52 Memories in 52 Weeks

First off, happy new year!

I don't know about you, but for me, 2016 quietly snuck in. 2015 ended with a lot packed in and it made the last few months blur together. In the last few months we unexpectedly found our (fixer upper) dream home — sold our townhouse — moved in — my entire department at work was put on furlough — and now here I am...sitting at my computer typing and wondering where the last few months have gone.

Many of you aren't aware of the furlough situation and at the beginning I was completely stressed and overwhelmed by it, and didn't want to even talk about it. But, what I've come to discover is that it was such a blessing in disguise because I've got to spend the last six weeks at home with Husband and Valor. We've had family time, time to do projects, time to settle into the #herrickhome, and the best of all...I got to be home while Valor has been learning to walk! I'm heading back to work on Monday with very mixed emotions. I'm excited and thankful to have my position to go back to but sad that this precious time at home with Valor is coming to a close.

Time is a thief and I want to make some seriously great memories in 2016. As we walk into a very unknown year, which is sure to have lots of adventure, I want to create 52 memories in 52 weeks. Thanks to Chatbooks for such a great idea as we kick off a new trip around the sun.

Wait, hold on...do you know about Chatbooks? Oh my, it is only the most amazing subscription service! It is the greatest way for busy mamas (not exclusively for mamas) to have photo albums without any work — literally. Super-easy and super-affordable. Chatbooks make the cutest little bound books of your social media and phone pictures into a done-for-you photo book series.

Ever since Valor was born I wanted to documented his life story and just couldn't find a way to manage such a large project. It was just too much work with the mass amount of photos I was taking on a daily basis. I wanted a photo album of my images but also wanted to make notes and date each one. And that was just too time consuming of a task for this working mama...until I discovered Chatbooks. It truly is a set it and forget it automated service! Each time I have 60 photos a new book is printed and mailed right to our doorstop. No sweat. Would you like to try  Chatbooks out for yourself? Subscribe and use discount code PNUHLFPN to get your first book free.

So now that you know about Chatbooks, back to the most fun New Year's resolution I'll ever make...#52Memories. Every Monday, Chatbooks will be sending out an email with an activity or experience we can do that week. The weekly challenges will include everything from whipping up a new smoothie to pulling out board games or even impromptu parties. 2016 is going to be the year of new experiences — whether big or small — and super memorable.

To sign-up, just go to chatbooks.com/52Memories. Who's in?

This is not a sponsored post, and all opinions are my own.

Introducing the Herrick Home

If you would have told me a year ago that it would be nearly 12 months until my next blog post, I would never have believed it. But as other mamas know, life gets busier when you add a kiddo into the mix. Especially once they start cruising through the house like they own it all. Anyway, let's see...where did we leave off? Valor's six month birthday. Since then here is what's been going on:

  • Valor got his DOC band and wore it for three months
  • Celebrated our six year wedding anniversary
  • Nick and I both stood up in my sister's wedding
  • Valor was dedicated at church
  • Valor's got his first (and second) haircut and now desperately needs a third!
  • Had a big huge 1st birthday party
  • Valor was discharged from feeding therapy — but still continues his weekly aquatic, occupational and physical therapies
  • Found our (fixer upper) dream house unexpectedly
  • Decided to put our townhouse up on the market to see if it would sell...and it did within one weekend — so we bought our dream house
  • And that about brings you up-to-date, in a very brief sense!

So here we are...living in a major project. Our #herrickhome (follow our hashtag on Instagram!) was built in 1957 and is an all original quad-level home sitting on a half-acre lot. We live across the street from an awesome park with a pond for wintertime iceskating, our backyard backs up to the elementary school's soccer field, and literally around the corner from my parents. The couple who sold us the house are in their 90's and needed to downsize. The husband was a photographer and purchased this house in his 20's for $15,000... too bad we couldn't have purchased it for that price! Haha. Anyway, I wish the walls could talk because I know this house was always full since the couple then raised their family of five daughters here. I know the history is fascinating, but let's get to the good stuff...photos! Agreed?

I know the house isn't much to look at now, but I have a big vision for this place. And I will share as we go along.

Eventually we will say adios to the (not my favorite) brown siding.

I love the roof line of this house.

Space for our dining room and formal living room.

All I have to say about this kitchen is...I can't wait until we start swinging a sledge hammer!

This wall and the kitchen peninsula are both going to be taken out during the kitchen renovation. Currently, only the bottom half of the oven heats up.

This is the breakfast nook that we will be eliminating to increase the kitchen space.

Casual family room. Since moving in, we have replaced the carpet (we found asbestos tile underneath!), and Nick and my dad have worked long hours painting all the trim and paneling. If you follow me on Instagram, you've seen how good it looks now!

Stairway to heaven bathroom, off of the family room. 

Upstairs landing that is quite spacious! Any suggestions with what should be done with this space? Or should we just leave it open? I'm leaning towards just open and maybe put our gallery wall up there on the left.

Retro green and pink bathroom. When we renovate this space, I want to keep the vanity — it's angled and I love it!

The lighting in this bathroom gets all the heart eyes!

Bedroom/Office — Since moving in, this room has been painted and the carpet has been removed to reveal wood flooring.

Valor's Room — This room has also been painted and Nick removed the carpet.

Master bedroom and the entryway into the fourth bedroom.

Fourth Bedroom — Eventually we would like to knock out the wall between the master and this fourth bedroom. During that renovation we will also construct a master bath and walk-in closet. Currently, the closet is less than desirable. 

Utility Room

We are currently using this space for storage and house project central, but in the next year we hope to replace the flooring, give this room a nice paint job and turn this into a huge playroom for Valor.

Upper deck

Lower patio. I can't wait for backyard dinners and parties this summer!

So there you have it...the grand tour of the #herrickhome. Stay tuned in as we make progress on our fixer upper.

Happy Half Birthday

Dearest Valor,

Happy six months. The time has gone by in a blur! Last night we celebrated your six months of life with a party! You wore a red felt crown with "1/2" proudly on the front. Your Papa, Grandma, Aunt Joy and Uncle Jeremy all came to celebrate you. You opened presents and I made a half cake — dark chocolate layered with raspberry filling and chocolate buttercream frosting.

I cannot believe how many things you've learned to do in the last month! While sucking on your fingers, you've finally found your thumb. You learned how to roll over, tummy to back. Speaking of tummy, you're doing so much better at tummy-time and it makes me so proud. You've been working so hard at it! While laying on your back you can roll side-to-side. You are now reaching out to grab toys and are able to hold onto them. Baby boy, you have the biggest greatest smiles, now paired with screeches of joy! Your lungs are strong and can produce loud, happy screams. You've started to reach towards your toes and you'll probably fully discover them this next month.

I am so happy you are my little boy! You are loved — always and forever,

Perfectly Imperfect

We have all heard that no two snowflakes are alike. Each snowflake takes the perfect form for the maximum efficiency and effectiveness for its journey. And while the universal force of gravity gives them a shared destination, the expansive space in the air gives each snowflake the opportunity to take their own path. They are on the same journey, but each takes a different path.

Along this gravity-driven journey, some snowflakes collide and damage each other, some collide and join together, some are influenced by wind...there are so many transitions and changes that take place along the journey of the snowflake. But, no matter what the transition, the snowflake always finds itself perfectly shaped for its journey.

I find parallels in nature to be a beautiful reflection of grand orchestration. One of these parallels is of snowflakes and us. We, too, are all headed in the same direction...We are all individuals taking different journeys and along our journey, we sometimes bump into each other, we cross paths, we become altered...we take different physical forms. But at all times we too are 100% perfectly imperfect. 

—Steve Maraboli

In mamahood, we all have the same destination — We all love our littles and want the very best for them. But each journey with our families looks a little different. As you've probably read, Valor's birth story was not like one you've heard of before. From the beginning, we have definitely been on an individual journey.

Our journey so far has been a hard one, but also an oh so good one! We started off knocking on death's door, but became a blessed little family of three. All of the hard things and all of the good things make me so thankful for the promise of a God who loves my baby even more than I do (hard to fathom). This brings me so much peace in the midst of fear and struggle. When we brought our baby Valor home from the NICU and received the green light from the neuro surgeon, I thought that we were home free. Wrong. So wrong. Maybe this is God's reminder that I am not in control, but he is.

Two Months Old

At Valor's two month well-baby visit I brought up a small concern (that I hadn't researched and didn't know it was a serious issue at the time) – that he preferred the right side of his head and there was a slight flatness. Valor always kept his head to the right, whether he was sleeping, being held or laying on the floor to play. The pediatrician completed the check-up and diagnosed Valor with torticollis and plagiocephaly.

Torticollis is basically an asymmetrically tight neck, keeping the baby's head to one side. Plagiocephaly is a condition commonly seen in preemies and NICU babies, where a portion of the head becomes flattened. This is often due to the fact that preemies have extra soft heads and are confined to their isolette. Valor's case was also irritated by his torticollis, constantly laying on the right side of his head and not rotating between the two sides.

With these diagnoses, we immediately started Valor in physical therapy at a local rehabilitation hospital's outpatient department. The goal for physical therapy was to treat Valor's head preference with positional adjustments. Over the last four months Husband and I have worked diligently on home exercises to help Valor work out his tight neck and side preference.

Five Months Old

Now fast forward to this month...We had Early Intervention come to our home to evaluate Valor's development. What I suspected was true...mama knows best...Valor qualified for weekly occupational and physical therapy (OT/PT) in our home. Thankfully all the work we've been doing daily with Valor has significantly helped his head preference, and now he has a full range of motion in his neck. But, I'm starting to realize if it isn't one thing, it's another. During the evaluation, Valor's plagiocephaly was brought up and suggested we go for a DOC band consult (a cranial orthotic or helmet). This is not what I wanted to hear. I knew, deep down, that Valor's flat spot, even though it was a little better, was still present. While Husband and I were hoping that the physical therapy and continual positional changes would solve the plagiocephaly, unfortunately this did not fully solve Valor's issues.

As a mama, you wrack your brain and think if there is anything else you could have done to help. No one wants their little one wearing a cranial band. Thankfully I know we've done everything within our control to help Valor's torticollis and plagiocephaly. Unfortunately the "Back to Sleep" campaign has been a huge culprit of plagiocephaly. On the one end, it has significantly decreased the incidences of SIDS, but unfortunately the rate of plagiocephaly has sky rocketed. This explains why more and more children are wearing these bands.

Cranial Band Consultation

Following Early Intervention's recommendation, I made an appointment for a cranial band consultation. At the appointment, an analysis of Valor's head shape was made with the use of anthropometric measurements and a photo study. Of course we were hoping that they would say Valor's case was mild, that he was fine and his head would round out as he got bigger. Unfortunately they classified his plagiocephaly case on the high end of moderate. The recommendation was that we move forward with the band treatment.

Insert a lot of mama tears here.

As we walked out of the appointment, tears filled my eyes. That is not what I wanted to hear. I didn't want my beautiful baby boy to have to go through a few months of having to wear a cranial band 23 hours a day. Would he be uncomfortable? Would it be life altering for our family? Would it destroy Valor's (pretty) good sleep patterns? Would my little one get strange looks in public? Talk about an emotional roller coaster. Knowing that my son needs to go through something else (again) that the average kiddo doesn't have to go through is heartbreaking.

Since the consultation, Husband and I have prayed and talked and talked and talked about the pros and cons of the treatment. We've talked to his pediatrician, neuro surgeon, physical therapist, family members and friends who we trust. What a difficult decision to make. Another major issue is that the treatment is not covered under our health insurance plan. Like all medical treatments, it comes at a big cost. Husband and I are still buried with medical bills from my hospitalization, Valor's birth, NICU stay and subsequent specialists visits. Valor has been blessed with the sweetest, most caring and loving great-grandparents. Not only do his great-grandparents pray daily for him, but they have made our decision much easier because they are paying for his treatment. With the financial burden erased, we've decided there are way more long-term pros than cons. Actually, all the cons we came up with were short-term. It breaks my heart knowing Valor needs this cranial band, but like any parent, we are choosing the best avenue for our son's future.

Cranial Band DSi

Since deciding to move forward with the band for Valor, the next step was to get the final measurements of Valor's head. The office used a state-of-the-art imaging system called a digital surface imaging (DSi) to capture a 360-degree image and measurements of Valor's head to accurately create his custom-fitted band.

We will be taking Valor to get his band on Tuesday — the day after his six month birthday. Great birthday present, huh?

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in Valor will carry it on to completion, until the day of Christ Jesus. —Philippians 1:6

This journey our little family is on has been bittersweet.

Bitter because it has been so stinking hard. And sometimes, when I let myself go there..it has been downright unfair. Why did my appendix have to rupture, putting myself and baby's life at risk? Why did Valor have to come early and spend the beginning of his life in a NICU? Why do we have to take our little guy to four appointments a week (cranial band sizings on Tuesdays, occupational therapy on Wednesdays, physical therapy on Thursdays and Fridays)? But mostly, why does our little guy have to go through all this hard stuff while all his peers are hanging out at the park and having playdates? ...I could go on.

Sweet because this is our unique journey. Sweet because the hard stuff is just bonding us and strengthening our tiny family of three. Even though it has been incredibly hard and time consuming, we have the support of our family and friends.

When I get fixated on the bitter, I remind myself to be thankful that Valor is healthy and for the availability of services he is receiving. I know for sure that this is just a period in time and once Valor gets finished with the band and therapies, he is going to meet and surpass the goals set before him.

Stay tuned for updates throughout this journey. And for those of you following along with my "Project 365"...now you know why I've not been so faithful with the project!

And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for Valor. —Matthew 6:30

Project 365 — Week 4/5

We have been in full whirlwind mode around our house lately. It all started with a trip to Indiana to visit family, a birthday party and a half marathon. But ever since we've been back, our days have been filled to the brim with appointments for Valor, and many prayers and discussions. With that being said, I am a little behind on the Project 365. So here's what I've been seeing through my lens recently: