Sunday, October 20, 2019

Good-bye Dubai (And Abu Dhabi!)

The last month in UAE was a whirlwind for us.  We landed in Dubai after our Italian adventure on 11-Aug, and I returned to work the following Sunday.

Last set of photos from our dear friend, Jo!
We divided our packing into 3 phases - Phase 1 was things to go into our air shipment (50 cubic feet) that would (hopefully) arrive at my father's home in Spring before we got home.  Key thing in this shipment was the double stroller.  We also packed some dress clothes, shoes, and baby stuff that we either had multiples of, or we could live without for a month, to help make transitioning to Houston easier. We were fortunate enough that our friends were going on holiday the week that I returned to work, so we borrowed their nanny for the week so that G could finish the inventory for our move, and sort out what was going into this early shipment.  Phase 1 completed on August 25.
Miss J and Miss J, out with the kids!
Phase 2 was everything we needed for 10 days of interim living plus what we would take on the airplane.  Since my company pays for business class for ALL members of the family (including Baby H!) we were entitled to 8 pieces of luggage and a free baby item (carseat or stroller).  After the carseat, stroller, and pack'n' play, we were left with 6 suitcases and 6 boxes - I think we packed more stuff into Phase 2 than we did into Phase 1, amazingly enough!  We also ended up throwing away a lot of things that came to interim living with us - a lot of medicines that we didn't want to bring, or odds and ends that we ran out of room for.  Phase 2 completed on September 6.

Phase 3 was everything else.  The full sea shipment - which would take 8-10 weeks to arrive in Houston, once it left Dubai.  It's currently scheduled to arrive in port of Houston on November 8, so hopefully it will be at our house the week of November 18. Phase 3 in progress, but the packing was finished September 9.
Our apartment...a sea of boxes...

In the midst of all this chaos, we had some big milestones as well!  L turned 2 - officially a big kid now! We had a pretty low-key family celebration where we took her to a breakfast & indoor play area on her actual birthday, then we had a big joint party with a family that we are close with a few weeks later.

This was the treat that L picked from a variety of pastries - a yummy chocolate covered almond biscuit
Celebrating 2 baby (I mean big kid..) birthdays!  
We also took a trip to Abu Dhabi and stayed in our old apartment building.  Our actual apartment wasn't available, but they did set us up in a nice apartment with the similar layout (it was mirrored from our apartment, which threw me off at times!). We were able to say introduce Baby H to our dearest friend Thuzar, who also happened to be Baby L's first friend.  We took one last spin around the Etihad Towers Observation Deck, went to St Andrew's Church, and reminisced about all the things we loved (and hated) about living in Abu Dhabi.  I cried a few times.  G smilesd and tried not to laugh while I cried.  It was therapeutic.
Baby H, also fast friends with Thuzar!
Thuzar, taking a few minutes from her very busy day to spend time with us
L, checking out the views!

One last trip to St Andrews Church

L & Baby H, cuddling on the sofa where I spent days and days cuddling Baby L
Baby H also turned 4 months old...and had to get her 4-month shots.  It went much better than the 2-month shots, thank goodness! We were in interim living at our hotel apartment by then without any swings or jumpers to entertain her, so we were thankful that the jabs went well.

Happy 4-month old Baby H!
We spent a ton of time saying goodbye to friends and colleagues. It was different from most goodbyes from our past because we truly aren't sure when we'll see a lot of these friends again - though hopefully not too far into the future.  There will always be an extra bed in our home for anyone who wants to visit Houston!
Miss Shelly had a special sing, laugh, and messy play class dedicated to all of L's favorite things
L actually hugged her friend good-bye! (She rarely hugs anyone)
Photo op with friends from Texas who happened to be living in Dubai at the same time as us!
It took pretty much a whole year of visits for L to warm up to this guy (one of my co-workers who became instant besties with G), but it FINALLY happened!
My AMAZING personal trainer, bouncing Baby H on her knee
L and Jo match!  We're a blue and yellow sandwich!
Miss J and the girls in Abu Dhabi
My office going away lunch at the lovely Mitts and Trays out on Blue Waters Island
I have so many more going-away photos, but I'll end with this one, another of my favorites from our dear friend Jo.  
Good-bye Dubai!  See you next time!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Early Adventures of Babies H & L - Italy Part 2: Venice

The morning that we left for Venice was pretty relaxing. Our train didn't leave until 10am, and the train station was only a 15 minute tram ride from our apartment. And of course, in typical Newsome family fashion, we were fully packed and ready to go at 8am. So we bummed around the apartment, took some walks around the  neighborhood, and tried to kill some time before heading out. Unlike our train to Turin, I didn't seat all of us together - G and I were in the designated "stroller seats" while Miss J and L were at a table. The extra space was nice for Baby H because it was hard to really rock her at one of the table seats, and I think G appreciated having some "alone time" on the train.

Daddy with the stroller (sans baby, who is with me)

Miss J and L, having fun on train!
We arrived in Venice and decided to take a water taxi from the train station to our flat.  We could have taken a water bus, but with the luggage and the kids, we thought the premium for the water taxi was worth it.
We're on a boat!!
We stayed in an amazing Air BnB next to the Rialto Bridge, which worked out perfectly because my sister's family stayed in an Air BnB just on other side of the bridge - just a quick 5 minute walk from flat to flat! We arrived 2 days before my sister, which gave us a chance to relax, unpack, and do some wandering around the city. The girls were running low on diapers, but we learned that the two of them can actually wear the same sized diaper in a pinch - yes, Baby H is THAT big that she can share diapers with L! It allowed us to only buy one small package to get through the rest of the trip instead of 2.
The Rialto Bridge
"Kiss Mommy's Cheek!"
We took L to Murano one morning while Miss J stayed home with Baby H. It was both fun and somewhat terrifying to have a 2-year-old around so much delicate and expensive glass!  She wanted to touch everything, so G had her in a vicelike grip to prevent that as much as possible. Since I couldn't buy anything to put on display, I opted for some wearable art instead.
More gold than glass, but still very pretty!
The day my sister arrived, we packed up the girls and walked over to hang out with my sister's in-laws before dinner so that they could meet our girls. The last time G and I had seen them was at my sister's wedding 4 years ago, so it was really nice to hang out with everyone again. My brother-in-law's 2 siblings are 8 and 10 years older than him, so only a few years older than G and I, and their kids range in age from 7 to 14. L loved following the youngest girl around, but was super shy every time we tried to introduce them! And of course, Baby H decided to have her first big diaper blow-out while we were hanging out at their apartment. 
Baby H with Auntie, just before epic diaper blowout!
Since our girls wake up early, but the cousins tend to sleep in, Auntie joined us for an early (9am...not really that early) morning gondola ride.  It was super fun, super cheesy, and we all loved it!
Morning gondola ride around Venice
Having Miss J with us was so amazing because it allowed G and I to go out later at night for dinner. Even with naps, L can't manage much past 7pm, and my sister's family was a party of 12 -- 8 adults and 4 kids, so dinners with them, while amazingly delicious and fun for us, are a bit boring for a 2-year old.
G and I got to have dinners without the girls - date nights in such a romantic city!
By the end of the trip, we were all exhausted, our bellies were full, and we were ready to go home - even if we only had a few more weeks of "normal" before the chaos of moving started!  More on that next! 
L stole my sunglasses - I think she looks better in them than I do
Gifts from Auntie D!
My sister cuddling her god-daughter

2 generations of sisters!
This would be totally instagram worthy, if not for my paci accessory clipped to my purse!
L, passed out on the flight home
Baby H, also passed out on the flight home

Friday, August 23, 2019

Early Adventures of Babies H & L - Italy Part 1: Milan & Turin

It's been an exciting (and exhausting) few weeks for our little family! We decided in May to go ahead and book this trip to Italy since my sister would be there with her in-laws and it was a sort of halfway point between where she lives and Dubai.  At the time, we didn't know we were moving back to Houston, otherwise, we probably would have chosen something a little more local.

In fact, we almost cancelled the trip at the last minute. L picked up an ear infection about a week before we left, and she didn't respond to the initial antibiotics. 2 days before our scheduled travel date, I took her back to the doctor for stronger antibiotics, and her fever finally broke the morning of our scheduled flight.

We decided to try to pack light since there are no cars in Venice, and we'd have to haul all of our luggage around - so we limited ourselves to 2 big suitcases, 3 backpacks, a yoyo stroller, and a mountain buggy bagrider suitcase. No carseats!  Since we opted not to take carseats, we took the Dubai Metro to the Airport in the morning. I was trying to take photos of the girls being cute (specifically L), and in the middle of a photo, G suddenly jumps up and says, "I forgot my backpack at home!  I have to go!" and starts running for the door. His backpack had all of our documents - passports, paper printouts of train tickets and flight  info, all the things we needed for the trip!

Daddy forgot something very important!!
Fortunately, we were only 4 stops away from home - he rushed home, took a taxi to the airport, and actually beat us there! He actually had to lug our 2 big suitcases with him since Miss J was carrying L, and I had Baby H and her stroller - the two of us didn't have any extra free hands to carry more suitcases!
Daddy still beat us to the airport - we're all checked in and ready to go!
The flight to Milan was ok. Baby H slept some, L slept a little bit, and we kept crying and breakdowns to a minimum. It was definitely a long 6 1/2 hours, followed by a 1-hour train ride into the city from the airport.  We checked into our hotel across the street from the train station around 5pm, ordered dinner, and all went to bed - no photos at the hotel because we were so exhausted! Plus, G, L, and I were all still sick, coughing and congested, so we were doubly tired. We did our best to get some sleep, and it was still a pretty rough  night. The next morning, we had a low key breakfast, then wandered around the train station before boarding our Frecciarossa high speed train to Turin!

Off to Turin we go! This is pretty much our only photo in Milan since 3 of us were still coughing and tired.
In Turin (aka Torino) we rented a lovely little AirBnB about a 15 minute walk from Piazza Castello, the main hub of tourism in the city and the area where G's Aunt Robyn and Cousin Hilary were staying.  So far on this trip, we'd been on an airplane and two trains, so it was time to take an automobile -- we took the bus from the train station to our AirBnB.  It was a SUPER bumpy bus ride since many Italian roads are still cobblestone, and poor L was hanging on to Miss J for dear life!  I was also hanging on to Baby H's stroller so unfortunately no photos of the bus. Fortunately for all of us, it was only 5 harrowing stops!

As we explored our neighborhood, we found so much greenery, compared to Dubai!  
We had planned to meet up with G's family for dinner, but they got stuck in some traffic on their way from Geneva and were tuckered out that evening. We decided to meet up at the Egyptian Museum the next day, and we all called it a night.

The girls showing their Texan roots from abroad - both outfits purchased by Daddy
The next morning, we bussed down to Piazza Castello and slowly made our way to the Egyptian Museum. We had to stop a few times to feed Baby H and change some diapers, and we met up with G's family.  It was so good to see them again, and introduce them to Baby H! We also met Hilary's 2 sons, and had a lovely time at the museum.  Granted, museums are somewhat lost on kids under 5 years old, but the Egyptian collection in Turin is pretty incredible!  Afterwards, we had lunch on the piazza, and it was like something out of a movie - Hilary, her kids, G, L, and Miss J were running around chasing birds and feeding them bread while Baby H napped in my arms and G's Aunt & Uncle relaxed at the table. I couldn't have been happier, it was like the quintessential Italian moment. I was so content, I forgot to take pictures!

The next day, we relaxed and wandered around our neighborhood and Miss J took the girls in the evening so G and I could have "adult" dinner with Hilary. We're so thankful to have been able to bring Miss J with us, both because it is a once in a lifetime opportunity for, and because she is a huge help to G and I so we can also relax on our family vacation!
Delicious risotto...and not pictured here is the yummy wine!
Our last day in Turin, we took it easy, meeting up with Hilary and her older son, and going to the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptiste to see the Shroud of Turin.  We had some snacks, and coffee, and ice cream, and another lovely morning with family before going separate ways.  Hopefully we'll get to see them all again soon!
Miss J and L took this photo of the rest of us (after changing Baby H's poopy diaper on the ground haha)
That afternoon, we packed up and got ourselves ready for next leg of our journey. G, L, and I had finally turned the corner on whatever illness had been plaguing us, which meant everyone was sleeping better and was generally in a better mood.  Next stop: Venice!

Friday, July 5, 2019

Big News!

It's been a little quiet on the Dubai front with L and H because our family has a TON of big news that we can finally share!

Baby H says, "We have something BIG to tell you!"
1.  My amazing sister has accepted a position as assistant professor at STANFORD UNIVERSITY Department of Chemical Engineering!  We're so thrilled for her and her husband, and I'm so proud to call her my sister.
Professor Auntie holding Baby L
2. My father is moving to Houston!  The he bought in Spring (just north of Houston proper) is 40 minutes from the house we own, and about 20 minutes from my company's main office.

So excited for Dad's retirement and move to TEXAS!!!
3. And finally - We are moving home!  I was offered (and accepted) a position in HR as a staffing advisor for projects, which is actually a dream job for me.  I used to say my job in Baytown was probably going to be the funnest job I'd ever had (is funnest even a word? Well, it is now!) but this job might be even more fun!  My job will literally be to talk to people about their jobs and help match them to the right next job. How cool is that? 

Baby H says "See? I told you it was BIG!"
There is a hugely sad part for us to leaving a year earlier than we planned.  Miss J, our live-in nanny, can't come with us.  If I could legally bring her with us, I would, but our options are very limited since she is a Filipina.  At best, I think I could bring her on a temporary work visa for a year or two, but then it would be very difficult for her to return to UAE, so it is with a heavy heart (and a lot of tears from L, Miss J, and me!) that we are working on finding her a new family that is hopefully as awesome as we are.  Silver lining is that if we end up moving to Vietnam (like we hope to one day), she can easily visit us there during her annual leave.  We are heartbroken since she has become a part of our family - she's so much more than just a helper and nanny.  She is a second mother to my girls, and she has taught me so much about parenting. I'm still struggling to imagine what our lives will be like without seeing her cheerful smile every morning. Especially since we hadn't planned on moving home for another year, I thought I'd have more time to mentally prepare myself.😢😢😢
Miss J snuggling Baby H
And Miss J with Baby L 18 months ago!
H and L will also have this in common - both were born overseas, and neither of them will remember where we were living when they were born.  H will be slightly older than L when we moved from Abu Dhabi to Dubai, but not by much! On the one hand, my friend reminded me that's it's good to be wanted by the company. On the other hand, it is slightly irritating that I have to have the anxiety and stress of moving during both of my maternity leaves.

Soaking up what's left of my maternity leave with my girls before the chaos of moving starts! 

We're also sad to be leaving our friends in Dubai. I remember during my maternity leave in Abu Dhabi, I felt pretty isolated because I knew I was leaving long before I delivered L -- so I didn't make much effort to make friends during our short time there. In Dubai, we settled in, made some really great friends, and will be very sad to leave them.

Enough about the bad parts of moving - we are so excited to be closer to the rest of our family (Miss J notwithstanding). With Dad moving to Houston, L & H will have both sets of grandparents and one set of aunties and uncles nearby to love on them. Plus the other auntie and uncle are only a short flight away in the Bay Area.

We're excited for cooler weather. And easily accessible pork. And easily accessible alcohol. And one-stop grocery shopping. And COSTCO!!!

We're excited to be in our own home again - our apartment has a phenomenal view of the Dubai Marina, but there is construction of a new building that will obstruct our view by the middle of next year. Plus we have AMAZING neighbors in Houston, so it will be wonderful to see them again and introduce them to our girls.

As all my friends and family know, change is really hard for me -- I like living in the bubble of uncertainty because uncertainty is like a world of possibility. Thankfully, I married a man who hates uncertainty, but can weather change like a champ -- and he has put up with my daily swings of excitement to go home and crying because we're leaving. G is my rock, and he is SUPER thrilled to go home!

There is so much that needs to happen between now and the big move (including a summer vacation to Italy!) and we will continue to share our journey back home!