Candy Wrappers and Fuzzy Tongues: the Influence of an Older Brother

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Having six boys, we have quite a culture of testosterone in our home.  Wrestle first, ask questions later.  As my older boys grow into men, I hope that they will be a good influence on the younger ones.  Teach them to respect their mom, stand up for their brothers, and protect their sisters…stuff like that!

However I have noticed a different type of influence that is not always good.  The oldest boy would relentlessly pick on the second to youngest one.  I would explain to the Oldest that I understand that the Second Youngest can be very annoying at times, BUT the truth of the matter is, “You were very much like him at his age.  You looked very similar and had very similar behaviors.  Your Dad and I didn’t call you mean names or criticize you did we?” I ask.

“No,” the Oldest answers.

“So give him the same courtesy,” I say.

My logical explanation seems to have little effect on his behavior as the bullying continues.  I begin to notice that the Third and Fourth Oldest are learning the fine art of bullying.  I am distressed.

Other behaviors trickle down the line such as writing on clothing or sneaking candy and stashing the empty wrappers behind the washing machine.  A love for fishing, violent video games, and BB guns flourish.  When the Oldest joins the delayed entry program of the Marines, the other boys pick a branch of the military that they will join someday.  Even the Youngest is being encouraged to follow his dream of being a paratrooper.

“I don’t want ALL my sons to be in the military,” I yell out. What is a mother to do?

As the Oldest spends more and more time with his Marine recruiters, training physically and mentally for boot camp, I notice a change in him.  He is maturing.  He is becoming more honorable and more truthful.  He is becoming more respectful…most of the time.

Dental Health has never been very important to the Oldest Brother.  Dental Health is very important to me.  I used to brush each child’s teeth after each meal.  As they get older, they must brush their teeth themselves of course, but I still remind them quite often.

“Have you brushed your teeth?” I call out to the Second Youngest who is rushing out the door for school.

“Yeah, Yeah,” he answers.

I suspect that he didn’t.  I suspect that he hasn’t brushed at all in the past week.  I need to pry open his mouth and check for myself but there he goes…halfway to school already.

One day I witnessed firsthand the power of the influence of the Oldest Brother.  We were all sitting at the dining room table eating a meal.  When we are done I try again to preserve the teeth of my children.

“Everyone, brush your teeth!” I call out.

No effect.  No indication that anyone has heard me speak.

Then a new voice declares, “You should really brush your teeth, you know.”

It is the knowable voice of the Oldest Brother.

“I didn’t used to brush my teeth at all,” he continues, “but then I saw this picture of what happens to your tongue when you never brush. I almost puked right there!  The back of the tongue was growing mold, fuzzy mold!”

“Really?” the younger brothers are very interested, “Show us!  Show us!” they beg.

He whips out his phone, finds the picture and shows them all.

The younger boys do not walk, they RUN to the bathroom to brush their teeth.  In all my years of mothering, I don’t think I have ever elicited such immediate and wholehearted compliance to one of my instructions.

The cool Oldest Brother has a power that even he doesn’t totally understand. May it always be a force for good!  Now that the Oldest Brother is in boot camp, may the core values of the Marines be the driving force behind his awesome power of influence.

HONOR

COURAGE

COMMITMENT

And just a little bit of good housekeeping and proper dental hygiene.

 

 

Reasons Why I NEED a Master Bathroom

I found myself cold, wet, wrapped in a towel and crammed into the bathroom closet.

“I NEED a master bathroom!” I yelled out in desperation to God, the universe and anyone who would listen.

How did I end up here, sandwiched between the drawers full of toiletries and the rack of hanging clothes, wishing I could dry off and just GET DRESSED IN PEACE?!!  I made the fatal mistake that many moms make…I unlocked the door.

We live in a house built in 1924.  It is lovely and full of character.  We only have one full bathroom for the 11 of us as well as one half-bath.  The full bath is extremely large for an older home…but it is only ONE bathroom for the 11 of us.  The door only locks with a skeleton key just like all the other doors in the house.  When we moved into the house in 2007, we noticed an entire cabinet built just to hold all the skeleton keys, 55 hooks in all.  There were only a fraction of the keys left, maybe 15.  Now we only have 6, some of which are probably for doors that are no longer hanging.  That leaves 2 skeleton keys left to lock the bathroom, our bedroom, and the attic door.  Therefore the children no longer have access to said Keys.

That day I had taken the Key out of hiding and locked the door.

Ahhhhhh!  Peace!  I turned the worship music on high and enjoyed my alone time as I took a shower.  I was just drying off when my husband knocked on the door.

“Yes?” I asked, trying not to sound annoyed at the intrusion.

“Can I come in?” he asked.

I usually open the door for my husband, so against my better judgement I turned that key in the lock.  The door opened a crack.

“Quick, get into the closet!” my husband said with urgency.  “Calvin really has to go and someone is in the downstairs bathroom.”

“WHAT!”

“Come on!  It will just take him a minute.  Get in the closet,” Chris told me.  Calvin is seven and bathroom needs can be fairly urgent at that age.

So there I was in the closet – cold, wet, and crammed…and wondering what was taking so long.

“Oh, you don’t just have to go pee Calvin?” I heard Chris say.  “Come on, Calvin! Hurry!”

I began to feel panic rising in my throat.  I was stuck in there while Calvin was…you know!

“I should have never unlocked that door!” I yelled out to Chris and to myself and to all the mothers of the world –

“ DON’T UNLOCK THAT DOOR!”

I began that moment to compile a list of reasons why I NEED a master bathroom.

1. My husband and I could use the privacy!

2.I don’t want my toddlers and young children to have access to my rather expensive toiletries.

This is the reason for numbers 2, 3, and 4. Courage was trying to use my Miracle Skin Salve (it is the only thing that will help heal Ashlyn’s outbreaks of psoriasis and costs $30 for a small jar).  He dropped the entire thing in the toilet.  I have resorted to storing that replacement jar among other precious items in the “feminine drawer” in the bathroom closet.  So far, so good.  It remains unmolested.

3.I would like to maintain the integrity of  my medications.

I have a natural throat spray that is a life saver during a bad sore throat. I used it several times before I realized that the taste was really off.  I finally deduced that Courage had poured out most of the throat pray and then had added tap water.  Cadin told me later that Courage had also spit in it.  Why he didn’t think that information was important to tell me immediately, I do not know.  The new throat spray is now stored in the box of nursing pads.  So far so good.

4. I don’t want to “share” my hair products with a three-year-old.

My almost full bottle of Shine Serum  went missing. Weeks later Courage told me that he had poured it all out into the trash.  The new bottle in now being stored in the “feminine drawer”, fingers crossed.

5. I no longer want to unsuccessfully scour the entire house to find important items that should be right where I left them, such as the tweezers, fingernail clippers, hair accessories, and even toilet paper.

6. I don’t want to wonder what has touched my towel during the course of the day.

7. I could offer my children more bathroom time.

I noticed a water bottle in my teenage son’s room. It contained a yellow liquid I found very suspect.  When I asked Cole about it, he replied, “What do you expect me to do when you girls are in the bathroom?”

“Wait!” came my indignant reply.

“Sometimes there is someone in the downstairs bathroom, and I just can’t wait.”

“Well, you can at least empty the bottle!”

“Why?  It is not full yet,” Cole said matter-of-factly.

I would wager to say that Cole could benefit from me having a master bathroom, and I could stop becoming slightly nauseated whenever I pass his room.

  1. I could avoid stepping in a pee puddle when using the toilet in the middle of the night.

  2. I could save my daughter from the horror.

    I already told my sweet teenage daughter that if we got a master bathroom, she could use it and escape the jungle that is our current bathroom –the inevitable misses from six boys who like to pee all over the place and also don’t feel the need to flush down ANYTHING!

  3. Most importantly, I don’t ever want to be naked in the closet again while my son goes poop!

Chris has already come up with an ingenious plan to get us that master bathroom.  Our bedroom has a door that leads to an outside porch that already has a roof on it.  He just needs to enclose the porch and bring up the water from the laundry room below.  Of course there will be a million other details to consider and the expense of doing all of that.  So I have decided to start a Go Fund Me Account. If you would like to donate to our very worthy cause, just look up “Pooping in Peace for Every Brandenburg.”

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Found this lovely bathroom on Love of Family and Home , and look!  No pee puddles on the floor.  I am in love!

Just kidding! This article was written for the pure entertainment value….but if you should feel a burden for our family and want to give us a brand new master bathroom….we wouldn’t turn you down.

Tell Me a Gummy Bear Sto-whee!

 

Christmas 2015-Febuary 2016 144Bed time is such an important time for young children.  Over the years, our good-night routine has evolved and changed.  I started by singing songs to Areli, Cole, and Cadin as they lay in their beds in their darkened room.  I think I enjoyed the peaceful melodies even more than they did.

Then I heard that if you read poetry to young children, they will grow up to be poets.  Who was I to hinder their writing careers, so poetry reading became the norm.  My favorites were always from A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.  I must admit that none of them enjoy writing poetry now as teenagers, but perhaps someday they will hear one of those familiar rhymes and be taken back to a sweet childhood memory.

More babies came and Areli, Cole, and Cadin didn’t command as much of my attention at bed time anymore.  They would read to themselves in their beds, followed by music or books on CD.  Sometimes this was great!  Other times, not so much.  I would find out later that a particular child would be frightened by a certain story, usually something that I wouldn’t have expected.  Other times, Cole would be bothered by the noise while he was trying to sleep.  Areli was such a creature of habit, that she couldn’t fall asleep without the tape or CD on.  She would pull the tape player over to her bed, turn the volume down, and listen to it under her pillow.

Once Areli came to me late in the evening.  I had put a lullaby CD on for her at bedtime and thought she was sleeping.  She was crying and shaking and said that the songs made her sad.  She has no idea why, but she dislikes lullabies to this day.  I discontinued the practice of leaving them alone with a CD at night and favored listening to stories all together at lunchtime.  Then I could talk about the story with the children and understand how each one felt about each book.  We had some wonderful times listening to all the Chronicles of Narnia, Little Women, and even Jane Eyre.

Areli, Cole, and Cadin grew big enough that they didn’t need someone to tuck them in at night.  It was now Ashlyn, Chai, Cooper, and Calvin’s turn. I found Uncle Arthur’s Bedtime stories published in 1951.  This book was full of short stories; each one was true and contained an important life lesson or moral.  I loved these stories!

Other times I would ask them to share what they enjoyed most about their day.  Then we would take turns praying.

I am a natural storyteller, so it is funny that it took me 17 years into my mothering career before I started telling bedtime stories.  In fact, storytelling is in my blood.  My Papa used to delight my brother and I with his bedtime stories about a tiny but feisty girl named Squeegee.  She was so little that she could crawl through a Cheerio.  She had a pet mosquito name Quito who she rode like a horse.  I always begged Papa for Indian stories. His voice would transport us to a remote Indian village where I was transformed into an Indian princess and my brother, Jason was a young brave.  Of course, Squeegee was always there too.

I loved those stories, and we still have some of them preserved on cassette tapes.  It is strange that I never thought of telling bedtime stories of my own…until now.

It was Courage Justice who started it.

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He wanted a bedtime story, so I began a yarn about the first thing that popped into my head…gummy bears.  More and more details spilled out of my mouth until I had a whole cast of characters (four special gummy bears and their friends, Cooper, Calvin, and Courage).  The adventures would be something little boys would enjoy, and I received plenty of suggestions and help from the three young boys themselves.

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They would take trips to Venice in a rocket ship.  They would visit their grandparents in Colorado where they splashed in Uncle Wilber (those of you from Colorado Springs will understand), climb mountains, and parachute from planes.  The gummy bears found tiny sombreros and toured the southwest with a Mariachi band.  This led to an appearance on Good Morning America and a trip to Walt Disney World where the gummy bears and the boys dressed up as dwarfs and took part in a parade.

We just finished talking about the summer they all spent in Texas on Hank’s Cattle Ranch learning to be Cowboys.  The four gummy bears spent most of their time enjoying the view from Courage’s cowboy hat.  Sometimes they had to take it easy UNDER Courage’s cowboy hat because they realized that too much sun made them squishy and too much rain made them melt.

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The five-day cattle drive was hard, but they met a lot of new friends along the way.  Who could forget the turquoise lizard that wanted to travel along in Cooper’s saddle bag or the dragonfly, Zip who became Calvin’s pet? They also enjoyed a pow-wow at an Indian village and had quite a shopping spree with all the money they earned after the cattle were auctioned off.  Each boy had to buy their mom a special present, of course.  I must admit, I was hoping for some Native American jewelry or maybe even my own horse.  Courage was quite proud when he announced that he had purchased for me… a toothbrush.  Oh well!  I do love to brush my teeth!

Courage enjoyed these nighttime stories so much, that he began coming to me many times a day.

“Tell me a gummy bear sto-whee!” he would say.

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I wasn’t always available to snuggle with him and tell a story, so the older children would begin to continue the adventure with their own stories.

It is amazing how these stories take on a life of their own and transport all who listen to a magical place.  I enjoy all the adventures that I have had with Cooper, Calvin, Courage, and the gummy bears.

I do not recommend that you allow your children to eat gummy bears. They are bad for you in about 10 different ways.  But they are also our friends, and we do not eat our friends, do we?

I do highly recommend them as traveling companions into the imagination of a child…and then into peaceful landscape of dreamland.  If all the gummy bears are unavailable, you could try looking up a tiny woman who is known for her courageous spirit.  She is in her 40s now, but still young at heart and up for a good bedtime adventure!

 

A Photo Shoot with All Boys

I had gotten a lovely picture of my girls for our Christmas card.  Each girl had a sweet, picture-perfect smile.  All I needed was an equally good picture of my six boys.  I could imagine the stunning photo in my mind.  Six fine boys, all with distinct features yet all with the similar Brandenburg look – a winning smile and handsome eyes.  They would look like an ad for some designer label.

I put my daughter, Areli, on the job with high expectations.  Then  reality hit!  Here is the adventure that she had, trying to get that perfect shot.

“Ok, let’s get all the boys into bright, simple shirts and line them up together on the porch.”

“Boys, you have to get closer together.  Smoosh!  Good, now smile!”

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“Boys, nice smiles!!!”

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“Look at the camera BOYS!!”

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“I see that your collective attention span has reached its limit.  Let’s take a walk in the woods and look for a scenic spot to take a picture.”

“Alright, this place is nice.  Now all get together and smile.  Look handsome! “

(You think you have the perfect shot and then, in the blink of an eye – a squirrel up in a tree becomes quite fascinating!)

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“Look at the camera boys!”

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Well, this is getting better!  This is a good one…wait…where is the little cutie?  The star of any photo shoot is always the littlest one with the cubby cheeks, but WHERE IS HE?

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Courage was mad that he couldn’t have a “nola” bar, and decided that he was done with pictures.

“Courage, Come Back Here!!!”

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There it is, little Courage making his way in the lonely wilderness.

We might as well take a break for a little fun.

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That photo shoot turned out to be less than what I was envisioning and the boys gave Areli such a hard time!  I was not yet defeated, so I got the boys dressed up again in special, matching outfits.  We all tromped outside to try again.

“Ok, boys.  Lay down in the grass and put your heads together in the middle.”

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Pandemonium ensued.  Apparently boys consider it very uncool to lay down in the grass, especially with EACH OTHER.

Areli and I tried to get some pictures amidst the arguing, complaining, rough housing, and shrieking…but alas.  Every single picture showed Courage’s once handsome face contoured into a grimace.  He cried the entire photo shoot.

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That was the end!  The boys were free from their torture and I was mad!  Where was my perfect picture of my dashing young men for my epic Christmas card?

This is a lot like life.  We have expectations of perfection. We make excellent plans.  Give straightforward instructions. Yet everything happens except perfection.  Disappointment is guaranteed. What is a mom to do?

I looked through the photos to see what I could salvage.  I actually found a few good ones mixed in.

The boys-november 2015 003There are my handsome boys!  The moment was so fleeting, I almost missed it.

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This photo was my favorite.  They don’t all have perfect smiles but I can appreciate each boy in his uniqueness and I LOVE them each so much!

Life never gives us what we expect and it is never our version of perfect.  But if you pay attention and look closely enough, you can find the gems hidden in the dirt.

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Or in this case, the little boy smiling in the tree. (Smiling because the photo shoot was over and he was free to climb!)

Sweet and patient Areli has become quite the photographer! She has just launched her own website and offers photo shoots and prints for sale.  Please check it out!

Areli Endura Photography

 

 

 

Broken is the New “Just Right”

Sure, I am a mother of many boys with aggression and hyperactivity all around me all of the time. But I am still a girl who likes pretty things, who wants to make her home a peaceful oasis. My efforts are continually being thwarted by those unruly boys. My lovely house plant becomes inhabited by plastic frogs. My beautiful framed art is accessorized with suction cup Nerf bullets. My delicate blue and white china collection is transformed into a war zone for Star Wars Lego Storm Troopers.
I had just finished decorating for Christmas when I noticed this sorry fellow in the photograph, still bravely manning his post despite the fact that he had both of his arms ripped off.

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He seems to be telling me, “Yes, I know that I am not as you were hoping me to be, and you would like to remove me from your shelf and toss me into the trash. But wait…God uses the imperfect and impossible all the time. I may be just the finishing touch that you need.”

So there you have it. Broken is the new “just right,” and God can use all of us! I am so thankful so that He can use me even though I am broken…maybe because I am broken. And I am thankful for a house full of boys who break things…and sometimes make them better.

 

It is Truly Delightful to Have a House Full of Boys

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Little boys give the BEST hugs, squeezing your neck so hard with their little chubby arms that you feel like you will burst with the sheer joy of it!

You get to observe how your husband must have looked like as a baby, toddler, and little boy, and it is an adorable sight to behold!

You have the opportunity to learn strange and bizarre facts about many topics including but not limited to exotic animals, superheroes, guns, the world of Redwall, policemen, comic books, history, wars, and heroes.

You are inspired by the intelligent engineering and creative design of the structures that rise and fall, both outside and inside your home.

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You are happy that those pesky squirrels have to run for their lives when your boys show up with their home-made bows and arrows.

Boys are enthusiastic eaters!  The messier they are, the more they enjoyed it.

Boys love to pick flowers for their moms. “Picking” is a term used loosely to mean stomped on, whacked down, crushed, pulled up by the roots, and then presented with pride to the object of their affection.

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Moms, YOU are that object of affection!  What could be better than that!

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Boys love to follow their Dad around, learning everything that Dad knows.

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Boys can lift some of the burden off of Dad as they take over jobs that they enjoy and take pride in, such as yard work and maintenance of the house and cars.

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Boys grow into teenagers who are bigger and stronger than you are.  They can help in a myriad of ways from carrying the groceries to building your dream home.  I have not yet received a dream home from my boys, but I have read a story of a mother of 13 boys who did!

You get to experience all the joys of each stage of their development as described in Wild Things: the Art of Nurturing Boys.

The Explorer (age 2-4) active, aggressive, curious, self-determined

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The Lover (age 5-8) tender, obedient, attached to dad, competitive

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The Individual (ages 9-12) searching, evolving, experimenting, criticizing

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The Wanderer (ages 13-17) when a boy becomes the worst version of himself.  Ok, that part isn’t so great, but just wait until you read the next one.cole 2

The Warrior (ages 18-22) going from boy to man, finishing, reflective, searching, romantic

We get to watch the little boy grow into the strong and courageous warrior.  That warrior will stand up for what is right and defend the weak.  That warrior will be motivated by love in everything he does with an authority that comes from knowing his identity in God.  A vision of that Warrior, no matter how distant he might be from your reality, will keep you saying, “It is truly delightful and wonderful to raise a houseful of boys!

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Life with a House Full of Boys

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The pictures that you hung perfectly straight with a measuring tape and a level are always crooked.

Plastic frogs and lizards have found a home in your potted plants.coleandhisgun

You find legos in every corner, sofa cushion, and pocket.

Nurf bullets are flying through the air at any time, night or day.

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The furniture takes on the smell of stinky boy feet.

Even though they have been admonished to “Be Quiet!” during naptime, the herd of elephants still stampede through the house and up and down the stairs.

 

Screaming is a common sound, usually not even requiring a mother’s concerned attention.

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Wrestling and pain and injuries are all part of the fun.

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Food disappears, yet nobody knows where it went.

 

Mealtimes are a crazy event.  (You might even end up with dirty underwear in your soup.)

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Super heroes with varying special powers are flying around the house with their capes flapping in the breeze.

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Sometimes the disregard for the law of gravity results in crutches.

You may see your toddler wielding a plastic firearm.

The boys might wake up covered in dust mite bites, because their room is so very…well, dusty; not to mention messy, dirty, unkempt, disheveled, and an all around disaster area.

Potty language is considered to be the highest form of humor.

You need your husband to constantly remind you to, “stop worrying, this is normal boy behavior.”

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You have many interesting conversations that go something like this:

The boys

“Mom! Cooper ate a slug!”
“Is that true Cooper?” you ask, calmly.
“Yes!” Cooper replies with much joy on his animated face.
“Did you chew it or swallow it whole?” You are curious.
“He chewed it,” Cole answers.
“So what did it taste like?” you ask.
“Chocolate!” Cooper responds.
“Cooper, do you know why you shouldn’t have eaten that slug?”
“No…”
“Because I told you that you couldn’t have dessert tonight!” you reply with a smile on your face as you are thinking to yourself, “Boys!! I just  love ’em!”

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I could describe the perpetual state of your bathroom in a house full of boys…but I don’t want people to stop having little boys.