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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Adopting and Trapezing

Our neighbors recently set up a real-deal trapeze on their property. They did it primarily so their kid’s Boy Scout troop could get their trapeze badge, but they kept it an extra week and shared with the neighbors. After experiencing it all, from cinching the safety belt so tight I thought I might stop breathing, to letting go of the trapeze and swinging out my arms to be caught, I saw some parallels to the adoption process.

Chalking up: Before climbing the skinny little ladder to the platform, it is important to chalk your hands so they don’t slip.

Before adopting, it was important for me to make a list of all the reasons why I felt like our family was being led to that decision. Over the past few months, when our number stopped moving, my resolve was kept from slipping by going back to that list.

“Ready . . . hup!”: First they told me to put two hands on the steel frame of the platform while they hooked me into the safety harness. The person on the trapeze slid their hand into the back of my safety belt and once they had me held securely, they told me to let go with my right hand and let all ten toes overhang the edge of the platform. They swung the trapeze bar up and I grabbed it with my right hand.

Next, I let go of the frame with my left hand and reached for the bar. I think this was the scariest moment of all.

When they said “ready,” I bent my knees, and when they said “hup” I took the jump from the platform.

That feeling, of jumping off the platform clutching the bar in my hand, that’s kind of how it felt when we mailed off our paperwork. We were committed, with a considerable amount of time and money invested in the process by that point. We were ready, and “hup!” we put it all in the mail.

The first, basic move we learned involved jumping, swinging my knees over the bar, releasing my arms and reaching up, then grabbing back hold of the trapeze bar and letting my legs hang, then allowing the man holding the rope to my safety harness let me down easy as I turned a back flip to the net.

 Letting go: Once I learned the basic knee hang move, I was ready for “the catch.” An experienced trapeze artist swung from a bar across from me. The elements had to work just right. He had to be swinging at just the right time to catch me when I let go, and I had to be ready to let go, and I had to have good “presentation” with my hands pointed just so he could grab my wrists.  I missed it twice before I made it. That feeling of being held, of letting my knees slip from my bar and swinging from the arms, started with letting go.

There’s a lot of letting go with the adoption. Letting go of expectations. Letting go of control. And there’s a lot of moving parts, a lot of things that have to happen at just the right time for our number to move.

The splits: When Russell-the-rope-holder said I was ready for a new move, the “splits,” I wasn’t so sure. He explained it, I practiced, and then I did it. It was awesome, the first-day-of-summer sun setting, me swinging upside down in what was, sure enough, the splits. I was surprised, and excited, and so thankful for the experience.

The adoption got hard for a while. We wondered if we could do it. The waiting. The uncertainty. Worries crept in. And then our number inched forward. Not very much, but on June 4th we moved to number 54. On June 11th it moved to 53. Then on June 15th it moved again, to 50. And June 22nd, just as we were sitting down at the theater to watch the new movie “Brave,” we checked our email and the number was down to 48.

And it feels a little like swinging upside down in the sunset, doing the splits, these little number jumps. Surprise. Excitement. And so thankful for the experience.

 

 

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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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