I Will Never Judge a Mom Again…

(At least not for a while!)

This is it, right?

This is it, right?

Last night, I baby sat a kid…and I liked it!  Kind of.  But I will tell you, that baby-sitting someone else’s child when you are at the “I could have babies” phase of your life is really different than when you’re 13.  Here’s what happened, some of the thoughts it stirred, and why I have so much compassion for mothers everywhere.

In order to protect the innocent, I shall simply say that a small child of about 3 ended up in my house unexpectedly last night.  I was expecting a house full of men, had planned to finish my cleaning, and retreat to my girl friend’s for a round of dress-up before the ball next week, (another story for another time – but don’t I sound just like Cinderella?)  As I was walking out the door with a pile of gowns in my arms, one of the boys greeted me with, “Morgen, thank you so much for letting us come over, and all this…. ”  Sure, of course” I replied good-naturedly.  I did honestly enjoy having a full house.  He continued, “and the kid too, I’m sorry, I totally didn’t know about that til last minute”,  “Oh, ok…” I was trying to nod and smile and look around…then I was made aware of a short, sweet presence as a smiling creature with cocoa skin and short, tight, black hair waddled down the hall with the person watching him who had came to visit my husband…and of course, several more guys arrived and the house filled with barking dogs, cooking in the kitchen, and rioters laughter as they laughed at their own jokes.

I sprang into “mommy-mode” and separated the “scary dogs” – the big one went outside, the little one went to the bedroom, and once the “nice kitty” realized what was afoot, she insisted on bedroom sanctuary as well.

This COULD have happened I feel...

This COULD have happened I feel…

Ed and I locked eyes over the heads of our guests as I took the little one by the hand, (his care-giver was the chef for the evening and already engaged in the giving of orders to the others with a pot in each hand).  Ed voiced my thoughts aloud, “we….don’t have any toys do we?”  The little one had apparently come with a juice box, swim trunks, and that was it.  Some assembly required?  I found 2 picture books in our book-case, Ed stole a little-used stuffed toy from the dog box, and I sat the baby down in the living room with these meger offerings.  He was thrilled with the books, but of course, wanted me to stay and read them.  I explained I would be back soon, and with a last lingering glance at our wedding goblets perched toddler-eye-level, and blowing out a candle as I past, I gathered up my garments again, and called into the kitchen, “I’m leaving for an hour – I expect the house standing, dinner made, and the kid alive when I return!”  My decree was met with gafaws and more jokes.  I rolled my eyes and retreated hastily to keep my appointment.

Dresses are fun, and girl-friends are funner, and I had a great time talking hair and nails with my gal pal…just like the old sorority days!  Our husbands are in the same company, and there was a small military ball thing the following weekend. So we discussed how best to allocate resources – she was most concerned with nails and hitting the gym, I was thinking my hair needed a touch up but I would do my own nails, and yes a few good work-outs for those shoulders was in the cards.  We traded some dresses and and shoe options, agreed we would not spend money on either, for something like this, not worth something new.  I left feeling like I had a plan, and was happy to hurry along so she could get back to a relaxing night with her hubby, and I could embrace the chaos at home.

Well, sure enough, the men were all loudly saving the world around the dining table with quite a feast prepared and pouring out of every pot and pan I had!  They seemed to be taking care of themselves just fine, nothing seemed to be out of order.  Perfect, my symptoms had been flaring all weekend, and I was looking forward to laying down and cooling off…but then there was the little one…with no one paying him much attention, just quietly looking on.  Oh come on!  He was just so precious!  So of course, I sucked it up, and tried to entertian him as best I could.  I tried to feed him, (he was not impressed with the offerings and demanded cookies that we didn’t have), I took him outside to read, but then he told me “I have to pee”, and before I could take his little hand he had stood up on the chair and let it fly.  Whelp, that was something I hadn’t seen before.

I doubt caution tape would actually do anything...

I doubt caution tape would actually do anything…

After clean-up and changing into the afore mentioned swim trunks, I returned to where I’d left my dinner, only to find two of the guys explaining that the “big dog” had gotten in and eaten the food, and what used to be the bowl was in the garbage. Ah well, I didn’t like those bowls anyway.  I grabbed an apple and my new little friend, and took him for a walk around the neighborhood, while he pointed out bugs and was scared by a duck. He had peed in his shoes, so I alternated between having him walk and carrying him where the ground seemed rough. When we – or at least I – was sufficiently tired, we headed home and retreated to the office.  Now, here is the turning point.  I said I wasn’t going to be one of “those moms”, and Ed is constantly annoyed when he hears about people plugging their kids into a show…but my friends…sometimes…you just need a break. So I logged into Amazon, and after questioning the young lad, we choose Madagascar, and I plunked him in front of the computer, (we don’t even have a tv).  I also gave him a pile of fake gold pirate coins we had left over from a party thinking that would keep his hands busy, and an old derby hat from a past costume which he immediately loved!  This all seemed to be working, so I escaped to the yard to clean up the chair…but when I came back inside it was “potty time” again.  “Oh good!” I praised, he’s telling me this time.  Only to discover that again, it had already happened, and the shorts were wet and so was the carpet.

Me in 20 years

Me in 20 years

I cleaned everything up as best I could, threw his shorts in the dryer, and sat him bare-bottomed again in front of the movie, and helped myself to a glass of the wine the boys had left in the kitchen.  Yes, I did, and I’m not ashamed!!  But as I sat there sipping, and contemplating, I wondered – what is this kid’s life like on a normal day?  He certainly doesn’t seem to bothered by everything going on around him.  He took to me quick enough, he would beat me and call me daddy with a smile when he needed something…so maybe he’s used to different people around?  Not too shy, but not too chatty…what if we adopt a kid this age?  How much of an impact does that former life have on them?  Would they really grow to love you as a parent in that special way?  Would I grow to truly see them as my own?  Ed thinks we will adopt one day, and I’ve always wanted too…but I know it’s a difficult process.  We’ll just have to wait and see what God does in our lives.  I have to get my health sorted out a little better first – that’s for sure.

Back to my little friend – his dad was his normal care-giver, but was at a funeral for a relative who had been killed in a drive-by last week.  I wondered if his mom was around too. I know there are many ways to make a family, and I know it often takes  a village – and there should be a community involved in taking care of a child.  But at the end of the day, I just don’t think anything can quite replace the balance of a loving mom and dad working as partners to give guidance, fun, wisdom, admonishment, insight, and un-selfish love to their little person. I get it – life happens, and we have to make the best of it.  And I truly believe that God can redeem any situation if we let Him.  But I also think that kids need – and actually deserve – a lot more intentionality from their parents then they often receive.  It’s too bad that we’ve often made life so complex that it takes parents away from their children so often, and we try to make it cool, or fine, or more socially acceptable for kids to be raised by the system, or TV, or themselves, or friends…but those things should just be there once in a while when we need them.  Our society should be doing more to support parents having healthy babies, healthy relationships with each other, and actually planning and enjoying being a family the best way they can.

Moms – to you a raise my glass.  Dads who stuck around – for the kid, and the crazy momma – I give you a pat on the back.  You are both heros in my book, and deserve all the support we can give you.  This next generation depends on it.

~ Morgen

Grandmother Wore Green…and other things

Before we begin dear friends – I apologize for the over-use of pictures, it is for memories sake after all!  Don’t give up on your browser. .And secondly, you can cry if you need to.  I did, and I won’t apologize for it!  If there is anything built up in your life that makes you angry or heart-sore as you read, just let it out.  Please.  Ok, now read on and I am sorry about the length! 

Me,  Cousin Aaron, Cousin Chelsey, Brother AJ, and Grandmother Reynolds

Me, Cousin Aaron, Cousin Chelsey, Brother AJ, and Grandmother Reynolds

I think  nothing makes Heaven seem as sweet or as real as imagining it for someone we love.  Although I do think about the shortness of life quite a bit, I have not spent much time imagining it for myself 0ther than that it will be better than here.   I also think that Heaven is not about how fast we get there, or what route we take, but about who we bring along the way. Well dear friends, today my family will lay to rest a matriarch – in the truest sense of the word – knowing that she is already resting in Heaven as I write, and has brought many with her along the way.

I am here in Florida, and cannot be with my family today as they share together my grandmother’s memories in Iowa, so I take to the page to reflect on the amazing legacy of a grandparent – perhaps the grandest title one can achieve for many reasons.

 

Not quite...but the sentiment is right.

Not quite…but the sentiment is right.

Grandparents seem to be able to love their gand-kids generation (not all legacy’s are left by blood) with a special kind of un-presuming love that refelcts Jesus in a tangible way.  Parents have to take their kids a little more personally, because of course they are trying to live up to their parents before them.   Your kids are a direct reflection back on you all the time -and that mixes a little pressure into the love sometimes!

See?  Worth it!

See? Worth it!

But Grandparents don’t have anyone looking over their shoulders,

so they just get to love.  They love reliving those first-times as little ones discover the world, the can really imagine what the future holds having seen their own kids gone on before.  And for this reason, I wish that we Grandkids would take our roles a little more seriously.  We DO reflect our grandparents, we ARE their legacy if we allow ourselves to be.   Now I was ridiculously blessed to have two very loving sets of grandparents growing up, my paternal grandfather is still with us and well Praise the Lord. However, it is only now as I’ve gotten older, as life is slowing me down, that I can truly appreciate what our grandparents can leave to us, and I know there are many of you who have been brought up by grandparents and had the ability to see that early on.

Here are a few things about my Grandmother Reynolds, my Dad’s mom, that I would like to remember, hope that I may learn from, and have already inherited:

  1. Wanda Tindale Reynolds

    Wanda Tindale Reynolds

    She started a Library.  Yes she sure did, back in her small town in Oklahoma when my dad was boy.  They didn’t have one, so she went door to door, wrangled up ladies and books, and started a lending library that she later ran for years.  Eventually when they all moved east, she took her skills to the public libary in Dubuque and had a long history of instilling reading and the dewy-decimal system in children.   I have many books as gifts from her, all inscribed with love.

  2. She was a barrel racer!  Now I ride, and love horses, but I have never torn down a row of barrels on a sliding stallion going 40 – that’s like sky-diving without the tandem.  Aside from the equestrian affinity we obviously share, Grandmother wasn’t afraid to do things.  So many people just think, and never do, and Wanda Reynolds was someone who had the get-up-and-go to make things happen.  May that always inspire me.
  3. Happy bachlorette Grandma!

    Happy bachlorette Grandma!

    She was a devoted wife – who wore green!  I only recently discovered this when I went to visit her in the nursing home during my bachlorette weekend in Galena. My MOH and I swung by to bring her a little tiara and some pie, and I asked about her wedding and marriage to Grand-dad who passed 26 years ago. He had been in the army, (so was mine!), they were married by close friend, (so was I!), and wait for it…she wore green!  No white dress, those were the war-times honey and they were just so excited to get married and had a nice big cake and reception at their friends home, and she wore a green skirt-suit.

    Maybe white for you other guys, but it was a pronounced peacock for me!

    Maybe white for you other guys, but it was a pronounced peacock for me!

    I hadn’t known this when I chose my own dress, and the thought that we shared even that small connection through time will long stay on my heart as a badge of honor.

  4. Wedding party, and friends beyond!

    Wedding party, and friends beyond!

    She was independent, yet selfless, and made family matter.  What?  Women can do all that?  She moved around the country with her husband’s work as a pastor, army, gaurd, never invoking a move for her own sake.  Yet she always found a job, or volunteered in their community, and made trips to see family by herself after my grandfather died of battle with cancer.  I loved when she would drive out to stay with us Easter weekends, dressed like the Queen of England in her Sunday suit, and help us find Easter eggs, make ham and pecan pies, and remembering all my parents friends at their local church.   She also drove out for dance-recitals, birthdays, and all those times I went to the hospital as a kid, she took turns with my parents they could divide time with my brother and me.

  5. Easter-day fine!

    Easter-day fine!

    She was a spiritual mentor to me.  You may assume that since her husband was a pastor, she had no choice, but I always found her faith to be her own. Her life left a little trail of bread-crumbs that seemed to always lead back to a loving God who was worth knowing.  Grandma made it “ok,”, and even “cool” to ask about God.  She gave me my first Bible, and was so supportive of my decision to be baptized when I was 8.  Later, she stood by me with pearl-bracelet in hand as I was confirmed in the church.  To she and I, these weren’t just religious ceremonies.  These were commitments I was making to the God who had saved me, and who she showed me sustained her.

  6. James and Wanda Reynolds on their Wedding Day

    James and Wanda Reynolds on their Wedding Day

    She met it with a smile.  My grandmother was so good at being gracious and plucky regardless of the situation.  She could jump right in with any conversation, and she often took my rudeness in stride and just kept right after me to behave myself. (I was a little impatient and willful as a child – can you believe it?)  What has made us feel like we are a better person when we get crass or turn the rough edge to someone who may run us the wrong way? That wasn’t Jesus’ way.  Grandmother had the strength and courage to keep on being her best self, and trust that others would learn to do the same.  I’m trying to do better.

Look Grandma, it's for you!

Look Grandma, it’s for you!

Finally, I’ll just share that this last season of getting married and moving so far away has been so much harder than I ever imagined.  I’ve been sick so much of that time, and have struggled to stay in touch.  Wanda had been in the nursing home for the last few years – finally giving up her little apartment and bright red car she loved so much, (again, where do I get my independence from?), and about a month ago, my parents let me know she was transferring to hospice.  I couldn’t bare the thought of not saying goodbye, of making sure that she knew I really missed all those weekends I was working and couldn’t come visit, that I remembered all she had done for me.  So be the grace of friends, husband, and the Lord, I was able to make a trip to see her and the rest of our family over mother’s day.  It was wonderful to be all together after I’d missed all the holidays, but the most precious moment was on Sunday afternoon, just one good friend and I stayed behind with a little card, and I tried to share with her as best I could what she meant to me.  It’s never enough, and there  just is never the words, and I didn’t want to make her feel like this was really, “IT”, just because I didn’t know when I’d make it back…but I think she understood.  I think she got what I was trying to say, and that I was far away yet holding her so close.

This pecan pie is soo good!

This pecan pie is soo good!

The last time I spoke with my Grandmother, was the night before she passed.  I was able to call her from my own hospital bed, and pray with her for just a few moments…and it was both heartbreaking and blessing at the same time.  Later that night, as I lay in my own pain and prayed for her, I thought, she’s past all this.  She get’s to go home, she’s done.  She has lived a full life loving those around her for the sake of her Savior, and she has done it alone for many years.  Now, she gets to rest.  She gets to be taken care of, she is at Home with her husband, and I imagine them smiling together under the watch-care of the One who redeemed them there.  And yes, Heaven is a sweet place to imagine when already filled with those we love.

Until we meet again, Grandmother, I will try to do you proud.

Your loving legacy,  Morgen

 

Living legacies, Cousin Chelsy, Me, and Sis-in-Law Megan.  All married within the last year, ready to start a new generation...

Living legacies, Cousin Chelsey, Me, and Sis-in-Law Megan. All married within the last year, ready to start a new generation…