A Grumpy Mommy Morning

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We have all had them.  Grumpy mornings when we wish we were still under the covers.  Grumpy mornings when everything seems to be going wrong.

I used to have grumpy mornings on a regular basis, when I was rudely awakened way too early with the knowledge that I had a very long day of caring for little people ahead of me.

In recent years, however, I felt more confident, more capable.  With the help of my older children, I was able to face each morning with a level head and even some joy.  I became too confident and let my two most helpful children (Areli and Cadin) volunteer to help with Kidz Kamp at our church.  They were gone early in the morning, my husband was at work, and that left me…alone…with a three month baby, a loud and demanding two year old, a special needs girl who acts like a quirky three year old, three wild and crazy boys, and a teenager asleep in his bed.  This teenager who used to be an early riser and the instigator of most of my grumpy mommy mornings, now seemed to be able to sleep indefinitely.

I tried to take care of the needs of the younger children while enlisting the wild boys to help me prepare breakfast.  The younger children were all uncooperative and whiney, and the wild boys were…wild!  They seemed to ignore all that I said to them.  Instead of helping, they were tearing around the house creating messes and conflicts.

Before I knew it, I was in the midst of a Grumpy Mommy morning unlike I had experienced in years!  I ended up yelling and fuming, ranting and raving.  I didn’t understand why my children didn’t understand…I was doing all of this for them.  The diapering and nursing and dressing and cleaning and cooking!  All of this effort was for them!  Why couldn’t they help me just a little bit?

Later in the day I had the peace and quiet to think.  Why did I have such a horrible morning?  Was it really my children?  Were they really so awful?

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Or was it my attitude?  If I was really doing everything I did to serve them, why was I so angry with them?

I realized that the work I was doing and getting stressed out about was not really for them.  They didn’t really care if their faces were clean or that their clothes matched or that they had a super healthy breakfast.  I was doing all of those things to make myself feel better.  I was doing everything I thought a good mother should do, trying to get it all done so that I could feel accomplished and satisfied with my mothering.  Then I could get on to the things that I really wanted to do.

I was angry because their childish behavior was interfering with MY plans.  They were messing up MY schedule.  I hadn’t thought about the emotions or thoughts of each child that morning.  Maybe one child had woken up with a scary dream.  Maybe another child was so excited about Kidz Kamp that he couldn’t calm down.  Maybe the other child was so nervous about Kidz Kamp that he was trying to forget his worries. Perhaps another child was feeling overlooked and was just trying to get my attention.  I hadn’t even considered what was going on in their hearts.

I stopped to contemplate what each one of them might want most in the morning upon waking.  I concluded that their deepest heart’s desire, even if they couldn’t articulate it, would be to have a mommy who would greet them with joy.  A mommy who would listen and not just give orders.   A mommy who speaks kind words instead of yelling.

How could I possibly be that kind of mommy?  How could I even begin to meet each child’s unexpressed needs each morning?

All I could come up with was the fact that I definitely could not.  Only if I was abiding in Christ and had His love and thoughts towards my children could I be that kind of mommy.

How could abide in Christ when I got woken up before I could have a quiet time?  How could my mind be full of His thoughts when I couldn’t crack my Bible to read a single scripture?  How could I have His love for my children when I hadn’t even stopped to notice His love for me?

This has become the question that I MUST HAVE an answer to.

“LORD, just how do I seek you in the midst of this life that you have given me?”

I am not totally sure how to get time by myself on a daily basis.  I am not sure how to meet with other Christians and get to church meetings more often for encouragement.  But here is what I have come up with so far.

Whenever grumpy thoughts start to invade my mind, I make a huge effort to replace them with a thankful thought and find something to praise God for.

I write scriptures on notecards and post them on my bathroom mirror.   Whenever I see them, I read them and memorize them.  As I read them, I feel hope returning to my soul.   I try to meditate on them throughout the day.

I recite memorized scriptures while I am nursing.  I used to be able to read the Bible or other encouraging books while I nursed but now Annalise nurses too fast and is too active for that.  As I speak the truth out loud, I feel my heart taking courage.

I listen for His voice in the midst of the noise.  Sometimes I hear it in the voice of my six year old.  Sometimes I hear it in my baby’s cries.

Instead of begging Him to help me through this crazy day, I THANK Him for the help He most certainly IS giving me and WILL give me.

I listen to worship music while I am preparing meals and sing along.  I am caught up in His goodness as I chop vegetables.  I smile when my children tell me that I should have been a singer, and I try to be loving when they interrupt me for some silly reason.

I listen to the Bible on CD while I am driving.  It transforms the time I spend running errands into an encounter with truth and love.  I have noticed things about Jesus and the Bible I have never noticed before.  I have cried and repented and praised Him for His mercy while running to the grocery store.

When I get the chance, usually on a Saturday or Sunday morning, I write down what He has been speaking to me throughout the week.  Then I read my journal over and over again while I eat breakfast the next week. I am reminded of the earth-shaking revelations that have so easily slipped my mind.

I fall asleep recounting all the good things God did for me throughout the day.  I surrender all that I am, and all that I am not.  I rest in the arms of Jesus until some little person needs me.

Being a good mom is not made up of things that I do or the schedule that I keep, but who I am.  Only an active, growing relationship with Jesus will make me like Him and banish the Grumpy Mommy Mornings.  So let us all seek Him, no matter what.

 

My Daughter is My Hero

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Areli Endura, my firstborn and my oldest daughter, how can I begin to describe her?  I heard both of her unusual names in Belize when I was there on a mission trip.  I thought they were the most beautiful girl names I had ever heard, and filed them in my brain under, “What to call my firstborn daughter.”  Well, a girl has never been more appropriately named.  Areli is Hebrew and means, “Heroic.”  Endura means endurance.  My daughter displays her heroism with an amazing endurance that allows her to continue being my hero day in and day out.

Areli was the sweetest baby.  I didn’t know a thing about being a mom, but Areli made it a breeze.  She was almost always happy, and slept through the night at six weeks.  She did give us a scare when she stopped gaining weight from 2 months until 4 months of age.  In my inexperience, I didn’t realize that a two month old should not be sleeping 12 continuous hours at night without a feeding.  As soon as I started to wake her up to nurse her more often, she started gaining weight again.

As a baby, she would wake up during the night very infrequently.  When she did, she would cry quietly and the go back to sleep.  One night she let out a cry and then went back to sleep as usual.  Normally I wouldn’t check on her but would just go back to sleep myself.  This night something compelled me to walk into the hall and I smelled that something wasn’t right.  When I entered her room I realized what had happened.  She had gotten sick all over her crib sheets and let out a cry.  Then she simply settled down in a dry corner of her bed and went back to sleep!  How thankful I was that I could clean her up and put my uncomplaining baby back to sleep on fresh sheets!

When my second baby was born, he seemed to be the opposite of Areli, waking up constantly and crying with loud persistent wails.  Areli was only 18 months old and still slept in her crib.  She would sleep in each morning and then play happily by herself until I could drag myself out of bed in the morning, sometimes as late as 10am!  Her sweet personality persisted as she grew, always wanting to please, always being kind to others.

One morning when she was 5 years old, she came downstairs clutching her belly.  She simply went and lay down on the couch and moaned in pain.  I hardly ever have to take my children to the doctor, but I knew something was wrong.  She never acted this way!  I immediately took her and the three younger children to an urgent care clinic.  They in turn immediately sent us to the emergency room, convinced that she was suffering from an appendicitis.  Areli endured the pain through waiting and lots of tests.

The day had turned into night, Chris was flying home from a job in New York, and nothing had been done to help Areli.  Areli was in the greatest pain of her life, yet she was still quiet and uncomplaining.  All the nurses adored her and would bring her anything they could find to cheer her up; puzzles, a special quilt, and a stuffed animal.  When a nurse gave Areli a very strong pain medication, Areli got her first relief of the day.  She also became quite loopy.  She turned to the nurse and said in a goofy voice, “I love you!”  It was obvious to me that the feeling was mutual.

Unbelievably, they sent her home!  The next day brought the same intense pain.  I had to take all of my children (four, five and under) to a follow-up appointment.  All Areli could do was sit in the stroller and moan every time I hit a bump.  Finally we saw the doctor and he said, “We had better operate.”  This is another story of God’s faithfulness that maybe I will tell at another time.  Through it all, Areli was a gem!

As Areli got older she continued to show this ability to remain steady and calm during sickness, pain, and 6 extremely annoying younger brothers.  She was always quick to forgive and the first one to offer to help.

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The most amazing thing was the stories that I heard after the fact, told to me by her brothers, about how Areli had saved their lives!  The first incident happened when Areli was around 8 years of age.  She and Cole and Cadin were invited to a friend’s birthday party at an indoor pool.  I was very nervous to allow them to go without me or Chris attending, since none of them had officially learned how to swim.  Chris insisted that they would be fine, and that his friend Paul would watch over them.  When they returned from the party, Cadin relayed this terrifying story to me.  Maybe it wasn’t that big of a deal, but my mother’s heart began to tremble!  Cadin had torn out of the dressing room long before Paul was ready.  He ran directly to the deeper end of the pool and jumped right in.  It was at that point that Cadin realized that he couldn’t swim, nor could he touch the sides or bottom of the pool.  He started to struggle and sink under the water.  Areli was the first one there to save him.  She jumped in despite the fact that she couldn’t swim either.  She held on to the side to the pool with one arm and grabbed Cadin with the other, pulling him to the wall as much a she could.  The grandmother of the birthday boy noticed what was going on.  She reached down and pulled Cadin to safety.

Talking about this amazing example of heroics a few months ago, Cole piped up.

“Oh yeah, Areli saved my life too!”  It turns out that when we were camping in 2011, we were all enjoying the pool.  Cole had worn himself out but still decided to jump into the deep end.  Again, he was not a strong swimmer.  He found himself too weak to swim and too weak to call out for help.  Areli was the first one to realized that Cole was sinking, and she threw him a life-preserver.  This hero just saved brother number two!

Three months ago I was getting ready in the upstairs bathroom as the other children were playing downstairs.  Chai came upstairs to tell me about an event that had just taken place in my own home while I was completely unaware. My insides started to tremble again!

Chai had put a small Lego in his mouth.  Why do boys do things like that?  He is 9 and knows better!  He accidentally swallowed it, but it got stuck on the way down.  He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t call out, and he couldn’t make a sound!  Cole noticed his distress and brought him to  Areli.  She thought fast and realized that she probably didn’t have time to bring him to me.  So she performed the Heimlich maneuver on him herself, sending that Lego flying!

As a mother, I am always thinking about my children’s safety, always making and enforcing rules to keep them safe, always training them to be safe, always checking on them.  Yet I know that it is impossible to watch even one child every moment of everyday.  I am not in control of every action and reaction.  Yet I know that God IS in control!  I am almost constantly praying for them, placing them into God’s hands and asking Him to keep his angels right next to them to deliver them from danger.  Well, at least three times that angel has been my daughter, Areli!

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I cannot even describe my deep, deep gratitude and relief!

Areli does something that is perhaps even more heroic every day.  She has the endurance to help around the house, love her annoying…er, I mean precious and adorable siblings, excel in her school work and have a sweet disposition almost EVERY, SINGLE DAY!  Now that I am pregnant, Areli does even more.

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She shares a room with her special needs sister who is 11, but acts like a three-year old.  Every morning Areli changes Ashlyn’s pull-up, gets her dressed, puts the special braces on her feet, and takes her potty.

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Then Areli goes down to the kitchen and makes kefir, oatmeal, and a smoothie.  She serves breakfast to her brothers and sister and then cleans up the very messy kitchen.  She puts in a load of laundry and goes off to work on her cyber school for hours.  At lunch, she helps to prepare the food, cleans the kitchen again, and does more laundry.  Then she sits Ashlyn on the potty again, changes her, and puts her to bed for nap.  During nap Areli works on more school and watches over the house while I take a rest.  In the evening she cleans the kitchen for the third time and puts Ashlyn to bed for the night.  In her free time I see her reading her Bible and taking notes.  She loves God and it shows!

She babysits for me whenever I need to do an errand or whenever Chris and I get a date night.  She has witnessed the birth of her four youngest brothers and has helped to care for them.  One of the baby boys even slept in Areli’s room at night, and Areli would hold him and comfort him when he woke up.  She tells me that she is so excited to have the new baby girl in her room.  She loves babies.

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She really does enjoy spending time with the family and being our family photographer.  Practically every single photo on this blog was taken by Areli.

Some days she looks worn out.  Some days she acts like if she doesn’t get away from the younger Brandenburg brood, she is going to explode!  But most days she is joyful, helpful, and efficient.  Chris and I love to reward her with special gifts, time out with friends, time doing Youth Group activities, and letting her relax in the evening later than any of the other children.  I know that God desires to reward her even more!

Without Areli, I couldn’t handle all of my mothering duties.  I wonder how I will ever make it when she grows up and moves out!

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It seems to me that there could never be a young man worthy enough to deserve my Areli.

It is probably very unlikely that any young men will be reading my blog.  But perhaps their mothers will be.  So let me make my prayers for a son-in-law known.  I have prayed that he would be twice the servant that my heroic daughter is.  That he would excel at serving, having practiced all of his growing up years.  That once he marries my daughter, he would make it his life’s goal to out serve her and never take advantage of her giving spirit.  I pray that he would be passionate for God, out doing Areli in seeking after Him and obeying Him in everything.  I pray that he would be a man who considers fatherhood his most lofty goal and children his most precious resource.

`               All of my children are amazing and I could write an article like this about each one of them. (Maybe I will someday!)  But today I am considering this beautiful young woman who truly is my hero and the joy of my heart!

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The More Children I have, the More Blessed I Become

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Babies are a blessing!  When they look up at you with the blue eyes they got from you and smile a dimply smile they got from their Dad, you think to yourself, “Surely there is nothing better in the entire universe than this precious little one!”

Yet babies can be a lot of work with all the crying, diapering, laundry, training, and worrying that is involved.  And toddlers!  Wow, the work just multiplies.  A huge amount of energy is spent just keeping them from death and injury as they begin to explore their world with abandon.

Young children need to learn all sorts of things such as: the alphabet, addition facts, what president is on the penny, what a president is, how to be polite, how to get rid of the monsters in their closet, and how to wipe their little butts.  This constant instruction can be frustrating and draining.

As they get older the training expands to chores, homework, and interpersonal relationships.  It becomes apparent at this point that these children have developed personality traits that are nothing like yours, and you wonder how this could have happened!  They have behavioral issues that you never expected and don’t quite know how to handle because frankly, you expected your children to be nearly perfect just like you.

Then you begin to relate to the parents who act as though their children are more of a burden than a blessing.  They make jokes about how their children drive them crazy, and how they definitely don’t want ANY MORE of those little monsters!!  They love them desperately…but they kind of dread the summer when they have to be with them day in and day out.  You understand…because sometimes you feel that way too!  Oh, for some alone time!  Oh, for peace and quite!  Oh, for some extra money to buy something for yourself!

The Bible says that children are a reward and a heritage from the Lord.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them! (Ps 127:3-5) God says that birth, pregnancy, and conception are our glory. (Hosea 9:11) Pregnancy, babies, fruitfulness, and many children were God’s blessing to his people when they were obedient to him. (Ex 23:26 and Lev 26:9)  To have a lot of children in your family is a sign of God’s favor and blessing on your life.

Let me tell you all the ways I have become more and more blessed with each child.

It is true that children are a lot of work, but all the work has taught me about how to be more organized, more efficient, and more time effective.  My time has become so precious to me, and I don’t spend it on any old thing.  I use it as wisely as I know how.  I have been so blessed by giving up stupid TV shows and filling my time with relationships, learning, reading, and drawing close to God.  I am a better and more knowledgeable person for all the hard work I have done.  Now I am able to train my children to be hard and efficient workers as well.  Some of them even enjoy an organized home and a job well done!  What a blessing!

It is true that children are so emotionally draining.  All the crying that is not comforted by my best mothering efforts could lead me to depression.  All the nightmares and fears I am called upon to calm, all the yelling and disagreements that I am required to negotiate, all the disobedience and disrespect I am expected to correct WITHOUT anger could drive me completely insane!  Instead, it highlights my weaknesses and drives me right into the arms of God.  I depend on Him for everything.  I look to Him for every answer.  I seek Him for everything my children need, because I know that I just don’t have it all within me.  I go to Him every time I fail and trust that He will cause my children to be just fine despite the fact that their mother is grossly inadequate.  I pray constantly and continually for their bodies, their souls, and their spirits.  He amazes me with His promises for them, and overwhelms me with His love for them.  Without all these children, I would never be so close to my heavenly Father who parents me perfectly.  I am so blessed to have such a close relationship with God, and I am so blessed to feel His precious grace increase every time He gives me another baby.

It is true that children cost a lot of money.   They are constantly growing and needing new everything!  Yet for every child that God gives, he gives the money and resources to go along with that child.  We have a big house because we have a lot of children.  We did not get the big house first and then decide that we could have more children.  We have resources constantly flowing to us because we had a lot of children.  We didn’t wait for the resources and extra money in the bank before we decide to have more children.

I have bought very few children’s clothes in the past 16 years.  Clothes just come to us through friends and relatives.  Nice Clothes!  Beautiful clothes!  Barely or never worn clothes!  I have bins and bins and bins of clothes in the attic just waiting for a child to grow out of their current wardrobe!  We have had people give us a refrigerator and another person gave us a huge chest freezer for free!  Then we have other friends who get us amazing prices on boxes and boxes of food to fill all of the refrigerators and freezers!

If one of our children needs something, we pray together for God to bring it to us…and He does.  It is so fun to witness the unusual and unexpected ways that He does it. When the time comes for bigger needs such a cars and college educations, I know that the miracles will be there.

I have heard many amazing testimonies from missionaries who go out on the mission field with very little resources.  They simply have a raw faith that they are doing God’s work and God will provide…and He does.  God loves my children just as much as he loves the heathen people in the jungles of the Amazon.  I can expect miracles in my own life just as the missionary does.  What an exciting life I get to live, a life of faith and miracles!  What a blessed life I have!

As I have more children, my workload actually lessens and my life becomes easier.  Why?  Children go from being liabilities to being assets.  They can work!  They can do chores and do laundry and cook and clean and take care of babies, and if you train them right, they can run the entire household without you even being there.  Oh, the glory of seeing a clean kitchen and knowing that you didn’t have to wash a single dish!  Oh, the wonder of a date night with your husband as the older children put the younger children to bed.  Oh, the beauty of returning home from a lovely evening out to find peace and order without handing out money to a babysitter.

Being pregnant is so much easier with lots of children and teenagers around.  I don’t have to hurt my back doing housework.  I don’t have to bend down to get anything with all those eager, little hands.  And everyone wants to hold the baby and learn how to change his diapers.  Blessings abound!

What could be better than fun and adventurous family times?  To experience new and different things together is awesome.  To go on trips and vacations with so many playmates around is loads of fun.  At home on a normal day, there is no lack of conversation!  The cooing and babbling of the baby keeps us delighted.  The hilarious comments of the younger children keep us laughing.  The constant questions of the curious ones keep us alert.  The unexpected and imaginative thoughts of all the children keep us in wonder and awe!  The adult conversations with the teenagers keep us company and enrich our lives.  The love exchanged between us all is what we live for.  And what a lovely, blessed life it is!

I can only guess at all the blessings that will be mine when each child becomes a mature, responsible adult.  How lovely it will be when I witness them becoming who God created them to be, when they are displaying their unique gifts and callings.  And when they become parents with children of their own, all those grandchildren will be one adorable blessing after another!

I can only imagine what it will be like someday when I stand before God and He pulls back the veil.  I will be able to see clearly the impact that my children had on the world and on eternity.  What inconceivable blessings will be mine, forever and forever!

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When people see me out with all of my children, they seem a little shocked that there are so many of them.  When friends and strangers alike learn that I have eight children and one on the way, their reactions are all very similar.  At first they seem very surprised and confused (Like they are asking themselves, “Do people really have 9 children these days?”)  Then they give me a look that says, “You are absolutely crazy, you know that don’t you!”  But they usually don’t make that comment out loud.  What they do say, almost universally across the board is, “Wow, you have your hands full!” and “God bless you!”  I have been blessed more times that I can count!  Every time I meet someone new, they say to me,

God bless you!”

I know that words have power.  With words like those being spoken over me every time I go out, I feel like the most blessed woman in the world!