Academic Leigh Speaking

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

New Routines September 11, 2017

Filed under: DC Exploration,Family Life,Growing up,School for Boys — leighj @ 1:47 pm

With the start of school, we’ve settled into our new routines.

  • Seamus and Gilbert were both really tired this week. In Seamus that manifests with sitting and not hearing anyone talk to him. In Gilbert, we see it when he tells us about all the excitement of the day, and he clearly had fun, but he loses his temper easier at home and doesn’t settle to read, like he normally does.
  • Porter went to Meet the Teacher day, and he very sweetly told me afterwards that when he goes to school, he’s going to stay in the classroom, and I’m going to go home. This seems to indicate that he’s processing that idea as a new idea.
  • Harlan is in a very solid potty routine. It’s young, but he tells us when he needs to go, and then he goes. We haven’t really been trying with him, just getting lucky occasionally, but he seems to be ready to go.
  • Seamus started soccer. He had his first practice recently, and it was super stressful as we were trying to get most of us to a different event. However, Patrick said the coaches were excellent and that Seamus had a wonderful time, so we’re keeping an open mind.
  • Harlan starts art class next week. I’m very curious how he’ll handle structured time, but I know he’ll love getting messy!
  • Gilbert loved his birthday. He told us his teacher asked what he got for his birthday, and she was surprised when he told her all about his Daniel Boone hat.
  • Porter had a wonderful time at a party bouncing on the trampoline with a bunch of other kids (we were supervising closely). He sobbed when he had to leave, and he cried in the car for a bit too. Finally, when he was able to talk, he asked in a small voice if we were going back tomorrow? I said no, but acknowledged how much fun he’d had. He said, “Yeah, I was jumping and jumping! But I didn’t go up to the trees. Maybe when I’m as big as Seamus I can jump to the trees.” He has recently come into Seamus worship stage. Seamus is cool because he can read and play baseball.
  • We got our green chile, roasted it, and peeled it. Delicious! I only ordered 10lbs of medium this year. Much better idea!
  • We went on an interesting outing to the Colvin Run Mill. I ¬†was really impressed with the park and how much you could learn about old time milling operations in such a short time.

A working water wheel mill.


Happenings–Last Day of Summer and Gilbert’s Birthday Weekend September 4, 2017

Filed under: Events,Family Life,Growing up,Outdoor Pursuits,Summer Vacation — leighj @ 3:12 pm

Well, it’s been a long time since I posted anything, but largely that’s down to I went back to work two weeks ago! This weekend was Gilbert’s birthday. He’s seven! I feel like he was too old to be six, but it’s funny that his birthday is always coming to quickly (maybe because it is the last bit of summer). We celebrated with Lego Figure Cake, some legos, a book, and time with grandparents. He declared it the “Best Birthday Ever” so you know it was fine.

In other recent events:

Gilbert at the batting cage.

Seamus awaits a pitch.

It was a rather cold day for the water park.

I took all four kids to the water park and batting cages, even though it was a bit overcast and cold. They enjoyed themselves immensely anyway. It’s been too cold to swim the last two weeks, but here’s hoping we get a couple more days in before the end of the season.

We enjoyed a beautiful evening on the Georgetown waterfront.

Harlan’s language has exploded. He said ducks, airplane, I go, fountain, and some more words this night. We also cut off this cute little mullet over the weekend.

Early morning duck feeding.

See the trim?

Gilbert wanted to swing. It was pretty funny.

Best Birthday–to be Davy Crockett, or Daniel Boone?


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.