Friday, January 08, 2016

Quietly Confident . . . . . beginning a year of transition in Anna's JA Journey

The beginning of this new year of 2016 has already brought reflection as well as looking to the future.  We've been on this journey a LONG time (diagnosed in 1999 when Anna was not quite two years old)!  The uveitis has been the most stubborn; the joints have usually responded well to steroid injections.  The TMJ involvement (discovered several years ago) was an unwelcome surprise, and the recent jaw reconstruction surgery was a major event for Anna and our family.  After a few weeks of treatment for the recent flare of uveitis, her left eye is once again clear, and although Anna was concerned that some small changes in her vision signaled a recurrence of macular edema, an OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography, or imaging of the retina) showed that the back portion of her eye looks normal.  (Praise the Lord!) Overall, Anna is doing well.  (I hope that is good and hopeful news to JA parents who are trying to get a glimpse of what the future may hold for your children---I know that some children with Juvenile Arthritis have more pain and problems than Anna does, and others have had less issues.)

We have an end in sight for the braces---Anna is scheduled to get them off the first week of May.  Now that's exciting!  Just before prom and graduation!

Anna is a senior in high school, already taking college courses through the dual-enrollment program, and she is eager to enroll at Messiah College as a freshman this fall. Her current plan is to study Human Development and Family Studies, with a goal of becoming a Child Life Specialist at a Children's Hospital.  (This JA Journey has been significant in Anna's developing interest and passion for this field of study.)

Graduating from high school and moving into "adulthood" does not mean that Anna gets to "graduate" from Juvenile Arthritis and uveitis.  It does mean, however, that sometime in the summer, she will "graduate" from the pediatric rheumatology department where she has been seen (by the same doctor) since she was a toddler.  There is definitely sadness with this transition, but the positive side of this is that because her rheumatologist knows Anna so well, he has a good idea of the right fit for an adult rheumatologist.  He has a particular adult rheumatologist in mind for Anna.  We've learned to trust his judgment about so much--we're going to trust him with this, as well.

A friend of mine was telling me about a video she recently saw.  I watched it this evening, and thought that this is GOOD---going from fear to quiet confidence.  This video was talking about a job situation, but I also think it can be a description for all aspects of life. When we first started on this JA journey, there was so much uncertainly and fear.  (Sometimes, unexpected flares can be rather frightening, as well as changing medications, and new biologics, etc.) But watch this video (only 6 minutes!)---what if we aren't afraid?  What if this journey has been designed specifically for us by God?  He has walked beside us all along. He continues to walk with us.  We can approach the future (with the changes that are coming) with confidence.







Monday, December 14, 2015

The Unexpected Road . . . . .

We are on the rollercoaster again with this JA Journey.  We were so happy to take the Pred Forte eye drops "off the table" for Anna before Thanksgiving--about 3-4 weeks ago.  Anna has had clear eyes for several months now, and we were so hopeful that this good news would last for a long time.  I do remember that she had clear eyes without drops for almost two years before Humira stopped working for her (in early 2014), and I was hoping that we could get to that point again.

Even though Anna's uveitis is usually asymptomatic, over the weekend, I noticed that Anna's left eye was really bloodshot.  When I asked her about it (and started to think of everything that could cause this problem), Anna was telling me that her vision in that eye was different.  We contacted the ophthalmologist early Monday morning and were thankful that they had some cancellations in their schedule and could squeeze in an appointment for Anna.  The verdict:  2+ inflammation---in just 3-4 weeks without the Pred Forte eye drops (and no missed doses of Methotrexate or Remicade).  Anna is back on the steroid eye drops, 4x daily for at least the next week, and he will see us again on Tuesday.

I feel like Sunday was the worst day---knowing something wasn't quite right, but needing to wait another day to call the doctor.  Now we know the problem, and we have a plan.  That's a positive.

We still have so much to be thankful for.  A bloodshot eye that made me ask Anna some questions.  Cancellations at the doctor's office that made some space for Anna to be seen early this morning, so we didn't have to spend more hours wondering and worrying.  I once heard someone challenge us to ask God to reveal Himself to us, because that's what He's all about---He really wants us to know Him---how much He loves and cares about us.  In the middle of unexpected difficulties, we can still find some positives--we see evidence of Him working.  He helps us work through the worry to come to a point of peace and calm.

We always appreciate your prayers for Anna!

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Smiles, Joy, Hope . . . . . and shifting focus for now.

After nearly two years of uveitis, macular edema, and jaw reconstruction surgery overwhelming our thoughts and our lives, we are finally on a even keel and peaceful section of this JA journey. Since I last posted, Anna has had a Remicade appointment, a visit to the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic to adjust some brackets and wires, and a visit to her ophthalmologist.  That was a great visit!  Both eyes were still clear, so we took a step by eliminating the Pred Forte drops.  First time to be totally off Pred Forte drops since January 2014.  Now that is worth celebrating!!! (After almost a year of seeing the ophthalmologist and his office staff every 2-6 weeks, we now don't have to go back for awhile---I cheerfully told them, "Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!  We'll see you later!")

So how does Anna keep busy when she doesn't have many medical appointments to fill her time? Besides her high school classes, attending football and now basketball games to participate in the student cheering section, she has been working diligently at a particular piece of music for District Band auditions last Saturday.  Some of you know that this was actually a concern for me.  Anna had a 2-month hiatus from playing her instrument in August and September--and into October. When she picked up the bassoon again after her jaw reconstruction, she had to get used to her teeth feeling different.  They were now in a different position, so she had to find a new and comfortable position for them as she plays her bassoon.  When she would practice long and diligently, she could feel her jaw swelling.  One evening, after playing for well over an hour, she said she could feel a lot of pressure in her jaw.  (Another night, she began putting her instrument away after ten minutes of playing, because her jaw was already beginning to swell.)  I was continually recommending ibuprofen.  But the great news is that she successfully made it through auditions!  She will have about six weeks in January and February that will be intensive in learning music and playing her bassoon for District Orchestra, District Band, and for County Band.  I know some of you pray for Anna a lot (Thank you!).  If you think of her after the new year, you can pray for her about these musical festivals and the well being of her jaws and her stamina.  Just one full day of auditions wiped her out physically.  As I look at the schedules for these festivals she will be participating in, I can see that she will be very busy, and I know already that she will be exhausted once these two-day events are over.  But we know that God promises to go before her, and He will give her strength as she needs it.  (Since beginning Remicade, there are times when she will go to bed early and sleep for 12 hours straight if she doesn't have to get up for anything like school or church.)  She will just need a day or two of sleep once she returns home.

Despite these little concerns I have about the music festivals, I am SO very glad that she once again has these opportunities--especially during her senior year of high school.  And two of the three festivals will be over before her college class begins, so that will greatly help.

For now, we are focusing on preparing our hearts and our home for the Christmas season. We love this time of celebrating the birth of Jesus with family and friends---knowing that because of Him, we can truly have hope and joy along this journey of life---through the good times and in the tough times, as well.  We have experienced His love and His peace (more each year, as He shows us His mercy and grace continually), and as I say in this year's Christmas card, it is our joy to worship and celebrate Him daily, but even more so during this season.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Moving Right Along, and Some Realities of Remicade

Anna and her brother, Joel

Anna continues to make post-surgery progress.  She tried eating some Chex Mix last week, and decided that she is now ready to eat chips and snacks again.  Today she asked if we could eat at Texas Roadhouse---her first attempt at eating steak since her surgery.  She can do it, as long as she cuts it into tiny pieces and takes her time.  That's the key to eating for her (and I believe we as a family have all slowed down our eating a bit, so that Anna is not left eating alone at the end of a meal---and that's a good habit).  I remember about two months ago, the orthodontist told Anna that by October, she would feel almost normal again, and be able to eat almost all of her normal foods.  He was right!  Patience and perseverance.  That's what it took.

The only medical-related appointment for Anna over the past few weeks was her Remicade infusion on Friday afternoon.  We had scheduled it so that Anna could participate in a field trip to the Carlisle Army War College that day.  She had a great time and had much to tell me and show me (from pictures from her phone) and exclaim about when I picked her up. It was a beautiful day on Friday for a field trip, and the students were outside all day in the wind, touring and walking and visiting the interesting outdoor, interactive museum on the grounds.  On the 20-mile drive to Hershey for her Remicade treatment, she became increasingly subdued, prompting me to ask her several times if she was doing okay.  She was just tired and wiped out.  And then a few hours of Remicade dripping into her body increased her tiredness.  Once we arrived home at 8:30 p.m., she went straight to bed and slept for 12 hours.

This is the reality of Remicade for Anna.  Whenever she has a long day (even though it may be filled with fun and interesting moments), her body needs adequate time to recover---usually a "day for a day" as I've noticed. We take the bad with the good.  The Remicade infusions allow Anna to have the vision to fully enjoy field trips and other pleasures.  So I'm thankful for Remicade to some degree.  I get concerned as a mom when she is abnormally quiet and subdued.  But I'm learning to accept that and know that "this, too, shall pass---with adequate rest." I'm a realist.

We want to thank everyone who prays for Anna and for us.  We know that there are times when the Lord is carrying us through the challenging times and giving us peace and sometimes working to adjust our attitudes.  We have so much to be grateful for---like the fact that Remicade even exists and is helping to control Anna's uveitis.  And for the insurance that covers the cost of the Remicade (I was astonished when I saw a recent insurance statement which had the cost listed, and it humbled me to know that this cost has been covered by Anna's two insurances---I know I cannot take that for granted.)

Sunday, October 11, 2015

More Good Appointments

We had a very busy week with a trip to Lancaster (follow-up on the surgery and orthodontics) and a trip to Hershey, to the retina specialist (besides school for Anna, work for me, a football game for Anna, and her last high school homecoming dance). The orthodontist at the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic continues to be very pleased with the healing process from the reconstruction surgery.  The retina specialist gave us very good
news that Anna's eyes remain clear of inflammation. Because Anna has been back on her medication regimen for just six weeks, the retina specialist does not want to rush to make any changes. We'll continue with one Pred Forte eye drop daily and Prolensa eye drops twice daily, plus the weekly Methotrexate and then Remicade every four weeks. When Anna sees the ophthalmologist in early November, we may be able to stop the Pred Forte eye drop at that point.  The first priority is to get her off the steroid drop.

I sometimes think back to 2014, when Anna's uveitis flared so badly because she failed Humira after five years. (It was this time last year that we flew up to Boston to have a consultation appointment with Dr. Foster regarding Anna's prolonged eye inflammation and resulting macular edema.)  It's very likely that Anna's system built up antibodies against Humira at the end of 2013, and there's no guarantee that this will not happen with other biologics over time; in fact, it is likely. However, we will take things as they come and be thankful today that her eyes and joints are quiet and that she continues to heal from surgery.  She did find out that her face is still rather tender when she went to rub foundation onto her skin in preparation for homecoming (she doesn't usually wear much makeup). She still has one area of numbness, but most of the rest of the numbness has subsided.  She tried biting into a Pita cracker recently, but she found that to be difficult, and decided that crackers will need to wait.  She WAS able to bite into a soft meatball sub this week, and she attempted to eat chips.  That took a while, but she did it!  Anna has also been making progress with her bassoon.  She returned to her private lessons this past week, and for now, she practices for shorter periods of time to build up her strength and stamina.

Even though the reconstruction surgery was a major circumstance in our lives this year, it feels like we're on the downhill trek of a very tall mountain.  But life is full of mountains and valleys---of hard times and circumstances and easier times when we can relax and take a breath. For now, we are appreciating some time to breathe a little easier, to enjoy the time when we are not needing to process so much new medical information and weighing the opinions of different specialists.  A time to enjoy some of the normal things of life---like autumn breezes and homecoming football games and times around a fire pit with friends.

I've been working on knowing God's Word better, and even though my brain is older and memorizing is more difficult than it used to be, I've been working on that, too, as various verses and passages speak to my heart.  Over the past few months, I've been working on memorizing one passage in particular.  This is encouragement for all aspects of life, whether it's a chronic condition, or other difficult times (we all deal with hardship and messes in life!)  Whatever your circumstances, remember this:

"Be on guard.
Stand firm in the faith.
Be courageous.
Be strong.
And do everything with love."
1 Corinthians 16:13-14




Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Reflection, Recommended Reading, and a Brief Update

There are some days when I realize how long we've been on this journey that we've been called to travel.  Anna was diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis just before her second birthday. This past week, she celebrated her 18th birthday. Obviously, this road does not end on any certain birthday. So we continue.

In the very early days (back in 1999), I came across the following verses from the Bible, and at the time--in that moment--it seemed like a direct message just to me (from 2 Corinthians 1, from the New Living Translation):

God Offers Comfort to All

All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.

When I read that in 1999, I was definitely feeling mired in our "troubles," (the shock of having a child diagnosed with a chronic disease that will not be fixed with ten days of medication) and these verses were (and still are) a huge comfort to me. We've grown and matured since then, and while the road is not always easy, Jesus gives us strength and peace when we have none to offer in and of ourselves.  He holds us up when we feel rather weak.  We have always prayed that in all that we go through, in everything we do, that we will see who God is.  And we have.  Our prayer has also been that others will be able to know the love and presence and comfort of God through our circumstances, as well.

I am humbled when our experiences have been able to help other moms (and dads, too!). There are newly diagnosed JA children all the time, and parents who at first are in shock, who feel alone, who are overwhelmed by trying to understand this diagnosis and its implications, who are wondering what the future holds for their child.  They get a lot of information from great pediatric rheumatologists and their nurses, but sometimes they just need to hear stories from other parents who have been where they are.  We can help with basic information, comfort, encouragement, and hope that the future does not need to be bleak.  We have groups on Facebook, where information and encouragement and support is shared.  There are family-oriented conferences and activities offered by the Arthritis Foundation and some other groups.

And for those parents who are wanting to read everything they can, I do have some recommended reading---books which have been great sources for me.  One book which explains a whole lot about muscle, bone, and joint pain; rheumatic diseases, and the latest treatments as of 2004, when the book was written by Thomas J. A. Lehman, MD.  (Believe me, a lot has changed in treatment in the last 11 years, but this book is still excellent, and written to the audience of parents---in language we understand!)  I just saw on-line that Dr. Lehman has another book available, "A Parent's Guide to Rheumatic Disease in Children."  I just ordered that one from Amazon.com.  This is a newer book, published in 2008.

A book that doesn't speak to rheumatic diseases, but to discussing why God doesn't always choose to immediately fix all of our problems and troubles is by Laura Story:  "When God Doesn't Fix It."  This book just came out a few weeks ago, and I ordered it and read it last weekend.  As I was reading, in my head, I kept saying, "Yes! Yes! and Amen!"  So much truth and love in this book.  It is one of those books where you want to quote a multitude of her sentences to your friends and family!  So much so that I am just recommending that everyone read the book for themselves.  Laura Story is a singer/songwriter, and I also recommend her music---so much of what she has learned and heard from God is written into her songs, and this love and truth just sinks into my soul as I listen (usually when I'm working in my kitchen---that's when I usually put music on.)

To all JA parents and families---let's continue on this journey with hope, with a sense of calling, with the truth of God's love and comfort throughout the entire road, but especially in the rough patches along the way.  We can have a good cry every now and then (sometimes I just need some "moments" or "a day" to deal with some of the rough detours before I'm ready to get up and move forward), but we have something to offer to each other:  encouragement, advice, support.

Oh---and an update on Anna!  She's beginning to regain some feeling in her lips and gums and face, although she still has some areas that are numb.  (This is to be expected.)  She still needs to be careful with what she eats---still can't bite into a lot of things.  She was hungry for a good hamburger today, but ordered a hamburger steak, since she knew she would have to cut it up in little pieces and eat it with a fork. Anna just had a Remicade infusion a few days ago, and they took blood work, and this time, her doctor asked for some more specific numbers to check on her iron levels.  Although her hemoglobin, hematocrit, and red blood cell count were all just a little low, they were not far from the normal range.  That is good news, since there have been some days when she has seemed rather pale and tired.  We'll continue with the iron supplements for now.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Getting Her Smile Back . . . .

Photo courtesy of Joel Zeigler, Anna's brother
It's been eight days since Anna has been able to eat more than a liquid diet.  She's still very thin, and is taking daily iron supplements to get ahead of the lower count of her red blood cells (she'll get more labs done next Friday, to see where those numbers are).  She's becoming more accustomed to removing and replacing her current elastics whenever she eats.  She's adjusting to the fact (and the feel) that her teeth actually meet when she closes her mouth (all around).  Although she's not yet eating crunchy food or food that you need to really bite into, she's appreciating bread and soft cookies and some other foods that she really missed.  AND . . . . she picked up her bassoon this week for the first time in over five weeks.  A band concert is coming up in November.  Auditions for District Band will take place in early December.

As we expected, life (including playing the bassoon) does not instantly go "back to normal" following jaw surgery.  Both the upper and lower jaw were each moved---the lower jaw was advanced by 8 mm.  The upper jaw was moved up (I think by 3 mm---I don't have the paper in front of me), and advanced by several mm.  (I think about 5 mm).  So that means that the inside of Anna's mouth is different than it was six weeks ago.  And that means that she now has to learn a new way of positioning her lips and her mouth when she plays her instrument.  She will get there---the first time was a challenge, and she said had some swelling after her Symphonic Band class yesterday, and her teeth and mouth really hurt. She really does want to finish strong this year with her bassoon.

Despite the challenges, Anna is enjoying her senior year! She visited the cross country team at one of their home meets. She was on the team for two years---Remicade infusions wipe her out---there's no way she would be able to get through the two weeks of pre-season intensive training and then the six-week season of racing.  She's enjoying being a part of the student section at football games and soccer games.

I'm thinking about doing a post on highly recommended books.  I may do that next week.  I'm in the middle of reading an excellent book---not about Juvenile Arthritis, but about hardships in life.  I hope to finish it tonight.  So many truths in this book, and a perspective that so many of us can learn from and appreciate!  Stay tuned . . . . .

Thursday, September 10, 2015

More Steps Forward . . .

In the past ten days, along with a school schedule, a college course, visiting with family, a holiday, etc., we've also fit in two trips to Lancaster and two trips to Hershey for appointments.  Whew!  It's been a bit hectic with a lot of travel time (and time off work for me and school for Anna), but it's been good, as well.  As of last Friday (not quite four weeks from surgery, at that point), Anna lost seven pounds---and that's with drinking milkshakes at least every other day, plus finding other foods to puree into liquid.  Most of her swelling has receded, although she occasionally has some that comes and goes---I've been told that it's quite normal after surgery.

One appointment was with the ophthalmologist---the first check of Anna's eyes since before her surgery.  We are so thankful and relieved that both eyes are clear of inflammation, and that is with a brief hiatus (before and after surgery) from her systemic medications.  Her pressures were good, too!  We are decreasing the frequency of the Pred Forte eye drops, and if the inflammation does not recur in a few weeks, we will try to stop that drop altogether.  After that . . . . well, let's just say that there are plans and possibilities after that, but I've learned over the years that sometimes it's best not to look too far into the future, but take one appointment at a time.  (Yet, it's fun and hopeful to think of decreasing meds in the future!)

Today, Anna had the heavy bands removed.  The removal (and subsequent freedom for her jaw) has meant a bit of pressure, but little pain.  She does need to use elastics in a different part of her mouth, but these are thinner and allow for movement, and she can take them out when she's eating.  Which means the liquid diet is officially over!  We stopped at Panera Bread on the way home, and Anna ate some chicken noodle soup (with chicken & veggies for the first time in weeks!) and a dinner roll, and a soft chocolate chip muffin!  Tonight for supper she had spaghetti and soft brownies. This is a huge step for her, after being on a liquid diet for over four weeks!  (She often commented these past few weeks that she would never take eating for granted again.)

She still cannot open her jaw really wide.  That will come in time.  Her lips and teeth and gums are still numb, and so it's a learning process to be able to chew again (a different experience when you can't feel some parts that used to have feeling).  It is most likely that feeling WILL return in her teeth, lips, and gums---it will just take time.  She still has quite a lot of metal in her mouth.  But we will return to Lancaster in three weeks, and they will take out all the wires with the hooks needed for surgery, and put different wires in.

Our time at the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic was different today.  The orthodontist is out for three weeks, so they only have select patients coming in (rather than a roomful).  The orthodontist left specific instructions for the patients who are coming in during his absence (so the assistants knew exactly what needed to be done for Anna this morning).  It was unusually quiet in the office, but provided a chance for some conversation with the assistant---with her sharing a little bit about how she came to be there, and talking about how the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic being in existence by miracles, really.  (This exchange was one of those God-moment conversations---for those of you have also experienced conversations where the Lord is speaking directly to you through other people, and at least one of you is aware of the significance of the words being said.)  The Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic is a non-profit organization, providing hope for so many children and youth who have major jaw and teeth issues, all the while existing on donations and what insurances pay them and on a little bit of state funding and fundraising.  As she shared some specifics, I was reminded of how God works---and He has truly been instrumental in providing people and equipment, etc. to this wonderful organization that does so much good.

As we travel this journey (and some of the other journeys in the life of our family), I am constantly praying, asking not only for guidance, direction, and peace, but also for God to reveal Himself---to see glimpses of His presence as we walk along. (He WANTS us to see and know and experience Him and His love for us.)  I've experienced this a lot in my life, and I continually want to know that He is present and that we are following Him.  In this very brief conversation with the LCPC assistant (probably less than five minutes), I did see a glimpse of His presence today---and affirmation that He has been working to provide for the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic, not only for Anna, but for all of those other patients who need them.  I try to adhere to Henry Blackaby's advice:  "Find out where God is working, and join Him in that work."  Well, I  am not at a point where I can join the LCPC in their work (I don't have funds to donate, and I'm not looking for a new job), but Jesus seemed to be smiling down today and saying, "I am definitely at work with this place.  I am here."

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Clarity on Things Past and Things to Come

Anna at LCPC, reading a book, waiting for the surgeon to arrive
So today was Anna's eagerly anticipated appointment at the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic with the team.  (It is awesome to have two specialists present at the same time!  In a perfect world, we would have all of her specialists together at every appointment, but I know that's unrealistic.)  We listened a lot today.  We didn't even have to ask the surgeon what made Anna's lower jaw so difficult, because he was explaining that to the orthodontist in response to a question.  Evidently, Anna wins the prize for the most times he had to re-position that lower jaw during surgery.  The surgeon still has a rather serious face and tone when he talks about that part of Anna's surgery.  We also found out that even though the surgeon had planned for and prepared for cutting the upper jaw (maybe palate is a better term for that) into two pieces before re-positioning, he didn't need to do that.

Both the orthodontist and the surgeon are very pleased with the results of the surgery so far.  The orthodontist and his assistant both commented on how good Anna looked today. When the surgeon arrived, the orthodontist told him, "Looks like you hit a 'home run' with this one!"

The biggest question of the day:  Would the bands come off today?  After much discussion, the answer is 'no.'  While she is healing well and looking good, Dr. M. (the surgeon) feels like we have way too much invested in this (especially with all of the difficulties and the time he spent in the OR with her) to take a chance in taking the bands off.  It's been just three weeks since the surgery.  So we made an appointment for September 10th.  That's the day.  Anna can do this!  While she was a bit disappointed, she has rallied with a great attitude and plans to come up with interesting and nutritious food in liquid form to consume until September 10th.  The orthodontist reassured her that by October, she should feel almost normal, be able to eat almost anything, and have a good range of motion (get back to playing the bassoon), etc.  October isn't that far away.  We can do this!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Patience in the Journey . . . . .Moving Forward

Anna was more than ready to go back to school on the first day (this past Monday).  She seems to have adjusted well to interacting with her friends and other people with her mouth banded shut. She began taking Methotrexate again last Sunday, and she had her first post-surgery Remicade infusion this past Friday.  One little hitch in the journey has been her labwork, showing some slight abnormalities.  Although it's not at a point where it's a major concern, we have been brainstorming this morning on how to add more iron to Anna's food intake.  Her doctor's suggestion has been to use iron-fortified baby cereal, and we may, indeed try that.  For today, she started adding spinach into some of the foods she purees together.  Anna's thought is, "Let's wait until Tuesday" before we go out and purchase more iron-rich foods.  (We do have some of those "green" juices at home, which she began drinking today.)  Tuesday is the day we head back to the Lancaster Cleft Palate Clinic, where we will get an idea of when the bands can come off.

In the meantime, Anna has been longing for some foods.  She asked for goulash the other night.  She pureed (and then strained) her share, but when I put the dish on the table for the rest of us, she sighed and said, "Oh, that looks SO good."  She's been enjoying milkshakes and ice cream and frozen yogurt, but tonight she was hungry for brownies. We got creative---knowing we had to cook the batter a little bit, because of the eggs.  So she baked the brownies for 10 minutes, then put some of it in the juicer and added milk and an Atkins liquid protein drink until it was liquefied enough to drink.  She was more than satisfied with the end result!

She began making a list on her little white board of foods that she really misses eating: chocolate chip cookies, muffins, bread, pasta, salad, brownies, pop tarts, real mashed potatoes (instead of liquefying them with more milk), a Subway meatball sub, and licking peanut butter and ice cream off the spoon!  She can't lick envelopes, either, since her tongue is trapped behind her teeth---she got her brother to help lick the envelopes of the thank you notes she was writing.

This, too, shall pass.  It's only for a little while.  We continue to be surrounded and uplifted by the prayers of so many.  Each day brings progress.  The Lord continues to go before us, guiding us, directing us, and helping us to stay positive and not wallow, and to inspire us (especially Anna) with creativity despite her current limitations.