Category Archives: Parenting

Perfect Moment Monday: Exorcism

Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.

Once a week we engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is welcome to join. Details on how to participate are at the bottom of this post, complete with bloggy bling.

Please visit the links of the participants at the bottom.

Here’s a perfect moment from my week. I hope you’ll share yours, too.


To get to this week’s perfect moment, you must first understand the decidedly IMperfect moments that preceded it.


In the early summer, 9 year-old Grace noticed a lump on her neck and showed it to her mom. Lynne, not too worried, arranged for a physician to check it out. At the appointment the doctor casually uttered the words “blood draw,” which set off a terrible, horrible, no-good chain of events. Lynne saw it begin when Grace’s eyes went scared-wild, but was powerless to stop what had been set in motion.

She’d had trouble getting the kids out the door for the 8:30 am appointment. Knowing the doctor visit would be short, Lynne had sacrificed breakfast for promptness, hoping that the hunger the kids would feel would teach them not to dally next time. And Lynne had violated the most basic rules of parenting: never do anything important when kids are (a) hungry (b) sleepy (c) cranky (d) any combination.

Upon hearing those words uttered by the doctor, Grace began to yell and scream her protest, thus alerting several dozen people in various parts of the clinic of her displeasure. Then Grace’s body went wild, limbs swinging in both offense and defense, letting no one near. Lynne tried to gather and hold Grace tightly to quell the anxiety that was  bursting from its fragile borders. And because it was time to head to the lab area, Lynne then dragged Grace, who was literally digging in her heels, out of the exam room.

Grace convinced her mother — loudly — to release her grip, that she was FINE. When Lynne did, Grace bolted out the front door toward parking lot traffic. Lynne sprung out of the chair like a tightly wound coil, cleared the automatic doors and tackled Grace before she got to the car lane, then carried her back inside, still kicking and screaming. Grace scratched, bit, and kicked Lynne on the return trip. The commotion continued with these high-volume words that tore Lynne’s pounding heart: “I hate you! You’re not my mom! You’re the worst mom ever! I HATE YOU, MOM!!”

Everyone in the building had stopped what they were doing to witness this spectacular morning drama.

Grace’s flip-flops sliced through the air, narrowly missing an elderly man in one direction and a nurse in another. Grace’s younger brother, Jack, retrieved them, wanting to help in some way. After picking up the debris he, too, tried to get Grace to calm down. Then she turned on him, calling him a naughty word that Lynne had not thought to tell her was reserved for other females, not for brothers.

Lynne endured 10 more minutes of bites and scratches, watching welts appear on her shoulders and arms, while the lab attempted to track down a male nurse. Jack staved off his own hunger by giving his mom pointers on how a ninja holds a prisoner. Lynne noticed that her body was both rigid on adrenaline AND somewhat pliant, as she fought the urge to  escalate the situation with her own anger and hopelessness and embarrassment and frustration. It was a struggle to keep breathing when her world was crumbling from the assault.

A male nurse finally showed up in the waiting area and carried Grace to a lab room. Grace slapped him repeatedly in the face and kicked him in the knees until he could get her in a humane and proper hold. Once in the room she kicked over display racks. Pamphlets on “How to Check your Testicles” and “So you Want to Go on the Pill” scattered everywhere. It took three people and 30 more seconds to pin Grace down and draw a teeny vial of blood from the feral child.

Crisis subsiding, mother and children headed to the x-ray waiting  area, the fight gone from Grace. Lynne was a bundle of jello, barely able to keep herself together. Grace wanted to make up, desperately needing her mother’s absolution, and Lynne was not able to give it. Instead, Lynne turned and stared at a wall and began sobbing silently, tears from deep in her gut rolling down her cheeks.

A woman came by, did an uncertain double-take, and said, “Can I help you with anything?” “No, thank you,” Lynne choked. “Can I just give you a hug?” Lynne stood, said yes and collapsed into the woman, overwhelmed by her presence and kindness. The woman offered to fetch breakfast. Lynne, having no protest left in her, accepted and handed her $20. The woman said she’d be back from McDonald’s soon with breakfast sandwiches and orange juice.

Another lady, this one elderly, walked by and murmured, “I’ll be praying for you.”

Lynne was touched by their sweetness, but sobs threatened to wrack her anew as she realized she was the object of pity because she couldn’t control her child.

Grace got x-rayed without incident, and the kind lady arrived with breakfast and change and a card with her phone number on it. She blessed Lynne and told her, sympathetically, that she’d been added to her church’s prayer chain.

Somehow Lynne got the kids home. In the garage, in the car alone, she cried from a bottomless well of despair. Tomorrow her biceps would hurt from wrangling a 60 pound girl. And no matter how hot the day, she vowed to never go sleeveless to the doctor again.

It was The Worst Day of her parenting life and Lynne had survived. But she didn’t feel very victorious.


In the late fall, the unknown mass was about to be excised. The lead-up to Grace’s surgery had been hard on the whole family — five months was a long time for a girl to sit with such anxiety. The fear would erupt periodically and cost Grace hours in time-outs. People close to the girl were on pins and needles about how she would handle the day of the surgery. Lynne spent a lot of time preparing Grace for what she could expect, and they had many conversations as Grace processed the emotions that arose.

“Good morning, Mommy!” The first thing Lynne saw that morning was Grace smiling ear to ear. So far, so good, she thought, knowing things could go sour without warning.

But Grace handled not being allowed to have food or even water all morning with, well, Grace. She got into the car, clutching her teddy bear, of her own accord. She chatted nervously about everything but surgery during the drive to the hospital. She held up well through registration and pre-op, biting her lower lip as a way to manage her anxiety. She swallowed the Versed with no cajoling. She bonded with Nurse Sue and compliantly got into a little red wagon to be wheeled into surgery. She cried only when the wagon got to the boundary that Lynne could not cross. Lynne put on a brave face until the wagon was out of sight, and then burst into tears.

Ninety minutes later, mother and daughter were reunited in post-op. Grace, coming out of anesthesia, inquired if she was in Her Room yet. She’d created a scenario in her mind in which she had a beautiful room of her own filled with flowers and gifts and balloons and stuffed animals from thousands of adoring well-wishers.

Soon she WAS in Her Room and soon the anesthesia left her body.  Grace enjoyed playing with the switches that controlled the bed, the TV, the lights, the shades, and the nurses. She held court with her family of well-wishers and she glowed as her mom read Twitter and Facebook messages to her.

Grace and Lynne stayed the night and went home the next day, bonded in a new way. Grace had discovered she could control the hardest-of-all to control — herself. And a new and deep respect for Grace had blossomed in Lynne’s heart.

Both had vanquished demons, and for a moment it was perfect.


To participate in Perfect Moment Monday:

  1. Follow this blog.
  2. Between Sunday night and Tuesday night, write up your own Perfect Moment in a blog post, on Twitter, on Facebook, or simply leave a comment below (if you do the latter, skip #3).
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  4. Visit the Perfect Moments of others and let the writers know you were there.

Once you make a Perfect Moment post , you may place this button on your blog.What Perfect Moment have you recently been aware of? Visit these moments of others and share the comment love.

If wishes were horses

Lynne stood near a pile of horse manure, leaning on a fence post, flies zooming around her in the late-afternoon sun. She squinted her eyes and watched the creatures before her, a lump in her throat and tears threatening to overflow her eye sockets. She sighed away the feeling of being consumed, which had come uncomfortably close to enveloping her.

She hated when that happened. Why couldn’t she just allow the ecstasy to flow on the rare occasions the conditions were right?

Because it didn’t seem appropriate in a horse pasture. And with this woman she barely knew. And, of course, in front of Grace. Grace freaked out at tears, even happy tears.

Lynne never thought she’d find this woman, this creature, this possible solution for her daughter. She’d searched for two years, ever since equine therapy was first suggested as an idea to try for her daughter. And though Lynne had had to be patient, the possible solution had unfolded beautifully.

Weeks before, Lynne had entered the local health foods store. She never checked the community bulletin board in the entry way, but this day, as she left the store with her baba ganouj and Greek yogurt, she stopped to read a flier. “Art/Music Festival this Fri/Sat 10-5.” Surprisingly, the address was within biking distance from her home. Lynne made a mental note to take the family to  the Art/Music Festival sometime during the upcoming weekend.

On Friday, Lynne and the kids drove past the intersection listed on the flier. Looked like a very small Art/Music Festival, Lynne thought to herself. This isn’t even in a parking lot — it’s in someone’s yard. She and the kids were on task for something else and didn’t go to the Art/Music Festival that day.

Saturday was full of duty. Lynne and Rob got their yard mowed, some weeds pulled, the groceries bought, some calories burned. The day was slipping away when Lynne remembered the nearby Art/Music Festival. She knew her husband was a sucker for local music. C’mon, let’s go, she’d said around 3:30.

They got to the teeny-tiny Art/Music Festival just an hour before closing time. Along the perimeter of the lot were maybe six white tents providing shade to vendors of knit caps, airbrushed artwork, and handmade wind chimes. In one corner was a small stage with a miked and amped guitarist, vocalist and drummer. In another corner a guy was offering chair massages.

At the entrance to the clearing, a pretty blond woman was offering horse rides.  Grace begged to ride, so Lynne approached the woman to find out how much a ride cost. “Five dollars. This is Pinto,” she said pointing to a liver-spotted horse. “He was a rescue. He’s very gentle.”

Grace’s pleadings reached a fever pitch remarkably fast, even as Lynne fished cash out of her purse. Grace’s difficulty in focusing on schoolwork was accompanied by a peculiar ability to hone in on what she wanted and not stop petitioning until she got it. The blond woman arranged for a young high school student wearing jeans and boots to lead Grace, atop Pinto, on a 5-minute circuit around the lot. Twice. Grace could not get enough so they went around a third time.

Lynne chatted up the horse owner. “Do you know anywhere around here that offers hippotherapy?”

It was a highly specialized field. Not only did the horse need to be trained in dealing with children who had special needs, but the human also had to be trained in fields like occupational therapy, speech therapy, maybe even psychotherapy. Lynne had searched for years in vain, finding such horse+therapist combination an hour’s drive north or an hour’s drive south. Not doable.

How had it come to this? It had become clear that Grace was not getting what she needed at school, at home, through their medical network. No one had even been able to figure out what she needed. Grace was falling behind academically, she was having difficulty with relationships, she was combative at home, and though infinitely lovable, Grace’s presence was a whirlwind of chaos. Lynne and her husband were exhausted in dealing with her and trying to help her. They’d tried numerous strategies, therapies, even medications. Nothing had helped Grace focus, stem her impulsiveness and tendency toward opposition, or “click” with reading and math skills. Lynne and her husband were growing more and more fearful that maybe an answer didn’t exist.

So the blond woman’s response was nothing short of miraculous.

“I do hippotherapy.”

Lynne could not believe her ears, her luck.

“You do? Where?” fully expecting the answer to be in a faraway town.

“Right here. I’ve just returned to the area and I’m setting up riding and therapy again. I’ve worked in the past with children of all abilities and with all sorts of issues.”

She told Lynne her fees, which were not as high as she’d feared. Phone numbers were exchanged, and soon Lynne had set up this first lesson.

Best of all, Grace, with her love of animals, did not even know she was getting assistance. Being different from other “normal” kids had been the downfall of other therapies and activities they’d tried. But this? This looked like learning to care for and ride horses.

In reality, the reported benefits of equine therapy include learning to be respectful, being calmer in the body, honing social skills and understanding the subtle give-and-take, improving the eye-movements essential to reading, reinforcing sequencing, building self-esteem, and experiencing trust.

It remained to be seen if Pinto and the blond woman could bring about any of these changes for Grace, now sporting a borrowed riding helmet and sitting with a straight spine atop the horse . But as Lynne stood in the glow of the afternoon sun, watching her daughter ride with confidence and focus, she was supremely hopeful.

Perfect Moment Monday: Chinstrap time travel

Perfect Moment Monday is about noticing a perfect moment rather than creating one. Perfect moments can be momentous or ordinary or somewhere in between.

Once a week we engage in mindfulness about something that is right with our world. Everyone is welcome to join. Details on how to participate are at the bottom of this post, complete with bloggy bling.

Please visit the links of the participants at the bottom.

Here’s a perfect moment from my week. I hope you’ll share yours, too.


This is a moment I plan to savor on my deathbed. I took care to emblazon it on my psyche.


Each morning since school began, the kids and I strap on our helmets, mount our bicycles and ride ¾ mile to their school. I make sure they’re OK locking up their bikes in the bicycle cage and then I pedal home. At the end of the school day, I zoom back to school, meet them at the cage, and we ride home together. In just two weeks this has become a treasured ritual. We get fresh air, exercise, a joint activity, and time to talk while in motion.

Friday morning, the kids were already on their bikes while I was still putting on my helmet. They buzzed around our circle waiting for me. It was a beautiful sunny morning, temps in the mid 60s. The grass is still green, the heavens a gorgeous azure, the flowers vibrantly colorful, the air so clean you want to inhale the entire sky into your lungs. I paused to notice, really notice, what was going on.

And then a curious thing happened, in the mere time it takes to click a chinstrap.

I marveled that the two teeny-tiny babies that I’d schlepped in infant car seats, that I’d toddled down driveways, that I’d left, crying with separation anxiety, in pre-school classrooms, that these two amazing beings had become such independent, active and generally happy children. In the blink of an eye, a filmstrip covering 9+ years of parenting ran through my mind.

And the phenomenon continued, from the present day forward. I could see Tessa, her legs splayed in the “wheeee” position while she coasted the arc of the circle, sporting braces, then wearing a formal dress and corsage with her right hand on her date’s chest in the classic prom-photo pose. I could see Reed, working on his wheelies, in a gown with a mortarboard atop his head and diploma in hand as he graduates from my alma mater. I see them each in wedding-wear, gazing with devotion into their beloveds’ eyes, then becoming parents themselves, teaching their children, my grandchildren, to ride bikes.

Best of all? I returned to right now. This perfect, delicious, endless moment with my children.

I am so lucky.


To participate in Perfect Moment Monday:

  1. Between Sunday night and Tuesday night, write up your own Perfect Moment in a blog post, on Twitter, on Facebook, or simply leave a comment below.
  2. Grab the URL of your Perfect Moment.
  3. Use LinkyTools below to enter your blog’s name and the URL of your Perfect Moment
  4. Visit the Perfect Moments of others (from the links below), and let the writers know you were there.

Once you make a Perfect Moment post , you may place this button on your blog.

What Perfect Moment have you recently been aware of? Be sure to visit these moments and share the love, and please come back next week (click to subscribe).


Hotel Rwanda and Open Adoption Parenting

A few years ago I was teaching World Geography to middle school kids. We’d done a unit on the phenomenon of genocide, and at about the same time Paul Rusesabagina came to our city for a speaking engagement. I organized a field trip, and we all heard the first person account of the hotel manager who sheltered Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994.

Truly, his story is remarkable. At risk of his safety and that of his family, Paul Rusesabagina (played in the film Hotel Rwanda by Don Cheadle) used his connections and wiles to save more than a thousand refugees. Think the Schindler’s List of Africa.

paul rusesabagina and don cheadle

The audience was full of gushing praise for him. Each person who got up to ask a question at the end of Paul Rusesabagina’s presentation began with some version of, “You are extraordinary.” or “You are exceptional.” or “You are amazing — I would never be able to be so brave.” Continue reading Hotel Rwanda and Open Adoption Parenting