most of the time if you ask him “Who are you?” he says, “Me!” but occassionally, he says, “I Hahlon!”

Chug chug tug boat.

Playing in the Pond.

We enjoyed the inflatables, and who says Gilbert isn’t sweet and caring when he plays with his brothers? The park in town was deightful, with a playground, swimming pond, tennis courts, and the biggest draw: a river just right for floating down. With so many adults, we could do a river tubing trip, and while my backside is only now recovering from the rocky rapids, it was quite a treat.

Fun with the older boys.

We were so happy there were people willing to watch the little guys so we could do something more grown up with the bigger kids. Which is not to say that they didn’t complain and make it challenging at different points, we were just more willing to shrug off complaints because there were fewer kids to please! And of course, we had a slight mishap:

What are we looking for?

Seamus wanted to ride in Gilbert’s boat. Gilbert wasn’t really big enough for the tubes, but he gave it a shot. However, we all said, “Get out and go this way.” He got out and went the other way. And lost his shoe. I almost lost my mind, but I held it together. We’re doing full press work right now on following directions. It’s going about as you’d expect.

For me one of the delights of the trip was river tubing, and I know that we made lots of lasting family memories at each stop. It was great to get to spend time with family at different stops. Each place was different, thrilling, hilarious, touching, and just exactly what we needed at the time. Here’s to more family trips!


Water Dogs–Cape Cod SUP Edition June 20, 2018

Patrick and I have been wanting to try stand up paddleboards (SUP) for ages, but there’s never been a good time when we could either get away from the kids and do it or a way to try them safely with the kids. This was the year though! I’ll have to put up some pictures later, but trust me that they’re fun. I fell off a couple of times when the wind kicked up and I lost my balance on the board. The first time, I just fell backwards on the board, but the second time, I fell all the way off. It’s warm enough that the water feels good–not freezing.

Anyway, yesterday during naps, Patrick checked out the kayaks with Seamus and Gilbert, which we were pleasantly surprised that they remembered how to do them, and we even got out the paddleboat to try out as well this year. With three vessels in commission and another adult on hand, we decided we could go for the SUP this year.

Gilbert hasn’t lost the skills.

The weather has been lovely, two dry warm days in a row. It kind of reminds me of how great the weather in Munich was and how much the weather in DC is challenging to get maximum enjoyment out of. Anyway, today we rollicked with two kayaks, the paddle boat (whoever was in this was usually tooling around with Porter and Harlan, adorable in hats and life jackets), and two SUPs. Everybody tried everything, and we worked hard for and hour and forty five minutes. Porter is dying to go back out on the kayaks (he means the paddle boat, I think), but he has to take a nap. Harlan is exhausted and fell asleep before he even laid down, I think. Gilbert and Patrick are back out on the kayaks, and Seamus is taking a little break and watching the World Cup. I got to finish a novel yesterday, and I’m looking forward to this relaxing delightful time with the kids/family to come.

Lunch on the beach.

As I said, yesterday we had sandwiches on the beach, and Porter was a big fan. He ate more than usual, as the sea air helped his appetite. Today, he barely touched his food indoors.

Seamus in the tidal pools.

The beach yesterday had nice tidal pools for swimming, catching crabs, and building sandcastles.

Lighthouse beach.

This morning we had our annual walk (sometimes we do it more than once), on Coast Guard Beach. It’s such a force of nature, where the currents come in, the sandbars jut out, the seals play, the fishing boats chug into the ocean, and this year, where the jellyfish wash up: Eeek! Porter was freaked out, and I couldn’t figure out why because I approached the situation calmly. Then I realized that in Finding Nemo, Dory gets stung by a jellyfish and almost died, so he was worried about that. He was somewhat reassured when we showed him how to spot them, but not completely fearless.



Seamus’s Ninth Birthday! April 27, 2018

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Growing up,Uncategorized — leighj @ 8:25 pm

It’s been a while since I blogged! Yikes. I’ll try to catch up, but no promises. The end of the semester gets harder every year, it seems.

Seamus’s birthday was this week, and he declared that it was the best! (And it isn’t over yet!) Mostly I think he was pleased with the attention and his presents. My parents arrived into town, and we had tickets to the Kennedy Center for the younger kids, so my folks took him to pick out a present, play in his soccer game, and go out for lunch afterwards. My dad said he could pick anything, so he said, “Even if it’s $1000 dollars!” And yes! But he only picked a rechargeable remote control car. I swear, Seamus loves and always wants these. They work briefly, but he has imagination that they could work forever, so he keeps picking them. This one is cool, but Porter and Harlan keep trying to take it.

Patrick and I enjoyed the birthday visit, because we got to go out a lot. There was way too much excitement while we were gone, but we liked being away a bit. On Wednesday, we celebrated with granddude and grandma. Seamus and Gilbert were really excited by their Instax cameras. They shot a whole roll of instant film. What’s old is new again! But they love it, and we’re looking forward to taking these cameras to Germany and documenting their trip for a kids eye point of view. I’m going to try to find albums for them. The pictures were awesome!

The big gift was a Pi-Top build your own computer for Seamus. He loves it. We’d considered it as the Santa present, but decided against it because it too many small pieces for that time of year. It’s pretty great! We had daddy pancake for his breakfast, tacos for dinner, and he had a field trip at school. We also squeezed in Forbidden Island. I can’t believe we have a 9 year old!


Happy Birthday, Seamus!


Life around here April 9, 2018

Filed under: Family Life,Growing up,In My Neighborhood — leighj @ 5:37 am

It’s been busy! And cold, so I haven’t felt like doing much of anything. However, day turns to night turns to day, and classes continue, so I do have to do something. It was a pretty good week at work, finally checked in with all my students I haven’t seen lately, so that was productive. I also got a lot of grading done. This weekend, we had a visit from my friend from North Carolina and her family. I took the boys to pick out donuts before they came for brunch, and that was a big treat!

On Sunday, my friend from the Bahamas visited for two days. She’s awesome and fun to have around with the kids. Seamus and Gilbert remember her from our visit there a few years ago.

On Friday, Patrick is off to Sacramento for a two day conference. Then it’s practically Seamus’s birthday, soccer starts, and the end of the semester races towards us!

In the meantime, the boys had gotten really shaggy, so I took them all for haircuts, including Harlan’s first time in the chair. So cute! He played with the toys while Seamus and Gilbert went first, then he started saying “Haircut!” and “My turn!” so we popped him in the chair. The woman cutting hair laughed at my attempts to get around his ears (I guess she sees that a lot!). She made quick work of him, turning a baby into a little boy in 10 minutes!

Serious business!

Finally, Friday we had a decent day! 65 and sunny. We made a beeline for the cul-de-sac, where Seamus and Gilbert played basketball with friends, Porter tried out his pedal bike, and Harlan went for a spin on the balance bike.

Porter keeps asking for training wheels, because in his favorite Franklin book, Franklin has to learn to ride without training wheels. We keep explaining to him that he already knows how to ride (and he does!), but he wants to ACT OUT the book! He had me hold his bike seat for a minute so he could recite all of Franklin’s lines….Meanwhile, he knows all he has to do is “Push, Push off, Pedal!” and he goes!

Looking good!


Gaming–Starting Children on Complicated Games March 21, 2018

We’re a game family! When Seamus was little, his first game was Hi-Ho-Cherry-O! and he loved playing it. Gilbert mostly didn’t mess with it too much, so he could get into it. Since then, Seamus has moved through a Monopoly phase, Chess, and Yahtzee. These are ones he’s taken to his room to master the rules without interference. Gilbert also likes playing games–his seemingly bizarre strategies seem to work for him! I also love games, card, board, etc, so it was important to me that the kids be able to play with us. I’ve written before about how the like playing Settlers of Catan, but I thought I’d give a run down on some others.

Carcassonne–this is one of the first build-a-world game that we tried. The box says ages 7+, but we started when Seamus was 6 and Gilbert was 5. It taught them about playing the long game and not knowing who was winning at each stage. It came with a couple of varients, which they liked, but we don’t play it much anymore.

Ticket To Ride: Europe–our friends gave us this one when Harlan was born. I’ve played a few times, simplifying the rules for the kids, and Patrick’s played a few times, more recently, without changing the rules. It’s fun, and I’d love to play it more. Gilbert likes it, Seamus not so much.

Settlers of Catan–our gold standard! The boys love this game. I can’t wait until Porter and Harlan are old enough to play too.

SofC Explores and Pirates Expansion–we’ve only played the first scenario on this one, but it feels like a totally new game. Seamus has won both times we’ve played. Gilbert loves the turning over the island pieces part of the game.

Rook–this is a favorite with my parents. Finally, Gilbert is starting to understand the game more and as his partner, I’ve learned how he approaches the game and I have a little more patience. Porter observed the fun of this game while we were in Kentucky last week, and he wanted to play too! So we let him try it out, and he was so good, he and I were able to set the other team. He also really wanted yellow to be trumps, every time! He got to take a trick with his yellow 14 which made him grin from ear to ear. Then he was kind of done playing!

Machi Koro–A friend invited us to Labyrinth in DC to try out some games and see the store. We had so much fun trying out this game, that we brought it home. It’s kind of a deck building game, but there are dice and your cards stay in front of you. Gilbert is freakishly good at this game. I played 8 times before I won! It’s got lovely whimsical drawings on it too. We let the kids stay up way too late many nights in a row playing this game.

Lots of pretty cards.


Dominion–I thought they were to young for this one, as it’s recommended age is 13+, but they have had a ton of fun with it. We played with our friends in Kentucky and Seamus really felt the need to bring it home and study it, and he got a little tetchy when I told him no. We were delighted when the game appeared on our doorstep when we arrived home. The boys have really enjoyed poring over the cards, and I’ve managed to get in a couple of rounds with Seamus. It’s a good two player game, unlike some of our others.

So we’ve been having a blast, but now we do have a lot of games, so we’ll stick with these a while. My next goal is to try a cooperative game with them. I hear good things about how those work.


Harlan Turns Two! March 18, 2018

Harlan turned two a few days ago! He was pretty excited about his birthday. He didn’t get too many presents, just enough to have something new to explore. He was mostly interested in the cake, to be honest. He has a sweet tooth. At my parents’ house, he was so excited to see the lit candle coming toward him, that he started huffing and puffing at it before it was even remotely close enough to blow out. He knows the drill!


We came back from our visit, and he had another birthday celebration with another set of grandparents. He was pleased with his cupcake, but when he realized Porter hadn’t eaten all of his, Harlan went thoughtful. He pointed to the leftovers, and said to his grandude with sage observation: “Cake. Mo cake. Me cake?” He didn’t eat it, because soon, we was distracted by something else. I don’t think he totally forgot about it…

More Cake!

At the doctor’s visit, he wanted to go to the potty 4 times, mostly because he was having fun washing his hands. He was 24 pounds (14th percentile!), 35 inches (63rd percentile), and his head is big! He’s a delightful little one! His most favorite place to be is outside.

Birthday boy!


A Day with Harlan February 27, 2018

Filed under: Family Life,Fourth Baby,Growing up,Kid comparisons — leighj @ 9:39 pm

Monday, Patrick went to pick up Porter from his adventure with Nana and PopPop. I got to go to yoga, then I came home to spend the day with Harlan. We had a snack, and then, because for Harlan, a day is totally wasted if he doesn’t spend a great deal of it outdoors, we went to the park. I don’t like to follow him around at the park, as I like to see what he gets up to on his own. He headed straight for the sandbox, and spent a lot of time playing with the “big dump trucks.” He stopped occasionally to point out the “big light (or maybe fire?) trucks” that went by. His favorite topic of conversation is “big truck.” His second favorite topic of conversation is “baby doll.”

When we got back from the park, he put his baby doll in his high chair, but he accidentally bonked baby’s head on the chair. He came over to me with much urgency: “Uh oh! Baby doll! Big bonk!” So we inspected baby doll and Harlan gave baby comfort, and then he settled in for another snack at his chair. At dinner while Porter was gone, Harlan had a seat of honor at the table. He finally said Gilbert and Seamus, after much prodding. Gilbert sounded something like, “Bet” and Seamus like “May”

At nap time, we read a bunch of books. His favorite books are active books, so he really loves Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe which has a movement for kids to do on every page. Penguins turn their head, can you do it? Gorillas thump their chests, donkeys kick their legs, cats arch their backs, etc. He LOVES anticipating the next page. I don’t know that this book really gets a child settled down for nap time, but it brings him a lot of pleasure. He’s also into Owl Babies and Elmo lift the flap books.

His language isn’t quite where Gilbert’s was at this age, but it’s far beyond where Porter was. I’d say he’s about on the same level as Seamus was. He told me, “Me say bye bye Dada” which was one of the longer sentences I’ve heard. He also says “Me Do!” for doing something all by himself. He very seriously sits and talks with me about my baba and how it’s different from his baba in the morning when I have coffee and he has water. He kind of nods to himself when he feels like he’s been understood. Overall, it’s hilarious to spend time with him.

Porter had a wonderful time on his weekend away. He came back pulling things out of his backpack, saying “Tada!” as if he were showing us something really exciting. It is great to have him home!