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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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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