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The leaf & cathedral that moved me to tears

MJ met Mr. Bear, our new ottoman, this week.  I told the kids this is as close to a pet as we’re going to get for awhile.

Because we’re a little busy around here. Especially as we enter full on swimming mode for the Unsinkable Margaret Joy. There’s this survival swimming program (Kiss Aquatics) which is 3 times a week and yet, within 4 months, MJ will know how to swim. This is what I call “brutal swimming lessons”, the way my mom taught us – throw ya in the pool.

There’s been a lot of throwing lately – Seb & Eric’s nerf gun battles have exploded across the house. There are green plastic nerf pellets on every shelf, in every corner, and of course, in MJ’s mouth. Project “Seb let’s locate all the pellets, put them in a Ziploc up high, and treat them like Legos – never on the floor again” began Thursday evening.

If it’s been a little busy around here – I imagine your own hectic schedule is no less busy.

You have your own to do list pile that never seems to get completed, your Gmail Inbox that haunts you, the pile of “bring Dr. Seuss books to 2nd grade” and “don’t forget to give to the lacrosse fundraiser” and “hit the grocery list for bananas, milk and can you find acai bowls?” that awaits every mom every morning.

Which brings me to the leaf that made me cry. I’d read this in Tim Keller’s book a few years ago and though my work took a different form at The Wall Street Journal, the feeling of futility has not changed.

Work is a blessing and a challenge, as outlined in this excerpt taken from TK’s Every Good Endeavor pages 10-15:

“Niggle was of course Tolkien himself, who knew very well this was one of his own flaws. He was a perfectionist, always unhappy with what he had produced, often distracted from more important issues by fussing over less important details, prone to worry and procrastination. Niggle was the same. 

We are also told that Niggle “had a long journey to make. He did not want to go, indeed the whole idea was distasteful to him; but he could not get out of it.” Niggle continually put the journey off, but he knew it was inevitable. Tom Shippey, who also taught Old English literature at Oxford, explains that in Anglo-Saxon literature the “necessary long journey” was death.

Niggle had one picture in particular that he was trying to paint. He had gotten in his mind the picture of a leaf, and then that of a whole tree. And then, in his imagination, behind the tree “a country began to open out; and there were glimpses of a forest marching over the land, and of mountains tipped with snow.” Niggle lost interest in all his other pictures, and in order to accommodate his vision, he laid out a canvas so large he needed a ladder. Niggle knew he had to die, but he told himself, “At any rate, I shall get this one picture done, my real picture, before I have to go on that wretched journey.”

So he worked on his canvas, “putting in a touch here, and rubbing out a patch there,” but he never got much done. There were 2 reasons for this. First, it was because he was the “sort of painter who can paint leaves better than trees.

He used to spend a long time on a single leaf,…”trying to get the shading and the sheen and the dewdrops on it just right. So no matter how hard he worked, very little actually showed up on the canvas itself. The second reason was his “kind heart”. Niggle was constantly distracted by doing things his neighbors asked him to do for them. In particular, his neighbor Parish, who did not appreciate Niggles’ paintings at all, asked him to do many things for him.

One night when Niggle senses, rightly, that his time is almost up, Parish insists that he go out into the wet and cold to fetch a doctor for his sick wife. As a result he comes down with a chill and fever, and while working desperately on his unfinished picture, the Driver comes to take Niggle on the journey he has put off. When he realizes he must go, he bursts into tears, “Oh dear! said poor Niggle, beginning to weep, ‘And it’s not even finished!’” Sometime after his death the people who acquired his house noticed that on his crumbling canvas his only “one beautiful leaf” had remained intact. It was put in the Town Museum, “and for a long while ‘Leaf: by Niggle’ hung there in a recess, and was noticed by a few eyes.”

But the story does not end there. After death Niggle is put on a train towards the mountains of the heavenly afterlife. At one point on his trip he hears two Voices. One seems to be Justice, the severe voice, which says that Niggle wasted so much time and accomplished so little in life.

But the other, gentler voice (“though it was not soft”), which seems to be Mercy, counters that Niggle has chosen to sacrifice for others, knowing what he was doing. As a reward, when Niggle get to the outskirts of the heavenly country, something catches his eye.

He runs to it – and there it is: “Before him stood the Tree, his Tree, finished; its leaves opening, its branches growing and bending in the wind that Niggle had so often felt or guessed, and yet had so often failed to catch. He gazed at the Tree, and slowly he lifted his arms and opened them wide. ‘It is a gift!’ he said.”

The world before death – his old country – had forgotten Niggle almost completely, and there his work had ended unfinished and helpful to only a few. But in his new country, the permanently real world, he finds that his tree, in full detail and finished, was not just a fancy of his that had died with him. No, it was indeed part of the True Reality that would live and be enjoyed forever.”

Whatever your work, you need to know this: There really is a tree. Whatever you are seeking in your work – the city of justice and peace, the world of brilliance and beauty, the story, the order, the healing – it is there.

There is a God, there is a future healed world that he will bring about, and your work is showing it (in part) to others. Your work will be only partially successful, on your best days, in bringing that world about. But inevitably the whole tree that you seek – the beauty, harmony, justice, comfort, joy, and community – will come to fruition. If you know all this, you won’t be despondent because you can get only a leaf or two out in this life. You will work with satisfaction and joy. You will not be puffed up by success or devastated by setbacks.”

I mean, have you read anything more beautiful?

So the leaf made me cry. And then a friend of Leslie’s (thank you Julie!) shared this beautiful piece on invisible moms by Nicole Johnson:

“One day I was walking my son Jake to school. I was holding his hand and we were about to cross the street when the crossing guard said to him, “Who is that with you, young fella?”

“Nobody,” he shrugged.

Nobody? The crossing guard and I laughed. My son is only five, but as we crossed the street I thought, “Oh my goodness, I’m nobody?”

As Nobody, I would walk into a room and no one would notice. I would say something to my family, like “Turn the TV down, please.” And nothing would happen. No one would get up or even make a move for the remote. I would stand there for a minute, and then I would say again, a little louder, “Would someone turn the TV down?” Nothing. 

That’s when I started putting all the pieces together. I don’t think anyone can see me.

I’m invisible.

It all began to make sense! The blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’d think, “Can’t you see I’m on the phone?” 

Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner. No one can see me, because I’m the Invisible Mom. 

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more. Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this? 

Some days I’m merely a clock to ask, “What time is it?” I’m a satellite guide to answer, “What number is the Disney Channel?”

Some days I’m a crystal ball: “Where’s my other sock? Where’s my phone? What’s for dinner?” 

Hands, a clock, a crystal ball—but always invisible.

One night, some girlfriends and I were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. She had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and was telling wonderful stories. I sat there, looking around at the others all so put-together, so visible and vibrant.

It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic when my friend turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package and said, “I brought you this.” It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: “With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.” 

In the days ahead I read—no—I devoured the book. And I discovered what would become for me, four life-changing truths:

1. No one can say who built the great cathedrals—we have no record of their names.

2. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.

3. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

4. The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything. 

In the book, there was the legend of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built. He saw a worker carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, “Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.” And the worker replied, “Because God sees.” 

After reading that, I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, “I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. 

“No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, no last minute errand is too small for Me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become. But I see.” 

When I choose to view myself as a great builder—instead of Invisible Mom—I keep the right perspective. 

When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, “My mom gets up at four in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand-bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.” That would mean I’d built a monument to myself! But I don’t want that—I just want him to want to come home with a friend and share a wonderful meal as a family.  

The author of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree. I disagree. 

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right—which is why we may feel invisible some days. But one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers.”

I read this after sharing a delicious Costco hot dog with MJ, discussing the merits of King Kong with Seb, hearing about the latest “there could be a shooter” drills from the girls at Kenston, investigating this new Chagrin restaurant called Sapphire Creek opening nearby as a possible date spot, filling up the car with gas, recycling our zillion Amazon boxes, unloading yet another load of dishes, typing up the schedule for the next 2 weeks to post on the fridge, wiping the counter, folding yet another load load of laundry….and stopped to realize I’m building 4 Notre Dames? It’s just an amazing thing God’s entrusted to me:

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Also amazing, Seb’s new mug:

Similarly amazing, Pheebs throwing a Valentines Day party  for the kiddos at The Salvation Army homeless shelter last month. Look at these cuties:

May we all paint our leaf and build our cathedrals with grace, joy and hope this week. Amen.

 

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“Get tougher rats”

That’s a line from Bette Midler in “Big Business” by the way. One of the greatest movies of all time. Later her husband asks, “You’re raising a child, not a CEO!” to which she replies “Well, maybe I’ll raise both.”

Remember when scripts were witty, well-crafted, and unfolded a story? They’re rare these days but if you’re looking for a beautifully told story check out “Wonder.” And every Seinfeld episode of course.

Other entertainment recs? Raising Helen. I noticed a few parallels to my own experience becoming insta-mom to 3 except that Kate Hudson smokes, worked in fashion in NYC, and has really good hair.

She also dates John Corbett in the movie, my Hollywood crush, but Eric, don’t worry:

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I get Helen. I get what it’s like to have people inform you that you don’t have the right mom hair cut or #you’redoingitwrong. Sometimes women can be quite cruel to their own kind.

Which is why it’s important to keep a sense of humor about it all. While learning to drive at 34 years of age in the Ohio snow I’d remember Michael Scott’s wise words:

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While dealing with “interesting” people I remembered this:

#1.

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#2. Walking through your own “Raising Helen” moment? When you’re called to make a big decision: to marry, adopt, have children, switch jobs, move…here’s a tip – you can ignore A LOT of people.

Here are the people you listen to – the people who will ultimately be impacted and involved. The people who care. The people who’ll share the load once you’re in the situation. For me this includes: big bro, sistas, mom & dad:

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#3. And then there’s the actual working through it. As Robin Roberts likes to say on GMA: “make your mess your message.” The tough stuff makes us who we are. We can’t change the circumstances that come our way but we can be “tougher rats” as we go through it.

#4. Next, we can keep our attitude uplifted by praising the God of heaven throughout the trial. Blonde pastor Aaron noted that if Corrie Ten Boom can thank God for fleas in the concentration camp, we too can be grateful no matter what God doles out to us. Or, to paraphrase 1 Thess 5:18 we should always give:

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#5. Lastly, we can meditate on the truth, first and foremost, that He’s bigger than us. Cue Whitney:

In other news, I plan to wash the trash cans now that it’s warming up. Do other people do that, you know wash the green bins you take to the curb?

Seb is currently learning to count money at school. Which reminds me of this SNL skit Eric often references since I thought he was a bank teller our first couple of dates :

Baby Peiffer #5, by God’s grace, continues to grow in my basketball size belly:

And Seb’s been missing Bubbe lately since she’s AZ-bound taking care of dad post foot surgery. Everyone misses you mom, including little Larson who looks exactly like Esther as a baby in this picture of us:

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And lastly, to my most faithful blog reader, bridesmaid in my wedding, and Joni Eareckson Tada camper: Happy upcoming Birthday Danielle!

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Miserable comforters

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February feels like a zoo – between Valentines Day, Seb’s birthday, Chloe’s birthday, our wedding / family anniversary, Mardi Gras, Ash Wednesday, Lent – it’s a full month. And that doesn’t even include the Super Bowl and my month-long rooting against the Patriots:

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The snow is starting to clear in the Cleve. Which means my days of re-reading Peggy Noonan on What America Could Be, sipping hot cocoa by the fire as we watch Fergie put an odd spin on the Star Spangled Banner, and general hibernation activities of our Ohio winters are finally coming to an end.

Now we can leave the confines of our cozy homes to see other humans and buy new magnets from Hedges in Chagrin like this one:minivanAnd find entertaining Post-it notes from Sebby like this one last Sunday morning:

Apparently (I can never use that word without thinking of this guy), after getting the newspaper, drinking his water, and reading his Keys for Kids devotional, it was worth sneaking upstairs to watch YouTube videos about alligators even at the risk of impending doom and punishment. Speaking of punishment…

We tend to very humanly and wrongly view our suffering as God’s mean-spirited punishment. We scream at God. Question what He’s doing. And as Joni Eareckson Tada writes, He can handle it. But at some point, we read the Psalms and see that after going ape for a time, David always came back to the fundamental truths of Scripture – that God is loving, is good, and that everything He allows is from His loving hand.

Recently, I heard a woman who lost her father to a heart attack and then her mother and step-father to a plane crash share about how she found solace in God’s arms despite the suffering He allowed in her life while she came to terms with Lamentations 3:38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?”

And when life goes bad for a friend like this woman, we have a choice to either listen and encourage them with our presence or we can open our big stupid mouths, throw verses and theological truths at them, and cause even more turmoil and distress. Like Job’s friends, we can be “miserable comforters”, who hurt rather than help.

As Seinfeld’s Elaine Benes would say “People, they’re the worst” or as Camus once wrote, “L’enfer c’est les autres” and I’m sure throughout my lifetime, especially in my younger years I was definitely “the worst”, l’enfer, a well-intentioned but wrong “miserable comforter.” I’m sure my insensitivity prompted many to ask, like the Black Eyed Peas, “where is the love?”

Cue Don Carson’s quote on page 216 of Tim Keller’s book on suffering:

“There is a way of using theology and theological arguments that wounds rather than heals. This is not the fault of theology and theological arguments; it is the fault of the “miserable comforter” (Job’s friends) who fastens on an inappropriate fragment of truth, or whose timing is off, or whose attitude is condescending, or whose application is insensitive or whose true theology is couched in such culture-laden clichés that they grate rather than comfort.”

Which is why, as Pastor Aaron mentioned, in Jewish tradition when someone mourns (sits shiva) you don’t speak until the mourner does. Because what did Jesus do when He came upon Lazarus’ siblings in grief?

He wept.

Implicit here is the simple fact that both the sins of commission and omission are at play when relating to a person enduring a fiery trial of life. It’s not just about what we SHOULDN’T do, it’s about what we SHOULD do as a comforter.

We should weep. We should provide genuine comfort by being present, engaging ourselves in their struggle, and not saying dumb and ill timed things.

As our pastor noted Sunday, 2 Corinthians 1:3 says we’re “comforted by God so that we can comfort others,” much like Abraham was blessed “in order to be a blessing” (Genesis 12:2) – whatever we’ve received from our Father, even comfort, is a gift, and one to be paid forward.

Speaking of gifts, thank you for the Chia Pet. Seb’s still growing in his ability to care for a pet, sorry Bob Ross. I don’t think that hair’s coming in evenly anytime soon.

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We survived January in the Cleve – congrats to us!

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January means cold days here in CLE which means Eric & I watch Curb Your Enthusiasm and consume far too much Haagen Dazs peanut butter and chocolate ice cream.

Let’s see how far we can take this “eating for 2 thing”…

My fave scene is Larry David attempting to operate one of those “open” / “close” shampoo screwtops where it’s never clear which way to go before Larry winds up telling the bottle to, well, “go forth and multiply” in Biblical terms. How can we create social media platforms that touch a billion people? Send a man to the moon? And not be able to create an easy to open shampoo bottle?

I digress. Sure, the cold isn’t easy. But people who call Cleveland “the mistake on the Lake” have it wrong. I mean, they put your groceries in your trunk at Costco here. And despite the latest trades, last time I checked we still have LeBron.

MJ survived cold January while channeling her inner Marge Simpson (see below) and kickboxing with Chloe in our basement gym. She’s quite good for someone who still doesn’t understand her foot is connected to her own body.

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Seb’s 8th birthday party is coming up. We’re going with the Jumanji theme because other moms, more creative moms, have posted enough ideas on Pinterest that I don’t really need to think much. We’re doing Cheetos as tiger tails, green apple licorice as jungle vines…thank you Internet.

Aside from Curb, snow days, and organizing birthday parties, we’re studying the book of Job at our church. If you’re not familiar with Job he’s a guy whom God allowed to suffer in a big way by allowing Satan to strip him of his health, his wealth, his family, his status.

And how did Job respond? He “worshipped” (Job 1:20).

I’ve always been completely fascinated by this story (as was the scriptwriter for the first Mission Impossible apparently) and when I’m fascinated by a Bible story I ask my brother about it because he’s pretty much read every single commentary available to man, is an elder at Redeemer, and had a perfect SAT score just to make the 5 rest of us Larsons look like total idiots. Thank you Wally.

But the story of Job isn’t easily explainable, even by perfect SAT score boy, so I turn to C.S. Lewis who discusses suffering as God’s painful goodness:

Here you go:

The more we believe that God hurts only to heal, the less we can believe that there is any use in begging for tenderness. A cruel man might be bribed…But suppose that what you are up against is a surgeon whose intentions are wholly good. The kinder and more conscientious he is, the more inexorably he will go on cutting. If he yielded to your entreaties, if he stopped before the operation was complete, all the pain up to that point would have been useless. But is it credible that such extremities of torture should be necessary for us? Well, take your choice. The tortures occur. If they are unnecessary, then there is no God or a bad one. If there is a good God, then these tortures are necessary. For no even moderately good Being could possibly inflict or permit them if they weren’t. Either way, we’re for it.”

That’s just brilliant.

Also brilliant, something the pastor shared about Job’s integrity while suffering: “We don’t drift towards growth.”

We’re never in neutral. Hanging. Chilling.

We are either actively engaged in a battle for good or slowly getting sucked into evil. 2 tactical positions. That’s it.

As my mom (aka Bubbe) would say “you don’t decide you’re going to remain pure when you’re in the backseat of someone’s car.” She likes to say it straight. Always.

Ditto for TK whose sermon podcasts have sustained me during endless unpacking of boxes and diapers as of late. Keller talks about the concept of Exilic Discipleship, how our faith should drive us to engage with our culture, interact with those who believe differently from us, and lead us away from insular protectionist faith.

In so doing, we are putting ourselves in a more tenuous position to be sure. We’re “out there”, easy prey, capable of drifting away from what’s right and holy if we’re not on guard and prepared for attack like Job was.

And hey, it’s easier to avoid living the tension altogether. I get that. But the easiest way isn’t necessarily the right way. And at the end of the day, if our faith can’t stand getting roughed up (think Daniel with the lions), it wasn’t really there to begin with.

That doesn’t mean we have to be stupid and naively go “out there” unprepared. Instead, it requires thoughtful wisdom as applied to the gray areas of life. This is what I call the Mike Pence effect. Pence has become a favorite Seth Meyers punchline for his method of dealing with extramarital temptation but our VP is looking awfully prescient these days in the era of  #MeToo, am I right?

And Pence isn’t alone in getting serious about preparedness. My sister pointed out this Ta-Nehisi Coates piece in The Atlantic awhile back which sounds rather Mike Pence-ish to me. Coates clearly gets that he’s either “drifting” towards something destructive to his marriage OR doing all he can to avoid it:

“I’ve been with my spouse for almost 15 years. In those years, I’ve
never been with anyone but the mother of my son. But that’s not
because I am an especially good and true person. In fact, I am wholly
in possession of an unimaginably filthy and mongrel mind. But I am
also a dude who believes in guard-rails, as a buddy of mine once put
it. I don’t believe in getting “in the moment” and then exercising
will-power. I believe in avoiding “the moment.” I believe in being
absolutely clear with myself about why I am having a second drink, and
why I am not; why I am going to a party, and why I am not. I believe
that the battle is lost at Happy Hour, not at the hotel. I am not a
“good man.” But I am prepared to be an honorable one.”

All in, I’m learning a lot at church right now. I’m also learning a lot from our move to this new house. For example, our new narcissistic washing machine sings a little ditty every time it finishes a wash. Talk about tooting your own horn. I’m going to start breaking out into song High School Musical style every time I do a load of clothes just to put it in its place.

And then there’s this toilet seat in MJ’s bathroom branded “Church.” I mean, we’ve all had some bad church experiences but this really puts it all in perspective : )

In sum, it’s 38 degrees today which feels like summer relative to January. Even for a Phoenix, Arizona gal like me.

Thankfully, the cousins here in Canyon Lakes keep each other company on snow days, stealing each other’s milk bottles and randomly placing their shoes in dryers, drawers, and even toilets as they jam to Runnin’.

Happy February.

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Tolle, Lege!

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“So was I speaking and weeping in the most bitter contrition of my heart, when, lo! I heard from a neighbouring house a voice, as of boy or girl, I know not, chanting, and oft repeating. ‘Take up and read; Take up and read.’ [‘Tolle, lege! Tolle, lege!’] Instantly, my countenance altered, I began to think most intently whether children were wont in any kind of play to sing such words: nor could I remember ever to have heard the like. So checking the torrent of my tears, I arose; interpreting it to be no other than a command from God to open the book, and read the first chapter I should find…”

Gotta love Augustine.

Gotta also love Drumsticks ice-cream cones, which I consume with Sebby while daddy’s in NY for work and we make dirt cake, play pool, sip Capri Sun, and discuss why Mommy is rooting for anyone but the Patriots Sunday evening.

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It’s been a full day. Somehow MJ is now bounding up the stairs, giggling from daddy’s tickle bugs, and insisting I read “Good Night New York City” for the fiftieth time in a 24 hour period (and I am not exaggerating). She has inherited her parents relentlessness.

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Some news here…Phoebe slayed her first English paper this semester on what it means to be an American (a view shaped by travels to India and Madagascar), Chloe discovered that her Teen Missions training came in handy during our move – she may be small yet she be swift with a box cutter, and all the kids hiked Camelback mountain when we were in Phoenix – #Warriors

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More news: we moved into our new home this past week. Our new address is 7460 Faraway Trail Chagrin Falls, OH 44023 in Canyon Lakes – a wee bit closer to Aunt Leslie.

Even more news: we celebrate our 3rd year anniversary as a family February 7th. Here’s my ode to my babe / “Boaz”:

Lastly, and sorry for burying the lede….we are expecting a little blessing July 3rd. So….if you noticed my belly expanding, I’m not “with Drumstick” but with “baby boy”.

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I’ll soon be a mother of 5. At M Italian we’ll soon be Peiffer Party of 7. It’s just hard to believe. God is so gracious to have delivered me from my Bridget Jones-like existence to grant me 5 children in 3 years.

I remember struggling to trust Him, especially on my birthdays thinking – “God, did you lose the Marcia Larson file somehow with all you’re handling? Are you still there?”

He was. He is. He always shall be.

Tim Keller’s sermon on Hannah many years ago helped me understand how to pray my tears and to know that someday, as we sang during family devos Sunday night, we shall “Fly Away” and understand what He was up to all along in the suffering, the struggle, and the waiting.

May He sustain you in yours. Just hold onto this: He does not give us answers, He gives us Himself.

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Gratitude

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The older you get, the more you realize how dumb you really are.  Socrates said that. Although somewhat more eloquently.

The older you get, the more you realize how much people invested in you. People you probably never thanked because you didn’t “get it” at the time. 

Like the lady at Trinity who sewed all those Psalty costumes. Like my mom who woke up crazy early to make crepes for breakfast, have her quiet time, and get all the laundry done before we woke up with permission slips to sign and requests for cookies for our class THE SAME FREAKING DAY.


The older you get, the more you realize how wise your parents were in removing what Ben Sasse calls the “eternal training wheels” of indulgent parents. And if you know my mom, you know she’s a tough cookie. Think this guy : )

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The older you get, the more you realize, to quote Obama, “you didn’t build this”. Every person who influenced you, every thing you have – is a gift. 

The people who affirmed, as Imagine Dragons sing “Not a Yes, Sir, not a Follower” is absolutely the only way to live. People who prayed effectual, fervent prayers during dark and confusing times. People who confronted, in love, when the worst in us was unveiled (I have a few thank you notes to hit out this weekend…)

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The older you get (39 years old in a few months…is that possible?) the more you realize that it’s not big gestures or big events that truly matter. 

It’s the simple stuff – petting a baby calf, raking leaves, making pie (do I live in Ohio or what?) that create a sense of wonder in you and your children.

The older you get, the more you realize that you will never be good at crafts or picking out the right color paint (there’s more than one type of yellow?!) or golf but you will always be that girl who covers food with shower caps because its easier than the Saran Wrap jagged edge thingy that never works.

You kind of are who you are and yet you’re becoming someone new each day.

The older you get, the more you realize that God isn’t just our Savior, our Redeemer, our King – He is truly our friend. 

Someone recently noted that “this too shall pass…like a kidney stone…but this too shall pass.” The suffering’s going to come – but so will Immanuel. And for that I am grateful. Happy Thanksgiving!

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George Bush School Outstanding Alumni …Esther Larson


“The only force equal to a fundamentalism of hate is a counter-fundamentalism of  love” –  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks 
Since graduating from the Bush School where she led the Public Service Organization, Esther has been a force for good, a counter-fundamentalism of love in Manhattan.

She’s helped marginalized and struggling low-income New Yorkers as a grant writer, volunteer coordinator, and donor development lead at the Metropolitan Council on Jewish Poverty, the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH), and Hope for New York (HFNY).

At each organization, Esther galvanized investment bankers, artists, and regular New Yorkers by heading up Young Supporters groups for fundraising and awareness purposes. She put on a fashion show at NYCCAH to benefit the hungry, launched capacity building seminars through HFNY (providing training & development to nonprofits) and has worked tirelessly to find sustainable solutions and funding for the 1 in 5 New Yorkers who are “food insecure”.

Beyond the borders of the U.S., Esther has worked with nonprofits like The Salvation Army in Ghana, taught English in India, and volunteered at homeless shelters in South Africa with her family during her annual 2 weeks vacation.

As Social Engagement chair for the Young Republicans Club in Manhattan, Esther organizes the annual kickball competition against the Young Democrats (proceeds go to charity) & spearheads the Christmas YR cookie bake for the NYPD.

By working towards the shalom of her local, national, and international communities, Esther embodies the Aggie spirit of selflessness and excellence. She sweats the small stuff by being detail oriented and conscientious in her work. David Thomas said “unselfish & noble actions are the most radiant pages”, Esther has a tome full of them.

Esther will conduct a Skype session with a Bush school course in 2 weeks so they get a glimpse into what it’s like in the grant making nonprofit sector outside the confines of the classroom. She’s involved in the NYC GBS alumni group, recruits friends from the Young Republicans Club & National Review Club to apply to the Bush School, and facilitates career networking for Bush alum new to Manhattan.

Her outreach, engagement in social and charitable organizations, and commitment to the nonprofit sector make Esther a stellar candidate for this award.

Nominated by Marcia Larson Peiffer, George Bush School Graduate: Masters in Public Service & Administration 2005, Texas A & M.


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Something Just Like This

Raven Get off Yo Phone

If I didn’t love being a mom, and reminding people to “Get off Yo’ Phone” I’d be a professional matchmaker in the Patti Stanger mold. I really want to help people find love. And I’m totally an expert since, you know, I married about 10 years later than the average woman : )

I’m also an expert at seeing interesting baking ideas on Facebook and then botching them completely despite watching and re-watching the video. I tried this So Yummy pie crust idea but Seb informed me that “mommy, it didn’t quite pan out”.

Chloe is Freshman Class President so naturally, her first idea is how to get a Starbucks on campus. Grandpa Larson was recently in town and fully supports the Starbucks idea. Because who doesn’t want a Venti Chai Tea Latte at all hours of the day?

9/11 came this year as it does every year which reminds me of the day when my brother (who lives 2 blocks from the WTC) called to say he was okay. The only comfort in that experience is remembering what Dostoevsky wrote in Brothers Karamazov that “I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for”.

To relax during laundry sessions lately, I’ve been watching mindless reality TV. I love hearing yuppies on “Bachelor in Paradise” proclaim “we’ve been through so much” because, you know, sipping margaritas in your bikini on an island together is roughly on par with raising a disabled child, facing a Hurricane as it rips through your home, and caretaking your aging parents.

And yet, I watch.

After laundry is completed I get back to business – which is watching MJ join Seb on a ride along:

When I look back on what I hoped & prayed for all those years– a loving husband, the chaos of dishes & piles of laundry & cloth diapers & SAT classes & tennis lessons, I realize I was praying for, to borrow from The Chainsmokers & Coldplay, Something Just Like This.

IMG_0759

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Seb and food coloring = Covfefe.

Summer is here. Which means more time. Time to scan Buzzfeed for Costco lists.

Try out new recipes for chocolate mousse with Seb. Study the book of Proverbs via Tim Keller sermons. Find ingenious covfefe memes.

Find Seb “doing science experiments” with food coloring in the kitchen. Clean up said “science experiments” and explain why mom should chaperone any Einstein-esque endeavors involving red dye 🙂

Discuss Lord of the Rings with Seb. Pause movie to reveal my “Precious” voice. Read CSL’s “Four Loves”. Try and grasp the extravagant love of God despite my many failings.

Watch MJ open drawers, get stuck under drawers, suck on all our shoes, laugh at my jazz hands, stand and subsequently plop down on her diaper clad tuches.


Run errands. Run more errands. Do laundry. Do more laundry. Watch The Bachelorette with my babes. Discuss Whaboom guy!?!  Learn about this Magnolia phenom from my sis. Change cloth diapers. Sing “God is so good” to the little ones.

Watch MJ attack cousin LBJ (Little Baby Jeffrey) with enthusiastic hands as they eat The New Yorker together. Take pieces of The New Yorker out of their mouths. Replace said paper pieces with Honey Nut Cheerios.

Summer’s just beginning but a lot happens at Eric Peiffer Industries between Chloe’s braces coming off, Phoebe driving, Seb learning about dinosaurs, Judaism, and breastfeeding (in that order), MJ discovering the wonders of applesauce, Eric amazing me with his giving heart –  to everyone, at all times, in all ways.

But the greatest event of summer thus far is what Gods teaching me about freedom. And what we have to look forward to someday.

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June 7, 2017 · 10:26 am

We went to the Kalahari

We went to the Kalahari. Not the one in Namibia. The one in Ohio. The indoor water park. With caramel apples the size of M.J’s body.

As we drove back, Seb kept telling me he’s “cutting the cheese”. I’d like to thank all the kids on bus 34 for introducing this phrase to our family.

Seb then proceeded to sing “Party in the U.S.M.J.” (Miley would be proud), shared his opinion on lofty topics like, “Mommy, they love their bathroom so much at Chipotle they put a pass code on it!” and informed me that when we share Fruit by the Foot I do not look like this lady:

One of my great joys since leaving singlehood, Manhattan, and my career in media is discovering places like Kalahari and soaking up the wonders of weekly family night. Family night last weekend meant watching Shrek. I use the term “watch” loosely. We “watched” Shrek while MJ grunted, Seb tried out his new whoopee cushion about twenty or thirty times, and the rest of us spilled Kirkland popcorn in every crevice of our “yes, we sit on this a lot and have lots of food stains to prove it” yellow couch.

Last month, family night involved a raucous game of PIT. The greatest game known to man. Though I was saddened to learn that someone in our family, someone who shall remain anonymous herein, cheats. Trading Flax and Rye in the same hand. What have we become??!!

Totally unrelated to the anonymous person who cheated during PIT, I’d just like to just say that Eric is my GOAT (Greatest Of All Time). As the wise Justin Timberlake opined on NPR last week, when you become a parent you “re-learn who you are” – and it only makes me love my hubby more as we parent and re-learn about ourselves and each other.

Speaking of…1 of our 4 was due for a parental chat last week after what shall be called ZiplocGate. As we drove to Target, I watched from my rear view mirror as Sebby very carefully placed his Ziploc bag of saved up allowance money under a seatbelt. This was surprising for 2 reasons:

1) he didn’t have his own seatbelt on and

2) I’ve never seen Seb do anything carefully.

In fact, just last week he told me “mommy, I moved MJ from one side of the room to the other and she didn’t get injured!” He was so proud. And we were so terrified.

But this bag o’cash was treated with such delicacy that I promptly belted out “Money, Money, Money”

and then shared about David Brooks’ [1] Adam 1 and Adam II dichotomy – our dueling natures.

Adam 1, I explained to Seb, is our greedy, selfish side that wants more Legos and “wants to conquer the world” no matter who we hurt. Adam 2, the Christ-like side, lives to give. Not receive. To lose. Not to win.

Adam 2 defines joy as the “happiness we make by sharing” (simcha in Hebrew).

As we drove down Pettibone Road I told Seb that we both should strive to be Adam 2 – it’s not bad to love Legos or snakes or even to appreciate the ability to buy those things for setting the table at night and getting The New York Times at the top of the driveway each morning – what’s bad is to love that too much.

And putting your money under a seatbelt would qualify, in my book, as loving your cold hard cash just a little too much. It reflects what Jack Donaghy once told Liz Lemon, the belief that: “money doesn’t buy happiness, it IS happiness.” Uggh.

Parenting chats usually last all of 5 minutes before he changes the subject and we start playing Connect 4 or Scrabble or make a movie in which my 1 line is to tell Seb as he holds up his helium balloon of a dinosaur: “I don’t believe you’re that strong.”

But somehow, somewhere, I think these lessons are making a dent. Because later, when MJ (she’s 14 pounds now!) cried for milk, Seb explained to her “Little Margaret, you’re not the only one who struggles. Lots of people need food, like the people at The Salvation Army. And I’m going to give some of my allowance to those people.”

He then “cut the cheese” in her face like the very wise older brother he is.

[1] The Road to Character

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