Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Granny Day Party January 12, 2018

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Holidays,Travel — leighj @ 6:19 am

On Saturday, I headed to Louisville to celebrate my granny’s birthday. Porter and Harlan came along. We had a pretty good flight, with the exception of Porter throwing a tantrum and kicking the chair in front of him. GRR. There were so few people on the plane, but of course, there was someone sleeping (or trying to) in front of him. We had a fun visit, even if we did get banned forever from some stores. Haha.


Before the party on Sunday, I took Porter and Harlan downtown to the Kentucky Science Center. They enjoyed Naked Boy (can you see the gold replica of David in the background) and the giant Louisville Slugger bat (not pictured, but visible in this post). Maybe Louisville has some phallic issues? Hmm? It was slightly warmer on Sunday, but 29 degrees feels downright balmy when the day before was 9 degrees and windchill!

The Kentucky Science Center was a Hit! I do think one of the best things we did this year was join the science center passport program. So fun, and we visited so many!

Concave Mirror outside museum.

They got a kick out of everything, but they especially loved the gravitron, the dangling beads, the build a roller coaster and sitting in the Smart Car.

So fun to play with the hanging beads.

At my cousin’s house, which was drop-dead gorgeous, they played with Wall-E, the cats, and had a meal of chili and fruit. Everyone was in good spirits, and it was fun to catch up with the family.

Harlan jumped in there.

I got worried about my flight getting cancelled, like the last time I was in Louisville. See above post with the bat. I was a neurotic mess, and as such, I got my flight changed and flew out of Nashville the next day. That ended up being great, but another two hours of driving for my folks. The boys were very good on that flight and getting home was much easier at 4:00 than 5:30. We’re back now, and the best part was watching the brothers reunite!


Christmas Recap December 27, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Growing up,Holidays,Travel — leighj @ 3:27 pm

It’s been a whirlwind of a holiday. On Thursday, my friend had a beautiful baby, and I was feeling really lucky to get to go visit on Friday morning. He was alert and just a squishy adorable little thing. We had a solstice party at our neighbor’s house, which was festive and exciting to see everyone gathered. Friday night, we spent with Patrick’s cousins–including four of their children. It means 8 kids between 9-1. You can imagine that it was loud, but delightful to see them all together. Some of the older kids took Harlan and Porter under their wings and played with him. He liked the attention, but kept close tabs on me, lest he be left with a “babysitter.”

The older boys (all three!) enjoyed Mr. Popper’s Penguins, although it was the loudest audience I’ve ever seen at the Kennedy Center. Right now the Kennedy Center is all lit up with rainbow lights at night, and it’s one of the best things about driving the GW Parkway currently. We had a quick and pleasant visit at Nana and PopPop’s. The boys loved their gifts (Porter calls the remote controlled cars “Rocomo cars”).

Seamus was excited!

The best part of the cars is that they’ll clean the floor so they can run them around!

Porter got a truck from his other grandparents and he joined in on the fun, until we discovered that two of them are the same hertz or something and can be controlled by one controller. Harlan wasn’t super interested, but he was pretty sure he needed in on the action too. He liked his baby; and he really likes “reading” to her.

Here he is on the step stool trying to give baby a bath.

His language has exploded! I can’t count all the new words, but he does say step stool, Hi Grandaddy, Hi PopPop, Hi Grandude, and he likes to point at strange men and say “Dada!” He also says night night for Pajamas, deep deep for diaper. He loves to be on the step stool in the kitchen shredding cheese, stirring pots, measuring things, putting clean dishes back in the sink, and more. He’s a little scary around the hot pans, knives, and the oven door. We have to keep a close eye on him, but he’s quick!

Christmas Eve we joined friends for pizza and champagne and play time. It was just the perfect evening for us, but then again, we didn’t have to do clean up. The boys wrote letters for Santa, we checked the Santa tracker, read “The Night Before Christmas” and hustled the kids to bed. That’s our tradition. My friend has a tradition of writing her thank you notes in a bar the day after Christmas, I think we need a New Year’s Eve tradition of that, or something–to think about gratitude, and tying up loose ends. Anyway, Patrick and I stayed up not too late waiting for Santa to come!

Christmas morning, we did Santa presents, and it was mildly disappointing, as Santa had not procured Pokemon cards, but had provided binders with pages to store the cards. Gilbert also claimed to have “proof” that Santa didn’t exist because he left some trash behind in the recycling can. Then we had Christmas lunch with Grandude and Grandma–lovely and the kids would have played all day, but we had more to do! My parents arrived and they set up “Santa” on the couch for the boys. By then they had a lot to play with and show off.

Keeps showing everyone his cards.

Finally my mom revealed the big present she made for Porter:

A Real Robin Hood outfit!

Gilbert loves it too of course, and wore it the whole Settlers of Catan game during nap time yesterday. Seamus and Gilbert are off swimming at the hotel, the older three have enjoyed breakfast at the hotel, and Patrick and I agree that it’s been a wonderfully full time of friends and family–just a perfect way to celebrate the end of the year and the beginning of the new year. Hope you’ve had fun too!


Outings December 3, 2017

Filed under: DC Exploration,Events,Family Life,Holidays,Travel — leighj @ 1:55 pm

It was fun having Seamus play soccer this fall, mostly because he enjoyed it so much and developed some good sportsmanship and teamwork skills. On the other hand, it wrecked our social life. Since he had soccer practice on Friday night and games on Saturdays, we had few options for getting together with friends. We also missed taking family day trips on Saturdays. After soccer ended, we did a trip to Richmond. We had so much fun doing that (which I did manage to write about), we tried to go to Philadelphia the next weekend. Unfortunately, they were having their marathon too! We bailed out and went to Wilmington, DE. The Delaware Natural History Museum was fun and interesting. There was a scavenger hunt to keep S&G entertained, and the shells at Harlan level were lots of interesting textures for him.

In front of the museum.

Then we tried to go to lunch, but we had a mega miss. The food was good, but the atmosphere was way too stuffy for a family. We were particularly alarmed that the internet had suggested the place as family-friendly. To us, family friendly is loud and paper tablecloths. It was fine, though, and everyone got plenty to eat, but Harlan fell off the bench right at the end, so we did have to make a loud exit, even if they’d held it together pretty well up to that point!

We enjoyed our post-Thanksgiving outing with our friends and their kids. The puppet show was entertaining, and Harlan was interested, but he couldn’t sit quietly for 45 minutes. I had to take him out after 25 minutes, and I was able to bring him back in for the dragon and Russian dancers, but he started talking too much about the “DOGGIES” during the sheep scene, so he had to leave again! Soon, we’ll all be able to enjoy a show. I hope.

Scottish Walk 2017!

Yesterday, we went to the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade in Old Town. It seems to get to be more fun every year. The kids waved flags, cheered for the Star Wars characters, petted the doggies that went by, and bounced to the bagpiping. We then went to a party afterward for my colleagues (just Seamus, Gilbert, and me). They ran around the yard for 4 solid hours with all the other kids, and then we caught Metro home. It’s been a long time since we were on Metro, but we got one of the new cars! It was something different from how I usually spend time in transit with the kids, and I found myself thinking it would be fun to metro with them downtown soon.

So, yeah. Our holiday fun is in full swing!


Holiday Fun Plans November 25, 2017

We are gearing up for our family (generally low-key) lead up to the nice time off for all of us. So far, we have some fun stuff planned to get into a festive spirt.

  • A puppet show (The Nutcracker), with friends at Glen Echo Park. We have an almost annual tradition of the Saturday after Thanksgiving with them. It’s always fun, but this year…
  • Seamus to Nana and PopPop’s for a fun by-himself visit.
  • Putting up the tree and other decorations.
  • Zoolights, members week. It’s always more fun when we don’t have to pay, and they give us tickets for the carousel!
  • Santa Fire Truck. This might be my favorite! Falls Church fire truck gets all decked out, and goes down all the streets with Santa on top waving to the kids.
  • A play at the Kennedy Center–Mr. Popper’s Penguins. It’ll be Porter’s first time at the Kennedy center; we think he’s ready to sit still and enjoy a show.
  • The Old Town Scottish Walk and Boat Parade. This is always fun too, especially if the weather is nice, as we have a place to warm up and sit right in front along the parade route.
  • A showing of Charlotte’s Web. This is at the children’s theatre, and we’re taking Seamus and Gilbert.
  • Work Christmas Party. We already have a babysitter, and I’ll be ready to turn in my grades and say ciao to this semester!
  • Seamus and Gilbert have a cookie party to go to.
  • Porter is going to go see Frosty the Snowman with his grandparents. Hmm…we have a lot of theatre!
  • My friend is singing in a Chorale concert, so we’re hoping to get to that too.

We’ll probably try to get in a few other events that sound like more fun than crowds! Mostly, I’m just really excited to have time to spend with the kids that I’m not worried about finishing something else.


Thanksgiving Food Recap November 24, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Holidays — leighj @ 6:04 pm

We didn’t make anything too exciting for Thanksgiving, but we had a relaxing time cooking and getting everything ready. Grandparents took the three older kids for most of the day Wednesday so we could cook. Harlan was under the weather (again!–last year he was really sick on Thanksgiving), but we slipped out for a bit, leaving him with the girl next door. I asked Seamus and Gilbert what they wanted on the menu and they each supplied some requests. Gilbert helped with the shopping (coerced, but helpful).

Here’s what we had:

  • Appetizer–Artichoke Dip (brought by grandparents), Salad, and Carrots/Ranch
  • Sides–Brussels Sprouts, Mashed Potatoes, Fried Chicken Tofu, Gravy, Corn, Sweet Potatoes, Beets, Cranberry Sauce, Stuffing, Green Bean Casserole
  • Dessert–Apple Pie, Pecan Pie, Pumpkin Pie

Seamus helped with the Fried Chicken Tofu, while Porter and Harlan had a bath, and Gilbert and Patrick chopped wood. Then, he did the gravy by himself with some direction from me. Gilbert mashed the potatoes. It was really nice having extra hands to help at the busiest time(s).

I also managed to get to yoga yesterday AND today, so I’m sore and happy. Porter had a good “thankful” comment, “The Moon!” Ever since I taught them the DOC rule, he keeps asking if it’s waxing or waning.

We hope you had a wonderful holiday, however you celebrated!


Halloween! November 5, 2017

Filed under: Childhood Memory,Family Life,Holidays,In My Neighborhood — leighj @ 10:06 am

We had an assortment of costumes this year.


Gilbert was Luke Skywalker, Harlan borrowed a lion costume, Seamus got lots of laughs as Captain Underpants, and Porter looked sweet like an M&M.

They had a great time trick-or-treating. Harlan was happy in the stroller, until he figured out the other boys were getting stuff at the houses they approached. We went to two streets that had been closed to traffic. I love that! But it did mean that the kids were potentially easier to lose, since we weren’t watching them as closely. Porter loved the whole process, and said, “Happy Halloween!” very enthusiastically. We always start with our neighbors and get a neighborhood picture, then we all split off. We went over to Patrick’s dad’s neighborhood after we did our neighborhood so they could show off their costumes a little more.

There have been no fights about candy! Two weeks ago, they were already fighting about it, before they’d even gotten any! I said, “There will be no fighting at all about the candy, or I will take it all away.” And they picked out five pieces each to keep, sorted it thoroughly for two days, and I took the leftovers to my students. It feels like we managed much better this year than usual.

It was fun! Patrick and I have been so tired with Porter and Harlan waking up before 5:30 almost every morning, and Halloween seemed kind of like another late night chore, but I’m happy to say that the kids were great–well-behaved, polite, and excited–and that made us have more fun than we thought we would! Also, funny story: they realized on our trip to Kentucky that my parents have no close neighbors. Seamus and Gilbert were appalled: “How did you trick-or-treat!?”


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.