Your hair smells good….

A few weeks ago I was sitting in the chair with one of my kids and they commented on my hair smelling good. I didn’t think too much about it and just said thanks and moved on. Then, a few days later, I was laying in bed with another child and she commented on my face smelling great. She wanted to know what kind of lotion I had on. Fast forward to a third child commenting on my hair and I wondered what in the world had changed. I was using the same shampoo and in fact, actually showering less than before Covid hit.

Honestly, I was quite proud that I had trained my hair to go longer between washes by not washing it as often. It certainly couldn’t have been smelling good then. Had I changed dry shampoo? I didn’t think so. My face lotion was the same Mary Kay I had been using for months. Why were they suddenly enamored with my smell?

Then, it hit me. We’ve never had this much time together before. They had never spent this much time sitting beside me reading or watching tv. Or this much time laying with me in bed talking while I pretended to nap. Or stayed in my bathroom while I was getting ready and pilfered through my makeup and browsed my jewelry. Before we were all home together things looked very different. My mornings were spent getting ready in solitude before anyone was awake. My nights were spent running in the door from 15 different activities and shoveling whatever was in the crockpot onto their plates. Typically at this point I was yelling about homework that needed to be done, notebooks that needed signed, and pajamas that needed put on.

I doubt my mom even knows this, but one of my favorite memories is being in her bathroom while she got dressed. Being a mom myself now, I realize she probably didn’t love the lack of privacy but she never said a word. My memories of this time are very random. I remember her always putting on a robe and then the smell of the lotion she would put on. She always had new makeup I wanted to see and some new hair gadget I wanted to try. It was typically a new round brush, velcro rollers, sponge rollers, or something else of the sort. I would sit on the clothes hamper and watch her dry her hair and put on makeup.

It’s so sad to me that it has taken a pandemic for my kids to smell my hair.

Don’t get me wrong: I miss our activities. In fact, I’m so ready to head back to church, swim with friends, and go out to dinner on a whim. My kids are missing friends and are already looking forward to the fall. Especially Grace who needs interaction and face to face friendships. But, I hope I don’t miss the lesson in this time of stillness.

I tell my kids all the time not to qualify their apologies. Don’t say, “I’m sorry for yelling, but it’s because you’re mean.” Or, “I’m sorry for hitting you, but you made me.” I hope I don’t look back and qualify this time in our home. I hope we look back and the kids remember sitting on my tub while I put on makeup. Or sitting in the chair with me watching Shark Tank or Ninja Warrior. Or laying in my bed while I try to convince them I’m sleeping.

I hope they look back and remember what I smelled like. And it makes them smile the same way it makes me smile picturing my mom in her robe patiently listening to me talk.

Entire Span of Life….

Years ago, I heard Christie Erwin give a speech on fostering and adopting and it completely changed my thinking. She began her talk by saying she realized she had to do more than just say she was pro-life. She had to put action to those words. I’ve been thinking lately about what that should really look like for those of us who are pro-life.

If you’re pro-life, you’re pro-family. Period. The 12 year old who is raped by a family member and has no one to turn to? She needs food stamps, free childcare to attend school, help finding a job, and housing as she ages. She doesn’t need judged if one kid early, leads to multiple kids later. It might mean multiple kids on food stamps or standing on the corner asking for money. But, she didn’t abort.

If you’re pro-life, you don’t rejoice when families fall apart. This is a controversial topic and one you may think hypocritical coming from me. However, although I cannot imagine life without 3 of my kids, I wish even more their family would’ve been restored. That hurts even typing it. It really does. Don’t get me wrong. As Christians we are called to stand in the gap when reunification doesn’t happen. But, it’s a family born out of loss. Period.

If you’re pro-life, your thinking changes from: I need to call DHS on that mom, to I need to help that mom. Again, don’t misunderstand me here. There is no tolerance on abuse, sexual misconduct, etc. But most kids enter foster care due to neglect. That typically means poverty. Lack of food. Lack of housing. Etc. Our mind usually goes to worst case scenario when we meet foster kids. Myself included. We picture kids locked in closets and starved to death or beaten. And make no mistake, that happens. But, we tend to only hear about those stories because they spread around Facebook like wildfire. Reading about a child locked in a closet is more interesting than reading about a mom struggling with alcohol and homelessness. Sad, but true.

When sin entered the world, there became a need for foster and adoptive parents and that need will not go away this side of Heaven. If you have always considered fostering or adopting you should do it. Especially if you are pro-life. However, just be prepared to do it with eyes wide open. Fostering may lead to adoption and that can be a great thing. We just tend to stop there. But pro-life means so much more than stopping at birth. It means helping the moms who chose life when the world told them not to. It means helping the children who are affected by addiction. It means helping a foster family BUT it may also mean helping a birth mom. It might mean buying her clothes, food, etc.

If being pro-life meant it ended at birth, we would call it pro-birth. Or pro-pregnancy. But, we are implying that we are pro birth-death. The entire span of life. So, maybe we should either change our thinking a bit or be honest with where we really stand.

Life of Privilege

I don’t write about our oldest son Trey often because he’s easy. You know what I mean. He’s that child who is friends with everyone, kind by nature, and a true momma’s boy. That’s not to say he’s without any faults….he’s still human. In fact, when we were mulching our flower beds, I actually understood why some mothers eat their young. He continually stood in one spot while I worked circles around him. He was also talking my ear off and I realized he had a major man flaw; he didn’t have the ability to talk and work.

Anyway, that’s not the point. This week we came to the beach to just get away. The fact that we even have the ability to do this is not lost on me. We have the ability to pick up and leave without worrying about things left behind. J.O. is out of a job, but we still have money. That’s not the reality for most Americans who are out of work. In fact, it’s why I find myself so torn on the coronavirus crisis. Not torn on the precautions we should take (masks, social distancing, hand washing), but torn on my personal opinion. It’s not life changing for us to alter our lifestyle and stay home but for a ton of people it is. Childcare is a necessity for Americans to work so I refuse to judge people who send their kids to summer camps or daycares. Staying home is not an option for all. It’s very easy for me to have a strong opinion when I don’t face the same reality.

I digress again. This week Trey has found a new found freedom on his bike. This is the best place to ride for miles because it’s extremely flat. We’ve allowed him to take off and explore on his own. I went with him the first two days, but then he took additional rides solo. Yesterday, he grabbed his wallet and rode to the ice cream shop down the street for some ice cream in private. It gave him a taste of independence while still (hopefully) being safe.

However, yesterday when I sent him off and told him to call me when he got there, I realized something. I was worried about his traffic skills, but not worried at all about him riding a bike through neighborhoods. Not at all worried about people thinking he’s suspicious or up to no good. Or questioning his motives. Or drilling him at the ice cream shop about paying with cash and where it came from. None of that was a fear for me. Even when he pulled over in a neighborhood and took a break and was on his phone. Nothing concerned me about that at all.

I guess I’m rambling to say this. It’s never been more evident than now our society is still in favor of families like mine. That’s just a fact. It’s not Trey’s fault that this is his reality, but it gives him a responsibility. Responsibility to at least recognize it and acknowledge it. It should change the way he does things. Change the way he looks at things. It’s going to be tempting for him to read articles and think, “I wonder what really happened?” or think, “I would never do that.”

You know, we have all become experts during this time. We are all sharing some pretty amazing articles and statistics with little thought to their accuracy. And the truth is, we share what is relevant and helpful to us. Want the world to stay completely locked down? Find a statistic to back it up. Conspiracy theory? Share something to support that. Think we should open up tomorrow and the most vulnerable stay home? Find some doctors who agree with you.

I could find any statistic I want on fostering and adopting. And if I couldn’t find what I wanted, I could write a pretty convincing article and label myself an expert.

During this time, we shouldn’t be naive. Ask yourself questions and do some scholarly research. But make sure you acknowledge your own privilege while doing it. It’s easy for me to enjoy this week at the beach. It really is. I have some amazing in-laws who are here too and J.O. has been more relaxed than I’ve seen him in some time. I’m not worried about our ability to go home and pay the bills. At least for a while…. This will go down as a great vacation although it came from a storm in our life. That’s called privilege.

This is one of the hardest things to teach Trey without making it his fault. It’s not his fault he was born a middle class white boy, but it’s our responsibility to make sure he’s not the man chasing the jogger in the truck one day. It’s our responsibility to help him see all sides of the coin and to help him see our reality is not the same for most. My biggest hope and prayer is that he grows up so focused on Jesus that this is not hard for him to grasp. Because truthfully, that’s everything Jesus embodies. It’s much easier to teach our child to see others through the lens of grace and love when he is looking at others through the lens of Jesus.

When you don’t see the ram..

I wrote a post last week about God’s provision and specifically used the story of Abraham. I made the point that Abraham knew God would provide when he was asked to sacrifice Isaac. Either by providing a replacement, or bringing him back to life. In the end, God told Abraham not to harm his son and there was a ram in the bushes to fulfill the sacrifice.

But, what about when the ram isn’t there? What about the times you pray specifically and there is no visible way out. J.O. has been blessed with an amazing job the past 14 years. He went to work at this place when Trey was a baby. The way the door opened for him to work there was nothing short of a God thing. J.O.’s dad met a guy through his John Deere business that was in the exact field J.O. was looking to get into. This man wasn’t looking to hire anyone at the time, but said J.O. could come in and talk with him. J.O. had another job offer at the time, but wasn’t too excited about it. It was a grant writing position and the epitome of a desk job. J.O. couldn’t imagine sitting behind a desk all day, but he was also terrified to turn it down.

When he met with this man David, they hit it off immediately. David decided to take a chance on him and the partnership was born. J.O. loved this job. He was good at it and thrived in the environment. He worked a lot and was often stressed, but it was easy to overlook because it provided a great life. I often felt like a cheat when people would tell me how great it was what we were doing with fostering and adopting. I knew so many others that sacrificed so much financially and it wasn’t that way for us. It felt wrong to put us into that category.

Time marched on and and things were going really well. Until they weren’t. Seemingly overnight things at work got more stressful and no matter how hard we prayed they just weren’t improving. We had friends praying with us, and one of our friends put it best: “It seems the harder I pray, the worse it gets.” J.O. and I started praying for God to show us what to do. But truthfully, we were praying without really expecting anything to change. Really, what I meant was this: “God help the stress to go away and the money to come.”

Looking back now, I was praying bold prayers with my own thought process of how they should be answered. I assumed the ram was there but just hidden for a bit longer.

Then, on Friday, J.O. was called into the office and let go. You could’ve hit him with a ton of bricks. He was hurt, devastated, and lost. He still is. I was mad. Still am. That ram isn’t stuck in a bush. It’s not even there. 14 years, 5 kids later, seemingly down the drain.

However, once I somewhat calmed down, I realized J.O. would’ve never walked away from this job and I would’ve never encouraged it. But, I could see the stress and strain this job put on him. The time it took away from our family. The burden he carried for everyone he worked with. The way he and I had both allowed his identity to be caught up in his job.

He was on the phone with someone after this happened, and I heard the person say “but this is who you are.” And it stopped me in my tracks. This is NOT who J.O. is. J.O. is the man who for the last 15 years has gotten up before me and made my coffee, who has fixed breakfast for kids for the last 13 years. Who has prayed with me, for me, and over me. Who has looked the other way when I spent too much, or came up with crazy ideas for our family. That’s who he is.

The ram wasn’t there. It never came for us and that’s okay. Because the Lamb was already sacrificed. God knew this day would come and that we would be hurt and lost and wondering what to do. We don’t know what the future holds. We don’t know if we will have to make major life changes as painful as that would be. But, we do know this. Just because our prayer didn’t turn out the way we hoped, doesn’t mean it wasn’t answered. We have a choice to make. We can be bitter, angry, and resentful that God took something so important from us. Or we can praise Him for His answer. And as hard as it may be; we are both praising Him for His answer.

Write About What You Know

My friends and I were joking around one morning because I sent them a picture of my “gourmet” dinner being prepped in the crockpot. It was a Friday morning which meant it was whole bunch of random things thrown in. I was joking about spicing up the meal with garlic cloves and even offered to bring them a taste. Neither took me up on the offer, but it led to some of the funniest texts and started my day in the best way.

See, there’s something these friends know about me: I don’t really like cooking. It’s not that I can’t. I can follow a recipe if I have to, but it just stresses me out. If I pull something up and it calls for tons of ingredients, I’m immediately out. I don’t even care if it’s simple stuff like salt and pepper. Once you start with a laundry list of items, you should know you’ve lost me.

There’s also something else you should know. My kitchen is equipped much like a college kids. I have very limited utensils and even fewer pans in which to cook. Trey wanted to make a round cake for Easter and I had to go buy some round cake pans. True story. He also made homemade mashed potatoes which were great, except I had no way to mash the potatoes.

So you may be wondering, how do the Norman’s survive? Eat out? No way. We have 5 kids who act like they’ve never been in public when we leave the house. Take out? Sometimes, but not often. That’s pretty expensive. So, I do what any subpar wife in the kitchen does. I cook subpar meals and live for the weekends when J.O. fires up the grill. We eat a lot of spaghetti and “chicken in the crockpot” as my children have so lovingly named it.

During this time of early morning texting, I joked that I might just start a food blog. I made the comment that people always say, to “blog about what you know” and from the looks of my crockpot I clearly know about food.

But, I started thinking. What does that really mean? Write about what you know? Does that mean only foster and adoptive moms can blog about fostering or adopting? No. That only Racheal Ray can blog about cooking? No. Of course not.

However, it does mean that sometimes we become experts in an area we never dreamed we would become experts in.

Honestly, when we started fostering and eventually adopted I knew things would look different. I knew my world would be open to things I had never encountered before. Poverty, addiction, abuse, and that’s just to name a few.

I never wanted to become a self made expert in Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Or parenting kids from trauma. Or how to navigate the prison system. Or walking the fine line of keeping biological ties open, but safe.

But yet here I am. And you know what? As much as I wish some things weren’t a part of their story, it’s a part of their story nonetheless. I imagine my friends who have experienced unimaginable loss would say the same thing. No one wishes for tragedy to enter their lives. There are things we never want to become the expert in. Cancer, losing a loved one, losing a job, losing your house, abuse, neglect, etc.

So, while it might be fun if I could blog about an amazing meal and show beautiful pictures, the reality is…..that’s not our reality. Our life actually resembles what was cooking in my crockpot. It might not be the prettiest, or most appealing, but it works. And not only does it work, but it’s actually pretty good.