Happy 18th Birthday Gabrielle…

I swear it was just yesterday I held you in my arms and wondered how I made something so perfect…

You will never remember, but I do, laying in bed with you on my chest and watching the sun come up, just the two of us, and wondering what you’d be like as an adult. I never dreamed you’d be as sweet, and creative(oh so very creative!) and easy-going, and have such a big heart as you do. I am so very proud of you, not just the artwork you do, but the individual you are…You have your own style and your own convictions, and you never sway from them. You are the first to offer help, and the first to give a smile, and that is such a rarity in this world. Always, always be you my love, the world is a better place for having you in it.


Going Back in Time – Immigration Interview

Paul went to the Licence Commissioner’s office today to get his driver’s licence address changed to the new rental address. This office is incredibly efficient, and usually has you out the door within 10 minutes, so it’s the preferred place to go for replacements, address changes, and anything that doesn’t require a road test. Only it turns out, he couldn’t get his changed there, and was instead directed to the larger, much more crowded office a few miles away. Why? He’s a foreign national. He’s been a legal permanent resident since 2012, but for whatever reason this became relevant again, and he had to go sit there for a couple of hours for them to do the same thing he could have done at the first office if he’d been a US citizen.

It’s rare that this even comes up for us, but every so often he gets an annoying bit of red tape thrown at him, and we are thinking it may be time to start looking at getting that process started, just so it won’t be an issue anymore. Plus, we are kind of looking forward to throwing this damn dirty liberal foreigner into the conservative Alabama voting pool!

I went to print out the N-400 paperwork, and decided to check the guide on VisaJourney since they were so helpful when we were doing the Adjustment of Status process. Did you know the application for citizenship is 21 pages long? Costs aside, the sheer volume of paperwork associated with anything involving the USCIS is insane. Anyhow, as I printed forms and document lists, I kind of fell down the rabbit hole of reading over old posts from when we were going through his immigration stuff, and stumbled on the post I made regarding our interview. Posting it here so I don’t lose it, and for anyone curious what an immigration interview is like. (May sound odd I named the interviewer, there were others interviewing at that time so we usually shared who we interviewed with.)

Our interview experience, FINALLY! It’s been such a crazy week with the kids and Paul starting his new job! 🙂

We got to the Atlanta USCIS building in Atlanta at 7:20, our interview was scheduled for 8am. Only a couple of people in line for security, and it was JUST like going through for airline security. Checked in downstairs, and they sent us to the 3rd floor waiting room.

There were about 6-8 other couples in there with us, only one of them had a lawyer with them, another had one show up who introduced herself to the couple, must have been someone else from the firm they used. Two couples seemed to have their whole family with them(5+ people sitting together). Some people were in jeans and tshirts, a few in suits, most in business-casual type stuff(think church clothes). Couples were being called back pretty steadily, and we got called somewhere around 8:05.

Our officer was an African-American man in his 40’s(?) last name Singleton. He was VERY stern and serious, and stayed that way pretty much the entire time. It made me nervous, because I am used to people who are more personable, and this guy never really smiled at all.

He told us our interview would be in two parts, one for the marriage and one for the i-485. He took our ID’s and Paul’s i-94. He asked me to confirm my name, address, and daytime phone number. He asked Paul his full name, daytime phone number, and asked why he didn’t have a driver’s licence yet(AL won’t allow since he is out of status). He then asked for anything additional we’d brought with us to prove the marriage. He made a comment about ‘but I’ve already made up my mind about you two’ that I was curious about, but let slide because I was so nervous. We handed over the joint bank statements, statement showing him as a non-driver on my insurance, father’s day cards from my kids, and an envelope of pictures. He really just kind of glanced over most of it, and started flipping through the pictures. Then he did the standard yes/no’s, sort of pausing and clairfying about Paul’s weapons training(he was in the Irish army for a few years) but it wasn’t an issue.

He then told us he wanted to approve our case, BUT…He needed a new translation of Paul’s divorce papers because he’d done them himself. You guys know LOADS of people on VJ have done their own and had no problems, but for whatever reason they were not ok with this there. He said it could even be done through Google Translate(the person doing it didn’t have to speak Danish) but they just needed someone else’s signature on the papers other than ours. He reccomended going next door to an immigrant services office that had set up there, they did translations, notary, etc, and gave us until 3pm that day to get it back to him, otherwise we’d have to mail it in.

He mentioned again how if it were up to him we’d be approved on the spot, and said again how he’d already made up his mind about us. I was making a joke and said ‘Oh, don’t believe everything you hear!’, and he said no, it was the pictures of the tattoos. About a year ago he and I had gone and gotten similar themed tattoos together with each other’s names, our wedding date, and his family motto. I ended up sending pictures of those in because I figured it has to be pretty sure proof we are really in a relationship, right? Paul now says it was the best $500 we ever spent…LOL. The officer asked were we drinking when we did it(no), and said he thought it was crazy, but it definitly convinced him. We just needed the translated doc and we’d be approved.

We went to the place next door, and once we explained what we needed, they got us fixed up pretty quick. Paul ended up re-typing his divorce document because of all the weird Danish characters, and the guy working there just ran it through Google Translate for us and put it on their letterhead and signed it and we went back to USCIS.(Yes, we did get charged $20 instead of $30 since Paul did most of the work! LOL!)

We checked in downstairs again, and she had us sit and wait while they tried to get hold of our officer so he could come down and get the documents. We waited a bit, and then realized it was 10:40, and checkout at the hotel was 11, so Paul said why don’t you run back over(hotel was literally around the corner, 45 second drive away) and get us checked out and come back. So ran and did that, and as I was leaving the hotel again, Paul called me. It’s done! Approved! LOL! I missed the whole thing because I had to go check us out of the hotel! He said the guy was nice and more relaxed and almost smiled even, so I’m really sorry I missed that part 🙂 I picked him up outside the building and we headed back the 6 hours to Mobile 🙂

Dear Scarlett, I Promise You Weren’t Adopted

Dear Baby Girl,

A couple of nights ago your brother Malcolm woke up and needed to be rocked back to sleep. As I sat there in the dark with him snuggled against my chest, you started kicking, far more than you had all day. I smiled at the thought that he might start to notice those movements soon, and marveled at how quickly this pregnancy is going. You’ll be here before we know it.

As thrilled as I am, your impending arrival scares me, because I feel terribly unprepared. Your brother is 16 months now, and between him and work, I am tired. I’ve not had the time and energy to plan and shop and do fun things for you the way I could when I was pregnant with Mal. I swore to myself that with you being my last, I’d do a proper baby book this time, and instead the best I’ve managed is recording milestones on my Google Calendar. I have my doppler but we’ve still not gotten a recording of your heartbeat, it’s one of those things we keep saying we will do, and just haven’t gotten to with all of the work and family and holiday stuff. I’ve taken maybe one picture of my expanding belly so far. I haven’t even blogged the ultrasound pictures we do have.

Look, you gave us a little thumbs up during the scan!

O Flaherty_Sara_3

I’ve been down this road with your brother Damian, with the whole ‘youngest child syndrome’ thing, and I’m determined not to go down it again. I have very few pictures of him by himself until he was nearly a year and a half old, because with only 17 months between him and Brendan, most of my energy was focused on the active toddler. It’s not that he was any less loved, far from it, its just hard to point a camera at a smiling baby when the 2-year-old is trying to make an escape over a baby gate, or up-ending a shampoo bottle on the bathroom floor, or crying because a dog stole his snack, or one of the million other trivial details of day-to-day life. I was too busy experiencing the chaos to properly record it, but even that has it’s price. Were it not that he and Brendan look so much alike, I’d worry that Damian will think he’s adopted.

Scarlett, I swear to you, you are not adopted.

You are in some ways the most anticipated of your siblings. Everyone is thrilled about a first baby, so your sister had that. Brendan was the first boy, Damian the sweet surprise when I thought I was done. Then life and circumstances changed, and Malcolm was your daddy’s first baby, coming along 8 years after my last. But you baby girl, you are the little sister your older siblings(especially Gabby…oh my goodness especially Gabby!) have been asking for for years. All youngest children are spoiled, but being the girl everyone wanted, you’ve already made yourself stand out.

Technology has come so far since Damian was little, with camera phones and pocket-sized digital cameras I don’t think it will be as hard to keep up as it was back then. Still, if you ever start to notice there were a few less birthday pictures or a missing baby book, please don’t think it’s because the stork dropped you off, it’s just that with a big family, we may sometimes be busier living life than photographing it. You are and always will be that special youngest child.

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