Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Ski School February 21, 2015

Filed under: Childcare,Events,Family Life,Missing NM,Outdoor Pursuits — leighj @ 2:49 pm
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With the snow (and the gorgeous powder), we decided that it was time to let the boys have a go at skiing. They love sledding and ice skating, why not? They both had a lesson, and Seamus ended up being able to go down the big mountain with Patrick by the end of the day. They were exhausted but they had so much fun! They learned about pizza, and french fries, and rode the magic carpet. I had to work, so I only got to see video and pictures. I was sorry to miss it!

It did make us miss New Mexico when a gorgeous powder day meant drop everything and get to the mountain!

Roundtop Mountain, PA

Roundtop Mountain, PA

I ended up taking Porter with me to work. He had a great day bumming around campus, playing with the students, and hanging out in my very kid-friendly office. I had an obligation in the afternoon, so I asked a student if she could babysit, or if not, did she have any friends that could babysit. She recommended a friend, and I was so happy to have the problem solved. It speaks volumes about our students that I didn’t even feel the need to vet her. However, when she arrived in my office, one of my colleagues knew her and another one of my colleagues mentioned that she was a great student. Gotta love a small campus!


I’m No Expert October 3, 2014

While my job makes one an expert on something–in my case, Mexican American and Chicano/a literature–it makes us far from experts on other things. There then becomes an opportunity to trust someone else to do their job and be an expert, or to micromanage, second guess, and try to become knowledgeable about everything. In the last few weeks, I’ve been reminded that 1) I’m not an expert on health insurance. Sure, I have it and use it occasionally, but when it comes to ins and outs, stop loss, and cost ratios, I don’t know how it’s all calculated. As an intelligent, educated person, I gather some information and apply logic, but when it comes down to it, all we can do is ask questions and hope that the people making decisions are taking into account the right values; 2) I’m not an expert on real estate. Selling a house is exhausting. Patrick took on most of the physical work of getting the house ready to sell, but there is a lot of emotional and mental work as well. Fingers crossed though, that we’ll be through this trial soon.

I try to be an expert on my kids, but in lots of ways, we’re just too close to the subject to be perfect. I guess all we can really provide is a good model. Speaking of modeling, Patrick and I have been too exhausted to really get into the good baby talk for Porter. We’ve fallen back on the Ace Ventura talking to the dog talk: “Oh, jah, boo. Oh jah boo boo boo” etc. Seamus and Gilbert have transformed this, and their go to mode of talking to Porter is to go up to him and say, “Hi! Oh, jah, hi hi.” I’m going to try to get it on video.

Afternoons continue to be very dicey. The boys come home from school completely wrung out. They have favorite meditative activities that help them through it. Seamus usually goes out in the backyard to kick his soccer ball around. Gilbert sits down at the craft table to draw and cut paper. Seamus loves the visual schedule at his school. So he asked if we could get one. I bought a white board and he’s been drawing the different parts of his day on there and then checking them off. We had a long talk though, before I got it, about whether it was going to upset him if the schedule had to change. I was not going to cleave to a schedule that might change and all the attendant woes that would cause. Yesterday, Seamus brought home the Star of the Week Box, in which he is to load pictures, a favorite book, and a favorite toy. Gilbert was beyond jealous.



Time August 6, 2014

Whew. Patrick is in Albuquerque, but he comes back tomorrow. Not soon enough, but we’re all making it work. When it gets really difficult here, I remind myself that what he’s doing out there is harder. I was feeling a little inadequate, as in, “When Gilbert was born, I don’t remember being this wrung out.” But then I remembered, when Gilbert was born, I was up and about and doing all my normal stuff in about three days. I felt great. Seamus went to afternoon daycare five days a week. Sarah came two mornings a week. I had lots of time to play with the baby and rest, as well as time to work on the few projects I was still needing to finish and start at the time (dissertation and job search).

This week has been exhausting. Even though Porter sleeps pretty well, even though I’ve had help, even though my other children are older and somewhat self-sufficient. I have an article I need to revise by September 1. I had another to revise by August 15th, but I’ve had to face the reality that I’m not going to get to that. I could try, but I didn’t bring it home to work on. I guess I need to realize that work will always be there, and I’ll be back at it soon enough.

We have had fun, though. I’ve figured out the Moby wrap, Seamus and Gilbert have improved as swimmers, they played soccer and squirted water guns with friends. We’ve had good food. A recent highlight was a trip to Great Falls Park with my parents. There are three overlooks, and Seamus needed to determine the pros and cons of each overlook. It was so in line with his personality, he was like a caricature of himself.

On Friday, we head to Cape Cod for vacation. I’ve never been, but I’m looking forward to a change of scenery and some new adventures. This week will be short in the course of our lives, but right now, it seems long. I’m not wishing it away because Porter is so adorably small right now, and these are the last weeks before Seamus starts Kindergarten. Big changes ahead!


Some Thoughts July 28, 2014

1. I did quit Facebook. If you’ve looked for me there, I didn’t unfriend you, I just got exhausted the last few weeks of my pregnancy, and I didn’t enjoy looking through the posts. I also became sensitive to people’s expectation of seeing a baby picture soon. I was really glad to have signed off when we got the breech news, because I needed to process that on my own. I do miss seeing pictures of my friends’ kids, reading updates on academia, and keeping up, but I haven’t missed it too much.

2. We’re selling the house in Albuquerque. I’m looking forward to not worrying about it anymore, and I hope we can sell it quickly. However, this has been a niggling stress, and when I thought baby would come early, I was totally fine with Patrick needing to make a trip out to tie up loose ends and meet the realtor, etc. Now though, that’s coming up quick. I’m glad I asked my folks to make another trip here before I even knew that we’d have complications.

3. One of the reasons I went with the doctor’s advice was that I liked how he practiced medicine. He called me to discuss my options, he told me to call him back when I had decided, and he called me again to let me know when the surgery was scheduled and to answer any questions I had. I only talked to his office staff as a way of letting him know that I needed to talk to him. They did not call me to report his findings. It was, for a large medical community, the most contact I’ve had with a doctor in years. I felt reassured that things that were important to me (baby staying with us the whole time, leaving as soon as possible, getting sewn up right) were being heard and respected.

4. Today Seamus was sneezing all over the house. I told him to use his chicken wing. He said he was! I said, “That’s a floppy wing!” He laughed. Then Porter sneezed, and by reflex, threw his arm in front of his face. I said, “Look! Porter used his chicken wing, just like you!” Seamus was delighted! He ran to tell Patrick that Porter can use his chicken wing, and he said, “I think he’ll be the smartest of all of us!” What? There are some super cute moments with the boys and Porter. However, their actions unrelated to the baby leave something to be desired. They’re a little on edge, but it’s starting to even out with good sleep, family games (we played Arthur Goes to the Library yesterday), lots of reading, and some reassurance that we still notice their good behavior that isn’t related to the baby.

5. I’m exceptionally grateful for the support we’ve had from family and friends. This hasn’t been an easy complication for me (obviously, complications are by definition, not easy), but I feel so well taken care of by our support network, from my friends who call and text from far away to send good wishes and support, from our friends who drop off a meal, from our family and friends who take the big boys for an hour or two of big boy fun. In the hospital, it was so meaningful to have support from the moment we got there to the moment we left. Thank you! I’ll write some notes soon, but just know that I’ve really appreciated the love.


Albuquerque December 23, 2013

I made a quick trip to Albuquerque in early December. Loved being back there in the crisp high desert sun. I made a talk at UNM about reading the job market, checked on my house in the city, and went to a baby shower for my friend. Good times. I also ate a lot of green chile, but not enough. I flew through Dallas, which shouldn’t have been dicey, but it was due to the crazy ice storm that marched in right after I flew out.

Christine picked me up at the Sunport (novel name for an airport). I forgot about the tile floors everywhere you go in ABQ, but the click clack of my suitcase was a quick reminder. So clean and nice. Also, the Sunport has free wi-fi, which all airports should have. And, at 7:00 pm on a Thursday, the airport was nearly dead. We went to O’Neill’s for the delicious chile cheese fries–worth every bite. Then she took me to my hotel–the Nativo Lodge. My room, on the fifth floor was comfortable and had a good view of an urgent care facility. If I tried really hard, I could see the mountains.

The next morning, Melina picked me up for a ride to UNM and breakfast at Richard’s Healthy New Mexican. Papas y huevos breakfast burrito with green chile made my morning. At UNM, I met up with Erin and family and headed over to the Frontier. I don’t actually recommend the Frontier for food, but the scene can’t be beat. I kind of forgot how in Albuquerque you see all swaths of humanity in all places. The town is much less segregated than where I live now. At the Frontier there are families, students from the university, homeless people who are having a cup of coffee in a warm place, tourists, and more. I miss that togetherness that just is in New Mexico. After our visit, I headed over to the UNM library to give my talk, which was well attended and well received.

Christine wanted to know if I wanted Saggio’s for lunch, but I was pretty stuffed from breakfast. I challenge you though, to say no to the green chile pizza that is Saggio’s specialty. I walked over to the SUB (Student Union Building) and grabbed a slice for her, but took a couple of bites myself. I offered to get her the kind with green chile and mushrooms, but they were out of mushrooms! By now you’re probably wondering what food I didn’t eat while I was in NM! I did miss Farina, a favorite pizza joint, Winning’s for coffee, and the Grove, a cute sandwich cafe in EDO. Walking around campus, I felt like I was on auto-pilot, muscle memory, yet I was always surprised by what I rounded the corner to see.

Friday evening, I went to dinner with my advisor and his wife at Trombino’s where we had a ridiculously good time. I had to call it a night fairly early every evening because a 2 hour time difference is killer when you get old.

Saturday began with a 5k at Balloon Fiesta Park. Myrriah talked me into it, and I’m so glad she did. She had to bring me some warm running clothes, because it was about 20 degrees out. I’m trying to put up a picture, but I think it’s going to have to wait. There was snow on the ground, and I was running in my five fingers. That’s enough to know that it was cold. Then we had race food, which was great. We wandered a very cold Shop and Stroll in Nob Hill, which was fun. Finally it was time to go to the baby shower. Gayle had made some very cute snacks and the baby shower was all prettied up. How refreshing to see our friend-family again; they have two boys and they have many of the same ideas and concerns that we do. I miss having them to hash things out with.

Sunday morning, it was snowing when I went to breakfast at the Range Cafe before heading to the airport. I was lucky to make it home, as the storm that had hit Dallas was hitting DC when I was slated to land. I did make it, after a long ground stop in St. Louis. The boys met me at the airport, and there’s nothing quite like little ones running toward you to make your day. A great trip, and a great return.

We got a huge snow storm on Tuesday, which I’ll try to write about as I catch up on this long neglected blog.




6 Week Friend September 17, 2013

Filed under: Friends and Relatives,Missing NM,Totally Me — leighj @ 9:59 am

Recently Seamus made a friend at camp, and I gave him a note to give to the little girl to give to her mom. I wasn’t sure if they’d contact us for getting the kids together, but she did. We met at a park, and I quickly realized that she and I have read all the same books for fun in the last two years. We had a great conversation, and then she said they’re moving to Houston in six weeks. I impulsively invited them over for dinner the next weekend. When I told Patrick, he said, “What’s the point?” I thought about it, and I tried to articulate that it would be fun to get to know them, hear their stories, and just enjoy them without the rough parts of making friends in months 6-12 or so. And we wouldn’t have to break up with them as friends if things didn’t work out. He wasn’t impressed with my logic.

Later, I tried to explain what I meant to my two best friends from middle and high school. Needless to say, they weren’t impressed with my enumerating the benefits of a six-week-friendship when we’d all been friends for 20 or more years. In fact, they might have been offended a little by my elation that you get a lot of the fun stories without having to deal with the neuroses.

When we lived in New Mexico, we spent all our time before we left trying to cram in time with friends, time at our favorite places, and time packing. The best part was when our friends cooked our favorite foods and invited us over; an exceptional kindness when our kitchen was packed up. This just reminds me a little of that–she’s getting ready to move, with two small children, and a husband who’s still working. A meal, a place to play, and someone to talk with is the least I can do–and honestly, while it bring back a little of my own stress from moving (which I hate with a blazing passion)–it still if fin to get to know someone I definitely could have been really good friends with.


Vacation! July 24, 2013

We’ve been on vacation. I could have written, but it was pretty busy. We flew into Louisville, rented a car, drove south and visited a lot. Then Patrick flew to New Orleans for his job, I took the boys to the Nashville Zoo, and we flew out of Louisville to Baltimore, drove to Connecticut, got up, went to Boston, spent three days there and then headed to Ossining NY for a family barbeque and then back home. Whew. There were some truly wonderful moments on the trip, and there were some really terrible ones as well.

Some of the really fun times included (but are not limited to, because there was so much fun!):

  • Taking the boys to camp. I’d worked at VAMPY in KY for years, and I wanted to go see if camp was exactly the same. For the most part it was, just bigger. We got a kick out of going down to the redesigned bridge across Barren River and letting the boys throw some leaves in the river. (Fun things to do in Bowling Green/Franklin, KY–the Riverwalk park, the fountain spray park-Circus Park?, Jackson’s Orchard-ride in the wagon, going to Krover/Kroger, hit up a story time at Warren County libraries, the Railpark, and playing that FS Community Park.)
  • We let them play in the spray fountains the next day, at yet another redesigned park. Bowling Green has really upped its game on the downtown area. It looks a lot better. The boys enjoyed driving back and forth to BG because they could spot all kinds of tractors on the road. They even learned how to tell a John Deere. I’ve never been prouder.
  • We saw GiGi and Uncle Bret on Saturday. Good times. Everybody was in good spirits, and my dad’s cousin even stopped by with the “groovy van” and took the boys for a quick ride down to the creek. It was an old VW microbus painted with awesome pictures of wolves–which are Seamus’s current obsession. My mom had even made him his own custom set of wolf pajamas.
  • Patrick and I had a great day on Sunday–a regular New Mexico day not in New Mexico. We drove to Nashville for P to catch his plane to New Orleans; but first we met up with our friend Landon at a terrific East Nashville eatery, Marche. I left it to him to choose the place because I haven’t lived near there in years, so I don’t have a clue what’s hip now. It was such a pleasure to talk over breakfast about education, learning, pedagogy, and policy. Then I dropped Patrick at the airport, and I went to Green Hills, where I ran into a former student of mine who is now in med school at UK–such a strange meeting, but delightful! Later, I met up with friends who work and live in TN, but who I first met in NM. We had a beer on the elevated patio at the Crow’s Nest in Green Hills, and the weather was gorgeous. Right when we left though, it opened up, and all of us were completely soaked for our drives home. NM day because in NOLA, P went out with our friends who’ve moved there from NM! You can take us out of Land of Enchantment but you can’t take it out of us.
  • The next day, I drove back to Nashville (I did a lot of driving in the last 12 days–maybe 1500 miles) to go to the zoo with my aunt. I’m swiping one of her facebook pictures to show you:
  • This is us washing up after feeding the lorikeets. Gil was a little afraid, but he tried it. Seamus was also afraid, but then he was too excited about the birds getting close to mind. It was a really beautiful day, but a little hot, not that we felt it. I seem to remember the Nashville Zoo being one hot miserable place, however, now they’ve planted a bamboo canopy and it’s really pleasant.
  • The next day I drove from Franklin to Louisville, returned a rental car, took a plane to Baltimore, and drove to Berlin CT. I was beat. I did all right, until after a particularly traumatizing potty stop, I realized Seamus’s door wasn’t completely closed as we crossed the GW Bridge into Manhattan. Yep. I GRRRRRD loudly, but luckily we were in a traffic jam fairly quickly and I was able to reach around, open it, and get it securely closed. We have child locks so I couldn’t open it from the inside. One last potty stop in the bushes at a Park and Ride, and we were at the Days Inn Berlin, a surprisingly nice place. The pool was an absolute highlight. After being in the car all day, they were ready to swim! Then they slept very peacefully in the same bed. Whew.
  • So I guess this isn’t really highlights, more play-by-play. Sorry!
  • On Wednesday, we went to Boston. That was fantastic, even if the weather was hot. We had great food and a great time with Grandma and Grandude.
  • If you ask the boys what they liked about Boston, it was the Duck Tour. They even told their little toddler friends all about it in the car yesterday. Gil: “We went on a Duck boat, and then it went, ‘Charge! Into the water!’ And I drove it!” His friend: “We road a boat too in St. Lucia!” Gil: “Was it a Duck boat?” Friend: “And in London!” It was pretty fun. The captain’s name was Captain Foghorn, and I’m just not sure if it was a reference to Foghorn Leghorn or something else. But he sure did like to talk, and he was funny. Seamus winced though every time the speaker came on. He sometimes covers his ears when the vacuum’s on or other loud noises. Very sensitive.
  • The next day we did the New England Aquarium. Very impressive. This time we got to stay and see the whole thing since Gil is a year older and could appreciate the fish, turtles, penguins, and seals. Really awesome. Even as fun, we rode the water shuttle from Charlestown to Long Wharf. What a beautiful view of Boston Harbor and the Boston skyline. We didn’t get to the Make Way for Ducklings or the Swan Boats, but maybe next time.
  • On Saturday, we went to New York to continue our whirlwind trip and see more family. It was a wonderful family BBQ in Ossining with mostly Patrick’s mom’s people. They had terrific food and lots of garden stuff (raspberries, ground cherries, tomatoes, basil, tarragon) for the boys to pull off the plant and taste. We had some epic bocce games and I ate a tremendous amount washed down with a glass of Gruet from NM! There was even a nest of baby robins to check in on. The boys liked playing with Sophie the cat, who did not have access to the baby birds, so she went along with the boys’ affection.
  • Whew. Then we came home. And there was never a family so glad to settle down for a few days before the next big adventure.

I have more to blog about–like Spanish camp, lunches I’ve packed for them, and our adventure at Great Waves waterpark, but it will have to wait. Hope your summer is going well!