Academic Leigh Speaking

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

Spring Visit to Kentucky March 20, 2018

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Travel — leighj @ 5:05 am

We did our usual Spring Visit to Kentucky. I took the kids by myself, which really isn’t that big of a deal on the airplane. It’s far worse when they’re fighting over space in the rental car. We had the nicest flight attendants, especially so on the way there, but also nice folks on the way back. The plane wasn’t crowded, so Porter sat by the window, Seamus sat next to him. There was an empty aisle seat, then I sat in the aisle across, Harlan sat on my lap, but moved to the middle seat after takeoff, and Gilbert sat by the window. It was so easy! Porter even kept the tray table up when Seamus told him to do so, but when I told him to last time, he got mad and recalcitrant. We did take a stroller, which was 100% worth it for getting from one end of the Nashville airport to the Car Rental, and back again. Didn’t use it otherwise!

We do not play with electronics on the plane! Harlan’s saying “Cheese!”

We had fun visiting with Granny and Grandaddy. I was sorry to not get to see my grandmother, but Bret was around, so it was fun to see him. He set up some computers and gave the boys a lesson on electrical switches.

Bret’s computers.

We played Dominion with some friends. There were visits to the dentist, and Gilbert needed some work on his brace, so I took everyone else to the Bowling Green Public Library, which had some fun displays! We were expecting storytime, but it had to be done via registration. Instead, we played. Seamus really liked the wall with the PVC pipe to arrange obstacle courses for a ball. Porter and Harlan loved the wind tunnel and scarves.


Can you make it jump through a hoop? Yes!

We played with Neely the dog, and Snakey, Charlie, and Deiter the cats.

Seamus and Charlie love each other.

There were some really loud Rook games, and plenty of cake and ice cream for Harlan’s birthday. We went on a long walk in the woods. Supposedly looking for mushrooms, it seemed a bit early. Seamus played bloody nose with the one wood ear we found. (Porter found.) No morels yet. Harlan loved the walk, as it was most of his favorite things. Nature, people, doggie, leaves, sticks.

New Shoes for Gilbert. Don’t worry, they’re dirty now!

Giggly Porter.

Nosebleed!? Wait a minute…

I got four pages written while I was there! I couldn’t believe that I was able to have some productive time too. It helped that Porter and Harlan spent an hour in the bath most mornings and napped well in the afternoon!

One night, it snowed! It was the most beautiful snow–stuck to each individual branch, but gone by noon.



Granny Day Party January 12, 2018

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Holidays,Travel — leighj @ 6:19 am

On Saturday, I headed to Louisville to celebrate my granny’s birthday. Porter and Harlan came along. We had a pretty good flight, with the exception of Porter throwing a tantrum and kicking the chair in front of him. GRR. There were so few people on the plane, but of course, there was someone sleeping (or trying to) in front of him. We had a fun visit, even if we did get banned forever from some stores. Haha.


Before the party on Sunday, I took Porter and Harlan downtown to the Kentucky Science Center. They enjoyed Naked Boy (can you see the gold replica of David in the background) and the giant Louisville Slugger bat (not pictured, but visible in this post). Maybe Louisville has some phallic issues? Hmm? It was slightly warmer on Sunday, but 29 degrees feels downright balmy when the day before was 9 degrees and windchill!

The Kentucky Science Center was a Hit! I do think one of the best things we did this year was join the science center passport program. So fun, and we visited so many!

Concave Mirror outside museum.

They got a kick out of everything, but they especially loved the gravitron, the dangling beads, the build a roller coaster and sitting in the Smart Car.

So fun to play with the hanging beads.

At my cousin’s house, which was drop-dead gorgeous, they played with Wall-E, the cats, and had a meal of chili and fruit. Everyone was in good spirits, and it was fun to catch up with the family.

Harlan jumped in there.

I got worried about my flight getting cancelled, like the last time I was in Louisville. See above post with the bat. I was a neurotic mess, and as such, I got my flight changed and flew out of Nashville the next day. That ended up being great, but another two hours of driving for my folks. The boys were very good on that flight and getting home was much easier at 4:00 than 5:30. We’re back now, and the best part was watching the brothers reunite!


Christmas Recap December 27, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Growing up,Holidays,Travel — leighj @ 3:27 pm

It’s been a whirlwind of a holiday. On Thursday, my friend had a beautiful baby, and I was feeling really lucky to get to go visit on Friday morning. He was alert and just a squishy adorable little thing. We had a solstice party at our neighbor’s house, which was festive and exciting to see everyone gathered. Friday night, we spent with Patrick’s cousins–including four of their children. It means 8 kids between 9-1. You can imagine that it was loud, but delightful to see them all together. Some of the older kids took Harlan and Porter under their wings and played with him. He liked the attention, but kept close tabs on me, lest he be left with a “babysitter.”

The older boys (all three!) enjoyed Mr. Popper’s Penguins, although it was the loudest audience I’ve ever seen at the Kennedy Center. Right now the Kennedy Center is all lit up with rainbow lights at night, and it’s one of the best things about driving the GW Parkway currently. We had a quick and pleasant visit at Nana and PopPop’s. The boys loved their gifts (Porter calls the remote controlled cars “Rocomo cars”).

Seamus was excited!

The best part of the cars is that they’ll clean the floor so they can run them around!

Porter got a truck from his other grandparents and he joined in on the fun, until we discovered that two of them are the same hertz or something and can be controlled by one controller. Harlan wasn’t super interested, but he was pretty sure he needed in on the action too. He liked his baby; and he really likes “reading” to her.

Here he is on the step stool trying to give baby a bath.

His language has exploded! I can’t count all the new words, but he does say step stool, Hi Grandaddy, Hi PopPop, Hi Grandude, and he likes to point at strange men and say “Dada!” He also says night night for Pajamas, deep deep for diaper. He loves to be on the step stool in the kitchen shredding cheese, stirring pots, measuring things, putting clean dishes back in the sink, and more. He’s a little scary around the hot pans, knives, and the oven door. We have to keep a close eye on him, but he’s quick!

Christmas Eve we joined friends for pizza and champagne and play time. It was just the perfect evening for us, but then again, we didn’t have to do clean up. The boys wrote letters for Santa, we checked the Santa tracker, read “The Night Before Christmas” and hustled the kids to bed. That’s our tradition. My friend has a tradition of writing her thank you notes in a bar the day after Christmas, I think we need a New Year’s Eve tradition of that, or something–to think about gratitude, and tying up loose ends. Anyway, Patrick and I stayed up not too late waiting for Santa to come!

Christmas morning, we did Santa presents, and it was mildly disappointing, as Santa had not procured Pokemon cards, but had provided binders with pages to store the cards. Gilbert also claimed to have “proof” that Santa didn’t exist because he left some trash behind in the recycling can. Then we had Christmas lunch with Grandude and Grandma–lovely and the kids would have played all day, but we had more to do! My parents arrived and they set up “Santa” on the couch for the boys. By then they had a lot to play with and show off.

Keeps showing everyone his cards.

Finally my mom revealed the big present she made for Porter:

A Real Robin Hood outfit!

Gilbert loves it too of course, and wore it the whole Settlers of Catan game during nap time yesterday. Seamus and Gilbert are off swimming at the hotel, the older three have enjoyed breakfast at the hotel, and Patrick and I agree that it’s been a wonderfully full time of friends and family–just a perfect way to celebrate the end of the year and the beginning of the new year. Hope you’ve had fun too!


Outings December 3, 2017

Filed under: DC Exploration,Events,Family Life,Holidays,Travel — leighj @ 1:55 pm

It was fun having Seamus play soccer this fall, mostly because he enjoyed it so much and developed some good sportsmanship and teamwork skills. On the other hand, it wrecked our social life. Since he had soccer practice on Friday night and games on Saturdays, we had few options for getting together with friends. We also missed taking family day trips on Saturdays. After soccer ended, we did a trip to Richmond. We had so much fun doing that (which I did manage to write about), we tried to go to Philadelphia the next weekend. Unfortunately, they were having their marathon too! We bailed out and went to Wilmington, DE. The Delaware Natural History Museum was fun and interesting. There was a scavenger hunt to keep S&G entertained, and the shells at Harlan level were lots of interesting textures for him.

In front of the museum.

Then we tried to go to lunch, but we had a mega miss. The food was good, but the atmosphere was way too stuffy for a family. We were particularly alarmed that the internet had suggested the place as family-friendly. To us, family friendly is loud and paper tablecloths. It was fine, though, and everyone got plenty to eat, but Harlan fell off the bench right at the end, so we did have to make a loud exit, even if they’d held it together pretty well up to that point!

We enjoyed our post-Thanksgiving outing with our friends and their kids. The puppet show was entertaining, and Harlan was interested, but he couldn’t sit quietly for 45 minutes. I had to take him out after 25 minutes, and I was able to bring him back in for the dragon and Russian dancers, but he started talking too much about the “DOGGIES” during the sheep scene, so he had to leave again! Soon, we’ll all be able to enjoy a show. I hope.

Scottish Walk 2017!

Yesterday, we went to the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade in Old Town. It seems to get to be more fun every year. The kids waved flags, cheered for the Star Wars characters, petted the doggies that went by, and bounced to the bagpiping. We then went to a party afterward for my colleagues (just Seamus, Gilbert, and me). They ran around the yard for 4 solid hours with all the other kids, and then we caught Metro home. It’s been a long time since we were on Metro, but we got one of the new cars! It was something different from how I usually spend time in transit with the kids, and I found myself thinking it would be fun to metro with them downtown soon.

So, yeah. Our holiday fun is in full swing!


Family Fun Trip to Richmond November 15, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Growing up,Travel — leighj @ 5:18 am

We took a trip to Richmond on Saturday, to do the science museum, and try to get our family holiday card photo. So we took the tripod, and loaded ourselves in the car. Who knew Richmond was having a marathon on Saturday!? It was going right through the area we needed, so we parked away from the museum and walked. It was our first really cold day, so we were glad we’d brought plenty of warm gear.

They were happy to be out of the car.

I was feeling pretty glad I wasn’t running a marathon in the sub forty degree morning. There was almost nobody at the science center, because the road closures meant you could not drive to the museum parking lot!

The boys tried to help each other for the picture.

The exhibits did not fail to inspire the kids to think about speed, agility, light, sound, connections, and more. We stayed 2 hours and were reluctant to leave, but we knew we needed to get some food in them!

These light boards are really fun.

Porter was really into stacking and trying to catch small items with another item.

Gilbert and Seamus loved all the kinesthetic body movement exhibits, but I only have a picture of them playing with the magnatiles.

We went to eat at Station 2 firehouse, which is a fun place for kids, because there are waffles for dinner. Patrick and I always go for one of the many veggie burger options.

Bendy straws!

Gilbert wore this blazer, and we marveled at how much he looks like a little clone of my dad. It was a day full of delight.


A Visit to Kentucky October 15, 2017

Filed under: Family Life,Friends and Relatives,Travel — leighj @ 10:08 pm

Yep. Another fall break, another visit to Kentucky. This one was fun; the six of us went to the science museum in Nashville with my brother and then went to Rainforest Cafe to eat. It was hokey, but what fun for the kids! Every half hour there was a thunderstorm when the animitronic animals moved. There were real fish to watch. Harlan was very interested and occupied with the scenery. The flight was fine, the van we rented had very uncomfortable head rests.

The older boys really learned to play Rook this time. Porter read hundreds of books, and Harlan ate his weight in applesauce. It seemed like a low key visit (except for the 5:00 am wake ups), but we accomplished a lot of fun and activities, with a minimal disruption to our lives in Virginia. The kids missed one day of school, and I didn’t miss any. I still had to play catch up (and, indeed, I’m still doing so), but we had a pleasant visit with good food, family, and fun.

Not in Kentucky: We watched Cool Runnings about the Jamaica Bobsled team. I’d never seen it, and it was a classic moment when Gilbert didn’t want to watch it because it wasn’t his pick, but within 15 minutes, he was laughing hysterically at the movie.

Rainforest Cafe Watching the Thunderstorm.


Seamus got to try out the Astronaut Walk exhibit at the Science Museum. He was excited!

A family tradition!

Getting some tooth love from Granny.

He almost ate the whole bowl.

Harlan makes a new friend.

Home again!


A Trip to the Beach–Last Summer Hurrah August 18, 2017

We headed off to the beach on Sunday, after an excellent visit with Patrick’s cousin on Saturday. We made a 4:00 am departure, but we got to our ferry too early! We had to wait. Next time, we’ll remember that it just doesn’t take that long in the wee hours with no traffic.

Waiting for the ferry.

While we waited, they played with the wind. I loved doing that as a child. The wind on the ferries in Washington would practically hold you up! My brothers and I were enthralled. These guys liked tossing a flower over the fence and watching them blow back.

Windy on the ferry!

We did it all, it seems. Beach, boogie boarding, bike riding, bobbing the waves, sand play, shell finding, surfer watching, seawall walking, waterpark playing, riding rides on the boardwalk, and eating a ton of food.

It was a great trip!

We went out early to watch the surfers.

One day there was amazing surf. We saw 20 surfers riding waves, and Seamus casually spotted dolphins jumping out of the water just behind them. It was amazing!

We rode bikes on Monday, and Gilbert was so happy to be on a bike. He said, “Let’s do this everyday!” but Monday was the only day that was perfect for it. Tuesday, it rained, and we went to the library. The boys checked out books and sat and read for 2 hours. A lovely way to pass a rainy day. Monday, the older boys played minigolf, and I guess Seamus got a little too competitive.

One day, we did the water park, and everyone had fun. Seamus and Gilbert did all the park on their own in the morning, and then I did it with them in the afternoon. They talked nonstop. We also managed to finally pack enough snacks to make it through the day!

The sky pools ride was their favorite.

Gilbert made it all the way across the pool on the rope.

They both swam so much, and so hard, that we didn’t hear a peep from them after 7:00 pm. Thursday was more beach (but a little scary because Seamus was getting carried off, without his realizing it). We converted the excursion to shell finding, which they enjoyed with gusto. Harlan LOVES the water and the waves. He toddles down to the contact point and squeals with delight. When Porter, who doesn’t love the waves this year, notices Harlan is there, he runs down, and stands way back and screams for Harlan to come back, get away from the water! It’s endearing, and hilarious, and heart-breaking. I hope next year Porter loves the waves…but probably Harlan will be afraid (who am I kidding? that kid is fearless!).

Porter did drum up some enthusiasm for pizza!

Thursday also found us at the Tourney Towns, as the boys call the boardwalk. Gilbert was finally tall enough for the big rollercoaster, which I rode with him. At the top, he confessed he was terrified, but he handled it like a champ, until he told Seamus he’d go again, only to back out at the last minute, so Seamus couldn’t go again…I don’t know why Seamus puts up with it, but he does. He even gave Gilbert the yogurt he’d picked out for himself, so Gilbert would be mollified one morning.

Harlan’s first day at the Tourney Towns.

Harlan had no trouble jumping into the fray with both feet! He loved being part of it.

We had a great week, but I tell you, it is nice to go on vacation and distance oneself from the news. Unfortunately in the last two weeks, the news hasn’t gone on vacation. I’m gearing up for the semester and thinking about ways to challenge all sorts of things.