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Grabbing coffee together in Riga on a gorgeous, snowy day.

On Monday, we celebrated Ana’s name day.  In Latvia, name days are really big, like birthdays, and so everyone with her name celebrates on April 21.  We gave her Legos and I took her for a special mommy-daughter breakfast at IHOP, which she pronounced “eee-hop,” thus making the establishment cuter than ever.

As she drank the entire bowl of little half-and-half creamers (I know.  Don’t get me started.), she shared early childhood memories of her life and family in Latvia.  I listened with a little smile on my face and laughed with her as she recounted fun times and sweet relationships.  I paused, leaned my folded arms on the table, and looked her in the eyes.  I said, “Thank you for letting me be your new mom.  Thank you for letting me come into your life.”  She got up immediately and snuggled next to me on my side of the booth and I kissed her forehead.

My friend Dawn captured this precious memory at the airport when we first met last summer.  I don’t know if you can tell, but my insides were melting into goo.

It’s an incredible thing, this opening our arms for each other.  We chose, she chose, and we’re here together now, bringing in all the past, all the memories, and enfolding them into a new embrace.  It’s a rare gift, to get to choose family.  Most people are given one.  She didn’t have a choice in anything leading up to this, but she got to choose us, and I’ll never take that for granted.  Each story and person that she shares, I treasure it all up.  Her life is a quilt, and I’m collecting all the squares and handing them to God as He stitches.  I feel like He’s letting me help do this sweet work.

At the Braves’ game last year.  She and I know the same amount about baseball, which is zero, so we have that in common.

Last week, Ana recited a poem from memory that she wrote at a poetry night for her school.  It was about how her new dad is her hero.  It was incredible and sweet and I am so thankful for the bond that those two are forming.

And as usual, I also had to face my ugly stuff.  I was jealous.  She listed all the things he does for her and why he’s her hero, and as happy as I was for him, I was breaking inside under the weight of my “not fairs.”  How much do I do for her every minute of the day?

I marinated in my feelings for a few minutes, then pinpointed the fear behind them all.  I am one of a series of women who have cared for her, who have loved her.  I’m the latest.  I am a mom, not the mom.  Fear.  Pain.

And on Monday at IHOP, those fears and all that pain ebbed away like mucky sea foam on a beach.  She talked about her first mom as her “real” mom, but it didn’t bother me.  I saw clearly the love she had for her first mom, but also the love that we share.  It’ll never replace that first love, and it shouldn’t replace it, but it’s a beautiful new love, a different love, and I’m grateful for the gift of her trusting me with this next part of her life.

I’m a real mom, too, and her heart is big enough for us both.