Academic Leigh Speaking

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

May Rolls (Reads) On May 17, 2017

Filed under: Books,Family Life,Growing up — leighj @ 11:29 am
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The news. Holy Moly. I just don’t know what it’s going to take for everyone (or people in power?) to say “Enough.”

In our little corner of the world, we’re mostly fine (and I realize what a privilege that is!). I turned in grades; my yoga teacher is back in town, and I’m back to a morning practice; the weather has been bonkers, but manageable; and the kids have been pretty fun to hang out with. We’ve been planning our really busy summer, but we’re excited that we’re only missing one week of our CSA, since he’s pretty flexible about what day you can pick up in the week. I’m so excited for the summer, but I’m also hoping to get my writing done and out before the boys finish school. To that end, wish me luck.

Seamus is reading Harry Potter. I relented and said he could read books 1-4 and the supplemental books, but that he needed to wait until he’s older (4th grade) to read the others. Patrick wonders how much he understands, but from his questions to me and his answers to my quizzing him, he seems to get it. Of course, then Gilbert wants to read too, but to give him a break I told him he has to stop after book 2 until he’s in late 2nd grade. One Wednesday they set up in the yard to read. They get out of school early on Wednesdays, and usually they play outside, but I want them to get some time to calm down and read since the other boys were sleeping. On this afternoon, I sat out there with them enjoying my recent copy of The Atlantic:

What better way to enjoy the outdoors?

Of course, I’m having to share my books, and it makes me cranky if they don’t return them when they’re not reading them and if they leave them about for Harlan to tear up. I might have issues. Porter also loves to read. The other day he wanted me to read to him, but I was busy with Harlan, so I said, “You read to me.” And he tried to! It was so funny. He has a little bit of an obsessive memorizing personality, and he likes to act out stories. I don’t understand why Seamus always reads in the living room where there are a million distractions instead of in his bedroom where it’s quiet. Here he is reading when Porter came up to join him:

Loves Franklin the Turtle books!

Even though we’ve been doing a lot of reading (the semester was tough, so I indulged myself with a Bossypants re-read), we’ve also been getting outside to enjoy the weather when we can. We bought two flats of strawberries at the farmer’s market and froze 8 quarts. The rest, we ate! I started a Sticker Chart Challenge in hopes of eliminating two really annoying behaviors (one from each of S & G)–we’ll see how it goes.

Nothing like a little game of catch!

Even Harlan likes to play! Can you see the ball he threw?

I had to fill out the form for Gilbert’s teacher next year. I didn’t put on there that he could chop wood independently for hours, but I did say that he likes to work on projects outside. Harlan and Porter have been playing together. They were in Porter’s room standing on the beds and laughing their heads off the other day. Harlan is just now 14 months, and I can see how we’re entering the next phase. We’ve been here before when Seamus and Gilbert were little, and it’s bittersweet because the infant stage is so lovely, but this next stage is really fun–only marginally less exhausting!

 

Updates on the Family May 10, 2017

Filed under: Events,Family Life,Growing up,Outdoor Pursuits,School for Boys — leighj @ 11:50 am

My semester is winding down erratically. I had a final on Saturday and Monday and then am waiting for one on Friday. Grades for two classes are done and in, but I like to get it all wrapped up neatly. Then I have next week, when I have work on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

We went to Charlottesville to celebrate Seamus’s birthday, and we hiked up Humpback Rocks with all the kids. It was a long way up! They did great, though, and we enjoyed the beautiful (if terrifying) view.

Yah! I’m not going to fall off!

Some of us took the easy way up! 

Afterwards, we stopped at Wegman’s and bought food for a picnic lunch. Then we headed back to Nana and PopPop’s and cooled off in the lake water since it was 95 degrees in April.

Then we had an incredibly busy week in which we registered Porter for preschool at the community center (he’s super excited!), tried to wrap up the semester of teaching, went to an evening event, and planned and hosted a party for tenure. While our sanity was in question, we had a pretty low key prep for the party–our biggest worry was whether the ground would dry out a bit. The kids had a blast at the party. Harlan rode in the ergo the whole time, Porter played with the other kids his age, and Seamus and Gilbert played wiffleball in the front yard with all of the kids ages 6 and up. They were exhausted afterward, but we did manage to feed them before the party really got going. At one point, Gilbert returned to the food table for a veggie dog and bun; I asked if he wanted ketchup. He said, “No, I’m just eating this to get my calories refilled.”

Gilbert and Patrick had stashed some wood in the shed so they’d be dry wood for the fire. Smart thinking!

Seamus’s birthday continued on Monday when I took him and two friends to play minigolf. He had wanted to go bowling, but he changed his mind to minigolf when he remembered how much he enjoys playing. Three 8-year-olds are pretty easy to manage when they are involved in a fun activity. They played two rounds and loved every minute. I was worried that one of them would get upset if he was “losing” but from the get go, they agreed not to keep score. I would put up a picture, but I don’t like adding pictures of other peoples’ kids without their permission.

Porter drives the tractor.

We went to play at a friend’s house, and Porter loved getting on and off the tractor and peddling it. One of his favorite books right now is Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site. The front loader on the tractor intrigued him. His other favorite books are all the Franklin the Turtle books. Seamus and Gilbert loved those too, and honestly, I don’t get tired of them. Porter is engaged in imaginative play almost all the time, and he likes to tell stories. It’s astounding to hear what’s going on in his head. Funny, most of the time, and pretty clear that we shouldn’t talk about things in front of him that we don’t want him to process, because he is actively listening and thinking.

Harlan is a backyard boy!

Harlan is a demon in the backyard! He is into everything and for the most part, I don’t mind. I just don’t like it when he gets in my garden and tries to eat the dirt. The other day, he said “bath.” Gilbert taught him to say backpack. And he consistently says Bye bye, Hi, Thank you, Dada, and More. He says ball when he feels like it, book sometimes, and water fairly consistently. He’s a motor mouth if someone will sit down and talk with him. He tried to take his shoes off when he came in the house (as is our custom!). He’s all over being part of the family. But the biggest point in his favor right now is that he’s night-weaned and sleeping through the night. I feel like a new person.

We’re rolling along. The garden is starting nicely, too!

chives, rosemary, radishes, mustard greens, and squash/cukes

 

Update on Harlan April 28, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Fourth Baby,Growing up — leighj @ 6:12 am

Harlan, at 13 months old, is coming along. He walks more than he crawls now, even though he still falls down. He is proficient at yelling “more!” at the table. He holds his own against all the other kids, even Gilbert. He tries to say “Thank you” because Porter gets such a positive reaction when he says it.

In the backyard, he loves the little push toys and cars. He is not a huge fan of the swing (I think he knows he’s being put in there to keep him out of the way). He likes going into the garden, and he climbs and descends the two concrete steps (I’m torn between not watching and hovering).

In the house, he’s a terrible menace with the trash and recycling. He can also reach the table and pull things off. But he loves a ball and throwing it around the room. He loves music and dancing, and he loves to watch the older boys at play. He can climb onto Seamus’s bed by himself. A bath is a real pleasure for Harlan.

When my folks were here, I took Seamus and Harlan to the hotel pool. Seamus swam like crazy, despite having played basketball and baseball all morning. Harlan LOVED the pool. I felt guilty for not taking him earlier; I also felt guilty that at Harlan’s age, Seamus was having Parent Child Swim lessons. He kicked, he splashed, he laughed, and grinned, and squealed. He let Seamus tool him around the pool. He tried to scoop water and propel himself along. When another child about his age got in the pool, he yelled “HI!” to him over and over. Sharing the joy! He had so much fun that when I accidentally let his fingers slip off mine and he dunked himself, he came up smiling and ready for more.

Here’s a little video of Harlan’s first year: (I made this one, so production values are much lower than the one Patrick made that I posted last week.)

Seamus enjoyed his birthday. He had a pancreas blowing day, but it didn’t seem to make him cranky. Rather, he enjoyed it more than usual. We are back on the no sugar bandwagon though!

 

 

Porter’s Speech April 27, 2017

Filed under: Growing up,Third Baby — leighj @ 9:29 am

I can’t believe we ever worried about Porter talking.

  • Today, he climbed into bed with us and said we were a family of blue owls.
  • His favorite song is a Spanish song, and he sings it all the time: “Manos, manos, manos, dedos, dedos, dedos, brazos, brazos, brazos, Baila baila baila!”
  • He has an active imagination with his toys. A few days ago, he told me his little dinosaur was sad and that the little dinosaur was lost. Then he went back over to the couch to resume the game.
  • He gets pronouns confused and will say things like “Harlan is playing with her car.”
  • He asks permission for everything. “Can I go outside?” “Can I have some more?” “Can I play with that?” It’s so nice to have him be polite and reserved. Unlike some brothers I know.
  • He gives compliments. Nice shoes Mama! Good soup Dada! Oh, good basketball Seamus!
  • When he’s upset, he does give us the NO! It’s mine. Let me have it.

His nonverbal communication is also strong. We’ve seen many moments lately of smiles and eye movement, but also as observed by others, “He can make the downturned mouth very effective!”

 

Seamus’s Birthday–Eight! April 26, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Growing up — leighj @ 10:16 am

For Seamus’s birthday, he’s having a lot of experiences. We got him one present (a Perplexus Epic) which is a sort of maze/labyrinth. He was pretty excited (haha):

Birthday!

Although, Gilbert really wanted to open it for him. Porter kept alternating between yelling “HAPPY BIRTHDAY SEAMUS!” and “Can I have a croissant?” Seamus requested chocolate croissants for breakfast, Three Ingredient Brownies for school treat, Charthouse date with Dada, and bowling with friends. We’ll be working on this for a while.

I can’t believe he’s eight. We’re so happy to have him, even if he was arguing this morning that he won’t be eight until later this afternoon. Mr. Bean Counter. So I one upped him and told him that the time zone different meant he had to wait two more hours than he thought! I don’t think I’m setting a good example for not bean counting…

 

NYC By the Numbers April 16, 2017

Filed under: Academic,Family Life,Growing up,Holidays,Travel — leighj @ 8:58 pm

3: nights we stayed in the city

4: children we took

8: playgrounds visited

I was joking with my mom that we were on a tour of Manhattan playgrounds, and that we’d seen them all, when I realized that was a gross misstatement, and in fact, we had probably barely scratched the surface of the playground situation. It was funny; they were all crowded, but at times that entirely depended on which schools were taking their recess there at a certain time.

Monkey bars are a hit no matter where you go.

5: restaurants visited

We love the food in NYC. We ate a few meals by necessity out, but our favorite way to go with kids is to eat the heck out of the free hotel breakfast, then eat out for lunch if that’s part of the plan, and order take-out for dinner. This is mostly because the delicious ethnic food restaurants are so tiny I couldn’t face taking a stroller inside. So we brought Thai and Greek food back to the hotel room. We ended up doing Greek two nights because it was so tasty! (And there’s a story about Indian food that I was going to order, but when I got to the restaurant someone was being arrested by 10 cops, so I decided that was a sign I should go get Greek food.) Otherwise, we ate at the museums we visited–not great food, but serviceable. And one day we happened on a Biergarten with outdoor seating. The food was much better than expected there! I’ll tell you about the food on the second leg of our trip in a separate post.

4: movies watched with hotel Netflix

We don’t do much screen time at home, but we do movies on non-school nights. It was very helpful that we restrict because in the hotel, we let them go nuts on the Netflix, which was hilarious and kind of sad. We didn’t feel too bad about it because the room was small (soooooo small), and it was a way to keep the three older boys contained on the bed.

3.5: books listened to in the car

This is how we prefer to pass the time. Although, if I have to hear Stockard Channing read one more Ramona book in a whine, I might have to stab myself in the ears….

2: science museums checked off

We had planned on going to Battery Park on our way into the city, (bonus drive through Brooklyn), but as we approached the city it started raining, and we went for plan B: the Liberty Science Museum and Liberty State Park. The science museum was interesting, but not as great as Richmond’s. A highlight was that the rain cleared and we were able to get out of the car and get good views of the back of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island.

Playing in the infinity climber. Seamus and Gilbert are in the middle.

2: visits to Central Park

The weather was so lovely, we had to spend some time in the park. We watched part of a softball game, explored the fun playgrounds (epic slide!) on the Southern part of the park, and saw horses and pedicabs. We rode the Carousel, but missed the Chess and Checkers house (next time!).

Balto the Medicine Delivery Dog!

Honestly, they didn’t even need play equipment.

The rocks in Central Park were fun enough for the boys to have enjoyed for hours. They also like thinking about Peter Hatcher in the Fudge books. He has a special rock he likes to sit on in Central Park. This really came alive for them after exploring the rocks on their own.

I love photos of kids in the park with the buildings in the back.

4: Ice cream cones eaten.

I took Seamus and Gilbert to the park while Porter napped, and I figured I’d get them a treat. They were enthralled with the street food carts, so we did ice cream. But not before they saw the Plaza Hotel, which I’m embarrassed to admit wasn’t recognizable for literary reasons, but for Home Alone 2: Lost in New York!

The Plaza, and the Handsome Cabs.

Checking out Times Square.

And in Times Square, they liked seeing the ball and all the giant TVs. They weren’t very interested in the costumed performers, but Gilbert wanted to go in the M&M store badly (we didn’t). As far as I can tell they paid the nearly naked people no mind.

1: Cool thing I’d never heard of

We walked on the High Line, and elevated train track that has been turned into a park. Great views, and the helicopters going out into the Hudson nearly clip you. This also allowed us to see the Mega Buses loading (and I will never take one. That was a circus.) and experience a truly interesting set of art installations.

Brr! It was cold in the wind.

Beams to climb on and use as a maze.

3: days I spent at the conference doing work

It’s nice to combine family fun with work, and the best part about the conference was that I could really do that. I could go to a panel after the kids were settled, but before bed (so interesting on the Latinx v. Latina/o v. Latin@), and I could get in a full day with panels, including my student’s paper who came up to present, and then I could get in a day on Saturday before we had to leave out. I have lots of new ideas for writing and texts to teach! Plus, my paper generated some good feedback and ways to think about the work more.

I know there’s more, but at 1000 words, I’ll stop here. More in a few days. Here’s the blog from the time we went to NYC when Seamus and Gilbert were little, and the blog from the time I went by myself.

 

 

Taking Children to University Lecture April 7, 2017

Filed under: Academic,Family Life,Growing up — leighj @ 1:58 pm

I took Seamus and Gilbert to a lecture on veganism, animal research, and Christian beliefs. It started at 7, and I figured it would be over by 8. It wasn’t. However, the boys were engaged, interested, and eager for tasting the vegan food promised in the reception afterward. I felt a little funny having them there when I realized how much concentration would be required. They really got it, though, and enjoyed the ways in which the presenter brought together Michael Vick (dogfighting), factory farming, experimentation on primate brains, and verses from the bible.

Afterwards, they tried the spring rolls, potstickers, veggies, and vegan cake. They asked how you would make a cake without milk (and I explained about soy milk “Oh yeah” they said as they remember that we’ve bought that before). Gilbert and Seamus loved the cake and asked if they could be vegans. Maybe they thought vegans only eat cake?

Seamus, who had paid a lot of attention to the lecture, was just dying to ask a question at the end. He finally turned to me and said, “I thought of a question, ‘Why can’t Christians just be vegetarian? Why do they need to be vegan?'” and I discouraged him from asking. The very next question came from another professor, and was essentially the same question Seamus asked. Afterward, I was really upset with myself for stifling his innate curiosity. He loves to ask questions, but people don’t always respond well to him asking constantly so he’s learning to stop asking. I wish I weren’t one of the people who had stopped him.

Anyway, I think it will only get to be more fun taking them to lectures, events, and performances on campus. They go for the food and stay for the love of learning.