We’re Booked

And now, a riff on a little picture book I love, called What Can You Do With a Shoe? by Beatrice de Regniers, illustrated by Maurice Sendak.

What can you do, what can you do, what can you do with a looooong sock?

You can use it as a scarf

Or tie it on your head

You can use it as a belt

Or on a cast instead

Okay, so it’s a pretty lame tribute, but I couldn’t get the text of that book out of my head as I watched Rebeka clowning around with that long sock they always put under the cast. You can see that Rebeka got two casts today, and one of them goes alllll the way up her leg! Not only that, we also booked a tentative date for Rebeka’s first surgery, November 5th. Her doctor will operate on her left foot first, and then her right foot several weeks later.

I think this period we’ve been in, a new cast every week, has been preparing us for a much more difficult period. I am so glad we’ve taken it in baby steps. Long gone are the days of playing in the lake and watching Rebeka race on her own two feet all over the house. For six weeks now she’s been in casts and hasn’t walked. Now that she’s double-casted, Rebeka has a hard time even balancing at a sink to wash her hands. Bathing is a bigger challenge. And there are harder times to come. After surgery, she’ll go under anesthesia each week when she goes in to get casted (that’s right, she’ll go back into casts after surgery to complete the process of turning her foot.) Apparently the process is so painful, she’ll need the anesthesia. Tylenol won’t be enough (and the whole time she’s been with us, Rebeka has only asked for a pain reliever one time). Oh dear.

Part of me dreads what lies ahead. Even if it’s what she has to do to get better, it still sounds so hard. But I trust that I was prepared for what’s already come, and I’m in the process of being prepared for what lies ahead. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the past two months I’ve found myself reading or listening to three books that have been part of that preparing and adapting process. One of them, Wonder by RJ Palacio, is the story of a severely deformed boy who is put into public school for the first time in middle school.

What I’m realizing, reading it to Benji in little snatches at bedtime, is that the main character in the book has something in common with Rebeka. People stare at him all the time. I’ve watched people’s staring eyes in the store as I push Rebeka’s wheelchair. Watched her tuck her twisted right foot up under her cast to hide it. As I read this book, I gain a new perspective on what it might be like for Rebeka. Not necessarily a torment, but an ordeal that she’s dealt with her whole life. Sometimes with humor, sometimes with resignation. It’s not pleasant to be stared at, but it isn’t the end of the world, either.

Then there’s Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper.

I’m listening to this on audiobook. It’s the story of a severely handicapped girl who is wheelchair bound, and can’t talk. Though Rebeka is learning English more and more every day, she is often silent, for lack of a way to communicate. I feel for her as I listen to the main character’s frustrations with lack of language. I wonder what is going on in her head.

The third book that traipsed into my life was Left to Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza and Steve Erwin.

This is Immaculee’s story of survival and redemption as she lived through the Rwanda genocide, but I found myself drawn to the passages in the very beginning of the book, when Immaculee described everyday life with her family before the genocide. I began to imagine Rebeka coming from a very similar family. I had a very sketchy idea of what life looked like for her day to day back home, what her family dynamics were. I found it comforting and gratifying to imagine Rebeka coming from a loving, dynamic, intelligent family like Immaculee’s. I felt more connected to Rebeka’s home, her people, and what makes her tick.

But no matter how many books and prayers and preparations, there are some things I could have never been prepared for. Being soundly and repeatedly beaten at Memory.

And war.

And how I would feel when I encounter scenes like this tickle-fest that occurs on a fairly regular basis as we gather around Rebeka’s bed to pray each night.

And her smile. There is no way I could have been prepared for how her smile makes me feel. So I trust that in the future, along with the hard things, there will be unexpected surprises that will carry us along and remind us that we are truly blessed to be along on this adventure.

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Normal Hope

Guess what? A large college fair is not a good place to bring a wheelchair, or a ten-year old girl who may feel slightly conspicuous with all the stares coming her way, even though I’m pretty sure most of those stares were because she looked so stinkin’ cute.

 

That’s right, a college fair. I am now old enough to have a daughter who is attending college fairs. It’s funny how you’ll be going along with life, and everything is just normal, and then BOOM, it hits you, all is not normal.

Want to hear something funny? Life with a young Rwanda girl who doesn’t speak much English and requires carrying to get around sometimes seems quite normal. I find myself wondering what everybody is looking at, and then I realize, oh yeah, I have this very black and beautiful girl on my hip with a complicated contraption on her leg. But I’m just running into Target to get a posterboard. It’s no biggie, and yet it’s a big biggie.

Here are some other things that seem normal at our house these days:

Rebeka’s artwork is accumulating on our windows.

 

It’s been a long time since we’ve had pink stools in our house.

 

Notice the Curious George Memory game. It’s not unusual to play memory, Rebeka’s favorite, four or five times a day. I now know the card with the scratch on it is the “laundry” card, the ones with slightly bent corners are the “chef” cards, and the one with the very bent corner is the “blue boy” card, which goes with the only card that has a sticker on the back. This is normal.

 

Is this normal? I don’t think so . . .

There is one thing that I  always want to be “normal” in my life. Living with hope. I was recently reminded of that “hopeful” feeling when I finished another draft of a manuscript. A writer lives with a lot of hope. Hope that I’ll finish the book, find an agent, a publisher, readers, get the next book published, etc. Each time I reach the end of one “hope,” there is another hope waiting for me.

Molly is always full of hope: hope you’ll drop something on the floor she can eat, hope you will rub her belly, hope you will let her lick your sweat . . .

Going to the college fair with Alayna reminded me of how it felt when I went to a similar fair when I was in high school. I had all these hopes about where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. All those shiny catalogs and chipper representatives were like Christmas morning, and I couldn’t wait to get home and lay all my goodies out and pore over them.

Tuesdays have become all about hope in our house these days. It’s the new normal. That’s because on Tuesday nights, we get to unwrap Rebeka’s cast and see her new and improved foot. It’s like Christmas morning, unwinding all those white bandages. This Tuesday, we were very pleased with what we found.

Each week it looks a little straighter. Tomorrow morning we’ll head to Dell and see what her doctor has to say. This has also become part of our normal routine, our Wednesday trips to Dell. It is the extraordinary ordinary, or the ordinary extraordinary. It is life, in all it’s glorious normality, and we are filled with hope.

 

Hope is the thing with feathers

Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops—at all

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm

I’ve heard it in the chillest land
And on the strangest Sea
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.

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No Questions Asked

There was something that became apparent to us early on with Rebeka, she didn’t ask questions. Even when we had a translator here, she didn’t ask questions. She sometimes would respond if we asked her a question, whispering “yes” or “no”, but sometimes she’d just act all embarrassed and shy, or she’d stare into space like she was trying hard to understand what we were asking. It was befuddling. Why this strange reaction, when we just wanted to know if she was hungry or not? It was like she was not totally engaged, just taking note of all that was around her.

Those who have been around Rebeka for very long, have probably had their picture taken, whether they know it or not. She is very good at taking note of her surroundings, and chronicling it on an old i-touch. This picture was taken on a trip we took recently to the Austin Zoo, big fun!

I’m not talking about the kind of questions that require language. Questions like, “Why is the sky blue?” Most American parents are inundated with these sorts of questions when their kids are young. There’s “what’s that” and “why is” and “how come?” I’m talking about more simple questions, asking for food, or crayons, or another game of memory. I know she has the language for these simple questions, she could name them if we asked her to. But until recently, Rebeka never asked for anything, except “toilet.” This was a question whispered ever so quietly. She’d crawl right up next to me and look in my eyes with great intensity. “Toilet.” Would I understand her question? You should have seen the happy dance I did when Rebeka first asked to go to “toilet.” Not because there was danger of an accident, but because she’d ASKED something. We were communicating, and it wasn’t one-way.

I guess in a way, questions are not a right, but a privilege. In a world where your main concerns are having food, washing clothes, getting water, and taking care of younger siblings, maybe there isn’t much time for questions. Recently, Karen Berlanga agreed to tutor Rebeka twice a week. After just two times, I’m already hearing more questions. Rebeka will say “What is?” and point to something. Joy! Happy dance! It’s like I’m seeing her mind working, unfolding, learning, and craving more as she takes in new information.  There is so much to learn!

Another thing I noticed early on with Rebeka was that she didn’t do much imaginary play. She’d take the heads on and off the Playmobil figures, but never act things out with them. She’d dress and undress a doll with great concentration, but never pretend she was the mother taking care of it. I had always taken it for granted that kids just had imaginations, and used them. Whether imagining a big pileup with all their matchbox cars or imagining a day at the castle, it was part of everyday life.

During tutoring today, Mrs. Karen brought some dolls and doll furniture to work on language with Rebeka. She’d play with the dolls, waking them up and having them talk to each other, and Rebeka would mimic her. Then lo and behold, Rebeka began making her dolls talk to each other on her own. She was learning how to do imaginative play by watching Karen. And she was loving it.

There are lots of reasons why Rebeka’s questions, and her imaginative play, make my heart sing. As a writer, I love an inquisitive, curious, playful mind. And something inside me just aches to know, does she like apples or bananas better? Perhaps even more important, by asking questions, engaging in conversations, and using her imagination, Rebeka will be able to play even better with the new friends she’s been making. It takes a special kind of kid to engage and play with a mostly silent playmate, though there are those who excel at it.

Rebeka has done just fine with the new brace she got last Wednesday. In fact, she figured out how to set it herself each night, pulling out the pins, rotating it to 80 degrees, and then pushing the pins in and replacing the “child-proof” plastic casing that’s supposed to keep kids from tampering with their hinge when they aren’t supposed to. One thing about Rebeka, she obeys what the doctor says. No complaining, and of course, no questions asked. At least, not yet.

As the days and weeks go by, and the weekly casts come and go, I anticipate many more questions. The more she learns, the more language she acquires, the more we will find out about this fascinating girl who has taken up residence in our home, and our hearts.

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Football and “Fritas”

This week Rebeka experienced her first Friday night football game. Alayna danced at halftime with the Knightline, Nate was introduced with the sixth through eighth grade football players. Benji ran wild behind the stands like he usually does, while Clay and I chatted/watched the game and Rebeka got busy eating a bag of skittles and watching all the activity with wide eyes.

This week she also experienced her first time on a swing. She screamed, both excited and terrified by the feeling in her belly. First time on a slide. Screamed some more. Had to coax her down the first time. More screams, and hysterical laughing, and then she was ready to slide again. We got to the neighborhood park via a jog stroller a friend loaned us, a huge blessing as the weather has turned a bit cooler and we like to be outside and mobile. Meredith experienced her first four mile jog with 40+ pound Rebeka in the stroller. We both survived.

Rebeka took her first trip to the hair salon (thank you Natalie), and Meredith got her first crash course in how to take care of that kinky hair,which is coming in fast.

She also took her first ride on the Zilker train (thank you again, Natalie).

It’s been a big week for Rebeka. Today she got her fourth cast, and today is a day for celebration. When we put the first cast on, her doctor said he would be able to tell after the third cast whether or not we should proceed. If the foot wasn’t responding to the casts, then we would be done.

But the foot has responded, and we’re moving forward. Hooray, sing praise, do a little dance. Rebeka continues to be amazed each time we take off a cast and see the latest and greatest improvements. She scrubs it hard in the tub, examines it closely, pulls on the toes, and points out to us the things she thinks have changed.

Today, our doctor was very proud of his latest and greatest revelation. It’s inspiring to know that he thinks of her often, trying to figure out the best way to help her. The task before him was to put Rebeka in a device that will turn her foot even more. The casts have been doing this, but to a lesser degree. To really get the foot turned, she needs a long cast. But long casts are usually not soft casts, and soft casts are wonderful because you don’t need a saw to cut them off. Long leg casts stink because they make you so immobile, and uncomfortable, the knee fixed at an angle all the time.

Our doctor is kind enough to take this all into account and try to come up with a better solution. He decided to attach a soft cast on her calf to a hinge that is fixed on her knee, eliminating the need for more cast material up her thigh and enabling her to have some mobility. The problem: no leg hinges in her size. The solution, use an elbow hinge! It’s a nifty little device. Watching the doctor and the technician figure it all out was like watching little boys playing legos. They were very proud of themselves, and we were so very grateful they took the time and energy to come up with a great solution.

At night we’ll fix the hinge at 90 degrees, but she has free range during the day. We now have some bulky bits of velcro on her thigh to deal with. It proves persnickety with bathroom maneuvers, but they are infinitely better than a cast. A long leg cast may still be in her future, but we’ll try this way first. Wait and see. We celebrated another successful doctor’s visit with our established routine, some “fritas” (French fries). This time at Mighty Fine. And because it was such a momentous occasion, moving forward and all, we indulged with an orange Fanta as well.

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Figuring It Out

Just signed my third cast in three weeks this afternoon! How many times does a person get to say that? We got a good report from the doctor. The casts appear to be working, the bones in Rebeka’s foot are moving. Slowly, little by little, but it’s enough to be encouraged. And so we stride forward. Getting her temperature and blood pressure taken, and having a doctor and technician put on a cast, is no big deal anymore for Rebeka. A much bigger deal is losing her playmates to school. Yesterday was our kids’ first day, and we’re all sliding into a new routine as homework and after-school activities come.

Rebeka looked like she was heading to her first day, in this cute blue dress that almost looks like a uniform. Clay bought her the sweet yellow butterfly clip she’s wearing on the collar. It’s actually a hair clip-we hope someday it can be used for its intended purpose! Her hair is already growing out . . .

But there is no routine for life with Rebeka, in a quiet house, where the sound of tapping keys was once the only thing to be heard for hours as I worked on manuscripts. I took a deep breath yesterday morning as Alayna walked out the door. Clay and the boys were gone. It was just Rebeka and I. What the heck were we going to do all day? How was I ever going to get any writing done? I sat down at the kitchen table, a ton of learning supplies at the ready (thank you Natalie and Kerri), and we set to work.

We spent almost two hours doing handwriting, and I developed a new vocabulary. A lowercase “b” is “all the way down, and then around.” I chanted, “all the way down, and then around,” as Rebeka painstakingly made her b’s. Sometimes backwards. Sometimes not quite touching the bottom line. I remembered how my kid’s kindergarten teacher let them circle their “best letters” and I liberally sprinkled stars all over Rebeka’s beautiful b’s. I found “fantastic!” and “super!” stickers. We sang the days of the week song.

And it was not boring. It was not wasted time. Because she was engaging, learning, trying so hard. I kept wondering what school looks like back home in Rwanda. How many kids are in a class, and how often a backwards “b” might get overlooked because a teacher can’t catch little things like that in a class of fifty kindergartners. When I asked Rebeka what letter she was working on, she said, “ball.” There was a picture of a ball next to the “b” on her handwriting sheet. So she didn’t understand the word “letter.” And when I was finally able to make her understand what I was asking, she couldn’t tell me the letter. Aha. All that time she was writing a “b,” but she didn’t’ really get that’s what it was. So we needed to work on letter recognition. To the shaggy rug with letter flashcards and an alphabet poster (thank you Debbie). I am finding my way with her. Figuring out what works.

As for the manuscript, I didn’t get to it our first day of school. But I did today. I’m getting up early to work on my current work in progress, and today Rebeka played diligently for over an hour while I snuck a few more chapters in. And just as I find my way, I marvel at how she finds hers.

Last week, Rebeka noticed a plaque with a coat hook sitting on the floor of the “middle room.” The room that has been an office, an exercise room, and is currently the holding tank for Alayna’s furniture, Rebeka’s clothes, and school supplies. (We moved the furniture out of Alayna’s room so we could fit both their beds.) I showed Rebeka how we would eventually hang that hook on the wall and then she could put her tutus on it. Apparently, she didn’t want to wait. As I puttered around, cleaning up, Rebeka spied a roll of duct tape across the room.

Can’t see it?

 

Here it is, by the mirror.

She crawled over, brought it back, cut a long strip of it, cut that into tinier strips, and then hung the wall hook with yellow duct tape. Voila!

She figured it out. We all applauded her ingenuity, and by the end of the day the hook was hung good and proper with a nail, adorned with her fluffy tutu.

As for adoption news, this middle room has also been referred to as “the baby’s room.” Our number on the list in Honduras continues to creep. Last we heard we were at #40, but we’ve taken our eyes off that number the last few weeks. A watched pot never boils. A watched number hardly moves. I’ll let you know how our new strategy is panning out. For now, we’ve got “b’s” to work on, a manuscript to finish, a company to start (ask Clay about that one), and too many football/dance/karate practices to think about. Oh yeah, and potholders. We’ve got potholders to make.

Remember these? You make them on a plastic loom with stretchy loops and a little crochet hook. The one I made when I was a kid never got finished because I couldn’t figure out how to finish off the sides. Clay helped us get this one done.

 

 

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One Down, ?? To Go . . .

Rebeka had lots of visitors this first week of being in a cast, and racked up an impressive array of signatures.

If you didn’t get a chance to sign this first one, there will be a new one each Wednesday!

 I didn’t realize the real benefits of a “soft” cast versus a hard cast until this evening. A hard cast requires a saw to remove, and even though that saw doesn’t cut skin, I still think this would have distressed Rebeka. A soft cast doesn’t need a saw. Tonight, the night before she receives her next cast, we were allowed to remove the old cast and give that leg and foot a nice bath. The big unwrap occurred after dinner, with all five of us gathered around, taking turns yanking at the stiff bandages, and Rebeka watching with a big grin on her face.

This was her first week in a cast. She was given permission to put weight on it and walk around the house, but not until the last couple days did she even try. She pointed to her ankle area and frowned. It was either too sore, or too unstable, to try. We’ve got a wheelchair in the back of the car for longer excursions. For quick trips to Target or the grocery store we try and score one of those big plastic kid carts that has a seat. If those are taken, Rebeka is happy to sit right in the cart and we tuck our merchandise around her.

We’ve discovered she loves to sit on the back porch in the evening. It’s her “loudest” time of day. She busts out in Kinyarwanda, jabbering about something or other. Sometimes we’ll sing Row, Row, Row Your Boat in English, or she’ll recite nursery rhymes she learned back in her school in Rwanda. Ever heard the “Cha-cha-cha-cha-cha, Who is that? I am Old Mother Pussy Cat . . .?” Neither had we, but Rebeka will be happy to teach it to you and then laugh hysterically when you say it. And did you know there’s a different way to sing the alphabet song? A way where the “L-M-N-O-P” don’t get all squashed together?

We’re beginning to figure each other out a little better. Rebeka plays a mean game of memory, and she’s not beyond trying to trick you by pointing to the wrong card to make you lose a pair. She’d much rather prop herself up by the kitchen sink and help me wash dishes than sit at the table and watch. She’ll take a bite of just about anything, but she doesn’t hesitate to spit it right back out if she doesn’t like it. She makes funny faces over my shoulder while I carry her places, trying to get one of the other kids to laugh. She’s shy with new people, and even around us she doesn’t talk much, but she’s taking it all in. She understands a lot.

She understands when the doctor says “Don’t get your cast wet” and she protects it better than I do in the tub. She understands when we tell her, “Don’t put weight on that foot once we take off the cast, just to be sure,” and she doesn’t even touch a toe to the floor when she’s standing. She understands that tomorrow she’ll get another cast.

But there is something I’m not sure she understands. If these casts work, it is a very long process before we’ll see any results. Months. With lots of twists and turns and possible failures along the way. And there’s a strong possibility that the casts won’t work at all. As she sat on her little pink plastic stool in the bathroom tonight and tenderly examined her left foot, then gently pressed the bottom of it to the floor, testing to see if she was all fixed yet, my heart ached. And I prayed, “Please God, heal this little girl’s feet.”

She wanted to go out and watch the middle school boys practice football this afternoon. We sat on the bleachers and she watched them closely as they dodged orange cones and chased each other around the field. I know she wants to be out there. I know how badly she wants to run and play. And I know these casts are a long shot. But still, we hope and pray. And while we “wait and see,” we marvel at this little girl who has come across an ocean, leaving family and home and all that is familiar to come to this land of white people who do strange things. Like run in place for forty minutes (treadmill) or eat strange things like marshmallows and meat loaf. But not together. Even we aren’t that strange.

A big thank you to all of you who have sent encouraging notes or emails or posts, or come by to visit, or taken Rebeka on little excursions. We are blessed beyond measure.

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Sucking Lemons

She’s a lemon eater. I had some lemons on the counter last week and she, in typical Rwandan style, raised her eyebrows and nodded towards it. “A lemon? You want a lemon? You don’t want a lemon. It’s sour. Ewww.” But she insisted. Clay handed her one that had been cut in half, and she licked it. Sure enough, she gave us the sour face. But then she licked it again. And bit it. And she ate that whole half of a lemon, squeezing it to get every last sour drop.

She attacks her whole life like a lemon. Sure, it may be sour sometimes, but there’s goodness to be had. You just have to dig in and get to it. She paints her own nails, sparkly purple last I checked. It’s a little harder to hold the nail brush with her hands, but no biggie. She met a new friend, last week, an exuberent girl from Russia who also speaks very little English.

After a little fishing, they shared a tube ride . This fun, boisterous, brave girl from Russia drug her foot in the water as we three were pulled, Rebeka, Vika and I. We were splashed all over, and even though Rebeka’s face was covered in water and she had to use her leg to get her arm up so she could wipe her eyes clear, she hooted for more. She smiled and laughed and loved it.

I guess in a way I am seeing more goodness in the lemon these days. Those twisted feet that made me wince the first time I saw her hobble on them look beautiful to me now. Permanently pointed like ballerina feet, they look almost graceful.

After taking several hundred pictures on Alayna’s phone, we found Rebeka an old one that doesn’t have service, but still takes pictures, so she could have her own. She took over 600 in one day!

She sailed through her dental visit last week with just a little whimper. No cavities since she takes such good care of those teeth, brushing the tar out of them every night all by herself. Now that she has her own flosser, she goes after them with even more vigor.

She threw back her head and laughed when she beat Clay at a game last night. She can steer a skateboard down the driveway. She can put on goggles and hold her breath for ten seconds with her face in the water. When Clay swam up and startled her from under a raft, she screamed in delight and giggled and wanted more, more, more! No matter that it’s a little harder to reach across the game board, and she has to have someone help her get her arms in front of her on the raft, and her kicks don’t get her across the pool very quickly. It’s fun, and she’s all smiles.

This morning, she got her first cast.

It was hard, she was afraid, it was a lemon of a morning. But this afternoon, she’s all smiles again.

Come sign my cast!

Next week, this cast is taken off and a new one will replace it. Then again the week after that. I have no worries that this little girl will figure out a way to suck the marrow from life, like juice from a lemon, no matter what is thrown her way, and I am reminded of this quote from Thoreau: “I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.”

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These Are a Few of Her Favorite Things

As we get to know Rebeka, I love discovering what her preferences are. She likes grapes, but not the skin. She peels them with her teeth and spits the skin out. She loves the water, but she has no interest in going deep and trying to float. Here are a few more of her favorite things:

When Rebeka found her “pinkie” ball she latched right on. She can throw it by slinging up her arm, and then releasing at just the right moment. Rebeka has no strength to lift her arms or bend her elbows on her own, though they do bend once they make it to a table or meet resistance in some way. She also likes to roll her ball, and hide it from Clay by stuffing it in a pocket or shoving it between cushions on the couch. She likes to keep it with her at all times, so we were thrilled when she discovered this:

When we found it, it was full of Mr. Potato Head parts. I showed Rebeka how this game worked, and I’m sure she thought it very odd. These strange Americans and their faces on potatoes! But the backpack, ah, that was a different story. She strapped it right on, by herself. Rebeka is also fond of a little stuffed dog that has a clip that can clip to her shorts. He is a daily accessory.

We were also so happy to find that Rebeka enjoys the lake. Before she came, we worried she’d be afraid of the water. Afraid of the boat. We figured we’d never get her out on the tube. We had nothing to worry about.

Some more of her favorites? Mangoes, bananas, avocados, beans, rice, and boiled eggs. She’s an easy guest! And one more favorite:

This is Rebeka’s family. Africa New Life emailed me this picture before they picked up Rebeka to take her to the airport, and I printed a couple and had them framed so she could have her family here. She looks at it often, sometimes we set it up so she can look at it while she eats. The other day, it was sitting on the table and I saw Rebeka go over to it, gaze at it, and then give the picture a kiss. She loves her family, and for that we are so grateful. We are also grateful that she seems to be fitting in with our family. We are all finding our way with each other.

We got a call from the doctors this week and they laid out the initial treatment plan. They are going to put Rebeka’s left foot in a cast on August 22nd. The plan is for the casts to gradually turn her foot. This will happen over a series of different casts, which will be changed every week or so. After three or four treatments, the doctor will have a better idea of whether or not this will work. The challenge is the skin and the blood vessels, which have become used to being twisted and working another way. They may want to turn her foot back around. This sort of casting, the Ponseti technique, is generally done in newborns with great success, but because Rebeka has been walking with club feet for almost ten years, it will be much more difficult to fix them.

So we will wait, and hope, and pray that it works. If the left foot is successful, they’ll put a cast on her right foot as well. She won’t be able to get it wet, so no more lake. She may not be able to bear weight on it, so no more chase or trampoline. We will find new things to fill our days and new ways to stay entertained, but I have no worries for little Rebeka. She seems to be getting along just fine.

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Rebeka vs The World . . . Rebeka Wins!

It has been exciting to get to know Rebeka these past few days, and it has been eye-opening. I am amazed at how she has adapted to life with twisted feet and hands and arms that don’t work the way ours do. I’m also amazed by how brave she is, traveling to America, away from her family. The things I find most interesting, as we move through the days, are the little things. How she manages to hold a crayon and draw beautiful pictures.

She holds the crayon between her thumb and pointer finger.

We found out the first day, after writing her name on the chalkboard as “R-E-B-E-C-C-A” that we were spelling it all wrong. Her passport may read, “Rebecca,” but in Rwanda she spells it “R-E-B-E-K-A.” I had a piece of paper where I has written an “R” and an “E.” She grabbed and crayon and filled in the rest of the letters herself.

Her fine motor skills are impressive. She watched Clay set up crayons, balancing them on their ends, and then did the same. She made domino trains after Benji showed her how. She can bounce and throw a ball, and hauls herself all over the wood floor chasing after a toy school bus. I’ve dug out some of Alayna’s old bears and their clothes. Big fun. In short, she plays, just like any other kid. Only she has a few more toys here than back at home, and she has to be creative about how to play sometimes.

We went on our first outing to Target yesterday.

She loves her cool shades.

Before we left, Rebeka strolled onto the driveway. I realized she hadn’t really seen the front of the house yet. When we arrived the first day it was dark outside. She noticed something on the ground of the landscape bed. It took a minute for me to figure out what it was. I finally realized she was pointing to a small seed pod that fell off the Texas Mountain Laurel.

I gave it to her, and she shook it like a rattle. Aha. Her kind of toy.  I walked her over to the bush and showed her all the pods, and handed her another one. Two rattles for the road. She kept them clutched in her little hand our whole trip. As we walked down aisle after aisle chock-full of colorful things, from medicines to clothes to shoes, she held onto the seed pods. And her new baby doll. The old and the new. A toy is a toy. I can only imagine what she thought of it all. When the translator asked her what she thought of Target, she said, “It was beautiful. Filled with beautiful things.”

This morning, she had her first trip to Dell.

A peaceful moment as we wait for our name to be called. Sweet Natalie Green with ANLM (with Rebeka here), as well as Clay and Anna, the translator, were there.

We are waiting to hear from the doctors once they all have a chance to talk together, but I thought everyone might like to see a few pictures. She was so very brave. Through all the x-rays, the heavy lead apron, the indignity of wearing a gown that doesn’t entirely close in the back, the prodding of appendages . . . she is brave.

The doctors had her walk down the hall at Dell Children’s (they are wonderful, from nurses to doctors to x-ray technicians).

As she sat, waiting while one of the doctors talked to us, she tore a small strip off the paper that covers the examination table. She wound it around and around in her fingers until it was very small and pointy on either end. Then she got the baby doll we brought with us, and poked it into each of her ears. After all, little girls must care for their charges while the big people carry on with their business.

This hospital world is so new to her. So is the Davis world. And the world out the window of my car as we drive. The world of the airport. She has encountered so many worlds since her feet touched down in Texas at 2:30AM Monday morning. But already, we are seeing that Rebeka is a fighter, and she has many victories in her future.

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“Rudy’s Cup” Friends

We have a tradition at our house. When kids visit, they get a Rudy’s bar-b-que cup with their name on it.

“Ya’ll come back now, ya’ hear?”

This was born partly because we had a bajillion Rudy’s cups leftover from various events, and partly because I hate when someone uses a cup, puts it down, forgets it’s his cup and gets a new one. By the end of some days, we’d have fifteen half-full cups lying around.

So we started writing names on cups, and when you come back to our house, we pull out your cup and you use it for the day. It’s become much more than a cup, though. It means you belong in the Davis house, you’ve put down a bit of real estate here, and we hope you come back. And looking back at cups from five years ago, we’re reminded of some friends who have moved away and the good times we had together.

The Davises will be writing a new name on a cup this August: Rebecca. Ten-year-old Rebecca is coming to Austin from Bugesera, Rwanda. She is going to have some treatments to correct her club feet, and possibly some other problems with her shoulders and hands.

Dell Children’s and several wonderful doctors and surgeons will be donating their services to make this happen . . . and she’ll be staying with us! She’ll travel with a translator who will stay for a couple weeks, hopefully through her first evaluations and treatments, but then she’ll be leaving. There are still many questions that won’t be answered until she gets evaluated, but we definitely know Rebecca will be here for many months. The kids and I can’t wait to meet her . . . Clay already has.

In November of 2010 Clay took a trip to Rwanda to teach a business seminar to small business owners. While there he visited Bugesera, a community where Africa New Life Ministries (ANLM) is starting a school and hosting a sponsorship program, and he met Rebecca. Through a series of coincidences we found out Rebecca was sponsored by a family who attends the same school as our kids, and the father in that family is a doctor. Connections started firing and here we are, awaiting our new friend.

We know Rebecca is shy, very tiny, and she has a beautiful smile.

She’ll leave behind her large family, father and mother, sister and brothers, and her small mud hut home. She’ll fly for the first time across the ocean to a family who will most likely overwhelm her with enthusiasm and love and questions which will all be jabbered in a language she can’t understand. Please pray for sweet Rebecca, that her surgeries would be successful and she’ll be able to walk properly. That she won’t be too homesick, that she’ll be able to communicate, that she won’t be fearful, and most of all that she will know the peace that passes all understanding. That we all would.

How will we soothe this child when she cries for her family, and for familiar?

How will we care for her recovering, frail body?

I want to write her story. Her amazing story. But first, I have to know it. We can’t wait to get started.

As for adoption news, our number has crept to #47. We continue to wait, knowing that’s all we can do on that front. We’ve begun to renew paperwork that’s expired, and we continue to paint our numbers on little onesies as the countdown continues. In the meantime, I know one little girl from Bugesera that’s going to need some tending to, and we’re just the family for the job. We’ve got a lot of love to give, I just hope she’s ready for us. I know we’re ready for her.

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