Monday, August 22, 2016

Atlantis, Dubai

The week before I left for NYC Glenn decided it would be fun to skip to Atlantis for a long weekend.  We had so much fun there last year and he thought it would be a fun way to celebrate with Mal and have a little break.  After much discussion we booked hotel rooms and planned our little getaway.  Mallory flew SO far to spend just a few days with us but hopefully it was worth it!
Finn and Tate were SO excited to see her.  His ninja poses for pictures are the best.
They couldn't stop touching her and talking to her as we got our luggage and rental car set up.  It was darling but also very sweaty in that heat to have two people constantly all over you.
 That first day we got checked in and then hit the water park.
The nice bell boys were so kind and gave the boys a ride on the luggage cart.
The girls did so well in the water park all day.  They'd walk around in their life jackets and then just get fussy when they were tired.  They didn't usually fall asleep until we were headed back in and they were in the stroller but they usually rallied after a snuggle or a little veg time in a tube while we floated the lazy river.  When they were tired Auntie Mallo was always happy to give them a little snug.  They took just a few minutes to warm up to Auntie Mallo and pretty soon they were diving into her arms and out of mine.
The next morning we hit up local meetings and wrestled our little ones for an hour and then headed to the mall to explore while we waited for our time slot to go up the Burj Khalifa.  The mall was incredible, as expected.  Everything in Dubai is so polished and elaborate.  We saw so many stores and restaurants that we've never seen in the Middle East.  We ate lunch at Cheesecake Factory and got cake at Magnolia Bakery.  It was delicious and amazing.
When it was our turn to go up the Burj we waited in a line that moved decently fast but was super long.  Luckily we got pulled to the front of it because we were wrestling our two little ladies.  No strollers were allowed so we carried or chased them the whole time and I think the security guard took pity on us.  For which we were VERY grateful.  The line would have easily gone on for another hour before we even got into the elevator.  The elevator was a spectacle all on it's own.  It had music and lights and made Finn a little bit nervous because they talked to us about how our ears would pop since we were going so high so fast.  He did not understand how ears pop and it was apparently a scary image for him.  He spent the whole time at the top saying that he wanted to just take the stairs down and not the elevator so his ear wouldn't pop.  Poor little man.
The elevator is the fastest in the world, shooting us up 124 stories in one minute.  You can actually go up to the 160th floor but it cost a lot more so we decided 124 floors was plenty.  The view from the top was amazing.  When we got back to the hotel we showed the boys the clip of Ethan Hunt climbing up the side of the Burj and they got a kick out of it.  It was SO high and the view was really unique.  Seeing the limits of the busy city and into the dusty haze of desert beyond.  I was nervous having my four little ones press their faces against the glass but not one of them had the slightest hesitation.  Taryn and Kenna particularly loved being put down and smushing their little faces right against the glass and looking down.

Kenna was still sporting some medical tape over her cut she got while I was in NYC when she took a dive off some steps.
It's always nice to have Auntie Mallo around for many reasons.  One of them is that she is really good at capturing great photos of our crew and it's nice to be in the pictures once in a while instead of just behind the camera.

After the mall we went back to Atlantis hung out for the evening.  We'd been out all day so we just had a chill evening and got the kids to bed so we could spend a full day in the water park the next day.
Saturday we played in the water all day.  It was perfect.  Not too hot at all this time and the lines were pretty manageable.
We crowded in a golf cart instead of walking ALL the way to the kids zone.
Little Miss T was getting pretty tired.
But as long as we stopped for french fries once in a while everyone was just fine.  

The girls wore life jackets and I loved it.  It gave me another second to grab them if they tipped over.  They loved the little kids water slides and would go down the smallest one that was easiest for us to plop them right at the top over and over.  They also loved the little zero entry area that fed into the lazy river.  They'd find tubes and pull them around and try to climb in and out of them over and over.  They're little fish and I'm so grateful because we spend a lot of time in the water in our family.

Around lunch time Glenn offered to bathe the kiddos and put the girls down for a nap and let Mal and I hit up a couple of rides on our own.  We had a blast going on the biggest flume ride which drops you out of a tube.  I was so afraid.  I'm such a baby about body water slides.  And we waited a very long time to ride the biggest tube ride as well and it was totally worth it.  So much fun and so nice of Glenn to let us have a minute to ourselves.
After a little play time we got out and got dressed for dinner with our friends, the Bermans who happened to be there that weekend as well.  We stopped and explored the aquarium before we met them for dinner.  It was even more fun than last time because this time the girls got to really enjoy it as well.

 And amazing Auntie Mallo read bed time stories to both little girlies.

The next morning was our last.  We hit up the buffet and met up with Katelyn and Whitty.  Katelyn had been gone all weekend so this was the only time we were able to meet up and she was SO kind to come see us so we could catch up for just a little bit.  Little Whitt is just as cute as can be and Katelyn will always be my hero for the strength and compassion with which she lives this expat life and all the kind words of advice she's given me throughout this experience.

The breakfast buffet was delicious.  Finny was very proud of the design he made with the wrapper of his baby bel cheese wheel on the table.  

We got another few hours in the water and then had to head in to shower and check out.

One last parting shot before we left.

The boys were both being very sweet with their sisters for a minute.

Finn called this glass sculpture in the lobby "the Beautiful".  He loved it and kept pointing it out to Mallory as "the Beautiful!"  It was darling.

This picture symbolizes the beginning of the end.  As Glenn was checking out and getting our rental car and bags all set Tate started to moan that his tummy hurt and he was tired.  We thought he was just hungry and told him we'd get him some lunch as soon as we got through security at the airport.  Little did we know it was much worse than just hungry.

Mal took this picture of sweet T asleep in the car. I love those little cheekies!

We set out in the car and lost our way a few times on our way to the airport.  It was a very confusing place to drive and didn't seem to have simple ways to correct once we missed an exit.  But eventually we made it to the airport and by the time we did Tate was crying.  He didn't seem to really understand what was happening yet either.  He just couldn't stop crying.  We weren't sure if he was really sick or just tired and being whiney but when we asked if he was sick he would tell us "no, I'm just hungry."  So we'd tell him to buck up and we'd get food once we got through security.  We made it to security and said goodbye to Mallory as she went her way to find her gate.  By the time we were walking down the terminal trying to find our gate Tate was moaning and crying really loudly that his stomach hurt.  And it was about now that we regretted all the different tactics we used to get him to stop whining and complaining.  Ooops.  Bad parent moment.  He spent about an hour curled up outside the bathroom crying and moaning but never threw up.  I took the other kiddos and got food and then when our flight was going to board we helped him make his way to the gate where he promptly threw up all the tylenol and pepto and whatever else was in his stomach.  The gate agent told us we'd have to call the medical staff and that they wouldn't be able to allow us to board.  They said they'd book us on a later flight once he'd been checked out.  So we waited and some EMTs came to check Tate out.  I went to the medical room with him in the cart and the rest of the family followed behind us.  It was just not a great experience.  The doctor said he probably just had a stomach bug.  He was very abrupt, not gentle or kind to Tate and couldn't look me in the eye.  Tate said his stomach didn't really hurt any more but he was SO weak and just not feeling well so they had him lie on a cot and gave him liquids and pain killers through an IV.  It was so different than it would be in the states.  The nurses barely spoke to me let alone to Tate.  They were going to stick the IV in him without even talking to him first to explain what would happen.  And it was like that every step of the way.  I had to stop them and ask for an explanation of what was happening and then tell Tate what was going on and why.  It was awful.  After a while Finn, the girls and I left to walk around the terminal for a while.  Glenn called while we were out and said the doctor recommended that they take him to the hospital.  Finn was complaining at this point of feeling cold and sure enough, he had a fever too.  So we got him in another bed at the clinic while the doctors were figuring out what to do with Tate.  They gave Finn some tylenol and after half an hour when that didn't work they gave him a suppository just to get his fever down so he could leave.  It was so strange to have so little thought of how theses little kids would be affected or how they'd feel.  They just wanted their symptoms to go away so they could get them out of there.  The doctor decided that Tate had to go to the hospital to rule out appendicitis.  Even though they'd been pushing on his stomach and he didn't show any signs of appendicitis at all, he said he wouldn't let us get on a flight without him being checked out first.  That if we did try to get out of there he'd have to write a note that said we were leaving "against medical advice" and they probably wouldn't let us board.  What we really think was happening was that the doctor knew there wasn't anything serious wrong with Tate, but he didn't want to keep him there and watch him for hours so he sent him to the hospital instead.  It was such an ordeal.  We talked to a man in the luggage department from the clinic phone.  I told him that if we were going to be staying over night we needed our luggage so we could change clothes and have the two pack and plays for the girls.  He gave me a phone number and told me the best way to get the luggage would be if we stayed in the airport hotel.  He said to have the front desk at the hotel call him and he'd arrange to have the luggage sent.  By the time Finn, Taryn and Kenna and I got to the front desk the story had changed to "I will try".  And over the course of several phone conversations waiting to put the girls to bed because we were promised our luggage, it became, "well, you'll have to come down here and get them and even then I don't think it will be possible.  It's just not done.  We can't get them out of the secure area."  It was awful.  He was so rude and it was so typical of ME culture to tell you the best possible and then let the situation degenerate until you figure out the actual truth.  Just tell me from the get go that I won't be able to get our baby cribs and we would have dealt with things entirely differently!  It was infuriating.  All the while, Glenn's at the hospital and dealing with doctors and nurses there.  Then my phone runs out of battery so I can't contact him and don't even have the name of the hospital and don't have a charger.  Good times.  

The girls had a good time in the hotel bath.

And the suite we ended up in, after changing rooms 2 times, had a massage chair so the kids loved that!

Before my phone died I texted and spoke to Katelyn again and she was such a sweet support.  The next morning she even offered to bring us some supplies.  Toys and toothbrushes and snacks.  She was so wonderful and gathered a bunch of things to help raise our spirits but what she, and I didn't know was that the airport hotel was actually behind airport security.  So she couldn't get in.  And I couldn't get out!  AND my phone had lost battery so we didn't have any way to contact each other!  I felt so awful that she had gone to so much effort to reach us and turn this experience around but she couldn't even get in to us!
Here's poor sweet Tate in the medical clinic.
And on his way to the hospital
And snuggling with Glenn on the hospital cot.

Glenn and Tate got back in the morning.  Tate had thrown up a couple more times but turned around after some IV fluids and medicine.  Poor kid.  He was absolutely miserable in the hospital and had some great quotes while lying in bed moaning in pain and nausea.  "When will death come?!"  "Someone rescue me from this horror!"  "How can I take this any longer?" "I don't know what's wrong with me!  Death!  Someone save me!"  Glenn and I had a good laugh reading over these very eloquent desperate quotes later.  Sweet kiddo.
What a scary experience to be taken in an ambulance and spend the night in a foreign hospital with nurses and doctors who don't have customer care skills.  Once Glenn got back I used his charger to charge my phone and give Katelyn a call to commiserate. She was such a great listening ear and sounding board through the whole thing, bless her.  When Glenn and Tate got back to the airport the airline wouldn't let them back in without booking new flights.  So on top of everything, after the airline told us that they would re-book us because it was a medical issue and they wouldn't let us board, the made us pay for all new same-day flights.  It was horrible.  Truly awful.  I'm so glad it's over.  
We flew into Bahrain and Tate was still not doing great in the back seat of the taxi on the way home.  We were worried a few times that he might throw up again.  When we finally pulled up to the house he said, "Oh sweet freedom is mine!"  But when it took us a few minutes to unload suitcases so we could get him out of the car he started crying again and said, "Sweet freedom, where have you gone?!"  Poor little kid.  It was a very traumatic end to a glorious weekend.  We were so glad we were able to celebrate with Auntie Mallo and spend some time in the water and exploring a new place together.  We love the Atlantis!  Emirates Airlines, on the other hand, we're not speaking to.

Mallory's Graduation

I was SO lucky to be able to jet out to NYC to help Mallory celebrate her graduation from NYU.  I'm so so glad I was able to be there to show her how proud I am of her and see her graduate in Radio City Music Hall.  It was beyond surreal and I'm indescribably proud of her.  I arrived the day before her graduation and we spend a few hours shopping and eating delicious food, of course.  We made a quick stop at this little supermarket near her apartment.  She calls it the "Jesus Market" because it's always blasting Christian rock music and has this tasteful sign on the door.  I love it.
 The next morning Mom and Dad arrived and we met up for a delicious brunch at Vinyl and a quick visit to NYU campus before heading back to shower and change for the graduation.  It was so amazing to walk in to Radio City and find our seats in this gorgeous, historic theatre and wait for MY SISTER to walk in with the purple-clad graduates.  So cool.  

 The graduation ceremony was great.  Fun speakers and just the right length.  Then I got all teary watching Mallory strut her stuff across the stage.  I can't really express how proud I am of my little sister.  She's been through an awful lot in the last two years living in New York City and going to a very difficult and prestigious graduate school to earn a degree that will allow her to help people as a profession.  I'm just so proud of the woman she is and everything she has overcome.  It was a beautiful experience to be in the room when she graduated.  One I'll not soon forget.
 Dad, Mom, and I with the graduate!
 Radio City Music Hall.  Unreal!

We celebrated after graduation with the best Indian food ever at Bengal Tiger.  So many good choices were made there, as per usual.
 The next day we met up at Central Park and found some bikes to rent for a couple of hours.  It was blissful.  The few hills were a nice little workout and the rest was a gorgeous breeze in our hair in one of the most lovely settings.  There was much picture taking and some conjecturing over what might be happening behind some crime scene tape.  
It was my favorite activity.  It was so much fun to hang out together while getting a little exercise and seeing so much of the park.  I'd do it again in a second.
 After the park it was lunch at the Halal Food truck and then cake from Magnolia in Rockefeller Center.  
 Next was a brief jaunt downtown to check out our favorite shoe store, Shoegasm and a few other spots before rushing back uptown to make it to our show.  
Alfie Boe was starring in Finding Neverland and we had to see him.  It was SO fun to see this show again and the company was pretty great too.  Mom and Dad were even patient enough to wait after the show with us to see if we could get Alfie's autograph.  Alas, he snuck out another door.  He must not have known we were there.  He would never have left us hanging like that if he knew we were there. 
Our last morning we met up and went to the 9-11 memorial museum.  It was so wonderful.  They did a brilliant job of taking you back to where you were and reminding visitors what was happening at the time.  The individual stories tied in with survivors, victims in the towers, fire fighters and passengers that wove together to give an overall timeline and picture of the day and aftermath was really well-done.  So powerful and painful at the same time.  This was a piece of the steel from the exact spot on one of the towers where the airplane struck.  It was horrible to think about how much impact it carried with it to twist this enormous piece of steel like it was just a piece of ribbon.
 Every exhibit really was so beautiful.  This one might have been my favorite.  The remains of many victims are behind this wall and the artist created this mosaic by painting hundreds of times his memory of the color of blue the sky was on the morning of the attacks.
The museum was so beautiful.  There were hundreds of deeply personal glimpses into the lives of the victims with items found in the rubble afterward and somehow, miraculously, traced to individuals and returned to the victim's families sometimes months afterward.  A beautiful tribute to the lives lost and the heroes proved and national sense of pride and unity that resulted from the senseless violence. 
After the museum Mal and I ran to Shake Shack to grab some lunch which we ate at the memorial before rushing back uptown.  I had to pack and Mal had to run to her first job interview!  Which she ended up getting a couple of days later!  
It was a great weekend to explore NYC with Mom, Dad, and Mal and to celebrate Mal's amazing accomplishment.  Thank heavens for my sweet Glenn and dear friends who stepped in to help with the kiddos so I could skip town for a few days!