It's been quite an eventful two weeks since I last posted. I booked the flight for my eldest daughter, Amber, and I. That at least went without a hitch and I even managed to find a fairly good price for the tickets. I also told my boss that I'd need time off and it was approved immediately.
Then Amber and I went to our sheriff substation to apply for a passport. Since I didn't know I was actually going to go in May, we hadn't applied and time was tight -- we were within three weeks of departure. No problem, I thought. I would just pay to expedite the application. We gathered up our documentation and headed to the community center where we'd apply. We had printed out our applications and all paperwork was in order.
Except... the clerk took one look at our ragged birth certificates -- they'd seen years of folding and unfolding from countless US-Canada border crossings -- and informed us that she simply could not accept them. We would have to get replacement birth certificates. I tried to tell her that we'd made a few border crossings recently and they'd been accepted without question, but she just would not budge. She suggested we use VitalCheck to get our birth certificates and was rather curt when she dismissed us.
Stressed and semi-convinced we'd not be able to go, I filled out the online forms and remitted payment. I saw that the processing time for mine was 3 days... good enough, still enough time. Not so for my daughter, however. She was born in California and the expected processing time was... THREE WEEKS?!?!
I received my birth certificate just shy of exactly two weeks before surgery. I knew I could go to the passport acceptance facility in Seattle once I was within two weeks of departure, so I knew I could get to my surgery in Mexico. But... I did not want to go without my daughter! I checked the online status of Amber's birth certificate obsessively, but it wasn't updated. We were playing a waiting game now.
Finally Wednesday arrived -- I could make my appointment at the passport office. I phoned the automated appointment line, listened to about five minutes of information about the website and finally I got to the part where I could choose the option to make an appointment. Great! I punched in the number and...nothing. The line was dead! I tried again... click. And again... click.
I finally got through -- hooray -- and made an appointment. Unfortunately, after I hung up I realized that I had made it for the same day instead of the following day. Drat. There was no way I could make it, so I got back on the phone and did the call-and-get-disconnected routine. After a dozen more tries, I got through again; I made an appointment for 8am the following morning.
I checked VitalCheck again -- still no update on Amber's birth certificate. Yikes! I decided that we'd take a chance on her existing certificate. They may not reject it, seeing as we'd never had any problems with it at the border.
We arrived at the passport agency at 7:55am, went through security and promptly took the wrong elevator. We got off, rode another one down, and finally located the proper elevator. We entered the passport office at 8am on the dot.
Amber and I looked at each other and took a deep breath. We stepped up to the information desk and they asked us for our birth certificates. They barely glanced at them, then asked if we had our other ID and pictures. We nodded yes, and they gave us a number and told us to wait.
Three minutes later we were talking to the passport clerk. She looked at Amber's birth certificate and put it in the stack of papers. She smiled and processed my paperwork. We were both sworn. She said we'd have our passports early in the week, with a week to spare before departure date.
I thanked her and told her we had been concerned about the birth certificate. She laughed and said she actually preferred the worn ones -- it proved they weren't fake. She wished us luck and we were off...
So now the big hurdle has been cleared. We'll soon have our passports, the trip is planned and we are on track. VitalCheck STILL has not been updated -- if I am to believe the online status tracker, they haven't even sent the request to California. I'm really glad we decided to take a chance on the existing birth certificate!
It's all like a dream now. I'm just under two weeks out and getting a bit scared, but also very excited. I'm going to have a hard time concentrating next week, but once I get through that, the remaining time will go very quickly.
Now if only we can avoid any further problems... LOL