Needing encouragement?

Sometimes mothering is as easy as stuffing a tiger into a pillow case. I can’t seem to keep it all together. And I often mess up.

Ever feel that way?

I do, especially when I trip over the scattered contents of my linen closet, or walk into my closet to see all my clothes pulled off the hangers by my busy younger child.

And then there are the times I butt heads with my preteen…

The other day Eldest and I had a wonderful mother-daughter date … until the drive home. Somehow, reflection on a movie shifted into an argument about laundry, which ended in me screaming, “Listen to me!”

Nice one, Mom …

I apologized, but my action shattered our fun. We arrived home in icy silence and entered the house, which looked exactly as we had left it. Cluttered countertops mocked me along with the “room of doom” upstairs where my other daughter with autism had been busy in my absence. She’d filled the room with the contents of the linen closet, paper scraps … and glue.

I wanted to hide and scream. “Why, God? When I pictured motherhood, it didn’t include scraping sticky newspaper bits and scrubbing peanut butter out of the carpet. Nor did I envision screaming like a hormonal banshee. I’m just so tired.”

Life never turns out the way we expect, does it? And moms are human, too. We make mistakes. And that’s why we need to encourage one another.

Click here to read the whole post “Mom’s Need Encouragement” at MomLife Today.

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Graduation cake ideas.

by Jennifer Dyer

It’s graduation season. I rarely make cakes anymore, but this has some cute and easy elements, so I wanted to share. This isn’t the best picture (the cake had an incident on the way to the party), but I can’t access all my older pics at the moment.

If I remember correctly with the cake pictured, one of my dipped strawberries took a dive in the car, so it was smeared with frosting. (But still yum-o.) My hands are shakier than they used to be, so don’t focus on my penmanship. Overall the cake was a huge hit.

I made two 15×11 cakes and put them together and frosted them with cream cheese buttercream. For this cake the only decoration I used was my graduation strawberries and some chocolate diplomas (I bought the mold for those at a cake store.)

For the strawberry hats I used milk chocolate Ghirardelli squares and Reese’s peanut butter cup miniatures. To make the hats:

  • Put the squares on a cookie sheet, plain side down. 
  • Melt milk chocolate Ghirardelli chips.
  • Dip the smaller end of the peanut butter cups into the melted chocolate to act as glue. Place it in the middle of a square. 
  • Let them set up at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

I made the diplomas from purple dipping melts that I bought as a craft store. Use a bit of the dipping chocolate to glue those to your hardened berries. (Try to place the diplomas on about the same height of the berries–something I learned after seeing this pic. Lol.)

I also dipped the strawberries in melted Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips, so the hats match the strawberries.

Here are some tips I’ve learned after making numerous dipped strawberry displays:

  • Make the graduation hats ahead of time. They will keep for quite a while.

  • Instead of rinsing the berries, wipe them gently with a sightly damp towel. I wipe them again with a dry towel to make sure there is no water left. (Water will cause the chocolate to seize up). If you rinse the berries ahead of time they tend to release more water and appear to sweat after being dipped.

  • Dip the strawberries the day of the event. I know it’s a pain, but they get runny if dipped too far ahead of time. If you can find stemmed berries, they tend to stay fresh longer, so you can dip those the day before.

  • Don’t overheat the chocolate. I heat it on 50% power in the microwave in a small mug or little bowl, stirring every 30 seconds. If you heat the chocolate too high, you will wind up with streaking. If your chocolate does get overly hot, just stir gently it until it cools down. (You want to be able to cup the bowl comfortably with your hand.)

  • Assemble everything you need before you start dipping in an assembly line. Dried berries, small bowl with chocolate, cookie sheet covered in wax paper. It goes pretty fast if you do your prep work.

  • Spread waxed paper over a cool cookie sheet. (I sometimes put my cookie sheets in the freezer and pull them out right before I start dipping, especially in the Texas summers.) Set the berries on the waxed paper after dipping. I sometimes stick my berries into the freezer for 10 minutes to help them set up.

  • Be gentle when you pull the berries out of the chocolate so the green stems stay in tact.

  • After the strawberries set up, I use a small spoonful of melted chocolate to glue the already dried hats to the top of the berry.

Here is a pic of another graduation cake I made. If I can find the others, I’ll add them here. 

 Hope this gives you all some great ideas as we head in graduation season!

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Life Adapted–game playing with my daughter with autism.

by Jennifer Dyer

I’m starting a blogging series entitled Life Adapted revolving around raising our daughter with autism. Most days I feel overwhelmed by life, and I’m never quite sure I make the right parenting calls, whether I am dealing with my “typical” tween or my younger daughter who is on the severe side of the autism spectrum.

According to almost all moms I’ve met, feeling overwhelmed and unsure is normal. Hugs for us all!

That being said, I have a few experiences not every mom with a special needs child has been afforded, and I want to share in case it will help others.

As a speech-language pathologist, I was trained to look at every activity with someone on my caseload in mind. How can I adapt this to meet _____ goals? Most of the time it involves rethinking the purpose of a game or object and being flexible with the rules, the same way one might modify a recipe to accommodate a food allergy.

Over the years I’ve used this thinking with Rachel, sometimes to the frustration of everyone, but sometimes… Sometimes things are beautiful. I will be spending the next several months sharing ideas that I hope will bring your family or school as many smiles and hugs as they have ours.

Today, I want to talk about playing ball. Four Square to be exact.

Sunday evening this past week was beautiful. Not too windy, not too cold, yet not warm enough to bring out the mosquitoes. Perfect.

As a family we ventured outside. The goal in my mind was to have Rachel stay around us and to enjoy family time. While Eldest and I bounced the ball around, Rachel picked leaves off the bushes. (Okay, not a productive activity, but my goal was for Rachel to stay by us and those bushes needed pruning. If I started hounding her she would have run off.)

After a few minutes, Rachel ventured to the driveway and glanced at the ball. My mommy sense told me she wanted to play, but the rules for Four Square were too complicated for her to follow. I also sensed if I made a big deal of her joining us she would run away.

I asked Eldest to bounce the ball slowly to Rachel. When Rachel caught the ball, we all cheered. We encouraged Rachel to bounce the ball to Dad. From there we took turns bouncing the ball, rolling the ball, and kicking the ball to each other. Rachel didn’t always catch the ball and didn’t follow the order in which we were throwing, but perfect ball skills weren’t the goal. The goal was participation and fun.

Goal achieved!

At one point, Eldest sighed. “Are we going to go back to playing?”

“We are playing, just with less complicated rules.” It took her a moment to decide she was OK with the change, but she got into the spirit. We had a precious time, laughing, talking, and playing ball.

This isn’t just for dealing with children with autism. Activities can be modified for younger family members and people who have mobility issues. This same concept can help kids in a school setting incorporate their peers with special needs. The important thing is the “rules” of the game aren’t as important as participation.

In this way, everybody has fun. There is a time for competition and there is a time for compassion and love.

The best part? The last two nights Rachel has slept with her arms wrapped around one of our Four Square balls. And that is beautiful.

Up next: Life Adapted–dinner time.

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Bullying: a guide to survival from a victim’s perspective.

Over on More to Be, I wrote about surviving bullying from the perspective of a person who had been through extreme bullying and not only survived, but has devoted a part of her life to helping people overcome the painful moments in their lives.

Join me on More to Be and Be part of the conversation:

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Despite the thanks.

by Jennifer Dyer

The other day, Eldest and I did a favor for someone and received no thanks. Again. It wasn’t the first time we have helped that person and won’t be the last. Lack of thanks seems to be the long-term forecast.

When the two of us were alone, Eldest exhaled. “She never takes the time to say thanks, not even once. It gets old.”

In my head, I said, “Amen, sister!” Thankfully, my interior Ms. Snarky-Pants kept her mouth shut. Instead, I prayed for wisdom. “I understand how you feel. I often feel that way too.”

“Then why do we keep doing it?” she asked.

Help me here, Lord, because I don’t want to help this person anymore, either. Ms. Snarky-Pants and the rest of me are tired of being nice. Something I recently read came to mind: Matthew 5:46. In my words it says: “What reward do you get if you only love those who love you?” I told Eldest, “Jesus wants us to be nice to people, despite the thanks, just as he is nice to us despite what we do.”

So, yes, Eldest and I decided to continue on, both of us wrestling at different times with the person’s selfish attitude. At times, I’m the one who wants to grumble. At times it’s Eldest. But between the two of us, we press on.

Have you recently done a favor and received no thanks for it? Or how about done something nice and had the situation blow up in your face–“no good deed goes unpunished”? Does it help to know that God blesses us when we bless others in spite of their actions?

Hugs to you, my friends. Press on.

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Taking time for what’s important.

by Jennifer Dyer

Yesterday, the girls and I headed out to run some errands on their day off from school. My cell rang. I felt eldest’s eyes on me as I picked up the phone and set it down again, without answering.

“Why didn’t you answer that?” she asked.

I shrugged, not wanting to make a big deal out of the situation. “Because I’m with you two right now. I want to make spending time with you a priority. That means letting other things go.”

She sighed. “I’m glad you do that.” (Yes, I was shocked at her approving tone, but even more by what she said next.) “Those people need you, but we need you more. I don’t mind when people call you with quick questions, but I don’t like it when you are on the phone for a long time. It makes me sad and nervous.” She went on to talk about how busy she is as she gets older and how little time we have with each other as the years go on.

Wow. Deep insights from my pre-teen…

She was right on so many levels. Yes, it’s true that my life should not revolve around my children. They don’t need to be the center of anyone’s universe, but they feel secure when they know they are important. Taking a call from a friend just to chat on that day would have sent the wrong message. Time and focused attention are keys to bonding with people, especially my children.

Have you ever been in a store and had to wait while the cashier in front of you answers a long call or even leaves her station to hunt around the sales racks for the person on the phone? How did you feel? Usually, I am tempted to leave. I was the one who actually came to the store. The person on the phone is the one, in my mind, who should wait.

How much more do our families feel when we don’t make time for them? I don’t want my children looking back on their lives feeling they had to wait while I yakked into a phone with someone else.

So often, what is unimportant and temporary infringes on the few precious moments that will be important in years to come. Sure, what my daughters and I talked about might not matter a year from now, but being close to my daughters will matter my entire life. If I am always occupied with the urgent and not prioritizing, I will miss out.

So, if I don’t answer your calls, I might be bonding with my kids. And/or I might not be able to find my phone.

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The “everyone else has it” game.

by Jennifer Dyer

While in the car the other day Eldest said, “Mom, everyone at school has a new iPhone.”


“Yes.” She spread her hands wide. “Everyone.”

I knew how to play this game, as I’ve spent a lifetime cultivating the skills necessary and could name a host of people who do _____ better than me. I said, “Oh, does Friend 1 have one?”

“Uh, well…no.”

“And Friend 2?”

“Well, no…”

We went through a list of several friends, none of whom had an iPhone.

My initial reaction was to lecture about why she was wrong and focusing on the wrong things and blah, blah, blah.

Instead, I sighed. “Honestly, I know exactly how you feel. Lately, it seems as though all your friends’ moms have newer, nicer cars than I do.”

I pointed around me. “In fact, sometimes it feels like almost everyone drives a nicer car than I do, and I bet they don’t have to use a chisel to clean the carpet. I cringe every time we open the doors because I’m not sure what will fall out and I’m pretty sure we have an entire family of chipmunks in here somewhere.”

She nodded. “Too true.”

I went on. “But look around us. There are some nicer cars and some older cars. It’s the same with everywhere I look. It’s all about my focus. I can choose to focus on all the people who have nicer things than me, or I can focus on being thankful for what God has given me. I can also be thankful that God has given gifts to His other children.”

In the end, we decided to spend time focusing and thanking God for several of the things He has given us. And we wouldn’t worry so much about what everyone else has.

And then we got some ice cream. And that is definitely something to thank God about….

How do you talk to your children about being thankful?


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Kids, romance and autism. How do those mesh? I’ll tell you…

by Jennifer Dyer

Our MomLife Today editor recently asked us, How do you romance your children?

I thought about her question for days. I had no idea. Sure, I spend time with Rachel, I tickle her, and I buy her glue to create masterpieces of construction paper…

But what about her soul? I’ve had a hard time getting to know Rachel, in the sense that many of us do others. Idea sharing, conversing, arguing… All of those things are hindered by the autism and apraxia which hold her mind captive in so many harsh manners.

But then I realized something huge…

Continue reading about it here on MomLife Today.

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I’m not good enough! Do you ever say this? Well, good news…

by Jennifer Dyer

A while back, I agreed to help a friend publicize a project. As I writer, I am aware of how much social media presence means in today’s world. Numbers are king. And I, my friends, am not big stuff.

The publisher of the project asked everyone interested in helping to fill out a survey.

The info they wanted? Numbers. How many hits does your website get? How many people “like” you? Do Wookies and Droids in the galaxy far, far away follow you?

As I read through the questions, a growing weight settled on my chest. Half of the things they asked I didn’t even know.

In my mind, the survey asked the question: “Are you good enough to help us?”

“No! I’m not good enough! Not by a long shot.” I started to believe I wasn’t good enough, so I shouldn’t try to help out my friend. Other, better people would help her. (How wrong is that? I was going to let fear and feelings of inadequacy stop me from helping someone!)

“I’m not good enough” clouded my thoughts, jaded my sight. Every time I tuned into any of my online channels, I despaired at what I saw. No one liked me. I wasn’t making an impact. I should just quit. And I should eat some worms.


All my creative efforts stalled. Instead of doing what I do best, I spent my time worrying about why more people didn’t like me. My doubts poisoned all my efforts.

I some time in prayer, mostly whining to God about why life wasn’t fair.

But God was gracious and didn’t toss me a piece of cheese to go with my whine. Instead I saw:

* Focusing on what others have is wrong and harmful to my own heart. That includes feeling envious of their success. It only leads to distress and distracts me.

* I had to face that I was trying to be in control. That leads to anxiety and doesn’t change anything. You’d think I would have learned this during my extended illnesses. Controlling most things in this world is as futile as controlling the wind with my bare hands.

* Do what I do best and let God take care of the rest. Does this mean I give up? No. It means that I focus on what I do best. I will dedicate a bit of time each day to learn how to navigate the social media world and making genuine connections with people, but I cannot control what other people do. I can only control the choices I make.

* I choose to relax, to write to share God’s love and grace with others, and to let the rest go.

* I don’t have to please the masses. I only need to please my Audience of One.

How about you? Have you ever tried to “control the wind?” How did you get through it?

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What weighs on you?

by Jennifer Dyer

Do you have those days when you feel all wrong? Go into your closet and want to fall on the floor and kick and scream because the world isn’t fair? Maybe if you just hide life will go on without you for a bit. When you come out you will be in charge again…

Hmm. Well, I do. I know other moms have their closet moments because when I mention mine they nod their heads and say, “You do that too? I thought it was just me.”

Nope, it’s not.

So, what weighs on you and why does it so often have to do with weight?

In my first post for More to Be, I explore some of the roots of this battle and the real focus that can save us from ourselves.

So, what issues weigh on you?

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