She got her two children back after four heartbreaking years wondering if they would ever be seen again.
But life has still not returned to normal for Emily Cablek. And it likely never will.
The Winnipeg mother provided an emotional victim-impact statement Wednesday in the form of a 20-minute video, saving her from having to face one of the accused in court.
Cablek described the joy of being reunited with her kids -- and the trauma of discovering just how much had changed.
"I want to give my children the best future possible. But with everything that's happened, it's put all our lives backwards," said Cablek.
Seemingly simple things such as enforcing house rules take on an entirely different tone when the children you are attempting to discipline were ripped from your care for so long, she said.
"I was terrified when I first saw them. I didn't know if they would recognize me, if they were mad at me," Cablek said through tears.
Both children returned from Mexico incredibly damaged. They weren't provided medical or dental care, didn't attend a day of school and were isolated from any other children.
"They missed so much. They have so much catching up to do," said Cablek.
There is also plenty of confusion about their father, Kevin Maryk, who took them on the run and is now gone from their lives.
"They both miss their dad, of course. They don't know why he did what he did," she said.
Abby, now 11, is struggling the most. When asked by police to describe what happened to her, she immediately curled into the fetal position on the floor and refused to speak. That hasn't changed to this day.
"She puts it behind her rather than deal with it. It's like that time of her life doesn't exist. She doesn't like to talk about anything," said Cablek.
Dominic, now 13, is also suffering extreme emotional issues that put him into an almost childlike state at times. He spends much of his time immersed in the carefree world of video games.
"He still has nightmares, is afraid of the dark," said Cablek.
All of them have spent countless hours with psychologists and counsellors. But progress is slow.
"Things aren't the way I'd hoped they'd be," said Cablek. She is also suffering from anxiety and depression, along with learning how to parent again after such an extended absence.
"These are four years she will never be able to get back, four years of milestones she missed while her children were taken away from her," Crown attorney Debbie Buors told court Wednesday.