Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Busy End of Winter March 19, 2018

Filed under: Events,Family Life,Friends and Relatives,House Improvement — leighj @ 4:41 am

I am so READY for spring time. It’s been cold and dreary too long.

  • March Madness. Seamus was so anxious to fill out his bracket. I think he was afraid the games would start without him! He picked Kansas to win, and sadly, his bracket is looking to best out of all of ours on the wall. Gilbert picked Villanova, Patrick picked UVA, and I picked Tennessee, just for something different. I want a do over! But Gilbert has actually taken to erasing things on his. It makes Seamus furious–I don’t really see why, since we aren’t competing..
  • #MeToo. I was on a faculty speakers panel on campus to talk about the #MeToo movement and how sexual assault and sexual harassment affect campuses. I got to talk a little about how we think about bodies and personal space, and my comments got some good questions from the students, so I felt vindicated.
  • Spring Break. It’s not very spring-y but we went to Kentucky. We rented a Kia Soul, picked out by the kids. I liked that I could see out of it, but it didn’t have much pick up. I’m going to do a separate post about the visit. Keep an eye out later this week.
  • Yard work. Our yard looks terrible! The kids have killed all the grass with soccer, baseball, basketball, and football playing. I got some grass seed and tried reseeding it. We’ll see how it goes. I really want there to be grass, so that wen we have a party or just have kids playing in the back, it’s not a mud pit.
  • It’s been a very frustrating month, with lots of things breaking. We had a wind storm that sent flying debris into out back window of the van. It broke. Ugh. And then it took two weeks to get the part and get it replaced. Our dryer gave up the ghost too, so we had clothes drying all over the house. Our landlord came back to town and hunted down a new one. So at least both those things are better, but it was difficult to deal with, while I was also dealing with a really busy time at work.

    Fixing the van for the ride home.

  • I wrote a lot recently. That’s nice, since I’m going on sabbatical next year.
  • We had a fun trip to the Richmond Science Museum. They boys tried to fly blimps through a hula hoop, experimented with upright and recombinant bikes, and played with the light tables. It would have been more fun, if that hadn’t been where the debris hit the van, and we had to drive 2 hours home with the window broken! But it was kind of cool to go back inside and watch the video of the umbrella hitting it…

    Trying out the bikes.

  • Harlan says all his brothers’ names now. Porter is PohPoh, Gilbert is BoopBoop (again!), and Seamus is Missh.
  • St. Patrick’s Day was fun. Green bagels, a birthday bowling party for Porter to go to, and just hanging out. Patrick didn’t dress up in any crazy outfits, but we all had fun, and all the boys had a lot of green on! They kept calling it St. Dada’s Day!

    His vintage St. Paddy’s Day shirt.

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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.

 

Clean Spaces January 11, 2017

I cleaned my office on Friday last week, and we’ve been keeping the house a bit neater (when possible–the kids are pretty good at messifying it). It is nice to have some open space–makes it easier to think. However, I find that I’m not quite ready for work as I’m now wandering about wondering what I should do.

A long time ago, I wrote about using KonMari methods to tidy our space. We didn’t do full bore tidying, but we did a lot of work around the house, especially with regard to clothes, papers, toys, and books. I am pleased with our efforts on nights like last night when cleaning the house up just meant returning everything to the bins they had been in! Last night, Gilbert was the biggest helper in cleaning up the common space. I think it was because he and I had been silly instead of antagonistic earlier in the evening. (It involved singing Andrea Bocelli’s (Time to Say Goodbye) with the words, “Gilbert doesn’t want to get dressed but if he doesn’t it will be “Time to GO TO TIME OUT” sit in the kitchen for hours, now he’ll go brush his teeth, get all clean, comb his hair… etc.) Pretty hilarious, except Porter got upset and wanted Gilbert to actually go to time out.

And, per the new recommendations, we gave Harlan some peanut butter. I want to say that nothing happened, but that would be untrue. He grinned, and clapped, and squealed, and demanded more peanut butter! It is the best thing he has ever tasted! (Friends with a young baby were laughing with us that it’s funny with babies because this is the first time in their lives that they have ever tasted a food, so it’s novel and exciting–I’m not describing the feeling well.)

Ok, the most fun thing that happened recently was snow:

Porter's snow bibs!

Porter’s snow bibs!

Harlan practices standing without holding on!

Harlan practices standing without holding on!

 

CSA, One Nice Day, and Our Garden May 17, 2016

Filed under: Family Life,Growing up,House Improvement,Outdoor Pursuits — leighj @ 10:06 am
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We decided to join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) and so on Saturday, we drove out to the farm. While there, we saw the chickens that would lay the eggs, the dog that guards the place, and met the farmer. His name is Leigh, and he used to be a high school English teacher. We also got to go into the greenhouse:

Harvesting Greens

Harvesting Greens

It was a hoot, and the boys really loved pulling up the lettuces and kale. That evening, the boys devoured two large trays of homemade kale chips. I got one bite, because I went to campus to attend the graduation awards ceremony. They were so excited to eat what they’d picked, that Gilbert even had a salad the next night. We’re very eager to see how this all works out. By all indications, we should have CSA goods into October. If the boys continue to enjoy the veggies, it will be well worth it. Patrick and I will enjoy them anyway.

We also picked up two dozen delicious farm eggs and two trays of seedlings. The boys picked the seedlings. I managed to slip three tomato plants into Gilbert’s before he noticed, but we got a lot of broccoli seedings, some basil, and about 8 ground cherry seedlings. (Thanks Uncle John, for the inspiration!). I also got them to pick up some Swiss chard. But they picked up catnip. We don’t have a cat!

On Sunday, Gilbert and Porter and I went to Home Depot to prep some things to make the garden grow. We ended up with a few different items trying to figure out what would work best. I’ll make some pictures, but we have a raised bed, a flat bed with ground cover and a picket fence, and some deck planters. I’ve got low expectations for what’s growing, but it’s been fun to plant them with the kids. Sunday and Monday ended up being cold but decent days to be outside. It’s raining again today.

Streets Closed

Streets Closed

On Saturday, the streets on the way to the library were closed. The boys were excited to run all over the street without worrying about traffic. I walked with Seamus and Gilbert while Porter and Harlan slept. Gilbert was signed up for an acting class at the library, and Seamus wanted to sit and choose some books to read. The librarian offered another spot in the acting class to Seamus, and he considered it, but he opted for picking out Minnie and Moo books and reading to me for an hour. As the acting class gave their presentation, it rolled in a huge thunderstorm. We made it back home, wet but happy.

Porter pretends to fall asleep.

Porter pretends to fall asleep.

Porter has generally been in a good mood, but in the car, we don’t want him to fall asleep. This is a game he likes where he pretends to sleep, and then wakes up full of grins. We were listening to Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing on audiobook in the car. I can’t herald them enough. Porter’s art class taught him the word “glue” the other day. Seamus also used the word “bastion” correctly the other day, but he didn’t know what “jitters” were.

My desk the day grades were due.

My desk the day grades were due.

Yesterday was a beautiful day. Our neighbors were playing at the bus stop, so we invited them to the backyard. They also have four kids, ages 8, 6, 4, 2. It was a lot of fun to see all the kids playing together.

And a last shot of Harlan, who is smiling, and cooing up a storm. He seems to have recovered, for which I am both grateful and annoyed.

Happy baby

Happy baby

 

Making Space for Baby January 5, 2016

Filed under: Family Life,Fourth Baby,Growing up,House Improvement,Pregnancy — leighj @ 7:11 am

It’s no secret that we do like the Konmari approach to tidying and decluttering of one’s space. It’s hard when the holiday means that there will be new stuff that we want to use and keep for awhile. (I also have bags of clothes that fit me regularly in the attic, but I have drawers full of maternity clothes right now, neither of which is it really practical to get rid of at the moment.) I’ve actually been working on this with photos too. I’ve been deleting photos when I take them if they’re blurry or not good; that way, later I don’t have to work so hard to figure out which one was the good one. This is a little depressing, because so often, when shooting the kids, none of the photos are the good one. Someone is always moving. Or making a weird face. Or looking away. Or scowling. Well. I’m off topic.

Anyway, the house. When the baby comes, we’re going to move Porter in with Seamus and Gilbert, at least for 8-12 months while new baby figures out how to sleep as part of a family. Porter’s still figuring it out sometimes. But so is Gilbert, if Seamus’s reports of him kicking his bed are to be trusted…I think Porter’s dresser will have to stay in the baby room, unless I figure something else out. We do have an abundance of dressers. Five people; seven dressers. Our friends who recently had a baby had to buy a new dresser because they only had two for four people! I was floored.

We added a cubby for Porter, so that he can start learning to put his shoes and jacket away. He’s been doing this somewhat consistently, but we thought we could reinforce it by giving him his own space. He is getting more independent. So far, he prefers to eat with his own utensils, and I have to recommend the munchkin 360 degrees cup. Porter can drink from a cup without a lid, if it’s not too full, because he’s been practicing with this sippy cup.

Mostly we don’t have that much work to do. We have to move Porter’s crib, because the new baby is getting the mini-crib for awhile. We added shelves to Porter’s room because it is a dumping ground for stuff that doesn’t have a home. Now at least the stuff is on shelves instead of in a pile on the floor. I got down the newborn clothes and diapers. I’ll need to order a mattress for the mini-crib, and I want a NuRoo, because the one I had with Porter I passed on to someone. That thing was dead useful though. I’m sure there are surprises in store, but it will be an adventure.

I have a few other adventures first though, so baby can hang out until mid-March.

 

Pictures June 12, 2015

Party Balloons

Party Balloons

We didn’t take any pictures of our Memorial Day party, except this one at the beginning when Gilbert was wanting to play with the balloons.

Seamus in a moment of joy.

Seamus in a moment of joy.

I’m always a little concerned that Seamus isn’t enjoying being a kid as much as I think he should. He doesn’t need to worry about everything. But he has a brain that fixates until it solves the problem, and I don’t know how much Patrick and I can help him with that. Here he is reading to Porter for a good laugh.

Reading in the morning.

Reading in the morning.

He doesn’t like to read with me; I don’t know why. But he will settle in by himself to read silently and then I ask if he understood everything. He looks like I’m not too bright, and says, “Yes.” I’ve been checking some books out of the library I think he can read and then I just leave them around the house for him to pick up. By the way, this is our new couch. It’s nice to have a comfy place to sit.

Porter 10 Months

Porter 10 Months

This picture of Porter is here because when Gilbert was 9 months and Seamus 2, they had these matching overall sets. I took them to have their picture made in the set. Now it’s Porter’s turn to wear it. Also, S & G wore these to my friends’ wedding in New Orleans. Porter wore it to the couple’s first baby’s baptism a couple of weeks ago. I like these connections.

A determined crawler.

A determined crawler.

Porter is adept at crawling, and has been for a while. It’s really hard to get a good picture of crawling. His latest is to attempt standing. He like to do it on the couch (a soft spot to land), but today he tried it on the floor, and then started clapping for himself, while he was standing. Oh, my baby will be walking soon. Of course, we’re glad for him, but things will get more complicated.

Bear Prints!

Bear Prints!

At the cabin, the bear prints were pretty impressive! We wondered if the owners of the cabin came by with a bear paw and made these themselves to warn us of the imminent danger…or just to get us really excited about seeing a bear, possibly. I tried to get the boys up for a bear hunt, but they’re pretty jaded and didn’t think there would be one.

Gilbert did enjoy picking a lot of honeysuckle and mused about if the bear would eat honeysuckle too. Porter also tried to eat some, but he was getting Gilbert’s sloppy seconds. He doesn’t seem to mind, as after he eats, he crawls around on the floor looking for morsels he’s thrown off his tray!

Pretty healthy baby!

Pretty healthy baby!

We had a fun grilling out lunch, but I completely forgot about the corn I’d bought. (We had enough food to stay at the cabin for a week, and we were only there for two nights.) Here you can see that we lacked for nothing.

S'mores

S’mores

For dessert, we packed S’mores making stuff and strawberry shortcake. The whole day leading up to the campfire, all the kids used the hatchet (with plenty of supervision) to make kindling for the fire. Patrick said there was enough kindling for five fires, but they were having a good time.

 

Seven Things: Rapidly Approaching the End of 2014 November 16, 2014

1. We made a visit to the lake. It was really cold, so cold that when we went up the mountain to pick some apples, we bought a bag of them, turned around, and got back in the car.

The leaves were pretty this year.

The leaves were pretty this year.

2. We had parent teacher conferences. Patrick’s dad babysat, and we took Porter with us. Seamus’s school, then to vote at the community center, and then Gilbert’s school. It was interesting to hear how different they can be at school than at home.

3. The older boys went to a birthday bounce house party. They had a blast, as usual, but Gil on the way home remarked that he really loves not having to take a nap anymore. I said, “Well what if we had some quiet time today?” They had been working out a lot! He cried at the suggestion. Seamus, on the other hand, asked if he could take some even if no one else did. We’ve often noted that we were lucky that Seamus was the oldest, because he still loves naps, and it made it easier to get Gil to take one, if Seamus was too.

4. Our couch. Is very uncomfortable. I guess that’s what comes of IKEA cheapest of cheap. We are thinking about this house again, now that we’ve sold Albuquerque house. How can we make improvements to our lives that don’t cost much, but make it easy to live here? We rearranged the furniture in S & G’s room while they were at school, and we think the couch will fit there. We also put their kitchen out by the side of the road, and someone picked it up. (This is the same kitchen we picked up on the side of the road a few years ago. Recycle!) There’s a more open feel in their room, but they said they want the couch in there so we have some place to read. I admit it would be nice, because they’re too big to sit on us for a whole book now.

5. Reading and Teaching. I taught McTeague last week. It’s hard, but what fun! Students really understood the book and found the characters vile (as they should). However there was a lot of resistance to the subtext that McTeague and Marcus have a homoerotic relationship. We did some theory–Sedgwick’s “Between Men” and Williams’s “Residual, Dominant, Emergent.” I’d definitely teach it again! I’ve also read Peggy Vincent’s Baby Catcher about midwifery in the 1980s in Berkeley. I enjoyed it, but some of it made me sad that Porter’s birth was not what I had hoped. Other parts made me kind of panicky with the realization that a good midwife can have to save a mother or baby’s life. It was pretty neat.

6. Hiking. Patrick and I have been taking Porter hiking. Patrick’s also been taking him out on his own some too. We went to the Maryland side of Great Falls. It’s a really different view, but still fun.

Porter loves the outdoors.

Porter loves the outdoors.

7. I’ve been getting lots of ads for holiday card printing. I’m not ready to think about that yet! Although, I did go ahead and get the boys’ Christmas presents. Seamus is getting Solitaire Chess and a Lego set. Gilbert is getting Crocodile Dentist and a stopwatch. They really want a racetrack that they can race cars against each other. We’re thinking about it, but those are so easy to break! Also, we’re thinking about a swing set (just metal, and just swings) for the back yard; we probably won’t get it. Yes, we can go to the park, but sometimes when Porter’s sleeping, it’s best to send the older two to the back yard. They do tend to make their own entertainment back there, though! A few days ago they were playing with small beach balls and tennis rackets, trying to keep the ball in the air.

Oh, baby crying. Gotta go!