I'm a full-time wife and mom of two adorable boys. When I'm not busy trying to keep up with them I enjoy photography, traveling, planning parties and a little bit of reading.

In February of 2008 I was diagnosed with an incurable terminal lung illness, though God promised me a full and complete healing. While we wait for His timing, we're taking it one day at a time, and standing in awe of how God's using all of this for His glory. The tough road we've traveled has given us a new perspective on the fragility of life. Memories are more important to us than ever before. The goal of this blog is to share some of our family life - the ups and downs, the joys and probably some of the pains as well. It's mostly meant as a personal journal of sorts, but you're welcome to share in it. We'd like to take this opportunity to say ...


Monday, August 31, 2009

Farewell Summer

Tomorrow is the first day of September.
Kids all around the country have started school again.
So, farewell Summer.

Farewell cook-outs...
...farewell sparklers......farewell "cute" little bugs...
...farewell sprinkler balls...
...farewell mini-vacations...
...farewell playgrounds on hot days...
...farewell Popsicles...
...farewell swimming pools...


(my favorite season!)

one final SPLASH!

One of the couples at our Sunday School table threw an "End-of-Summer Pool Party" yesterday after church. It was perfect weather for it! The only "downside" was that it rained a lot the night before, so the water temperature dropped a good 6 degrees. So, all the fathers stepped up to the plate and got in the 74 degree water with all the kids while the mothers took the afternoon off. Our job was to keep track of towels, and go back for seconds, thirds, and fourths of all the yummy food! It was a tough job, but someone had to do it - and we ladies were more than willing to oblige! *smile*

Alex simply loved being in the water and refused to admit that his lips had turned blue.Harrison, on the other hand, wasn't so sure. The problem wasn't that the water was cold - he just doesn't seem to like pools. He's cried his way through almost all of his pool experiences.
So, he cried ... and fussed ... and cried ... and pouted ... and cried some more.
What?!? Is that a SMILE on Harrison's face? No - impossible!
But, alas, the happiness was short-lived, and so out of the water he came. Poor little guy - such mean parents to force him to play in a swimming pool.
When the pool was mostly in shade, the kids finally started to shiver. But they weren't deterred - they were bound and determined to enjoy this final swim of the season to it's fullest potential! But, one by one the fathers got out and started to warm up.
When we told Alex it was time to get out, he wasn't sure he'd forgive us........ That is, till he found the sandbox!
THANK YOU Mr/Mrs Kipe for opening your house to all of us! It was such a great way to end the summer - a pool party, with delicious food on the grill, and tons of desserts! I'm not sure who enjoyed it more - the kids or the parents!

Of boys and waterfalls

Over the weekend Aaron and I, his brother, and our kids all went to visit Gramma, who lives in the Finger Lakes region of NY. The itty-bitty town she lives in is called Montour Falls, and is very close to Watkins Glen (for all of you racing fans). We were blessed with traveling mercies, a very good visit, and boys who entertained themselves for the 4+ hour trip (each way). Aaron having a couple movies on his Blackberry for them to watch definitely helped on the way back. Driving up and back in one day is a lot for any adult, let alone strapped in kids who aren't used to that length of trip.

We even got a break in the rain so we could visit the falls. Of course there are falls ... the town is named "Montour Falls." Harrison's not in any the pics of the falls. He was napping in the van with Uncle Field while the boys and I explored a little bit. And even though I always try to document everyone present for outings with photos, I think it's even more important to let sleeping toddlers sleep! (Cranky toddlers are no fun when stuck in a car seat for hours on end!) So, everyone agreed that a nap was far more important than a photo - though T-Bone (the alligator) did manage to get his photo taken....

Pictures rarely do waterfalls justice, but they were simply magnificent!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Popsicles and such

Before cooler weather comes, and the leaves begin to change, I decided it was time to use up some popsicles. So, the other night we headed outside. Since we have young kids - this step was absolutely necessary since we didn't want stained carpets!
Question: what happens when a certain someone decides to bite off more than he should? Answer: brain freeze and funny faces!
Alex's truck decided to go "off-roading in the mud puddles" - they were purple and smelled suspiciously like grape.
I don't do popsicles. But I do do Moose Trax ice cream! And this week Giant has Turkey Hill ice cream on sale - I stocked up!
As Aaron hooked up the hose to spray off the sticky remnants, Harrison tried to get a drink. He knew water came out of that thing, but couldn't figure out why it wasn't working....
You know you've done a good job instilling cleanliness when your 19 month brings you the freezing-cold popsicle that fell off the stick and says "clean up." Smile. One lesson successfully taught - five million more to go.


The boys and I went to a friend's house yesterday and spent almost all day there! We had such a great time! There weren't even any serious temper-tantrums or injuries, and Harrison took two naps! (I'm half tempted to just show up there once a week 'cause it was such a great day.)

I was shown around the garden, and got to see how GINORMOUS the plants in her backyard grow. It's like there's miracle grow naturally occurring in the dirt. I had just a tinge of jealousy, though I shouldn't because she's shared the fruits (and vegetables) of her labor with us several times already - YUM! Maybe next year I'll get a little garden. That would be nice.

The list of goodies I'd like to grow keeps growing. But for now - I'll satisfy myself with the shared love I keep receiving from those who have an abundance this year. Earlier this week my Aunt brought me a whole bunch of fresh goodies too! There's nothing quite like real fruits and veggies - you know, the kind that are allowed to ripen on the vine, not on a shelf at the grocery store.

TGIF Recap

So - for those of you not on Facebook to have gotten the post-Friday's recap. Here's the scoop:

YES! Monday, Tuesday and Wednesdays kids eat FREE! It's currently two kids (12 and under) per paying adult. But, starting September 9th, it will be only on Wednesdays, and only one kid (still 12 and under) per paying adult. So - get out there and Friday it up, folks!
We went there Tuesday night. Fed our family of four for $13.54! Harrison was too interested putting his crayons in the cup of water to eat - so his entire meal was left-overs! He also amused himself for a good five minutes having the water drip out the straw hole, and then wiping up the "mess" with a napkin over and over. Good thing I ordered him water - no stains and no stickiness!

Then Wednesday was date night, and while a friend watched the boys, we went back! We ended up with the same waitress (good thing she was excellent!), and that night was $19 including drinks and dessert! That's enough spent money for this week. We'll see what next week holds....

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


No, I have not lost my mind (completely, anyway) - I know today is Tuesday, not Friday. But, this is a post about TGIFriday's. I know that most of us are trying to cut back our expenses these days. Yesterday a girlfriend gave me a tip (can't believe I didn't know it already, but I didn't). Thank you, Natalie!

At TGIFriday's, kids eat FREE
every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday!

Oh, you already knew that, good for you! (And shame on you for not sharing that invaluable info with me ... okay, I'll forgive you.) I just went to their website to find out what ages are included, and I couldn't find it listed - so guess you'll have to call them and find out for yourself. Her little guy is almost 5, so I know that both of mine are covered.

But it gets better - at least for those of us in Central Penna. In the most recent Clipper Magazine (that I think came last week), there's a COUPON. I absolutely LOVE coupons - they're like FREE MONEY!!! Anyway, back to the coupon. It's for a free entree with the purchase of an entree of equal or greater value. It's only good at the location on the Carlisle Pike. BUT - It's good till 9-23-09 AND IT'S REUSABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

In the situation of our family, it'd be like feeding four people (plus left-overs) for the price of ONE!!! Or as Natalie (who went last night) put it:
Not cooking, or needing to clean up,
dinner out at Fridays with my boys.......
bill coming to $10.59........
Yesterday I took the boys to McDonald's (for a play-date at the play place), and two Happy Meals plus my quarter-pounder meal cost $13.00 Just imagine - All four of us eating for less than $11.00 - even STEAK!! (okay - so I don't eat steak, but Aaron does...)

And since the coupon's REUSABLE for a whole month - we could (if we start tonight) eat there FOURTEEN NIGHTS at right around $11.00 each. We could try everything on the menu! And if we are careful, we could have left-overs after each meal! I know $11 each time adds up, but that's roughly what I feed the whole family for (if I was to actually cook, that is - grilled cheese is obviously much cheaper than that). But even once a week - what an excellent treat!

So - see y'all at Friday's!!! I think we're going tonight.

Monday, August 24, 2009

My Salary as a Mom

As a mom, as a "just-a-mom," it's easy to feel unappreciated. I've never counted the number of diapers I've changed, but I can guarantee neither of my boys ever thanked me for changing any of them. (Though Alex has occasionally thanked me for wiping his tushie now that he's using the potty.) I've been a "just-a-mom" for just over three years now. Truth be told, I quit work kicking-and-screaming. In retrospect it probably helped to save my life (literally) - but that's a different post for a different day. Whether or not you work outside the home, as a mom it's so easy to feel unappreciated.

Yesterday a friend introduced me to a fabulous website (thank you, Tabitha!) that calculates how much you (as a mom) should be paid for your work at home. Their calculator takes into account if you do or don't work outside the home, and they even now have a section that calculates what the dad is worth based on his help around the house. The website even bases it in part on where you live. After all, the cost of living is drastically different between Manhattan and Hick-ville.

YOU'VE GOT TO CHECK THIS OUT: www.mom.salary.com

Apparently I'm worth $182,315 a year! ... I think it's time to up the life insurance policy! Or maybe I'll request a paid vacation - that alone could set me up quite nicely for a fabulous shopping trip! Pottery Barn here I come!

So, ladies. The next time your hubby walks into the room holding (at arms length) your wee one - and suddenly you're overcome by the nauseous gasses emanating from that blow-out diaper ... Rather than wanting to file for divorce right then and there ('cause seriously the man* can change a diaper once in a while too!) - think of that Grande Caramel Mocha from Starbucks that you earned in the time it took you to change your fiftieth diaper of the day.

*Note - Aaron probably changes more diapers than I do in a day. "The man" in no way references my amazing husband!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Alex Feitner - 007

I've blogged before how we don't have any guns in the house - not even any toy guns or water guns. Well, today we went to a pool party, and there were water guns. As soon as Alex saw them he came running over to me and asked permission to use one. (how sweet!) I said okay, and immediately he transformed from Alex Feitner, 4 year old to James Bond 007 (and he's never even heard of James Bond!)! I guess sometimes boys are just drawn to toy guns ... must be that hunter/provider instinct. I don't understand the draw - but then, I'm not a boy.
I must say, though. Spider-man floaties kinda makes the whole look a bit less intimidating.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A lost cause...

So - a new house (hopefully - eventually!) means a chance to re-purpose some of our things. For several months now, I've been thinking that I'd like to get new things for our master bedroom, and use what we currently have for the guest room instead. Currently our guest room is also Aaron's home office. But our hope is that our next house will have a dedicated guest bedroom. This means that we should (fingers crossed) have space for a queen bed in there instead of the current twin.

Since there's not really anything else I can do for the whole moving process till our house sells, I've spent a lot of downtime this past week or so "daydreaming" online. Tonight I decided to look for a potential new duvet cover (comforter, quilt, whatever) since that's a reasonable place to start when redecorating a bedroom. Here's the list of websites, and number of possibilities I looked at tonight:

Amazon - 4784
Overstock - 120
Sears/Kmart - 304
Pottery Barn - 66
J C Penny - 224
Bed, Bath & Beyond - 276
Macy's - 347

For a grand total of: 6121 photos! (Thank goodness for internet browsing - my feet would be killing me after that much real store looking!)

There were only THREE that I was willing to even consider!!!

The cheapest one is $199.00. Sigh. Unless someone out there has some other websites for me to check out, I think it's a lost cause.

So - if/when we do sell our house, and move to Pittsburgh ...
If our guest room fits the queen bed that's been offered to us ...
If you ever come to visit us and spend the night ...
It looks like you're gonna use a sleeping bag to keep warm.

The Measure of Success

Years ago I read (most of the way) through a book by Charles Colson - "A Dangerous Grace: Daily Readings." When I was headed back to the hospital last week I grabbed it for some easy, yet encouraging reading. It ended up that since it was such a quick in/out that I didn't even open it. Since I got home, it's been sitting on the desk patiently waiting for me. This morning I finally picked it up. I flipped randomly through until a part that I had underlined caught my attention:

"My greatest humiliation - being sent to prison - was the beginning of God's greatest use of my life; He chose the one experience in which I could not glory for His glory.

Confronted with this staggering truth, I understood with a jolt that I had been looking at life backward. But now I could see: Only when I lost everything that I thought made me Chuck Colson a great guy had I found the true self God intended me to be and the true purpose of my life.

It is not what we do that matters, but what a sovereign God chooses to do through us. God doesn't want our success; He wants us. He doesn't demand our achievements; He demands our obedience. The kingdom of God is a kingdom of paradox, where through the ugly defeat of a cross, a holy God is utterly glorified. Victory comes through defeat; healing through brokenness; finding self through losing self."

Several years ago, when I first read and underlined those words I had no idea that God would be teaching me that same lesson. I haven't had the humiliation of going to prison. But I have had the humiliations that come (in hospital and out) of not being able to even feed myself or use the restroom without total assistance.

My goals in life have changed over the course of the past two years of dealing with my diagnosis. My measure of success has changed - it's no longer based on our financial situation, or the amount of china in my china cabinet. One form of "success" is taking a shower without wanting to pass out from oxygen deprivation. Another "success" is when my troubles, my pain, and my "lessons learned" help someone else along the way. Pain is just too painful for the lessons learned to be just for myself.

So many of my friends seem to be in valleys right now. They're dealing with a lot of really heavy issues - troubled finances, sick children and parents, unfaithful spouses (or being tempted to be unfaithful themselves), strained relationships with family members, work/don't work decisions, addictions (either their own or with a loved-one), struggling with their past, depression, anxiety, and self-esteem issues. My heart has broken over and over again recently.

Ya know - everyone has a past of some sort. But our past is our PAST. If we ask God to forgive us for what part (if any) we played in it, then it's done. We need to forgive the other people who helped to create it. But our past is our PAST - just that - no more. It doesn't have to be our present or our future! Praise God for that! What doesn't kill you makes you stronger - or bitter. It's your choice. Look for the good - and if you look long enough - you'll find some, no matter how small.

Maybe our measuring stick of success needs to be readjusted. Forget about your goals and dreams for a while. What does God want from your life? How does God want to use the pain you've dealt with to make you stronger - or to help others? After all, "... victory comes through defeat; healing through brokenness."

Friday, August 21, 2009

June Cleaver

June Cleaver doesn't have anything
on me!

I had planned to make shepherd's pie for dinner tonight. This morning I thawed my meats. Then this afternoon I browned the sausage. I browned the lean beef. I put them in my casserole dish. I seasoned them and covered them with cheese. I scrubbed and rough-cut my red-skinned potatoes. I put them in a pot of beautifully boiling water. And while they cooked I cleaned up the kitchen.

... And then, halfway through the dishes, I suddenly realized ...

I left the hand-mixer in the kitchen when we de-cluttered to put the house on the market - but I packed the beaters! I also packed the potato masher and wanna-be food processor. OOPS!!! But without skipping a beat - I decided that as a WOMAN I would rise to the challenge.

So, I pulled out my largest mixing bowl, and my favorite wooden spoon (handmade in Zambia!). You can see where this is going - that's right - I mashed and seasoned 2.5 pounds of potatoes BY HAND - thank you very much!

[My Grandma would have been so proud!]

And Aaron (bless his heart) even commented that my impromptu hand-mashed mashed potatoes were absolutely delicious ... as he licked the spoon and spatula!


A Shout-Out

This is a quick shout-out about the wonders of the longevity of Soft Soap's bubbles. This photo was taken THREE HOURS after Alex washed his hands (unsupervised - obviously) for dinner. WOW! They should include that fabulous characteristic in their marketing strategy.

I wonder if it holds up equally well in the bathtub.............

Yummy Surprises

A friend came over today so our kids could have a play date. Well, of course it was really so WE could have a play date (the kids were just the convenient reason)! Look at the yummy surprise she brought along...
...the ingredients (and recipe) for Purple Apple Slaw. The best part is that all of those yummy fruits and veggies came from her garden! ... Yeah, she's one of those kind of fabulous friends - the kind that share the love! Thank you, my dear! It's gonna be so yummy - and I can't wait to taste your homemade jam!

Pulmonary Hypertension - 4

This is part three of four - this one describes what PH is (in a nutshell).

If you're only going to watch one of the four episodes, this should be the one!

This clip is 8 minutes 43 seconds.

There are VERY FEW differences between her story and mine:
1 - she went to doctor after doctor who told her just to lose weight. I didn't go to a doctor to tell me that, I told myself. I didn't go to a doctor at all about the breathing issues until I was finally hospitalized (and intubated less than a week later because I could no longer breathe).

2 - Her high altitude experience was in New Mexico - mine was in Utah. She stayed in the hotel/car the whole trip because she couldn't acclimate to the higher altitude - I did too (but I was so embarrassed that I was that "out-of-shape" that I didn't tell people that I was struggling not to pass out).

3 - She was diagnosed after a 6 hour surgery (to do a thorough check of her heart). I was diagnosed based on an echo-cardiogram and right heart catheterization. They checked my heart (a different way) after I was diagnosed (too sick to check it before).

4 - That's basically it! Her description of what it feels like, and her brain telling her not to do something physical, and being hurt by everyone saying she was just fat and lazy, ..... it could be my story!

Of course, I don't expect you to watch these episodes. But just in case you're bored, or curious.... It's a good explanation of what I've been dealing with for at least the past 6.5 years.

Pulmonary Hypertension - 3

This is part three of four.

This clip is 5 minutes 10 seconds.

Pulmonary Hypertension - 2

This is part two of four.

This clip is 5 minutes 55 seconds.

Pulmonary Hypertension - 1

This is a four part episode of Mystery Diagnosis about Pulmonary Hypertension.


The process to diagnose me was different (not a 6 hour surgery). But I couldn't breathe anymore at that point, and was intubated for almost a week... while the docs started me on that same iv drug. But most of the rest of our lives are the same (oh - she was diagnosed at 13 after having symptoms for like 9 years, and I was diagnosed at 27 after having symptoms for 5 years)......

This clip is 5 minutes 19 seconds.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

well, the kid's got taste!

Earlier this afternoon Alex used a toy train cargo car to hold mini-chocolate morsels that he was eating (in the living room - shhh don't tell!). He was watching a GeoTrax dvd, so it seemed an appropriate "bowl." After a second helping (without permission), the inside of the train was kinda gooey. So, Alex decided it was time to wash it. Cleanliness has been instilled in him since infancy, so while he trekked to the bathroom (he can't reach the kitchen sink so well yet), I sat at the desk doing some work with a huge smile on my face - proud of the fact that he was washing it without being asked.

After a very long five minutes I asked if he was going to come back and finish the video. The response was "soon - it's not all clean yet." I stifled a "you're wasting water" comment and just smiled all the more - proud that he wanted to do a thorough job. Several minutes later I was summoned to the bathroom because the soap didn't want to come off. My stomach instantly found itself tied in knots. As I entered the bathroom I literally bit my tongue so I wouldn't yell. There was "soap" all over the sink, the counter, HIM, mirror and walls (I assume he shook his hands trying to get the "soap" off), and of course the train too.

First I washed the counter (that of course he was practically laying on!), and next came his arms (up past his elbows!). After I had a chance to calm down, I asked why he used THAT bottle to wash the train? Alex's matter-of-fact response - "that one smells SO MUCH BETTER, Mommy! The train's never had a bath before, so he deserves the good smelling soap."
Now it's time for me to explain. Last year I discovered an AMAZING Shea Butter soap/lotion set sold by Arbonne. I love it so much (and couldn't justify spending that much money), so I got it and told Aaron it could be my birthday gift. The hand soap is long-gone (and is constantly refilled with cheap Soft Soap). But I love the smell of the lotion so much that it's been slowly savored over the past year. Needless to say, the bottle is now almost empty. Sigh.

The entire first floor of our house is bathed in the heavenly scent - so at least I'm enjoying the lotion ..... I guess. Alex was going to get a bath before church tonight. But he smells so good that I've decided he'll just go dirty. I don't want to waste the glorious smell.

I can't really yell at him. He wanted to use the best he had to clean his favorite toy. And at least the kid's got taste!


So - I know this is several years old. But it's still an excellent reminder to all of us. It's all smoke and mirrors...... Ladies - YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL even without any product. You're beautiful for WHO you are, and WHAT you do, not just for what you look like!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Walking With Giants

"A man has dreams of walking with giants
To carve his niche in the edifice of time..."
Next week marks the 45th anniversary of the release of Mary Poppins. A couple weeks ago Alex was first introduced to her, and immediately fell in love. So, we ended up buying the dvd, and it's been watched countless times since then. Generally if I watch any of it with him, it's only the first 20 minutes or so. At that point something inevitably happens (like a poopy diaper) to pull me away from the tv. Last night was the first time in years that I sat through the whole movie.

Near the end, just after the chimney sweeps dance their way out of the Banks house, and Mr. Banks receives the phone call letting him know he's about to be fired from his job at the bank ... Mr. Banks and Burt have a song. The first two lines struck a chord with me as I listened to it last night ...

"A man has dreams of walking with giants
To carve his niche in the edifice of time..."

It's so true. And all too often as wives, lovers, sisters and even mothers, WE are what stand in the way of the men in our lives being successful. How often, when our men are facing opposition, do we fail to bridle our tongue? How often do we not control our tone of voice and restrain our body language (including facial expressions)? How often do we sigh and roll our eyes? All too often we think the right course of action that HE should take is obvious. We know his faults, his weaknesses and his failures. But it's NOT our job or duty to remind our men of them. The rest of the world is more than eager to point out the negative and discourage.

Our men don't need us to criticize them, "fix" them, or even to "improve" them. That will happen (hopefully) on its own because of the hurdles they face in life. It is our job to support them, encourage them, build them up, and help them reach the stars. "Success is not measured by what you accomplish but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds" (Orison Swett Marden). We, as women should NOT be part of the opposition that our men have to struggle against. After all, we should be on the same team!My man DOES walk with giants - whether or not the world agrees with me (though I think it does). He IS successful. After all, "success is doing what you love, loving what you do, and helping others to learn how to do the same" (Bob Burg). He is kind, good, loving, gentle, strong, empathetic, motivated, encouraging, respectful, protective, funny, smart, creative, playful, and daily is turning more and more into the "man of God" he was created to be.

Women, let's do more building up of our men, and less tearing down! Let's help them "carve their niche in the edifice of time...."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Playground Excursion

Recently after Aaron got home from work, and the heat had begun to diminish, we had a spontaneous family excursion to one of the local playgrounds. We picked up dinner on the way (compliments of Colonel Sanders) and had a mini-picnic in the pavilion.Generally it's way too hot outside for me to even pretend to function, so I mostly sat in the pavilion while Alex played, and Aaron chased Harrison.
Now that Harrison's getting older, he and Alex are finally starting to play together now and then. They thought it was fun to race each other down the double slide.
Of course I'm the biased mama, but I think this is one good lookin' kid! And the older he gets the more I like him! Currently I think four year-olds are simply amazing.