Academic Leigh Speaking

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

A Day with Harlan February 27, 2018

Filed under: Family Life,Fourth Baby,Growing up,Kid comparisons — leighj @ 9:39 pm

Monday, Patrick went to pick up Porter from his adventure with Nana and PopPop. I got to go to yoga, then I came home to spend the day with Harlan. We had a snack, and then, because for Harlan, a day is totally wasted if he doesn’t spend a great deal of it outdoors, we went to the park. I don’t like to follow him around at the park, as I like to see what he gets up to on his own. He headed straight for the sandbox, and spent a lot of time playing with the “big dump trucks.” He stopped occasionally to point out the “big light (or maybe fire?) trucks” that went by. His favorite topic of conversation is “big truck.” His second favorite topic of conversation is “baby doll.”

When we got back from the park, he put his baby doll in his high chair, but he accidentally bonked baby’s head on the chair. He came over to me with much urgency: “Uh oh! Baby doll! Big bonk!” So we inspected baby doll and Harlan gave baby comfort, and then he settled in for another snack at his chair. At dinner while Porter was gone, Harlan had a seat of honor at the table. He finally said Gilbert and Seamus, after much prodding. Gilbert sounded something like, “Bet” and Seamus like “May”

At nap time, we read a bunch of books. His favorite books are active books, so he really loves Eric Carle’s From Head to Toe which has a movement for kids to do on every page. Penguins turn their head, can you do it? Gorillas thump their chests, donkeys kick their legs, cats arch their backs, etc. He LOVES anticipating the next page. I don’t know that this book really gets a child settled down for nap time, but it brings him a lot of pleasure. He’s also into Owl Babies and Elmo lift the flap books.

His language isn’t quite where Gilbert’s was at this age, but it’s far beyond where Porter was. I’d say he’s about on the same level as Seamus was. He told me, “Me say bye bye Dada” which was one of the longer sentences I’ve heard. He also says “Me Do!” for doing something all by himself. He very seriously sits and talks with me about my baba and how it’s different from his baba in the morning when I have coffee and he has water. He kind of nods to himself when he feels like he’s been understood. Overall, it’s hilarious to spend time with him.

Porter had a wonderful time on his weekend away. He came back pulling things out of his backpack, saying “Tada!” as if he were showing us something really exciting. It is great to have him home!

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Potty Training Round Four January 23, 2018

Well, here we go again. The nice weather the last few weeks has somehow turned a switch in Harlan’s head. He was starting to try to take his diapers off when he needed to pee, or right after he would pee. He’s been good on number two since about eight months old. We didn’t do anything special there, except get him to the pot when he gave us signs he needed to go. So, we got out the padded briefs and set him up for his trial run. We moved the potty to the living room to help increase his success. And…he gets it.

I realized that we’re a little low on training pants, as we had to throw a couple of pairs away every time, and I like to have 7-10 pairs so we can run through a bunch in a day if necessary. He had a lot of accidents the first day, but he’s made rapid improvements since. On Monday, I took him to the store and he got to buy a package of training pants all new. It was strange because he seemed to understand that they were for him. I can’t remember any of the others cottoning on so fast. He clutched them to his chest, parted with them only to scan them at the self checkout, opened them in the car, and put a pair on when he got home.

The only accident of note was when I couldn’t convince him to wear a diaper to the park, so he wet himself outside the sandbox. Since Patrick wasn’t home, and I just gotten to the park with all the kids, (Sunday was a gorgeous day!), I changed out his jacket for pants:

A sporting look.

Obviously, it’s not the first time I’ve wrangled a kid.

The fine weather meant we were out on bikes, playing basketball at the park, and generally enjoying a brief reprieve from winter weather. We still suffered winter illness this week, with four of the six of us taken down by norovirus. Luckily, it was quick once it hit, even if it moved through us slowly. Seamus missed a basketball game, Porter missed school, I missed work, and Gilbert…missed breakfast. He definitely had the fastest recovery.

Fun at the Park!

 

Interviews with the Boys December 30, 2017

Filed under: Kid comparisons — leighj @ 7:02 am

This set of questions comes from my friends’ blog. I’ve seen her do it before, but as I’ve been thinking about writing about the kids, vs writing for the kids, I thought interviews with them would be fun for them to see themselves represented in their own words.

Seamus

Seamus at Eight Years Old

  • favorite color: red
  • favorite food: clam chowder
  • favorite dessert: ice cream
  • favorite thing to do: play soccer
  • favorite video game: Dragonlands
  • favorite subject in school: math
  • favorite book: Middle School vs. My Life
What is the meaning of life?
  • to create more humans
What do you want to be when you grow up?

  • an engineer
What makes you happy?
  • playing with my friends
What are you afraid of?
  • I don’t know.
If you had one wish, what would you wish for?
  • to get more Christmas presents than my brother.
What is the funniest word?
  • woo-she-gaga
What is the hardest thing to do?
  • running around blind in the night
What is the easiest thing to do?
  • breathe
What is the best thing in the world?
  • Toys or Toy’r’us
What is the worst thing in the world?
  • Gilbert
What makes you mad?
  • Gilbert when he’s messing around–when he’s wins a game he celebrates and says, “You lost, you lost!”
What is the meaning of love?
  • happiness
If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it?
  • Spend some on toys. Save the rest.

Gilbert

Gilbert at Seven Years Old

  • favorite color: blue
  • favorite food: waffles
  • favorite dessert: ice cream
  • favorite thing to do: play Pokemon
  • favorite video game: Pokemon
  • favorite subject in school: math
  • favorite book series: Harry Potter
What is the meaning of life?
  • Cause I wanted humans to be in the world.
What do you want to be when you grow up?

  • I don’t know.
What makes you happy?
  • Pokemon cards.
What are you afraid of?
  • nothing
If you had one wish, what would you wish for?
  • every Pokemon in the world
What is the funniest word?
  • woo-she-gaga
What is the hardest thing to do?
  • to eat 12 boxes of cereal in 5 minutes
What is the easiest thing to do?
  • eat in a box of cereal in 5 minutes
What is the best thing in the world?
  • Pokemon
What is the worst thing in the world?
  • My feet.
What makes you mad?
  • Seamus when he annoys me.
What is the meaning of love?
  • giggle–giggle-giggle (no answer)
If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it?
  • Save it.

 

Porter

Porter at Three Years Old–In his own words.

  • favorite color: blue
  • favorite food: noodles and soy sauce
  • favorite dessert: brownies and cookies like Cookie Monster
  • favorite thing to do: make cookies
  • favorite video game: Robin Hood
  • favorite subject in school: eat food (snacktime)
  • favorite book: Robin Hood, and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
What is the meaning of life?
  • I don’t know.
What do you want to be when you grow up?

  • an M&M
What makes you happy?
  • soy sauce
What are you afraid of?
  • a lion, and the dark when I go in the dark
If you had one wish, what would you wish for?
  • a donkey!
What is the funniest word?
  • woo-she-gaga! (From Olivia and the Missing Toy)
What is the hardest thing to do?
  • make a Christmas tree
What is the easiest thing to do?
  • make Harlan’s Head
What is the best thing in the world?
  • Make toys
What is the worst thing in the world?
  • make toys
What makes you mad?
  • Harlan stealing my toys.
What is the meaning of love?
  • Make toys
If you had all the money in the world, what would you do with it?
  • Make Toys

 

Harlan

Harlan at One Year

  • favorite color: blue
  • favorite food: peanut butter, cheese
  • favorite dessert: anything!
  • favorite thing to do: put balls in the dump truck
  • favorite book: Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? 
What do you want to be when you grow up?

  • Dada or ME!
What makes you happy?
  • big GRIN
What are you afraid of?
  • Mama leaving the house.
What is the funniest word?
  • WAH! (Then he laughs!)
 

Porter Says and Harlan Says August 19, 2017

Filed under: Fourth Baby,Growing up,Kid comparisons,Uncategorized — leighj @ 8:21 am

All of my boys have had weird pronunciations of S, P, or F. Gilbert said F as S (It’s Sunny, instead of It’s funny!). Seamus said F as P, (Plip Plops for Flip Flops, Oppice for Office, Wapple for Waffle, you get the idea). Porter has put his own twist on it! He says Sp as F (spinner as finner, space as face, spit as fit).

Porter also quotes from our Song and Story CDs constantly. He loves Monsters, Inc and Finding Nemo stories. Not the movies. For movies he likes Lady but not the Tramp and the doggie movie (101 Dalmations).

Harlan says some new words regularly: Bye bye, cheese, doggie, more, MINE!, shoes, night night, water (ba ba), poo poo (when he wants to go sit on the potty)

He also tests every boundary imaginable.

 

More Sundries, and Harlan is 15 months old June 16, 2017

Again, nothing momentous, but still some fun things.

  • Harlan is fifteen months, and to celebrate, he joined the 15th percentile on weight and the 80th on head. So he’s carrying a big brain on a little body. He has 15 (or so) words to share: more, uh-oh, hat, bus, ball, byebye, hi, hello, shoe, dada, mama, nunu, up, thank you, (something that means water, but the sound is hard to render in letters). He climbed up on the freezer and the table recently. He also took all the books off my shelves in my office, so I’d say he right on target to cause a rumpus. He also has taken to wanting to play with the hand-held vacuum.

    He’s into everything! So curious, but such a delight.

    Helping to make pancakes! Hey, when you’re up at 5:45, might as well make somebody happy.

  • Porter built a Duplo house and he told my parents on facetime that the people were playing outside. Oops, it’s raining now; they’re going in. When he realized Patrick was outside mowing the grass, he put his shoes on and ran out to mow the lawnmower too! Porter loves his friends (not that he has a lot of them!), but every time he has a playdate or people are coming over, he draws a picture for one of his friends and presents it with much fanfare. His big thing is wheels.

    Gilbert used to do this too!

  • The garden is growing. I’m a little bit obsessed with my garden. I look online to see why my plants are behaving in certain ways, and at night, I go out to tend to them, offering water, compost, a loving touch. So far we’ve had 10 green beans, about 10 snow peas, radishes, mustard greens, cilantro, Swiss chard, and basil. I’m looking forward to more, but honestly, stuff doesn’t make it into the house half the time! Our CSA has started, and since we reduced the size of our share this year, we are feeling much better about the produce and our ability to use it. We had delicious bok choy, lettuce, sorrel, onions, and garlic scapes. We still need to use kale and eggs, but that’s manageable.

    Squash, tomatoes, chives, Swiss chard. Love the garden.

  • We have a saying around her: “TWO BABIES ON ME!” which is kind of an SOS. It means you’ve sat down on the floor and been attacked by Porter and Harlan, and now, you’re in a pickle and can’t get up. Seamus found himself in this predicament the other day, and Gilbert, who would usually run to join the fray, sat serenely by himself, reading his book, ignoring the commotion. I have been waiting for this day.

    Brothers!

    Is he feeling okay?

  • Our friends from Albuquerque who live in California now are arriving today. We can’t wait to see them. We looked at pictures of our families from 6-7 years ago, and the kids were babies! So were we.
  • I worked on two crafty projects recently. The Lego cake mold (which I will not be posting pictures of) and a tie dye project. We’ll see if I post pics. The Lego cake was hilarious. I bought the mold and make a cake. Then I iced it and let the kids decorate it. A sugar bomb! However, it was hilarious, and Patrick encouraged me to share some pictures and tell our friends I was thinking of going pro with the cake decorating business. That would have been a cruel joke to see what their faces looked like in trying to deal with the news. It’s especially funny, because we went to visit some friends, and she had actually done a beautiful job on her son’s birthday cake. My cake looked like a five year old had done it, and I can’t even blame the kids that much.
  • Speaking of, this should probably be it’s own post, but my friends were talking about opting out of taking on so many activities and travel and social engagements. After we visited with them, we opted out of our evening plans for several reasons, the most persuasive of which was that poor little Porter was just exhausted and could not find it in himself to be happy. Often you feel like a slave to the baby, but a two year old requires special attention too.

Summer is just around the corner! I’m so excited.

 

They Grow Fast March 13, 2017

As I think about this Sunday last year, I’m struck by how the kids have grown and changed. It’s easy for me to feel exhausted and frustrated with the daily (hourly) physical and emotional effort of parenting four children at different ages. They don’t need the same things–but in some ways they do. Each one needs conversations that challenge his thinking and develop vocabulary. They need nutritional food and space to practice physical accomplishments. They need baths!! If I can slow down and focus on some of these things they need, I can marvel at their growth.

Getting from newborn to one is full of incredible moments, but seven to eight brings its own joys. Seamus can get his own breakfast (and get breakfast for Porter, since they’re my early birds). He has a lot to say and think about school and bullying and now I feel weird about going too much in depth about his social life, since (of course) it’s not mine to talk about anymore. He still needs Patrick and me to be present and helpful, but our job now is to coach him through some difficulties but not to be overly involved in how he chooses to handle scenarios. We do work on losing gracefully and winning charitably to no so effective ends!

Porter is entering a difficult phase of transition problems and understanding compliance. He’s hilarious with his stories and comments, but he is getting to be a royal challenge when we say no to an activity he’s enjoying. This can also happen with an activity he’s not enjoying but has decided that he’s not ready to quit. The upshot is that he’s loving to take baths and play with his toys quietly, but naps, bed, and food times are a little more difficult. He’s really excited about school and has plans for his backpack all laid out.

Gilbert is helpful most of the time and is fully immersed in being part of the family. He loves these Table Topics (cards with ideas for conversation around the table) that our neighbors passed over to us. They are kind of fun to spark conversation, except that Porter answers Elmo to everything–mostly spurred on by Seamus and Gilbert. He likes to feed Harlan. Occasionally this backfires with a bonk to Harlan’s head, which nearly always results in delayed action tears. Even when Gilbert’s frustrated or wrongfully accused (which I admit I do more than I’d like), he manages to hold it together better than he has in the past. I’m really trying to get an answer from him before admonishing him. We did work on engaging cooperation together and it’s been helping. A process.

So, back to my initial contention. I feel like I’ve learned a lot in almost eight years of parenting, but not really enough to make it easy. We’re supposed to get snow tonight. One snow day plan is to fill out March Madness brackets with Seamus and Gilbert. Patrick taught them to play Blackjack today, so I think gambling problems are just around the corner….I’m sure I’ll feel differently about the glow of them after time cooped up in the house!

Working on steering the trike! Gotta keep up with the others!

Part of what gets me is the body. How does it become strong and capable? Plus I just bought these HUGE shoes for him!

We loved the park before the storm. I also love how they dress themselves. Button-down and athletic shorts? Why not?

Porter loved the change of scenery at the park. He can climb!

 

It Changes Every Year August 20, 2016

I think what I’ve been struggling to capture over the last few blog posts and before I go back to school/work is a sense of how we go to the same places every year or season with the children, and yet, it’s so different every time because they are different ages and abilities (and numbers). And Patrick and I often ask each other, would you rather go to the same place over and over or different places on vacation with the kids?

We take this from our own experiences as children. I remember going to my aunt and uncle’s house every summer. It was always the same in that we swam a lot, ate a lot, watched movies, and went places. It was always different in that we talked about different music, topics, books, in each summer. There was Beatles summer, Shakespeare summer, Elvis summer. It was never boring. And being an only for a week was great. On family vacations we rarely went to the same places, but it seems like things were still always the same. We went skiing in Taos and had three feet of snow dump on us. We tried to go skiing in Wyoming, but it was so cold they had the lifts shut down. We did have some excellent ski vacations, but there was always a hitch–brakes catching on fire going down the mountain and packing snow around them, losing Bret in the village, somebody not stopping at the fork in the trail. My dad says he mostly remembers having to stop and get us hot chocolate all the time because kids get cold.

Patrick and I both say pretty reliably that we liked to explore new places, but looking back over the last few summers, we’ve been to the same places–Cape Cod, New Jersey shore, DC, and sometimes Kentucky. Yet, these places aren’t boring to do over and over because the kids are so different that we do different things.

We definitely hit a reset in having Porter and Harlan. I see how easy it would be with Gilbert and Seamus–we could go to the beach as a family with little fanfare. If we go now, we have to arrange for someone to watch Harlan, usually while he’s napping, and I have a limited block of time before he needs me again. We beg a shuttle ride, because Porter’s legs are too short to walk to the beach, and a stroller just won’t go over the sand. Then one person has to supervise wave jumping, while someone else supervises sand play. It’s fun, but a lot of logistics for a couple of hours. Is it worth it? In some ways, this is what makes going to the same place with kids easier–we already know many of the variables, so the logistics are easier to figure out. Maybe not easier to manage, but there are knowns and known unknowns that we can work with. Next year the kid variables will all be different, but the beach will be the same.

For instance, we went to ride the rides. Good times, and an easy marker of how much they change year to year. Gilbert still isn’t tall enough for some of them, but he did add a few this year. They were so excited to add bumper cars, but that was a huge disappointment, because they weren’t allowed to drive them (not tall enough). They did like the roller coaster and the rip tide that swings back and forth. We talked about rules: we all stay together, if Porter’s riding something, you can too, or you can wait. Seamus and I did sneak off for the big roller coaster because we didn’t want Porter to see us leave. Gilbert loved riding with Porter on all the baby rides. Porter, once he had a taste of riding was a basket case if he wasn’t big enough for a ride. I was glad we started with a few he couldn’t do so he wouldn’t know what he was missing. Seamus only wanted to do the big ones, and he did wait, mostly patiently, but he didn’t get to do the swings, as moods soured rapidly after the bumper cars.

Things to note in the above story. Most things didn’t change. Fundamental personalities didn’t change. Porter wanted to be part of it. Gilbert liked being safe and secure but had his own ideas about things like driving. Seamus wanted to do more with his competitive spirit. Harlan slept in the stroller, totally relaxed until he got too hot. Patrick and I didn’t realize when they’d had enough and tried to do one more thing.

But the surroundings meant a whole new generation for us of children being able to go on rides. We got to do it again and still see Seamus and Gilbert grow and interact with Porter on the rides. We get to superimpose our memories from years past onto this year. The tantrums or heat or whatever made parts of it unpleasant fade (or sometimes come into sharp relief!) and this year’s memory goes on top to get muddled up with the others next year. At the end of our lives we have a mishmash, that we won’t be able to tell you, the summer of ’16 this is what happened, but we will remember the sheer joy of watching the boys twirl around with the wind in their crazy surfer hair. We might also laugh about how each one generally reacted.

What we can do and enjoy changes every year, but the core of it stays the same. I’m sad to let this sense of growth and development go away from my minute to minute experiences.