From swaddling clothes to waddling in blink of an eye

It’s hard to believe, but my baby boy is already 1.


It seems like just yesterday we were bringing him home from the hospital in the tiniest little giraffe-print outfit, loving every minute of the experience and wondering just what in the heck we were going to do with two kids.


Now, I look up from my easy chair to see Owen flailing his way across the living room in that way that newly-walking toddlers have, hellbent on destruction — gotta knock all the DVDs off the shelf, then dig in the recycling bin, then a leisurely stop at the kitchen cabinets because that shaker of cinnamon isn’t just going to spread itself all over the floor on its own, mom.

And guess what, a year later Michael and I still wonder — at least several times a week — what the heck we are going to do with two kids.


Owen has always been a happy soul. There was nary a cry for the first several months, or at least that is how I remember it. I’m sure there was fussing here or there, but when I think back to those first few months with Miles, who’s temperament is much different from his baby brother’s, I know just how easy I have had it this go-round. The nights were sleepless — aren’t they always — but the middle of the night nursing and snuggle sessions were filled with giggles instead of cries. That was quite a relief — since his older brother Miles posed more difficulties in that area as a baby.

Looking back I wonder if the difference was in the babies, or instead in the mama who was much more relaxed and confident the second time around.


Baby O, as we often refer to him, and I have spent thousands of hours over the past year in my dad’s old green chair I inherited. That’s my “nursing” chair. While I struggled with breast-feeding Miles, Owen and I have had a healthy breast-feeding relationship since Day 1 that is still going strong. And as any breast-feeding mom will tell you, that stuff can cure all the world’s ills. And I have loved every minute of it.

Well, maybe not so much all the biting, but other than that it’s been an amazing experience.


The interesting thing about raising babies is not how much work it is — the lack of sleep, the constant messiness or any of that stuff. Instead, it is how quickly you integrate all of those things into your daily life. It becomes the norm.

What once seemed like a huge mess on the living room floor now gets a weak shrug: “Meh, I’ll pick it up tomorrow, maybe.”


When in reality tomorrow will be gymnastics or we’ll decide to spend the evening at the park or going to cMoe — there’s always something and it is most assuredly more fun and valuable than a tidy floor.

There was a time when five hours of sleep would’ve left me staggering through the day, ordering the bucket-sized iced coffee (with sugar-free vanilla flavoring) just to keep my eyes open until lunch time. Now, five hours of sleep is practically a dream come true.
None of these are complaints, of course — it just goes to show you how your priorities, and life, change.

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All of those long nights, messy floors and bite marks are completely worth it when I see that beautiful little face each morning, smiling that cute gaptoothed smile of his, wrapping his arms around me and delicately placing his head on my shoulder when I lift him out of the crib. I am reminded, once again, that I am doing exactly what I was meant to do with my life. This little boy — along with his big brother — has made me the happiest mom in the world.

Happy birthday, Owen.

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Wrong way to save money

One day a couple of weeks ago, my 4-year-old son Miles walks up to me with one of those sad, puppy-dog expressions on his face.
It was just then I realized that the house had been a little too quiet for a little too long that afternoon.
“D-d-dad,” he said meekly, with tears welling up in his eyes, “I made a mistake.”
Understand, Miles is an extremely energetic, strong-willed kid; spirited is what my wife calls it. He doesn’t talk quietly about anything, and he certainly doesn’t admit to doing anything wrong. I started having a mild freak-out.
“What is it? Is everything OK?”
“Uh, I think I swallowed a nickel.”
“You think you swallowed a nickel? What does that mean? You either swallowed a nickel or you didn’t.”
“Yeah, I swallowed the nickel. I don’t know why. … Dad, I feel a little sick.”
I am pretty proud of the way we handled it.
We figured out that his “sick” feeling was just anxiety. I calmed him down and did a little research on the Internet. Abbey called our pediatrician. The nickel should, she explained, “turn up” within a week or so. If it didn’t, we would have to have a doctor extract it.
The prescription: Make sure he gets lots of liquids and fiber. I don’t think I have to spell out the implications for anybody reading this.
Unfortunately, I did have to do just that for the nickel-eater. And it just so happens that, being the typical 4-year-old boy, that particular bodily function is one of his very favorite subjects.
“OK Miles, here’s the deal.”
“Yeah, dad?”
“We’re gonna have to watch out the next few days for that nickel to come out.”
“It’s going to come out? Where?”
Sigh. I can’t believe I’m having this conversation right now.
“It’s going to come out in your poops.”
Of course, a fit of laughter ensued.
“The nickel’s going to come out of my butt! Hahahaha!!”
He literally rolled around on the floor laughing. His laughter is contagious, and despite myself, I got the giggles too.
“Hey dad?”
“Yeah, what’s up?”
“How are you going to find the nickel?”
“Well, first thing I’m going to do is go to Rural King and buy the best metal detector they have.”
Fast-forward to the next day, and I’m on my hands and knees on the floor, poking around a pile of you know what with a plastic fork. Who knew metal detectors were so pricey?
Eventually, mom retrieved the treasure. Of course, she got it on her first attempt. In the meantime, I had been forced to repeat this rather odious task three more times that week before her first attempt.
“I don’t think so … Wait! Here it is!!” she crowed triumphantly from the bathroom. “Thank goodness we don’t have to take him to the doctor.”
So, we’re five cents richer. Sort of. We have saved the nickel and are accepting ideas on how best to “preserve” it for posterity’s sake.
I just hope he doesn’t ever decide to reinvest in that particular savings plan.
Michael Doyle is a stay at home dad to Miles, 4, and Owen, 1, and married to Features Editor Abbey Doyle. He also is a freelance reporter. You can read more about the Doyle’s parenting adventures at their blog, A Parently Obvious at

Home is empty, but memories endure

Wanted: Fun family looking for a house with character and charm.

Requirements: Must be willing to overlook the banister that may be a little loose from being slid on one too many times; to love the crisp smell of autumn that comes from being surrounded by century-old oak trees; to embrace the rustic brick steps I slipped on every spring; to explore the nooks and crannies that only homes built a few centuries ago have; to plan for family meals and game nights around the kitchen table; to wish for decades of giggles and memories.Abbey's Vincennes home at fall. Photo by Abbey Doyle

In December of 1987, the Brown family — my family — answered that want ad. We saw the seemingly giant 1800s white brick, two-story house, an historical landmark on one of Vincennes’ main streets, and decided this will be home. I’m not sure if mom and dad realized we’d be settled there for as long as we were — my whole childhood really — after moving several times over the previous few years. When I think about growing up I don’t think of any “home” but that one. When I talk about going “home” that’s the place I picture.

It’s where just about everything happened.

Sleepovers in grade school, with all of my and my twin sister’s friends, complete with silly rounds of truth or dare, popcorn and drooling over New Kids on the Block posters. I can still picture us all laying on our stomachs, slipper-clad feet kicking in the air, in a giant circle on the living room floor giggling while playing the silly games my parents had planned for the party. First teeth were lost in that kitchen, first kisses in the backyard, adventures making mud pies in the yard and messes out of Barbie’s hair salon in the bathroom sink — a huge chunk of my life happened there. My first fender-bender even happened there, when I backed my mom’s car into my dad’s car. Maybe that’s a memory better forgotten. …


The old, Colonial home created its own headaches every once in a while — no central air-conditioning made for some pretty hot summers — but it was so much fun making up stories about different parts of the home, which has been featured in a few pictorial histories of the state’s oldest town. We would scare friends with ghost stories of Civil War wives pacing on the home’s Widow’s Walk, waiting for their husbands to return from war, or of spirits left behind in the smokehouse in the backyard that was once part of the underground railroad.


And we were always finding (and then later digging and burying our own) treasures in the yard. Old railroad ties could be the key to just about any mystery of imaginative 10-year-olds.

Another charm of the old house were the 12-foot ceilings that you’d think would certainly be tall enough for any Christmas tree we’d find at a local tree farm. But every year we’d manage to bring home another challenge. I remember one year my dad’s “creative” solution to keep the tree upright included tying it to the indoor shutters. That was also the year that the shutters were pulled from the wall.

But the view of that gloriously imperfect tree overflowing with handmade ornaments from decades of crafting and collecting was amazing. I get teary-eyed thinking of it. What waseven more amazing was the fun that we had around that tree. Board games, remote-controlled robots, movies and, of course, lots of laughter. Oh, and egg nog.

The kitchen, once a cabin and later a stagecoach stop, is long with plenty of room for a big table. It was home to some serious family talks. But what I remember more from that table was passing the peas and “fighting” over the last crescent roll (I know how many you had dad!)

And memories of my dad, who took his last breath in that house, are all over the place. It’s like I can still hear and smell him when I am there; I can still feel him there.


This house has been a character in the story of my life, a huge part of who I am. I’ve lived EVERYWHERE — from Bangladesh to Louisiana and Alabama to Illinois — but that house was always home. I knew it was always there.

But now it’s not. Well the house is still there, but our home isn’t. Right now this amazing house is sitting empty, a shell, because it’s missing its heart. It was time for the Brown family to move on. As hard as it was for me to see my mom sell it, I know it is the right thing for all of us. And I’m blessed — and stoked — that my mom has moved here, a mere 20-minute drive from me and my boys.

So now it is time for that amazing house to become a home again, for another family to breathe life into it once again and allow it to fulfill the purpose it has served for more than 200 years. It’ll be tough to see someone else’s things sitting on the front porch when I drive by, but I’ll be happy that my old friend can once again be a home.

Throwback Thursday: My favorite time of year

Much to my husband’s chagrin, I’ve been opening the windows and enjoying the couple cool days and nights we’ve had recently. Fall is almost here! I can smell it in the air. Here’s a few pictures of the last three falls with Miles. This year we’ll have Owen digging in the wheat table at Goebel’s Farm with his brother and going down the slide! He made a brief appearance with his first fall but at just a few weeks old didn’t enjoy it too much!

Owen is in there, promise. His first trip to a pumpkin patch. Fall 2014

Owen is in there, promise. His first trip to a pumpkin patch. Fall 2014

Fall 2014

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Fall 2013

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Fall 2012

Fall 2012

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Fall 2011

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Fall 2011

Nickel for your time?

Anytime a conversation starts out with, “Do you want me to tell her or are you going to tell her?” from my husband referring to our precocious four year old I know it isn’t good.


My head jumps to all kinds of conclusions — did he get sent home from school for bad behavior? What’s broken? What condition is the house in?

I hear a sheepish Miles whining.

“You tell her,” he says.

“Your son,” Michaels says (as if his son would never do such a thing), “just swallowed a nickel.”

“Yeah momma, I swallowed a nickel,” he proclaims. There was both pride and shame shining from that statement.


I was surprisingly cool during this exchange.

“A nickel, eh. It couldn’t have been a dime or a penny?”

The irony of this situation (am I using irony correctly, Alanis has ruined me for life) is that just the other day Miles had a coin close to his mouth and my mom warned him about that saying, “You don’t want to put that in your mouth. You might get surprised and accidentally swallow it.Your aunt Sarah swallowed a coin and had to go to the hospital.”

Still on the phone with Miles: “So, why’d you swallow a nickel buddy?”

“Aunt Sarah swallowed a nickel so I can swallow a nickel too.”

Sigh. There are plenty of things about Aunt Sarah we should strive to emulate… this is not one of them.

“OK, well, Miles, we don’t swallow coins.”

“But Aunt Sarah did!”

“Well we don’t!”

I called the doctor just to get some direction. The nurse laughed; I even laughed too. I can definitely see the humor in this.

Our orders from the doctor: “dig for gold,” or I guess silver may be more appropriate. I don’t want to be too gross but we are to keep tabs on his poo with the mission of finding the nickel. If we don’t find it in a week then we are headed into the doctor.

No more “monies” for the kiddo!

Extracurriculars, already?

I have no one to blame but myself (well, maybe my mom too since it was a Christmas gift) but my kiddo already has a “thing.”

miles gym

He’s only four and already has an extracurricular activity! I’m not really upset about it; it just makes me feel old (and a little nervous as to what a hectic, “scheduled” life we are too soon going to be leading.)

We signed Miles up for gymnastics about a month ago, and he’s already gone to two sessions. The third is tonight. He LOVES it! One of his buddies from school is in the class; he gets to run and jump and twirl.

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And they mean business in this class. He sits on a dot, does stretching, has spun around the tall bar on the uneven bars, jumped on a balance beam and even vaulted! We are very pleased with this. It was one of the reasons we joined the YMCA. Thankfully our family is enjoying some of the other benefits (swimming and working out so far!)

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We love that Miles is involved with this, but decided one thing was enough. Let’s wait a little while longer to get too much on our plate.

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How do you keep your kids from getting overscheduled?

First day of school


It has come and gone… the first day of school.

There was some fretting (my part, not really his) and some excitement (definitely Michael and my part and his).

The drop off went smoothly — a few extra hugs and brief puppy dog eyes but mostly smiles.

Miles at school.

Miles at school.

Miles was in school last year — preschool four days a week for three hours — but this felt more official. It is nearly a full school day 8:15 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (it ended up being past 2 p.m. before he made it back in the car as the “car riders line” didn’t go all that smoothly on this first day of school) five days a week. It’s a much larger classroom (15 students instead of the five most days at St. Theresa’s), and the expectations of independence are a lot higher here.


Goofy kiddo

Goofy kiddo

I talked to Miles over the phone as soon as he got home. My takeaway — they didn’t have time for recess, he really wants to ride the bus, there are some fun toys to play with, he made friends but can’t remember their names and, most importantly, he’s excited to go back tomorrow.

I’ll take it! I can’t wait to see how tomorrow goes!


Happy birthday Miles


All children are blessings, even the ones we aren’t expecting and at first weren’t necessarily planning for. But I’m pretty sure on this day four years ago, my Miles was an extra special blessing bringing joy at a time for my family that was filled with grief and sadness.

I was about four months pregnant with Miles when my dad passed away. While we knew my dad’s death was inevitable — the terminal cancer diagnosis made that pretty clear — none of us ever expected it would come as quickly as it did. The diagnosis came weeks before Michael and I married — March of 2009. Doctors told us that if he did nothing he’d have about a year, but my dad fought like hell, and we didn’t even get that full year.

We wanted a child badly but wouldn’t have gotten started on our quest to have one so quickly in normal circumstances. But I wanted to give my dad the gift of being a grandfather, and I wanted the joy of seeing my dad be the amazing, loving grandparent I knew he would be. Those last five months of my pregnancy both crawled and zoomed by. I didn’t have much energy to focus on it really as much of my world was wrapped up in the loss of my dad.

When the big delivery day came I was a bundle of emotions. Most of them were happy but a part of me was afraid of what it would feel like when Miles was finally here. It was yet another huge part of my life that I would have to experience without my dad. Would it still be happy? Could I let myself feel the sheer and blinding joy that comes with welcoming a child into the world?

When I heard that first shrill cry from my baby I knew the answer — YES! I cried and cried and cried. But those tears were happy. I was so overwhelmed with love and a sudden purpose that I felt like I would explode. Of course there was grief there. I wanted my dad so badly to be there. But those feelings were right there along with the joy and happy not overshadowing them.


And my little guy, I can’t begin to describe what he’s given me and the rest of my family. He gave us all a reason to laugh and be happy again. He was our new focus. Of course we still grieved by dad, heck we still do today. I’m crying right now in grief. But I see so much of my dad in this kid it is scary.

Fourth of July parade in Vincennes in 2013

Beyond the love and joy he’s brought to me (and the rest of us) he’s taught me a lot about myself and life. He’s taught me that things don’t always go as planned, to find joy in the simple things, what a coal tinder is, how much fun a mud puddle can be, patience and a million other things.

Today this blessing turns four.

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I love you to pluto and back.