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Kids need roots. And wings

Before kids I remember watching other parents indulge their children’s incessant desire for Band-aids. I remember thinking:

“Why don’t you just tell your kid there’s no boo boo, no need for a Band-aid, and it’s wasteful to use one (or ten) when they’re not needed.”

Now that I have a 2 year old, I currently think:

“Sure, have a Bandaid. Have 20. Put them on me, your baby brother, your face, the shower door. In fact, perform heart surgery if you’d like as long as you give me 5 minutes to eat my scrambled eggs.”

Back to roots and wings.

Sweet Home Alabama is a ridiculous movie. McDreamy. Reese Witherspoon. That scene in Tiffany’s. It is pure Hallmark-esque fantasy.  But I love it and justify my obsessive TV and movie habits by the deep spiritual truths I find therein 🙂

This “roots and wings” thing from the movie has stuck with me through the years. Because whether it’s seeing MJ off to preschool or prepping Pheebs for college I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to be a parent.

And I don’t just mean the legal piece of paper that says “I’m now responsible for every wonderful and stupid thing you do”, I mean the emotional process of investing yourself in someone you love only to see them take flight on their own. On a Homecoming Wizard of Oz float 🙂

Of not just giving them life (for biological children) but teaching them how to live (for adopted children).

As a parent, we’re doing our job well when we work ourselves out of this job.

We are “feeding them so they can one day feed themselves, we’re teaching them in order that they may no longer need our teaching” (C.S. Lewis in The Four Loves).

And it’s easy, with so much wrapped up in our children, so much feeding and teaching required, to idolize and deify them.  

But what I’ve seen and experienced myself is that worshipping our children leads us to either indulge them or, on the other extreme, to “helicopter” them.

Keller lays out this spiritual and psychological phenomenon in Counterfeit Gods:

“Everyone has to live for something, and if that something is not God {children}, then we are driven by that thing we love – by overwork to achieve it, by inordinate fear if it is threatened, deep anger if its being blocked and inconsolable despair if its lost.”

Our kids (or spouse, or job, or financial security or physical beauty or need to have it all together) can’t be on the throne. They have a an important place in our lives but not the only one.

So in order to let go and let God, we need to have our heart in the right place, sacrificially pouring into our kiddos and yet holding onto them loosely in the process.

This is hard.

The other pondering thought of my week is what to do about politics. Cause a guy named Rambo is running for judge here in Chagrin and every time I see his sign, I’m picturing Sylvester Stallone with a gavel. 

Politics is everywhere right now. And as a veritable news junkie, I’ve watched the Kavanaugh hearings and read every Op-ed page in every left wing and right wing paper known to man the past few days while E.B. nurses to develop yet a few more fat rolls.

Love those fat rolls…and all I can think about is how politics is a total grandstanding circus.

I love circuses. So does Queen Latifah:

Which is why I was struck by Tim Keller’s New York Times Op-ed on how we, as believers, should handle the circus in Washington.

If you read anything by Tim, you know that he always takes the middle, reasoned approach.  He’s always advising we “live out the tension” of extremes and inhabit that hard place – the “gray” one, achieved at only through wisdom and prayer.

He doesn’t give pat answers unless there’s a pat one to be found in Scripture. So here’s what he says:

“The Bible shows believers as holding important posts in pagan governments — think of Joseph and Daniel in the Old Testament. Christians should be involved politically as a way of loving our neighbors, whether they believe as we do or not. To work for better public schools or for a justice system not weighted against the poor or to end racial segregation requires political engagement. Christians have done these things in the past and should continue to do so.

Nevertheless, while believers can register under a party affiliation and be active in politics, they should not identify the Christian church or faith with a political party as the only Christian one.”

To paraphrase, we should be in the political fray but carefully, seeing the wide spectrum of political views people who love God can hold.

Reading Tim’s piece reminds me that the song doesn’t go “May they know we are Christians by our political affiliation or policy triumph” but “may they know we are Christians by our love

If love comes first, our political tone, approach, and effort will be fair, done with excellence, and rightly ordered. With love coming first.

What is not rightly ordered right now is my pantry.  

Someone, who shall remain nameless (Miss Margaret Joy), has taken it upon herself to helpfully frustrate my system. There is stuff scattered everywhere, including corn, stickers, popcorn, Goldfish, and my Werthers stash (my “grannie candies” as some call them).

Thankfully, God is the author of “order” and not confusion (1 Cor 14:33). And He takes that order into our lives, as chaotic as they may seem.  Chance the Rapper even reminds us that God “orders our step” in his song Blessings, disabusing us of the notion that we’re charting our own path and able to create order out of chaos on our own.

We are not able. We cannot do it.

He can.

So as we’re doing our day, sweeping up Goldfish on our pantry floor, parenting our kids, reading Op-eds about the Senate, and thinking about our role as parents, we do it holding on to “great love.”

Love that offers expensive, not cheap grace, to do it.

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“Good men distinguished by zeal and a conspicuous absence of brains”

So Cleveland took a hit this summer. We no longer have LeBron.

But Cleveland’s still got it. The Browns won a game.

And Springfield, Ohio can claim John Legend, of EGOT fame (Emmy!, Grammy!, Oscar!, Tony!) and the world’s most famous phone charger klepto.

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Funny thing happened on the way to Vineyard Vines the other day. Seb desperately needed another pair of pants with whales on them (and I do mean desperately, we live in Chagrin Falls) and the consignment shop is out.  

Whoever else is shopping at the consignment shop and likes whale pants for their child must cease and desist. You are robbing my stash and I’m starting to take it personally.

I digress. The lady at checkout was being friendly, asked me how many kids I have and then asked if I was Mormon or Catholic. I mean, who else would have 5 children?

My mom, mother to 6, got this question a lot too. Her answer? “Passionate Protestants.”

Being a mom is just fascinating. Being a mom is just challenging. Lauren Daigle (aka Gospel’s version of Adele)’s song “You Say” ran a couple dozen times in my head before E.B. was born.

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I meditated on Daigle’s song a lot because last May and June are what I’d call one of my “low output” seasons.

A season where my to do list wasn’t getting done. Eric’s cold brews weren’t stocked for the Apocalypse in the fridge. We were out of Sprite Zero for Seb’s Peiffer Punch (don’t burst Seb’s bubble but his punch is actually a Shirley Temple), I hadn’t made it to Costco to grab the salmon, grapes, Goldfish, quinoa packets, and paper towels my family relies on. My math tutoring of Seb came to a grinding halt. MJ’s diaper pail was emptied less frequently and her Dick and Jane books sat on our bookshelf for longer than I care to admit. I even waited a whole ten minutes to respond to my emails.

This is what I call failure.

It’s called failure because I pride myself on always having inventory. On getting stuff done. On being on top of my Gmail Inbox.

Note the word “pride” in there.

Pregnancy, like so many other things I’ve experienced since having children, is one of the many moments in a woman’s life when you find yourself unable to contribute like you did before.

You are big. You are tired. You are growing an organ (a placenta).

Before being a parent, I didn’t know that people have to write “MOM” in felt pen on their half and half so that it’s there for them in the morning. Or that no one really cares to connect with you on LinkedIn anymore because, well, you’re simply out of the game. Because Eric Peiffer Industries isn’t hiring anytime soon.  So, well, you just don’t matter anymore.

Worse, as a woman in Australia just experienced, you can’t breastfeed your child in public (even with a covering!) in the off chance that your cover-up shawl could possibly fall down by accident and offend a peering man (anyone else find this ironic in a world where two thirds of men admit to watching porn?)

To women everywhere – I salute you. Mom – you truly are my hero.

I humbly acknowledge I didn’t really “get it” until I walked through it.

But sometimes, we feel bad about our low output seasons because we know how much our work actually does matter.

In our low output season parenting conversations decrease, Amazon boxes don’t get dissected and put away, and Haagen Dazs peanut butter ice cream falls to dangerously low levels in the freezer.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be competent in our role as homemaker. Cue C.S. Lewis:

“I think I can understand that feeling about a housewife’s work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone rolling gentleman). But it is surely, in reality, the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, mines, cars, government etc exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? We wage war in order to have peace, we work in order to have leisure, we produce food in order to eat it. So your job is the one for which all others exist.

But it’s our idolatry of our role in the home that needs deconstructing.

Wanting to have an orderly home isn’t the problem. It’s wanting to have an orderly home above all else and feeling like failures when we can’t do it that’s the problem.

I know what you’re thinking.  “Marcia, just don’t worry about it… God doesn’t require us to be successful, just faithful.”

But let’s be honest – many people are faithfully executing towards failure. Spurgeon calls these people “good men (women) who are distinguished by enormous zeal and a conspicuous absence of brains.”

We don’t have to be successful in our work, but we are called to be what Tim Keller calls “fruitful”. In our “low output” seasons that fruitfulness might look different. It might mean not getting all the errands done but instead, spending those mornings in nausea in prayer for a friend who’s struggling with depression or divorce. It might mean listening to worship music when we’re tempted to binge watch another Netflix series in a moment of extreme fatigue.

Whatever “fruitfulness” means in our own lives, we can receive what Hebrews 4:16 calls “grace for our time of need.”

Receive that grace today.

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Raising Warrior Women

Look what Eric put on my car last week:

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Speaking of student drivers, Coco got her permit last week.  And as Chloe drives down Faraway Trail, MJ watches Peter Rabbit (which like Shrek, I enjoy more than she does) and simultaneously tries to eat pictures of desserts in The New York Times Food section.

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As MJ literally tries to bite into the newspaper, I’m working on my Lysa TerKeurst Bible Study, Seb sings happy birthday ALL THE  TIME (an idea Bubbe gave him to assure he washes his hands for a full 30 seconds) and Seb’s friends come by to grab a popsicle and forage in our backyard so they can all get poison ivy together.

Fun times.

To facilitate all the foraging, I’ve tried to institute a “wear a watch and come home at 5:30PM” policy. But Seb is finding it very challenging to keep track of that watch. Every day last week that watch disappeared and every day Seb blamed MJ (because why not?) or, of course, me.

He’s turning into an 8 year old Bulldog:

Inevitably, we find the watch exactly where Seb put it 2 minutes prior and then I remind Seb that his watch really isn’t lost until I can’t find it.

Just the other day, Seb could not find the ketchup. Anywhere. And I mean, the kid took time away from building his Lego set to spend an entire 2 seconds actually looking for it before announcing MJ stole his ketchup.

I found it. In the freezer. He’d put it there.

Pew Research says parents spent 47% of their time worrying about their kids. This is why.

In other news, Grocery Store Joe is going on DWTS, we saw Crazy Rich Asians, I read that your childrens cells live on in your body your entire lifetime, and Eric Boaz slept a full night!!!!

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Since E.B. decided that sleep was, just maybe, a good idea at 10 weeks of age, I got to read the paper (this WSJ essay is the best: Yes, we really do want to have a 5th child),  learned more about David & Goliath from Malcolm Gladwell,  heard MJ start saying “you guys” and “sit down!”, and I went to Target last week.

By myself.

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Lastly, I’m now praying Proverbs 31 over my daughters since a “wise woman builds her house” (in the emotional / spiritual sense) and “watches over the affairs of her household” – what Tim Keller calls the ultimate “managing partner.”

And, per the Hebrew word khayil, a “noble” woman is also valiant. A soldier.

She’s a warrior.

A warrior prepared for heroic action (“she girds her loins” in verse 17 = an idiom). A warrior with “power as her clothing” (verse 25). A warrior who possesses “faithful instruction on her tongue” (Hebrew term torah-chesed in verse 26).

And this warrior keeps an upbeat attitude in the process – she “delights in working with her hands” (verse 13).

Most importantly, a warrior woman, as Proverbs 31 outlines, “laughs at the days to come” (verse 25).  By watching stuff like this:

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Crisis Mode

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Seb taught me how to create a meme last night. Because this is what we do on mommy / son date nights after we’ve watched “Music Man”, eaten burgers & green tea ice cream, discussed the merits of comic books, a fair price for his lemonade stand, the existence of Titanoboas, and why Eric Boaz can’t sleep on his bunk bed at 7 weeks of age.

Speaking of Mr. Eric Boaz Jr., during my quiet time this morning, I read 2 Chronicles 3:17 and discovered Boaz is the name of the left pillar in Solomon’s temple. Meaning, once our little guy’s out of Pampers, he’s destined for greatness.

And being destined for greatness means, as C.S. Lewis explains, some crises along the way: “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extraordinary destiny“.

We recently had a crisis here in the Peiffer household. It was a normal day, you know, laundry, handyman fixing something MJ broke, bacon cooking, unpacking Amazon boxes, nursing E.B., picking up after MJ, until all of a sudden I hear Sebby scream, “Mooooooooooooooooom!”

As I’m running down the stairs with E.B. still nursing on me (I’m his favorite restaurant) and MJ sobbing behind me, I’m imagining an ER trip in our future – did Seb slice his finger with a knife? Burn himself on the stove? Eat detergent? Step on a glass chard?

The answer to all of the above is no. Seb is calmly standing at the counter with a pencil in hand. And then it comes:

“Mom, how do you spell knee?”

Not a crisis.

But when I’m facing a true and real crisis, I have a plan. I turn to God.

And sometimes, I just don’t have the words to say. Sometimes the prayer is  – “Lord, just help.” Whether it’s potty training, confronting someone I love, or doing yet another load of laundry, I’m just not sure how to say what I’m feeling, what I need.

Which is why it’s nice to use what other people have said.

N.T. Wright says using liturgy is actually a “form of grace & humility”; it’s saying “yeah, I’m not super articulate right now so I’m gonna say what that guy a couple hundred years ago said.” Such as this simple prayer by John Baillie:

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And then I take a bath. Bath comes from the Greek word “balaneion” which means “to wash anxiety from the mind.” It’s quiet in there, an escape from the kiddos, until someone inevitably yells through the door, “Mom, did you get more Goldfish today?!”

But one thing I’ve learned as a mom is that what I view as interruptions are, as CS Lewis aptly put it “precisely one’s life.”

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To Zion. And Imperfect Families.

Unsure of what the balance held
I touched my belly overwhelmed
By what I had been chosen to perform
But then an angel came one day
Told me to kneel down and pray
For unto me a man child would be born

Woe this crazy circumstance
I knew his life deserved a chance
But everybody told me to be smart
Look at your career they said
Lauryn, baby use your head
But instead I chose to use my heart – Now the joy of my world is in Zion

How beautiful if nothing more
Than to wait at Zion’s door
I’ve never been in love like this before
Now let me pray to keep you from
The perils that will surely come
See life for you my prince has just begun
And I thank you for choosing me
To come through unto life to be
A beautiful reflection of his grace

For I know that a gift so great, is only one God could create
And I’m reminded every time I see your face, that the joy of my world is in Zion

Lauryn Hill wrote this song “To Zion” (her eldest son of 6 kiddos). It’s so beautiful and worth a listen. Especially as I welcome little Eric Jr. in a few short months.

Women view motherhood and their lives so differently. I know this because Lauryn Hill sings about it, I’ve read Sheryl Sandbergs’ book “Lean In” (anyone else find it ironic that of her 3 mentors, 2 were men?), I’ve lived a few years and heard a lot of women say a lot of things on the topic of women’s roles and women’s choices, and read this Maureen Dowd piece last Sunday in The New York Times on Millennials’ distorted take on female relationships & sexuality: What’s lust got to do with it.

Women’s roles aside, I had an e-mail last week from our neighborhood listserv with the subject line – “Pigs in my yard?” Do I live in Ohio or what? I’m also debating between 2 new doormats:

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have been listening to my favorite French song  La Venus du Melo by Stacey Kent, am putting together a recipe book for my family because I’m tired of having recipes all over the place, and have been thinking a lot about families. Mostly, because it’s the topic du jour at church and because I’m reading J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy.

I think of family as the ultimate small group; in Nehemiah 4:13 God “stationed them by families” and this group of people shape and mold us in ways we can’t even fully understand.

And yet, with the joy  that family brings – comes heartache. In Hillbilly, J.D. and his sister Lindsay ask their grandma one day, after their mom goes through a break up, struggles with a drug addiction, and threatens her children with violence in the driveway while dressed only in her towel – “Does God love us?”

Family challenges can strip us to the core. And remind us we are not home yet.

The good news? God came for imperfect families. My big brother aptly addresses this point here (in a handout he created for families at The Salvation Army homeless shelter here in the Cleve):

Christmas is not for Perfect People, it’s for Us

by Wally Larson Jr.

The King of the Universe left the throne room of Heaven to become a helpless baby sleeping in the rough, wooden feeding trough for animals called a “manger”.   That King, Jesus of Nazareth, was born to a young mother who was not married when Jesus was conceived in her.  Joseph, her fiancée, was poised to break off the engagement because he thought Mary had slept with another man.  When Herod the king heard that Jesus was born, he ordered the death of all infants in the town, so Jesus’ family fled to Egypt until it seemed safe to return.  When He grew up, Jesus never married. This was not a picture-perfect family!

Of course, the Bible is full of non-standard family situations.  Lazarus and Mary and Martha were three grown siblings living together.  In the Old Testament we read of Abraham’s sleeping with a servant girl because he and Sarah couldn’t wait on God to give them a child.  In the house of King David, we read of a son raping his half-sister, son killing son, son rebelling against father.  None of these families were picture-perfect by a long shot, which is precisely the point:  Jesus didn’t come to bring redemption to perfect people; He came to heal imperfect us.

Christmas is not for picture-perfect families, because there are none.  Some of us this Christmas are homeless or with a broken family or with problems of health, unemployment or addiction. Jesus knows and cares and understands.  We sing each Christmas about the beginning of Jesus’ life:  “Away in a manger, no crib for a bed.”  And near the end of his life, when people said they wanted to follow him, Jesus would respond:  “Foxes have dens, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man [me, Jesus!] has no place to lay his head.”  In other words, Jesus was homeless.

Religious leaders criticized Jesus for eating with “sinners”, prostitutes and tax collectors – the people society shunned.  Jesus didn’t deny it, in fact he embraced that criticism, saying “I came not for those who are healthy but for those who acknowledge they need a doctor.”  The reality is that we are all “sin sick”: allergic to God, the only one who can actually cure us.  But the promise of Christmas is that Jesus came and died upon the cross, paid the penalty that we should have paid, so that God could begin to heal us of our allergy to Him and once again be in a relationship with Him, as we were in the Garden of Eden.  Jesus rose again after three days and lives today in Heaven and will one day return to this world in glory.  Do you know Him?  If not, why not open your heart to Him this Christmas and thereby celebrate the reason behind the holiday.  He awaits you with open arms.

 
 

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Edward Norton. Stephen King. And how to get angry. Slowly.

If you haven’t seen The Italian Job, it’s a great movie starring Charlize Theron, a Mini Cooper, and Edward Norton. If you’re not an Edward Norton fan yet, watch him as a priest in the hilarious Keeping the Faith (along with Rabbi Ben Stiller, below) and you will become a Norton fan. I promise.

Norton is also phenomenal as a naive lawyer in a Larson family favorite film, Everyone Says I Love You (Woody Allen at his best). But back to The Italian Job….there’s a great line in the script bemoaning the use of the trite phrase “I’m fine” which is code for “Freaked Out, Insecure, Neurotic, Emotional.”

We are movie people. And movie night is my fave date night with my babe. Mostly because when we go,  we spring for the popcorn. It feels so decadent to buy food at the theatre after years sneaking in my own loot with my sibs. But Stephen King has a point here:

“First, support your theater. Buy at the snack bar and damn the expense. You could probably sneak your own food in, but if you’re caught, you’ll be thrown out. As for bringing healthier snacks from home: Did you really hire a babysitter and drive six miles so you could snark cucumber slices half-drowned in buttermilk ranch out of a slimy plastic bag? Is that what you call living it up?” (Entertainment Weekly Column, 2008)

Stephen King has sardonic down. Did you hear his take on Job?

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Makes me smile. I’m sure Job felt that at times.

 

We all do. Because we’re human.

 

Also because we’re human? We get angry. Tim Keller in his sermon “The Healing of Anger” says “truth-tellers” who are “quick-tempered” often confuse “truth” with emotional anger or intention to bruise. TK says how we deliver a message is just as important as the message itself. And that it’s a sin to blow up with anger but it’s also a sin to NOT get angry. Slow to anger – that’s the wise person. Because that’s how God is:

 

“And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate

and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” – Exodus 34:6

 

Similarly, like anger, correction must be present if we truly love someone. If we don’t get angry, if we don’t correct, we don’t love. And yet we are 100% responsible for being slow to anger and delivering that correction in a loving way when someone we love is “under threat” from a bad influence or bad decision.

 

A few years ago I read this article about affirming before correcting / critiquing that looks at how the Apostle Paul handled churches going astray. It’s worth a read for managers managing people, parents parenting kids; Paul starts off with:

 

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints” (Col. 1:3-8)

 

What a way, in our negative and “go to the jugular” culture, to lead a performance review or constructive criticism. So note to self, before I suggest MJ NOT put stickers all over her face and mine, I should praise her for taking initiative and demonstrating her natural creativity : )

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Signing off now with a song –  if you haven’t heard Kelley Mooney’s spiritual take on Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah it’s just beautiful.  As are the family pics below:

 

A crown of thorns placed on His head
He knew that He would soon be dead
He said did you forget me Father did you?
They nailed Him to a wooden cross
Soon all the world would feel the loss
Of Christ the King before His Hallelujah

 

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Mom & Dad – P.S. I Love You!

Our week in NYC over Spring Break…..by “our” I mean the little ones as Eric took the girls on a college tour & hit the slopes in CO while I hit the Bronx Zoo and the Museum of Natural History with Seb & MJ in tow.

Because based on last Spring Break, we learned that it is not wise to bring a 7 year old and a 4 month old on a 12 hour car ride to Nashville, drive hours each day with them stuck in a car while I changed MJ’s diapers in the back seat of the Yukon, had Seb spill his McDonalds french fries over my head, and not sleep for an entire week as we visited colleges.

It was not Spring-y and it was not Break-y. It was stupid-y. #Newbiemommy

I digress. The Big Apple visit with my fam enabled us to see old friends from News Corp / Dow Jones (Seb got to see the WSJ newsroom where mommy used to write tweets and meet my boss Mark),

see the Redeemer Downtown crew, wake Uncle Wally & Aunt Esther up crazy early as MJ knocked on their door, discuss this CT article on surrogacy over burgers, watch an undercover cop arrest a guy playing chess near Aunt Es & Mommy’s grad school alma mater

volunteer at The Salvation Army at 14th street

see a dear family I used to babysit (these kids I took to see High School Musical years ago are now wise, leading worship at Hillsong and modeling  and completely gorgeous), watch them film Blindspot on the Upper East Side, haul a stroller up and down the subway at 42nd street, and discuss who we’re rooting for on American Idol.

The answer is Maddie. Here’s why:

But mostly, it enabled the Larson sibs to come together to celebrate mom & dad’s upcoming 47th anniversary.

Mom & Dad, thanks for your fervent prayers, your sense of humor (“remember everyone, just don’t be yourselves!”), your constant encouragement, your emotional support, your practical help with parenting, Costco runs & diapers, your frugality (let’s split a Starbucks latte 6 ways! And a Costco Diet Pepsi 8 ways! And sneak popcorn into the $1.50 movie theatre!) and the major,  fully selfless investment you’ve made in my family.

Choe’s interested in law school – that’s you. Phoebe’s highlight of her life is Teen Missions – that’s you. Seb is reading like a whiz kid and getting involved with The Salvation Army – that’s you. MJ has a bunny costume over her highchair and reads the newspaper  – that’s you.  Thank you for impacting my life and by extension that of our children.

May the Lord bless you with another abundant year of life together as we welcome another little guy in July to your gaggle of grandchildren in Chagrin.

Love you!

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I just lost a billion dollars

Like most of America, my March Madness bracket is shot. Fortunately, Aunt Essie was here to console me as she showed MJ how to throw golf balls Saturday:

And laugh at what may just be the best vanity plate I’ve ever seen:

img_2451Had a conversation with Sebby recently explaining how before I made the move to Ohio to make him pancakes and teach him things like putting on chapstick, how to set the timer to practice the piano, how to fold your laundry, and how to clean up after you dig for dino poop fossils with Aunt Esther… I had a job at an office where I sat behind a desk, conducted interviews for open jobs at the company, did Concur expense reports, crafted tweets, and went to Upfront parties to eat free food and meet TV stars:

This is all just fascinating to my little guy. I blew his mind last week explaining I had a name other than “mom” and now he’s learning that mommy sat at a desk instead of doing Target runs for a living ?!?!

Seb then asked me why I worked in entertainment instead of running a zoo like he hopes to one day – so I explained that mommy doesn’t like dealing with poop and fossils and non-humans and how mommy also got tired of seeing people like Angela from The Office as a legalistic, uptight depiction of a religious person on a sitcom. So mommy decided to join the entertainment industry.

Mommy didn’t make it to the writing room because she’s not as talented as peeps like Tina Fey, but she liked her job and used it as an excuse to watch Lie to Me for “research” and consume dangerous amounts of television.

Seb still thinks mommy passed up the ultimate vocational calling of being a zookeeper but promises me he’ll fulfill that dream on my behalf. He even said he’d hire me. And MJ. Who was literally at the center of his birthday party last weekend:

Even at 8, work is on Seb’s mind. Especially since we’ve been having this convo at church reminding ourselves of what Luther once said:“God could easily give you grain and fruit without your plowing and planting, but he does not want to do so.”

Tim Keller expounds on Luther’s point: “parents want to give their children everything they need, but they also want them to become diligent, conscientious, and responsible people. So they give their children chores. They could obviously do the chores better themselves, but that would not help their children grow in maturity. So parents give their children what they need – character – through the diligence required for the chores they assign them.”

Work is God-given and matters.  A few years back I remember reading Simone de Beauvoir’s depiction of a housewife and thinking that without a theology on our work, we will fall into this kind of despair:

“Few tasks are more similar to the torment of Sisyphus than those of the housewife; day after day, one must wash dishes, dust furniture, mend clothes that will be dirty, dusty, and torn again…the housewife wears herself out running on the spot; she does nothing; she only perpetuates the present.”

What de Beauvoir doesn’t understand about my “perpetuating the present” is that there are shortcuts to the housework, including these brilliant things:

She also fails to understand what Eric Liddell famously once said about his running career: “When I run I feel His pleasure” and how doing good work, even at home, is our ultimate offering up to God.

Daniel and his friends (chapter 1, verse 20) were “10 times better than everyone else” in terms of literature and wisdom. These guys stood out because they did excellent work; similarly, I pray my cookies, sewing on of buttons, diaper changing, and dishwashing are a reflection of what I believe about the work I’m doing as unto Him.

In sum, we should follow A Rod’s advice (in Vanity Fair recently)  and “thank the Lord” for our work:

Even if we’re in the hardest job in the world –  that of Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Confession: I had a crush on Ari Fleischer back in the day, also crushed on George Stephanopoulos after reading his book, so I guess I have an affinity for people who are quick on their feet and know how to charm the press.  It’s a truly tough job and Seth Meyers’ take on the WH press briefings are pretty classic:

We’re off for Spring Break soon, hoping that when we get home we can shed our coats & winter hats:

But before signing off for awhile, I leave you with this moment of awesomeness:

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I will not look like Sharon Stone

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I actually had this conversation with Sebby when he was 4. It is crazy that I have an actual name : )

Also crazy news? According to The New York Times I will not look like Sharon Stone at 59.

I’d just like to note that in this interview Stone says she consumes zero caffeine and alcohol but does consume meat, dark chocolate and an occasional soda. I like this. People act like soda is killing the universe but please let me enjoy a Diet Caffeine Free Dr. Pepper with my popcorn once in awhile without judgment.

Kids had another snow day which meant hang time at the house: did laundry, called LG Customer Service and learned how to turn OFF the narcissistic song the washer kept singing, DVR’d American Idol (Lionel Richie! Luke Bryan!) read this interesting piece on Chris Hughes’ simplistic solution to poverty, signed Seb up for fencing lessons (because who wouldn’t want to duel with a sword after seeing Mask of Zorro?) and read more musings on how faith infuses our work.

TK (Tim Keller) cites the book of Esther in Every Good Endeavor and notes that if we don’t use our financial, social, and emotional capital to serve others through our work then the “palace” where God’s placed us (the home, the bank, the law firm, the classroom) “becomes your prison”.

And serving the work means doing a good job. It’s landing the plane if you’re a pilot. Hitting the right notes if you’re a musician. Keeping the fridge stocked and having bubbles on hand for long snow days if you’re a stay at home mom. “Building good tables” as Dorothy Sayers explains, if you’re a carpenter:

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And if you’re a waitress on Portlandia it means answering inane questions about the origin of the chicken you’re serving:

What serving the work doesn’t mean is practicing what TK calls “dualism” (read pages 200-201 for more on this):

“Dualism leads some to think that if their work is to please Christ, it must be done overtly in his name. They feel they have to write and perform art that explicitly mentions Jesus, or teach religious subjects in a Christian school; or that they must work in an organization in which all people are professing Christians. Or they must let everyone know that they lead Bible studies in the office in the morning before work hours.”

TK goes on to say that this dualism leads well-meaning believers to disengage from culture instead of seeing God’s beauty (through Common Grace) in television, movies, music, and art – identifying, with a critical eye, the longings of the human heart as expressed through the popular culture of our day.

Insightful stuff. After living in France for 3 years, I still find Americans love of work quite endearing since the prevailing attitude I discovered in France is that work is a necessary evil. And American or French, how we think about our work absolutely influences what we do there. Pastor Aaron Tredway noted Sunday that we spend 2% of our time as a believer reading the Bible, 40% of our time at work. So what happens 7AM – 7PM is pretty important.

Instinctively, we know it matters. Because when the cashier at Costco is friendly and helpful while loading your fruit snacks and milk cartons into the cart – it makes a difference. When the barista at Starbucks in Aurora (though that parking lot is a death trap) compliments your hair – it brightens your day. We all have the ability to influence and love people through the smallest interactions that happen throughout our work day. And the fact that God cares and values what we do through our work should make all the difference in how we go about that work whether it’s folding laundry, handling HR matters, working on an investment deal, or standing in a courtroom.

Quick break: here’s your daily dose of cuteness, cousin love in action:

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And a friendly reminder that Mother’s Day is fast approaching (Sunday May 13th) – if you need a ringtone for your maman here’s mine:

And finally, if you’ve had a challenging situation lately I heard an interesting conversation around the dinner table, compliments of Blue Bloods (Tom Selleck still got it).

Each Sunday the family gathers around the dinner table to discuss their biggest fail of the week because: “if you’re not failing, you’re not trying. And if you’re not trying you’re not living. You only learn from when you fail.” This Trump fail of the week made me smile:

My own failure of the week involves a very long phone call with a woman from customer service at Spectrum, part of my adulting process. My consolation for her rudeness came from this quote, stitched into a pillow in our living room, borrowed from former Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner’s life motto:

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Stayed up late watching The Bachelor?

Me too.

Sweet Eric joined me for the “journey” of watching what can only be described as an epic finale to a ridiculous show I love to simultaneously mock and watch.

Eric calls the show “Who will I propose to and then divorce in 6 months?”  and yet we watch while staying up late, eating green tea ice cream from Aunt Esther & Lucky Charms, and of course dissecting every aspect of these relationships from our couch.

Doesn’t Arie look a little like Fred Armisen? Is Becca the right one? Is Lauryn too insecure for marriage? Didn’t Arie do the right thing in breaking it off before walking down the aisle?

The best part of the show is the tweets the next morning. It’s hard not to fall into the Twitter hole and find yourself checking out Buzzfeed, clicking thru to New York Times articles, finding funny memes and then discovering you’ve wasted a solid 30 minutes looking through facetious but genius pics like these:

Or this one: 50 Hilarious Memes That Will Make Parents Of Young Kids Laugh/Cry 

So a few tips for you this week. One, if you’ve tried unsuccessfully to get your family to adopt the “dishes are dirty” magnet on your dishwasher – fear not. I’ve devised a new strategy which is the zero effort name card: Dirty vs. Clean.

Everyone just needs to flip this card which is strategically placed on the kitchen counter. 100% success rate thus far:

Another important tip: Do not eat at Texas de Brazil. Seb got a kick out of the meat coming to the table concept and convinced us all to go last Saturday. His digestive system also got a kick from food poisoning that has kept him home from school for 2 days. They also overcharged us.

While we watched “Ghostbusters” and I fed him chicken tenders, croissants and banana smoothies made with vanilla ice cream & Pedialyte to nurse him back to health…Seb bemoaned his choice of restaurant. Never again.

I should mention that I served him his “room service” on a Downton Abbey-esque silver tray from mom (aka Bubbe) who people say “looks British, asks Yiddish” which very accurately describes a lady who dines on silver and then shovels concrete in Papua New Guinea with Teen Missions.

Seb seems to be on the mend.  Being at home with him and foregoing errands for 2 days has afforded me the delightful opportunity to take inventory before my next Costco trek.

Which means I must report that I firmly believe there is a vast conspiracy afoot by Umpqua oats & Kind bars to stick flavors no one likes into their variety packs. I’m sorry but why do we get 4 of the Apple Umpqua oats and only 1 Salted Caramel? Why do we get 5 Vanilla Madagascar Kind bars when we only really eat the Dark chocolate / sea salt ones?

I’d like food to be like iTunes – don’t give me the full album. Give me what I want.

Speaking of iTunes, Coco introduced me to this new song I just can’t get enough of:

It’s 7:12AM and the littles ones are still asleep. Which is strange because MJ usually keeps our family happy hour (4:30-6AM) lively as we all catch up around the kitchen island with Stumptown coffee, milk bottles, and tea.

Topics today? The day’s schedule (trundle delivery, cloth diaper delivery, Coco’s AP Euro Midterm, Pheebs’ SAT tomorrow, dad’s travel schedule), read The New York Times to debate the latest North Korea happenings, and watch the news in the background to see if we’re getting another snow day.

And discuss how many days are left until Aunt Esther’s next visit!!:

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