The Wisdom to Know the Difference


The other evening I was cleaning up the kitchen following a rare, uneventful dinner with my family, when my youngest daughter’s screams alerted me to an oncoming catastrophe. “LiLi has a mouse in her room and she is petting it!”  “Oh my word… what fresh hell is this…” was the first thought that came to my mind. We have two dogs, two cats, two birds, two parents and two kids living in this house (I prefer symmetry) and no mice as of the last time I checked. As I stood paralyzed in the kitchen frozen into a state of denial, my husband went upstairs to check out the situation. I can handle most any emergency that comes my way, but place a wayward mouse in my field of vision and I am scrambling around faster than a running back in the post-season play-offs. LiLi indeed had a mouse and was cuddling the little critter when she caught JaneGrace’s attention. She revealed to my husband that she had caught it a couple of days earlier in our garage and had taken it to her room to keep as a pet. I really believe the girl is part feline. How this poor mouse survived in her room for two days without being victimized by her cat remains a mystery to me. LiLi: the cat and mouse whisperer.


Earlier in the evening before we sat down to dinner, LiLi had been in the kitchen getting something to drink when she asked a question that, in retrospect, should have clued me in to the upcoming after-dinner entertainment. “Mom, Mom, do you like mouse Mom?” (LiLi always double-prefaces and punctuates her questions with a redundant pro-noun) Being distracted with the last minute hustling and bustling of dinner preparation, I ignored the question. Our family is used to random, out of context questions that LiLi often asks at the most inconvenient moments, and unfortunately for me, this is one I shouldn’t have ignored. In her child-like way, LiLi was prepping me for the inevitable unveiling of her new little room-mate.


This adventure reminded me of a similar event not long after we brought LiLi home fromChina. At that time, we lived in an old, log cabin high up in the Colorado Rockies. During the cold, harsh winters the little field mice often sought refuge in the warmth of the cabin. Unbeknownst to me, LiLi had found a dead mouse somewhere in the house and had also kept it as a toy. Although it didn’t require the cat-like agility that catching a live mouse demanded, it did require some spunk. It also made me ponder the life this poor girl must have led in the orphanage… to what degree of neglect and deprivation must one endure to engage in such behavior? I had found the dead mouse in her closet in an over-the-door hanging shoe organizer. At least she was efficient in her storage of the poor little creature.


This evening, my husband forced LiLi to carry the live mouse outside to the front lawn and let him go. The mouse wasn’t very happy and neither was LiLi. It immediately crawled over to my husband’s shoe, perched up on his haunches and peered up at my husband as if wondering what it had done to bring about this change of good fortune. Evidently, it had enjoyed the several days of plentiful goodies LiLi had shared. My husband finally had to pick it up and carry it further from the house to prevent the very real possibility of it sneaking back in when our backs were turned. Who knew a field mouse could become domesticated in such a brief amount of time? LiLi has been home for nine years now, and she’s still not domesticated.



Where does a parent begin to teach a child that catching wild rodents is not a good idea? My exasperation is great. I can’t think of enough rules to manage this girl’s behavior from a pre-emptive or post-operative perspective. Any rule created is just another to be broken. Please enlighten me if there is a way to teach common sense. What’s next, a raccoon or ‘possum? LiLi is so very tenderhearted, and for this we should feel blessed. I suppose it is better for her to be showing empathy to stray rodents rather than brutally torturing them. In her mind, no living creature should be alone; not even a mouse. Please God, just for today, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference; and please, oh please, grant common sense to LiLi. Amen.

About Dear Owl

"Owl" has been the recipient of my journaling for years as I've chronicled through all of the ups and down of my life. "OWL" represents "One who listens." It helped to imagine a wise, grandfatherly old soul to whom I could pour out my heart unabashedly and with a no-holds-barred conviction. Lately, I have been disclosing the challenges through which I've traveled as I've raised my second daughter, LiLi. This child, seven years old when we brought her home, was my second internationally adopted daughter from China. Raising LiLi has been the hardest, most guilt-ridden challenge of my life. When I was called to adopt a second child from China, I never imagined a journey like the one our family has traveled since 2003. Riddled with heartache and sprinkled with bittersweet joy, there wasn’t much time to dwell in the “Why me” sorrows. It has been revealed to me that the answer to that question is this: LiLi’s arrival into my life was the beginning of a long road toward redemption. I have a plaque in my kitchen that reads “Find a purpose in life so big it will challenge every capacity to be at your best.” LiLi was my slam-dunk. Journey with me as I recall memorable chapters to our story.

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