The Honduran White Tent Bat, and a Number

The word “Honduras” jumps out at me these days from the most random places. The other day, I was reading an interview on Cynthia Leitich Smith’s excellent blog Cynsations. Kate Hosford was interviewing author Laura Purdie Salas, as part of her Celebrating Poetry series.

One particular answer from the interview really captured my attention. Salas says, “I came across the poem I wrote about Honduran tent bats, these tiny cotton balls of bats that huddle along the spine of a large leaf frond. They chew through the leaf’s ribs so that the fronds of the leaf collapse around them like a tent and shelter them from rain and predators.” I immediately got myself over to Bookpeople to get a copy of Salas’ book A Leaf Can Be.

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I had to see what these little Honduran White Bat creatures look like. Steel yourself . . . major squealing cuteness alert.

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And now steel yourself for more squealing. We got another number this morning and scooted up in line, shuffling along behind #54 and in front of #56.

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I wonder who they are, these other people in line? I wonder who SHE is, this little girl that will become our daughter? And mostly I wonder, and worry, about what’s happening to her right now.

Honduran White Tent Bats are about the size of a large marshmallow, the kind you use for s’mores. They can’t have much of a brain, but instinct has taught them what they need to do to protect themselves. I pray the same is true for our little girl. I pray some part of her knows how to beguile her caretaker. Some part of her knows how to hunker down and wait, snuggled up like a little white bat in the center of a sheltering leaf. I pray protection over her sweet self, until we can come for her. I pray these verses, Psalm 121:1-8.

And then I sing for joy for #55, and all the numbers to follow.

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Getting in Line

Guess who got their number???

Who would have thought I’d be so excited about waiting in line? We recently found out we’re #65 on the wait list. It feels real again, after all these months of waiting. We’ve got a spot, and we’re standing on it.

It’s been almost a year. On April 7th, 2011, I sent an email to friends and family telling everyone that we had decided to adopt. A lot has happened since then. Lots of paperwork and notarizing and doctor visits and running around town. A trip to Houston to the Honduran Consulate. And then there was the waiting. I guess we’re still waiting, but this kind of waiting is different, because now we’re in line.

We can’t say how much longer it will be before we have that little girl in our arms. The committee who makes assignments meets once a month, and as referrals are made our number gets lower. Maybe our next number will be in the 50’s next time. Whatever it is, we’ll commemorate it with another onesie and hang it on the line.

 

We’ve hung this clothesline in what will be our daughter’s room, and we’ll hang reminders and encouragements and onesies with numbers on them until the number is 1, and we have a picture to add to our line. My niece recently gave us her fortune, and it went right up.

And if that weren’t enough, it’s time to plant my tomatoes again! Spring is here, Easter is around the corner, hope is all around us, and the Davises are standing in line, celebrating.

 

 

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Hope in Cantaloupe

Did we hear that small, still voice wrong? Our type-A selves thought we had it all planned out. We thought we’d be getting our referral by now, and instead we’re waiting on a wait list number.

And then I get home from Spring Break and start cleaning out the fridge and we’ve got some cantaloupe that’s going bad so I tear off the lid to dump it down the sink, and I notice, on the lid, that it came from Honduras.

Random, or confirmation? That little word makes my heart leap. This isn’t the first time that out of the blue, Honduras comes into our life, like a little beacon that says, “Keep going, I have something for you, just be patient.”

Something sweet is waiting for us, and we are waiting for her. Until we get that picture and see her little face, I’ll take these small tokens. I keep a list of them in the middle of my Bible, and I pull it out when I begin to doubt, and I remember. There is a reason we stepped on this path. There are many of them.

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Making Monsters

The other day, Benji and his friend decided to make monsters out of all our furniture. They used every pillow in the house, wadded up shorts for eyes, used blankets for tongues, an old laundry hamper for lips, and scurried around for over an hour before the unveiling. May I present to you . . .

The Couch Monster

Couch monster consuming boys.

The Chair Monster

 

Check out the squinting evil eyes.

This one also eats little boys.

The Bean Bag Chair Monster

 

Ginormous fly eyes and wicked eyebrows make this a particularly ominous monster.

The boys had much more interesting names for their monsters, but I can’t remember them.

Life goes on in the Davis household, and we’re thankful for it. It keeps us distracted from the fact that as of today, we still don’t have a waiting list number in Honduras. The gears had started turning, though, and referrals and numbers are being given. While we wait, I finish the second draft of a new novel, Clay writes an app, the boys play lacrosse, and Alayna twirls around the house. And we make couch monsters. Life is still good.

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Getting Messy

I really don’t like getting messy.

My cousin's daughter, decorating Christmas cookies.

Unlike my cousin’s daughter, I hardly touched the cake served to me when I turned a year old. What, no fork? Too messy. I like neat and orderly. Maybe that’s why I like puzzles so much. I love the feel of the right piece clicking into place. Of watching the unsolved part get smaller and smaller until I slip the last piece in and stand back to admire the nice, tidy picture.

Over Christmas I went to my parent’s house and we started a 3,000 piece puzzle. After more than twenty combined manhours, we were barely a quarter of the way through it. We had to leave before it was finished, and it went against every fiber of my being to break up all that hard work without seeing the finished product, neat and tidy and done.

3,000 takes a lot of space!

As a writer, things have been messy lately. See how hard I try to be organized?

I had a complete picture of my story with my first draft, but I knew it wasn’t good enough. To fix things, I had to break the story apart, move things around, and hit the delete button an awful lot. As I crawl into my story’s space and tinker around with dialogue, or cut and move large chunks, it gets very messy. It’s the domino effect. If I move a scene from Chapter 42 to Chapter 10, then the character’s motivations are all wonky and I’ve got to keep going back and smoothing out the ripples.

The adoption has become rather messy as well. As much as we tried to keep things neat and clean and organized in the beginning, we are now waiting and hoping and praying that things work out. That’s all we can do, everything’s on hold. There were other things that made life messy this holiday season. Loved ones died, neighbors grieved, and life no longer looked like the pretty picture I sometimes imagine is on the box. The one I imagine is promised to us.

I do not like being messy, but I can’t avoid it. Life is messy. Writing, and relationships, and cake, it’s all messy. But it can be sweet and rewarding as well. I have a memory of another time when I got messy. Really, really messy. I was in Rwanda, and there was a line of street children waiting to get their plates of food. But before they got their plate, they had to wash their hands. It was my job to hand them a piece of soap, dip a plastic cup into a large bucket of clean water, and rinse them clean.

The water splashed into the red dirt as the kids ran through the line, and by the end of the afternoon my feet looked like this.

When I took off my sandals, you could still see the lines of them, outlined with red, Rwandan dirt.

My apologies to all those with feet aversions, but I would not trade that messy moment for all the completed puzzles in the world, even the 3,000 piece ones. I do not like being messy, but I do love life.

John 10:10- “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

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Warning Signs

We’ve come across a lot of funny warning signs in our travels.

Glad they warned me, or I might have slipped recklessly . . .

Everybody pretty much ignored this warning sign at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do, but I was worried . . .

 

We came across this pamphlet lying around after a recent remodel.

PART-Protect Against Range Tipping

I never realized ranges were so dangerous they required an acronym and a pamphlet to protect people from possible tipping. It got me to thinking about warnings in general, and singing that Garth Brooks song The Dance in the shower. “I could have missed the pain, but I’d of had to miss the dance.”

What if life came with warning signs? Warning: you can have three children, but your hips will never be the same. Warning: you can go to New York with your husband but you’ll get really sick on the plane ride back. I would not have missed the dance in either of these instances. I’ve loved having three children (though not my hippy hips so much) and I’ll never forget that trip to New York.

I haven’t read The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis, a book many people say is a “must read” for adoptive parents. I’m drawn more to the memoirs. The stories. I think it has a little to do with warnings, and how they kill the joy sometimes. The Connected Child  is a great and important book, but it’s got a lot of scary stuff in it, things we’ll be struggling with when we adopt. Warnings make me worry, and I don’t feel like worrying quite yet. Worrying if she’ll attach. Worrying how I’ll handle tantrums and food aversions and parasites. I know they’re there, waiting on the fringes, but I’d rather focus on the girl right now. The worrying will come when it’s time.

But I couldn’t ignore Clay’s, “Oh no,” this morning when he got into his inbox and read a recent Honduran article. Warning: You can go ahead and decide to adopt if you want, go ahead and make plans for a baby to arrive sometime Spring of 2012 if all goes well, but some morning in late November 2011, you’ll read a Honduran article that mentions Honduras “going Hague.” If that happens, it may be years, it may be never, before you bring home a little Honduran girl. But go ahead. Try to adopt.

I clipped this from About.com:

The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption is an international agreement between participating countries on best adoption procedures. These procedures have basically two goals in mind:

  • The best interest of children are considered with each intercountry adoption.
  • The prevention of abduction, exploitation, sale, or trafficking of children.

So that’s good. But becoming a Hague country takes a long time, especially for a country who can take three weeks just to walk a document across the street. So it isn’t good for us, if “good” means adopting a daughter soon. It’s times like these I hang on to these words of truth:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.

I’ve heard the illustration that going through life is like holding a flashlight in the darkness. You only step into those small circles of light, you only see what’s just in front of you. We keep taking steps, until the light turns off. But while we wait for more news on the adoption front, I step into a day of Christmas shopping, reading the completed rough draft of a manuscript I just finished, and filling a crockpot with something that will smell good and warm our bodies for dinner tonight. That, even in the face of the scary article, is a step I’m willing to take.

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Saying Goodbye

I’ve said two hard goodbyes recently. Last week, we put Benji’s guinea pig to sleep. And as much as I complained about his smell and the way his hay tended to drift out of his cage all the time, I’m going to miss that little Mo. He was my companion when I was clacking away on a story, he wheeted to us every morning (because he wanted carrots) and he would “kiss” me when I puckered up (smelling my breath, really). When Mo stopped eating, we knew something was wrong. When the vet said it would cost over a thousand dollars to keep poor Mo healthy, we knew it was time to put him to sleep. Benji was very sad, and I was, too.

Benji and Mohawk, Christmas 2009

A week ago, I said my last goodbye’s to “the farm.” My cousins and I went to the farm all the time when we were growing up. We rode go-carts and horses, made forts in bushes and fished in the tanks, hunted Easter egg (even in cow patties, thanks to Papa) and picked blackberries so my grandma could make pies. It was nobody’s home, and everybody’s escape. The time has come to sell the farm, but before it’s gone, we had one last shindig. All the cousins came, and their kids. There were scavenger hunts and football games, good barbecue, swinging from trees and pictures on the front porch, running up and down those old wooden stairs, skeet shooting and “poor man’s” skeet shooting with dried cow patties, and lots of good stories.

Family and the Farm

It’s so hard to say goodbye, but I think in the act of letting go we take the time to remember the stories attached to the stuff in our lives. And I know that sounds silly when I’m talking about a guinea pig. He was a rodent for goodness sake. But he was part of this family. He altered how we lived our lives, and his presence is imprinted on us, from the Christmas morning when Benji got him and Clay teased that we’d eat guinea pig for lunch the next year, to the way he ate a carrot like a typewriter. Mo and the farm will be woven into the fabric of the stories we tell each other, and future generations.

There’s an old glider rocking chair in Benji’s room that’s been there since he was a baby. He rested his little curly head on the arm while he took a bottle, and squeezed in beside me to read stories together. He can still squeeze if we try hard. A few years ago, I half-heartedly started trying to move the chair out of his room, but he refused. Neither of us was really ready to say goodbye for the sake of a bit more floor space. That chair will be moved to the baby’s room when she arrives. And she will squeeze beside me, or Clay, or one of the kids. And we will tell her stories. And she will become part of our stories.

We received another update about the adoption. Our completed and approved paperwork has been sitting on a desk for almost two months now, waiting to be assigned a number. We found out Honduras now wants more lab work done on all three kids. So back to the doctor we go, and the notary, and FedEx. No number yet, no place in line.

As much as I’m ready to say goodbye to this waiting period in our lives, I’m trying not to look too far forward and miss what’s happening right under my nose. Though we anticipate having a new baby girl, it means saying goodbye to the way our family is right now. We will trade some freedom and spontaneity and sleep for another go at thirty minute walks to the mailbox, learning to blow bubbles instead of eat them, and the wonder of boxes and wrapping paper at Christmas. Each new season in our lives means saying goodbye to the old, and it is hard and sometimes sad, but it is good to stop and remember the stories. We never have to say goodbye to them.

And they lived happily ever after . . .

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A Bunny and an Angel Head

1,500 homes burned in the Bastrop fires

32,000 acres, charred

250,000,000 in insured losses, the costliest in Texas history

1 bunny that didn’t burn.

1 angel head that survived.

Nate and I were able to volunteer with the Austin Disaster Relief Network this past weekend (ADRN), joining a team to help clean the sites of two homes destroyed in the fire. One was 1,500 square feet, the other 4,500 , but after fire ripped through them both, square footage didn’t mean much.

I’d heard about these horrible fires, prayed for the families, but not until I strapped on a mask and felt my feet sink into the thick layer of ash did it all seem terribly real. We drug bits of metal, some giant sheets and other smaller pieces of picture frames or the middle of ceiling fans, into a pile to be picked up by crews later on. There were piles for appliances, toxic items like paint cans and electronics, and metal. The metal piles were huge.

Metal springs from mattresses. The guts of a grand piano with metal strings that tangled around our ankles as we hauled it out. Garage doors. Folding chairs. Elfa pantry shelves.

But in the midst of all the mess and ash were treasures.

Most of them were bits of china, already fired and used to the heat. We put aside the things we thought the owners might like to have, some broken and some intact. To me, these small tokens were pictures of hope and survival. Maybe to another they would be reminders of all that was lost. The writer in me saw them as concrete details. Things you could hang on to. Things that made it all seem real. They were the sorts of things I’d put in a story, if I wrote one about a fire.

We have some of these concrete details for our future daughter.

 

We’ve read warnings about buying things for your adopted child too soon. These things, hanging out in a closet for months or even years, can breed discontent or despair if you’re still waiting for your child to come home. But to me, they remind me that this whole adoption journey is real, with a very real child on the other end of all this waiting.

200,000+ is the estimated number of orphans in Honduras

100 children for every “nanny” in the government-run orphanage

10 children were adopted from Honduras in 2010

I’ve heard the statistics, but right now they’re just numbers banging around in my head, like details from the Bastrop fires. They could be pretty depressing. The yellow dress and board books are my “angel head” and “bunny,” tokens of hope and survival despite the numbers. We’re still waiting for things to settle in Honduras after the shake up in IHNFA, still waiting to be assigned the number we thought we’d get two weeks ago, still hopeful that things are moving forward.

 

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Haikubes

I’m a big fan of haikus. Maybe because they’re short. Maybe because when you have to write short, you take shortcuts to meaning in interesting ways. Maybe because when I was pregnant I got a big kick out of Haiku Mama by Kari Anne Roy, who made me laugh and cry with just 17 syllables. Still one of the best new mom gifts ever.

Why the haiku talk? I have come across a new love: haikubes. Okay, a totally dorky writerly thing, but they are FUN. You roll all these cubes with random words on them, and then you make a haiku.

Three lines. Five syllables, seven syllables, five syllables. Then to make things really exciting, you roll the two cubes with red lettering on them and they give you a theme to write on.

The other night I had to fight Clay off my cubes. I was working on a good one, but had to leave the kitchen. I came back later to find this.

Okay, so he cheated and the second line has 8 syllables. Did that keep me from being weepy? No, my friends. For those who can’t read it from the picture, it says:

Wild heart watching waste

Desperate love through many places

My baby girl home.

Just a day after posting my last blog entry, we heard that Honduras had fired the two top dogs in INFHA, the government organization that handles international adoption in the country. We know this means delays. Reorganization. A certain amount of chaos. It could mean lots of things. Our hope and prayer is that it means things will eventually get better. That it will get easier to take a child out of an orphanage and give them a home.

For now, we wait. We wait for our number, still. We wait for our baby girl. What does Clay want? I want? All of us want? “My baby girl home.” Five syllables says it all. I couldn’t resist adding my commentary on Clay’s haiku:

 

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Big Girl, Comin’ Your Way . . .

No, I’m not talking about Alayna, though she is our “big girl,” taking on her sophomore year with gusto. She’s running cross country, a new sport for her. For a girl who isn’t fond of waking up before 5AM, she’s had a great attitude and a good season so far.

This past Saturday they had their second meet, and I was intrigued by a girl I saw. She was from another school and running in the JV race, Alayna’s race, and she was dead last. Way last. She was a big girl, tugging at her shorts every few strides to keep them from riding up. She was so far behind the others, at least half a lap, and yet she kept plugging away.

A mother standing behind me called someone on her cell phone, presumably someone further down the course, and said, “There’s a big girl comin’ your way . . .”. Really. I couldn’t believe how catty and insensitive this woman was, but I also couldn’t understand why this girl was running. She was an easy target for snide remarks. She was definitely going to come in last, and she must have known that before she ever stepped on the track. Before she ever put on her uniform and stood behind her slender teammates for a picture.

First place, last place, somewhere in the middle. Racers are generally obsessed by numbers. How did they place? Did they beat their PR? By how many seconds? Would this girl look at the numbers? My hope for her is that her “story in the street” includes an encourager. Somebody who told her that this race was not about everyone around her. It was about finishing. About proving she could do it. About setting a personal record, and trying to beat it next time.

As she rounded the first of two laps, the next heat of boy runners clapped and cheered, and then began lining up on the line for their race. They’d have to wait for her to finish, though. Even more eyes trained on her large figure, laboring around the course.

She reminded me about how we’ve been thinking about numbers a lot lately in our family. More specifically, about our number. Our place in line. We got word that our dossier was approved last week. This week, we’ll get our official number, which will give us an idea of where we are “in line” to receive a child. In a way, I guess it’s our daughter’s number, too. How long will she have to wait to have a family?

I worry that nobody is cheering for her, or that she’s seen as unimportant by those around her. I worry that she labors, passed up by those with loving homes, good nutrition, arms that hold and rock. My hope and prayer is that there is someone cheering so she can hear. Someone whispering in her ear that there’s a finish line, with a loving family waiting to welcome her home. Run, baby, run . . . we’re waiting for you, and the finish line is in sight.

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