Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

It’s funny. We started this journey in October 2014 and despite knowing just how difficult it was going to be, we could never have anticipated a separation that lasted this long and lives that would be affected this greatly, but here we are! I have been in the UK 280 days today (Over 9 calendar months) and finally the visa saga is drawing to a close.

I think that even though we have struggled (And I am sure you have all noted our intense struggle), we should not be underestimated. Yes, we knew that this was going to be a crazy ride, I knew that I would be lonely and we knew that this would take a toll on everyone involved – The point of the story is that we reached the goal in the end, despite all the challenges we faced. We did it! (Well almost).

On the 22nd of July 2015, after daily check-ups with and at Teleperformance and hounding and annoying as many people as humanly possible, my husband finally collected his visa. Exactly 11 weeks after submission, he has a settlement visa in hand and we can now move forward with our lives. So what was the first thing we did you asked? Most certainly breathed a mutual, continent separated, sigh of relief. It was surreal. I spent the day in a somewhat shocked daze, walking around in disbelief and taking in the realisation that finally my family would be joining me and the new battles of life in another country for them begin. Shortly after the sigh of relief, we paid for the air tickets and made it official. My husband and my beautiful children will arrive in the UK on Thursday the 30th of July 2015! And the countdown couldn’t possibly go any slower.

I really cannot explain the elation that we are feeling. It is a mixed bag of emotions… On the one hand, we are finally getting what we set out to do all of those months ago but on the other, it is the end of an era. The end of a limbo in which we have been living for what feels like a lifetime. Will I remember how to be a wife? Can I go back to being a good mother? Will I remember how to share a home with 3 other people when I have been on my own for so long? There are nerves, anxiety, disbelief, happiness, sadness, anticipation and excitement. It feels like I am getting on a plane and leaving South Africa all over again… Only this time, I won’t be alone.

On Wednesday, I put up a picture of the visa across my social media platforms and I could hardly believe the support that we have received. It is overwhelming. It is like each and every one of our friends and family members have walked this long and treacherous road with all of us. Seen our longing, felt our sadness, shared in our frustration and wiped away our tears. Without all of you, no doubt this journey would have been far more harrowing. To all of those who have cared enough to be a part of this, we thank you – Those that I have met and those that I haven’t. Thank you for your messages, your likes, your comments, your shares and overall just thank you for supporting us from afar.

This looks a little like an Oscars speech but it isn’t really, I just feel it necessary and important to thank everyone involved! Like my crazy ‘landlord and lady’ who in the time I have moved here, wiped my face, held me as I cried, watched me suffer, helped me move, accepted numerous Argos deliveries, drank with me, fed me, showed me the ropes and then decided to have a baby –Without these two taking the plunge, I would never have had the guts to do it myself. And my mother, who if she had not so graciously opened her home to my husband and children, we would be in a far different situation – Thanks Mom and Ken for housing my little family for 9 MONTHS (What we hoped would be 3-4), you are almost an empty nest… finally!

And of course… the strongest man in the world. My husband.

I do not know many men (if any) who would watch their wives move halfway across the world without them to brave a foreign country alone. Giving up all freedom to move in with his in laws, to parent two children (One of which is not his blood relation), to financially support himself and the girls while continuing to fund his visa costs and every now and again a guitar and some eBay shopping for me. To tirelessly and relentlessly push on through delay after delay. To calm his psychotic wife when she was having a lonely episode and to listen when I felt like our worlds were falling apart at my doing. To buy me flowers when I didn’t get the house I wanted or send me a Lindy Bop dress in the wrong size (Oops). He has held my hand through the bad times but held my heart through the worst and I could not thank him enough for being this man because without him at my side, I never would have had the courage to shift my life back to the country in which I was born. I am so grateful that he continues to remind me every day that despite everything we have already conquered and all the hardships that our marriage has faced, we are soul mates and stronger for it. We are not perfect. We make mistakes. We falter. But now we are in a place that our marriage and our family can be proud of – We achieved what we set out to do and in only a few days we would have successfully moved our family across continents! No one could be more proud of us than me.

I missed my 30th birthday with my family, my husband’s birthday, Christmas, Hayley’s birthday, Mother’s day (In the UK), Easter, Mother’s day (In SA), Father’s Day, Dakota’s birthday and soon our 3 year wedding anniversary among many other things (Including the birth of my nephew) – But for all I have missed, we are about to gain so much more…

And NOW the work begins.

Schools are on holiday so we have a few weeks to get the girls placements in school – Hayley will be going into Year 5 (Bumping up and missing out on the last half of Grade 4) in September and Dakota into Reception year (Like Grade R). We already have some hopeful waitlists and I am working tirelessly with the admissions team to get them where we want them to be – This, no doubt, will be sorted sometime during August.

J-P has his second interview set up for what sounds like a really good job which will see him starting work very soon (A place they have been holding for him since a Skype interview in June).

And then in 2 and a half years time, we go through this whole visa process all over again – BUT AT LEAST THIS TIME, we will not be separated and it will be the final one before the ILR and citizenship.

So there we go… no more miserable visa posts and moaning blogs about the settlement process. We made it this far and the next blogs I write will once again start including my girls and our lives and the adjustments we have made. Thank you again to everyone who has followed and supported us… It would never have been possible without you.

Xxx

Shevy

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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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