Saturday, September 27, 2008

Chapter 2 - Another Rescue


As I was saying, Sugar has this NEED to rescue critters.

So, Tuesday, she had a really hard big-sister day, so after dinner we headed up to the mall. She sometimes likes to go to the pet store and hold puppies for therapy. I know...I know, we were playing with fire....but we've always been able to say, "Gee, that was nice. Bye little puppy. Thanks for the snuggles."

Oh, not this time...

She picked a little papillon. It was love at first sight. This little guy was the cutest, mellowest, sweetest, cuddliest puppy I have ever seen. If money were no object, I would have bought him on the spot.

But I put on my strong mommy face and said, "Okay Hon, it's time to put him back and say good-bye."

"Awww, Mom..." (with saddest puppy-dog eyes possible.)

"C'mon. Let's go. We can't afford him."

By the time we'd walked to the other end of the mall, the tears were starting. I had repeated every good reason not to get this dog.

1. He's not free.
2. We're not rich.
3. Sunshine has allergies.
4. We don't need a pure-bred.
5. You're not rescuing him. They won't put him out on the street.
6. I have enough on my plate right now.
7. You're dad will never, ever go for this.
8. No.
9. Because I said so.

Did I mention that I'm a softie (and so is Daddy)?

Sugar spent the night in tears. Not spoiled, I want it now tears. Sobs. Heart-rending, fear-filled, what-if sobs. She was absolutely afraid that dog would end up in the wrong hands.

I've had a few of those sleepless nights myself. When Cupcake's adoption went south and we had no idea if she would ever come home. Her eyes haunted me. What if she ended up in the wrong hands?

Did I mention this dog has "orphan eyes"? If you've ever poured over adoption photolistings, you know what I mean. He looked up at us and said, "Are you going to take care of me?" with his eyes. All those well-reasoned arguments went out the window.

What were we supposed to do?

I took pictures on my camera phone.


The next day we went back with Sunshine to test his allergies. Not only did Sunshine do okay, he joined in the begging.

On Friday, we met Daddy at the pet store after work. Then we ran back home to get Sunshine one more time for another test, since puppies are non-refundable. We put the little guy on hold for 24 hours, just in case Sunshine's eyes poofed up beyond recognition.

Sunshine was fine.

So, Saturday morning...we drove back to the mall to buy a puppy.

I guess we rescued him from all those rich people. ;-)

Anyway, I'd like to introduce our new little ball of fur, Rascal.

Do you see the look of pure bliss on Sugar?

Blessings to you,

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A Day at the Park and an (Almost) Kitty Rescue

Two weeks ago (I can't believe I'm so far behind.), on one of those absolutely perfect days, I took the girls to a park in the afternoon. One of the best parts of homeschooling is the flexibility that we have. We had finished most of our work, the weather was perfect, the big kids were still in school and most little kids were still having naptime. I grabbed the camera, some water, and jumped in the van. We were the only ones there.

This was Cupcake's first trip to a park. (Not because we're evil and don't want our kids to have any fun, but because our backyard is like a park.) So when I told her what we were going to do, this was the expression I got...

When we arrived at the park, we started climbing around. Sugar jumps up, yells "STOP! I HEAR SOMETHING! AWWW... It's a kitten..... But where is it?"

The search and rescue begins...

Now, before I need to know that Sugar is absolutely wild about animals of all kinds. She has the biggest compassionate heart towards any living creature on earth - except her sister, but I digress. She has a serious need to rescue critters. So....

It was a small kitten that was hiding in a washed-out hole behind a wall.

I'd like to say it was a dear, precious little cuddle-muffin that just melted into our arms. I'd like to say it was one of those "meant-to-be" moments where everyone just knew that this kitty was meant to be ours...

But this little kitty was scared and angry. Sound familiar?

This little guy hissed at us and growled and generally looked mean. But we're a compassionate family. So, Sugar runs to the car to get some of our cold water and a cup. We set the cup down and walk away. The poor little thing is thirsty.

Pretty soon, the thing is following us around, crying and hissing.

I get "the look" from Sugar.

"We can't just leave it, Mom"


So the rest of the afternoon was spent playing and begging. I actually got some good pictures that I took myself - a bit of a miracle.

So, softie that I am, we go home to get the pet carrier, the neighbor girl (a cat lover) and some delicious turkey and giblets kitty food. We head back to the park with a plan.

We will rescue the kitty and take him to a no-kill shelter that is just up the road. Why not keep it, you ask? I'm not really a cat person and Sunshine is allergic to cats. Plus, we have 4 other pets. (Bunny, Guinea Pig, Toad and Gecko)

When we get back to the park, there are kids everywhere. And all of them want to see and help rescue the kitty.

Of course, with all the curious eyes, kitty was holed up in the safety of his little cave...for 2 hours.

Finally, we gave up because it was time to get the other kids to church. After we dropped the kids at church, we went back to the park. This time only 2 kids were there gawking at the rescue efforts. We were there 'til dark - no luck.

The next day after school, we pile in the van ONE MORE TIME. When we got to the park, "Animal Rescue" people were there with equipment and uniforms.

I explain to the kids that these people know what they're doing and kitty will be taken care of.

Still - the disappointment in not being THE ONE to rescue him made Sugar very sad.


Stay tuned for Chapter 2...(It took me SO long to type in this post that now we have moved on to another rescue...sigh)

Blessings to you,

Monday, September 15, 2008

When Cupcake Came Home

Sorry for the long silence. This is the hardest post I've ever written because it describes a different person than the sweet spunky daughter I know and love. And it also reveals the doubts, fears and desperation that was in my heart - and still lingers from time to time.

Before I begin...

Hindsight is 20/20. At least the view is clearer in retrospect. We had no idea what was happening at the time, or how it was going to turn out. We still have a long way to go, but Cupcake has made huge leaps since those first days. Almost everything that I will describe to you has disappeared, or been significantly reduced in the past 3 months.

The first night home was fine. We got in about 8:00pm. She had been tired, hungry and crabby at the airport, but when we got to the house, she was fine. She ate some dinner and then proceeded to scope out her new surroundings. She was very curious to look drawers, cupboards and the fridge. She went to bed in her new bed without a hitch and slept the whole night through. Okay, she didn't sleep the whole night, but she didn't cry out and she didn't leave the room. So we were off to a great start.

The next day, Cupcake was a different person.


It's like steroids on steroids.

My favorite adrenaline story is how, years ago, my petite mother-in-law ripped a car door off it's hinges when Daddy's brother was wedged between it and a brick wall. True story. Fear can cause incredible strength.

Cupcake was terrified those first few days. She had adrenaline flowing through her veins. She would oscillate between pleasantly charming and violently angry.

When she was pleasant, we played and laughed and smiled. Cupcake loved to take walks in the stroller, complete with baby blanket and bottle. She really, really enjoyed being the baby. She would snuggle into our arms. We danced in the kitchen. She experimented for the first time on the swings and trampoline.

But when she was angry (Really, she was afraid, but it looked like anger.), she would grab my hair and pull it out by the handfuls. She would spit on us - not PTHBTHB with her tongue - HOCK-TOUEY deliberately in our faces. She peed on the floor. She tried to choke us with a ninja chokehold - thumbs in the soft spot of our throats. She threw her food on the floor. Biting... hitting... throwing... kicking... screaming. She called us bad, bad names - in Spanish. Thankfully, we couldn't understand, but we got the message loud and clear. And worst of all, the scratching...clawing really...gouging. She would go for the exposed skin and DIG IN - arms, hands, legs, and face. I feared she would actually gouge my eyes out in those first weeks.

You all know the gorgeous hair Cupcake has. She wouldn't let me comb it. When she was raging, she would pull it all over her eyes, so we couldn't see her face. She would tear all her clothes off and run naked to hide in her closet, or under the bed. She would scream and cry and not let us get near her. It was the most pitiful thing I've ever seen.

We were at a loss as to what to do. The questions and the unknown were SO overwhelming.

What have we done?
How do you take a child who has apparently been raised by wolves and civilize her?
Have we destroyed our family?
Where do we begin?
Will she ever get better?
What are our options?

Believe me, I thought of every option under the sun - except homocide. In the end, there was nothing we could do but endure this and push forward. So that's what we did. In desperation, on the 2nd day home, I called my dear friend, Manyblessings, who had hinted that she had dealt with rage in her adopted child. Her words were such an encouragement to my broken heart. We were going to live through this and Cupcake would begin to heal in time.

So, how did we live through this?

Right from the git-go, we began telling her how much we loved her. When she was happy and when she was raging. We told her in English and Spanish that we were her mom and dad FOREVER. We had to stop her from hurting us, so we began therapeutic holding. It's a bit controversial in some circles, but I believe for terrified, aggressive kids, it is essential. To describe the hold - You are basically a straight-jacket for the out-of-control person. All the while we held her, we spoke as gently as possible.

"I love you, Cupcake."
"Mommy's here for you."
"Daddy is strong and Daddy is in control, even when you are not."
"Mommy is a good mommy."
"You're angry."
"You're scared."
"It's okay."
"Daddy won't let you hurt anyone."

We sang "Amazing grace" and "Everlasting God" over and over.

And we prayed...and prayed...and prayed. I have never prayed so fervently for someone in my life. This was and still is a spiritual battle. I prayed that God would send His Spirit to Cupcake and calm her with His presence. I prayed for her heart to be healed. I prayed for strength to endure. I prayed for the wisdom to do this. I have never been so aware of my utter dependence on God's power as in those first days.

We did and are doing many other things to help this girl heal from her brokenness. I'll talk about some of the other parenting things in another post.

How do we know she was running on pure adrenaline?

Because she was STRONG! UNBELIEVABLY STRONG! Every time we had to "hold her tight", it was like fighting with Mike Tyson. I am NOT exaggerating. She had the strength and the rage that we so often see in that man. It took every ounce of strength in my being to maintain control - and sometimes I lost. I'm 44, and I'm not in bad shape...but I was never athletic or strong. I feared that I would not be able to handle this three years from now. Every night, I crawled into bed feeling as if I'd gone 18 rounds with Mike.

Now that she has begun to trust us and her fears have subsided, her strength is gone. She still has a temper and she still gets MAD, but when we hold her, she has the strength of a 5 year old. Almost all of these behaviors are completely gone - most of them were gone within 6 weeks. We can see her thinking about pulling my hair or scratching me, but she chooses not to. She hasn't thrown her food since week 2. We can see her beginning to self-regulate and it's so cool. She is becoming the little person that God intended her to be.

The one thing that steadied us through this very difficult time was the fact that we knew that we knew that we knew that God had called us to specifically adopt Cupcake. We were the parents that God Himself appointed to this job. He would provide what we needed at exactly the time that we needed. Her life is in His hands. We're just supposed to be faithful.

So that's what we'll do.

Blessings to you,

Friday, September 5, 2008

Ain't No Sunshine When He's Gone...

Well... today I packed up my younger son and sent him on his way to California with his Grandparents. Grandpa and Grammy S have a tradition. As each grandkid reaches age 13, they get to choose a destination anywhere in the continental US for a week long vacation. Sunshine, true to his nickname, chose sunny southern California, home of Legoland, the San Diego Zoo, the beach, and some other cool fun spots.

So off they went.

And I'm missing him.

But, I am sure he will have a blast at the parks and have a great time just hanging out with his Grandparents.

Sunshine, you have a super vacation, take lots of pictures, and call your Mom once in a while. ;-) I love you.

Blessings to you,

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Pick Up Trip --- Deep Pain Revealed

Cupcake was different on the pick up trip than she had ever been before on our visits.

On the visits, she was very proper. Not quiet or shy, but she carefully folded her napkin in her lap and dabbed at the corners of her mouth as she ate. She would use a fork to daintily pick up her food and chew. She carefully carried large stemware glasses filled with orange juice to her mouth without spilling a drop. The hand-off was always a teary affair, but it was normal scared kid crying. She would always fall asleep in our arms and wake up a happy camper. She talked a mile a minute - and very animated. She was moody - sunshine would turn to clouds in a heartbeat - and then back again. But overall, she was very happy and content and pleasant. In a word, she was "charming".

But the pick up trip was different...

We arrived at the hotel a couple of hours before she was due to arrive. We paced nervously and finally went out to the front garden to watch for our facilitator's car. After quite a while, suddenly there was movement behind us...and there she was...all smiles. She ran up to me and kissed me...and then promptly ran back to her Mama L's legs. The smile quickly turned to tears and she wanted nothing to do with us.

After a short time, Mama L said it was time to go, and she tried to hand Cupcake over to us with determination. At that moment, I (we) became the object of terror to my (our) own child. I have never seen that look in a person's eyes. It absolutely broke my heart. At that moment, I knew they had told her that this time was forever...and we knew she understood.

She was practically climbing up Mama L to get away from us. So we came over and pried her away from Mama L. She sobbed.

As Mama L drove off, Cupcake began to wail...the most gut-wrenching, horrible wail. Then she began to hit at me with all her might. Screaming, she grabbed my hair and pulled out chunks along with my hair clips and threw them on the ground. We took her inside, and she calmed down after a short time (and some ice cream).

Once we had settled in, Cupcake was what I would call "hyper" for the rest of the trip.


She was a bit subdued that first day, but every car that honked was a reason to run to the window. We were in Guatemala City. She ran to the window a LOT. She walked and walked and walked the grounds of the hotel. She would try to "escape" out the front gate every chance she got. She said, "Hola" to every person that walked past. If they didn't answer her, she would yell "HOLA!" If that didn't work, she would yell louder until they acknowledged her presence and said "Hola" back. Looking back, I think she was trying to draw attention to herself - begging someone to notice that she was captured by people who were not her parents - hoping someone would notice her dire situation.

She talked to everyone who spoke Spanish, especially Freddie and Gloria, the owners of the hotel. They were such a huge help to us, translating and explaining and encouraging us all in the adjustment. On the first night, when they shut the front gate for the night, Cupcake told them, "My Mama didn't come back.". Her poor little crest-fallen face broke my heart again.

The next day, she told Gloria that I was not her Mama. I was her aunt. And if Daddy was her Papi, then she was going to cry. And, furthermore, she had NO INTENTION of being an obedient little daughter to us. She was, however, very excited about the plane ride. She still looked for cars that honked, but only if she was at the window already.

For the most part, she was pleasant and charming and proper, but with an edge. Any little thing might set her off or make her upset.

Her bad moods were more intense than they had ever been on the visit trips. She would cry a very high-pitched whine and would not let either of us comfort her. She threw a lot of things to the ground and would try to leave the room and run away whenever she was mad. This time, she was much more defiant than we had ever seen before.

And she had nightmares...

She was replaying the "hand-off" over and over in her mind.

I was the object of her nightmares.

As I lay there sleepless, the depth of her sorrow overwhelmed me. There are no words to describe the emotions that flooded my soul. I grieved for all my daughter's pain and loss. The gravity of her needs washed over me. Her hurt was bigger than me. I could not and can not fix it. We were in over our heads, and only a mighty God could heal her brokenness.

As we boarded the plane for home, we had no idea of what lay ahead...

Blessings to you,