This time of year our house gets a little smaller. In January it’s a little smaller than it was in December. And in February it will be a little smaller yet. We’re all hitting elbows.


I’ve not been blessed with easy children. They’re more like unbroken colts than doormats. My first two are stubborn rocks. The third is the easiest to move, but she’s like quicksilver. You think you’re managing her, but think again, because she’s got your number. I’m quicksilver, too, but also the most high strung of all.


So here we are: two passionate parents, three wild children, making our way into this New Year elbows akimbo in a tiny, off grid house.


Here’s how it is. There is a lot of noise. There is running, and yelling, and also there is running and yelling at the same time. Also, singing that is fairly indistinguishable from the yelling.


There are a lot of projects. Even besides my own projects, in herbs and food. There are so many paper airplanes that the rejects spill out of the kindling box and pose a fire hazard. There is a tall stalk of celery standing in food coloring. There are crayons and coloring books all over the table, and you’d be amazed the sheer number of things that can be done with paper and markers and glue. Oddly, though, none of them are quiet.


Add a cat and a dog, you know, just for fun. Our cat is very mellow, except when he isn’t. When I got down to scrub the floor this evening he jumped up on my back screeching. Why? Well, apparently I hadn’t had enough nerve damage for one evening and I needed a little more.


This is not the season for my schedules and my discipline. That was all very helpful to manage our energy coming out of summertime. But in winter we are already doing the best we can. If a kid wants to spend the whole morning in bed I say, “Okay. Here are some headphones.” They can’t go outside anyway, and everybody’s caught up at their school work. Bears hibernate. Why shouldn’t we?


Oh, right…because there are still chores. I guess we’re not bears after all. And when we do brave the cold, it’s always worth it. It’s worth it just for the bracing, alive quality of it, but then also, the very, very fast sled runs. Our sled runs are so fast right now they can break sleds. We had guests to sled this past weekend and the main run was so fast that one brave young soul only ever did it once. I told her I was sorry. I wouldn’t mind some fresh snow, either, to soften up the world again.


The pond is frozen solid. Dark and silent. Nick has cut the frozen snow into steps along all the ways we walk. Stella doesn’t like going down to the bathroom in the cold and I don’t blame her. Outside our cozy little hut the whole world is dark and cold.


I make bread and soup outside and go back and forth and back and forth all afternoon. Outside is cold and quiet and ice. Inside is heat and noise and chaos. You can only stand each for so long so you keep going back and forth, like playing hot potato.


Nick has found something useful to do with himself in town during the winter days, and also joined the Volunteer Fire Department. Evenings we give the kids headlamps and books and he and I sit down at separate computers. I’m writing an ebook about wood stove cooking, and of course writing blogs and making videos. He’s drawing some cabinets, but they’re not for us.


My hands are pretty full, but my heart is full, too. The game now isn’t in discipline or schedules, but in forbearance and tolerance and kindness. And planning, too, but not so much planning that we can’t lean into gratitude for these rich, full, crazy days of our lives. What else are our lives made of? If I had a crystal ball, I think I’d see in future years myself longing for return to these old days, of two passionate parents and three young, wild kids with our elbows all hitting each other in our tiny house.


Wishing you all sweet winter days and sled runs that are fast but not too fast. And if you don’t have snow, then all the better. Go outside for me. Find someplace quiet. 🙂