Sunday, December 18, 2011

I've been neglectful

So it has been about 3 months since I last posted, and I failed to post pictures of Annika's "after photos" from surgery....Sorry! Once we got home, life continued on despite the fact that we had a recovering 1 year old, so we were busy busy busy, and blog life took a back seat! Below you will see a few photos of Annika's facial developments since her latest surgery. She looks so great, and having 2 real lips are helping the formation of, what seems like, hundreds of new words a week! In fact, 2 people stopped me at church today just to marvel at how good she is looking and how difficult it is to tell she even has scars. It is easy to forget how far she has come in less than 2 years, but looking at her baby book reminds me ofhow blessed we really have been, and how when we found out about her condition, the journey ahead seemed so overwhelming. We look back now and say "that wasn't so bad!"

Ross and Annika just before her Surgery in September

Annika on the way home from surgery the same day. She nose was very pinched and her lips and cheeks were swollen.

This is about 1 week after surgery. Notice the skin glue around her mouth and nose.

Annika and mommy went to the fire truck parade. She loved the big trucks!

For Halloween, Annika was a very cute lady bug! We spent the evening at my mom's house, passing out candy.

Our happy little peanut mid-November.

Happy Thanksgiving! I have a good looking family, don't I?

Adorable Christmas picture taken by my dad.
Merry Christmas everyone!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Good News!

We got 2 pieces of good news today regarding Annika and her surgeries:
1- She is done for at least 3 years with surgeries!
2- We will not need to stay overnight tonight; instead, we can go home this afternoon!

Annika went into Surgery at 7:30 this morning. We had been here since 5:30, and she played so nicely during our wait. She was not so happy (okay she was REAL mad) about having to be given to a stranger, but they took her back, gave her some sleepy medicine, and began their work. Surgery itself took about 4 hours, and Dr. Mann came to see us at about noon to tell us he was pleased with how things went, and that we would be able to go home today.

Right now, we're still waiting to head home. We are in a recovery room waiting for Annika to be awake, comfortable, and drinking a little liquid. Ross and I are getting a little antsy, so I'm aiming to leave here in an hour or so, but we also don't want to rush anything.

Pictures to come sometime this weekend!

Friday, September 9, 2011

The benefits of being a teacher

There are a lot of reasons I became a teacher, and I would be lying if I said the summer vacation had no bearing on my decision. Having 3 months off during the best weather Michigan has to offer has always been an enjoyable part of my job, but this summer proved to be the best summer yet. I was so blessed to be able to watch Annika become a little person, with a new, adventerous and curious personality. We spent our mornings running errands, going to the farmer's market, and having coffee with Aunt Katie. We visited the splash pad, went shopping, and played at parks. The afternoons were relaxing, as Annika (and sometimes I) took a nap. It was an ideal summer.

This summer also allowed me to focus my attention on starting Annika on new foods. God's timing is always perfect, and that was clear as Annika was able to start eating solids the week school ended for me. I'm guessing we will have a picky eater on our hands, but she has progressed so well! At times in the last year and a half, it was hard to imagine her being able to eat and even begin to talk like her peers.

Now that summer is officially over, we are making some changes again. Annika left the little tots room and the best 2 daycare teachers I could have imagined, and she is now in the toddler room. Even in the 2 weeks that she has been there, I can already hear new words and phrases that she is putting together, and new things she likes to play with. I miss not being able to experience these things more throughout the day with her, but she is learning so much while I'm away that I have to remind myself we are both where we should be right now.

Another change we are making will come next week, as Annika will have her 4th and final surgery (for awhile at least) next Friday. This surgery will make her upper lip more full and natural looking. It will also cover up her middle gum area more. We went to her pro-operation appointment yesterday, where the details of the surgery were more fully explained. We won't know the time of the surgery until next week, but it should last roughly 3 1/2 hours. I will post the time of the surgery once I find out.

For now, please pray that Annika stays healthy up to the surgery. She's been sick off and on this past week, and we're hoping she will stay healthy . Also, if you haven't seen Annika in awhile, and want to see some more-than-cute pictures, you can take a look at her 18 month pictures that my dad took in August. Just click on the link below.

Monday, June 27, 2011

What do you feed a 1 year old?

The post below was written at the end of June, but I forgot to finish and post it.

There have been a lot of changes with Annika's eating since my last post, so I will try to be brief while trying to include everything.
After she came off her liquid diet, she was immersed into foods pretty quickly. The first week was stage 1 baby foods only. The second week was stage 2 foods plus some yogurt. Annika did really well with these, although she developed some preferences to some foods over than others (just like any baby will do I imagine). The third week was stage 3 baby foods and "anything you can squish between your fingers" according to the doctors. I wish the doctor would have given me a list of foods because I had a hard time coming up with things that qualified. We tried bananas, jello, chunkier yogurt, and pasta, but she pretty much rejected everything that came her way. Even some of the stage 3 foods were too much for her to handle.
We struggled for a week, and the fourth week was time for her to eat ANYTHING she wanted! Ross and I were so excited for her, and we wondered what foods she would really latch onto. It turns out that the doctor sort of glorified this stage. He said she could eat anything she wanted, but did not mention that she might not want any of it at all! This was the case with Annika. I think Ross and I were so excited, we figured she would be too. But when we started introducing new things, like peaches, waffles, raisins, grilled cheese, and so on, she refused everything we gave her. The one thing she really like was animal crackers (which she had before her palate surgery, so it was familiar). For about 1 week, she ate nothing besides yogurt and animal crackers. Every meal I ate, I put something new in front of her. Things I heard that other babies liked was proving to be unsuccessful for her. After a week, I called Dr. Mann's office to see if we should start food therapy (always jumping to the extreme I guess). After answering a few of the nurses questions, I was let down gently..."It sounds like she just has an extreme preference." She also reassured me that this is more common in babies with clefts, and I should not worry yet. I was advised to put the animal crackers away, and only take them out for desserts or rewards for eating the desired food. Ross and I obeyed, and the stubborn nature that Ross and my parents talk about us having as kids came out in Annika. She sat at dinner with plenty of delicious foods in front of her, and a few times she ate nothing. Other days, she would try a bite by force with animal crackers as the reward for not spitting it back out. There was even one night where we gave her 7 time out for throwing the one piece of food that was on her tray for her to eat.
Finally, by some miraculous parenting skills, or maybe prayer, Annika ate an entire meal without coaxing or objections Saturday night. She ate a hot dog, lima beans, and tried an apple all on her own free will! I can't describe the elation and relief Ross and I felt Saturday night as we sat and had our first pleasant real meal as a family. Since then, she has been open to trying many more things, although fruit is still a little hurdle (I think the slippery, slimy texture still freaks her out a little).
For now, we are continuing to explore new and exciting foods. The timing of this process could not have been mapped out more perfectly. If I would have had it my way, palate surgery would have been April 19 as originally scheduled, but with that earlier surgery would have been food struggles while I was still working. Being able to take my time and devote my patience to such an important step is invaluable to me, and I am so thankful I'm not the one in charge.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

"Yummm Yummm Yummm"

After 3 weeks of a liquid only diet, Annika had her splint removed from her mouth Tuesday morning. She went into surgery at 7:30 and we were in the car by 8:15! A pretty quick ordeal! Luckily, it was a beautiful day, so we spent our day getting some work down around the house and playing outside.

Wednesday, we were able to start giving her stage 1 baby foods, which are more liquidy. When I fed her the baby food, she was so excited, she just said "Yummm Yummm Yummm" every time I gave her a bite. She ended up eating 4 small jars of food in one sitting. Since then, she has been consistent in her eating, and goes to her high chair when I ask if she wants food. She also really enjoys "pink milk" right now (milk with strawberry sauce).

On Tuesday, we will start to give her some stage 2 baby foods, and maybe some smooth yogurt. We also have her post-operation appointment with Dr. Mann next Thursday. At that meeting, I hope to hear the rest of her feeding transition schedule. I'm thinking that by 4th of July, she'll be able to eat pretty much whatever other kids her age eat!!! Dare to dream.

The 4th and final surgery for awhile will be scheduled for sometime around 4 months from now. We won't get that date for another month or so.

Thanks again for all of your thoughts, cards, gifts, and especially prayers for Annika and Ross and I. Please continue to pray that this feeding transition will remain constant and exciting for her!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Recovery so far

Peanut after a long day in surgery

There are some things only a mother can fix.

Hangin out in Annika's HUGE hospital room (more pictures of the room to come later)

Daddy is a great snuggler too.

In this close-up, you might be able to see what looks like a tiny white snow fence over her top teeth. This is the splint that will cover the entire roof of her mouth for the next 3 weeks.

Good morning!

Let me just say that I fully expect today to be an improvement from yesterday. With that said, we have not started off on the right foot exactly. Sleeping in a hospital with a child is never peaceful, as nurses check on her quite often in the first place. Combine that with an uncomfortable little girl who had trouble breathing throughout the night, and you end up with about 4 hours of total sleep. When Annika slept, she slept well, but it did not last for extensive periods of time. She woke up moaning and crying often.

Other than the lack of sleep, the doctor was able to take her nasal canule out, and she is breathing fine on her own, although she still has some yucky build up in her throat that sounds really uncomfortable. They also asked that we start trying some pedialite via syringe to get her used to drinking on her own. She's just been on an IV up to this point. She is not a fan of anything comeing near her mouth right now, so I've gotten a total of about 4 teaspoons in her so far today. They are also beginning to take her off of morphin, and we will try some tylenol w/ codine instead.

As of now, I'm optomistic that we'll be able to come home today. The only contingency is her being able to drink consistently.

Thanks again for all your prayers! Please continue to pray for Annika as she is frustrates with being tied down with IVs and tubes. Also pray that she won't feel pain.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

3 down, 1 to go!!!

It's about 8:30 and Annika is resting peacefully in Kelli's arms at the moment. I say at the moment because she has had some pretty good spells since we've been in her room where it is obvious that she is in a lot of pain and not happy about it. Since surgery she has been struggling a little with breathing because of a lingering cold and her normally wide open breathing passage that has been cut in half. The nurses put her on oxygen through a nasal canula which seems to be helping to stabalize it. The surgery went well and as planned and they also put tubes in her ears as well. The Dr.'s office called yesterday to tell us that the time was bumped up to 11:40 a.m. which we were happy to hear because it would be less time on an empty stomach after she woke up. What amazed Kelli and I the most was how happy she was for the two hours after we registered at the hospital before her surgery started. A fifteen month old that hadn't eaten for 8-10 hours and played like a little angel isn't normal and definately showed the power of prayer. The doctor came to see us at 5:00 after surgery and explained what he did which still confuses us every time but she is in great hands with Dr. Mann. He was able to use cheek fat and the sides of her gums by cutting and folding it up and sewing it to close off her palate. It should have been a really long wait for Kelli and I but once again time just seemed to pass by nicely and we were both very calm during the whole process. This is our first stay in the new Devos Childrens Hospital and it is amazing, our room is at least twice the size of the previous two and has very large windows in the room as well.
We haven't had to try to feed Annika yet but when we do it will probably be with a syringe. From the sounds of it the first couple days will probably be pretty rough from a pain standpoint and then from there hopefully she will rebound and just have to deal with the feeding adjustments. Please pray that she will start breathing more easily(this is important in order for her to be able to go home tomorrow), pray that the transition into new feeding methods will go smoothly, pray for patience for Kelli and I as try to keep Annika comfortable.
Thank You

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Surgery is set!

Devos Children's Hospital called today, and surgery is set for 12:25 next Tuesday. This is later in the day than her other surgeries have been, so we're a little nervous about keeping her happy without food in her tummy, but at worst, its only a few hours. Surgery will last 4 1/2-5 hours they predict. This means that we may not be able to see her until dinner time. We will keep people updated as we get information, but I may not have time to post anything until Wednesday.

Please pray for her surgeons. She'll have her palate repaired and tubes put it, so there are 2 doctors working with her.
Please pray for Ross and I as we transition into new feedings. Pray for patience.
Mostly, pray for Annika as she goes under anesthesia and through surgery. Pray that recovery will be quick and that she won't be uncomfortable or in pain.

Thank you!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Surgery Update

Do you ever have a case of "the Mondays?" I'm taking a grad class this semester on Monday nights, so pretty much every Monday in 2011 has been one of those days...the day just seems so long with not much to look forward to in the day. This past Monday was by and far the worst case of "the Mondays" yet because of a phone call.

I called Annika's surgeon office to get her pre-operation appt. switched to the week of my Spring Break, so I didn't have to take more time off. The secretary asked me to hold, and when he came back to the phone, he said "Actually, surgery has been rescheduled." Hmmm.... I thought, nice of them to call! When I asked what the new surgery date was, he replied with something even more unexpected....July 19. This date is exactly 3 months later than the original date. For those of you who know me well, my first reactions are not always my finest moments. I was a bit stearn with the secretary, so he transferred me to the scheduler. She informed me that they had already let her ENT Dr. office know that tubes would be postponed too. At this point, I began crying to a stranger. I babbled on about how Annika already has some slight hearing loss and pushing tubes back 3 months could be damaging, and that she couldnt have more ear infections because prescriptions hinder her from weight gain, and she's already small...blah blah blah. I'm sure the scheduler was super happy with the secretary for pawning me off to her. Anyway, she told me Annika was on the top of the waiting list for any cancellations that could come up, and we left it at that. By the way, surgery was pushed back because her Dr. will be out of the country in April doing speaking engagements.

My next reaction was to spend some money on Annika clothes (I was in the Carters parking lot already). Then I called Ross and cried some more. He's much more calm and logical about life in general than I am. He soaked it all in, and we didnt really talk much more about it until after class. We had planned on calling Annika's pediatrician and ENT Dr. to ask them to make a call and advocate for Annika's health. In the end, all of this was unnecessary, because I got a call Tuesday morning from the surgeon's office telling me they were able to bump Annika's surgery up to May 3! This is only 2 weeks later than the original date, so we'll take it! I'm not sure how they were able to make such a drastic change in less than 24 hours, but frankly I don't care either! It looks like we will have a busy month in May with 5 trips to GR, but we are so happy to have things resolved.

It is weeks like this that I am so glad Annika is so young and doesn't know what is going on. By the time she can hang on to memories, the worst will be long behind her, and she will have no recollection of a different time.

Thanks to all of the prayers you continue to say for Annika. She truly is such a trooper, and Ross and I appreciate all of the support you continue to show us!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Ross took Annika to the Ears/Nose/Throat Dr. today. They gave her a hearing test and also used a sensor to see if there was any fluid. They found significant fluid built up, and because of this, she is unable to hear very low sounds. To fix these problems, they will put tubes in her ears. They opted to wait to do it during her palate surgery, since they have found cleft tubes to be ineffective without a palate.

We've also been scheduled to see her pediatrician this Friday for a weight check-in. We have still been getting up with her once at night to feed her, hoping that this will help her gain a little weight. At first it seemed to be working, as she was taking almost a full feeding more each day. But just this past week, she's started eating much less (4-5oz instead of 7-8oz at a time). The Dr. mentioned at her last appt. that she should be eating 40 oz per day in order to gain weight. Today, she had only 30 oz. My guess is that the Dr. will not be satisfied with the weight gain. We'll see.

On a completely separate note, I get to go to Grand Rapids Friday night overnight with my 2 sisters. This will be my first night leaving Ross and Annika alone! While I have no doubts that Ross is a totally capable parent, I can't help but feel a little funny about leaving. With that said, I am SO ready for some sister time and relaxation!

Anyway, check back in a few days for a weight update! Real exciting, I know the anticipation will kill you as much as it is me :)

Monday, February 21, 2011

BIG steps!

No, Annika is not walking yet, but I feel like so much has happened since November! I will try to keep it short.

Annika has been scooting around the house since the last time I posted. She started out cawling the day we got home from the hospital, and by Christmas Break, she was pulling herslf up and walking around furniture. For Christmas, she got a walker, and has been busy with that ever since! Sometimes she'll stand by herself in the room, but no physical stes yet. I'm guessing 2-3 weeks.

We've had a long winter as far as keeping her healty goes. Since October, she has had 5 ear infections. As of now, we are waiting to meet with an Ears, Nose, Throat Doctor to see if tubes will help. Because of these ear infections, she has been off and on anti-biotics all winter, which have both suppressed her appetite and given her constant diareha. Because of these 2 things, her one year appt. showed a loss of weight for an already tiny peanut. To remedy that, we've been feeding her in the middle of the night if she wakes up. We know it is not best practice, but at this point the doctor said we should do whatever we can to get her bigger. Needless to say, we're ready for spring!

A major change for us, which may not seem so large to others, is that Annika has begun taking some solid foods. We started out with "puff' crackers (crackers that dissolve). She loves these, and they were a great way to introduce something other than formula. Next, we moved onto yogurt melts (dried yogurt that also dissovles). These are much more flavor-filled, so she is still getting used to these. And just last night, I was going to attempt some more baby food, and for the first time ever, she ate a whoe (small) jar of babyfood! For many this may seem like a normal step, but we've been trying off and on for 7 months for her to be able to even keep any in her mouth! I'm convinced that the puffs were a good route to take in teaching her how to move food back to her throat.

Annika's next surgery has been scheduled for April 19. She will have a follow-up surgery May 10 to remove the retainer he puts in initially.

I promise to post pictures soon!