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!


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.


Birthday Surprise! January 28, 2018

Filed under: Friends and Relatives,Totally Me,Uncategorized — leighj @ 5:43 pm

I really enjoyed my birthday. The weather was more beautiful than I can remember having on my birthday, ever! 62 degrees, sunny, pleasant light breeze.

Friday night, we had coconut layer cake, in a reprise of my 30th birthday, of the four cakes. It was a relaxed evening, and then Saturday morning, two kids woke out of sorts, but once they had breakfast, it was a little better. I kept itching to go to the farmers’ market, since the weather was lovely and I needed to get out of the house of cranky kids. Patrick was stalling, cleaning, washing dishes, vacuuming (I haven’t mentioned our new vacuum, but our old one finally died, and this new one is much quieter–love that), and generally not getting ready fast enough to suit me. But, we were almost ready to go, when a knock came at the door.

It was our friends from Kentucky! Pat brought a letter that I’d written when I was 18 (but already in college), entrusted to him with the notation that it was to me at 38 years old. I remembered that it existed, of course, but I wasn’t expecting to get it on my birthday. What a treat! The letter was uncanny, but also reassuring in that I have memories of myself sort of being a train wreck my first semester of college (homesick, insecure, lost), but I knew myself pretty well, and I still think things are funny that I thought were funny then. I even wanted to be a professor, which I don’t remember as being the goal at the time. It was just too wild. I’m still thinking it all through.

We went to Seamus’s basketball game, by way of the park and farmers’ market. The park isn’t technically open, but it was too pretty to not play there. Seamus had a great game, and Harlan lasted through most of it. The rest of the day was quiet, finishing the summer photo book, naps, dinner, and a nature documentary.

This morning, we were invited to our friends’ house for brunch. It was yet another wonderful birthday surprise! I learned something new about LC and got a t-shirt to remind me. And, this:

How amazing!

That’s a cake! I knew my friend was talented, having seen cakes she’s done for her boys’ birthdays, but I did not expect this beautiful creation. So much fun. We had a great morning full of laughter, stories, food, and good times.

I feel lucky to have a wonderful family, friends, and space to enjoy them. Thirty-eight seems pretty good so far.


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!


Books of 2017 January 14, 2018

Filed under: Books — leighj @ 6:39 am

Time for my annual book review. I enjoyed a lot of these books, and I read a lot of them for work. I’m going to bold the ones by writers of color, as I think it’s time for us to read outside our bubbles a bit more. I’m going to italicize those that I really love, even if they’re for work.

1. Fear of Dying (Erica Jong)
2. Tales of Beadle the Bard (JK Rowling)
3. Relativity (Antonia Hayes)
4. The Buddha in the Attic (Julie Otsuka)
5. The Thin Man (Dashiell Hammett)
6. Kathleen (Candace F. Ransom)
7. Sag Harbor (Colson Whitehead)
8. Mother Tongue (Demetria Martinez)
9. The Vagina Monologues (Eve Ensler)
10. Drown (Junot Diaz)
11. Olive Kitteridge (Elizabeth Strout)
12. My Name is Lucy Barton (Elizabeth Strout)
13. A Map of Home (Randa Jarrar)
14. She’s Not There (Jennifer Finney Boylan)
15. Feminism is for Everybody (bell hooks)
16. The Feminist Utopia Project (multiple authors)
17. Always and Forever, Lara Jean (Jenny Han)
18. Bossypants (Tina Fey)
19. Kindred Spirits (Rainbow Rowell)
20. The Rosie Effect (Graeme Simsion)
21. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian (Sherman Alexi)
22. Pioneer Girl (Bich Minh Nguyen)
23. Theft by Finding (David Sedaris)
24. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim (David Sedaris)
25. What Your Child Needs to Know about Sex (and When) (Fred Kaeser)
26. What it Means When a Man Falls from the Sky (Lesley Nneka Arimah)
27. The Cha Cha Files (Maya Chinchilla)
28. The Year of Learning Dangerously (Quinn Cummings)
29. Anne’s House of Dreams (LM Montgomery)
30. Pottermore Presents 1-3 (JK Rowling)
31. Anything is Possible (Elizabeth Strout)
32. Mary Astor’s Purple Diary (Edward Sorel)
33. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul (Jeff Kinney)
34. The Account (Cabeza de Vaca)
35. Slaves in Algiers (Susanna Rowson)
36. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Poet)
37. Borderlands/La Frontera (Gloria Anzaldua)
38. Ariel (Sylvia Plath)
39. Something to Declare (Julia Alvarez)
40. Edgar Huntley (Charles Brockden Brown)
41. Hope Leslie (Catherine Maria Sedgwick)
42. Black Dove (Ana Castillo)
43. New People (Danzy Senna)
44. Narrative of the Life (Frederick Douglass)
45. Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta (Yellow Bird)
46. Caballero (Jovita Gonzalez and Eve Raleigh)
47. A Cup of Water Under My Bed (Daisy Hernandez)
48. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Harriet Jacobs)
49. Go Set a Watchman (Harper Lee)
50. Two or Three Things I Know for Sure (Dorothy Allison)
51. Who Would Have Thought It? (Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton)
52. The Rooster Bar (John Grisham)
53. A House of My Own (Sandra Cisneros)
54. Manhattan Beach (Jennifer Egan)
55. Far From the Tree (Robin Benway)
56. Hard Day for Dreaming (Erin Peters)

I read a lot of Young Adult lit this year. I guess I was feeling stressed, as I read a lot of it as escapist literature. It was a good reading year. Manhattan Beach and Anything is Possible were probably my favorite novels, and What it Means When a Man Falls From the Sky and The Cha Cha Files were my favorite collections (poetry or short story/essay). I really want to read Young Jane Young and I am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter this year.

Did you read anything good?


Brothers January 13, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — leighj @ 6:31 am

The boys were so happy to see each other when everyone was reunited. There were hugs and lots of silliness. Of course, they were also happy to see Patrick and me, but they couldn’t get enough of each other. Seamus and Gilbert had their Mandarin class on Wednesday, and I went to pick them up. I said, “I’m going to get your brothers,” when Porter asked where I was going. He said, “Oh, good. I love Seamus. He’s so nice to me.” I passed that on to Seamus, and Gilbert came home so solicitous toward Porter. He really wants Porter to say that about him.

Harlan entertained Seamus and Gilbert all the way home. Seamus was talking about a YouTube star that everyone at school likes–Jake Paul or something like that. Harlan said, “Cheeseball?” and they cracked up! Then they got him to say it more and call each of them a cheeseball. Then Seamus mused that Jake Paul probably is a cheeseball, and that’s why people like him. I don’t know. It sounds weird–jumping off of roofs and stuff.

Seamus has been enjoying his basketball practice. I finally got a chance to take him last night. He does listen to the coach (something we wanted for him to get to experience) and he seems to enjoy playing as a team.

Heads up and dribble!

Harlan sweeps up the fireplace.


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!