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 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!
48 hours from now, we’ll be in the homestretch of our flight to Beijing. Wow, we’re almost there! Suitcases are out, lists have been made, and clothing is being packed.
Today, I embarked on a cleaning tornado to whip the house into some sense of order before we leave. I won’t tell you how many vacuum canisters of cat hair I dumped, but I think that I might have enough for something here. Just kidding! Although I still have a bit to wrap up tomorrow, I promised myself a little quiet time before the craziness begins.
In packing-land, I’ve managed to organize our suitcases using really large ziplock bags. Since our entire time in Beijing will be pre-Alexander, I wanted a way to differentiate between our stuff and his gear without totally wrecking each suitcase. We’ve accepted the fact that we’ll have laundry done at some point (which I’ve never done before when traveling), but I also packed some travel packets of handwash detergent for small things. We made our umpteenth trip to Target in the last 5 days. I think the cashiers are starting to recognize us…
I met with our neighbors today who will assume “Cat Command” while we’re gone, and Brian dropped off car keys with our good friends for our eventual pickup on July 4th.
The long, long list of things to accomplish is getting shorter. The end is in sight!
After a lovely weekend away visiting with family in Kentucky, we’ve returned to the reality waiting back at home– specifically that we’re traveling to China in about a week to get Alexander!
Brian is much calmer than me at this point– I keep throwing more and more “stuff” onto the pile-o-packing. Let the insanity begin!
Recognize anything from the pile? Many thanks to all of our friends and family who have contributed to our baby gear!
It’s the final countdown! (*insert music as appropriate*).
Wow, our departure is getting close–we’ll be on a very long flight two weeks from today. Our flights and hotels are booked, we’re installing car seats, and we’re waiting for our passports to be returned to us with China visas. Late last week, we also received our itinerary for our trip. Just in case you’re interested, here’s where we’ll be, and when:
- June 19: Wheels up! We fly nonstop to Beijing (about 13 hours of flight time)
- June 20: We arrive in Beijing and meet our first guide. We’ll hopefully start to get ourselves on China time (one time zone for the whole country!!!)
- June 21 & 22: Tons of touring, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and lots and lots of other places. Families have told us we’ll be exhausted by the end of Beijing, but sounds fantastic!
- June 23: We fly from Beijing to Taiyuan, Shanxi Province and meet our in-country agency rep for the remainder of our trip. We’ll want to rest up for our big day.
- June 24: Placement Day! We will get custody of Alexander at the Civil Affairs office in the afternoon
- June 25: We will return to Civil Affairs with Alexander early in the morning to register his adoption.
- June 26: We’ll take our first family outing to Pingyao, an amazing UNESCO world heritage site.
- June 27: We pick up Alexander’s passport, notary papers, and take a tour of Taiyuan.
- June 28: We fly from Taiyuan to Guangzhou in the late afternoon.
- June 29: Alexander’s medical exam
- June 30: A day touring Guangzho, the Chen Family Academy, and Yuntai gardens
- July 1: More city touring, and visa/medical exam report paperwork pickup
- July 2: Our Consulate appointment. Alexander is approved to immigrate to the US.
- July 3: Our guide picks up Alexander’s new US passport/visa. More local touring.
- July 4: We depart Guangzhou via van for Hong Kong. We fly back to Chicago. With the time zone change and flight times, it looks as though we’ll arrive home in early afternoon and in plenty of time for Independence Day fireworks! We’ll clear US Customs, hand over all of the immigration paperwork we’ve been gathering, and Alexander becomes an American!
Aside from big things (like flights and formal appointments), our schedule is fairly flexible. We can’t wait to explore these cities with our new son!
The countdown has begun. In less than 30 days, we’re going to become parents to a 15 month little boy in a foreign country. Are we excited? Absolutely. Are we a little terrified? As if you have to ask!
We recently received an update on our little Alexander which has given us a lot of comfort. He’s gained a fair amount of weight and is now the height and weight appropriate for a 6 month old– a tremendous gain for our little guy. Armed with this update, we hit the stores to make sure we’ll be able to clothe our new son once we gain custody on the 24th. Brian spearheaded the efforts this weekend, and the photo above is indicative that no one will mistake Alexander for being anyone’s son except for my loving husband!
In the paperchase news, we drove our passports and visa applications to a courier this afternoon after much drama. Three trips to Office Max, two different UPS stores, and one FedEx later, our passports will soon be in the hands of the Chinese Consulate in order to be issued visas.
Though the time will clearly be flying by, we are blessed to spend the next two weekends gaining new Godchildren. Brian will be the Godfather for our dear friends’ daughter Allison Claire tomorrow afternoon, and we’re both blessed to be able to travel to Kentucky to be Godparents for our cousins Bart and Catherine’s newest daughter Aoife Frances next weekend. I know life tends to be a series of ebb and flow… I’m grateful to be in a period of such joy in new life!
Late last week, I had a text from Brian that read “Baby shower today!” When he came into work that day, he was greeted with the following:
Apparently, they also glitter-bombed his desk, too. We’re still finding glitter in our house!
There was cake (really, really good cake!), snacks, and a lot of gifts and well-wishes from Brian’s generous co-workers. Brian also got to share in the fun experience of the amazing clothespin gift bag.
Here’s Brian beginning to open his surprise bag from shower-gifting ninja Sheryll (at right).
And to wrap up the event, Brian’s programming team took a “family photo” holding the baby clothes line gift. Everyone is quite excited about the arrival of our son.
The Computershare Programming Family– let’s hope Alexander is a Perl man, too!
In other exciting news, our flights are booked for China! Our agency is wrapping up our itinerary and hotel reservations, but things are continuing to roll along.
Great news yet again today! Our agency secured our first choice for a consulate appointment, so it’s time to book our flights and apply for our visas. We leave Chicago for Beijing on June 19th (less than a month!) and fly home with our newest little citizen on July 4th– how appropriate! Our son will be greeted to a nation waving American flags and watching fireworks! Not too shabby!
Wow, it’s been a while since we’ve posted any updates for you all. As we reach the final phase of paperwork and preparations, the reality that we’ll be bringing our little man home soon is sinking in!
Last Thursday (May 9th), we received an email from the American Consulate in Guangzhou indicating that all of our paperwork was ready for pickup. This paperwork, called the Article 5 letter is Our Government’s official stamp of approval for our adoption application. It states that we’re suitable adoptive parents and that Alexander will be allowed to enter the US and become a citizen. This letter is delivered to the Chinese government in Beijing, at which time they basically say “Come on over!” through a formal Travel Approval (TA) invitation. We are wrapping up day 8 of our wait for this TA; most families wait around 2 weeks, more or less. As soon as this letter arrives, we can book our consulate appointment (which is at the end of our trip), then count backwards to plan our flights to and from China. Unless a major delay occurs, we should have our TA before the end of May, and we’ll be traveling at some point in June.
Things are getting real.
We are now at the point in our paperchase where we don’t really have to do any more “work.” After checking in with my newest friend, the National Visa Center, we got word that Alexander’s application and our petition has been logged in and will be cabled to Guangzhou within the next two business days. (For those who need a map– our little man’s application was mailed to Texas, where it was forwarded to Missouri to the National Benefits Center, then forwarded on to the National Visa Center in New Hampshire (?), and will finally land at the American Embassy in China.) We’re incredibly grateful that with only one minor hiccup, our paperwork is still all together and headed onward. From this point, our agency and the American and Chinese Consulates take over– the end product being a formal letter to us inviting us to travel to China within a specific 90 day window (called a TA- or travel approval). So now, we just have to sit back, relax… and pace our home in anxious anticipation of our big adventure.
Back at Casa Kelly, Alexander’s room is beginning to fill with baby gear and clothing, almost all of which is the result of our generous family and friends. Brian’s sisters, neither of whom live in Chicagoland, hosted a baby shower in honor of Alexander last weekend at the home of one of Brian’s cousins. Family and friends drove and flew in for the occasion, and we were truly overwhelmed by the outpouring of love for the little man waiting for us in Shanxi Province. We can’t wait to share with him the stories behind all of the thoughtful and handmade gifts he’ll be surrounded by once he comes home.
I thought about posting a photo of my first attempt to wear our new soft baby carrier (compliments of my good friend Teresa), but it was just too embarrassing. I tried strapping in a stuffed polar bear unsuccessfully. I think Brian and I have several hours of reading instructions ahead of us before we attempt with a human!
For the past 40 days, more or less, I have been channeling my energy and frequent impatience into something productive. Although I know that my needless worrying and meltdowns is bringing Brian infinitely closer to sainthood, I am glad to see a tangible product of the past few months. As a focal point on the wall opposite Alexander’s crib, I have been working on a three panel artwork– a triptych of some sorts. I found inspiration from a small sand painting that my friend Irvin brought back from a trip to China several years ago. I’ve had that painting on display in my home since I received it, never knowing how symbolic it would become years later.
I pulled colors from Alexander’s rug and walls and used the theme of the connections between the elements of earth, wind, and water and our blog title of “A Wide Sea.” I found hunkering down in Alexander’s room with a dropcloth and some canvas panels did me a world of good. I’m still tweaking a bit here and there, but as my wise husband said just this Friday– “The art is in knowing when to stop painting.”
A small paperchasing update for you as well– I received a text from Immigration on Thursday that our file was received and was being sent to headquarters for Alexander’s visa processing. The next few weeks are pretty much out of our control as Our Government works its magic to arrange for its newest little citizen.
Happy Easter to all of you!