Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Mardi Gras with Friends February 15, 2018

Our friends from Baton Rouge came up for some Mardi Gras fun. They really came up to see snow, but there wasn’t any this weekend, so that was a bust. We did have a lot of rain. Even with the rain, we managed to get out for some adventures. We like the hike along Pimmet Run, which has a creek, some fun crossings, and suburban nature animals. Porter managed to cross the creek with lots of help–but he did it! He really pitched a tantrum about going, but enjoyed himself once he was out. One of the highlights for him was showing Harlan how to throw rocks in the creek.

A worthy pastime.

In the background of this picture, you may be able to see Seamus and Gilbert playing on a downed branch that goes across the creek. They enjoyed making multiple crossings while our friend built a “shelter” for the kids to play in.

Daniel Boone channeling.

Well, you can only cross a log so many times before getting overconfident. Gilbert fell in the creek! He was fine, but he and Seamus went back to the car ahead of us, so he wouldn’t freeze.

Fun in the woods.

It started raining around the time we left, so we considered it a top notch adventure day.

Pretty proud of himself on the crossing.

Later on Saturday, Seamus had his basketball game while the little ones napped. Sunday we took the three year olds to a puppet show. They enjoyed it, but as my friend pointed out, the show wasn’t all it could have been. She said, “I was itching to get up there and make a real story for the puppets!” And she probably could have improved a great show. Monday had us taking the kids downtown for a visit to the American Indian museum and a quick visit to Air and Space. We even got to have a ride on the carousel. Porter looked up and said, “Hey, this isn’t the zoo!” because I’m pretty sure he only remembers the carousel at the zoo. The ride on the metro was the crowing point to the morning!

In the afternoon, since it had dried out, we went to the park. Porter asked if he could stay home, and because Patrick was staying back to work on dinner and his bike, I let him. He needed some alone time with his toys. I guess he forgot Patrick was there, because when we got back, he announced, “Hey! I’ve been home alone. Dada isn’t here. I went outside and said, ‘I’m not afraid anymore!'” I’m not sure what was funnier–that he forgot Patrick was there, or that he decided to act out a scene from Home Alone.

Anyway, it was a fun visit, and we’re hoping to go to Louisiana for Mardi Gras next year!

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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.

 

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!

 

Snow! December 9, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Growing up,Outdoor Pursuits — leighj @ 11:38 am

This morning, it started snowing about 7:30 am. Porter and Harlan are the only kids home, since Seamus and Gilbert are off with their grandparents for a party and some fun. Porter was excited to see the snow, and Harlan was antsy, so I took him outside to walk around in it. Then Porter came out too, and said, “Oh, you have a snowflake in your hair, Harlan!” and he plucked it off, not realizing he had many snowflakes in his own hair. He was surprised when the snowflake melted on his finger. It’s so pretty, falling outside the window now onto the turf field while I sit in a room with about half my students who are finishing their final exam.

Yes, we’ve made it to finals week! I have a ton of grading to do, but I’m feeling really happy that the semester is winding down. I had many wonderful students this term, but I also felt overly busy in many ways.

Yesterday, when the grandparents came to get S&G, Porter was showing off and entertaining everyone, or so I heard (I had a long day on campus and couldn’t be there to see them off). I think he was trying to convince his grandparents to take him with them! This morning, he thought they would all come back and pick him up for breakfast at the hotel (this is what my parents do when they’re in town). He was disappointed when we said that wasn’t the case, but he was mollified with egg nog and snow. Porter has been very three lately with pretty wild swings in behavior and mood, but he’s mostly a delight and he does want to do the right thing, we just have to figure out a way to make that easier for him.

I hope they get to enjoy the snow some more this afternoon! Porter wanted to find his snow boots and wear them around.

 

Too Long Since I Blogged October 29, 2017

It seems I’m having a lot of trouble getting in the swing of my blog. It’s a bummer because I also want to remember the details of our daily lives, not just the exciting vacation times. I have somethings to get out before Halloween pictures take over.

Real quick, and short changing all of these events:

  • Vocabulary Emergency: One thing about my job, unlike other jobs, is that there are no emergencies. However, a colleague told me a few days ago that she was having a vocubulary emergency, needing to know how to draw a distinction between Latino and Hispanic. I like this graphic for that! Then, we were at the Benefits fair, and somebody stopped my colleague and me to consult on how to spell benefit! Good to have an expert on hand!
  • We got our crosswalk! A year ago we asked City Hall for a crosswalk to protect the bus stop and make the road here a little slower. The city put it in over the last month, and a year to the day we asked, we got the signage for our crosswalk. Here’s the thing: IT WORKS! People stop when they never did before.
  • Harlan is aware of his surroundings. He was having applesauce the other day, and Porter asked for a piece of pumpkin pie. Harlan observed, slammed down his spoon, and said, “PIE!” Of course, he got some.
  • The other day we walked to school, with a pit stop for hot chocolate (the kids get a coupon book from the library’s summer reading program, and all of them expire on 10/31). It was a great walk, but it was the first time they’ve ever been late to school. Then we dropped Porter at his school. A fun morning.
  • We had our first experience at Imagination Stage in Bethesda. It was a small venue, but the staging was great and the actors were wonderful. Seamus and Gilbert enjoyed the play, and Porter and Harlan enjoyed their naps while we were gone.
  • Seamus has been talking about school in a way he never did before. I think this teacher is really good for him, and he feels that there a sense of fairness in this classroom that he didn’t have last year. He also is his class’s representative to the SGA (student council). He also loves the creative thinking activity he’s doing in the breakout class, and while I hope that he gets to do advanced math, I’m really pleased to see that he is developing skills that are challenging for him.
  • Gilbert has been doing what everyone should do! He’s constantly negotiating for money for activities that he does. Porter caught on that the boys are getting paid to read a book to him and Harlan, so he read to himself the other day and came over to ask for his money for reading to himself. Oops. Backfired.
  • Porter and Harlan have been riding their little pedal-less bike. Gilbert and I worked on cartwheels yesterday. Seamus’s soccer is almost over, but they he’s had so much fun, that it’s made it worth the effort we’ve put in to let him play.

    Bikers!

    Crosswalk!

    Happy Gilbert!

 

Five Nights September 16, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Outdoor Pursuits — leighj @ 6:48 pm

I’m on my last night of being home with the kids while Patrick has a work trip. For the most part, it’s been fine, but there are definitely things that I’ll need to be a little less judgmental about in the future.

  1. We’ve had three meals a day, but I wouldn’t call them all winners. In the good column, I taught Seamus how to make his own scrambled eggs; I packed healthy lunches for the older boys, and I packed myself a lunch for work. In the bad column, we had cheese, crackers, and apples for dinner on a night I’d planned to make stir-fry; we’ve had a lot of peanut butter and Nutrigrain bars for snacks; and I let them have a glass of OJ that was about to turn. In mediocre terms, we ordered pizza one night (I put this in the middle column because we’d had it on the menu plan and it was the night of Seamus’s soccer practice.
  2. I’ve had help. Patrick’s dad watched the kids from 7:00-4:00 on Friday, while I went to teach. I also hired a babysitter to take Seamus to soccer practice (which another parent totally called me out on today). And I hired her again this morning so I could go to the grocery and to the shoe store. (I’m really annoyed that the credit card sent a ding to Patrick as soon as I bought shoes–It’s like it thinks my husband has to approve my purchases…)
  3. Friday, they all wanted to talk to me, but after 375 minutes of students, I just couldn’t listen. I tried, but I couldn’t focus on what they were saying or respond appropriately. Literally, they were all talking. I’m sure I missed important clues about their lives, but I just had nothing left. Pizza made us all feel better. I’ve tried to be patient, and I think it’s worked, mostly, but I have at least one interaction I regret my reaction for each kid.
  4. They miss Patrick. The one time we got to FaceTime, they were so excited to see him! Harlan walks around the house looking for him, “Dada? Dada?” Seamus and Gilbert keep making sure he’s going to get back when he said he would tomorrow. And Porter does, desperately, but doesn’t really know how to articulate it.
  5. Screen time. I’ve let them watch the iPads tonight, because I didn’t want to set up the projector. So they’ve been quietly watching Franklin and the Parent Trap (2 iPads) for 70 minutes. We do movie night on Saturdays, but I usually watch with them. I just can’t. And Harlan was still awake and I wanted to bathe him and get him to bed. A good column though! They’ve had more baths than usual, and I’ve managed to have reading time with each kid, every day. Porter, Franklin and Little Critter; Harlan, board books; Gilbert & Seamus, Number the Stars (finished!) and Bridge to Terabithia (started).

So I guess my takeaway and resolution is to be a bit easier and kinder on my friends and acquaintances who have a partner who works long hours or who travels a lot. Shortcuts that give you back some sanity or quiet time is okay, and nobody’s being neglected, even if I didn’t give them my best attention from 4-5:30 on Friday.

PS Seamus’s first soccer game was a lot of fun. He enjoyed himself and did not seem tired at all afterwards.

 

Happenings–Last Day of Summer and Gilbert’s Birthday Weekend September 4, 2017

Filed under: Events,Family Life,Growing up,Outdoor Pursuits,Summer Vacation — leighj @ 3:12 pm

Well, it’s been a long time since I posted anything, but largely that’s down to I went back to work two weeks ago! This weekend was Gilbert’s birthday. He’s seven! I feel like he was too old to be six, but it’s funny that his birthday is always coming to quickly (maybe because it is the last bit of summer). We celebrated with Lego Figure Cake, some legos, a book, and time with grandparents. He declared it the “Best Birthday Ever” so you know it was fine.

In other recent events:

Gilbert at the batting cage.

Seamus awaits a pitch.

It was a rather cold day for the water park.

I took all four kids to the water park and batting cages, even though it was a bit overcast and cold. They enjoyed themselves immensely anyway. It’s been too cold to swim the last two weeks, but here’s hoping we get a couple more days in before the end of the season.

We enjoyed a beautiful evening on the Georgetown waterfront.

Harlan’s language has exploded. He said ducks, airplane, I go, fountain, and some more words this night. We also cut off this cute little mullet over the weekend.

Early morning duck feeding.

See the trim?

Gilbert wanted to swing. It was pretty funny.

Best Birthday–to be Davy Crockett, or Daniel Boone?