Tuesday, June 19, 2012

So much to do...

      I am drowning in my "To Do" lists right now.  Every day I tell myself that I'm going to sit down and post on my blog, but every night, after cleaning up after dinner, putting the kids to bed, cleaning various things up and finishing or forfeiting projects I started throughout the day...  by the time I finally sit down at 9:30, my brain is jumbled and jolted and the "oh my God, I haven't finished anything today" sets in. 
      I have three huge, suffocating-feeling projects right now - 1.)  getting quotes for someone to put in a patio (and do other landscaping); 2.) picking out lighting fixtures to get the electrician in to set our house aglow; and 3.) pick a painter to paint our living room/dining room/kitchen after the electrician has finished.  This is all, of course, in addition to taking care of the kids and trying to do more than just get through the days (you know, like teach them stuff!).  And in addition to other things I would also like to do, like writing on my blog, reading the book for July book club, house cleaning, trying to take care of this toe issue (blog to come on that one...), go to bed and get some much needed sleep!
      I just can't seem to gain any ground on these things because I have so many things to do but only about two hours a day to do them...  and it all has to be done at night, when the kids are asleep so I'm not neglecting them or any of the other things on the "Daytime To Do" list, but then of course most offices and places are closed so I can't cross anything off the lists.  And speaking of lists, I have SIX blog posts/stories started that I just can't finish those either
     Ugh, so much to do, so little time!!  Hoping I'll get to post something more substantial soon... and get this other stuff tackled, too!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Lost Feeling of Atlantis

      We just returned from a trip to the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas, via Conyers, GA to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (the former) and to visit family (the latter) (hence the amount of time since my last post!) (will try to tone down the parenthesis going forward).  We spent a few days with my family, and then left my three babies, for the first time ever, with my parents and brother and sister (and her new fiance!).  I learned some valuable lessons in our short time in Paradise (Island, that is):  sunglasses sink, sharks sure sleep a lot, my obsession with Bobby Flay is unresolved and going strong, my husband can be quite the charmer, and most importantly, I'm never leaving my babies behind again!
        We arrived in Georgia two weeks ago, for a couple days of family reuniting before my husband and I were to leave for the Bahamas.  I got to see my Mom and Dad, of course, but also my architect brother Andrew who lives in Florida, my Marine brother Jeff and his girlfriend Cheree, along with my four month old nephew (yay! love him!), Phoenix.  I also got to see my "baby" sister, Carly, and her fiance David (he proposed the day we arrived!) (and there go the parenthesis again...).  It seems impossible that I hadn't seen my brothers in two whole years!  The last time I saw them was when I flew down, almost exactly two years ago, when I was pregnant with the twins; since then, I hadn't had much time for air travel!  We had seen my parents and my sister intermittently in Pennsylvania and when they visited after the twins were born, but I hadn't been back to GA since, and my brothers hadn't been able to make it so far north of the Mason-Dixon to get to Boston.
        I watched my brothers meet their nieces for the first time, and play with my Quinn, too, of course.  It was beautiful to see how my brothers interacted with each of the twins - instantly loving for sure, but Andrew was incredibly gentle, got down on their level and didn't get too close too quickly.  He just had this huge smile on his face as he talked with each girl, meeting his goddaughter, Kelsey, for the first time, and little Sierra, who is never very trusting at first anyway.  Jeff is now a parent, too, so he was completely comfortable and confident, and despite their initial hesitance with new people, each girl accepted that and felt comfortable, too.  I got to hold my only nephew for the first time, see how the dimple in his chin looks just like his Daddy's, see his little smile and hear him squeak and yell.  It was all so musical and precious!
        I was so happy to spend time with my family.  It is always such a wonderful time for me to be back with all of them, back to my roots, to be with those who know so much about me without my having to explain it all, to laugh like I'm 10 years old again!  Even though we're all spread out along the east coast, once we get together, it's always like we haven't been apart.  I was glad to share my family time with my children, to have them feel so much love around them, to feel the happiness and laughter, and to help them get comfortable with each of my family members, who would soon be their caregivers for the 5 days while my husband and I went out on our own, or deserted them, as I felt we were doing.  It was to be the first time I ever left my baby girls, and only the second time I'd ever left my Quinn.  I didn't doubt that they would be well cared for and loved, I was just worried about how they would feel not having Mommy there, wondering where I was, why I had left them.  Quinn is old enough to understand that we would only be gone for a couple days, and we could talk to him everyday.  Even Kelsey tends to be fairly happy-go-lucky, and is generally content to do whatever anyone suggests, as long as a familiar person is close by.  But I knew that Sierra, my shadow, my clinger, Mommy's helper, could potentially have a really rough time, and it just broke my heart to think of her, or any of my babies, feeling sad or alone.
        Tuesday arrived, the day we were leaving for Paradise.  I kissed the twins goodbye in their cribs and cried over them for a few minutes, and I held and loved Quinn while he slept, too.  With mixed emotions, we left for the airport.  On one hand I was looking forward to having some quiet time for myself, simple things like being able to read a book, sit on an airplane and have the seat to myself, go to the beach or shopping, even go to the bathroom alone.  Not to mention, the real reason for the trip: getting to spend time with my husband, having a conversation without children hanging from my body, enjoying delicious, hot meals together (something I wanted, instead of thinking of what I could share with the kids), and to just celebrate being in this life for 10 years together.  I was excited for all of that, but my heart just felt sick being away from my babies.  I broke down in tears several times that first day; when I saw a baby girl next to us as we checked in at the airport ("Ma'am, is there something wrong?"... I think the woman thought I was being forced to leave the country against my will!), when the woman in the sunglass shop asked me if I had children, when I walked through the jetway remembering that I was not gate-checking a stroller this time, when we took off and I felt so far away from them, like they were completely out of my reach, and with an ocean soon between us, they truly were.  My biggest fear was that we would die in a plane crash, and I'd never see my babies again, and my children would never know how much I love them (even as I type this, tears are welling up in my eyes... and I have no plans to fly!), and I'd never hold them again.  And the girls are so little, they just wouldn't understand why I wasn't there, and would be waiting for me to return.  I felt like such a horrible mother for abandoning them.  To make matters worse, once we landed, we found that our cell phones did not work in the Bahamas...  No calling to check in, no texts or photos to see how they were doing.  And I couldn't help but feel anger, resentment for my husband, because he made me go on this "stupid" trip (how dare he drag me to a tropical island!).
          So, once we made it through customs and arrived at the Atlantis Resort around 3:30 p.m., I was determined to punish myself and not allow myself to enjoy a single minute.  The resort was massive, very overwhelming, especially in my depressed state.  The only thing getting me through was knowing that I could call my babies at 6 p.m., and I was all antsy and anxious just wanting it to hurry up and be 6 p.m. already.  I'm sure I was not very much fun to be with those first hours; going from quiet and pensive, to picky and negative and annoying.  I studied the resort map as if it held some secret message (which, if you know me, I would have done anyway) .  I watched the sharks in the pool outside our balcony swim around and noticed that many were asleep. 
       We finally called and heard Quinn's tiny, angelic voice, and I felt instantly happy and positive again.  I heard one of the girls (Sierra?) yell "Ma Ma!" in the background, happily though (but we weren't to talk to the girls in case it made them upset so I'd have to settle for "in the background" type assurances).  I still felt very guilty that I wasn't there with them, but the girls had been fine all day, no crying or sadness, and Quinn seemed to be having fun with his aunt and uncles.  I decided I might as well make the most of my time away from them, at least a little bit, to make it go faster until I would see them again; starting with dinner that night.
         Dinner on our first night in Paradise was at Mesa Grill, a Bobby Flay restaurant with a southwestern flare.  For those of you who do not know, I love the Food Network.  I love to have it on at home and try to whip up culinary commestables in my own kitchen; cooking, baking, no-baking, you name it.  I've taken some culinary classes myself, and Bobby Flay is my most favorite chef, grill master, and restauranteur.  I was so excited to go to his restaurant, hoping to catch a glimpse of him, ideally get my picture taken with him, pinch his butt maybe... kidding (stay with me; sorry, long blog, I know)!
          Dinner that night was fabulous and perfectly southwestern - delicious BBQ Duck in a blue corn tortilla for an appetizer, a chili rubbed rib-eye steak and side of roasted corn in a lime aioli.  It was such a delectible meal, my mouth is watering just remembering all the flavors I tasted that night, followed by authentic churros in a dark chocolate sauce.  Unfortunately, delicious as it was, the meal was not prepared by thee Bobby Flay.  Instead, there was a red-headed look alike chef in the kitchen, as if he was intentionally hired for his likeness to the Iron Chef.  It was kind of funny actually.  I accepted that I was not to see Mr. Flay this time, but took comfort in knowing he had concocted the recipes and menu, that he'd had a hand in my enjoyment of my meal.  We walked back to our hotel room through the midst of the resort, which looked even more minimizing in the dark as it had in broad daylight (having studied the map, I felt a bit more comfortable about it though and felt I had some idea as to which direction to go).  It was an early night, but it was strange to think that I was going to go to sleep and not be woken up throughout the night by the needs of three little birds.
       We still managed to wake up by 6:30 a.m. the next morning though, but that was fine because the resort was calm and quiet, and so peaceful that early.  We ventured off "the res", for some cheap eats for breakfast, since the resort kills you on the prices of everything (we'd split a $7 slice of pizza upon arrival the day before).  The prices were lower, but the service was also slower and not so friendly; we felt like they weren't real happy we were there, but my husband, subconsciously determined to charm them, made an unintentional comment about squishy blueberries which got our waitress to loosen up and actually smile, so she was fine after that.  We perused the island shops, scoping out souvenirs to take home (choked back tears when I saw the giant conch shell for Quinn, bigger than his head), stocking up on snacks, a calling card (our 8 minute call the day before had cost $48!), beers and such to keep in the room.  After that, we headed back to the room to slather lotion on our snow white skin before hitting the Aquaventure water park on the resort. 
        We started with the "Lazy River", but it was anything but lazy.  We chose the double innertube, so we could stay together more easily, but even that was hard to do.  We made it through various rapids and (I) paddled (as Doug yelled "mush!") through pile ups of people and tubes.  We came to a spot where we clearly just needed to get past the worker guy in order to go forward and deal with the waves alone, but no, the guy got ahold of our tube, pushed us up toward this gate-looking thing, we heard a woosh and then a wall of water came crashing toward us... the innertube flipped, we both fell out, our sunglasses got sucked off our faces, I kicked Doug while trying to get to the surface and not lose the tube, too...  The worker guy was laughing, and it was kind of fun, aside from the chlorine burn up my nose and the fear of losing our fancy new sunglasses, but the guy smiled, reached down and retrieved Doug's sunglasses, and then a minute later, he scooped mine up.  He followed us down the next section, trying to get sunglasses to another boy who'd lost his.  Worker guy was in good spirits, and it was hard to be mad at him, since there was really no harm done and he was just supposed to make us vacationers have a good time (even if that meant dunking the blonde, opaquely white girls such as I am).  We enjoyed the rest of the river, a section of wild waterfalls and slides with scary enclosed tunnels and sharks, and had a great time.  Doug went on some of the more daredevil slides while I relaxed under an umbrella and read some of my book.  I couldn't help but watch the little ones around me, and think of my own babies, picturing them splashing in the water, laughing and smiling like they often do.  If only we had brought them with us, like so many other parents here had done, we could be sharing this together.  : (
        We ate a moderately priced lunch, and headed back toward the room, exploring other parts of the resort along the way (other swimming pools and beaches, The Dig with underwater ruins, shopping areas, the casino).  We showered and changed for dinner and called to hear my baby boys voice, and hopefully his sisters voices in the background.  He'd had a good day, though it had rained all day, but they'd gone for a walk in the morning and played and probably kept their caregivers running.  The girls had done well again.  Sierra had taken to shadowing Mimi (my Mom), not letting her out of her sight, but Kelsey was in her unicorns and rainbows world as usual, which all made me happy. 
         We went out to Nobu, a japanese american restaurant, for drinks and appetizers.  Then, off to The Bahamian Club for another stellar dinner.  The restaurant had a beautiful, old world feel, with dark woods, nautical accents, like paintings of large ships and admirals.  The servers wore formal white jackets, and for those parties celebrating birthdays, they did this powerful clapping, chanting version of the birthday song.  The menu was familiar fare, with a bahamian twist.  I had a double breast of chicken with citrus, garlic and herbs, and a delicious sundried tomato, watercress, garlic and crispy onion side, almost like a stuffing without the bread.  It was fantastic, and one of a kind.  Another great meal (though I couldn't help feeling that my leftovers would really have been enjoyed by my little boy).
          On Thursday morning, we went to breakfast, then I raced off to attend a Stott Pilates class.  I had to walk through from one end of the resort almost to the other end, but it allowed me a chance to take in the different Towers/buildings along the way.  It was amazing how the different Towers on the properties had such different feels to them.  Beach Tower and Coral Tower (where we were staying) were very much geared toward families, so they were filled with kids, noise, loud music, and were more "worn", to put it nicely; they are also the original two buildings, maybe 15 years old, so they were beginning to show their age.  The Royal Towers, in the center of the resort, shown on all the commercials and advertisements, was definitely more grand, especially upon entering their lobby (and especially when entering through the casino, quite a contrast!).  There were huge corinthian columns thick as sequoia treetrunks rising 6 stories to the ceiling, fountains and a grand staircase in the center.  Below, there was a massive aquarium in the lower level, with floor to ceiling windows full of fish and "ruins".  There are 20+ floors in each of the two towers, with a bridged suite across the top ($25,000/night with a 4 night minimum!), adjoining the towers in mid-air.  It was an amazing view from the top floor (though we couldn't get close enough to the suite itself, try as we might).  Then, once you get onto the west side of Royal Towers, everything becomes calm and serene.  There are nicer accents like floor to ceiling seashell framed mirrors, more plants and exotic flowers everywhere.  The walkways and lobbies here are open-air, and it's more of the chic, adult set walking around, no screaming kids allowed at The Cove tower (never made it over to The Reef, but that's even more upscale).  There are speakers hidden in the bushes playing bird sounds and Enya-style music like you'd hear at a spa.  The Mandarin Spa is there, which explains the music, and the Fitness Center and Pilates Studio is right next door. 
          I'd been meaning to get back into doing Pilates for awhile now, thinking about it almost every week, in fact (I'd done some things at home all last summer, but that stopped after the surgery on my toe... that's a story for another time), so it was nice that there was a class available on the resort (for a nominal fee, of course - I thought she said $14 but I found at the end of class that she'd actually said $40).  There was only one other woman in the class, so it felt like a private session, plenty of attention from the instructor.  I'd never used the Stott machines before, but they were quite effective, as I think I still have aches and pains from using them right now; a good burn though.  It was a great class and my body felt fantastic afterward, better than the spa. 
         I met up with Doug at the waterpark again, secured our sunglasses this time around (good thing because he dunked us again).  More R&R by the pool, taught Doug how to play Rummy while we enjoyed a frozen rum drink.  Did some more exploring.  I spent some time on our balcony, watching the sharks, most of them still sleeping in huddles, almost in a cute, loving way, like they were a family, which made me miss my family.  Thankfully, it was soon time to call and talk to Quinn again.  Carly and David had taken him to McDonald's for lunch, then to play Mini-golf, some arcade games, and to meet David's parent's chickens (which he still talks about every day even now that we're home).  I felt at peace again, hearing his voice and knowing that he and his sisters were doing alright in my absence.  I still felt guilty though, wishing we weren't so far away, still not sure how I'd get through the next two days without them. 
           We had an early dinner reservation at Dune, which is at the One&Only Oceanclub resort (no, that's really what it's called).  It was another beautiful place, an old 1930's estate turned into a resort with two restaurants.  The Dune restaurant was through the main building, with grand staircases, dark mahogany floors, amazing columns at the front and back entrances.  We were all dressed up, and I felt like I was in a different time period (not to mention a much higher income bracket!) just walking into there.  The food at the restaurant was delicious, the view was spectacular and had it not been cloudy from the rainstorm, the sunset would have been amazing. 
           After dinner, we made it back to the resort in time for a 9:45 p.m. showing of "The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo" (and finally, something complimentary!).  I'd started reading the book about 3 years ago, but couldn't get through all the backstory of the investigative journalist, so, like so many things in my life, it has sat unfinished all this time.  Very disturbing movie though.  I suspected the killer early on, but it's so disturbing that messed up people like that exist in the world, especially as a parent, these things bother me even more.  (Still, now I have to read the other two books before the next movies come out!)
           It was finally Friday, one more day to get through.  I was almost starting to enjoy myself, and feeling a little sad that we'd soon be leaving this beautiful place, but afraid to admit it at the time or to anyone out loud.  I shouldn't enjoy myself, should I?  That would make me a bad mother, wouldn't it?  If only my babies were with me, I could have been truly happy, able to embrace the serenity around me, though I definitely would not have been able to relax or enjoy the time to the fullest. And the periods of serenity would be mingled with stress, frustration, craziness, but also the smiles and laughter and love - all the emotions that I encounter on a daily basis outside of paradise.  I was so looking forward to seeing my little ones, but I could already see that it was to be a bittersweet departure, and I couldn't tell how long I would be fighting this internal battle (maybe until they go to college or get married?).
           We went to our "usual" breakfast place that morning, and then hit The Cove Beach.  We found two of the last lounge chairs with the canopies over them, and set up shop.  We enjoyed the cool, crystal clear water, swam (then walked when we encountered weird mossy rocks all around us) to the other side of the beach and walked across the sandbar to another beach that literally looked out to open ocean.  I felt so small in that moment, but so in awe of the blueness of the sky, just a bit different than the blueness of the sea, and just the "unendingness" of it.  It was amazing.  Behind me, a DJ spun various hip hop beats, people screamed with glee from the water park, a 21st birthday was getting underway in a cabana nearby, but that all felt so small and trivial, yet so simple, but in a good way.  I took a deep breath in the warm, salty air, my hands on my hips.  I knew I had but one more day to just enjoy the brief freedom before truly embracing my role as their Mommy.  I suddenly felt I should stop beating myself up - here I was on vacation, at a resort where people come to have fun, a rare time with my husband and with myself.  I decided I had better just accept this brief respite and try to relax and enjoy the trip, to refuel and return to my babies stronger and more patient and feeling refreshed, having more energy and having found a new appreciation for all the special moments I have with them, even the stressful ones, my three little treasures.
             We spent more time at the water park and beach that day, before returning to Mesa Grill for our last dinner; just as delicious as the first time, also prepared by the Flay look-alike.  Afterward, we saw "Gym Class Heroes" in concert (complimentary!) right on the resort and hit the hotel bar in our lobby afterward, before returning to our room for some balcony time. 
             We listened to the distant surf, watched the sharks swim around in the pools below us (only a couple of them were asleep this time!).  I watched people on the dimly lit walkways, some walking through at a leisurely pace, laughing, stumbling, and some clearly having just arrived that day and feeling totally lost, just like we were our first night here.  We sat there, seasoned Atlantean's, beginning to feel that "almost time to leave" regret and sadness.  Sure, I was sad to say goodbye to Paradise Island and the brief freedom I'd had during our stay, but I was so so SO excited to see my babies - I'll take those three little bits of heaven over Paradise any day.  Next time, they're coming with us (and maybe a couple family members to help)!