The Virginia Witmers

What's Happening and What We're Learning


Heart Cath Update

It’s been quite a week for our little heart warrior. After a fun Patriots-themed birthday celebration,


it was time to shift our attention to one of the last big steps toward surgery, his heart cath. After 4 time changes (!) Andrew, John and I left our house around 5am and headed to UVA for a 6:30am check in. It was an early morning but it was worth it as they took him right back. Also, he needed to fast after midnight and this early time made that part easy.

Overall, everything went really well. The doctors were happy with everything they saw. There were no surprises, no intervention was needed and we have no reason to think we can’t go forward with the Fontan surgery on June 13. He also needed to lie still on his back for 4 hours and he did! We saw many answered prayers today!

We also got a taste of how hard the actual surgery is going to be for him. He really struggles with sticky things on his sensitive skin so the EKG leads really upset him. He hated to see anything coming out of his skin, like an IV in his hand, and not having his own clothes on. Unfortunately, it’s going to be much worse after surgery. We met with a Child Life Specialist and she’s working with us to try to prepare him as best we can in this upcoming month. She also gave us some ideas for working through hard emotions with Katie and Ben.

One thing we can always count on to cheer up our John is matchbox cars ūüôā

5:7 JW

We are so thankful for this guy and for our dear family and friends who are sustaining us through encouragement and prayer.




No, that’s not the number of years it’s been since we last updated this blog. It’s only been a little over 2 years ūüôā¬† Life is full, and praise the Lord, we haven’t had much to update everyone on, until now.



Today, John Wyatt turned five. When he woke Andrew and me up for the 4th time last night around 3am (he was too excited about his birthday), and I couldn’t go back to sleep, I got to thinking about how much sweeter life is with John in it. I struggle to express the joy, humor, and light he brings to our family, and to this world. That sweet, sweet face you see above? It’s matched by a tender, generous, and compassionate heart. When we asked where he wanted to go for his birthday dinner, his first question was, “Where can you eat, mommy?” When anyone gets hurt, he’s the first to run and comfort. He was born with a incomplete physical heart but there sure isn’t anything wrong with his ability to love and care for others.

Over the past few years he’s also developed a real love of sports, particularly watching JMU and Patriots football.


He also still adores Katie (now 9) and Ben (now 7).


And he’s a complete goofball ūüôā

There are statistics out there about the 5 year life expectancy rate for kids with John’s conditions. I am praising God so much today, and every day, that He’s chosen to show his kindness through giving John a strong mind, a strong body, and a delightful spirit. He has not had besides his two heart surgeries. That is unheard of in kids with complex heart conditions. Besides a visit to the cardiologist every 6 months (and careful monitoring of his o2 levels), John lives a normal life. So many prayers have been answered through this little boy’s life.


It’s finally time to have his third and final surgery, currently scheduled for June 13. This is not a cure, but the last of the planned procedures for kids with HLHS. I’ll update more on that later, but first, we’d love your prayers for his cardiac cath,¬†happening next Tuesday, May 7 at 11:30am. Please pray specifically for

-patience as we wait to be taken back. He’ll need to be fasting and I know he’s not going to be happy.

-no complications going under or waking up from the anesthesia

-no surprises, good heart pressure numbers, and no need for intervention

Thanks for continuing to walk with us as we cheer on our beloved 5 year old.


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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‚ÄĒserious, 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 ūüôā