The LaBatt family welcomes Savina Grace!

The LaBatt family welcomes Savina Grace!

Home Sweet Home!

Saturday, July 2, 2011
Within just a few hours we will be traveling to the airport to return to the United States!  There is nothing left to do except for...LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER!  We should arrive home about midday tomorrow (Sunday).  We are ready for summer, ready for the heat, ready for Fourth of July fun!   One hundred million thank yous are going out to everyone who loved and supported us along this journey.  Through all of the paperwork, prayers, tears, and waiting, everyone kept loving us and encouraging us.  To see what life was like in the orphanage compared to what her life will be like now...there just aren't words left to express the difference.  Thank you!

Visa Application complete

Wednesday, June 29, 2011
We went to the US Embassy on Tuesday afternoon to submit papers for Savina's travel visa. The visit was uneventful just as we hoped it would be! The agent said the papers were in order and the visa can be picked up Thursday afternoon. Hooray! That was the last step in this long process.

We are thankful that everything has happened on schedule. It has taken the entire time our agent predicted. For most it would be shorter but retrieving the birth certificate was time consuming. We later found out that another family had to use "Plan B" to get a birth certificate from the jungle and it took two years. Thanks again to Pastor Roberto for making it happen!

Following are some pictures from our trip over the weekend to Paracas and Ica, about 4 hours south of Lima by bus. We had a great time at the beach, taking a boat tour to the Ballestas Islands and an afternoon in the dunes of Ica.

In front of the harbor in Paracas
Friends we met on the beach


Savina's first boat ride






Ballestas Islands
Nat'l Geographic scenery

Enjoying the boat ride

Savina isn't sure she likes being close to a large animal.

At the bell tower of Tacama Vineyard in Ica.

Passport and Embassy Medical

Friday, June 24, 2011

Wednesday morning we went to get Savina's passport in downtown Lima....a potentially complicated process. There are even people on the street outside the office offering to help locals through the process for a price. We took 2 cabs and went with Karina (our guide) and her mom (the one with connections!). Normally a several hour process, they talked to the right people and were able to get it down to one hour. There was only one tense moment when an agent was not sure he could accept the copy of the birth certificate. But, thank God, he passed us through and Savina has a passport!

Karina was then able to schedule Savina's US Embassy medical checkup. They were adamant that there were no appointments available before the third week of July. It took some convincing and throwing around some case numbers (to make it sound more official) to get us in end of day today.

Savina is a very brave girl. Even though she has lived here for 6 years almost everything we do is a first for her. You don't get exposed to much in an orphanage. It's a little hard for us to comprehend....choosing when and how much you eat, walking in public among people you don't know, being outside after dark. She is adapting more each day. We are very proud of her.
The Museum of Electricity

Thursday was a lazy day. Since there wasn't any adoption business we went grocery shopping and took a cab a few miles down the coast to Barranco. It is a city with much character. Once the summer vacation destination for the wealthy, it has many ornate homes and a terrific ocean view. We walked around a bit, toured a museum and ate pizza at an italian restaurant.

Tomorrow morning we are going to catch a bus south for our first trip out of the city. We only have three days so we are going down the coast to Paracas. We are looking forward to sunshine and sandy beaches!

Overlooking Barranco

Walking down to the coast

Street artist working with chalk

Birth Certificate!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
It's been awhile since we gave you an update. We have good news.


The Pastor has returned from the jungle with Savina's birth certificate. Wow! What a story he told! We have been told that Americans are not to travel to this region. You hear those warnings and think big deal, there's a greater chance you might get robbed if you're not careful or get stung by some nasty bug. Turns out it's a bit riskier than that.


Savina and Pastor Santiago with Savina's birth certificate
He had to make two trips into the jungle during heavy rains...Spanish is a second language for some there, many only speak their native tongue...heard machine gun fire from drug traffickers....got stopped and had to explain his mission to officials that are fighting drug traffickers....hired a 4x4 for some of the journey because of so much standing water and mud....hired a ride on the back of a motorcycle for 3 hours during heavy downpour, mud and a beginning driver....got stuck in a town with no lodging or restaurant and ended up staying with a tribe...got to the tribe that maintains the records and everyone was drunk and the record official gone for several days....he ran out of money....when his sister wired more money the line at the bank was several hours long....when he finally tracked down the official, the man didn't understand what adoption is....after explaining it, it took three hours to fill out the birth certificate you see in the photo.

Whew! And there's more to the story than that. The Pastor is an amazing man that truly displays the heart of Christ for others. He makes three trips each year to visit the tribe where Savina was born and has promised to send us photos from future trips. We also want Savina to have the opportunity to maintain that connection.


Savina and Emily play in the back yard
Savina is an amazing girl. Already I can't imagine our family without her. She laughs all the time, loves to play with the girls and has many questions about life in the US. She keeps wanting to know why we're waiting so long to travel....can't wait to be in the US among "gringos" as she calls us.


Tomorrow we are going to get Savina's Peruvian passport. After that we can schedule her embassy medical check and last, the travel visa. We're getting down to the end but have plenty of time to do everything before our return flights. Thanks everyone for your prayers and thoughtful words. They mean very much to us!



Beach visit on Saturday afternoon

Dinner in Barranco for Father's Day

Reading stories
Fashion shoot!

Savina Grace LaBatt

Saturday, June 11, 2011
Savina now is officially ours according to Peru!  We have been here two weeks, although it feels much longer to all of us.  The down side is that we still have three weeks until we can come home.  We are trying to enjoy ourselves as much as we can, but our little one isn't really much for site-seeing yet.(understandably)  Yesterday we spent a good long while at the notary to get a power of attorney for our pastor friend to go to the jungle to retrieve Savina's original birth certificate. It was quite an ordeal... I will leave it at that!  Monday is the legal "day of silence" on the adoption, during which nothing is allowed to happen, so he will travel after that. 
Today will be a lazy day at home.  Maybe I will get the chance to translate some more Disney channel for Anna and Emily.  Let's just say that if you haven't seen High School Musical in Spanish, you really haven't lived.  :)


Monday, June 6, 2011
It's just incredible that we have been here a complete week...and just a week.  It feels like so much longer.  To describe all of the individual moments and memories would take an entire book to describe.  It has been beautiful.  Because this is such a public blog, and I want to protect our new daughter's privacy and identity, I won't go into too much detail.  But know that, nearly everything we do is a first for her.  The orphanage has limited resources, so the children stay there and go to school.  That is about all.  Our new little girl could not remember ever having gone out at night. Ever.  The dark sky, the lights on the buildings...it was all new.  She has some fears, but she is resilient and adjusting well.  She also gives great tight hugs.  :) 


We are part-way through what is called our home placement week.  It lasts until Thursday.  We will receive two official visits during this time of observations.  Also, Savina will have a doctor check-up.  Then, on Thursday, they will release the adoption decree.  That will be notarized the next day.  Then the pastor who is helping us will travel to the jungle for her official birth certificate.  Every day is one day closer!

Having three daughters is wonderful

Friday, June 3, 2011
This morning three girls climbed in bed with me to snuggle.  How did I get to be so blessed?  Savina is so wonderful, sweet, and affectionate. 
Leaving the orphanage yesterday, she had a good sob.  To let go of everything known...that is hard.  She received so much love and care there...to step into the big unknown world with (almost) strangers...that is not easy.  We cried with her, held her, and comforted her. 
By the time the taxi arrived at the office where we signed more papers, she was again smiling.  By the time we arrived to the apartment, she was again laughing and playing.
She loved her dinner, eating her hamburger and rice, and even having seconds.  She offered to help with the dishes and cleaned up her spot at the table.  The girls played more, and then at bedtime she wanted a story.  By the time I finished reading, she was fast asleep.
What an amazing thing it is to adopt!  My mind can barely comprehend what is happening...I haven't been able to just sit and process what is happening since we arrived.  It's just beyond what I can believe. 

Good bye party (a day early)

Thursday, June 2, 2011
Yesterday we celebrated Savina's last day in the orphanage.  It was hard to say what she was feeling, as she gets quiet at times.  I asked her if she would be sad leaving, and she said that no, she was ready to go!  It was bittersweet, though, seeing her saying goodbye to all of her caretakers. 
In the morning we went with Karina and her mother to buy the items for the "fiesta."  We bought six "queques" or cakes and a number of 3-liters of soda.  They recommended "Kola Inglesa," which is a strawberry soda, Sprite, and orange Crush.  Then we loaded everything into a taxi for the thirty minute drive to the orphanage.
Originally we were going to have the goodbye party today, but as we have to meet with the national secretary of adoptions, they thought it would be better yesterday.
They had all of the orphans get dressed in their nicer clothes, and then brought them to the auditorium.  They all just patiently sat and waited for the party to begin.  We set up the cakes and sodas, and then the director made some opening remarks about how the party was for Savina and how happy they were that she was leaving to live with her new family.  I thought it would be very emotional, but I didn't see one tear shed by anyone.  All of the workers hugged and kissed Savina, and told her how much they would miss her and that she should be a good girl for her new family. 
After the table was set up, they had everyone come behind it for photos.  Then they turned on music and told everyone to dance. So about five kids started dancing.  Through all of this, Savina was dreadfully shy and clung to my waist, hiding her face.  Although she is funny and outgoing once you know her, she sure didn't like being the center of attention!  Once I told her that the kids were only looking at the cakes, and not her, she did much better.  :)
All of the workers and kids formed a circle and they brought Savina to the middle.  One by one the workers took turns "dancing" with her and hugging her goodbye.  Then Anna, Emily, and Savina passed out the cake, soda, and little gift bags to the kids.  They loved everything.  Savina then gave gifts to the workers and house moms.  They were very happy.
After the party we had some free time to do what we wanted with Savina.  Each day a social worker from the orphanage has accompanied us.  They asked Savina where she would like to go:  the zoo, the mall, or back to our apartment.  She really wanted to come back to the apartment, but it was much farther, so we ended up at the mall.  It amazed us that she would think the apartment is so amazing, when we find it just okay.  So we ended up at the mall.  I didn't know how many "firsts" Savina would experience.  first time at a big store, first time in a restaurant, first time on an escalator, first time with a good dad, first time seeing toys for sale...  For me it's a bit overwhelming.  The orphanage does its best with its sparse resources.  They have taken the kids to the beach, the zoo, and the movie theater.  So aside from school, Savina has maybe been ten places.  Unknowingly, the home is like a little jail.  That for me has been the saddest part.  The kids have been given lots of love and care, but as for experiences, they are completely lacking.  The world is so beautiful, yet Lima is so gray, polluted, crowded and full of honking horns.  The people of Lima are the thing of beauty here.  They are kind, respectful, open, and helpful.
Now today we leave in a few minutes to take Savina from the orphanage for the last time.  Yesterday we had to bring her clothes to change into, so she could leave everything else at the hogar.  She will have the clothes we gave her, the bear we gave her (that she named Anna), and a barbie doll. Her worldly possessions. 




Una Vida Nueva

Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Where do I begin to try to relate all of the emotions, all of the distinct moments, all of the thoughts, and memories of the last 48 hours?  It seems like a dream, like a jumble of taxi rides and beautiful people, but all centered on one lovely little girl who has captivated us and changed our lives completely!  We thank all of you for your love, support, and prayers,  because it couldn't have gone any better than it has.
Savina is affectionate, funny, nice, mannerly, and just amazing!
She has done so well connecting with us and responding to us.  Love is flowing all around.

Since I haven't had a chance to explain things well, here is exactly what we're doing so far:
Sunday night we arrived in Lima, passed through customs, and then were picked up from the airport by our contact here Karina (with her mother, too).
We drove to our apartment and got to bed about midnight.
On Monday morning Karina came for us at about 8am.  We went to get some bottled water and change some money at the store called Metro (like our superstores).
Then we had a meeting at MIMDES, the branch of the government in charge of adoptions.  After that we went straight to the orphanage (hogar) to spend the rest of the day with Savina. The social worker accompanied us the entire day.  We went out to eat at a restaurant across the way from the hogar.  It was Savina's first time to a restaurant that she could remember.  Let that sentence sink in.  After we left the hogar, we went to buy a few groceries.  Then we fell into bed.
On Tuesday and Wed we are required to again spend the entire day with Savina, along with a worker from the orphanage.  On Wed we will have a good bye party at the orphanage with cake for the friends there. 
On Thursday we go just to pick up Savina.  We bring her a change of clothes, so she can leave hers there for the others.
Then we will go to Mimdes again to get the official report written up.  This could take several hours.  Then our week of in-house observations begin.  We will have two official observations during this time.  Also Savina will have a dr. check up.  Then, after this week, the nice pastor who is helping us will journey to the jungle to get the original birth certificate.
That is all we know for now.
I will try to write more details, but now I must sleep!  :) 

Good night!

More photos from today!

Monday, May 30, 2011


Savina!

Savina is everything we dreamed she would be and more! We love her so much! She is already hugging and kissing us, and calling us Mami, Papi, and hermanas. We spent the entire day with her, and will again tomorrow. I will write details as soon as I can!
 

Sunday Morning from San Francisco

Sunday, May 29, 2011
Yesterday our flights went smoothly and we arrived in San Francisco at about 9:30 pm.  It is very cold and windy here.  We stayed at the airport hotel Travelodge and today we fly to Houston and then on to Lima.  It's amazing to think that when we return, there will be five of us!

Funny moments:
We got to use the airport's amazing xray technology.  Because I forgot to take my necklace off, I got the pat down, too.  :(

Emily was taking our picture and said, "Mom, your face doesn't look so hot!"

In the airport a girl walked by carrying Lotso!

Jensyn:  Thank you for the text!  I will miss you, too!
Alexis and Jackie:  Thanks for the messages on FB!
Delaney:  Thanks for all of the texts!
Toneiy:  I can't get Cousins out of my head!!
Everyone:  We love you!

Saturday 1pm

Saturday, May 28, 2011
We leave in four hours for the airport.  Now that I spent a week's salary at Kohl's, I think I'm ready (for real this time).  I had my last meal at Chipotle before leaving the country (when I figure out the secret of the chips, I'll let you know), and now I just need to get everything to fit in the suitcases.  Farewell, dear friends!

Saturday, May 28: travel to California

As we start our South American adventure, I will try to keep up our blog!  It is now Saturday, 6am.  We fly to San Francisco at 7:30 pm.  Today is packing and cleaning.  I think I have cried enough tears for now; today I am just content and ready.  I will update the blog soon.  Savina, here we come!  :)

Seven Days from Today!

Saturday, May 21, 2011
Next Saturday, we will be flying to South America!  We will leave Phoenix in the evening and go to San Francisco.  There we will have an overnight layover, and leave again in the morning.  We will stay in an airport hotel overnight.  The next morning we will fly to Houston, then Lima!  The incredible blessing is that two different friends offered to help us get tickets.  One friend from school bought a ticket for us, and another friend donated enough miles to us for a second ticket.  Kerry was able to use our miles for a third ticket.  That only left us one round-trip and one ticket for Savina.  So amazing.  We have July 2nd as a return date.
So now we have one week to pack and get everything ready.  I have school for four of those days.  I know it will be crazy, but that we will be able to do it! 
Thank you to everyone who has helped us along the way- we are getting so close to the dream coming true!

The Best News Ever!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011
Today we received word from Peru that we are approved for travel as soon as possible!!!  They even asked if we could travel this weekend! (No, we are ready, but not THAT ready!)   They are lining up our apartment and VISIT TO THE ORPHANAGE!  It seems too remarkable to be true.  To hold Savina in our arms...
While we are there, someone will have to make the journey into the jungle to get her original birth certificate.  I wish it could be me, but it is considered too dangerous for us to undertake.  Karina is looking for someone who can make the trip.

We are so excited!  Our dream is actually coming true!

Happy Birthday!

Thursday, May 12, 2011
Happy birthday, Savina!  We are so glad that you were born ten years ago.  We are so sorry that your road has been so difficult while you have been such a little girl.  Life will be good here in Ocotillo for you.  Today we are having a birthday party for you at school...even though you won't be there to celebrate...at least you will get some presents!


Here's the latest update.  I will send it in letter form so you can figure out what it means on your own.  It is from Karina, our Peruvian contact, to our adoption coordinator here in the U.S.

I went to the Embassy to submit the documents of Savina, but the Embassy
wants the originals. I explained the birth certificate is in a place very
faraway place with difficult access (even more, now the inscription office
is in the same tribe and needs to travel by boat to access to the tribe),
but the Embassy said they need the original one to be sure everything is
correct.  I was surprised with this, because I spoke with the person in
charge and never told me about it; also, with the last family I didn’t have
these requirements.

I will go tomorrow to the court house where is the dossier of Savina and
see if I can get the birth certificate from it. Now, the dossier is in 
“definitive archive”, it means that the file went to a section where is
filed forever and I have to unfiled, but first I want to be sure this
certificate is there.
Also, I have to legalized in the court house the abandonment decree; for
this I will try to get directly with some friends that I have in the court
house to make it faster.

In case the birth certificate isn’t in the dossier I will go to the
inscription office (RENIEC) and try to get it as soon as possible. For
this I have the help of the social worker from the orphanage, who spoke
today with somebody from the RENIEC and begged to this person to have it
faster (maybe in two weeks).

I will tell you what I find tomorrow (Wednesday) about these documents.
Regards,
Karina

I love this video!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I-800!

Monday, May 2, 2011
On some days, when you are not expecting anything exciting to happen, it does!

On some days, when you are having a birthday, you get a very special present.

Sometimes that special present comes in the mailbox, and is the very last envelope to be pulled out...after the cards, the bills, and the catalogs. And you hope, just like every day, that it is the envelope.  You hope that it's the envelope from the Department of Homeland Security, the one that ends the two years of waiting.

And sometimes it is!
And sometimes your husband's best birthday present is a new little daughter.  A very cute little daughter with dimples and a sweet little face. 

Happy birthday, Kerry!

Travel in thirty days?  That would be the 28th of May.  That would be possible.  Just barely, but possible! Details coming soon...

I-797C

Wednesday, April 27, 2011
This weekend we received a document that says the US government is working on our document.  That's progress, right?  It was beautiful to see our name linked with Savina's in "official" print.

There are only twenty days left of school.  :)
There are only three weekends left of grading papers.  :)

My good friends at school are throwing me a "baby" shower...which just so happens to fall on May 12th, Savina's birthday!

This is your last birthday as an orphan, little one!  We will be coming soon!

La Semana Pasada

Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Dear Savina,
Last week someone came to your orphanage and took your photo...several times.  And she took a video of you. You didn't know her, and they told her you would be shy.  But you weren't shy.  In fact, you were very sweet and funny.  You were very cute.  And she found out that you like to paint, and you like the color purple.  And then she left. And you went to school.
Do you know now how many people have seen your pretty face in the photos?  Do you have any idea of how many people have watched your fifteen second video?  It is the best movie ever made.  Could you even imagine that you saying "hello" in English could make people in another continent cry?  I thought you should know (even though you won't read this until you already know...). 
I can't wait to be a mom to you.  I thought you should know.
You are lovely and we love you.

Savina with Karina (our Peruvian adoption contact)

Video of Savina!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

video
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Today I'm thinking about three things...

1- I want to bring Savina home as soon as possible, and I also want to finish out the school year with my lovely 8th graders.  I know they are leaving, to grow up and spread their wings, but this time I'm having trouble letting go.  Graduation will be bittersweet, as it will be my last graduation, too.
We are waiting for the I800 (paperwork from the US Department of Homeland Security) to be finished, and then will begin the period of "travel withing 30 days."  Every day I am carefully opening the mailbox to see if our official approval has arrived.

2- A nice youth pastor (Josh Harper) came and spoke to the students at chapel on Friday about selling what they have and giving to the poor.  I don't know why it affected me as much as it did...I was surprised to find that I didn't think much about how the students received it, or how they will respond to it.  Usually I am so anxious to make them "get" it.  Instead, I was reminded of the gentle words the Lord spoke to me in 2008..."Now I am giving you the privilege of ministering to the least of these- to the most unprivileged of the earth."  What a beautiful privilege.  I realize that right now, in my current profession, teaching in a private school in the middle of a wealthy city, I am not reaching the most unprivileged.  Truly God has used me here, as much as I was willing to respond to Him...but there is more.  There is the calling to bring home an orphan from the Amazon jungle.  There is the calling to feed the poor in Phoenix.  There is the calling to spend Christmas with the families who live in the dump in Nicaragua.  There is the calling to do more.  There is the calling to street children- I feel it calling all through my heart and soul.

3- There is an obligation.  There is an obligation when you take a child away from the jungle village where she was born, to give her a beautiful and peaceful life.

Those are my thoughts today on a warm and sunny Saturday in Chandler, Arizona.

This map shows two places Savina has lived: Lima (ages 4-10), and the jungle village near Satipo (ages 0-4)

These photos are all from 2004.  They are of the outreach of Iglesia Filadelfia to Savina's village Alto Anapati.  It is possible that she could be in one of the photos, or maybe her family.



Asi viene una vida nueva, asi nomas

Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Today I gathered up over a hundred pages and mailed them to Chicago.  (hay algo mas para el sobre?...solo mi corazon entero...)  Pages and pages of paperwork needed by the U.S. government to approve our adoption.  So now, on one special day during the next thirty, we will be officially approved.  And then, on one special day during the thirty days after that, we will board the plane for Peru.

As I left Post-Net, my rather fat envelope sat on the corner of their counter.  waiting.  so much waiting, and counting down days
And somehow I made it through the hours of waiting and counting down days that followed. My heart is so far away from keeping unruly ones in line today. 
It's uncomfortable, at times, to follow God's timeline, to know the change is coming, but not knowing quite when.

And I remember these beautiful days of waiting for my babies to arrive.  the days of baby books and tiny clothes...the days of pastels and cute little animals on everything...and today there is a bit of that in my heart.  Today there are beautiful gray clouds in the sky, and a few pastel thoughts.  My baby will be coming soon.  It took her ten years to arrive...ten years of waiting and counting down days, but she will be arriving soon.  And in the jungle there are no baby showers, no cute animal designed baby blankets, and not many pastels.  A new life arrives, just like that.  It strikes me as a bit sad that it's unlikely I will ever see her face, her photo, as a baby.

A new life arrives, just like that.

Savina's "Baby" Book

Grateful!

Monday, April 4, 2011
Sometimes it's easy to be overwhelmed with love.  Today I feel overwhelmed with love.  I love God, who healed my Emily from her headaches.  I love my friend who called last night to tell me that she's paying for one of our tickets to South America.  I love my students (even if I don't always tell them) who gather around my desk and make random comments.  I love my Kerry and my Anna.  I love my tiny Savina who is so very far away.  I love my house and I love living in Arizona.  I love my beautiful church and all of my family there.  It's where friends really do become family!  I love my family and my extended family.  I love that a new adventure is beginning!  I love that all of this paperwork is coming to a close!  I love that we are going out to eat at Grimaldi's tonight.  It is my very favorite!  If this was a seventh grade essay, I would close with:  "And I love you!   the end."
And I love you!
the end

happy older photos...