What a difference a year makes! Happy birthday Anna!

What a gush of emotions the month of December brings as we remember December of last year. Anna was born, found to have a cleft palate, hospitalized at 6 days old, diagnosed with Pierre Robin Sequence, tube fed for 2 days in the hospital and finally discharged on Christmas Eve. It was a quiet and solemn Christmas last year.

This year, as the month of December came around, the feelings are so different. It is joy, hope, gratitude and love that fill our hearts this year. Anna has recovered well from her cleft palate repair surgery, is eating well (and loving her food, or our food more than hers) and growing well. She likes to reach for our hands so that we can assist her in walking around the house because she finds crawling too slow and probably overrated.

We celebrated Anna’s first birthday with a Rainbow themed party. I chose the theme as the Rainbow speaks of God’s promises and covenant to us. He is the One who promised us Anna and gave us Anna, and we know He will be the One Who will see her through her life. He doesn’t break covenants. As we have covenanted to give our lives and our children to Him, we know that we are in good hands.

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John 10:10 tells us that the thief (which is the devil) comes to steal, kill and destroy. But Christ came that we may have abundant life!

We named Anna after Anna in the gospels who is a prophetess. The nature of a prophet is to declare God’s Word and messages to His people. With a cleft palate, one will not be able to speak if the cleft palate is not repaired. This all makes perfect sense if we understand what God’s Word is saying – the enemy is trying to steal and destroy the purposes of God in our lives. I was also born with a cleft palate, and yet my testimony is that now I am a teacher by profession and also teach God’s Word to His people. The enemy has not managed to stop what God wanted me to do for Him.

So when the paediatrician told us when Anna was born that she had a cleft palate, strangely a sense of peace washed over me as I realize this is a challenge Anna has to go through and overcome, and after that she will be speaking for the Lord!

When we say Anna is very special to us, it is not that we are biased because all our kids are special to us. We just have an extra soft spot for her seeing what she’d had to go through in this first year of her life – countless doctor appointments and tests.

At one year old, Anna is healthy, all the tests have shown that she doesn’t have any other problems. We are indescribably thankful to God for the grace He has given us for this journey and also for the days ahead. I believe this year’s Christmas will be a much happier affair than last Christmas!

I really wanted to take her first year photos and am thankful for a very talented friend who took these great shots for us. Here are some of Anna’s special moments with her brothers and us. And just to show the funny and very human side of her, I’ve also included some NG shots!

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Amidst the smiles, there were also tears…

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And check out this “I am not impressed” look when you zoom in to this happy family pic!

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Cake pops experiment!

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I wanted to make cake pops for Anna’s party. So I did it today!

I used a cake pop mould to make chocolate cake balls. And covered them with melted white chocolate and sprinkles! The theme of the party is A Rainbow Special, hence the colours of the rainbow.

The colours turned out more pastel than vibrant primary colours. But I still like them, especially the pink that turned out bright and pretty. And the violet…

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It took a whole afternoon to work on them though. I learnt that it’s easier to work with frosting than chocolate. It’s my first time using chocolate to frost/ice/coat. And the cake balls threatened to come off the sticks when being dipped in the chocolate. I’ve read up a bit on tips on making cake pops so I did try some of the tips, such as dipping the lolly sticks in chocolate before sticking them in the balls and leaving them for a while in the fridge so that the chocolate would harden and the sticks would stay. Most of them did. Only a few came off. Which wasn’t a problem as my boys were happy to help me ‘clean up’. Which means eating up the rejects.

I also added a little oil when melting the chocolate to thin it out a little and make it easier to work with. It also gave a nice sheen to the cake pops.

At the end we had leftover cake batter so we made some mini cupcakes. (The mould I borrowed from a friend had receptacles in the shape of mini cupcakes. They’re adorable.)

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The problem with cake pops though, is that you eat one and then you eat more and before you know it, you’d have popped 10 in your mouth! They’re that good and easy to devour. Yums. I hope my guests like them!

Never take eating for granted (Anna’s 2-month-old update)

It seems like the most natural thing to do next to breathing. But we’ve learnt that we shouldn’t take anything for granted, not even eating. It’s a gift from God, this life we have and all the things we can do, every morning that we wake, every breath that we take. It’s a gift from God, this precious little girl that we have, and today we celebrate 2 months of her life!

As we celebrate 2 months of Anna’s life, many people, concerned friends, have been asking about her, so I’m posting an update about Anna here.

This last month, the challenging part about taking care of Anna is her eating. Because of her cleft palate and the Pierre Robin Sequence that sometimes restricts her airways, she struggles with eating. Firstly, she can’t nurse or use a normal bottle. We use a special nipple for cleft palate babies to feed her. While feeding, she sometimes struggles to breathe because of the difficulty in coordinating the swallowing and breathing, and her sucking is weak because of the cleft palate.

She was eating quite well for a while but recently had not been taking in more than 50 or 60ml, and that is after 30-45 minutes. We saw the geneticist on Tuesday and she was concerned about her eating and growth, just as we were. She was in the 3rd percentile in weight, although her height was 50th percentile and her head circumference was 25th percentile. So she scheduled a visit to the speech therapist and dietician for us, and we saw them on Friday (yes, we make quite a number of trips to the children’s hospital for all her doctor appointments). The speech therapist helps to monitor her feeding – the way she swallows and breathes while feeding. I really think the title doesn’t match their job completely, although they also do speech therapy for older children. They should have a ‘cum swallowing specialist’ added to their title or something.

The outcome of the visit to the speech therapist (cum swallowing specialist) and dietician is a feeding plan we have to follow closely and a squeezy bottle to help squeeze out the milk when her sucking isn’t strong enough. We are also adding a little formula to her milk (she’s on full breast milk) to help increase her calorie intake. All with the aim of helping her put on weight and as she grows bigger, she should be able to eat better too.

It can get tiring to take care of a baby full time, especially a baby who needs special care, but we have so much to be thankful for. For one, Anna is such a sweet little baby. She doesn’t scream and demand things, she sits (or lays) quietly for long periods of time. (Even as I’m writing this, she’s been laying in her crib quietly for almost 45 minutes! I hope it continues this way and that she’ll learn to put herself to sleep in her crib every night!) And she has begun to smile and talk a lot this month. She is such a joy to be with. It really makes taking care of her so much easier and fun. Just need somebody to take care of that giant pile of laundry because I’d much rather spend time with my baby and boys. 🙂

Another thing we can be thankful for is the quality of medical care we can get these days. I was born with a cleft palate too and back in those days, there wasn’t much to help, although surgery was already available (and cost $50!!). My mom and grandma had to spoon feed me till I had surgery at 18 months. Now we have a special bottle and nipple to help Anna eat, and I am thankful for that.

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My grandma spoonfeeding me and my Mom holding my big brother

As the title of this post says, we should never take eating for granted. From having to syringe feed her after birth, seeing her hospitalized and having to be tubefed, to her being able to drink from a bottle, her eating has really improved. I can never forget the first time we gave her a bottle, which is on the 8th day of her life. When she immediately started sucking, such an immense sense of relief washed over me. We would have had to continue tube feeding her at home if she couldn’t drink from a bottle. And we know babies with PRS had had to be fed that way quite often. And just this morning (3am in the morning), when she finished 60ml (which is our goal per feed for now) in just 15 minutes, again I was filled with such joy and relief. We were still struggling to make her eat 50ml in 30 minutes yesterday. So I say, there can be such joy in something as seemingly simple as eating. Maybe we’ll learn to be more thankful each time we eat, just to be able to eat. 🙂

Anna is about 3.9kg now, measures 56cm and her head circumference is 36.5cm. She smiles and talks and loves to interact with people. She sleeps well at night and plays in the day. She loves her gym mat and teddy bear. And her eyes are turning darker to be like mommy and her brothers’ eyes.

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For the record, Anna looks just like me!

You can read more updates about Anna in the category AnnaLog, click on the AnnaLog page or click here. Thank you for standing with us in prayer as you read about her, and for loving Anna and our family. God bless you richly. And happy 2-month birthday my Anna Joy! ❤

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Happy One Month Anna Joy! (celebrating her one month birthday and some medical updates)

The Chinese celebrate the first month of a child’s life with a “full-month celebration”. It has indeed been a very full month for us. But as Anna Joy turned one month old on 16 January, we celebrate her – her life, her growth, her health and the joy that she’s brought us and many others.

I am writing this as we sit in the children’s hospital waiting for our fourth medical appointment of the day with Anna. Yes, fourth.

You see, Anna was born with a cleft palate, just as I was. (It’s not the same as a cleft lip. A cleft palate is basically a hole in the roof of the mouth and needs to be surgically repaired before the child turns one.) So she can’t latch on and nurse but needs a special nipple for cleft palate babies to feed.

On Day 6 of her life, she was hospitalized after we brought her to the Emergency Room when we noticed she was having difficulty breathing and seemed to be laboring to breathe. The doctors were concerned about lung infection which can happen when milk goes into the lungs if it goes down the windpipe during feeding so they admitted her to carry out tests and monitor her breathing.

In short, she didn’t have an infection but they observed that her oxygen levels dipped when she was being fed with a syringe. This was before we had our appointment with the feeding specialist at the cleft clinic so we were feeding her with a syringe. They wanted to put an IV in and stop feeding her for a while to see if her breathing will improve. I couldn’t bear the thought of my baby being poked, as much as I hate the IV myself. That early morning, as I held her in the nursery before we went home and left her there, I prayed with her that she would not have an IV and will be fine.

The next morning when we returned, the doctors told us they tried an IV but could not get one in so they were going to try tube feeding via an NG tube (yea I’m learning all these medical terms). The back of her hands were bruised and one foot had a bruise too from where they were trying to put in the IV. I cried the whole of that Sunday as we sat in the hospital with her just waiting for doctors to see her and monitoring her oxygen levels.

The 3 days that she was in hospital, she saw many doctors. They diagnosed her with Pierre Robin Sequence, because of her small chin which they said caused the tongue to be in a posterior (back) position which in turn prevented the palate from forming, thus causing the cleft palate. This was in the first trimester of gestation. Since this is a structural issue, there’s nothing to be done except the surgery to repair the cleft palate. The doctors taught us how to feed her, lay her down on her side so she can breathe well, and basically how to take good care of her. She also has many different medical appointments as follow up (therefore the four appointments today alone). The feeding specialist taught us to feed her using the special nipple for cleft palate babies and she could suck and feed well from the first try. After a few more successful feeds with the special bottle, they could remove the tube and she can feed from a bottle. Words cannot describe the overwhelming relief and joy I felt when I first saw her suck from the bottle. Although it’s a basic instinct of human babies, this was the first time I’ve seen her feed from a bottle. And I’m so relieved that we don’t have to feed her with a syringe or tube. That night, when they were supposed to remove the feeding tube, she pulled it off herself, as if she knew when she’d had enough. 🙂

We were discharged on Christmas Eve. Although it was a traumatic time, we have settled well at home now and have all the more reason to celebrate her and the first month of her life. There is much to be thankful for, among which the fact that she can breathe without aid (some PRS cases need extra help in breathing), she is feeding well using the special nipple, and that we have government subsidies and co-payment by the government for her hospital visits – benefits of being in the public service.

We had her baby dedication last Sunday on 18 January. Here are some photos from the first month of Anna’s life.

We love you, Anna, and we know so many others do too. But more than all this, God has made you in His own image and He loves you very much. We know that God has plans for you and you will grow well and His handmaiden and a mouthpiece for Him. ❤

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She likes to sleep with her hand to her face

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Or under the pillow

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Her favourite toy that Daddy bought

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Anna with Daddy on the day of her first month

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Anna on the day of her first month

Caleb’s Baseball Party

Happy Birthday Caleb!
Happy Birthday Caleb!

Our oldest son, Caleb, turned 7 on 6 December. He chose Baseball as the theme for his party. So here are some snippets of his Baseball Party.

The decor. The words are made up of letters on baseballs which are then stuck onto penants.
The decor. The words are made up of letters on baseballs which are then stuck onto penants.
The cake (it's a mitt with a baseball in the middle, in case you can't tell!)
The cake (it’s a mitt with a baseball in the middle, in case you can’t tell!)

The games:
Daddy is the best gamemaster ever! And he came up with these 3 baseball-themed games that were so fun!

1) Strikeout Zone
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Hitting the target on the wall.
Hitting the target on the wall.
Evan having a go at it.
Evan having a go at it.

2) Running the bases

Running the bases
Running the bases

3) Pin the ball on Miggy

Blindfold and spin around
Blindfold and spin around

He did really well!
He did really well!

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Um, I think they were looking out for a flyball? Or something?
Um, I think they were looking out for a flyball? Or something?
Here's Caleb enjoying his birthday cake.
Here’s Caleb enjoying his birthday cake.

Daddy’s Star Wars Birthday!

The Star Wars Mustafah cake
The Star Wars Mustafah cake

It was Daddy’s birthday last Monday and the boys wanted a Star Wars cake.

What was funny was we’d bought Star Wars figures for Daddy for his birthday while he was on a trip to the Philippines (You know how it is. Kids choose presents based on what they like, not based on what we’d like.). When he came home, he’d bought Star Wars figures for the boys too! So we used the figures that Daddy bought, which are 2 of our favourites anyway – Obi Wan and Anakin. They make for the perfect, classic scene in Episode 3 at Mustafah.

Obi Wan has the higher ground. (And Anakin has Hershey's chocolate 'floating' around him.) The longish candy is supposed to be the lava flowing around...
Obi Wan has the higher ground. (And Anakin has Hershey’s chocolate ‘floating’ around him.) The longish candy is supposed to be the lava flowing around…

“It’s over Anakin, I have the higher ground!” “You were the chosen one!” “I loved you. You were my brother!”

(Seriously, I don’t remember Anakin’s lines. Oh, except “I hate you…” but I don’t even remember if it was in this scene that he said it.)

Steamboat
Steamboat

Mom made a special steamboat dinner for Cameron.

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Here’s us.

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And our gifts to Daddy!

Happy birthday Daddy! You are the best friend, husband and Daddy we could ever ever ask for! We love you!