Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

It has been a couple of months since my last blog about my husband’s settlement visa application for the UK – The last post I did was in February called Taking over Me in which I was asking for you to all bare with me only a little while longer for J-P’s visa to be issued and for life to return to some sort of normality. Those who know me or have me as a friend on Facebook (or even follow me on Twitter) know that things did not turn out the way we had planned – Instead J-P’s visa was declined and we were forced to start the process all over again.

Our first settlement visa application was on the basis that I had not yet been here 6 months – This meant that the financial requirement is considered for the 12 months prior to application only. Having earned in South African rands with the awful exchange rate and also changing jobs (and having a drastic pay cut) meant that we were already very close to the line in terms of actually achieving this requirement of GBP18 600 per year (In the last 12 months). We had been advised that maintenance payments could be included in this calculation and so we used this to push us over the edge and apply with the hopes the visa would be approved. Sadly, it was not and due to South Africa’s maintenance orders not being recognised in the eyes of UK visas and immigration, J-P’s visa was denied on the basis that we did not make the financial requirement.

I remember that day that I got the call, I had already gone onto planned leave and J-P and the kids were due to arrive any day, I had gone to watch a movie to kill time while I waited for J-P to go and collect his visa and then book his air ticket – When he called me I was sitting on the bridge over looking the River Kennett, the sun was out and it seemed like it was going to be a beautiful day – I was not prepared for my husband to tell me that his visa had been denied. That we had just spent GBP885 for nothing. It was all I could do to immediately book a ticket back to my family and I flew the next day, uncertain of our future and unsure of being able to continue with this pursuit of a settlement visa so that we could continue our lives in the UK.

When it happened, I looked at this like it was the worst thing in the world but when I think about it now, it was merely a hiccup. Had I known before I left that the visa would be declined, I never would have left South Africa. I said from the start that there was no way I would be here for 6 months (The second way of application) without my family before a visa could be applied for and I was not prepared to stick it out without them for that long… Well, here we are, I have been here 6 months and we are about to apply again.

On the 20th of April 2015 I will have been working for Portman Travel for 6 months and have successfully been earning enough to make the financial requirement – At the end of April (beginning of May depending on how long it takes for the documents to arrive) the second visa application will go in on the new basis that I have lived and worked in the UK for 6 months earning a salary that would in the financial year (6 months before and after application) meet the financial requirement for sponsorship of my husband’s settlement visa. When I went back to SA in February I had every intention of giving up, of canning the whole idea. I was prepared to give up the new life I had built here just to be back to my family knowing how difficult it had been without them in the 4 months preceding the visa rejection. I was convinced otherwise by my husband and our visa consultant and so, came back to the UK with a heavy heart but a renewed determination to do everything we needed to to make this visa happen, despite the challenges, despite the cost. H was re enrolled in school and went back to Grade 4 slightly later than everyone else as by now she had missed the first few weeks of classes and thankfully J-P works for an amazing company who allowed him to stay on a little longer until the visa could be re applied for. I got a new tattoo and came back alone, hoping it would be the motivation I needed to get through the next 3-4 months it would take to resolve this.

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A second visa application means more money – Sadly since the first application, the cost has increased – Our timing has been fairly awful to say the least. Where it was just under GBP900, it is now closer to GBP1000. A new NHS surcharge has also been implemented (As of the 6th of April 2015) where all long term visa applicants are also required to prepay a charge to make use of the NHS for their intended period of stay – J-P’s additional NHS surcharge is another GBP600 on top of his application. Unfortunately documents that were valid for the first application are no longer valid so off my husband went for a second TB test (Another R1000) and a new police clearance certificate, tax clearance certificate and certifications of documents. All new payslips, employment letters, bank statements etc had to be obtained and I will have to send off another envelope filled with original documents from this side before he can even submit the online application again. What was supposed to be over already has turned into an extremely long, harrowing, expensive experience – BUT I KNOW that once they are here, it will be well worth all the sacrifice.

As soon as my documents arrive in South Africa, J-P will then process his online application once more, go in for his interview and re submit all his documentation. In February 2015, nearly all visa applications were being processed in 15 working days but sadly that number has gone up to 30 days for March 2015 – Many being rushed in before the NHS charge implementation date I am sure. I am hoping that the number is reduced again for April / May thanks to these new charges that may put people off from applying – The sooner J-P’s visa comes out, the better.

This time, we have no reason to believe it will be rejected – I meet the financial requirement, we meet all other requirements, we have everything we need for me to be an adequate sponsor of my husband’s visa, all we need is the UK visa’s stamp of approval and we can get along with the rest of our lives and we are nearly there – Hopefully no more than 6-8 weeks away now. It does mean that the children will not go to school until September but that actually works out quite nicely, D will go into reception year (Grade R) as this is the school year that she turns 5. Based on Hayley’s age, she will then be pushed into fifth year and will not be held back yet – That we will look at based on how well she is coping. Hubby has already been in touch with recruiters and has had some positive interest on his CV pending his visa issuance, this is great news as we will be able to get back into the financial swing of things fairly soon. I will also take some more leave but this time, I am waiting to actually have a flight date before I go off for ten working days to spend some much needed time with my beautiful family who I am missing considerably!

Thinking about this visa all the time has led me to discover a few interesting things that may be of use if you are planning on moving over to the UK – I feel that there is a lot of information dotted all over the place and it can get very confusing when you have a complex application / situation as I do.

*** RETAINING SA CITIZENSHIP ***

I am not an SA citizen so I did not give a second thought to this until now but it is important to note that if you manage to successfully obtain citizenship of another country without first having applied to retain your SA citizenship, you will lose your SA citizenship and you will then only be granted permanent residence to SA – It is an administrative and logistical nightmare. As J-P is coming over on a settlement visa (When and not if it is granted), it will be valid for 33 months after which he will apply for an extension for a further 33 months. After that time, he would have been in the UK for 5 years and will be required to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR) by doing the Life in the UK test, doing a new English test and proving the financial requirement again in order to gain permanent residence in the UK – It is at this time, once ILR is granted that if he wants to apply for citizenship (Which he does) he will need to apply to retain his SA citizenship before obtaining his British citizenship.

*** CHILDREN HOLDING DUAL CITIZENSHIP ***

Luckily my girls have British passports as well as having their SA passports, this is because I was born in the UK. Under the age of 18, they cannot lose their citizenship in SA as minors but it is important to note that they need to apply to retain their citizenship after they have turned 18 – I still have to get clarity on how to do this because to me the ruling says they would not have lost their SA citizenship as minors but you cannot apply to retain your citizenship if you already have dual citizenship. I will look into this much closer to the time because by then, I am sure the ruling would have changed another ten times.

*** PERMANENT RESIDENCE EXPIRY ***

In the worst case scenario, J-P is not granted extension visa’s or ILR and this could mean that there is a possibility we would need to return to SA. If this is the case, I only hold a permanent residence certificate. Thankfully, those do not expire as long as you apply to the specific rules given on the certificate (if any) or you return to SA at least once very 3 years. Guess what family, you will be seeing me for holidays and visits – Not only because I want to see you but because I also need to make sure that if I need to return to SA permanently, I can :).

It has not been an easy road but I think back to me making the decision to come over and I know it was the right thing to do – I never intended to be away from the girls and J-P so long and as I said earlier, had I known I would never have left but then we would never have had the opportunity to know if this could work or not. It has been extremely expensive but thankfully money can be replaced, credit cards can be repaid – As soon as J-P is here and working again, we will be able to make that up fairly quickly. Money will be the last of our worries as long as my family is back together with a bright, hopeful future.

Now all we ask is that you hold thumbs for us, that this time, our second try, the visa is approved and issued fairly quickly (Hopefully 3-4 weeks instead of 6-7 but if it is approved I will take what I can get) and that I have my family here with me sometime between early and mid June. Unfortunately, the delayed visa issuance means that we will not be able to return to SA this year for a holiday because financially and practically we would just not be able to, but that will mean that next year’s visit will be all the more special – Especially because I will get to meet my nephew who is making his entry into the world in July this year :)

I remain hopeful that the next post I share that has anything to do with the visa is to tell you it has been issued.

Thanks for all your well wishes and positivity in the meantime! I have been here 184 days today… and counting.

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My daughter does not have an invisible friend. Instead, she has an armada of invisible cartoon characters and fictional creatures of whom Walt Disney and his cohorts would have been proud. While other children can take this extraordinary friendship to almost uncontrollable levels where parents are required to set additional places at the table, my daughter has limited her remarkable imagination to the confines of the garden and bedroom. While her companions may not join us for tea, they most certainly watch television with us and keep her occupied when she is frolicking around the garden with a wand in hand. After all, what would a 3 year old’s back yard tomfoolery be without a unicorn in tow?

So who are these imaginary friends and why do they make a sporadic appearance in the lives and worlds of imaginative babes whose minds know no bounds?

My first logical reaction to D’s new found magical playmates is that perhaps she is lonely. In recent weeks she has been separated from her older sister for some time, not to mention almost all of her toys that are now here in the UK and is forced to spend most of her time with Daddy. No matter what he does, tutu or not, he will just never really be Clarabelle the invisible fairy who loves all the same movies as D does. It is funny how she really did not enjoy watching ‘How to train your dragon’ and had this irrational fear of Toothless (I think he is gorgeous) but magically, when Clarabelle is with her, she will watch the movie. The truth is that the logical reaction is not my first one. I am whimsical first, I am a parent second. Let me explain.

When Daddy stubbed his toe this morning, it was my daughter’s instant and rational response to heal his wound with her wand. When Daddy did not play along and told her his toe was still sore, she went outside in true Malucia style to steal magic from the unicorn to heal daddy’s foot. My worry here was not that she was looking for a unicorn (Apparently I found that part acceptable), it was that she was trying to steal from someone else and be the evil thief Malucia from yet another Barbie movie. I realized I did not give her enough credit because after running around the garden for some time looking for her magical creature friends hiding in various garden crevices, she came back to tell Daddy that she would give the magic back to her friends as soon as his toe had healed because she is not naughty like Malucia is.

Fair play D, fair play.

As someone who loves reading and writing, I often wonder if I too am exposed to the likes of imaginary friends in the recesses of my author brain. While I have not yet written a book (Despite starting a few times) , the characters that I want to use in these unfinished novels live quite comfortably next to the cranial cabinet marked File 13… not quite ready to be packed away for an eternity, but living close enough to the edge that I do not appear a loon. These characters are after all mostly fictional, despite being loosely based on personal experience and sub conscious memories, who’ve been imagined many a time doing super human feats with Macgyver like ambition. Who are these make believe, fanciful beings but a reincarnation of my own child like attributes made manifest? If it is acceptable for JK Rowling to breathe life to a dementor, it should be more than acceptable for a child’s best friend to be invisible as well as invincible.

I have done my fair share of internet exploration on the subject and sadly every website or page you come across has the intention of making you believe there is a hidden, more serious meaning behind having an imaginary friend. Most articles accept the existence of imaginary friends, but however ‘normal’ they are made to sound, there is some psychologist somewhere looking for a reason for their existence. I refuse to accept this and instead I am happy to acknowledge D’s magical friends for what they are – IMAGINARY FRIENDS. A friend she has imagined.

Because she can.

Because she has an imagination.

Because she is not held ransom to unnecessary ideals of realism.

***

Birthday beauty…

Posted: December 30, 2014 in Family
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My beautiful baby girl on her birthday.

In the 9 years since you made your perfect entrance into my life, you’ve taught me more than anyone ever will. You’ve taught me patience, determination, willpower, ambition and most of all you taught me how to love unconditionally xxx I love you with all of my heart and soul and I miss you more than words can explain and tears can express, I promise to fight for you always. You are my heart, beating on the outside xxx

Happy 9th birthday to the most angelic soul I know… I am so proud of the wonderful girl you have become and the best big sister or oldest daughter anyone could ever ask for. I cannot wait to give you the world, which is merely a taste of what you deserve. The last few months have been horrible but we will be together again soon and you shall have all the love your little heart desires xxx

I promise I will never miss another birthday, as long as I live and breathe.

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I miss you every weekend
miss your faces every day
miss it when you are naughty
miss all the little things you say

I miss seeing you in the morning
miss brushing your hair at night
miss begging you to brush your teeth
miss fighting about the light

I miss how cute you can be
Miss seeing your big toothy smiles
Miss you being grumpy
Miss all the moments that you’ve cried

I miss everything about you
Miss just being your mum
Miss how you smell, touch and feel
Miss everything you’ve done

Not a day goes by that I don’t miss you
Not a day goes by that I don’t see
the emptiness that comes with
You not being with me…

siobhan 3a

Admittedly, my poor husband does not get enough credit. In the lead up to my trip to the UK without him, my nightly insomnia is fuelled with the worry that without me, he just will not get anything done. A visa in the pipeline, multiple passport applications to be done and the next few months of being a single father, that husband of mine has his work cut out for him and despite his numerous attempts to quell the beast that is my OCD, I really cannot let it go. So what does one do when one has far too much time on one’s hands and enough anxiety to push an AA meeting to vodka? One makes lists of course. To do lists. Checklists. Bucket lists and blacklists. If it can be listed, I will list it somewhere – Suddenly excel and I are on amazing terms and short of detailing the number of breaths I have to take in a day to survive, all of my daily tasks are documented. So why the lists you ask? I can tell you for certain, it is not because I think my husband is incapable of doing as I ask, it is more a case of me worrying that I will forget to nag about yet another task I have given him to do.

One of the incredibly difficult things for me to deal with about our impending move is the fact that I just do not have control. I am in control of the basics, the finances, the movement and the choices we have made, the rest is in the hands of government departments and others. I can only do so much and for me, with the kind of anxiety that I am currently suffering, that ‘so much’ that I can do is just never enough. With my move happening far sooner than that of my family, I am forced to relinquish control to my husband for many of the things that I would normally handle and have been in charge of handling up until now. When I leave, he has to make sure he obtains everything required to apply for his visa, all of the documents needed for the girl’s passports, taking over the duties of looking after my children and making sure that everything runs as smoothly here as I hope to have things running over there, ready for them to come over as soon as possible. With all of these things that he has to do and arrange, I have sat night after night typing up to do lists and trying to get as much done before I leave as humanly possible – Driving this husband of mine absolutely bloody moggy, not because of his inability to do this without me, but because of my inability to just let go.

A spiky marshmellow is what I have been called by those that know and love me, or so they say. I tend to portray this tough, hard exterior and yet right now I am melting on the inside. I found myself waking up this morning thinking that today was the second last Sunday that I would spend in South Africa. I struggle to think of what it is I will miss about this country, barring family and friends of course, yet I know the day draws nearer to when I have to get on that plane and wave goodbye to my children and my husband for what will be a lifetime until they arrive. ‘I love you three’ will be something that my three year old says to me over Skype without the accompaniment of a snake love (It is a hug on steroids with the constriction of a snake of course, totally normal). Glee will not be in on in the background of my home while my husband pretends it is on for my 8 year old and that same 8 year old will not be coming to me to help me with her homework, or reading her stories to me while I am in the bath.

The universe has a funny way of giving us what we thought we wanted when we did not want it at all. Before you misinterpret that, understand that I am not referring to the England move as that is something that we want more than you could possible imagine. What I mean is that in getting what we want, we are faced with a separation that no one would ever have asked for and yet subconsciously, as a mother, there are times when my inside voices have screamed for solitude and peace and quiet. I have never been ‘on my own’, when I moved out of home it was with the father of my daughter and thereafter it has always been H and I, I have never had to be alone no matter how many times I frustratingly wished I could be. I have of course, always done everything backwards so it makes sense that the universe has decided that having a husband and two children means it is time for some ‘ME’ time – I am about to be alone for the next few months, whether I like it or not.  Trust me, I don’t like it but I will be damned if I don’t make the most of it – I am going to enjoy this time on my own, by hook or by crook and when my family arrives they will be more appreciated and loved than they could possibly understand – SNAKE love all around.

Making lists seems to be a way of taking my mind off of all this pressure, the fear of loneliness and the worst case scenarios that as a realist, are firmly cemented in my mind. All I can think about is what if the girls do not get their passports (Most unlikely, in fact improbable but still a thought), what if my husband does not get his visa (Again, improbable but realistic), what if things do not work out the way I have so cautiously planned and what if all my list making is in vain and no one bothers to follow my lists. What then? The fact that my lists could go ignored has me needing to make a back up list for myself, just in case.

I sound like an absolute nut job right now, I get it. If you were about to endure what I am going to be, you would be a nut job too. Nut job or not, I have to believe that my lists will be read and my OCD will not be in vain… Add control freak to your list of judgements for me, at least you can tick it off – Ticks always make the list look better.

Off to tick a list…

Happy anniversary!

Posted: July 28, 2014 in Family, Personal
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Quick post – a happy 2 year anniversary to my amazing husband!

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Eating in silence.

Posted: July 11, 2014 in Family, Friends, Random

Sitting at a restaurant for dinner last night, it was hard not to notice the apparent over usage of mobile devices in a social environment. I have always advocated social media and the use of technology, I am in fact an addict and find it very difficult to sit and do nothing when there is a Facebook news feed to be read. That said, I know where to draw the line and one of those lines is drawn at dinner where I choose to have actual human contact and engage in conversation – Surely that is common sense? Alas, it is less common to interact with your dinner partner and more acceptable to eat with your fork in one hand and your other hand scrolling through your Twitter updates.

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Out with the girls, we had our phones out, obviously. We spent some time playing with the camera’s and taking selfies, air brushing our skin after a long day at work and accidentally taking pictures of the diners at the next table which prompted some friendly conversation and quite a few laughs. It was easy to see that we were the most social table in the section, surrounded by human beings devoid of any human interaction or emotion. The saddest part of it all – a young couple behind us having dinner that I spent much time ogling (In a non stalker way – I hope). They sat down shortly after we did, each with their phones on the table, one hand scrolling and the other hand being used for refreshment. The couple did not share one word, not one look, not a nod or a grin for the entire time they sat there. It was obvious they were scrolling through their Facebook and Instagram accounts from the time they sat down, pausing to order from the waiter and not so much as looking up when the food arrived. They continued to peruse their mobile devices as they ate and after they were done, all the attention was once again devoted to their social media.

Excuse me, but when did it become acceptable to leave the house with someone but not say two words to them because whatever is happening on your phone is far more important (For over two hours!). I ask you, with tears in my eyes, what is the actual point in leaving the house? You are probably better off ordering take away dinner, staying in doors and giving each other the silent treatment in the comfort of your own home – Without all of the restaurants patrons judging you?

I have said this many times before – I love social media. I use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn. I do update my Facebook status at least once a day, I have occasionally tweeted about bad service I have received, I have Instagrammed a pic or two of dinner, I have a Pinterest board for my cats and like to update LinkedIn on more business related topics. I do it all and I am proud of it – I am just as proud, if not more so, of the fact that I understand when enough is enough. I know that when what is happening on my phone is more interesting or important than what is happening in my life, a change needs to be made. Life was not made to live through a device – By all means, share what you do with those you love but as my good friend mentioned in his recent blog:

In my opinion you should be posting about experiences with friends, not experiencing posts with “friends”! – Chris Huntingford

(Click here to read Chris Huntingford’s full blog on Social Media)

This brings me to another sore but pertinent point, social networking and gaming – the destroyer of relationships.

When Candy Crush came out, we all downloaded it. We played it until we were ill. We sent numerous requests on Facebook for extra lives and bonus sweets to see how far we could get. Candy Crush morphed into Pet rescue, despite how much we all moaned and groaned about Farmville. Then, if you’re like me, you went and blocked every game app on Facebook to stop receiving requests and invites and made sure that all the games had been deleted from your devices… The phase was over. I realized that I was spending far too much time ‘playing’ these online games that it was actually taking away from my day to day human interaction. Hours would pass in the quest to build my Ice Age Village (Which I was mighty proud of after many hours of hard work) and it was only a matter of time before my dragons were levelling up in Dragon City – Then I sat back and realized how absolutely absurd that all sounds when I have far more important things to do like spend time with my family, converse with my husband or get my chunky ass to gym (Like I am always complaining about).

In a world where we already battle to separate home from work, where we constantly struggle with living to work versus working to live, how did we think that we were so evolved and mature to incorporate yet another split to struggle with – Quality time versus Game time. Well, that is exactly my point. Unless your life is perfect and you can balance every aspect without fail, stress or anxiety… unless your family gets enough quality time and you give your all in everything you do (lacking nothing), the last thing you should be doing is spending hours each night on your phone levelling up. When are you giving life a chance to happen?

I have had to ban the use of mobile devices for game purposes in my home from Monday to Friday. Though my husband will not admit it, he is addicted to social gaming (The latest being Hearthstone or something like it). When did I realize he had a problem? When he got up and walked to the kitchen to make me some hot chocolate and took his laptop with him – he continued playing while the kettle boiled, while he poured the mug and after bringing it to me he quickly raced back to the kitchen to see what was happening. The tell should have been the fact that he upgraded from his cell phone to his laptop… that’s commitment.  While annoyed with me for the ban, he will eventually see the point when we are interacting as a family more and worrying about the games less. When instead of coming home to him couch bound in front of his laptop gaming, perhaps a conversation will take place instead.  He wont get snippy retorts over the work or personal work he cannot get to at the expense of his gaming habit and he will value the weekend game time he has more so than the brief interludes he was getting midweek – The love affair with online gaming. The social mistress.

I have only one request… consideration. Be considerate of those around you when you are staring at your phone or device. Be considerate of your family when it is interaction time and you’re fiddling on your phone. Have some consideration for yourself and the valuable things you could be missing out on – Life is short. Too short. Don’t be remembered for the amount of time you spent online, be remembered for the amount of time you didn’t…

It is all about balance, balance takes practice and practice makes perfect. Don’t be upset with those of us implementing bans, we only want more of your time.

(PS. Thank you to my husband for inspiring a portion of this blog)

(PPS. Here is hoping that somehow, that couple at the restaurant gets to read it).