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.


the paper cow (on being an individual.)

I didn’t recognize him when I walked in, which is remarkable.  he’s been in costume since he was 4:  pirates, mario brothers, ghostbusters; it’s a long list.  but when I came up the wooden steps to the barn’s loft & came around the corner, I couldn’t place his shiny squares & hat.  which is funny.  I usually have a feel for his flare.

it didn’t matter.  he was in one of his all-time favorite places doing what he loves: costuming & setting scenes.

that’s my boy.  (who is so obviously an archer, once he picked up his bow.  duh.)every summer, our kids spend a day or two at the paper cow theatre, a magnificent wonderland in a refurbished barn, just a few miles south of town.  the kids love it there, we love hanging out there to watch their “show” after a day of hard imagining, & the atmosphere — two claps for kris, the heart behind the barn.  clap, clap.
thalia, the yellow faerie on a mission with her pally, (wait for it. . .) the green faerie. 

while we sat in the front row on refurbished church pews, I studied kris, the director.  she owned us, all of us, from the second we stepped into her costumed world, a giant dragon hanging in the rafters & the innards of a piano wallpapering the sound booth.  as I watched her, my heart rose.  she so passionately loves what she’s doing: guiding the sleuths, fusing drama goodness in to their tiny hearts, encircling them for a day in somewhere else.  not only is kris in her absolute element, she’s handcrafted every square inch of it with a palm sander. she bought a dairy barn & turned it into a children’s theatre for crying out loud.

my soul sits up & takes notes on that brand of intention.
church pews.  brilliant, recycled happiness.
I wanted to take the edible mermaid home.

the barn is one of the most wonder-filled places I’ve ever been.  wandering around in it, after the last kid takes off his gloves & hangs up his fox ears, gets me thinking about meeting, greeting, & owning my own purpose on this lovely planet.  any chance I get to redirect my life, to point it purposefully from the helm, I take.  I have one go-’round here.  ’twill not be wasting.

being in the barn reminds me just how much is possible, what a wonder-filled place this life, my life, is.
& after every performance, there’s milk & cookies.


on being bald

i should have seen it coming, but i didn’t.
we were checking out books at the library, at the nifty self-service kiosk, all four kids & i. libraries are notoriously kid-friendly, so, being one of the few places i’ll venture by myself, my guard was down.  & self-service kiosks, really.  freaking brilliant.  unless you’re attempting to maneuver one with an ambitious toddler & three other children, noses embedded in books.

my fatal mistake:  not letting leif check out his own book.
without thinking, i whipped his picture book “we’re going on a bear hunt” through the bleeper & handed it to him, setting him down beside us so he could sit quietly & look at his book while i herded the other three kids through, their mountainous stacks too much for their small arms.  you caught that, didn’t you?  sit.  quietly.  you’d think i’d never met my own son.  hello.

you can imagine the rest, but i don’t know if you’d get the part where leif was digging his fingernails into the back of kieran’s calves, trying to dismount him from the stool.  & you might not picture the fit he threw, both in my arms & in the entryway after i abandoned thalia at the kiosk completely so i wouldn’t make such. a. scene.

i wanted you to have the full picture.
you’re welcome.

because the full picture also includes my total inability to keep track of all four of my kids in the library (or anywhere, who are we kidding?), get them out without at least two of them straggling, & my unbelievable concern of what the librarians, those sweet & genteel ladies, thought of me jumping ship on my 8-year-old & bear-hugging my toddler to prevent (anymore) physical harm to any by-standing siblings.

whenever i recount these stories to andy, he ALWAYS begins humming, quietly at first, the circus theme song.

if the shoe fits. . . .

the funny thing is, i’m surprised how much i care.
i mean, a long time ago i lost all my hair, & with it, i had to shed a whole heap of what people thought of me.  i went from young woman with insanely long, straight, blonde hair to prickly bear who buzzes her scalp clean every other thursday.
this, from my coaching days.  i’m holding a BULLDOG.  with a CHAIN.  you’re not even noticing my hair, are you. . . . 

anyway, losing all my hair was the fear i was most afraid of in my life.  i remember sitting at my grandma’s kitchen table when i was little, nervously stealing glimpses at my aunt in her red bandana.  she also had alopecia (the latin name for “you have no hair & we can’t figure out why”.), which was really unusual, because we weren’t blood-related.  (alopecia is sort of genetic.) i remember thinking, “if i ever lost all my hair like her, i would die.”

i had already started losing my hair then, but all of it didn’t fall out until 10 years ago, after i started having kids.  i remember crying & crying in the shower as huge globs of hair just came out in my hands.  it was really, really terrible.  i had a little boy, & my whole life seemed to be imploding.

but it didn’t.  & i didn’t.

& when the worst thing you can possibly imagine from the time you are very young happens, well, you don’t just cease to exist.  you don’t.  you live through it, so help you God, & when you start to see the other side, you realize going through that horrible valley sloughed a lot of other stuff, too.

which is why i’m so surprised i still care so very much what some anonymous (though kindly) librarians think of me.  i mean, really.  i may have 4 children mildly out of control, but they’re probably more concerned with my baldness & my nose ring.  let’s be honest.
my attempt at a selfie a few weeks ago, to show you the shiner leif gave me with a  head-butt first thing in the morning.  thank you, honey.  mommy loves you.

anyway, i’ve been wanting to crack open this cavern about being bald since i started writing in this space.  i guess tonight was it.
one of a gazillion cartoons andy used to draw of us.  we used to look like this.  as cartoons, anyway.  

this is not a toy

after our garage sale a couple weeks ago, our basement took a deep breath & relaxed, finally feeling spacious enough for kid-play.  i think it even smiled a little.

when leif & i went down to play a few days later, my ring finger in his hand all the way down the stairs, we found a hundred-odd t-shirt bags from one of andy’s shipments in a heap, ready for the garbage.

or maybe not quite yet.

the kids played, happily!, together! for the entire morning with their not-a-toys.  rain showers.  boxing gloves.  wrestling matches.

which makes me think: maybe not everything we’re told & have come to believe is exactly the truth.

i don’t know.  i’m open for suggestions.

8, then.

she turns eight today.
the sweet little one in the middle of all these boys.

the one who holds her own in wrestling matches,
who is the princess amadala to their luke & han
& the pretty mirkwood elf for their lord of the rings.

the kind girl who teaches kieran his letters
& awards him with stickers when he does well,
who already has flawless cursive she taught herself.
the girl who makes things pretty just by touching them.
you, sweet thalia, are the creative girl
who sees art on the road, in a cloud, in a paint splotch,
the girl who isn’t afraid of the art inside her.

you are the girl, sweet one, who teaches us about passion,
about doing what you love,
about loving life in all its glorious colors & shapes.

she is eight today, my little girl who isn’t.
it hit me last night when she & her brothers
had all crawled into my bed last night for prayer
while i nursed leify.

“this is your last night being 7, thalia!”  i said.

then i nearly cried.

i love raising kids more than anything andy & i have ever done, more than anything i’d done before.  having kids has changed me, grown me up in a way only tiny, dependent people  in your stead can.

but this, THIS.  this letting them grow up.  it’s a little bit much for me.

SO.  on this day, this lovely, rich day to celebrate my only girl, as the tears threathen my eyes, my i have the grace to let her grow, to change & catapult into the wondeful woman she’s becoming, into the artsy, thoughtful, sensitive woman God has made her to be.

help me grow up, too.

& sweet thalia, with you here, darling,
our world is richer, deeper,
more pink,
& tons more beautiful.

with you here, our world is perfect.

happy birthday, Sweet T.

we love you.

safety, optional.

what i’m trying to get you to do is avoid being safe.  there’s no life in that kind of art.  –jeff goins.

oh, my word.  laid me out on the floor, these words did.  my whole life has been a carefully crafted exercise in safety.  (well, maybe not ENTIRELY (help me, God!), but it sure FEELS like it.)  i err on the side of the “wise” decision,” the well-thought out choice.  i’m terribly non-commital (sorry, friends & relations, but you knew this already.)  & while there’s nothing wrong with not being an idiot, i want to BE COURAGEOUS.  to be bold.  to live out loud & clear in such a way that i leave nothing unsaid that the Maker wants to speak through this me.

so, what’ll it take for me to be a little less safe?  (coincidentally & not at all, bob at eaglebrook (our church –woo-hoo!!) is speaking this month about “courageous choices”.  ever feel that when God is saying something into your life, said Voice tends to speak in multiple pitches & tones all around you?)

hmmmm. . . .some of these are “doing,” & some of them, just saying them out loud is the unsafe thing.  here we go:

  • starting this blog was one big thing;  continuing to write here is SO another.
  • looking bravely to the next house.  (we are, Lord-willing, movin’ on, my friends.  nothing large, just closer to church & the City, family & old friends.)  this moving is bringing out what a control-freak i am, JUST HOW IMPATIENT I AM.  God moves in His good time, & this is not safe.  heck, it’s downright irritating sometimes.
  • on that topic, living a life to follow God is SO not safe.  God’s nuts.  (& i do believe that to be a glorifying statment, i do.)  we’ve moved a whole pile of times, andy works out of our garage on an absolute shoestring, & the more we press in to listen to what the heck He’s saying, the stranger our lives get (& infinitely more joy-filled & peaceful!  ain’t that the truth. . . . .).
  • unschooling.  there, i’ve said it.  it’s what we do (or don’t do) to edumakate our children. it’s not safe, & frankly, it freaks me out regularly.  (check out wikipedia if this is new.  & keep an open mind when you think of us doing said schooling!  or don’t;  i guess that goes along with not being safe, eh?)
  • along with that, spending oodles & oodles of unstructured, low-key time with our three kids.  i don’t work for a paycheck anywhere, & we’ve committed as long as we are able to have me stick alongside the kids every (dang 🙂 day, talking, playing, feeding, managing.  consequently, our income reflects said choice.  not very safe.  at.  all.
  • scheduling very little;  keeping the calendar airy & open.  so very counter-cultural.  (i’ve had large episodes in which i assume i’m a bad mother for not getting out & “doing stuff” with my kids, for not enrolling in more “educational” activities.  we do dance & soccer, & church, but that’s it, formally away-from-home.  fortunately, i’ve got some serious friends who talk me down off this ledge regularly.  thank you beth & beth.)
  • minimalizing.  ahh, my latest passion.  not that i’m an actual minimalist (& probably never will be, in its truest form), but i sure do love what moving toward that life has done for our family.  more on this in a future post.  *promise.*  (this isn’t “unsafe”;  i just feel weird talking about this as part of us.)
  • attachment parenting.  if i’m going to lay it all out, i may as well just say right here that our kids sleep with us until they don’t want to anymore, that i breastfeed them a LONG time (two years or more, anyone?  TMI, anyone?), we wait to feed them “real” food, we use a midwife for birthing, & thus far i’ve gone drugless (hallelujah.) in birthing.  we keep our kiddos as close to us as they need to be, which means that they don’t go anywhere, including the church nursery, before THEY feel ready.  regardless of what ever “strain” this puts on me or us.  this is a HUGE topic of debate, & i don’t aim to suggest we are right, or even on the right track.  i’m just telling you what we’ve found to work for our crew.
  • keep eatin’ strange.  we do lots of homemade, very little (& still more than i’d like) processed food, & avoid for the most part, the entire mid-section of any grocery store.  we source our meat locally, & utilize our local co-op.  we are not purists, certainly;  we still shop big box stores (budgets only stretch so far).  we’re just aiming to keep walking down this road, for us & for out kids taste buds.  again, it works for us.  this fits also under “strange,” as opposed to “unsafe”.  the unsafe parts comes in telling it to you.

so, there it is.  i hadn’t intended to lay out my whole life alongside all our personal philosophies, but if i’m going to stop being safe, here is where it starts.  at least that what He said.

how about you?  are you a safe person?  where would you like a big helping of courage?  what would it take to start walking that road?

so he said. . . .

i’ve been resisting this for awhile, this hollow in my belly.  the inner nag that whispers, “do something.”  DO SOMETHING.  even if it’s wrong.  (not really.)

& i’ve got my well-rehearsed list of why-i-can’t-right-now.

i have three kids.  i’m homeschooling them.  i’m expecting.  i’m in my third trimester (read, tiiiiiiiiiiiiiired.).  we’re trying to move, which means i’m trying to pack up unnecessaries & form them into a garage sale. i have three kids.  did i mention that i was tired? AND i have three kids.

still, the nagging never ceases.

i heard a sermon this weekend about the river jordan, joshua & his crew, crossing that flooded river into the promised land.  “have courage,” ye little ones.

on the way home, huz & i were talking about the strands that sermon brought out of us. our oldest wanting to go to summer camp (ahhhh!  already?  are you out of diapers?).  & after we traversed that foreign landscape awhile, huz said to me, “starting a blog is another river you need to cross.”

why is it that the best people in your life are always the ones to level the most difficult advice?  yeah, i suppose i should.  i have a degree in creative writing.  i have loved the written word since the first journal i wrote in on the way home from the dentist when i was six.  i proofread BECAUSE IT’S FUN. i read cereal boxes because those are the words sitting in front of me in the morning.  & most importantly, what he said spoke to a place deep in my heart that’s been hanging out, a little rusty, a bit dormant.

but putting yourself out into the world is a bit more frightening than creatively crafting a to-do list (which i thoroughly enjoy.).  i could sound dumb.  i could write stupid things.  people may think i’m a fool for writing down words & shooting them out into cyberspace. (what, am i, in 7th grade again?)

ANYWAY, what this boils down to at the bottom of the pot is an effort to listen to who i am.  & who i’m intended to be.  who the Creator wrote me down for when He called me into being.  & that, as it always has been, has to do with words.