Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Porter Says and Harlan Says August 19, 2017

Filed under: Fourth Baby,Growing up,Kid comparisons,Uncategorized — leighj @ 8:21 am

All of my boys have had weird pronunciations of S, P, or F. Gilbert said F as S (It’s Sunny, instead of It’s funny!). Seamus said F as P, (Plip Plops for Flip Flops, Oppice for Office, Wapple for Waffle, you get the idea). Porter has put his own twist on it! He says Sp as F (spinner as finner, space as face, spit as fit).

Porter also quotes from our Song and Story CDs constantly. He loves Monsters, Inc and Finding Nemo stories. Not the movies. For movies he likes Lady but not the Tramp and the doggie movie (101 Dalmations).

Harlan says some new words regularly: Bye bye, cheese, doggie, more, MINE!, shoes, night night, water (ba ba), poo poo (when he wants to go sit on the potty)

He also tests every boundary imaginable.


A Trip to the Beach–Last Summer Hurrah August 18, 2017

We headed off to the beach on Sunday, after an excellent visit with Patrick’s cousin on Saturday. We made a 4:00 am departure, but we got to our ferry too early! We had to wait. Next time, we’ll remember that it just doesn’t take that long in the wee hours with no traffic.

Waiting for the ferry.

While we waited, they played with the wind. I loved doing that as a child. The wind on the ferries in Washington would practically hold you up! My brothers and I were enthralled. These guys liked tossing a flower over the fence and watching them blow back.

Windy on the ferry!

We did it all, it seems. Beach, boogie boarding, bike riding, bobbing the waves, sand play, shell finding, surfer watching, seawall walking, waterpark playing, riding rides on the boardwalk, and eating a ton of food.

It was a great trip!

We went out early to watch the surfers.

One day there was amazing surf. We saw 20 surfers riding waves, and Seamus casually spotted dolphins jumping out of the water just behind them. It was amazing!

We rode bikes on Monday, and Gilbert was so happy to be on a bike. He said, “Let’s do this everyday!” but Monday was the only day that was perfect for it. Tuesday, it rained, and we went to the library. The boys checked out books and sat and read for 2 hours. A lovely way to pass a rainy day. Monday, the older boys played minigolf, and I guess Seamus got a little too competitive.

One day, we did the water park, and everyone had fun. Seamus and Gilbert did all the park on their own in the morning, and then I did it with them in the afternoon. They talked nonstop. We also managed to finally pack enough snacks to make it through the day!

The sky pools ride was their favorite.

Gilbert made it all the way across the pool on the rope.

They both swam so much, and so hard, that we didn’t hear a peep from them after 7:00 pm. Thursday was more beach (but a little scary because Seamus was getting carried off, without his realizing it). We converted the excursion to shell finding, which they enjoyed with gusto. Harlan LOVES the water and the waves. He toddles down to the contact point and squeals with delight. When Porter, who doesn’t love the waves this year, notices Harlan is there, he runs down, and stands way back and screams for Harlan to come back, get away from the water! It’s endearing, and hilarious, and heart-breaking. I hope next year Porter loves the waves…but probably Harlan will be afraid (who am I kidding? that kid is fearless!).

Porter did drum up some enthusiasm for pizza!

Thursday also found us at the Tourney Towns, as the boys call the boardwalk. Gilbert was finally tall enough for the big rollercoaster, which I rode with him. At the top, he confessed he was terrified, but he handled it like a champ, until he told Seamus he’d go again, only to back out at the last minute, so Seamus couldn’t go again…I don’t know why Seamus puts up with it, but he does. He even gave Gilbert the yogurt he’d picked out for himself, so Gilbert would be mollified one morning.

Harlan’s first day at the Tourney Towns.

Harlan had no trouble jumping into the fray with both feet! He loved being part of it.

We had a great week, but I tell you, it is nice to go on vacation and distance oneself from the news. Unfortunately in the last two weeks, the news hasn’t gone on vacation. I’m gearing up for the semester and thinking about ways to challenge all sorts of things.


Home August 10, 2017

We made it home, and it’s been nice to be here. We won’t be for long, though! Porter immediately set in to playing with his toys, especially his birthday presents. Seamus and Gilbert wanted to go to the library to replenish their book stash. Harlan was just happy to toddle around and rediscover his digs.

Speaking of digs, we did rearrange the house a bit. Porter now shares a room with Harlan, and Seamus and Gilbert have Legos spread all over their room. It seems to be working out for now. I never did get the Legos well organized…someday.

Yesterday, Porter says to me “I’m a worm.” I said, “Okay. Why are you a worm?” He said, “Because I live in a hole. Hahahaha!” What a funny boy, until he pitched a huge fit today because I put mustard on his hot dog bun when he wanted to do it himself. Oh, 3–it’s a great age. (I do love three-year-olds, but occasionally I wonder.)

Seamus walked to the library and back by himself today. I made fried green tomatoes with CSA tomatoes. Delicious. Gilbert had to clean the entire car as an act of contrition. Porter went for his 3 year old well child visit. We’re glad to be home, but it’s just more of the same, but not. Everyone is growing, becoming more independent and responsible, and that’s the way it should be, I suppose.

In the next few days, we might shop for school supplies, swim, play with friends, and fill our discovery maps.


Porter’s Birthday! July 26, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Growing up,Third Baby — leighj @ 9:19 am

Porter turned three last weekend! We celebrated, of course. One night we invited our neighbors over for cake, since their son was having a birthday soon too. It turned out to be a lovely evening: very low key, but nice to see them mid-summer, since I think we won’t all be in town again until school starts!

We celebrated with grandparents, and Porter got some practical and silly gifts. He is very into imaginative play and building, so even though he doesn’t need it, he got a new Duplo set to play with and build. Harlan took the train off its track, and Porter lost his mind. I said, without expecting much, “Harlan, can you please give Porter his train back?” And he did! He understands and ca do way more than I imagine.

He also got a backpack so he’ll be ready for school (preschool, and only two days a week) in September. He got some fun games and a puzzle. He was really excited about his big day(s). In fact, right now he’s blowing a paper favor and singing happy birthday, and it’s several days past his birthday. We went to Burke Lake Park to ride the train and celebrate with his friend Max. The train there was so cute and fun. Seamus and Gilbert and Patrick played mini-golf while we rode the train.

Porter is getting slightly less cooperative, but he still has a pretty good attitude. He loves Sesame Street characters, Thomas, Franklin, and Drakestail. He will be any of these characters if you give him the opportunity. He arranges games in his head, and he will play by himself quite well, but of course, if you play with him, he’s over the moon!

Porter is ready for school now!

We have to wait on growth stats until we get back home, but I think he’s growing fine. He loves to read (look at pictures) and do whatever the older boys are doing. He’s starting to hate taking a nap, but he can be coaxed into it with a book and a snuggle. The other day, he said, as if to remind himself, “I’m a big boy.” Smile.

Roar! He’s a very scary bear!

Happy Birthday, Porter! Way to make it to three years!


Shenandoah National Park Hikes with Kids July 10, 2017

Well, we didn’t let too much grass grow under our feet!

We were home one day and it rained like crazy. I took Seamus and Gilbert bowling with a friend, went to the library, and met with a student on campus. Just all in a day’s work. On Friday, we packed up to go to Madison, VA for a couple of nights with our friends and their kids. On the way down, we stopped in Culpepper for lunch. The Frost Cafe got good reviews, so we made the stop. It was not crowded, but there were a lot single people taking up large booths. Lucky for us, a man got up from his booth and insisted we occupy it. He went to the lunch counter instead. Those small actions make a big difference to families! We would have had to wait 15-20 minutes with squirmy, hungry kids. The diner was a great choice–big portions, good veggies, and the best was the strawberry milkshake we all five split for dessert. Seamus had trouble with it because he was tired and cranky still and perceived his portion as less than the others. Porter on the other hand, tasted it, looked up and said, “MAMA! WHAT IS THIS?” in the most delighted voice I have ever heard. I couldn’t stop laughing. It was like he’d found nirvana. A Milkshake! I told him. “What? How?” as if you could just shake some milk and why wasn’t he aware of this earlier. He took my explanation of ice cream and milk into a blender like a smoothie and I heard him talking to himself about it a few days later!

Now, if you came here to hear about hiking: We did two shorter hikes with the seven children (ages 8,6,6,4,2,1,1). Three kids were in backpacks, but Porter walked most of the way down both hikes. We did White Oak Canyon Trail lower parking (which does fill up on summer weekends, so get there early; we arrived at 8:45 am and there was still some parking). The hike is about 1.5 miles up to the first set of falls. The falls were beautiful, but the hike was challenging. We passed 3 or 4 swimming holes on the way up. At the top, we picnicked on the rocks, but it was precarious with so many little ones. Some foolish (or brave!) folks were using the lower falls like a water slide. It looked hilarious, and I think Seamus wanted to try it (he didn’t ask to, but looked longingly), but no one was available to save him if he got in trouble. We settled for swimming in a swimming hole about halfway down.

The only one to get fully immersed in the water!

Porter put on his suit and slid down a rock near the swimming hole. He got pretty wet, and he was so pleased. He said, “Mother, I’m sliding down a riverbank on my shell!” This is part of the elaborate game he plays of being Franklin the Turtle. Harlan loved the swimming hole. He got stripped down to his water shoes, and he laughed like a loon the whole time. He splashed himself. He dug for rocks. He thought about full immersion, but it was cold!

All in all, the trail is good for kids, but a little difficult. The 8 year old had no trouble, and the kids in backpacks were fine. The 6 year olds were also fine, if a bit too interested in snacks. The 4 year old made it up and down, slowly, but of his own volition (which was awesome!). We took about 4 hours to do just the lower falls out and back, but we did stop for lunch and to play in the swimming hole. No real need for sunscreen, unless you plan to spend a long time in the swimming holes.

Our second hike was just our family on the Lower Hawksbill Trail. It was straight up for one mile, but it was beautiful at the top. Our younger kids again were in backpacks, with the two year old walking down, but not up. We had a snack and took in the view at the top. Lots of rocks and the trail is gravelly, so kind of slippery, but the 2 year old handled the downhill in flip flops. Harlan even walked a little at the end.

What a view!

The hike did wear them out, but they remained in good spirits, even asking me to take a picture of all of them at the end of the hike:

Adorable goofballs.

Patrick and I talked about how we’ve been prone to the narrative that it’s so hard to do anything, but now, the last few weeks have proven that we can do stuff that we want to do, like go hiking and kayaking, and to the beach or wherever. We just have to remember the pace and the mood.


Cape Cod Downtime and Parade July 9, 2017

On Monday, the sixth day of vacation, the kids were pretty tired. Seamus really enjoyed the baseball game and wanted to check the scores for all the teams the next few days. The game was fun, but for me it was a challenge. Harlan was not at all interested in sitting in the bleachers watching the game. I gave up and took him back to the house for bed. That ended up being the best possible choice! When I asked them what they wanted to do the next day (meaning Monday), Seamus wanted to play ping pong, read, and rest. Gilbert wanted to rest and have me read to him. Ha.

Well, as per their wishes, we did take a day of down time. We went to a playground (are you sensing a theme?) in the morning and rested for a good chunk of the rest of the day. Porter got to go to the beach by himself with Grandma and Grandude, which he loved. We really laid low. I think the most exciting thing Seamus and Gilbert did was go to the fish market. Patrick and I escaped to Orleans for a quick getaway with Harlan. We all needed the rest.

Tuesday was the Chatham Fourth of July Parade; we had done it last year, and it’s amazing what one year of experience with something will give you. We felt comfortable just getting a place to park and then we set up in some shade near the Chatham Anglers field to watch the parade. The older boys wanted to go to the edge of the street to yell for candy and swag. I think they’d love Mardi Gras! They were yelling, “Here Here!” and then “Thank you!” when they got something. It was kind of obnoxious, but I overheard a group of people nearby marvel to each other, “Those kids are having the best time.” We were all psyched when they got a beach ball and chip clip. The parade and the floats were fun. Porter and Harlan managed to make it all the way through too. I thought we’d have Baseball game part two on our hands.

A couple of other views of the tie dye.

Seamus and Gilbert played mini golf and drove go karts on Tuesday afternoon, and basically had the child’s dream life the whole trip. Porter didn’t nap Tuesday, so Patrick took him out for a kayaking lesson. He got pretty good!

Patrick says, “Uber Kayak needs some help with child labor laws!”

We were all sad to leave, but we got up Wednesday at four am (not that much earlier than Harlan had been waking us!) and headed home. We had a pretty uneventful drive and we got home at 3:00 pm.

As I reflect on the vacation, it definitely felt like vacation, in that I relaxed. I even had some time to enjoy myself and blog. I loved experiencing new and familiar things with the kids. We ate great food, spent time with family, and have many things to talk about with the kids. They’re so excited to go back next year and revisit and do new things too. I’m glad that life is feeling a smidge easier now that Harlan is bigger and Porter is more capable. Gilbert’s finally come out on the other side of his difficulty regulating his behavior, and Seamus is aware of his competitiveness and can regulate his expectations of himself a little better. Everyone tries harder to make the family unit run smoothly.


Cape Cod Fishing and Beaching July 2, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Growing up,Summer Vacation,Travel,Uncategorized — leighj @ 1:01 pm

Yesterday, after the younger boys woke from restorative naps, we headed out for the beach. Now, it took us 10 minutes of looking for sunscreen before we left, but when we got there, the clouds rolled in and a squall blew up. No need for sunscreen. But no need to leave! It blew over, and we spent an hour hanging out at the (cold) beach. Seamus swam out and jumped off the dock over and over, even in the rain, and amongst the 15 kids shaking, jumping, and pushing around the dock. He same until he was literally blue and we wrapped him in a towel and put him in the car to wait. Harlan hated the rain, so I ran him to the car, dried him off, and buckled him in. Then, when it blew over, we got him back out, much to his delight, and let him play. He kept trying to wallow in the sand.

Diggin’ it!

Gilbert also got cold and needed to go sit in the car in a towel. Finally, only Porter was left standing. Fresh from his nap, he did NOT want to leave the beach. I cajoled and convinced, and I had him moving toward the sand washer until he discovered the sandcastle on the edge of the beach. I had to get him in a football hold to drag him away (not kicking and screaming, but indignant). Note to self: Do not go to the beach in the afternoon without a bathing suit on. I was so glad I’d worn mine yesterday. I’m always going to get wet trying to help the kids. If had been even a little warmer, I would have jumped off the dock too. Maybe I should have. Carpe diem and all.

The older boys were sent to bed to get in PJs and read at 6:40 last night. They were crashed out at 7:15. Of course, everyone was up and at it at 5:15. Baths all around this morning, and then we went out on a fishing boat. Seamus and I rode in the bow and we got lots of spray, but we loved it! Laughing like loons, we high-fived. Porter had good “sea legs” and Gilbert loved the activities on the boat.

We set a crab pot, did some ocean fishing (caught sea robins, sea bass, and scup; somebody on the boat caught a sand shark!), tossed the crabs overboard, and swabbed the deck.

Seamus and his first of three catches!

Porter with Dory!

After Seamus caught a fish, I went over to see if I could help Gilbert, but he wandered over to Seamus, so I helped Porter catch two sea bass. The teenager helping encouraged him to name the fish (Nemo) and touch the scales and maybe give it a kiss? NO! Haha. We threw it back and then he wanted to catch Dory too; with relief, I was able to oblige him. Then I got one more on the line and called Gilbert over to reel it in. As he was reeling, it got away! Tragedy.

But just when he was bummed out, they hauled in the crab pot, and he got to throw some overboard.

AAHHH! Spider Crabs!

Fun times! Now, Gilbert and Patrick are kayaking, Seamus is playing pool by himself, and the younger boys are getting much needed naps. I think we’ve set a record though, of fewer than 3 tantrums a day on this trip. Usually their nerves and moods are frayed quickly, but we’ve done better. I guess it’s a by-product of getting older and more capable.