Academic Leigh Speaking

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

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.


Holiday Fun Continued December 18, 2016

Filed under: DC Exploration,Family Life,Holidays,In My Neighborhood — leighj @ 2:42 pm

We’ve been to some holiday parties (the boys love a party when there are other kids around!). We’ve also baked and delivered cookies to our neighbors, gone to Union Station to see the train and go to the postal museum, and run out for the Santa fire truck. If that sounds like we’re batting a thousand, well that’d be the glossy image, and not the truth of the matter. For instance, when we delivered cookies, we delivered to our next door neighbors. Three neighborhood girls were there. We’d only baked enough cookies for two of their families. Now I don’t know–bake more cookies and take them around to the left out neighbors this week, or say, whatever we don’t see them that much anyway? Either way, I feel hamstrung. A friend told me the other day, “Oh, don’t worry about that; I don’t think you need to feel bad about it.” I said, “Oh, but I can find a way to feel guilty about anything!”

As far at the Union Station event, that went pretty well, except the train wasn’t on. Nevermind, there was a huge tree gift from Norway to look at. Haha. There were displays about the melting polar ice all around it. The Postal Museum is cool–definitely worth a visit if you live in the area. Empty, lots of hands on exhibits, with some inappropriate humor thrown in for adults. I like to park at Union Station because it’s convenient, and if you get your parking validated, relatively inexpensive. Today…I lost the ticket…so we had to pay the daily maximum…which, if you’re wondering, is not relatively inexpensive for a Sunday morning.

The Santa fire truck is fun. The kids were totally wound up about it coming by. It didn’t make it to our street until 9:07 pm, and we yanked them out of bed to go see it. We missed it though, as it’d already turned the corner by the time we got to the corner. We tried to run, but it didn’t work. Porter was freezing, and instead of magic Santa looks, he just asked if he could go back to bed.

Mostly though, it’s been fine. I played a game with Seamus and Gilbert yesterday morning while Harlan napped and Porter was deeply involved in his trains. Today, Harlan and Porter are having a simultaneous afternoon nap, and Patrick has taken the older boys bowling. One thing they are loving is Egg Nog. I’ve bought some organic egg nog, and we’ve tried all the vegan varieties (Silk Nog, Almond Nog, Holiday Nog–Coconut). The boys have it for dessert at night, and they love sprinkling their own nutmeg on top. Overall, even if the big events aren’t a shining success, they are memorable, and we’re having lots of nice smaller moments. I’m planning to make a Yule Log for Christmas dessert. I’ve never done that before, so it should be a fun project.

And now, for the big question: Should I bake more cookies?


Holiday Cheer December 4, 2016

Filed under: Holidays,In My Neighborhood — leighj @ 12:20 pm

We finally made it out of the house!

The Old Town Alexandria Scottish Walk was yesterday, so we trekked down there, found a long term parking spot, and strolled over to the parade. It was a chilly day, but the sun was out, and the geese/ducks/seagulls were out on the Oronoco Bay. We had a leisurely walk to the parade, and set up in front of my friend’s office. She and her family came, and we watched (there was a lot of candy collected!). I love the bagpipers and the dog rescue groups that walk in the parade. We enjoyed the old cars and the Hoverboarding Grinch and Cindy Lou Who. When our hands went numb, we went inside and watched the parade through the windows.

After the parade, we visited a bit with our friends and then Patrick and Porter went home so Porter could nap, and the other three boys and I went to a work party. It was fun and festive. Harlan, after sharing blocks with his little baby friend, decided to whack his friend with the blocks. I did not see that coming.

Now that there is a slight sense of hope in our house, we have a lot to make up for. This week is members week at Zoolights, so we’ll go tomorrow night. We also are hoping to see the Santa fire engine, go to the Postal Museum and Union Station, and maybe catch a Nutcracker puppet show.


Easter, Spring, and More Pictures March 31, 2016

Filed under: Events,Family Life,Holidays,In My Neighborhood,Kid comparisons — leighj @ 12:43 pm
Porter always wants to be in the bouncy seat.

Porter always wants to be in the bouncy seat.

But then, so did Seamus…

Seamus in Gilbert's Chair

Seamus in Gilbert’s Chair

Easter Bunny

Easter Bunny

Harlan wakes up a little more each day. He’s fun to hang out with. Gilbert wanted me to put him down this morning so he could play with him. He played with him so much that when the older boys got on the bus, Harlan sighed and went to sleep. It’s hard work having to please a bunch of older brothers!

Seamus and Gilbert seem to be glad to be back at school. Routine and all. However, the change in weather means they keep coming out of their room with the most ridiculous (and often seasonally inappropriate) attire. We only send them back to change one time, so whatever lands on their bodies second is what they head off in.

I’m working madly on a reference article for a work deadline. It was due 3/18, but I had to ask for an extension, since there was no way I could get it done the week Harlan was born. It’s taken my whole week, but I’m 1350 words into 2500, so I’m feeling good. It’s due tomorrow.

Easter was fun! We did the egg hunt at the community center park. One area is for 0-3, one for 4-6, and one for 7-11. Seamus wanted to hunt in the 7-11 area, Gilbert in 4-6, and Porter needed 0-3. Some friends joined us, and Patrick tried to supervise both G & S. It was a bit of a zoo, because the hunt stares at 10:00, and by 10:02, it is OVER. I helped Porter pick up one egg for his basket, and then he managed to get the idea in time to pick up one more egg. He was awfully proud of himself.

Later, we hid the eggs in the backyard, and Seamus and Gilbert looked for them, but mostly they complained that the eggs were too hard to find. To be fair, they did spend about 7 hours outside that day because we wouldn’t let them in the house.

Porter ready to hunt!

Porter ready to hunt!