Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Weekend Work (Warning Sad Post at the Bottom) November 12, 2012

Filed under: Academic,Events,Family Life,Job Search,Teaching,Totally Me — leighj @ 10:50 am

Being home with the boys is more fun with friends. On Friday, S & G went to the park with their friend Isabel and her new baby brother. The boys didn’t even notice the baby! They were too excited to play with her, air up the tires in their stroller, and when it came time to walk home, they were thrilled (in all senses of the word) to walk home through the deep, dark woods. The time change made it really dark when we got home.

Saturday, we got a bunch of apples at the farmer’s market. Seamus is practicing saying, “Grandaddy, we got you a bunch of apples because we know you like to peel them.” Hahahaha! Then we went to Trader Joe’s and Gilbert asked for stickers, please! I took my students on a field trip to the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. About half of the students were really impacted and impressed by the site, and the other half were seriously resentful that they had to be there. I was intrigued by how much they had been able to preserve, and I was interested in the self-heating irons, especially because I wondered if they had ever caught fire.

Saturday night P and I went to Chantilly to one of his colleagues’ house. Fun times, but I was most interested in the flier on their fridge of the National Portrait Gallery’s current exhibit on Modern Poets what fun to take students to that as well. Or to go by myself.

Sunday, Liz and I went to a new yoga studio in our Groupon expedition to find all the best yoga around these parts. I know we should pick a studio and commit, but it’s fun to try them all out. She’s embarking on a very interesting journey. Speaking of journeys, P and I took the boys to his school yesterday to an Admissions Open House to see if the Junior Kindergarten would be a good fit for Seamus. They had a tub of rice for kids to play in. It was pretty cool and Gilbert did not want to leave the rice. I said, “Maybe we should make one of these at home.” P said, “No!” I now understand why there was always a sign on the pinto beans bin in New Mexico that said, very sternly, “Do not allow children to play in the beans.”

We raced home and I went to an event at my dean’s house with my friend. It was a good party, but there was a pall over the festivities because our colleague was back in the ICU after his heart surgery last spring. Last night he passed away. He taught Modern American Literature, Short Fiction, Lit of the 1930s, and other classes. He was demanding and mild. I love having students who have been through his writing classes. I say, “Take this information with a grain of salt” and I never said that before I met him. He was one of the people who interviewed me for my job here. Finally, in funny story form, I got a lot of complaints my first semester here that my exams were too hard, so I went to ask Sean what his exams were like. He sent one to me, and I looked at it and thought, “I don’t know if I would pass this!” We will miss him. RIP, Sean.


Childcare Part 3 May 8, 2012

Filed under: Family Life,Job Search — leighj @ 6:52 am
Tags: , ,

Have you noticed how silent I’ve been on the issue of the boys’ childcare situation? That’s right, it’s because Patrick has been home with them and we need never worry about getting them to somewhere, getting them home from somewhere, what if they’re sick, and many more worries about being in a care situation. Well, all that’s about to change, for a good reason, I guess.

Patrick got a job!

But this means that e have to find some kind of childcare arrangement for the boys. I’m pretty against them being in full-time care, mostly because I want to see them more than that kind of situation would allow. I also don’t think we can afford it, and there are waiting lists and age requirements, and the best place for Seamus doesn’t take kids Gilbert’s age, and many other logistical headaches associated with that sort of thing. So we do have a tentative solution:

Mondays: I’m home with the boys until 3, at which point their Marymount babysitter comes and stays until 8.

Tuesdays: Grandparent day and Falls Church Community preschool.

Wednesdays: Babysitter all day.

Thursdays: Me and Gilbert at home, Seamus at Falls Church Community preschool.

Fridays: Looking for a sitter.

Saturdays: Patrick hangs out with the boys, I work in the morning.

Sundays: Family day of various sorts.

Sounds complicated, doesn’t it? It is, but I like it better than the other options, but I do feel like this kind of cobbled together schedule is inviting a lot of stress into my life.



Mostly Just Thinking March 19, 2012

Filed under: Family Life,Job Search — leighj @ 8:14 am

So, wow. March 19th. I’m not sure where March has gone. We’ve been thinking hard about the direction to take next year–should P go back to work? should S go to preschool? should I take on more at my job? In all of this, we’ve kind of been ignoring what happens to G, I think because we’re okay with preschool a few mornings a week for Seamus, but we’re reluctant to put Gilbert into a full-time daycare situation. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve done daycare in the past, and it was the only way (well, that and having Sarah watch the boys, and a big dose of parental help at holidays…you get the picture) that I was able to get my dissertation written and get a job. But, it feels now like we don’t have to do daycare with him, so that we can choose something that feels like the right choice for us. And we’re still trying to figure out what that looks like.

I say that we’ve been spending a lot of time thinking that out, but really we do this all the time. Who doesn’t? We all spend time figuring out how to proactively make changes you want and reacting to other changes to try to make them work for you. Meanwhile, if you saw a guy on the mall in a sparkly green hat driving a pedicab over the weekend–that was Patrick! He had a great day on St. Patrick’s Day. The weather was gorgeous.

I worked an Admissions Open house, and then I spent the afternoon with the boys. Our across the street neighbors have a seven-year-old. She donated several toddler outdoor toys the the boys this weekend. They love the new little slide in the front yard (Except Seamus keeps talking about how he wants a bigger slide, and I try to shush him before they hear!) and there’s a lawnmower and a little car to ride around in. Hot stuff. Really, it’s the fact that they can get up from their naps and play again in the evening that’s so wonderful now.

On Sundays, Grandma and Grandude take the boys for pancakes at their house. We try to get big projects done at our house. The boys room doesn’t look much different, but inside the dresser, it’s a whole new world. I wasn’t very sad about not nursing Gilbert anymore, and I wasn’t sad when he went into a new carseat, but there’s something about these clothes switching over that kills me every time. Also, we recently put aside his highchair and weaned him from his bottle. The highchair, not a big deal, and actually he’s been wanting to sit at the table and it’s easier for us. But the bottle, he was so sad, I’m so sad. It’s like watching him grieve his babyhood when he sobs for it and knows he’s not getting it. Stab right though the heart. I read something about emotional pain firing the same neurons as physical pain and I’m pretty sure G is having those neurons fire every time he thinks about his bottle.


The Big News March 24, 2011

Filed under: Academic,Family Life,Job Search — leighj @ 2:06 am

Here it is: I’ve accepted a position with Marymount University in Arlington, VA for next year. We are so excited to be moving, to have a job, and to be closer to family. We’re of course a little sad to be leaving all of our friends, schools, and fun sunshine. However, we are ready for a new, big adventure. (Not that having two boys in two years hasn’t been a big adventure!)

Patrick is planning on staying home with the boys for the year. This news makes me really happy because, as I’ve said over and over, the single biggest outside stress of raising children is finding good, affordable, reliable childcare. I am thrilled that I will be able to go to work and just not worry about the boys.

There’re a lot of other things going on, but it’s windy in New Mexico, because it’s spring, and our internet keeps going out. Chalk up something else I won’t miss. Maybe a list coming soon…



Well the Last Title Should Tell You Something about Where I’ve Been March 13, 2011

Filed under: Books,Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Job Search — leighj @ 7:44 pm

I’ve been working to get that dissertation in shape to send off to my committee. That part is done. Check. And now it’s time for the craziness around actually scheduling a time to defend…not as easy as it sounds. I thought I had a perfect day down, but that date has fallen through, so now, I will be one of those people who defend the day before revisions are due to the Office of Graduate Studies. Well, I guess I’ve always liked to cut it close.

We’re in Kentucky this week for Spring Break. It may be our last one on the same schedule, but that’s all right. The trees are starting to bloom here and the daffodils are up. Dad likes to point out that his collards and turnip greens are also up and doing well. It was a brutal travel day yesterday. We didn’t leave ABQ until 3:50, and S had not yet had a nap. I’m sure you see where this is going. We got spoiled on the first leg of the flight by the row of seats we had across. Umm, space. On the second leg, we were in the back, aisle/aisle seats and S was so sleepy. Restaurant rec: If you’re in the big Dallas airport, the Cool River Cafe has the best veggie quesadilla I’ve ever had–places outside of airports included. It’s in the D terminal. Riquisimo. When we got to Franklin, it was nearly 11:00–and it’s time change today! G had much trouble settling and was up until 1:00. Aargh. I’m hoping the sleep improves this week.

While I’m really happy to be visiting my folks, I’m sad to miss my friends who are going to be in NM this week, because it’s their Spring Break. I downloaded the Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown to my new Kindle. I have a new Kindle because my old one froze constantly, so I finally called and they sent me a new one right away. Count me in for happy customer service.

And I know this is a woefully inadequate blog post especially with all the things that have been going on in the job search, but I’ll tell you more another time.


February, the Month of Low Posts February 16, 2011

Filed under: Friends and Relatives,Job Search,Teaching,Totally Me — leighj @ 8:52 pm

I realized how much I haven’t been posting this mont, especially compared to what I posted recently. And then look–last February, I only managed to post 3 times!

Today, I talked to my aunt on the phone while I pushed the stroller with the boys in it. Seamus was being a pill this morning and when he asked to go for a walk, it seemed like just the thing both of us needed so as to not drive each other crazy. But the conversation. My aunt was sharing some observations that she had written down about me when I was 10. The one that I think is the funniest is that I told her I was writing poems, but I wasn’t writing them down because I didn’t want anyone in my family to know what I’d written. I was memorizing them! So I was only writing haiku!

Speaking of haiku, my students recently read Basho’s “Narrow Road through the Backcountry,” a Japanese poem/prose travel writing. I’m grateful to my friend, Chris, for coming in to guest lecture on the day we went over it in class. He did a great job getting the students excited about the text, and his presentation reminded me about some of the things I want to try to remember as I do classroom demonstrations. Being excited about the subject material is contagious! I love what I teach, and showing that to students is very powerful. Yesterday, only 6 of my students had done the reading, due to a syllabus mix-up, but I had checked a children’s book about Sor Juana out of the library so I read it to them and we ended up having a great discussion. I did need a minute to regroup though, when most of them looked panicked as I announced the quiz–over material they hadn’t read…


Is there Bad in Here? January 21, 2011

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Job Search,Teaching,Totally Me — leighj @ 10:51 pm

One of my friends called me out a few weeks ago with a comment that my blog makes it seem like I am handling all of this (parenting, school, job search, exercise, eating, travel, writing, teaching) without any problems. She said it was a little intimidating. I get this a lot. But I still won’t allow myself to come clean if things are really getting me down. Sure, on this blog, we have the complaints about lack of sleep, miscommunication, nerves, etc., but you’ll notice that I rarely talk about what’s going on with my job search, my dissertation, or personal issues, partly because I don’t want to reveal too much in such a public forum, but also because I’m too nervous to really talk about it.

I like to share good gossip. In fact, secrets about new babies, surprise parties, big awards, and other accomplishments are some of the most difficult for me to keep. When people tell me horrifying secrets, I have no trouble filing those far back in my brain and never mentioning them again. I want everybody around me to be accomplishing good things and to be happy. I want this for myself too, so I find it really difficult to put out there when something isn’t making me happy or going the way I want it to. (Just to know: The job search is going fine; I’m right where I need/expect to be right now.)

I realize this may not make my blog as honest as it could be, and I also realize that people reading blogs want to hear honesty from the person they invest the time to read. However, as I look back over journals that I kept in high school and college, I mostly only recorded really unpleasant thoughts, feelings, and events–you’d think all I did at those times was brood. When I was happy and things were going well (which was most of the time) I didn’t write at all. The blog is kind of the opposite. I look back, and the times when I was not happy (February of last year when we were all so sick for the entire month) I didn’t write much. But this is only a loose correlation itself. Sometimes I didn’t write much when I was too busy having a good time visiting family or friends, hosting family or friends, or churning out chapters.

I think the public nature of a blog means that I’m likely to record events that I hope (maybe too optimistically?) other people will find interesting. And when I’m bored with my own internal griping, I can assure you that you would tire of it quickly as well.

There are dark moments. In class the other day (BTW, I’m loving teaching again, and I have a post planned soon for letting you in on some of the awesome thoughts that this World Lit class has already generated), a student said that perhaps the theme of the reading for the day was that “Once you imagine something, it’s there, you can’t unimagine it.” I don’t want my blog to be like those journals, where I look back and feel only the disgruntlement. I want there to be fun stories, and cute pictures, but I also want there to be honesty about what I’m thinking and how I’m feeling.

I was thinking about all this last night as I lay in bed, in between getting up to tend to Seamus and his belly-ache, Seamus and his teething, Gilbert and his hunger, and my own need to get up for a drink of water. This morning was rough after all that. I’ve been trying to figure out why, even with the wake-ups, I’m more exhausted after a few hours of being with Seamus than Gilbert. It comes down to this: S is going through major mood swings these days, and it’s really hard to stay level in the midst of all that. Things are hard (especially getting used to being back in the classroom, balancing that teaching time with writing, adjusting to sending Gil to daycare, spending more mornings a week with the boys, and helping Seamus enjoy and learn) but I have lots of fun stories for you for the future. I’m trying to get caught up on the blogging–including a recap of the LA trip, Breakfastpalooza, and the Cordelia Fine lecture I went to last night.

Moral: I don’t think I’m perfectly handling all this, or that I’m all that impressive. I’ve got a lot of loose ends to loop together, and I’m less likely to muse about them publicly until they’re tied. I think that I wouldn’t be handling anything if I didn’t have such good support of family, friends, daycare, colleagues, and strangers (who are so friendly to me when I’m out by myself with the boys). Thanks.