The Truth Is…I’m Terrified.

I learned on my Orange Rhino Challenge journey to stop yelling that if I ignore feelings, especially the ugly ones, they bottle up which stresses me out which triggers me to yell (or want to yell.) So while you might think this post has nothing to do with yelling, it actually has everything to do with yelling. Here are some ugly feelings I have had that I need to get out before a yell does. 

So…as many of you have noticed, I have been basically radio silent for the last three weeks. The first of those I was on vacation and pushed myself to really detach from everything so that I could really enjoy the last week of summer with my family at my favorite place: the beach. Even though two kids visited the emergency room (horrific rash and popped ear drum) it was still a wonderful, beautiful, peaceful week. Sunrise

We returned the Saturday before Memorial Day. We returned tan, rested, happy and rejuvenated. Then Memorial Day happened and well, Memorial Day kind of sucked in our house.

As many of you know from the first year of my Orange Rhino Challenge, my youngest son (#4) suffered from intense seizures from age 14 months to age 18 months. (read here) Thankfully, a brain MRI showed no brain tumor.

Party at my crib! 9:00, 2+ hours past bedtime!

Party at my crib! 9:00, 2+ hours past bedtime!

And thankfully his in-hospital tests two weeks before Christmas that year showed no signs of epilepsy. On February 6, 2013, the day I celebrated one year yell-free, he had another seizure, the worst one to date. The medicine to stop it didn’t even work. He didn’t come to until he received oxygen at the hospital. Thankfully, a few days later, we discovered what we believed to be the source of the seizures: black mold underneath the cabinets where all his toys were stored. We immediately removed the black mold. Since then, #4 had high fevers but never again had a seizure. A coincidence? We thought not. Oh how we felt certain that there was a correlation between the two and that since the black mold was gone, his seizure history was well, history. In fact, this past February 6, 2014, we celebrated one-year seizure free.

I am sure many of you recall my emotional post about how I just couldn’t stop crying that day (read here.) I felt such, such relief to have the, what were determined to be, febrile seizures behind us. I felt like I could breathe again. That I could go out without my phone attached to my hip for fear a seizure would strike and I would have to rush home. I felt that I didn’t have to watch him as closely on the jungle gym out of fear that he would have a seizure while playing. I felt that I could turn off the video monitor during nights when he had high fevers because I felt positive he wouldn’t have a seizure. I felt that I could finally stop worrying, or well, at least worry less because I am a mom and I will always worry.

And I felt that I could leave my fears behind.

My fears of watching him have another dreadful seizure. My fears of him seizing in his sleep (again!) and choking to, well, you know. My fears that I would somehow miss the signals of an oncoming seizure and therefore not be able to stop it in time (like the last one.)

Oh, oh it felt so great to leave all those fears behind. So much so that on the Sunday before Memorial Day, a few days shy of 19 months seizure free, I turned to my husband as I put medicine away and said, “Hey babe, #4’s emergency seizure medicine is past date and so we can throw it out, don’t you think?” Yes, oh yes was I certain we wouldn’t need it. And yet, the cruelest, ironic, surreal, unbelievable moment occurred not 19 hours later.

#4 had a seizure.
An absolutely awful, horrific, seizure.
The worst to date on so many, many levels.

Per #4’s request, I put him down for a nap at noon. What three year old asks for a nap?! He felt warm so I took his temperature but the thermometer said 99.6. And well since he hadn’t had a seizure with fever in 19 months, I didn’t think twice. I didn’t even think about it over the next two hours for the other boys were out with my husband and I had the house, the peaceful, quiet house, alllll to myself. It was a guilty pleasure and I embraced it whole-heartedly. In fact, so much so that two hour nap window passed rather quickly. I looked at my watch, thought, “Hmmmm…he should be waking up, I’ll go get him.”

And I did go get him.
But he wasn’t waking up.
He was in a full-blown seizure.

Biting his tongue. Staring into the distance. Shaking on one side. Not responding when I said, “Mommy is here.” Not responding when I said his name. He had even peed himself which he has never done in a seizure. I normally respond calmly to such situations but not this one. It scared the crap out of me as it caught me so off guard. I called to my husband who had thankfully just arrived home and then called 911.

The police arrived five to seven minutes later and I immediately asked if they had oxygen as I knew that was what he needed to end the seizure. They did and they hooked him up to a tank right then and there. He continued seizing. Normally after the oxygen he snaps out of it. He didn’t. The paramedics arrived a few minutes later and #4 still wasn’t responding. By now, I estimate that he had been seizing at least fifteen minutes…or longer. The longer the seizure (even if febrile) the worse. It took another five minutes or so for him to come to. But when he did, oh, oh it wasn’t the same as the past seizures.

DSC_0054He still didn’t respond when I said his or my name. He couldn’t grab my hands and when I held his, he couldn’t squeeze. He didn’t turn towards me when I said, “Who loves you soooo much?” He didn’t do anything. His eyes were wide open and it was clear the seizure was over, but oh, oh the effects were strong, stronger than before. In fact, he didn’t talk for two hours after. He didn’t walk normally for at least a day. In the past, he was back to a crazy toddler within twenty minutes of snapping out of it.

Folks, there is no sugar coating it, it sucked. And to be honest, I blamed myself and I still kind of do. Why didn’t I check on him more? Why didn’t I stay with him? Why did I ignore the moan? Even though I know it wasn’t my fault, even though I know that I couldn’t have stopped the seizure, even though I know I did nothing wrong, I still blame myself. I would do anything to have made that seizure not happen, and not just because it was an intensely awful experience for my son, but because in the after effects, in the moments where he wasn’t himself, I felt, no truly, deeply feared, that I had lost a part of my child.

The rest of the week #4 suffered from a 105-degree fever and virus. We were on emergency room watch because not only wasn’t he eating or drinking, he was also quite lethargic and complaining of neck and head pain. It wasn’t a fun week. He has recovered from it all and is happily at pre-school, but I haven’t recovered. Because I know what is next.

This Wednesday I will take him back for more brain testing. There is a growing concern that because #4’s febrile seizures are so long and complex (mirroring that of a temporal lobe seizure) that he is in the small percentage of children for whom the febrile seizures aren’t the cause of, but rather a strong predictor of, epilepsy. As our pediatric neurologist said, “We need to know if he is going to have a seizure while playing by himself or in his sleep.” Yes, 4 out of 5 of his seizures have been in his sleep. How much does that suck?! Talk about scary.

It has taken me two weeks to share this because the seizure experience was so bad that I have been walking around in a state of denial for two weeks. So bad that I just feel numb. So bad that I am not even talking about it which really, is just not like me. I just don’t want to think about that moment, I don’t want to think about the fact that all my old concerns are now real and alive again. But they are. They very much are. I am back to the world of living on seizure alert, of worrying that another seizure will happen and that like #4′s past, the next one will be longer and more intense than the one prior. Even if his tests are clear Wednesday and show no signs of epilepsy, I now have another year ahead of me to be on alert. And that my friends, is immensely overwhelming and scary, for both of us. For all of us. And well, I am not even writing about the immensely overwhelming feelings I have about what if the tests aren’t clear?! What if he does have epilepsy? The truth is folks, I am terrified about it all, about having to live on alert again, about what the future tests hold. I know I “can’t” worry about the future, but gosh is that hard right now.

DSC_1194And yet, for the first time in two weeks, just from writing this post, I feel slightly more confident that I can handle it, I feel slightly less terrified. Yes, my mind just went to The Orange Rhino Challenge. How do you like that ;) A year not yelling seemed so daunting. But I did it. I survived it, I managed. How? I went moment by moment, day by day, and I did it with support. And that is what I will do now, here, in this situation. Moment by moment, day by day, I will celebrate being seizure free and I will seek support from friends, family, and doctors to get through this period. And we will get through it. We will. We will.

5 Back-to-School Supplies (and tips) to Yell Less

We have exactly two weeks before school starts. (Yeah, my town likes to start as close to October as possible so that when it snows all of December, January, and February we can make sure that we are still in school in June when it is gorgeous out and the beach beckons.) Sorry for the sarcasm. Nope, not bitter at all that our summer started really late this year and as a result went way, way too fast! Not bitter at all.

Color HappyAnywho, so with school around the corner my boys and I hit the local Staples to buy school supplies. We are a little color happy in this household and not just because of The Orange Rhino! It all started when my now 5 year old had Mononucleosis (a.k.a. the kissing disease) at the age of 2 ½ ! I had three kids at the time and immediately created a color system so that no child would make the mistake of drinking from the wrong sippy cup. Mono had wreaked havoc on one son, absolute havoc, and I was not about to have my other two sons go through the same misery. So, #1 became “Red”, #2 “Green” and #3 “Blue.” My system worked flawlessly and not only did no one else get Mono, but everyone loved having their “own” color and they naturally started applying the color system to other things too. Jackets. Backpacks. T-shirts. Toys. Oh did a color system make life simple.

So naturally when we went school shopping, #1 and #2 had to find their colors. We dug through dual-pocket folders to find red and green ones. We dug through bins of three ring binders to find red and green ones. We dug through bins of composition And we went up and down the pencil and eraser aisle to find, you guessed it, packs of just green erasers and packs of just red erasers. And yes, that was an absolute fail! But for the most part, we succeeded in finding the right back to school items in the right colors.

As we were shopping and searching for the right colors, I was fighting the urge to snap really nastily while saying wrong things like, “Just hurry up already, it doesn’t matter, it’s just a folder!” and “For the umpteenth time, put your hands in your pockets and stop touching your brother and everything else in site!” I was just not in a calm, relaxed, let’s enjoy this moment together mood. You see, not only were my boys fed up with each other that day and trying so very, very hard to successfully piss the other one off, but also the store was packed with people and the aisles were full of extra bins leaving little wiggle room. Every step I took was, “Excuse me, I just need to squeeze by.” Yeah, it was a really awesome shopping experience, especially for someone like myself who does not like crowds. The whole back to school shopping experience had me irritable, impatient and well clearly, wanting to yell at my boys for no real reason!

Finally (thankfully!) we got to the last item on the list: black marble composition notebook. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy. As we approached I noticed something I didn’t notice last year. There weren’t just black and white notebooks, there were colors. Yee haw! As my boys started the dig for red and green (why would they ever be on the top of the huge, gigantic, boxes?) my eye caught something else. An orange composition notebook. Well, you all know how my mind works. As in, it always thinkgs of The Orange Rhino Challenge and it often makes the oddest connections and makes no real logical sense! Here is a perfect example.

Orange composition notebook. Hum. Orange makes me think of The Orange Rhino Challenge. Hum. I could write in an orange notebook when I want to scream. Hum. Wait. What other back to school supplies are here that I could buy to help me keep from screaming over the next few weeks as we transition back to school and everyone is cranky and tired and not wanting to walk out the door? What do I need for my back to school backpack to help me learn? To help me practice not yelling?

Here is the list I came up with as my boys rummaged through the box looking for red and green notebooks. (I say rummage because we were late shopping and what mostly remained was yellow and black!)

 

5 Back to School Tips1. No. 2 Pencils: Scribble out anger with a No 2. pencil instead of screaming out orders. Seriously. Try it. It is such a good release! Added bonus? Then erase the frustration away. Literally!

2. Composition Notebook: Tear out paper from a composition notebookand crumble it up instead of causing your child to crumble to the ground in tears. Or write down your anger on paper and then throw it out. It is all oddly satisfying.

3. Water bottle: Chug water from a water bottle so you swallow the yell and literally cool down. My kids are all instructed to bring a water bottle for their desk. Why shouldn’t I do the same? Instead of open mouth insert foot, open mouth insert water bottle (okay, straw, but you get the point!) When I have to swallow something, I have to slow down so I don’t you know, choke! Drinking slows me down and therefore calms me down. Well, except coffee. That can get me all sorts of revved up. Again, water bottle!

4. Post-It Notes: Yes, I know, this is an old one but honestly, it has worked for me since day one two years ago and it works for me now! Grab an orange Post-It note and write a love note to your child instead of yelling a mean message.  Last year I wrote love notes and put them in the lunch bags. It is amazing how just thinking positive thoughts can transform a mood instantaneously! You can also use those notes to postpone yells by sticking them up in high yelling zones (backpacks, car, door that leads to school) as a warm reminder to Yell Less and Love More. My house may or may not be decorated with orange post-it notes in two weeks when we are trying to get out of the door on time!

5. Orange Double Pocket Folder: Fill an orange double pocket folder with sheets of paper covered with favorite inspirational sayings to stay calm (I can yell less, I love my kids, I will send my kids to school with lunch and love not yells, I just need to stay cool until 8:15, that’s nothing!) as well as top tips to not yell that have worked for you (yelling into freezer, singing, talking to yourself.)

In case you are wondering, yes, I did pick up some back to school supplies for myself that day. They are currently stored in the “I will not think about school today because it is still summer” section of the dining room along with my boys’ supplies. But come 10 days from now, as we start to pack the backpacks, I will be pulling them out and placing them on the kitchen counter, ready for me to grab at any moment if the stress of the first day of school (week really!) gets to me.

A Mom’s Regret About Yelling

As back to school is near and I am preparing to send my second son off to a new school, my stomach is in all sorts of knots. I just went back and re-read two posts from when I took my first son to the first day of Kindergarten because I knew they would somehow bring me comfort. They both did. This one though, well, it really reminded me how important it is to keep on being an Orange Rhino right now during the tough back to school season!!! 

211 days of not yelling, 154 days of loving more to go!

Dear Orange Rhino,

Um, I am failing to see the connection between not yelling and your post yesterday (read here) about your first three days of Kindergarten? You talk about feeling left behind and not wanting to let go but how the heck does that tie to the Challenge? Just curious.

Sincerely,
Yourself

*

Every once and a while I have a deep profound thought about how The Orange Rhino Challenge has positively impacted my life in a way I never expected. Tonight’s post about my son’s first day of Kindergarten attempts to express one of those thoughts.

As I watched my son walk away with someone else holding his hand, as I watched him leave me behind at the car to start a new part of his life, a new part where I couldn’t easily be a part of it like I could in pre-school, so many intense and conflicting emotions hit me at once that I truly hurt all over. I didn’t know what to feel, what to think, what to do but, well cry.

I was so overwhelmed with love and pride, oh how I love you sweet boy!

But also so overwhelmed with sadness, oh don’t leave me!

And so overwhelmed with disappointment, oh I didn’t cherish these young years enough!

The love and the sadness faded so quickly as the disappointment rolled in and took over my mind. Disappointment that my summer days filled with freedom to have strawberry daiquiris at our “beach” in the sandbox were over. Disappointment that my time with my son was going to start changing soon, that he was going to want to play with friends more and me less. That he was going to be with teachers more and me less. But the biggest disappointment, the one that hit me like a Mac truck? The disappointment in myself.

The disappointment that I had all summer and the 6 years prior to totally enjoy my son’s presence, to not have to really share him, and yet, I didn’t take advantage of that precious time, at least not to the extent I ever dreamed of or hoped for when I envisioned myself as a mom. Nope, much too much instead of appreciating him and appreciating OUR time together, I so often complained about him, about our time together.

Complaining that he doesn’t sleep well. Complaining that he is a picky eater. Complaining that his tantrums are unbearable. Complaining about this behavior or that behavior.

Complaining and yelling instead of loving.

Yes, in these last 6 years I have loved my son and I have enjoyed his presence but I am going to be honest. I could have enjoyed it more. I try not to regret decisions in my life, but right now there is a huge pang in my heart that I “slightly” regret not taking advantage of these last 6 years more. These early years were free of classes, teachers, homework, team practices and full of desire to be with me. Me. Me. Me. The days were full of opportunity to bond and now the days will be less full of opportunity to be with Me. Me. Me.

So yes, right now I wish that I had done my “to-do list” less, cleaned the house less, said go entertain yourself less, YELLED LESS and instead PLAYED MORE, LAUGHED MORE, SHARED MORE and LOVED my son more.

I know it is hard to enjoy every moment as a mom. Oh how I know!  I have 4 beautiful reminders that take turns showing me how hard motherhood is and inspire me to not want to play with them at numerous moments throughout the day due to their lovely antics. And oh how those antics make it hard to stay in the present and not dwell on the crap that comes with motherhood.

But today, today, oh how I wished I tried harder to complain less and enjoy more. Because then today as I dropped my son off at Kindergarten I wouldn’t be thinking “darnit, there he goes. These precious young, fleeting years are really starting to go behind me and I didn’t enjoy them enough because I was too busy complaining.”

OR Helping Me Enter The Orange Rhino Challenge.

I am so grateful for it.

The Orange Rhino Challenge is forcing me to be more positive about my children because getting caught up in the crap well, makes me feel crappy and makes me yell. And when I am positive about them, get this, I feel more love and enjoy my time with them more.

The Orange Rhino Challenge is forcing me to be more present with my children because when I don’t, when I get caught up in my daily crap instead of caught up with them, I get snippy with them for “interrupting” me and get close to yelling. And when I am more present with them, get this, I have more fun with them and enjoy my time with them more.

The Orange Rhino Challenge is forcing me to be more patient and understanding with my children during massive meltdowns because when I am not, well, then I have to employ just about every of my 100 alternatives to yelling! And when I am more patient with them, get this, not only do I appreciate their struggles more but I also cherish the moment, and them, more.

Not yelling is helping ME take advantage of my time with my babies. It is helping me to enjoy their presence more. It is helping me to feel less regrets about the time I spend with them. Looking back, I might feel I have missed a lot of the last 6 years but at least this Challenge has helped me appreciate the last 211 days more. And I’ll take that. It’s a start. And I really hope it continues.

When I started this challenge in February I posted a question to people about how to be more present stating that I want to be more present with my kids, that I want to enjoy time my time with my kids more. People suggested several books. I haven’t read them yet, I haven’t had time.

Turns out I didn’t need them. I figured out one solution on my own. Not yelling.

Final Cover copyI write all about how I successfully reduced the yelling in my life in my new book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” A 30-day guide with 100 alternatives to yelling, simple steps to follow and honest stories to inspire you on your own journey, “Yell Less, Love More” hits shelves this October. Pre-order it today though to guarantee the lowest price before launch! Click here to find your favorite online book retailer selling the book! 

Learning to Yell Less Can be Fun

Since Facebook didn’t want you all to see this, hahaha, I am sharing this post here because I think everyone can always use a good laugh, and well some tips to yell less!

“It’s been a tough week trying to not yell due to some personal stress. I was flipping through my book today and I saw these pictures from my photo shoot and I immediately started laughing and felt better. That is the intention of these photos – to make you laugh in the middle of the book when you are working hard and needing a boost. Actually, there is a lot of that in the book, laughter (or my attempts at it!) Learning to yell less doesn’t have to be all serious, it can be fun too! Just wait and see. Anywho, I hope this made you laugh today! These are just some of the photos by the way. I might just post more out takes because there are some GREAT ones. Thanks to Christine DeSavino Photography for rocking the photo shoot. Happy laughing…at me…and then hopefully happy not yelling! Remember, you can pre-order the book to guarantee the lowest price before it officially hits shelves and that you are one of the first with it when it comes out!”

Orange Rhino Photo Shoot

Back to School, Back to Yelling?

I feel it.
I’m not talking about the cooler nights that tell me fall is near.
I am talking about the sadness, anxiety, and stress that come with back to school.

The sadness that the summer went by too fast, again, and that soon my boys and I won’t be playing outside in the gorgeous weather, but rather stuck inside while it snows, and snows, and snows.

The anxiety about whether or not my children will have good teachers, teachers that don’t just get the topics they have to teach, but also really, truly, deeply get my sons and their challenges and what particular needs they have in order to succeed and have a great year.

Back to School Back to YellingThe stress of having a lot to do to get ready for school (the back to school clothes and supplies, the new routines to master, the scheduling of extra-curricular activities, the filling out of forms) and having to do a lot when school starts.

I feel it all.

But I am not the only one in my house who feels the sadness, anxiety and stress. My boys feel it too. I see it in the more frequent tears over small things. I see it in the strong complaints when I go to work. I see it in the increased temper tantrums. I see it in the refusal to go to bed because, “Well soon enough mom I have to go to bed earlier so I am not going to bed now.”

And I see it in our interactions.

I’m a little more on edge. They are a little more on edge. Together, we are a lot more on edge and as a result, oh has my desire to yell been through the roof (and eh hem, oh have they been yelling at me more!) Oh has my commitment to be an Orange Rhino, a parent who does not charge with words, but remains calm and loving when provoked, been tried lately! This of course is all quite sad because right now, I don’t want to be at odds with my boys, I want to be really savoring the last few weeks of our summer vacation!

I don’t want to find myself taking mommy-breaks every five minutes to stay cool; I want to be breaking water balloons in the backyard with my sons.

I don’t want to be shoving a yell down my throat, I want to be shoveling sand peacefully at the beach building an awesome last “structure” of the summer.

I don’t want to be debating bedtime; I want to be debating what was our favorite moment together that day.

I don’t want my “cold” emotions to determine my last few weeks of summer; I just want the cold temperatures in the fridge to make our homemade M&M’s ice cream freeze faster!

And I most certainly do not want to yell at my kids right now. I do not want to end summer on a bad note; I want to end it on a positive one. I do not want to send them off to school with the last summer memory being mommy yelling at them; I want it to be a happy moment.

Luckily, thanks to The Orange Rhino Challenge, which taught me to create plans for triggers so that I can enjoy more happy and peaceful moments with my kids, I have an idea how to end the summer on the note I wish. The key of course, will be keeping my game plan top of mind so my sadness, anxiety and stress don’t trigger me to yell! The first step is to write down my intentions. Here. Now. And then I will print them out and post them around the house to remind me of my goals for the next few weeks!

In order to Yell Less and Love More as we get ready for Back to School, I plan to:

  1. Share my feelings with my kids and encourage them to do the same.
    Bottled up emotions don’t do anyone any good, adults and kids alike! They just fester and then burst out in not so good ways! I need to release them a bit and so do my kids. The challenge is that they probably don’t know how to acknowledge these tough emotions since they are still learning the whole world of emotions. I figure if I share my thoughts in an age appropriate manner, it will help them open up and release some of their feelings. Plus, I can share my positive spin on how I am managing it, i.e., “I am feeling sad the summer is over, but I am grateful for all the fun we had.” Maybe we’ll even draw their feelings or act them out. We love charades and coloring!
  2. Focus on the positive.
    Oh how important this is and oh how I struggle with it. Right now I am seeing all the negative stuff about this time of year. I need to flip that around because negative thoughts create negative feelings, which well, can lead to yelling! Starting now I am going to focus on what an awesome summer it was; no more thinking is allowed about what we didn’t do on our summer “wish-list”, just thinking about what we did do this summer! And I am going to focus on how great a more solid routine will be for all of us, how great it will be for my kids to be back with friends, and how much we all love the fall and pumpkin picking. I will also encourage my kids to do the same.
  1. 4 tips for Back to SchoolGo to bed earlier.
    I too have been fighting bedtime! After the kids go to bed, I sit outside and soak in the peaceful summer night. This is great but then it pushes off what I need to do and, instead of going to bed when I need to, I stay up later. We all pay the price the next morning! A tired mommy equals a cranky mommy. A “more” rested mommy is a more fun and loving mommy.

  2. Have lots and lots of tickle fights.
    When I feel the tension rising, despite my efforts put into the above, I will grab a munchkin and start a tickle fight. I always feel better when I laugh and when I hear my kids laugh. That is the fastest way to melt my heart and push all my worries to the back of my mind. And as Wayne Dyer says, “It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either.” Yes. I will choose to laugh!

Back to school always opens up the door for back-to-back-to-back yelling in our house. But it doesn’t have to. I am starting this year on a good note because, as a good school friend once told me when I went to school, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” ― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

 

 

Final Cover copyThe Orange Rhino’s new book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” shares more of my tips on handling different triggers. It is a 30-Day Guide to help others start their own journey to yell less and love more and includes easy steps to follow, 100 alternatives to yelling, and honest stories to inspire. It hits shelves this fall but can be pre-ordered now to guarantee the lowest price! Click here to get your copy and to start your journey to yelling less!

Induction Induced Feelings of Loss

Welcome to the Share Your Story event: Childbirth – Your Stories
This post was written as part of the Share Your Story event hosted by Kids in the House. Our contributors have shared their stories, struggles, and wisdom about the unforgettable yet unpredictable event that is childbirth.

If you have been following me for a while, you know that this is the first time I have participated in an event like this. That said, I have wanted to write about my birth stories of my four boys for ages but never have. When this opportunity came to me it was the nudge I needed and I couldn’t resist. Plus, now you will know about how my four boys came into this world which is a great way to start knowing them before I officially introduce you to them in my book! That and well, unbeknowst to me, each birth story actually reflects one of the core lessons needed to help me stop yelling: Expected the Unexpected.  

* * * * *

During my Orange Rhino Challenge to not yell at my 4 boys for 365 days straight, I discovered that being fully open about my challenges with yelling not only helped me to feel more normal and less alone, but also helped others to feel the same. I share my Childbirth stories below to do the same. I have never been able to share some of these feelings because they were (and are) frowned upon. When I shared them, I was told to be fully grateful and positive for what I did have: healthy babies. And I was. And I am. But I also had other feelings that are okay to feel and necessary to share so that I can be healthy. Bottled up feelings don’t do anyone good!!  

For as long as I can remember, mostly to the fault of cheesy romance movies like Father of the Bride 2, I had high hopes that I would go into labor naturally. I pictured that I would just be going about my life someday, somewhere, and my water would break. I would call my husband all excited, he would come home from work or stop doing whatever it was he was doing and we would start tracking contractions together on the new stopwatch I was instructed to buy. Maybe we would even frantically run around trying to find my overnight bag and every last item we were told to bring to the hospital (warm socks, colorful pillowcase, a special object to focus on during delivery.) And when it was time, we would rush to the hospital together saying, “Oh my gosh! Can you believe this? It’s happening!!!”  Yep, I am totally a hopeless romantic type and nope none of above ever happened.

It didn’t happen with my first pregnancy, or my second, or my third, or my fourth for that matter. And each time my idealized scenario didn’t happen, even though I knew the likelihood was that it wouldn’t and that I was lucky to be pregnant and to have a healthy baby, I still I found myself more disappointed than I would have expected.

My First Childbirth: Well Overdue Baby

Lets get this show on the road!

Lets get this show on the road!

I was induced at 42 weeks because my body was nowhere near delivering. Like nowhere at all. Even though I started having contractions en route to the hospital the night before my scheduled induction, the doctor still insisted on an induction because she was concerned that I wouldn’t progress far enough. I was massively disappointed; a planned birth felt so anti-climatic. There was no anticipation just, “okay, check in at 7 and the meds will start the next morning.” Where is the fun and excitement in that?

Even though I was “supposed” to be all cheerful at the anticipation of my first child, and a majority of the time I was, during the last week of pregnancy, I actually found myself quite jealous of all my friends who experienced the spontaneous joy of a natural delivery, and on the last day I felt quite sad that I would be missing out on a ritual that so many women experience. I knew I was about to gain something incredible and yet I couldn’t deny the immense sense of loss I felt. To this day, eight years later, I still have that pang of loss every once and a while when I hear an exciting birth story closer to what I imagined for myself.

My Second Childbirth: Preeclampsia Precautions

All feelings of sadness aside though, I became a mom again and couldn't stop smiling,

All feelings of sadness aside though, I became a mom again and couldn’t stop smiling,

I was induced at 40 weeks because my blood pressure skyrocketed and my doctor had medical concerns. You see, that morning my new babysitter texted me and quit because of health reasons (read: I don’t want to take care of two kids under two.) My first son was just 19 months old and we had been living in our new town for just a few months and had no real friends. She was to be my on-call childcare 24/7 starting that day since my parents lived six hours away. Needless to say, of course my heart rate went through the roof from stress and panic…and went even higher when I was ordered to the hospital for an emergency induction and instructed to find immediate childcare for my toddler.

I showed up at the hospital in tears, my toddler in tow, and called all my “new” barely acquaintances to see if they could come hang with my older son until my husband could arrive. Not exactly how I anticipated separating from my toddler before he became not my only son, but my one of two sons. Not exactly how I anticipated, or wanted, my second delivery to go either. I am crying now at the loss of that moment; I had expectations of a sweet, prolonged, “I love you so much” goodbye. Instead he was basically whisked away from me as I was rushed to the heart monitors. I cried as I walked away from my son, disappointed, sad and angry that our goodbye blew and that another not naturally induced labor awaited.

My Third Childbirth: Safe Delivery

Here we go again! 3rd belly shot before induction. It was a beautiful, beautiful day to welcome a baby into this world.

Here we go again! 3rd belly shot before induction. It was a beautiful, beautiful day to welcome a baby into this world.

Come my third pregnancy, I hit 41 weeks and did start having painful contractions every three to four minutes – but they did nothing and my doctors began to worry that they would suddenly kick in and my third son would just suddenly come out as fast as my first two. With my first pregnancies, my body didn’t respond at all to the induction and then I would scream, discover that I went from 3 cm to 9 cm in 20 minutes, be instructed by my doctor to not laugh, sneeze, move, squeeze until everything was in place, and then I would push twice and pop! Out came my son. No joke. Even though those pregnancies were induced and this one could be natural, I lived 20 minutes from the hospital and had two children to make childcare arrangements for. None of us wanted to take the risk that my sons would deliver their brother, so an induction was scheduled.

This induction was tough as I knowingly planned something that would disappoint me. But by this time I was accustomed to the feelings of loss and disappointment and focused on the more exciting aspect of a planned induction: I got to pick the his birthday this time and being a math nerd, I picked an “almost” palindrome of 09/22/09. That and well this time, I got to say goodbye to my two older sons on my terms, as I wished, as I expected.

My Fourth Childbirth: Breeched Baby
I still held the secret wish and expectation that my fourth and last labor would be as I imagined. But, despite all my praying and pleading and hoping, at 37 weeks my son still remained breached and unless he moved, a C-section would be necessary. After experiencing and fully enjoying three vaginal deliveries (there is just something so amazing about pushing your child into this world,) the idea of a C-section devastated me beyond words. I told my husband I refused to let that happen. Period.

So I tried all the tricks in the book to get him to move. The ear phones against the belly, the sleeping on one side, the this, the that. None of it worked. What did work though? Driving to the hospital for a scheduled “flip” at 37 weeks. No joke, en route, I felt an immense pain. He had flipped on his own! It was flippin’-fantastic!

That said, at my 40-week appointment it was clear that even though he had flipped, his head wasn’t 100% down and there was a small chance that he could get to a position that would make naturally delivery extremely hard given the size of his gargantuan head. So we chose another induction because at that point, that felt less of a disappointment than a C-section. Way less. And it was. By the fourth go around, the induction felt like a blessing, a gift, the best option in the world to me compared to the alternatives.   Maybe the fourth induction felt much more okay because of the circumstances.

Or maybe I accepted it because after five years of parenting I had finally started to embrace the very important parenting lesson being repeatedly taught to me with every induction: things with kids simply do not go as planned. Expect the unexpected and be pleasantly surprised (or be woefully disappointed and so frustrated that you find yourself yelling more than you like!)

Or maybe it felt okay because the previous childbirths had hammered home a very important point that I got to (get to) live each and every day. A lot of dreams, and hopes, and expectations, and not just about naturally induced labors, didn’t get met during my pregnancy and childbirth journeys. But one did. The most important one.

I became a mom.
I. Became. A. Mom.  

DSC_1510Each time one of my sons was born and I heard his cry, a cry that immediately connected me to him in a way that I just can not begin to explain, and then I held him in my arms and found myself falling in love faster than I knew possible, the sadness, disappointment, loss and jealously I felt intensely for the last few days, melted away. It no longer mattered to me how my son came into my life, because he did. And I was a mom. A mom who had dreamed and imagined how much love she would feel when her child was born; a mom who felt love in a way that she never, ever could have expected.

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Please be sure to read the submissions by the other Share Your Story contributors, and visit Kids in the House to find out how you can participate in our next Share Your Story Blogger Event!

  • Two Peas in a Pod: A Double Miracle – Rachael at Three Boys and Mom shares how the blessing of an unexpected twin pregnancy saved a woman’s life.
  • Childbirth: the Ache of Love – Sasha at MomLife Now describes how one mom discovered a miraculous beauty she knew not existed.
  • Tax Day 2007 – Cheryl at The Pump Station & Nursery looks back on how an easy pregnancy turned out to be a taxing birth experience.
  • Going with the Flow – Bridget at Bridget Bertrand shares how her OB helped to put her on the right course in regards to birth plans, the playlist, and even the recipe to make the day her daughter came into the world.
  • My Not-So Natural Birth Story – Rachel at Mommy Greenest shares a lot of questions with questions with pregnant and new parents through her work, but this time describes what it was like for her, giving birth for the first time – but definitely not the last – time.
  • The (Not So) Natural Birth Story – Britt at My Life and Kids reflects on how a mom’s life-threatening delivery helped mold her into the mother she was meant to be.
  • Giving Birth: When the Unexpected Happens – Elle at This is Mommyhood shares advice for when your baby has an unexpected stay in the NICU.
  • A New Look at the “Perfect” Birth Story – Melissa at Fill My Cup shares how a crazy delivery gave one mom a new perspective on the ‘perfect birth.’
  • Induction Induced Feelings of LossThe Orange Rhino shares how a planned induction brought unplanned feelings of jealousy, sadness, disappointment and loss.
  • Our Beautiful Birth Story – Lindsay at The Fully Caffeinated Mama reflects on how it wasn’t the feeling of intense pain caused by the epidural wearing off that she remembers, but rather the beautiful baby on her chest for the first time.
  • Jack’s Arrival – Samantha at The Peanuts Gang thought she would have a scheduled c-section, but it turned out that having Jack was QUICK and sooner than expected!
  • Remembering to Breathe – Suzy at Kids in the House explains how with little fanfare, the completely wrong music, and a very distracted doctor, her son Leo was born.

 

My Secrets to a Peaceful Bedtime Without Yelling

I had the wonderful opportunity to actually, get this, sit down, drink a cup of hot coffee and hang out with a friend the other night. It was marvelous. Absolutely, marvelous. We covered all the basic gossip stories, you know would Kimye make it as a couple, what about Jen Garner and Ben Affleck, all the basic here’s what our kids are up to stories, mine finally potty trained, mine is still sick, and we covered all the basic how are yous, how are you feeling about work, about life, marriage, motherhood etc. And this is where we ended up talking about bedtime and how brutal it can be.

You see, I was on “vacation” and when I am on “vacation” with my kids, they NEVER ever go to sleep easily. Like never, ever! Did I mention, never, ever? I mean, it’s not like bedtime at home is a peace of cake but whoa is it easier than on “vacation.” Bedtime is simply a disaster on vacation because of all the, “I want to stay up late because you know it’s vacation mom,” and “I don’t want to share a room with all my brothers,” and “I don’t like the sheets at Grandma’s” and the “This room has weird shadows my room doesn’t.” And well, it is also a disaster because of the decrease in routine and increase in, eh hem, sugar and adrenaline.

Anywho, so we got talking about bedtime and my friend said,

“How the heck do you not yell at bedtime? I mean really. Does someone else do it for you?!”

My boys, just chilling, catching some rays. Can you imagine if bedtime was always this relaxed?!!

My boys, just chilling. Can you imagine if bedtime was always this relaxed?!!

Ha!!! Oh how sometimes I wish it were true. But it’s not. What is true though is that years ago, pre-The Orange Rhino Challenge, bedtime didn’t just use to make me yell at my kids, it used to make me scream. It was so stressful and anything but chill. And, it was the worst feeling to send my kids to bed almost every night with their hearts full of my anger, not my love. The absolute worst feeling in the world. Oh the guilt and shame. Blech! Thank goodness The Orange Rhino Challenge helped me identify bedtime as a trigger and pushed me to figure out how to manage it so that it wouldn’t be full of my yells. (My kids’ yells, well, that is almost always expected at bedtime!)

That night I shared with my girlfriend my secrets to not yelling at bedtime. Tonight, I share them with you, albeit in a way more formal manner and with way more detail, but hey, the main message is still there!

* * * * *

My biggest “secret” to not yelling at bedtime is that I finally, and fully, embraced and reminded myself of three Orange Rhino Revelations about sleeping that I learned on my journey to yell less:

  1. If I rush my boys at bedtime, it goes slower. Rushing is counterproductive.
  2. If I yell at my boys during bedtime, they cry, bedtime takes longer. Yelling is counterproductive.
  3. If I approach bedtime with a positive attitude, as opposed to dreading it, it not only goes faster and smoother, but it also becomes a very calm and special time.

These revelations keep me from yelling every night, as do these additional revelations and tips which are specific to my 5 top bedtime triggers.

Kids Dawdling and Not Doing Task At Hand
Orange Rhino Revelations: If I rush my boys, they will go slower. If I nag them, they will go slower. If I yell at them to hurry up, they will cry and definitely take longer. However, if I gently encourage them to complete their tasks so we can have more time to read books and snuggle, they proceed “faster.”

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

  • Tell myself over and over again that if I rush bedtime, it goes slower.
  • Tell myself that yelling will only make dawdling more intense.
  • Take deep breaths to help me slow down so that I don’t put off a “go, go, go” vibe.
  • Use humor to diffuse the stress and connect with kids so they want to do what I ask. Talk like toothpaste is stuck to my teeth. Brush teeth with finger.
  • Walk away and just start reading a book; invite them to join you when they have finished their tasks.
  • Give in! “Okay, so no one wants to brush teeth. Lets sing instead for a few minutes and then we’ll do it.” Sometimes the power struggle isn’t worth it!

Parental Stress, Exhaustion, and Therefore Huge Desire for Personal Time
Orange Rhino Revelations: My quiet, relaxing downtime doesn’t need to start as soon as all the kids are asleep; I can start it at bedtime.

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

  • Change into comfortable clothes to feel more chill.
  • Create a relaxing, quiet environment. Think spa! Turn the lights down. Light a spa candle. Listen to soothing music. Upside? It relaxes boys too, which helps bedtime go smoother!
  • (again) Tell myself that letting my stress and exhaustion push me to yell will just upset the kids which will make them move slower and will upset me more and make me yell more and will greatly delay getting to my personal time.

Bathwater (and Toothpaste!) Going Everywhere
Orange Rhino Revelations: Perspective is a powerful tool. When I can put things into perspective, I realize that yelling isn’t necessary and that again, it will make matters worse.

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

  • Use my “at least” technique to find perspective and calm, i.e., “At least it is just water and not sticky orange juice spraying everywhere,” “At least the water is on the tile bathroom floor and not the carpeted bedroom floor.” And the big one I use, “At least I have this special time at the end of the day to connect with my kids before they go off to sleep.” This last one really helps me to re-focus on what matters.
  • Put preventative measures in place: put towels down, wear an apron to keep clothes dry, do push-ups (or any exercise) while kids bathe as exercise creates positive energy and prepares me to handle the annoyance with more calm.

Asking for One More Thing, One Hundred Times!
Orange Rhino Revelation: When my kids ask for one more thing, it isn’t because they need one more cracker, one more book, or one more sip of water, it is because they want one more minute with me. If I give them that minute in a totally focused, calm, loving way, there will not only be less requests after, but also, I will then feel more comfortable being firm with the bedtime rules as I was just extra loving.

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

  • Find empathy. I put myself in their “shoes” (mind) and remember that when I was a kid, I did the same thing. This softens my heart and lets me give the connection to my kids they crave.
  • Offer a hug as a substitution; it will make everyone feel better.
  • Take a break. Walk away and yell into a closet. Clothes don’t have feelings, kids do.
  • If possible, tag out and have someone else help with bed.

The Unspoken Trigger: Approaching bedtime with dread and a negative attitude
Orange Rhino Revelations: Negative attitudes attract negative actions; when I approach the bedtime hour with grumpiness, the kids sense it and act grumpy right back which makes me yell. When I embrace bedtime with a positive approach, I am less distracted, more present, and we all enjoy bedtime more – it actually becomes a special time.

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

  • Change attitude from, “I just want this hour over,” to “YES! Let’s get this hour started. It’s a great last chance of the day to enjoy my kids and show them my love before I don’t see them for 12 hours.”
  • Embrace the challenge of bedtime. “Yep! Bedtime is going to be hard. I know it. I accept it. I will not be surprised or annoyed when it is. I will just go with it.”
  • Talk positively to self, “I can do this. It is just 45 minutes. I have had successful bedtimes, I can do this one.”
  • Fake it until you make it! Smile lots. Laugh lots. Say “Bedtime rocks,” and “I love bedtime” lots.

So much for sharing one “secret” to a peaceful bedtime, eh? Well since I already shared a zillion, here’s one more. Bedtime in The Orange Rhino house still isn’t perfect as a result of all of the above, but it is a heck of a lot, and I mean heck of lot easier to not yell at bedtime than it was before and it is way more, way, way more quiet and peaceful!

The book!Bedtime isn’t my only yelling trigger ;) That would be too easy! If you would like to learn about my other major triggers, as well as my solutions to them, check out my new book “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can too!” It is a 30-day guide with honest stories to inspire, 100 alternatives to yelling and simple steps to follow. It hits shelves this October but you can pre-order it now to ensure that you get one of the lowest prices and that you have it when I start a guided 30-day Challenge this fall! Click here to pre-order!  

What my Son Reminded me About (not) Yelling

I had full intentions of this post being about blueberry picking. You know, about what I wrote on Facebook last Saturday right before we headed out:

“My boys have wanted to go blueberry picking for years. I always forget to find a place to go and then remember when it is too late. I always feel bad and always share their disappointment. But not this year! Just told the boys we are going in 5 minutes and their eyes popped out of their heads from excitement. And the Orange Rhino lesson in it all, because you know I always find one….

Getting it “right” will happen – even after several attempts/letdowns. And when it does, it feels great and makes all the work worth it. If you are feeling disappointed in yourself because you keep forgetting to stop yourself from yelling before it gets too late, do not lose faith. You will remember at one point. And that point will feel so great that it will give you the desire to work even harder to remember the next time – and it will give you the confidence to know that you can remember to not yell before it’s too late.”

I even took pictures while blueberry picking to reinforce my metaphor that good things eventually do happen. See?
DSC_0148DSC_0149DSC_0104

The blueberry bush starts off with just one beautiful, exquisite blueberry. And then as time passes and the bush is exposed to more sun, another one pops up. And another one. Soon, the whole bush is full. Just like my (and your!) Orange Rhino Challenge journey. I started with no yell-free moments. Then I had one. Then I had more exposure to yelling situations and more practice handling them, and another yell-free moment popped up. And another. Soon, my life was full of beautiful, exquisite yell-free moments. Nice metaphor, eh?

But I am not going to write more about blueberries, about what I had planned. Instead, I am going to share what happened after blueberry picking because it is far more powerful.

On the way home from our blueberry excursion, we drove by a country fair. Our family loves hot dogs and cotton candy so obviously it was the perfect place for lunch. We pulled up and my oldest son goes, “Mom, look, horse and pony rides. I think I am ready to ride one, can I?” Heck yeah my dear! Overcome that fear. As my oldest saddled up, #2 and #4 on ponies behind him, my husband took #3 to scout out which stand had the best fried food. Horseback and pony riding a major success, my three sons and I started wandering to meet my husband and my other son. Within seconds of stepping out of the paddocks, my two older boys spotted the sign that later brought me to tears.

“Face Painting.”

My first thought: I know just where my other son is. I guarantee he is getting his face painted as his fun activity since he chose not to do a pony ride. My second thought: I know two other boys who will be begging me for face paint any moment!

DSC_0202Sure enough as we got closer to the face-painting stand, I recognized this precious little curly hair kid with an almost done Spiderman face. And sure enough, the pleas started up my other sons. And well, the morning had been awesome and I felt generous and happy and all that jazz so I said, “Sure, why not!”

As #3 hopped down, overjoyed with his new face, my older two started peppering the artist with questions,

“Can you do Darth Vader?” #1 asked.
“What about Darth Maul?” #2 asked.
“Sure, we can do those.” She replied.

#1 and #2 eagerly hopped up into the chairs.

Just then, my husband returned with lunch in hand.

“Daddy, daddy! I’m getting Darth Vader!” #1 shouted from one artist’s chair.
“Daddy, daddy! I’m gonna be Darth Maul!” #2 shouted from the other artist’s chair.
“Mommy, mommy, I don’t like my Spiderman face. It’s not fair. I wanted to be Darth Vader and Darth Maul. I didn’t know she could do them.” #3 sobbed.

And I mean sobbed. His tears went right through his brand new Spiderman face causing it all to drip, drip, drip.

“Oh sweetie, I am sorry you are disappointed now. You look awesome though. I love the Spiderman look and you love Spiderman!” I said, desperate to console him.

And not just because I didn’t want him to feel upset, but also because while the day had been great thus far, this mamma was starving and the heat was starting to get to me. I could just feel that I didn’t have the best mindset to gracefully and lovingly deal with the pending “#3-style-meltdown” that I knew was seconds away. You see, #3 was also starving, tired, hot and well, legitimately disappointed. Oh, oh how I so very much wanted to prevent the pending meltdown. Needless to say, my attempts did not work and the meltdown began. Louder sobbing. Screaming. Not wanting to be held to be soothed.

And needless to say, NOW was the time that I think everyone at the fair decided to get face paint. I looked at the growing line of people waiting; I felt the sets of eyes watching my son and me growing; and I felt my embarrassment and desire to nastily snap, “Enough already!” grow.

After a few more failed attempts to de-escalate the meltdown, I finally said,
“Look, I know you are upset. But I need you to stop screaming and crying. We will leave in a few moments but we can’t walk away just now.” (My husband had gone back for food for us. You can only carry so many hot dogs and fries, you know?!)

I immediately regretted saying that – it was so not the message I wanted to send. And then I immediately felt grateful because what my son said next I will never forget.

“But mommy, I want to stop crying. But I just don’t know how to.” 

Mommys milk makes me sleepy

I am just little. I don’t know how to stop crying. Please be patient with me.

My five year old’s wonderfully honest, insightful, and heartfelt statement put an immediate damper on my growing desire to yell. Oh how that statement blew me away and immediately got my mind and heart to a better place.

His statement reminded me that I wasn’t dealing with an adult, but with a child, a five year old child who was understandably still learning to cope with tough feelings and who, by the look on his face, felt sad and maybe even a little scared that he didn’t know how to control himself. His statement reminded me that I needed to help him in that moment, not hurt him with my frustration.

His statement reminded me of times I have felt the same way, rather of the weekend prior when I was just bawling my eyes out to my husband out of stress and I so wanted to stop, but just couldn’t. His statement reminded me how awful it feels to be so frustrated that one can’t stop crying; his statement reminded me to find empathy with the situation, not exasperation.

And most importantly, his statement reminded me that when I don’t yell, good things can happen. Sure, a meltdown isn’t so good. But hearing this eloquent statement from my five year old? Exquisitely good, on so many levels.

You see, this munchkin of mine has a speech delay. He has made a lot of progress but our current struggle is getting him to retrieve words and express himself verbally when he is frustrated, instead of throwing things or screaming. Lately, it has been a serious struggle – for both of us – because the intensity of his outbursts has been steadily growing and it has been increasingly hard for me to help him (and remain yell-free.) So to watch him stop a meltdown faster than usual, and then hear him express his frustration while feeling him open up to me, asking me for help (a major, major first) well, it brings tears to my eyes now and it brought me to my knees then. No seriously, it did.

I had been squatting to maintain eye contact up until this point, but once I heard him so sweetly, and with such sincere confusion say, “But mommy, I want to stop crying. But I just don’t know how to,” I dropped to my knees and hugged him as tight as I possibly could. I didn’t care that my shirt was now covered in red and black tears. I didn’t care anymore about all the judgmental eyes that still watched. I didn’t care about anything at that moment except being there for my son; about calming down so that I could comfort him and let him know that it really is okay to cry, that it takes time to learn how to stop; so that I could tell him how proud I was of him for using his words, for communicating his needs so clearly.

That was a turning point for my son and me, a turning point so desperately needed. Even though I am often patient and loving (and yell-free) during his meltdowns, I have admittedly been harboring a growing anger and annoyance that he isn’t progressing. That chip has made it harder and harder to remain yell-free. But this statement, but this innocent statement by my son gave me a new level of understanding and empathy for his personal challenges. A level of understanding and empathy I have so desperately needed. His statement was an exquisite gift to me because now I feel I can be there for him in a better, more effective way. And it was an exquisite gift to himself because it showed him that not only can he communicate but that he can also ask for help, that he doesn’t have to handle his frustrations alone. Eech. Totally crying again. Folks, this moment was just amazing for us. My son let me in. He let me in.

And guess what? It wouldn’t have happened if I had yelled. If I had yelled, he would have yelled back and pulled farther and farther away from me, physically and emotionally. If I yelled, I would have shut down his ability to retrieve those words he so desperately needed to say and I so desperately need to hear.

If I had yelled, rather, if I had quit The Orange Rhino Challenge when it got tough, when I felt disappointed that I wasn’t “getting it right,” then this moment wouldn’t have happened. It certainly isn’t always easy to remember to not yell, but when I do remember, it is always easy to feel like all the hard work to not yell is indeed worth it.

* * * * *
I share more about my journey, especially with this son, and how I came to have more yell-free moments in my life in my new book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” Part parenting memoir, part parenting guide, my book shares honest stories, simple steps to follow and 100 Alternatives to yelling. It hits shelves in October but you can pre-order it here to make sure you are one of the first to have it!

Facebook, You “Make” Me Yell at My Kids

 

Dear Facebook,

I have a love/hate relationship with you (I know, I know, I am so not the first to admit that!)

I love that because of you I can feel a little bit “connected” to my friends who I don’t get to see on a day-to-day basis. I love that because of you, I feel like I know about their lives, their joys, their sorrows. With four kids under eight, even though I care immensely about everyone in my life, I struggle to keep in touch as much as I like. I struggle to remember big birthdays and anniversaries. And to be honest, as much as I know being connected with friends (like really connected) is important to me because it makes me happier and therefore a better mom/wife/daughter/friend/person, I still struggle to prioritize “be connected – in a real way– with friends.” So instead, I turn to you. You help me have a sliver of the connection that I so very much seek and it makes me feel a little less guilty and a little more okay that I am sucking at keeping in touch with those I care about. So thank you for that.

And obviously, I love that you gave me a way to create a supportive community two years ago when I started The Orange Rhino Challenge; without that community I am not sure I would have made it! And today that community is a source of love, support, and inspiration not just for me, but also for 50,000 others. Pretty cool. Pretty darn cool. So thanks for that too!

10307204_10152600745523707_6815964752845370236_nSo yeah, there are two really strong reasons why I love you and why I open you up everyday, okay, lets be honest, several or more times a day. Oh, wait, one more reason. I love the pages that daily pop up sharing inspirational thoughts; those really help me stay focused during tough days. But Facebook, oh, oh dear Facebook, the problem is that when I open you to see about friends and to check-on / check-in with The Orange Rhino Community, I don’t just see, but I feel.

I see pictures of my friends that I immediately love and smile at because I can tell my friend is happy and then… I feel jealous because it seems she is happier than me/living a life better than me/skinnier than me/a better mother than me because she does cooler things than me.

I see a link to a parenting article a friend shared and I can’t help but to click through because the topic speaks to me and then (more times than not)… I feel incompetent, judged, and overwhelmed by all I “need” to do or change in order to feel better about my parenting and that I am no longer on the “wrong side” of the judgment.

I see pictures of husbands and wives who seem to be so naturally gravitating towards each other in the picture, who so “clearly” enjoy each other and so “obviously” have some secret marriage ingredient I am missing and… I feel sad about the marriage boulder that hit a while back and that we don’t have lots of this type of picture lately (even though I know we will soon.)

I see The Orange Rhino Community page growing; I see the messages and the comments…and I feel so excited and happy. Excited that we are growing, that more people are feeling less alone in their struggle to yell less; excited that I still have a safe, judgment free place to share about my journey; excited that there are people I can reach out to and offer support because that brings me such joy. And then I feel overwhelmed because there is so much more I want to do for The Community and sometimes I feel guilty that I haven’t replied to as many messages or comments as I so desperately want to (and as you all so very much deserve.)

And well sometimes I see a really nasty comment on The Orange Rhino page and then… I feel very hurt and scared to continue on my public journey.

Yep, I “see” a lot on you Facebook but really, I “feel” a lot more.

I would love to say that the warm, fuzzy feelings you inspire last all day long and are so powerful that they immediately squash the yucky-I-feel-so-insecure feelings that I shared above, but that just isn’t the truth. It’s the opposite actually. It seems that for whatever reason, once conjured up, it’s the yucky insecure feelings that last all. day. long! Emphasis on all.day.long! This so ain’t cool! These feelings not only immediately put me in a grouchy, defensive, and agitated mood but they also immediately consume all of my thoughts leaving me completely distracted.

And guess what?
Distracted mind + Bad Mood = the perfect setup for yelling at my kids.

tip 46 squeeze dont screamWhen I am not fully present and focused on just being a parent, and instead focused on yucky feelings (or to-dos for that matter,) it is infinitely harder to be an Orange Rhino because my mind isn’t clear enough to focus on what I know I need to do to keep myself from yelling. When I am pre-occupied it’s just very hard to remember to: pay attention to my kids emotions and needs, notice cues that I am getting closer to losing it, think of alternatives to yelling, tell myself encouraging thoughts, and find perspective so that I don’t yell when I am pre-occupied otherwise. (Shoot, its hard enough to remember these things when I am in a good mood and feeling naturally calm and loving!!)

And you wanna know something else? Since you so often push me towards this grouchy, pre-occupied mindset, I have labeled you as one of my Yelling Triggers. Yes Facebook, I like you and all, but you make me yell. I know, I know. That’s a cop out. The real triggers are my insecurities, or better said, feeling that I am not “good enough or doing well enough.” It’s just easier and feels better to blame you! Ha! Seriously though, here’s the thing. You are truly a trigger for my triggers, so we need to work on our relationship. I like you but I love my kids, and my family and friends, more and I don’t want to unnecessarily yell or snap at them because you set me off.

I am not entirely sure where our relationship will go from here, but I do know a few things:

  • I don’t want to dump you because of your positive qualities so I will still be around, just a bit less. (And please know, checking my email/phone has the same effect as you. I tell you this so you don’t feel like you are the only one causing me strife; as an Orange Rhino I know no one wants to feel alone!)
  • I do need to take responsibility for my part in hanging out with you; I need to set better limits as to when I look at you so that if I am triggered, I am not in a situation where it will impact how I interact with those around me.
  • I need to work on my impulse control so that when I slip up and sneak a peak at you when I shouldn’t (sometimes a girl just needs to scroll to escape the craziness, you know?), I can successfully refrain from clicking on potentially triggering articles.

I hope you understand where I am coming from and aren’t hurt. If you are, please just don’t trash me in a status update because that would you know, make me feel bad, and then I would dwell on the hurt feelings, and then my son would innocently ask for a snack and I would snap at him. Thanks for understanding and being a good friend,

Your friend,
The Orange Rhino


If you would like to learn about all those things I know I should do to keep from yelling, check out my new book: “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” It hits shelves October 1, but you can pre-order it now by clicking here!


Dear The Orange Rhino Community:
Fear not, the page isn’t going anywhere!! Ever! I am though, actively creating new ways to achieve the same community feel and means of communication elsewhere as I have learned I am not alone in my struggle with Facebook (and well, my “friend” Facebook seems to not like sharing my posts with you!) One place I will be spending more time? The private Orange Rhino Community forum! It has been updated to provide better security and more bells and whistles. It is a great place to meet other Orange Rhinos sharing similar specific triggers as you (i.e. ADHD behaviors, potty training madness, homework battles) and who live in the same area. Check it out! www.theorangerhino.com/community AND if you want to make sure to see my blog posts, sign up to receive notifications of new posts by this fancy, schmancy new tool: 


 

 

 

Learning to “Hold” a Yell

In honor of my Facebook post last night which read: {New Tip for Bedtime} 
Tried something new tonight as not yelling has been hard, hard, hard lately I brought my water bottle to bedtime with me. I carried it around at all times, you know, like a lovey?! When I was frustrated, I took a sip of the cold water to cool down, literally and mentally. When drinking, I can’t yell and I have to slow down. Two upsides: (1) kids got sips throughout bedtime and didn’t need water when tucked in and (2) I didn’t yell. Downside: When I finally settled in to bed with my 4th child to read with him, I realized I desperately had to pee but that I was also wiped from the day/night and had no desire to get up. It made for an uncomfortable story time, but hey, I’ll take it as I will go to bed feeling much more comfortable with how I handled bedtime!

*

Originally posted September 2013

When I loaded the boys into the mini-van for our four-hour drive north last month, I assumed that no one would sleep and that we would need to stop every hour for someone to go pee. I mean assuming anything else was just setting myself up to be frustrated and annoyed, right?! So I mentally prepared myself for a long trek with lots of noise and lots of stops. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t try to make a peaceful, quick trip happen though! Yep, I had everyone try to pee twice before we left and I timed our departure with naptime for #3 and #4.

Well wouldn’t you know it. Within fifteen minutes of driving, not one, not two, not three, but ALL FOUR of my boys were sleeping! And wouldn’t you know it, an hour and a half later they were all still sleeping! Which is great, right? Miraculous even. Well yes, and no.

No because I had drunk a cup coffee to stay awake and had forgotten to try and pee twice myself! Yes, this mama had to pee wicked bad and there was absolutely, positively no way in hell I was going to pull over and wake up four sleeping kids to pee. Nope, wasn’t gonna happen. I didn’t even entertain the idea! You couldn’t have paid me to pull over and end my quiet, peaceful and easy drive up north. Sure I had to pee so badly that I had stomach cramps but the downside to that was far less than the upside of my boys not yelling at each other, asking me “are we there yet?” over and over, and complaining that they had nothing to do.  Pulling over just wasn’t an option. And then again, peeing in my pants wasn’t really an appealing option either.

So I did what I think most parents would do in said situation; my boys slept and I squirmed.

And I crossed my legs. And I squeezed. And I looked out the window for distractions. And I tried to think about everything but peeing. And I told myself over and and over “that I can do this, just a little bit longer, I can do this.”

And then, well then I had an Orange Rhino moment and I laughed so hard at my absolute ridiculousness that I had to squeeze even harder because after four natural births, well, you know, sometimes pee happens.

You see it donned on me at that moment that learning to hold pee and learning to hold a yell are very similar.

They both take paying attention to signals that you are about to explode and then acting accordingly to avoid said explosion.

They both take focus and putting mind over matter.

They both take practice and doing it over and over so you can go longer and longer.

They both take distractions so that you don’t think of the strong desire to do said action.

They both take positive thinking, telling yourself over and over that you can do it.

They both take choosing to do all of the above no matter how hard because the alternative is not really a desired option.

And they are both behaviors that can be learned and achieved over time!

Seriously, all ridiculousness aside and the fact that it is a wee bit crazy that I compared not yelling to not peeing in one’s pants, just think about the similarities. It is kind of uncanny, right? When I stopped and realized the similarities (which by the way was a great distraction and kept my mind occupied on something besides the growing need to pee my brains out), I couldn’t help but to think,

“Wow, all the skills that I thought I developed to not yell I didn’t really just develop, I already had them and had them since I was a child when I got potty trained! I just applied them to a new situation.”

My point in sharing this story and risking looking like a total fool for comparing something as difficult and personal as learning to not yell to something as trivial as not peeing in one’s pants is this: you already have some of the skills to yell less. You already know how to work hard to control yourself physically.

Yes, the desire to yell is a heck of a lot more intense and frustrating; it’s a heck of a lot more anger filled and most definitely a heck of lot more emotionally charged. I am not in any way trying to diminish that. I guess what I am trying to say in a most absurd but also light way to combat the heaviness of yelling as a topic is that…

You can do it.

You can yell less.

You have the skills within you already. You just need to apply them in a slightly different manner. Here’s how:

  1. Pay attention to your personal signals that a yell is coming on so that when you feel them the next time you know to run to the bathroom and scream in the toilet instead of exploding at the kids.
  2. Focus all your energy on one task, one goal, that of yelling less. Focusing on too many goals at once is too much stress!
  3. Practice not yelling over and over again. Accidents happen, trust me, since my fourth son was born I have had two. Totally mortifying. But hey, it happened and I learned that I need to focus harder on not laughing on a full bladder! So if an accident does happen and you do yell, forgive yourself. Let the shame and embarrassment go and know that there will be another opportunity to practice and succeed.
  4. Set yourself up for success by placing distractions around the house, or rather reminders to not yell. Place pictures of the kids in yell zones (great way to feel love not anger) and place orange rhinos up to remember to be warm and calm.
  5. Be positive and believing in you; tell yourself over and over that, “I can be calm and not yell.”
  6. Choose to not yell because you know not only does yelling not work, but that is just isn’t a good option. Choose to hold it together, to squirm, and to squeeze your hands in frustration instead of yelling. Choose to try your hardest even on days when you want to scream your brains out.
  7. Tell yourself that you are learning to yell less and that it takes time, just like potty training. I know wasn’t born knowing how to hold my pee or um, other things. Just ask my parents or the nice couple at the beach sharing a romantic picnic. I may or may not have walked over to them totally naked at age two and squatted on their blanket and left them a present. Like, a smelly one. Moving right along…. Seriously, it takes time to learn how to not yell but it can be done!

Okay, it’s official. This post is weird. I just told you that I pooped on a blanket as a kid and that I have pee accidents at the age of thirty something. If nothing else is achieved from this post, I hope you are laughing with me. Because laughter is a great way to be in a good space to achieve all of the above!

Happy holding your yells (and pees!)

Learn how to hold a “yell” with my 30-day guide, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” It hits shelves in October 2014 but you can pre-order it now so that you are one of the first to receive it! Click here to pre-order.