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Friday, August 23, 2013

#Book excerpt: Grace, Under Pressure

By Sophie Walker

One of the hardest things about being a good mother to Grace is knowing when the level of homework distress is related to her having Asperger’s syndrome and when she’s just being a moody preteen.

Grace was formally diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome only last year, after five years of waiting lists, inconclusive assessments, repeated questioning, and a lot of shoulder shrugging. By then, Grace’s dad and I had years of rationalizing that we suddenly needed to re-examine and recalibrate: from how we reacted to the little idiosyncrasies to how we dealt with odder behavior, to coping with the bigger things we really worried about. Even now, we’re only at the start of figuring out what’s AS and what’s not (and we don’t always agree).

For a long time, we thought Grace’s distance and “otherness” might be a reaction to us divorcing. We put down to eccentricity her fear of dogs and balloons and hand-dryers. (We’ve since learned that “Aspies” are extraordinarily sensitive to their surroundings — what we heard as loud noise was really painful to her.) Her inability to read people, or to show curiosity about them, or participate in conversations was, of course, classically autistic and seems so obvious now that I berate myself daily for not realizing it sooner and tell myself to be more sensitive in the future to her behavior.

So when Grace greets me at the school gates with a glare and the words, “I’ll kill myself if you make me do piano practice,” do I accept that she just has no filter for her sentiments and is anxious that she may not be able to play something new? Or do I tell her off for being rude to me and put it down to a nine-year-old’s melodrama?

When she refuses to eat her dinner because I have forgotten about her dislike of hummus (bad middle-class mom!) and put it in the center of her plate, where it has touched other foods, do I scold her for overreacting and tell her to eat the rest? Or do I calm her down and get her a new plate?

One day, on our way home from school, Grace was railing about the unfairness of being told off by her teacher for lashing out at a classmate (and familiar foe) who was taunting her (again). In fury, Grace had pulled this girl’s hair — and received a whack from her by way of compensation. They were both reprimanded and warned not to do it again. Grace was baffled by this and felt a huge injustice had been done to her.

As she sat in the car shouting that her life wasn’t fair I tried to reason with Grace that she shouldn’t have touched the girl who was teasing her — no matter how hurtful or annoying she was. Grace just shouted louder, fists clenched on her lap and the color rising in her face, “This was the WORST day of my LIFE.”

At that, I saw red and shouted back, “For God’s sake, Grace, how could you possibly think it’s okay to go around pulling people’s hair? What planet are you on?”

For a moment, she paused. Then her face crumpled — and she looked like a confused four-year-old again — and she bent her head and sobbed. Loudly. Then more loudly. Then wailed and yelled louder still. In the confined space of the car the amplification of Grace’s rage and hurt was overwhelming and unbearable, like an audio bomb had gone off.

Navigating rush-hour traffic I barely saw, I felt panicked and sad. Grace really is on a different planet from the rest of us — it’s how Aspies see themselves. A widely used and popular online forum for the autistic and Asperger’s community is For a child, being on the wrong planet must be even more frightening and confusing. Had I made a terrible, insensitive blunder and compounded her feelings of separateness and worry? How then should I teach her to rein in the kind of behavior that looked to others to be self-centered and willful? Was it one or the other or both?

At home I fretted and frowned while Grace played piano (flaw-lessly) and I cooked.

Over the dinner table we faced each other in tentative silence. Then Grace said, “Hey, Mummy — ” and pulled the silliest face she could imagine. I laughed, and she laughed, and baby Betty cheered and threw food in excitement.

It was a mistake to try to separate bits of my daughter into comprehensible compartments. She is the sum of her parts. She is Grace and she needs patience and understanding and love. Lots of love.

But how could I provide all of that given the state I was in? I was frightened for her, sleepless and worrying and frazzled. I was dizzy with tiredness and knotted with stress. I shouted — all the time. I was entirely incapable of resolving her fears and tantrums with patience and love.

Clearly I had to take myself in hand.

Sophie WalkerSophie Walker is the author of Grace, Under Pressure. She has been a reporter for Reuters News Agency for sixteen years and has worked as a foreign correspondent traveling to Iraq and Afghanistan with Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. She lives in London. Visit her online at or on Twitter @sophierunning.

Excerpted from the book Grace, Under Pressure: A Girl with Asperger’s and Her Marathon Mom © 2013 by Sophie Walker. Printed with permission of New World Library

Also take a look at my book review about Grace, Under Pressure.


‘grace, under pressure’ {book review}

I received a copy of the book Grace, Under Pressure: A Girl with Asperger’s & Her Marathon Mom to facilitate this review, and any opinion expressed are my own. There are affiliate links included. Disclosure Policy.

I do not have a child with special needs, a disability or mental handicap, an exceptional child or one with a physical limitation or who is other than mainstream. However, regardless of the term or phrase used or preferred, I am still a mother. A mother who can intellectually understand the physical and mental pain, anguish and despair resulting from an issue (such a small word for a big thing) regarding children. I can not understand what it would be like to walk in the shoes of a mother who deals with that on a day-to-day basis, 24 hours a day, morning and night.

GraceUndrPresr_cvr2.inddThat is one of the reasons why reading and reviewing Grace, Under Pressure: A Girl with Asperger’s & Her Marathon Mom is so important and interesting to me. The other reason is possibly odd: I’ve been fascinated with Asperger’s since the first time I heard and understood the diagnosis. That fascination magnified when  Heather Kuzmich, a young lady with Asperger’s competed during cycle 9 of America’s Next Top Model. So when information about Grace Under Pressure drifted through my email in box I had to read the book for myself.

Sophie Walker, Grace’s mom, hadn’t planned on writing a book. She initially began jotting down her thoughts about the latest experiences and frustrations with her daughter’s condition and her providers while commuting each day. Sophie thought if she wrote everything down she would be able to make sense of what they were going through as well as work out an appropriate action to help her daughter. As time passed she wondered if others were going through the same thing – the challenges of understanding the diagnosis, the needs of the child and having the feeling of failing as a parent – and batted the idea around about publishing a blog. With Grace’s approval she wrote about their experiences. That blog garnered thousands of readers who were commenting with supportive and relief-filled messages because someone was putting words to what they were dealing with and feeling. Sophie understood.

It also gave those readers a sense of inclusion. You know the ‘there are people going through similar circumstances and there is someone who cares” mentality.

My opinion

This is obviously a great book for parents who are experiencing something similar with their children, but it is also a great book for parents and, specifically, moms. We as moms (and dads!)  worry about our children, we fight on their behalf and we’ll push to get the very best care, education or whatever it is they need. That’s why this is a book I will recommend to all parents or even possibly caregivers of other family members.

Every situation isn’t the same, but we all have something to share that will help someone else. It’s what makes dealing with life a little easier. I’m still reading Grace Under Pressure. It’s not a book I want to rush through …

About the author

Sophie Walker is the author of Grace, Under Pressure. She has been a reporter for Reuters News Agency for 16 years and has worked as a foreign correspondent traveling to Iraq and Afghanistan with Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. She lives in London. Visit her online at or on Twitter @sophierunning.

Click to read an excerpt from her book.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

#Mom on Call: 5 things to do when your day goes awry

clouded beautyYou know it’s gonna be a difficult day when the first thing you learn upon waking is one of your children has a fever and can’t go to school. Then you remember it’s grocery day and there’s no food for an extra mouth at home all day and, horrors, no medicine for aforementioned fever. (Not to mention you’re on the last roll of toilet paper.)

After dropping other kids at school, you rush to the grocery store, speeding down the aisles ‘cause sick child is riding in the cart clothed in pajamas and wrapped in a snuggly. While you’re rushing you hope you don’t go over budget because there’s no time coupons. You’re back home before 8:30 and still haven’t had any coffee.coffe cups

What’s a mom to do? The above scenario happened to me today and I realize it probably happens to other mom’s as well. Here are some tips to help.

For the work-from-home & stay-at-home mom

  1. Call an available friend to come over to assist you so you can get some work done. Not only will that person be able to handle your child’s needs, but you can take a break or have lunch with a friend.
  2. No friend to call? Then use your on-call babysitter. This involves preparation beforehand. If you need someone inquire at your local college’s job placement department or career center. If no one is available they can place your “job opening” in their job announcements. Tip: Pick a college or university that has child development, child care or any similar courses/major.
  3. Make a home-sick basket. This one also requires preparation. Buy a basket or container from the dollar store and fill it with new crayons, construction paper, string, scissors, clay, tissues, children’s lollipop lozenges, cough drops, small stuffed animals, markers, small notebooks or journals. Consider including DVDs, new games, novels or magazines for teens and soft, sensory items for pre-schoolers.flower journal
  4. Take the day off. If you’re on deadline try to finish quickly and if it’s not due that day take the time to hang out with your child. Watch movies, eat ice cream or even take a nap together. If you have other children it’s a great time to spend one-on-one time.
  5. If you’re married and your spouse works see if it’s feasible for him to take a half day. Asking for help is important. Having him come home early will give you a break to refuel for the next day … just in case your little darling is home multiple days.

See #2 below for another idea.

For the working mom

  1. If your children attend daycare and/or you have a job where taking off isn’t feasible then you probably already have a babysitter. If it’s a young teenager who’s also in school then you’ll want to have two on-call caregivers. Consider your babysitter’s mother or older sister. See #2 in the previous session for more info.
  2. Grandparents live nearby? If you know they’re able to handle it call to see if they’re available, even if you have to pick them up. Grandparents like to feel needed and will be excited to help out and spend one-on-one time with their grand.
  3. Take half a day off and do #5 above.frustration
  4. Take the day off. Check out tip #4 above for more info.
  5. Work from home. You may not get as much done, but you’ll be able to work and take care of your child.

These tips may be different depending on your child’s sickness. When everyone is healthy again and schedules return to normal don’t forget to reserve time for yourself. You’ll need to refuel for the next time someone needs extra special attention from Mommy.Andre's eyes


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hello, old friend #wordlessWednesday

I very seldom iron during the summer. Seeing the iron on the first day of school I thought, 'Oh...hello...'

Posted right from Android world


Dr. Hauschka certified natural skin care

Dating back to the early 1900s this skincare line is based on the work of Dr. Rudolf Steiner and homeopathic medicines. Since then it has grown into a product line that is 100 percent naturally organic.

Dr. Hauschka Skin Care Products

Each product contains the highest quality of plants and mineral extracts, which – in my opinion – is an additional benefit for you, your skin and the environment. The original mission statement from 1935 is the company’s motto today: “To support the healing of humanity and the earth.”

How do you feel about natural skincare products and holistic approaches to exceptional skin? Almost 98 percent of the natural skincare products I have used have been the smoothest, most luxurious products I’ve used. Not only do I feel good about using them on my skin, but I feel comfortable about putting a dab of facial wash or moisturizer on one of my young daughters and recommending the product to my 22-year-old daughter who has sensitive skin.

If you think this approach to skincare products is right for you, try the Dr. Hauschka Skin Care line.


Monday, August 19, 2013

fear, face & fury of #anxiety

What do you think of when the word ‘anxious’ or ‘anxiety’ comes to mind? Maybe you’re thinking, ‘I hate feeling anxious when I’m running late” or “Geez, it makes me so anxious when my child climbs to the top of the monkey bars.’

Some of us think of that word all the time. Well, maybe not the word itself, but the meaning and experience behind the word. We live with it. Sometimes regularly and more often every single minute of a day.

In the past, I’ve shared with you my health challenges with fibromyalgia, Sjogren’s syndrome and multiple myeloma. You probably know that I suffer from chronic pain, which can lead to exhaustion and I’ve suffered from “attacks.” These attacks involve the pain rolling throughout my body with an intensity that keeps me prone – sometimes for days on end. These attacks involve:

  • Pounding headaches, slicing migraines
  • Throbbing and dry eyes
  • Sound sensitivity
  • Dry mouth
  • Nausea
  • And, even, rocking under the misguided notion the repetition will make me feel better.


Through it all I normally smile…


Although I would rather hide… (one with the camera is my favorite selfie)

DSCF5131 983 DSCF4987

<--- A little makeup brightens up things a bit…
With every picture I can tell by my eyes how I really feel.


I have not, however, shared much about the mental state these unwelcome visitors cause. I believe I’ve eluded to the depression, which lingers in the background, through creative writings. An illusion I began maintaining when I learned people who ask how you’re doing and don’t really want to know, they give societal polite responses and move on with their lives and there are those (one or two) who began blathering that posts should not be “down.” Some so bold as to say ‘don’t write about this, it’s not happy.’ And even more where others (a handful) gave the woo-woo, standard, intangible and very often unhelpful comments. No offense. Recommendations cloaked as advice in a nature that I interpret as “you’re so dumb just pray.”

Or “everything will be okay.”

I love: “think positively.”

That one makes me wonder if they would say that to a person having a heart attack or any other serious condition that requires professional medical attention and medication.

I digress. Sorry.

My anxiety began when I was in the military. Some time between 1988 and 1992. I was diagnosed, treated for migraine headaches and prescribed to “see someone.” I really liked that guy: Captain Too Cute to Be a Psych, but before long he was shipped out. One office visit later and I never returned.

840 After a liver biopsy: DSCF4281
  Sometimes being silly helps.

I went years without treatment and I dealt with it okay. I was eventually transferred out of the super high stressful and demanding position with a Napoleon-complex-ed Captain that started it all. Later, when I returned to college I survived stress-induced scratching that caused welts and me unknowingly scratching off half a mole in my sleep. I had forgotten about the anxiety, but it had not forgotten about me.

I survived the removal of my gangrened gall bladder and dealt with the multiple myeloma diagnosis on my own. I didn’t think much about the sudden crying, moments of darkness or panic attacks. I was just trying to survive. Survive having a toddler while taking 18 credits a semester and working… you know, survive living.

As I aged and dealt with increased stress, the bulk of which came in early 21st century, I hid the anxiety that overtook me. Funny what you’ll do to keep something from someone who is only supportive of something they agree with.

Now here I am – more than 20 years after the initial diagnosis – and what was once a little gnat flying around the room is frequently like a buzzard circling a kill.

  • My heart races all day
  • My breathing is shallow
  • My chest is tight
  • My skin tingles
  • My body is either chilled or burning up
  • My head hurts and hurts and hurts
  • My eyes burn and brim with tears
  • My hands shake
  • And, on the best of days, sudden torrential crying isn’t unheard of.

What’s the cause? There are some things I’d like to share, but I’m still concerned about this appearance that is expected. An imperfect perfection others are looking for. Their desire to only hear of the beauty and good: what my granddaughter is up to, how my youngsters are doing at school or the beauty of the sky, flowers, trees, plants and bushes I notice every single day.

DSCF4697 118 340
341 119 129

I mean, I still wanna have friends so I mostly do what’s expected of me. I sure would like to have a man…. (sudden chuckling at the direction “have a man” could take)… What if he’s in my virtual world and comes by here, checks into Twitter or randomly browses Facebook and sees my perfect imperfections?

  • Will I still have friends?
  • Potential suitors?
  • Respect?
  • Sponsors? Advertisers?

What should we do? You know: those suffering from anxiety and depression? Let’s just review the solutions I don’t want to hear:

  • Stretch/yoga
  • Pray/meditate
  • Exercise/walk/run
  • Go to church
  • Talk to someone
  • Don’t worry
  • Think positively

There ya have it. A little known fact about me and even some solutions for you. Should you need them. In the meantime, my brain is still whirring with attempts at solutions to the problems that are increasing my anxiety.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

SkinCeuticals is dedicated to your healthy skin

SkinCeuticals Epidermal RepairIn my part of the world the days and evenings have become a little cooler. We all know what that means: It’s time to change our skincare routines to protect our skin from the cold, harsh weather we’ll encounter in a few months.

SkinCeuticals has the answer for taking good care of your skin. This company, which was founded in 1997, develops and provides innovative skin products that are touted to improve the health and appearance of skin. The products work as a complete system for maximum results  and have been tested for effectiveness.

SkinCeuticals EmollienceThe SkinCeuticals line includes a clarifying cleanser, emollience, epidermal repair, vitamin-enriched hydrating gel, equalizing toner, UV defense and several other products that all work together for the health of your skin. If you’re as conscious of the health of your skin as I am then you’ll probably want to look into these products.

With a mission to improve skin health, this company is dedicated to that purpose and promise to provide top-quality products that are backed by science. With a network of top scientists in cellular and molecular biology, biophysics, chemistry and medicine, SkinCeuticals is a perfect position to keep that promise.

Do they SkinCeuticals products sound like ones you will try? Take a minute  and share in the comment section.

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