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


HTG Games 2017, Fun Weekend, Basketball March 20, 2017

Filed under: Events,Family Life,Growing up,School for Boys — leighj @ 1:40 pm

On Friday, I took Seamus and Gilbert to the PTA fundraiser. It was loud and fun. However, the fire alarm went off, and we ended up leaving. I guess they tried to finish the games, but I don’t know how well that worked out. I had told the boys they didn’t need jackets because the gym would be so hot. Oops! As we stand in the 20 degree weather waiting for the fire department. I had a couple of extra kids with me, and I was so glad the fire alarm hadn’t gone off earlier. Seamus kept saying that someone must have burned some popcorn! Later, we had a good discussion about what to do if a friend wants to do something foolish or dangerous like pulling the fire alarm and you’re with them. They already know “I’m going to tell on you” is ineffective. Expressing disapproval on coolness would help, and we also talked about how you could say, “If you do that, it’s all on you. I’ve got nothing to do with it.” Life lessons.

We had a great weekend otherwise. Poor little Harlan got his booster shots and he’s been under the weather since. Every time I take him in for a well child visit, he gets sick. Grr. He is the smallest, at 20.5 pounds. However, he was putting on a show at the doctor’s office, waving, and yakking away. Patrick took Seamus and Gilbert to a sports bar on Sunday to watch some games while I worked in the quiet house. I was a little envious because it sounded like fun, but I finished my work for the the coming week. I told Patrick if Seamus picks Gonzaga and they win, he’ll probably imprint on Gonzaga and want to go there for college. Gilbert already got mad and threw away his bracket.

We went to some friends house on Saturday night. Seamus and Gilbert settled in to play, and the next thing you know, we couldn’t find Porter. He was off playing so quietly and nicely that we almost left him there. Not really. We also had friends over in the morning to celebrate Harlan and Miles’s birthdays and doula days. Six boys–ages 7, 6, 5, 3, 2, 1. (The three year old was turning four in a week.) It was not as loud as you might imagine!

We are starting to think about new room arrangements for the kids. We won’t make any changes until May (when my school gets out), but we’re thinking about how to maximize space, compatibility, and reading/sleeping time. Harlan loves to go into the other boys’ room. I think he wonders why he doesn’t get to sleep in there. The other night, he had a late nap, so all the older boys were in bed before he was. We turned our backs for a second, and he had disappeared and broken into their room! Giggles from all!

They were playing the “Good night” game.


October and Fall is Here October 15, 2016

Filed under: Family Life,Growing up,School for Boys,Travel — leighj @ 9:12 am

We’ve had back to school nights, fall break, and a change in air and temperatures. Harlan is starting to eat solid food (and undergo a major sleep regression).



Gilbert’s teacher does this cute thing with names and each student gets to come up with the words to describe themselves. Seamus also got to do it last year. Back to school night was fun, but I wish Patrick and I both could have gone to Gilbert’s class too.



They had an ice skating birthday party to go go to. I was pretty impressed that they stayed with it for so long, despite falling, and just not being very good at it. I always enjoyed that though.

Porter's a biker-dude!

Porter’s a biker-dude!

He’s been riding to the park, to the bus stop, and he rode all the way to Harris Teeter recently. He’s gotten fast–which is a little unpredictable and scary in traffic.

Baby Downward Dog!

Baby Downward Dog!

Harlan is really trying to pull up, and he can crawl kind of quickly now, which means the boys’ room is not a safe place. He does this funny downward dog move, and he also does a “Funny face” where he grins, squints his eyes, and throws his head back.

Walnut bowling!

Walnut bowling!

This kind of speaks for itself! But you collect walnuts and roll them down the street.

At the zoo.

At the zoo.

They are sort of looking at the camera….


Obviously, I’m Back to Work September 16, 2016

Filed under: Family Life,Growing up,School for Boys,Uncategorized — leighj @ 8:05 pm

I can’t get a blog post out to save my life. Tonight, Patrick took sons 1-3 camping. Littlest dude fell asleep at 5:30. I’m going to pay for that later, I’m sure.

Sitting at the big boy table!

Sitting at the big boy table!

Patrick upgraded Harlan to the big boy table. Porter gets a booster. The other boys play musical chairs. I just want to shovel my food in. Family dinner time is necessary (not overrated) but wow. It’s a lot of work. I guess it’s worth it for these cutey faces at the table too.

The case of the orange.

The case of the stolen orange(s).

I remarked (casually and off-handedly) that some oranges looked good at the Marriott. My family then proceeded to take all they could carry (to make fun of me???). Anyway, they made for some good juice and muffins.

A cure for the gimmes.

A cure for the gimmes.

Oh, how shopping with this kid is an exercise in saying no. About 100 times. He really wanted to show me this dog in the hopes I would buy it. I was already in line to check out, so I said, “Why don’t you take my phone and go take a picture of yourself with the dog?” That solved the problem!! He felt heard, and like he had the dog, but I didn’t have to say no (again…).

Last night we did Seamus’s back to school night. It was great–funny and so, so Seamus. He wrote us a letter to leave at his desk, signed, “your smartest cid.” He also apologized for a “messy desk” which was very neat and encouraged us to go look at the Guess Who on the wall. This year, he wants to be a scientist. “So I can blow things up.”


Memorial Day Weekend May 31, 2016

Last year, we had a big party on Memorial Day weekend. This year, we did not have it in us! Instead, we kept busy (the weather finally cooperated!) and did a lot of fun activities. On Friday (because weekends start early around here), we took some food to friends who recently had their second boy. Their older boy is almost exactly Porter’s age. I made a tamale pie out of the Moosewood Celebrates cookbook. It said the pie was inspired by The Vegetarian Epicure cookbook, so I looked it up in there. The Moosewood had seriously simplified that recipe! Thank goodness, because I would not have really wanted to whip egg whites and all sorts of other things. Anyway, it was fun to see a teeny baby since Harlan is growing so fast.

When reading to Porter at night, he likes to read Harold and the Purple Crayon. When we get to the part about the hot air balloon, he points to a picture above his bed. I asked Patrick if he’d been working with him on that, and he said he hasn’t, so I guess Porter is paying attention to the decor around him. We had some friends over on Saturday (we’re slowly easing back into having people over), and Porter wanted desperately to tag along with the big kids while they were playing.

On Sunday, we let Seamus go with a friend to a high ropes course. He had a blast and was pretty wound up after a long playdate! It was nice for him to get to do something developmentally appropriate that the other kids can’t do yet. I was a little anxious about protocol on a long playdate (do we pack his lunch?), but he was fine and the other parents seem cool.

Monday there was a big parade, and Seamus had worked very hard this year to get to march in the parade. He did Earth Watch activities.

His poster!

His poster!

We let Porter and Harlan nap, while Seamus, Gilbert, and I went to the parade. We ran into some friends (in one case, I literally ran into a woman I know) and had a great time. It was a long parade–nearly 1 hour 15 minutes! Lots of dancers, music, and the school mascots!

In Gilbert news, we went to his Kindergarten musical.

2016-05-25 18.46.35-2

He was into it! But he was always a step behind.



How the Older Boys are Handling their New Baby March 18, 2016

Bringing home a new baby is always interesting. The boys’ reactions are pretty varied.


We’ll start with him because it’s hardest on the current youngest. Porter already hasn’t been feeling his best (a little cough and congestion), but couple that with a baby, and poor thing. He wanted to touch the baby a lot right at first. He giggled when he felt Harlan’s head in the hospital. But he quickly expressed his desire to rip the blanket off and check out the intruder. I tried to get away with letting Patrick hold Harlan while I held Porter, having learned a little from the Seamus/Gilbert introduction. He sobbed as he left the hospital.

However, while he’s been clingy and fussy, he’s doing a little better, and we keep reminding ourselves that he’s really having the worst days of his life right now. In a week or so, he should be much better. He wants to rock the car seat, or bouncy seat. He wants to climb on me, ALL the time. He needs a lot of love and reassurance. I’ve been getting up with him when he wakes at 6:15, and we continue our tradition of going to the couch to snuggle and lay down for a few minutes until Seamus gets up at 6:45 (usually). These guys are my early risers. He likes that, and he likes going outside to play. He’s been transitioning to a balance bike, and he loves it.


Seamus’s first question/comment was, “You’re not having any more babies are you?” Well, no. But we talked about the deeper issue. I explained that each baby makes you love your other children more. He was suspicious, but curious. I said, “I don’t know, I guess your heart gets bigger.” And I think that was somewhat plausible for him.

Seamus’s school musical was Wednesday night. Back when they first planned for it, I saw the date with a sinking heart. I thought, if he gets a speaking part, the baby will come on that day and I’ll miss Seamus’s play. He came home and told us he didn’t have a part. Whew. But I still didn’t want to miss it. I helped make the costumes! With all my free time. Well, things got weirder. He told us he croaks with the other tadpoles. Then he said he was one of the ones whose tadpole tail had to rip off. I wasn’t sure what he was talking about. Finally, Gilbert told us that Seamus had to step up the microphone, but was afraid to speak and they had to make him. Now we were really confused. I asked him again. No speaking role.

He was very nervous that we were going to be late. He was nervous I wasn’t going to be able to go or stay through the whole thing because of Harlan (or Porter). We got our programs and listed as Tommy Tadpole was Seamus. It turned out he was a tadpole dancer who turned into a frog. (Hence the ripping off of his tail). Then he had to stand in the middle of the stage for a whole song about finding your voice Tommy, do all the movements, and at the end of the song say “Croak” into the microphone! It was SO Seamus to not tell us that he had a part. What a surprise. I’m so glad we all made it for his big moment.

And that’s how he’s coping. By trying not to ask us for too much, so that he’s not disappointed when we can’t give it.


Gilbert seems to be doing well. But he’s definitely getting the short end right now. Between Porter’s neediness, and Seamus’s musical, Gilbert’s not getting much attention. Well, his friends are giving him some, and he tells everyone he sees about his new baby, so he’s milking it.

Gilbert’s obsessed with my stomach and whether it’s returning to regular size. He’s advocating for another baby brother or sister–he prefers sister.

He came home Wednesday and asked if he had to go to Seamus’s play. Couldn’t he just stay home with me and Harlan? (I told him absolutely not.) Looking back, he was hoping to deny Seamus his moment in the sun and to get a little mama-time for himself.

He’s being really helpful with Porter–patient and friendly. He remembers how Porter feels.

And now there are six people in this family! Patrick said it really struck him when he picked Harlan and me up from the hospital and the van was nearly full.

Our first photo as a family of six.

Our first photo as a family of six.


A Lot of Exciting Things November 12, 2015

  1. Porter says many new things, and some old things. I’m going to try to write them all here. Ball, Nana (banana), Mo, No, Yeah, Cheee (Cheese), Dada, Mama, Byebye, nose, NiNi (Night night). He isn’t super consistent on talking because he really prefers to point and grunt, and have you guess. But it’s awfully cute when you ask if he wants to go for a walk, or to the park, and he grabs his shoes, says “yeah” and heads for the door.
  2. Porter is into physical comedy. He does the same thing Gilbert used to do where he tripods his head down and gets close to doing a headstand. He flops over backward for a laugh. He grabs his ears and flaps his arms when you ask him where his ears are. He grabs your nose when you ask where a nose is. He howls with laughter when the boys play with him. He’s still into Peek-a-boo, but he likes to control that game.
  3. We had parent teacher conferences. We’ve made a renewed effort at reading with Seamus, and I’m ashamed to admit this on two fronts, but I will. After spending three nights giving Seamus 15 minutes of my undivided attention, he is already reading much more fluently and confidently. I’m embarrassed because it means I really wasn’t carving out the time to pay attention to his needs, and because I read for a living, and how can I neglect my son’s progress?!
  4. Both Seamus and Gilbert ask a lot of questions in class. The teacher nicely termed that “natural inquirer.” I’m glad they’re working on their understandings of the world, but perhaps it would be better if they weren’t so adamant. I told Seamus he could start reading more mature books when he had a more mature brain. I tried to explain that he would need to know how to think about questions like, what happens after you die? He had a very reductionist answer.
  5. Gilbert is a social animal. However, he must pay better attention to his teachers than he does to us. He believes in his arts and crafting work. It does explain why he’s pretty tired and grumpy after school. He’s been working really hard to keep himself focused and under control.
  6. Seamus and Gilbert both wrote little stories at school about their mini derby bike, that they play with at home in the back yard. It’s fun to get a window into their thoughts through their writings.
  7. And…we found out that the baby due in March is…a…boy! We’re excited for a houseful of boys!