Archive for July, 2012

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hey, I just met you / and this is crazy!

July 20, 2012

Nia’s been in our home three weeks today, which is one of those things where it feels like it’s been longer because our routines are so easy, but also seems like it’s been no time at all. Lee and Mara left last night for the family reunion, and Nia has been so upset about Mara’s leaving. (I’m not getting worried that she didn’t cry when she left her last foster home but she sobbed hysterically about Mara leaving. I think all of her emotional responses are triggered by the cumulative effects of all that’s gone on in her life this last month rather than just what’s going on at the moment.) We had a good evening, though, and I shouldn’t have trouble keeping her occupied and happy until it’s our turn to travel.

Her case went to court earlier in the week and we’d been hoping that the judge would rule on visitation with her grandmother, but he apparently didn’t. She was very upset about that after we saw Mara’s family and I told our worker that and she pushed things around to get the other caseworker to agree to supervised visits. So this weekend I’ll be taking Nia to a park to see Grandma Toni for the first time in at least four months and maybe more and both of them are absolutely thrilled. Grandma Toni had a full background check because she wanted to be a placement resource for Nia and while she wasn’t approved to be a full-time caretaker, the issue was not that she was an unsafe influence on Nia’s life. I’m really glad they’ll be getting to spend some time together, especially since even if Nia’s mom gets her act together, it will be at least a month before any visitation would start there.

And of course a lot of people don’t think Nia’s mom will get her act together. When I talked to Nia’s lawyer, she asked me if we’d be willing to adopt. I did the standard hedging thing I think you’re supposed to do of saying, “Nia is an awesome kid and we are committed to helping her transition back to her family’s care in a healthy way. If that’s not possible, we would be honored to adopt her.” Later last weekend, I talked to Nia’s former foster mom and learned that she’d told Nia the reason she’d be moving was that her mom wasn’t doing the work she’s supposed to do and the former foster parents are too old to have her stay with them forever, so she needed to go to a place where she could stay forever. (Not that the former foster mom ever asked me if we intended to adopt her if the chance came up, and also sheesh, what an inappropriate thing to say to a kid!)

So three weeks in, there are already conversations about adoption. Part of it is just about understanding adoption and foster care. She really does seem to get that Mara’s parents didn’t do what they were supposed to do but they still love Mara and Mara’s a great kid, which I hope is something she can analogize to her own life if her parents don’t start following the caseplan. She knows about Lee’s mixed feelings about her birthparents and how much Mara loves and talks about hers. She’s had a lot of chances to talk about her own feelings and memories about her family and her former foster family.

Last night on the way to dinner (celebratory pizza after swim lessons to give Lee and Mara a fancy send-off!) Nia was talking about the school she passed and when she’d go there. I said, “If you’re still with us, you’ll start there in third grade.” She said, “Oh, I’m going to stay with you forever! My mom isn’t going to do the work because she doesn’t like when people tell her what to do, and I want to stay with you anyway. I don’t love my mom.” My response was, basically, “Well, none of us are the ones who get to make the decisions about where you go so we’ll wait and see what happens. If you want to talk to Lee about feeling frustrated with your mom, she would probably understand. I don’t know if Mara ever feels like she doesn’t love her mom, but it’s fine to feel however you feel.” Nia had a few more things to say, but not much.

On the way home from dinner, Nia started talking about the future again. She said, “I want to go live with my mom now. I think she’s ready for me now. But I need you to tell her that I don’t want Dora sheets anymore because Dora is for babies. I want Juffa Beaver sheets because I love Juffa Beaver!” (And yes, I’ve let her hang a Justin Bieber poster in her room, though she still has regular sheets.) I think the two outbursts are pretty characteristic of how she feels right now. She’s getting comfortable here, attaching to all of us but especially to Mara and to me, and yet she’s also feeling conflicted or guilty about that. She does love her parents, but she’s aware of the things her parents did that hurt her and that she’s hurt by being forcibly separated from them.

We’re all sort of emotionally conflicted. I’m glad that Grandma Toni will get to meet me, because that means that if the case does end up going in the adoption direction, she’ll trust us and know that things are going to be okay and she’ll still be involved. She’s been excited that I have Nia call her every few days, when before she was apparently going weeks without talking to Nia. My experience with Mara’s family was that by getting to know Samara so that we both trusted each other, I was in a much better position to handle the family as a whole and be accepted by them because I already had some safe support behind me. I think it’s meant a lot to Grandma Toni that I’ve been open to her stories about how things worked within the family, and I know she’s grateful that I intervened to make visitation happen. She’s said that her goal is to get Nia to a family member or to make sure she doesn’t bounce around in care until she’s 18, though neither of us are likely to drop the word “adoption” into the conversation any time soon.

And yes, I’m the one doing the heavy lifting on family contact again. Because of Lee’s history with her own open adoption, going into this with an open heart is hard for her. She’s gotten so much out of knowing Mara’s family and she’d absolutely agree about that, but she’s still not ready to make the first move. And I’m okay with that. We’re doing so much better this time around at making room for each other’s weaknesses. She knows that in the first month of placement I’ll be focused much more on keeping the kids busy than on keeping the house acceptable, and she’s been picking up a lot of that slack. I know that she’ll try hard but get exhausted quickly until she catches up to the two-kid pace of life, and so I make sure we schedule plenty of breaks for her. Right now we’re doing some parallel parenting as she’s headed to the lake with my family and Mara and I’m here with Nia and the pets. I’m so glad to have her as a partner in all of this, even if we’re not always equal partners.

And wow, it’s only been three weeks, only been a month since we even knew Nia’s name. (I’m adjusting to the new spelling of it. Did I tell my blog that her name was spelled wrong when entered into the computer when she entered foster care, just like Mara’s and Val’s before her? Yeah. Like Mara’s, the “wrong” version is the more phonetic one, but here I’ve gotten confirmation from her grandma that the original spelling was intentional and so I’m going with that and getting used to it again. Oh, and sorry about all the parentheticals, but that’s how I roll.) Today she’s off playing miniature golf with her class and tonight we’ll do her hair and watch a movie and eat ramen with chopsticks, be like a normal mom and daughter having a special night. And we are just that, whatever else we are and may be. And I like it.

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unexpected

July 18, 2012

Last Monday, Mara’s mother Veronica reached out to me for the first time since Christmas, saying that she’d been working on getting her life together and wanted to get in touch with us first and the rest of her family soon after. We talked and she did sound good and we made tentative plans to start working toward increased contact.

This Monday, I woke up to a facebook message from one of Mara’s aunts that Grandma Joyce, Mara’s mom’s mom, had died the evening before. While I would have rolled my eyes at this scenario in a movie, Veronica had been trying to reach a point of achievement that would impress Grandma Joyce and because she was taking the time to do that, she missed her chance to connect with her mother. Unsurprisingly, she was devastated, but she seems to have responded to this by getting closer to her remaining family rather than isolating herself again.

I explained to Mara that Grandma Joyce had died, that we won’t see her here anymore, that she’s not breathing or talking. Mara didn’t seem bothered by any of this and it didn’t trigger any of the grief or abandonment fears she has sometimes, though it did end up doing a number on Nia, who particularly misses her own grandmother.

Last night all four of us went to Grandma Joyce’s sister’s house. This sister hosted us at Easter, too, and had once tried to get custody of Mara when Mara first entered foster care, so there’s a lot of history there. She’s put up a pool in her back yard for the summer, so all the kids splashed around while we adults watched. Veronica was there and the disconnect between the children she really wanted to parent (“Andre, I don’t want you eating any more candy! You know I don’t want you getting bad teeth!”) and their obvious love and yearning for her and yet resistance to her in the parental role was awkward. At the end of the night, Mara said “Mommy!” and Veronica started to turn around, only to see that Mara was raising her hands for me to lift her up and hold her.

We met even more family, and Nia was initially uncomfortable with all the kids and all their noise, but eventually found her place and has asked that we invite Mara’s 6-year-old sister Trinity for an overnight sometime, with popcorn and a movie. Nia got to practice hearing how she explain why she’s with us “She’s staying with us for a while” and how to deflect questions about her mom if she doesn’t want to answer them. The adults were all very attuned to this dynamic, which makes sense since their family has had to deal with similar issues in the past, and they cut kids off when they were seeming too pushy about anything. Physically, Nia fit right in, though she and Mara can swim and none of the other kids can. One of the aunts said, looking at Mara with Nia and Trinity, “You wouldn’t know which two were the twins!” and of course none of them are twins, but she meant that there was enough resemblance that people might wonder. Veronica’s dad showed up eventually and got to meet Mara for the first time or first time in a long time, and then looked at Nia’s face and said, “Now, which one are you? You look just like your mama!” and I had to explain that, well, she did look like her mom but her mom is <em>not</em> his daughter.

The other funny moment was Mara’s oldest boy cousin, The Mayor. He’s very serious and thoughtful and seems to know everything about everybody (or at least think he does) and I have a soft spot for that because it hits a bit close to home. As I was loading spaghetti onto kids’ plates he asked if I’d heard that his grandma had died, as if we might have just showed up without knowing and stuck around for a few hours without picking up on it! I assured him that I had and that I was sorry, and he said, “You know, the one thing I don’t understand is that she lay down to take a nap and didn’t wake up because they said her heart wasn’t strong and it just stopped. But she had the biggest heart and loved everybody, and I just don’t understand that!” We talked a little about figures of speech, but he was onto something.

Grandma Joyce was a force of nature. You never had to worry about not knowing her opinion of something or someone. I still remember our first view of her while we sat on Samara’s couch and an overwhelmed little Mara boggled at all these relatives coming (back) into her life. Grandma Joyce walked in the door and tilted her head a bit and said, “So, are they the social workers or what?” Samara, who if I remember correctly is Grandma Joyce’s ex-stepdaughter and that can’t have been a relationship with no extra stress, immediately replied, “They’re her moms and they’re great and you’re going to like them very much!” and amazingly she did. I think the family honestly did just hope that Mara would end up with a loving family after she entered foster care and they decided that knowing that she had and having ongoing contact with her meant it wasn’t worth worrying that it was an interracial lesbian couple raising her.

I never made Grandma Joyce happy by letting her friend do Mara’s hair in tight cornrows with beads because I never agreed to believe like she did that Mara wouldn’t just pull the beads off and eat them like she does every few months when we repeat the bead experiment. And yet she accepted that Lee and I are Mara’s moms and we get to make the choices about what she looks like, even if that’s different from the other girls in the family. (And Veronica’s best friend showed up last night and said something about Mara talking “white,” which makes me so sad and emotionally tangled that I can’t even talk about it. Did this have to start when she’s <em>four</em>????) But she and I agreed on a lot of things, like how much the kids need each other and how important it is to get them out of the projects where they live and out into the bigger world so they can see the options that are available to them. She appreciated what we were doing, and she gave us bath wash and a little cross for Christmas and we gave her a framed photo of Mara to go with all the other grandkid pictures she so proudly displays.

I wish I had done more, the way people always do after a death. I wish I’d called her back twice when I left a message and she didn’t respond. I wish I’d gotten to ask if she knew what the other neighbors thought of Nia’s mom and their situation. But one thing this situation has brought out is how Mara’s mom and each of her sisters have told me they love me, they love us, they consider us family, and through my tears I was able to truthfully respond the same way. Grandma Joyce knew we loved her, too, and Mara got a good nine months of being four to known and love her. Grandma Joyce was a gift-giver, so we’ve got the snow globe that plays music that Mara keeps on her bed and the little bank shaped like a race car and the watch that she gave Mara to keep as reminders for Mara of how much she was loved and accepted, just like all the other grandkids were.

I’ll be at the funeral this weekend, though Lee and Mara will have already left for vacation. I know I’m likely to be the only white face there at a church where relationships like mine are frowned upon, but I hope I can hold my head as high as Grandma Joyce would have and come with the same spirit of acceptance and love that she would have, too. I am glad that through open adoption we got to know her, got to make her a part of our family and become a part of hers. I’m glad she knew Mara is safe and healthy, that we’ll stay in the lives of Mara’s siblings and cousins. Most of us who blog about open adoption complain at times about the way there are no right words to describe the relationships adoption creates, but she was Grandma Joyce and we loved her and love her. I can tell Mara that the stubborn glint in her eye sometimes and her fiercely big heart (in the metaphoric sense) and the history of heart disease on her medical records all come from Grandma Joyce, from a woman we all loved. And I’m glad about that part, at least.

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opening conversations

July 11, 2012

After Mara’s prayer request on Sunday, I got a text from a new number on Monday. It was Mara’s mom Veronica, who last contacted me in early January. This time she asked that I not share her number with the rest of her family. I haven’t, though a general point of our check-in when I talk to her aunts is whether any of us have talked to her, so I may end up spilling that detail at some point. She’s trying to get her life in shape and wanted Mara to know that she loves her and thinks of her every day. I responded that Mara’s feelings are very much the same, and we made plans for them to talk on the phone.

Lee was more freaked out by the prospect of more contact with Veronica than I’d expected, but since we had a date night planned already (!) we got to spend some of it talking about the pros and cons. She ended up calling Veronica, who only has talk minutes in the evening, to explain what it was like to grow up with her bio dad Richie always making plans with her and then letting her down. She wants to a have a one-strike-and-you’re-out policy with Veronica, which I think isn’t realistic, but I understand where she’s coming from. At any rate, she explained to Veronica why she’s so protective of Mara’s feelings based on her own history and that she’s open to contact as long as we all share the goal of putting Mara and her needs first. Veronica was very receptive to this, though I’m not sure whether she felt like she was being lectured or what.

So last night after swim class, I called Veronica. Mara, who’d been talking about it all day, had suddenly decided she didn’t want to talk. I put the phone up to her ear anyway and she immediately got chatting, “Hello, Veronica! I miss you! I’m good. I went swimming. I’m playing with chalk….” Veronica’s responses were totally appropriate and positive. She said she’s seen Mara’s oldest sister, who’s now living with her dad in our town and whom we haven’t seen recently. That sister is 17 now, I think, and old enough to navigate the harder aspects of dealing with her parents, so I’m glad they’ve been in touch. Then Veronica’s phone cut out and when she called back, Mara felt like she was over it and didn’t want to talk anymore, so I talked to her quickly. It sounds like she really is trying to build a structure that will help her succeed, which would be great. I’m a little nervous that she’ll try to regain custody of Mara’s little sibling, the only one who’s not in permanent custody although he’s been with Samara since his birth almost four years ago. If there’s going to be a custody change down the line, I’m hoping there will be some kind of middle ground that will acknowledge (as his and Mara’s dad does) how well he’s done with the stability he’s had in his life so far.

At any rate, we’re back in touch with Veronica and she wants to try to see Mara in person this weekend. I think instead we’re going to try to have a get-together where only Lee and I talk to her to make sure everyone’s on the same page enough and that we have the same vision of what visits will be like and so on. I’d be more comfortable doing this kind of planning casually, but I know Lee wouldn’t and I want to make this as comfortable for her as I can. I’m also hoping that clarity will help Veronica know what to expect and get to know us a little bit better. She’s still calling me Ms. Thorn even though I told her that’s totally unnecessary in terms of the relationship I want us to have and also just because there’s only an age difference of a year or so, and while having a meeting on our terms seems like it might reinforce that “we’re in charge” structure, I hope actually talking will help us break it down. I definitely think that will happen to Lee, who’s so quick to connect with strangers but so fearful of deeper relationships. If she can get that superficial hook with Veronica, she’ll feel so much more comfortable with the whole situation.

To try to be fair to Nia, I called her grandma and let her have some special phone time too. She was a little gloomy last night, I think because the reality of being with us for the long haul is starting to sink in. I was surprised that she didn’t seem jealous that Mara got to talk to Veronica when she’s not allowed to talk to her mom, but I think that’s because she understood that Mara has only seen her mom once in almost three years and so she was more sympathetic than eager to compare it to her own experience and pain. I also hope that she’s getting to see that we’re serious about keeping in touch with Mara’s family and that if we had the opportunity to do so with hers in a safe way, we’d do that too.

On that front, Nia’s lawyer (GAL or guardian ad litem) called yesterday to set up a meeting with her, though I’m not sure whether that means there’s another hearing coming up or just that she heard Nia had moved to our home. I liked her a lot and she was very understanding about how Nia wants some things (contact with her mom being core) that won’t be happening any time soon but that I wanted Nia to be able to feel that the lawyer was advocating for her wishes nonetheless. She talked to me about our household and how things are going, and then asked the question that is always hard to answer: if the case goes that way, will we be willing to adopt? I know my answer, but I said something like “Nia is an amazing girl and she really fits our family well. We want to see good things happen to her and we’ll support a return to her family if that works out or adoption if we’re able to do that.” I didn’t want to just say “YES!” and make it look like I’m pushing things in that direction, but the A-word is on all the experts’ lips more in this case than is usual at this stage of the process, and it is something we have to think about. If we’re able to adopt Nia (or anyone else), our worker will be changing our homestudy so that I’m the legal parent this time around. I think that plus hyphenated last names signals pretty clearly that we consider ourselves equal joint parents, as of course does our co-parenting agreement. So anyway, that’s officially on the table even though I don’t think TPR would happen for another year at least unless her parents decide to surrender their rights, which currently sounds unlikely.

For now, we’re just getting through normal life and all of these things going on in the background are part of our normal life too. The girls had their swim lessons and played in the splash park last night, so tonight is gymnastics and then we’ll get back to the weekly potluck we used to attend but left because there was a mean girl a little older than Mara who wasn’t being supervised or disciplined. Mara’s enough of a talker and Nia is protective enough that I have no worries about any bullying attempts, and there are older girls who should be fun for Nia to play with too. Last night we made yogurt popsicles and paper chains to count down the days until vacation, since Nia wants to know every day whether tomorrow is the day we’ll go to the beach. It’s sort of strange to make her chain of 15 days (two weeks from today!) when she’s only been with us  officially for 13 days so far. It’s so early, still, in whatever this is going to be for us as a family of four, but we’re working our way through it.

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two girls yearning

July 9, 2012

We’ve gotten through more than a week as parents of two girls, and I think that one-week mark Friday did make a difference of sorts. Nia has fewer questions about what the rules are and just wants to know what the schedule of each day is going to be, which is pretty easy since we’re trying to keep things well-scheduled. (That doesn’t mean without time for fun or downtime, since there’s plenty of playing baked in, but each day has at least one event planned and most follow a predictable pattern.)

I haven’t written since we saw Mara’s dad, which was a great visit although beastly hot. He was sweet with Nia, which was no surprise since we know he’s good with kids, and he loved seeing how Mara’s grown and how she dances and sings through life. We learned a lot about his family, and it even turns out he went to the brother high school to mine (and maybe someday Mara’s) although he’s much older than I am and we wouldn’t have had overlapping friends. He confirmed that Mara’s siblings were right about what his improbable-sounding nickname is and that when Mara used to tell us that her “papa lived in the forest” she was probably talking about his dad. When he left, he got to turn around and wave as she yelled “I love you, Daddy!” and both of them had huge smiles.

As I was driving the girls home, Mara said, “Nia, why you got tears?” and sure enough, Nia was crying. Unsurprisingly, this was because seeing Mara’s dad had reminded her how much she missed her own parents and grandmother. We talked about how that’s normal and Mara confirmed very reassuringly that it’s okay to cry and that she cries when she misses her mom and dad. I also told her a little about how the court structure works, that she has the right to tell our worker what she wants but it’s not our worker who makes the choice but another person, the judge. Our worker was coming over as soon as we got home, and by then Nia was feeling well enough to show her around. When I encouraged her, Nia did say that she wants to see her mom and dad and grandma, and the worker explained that she’d tell the judge that but that they had to be willing to follow some rules and probably only her grandma would be able to do that any time soon. I don’t really understand why she has unlimited phone contact with her grandma but no physical contact except that the worker for the family seems not to be very proactive and maybe figured it didn’t matter once the grandma was ruled out as a placement opportunity.

After the worker’s visit came swimming, after which I let Mara and Nia play at the splash pool at the Y. When it was time to come home, Mara started crying and couldn’t stop. She was shrieking in the parking lot and I tried to console her but eventually decided it was better to get her home safely than to keep trying to make a difference. She yelled hysterically the whole way home and Nia held herself together very well, talking to me a little about how she understood how Mara felt. I did not tell Mara that <a href=”http://www.rebeccahawkes.com/2012/05/five-for-friday-5-ways-we-weathered.html“>she’s not going to die</a>, though maybe I should have. Instead I just got her home and Lee gave both girls cookies, which solved the weeping problem for Mara and rewarded Nia’s patience. The really good news is that Mara didn’t trigger an asthma attack, since crying used to be what caused them. (If she makes it through her birthday with no attacks, the doctor is willing to remove that diagnosis, which would be nice and also probably accurate.)

Both the girls have been talking a lot about how they feel about their families. They don’t express much anger at their parents, just how much they wish they could see them. While I’m often the mom who navigates the conversations about emotions, it’s so valuable to have Lee able and willing to share her own experiences with the girls. When Nia asks me what will happen if the judge wants her to go home and her mom hates her and doesn’t want her, I can say that I’d feel really sorry for her mom for making the bad choice to miss out on such an awesome kid but that it’s the judge’s job to make sure that she’s safe and cared for wherever she is and that I hope he’ll keep doing his job carefully. But when she asks Lee if Lee always wanted to go back to her first mom, Lee can talk about all the different ways she felt and that at some point she didn’t want anything to do with Leah but that now they get along okay. It’s very clear that Mara misses her mom, but Lee’s experience is different and getting to see that means more than just hearing me say that different people feel and want different things.

Mara came into our room after a bad dream this weekend and later in the night I heard her whisper “Veronica!” in her sleep, so she’s even dreaming about her mom. All four in our family went to the early church service on Sunday after being away from church services since fall, and Mara got very emotional and ended up crying several times while thinking about her parents. At the end of the service, I asked her as I have a few times before whether she wanted anyone to pray for her. She immediately said, “I want them pray for me and I want them pray for my parents,” which is a word she’s only started using since Nia came. After the service was over, I told the pastor about her request and the pastor had all of us stand together. I was holding Mara in my arms and Nia held one of my hands and one of Lee’s. The pastor put her hands on Mara, asked me for Mara’s parents’ names, and then prayed for them, that they find peace and that Mara can find peace in knowing that they’re in God’s sight and God’s hands and that they know she loves them, that they can find what they need to be open to relationship with Mara, that they know Mara is safe and loved with us. Then she talked to us about how she and her partner have finally filed for permanent guardianship of the young relative who’s been with them on and off since his birth, and Nia was listening to all of this very intently. Mara went from gloomy and mopey at the beginning of the prayer to beaming by the end, probably partly because she appreciated the attention and focus and partly because she truly did understand the message. Nia’s understanding of things is more sophisticated than Mara’s just as a result of her age, and I’ve seen how she is piecing together an understanding of her own life and family situation by comparing herself to Lee and Mara. At bedtime, Mara got a little sniffly again and when I asked what she wanted from her mom said just a kiss. I wish I could reassure her that she’ll get it someday, but it makes me all the more grateful for her dad’s warmth and openness and how amazingly lucky we’ve been to get to know her siblings and extended family.

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but Mara uses her siblings to process some of her feelings about her parents. She might not say that she’s angry her mom is not in touch, but she’ll say, “It’s not fair that Veronica not see Franca,” and I know that’s true but that it’s also standing in for Veronica not seeing Mara. It’s both a way to distance herself from the pain she clearly feels and a way to be open to the pain of others. Both Nia and Mara have this tendency, that they want to understand how sadness feels to others they care about. They’ve gotten a lot of chances lately to comfort and empathize with one another, and I do think it helps in ways that I as a parent couldn’t manage. They are both so bravely open with their own emotions but also with their sensitivity to others’ and it amazes and impresses me.

It hasn’t all been drama and grief around here. There are still tea parties and lots and lots and lots of time spent swaddling dolls or drawing with chalk all over our sidewalks. I have two snuggly girls who didn’t stop wanting to be as close to me as possible even in the painful heatwave. They are stronger swimmers every time they get a chance to practice, and they still get along astonishingly well. Tonight after gymnastics they’ll have dinner with my parents so Lee and I can have a little break/date and it will be hard not to just talk about them and the cute and funny things they’ve been doing. They are sad sometimes because anyone in their position would be sad, but they are wonderful because they are themselves.

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no training wheels

July 3, 2012

Sorry I’m using another metaphor-heavy title, but it’s true that we took the training wheels off the bike Nia’s prior foster family sent along with her and that she was able to pretty comfortably careen down the sidewalk, though she doesn’t like our mandatory helmet rule.

Yesterday was Nia’s first day of school, and she loved it. In the evening, she got to talk to her grandmother on the phone and had lots of nice things to say about school and how excited she is about gymnastics. We did end up getting her into the same class Mara’s in and the two of them seem likely to push each other to excel. Tonight we have the park visit with Mara’s dad, though it’s going to be very hot out, and then our social worker visits and then the girls have swim lessons.

It’s definitely been my goal to keep things busy to keep Mara from having too much time to mope, but she’s adjusted very well so far and is enjoying all we do and being tired at the end of the day.  She hasn’t expressed an interest in talking on the phone with her prior foster family, but she talks about them fondly and discusses what they might be doing at any given time. She was so calm and positive about leaving that her foster mom started worrying about attachment problems, but both she and I agree that part of it is probably that Nia has had a fairly disjointed life and so it’s not an entirely new thing to pick up and go somewhere else with someone else for a while. (Not that that’s separate from attachment problems, but it seemed more like she’s still in the self-protective version of being okay with change rather than being unable to attach and care.)

Speaking of attachment, Lee has been doing well with two kids, for the most part. She’s had a few cranky days and times when she was feeling overwhelmed, but last night Nia came barreling into the house and gave Lee a big hug and asked her to come watch because she could ride a bike now, which is just what Lee did. I was outside pushing Mara, who’s now comfortable riding with training wheels but not starting again after she’s stopped, and so I don’t know what went on exactly. I just know it made Lee’s heart crack open and push past its defenses and that she now feels committed to Nia in a new way. I guess I had a moment of that when I got home from work and Nia scooted right over to give me a hug. She really seems to be relishing the attention we give her in a good way.

She and Mara still haven’t managed to have any fights, though they’ve disagreed at times. Mostly they just play well together, taking their cues from each other and taking turns being the decision-maker. There is enough room in our house for them to spread out if they need it or to be right beside each other looking at books or playing with little toys. I’m having to make a whole lot of tea to fuel their endless tea parties, but that’s not a bad problem to have.

I know the girls have big feelings about all of this change and I do expect some backlash soon, but for now everything is going remarkably well and I’m just going to appreciate that. My parents are smitten with Nia and trying to help us get things together (like find a birth certificate, which is my goal for this week) so she can travel with us to our family vacation. Nia’s grandmother is not happy she’s been moved but isn’t holding it against us. Mara’s aunt has been very gracious about making it clear that Nia is invited to all family events, that our family is part of Mara’s family, and I’m sure Mara’s dad will respond the same way. And then there are the girls themselves, sweet and thoughtful, funny and active. I’m just so grateful for all of this goodness.

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