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.

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Month of the Military Child 

For both Claire and I, being military spouses was not something we had ever dreamed about. We are, of course, happy in our roles, but we could take it or leave it. We have given up a lot for this life: careers, being near family, friends, being able to plant roots, etc. We knew there would be sacrifices and we agreed to them from the very beginning because we love and support our husbands. Our kids, however, did not get a vote.

April is the Month of the Military Child and we honor military children for their sacrifice in supporting their families and country. There are more than 1 million military children across the Department of Defense. Military children are remarkable examples of resilience, strength and flexibility. Like I said before, they did not get a say in whether they wanted this life or not, but they pack up their books and clothes and say goodbye to friends every couple of years anyways. Continue reading

7 MUST-HAVE ITEMS WHEN TRAVELLING WITH AN INFANT/TODDLER

I’m not saying I’m an expert at travelling with an infant/toddler, but I have definitely discovered a few techniques to make life easier on the go and figured out what items are absolutely necessary to have on hand. During this PCS Adventure, my family has been without household goods for 48 days, spent 3 days in airports and on planes, and lived in hotels for 26 days. It has been a learning experience for us all and I think everyone was pushed to their limit at one point during this adventure. We are finally in our new house, but still do not have household goods so we are back to “roughing it” in our own home. I honestly do not think we would have made it this far without the following items: Continue reading

[UPDATED]: SCREEN TIME FOR BABIES

Back in July I wrote an article about screen time for babies and how it is a big “no-no” for children under 2 years of age. As much as I wish I were updating this article with new info about how it is not only good to let your kids watch TV that young, but also recommended for admission into Ivy League schools later in life, sadly I am not. I am here to confess that I am a complete failure at this; my 1 year-old daughter loves watching Baby Einstein videos and they have made the last few weeks more bearable for everyone in this family.

If you have been keeping up with my PCS adventures, then you know that my family has been without household goods for 34 days now. The first week was especially hard because not only did we not have anything in our house, but also my husband was not home to help entertain our LO. That’s when I turned to Baby Einstein and never looked back. I stumbled upon one of the videos on YouTube and played it for her; it magically kept her still and focused for 20 minutes. I then found a whole series of Baby Einstein classics on Amazon Prime and introduced a different one each day while I cleaned and prepped our house for moving out. I even had them saved to my iPhone for her to watch on our 14+ hour plane ride and they truly were a life saver. Now that we are temporarily living in a hotel until a house becomes available, Baby Einstein videos help break up our day and keep things exciting for our LO. Continue reading

My PCS Adventure 

We are back from our four week leave over the holidays to see family and friends. It’s nice to be back home, though our departure from California is imminent. Movers arrived earlier this week to begin our PCS (permanent change of station) adventure. This will be our sixth move since we got together and third move with the military. Moving always presents some challenges, but moving with a baby and overseas has really given a whole new meaning to “challenge”. Here are my notes thus far, I’ll keep you all updated through the coming weeks. 
Day 1 without HHG 

Less than 16 hours into not having furniture, cookware, or kid toys I wanted to call it quits and go check into a hotel. I’m no quitter so I’m sticking it out as long as possible. The packers/movers were so efficient they got all of our household goods (that are going to Japan) done in one day instead of two. We still have several more days of packing/shipping left for our Express and Storage items though. 

My daughter has had a runny nose and cough for a few days, but no fever so I have been holding out on going to the doctor. Her symptoms worsened last night so I took advantage of the “mover-free” day and took her to see our favorite Doc. Turns out she has bronchiolitis, a virus that’s going around. The doctor recommended I sleep with her in a chair for the next few nights so she doesn’t drown in her own mucous. Great, that will be fun with no furniture!

(Note: I asked around and borrowed a rocking chair from one of my Stroller Warriors sisters. So lucky to have them.)

After an exhausting day of cleaning up snot and keeping our daughter from falling all the way down the steps my husband gets home and I ask him to watch our LO a bit so I can take a minute to breathe. He announces he has to change and go to the bathroom first before he can help. I usually totally understand, but today I have so many issues with this! 1) he spends way too much time in the bathroom. Someone should see a doctor if they are actually going for that long and besides I can hear him playing on his phone. 2) I don’t get the luxury of hanging out in the bathroom for 30+ minutes BY MYSELF a day 3) I wish I were the one attending SERE school instead of home in an empty house, living out of a suitcase, sleeping in a rocking chair, with a sick baby. Locked in a cage for a few days alone sounds like a 5 star resort to me!

Day 2 without HHG 

I put on the last wash load (or so I thought) before prepping our washer and dryer for storage and my LO immediately threw up on me and herself. This is going to be a long day. Not to mention I have to go pick up my husband’s eye glasses from downtown so he can wear them into the field tomorrow. Movers are coming this afternoon and I’m working off 2 hours of sleep. And by the way his glasses were ready back in October. 

Movers were delayed today and didn’t arrive until after 5PM. So glad I spent the whole afternoon waiting around.

Day 3 without HHG and Day 1 of Solo Parenting 

Got up at 4AM to take husband to base so he could go to the field for SERE training. I’ve been really annoyed with this whole process, but am really going to miss his help at night this next week. 

Movers are due to pack up the last bit of stuff in our house today (i.e. washer/dryer, china cabinet, pieces of our sectional sofa) and put them in storage. When I got home from dropping DH off at work I remembered I needed to disconnect and drain the washer. Well shit! I had all our tools packed in our Express shipment so we would have them when we arrive in Japan, which was picked up yesterday. Now I’m running around at 7:30 in the morning knocking on neighbors’ doors trying to find a wrench. We have such great neighbors by the way. Got one! Now I really feel like a super mom because I squeezed my big, pregnant belly into our laundry room with the washer pulled out and climbed on top to disconnect the hose. Lesson learned: turn off water first! I some how managed to get both hoses disconnected and the washer emptied without completely flooding the laundry room. Whew! 

Next challenge is catching the cat! Movers called and said they are on their way. I need to put the cat in her crate so she doesn’t escape while the doors are open. What does she do? Hides in the box spring of the bed that is about to get packed for storage. I’m halfway thinking I’ll let her stay in there and see if she survives 3 years in storage. 

Stay tuned for more of my PCS adventure in the coming days!