Sunday, February 26, 2017

# 8 and Doing Great!

As of 5:29 PM today, Andrea is celebrating 8 years, or 2,922 days, of life. Thank you Google for providing a "date difference calculator".  She's now 48.75 inches tall and weighs 54.2 pounds, or 24584.71 grams (we've never forgotten the original weight of 450 gm).  Quite an improvement from the beginning!

This past year has been utterly normal. Andrea played softball on the Livingston Penguins Little League team, with Daddy as one of her coaches. She likes fielding better, but she's got a decent swing and was able to connect with a pitched ball (as opposed to using a T)  She had a great year in first grade, and has really made strides in reading and math. She continues to LOVE writing - we are inundated with books that she's written, many including tables of contents and "About the Author" pages.

She spent another summer at Camp Discovery at Fairleigh Dickinson University. She got to spend several weeks in a variety of activities from Science and World Cultures to art and drama.  Every two weeks was the camp show, and it was great to see how her self confidence had grown since the previous year. She was singing and dancing her heart out - and of course Mommy was tearing up the whole time.  They took several fun field trips, finishing out the summer at Aladdin on Broadway.

Andrea loves being in the kitchen with me. We bake a lot together, and she likes to help cook supper. She's started doing some decorating on her own. For Daddy's birthday last March, she decorated a piece of her birthday cake for him.  In the picture below, she's piping the words on the cake.

Below is a writing piece that came home from school in April. I had to share what Andrea wrote: (all spelling, grammar and punctuation are hers)

"I'm lucky because when I was a baby a Dr. saved me from diing. But now I'm 7! and I'm just know I am going to have a great life. I'll tell you about the 1st stuffed animal I got. It was a big bunny but it was not big it was small but I was smaller then it was when I was a baby. Her name is bunny. I will grow up to be a good person!"

More Sanibel beach
On the beach at Sanibel
Last summer, Andrea went on her first plane ride, for our family vacation to Sanibel Island, Florida. Despite the fact that Mommy is a TERRIBLE flier, Andrea was enamored immediately. She loved the experience from beginning to end.  

Once we actually arrived at our home away from home, I think Andrea had the best vacation of her life. She loves the ocean and we were within walking distance of the Gulf of Mexico. There was beach time every day! Andrea also LOVES seashells, and Sanibel is famous for the shelling. I think her luggage was ten pounds heavier on the trip home.  

While on Sanibel, we all went on a fishing trip. (Shout out to Captain Paul! Everyone caught something, except Andrea, who didn't want to fish.  She DID get to drive the boat though. If you're ever in the vicinity of Cape Coral, FL, call Captain Paul. It's a great time!

Andrea at the wheel of Captain Paul's yacht.
September marked the beginning of second grade. Andrea was excited to be in class with some old friends, and she made some new ones too. She was a bunny for Halloween. Bunnies are her current obsession - her best friend is Spot, a hideaway pet she got for Christmas two years ago.
Pumpkin picking with one of the "brudders"
Andrea with her pumpkin
Halloween Bunny
Andrea and Spot playing Headbanz

At Christmas, Andrea reprised her annual role of "angel" in the St. George's Christmas pageant.  She got glasses in November, which completely changes the way she looks.  She's the second angel from the left, looking the part! She's gotten better about learning the words to the carols and was actually able to sing along this year.

Christmas 2016
Andrea with her gingerbread house
She began taking karate classes in the after school enrichment program, and earned her yellow belt in December and her orange belt in February.

Andrea broke the board with her hand for yellow belt, with her foot for the orange. (No picture of the orange one)

We had a pretty decent snowfall a few weeks ago and Andrea is a LOVER of snow. Kenny George went out in the piles with her, and they built a snow bunny.  She was out for hours and was finally forced inside by the sunset.
Andrea, the "other brudder" and the snow bunny
To end her 7th year, Andrea had her longest-ever sleepover at Grammy and Pa's house. Mommy and Daddy got to enjoy three nights away, and Grammy and Pa are still standing! It was a milestone in a lot of ways - three nights without at least one of us around was a new experience for Andrea.  She loved every minute of it - I'm not sure she missed us much at all. She went on a shopping spree, got to eat out A LOT and spent a few hours at Chuck e Cheese.  When you're the youngest in the family (both our nuclear family and among all the Zimmerman cousins), you don't get a lot of "alone" time. Andrea gets dragged to a plethora of sporting events, concerts and other things, so it was a huge treat for Andrea to have Grammy and Pa all to herself.

Thank you, as always, for taking the time to keep up with Andrea. So far, she doesn't mind that I continue to tell her story. I'm sure sooner or later she'll make me stop, but I'll keep going as long as I can.

As always, I have to end with a quote. I saw this one as a meme on Facebook, but I wasn't able to track down the original source. (Google let me down on this) So, for now, I'm attributing it to Anonymous - if anyone knows the correct citation, let me know and I'll update.

Life is a series of tiny miracles. Notice them. ~ Anonymous

Friday, February 26, 2016

Lucky # 7 for Beautiful Andrea the Second!

As of 5:29 PM today, Andrea is officially 7 years old and celebrating day 2,557 of life! She is 45 inches tall, and weighs 43.7  pounds, or 19,822 grams.  I wonder at what age she’s going to insist I stop posting her weight.

As you can see from her outfit above, Andrea continues to explore her personal sense of style. Generally, if she is dressed appropriately for the weather, we leave her to her own devices. I need to teach her to do her own hair - she's still dependent on me for pony tails, pig tails or braids. Ken has just about mastered the pony tail.

We have had a blissfully average year. Andrea finished Kindergarten in the local public school, still without any modifications or accommodations to her curriculum.  She played softball on the Livingston Ladybugs team, which is designed just for Kindergarten girls.  She played with some friends from school, but also made new friends. Ken was one of the coaches, which made him happy as well.  Unlike when Kenny was young, the girls don’t use a T… they start right off hitting pitched balls.  She’s already registered for this season, but now we’re on to real “Little League”. We’ll see how she does.

Over the summer, Andrea attended day camp at a local college. Kenny George went for years, and now goes back as a volunteer, (until he’s old enough to work there) so he was around to keep an eye on her.  On the second day of camp, she lost her first tooth. (While trying to open a Pringles can with her teeth!)  The tooth fairy paid a visit and left $5 – which is actually pretty low by local standards, according to Andrea’s friends.  The best thing to come out of camp, from my point of view, was she really learned to swim.  We’d had her take lessons at the local Y for a few seasons, but she never got over her fear of the water.  Well, in camp it finally clicked. She became like a fish – she goes under water, jumps in from the sides, doggy paddles around and generally wears us out.  Gone are my days of watching her in the baby pool and staying dry.

Also in camp, Andrea got to attend her first Broadway musical. They saw Aladdin, which she enjoyed. They also took trips to the local zoo, Medieval Times, and the Intrepid Museum in NYC.  Every other week, she was on stage for the camp productions, where she sang and danced with her group.  When Andrea was a toddler and we’d watch Kenny in the shows, I knew I’d lose it when she finally made it onto the stage.  And I was right.  The music started and the tears followed.

After camp ended, we were off for a family vacation to Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg.  We’d gone there when she was 2, and it was amazing to make a trip back with her so much older and bigger.  She has mostly inherited Kenny’s fearlessness…. She went on every ride she was tall enough for, and cried over the ones that she couldn’t try. That’s not to say she loved them all – Escape from Pompeii really freaked her out (there’s fire and brimstone all over the place) – but she tried everything out.  We spent a day at Water Country USA, which gave Andrea another opportunity to demonstrate how fearless she is. She went on as many water slides as she could. We tried taking her in some of the “playground” areas, but I think she generally found them too tame.

The condo we stayed at had a pond right outside our unit, and every morning Andrea started the day feeding the ducks.  (Despite all the “Please do not feed the ducks” signs) It was so funny to watch - she’d open the sliding doors and the flock of ducks would come waddling up the grass.  They were SO noisy!  In typical Andrea fashion, she was very worried about the ducks when we left. After all, who would feed them now that she was gone?

In September, Andrea began first grade. She has a wonderful teacher, and we continue to love her school. She’s working hard, and really has a love of writing.  She writes constantly and prolifically.  A thank you note will go on for pages.  She writes stories about her stuffed animals, vacations she’s taken and places she’s going in the future. More often than not, her writing is accompanied by illustrations. The detail she puts into things in pretty impressive for a 7-year-old.

Her teacher mentioned that she seemed to have trouble reading, and she often puts her face close to her books.  We had her eyes checked by the nurse several times last year and this, and there was never an identifiable issue.  We finally took her for a proper eye exam with an optometrist.  He was able to diagnose an issue with the muscles in her eyes, so we’re going to begin treatment with another doctor, who will teach her exercises to strengthen the muscles. Hopefully, that will make it easier for her to focus, and she won’t struggle so much with reading.   Her school also screens all first graders for gross motor deficiencies.  In the fall, Andrea was screened along with all her classmates and found to have a weakness in her ability to throw overhand and dribble a ball.  She was given the opportunity to have a developmental physical education class once a week, so we signed her up.  She goes before school in a group of 8 kids and the PE teachers work on her skills.  Two of the kids with her are her friends and full-term babies, so it’s possible that this has nothing to do with her dramatic start in life.  She just has fun running around with her friends.

For Halloween, Andrea was a tiger - she wore a costume I’d made for Kenny when he was four - an indication of either how big he was for his age, or how small she still is, compared to her peers.  She’s not the smallest kid in the class, but she’s not at the top, either. She sort of hovers around the middle of the pack.   We spent Thanksgiving with Aunt Arlene and Uncle Mike at the NJ shore. Andrea loves time with them - especially because Uncle Mike is ever ready to make something fun out of food.  This year, they made a vegetable platter shaped like a turkey.  Andrea repeated her usual role of “angel” in the church Christmas pageant.  She’s beginning to know the songs and is better able to sing along.  We spent Christmas evening  at cousin Corin’s house, where Andrea got to play with the Lindsley cousins.  Since Ken’s niece and nephews have children younger than Andrea, she gets her chance to be “the big kid”, in a way that doesn't happen with the Zimmermans.  She almost made it to midnight on New Year’s Eve. She gave up around 10:30, which was impressive. I was probably 16 before I made it to midnight, and even now I’d rather be sleeping than waiting for the ball to drop.

Andrea loves to play outside, and has been disappointed by our lack of snow this year.  She did get out after the big East Coast blizzard, which made her happy. She and Kenny built a snowman and Kenny made an igloo for them too.  As much as she likes the snow, I know she’s looking forward to the spring coming. We’re hoping to help her master bike riding, something she still struggles with.

It's interesting to see how Andrea's interests are developing. She is learning to sew with Pa, who has more patience for her than I do. She loves to cook and bake with me, and even enjoys making breaded chicken. She won't eat it, but she likes to coat the pieces. She writes all the time, making up and illustrating her own stories.

Thank you for continuing to follow Andrea’s story.  We are so lucky in her, our families and friends who have shared this journey with us.

There are no mistakes, no coincidences, all events are blessings given to us to learn from.  ~ Eisabeth Kubler-Ross

Thursday, February 26, 2015

6 Years Old Today!

As of 5:29 PM today, Andrea is officially 6 years old, and celebrating day 2,192 of life. I actually wised up this time - I just added 365 to last year's total. So much easier than figuring out the days and counting leap years!  Andrea now weighs 38.5 pounds (17,463.31 grams, or 38 times her birth weight!) and is 43 inches tall.  She is more "girly" than anyone expected a daughter of mine to be.  She insists on long hair and owns more shoes than I do. Fortunately, she loves me the way I am, and doesn't seem too bothered by my lack of makeup and manicures.  (We have Aunt Tina and Aunt Margaret for that, anyway)  I promise to post a picture tomorrow. The only ones I got today are terrible!  Read on, and you'll see some key shots from the past year.

One of the challenges of posting only once a year is to try to remember all the highlights.  Last year was momentous because we had just registered her for Kindergarten.  This year is momentous because she has been ATTENDING kindergarten!  More on that later. 

In June, Andrea "graduated" from pre-K, which she had been attending at ECCS in Norwood, NJ.  I was relieved that she was basically given a certificate and a pat on the back. I think some schools go overboard with the graduation caps (and gowns, in some cases!)  Her class sang a bunch of songs for the parents, and I admit to tearing up at that part.  She likes to sing, and I wonder how much of that is innate, and how much is a function of all the singing I did in the NICU.
Pre-K graduation

Right at the end of the school year, we had kindergarten orientation at her new school. I dropped her off for a few hours, and she got to visit with her new teachers, spend some time in the classroom and get used to a building that is (much) bigger than her daycare center.
Kindergarten orientation.
In July, Andrea attended a day camp here in town for 3 hours a day. It was great, because she was in a group with other kids who would be attending her same elementary school.  She got to make some new friends, and then there were some familiar faces when she got to school.  From her point of view, the best part of camp was that they went on a REAL field trip!  They got to ride a school bus, and took a trip to a local children's museum.  She was so excited; even more so because I didn't chaperone!  She was really a "big girl".

Hanging out on the playground.
We got Andrea her first passport this year, and she made her first trip out of the country in August.  We took a huge family vacation to Niagara Falls, Canada.  It was funny how excited she was to be in Canada…considering that it’s not dramatically different from the USA.  She loved telling everyone she met about our trip.

Feeding deer at Marine Land
On "The Maid of the Mist"
School started in September, and Andrea is in a full day, regular education Kindergarten class.  She has a teacher with the patience of a saint, and is enjoying being known as Kenny’s little sister. (Kenny makes an impression wherever he goes!)  She has learned about two dozen sight words, and is reading basic books on her own.  She loves art and drawing, and over the recent winter break, decided to write a book for fun.  I got a kick out of hearing her parrot her teacher…”First draw, then write, then color”.  The amazing thing is that she chooses to write and create almost constantly. Left on her own, she almost always gravitates to creative projects.  In addition to reading, she’s learning math, science, social studies, art, music, physical education and Spanish. It’s quite a load for a little kid, and she’s pretty tired at the end of her days, but I think she enjoys school, and we’re amazed and grateful at her ability to learn.  Her teacher has commented that she is a hard worker and always tries to do her best.  As a result, sometimes she doesn’t work fast enough, because she won’t rush a project, or leave it half done.

First day of school.
For Halloween this year, Andrea was Rapunzel, and went trick-or-treating with her big brothers.  She is still so funny – she has to exclaim over every item as it’s put in her bucket!  I carried a stash of nut free treats to swap out whenever she got something with peanuts or nuts – a big improvement over two years ago, when she announced at EVERY door that she was allergic to nuts!
As I read back over this post, I realize something remarkable…there is nothing remarkable about this post. Our miracle micro-preemie, x-26 weeker, who had a 65% chance of survival at birth has become quite an ordinary girl. Our lives with her are very similar to anyone else’s with a small child.  And for that blessing, we are eternally grateful!
"Reading" Mommy's book on the couch!

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” 
A.A. MilneWinnie-the-Pooh

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Happy 5th Birthday, beautiful Andrea the Second!

Before school this morning. Ready to take the day by storm.
As of 5:29 PM today, Andrea is officially 5 years old and celebrating day 1,827 of life.  Boy, that calculation is getting harder to do as the years pass.  I have to keep track of the leap days.  Andrea is now 42 inches tall and weighs 28.4 pounds (or 12,882 grams)  Remember, at the beginning, she was 10.5 inches tall, and 450 grams.  I get a kick out of making the pounds to grams conversion, because at the beginning we were so very excited about every little weight gain, no matter how small.
Today is significant for so many reasons.  Earlier today, Ken and I formally registered Andrea for Kindergarten.  Yes, the 15-ounce preemie is beginning her public school career in September, in a regular education classroom. No early intervention once she was discharged from developmental clinic, no special accommodations in the classroom.  It’s a milestone we couldn't even imagine 5 years ago.
Officially a member of the class of 2027.
My friend Ron made her a "onesie" when she was a baby,
 predicting she would be Prom Queen in 2027.
I have a feeling he was on to something!
Over the summer, Andrea attended day camp for the first time.  She was with a group of other 4-year-olds in a half day program right in town. Every day there were crafts, sports and games, and the six week session culminated with a "camp show" of singing.  She also took swim lessons at the YMCA during the school year and at the town pool over the summer.  She loves the water, as long as she can touch the bottom.  She is still very fearful, even when wearing a life jacket, if the water is over her head.  Since she's getting taller, her range in the pool is expanding, so I am forced into ever deeper icy water to keep track of her.  I don't know what it is about these kids, but they seem happy to swim in melted ice.

Those of you who are my "FaceBook friends" got to experience Andrea's first trip to Disney World.  We went down on the autotrain, an event it itself to a 4 year old.  She enjoyed the compartment and the fold down beds, and managed much better than I would have expected, given the confined space.

We spent a week staying in a Finding Nemo suite at the Art of Animation Studios, and Andrea wore a different princess dress each day.  For her, there were probably two main highlights of the trip.  She was truly a "princess" every day we were there.  Seriously - every single "cast member" called her Princess, which she saw as her due, anyway.  

Sleeping Beauty. This was at the Princess Dinner.
Snow White. We spent this day in Epcot.
Rapunzel, back at the hotel before heading to the pool.
The other highlight was a makeover at the Boppity Boppity Boutique.  I fell apart when her "fairy godmother in training" sprinkled glitter "fairy dust" over her; I just started crying.  So then I had to explain to the staff about the NICU nurse who sprinkled "fairy dust" on Andrea's isolette to help her grow big and strong.  By the end, we were all in tears.  Andrea, of course, just enjoyed the fuss - hair, nails and makeup from head to toe.  (Or just about, anyway!)

Post makeover, in her Cinderella dress and Boutique sash.
At the Lion King show in Animal Kingdom, Andrea happily left the family behind to go dance with the cast.  She gleefully waved at us each time she passed by, but had no fear of being on her own.  I think she liked being in the spotlight.

After the week in Disney, Andrea, Kenny George and I went on to LegoLand, while Daddy and KC flew home.  Andrea loved LegoLand almost as much as Disney, because there, she was big enough for the ROLLER COASTERS.  Yes, she is a speed demon, who LOVES coasters.  I am not a fan, but went to make her happy.  She loved every minute.  I had to tell a little white lie - "you are only allowed one ride per day" in order to get her to move on to other things.  If I hadn't told her that, she would have just ridden the same ride over and over!

We also took what was probably our last trip to Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA.  Much as it pains me to admit it, Andrea was never as big a fan of Elmo and company as Kenny was, and at 5 she is "too big", at least in her own mind, to visit Sesame.  So, we are off to bigger and better things in the future.

In September, Andrea began another year in pre-kindergarten near my school, where she has learned more than I ever expected from pre-K.  She can write her first and last name, count to 49, and read and write some basic sight words.  She is taking piano lessons at school one day a week as well.  

In December, she make her "formal" acting debut as the littlest angel in the Christmas pageant at St. George's Episcopal Church in Maplewood.  She was happy to be "on stage" with the big kids, and was paired with an older girl who acted as her "guardian angel" throughout the show.  She sang and danced and basically stole the show with her appearance.

Health-wise, Andrea is fine.  She has asthma, but so do most of the people on the Zimmerman side of her family. She is allergic to peanuts and tree nuts (seriously so) but so is one brother and one cousin.  We'll probably never know what is a result of her prematurity and what is just the way she was made.  She is about the 39th percentile for height, but still only about the 3rd percentile  for weight.  How I wish that was my problem!

Recently at school, Andrea was the "Star Student".  (Each child gets a week of the year to be celebrated)  As part of her week she had to make a poster, including pictures and text about herself.  According to her poster, right now, her goal in life is to be a lifeguard when she grows up, which I thought was interesting.  She actually told me she wanted to be a "life saver", so I asked for clarification.  She did mean the people in the pool, but maybe she'll go on to save lives in a different way. I believe the doctors learned a lot from treating her, and hopefully that knowledge has gone on to save other very small babies in the 5 years since Andrea joined us.

Until next year, thank you for being a part of Andrea's ongoing story.

When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.
~ Helen Keller