I’m Back

Well, it has been some time since my last post. Reason being that we are in the middle of our PCS. We have officially left Key West for good and are now temporarily in Norfolk. It will be a couple of months before we head out to Japan and I go missing for a little again until then I promise to try to stay up to date and post as much relevant information as my little hands can grab.

Talk soon!
Michelle

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5 Tricare Myths

We have all heard one thing or another in regards to Tricare. Things that they do or don’t do. I know I have heard my fair share of myths in my eight years of being a Military Spouse. So to help a little with all the stories and ‘gossip’ you may hear, here are the five top myths I hear in regards to Tricare.

1. You get one PCM for your entire Duty Station.
If you are Standard, then probably. However, if you are Prime you more than likely won’t. Keep in mind these doctors are also service members, therefore, they to rotate duty stations. Meaning you may go through a few PCMs during your stay per station. In our three years in this location, I am on Doctor number four.

2.Getting a free breast pump is impossible.
This is very easy. There are a few companies which all they do is deal with Tricare. When I had my son, i used Target. All I had to do was email the picture of the prescription to them. However, I have heard they no longer offer this service. I know The Breastfeeding Shop is another source. All you have to do with them is fill out their order form.

3. Urgent Care Visits require Pre-Aprroval.
For Standard, there is no pre-approval needed. However, you will still be responsible for your co-pay.
For Prime, you are allowed two visits without approval per person per year. For more than two you will need an authorization, which you may get by calling the Tricare Nurse Line should your regular PCM not be available to see you.

4. You can get your prescription filled anywhere.
Simply put No. Some locations do not cover Tricare. CVS for example no longer takes Tricare. Places like Walgreens, Walmart, and Rite-Aid, are still providers. The best place to get prescriptions filled is still on base since there is no co-payment in the base pharmacy as there is with the other vendors.

5. Prime is the best option.
This is not true, and it comes down to each families specific needs. If you don’t mind waiting on referrals and having little to no say on which doctors you get, then this is a good option. There is also little to no expense associated with Prime.
However, if you want the freedom of choosing your doctor, and don’t want to deal with waiting for referrals, then Standard may be for you. Just keep in mind that Standard is a 80-20. Meaning they cover 80% of the costs and you cover 20%. So if a bill is 1000, you would be responsible for 200. I do know there is also a deductible section for Standard, but I am not aware of the logistics behind it.
So be sure to do your research and choose which plan is better for your family. For example, for my family, Prime was the best option.

Are there more myths floating around out there? Sure there is. There always will be due to misinformation and the telephone effect. The key is research. If you can’t, find the answer then ask the appropriate people. Should you have a Tricare question, ask the Tricare specialist on your base. Question on medical, ask a service member there. Do not just rely on what you hear from other spouses. Though us spouses are a source of knowledge, sometimes we hear things incorrectly or our own personal experiences may lead to wrong information.

PCS Binder

So we all hate moving, well I think most of us at least do. I know my stress levels go through the roof, and now with an overseas PCS looming over me, I knew I had to do something. I created a binder. Yes, it may have been an over the top thing to do, but man did my stress go down.

First, I researched… a lot. I looked at a bunch of different examples of binders and created my own. I took the good, dropped the bad, and added what I found to be missing. I hope this helps you as much as it did me. My humble opinion is this works well for both CONUS and OCONUS PCS.

What you’ll need:
1 – zipper pouch with the three ring binder hold on the side
1 – 2 inch three ring binder. You can probably do smaller, but I put EVERYTHING in there, and 2 Inch was the right size for me.
Eight tabs.
And a packet or two of sheet protectors.

The Tabs:
1. Important/ Legal
2. Medical
3. Travel
4. Housing
5. Check List
6. Pet Info
7. Contact List
8. Shipping Info

The rundown:
1. Important/ Legal – Basically a copy of orders, marriage cert, birth certificates, school records, etc.
2. Medical – Vaccinations, medical records, the list of medications.
3. Travel – Hotel info, flight, car rental
4. Housing – Any documents in regards to housing both old and new. Leases, the release of the property so forth.
5. Check List – Can help keep you on track. Can put it on your first tab before move.
6. Pet info – All documents from vaccinations to microchip info. Airline hotel boarding.
7. Contact list – Numbers and addresses for exiting and entering command. Never know when your phone will die and you’ll need a number
8. Shipping info – All HHG info as well as any POBOX info you have.
Zipper pouch – Here I keep passports a pen and put all receipts for reimbursement.

Hopefully, you will find as much use out of this as I did.

Happy Moving!

PCS Binder

So we all hate moving, well I think most of us at least do. I know my stress levels go through the roof, and now with an overseas PCS looming over me, I knew I had to do something. I created a binder. Yes, it may have been an over the top thing to do, but man did my stress go down.

First, I researched… a lot. I looked at a bunch of different examples of binders and created my own. I took the good, dropped the bad, and added what I found to be missing. I hope this helps you as much as it did me. My humble opinion is this works well for both CONUS and OCONUS PCS.

What you’ll need:
1 – zipper pouch with the three ring binder hold on the side
1 – 2 inch three ring binder. You can probably do smaller, but I put EVERYTHING in there, and 2 Inch was the right size for me.
Eight tabs.
And a packet or two of sheet protectors.

The Tabs:
1. Important/ Legal
2. Medical
3. Travel
4. Housing
5. Check List
6. Pet Info
7. Contact List
8. Shipping Info

The rundown:
1. Important/ Legal – Basically a copy of orders, marriage cert, birth certificates, school records, etc.
2. Medical – Vaccinations, medical records, the list of medications.
3. Travel – Hotel info, flight, car rental
4. Housing – Any documents in regards to housing both old and new. Leases, the release of the property so forth.
5. Check List – Can help keep you on track. Can put it on your first tab before move.
6. Pet info – All documents from vaccinations to microchip info. Airline hotel boarding.
7. Contact list – Numbers and addresses for exiting and entering command. Never know when your phone will die and you’ll need a number
8. Shipping info – All HHG info as well as any POBOX info you have.
Zipper pouch – Here I keep passports a pen and put all receipts for reimbursement.

Hopefully, you will find as much use out of this as I did.

Happy Moving!

Oconus PCS with Pets

Oh, those lovely little fur babies that become part of our lives and hearts. Normally moves are smooth with them, as long as you bring them food and water they are happy as can be. But what happens when you get orders overseas to Japan?

Many of the things I read up on said to leave them behind or prepare to spend thousands of dollars. While that may be true for some, it isn’t true for all.

For example, if what you have is cats or small dogs, the odds are that they can fly in the cabin with you for a small fee. Now if you need to add them as cargo, due to the larger size, and are traveling on orders, you can get a nice military discount on commercial flights. Just keep in mind a Patriot flight or military flight is always the cheaper option for larger pets. However, those get booked quickly so book as soon as possible.

But let’s rewind just a little, I, for example, have not yet made the big puddle jump. We are currently in the quarantine phase, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Here is a small step by step guide of what you need to do to prepare your pets for travel to Japan.

1. Microchip. If your pet already has one, make sure it is the new 15 digit microchip. The old ten digit is no longer acceptable for Japan. If you do have the ten digit one, you will need to do a new microchip.
2. Two rabies vaccination that is done AFTER the chip’s inserted. The second vaccine can be done 30 days after the first.
3. The rabies antibody test. It is a blood sample that is drawn after the second vaccine.
4. Quarantine or waiting period. This one is the “bad” part. It is 180 wait time or quarantine. The date of blood sampling is counted as 0. If you have to travel before the quarantine is over, you may still take your pets. Depending on the base you will be going to, you may finish the quarantine within the base “house, ” you get assigned, or you may board your pet with the base vet for quarantine completion.
5. If flying commercial, you must send in Advanced notification at the expected port of entrance. You can find all the forms needed here.
6. Vet visit clearing for travel.
7. Get all certifications. Individual information, microchip number, and date of implanting. Date of rabies vaccinations, effective period, kind of vaccine, product name, and manufacturer of the vaccine. Date of blood sampling for a rabies antibody test, antibody titer, and name of designated laboratory. Result and date of clinical inspection, as well as a USDA, stamped international health certificate.

As you can see, it is quite a few steps. We are currently on 4, and waiting to find out how we are flying over.

Hope this has helped you some in finding out how to get your pet over to Japan.

Mommy hospital bag, what to really take.

You have finally come around to making that pesky hospital bag. Whether you are 20 weeks pregnant or 35 weeks, it’s never an easy task.

I am sure you have heard it all by now, I know I did. From the must haves in the hospital bag to the just leave behind you’ll never use. And truth be told some were right, not to mention everyone’s experience is different. The reality is, it also has to do with your hospital and what they give. So here is some of my musts and leave behind, with a few extra tips along the way.

1. Non-slip socks. Forget the slippers or the shoes, just plain old socks. If you have your baby in the little bassinet beside you, you’ll still need to take a step to reach over for your bundle safely. If you already have socks on it makes it much easier than having to search for and put on shoes.
2. Hair ties. I don’t know how your labor will go, but my contractions came on my hair wash day. Now, I am a first-time mom and didn’t realize I had quite some time to shower and do my hair, but my panic and rush to the hospital had me in labor without my hair being done. Hair ties were my savior.
3. Boppy. That is if you are planning on breastfeeding. It will get you used to it for when you get home, not to mention much more comfortable than having your arm floating around while you and your little learn to bond.
4. Electronic chargers. Phone, laptop, e-reader, whatever electronics you take remember the chargers.
5. 2 comfortable sets of clothing. I had a natural labor, meaning comfy for me was a dress. If you have a c-section comfortable for you may be leggings. Plan for both occasions, you never know what turn things may take.

Now comes the maybe section. I brought toiletries, but my hospital gave me everything from toothpaste and brush to a hair brush, shampoo, conditioner. I also took makeup that I did not use. So if you are a big makeup user take it, otherwise leave it behind. You will be too enamored of your new bundle to worry too much about what you look like.

They gave me tucks (which are wonderful!) as well as pads, and the pain relief spray. I had heavy bleeding where I needed two blood transfusions, so I ended up sending my husband to buy me Depends because I leaked through the pads. Future pregnancies I will take depends, however, because they were much more comfortable than the mesh panties they give you.

I took magazines and some “entertainment” things to keep my mind off the pain (no epidural) but never used them. I just closed my eyes and tried to rest in between contractions. That is something I will leave behind next time, but it may be helpful for some. Especially if you do an epidural, you’ll want something to do to pass the time.

The don’t include section. Do not take too many clothes. For me, it was better to use the hospital gown because it had breastfeeding flaps. Much easier and if it got milk or blood on it I could just request another.

Nipple cream. I got about for “sample” tubes that lasted me up until four months postpartum.

Breast pads, I got two boxes of them from the hospital.

Never be afraid to ask for things. Alcohol swabs to clean the babies belly button. They may not give you the breast pads and cream unless you ask for it. Anything that may be for your well being and your babies, they will have so ask away. My hospital also gave me a bag of diapers and wipes, though I have heard some hospitals do not give wipes anymore. Like I said, ask for everything, worse case scenario you can send someone to the gift shop for you to get anything you may need.

Happy Packing!

When nothing starts as planned….

So we just got our hard copy orders….finally. In my head everything would go so smoothly and as planned. We’d get our orders, be able to schedule the movers, hotel and touch base with housing no problem. I also imagined we’d be able to set our flight, get our pets booked on there and all I’d have left to worry about was cleaning up our house and re-painting it to turn it in.

Well, life seldom goes as planned, especially in the military and when you are the mother to a baby.

Like I said we got our order, then I asked about the hotel since it is one of my bigger concerns. Where we are being stationed, they only have a limited amount of rooms that are pet accessible, and we have two cats. I would hate to board them. Well, as you know orders give you a detach and arrive no later than a date with some time in between. And we can’t set apart a hotel until we know when we arrive, which we won’t know until we have a flight because we are stationing overseas. So I ask my loving husband how do we get the flight…. and he doesn’t know, he needs to “look into it.” So here we go, bump number one and two all at once.

Ok, I breathe and let that go. So on to the next on my list. Well third since the flight situation was next, and well, that got nowhere before I was even able to discuss it. Housing. I know were not there but figured hey, let’s at least send in our application, they know we’re coming, and with pets so at least we’re in the back of their mind. So I pull up the housing application, and it asks a bunch of questions I can’t answer regarding detaching and arriving dates. Sigh.

I was going to tackle the movers but let my husband do that one, which we learned we’re going to have to talk to someone in person. We are navy being stationed in a Marine base overseas, and our future base is not in our little drop down menu box. So, that was a no go either.

Did I mention throughout all of this I was carrying a ten-month-old who was screaming bloody murder? I was, and he had a clean diaper and was fed, but was sleepy. I don’t know if I have the only child that thinks that he doesn’t need sleep but, putting him down for the night usually includes rocking him, ignoring him, letting him play, and just laying in the dark until he is cried out and finally passes out of exhaustion.

This was my night yesterday. Futile and tiresome. But at least now we know we need to get some more information, reach out to a few people and hopefully get to that place where I imagined myself all along. Just needing to paint and turn in the house.

If you find yourself here too, know you are not alone. You aren’t the only one banging your head against the wall at military websites, or with bags under your eyes, or the only one with a child that you question where on earth he was spawned from. I am right here with you.

Much luck to you!

What you were never told about deployments.

I remember every single day of the first time my husband was deployed… and the second too. These are times of our lives that sadly we trudge through but never forget. We keep a little piece alway in our minds to keep us prepared for the next time because with active duty there is always the next time.

For those that are just starting this adventure, welcome. Here are a few things no one ever told you about deployments.

1. You will worry even when you know your service member is okay.
Yes! It is inevitable. My husband is in the Navy, and even when he is in the middle of the ocean and not in a war zone I worry. Why? Because, they are still deployed, which means war zones are inevitable. Also, mishaps can happen. So expect to be worried up until they walk through the door.

2. You will start an unwanted relationship with food.
Whether it is too much food or not enough, prepare yourself for an extream. Stress affects us in different ways, but nine times out of ten it affects in the way we eat. For some, its overindulgence that helps manage stress. For others, it is keeping so busy you forget even to eat, The best way to prevent either one set a meal plan and alarms to help you out.

3. Your phone will become an extension of your person.
There is no worse feeling than seeing a missed call on your phone, even worse, knowing it was your loved one who called. So be ready to have your phone glued to your hand like a teenaged girl addicted to Instagram.

4. Distractions are welcome.
Not only are they welcome, but they are also a major key to sanity. You may not feel up to it, but trust me, accept the invitation. Whether it is an invitation to have coffee, or go to the mall, or even just go hang out at a friends house. It will give you a few minutes of normalcy that you will later be greatful for.

5. Be ready for a lot of “dumb questions.”
What do I consider dumb questions? Oh you know, the good old-fashioned “Are you scared he is going to die?” , “How do you do it?” or the one that makes me roll my eyes so hard I see my brain, “You’re used to it by now, right?”. So if you are reading this, don’t ask those questions. Ever!

6. Time will slow down and speed up.
This will happen multiple times throughout the deployment with no rhyme or reason. There will be phases where a week may feel like an eternity. Then there are those precious weeks where you realize a whole month flew by in a blink of an eye. Don’t ask why or try to understand it.

7. Lastly, it never gets easier.
This is one of the reasons that question “you should be used to it” grates the nerves so much. If you’ve done more than one deployment, you know each one is just as bad as the previous. There is no getting used to it nor it getting easier. There is only moving along and making it to the end where your loved one is back safe and home.

There is nothing to do, I live my days to the max with my loved one and plan the as many memories as possible in the timeframe I have him home. It is all I can do, knowing any day he will tell me another deployment is scheduled. Until then I will live in blissful ignorance as we try to do.

Military Discounts

So we’ve all done it. Gone somewhere and wondered if they have a military discount, figure they don’t and just don’t ask. I know that at least on my end I get so tired of asking and hearing “no.” So here are some places that offer military discount for active, retired and active duty spouses.

–Avis Car Rental – U.S. Military and Federal Government employees get free collision/LDW insurance coverage, no underage driver fees, unlimited mileage and competitive rates on official business or personal.
–Budget Car Rental – With the offer code BCD U088801, military members receive discounted rates when booking a rental car online.
–Hertz Rental Cars – Members of the military receive discounted rates and unlimited mileage through Hertz Rental Cars. Free upgrades are also offered if space is available.
–Aeropostale-Get 10% off on all purchases in any Aeropostale store nationwide.
–Kohl’s-Get a Kohl’s 15% military discount by presenting a valid US military ID in selected Kohl’s branches nationwide. Not all Kohl’s participate.
–Nike-Active, retired, reservist US military personnel and their families get 10% off in Nike-owned stores including Nike Stores, NikeFactoryStores, NIKETOWN and NikeWomen in the US and Puerto Rico. Present a valid US military ID for verification.
–Oakley-The program is for active duty military, reserve, federal and local law enforcement, fire, EMS and those holding military retiree credentials. Must have a valid .gov or .mil email address entered during registration confirm your approval. The discount is available through their USS Standard Issue website.
–Old Navy-Every Monday Old Navy gives you 10% off your total purchase with valid Military ID! Just show your ID at check-out for your savings!
–Sperry Boat Shoes & Clothing-Sperry gives a 15 percent military discount online following Troop ID verification. Offer includes active duty service member, retirees, spouses, and dependents.
–Apple-The Apple Federal Government and Military Employee Purchase programs is available to Military Personnel, National Guard and Reserve, and their families, along with employees of the federal government. You can get a military discount on iPhones, iPads, iPods and Macs through Apple’s Military/Government Purchase Program.
–Best Buy-Best Buy Military discounts are available at some locations, typically 10% off. Call ahead and ask. Best Buy offers half off Geek Squad services for military families.
–1-800 Flowers-Save 15% on flowers and gifts by going to 1800Flowers.com or call 1-800-FLOWERS (356-9377).
–Pro Flowers-Visit Pro Flowers to see special military discounts.
–Costco Wholesale-Join Costco as a new member and receive over $50 in savings for all Members of the Armed Forces, Veterans, and their families.
–Home Depot-A year round 10% discount up to a maximum $500 at all U.S. locations to active duty personnel, reservists, retired or disabled veterans and their immediate families. Must present a valid military ID. A 10% discount is also offered to all other military veterans on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and Veterans Day. Note: Many Home Depots are reported to provide a Veterans 10% discount year round.
–Pottery Barn-Active duty, military retirees, and their families may receive a 15% discount on their entire in-store purchase. Offer valid in-store only, and excludes prior purchases, gift cards, taxes or shipping & processing fees. Please show valid military ID or family ID card.
–Yankee Candle-Military personnel and immediate family receive 10 percent discount. Present a valid form of military ID at checkout in retail and outlet stores. For online orders, military should email or fax a copy of their order confirmation to info@yankeecandle.com to receive the discount.
–Zales Diamond Store-Military members receive a 10% discount on any item that is not already discounted. To get the discount, you must call Zales to have it applied.
–PODS-Military members and veterans are eligible for discounted storage rates through PODS.
–United States Postal Service (USPS)
The Postal Service offers free Mili-Kits that contain all the supplies needed for shipping items to military members overseas.
–American Airlines Cargo-Ship your pets for 50% less than the regular published rates. Active members of the US military forces, as well as their dependents, may avail of this discount, which applies to animal shipping for personal use only.

As I said, these are just a few places. Remember whenever you go someplace just ask!

Found a place offering military discount I don’t have listed? Message me, and I’ll update the list!

Happy Shopping

Michelle

Whats in a Care Package?

The famous care package. I hate that word, why? Well, it usually goes accompanied with the dreaded “D” word, Deployment. But none the less, it is an imperative thing, and if this is your first time with a deployed loved one, you may have many questions.

The question I get asked the most is how often they should be sending a package. I like sending a box every other month. Of course, this all depends on the length of the deployment as well. If they are on a four-month deployment, I would probably just send one box instead of two.

As for when should, the first box be sent, considering that you can never know exactly how long the mail will take to get there, I like sending the first package by the end of the first week that they leave. My husband is Navy and when deployed that means being on a ship in the middle of nowhere. So mail can take anywhere from 2-8 weeks to get to him.

Now for the good stuff, what goes in the box?

– Well, there is the basic, like underwear. Yes, i send underwear every package because I have heard horror stories of the laundry room, so my husband gladly tosses the ones he has and uses the new ones.
– Shampoo. Sure they sell stuff on the ship (or base, depending on your situation) but many times the things they sell are essentials, and maybe your package receiver has a specific unique brand they prefer.
– Undershirts
– Socks
– Then it’s the special and unique things that personalize each box. For my husband it is Mio. You know those little squirt bottles that flavored water. I send ten at a time, and he shares with his shipmates that don’t receive packages frequently.
– Takis, if you’ve never had them think spicy cheese but better. A must for him.
– Peanut butter M&M’s. Can he get them on the boat? Sure they are basic enough BUT its easier for me to send him a big bag than him having to buy smaller bags regularly.

So it all comes down to personalization with a few necessities. Find out what your service member needs, and add a few things they might like and would put a smile on their face.

Have tips or ideas for a blog post. Message me, and I may just make a post devoted to your questions or ideas!

Happy Shipping!

Michelle