Saturday, May 11, 2013

Stratigic Start

 Once #2's teacher discovered that we had chosen an older start for our children without being prompted by a teacher she asked me if I would mind writing a letter for her to give to parents.  She expressed that so often parents get offended when she suggests that they give their little darling an extra year.  Here are the thoughts I put together for her...

The seven years I taught middle school before I had my first child have greatly affected my parenting.  If hind sight is 20/20, then I was given the gift of listening to what parents of teenagers would have done differently when their children were young if they could.  The most controversial parenting decision that has been based upon what I gleaned during my time with parents of middle school students is giving my children an "older start" in school.

In my seven years of teaching I sat in over 500 parent teacher conferences.  I cannot tell you how many times I heard a parent lament over how they wish they would have let their student mature another year before putting them in school but NOT ONE SINGLE TIME did I hear a parent express regret.  That is a huge statistic!  100% satisfaction in any parenting decision pretty much unheard of.  This caught my attention.  The other thing that was notable about these conferences is that the students who had been given the older start were usually functioning above average in middle school academics and social skills.   Some times the older start had been suggested by a teacher and other times the parents had made the decision without teacher recommendation. Regardless of why the parent chose to give their child another year to mature in those early years the fact was that they were thrilled with that decision 10 years later. 

My husband was on board with an older start because he is an August birthday and had experienced first hand some of the disadvantages to being the youngest in the class.  It is easy and socially acceptable to give an older start to a student who would have to graduate at 17, but if the student will turn 18 even the first month of college the line becomes more difficult to draw and socially questionable.  We decided in our house that your start date of Kindergarten would be determined by the rule that you must be 19 before Christmas of your freshman year of college regardless of how much genius potential you show at the age of five.

The first person we discussed this with was our pediatrician.  His response was, "Well I agree because I did it with my son and his birthday is in February.  It's not about intelligence it's about maturity and believe me this was not a popular idea in 1975."  Okay.  That was a clear vote for the older start team but my favorite response came from our son's preschool teacher.  She said, "I support you 100%.  How can another year of childhood hurt anyone?"  Yes.  How could it?  What's the rush?  

It is nice that the older start concept has become more popular and we actually know several parents that are older start proponents.  Yet, this is more true for our sons than our daughter.  People often look surprised when we tell them that we plan on giving her an older start too.  They first ask when her birthday is (It's in April) and then they say that they are surprised because girls are more mature than boys.  This may be true of 5 year old girls and boys but in my and my husbands experience 18 year old girls are not any more mature than 18 year old boys.  This answer usually makes them pause and then nod their head in agreement. 

The key to owning the older start philosophy is to not base it on your preschool child's abilities and behavior.  The likelihood of them being so smart that school becomes boring is very slim.  In my seven years of teaching I maybe had 2 students out of 1000 that honestly fell into that category, but it is still chatter that you hear frequently amongst preschool parents.  If you are wanting someone to affirm your decision talk to a pediatrician, child psychologist, or 1st grade teacher and be prepared that all grandparents are going to think you are crazy for "holding them back". 

You will not be holding them back.  You will be gaining a year to fortify their academic and social foundation.  You will be making a parenting choice now based on the benefits you will see in middle and high school.  This is not failure.  This is strategic parenting. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Carpet Picnic Theology

Easter is almost here!  Last year I mentioned that we were going to do The Last Supper JMJ style.  Well, we did and it went sooooo well that we are going to do it again.  I know that lots of churches do Maundy Thursday Dinners or a Passover Seder Meal.  I can appreciate these things but they are not super kid friendly, so I have taken the liberty to put my own twist on the Last Supper.  Next Thursday night this is what we will be doing:

-In biblical times they would have sat on pillows or mats around a low table.  We are going to simulate this by having a carpet picnic and sitting on pillows.

-When you see pictures of the Last Supper there are always bowls of fruit and bread on the table. This I can do! Kids love fruit and bread so we will go with that. Feel free to cook lamb and other cultural favorites that were probably really served that day but I am going to opt to skip that part of the meal. My Passover feast is going to look more like a tapas party.

-One thing that I really do want to illustrate to my kids is the message of servant leadership that Christ demonstrated by washing the disciples’ feet.  When it is time to call everyone to the table I will have a bowl or bucket ready and we will talk about how people’s feet were filthy back in that day and that it was customary to wash your feet before you sat to eat.  We will discuss how rich people had servants that would perform this task.  I will explain that even though Jesus was a very important person, He still wanted to serve His friends by performing this act of kindness.  Hubs and I will then wash the children’s feet before we sit to eat our meal.

-The conversations at each of our homes will vary.  Who knows what part of the meal will peak their interest.  My favorite part of last year's meal was when #1 broke the bread with Oscar worthy dramatic flair.  Remember, the goal is to simply bring some biblical knowledge into the picture and to unwrap some of the meaning behind the traditions.  It's okay if there is some gigglingI am pretty sure Jesus won't mind.
Our homes are the best place for our children to learn the foundations of our belief systemChurch is important and I love corporate worship, but God is big.  God is real.  Don't minimize Him to a 10 second prayer at meal time.  The most impacting sermon your children will ever hear is the one you live in front of them every day.  Don't be afraid of their questions.  Questions are good because they make us think.  Your child may ask a question that you don't know the answer to and that is okay!  Tell them that you don't know and that you will have to look it up or ask someone.  Teaching my children and addressing their questions about God has had a huge impact on my ability to explain why I believe what I believeThis is not a bad thing.  It is a great thing. I am thankful that they have caused me to grow in this area.
 My prayer is that my children will not only believe, but also understand what they believeLife is full of uncertainties but God is not one of them.  This is the most important lesson of all.  The best lesson of all.  The lesson that begins with a carpet picnic, grape juice and a bucket of water.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Let Me Get This Off My Chest...

Parenting is crazy hard.  Crazy.  Even when I am 100% healthy and on top of my game I question whether or not I am doing it "right".  I did, however, feel confident enough to accept the challenge some friends tossed at me and turn out over 70 blog posts about our daily life around here. Then I got "the plague" as we refer to it.  Life changed sooooo much.  For 9 months we were parenting in survival mode.
We are no longer in survival mode but it has been hard for me to blog because I feel that I had nothing worth sharing that was true to the nature of the JMJ blog.  The whole Just Mama Jenni blog was started when some moms asked me to write down some of my parenting strategies.  As one mom said, "I don't need to read parenting books because I know you will and I can just get the info from you."  There is a lot of truth to that statement.  I will read the books and then I can't help but talk about what I have read.  Pretty much if you are my friend that means you don't mind putting up with my tendency to some how turn any topic into a parenting discussion.  For real.  I am a tiny bit obsessed with behavior management.
Sooooo if that is what my blog was based on then I had ZERO to write about.  I cannot tell you how many things we let slide around here this past year.  Seriously.  If I had a penny for every chicken nugget that was consumed and every video game that was played I could personally solve the national deficit.  Oh, and I should also mention that we went "green" during this period.  We saved water by not bathing the kids and allowed them to wear dirty clothes.  Not to mention the sudden disappearing act I did.  I went from being room mom to people wondering if hubs and I were getting a divorce because he was attending all of the kids events and I was nowhere to be found.
I know that I don't have to confess all of this but the truth is that I feel like I DO.  I need everyone who reads JMJ to know that none of my posts are ever meant to make you feel like I have it under control and that you should be more like me.  Unless by more like me you mean that you screw up more than you thought was humanly possible and Child Protective Services still allow you to keep your kids.
Just so that we are all on the same page let me reiterate I love my kids.  I love parenting.  I do both poorly on a regular basis.  I try to recognize when I screw up and do better the next time.  These are the things I blog about and my hope is that maybe you can relate to my flaws and that my determination to do better will give you encouragement. 
There.  I feel better.  I had to get that off my chest before I could begin blogging again. And ladies, back off.  We are not getting a divorce.  He's a keeper.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Explaining My Absence...The Road Back

Life threw me a curve ball this year and consequently threw our family in survival mode for the last several months.  When you can not get out of bed or do simple tasks like change the baby's diaper, blogging drops completely off the priority list.  Let me give you the short version...

On April 20th I had a normal day.  I started my day at 5:30 with a run.  Next I got the kids fed and off to school.  I had a morning meeting at my part time job and then housework until it was time to do afternoon pick up.  We walked to our neighborhood store for after school treats and then I got ready for date night while the kids watched TV.  Hubby and I had a fantastic dinner and then I came home and went to bed. This is when everything went haywire.  Instead of calming down my body began reving up.  I had shakes, hot flashes, heart racing and nausea for the next 8 hours.  The next few weeks were filled with similar episodes and a continual decline in my overall health.  The days were filled with doctor appointments, helpful friends, amazing family, tears and anxiety.  My mother had to come and live with us becuase I could not take care of myself much less our three children.  Don't worry.  There is a happy ending to the story.  Keep reading...

Last month after many tests and evaluations I was diagnosed with Autonomic Dysfunction and Maladaptive Stress Syndrome.  I know.  You have no idea what that is.  In simple terms it means that my adrenals were completely depleted and it caused my body to freak out.  I am very grateful that I live in an area where I had acess to great doctors.  My internal medicine, cardiologist and naturopath all worked together amazingly well.  I feel very fortunate that they put all of their knowledge together to find the problem.  It is very scary to have something going wrong with your body and the doctors to be intrigued but stumped as to what it is.  I was quite releived when they found a diagnosis. 

The good news is that I am on the road to recovery!  Yay!  I still need help with the children and house but I am moving in the right direction.  The doctors estimate that it will take six months to a year to get my adrenals back up to 100%.  We were thrilled to learn that this is just a season we are going through and not our new normal.  I am beyond thankful for such a postive prognosis.

The best way I know to explain my current condition is that I have a certain amount of energy tokens every day and I have to choose wisely how I use them becuase once they are gone I am done for the day.  The rate of my recovery is that I gain a new token weekly.  I don't feel "bad" unless I over do it and then my body responds with a smaller version of the episode that I had on April 20th. 

There.  You are now up to speed as to why I have been absent for the last three months.  I blog because it is fun to me and it looks like I have enough tokens to add some fun back into my routine.  Wahoo! 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

ALL ThE SiNGle LaDieS!! ALL ThE SiNGle LaDieS!!

This year Just Mama Jenni partnered with ARISE Ministries.  ARISE is a national women's ministry.  They host single mother's conferences across the U.S.  Their largest conference will be in Oklahoma City in June.  Here is a note from ARISE founder Pam Kanaly...

Hi Ladies!  What an honor to be asked to be “Mama Jenni’s” guest blogger.  I am totally thrilled.  I know she has tons of loyal followers so please know that any friend of “Mama Jenni’s” is a friend of mine.  Let me introduce myself and fill your cup with a little encouragement at the same time.

I’m Pam Kanaly, co-founder of the national women’s ministry, Arise Ministries.  My partner in ministry, Shelley Pulliam, and I co-founded this organization ten years ago.  Where in the world has the time gone?

One of the missions that God has called us to do is lead a STATEWIDE Oklahoma single mother’s conference called Survive ‘N’ Thrive.  Every summer we put on a weekend extravaganza for single moms and their children.  It’s a full-fledged blow out of fun, keynote sessions, door prizes, and much more! This year we’re even giving away a brand new car!

At our conference we offer 18 breakout sessions taught by Oklahoma professionals, authors, counselors, all with the purpose to give our moms a boost in what concerns them the most. They come to the conference feeling overwhelmed; they leave rejuvenated and empowered in their roles as mamas.  It stupendous to see these moms and kids refreshed in their family units.  And that’s not all: Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin serves as our Honorary Chair with about a hundred businesses coming alongside.  Isn’t that fabulous?  It’s a win-win for everyone.  So if you live near Oklahoma City or know a single mom who does, please get her to this event.  IN FACT, we have moms coming from Texas, Arkansas, and Kansas, as well.  Listen: it’s not a conference, but an EXPERIENCE!  So please help us get the word out.  And you can read more about the event right here:

Now, how about you? Some of you might be a single mom and wonder if you’re going to make it through this season. It’s tough and you have questions:
         “Will my kids turn out ok?” 
          “Will I ever find a husband again?”
          “Where’s my next pay check coming from?”
Goodness, the challenges of raising children alone are totally incomprehensible and fall on moms like a hailstorm without end!  Many wonder if it will ever get easier.

You might be thinking, “Well, I live too far away to come to your Oklahoma summer conference!  Can you at least give me a few morsels off the conference dessert table to nibble on?”  Certainly I can.

As a former single mom, I know the plight single moms face.  Now that my children are grown and gone (with one child having recently had a baby), I’ve experienced all the phases of moms and kids and have certainly found THE ANSWER in raising children that emerge as wholesome adults.  And though I’ve been remarried for many years, I understand the challenges single moms face.

So here’s three little “Pam Pointers” that might be useful in your journey.

Pam’s Pointer #1 – Teach by THE BOOK
     THE BOOK is God’s Word.  Make it the plumb line of authority in your home.  In it you’ll find corrective training for the circumstances you face as a single parent.  Seize every opportunity in using real-life situations to teach your children spiritual truth. I promise you this: God is faithful and He will give you the guidance, stamina and wisdom you need as a parent “solo” under your roof.

Pam’s Pointer #2Parent by Roles
     There are many aspects in your single motherhood that you can’t change or reverse.  So learn what’s your job and what’s God’s job. You job is to depend on Christ alone and diligently put yourself in places of healthy support and spiritual and emotional growth.  God’s job is to “fix.” So let go of what you can’t change and give it to God. His Holy Spirit will enable you to do just that.  

Pam’s Pointer #3 – Model by Example 
     Children mimic, and most likely they will mimic you.  So act out what you want them to pick up.  Love flamboyantly.  Counsel gently.  And never speak negatively of their father.  Let them see you reading God’s Word and praying.  The power of example is caught not taught.  Every child seeks a hero, someone they regard as a role model, worthy of their adulation and respect. Why not let it be YOU?

Friend, just know this as a single mom: You have support, my support!  Thank you for letting me chat with you today.  And by the way, I send out a monthly word of encouragement to single moms across this nation.  I’d love for one of those moms to be YOU!  (see -

God bless, dear one, and remember:  I can do ALL things through Christ who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

Sunday, May 13, 2012

No Fun

So.  I have not put up a post in a couple of weeks because quite frankly and without going into too  much detail I am dealing with some health issues that are making life kind of hard right now.  That's when I realized that maybe I should post.  Maybe it would be helpful to someone out there to know that I am not always able to take a situation and twist it into a whimsy tale.  Sometimes life is just hard and no fun. 

I am not posting this to complain or get sympathy. I sincerely have compassion for any of you out there who are doing your mom thing through a physical challenge.  Some of you may have a temporary challenge and I know that others of you live with the reality that every day is always going to be a physical challenge.  I just want you to know that you are not alone and that I have been reminded to toss a prayer or two out there for you these last few weeks.  Hugs!

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Secret: Can I Find Peace After An Abortion?

Today I would like to introduce you to my childhood friend Michelle.  Her story is honest and raw.  Listen to how she has found healing for her heart.

Dear Mama Jenni Readers,

My name is Michelle Matthews. I want to share my secret with you. Although my secret isn’t unique, it is a secret that I guarded very closely until recently. Sadly, almost 1 in 2 women hold onto the same secret and bear the burden of its shame. My secret is that twelve years ago, I had an abortion. Statistics show that as many as 43% of women have had an abortion. That means you or someone close to you is impacted and is knowingly or unknowingly battling the emotional distress caused by an abortion. And because the sense of shame a woman can feel from an abortion runs so deep, it can be kept as a secret for a very long time. The average time it takes for a woman to seek healing after her abortion is 20 years.

My friend, Dawn, and I recently started a website and Facebook page called “Freed – Fully Redeemed Entirely Esteemed Daughters”. On Freed, we share our testimonies and promote God’s healing for post abortive women.  By speaking-up and speaking-out, we hope to reach women and break the bondage of their secret. Our prayer is to help women bring their dark, painful secret into the light of forgiveness and healing so they can live the life God created them to live. We have both been redeemed and restored by God’s grace, and we want to shout it out to the world. We want all post abortive women to experience the freedom that is waiting for them.

There are many psychological and emotional complications women experience after abortion. Here is a link describing those effects, and a link describing the recovery program Dawn and I have completed and are now leading. Through the recovery program, we have been blessed to watch lives changed before our eyes by women coming forward to receive healing. Some of these women have come to us in tears knowing that they need help digging up their buried hurt. Some of these women didn’t initially believe they needed to be healed from their abortion, but tried the program in an effort to address what they thought were unrelated problems in their lives. Both groups of these beautiful, broken women have been changed into shining rays of light.

Click here to see if PASS (Post Abortion Stress Syndrome is affecting you. There are many programs available to you including confidential weekend retreats and weekly bible studies.  Dawn and I are here to help get you plugged into a program near you.  Please reach out so that you too can receive the healing God wants for your life.  You will be forever changed.  

If you are not one of the 43% affected by abortion, please share our information with your family and friends who may be part of the 43%.  Click here for our website with our testimonies. Click here to like and share our Facebook page. Our email address is

Thank you for taking the time to read and for passing along our information to help others.