Welcome to my blog!

I was thinking about starting a blog for quite a while but could not decide what to write about. My husband and I travel quite often because of his job. We always loved it even before we met. We actually met because my husband decided to take a job overseas and came to a place where I was, about 7 thousand miles away from him. His decision changed our lives for the very best!

I also like to cook but I don't think that I need a blog to document every meal I make. Only occasionally, maybe. We also decided to eat healthier so the blog will help me to keep track of our meals and weight.
That's how I eventually signed up for a blog and named it Veronika's Travel and Living.

Hopefully, I'll like blogging. We'll see.. ;)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Plan B

is in motion. Yesterday I went to a Greek Visa Center and applied for a Greek visa. As I mentioned before we will go to Corfu if we find out that my green card is cancelled which means that I cannot go to the US. Chris has to leave Russia anyway as his visa expires and he doesn't want to go alone to Florida.

So I filled out a typical Schengen Visa form and attached all the possible papers you can attach: bank statement showing my balance, our marriage certificate, a letter from my husband saying that he is my sponsor, copies of my previous visas, medical insurance, a copy of my green card, a letter from work showing my salary and proving that I'm employed. It's also a Must to submit tickets and hotel reservation. We neither bought tickets nor reserved a hotel but Chris attached flight information from Expedia showing what flights we will take and e-mail messages he exchanged with a hotel manager.

I went to the Visa Center in the morning while Chris stayed home with Brendan. As we thought the only question they had was about the hotel reservation. The girl asked me if I was sure that the e-mail was good enough to prove that we would have a place to stay in Greece. I understand that it's a standard requirement but it's just so funny to assume and imagine that a married woman with an American husband and their 5 m.o. baby will deceive the Greek Embassy and make them believe as if we're going on vacation when in reality we want to go and stay there as illegal immigrants. In order to get a tourist visa one has to prove that he has enough ties with his motherland and he is going to a foreign country only on vacation and will be back to his own country and that is why you need to provide such evidence as return tickets, hotel reservation and bank statement.

Anyway, it's pretty cool that it takes only two days to get this visa, before it took visa centers up to a week to issue visas to Europe. In the worst case scenario it will be nice to go to Corfu and stay at our favorite hotel owned by a very nice family. And it's exciting to have our Brendan with us, it will be his first beach trip and our first family trip!
By the way, the main picture of my blog was taken there. The view is just so beautiful!

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Travel Plans May Not Come True

I was VERY looking forward to our April vacation. Chris was going to take a whole month off which we planned to spend in Naples, FL, at our condo with our son. I was very excited about it, especially not being on vacation for more than a year. And this particular fact may turn into a HUGE problem for me.
I'm a foreigner married to a US citizen who temporary works in Russia. There are laws and special procedures for foreigners to marry US citizens. We have followed every single rule and did everything in accordance with the immigration laws to get married. We started with filing for fiancee visa in January 2008 to get married in November 2008. We got lucky and the process did not take long. In June 2008 after my interview at the US Moscow Embassy I got my fiancee visa. The most annoying part for me was going for medical exam and applying for a police statement to prove that I have no criminal records in the territory of the Russian Federation. It takes up to a month to get such a police statement so I had to apply in advance. In addition to medical records including my vaccination information and X-rays I had to bring different proofs of our relationship and true love such as pictures, letters from our colleagues and friends etc. The interview was easy as our story is pretty simple i.e. boring.

The next step after the wedding was to apply for a conditional residency (Green Card) which we did. It involved another interview, medical exam and a police report not to mention fees which are all around 500$. I got my Green Card in April 2009 and was very proud of being a resident even though I was a conditional resident. Conditional residency is granted for a period of two years after which you must file a petition to remove conditions and get a permanent green card. Only after that I can apply for a citizenship.
Well, I have filed my papers to the Immigration Services in February 2011 and got a letter saying that my green card is extended for another year and invitation for finger prints in Fort Myers, FL, for March 10th. Obviously living in Russia I cannot just take off and travel 24 hrs to go to this appointment especially with a 4 month old. So we sent a letter explaining our situation and asked to move the appointment to April as we plan to be there around this time and because my husband's R&R dates are very strict and specific.

We also plan to travel on the date when my current green card expires but with the extension letter from the Immigration I'm good to cross the border. We made a few calls to confirm that it's right and learned something that I thought wasn't that important. Now it's a HUGE problem! It turns out as a conditional resident I cannot spend more than a year outside the country. Well, I've been out of the states for more than a year because of my pregnancy and having a baby. Apparently, it cancels your green card. At the same time the law says that you may not be allowed in the country but it doesn't say that you will not be admitted in the country. From what I read in the internet it's up to the border patrol officer to make a decision either let you in the country or not, either you have abandoned your residency or you have not.

So I'm very upset that after all these years I may lose my status and have to start from the very beginning but the most upsetting thing is that we don't know if my green card is cancelled or not, if I have abandoned my status or not. And it's impossible to find out as we're dealing with two different agencies: immigration and border patrol. Obviously, in my opinion I haven't abandoned my status, I have more ties with the USA than with Russia not to mention that I gave America another American :) (yeah, it's my lame comedy attempt).

So far we decided to buy tickets and gather as much evidence for me as possible to prove that I haven't abandoned my status and that I have a very important reason for not coming to the US because of my pregnancy and having a newborn. My doctor advised me not to travel long distances when I was pregnant and after we had Brendan he was too small to travel overseas especially without his vaccinations.

I'm very upset about this situation. Nobody can help us because they don't know themselves. All we can do is go and see what they say at the border. The worst for me will be to turn around with a 5 m.o. and fly back to Moscow which is another 13 hr flight.

In despair I have applied for a Return Visa and was told that I cannot have two cases in process at the same time meaning my application to remove conditions on residency. A woman from the US Embassy told me that being out of the country for that long pretty much cancels your green card but said that she would make calls about my situation and find out what to do. In the worst case i.e. cancellation of my green card, at least I'll know the answer and maybe won't have to be tortured with my baby for 48 hrs straight flying back and forth. By the way, “the best” part about this Return visa is another F...ing police statement and another medical exam. Grrrr! At the same time if I get this Return Visa my chances for our family Florida vacation may be way higher.

We also have Plan B which is go to our second favorite place in the world – Corfu, Greece. I have decided to get a Shengen visa next week just in case my US residency is cancelled.

The worst part about this situation is that Chris' Dad will not see his grandson. He already has tickets and is very excited to meet Brendan.

What a horrible situation! Well, I still have about three weeks before our trip, we'll see what happens. By the way, Chris has no choice he has to leave Russia to get a new visa as his current visa expires at the end of April. Damn visas!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New pictures

I took a few pictures of Brendan when he turned 4 months. Here they are:

Monday, March 7, 2011

3 & 4 months

Brendan is almost 4 months old! At his 3 month appointment his weight was 13.6 lbs and height was 25.8. So he did not grow that much in height that month but did in width.
Brendan is a happy baby most of the time if he doesn't have stomach problems. It took us almost three months to develop a daily routine. Our day is usually like this:
9 a.m. - morning feeding;
10 a.m. to 11 a.m. - nap (usually from 30-40 min, rarely 1 hr)
11 a.m. - some naked time, we do some simple exercises such as stretch and move arms and legs, also tummy time and change in new clothes
12 a.m. - feeding
12:30 - 1:30 - play time (swing, play mat, singing and talking)
1:30 - nap
2 p.m. - feeding
2:30 to 3 p.m. play time
3 p.m. to 5 p.m. - walk
and then feeding and playing time
9 p.m. - bath
9:30 to 10 p.m. night feeding
10 p.m. - goes to bed
Of course, some days are different but mostly we stick to this schedule.
One of the new and greatest things he started doing is sleeping through the night! The record was when he fell asleep at 10 p.m. by himself and slept till 9 a.m. AWESOME!

Brendan smiles a lot even when people talk to him on Skype and when strangers talk to him. It's good to know and see that he is not afraid of strangers, we just don't know if it's normal for babies and if it changes later. We'll see.
Once a day he goes into laughing mood. I can always tell that he wants to laugh, so I play with him and talk in his chest or neck and he is just laughing out loud. It's precious!

Sometimes I look at him and cannot believe that he is ours. I remember how frustrating it was when I didn't get pregnant for some time and how terribly I wanted a baby. Now he is looking at me with so much love that when I think about those times it brings tears to my eyes. Of course, now it's happy and thankful tears.
Yes, I get very tired by the end of the day especially now when Chris is being busy at work for almost a month and a half, so temporarily Brendan is mostly on me. It's hard and sometimes frustrating but at the end of the day when he falls asleep I cannot wait for the morning when he wakes up again, I kiss him, put him on his boppy pillow next to me in bed and talk to him while having my morning tea or coffee. He is our dream come true! I wish all our Novembies who are trying to conceive get pregnant and experience the happiness of being parents!