Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Some Silly Things and A Family Outing May 7, 2015

Filed under: Family Life,Moving — leighj @ 10:08 am

Porter and I went for a hike the other day. I was talking about the conference to my friend, and Porter sighed heavily and said, “Blah, blah, blah.” That must be how he feels about me talking about my work!

I got an email from LEGO about a mini model build (which they apparently do every month), so I thought we would check it out with the boys. They got a free mouse (so cute) to build. It was a madhouse though, and there was a lot of standing in line. Seamus heard someone say they do it every month, so now he’s angling to go back in June. That was a lot of people for my taste. We decided to make a night of it, so we took our gift card to On the Border with us. However, Cinco de Mayo meant that place was packed too. (I don’t know why, after four years, I’m still surprised by the sheer volume of people here, but I am.) We decided to go next door to Chili’s where our gift card was also good. The boys built their LEGO models at the table and generally enjoyed themselves a great deal. Porter ate lots of guac and Patrick and I enjoyed a margarita. It was a success!

While we were in the restaurant, there came a deluge. We enjoyed watching it and all the people running around. Spring has meant that we’ve been having more fun getting out for all sorts of things. I think it helps that I’m also almost off for a few weeks and it feels good to enjoy some family time.


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.



Home Improvements in a Tiny Space January 5, 2014

We’ve come to terms with the idea that we are going to be in this house a long time. It’s small (1000 sq. ft.) but it can be functional for us. After a couple of IKEA trips, we’ve successfully reconfigured a few things. We have two bigger bedrooms, one for Patrick and me and one for the boys. We have a smaller bedroom that we used as an office/computer watching room/occasional guest room. We have one long strip that needs to function as play room, living room, dining room, mud room, extra kitchen space, and secretary (I mean like the place where people kept their landlines and phone notes and mail). Then we have a closet-like kitchen that includes a full size W/D. We have a small attic and small shed out back.

The boys’ room has always been fine, more or less, but there was always stuff on the floor. We added a bookshelf to their room–a huge relief of the book clutter. Seamus got a lofted bed and we stashed his old bed underneath the lofted part so Gilbert could sleep there. It’s not very high and there’s a substantial rail around it, but we figure he will probably fall out eventually. A toy chest and laundry basket sit at the foot of G’s bed, under the loft. This cleared an amazing amount of space in their room, and they can actually play in there now.

We added an Expedit to the living room, making cubbies for the boys winter coats, hats, gloves, and backpacks. We added a cubby for our reusable bags so we can grab them on the way out the door. Then we added a shelf for their blocks and the toys they got from Santa. It has made a much more functional play area and mud area. That meant we took two dining room chairs to the attic. Additionally, I culled some of their toys. A while back, Patrick got out his projector that he had used in his classroom and set it up so we could watch movies on the wall in the living room. We removed two less comfortable chairs from the living space and put them in the office. We traded for the futon. However, we realized that the futon was just too big for our small space and we sold it on craigslist, replacing with a small love seat. We also added a small shelf above the kids’ art/eating when we have lots of guests table to contain their crayons, stickers, markers, stamps, etc. (I’d love to show you pictures, and maybe I’ll edit this post later with the photos). It’s so much better!

So we’ve got two rooms we’re really happy with and the clutter is way reduced and it just feels so much better. However, now we have to face the mess that is our room. I really think the answer is getting rid of about half my clothing, but every time I try I only manage to cull about a trashbag full. (There were several years right after we moved to Albuquerque that I got this totally under control. I was disgusted by moving so many of my clothes twice in a short period of time, that I decided to buy no clothes for two years. It worked. I did have to buy a pair of jeans when my old ones wore out, but largely I didn’t buy anything. When we moved here, I needed a few dressier outfits to wear to work, and I discovered that somebody is dumping perfectly good Banana Republic wool pants in my size at the local Goodwill. So I bought a lot of them. Now I have too many.) Our room is the next frontier.

Then we tackle the office. With Patrick working from home, it’s really important that he have a space that functions for him to actually work in. Right now we’re not sure what that looks like. I did take one of the not comfy TV chairs, but pretty good reading chair to my office. I love my office. Some days it feels bigger than my house.

It’s been great. Because we’re so pleased with the spaces people see, we’ve invited guests for dinner three nights recently. Pictures soon, if I can make it work.


Easter Weekend March 30, 2013

Filed under: Events,Family Life,Moving — leighj @ 7:55 am

Yesterday felt like Saturday. We got so much done.  I walked the boys to a new park and we played a long time–up and down the slides, experimenting with the sound tubes, running willy-nilly around the wide open space, counting tree rings, trying to get close to birds without scaring them…a fun morning, if  a little cold and windy still. I’m pretty done with the 40 degree cold winds. Then we walked back home and stopped and looked at the crane working on a new condo building. The boys were very interested in watching the workers load up a pallet of tile and send it to the top.

I made lasagne for lunch, we dropped off Patrick’s motorcycle for a new tire, and went to nap. Patrick took our chair that desperately needs to be recovered out for an estimate. Answer? Too much, so I don’t know what we’re going to do about it. Then, a very exciting event! We went to pick up the antique display cabinet that we bought at an auction last Wednesday. The auction itself was an experience! We really had no idea what we were doing, but we decided our top bids on certain items, and when the one we wanted came up, I did the bidding. It’s totally an adrenaline rush. Luckily, the piece fit in the car, so we were able to get it home fairly easily.

We played in the bounce house after nap time, went to retrieve the motorcycle, and came home to make dinner. The boys had scrambled eggs, and we had salad. A friend came over to visit briefly, and we were done. Now it’s almost 8 am and the boys are still asleep.

Today, we’re going for a repeat of last year’s Egg Hunt in Falls Church. Now though, more people are going, and I think we’re having some of them back here to use the bounce house afterward. Lots of toddlers/pre-schoolers in our yard. Tomorrow, actually Easter, Patrick and I are going to have to get serious about going back to work–me for the last six weeks of classes, and him for his final push through to June.

We’re thinking of practicing camping out in our back yard before we embark on any more camping this summer. The boys have a funny way of calling themselves “cubs” and me Mama Bear and Patrick Dada Bear. They’ll bring out piles of blankets, say that we’re camping out in a tent and that Mama Bear has to protect her cubs from the wolf. It’s hilarious, but it might be even more fun outside. Gilbert’s up! He’ll be demanding breakfast soon!


On My Street September 18, 2012

I’m having a lot of trouble focusing on grading response papers after teaching my classes today, so I thought I’d let you in on a little blog post I’ve been working on in my head.

On my street there are big houses and small houses, and thanks to my across the street neighbors, I’ve gotten to know some of the people who occupy these different houses. Now that it’s full on election season, people are starting to put their signs of allegiance in the front yard. I wonder if Halloween will be tricky this year with the signs up.

In the year that we’ve lived in our house, we’ve observed the break-up of the couple next door, and the formation of a new family in the same space. They don’t have any signs in their yard.

Across the street, we’ve watched as their teenage daughter figured out what school she wanted to go to (UVa won out). She packed up and left for college, and they adopted a little dog. Their younger daughter makes good use of her swing in the afternoon. They are very active in their church. They recently put out an Obama sign.

Next to them is a very old couple I talked with at a neighborhood gathering once. She was delighted to hear that I work at a Catholic university, and she was pleased that someone in our family stayed home with the children to raise them. She was probably a little surprised that it was Patrick, but that’s okay. They have a Romney sign.

Next door on our other side are the people we borrowed our new sitter from. They are both employed by the government and sometimes don’t get home until late in the evenings from work. Their house is huge. They have an Obama sign.

On their other side is a house that was for sale for most of the summer but is no longer for sale. The father walks the dog every day at 9:30 am while he talks on his cell phone. The two teenage boys have to pull weeds out of the driveway on a regular basis. The mother always talks to Seamus and Gilbert as they go by. She says they remind her of her two boys. They were selling their house so they could move to their even bigger house in the city. They have a Romney sign.

I guess we’ll put up our sign soon. There’s no sense living in a purple state if you can’t have an opinion. It is interesting though to know people so long without knowing or guessing their political affiliation, and I have to say, for each of our neighbors, it was a toss up. I’m still curious what will go up next door…


Shenandoah and the Solo November 6, 2011

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Moving,Outdoor Pursuits — leighj @ 8:42 am

We’ve had a bunch of stuff going on that I’ve been wanting to write about but I forget to do it all….

  • Last weekend, my parents visited and Patrick and I had planned to go camping in Shenandoah National Park. Had being the operative word. We got up there and the trees were beautiful. We went on a long hike past some waterfalls and then we got kind of turned around and ended up doing a much longer hike than we had intended to do. By the time we got back to the car, it was snowing. By the time we got to our campsite, it was snowing harder. We didn’t have our air mattresses because we had thought they were in Charlottesville, but I guess they were at home. The campground host came by and told us the weather service had revised the forecast and they were predicting a foot of snow! So we left.
  • Our friends Bonny and Scott visited.

With FDR's Dog

We had so much fun with them. First we played some Settlers of Catan. We ate some delicious hummus (which Seamus will eat as long as it’s called dip and not hummus), baba ganoush, and pita. On Friday when they were here, we went to Eastern Market, the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Supreme Court, the FDR memorial, and the new MLK memorial.

  • Patrick’s been in Albuquerque the last two days. I’m on my third day of having the boys full time by myself. I was very worried about the time change, but we seem to have weathered it okay so far. We’ve been walking to parks. We went over to Del Ray and walked around and my friend brought her baby over and we went to the park and played with a fire engine. It’s been fun, mostly. Last night for dinner we had guacamole, salsa, chips, cheese, crackers, and grapes. Very well balanced. Aside from that, I hope Patrick’s having fun and accomplishing a lot in ABQ. Seamus, when P told him that he was going to New Mexico, thought about it and said, “I want to go with you.” He really misses NM and his friends.
  • Gilbert does a few physical comedy things. He’ll bend dow and put his head on the floor if you tell him to do a headstand. He alternately stomps his feet if you say Dance! And he also says hot, bowl, and spoon.
  • Seamus started playing with Liz’s phone the other night. She has some kind of cupcake making app that he loved.

Registering a Car in Virginia August 3, 2011

Filed under: Events,Moving — leighj @ 11:26 pm

Is a giant pain.

First you have to have a car.

Then you have to get inspected, injected, infected, and ne-glected. Or not. Actually you do have to get and inspection, but before that, you try to anticipate any problems with the machinery that the inspection will turn up.

We got new tires for the Mazda. And a new windshield. Cause apparently, it’s safer to drive around without a giant crack along the driver’s line of sight that reflects a lot of sunlight. Did you know that people will come to your house to replace windshield glass? I guess they’d also do it at your office (or as S says, “Oppice”).

P made four trips to the DMV. An insurance card with your address is not acceptable for establishing residency. FYI.

It’s been a long process, but we now have VA plates on both cars (incidentally, on both the front and the back!)