Tuesday, May 20, 2014

How to Navigate Transitions with your Mama Heart

This time of year my mailbox fills with invitations for graduations, birthday parties, weddings. My Facebook newsfeed crowds with prom photos, teacher appreciation events, and my personal favorite, Mother’s Day gatherings!

May marks the end of the school year for many.  May speaks of a closing season. May hints at summer days to come. May is a month of transition.

In high school, May was the month our yearbooks arrived. I was always on the yearbook staff, and we had the privilege of paging through the books first. We got an early glimpse at the layouts, the photos, the funny and memorable frozen in time from the past year.

I remember spending hours cutting out pictures and copying down quotes for friends. We used it as an excuse to tell people how much we admired them or to jot down favorite memories with them from the year. We would sign with cute sayings like “K.I.T.” – Keep in Touch – or “2 Cute 2 B forgotten.”

This time of year is always bittersweet for me. It’s a month full of celebrations, but also goodbyes. When I was younger it was about saying goodbye to my school friends. I would often be returning home to be with neighborhood friends or during college years I would be starting a new job or internship.

As a mama, it’s different. I have to help navigate these transitions for my kids. They, too, have to say goodbyes to friends and teachers at school. Our whole family has to adjust to more time together and being in each other’s space more. Siblings are forced to remember what it’s like to play together. 

Transitions can be tough.

Every summer our family heads to Haiti, where our family feels called to serve and bless and be blessed. We must say goodbye to our California friends and family every year. It’s hard. We shed some tears. Our hearts long for those we love the most. Yet, we have the unique opportunity to return to a place we have built relationships.  My girls look forward to their summer days – carefree and unbound by schedules – to jump rope and dig in the dirt with their Haitian friends from the orphanage next to our home.

My challenge to you is to embrace transition. Expect it. Carve out time for yourself and your little ones to adjust. Don’t be surprised if they have some days of irritability or acting out. Plan some down time to reminisce about the past season, the highlights of the school year or that dance class they took.

My girls love photos; I take lots of them. This is another way I help them navigate transitions. We go through photos together on the computer or we make special photo books to help us remember the people and the places that have become meaningful to us. When we travel we take a few of these photo books with us. 

I also give my girls blank books. They can use these like a journal to document their new adventures. If they can’t express themselves in words kids can draw pictures. I challenge them to draw or paint one picture a day. I found this helps them when they are missing friends or having a hard time embracing a new place or season.

In our home, transition is the new normal. How about yours?
Dorina Lazo Gilmore is the Coordinator of the Bridge MOPS group in Fresno, California. She and her family serve in Haiti each summer with the non-profit Christian Friendship Ministries & The Haitian Bead project.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Piece of Me

Guest blogger

Some days, I hold it together like a champ from diaper to diaper, from meltdown to meltdown. I patiently load and unload the car, buckling, tightening, loosening, unbuckling 4 kids still in car seats. I speak gently to overstimulated and overtired littles. I wipe snotty noses, snotty cheeks, snotty foreheads – somehow this stuff gets everywhere. all. winter. long. I sweep up the majority of what was served to the twins after breakfast, after lunch, after snacks, after dinner… Ok, except for when I save it all for after dinner…

Some days, at the end of these days, I fall into bed exhausted the way that we are meant to be exhausted after a day of good work. And some days, at the end of these days, I fall into bed exhausted.

And discontent.

I love that I get to stay home with these kids and be Mommy. And I have so many meaningful outlets apart from my kids that my discontent feels absurd. I’m at the gym 3 or 4 days a week, Bible study every Tuesday, a mommy workout group, orchestra rehearsal, and another Bible study on Wednesdays, book club twice a month, MOPS at two different churches. I am not doing this alone. I cherish these opportunities to take little breaks from the kids and focus in on my relationships with other ladies and my relationship with God. I cherish these opportunities because they make me a better mommy. They give me more of those days where I am patient, gentle, and the picture of joyful endurance. But then there are days like today.

By 7:15 this morning, I had tucked my sleepy oldest child snugly into my place in bed, nursed both of the girls, changed 3 diapers, and was out the door on my way to a friend’s kid-free birthday breakfast. After dropping by the farmer’s market (ALONE!) on the way home for some local organic chard, romaine, and asparagus, I walked in the front door and was needed. And needed. And needed. And needed. And tired. My boys played with legos for a good 4 hours today; my husband took the girls for a 45 minute walk so I could have a quiet time while the boys played outside. And still, I was tired. 

Some days I can put my finger on it, but this wasn’t one of them.

It has occurred to me several times over the last year that I love to write. I also hate to write, but mostly I love it. I particularly love to have written. A year ago now, I wrote a blog post. A YEAR AGO. And still, I think back to that blog post with great pleasure. I was on an emotional high for a month having accomplished – having completed – something creative and tangible. Something I was proud of – and yes, it was about the kids – but the writing was not the kids – it was me in a way that I don’t get to be me every day. And I’m ok with that, most of the time.

Today, my weariness reminded me that it is often not my circumstances that make me tired. It is not the demands of my kids that dictate how much I will open my eyes to see the joy that God has for me in each moment – and I do believe that He has planted joy for me everywhere. Sometimes I am tired because there is an essential piece of me – a piece God has knit into me – that I am ignoring.

I taught English for several years before signing up to be Mommy. My favorite class to teach was AP Language and Composition. I have always loved reading, and remain a voracious reader as a mommy – staying up late and carrying at least some reading material around in my car or purse “just in case.” There is nothing to hate about reading.  The writing thing is more complicated. Maybe because I don’t have anything personal at stake when I pick up something by someone else. Writing is baring my soul and my skill to be scrutinized. Once something is written, I have to reckon with it. And then the whole blog thing… to be scrutinized by others. That is risky. And personal. And thrilling.

So, here it is. And because it is, I will be a better mommy tomorrow than I was today. I will be a better wife – a grateful wife to the amazing man who kicked me out of the house to read and write and go to Trader Joe’s (ALONE!).

**This piece was reposted from Then Comes Grace.

Heather Fenton is a mama of two boys and twin girls, and is madly in love with her husband of almost 10 years, Mike. She loves music, literature, camping, and running and has a love/hate relationship with writing. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Organizing our Beautiful Mess

I am a creative spirit. I hate throwing things away because I know somehow, some way it could be recycled, recreated, reimagined in the future.

When I was a kid, my mom would send me to clean my room and I would emerge three days later having uncovered a mountain of books I needed to read and boxes full of all the great crafting stuff I forgot I had. Simply put: I was a pack rat. My college roommates were not too thrilled about this character trait. They let me have my own room while they shared.

Now that I am a wife and mommy, who spends a lot of time packing and unpacking for moves and travels, I have started to reform my ways.

A few years ago we moved into a smaller home with a bigger yard. There was a great master bedroom, another bedroom for my three girls, and a smaller room we needed to turn into a joint office for our non-profit and the jewelry business. We also needed to turn the garage into a functional warehouse space to house the jewelry and supplies. Did I mention one bathroom? Needless to say, everything felt tight, tight, tight.

Every time I sat down to work I would start to feel like the world was closing in on me. We decided to enlist a little help from our friend Brenda McElroy who had started a business called Organized by Choice. We needed some fresh perspective on how to organize our space to make it functional for our family and work.

Enter Brenda. She is a miracle worker.

She helped us talk through our goals. She gave loads of “gentle” suggestions on what to get rid of and what to keep.  She proved creative and encouraging. She helped my (pack rat) oldest daughter sift through boxes of art projects and supplies. She drew sketches on how we could organize our dual office space. She even went shopping for just the right organizers for our closets and desks.

Perhaps one of the most powerful things Brenda taught me is that everything needs to have a “home.” That word echoes in my head every time things start to feel overwhelming or cluttered. I pick up a bill, a birthday card, an old flip flop, a coupon or a gift card. I ask myself, does this have a home? If it doesn’t, I need to create a home for it or pitch it. This simple philosophy has empowered me to get rid of a lot of unnecessary stuff.

**For more great tips from Brenda, check out her blog at OrganizedByChoice.com.

Dorina Lazo Gilmore is the Coordinator of the Bridge MOPS. She aspires to be organized. She lives with her hubby, Ericlee, and three daughters, Meilani, 7, Giada, 5, and Zayla, 2. They split their time between Fresno, California and Pignon, Haiti.