Sunday, May 20, 2012

a is for apple

Andrew's preschool graduation was on May 11.  It's been a week and I'm finally getting around to posting about it.  Honestly, I've thought about it every single day since.  My mind has been swirling around with things I wanted to say about it.  It's like I was trying to delay posting as if to savor every memory and engrave it in my mind.  Like a "do over," so it wouldn't have to end.  Because in posting this, I can relive it, and therefore maybe I can still be in denial that my baby is ready to start Kindergarten.

I will never forget this day.

This day marked the end of that journey through "baby-hood," that, quite honestly, I didn't know if we'd ever make it through.  
Not only did we make it through, but Andrew is everything that I wish I would have known he'd be back then.  Back then, when he was just a tiny 3lb 13oz preemie lying in his NICU bed, with a tiny scar running down his chest, and a freshly mended heart.

Oh how I longed to know that a day like this was in his future.
It would have made my heart so happy to know that.  And here he is today.  
Our hearts were literally soaring.
Not that every parent in this room wasn't proud.  Because they were.  But us?  We weren't just proud.  We were grateful.  Humble.  Honored.  Honored that God chose us to be the parents of this special little boy in the front row center, and ever so thankful that God has brought him this far.  To celebrate this moment.  Because unlike most of these children... his chances of making it to this point were just a little bit less than everyone else's.
Yet, here he is.  With a smile that lit up the entire room.
The silly cliche "you've come a long way baby!" seems fitting somehow.  You have come a long way, Andrew.  Such a long way.  After three open heart surgeries and countless cardiac caths and other procedures, I'd say you're most certainly not like every other five year old.
Yet, you are.  You are still that little boy that only stands out in a crowd because of your sparkling personality and your contagious smile.  You love to ride your bicycle, play with cars, and swim.  You love to get dirty, and you play soccer and T-ball.  You're as normal as any five year old could be.

Your scar is hidden, but such a part of who you are.  It's the reason for your spirit, your feistiness, your determination.  It most certainly does not define you, but it is a part of you.  And I hope you are always proud of that mark, Andrew.  I pray that you will leave that mark on the world, everywhere you go.
I will never forget this day.  The day I got to watch my little boy graduate from preschool.  You are ready, Andrew.  You are ready to take on the world!
This ceremony was quite a production, planned and carried out beautifully by the amazing preschool teachers at Andrew's school.
I have never seen anything quite like it before.  These soon-to-be Kindergarteners were performers!  They knew every word, every motion, and they sang their little hearts out!
They paraded onto the stage to Pomp and Circumstance, and if that wasn't enough to bring tears to a mother's eyes...before the ceremony even began they showed a video which included photos and special songs like "Let them be Little" (oh my heart!)  Photos that dated back to when they were two, and three years old.  Arms around the same kids, year after year, who have grown into best buddies because they've known each other for so long.
Then there were the sunflowers... as they sang to their mom's. "You are my Sunshine," which holds special meaning to me as I often sang that song to Andrew when he was in his NICU bed and all I could do was hold his little hand, his tiny fingers wrapped around mine.  I chose that song to sing to him because it was the one my own mother always sang to me when I was sick.

"You'll never know MOM, how much I love you..."  Then they walked into the audience to find their mom, and presented her with the sunflower.  Please watch this little video- it's short.  I love how my precious little boy had practiced this a million times over, yet after he gave me my flower, he still kept looking back at me, like he wanted to stay.  Like he wasn't sure about returning to the stage.  I love it.  

I hope you will always look back at your mama, buddy!  As you'll always be my baby. 
*(Pause the music at the bottom of the screen).

Probably one of my favorite songs from the day was the letters and sounds song.  It sounds weird, I know.  But let me tell you the background.  Then listen to the precious little song and see if it doesn't bring tears to your eyes... 

Many of you know Andrew was born with hearing loss in both ears.  He attended years of speech therapy (still does), in addition to all the other therapies he faced early on.  Making words wasn't easy for him.  He was behind in so many ways.  Every new word he spoke was a celebration.  So, when it came time to learn his letters and letter sounds?  Yeah, this added a whole new dimension.  We practiced for so long.  He worked so hard.  He might have been behind some of his peers, but he kept working.  He never gave up.  One day it just clicked.  With the help of all of his amazing teachers, he got it.  He knows every single letter and it's sound.  And he's already starting to put them together to make words. He totally gets it.  

So this little song is so much more than a song to me...

My favorite part about watching him receive his diploma...
What he immediately did with it upon returning to his spot.  Yep, that's our Andrew!  Ha!  I'm pretty sure they were told not to do this.  But come on, he is a five year old boy after all!
One of my favorite parts of the whole production... the "It's Time to Say Goodbye" song.  All the kids said "yee haw!" at the end and threw their hats off.  Andrew made quite the statement, as his "yee haw!" was about a second behind everyone else's.  He needed to make a big finish and steal the show!  That's just the way he is!

This is Andrew's amazing preschool teacher and one of the incredible directors at his day care, Missey.  I cannot say enough about this woman.  We love her like family.  She met me when I toured the day care way back when Andrew was so fragile, at just 15 months old when I was reluctantly looking for somewhere to send him to day care.  He could barely sit in a chair and he was so much smaller than the other kids.  I remember I just kept thinking, he's way too little to sit in these big chairs! So Missey sent a chair home with me.  Just like that.  Practice over the summer and bring it back.  It was at that moment I knew this was the place for him.  I fell in love with it, and I have never regretted it for a second.

As it turned out, a few weeks later another opportunity opened up for Andrew to go to an in home day care with another heart mom.  This was such a blessing to us, as he was still so young and I really wasn't ready for him to be in a "center."  He would only be with one other child all day in a calm, home setting.  I knew it was what was best for him at the time.  But deep down I also knew that Missey's center was where I wanted him.  Someday.  So I called her.  I nervously explained the situation.  That I wanted him to attend, just not yet.  This center has a waiting list a mile long.  They have been voted "best day care" in our town for years.  They have a million families that want to send their kids there.  But do you know what Missey did?  She kept Andrew on the list for the following year- he would start with the two year olds after another year went by.  She held a spot for him for a whole year.  And all I did was pay a small holding fee.  Imagine that.  Me not having to worry ever again about where I was going to send him to day care.  It took this huge weight off my shoulders.  

Since then, Missey and her sister Mindy, have treated us like family.  They run their whole center that way.  I really feel like Missey and Mindy would do anything possible to make us happy.  We've been through a lot since we started there (biting in the 2 year old room, Andrew going through naughty phases, not to mention his third open heart surgery where he missed nine weeks and we could hardly afford to pay to hold his spot.)  To avoid getting them in trouble, I won't say too much about that.  But I will say that they worked it out with us.  They were generous, gracious, caring, and giving.  
Everything that most centers aren't.

We will be forever grateful to them.
This was the only picture we could get of our family.  Since I operated the camera, we waited and took the family photo last, and Andrew was done!
Ga Ga and Papa couldn't miss this special day!
If you ask Andrew who his best friend at school is, he will say Mya.  These two have a love-hate relationship, that totally cracks me up.  They fight like a little old married couple!  Ha!  Yet every single day when I pick him up they are playing together.  Last year we found out Mya is our neighbor and just lives up the street from us, and she will be going to the same school in Kindergarten as Andrew.  To say Andrew is thrilled about this is an understatement!

This little song is fitting- "Friends Forever," which they sang with such gusto!  I was laughing pretty much the entire time, because Andrew isn't usually a big singer at these things, but boy he belted out "FRIENDS FOREVER" louder than anyone!  He is really funny to watch...

After a special morning, we decided to head out for lunch to another special place with two of Andrew's other best buddies from preschool, Jake and Charlie.  They are twin boys who have been friends with Andrew since they were 2.
We went to the marina and ate a picnic by the lake and fed the fish.
Now that's what I call a special graduation lunch!
It couldn't have gotten much better than this, on such a beautiful day.
Andrew & Ga Ga
This just makes me laugh- he makes this face all the time.  It's like his "What the heck are you talking about" face!  Ha!
My little Kindergartener...almost!

So, while I am still in denial that my baby is grown up and ready to face the world with this smile... I know one thing... He is here by the grace of God.  And I am beyond thankful that he is able to start Kindergarten.  I'm certain that he's going to do great things in this life.  My mind, only for a minute, can glimpse into his future yet again and this time see a picture similar to the one below on his high school graduation day.  And college.  Because now we have hope.  The faith that he will make it that far.  Because memories like this one remind us that we have a God who performs miracles.

And I get to be a mother to one every single day.

And my heart is happy.

We love you little buddy!  Go out there and change the world!

Andrew's preschool graduation and beginning of Kindergarten gift is going to be a spectacular trip to Disneyland this summer to see the grand opening of Cars Land.  We felt like he deserves a little something extra special to celebrate everything he's been through, and how far he's come.

So, look out California!  Here we come!!

You are the God who performs miracles.  You display your power among the peoples.
Psalm 77:14

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