This story takes place about the same time as the story I shared last week (click here to read that story and past Memorial Box stories), November 2008. Although at the time we were a year and a half into our adoption of Daniel, I'd still have those middle of the night panic moments of, "What are we doing adopting an older child that we know little about?!" We had visited many times and knew he was so precious, yet I had been reading a lot of books on older child adoption and attachment disorders. Some of the experiences others had described made me concerned about challenges that might be ahead.
If I had been one of Jesus' disciples, I'm afraid that I probably would have been Thomas. Yep, I would have been "Doubting Kathie" asking to see the nail-scarred hands. I was praying for peace and for a sign that Daniel would fit beautifully into our family. My biggest concern was how Brady and Daniel would interact. We would be messing up the birthorder and thus far they had not met. I worried that Daniel would be too rough not understanding that he is older and bigger than his brother. I worried that he might have been abused and might act out that abuse in our home. I worried about the boys sharing a room that for 5 years had been just Brady's. But I also worried about Daniel not feeling like a true member of our family.
And while all this was going on, we were thinking about getting a pet. We had previously had an old cat who passed away several months before. Although I loved Yogi Bear dearly (the old man kitty), he had not been the world's best pet. Since he had been in our home several years before we had kids, he was afraid of them. He'd hide under our bed all day and would not surface till the kids went to bed. He also had "potty issues." Sometimes he'd use the litter box and other times he'd relieve himself on the carpet or a pile of laundry. He also had frequent hairballs. He seemed to time his projectile offerings for when we had dinner guests. Bon appetit!
So, when Yogi Bear went on to his reward (and we are thinking that his "reward" wasn't too great), Brad was thrilled to be done with shedding, furballs, and potty presents. Yet our kids wanted a new pet so badly.
We found a cute little tree frog thinking this might meet the need to have something to care for. But when I went to PetsMart to buy it food and they told me it would only eat live crickets, I got the attention of every customer and canine with my, "Are you kidding me?!"
So I found myself on weekly trips to feed our little green friend. And often these trips would coincide with Pet Adoption Days. Do you see where I'm going with this? One post-PetsMart trip left my three kiddos sulking in the backseat. Brady summed up their feelings with, "We don't have a doggie. We don't have a kitty cat. We don't have nuffin'."
That night I had a heart-to-heart with Brad asking if we could get a pet other than Pickles the frog. And after negotiations worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize, he finally gave his blessing to get another pet. One that was potty trained, didn't make noise, was completely hairless, and could be returned if we had any trouble. (I'm guessing we were in the market for a bald mime.)
The next Pet Adoption Day, we were there bright and early. And within minutes the girls found an adorable little calico kitten. We all took turns holding her and with her sweet little meows, game over . . . she won our hearts. Even Brad's, although she broke two of his criteria (she had fur and made noise).
The little kitten's "foster mom" told us that we could reserve her but couldn't bring her home for two weeks until she was big enough to be spade. It worked out nicely because I was leaving for my trip to Guatemala the next week and we could get her when I returned.
Then, the foster mom put the little calico back in the cage with another cat. (The girls had already named her Snickerdoodle because she was the color of a sugar cookie with spots of chocolate and caramel.) And the other cat was so happy to see his friend that he licked her head and started purring. We assumed the big kitty was our kitty's mom but the foster mom filled us in on the story.
"Many think that Snuffles is her mom, but he is just one of the other cats I'm caring for till I can find him a home. I'm not sure why, because they aren't biologically related, but there is a special bond between them that I can't explain. Although I'm fostering several cats, these two are always together. It's a shame I can't find Snuffles a home."
At this point Brad knows he is in big trouble. He looks at his wife and trio of children listening to the story. Then he looks inside the cage of two kitties and one big explosion of fluff. The foster mom continues, "Few people are interested in Snuffles because even though he's only a year old, he's almost full grown. Most want a small kitten. I found him several months ago in a dumpster behind a grocery store. Someone threw him away like garbage. In spite of his rough start, he's one of the sweetest cats I've ever had."
Her words reminded me so much of Daniel. A boy thrown away like garbage, yet one of the sweetest children I had ever met. A child that because of his age is typically hard to place. Statistics show that a boy over the age of five has only a 20 percent chance of being adopted. And as Snuffles and Snickerdoodle snuggled together, I kept hearing the words, "Although these two aren't biologically related, there's a special bond between them."
Brad saw my teary eyes and said, "You want both of them, don't you?" I nodded. The kids nodded. Praise God that my husband is such a softy. We were giddy filling out the paperwork to make them ours. Ava commented, "Oh, how I wish Daniel's adoption was this easy!"
We brought them both home the day after I returned from Guatemala. And the foster mom wasn't exaggerating--these two cats are so sweet together. They usually sleep together, always eat together, and often bathe each other. It gave me a glimpse of the kind of sweetness that our children might have once Daniel came home. It was that "sign" I needed and gave me peace that everything would be okay.
We have a million photos of the cats, but here are are few that are proof of how close they are to each other.
And here's one of the kids with them the Christmas before Daniel came home.
Fast forward a year. Daniel finally comes home and meets the kitties for the first time. He had never seen a domestic cat and called them "little lions" for the first few weeks. The cats were apprehensive of him at first. That first month home I washed Daniel's hair with tea tree oil in case of lice. (He had had lice in the orphanage, thus I nuked dandruff. Not taking any chances. FYI, tea tree oil is great for killing those suckers.) It must smell like cat nip because the cats were all over him after his baths. He'd exclaim, "Look, Mama, they love me!" Soon they truly did love him.
This is Daniel with Snuffles.
He loves them dearly. He worried about them when we went out of town and loves to care for them.
This is Daniel with Doodle.
A few weeks after coming home, he asked why Snuffles is bigger than Doodle since they are twins. I explained that they aren't twins and aren't even from the same mommy. I saw the wheels turning and wondered what he was thinking. He said, "They must be brother and sister because they love each other so much." I added, "Well they are 'brother and sister' because they are in the same family." Then all kinds of fireworks went off in his head and he said, "Like me and Olivia, Ava, and Brady!!! We love each other because God put us all in the same family!"
I know Brad would agree that Daniel's realization that love makes a family made cleaning out the litter box well worth it. (Although I don't have the heart to tell Brad that the kids are now praying that we'll get a dog. ) And just like our cats, you'll often find our four kids snuggled up reading a book, playing together, just being silly--evidence that you don't have to be biologically related to have that special bond.
We plan to put two kitty figurines in our Memorial Box as a reminder that God makes families, not just by birth, but with love. What a wonderful God to provide this life lesson for a mom who needed peace that her children would have a special bond and for a child who needed reassurance that he truly belongs.
More Than Lots,