the adventures of ernie bufflo

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good friday

I won’t be making it to a Good Friday service this year, but I’m thinking a lot about what this day means. It’s a weird day if you’re a Jesus follower who doesn’t believe in what theologians call “penal substitutionary atonement.” In more normal terms, that’s the belief that the reason Jesus died on the cross is because God was angry at us for being sinners, and someone had to die for it, but instead of killing us and killing us forever, or damning us all to hell, God sent Jesus, God’s only Son, to die in our place as a sort of proxy stand-in recipient of God’s wrath, so that we could be forgiven and live forever with God. I don’t believe in this, because, to paraphrase Brian MacLaren, I believe in reading all of the Bible and in fact approaching God Himself, through the lens of Jesus. And in Jesus I do not come to know an angry God who demanded blood to satisfy his rage.

Instead, in Jesus, I find God in all of God’s glory, humbled and serving, loving and kind. This Jesus was all Goodness, all Love. This Jesus came to show us how to live a God-oriented kind of life, one characterized by caring for and loving others, by participating in wholeness and healing, by working to make everything work in the loving, whole way God designed the universe to work. And our sin, the part of us that resists this Love and this plan, made us respond by killing God Himself. Basically, our sin made us so full of violence and hatred, we were willing to kill God Himself, and in order to demonstrate the true nature of Love, God let us. In Jesus’ willing death on the cross, we see the true, self-giving, self-sacrificing, anti-violent, anti-hatred depth of Love. And God is Love. It is the power of this Love that conquers sin and violence and death. It is this love that forgives and redeems. It is this love that is now and forever making all things new.

So no, I don’t believe in a common narrative of what makes this Friday Good. I don’t believe it was God who needed blood that day or any other. It was us. And still God took that sin and used it for Good, to show us what Love is like, and that Love is stronger than everything else.

A friend shared this quote on twitter a while back, and I just have to share it because reading it made me say YES, THIS.

“Jesus did not die because God had an anger problem and needed to be appeased. God does not change; as He is about reconciliation now, so He always has been about reconciliation. No, Jesus died to take on the effects of our malice, rivalry and self-centredness and reflect them back at us in all their undisguised ugliness. He died because it was the only way to expose the inescapable fact that the wages of sin is death.

In short, God did not have an anger problem; we had a violence problem.” –Rob Grayson, The Powers Exposed

That is why this Friday is Good. Because God is Good. God can even take our most violent, bloody ways and use them to show us just how much we are loved, just how much God would sacrifice for us: everything.

 

*Image above, The Granite Cross, by Tobias Lindman, via Flickr, used under a Creative Commons license.


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i am the toddler, sometimes

“And for those of you traveling with small children or those acting like a child, be sure to put on your own air mask before attempting to assist others.”

She wasn’t quite viral video worthy, but my Southwest flight attendant on the way home from my sister’s bachelorette weekend had jokes.

I breathed a sigh of relief that, for a change, I wasn’t flying with twins. I may have failed Southwest’s boarding system and ended up with a middle seat every dang leg of the trip, but compared to flying with a toddler in my lap, it felt like first class. In the event of a loss of cabin pressure, the only person I had to worry about was me. No toddlers here.

Except that really, sometimes I’m the toddler.

No slappy hands here, just puppy love. (Not our puppy, though I was tempted to steal her.)

No slappy hands here, just puppy love. (Not our puppy, though I was tempted to steal her.)

Told she can’t have something she wants, my toddlers will get out their slappy hands. They’ll throw themselves to the floor. They’ll use the word “mama” like something you can’t say on television. They’ve been known to throw whatever’s nearest, or to sweep an entire stack of books off the shelf, just to prove a point.

Just a toddler being irrational, I’ll think to myself. One day they’ll be able to control themselves.

Except that sometimes, a lot of the time, I’m the one being irrational. I am the one who can’t control myself. When angered, I have been known to throw things. I’ve been known to use my words as weapons. I’ve been known to make a lot of noise, to flop down on my bed and cry, or to attempt to run away. I’ve wanted to slap away hands that try to hold me. I deceive myself into thinking that I’m a grown up, able to handle myself, but the truth of the matter is, a lot of the time, I don’t really WANT to control myself. I want to be out of control, crazy, to let the storm of my emotions rage. And nothing provides such constant provocation quite like my kids.

Parenting toddlers means I often must first stop to put on my own air mask, or rather, to parent the toddler inside of me who is triggered to rage by the toddlers I birthed. I find myself telling myself the exact same things I tell them. Take a deep breath. We don’t throw things. We don’t yell. Your feelings are OK but what you’re doing with them is not. When you feel so mad that you wanna roar, take a deep breath and count to four (OK, that one’s from Daniel Tiger.)

Parenting toddlers means I’m finally facing how, in a lot of ways, I’m not really a grown up. I still have much to work on. Luckily, mercifully, blessedly, for as crazy-making as they can be, my toddlers are also excellent models of forgiveness and grace. This morning, we got off on the wrong foot. Sippies were thrown, lids flew off, and apple juice exploded everywhere. Of course, now having no apple juice to drink, fits were thrown. I am not proud to admit that I yelled and then hated myself for yelling, because it scares my kids. I treated all of us like toddlers– muscled us through the motions of getting dressed, got us some breakfast to calm the hangry, refilled our cups with apple juice and coffee. Soon, I was snuggled in a chair with sweet babies with soft hair that still smells like baby shampoo. I was covered in wet toddler kisses. All was again right with the world. They don’t dwell, and neither should I. We just move on, we grow up a little each day, and we keep on working. Kisses help. So does coffee.


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it’s a small world: the happiest 2nd birthday party that ever sailed

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When we went to Disney World last October, hands-down, the bufflogals’ favorite attraction was It’s a Small World. I have to admit that though the song is a bit of an earworm, I love it too. I love the look and the spirit of It’s a Small World, and, after doing a bit of research, loved it even more after I learned its look was largely created by a woman named Mary Blair– love supporting a woman artist! After we got back from that trip and told my Disney-loving parents how much the girls loved the ride, they gave us a Small World storybook that came with a CD of the song. That CD now lives in my car stereo and is deployed whenever someone starts screaming in the car. Instant happy.

The girls’ love of It’s a Small World led me to choose it as the theme of their second birthday party. My vision was bright colors and international food. I wanted to get crafty and creative without going too over-the-top. I think I achieved my goals. We had the party the weekend before last, and we had a great time celebrating two years with our girls with our friends and family.

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The cake table. I painted the Small World facade on a sheet after drawing it from some illustrations online. The actual ride facade is pastel, but the inside of the ride is vibrant primary colors. I wanted bright colors for the party, so I took some artistic liberties with the colors of the exterior because I felt they were keeping with the spirit and look of the ride. There are some lovely pastel versions out there though which served as my inspiration. The table runner is from Hobby Lobby, saved from the girls’ First Fiesta first birthday party.

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I made funfetti cupcakes and used premade frosting. Honestly, I prefer homemade cupcakes because I don’t like a giant tower of frosting taller than the cake part itself. This was easy and cheap– I had plenty of cupcakes for less than $15. I bought the files for the pictures of the international kids on Etsy and my sister kindly sized them all onto a page so I could cut them out and glue them to toothpicks to make cupcake decor.

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Here you see the food setup in the kitchen. The paper lanterns and flag banner are from Oriental Trading, and the runner is from Hobby Lobby, another leftover from the First Fiesta. Food-wise, I went with an international theme. We had veggies and pita chips with hummus and ranch; tortilla chips with cheese dip, salsa, and guacamole; beef taquitos; chicken egg rolls; and fresh fruit.

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In the front room, we had It’s a Small World coloring pages (click those links to get to the free printables) and crayons set up as an activity. Almost no one colored. I made some of our adult friends sit down and color after most folks had left! Still, this is an easy, cheap, thematically appropriate activity for this type of party, and I think it would have been a useful thing to do if more of our guests were in the 3-6 age range.

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For the kids, the biggest hit of the party was definitely the ball pit my husband’s parents bought off of Amazon. You can see that Claire is so stoked, she can hardly contain herself. Pretty much every kid there spent most of the party in and around the ball pit. I love that it folds up like a laundry hamper and that the balls go into a zip-top bag, and plan to pull out the ball pit on rainy or cold days when we’re trapped inside and need some fun.

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For the adults, the biggest hit of the party was definitely the margarita machine. We borrowed it from one of my husband’s coworkers, and it was so much fun. For the kiddos, I did one side in KoolAid fruit punch, and that worked great, too.

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It was hard to get a picture of the birthday girls in the Small World dresses I sewed for them, but here you can at least see them! They were a little too big, and Etta kept pulling her arms inside. Oh well. I had fun sewing them, and that’s why I made them.

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The birthday girls were all about the singing and cupcake part of the festivities.

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Allllllllll about it.

Overall, I think It’s a Small World made for a really fun party theme, and we had a great day celebrating our girls. Couldn’t ask for more in a birthday party! If you want more Small World party ideas, check out my Pinboard.

 


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A Claire Update

Having just spent my morning getting myself and the girls ready to go to Spina Bifida Clinic, three hours and change trapped with two two-year-olds in one exam room, and having gotten them home without car napping and successfully into and asleep in their beds, I pondered a daytime adult beverage. Instead, I wrote a blog post.

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We climbed strollers and played iPad games.

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We made sure everyone had a drink while watching Cars. “Heredo Sissy.”

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We kind of lost our minds.

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What this mama looks like when she feels more than a little insane after a rough morning in clinic.

Spina Bifida clinic is always like this– they try to line up 3-5 services to see patients all in one day, and this leads to a lot of waiting for one or the other to get out of an OR or out of another patient’s room to see you. All day clinic visits were rough with infants, but they are just essentially impossible with toddlers. I was well-prepared with snacks, toys, iPhone and iPad, and even a movie, but by about hour two we were losing it. I even got both girls strapped into the stroller and told the clinic coordinator we were leaving, which prompted her to kindly give us some snacks and swear that the orthopedist was definitely actually on his way for real this time, no kidding. These long days make sense for people who come from all over the state to the clinic and don’t want to drive to Little Rock for multiple services. But for someone like me, who doesn’t always have childcare and lives about 3 miles from the hospital, it doesn’t make sense. From now on, I’ll be making appointments to see only one service at a time. No more trying to corral my little ones in a tiny room for hours on end.

The good news is, Claire is doing great. I have never felt more smug than I did this morning, watching her walk in front of a rehab medicine doctor who previously said she’d never walk. Now, I get irked with other parents of kids with disabilities who seem offended when doctors say their kids can’t do something, as if the doctors are trying to be mean when they say these things. I appreciate both as a patient and the wife of a pediatrician that doctors are just trying to provide realistic expectations. I don’t think it’s about deciding what a kid can and can’t do, or limiting them in any way. HOWEVER, this particular doctor had, in my opinion, at the time of making that declaration, not done a particularly thorough exam, and didn’t seem to be listening to me when I told her Claire was already doing things that, if this doctor were right, she wouldn’t be able to do. This was particularly frustrating when our amazing orthopedics team has always been very optimistic about Claire’s potential to walk and had also done a very thorough exam to see exactly where she has sensation and strength and where she doesn’t. So, watching Claire, strapped into her AFOs, strutting across that tiny exam room made me proud as proud can be. I resisted the urge to stick out my tongue and say “TOLD YA SO” though, because I am an adult, most of the time.

We did get a prescription for a reverse walker, so you might see Claire using one in photos in the future. We don’t think she will need a walker forever, but it will be something she can use while she’s still getting strength and her legs under her, and will allow her more independence in the meantime. I have visions of taking it with us to the zoo and her zooming all over. I can’t wait to get it!

We didn’t see urology or neurology today, but both rehab and ortho think she’s doing great, and I agree. She’s just figuring things out and making new strides all the time, and I am so very proud of her. I’m proud of both my girls.

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watching Frozen with my daughters: disability as superpower and the power of sister-love

My kids are only two, so I’m still not fully in the loop of kid-culture. Frozen largely stayed off my radar during its run in theaters, because I am NOT crazy enough to take these two to a movie in a theater yet, and I didn’t even see trailers because we don’t have cable and they don’t show ads for movies on Hulu very often. I’d see posts in my social media feeds from moms of older kids complaining about watching it for the umpteenth time, or having the songs stuck in their heads, and I even saw a few videos shared that related to the film, like those self-declared good-looking parents lipsynching. (Tip: unless you’re Derek Zoolander, never talk about how good-looking you are.)

All that said, the other day we bought Frozen and tried to watch it as a family. The girls had had a long, late nap that day, so we were looking for a low-key evening activity. And I’d been kind of curious about a movie I heard was about two sisters– I have a sister and am raising a pair of sisters and YAY SISTERHOOD, you know? I popped popcorn, and all four of us snuggled on the couch, and we pressed play. Elmo? the girls asked. And kept asking. Basically, through the entire movie they wanted to know where the heck Elmo was, and if Elmo wasn’t in this movie, why were we watching it at all? We didn’t even finish before putting them to bed.

But I caught enough of the movie to dig a fairly feminist message of sisterhood and familial love being as strong and important as romantic love, and I knew I wanted to really watch the film, despite my distaste for Olaf the Abominably Annoying Snowman. So the other day when the girls were napping, we watched Frozen again, without the girls. And upon this viewing, I noticed something different. I started to see a disability narrative where I hadn’t seen one the first time, perhaps because I was distracted by all the demands for Elmo. As I watched this time, I started wondering which girl was Anna and which girl was Elsa, the same way my sister and I used to say, “I’M BELLE!” back before anyone needed a Buzzfeed Quiz to identify with a fictional character.

And it occurred to me, my little white-blond Claire is Elsa. Not just because of the hair, either, but because of Spina Bifida, too. Like Elsa, Claire was born with something that makes her different. Something that has risked her life, something that many might think she should be ashamed of or at least try to conceal and minimize as possible. Like Elsa, Claire will have to learn how to live with this difference, and will perhaps grapple with it, struggle against it, though I hope she will not. I hope she’ll accept her whole self as a whole person, and I want her to see her disability as just another way of being a person in the world, but I do know that like any other part of ourselves that makes us different, she may struggle a bit before she decides how she feels. Elsa, for much of the story, has the idea that her difference is something that must be hidden, that is dangerous to others, that is a barrier to her participation in both family and work life. Notably, this is something she is taught, as at first she plays around with her powers and sees them as a way to connect with her sister. I never want Claire to get the idea that her difference is something to hide. “Conceal, don’t feel” could basically be summed up as the opposite to my philosophy on identity and self.

I admit that I worry that difference will come between Claire and Etta, that one will resent the other either for being able-bodied or for requiring more care and attention, just like Elsa’s powers come between her and Anna. I also must say that I hope they realize the bonds of sisterhood and family love draw them closer than any difference could ever separate them.

Maybe one day, when my girls are a little less Elmo-obsessed, they will be able to watch and identify with Frozen. I hope they don’t get caught up in who has power or who is different. Instead, I hope they understand that for both of them, able-bodied and disabled, the things that make them different are essential to who they are, and that the love and the bond of twin-sisterhood between them is stronger than any difference could possibly be. I’d be fine if they avoid cavorting with annoying snowmen, though.

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our selfies, ourselves

This might be my first selfie ever, taken with my 1st digital camera when I was 21.

This might be my first selfie ever, taken with my 1st digital camera when I was 21.

I’m not exactly sure when the word “selfie” was coined. It’s been added to the OED and was even their word of the year for 2013, so it’s become widespread enough that the trend is undeniable. But it seems like only the last couple of years that the word has been around, and like the “trend” is mostly thanks to Instagram (my favorite social media app). However, long before Instagram or the word “selfie,” we were all taking “Myspace photos” with our phones in mirrors or by holding our arms out– selfies without a name, essentially. Timehop has helpfully showed me that my own personal “emo selfie habit,” as my sister calls it, goes back at least seven years, definitely predating the term. I would get bored at my office job and take self portraits with my Mac’s Photo Booth or my crappy Blackberry Pearl, usually to show off some fun lipstick or a new hairstyle.

I do know that we’re currently experiencing something of a selfie backlash. It’s not surprising– eventually to every trend turn turn turn there is a backlash turn turn turn. I’ve seen them called narcissistic. I’ve seen them called “a cry for help.” I’ve seen them called addictive. I’ve even seen them called feminist and anti-feminist. I was just joking on Twitter that I’m thinking about posting a selfie for every anti-selfie article I see in one of my social media feeds. Partially because I’m contrary, and partially because I like selfies. I think they, like anything else really, can be good or bad, and for me, they’ve been a tool for self-acceptance.

Office iMac selfie circa 2009.

Office iMac selfie circa 2009.

In a world full of impossible beauty standards, “real” beauty that is anything but, and a lot of expectations around women and appearance, self-love is hard to come by. In a world in which we are defined by how the gaze of others judges us and finds us wanting, to take a selfie is to reclaim that gaze and see ourselves through our own eyes. While I absolutely understand that it can just be one more way of offering up oneself to the approval and judgment of others, for me, selfies are a way to see myself through a lens of self-love. To actually see beauty in myself as I see myself through the lens of my iPhone, lit up by a ray of light through a window or with a new hair cut or wearing some new sunglasses.

It’s also a way to include myself in the visual record of my life. I have long noticed that moms are rarely in the literal picture. We’re always behind the camera, documenting the rest of our families’ for posterity’s sake. I have very few pictures of myself taken by others, though I’m trying to get better about asking someone to take a photo of all of us together. My car nap selfies and couch snuggle selfies and story time selfies are just a small, slightly silly way of documenting my presence in the life of my girls, including myself in the photo books I regularly make for them, hoping that one day they’ll wonder what our life looked like when they were small, and I’ll be able to show them.

Can a selfie be narcissistic, anti-feminist, or even annoying? Sure. Just like anything else. But my reasons are my own, and I won’t apologize for working at self-love. After all, learning to speak lovingly to myself has been one of the greatest gifts motherhood has given me, and this self-love is something I want to give back to my daughters as well.

Recent emo selfie.

Recent emo selfie.


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happy birthday, bufflogals!

Etta and Claire are two today. The last two years have been the craziest, hardest, best, most beautiful years of our lives. And every day they just get better. I’ll spare the sap, but here’s a little photo retrospective.

brand new bufflogals

brand new bufflogals

I didn't get to hold Claire, because she had to be immediately transferred to Children's Hospital to prepare for her spina bifida closure surgery.

I didn’t get to hold Claire, because she had to be immediately transferred to Children’s Hospital to prepare for her spina bifida closure surgery.

Still can't get over how tiny they were. I was pretty proud of my 6 lb 34 weeker twins, though.

Still can’t get over how tiny they were. I was pretty proud of my 6 lb 34 weeker twins, though.

First photo as a family of four, 9 days later, in the NICU with Claire.

First photo as a family of four, 9 days later, in the NICU with Claire.

First birthday cake/pudding.

First birthday cake/pudding.

One year as a family!

One year as a family!

And last weekend.

And last weekend.

And now they’re two. I expect a little bit of terrible but a whole lot of terrific.

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