Flight School ~ PCS ORDERS ~

The other big, important day while in flight school is the day you receive your orders for your follow-on duty station!  The aviators are allowed to maintain a list of the Top 3 places that they would like to go, and the Army (most of the time) attempts to grant it to you and your family.  As with anything in the Army, nothing is guaranteed, and it’s both exciting and nerve-wracking waiting for these to come through!

“They say” can often get you into trouble and for us it did.  We were told an average of 4-6 weeks from selection he’d receive the draft of his orders telling him where we’d be sent next.  4-6 weeks turned into 7, then 8….then the rest of his class (all but Ryan and 1 other) received their orders.  I’ll admit, I didn’t handle this frustration in the most graceful way!  I’ve moved around my entire life as an Army Brat turned federal contractor, turned Army wife.  Literally my first passport had my hospital birth picture.  However, we’ve been trying to get back up North for 7 years.  Ryan’s first duty station was supposed to be Alaska…then those were pulled for Ft. Bragg.  Ugh!  Our family is in Maine and New England will always be HOME, so we were so anxious to find out if our hopes would come true!

FINALLY, 9 weeks from selection and halfway through his advanced airframe training his orders came through!!

And our next duty station is….

FT DRUM, NEW YORK!!!!!!!!

Ft. Drum was our #1 choice and we were praying so hard that Ryan would get selected to go!!!!!  We are beyond excited for the next chapter of our story and to FINALLY be back closer to home.  It’s about 7 hours back to our home town in Maine which is the closest we can get.  We are so thankful for snow…and 4 seasons!

FLY TO GLORY!!!!!

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Flight School ~ SELECTION ~

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Life in an active duty Army family comes with many tear-jerking and monumental moments for your soldier and your family.  Some are sad and oh so difficult…while others can be some of the most memorable moments of your life.

Ryan (and TeamGrim) has had many of those!  Flight School on the Warrant Officer side (there are Commissioned Officers as well) goes through several phases which are best broken down as follows:

  1. WOCS: Warrant Officer Candidate School.  About 5 weeks of training that is worse than basic (according to Ryan haha) that breaks down the enlisted soldier to turn them into an officer.  At the end is a very special graduation where your loved one(s) can pin your new rank on you.  Logan & Emma (and I) had the privilege 🙂
  2. WOBC (A) Follow-on Training for their rank that lasts for about 3 weeks.
  3. SERE/Dunker: Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape.  POW training that is called the best worst school you can attend in the army.  Ryan already had this training so he able to bypass it.  Dunker/HOST teaches them how to survive a water landing and techniques for water survival.
  4. Finally, FLIGHT SCHOOL BEGINS: This is being revamped by the Army, but Ryan’s was broken into a few different sections of training where he had “check rides” showing his proficiency in each before he was able to proceed.

At the end of this first portion of training a very special and much anticipated day arrives that determines the course for the rest of their careers: ADVANCED AIR FRAME SELECTION DAY!!!!!!!

Up until Selection Day the active duty flight school students have no idea what air frames will be available when they walk into that room!  The board will be revealed (dramatically!) and each student is able to pick their bird from the ones that are available based on the OML (Order of Merit List: ranking by their grades in school, check ride grades, PT Test, etc.).  The OML is so competitive that the top people are usually only separated by .001 of a point!!!  These people are truly the best of the best in the army!

Since Ryan spent the first 7+ years of his career as a Chinook maintainer his heart belongs to the big girl.  We prayed so much over the course of our time here that he’d be able to have his number 1 pick.  Of course, he would have loved any rotary wing, but to get your #1 is incredibly special.  To add to the intensity, there are well under 200 slots a year so it’s the hardest airframe to choose!  Most classes have 1-2, if any, and Ryan’s class had 8 slots available for Warrant Officers!!!!

“You guys, God is an on-time God and His timing is ALWAYS perfect.”

This was totally a God thing!  When Ryan’s packet took a while to get a waiver and a few pieces of the puzzle to come together I told him it was all God’s timing.  I said “I’m claiming it and God’s trying to put you in a class flooded with Chinooks!!!  You guys, God is an on time God and His timing is ALWAYS perfect.  He’s taught us over and over again to lean on Him and one of these days maybe it will stop blowing me away.

From here Ryan will move on to his Chinook training that will last approximately 16 weeks.  After that he’ll got another short training to pick up his CW2 rank and he’ll be able to pin on those wings at his graduation!!

She laughs without fear of the future.

Life sure can throw a lot of storms your way.  We’ve been thrown some crazy curve balls in our marriage (as everyone does in different ways), but God has never let us down.  I could list example after example after example where God has taken care of us in ways that we never could have imagined.  Stress about money?  Bonus comes through for work or re-enlistment covers our entire $10k+ IVF cycle for our babies.  Stressing about finally getting to apply to flight school?  Picked up first round go and one of the first classes to EVER have the availability number of his dream aircraft (the hardest helicopter to get in the Army).  Terrified of not being able to have kids after 3 failed rounds of infertility treatments?  First round success of IVF with strong, healthy miracle twins!

So why do I have moments where the fear seems to overwhelm and swallow me whole?  Why do I stress about things that are beyond my control, but are the deepest desires of my heart?

I try not to be terrified that I won’t get to bring my 4 waiting embabies home.  What if my Graves’ disease keeps me from being able to conceive again or carry to term?  What if I can’t get pregnant before we PCS and we are sent OCONUS and I can’t get back for another transfer?  Will we finally have a duty station of our dreams and get back up North or OCONUS?  This verse hung in my bathroom in Savannah and I prayed it and believed it every day of our fertility treatments.  I’m believing it once again!

“He gives the barren woman a home, He makes her the joyous mother of children.  Praise the Lord!” Psalm 113:9

We wrestle not against flesh and blood and the devil sure knows my weaknesses.  The most important thing in the world to me has always been family.  That’s no secret and I can’t even turn my back and pretend that it’s not true.  So where does he attack me?  Loneliness in waiting for my dream husband to come along.  Infertility, Secondary Infertility, distant family abandonment.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.  Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5: 6-8

I refuse to let him win.  I’m still human, but I believe that my God is bigger than all of this.  I have to pray and have faith that He can turn situations around for His benefit.  If hearts will not allow that, then I pray He heals me, my husband, and my kids’ hearts and fills that void with His love.

“For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.”  Psalm 27:10

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh; is there anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:27

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

“When you’ve done everything you can do, that’s when God will step in and do what you can’t do.” 2 Corinthians 12:10

I know that I NEVER tire of my kids wanting me and needing me.  I want to give them all of the desires of their hearts, so how much more does God desire to help us through all that we’re up against?  He’s already performed so many miracles in our lives.  He has been so faithful to us in everything, so who am I to ever doubt Him?  My flesh is weak, but I know He’s in control!  Praying His words over our lives!

~Melissa G.

Praying for baby(ies) Grim…again

When you experience infertility (or miscarriages), it never leaves you.  Even after you have babies those thoughts and feelings can still resurface and sometimes continuing to complete your family is just as difficult the second time around.  We believed once we beat it and had 4 embabies waiting for us, that we might get blessed for this next round to be a bit easier.  Unfortunately, we’ve hit some new roadblocks.  Throw in a life in the military and it becomes a tad more complicated.

With Ryan in flight school and unable to take any leave (he has over a month saved up at this point), the scheduling to have another baby (or two) has been interesting, to say the least.  We should be PCS-ing again (we won’t find out where until August/September time frame) sometime after the new year pending him not hitting any “bubbles” in his training schedule.  I couldn’t be too far along or just had a baby.  However, we do have to travel to Savannah, GA where our embabies are frozen, so I have to be pregnant prior to us leaving Fort Rucker. If the first transfer doesn’t work and we lose the babies, we’ll have to transfer our last embabies and travel from wherever we’re stationed after here.

We were able to get everything planned and scheduled and all of my drugs had arrived!  I went to my OB/GYN on post for some preliminary testing to make sure that my body was set for the transfer, but we discovered a few abnormalities on my lab work.  My RE (Reproductive Endocrinologist) from Savannah ran some of his own labs and my PCM doctor here ran some as well.  We discovered that I have Graves’ disease causing Hyperthyroidism.  Graves is an autoimmune disease attacking your thyroid making it go into overdrive. After speaking to my RE and doing some of my own research, I was devastated to learn that this can make it impossible to get pregnant and carry to term without the proper treatment.  I let myself grieve for another day once our transfer was put on hold once more.

I received a referral for a local endocrinologist and, after speaking to them, discovered that they couldn’t get me in until September!  I may have cried again. 😦  My RE sent over a special request with his series of lab tests and through much prayer I received a call that they could get me in at the beginning of June.

My endo spent an hour going over my 3 options moving forward. And This past week I went for a Radioactive Iodine Uptake Scan to confirm the diagnosis of Graves. The options going forward are:

1) Radioactive Iodine to kill my thyroid. This would keep me quarantined for about a week away from my babies (Just NO!). Plus I couldn’t get pregnant for 6-12 months after undergoing this treatment.

2) Anti-thyroid meds. These cross the placenta and can be very dangerous during pregnancy. There is some research stating this can be rare, but they can cause birth defects and thyroid problems for the baby. My RE has said he won’t allow me to do an Embryo Transfer on the meds or within months of taking them.

3) Thyroidectomy. 97% of the time goes smoothly, but I’ll need hormone replacement for life. 1-3% of the time it can damage your larynx and/or your parathyroid depending upon my anatomy and how invasive the surgery ends up. After that I’ll instantly become hypothyroid and will need to have my hormones regulated before we can do the transfer. However, hopefully we can pregnant possibly within 2-3 months.

Finally, on a smaller note: He thinks the reason I haven’t been able to lose weight is also due to sleep apnea. So I have to do a sleep study. Not a big deal, but I HATE being away from my babies!

I now have an appt with a surgeon to schedule a Thyroidectomy, which Ryan and I feel like is the best option going forward. I’m a little nervous to literally have my life depend on a little pill forever and for the surgery itself. However, I’m confident that we’ve made the correct decision and I’m ready to finally feel normal again and to hopefully get pregnant as soon as possible to be healthy for all of us.

Please keep me and the family in your prayers. We desperately want to bring home more of our embabies and this has all been a little overwhelming!

Above the Best

In April, I had the privilege of participating in USAACE’s Spouses’ Aviation Day (SAD) here at Fort Rucker!  The day gave some of us wives (spouses) a glimpse into what our husbands endure while here for flight school.

TRAINING SCHEDULE:

LRC (Leadership Reaction Course): We completed 2 “obstacles” or challenges that we had to navigate as a team and get through.

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LRC Completion Pic

EST: Electronic Skills Trainer or weapons simulator.  First we had to “qualify” on the range with our M4s.  Then came the fun part. 🙂  Melissa got to break out the big guns.  I jumped on the MK-19 quick, fast, and in a hurry!  Haha, the second room was definitely the most fun and we were “downrange” shooting up bad guys on a life size video game.  This was a fun portion, but I definitely like shooting outside on a real gun better.

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Shooting Range

Dunker/HOST: Helicopter Overwater Survival Training.  We didn’t get to do the actual dunker…BOO.  (I mean, hey, we all signed the release, big Army!)  We did “suit up” though and had to swim under water through a door and back up.  I have a newfound respect for the pilots/spec ops soldiers that navigate this course every few years for the rest of their careers.

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Green Team: She Hulks!

Helicopter Simulators: We saved the best for last!  Finally I was given the chance to “fly” a helicopter!  We started out with our Pre-Flight Briefing (where I had to educate them that there ARE, in fact, black helicopters in the Army) and proceeded to our simulators.  I chose a Black Hawk (Chinooks weren’t available…lame) in the simulator and even landed on the back of an aircraft carrier down off the coast of Destin!  (We won’t mention the fact that I also “crashed” or red screened it to play around!  We’ll leave the flying to Ryan.

Finally the day concluded with our very own graduation over at the Aviation Museum!  We all walked across the stage to receive our completion certificates and “Flight” Wings!

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Family Graduation Pic

Overall, I had an absolute blast and i’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to attend such a fun event.  I can imagine how much work it was to put an event of this size on for the spouses and i’m so thankful to Fort Rucker and USAACE for giving us a day of fun (I mean, good – hard training!

Go Green Team – SHE HULKS!  “SMASH IT!!!!!”

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Home is where you park it!

Exciting news!!!! So, we did it and finally purchased our very own travel camper! We’ve been wanting one since we were married and frequently kick ourselves for not investing in one when we were running OCR’s monthly. Once we spent ENTIRELY TOO MUCH money on yet another hotel + boarding Yawkey for 3 nights  we’d had enough. We finally decided to put that money into an investment rather than hotels that aren’t worth it anyway.

We were able to break it in in and take it “out” last weekend for our first test run and already are in love. We can take Yawkey with us, the kids have their own books and toys handy and we still have our home away from home. We had the dealership throw in a lot of extras so we had to pay for less out of pocket and we purchased a lot of things for cheap through Big Lots and the dollar store to keep it simple.  I’ll post more later about some of our tricks/organization hacks that we’re following.

Being military we are blessed enough to be able to stay on any military installation for around $20 a night (give or take depending on the installation). This will definitely be easier and more fun for traveling…not to mention PCS time!

Here are a few pictures of our first adventure staying Engineer Beach on Ft Rucker, AL! MANY more to come over the years.

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Beginning of an era…SAHM!

We all have visions of what our future will hold (or at least what we dream that it will hold).  Mine always included the following:

1) Marrying a soldier and traveling the world (CHECK!)

2) Having boy/girl twins (CHECK!)

3) Being a stay at home mom (CHECK!!!)

4) Becoming one of the following eventually: A famous actress, a nurse or a counselor.  I still have the time and the ability to achieve one of those dreams when the kids are older, but I’m not worried about it. LoL  Who knows what the future will hold!

I’ve been so blessed that I was able to work and provide a second income for our family while being able to stay home with the kids.  However, it’s always been the end goal to be able to just stay at home and give them the time and attention that they so deserve!  We’d like to homeschool them, for how long we’re not sure yet, but I’m excited that i’ll have the time to do so!  Children grow up WAAAAAY too fast and I don’t want to miss a thing with them.  I’m so blessed that I have a husband who fully supports my desires and who works so diligently to provide for our family.

Not a day goes by that I’m not extremely grateful for this life that I’ve been given.  There was a time that I didn’t know if I’d ever meet the man of my dreams and have a family of my own.  There were many months that we wondered if we’d ever get to have children of our own.  If I don’t have to, then I don’t want to miss or waste a single moment or milestone!

“Not a day goes by that I’m not extremely grateful for this life that I’ve been given.”

Don’t get me wrong, this will be a huge adjustment for Team Grim, but we’re up to the challenge.  We’re working on paying off our debts (just car loans) and cutting back on our monthly bills, but we have a good feeling about where we stand.  I’m already feeling so refreshed and the kids don’t even have a clue what’s coming for them!

Stay tuned for even more adventures and “Tales” with Team Grim!

~Melissa

 

Flight School Family Day!

~ Family Day at the Flight Line! ~

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On the 16th of March, Ryan’s flight school class had their long-awaited family day.  Ryan’s Mom came up from Florida for the weekend and we all got to take a ride out to go watch Daddy fly “wop wops” (helicopters)!  It was his 7th week of flight school (5th actually flying) and we’ve been so anxious to see him in action in person… Talk about surreal!!

Once we followed the caravan out to airfield, we kept looking all around for his tail number that he gave us since he was one of the last helicopters to make it over to the stage field, and Grams and I both started crying once we finally spotted him coming in for his landing!  We got to see them hover, complete a few different landings, as well as completing their traffic patterns.  We are so proud of our pilot-in-training and all that is to come on this adventure!  All of the long nights, studies, check rides and tests will be worth it when he gets to have the coolest job in the military when he graduates!

SLIDESHOW:  Here are a few of our pictures/videos from the day.  We hope you enjoy!

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Confession Time

I’ve always wanted to be a twin mom.  I had the most wonderful expectations of the type of Mom that I would be and I was determined to meet every single one.  Pretty sure we’ve all been there and just smile and nod when we hear others make the same mistakes.  Then I actually became a mom…and a twin mom at that.  Guys, being a mom (or a parent in general) is a lot tougher than it looks!

It’s no secret that we prayed for Logan & Emma and went through our own struggles before God gave us our dream.  It took 3 failed rounds of  fertility treatment, 1 successful IVF cycle, many tears and heartache, thousands of $$, feeling like failures, judgments and negative remarks from family and friends, doubts about ourselves and our future and too many moments to mention.  But, looking back I wouldn’t change a thing.  We wouldn’t have Logan & Emma and our 4 babies waiting for us if we’d gotten pregnant any other way.  I wouldn’t be eternally grateful in the way that I am and know what a true miracle the gift of life is.

However, our struggles didn’t end when we had our babies like I thought they would.  I truly believed that going through so much heartache and infertility would make every moment absolutely perfect.  I thought that I’d be so grateful that I would never have to deal with anything like postpartum depression…I was wrong.  I wrestled with it for months because I didn’t want to believe that it was something else that I and my body failed at.  It wasn’t until Ryan called my doctor and kept the kids that I finally admitted that something was wrong.  Breastfeeding twins what felt like nonstop, hundreds of doctors appointments, working 20-25 hours a week from home, a spec ops husband that was gone 14+ hours a day and living off of ZERO sleep for months on end can take a toll.  I never wanted to admit that I wasn’t super mom, but guys, I should have admitted it a lot sooner for the benefit of me, the kids and my poor saint of a husband!  Our home has been much happier and life has continued to improve.

I’m also learning to listen to my body (and my husband).  As of the end of March I’ll be a full time SAHM (Stay At Home Mom)!!!!  I’m wicked excited and I truly feel that this is the best move for our family.  With a husband in flight school and two VERY active toddlers who want and need my attention, i’ll feel much better about everything.  This has always been my dream and has been the ultimate goal, but I always felt that I should be contributing financially.  But, taking care of kids IS a full time job and they need me more than my money.  (My Boston Terrier, Yawkey, is curled up with me agreeing) 😉

I’m admitting to all of this because it’s also been an insecurity for me.  We’ve been told by family members (and via hearing gossip repeated) that I “couldn’t handle” working and my kids…that I “Couldn’t take care of her own kids”…and that I “wasn’t meant to be a Mom” because of our struggles.  Well, I’ve been working at all of the above for over 19 months and kickin butt, if I do say so myself.  I did all of this while battling postpartum depression ZERO help from family that all seemed to disappear after the babies were born.  I was also so jealous of the people I saw on social media (a very, very dangerous thing to get sucked into) who had family and friends visiting, helping out with their kids or just giving them adults to talk to.  It forced me to lean on God and my husband.  Our “Team Grim” did it and we’re stronger than ever!!  Not everyone has a “tribe”, but I’m okay with that now.

We all have our struggles, our insecurities, our imperfections…but we all need to be a little more lenient with ourselves!  I guess I’m just here to admit that I have my own and I’m still here living to tell about it.  My kids still give me 1000 hugs and kisses a day and my husband still wants to come home to me every night so I must be doing something right!

~ Imperfect Melissa

Confession

 

Mama Bear

I never truly understood how opinionated people can be about your life until we got pregnant and had kids.  I mean, from family and friends to even perfect strangers on the street!  Of course we saw it a little with the infertility and inappropriate comments that were made.  You wouldn’t believe what we heard…and 90% of the time from people who had NO idea what they were talking about.  (Did you know that if you stand on your head while drinking kool-aid and burning incense and you never EVER stress then ALL of your fertility problems will magically disappear like your neighbor’s brother’s friend’s cousin twice removed?)  The “mom shaming” nowadays is out of control!  It seems that no matter what you do, people think you’re totally doing it wrong.

Ryan will tell you that i’m an OBSESSIVE researcher.  When we PCS or or look at career/school changes, and especially with infertility/pregnancy and the babies I have to read everything there is to know!  Of course, i’m not the expert on any of these subjects,  and babies don’t always fit the mold from books (shocker!)  but I fully believe that “Knowledge is power” so we take what I read and we made informed and educated decisions based on that information.

“Words of affirmation” has always been my primary love language.  I’m lifted up and truly feel like someone cares when they speak positively about me or those that I love.  On the flip side, this can be dangerous for someone like me to deal with the judgments and negativity that seems like is everywhere in this world.  I constantly internalize most of it and it’s often made me second guess my decisions.  It’s been a learning process to not let other’s negative opinions and comments affect me.

That’s where the Mama Bear Melissa comes in to play.  Everyone has an opinion on what we’re doing wrong: You shouldn’t vaccinate, or you need to let them CIO, or you need to stop breastfeeding and give them formula.  Enter Mama Bear!  For the first time in my life I feel such an intense need to protect our perfectly innocent babies from the world and I have the faith that the decisions that Ryan and I have made are appropriate for our family that I don’t much care for what others think of us.  I don’t need to change my mind because someone doesn’t agree or questions our motives behind our decisions.  There were only 2 people that created these babies (okay, minus the medical team’s assistance!) and we’re the only 2 that get the vote.  I’ve had my doubts as a mom, as i’m sure we all do at one point or another, but deep down I feel that i’m truly doing the best that I can and I pray that L & E will see this as they grow.

We never really had the support that we desired when going through anything that we’ve faced (good or bad) so it’s crazy to me when people show up when the cute, cuddly, attention getting babies arrive.  Don’t get me wrong, it hurt us a lot when people weren’t more involved when we were broken-hearted that we couldn’t conceive, or when I had problems or scares with the pregnancy, and especially after they were born…  We still have “close” friends and family that have not met our babies or who haven’t gotten to know how wonderfully amazing they are!  But it always seems that people don’t want to be present in your pain, but want to reap the benefits afterward.  I just always pray that any person entering my children’s lives has pure motives and won’t hurt my children later by walking back out.  My latest fear is the internet.  After seeing a few friends with crazy instances of their kids’ pictures being exploited, it’s so hard to be okay with social media.  I’m constantly torn between wanting to share in our joys and for our long distance family in Maine to see our babies and wanting to run screaming from the internet!  I know that we’ll still make mistakes along the way, I mean we’re not perfect after all.  However, we’re doing our best in the best way we know how to protect our family!

Fierce Mama Bear Melissa ❤