Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Mardi Gras with Friends February 15, 2018

Our friends from Baton Rouge came up for some Mardi Gras fun. They really came up to see snow, but there wasn’t any this weekend, so that was a bust. We did have a lot of rain. Even with the rain, we managed to get out for some adventures. We like the hike along Pimmet Run, which has a creek, some fun crossings, and suburban nature animals. Porter managed to cross the creek with lots of help–but he did it! He really pitched a tantrum about going, but enjoyed himself once he was out. One of the highlights for him was showing Harlan how to throw rocks in the creek.

A worthy pastime.

In the background of this picture, you may be able to see Seamus and Gilbert playing on a downed branch that goes across the creek. They enjoyed making multiple crossings while our friend built a “shelter” for the kids to play in.

Daniel Boone channeling.

Well, you can only cross a log so many times before getting overconfident. Gilbert fell in the creek! He was fine, but he and Seamus went back to the car ahead of us, so he wouldn’t freeze.

Fun in the woods.

It started raining around the time we left, so we considered it a top notch adventure day.

Pretty proud of himself on the crossing.

Later on Saturday, Seamus had his basketball game while the little ones napped. Sunday we took the three year olds to a puppet show. They enjoyed it, but as my friend pointed out, the show wasn’t all it could have been. She said, “I was itching to get up there and make a real story for the puppets!” And she probably could have improved a great show. Monday had us taking the kids downtown for a visit to the American Indian museum and a quick visit to Air and Space. We even got to have a ride on the carousel. Porter looked up and said, “Hey, this isn’t the zoo!” because I’m pretty sure he only remembers the carousel at the zoo. The ride on the metro was the crowing point to the morning!

In the afternoon, since it had dried out, we went to the park. Porter asked if he could stay home, and because Patrick was staying back to work on dinner and his bike, I let him. He needed some alone time with his toys. I guess he forgot Patrick was there, because when we got back, he announced, “Hey! I’ve been home alone. Dada isn’t here. I went outside and said, ‘I’m not afraid anymore!'” I’m not sure what was funnier–that he forgot Patrick was there, or that he decided to act out a scene from Home Alone.

Anyway, it was a fun visit, and we’re hoping to go to Louisiana for Mardi Gras next year!

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Time for Family December 18, 2017

I finished up the semester on Saturday morning–I’ve had a few complaints roll in today, but I’m just savoring being done for a few weeks. (Of course, I think I’m going to put in another day or two this week, but just for fun.) It snowed again! I can’t remember the last time it snowed twice before Christmas. We’ve been busy, but having a lot of family time to enjoy each other.

I call him the blue marshmallow in this suit.

Making snow angels.

Various things of note:

  • We sent out our first batch of cards. I had a lot of helpers, so my system got slightly catywhumpus, so I’m sending another batch out today.
  • I’ve had a lot of helpers lately. Porter actually was a help at Harris Teeter the other day, and I let him carry a bag across the parking lot and then into the house. He got a lot of praise for it, and Harlan got so mad and jealous that he wanted to carry the other bag. Well, the other bag weighed 10 pounds! (Porter’s was very light, just a few plastic containers for treats.) When he realized he wouldn’t be able to carry or drag it, he laid down in a puddle of misery, also known as a tantrum. We call Harlan’s tantrums “puddles of misery” because he melts into them. He recovers, most of the time, without intervention, but occasionally he needs more mollification. I tried to give him a bag of pretzels to carry, but he was having none of it.
  • We’ve been playing Settlers of Catan with Seamus and Gilbert. What a delight to be able to share with them some of our favorite games that they can understand and develop new strategies!

    I can do the bridge shuffle!

  • We made treats for our neighbors. It’s called Christmas Crack, and I was glad when we got it out of the house. Ha! I also had a lot of helpers with this project. Harlan loves being on the step stool in the kitchen for any kind of project. He really loved this cooking project, but the problem came when we were boxing up the treats, and he was screaming for them! We delivered them to the neighbors in three separate runs, as they have to cool overnight. I also tried my hand at a cheese ball for the first time. I was surprised with how well it turned out. I might become cheese ball lady…
  • Our theatre outings have been wonderful. Porter went to Frosty the Snowman, sat through the whole thing totally enraptured, and came home excited to tell us all about it. I took Seamus and Gilbert to a fun production of The Phantom Tollbooth to see our neighbor perform. They really enjoyed it, and said it was in their top two favorite shows they saw this year. Next up is Mr. Popper’s Penguins with everyone but Harlan! So excited that Porter is good with theatre now!

    Silly props at the theatre.

    With Princess Pure Reason. I think it’s the first time they’ve known someone in the show.

  • He ought to be. The latest obsession is Robin Hood. He gets the ukulele and wanders around the house pretending to be Alan A Dale and sings songs from the movie. I caught him trying to shoot an arrow from one of the strings, but I had to put a stop to that role playing! He just gets so immersed in his imaginary world, and sometimes he’ll tell stories that I’m not sure where they come from, but he knows the whole series of events.
  • Seamus has started playing basketball. Games start in January. He likes basketball, but I think, as of right now, he prefers playing soccer. We’ll see. Both Seamus and Gilbert have improved their swimming by strokes and dives! They can do a passable butterfly, and are pretty good on freestyle and backstroke. They still bellyflop their dives, most of the time.
  • Gilbert and I went to the library book sale, and they had a lot of the books in his favorite series, The Secrets of Droon. I got a bunch, and I dole them out for good behavior–like sitting quietly and finishing the previous book in the series. It’s a fantasy series, and he loves to explain the plots to me. They sound really fun and they’re not too hard to read, leading him to more success and high interest. He also was a big fan of the Dragon Masters books. Gilbert: loves fantasy and dragons.

    Pretty happy!

  • Patrick is reading The Hobbit to the older boys. They are really into it. I’ve been reading a lot of Goodnight, Moon to Harlan. His favorite books are Chugga Chugga Choo Choo, Little Blue Truck, and Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? Harlan especially likes the Knock, Knock sound in Mr. Brown and he loves the end of a book Tap Tap Tap What’s Hatching? when it says, “I’m a baby boy, did I hatch from an egg? No!” He giggles and grins, and shakes his head vigorously. Porter adores a book recommended by a friend on her blog: Gaston, about a little bulldog puppy in a poodle family. He also loves a million other books, and he’s taken to wanting to sleep with them under his pillow.
  • We celebrated the end of the semester by taking Porter and Harlan to the zoo today. Porter really wanted to see the elephants, and thank goodness–they were out in force! He also wanted to see the lion (who obliged him by roaring a lot), a tiger, and the gorillas. He had wanted to see the pandas, but as we were walking back up the hill, he said, “I’ll see the pandas next time. I’m ready to go home.” I said, “Oh, are you getting tired?” “No, getting hungry.” I love it when they can tell you what they want!

    A beautiful zoo day!

Well, this has gotten pretty long. I’m so ready to read more, blog more, and just enjoy some time with the kids.

 

Halloween! November 5, 2017

Filed under: Childhood Memory,Family Life,Holidays,In My Neighborhood — leighj @ 10:06 am
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We had an assortment of costumes this year.

Halloween!

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!?”

 

Too Long Since I Blogged October 29, 2017

It seems I’m having a lot of trouble getting in the swing of my blog. It’s a bummer because I also want to remember the details of our daily lives, not just the exciting vacation times. I have somethings to get out before Halloween pictures take over.

Real quick, and short changing all of these events:

  • Vocabulary Emergency: One thing about my job, unlike other jobs, is that there are no emergencies. However, a colleague told me a few days ago that she was having a vocubulary emergency, needing to know how to draw a distinction between Latino and Hispanic. I like this graphic for that! Then, we were at the Benefits fair, and somebody stopped my colleague and me to consult on how to spell benefit! Good to have an expert on hand!
  • We got our crosswalk! A year ago we asked City Hall for a crosswalk to protect the bus stop and make the road here a little slower. The city put it in over the last month, and a year to the day we asked, we got the signage for our crosswalk. Here’s the thing: IT WORKS! People stop when they never did before.
  • Harlan is aware of his surroundings. He was having applesauce the other day, and Porter asked for a piece of pumpkin pie. Harlan observed, slammed down his spoon, and said, “PIE!” Of course, he got some.
  • The other day we walked to school, with a pit stop for hot chocolate (the kids get a coupon book from the library’s summer reading program, and all of them expire on 10/31). It was a great walk, but it was the first time they’ve ever been late to school. Then we dropped Porter at his school. A fun morning.
  • We had our first experience at Imagination Stage in Bethesda. It was a small venue, but the staging was great and the actors were wonderful. Seamus and Gilbert enjoyed the play, and Porter and Harlan enjoyed their naps while we were gone.
  • Seamus has been talking about school in a way he never did before. I think this teacher is really good for him, and he feels that there a sense of fairness in this classroom that he didn’t have last year. He also is his class’s representative to the SGA (student council). He also loves the creative thinking activity he’s doing in the breakout class, and while I hope that he gets to do advanced math, I’m really pleased to see that he is developing skills that are challenging for him.
  • Gilbert has been doing what everyone should do! He’s constantly negotiating for money for activities that he does. Porter caught on that the boys are getting paid to read a book to him and Harlan, so he read to himself the other day and came over to ask for his money for reading to himself. Oops. Backfired.
  • Porter and Harlan have been riding their little pedal-less bike. Gilbert and I worked on cartwheels yesterday. Seamus’s soccer is almost over, but they he’s had so much fun, that it’s made it worth the effort we’ve put in to let him play.

    Bikers!

    Crosswalk!

    Happy Gilbert!

 

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.

 

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?