Monday, October 26, 2015

T Graduates!!!

On May 16, 2015, T graduated from Edmond North High School at the ripe old age of 17.  She had a graduating class of 600 students, so it was quite the ceremony!!

A couple of weeks before the graduation ceremony, there was a Robing Ceremony.  I had never heard of such a thing, but it is a ceremony where the students receive their cap and gown.  The student chooses someone they admire to "robe" them on stage.  When we found out about the ceremony, T was stressing over who she should have place her robe on her.  She narrowed it down to R and chose him to participate in the robing ceremony.  This was a neat ceremony, and it really made us realize that graduation was actually coming!

After the robing ceremony, our next graduation activity was The Scholarship Ceremony at Oklahoma Christian University.  T was awarded a Dean's Scholarship at OC, and we are so proud of her!!
T accepting her scholarship award.  So very proud of this girl!!

And just so ALL the attention wasn't on his sister, Little R struck a quick pose afterwards!

Brother & Sister are very proud of T, too!
The week before graduation, we had a small party for T with friends.  She wanted dinner at The Garage (her favorite burger place), and then dessert at a friend's house.  These are the people we spend our normal weekends with, so of course they are our first choice for celebrating with!!
Sweet decorations made by friends!!  These boys can create anything from paper and Legos!
And then, before we knew it, it was graduation day!!  R was much more emotional than I was on this day.  The whole thing was so big (remember, 600 students??) and so impersonal that I just never felt too emotional about the whole thing.  I mean, graduation is what our kids are supposed to do, right?  It's what we've expected from her all along, right?  I can say I am very proud of the way she graduated though.  This girl has been to 10 different schools in her lifetime.  She started high school in Germany, and it wasn't a great experience.  Those two years were difficult on many levels for her.  But we moved back to the States before her junior year, and she turned it all around!  She graduated with a 3.5+ GPA, and scored a 28 (31 in English) on her ACT.  She is one very resilient girl!! 
Pre-graduation photo shoot with MiMi & PaPa

And Grandma & Grandpa Craig, who came all the way from North Carolina!

My heart!!

Group pic!!

Filing into their seats.  The procession of graduates walking through the stadium took probably 20 minutes, at least!!

Our view of the stage

Our girl!!

Getting that diploma

And now she's a graduate!!

So proud of you T!!!
After graduation, we had a small party at our NEW house!!  We moved in the weekend before, and R had to return to Lawton, and left me with a house full of boxes.  I had 6 days to get the house ready enough to host a graduation party!!  I can honestly say that I was literally just trying to survive through graduation at that point.  Probably the most exhausted I have been in my entire life!  I kept telling the kids that entire week, "If we can just get through graduation, things will be okay." 

But all the hard work was worth it.  We had a house full of family and friends, celebrating this big accomplishment with our girl!  We loved having everyone here, and of course we loved celebrating with T.

This girl is going to go far!!  She is so talented, and so very smart!  If she realized even half her greatness, she would be unstoppable!  Someday I pray that she can see just how talented and special she is.  I know that God has great plans for has been obvious all along!  I can't wait to watch her go out into this world, outside of our home, and show the world what she's made of!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The C Word

The most significant, stressful, life-changing event of our recent life occurred in May/June of this year.  Looking back on it, it was really a crazy whirlwind from start to finish.

R was having his yearly check up done in May.  When blood work came back, he noticed some of his levels were just a bit off.  He researched what the "off" levels could mean, and everything pointed to kidney function.  R's grandfather died of kidney cancer, so this was alarming to him.  When he went for the follow up appointment to go over the blood work with his doctor, he mentioned the numbers being slightly off.  The doctor wasn't concerned, but R was. 

So, to make R feel better, his PCM scheduled an ultrasound to check his kidneys and make sure everything looked okay.  After the ultrasound, R got a phone call that he needed to have a CT scan done because they saw something in the ultrasound.  They scheduled the CT quickly, which was alarming to us, since it is a military clinic, and they aren't known for promptness.

R went in and had the CT scan done, and within hours of the scan, he received a phone call telling him he needed to find a urologist. 

So, with some fast insurance work (again, rare for military insurance) he had a referral to a urologic oncologist the week before T's graduation. 

We met with the doctor, he showed us pictures of the scans, and told us R had a 5 cm mass on his left kidney.  He said it was big, it was ugly, and it wasn't in a convenient location.  He also informed us that 85% of the time, these masses are malignant.  He assured us that he was confident he could remove the mass, and hopefully save as much as he could of the kidney. We left that appointment with surgery scheduled for June 11th, the day before R's 44th birthday.

June 11th came, and off we went to the hospital!  Our only information was that the mass would be removed in a 2-4 hour surgery, hopefully the kidney would be saved, and we would stay 3-4 days in the hospital.  Pathology results would come within a week.

Dressed in his too small gown and ready for surgery!

The surgery went very well.  The doctor informed us that he was confident he got the entire tumor, and R only lost about 15% of his kidney, so that was great news!  We spent 4 days in the hospital, and then we were able to go home so R could recover there.  Before we left the hospital the doctor visited with us and told us that pathology results had shown what we already knew...the tumor was cancer...renal cell carcinoma.  Even though we knew it was highly probable it was cancer, we were praying we were that 15% that were we wouldn't have to carry that ugly C word around with us from now on. 

After surgery.  Nothing like seeing your big strong soldier in this position.  Hard to see him this way, but so grateful the tumor was found, and on his 44th birthday he was cancer free!

Up and walking!!  I had to use some "tough love" tactics on the big guy about getting up and walking.  He was reluctant at first, but in the end I won!!

After we left the hospital, we headed home for 4 weeks of convalescent leave, which the doctor extended to 6 weeks after R's first follow up appointment.  It was great having R home for the summer, but oh so tough, too!!  He wanted to be up doing things, and he just couldn't.  So we stayed home a lot more than we usually do in the summer, and spent some good quality time with him.  And then we all got tired of good quality time, and we were ready for things to get back to normal!! : )
Being together 24/7 when you aren't even used to living together is tough!!  But we made it through, and R headed back to work after 6 weeks.

Finally home and settled in!

This was my schedule for a while...waking up at crazy hours to give him his meds.  If you know me, and my NEED for sleep, you know that's love right there!! : )  Especially after 4 nights in a hospital, sleeping (term used loosely) on a bench!

His nice scar!!  He says when he has grandkids this will be his Vietnam story!  I told him a shark bite would be more believable! : )  We were actually amazed at how good his scar looks!

One of the hardest things during recovery?  Watching our wonderful friends mow the yard, since he couldn't!!  We are blessed with amazing friends who mowed our yard for us, brought us meals, and just overall showed us love!  And my parents were invaluable because they came and stayed with the kids while I was staying at the hospital with R.  There are very few people I trust with my kiddoes for an extended period, and they did a great job of holding down the fort while I was gone.

So...that's the beginning of our story with the ugly C word.   Now we're in the middle, where we wait, because unfortunately, the story isn't over.  R will get yearly CT scans to make sure the cancer doesn't return.  If we can make it to the 5-year mark, the odds of recurrence greatly diminish.  So for now, we are praising God for the discovery of the tumor (he had NO symptoms other than the blood work being off); the wonderful doctor who removed the tumor and saved his kidney, and made us feel confident and comfortable in his abilities; and the fact that R started a new year cancer free!  Now we pray he remains that way forever!! 

But we know God is good, all the time, and we rest in knowing that no matter what, He's with us!  So we will continue in the middle for now...happy to be together as a family, happy to have R here with us healthy, and happy to know we aren't alone!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Orange Beach 2.0

For summer vacation we decided to go to Orange Beach again this year.  We had such an amazing time last year, we decided we needed a Round 2!
All loaded up and ready to go!!

We rented the same condo as last year.  Fourth floor, with an amazing balcony overlooking the pool out onto the beach.
The view from our balcony.  If we weren't down at the water, we were out here watching it.  Great views of dolphins playing each morning.

We had an amazing week together as a family....very minimal technology...lots of togetherness.

Had to get our toes in the water immediately upon arrival!

We spent every morning down at the beach, and then we would retreat to the shaded pool in the afternoon/evening when we had had enough sun.  We all LOVE the beach...the sound of the ocean, the sand in our toes (except for R, he's totally NOT a fan of the sand), the sun on our face.  The beach is definitely our happy place.  And after a long, stressful couple of months this summer, we all needed the break!

Lots of these guys around this year.  We didn't see a single jellyfish our entire stay last year, but this time there were TONS of them.
Little R had an unfortunate incident with a jellyfish on the second day. Took him a while to get over it, but the next day he was right back out in the water!
The shady pool!

Smiles all around!!
More smiles!

What happens when your sister is a cheerleader?  You are forced to do stunts in the pool! : ) 
There were so many jellyfish, people were scooping them up and throwing them on the beach in piles!

A little sand castle action one afternoon...

And then some "bury your brother" action!

T had to spend a lot of time in the shade while we enjoyed the sun.  She is so fair, and she burns SOOO easily!  The umbrella man, sunscreen, and the Kindle were her best friends this week!

This time we cooked dinner each night in the condo, except for one night out for seafood.  Each kid got to pick a meal they wanted for dinner...we had Taco night, Fettucine Alfredo night, and Breakfast for Dinner night.  It was nice to prepare our meals and sit around the table together...loved it!!
We also had to visit Dairy Queen for ice cream a few times during the week.  It was right across the street from our was impossible to resist!

Dinner around the table...good times!

Doc's Seafood for our night out.  Wonderful food with a nice, casual atmosphere.  We will be back!

After dinner we either went back down to the pool or beach, or played games in the condo.  Lots of UNO, Scattergories, Taboo, and Pictionary were played this week!  I believe we set the record for the longest ever game of simply would.not.end!!  T and I were both begging for it to be over...we didn't even care who won any more!!  Great time, even though the competition level got a little heated a few times...and we had to remind ourselves it was just for fun!  We have a couple of members of our little fam that can't stand to lose, and will be pretty vindictive to make sure they don't. 

After dinner walk on the beach to watch the sunset.

Beautiful sunsets every evening!
This was right before the longest UNO game in the history of civilization!!

The last evening we were there we went down to the beach for a family photoshoot.  Little R was out of the mood pretty quick, but we still managed to get enough cute pictures for Christmas cards! : ) I'll post a few silly ones here, but you'll have to wait until Christmas to see the others!

I have no words for this one...

These kids simply have NO personality!! : )
After the photo shoot, we headed back to the condo to get packed up and ready to head out the next morning.  We were sad to say goodbye to this beautiful place, but we were so thankful for our time here as a family to relax and rejuvenate after a long, hard summer.
Our sad faces! All loaded up and headed home!
On our way out of town, we decided to stop at an amusement park.  They had go karts, bumper boats, and an arcade, so we thought it might be worth a try!  Little R got to drive his very own bumper boat, and he thought he was big stuff!!
In line for the go karts!  It was fun!
We took an alternate route home, so we could swing through Arkansas and see my parents.  They just happened to be having a parade in their town that evening, so we decided to go.  I love where I live, but it is always so nice to go back home.  I love where I come from, who I come from, and what I come from.  And I love for my kids to be able to experience a little bit of small town life sometimes.
Sittin' in the back of PaPa's truck, on the courthouse square, with a perfect view of the parade!

Collecting candy...added bonus!

This was our view of the parade!  A far cry from our local parade that can last well over an hour!!  Sometimes less is more!
We spent one night back home in Arkansas, then headed back to our home in Oklahoma.  Overall, it was a great week of enjoying God's creation:  our beautiful, unique family that He pieced together just perfectly, and the beautiful ocean that reminds me of His greatness each time I see it!  We are so blessed to be together as a family and to be able to go off on a trip and forget about everything for a short while and just focus on being together and enjoying each other.  We are truly blessed in so many ways!!