Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Surviving Three Days in the Parenting Trenches April 5, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Totally Me,Uncategorized — leighj @ 12:14 pm

Patrick had a work conference to go to. I embarked on a long weekend of hanging out with the kids and working. Here are some tips:

  • Use the village! People really helped me out. My neighbors had us over, grandude made room for watching the kids while I was teaching, friends shuttled my kids around, a last-minute playdate eased the pressure off the whole group, and when all else failed, the teenager next door stepped up to babysit.
  • Find a low key activity to get out of the house. We went to a STEAM day at my school. It was perfect. I realize this exact thing might not be feasible (especially since I knew there would be a lot of faculty and support there), but it provided a tangible reason to get out of the house.
  • We had easy dinners that I didn’t have to wash many dishes for, and yet, there were still plenty of dishes.
  • I put the kids to bed at the regular time. Seamus was very helpful with Porter, getting him water or helping him go to the potty. He even read to him one night.
  • Gilbert and Seamus and Porter entertained themselves outside a lot. Porter was happy to nap (he’s so cute right now, saying “Play five minutes” right before nap time, so he plays, then we tell him to pick out a book, and read the book and he’s ready to nap). He likes to pull the cover over his head for naptime.

It was a sprint, but we pulled through and I’m glad for the time I got to spend with the kids. Also thankful I got to go to yoga!


Tenure! April 4, 2017

Filed under: Academic,Totally Me — leighj @ 1:46 pm

Well, it’s been busy around here. The best, most exciting news from my perspective is that I received the official word that my tenure application was approved. I’ve been drinking bubbly ever since. It is a good feeling to know that I will have a job (as long as the university stays solvent).

I have a big old file of information that supported my application, and now I guess I don’t know what to do with it. I bequeath it to the future. Things people have said:

  • Congratulations! (this is the best one)
  • Now you don’t have to write anymore! (um, I didn’t retire)
  • Now you can tell everyone where to go! (I still have to work with these people)
  • You’ll be here forever now! (I guess)
  • What a relief! (I’m not sure if what this means)
  • Let’s have some bubbly! (THIS is actually the best one!)

I’m also super happy that my colleagues who went up for promotion also got their good news.


Kentucky Visit March 12, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Totally Me,Travel — leighj @ 3:25 pm

I took the four kids to Kentucky for a Spring Break (mine) trip. It was totally worth it. The flight out was easy with Porter by the window, Harlan and me in the middle, Gilbert on the aisle and my diaper bag helper, and Seamus across the aisle from us in his own row. The morning flight worked well because everyone was in good spirits. The return flight was a little tougher, since it overlapped with Porter’s naptime. Seamus took the window, Porter the middle, Harlan and me on the aisle and Gilbert across from us. On both flights the older boys were helpful if they were in the row with me or quiet if they were by themselves.

Activities included gardening, sewing, cooking, walking, bathing, going to the creek, chopping wood, playing at the park, learning disc golf, watching Robin Hood, going to the Simpson Co Jail (the historic one–don’t worry!), reading at the library, looking at teeth, and eating. I was happy to see my grandmother and aunt, as well as a few friends. It was a low key trip for me, but the boys had fun since the weather really cooperated.

We’re planning to go back for a much less weather pleasant trip in July. Activities will include a lot of water (I hope!). It’s been almost six months since we visited, but the boys love the farm and all the work it entails to get there. Harlan learned to say Kitty, Porter made a game of petting Snakey, Gilbert learned about wasps, and Seamus got a new brace. All exciting!


The Recovery Conference in Houston February 14, 2017

Filed under: Academic,Fourth Baby,Totally Me,Travel — leighj @ 10:55 am

The 25th Anniversary Conference for the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Conference was at the University of Houston last weekend. I went and took Harlan. Work conferences with kids can be a challenge, but they can also be inspiring and rewarding. We had considered taking everybody, but then we realized that their school was out last week and that it would not be good for them to miss so much, especially if there was also snow to contend with. I’m really glad we didn’t take everyone because while the U of Houston is very convenient for a conference, it’s not particularly rife with activities for the family.

The conference itself was great! There were interesting panels that sparked discussion and collaboration opportunities. I felt inspired afterward to write and work harder to get my ideas out. This is important because I’ve been struggling with feeling really dispirited lately in my scholarly work. I also got to see some friends and colleagues and we cooked up ideas for future work. It was 80 degrees on Saturday, which was fun, but also made me glad I don’t live in Houston year-round.

Harlan was a good travel companion, sleeping from take-off to landing on both flights. Thank goodness we had nonstops both ways. Travel was smooth, and I enjoyed the surgical precision of the conference (fly in and out) but I was also pretty tired when I got back. I’ve recovered from the intense travel now. We’re now ready to night wean to sleep train Harlan!


Squeezing in one last January Post January 31, 2017

Filed under: Academic,Family Life,Growing up,Teaching,Totally Me — leighj @ 1:09 pm

Just quickly, I hope to provide you a moment of brevity (levity! Oops. I’m up with the baby a lot) before you go back to reading the horrifying reality show that is the news.

  • My birthday came and went. I had a great time with fun celebrations with friends and family. The boys all wrote me nice cards declaring that I am the best mama ever (they still have time to learn about perception bias…) and we had pizza and cake. We also hired the girl next door to come over and babysit for a few hours on Saturday, and Patrick and I went out.
  • I did go to the Women’s March, taking Harlan. Gilbert colored my sign for me, and we had a great time. It was so empowering and refreshing (and hey! turns out we all needed to warm up our protesting chops).
  • We were having lunch today and Harlan came over to the table and started popping his mouth, indicating that he’d like to join us. So cute! He has almost completely switched to table foods now. I’m pretty sure he said mango yesterday.
  • Porter is a little hoarse, but he’s still feeling pretty good. He is still brave when the monsters come, and he loves his new pjs. He plays with his people and valiantly tries to keep Harlan from messing with them.
  • I’ve really been enjoying work.
  • We have a lot of stuff coming up in February, including a trip to the mountains, a work trip for me and a few school holidays for the kids. I’m just trying to keep everyone’s schedule moving.
  • The English 102 book is Olive Kitteridge, which I tried to read a few years ago, when it was super popular, but I had trouble getting into it. It’s great, though. The writing is beautiful and haunting.
  • Keep fighting the good fight!

Update Since My Last November 19, 2016

Filed under: Growing up,Just Thinking,Politics,Totally Me — leighj @ 12:10 pm

I’ve done some specific things that have helped me cope. I won’t lay them out here specifically, since I think everyone has to find their own way on this, but I’ve found ways to express my opinions on my body, in my office, and through my wallet. If you want to know, I’m happy to talk about it the next time I see you or text with you. Mostly, it’s helped me address concerns I find most urgent and those I see as being long term entrenchments.

I’ve also continued to go to class, raise the kids, and only rant to Patrick occasionally. My students are smart people who form their own ideas from myriad inputs (I do not believe that academia brainwashes students into liberal thinking–that would give me far too much credit). Rather, if I’ve done my job (and most of the time I believe that I do), I will have contributed my expertise in critical thinking, writing, reading, and information literacy to my students. Then it’s up to them to be people who will come to their own ideas through carefully examining information they encounter.

And because I don’t want to forget this precious, fleeting time in Harlan’s life, I make a few comments. He loves to eat pretty much whatever he’s offered. He says, “Mmmm” when presented with food. He also said “Mama” the other day. I’m 100% certain of it. I think he said “more” about his food last week. He pulls up easily, and he likes to sneak down the hallway to see what the other boys are up to in their room. His favorite people are me and Patrick, but Seamus, Gilbert, and Porter run pretty close! He gives anyone who looks at him a smile, and he’s finally cut his top two teeth, so he looks goofy. Porter’s latest expression is “Oh, wow!” and I think I mentioned that he has a Knock, Knock joke he likes to tell. Gilbert is popular with his friends (and has a new obsession with Shopkins…don’t ask), and Seamus’s current obsession is making paper airplanes.


The Quest for a Harry Potter Book in NOVA August 4, 2016

Filed under: Books,Family Life,Kid comparisons,Totally Me — leighj @ 6:13 am

Spoiler Alert: I am now the proud owner of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. But it took a while to get it. I have never lived in a place where things like books sold out. What’s up with this megalopolis? When we were at the cabin at Bryce, my friend was remarking on how much she enjoyed the lake because it wasn’t too crowded. I agree, and dream of a community Easter egg hunt where the kids can go out and come back…and go out again. We did get that in Charlottesville one year.

So the book. It came out on Sunday, and I didn’t think much about it. Looking back, we should have just stopped at the Walmart in Woodstock, and I would have had one that day. Monday, Seamus and Gilbert and I ran some errands (mostly to prep their school supplies), and then we went to a little indy bookstore to get the book. Sold out until mid-week! I tried two grocery stores, but no dice. Patrick suggested the very fancy Walmart in Tyson’s. I had to take S&G to Lego build, so we went to Barnes and Noble in the mall. No HP8, but it was absolutely intriguing to be in a big bookstore again. I haven’t been in one in so long! To see multiple copies of the same book, all crisp and new. Rows and rows. It smelled like reading. I love the library, and we go all the time, but a bookstore is a very different experience. I almost got something, but I didn’t want to get distracted from my quest.

After Lego build, I checked in to see how Patrick was faring with P&H at home. Everybody sleeping, so we ventured on out to Walmart. I had considered ordering the book through Amazon, but I got hung up on the free shipping/pay for shipping, and wanting to read the book right away. Patrick suggested I buy it on Kindle, but that’s sacrilegious for Harry Potter. (Now, reading it, I definitely wouldn’t want to have it electronically. Form matters.)

And this is how I abandoned my principles and bought something at Walmart for the first time in ages. They had a least fifty copies. I will say, going into Walmart with S&G, it was very easy to say no to their constant requests for stuff while I’m shopping.* I didn’t plan on buying anything else at Walmart, and didn’t. I’m sure the corporate giant feels terrible about that.

*Oh wow. One of my parents mentioned something about Gilbert laying the ask on at the right time. I have noticed this since they left. Going anywhere with him is a constant exercise in can I have, oooh, I like this, can we get one of these, we really need this, etc…and he’s excited about whatever it is. Seamus asks differently, like “What are Dippin Dots? Someday can we have some?” It is exhausting to have Gilbert’s constant requests, but I feel like since I have to shop with them right now (summer), I can tune him out a little, and model buying choices and needs v wants.