Monday, November 17, 2008

Paper chase

I've missed my blogging lately. At first my excuse was how crummy I was feeling and now that I'm starting to feel better (praise the Lord!) I'm trying to catch up on all of those things that I haven't done over the past 14 or so weeks since I started living in perpetual sea sickness. I still haven't made much progress on that list of things to do - some of which are pretty important - but I'm trying. But I figured I'd give myself a break today and ignore all the things on my list so I can blog a little bit. Ahhh. I feel better already.

I did run into a small problem. I haven't snapped a single picture in November. Pictureless blog posts are always less enticing so I try to always have some sort of visual even if it is random. So for today I decided to go back to November of 2006 since my November of 2008 folder is empty. One day I will think - what in the world happened in November of 2008?? So this is from our first little family vacation to San Diego when Claire was almost 11 months old. This is the first time she saw the ocean and stuck her little feet in the sand at La Jolla cove. She wasn't a fan. She still isn't a fan. Some things never change. What a wonderful trip that was . . .

So last week I decided I HAD to tackle one of the more pressing issues on my list and that is getting passports for the kids for our upcoming travels. This officially went on my list in early September when I actually got their passport pictures taken but the ball stopped rolling then and now here we are staring at December with no passports in hand. The problem is in addition to the pictures and the application in order to get passports for children both parents have to appear in person with the children with various forms of identification and documents. Scheduling has been difficult because true to government form the passport office is open M-F from 10-3 with lunch from 12-1. That would be challenging for most people but add into account that my husband has a job that requires him to actually be at work during the day and two small children who nap at 1pm and it seemed impossible. Finally Rhett had a hole in his clinic schedule last week and we were going to meet him to get this all settled.

I got out the applications and started assembling the documents (all my friends who are adopting are either laughing or rolling their eyes at all of this considering their definition of a paper chase). I went to my filing cabinet and pulled out folder clearly labeled "Claire's Documents" and voila! there is her birth certificate, SS card, immunization form and every single update from each pediatrician appt. since she was 2 weeks old. Nice work. Everything I need in one place. I love when I do that. Next I look for Ford's folder. And look and look and look. Nowhere. I turn the office upside down then every other random place I could think of in our house where I might have stashed his folder. Gone. So now I have to tell Rhett that our plans are off because I can't find the documents that I need. He was a little frustrated considering this was the first day in months he had been able to work out for this to happen but his frustration added to my frustration equaled me in tears feeling like failure and Claire asking why I was so sad. Bad day. We regrouped and I just planned on replacing everything I needed as fast as I could and just doing the best with rescheduling.

The first chance I had to do all of these paper chasing errand was a random Tuesday in November (better known as Veteran's Day when all the places I need to go were closed). Ugh. Thank you Veterans (Dad) but I really need to get this done! It ended up being a good thing that I waited for a Golden Wednesday (the only day that both of my kids are in school and I have 4 hours all by myself) because this was not the kind of a day when kids could have kept up. First place I needed to go: Jefferson County Health Department to the Vital Records office to replace his original birth certificate. I despise the Health Department. When I had a positive PPD (TB exposure) a few years ago I had to go there to get a chest X-ray and monthly for my treatment. It is a yucky governmental place and I do not like it there. The marquee out front said "Syphillis Outbreak in Jefferson County! Have you been tested?". This just reminded me that Rhett has STD clinic there and gave me the willies. I waited for 10 minutes for a parking spot in the deck then went to get my birth certificate. The woman said it should take 15-20 minutes. Great. I had an appt. to get a flu shot just down the street in an hour. There were 2 other people in the waiting area when I got there. 40 minutes later we were all still there and had been joined by about 10 others. Finally about 50 minutes into my 15-20 minute wait I got my copies and got out of there. Good riddens! I barely got to my OB in time for another 20 minute wait for my flu shot.

Now I'm pushing it to get my last errand done before I have to pick up my two kids at two different places by 1pm. I type in the address of the Social Security office into my handy dandy GPS and it sent me on my way through downtown Birmingham. Through the medical district, into the financial district, past some familiar museums and then into the rougher outskirts. I hadn't been in this part of town before and the numbering of the streets confuses me so I was glad I had my little guide. Like I said it is a little rougher area with mostly abandoned houses and a few small businesses then I see it, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes, one of the biggest, brightest, newest buildings in all of Birmingham. Surely that can't be it? Please tell me the government did not spend upteen millions building that magnificent structure to give money away in. I mean seriously ya'll it is ridiculous. But they had a free parking deck (thanks Uncle Sam) so I parked and went in. First stop security. I place my mom purse in the x-ray machine and head through the metal detector. The security guard standing by the entrance of the x-ray machine pushed my purse through the machine and out the other side. I retrieve it. Apparently Casper the invisible security guard was manning the screen that ACTUALLY SHOWS WHAT IS INSIDE! Typical. I feel safer already. I follow some signs and end up in what I think is the correct place. I stop at a desk and finally find an application for a social security card in English and fill it out. I get a numbered waiting ticket and round the corner to the waiting area. There is a HUGE waiting room filled with rows and rows of chairs filled with people. Seriously probably about 200 people. I haven't come this far to give up so I find one of the last empty chairs and sit down. Babies are screaming, people are hacking and hobbling around on walkers. I looked at the lady next to me and said "This is quite an operation they have here" she just kind of half smiled at me. I guess she had been waiting a while. There are huge signs prohibiting any cell phone use or picture taking. Otherwise I would have taken a picture with my phone of this scene. Maybe that's why they don't want you to take pictures. They don't want bloggers to disuade people from making the trip down. Anyway, I wait for them to call my number so I can go to one of the 30 or so windows that encircle this mass waiting area. It seems like they are calling a number every minute or two so I start thinking that it might actually happen!

I think I only waited for about 30 minutes when they finally called my number but just as they did someone behind me started hacking and I couldn't hear the window number I was supposed to report to! What? Say it again!! Help! What if I loose my turn? A lot of the windows were covered by partitions so I couldn't see which ones were open. OH NO! Finally someone pointed me to a window they thought was correct and lo and behold it was! I sit down at a desk about 6 feet across from a lady and a computer. She says "May I help you?" without looking up or taking a break from typing. I explain I need a replacement SS card and hand her my application and all of the documentation I need for that. She looks at my paperwork and keeps typing - kind of like those people who work at the airport counter who just type and type and type and can never really help you. Anyway, she is looking at my Driver's license and typing in the information as my proof of ID. I see her get to the expiration date and I kind of cringe because it expired in May. It's one of those important things I haven't managed to get done. She looked up at me for the first time and said "I can't use this it is expired." I quickly replied that I realized that so I had brought my passport along as a back up just in case and I slide it the 6 feet across the desk to her. She looked at me and said in a nasty tone "So you aren't driving anymore?" and this point I'm afraid she is apart of Obama's new civilian protection force or whatever he calls it and is going to turn me in the the real police for driving on an expired license. I just smiled and told her I was on my way there next. I finally get out of there with my son's social security number and the promise of a new card in 2 weeks and somehow made it to get my children from school in time. Not a fun day. I did feel like I was doing some sort of penance for loosing all of Ford's stuff. I now have his folder carefully arranged and once we get the passports I will make copies of those, birth certificates and SS cards and send one to each set of grandparents for safe keeping. I can't imagine what I would do if we lost all these documents when we were overseas. At least I'll know where two sets are if that happens.

So the story has a happy ending. We went to the post office today and got the applications turned in and hopefully we should have their passports in 3 weeks. It did cost us $170 and they are only good for 5 years so that isn't so happy but we will get what we need to travel and will be on our way in a few short months. By the way, if anyone has any tips for traveling internationally with children I'm all ears. I'm most concerned with how I am going to keep a very busy 15 month old little boy on my lap during the 9 hours of flight time that we have. Yes, I know about Benadryl. I've given it to him a few times as an antihistamine and he has had a difficult time with it (as in reverse reaction -NOT drowsy) so that is on the shelf for now. Luckily Rhett and I have traveled overseas quite a bit and are familiar with the drill but since we are going to be gone for 9 weeks we are going to have a whole lotta stuff and two small kids and a preggo mommy. Sounds like fun doesn't it?? I told Rhett about my anxiety about Ford on the flight and his response was classic "Megan, it is just going to be a really, really long day and then it will be over". Maybe I should have that printed on cards to be handed out to everyone sitting around us. So my question is if we take a car seat on board for Claire to sit in would the flight attendants let us kind of swap the kids in and out of the car seat? Claire would be fine to snuggle in our laps and take a nap but Ford not so much. If he could snooze in the car seat that would be great. I'm wondering if they would be sticklers about who was in the car seat during the cruising part of the flight? Just one of the bazillion questions I have but we will start there . . .


Matt & Kadie Laughlin said...

Hi Megan!
What a day!! Oh the things you have to do to travel internationally!! From my experience, they will not care AT ALL who is in the seat while you are flying. They can be sticklers for the taking off and landing part, but the time in the air--you can pretty much do whatever you want. And my suggestion for entertainment--a bag of new (cheap) toys, boks, etc. The newness can buy you hours!!

Susan said...

I agree with above commenter. We found that they were pretty strict about take off and landing - otherwise they won't pay any attention to you.

And again - new cheap toys are great. Go to the dollar store. The favorite on our trip to Spain was stickers. We had about 30 packs of stickers that each came with their own little sticker book to stick them in. We pretty much left a trail of stickers from Mississippi to Ireland to Spain to England and back again.

Are you taking the car seat on the plane b/c she will sleep better in it or for safety? We never use them on the plane - I guess I feel like if your plane crashes then really what are your chances anyway? And a carseat is huge to lug around the airport with a double stroller, diaper bags, carry ons etc... We bought a bag for relatively cheap (ebay) for checking the carseats. It has a strap, so you could also use the bag for carrying the seats to the plane.

My best advice is just to give yourself plenty of time. It's defnitely a mom and dad team effort to transport two little kiddos internationally. And when you start to get rushed to make a flight, everything starts to break down.

Rhett, Megan, Claire and Ford said...

Thanks ya'll. I've already started=- collecting new cheapy toys for a diversion bag (including a big Princess sticker book!). I'm not too worried about Claire because she can play or be otherwise entertained but my precious little boy on the other hand is a completely different scenario. He is just at a tough age to sit still or be held. I've never taken a carseat on board before we've always just gone with the good ole lap belt but I thought that if they would let Ford sleep in it then it would be worth it. He is used to sleeping in it in the car but it's going to be tough to get him to wind down in our arms. Thanks for all of the wonderful advice!!