We had been planning this trip for almost a year now. It started with two little boys’ obsession with Lego and a chance encounter with a San Diego LegoLand brochure that someone had carelessly tossed on the floor at a restaurant. For months, this brochure had been open-closed-open-closed-folded-refolded and even torn in a couple of places.

Spring Break was promised, plane tickets were purchased, Lego’s Brickmaster Club joined and the waiting began.

When I little, my family used to take road trips to the nearest Asian market 6 hours away. Yep, North Platte, Nebraska in the late 70’s wasn’t known for its Asian produce so we’d pack in the overcooked-pea-green Chevrolet Impala station wagon and head out once a month to the market.

Me ‘n my brother: “Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? huh? huh? huh? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?”

Well, that came back to haunt me. My own kids: “Is it Spring Break yet? Is it time? Is it April? When we gonna go to LegoLand? Are we going today? tomorrow? next tomorrow? next next tomorrow?”

Finally the day arrived! The boys thought they should pack ALL of their Legos to bring on our trip….because that would just make fanboy sense, right?

Our first stop was Los Angeles to visit my parents and host a little Food Blog Forum seminar, which just made my boys even more impatient and angry, to the point where I think Andrew thought we were pulling his leg about the whole thing. Nathan asked me everyday if I still had his LegoLand ticket, looked in my wallet several times just to make sure I didn’t give it away or use it to scribble a grocery list on.

Six….loooooong….days in Los Angeles and then “tomorrow LegoLand!” finally came. The boys changed into their pajamas, brushed their teeth and laid in a shared hotel bed, gigglin’ yakkin’ and gigglin’ some more about which section of the park they wanted to go on first, if they might see Darth Vader there, who gets to sit next to who on which ride and who would be a crybaby and wuss out on riding the Dragon roller coaster.

Before they fell asleep, Nathan turned to us and said, “Daddy my leg hurts.” But he was still in great spirits and had running around an hour earlier so we didn’t think much of it, perhaps just a result of roughplay.

3:00am he woke us up, whimpering about his leg. I let him switch beds to sleep next to me and he fell back to sleep.

6:00am he cried.

7:00am he couldn’t walk.

By the time we got him dressed, in the car, on the way to the emergency room, he couldn’t stand.

There’s nothing that scares me more than to see my baby in that much pain. Compound that with the heart breaking feeling seeing the disappointment in his eyes knowing he was going to the hospital….instead of LegoLand. Hurts. That combination of emotions right there. Double knots my heart.

I had been through this before…5 years ago….with Andrew when he was 17 months old. I had just given birth to Nathan 2 weeks prior, and all of the sudden, Andrew wouldn’t stand or walk, crying crying crying in pain. Newborn Nathan crying crying crying. Daysnightdaysnightsdaysnights at the hospital, newborn at home with my in-laws, being on pinsandneedlesfightorflight and not having a chance to bond with the baby. That’s another story for another time. I still haven’t healed emotionally from that experience….borderline post-partum….yet here I was again…..

As a Mom of two boys, I had to suck up my tears and just build a temporary dam to hold back the massive wave of unresolved undealtwith stuff.

Because I still had Andrew to take care of. There was no sense in all of us going to the hospital. I went on auto-pilot and called a cab as Scott drove off to the hospital.

Autopilot, me. Restrained excitement, Andrew.

Nathan was at Rady’s Children’s Hospital in San Diego, scared, in pain with strange people poking, prodding, asking if this hurt or if that hurt.

But they’re pros at this children’s hospital. They knew how to make a little boy smile.

Nathan named his new friend Jumpy and Ramy (in honor of his new friend Remy, son of beautiful & talented Lucy Lean who always brings a smile to MY face)

Andrew, of course, was sad that his brother wasn’t there to enjoy the day but still giddy at the experience of his lifetime. At every attraction, he wanted me to take a photo to send to Nathan.

Every photo was a wave to his brother or a note spelled out in Lego.

I sent them via phone, knowing that Scott would receive them and hold back on showing them to Nathan.

Because it would have made him even more sad that he was missing out.

Scott and I communicated via text. It was better for the boys not to hear us saying these words: Pain. Xrays. Blood tests. Sonogram. Don’t know. Best guess. Hurting.

And finally a text: “Docs think it’s Toxic Synovitis”

Ugly words.

And the worst was “think”

I want CERTAINTY. I want to know for sure that the doctors know for sure.

I searched the term….scanned search results that came up….only wanted to click on one reliable answer…google health site NO. wikipedia HELL NO, the nih DIDN’T MICROSOFT BUY THEM OUT?, dr. greene ISN’T HE OPRAH’S TRAINER?, ivillage AREN’T THEY OUT OF FUNDING?

Finally clicked on Frank J Liggio M.D.’s site. Hey, at least he had those important initials after his name. YOU KNOW YOU’D DO THE SAME!

Good news: it’s common. it will go away.

Bad news: diagnosis is a process of exclusion — meaning doing as many tests as possible and if it’s not A, B, C or D — then it might be Toxic Synovitis. And if we’re wrong, it could be bacterial infection which would mean “surgical emergency” and possibly affect his growth plate.

Wait. I’ve heard these words before, 5 years ago. Can’t cry. Can’t cry.

So, together, Andrew and I decided that if Nathan couldn’t go to LegoLand…we’d bring LegoLand to him.

Can’t find the words.

He never once complained.

But I knew.

Meds started working. Swelling decreased. Pain easing. He’s hungry.

Let’s go downstairs in your wheelchair to eat!

And then we discovered the marble run in the lobby.

I spy with my little eye….a tiny little smile?

We spent 2 hours in that lobby, examining every side of this marble run, trying to predict its pattern…

…placing bets on which of the 6 directions the next ball would go.

The next morning, breakfast downstairs. McDonalds crispy hashbrown and pancakes with loads of syrup is what he wanted.

…and then back to the marble run.

And then…he stood!

and I was so excited that I told him to wave at the camera!

So the docs let us go. And off we went to LegoLand in a wheelchair. Our last very day in San Diego before heading home.

Looking on the bright side of things….

….Nathan’s wheelchair….

….gave us some awesome line cut’sies for the rides. bu-bye long winding lines!

A beautiful, happy, joyous day!

I *tried* to wake him up:

But no luck.

And we ended our day with a beautiful view at a fancy San Diego restaurant

Celebrated with a massive steak

And with our guests of honor…Jumpy and Ramy, who much preferred the spaghetti and spinach.

The photos are all taken with my iPhone – which is NOT why they are small. The photos are small because I’m a highly visual person – images affect my emotions so much that I’ve got to keep these photos small…for now.

Thankyou thankyou thank you to all of you for your kind comments and well wishes. You have no idea how much this means to me. xoxo jaden

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Comments 157

  1. Cenk

    Jaden – I don’t have a child, so it is impossible for me to imagine how it would feel to be completely helpless in a situation like that, but so glad to hear that Nathan is doing better. By the way, I was almost tearing up and then I saw you on Legoguy’s lap ๐Ÿ™‚ and nearly fell of my chair. I love happy endings. And I love that you always make me smile at the end of your posts.

  2. Mer

    Oh wow! So scary! I’m so glad everything is okay! Thanks for sharing this story!

    On a different note….but hopefully one that will make you smile….I checked out your book from the library last month, and loved it so much I kept it too long, and just got a notice in the mail saying, that if I don’t return it IMMEDIATELY, they were going to fine me $100 and take me to collections! OOPS!!!!! They won, I returned it….but I will be getting my own copy soon. :o) I imagine that would be the highest price someone ever payed for your cookbook though, don’t you think?

  3. Sasa

    That must have been heartbreaking Jaden, but well done to everyone for soldiering on so bravely and glad everything looks back to normal, best wishes for your family.

  4. Eliot

    Hi Jaden.

    As the father of a 7-year-old reckless lunatic boy, I understand the fear and helplessness when something happens to your child. I’m so sorry that you, your husband, Nathan, and Andrew have to go through this and am glad that you were near such an incredible and caring facility when it did manifest itself. I’m sure with all the care and love showered upon him (along with the help of Jumpy and Ramy) that this will eventually be “one of those things” that illustrates your family’s strength and the character that you, your husband and your sons embody.

    I do like that you turned to a big ole steak as comfort food. I’m right there with you on that one! All the best….

  5. Mary

    Sorry to hear about your son but so glad he is ok. I can’t imagine how scarry that was for you. I love happy endings!
    Take care

  6. Cindy

    This was so painful for me to read so I honestly can’t imagine what your first trip to Lego Land must have been like. YOU ARE SO BRAVE!!! I adore the picture of the smile from the other side of the marble maze. And the shot of your sweetie surrounded by lego kits. You are amazing. Your boys love you! Thank you for sharing the pain and the joy.
    Cindy, mom to two feisty daughters who thankfully have never had to be hospitalized!!

  7. Diane

    Whew! That sounds skeery. I’m so glad Nathan is okay. I love that big ol’ pile of legos!!

  8. Allison Day

    This brings tears to my eyes, Jaden. Brings back memories of when my little brother was first diagnosed with Leukemia, then relapsed several years later…

    I’m so very glad to hear that Nathan’s okay.

  9. caroline oursler

    I’m so glad he is doing okay, reading this post put a bit in my stomach. We spent last Easter break (6 days total) at Rady’s Children’s hospital, my 9 year old ( now she is 10), had a septic hip infection and emergency surgery, drains, iv’s and blood drawn daily was our Easter break. My husband had already got to our camping spot and Isabella and I were to join him later in the day on Good Friday – all that changed with a phone call from my pedetrician (thank goodness), she was a very sick little girl, only symptom was leg pain and low fever. Rady’s took great care of us and she is doing wonderful now 1 year later. Very scary….

  10. Patti

    I love your blog. I was very touched by this post and being a parent myself, I cried all the way through this . So glad your little man is getting well. I know it hurts us moms os much when our babies feel bad.

  11. Argus Joon

    Thanks for sharing your difficult but ultimately uplifting experience. What precious sons you have who love each other so much! And thank goodness for that marble run thingy!

  12. Meilin

    That’s chilling and heart-wrenching at the same time. You were so strong. I’m so glad for all of you that it didn’t end in tragedy. Steak, yes!

    It’s great to see Nathan up and about again. The “wheel chair = cut-sies” was great too. ๐Ÿ™‚ Best wishes to you and yours.

  13. Gaby

    What a trooper!! He is such a cutie too, they both are! I can’t imagine how it would feel to know your little baby is in pain! But you guys are such fab parents – they are lucky to have you ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Lindie

    I know about the cuts in line. I was in a wheel chair the last time we were at Disneyworld and it was the best thing! Hope your little one is ok now.

  15. Lois B

    OMG; what a frightening experience. I’m so happy and relieved to hear about and see your happy ending. Blessings on your family.

  16. Fuji Mama

    OH MY GOODNESS! You poor thing! I spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals as a little kid and they are scary–what a trooper Nathan is! Here’s to healing and hopes that the future brings good news. What a relief that there was a good children’s hospital nearby. Lots of hugs to you and Nathan–you’re both in our thoughts and prayers! XOXO

  17. Peggy

    Oh Jaden, my heart goes out to you and your family. Nathan is such a little trooper. Bless his little heart. Here’s hoping that good news regarding his diagnosis comes soon. Big hugs to you! Sending positive energy and mojo your way.

  18. rita

    oh my gosh, jaden! that’s so scary. we don’t have any kids, i can only imagine how you felt about nathan – so i was thinking of our nephews and neices. girl, i was holding my breath as i was reading about his ordeal. good to hear that he’s doing better… aaand that he was able to go to legoland. YAAAAY! there’s one here in germany, as well. it’s only a 2-hour drive from home, and we still couldn’t make it. oi… one of these days.

    give my biggest hugs to nathan and andrew, who by the way, is so sweet to think of his brother. they really do have a tight and awesome bonding. not to forget, jumpy and remy, who help him ease the pain, too.

  19. S

    Oh, Jaden, that is horrible! I’m so glad Nathan is doing all right and that the hospital workers could make him feel cozier than usual. I hope both your boys continue to grow strong and healthy! They’re absolutely precious.
    And that LegoLand is awesome! I’m a grad student now but I remember that place from when I was really little (at least I’m pretty sure it’s existed for this long…)! ๐Ÿ˜›

  20. The Georgia Yankee

    What an ordeal for your family. Especially Nathan. So glad the ending was happy. May God bless you all!

  21. thekitchengirl

    I’ve been following your website for a while and I enjoy it very much. I have a little girl who just turned two and another little girl who’s due next month. We just got ourselves lots and lots of Duplo and we’re thinking about visiting LegoLand in San Diego as well.

    When my husband was 15, his heart stopped beating just all of a sudden and he was in a coma for a couple of days. We never really found out why and we keep our eyes open just in case our kids inherit that, too. So I understand how scared you must have been. I hope your family is okay now, and in time you’ll be able to heal completely from what happened 5 years ago. I’m praying for your family ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. Brian Asis

    This was just a wonderful story you have shared to us ๐Ÿ™‚ a mothers love just has no bounds. It actually broke my heart when I read to what happened to Nathan, but at least he’s doing okay.

  23. Sara

    Oh Jaden, I am so glad to hear that Nathan is doing better. What beatiful little angels you have. Lots of love and prayers sent your way!

  24. Liz - Meal Makeover Mom

    How frightening … and being away from home must have made it even even scarier. I’m so glad Nathan was feeling well enough to enjoy a day at Lego Land. It’s a magical place and I’m sure he’ll always remember that day. Your boys are adorable (I have two boys so I can relate to where you are in your life right now).

  25. Chris

    Jaden, this is probably my favorite post you’ve ever made. Trevor had synovitis at about the same age and had us worried. I’m glad it turned out well in the end.

  26. Tina

    Last week, my 4 yr. old son woke up in the middle of the night crying that his legs were hurting him. I gave him some advil and that seemed to help and fell back asleep. This wasn’t the first time he woke up crying about leg pains. My sister said that her kids had leg pains as well and it was probably growing pains. Now I’m wondering, especially if it happens again. I’m too scared to google Toxic Synovitis.

  27. lauen (healthy delicious)

    Oh Jaden, I can’t even begin to imagine the terror and heartache of having to deal with that. I’m so sorry, and so happy to hear that he’s feeling better (and that he got to make it to lego land after all!)

  28. mom101

    Oh my gosh Jaden, I am sending so much love and white light and good wishes to you all right now. I’m truly hoping he’s doing better.

    Meanwhile, wow mama…way to make lemonade with this one. He will always remember the time you brought Legoland to him. You’re an awesome mom. They’re lucky to have you.

  29. food-4tots

    So sorry to hear about it. I can understand how much pain you had gone through as I feel the same when I saw my 5 yrs old vomiting 4x in 2 hours (2x the next day) recently. My heart broke. I felt so hopeless. We had to rush him to hospital twice. Glad that things are turned out well now. Hope he will have a speedy recover.

  30. Dr. Biggles

    EEEEEEEEk !!! Nothing like a good ol’ American Vacation, eh? Ya’ll gotta go back soon to get the bad mojo out of there. Do they still have the u-pick strawberry fields just outside the entrance?

    xo, Biggles

  31. Divina

    HI Jaden, thanks for sharing a part of your life – your family. I hear stories where the whole family is going to Disneyland or any amusement park and all of a sudden, a child gets sick. I was one of them. Glad to hear that Nathan was able to enjoy a bit of Legoland. And you’re right about images. I could see in Nathan’s face that he’s happy and thankful for the love of his family. It’s touching..

  32. Diane-The W.H.O.L.E.Gang

    I’m glad I came back to read your story as I didn’t have my computer when you posted it. What an experience. You have a very strong family and you are a wonderful mom. I know how scary it is to have a sick kid. Been there too many times myself. Glad all 4 of you made it out for a day of fun after such a scare. There is nothing like your son smiling back at you.

  33. Elyse

    Jaden – So glad to see Nathan is ok. How traumatic for everyone concerned… However, from what I’ve gathered about you and your husband, I feel sure that in time, you’ll find something positive to take from this experience.

  34. Rae

    I am so happy that there was a happy ending! Thank you for sharing and the beautiful pictures!

  35. Kiran

    Great news for the happy ending. Was so wrecked reading the bad experience in the first few paragraphs. Hugs to Nathan & Andrew ๐Ÿ™‚

  36. Ali @ Three Baking Sheets

    “…if Nathan couldnโ€™t go to LegoLandโ€ฆweโ€™d bring LegoLand to him.”

    This totally tugged at the ol’ heartstrings. When I was 7, I came down with a terrible flu and couldn’t leave bed for days. My dad went to 7-11 and came back with Garbage Pail Kids. Not just a few packs. A whole unopened bulk box of them.

    You have an amazing family. And Nathan is one tough l’il dude. Thanks for sharing, Jaden.

  37. Scott


    I had TS as a child, so I know what your little man went thru. I’m glad he got to go to LegoLand for at least one day! As others have said, you have an amazing family. When my wife and I decide to have kids i hope i am 1/4 the parent you are.

  38. Niki

    I’ve never read your site before, just happend on it from Ree over at ThePioneerWoman.com… I’m all out crying at my desk right now. I’m so sorry you had to go through this, let alone…again. I’m so gald he’s doing better and that he stood. Tears gushed from my eyes when you said that. ๐Ÿ™‚ Good luck and God Bless this little boy.

  39. ParentopiaDevra

    As parents I believe we all have those ghosts that haunt us when our kids have had a traumatic experience we could not possibly prevent or predict. We learn to live with them, but it ain’t easy. Healing thoughts to you and your family.

  40. Yvonne, My Halal Kitchen

    Jaden, I can’t imagine what a scary experience that was for all of you and am so glad to know your family is well again. Thank you for writing it so well and allowing your readers in to your every day life.

  41. justJENN

    Man, this broke my heart. I know how it is with 2 little boys and I also know how important Legoland is. I’m glad it ended somewhat happily!

  42. Deborah Dowd

    Oh Jaden, what a horrific experience. So glad Nathan is doing better. As a mom sometimes we have to hold it together until the crisis is done- you are an awesome mom!

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