‘Mommy,’ she chirps in that high-pitched toddler voice. ‘Mommy, I have a question.’

As is Sadie’s way. This girl always has questions. She even raised her hand in church a few weeks back, to ask what a certain word meant. It’s not the question that is new in this scenario. Her calling me mommy, however, is. My husband is not daddy, my husband is Sam. Only she pronounces it as Sham, much to the amusement of the rest of my family. And before today, before this moment, I was Rhye. Pronounced Why. And now I’m mommy.

It’s a difficult moment, for reasons I can’t pinpoint. Standing there with a soapy plate in my hand, I wonder if I should correct her… But then I ask myself why I should. I may not be her birth mother, but I am the one who will feed her, clothe her, make sure she does her homework and – when the time is there – question the guys she dates profusely. I will make sure she has a roof over her head until she’s ready to venture into the world. I will be the one who will help her with her college application. I will be there.

My mother always said that ‘mom’ is a title, one that you have to earn. You can be someone’s mother without being their mom. And I always agreed with her. Yet, I don’t want to take this title away from the woman who neglected her in more ways than one. There is no doubt that she has made mistakes, and that the mistakes she has made were harmful to her children. But it feels wrong to ‘invalidate’ her.

Because Sadie isn’t her only child we now have custody of. There’s Cole, too. Big brother Cole, who is 6 years old and thinks the world of his mother – and yet doesn’t. At the moment everything is very confusing to him, and I don’t want to pile onto that by suddenly becoming their ‘new mommy’.

It’s the little things that make caring for children that are ‘not yours’ very difficult at times. I’m not yet aware of the appropriate names, terms and language. I struggle with how much I should tell them, and what to shield them from. Sometimes I have to do some soul searching myself before I even come up with a decent answer to their sporadic questions.

But I’m learning. Rome wasn’t built in a day, as they say, and nobody can expect me to know exactly what to do in every scenario that might pop up. All I know for sure is that I love these kids, love them to pieces with the fire of a thousand suns, and I trust that we’ll work through all of it one step at a time.

This, and many other things, is what this blog will be about.