What a long, strange trip it has been! Because life is crazy, and Andrea is blessedly normal, I've decided to only post on Andrea's birthday moving forward. Our lives are mostly the same as other parents of toddlers.
As of 5:29 pm, Andrea is three years old. Today is day 1,095 of life. Andrea is 34.25 inches long and 10,886 grams (24 lbs). Not too shabby, when you started at 450grams.
The biggest news of the past year is that Andrea has been discharged from Developmental Clinic. We had our last appointment at the beginning of February. Originally, the doctor had planned on seeing her for the final time in June, but she has met or exceeded all three year old milestones. There is nothing for the doctors to look for.
Leaving the hospital for the last time was an incredibly emotional experience - Mom and I cried. We've spent three years waiting for the other shoe to drop. At each clinic, we felt sure Andrea was fine, but were subconsciously waiting for the catch. And now, at long last we know, there is none. In her development, she is a completely normal (but small) three-year-old.
It's funny how relationships have changed. When Andrea was in the NICU, I was terrified of the doctors. I was afraid of what they would tell me, and worried that I wouldn't know the right answers. I thought there were things I was going to do that would make Andrea worse. Now, the doctor that was the most intimidating back then has become so much more approachable. We really credit Dr. Thomas Hegyi for saving her life. He's funny, because he tells me that we underestimate what we did to get Andrea to this point. I think Ken and I approached the whole situation in the only way we knew how. We never saw a point in being angry or argumentative. I think we just moved forward because there was no other choice. I frequently quote Dory from Finding Nemo. "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming. Swimming, swimming. What do you do? You swim, swim, swim!" What choice did we have but to play the cards we were dealt?
In January, Andrea was moved up to a new classroouly in her daycare center. She's learning so much there, I continue to be amazed. She knows her alphabet and can count to 20 reliably, and 30 most of the time. She goes to Musical Munchkins and TumbleBees classes when she's with Mom and Dad. She loves to sing and is starting to build real puzzles, with interlocking pieces. She continues to be completely enamored with baby dolls and costume jewelry. She's truly a "girly-girl."
We finally had Andrea baptized in September. I felt so strongly that Andrea would be baptized in "her" church, with our families and friends around her. We found a wonderful church in Maplewood, and finally have a place to call home. Andrea loves church - possibly because it's an excuse to dress up and have people make a big deal over her. Fortunately, everyone there is tolerant of her antics - she is well behaved, but exuberant. It's not unusual for her to dance in the aisles.
Over the summer, we took a family vacation to Busch Gardens/Williamsburg. This was the first vacation that Andrea really got to enjoy. We stayed in a time share condo, and I think Andrea got a taste for luxury. She was annoyed to come home. Busch Gardens is a great place for younger kids - they have a Sesame Street section, and each "country" has two "KidSperience" rides that little ones can enjoy. She's a dare devil - there wasn't a single ride she didn't love. In fact, she wanted to ride the big rides with her brothers and was not happy to be put off. She even seemed to enjoy Jamestown and Yorktown. I know she didn't get much of the significance, but she paid attention and participated where she could.
Andrea's favorite summer activities were the town pool and riding in the "baby" seat on my bicycle. What a difference a year makes! Summer of 2010 she wasn't walking yet, and pretty much sat in the baby pool splashing around. Summer of 2011, she was all over the place. She liked to be in the big pool with the big kids. She couldn't get enough of the bicycle, either. If she even heard the word, she'd go running for her helmet. Today, for her birthday, she got her very own two-wheeler (with training wheels, of course). I predict that she'll be going full speed ahead by August.
Sorry this was so long. I'm trying to condense a year into one post.
Also, Andrea and I will be joining the March of Dimes Walk for Babies again this year on April 29, 2012. Weather permitting, Andrea will walk along with me, hopefully motivating others and helping prevent anyone else from living through what we experienced.
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"Life is like a game of cards. The hand that is dealt you represents determinism; the way you play it is free will."