Saturday, October 5, 2013

Grandpa's Service Record

Living here in Japan has made me very curious about my grandfather's experience during WWII. I'd seen pictures of him in his handsome Marine Corps uniform, but he never talked about his experiences. My grandpa passed away years ago, but he remains one of my most favorite and most influential people that I've ever met.

My aunt recently sent me his service record and my husband (a Marine) helped me decipher what the acronyms and shorthand meant. He was only 17 years old when he enlisted in the Marine Corps, but told the recruiter that he was 21. I can only imagine that the recruiter needed more men and didn't ask any more questions (note that he was included in the 82nd replacement draft).

This is what I've been able to glean from the service record: 

Robert J. Wolfe enlisted on 16 May 1945 and went to boot camp just three days later on 9 May 1945 as part of the 82nd Replacement Draft. On 4 October 1945, he joined the 89th Draft, Marine Training Command, Command Post, possibly after graduating and spending time at the HQ element waiting to leave.

The entry for 5 December 1945 is illegible, but I assume it was more training for his deployment.

On 21 Mar 1946, he joined 2/6 (Golf Co, 2nd Bat, 6th Marines, 2nd Marine Div) with responsibility for general duty. Wikipedia reports,"Following the end of the war, 2/6 landed at Nagasaki to take part in the Occupation of Japan from September 1945 until July 1946." 

Before 2/6 returned to the states, my grandpa joined 1/4 again on general duty on 19 June 1946 (Charlie Co, 1st Bat, 4th Marines) and went to China. From the official history page of 1/4, "Three weeks after Japan surrendered, the Division was dispatched to North China for occupation duty. While in China, the Division had numerous encounters with the Chinese Communists." 

On 12 July 1946, he was transferred to the HQ company of 1/4 and was a radio man. Just a month later, on 13 August 1946, he transferred to Weapons Co in 1/7 (7th Marines, 1st Marine Division) and was responsible for communication security, possibly working with cryptographic keys.

By 11 Feb 1947, he returned to 2/6 on general duty (2nd Bat, 6th Marines, 3rd brigade) and on 3 March 1947, he joined 1/6 as a rifleman, an infantry position. On 1 October 1947, he joined Bravo Co, at a command post, still as a rifleman. He returned to San Diego soon after. 

At some point in his time with the Marine Corps, he received a court martial for being AWOL for 4 days and 16 hours! I'm assuming it was while in China because I read there was a lot of misbehavior during the occupation. Check out the Wikipedia entry for the book China Marine by EB Sledge or the group known as "China Marines". The dates match for a time of insubordination and high stress.

The next entry is unclear. On 17 November 1947, he was assigned to an unknown position at the Marine Barracks at the Naval Training Center in Great Lakes, IL, possibly doing recruit training. He changed his principal duty with the NTC on 1 Dec 1947.

It appears that he had another major change on 24 July 1948 by being assigned to the famous 8th & I Barracks Detachment in Washington, D.C. Soon after his move, on 1 August 1948, he was promoted to Corporal Wolfe in the Marine Corps Instructor Detachment. On 15 May 1949, he was discharged from the Marine Corps with four years of service.

After his time in the service, he moved to Detroit, Michigan and started a family with my beautiful grandma and had five children, one of them being my mother.

Where's Aunt Emily?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Iwakuni to Detroit: Traveling Internationally with a Three-Month-Old Baby

Miri's Travel Outfit

The time had come. Our hearts were breaking that our little bitty baby had only met one family member outside of her mom and dad! Miri is the first grandchild on both sides of the family and we were excited to pass her around and let her charm everyone with her sweet coos and smiles.

But then the anxiety set in. I was going to voluntarily be THAT WOMAN on the plane with the screeching, inconsolable child who ruined twelve hours of everyone else's lives trapped on that plane.

I put those thoughts aside and decided to think positively because I know Miri is too young for tantrums and any crying can be resolved through nursing, diaper changes, or being rocked to sleep. It worked! We had compliments from at least three people about how well she behaved.

I think a major part of our "good luck" is my awesome network of experienced mamas offering advice about how to make the trip as painless as possible. Here is a detailed list of things I packed, things I wish I'd packed, why I packed them, and how I packed them.

Miri fresh off 24 hours of travel. Joe asked, "How was breakfast?" and Miri replied, "A little plane."
First step: make sure you have all the proper documentation. This can take weeks to secure, so make it the first thing you consider. If you are a military family like us, apply for your baby’s passport as soon as you are out of the hospital.

Second step: Create a Golden Folder. Our family uses a folder to organize all passports, leave papers, print-outs of our itinerary, rental car reservation, hotel reservations, and boarding passes. We keep our military IDs and driver’s licenses on ourselves. The folder makes it easy for one person to contain the chaos of baby, baby gear, and luggage while the other knows where ALL the paperwork is and easily manages it.

Third step: If you’re breastfeeding, plan ahead. You’ll want to either pack a pump or set up a rental for when you arrive. I chose the latter and rented a Medela Symphony through a local Detroit hospital. I packed all the tubing and flanges, two bottles to pump into, and one bottle nipple. If you’re not planning on leaving your baby with a sitter, still bring a manual pump just in case baby has a problem with latch and you are engorged. I was a huge Boppy user until recently, so pack that if you think it will help with nursing on the plane. We packed the Boppy as a personal item and it was great just for a place for our baby to nap snuggled up to us.

These were our essentials. We could get to Michigan and buy everything else we needed but had these items on hand at all times:
  •  Passports
  • Military ID
  • Wallets
  • Leave Papers
  • iPhones & Chargers
  • Daily Medicine (I need to remember to take thyroid medication daily)
Clothes for Traveling (Summer):
  • Japanese airports and planes tend to be extremely warm in all seasons, so prepare for that. American airports and planes are very cold.
  •   For mom: Black socks (you’ll take off your shoes at security, yuck), black slip-on shoes (you don’t want to be lacing or zipping shoes when you have gear to pack at security), yoga pants (ahh), nursing tank top (easy access, discrete, also counts as a bra), and a colorful cardigan (also acts as a nursing cover in a pinch). Skip the jewelry or pants with belts. You have enough to worry about going through security and you don’t need baby pulling on your jewelry. I started the trip with my hair down but brought an elastic and clips for when I inevitably became a greasy mess. Black is nice because spit-up or spills don't show.
  • For baby: The best outfit was a short-sleeved onesie with footie pants. The footie pants kept her feet warm (crucial for sleep comfort!) and were easy to whip off to change the diaper in disgusting airplane/airport bathrooms. I packed a little cardigan too, but never used it since the weather was warm.
  • For dad: pants and a shirt. Joe ended up changing into shorts while in the Japanese airport because it was so warm. Keep the shorts in your carry-on.

These were our diaper bag essentials, a list I created from input from my well-traveled friends:
  • Large zip-lock bags (4) – I didn’t end up using a single one, thank goodness! But when diaper blow-outs or vomit happens, you will not be happy about throwing away that onesie or keeping that stinky thing in your bag for the remaining 23 hours of traveling.
  • Sandwich bag full of Clorox wipes. You’ll be allowed to gate check your stroller and car seat on most flights, but the Japanese domestic flights forced us to check them as luggage and use an ANA-provided stroller. I wiped that sucker down using about four Clorox wipes and was disgusted at how much grime came off. I put Miri in the stroller and still covered any parts her hands touched with the blanket we brought. These are also good for cleaning the bassinet if you are lucky enough to get one, or the stowaway table if the baby will be touching it. 
  • Diapers for the length of the trip + emergency stash. I’m a worry wart so I assumed the worst. I packed diapers to last for 36 hours. I had about ten in my diaper bag and another ten or so in my carry-on.
  • Wipes
  • Disposable changing pads – You’re not going to want to put your precious baby down on the gross changing tables in the airport or on the plane. Or maybe you do! And in that case, I don’t want to share that changing table with you.
  • Pacifiers – Miri usually doesn’t use pacifiers, but I brought two in plastic baggies to give her just in case. The baggies are important because you can stow them away again and know they are clean. 
  •  Two changes of clothes for baby – Just in case! I brought a onesie and a zip-up sleep-and-play outfit so I wouldn’t be hunting for socks and coordinating items on a dark plane or in a rush at the airport. 
  •  Nursing cover – I love my Bebe au Lait nursing cover. It’s enormous, light, covers everything, and has a little hoop at the top so I can check the baby’s latch and positioning without flashing everyone. I actually used it as a little tent on a few flights so Miri could have a dark place to sleep at the breast.
  • Toy for baby to play with. We have some colorful rings that kept Miri busy.
  • Blanket – Good for everything. If baby is squirmy and needs tummy time, put it on a carpeted surface at the terminal. Make sure you and your husband know which side is the floor side so you fold it gross-side-in each time.
  • Energy bars for mom (and dad!) – You might not be into whatever they are serving on the flight or miss it because you’re exhausted. Pack some protein bars because a hungry mommy is a VERY CRANKY mommy in my personal experience. 
  •  First aid kit – I always have a tiny one in my diaper bag, but I added baby Tylenol just in case. Friends recommended Benadryl just in case Miri was inconsolable, but I decided against drugging her for my fellow passenger’s comfort. Sorry!
  • A pocket for your water bottle. You will be buying water bottles left and right, especially if you’re a nursing mother. You’re hydrating for two! Don’t bring your own water bottle. And don’t buy a water bottle right before going through security (newb!). 

Miri in Tokyo on the way to Iwakuni: "Can't we just get home already?" This is the stroller ANA will lend you.

Getting Baby Around:
  • After polling my friends, I couldn’t decide between just a baby carrier or just my car seat/stroller system. We needed a car seat for our rental car anyway, so that helped us make up our minds. We have a Britax B-Safe car seat and B-Agile stroller and an Infantino baby carrier. We just tucked the carrier under the stroller when not in use. A nice thing about the stroller is that you can attach all your carry-ons to it. 
  •  The baby carrier is helpful when you need to calm the baby down with a soothing bounce. Miri stays so calm in the baby carrier! Also note that you can go through security wearing the baby in a carrier. 
  •  Mommy Hook – Look it up! I’m so thankful that I got a Mommy Hook as a baby shower gift. It’s a huge carabiner that you can easily hook bags on. I brought my Boppy in its plastic case and hung that on the Mommy Hook whenever we were in the airport. 
  •  On the advice of a friend, we bought Childress Gate Check bags on Amazon and they were amazing for saving our gate-checked stroller and car seat. The bags came back greasy, ripped, and wet, but everything inside was fine. Make this investment!
  • Umbrella in stroller. As long as you have the gate check bags, stuff an umbrella in your stroller too. You don’t know what the weather will be like when you arrive at your destination.

Flying out of Iwakuni:
  • Ask for a bulkhead row when booking your ticket or at check-in if you would like to use a bassinet. The bassinet was only available on the flight across the ocean for us, but it was a saving grace on my aching back to set Miri down for a nap instead of holding her.
  • Awesome tip from a friend: parking is free at the Iwakuni airport! The only catch is that you have to get your parking validated at the little booth after you go through security if you’ll be away for more than two weeks.
  • There is no food available (just drinks at a vending machine) at the Iwakuni airport after you go through security, and there is no food on the flight from Iwakuni to Tokyo. Have dinner first or prepare to eat the protein bars you packed! 
What did I miss? What would you add or leave behind? What do you pack for babies or kids of different ages?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Costco Hiroshima!

We were so excited to find out a Costco was built in Hiroshima! We went out on the first day it was open to check out the store and see how it was different from our beloved Costco back in the states. 

I was surprised to find out that it was incredibly similar. The layout was the same and the products were similar too. There were a number of special Japanese products but great prices and American products with English labels. It was amazing to shop at a store where we could read!

The highlight of the trip to Costco, however, was meeting a new friend! I used to attend and work at Lawrence Tech University and had a work-study program as a lab proctor. I worked long hours with some great guys and we would share crazy videos with each other. One of the favorites was "Will it Blend?" where the demonstrator would blend electronics, a broom, just about anything that would fit with this industrial BlendTec blender!

This is similar to one of the phones I had in college:

Imagine my surprise when I saw Tom Dickson himself doing a demonstration in our fair city of Hiroshima, Japan! I watched the demonstration and was surprised it was in English. 

I had a chat with Mr. Dickson after I tried a sample and he was incredibly friendly! He told me to try the blender but I explained that it was a big purchase and I'd have to think about it. The more I thought about it, it seemed like a good idea because it could destroy ice and make baby food really easily. After giving me a sales pitch, we chatted all about Japan and our new baby on the way. Mr. Dickson eventually told me that he would give us a blender!

We love it and use it all the time now. If you're in the market for a serious blender, I would definitely recommend it! We make smoothies, almond butter, soups, or whatever else sounds good. 

Here are some pictures from our first Costco trip: 

Costco is right next to the baseball stadium in Hiroshima. You can't miss it if you're in the area.

Real estate is at a premium in Japan, so there is a parking garage next to Costco. Parking is about $40 if you don't have a receipt! They have this cool escalator that the shopping carts lock into. Isn't Joe a handsome escalator model?

The entrance is just like back in the states.

The specials were similar to the states too!

Japanese diapers are great!

EVOO at a great price!

I wonder who in Japan has a yard big enough for these outdoor toys?

Oh good, a special on octopus! (Eek!)

Good prices on detergent.

We bought a five pack of lint rollers. This is clearly a necessity with a super furry dog.
My new friend, Tom Dickson!
We got home and made a super tasty smoothie with spinach and frozen fruit!
If you're wondering about how to get to Costco and the details about the place, head over to Iwakuni Explorer! The article is here: Costco in Hiroshima.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Baby Update!

It's getting real! The baby will be here in about a month and a half, and we will be heading to Okinawa to wait for her birth in just a few weeks! My mom has her ticket to come visit and my wonderful friends in Iwakuni gave me a beautiful cherry blossom baby shower! 

I've been so lucky to have a great support system here in Iwakuni and the opportunity to go to Okinawa for our daughter's birth. We don't have a birthing facility in Iwakuni, so most people go to Yokosuka about three weeks before their due date for childbirth. With babies being the unpredictable, schedule-free creatures they are, many daddies miss their babies' births because they have to work in Iwakuni until five days before the due date. Luckily, Joe will be working in Okinawa the whole time I'm there and he should be available! Keep your fingers crossed for us anyway!

I found the adorable blog, Wades of 108, a few days ago and got a lot of great ideas about how to remember this special time. It really is flying by even with all my attempts to slow down and enjoy the pregnancy. So, for the people asking and for my future self to remember, I give you a peek into my experience:

1. How far along? I'm officially at 33 weeks today and starting to feel the baby rolling and getting bigger instead of just little kicks here and there. It's amazing!

2. How big is baby? She should be a little over four pounds and about 17 inches long. I've only had a 10 week and 20 week ultrasound, so we don't have an updated weight right now. My fundal height (belly circumference) has been measuring normal for the entire pregnancy.

3. Weight gain? I gained 17 lbs as of my last appointment. The little girl has been making me very hungry for sweets lately, and my lovely mother sent me a package of girl scout cookies that may have waylaid my healthy eating for a while. I'm trying to eat more protein (80g per day is the goal!) to help the baby get all the nutrients she needs.

4. Stretch marks? I'm happy to report I haven't noticed any stretch marks. Hooray! My Aunt Nancy sent me some Burt's Bee's Mama Bee Belly Butter that I've used quite a few times, but not every single day.

5. Maternity clothes? I have a few pairs of maternity jeans that I've been rocking, but sometimes I want to just hang out in my yoga pants and watch TV. I found great jeans at the exchange in Sasebo and lots of ruched t-shirts at our exchange in Iwakuni and from the Old Navy website. I didn't realize that I would need new bras for my pregnancy too! My band has gotten so tight over the last few weeks - maybe baby is stretching my ribs apart?

6. Sleep? I've always been a side sleeper, so I'm still comfortable sleeping. The major discomfort is having to wake up 1-3 times per night to use the bathroom! Baby puts a lot of pressure on my bladder and needs to be watered constantly.

7. Best moment last week? The best moment of the last week was absolutely, hands down, the baby shower that my friend Leydi hosted for me! My friends absolutely spoiled me.

8. Cravings? My main craving has been Greek or Caesar salads with chicken, but the restaurant on base just changed the menu and took their Greek salad off the menu! I'm crushed. Luckily, we can make a good Greek salad at home. I've been wanting lots of sweets lately but have been trying to eat protein (nuts, meat, seeds) when I have a craving for something sugary. I want a strong baby, not a fat one!

9. Symptoms? Well, all the symptoms that come from having a baby growing where I once enjoyed a relatively flat (from time to time) stomach! Crossing my legs is getting more awkward and indigestion has been a problem a few times. I thought I saw some swelling in my hands, but it was when we were in Thailand and it was 95 degrees! I took my rings off just in case it was real swelling.

10. Exercise? I try to take our dog for a walk once per day. We've had to shorten our walks because I have to use the bathroom halfway through now! I am trying to adhere to the Bradley Method and do pelvic rocking, thigh abductors, "tailor sitting" (sitting Indian-style), and lots of squats instead of bending at the waist.

11. Gender? A girl! We found out in December and I've had so much fun with her cherry blossom theme nursery and washing her itty bitty ruffly clothes.

12. Movement? I'm feeling more movement as the pregnancy progresses, but her most active time is between 8-10pm when I'm relaxing or going to sleep.

13. Belly button? My innie is still an innie! I was dreading having an outie but it doesn't look like it will pop out. It's getting more and more shallow with all the space our baby girl is taking up, but I hope it stays flat.

14. What I miss? I really thought I would miss alcohol more than I do! I love beer and wine, but I've really been craving a margarita for a while. I miss eating sashimi, but I can always find something at our local sushi places that I can have. California rolls are delicious.

15. What I'm looking forward to? I'm really looking forward to our crib arriving from the U.S. and painting a bookshelf white so that it will match our baby's nursery. We don't have any closet space for the little girl, so we have to find creative ways to organize all her baby necessities. I'm also really looking forward to going to Okinawa, seeing my friends on the island, and for my mom to visit! I haven't seen her since January of 2012, so it's been way too long! She's going to be an amazing help in coaxing this sweet baby out of her latest digs.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Farewell Lunch at Primavera Restaurant

I had the pleasure of spending almost a year working at the Marine Corps Family Team Building office in Iwakuni and just recently left the position to recharge my batteries and get my life ready for the new baby. 

One of the best parts of working at MCFTB was the women I worked with. I learned so much from the big personalities in my office and am so grateful to them for helping me learn the ropes quickly. 

As a farewell, the ladies took me out to lunch and our director stopped by to say farewell too. They took me to my favorite restaurant in Iwakuni: Primavera! 

They just don't get any cuter!

My lunch: salmon & squash, chicken roulade, fried pork, and a shrimp croquette. You also receive a tiny soup and salad with lunch.

A friend's set menu came with dessert - AND a New Year's Samurai!

The ladies who work at Primavera are very talented artists.
If you'd like to try Primavera, check out the directions in the free base magazine, the Preview. If you have an iPhone, you can go to the Maps app and type in Primavera:

The red pin marks the spot.
 It's located in a residential area and does not have a lot of parking, but you can usually find a place nearby. A good landmark is the Iwakuni train station. Look for the symbol on your map to help guide yourself to the restaurant. 


My favorite day trip while living in Iwakuni is Miyajima Island. We try to go anytime we have a free weekend and the weather is clear because it's so magical and scenic unlike the very industrial city of Iwakuni. The bonus is that we get to bring our little friend Eddie with us!

Eddie is a sucker for attention. This doesn't bother us because it's the only way we have any interaction with Japanese people. People of all ages love to hang out with Eddie! We know just enough Japanese to tell people he's a mameshiba, his name is Eddie, short for Edamame, and that he is almost two years old. People usually laugh at his name, but he doesn't mind.
Joe is holding Eddie for a picture with the famous floating torii gate in the distance.
These little girls couldn't get enough of Eddie! Kids always go straight for his curly little tail.
Eddie participates in all the tourist photo opportunities with no shame.
Joe and a bridge near a hiking area. He called these deer "troll deer" because they live under the bridge.

Miyajima has a lovely new coffee shop called Miyajima Coffee. We stopped for drinks and read our books on a park bench with a view of the water and the gentle deer.

This guy was sitting right next to me the whole time.
Miyajima is a must for anyone passing through the Iwakuni/Hiroshima area. It's easy to find your way around, the hiking trails are beautiful in every season, there are great places to find lunch or dinner, and you can bring your favorite four-legged friend!

Yamaguchi City

We just went to Yamaguchi City for the first time on Sunday and tried to see our fair share of sites in the area. The big event on Sunday was the monthly Flea Market. It happens on the first Sunday of the month from sunrise to 3pm. We got on the road around 8:30am and it took about two hours with a few wrong turns mixed in. Beware if driving: the tolls added up to about $40! Parking was free.

As we are preparing our house for a new baby in May, we don't have a lot of space to share with antiques. It was really fun looking around at gorgeous wooden boxes, old tools, those hilarious garden-gnome-style beavers wearing hats, kimonos, sake barrels, and crafts, but we didn't find anything that needed to stay in our house. We found a few things for our taste buds though: apple cider and fresh apple pastries from a local apple orchard! 

Five-Storied Pagoda
After our shopping trip, we headed over to one of the most famous pagodas in Japan: the Five-Storied Pagoda. It was a beautiful day and we took Eddie for a walk along the grounds. 

A nice stranger offered to take our picture. Why not?
After relaxing in the sun and doing a little hiking around the pagoda, we got back in the car and went over to Xavier Memorial Church. It was built in 1998 but memorializes St. Francis Xavier's work in Japan 400 years ago. 

A Catholic church in Japan
Thanks for bringing Christmas over here, St. Francis Xavier!
We usually try to go somewhere that looks interesting for lunch on day trips but there weren't too many places in Yamaguchi with English signs. We ended up going to a little place called "Organic Delicatessen" but found that it was more of a grocery store and buffet. Nothing was freshly cooked or very exciting.

On our way back to the highway, we made a few more stops. When we saw the sign "Fresh and Half-Price Bakery", how could we refuse? We stopped in at the little store that looks like a gatekeeper's house and bought a loaf of white bread and 4 various rolls for under 200 yen. What a great deal!

We hopped back in the car and I had to see what the "Dog Cafe Hanegawa" was all about. Were dogs allowed in? Was it dog themed? We brought Eddie in and everyone fawned over him.

Not only did they have a Dog Cafe, but they also had a dog hotel, dog salon, dog park, and a small shop with dog accessories. We loved it! Eddie had never been to a dog park before so he didn't really know how to behave with the wild pack he encountered. He eventually warmed up and played with a friendly black poodle and a tiny Italian Greyhound. 

While we were there, we thought Eddie might like to get cleaned up. We try to shampoo him regularly but it's a wet and time-consuming process! It's also a big season for shedding for the little guy, and the pros know how to brush him enough to minimize his shedding. We heard a few little yelps while sitting in the dog cafe reading and eating sandwiches, but I think they treated him very well overall. When he was done, it was almost dinner time, so we treated him to a special meaty meal for being so brave:

Eddie at Dog Cafe Hanegawa with a fresh shampoo and blow dry!
Joe smooshed the treat for Eddie's convenience and Eddie really enjoyed it! After a long day of adventures, Eddie and I slept for the ride back and gave Joe a chance to catch up on his Diane Rehm podcasts. 

What a great day! 

The next day, Monday, the Superbowl was on at 8am here in Japan and the III MEF Marines had the day off to enjoy this wonderful American institution! We ate pizza and wings for breakfast, bought a game pass to watch the game and commercials on our TV, and had the Puppy Bowl streaming for me and Eddie. Thanks for the long weekend, Marine Corps! Ooh-rah!