Talynn, seated on a chair nearby, looks up from her Nintendo DS.

"I was. That surprises you, huh?" says Lucien, who adds that she's not above delivering a well-timed swat when it's called for.

While waiting for formal approval from the county, she did more research. She happened on a website for a national foster-adoption organization, AdoptUSKids.org, that gave her the chance to see photos of potential adoptees.

She kept returning to one, the picture of a smiling 7-year-old with large, welcoming eyes.

"There was something familiar in that little face," she says. She followed the company's procedures to find out more about Talynn, who lived in the Midwest.

She sent a picture and a letter of introduction, and within a few more months was on a plane for their first meeting.

When Lucien went to the building where she was to meet her future daughter, AdoptUSKids officials sat her down in an office, where she was to read up on the girl's family of origin — a subject she declines to discuss out of respect for Talynn's privacy.

After an hour or so, she couldn't stay focused. The time had come to connect in person.

"My stomach was in knots," Lucien says.

So, as it happened, was Talynn's. She had enjoyed the letter but still feared Traci would be "scary."

"What were the first words out of your mouth when you saw me, Tay?" Lucien asks.

"'Mommy, you're so pretty!'" Talynn says.

They bonded over the course of several more visits, and late in 2010, Talynn moved to Maryland.

Becoming a mother relatively late has been tricky in some ways, Lucien says. She found it harder than she expected, for example, to solve day care, transportation and baby-sitting issues within the framework of a daily life she had spent years organizing. But the networking and problem-solving skills she has developed through work have proved invaluable. She has been able to draw on fellow church members, family members and a variety of child-care services to assemble a workable schedule.

Financial stability also helps, she says, and so does the perspective that comes with age. For the first few months, Talynn did what many former foster kids do in new environments. She probed her new mother's limits, sometimes by throwing tantrums.

"She was testing me to see if I was there to stay," Lucien says.

When she was younger, she might well have overreacted, but as a seasoned adult, she realized it was important to remain firm and consistent.

"You're in a place in life where you realize everything isn't about you," she says.

If a visit to the Lucien home is any indication, the approach has been a hit.

Mother speaks to daughter with a grown-up's clarity, always leaving time for questions and observations to sink in. Talynn, polite and responsive, fusses over some of the new toys she got for her recent birthday, including an American Girl doll, but never wanders too far from her mom and hugs her freely.

"She thinks I'm a big pillow," Lucien says.

The pair made things official a year ago, finalizing Talynn's adoption during a phone call with a judge on May 12. They have identical bracelets the bear the date and are still trying to decide what to do for their one-year anniversary.

The magazine article, by writer Hollace Schmidt, appears on page 182 of O, along with a piece on a California woman who learned to surf at 55 and a Vermonter who became a firefighter at 66.

Talynn, a third-grader at Odenton Elementary, says her only disappointment in her first brush with the mass media has been not meeting Oprah personally. She enjoyed the four-hour shoot with magazine photographers, she says, and has been practicing her autograph in case she should need it.

For now, though, bedtime is drawing near, and mother tells daughter it's time to go upstairs. Even that doesn't keep the girl from saying the kinds of words any parent would love to hear.

"You're so strong and encouraging," says Talynn. "I'm proud of you. That's all I have to say. Thank you for being the best mom."

jonathan.pitts@baltsun.com

  • Text NEWS to 70701 to get Baltimore Sun local news text alerts