Academic Leigh Speaking

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

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┬áthe Santa fire engine, go to the Postal Museum and Union Station, and maybe catch a Nutcracker puppet show.


Halloween–Jawa, skeleton, cowboy, cow November 3, 2016

Filed under: Events,In My Neighborhood,Uncategorized — leighj @ 9:50 am


We had a pretty fun Halloween. Seamus wanted to be a Jawa, so we made him a costume, with a brown hoodie, baby sling, and a mask with red reflector eyes. Gilbert really wanted to wear the skeleton costume, even though it was a bit too small. Porter was an adorable cowboy, and Harlan suffered the indignity of being dressed in a cow costume.

Since Halloween was on a Monday, we tried to get out and back somewhat quickly. A quick neighborhood picture, then trick-or-treating! Porter loved it. He had his bag and he sweetly said “thank you” to everyone. The older boys embellished with “Happy Halloween!” We ventured off our street into the neighborhood between us and the public library. One of the streets was closed, which made it really nice! All the Star Wars costumes make it a little unsafe in the dark (why are they all so dark!?). Best costume of the night was a child in a wheelchair who had become a tie-fighter. Very creative. The boys loved it!

They had a couple of pieces of candy, then donated the rest to my poor students who never get any candy.



Civic Engagement October 28, 2016

Filed under: Events,In My Neighborhood — leighj @ 1:53 pm

Our road is busy and dangerous. Every morning we watch cars flying by as the bus honks and makes people stop. In the afternoon, forget having a playdate and crossing the street. So we took our issues to City Council to ask for traffic calming and a crosswalk. Seamus and Gilbert both submitted forms to speak at the meeting. They practiced ahead of time and were ready when their turns came. They were both called forward by the mayor afterward to get a city pin. They’ve learned about rhetorical strategies and civil discourse. And we about burst with the awesomeness of it!



Porter, of course, said he had to go potty while the older boys were speaking, so we missed part of it. You win some and lose some. We did win this one though, with City Council voting 4-3 to give us a crosswalk.


CSA Gleaning and Roundup October 24, 2016

This weekend, we went out to the farm for the last CSA event.

Digging Sweet Potatoes

Digging Sweet Potatoes

The farmer is very enthusiastic and took us down to the sweet potatoes right away. Gilbert really got into the digging, and we quickly had a lot. Then we saw a black widow in a deer bone, heard some stories about copperheads and rattlesnakes, and we walked back up. We wanted to make apple cider, get some eggs, and get hot peppers for pickling. We ended up meeting all those goals.


  • The interaction with the farmer!
  • Using the cider press. We also picked up apples from the ground to send through the cider press. Seamus and Gilbert were slow and picky during this task, so I told them that we were only pressing the apples they collected. That didn’t make them work more efficiently, but they did regret it later when they tasted their delicious cider and knew if they’d only worked a bit harder, they would have had more.
  • We had a bang up time picking hot peppers. We have three jars put in the fridge now, which should last us a while. They are so delicious (and pretty spicy!). Gilbert and Porter liked picking them. Porter tends to tag along into the weeds, and then get stuck.
  • We saw how okra grows (both S & G want an okra patch next year). We got a couple of pumpkins, some bell peppers, lettuce, sorrel, and parsley. Yesterday, I made a cream of sorrel and parsley soup, which went very well with the apple crisp. I’d been getting tired of the greens we were getting in the CSA, but when we went out and picked a mess of them ourselves and then cooked them right up, I wasn’t sick of them anymore!
  • Seamus kept nibbling on the lettuce in the garden.
  • Gilbert exclaimed, “This is like OCR!” That means outdoor classroom at his school. Later I asked him if he acts like he did at the farm in OCR, right up on the farmer and digging in the dirt. Gilbert said, of course, nobody else wants to get all dirty and be the example. I thought, how amazing! So many kids don’t know what the plants look like that produce their food.
  • At one point, we laughed and said, “Who would go to Cox farms [a fancy pumpkin patch] when you could do this!?” It was cold and windy, but warm in the sun. We all found something to make the day exciting. Even Harlan was awake the whole time. On the way home, we had three sleeping kids.

Now we have a little more bounty to cook up and use. However, one thing that will be easier now is menu planning. I’m looking forward to getting back to the routine with that. We are having apples come out of our ears–but I’m not complaining!


Update on CSA and KonMari June 9, 2016

Filed under: In My Neighborhood,Summer Vacation,Uncategorized — leighj @ 2:56 pm

Well, since my friend and her daughter left, I’ve been busy with KonMari (of the boys clothes) and with figuring out how to use all the greens we get from our CSA. I didn’t do as thorough a job as my friend did, but I did manage to halve the amount of children’s clothing we’re storing in our attic.

As for the CSA, we got mustard greens, boc choi, kale, lettuce, cilantro, cauliflower, and basil this week. We’ve used about half the lettuce, all of the mustard greens and cauliflower, and some of the cilantro and basil. Tonight, we’re going to use the boc choi with tofu and rice. We did the mustard greens Indian style, with paneer. The cauliflower we also did Indian style. It was a feast. Salads have been good for us to keep making. As before, I like the CSA because it forces me to think about new ways to use the food.

We’ve been using the library a lot since school got out for me. Porter and I walked there this morning, and he picked out a bunch of board books. Seamus and Gilbert have been picking out books on CD to listen to. They’re supposed to listen in the car, but I found them holed up in their room listening the other day! They put a book on hold and were very excited to go pick it up when the notification came, but the circulation desk person couldn’t find it. I got it today when I went back.

Wow. This is a boring post! I’m flying tomorrow with 2 under 2, so that should be exciting. We had our neighbors over the other day. 12 people! But it was a blast.


Memorial Day Weekend May 31, 2016

Last year, we had a big party on Memorial Day weekend. This year, we did not have it in us! Instead, we kept busy (the weather finally cooperated!) and did a lot of fun activities. On Friday (because weekends start early around here), we took some food to friends who recently had their second boy. Their older boy is almost exactly Porter’s age. I made a tamale pie out of the Moosewood Celebrates cookbook. It said the pie was inspired by The Vegetarian Epicure cookbook, so I looked it up in there. The Moosewood had seriously simplified that recipe! Thank goodness, because I would not have really wanted to whip egg whites and all sorts of other things. Anyway, it was fun to see a teeny baby since Harlan is growing so fast.

When reading to Porter at night, he likes to read Harold and the Purple Crayon. When we get to the part about the hot air balloon, he points to a picture above his bed. I asked Patrick if he’d been working with him on that, and he said he hasn’t, so I guess Porter is paying attention to the decor around him. We had some friends over on Saturday (we’re slowly easing back into having people over), and Porter wanted desperately to tag along with the big kids while they were playing.

On Sunday, we let Seamus go with a friend to a high ropes course. He had a blast and was pretty wound up after a long playdate! It was nice for him to get to do something developmentally appropriate that the other kids can’t do yet. I was a little anxious about protocol on a long playdate (do we pack his lunch?), but he was fine and the other parents seem cool.

Monday there was a big parade, and Seamus had worked very hard this year to get to march in the parade. He did Earth Watch activities.

His poster!

His poster!

We let Porter and Harlan nap, while Seamus, Gilbert, and I went to the parade. We ran into some friends (in one case, I literally ran into a woman I know) and had a great time. It was a long parade–nearly 1 hour 15 minutes! Lots of dancers, music, and the school mascots!

In Gilbert news, we went to his Kindergarten musical.

2016-05-25 18.46.35-2

He was into it! But he was always a step behind.