Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Dear Me

In honor of Andrew's birthday, I was asked to write a letter to my former self for our heart support group page.  Often over the years since I have become a "heart mom" I have felt like there are so many things I wish I had known back then, when Andrew was so fragile.  If I could've looked into a crystal ball and seen the special young man he's become... I would've been so relieved.  Those dark, scary times when we didn't know if he would survive... we had to rely on faith.  And Andrew's story is another testimony to what God is capable of.  Andrew is our miracle.  God's hand in his life has been evident from the time we first heard his tiny heartbeat, to the thriving young man he has become today.

Here is my letter (I had a word limit, which was probably a good thing, but it was so difficult to put these feelings into 200 words or less!):

Dear Me,

I can still see you.  Curled into a ball, swallowed by darkness in your living room on a perfectly sunny and beautiful fall day.  Shades drawn, heart broken, unable to form words.  I can still feel the fear, ripping through your whole body as you shook with sobs that filled the quiet room.  Sobs that continued into the darkest of night, with tears that flooded your pillow and never seemed to stop.

You had just arrived home from your 20 week ulstrasound and were told your precious baby, the one you prayed so hard for and thought would never come, would be born with a congenital heart defect.  Tetrallogy of Fallot.  “What does that even mean?” You thought, and asked the doctor to write it down for you so you could spend hours pouring over google as more fear crept in.  Oh, I can still hear the thoughts running through your mind.  Babies don’t have problems with their hearts!  They can’t… do they??  You tried not to let the “why me” creep in, but deep down, the question was there.  I am here to promise you that one day you will learn the answer to that question.  And you will never ask it again.

I want to tell you that your son, Andrew, will be born.  He will be premature, but he will be brought into this world with a tiny cry that will sound like the heavens singing.  Your heart will burst with joy.  You will never forget the sight of your precious son- all 3 lb 13oz of him.  With his full head of dark hair and flailing monkey arms and legs.  There will be no need for a camera.  It will be etched into your mind forever.
I’m not gonna lie… those first couple years will be tough.  Hang on, push through the fear.  Allow yourself to think about the future.  HIS future.  Because it is bright.  It will be here in the blink of an eye, and he will be ready to take on the world.

I want you to know that this life will one day not revolve around heart surgeries, hospital stays and ER visits.  Weeks and months will go by with no thought of it at all.  This amazing boy of yours is going to have a determination and spunk that will be the driving force behind all of his successes.  He will NOT give up.

Andrew is going to grow, thrive, be smart, sensitive and empathetic.  He will have a sense of humor that will make you laugh daily.  He will graduate preschool and have a first day of Kindergarten.   

He’ll lose his front teeth.  

Be a big brother. 

He will turn 10.  

He’ll play baseball.  

Rock Taekwondo.

He’s going to get to do everything he wants to in life, and he’ll be proud of that scar.  He’s going to be a normal kid.  But everything about him will be extraordinary. 

You see, he’ll be born with a heart that will melt yours, and you will never, ever be the same.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

andrew's 11th birthday

This is the only picture I have of Andrew before his heart surgery.  It is the only picture of him that exists before his tiny scar made an impression on that little chest forever.  It doesn't even seem real to me to see him without a scar, as it has just become a part of him.
I wanted to share this incredible self portrait Andrew drew in art class in 4th grade.  I think it amazingly captures him.  Along the sides are skylanders and figures that he loves and always has.  And the body shows the INSIDE of him, including his "special heart."
This brought tears to my eyes.  We've always called his heart special, and I think this is very telling for him to include in a self portrait.  All his life we have tried to teach him to be proud of his scar, and everything he's been through.  This simply proves that we succeeded.  I love it so much.
In other news... at school on Andrew's birthday his principal dropped by his classroom for a selfie.  He does this with all the kids and I think that's so awesome!
We brought in popcorn and M&Ms that sort of follows the healthy snack policy.

That night we had dinner with Ga Ga and Papa at Andrew's choice- Pizza Ranch!
The chicken legs are his favorite- he was so excited!
Then we came home and opened presents!
He loves these chain reaction toys!
And of course, a new Big Nate book.
Andrew loves his snorkel set from Christmas and when we go to pools he always wears them and puts his hand up by his back, pretending like he's a shark.  So I couldn't resist this!  Now he can strap on the fin and scare his sister!  Ha ha.  It might be meant for a smaller child, but let's face it, Andrew is still a kid at heart!
Reading his card from Papa
At Christmas Kerigan got a robe from Ga Ga.  Andrew was so sweet and thankful for all his gifts, but later after he had opened everything he quietly said to her "Ga Ga, someday I would like a robe too."  It was SO cute.  And of course the next day Ga Ga went and found him one for his birthday!  Ha ha.
I love how Belle gets so involved with gift opening!  Ha!
During P.E. at school the kids had been roller blading.  Andrew could not stop talking about it.  He loved it so much.  So he was thrilled when he got his very own pair of roller blades!
Next it was Kerigan's turn to give him her gift.
I just love his faces he made as he tore off the paper!
Everyone who knows Andrew knows he is obsessed with figures.  Skylanders, Ninja turtles, anything Disney, etc.... I could go on and on.  His latest is Ben 10.
He was so happy Kerigan knew just what he wanted!
He requested a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.  Easy and done.
This was the first year he got to decorate his own cake with these little ninja action figures (because, what else?)
I made him a birthday cake sign and we were good to go.  Gone are the days of the fancy parties, and Pinterest decorations and cake.  And I'm perfectly fine with that.  Ha ha.
The birthday excitement is always there... Pinterest or not!
I love how he lets Kerigan be involved and that she loves celebrating Andrew's birthday as much as her own (well, almost!)
It was a perfect day celebrating our special 11 year old.
Now if only I could freeze time.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

birthday bouncing!

My plan this year for Andrew's birthday was to keep things low key- just invite a few friends to Sky Zone.  We ended up with a nice crew and they all had so much fun!
There isn't much Andrew loves more than dodge ball.  He loves playing it at Sky Zone so we knew this would be a perfect place to take them!
Dodgeball with cousin Jayden= his happy place
He's ready to throw that ball!

This is probably the sweetest girl in the whole grade- Grace.  Andrew adores her.  He wanted to invite her so badly so I texted her mom and made sure she knew she'd be the only girl amongst a lot of boys!  Ha!  Grace thinks the world of Andrew and she was so excited to come.  She made his day!
So many of these pictures are the same, but I loved his expressions!
You can just tell how much fun he's having- he's made this face ever since he was a little boy!
Andrew and his good friend Tanner.  These two clicked right away when we moved here even though they were in different classes the first year.  Then this year Tanner and his family moved to a new school in the same town so we are so lucky these two still get to see each other!
This girl got to bring her friend Rylee and they had so much fun too!
I think they spent almost the entire time doing this

I tried to get them both in the air but they kept jumping at different times!  Ha!
After lots of fun jumping, we took everyone to Orange Leaf
They loaded up on froyo with lots of candy on top!
These girls were having so much fun too!
This is the nicest group of kids right here- Andrew is so lucky to have such nice friends!
After the party fun, we dropped everybody off and brought Jayden back home and Grandpa and Grandma joined us!
Andrew opened his presents
I say this every year but Andrew would be happy to get no presents or a party if he could just spend his birthday with Jayden.  Cake and presents are just a bonus.  I just love their relationship so much.
We had a ton of fun playing spoons!

Then Evelyn and Aunt Rachel joined us for cupcakes!  Evie had been at Volleyball so she couldn't jump with us.
We tried to figure out how to put 11 candles in cupcakes so we finally just put 2 big candles in and they looked like 1's!  Ha!
That face!
The next morning it was more games with Grandma and the early risers!
Then we made breakfast
And had fun putting together Legos!
Grandma has way more patience with these than I do!
The next week he had his well child check up and pretended to be upset- Ha!
I'm telling you, this kid

More from his actual birthday coming soon...

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