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.

I’m Not a Special Needs Mom

I’ve never considered myself a special needs mom. I felt those titles were reserved for people doing far more than me. Or moms raising kids with physical disabilities. It almost felt like I was cheating other mothers by even thinking that way.

Now, here’s the thing. I will call myself a “trauma mama” all day long. Give me the t-shirt, the badge, the sticker, whatever you want to give me. That one I will acknowledge and tell anyone with pride. All my other foster/adoptive mamas can raise their glass to that and clink with an understanding that only few can understand. That much I can guarantee.

But special needs mom? That one felt reserved for those doing the really hard work. The moms who never get a break and sit by their children’s bed at night to make sure they are still breathing. The moms who have to get special vans to accommodate all the medical equipment.

I looked at them from afar, raised my glass, and toasted them with deepest admiration. But I would have never tried to put my own glass in the mix. Besides, we all know that one person. You know what I mean. You talk about your dog dying when you were 12, and they talk about watching their mom accidentally run over their dog when they were 5. You lose a loved one and they constantly remind you of their own pain from losing a loved one.

I didn’t want to be that mom.

Then, the Covid hit and it closed our developmental daycare that my 2 year old attends. And things got real.

You see, I am for ALL the therapies. Sign us up. Henry has attended a developmental daycare since he was 10 months old (outpatient since 2 months old) and there is no shame in that. I am not a mom in denial when it comes to medications or therapies.

But did I consider myself a mom to a special needs child? No.

Until this week.

It took me becoming the therapist in my home and seeing how much he struggles to acknowledge it. And it was so hard. Not hard for me to admit. That I’m okay with it. But for me to acknowledge the things he will continue to have to overcome.

We’ve known for over a year that Henry struggles from the effects of alcohol during pregnancy. In fact, he’s one of the “lucky” ones in that he was diagnosed early and has all the physical features that make it easier to spot. We’ve also known he has medical issues that make him more susceptible to respiratory illness. We thicken his liquids, give him multiple inhalers daily, and see multiple specialists. He also has global developmental delays and major speech delays that qualify him for a developmental preschool and 300+ minutes of therapy per week.

But special needs mom? That title is only reserved for moms doing WAY more than me. That title is only reserved for moms caring for the needs of their child 24/7. Those moms are truly the heroes.

Then, this happened……

This week I was texting one of these hero moms about teletherapy. You see, we are both in the trenches right now trying to figure out how to make it work. Her child was struggling and she was beside herself trying to help him. The same was happening here so we were supporting each other over the phone and passing along tips and tricks.

Then, she ended our text with a fist in the air and the words “special needs mothers unite.”

And I paused. This hero mom was calling me a special needs mom? Me? That title is only reserved for people doing so much for their child. Those who eat, sleep, and breathe therapies and doctors appointments. Mom’s doing a way better job than me.

But, you know what? She was right.

I am a special needs mom. I’m raising a toddler who is not developing typically and it’s hard. I am up late at night googling FAS, CAS, chronic lung disease, etc. I’m balancing the difference in strong willed fits, and neurological damage and doing my best not to screw up.

I’m tired, I want a break, and I literally find myself consumed with Henry. Our plans are often altered for his schedule and keeping a routine is so important. My other kids have to sacrifice two parents attending their events because it’s too much for him. They have given up a lot and sometimes that guilt hits me like a ton of bricks.

So you know what……My name is Tamra and I’m a mom to a kid with special needs. I am a special needs mom.