Friday, December 15, 2017

First Day in Dubai

After landing in Dubai, the kids and I felt like zombies walking in a daze. We had not slept at all on the flight, and then Connor went through 8 or 9 of the throw-up bags (poor guy, we think it was a bad reaction to his Tamiflu medication), so we were completely out of it upon arriving in Dubai. Jeff was so excited to see us and be reunited, but we just couldn't summon up the energy to return his excitement.

It's difficult to remember our first hours in Dubai. But I do remember walking up to Jeff's vehicle, fondly named "RJ" which stands for Red Jeep. The kids were so excited to see it in person after hearing about it for a while. It perked them up to ride in RJ and they begin taking in all the sights of the city. (Photo below was taken on an earlier visit.)

As cool as it was to drive through Dubai (I couldn't keep my eyes open!), we all just wanted showers and naps! Jeff had checked out of his long-term apartment in the Pullman Hotel, but he still had access for a few more hours. We thought it was best to shower and clean up at the hotel since it was better furnished and stocked than our villa. We felt a little better but still super exhausted. Jeff took us for an early dinner to his favorite restaurant called Mezza, a Lebanese place that he eats nearly everyday and that I had enjoyed as well during my last visit. We all stumbled into the restaurant, and the kids and I nearly fell asleep waiting for our food. We were a sad-looking sight! As yummy as the dinner was, we were just too wiped out to enjoy it. We took most of our food to go and headed to our new home. For those interested, our home is located in one of the new districts (neighborhoods) of Jumeirah Park.

Jeff had been working for weeks to get our newly leased villa ready to move in. But as hard as he worked, there were still so many things undone in the home.

We arrived to a mostly-empty house with no appliances, minimal rented furnishings, no curtains for privacy (not good for a house with tall windows everywhere), no internet/tv, and no food. We tried to remedy that right away by going to the Carrefour hypermarket (like a Super Walmart) to buy groceries and appliances, but it quickly became clear that we were in no shape for big or time-consuming purchases.

Back home in our villa, the kids and I just wanted to sleep. I can't recall what time it was, maybe 6 or so in the evening, but my head hit the pillow and I was OUT. The next thing I remember, it was 2 in the morning and I was UP! Soon to follow was Connor and then Kaitlynn around 3. I didn't even make them try to go back to sleep because I knew the time change would be a killer. We took a selfie at 4:00 am, all of us wide awake without being adjusted to the new time zone -- 10 hours ahead from our home in Texas.

It was when I woke up at 2:00 am that morning that I looked around in the villa with no privacy and no appliances, and I thought to myself, "This is NO GOOD!" We were in this huge home covered in tile with only a few pieces of furniture. The furnishings had been provided by Jeff's company, which was a huge blessing, but it felt a bit cold and sparse with just a few small pieces in the large rooms. Any time you spoke it would echo loudly across the house. And without appliances, it felt a bit like we were camping. Anyone who knows me will know that camping is NOT my thing, ha!

Armed with a full (half?) night's rest, we headed out again to purchase appliances and necessities. We had an extremely productive day, buying all of our major appliances -- fridge, oven (called a "cooker" here), dishwasher, washer/dryer, and water dispenser. We talked the Carrefour guy into giving us 1-day delivery instead of their standard 2. Score! More on the appliances in a later post.

We also visited the mobile phone provider and purchased a local phone number (SIM card) for me to use with my existing iPhone. Getting internet access on my phone was a major boost for me. You don't realize how much you use it for so many different things until you no longer have it!

By the time we were done with those errands, we were POOPED! We went out with the kids for lunch and Jeff and I were casually surfing the used car listings on the local site called dubizzle, which is similar to the US site craigslist. We knew we would need a car for me eventually so we've been browsing the cars every now and then. As luck would have it, we found an ad for a Ford Expedition similar to the car I had back home, and we called and agreed to meet the seller across town to take a look. We drove to see the car, agreed that we liked it, and began making arrangements to buy the car! This was not on our to-do list for the day, but it looked like an opportunity we should take since buying used cars can be difficult to find what you want. During that process, Connor and Kaitlynn went from play-fighting in the backseat to sudden silence. I looked back and this is what I saw.

They were OUT! I'm thinking this pic might be blackmail one day! I sure didn't blame them though. Up well before daylight and then going nonstop all day. We had such a whirlwind first day in Dubai -- super productive but entirely exhausting!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Final Days in Texas

For our final days in Texas, we planned to stay in the Dallas area to see our close family and friends for a quick "see ya later!" I was quite proud of myself for arranging the logistics and managing to squeeze time in with all of our favorite people in north Texas. Of course, things don't always go according to plan...

We drove our rental car into Dallas on a Saturday evening, right after dropping Jeff off at the Houston airport for his return flight to Dubai. We only gave quick hugs and kisses because we would see him in a couple of days. I had booked a hotel room in the Lewisville area because we planned to meet family at my Aunt Tina's home in Corinth the following morning. The hotel I booked turned out to be underwhelming (the kids referred to it as a "dump") but thankfully we were only there to sleep and shower. We arrived at my Aunt's home early Sunday and were thrilled to see many of our Morgan cousins and family. The plan was to just hang out for most of the day and let the cousins play while the adults caught up and visited. Then around 3:00 pm, I was planning to leave with the kids for another visit in Prosper with my closest friends and their families, also in the Dallas area.

We noticed that Connor wasn't acting his normal energetic self, and his mood/energy levels declined throughout the day. He was also complaining of a sore throat and cough, and his coloring didn't look right. We thought he felt a bit warm but nothing overly concerning. But then my Uncle Mackey brought out his old-school mercury thermometer (I didn't realize how much I missed those!) and sure enough, Connor's temp was 101.8. Let me just say -- he did NOT feel that warm! My kids rarely feel warm and their temps never register on digital thermometers. (Odd!) Thank goodness for Uncle Mackey's thermometer, because then we knew Connor was sick and I immediately suspected the flu. I drove him to a nearby urgent care, and sure enough, it was the flu. Noooooooo!

So much for my carefully planned final days in Texas! We had to cancel our plans with friends on Sunday night, and our plans for the remaining days had to be altered a bit. We stayed in Dallas one more day so that we could spend a couple of hours with my sister's family (making sure to keep a good buffer of space between Connor and everyone else!) We had a nice outdoor lunch together and even had a quick hello from Uncle Chris! Then we were surprised with a farewell dessert designed by my sister -- one of the coolest design I've ever seen on a cookie cake! What a fun and special way to spend some time with cousins before our departure.

After our cookie celebration, we decided to go home with my parents for a couple of days to let Connor recuperate a little. Needless to say, we had to postpone our flights to Dubai until Connor was well enough to travel. We were hoping for only a 2-day delay.

What started as a huge disappointment with having a very sick kid and not being able to follow through with our plans turned into somewhat of a blessing in disguise. We had some much-needed extra time with MeMe and Granddaddy, which I wasn't counting on but definitely did my heart good! The kids enjoyed playing games with Granddaddy, Mom and I had some fun mother-daughter time, and the kids even got an early Christmas present -- cash to spend in the form of UAE dirhams!

Connor was fever-free and feeling better by Wednesday, so we asked Jeff's company to rebook our tickets to Dubai for Thursday flying out of DFW airport. We drove to Dallas Wednesday night and stayed close to the airport to make sure we were ready for the flight. It was that night when I think the reality of the move was sinking in for the kids. They were both feeling some jitters and saying, "I can't believe we're moving to Dubai tomorrow!" and "I can't believe we're going on a 15-hour flight tomorrow!"

We left the hotel the following morning and headed straight for the airport. You could feel the nervous energy and excitement in the air. The kids were soaking it all in.

Finally on the plane, the kids were impressed by the amenities offered by the airline. We were flying coach, but Emirates Airlines makes flying coach more than bearable. The endless entertainment, meals/snacks, and other amenities all make the experience so much better. For this particular flight, it was completely FULL, so we didn't have much flexibility or space. But most of the flights usually have quite a few empty seats so you can spread out.

I was anticipating a long but uneventful flight. I was mostly right. The kids did great with the flight, even though neither was able to rest much. They enjoyed the movies and games and even tolerated the meals served (my picky eaters, ugh). Unfortunately, the uneventful part of the flight ended with about 4 hours to go. I was watching a movie when all of a sudden, Connor tapped me and said, "I need a bag!" But before I could grab one, Connor threw up all over his dinner tray. I was still scrambling for a bag and Connor kept throwing up over and over. It was every parent's worst nightmare and then some. That scenario played out again and again for the entire last 4 hours of the flight, with some small breaks in between. It was AWFUL!! Connor felt miserable and just kept getting sick again and again. I felt terrible for him, and I felt even worse for the passenger sitting next to Connor. He deserved some sort of medal for not only enduring the sight/sound/smell of the situation but also for comforting Connor when he was feeling bad.

We couldn't land soon enough. But we finally touched down and made the long trek through the Dubai airport for customs and baggage claim. When we finally reunited with Jeff, we were so happy to see him but still reeling from our flight experience. It still hadn't sunk in that we were in this foreign land that we would now call home.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

See ya later!

Although we'd known for weeks that our move date was quickly approaching, the emotions still caught me off guard. Normally I'm a fairly reserved person with few outward emotions, but that all changed with this move from Katy TX to Dubai UAE. We had spent many years (4.5 to be exact) cultivating our friends, community, and comfort zone in Katy TX. Walking away felt more personal than I was prepared for. Every gathering and event became the "last" that we would have for a while. We very quickly adopted the phrase, "See ya later!" because goodbyes were just too tough.

More than my own emotions, Jeff and I were concerned about the kids and how they would handle the transition. There were many tears and tough conversations throughout the months leading up to the move, but how would they react when the time came to leave our family home and say "See ya later" to their friends?

I decided to organize a party of sorts for Connor and Kaitlynn to enjoy with their friends as a last hurrah in Katy. I called up our local Altitude Trampoline Park and arranged a night for us to show up, and I printed up loads of flyers for the kids to distribute to as many friends as they wished. Our family has never been big on organized parties simply because of the $$$$ cost, so the reaction from the kids for their party was awesome. They were SO excited!

During their last week of school, the kids loved handing out the flyers. It gave them something fun to look forward to instead of focusing on their final days at their WoodCreek schools. I ordered two large cookie cakes -- Nestle, their favorite! -- and we arrived at Altitude ready to celebrate with friends! It wasn't long before friend after friend showed up for the fun. Connor was truly in his element with his buddies, and Kaitlynn was running around with her girl squad the entire night (so much that I didn't manage any pics of her group!) We took a few photos and a special "See ya later!" video clip to document the evening, but then it was off to dodgeball and jumping all night long.

There might have been a few tears on my part, but it was all smiles and sweat for the kiddos! Mission accomplished! Probably my favorite part of the evening was seeing the kids' teachers, current and past, showing up with their own kids to show their support for Connor and Kaitlynn. Knowing that their teachers have taught hundreds (or more) kids over the years, it touched me beyond words to see the impact that my kids were leaving on these special women.

What a night we'll never forget!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Easter Weekend with Cousins

For at least a few years now, we've had the privilege of having our Morgan cousins visit us in Katy to celebrate Easter weekend. We never make any official plans. Instead, we just enjoy the together time and let the cousins hang out, swim, and catch up. This year our visit coincided with Aunt Michelle's birthday, so we made sure to throw in some birthday celebrations as well as the Easter fun.

This Easter weekend will forever be remembered as the time when I introduced Michelle to White House Black Market, and thus her WHBM shopping addiction was born. She has since become a platinum card holder (twice over) due to her love of the store. Sorry, Michelle, but at least you are always completely styled and fashionable! Ha!

We felt quite privileged to celebrate Michelle on her special day. The occasion called for Smallcakes cupcakes, yummy! Aunt Alli gathered the kids to make special handmade cards for Michelle, too. I was touched by some of their messages and artwork.

And even though we didn't have formal Easter plans, we threw together an Easter egg hunt for the cousins. They loved gathering the eggs and running around outside. I love all of the cousin photos we manage to get during these visits. So fun!

One last jump and then a cuddle with Sweet Daddy to wrap up the awesome weekend.