Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Happy 4th Birthday, Beautiful Andrea the Second!



I'm not happy with today's picture, but the princess is not cooperating. I will try to get a better one over the next day or two and replace it.

At 5:29 pm today, February 26, 2013, Beautiful Andrea the Second is four years old. Last year, I opted to only post to the blog on her birthday, because our lives have become blessedly normal. Or, as normal as life can be with a combination of kids in middle school and preschool. Today is day 1,462 of life. Andrea’s height is now a respectable 38 inches (96.5 cm) and she weighs 28 pounds, or 12,700 grams. According to the doctors, she is still small and light, but we don’t really count that as a problem.

Andrea has had an eventful year. I wrote on her birthday last year that she’d been discharged from developmental clinic. We miss seeing the people at the hospital for so many reasons. They shared our sense of joy at seeing how far Andrea had come, and probably got even more out of it than we did, knowing firsthand how much worse it could have been. Last summer, Andrea was finally discharged from the audiological follow up program. She had so many ear infections as a baby/toddler, the doctors didn’t know if her hearing was weak because of scaring on her ear drums, or because of the medications from the NICU. Finally, in the summer, she had a clean bill of health. Whatever hearing issues she had at the beginning (which were pretty mild, anyway) stemmed from the infections, and are not lingering.

The big developmental step for Andrea this year was saying goodbye to diapers. Because she is a princess and needs to have all her clothing coordinated, it was not nearly as difficult as I expected it to be. Grammy (Beautiful Andrea the First) provided the requested panties – Hello Kitty, Minnie Mouse and Dora the Explorer - and Andrea happily arranged her outfits around the color of the fabric or trim. In less time than I would have thought possible, we were done with Pampers. I think waiting until summer vacation was key – our school year commute is not rest stop friendly. Now, we’re encouraging her to dress herself. She can, sort of, but we don’t usually have time on week days to let her work on it.   I figure it'll come with time, so I pick my battles.

We took a mini vacation to Sesame Place last summer, and I have to say, Andrea was the perfect age for it. She loved, loved, loved seeing all the characters. The “brudders”, as she calls Kenny and Kenny, bore up well spending two days with Elmo and company, and really made sure Andrea had fun. Of course, we did bribe them with a trip to Six Flags afterwards, but they were still really good sports. Andrea was finally tall enough to go on some of the bigger rides, and had her first taste of water slides with Daddy. Like her brothers, she is a water baby, and must have gone down half a dozen times in a row. The water was WAY too cold for me to venture in.

In September, Andrea started a pre-K class in the daycare center she’s been attending. It’s a mixed age group of 3 and 4 year olds (now mostly 4 and 5 year olds) who are really learning pre-kindergarten skills. She has learned to spell her name, and is working on writing it. She can read and spell a few basic words, and do some basic addition and subtraction. She is a social butterfly, and enjoys seeing her friends at school. Of course, it’s not all work – they get outside on the playground when weather permits, and do art projects and music. She loves it all. She’ll stay in the same class next year as a 4 year old, and start Kindergarten in Livingston in the fall of 2014.

Andrea continues to take classes at TumbleBees gymnastics on the day she’s with Mom and Dad. She is really a daredevil, racing down the zip line and hanging upside down from the trapeze. She also takes swim lessons at the YMCA, mostly because I can’t keep her out of the water, anyway. We figured that at least she’ll be safer if she learns to swim. She has a wonderful, and extremely patient, teacher. Of course, Andrea is at the beginning, just learning how to float and kick. She’s happy to put her face in the water and can blow bubbles, but that’s about it. On the other hand, I can’t do much more than that, so she’s ahead of me!

I have often said that genetics are funny things, and we’ve been enjoying watching Andrea becoming her own person. Unlike her mommy, she insists on wearing coordinated outfits, having her hair done, and getting her nails painted. Actually, the only way we can clip her nails is to promise to paint them when we’re done. I actually have to get up 15 minutes earlier in the morning to have time to braid or style her hair! Ken and I, having survived two (now almost teen) boys, were unprepared for this stage of development. We count ourselves lucky when the boys are in clean, sort of matching, clothes.

A few days ago, I began thinking about what I wanted to write for today. Something that keeps coming back to me is that we really got lucky. I think once Andrea came home from the hospital, we knew we were lucky, but as more time passes, and Andrea is not only fine, but thriving, it is constantly driven home. I know several people with their own preemie stories. So far, not one as small as Andrea, but some as early. Of those people who shared their stories with me, most have not had the “Disney-esque” happily ever after that we got. So I reflect, “Why us?” I know some of it was because many, if not all, of Andrea’s prenatal problems were related to me. She was a healthy baby in a bad situation. I credit the genius teams at Robert Wood Johnson for most of it, because they knew exactly how to take care of her. Our primary nurses made sure that Andrea got exactly what she needed all the time. The doctors were amazing. The respiratory therapists got the ventilator in on the first try. Obviously, I can’t discount the prayers from everyone, all around the world, but I still wonder how we got so lucky.

I love to tell Andrea’s story. Poor Kenny – I know he dreads every new person we meet, because he knows the story will come out. I feel an overwhelming need to share Andrea’s story. Some day, I hope to write a book about the whole thing, even if all I do is publish the blog. It continues to amaze me how one tiny baby could have such an overwhelming impact on people.
“There comes a point in your life when you realize that nothing will ever be the same, and you realize that from now on…time will be divided in two parts, before this and after this.” John Hobbes

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