I am a YELLER.

Day 1, Take 2

Dear Mom,

Why did you have to go on vacation RIGHT NOW when I really need you to tell me that I can do it? Why did you have to go somewhere where I can’t even email you? Why did you HAVE to do something for yourself for a change? Oh right, because taking care of you is so crucial to being a good mom. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true. When I do things for me – things that make me happy, make me feel good about myself, then I glow, inside out. And it’s contagious. But right now, on more days than not, the only thing I’m spreading is the Crotchety-Tired-Mommy virus. And when I am inflicted with that virus, I have the tendency to yell more than I wish….So could you please cut your vacation short and give me a strong dose of you can do it?

xoxo,

The Orange Rhino

*

I haven’t done anything for myself in probably 15 months, realistically a lot more than that. I’m tired and unraveling. I’m tired of trying to seem pulled together – trying to prove to people that I wasn’t crazy for having 4 kids in 5 years, that I love it and it’s the greatest thing ever. I’m tired of wanting to be a better mom, of feeling like I should be doing more art projects with the kids, playing more games with them, reading more books to them. I’m tired of people asking if I wish I had a girl. (I love my boys but of course I wish I had a girl too. And yes I’m jealous of that adorable dress you got to put your daughter in today because I had to pick out another boring striped shirt).

I’m tired of my husband working so much and being home mostly on weekends and worrying that with all the stress of his job and having four children that we won’t make it.I’m tired of feeling frustrated and sad as I struggle to help my 5 year old overcome some challenges and at the same time figure out why my 2 year old is always feeling cruddy. I’m tired of worrying about why my 3 year old can’t seem to get a clue how to interact socially.

And I’m tired because, well, duh, Parenting is EXHAUSTING especially when your 6 month old still doesn’t sleep through the night consistently.

And yet here I am.

Totally wacked out thinking that I have the energy and vigor to forge ahead and take on this ridiculous challenge and simultaneously launch a blog that I hope becomes a real community oh, and did I mention I just started Weight Watchers too? What am I thinking????

I’m thinking that this little project could change my life forever, for the better. That not yelling at my kids will have a trickledown effect in the household.

We need it. I need it. I need the house to be quieter- it’s not just my yelling that’s a problem, it’s the boys. They have started yelling at each other in the same mean tone I do. I mean really, is that really what I want my kids to take away from me? Of all I have to offer, I want them to learn to yell? Um, yeah, no. I want to raise respectful loving little guys. Pretty sure yelling at people in a demeaning tone that scares and shames is not the way to do that.

And I don’t mean to. I really honestly don’t. My parents didn’t yell. My husband doesn’t. But I do. There I said it.

I AM A YELLER. I YELL AT MY KIDS. I YELL AT MY HUSBAND (oh and I YELL at the people who don’t know how to drive as well as us Massholes!)

I yell much more than I would like. I know it hurts my boys’ feelings, makes them sad, and scared too sometimes :( I feel sad and scared too sometimes and I definitely always feel dreadful when I yell. I never feel better, just embarrassed, disappointed and angry that I lost control and most likely made them cry, especially since it never solves anything.

Now to be fair, I give myself a B+. I probably yell less than others but certainly more than some. But sometimes, I just snap. I try so hard to keep pulled together that when wrong button is pushed and the stars are aligned in a certain way (yes, I’m blaming the stars), watch out, MASSIVE VOLCANIC ERUPTION. And it keeps it going.  Once it starts, it is SO HARD to stop it. SO HARD. And I hate that.

And I hate that #1 has the same struggle.

In a beautiful twist of fate, in my helping #1 reign in his volcanic eruptions (we call them that because he loves volcanoes), he’s helping me. We read a child’s book together that taught him to say “1,2,3, I’m taking care of me” or to give himself a squeeze when he’s feeling overwhelmed or angry.

So lately, BEFORE the Orange Rhino Challenge even started, when I would start erupting #1 would immediately run over, squeeze me and say 1,2,3 I’m taking care of me. And you know what? Just like that – my sweet 5 year snapped me BACK into place. Kids are amazing that way – when we let them. My son taught me, that I CAN CONTROL MYSELF. I CAN CHOOSE to NOT YELL. (He also every so not- nonchalantly pointed out to me that my behavior was teaching him his…hmmm)

As I sit here feeling overwhelmed, down and tired and wishing that the excitement and adrenaline I once felt for this project would return in full force, I think to myself…I CAN DO THIS. Maybe I just need to get in bed at 9pm with no to-do lists running through my head and then sleep until whenever the heck I want to wake up, not when the alarm or the kids want me up. Nah, that’s not gonna happen.

What I really need? I need the non-existent Orange Rhino community that I hope is going to emerge. A community where my honesty is accepted and not judged and as such I gain the much needed support, strength and energy needed to survive this challenge…and all the other challenges of parenthood.  I need the support to get through days like today. I need to know that I am not alone in this thing called Parenthood.

And mom, when you read this, know that I miss you and love you. I never tell you that enough. Maybe as I stop yelling, I will start loving more…wouldn’t that be a great payoff? And please don’t call and get all mushy on me. Then I’ll just have to yell at you to stop!

Game over.

Dear Alarm Clock,

I blame you entirely for the end of my 8 day “No Yelling Streak.”  Why couldn’t you walk over to me, shake me, and pull me out of bed on time so that I could start the day off on the right foot, instead of being trampled by 8 little feet? I mean really, is that asking too much? You know I can never get out of bed when you ring. There’s got to be something you can do to change that, right? Please, oh please, find a solution.

Sincerely,

The Orange Rhino

*     *     *     *     *

Game over. I lasted a little over one week. 8 days and about 34 minutes to be exact.

When I woke up this morning I knew today was the day I was going snap. Funny. You’d think if I knew that I would have found more strength to keep it together, or just stayed in bed. Oh wait, I can’t call in sick. Darnnit. Seriously, though, you would think I would have better prepared myself for the onslaught of energy, noise, and chaos that normally gets to me if I am exhausted. And I was. I am. I am totally utterly wiped. And it’s all my own doing. I went to bed too late so when the alarm went off at 5:50am –I snoozed. Snoozed until  6:30. And that is ALWAYS. I repeat ALWAYS a lethal mistake because then I have to do my morning routine with three kids who’ve been cooped up in their rooms for half an hour and are all fired up and ready to go.  And today, to boot, the baby was also up. So make that four kids in tow, all clamoring for attention.

Why is snoozing such a lethal mistake?  I learned a long time ago that my key to starting the day off well is to be ready to start the day the minute the kids wake up. It’s like when I used to work in the corporate world, when I needed to be ready to go the minute I swiped my ID card. But in those days, I had an entire commute to think and plan the day. I had time for ME to get myself together and plan how I was going to be successful that day. As a stay at home mom, I don’t have the commute. I have 40 minutes to prepare on a good day…unless I hit the damn snooze button.

Can you imagine, rolling out of bed and two seconds letter having to swipe your ID at work and be prepared to talk to the CEO within seconds? In your pajamas, with nighttime breath and Medusa like hair, still dreaming of Ben from the Bachelor? And let’s get real – it’s not 1 CEO its 4 all with pressing issues that demand answers at. that. Second. Not minute. But second. Mommy mommy mommy MOMMY!  It would be miserable. So I set my alarm for 5:50. And if I miss it, it’s pretty much in the bag that I will yell within 10 minutes of the kids barging into my room.

So now, its 6:30 and I’m starting the day off agitated as hell that I overslept, again. I start pumping while the three monkeys try over and over again to jump on the bed all while the baby is screaming to get out of his bouncy seat. Then I am joined in the bathroom with said lovely children while I take my shower.  Normally a nice 10 minutes of peace where I let my lavender shampoo transport me to a spa far, far away, today’s shower is anything but like being at a spa. The three older boys are fighting, yes fighting, over who gets to sit in front of the baby and make him laugh. I know this sounds sweet, and in theory it is. But when the discussion is at such a loud, piercing level that it scares the baby and makes him start crying all over again, it ain’t sweet.

This is so not how I like to start my day.

Somehow, and I don’t know how, I managed to get past my 10 minute window. If you would believe it, I keep picturing you all. My non-existent Orange Rhino community. I keep thinking I can’t yell. I don’t want to let my readers down. I don’t want to let myself down. I don’t want to let my kids down. (Yeah, I clearly have issues since I am thinking about imaginary followers!)

And then IT happened.

The  sh*t hit the fan.

#1 started getting hyper and silly. The not listening kicked in. The me asking TIME and TIME and TIME again to stop kicked in.  All the little voices in my head start quoting Super Nanny and this article and that article telling me “that if you want them to stop, you have to stop what you’re doing, walk over to him, and tell him that. No parenting across the room. It Does. Not. Work.” So I did that. I stopped making breakfast. Walked over and asked #1 to stop and please get his shoes on. YES! It worked. Phew. Maybe I would make it through the day?

Ha. As if I could get off that easily. #1 got his shoes on and started up again. So I stopped what I was doing AGAIN. At this point #4 is crying for breakfast and #2 is running circles around #1 trying intentionally to piss him off. Well mission accomplished. #1 starts kicking #2, #2 kicks back. They both start crying.

So if you’re counting, we’re up to 3 crying  and it’s not even 8:05, lord help me. Then the only one not crying chimes in “poop poop poop.” And for the reference that means – mommy I need you to pull my poop out because I can’t poop on my own. So whats a girl to do? I guess not Yell is the answer. But I did. I lost it. “#1 and #2, GET the H*LL OVER HERE NOW. AND I MEAN NOW!”

It is now triage time because we have to get the Poop out or problems ensue. I order #1 to go give the baby the pacifier and order #2 to get me wipes so I can help #3 poop. Are you tired yet of following this? Bottom line: poop is out, I’m even more exhausted,  and we still haven’t had breakfast.

I of course swallowed my pride for breakfast this morning. I had been telling my husband how easy the not yelling was getting. Clearly, I need some more practice. On to Day 1, Take 2. Now, I know what my mom would say. “Don’t be so hard on yourself. No one’s perfect. You don’t have to go back to day 1 of your challenge. 365 days is too much.” Blah blah blah.

And my answer.  Harrumph.  That’s the point mom! To go 365 days straight – to make yelling no longer a part of my life! I’m not trying to be a perfect mom, but I’d like to save all my mistakes for other silly things like putting #1’s sandwich in #2’s lunchbag or washing #2’s hair on #3’s night. This one thing – this not yelling at my kids – it’s the best gift I can give my boys and it’s the one thing in my life right now that needs to change. I am determined to stop yelling. And I am GOING to do it. I am going to make it 365 days straight and officially make yelling a thing of the past.

The Epiphany

Dear Larry,

I want to thank you for busting into my house unannounced last week and catching me screaming at my kids. While at the time I was totally unappreciative (seeing as I thought you were a burglar and all) looking back, it was really quite the gift. You forced me to realize that I yell at my kids much too much. So thank you. Next time though, please do feel free to ring the doorbell and give me some warning!

*

Last Friday, I was attached to my breast pump which really is always a pleasure. Ugh. The baby was napping and my three older boys were in my room. Baby lock was on door so they couldn’t leave for the 10 minutes I mooed like a cow. I was exhausted as I was up the night before wasting time doing who knows what and then as luck would have it not 1, not 2, but 3 of my 4 boys had problems sleeping. So here we are, 4 tired people, trapped in my room for 10 minutes.  Not 30 seconds into pumping and the boys find the pump spare parts – the back up tubes, the piston for the hospital pump, the extra “horns.” Before I knew it my room had turned into a battlefield. Two boys are whipping the tubes at each other and the other one is using the piston as a gun. I have a thing against playing guns – zero tolerance and it pushes me to the edge. They are all running around yelling, jumping on and off my bed, you know the bed  that I had JUST made.

Now, when I use the breast pump I feel irritable. Gross. Sore. Disappointed (that I’m not breastfeeding) and let’s not forget HORMONAL. I can’t be bothered when I pump, and especially not touched. It’s enough that my breasts are being sucked alive, please don’t come and put a horn on my head or run around yelling or create more household chores for me to repeat.

But alas, all of the above items are happening, as if an invitation to me to lose it. I nicely ask my boys to stop. To sit criss-cross applesauce and tell me about what they would like to do that day. I try reading a book. Anything so that I don’t become the raging lunatic that I can be when I’ve been pushed to the edge.

And they don’t.

And I am stuck attached to the blessed boob-sucker and  can’t get up and ever so politely walk over to them, bend down and make eye contact, gently place my hand on their shoulder and  explain to them in pre-school terms that if they don’t stop NOW mommy is going to f’n lose it. (You know, because that is what all the parenting books tell you to do.  Not the lose it parts, the other parts). I politely ask them again to stop.

And again, they ignore me (shocker).

The volcano that is me erupts. At high-pitched, as high as I go and loud as I go I scream “STOP IT NOW. MOMMY JUST NEEDS A MINUTE OF PEACE to regain her composure. PLEASE. JUST A MINUTE” Finally silence comes. My ever so intuitive 5 year old comes over and rubs my back “it’s okay mommy.” My 3.5 year old just looks at me then bats his eyelashes and smiles and then my 2 year old starts running around yelling because he has no clue. It was beyond infuriating.

And then I hear a noise and see a shadow outside the door. Oh sh*t I think; someone is robbing the house. You know, at 9am on Suburbia Lane. I open the bedroom door, and call out. Hello????

Silence. Finally, someone comes down from the attic. What the…

“Oh hi Mrs. “Orange Rhino”, its me Larry, just fixing some things.”  (We’ve been doing construction on the house for a while to make room for baby #4…all the workers have become like family and have the code to the garage).

“um hi Larry, did you hear all that?”

With a big sh*t eating grin on his face he replies “Why, yes, yes I did. You go mom. A moms got to do what a mom has to do.”

MORTIFYING. MOR.TI.FYING (perhaps extra so because to all those breast pumpers out there you know that your breasts are extra um shall we say alert after pumping and I hadn’t inserted pads yet. Nice).

And that was it. The light bulb went off.

In the 9 months the workers lived with us, I only horrifically yelled a handful of times. That’s a pretty good track record if you ask me. BUT I only did that well because I had an audience that I cared what they thought about me. An audience that I wanted to look good in front of; who I wanted to show that I was a totally pulled together mom (which by the way, I am so not). An audience of people who after the work was done, I would never ever see again, unlike my boys who I will see every day for many many years to come, god willing.

So let’s do the math: People I’ll never see again and I don’t yell.  My own boys who I will see every day and I can’t not yell. HOW BACKWARDS IS THAT? Way backwards.

Especially backwards because it turns out that I DO HAVE AN AUDIENCE. And it’s the one comprised of my four sons. It’s the ONLY AUDIENCE that matters. I love my audience fiercly. I care an awful lot about what they think of me. It just took me this mortifying moment to realize that I was putting on the show for the wrong people.

I don’t want my boys to think I’m a “mean witch” and that they “don’t like it when you yell at me, it makes me think you don’t love me anymore.” Ouch. That one stung. Or what about when my 5 year old told my mom that he is “just like mom. I yell all the time when I’m angry.” That one really hit home. This is how my kids see me…and how they are starting to act towards each other.  They are starting to yell…just like me. Nice legacy I’m passing on, eh? Let’s not forget the feelings of shame, fear and sadness that I no doubt pass along when I go off one of my rants. Not exactly what I envisioned teaching my kids….

The rest of the day I was on better behavior –and it took A LOT and I mean A LOT of focus, patience, and resolve. I screamed a few more times. I was just wiped that day and didn’t have it in me to do better.  Sigh.

About Me

So who is this Orange Rhino chick anyway?

I am a stay at home mom to four BOYS ages 5, 3 1/2, 2, and 6 months. Yes, we’ve been busy, yes they were all planned, no I don’t know why I have all boys when I have a low threshold for noise, chaos, and physical behavior! Before I became a SAHM I worked on developing really cool consumer brands like “M&M’s.” Whenever I miss working, I just tell myself that I am responsible for launching 4 totally new brands! I am not a writer and I don’t pretend to be. I am, however, an “emoter”; I would tell my feelings to a wall. I describe myself as a sarcastic, honest, overwhelmed, over-achieving (but in a good way), down-to-earth person. I am very hard on myself but only because I want to do better for myself and those I love, like my family and my friends.

I love to eat nachos, ice cream sundaes, and sushi; three foods I haven’t had for 6 months due to breastfeeding. I think my a*s will grow exponentially when I stop pumping and start eating! I met my husband on a blind date and told my mom after our first real date that I was going to marry him. I was right!  It didn’t take long for us to decide we wanted a large family and we feel fortunate to have 4 healthy boys.

Moving forward, I will refer to my sons as #1, #2, #3, and #4 to help protect their privacy. That and well, quite frankly, that is how I have started calling them at home because it is WAY easier….Our days are filled with pre-school, occupation and speech therapy lessons, extra-curricular lessons, lego building, Candy Land playing, fist fights, verbal fights, I’m not going to listen to you fights, tears and more. The more being love and laughter of course.

Now here’s a little bit about each boy…why I love ‘em and why they drive me to yell! (I figured a little insight into their distinct personalities would give you numerous insights into why I yell so much!)

#1 (5 years old): He is amazing: intellectually curious, empathetic, charismatic and more. He is a very aware little boy which makes him very sweet but also very emotional and sensitive to noise, chaos, and change. As such, he is easily set off and quick to yell, but then hard to settle down when he is upset and in the obstinate zone. He requires a lot of love, understanding, 1 on 1 attention and patience. (Don’t we all?!) I have the love and understanding (personality wise he is my long lost twin!), it’s the attention and patience that I am lacking!

#2 (3.5 years old): He too is amazing, aren’t all kids all the time? He has a love for life that I dream of having. Absolutely nothing fazes him; he is completely carefree and walks around smiling and telling phenomenal stories with great gusto. But, in being so carefree, he takes his precious time to do everything and he could give a sh*t about what I have to say or his brothers think. He intentionally does things to incite a war with his brothers and does so with a twinkle in his eyes. Oh, and his everyday voice is normally as loud as a yell.

#3 (2 years old): Ah, sweet, hysterical #3. He is an absolute ham, always making us laugh. His grandparents call him little-John Belushi which fits him to a tee. But our little Belushi is struggling with a speech delay, is starting in with the same sensitivities as his older brother, and has a mystery physical ailment that makes him cantankerous as h*ll for 7-10 days a month. During this time he alternates between whining and tantruming (is that a word?) All. Day. Long. It’s beyond intolerable.

#4 (6 months old): At only such a young age, he too is amazing. He is a perfect combination of his older brothers, loving, easy-going, and full of laughter. He is an absolute sweetheart, truly. From 6:30 am until 7:30 pm that is but at night, whoa, his sleeping habits suck! He still doesn’t sleep through the night consistently due to a sensitive stomach and often wakes up with bad gas pains. Once he farts, all is right with the world. Ah, such a man!

So there you have it. A view into my life as a Stay at Home Mom to 4 boys under 5. I love my 5 boys (husband included!) immensely, challenges and all. I love them so much that I am willing to undertake this crazy challenge!