Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Re-entry March 30, 2018

I had a work conference in Albuquerque which was amazingly productive and inspiring. However, it was hard being away from home for five (almost six) nights. I missed my family, and I felt bad about being gone so long.

I got back on Sunday night so late, it might as well have been Monday. To avoid more trauma I skipped yoga Monday altogether. Tuesday, I had a full day of work. Meanwhile, it’s the boys’ spring break. Wednesday, we finally state vacation together. We took the ferry to New Jersey and settled in for Easter at the beach. It’s been fun to be together.

I’ll write more about everything soon I hope, but a few little things to note.

Harlan has learned to climb out of his crib! I guess it’s time for another baby barrier to fall.

We finally saw some kids at the zoo with the haircut Seamus and Gilbert seem to be aspiring to. Mostly they’ve just refused haircuts claiming they want to grow their hair out, but it looks shaggy. So now we know: a sort of feathered look.

Porter continues to be his cute and sunny self. He plays well by himself but he also enjoys getting another brother to join his game.

It’s nice to all be back together!


Ski Day! February 6, 2018

The kids were off school on Monday, and since part of my self-care this semester is not going in on Monday (even though I do work at least 5 hours at home on Monday), I also had the day “off.” I’d been bugging Patrick to take Seamus and Gilbert skiing, but then I realized, I really wanted to go too. So we did some research, and found a mountain in PA with fresh snow, thanks to the storm that went through Sunday, and daycare for little ones onsite. We put on the top box, got down our gear, and packed a big picnic–goldfish, bagels, granola bars, apples, and more. I sat in the back with Seamus and Gilbert, and graded papers, prepared for classes, and read. They listened to their audio book which kept distracting me with its funny parts.

All in all, it was a really fun day. There were a few glitches, but that’s always the case. The first though, was our overly ambitious plan for Porter. We thought he would want to ski. He did, until he actually got on his skis. Then, he was TERRIFIED. He started crying and said, “They’re too slippery. I’m really scared!” I helped him and he did seem to enjoy himself a little, but then he’d get scared again. Then the little carpet lift was turned off, and people were walking up it. He was then crying that he’d wanted to go ice-skating, not skiing. That made zero sense, but it was at this time that we decided to take him over to the daycare and let him hang out with Harlan. The daycare was great. They were the only kids there, and they played with the play kitchen for an hour and a half.

Porter’s last smile!

When we got to daycare, he said he needed to go potty, so I wonder if I’d gotten him to go before we went out if he would have done better. Who knows, but he said he’d be willing to give it a try again when he gets bigger.

Seamus and Gilbert were little demons on the hill. They had a ton of fun, skiing blues and greens with no problem. There was some snowmaking going on, which made it a little unpleasant on the face. We found a trail that had the blowers off, and we skied it over and over, until the boys got too comfortable and tried to race down, not watching for other (slower) skiers.

A beautiful day!

We had plenty of food, lovely weather, and a lot of family fun. The day did make me miss New Mexico when everyday was beautiful and sunny on the slopes.


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.


    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.


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.