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.