Problem solved!

Sorry to anyone who tried to click the link I provided in the earlier post. I made a mistake with security settings, which unfortunately led you all to a page that looked pretty scary. All is well now, and the link on the previous post should work. Please comment on this post if you continue to have troubles!

Thanks for following along!

Wait, there’s more!

For all of you faithful AWS fans, I bring good news! There is more adorable kid photos and family chaos over at Have Stroller, Will Travel- the continuing adventures of Alexander the Great.

Have Stroller, Will Travel is a combination of family stories, travel diaries, and product reviews.  We look forward to sharing updates on Alexander through his continuing development and medical care, adoption-related topics, and general family and friend news. We are so very blessed to have family and friends from coast to coast, and we hope that our new site will serve to keep you all as updated as you’d like to be about our family adventures.

How can you not keeping following along with my adventures? You KNOW you want to!

How can you not keep following along with my adventures? You KNOW you want to!

So buckle up, grab your sippy cup or snack trapper, and we’ll see you over at Have Stroller, Will Travel!

First Museum Trip

Although I thought for sure that Alexander’s first museum experience would be my favorite natural history museum in Chicago, his first adventure was in Guangzhou! We didn’t have time to post about all of our adventures, so I’m starting to fill in the gaps while we’re settling in at home. So don’t mind the slight retrospective commentary– there will be more where this came from.

Thanks to a rainstorm during our trip while in Guangzhou, our planned excursion to a botanic garden was replaced by a visit to the Museum of the Mausoleum of the Nanyue King— an absolutely incredible place.


An exquisite jade carving depicting the phoenix and dragon

An exquisite jade carving depicting the phoenix and dragon

A full-body suit of jade found in the tomb. Jade is often called "Crazy Stone" in China because of its fluctuating value.

A full-body suit of jade found in the tomb. Jade is often called “Crazy Stone” in China because of its fluctuating value. Right now, a small jade bracelet will run you about $6k. It would have been only a few hundred dollars less than a decade ago.

We were able to enter the excavated tomb-- which is housed under this glass dome.

We were able to enter the excavated tomb– which is housed under this glass dome.

What I found most incredible about the museum is that the tomb’s rich contents were found in full– especially when you consider how many Egyptian tombs were plundered.  The contents displayed in and around the tomb at the museum were just unbelievable– and it was a fantastic first museum experience for Alexander. Though he didn’t read all of the label copy ( I don’t think he read ANY of it!), several squeals indicated that he is a museum kid!

One more cute photo from our day at the museum

One more cute photo from our day at the museum


Koalas in Spaceships

The slight lull in posting about our adventures is the result of having family visit this past weekend and starting to begin the Long String of Medical Appointments for our little man.  Alexander has now met his grandparents on both sides, and everyone appears to be charmed by his huge smile and laugh.

Friday, we had our first appointment at the Adoption Clinic at Comer Children’s Hospital– a great team of medical professionals that are very experienced in dealing with patients such as our son. They are incredibly sensitive to his developmental and nutritional needs in the context of being an internationally adopted child.  We’re really happy so far, and we look forward to working with the team.

We had our second visit to Comer just this morning, where our guy got his first blood draw.  He was as cool as a cucumber during the first visit aside from a few sad “La’s”, but today was a different story. As soon as the little koalas-in-spaceships hospital gown came out, he knew the deal. No amount of artfully blown bubbles, movies, or toys would distract him from whichever medical personnel was administering care. I think they took a total of 8 vials of blood from our little guy, who was thoroughly unhappy. The staff was incredibly gentle, and we had an advocate who helped us decide if he was too stressed to continue.  Though he was clearly terrified, we did our best to soothe him, and they were able to complete all the needed labwork. Wow, there is nothing worse that seeing your child in a hospital gown howling. I also apologize to all the families outside the lab this morning whose patients looked appropriately terrified by the racket we made.

In the end, we had a very successful visit. Things are rolling along, Alexander is gaining weight and appears to be adjusting well. I almost took a picture of him this morning after the appointment, with his angry face and little bandages on each arm. Thank goodness though– when you’re little, a warm bottle and a long afternoon nap can make any situation a little better.





Rockin’ the Suburbs

This will be one of the last posts at 67sixteen at A Wide Sea. Soon, there will be a new subpage devoted to our family life adventures — clever name TBD. For now though, I’ll still regale you with photos of our adorable son. After all, that’s why you’re reading this, right?

We’ve been jumping into real life here– Alexander has already frequented his local Sam’s Club, Home Depot, Target, and various grocery stores. He even survived a trip to the outlets– though he suspiciously began to whine before his mother could do a quick spin through Ann Taylor– I think his father may have influenced that a little.

He went to his first Mass at St Joan of Arc this past weekend and was greeted with much enthusiasm– he loves music and chanting! There were “la la’s” all around! He also got to greet new friends at a picnic later that day.

Several of you have asked about how he’s handling our feline family members. The cats are fairly indifferent, though they’ll let him touch their fur IF they’re in the mood. We’re thrilled that the cats aren’t terrified of him, and that he’s not outright allergic to them. He has two tiny stuffed animal versions of Val and Benny, and I think those are keeping him happy until he can chase the real deal around the house.

Thanks for this photo Nicole! At Marianjoy rehab center visiting with SJA friends

Thanks for this photo Nicole! At Marianjoy rehab center visiting with SJA friends

I find my parents tolerable... for now!

I find my parents tolerable… for now!

I am now outnumbered. The Kelly men are debating new routers.

I am now outnumbered. The Kelly men are debating new routers.

A photo for Victoria- he's captivated by the bacon brownies...

A photo for Victoria- he’s captivated by the bacon brownies…

First trip the zoo- El tigre stayed awake the whole morning!

First trip the zoo- El tigre stayed awake the whole morning!

Consider upgrading your washer and dryer-- because I create a LOT of laundry!

Consider upgrading your washer and dryer– because I create a LOT of laundry!

Sunday morning newspaper-- like father, like son.

Sunday morning newspaper– like father, like son.

First family dinner out with the neighbors and "the girl next door"

First family dinner out with the neighbors and “the girl next door”

Don't let a 16 month old navigate your zoo trip.

Don’t let a 16 month old navigate your zoo trip.

The Kellys don’t sit still. We knew our lives would inevitably change when Alexander came home. We go to bed earlier. We wake up earlier. But some things haven’t changed– we have yet to put on a kid’s CD, we’ve grilled out at home, and we’ve gone out to restaurants. We know that our extended travels might have to be put on-hold while we get our little man some much needed medical treatments, but our new family motto still stands– Have Stroller, Will Travel.



Settling In

Now that we’ve been parents for officially two weeks, Brian and I can now claim complete authority and expertise over The Way to Raise Children ™. In all seriousness, it’s hard to believe we’ve only known our little guy for 14 days.  Many of you have asked us how our bonding/attachment is going– in brief, it’s going well, but we also know that building his trust will take a long time. He’s been with a lot of caring, different people in the last 15 or so months, so understanding that we’re the end of the line might take a little while to set in.

Brian posted earlier about working through Alexander’s jet lag, but I figured I’d add in a little something about all the parenting realities that are setting in for us. So in no particular order, I’ll list off a few parenting “been there, done that” experiences that have already come to pass at Casa Kelly:

  • I have sniffed at my kid’s butt in public.
  • I have looked down at my clothing to find stains…. and I’m not really sure what they are or where they came from.
  • I have had extensive and somewhat celebratory conversations with Brian about human excrement.
  • I have used the word “cleanish” and phrase “clean enough” far too often.
  • I now judge stores based on how safe the shopping cart kid seat looks.
  • Watch what routines you introduce to your kids. Brian started a small schtick with a squeaky toy clam, and now it’s practically a mandatory morning game. Dance, parents! Dance for me!
Thanks to me, everything you know is wrong. Welcome to parenthood!

Thanks to me, everything you know is wrong. Welcome to parenthood!









There’s No Place Like Home

Brian already posted our triumphant and barely conscious return to the US with our son, but I thought I’d add in a few photos from today.

We were up around 4 am and on our way to Hong Kong...

We were up around 4 am and on our way to Hong Kong…

Three hours and two van rides later, we cleared Hong Kong Immigration and were on our way to the airport. It was HUGE-- It took us about 20 minutes after checking in to find our gate. We saw a gate numbered 503!

Three hours and two van rides later, we cleared Hong Kong Immigration and were on our way to the airport. It was HUGE– It took us about 20 minutes after checking in to find our gate. We saw a gate numbered 503! Here, Alexander still manages a huge grin– he doesn’t know that he’s got a 14 hour flight ahead of him!

Just a random side note on our immigration through Hong Kong. We crossed over via van, and it was strangely invasive. A woman with a face mask came into our van and shot each of us with a temperature gun– checking to see if anyone was sick, I guess. It felt very sci-fi. I’m glad Alexander is in good health– it’s fairly common for institutionalized children to arrive very sick. You might notice that he’s always got his pacifier– in addition to using it as a feeding utensil, he’s teething like crazy!

Our flight was fairly terrible. Fourteen hours on a plane is too long, especially in coach. We paid for a little extra leg room, but it still felt like steerage on the Titanic about 6 hours in. It was a rocky flight– several folks got sick, including a few adoptive families. I’ve traveled outside of the US quite a bit, but let me tell you– it felt amazing to step off that plane onto US soil.

Immigration for Alexander was a breeze, with much gratitude given to our friend Ken, the adoptive dad and O’Hare employee I mentioned in our departure post. He assisted in clearing the way for us to speed through the process, and we were met with smiles, handshakes, and hearty congratulations from Customs and Border Patrol. We were barely coherent by the time we got off the plane (though Alexander got at least 6 hours of sleep sprawled out on us! This kid can sleep ANYWHERE!)

We're here! Meet the newest US citizen!

We’re here! Meet the newest US citizen!

Our friend Adam was circling the airport waiting for our signal, and he promptly arrived to chauffeur our tired selves home in addition to helping us adjust our car seat to fit our little guy.

Alexander had a note waiting in his car seat from his new friend Josh, Adam's son. He grabbed it and wouldn't let go-- this photo is NOT staged!

Alexander had a note waiting in his car seat from his new friend Josh, Adam’s son. He grabbed it and wouldn’t let go– this photo is NOT staged!

We arrived at home to a wonderful surprise. Balloons and banner, which will stay up for awhile! Our neighbor and friend across the street was waiting for us– we are so very grateful for all the help of our friends and family in taking care of our home and felines while we were away!

There's no place like home!

There’s no place like home!

We made a big effort to stay awake to fight the jet lag– our bodies are 13 hours ahead of Chicago, so it’s really 10:30 am, and we’ve been up 30 hours. We managed to take Alexander on his first stroller walk through our neighborhood, and we even unpacked a bit. Now, we’re settled in for the evening with a celebratory cocktail, child bathed and snoring happily in his crib, and cats ridiculously cuddly in appreciation of our return.

This will be an Independence Day to remember.

The Wheels on the Bus

Tomorrow morning begins The Longest Day 2- Revenge of the Van Ride.  Our first van leaves at 6 am, bound for the China-Hong Kong border. We get out about an hour and a half later, clear HK customs, and get into van #2, headed to the Hong Kong airport for another long van ride. Our flight departs a little before noon, and God willing, we arrive at O’Hare about 14 hours later, which will be mid afternoon on the 4th in Chicago to clear our little man through USCIS.

It will be a long day.  There had better be fireworks.

Surviving the US Consulate, better known as “How Brian almost got his watch incinerated”

Sorry, Alexander. We were really hoping that your first experience with the US Government would be a little better. Still, we all survived, your father got to keep his watch, and as far as we know, your visa and immigration papers will be ready for pickup tomorrow.

We were up bright and early this morning for our consulate appointment in the city. Our entire trip to China, even including Alexander’s placement day, was scheduled around this “magical” hour when Our Government would accept our little man’s Chinese passport. He’ll be issued a US visa and a sealed immigration packet. We’ve been told numerous times, including this morning, that the sealed packet contains very sensitive information and that under no circumstances should it leave our possession until we hand it to Customs and Immigration on Thursday afternoon. No pressure, right?

When we arrived at the Consulate building, we were instructed that we could only bring our application packet with us– no phones, cameras, anything. Our guide told us that back in the day, each family would have their photo taken in the Consulate with their immigration officer by an American flag– now you can’t even bring your camera into the Consulate! I did grab a diaper just in case… Our guide also indicated that he could only walk us so far before being stopped by security. After standing in line awhile, we were checked in by security stop #1 where our appointment time/day was verified and passports checked– then past two more guards, and up an escalator to the next security stop.

This is when things got unpleasant.

This security stop was the x-ray machine. I started to put our packets and diaper on the belt, when the guard pointed to Brian’s watch. “No watch.” Brian tried to explain that it wasn’t electronic (he has one of those self-winding mechanical watches). “Sorry, no watch.” Brian asked if he could leave it, but the guard indicated that we couldn’t go through to our appointment with it, and that if it was left, it would be immediately destroyed. (Quick side note here– about a month ago, there was a mysterious powder threat at the US Consulate in Guangzhou. Families were stuck for several days because the Consulate was closed, and I think that the security folks are being extra extra cautious now.) There was no negotiation– either Brian’s watch would be destroyed, or we would try and find our guide.

We decided to exit the Consulate and try to find our guide to pass along the watch. My watch had stopped about a week ago, so we were down to one watch between the two of us. We found Bill, did a quick watch handoff, and raced back upstairs to our appointment, where we joined the back of the line for the first security. They had closed admissions, but after much passport flailing and explanation of why we were already checked off his list, he let us pass. Back upstairs, through the x-ray machine, and finally into a holding pen bearing a striking resemblance to a DMV. There were about a dozen families there waiting, and within a few minutes, the show started. We were all asked to swear an oath about the applications, and then we waited for our family name to be called. Alexander was a sport, but we could tell all the noise and people was getting to him (he’s snoring now as I type!)

Our immigration officer was very friendly, and after a quick look through Alexander’s application packet (most of which was already sent and has been waiting for our arrival since April), we were finished. Pretty unexciting to be honest, aside from the watch fiasco and meeting other families– just a few brief chats, but we met families from Nebraska, Arkansas, and even Pittsburgh, PA! They asked where I went to school, and they said– “Oh, so near Oakdale, right?”  What a small world we live in!

For as frustrating as the red tape was in getting into the Consulate (which I understand comes with the territory– just reread my entries on my Chinese Consulate experience if you forgot), the experience was fairly inspiring. Seeing so many families from all over the US who have jumped willingly through the same hoops and seeing so many children with medical needs in the arms of loving and doting families gave me great hope. Although we live in an age when a wristwatch could be an explosive or a bottle of formula seen as something sinister, there are plenty of people who have taken a great leap of faith across a wide sea to bring their children home.