Monday, December 26, 2011

The three LeRoys are heading home!

Good daddies let their sons put stickers all over them.
We were blessed with the best Christmas miracle besides the one that happened 2011 years ago...  as one of my other dear friends said yesterday, a legal acknowledgement of what we have known for three and a half years occurred yesterday at 9am - we are Nate's parents.  After 1,291 days, we finally had our Giving and Receiving Ceremony in Bac Lieu, Vietnam with five other families.  Families, who, like us have never lost hope on bringing their children home or have stopped fighting for even one moment.  Our only loss of joy was that our wonderful friends, the Cowleys, still have a few days to wait, but they will be home soon.

Most of the ceremony was simply writing signatures and hearing that our adoptions had been granted.  At the end, they brought our children in.  Nate was first and he immediately wanted to run to Nick, but they made him walk up with one of the provincials and he lunged for me when the man was holding him.

Since we needed to be in Ho Chi Minh first thing this morning to process our children's passports and get authorization from the U.S. to bring them home, we had a seven-hour bus ride back.  No afternoon flights from Southern Vietnam yesterday.

Although it was a very long trip, the kids were awesome - no one cried at all and they were all so happy to be with their parents.

Nate has already achieved many firsts with us in his first 30 hours or so - playing on furniture, sleeping in a bed, eating at a table (first spaghetti), bath, swimming, eating french fries with ketchup and part of daddy's cheeseburger -- and finally, not having to share his toys or be afraid someone else will yank them out of his hands.  He is also already saying words in English.  He told Nick "I love you" this morning when we were at the pool.  I think my heart melts about every ten minutes with this kid.

He and Nick are napping right now and it's the sweetest sight I've ever seen.

We leave for the U.S. on Tues. night and will be back in Indy on Wednesday around 2pm.

Again, thanks so much for everyone's support and love.  We are overwhelmed with joy right now and cannot wait for you to meet one amazing little boy.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve in Ca Mau

It's already Dec. 24 here in Ca Mau and, in Vietnam, it's actually the day that the Christians here celebrate Christmas.  We had evidence of that yesterday and today - we've seen three Santas on motorbikes.

Things are FINALLY progressing and we expect to have more details to share very, very soon.  We are very eager to come home, but most of all, we want to have Nate with us.  It's been very difficult to be here and not be able to visit him.  This trip has toughened our resolve more than I ever imagined; has bound us with an amazing group of other waiting parents; and I am sure will make even the little things with Nate like taking him for ice cream or giving him a bubble bath feel like the most remarkable events in the world.

I can't say enough how much everyone's love and support has meant to us.  We could not have gotten through this without the love, prayers, and messages of hope.  So, for now, we are just waiting on a Christmas miracle!

Last Sunday, we took a tour of the area - these are basically lean-tos that people live in off one of the tributaries.

Most people ride motorbikes - very few cars in Ca Mau

Boats docked at the Ca Mau Wet Market - both bringing goods to it and taking them away.  These boats had loads of potatoes, watermelon and the stinky Dorian fruit.

Dried fish vendor

Off the beaten path is an amazing temple that is currently under construction.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Update from a boring day

Hi Everyone, Nick here.

If you have been reading the last few updates, you know that nothing much has changed.  On Thursday, we saw the kids for the last time.  It is incredible how happy two hours can make you and also remarkable how awful you feel when those two hours are taken away from you.

We are going stir crazy at the hotel.  We are really hoping that our big day is Wednesday.  Keep your fingers crossed and send some good juju (not Jennifer Kelly, but other kind of juju) on your Tuesday night.  We are running up against some serious timing issues with Christmas coming on, so lets hope that it works on Wednesday.

In the meantime, I thought I would try to describe the environment that we are in.  So Ca Mau is the most southern province of Vietnam.  We wear shorts every day because it is around 70 or so.  When we were at the orphanage, we would be sweating through our shirts.  I can only imagine that it feels like the surface of the sun when summer rolls around.  The place that we are staying is aspirationally called the Best CM Hotel.  I say aspirational because this has got to be the biggest dump I have ever stayed in and yes that is comparing it to the year of staying in frat houses.  Each family that is here has changed rooms at least three times to try to find the elusive one that is not horrible.  Lori and I are in one that has mildew and rot in the closet and a leak in the ceiling.  But that is one of the good ones!  :)  We are so bored right now so I am starting to actually enjoy watching MTV Vietnam style.  We only have two English language channels and not even CNN.  The Star Movies channel has been playing non stop, B-grade movies, so if you ever wondered what Sty Stallone's career was like after Rocky - well here it is.

We do get a somewhat palatable breakfast everyday which consists of two fried eggs and rice and bacon.  Some of the more adventerous have gone with Pho but I haven't yet.  They do have a nice rooftop area where we do go up most nights - but still, this place would best be described as a cra*p hole.

It is just an endless loop of waiting for the State Department to actually get the damn G&R ceremony scheduled.  If it doesn't happen Wednesday, that means that we will miss Christmas.  I guess I can deal with that, but I just need to get out of here.

Every family has had at least one sick person and there is a horrible case of what we are calling Bac Lieu belly going around.  I won't go into the details, but it ain't pretty.

And to add a little bit more stress, Ellie got into our dog sitter's purse the other night and ate a bunch of pills.  So another rush to the vet and probably another couple of grand.  Poor Ellie and her drug habit.  I guess Ellie is going to go back to the world of crating.  She is still at the vet but hopefully can go home tomorrow.

So I guess prayers all around.  Prayers for Ellie and Ashley's dog Riley who Ellie tricked into eating pills.  Prayers for the families who are stuck in this hell hole.  Prayers for our little boy who doesn't realize why his parents can't see him.  But most importantly, please send your prayers for the little kids who aren't getting out.  I would have taken them all.  Big guy with the crossed eyes, Wildcat who was a stinker but had a good heart, little Son Nhi who we are still trying to rescue and all the kids in the other orphanages who don't have hope. 

If you are thinking about a way to make a difference in the world - please look up the charity, Tiny Hearts of Hope.  This is a couple of missionaries that we met in HCM and went to a special needs orphanage with them.  This amazing couple live in HCM with their kids and they minister to the orphans that have been forgotten.  Especially the special needs kids.  If you could even send them 5 dollars as part of your Christmas plans - you would be amazed at how far that can go in Vietnam. 

So we continue to wait and hope.  I am not a religious person, but I keep thinking and hoping that there could be a Christmas miracle.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Patience is a virtue - and we're all out of it

Sorry for the lack of postings and I wish I had news, but I don't.  Thursday was the last day we were allowed to visit the orphanage, for reasons unknown to us.  It's incredibly upsetting for us, and worse, for our kids who had us for the last five days.

We still haven't heard when we will get our Giving and Receiving ceremonies scheduled (when we take custody of our kids).  So, once more, we wait and wait.

Beyond the emotional toil of wanting to get our kids out as soon as possible, the fact is that being in Ca Mau is incredibly boring.  There aren't any tourist sites here or anywhere near here, so we are making due keeping ourselves occupied with reading every book we brought, playing at least 300 games of solitare and hanging out with the other families. 

And, we have, what we're calling Bac Lieu Belly.  We're pretty sure that the oil that they use in every dish is upsetting our stomachs something fierce.  The options for eating are very, very limited here.  I've had enough rice to last me a lifetime.  Thank goodness for fried egg sandwiches for breakfast.

It's hard to believe that Christmas is so close - most days we don't even realize the day or the week, let alone the date.  We have been here three weeks.

I'll post some pics from the last few days later; we did venture into the town of Ca Mau today just to get the heck out of the hotel. 

Praying we have good news to report soon!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Nate - the cool kid

Another great day at the Centre.  Nate is really starting to learn who mommy and daddy are and is responsive to his name.  We enjoyed more soccer yesterday and he loved trying out daddy's hat and sunglasses.

Waiting for progress, as usual.  We can't tell you how much we appreciate all of the notes and messages of support - it is great to hear from home.  We miss everyone!

Nick getting help blowing up balloons

Helping his buddy Lincoln blow up a baubom (balloon).  The first word Nate and I communicated to each other.

A very quick shot of all three Indy boys

Two Power Ranger action figures riding a plastic dog

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Soccer player in the works

We're finding that we simply can't pry ourselves away from playing with Nate to take too many pictures or videos.  Yesterday, we had a great day playing soccer with him.  He really seemed to pick it up quickly, which made his daddy very proud.  Nick played soccer when he was growing up, so a very cool sports tradition may be in the works.  Of course, I still have high hopes of training him to be a libero (volleyball backrow specialist).

Still no news on us coming home, so keep those prayers coming.

Videos are here - they are short, but sweet.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Nate the Great

Too busy playing to take too many pictures today.  Maybe more tomorrow and video too!

Nate's the one with the awesome kick.  His buddy Loc is looking at Nick

Sunday, December 11, 2011 Hue

So, after a few days trying to bide our time in Ho Chi Minh city, we decided to get out of town and see some of the sights of Vietam.  We decided to fly north to Hue (pronounced who-ay - now you might get the title and it's Wayne's World reference), which is known as a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage site because of the Imperial Palace and Emperor Mausoleums there.  Hue was the former capital city of Nguyen Dynasty and unfortunately, much of it was bombed during the war.

We stayed in a very cool French colonial hotel built in 1901 - very Indiana Jones-esque.  The Huong River bisects the city  - it's also known as the Perfume River, but I found no pleasing smells around.

While the Imperial Palace and Mausoleums were pretty awesome, it rained the whole time.  We braved it with umbrellas, but then had to buy ponchos to not get completely soaked.

We are back in Ca Mau with hopes that we will get the orphanage today - and for the next several days.  Still no word on any progress to bring our children home and now eight families are here waiting. 

Fingers and toes are crossed and prayers are being uplifted.  We simply want to bring Nate home by Christmas.  You'd think that's not too much to ask since he was supposed to be home three years ago.

Nick's birthday cake
 Nick and Kelly enjoying the Pocket Mr. T
 Bridge over the Huong River in Hue

Gate at the Imperial Palace

"Little Lord Jesus asleep in the gingerbread house."

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

And still we wait...

Unfortunately, still no news on the Eastern front.  We've heard things are progressing, but it hasn't been confirmed and we've seen no evidence yet.  Seriously, it is a matter of paperwork moving from place A to B to C and back to B to C.

We haven't publicized it much, but Nick and I actually flew back to Ho Chi Minh to bide our time.  Of course, we'll be on the first plane back down to Ca Mau as soon as we are allowed back at the orphanage.

We had a pretty amazing night and met some pretty amazing people.  A few months ago, we learned of a wonderful organization called Tiny Hearts of Hope and their work helping orphanages around Vietnam.  They visited our children in Bac Lieu and brought milk and food and recently sent vitamins and medicine. 

This amazing husband, wife and four children from Texas left their American life behind to serve orphaned children in Vietnam.  We visited an orphanage in HCMC tonight run by a Catholic nun.  Brent taught them English and we got to love on the kids.  It was really hard not to weep openly when the children sang "Silent Night" in English and in Vietnamese, and it strengthened our resolve to fight even harder to bring Nate home.

Oh - and we had our first rides on motorbikes in Vietnam today.  For those of you who have been here or have seen the pictures, you know how harrowing that can be!

So, give your own children lots of hugs and kisses today.  And, be thankful people like Brent and Stacey Tarr and the incredible work that they do.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

We made it in, but just for a day

 Smiling at daddy!

 Happy moms and dads!
I think these photos pretty much say it all. We finally got approval for an hour visit with our children today, and although it was not what we had been told originally told (that we could visit December 1 and beyond), it was still pretty spectacular.

Things are still a little sticky and we don't get to go back to visit until some more of the process is done (don't get me started on this). Pray hard that we're back later next week.

So, as usual, we just wait and wait... and wait some more.

More later.  Thanks for all of the comments of support! We love hearing from home!  Also, please do not post this one on FaceBook!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Waiting and waiting

I wish I had better news to report, but sadly, we are still awaiting approval to visit the orphanage.  We have two of three approvals.  We fully expected to have the third approval by now. So, we're pretty upset, frustrated and confused as to what's going on.  Tomorrow (Dec. 1) it was supposed to be a done deal.

We are in Ca Mau, which is about 30 miles from the Centre.  This morning we did a little shopping - bought some toys and milk to take to the orphanage and got Nick a birthday cake.

Mostly, I have been playing solitaire (at least 30 games), checking work emails and trying to pass the time until we get more information on what's going on.

Thankfully, there are other families here that we can sympathize with and try to keep each other's spirits up. 

I apologize for the downer post, but we would appreciate all of the prayers you can possibly muster up.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

We made it!

After 25 long hours, we are in Ho Chi Minh City, but head down to Southern Vietnam this afternoon.  Jet lag has reared its ugly head and Nick and I have goofy sleeping patterns right now, but I hope I kicked it last night.  Our flights were uneventful which is always good.  During our 4-hour layover in Beijing we met a very nice, but drunk 74-year old Korean man who just loved Nick and we spent about 30 minutes trying to communicate with him via his very limited English and our non-existant Korean. 

He was very proud of Nick (and gullible) when Nick told him that he was 40 years old, but that I was 25.

Landed in hot and muggy HCMC late Sunday night, but breezed through immigration and made a beeline for our shuttle to the hotel.

As soon as we got to our hotel, we had beers with the Cowleys and were/are still marveling at the fact that we're here.  Despite being with friends half-way around the world, Nick and I still feel like we're just on one of our trips like we'd do when we lived in Shanghai.  I have a feeling that may change today when we head down to Southern Vietnam.

We were pleasantly surprised that our hotel's satellite TV package contained our old favorite stations that we used to watch in China, made us feel right at home.  It's the little things...

We ventured out in downtown HCMC yesterday to a market where the vendors rivaled the pushy sales people of Shanghai.  After running through their gauntlets, I was able to get some awesome prices on a few trinkets and some darling traditional Vietnamese clothing for Nate.  Despite my lack of language skills here, the negotiating tactics that I learned in China didn't fail me.  I guess my hand gestures and head shaking of "too much" has international understanding.

We're still not sure what the next few days will bring.  We are still waiting on information, but pray that we will be with Nate on Thursday and that our G&R will be scheduled soon.

Regardless, later today, instead of 7,500 miles away we will be 30 miles from our darling little boy.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

And, we're off!

Overnighting in DC before heading overseas (DC-Beijing-Ho Chi Minh City) tomorrow.  I don't think it's really hit us yet that we're actually going, and it may not become real until we're sitting at the Centre with our little boy in our arms.   And, we probably still won't believe it until we're on the flight back to Indy with Nate.

We don't know when we will be able to come home, but are praying that our Giving and Receiving ceremony (when we will take custody of Nate) will be very soon.  As is typical with this entire journey, we have no clear direction on how things will move forward once we're there, which is a unnerving, but nothing new.

We can't visit the Center until Thurs. Dec. 1, so we have a day and a half in HCMC before heading South to Ca Mau.

Will write more from Vietnam (or maybe Beijing).