Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Last Leg of Our Trip: Vermont July 19, 2018

The last leg of our trip was to Vermont to spend time with Patrick’s Aunt and Uncle who have recently moved there. Nana and PopPop were there too, so we had a fun family visit to cap off our long vacation. It was so nice to have a place to stay with people who wanted to hang out with the kids after being just us in Nova Scotia! An added bonus were the two pups, who Porter and Harlan fell in love with. Seamus and Gilbert were more enchanted with the video game system! Haha, no surprise there! Seriously, though. Porter and Harlan loved playing with the dogs:

Get this boy a dog!

If you ask Harlan what his favorite part of Vermont was, he says “Penny Wane.” He’s also started saying his name. Most of the time if you ask him “Who are you?” he says, “Me!” but occassionally, he says, “I Hahlon!”

Chug chug tug boat.

Playing in the Pond.

We enjoyed the inflatables, and who says Gilbert isn’t sweet and caring when he plays with his brothers? The park in town was deightful, with a playground, swimming pond, tennis courts, and the biggest draw: a river just right for floating down. With so many adults, we could do a river tubing trip, and while my backside is only now recovering from the rocky rapids, it was quite a treat.

Fun with the older boys.

We were so happy there were people willing to watch the little guys so we could do something more grown up with the bigger kids. Which is not to say that they didn’t complain and make it challenging at different points, we were just more willing to shrug off complaints because there were fewer kids to please! And of course, we had a slight mishap:

What are we looking for?

Seamus wanted to ride in Gilbert’s boat. Gilbert wasn’t really big enough for the tubes, but he gave it a shot. However, we all said, “Get out and go this way.” He got out and went the other way. And lost his shoe. I almost lost my mind, but I held it together. We’re doing full press work right now on following directions. It’s going about as you’d expect.

For me one of the delights of the trip was river tubing, and I know that we made lots of lasting family memories at each stop. It was great to get to spend time with family at different stops. Each place was different, thrilling, hilarious, touching, and just exactly what we needed at the time. Here’s to more family trips!


Travelling Brings Ups and Downs July 8, 2018

Our trip down to the islands along Digby Neck, Nova Scotia convinced us that there was more to do there, and we should head back there for our last day before leaving. We decided to take it a bit easy that day, because the kids (and we) were tired. It had gotten very hot, and the house was unairconditioned, which meant it was in the 80s in the house four nights in a row.

On Brier Island, we did a couple of hikes, and Porter used the binoculars to “take pictures.” It was really cute. He also made friends with our friends.

Taking pictures.

On Thursday morning, we headed to Sandy Cove beach along the Bay of Fundy. I had low expectations but it was so incredible. I remain convinced (but sometimes unable to practice) the process of having low expectations for family outings is the way to be delighted and not disappointed.

This is what we found!

The beach was perfect for looking for pretty rocks, swimming a little (as it was hot in the air, and not too cold), and Seamus noticed the schools of fish and tried to catch one. It was neat to be able to see all the fish scurrying one way and another as a group to evade him. The water was that clear. Harlan had a little white rock that looked like an egg. He threw it in the water over and over.

We headed back for lunch and naps, laundromat, and more. Right after I bought the Canadian equivalent of Dramamine, I got an email that our ferry back had been cancelled for sea conditions. So we transferred our reservation to the Digby-Saint John ferry.

Gilbert’s request was lobster for the last night:

They were alternately frustrated and delighted by cracking it open.

Then, since we didn’t have to be up so early, we took in the sunset at the point.

Pretty light.

I’m sure the kids destroyed the mood for some of the other people out there, and then Gilbert had a big bad mood (probably because he didn’t eat much of the lobster) and we called it a night.

The next morning, there was a lot of stress around cleaning and packing. So much and then the host thought we’d made off with some pillow shams that we’d stripped off because they were dirty, and it was just difficult. The ferry was at 11:00, and this was probably the best part of our day. It had childcare for Porter and Harlan for an hour and 45 minutes. Seamus and Gilbert watched the movie and Seamus slept. We got back in the car and Porter and Harlan fell right asleep. US border crossing was easy, but if you do this, go ahead and fill up at the gas station on the US side right across. There’s no more gas for 100 miles!

We got to our hotel in Massachusetts around 8:30 pm. It had been a long day, with lots of tears, screeching, tantrums, and fighting. We hoped for a better day the next day.

We headed to Vermont to visit with Patrick’s aunt and uncle and Nana and PopPop. It’s a good break from what we’re coming off of.

Dogs to play with!

Today, we’re going to tube the river!

Patrick blew these up manually!


Finding Our Groove in Nova Scotia July 5, 2018

Filed under: Family Life,Summer Vacation,Travel — leighj @ 8:40 am

Traveling with four kids is exhausting and rewarding. We make excursions not knowing whether they are going to be disasters or once in a lifetime experiences. The last few days, we’ve had some good luck, after having moments where it seemed that disaster was in the cards for us.

(Like right now, the three older kids are watching Odd Squad and PAW Patrol, and Harlan is acting really naughty!)

On Tuesday, we were waiting for friends to see if they were going to make the ferry; when they didn’t we went to our plan to go to Wolfville and Grand Pre. Wolfville was a cute little town, but it wasn’t really doing much for us. We did end up have a great lunch at the Naked Crepe, recommended by the guidebook. Food in Canada is cheap, and gasoline is expensive.

Harlan was a fan.

Porter was getting tired, and meltdown was possible. We drove to Grand Pre, where there is a great interpretive National Historic Site about the Acadians of the area. Sadly, that wasn’t possible for us to see. Instead, we saw a sign for Evangeline Beach, and we decided to go there. It was incoming tide, and we had one of the best experiences of the whole trip! Gilbert declared it “The Coolest Thing He’s Ever Seen.”

Putting the FUN in the Bay of Fundy!

In the background, you can see Cape Blomiden. According to Mi’Kmaq legend, the god came up and opened the gate here after a fight with the great beaver. It created amazing tides. We enjoyed getting muddy, feeling the snails squish between our toes, and standing on a rock waiting for the tide to come up over our rock.

Even Porter enjoyed getting a bit dirty.

This experience turned a day that was almost a bust into a surreal, transcendent moment. I don’t know if the lesson is just keep trying or take a break, or what, but this was a great way to physically experience something new.

We also got some mussels and scallops and had a seafood feast with our friends who came to visit. That set us up for more the next day. The fish market kept being closed when we went, but we hit it right yesterday, and got some of the best scallops in the world (or so I heard–vegetarian, here).

Grilled, or steamed, or pan seared, or broiled–Digby scallops are the best.

Yesterday, we dialed back expectations and drove down Digby Neck to Whale Cove, Long Island, and Brier Island. It turned out to be the best decision we could have made! We took ferries between the islands, did a couple of hikes, enjoyed a picnic.

Perfect spot!

I guess this post is to be continued, because we are too distracted and getting ready to venture out this morning…


Digby, Nova Scotia and Around July 3, 2018

Quick post today! It’s early morning, and I’m watching the sunlight play on the Bay of Fundy, and I’m just never bored with the interaction between light, water, and clouds here. Ships come and go, and there are cliff along the opposite shore. It’s stunning.

Where we left off was our attempt at recovering from an exhausting day of travel. Naptime was a good restorative, and Seamus and Gilbert played soccer in the nice big yard at the AirBnB house. Then they went down to the lighthouse rocks to explore.

Patrick got this cute shot of them.

We took it pretty easy, but because Porter and Harlan napped so long, they had a really hard time going to sleep. We put them in their beds at 8:00, but they didn’t actually stop getting up and talking until 9:30, I think. Of course, that was also an hour ahead. We all had better rest for the next day, when we headed off to Annapolis Royal.

Fort Anne National Historic Site was fascinating, if a bit dangerous. There were steep hills all over the fort and the sense that you could fall off the battlements. The fort is built in the shape of a star to be defended on multiple sides. The oldest European building maintained by the Canadian Parks service is there. It was a great spot to learn about the history of colonization in Nova Scotia. Views from the fort showed why the site would have been highly desirable.

They just wanted to play on the cannons!

We went to a playground and got a muffin, and overheard some parents talking about a place called Upper Clements Park

. There were multiple tantrums, and Porter sat down on the sidewalk, at which point another family wryly wished us a “Happy Canada Day.” Haha. So back to the house, for some world cup watching (two shootouts in one day!), naps, and Seamus and Gilbert’s first trip to the laundromat.

They were not impressed.

As it was Sunday, and Canada Day, the grocery store was not open. We tried to go to the fish market yesterday, but that wasn’t open either. It seems that this is bound to be the trip to the seafood rich areas of the world in which we will eat no seafood! We looked up Upper Clements Park online, and decided to veer from my trip planning to take the kids there.

Yesterday was a perfect day.

We made an early morning trip to Gilbert’s Cove Lighthouse on the Acadian Shore. The guidebook says that it’s a good place for beach combing, and it did not disappoint! We found a place to throw rocks in the water (Gilbert’s one goal every day), observed crabs and snails, studied tidal patterns, played frisbee on the lawn, and climbed to the top of the lighthouse. I felt like we got a cultural experience, and the kids had fun.

Gilbert’s Cove Lighthouse

Next up was Upper Clements Park. It’s an amusement park, of sorts. There were plenty of activities for each age. Porter and Harlan liked the ball pit, bumper boats, and train ride.

Kiddie boats!

Zoom Flume

The teenagers working the place were pretty bored, but they were sweet to the kids, and didn’t seem to care much about enforcing height restrictions. The Canadians kept talking about how hot it was, and it was 80, so I guess that’s hot here!

Cooling off

They had a little kiddie wading pool, and we did that last to cool Porter and Harlan off. Seamus and Gilbert liked the Laser Tag activity. We hurried back to the house so Patrick could take a phone call, and I went off to the park and grocery with the kids. We found the Digby public swimming pool, where we chatted with the teenage lifeguards who couldn’t believe we’d come all the way to Digby just to visit the place–not to visit people. Later I laughed, imagining myself at their age, if I’d met Canadian tourists in my hometown just visiting to see what there was to see there.

We’re three kids up now, and thinking about how to spend the day!


Nova Scotia or Bust June 30, 2018

After parting with my parents in Portland, (which was a little sad for the boys–especially Harlan who has not enjoyed going to the airport only to drop off favorite family members and not fly himself), we began the next stage of this summer adventure. *I’d be remiss not to mention Rosie’s where we had lunch on the very rainy Thursday. It hit the spot for everyone–black bean sliders, lobster rolls, fish ‘n’ chips, and just plain buns.

We visited with our college friend Gabe and his wife Lotus for the night. Lotus had friends visiting from Beijing, and Gilbert found a new passion. He loved tea service. Mr. Lou made Oolong, white tea, green tea, and a special black tea: it was compressed and he had a huge trunk of it in his house at home. He’d cut off a small branch to bring to visit. Gilbert carefully tasted and discerned which tea he liked best (the Taiwanese oolong until that was displaced by the fragrant green tea).

Afternoon and Morning Tea.

Our friends have chickens and ducklings, and they’re in the process of building a coop for the birds. All the boys enjoyed helping get the poultry up for the night, and Gilbert was pretty happy when he got to bust a rotten watermelon for them.

WARNING: Major Gross Story Ahead–Skip to the end if you don’t want to read it.

The next day, we did some shopping at Trader Joe’s, filled up with gas, and went to catch the CAT to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. We got there at 12:45, since they said check in by 1:00, but we didn’t actually load until 2:50, for a 2:30 ferry. That was a hot and miserable couple of hours, but nothing compared to what came next! We frantically ate a lot of our fruit, since it said we wouldn’t be able to take it into Canada (that turned out okay, and they didn’t care that we had cherries and a watermelon–Poor little Porter asked me so sweetly to buy a watermelon, and it would have been sad to have to throw it out).

On the ferry we settled in, walked around, relaxed, and congratulated ourselves for making it on with our picnic and kids. The movie started, Harlan, then Porter, fell asleep on laps, then Seamus (who’d been sitting where he could see the movie) came to inform me that Gilbert had gone to the bathroom and thrown up. We gave him a sick bag and told him to take it to G in case it happened again. It did. Poor kid. As the movie finished, Harlan woke up and wanted to walk around. He also wanted a nectarine, then he didn’t, so I ate two. Then he wanted to go outside, then come inside, then he wanted Dada, but Porter was still asleep. Then he wanted a cracker, then he didn’t, and I should have known what was about to happen. Yep. All over the little kid area, even though I did manage to get hold of a bag and catch some. I almost succumbed myself at that moment, and a dad who’d just gone through the same with his ashen looking toddler quickly handed me my own back. Harlan is the proud owner of a brand new Nova Scotia t-shirt!

We returned, a little worse for the wear, and I felt bad because Patrick couldn’t have helped me, but also relieved because Harlan hadn’t soaked me like the woman behind me’s child did her. She’s also the proud owner of a brand new Nova Scotia t-shirt…Porter then came over to sit on my lap while Patrick took Harlan to go to the toilet. By this time, we’d smartened up and had a whole stockpile of bags at the ready. Porter was holding his nose and then deliberately brought the bag to his face and proceeded to be the third and final victim of seasickness, at least in our family.

Gilbert and Harlan both had another round of it before the boat docked, and we were never so happy to be in port in our lives. The rest of us didn’t feel too bad, but after we got to our AirBnB and had unpacked the cooler, the whole house started swaying and spinning for me. The bed rocked me to sleep! Haha.

But this is we woke up to, right outside our front window:

Good Morning, foggy Bay of Fundy!

We saw the ferry come in from New Brunswick this morning. We walked to the gorgeous lighthouse and explored the rocks and tide pools. We went into town to get some Canadian dollars and check out the Digby lobster bash. There were bounce houses, cannons, and lots of boats.

Worth it.

We are looking forward to more exploring, but we are taking it easy today, and probably tomorrow. We’re definitely going to visit Gilbert’s Cove, Annapolis Royal, Grand Pre, and Halifax. There’s so much to take in! The house is fantastic, and it has a yard with a breeze that has Seamus and Gilbert reenacting World Cup goals and saves by the hour.


Maine Island Getaway June 28, 2018

Filed under: Friends and Relatives,Holidays,Travel — leighj @ 9:56 am

After leaving Cape Cod, we drove through Boston and up to Maine for a ferry across the Casco Bay to Long Island, ME. We tried to stop for lunch, but Porter threw a massive tantrum that resulted in him hitting me, which meant we hung it up and left right away.

We managed to find the ferry terminal, unload, park the car, and load the ferry with only a brief return to the terminal to get Porter’s jacket, which he’d left on the bench. It was a beautiful cruise across the bay to the island where we’d spend three nights. My parents met us down at the dock, and it was pretty funny to see the boys run toward them and all the people look at them as if these two retirees hang out just waiting for a visit from their grandkids to the island. We had a strange but well-equipped house.

Rushing to get the ferry meant we didn’t have time to stop at Trader Joe’s for food for the week. Instead, we made do with what we’d brought and the little island store. We ate well!

Ferry fun!

The first day we took a walk, enjoyed the island sites, and found a fun sign. The speed limit all over the island is 20 mph, and most people drive more slowly still. Seamus and Gilbert saw a boy wreck his bike in the sand, and then a few days later, he was the kid working at the restaurant/gas station. They recognized him and noticed his bandaged arm! I’d say if you stayed very long out here, you’d get to know everyone.

Seamus didn’t like the “misspelling” on the sign. We explained phonetic spellings…

Our first beach day was idyllic. We went to South Beach, and enjoyed the rocks, sand, lobster pots, and we felt awed when we wandered down the beach and around a corner to a beautiful, clean, crystal clear water, cove. The next day, we discovered that that seems to be them MO of the beaches here. One side is seaweedy and the other side of the same beach is clear and gorgeous. I actually managed to get in a bit!

Skipping rocks on the ocean is big fun!


We were lucky to get two nice sunny days, and today, as we’re getting ready to leave, it’s raining buckets. We ate, read, napped, walked, played on the beach, watched movies, and sat on the elevated deck. All in all, a perfect island getaway!

Somebody got tired of walking!


Cape Cod: Rainy/Cloudy Day Activities June 26, 2018

Filed under: Friends and Relatives,Summer Vacation,Travel — leighj @ 5:42 am

The last few days on the cape, it was a little too cold/rainy to go to the beach for swimming or kayaking. Instead, we took off for a day of tourism in Provincetown. We wanted to climb to the top of the Pilgrim monument to check out the view, and to live up to the little board book we have about Cape Cod. It was the Portuguese parade and festival weekend, but we kind of dipped in and out before that really got started.

Seamus and Gilbert wanted a picture on this bench. They’re having hot chocolate because it was windy, cold, and wet! But still really fun.

We walked out on the pier to see all the fishing boats decorated for the festival–lots of Portuguese flags. The blessing of the fleet was the next day, so others were decorated for that as well. Finally, we found a place to re-up our parking, and we headed off to climb the monument. Some folks coming down said, “Don’t look up!” but of course we did.

Can you see S & G?

116 stairs and 60 ramps to a great view! I carried Harlan up in the Boba, but Porter walked most of the way.

Windy window.

Different windows were open along the way, and this one was the one that the wind whipped in through. Everybody enjoyed the fresh air!

The view from the top was a little less than captivating because we were getting rained on, but we were all elated that we’d gone up. The Monument had a fantastic museum that we didn’t get to explore as fully as we’d have liked, but it was still interesting, even with limited time. A whaling boat captain’s quarters, a mock up of the Mayflower, an antique dollhouse, information about the Providence Players and Eugene O’Neill, a narwhal tusk, and more!

The older boys went go karting one day, and Porter got to join them for The Incredibles 2, which they declared the best movie they’ve ever seen. On Sunday, we headed out early for a last walk on Lighthouse beach.

Beach trash sculpture.

We revisited the fish pier to see the seals. Every time we saw a boat, Harlan started hollering, “Seals! Seals!” I guess he’s learned that where fishing boats go, seals follow. Sunday was low key, with the little ones napping, and Patrick and I taking Seamus and Gilbert to a baseball game. They were excited to collect foul balls, and somehow, they both managed to get one!

Onward to Maine!