Academic Leigh Speaking

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

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.

 

 

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.

 

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

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

Halloween!

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!

CROSSWALK

CROSSWALK

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.

Highlights:

  • 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.