Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Meeting Bear and Belle & Tea Time

Last night was a first. Hank took Sophie solo over to YaYa and Uncle Tim's house (his sister and BIL). About 5 minutes in the car she realized that Mommy was NOT in the car. She really did not cry just the huffy moaning for about 10 minutes. We had fun playing with Jack and Mason and also meeting Bear and Belle (Hank's Pop and Step Mom) who came in town from Mississippi. Everything went well with just Poppa being their, all the way home and at to bed without a peep. So a nice advance in the liking Hank stage.

Today being the end of the year we are going to Uncle Mike and Aunt Kayla Ramsey's house (Sorry Mike! :-) ) to ring in 2009. We look back and count ALL of our blessings that God has given us this year. We persevered ups and downs, highs and lows and every single emotion a married couple and now a family can endure. Thanks 2008, you will always be a year we can say was the BEST of our lives!


Mason, Jack, Belle, Bear & Sophie reading


Hey Mya Grace... "EEEEEEEWWWWWWWHHH"


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Sophie loves to host tea parties! Her new sound when she pours for her guests is something she picked up from her Poppa....

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Still Here!

I DIDN'T DO IT!!!

Yes we are still here! Just getting all in check since family is gone and we are having fun with our little girl. She is doing good and adapting to life in America. She is showing slow signs of improving with Hank but still has those temper tantrums with him.
She has learned to say "Meow" and point to the cats, and "Aarff" and point to the dog. Bath time is better, except for the hair washing part. We have about 45,000 toys in the tub. Whatever works. We are figuring out what food she still likes and doesn't. No apples, oranges, pears, peaches, but watermelon is still ok. Nothing really fried like nuggets, but grilled chicken is ok. She still loves her strawberry milk and juice!
Hair dryers scare her to death and we have hit the car wash twice in the past two days with the same reaction to Tricia's hair dryer. Sophie loves music and sings and dances (her way) to anything! Her new trick is to do the "Mya Face", which you can check out of Rich and Jackie's page! Mya does it better, but Sophie's is pretty good too! She can blow kisses, clap and wave bye-bye. She tells us "NO" in Vietnamese when she doesn't want to do something! The other night we went down to Pho Grand (our fav VN restaurant) and she had a great time. Everyone there talked to her in Vietnamese and her eyes lit up! They told her that we were here to love and take care of her forever and we would never leave! :-)
We have her play room filled with her toys she loves to interact with everyone. She will play with Hank if Tricia is in the room with some fits of throwing things at him, but it is getting better slowly.
We are planning her 2nd birthday with is on the 15th. Nothing major just some fun at the house with family and friends. She loves chocolate so it will be great to see her dive into a huge choco cupcake! Hope everyone is well and our best for a safe New Year's Eve!

Friday, December 26, 2008

A VERY Merry Christmas Here In St. Louis!

What a wonderful day we had with our little girl. She had a great time opening gifts from Santa and family. Sophie is getting the hang of unwrapping gifts. At first she start to open it and then re-wrap it thinking it is falling apart or something, but after 20 or so she is getting it. We have her second birthday around the corner so that will be another op for gifts.
Our girl is now loaded with new clothes and a great array of new toys to fill her room, and the rest of it. Monday we are looking to add on to the house for all the new things :-).
Honestly, we just had fun watching Sophie interact with everyone. It was so very good. She just had so much fun and at the end of the day, she fell asleep in Mommy's arms reading a book and only woke up ONCE last night! WOOHOO!! We hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas. We sure did. This little angel is the best gift we could have ever received! Truly a gift from God, which we are eternally grateful.



Traditional Christmas morning stairs picture.

Our NEW family. What a gift we have received!

Playing with my Strawberry Shortcake house.

Sophie's needlepoint stocking made by her Moots

Don't I look like a million dollars in my dress? Hey Jackie, how many outfits did Mya wear in one day? Sophie?......... THREE!

Proud first time grandparents!

Sophie and Mimi (Her Great Grandmother). Looking forward to spending many summers in Michigan at the cottage!

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More ammo in Hank's interaction arsenal... M&M's...... Those result in kisses!

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I get this unwrapping thing now!

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Since we were in Viet Nam and did not get to have our annual "Jingle BELZ" party, we let the kids sing a tribute, and this is the result! Sophie LOVES music and singing as you can see!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Face First

We are settling in. Lots going on around the house with Tricia's Mom and Dad, brother and Hank's Mom in town for Sophie's first Christmas. She is doing well, thinking major sensory overload. She is very affectionate to all those around her except Hank. She just screams when he tries to hold or interact with her when it is just the two of them. It will take some time as other families have experienced the same thing.
Sophie is getting into the American food thing. She had meatloaf, mashed potatoes and peas last night and loves her scrambled eggs. She did not sleep well last night, and had issues with going down on a mid-morning nap but has been sleeping like a rock of over an hour now. Thinking she is adjusting to the time with a dash of jet lag. We are getting the batteries and cameras ready for the big day tomorrow to see what Santa brings tonight!

Drawing with Grandma (Tricia's Mom Left) and Moots (Hank's Mom Right)

Helping Pop make eggs!

Too cold and icy to ride my Dora bike outside...so I ride inside!

Polishing off a bowl of Cheerios to find Lassie at the bottom

Monday, December 22, 2008

FINALLY!!!!! HOME!!!!!!!

Finally we are home in St. Louis. After 3 1/2 days of travel. Our flight from LAX-DEN was late and we missed the connection to St. Louis. So we had to overnight in DEN and the shuttle lost Hank's backpack and Sophie's suitcase. A call to 911 and the police and finally at 3am Mountain we had them back!!!! We thought we had lost our camera hard drive and laptop!!!
No direct flight to STL until WEDNESDAY so we caught the DEN-ORD flight and had a nice layover in Chicago. Finally wheels touched down on Runway 30R at Lambert around 4:55pm!!! WHEW!! Family was there with signs, tears, hugs, American flags, and cheers. Our bags beat us! THANK YOU LORD! Sophie is doing well and LOVES the cats and dog. She is also very fond of her Moots, Grandma, not to sure about them men yet! So we will get things updated soon with the remaining video and pix from the trip. We really were sad to leave Viet Nam but GLAD to be home for Christmas as a family.....FINALLY!!!The Belz Signature pre-flight shot from HAN-ICN!

Hangin with Mya at the Incheon transit hotel....

Sleeping in my bassonet HAN-ICN

Up and doing the safety demo for the Asiana staff ICN-LAX

Delayed out of O'Hare....ODD!! PS UNITED AIRLINES STINKS!!!!!

HOLY COW I AM JET LAGGED LIKE HECK AND...WOW!! MY ROOM!!

OH....MY.....LORD!! LOOK AT THIS PLACE!!!

Hello From Chi-Town

We are now in Chicago. We missed our flight out of Denver last night and looking forward to arriving St. Louis at about 4:30 this afternoon.

Please stand by for full details later

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hi From Korea

Made it to Incheon. Sophie slept the whole way in her bassonet. We arrived at 5:35am and are in the transit hotel ready to sleep. Asiana had a hotel arranged outside the hotel but we didn't want to mess with customs etc so we are inside the aiport. Plane leaves at 8:00pm, so we will try to post when we get up.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Thank you!

I would like to take this time to thank everyone who has followed our journey from start to finish and those in between. Your prayers and positive words were a key reason we were able to pull through this process. It has been very hard, but in the end, VERY rewarding. We would like to especially thank the LORD above for granting us this perfect little girl and giving us the chance to expierence something and someone so great. We know we are now starting a new journey with Sophie and we then look forward into the future and see if the Lord calls us back to Viet Nam to be united with another one of His children.

Time and time I asked the question, "Why me? Why did I have to have cancer? Why did I survive it? What is my purpose in life?" I finally have the answer... Sophie Lee Nguyen Belz. God knew what He was doing. He knew what He wanted for me, He wanted me to be a Mom all along. He wanted Hank and I to go through all of that to get to here. Right here is where we are supposed to be. We are the lucky ones. We were chosen for her and she was chosen for us. From day one on January 11, 2007 she was meant for us, even before we started the Viet Nam process. A special thank you to our new friends we have met here in Viet Nam the Duckers. We have really had a wonderful time, shared laughs and watched our girls play. We are thankful to have you all as friends for life and look forward to the years ahead as our daughters grow.

So thank you. For the past five years you all have been there for us. We couldn't have made it without the true love from our family and friends.

We are leaving the hotel and the wonderful staff here at 8pm for Noi Bai International. We might be able to post again before we board our plane but if not...
Out from Viet Nam,

I'm ready to go home!!

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Fun On My Last Full Day In Viet Nam

I had fun on the playground at the hotel this afternoon. I got to go on the slide. I was scared at first but after some help from Mommy, I was able to go down all by myself! I get to go and see Mya again this evening. Mommy and Pop and taking us back to Vine for some more mac and cheese :-). I can't wait to come home to St. Louis! I hear my room is pretty cool!



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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mommy & Pop.... I'm Ready For The United States!

We are set to come to America! We have Sophie's Visa which clears us to come home. But no flights have room to bring us all home due to the large number of folks flying for Christmas. We will just enjoy our last days here in Viet Nam. Visa interview took a whole minute. It was nice to be in the US again (embassy soil)!
The Duckers came over for dinner and after we got back to the hotel we hit the fresh market down the street for veggies, made Bruschetta, pesto pasta and noodles with butter for the girls. We are still having fun as I type. Tricia and Jackie are headed for well deserved massages while the Fathers hit the streets of Ha Noi again with the girls to eat some local dishes. We will share a nice whole duck which smell fantastic while they cook. Local shops have big fans to blow the wonderful aroma into the street attracting people to stop in and eat. Hoping Sophie does not have one of her nuclear meltdowns with Pop tomorrow. Best to everyone following for a great day!


My Visa HOME!!


The Belz Family...Ready for the STL!!!



Our new citizen once we are wheels down at LAX!



Celebrate!!!!

Two friends for life.....

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Ha Noi with the comforts of home.

We found it. Heaven in Ha Noi. For those that are coming here, PLEASE PLEASE go to Vine which is on the East bank of Ho Tay near the Sheraton. The two owners, Tom and Greg and fantastic. They hail from near Chicago and Greg's brother lives in St. Louis about 1/2 mile where Hank grew up! We also met a couple there on their honeymoon. Her sister has a law office in St. Louis really close to where Hank grew up.
The food is outstanding, 5 star dining and the prices are very reasonable. We had two apps, aweome clay pot nachos, New Zeland fillets, lobster linguini and clay pot Sapa duck. They even have a kids menu. Vine is 3 floors, with the largest wine selection you could ever imagine. They even have a massive cigar collection and special rooms to enjoy them in. But we just enjoyed food and friends here. Tom and Greg treated us to two post dinner sweet treats and night caps. The entire staff here will do anything and Uyen is fantastic. She really loved us! The even arrange your cabs back to the hotel. Service above and beyond anything you get in the U.S. from any top dining spot. So please visit. I know sound like Thomas and his Mama Rosa rant :-) but gotta give credit where it is due!
We are doing ok! Sophie is not bonding with Hank so well at this point, but we know it will come with time. She does stick to Tricia like glue, and is VERY happy and content which is so nice to see that awesome laugh and smile we saw in her update pictures! So we are getting there! Slowly but surely we will be home! Oh, and for my Blues buddies.....seriously... can't you guys help them out win ONE game while I am gone? :-) I have listened to a few online in the morning here! Kinda strange.
Mommy's chic!


Pretty girl ready for a nice dinner.



GREAT FRIENDS FOR LIFE.



She can sleep anywhere.



Hi world!


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Three "P"s - Passports, Physicals and Pasta

An early start for the Holt clan here in Ha Noi. We met up with the Holt staff at the Ministry of Police to pick-up Sophie's Vietnamese passport which is step one in boarding the plane on Saturday night. We had to wait about an hour and a half. Our med check was to be at 10 so the Moms took the girls on over ahead. We were happy to meet Benjamin, Vanessa and little Kimberly who arrived yesterday from Saigon. Their daughter Kimberly was in the Binh Duong CWC, where we were united with Miss Sophie Lee. They were applying for their girl's passport today. Both Benjamin and Van are Vietnamese and live in New Jersey. They have family in the South and will head back there after they finalize their things in Ha Noi.
Doctor's visit went well. Of course Sophie was NOT thrilled to be undressed twice in 20 minutes. The doctor who examined Sophie was French and she was screaming bloody murder. Hey, I think that is a good thing for Pop as he moved up on the Sophie like-a-bility meter today! :-)
After the checks we walked to the Somerset Grand and had lunch at Highlands. Sophie had some spaghetti as a reward for being brave at the doctor. We tried to order just buttered noodles, but twice it came out with sauce, so we just said what the heck.
Tomorrow at 2pm we go to the US Embassy for Sophie's I-600 interview which should be a simple in and out procedure of a few questions and answers. Mommy and Sophie are both taking power naps right now. Two new foods in Sophie's arsenal are raisins and shrimp flavored rice poofy things. Sounds nasty but they are actually really good! Well that is all from the north of Viet Nam! Hope everyone back home has a great day!

Jackie, Tricia and Vanessa with their daughters.

Nurse examines Sophie before we visit with the doc.

Meltdown City!

This makes it all better! Momma Fratesi should be proud! A face full of pasta!

Our orange checked angel

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The video evidence that yes, she LOVES spaghetti.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Grr......

What a great event. Mommy reading to Sophie and repeating her sounds.

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Ha Noi Redeemed!

We thought we would be easy today but nope, not our M.O. here in Ha Noi. We needed a fix and we found a great pastry shop on the street and bought this cake! The Duckers and the Belz will hit this hard!
After lunch and naps, we grabbed a cab to the OQ to pick up the ao dails from Thao Silk. We had to have a little fashion show at the shop and the tears flowed big time! Our girl is smashing in it! We then found this awesome little restaurant called Vine and it was like heaven on earth. Located by the Sheraton on the East side of Ho Tay we spent the rest of the afternoon having great food and fun with the Duckers and the staff who are so awesome. This is what we needed. This place did not fit into Ha Noi, but it was perfect, just like a place from St. Louis. From the food, music you have to go there if you stop here in Ha Noi. VINE Wine Boutique Bar & Café 1A Xuan Dieu, Tay Ho, Hanoi http://www.vine-group.com/. So that is our day in a nut shell. Cabs are here at 083o to head to the Ministry of Police to get Sophie's passport and then health checks at 1000. Van and Benjamain join our group as they are now in Ha Noi with their girl Kimberly. WELCOME!!!!!

YUM!! It will help pack back on the 5 pounds we have each lost since being here.

Outside of Vine


Sophie after her first Quesadilla.


THIS, is the smile we needed. Sophie is big into her mommy and not so much her Pop now, but it is fine. She will come around.

My beauty queen!

Mommy helping with the ao dai

Ha Noi beauty..... WOW!!!!


Monday, December 15, 2008

Happy Tuesday from Viet Nam! Is it Saturday yet? While we are having fun here in Viet Nam, we are SOOOOOOO ready for home. I'm ready for mashed potatoes, venti soy latte and simple things like my bath robe.
Yesterday we went to the Big C, which is like Wal Mart, and found some pretty cheap toys for the girls to play with here. Sophie loved the bouncy ball and the sit down scooter. The Big C has everything from fried pig and duck to clothes. We bought more food and headed home for lunch. Sophie is a picky eater. She does not like hot dogs and if she has a noodle dish the noodles have to be done just right or she will spit it out. Yes spit it out, this is what she does when she does not like something. Which make sense, if I do not like something I will also spit it out. After lunch and a 40 min nap we were on a mission to find a beckoning cat for Aunt Jackie...............................and we didn't find one. Why? Well because the beckoning cat is in Japan! So after an unsucessful day at the market we decided to head to pho 24. It's a really great resturant here in Nam and Sophie loves Pho. Let me tell you this was the WORSE expierence of my life. We walked into the place and we were stared at like we had 7 heads! We asked for water, they were out of it. We asked for rice, they were out of it. We asked for fried bread, out of it. It was very clear to us that they did NOT want us there. We went to pay and they would not take Hank's 100,000 dong bill because it had a slight rip in it. Then they proceeded to tell Hank and Rich that we still owed them 100,000 more dong. So basically the waiter keep an extra 100,000 dong to his self. We were then pushed out the door and the door was shut behind us. I was almost in tears. I can't belive they hated us so much. I felt like we were on parade. Finally on our way home this can't be bad right? Wrong! A lot of the cab driver's here are scam artists. We have found 1 good cab that will take us exactly where we need to go and charge us the correct amount. A lot of them take us the "long way" and we are quickly figuring out this is a way for them to make some extra dong! Some how we paid 50,000 dong to get to the market and we ended up paying 100,000 dong to get home----- go figure. So we are ready to go home! Sophie is ready too. Each day she get's more and more antsy. She is talking a lot more, but is still having trouble warming up to Hank. I hope that changes soon. We would like to go to Halong Bay, but that is an entire day trip and we do not think the girls would make it. Or rather, the Mom's. Sophie get's pretty heavy with her 20 pound self and carrying her for 12 hours straight would kill me. Hopefully, someday, we can go to Halong Bay (sorry Keller's). That's it for now. Enjoy some video.

After her bottle... Sophie and Mya playing with the new toys. She loves to pretend with pots and pans!

I love my new hat!
Mya Grace!.
Chillin with my Poppa.

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Eating cookies with Poppa.

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Feeding Mommy puffs!

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Brushing Mommy's teeth!