Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Our Lives Lately

Here's a random collection of photos from our lives here in Dubai lately.

I think I mentioned that most Fridays are the Friday Grill Fest at our home. We love to grill up a lot of chicken, hotdogs, and steak all at one time which gets us through the following week. Maybe most parents start a lot earlier, but we are trying to encourage (force? haha) our kids to help us out since the big dinners require a lot of cleanup. Connor does the dishes while Kaitlynn cleans the table and floors.

I enjoy Jeff's grilling at home but to be honest I almost always prefer to eat out. We usually dine out 1-2 times per week, typically on the weekends. I just love not having the mess at home, and the family time out together is an added bonus. Usually we get stuck in a rut and eat at the same restaurants but we're trying to branch out a bit, using our Entertainer BOGO coupons for new places to try. (OK, I realize the irony in saying that because these below photos of our last dining experience are actually from Chili's. Definitely not a "new" place to try, haha!!)

I couldn't resist posting the below photo. We were invited to the home of a fellow baseball family on a recent Thursday night (that's the start of our weekend here). This is PROOF that I sometimes stay out past 8:00 pm! (Yes, it's rare, what can I say?) We were making sad faces because one of the other Moms had to miss the fun due to a sick kiddo. My friend Diana on the far left is actually from Montgomery, TX. Yet again, it's such a small world!

Here's a random photo of Kaitlynn on her school playground. She kept coming home talking about the "spinning thing" that she loves playing with. I finally saw her in action and wow, that's a lot of spinning. Made me dizzy just to watch.

Side note: Two things I'm loving about the kids' school lately. First, the elementary kiddos get 2 recess periods during the day. Why don't schools in the US do that? It's clearly so much better for the kids. And second, I just love that I can walk into the school here. As long as I'm wearing my family tag around my neck, I can join my kid on the playground before school, stop to say hello to a teacher, or take care of any school business without much hassle. Back in the US public schools, they are so locked down that visiting your kid or the teacher during school hours requires a long series of security checks and clearances. I understand it, but it makes me sad.

I've already posted about our fun lately with Dubai Little League, but we recently took part in their spring Fun Family Friday. It's an annual event where the league will sponsor games, contests, and extra fun to promote the league and support the families. Connor's team played under the lights and even had a DJ playing walk-up songs for each of the boys. I took these photos and a quick video of one of Connor's plate appearances (he hit it straight to the first baseman). It was a cool experience and the boys had so much fun!

OH, and the Fun Family Friday just happened to fall on the evening of the Super Blue Blood Moon (or whatever it was called??). It was super cool to watch the moon rise, much bigger and brighter than usual. I even managed to capture (albeit poorly) a shot of the moon while Connor was playing catcher one inning. It's on the right side of the below photo just above the horizon.

During that same weekend, Kaitlynn attended her very first birthday party here in Dubai. It was a celebration at the home of one of her first friends in her class, Derin. The gorgeous weather makes for a perfect outdoor birthday gathering for both the kids and parents. Derin's talented mother prepared several amazing Turkish treats and desserts, and I was happy to sample them all!

I mentioned in an earlier post that Kaitlynn started taking piano lessons here in Dubai. She begged us for months and we finally gave in. This is her first exposure to music theory so she has a lot to learn, but she was anxious to get started. She used some savings and Christmas spending money to buy a used keyboard from dubizzle (the local Craigslist) so that she could have extra practice at home.

When Jeff moved to Dubai last summer, he immediately missed being able to watch the Houston Texans games throughout the season. He purchased the NFL GamePass in order to see the games in real time, and we were excited that we were also able to see the Super Bowl using the same app. With the time difference, we caught the end of the first half and then we woke up the kids early on their school day so that they could watch a little bit and even eat breakfast in front of the TV (a big treat!) for the big game.

Unfortunately we had to leave for school before the game was over. It was an exciting game and we didn't want to miss it! Once we arrived at the school parking lot, we called Jeff and he gave us the play-by-play through the last 2 minutes of the game. WOW, what a great game! We were stunned by the upset, and Connor went into school a happy kid that day!!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Home, Sort of

It took about 2 weeks or so after the arrival of our belongings, but I've mostly gotten our stuff settled in the new villa here in Dubai. I say that with hesitation, because to me there are still so many little things without a good solution. In a home we own, I would make a list of those projects and try to work on them over time. Such as, hanging a shelving unit in the laundry area, installing built-in cabinets for extra storage, painting the walls in every room, etc. However, we are leasing our villa so I'm trying to change my mindset and not worry about the less-than-ideal circumstances here and there around our home. That doesn't mean there won't be projects, though! (No doubt Jeff will read this and be rolling his eyes at that statement!)

Anyway, I thought I'd share photos of our new "normal" now that we're a little more settled in. Maybe this helps give a visual of our daily lives here at home in Dubai.

From the front entrance walking in, you start in Connor's favorite spot, the courtyard area with his basketball hoop. He and his neighbor buddies love hanging out over here shooting hoops. Once you walk through the covered porch, you go into a spacious entryway followed by the living room and a sitting area. It's a U-shaped floorplan that leads to the dining room and around into the kitchen. The sitting area leads out into an outdoor patio which is currently packed with our old pool furniture. We eventually think we'll move those lounge chairs to one of the upstairs decks, but everything here ends up covered in layers of sand so we're still thinking on that.

Off the kitchen is the hallway leading to the maids room (currently our laundry room and extra storage), washer/dryer, and then the garage. The service company that installed all of our wall décor also hung these whiteboards and hooks, which are a lifesaver for all the backpacks and bags. Now if I could just find the dry erase markers and erasers...

It wouldn't be "real" of me to post villa photos without showing the various piles and stacks of things that we just don't know what to do with around here. We have this large area under the stairs that works as a decent storage area for various things, such as shower curtains and hooks (don't need them here), US electronics and power cords, curtains and draperies, etc. My eventual goal is to get some sort of curtain to block this unsightly mess but who knows if I'll ever get around to that.

Is it just me, or is it that the longer your things sit in a pile somewhere, they just becomes part of the normal landscape that you don't notice? Those cords hanging from the TV...oops, I guess we were supposed to hide those. That pile on the kitchen counter... that's where we "store" the coupons and old invoices. That little spot by the stairs...those are the old clothes that we need to donate to someone. The bin in the middle of the bedroom floor...oh yeah, those are hangers we aren't using right now. Ummm, please tell me I'm not the only one who ends up looking past these things and leaving them undone because I just haven't found a better solution? I digress...

On the second story (which is actually referred to as the 1st floor here), you walk up into this large landing area. I think most people might use it as a second living area or play room but my goal is to use it as an office space. There aren't any power outlets by the desk area (why doesn't someone consult with a woman on these things??) so I had to move the printer across the room. It is currently sitting on the floor waiting for a permanent home. And our files will apparently remain stored in packing boxes in the corner, for now. :-)

Each of the bedrooms are accessible from this upstairs landing. We have 4 bedrooms, one of which we turned into a game room. Which meant that Connor inherited the guest room furniture, so his bedroom really makes no sense right now -- a blend of beach-themed and Houston Texans decor, ha!

The 3rd story of the villa leads up to the rooftop balcony. It's always completely covered in sand, and as soon as you sweep it, the sand returns. So for the most part, we don't use the 3rd story and never go up those stairs.

And that's it, the tour of our Dubai villa! One of these days I might feel more encouraged to make the spaces more functional but it's all working fine for now and finally starting to feel (sort of) like home.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Special Delivery

Last month I wrote about our Packing and Moving experience, when the moving crew took over our home for 3 days. They packed all of our belongings and loaded them onto a 40-foot shipping container to be transported to Dubai by sea. The last time we saw our things was November 30.

After about 7.5 weeks, we were given the official delivery date when our container would arrive here in Dubai at our doorstep. I was telling some of my friends here about the anticipated arrival of our container, and they immediately responded with joy and excitement on my behalf. Most people that live here have been through the process, so they know exactly what we are experiencing. I was told it would feel like Christmas as the boxes were unloaded, a wonderful thing to have our belongings back with us and to finally start to feel at home.

On delivery day, I heard the big truck even before it pulled up. It was indeed quite exciting! And I have to admit, it was surreal seeing that steel container, knowing that the last time I'd seen it was thousands of miles away and what felt like another life.

Once the truck was in position, the workers opened it up to get to work. And it was at this EXACT moment that I pretty much lost it.

Seeing the inside of the container immediately transported me back to the moment it was being sealed up, back at "home" in Katy.

I was instantly overcome with emotion, remembering fondly our former home and community. The tears started flowing freely and I had to run inside to compose myself. Who knew that a silly shipping container would trigger such strong feelings? I wasn't sure why it hit me so hard, but I had a tough time shaking my emotions.

Luckily I was able to stay busy, focusing on the task at hand. The crew of workers immediately began unloading our boxes and taking them inside to their new home. Connor and Kaitlynn pitched in to help keep track of the box numbers, and I was mainly directing the workers from room to room.

It took several hours to unload the truck. There were 273 boxes, after all! I snapped one more photo as the truck pulled away. Why was I so sentimental about the dang container??

After the container was emptied, the workers immediately began setting up the bed frames and other big furniture while I focused my attention on the kitchen. I can't believe I didn't take a photo -- there were boxes stacked to the ceiling (I'm not exaggerating!), and I methodically began unpacking them one by one. By the end of the first day, I had completely unpacked the kitchen, and our beds and heavy furniture were all assembled. Finding sheets for the beds, on the other hand, was another story. (Kaitlynn ended up sleeping on the game room sofa that night because I simply couldn't find her sheets amidst the mess!)

Two funny stories from Day 1 of the unpacking. First, it wasn't long into the unloading of the container that Jeff spotted an important looking box in the garage. It was a box that he had packed himself containing the most critical of items: sports equipment! Ha! Jeff and Connor immediately began playing catch in the driveway. They had missed the sports gear most of all.

The second funny story... this was my first experience with having a company pack my things for me. I've always done that part myself. One of my friends had warned me that I should be prepared before they arrive to pack, because the movers will box up everything, even the bag of trash in your trash can if you're not organized enough. I assumed she was mostly kidding but I made sure to empty my trash cans before the movers showed up in Katy. But apparently I wasn't quite organized enough. As I was unpacking the kitchen stuff here at our villa, I began to see exactly what my friend meant... Box after box of my pantry items, many things that had already been opened and even some with their chip clips intact. The Ruffles and Lays chips in particular made the journey, but not without a lot of "debris" inside the box. Made me laugh!

On day 2 of the process, the entire upstairs was littered with boxes everywhere; there was hardly a path to walk from room to room. I decided to focus my efforts on the master bedroom and bathroom while the crew of workers continued with unboxing and furniture assembly. Looking around and being surrounded by boxes, I was definitely overwhelmed.

It's amazing the things you discover when moving. There were so many times during the process of unpacking where I found myself wondering, "Why on earth didn't I throw this away!" Add to that the things that we just can't use here for various reasons... it makes for an interesting job when you try to find a spot for everything.

Side note: as happy as I was to see most of our belongings, there was one item in particular that wasn't exactly welcome. Clearly it had been damaged in transit. (Joking. Couldn't help myself!)

By early afternoon on the 2nd day, the crew of workers had mostly unboxed and assembled everything they could. Around the time they were leaving, I asked them about mounting the television, installing curtains, and hanging wall décor. I just assumed that since the moving company had uninstalled those things, they would reinstall them as well. Thankfully, Jeff's firm hired another service company who showed up a few days later to do those jobs for us. They arrived at 9:00 am and worked nonstop until 4:30 pm to finish. That's a TON of work! I was SO grateful for that assistance. After all, the walls here are cement and therefore it is no easy task.

And that was it. The rest was up to us! (*gulp*) The challenge was just beginning to make this villa begin to feel like home.