Sunday, December 6, 2015

The New Girl Among Boys. For Realsies.

Annnnnnd we're back!


Outside the Jefferson County Courthouse with our newest Yarros!
(Kristen Charles Photography) 

Where have I  been, you might ask?
Ummm.... well, right here.
Kind of.  It's complicated.



Man, it's been so long since I've written a blog that I can't even remember where I left you off... let's go back and peek, shall we? Holy cow. It's been a year since I've posted a personal blog that wasn't literary-related. Now some of you are here because I write these books now, and maybe you're thinking, "Hey, she has a blog?" And the other half are here saying, "Dude, where have you been?"

For the first group, yes, I have a blog. This blog was my literary safe haven long before I started the Flight & Glory Series, or Aeolian, or heck... anything else, really. This was my safe place to laugh about the insanity of our life, to vent out my frustration, to kind of peek into the raw, real life of being a military wife. It's not always pretty, but it's always ours.

For the second group, I'm so sorry I've been away for so long.

Yes, the blog is back.  I probably won't keep it as current as I used to. Honestly, the whole book-writing thing has taken over every ounce of time that I don't devote to my kiddos. And this is the shortest version I can manage of what's happened over the last couple years.

Why have I been gone? Because my safe haven became one of the biggest liabilities to keeping our daughter.

Maybe one day I'll actually write about this process we just endured. Maybe one day I'll be strong enough to really expose what has easily been one of the best and worst periods of our life. But for now...now I'm too raw. Every nerve is still exposed, every cut, burn, and gaping wound just barely scabbed enough to function, and though she's adopted now, and officially a Yarros, we've lived with fear for so long that we're both adjusting to taking deep breaths again.

So here's the cliff-notes version. ;)

A couple of years ago, I posted this: http://theonlygirlamongboys.blogspot.com/2013/10/the-new-girl-among-boys.html

The baby we'd waited two years for had arrived during Jason's fourth deployment (this time to Afghanistan), and we officially became foster parents to Princess Pumpkin.

"Don't get attached," they said. "It's only for a month," they said. We were only keeping her while her mother got on her feet, and the father wasn't in the picture.

But the minute I saw her in the parking lot of our hockey rink, where DSS dropped her off to us, I looked in those blue eyes and I simply knew...

She was ours.



So Iron Man and I snapped a picture to show Daddy the present who had just arrived...


And The Hulk lost his heart when he skated off the ice and took one glimpse at her.

And then...she stayed.
So we took her Six Month pictures.


And she stayed and became "The Hockey Baby" to our Watertown Rapids hockey family.

 And she learned it was easiest to just sleep through practice...


And she learned that in this house, we drive hours to cheer on Colorado College at an away game:



"Don't get attached," they said. "It's such a long road, and you're at the beginning."

But a month in, it felt like she'd always been here. Always been ours. We watched the lights turn on behind her eyes, watched her come to life with kisses, and hugs, and the over-excitement of having four big brothers. 

She learned who daddy was in the tradition of a military brat: Through Skype calls and Daddy dolls.


And she stayed, so we spoiled her with Christmas Presents.





And then her other biological parent came out of nowhere... 
And everything suddenly became very uncertain.

"We don't know what will happen," her social worker (who seriously must have had a previous life as a gladiator, she is that fierce in defense of our Little Miss) told us. 

But she stayed, and though she'd waited her whole tiny life, she finally met her daddy:




And though things were crazy, and we were scared out of our minds of losing our daughter...

She stayed.


So we went on vacation to the Outer Banks.


And we soaked up our family time, knowing that court dates were in motion. That there was every chance she'd be leaving us.

But then...

She stayed.


And court dates came... visits changed... 
But she stayed.

And the next thing we knew, our Little Miss turned One.


Yes, I actually made that cake. 


You're going DOWN, Snow White.
Easter came, and she was here.

And we fell deeper and deeper in love with this little girl who may not have been made of our flesh, but she was of our heart. 



And though we were constantly told that there was the highest of possibilities she'd leave us eventually...she stayed. 



Summer came, went, and Fall was upon us.
As is life with the military, Jason came down on orders to Fort Carson. 
HOME.
Our final duty station where we would retire, and we were forced with a choice.
We could put Little Miss back into foster care, and move to Colorado, coming back if she were ever legally freed for adoption...

Or we could split our family and stay.


We did what's pretty public knowledge and split our family.
Because there was quite simply No other choice to make.
There was no way we were leaving New York without our daughter.

So we savored what time we had together.
We passed her Year mark in foster care, which gave us legal standing...a somewhat fancy word meaning that we had the first right to adopt her if she couldn't return to her biological parents.

But she stayed.








Halloween came, and she fit right in with our Superheroes as the Green Arrow. ;)











Hockey started up again. She started teething on pucks. But she stayed.



Then I did something I couldn't believe.

I shut the blog down.

Why? Because a friend of ours had gone through the foster process and during their final hearing, her blog had been brought out as evidence against her, that they'd wanted their child too badly.

Yeah, blink a few times and read that again.

I love this blog, I always have...but I love my daughter more. So I shut it down, even though it was quite possibly one of the worst things I could have done for my career. Because at the end of the day, I would have traded every book deal, every signing, every time I held my paperback, just to keep our daughter.

So I shut it down.

Thanksgiving passed.


EYES TURNED SKYWARD released, which I quite fittingly dedicated to her, because even if she didn't stay, I needed her to be able to look back one day and see that she'd been worth every second, every heartbeat, every risk. 



Christmas was joyful!


And the months...they went by so quickly, yet the weeks dragged as we waited for monthly court dates, changes, constantly told that we didn't know what would happen. That we weren't guaranteed anything, and though she'd been with us for almost a year and a half, there was every possibility that she wouldn't grow up with us. In fact, heading into that next permanency hearing, they told us to expect that she would be kept in care another year or more.

I won't go into the hearing, or the fear that closed my throat when they put me on the stand to testify. But at the end of the hearing, the judge shocked us and agreed to move her toward adoption.

Three weeks later, Jason had to go. The military had delayed his orders as long as possible, but he was needed at Fort Carson, and he went.

So the kids started the nightly Skype:


And she stayed with us.


Every day was counted. We were blessed every single second she was with us.

And then turned Two:


And Jason visited when he could, mostly when I had to be out of town at signings so that Little Miss didn't have to go into Foster Care. And the minute those two were in the same room...peas and carrots. She only has eyes for him.




SuperGirl graduated High School. We spent the summer waiting to schedule court dates, get court dates and attend court dates. We literally hung in limbo, living 1800 miles apart, not knowing if the termination hearing would go our way, or if she'd be kept in foster care even longer.



The Fall came, and we brought Little Miss to Colorado so we could drop SuperGirl off to College, and the sneak peek into what our life could be, all together in one state, was almost too much.





So we headed back to NY to spend our last months apart.
I can't explain to you the fear of those months, the constant gnawing in my stomach that we'd lose our precious daughter.

We both bargained with God.
I told Him I wouldn't care if the new book release failed, if the contract I was waiting on didn't come through, if the house didn't sell.
Jason said he didn't care if he didn't make the promotion list.
We would have given anything to make sure she stayed.

They told us going in to the hearing that there was no guarantee we'd win.
No guarantee that we'd walk out of that courtroom one step closer to a permanent solution for this little girl who had been in foster care for exactly one day longer than two years...81% of her tiny little life.

We were terrified.
Even with every skill I have as a writer, I can't adequately explain the gamut of emotion we ran that day, even the sobs that I couldn't swallow when our social worker told us that it was over—that she was ours.

With every odd against her, after fighting for our Little Miss for two years,
She stayed.


After the fastest adoption in the history of Jefferson County, a rushed move to Colorado, and an NTC rotation for Jason, 2 1/2 months after that Termination Hearing, we're finally all together in one state and under one roof, readying to move into our new home, where we will simply...live.

No fear.
Just love.

Oh, and 2 years after her first Colorado College game in New York...


She finally saw them on home ice in Colorado Springs.



With her goofball brothers, of course...

This Thanksgiving was spent in Colorado, so incredibly grateful for the biggest blessing in our life: 
We're finally officially, legally declared what we've always known.

We are a family. 











Welcome to the family, Little Miss Yarros.

Looks like I'm not really
the Only Girl Among Boys.

You are.