what we don’t talk about.

the following happened before noon today:

I looked out the window to see an otter playing along the ice of the river, the first we’ve seen in the five years we’ve lived here.  all six of us hurried to the window to watch him dip into the water, playing, & then leisurely make his way back on to the ice.  the sleek little guy entertained us a good while.  I was sad to not see him slink back up onto the ice.

then andy suggested javin look up what otters eat.  (turns out they’re rather carnivorous.  Kieran asked if we should feed him meat. . . .)

the fermented bread dough popped its jar lid coming to room temperature fresh out of the fridge while I was frying eggs, sending the thin dough out through the miniscule crack between lid & mason jar.  we had a literal dough volcano in the kitchen.  I called the kids over, of course, to see our dough monstrosity, to which i received a resounding, “ewwww!!”  (after my last instagram/facebook post about being non-sciency & completely unable to perform a volcano experiment, I must’ve given God a good chuckle.)

thalia found pinto beans in the fridge, pulled out the small cast iron she bought with her own money, & began refrying the beans.  this lead to andy’s teasing her in fun about being part Mexican (which she is:  andy is half Mexican, a fact that was of unbelievable allure to me when we were dating.  i’m not sure why.  sorry, digressing. . . .).  to this Kieran, the next in line at 5-years-old hollered, “what part am I?”  “you’re part Mexican, too, Kieran,”  andy answered.  “i’m MEXICAN?” Kieran replied, pure disbelief written all over his face.  at which point I realized two things:  1. we obviously could use a booster in ethnic heritage & 2.  (this isn’t new, but I need to relearn it often.)  learning is organic.  we went from refried beans on cast iron to my five-year-old coming nose-to-nose with his heritage.

somehow we got on the topic of handwriting toward the end of breakfast, which led to a demonstration in my best third grade handwriting of capital letters.  a capital “J” is very fun to write, in case you had forgotten, & the kids argued about whose names had better letters for cursive.

since they’d been at the chalkboard door, after breakfast the older kids invented a spelling competition to take place there, me giving the words, they making up all the rules.  this evolved to include math questions & a category similar to “the family feud,” if you can remember that Richard Dawson gameshow.  (I was reared on it.)  they played this for the better part of an hour & a half.  I was exhausted.

: : :

I don’t often write about my kids’ education, partially because it feels so un-mainstream (which it is), & partially because it is theirs & not mine.  temper that with a hefty swallow of fear-of-what-you-will-think, & we have a story i’m not keen to share.  but I vowed to be more brave in what I write about here.  plus, there’s something wonderful about being known.

so, if you’re curious about how the learning goes around here, please know that it isn’t always this measurable, & it usually involves a child screaming (you’ll remember the two younger boys).  but it does go on, regularly, in fits & spurts, sometimes in bursts.

&, like much of life, it is quite astonishing.

why travel?

lunch is in the oven, & i’m thinking down scones & potato salad.  the sink is full, & the laundry basket, & the living room floor.  i need to air out snowpants from newbie cross-country skiers, & there’s a cat around here somewhere.

just now i’m wondering why.  we’re tired, there’s much to do.  i just sent the little boys down the hall to do their screaming somewhere-not-here.  the long list i pencilled last night, an hour after we got back from michigan, is cackling at me, chuckling at my ambition.  tomorrow we leave for north dakota, the second leg of our first annual winter grandparent tour.  WI to MI back to WI to ND & back to WI.

why would a young family, toddlerhood still hanging off the last one, travel in the winter on a super-low budget to somewhere not-warm?

well.
all i can offer for explanation is a few photos.

michigan tech’s winter carnival snow sculptures.




andy’s newest addition to screenprinting, ice t-shirts.  jay kay.




their first time on cross-countries & snow shoes.


they can fight even on skis.





i was so happy to see this random person flying a kite out on the lake.  because, why not?  my life could use a little more “why not?”.  yours, too?

then a trip to houghton’s library.  my boots:  actual size.


the SNOW, people.  i don’t know if you know.


& pasties with my cute MIL.  because PASTIES.


hanging out with papa.  & cousin Ever, the delicious.


the beautiful auntie Elizabeth brought over her watercolors.

& uncle Ben the Benevolent provided the entertainment.


f
ive-year-old selfies.  

so, truly.  why, when it’s a boatload of work, & inconvenient, & hours in the crumb-laden van, would we value travel as a way of being in the world?

i think it carries over to everything:  doing the things we really want to do, living our ideals, living an intentional life, is a boatload of work.  & though the work is just that, work, how can we not put in the extra grind?

andy said yesterday on our drive home, as we were talking life & philosophy:

we’re past impossible.

meaning, we’ve lived a long time referring to different pieces of our lives as impossible.  but is anything, really, if we’re meant to do it, impossible?  or is it just difficult, inconvenient, work?  i mean, i want the good life.  & that life is not the one on billboards or on the news, in the sunday paper advertisements.  it’s more mysterious than that.  it’s deeper.  i dare say it’s simpler.

& part of that inconvenience for us, that impossible, is back-to-back roadtrips with four smallish children in the winter to cold destinations.

it is travel.

did i mention the water heater just died?

we got it all wrong.

the other night, I was squeezing homemade toothpaste on my toothbrush when andy came down the hall.  we got ourselves into a volley around all the mis-prescriptions we had about our lives that are now true.  it went like this:

“. . . I NEVER , ever would’ve lived in Wisconsin.  I hated Wisconsin.”  –me.

“. . .& there was NO WAY I was going to date a girl from North Dakota.  I didn’t like North Dakota people. . . .”  –andy.  (he’s recovered.)

“. . .& I NEVER planned on staying home with kids.  I was going to go somewhere big, maybe New York, have a career.  but home all day with kids?  not the plan. . . .”  –me.

“AND I was NEVER planning on having a big family.  a couple kids, maybe, down the road.  after i’d gotten myself established. . .law, or something important. . . .  but good, grief – 4?  no, that would be too much for me. . . .”  –still me.

“. . . & homeschooling!  NO.  absolutely not.  we weren’t going to do that.  people need to put their kids in school.  homeschoolers are nuts.  to do that would’ve been ridiculous. . . .”  –yes, still me.

“. . . good grief.  what happened to us. . . ?”

[smiling at each other & bumping knuckles.]

: : : :

the list of how we’re living now opposed to what we thought we’d do goes on:  andy starting his own businesses (not one, but two, with a third coming ’round the corner:  shhh.).  his working from home, in the basement.  having only one family vehicle, more than a decade old.  (we have a pick-up, too, even older, given to us.)  eating all hippie.  spending our everyday time 99% at home.  giving away or selling 60% of our possessions.  spending as little money as possible.  my being a recluse.

no plan for any of this.  the opposite, in fact.

surely by now, we had finally untangled ourselves, after absorbing so much new direction & four kids!  NOW we KNEW where we should be going.  (chuckle.)  so last summer, we tried to sell our house, buy a bus, travel around & around, & then settle onto a homestead, where we’d build a much smaller house, & grow things, like children & vegetables & chickens.  we thought we were following the string.

what we got instead was a bit more tangle, the nod to stay in this exact place we’re living in.  which, we’re realizing, isn’t the tragedy we had thought it would be, as we untangle ourselves from what the plan was.

my friend heather posted this recently:

at some point, you just have to let go of what you thought should happen & live in what is happening.  –hplyrikz.com

yes.  the what-is-happening!  now we’re busy weaving our dreams & stringing them into a here-shape.  thalia asked for chicks for her march birthday. andy picked up coop-building books at the library on his last trip in. we’ve marked trees to cut down in the front yard to clear space for bigger gardens.  we’re rearranging the house yet again, shifting rooms & taking down shelves, to better accommodate all the making & doing we want to have going on here, for both us & the kids.  (more on that in the near future, but let me tell you, things are getting unconventional around here, y’all.)  & we’re taking the 2015 decluttering challenge (found here), like we did last year, where we finished with over 9,000 things leaving our home.  (we’re at a pleasant 500 so far.)

things are movin’ & groovin’, & we’re still dreaming the bus dream, too, only not to live in full-time.  it’s a thin thread, but a thread we have woven around our hearts nonetheless.  we can’t untangle it, so we’ll keep holding the string.

we all know life will not go as planned.
but even more than that, I know that if I give God my thin thread, He will most likely unravel my whole life, in the very best of ways.

i’m realizing we’ll never have it figured out, not in the way we think.  so we’re learning to live with our thin threads held up into the what’s-happening-now, & swirl our prayers around them.  we plan & dream & clear space in our hearts & our heads & our home for what could be, while we live out our ordinary days.

we’re going to just keep holding up our thin threads.
it’s getting good.

XO.

~jill.

when to skip the dishes.

i barely recognized her, this girl across the bar table from me, beside the picture window in the perfect morning light at caribou.  she sounded like my girl, but drawn out from her usual surrounding of brothers, i had to squint to really see her.  i came prepared to talk deep into her & her into me, mother & daughter;  she brought her notebook, borrowed my pencil, & drew a picture of herself drinking her smoothie.  i was startled to see her this clearly.  what a beautiful view.  that i nearly missed.

this past weekend, in the face of a sink full of dishes amid the usual chaos & my parents coming in a few hours, we slipped out, just she & i, no boys. andy & i had been meaning to date our children, individual jaunts for coffee or pool or the park with icecream.  with four kids at home all the time with both parents, the air gets a little thick.  one-on-one’s seemed like the natural solution to lumping them all together (they all look alike anyway).  but to-date, we hadn’t eeked out the time.

life, you guys.
there is so much LIFE in the way.

so, while i debated leaving the chaos, andy said, “go.”
i am ever indebted to his aggressiveness.





my friend shannon posted this on facebook tonight:

“And every day the world will drag you by the hand, yelling, ‘this is important!  & this is important!  & this is important!  you need to worry about this!  & this!  & this!’  And each day, it’s up to you to yank your hand back, put it on your heart, & say, ‘NO.  this is what’s important.'”
~leonie dawson.

isn’t that the Truth?  it’s super easy to spin our wheels (& when i say “our,” i mean “my”), to clean our houses & cook our meals, to work our jobs & pay our bills, & neglect what’s important.  i blame my scandinavianness, but i love having everything just so before i relax & enjoy my life.  as in, i actually had a revelelation a couple mornings ago (i’m flying my freak flag here) as i woke up & read a novel for pure joy  by myself:  i’m enjoying my life!  before i’ve done any work!  & then, then! i had not one but two(!) thick mugs of mint tea, deep with cream alongside my breakfast.  i felt like i’d just swallowed summer.

as it turns out (& i don’t know who made this rule but i will kiss them Him), we don’t have to wait for perfected doneness before we start living.  it ain’t comin’.  believe me, i’ve waited, a despondent girl sitting on her suitcase beside the tracks at the train station.  perfect ain’t a-comin’.

in the meantime, we’ve got things to do, my friends.  dreams to chase.  stories to write.  lives to live.  dates to plan.  dishes to skip.

we were meant for great things, you & i.

let’s not hesitate as we scan the countertop, the inbox, seeing if we’ve done enough.
you have, & you are.

let’s not forget to be art as we do our work.
let’s not neglect the art for the work.

go plan yourself a date.
tweaking the machine alongside you,
as always.
XO.

~jill.

p.s.  after much begging & pleading, we finally let the kids start their own blogs.  my oldest, javin, writes at:  javinmakesascene.wordpress.com.  thalia, the girl in our world, will soon be at:  thejanetrain.wordpress.com.  i’m pretty proud of them for finally twisting my arm hard enough to let them on my computer. . . .

I just got cuter.

every since we hit the Christmas season, I’ve been fielding a niggling to pare down, scale back even further.  let the margin increase.  let the slow living grip us.  in every hollow of our lives, from activities to decorations to toys to chores, we’ve peeled back another layer.  I may have unfriended some of you.  (just kidding.  I think.)  the blog belonged to that paring down, & now we’ve finally finished the tweaking, as promised.  you’ll notice a few things:

1.  the name!  no longer “tiny & small,” I’ve been feeling a jig in my spirit to move on from writing only about the lovely ordinary, but to amp up my intentionality & let you in a little further.  we’re sort of an out-of-the-box family, & I want to tell you about it.  but we’re still the same britzs.  you saw the picture up there, right?

2.  the “about us” page.  I reworked it, detailing the revised map for this place.  go see.  right now.  i’ll wait.

3.  the direction.  as authenticity is always one of my banjo strings, I want to dig in deeper with you here in this place.  i’m good about writing about what I think is socially acceptable.  i’m a dunce about going far out on a limb.  we’ll try the limb now.  feel free to disagree.  I like a healthy engage;  ask my mother.

he likes to engage, too. 4.  the look.  I couldn’t quite handle how riotous the blog felt when I logged in to write.  maybe because of the insane chaos that is my floor at all times (thank you, little toddler.  you make mommy crazy happy.), I needed here to be as peaceful as possible.  to be a place to slow down & inhale.  I hope it’s that for you, too.

that’s the jig.  I took my time on this one.  which is how I want to start doing things.

jill in the box, blossomed from tiny & small.
I hope you like it.
& thanks for waiting in the wings for me.

as always, you cats rock.

XO.
~jill.

giving myself a facial.

quiet, please.
that’s been my MO the last few weeks.  I’ve been quiet here, but I’ve been thinking.
andy & me, together, applying our collective dreaming:  what Tiny & Small is, what i’d like it to be, what you’d like to read here.

so T&S is getting a facial.

& good things are in the wings, my friends.  good, good things.

SO.  stay tuned.  my graphic designing husband is busying away, & this girl?  well.  I just can’t wait to spill out all the fun bits in my head.  (sorry.  I just went all garbage pail kids.  my bad.)

would you do me a fave, though?  tell me what you’d like to read here, either in the comments or on facebook.  I’m dying to know.  (just please don’t ask my opinion on politics.  I won’t ever have one. . . .)

soon, then.
XO.

~jill.

not so grateful.

i wanted to check in here before the week screams ahead of me, this fantastic holiday week.  we’re hosting thanksgiving for 29 people in our living room this year.  eek!!  the tables are fresh, the turkey is ready for pick-up, & my cousins are bringing pie.  truly a fortunate week.  {on a side note, i’ve never been so glad to be a minimalist:  pull the couch downstairs, shove the keyboard in girl’s room, carry the reading basket to the basement, & voila!  dining hall.  badda bing, badda boom.}thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.  i don’t yet have to conjure gift lists to check off again, no fudge to stir yet, no what-am-i-going-to-get-my-mother-in-law.  just dinner.  dinner – one of my favorite things – with family around & some thoughts thrown down toward gratitude.  except that this year, i’ve not really gotten around to the gratitude part.

& i can tell i am less when i forget gratitude.

the truth is, as much as i want to be grateful, i’m just not very good at it.  like how i’ve always wanted to run a (half) marathon, but i don’t actually run (i used to.  lay off.)  i forget to say “thank You” for the everyday things:  the sun warm in the window & my cozy bed with little tiny boys sleeping against my shoulder & just even waking up at all in the morning.  it takes time to note these things, & frankly, i’ve got better things to do.

right?

i also forget to say “thank You” for the big ticket items.  like praise sweet Jesus that i’m not sick when every other member of my family was throwing up this week, or that the sick we had isn’t something far worse, because it could be, you know.  plenty of people have it worse, & if i can turn my cute little nose (it actually is.  ask anyone.) away from those more affluent, more talented, more beautiful than i am, i can actually look my life gratefully in the eye.

but then, hello, there are the rotten things that i absolutely never think to say thanks for. because, obviously.  they’re awful.  losing my hair.  andy losing his job.  uprooting & finding ourselves strangers YET AGAIN in a foreign land (WI).  (kind of just kidding.)

i read ann voskamp a couple years ago, & in her NY times best-seller One Thousand Gifts she encourages a body to say thanks to God for everything.  because that’s how the apostle paul laid it down in the new testament:  “in everything, give thanks;  this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  (1 thess 5:18).

but that’s a terrible idea.

except that it isn’t, & that’s the gig, right?  i didn’t know i could say “thanks” for puke.  that’s ridiculous.  but if i had gotten my head around a simple “thank you,” i know my brainwave would’ve changed.  instead of fear gripping my tiny heart, or frustration, i could’ve sat squarely in the peace of a quiet house with sick kiddos, reading a book to them by the white noise of the humidifier diffusing lavendar oil into the air.  which we did for awhile.  but i also slugged around a hefty slab of harumph along with a bazillion loads of laundry up & down the stairs.  this was not what i had in mind when i looked out into the week & saw a blank slate. heck, no.  a full week of stomach flu will not ever be on my agenda.  (duh.)

but that’s where we land, the challenge of thanksgiving.  God has done the whole world for me, & will keep on doing it.  that’s who He is.  & i can either keep harumphing at the things i don’t like, or i can turn my hands up & offer a “thanks”.  the sick wasn’t so bad, & the really rotten things?  it turns out they’re turning out, in their own way.  & really, i don’t know what the heck is going on down here.  i mean, when the plan changes, i could actually be grateful that i’m not powerful enough to have screwed it up.  i ought to be jazzed that my will doesn’t win.

my life:  a little like this old candleholder.  kind of screwed up but hopefully shining a light anyway.  

anyway, that’s what i’m thinking about, as the kids are playing pool behind me & making our basement into a nightclub (lights low, cheese on a plate with toothpicks.  i don’t know what they’ve been watching, but whatever.).

i just wanted you to know if you wrestle with feeling grateful this week, you’re not alone.  i get it.  & thanks.  thanks for keeping it real.

i think this thanksgiving’s gonna rock.

happy t-day my friends.
XO.
~jill.