The Virginia Witmers

What's Happening and What We're Learning

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Virtual Witmers

A friend recently let me borrow his Structure scanner, and the kids and I spent much of the weekend making 3D models of ourselves.  We had a blast!  Here are three of our best efforts.  After the models load in (this may take a minute) and you press the Play arrows, you can zoom in and out and pan around on all three.  If you happen to have Google Cardboard or another headset, choose the VR option and use your phone to walk around the kids in virtual reality.  I must say they’re never this still in real reality!



Best of the Memory Jar

A few years ago we started jotting down family memories and stuffing them in an old mason jar that we keep in our dining room.  Every other week or so, one of the kids pulls a handful of memories out of the jar after dinner and we read through them together.  Here are some of our favorites.

August 2013  Every day when I walk up Hillcrest Drive on my way home from work, I see the lights on our lamppost shining, even in broad daylight.  This is our “love light,” and Katie turns it on without fail as a sign that she loves me and has been thinking about me.

September 2013  Andrew, kneeling next to Benjamin, holding him in a tender embrace (whispering): “If I could choose any little boy in the whole world as my son, it would be you every time.  I’m proud of you and I love you so much.”  Benjamin (also whispering): “Yeah.  Special treat.”

December 2013  We’re sitting around the dinner table, speculating about what the new baby will be like—serious, fun-loving, silly, outgoing, funny, smart?  Moe says, looking at Ben, “Well, we’ve already got funny.”  And Katie says, “We already have a smart person in our family, too.”  “Who?” Moe asks.  “Katie,” Katie replies.

February 2014  Katie said something very beautiful and poetic to me just now: “The best part of my eyes is you and Mommy and Benjamin.”

July 2014  Ben was heartbroken that Moe buttered his English muffin this morning; he wanted me to do it.  After wailing and shedding tears for several minutes, he got creative: he turned his English muffin over to dump the butter onto his napkin so I could rebutter it.

September 2014  Katie and Ben are lying in their beds with the lights out and Moe overhears Katie say the following (her first day of preschool is tomorrow): “Ben, do you know what?  Even when I’m at school, or at the grocery store, or even when we’re here, I’m always with you.  Do you know why?  Because I’m in your heart.”

February 2015  Andrew (looking at dishwasher to figure out why it’s making a strange noise): “I’m not sure what’s going on here.”  Benjamin: “Put me in there.”  Andrew: “What would that do?”  Benjamin: “I’ll figure out what’s wrong.”

March 2015  Benjamin (from upstairs, while Moe and I are eating pad thai from Taste of Thai after the kids have gone to bed): “Mommy, can I have a taste of that smell?”

March 2015  Benjamin (after crawling into our bed in the morning, waking me up, lying right next to me, and taking half my pillow): “Dad, you’re kind of smooshing me.”

March 2015  Over the course of our family’s two-day trip to Washington, D.C.  Benjamin: “This is the goodest trip of my life.”  Benjamin (disgruntled by not getting something he wanted): “This is the worst trip ever.”

May 2015  The other day, when Katie learned that Moe was making bean and kale soup for dinner, she said, sarcastically, “Great…” and then, seeing Moe’s expression, caught herself, changed her tone, and said, “Great-ful!”

May 2015  Last night Ben said, “Daddy, can we have a snack, and can it be good but with a little bit of badness in it?”

July 2015  Benjamin just said to Katie, “Katie, I wish it said in the Bible that brother and sister could marry.”

August 2015  Benjamin, speaking at random: “I am JC Penney all dressed up in abednego.  Thank you for all you do and for JC Penney.  Hey!”

October 2015  Ben just held up his Dorito-dust-encrusted fingers and asked, with a big smile on his face, “Dad, would you like to lick my fingers?”

March 2016  The night of the day that we did two Easter egg hunts with the Bailey family, Katie talked in her sleep.  She sat bolt upright at 11:00 PM and exclaimed, “I found one!”  Then she made the motions of picking up two eggs from her comforter.

May 2016  Ben and I are lying in his bed at night, talking about all sorts of things, including beards.  Ben: “Will I have a beard some day, Daddy?”  Me: “You sure will, Ben.”  Ben: “Will I have to plant anything?”

December 2016  We discussed one of the Proverbs this morning, and I began by asking if the kids knew who wrote them.  Their guesses included “Dennis” and “Judea.”

January 2017  Katie: “Mommy, you look awesome for as much as you eat!”

February 2017  John now calls tissues “bless-you’s,” a term he came up with on his own.


Summer 2016

This summer we…

Cheered as Katie and Ben played tee ball and we had a fun visit to Bethlehem where we went to an Iron Pigs baseball game

Went strawberry and blueberry picking

Had a wonderful trip to Monson, Maine where we spent a lot of kayaking, and snuggling with grandparents

Celebrated big birthdays on the Maine coast (kid-free!)

Went to Northern Maine to visit one set of cousins and also got to go four wheeling and fishing!

Went to Massachusetts to visit the other set of cousins (how cute are these girls?!)


Played sports in our backyard

Did some hiking in the Shenandoah National Park


Did lots of reading (Katie has grown by leaps and bounds this summer!)


Had a blast at the beach with my family playing in the ocean, making sand castles, riding rides on the boardwalk, and burying Andrew!

And had lots of sweet times together as a family and also visiting with friends.  As you can see, it’s truly been a wonderful summer!

Katie and Ben start school next Tuesday and Andrew starts teaching the following Monday.  Katie will be entering 1st grade and Ben will be starting Kindergarten.  It’s so sweet that they’re in the same school, and they’re even on the same hallway!  Katie is a little nervous but knows the ropes so she’s more confident than last year.  Ben is doing a dual language program, where half his day will be taught totally in Spanish and the other half in English.  We know this will be a challenge but we’re excited about the opportunity for him.

This means that John and I will have lots of time at home together.  We will dearly miss Katie and Ben (I’ll have to start a tally of how many times John says their names when they’re gone.  They are all the best of friends) but I treasure the time with just him. He is doing very well.  As you can see through the pictures he is living his life to the full.  He shows no sign of being different than any other 2 year old, except that he’s on the smaller side and isn’t pronouncing words as clearly as some (we think this will come.  As some of you know, Katie needed speech therapy around the age of 3, so we may go that route when the time comes if he hasn’t improved).  Our early intervention case worker agreed that he’s right on track and in July he graduated from all speech and physical therapies!  We’re so proud of him and grateful to God for blessing John’s life with health, laughter, and joy.

His next cardiology appointment is in October.  We will discuss future plans then.  They would like him to be 30 pounds for his next heart surgery.  Since he’s only 22 pounds now, and every ounce is hard fought (he burns his calories as quickly as he can get them!), we’re guessing that it will be summer of 2018.  One day at a time.  I’ll be sure to update.  Thanks so much for continuing to follow our family!




Monson Memories

When our children ask me to tell them a story, I often think back to my own childhood in the town of Monson, Maine. After hearing these stories many times over the past several years, the kids know them (or at least their own version of them) by heart. Inspired by a conversation with our friend Kristin Moore, I decided to record Katie and Benjamin telling my stories.

Some lines from these stories (“I got a cat” and “keep it on coming”) make regular appearances in family conversations, while others (“Mackey Melia is a jerk” and “I do not like these sheets”) offer the kids an interesting perspective on Daddy as an ornery child.

There’s a hidden track starring another ornery child, so be sure to listen all the way to the end!


Ben’s Baseball Birthday

Even though Ben’s 5th birthday isn’t until next Tuesday, we took 5 of his little friends to the last JMU home baseball game to celebrate today.  They had a lot of fun!  It was windy and chilly but that didn’t seem to phase these sweet, fun loving boys.  JMU won and Ben felt loved.  It was definitely a success 🙂



John is 2 tomorrow.  Wow.  Our little miracle boy is 2!

He is doing so well.  Like, some-days-I-forget-about-how-much-he’s-been-through well.  And no-one-could-ever-tell-that-he -only-has-half-a-working-heart well.  It really is amazing to see the energy he has.  He’s nonstop.  He spends his days playing with his brother and sister (and weeping when he feels like he’s being left out), laughing all the time, engaging any child or adult who gives him the slightest bit of attention, grazing on snacks and chugging down Pediasure, playing with his cars and receiving hundreds of kisses from his adoring mom and dad.

John graduated from physical therapy in the winter and began speech therapy because it seemed like he was a little behind with his words.  At his appointment this week, his speech therapist said that he’s right on track for cognitive development and only slightly delayed in his speech.  Because the cognitive is there she’s confident the words will follow.

We do not restrict any of his activities.  When he gets tired (which is rare) he self regulates and takes a break.  He takes 3 medicines a day and has a visit to his cardiologist every 6 months.  At his last visit in April he got a great report.  2 doctors even said it looked like there was some slight improvement in the leak in his valve.  They were very happy with the way John and his heart looked.

This is all great news, way more than I could have dreamed of 2 years ago as we sat in the hospital, anticipating our precious baby, not knowing what was in store for him as he prepared for heart surgery within the week.

Today, he is living a normal life.  Today, he is thriving.

However, we know that each day is a gift and tomorrow is not promised to us.  We have been reminded of this in the last few weeks.  Two families in our local heart community suddenly lost their precious sons.  It hit our family hard as we grieved with them.

Last year I was filled with only joy as John turned 1.  One is a big milestone for babies with HLHS.  This year, though, I’m feeling both happiness and fear.  Two is another year closer to heart surgery #3.  At our last appointment, the doctors said that it could happen as early as summer 2017.  They want John to be at least 30 pounds so if he takes a while to get there the next surgery could be in the summer of 2018.  Either way, I don’t ever want it to come and I want it over with at the same time.  It’s going to be a whole different experience now that John can talk.  He’s going to be scared.  He’s going to be in pain.  And he’s going to tell us about it.

We’ll be writing a lot more about this as the year goes on.  We’d appreciate your prayers as we anticipate the next surgery.

But for today, we celebrate our fighter, John Wyatt.  Happy Birthday, sweet boy!