World Adoption Day

I think a lot about adoption and I’m very pro-adoption. In the similar manner that I’m pro-adoption, I’m also pro-life. However, I saw a sign the other day that said, “Adoption is the loving choice to abortion” and I gotta admit, it really made me think. Not because I don’t think adoption is loving. But because I think this is one of those signs that make us feel good to proclaim, but we really don’t know what we’re saying.

Let me explain what I mean. Adoption can be a loving option if you’re pregnant and know you’re unable to parent. These adoptions are typically done privately and without any state involvement. There’s a plan in place, parents are chosen, and you begin to walk the journey together.

However, on the flip side, we tend to praise the birth moms represented in our house for choosing life, but they did more than that. They also wanted, and chose, to parent. Now granted, their parenting was sometimes dysfunctional and often dangerous, but they never went through 9 months of pregnancy with the intention of having their child call another woman mom. No matter how they showed it…..they wanted their children.

I think we have this fairytale idea of adoption that is just not there.

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: Adoption is necessary and can be amazing. But it will never be perfect. We are very open in our house about adoption and that means we are very open about the loss. The other day one of my kids made the comment about how it will be sad when Henry realizes he’s adopted. One of the older kids piped up and asked why and she simply said…..because he will miss his mom.

That is the reality of national adoption month.

The birth moms represented in our home chose life the same way my mom chose life. The same way I chose life with Trey and Addison. These moms were excited to be pregnant. They were excited to have a child. They didn’t choose adoption. There was nothing loving in their mind about their child being adopted.

Adoption is hard. Messy. Scary. Sad. Happy. Beautiful. Loving. All rolled into one. And typically adoption, much like abortion, is rooted in pain and hurt.

I’m pro-adoption. I’m pro-life. Let’s spend November celebrating these kids and raising the need for awareness. Especially for sibling groups and older teens. We should not live in a country where a child ever ages out of foster care. Period. We should not live in a country where sibling groups are split up and separated when they are adopted. Period. We should not live in a country where women can’t afford to feed their children so they have them removed. Period.

Let’s celebrate moms who chose to carry their baby for 9 months only to hand them off to another woman. I cannot imagine how that would feel. But, let’s also have some sympathy for the moms who chose life and desperately wanted to parent. A mom recently told me that when she was in the throes of addiction she couldn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed to parent her children. She told me she felt like they were kidnapped.

That probably didn’t feel too loving.

I’m convinced that if we work together to change the stigma and narrative of adoption, we can change the direction for adoptees. They can be open about their loss. Open about their pain. They can sit at the dinner table and talk about feeling sad. They can tell me they miss their mom but don’t really know why. They can be open about making sure we are never going to leave them. They can be angry and jealous without fear of judgement.

Adoption is amazing and can be a very loving choice. Children waiting for homes should know they are seen and heard. However, they should also know we see all of them. We see the pain, the hurt, and the ugly it brings. We should be willing to have the hard discussions and engage in hard talks about policy change.

Honestly, I’m thankful my girls didn’t read that sign when we drove past it. Not because I completely disagree. But because I don’t want them to ever feel like a project or simply a slogan on a sign. They are worth so much more.

True Confessions….

In light of what’s happening in the world right now, here is a really dumb post to keep the mood breezy……

A few things you may not know about me:

Now that J.O. is working from home, I sometimes go to work even when I’m off and just read a book. Alone. In my office.

Sometimes I go for a “run” but really just go around the corner and sit on the trail behind our house and watch Netflix. I’ve never been more “healthy” than when I was trying to finish Grey’s Anatomy.

My son open hand slapped me this morning when my eyes were closed in bed because I wouldn’t look at him. So, I did what the therapist suggested and pivoted away from him. He then threw himself off the bed in anger so I told my 2 1/2 year old with global developmental delays, “That hurt no one but you bud. I’m headed to the shower.” He was fine FYI….me too for anyone concerned.

Our house has cameras in it for an old alarm system. The younger girls still think they work and I take risks on that one all the time. So far I am 10/10 on telling them to go ahead and confess because I saw it on camera. I’ve learned a lot of interesting things simply by bluffing. I’m getting very good. Sometimes they yell at me and ask me what they’re doing in front of the camera. I can usually guess or sneak around and peak.

If I’m in a bad mood, I grab my flower mask out of the car instead of my First Baptist one. That way I don’t have to worry if I’m not too friendly.

I realized several years ago spanking didn’t work for my kids. Plus, I only ever spanked out of anger. I also said dumb things like, “do you want a spanking?” My mom pointed out once that a child has never answered yes to that question. In the last 2 years my kids behavior has stayed the same. It’s no better or worse with lack of spanking. So has this worked? No clue. But we are all happier.

Having 5 kids gets me out of a lot. No one expects me to be really good at anything. It’s been awesome for someone who is happy being mediocre. When Henry is the only child at home, I will have to move.

I don’t have fear of missing out. I love chatting and keeping up with friends, but relaxing on the couch wins out every time.

Well, if you made it this far congrats. Hopefully I can create a more intelligent post soon.

Same Blood

“Grace and I can share popsicles because we have the same blood.” Annalise made this comment a few weeks ago and though it made me laugh, it also made me think. What did that mean in her young mind? That Trey, Addison, and Henry weren’t her siblings? No. That’s not what she meant. That we weren’t her “real” family? Maybe on a subconscious level, but I don’t think she meant that either.

What I think she meant was exactly what she said. Her and Grace share DNA so they can share food. In her 8 year old mind their germs are the same. Now, you should know something. There was a time this would’ve offended me. Truly. That’s how fragile I was as an adoptive mom. I would’ve felt the need to stand up for whatever injustice I felt this did to Trey, Addie, and Henry and I would’ve needed to make this right. Lest they feel left out.

Not long ago, Annalise did something that was the spitting image of something J.O. would do. I jokingly said, “oh my goodness, you are so much like your daddy.” To which Anna quipped back and said, “which one?” Because again…she’s smart. She realizes that she shares DNA with another man so technically she doesn’t get innate traits from J.O. Now, ashamedly years ago I would have said something like: “What do you mean, which one? You only have one dad.” But, we all know that to be a lie.

I was talking to a therapist years ago and told her Annalise continually told us she would live with us for a bit, and then go back to her other parents. This was right after the adoption and it was devastating to me. I still had the mentality of wiping out her past and rewriting it with only us. Because, I had a God complex apparently. And I will never forget what the therapist said to me. She said, “And so what if she does? What if she leaves at 18 and does just that? Will you have the kind of relationship that can survive it?”

Ouch. The answer was no. Would that be a hard reality if it happened? Of course. But, does it keep me awake at night? No. The truth is, Annalise and Grace have traits that are clearly from someone else. Physical traits aside, those girls can bend in ways that would literally snap Addie right in half. Henry spends his days in the dirt making truck sounds while Trey hates to be dirty. All kids are different. Biological or not. Trey and Addison could not be more different if they tried, but they get certain undeniable traits from J.O. and I.

I suppose the point is this. When you know better you do better. I feel like our world needs to hear this now more than ever. Don’t live on traditions simply because they make you feel safe. Truthfully, the very things some of us hold near and dear are the very things that make others feel threatened. Addie and Trey were not threatened at all when Annalise wouldn’t share her popsicle. Other than simply wanting the rest of it, there was no injustice done. There was no oppression to them by missing out. There was nothing holding them back from their dreams of getting their own popsicle one day. It was a perceived injustice that truthfully just made them irritated.

Obviously this is an exaggerated and silly example, but hopefully you get the point. I could’ve silenced Annalise that day and she no doubt would’ve conformed to my desires. She would’ve learned to hide the hard things and not speak up about things that make us uncomfortable. I would “win” and she would lose. Until the day she had her own voice and freedom to talk. And would people see a bitter, ungrateful adoptee? Or would they listen? Would they care about the history? The backstory? The therapist who advised her adoptive mom all those years ago to make better decisions? Or would they think she was threatening the entire system of adoption and try to silence her? Would she become an “angry adoptee” or a voice of reason?

Maybe it’s time to listen to those traditionally silenced. Even if we don’t understand. Or like it. Or even agree. Will our relationships withstand this? Are they strong enough? If your answer is no, it may be time to figure out why.

What’s our role?

I’ve been struggling, like many of you, to know what part to play in everything that’s going on right now. I can’t fathom the fear of being pulled over, profiled in my neighborhood, or fearing for my son’s life.

However, we’ve recently had a small glimpse of what’s been happening for years. We’re hearing from our friends and family about things that should’ve never been allowed to happen. And although we can’t relate, we should be outraged. As long as our outrage on Facebook matches our everyday actions.

The truth is, we can’t be quiet any longer about racial injustice. We can’t allow bigotry and hate to drive violence. But, let’s be careful not to turn this into empty words with no action. If you’re posting on Facebook but still hoping your daughter never brings home a black man, don’t post. If you’re marching downtown but only doing it for a good selfie, stay home.

I have no idea how my friends raising black children must feel right now. Truly I don’t. My heart is absolutely breaking for them. But, I do know what’s it like to raise white kids. If you’re a mom raising white children you have an immense responsibility. I will be the first to admit, our small circle is not very diverse. So that means my children will learn about different races and religions from us and the people we do life with. Choose wisely. I’ve heard people say racist things my entire life, and I’ve made racist comments before. And for not speaking up, or shutting up, I’m sorry.

The day Addison figured out she was white, she was in the back of my car and in 1st grade. It was a very innocent moment and one I will never forget. She had never understood that people were referring to skin color when they said white, black, brown, etc. However, from that day forward her ideals and values started slowly being shaped. They are still being shaped by her surroundings and friend groups, but primarily by me and J.O.

Parents, make sure you’re not telling your kids that God loves everyone, but hiding your valuables when your son’s best friend comes over and he’s black. Parents, make sure you aren’t telling your kids that Jesus would condone racism, but then questioning why whites don’t get a white history month. Or saying things like, “well, we don’t know the real story.” Parents, make sure you aren’t telling your kids that Jesus hates injustice, but then using terms like thugs which has a negative racial undertone. Don’t believe me on that one? If you’re ever tempted to use it, think about who you’re referring to. If you’re saying thugs and meaning upper/middle class white kids, I stand corrected.

I can tell my kids one thing all day long, but the way I really act is what they will pick up on. Maybe one of the most important things for white people to do right now is ask God to reveal our own hidden predjudices and racism? Maybe you’re worried about what your friends will think if your child dates a black guy or girl? Ask God to call that out. Maybe you inadvertently clutch your purse tighter when a black man walks by. Ask God to reveal that. And then turn away. Repent. And do better.

March. Post. Speak up. But make sure you take that behavior home. Especially if you’re raising a house full of privileged white kids like me.

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.

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.

Lessons During Quarantine

My mom and I were talking the other day and our conversation of course turned to the quarantine. She told me her and dad had been talking about lessons learned during this time. So many people were talking about learning and growing so she thought maybe she was missing something.

She wanted to know; what was I learning? What was my dad learning?

This made me think. What lessons have I learned during this time? Anything? Everything? Nothing at all?

This is the short list I came up with:

Things can change in an instant. No, really. One day you can be dropping you kids off at school, heading to work with makeup on, and the next day you are all at home. All of you. Like everyone. All day long.

Your job is not that important. Unless it is. Most of our jobs can be done at home.

My kids never need me until I sit down. This is not an exaggeration. It’s almost like they can feel my bottom hit the chair.

It’s become evident that most of my kids will never move out. Ever. One of my kids ask me today what the purpose of her ear was so she could complete her science sheet. I told her for earrings. And she almost wrote it down.

One of my kids is a street smart ninja and she will be just fine. I’ve moved all my hopes to her. It only took her one day to figure out shortcuts for everything.

There have never been more people with an inside look into our lives until now. The Bible says money is the root of all evil, but I feel certain ZOOM would now be added to that list.

Tele-therapy is the funniest, most stressful thing I’ve ever done. No, really. It’s like I can see all my self respect slowly draining out of me as I jump like a bunny on our physical therapy calls. I see it happening, but am powerless to stop it. Even better….I’m typically jumping alone because my 2 year old has run out of the room.

The amount of people who act like hand washing is a new thing is mind-blowing. Truly. We aren’t an overly clean family, but at least I knew the importance of hand washing.

My husband has the ability to work in our bedroom and tune out everything happening around him. It’s like he thinks if he’s quiet enough we might not think he’s home. My favorite is when he shuts the door. As if that means anything with kids.

My kids suddenly think we are Little House on the Prairie. They act like game nights, movie nights, family walks, art projects are their birth right.

My whole family eats as if Kroger isn’t having a meat shortage. Me included. It’s like a snow day on crack.

Other people are reading books and I’m just praying my phone usage doesn’t triple when Sunday rolls around and I get the report.

On a serious note…I have loved slowing down. I really am thankful for this time together. However, it’s hard to enjoy it when so many people are truly hurting. Hopefully we will get back to a somewhat normal life soon. But maybe keep the family walks and movie nights. Just don’t tell the kids.