I Yelled At My Kids…Again!

On January 20, 2012, I promised my kids I would go 365 days straight without yelling at my four boys, then ages five-ish and under. It took me a few starts and re-starts but finally…

On February 6, 2013 I celebrated one year of not yelling! I didn’t stop there though, I kept going. Not yelling had become so easy, okay, so much easier, and the calmer, quieter, home and the calmer and happier mommy and kids made me naturally want to never yell again. So I didn’t.

That is until July 12, 2013 when I lost my cool and screamed bloody murder at my sweet kiddos.  The stress of my life had simply gotten to me and instead of unleashing my growing anger into a freezer or a toilet as I had taught myself to do, and instead of calling a friend to share and unload, I unleashed my anger and unloaded complete unnecessarily at my kids. But alas, I had made it 520 days straight without yelling and found solace in that accomplishment. So I picked up myself, determined to not yell for 520 days or more, and started again.

Kind of.

I started again, but my determination kept on getting defeated by the stress of life.

Sadly, I haven’t been able to get that 520-day streak going again. I go a month or so and then break the streak. Then I go another month, maybe a few weeks, or even a few days, and I yell. Big time. And every time I yell I feel like a failure, one gigantic, big, ugly, loud failure. And I feel like a sham, one gigantic, big, ugly, orange sham.

I think it is time for this sign to become a staple in our house again!

You see, every time I yell, every time I don’t take any of my writing to heart and instead slowly re-wound my kids hearts with my words, and re-wound my own heart with intense criticism, I feel that all I am doing is eroding the truth behind everything I have written. Every time I yell, I feel that I bring into question the validity of all the lessons I have learned on my “no yelling” journey. Every time I yell, I feel that I really didn’t figure out how to “yell less and love more” at all because if I did, then I wouldn’t be yelling!

And every time I yell, I feel like I want to run and hide from you all because I feel like the biggest farce.

That was, until recently.

On Sunday, December 22nd I completed my first spin workout in four months. As expected (and hoped), forty-five minutes of sweating sweat away everything that had been clouding and weighing down my mind for months, freeing my mind to do what it loves to do: ponder challenges until a revelation has been made. That Sunday morning, one song pushed me to ponder if I was indeed a “sham” or if everything I wrote was indeed “genuine.” As I pushed the wheels around and around, literally and figuratively, one thought became clearer and clearer. Okay two.

First, I was wicked out of shape, like holy smokes out of shape.

And second, and way more importantly, I, The Orange Rhino, wasn’t a wicked liar and my writing wasn’t a sham! In fact, it was the opposite. That Sunday morning it donned on me that my problem wasn’t that all the insights, lessons, and steps to not yell that I wrote about were wrong, but rather, that they were all indeed right and I just wasn’t embracing any of them! I wasn’t yelling at my kids because I didn’t actually know how to “Yell Less and Love More,”

I was yelling at my kids because I wasn’t…taking care of me to keep me in a good place to avoid growing anger, resentment and frustration.

I was yelling at my kids because I wasn’t…asking for help and instead trying to do everything by myself despite my physical and mental limitations, which only set me up to be fried and unable to stay cool.

I was yelling at my kids because I wasn’t…talking positively to myself and saying that I can yell less, but instead I saying that I am a failure and a sham. (Um yeah, such negative talk is a sure way to not succeed!)

I was yelling at my kids because I also wasn’t…talking positively to my kids to inspire positive behavior. I spoke critically, forgetting that they respond better, like much better, to kind words and a calm voice.

I was yelling at my kids because I wasn’t…tracking my triggers to discover new ones. Kids change, life changes, triggers change. I knew that. I knew I needed to re-evaluate and come up with new solutions to manage my triggers, but I didn’t want to take the time. So instead I started “paying time” vis-à-vis increased frustrating behavior from my kids as a result of my increased yelling. (The more I yell, the worse their behavior is.)

I was yelling at my kids because I wasn’t…forgiving myself on days I yelled, but dwelling instead. The more I dwell, the more I yell. It’s that simple.

I was yelling at my kids because I wasn’t…celebrating any moment I did succeed, but rather just reminding myself that I had more to achieve.

I was yelling at my kids because I wasn’t…focusing on a goal because well, I didn’t set a new, meaningful goal to motivate me.

And I was yelling at my kids because I wasn’t…being modest. I had “succeeded” so I assumed I had the “not yelling” thing in the bag and I let my guard down. And while I did have the tools down, I still needed to be mindful to keep them top of mind; I didn’t need to get over confident that I could just succeed.

So yeah, I wasn’t yelling at my kids because I didn’t know how, I was yelling at them because I wasn’t doing what I needed to do in order to yell less and love more. How can I be sure of this? Because the last two weeks since this realization I have re-embraced some of these lessons and the yelling has already gone down which is really good news. Not yelling at my boys is just too important to me to let it continue! In these last few months of more yelling than I like, but significantly less than before I took the Challenge, I can sense the decreased calmness, joy, and cooperation in the house as a result of my yelling. And I don’t like it. And I don’t like myself for it! Life not yelling felt better, in so many ways. So for the first time ever in my life, I am making a New Year’s Resolution…on New Year’s Eve!

2014 will be the year I return to being an Orange Rhino. Full stop. Period.

Hoping to see one of these after I kick tomorrow’s day in the a..

I will achieve this by doing all of the above that I have lost sight of, most importantly, by forgiving myself, and not yelling at myself, if I slip up. Yelling at my kids less has to, and does, start with yelling at myself less. And likewise, loving my kids more starts with loving myself more. Full stop. Period.

Changing is hard.
Not yelling is hard.
Making a promise to do the above, is hard.
Mistakes will happen.
Moving forward and achieving my goal will only be harder if I don’t forgive myself along the way; if I don’t love myself along the way.

So love myself more, forgive myself more, I will.

Will you?
Are you with me?
Please say yes because I am going to need as much support as I can find!

If you want to Yell Less and Love More with me, here are a few other resources that might help you get started.

* NEW! “Yell Less, Love More” the book! The book was published one year after this post. Notice the title…Yell LESS, not never :) I am an Orange Rhino, but I am also human and as this post alludes to, life happens and so do yells. It’s okay! The key is to forgiving yourself and getting as many loving more moments as you can. It’s a 30-day guide to help you create your own motivational goal filled with honest stories to inspire, simple steps to follow, and 100 alternatives to yelling.

* Forget 365 Days (Create your own goal and remember that any moment not yelling, no matter how big or small, is a success!), click here
* 12 steps I roughly followed to stop yelling, click here
* Top alternatives to yelling, click here
* Top things I learned about yelling, click here

 

* Click here to join the community ready and willing to support you!

6 Orange Rhino “No-Yelling” Lessons That Stopped Tears

I sat in my therapist’s office last Thursday and cried.
And cried.
And cried.

I had just admitted that I felt completely lost and unsure how I was going to keep managing all the intense feelings of stress, sadness, frustration and anger that I had been coping with the last couple of months. I had just admitted that I was completely and utterly wiped from keeping it together. I had just admitted that I was so tired of so many hits coming my way these last few months and that I just needed a break; that I just needed something good to happen.

I finally took a breath and stopped talking but the tears, oh the tears didn’t stop. The tears just kept falling and falling and falling silently down my cheeks. I did everything I could to try and keep myself from going into a full on crying meltdown. I bit my lip in hopes that it would keep my mouth shut; I knew if I talked anymore I would just lose it. I rubbed my fingers together to distract me; to help me not focus on all the pain I felt at the moment. I stared at the ceiling, desperately hoping that if I didn’t make eye contact I wouldn’t have to start talking about all the “real” emotions that had pushed me to start crying in the first place. Yes, I did everything but talk to my therapist.

“Orange Rhino, where are you?” my therapist asked.
“I’m here.” I mumbled.
“I know, but where is your mind, what are you thinking? You look like you have gone somewhere else,” she stated.

And she was right. I had gone somewhere else. I was no longer engaged and present in the conversation she and I were having. I was no longer willing to openly share about how I just didn’t know if I could keep handling all the hard shit in my life. I was no longer listening to any of her questions or empathetic, encouraging words. Nope, instead I was fully withdrawn into my own mind, listening and sharing only with myself the same thought over and over and over again: “I am so overwhelmed. I just don’t know how to move forward. I just can’t do it. I can’t. I can’t.”

I would think these thoughts and then counteract them with, “Stop. Stop thinking like this it isn’t productive.”

I would then of course counteract with, “Blech, I know that but I can’t help it. I am so overwhelmed. I just don’t know how to move forward. I just can’t do it. I can’t. I can’t.”

This inner dialogue went on for a good while. And then out of the blue (or should I say out of the orange?) a new, WAY more productive thought came into my mind. Suddenly, I thought,

“Enough already. You CAN move forward. You CAN manage all that is overwhelming you. You DO know how to do both already: just go one moment at a time. Just like you did on your Orange Rhino Challenge!”

And voila! The negative conversation and my tears finally stopped. (And yes, in the middle of my therapy session I thought about The Orange Rhino Challenge. It was just that impactful of an experience for me!) A smirk crept onto my face because I just couldn’t believe that yet again, one of the many lessons I learned on The Orange Rhino Challenge had become applicable to yet another “non-yelling” area of my life.

When I started The Orange Rhino Challenge I was certain that I would learn about how to not yell, how to better discipline my children, and how to keep cool, calm, and collected. I never expected though that all the lessons I would learn to keep me from yelling would also apply to so many other challenges in my life. The realization of the profound impact of taking The Orange Rhino Challenge and the realization that all my hard work and soul searching was so incredibly worthwhile, hit me so hard and so beautifully at that moment that my smirk immediately became a smile.

“You seem better now,” my therapist stated.

And I was better. Much better.

She then continued on and on with some advice and thoughts for me to ponder. The thing is, I didn’t take in any of what she said! All I heard was, “blah, blah, blah” because while I was more present, I was still quite preoccupied with my own thoughts. This time, however, I wasn’t thinking about how I couldn’t manage, but instead I was thinking about how I could manage; how I could draw upon even more lessons from The Orange Rhino Challenge to move forward and feel better instead of giving up and losing hope! 

Anywho, I thought more about how I did indeed already know how to move forward when phenomenally stressed; that just like getting through tough days when I wanted to scream at every one and anything, I needed to just go one moment at a time. I needed to not think about every stressor and challenging situation at once, but instead focus on one at a time and move forward slowly.

I thought about how I proved to myself on my no yelling journey that if I believe in myself that I could do hard things, even if I felt a little unsure, that I could actually do hard things! The same lesson applies to this time in my life. Things are hard right now. I can easily say this has been my hardest year out of my 36! But, I know I can persevere and keep going, that I can keep my head up and not quit on myself or my kids, even when I feel like running for the hills if I focus on believing in myself instead of tearing myself down with negativity. The Orange Rhino Challenge taught me that.

I thought about how I needed to make sure that I was taking care of me so that I had enough energy to handle the “hard shit,” just like I had learned that taking care of me kept me from yelling during trying moments with my darling kiddos. If I don’t take care of me, I explode. It is that simple. It applies to yelling moments and trying life moments. Taking care of me isn’t selfish, it’s necessary!

I thought about how I needed to adjust my expectations of what “feeling better” really meant; how I needed to stop expecting perfect feelings without any frustration, sadness, or anger. That just isn’t realistic in my life right now. Instead, I needed to embrace what I realized The Orange Rhino Challenge was all about, progress, not perfection. My stressors will subside over time. It won’t happen quickly, and it won’t happen perfectly as I envision, but it will happen. Every day I progress forward and that matters way more than perfect days!

I thought about how as I progressed forward and embraced an imperfect path, that the more positive actions and statements (and thoughts) I could make, no matter how difficult, the more positive results I would receive, just as I learned on my Orange Rhino journey. Positive attracts positive. My son taught me that; I learned that when I am more positive towards him, he behaves better and my desire to yell greatly reduces.

And I thought about how I simply can not control what is going on in my life, but that I can always control how I respond, just like I can not control my children’s personalities or behaviors but that I can always control how I respond to them. I can choose to yell or stay calm. I can choose to have negative, totally unproductive thoughts in my head about how I can’t do things, or I can tell myself I can. This was one of biggest lessons learned on my Orange Rhino Challenge; one of the biggest aha’s…and one of the hardest to fully embrace. Then and now.

As I sat on the couch in my therapist’s office, all these totally applicable “yelling management” lessons swirling around in my mind, I felt a sense of confidence and calm that I lacked when I walked in. I knew that I had a path forward that would keep me from my crying meltdown. That path? The Orange Rhino journey. I knew that whenever I felt the stressors getting to me that I could think of my journey and what I learned and rely on those lessons for strength and inspiration. And while I also knew it would be REALLY hard sometimes to embrace the lessons, I likewise knew that I could, because again, I am an Orange Rhino. I can do hard things!

…on Falling Down & Failure

On August 6, 2013 I wrote about my struggle with my body, with finding the focus to lose weight, with finding the strength to not yell at my kids because the scale was too high that morning, because my jeans were too tight, because I felt like such a failure because of both these points.

On August 8th, I wrote that I finally did it, that I found the inner strength to get eating healthy again, to get exercising again, to take care of me again. I find the strength by going one moment, one bite at a time. I felt like such a success because I got over my personal hurdle that had been nagging me for a while.

On October 5th, I wrote about how on August 18, 2013 I headed out of my parent’s house to take #4 for a drive to help him fall asleep and that I left the house with such determination and gusto that I forgot to look where I was going and fell down a stair. You know how kids sit with their feet underneath their bums? You know how they gently get into that position? And how they weigh what, 40 pounds? That was effectively my final position…but I took all my weight, plus my son’s, and didn’t gracefully get into that position, but dropped into it.

What I didn’t write, however, was that my fall was a lot worse than I thought. In fact, it has made the last three months excruciatingly difficult.

Even though my foot seemed okay the day after my fall, and the days after, it wasn’t. The following weekend I almost ended up in the Emergency Room I was in so much pain. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t sit. All I wanted to do was cry and scream. Finally, I went to the doctor and got an X-ray. Diagnosis? No break, just a really bad sprain and a damaged but not torn nerve. Action plan? Wear a walking air cast for 2-4 weeks and do absolutely no exercise.

Yes, two weeks after I finally got back into the eat healthy and exercise groove that I had so desperately worked to achieve, two weeks after I had finally found the determination to try again, to not keep feeling like a failure about all my weight gain and lack of desire to exercise, I was told I couldn’t exercise. It turned out that it wasn’t just 2-4 weeks I couldn’t exercise though, because my pain worsened. My toes got blue some days, were frigid to touch others and I’d wake up at nightcrying because of the pain. So we added 2-4 more weeks of the air cast and no exercise and in response, I added even more weight because in not exercising, in not doing what I love to do, in not doing what I so desperately wanted to do, and in not being able to easily care for more kids, I became sad and angry. So I ate to feel better.

I totally adopted the mentality of, “Well, if I can’t get better, if I can’t get back into my groove, I might as well just eat, right? And if I can’t get out and talk walks in the fall, kick up the leaves, and smell in the fresh air for hours on end like I love to do and look forward to do then, well screw it, I’ll just eat some more and let my self-pity party grow!”

And grow it did.

Yes, my morale and weight got worse by the day, as did my foot. I had been allowed to start walking a little without the air cast and immediately started feeling bone rubbing against bone. After 2 months in an air cast, and no exercise at all, an MRI confirmed that I had a small fracture as well and that I needed a firm cast for 4-6 weeks. 4-6 weeks of my mom moving in and having to help care for me and my 4 boys around the clock. 4-6 weeks of being completely dependent on someone else to drive me everywhere for did I forget to mention this was my RIGHT foot?! And 4 – 6 weeks more weeks of no exercising, of carrying around all sorts of pent up and growing stress that has no way to get out, of carrying around all sorts of ugly self feelings.

For the last two and half months, I start every day hobbling to the bathroom and then looking in the mirror only to see new rolls of fat, new lines of ugly, new feelings of failure…failure that even though I couldn’t exercise, that didn’t mean I couldn’t eat healthy. Feelings of failure that even though I couldn’t walk, I could still choose to sit outside and enjoy fall, my favorite season. Feelings of failure that even though I actively felt gratitude that my situation could be worse, that even though I had started to accept my injury and the fact that weight gain was slightly inevitable because I wasn’t moving at all, that I still looked in the mirror and thought, “Darnit. Just get it together and embrace the situation and stop feeling angry at the situation and yourself!”

But last week after my first cast came off and I got a fresh new one, I decided that I didn’t have to spend the next two weeks miserable. That I could stop it NOW. That I would stop it NOW. That I would change my attitude NOW. I decided last week that I would try to find a solution to my predicament, that I would try to find the inner strength to start lifting weights, doing push ups on my knees, to doing sit-ups, to eating healthy.

What motivated me? My kids.

My mood has deteriorated over the last two and a half months. I snap more. A lot more. And I don’t like it at all. I have a broken foot already from falling; I refuse to have a broken heart because I fell down the slippery slope of getting into my old yelling habits.

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

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

Snapping a lot is my first signal that I need to re-group and re-group I have. I learned on my Orange Rhino Challenge journey that I need exercise to relieve stress, to be in a good place to yell less and love more. And that I need to eat healthy because when I eat junk, I feel like junk and act like an absolute B…. and that is definitely not a loving more type of place to be.

I currently physically push myself around on a scooter and crutches as I emotionally push myself to exercise daily and eat better so that yelling won’t become a daily thing in our house again. And I push myself daily to keep on being as positive as I can, as grateful as I can, and to hold on to as much perspective as I can that things really could be worse because I know that these three mentalities keep me calm and less likely to get all worked up and want to yell.

And so I have done all the above, and the snapping hasn’t reduced, and I haven’t felt like a failure anymore. Scratch that. I didn’t feel like a failure anymore until this morning.

Until this morning when I got on the stupid scale (that might just finally be thrown out) and it told me all my hard work wasn’t paying off. I wanted to quit my efforts, go eat a bagel with cream cheese AND butter and eat another one for lunch and then scream at my son for doing um, um, nothing. But I didn’t. Because of all the craziness in my life right now that is uncertain: when will the cast come off, when will I walk again, when will I drive again, when will I not need my mom living with me to take care of my kids with me, when, when, when?, there are three certain truths that I miraculously remembered this morning:

  1. I might not lose the weight as fast as I want since I am injured, but I certainly won’t lose any if I quit; quitting would achieve nothing but more feelings of failure.
  2. Exercising and eating healthy isn’t just about weight management, it’s about yelling-less management and that is the more important result than what the scale says!
  3. “For this thing we call “failure”, it’s not the falling down, it’s the staying down.” ~ Mark Pickford

Ah, yes. If I quit I don’t know what could have been. Ah yes, I need to focus on the really important goal, what matters most to me. And ah yes, I am not a failure because I keep on getting back up and trying again. These three truths kept me on my healthy, positive groove today; they kept me from giving up. And you know what, every day on my Orange Rhino journey when I don’t think I can keep it together for another second, when I feel I am failing or not doing “good enough,” these truths help me yell less and love more. They are powerful truths to say the least and I am so happy that my journey to not yell helped me to fall upon them.

Finally, Without Fear

I am scared.
I am nervous.
I am hopeful.

And, I am depressed.

I have been depressed since July. Many people have asked me why I stopped writing so much, why I became some quiet on Facebook, why I didn’t reply to emails. Am I pregnant? Nope, but yes, I am dealing with my first bout of depression ever. I have casually written that I will tell everyone what is going on soon, when the time is right. And then whenever I thought that the time was right to share this deep, uncomfortable truth, I became really nervous. Nervous that sharing about my personal life was perhaps too much, too much for you all to know, too much for me to bare sharing.

And then, if I actually overcame the nerves and focused on the fact that I am desperate to write about my struggle, I became scared. Scared that people will judge me, scared that people will judge my family; scared that people will treat me and look at me differently; scared that people will think less of me, that I am weak and should “just get happy,” and scared that people will think I am too much of a downer and therefore not worth hanging around because I am uninspiring and a real party pooper.

And then on a good day, like today, for a brief moment I stop feeling nervous or scared and I just feel like the “me” that isn’t struggling with depression. I feel passionate about sharing my story and my struggles because I want other people who feel like I do, to not feel so alone. I want to share my story so that the stigma around depression can lessen and people like myself don’t feel scared or nervous to talk about his/her struggles, but instead feel welcomed and encouraged so they can get the help they need, or just feel loved and not so scared and alone.

And then, like today, I become hopeful. Hopeful that maybe, just maybe, that sharing my story will help just one person get help. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know this, writing thus far has already helped me. I feel lighter and a little happier. I have kept this struggle secret since July and it has been eating me up because I feel like I am keeping a really, awful deep dark secret from people I care about and I can’t stand it. Yes, I feel like The Orange Rhino Community is my extended family, seriously. And not telling you about my struggle daily feels like I am not being fully honest and I don’t like that. So here is my story (the short version.)

This has been one of the hardest years of my life, there is no doubt. I have experienced struggles like I couldn’t imagine. From numerous trips to the Emergency Room for one son’s seizures with concerns that he might have epilepsy to my marriage boulder to my foot injury that just won’t go away, and to everything in between (there is a lot in between!), it has been a long, long trying year and the hits just keep on coming, and coming, and coming. Some of the factors grew this July and my stress hit a whole new level. I felt sadness and pain like I have never felt before.

I didn’t want to get out of bed and I couldn’t wait to go to bed at night and yet, as soon as the kids were asleep I just sat on the couch cuddled up flipping through the same websites for hours because I couldn’t find the motivation to actually go to bed. I didn’t want to do things I love like playing with my kids, blogging, participating in The Orange Rhino Community, getting ice cream or sitting outside to enjoy a beer in the summer night. If I ever had a quiet moment alone during the day and a slow song came on I cried my eyes out. I ate everything in sight just to feel better (it didn’t work). I started drinking every night to feel better (that didn’t work either.)

Nothing really worked to make me feel better. Nothing has really worked to make me feel better. Right now I still feel the same sadness and pain, although perhaps deeper. In fact, it was deep enough and worrisome enough to me, because it has lasted so long and is growing, that I decided it was time to do something I have thought about, but vehemently fought since July. It was time to let go of my fear of being judged and do what my family needed me to do.

It was time to get help.
It was time to go to a therapist.
It was time to go on anti-depressants.

This was an incredibly hard decision to make. I wanted to believe I was strong enough to get through this tough patch on my own. I mean, I have hit tough patches before in my life, whoa nelly have I ever! I have felt sad from some of my traumas, but never so badly that just getting out of bed felt like an unbearable chore. I have never been so unmotivated in my life and not cared about not achieving anything as I do now. I have never wanted to run away as much as I do now. I have never felt truly depressed. Until now.

Six weeks ago someone asked me if I was depressed and I said, “no, of course not. Things are just tough.” And then my stomach curled and my feet twitched because I knew I was lying. I knew I was depressed; it was obvious to me because the intensity of my emotions was on a whole new level, but I was scared to admit it. I was scared to share just how bad I felt because I didn’t want to believe the depth of my pain; I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. I didn’t want to be taken away from my kids.

But now, now I can say without fear, that I am depressed. And I don’t just feel this new sense of not being scared to share this hard truth that will undoubtedly bring judgment just because the anti-depressants are helping, but rather I feel the need to share it after several emails I have received. Turns out, I am not the only one in pain. Numerous people have emailed me lately and shared that they are struggling and think they might be depressed and might need an anti-depressant but that they don’t want to go that route because they fear what people will say and … because they fear what they will say about themselves.

Because they fear what they will say about themselves.

Oh, oh do I get this. From the onset of my struggles, I haven’t wanted to go on anti-depressants because I feared it meant that I was weak for not being able to mange on my own. I feared it meant that I was screwed up and a bad role model for my kids. I feared it meant that I was different than everyone else. I feared that it meant I had just given up and stopped trying and sought the easy way out.

And, I feared it meant that I was pathetic…because that is what I have heard people say about those who go on anti-depressants; that those who need anti-depressants and can’t get just “get-happy” and “choose to be happy” are pathetic. I feared it meant that I was choosing to be depressed…because that is what I have heard people say about people on anti-depressants. Let me tell you, I am most certainly trying my hardest to not be depressed; it is just really, really hard under my current circumstances. There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by where I think, “UGH. Come on. I just want to feel better now and forget the pain! Please, help me to feel better!”

So, I write this post now to stand up for all of us who are struggling with depression, whether it be chronically or situational.

I write this post now to say you are NOT alone. We are not alone.

I write this post now to say you, me, we are not weak, pathetic, or screwed up because we need and seek help and choose anti-depressants. No, you, me, we are none of those things.

We might be scared, sad, embarrassed, confused and hurting, but we are also more. We are courageous to admit we need help. We are strong to actually get it.

I write this now with fire in my heart and with conviction to end all convictions, and I hope that I remember this in five minutes when I press “post” and in five hours when I take my new little pill and inevitably think, “shit, I needed a pill because I am in so much pain, why couldn’t I just do it on my own.” And I hope that I remember my conviction that I am courageous and strong when I feel overwhelmed by pain and sadness because I don’t want to go any deeper into this hole.

And, I hope above all else that I keep on fighting to get past this period of depression in my life. I hope that despite what people say about taking an anti-depressant and despite what I feel about taking one, that I do keep on taking my new little pill because the truth is, I need it right now. Right now I need a little extra help. And that is okay. There is no shame in needing help. None. Especially if the little help makes me a little happier which means my kids are a little happier too, for at the end of the day, this is why I am doing all this hard work, so that I can be the best person for me and my family.

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week. I intended to share this post then but got scared. Please share this post so that others out there like me can start to live without fear and can get the support they need. 

Parenting on “Fuller”

If you have not read, “Parenting on Empty” it is the post that drove the post below. Click here: Parenting on Empty

A month ago, on a whim, I packed up the mini-van with my boys and headed to the New Hampshire Mountains and the Massachusetts coast. I had been parenting, well living really, on empty for weeks and I knew I just needed to go to my two sanctuaries to fill up. I so very much hoped that the fresh mountain air would fill me with a fresh perspective; that the quietness of the lake would quiet my mind and fill me with peace and that the lack of Internet connection would fill me with greater connections with my kids. And I so very much hoped that the calming breeze off the ocean would fill me with a sense of inner calm; that the soothing sound of the crashing waves would soothe my anxiety; that the time spent at my favorite childhood spots with my boys would fill me up with so many new favorite memories with my kids that I couldn’t help but to overflow with joy and personal fulfillment.

And it did. Oh did it.

After two great days in my childhood hometown building Legos together and eating at all of mommy’s favorite spots, we packed into the mini-van again and headed towards the New Hampshire lake where I basically spent all my childhood. As we pulled into the state park and I rolled the window down, I couldn’t help but to stop and breathe in the fresh pine tree air. It smelled exactly how it did over twenty-five years ago; I felt as I did twenty-five years ago. I felt invigorated, carefree and relaxed. Just one breath of fresh air and I already felt a wee bit more full.

We pulled into the parking lot and I just stared at the lake, a smile creeping onto my face. My mind flooded with memories of swimming until sunset, finding the perfect stick for roasting marshmallows, and eating ice cream as fast as possible so it didn’t melt down my bathing suit and into the pine needles. I couldn’t wait to get out and do the same exact things with my boys! Oh did they ever have an absolute blast splashing in the lake and building in the sand just as my brother and I had done years before. The only difference in our day was that the lake now had boats to rent, so rent we did! We went canoeing, kayaking and paddle boating, a first for all my boys. At one moment I stopped in the middle of the lake just to take in the peace and to gaze at my four beautiful sons. My boys urged me to keep paddling. I urged them to enjoy the silence and the beauty. I felt even more full.

Swimming at sunset. Beautiful Sunset. Happy Child. Peaceful Mommy. Parenting less and less on empty…

The sun started to set and we headed towards the cabin. I knew that a night of sleep didn’t await any of my boys so I had let them linger at the lake to enjoy some last moments in their inner tubes. This of course meant that they were beyond hyper when we did roll into the cabin. The lake had relaxed me though so I went with the flow and embraced my two year old figuring out how to put underwear on his head and then inspiring his brothers to do the same. I have never seen them all laugh so hard TOGETHER. They ran about with underwear on their heads and joy in their hearts. It was totally awesome. But it was also totally late. I couldn’t calm down the underwear party because the ringleader wouldn’t stop. He just kept putting more and more underwear on his head. So I picked him up, informed my mom that a night time drive was needed, and confidently headed to the door, so proud that I had found a solution to calm the night down.

Who needs party hats when we have underwear? Oh, #4 you totally destroyed bedtime but laughing so hard that I almost needed to change my underwear made it all worth it!

Who needs party hats when we have underwear? Oh, #4 you totally destroyed bedtime but laughing so hard that I almost needed to change my underwear made it all worth it!

 

I of course was so proud, confident and gun-ho with my plan that I forgot to look before I walked out the door. I am not sure what transpired next except that somehow I ended up with my face down in the dirt, #4 cradled safely in my arms, and my two feet still in the cabin. I tried to stand up but couldn’t put any weight on my feet. I thought I had broken both ankles and immediately feared that I had no way to drive 6 hours home. I hobbled into the cabin, #4 saying,“Mommy boo boo” as my dad raced out to get ice. And a beer. I really felt that I needed a beer too at that moment!

The pain subsided and when we woke the next day, I confidently put my sneakers on and walked to breakfast with the boys. There was no way I was missing breakfast at Rosie’s! And then I ignored my mother’s orders (never a good plan) to spend the day resting with my feet up and we took to boys to an amusement park where I had to walk around all day. It seemed fine. The pain literally had subsided, or perhaps all the joy from going on roller coasters and eating fried dough with my boys just masked it.

There was no swelling or bruising the next morning so I again assumed my feet were fine and we piled into the mini-van again, this time headed to Rockport, my favorite Massachusetts coastal town.

My four boys at my favorite place with gorgeous weather and delicious ice cream so completely helped to fill me up!

My four boys at my favorite place with gorgeous weather and delicious ice cream so completely helped to fill me up!

My foot might have hurt but the joy of my boys dressing up as fisherman and sailors and taking the most adorable, perfect picture EVER at the same studio where I took pictures dressed up in fancy dresses as a thirteen year old most certainly continued to mask the pain. So did having a pizza party with my boys on a hotel floor that night and then watching the sunset over the ocean and the moon rise up as my boys snuggled in bed next to me.

Moon

Oh how my tank floweth over!

Yes, injury aside, it was an amazing week with my boys, everything I hoped for and more. Was the week go-go-go, chaotic, and exhausting? Absolutely. Did the boys hardly sleep because we were on vacation? Absolutely. Did their exhaustion lead to some questionable behavior? Absolutely. Would I do it all over again? ABSOLUTELY.

Because as tough as it was at times, it was nothing short of magical to share experiences with my boys that I had as a little girl. Those experiences, those moments where I just really focused on enjoying and connecting with my boys, well they more than helped to re-fill my tank. Combined those with nature, natural beauty like sunrises and sunsets, and fresh air and yes, my tank floweth over by the end of the trip.

Sunrise

This. Beautiful sunrise. Lighthouses in the distance. Waves crashing against the rocks. This made all my stress and exhaustion from a night of “seizure watching” disappear.

You know, I often times forget how getting outside, how getting fresh air really helps me to “fill-up.” Oh, how I am grateful that I re-learned this and hope that I remember this when I sense I am headed towards empty. The good news, it’s easy to get fresh air!

And you know, I often times, far, far too often, forget that playing and enjoying my kids, like REALLY enjoying them, laughing with them and creating memories with them is one of the best remedies for an over-tired, over-cranky, over-whelmed mommy, also known as me! I am so grateful as well to have re-learned this and I really, really hope that I can hold on to this insight and use it keep me from feeling empty. I know this will be harder than just walking outside to get fresh air, but oh, I hope I remember it. The upside to this remedy to parenting on empty? I am fairly certain it fills my kids hearts with such joy that they too feel a little more full! Oh the other upside, the obvious one? I am less likely to want to yell when I am filling up by enjoying my kids. Their hugs, kisses, snuggles, laughter, and smiles of awe and wonder and love not only calm me and fill my heart helping me parent on “fuller,” but they also fill my heart with more determination to keep on not yelling so that I when I want their love and affection, they want to give it to me.

 

Learning to “Hold” a Yell

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!)

“Parental Nesting” to Prevent Yelling

I distinctly remember my need to “nest” before each of my son’s births; it was an instinct that my body just couldn’t fight. From washing onesies to perfectly folding burp clothes, from picking out birth announcements to printing labels for said announcements, from arranging the temporary changing station in the family room to setting up the night time one in the nursery, I did anything and everything I could to prepare for the arrival of my son. I know there is real research about why moms-to-be nest; I don’t know exactly what it says, I just know that for me, nesting brought me calm.

Nesting made my mind feel an ounce of being prepared when the rest of my mind knew that it wasn’t even remotely emotionally or physically prepared for the joys and challenges motherhood would bring. As excited as I was to be a mom, I was also so incredibly nervous about breastfeeding, lack of sleep, crying fits and about whether or not I would have an ounce of a clue as of what to do! Somehow hanging clothes told me that none of those worries mattered; as long as the cute clothes were hung in size order and by color, I would be okay. I nested intensely for every single son, each time with a different focus.

For my first son, nesting was all about the nursery and basic baby necessities as those were the things that I thought mattered the most. For my second, I knew better. Sure I did those things but I focused on getting organized in a new town, finding doctors and friends to ask for help, as I knew from my first that a support network is more important than folded burp clothes. For my third son’s arrival my focus was all about getting all my nagging house and personal to-do’s done because I knew for certain that once my third child came that my time to do anything for me would be gone. I was accurate to that accord (mostly.) Yes, nesting for #3 included a 142 item to do list, color coded by priorities and arranged into a schedule. Such items: birthday invites for #1, Christmas card, baby book for #2, etc. It was a bit obsessive but again, it eased my fears and nerves about how crazy life would be with three because I knew there were no “to-do’s” hanging over my head. Oh did that list keep me calm. And oh did I ever kick that to-do list’s butt; 142 items done. I still look back and smile at that accomplishment!!!

And then there was nesting for #4. We literally finished construction and moved into our rooms again at week 37. I had been having the urge to nest for weeks and it was driving me crazy that I couldn’t “get ready.” I had theoretically three weeks to unpack every box and get every room and the nursery organized. Every night I talked to the little man and said, “Dude, you can’t come until the house is ready. I need the house to be ready so I can be relaxed for you? Kay? Please just wait.” He listened quite well and arrived on the same day as I unpacked the last box and the handyman installed the last doorknob. I felt such gratitude that I got all my “need to nest” urges done before #4 arrived because I knew that being organized before my life got completely disorganized would be one thing that could keep me sane. And it did. Oh did it.

And right now “parental nesting” is keeping me sane. Parental nesting is keeping me from yelling by keeping me calm. Parental nesting is making my mind feel an ounce of being prepared for what will start out as an incredibly difficult school year. This year will be filled with three different schools, four different children’s schedules, mommy going back to work part-time, and other personal challenges that are working overtime.

Yes, parental nesting is helping me find an ounce of calm when the rest of my mind knows that it isn’t even remotely emotionally or physically prepared for the joys and challenges that the year will bring. As excited as I am for the year: for my youngest to keep on learning to talk, for #3 to start soccer, for #2 to start reading and #1 to continue blossoming in his confidence, I am also nervous. I am nervous about the growing demands of four children. I am nervous about finding the balance between letting go so my kids can cherish their moments and holding on so that I can cherish the fleeting moments. I am nervous about working part-time, about feeling guilty even though it is something I wanted and continue to want. I am nervous about the complexity of it all. Because unlike when I prepared for my first son to be born and I truly had NO idea what to expect, I kind of have a clue here.

I know there will be days that within the same hour I am going to drive two kids two different places and then the other two will drive me to a frustrated place.

I know there will days that one son will come home from school crying because his teacher is bossy and the other will come home proud that he learned to read and I will end up crying.

I know there will be days when I throw up my hands in the air and say “I just want summer back when I didn’t have a schedule” and then moments later “I am so incredibly grateful for the routine!”

I know there will be days when I watch all four boys eat breakfast on time and together without putting a fork in each other’s arms for sh*ts and giggles and I feel grateful I have a large family and then there will be a time when the chaos and demands of four kids will make me think I was crazy to have a large family.

And I know there will be days when I feel confident about my parenting and days when I feel absolutely lousy and lost.

And I know that all of these mixed emotions that the school year and motherhood bring will make me stressed and on the edge of losing it vis a vis unnecessary yelling at my kiddos.

So, I nest. I have finally put a bath mat in the kids bathroom so that morning fights about the water on the floor aren’t an issue. I bought a toothbrush holder for the bathroom so that toothpaste doesn’t also cause an issue. I installed a huge calendar and bulletin board on the wall with each kids daily schedule printed out so they they, and I, know who needs to be where, when. I bought bedside table lights so that I read before bed instead of surfing the net which inhibits my sleeping.

Yep, I have been nesting for the school year for the last two weeks. It’s interesting to me that when pregnant, nesting was a natural instinct. My body knew that nesting would calm me; that it would give me something to focus on other than my nerves. My body knew that getting organized would give me confidence that I was ready to handle the upcoming challenge. Yes, nesting before mamahood was natural. But afterwords? Not at all. It seems that my body didn’t know what to do to calm down in order to prepare for a challenge.

It took me until The Orange Rhino Challenge to figure out what I needed to do to calm my nerves and gain confidence that I could handle a tough situation. In labeling my triggers, I forced myself to figure out how to stay calm so that my stress wouldn’t push me to yell. I figured out preventative measures for most triggers, but one of the big ones has continued to remain: the stress and “overwhelmingness” of managing four kids different schedules, different needs and different personal challenges. Lately, this has taken over my life. This has made me want to yell on a daily, no hourly basis because the stress is immense. This, has led me to nest because I know how to nest. I nest well. Really, really well.

Before The Orange Rhino Challenge I wouldn’t have allowed myself to nest. I wouldn’t have allowed myself to take comfort in getting organized or doing small, seemingly inconsequential to-do’s. Shoot, six months into The Challenge I wouldn’t have. But now, now I know that it is necessary. It is necessary to do what I need to do to stay calm.

And so, again, I nest. And I will keep nesting until I feel settled enough to fully tackle the challenges and joys this year brings me. Although part of me really wishes it had been a natural instinct to nest last year and the year before to relieve some of my stress, I am just grateful that at least now I know that I need to. I am just grateful that it is become a natural instinct to parentally nest because it does prevent me from yelling which we all know I am grateful for as well!

Do you know what you need to do to “nest” to ease the stresses of parenting and life? Do you let yourself do so? 

I Didn’t Plan to Yell at my Kids

After having run on empty for the last couple of weeks, I couldn’t wait to pull into my parent’s driveway and let my ten day “vacation” of doing things with my kiddos that I did when I was a little girl begin. It was just what I needed to fill up; a trip down memory lane of my summers as a child. My summers were filled with family, friends, and fun times; you know, all the good and important stuff and none of the other stuff. I expected my memories and moments of self-reflection to start flooding in when we actually arrived in New Hampshire two days later; I never expected them to start within minutes of coming into my parent’s house, a house I didn’t grow up in and which holds no real emotional attachment. And I certainly never expected the first moment to be so powerful.

Within seconds of pulling into the driveway, before I could even get the baby out of his car seat, my three older sons had run into the house, hugged Grandma, and then thrown open the door to the basement where as always, all my brother’s and my childhood toys awaited them. I unbuckled #4 who ran in after his brothers screeching, “I go! I go! I go!” I of course ran in after him because he is too young to be downstairs by himself at Grandma’s house.

We made it to the bottom of the stairs where the three older boys had already set up the firehouse, Legos and Lincoln Logs. But littlest man had no interest. He walked right over to a section of the basement that normally is all blocked off and starting pointing.

“What that? What that? Why? Why? Mine? My toy? I play?”

He pointed directly to my dollhouse; my beautiful dollhouse that my parents and brother labored over for two months to surprise me at Christmas one year.  A smile crept onto my face as I found myself going back in time (and feeling a little bit like Rose in the movie “Titanic” where she re-tells the story of the time on the ship as she gently runs her hand over her keepsakes!. I ran my hand over the wooden shingles, the one exterior touch I did to finish the dollhouse.  Immediately the smell of the glue, the feeling of the glue on my fingers as I scrubbed it off, the satisfaction I felt after I neatly placed every new shingle and wiped off an excess glue, oh it all came back to me.  I pushed the front door open to see the “wood floor” that I had so carefully chosen and the dining room furniture that so eerily resembled that which I have now.  And then I peaked through the windows into the second and third floors where the kids bedrooms where and I smiled again, this time thinking about how I had it all planned out, my life that was, and how it obviously didn’t turn out as planned. Yes, my dollhouse was what my life would be and as a child I naturally assumed that nothing could change what I planned. Obviously, that isn’t how life goes.

The plan was that I would have twin girls first so the large third floor was the girls. At one point, pink ribbon wallpaper adorned the walls, twin white swindle beds looked lined up under the dormer windows and pictures of horses hung on either end wall. Well, instead of having twin girls first, I had one boy, and then another. And another.

The plan also had my last child being a son. Well that part was accurate. And the nursery in my dollhouse, my dream house, well it is close to what I have. The walls were white with a delicate light blue trim and I swear the chosen crib is a miniature version of the crib all my sons have slept in. And on top of the white dresser was a little sailboat to reflect my love for the ocean. In no surprise, the theme in my son’s nursery is sailboats.

Also no surprise was that the mom I envisioned for my little dream family never yelled at her kids. Never. Ever. She always talked in a sweet loving voice. She always said kind things like, “Good Job” and “I’m proud of you.” and never hollered “Hurry up” or “Enough already!”  I mean, why would I envision a mom to be a mean mom? An impatient mom? A yelling mom? Who would want a mom like that or to be a mom like that? I certainly didn’t want my pretend three children to have a mom like that nor did I want to be a mom like that when I grew up.

And yet, SURPRISE, nineteen years later I was that mom. And SURPRISE, here I am standing in the basement staring at this house, thinking, “Wow, how did it happen? I had such dreams of the mom I would be. Where did I go wrong?”

It was a beautifully harsh moment, beautiful that I had such a fond memory of building and playing with my dream family and dream house, yet harsh that I had such an uncomfortable recollection that there was a time, are times, when I wasn’t the mom I dreamed of.  By now, littlest man had wondered back to play with his brothers so I had a peaceful moment to just think. [pullquote]It was a beautifully harsh moment, beautiful that I had such a fond memory of building and playing with my dream family and dream house, yet harsh that I had such an uncomfortable recollection that there was a time, are times, when I wasn’t the mom I dreamed of.[/pullquote]

Where did I go wrong? Did I go wrong or did life just happen? Is it life, that as kids we have innocent dreams and when adult life happens, reality of stress and being an adult, happens, changing those dreams? Or, where did my parents go right that I was able to create in my mind such a loving household free of yelling? How do I create that in my own house now so that my boys envision themselves to be the kind of parent that I so very much envisioned myself to be when I was a little girl?

How do I inspire my sons to dream and aspire to be a loving parent?
By being a loving parent.

How do I create a home where my kids will walk in the door and stop and look at a certain toy and feel the same joy and gratitude that I felt at that moment?
By creating a loving home.

I continued to feel nostalgic and a total emotional sap as I picked up pieces of furniture from each room. I stopped when I came to the candy dish filled with little Valentine’s cookies and candies. I remember exactly why I picked out that piece with my allowance from the month – because giving a Valentine treat is exactly something my mom would do. She would go out of her way to make the holidays special. She and my dad went out of their way to make my life special and full of meaningful memories. She and my dad went of their way (or so I imagine, maybe they were naturally patient and I just got the wrong genes) to not yell at me.

I have been struggling lately to remain yell free; I have been struggling to yell less and love more because of personal stress of living the “dream” life and owning the “dream house” I envisioned as a child. Being an adult is hard sometimes and not as perfect as I imagined; some things just aren’t going as planned making it challenging. But today, reminiscing over the dollhouse and my childhood full of positive memories (okay, mostly, lets be honest) reminded me just how important having a loving, yell-free home is to me. It reminded me that I want nothing more than to fill my sons’ lives with loving, inspiring memories. I want nothing more than to create a childhood that my children will fondly look back on. I want nothing more than to create a home and a relationship with them that they want to run back to and hug tightly once they have graduated college.

I want nothing more than to continue to yell less and love more no matter how hard it is.

There are a lot of things in life that don’t go as planned, but this, having a yell less and love more type home? This I can plan for. No one or thing can change my plan to have a home with less yelling and more loving except for me. And I have no plans on changing that anytime soon.


YLLM1For a 30-day Guide to make your home more yell free, check out my newly released book: “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” Part parenting guide, part parenting memoir, part journal, “Yell Less, Love More” walks you through the steps I took to stop yelling and includes 100 alternatives to yelling as well as honest stories to inspire you on your own journey. Click here for a partial list of retailers that have the book! 

 

Parenting on Empty

The other day as my boys and I drove up north to visit my family, we saw a car on the side of the road getting serviced by a tow-truck.

“Why is that car stopped mommy?” Asked my increasingly inquisitive four-year-old.

“He probably has no gas. That’s what happens when you have no gas you know. You stop working.” Said my increasingly know-it-all five-year-old.

“Oh.” Replied my increasingly trusting of anything his big brother says.

And that was that. The conversation ended and they resumed complaining to each other that we weren’t there yet.

And I resumed complaining to myself that we weren’t there yet because I too was tired, because I too am tired.

I am tired of feeling like that car on the side of the road: broken down and out of gas, stranded on the side of the road with a destination in mind and no power to get there. I am tired of running on empty; which is exactly what I have been doing for the last four or five weeks, maybe even longer.

I am go-go-going in all aspects of my life: physically, emotionally, socially, maternally, and personally and it is nothing short of absolutely exhausting and absolutely alarming. Alarming because I see what running on empty looks like. I am missing doctors’ appointments. I am walking like a zombie. I am planning birthday parties way later than usual.  I am not doing things that I enjoy doing because I am “too tired,” I am not writing as much because I am “too tired.”

I am giving half-hearted “uh, yes, I see, that is great” replies to my sons as they proudly show me things and this breaks my heart. I am struggling to keep promises made to my sons that really matter to me, like focusing on yelling less and loving more. 

And while generally speaking I love to go-go-go, and in fact I thrive on it and have never had a problem running my life as such, for the first time in my life, my body is saying to me STOP. SLOW DOWN. Actually, it is begging. I have never physically craved a vacation as much as I have in the last two weeks. And while I have “a lot” that I want to do but don’t need to, “a lot” that I should do but don’t want to do, and “a lot” that I need to do and well, just need to do, my body is telling me I can’t.

My body has physically slowed down. At night it screams, don’t “do” just sit on the couch. In the morning it screams, “don’t do” just cuddle in the bed with the boys and be lazy. In the day it screams, “don’t do” just go outside and soak in the sun and the fresh summer air.

Don’t do, just be.
Don’t do, just breathe.
Don’t do, just don’t do.
Take a break.
Please.

Yes, my mouth has stopped yelling at my kids, and now my body is yelling at me. Yelling at me to stop and slow down. And I need to listen, because running on empty, parenting on empty, well, it doesn’t work! It not only does me no good, but it also certainly does my children, my family, and my friends no good.  Running on empty means I am shorter, snappier, moodier, grumpier, everything “-er” except calmer, friendlier, and happier. Running on empty means I am that much closer to yelling than I have been in months and that is a part of me that I do not want to welcome back.

Running on empty means, well it just means I am not feeling entirely fulfilled in anything I do because I do not have enough energy to fully embrace each moment as much as I wish.

Running on empty means that I need to pull over and fill ‘er up. I realized this about two weeks ago. The problem? When I asked myself, “okay, self, you need to fill up the tank,” (and yes, I literally used those words with myself and referred to myself as if I were a car) I found myself replying, “but how? How do I fill up the tank?”

You see I have run on almost empty before and I knew then how to get more into the tank when I felt my energy siphoning out. I would find a way to get a night out laughing with close friends or family and how to squeeze in a few workouts. And you see, when I have run on half a tank and felt I needed a boost, I would just have an extra coffee or two and go to bed early and voila, tank much more full.

But empty? I have never run as empty as I am now (maybe I have never cared so much about the impact of running on empty as I do now?). When I pushed myself to figure out how to “fill ‘er up” a few weeks ago, and struggled to find an answer, I actually felt emptier. Was there nothing that would get me back on the road? Had I gone-gone-gone too long and finally truly broken down from exhaustion (eh hem, just as everyone warned me I would?!) How would I possibly stop and “fill ‘er up” because that would mean not doing something that I should be doing and that doesn’t feel right, I need to be productive. And then it hit me.

I literally needed to get on the road and drive.

I needed to get on the road and breathe in fresh air. I needed to go to my Sanctuary, my place that fills my soul with calm and beauty, peace and joy. I needed to go to the rocky coast and sit on the rocks and hear the waves crash and crash and crash. I needed to go to the woods and smell the pine trees and stare at the pitch-black sky with only stars and no city lights. I needed to get away and “be productive” by just connecting with my boys, enjoying my boys, loving my time with my boys uninterrupted because that is always what gives me the most energy.

So that is what I am doing. And I already feel rejuvenated just being home and just being with my boys and with no blaring to-do lists (okay, just ignoring the blaring to-do list.)

Figuring out how to “fill ‘er” up wasn’t hard, but it wasn’t the only thing that was hard. It is hard to step away and actually make it happen. But I know that I need the break, that I need to take care of me. I know that it is essential, you know, just like an oil change, so that I can keep running smoothly and take my children places. Oh I want to take my kids places, and I don’t just literally mean to school and therapy appointments, but also I mean to happy places, like happy memories and happy feelings. I can only do this if I take care of me. Repeat: I can only do this if I can take care of me.

I cannot do this if I parent on empty. I will not parent on empty. I will not live on empty. I will fill up as frequently as I need to.

If you enjoyed this piece, check out my new 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 to yelling less but also a parenting memoir with each day sharing an honest, heartfelt  story from my Orange Rhino Challenge Journey. Also included are simple steps to follow for your own journey to yell less and daily alternatives to yelling to try. It hits shelves this October but you can be one of the first to receive it by pre-ordering it here

Wishes For My Babies

I remember so very clearly the beautiful October day my husband and I left Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, North Carolina with our first son. The sky was bright blue with pure white wispy clouds. Some of the trees had just started changing color and those red, yellow and orange leaves shone gorgeously under the sun. My husband and I love the fall, and love days just like that one. It could not have been a more perfect day to bring our first child outside, into the world for the first time.

We clicked his car seat in and I hopped in next to him. The thought of him riding in the back seat alone for the entire six-minute drive home was just too much to bear! As my husband starting pulling out of the hospital parking lot I noticed that he was driving even more slow and cautious than usual to the point where I had to say, “Babe, can you drive a little faster?!”

“I just don’t want to get into an accident.” he replied. “We have a child now. We need to be safer.”

He was right. Our world had just changed. We were no longer responsible for ourselves, but also for this beautiful little being sleeping in the backseat in his adorable sailboat outfit. We continued on at the snails pace, cars honking at us and pacing us. They obviously had no idea that we had brand new precious cargo…or that we were brand new parents who suddenly interpreted the words “drive safely” on an entirely new level.

We got home safe and sound and officially began our journey as parents.

Getting ready to have some dreams and wishes of my own!

Our son finally settled into his bouncy seat immediately next to us at the dinner table (of course), we settled into our own seats and began pondering all that had just occurred the last four days. My husband paused from shoving food in (we had already learned to shove food in, not knowing then #1 would cry and need attention), and looked up at me,

“Isn’t there a manual that comes with babies? Like how to do all this stuff and what each cry means?” I smiled and replied with,

“I know, right? I mean I can’t believe that the hospital just let us walk out of with this fragile person, trusting that we would know what to do, that we would care for it well, that we would love it enough. I mean wow, are they nuts?!”

We both laughed and then #1 woke up and those ten minutes of peace and reflection passed. It was a good thing we had stuffed the food in!

As I look back at the arrival of my first son and that first night home and all the things we didn’t know what to do, I don’t wish that someone had told me before hand how to do them. I don’t wish someone had given me more explicit directions about burping, feeding, sleeping habits, soothing, bathing. Nope. I knew in due time that experience would teach me those things. But what I do wish is that someone told me to take the time BEFORE he was born to write down my wishes and dreams for him. I wish that someone had told me to write down which values I want to teach him, both through example and through experience.

Oh I wish that I had written about both of these topics because often at the end of the day I find myself wondering, am I doing a good job parenting? Am I being the parent I want to be? And when I start to think these thoughts, I find that I don’t have the answer.

Maybe it’s because of my analytical nature (or maybe it’s just because there is no real answer), but for me, how can I know the answer to such questions if I don’t know what I am measuring against? If I don’t know what kind of parent I am aiming to be? I mean sure I know in the back of my mind what I want to be teaching and how I want to be loving but I also know that with all the chaos that life brings that I don’t keep these thoughts at the front of my mind. And I know that I want to. Desperately. Because they matter more than “did I teach my son to tie his shoelaces today?”

And I know that making a visual cue, perhaps a typed up list of my wishes for my children, my dreams of what I hope to teach them, would help me remember the kind of parent I aspire to be. I could look at it and say, “Okay. I didn’t do the dishes today, but I did work to make a wish of mine for my children come true so I am doing okay at this parenting gig.” Oh how I have wanted to get around to making that visual. I just, you know, have never gotten around to doing it. Sigh.

But then this past weekend happened. I was at a baby shower for a dear friend who is having her first child this fall. The activity was to fill out the form “Wishes for Baby.” I knew the activity was intended for my friend, but I felt like it was really intended for me. I felt like it was the push to get me to do what I have wanted to do for almost seven years but have been pushing off. I filled out the form for her and then took a blank one for me.

The way I see it, it is never too late to have a wish, to share a wish, or to make it happen.

For my sons, who I love so very much, these are my “Wishes for Baby” that I have always had, just never shared. While you are no longer babies per say, you will always be my babies and I will always have these wishes for you, and more. I hope that I can do my part to make them happen!

I hope you learn to: Dance in the rain, literally and metaphorically. There will be storms in your life. When you can, embrace the storm. Know that it will pass and will leave you stronger and with a new perspective. So put on the rain boots and go outside and let the rain pound down on you. You’ll feel refreshed and alive.

I hope you love: With all your heart. It might get broken and that’s okay. It will just help you appreciate what real love is when it comes along.

I hope you aren’t afraid to: Believe in your dreams and passionately pursue them. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that your dreams are foolish and unachievable. Ever.

I hope you get: To experience success, but also, failure. Success will give you confidence, but failure will keep you humble and will teach you how to persevere.

I hope you laugh at: Yourself whenever you can even if you have made a mistake, and never at someone else (unless of course a joke was made.) Laughter makes life lighter and more enjoyable.

I hope you grow: Kindness in your heart and plant it everywhere you go. Random acts of kindness are the most wonderful gifts, a gift that is always needed, always treasured and always impactful in ways you cannot imagine.

I hope you respect: Yourself and all the decisions you make. You will sleep much better at night knowing that you spent the day honorably, wisely, and kindly.

I hope you become: A man who follows his heart for happiness, a man who treats women (and men) with respect, a man who stands up for others, and a man who is not afraid to be true to himself and who he is.

I hope you never forget: Just how very, very much you are loved, appreciated, needed and supported. I hope you never forget how grateful we are that you are in our lives. I hope you never forget how proud we are of you. And I hope you never forget all of the above wishes we have for you.

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I share one of my favorite promises to my boys (and favorite stories that always makes me tear up!) in my new parenting memoir/guide, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids-and How You Can Too!” Full of 100 Alternatives to yelling, Simple, Daily Steps to follow, and honest stories to inspire, my book shares my journey to yell less while gently guiding you on your own. It hits shelves in October but you can pre-order it now by clicking here (you’ll hit my Publishers site which lists all the online retailers!)