Category Archives: Adoption

Seven Years

He defends the cause of the fatherless… ~Deuteronomy 10:18

Jackson Hall 3

It will be seven years tomorrow since Greg and I took Jackson into our arms and hearts as our son. It stands to reason that April is an emotional month for me. I do a lot of soul searching and reminiscing in the weeks preceding and following April 13th. This morning, in the shower, I was having an imaginary conversation with God. I was imagining how our lives would’ve turned out if God would’ve come to me seven years ago and said something to the following effect. Meeting Jax

My daughter, I know you and Greg are on board with the adoption seed I’ve planted in your hearts, but let’s talk a little bit about what it’s going to be like for you. What if becoming parents to this very special little boy I have for you, costs you relationships with friends and family members, as well as costing a lot of time and money—not only up front, but down the road because of medical care and therapies. Will you be okay with this? What if becoming this little one’s parents causes you to wring your hands and lay awake at night with a heart full of worry for the day ahead as well as for his future. Will you be okay with this?

I can’t speak for my husband, but I can tell you a conversation like this with God prior to boarding a plane to Ethiopia would’ve given me great pause. I’m pretty darn certain I was far too full of myself, far too wrapped up in life, and far too uncertain of my capabilities to have yielded to such a plan. And this is precisely why God does not make us privy to the details of all He has in store for our lives. He knows what we’re capable of, despite our being so uncertain of ourselves. And He knows we may turn tail and run if He were to paint the whole picture for us ahead of time.

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I can promise you from experience, however, your life will be so very rich if you step out in faith and let God have his way with your heart and your life. God knows you. Just as He knew us, our hearts, our inmost being, He knows you and your heart and the great things you’re capable of. I perish the thought of a life without Jackson. He enriches our lives in so many ways. And you can rest assured; God has equally wonderful plans in store for you. Trust Him!

Jax Halpat

Thank you, God, for knowing us so much better than we know ourselves. Thank you for this beautiful life you’ve blessed us with.   Thank you, for allowing us to be mom and dad to this precious boy of yours.

There is no friendship, no love, like that of the parent for the child. ~Henry Ward Beecher

Perseverated is not a bad word

per·sev·er·ate – To repeat a word, gesture, or act insistently or redundantly.

Recently, my husband and I made plans for a “date night” with our son.  Weather permitting (which it didn’t), we planned to go on a picnic dinner the following evening.  Our date was to include the three of us and our dogs at a local dog park.  My husband voiced the idea to our son prior to his bedtime one night this week.  The impending evening’s date was the first thing Jackson mentioned upon waking the following morning.  And according to Jackson’s teacher (the same day), he apparently “Perseverated on needing day to end so he could get to ‘date’ with mom and dad at dog park.”

I’m just spit balling here, but I don’t think the teacher’s note was written in a favorable tone.  And please understand, I don’t think Jackson’s teacher is being overtly critical or mean spirited when she pens notes such as this.  (This wasn’t the first time.)  But I’ve got to tell you, I also do not instinctively see a negative when I see a note such as this—probably to his teacher’s disappointment.  My mind (blessedly) isn’t wired for that.

As challenging as Jackson can be at times, I’m grateful I can see his light shining through.  Additionally, I’m able to remind myself of his difficult origins.  If it sounds as if I’m trivializing matters, please know I’m not.  And I’m also not saying I don’t sometimes lose my cool.  I do.  (See previous post from 1/23/2014 titled “Fail.”)  But I also know I drive myself most crazy when I let people of “authority” into my head.  That’s when I start to panic over Jackson’s “differences” and challenges.  It’s when we receive back-to-back reports of “defiance” and meltdowns that I literally go into overdrive researching autism spectrum disorder (“ASD”), Asperger’s Syndrome and sensory processing disorder (“SPD”).

With a clear head, at least for this moment, let me tell you what I really see when I read a notation such as the one mentioned above.  When I read the word “perseverate,” I see perseverance—a noun meaning steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.

When I see the word “date,” I think of doing an activity with someone you might have a relationship with.

And as for the words “mom and dad,” well those are a given.  And they’re really special, considering Jackson’s origins as an orphan who spent his first five months of life in an orphanage in Ethiopia.  Truly.  Special.  I’m beyond humbled with gratitude over the titles “mom” and “dad.”  It’s one I sport proudly and don’t take lightly.

Sometimes it’s all about perspective.  The definition of which is:  The capacity to view things in their true relations or relative importance.  Thinking back to that same day, and the expectancy of a date night with Greg, Jackson and our dogs and some Chick-fil-A at the dog park?  I confess.  I perseverated too.  That’s the truth.  It’s the absolute truth.

Sacrifice

This post isn’t about me, per se.  It’s a message for someone.  I don’t know who the person is (or people are), but I believe God has pressed it upon my heart to put the following encouragement out there, not necessarily as someone who has been-there-done-that, but as someone who daily IS there DOING it.  I’m talking about parenting a child with special needs—great or small, whatever those needs may be.  Whoever you are, God wants you to know you are not alone.  Not only am I in the trenches with you, but there are countless others out there who get it—and get you.  Of course everyone’s situation is unique, however, those of us battling it out in the parenting trenches know your internal, physical and spiritual struggles.

If my admittedly failing memory serves me correct, parenting a child with special needs is not something I neither signed up nor signed on for when I inked my parenting contract with God.  But then again, few people do.  (There is a very special place in heaven for those whose hearts God has set to seek out and parent children who have special needs.  Bless you.)  As the parent of a child with developmental challenges, pipedreams are no longer in my wheelhouse.  That’s not conjecture; it’s fact.  I’m not seeking sympathy, I’m simply telling you my reality.   I can’t see past today.  My son consumes me from the moment his eyes flutter open at the crack of dawn until he finally drifts off to sleep at night.  His days are fueled by a great deal of anxiety and nearly every second of my day is spent caring for or interacting with him in one way or another.  And the few hours I’m afforded during the school day are spent at my office doing full-time work on a very part-time schedule.

One of the many things I’ve learned firsthand over the years is this:  you cannot effectively parent a child without sacrificing yourself.  Every family’s situation is unique, however, parenting a child with developmental and/or physical challenges greatly magnifies the sacrifice required of parents and caregivers.

I’m less than happy and more than a little embarrassed to admit that oftentimes I look at friends and acquaintances (and even my husband/business partner) through green eyes of envy.  I had—and continue to have—so many dreams and aspirations I fear will never come to fruition.  But I’m learning to have peace with this possibility.  At times it’s been a tough pill to swallow, but our mighty Comforter is balm to my wounded ego.  When I get a case of the feel sorries, He reminds of this:  Jesus’ birth, life and death were foretold; His sole purpose was to be mankind’s Savior—our Redeemer.  He came to earth to be The Sacrificial Lamb.  Period. He didn’t juggle many roles in His short time on this earth.  Nor did he try to find a way to mitigate His purpose.  He had a singular objective.   Jesus never questioned that.  Never.  Ever.

Now, I am absolutely, positively NOT comparing my sacrifice or anyone else’s for that matter, to the ultimate price Jesus paid for you and me.  However, I firmly believe as mothers in general our lives must, to some degree or another, be a living sacrifice for our child(ren).  My experience tells me this is especially true for adoptive parents and parents of children with special needs.   Both bring so much to the parenting table.  We simply cannot have it all.   There are many folks who believe differently.  There’s a host of people out there who either try to convince us we can have/do it all or guilt us into believing we fall short if we don’t aspire to be supermom.  But as the mother of both a soon-to-be 32 year old and a five year old on the autism spectrum, I can tell you it’s an unreasonable goal and trying to do so can be a real spirit breaker.  In this instance I have most definitely been-there-done-that.

So, my dear friend—whoever you are, the only counsel I can offer is take it easy on yourself.  Please, please, please give yourself a break, and while you’re at it, a pat on the back.  You deserve it.  I guarantee it.

Overwhelming Grace

For the first time in weeks I took (as in forcefully snatched it out of the day) the time this morning to go for a run.  I took our two energetic pointers with me.   Since it’s been awhile since our last run, It took a bit for us to get into synch.  As we were plodding along (read: sucking wind) early in the run, i was struck with the following thought.

Through the precious blood of Jesus, my husband and I are God’s adopted children.  In turn, God birthed the desire to adopt a child and facilitated Jackson’s adoption.  Then the three of us adopted these two knuckleheads (thought with all the love in my heart) running along with me. Truth be told, all five of us are as broken as the day is long.  Seriously.  Our family is a whole bucket full of whacky dysfunction, but God’s amazing grace covers each and every one of us.  And that makes it not only okay, but it makes life doable.  Even on the worst days when I want nothing more than to pull the covers up over my head and pretend I have nowhere to be, HE has got this. HE carries me.  Everything is gonna be alright.  And for that I’ll praise Him and worship Him all the days he grants me on this earth.  Thank you, LORD! Thank you.

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My husband and I are partners in a branding firm.  When we were planning for our adoption our game plan, once our munchkin was home and settled, was to bring him to the office with us.  We were excited for Jackson to be a part of our little company.  One of the many reasons we wanted to—and were excited to—do this was so he could see us in action in the office, which would hopefully give him an appreciation for hard work.  My husband and I have always referred to ourselves as “Team D—D squared,” but looking forward, we’d be “Team D—D cubed!”

My husband returned to work within days of our return home from Ethiopia.  Several weeks later, once we were settled with a routine established, I attempted to take Jackson to the office.  I brought a bag filled with bottles, diapers and toys and set up a portable crib.  I closed my door and played soothing music.  For naptime I downloaded white noise on my iPhone, closed the blinds and dimmed the lights. I tried everything, but it was impossible to keep Jackson content or quiet.  It was abundantly clear.  Our plan to bring Jackson to work so I could return to our physical office in any capacity was simply not going to happen.  Jackson’s high energy/high octane presence was far too disruptive in the office setting.  To say it was counterproductive would be a disingenuous understatement.

I began to work from home and started to set deadlines for a return to the office.  I started with a goal of six months.  Six months became one year.  One year became eighteen months.  You get the gist.  I tried to bring Jackson into the fold, not only at these milestones but also in between, to no avail.  I honestly don’t remember when I simply gave up on the goals, but I did.  I chucked the idea of ever returning to work with Jackson as my/our sidekick.

Let’s fast-forward four years and five months.  (But hey, who’s counting?)  Last month Jackson began VPK.  He is in school six hours per day, Monday through Friday.  I finally returned to the office and can’t express in words how good it feels.  I never in a million years thought I’d be so happy to park my butt at a desk.  It’s not the work per se that has me excited.  I’ve been getting by while working from home.  (To be honest, that statement probably errs on the side of gracious.)  It’s the idea of being a part of something again.  I’m part of a team, as opposed to slaying dragons by myself all the livelong day.  And this absence from Jackson affords me a deep breath of sweet, fresh air that I definitely and desperately need.  It allows me to savor my time with him so much more than when we’re glued together 24/7.  And as an added bonus, I actually wash my face, brush my teeth and take a shower.  And this is daily, folks!  And for an added double-bonus, I get to wear decent clothes!  These are all things I took for granted pre-munchkin.  I have a new understanding of and appreciation for the idiom “absence makes the heart grow fonder.”  It’s a given I’ve always been fond of this little munchkin of ours, but seeing him light up when the teacher walks him out to carline absolutely sets my heart afire.

 “Once you become the mommy or daddy in your child’s world, it is the only world in which you exist, no matter how much you fancy there is a separate world of your own.”  ~Robert Brault

 

Playground Stress

During the seemingly unending period of waiting for a referral during our adoption, one of the things I dreamed of doing was spending time on the playground in the South Florida sun with our munchkin.  Four plus years into parenting, however, I almost always find playground outings to be stressful.  I tend to avoid them altogether unless Jackson absolutely presses me for a visit.  Such was the case with a recent school holiday.  Jackson had a lot of energy to burn and really wanted to go to a nearby playground with “the dark slide.”  He really did need to get out beyond the confines of our backyard, so I acquiesced.

As soon as we arrived at the playground, Jackson made a beeline to “the dark slide.”  He’s unable to climb the ladder himself and requires my assistance in placing his feet on each rung while I tell him where to place his hands.  This also requires me to physically support his bottom.  As is usually the case, and was on this day too, the other children literally climb over Jackson, pushing both of us aside.   Jackson never, ever says a word.  Upon reaching the top Jackson had no intention of going down the slide.  He was content with the view and told me the slide was spooky, which didn’t surprise me in the least.  He would enter the opening of the slide and then come back out when a child wanted to come down.  At one point a little girl ascended the ladder to the platform.  She was slightly younger then Jackson and rather intrigued by him.  He crossed his arms and loudly instructed her to leave him alone and told her emphatically he didn’t want to be her friend, something he had been doing continually to children during our playground visit.  This little girl, however, didn’t move on as the other children had done.  She reacted by roaring at Jackson—loudly.  Very loudly.  It was sensory overload.  He jabbed his fingers behind his ears, his typical coping mechanism, and became completely paralyzed.  He began to scream shrilly and shout, “Stop roaring!”   Of course the more he did this the more the little girl roared.  Her mother, who spoke very limited English, couldn’t stop chuckling over her little girl as she caused Jackson to scream and shout.  Try as I might I couldn’t get him to descend the ladder or go down the slide.  After what seemed like an eternity (but in realty was only a few minutes) I finally coaxed him down the slide.  Blessedly he was ready to go home.

Jackson was no worse for the wear.  In fact, he never made mention of the incident again.  I’m the one with the lasting emotional scars.  I’m the one who bears the heartbreak of the day—of seeing the little boy who’s afraid of slides, who doesn’t want to play with other children, who spends an inordinate amount of time with his little fingers pressed behind his ears and is pushed aside like he’s insignificant. They say ignorance is bliss, and for all intents and purposes, Jackson is blissfully unaware—for now. I don’t know if that makes me happy or sad.   What I do know is that I simply want Jackson to have a great childhood—the childhood I dreamed of giving him during those years of waiting.