Vacation from toddler

From a weekend vacation with my toddler to a weekend vacation from my toddler — I really don’t know what to do with myself!

We moved into our home in April. We got all the important stuff unpacked and in it’s “right” place — the kitchen, Miles’ room, the bathroom, our living room, Michael’s office… you know, the important stuff.

But then there’s all that other stuff. Granted our ratio of “other” stuff to every day/critical use stuff is way down after the fire, we still have some of it hanging around, much of it stuff for baby to be that we’d handed off to my sister for her son and that she is handing back to us. So the basement and the nursery to be have kind of become these gray, dark, bottomless pits.

And these pits, well they’ve been mostly unattended to other than when I’m frantically looking for a particular pair of shoes or a bag for vacation last weekend. We had a huge unpacking and organizing push early on. My mom and sister helped with entertaining Miles as we got the bulk of it done. But since then, we’ve kind of gone back to life as normal with busy weekends that lead the exhausted evenings and no further unpacking/organizing of the pits.

The time has come though for the pits to go away, hopefully forever. My mom, who is also quite the social butterfly with a busy calendar, has carved away a weekend for her and Miles so Michael and I can really get to work.

I know, I know — a kid-free weekend, and we’re going to clean, organize and unpack? We aren’t going to sleep in, escape somewhere with sunny beaches, bon-bons and golf or go have a nice dinner? We may do one of those things (a kid-free dinner out sounds AMAZING) but what we both really want done is a house that really feels settled and a lack of PITS!

The end of September (when Baby Doyle is expected to make his appearance) is creeping up on us very quickly. And I want his nursery to feel as special and welcoming as Miles’ did.

So here’s to our kid-free weekend filled with cleaning, unpacking and organizing (and hopefully at least one morning of rising after the sun and a quiet dinner).

What do you do if you get a quick reprieve from your kiddos?

Identifying as survivor strange, yet rewarding

April 28, 2006, is a day that changed my life.

That’s the day, at age 25, I had a pacemaker implanted. And while I’ve been living with this lifesaving device for almost eight years, I hadn’t given much thought to being a “survivor.”

But a call for participants for the Courier & Press’ team in the upcoming American Heart Association’s Heart Walk tugged at my, well you guessed it, heart.

I am a survivor — a heart disease survivor. And like a lot of stories of survival, mine is far from typical.

I left for Bangladesh as a healthy, idealistic 23-year-old in 2004. I’d spent some time in Haiti while in high school and felt a strong pull to do work on an international level — to change a tiny corner of the world and myself at the same time. I had worked for a year as a cops reporter at the Springfield, Ill., State Journal-Register but was ready to tackle the world before settling into a career somewhere in the U.S.

This was a group of children running and playing through a tea garden in Sylhet. There was a lot of joy there.

This was a group of children running and playing through a tea garden in Sylhet. There was a lot of joy there.

I returned home from Bangladesh a year later a much different woman. Many of those changes were amazing and positive. But along with that came life-changing damage to my heart.

While serving as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Comilla, Bangladesh, I taught English to young adults and did HIV/AIDS awareness and education programming aimed toward at-risk populations. I was loving the amazing cultural experience there and really felt like I was making an impact.

One of the city squares in Comilla.

One of the city squares in Comilla.

After several months, I started to have fainting episodes. They were unexplained by local physicians, so I was medically evacuated to Bangkok, Thailand, where I spent almost a month in and out of the hospital and doctors’ offices looking for a cause. None could be found, so they sent me back to Bangladesh.

desh sari
Several months later, the spells worsened, and I left the Peace Corps after about a year for medical reasons. I returned on a plane to Evansville escorted by our Peace Corps medical officer.

Not only was I devastated to be separated from friends that I’d made and those I was working with, but I was also left with this mystery.

After enough doctors’ visits and tests to make anyone’s head spin, doctors determined I’d developed a virus while in Bangladesh that had spread to my heart, causing damage. My heart was stopping temporarily, making me pass out. After about a year of trying different medicines to control the issue, I had my first pacemaker implanted at 25.

Since then I’ve lived a pretty normal and healthy life. I’ve had a few more surgeries and the occasional complication, but I’ve had one healthy pregnancy that led to my amazing 2½-year-old son and now I am in the second trimester of my second pregnancy.

I will be walking in the May 20 Heart Walk at 19 weeks pregnant, pushing my toddler in a stroller and as a survivor. There will be countless other survivors, those who have or are planning to make lifestyle changes to be healthier people; loved ones of those lost to heart disease; and those who want to help raise funds and awareness for heart disease education.

I’ve told my story. Why not come out to the walk and tell yours?

Homemade Christmas

I wrote a story for this past Sunday’s Courier & Press about the option of making handmade gifts as Christmas presents. This is nothing new to my family, although the idea has seemed to make a comeback in recent years with the rising popularity of social networking site

By the way, I’m very much into the “online corkboard.” It’s a great way to aggregate a bunch of other people’s ideas in one spot and have them all organized by subject. I think back to my big idea searching days pre-Pinterest (planning my wedding for example) when I used to save pictures I found from various websites to my computer’s desktop and bookmark sites like crazy.

I joke about how much more AMAZING my wedding would be if I had Pinterest, when in reality it was about as fabulous as any wedding could be (it was in the back yard of a Louisiana plantation home with a dog for a ringbearer, hot pink heels for the bride and feather centerpieces!)

Gifts in the past have included picture frames, photo blocks, signs, peppermint scented playdough, scarves and green beauty and cleaning products.

This year is no exception. There were certainly be (and already has been) some pretty awesome handmade gifts coming from the Doyle household. I can’t get into to too many details because I’d hate to give away any surprises. But I can share one little gem — Miles’ annual Christmas tree ornament.

It is something my mom always did with my sister and me — each year we made our own ornaments. From as far back as I can remember we would scour through craft books and magazines (this was before the interent people) to find our idea and then do it ourselves. Of course mom was there for help, but for the most part these were all my sister and me.

Some more memorable ones are Big Bird made from yellow cotton balls, glittered Christmas trees made from popsicle sticks and one of my favorites, a toy soldier made from a toilet paper roll.

This is Miles’ third Christmas so it means we are on our third ornament. And each year he’s used his handprint as the main component of his ornament, something that I think could be fun to stick with, at least until we run out of ideas. Faithful blog readers will remember my post about tradition and realize that he’s probably stuck with the idea for the next 100 years.

Anyway, the first year he was about five months old when I sat him in the bathtub and painted his hand with (non-toxic) white paint with the goal of getting his adorable tiny handprint on shiny blue Christmas ornaments. This task, as many involving tiny ones, was much harder than I expected. After several attempts (and a few breaks) we made dozens of adorable ornaments. I wrote his name and the year on the back in sharpie and tied a pretty silver ribbon through the top.

Here’s a picture of what the finished product looks like (note, this is not of our ornament, but from the blog



Proof of a messy process

Proof of a messy process

Last year, sticking with the handprint theme, we went with salt dough hand print ornaments. After making and rolling out the dough I pushed Miles’ 17-month-old and uncooperative hand in the dough. I also did a few of his feet for good measure. After getting the prints, I cute around them and then baked them. Once cool, I painted them red and green. Don’t forget to poke a hole in these pre-baking, so you can string a ribbon through them to go on the tree. I also sealed them after everything was done.

This too was much harder than I expected. But I’d brought the mess to my mom’s house and had her to help wrangle the kiddo making it manageable. To those attempting this ornament, it’s a two person job (and I don’t count the toddler as one of those people!)

Here’s a link to a tutorial on that with a recipe for the dough and a picture of a finished product. Again, this isn’t our finished product (I sadly don’t have pictures of our finished ornaments from year’s past).



This year’s ornament idea was courtesy of a friend who did something similar with her son last year. It took no less than three trips to the craft store for supplies but was pretty simple, I’m just not the most organized!

I painted the bottom third of his hand (thumb and bottom of his palm) with read, the majority of the palm peach and his fingers white and the pressed it on a piece of green foam paper. After it was dry we added eyes and a mouth with marker and then glued a white pom pom to the top of santa’s hat. It turned out pretty cute. It ened up being pretty messy, but Miles had fun.

Here’s a generic picture from Pinterest of a similar looking finished product and a picture of the mess!

Note that he IS wearing underwear here!

Note that he IS wearing underwear here!


Do you like getting handmade gifts? Do you plan to give any this year? Share a link to your favorite DIY project!