Better than a Raindance

You need rain? The best way to make sure you get it, is to have a picnic, plan a camping trip, or HOST A HUGE YARD SALE! All week, I’ve been sorting through my precious junk. Looking for treasure that might benefit someone else, now that I no longer need it. And today is the day – and it ushered in the rain of course.

Happily, we have the luxury of setting up inside the house. My parents moved out of their half of the house last weekend, but they don’t have to be “out” until tomorrow afternoon. So, their entire first floor has become a veritable treasure house.

Tomorrow is supposed to be nicer. And there’s the huge craft show in Lititz, to bring in the crowds. I don’t care so much about making money (although that’s a nice side-effect). I just need to get rid of stuff. So come and check it out. All reasonable offers considered!

And then it’s on to the next big chapter in our moving saga!

Dream House with a Side of In-Laws

I have always wanted a house with a wrap-around porch and a swing. I’ve wanted a nice paved driveway with a big garage at the end of it. I’ve wanted a huge back yard with a willow tree for the kids to play in and a deck I could sit on and watch them. I’ve wanted a fireplace for those cold nights in the winter months and a play room to send the kids to when they’re noisy. I’ve wanted a huge kitchen with lots of windows and light. I’ve wanted a nice suburban neighborhood in Smalltown, USA, where there are kids next door and everyone watches out for everyone else.

Well, after years of half-hearted searching, we’ve finally found it, and we’re moving into it. I can’t wait to finally have the house I want my kids to grow up in. I can’t wait to start making that house my home, adding my personal touch to decorate and express my creativity.

Of course, I never realized my dream house was gonna come with in-laws.

Wait for it…

“Oh, you poor thing, I’m sorry. You sure you wanna do that? I mean… your *in-laws*… really? How are you gonna handle that?”

Well, guess what. After a large amount of soul-searching and conversation with the people that matter, I’m looking forward to it.

Yes, really.

I’ve been a “communal living” advocate most of my life. In our married life, Jeff and I have had exactly 3-6 months where we lived completely by ourselves – just the two of us. There has always been a housemate or family either in the house with us or right next door. This should not surprise anyone. I’m an advocate of social consciousness and environmental responsibility. We consider communal living to be a responsible choice for us.

I wouldn’t have my dream house without the in-laws. Frankly, we couldn’t afford it — and neither could they. Together, we share the bills. I’m not living in their house and they’re not living in mine. It’s a joint contract and a shared responsibility.

We’ve already divided certain household responsibilities. Mom deals with the finances and “legal” aspects of the move and home maintenance. I deal with the aesthetics. Dad is in charge of the garden and lawn and Jeff is in charge of the technical stuff. We all recognize and trust the strengths in each other. It’s mutual respect.

And it works for us. And I’m well aware that this kind of arrangement would not work for everyone — possibly for very few people in fact. Maybe it works for us because we’ve always been able to wear several hats in our relationship. Yes, they are the “in-laws,” and most people stop there when they deal with the spouse’s family. But, they are also our housemates in the new move — all of us equal partners. Mom and I are both writers, and without going into detail, have many conversations as writers on topics that I’d never discuss with my “mother-in-law.” Dad is my massage therapist and we hold the same doctor-patient confidentiality anyone holds with a medical professional. More importantly, they’ve always been more than family. They’re my friends.

Am I at all worried about living with the in-laws? Of course. In the same way I’d be worried about adjusting to living with anyone new. It’s a change, and living with someone ultimately brings about challenges to the relationship. Admittedly, there will be times when the roles will cross over and mom & dad will be the parents and we will be the kids and I expect that.

But when it comes to whose home it is, I’m not worried. It’s *our* home — all of us.

I Didn’t Know We Had THAT!

When I declared 2010 to be the “Year of the Purge,” I had no idea what I was signing on for. I’m a packrat and I married a packrat. And guess what happens when two packrats raise children together? They foster tiny packrats who insidiously squirrel away every scrap of paper or cheap toy ever handed to them (include the “cool box” it came in).

Our house is bursting at the seams from clutter. There are moments (far more and more frequent recently), where we’ve actually gotten to the place of tripping through the landfill obstacle course to get from one room to another. And yes, that’a an embarrassing thing to admit, but there, I said it.

So, I’ve slowly (and that’s with much kicking and screaming really) been sifting through things, attempting to throw away or donate things and pare down our possessions. And we’ve honestly gotten rid of a LOT of stuff.

But you’d never know it when you walk into our house. See, the problem with packrats (particularly the crafty and creative types that we are)? Everything is necessary. There’s sentimental value. There’s the obligatory, “I can make something with that” and “As soon as I get rid of that, I’ll realize I needed it to finish some project.”

What happens is that we’ve collected so much of that “just in case” stuff that we don’t even know what we have, and as I’ve been purging, I’ve discovered a whole treasure trove of stuff I always wanted and didn’t realize I already had. And so have my children.

And now, we’re moving. More on that soon enough over the next few weeks, because there are all kinds of stories there. Suffice it to say for now, however, that packing is a monumental chore. Knowing I can’t keep everything, but not knowing what is “safe” to get rid of, makes packing slow or sometimes even stall with the discoveries.

So forgive the silence. I’ve been digging for buried treasure and getting distracted by bright shiny objects.

A Snapshot from a Sitcom

Sometimes my life is a sitcom and all the laughs are at my expense.

Episode: Morning Mayhem
Scene: Photographer

*scene opens on mom in kitchen cleaning up the entire sippy of milk that the toddler has dumped intentionally all over the counter, her chair, and the floor; we hear kids from the living room, playing with a film-less camera*

Dante: Say cheese, Zoe!

Zoe: *makes a sound that puts a banshee to shame*

Mom: WHAT is going on out there?!?

Dante: *shoving camera in his sister’s hands as mom walks into the room* I just wanted to take her picture.

Mom: Did you take it from her?

Dante: What?

Mom: Did you take the camera from her?

Dante: What?

Mom: *gives the icy mom-stare*

Dante: *looks at floor to avoid mom’s glare* …no…

Mom: *frustrated sigh* Go next-door and see if Nana & Paw-Paw are awake!

Dante: C’mon, Zoe!

Mom: NO! Just you.

*Scene ends as Dante runs out back door and Zoe toddles after him. Mom is left listening to the door slam and the click/whir of the camera as the flash lights the kitchen.*

Zoe: *from outside* A cheeeese … Dante!

*cue laugh track*

Bye-Bye Windstream!

Friday was Jeff’s last day as a Windstream Employee. After working for D&E Communications for 9 years, Windstream gave him the boot. So…

We gave Windstream the boot and replaced them with Google. We said goodbye to our landline and to our Dejazzd/Windsteam email accounts. If you have either of those still in your phone directories or address books, you might wanna take ’em out. We have a Google Voice number now and we’ll keep our Gmail accounts.

Oh… and as soon as we can get our computers and our new modem to play nice with each other and stop pretending the other doesn’t exist, we’ll be back online. Then you can still find us on this and our other blogs, Facebook, Gtalk, AIM, Twitter, and a couple other online venues.

Until then, we’re on cell phone only communication. Fun. As the kids say, “Text it.” (God, I feel old!)

Happy New Year!

We used to have a tradition where we’d get together with our college friends every New Year’s Eve. We were the official hosts with the standing invitation that our house was always open from noon on the 31st to noon on the first, meaning we could stay up as late as we wanted and crash as necessary, ensuring the end and the beginning of each year were shared among friends. We ate, we talked, we laughed, we played Mafia, and we reminisced about previous years. It was always a blast and the one time we were guaranteed to connect after we’d gone our separate ways post-college.

Time has a way of changing things, ironically, given that our celebrations were all about the passing of time. Our families grew which made the house shrink, even when less and less of our friends were able to make it each year. With small children and all of us getting older, all nighters started to become out of the question. And, as more and more of us moved further and further away, New Year’s Eve became an increasingly impractical way of holding a reunion. We had to switch our focus from our past adventures to our growing families.

We miss these gatherings, but it also allows us the opportunity to form new traditions. This year, we’ll celebrate in a more quiet fashion (I hope) with some friends from church, while the kids have a special night with Nana & Paw-Paw.

One of our newest traditions, which I’m not exactly happy about, seems to be a sick child. In the past several years, we seem to have either ended the year or begun the year (or both) with severe colds in one or both of the children. We’ve even had a run to the ER a few years ago for a fever over 106. This year appears to be no different, as Zoë is now coughing like a seal and running a fever of 104.

Some traditions are meant to die, and I’m hoping this one goes the way of the college gathering. In the meantime, here’s wishing all of you a safe and happy new year, filled with love, peace, and joy!

Yes, Dante, there is a Santa Claus

So… Last night hubby and I had this “inspiration” to let the kids “wait up for Santa.” I’d like to go on record as saying, “If either of us mention this to you as an option for next year, direct us to this post.” This was a monumentally BAD idea. Here’s a brief rundown of the past 12-24 hours:

  • Kids spent the evening “being worn out” by Memaw, Poppy, and “Mac” (as is Uncle Matt’s new name thanks to Zoë) while hubby and I went to work tech for the Christmas Eve service at church.
  • Kids opened new pjs and then laid out sleeping bags and got ready to camp out in the living room.
  • The consumption of cookies, burnt popcorn (that isn’t some weird tradition, we just weren’t paying attention), and warm milk (in the hopes that the kiddos would fall asleep) happened while we were attempting to put together brunch items for the morning.
  • kept us updated on Santa’s whereabouts while watching Charlie Brown Christmas.
  • Somewhere around the middle of “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street,” a meltdown required us to take Zoë to her bed, where she fussed off and on for the rest of the night.
  • By 10:30 or 11:00, Dante was still wide awake, so we popped in “Elmo’s World: Happy Holidays” at his request, thinking he’d have to fall asleep during that. Mommy did. Dante kept waking her up so she wouldn’t miss Santa.
  • About midnight, we finally convinced Dante that Santa wouldn’t come if he wasn’t sleeping, and that we’d wake him if we caught Santa.
  • “Santa” finally arrived after midnight, ate the cookies & drank the soy milk we’d set out, fed his reindeer the carrots, filled stockings, left presents under the tree & a note for the sleeping kids, and collapsed for the night.
  • Zoë fussed several times through the remainder of the night, allowing us a sum total of an hour or so of uninterrupted sleep at any point through the night.
  • Dante woke around 5:30/6:00 a.m. and spent the next hour and a half asking every 10 minutes if it was time to open presents while his sister blissfully slept until 8:00.
  • Opening presents with a cranky toddler is not fun. She spent most of her time dissolving into a pool of tears or wandering around the room lost. Poor girl had no clue what was going on.
  • “Uncle Mike & Aunt Ami” arrived for brunch, more gifts, and general relaxation.
    Both kids are now resting quietly in their beds, allowing the grown-ups to enjoy some “peace on earth,” naptime, and playing with new toys!

Next year, we’ll rethink the Christmas Eve plan. It was a fun experiment, but I think it was a bit much for kids as young as ours. The good thing is, our son still believes in Santa and the magic of the holiday!

Here’s wishing all of you a day of rest and relaxation!

The Obligatory Family Christmas Letter

2009 has come to an end (or nearly so), and it’s been a rough and busy year for the Burkholder family. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves and grown stronger as a family. We’ve also come to appreciate the many blessings that God showers on us in the way of friends and family. Here’s what we’ve been up to:

Jeff’s job at D&E Communications (henceforth known as Windstream) is ending as of January 8, so he will be looking for a new job. He will continue working as tech guy at Hosanna! part-time, but welcomes any suggestions or job leads you may have in the “full-time” realm. He’s also greatly enjoying his online creative outlets and publishing pursuits in the areas of short story collaborations ( and his comic strips (

Nean’s got her hands full being a full-time mommy. She’s had a rough year emotionally, but is on the upswing thanks to new medication and the incredible support of family and friends. She spends a lot of time making jewelry and writing stories and poetry (

Siblings (taken by Krista Pelletier)

Dante has started Kindergarten and continues to amaze us with the things he learns both in school and from reading every book he can get his hands on. He’s recently gotten into Peanuts comic strips and even went trick-or-treating as Linus this year. He has decided that he wants to be an eye-doctor or an artist, or possibly both when he grows up.

Dante at age 6 (taken by Krista Pelletier)Dante enjoying the snow day!

Zoë has flung herself fully from baby-hood to toddler-hood. She’s developing quite a personality, as well as the vocabulary to match it. She’s a strong-willed little girl who has no fear and keeps us on our toes! She’s busy making everyone laugh or smile in addition to picking on her older brother whom she idolizes.

Zoë at age 2 (taken by Krista Pelletier)Zoë's first experience in the snow!

This is the time of year to send cards to the people you love, but we stopped doing that a few years ago for several reasons:

  1. As environmentally conscious people, we can’t justify sending out a bunch of cards and pictures that most people will just throw away after the holidays are over.
  2. Postage is so expensive and money is tight.
  3. Most of the people we’d send cards to, we either see or talk to regularly already, or they have access to our fairly extensive online presence anyway.
  4. We honestly don’t have the time or energy to do justice to the extent of our love and appreciation for the vast number of people who have become a vital part of our lives.

All that being said (and even though we realize we’re late for some of them), we wish each and every person that we trust, love and cherish in our lives joy and love for your Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, Bodhi, Diwali, Eid al-Adha, Decemberween, Festivus, or whatever other holiday you celebrate. We also wish you a year full of hope and beauty in 2010.

More Fall Feasting

Today, we are experimenting. We started with a recipe I found online for Easy, Cheesy Pumpkin Lasagna, added chicken & apple sausage to the pumpkin mixture, and used pumpkin spice noodles that we had purchased a while ago and didn’t know how to use. It’s in the oven at the moment and we’ll let you know how it turns out.

Jeff’s also got a pot of spiced cider in the crock pot:
~1 gallon apple cider
~cranberry juice to taste (usually 1-3 cups)
~two thick slices each of lemon and orange with rind
~four cinnamon sticks
~16 cloves & 16 allspice (he uses a tea ball for easy extraction)

The weather may have decided to turn up the heat, but we’re fighting back. FALL is HERE!

Fall Feasts

I know I haven’t updated here in… well… ages. I’ve been focused on a lot of other things. The family is doing well for the most part but it’s been a taxing year for us. Promise to try to get pics of the kids up here soon, but with Facebook (and how much easier it normally is to post photos there) I don’t even think about posting here.

Tonight, however, I’m posting here because I’ve had several requests for the recipe for “my” Gingersnap Pot Roast (and frankly, Facebook is incredibly temperamental today and I don’t have the patience to deal with it). Technically, this recipe comes from Better Homes and Gardens, but I’ve adapted it enough that I can call it mine. 🙂

Gingersnap Pot Roast
(A.K.A. Sauerbraten Made Easy)

Layer in crock pot:

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes or yams (peeled and cut)
  • one bag of “baby” carrots prepared
  • 4 small or medium apples, cut into wedges
  • 2-3 lb chuck roast

Mix together to make gravy and pour over roast:

  • 1 cup water
  • 8 gingersnaps crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon beef bouillon granules
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

Cover and cook on low 10-12 hours or on high 5-6 hours.

Enjoy. 🙂