Three Fun Alternatives to Yelling at my kids

83 days down, 282 to go!

Dear Deep, Restful Sleep,

Where art thou? Why won’t you find me? It’s been almost two weeks straight now of restless sleep. I look like a zombie. I act like a zombie and well, I am starting to sound like one, mumbling unintelligible drink requests to the Starbucks barista. This is simply not good. I can’t blame it on the kiddos they aren’t sleeping worse than usual. I can’t blame in on staying up late, my bedtime hasn’t changed. So what can I blame it on but you? Oh, you want me to blame myself? To look at myself and admit that I am stressed and sad and feeling overwhelmed with worry about two of my sons? Yeah, no thank you. I am not ready to publicly do that.

Instead I will keep talking in my sleep, having bad nightmares, waking up in a sweat, waking up crankier than the day before. The only problem with this plan of mine? Of keeping all my worries in? Of accepting crappy sleep? It makes everything worse. It makes me more stressed, more sad, more overwhelmed and thus, much MUCH more likely to yell. Harumph. That’s the bad news.The good news? I have been forced to find some new ways to keep from yelling. But don’t be fooled, I still need sleep to help keep me from yelling. So could you try your hardest to find me?

Yawn,
The Orange Rhino,

*

Oh sleep. Gosh how I need it. I know that a few nights of good sleep would really help me snap out of this funk. So I am going to keep this post short tonight and get to bed.

Come Wednesday last week, about 10 days into restless sleep, I had had it. The kids were beyond on my nerves. To be fair, their behavior? Totally standard. Mine? Not acceptable. I was uber impatient and sensitive. Everything and anything they did made me want to hang my head against the wall. So lets just say that Wednesday was a long, brutal day of trying to keep it together.

At one point I literally had both hands in the air, above my head, prepared to slam them down onto the kitchen table in very high hopes of creating such a loud bang that it would startle the kids into quiet, good behavior.   Um, yeah, not proud of that parenting moment. And um yeah, totally embarrassed that that idea even crossed my mind.

But at least I had a good recovery.

I have NO IDEA how, or why, this idea came to me but I brought my hands down and started drumming the table in a rhythmic beat.  

Just like music class I guess. I increased the speed and the intensity of my drumming, faster and faster, harder and harder. The boys watched mesmerized.  It felt FANTASTIC. What a release. I kept going, and then at the end, stopped and said, “Attention Please” just like I imagined a drum major might do. And oh my god. It actually worked. I got my boys attention and diverted them from the joyous game of jumping on each other’s heads to the quieter game of Candyland. Score. 1 point for The Orange Rhino.

That lasted 15 minutes, MAX. Why? Because the baby woke up from his nap SCREAMING from his supposed tooth that is coming in. Well that just set everyone off, including me. The three older boys ALL started screaming. At the top of their lungs. Yeah, that type of screaming. It was awesome. I was surrounded by three screaming kiddos and had 1 screaming into my year. It was blissful. I wanted to join in the screaming fest but decided yelling at everyone to stop wasn’t worth it. So I did something weird. Again, NO IDEA where this one came from.

I cupped my hands like a megaphone, placed them in front of my mouth and started making “doot doot dooo” sounds, kind of to the tune of Superman.

My boys thought it was hilarious. Just their laughter alone eased my desire to yell. Phew, crisis 2 averted. Another point for The Orange Rhino.

I stumbled through the rest of the day, using all my strength to not yell. Ugh, what a mental workout! Dinner was minutes away and the joyous game of jumping on each other’s heads right near the coffee table had started again. Awesome. My FAVORITE game to break up. I just didn’t have the energy to get in the middle of the battle. I knew pulling 1 off of 2 would just free 2 to tackle 3 and so on and so forth. It’s a vicious cycle.

So I thought of my post from Monday night, promising to get on my back and shake my legs and arms in the arm like my husband did if I needed to laugh. And I did it. Of course I couldn’t get a picture, but I did get a good laugh! I stayed on the floor, on my back, shaking my groove thing for a good 3-5 minutes.

I looked like a fool. No doubt. But I gotta tell you, it really felt great. The being silly, the letting go, the not yelling. It all felt awesome. Added bonus that it stopped the boys AND double added bonus that they joined in. We all started howling and barking like dogs. Yup, a total sight.

Last Wednesday was Ruff (haha, sorry, couldn’t resist), but at least I did learn three alternatives to yelling: drumming the table, making a megaphone, and lying on my back and barking like a dog. Writing that all just makes me laugh. This challenge sure is making me do funny things….

Have you done anything silly instead of yelling?

I couldn’t find my son…

82 days down , 283 to go.

Dear Orange Rhinos,

One day on vacation last week I had the fright of my life. I couldn’t find my 5.5 year old son. Below is my story. I share it with you so you can learn from my mistakes and hopefully not have to experience the gut wrenching fear that I did.

The Orange Rhino…

*

It was a beautiful sunny day. My husband generously offered to stay in the hotel room while #3 and #4 napped so that I could enjoy the day. So I took #1 (we’ll call him Gregory John in this post) and #2 to the pool for some serious splashing and swimming. I will tell you now that that morning I dressed the boys alike – bright orange swim suits, bright blue swim shirt, white hat and yellow life preservers. It’s important to note that I INTENTIONALLY dressed them this way so that they were easy to spot and easy to count. 1? Check! 2? Check! 3? Check! 4? Check! It’s a great system. And always works well for me when we are out in busy places. But it didn’t this day. Sigh.

It’s also important to note that I always, and I mean always, make my boys stay close to me (kidnapping is a huge fear of mine) and to tell me if they are walking away. Even if it is just a few feet. I am probably over the top on my rules with them but I would rather be safe than sorry. They are good boys, truly. They follow these rules 99.9% of the time, always checking in, always staying close. I have never had a fright until now. And it was a FRIGHT.

I was sitting pool side watching #1 and #2 play together. #2 asked to go on the water slide. I acknowledged him, said yes, and watched him like a hawk walk the 7 feet to the waterslide. Mind you it took me four days to feel comfortable with him going up without me. That is how anxious I am about these things.

Then I got up, told GREGORY that I was walking to the lounge chair, about 10ish feet behind me and that I would be right back and that he needed to stay put. I had done this several times before and NEVER had a problem. Mostly because I walked backwards to the chair so I could see him (no joke) and because Gregory isn’t a wanderer. So I didn’t worry. Until today.

I walked backwards to my chair, turned around for ~ 30 seconds to get a sip of water and then headed back to the pool. But Gregory wasn’t there. He couldn’t have gone far I thought to myself. He never walks away.

“Gregory? Gregory?” I called.

I turned around about five times. Scanning left, right, up, down, in the water. Everywhere. Gregory was NOWHERE to be found. I started walking away from our location. This time calling my son’s name a little louder as I walked. I was sure he was in the pool and that I just didn’t recognize him in the sea of yellow life jackets.

“GREGORY? GREGORY?”

Time passed. Probably only 2 minutes. It of course felt like more. I called again, this time with his middle name added, hoping that maybe there were two boys named Gregory and my son was confused.

“GREGORY JOHN! GREGORY JOHN. GREGORY JOHN!!!

I was no longer calling him as a question, knowing I will get an answer, but calling him with fear. And it was escalating. My heart started racing. And then I started racing, running around the pool deck SCREAMING his name in a way I have never experienced.

My voice rattled with every “GREGORY JONH!” I screamed.  My voice reached as loud as it could, quickly becoming sore, quickly becoming more panicked. “GREGORY JOHN!” The tears started filling my eyes. Even though the pool was enclosed, I feared the worst. That someone had taken him, a hotel guest, and nonchalantly slipped out. I feared that he was gone.

I ran to the lifeguard.

“My son is missing. I can’t find my son.”

The lifeguard did NOTHING. That’s right. NOTHING.

So I started running around faster, hoping people would get off their lazy asses, put down their margaritas and help me.

NOTHING. That’s right. NOTHING. No one moved. They all just watched me, a crying, desperately afraid mama wearing a bathing suit that was half falling down due to small boobs and half way up my ass due to a large well, ass, and did NOTHING. I could not believe it. Did anyone have a heart?

Finally one nice man got up. “What does your son look like? What is he wearing?”

And I froze. Absolutely froze.

I didn’t know. I couldn’t answer him. In the moment of pure stress I couldn’t tell him what Gregory looked like and what he was wearing DESPITE all my intentional efforts to dress him in a particular outfit for this exact reason.

So I kept running. And so did he. Both of us screaming “GREGORY JOHN” at the top of our lungs.

Someone said to me “Don’t worry, you’ll find him, he didn’t just disappear.”

I know she was trying to be reassuring. But would have been reassuring is if she got up and HELPED me.

Finally, and I mean finally after what felt like forever, chills going down my body right now as I recall that moment, some wonderful gentleman yelled down from the top of the water slide, holding a sad looking boy, and said “is this your son?”

I looked up. It was. Tears fell even harder, as much as they are right now reliving this, as I ran, not walked, but RAN up the 50 stairs to get to my Gregory John. I lifted him up and held him so tight. I didn’t want to let go. But he made me. He pushed me back and looked at me, sad, scared, and embarrassed.

“Mommy, you yelled at me. You yelled at me all over the pool. I want to go home right now. I don’t want to swim ever again. I am so embarrassed.”

I KNEW he felt badly. I KNEW he knew exactly what was up. There was ZERO point yelling at him. And besides, I didn’t want to. I just wanted to hold him forever and make sure he knew why I was yelling like that, that I wasn’t yelling at him, but that I was calling his name.

“Gregory, look at mommy’s face. It isn’t mad. It is sad. And scared. I love you so much. I really thought I lost you and that I would never see you again.”

“Let’s go home mommy.”

I picked him up and carried him down the 50 stairs. It was the longest yet easiest flight of stairs I have ever walked. Just knowing that I found my son, that he wasn’t missing, made all the hard work feel like nothing.

We collected #2 as he flew out of the water slide and went to the lounge chair to talk. At this point, I am still crying, out of sadness, joy, and quite frankly, embarrassment. I shared my son’s embarrassment, not only did I look silly running around, but I looked like an a*shole for not knowing where my son was.

So we sat down on the chair and held each other and cried. And snuggled. And cried some more. Finally, we were both clear headed enough to talk. Not yell, but talk.

“Gregory, why did you walk away from me? I was so scared that someone took you?”
“But mommy, I told you I was going on the water slide.”
“No you didn’t.”
“Yes I did. I whispered it to you.”

And that is when the light bulb went off. I had taught him to tell me if he was walking away from me but NEVER did I teach him to make sure I heard him, to make sure that I ACKNOWLEDGED what he said and said okay.

And that is where I failed here. He did everything I had taught him to do. I just didn’t know I had to teach him the other piece. Because I have never been a mom before.

Seeing as I was calm and not yelling, I was able to clearly explain this important piece to him, that he needs to be acknowledged before leaving.  And seeing as I hadn’t yelled at him, he was calm and able to understand and internalize what I was saying.

“I get it mom. You need to hear me and tell me it is okay to walk away.”

“Yes, that is right. I’ll give you a thumbs up and say OK.”

The rest of the day and STILL, almost 10 days later, if Gregory John wants to walk out of site, he asks, then waits for the thumbs up and the OK! And I credit The Orange Rhino Challenge for that. Because before The Challenge, I would have yelled. Maybe not horrifically, but bad enough so that Gregory wouldn’t have been receptive to learning, and internalizing, the important lesson at hand. And trust me, he got the point. Oh did he get it.

I got the point too, lots of them actually.

1)      It really does just take a second

2)      It really is important to know what your child is wearing…and when it matters most is when you will forget. Mental note to self: when on vacation, or anywhere that is crowded and new, and extra susceptible to shady behavior, TAKE A PICTURE of your kids before you start playing. With phones these days, that is a 5 second habit that is totally worth it.

3)      It really does pay off to not yell…because most of the time when I want to yell the worst, is when I need to teach them the most and who learns well when being yelled at? Who remembers “the lesson” when being yelled at? I know I sure don’t. I know my son doesn’t either.

And I also know that I love my son immensely. And I am so grateful that this story turned out as a learning opportunity, and not the other way around….

WE Kick Ass!

80 days down, 285 to go!

(Okay, totally jumping the gun here, I still have hours to go BUT what the heck, if I can handle a physical ailment flair-up this week and still not yell (when I normally would have SCREAMED BLOODY MURDER 2-3x a day, on a good day), then I can go 60 more minutes of not yelling! P.S. Wrote this last night but it wouldn’t post. Let’s hope it goes up right now!)

Dear Orange Rhinos,

I wanted to share with you what I did last tonight, what took 90+ minutes to do but should have taken about 5. As a result I didn’t get to write the post I have wanted to write all week. I am *hoping* the tradeoff is worth it, for ALL of us. Everyone, please keep your fingers and toes and whatever else you can crossed.

One of our fellow Orange Rhinos shared an article with me titled “Discipline without Screaming” published in Parents Magazine last month. (I’ve scanned the article and shared it below).

As an article I enjoyed it. But it didn’t blow me away. Did it remind me of all the negative effects of yelling at my kids? Absolutely. Did it therefore remind me, and reinforce to me, why I started The Orange Rhino Challenge in the first place? Absolutely. Did it give me some new ideas to try to keep from yelling? Absolutely. Did it reaffirm my personal learning that I can’t just blame my kids, that I need to be in control “of my emotions in the moment”? Absolutely. Did it comfort me to read that 89% of Americans say they yell? HECK YEAH! So nice to know we are all truly not alone. Did it inspire me to keep going with The Orange Rhino Challenge even though I want to quit? Double Heck Yeah.

BUT, what would have really inspired me, or really helped me more, would be to read about what REAL MOMS are doing to discipline without screaming. It is great to read what the experts suggest, but do they have kids? Do they know it works? Who knows.

What I do know is that The Orange Rhino Community DOES KNOW what works.

And that is why I love OUR little community that is growing. We are real. We are honest. We are the ones in the trenches figuring it out together. We are willing to admit the good, the bad, and the really ugly. And by sharing it with each other, with STRANGERS, we are helping each other. We are collectively responsible for making lots of little kiddos lives better. Which is just plain awesome.

I like to think of us as the Erin Brokovich’s of Not Yelling. People liked her because she wasn’t an attorney, she wasn’t an expert. She was just someone who cared and wanted to make a difference. That is what we are. None of us (at least that I know of) are experts on this matter, this not yelling at our kids. We are experts, however, in being honest about wanting to change, wanting to be better mothers/fathers, wanting to make a difference in our children’s lives. What gives us the credibility to talk about not yelling? Because just like Erin not only are we genuine but also we CARE PASSIONATELY about our kiddos. And that is what matters.

So I think WE should be the ones writing the article. We should be the ones sharing the ideas on how to discipline without screaming. Because personally, I think collectively our stories are truly inspiring. Why? Because we aren’t just talking about changing, we are trying to change. We are saying to each other, okay, this is hard, but let’s try anyway, and let’s keep trying even if it is hard and we do slip. BECAUSE IT IS WORTH IT. Our kids deserve our best. Whether that means we don’t yell at all or whether it means we yell 3 times a day instead of 7.

Am I discounting the experts? No. There are some fantastic points in the article about why yelling doesn’t work, what negative impacts it has both on our kids and what we teach them. I am just saying that we are a kick ass community with some great ideas worth sharing.

So tonight I wrote Parents Magazine and told them just that.

And I am really, REALLY, hoping they didn’t just hear me “Toot OUR Rhino Horn” loud and clear, but that they also immediately realized and agreed that we would have something wonderful to share.

Here’s hoping!

*

Here is the article, scanned old school! The last part in the car reminds me of this post I wrote: http://theorangerhino.com/watchout-shes-gonna-blow/. Curious to know, what do you think of the article?

 

The Vacation Hangover

78 days down, 287 to go!

Dear Vacation,

I have a terrible case of missing you. In fact, I have the most wicked Vacation Hangover ever. I don’t want to do anything but stay in bed in the fetal position and hope I feel better, fast. My head is pounding with all I have to do. My stomach is nauseous from all the extra delicious food I ate. And while my mind is remembering what fun I had, it is also struggling knowing the hard work ahead of getting back into the swing of things again. Ugh.

See you sooner than later, I hope,
The Orange Rhino

*

I have a huge case of the Vacation Blues. Why? Because I finally feel like I had a vacation. Haven’t felt that way since oh, 2006 when my first son was born! I have spent (wasted?) the last 6 years of family vacations complaining that my vacations weren’t really vacations, that I still had to “work,” that vacations with kids are more work than not-vacationing. And well, yeah, they kind of are.

There is no denying that vacations as a young family are a heck of a lot of work.

All the planning that goes into finding a family friendly place. All the packing of the extra sets of clothes in case of accidents, the sippy cups and snack cups, the toys for the hotel room, the medicines. All the travel, the endless hours in a car listening to the questions “are we there yet? I’m hungry. I have to pee. He looked at me.” All the lost sleep from shorter or no naps, from going to bed late because of excitement and waking up early with the same excitement. All the parental exhaustion from kids being super-excited-over-the-top-hyper-happy from being somewhere new. All the tears about vacation ending followed by all the unpacking at home, All the re-entering back home, the repeat of all the tears.

Simply put, vacations with my young family are lots of extra hard work and NONE of the extra rest and relaxation one expects from vacation.

Sure, my vacations have felt like a break by offering new scenery and new things to do and sure they have created wonderful memories, but they haven’t seemed like a TRUE vacation. A much needed vacation. You know, one where I get to sleep in late, where I get to sit around and do nothing except maybe put my feet up while reading a magazine front to back (GASP!), one where I can come and go as I please with no, and I repeat NO time constraints.

Until now.

This past week, my vacation FINALLY felt like more than a break. It felt like a TRUE vacation. And it was great. Oh so amazing.

Here’s the best part. I had all 4 kids in tow. I didn’t sleep late, not even close. In fact, my baby had me up 4-5 times a night and my 5 year old had me up at 5 am every day. And I didn’t get to put my feet up accept if you count the time at the restaurant when somehow #3 snuck out of his seat and was crawling under the table, under my feet. But I DID (for the most part) have no time constraints. And that made it feel like a vacation.

Why? Because I FINALLY woke up/grew up/realized/learned from my Orange Rhino experience that I needed to change my expectations in order to enjoy my vacations.

And all I wanted from this vacation was a week free of constraints and full of uninterrupted family time. That to me would be rest and relaxation.

And I got it.

I got to hang out with my family free from phone calls, emails, texts. Free of my to-do list. Free of driving my kids everywhere, all day. No school schedule to follow, no enrichment class drop-offs and pick-ups, no therapy appointments. The only appointment I had was with my family. Just my hubby, my kids and me. Chilling.

My boys. All four little ones dressed in my favorite new color. Couldn't resist...orange makes me happy and when I see it, it keeps me from yelling. Seriously!

And it was awesome.

Simply not being at the mercy of my 4 kids’ chauffer needs, not being stuck in my uber cool minivan was a vacation.  Not having to look at my to-do list because I promised myself I wouldn’t was a vacation. Having permission to eat out more and eat less healthy, was a vacation. Being able to sit outside and hear the ocean at nap time, even if it meant I was still tied to a nap schedule, felt like a vacation. Being able to spend more time with my baby because I didn’t have to take his older brothers everywhere, REALLY felt like a vacation.

And it was grand.

But now I am back.

And it is not so grand.

My to-do list multiplied. The kids don’t want to go to school. We all want to be eating junk food galore. And I don’t have any desire to get into my mini-van and drive anywhere. I feel massively overwhelmed. I’ve been “back” for 48+ hours and have nearly hyperventilated three to four times. I have sat and stared at my to-do list in a trance for at least a total of 48 minutes. This Vacation Hangover is the worse I have ever had (well, after my Honeymoon of course.) Because this vacation was so great. All because I changed my expectations.

Who knew that changing my Expectations could have such a powerful impact???
(Um, you did Orange Rhino. That is one of the first things you realized when learning to not yell. A lot of your expectations of your boys were too high. You set yourself up for disappointment in your kid’s behavior. You set yourself up to be frustrated…you set yourself up to yell. You have learned to chill out, to not necessarily lower, but to adjust your expectations, and wow what a difference.I think you subconsciously know this and adjusted vacation expectations accordingly. Another point for the O.R. Challenge benefits!)

But as great as this vacation was, this Hangover is not! It needs to take a hike. I can’t stay in bed and dream of being back on vacation. And I can’t keep walking around with this grudge on my shoulder that I am back because it is making me want to yell at Every. Single. Thing. My kids do.  And I can’t just take two advil and drink Gatorade to feel better.

I have to keep taking each day a moment at a time, I have to keep taking it slow, I have to keep taking deep breaths as needed and telling myself when overwhelmed “you can do this, you CAN do this” I have to keep doing what I do when trying not to yell. This has been immensely helpful these last two days let me tell you! It no doubt has kept me from having an absolute sob fest on the kitchen floor. Every hour.

It’s amazing. I set out on The Orange Rhino Challenge hoping to stop yelling. I never thought that in learning to not yell at my kids, that the skills I acquired would help me in the rest of my life, like learning how to FINALLY enjoy a family vacation and how to recover from a Vacation Hangover! Who would have thunk it? Not me. But I’ll take it.

P.S. You know what else is amazing? In changing my expectations I realized something cool. I don’t need to go anywhere to have a vacation. When I need some rest and relaxation, I am losing the keys to my mini-van for a day, turning off my phone and computer, and eating delicious junk food with my boys. Maybe I’ll even make frozen strawberry daiquiri’s (virgin of course) to share with them! 


Is it Tuesday?

77 days without yelling, 288 to go!

Is it Tuesday?

Is it the night I vowed to open up the blog
for questions about anything and everything
related to The Orange Rhino Challenge?

Because I am so dazed and confused
after just getting back from my “staycation”
I can’t tell what day it is or what kid needs to be where when.

But I do know that I like your questions.
All of them. Those posted in the comments,
those emailed directly, those posted on FB.

So I ask you, do you have any questions? 

If not, I have a question for you.

If you could get one thing out of reading this blog, out of following and/or taking The Orange Rhino Challenge, what is it? Inspiration? Ideas? Support? Community? A good laugh? Be honest. Tell me.

Comment below or email me directly at:
theorangerhinochallenge@gmail.com

I want to hear from you!

I just had to laugh…

76 days down, 278 to go!

Dear Mommy Baby Spot,

I am sad. I totally have Vacation Blues. I am trying to get up and running, to get back into the swing of things but the problem is, I have no desire to! I have no desire to look at my to-do list, to start driving kids back and forth, to be constrained by time commitments. I just want to be lazy. Harumph. Coming back from vacation is so brutal! Normally I feel this way for 3-5 days. Seriously. But not this time. Tonight I told myself I would reply to your question you posted last week. In doing so, it made me laugh and smile. It cheered me right up. So thank you. I hope it makes you laugh too…it should!

Smile,
The Orange Rhino

*

Question: Have you had any moments turn funny now that you’re not yelling…where before it may have been yelling and tears?

Answer: Yes, lots of times. But it is not that the moments turned funny, they already were funny. Not yelling forces me to stop and think. And in situations like the following, that brief pause allows me to see the humor, to appreciate the humor and to chill out, instead of getting all revved up. Sometimes, you just have to laugh, either out loud or in your head. Because what else can you do??? Yell, and feel crappy or Laugh, and feel better?

Take here for example. It was dinner time. I had called #1 to come downstairs more than once. He was busy and refusing to come. I couldn’t leave the three kids in the kitchen with the stove on. As I went near the stairs for my last plea, both to #1 and to the no-yelling-fairies to keep me from losing it, Mr. Walking Closet appeared:
I mean really, what else could I do but laugh? Can you count the number of different articles of clothing? He wanted to change but couldn’t decide on what. So he wore everything, hence the delay. Hilarious if you ask me…

 

 

 

 

 

Then there was the moment I turned around and saw this:

What a sad looking milk “carton.” All alone in the middle of my kitchen floor. No cookies for dipping, no orange juice by his side. All alone. At first I wanted to scream at #2 for taking the milk out and leaving it there to go rotten. But then I got the camera and took this picture. Because whenever do you find Milk in the middle of the floor like this? It was kind of funny. What else could I do but laugh?

 

 

 

Well I guess I could have poured the milk on the floor and played slip and slide with everyone, but that would have been a sticky mess. Kind of like this:

#3 didn’t like that his pasta, Ditalini, was all cut up into  small pieces. He thought I had meanly cut it up, which of course, I hadn’t. So he dumped his whole bowl out and sat at his seat for 25 minutes fastidiously trying to put his pasta back together. Needless to say it didn’t work. But it did keep me from yelling. He was just so focused and cute about his “broken pasta” that I couldn’t help but laugh. Besides, paper towel was invented for a reason. I could easily clean up the mess.

This mess however, not so easy to clean up:

Dear #4 kindly threw up while in the Exersaucer. Of course I wouldn’t yell at him for this, but the mess – and the smell – made me want to scream! It was everywhere. Not only did it splash into the bottom part, but it filled every hole in every toy on top. Normally this would have put me over the edge – would have made me cranky all day, prime for snapping and yelling. But when I looked down and saw that #4 was dancing in his throw up, I had to laugh. He had created his own slip in slide and was happy as a pig in sh*t.

Speaking of a pigsty…

#1 and #2 were supposed to be having quiet time one day while I put #3 and #4 for a nap. When I went to get them this is what I found:

 

Yes, that would be the mattress and the boxspring on the floor, along with ALL of #2’s clothing from his closet and ALL of his books from his bookshelf. Awesome. Old me, totally would have lost it. Old me would have seen a mess that even with their help, would have taken too much time to clean up. Old me would have seen a nuisance and would have screamed, not yelled, but screamed, WHAT THE HECK WERE YOU THINKING???? But the new me just laughed. Why?

 

Because when I opened the door #2, the one on the bed said “Oh shit, we’re busted, hide!” Okay first off, he said “oh shit.” Awesome parenting. Second, does it look like he is doing a good job hiding? Um, no. Too funny. Too, too funny. Now to be clear, I didn’t laugh out loud. That would have encouraged this behavior which although funny to me and them, this is not sometime I want to deal with on a regular occurrence. So I laughed to myself.

The beauty of laughing at the situation – whether it be to myself, like here, or out loud, is that it makes me re-group and talk to my kids nicer and in a more positive manner which has a better chance of them getting it…and added bonus, it doesn’t destroy their spirit! I believe what I said here was something along the lines of:

“Well, it is nice to see you two playing together and having such fun. Aren’t you boys strong (they thought they were, and well, it took a lot of strength to move the bed.) I know you are strong enough to help me put your room back together because this is not what we do to our bedrooms.” Much better alternative to yelling and tears, at least in my book.

And if all else fails and I can’t find the humor in a situation, then I try to create it. I try to break the ice. One day I had had it. HAD IT. I was ready to scream when instead I said, “Okay, raise your hands if you need a break?”

My husband, immediately, and I mean immediately, did this:

He might not like this picture of his a*s, but how funny. He dropped and put 4 “hands” in the air. Just that made me laugh and I felt better. All the growing anger and frustration left my body. Laughter completely made me re-set.

I guess laughter really is the best medicine? I know for me it works wonders…

It sure did tonight when I needed a pick me up. Hopefully tomorrow I will find more humor to help me completely kick these Vacation Blues and to keep me from yelling. Here’s hoping…Scratch that. Hoping leaves it up to someone else. Here’s FINDING humor tomorrow. Because it is there to be found. And if not found, it is there to be made. Maybe tomorrow when, not if (haha), I am ready to lose it I will just drop on my back and put my “fours” in the air like my husband and act like a dog. That sounds ridiculous. But it totally would ease my tension. I’ll let you know how it goes. I bet kids and I will be laughing…why don’t you try it too?

Choosing NOT to yell

73 days down, 292 to go!

I normally don’t post on a Friday night but…don’t know if I will be able to post Sunday night as planned so thought I would re-share this post because the stories are two of my favorite reasons why I am glad I have taken on this Challenge. And guess what? 61 days later I can still say the same thing – change is happening in my house. And it is good. Really, really good…

February 19, 2012 

12 days down, 353 to go!

Dear Midnight,

While it was all fun and games hanging out with you these last four nights so that I could “launch” my blog about Not Yelling, it came very close to being counterproductive. Whenever I hang with you, I am WIPED out the next day, the day after and the day after that. And when I am WIPED, I am so much more inclined to yell. And today was no different, actually it was worse. Because last night you introduced me to your friend 1 am and his friend tequila. I certainly haven’t flirted with them in over 15 years. Why I thought it necessary to do so to celebrate my birthday…when I never really drink…and when now I have 4 kids who get up at 6am is beyond me! But alas, I did.

And guess what, against all odds, I made it through today…with a raging headache, 20 hours of sleep collectively over the last four nights, and 4 cranky over-tired-because-of-baby-sitter-last-night children all WITHOUT yelling. I’m still in shock. But don’t get any ideas, just because today went well doesn’t mean we’ll be hanging out anytime soon. If I want to do well on this challenge, I need my sleep.  Speaking of, it’s 8:11.

Good night,

The Orange Rhino

*

Seriously, I’m in shock. Shock, shock, shock. I truly am a yeller. And yet here I am, having gone 12 days without yelling. I just can’t believe it. I truly didn’t think I had it in me. I kind of just assumed I was a Yeller, that it was ingrained in me, a behavior that I couldn’t change. But I am ecstatic to be wrong…this little chat from today is why:

Me:        “#1 (5 years old), so how is mommy doing now with the no yelling thing?”

#1:          “Great. You’re doing great mommy.”

Me:        “Who do you like more, Mommy or Mommy Orange Rhino?”

#1:          “Mommy Orange Rhino. She’s not mean. She doesn’t hurt my feelings and say not nice things.”

Me:        “Oh. Anything else?”

#1:          “Yeah. Mommy Orange Rhino is the bestest.”

He then gave me a huge hug and a kiss. I kid you not.

Wow.

Just thinking about that conversation again blows me away. I don’t know what has me more in shock – the unsolicited hug or the 12 days of not yelling. You see, my son is not one to offer up free hugs and kisses (he just doesn’t like all the physical contact). So for him to suddenly be giving me random hugs and kisses? Well, let’s just say that it made me cry then and its making me cry now.  That’s a pretty damn good sign that this silly project of mine is very well worth my effort. He is totally worth my effort. I’ve lost a lot of sleep and dropped the ball on a lot these last few weeks so I could get this Blog going. But guess what?

A random hug from my son telling me I’m the bestest? Totally worth every lost hour of sleep.

Some change is happening in this household, something good.  I’m going to embrace it and keep finding all the strength I have to not yell. Even if it means sometimes (like tonight!) ignoring the dishes, the piles that need picking up, the bills that need paying, and everything else on my to-do list just so that I can go to bed early and get the rest I need to succeed in this challenge. But if I don’t get the sleep I need, because that is how life goes sometimes, at least now I know that even if I am exhausted, I CAN control my voice. I CAN not yell. It’s my choice.

After #1 told me I was the Bestest he disappeared. The house was too quiet. He came back find me and told me he had brushed his teeth. Oh? In the middle of the day? Without being asked? I didn’t say anything, I just waited.Then he looked up, looked me in the eyes and said:

“Mommy, I had 4 of daddy’s valentines chocolates you gave him. And I didn’t ask. But I did brush my teeth. And they were really good. Are you mad?”

Was I mad? Yeah, a little. Eating that many chocolates is generally not good for my son’s ability to stay calm :) but how could I be mad since he told me and was so honest? And for the record, he was very hesitant to tell me. No problem telling me he brushed his teeth, but clearly very worried to tell me about the chocolates. It’s like he expected me to yell at him. Sigh. Can I really blame him?

BEFORE, I would have yelled at him and lectured him on not asking for permission and sugar isn’t good for you and blah, blah, blah. And he wouldn’t have heard a word I said. This time, when I talked to him about it, he actually listened.

Again, the theme of the day. Shock. I’m absolutely shocked.

And so, I’m still choosing to not yell. I’ll take hugs and kisses and honesty over yelling any day of the week.

“Massive Emotions”

72 days down, 293 to go!

Today: April 19th (I think?)

Blog written: February 2, 2012 – a few days before I got into the “no yelling” groove. Why this post? Why now? I was searching for an old post I never polished or shared to post tonight while “staycationing.” When I read the line about being a better mother I thought it was perfect given last night’s guest post.

*

Dear Kleenex,

I really needed you today. Thanks for being there for me as I struggled to do seemingly innocent things such as put away baby gear. I couldn’t have done it alone.

Sigh,
The Orange Rhino

*

Wow. Massive emotions are flowing today. Packed up the bassinet part of the Pack n Play. Moved the changing table out of my room.  Pumped only 3 oz at morning pump instead of  7. It’s official. I am getting ready to close the chapter on “having a baby under 6 months.” And boy is it SAD. Sad. Sad. Sad. Sad in a way that has me so distraught that I can’t even think of a better, more powerful word.

My nose is tingly, my eyes are watery. They’ve been that way all day. It’s just outright sad. We’ve always said (my husband and I), and all my friends, that when I stopped having babies I was going to have a mid-30’s Crisis. And they were right. Having a baby has defined me for the last 6 years. Getting pregnant, being pregnant, being sleep deprived. Getting over sleep deprivation just in time to get pregnant again and continue the process. 4 kids in 5 years will do that to you. But I wouldn’t change a thing. Except now, the time has come to be done and it scares me.

Enter this Challenge. This is my baby. I am hoping this will keep me from feeling the emptiness that I know is ahead.

That it will keep me focused on being a better mom to the 4 kids I have – not thinking about the 5th that I know I will not be having (most likely).

But let’s get real – there is still a crisis ahead. I know it. Like when all my friends get pregnant with their second in a few months, the tears will come. A lot of them. And then when they all have girls. The tears will really come. And then when those beautiful babies are born so small and delicate and perfect. Then I’ll really wish I was pregnant again. I just love the hope that comes with a new baby – something to look forward to, despite all the crappiness going on in the world.

But I know we, at a family of 6, should probably stop….it’s best for us. And it’s more than I ever could have dreamed of. I didn’t know I wanted a big family until I met my husband. We both come from families of 2 kids and then one day we watched the movie “The Family Stone” and we both knew it. We wanted that. We wanted the big, crazy, chaotic fun-loving family. We wanted our kids to have their own built in friends. We wanted our family to make big family gatherings big without having to ask friends to stand in as uncles and aunts and cousins. So we had three kids. And then we decided we would have four.

And now, we’re both saying we’re done.

But yet I haven’t donated the baby clothes that don’t fit anymore. They are packed away neatly in the attic, as if by habit. And the pack-n-play will go through the same ritual. And my husband won’t make “that drs appt” to make this officially over. We’re just not ready to say we’re done. And I’m okay with that.

But please, don’t ask me if I’m done.  And if you do (because everyone does), when I say “yes, but I’m not ready to admit it” please don’t say “Well good because 4 kids is a lot already.” This is my life. Thank you very much. Yes it is stressful at times.

And yes I yell more than I would like
But I also love a lot more than I ever could imagine.

And that, my dear strangers who feel the need to tell me I should stop having kids, is something that always trumps the stress. Always. And that my dear readers, is also why I am doing The Orange Rhino Challenge.

Because I love a lot more than I ever could imagine.

*

Fast forward 75 ish days. The sadness is still there. I still have not hit the emptiness, but I still have the sadness of knowing that my child-bearing days are probably over. Why is that? I wish I knew so that I could move on. That’s a lie. I know why. I am just too afraid to admit it. To myself and to anyone.

*

P.S. I sit here debating whether or not I share this post. Because I know on the surface it kind of makes me look pathetic. It’s easy to say “Hey Orange Rhino, wake the … up! There is nothing to be sad about. There is not emptiness to feel. You have four beautiful, healthy, wonderful children. Cherish that.” If only it were that easy…

Being a better Mother

71 days down, 294 to go!

Dear Orange Rhinos,

Here is the 2nd guest blog this week as I continue my “staycation” with my family. I thank my dear friend who has been a supporter of The Orange Rhino Challenge since day 1 for taking time out of her very busy schedule to write for us. And I thank her for her honesty – both about herself and about what the Orange Rhino Community means to her. Enjoy. I know I did,

Cheers,

The Orange Rhino

*

The Orange Rhino was a bit surprised (editor’s note: FLABERGASTED more like it!) when I asked if I could be one of her guest posters.  She said, “But you don’t yell, right?” and this is correct.  I am not much of a yeller at all.  This is for purely selfish reasons; I am averse to loud noises and generally dislike drama.   And yet, I read every post of hers, click on every Facebook status update, and read every single one of her readers’ comments.  Why? Because I love my children, and I really love hearing the words of other parents who are doing their best to be better parents.  We’ve all got issues, and while yelling may not be one of mine, I still have plenty of areas in which I could improve my parenting.

I get inspired by being a part of the Orange Rhino Community… this is a hard task that all of you have taken on, and I respect each one of you for the attempt- even if it is only day three for you.  Anyhow, on to the “meat” of my post:

I struggled for years to get pregnant the first time, so when I became a Mommy seven years ago, I was in total bliss.  My daughter was my entire universe from the moment she was placed in my arms.  When I found out that I was expecting again shortly after her first birthday, I was extremely surprised and delighted that it had happened again without medical intervention, but I had these secret nagging worries that I would never, ever be able to love my second child as much as I loved my first.

There just didn’t seem to be enough space in my emotional landscape for that.

When an early ultrasound revealed that I was in fact expecting my second AND THIRD children (fraternal twins,) that nagging worry turned into a not-so-silent panic.  As my belly grew larger and larger (I kid you not, it was an EPIC belly- 54″ diameter just before I delivered,) I felt that I owed my oldest an apology for what was about to happen to our neat little mother/daughter bubble that we had been living in… and I mourned the loss of that bubble with a vengeance. (Editor’s note: glad I am not the only one who ever felt that!)

But time marches on, and before I knew it, I was a mother of three children under the age of 2.  Harumph.  I’d love to write about what those early days were like, how I came to terms with the new reality, and how I slowly but surely bonded with the twins and watched my love expand to fit all three kids… but anyone who has had newborn twins will tell you that there is a blur effect that takes place, blocking out all but the occasional snapshot of the first six months.  So, I have no idea how it happened, but I know that by the time the twins were old enough to sit up on their own, my emotional landscape had grown to accommodate the tremendous love that I felt for all three of my children.  Every storm cloud has a silver lining, and as I sit here thinking about how soul-crushingly hard those early days were, I have to admit (now that they are in the past,) that it was the best thing that could have happened to us as a family.

My children are best friends and wonderful playmates for each other.

As a parent of a 7 year old and two 5 year olds, my life is less concerned with the logistics than it was in the early days; the children eat, sleep, dress themselves, eliminate waste, and amuse themselves more or less without a great deal of effort on my part.  However, now that they are older, I have had to up my parenting game significantly…. because now, they are PEOPLE: each one unique, each one with thoughts and hopes and dreams and fears and circumstances that they need to deal with as they move through life.

And I am their guide.

The awareness that how I handle things in life is the main example that they will learn from as they mature is nearly paralyzing- because I am deeply flawed.  I have a short fuse, I am rigid and easily annoyed, I am bossy and a know-it-all, and sometimes, my sense of humor is unkind.  What if they end up flawed like me???

So.  While I may not have an issue with yelling, the Orange Rhino Community is my place to remind myself that I want to be a better person, so that I can be a better mother.  As the Orange Rhino has pointed out numerous times, knowing your triggers is a good place to start, so I attempt on a daily basis to recall those elements that make me struggle (stress, not enough rest, and relationships…to name a few,) and I do my best to be intentional about how I handle those challenges- because my children are watching me, and they deserve my very best effort.

*

“I want to be a better person, so that I can be a better mother….and I do my best…because my children….deserve my very best effort.”  This is certainly a sentiment I can relate to, in fact it was the main driver behind starting The Orange Rhino Challenge. My children deserve my best effort. Period. And while I can only do so much, as long as I have given this whole parenting gig my best effort, as long as I have TRIED, then I know I won’t have any regrets. Even if I am not perfect. Notice how my friend uses better, not perfect? That’s perfectly put. It’s not about being perfect. It is simply about trying our best. Doing what we can.

And I can tell you, my friend is doing a pretty bang up good job. Both as a mom, and as a friend. Thank you for being my friend AND for writing.

Do Orange Rhinos stampede?

70 days down, 295 to go!

Dear The Orange Rhino, a.k.a me,

Do Orange Rhinos stampede? (Sure, why not.)

Do Orange Rhinos really exist? (Sure, in our community they do.)

Are all your clothes orange now? (Yes, just about.) Really? (Yeah, getting there.)

Do you know the answer to everything?
(Nope, not at all. But I still like being asked questions, especially about taking the Orange Rhino Challenge as it forces me to reflect.)

So please…ask me questions! Once a week, like TONIGHT, I am going to open up the blog for YOUR QUESTIONS. Please post your questions in the comment section below. Any and all questions are welcome, ie:

  • Why do I feel like giving up yelling is like giving up drugs or chocolate?
  • How do you not yell at your kids during a pillow fight? Walk me through it?
  • Do you really feel like a better person?
  • Why should I do this Challenge?
  • So now that you don’t yell, is there anything else you wish you didn’t do as a mom?
I will answer 1 of the questions weekly (like the use of the plural?! I’m hoping!) And someday, when my brain is working, I will have a clever title for the question night beyond “Ask the Orange Rhino.” Suggestions WELCOME. Orange Rhino Request? Rhino Revelations? You ask, I’ll tell, not yell? Please ask, don’t yell? You ask, I’ll listen?
We’ll see how this works. In the meanwhile, let’s give it a go.
What is your Orange Rhino Inquiry?
Cheers,
The Orange Rhino