Gettysburg Address

In honor of the 152nd anniversary of the day Lincoln gave his historic Gettysburg Address, I thought I’d post this again for memories’ sake.  George memorized it in first grade for a Recitation Contest at school.  He said it in front of the whole school and took 2nd place in his division!

(And watching this video has made me realize that this was really the last time any of them have memorized anything this lengthy.  And also that I should take more videos to embarrass them later on.)

Shortly after the contest, we took a trip into DC and I made him do it again for me in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  It just seemed too good an opportunity to pass up, because I knew that he wouldn’t remember it all for long, and we wouldn’t be back in DC for a long time because every time we go there I want to kill my children and it takes a long time to forget how horrible the experience of getting around that city is with small children and no food and no bathrooms (downtown Mall – severely lacking in bathrooms and food).

It was a beautiful spring day. There were a ton of annoying tourists because of the cherry blossoms (we were there right at their peak in March; you can see my post about that here), and it was total chaos at the Lincoln Memorial.  It took several tries to get it where there weren’t tweenish girls dancing and mocking us in the background (or George forgetting the words).  But finally we got one! It’s still chaotic and noisy, the camera shakes a lot because Thomas kept pulling on my arm, Andrew walks in front of the camera a few times, but it just adds to the realism of the moment. Hey, the Gettysburg Address wasn’t recited in a vacuum, right?

….And then we walked back to the Metro, hungry and tired, Andrew fell into the WWII Memorial fountain, and it was all downhill from there.

Man, good times!  We need to go back soon.

Happy Birthday Thomas

I made one of these videos for Andrew when he turned seven, which seems like just last week, but apparently time has taken me by surprise yet again. It’s Thomas’ turn for a birthday video!

This is over 10 minutes long, and a LOT like Andrew’s….thanks to iMovie’s readymade templates….so no hard feelings if you pass it by. But I thought those of you know Thomas would like to see it. I have so many photos of Thomas – more than any of the other boys – thanks to my dad, who gave me a Nikon DSLR when Thomas was born.  When I was at home with my 3 boys under 5 and in constant survival mode, photography was one of the main ways I passed the time and kept from going crazy.  Long time readers of this blog know this by the ridiculous posts I used to write about playing with play dough and going for strolls in the woods.

Thomas was born after my longest and most challenging labor.  He was my neediest and most challenging baby (in a way, tougher than John Paul because his temperament was so volatile). But he owns a special little piece of my heart, secretly because he reminds me most often of me.

Those who know Thomas will also recognize lots of little inside jokes here.  I tried to do homage to his various passing obsessions: his blanket and pacifier, which he clung to well after age 3, the Dwarves from Snow White and Chocolate Man.

He’ll probably be as embarrassed as heck by this video and hold it against me forever, but then I will know I’ve done my job.


Do It Yourself….Or Don’t

Some recent painting projects:

  1. This one was from back in June, inspired by Nesting Place and a can of spray paint…this little yellow chair for my sewing desk:
  2. Everything in our house, especially the little family room off of the kitchen, was brown – walls, floors, couch, bricks, etc.  So I started painting some of the furniture white, like a little side table, and this chair, which my mom bought me from an antique store for my birthday: (I wish I would have gotten a before photo, but it was brown with a brown and pink seat covering.)
  3. Next I tackled the bricks, inspired by all of the lovely photos of whitewashed bricks on Pinterest, like here and here and here.  I didn’t want to completely cover up the brick – I just wanted to lighted it up a little. Using this post as my guidline, I ordered some milk paint from this website, and set to work.   Here is the before: fireplace before
  4. The milk paint, which I watered down to the thickness of skim milk, got a lot whiter as it dried, so it was kind of hard to tell if I was applying it consistently, but in the end, i don’t think it mattered too much if it was a little whiter in some places than others.  I thought it added to the charm. After: fireplace afterIt really, REALLY brightened things up and made me feel a whole lot better about the room.  It’s really true what they say about being affected by the colors you’re surrounded with. It took a little courage to jump in and do it, mostly because I was afraid I’d hate it, but it was worth the plunge.  And it really didn’t take very long – probably a few hours at most. I painted it in little sessions over three days or so.
  5. And, here’s the “don’t”: IMG_1701Don’t try to apply latex paint directly to laminate wood.  Hello, I know that I should have known this.  My painter-husband gave me a big I Told You So look.  I was too lazy to prime, when i went to put the shelves on the paint came right off.  I’m not sure what to do with this shelf at this point; the shelves actually don’t fit anymore because of the layers of paint, and I saw a shelf at Target that was this size (already white) on sale for only $2 more than what I paid for this one at the junk store. ugh. Live and learn.  Several people have recommended chalk paint to avoid priming in the future.  But in this case, if I’m going to leave the house to go to a store to buy the chalk paint, I think I will probably just buy the white shelf instead…..

John Paul On Special Needs Spotlight

One of the best and most helpful supports I have found in the past couple of years has been the online community for special needs families. Among the most inspiring and beautiful websites is This Little Miggy Stayed Home, in which Miggy often shares stories of her daughter (nicknamed “Lamp”), who has limb differences on both her hands and her feet. Each week on Fridays she has a profile of a special needs family.

I’m honored to have been asked to talk about John Paul for this week’s spotlight.

Click here to read it. Enjoy!

New Leg Update

On Friday we visited orthopedics one more time and the x-rays showed a complete healing of John Paul’s new ‘knee.’ Hip Hip Hooray!


The X-ray on the right was taken two weeks ago, when the cast fell off, and the left x-ray was taken Friday. So you can see at the joint, or what should be the joint, where there is a lot of new bone growth.

You can also see where his fibula is not connected to anything and just kind of floats out on its own. Not much can be done about this, I guess, and it doesn’t matter much anyway, since he’s not bending at the knee at all.  But if it continues to grow, it’s possible that something might have to be done someday.  We wouldn’t want it to start protruding out much more than this. , especially if it starts poking out through the skin.

Sorry, is this grossing you out?…

Here – look at this cute picture instead:


So technically, John Paul has a clean bill of health and can now live his life without the need of a brace or bandage or anything.  On the other hand, he will not let me take the bandage off because he’s so used wearing it.  He cries if I try to leave it off — it’s like a security blanket for him now.  I’m sure the skin on his leg is super sensitive.  Maybe he’s self-conscious about his scar.  But for the next few weeks we’ll be working on weaning him off of the ace bandage.

Also, his platelets are saying pretty high- the last check was 77,000.  So now we are only drawing labs every month or so, unless he seems to be bruising more easily than normal.  There was a time not long ago when he could only go 2-3 days without a platelet transfusion!


You’ve come a long way, baby!

It’s All Fun and Games Til Somebody Loses a Cast

It's all fun and games until somebody's cast falls off. #newleg #theamazingjp #uvaorthopedics #dontworryitsallgood

You know those days when everything goes as planned? Really? What’s that like?

I had been kind of nervous about JP’s new cast for a few days prior to this morning. He seemed to be increasingly uncomfortable, especially when we tried to pick him up or touch his cast in any way. In addition to this, I had started noticing that his little toes were inching their way into the bottom of the cast, and, as of yesterday afternoon, part of his incision was visible at the top of it.

I had this conversation with  my sister Joannie last evening, in which she gave me some sage advice:


Of course, I didn’t call. The clinic was closed, it wasn’t a real emergency, and there was cleanup, and dinner, and cleanup and bedtime and by then I decided to just wait until morning.

John Paul had a fitful night and cried out several times – probably everytime he rolled over. By morning, I could see well over an inch of his incision scar and his toes had all but disappeared. Yikes!

I made the phone call before the clinic even opened and left a message, but I assumed that there was no way they were going to tell me anything other than BRING HIM IN HERE NOW, because that cast was doing nothing for him at this point.

By the time I showered and packed, Patrick arranged to stay home with the boys for the day (best husband ever!), and brought John Paul to the car, (with JP screaming and me panicking the whole time) the cast was off. It just slipped right off his leg into my hand with little to no ceremony. EEK!!

The clinic was very busy, and Dr. Romnes was actually in surgery all day, but his wonderful, fabulous nurse took care of us and got an x-ray and sent it to him to view between his operations. He was so pleased with what he saw that he and the nurse decided that another cast was not necessary. Instead, she cut apart a knee brace, took out the metal brace part, straightened it out a little, placed it on the outside of his right leg, and wrapped the whole thing in an Ace bandage. And sent us back home.

So now his little foot is free to move at the ankle, and we can take the bandage off and bathe him periodically and let his skin breathe a little.

As for the x-ray, there was a noticeable difference in the bone growth at the new site, where the pins had been, and the bones had not shifted at all, despite the shifting of the cast. This was a huge relief! So John Paul is healing quite nicely despite himself and his squirmy-worminess!

Little stinker!

..And now back to our Regularly Scheduled chaos…

Update on John Paul’s leg

Goodbye old nasty smelly cast! #theamazingjp #newleg #uvaorthopedics
A week ago, we went down for a post-surgery follow-up to get the cast off. It had been almost 3 weeks, and the doctor was pleased with the rate at which the bones are healing. He said there is already new bone starting to form at the break site.  (Remember there is no joint at the knee, so John Paul won’t have any more movement at the knee than he did before, but the leg is at a more suitable angle for function.)


They took an x-ray with the cast partially removed, then removed the cast completely and took out the two pins holding the bones in place.  One of the pins had already worked its way out on its own.  Then the nurse cleaned up his leg a bit and the leg was re-casted for three more weeks. We got blue this time!

Hello, new, cleaner, lighter cast! #newleg #theamazingjp #uvaorthopedics
Here he is with a new cast and his stickers!

It was nice to get rid of that nasty, smelly cast! Without all of the post-surgical gauze wrapped around the incision, this new one is lighter and less bulky. John Paul isn’t hopping around like he used to; it’s still too heavy.  But he does seem a little more comfortable.

He was so brave that we stopped at CookOut on the way home and got a chocolate milkshake.


And when you’ve had enough chocolate milkshake, there are always people waiting in the wings to take care of that for you:


(this photo was a selfie so it is a mirror image; it looks like the cast magically switched legs and John Paul moved to the other side of the couch, lol.)

It’s funny how surgery affects other things that you don’t anticipate.  His appetite has totally changed and for the past 3 weeks has become such a picky eater! He used to at least try everything you put in front of him, but now he’ll turn up his nose to most everything. I guess it could be the fact that he’s approaching 2 1/2 and have nothing to do with the surgery.  It’s just funny that it coincided with coming home from the hospital this time.

The other thing is that since the surgery he will not go to sleep unless his door is open. Of course now that I’ve figured that out, bedtime is a lot easier, but until I did, he would cry and cry and we were helpless to figure out what the heck was wrong. (He’s still not really talking yet) I wonder if he was just lonely in his room all by himself.  He’s the only one with his own room! He probably just missed his friends.  Anyway, now we leave the door open and the light half-on (it’s on a dimmer) until he’s asleep and he’s just fine.

I tell you what, toddlers would be SO EASY if they would just figure out Eating and Sleeping. And Talking. ha!

What We’ve Been Watching

Just a few things found on Netflix ….

chefs tableThe Chef’s Table – Netflix original documentaries profiling a chef andhis career. Patrick and I have watched two so far and enjoyed both of them: The first, about Massimo Bottura, particularly about his love affair with Parmigiana Reggiano (and who can blame him), and his remarkable 3-Michelin star restaurant in Modena, Italy; and the second episode about Dan Hill, one of the first chefs to pioneer the “Farm-to-Table” foodie movement in New York in his restaurant Blue Hill, which is named after his family’s farm. What we liked about it: They are very well produced and we had really fun discussions afterward about food and travel and cooking.  We’re looking forward to watching the rest of the series. You’ll enjoy them if you’re into food, where it comes from, and people who are passionate about doing it well.

Prizewinnerohioposter1The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio I was home alone with John Paul one evening and scrolling through for a movie to watch after he went to bed.  This movie pleasantly surprised me.  IMDB summary: “In order to support her ten children, Evelyn Ryan (Julianne Moore) enters a commercial jingle-writing contest. Based on a true story.” This is actually oversimplifying it by a ton, because she won several contests – dozens, even.  Her husband had a bit of a problem with drink and so was often out of work, and she supported their family by entering contests.  There were some uncomfortable moments, because of the Dad and his alcoholism, which made him angry and violent.  What I liked about it: I found it interesting that they took pains to show that although he made life very difficult for his family, he was not a total villain. The writers could have easily painted him as flat character, cruel and abusive. But interestingly, it did not. Evelyn is utterly inspiring in her amazing patience, endurance, and creativity in loving her family.  All of this is enhanced by the fact that it is a true story about a real family, and the ending is particularly touching.

miss pettigrewMiss Pettigrew Lives for a Day I guess this has been out for a little while now, and I don’t know how I missed it, but I have had the book on my to-read list.  it is a really cute story, set in London just before the start of WWII. Miss Pettigrew, a middle-aged daughter of a clergyman, has just lost another job as a governess, and is desperate for work to stay off the street. At the employment agency she overhears a phone call inquiring for a social secretary, and she sneaks the address and answers the inquiry herself. Her new employer is an American starlet and socialite looking to make it big in the theatre, and she will do anything to get there.  Hilarity ensues.What I liked about it: Endearing characters (Amy Adams is adorable, as usual but Miss Pettigrew is fantastic), and the plot is simple and moves along quickly. I suppose some people might think it a little too predictable, but sometimes I want a movie that turns out right where I would like it to.  Halfway through, I had decided how I wanted everyone to end up, and it did exactly what I wanted. If only the real world were that nice and tidy!

Home, Healing, and Happy(ish)

Here’s an update about John Paul, post surgery:

We were discharged on Friday afternoon and we arrived home after picking up his pain medications from the pharmacy.
IMG_1329Since then, I’m not going to lie to you, it’s been really rough.  But they warned us that the first two days would be the worst . We hardly slept at all for those first two nights. Although he was happy to see his brothers again, John Paul was constantly frustrated because he couldn’t move his leg and I’m sure it was causing him a lot of pain, even with the meds.  Part of the reason he wasn’t sleeping well is because he likes to sleep on his tummy or on his side, and his cast keeps him from rolling over.  So he spent the weekend doped up on the couch watching show after show after show and just making it through as best we could.

IMG_1338Today, however, he’s doing much much better. I’ve hardly had to give him any medicine and he’s trying to move around more which probably means his leg isn’t causing him as much pain.

His hematologist wants to make sure his platelets stay above 50,000 for the next week or so, so that his  incision wounds have a chance to heal, and today he clocked in at a whopping 95,000. So far, so good!

Other than that he’s just resting trying to get used to his leg being straight.

imageHe discovered his right toes with his left foot the other night and he was rubbing his toes together. It must have felt so odd to touch his toes for the first time!

At the end of the post is a video that I took on the morning they discharged us. John Paul was sick of books and TV, and he needed some new diversions. The children’s hospital at UVA has a team of “Child life specialists” who help with that sort of thing. Basically their job is to play with kids and distract them from the fact that they’re in the hospital or hurting or sick. (And luckily, unlike some other well-intentioned folk who occasionally show up as play therapists, they weren’t dressed like clowns.)

Anyway, at one point, probably when the numbness of surgery was wearing off and he was at the peak of frustration and fatigue, he threw a massive tantrum and started kicking violently and biting at the foot that had his IV and all his bracelets.  It was not a pretty picture – very far from the photo I posted on Instagram of him eating his PopTart, haha. So they brought him a little piano to play with his IV foot and some bubbles.

IMG_1297The bubbles worked like magic, and after he calmed down, we jammed on the piano for a bit. Funny thing about the piano: John Paul is so used to pressing buttons with his foot, that he kept pressing the keys rather than hitting them.  Since the piano keys struck a bell when you hit them, pressing the button down harder after the bell has rung has no affect whatsoever.  So I had to teach him how to hit the keys instead of pressing them. (Does that even make sense?) At any rate, it kept him from ripping out his IV and clocking himself in the head.

Small pleasures:


john Paul’s New improved leg!

imageJohn Paul had a successful osteotomy today at UVA Children’s Hospital. This procedure took about 3 1/2 hours, but with the transfusion he needed before hand, our day was much longer. All in all, he did a really great, which is really no surprise because John Paul is really great all the time! The procedure  basically involved going in and breaking the bone at the knee, realigning it at the angle we wanted, and fusing the bone together again using too long wires or pins. The pins are temporary and will be removed in about three weeks when the bone heals. His leg will also wrapped in a cast for about 6-8 weeks. Dr. romnes told me that when he got in there, there was an unexpected delay in the operation because he discovered that his leg bone is not round like a typical bone, but flat. He compared it to a blade of grass. One thing that I have learned as a result of all of these various procedures he has had in two years is that you have to expect the unexpected! Nothing ever goes as planned and his anatomy is always a surprise!  All in all, the doctors have always been able to adapt quickly and professionally, and John Paul rolls with it.

John paul is resting comfortably in his bed watching cartoons and drinking apple juice. They’re going to monitor his platelets in the morning, and if all is well we may be able to go home. From here on out it will just be a matter of managing his pain and keeping an eye on his platelets while his leg heals. A huge thank you to everyone who is praying for us and we ask your continued prayers during John Paul’s recovery while he learns to live with his new leg.