Ohana means family

Our family has spent the last four weeks on the beautiful island of O’ahu. I wish I could tell you it was for a much needed vacation and family time (in a lot of ways it was), but in reality it was because we had to be medically evacuated to the hospital here. I could write several blog posts about the inadequacy of the current healthcare provided to military families stationed overseas, but I’d rather focus on the amazing treatment I finally received and the amazing ohana I found on the island.

As Claire mentioned in her last post, we are both leaders in a running club called Stroller Warriors and lucky for me there are 48 chapters all over the world, including 3 on O’ahu! Before even arriving I had several wonderful ladies reach out to me to see what they could do to help. Traveling 4,000 miles away from home for surgery with two toddlers felt a little bit less daunting knowing I had a group of like-minded, supportive military moms to lean on if needed.

I had several pre-op appointments the week before my surgery and after dragging our kids through a full day of appointments, my husband and I decided it would be easiest if he dropped me off and spent the day with the kids back at the hotel instead of waiting at the hospital the day of my surgery. However, to make things a little tricky, we only have Japanese cell phone numbers (which actually work in Hawaii thanks to Sprint) and even though the hospital assured us they could call our number they proved several times that week that none of their staff actually knew the right number to dial. So I reached out to one of the awesome ladies from Stroller Warriors, Arlene. I just wanted to get her number so the hospital could call her and she could message Josh to come get me when it was all over. In my head, the surgery was going to go easy peasy and I was going to walk out as easily as I walked in.

Well, I was completely blown away when Arlene not only offered her phone number, but also told me she’d come sit with me at the hospital. I’d like to remind you right now that Arlene and I have never met. She is absolutely amazing for doing this! She showed up right after I’d changed into the super flattering hospital gown and no-skid socks. We instantly became good friends and every time a doctor or nurse came to talk to me they were shocked to learn my non-medical attendant/new best bud was a stranger to me 10 minutes prior. I cannot thank Arlene enough for not only keeping me company before surgery, but also for spending the entire day waiting for me to get out of surgery, talking to the doctor and relaying detailed messages back to my husband all day long. She even gave me a ride back to the hotel so my husband didn’t have to load the kids up to come get me. She is a saint!

Mallory and Arlene before surgery

I guess now is a good time to fill you in on why I had surgery and how I am doing. I was medically evacuated to Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii to see an ENT specialist and have a cholesteatoma surgically removed from behind my middle ear area. For reference, the cholesteatoma was found on a CT scan taken 10 months earlier. This is how long it took me to get proper medical care all because I am stationed overseas. Fast forward to my surgery, the amazing Dr. Chen was able to skillfully remove the non cancerous cholesteatoma, but unfortunately had to do an ossicular chain reconstruction, removing one of my three middle ear bones because the mass had caused deterioration from not being removed sooner. (See brief explanation below on how ears hear, thanks to Netflix’s Ask the Storybots Season 2, Episode 4, I am basically an Otolaryngologist as well.) I will have to have another surgery in 9 months to complete the reconstruction once I have recovered and we confirm the cholesteatoma is gone for good. So for now I have even more profound hearing loss than I had before surgery (-60 decibels, almost deafness) in my left hear, but have been reassured my hearing will be as good as new after my next surgery. When you see me, please talk loudly and forgive me if I miss what you are saying, I promise I am not ignoring you…or am I?

The three parts of the ear all help you hear. The outer ear funnels sound to the ear drum. This makes the eardrum vibrate. The three tiny bones in the middle ear (the malleus, incus, and stapes) pass the vibrations to the inner ear. There, the vibrations become electrical signals. These signals travel along the auditory (hearing) nerve to the brain.

Ask the Storybots

Having your ear sliced open and your temporal bone drilled into is a little bit harder to recover from than I thought…I actually thought I’d be operated on through my ear canal and back to normal hearing and activities within a few days….because that is what I was originally told. Luckily I was given a “sick note” or extended stay in Hawaii for an extra 3 weeks. My family let me rest as much as two toddlers could, but in all seriousness we were itching to get out and explore so I popped the recommended dosage of Tylenol and we crammed as much as we could into our recovery/vacation.

I could not ask for a more beautiful place to be on sick leave. The weather was absolutely fantastic, it did not disappoint. We basically drove all over the island, went to a handful of beaches, did all the kid friendly activities, hiked several different trails and ate ALL THE FOOD. And I’m talking ALL of the food. I actually think I’ve gained 10 pounds from all of the American food I’ve stuffed into my body. I don’t even feel a little bit bad about it because it was so delicious and I won’t have any for a long time.

One of the many beaches we visited

The Cheesecake Factory

Coincidentally, one of my cousins was working in Hawaii while we were here and we were able to have lunch several times and catch up with him and his wife. They got to meet my son for the first time, something only a few of my family members have had the opportunity to do considering he was born in Japan.

My cousin Robert

This trip was the best “family” vacation I have ever been on in terms of getting to spend quality time with family: blood family and ohana. In Hawaii an ohana, meaning family, is special. The people within it are bound together by genuine compassion, culture, support, loyalty, and love for each other. The experiences I had here were exactly that. I already told you about one of my new found sole sisters, Arlene, from my Stroller Warriors ohana, but I was also able to meet a few other amazing SW ladies as we spectated one weekend at the HURT100.

Stroller Warriors Kaneohe Bay at HURT100

The feeling of ohana didn’t stop there. I also met another social media friend and fellow contributor for Military Moms Blog, Rachel. We connected over dinner and chatted through a beautiful sunset.

Mallory and Rachel, Military Moms Blog

Once I was cleared to resume exercise I joined up with the local Saturday wear blue run group. There I met some loyal wear blue runners and enjoyed a meaningful run with them. (Embarrassingly I did not pack a single blue item, but I showed up anyways)

wear blue O’ahu Saturday run community

To become a part of someone’s ohana is a great honor and I am beyond honored to be a part of these groups. This military life can be rough sometimes, especially when you undergo something like a medical evacuation to the other side of the world, but the people you meet along the way who become a part of your family or ohana make this life worth doing. I’m feeling very lucky to have been in Hawaii and am already dreading the long flight back to Japan.

Arlene and Mallory = new bffs

Stay tuned for my next post about traveling with two toddlers, one of which screams the entire time, and the wonderful things we did in O’ahu.

Gorgeous Ladies of Running

Here we are at the end of another year and once again, Mallory and I are lamenting our failure to keep up with blogging. womp womp. Instead of promising to do better next year (because let’s face it, we might actually just suck at this), I just want to talk a little bit about the thing that’s been distracting us both from making more regular internet rants: Stroller Warriors.

If you know either of us, you’ve probably heard us talk about this running club ad nauseam. BUT, for the handful of random internet viewers who might end up here one day I’ll explain: Stroller Warriors is a running club designed for military spouses and their families. There are chapters all over the world, which is why Mallory and I still have this club in common even on opposite sides of the globe.

Mallory and I joined our first Stroller Warriors club together in San Diego. I would classify Mallory as an ultra runner so she was a shoe-in, but for me running was just kinda okay and I’m still not sure how much I actually “like” it. For me, it was something that kept me active where I could also bring my kid. Getting to regularly talk to other adults and bring our kids to playdates was a great added bonus too. It didn’t take long for Stroller Warriors to become my community, my tribe.

Alas, along came the time to move again and even though I was 7-months pregnant in a new place, without Mallory and without the same group of running friends I had grown accustom to, I knew I just needed to join up with my new closest SW chapter and just keep showing up. Mallory did the same thing while she was in Iwakuni. I happened to be around enough that I was asked to help lead some workouts, and eventually, since the timing was right, I was able to step up with a couple of other fantastic ladies to help lead the Parris Island chapter. Wouldn’t you know it, that same thing happened to Mallory and the Iwakuni chapter!

So here we are now, both with a bit more responsibility on our hands to take care of our running communities — the reason you’ve heard a little less from us on the blogosphere. I’m happy with how far we’ve come with this club; it’s so so important to me. You see, even though I barely liked running to begin with, it gave me a newfound ownership over my body. I think it’s something a lot of moms can relate to. At this point I’ve spent about a year and a half lending my body to grow children, and then I spent additional 2+ years operating as a never-ending milk factory. Sometimes I feel like I’ve merely been a vessel for the survival of my offspring.

The Netflix show, GLOW, can actually help me communicate what it means to find an activity like running after having kids. I watched all of the episodes on Netflix and one of the most relatable parts to me is when Debbie Eagan talks about why she would be sad to leave Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling:

“…It’s like I’m back…in my body…and it doesn’t belong to Randy…or Mark. And I…I don’t know, I’m, like, using it for me, and…I feel like a goddamn superhero.”

Yes. A goddamn superhero. A warrior, if you will. Thanks to running, I actually strive to see my body’s performance improve and not for anyone but myself.

Hiroshima Osorakan Trail: DNF

One of my main goals since moving to Japan is to get back into ultra running. The landscape is beautiful here and I have a lot of time to train. Let me take that back. I have a lot of time to train on the roads while pushing my double stroller. Having two small children makes it difficult to duck off into the woods every morning for a trail run. Nonetheless, I have spent the last six months preparing for my first Japanese trail ultra marathon. I ran a lot of miles to prepare for this day and felt confident I would do well. A DNF (Did Not Finish) was definitely not in my plans. Continue reading

DIY Derby Hat

Did you just get invited to a Kentucky Derby Party, but have no clue what to wear? A big hat is a must or a bow tie if you are a fella. Don’t have a big hat? No problem! Here is a quick tutorial on how to make a fabulously simple KY derby hat to don at your party.

What’s the big deal with these hats anyways?

Originally women wore big, extravagant hats to declare their social status. Today women (and even men) carry out the tradition of Derby hats by making their own unique hat and adding their own twist. A lot of people view the elaborate hats as good luck charms.

Here is a simple DIY for making a fabulous Derby Hat:

Step 1: find a straw hat

Step 2: find your hot glue gun

Step 3: find a bunch of stuff to glue on hat. (For example: roses, other flowers, plastic horses, tissue paper pom-poms, etc)

Step 4: glue items to hat

Step 5: look fabulous wearing your new hat

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I found this hat and paper flowers at Daiso which is like a dollar store here in Japan.

Straw hat and paper pom-poms from Daiso

I opened the flowers and poked the wires through the straw hat to attach, then reinforced with hot glue.

Check me out! Now I’m ready for Derby!

Follow us on Instagram for more easy and fabulous Derby Party ideas!

5 Reasons to Let the Pinterest Mom do Her Thang

There’s a lot of snark and eye-rolling that can be found describing the mom who does everything oh-so Pinterest perfectly. As much as I love snark, I am not here to partake…this time. Oh no, I love the Pinterest moms! And that’s not just because I occasionally try my hand at a project or two.

Little Pookie Cupcakes

Pig cupcakes I created after perusing Pinterest.

Pinterest Moms make the world a better place. They put the time and effort into crafting and creating an experience for their kids’ birthdays and holidays. They’re making gorgeous, delicious cakes, themed DIY decor, over-the-top Easter Baskets. And that’s okay. It does not mean I have to meet them at every embellishment. Continue reading

Valentine’s Day Crafts

I have kind of ignored that Valentine’s Day is this week. My kids aren’t in school so I don’t have to worry about making Valentines for an entire class or this nonsense of decorating a box for them to receive cards in that I see other parents on Facebook fretting over. What happened to just collecting your cards in a brown paper bag? I feel pretty lucky that my kids don’t really know or understand holidays yet so if I want to pretend like one doesn’t exist they can’t call me out on it.

I’ve never really understood Valentine’s Day and the one time a boy did try to ask me to be his Valentine, I ratted him out to the teacher. Needless to say, no one ever tried to give me chocolates in my desk at school ever again. What can I say, I’m hard to love.

I wasn’t going to do anything to celebrate this year until I stumbled upon some super easy craft ideas that would be fun for my kids and keep them busy for at least a few minutes. So if you are feeling lazy and unmotivated like me, here is a list of ideas to get you and your kids in the Valentine’s Day spirit. Make some crafts and help your kids spread the love!

My little lefty coloring her Valentines

1) Free Geeky, Math-y, Science-y Printable Princess Awesome Valentines!

These Valentines are fun for boys and girls. All you need to do is print the sheet and dump out the box of crayons! #easypeasy

2) Heart Keepsake

We watch a lot of SigningTime videos in our house and practice sign language regularly, so these hand crafts are meaningful and cute! #doublewin

3) DIY Crayon Heart Valentines

These look super fun and a great way to recycle all the crayons my little one has snapped in half! #MilMBlog

Stitch Fix is a Mom’s Best Friend (plus other delivery services we love)

Before children, the idea of having a personal assistant seemed like some sort of unattainable dream; a frivolous luxury even. Now, with the variety of home delivery services and the reality of trying to accomplish a to-do list with two kids, having a sort-of personal assistant is actually very accessible.

From grocery shopping to planning date nights, the internet really does have it all. Here are some ways you can add a little personal assistance to your hectic life: Continue reading

Review: Baby University

I am a huge advocate for STEM education in my children’s lives. Research has shown that building a foundation for these skills early helps children to be successful in school and in life. I remember attending my first science camp in middle school and falling madly in love with research. This spurred me on to pursue a degree in chemistry. I naturally want my kids to also find science as interesting and exciting as I do. I try to nurture early STEM concepts and skills through daily routines and play. I leave the music and art nurturing to their father. He is more adept in the fine arts than I am.

“STEM” stands for science, technology, engineering and math. STEM
can refer to the subjects individually or one or more working together,
but can also mean a way of doing things that includes solving problems,
asking questions, and exploring the world around us.

Continue reading

When Mamas are Spread Too Thin

I’ll make this a quick post…

Mallory and I each have a list of things we’d like to write about on this blog. As you may have noticed, we haven’t been keeping up and those lists have been tossed, desperately, aside.

You see, the past few months we have been battling sick children who don’t like to sleep. Some of the time we’ve been sick ourselves and often we are both facing these challenges while our husbands are away.

Just letting the chaos and mess exist for a bit…luckily it can be cute sometimes.

By the time we’ve recovered, we usually just wanted to rest or catch up on this or that. Unfortunately “this or that” rarely ends up being the blog. (Please read on, as this post is not an admittance of defeat, but an attempt to hit the reset button.)

We have been spread much too thin to take-on all of the things we’d like to do. During this time, it’s been helpful to give ourselves permission to half-ass the house work, turn on the tv or tablet a bit more and to vent our woes to each other (after all, misery loves company).

Now that we’re both on our second kid, we find ourselves in a perpetual game of catch-up. But now I think it’s easier for us to admit we can’t do it all. I think we’re able to say, “I need a break,” and make it happen – even if it’s for as little as 5 minutes.

Luckily, being such good friends, we also keep each other accountable. Now that we’ve wallowed in our problems, it’s time to look ahead and give our blog some extra TLC and attention.

Stay with us, friends, and Happy New Year!

Gallbladder Surgery while Nursing

After experiencing some excruciating pain that felt like extreme heartburn, I was actually relieved to find out I just had gallstones. I thought I was dying. Apparently, pregnancy puts you at risk for developing them. The gallstones were too big to dissolve and not big enough to warrant immediate surgery, so opting for gallbladder removal was going to be totally up to me.

I sat on the idea for several days because my new baby boy was still only about 4 months old, so I was worried what effect the surgery would have on our nursing relationship and (since he was still so little) I worried that juggling him and my toddler while recovering would be impossible on my own. Continue reading