Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Updates on the Family May 10, 2017

Filed under: Events,Family Life,Growing up,Outdoor Pursuits,School for Boys — leighj @ 11:50 am

My semester is winding down erratically. I had a final on Saturday and Monday and then am waiting for one on Friday. Grades for two classes are done and in, but I like to get it all wrapped up neatly. Then I have next week, when I have work on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

We went to Charlottesville to celebrate Seamus’s birthday, and we hiked up Humpback Rocks with all the kids. It was a long way up! They did great, though, and we enjoyed the beautiful (if terrifying) view.

Yah! I’m not going to fall off!

Some of us took the easy way up! 

Afterwards, we stopped at Wegman’s and bought food for a picnic lunch. Then we headed back to Nana and PopPop’s and cooled off in the lake water since it was 95 degrees in April.

Then we had an incredibly busy week in which we registered Porter for preschool at the community center (he’s super excited!), tried to wrap up the semester of teaching, went to an evening event, and planned and hosted a party for tenure. While our sanity was in question, we had a pretty low key prep for the party–our biggest worry was whether the ground would dry out a bit. The kids had a blast at the party. Harlan rode in the ergo the whole time, Porter played with the other kids his age, and Seamus and Gilbert played wiffleball in the front yard with all of the kids ages 6 and up. They were exhausted afterward, but we did manage to feed them before the party really got going. At one point, Gilbert returned to the food table for a veggie dog and bun; I asked if he wanted ketchup. He said, “No, I’m just eating this to get my calories refilled.”

Gilbert and Patrick had stashed some wood in the shed so they’d be dry wood for the fire. Smart thinking!

Seamus’s birthday continued on Monday when I took him and two friends to play minigolf. He had wanted to go bowling, but he changed his mind to minigolf when he remembered how much he enjoys playing. Three 8-year-olds are pretty easy to manage when they are involved in a fun activity. They played two rounds and loved every minute. I was worried that one of them would get upset if he was “losing” but from the get go, they agreed not to keep score. I would put up a picture, but I don’t like adding pictures of other peoples’ kids without their permission.

Porter drives the tractor.

We went to play at a friend’s house, and Porter loved getting on and off the tractor and peddling it. One of his favorite books right now is Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site. The front loader on the tractor intrigued him. His other favorite books are all the Franklin the Turtle books. Seamus and Gilbert loved those too, and honestly, I don’t get tired of them. Porter is engaged in imaginative play almost all the time, and he likes to tell stories. It’s astounding to hear what’s going on in his head. Funny, most of the time, and pretty clear that we shouldn’t talk about things in front of him that we don’t want him to process, because he is actively listening and thinking.

Harlan is a backyard boy!

Harlan is a demon in the backyard! He is into everything and for the most part, I don’t mind. I just don’t like it when he gets in my garden and tries to eat the dirt. The other day, he said “bath.” Gilbert taught him to say backpack. And he consistently says Bye bye, Hi, Thank you, Dada, and More. He says ball when he feels like it, book sometimes, and water fairly consistently. He’s a motor mouth if someone will sit down and talk with him. He tried to take his shoes off when he came in the house (as is our custom!). He’s all over being part of the family. But the biggest point in his favor right now is that he’s night-weaned and sleeping through the night. I feel like a new person.

We’re rolling along. The garden is starting nicely, too!

chives, rosemary, radishes, mustard greens, and squash/cukes

 

Snow Day! Heavy Wet March Snow Version March 15, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Fourth Baby,Growing up,Outdoor Pursuits — leighj @ 7:27 am

We had a snow day on Harlan’s birthday! So glad that didn’t happen last year!

Activities:

  • Breakfast–pancakes. Porter had his with a side of tantrums.
  • Filling out brackets for March Madness. I picked Louisville, Gilbert picked Duke, Seamus picked Gonzaga, and Patrick picked Oregon. Gilbert taped them to the wall. Then Porter got a pen and scribbled all over them.
  • Outside to shovel and play in the snow. A mishap with the hook for the shed, but the three older boys were able to sled down the back slope toward the bike path. Patrick did a lot of shoveling of the heavy snow.
  • Harlan napped. I wished I could.
  • Hot chocolate and lunch.
  • Then somehow, Seamus started talking about cursive writing, and wanted to do some. So I printed some worksheets off the internet. Seamus did two worksheets and lost interest, and Gilbert’s been going forever. He’s on Q now. Seamus read his Star Wars choose your own for a while and went back outside to sled.
  • Porter finally got interested in lunch. Then he built some block towers and finally decided he’d like to read some books. Then he napped and I wished I could.

It’s kind of a long day inside because this snow is fun for a little while, but it’s disappearing off the hill fast.

Pancake Making

Sledding!

When convinced that mittens would help…

Here, Seamus, hold Harlan while I put on Porter’s mittens.

Action!

Porter was DYING to go down the hill too. He finally made it and got some help from Seamus.

Harlan is a big ONE YEAR OLD!

 

Pictures to Support Recent Posts February 21, 2017

I wasn’t able to put up pictures from our weekend away, so here they are.

The children’s museum was educational, if a little overstimulating in places.

"Scares me!"--Porter

“Scares me!”–Porter

They had a space where children could pretend to be a dentist and work on a patient.

They had a space where children could pretend to be a dentist and work on a patient.

Porter and Harlan both loved the train exhibit.

Porter and Harlan both loved the train exhibit.

We put on a puppet show! Porter loved the theater part of the children's museum.

We put on a puppet show! Porter loved the theater part of the children’s museum.

The colored dots were pleasingly psychedelic.

The colored dots were pleasingly psychedelic.

Gilbert rocked the goggles.

Gilbert rocked the goggles.

Skiing with cousins is more fun!

Skiing with cousins is more fun!

The weather has been so warm, this may be our only good winter picture this year!

The weather has been so warm, this may be our only good winter picture this year!

 

A Weekend Away–Skiing with Kids February 13, 2017

The kids have the first weekend in February as a long weekend. The first year they were in school, we didn’t realize that was the case, but ever since, we’ve put it on the calendar and tried to make the most of it. This year, we took them out to Bryce Mountain for some skiing and fun. It was a blast. I ended up taking Porter and Harlan down to the Children’s Museum in Harrisonburg. Porter loved playing on the train, in the ambulance, and with the chicken eggs. We put on a puppet show and pretended to be TV newscasters. He was terrified of the large mouth of teeth! Harlan also enjoyed himself. In the grand tradition of Children’s museums, I had a child throw a tantrum upon the need to leave.

Porter is generally cooperative, but when he’s not, it’s a sight. We were leaving the museum, and I had a hold of his arm. I had to let him go to readjust my grip on Harlan. Porter took the opportunity to bolt back down the street and around the corner to the museum! He also bolted another time when I told him “No gumballs” at the entrance to a Food Lion. It’s unexpected because it’s new behavior, so I have to fight the urge to laugh with the imperative to engage cooperation. One of the parenting points in the How to Talk book is engaging cooperation. Usually, I can manage that technique with each kid, even though it sometimes requires a step back and extra thought.

On our weekend away, Seamus and Gilbert really enjoyed skiing. They especially liked the individual attention they got, eventually moving off the bunny slope onto the big hill. I have some cute pictures, but they’re not accessible to me at the moment, so I’ll post some later. They both took some falls, but we tell them that in skiing, if you’re not falling, you’re not getting better. We also had a day of skiing with their cousins, which was fun. It was warm and sunny, and I took the younger boys to meet up and bring some snacks slope side. We enjoyed watching them and picking them out as they skied down. Bryce is a great place to learn because it wasn’t too cold and the mountain is very manageable.

It is a ridiculous thing to take kids skiing, but it was so fun and will be a great memory.

 

Clean Spaces January 11, 2017

I cleaned my office on Friday last week, and we’ve been keeping the house a bit neater (when possible–the kids are pretty good at messifying it). It is nice to have some open space–makes it easier to think. However, I find that I’m not quite ready for work as I’m now wandering about wondering what I should do.

A long time ago, I wrote about using KonMari methods to tidy our space. We didn’t do full bore tidying, but we did a lot of work around the house, especially with regard to clothes, papers, toys, and books. I am pleased with our efforts on nights like last night when cleaning the house up just meant returning everything to the bins they had been in! Last night, Gilbert was the biggest helper in cleaning up the common space. I think it was because he and I had been silly instead of antagonistic earlier in the evening. (It involved singing Andrea Bocelli’s (Time to Say Goodbye) with the words, “Gilbert doesn’t want to get dressed but if he doesn’t it will be “Time to GO TO TIME OUT” sit in the kitchen for hours, now he’ll go brush his teeth, get all clean, comb his hair… etc.) Pretty hilarious, except Porter got upset and wanted Gilbert to actually go to time out.

And, per the new recommendations, we gave Harlan some peanut butter. I want to say that nothing happened, but that would be untrue. He grinned, and clapped, and squealed, and demanded more peanut butter! It is the best thing he has ever tasted! (Friends with a young baby were laughing with us that it’s funny with babies because this is the first time in their lives that they have ever tasted a food, so it’s novel and exciting–I’m not describing the feeling well.)

Ok, the most fun thing that happened recently was snow:

Porter's snow bibs!

Porter’s snow bibs!

Harlan practices standing without holding on!

Harlan practices standing without holding on!

 

CSA Gleaning and Roundup October 24, 2016

This weekend, we went out to the farm for the last CSA event.

Digging Sweet Potatoes

Digging Sweet Potatoes

The farmer is very enthusiastic and took us down to the sweet potatoes right away. Gilbert really got into the digging, and we quickly had a lot. Then we saw a black widow in a deer bone, heard some stories about copperheads and rattlesnakes, and we walked back up. We wanted to make apple cider, get some eggs, and get hot peppers for pickling. We ended up meeting all those goals.

Highlights:

  • The interaction with the farmer!
  • Using the cider press. We also picked up apples from the ground to send through the cider press. Seamus and Gilbert were slow and picky during this task, so I told them that we were only pressing the apples they collected. That didn’t make them work more efficiently, but they did regret it later when they tasted their delicious cider and knew if they’d only worked a bit harder, they would have had more.
  • We had a bang up time picking hot peppers. We have three jars put in the fridge now, which should last us a while. They are so delicious (and pretty spicy!). Gilbert and Porter liked picking them. Porter tends to tag along into the weeds, and then get stuck.
  • We saw how okra grows (both S & G want an okra patch next year). We got a couple of pumpkins, some bell peppers, lettuce, sorrel, and parsley. Yesterday, I made a cream of sorrel and parsley soup, which went very well with the apple crisp. I’d been getting tired of the greens we were getting in the CSA, but when we went out and picked a mess of them ourselves and then cooked them right up, I wasn’t sick of them anymore!
  • Seamus kept nibbling on the lettuce in the garden.
  • Gilbert exclaimed, “This is like OCR!” That means outdoor classroom at his school. Later I asked him if he acts like he did at the farm in OCR, right up on the farmer and digging in the dirt. Gilbert said, of course, nobody else wants to get all dirty and be the example. I thought, how amazing! So many kids don’t know what the plants look like that produce their food.
  • At one point, we laughed and said, “Who would go to Cox farms [a fancy pumpkin patch] when you could do this!?” It was cold and windy, but warm in the sun. We all found something to make the day exciting. Even Harlan was awake the whole time. On the way home, we had three sleeping kids.

Now we have a little more bounty to cook up and use. However, one thing that will be easier now is menu planning. I’m looking forward to getting back to the routine with that. We are having apples come out of our ears–but I’m not complaining!

 

Lucky Boys September 4, 2016

Filed under: Family Life,Outdoor Pursuits,Summer Vacation — leighj @ 9:57 am
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Finding four leaf clovers is a thing that comes easily to me and has since I was little. When talking with someone, or walking, I can look down, see one, pick it, and keep going. This usually prompts a, “How do you do that?” I’ve been trying to get the boys trained to find them too.

A few days ago, we came across a mutated patch of clover in which about one in four was a four leaf, and one in 20 was a five leaf. I encouraged them to look, and at first they didn’t want to, since when I’ve made them look before it was hard. This time though, they started having fun finding them.

Gilbert shows his lucky clovers.

Gilbert shows his lucky clovers.

Seamus only wants the five leaf clovers.

Seamus only wants the five leaf clovers.

Maybe they’ll get into it now!