Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Got the interview today!!

I almost can't believe it. I am sitting in the offices of New Beginnings and the call came from the embassy that they have "granted" me an interview for our Visa today at 2pm!! Just when I stopped hoping and wishing. Just when I sent Jeff home in fear that I would not make it out of here this weekend... It just goes to show that things happen in their own time and not on your 'wishing and praying' schedule. It also reminds me that I am indeed a single Mom who has to accept that there are many difficult things I will have to do on my own. Before Jeff arrived I was feeling so fragile and incapable of taking on this daunting task. After a week with him, I felt my confidence return. He has a way of making me feel strong even at my weakest. I suppose that's the best by-product of good love. He re-filled my empty tank with affection and love for me and Phoebe and now we are ready to take on the US Embassy and a 17 hour Cathay Pacific flight!

Hopefully, they will stamp our Visa by the end of the day (sometimes, they wait another day) and we will be getting ready to fly off to Hong Kong tomorrow morning. I will also hopefully get to see my friend Punam who has been living in HK for the past year with her husband Sachin. We have a 6 hour layover, so it will be lovely to see a friendly face.

That's all for now. Next post from NYC!! Thank you so much for all the love and encouragement you have sent my way. I appreciate it from the bottom of my heart. Sending you love and a big Phoebe smile.

xoxo nan

Frustration Central

So I went to the American Embassy this morning to plead my case and hope that they would grant me the interview to let us get out of here. I was met by an American bureaucrat through a plexiglass window who would only give his name as "Donald". He told me there was nothing he could do for me because my original paperwork had not yet arrived from the main Embassy in Ho Chi Min City. (They also say the materials are being sent thru American Courier channels- but Donald blamed it on "Vietnam.") We all know by now that the Vietnamese have been nothing but efficient and kind when it comes to my case. The Americans, on the other hand have shown their lack of compassion and unwillingness to move my case along. Perhaps the pressure we gave from our NY Senators helped move me up the queue, but the main decision maker in HCMC did not bend to the thoughts that I had flights or had been here an inordinate amount of time. Really, I think it's safe to say, they just don't care about my particular case or about their citizens adopting children in general. They have a process and they stick to it rigidly. Such is government and the workers who make their wheels turn-albeit very slowly.

So now I lose Jeff to a flight tonight and Phoebe and I are once again on our own. I have optimistically booked a new flight through Hong Kong leaving on Friday. Two hours to HK and only 17 hours to get back to NYC. I am heartened and inspired by a story my friend Marni told me about her Mom taking her at 3 months and her 2 year old brother alone from the States to Dhaka in Bangladesh. If she can do it with two little kids, perhaps I can survive with one little Phoebe.

Hopefully, this will be the last post until I get home. (Jeff is taking his laptop with him too :) Hope to be talking to some of you this weekend from East End Avenue. Lots of Love- nancy

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Waiting Room

So it's 1pm on Monday in Hanoi. Jeff and Phoebe and I are hanging out it room 1203 at the Guoman hotel waiting. We were told we would get a call or an email telling us to come to the US Embassy for our Visa interview. Our agency people told us they usually do the interviews around 3pm at the Embassy. As each minute passes, my optimism wanes. We have tickets to fly out tonight, but soon, I'll be on the phone with American Airlines trying to switch our flights to Wednesday with hopes this thing will get wrapped up by then. All they will tell us is that although our paperwork has sent here to Hanoi from the main embassy in Ho Chi Min City, it has yet to be stamped approved by the CIS (formerly the INS) now a part of Homeland Security. So we shall wait. Hopefully, not for too long. If it gets past Wednesday, Jeff will be flying home alone and I'll be looking for a new hotel with Phoebe. I have tried to stay positive. I've tried creative visualization and wishful thinking. I even gave an offering at the Buddhist Temple in a fit of Atheist denial. All we can do now is wait...

Keep those notes and emails of encouragement coming, We need every bit of help we can get. xoxox n.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Cutest baby ever :)

Okay, so I'm biased, but check out these pix! Don't think I could have made her cuter myself. The last picture is with Phoebe's friends at the Hotel restaurant. They have been so wonderful to us.

The Cavalry arrives!

After my parents left and two days alone with Phoebe in Hanoi, my world was brightened considerably by the arrival of Jeff late on Wednesday night. Not only did he fly 20 hours just to see us, he's been amazing with Phoebe from the moment they met. We already know he's a great Dad- but he's also a wonder with babies. She always has a huge smile for him and her eyes follow him all over the room where he goes. Now he's got two girls madly in love with him :) We had a moment yesterday to get out of the hotel and do a bit of touring around Hanoi with our agency people. At night, we're both crashing out by 9pm at the latest. But having this time together alone just with our little Phoebe is truly bliss. I feel so lucky to have them both and to have this little bubble in which to start our lives together. We are hopeful that the Embassy will call us tomorrow for our Visa interview and that they will stamp Phoebe's passport so we can keep our flights out that same night. We're rolling the dice a bit, but with all the help we've gotten from Jimmy and his team of people working on this, our case now seems to be at the top of the queue. So let's see. Hopefully, I'll be posting our return tomorrow!

Love to you all.
nancy, Jeff & Phoebe

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hanoi Hacking Cough

You hear it every where you go around here, and not just from the smokers. My Mom and I both got it, the baby is getting over it and hopefully, my Dad has bypassed it all together. The air quality is so bad here, and yes, you forget how unabashedly people smoke in Asia- and you can't ask them not to. Our hotel restaurant has a non-smoking section, which is probably very forward thinking of them, but it reminds me of sitting in the smoking section of the plane with my Mom when we were kids. Was there really a time people believed smoking could be confined to a section of an airplane??

Things here are at a bit of a stand still as we make our way thought the weekend. But as we walk the baby around and watch CNN and the Australian Open relentlessly, forces are toiling on our behalf to help get our paperwork wrapped up here as soon as possible. I have been truly overwhelmed by the efforts of a cast of people my brother has put into motion for me. Both my NY Senators; Clinton (as if she has nothing else to do) and Schumer, who reportedly said when asked to help "that's my job!" have been called into service on our behalf. All this for me and one amazing little baby. She has no idea how much my world has rallied for her, but I will tell her the story for the rest of her life.

My parents, who have been just incredible, leave here tomorrow. My Dad has changed diapers and fed Phoebe, my Mom is there for the hand off and to sing to the baby. Phoebe knows their voices and gives them her patented smile everytime she sees them. They have gotten me through this thing with their willingness to come and to do whatever they can to help. I'm gearing up for the next two days alone here. I wish I could kick this cough and feel a little stronger, but I'm hoping I can make it till wednesday when the calvalry arrives in the form of my handsome hero, Jeff.

More as the story unfolds. Love to you all.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Detained, confined and tortured in Hanoi

Okay, I'm not sure John McCain would agree that our torture in Hanoi was anything like his, but we have basically been on lock down in the hotel because everytime we go out, one of us gets sick. Today, it was reported in the local newspaper that 1,000babies were brought to local hospitals this month for respiratory infections- almost 4 times the norm. The torture part is more about this adoption process where the Vietnamese and the Americans don't seem to be coordinating their efforts. In frustration yesterday, my Dad- in full Judge Horowitz mode, went to the American Embassy to ask for help on our paperwork. The local guy told him that we SHOULD NOT be here and should not have come until they had approved all of our paperwork. (not exactly what we were hoping to hear)They don't seem to care that the Vietnamese have leagalized this child as ours, they want things to go on their timetable. So now it's time to bring in the big guns. My brother has graciously, amazingly offered to use some of his State Dept. connections thru NBC/GE to get to the Ambassador here and get us some answers. The agency has not been of much help, and I'm sure they will be none too pleased to have us go around them, but we can't just sit by and wait to get Phoebe out of here. My parents leave on Monday, regardless, and I'll be here alone for 2 days waiting for Jeff to arrive. Then a week after that, we are both booked to leave on the 28th. Hopefully, we can make something happen by then. Fingers crossed for all of us!

xoxo nancy

Monday, January 14, 2008

And in this corner...

Weighing in at a healthy 15 lbs (!) Phoebe Ellis Horowitz is the new reigning champ of Vietnamese babies! We spent yesterday afternoon at the SOS Clinic run by the Dutch here in Hanoi. Phoebe was given a very clean bill of health and is in a high percentile for babies from this area. My back is getting quite the workout from this bundle. My Mom also spent some time in the clinic as my Dad and I were worried about her ever increasing cough. Thankfully, it's not the beginnings of pneumonia, as we silently feared, just an infection that will keep her confined to our hotel for the rest of her stay. At least, the hotel is quite nice with a good restaurant and lovely staff. I'm getting a little sick of the Vietnamese Muzak tho' which plays a hillarious assortment of everything from Frank Sinatra to Lionel Richie to show tunes like Evita. (Does give me a giggle :)

My parents have also decided that whatever delays I might have in getting my final approval to travel from the American Embassy, they are leaving here next monday, Jan. 21st. Hopefully, Mom's infection will have had some time to clear up by then and she will be good to travel. If I can't leave with them, I'll stay on and wait for Jeff who is due to arrive next wednesday night. I'll be here for a couple of days by myself, but with all the helpers here- I'll manange. Hoping it won't come to that and I'll be on a plane back home with all three generations of Horowitz's next Monday.

Sending lots of love to you all.
xoxox nancy

Sunday, January 13, 2008

around Hanoi

While we wait for all the paperwork to be done, our Agency people here- Thuy (our tiny 90 lb wonder)and Hoang (our man in Hanoi) have arranged for us to see some of the city. We toured the beautiful lake area, saw the famous water puppet show and visited the Temple of Literature which was Vietnam's first University- founded in 1062 for the study of ancient texts and writing. It has a lovely Pagoda style architecture and tree lined walkways. In the back is a Buddist Temple to give offerings to the gods and special turtle monuments awarded to the best student each year. It was a lovely distraction from al the waiting and wishing.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Phoebe Pix

Some more pictures of our adorable Phoebe to share. Seriously, when she smiles, she lights up the room with those dimples. Such a cutie pie. She's been taking it easy on her poor old Mom by sleeping alot at night (from 7:30pm to 4am last night- had a bottle and went back to sleep until 6am!) After that, Grampa got up from his deep slumber and watched the baby while I got in a shower. (I'm averaging about one every other day :) She eats up a storm and is already starting to theeth a bit.

One special picture here goes out to Jeff with a message from both his girls :)

Tomorrow we have our appointment at the SOS clinc where she will be cleared foer her medical exam. I'm also picking up her passport tomorrow so now all we have to do is hear from the American Embassy that her legalization has been approved and we can schedule our interview for her Visa to travel. Cross your fingers that we can accomplish this during this week. Hanoi's pollution and all the arduous travel is getting to all of us. Hoping ot High-tail it home with Phoebe very soon.

Orphanage and Giving & Receiving Ceremony

Finally some pix to share of our first day at the Orphanage in Vinh Phuc province. The next day we drove back for the giving and receiving ceremony attended by the officials of the province and the birth mother. It was a very sweet and moving ceremony and by Vietnamese protocol, made Phoebe officially my daughter

Friday, January 11, 2008

baby vs. 3 adults- baby wins :)

So yes, I am settling in to motherhood and trying to get in the groove of this adorable baby. The three of us have been exhausted keeping up with her, but we're figuring it all out. Today, we had a couple of hours off b/c we hired a babysitter from the hotel ($5/hour- not even NYC high schoolers get that little!) We had a fun little tour around Hanoi- which is a beautiful city of lakes and 2 million people on scooters. We've had lots of interesting discussions with people about politics and the world- everyone seems glued to our election proccess. One of the officials at our ceremony asked us if we were voting for Barak Obama! I am amazed at how aware everyone is- can any of us name ANY Vietnamese official??

The weather has been unseasonably warm for this time of year- which of course suits me just fine. Phoebe seems to be taking to all of us. Just being away from her for a couple of hours today put me in a new mommy panic. I really missed her and couldn't wait to get back to those dimples and that sweet smile she saves for me.

Time for me to go up and relieve Grandma from duty. The pictures that should post here are of me and the birth mother as well as my parents and one of the caregivers at the center. Also- one of Mr. Hoang (from our agency) and little Phoebe. She will let anyone hold her and is really taken with people here. They are all so loving and kind to babies- what an amazing culture.

More when I can. Love to you all. xoxoxo nan

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Almost Official!

It's been a crazy couple of days and I do have tons of great pictures to post, but while I have a minute, I thought I would write with the update. We arrived late on Monday night and the very next day, we were taken to the center two hours north of Hanoi. The roads are hardly roads- well, sometimes they were- and the van taking us bumped all the way there. When we arrived, Thuy (with our agency) took us to the baby room. I recognized Phoebe immediately, and it was as if she recognized me too. Diana had prepared me to have clothes and a diaper ready and tho' Phoebe was sleepy, she let me take care of her. Her caregivers ranged from a 12 year old to a 60 year old, all who seemed very sad to see her go. The center is very clean and the babies are truly loved and cared for. Soon enough, we turned around and headed back to the hotel in Hanoi. Phoebe slept the whole way, bless her heart. That night, she ate and slept and made me think I might have found the best baby ever! And yes, she is pretty close to that, but today, reality set in and I am relying on coffee to keep up with her. For the second day in a row, we heading back to the Vinh Phuc province for our Giving and Recieving ceremony this time. (8 hours in that van on those roads in two days was a killer- my parents are still sleeping it off as we speak!) The ceremony was really beautiful and touching. The birth mother attended. She is a young woman who works as a farmer. She told Thuy to tell me she is only giving Phoebe up b/c she is unmarried and quite poor. I felt for her and we had a nice moment together sharing some love from Phoebe. ( I promise pix soon.)

Back at the hotel, I must say how struck I am by the warmth and love of the Vietnamese people. Young, old, male, female, they instantly want to take the baby from you (like now!) and hug and play with her as long as you will let them. What a blessing they are! How lucky Phoebe is to be born here.

She and I are getting on well, learning eachother as we go. Just wanted to write these fews lines from my first days of motherhood. More soon, I promise.

xoxo nan

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Hello from Tokyo

One flight down, one to go!
My parents and I left New York yesterday morning with Jeff as our 7am chauffeur. We settled in happily to our business class seats, still amazed we were able to use our miles on such short notice. We flew Japan Airlines and the service and crew were just great. I had a little moment on the plane where I finally realized that this was all happening and that soon, I would be holding my little girl in my arms. The tears just started coming of their own volition. I thought about how lucky I am to have my parents with me on this trip. (jeff is hoping to come a bit later) I thought about all my friends and the support I`ve gotten, I thought about this incredible journey to motherhood I`ve been on and it all just hit me. It`s happening. It`s really happening.

The last three days before I left were absolute insanity. Were it not for Diana having given me much of the prep materials months before, I`m not sure it could have been done. The first day was spent getting ticekts and visas, the next, picking up the tickets and visas and shopping for everything I needed to take. And the last day was packing. I loved having Robin and Tatiana and Carol come by to help and spend time with me before I left. Diana came over to make sure I had all my paperwork and to give invaluable Vietnam/parenting advice. And of course, my sweet Jeff was there thru it all to make sure I remembered to breathe and give me hugs and love before I shipped off.

Now it`s on to Hanoi tomorrow and hopefully, to get Phoebe the next day. They haven`t told us when our `Giving & Receiving ceremony will be- but most likely on the 9th or the 11th. I hope I`ll be able to write from there- I didn`t bring a laptop with me so I`m at the mercy of internet cafes. So until next time, sending you all lots of love and hugs.

Phoebe`s Mom

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Got the call!

Last week, Jeff and I spent Xmas with the Yates Clan in CT, then we took Michael (14) with us up to my parents place in Vermont to spend a few day with the Horowitz Crew in the snowy woods of the Green Mountains. Then it was back to NYC for a wonderful New Years Eve with a few of our friends and some very special visitors from Sydney-James and Scott. My house guests left this morning at 4:30am, Jeff headed off to work and I slept in for what would turn out to be one of my last lazy mornings of pre-motherhood. At about 12noon, the phone rang and it was Barbara from New Beginnings telling me the Vietnamese had scheduled my "Giving and Receiving" Ceremony for next Wednesday, January 9th!! The tears came to my eyes as I took in the news I've been waiting for. Phoebe's room has been ready for two months now, friends and family have supplied me with all the things any NYC kid will need and now the moment was here. I just never imagined they would only give me three days to get my act together and get on a plane. The day was spent booking flights and getting expedited Visas for myself and my parents to Fly though Tokyo to arrive in Hanoi on January 7th. They tell me, I will probably go to the orphanage to get Phoebe the morning after I arrive- then the ceremony will be the day after. What a whirlwind this will be! There are still many open questions as to when the Americans will approve Phoebe's status and how long I will be over in Hanoi, but I will try to get on a computer and share as much as I can when I'm there. Although I am very much on my own in this endeavor, I don't feel alone when it comes to the support and love I have received from my family, Jeff's family, all my friends at home and abroad, the soup kitchen crew and all the rest. So here's to the next part. Wish me luck!!

xoxox nancy