Academic Leigh Speaking

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

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.


Things We’re Looking Forward to This Summer June 17, 2017

Filed under: DC Exploration,Events,Family Life,Holidays,Summer Vacation — leighj @ 3:26 pm

This post will probably come off as really annoying, so sorry in advance. Don’t read it if you’re not someone who likes to gleefully gloss over the potential pitfalls. I simply cannot wait for the kids to be out of school and for us to start the summer. So forgive me (and ignore the hypocrisy) in a few weeks when I’m ready for them to go back! In no particular order:

I’m looking forward to so many things. I don’t know if eight weeks will really be enough:

  1. Travel plans (Cape Cod, Southeast, Jersey Shore, Virginia)
  2. Visits from friends
  3. The water parks and exploring our immediate areas
  4. Reading for fun (I think I have more stacked up than I can do)
  5. Writing two articles (maybe three, if I can eek it out)
  6. Watching the kids grow and learn (the pool is a huge marker of success so far–I set a goal to swim every day it’s not raining, and that we’re here. We haven’t quite made that, but we’ve been close.)
  7. Yoga
  8. The CSA and the garden
  9. Getting out on the bikes with the kids. This year the two younger boys fit on the seats on the adult bikes, and the older boys are proficient on their own bikes.
  10. Our neighbor babysitting the kids some

I guess you could say I’m caught between two wonderful tensions of being home for the comforts and delights that home promises and being away for the excitement and adventure that vacation promises.

The older boys want to swim and travel. They want to see grandparents and friends. They especially want to do things like go bowling, play mini-golf, have a baseball game with friends, eat ice cream, and get their summer reading prizes. They even are looking forward to the reading and listening to books on tape.

Porter wants to swim and play. He dreams of going to his friend Max’s basement. He also is ready to go to school. The other day, he came across Gilbert’s unattended backpack and put it on. He proceeded to have a whole dialogue with himself about going to school.

I’m not sure Harlan knows what summer means, but he’s pretty excited about the pool and being outside every minute he can be. Patrick has some wonderful professional things in the works, but those are his story to tell.


Memorial Day Festivities May 31, 2017

Filed under: DC Exploration,Events,Growing up,Holidays,In My Neighborhood — leighj @ 3:17 pm

We had a great Memorial Day weekend, with the exception of the rain which kept us on our toes. We had some friends and neighbors over for hot dogs on Saturday; on Sunday, we visited with Patrick’s cousins (I played a mean game of Can Jam for the first time!); and on Monday, we lived it up in our community. In the morning, there is a family 3K fun run. We let Seamus and Gilbert go ahead of us, with a prearranged meeting spot at the finish. They loved doing the run with friends (and by themselves). We’re trying to let them build independence in ways that are safe, with the idea that when they’re 18 they’ll be ready to leave home for good. Haha. I think the tight quarters will convince them of that! Anyway. Seamus very much wanted it to be a race, and we think Gilbert just ran along thinking thoughts to himself and drinking from every water station. I had expected the boys to stay together, but they didn’t, which was fine. Patrick pushed the stroller, and we walked in the throngs then finally jogged, and toward the end of the run, it thinned out so we could run. I haven’t run in about five years, so that was both delightful and painful.

After the run, we collected our t-shirts and went home to rest up before the parade. Both older boys completed their Operation EarthWatch activities this year, thus were eligible to march in the parade:

Seamus has the four Rs (Reduce, Recycle, Reuse, and Repair), and Gilbert wants you to “Save the Earthworms”

I have to admit that I was much more comfortable with the logistics this year, so I could get them easily and know where to drop them, etc. Porter wasn’t too impressed with the parade:

We planned for him to sleep in the stroller.

The regular parade fare: marching bands, dancers, school mascots, and more. When the Earthwatchers went by, Gilbert had a surprise for me:

Here’s my tooth!

He had lost a tooth as he was marching along! That evening, he hid it in his bed, and the tooth fairy couldn’t find it. So the TF left him a note saying that he’d get his money when the TF got the tooth. He said the handwriting looked like Grandaddy’s and maybe Grandaddy was the Tooth Fairy! So he did a better job the next night, and got his four quarters.

Between walking to the Community Center and back twice, marching the parade route, and running the 3K, I think we easily logged 5 miles on Monday. The kids were pooped! And so were we. It was a wonderful family weekend.



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.



Pictures to Support Recent Posts February 21, 2017

I wasn’t able to put up pictures from our weekend away, so here they are.

The children’s museum was educational, if a little overstimulating in places.

"Scares me!"--Porter

“Scares me!”–Porter

They had a space where children could pretend to be a dentist and work on a patient.

They had a space where children could pretend to be a dentist and work on a patient.

Porter and Harlan both loved the train exhibit.

Porter and Harlan both loved the train exhibit.

We put on a puppet show! Porter loved the theater part of the children's museum.

We put on a puppet show! Porter loved the theater part of the children’s museum.

The colored dots were pleasingly psychedelic.

The colored dots were pleasingly psychedelic.

Gilbert rocked the goggles.

Gilbert rocked the goggles.

Skiing with cousins is more fun!

Skiing with cousins is more fun!

The weather has been so warm, this may be our only good winter picture this year!

The weather has been so warm, this may be our only good winter picture this year!


An Experiment December 30, 2016

Filed under: Family Life,Growing up,Holidays — leighj @ 11:07 am

We’re coming down off the Christmas excitement, but we’ve also embarked on a small experiment. Gilbert is going to spend two nights away from the whole family at his Nana and PopPop’s. We figured one kid at a time could go away. Gilbert asked to go first, so we said okay. Seamus will go inauguration weekend, when he has a Friday off from school. I remember spending the night with my relatives as a kid, and it was always fun to be the only child for a few days. So, we’ll see how it goes! (With all parties!)

Porter has learned a lot of words while Seamus and Gilbert have been home. We’ve heard: Mine. Go away. Don’t bother me. Get off me. Move away. Stop. Don’t. No, I do it. Help me. Most of these are directed at Seamus or Gilbert, and yet, he does have to tell Harlan sometimes too. However, he and Harlan are playing much more nicely together than they have in the past. It’s fun to see, and it’s almost a reboot of Seamus and Gilbert as kids, except Porter is more assertive and Harlan is not quite as insistent.

I took the tree down today. I like the tree, but it always feels like a new house to get the Christmas stuff put away.

There are a hundred things I’ve thought of lately, like “Oh, I want to put that in the blog” but I can’t remember any of them right now…


Christmas Recap December 28, 2016

Filed under: Childhood Memory,Friends and Relatives,Holidays — leighj @ 7:16 am

As school was out for me, I took advantage of a few days off to get things positioned to an easier holiday break for the family. First, I galavanted off with my friend Indigo to relax for an afternoon. Patrick and I rediscovered the joy of White Russians (but not too many!). On Tuesday, we prepped the house for Santa–wrapping the Santa presents for the first time. This was done so my parents could see the kids on Christmas morning without us trying to coordinated wake up times. I also biffed the Sign Up Genius for Gilbert’s class gingerbread party. Somehow I had made is so people could sign up for one of 22 slots for a gingerbread cookie. A long story, but I ended up on the hook for making 22 gingerbread people that morning. (To answer the question from the last post: I didn’t make more cookies for the neighbors, since I had to make cookies for his class.) Gingerbread is fun to make because it smells so good. Last year, when I made it, one batch turned out good and one batch turned out bad, and I could not remember what the difference was! It was all fine though.

Wednesday, the kids were excited and wiped out from school. We headed to the lake on Thursday to celebrate with Nana and PopPop. I forget what it’s like traveling with newly potty-trained kids. Porter was great (no accidents) but we did stop a lot. And then Gilbert needed to stop! But we made it. We had fun with Nana and PopPop. The kids liked jumping in the leaves that PopPop had raked up. I’ve almost forgotten how sick Harlan was, but we managed to get him a late in the day appointment at the doctor. Good thing, because they would be closed the next three days, and he did need meds for his ear.

Christmas Eve, the boys wrote their letters to Santa, we watched the cartoon Grinch, my parents came, and we put the kids to bed relatively early. I was too excited on Christmas morning trying to organize times, and so forth, but when Seamus got up to go to the bathroom about 6:05, I told him it was still really early. He peeked to see if Santa had come, and satisfied, he went back to bed.

The last few days have been a blur of cousins, food, coffee, toys, books, and more. Yesterday was balmy and the boys played outside all day. I got a haircut (finally!).

Hot Tub fun at Nana's.

Hot Tub fun at Nana’s.

Seamus played Lego all morning.

Seamus played Lego all morning.

Porter loved the house Santa recycled for him.

Porter loved the house Santa recycled for him.

Harlan was feeling much better!

Harlan was feeling much better!

Gilbert built a fire and kept it going.

Gilbert built a fire and kept it going.