Sunday, December 21, 2014

Still Here


I am still here. By here, I mean America. I am still in America.

I have not posted anything on this blog since April 2014. It has been a while. Of course I am not entirely sure that anyone has noticed the lack of posts.

If anyone is interested in what I write here and would like me to continue, please comment.

I started this as a way to keep family in the know about what we were doing here. Unfortunately they didn't read it.

I have posted the odd thing on my Facebook page every now and then.

Basically since April the following has happened.

I went to Comic Con again.
Our greencard application was submitted.
I got my work authorization.
Z started learning to play violin.
K started singing in the school chorus.
We went to New York City for a weekend break.
I won 2 cool prizes from Virgin Atlantic.
Our greencard application stalled as we got an RFE.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Green Card Medical Examination Day!

Today was doctor day in the ongoing process of us getting our green cards to stay in the US permanently.
I have had problems obtaining all of my vaccination history as no where in the UK seemed to still have my medical records. The doctor in England denied having them and the doctor I went to until I was 21 no longer had any records either. I was given some sparse information before we left the UK and had to rely on that. I knew I was missing some vaccinations and that I would need to have them done again. So on Friday I went to see my own doctor for my annual well check and had her give me a Hep B shot and MMR shot. As it was part of my check up I will not be billed anything. (I also had the usual blood sugar check and cholesterol check).

This morning we checked, and double checked, all of our paperwork and got it ready to go. The kids went to school as they normally do but with a note for their teacher that we would be picking them up at 9am to go to the appointment. I had been told on the phone that it would be about 30 minutes per person, so 2 hours in total. We arrived at the office at 9:15am and our appointment was scheduled for 9:30am. For the green card medical you can only have it done with a Civil Surgeon listed on the USCIS website and there are only about a dozen in the whole of South Carolina so there was not much to choose from for us. In the end we went for the one closest to us as it was just easier. There was one slightly cheaper and that did a different rate for kids but calculating gas and time to get there and back, it made more sense to go to one closer to our home.

We went into it with me telling the kids they wouldn't need any shots and I was really hoping that I would not be proven wrong. I would have really moany/whiney/complaining kids if they did end up needing to have a blood test or a shot. Ben ended up needing to get a MMR shot also but this one would need to be paid for ($125) as the Civil Surgeon did it. As neither of us had any proof we have had chicken pox we also needed to have a titre test to check our blood for chicken pox, this is $55 each. If it comes back saying we need the shot then that will be another $175 each. Fingers crossed we don't need the varicella vaccine.

Both Ben and I had the BCG vaccination when we were teenagers, although only my records had the date for it, but we all, including the kids, needed to have the TB skin test. The kids had a regular test but Ben and I had a milder skin test due to having the BCG vaccination. K really did not like having the skin test. She. Freaked. Out. She was not a happy bunny. Z on the other hand just lay on the bed and asked the doctor when she was going to be doing the test only to be told that she had done it already.

At this point I thought we were all done. I was wrong. I had got a list of the kids complete vaccination history from their pediatrician and it showed they were up to date on everything. There was even a box checked showing they had had chicken pox and when they had it. This should be enough right? Nope. To make sure USCIS are happy with it all, I was told to go back to the pediatrician office and ask for a letter on headed paper saying that the kids have both had chicken pox and as a result do not need the varicella vaccination or titre blood test. The doctor could have just done the titre test on the kids but after K's hissy fit following the TB test the doctor didn't want to. I went to the pediatricians office and asked them to do a letter and they said they'd do one with a particular wording and would let me know when they have faxed it. I have not heard anything from them so will check up on it when I call tomorrow to get a prescription for Z's meds. We are due to go back to the Civil Surgeons office on Wednesday afternoon for the results of our TB skin test, the titre tests for chicken pox and the blood tests to see if either Ben or I have syphilis!, so I hope I get the letter sorted before then. I REALLY don't want to tell the kids they need a shot! I want to go there and be told all is good and leave with the sealed envelopes that we can send off to the lawyers. I want that to happen because then it will be done and out of our hands. We will have done everything we can do. The only thing left after that we would need to do is go for finger prints.

Keep your fingers crossed dear readers!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Quiet Week

Now that Spring Break is over, it is time for a quite week.

Now a lot is happening over the next 7 days. I'm getting my hair dyed. I decided I am really not a fan of the color my hair is turning. We are getting the photos taken for our green cards. We will have the medicals for our green cards. I am going to try to convince my doctor that the information I have about the vaccinations I have, which is not a lot, is sufficient for them to put it all on my file so I can show it to the Civil Surgeon. I'm getting a new wire on my braces. Did I mention I had braces fitted? Yeah, I decided as I am nearing my 40s that it was time to straighten my teeth! The kids have MAP testing at school and are due to have their Spring photos taken. K has actually not had her Fall photo yet that we ordered. We've had her brothers photo sitting in the dining room since before Christmas! The photography studio seem to have their own time zone different to everyone else.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Getting Closer to Green Cards

Yesterday was a bit exciting. 

Yesterday Ben got an email.

He gets hundreds of emails every day but this email was very special. This email told him that the PERM application filed for him had been certified.

It has been a long 208 days since it was filed by the lawyers with the Department of Labor.

Next up is hopefully a straightforward, but expensive, process. I am not going to take anything for granted and assume it will all go smoothly, but I am going to remain positive and hopeful that soon I will have a little piece of plastic in my hand that means I can get (apply for) any job I want and we can live anywhere in the US we want. 

If all 4 of us have medical exam at same time and all adjust status at the same time, it will cost around $4,150. Just to adjust status. It will be more if any of us need any additional vaccinations, and I think I will. Plus there will probably be lawyer fees added on, unless we do the I-485 ourselves and the company only do the I-140. 

For my own sanity, and so I know what needs to happen next, I have worked out what needs to be done, what needs to be filed and how much it all costs. I think I have got it right.

I-140 (Petition for Immigrant Worker)
Fee - $580

I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status)
Fee - (over 14) $1070    (Under 14 if 1 parent also filing) $635

I-765 (Employment Authorization)
Fee - $0 if filed with I-485

Optional - I-131 (Application for Travel) In case want to leave country before GC comes through.
Fee - $0 per if filed with I-485

We need to get a medical from a Doctor who is on a list provided by USCIS. There are 14 in all of South Carolina and there are 3 near us.

1 is on Isle of Palms charges $185 per person
1 is in Charleson charges $180 per person if over 14 or $145 per person if under 14
1 is in West Ashley but there is no info on their website about cost of immigration medicals.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Science Fair

We have been in America for 4 1/2 years. (I know!)

In that time the kids have been immersing themselves in their new American lifestyle. Z has gone to school for the entire 4 1/2 years and K has gone to school for 3 1/2 years. K has done a bit of cheerleading and has a whole list of other stuff she wants to do. Both her and Z have been involved with Scouts. They have both spent more time in American schools than they did in UK schools.

Part of the school experience is Science Fairs. We didn't do anything in the Science Fair when we lived in Carmel. Actually I don't recall if they did it at their school there. When we moved to South Carolina we did start to get involved in it. Last year was the first time they participated and it was a big learning curve. K made a volcano and Z made a model of a dinosaur. They both got participation ribbons. When we went to the event night and got to see all of the other kids science projects I was amazed! These kids were either geniuses or had a lot of help from their parents. I think really a lot of the kids are clever but did get help from their parents.

This year, to help with my sanity, we decided that both Z & K would do
the same project. They would have to submit separate presentation boards but they would do the same work. We decided to do an observation project. (If Z does it next year when he is in 5th grade he will need to do an experiment).

In order to make it even easier and even more stress free we decided to do something that involved stuff we already had and we would not have to go out and buy stuff to do it. We chose to observe store bought bread and homemade bread and see which went moldy and stale first. I make bread regularly so it was easy enough to find a loaf of white bread in the pantry that I had made. We then picked up a loaf of white bread at the store on our usual grocery run. 1 piece of bread of each was placed on a plate and left out in the open. Another piece of bread was then put in a Ziploc bag and sealed. Over the following week the kids looked at the bread and made notes. We then produced some information sheets to put on their presentation board and printed out the pictures we had taken with my phone.

The Science Fair was last night.

K won the 3rd place medal for observations by 3rd graders!
Z won the 1st place medal for observations by 4th graders!

I will admit when they announced the 3rd and 2nd place winners for 4th grade I was convinced Z wasn't going to win so I was SO HAPPY when his name was called as the 1st place winner. The vice principal, who was announcing the winners, actually laughed a little just before he announced Z's name as he had just announced his sisters win in 3rd grade for the same thing. (They both had the same title obviously).

To celebrate we took them both out for fro-yo. They let me wear their medals as they said I was a winner too as I had helped them.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The South is Being All Weird

When we lived in Indiana we were used to snow and ice at winter. It is a common occurrence. It snows EVERY winter. The freezing rain was a new experience for me and when the ice storm came in early 2011 I was very surprised by its impact. The kids ended up being off school for pretty much a whole week and it took us over an hour to free our car from its ice cocoon in the parking lot. We did actually hammer at the ice for a while as it was so solid. (These top 2 pictures show how thick the ice was on our car. The next 2 show ice on our front step and snow that was actually a big solid lump of ice).

I took the trash out to the dumpster one day and fell on my backside no
less than 7 times. I went to see how bad it was at the local Lions Club and had to call my husband to come help me get back as I couldn't get back up a slope that was so slight a baby could have maneuvered over it with ease on a regular day. However on the days immediately following the ice storm this was not possible for me.

Anyway, we moved to South Carolina in 2012 and were now by the beach and saw palm trees every day. When we asked people about winter they always said, "Oh it's not too bad", "Pretty mild", "Doesn't really snow here by the coast". Ah good we thought. We brought our snow shovel and have mainly used it for clearing the kids bedrooms. It is wonderful with shifting all the Lego on the floor to one corner so kids can easily pick it all up without  moaning too much. We also brought the
ice scraper for the car and left it in the trunk. It was there, in case we
needed it. I did recall seeing a news story about a time Atlanta got a little dusting of snow and it brought the city to a halt and I remember thinking 'those Southerners are wimps!'.

Well, guess what we have had! Over the last couple weeks there have been 2 instances of freezing rain and snow here in South Carolina that made it all the way to the coast.
Guess what happened. The State pretty much ground to a halt. Do I still think Southerners are wimps? No I do not. I now know that they are simply unprepared and unfamiliar with this sort of weather. There are a couple snow plows/gritters out here but there are only about 6 to cover 9 counties. I think in Carmel in Indiana they have about that for just the one town never mind the county. But the expense of buying multiple machinery to deal with snow and ice makes sense there because it is a regular occurrence. Winter happens every year and every year they get snow and ice. Due to it happening every
year the citizens of those places up North get used to driving in it and don't freak
out about it all. They just get on with it. It is also much easier to buy warm clothes that are for those kinds of temperatures. Yes you can buy jackets and sweaters and gloves here but they are for dealing with mild temperatures. Not constant days below freezing. The first winter here it was relatively mild. We even went to the beach over Christmas and New Years and only a sweater and a pair of gloves was needed to keep warm.

First the school went on a delay because it was "too cold" to have kids waiting at the bus stops at 6:50am, plus the school buses are very old and would need extra time to start in the cold temperatures. (It was about 20F/-6C but felt like 8F/-13C). I actually took both my kids to the beach and took their picture during the 2 hour delay. K said she felt like the boogers in her nose were freezing it shut. She sure has a way with words my daughter!

Next came the first instance of freezing rain and this resulted in the school being shut for 2 days. The Ravenel Bridge, among others, was closed. The Ravenel Bridge connects Mount Pleasant to Charleston and it one of the quickest ways to get down town. It was shut for about 40 hours. When it did finally open it was quickly shut again because ice chunks were falling off it and smashing into the windshields of cars on the bridge.

Now we are on our second instance of freezing rain and once again the schools are shut, we are on day 2, and the Ravenel Bridge has been shut since yesterday. Ben worked from home yesterday but decided to go into the office this morning. Luckily for him he left just before 7am and the traffic was not too bad on the I-526 heading from Mount Pleasant but as it is currently the only way to get to Charleston from here it is now very busy and has been that way since around 8:30am. I have no idea how long it will take him to get home at the end of the day. I am waiting on the call from Charleston County School District telling me what will be happening with school tomorrow. On Monday we got the call at 9:22pm saying school was shut on Tuesday. On Wednesday they made the call early and it came at 12:57pm. I am thinking school will be back on tomorrow and it will all be back to normal. The kids have their Valentines Day parties tomorrow and I have to take in 2 dozen donuts to K's 3rd grade class. (Yes I still have donut money left from the Dunkin Donuts gift cards I won). It is supposed to start a warm up from tomorrow and there is no rain expected for the remainder of today but it depends on how all the roads are I guess. By this time next week the temps should be around the 70F/22C mark and sunny. That's more like the South I know!

And to end on a silly note, we got a DVD from Netflix yesterday. Guess what made me giggle.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Where I've Been

A friend posted on FB all the States she has been too and it inspired me to do the same. Looks like I need to go out West more! (Some of these visits were stops on route to somewhere else but as I have been in the State it counts!)

14 year olds & Green Cards

Did you know that you need to get a new green card when you turn 14? Do you know the reason why? No really, I'd like to know why. ...