Archive for September, 2012


little steps, a little movement

September 17, 2012

From what I’ve heard, there are no longer any kinship care options for Nia. That means that either her mom will work hard and be able to regain custody, which the professionals on the case think would take the better part of a year, or she won’t be able to do what she needs to do, in which case next summer the state would file to terminate her rights. Either way, it looks like Nia is going to be with us for the duration of the school year, which is great from an academic standpoint. (And realize that anything I say now about timing and outcomes could turn out to be very different from what actually happens, because fostering is like that.)

For some reason, that news or the way it was phrased hit Lee hard. She’d still been very much in the mindset of “When Nia goes to family…” especially as it relates to “When Nia goes to family, Mara is going to be devastated.” We’d talked about whether we’d be willing to foster again (probably not, though with the understanding that we’re always open to a member of Mara’s family who needs help) but not explicitly about whether we’d want to adopt Nia. I mean, I know how I feel, but it’s taken Lee a while to get around to it. She still is having a hard time balancing how easy it was for her to love and accept Mara as a 3-year-old with how much harder it is to have that kind of unlimited love even for a wonderful and lovable 6-year-old who’s going to be having attitude and testing boundaries because that’s what she’s supposed to be doing. So Lee had put up that “when” as a safety mechanism, and having it broken down has done a number on her.

She knows she loves Nia and she knows that Nia fits our family well, but she gets frustrated with how much backtalk is part of being 6 and how shoes don’t seem to end up where they belong, though Nia’s fantastic about cleaning up when she’s reminded. Mara has been going through a somewhat defiant stage (involving a hilariously over-the-top “Never!” when you ask her to do something; I think she needs a mustache to twirl!) and on a daily basis it’s both rewarding and frustrating to have one or both of the girls. But for Lee, this is still all scary and a stretch, and I try to be sensitive to that.

She and I had a date (!) this weekend and talked about how we feel. I reminded her that we don’t have to make any decisions about permanency until the state asks us to do that. I should have reminded myself that Lee doesn’t like ambiguity. I was trying to give her room to make the decision, but what she feels she needs is to make a decision and let it grow on her. So she says that if we get to the place where we’re being asked to adopt, she wants Nia to stay rather than have to move again. She recognizes that in another few months, this is going to stop feeling like we’re Lee-Thorn-Mara Plus One and that this will be our new normal. So mentally, we have a plan, though I of course am still living in the ambiguity and will make sure not to hold her to that choice if the decision time actually comes.

And hey, Lee and I had a date while a babysitter watched the girls! I was going to post about church stuff, but our assignment for therapy is to talk about what our ideal church attributes would be and try to find something that will match them better so that Lee can take a more proactive role but one that I feel comfortable about. In the mean time, the girls spent one Sunday on our friends’ farm picking grapes and cooking them down to make jelly and the next running around the neighborhood in fancy clothes, adding to their cicada shell collection. Any church I’d be okay with would respect the kind of joy they find in nature, so that counts for something. We’re not jumping into anything new, but working behind the scenes. I think it’s that kind of season.


life is still happening

September 5, 2012

Mara and Nia started ballet classes at the YMCA last night, and they love it. Mara has more natural musicality, but Nia may be the oldest kid in the class and that gives her enough of a physical/coordination advantage that she excelled. I think being the best might be enough of a push for her that she’ll pick up the rhythm as she goes. What matters most is that they’re both happy, which they decidedly are. Although I’d joked that I worried their class wouldn’t be diverse enough to even have other girls with brown hair let alone brown skin, and sure enough they’re the only non-blondes. Once again, it helps that they have each other.

This weekend we’ll go to our friend’s farm, which is something I’ve been writing about since I started the blog. (Well, pre-Mara I may have focused more on how it’s a farm and winery, but there should still be time to break out the wine on the broad front porch where we can hear the sleeping girls in their bedroom.) Our farm friend was one of the references for our foster/adoption paperwork and we have a special bond with those three families. She’ll be the last of them to meet Nia, but she is great with children and I know she’s going to be charmed.

Speaking of Nia’s considerable charms, her teacher is also a fan. She’s enjoying school, though she’s still not a fan of getting out of bed and getting dressed every morning. Although she’s been in school for two weeks, this is the first week where nightly homework begins. She’s not too thrilled about the idea of that either, but actually sitting down and doing it isn’t a problem for her and she’s so proud of herself when she completes something.

I bought Nia an iPod Touch because Mara has one (bought as a consolation gift after Val and Alex went home) so both of them get to spend screen time playing beginning literacy games (or Doodle Jump, which was Colton’s choice back when I went to visit him, and I’ve told him that the girls thank him) or watching YouTube videos, preferably European doll commercials or Japanese cooking or rement food tutorials.

Last Friday, Nia was making a little video on her iPod, narrating her way through the house. As she passed me on the stairs and I said, “Hey, stairs are for walking safely. Watch where you’re going!” she said, “That was my mom.” It’s the first time she’s used that word for me, though she and Mara seem to have simultaneously decided midweek that they’d start referring to each other as sisters. I didn’t comment on it, but I noticed it.

And of course there’s still her actual/real/bio/birth/first mom mom mom, who exists out there in the world and may or may not have done what she needs to do to start visitation. Nia’s grandmother has scaled back her own interest in visits from weekly to every few weeks and I may need to ask her if she wants to commit to once a month, though neither she nor Nia seem to be in any hurry to pin things down now that they each know the other is doing fine and they can talk on the phone regularly. But there should have been a hearing in court last week and no one has told me anything about what went on there, which is unusual because our worker is usually on top of things like that, although she’s not the worker who actually has to be present in court and she may be waiting to hear from that worker or something.

We screened and hired a new babysitter this weekend, though the girls want the Boy Next Door (a college student and musician who lives with his grandparents) to keep being their babysitter after he did a great job pinch-hitting for us. He’s a great guy and also the neighborhood hula hoop champion, but he’s got a day job plus school plus his schoolteacher girlfriend plus all his gigs and music practice and so we really can’t rely on him/them. But this new sitter is from a local college’s early childhood education program, considering broadening her major to let her get a graduate degree and become a school psychologist. She is chipper and eager and the girls had a lot of fun meeting her. I think Lee and I are going to schedule a monthly date night where she comes over and we go out. We’ve been working on prioritizing our relationship and while the things we can do to check in with each other on a daily basis are absolutely wonderful, having a quiet meal with adult conversation on a regular basis should make things even better.

We did have a little date this weekend, while my parents watched the girls. Lee really opened up about her fears about fostering and why it’s hard for her. She feels pretty strongly that unless Mara’s mom has another baby (which we really hope is not on the horizon and won’t come into play until she’s ready to parent and won’t need us) we should be done with fostering once whatever’s going to happen to conclude Nia’s case happens, though of course that could take another year plus and she may well feel differently by then. I really respect her insights into herself and her history and I’ve been so impressed with the hilarious connection she has with Nia, who adores her. I think Lee’s probably right that we’re heading for the end of the line rather than working on a project that could go on forever. But after that talk, I shared my very raw grief about Val and Alex and what’s happened to them. I know I can’t keep connecting to a family as deeply as I have to Mara’s. I couldn’t juggle three sets of relationships like that, though I don’t think I’m shortchanging Nia’s family now. (For instance, I got to talk to her great-uncle this weekend and he was adopted and, um, certainly sounds gay, so that was interesting.)

I need to write again about church stuff, because I’m frustrated. I took both girls to church and we lasted two hours, which is through the end of the offering. Nia strongly identifies with her Christian identity and so I’m trying to nurture that, which is my job as her foster parent anyway. But boy would it be easier if Lee, the actual Christian adult in the household, would step up and do her part. We’re talking about this and trying to figure it out, but while it’s good for me to stretch myself the way I have to be involved with church, it’s also not fair and not a good idea to be putting me in the position of being the one making a sacrifice. Still, we’re reading a bible story from the book I got Nia once a week. The girls each took the time to flip through it during church, which led to lots of whispered questions about the crucifixion, so I guess I need to talk about that. I much prefer conversations like the one Nia and I had about whether God creates fictional characters or just the people who create the characters. She came down on the latter side without any prompting from me, which was nice. And we read our evolution book too, because I don’t want her to think that just because she believes in creation she has to believe in creationism.

This was a very Nia-heavy post, but my life is actually pretty well-balanced between my two beautiful, smiley girls. Mara’s been telling me that she wishes I had brown skin, that she prefers baby dolls with white skin, even once that she wishes she had white skin, and yet she loves to tell Nia how beautiful her brown skin and curly hair are. I think having Nia around as a big sister is helpful for her in a lot of ways. She is still totally hilarious and has all of us singing her ridiculous little made-up songs like “When a Justin Bieber on the whaaaaaale…” Last night she’d been sick and was a bit wound up at bedtime, so she ended up watching the Democratic National Convention with us. She’s never shown any awareness of accents and doesn’t believe me that she says “heee-ill” and I say “hill” as one syllable, and yet something about Lilly Ledbetter’s delivery struck a chord with her and she was doing on-point mimicry, hand gestures and all, as she spoke. Lee and I were cracking up. Many, many of my stories about the girls end with someone or everyone laughing, which is not to say that everything is easy or funny. But I love that there is so much joy in our home. That’s good for all of us.


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