The Wonder of a Little Girl

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My Annalise is quite a special little girl.  She has bright blue eyes that sparkle with life.  She has cute little dimples in the corners of her mouth when she smiles and one on her right cheek as well.

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She loves to run around the house in bouncy, toddler circles.  She loves to run on the sidewalk outside our home, her small arms pumping with the joy of childhood.

I am certain that she must be one of the most beautiful creatures in the universe.  There is no sound more beautiful than her high-pitched voice exclaiming, “Mama!”  when she sees me.  There is no feeling more wonderful than when she puts her chubby, little arms around my neck and rubs her soft cheek against my cheek, slowly and lovingly.  I can feel her long, dark eyelashes brush my skin.  She snuggles in and expresses her joy by sighing, “Ohhhh, ohhhh,” like we do when we hug her.

Throughout the day, I will call out to her for fun, “Lisie, Lisie!” which is her nickname.  She responds, “Mommy, Ahmmy!”  I can’t hide my absolute delight in her.  I smile wide and my eyes tell her that she is the light of my life.  She smiles back with those dimples and a look that says, “I really am something, aren’t I?”

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Recently I gathered some pictures to decorate my mother’s new room.  She just moved to an assisted living home in March.  Now when I visit my mom, my attention is always drawn to a particular picture on her bookshelf.  It is an old photo of me.  I look to be about three, just a little older than Annalise.  I have noticed that I have the same bright blue eyes.  I have those cute mouth dimples.  And there it is, the smile that says, “I really am something, aren’t I?”

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My mom had told me many times that Annalise looks very much like I did at her age.  Mom also says that she acts a lot like me, sweet and kind but also feisty.  I wanted to believe it, but it wasn’t until I saw that picture did I begin to think, “I was just as precious and marvelous as Annalise.  I was loved and cherished just as Annalise is.”

I don’t know why I had forgotten that.  Somehow the years and my life experiences had told me a different story; that I wasn’t that special, that I had to work really hard to get people to like me, and that I had to worry about losing that approval.

God is taking me back to that little girl.  The one who was the most beautiful creature in the universe.  The one who captured her Father’s heart with one glance of her eyes.

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The one who already had the perfect love that could never be earned, the love that could never be diminished, the love that could never be lost.  That little girl is me… and I really AM something, aren’t I?

A Bedroom Makeover that took 18 years (and a Mother’s thoughts on the graduation of her firstborn)

I have been dreaming about decorating a little girl’s room for some time now…18 years to be exact.  When I was pregnant with my first child, we didn’t know the gender of the baby.  We chose a neutral Noah’s Ark bedroom set to put on our baby registry.  Our baby girl seemed to be delighted with her bedroom.  This also worked for our next baby, a boy who was born 18 months later.  Areli and Cole shared a room and the animals in muted colors worked great for them.

However, when Areli turned three she became a big girl almost overnight.  She was totally potty-trained and moved into a big bed.  As I searched for the perfect comforter set, I began to dream of decorating a room for her.  Perhaps soon we would move to a bigger home and Areli could have her own room, a GIRL’S room!

I found a lovely comforter and sheet set called, “Mariposa.”  It had butterflies on a purple and yellow back ground.  For the next few years I played with decorating ideas.  I would paint imaginary walls in my mind, first bright yellow, then lavender.  I would experiment with different colors of curtains.  I decided that I would frame the adorable Anne Geddes baby butterflies in white frames and put them up all over the walls.   The most beautiful little girl’s room began to take shape, and I was so proud of myself.  Areli was going to be thrilled!

The years passed and we never did get a home big enough to give Areli her own room.  We never had the time or money to paint walls and decorate, and then we rented for several years.  Boring white walls became the norm for us.

Finally we moved into our own home and Areli got the largest bedroom…to share with two brothers.  Eventually the brothers moved out and a sister moved in.  There was even a baby in there a few times.  Yet we never seemed able to patch the cracking walls and paint over the dull and faded yellow.

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I still held on to my dream of a purple and yellow room for Areli.  However, Areli was now growing up and developing her own dreams.  I realized that purple, yellow, and butterflies had nothing to do with her dreams.  She preferred green, blue, horses, football, and photography.  She had developed tastes that were totally different from mine!  How did this happen?

This is all that is left of my dreams.

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A picture that is being stored in the attic and faded old sheets that used to be purple.

This year Areli turned 18.  She has grown into a beautiful and capable young woman.  She is so very like me, yet so totally different.

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She has different tastes in books, movies, clothes, and interior decorating.  She still loves green and blue and football and photography.  She helps so much around our home.  She loves and serves her family everyday with grace and endurance.

It was finally time for a bedroom makeover – ARELI STYLE!

Chris had a week off of work right around Areli’s 18th birthday.  He spent much of it fixing her walls, painting, and hanging window treatments and decorations.

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Areli picked the color “Electric Lime.”  When I saw it on the wall for the first time I thought, “Oh my!  Was that really what Areli wanted?”

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SHE LOVES IT!  Her dream had become a reality!  Now she has the perfect girl’s room in which to do her school work, hang out, and rest.  She still has to share it with a younger sister, but I think she feels like it is finally truly a room for HER, designed by her.

Areli graduates from High School in less than two weeks.  She has worked ahead and has already finished all of her classes with straight As.  She is going to work on her photography over the summer and get a job in the fall.  Her plan is to attend a Discipleship Training School with Youth With a Mission the following year.  I am excited for her!  The sky is the limit and the possibilities are endless.  With all the missions organizations all over the world, she could do anything and go anywhere.  Her future potential is boundless!

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However, all this is very sad for a mom.  When I think about my home without Areli in it, I just want to cry.  How will I make it without her?  She helps me so much with all the household duties and taking care of the younger children.  More importantly, she is a wonderful friend, an oasis of womanly wisdom in a sea of boys.  She is the person who always understands me.  She is my companion when Chris is working long hours.

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The other day I had a precious hour of free time before bed.  I decided to spend it connecting with God, sitting on the love-seat in my bedroom.  I was going to read and pray and write in my journal.  When I entered, I found Areli sitting on my love seat, reading a book that I had always loved, and taking notes in her journal.  I felt my heart swell with joy as I realized something.  Areli had fully absorbed all I have tried to teach her.  She has heeded my instruction, and she has also watched my life and followed my example.  She has taken ownership of her faith and she deliberately seeks out truth.  She has worked to learn and remember what is important.

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She is so much like me yet so different from me…and so much better.  My ceiling is her foundation.  She is strong and mature…and almost ready to fly.

I want to whoop and holler in excitement for Areli…the successful efforts of my mothering!  I want to curl up in a ball and sob for the same reason…for the beautiful “Electric Lime” room that will soon be half-way empty and for the vacant place in my heart.

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I am so glad that we finally gave Areli that bedroom makeover that I had always been planning…even if it did take 18 years.  Secretly I am hoping it might help her to stay a little longer, and beckon her to return to this safe haven again and again and again.

 

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.

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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