Anger Happens…Yells Happen.

I can count on one hand the number of major, blow out, yelling fights my husband and I have had in our entire twelve-year relationship. That number? Two.

Our first fight was about six months in when he told me he didn’t want to go out that night but ended up going out in New York City with our friends, while I was stranded in New Jersey with no friends. That fight became even more awesome when I threw the cell phone into the empty car seat next to me and forgot to press, “end.” He heard every single nasty word that I yelled at him.  Obviously that inspired him to come hang out with me immediately and not stay out later…not!

Our second blow out fight was on the three-hour drive to my hometown to meet the Minister for our wedding. I felt like I was doing all the work for the wedding and that he just didn’t care. The discussion became quite heated and I threatened to take my ring off and throw it out the window and into the woods. He encouraged me and actually opened the window. This story makes us both laugh now, but then, not so much!

Why so few blow up fights you ask?  Well, my husband and I talk “so much” when something bothers us and we communicate our feelings “so well” when we were unhappy that we don’t need to fight because we always work on things before they got out of control. Yes, yes that is most certainly we don’t fight – we are such great communicators! Right. As if! Oh how I wish this was the truth; but it is not.

Do the dishes

Thanks for doing the dishes babe. I totally appreciate it but see that machine right next to your foot? That’s a dishwasher. Can you put the dishes in there too? Will only take a second and will make me super happy!

Sure we talk “so much” and “so well” about small things bothering us like dirty bowls in the sink (really, sweet husband, the dishwasher is right there) and socks and shoes left out (really, dear wife, the closet is a few steps away.) But the big stuff? The big stuff like “Dear husband, I wish you would acknowledge how hard I work to raise the kids because I feel unappreciated” and “Dear wife, I wish you didn’t put all your energy into the kids because I wish you would put more energy into us.” Yeah that stuff – that really hard stuff to admit and talk about because it has the high potential to hurt feelings and lead to a fight? Well, we don’t talk about these tough feelings “so much” or “so well.” In fact, we both actively avoid communicating them as much as possible because neither one of us wants to engage in a massive, uncomfortable yelling battle.

While it is “great” that we don’t fight and have only really yelled at each other twice, the fact that we don’t talk about the uncomfortable stuff and avoid it is not so great. In fact, it really is a disservice to our marriage and our family. We know this – we know that not talking about the hard stuff makes us both grow resentment and unhappiness. We know that not talking about the hard stuff makes us nastier to each other and shorter with the kids. And we know that we don’t want this dynamic any more so we have been actively trying to change it. And I think, fingers crossed, that Sunday night we might have had a breakthrough!

This what went down.

I shared something that really bothered me.
He replied in a way that he felt was really awesome.
I replied using my louder tone of voice that it was less than awesome and that it in fact really angered me.
He replied using his louder tone of voice,

“See, there you go. You get angry and change your tone anytime we talk about hard stuff which is why I don’t want to talk about these things with you.”

My response (after taking a HUGE deep breath thanks to my Orange Rhino training):
“Anger happens.”

I continued on with a more calm tone,

 “Babe, I will get angry at you. You will say things that hurt me. You will say things that anger me. And I will do the same right back at you. I might even yell. But not talking because we are afraid of anger and yelling at each other isn’t working. We can try our hardest to say things in the right way to avoid a huge, angry fight but we won’t always succeed. So yeah, anger will happen. Yells will happen. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do after. What matters is that we apologize if we hurt each other’s feelings. What matters is that we don’t walk away but try to understand what ticked the other person off so much so we can try to work on it. What matters is that we forgive and move forward so that we can keep having the conversation and learn from it so that we do better next time.”

The craziest thing happened next; his anger subsided, my anger subsided and we talked “so much” and “so well” about the tough stuff. It felt fantastic and productive! It really is amazing what you can accomplish when you have a calm and civil conversation and keep anger and yelling out of it!

And it really is amazing that it took me this long to say this speech in this situation because I have been telling myself it in regards to The Orange Rhino Challenge for two years! The whole “apologize, forgive, learn about the anger to do better” is EXACTLY the lesson I learned within my first few weeks of The Orange Rhino Challenge.

Right out of the gate, I went 8ish days not yelling.
Then I yelled.
Then I apologized and accepted an apology.
Then I stopped and tried to figure out why I yelled in the first place, what drove me to get so angry so quickly, how did I keep anger at bay in the first eight days?

Luckily for me, I yelled every day for the next few days so I gathered lots of answers as to why I yelled (my hunger, my p.m.s, my lack of sleep, kids lack of listening, kids level of noise, kids lack of sleep and so on and on and on!) and how I didn’t yell. And luckily for my boys, this also meant that I figured out how to move forward more calmly and without yelling for 520 days.

Yes, I went 520 days without yelling.
And then I yelled because I was…get this…angry at my husband!
Again, anger happens. Yells happen.
But it is what happens after that matters more.

Look, even though I am The Orange Rhino, I am still human! And so is my husband for that matter! We will both have good days that make it easy to keep our anger and “yells” in check; we will both have bad days that make it near impossible to keep our anger and “yells” in check and one or the other will inevitably slip out. And when those bad days happen between us, we have to do what we did Sunday night: apologize, forgive, and learn about what drove the anger and yelling so we can move forward and continue to keep anger and yelling out of it and to well, let more love in.

And when the bad day is all on me and I slip up and let a yell out at my boys (it will happen; it has happened!) I will also do the same. I will apologize, push myself to figure out what pushed me to yell and then take that new knowledge to keep progressing forward while leaving anger behind more often and letting love in much more often.

Logo with R copy

 

 

Curious to learn more about how I discovered what pushed me to yell and how I taught myself to calm down and go from wanting to scream to talking calmly? Check out my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” due out this September. You can pre-order it here

 

What we SHOULD SAY to All Moms

By now I am guessing that you have seen the article on Huffington Post about what not to say to stay-at-home moms and the inspired equivalent piece, what not to say to working moms. You have also probably seen the “What Not to Say to Formula Feeding Moms” post…and the “What Not to Say to Moms of Special Needs Children” post…and the “What Not to Say to Single Moms” post. The list of these types of posts seems to go on and on; it is almost as if there is one for every type of mom out there! I know this only because my Facebook feed is often filled with mom friends sharing whichever post they most identify with and passionately support.

And as I pondered writing my own “what not to say” post, I couldn’t help but to think: why are these posts so popular and why do they garner such passionate responses like “amen,” “yes!” and “finally?” At first blush, I would say the obvious: that we have all been on the receiving end of less than appreciative statements and want to make sure that those statements are never, ever said again. While I totally believe this reason to be true (eh hem, did I mention I don’t have one, but numerous “what not to say” posts that I want to write?), I also think that there is another underlying reason.

think we all rally around these types of posts because what we really want is to be supported, encouraged and understood more often. I know that for me, I get all riled up and rearing to go not only because of what negative sentiment has been said, but also because of what positive sentiment is not being said (at least, not being said enough.)

Okay, so maybe not every mom feels this way, but I know I do. On the days when I am most passionate about what not to say to me it is because I am putting every ounce of energy and every bit of my heart and soul into being the best mom that I can be and all I really want and need to hear is, “You are doing a good job!” or “You made the right decision.” I just want a little positive reassurance; the last thing I want to hear or read is any form of negative commentary, whether it is direct or indirect.

I might be alone in this desire to hear more positive and supportive statements, but I have a strong hunch I am not. So perhaps instead of focusing on what not to say to moms, we could focus on what to say to moms? Lets start supporting each other more by saying at least some of the following things to all moms.

1. You are doing a great job. I don’t know one mom that wouldn’t LOVE to hear this. Because lets face it, who hasn’t ever felt like they were doing a crappy job? Or that they were totally failing at this thing called motherhood? Who hasn’t felt that their mommy friends were better moms? I am pretty sure we have all been there and in those moments, especially those moments, we need to be told we are doing a great job. Even when we are struggling, we are showing up and doing our best and that deserves credit.

Terrific Two2. I admire you. I know I admire every mother I know – each for different reasons. I learn so much from all the moms around me; especially those that have different strengths and perspectives than me. Sure I am a little jealous too at times, but in those moments I tell the mom how much I admire her. Again, who doesn’t need or want to hear that? You never know how much a compliment might help another person get through a tough moment, a tough day, or a really tough patch of parenting.

3. It’s hard, isn’t it? Don’t you just want to run and hide some days? I know I have but I have been afraid to admit it. Motherhood can feel so lonely at times. When someone said this simple phrase to me, I finally breathed and felt understood and not alone. And when someone said this to me in line as we waited for coffee and I balanced two kids on my hips and felt two tugging loudly on my legs, I felt supported and not judged. It was a beautiful thing and kept me sane enough to not yell at my kids to “get off of me!”

4. Here, let me help you. Yes, I confess I am not good at taking help but whenever someone offers to hold the door as I push a double stroller through with one more kid on my back and one holding my hand, I’m grateful. I often am too proud (foolish?) to ask for help, even when I need it, so when someone blatantly helps, it’s wonderful.

5. Do you need a friend, someone to listen, or perhaps a tissue? I clearly remember when I walked into a store frazzled beyond frazzled with tears in my eyes. I had fought with my husband and was trying to still keep calm with the kids. As I wiped a tear from my eye as I tried to nicely answer every, single, one of my son’s questions, someone gently tapped me on the shoulder and offered me a tissue. Did I want to tell this stranger how awful my morning had been, how hard everything felt sometimes? No. But it was so nice to know that someone cared.

6. We are all in this together. We have all had good days, bad days, totally terrific days and beyond horrific days. But that’s the point. We ALL have had those days, no matter what kind of mom we classify ourselves to be.

At the end of the day, ALL moms are working hard regardless if they are a stay at home mom, working mom, single mom, mom of boys, mom of girls, mom of quadruplets, or mom of a special needs child. Parenting is hard. Period. It is hard for all of us. We all need and deserve support and positive reinforcement. We all need and deserve to hear the above statements. And if we all start saying the right stuff to each other, those bad days that we all experience won’t feel so awful. And who wouldn’t love that? I know I would.

Not Seizing Opportunities to Cease Yelling

I am sure you have all read at least one, if not more, articles based on the recent study about the negative impacts yelling has on children. I know I have! Understandably, everyone I know who knows about my blog has sent them to me!

I am always grateful at first to be sent these articles. I like knowing what is being said about a subject so near and dear to my heart and I love knowing that people in big places like The Wall Street Journal are talking about such a taboo subject making it a more popular topic at playgroups, adult get-togethers, and water cooler chats. In my eyes, the more people that talk about yelling and the study, the increased chances that people will (a) feel comfortable sharing their desire to yell less, (b) find out that they are not alone (the most horrific feeling), and (c) finally get the support they have craved to make a change. Sure these chats might reveal that there are some naysayers out there who think the study is bogus or don’t care about yelling but my gut tells me that they are the minority. So yeah, I am grateful to writers who published these articles and started some necessary conversations about yelling.

Eventually though, my gratitude and idealism about the power of these articles takes a back seat and I feel frustration. In my opinion, while the tone and content of these articles is well intended as sharing useful information, they often create shame and guilt for the reader instead of compassion, understanding and necessary guidance and support to change. My frustration quickly settles though as my brain gets all excited and hopeful that I could share my experience and let people know that they are human, that yelling happens but that if they want to change, not only is it possible, but there is a community ready and waiting to support them. With every yelling article that is sent to me lately, my mind kicks into “seize the opportunity to spread hope and support while the subject is hot” mode.

And then, the excitement stops.
The feelings of gratitude turned frustrated turned inspired turn disappointed.
Yes, disappointed.

Lately it seems that every time I read one of these recent articles about yelling, I always end up feeling disappointed because while my heart would love nothing more than to seize the opportunity to write something in response to all these articles, my mind knows that right now I just have to say, “not now.” I know – I could write the response now instead of this post, but for me to write the article to my liking, I need more time and energy than I have right now. And so, much to my disappointment, I haven’t written a response.

I, Sheila McCraith, haven’t seized the opportunity. Let me tell you, this has been incredibly hard for me, like wicked, incredibly hard because saying no to an opportunity is just not in my DNA.

Seizing opportunities, however, well that is in my DNA. It is just what I do; it’s who I am and always have been. I kid you not; I have been an “over-seizer” since Elementary School! I love to tell (sell?) myself that, “Oh this opportunity will never come again” and “Oh the timing isn’t right but you just have to say yes,” and “Why would you pass this up?” I love to push myself to the limit, to see just how much I can do, how much I can pack into a day. I love to find five hundred and one reasons why I should seize the opportunity even though I know deep down inside that really, I should pass. And to be totally honest, I love to over-seize not only because it lets me do more of what I love but also because I feel good about myself from doing so much.

Yes, I love to over-seize.
But, I do not love to over-yell.
And apparently for me, over-seizing leads to over-yelling.

You see, when I became an Orange Rhino and promised my boys that I wouldn’t yell for a year, I forced myself to find out what triggered me to yell. How else can you solve a problem if you don’t know what is really causing it, right?! Well, wouldn’t you know, over-seizing was at the top of my list!

Over-seizing pulled my mind and body in a thousand different places at once leaving me stressed and unable to be in the one place I need to be to not yell – the calm place.

1658471_643460759036533_1866160704_o

Coffee, anyone?! I am tired from over-seizing! I need to believe in myself that I can seize less!

Over-seizing physically tired me out by keeping me up into the late hours of the night trying to get it all done and then getting me up in the wee hours of the morning to finish what I didn’t get done.

Over-seizing mentally tired me out because I constantly thought, “Ugh, I am doing too much and yet do nothing as well as I would hope,” and constantly feeling, “I am just not a good mother…wife…friend.”

Over-seizing put me in such a tense and tired state that yelling simply became a natural go-to. I always knew that my tendency to over-seize would catch up to me one day and that I would need to manage the tendency better. And I always assumed that it would catch up to me just by physically wearing me out; one can only run on overdrive for so long! But I never, ever, expected that my tendency to over-seize would catch up to me and totally bite me in the ass not from exhaustion, but from the harsh realization that over-seizing was negatively impacting my relationship with my kiddos. And that is exactly what it was doing.

Since becoming aware two years ago that over-seizing led to over-yelling, I have actively tried to not over-seize opportunities, writing a response to the yelling study included. It is hard, so hard for me to go against a habit that I have cultivated for years and love to indulge. And yes, sometimes saying “no” leaves me feeling disappointed. But, but, I know that I must continue to actively work hard to say “no” more often and let more opportunities pass me by so that I can keep from yelling unnecessarily

But wait.  Wait.
Am I really letting opportunities pass me by?
Am I really not seizing opportunities in order to cease the yelling?
Yes and no.
Well shit, I think I have just had a thought that will negate this entire post, especially the title.

That thought? I am still seizing opportunities – the right ones, the ones that mean the most to me. I am seizing the opportunity to live a healthier life – both physically and emotionally. I am seizing the opportunity to enjoy more calm time with my kids. I am seizing the opportunity to laugh more with my family because I am more present, more relaxed. I am seizing moments filled with more love and less yelling.

So, I guess a more appropriate title for the post should be: Seizing the Right Opportunities to Cease the Yelling.

Yes, yes that is definitely more appropriate.

* * * * *

“Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too” will be released September 2014 but is now available for pre-order here.

Another “Blown” Bedtime

Ugh!
Blech!
Yuck!
ARGHHHHHHH!
Okay, sorry, I had to get that off my chest. Tonight was the least graceful bedtime I have had in ages, ages – and it had nothing to do with the kids!  I was short. I was snappy. I was taking deep breaths every few minutes, scratch that, seconds because I felt like I was going to blow. I was well, not the mom I hope to be or know that I can be. As much as I want my kids to just hurry up and go to sleep, and as much as I want to hurry them up to just go to sleep, I also want bedtime to be slow(ish) so that they can go to sleep feeling calm, loved, and safe.

Sleeping

Sleep sweet child of mine! If only you could stay this little so you could always fall asleep while playing hide and seek in a basket! I love you #3!

I want this not just because I know it helps them sleep better – but also because it helps me sleep better. I cherish goodbyes – even nighttime “goodbyes” because well, you just never know. If I ever have a rough goodbye, it just grates on me until I see my munchkin again and can give him a big, huge hug.

So right now, I am sitting here feeling cruddy. Like I said, ugh! Blech! Yuck! ARGHHHH! And not just because I didn’t have the type of goodnight with my munchkins I crave, but more so because I know better and am disappointed in myself.

You see, I know that the computer is a big, ‘ole, huge gigantic short/snappy/yelling trigger for me and yet, I still looked at it right before bedtime!

I know that checking emails gets my mind spinning about everything I need to do or should do; this just makes me overwhelmed, which makes it hard to not yell in a trying moment.

I know that checking Facebook (my page, not The Orange Rhino page!) somehow always makes me feel bummed that I am not living the life others seem to be living; this just makes me preoccupied thinking about all my “faults.” And a preoccupied mind is a mind that has a hard time focusing enough in the present to remember that (1) I don’t want to yell, (2) yelling doesn’t work and (3) that I can find a way to not yell.

I know that reading some of my favorite sites will somehow send me to a parenting article that I then “must” read. Of course reading the article normally makes me feel incompetent and that I am parenting wrong; this just makes me work extra hard to be “perfect” during all the following interactions with my kids and that amount of stress makes staying calm and not yelling quite challenging.

And yet, five minutes before bedtime tonight, I still looked at the gosh darn computer and visited all the places I know have the potential to put me in a tough place. For real? What the heck was I thinking?! Oh, I know. “Sheila, the kids are playing happily. GO! You have five minutes to sit and decompress and just surf the computer.”

It made sense at the time. Me-time is a great way to relax which is a crucial mindset for a calm bedtime. But clearly, I need a different type of me-time before bedtime. And on that note, I need a different type of me-time right before school starts when there is a lull, and right after lunchtime and oh, let’s not forget before naptime when there is another lull. The pisser of it all is that I know this!!! I know I need to avoid the computer during time periods before the kids leave. I know I need to avoid the computer prior to times when I want to be focused and present with my kiddos. And I know that I can avoid the computer when needed. But tonight, I didn’t and for that, I am disappointed and feeling yucky.

My dad’s favorite line to say to my mom when he does something insensitive that he knows he should have is, “You know, on the test I would get it right. I know the answers. But sometimes in life, I just get it wrong.”

Well tonight, that is EXACTLY how I feel. Here is the thing though. This feeling isn’t unique to tonight. I have felt it in the past and I will feel it in the future. Even though I “know” how to avoid being cranky at bedtime, and similarly even though I “know” how to not yell, there will be times when I get it wrong. It is human. As Alexander Pope famously said, “To err is human; to forgive divine.”

Yes. To err is human…even when you know the answers and expect yourself to get it right. Life happens. Things happen. And that makes mistakes happen. End of story. I cannot control everything as much as I wish, and oh do I wish it. I cannot do everything right all the time as I wish, and oh do I wish it. But do I? Mistakes suck when they happen, oftentimes suck afterwards, but I normally can learn from them and grow from them, so do they really suck? Well, they do – if I don’t forgive myself and let myself grow from them that is.

So tonight I “erred” like a human. And I will forgive myself because it is divine and absolutely necessary so that I can grow and not feel sucky. If I don’t forgive myself, I will not sleep well; and if I don’t sleep well I’ll be cranky in the morning; and if I am cranky in the morning I won’t have the hello with my kids I so very much crave right now; and if I don’t have the hello I crave, then I’ll feel even worse; and if I feel worse, chances are I’ll snap or yell. And so on and so forth. So forgive myself, I must.

Yes, tonight I didn’t get bedtime right. It’s okay! The upside? My “mistake” did remind me that I need to be much more aware and present of when I use the computer, a reminder which was clearly needed. Even though I have taught myself how to be less snappy and not yell, even though I know I labeled “being on the computer” as a yelling trigger, I still need reminders to watch out for triggers. Again, life happens and things happen which makes it tough to stay focused on my goal of yelling less and love more! So I welcome reminders even if sometimes they come in the form of mistakes…because sometimes they also come in the form of an encouraging exchange with one of my boys.

So yeah, tonight I didn’t get bedtime “right.” But, because of my reminder of my trigger, I bet I will get bedtime a lot more “right” tomorrow night. And, I bet I will be a lot more vigilant about my computer time tomorrow, which will make the entire day so much more divine. Okay, self, you are forgiven.

Now the question is, will you forgive yourself if your day had more “errs” than moments of divine?

* * * * *

A SUPER BIG P.S. I don’t share this to scare you that you will always have to work at yelling less – have no fears, it really DOES get easier and much more natural to not yell! I share this to remind you that it is a constant journey that has ups and downs; it is a constant “succeeding” then “erring” and “learning” and “forgiving” and then “succeeding” again. So don’t be bummed if you are in the “erring” part – you will get to the learning and succeeding parts.

* * * * *

“Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too” is due out September 1st but can be pre-ordered now here 

The Pizza Box.

Every Monday I take two of my sons out for a pizza lunch before they head into back-to-back speech and occupational therapy sessions. And every Monday they claim that they are “sooooo hungry” and “just have to have two slices.” And every Monday I fall for it, hook, line and sinker and then am left with at least two slices – except yesterday. Yesterday, I said, “Uh, uh. Not happening. You never finish the slices. Today we will get three slices and if we need another, we will get another.”

Well I’ll be, they didn’t finish the three slices.  In fact, they didn’t even finish one combined! I asked my boys again and again if, “are you sure you aren’t hungry? You can’t eat for an hour.”  And they insisted again and again that, “No mommy, we’re not hungry!” So I relented, assuming that in the worst-case scenario they would realize that they were hungry and should have eaten. I packed up the two and half slices in a to-go box and turned to the boys; I had my own bag to carry so I asked them to take turns carrying the box.

“I’ll carry the box Mommy,” said my almost six year old, “I want to make sure that it doesn’t tip and my pepperoni doesn’t fall off.” Good answer child because after practically wasting another couple of slices, I had no desire to carry the box. (And because, as I realized later, I was totally in a mood.)

Funny, I still had no desire to carry the box an hour and a half later when we pulled into the garage.

“Boys, one of you needs to get the pizza box. It is not my leftover pizza it is yours. It is your responsibility to bring it in if you want it.” I said firmly. My four-year-old son, also known as my thoroughly sarcastic and stubborn child replied,

“Well mommy, I don’t want it. So I’ll just leave it here.”

At that point, his brother had already darted into the house and besides he had carried it early. I turned to my four-year-old again,

“You are going to carry the pizza in. My hands are full and it is yours.”

“No I am not. I simply am not,” he said to me as stubborn as stubborn can be.

Cue my blood starting to boil. I felt sweat appearing on my hands. I felt a yell crawling up my throat. And to be clear, I felt all of this over a pizza box.  A pizza box!!! I was going to lose it and yell over a pizza box?! For real?!

Okay, well of course it wasn’t exactly the pizza box that was the real issue; it just symbolized my frustration at the moment. I felt frustrated because my son wouldn’t listen, because he was being stubborn, because he wouldn’t help out. I felt frustrated because the pizza box needed to make it into the house to keep the car from smelling and I needed, no wanted it, to be moved into the house faster. Okay, well of course these weren’t the real reasons. I felt frustrated because to be honest, I had too much to do and wanted to get on with my day.

Yes, I felt frustrated because my mind was going so fast thinking of all I had to get done in forty-five minutes, that I couldn’t slow down enough to be flexible and more patient with how a pizza box would get into a house. My mind was moving so fast that I couldn’t slow down enough to find perspective, to realize that it was just a pizza box and that the car wouldn’t smell that bad and if it did, well, then the boys would remember to bring the food in next time.

So yeah, the pizza box wasn’t the real issue pushing me to almost yell, my stress was the real issue. Luckily for all parties involved (pizza box included as it might have been thrown rather abruptly), my now two years of Orange Rhino training helped my mind get in check before the yell erupted. As I opened my mouth to yell, my eyes saw the infamous pizza box and my mind talked to myself as it has been engrained to do:

“You don’t want to yell because the pizza box ain’t moving. You want to yell because you have too much to do; you want to yell because you always take on too much; you want to yell because you know this stress was brought on by yourself.”

Realizing and fully acknowledging that the real source of my frustration, my anger, had nothing to do with my kids, immediately helped me to chill out – as it so often does. After I did chill out and my son did finally bring the pizza box in after saying to me, “You know mom, I actually am hungry for a snack. I was just tricking ya,” I actually found gratitude in the pizza episode.

Sure, I felt grateful that I didn’t yell especially since my son finally did bring it in and on his own without yelling (it always amazes me what my kids are capable of if I chill out and find a little more patience!) but I also felt grateful because the pizza box served as a great reminderDuring the early days of my journey on The Orange Rhino Challenge, I realized that so often I wanted to fly off the handle over small things like pizza boxes, socks left on the floor, toys not put away, and toothpaste on the counter. Just to name a few – and an emphasis on the few! I quickly realized that whenever such a small external thing pushed me close to yelling, it was because something not so small, but rather quite big was pushing me internally to yell.

Now I know that when I am going to lose it big time over something small, I really need to step back and take a look at my life and what is going on and what I need to do to adjust.

The pizza box reminded me today to slow down, to re-evaluate my to-do list and to re-think everything that is so called “stressing me out.” While I didn’t come to a clear “aha!” as to how to make my life a little less crazy right now, I did at least come to clear awareness of how stressed I actually am. Yes, at least I am more aware that I need to at a minimum focus on taking care of me and finding ways to unwind as much as possible so that I don’t unravel and start yelling unnecessarily. And at least, in irony of all ironies, are you ready for this, at least I actually did slow down enough to literally read the box:

Savoring the Slice

My littlest man savoring the slices – yes slices, he had three going at once – on vacation this summer. I too savored the slice of life at that moment. I focused on enjoying the joy he had eating his pizza instead of stressing about the mess and all the packing I had to do to get us home. Totally the right choice; it was an awesome pizza party.

“Savor the Slice.”

Ah yes, savor the slice. I’m sure it meant, savor the slice of life you are eating right now because that is a great way to unwind and is way better than stressing out, right?!  Yes, of course it did. I am most certain. Again, thank you dear pizza box. Thank you.

Questions from 1st Graders

Ah, kids. Sure, they can push our buttons and push us to yell at times. But oh, oh they can also pull at our hearts and push us to a happier place with their innocent questions and answers.

Today, about 80 first graders, or 76 to be precise per the math of my first grader, pulled at my heart big time. The first graders in my son’s school are currently writing stories and when my son’s teacher announced the unit, he got all excited!

“Ms. S, my mommy wrote a story! She can tell you about it!”

So Ms. S asked me to come in and talk to the kids about the process of writing a book. Not gonna lie, the thought of talking to 80 munchkins terrified me! Kids can ask the most amazing questions – amazing in how their innocence rings so true, sometimes in comfortable ways, sometimes in not so comfortable ways. I braced myself with a bunch of big flashy posters, some orange socks and my favorite orange sweater and necklace and headed in.

It was an absolute BLAST!

I started talking and asked some questions along the way. The questions and answers were fairly telling, and probably not surprising to you. Here is the cliff notes version, not entirely accurate and probably not nearly as funny or precious when written by me as compared to spoken by a seven year old, but you’ll get the idea.

Me:   So, I am here because I wrote a book. I got the idea one day because I decided I didn’t like yelling at my kids. Yelling hurts feelings. I can’t imagine you guys yell at anyone, right? (Giggles and laughter erupt. Raising hands goes out the window!)

Them:
Oh, I do all the time.
I yell at my brother just because he always takes me toys.
I yell at my sister. She sings the song from Frozen too much.
I yell at my mom because she annoys me sometimes.

Then of course… “well, my parents yell at me” and “my parents yell at me when I yell at my sister” and “I don’t like being yelled at.”

At this point, I thought, shit, there are going to be some parents unhappy with me tonight for bringing this topic to light and opening a huge can of worms. Oops! Sincerest apologies! Moving right along.

Me:   Let’s look at the cover. A cover helps tell the reader what the book is going to be about. What do you think the book is about?

Them:
Love.
Lots and lots of LOTS of love.
Um, not yelling. Loving instead?
Do something nicer more.
What are those small words? Oh, okay, so you will give ideas.

Okay, those answers were spot on and safe. Enter a follow-up question:

Me:  So yes, I will give some ideas. What are some of your ideas on what can you do instead of yelling?

Them:
Use our nice words.
Speak quietly.
Squeeze our hands.
Ask for help.
Say, “I’m Sorry.”
Just, you know, walk away.

tip 46 squeeze dont screamLove. Way to go munchkins! See, they do listen to us…and someday they will show they listen by doing it!

I continued along and shared about the process and as soon as I wrapped up, the hands shot into the air and the questions started flooding in. Their interest in the book process (probably in any process) floored me. Then again, whenever I stop and really listen to my kids, their questions flood in and floor me as well – kids are cool like that.

Here are their insightful, spot on, and great questions – and some of my answers that I thought you would find relevant.

Why did you want to write a book?
I wanted to write the book because I wanted to share my story and hopefully make some people feel better.

Do you actually like writing?
Yes, I do! (Pause, how do I answer this to inspire this munchkin who clearly isn’t a fan of writing? Eh hem, my son!) Writing is like a puzzle sometimes. You have to find the right words to go together which is fun! And then sometimes, writing makes me feel better, you know, it’s like keeping a journal. Writing is way better than yelling when angry! Sometimes I get what’s called “writer’s block” or I don’t know how to spell a word and I get frustrated, but that’s okay. I know I’ll figure it out!

How can they print the book in another country if we live here and speak another language?
(Loved this. So sweet. Especially in the Internet age where these kids use devices all the time and email comes to mind before writing a real letter!)

Did you write the names of anyone on the inside, you know, like the first page?(Trying to understand until I got it…) Oh, you mean, like a dedication? Yes, I dedicated the book to my four boys because without them, without their love and support, I wouldn’t have become an Orange Rhino.

How will you feel if lots of people buy your book?
Very excited and proud – it feels great to work hard on something and complete it! Right? Like when you get a star on your math sheets!

(and the doozer…)

How will you feel if no one buys your book?
Wow. Great question. I probably would feel sad at first and disappointed. It is hard to work on something a lot and have it not succeed. Right? Like maybe you work hard at a soccer game, and you lose? But here’s the thing. No matter what, I’ll feel proud that I did it – that I worked hard and did my best.

How long did it take, like, how many minutes did it take to write the book?
(I love how they think in minutes, not hours or even days or weeks. Interesting perspective…great reminder to me to focus more on the minute, the moment.)

Are you going to make a lot of money?
(Laughing…) No, probably not. But I didn’t do it for the money. I did it because it made me happy to write and to know my story might make someone feel a little bit better.

Do you have to buy your own book?
(Again, laughing) Nope. I get a few copies!

Why did you choose an Orange Rhino as your, what’s it called, logo?
Well…here is a funny, gross story. But you can’t do this at home or ever, promise? One day my son yelled at me. I said to him, “If mommy can’t yell, what does that mean for you?” He said, “I can’t yell, but I can still pick my nose!” That night I looked up nose and it comes from the word Rhino. Then I looked up Rhinos and they are naturally calm animals that charge when provoked. I don’t want to be a gray, charging Rhino. I want to be an Orange Rhino – orange is a warm, cheerful, loving type color. So I want to be warm and calm.

Why are there four birds? Oh, because you have four kids.
Yes, and because rhinos and birds have a special relationship. The birds eat the bugs off the rhino’s back. This fills the birds bellies and helps the rhinos at the same time to not get angry at the bugs. So they help each other other; they have each other’s back! A family is like that!

Where can my mom buy the book?
(Oh boy…my sincerest apologies to that mom for stoking this fire!) She can buy it online if she wants sweetie. But you know what, I bet she is trying really hard already to yell less because she loves you.

Can I read it to my sister?
Go for it!

Can dads buy the book?
Yes! Anyone can!

Have you started your second book? (Gotta love the ambition!)
Oh my gosh, not yet! I have to wait and see how this does. But if I do, maybe the next one will be a children’s book about a character names Owen The Orange Rhino and how he is trying to figure out how to yell less and love more!

And the winner…

Do you yell?
(Said so innocently and without fear. Love it.) Sometimes I have, yep. I am not perfect. We all make mistakes sometimes and that is okay. If I make a mistake, I make sure to apologize, just try harder the next time, and to forgive myself.

And on that note, if you yelled today, forgive yourself. If there is one thing I came to really embrace more than even while writing my book, it’s that the goal isn’t perfection. Perfection isn’t going to happen. The goal is progress and more loving moments, or as kids say, minutes, along the way. And if there is one thing I came to really embrace more than ever today, it’s that our kids are interested. I asked my kids to help support me on my journey to yell less – to call me out when they thought I was going to yell, to do a silly dance with me when I needed to let steam off, to give me some quiet time to calm down. I mean it when I say I wouldn’t have made it without them. Don’t be afraid to include your kids in your journey. They might just amaze you…somehow kids always do. When we let them. And hey, in the process you might just amaze yourself.

Finally, Free From the Mucky Muck!

I have had a mantra in my head for a while now: 2013, Take a Hike, 2014, Bring It!

I know. It’s March 18th, 2014 and not 11:59 on New Year’s Eve 2013. So what the heck is up with just sharing this mantra? Am I late to the game in sharing New Year’s Resolutions? Nope. I already did that here where I wrote about re-focusing on Yelling Less and Loving More again, because really, it is a journey and not a destination! Am I late to the game in reflecting on 2013 and my feelings for it? Nope. I have done that for most of 2013! So why the sudden reference to it then?

Well, because until today, I haven’t had the positive energy to officially tell 2013 to take a hike and 2014 to bring it (even though everyone in close proximity to me knows I have wanted to!) I just haven’t believed that 2014 would be a better year! You see, while 2013 brought lots of wonderful, wonderful things my way, it also brought a lot of strife my way every time I turned around (or so it felt.) There was this post about my son’s seizures, this post about marriage, and this post about depression. And I am yet to write about the real negative impact my broken foot had on me this fall or about the day my son fell, hit his head and was rushed to the Head Trauma center.

I no longer wanted my cast to push me to snap from frustration. So I wrote myself a BIG reminder to keep it together. After this, my boys colored all around it. My beautiful cast ever!

I no longer wanted my cast to push me to snap from frustration. So I wrote myself a BIG reminder to keep it together. After this, my boys colored all around it. My most beautiful cast ever!

Yes, 2013 was filled with a lot of yuck. I have never been so thrilled to kiss a year goodbye, as I was this past New Year’s Eve! And I have never been so excited to start a new year, to start fresh; to create new, more positive memories that don’t necessarily erase the past ones, but definitely help the yucky ones not be so dominant and present in my mind.

These last few months I have really tried to focus on being positive, on being grateful. And not just because I know those two mentalities help me to not yell per my “New Year’s Resolution,” but because that is the place I want to be! I have tried to pull out of the muck from 2013 that held me down, that held me back from laughing and living as fully as I wanted, but as life goes sometimes, despite my best efforts, 2014 pretty much started off a lot like 2013, making it hard, not impossible, to choose to be in a good place more often than not! Booo!

And then, today happened. Today I felt that positivity and gratefulness at such an immense level that well, quite frankly, I had the best day of 2014 yet!

Today, and last night, you all bestowed such love, enthusiasm and support upon me around the announcement of my book that for the first time in a while, I could feel my feet lifting from the mucky muck. Today I finally felt that  2014 was bringing it – just as I hoped and so very much craved! Today, my heart yelled a lot less and loved a lot more. A lot, lot more. Because of you. And I am crying as I write this because I am just not sure you understand the depths of my appreciation and sincere, utter gratitude to you for taking to time to write such kind words to me about the upcoming release of my book.

I have written before that The Orange Rhino Community is an amazing place and that my folks, is an understatement! It is so rare to find a place free of judgment and full of such love and support for strangers. It is beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I love being an Orange Rhino and being part of this amazing movement of parents and I truly hope that the rest of 2014 gives me ample opportunities to meet all of you so that I can say thank you in person for helping to make this Community what it is; for helping to make me who I am; for helping to make me believe that 2014 will bring good things!!

And on that note, I am going to sign off and absorb all the gratitude and love I feel so that if 2014 dares to act like 2013, I have a positive memory to recall quick and easily before any mucky muck tries to pull me down! (Sorry for the “Bob the Builder” television show reference there, when you have watched it for 6 years straight, it is on your mind all the time, even more so than negative memories. Ha! Bob the Builder, can we fix it. Bob the Builder yes we can. You all are totally helping me to fix the path of my 2014 – thank you, again!)

All my best,
The Orange Rhino

Yell Less, Love More…THE BOOK!

I am so excited to finally be able to share some exciting news with you! Gosh, keeping it a secret from you all for the last six months has been excruciating! I have had to watch everything I write… and that at times inadvertently kept me from writing… and not writing inadvertently added stress because writing is such a source of both stress relief and joy… and without stress relief and extra joy I have been on the verge of yelling… and if you have an Orange Rhino on the verge of yelling, well, that just means that I have needed to read and re-read the book I just wrote!

Yep! The secret is out! I have spent most of the summer and this fall writing,

Yell Less, Love More:
How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids – and How You Can Too!
The book!

When my publisher approached me last spring to write a guidebook of sort for parents on how to stop yelling, I felt utterly flabbergasted, incredibly honored, extremely excited and well, wicked overwhelmed! How would it read, casual and conversational just like my blog or professional and formal like a “real” book? And how would I arrange it so that it would be approachable for busy parents like myself with barely enough time to go pee let alone read a chapter of a book?  And how would I write it, like a parenting book or like a parenting memoir? Oh my mind filled with so many questions and so many ideas that it is amazing my head didn’t burst! But alas, I figured it out and I really excited about how it turned out and I think you will be too when you get a chance to read it this Fall 2014!

Here are the details about the book! 

Yell Less, Love More is a parenting memoir, a parenting guide and a parenting journal! (What can I say, I wanted to put everything together in one place for you to make your journey as simple as possible!) It is written just like my blog: honest, sometime heartbreaking, sometimes humorous and never shaming. You will not read one statistic or one line about why you are a bad parent because you yelled. I promise. Instead you will read 30 short and simple daily segments that consist of a story from my journey that hopefully makes you feel more normal and less alone, and then an action plan (based on my experience) to help you on your journey to yell less.

  • The Memoir Part: I worked hard to make sure that the majority of the stories not only touch upon universal triggers that many can relate to, but also that a majority of the stories are brand new so you don’t feel like you are re-reading my blog! Get excited – the new stories are the ones that I never had the courage to share!
  • The Guide Part: The action plan portion is short and sweet (about a page) and starts with key, inspiring, and often new revelations from my journey, followed by one to two actions for the day, three to four tips to prevent yelling, and then one of my favorite inspirational quotes that kept me motivated on my journey.
  • The Journal Part: Any time it is possible, there is even space allocated for you to take notes. So I guess Yell Less, Love More is a memoir and a guide and a working journal! Especially since the last chapter is “Resources” and includes a trigger tracking sheet, a color Orange Rhino logo to print out, and a journal for you to track your top alternatives that worked for you. This way you don’t have to go to my blog to print these items out!

If you are thinking even though it is broken down into 30 days you still won’t have time to read it, don’t fret! I chose this publisher because they wanted to print the book in color! (I mean, it is The Orange Rhino after all….) Anyway, because it is printed in color and the publisher rocks at layout design, it is very easy to:

  • Find and separate the daily stories from the revelations, actions, and tips.
    So if you have time to read an entire day, go for it! If you only have one minute to yourself, you can quickly find the daily tips (they are in a very easy to spot graphic design!) If you have more than a few minutes, you can then quickly find the revelations.
  • Find the key points without reading the entire book!
    One of the last chapters is kind of like the cliff notes if you will and exists purely because I know there are days when you just won’t have time to read but want some quick help! It includes summaries of all the key points: top lessons learned, top triggers and how I manage them, top alternatives to yelling, top questions and answers etc….

I feel like I am forgetting to tell you something!  Right – You can pre-order at the following link.
http://www.qbookshop.com/products/214147/9781592336333/Yell-Less-Love-More.html
This is the publisher’s site and will direct you to any book site you normally order from. The price at the other book sites (too many to mention) is significantly less, especially if you order now! When the book prints this fall, it will ship right out to you! And yes, e-books will follow as soon as the hard copy hits.

Oh, you finally get to see some pictures of my boys and officially learn my name. Yes, I am The Orange Rhino but those who know me call me Sheila McCraith. Not gonna lie though, I like The Orange Rhino better; it is much for fun and less formal which is what this book is all about! Learning to stop yelling can be daunting and hard and boring. I really think though, that one main reason I succeeded in learning to stop yelling is that I made the journey fun. As Dale Carnegie says,

“People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”

Even though the topic of this book is serious per say, and even though some of my personal stories are on the more serious side, I promise you that there still is a lot of fun in this book! I want you to enjoy the journey so you are best set up to succeed because that is really what I want for you. I know first hand how yucky it feels to want to change and to want to stop yelling – and I don’t want any of my friends (that’s you!) to feel that way if they don’t have too. I want you all to feel a bit of the increased happiness, calmness, and love that I have found as a result of yelling less and I really, REALLY hope this book helps you achieve that.

All my best and a heart full of gratitude to you for helping my dreams come true,
The Orange Rhino
a.k.a Sheila

Yelling “Recklessly”

I normally don’t honk my horn when driving for no other reason than I can’t stand the sound. Sure on occasion I do the light, gentle “beep” if someone is hanging out at a red light just turned green. And yes, if I am close to getting into an accident I’ll do the more firm, “BEEP” to keep both cars safe. But hardly if ever do I use the horn besides that.

But today I did and I immediately felt like a total ass afterwards.

Today was just one of those go, go, GO kind of days. It was also one of those, everything that could make me late for every appointment did happen, kind of days. It was a real doozer. So needless to say when I was driving late to our last appointment of the day and I found myself stopped behind two cars waiting for the first car to turn left, for oh say five minutes, I became a wee bit frustrated. I mumbled to myself things like, “Come on already, just turn!” and “What’s your problem, you so could have turned!” The driver in front of me clearly shared the same frustration, for she honked after the driver refused to take the third totally safe opportunity to turn. It was a gentle honk, though, one of the polite ones, so it was cool.

Mine, however, not so cool.

After the fifth opportunity passed, I did a, “BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!” and then knocked my head against the window impatiently as the sixth opportunity passed! Finally the person turned and I could see the driver’s face clearly. His face didn’t show signs of, “oops, I shouldn’t be looking at my phone, I should be turning,” or “shit, I haven’t been fully paying attention.” Nope. Instead, it showed signs of patience and diligence which given the age of the person, and given my past experience with drivers of this age, is a rarity.

It was a high school student.

A high school student driving responsibility, safely and intelligently; a high school student being vigilant; a high school student not speeding or driving recklessly like so many do. I shouldn’t have honked at him. Instead, I should have turned left, followed him down the dead end road, got out of my car and said,

“Hey, good job. Driving is a big responsibility and you are taking it seriously. You ignored the honking car and waited until you felt safe. Keep driving like that.”

Quite frankly, he deserved my praise, not my impatience.

But he got my impatience because I assumed that he had no good reason for not turning. He got my impatience because I assumed that he was busy texting or chatting with someone. He got my impatience because I didn’t give him the benefit of the doubt. He got my impatience not because he deserved it, but because I was running late. My problem, not his.

As I drove away today, I felt ashamed of myself for being so quick to honk. It was a very familiar feeling; it’s how I used to feel when instead of slowing down and thinking about what good my kids might be up to, I assumed they were up to no good and yelled because of it. Sure, sometimes my assumptions were spot on (um, all four kids are quiet, and daddy’s Ipad is missing. Hmm?) But lots of times, my assumptions weren’t spot on, but actually far from spot on.

Take one day last month for example. My four year old absolutely, positively, refused to get into bed and as such, my patience absolutely, positively, refused to stay chill! My hands started to sweat and I knew a yell was growing quickly and furiously. Before I could even go into my closet to yell and let of my frustration, my son joyfully yelled,

“Yeah! I found it! I’ve been looking for it all night. That’s why I couldn’t go to bed!”

He ran and grabbed “it,” then ran back to me and held it up for me, pleased as punch.

“It” was a cup with hearts all over it that he had received that day at his Valentine’s Day party.

“Here mommy,” he lovingly said, “I wanted to give you this cup. You can use it when you drink water at night. Then you’ll think of me and how know how much I love you.”

My heart didn’t know if it should stop from the immense shame I felt for almost going ape shit on him when he was just trying to do something good, really good, or if it should beat wildly from the incredibly sweet gesture. It stopped for a second, and then beat wildly as I looked at his precious face and the smile that I swear went from ear to ear. He was so proud and happy. I was so proud and happy oh him and yes, I was proud and happy of myself for not yelling. I took the cup, scooped him up into my arms to thank him for being so loving and thoughtful, and then thanked The Orange Rhino powers that be that helped me stay calm long enough for him to find the cup.

Love CupI can’t get this memory out of my mind. Not just because I felt so bad for assuming he was just trying to delay bedtime and almost yelled because of it, but more so because it reminds me that good things happen when I don’t yell. If I had lost it before he found the cup, I am certain he would have given up and gone to bed crying while screaming, “You are the worst mommy ever!” Instead, he showed me how much he loved me.

Yep, good things happen when my mind and my mouth don’t drive recklessly.

I try to remember this as often as possible on tough days when I just want to scream. It motivates me to go slow and not speed through the morning or bedtime routine which would only increase chances of yelling. It motivates me to stop and to think before reacting and risking the chance of a blowout. It motivates me to be vigilant and look out for my triggers or any stressful situations for my boys that could negatively impact their behavior and therefore mine.

And it motivates me to be cautious with my actions so that just like the high school driver today, I can make the right move, at the right time, and in the right manner so unlike today, I don’t feel yucky for my actions, but rather lucky that I had another great time with my boys.

 

 

My Sleep “Diet”

Let me see if I can find an appropriate adjective or term to perfectly describe my mood the last, oh shall we say, two and a half months?

Beastly?
Bitchy?
Grumpy?
Irritable?
Blech?
Rageful?

All of these words totally work, and yet they don’t seem fully accurate. There must be a better term to describe someone who wakes up grouchy (after being pounced on numerous times by the kids), grouses through the entire morning routine, hardly smiles, barely laughs, and always yawns. Oh wait, wait, I got it…

SLEEP DEPRIVED!

Yes, that is just the term to describe me this entire year of 2014 thus far. Massively, utterly, sleep deprived. For the last few months, every night I crawled into bed tired and yet unable to fall asleep. I stared, and stared, and stared at the blinds hoping that my mind would stop racing and that it would catch up to my beyond exhausted body and shut down for the night.  But it didn’t. So instead, as my husband snored away next to me, blissfully asleep I just lay there and watched the clock get closer and closer to 11:00 and then 11:30 and then midnight. This would be “manageable” if my boys didn’t wake before the birds; if they didn’t get up to pee at 5:30 every morning and then play loudly in their rooms until 6:00. Five and a half hours a sleep with four energetic boys to parent is just not a good combination, except of course if you are creating a recipe for disaster!

As more and more weeks passed under these circumstances, I found my mood increasingly worsening and right a long with it, my desire to yell increasing. I of course just assumed that my increasing desire to yell had to do with other things that had nothing to do with sleeping. (Why I assumed this I have no idea since I discovered early in my challenge that I need sleep to be civil!) Yep, I assumed it was because of the extra snow days, the extra pounds from said snow days and my inability to exercise from my injury, and the extra stress from other areas of life.

Until one morning.

I came down with the boys and started to prepare breakfast. Before I knew it, a raging feeling roared inside of me, screaming to get out, pushing me to yell bloody awful things at my kids. To be fully honest, the intensity of the emotion scared me – not because I feared I would go ape shit, but because I felt in that moment that I had no control over my body. I had no reason to be angry with my boys; they were being quite peaceful and well behaved actually and yet I wanted to bite their heads off. I felt like my body was on fire, totally off balance and unable to chill the f… out! I felt totally hormonal…wait, I felt just like I did after every single one of my boys was born and I was getting exactly zero sleep!

sleep like baby

A light bulb went off and I realized that all my crappy, I-just-want-to-yell-because-I-have-no-patience-or-tolerance-at-all-right-now feelings were being driven a lot by massive sleep deprivation. I realized that I was working overtime to “Yell Less and Love More” wasn’t because I didn’t know how to not yell, it was because I didn’t have the energy or the mental capacity to keep myself as cool, calm, and collected as I need to be in order to “easily” yell less.

I realized that my sleep deprivation had to be solved, ASAP.

I was miserable, my kids were miserable, shoot, I am fairly certain everyone in my life was miserable with my sleep-deprived state. Sleep deprivation blows – I know I don’t have to tell you that. So instead, I will tell you what I am doing to kick it to the curb because as you also probably know, it is a huge trigger for yelling! So, here you go!

A few days after my lack of sleep epiphany, I went to my doctor.

“Doctor, I can’t fall asleep at all! I have bags under my eyes, I am constantly grouchy, I don’t like who I am right now, I need to change, now! Please, help!”

She offered this…

“You have insomnia, again. We need to battle that directly. What do you do half an hour before bed?” she asked.

“Honestly? I am on Facebook, aimlessly reading and reading and reading the same stuff over again. Or I am on People.com looking at all the ‘beautiful’ pictures. Or I am on Weather.com praying that it doesn’t say ‘Winter Storm Warning’ again. Or I am watching television or emailing.” I answered.

What did she think I was doing?! Once the kids hit the bed, it is my time! I need to catch up on things, you know like who wore what to the Oscars (okay, I needed to avoid doing things I need to do because I don’t want to) but also I legitimately had emails that I needed to get to.

“Okay, that needs to stop. No electronics thirty minutes before bed. Period. Electronics just get the mind all wired. You need to use those thirty minutes to unwind; to get your mind to settle down. Just like you do a bedtime routine for your kids, you need one for yourself. ” she stated matter-of-factly.

“So, what can I do then? I have read that hot showers just get the body temperature up and don’t help one sleep. I don’t like warm milk and I don’t like tea.” I stated just as matter-of-factly, but also with a bitter tone, for certain.

“How about reading? That helps a lot of people relax.” She replied.

“Can I read parenting books?” I asked innocently…and hopefully!

“Not if they stress you out about how to be a better parent.” She replied.

Well, shit. Of course they stress me out – I feel like a super inadequate parent now (daily?!) and am reading parenting books to find out how to be better and apparently, there is a lot I can be doing “better.” And double shit, the only time I have to read them IS at night and I like reading IN bed. Feeling totally screwed and out of options, I sarcastically, yet totally seriously asked,

“Okay, so what do normal people do to relax? I don’t know to relax. Seriously.”

She laughed at me (politely-ish) and suggested I try puzzles or folding laundry or tidying up the house. She also suggested that I write down everything that is on my mind so it doesn’t hang out in my mind while I try to sleep AND she suggested I write down all that I DID accomplish that day so that I don’t worry at night about all I have to do. She added the session with some “wise” words,

“The bed is for sex and sleep only. End of story. Do not get in the bed except for those reasons. If you don’t think you’ll be able to fall asleep, get up and get something done. Do not get into bed without winding down – you will not sleep well.”

Knowing how miserable I have been in my sleep deprived state, knowing how much I have been frustrated by how hard I have had to work to not yell, and knowing how much I preach “take care of you so you can yell less more easily,” I took all her words to heart and left her office promising myself that I would take care of me.

The results are clear.

The nights I unwind per her advice, I sleep phenomenally and wake up rested and able to tackle the day and have much more positive, fun-filled, loving days.

The nights I don’t, eh hem, like last night, I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and start the day hundreds of steps behind my kids and the entire day is an uphill battle.

So on that note, it is 9:23. In seven minutes I need to stop all electronics and fold laundry and write out my accomplishments/to-dos. This by the way has worked – and felt – wonderful!

Sleep deprivation blows. Often time it is unavoidable. But I know I want to avoid yelling at my boys so I am going to keep on trying to get as much sleep as I can…both for me, and my boys.

Sleep tight everyone!