I’m already obsessing about Advent

Ideas for creating a Jesse Tree Advent Calendar | erniebufflo.comI’m the first to gripe about “Christmas Creep” and how people keep trying to make Christmas happen before its time, which, in my opinion, should absolutely never be before the day after Thanksgiving. (Mostly because Thanksgiving is one of my favorites.) However, I spent the last week obsessively working on finishing the Advent calendar I started making for the girls in 2013. It was a bit more than I could achieve when the girls were one, but now that they’re three, not only do I have more time to craft, I really think they’ll enjoy incorporating this tradition and get something out of it. And I’m writing about it now because if you start soon, you’ve got time to make one before Advent starts, too. But not if you have two one-year-olds — take it from me and take it easy on yourself.

Celebrating Advent has always been part of my family and faith tradition, a way to focus on the “reason for the season” as my dad loves to say. Growing up we had an Advent wreath and candles, and I remember doing family devotionals sent home by our church. Through friends, I heard about the Jesse Tree tradition, which uses the whole “out of the stump of Jesse” prophecy from Isaiah to tell the story of Jesus’s family tree through ornaments and a tree. Each ornament corresponds to a Bible Story about one of the members of Jesus’ family tree, so each day leading up to Christmas, you take out an ornament and read the corresponding scripture. One friend even hosted a Jesse Tree ornament party a few years back, where everybody was assigned one ornament and made enough for everyone, so each guest left with a complete set but only had to make one type of ornament — fun and efficient!

Ideas for creating a Jesse Tree Advent Calendar | erniebufflo.com

Ideas for creating a Jesse Tree Advent Calendar | erniebufflo.com

Lots of people put the ornaments on their actual Christmas tree or on a smaller table-top tree that they use just for the Jesse Tree. I had seen many beautiful felt and fabric Advent calendars, so that’s what I had in mind. I love the idea of making a normal Advent calendar slightly more scriptural, so I started looking for Jesse Tree Advent calendars. I wanted to make something that my family could use for years to come and remember fondly, so I bought a kit from an Etsy seller that included patterns, instructions, and all the supplies. My kit was $60, but it looks like my seller is no longer selling the kits, just fully handmade calendars for $390. While I love my kit, I can’t imagine having paid nearly 400 bucks for a completed calendar, though I know that it’s worth that with all the painstaking work that goes into it. So painstaking, in fact, that I modified my calendar– I used puffy paint on the felt to make the ornaments instead of hand-sewing tiny layers and appliques, and I machine-sewed the body of the calendar. I have come to accept that I am just not a fan of embroidering. It’s beautiful, but tedious and frustrating.

Ideas for creating a Jesse Tree Advent Calendar | erniebufflo.com


Ideas for creating a Jesse Tree Advent Calendar | erniebufflo.com

Still, I didn’t want to write about finishing this beautiful thing for my family and then be like, sorry, folks, good luck to ya. I found a few felt Advent calendar patterns that I think you could fairly easily adapt into Jesse Trees by swapping out the ornaments, either by making these felt ornaments, by trying one of these other kits, or by buying a set of alreadymade Jesse Tree ornaments. There are also lots of free tutorials for making felt Jesse Tree ornaments online.

Is a Jesse tree part of your holiday tradition? Do you celebrate Advent in other ways?

i took a walk

My girls have fallen in love with “the puppets,” by which they mean The Muppets lately. No, this isn’t some sort of tie-in with their new show that apparently premiered this week, because I haven’t seen it, and I’m not on the Muppet payroll. (Although, Kermit, call me!) We have a few Muppet movies on DVD, and they’ve been watching those, particularly the newer one with Jason Segel that came out when I was pregnant with them, which Jon and I saw in the theater, which I totally SOBBED through because I was hopped up on double twin hormones and feeling very nostalgic. Anyway, one funny thing that the girls have picked up on from the movie is a song Amy Adams’ character sings while eating alone about “having a me party.” When we were out to lunch the other day, they saw a woman dining alone, and asked me if she was having a “me party.” And I’ve heard them say to each other when they feel like they need a little space or alone time, “could you please leave me alone? I need to have a me party.” I kind of love it. Both the phrase and the fact that these tiny people are self-aware enough to know that they need some alone time once in a while. And I love that it’s phrased positively, like a party, instead of negatively, like loneliness.

As a mom of three-year-old-twins, I don’t get a lot of me time. You know how society is always making us think we need to “do it all” and asks us how we “do it all” and creates a lot of insecurity around “all” and even though we know it’s a giant, soul-killing lie, we just keep buying into it, anyway? We all know this, and yet we keep on tap dancing, juggling flaming swords, just praying that we don’t get maimed too bad when it all falls down.

I’m tempted to say something like “Can I be real?” and make a candid admission, but here’s what I’m really going to say: you don’t need to ask permission to be real. You don’t need to sneakily confess that you’re not doing it all. Because deep down you know no one is, and you know that’s just life, and there shouldn’t be guilt there. I can’t even figure out how to do MOST OF IT, let alone all of it, in one day. I can be a few but not all of the following in a given day: a good mom, a good wife, a good friend, a good cook, a person who exercises, a person who writes, a person who took a shower today, a person with a clean house, a person who makes time for her spiritual wellbeing, a person who gets enough sleep. Which is why I just love love loved this post, “Limiting All” by a woman whose voice I have really come to love lately, Amanda Magee. In it, she writes, “Unclench your hand, let everything fall down, if for no other reason than to give your arm a rest and to regather the things so they fit better in your hand. We are all sitting precariously on towers of our own making. They don’t have to reach the sky or carry the world, they just need to hold us and that starts with us accepting that ‘all’ is not something we even want.”


So, a great gift my husband has given me the last three days is he’s given me some “me party” time. I know that we both want each other to take time to nurture ourselves, but work schedules and actually taking advantage of the time we do have doesn’t always work out. But this week, it has. Namely, for the last 3 days, I’ve gotten out for 45 minutes to an hour to just take a walk in the lovely finally starting to cool off weather, basking in the sunshine, earbuds and a podcast in my ears. Because while I love doing Zumba in my den, it’s just SO FREAKING NICE after basically being cooped up in air conditioned spaces for the last three months, to get some fresh air in my lungs and just be by myself and listen to stuff that feeds my mind.

The view halfway through my walk.

The view halfway through my walk.

Taking care of my mind/body is something that often ends up on the back burner, because I am taking care of small people, trying to nurture relationships, and also trying to squeeze out time to do the thing I love the most: write. But the thing is, a lot of the time, I feel like all my creative energy gets used up in the course of just trying to create my best self with which to interact and parent my children every single day. I mean, I’m literally writing the character I inhabit all day every day, trying to put affirming, patient, peaceful words and thoughts in my mind and my mouth, trying desperately to construct the reality I want them to live in. And since I’m a person who writes about my life, sometimes being actively in it makes it hard to also observe it and package great insights wrapped in words. I know it’s hip to talk about living your life as if you’re writing a story these days, but man, that’s how I see my world. I’m writing a story with my life all day, and sometimes that leaves very little headspace or energy for actual writing. Which then creates guilt because my writing is this big key piece of my personality and sanity and wellbeing.

So, anyway, these last three days, I’ve walked a total of 8 miles or so, and I’ve been listening to interesting things along the way, and today as I was trucking along, I was straight up moved to tears listening to Elizabeth Gilbert talking to Rob Bell on his Rob Cast (episode 36). You should really listen to the whole thing, because it’s super special, but the part that made me cry as I walked was when a mom of a young child asked Elizabeth about finding the time to write in the midst of motherhood and all the fatigue and busyness that comes with it. And she basically told the woman that she needed to give herself permission to not be writing right now, and to take care of her “animal body” as much as she could, by getting enough rest and being kind to herself. And at that moment, the piece of me that feels guilty that I don’t get to do more writing, guilty that I so often open this page up with empty hands and nothing to offer, guilty that I can’t even do MOST OF THE THINGS in one day, that hard little piece of me broke open a little bit, and some light and some air got into my soul, the same stuff I’ve been basking in on my walks.


Intellectually I know I can’t do most of the things in the same day. And I need to let that be OK in the season I am in right now. I will write when the planets align, and when I have something I need to say, I will fight to make the time to do it. And when I need to take care of my animal body with a long walk in the sunshine and something inspiring in my ears, I will accept with pleasure the gift of time to do it. Today, because I have accepted that gift, my legs are a little sore, and my heart toward myself is a little softer, and I found the time to write way too many words about it, and there’s banana bread cooling on the counter. That’s not ALL, by any means, but it’s enough. And I’m so much more interested in enough.

the grownups ain’t coming

I was having a chat with a friend the other day about being vs. feeling like a grownup. I have realized something crazy lately, mostly since becoming a parent, but also since turning 30: the big secret of being an adult is that almost no one actually feels like one a lot of the time. That and the fact that the only major perk of being an adult is getting to have ice cream or popcorn for dinner if you want to. But mostly the thing about not feeling like a real grownup.

At least I don’t. I find myself, 30 years old, mother of twin three year olds, married, homeowner, scheduler of important things, manager of some serious medical issues, meal planner, writer, friend…and feeling like I’m playing house. I look around at all my responsibilities, which I usually handle just fine, and often wonder, “Who the heck decided I could handle all of this?” It’s like I’m waiting for the real grownups to show up and take charge, only to realize, the grownups ain’t coming. The grownups are us.

I’ve even realized that I seem to think of “adulting” like others might think of playing video games: I’m earning or losing points along the way, and occasionally leveling up. Remembering to pay a bill: points. Actually calling and talking to the insurer or medical supply guy or specialty nurse about something: points. Doing all the steps of my skincare routine for more than three days in a row: points. Exercising, even with kids underfoot: points. Eating the recommended servings of vegetables: points. Remembering the paperwork for the kid thing: points. Not getting sunburned or allowing my kids to get sunburned on the beach vacation: points. Not letting the clothes get funky in the washing machine before switching them to the dryer: points. Hosting actual adult parties: points.

Getting married? Leveled up. Buying a house? Leveled up. Moving halfway across the country? Leveled up. Dealing with loss? Leveled up. Facing my own mortality in a major way? Leveled up. Becoming a parent? Leveled up. Twins? Leveled way up. Having a kid with a disability? Leveled up. Managing my own chronic health issues? Leveled up. Realizing what I do or DON’T want to do with my life? Leveled up.

It’s like I think that if I collect enough points or get to a final level, I’ll stop feeling like I’m pretending at being a grownup and actually feel like an adult. This probably makes me a stereotype of a Millennial, but what can I say, I graduated high school in 2003. My generation allegedly feels like adolescents forever. Guilty as charged. The thing that really lets me know that I’m a grownup is that I now know it doesn’t matter if I feel like an imposter, because I still gotta get shit done. It turns out being a grownup is a lot like being brave: it’s about feeling one way but doing the damn thing anyway. Brave people are still scared. Real grownups still feel like kids playing house a lot of the time. You just don’t tell anyone you’re secretly earning merit badges in your head and move along your merry little way.

4 years with Tinycat, and glad he’s still with us

Four years ago today, we were working in our downtown garden when a homeless friend named Justin walked up holding an impossibly tiny, impossibly flea-covered kitten. “I just found him,” he said, “and I can’t take care of him and don’t want him to be a hobo cat. Can you take him?” I took one look at the tiny furball and knew I had to help him find a home.

I took him home, gave him a bath, picked hundreds of fleas off of him, and promptly fell in love.  I didn’t want to fall in love, though. We called him Tinycat because we weren’t giving him a name because we were. not. keeping. him. That resolve lasted until the night before he was supposed to go to a new home, and Jon and I both cried and realized we couldn’t bear to part with him.

By the end of that summer, I got pregnant and promptly began spending a lot of time in bed. Tinycat was always by my side. He was my buddy through a difficult pregnancy, and even after the girls were born, he has been amazing with them, always choosing to be near them, allowing them to love him, however rough, and gently training them in how to handle him.

Over the last few months, Tiny has been very sick. It started as a bladder infection, but then either nausea or just distaste for his prescription bladder food caused him to just stop eating. He had been fairly obese, but then he suddenly got scary-skinny, and super sick. He had starved himself into liver failure. Apparently fatty liver syndrome is common when fat cats lose a lot of weight suddenly. At one point, I was pretty sure he was going to die. For the last two months he’s been getting medications and syringe feedings, and it’s been rough on all of us. Now he’s finally starting to gain weight, eat a little food (but still refusing the prescription bladder food), and even act like his old playful, affectionate self again. It’s been like watching him rise from the dead. It finally feels like he’s actually decided he wants to live, and we are so happy.

Happy fourth anniversary, Tinycat. I’m glad you won over this family of “dog people.” Don’t tell Bessie and Olive, but you’re my favorite. Even when you’re being The Worst.

mothers and daughters


My friend Mary Evelyn of What Do You Do Dear recently welcomed her second child and first daughter into the world, baby Frances Louise. Mary Evelyn is one of my favorite bloggers– her voice is thoughtful and grace-full, she has a great sense of humor, and her little family is just the cutest– so I was thrilled to contribute a guest post to give her some bonding time with sweet Franny Lou and welcome her to the wonderful world of mothers and daughters. Go check out my post, in which I reveal some Twin Girl Mom secrets, and be sure to read some other stuff on her site, too. I promise you’ll love her as much as I do!


choosing not to wear leggings and yoga pants? or: pockets are the key to lust prevention

In response to this

I can’t really say I was ever around friends and had a husband remark upon his wife’s body to me, but if I were ever around a couple and the husband smacked his wife’s booty and told her she looked hot in her yoga pants, as our toddlers played nearby, as I examined the stain on the knee of my own leggings and wondered if it was snot or what, exactly, I would think, “Good for them. They’re adorable.” And maybe also a little bit of, “Gag, get a room, you two.”

Continue reading