Stop Seeing Red.

Day 2 of The Orange Rhino’s Vacation…
If you are new to this blog, welcome! I am on a brief vacation and have collected several guest posts to share while I am taking a break. They are all from different parts of the world. Yes world. People are yelling less and loving more from Montana, United States to Ireland to Mexico to Australia and more. Pretty powerful if you ask me. We are ALL in this together. Have a fantastic week and if you ever feel alone, know that somewhere in the world, literally, there is an Orange Rhino awake working hard too. All my best for a great week…I’ll be back online around July 8th!

Dear Orange Rhinos,

Many of you have written to me in emails that you “see red” all the time and therefore scream all the time. Wow. I had totally forgotten that the saying “seeing red” means to be ridiculously angry when I chose the name Orange Rhino. As such, many of you have asked me, wouldn’t have Red Rhino been a better, more accurate name for the Challenge? You know, because yelling generally stems from anger, from seeing red? Well yes, it would have been better if I wanted to still see red. But I didn’t want to see red anymore, I wanted to see orange, I needed to see orange. I wanted to see warmth in my actions towards my kids; I wanted them to see warmth from me. I wanted to feel the energy and determination that the color orange represents…and I wanted to see myself transform from always seeing and feeling red to seeing and feeling orange! Hence Orange Rhino and not Red Rhino.

I am glad I chose orange because now anytime I see the color orange, I am indeed reminded of my promise to not yell and of all the positive feelings I wanted to feel. When I see orange I think, I can do this. I have the energy. I am determined. I will do this. It is amazing what happens when we “see” things in a certain way.

Which is why I found this email from Kim, an Orange Rhino, so wonderfully powerful. How we “SEE” things is huge. Here is a take on how Kim is starting to see orange by seeing things in a different way.

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First of all, thank you so much for being the Orange Rhino that you are and for sharing your experiences with us all. Your voice is so authentic, vulnerable and real. It’s those qualities that allows all of us in cyberspace the feeling of connectedness, with you, each other, and ourselves. Thank you.

Last night I had a realization and this morning I feel that part of honoring my realization and making it real and solid for myself includes sharing it.

I read your blog because, yes, I’m a recovering yeller. Lately, I don’t feel like yelling is my obstacle, per say. Tone of voice, attitude and irritability on the other hand, BIG problems. What I realized last night, after watching a PBS documentary about children in India coming together as a community to get water for their families, was that I need to see my children.

Really SEE them.

Pay attention to their individual souls. Because when I focus on SEEing them, feeling them, my focus is not on my own childish self. My husband has gently suggested that often my interaction with the boys reminds him of a teenage sister who is babysitting her younger siblings. That was hard to hear, but so true. So much of my reaction to them has been based on my own desire to be left alone, to not be bothered, to not be annoyed, to have beautifully behaved children so my life is easier.  In other words, not because I want them to grow as individuals and get along well in life, but just so I cannot be bothered. So when they are bouncing and not listening at bath time, I can step back and realize they aren’t intentionally trying to piss me off, they are just seeking attention from me because I wasn’t available earlier in the day. I can SEE them saying, hey mom, look at me, BE with me, SEE me, I’m trying to be funny, that’s who I am, I’m trying to interact with you.

And yes, realizing that I need to SEE them brings me to the next realization, which is, I also need to SEE me. Maybe I need some time alone, some peace and quiet. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be ALL day. I can see me and take care of me and then see those two boys who are growing and changing before my eyes.

As I write this, I’m reminded that this is exactly what you speak to in your blog. Today it’s finally sinking in for me. I had to share. Thank you for the space to do just that.

Hugs,
Kim S.
Montana, United States

I loved this email. Thank you Kim. May we all SEE our children and ourselves, really truly, so that we may see more orange and less red. Thank you for the insight! 

If I Were a Kid….

504 days of loving more!

“Mommy, what time do you go to bed?”

Before I even answered with, “oh, normally 10:00 ish” I stopped and thought, “why was my son asking me this? This is odd.” Then it dawned on me. I knew the genesis behind this seemingly innocent question; he was trying to figure out how many hours it would be from the moment I left his room to go downstairs to the moment I returned for bed. He was trying to figure out how many hours he could stay up late playing before I busted him! Oh, I was so on to him. Or so I thought.

“Why are you asking me this?” I said.

“Well, I want you to go to bed early, you know, so you can be calm and not cranky like today.”

He answered ever so slyly while batting his eyelashes. This line was right out of my mouth; it was totally something I say when I am tired and it is a reason I give him for why sleep is important. In other words, when delivered with batting eyelashes I knew it was bologna.

“Try again, I don’t think that is what you are really thinking.” I said politely.

“Well, yes and no. I think you stay up too late so um, um, just tell me, I’m interested.”  This time I decided to indulge him, why not right? He still had three minutes before lights out.

“I try to go to bed by 10:00, 9:30 on a good night. Because I do need my rest. Now tell me, really, why do you want to know?”

“Because I think you should go to bed at 7:00, like me. Because if you did, you would be a kid like me. And being a kid is fun. Way better than being a grown up. If you were a kid you would have so much fun!”

Speechless. I was absolutely speechless. But my mind wasn’t; I couldn’t stop thinking of all the things I would do if I were a kid.

If I were a kid, I would try to sneak out of my room at night to ask my mom for one last back rub.

If I were a kid, I would steal a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup and run and hide in the living room and eat it instead of dinner.

If I were a kid, I would make plans to sneak down on Christmas Eve and catch Santa Claus in the act.

If I were a kid, I would tattle tale on my brother for not cleaning his room.

If I were a kid, I would cry and cry and cry some more if my dolly and blankie were lost.

If I were a kid, I would spill my milk at breakfast, lunch and dinner and then whine that my dress was all wet.

If I were a kid, I would run around screaming and jumping and playing tag with my friends inside because it was raining and I felt cooped up.

If I were a kid, I would take my time going to school because I wanted to pack every toy I had.

If I were a kid, I would complain if leftovers were served because it just wasn’t what I wanted. Period.

If I were a kid, I would ask my mommy a thousand questions to keep her from leaving me at night just so that I could have more one on one time. I might even ask my mommy what time she went to bed.

If I were a kid, I wouldn’t want to be yelled at for doing any of the above. If I were a kid….

Wait. I was a kid. I was a kid and I wanted to be understood, loved, and taught, just not yelled at. I was rarely yelled at as a kid and for that I am grateful. I remember all of the above situations clear as day; and I remember being spoken to in a firm voice if needed but always a calm, understanding, and “let me help you understand so you don’t do it again” voice. And it worked. Again, I am grateful because I have been yelled at as an adult, and it feels awful. Beyond awful. I don’t want to be yelled at as an adult, so why would I want to be yelled at if I were a kid?

Tonight, as my son hemmed and hawed and questioned away, and I watched the clock tick-tock closer to 7:00, closer to my break time, I found myself getting antsy and wanting to shout, “just go to bed and don’t you dare sneak out!” Instead, his simple reminder of what it is like to be a kid evoked my empathy.

My son reminded me that I too was once a kid; that everything my kids have done that has made me want to yell…I did too. I too stayed up late to play; I too peppered my mom with questions galore; I too did things that drove my mom nuts, intentionally or not. If I did all the things my kids do and I didn’t want to be yelled at because it scared me, why should I turn around and yell at my kids for behavior I so very much understand and induce fears I so very much experienced?

This picture could totally be of my brother and me.

And my son reminded me that kids are just kids and that part of being a kid is exploring and having fun. Oh when I used to yell at my kids for doing what they deemed to be “fun” things like pouring out the cereal to find the prize, playing tag around me while I was on the phone, or splashing each other and accidentally me during bath time, I was taking a bit of fun out of childhood and really, why do that unnecessarily? Because while I do have fun as an adult, it just isn’t that same as when I was a kid. My son was right, being a kid IS fun. Sure, sometimes the fun gets out of control and needs re-directing but it doesn’t need yelling. I can handle fun situations turned funky by remaining calm and not shaming the spirit of fun. My parents taught me that and my son reminded me of that tonight for which I am grateful.

And perhaps most importantly, tonight my son reminded me that I can teach him and his brothers how to be a good kiddo without yelling at him because that it is exactly what my parents did.

Not yelling is hard. But it can be done. And it is way more fun than the alternative. And feels a heck of a lot better. For everyone involved, kids and adults alike.

{Sometimes} I Choose Dishes Over my Kids, and That’s Okay.

502 days of loving more!

I like to be productive.
There, I said it.
I like to cross things off my to-do list.
Notice I say my to-do list, because yes, the list normally is all about me.

This list often includes: clean the kitchen, send emails, call friends, and organize playroom. You know, things that make me feel productive, accomplished, in touch, and organized. You know, things that make me happy and calm.

This list does not often include anything about my boys, per say. It does not often include: play board games with my boys, go to the park, paint pictures, or do science experiments. Sure sometimes the list has actions that have to do with my boys like: call pediatrician for well visit, make dentist appointment for boys, arrange playdates, or buy birthday present for a party. But hardly ever does my list have any direct actions about enjoying my kids and meeting their requests; you know doing things that would make them happy and would make me a “good, present mom.”

I often (or at least I feel that I do) prioritize my wish-list over my sons. And I often feel guilty about this. Really guilty. I mean, I want to be the super relaxed mom who doesn’t care about her to-do list and just wants to make play-doh creations. I try to be that mom. I stress that I am not that mom. A lot.

Oh, I hate that I focus on my to-do’s so much and that it is not my first instinct to think about what “can-do’s” I have the privilege to share with my kids that day. I hate that it is not my first instinct to realize and remember that when I hang out with my kids and do their wish-list items first, that doing so is something that does indeed make me happy, like really, super duper over-the-moon-happy. I hate that when I do play with my kids that even though I love it, right afterwards I can get the dreaded “shoot, I was unproductive” feeling in my stomach and immediately get back to my “I have to get a, b, and c done stat or I’ll go nuts and get cranky!”

Oh, how I struggle with my desire to be productive and also be a really present, fun mom. Last week I wrote about my struggle and my conclusion that being “unproductively productive” is a good thing. I wrote:

“Yes, six and a half years later I still struggle to accept that ‘unproductive’ intangible items like watching my kids reach important milestones, like looking out for my kid’s health, like teaching my kids to talk, to respect others, to be good people and like loving my kids unconditionally, the best that I can, when I can, are indeed, incredibly productive and not just incredibly productive, but also incredibly important.”

I wrote that and felt relieved. Aha! Finally, I had accepted a really important truth! Aha! Finally, I had figured out how to manage how my need to be productive triggered me to yell if I didn’t get a lot done that day; I just needed to redefine productive! Aha! Finally, I had gained insight into what really matters in life: organizing Legos by size, shape and color to make the most symmetric spaceship ever with my sons, not organizing Legos into bins to make the most tidy, efficient bookcase ever (by myself.)

With all these aha’s you would have thought I felt fantastic all last week. And I did. I did feel like a weight had lifted but at the same time, there was this growing feeling in my stomach of, but wait, was that a genuine post?

Did I really believe what I wrote? Did I really think that being “unproductively productive” was a good thing, something I really wanted, or was I fooling myself to feel better about my stress, my trigger, my personal struggle? The conclusion I came to was simple. And perhaps controversial.

Yes, I do believe that being “unproductively productive” is important, very important. Yes, being “unproductively productive” with my kids is something I want to embrace more and more. And yes, being “productively productive” is ALSO important, very important. And yes, being “productively productive” is something I will continue to embrace.

You see, I have learned during my journey to yell less and love more that taking care of me is really important. This means understanding me, understanding my needs, what makes me calm down, what makes me happy, what makes me feel relaxed enough to handle all the chaos and ups and downs that come with being a parent. I quickly realized over the past year and a half that if I am not happy or relaxed then my chances of staying calm enough to not yell are small.

And guess what? Organizing makes me happy. Cleaning my kitchen calms me down. Vacuuming makes me happy. Dirty dishes and clutter do not; they make me stressed. I know there are sayings that go along the lines of “the dishes will always be there, but precious moments with kids will not.” And I agree with this statement wholeheartedly which is why I used to feel guilty when I chose cleaning the real ceramic dinner dishes covered in spaghetti sauce over “cleaning” the purple plastic miniature dishes in the play kitchen covered in hot fudge, ketchup and pickle juice with my two year old.

This is the end of my kitchen counter. It keeps me sane. If I need calm, I organize it. If it is overwhelmed with clutter, I get cranky and close to yelling. Notice the stress relief hand lotion there for that exact reason!

This is the end of my kitchen counter. It keeps me sane. If I need calm, I organize it. If it is overwhelmed with clutter, I get cranky and close to yelling. Notice the stress relief hand lotion there for that exact reason!

But this past year and half I realized that it is OKAY to want to clean the real dishes. It is OKAY to want to be productive in order to stay calm. It is OKAY to need to be productive in order to get calm. It is OKAY to say, “I need to do something for ME in order to be there for my kids and not yell at them.” I do not have to feel guilty or embarrassed because I chose the dishes over my kids. The Orange Rhino Challenge has taught me to feel proud about learning what I need to do for me so that I can yell less and love more.

And it has taught me that struggling to be some one that I am not, struggling to push myself to be a person who doesn’t need or want to be productive just because that is what I feel I should be to be a good mom, just makes me stressed out! And we know a stressed out mom, is a yelling mom!

Wanting to be “productively productive” is okay.
Wanting to be “unproductively productive” is also okay.

What is more than okay, is finding the balance between both. And that is what I will continue to strive for so that I can continue to be true to who I am as a person and who I want to be as a mom. What I will not continue to do is push myself to be one or the other, because that just makes me want to scream!

What makes you happy? Is there something you want to do to stay sane but choose not to because you feel guilty? 

Read the post “Unproductively Productive”, the post that inspired this post, here.

“Unproductively Productive”

495 days of loving more! 

I had a really good dose of “self-loathing” going on Friday night.  We had just returned from dinner out to celebrate #2 graduating from pre-school. Theoretically, I should have been in a really fantastic, upbeat, yeah life is great mood, right? I mean hearts and roses and rainbows should have been bursting in the sky, right? Oh how I wish I felt that at that moment. Instead, I felt exhausted and pissed.

Pissed that it was Friday night and I had yet to do anything for Father’s Day.

Pissed that it was Friday night and I had only written one blog post that week; that I hadn’t written about Kindergarten graduation, pre-school graduation, or even my son’s 5th birthday that happened weeks ago.

Pissed that it was Friday night and pre-school was done and I still hadn’t gotten around to end of the year thank you notes or gifts because the week overflowed with big doctor’s appointments and school events.

Pissed that it was Friday night and I had been completely unproductive the entire week.

What a terrific attitude, right?! Only adding to the frustration was that all I wanted to do when I got out of the car was to go inside, put the kids to bed, and then tend to my to-do list. I didn’t need to do the entire list, just one, maybe two items. But no, we had promised #1 and #2 that they could stay up late and watch “Star Wars” for the first time as a gift for their graduations. Great. Not only would my to-do list continue to wait, as it had all week, not only would my productivity continue to stall, but I would be stuck watching a movie I had zero desire to watch.

Again, terrific attitude right?

And then #2 slammed his car door shut and it was as if he slammed all my bad thoughts and “woes me I was so unproductive” thoughts right out of my head.

DUH!

I hadn’t had an unproductive week; I had had an incredibly productive week!

I realized that #4 finally learned how to say pizza, please, and mine!
I learned that #2 didn’t need another brain MRI.
I learned that #3 might be struggling so much because of Celiac disease.
I watched #1 proudly sing at his Kindergarten graduation.
I watched #2 ecstatically receive his pre-school diploma.

AND the night was only going to get better. I quickly realized that I was going to watch a movie with “my boys” and learn all about a world I knew nothing about but that my boys cared about in the most ridiculously huge manner.

And I quickly realized that my definition of productive really needed to change.

I mean, I have known this since my oldest was born. It hit me immediately as the days passed and all I did was nurse, pump, change diapers, nurse, pump, change diapers.  Maybe I got to shower, maybe I got to eat, but I definitely never got around to doing anything “productive” like write thank you notes, go grocery shopping or call a friend. And let me tell you, as a type A personality, like wicked type A, it drove me nuts. NUTS! I thrive on productivity and when I don’t have it, I get cranky. CRANK-Y!

Learning to let go of my productivity as my main measure of a successful day was hard! Or rather, learning to let go of my definition of productivity as how many concrete things I accomplished and crossed off MY to-do list that day was hard. I had to learn to accept that now that I was a mom, more intangible items could measure productivity, like: how much love I gave my son and how healthy and safe I made him.

Six and a half years ago I would tell my mom “oh, what a frustrating day, I got nothing done!” She would of course reply, “yes you did, you fed your son, bathed him and loved him. I would say you got an awful lot done!” Harumph. She might have been right but oh, oh that was so hard for me to accept, it just felt like an out-of-body experience for me to not be “doing” things for a job or a house!

And six and a half years later, at times it is still hard to accept! I still struggle to accept that a “productive” day can mean that I got nothing done but played Battleship with my oldest and lost, soothed my tantruming three year old, listened to a long winded story about how cicadas make babies by my five year old, or fell asleep with my sweet two year old in his rocking chair.

Yes, six and a half years later I still struggle to accept that “unproductive” intangible items like watching my kids reach important milestones, like looking out for my kid’s health, like teaching my kids to talk, to respect others, to be good people and like loving my kids unconditionally, the best that I can, when I can, are indeed, incredibly productive and not just incredibly productive, but also incredibly important.

The good news is that in learning to yell less, I quickly realized that not feeling “productive” is indeed a trigger, a big one. I have been working to lessen it for over a year now and haven’t really cracked it. More than one time a week I get all in a twit and prepped to yell because I feel “unproductive.” These last few weeks were no different: if anything they were worse because of numerous time commitments out of my control.

But today, today when my son slammed his car door it all finally clicked how I could better manage this trigger. I finally got and accepted that some things are indeed “unproductively productive” and that that is not only more than okay, but sometimes actually what is most needed. Friday night as I unproductively sat on the couch with my son, he started getting sleepy and snuggled right up against me, eventually falling asleep in my arms. It brought me right back to when he was a baby and used to fall asleep on me, a memory that filled me with immense happiness and joy.

I’d say being unproductive was definitely a win.

I’d also say that realizing it was a win will help me to stay calm when I get frustrated from my lack of “productivity.” Another win. Yep. I was “unproductively productive” and that is more than okay, it was most needed!

At Least: My Two Favorite Words

Originally posted January 28, 2013. Re-posted today, day 496 of being yelling free. My potty trained son just looked at me and said he had to pee. I said go to the bathroom. He said “Nope, don’t want to” and proceeded to pee all over the floor. I was pissed. Ha! Pun intended. I wanted to yell but instead mumbled to myself, well, “at least it was on the tile floor and not the rug. That would have been a real pain.” It reminded me of this post which is one of my favorites….

Dear Perspective,

It’s so nice to have breakfast with you. Whenever I start the day with you by my side, not yelling comes so much easier. I remember that kids are just kids. I remember that spilled cereal isn’t the end of the world. I remember that it’s more important to have a good good-bye than a rushed one. I remember that not yelling is what matters to me more than not cleaning up. Yes perspective, you have been a dear friend of mine during this no-yelling challenge. You are welcome to come for breakfast, lunch and dinner any time. Just know that my house isn’t always clean and that I am an awful cook.

Cheers,
The Orange Rhino

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I remember crying my eyes out on Thanksgiving this past year. There was a commercial for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. I don’t recall the exact details but the message was clear: yes, this little boy just ran into the house with mud all over his shoes but a year ago he was in a hospital bed and didn’t have the energy to even get out of bed. The mud? It doesn’t matter. The fact that he can now walk? That matters. While the main message was all about the power of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, I took home a secondary message as well.

The Power of Perspective.

This wasn’t a new lesson to me. I realized on Day 3, take 2 (I think) of my Orange Rhino Challenge the importance of perspective. Just tonight I found a half written post about the subject. Why I never finished it I don’t know. Maybe because I knew that the power of perspective had such a profound impact on me that I feared I wouldn’t find the right words to express how I felt.

I wrote this: “Perspective. That’s all I need. 8 out of 10 times I’m yelling for no reason at all. For example, the fact that #3 is learning to feed himself is more important than the fact that the baby just crawled in the syrup that dripped off the piece of waffle that fell on the table after it fell off the fork.” I didn’t finish the middle of the post but did write an ending:

“Somehow I made it through today without yelling. And trust me, today the odds were stacked against me. But I did it. And I think it is all because of Perspective. I stopped and looked at things differently and that made all the difference.”

Here I am 353 days after that initial attempt at a post still struggling to find the perfect words to express just how important the role of perspective played in this challenge and how I went about finding said perspective. And I can’t find all the words. But I can find two.

At least.

These are my two new favorite words.  Seriously. Add it to any moment you want to yell and voila! life seems easier as it is filled with newfound perspective. Here’s a little perspective that keeps me from yelling day after day after day!

“Oh there is syrup dripping on the floor….at least the entire bottle isn’t dripping.”

“Oh he is climbing on the table… at least he isn’t hanging by the chandelier.”

“Oh he destroyed his bedroom…at least his brothers didn’t copy him.”

“Oh my life is so crazy with three kids with different therapy needs…at least they are in my life to love.”

I could go on and on and on. I think I will, at least for a bit. Here is a little more perspective.

“Ugh. I have 362 days left of this challenge…hey, at least I have gone 3 days that is better than none.”

“Ugh. I yelled today…hey at least I am trying to not yell.”

“Ugh. I still don’t like how this post is turning out…hey at least it will be done and off my mental to-do list that is bogging you down!”

See, at least really works wonders. Does at least not suit your fancy? Substitute any other word or phrase that helps you see spin the situation into positive light. My other popular choice? I’m grateful.

“It seems I have so many triggers…hey I’m grateful that I know who I am and what I need to work on.”

No matter what words you choose, the power of perspective remains the same.

Is it always easy to find perspective when things are rough? Is it always easy to stop and say at least or I’m grateful and keep on going? No, it isn’t. Sometimes the moment is too frustrating to be able to find perspective, to even want to find perspective. And sometimes it takes me longer to find perspective than I wish. Some moments it takes 3 seconds, other times 3 hours, or even 3 days.  But when I finally find that perspective, I truly feel a weight lifted. I feel a sense of peace and calm that allows me to parent with more patience and love. Do I care that if it took me longer than desired to get to that moment, or that it was hard to get there? Nope. Because at least I got there!

My Nerves Got the Best of me.

490 days of loving more!

Let’s be clear about one thing.

Today, well today the desire to yell had absolutely, positively nothing to do with my boy’s behavior. Nope. It had absolutely, positively, everything to do with my nerves, my fear, my stress. Let me step back in time one year.

At #2’s 4-year well visit last year I expressed concern about his vision, especially after he struggled with the eye exam. It was agreed that a trip to the pediatric eye doctor was a good plan. I went, quite nervous as to what would be said, and left even more nervous than when I went in. It seemed that one eye showed pallor or optic nerve atrophy (damage to the nerve.) This could be nothing, as in just a born with type of thing, or it could mean a big something, like a brain tumor or future Glaucoma. We were to wait three months and then return for another examination. Well, that examination led to the decision that an MRI was necessary to rule out a brain tumor. It is easy to say that I left that doctor’s appointment way more nervous than the appointment three months prior. It is also easy to say that as I waited for the test results from the MRI that I never felt sicker to my stomach in my life.

The MRI came back clear. No brain tumor. Good news. Next steps? Just watch the eye for change; no need to worry unless there is change. Phew. But wait.

Enter last week.

At #2’s 5-year well visit he once again struggled with the eye exam. This time though when we covered the “bad eye” he said,

“Wow. This eye (the good eye) sees so much better than the other one. The other one was kind of funky. It didn’t work so well.”

Ugh. Enter sick to my stomach feeling again, especially since for the last few weeks he had been complaining that his eye hurt.

It was once again agreed that a trip to the pediatric eye doctor was a good plan, as in, a “this has to happen within the next couple of days” plan.

Ugh.

So today was the big day. Today was the day when we would learn if the eye had worsened, if another MRI would be needed, if I would be even sicker to my stomach. My husband and I were nothing short of a bundle of nerves. And my darling five year old? Well, he was just as bad. He HATES the eye doctor. He hates the eye drops that sting. It was a toss up as to which one of us wanted to go the doctor the least today.

As we sat in the waiting room, our nerves fighting against each other, he crawled all over me. He pulled my braid. He kept grabbing my hand while I tried to fill out paperwork. He didn’t stop asking me “would the eye drops sting again?” He didn’t. Stop. Moving.

He didn’t stop wanting my attention.
He didn’t stop needing my attention.
He didn’t stop feeling agitated that I wasn’t giving him more attention.
I didn’t stop feeling agitated that he was giving me so much “attention.”

I just wanted to scream get off of me.
I just wanted to yell stop bothering me.
I just wanted to cry, please don’t let your eye be worse, please don’t let it be a really bad doctor’s appointment, please, oh please, be okay.

“Ah come on mom. Get with the program. I am not the problem here. I am acting normal for my age especially under the circumstances. You are just wanting to yell because of the circumstances!!!”

And then finally, it hit me harder than my son did when he accidentally knocked me in the head when climbing into my lap: My son was just as nervous as me. My son NEEDED MY LOVE and comfort and support so desperately at that moment and I wasn’t giving him nearly enough of it. Sh*t, I wasn’t giving him any. I am normally so good at being strong for my kids when they are scared. I am normally so good at managing my fears so they find comfort in me. Today, I didn’t do such a good job. Today, I almost yelled at my sweet son because he was scared and because, well, I was too.

I don’t know what exactly finally made me realize that “it’s not you…it’s me” that is the problem in that moment but I am so grateful I finally did. I can only imagine how sick to my stomach I would have felt if I had lost it on him; if I had brought him to tears when he was so scared and so very much needing his mommy. I quickly finished the paperwork and held my son in my arms like a baby. I played with his hair; talked to him, told him it would be okay. I forced myself to stay strong and to focus on my behavior so that I could be there for him and help him calm down. And when my son began to twitch in my arms  and I started to twitch with frustration, I reminded myself that he wasn’t the only one struggling, that I was too.

Thankfully, the doctor’s appointment went fine. Fine. We shed a few tears over the eye drops but no tears over the diagnosis. This time we were told to return in a year, not six months. This is good news. Really good news. It is more than good news actually it is “I am so incredibly grateful” news.

It is also really good news that I have The Orange Rhino Community. Yesterday I shared my “it’s not you…it’s me” mantra which really made it top of mind today. In other words, you all really helped me today in a tough situation with my son. Thank you. Thank you one thousand times over for giving me a place to share my journey to yell less and love more. I feel I loved more today because of you and that is more than good news, it is “I am so incredibly grateful” news.

Honestly, We Need More Honesty

485 days of loving more!

I wrote this post about six weeks ago when some personal struggles will still ever-present. I share it tonight with The Orange Rhino Community because I think it is an important message to take home on one’s journey to yell less and love more. 

* * * * *

With a blizzard headed towards our town, I buckled all four boys into the mini-van and headed to the grocery store. You know, along with every one else I knew. After circling and circling looking for a parking spot, we finally found one. I pulled out my phone and perused the grocery list my husband had emailed me. Yes, you read that right. My husband normally does the grocery shopping. It is one of his favorite things to do and boy do I embrace it!

Some blizzard, eh?

“Cheese. Turkey. Slider Rolls. Chicken Nuggets. Pork Loin.”

Okay, time for some honesty. Not only do I not grocery shop, I don’t cook. I mean I cook, but not real elaborate meals. Cooking has never really been of interest to me so when I met a man who loved it, well, I hung my apron up and said “Great, when should we get married?!” Now baking on the other hand, baking I do. Just ask my hips, they won’t lie! So being a baker and a non-cooker, I stopped when I read the words “Pork Loin.”

Shoot.

I had no idea what a Pork Loin was. Pork chops? Yes. Pork Loin? No. No problem I figured, I’ll go into the grocery store, read the labels and I’ll be all set. Right? After weaving through people, grocery carts, cheese displays, wine displays and understandably whining children and moms, my entourage and I arrived at the meat section. I looked and looked at labels but nothing said “Pork Loin” on it.

Double shoot.

I wanted to ask for help but honestly, I felt embarrassed. How could a mom, a woman, not cook? How could I not know what a Pork Loin was? It was so simple really, and there truly was no reason to be embarrassed and yet I was. It is hard to be honest sometimes because of the judgment (real and perceived) that exists in the world. I have been laughed at before for my inability to cook; I have been silently shamed for not cooking better meals for my family, for not cooking for my husband.  And cooking aside, I have felt judged in the past when I dared to share emotions about various topics from my child’s behavior to my struggles with motherhood, “me-hood” and marriage. So right now in this moment, I found myself hesitant to be honest and admit my need for help. But, with my boys starting to rock the grocery cart and go at each other, I had no choice.

I scanned the people around me, looking for someone loving, understanding and clearly knowledgeable! I spotted an older woman with a softness about her, intently scanning a chicken package. Yes, she fit the bill!

“Excuse me?” I said quietly, “My husband told me to get a pork loin and I don’t know what that is.”

Her response? The best response EVER!

“Oh, honey, I don’t know either. I don’t cook much. Let’s find another lady and ask her.”

Wait. I wasn’t alone? I wasn’t the only one who didn’t know? I couldn’t believe the sense of relief I felt over a pork loin conversation! I no longer felt embarrassed, but encouraged. What happened next blew my mind and still makes me chuckle. I had asked the chicken lady because of her external softness. Turns out she had a great loudness within. Oh, had I clearly picked the right woman to ask.

“HEY LADIES!” she shouted. Yes, shouted out into the section. Eyes turned. My boys stopped picking on each other and froze. My heart stopped.

“This mom needs help getting a pork loin. Who can help her?”

“I can!” said a nice lady with black wavy hair. “Come here sweetie.” She welcomed me without rolling eyes that thought, “wow, you don’t have a clue” and instead with a smile that so clearly said “Hey, it’s all good. We all learn at some point. Let me help.”

We scanned the pork selection together; her asking me what my husband was cooking (me: um, I don’t know, pork?) and explaining the different cuts for different recipes. She agreed it was all quite confusing and that nothing said “pork loin” but finally suggested a particular cut. I graciously thanked her for her time on such a busy day and wheeled my entourage on to the next aisle.

I couldn’t stop smiling. My boys continued to bicker and complain that it was taking too long but I just kept smiling. It must have been a sh*t eating smile because my oldest son asked me:

“Mommy, why are you smiling like that? You look weird.”

And so I let him inside my brain that doesn’t stop thinking about life and insights and you know, blog titles.

“I am smiling like this because I just came up with a blog title.  Wanna here it?”

“No.”

I chuckled and told him anyway. I had decided I had a lesson to share that if my boys could embrace it young, it would help them time and time again.

“Oh well. Here it is: ‘Honestly, we all need more honesty!’ You see guys, mommy felt scared to admit she was struggling and didn’t know something. I worried what people would say when I admitted to this feeling. But then when I told my story, turns out that someone else understood and I wasn’t alone and then I got help. And it felt great. But, I would have kept feeling not-so-good if I hadn’t shared what I felt in the first place and we would still be stuck in the meat section, not the cookie section.”

And that was the honest to goodness truth. I used to cry myself to sleep at night after I had yelled at my kids. I used to think all day that I was an awful mother, the only mother, who yelled at her kids. I used to struggle with wanting to talk about it, but not having the courage to tell anyone because I feared judgment.  It was an awful feeling yelling, it hurt so much and broke my heart; but it was perhaps an even more awful and hurtful feeling keeping that truth all to myself.

The day I started being honest with people about my yelling, a weight lifted.

I discovered I wasn’t alone.

I discovered I wasn’t the worst mom in the world.

I discovered that people didn’t judge me, but supported me in my desire to change.

I discovered that my story, made others feel better, just as the woman in the store declaring she didn’t know what a pork loin was, made me feel better.

I discovered that sharing honestly and openly about my struggles is quite powerful.

The day I started being honest with people about my yelling I started healing.

Yes, I started healing.

It took courage and strength to be honest, especially after having received judgment, shame, and ridicule in the past when I shared honestly about a variety of struggles in my life. Oh how I wish this weren’t the case. Oh how I wish people didn’t have to be scared to share their honest struggles. Oh how I wish people could share openly and begin to feel hope and happiness sooner than later. Oh how we honestly need more honesty so that less people feel alone and more hearts heal.

I am glad that I pushed through my fears and finally started sharing honestly.

Discovering that I wasn’t alone and that other people shared my experience and could offer support so greatly soothed the sting of my truth and helped my heart feel a little better. Right now I am hiding two very hurtful truths. I want to share about them but fear judgment. So I am keeping them to myself, feeling lonelier than ever; my heart feeling sadder than ever.

But I want to start healing. I need to start healing. I need to start sharing.

I know sharing works, I know it heals. I will find the courage to share again soon, because I know someone else needs to hear my honesty so that she too can heal, so that we can heal together. And once I find that courage, I will look for the Chicken Lady to scream out loud to the world about my honest struggle out so that it isn’t only two of us who heal, but many.

* * * * *

Here is one of the truths I wanted to share about and finally did: One Truth About Asking for Help

Dinosaurs, Dolphins & Darn Dilemmas

I am off today. Simply off. I didn’t sleep well as I knew I wouldn’t. First grade orientation was last night and while my oldest son did great, mommy didn’t do so great. My stomach was in knots all night at the thought of meeting new mom friends; at the thought of all the volunteer opportunities and what I could say yes to versus what I wanted to say yes to; at the thought of my oldest son going to a school where he’ll be the youngest; at the thought of another big milestone sneaking up on me, pushing me to once again realize just how incredibly fast my boys are growing up.

So yeah, I went to bed with a lot of my mind, which meant I didn’t sleep a wink. Not a wink. And when my darling boys woke me up at 5:30am this morning (totally normal given their early bedtimes,) I practically lost it. Actually, I wanted to lose it but was too tired to even make words. I stumbled to their rooms, ordered them back to bed, ordered lights out and ordered them to stay quiet until 6:00.

6:00 came around and I dragged myself out of bed. My eyes could barely open, my legs were wobbly and my bed just screamed at me “come back! Please come back!” I knew it would be a rough morning until I had a good dose of Diet Coke. Turns out, my normal morning drink didn’t even get me going. Shucks. I continued to stumble through the morning, struggle to find patience wherever I could.

And just now, at 1:30 p.m., I looked hard for my friend patience but couldn’t find her anywhere (or at least fast enough.)

As I headed to get #3 and #4 down for naps, I sent #1 and #2 to their rooms for their quiet time. Not two seconds after sitting down to read to #3, I heard massive tears and screaming. I walked down the hall, calmly and slowly.

“What is the problem?” I asked.

“He took all the toys!” cried #2.

“But they are my toys!” screamed #1.

(But I just want quiet!) I thought to myself.

Meanwhile, #2 found something new to entertain him so I sent both boys back to their rooms, hopeful that naptime for the other two would commence.

As bloody if! #1 and #2 are at it again. I walked down the hall, less calmly and less slowly this time.

“What is the problem, now?” I asked.

“He came into my room asking for the toys!” cried #1.

“But he isn’t sharing and the dolphins aren’t his!” screamed #2.

(But really guys, they aren’t your toys to begin with they are your brothers, so enough already! Can you give me a break here?) I thought to myself.

I counted out even piles of dolphins and dinosaurs, gave a handful to each boy, sent them back to their rooms, again hopeful that naptime for the other two would commence.

What was I thinking? Both boys are overtired from late nights and sleeping problems; their current ability to listen and control impulses is, um, not virtually non-existent, it is non-existent!  #1 and #2 started up again. This time I didn’t walk down the hall; I stormed down the hall. There was no calm in my step. There was no slow saunter to my step. There was just sheer annoyance and impatience.

I got to the end of the hall, my heart beating, and my hands shaking.

RED FLAG! I know when my heart races, my hands shake, and my feet are stomping that a yell is brewing. I started to open my mouth but thankfully, my mind intercepted my words. My mind screamed: “Dude, don’t yell! I know you desperately want to and think it is the only thing that will work but it won’t! They will just cry and carry on more and then naptime really will never happen. Come on, you can do it.”

I slowly and cautiously opened my mouth, a little nervous as to what tone would come out.

“What is the problem NOW?” I asked.

“#1 came in my room without asking and took my dolphins and dinosaurs.” #2 sobbed.

“But moooooom, they are mine. Really. They are mine. I need all of them to play. Honesty. Truly.” #1 sobbed.

“You know what boys, enough is enough. Hand all of them over. They are mine. You are both tired and need a sleep. To your rooms, lights off, quiet time for 15 minutes. No ifs, ands, or buts.” I stated confidently and full of hope that it would work.

The thing about parenting without yelling is that while I know it is the right path for me, sometimes I still get sucked in by the notion that yelling is the only approach to parenting during difficult moments. Today was one of those moments. I was tired and had little energy to keep myself together. I wanted to scream my head off! I wanted to scream and cry and carry on like they were! I wanted to say,

“But boooooys, I don’t care about your dolphins and dinosaurs and dilemmas! I care about getting your other two brothers down for their naps. I mean I care about you, but right now, whoa nelly, do I not care about your small plastic toys.”

These small plastic dinosaurs and dolphins almost made me yell. Really?!

Oh yes, I was tempted. But I knew better. I knew screaming would have just induced more tears and more crying and would have prolonged naptime of the other two which would have then produced more crying and even more screaming. I totally knew yelling wasn’t worth it and that is what kept me from losing it.

Did my boys take a rest? Not really. Did they settle down long enough for me to get the other two for their naps? Yes. Did they perhaps learn that fighting over toys and not sharing leads to no one having their toys? I think so; I hope so. I do know though that the chances of them learning in that moment were a lot higher without me yelling.

And I know that the toilet directly in front of me during this entire exchange offered me great support – while one side of my head said “just yell, just do it,” and the other side said “no, don’t!” the toilet lovingly said “hey babe, if you need to yell just yell into me and flush it away. Problem Solved.”

And yes, I did actually consider yelling into the toilet at that moment. If there is another thing I have learning from The Orange Rhino Challenge besides the fact that yelling just makes things worse, I’ve learned that letting out frustration into toilets, freezers, bags and closets, works. While yelling into the toilet may be unconventional, it is definitely better than yelling at my kids. 

Tonight I Toot My Rhino Horn

This is not an ordinary blog post, but here goes anyways!

I need to “Toot My Rhino Horn” tonight big time. I was going to write about it as a comment on our Facebook Community tonight when I called for others to “Toot His/Her Rhino Horn” but then I quickly realized it wouldn’t be a comment, but more like a long story so hey, why not just blog.

So here I am. Blogging and Tooting at the same time. This is a complete, top of my mind, no editing, no thinking post. So please prepare yourself for totally nonsensical (is that a word?) thoughts and writing!

As you all know, last week I posted about leading another “30 Days to Yelling Less Project” starting tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow. I was so proud of myself for figuring out an easy way to get people to sign up. The last two rounds I manually entered about 800 names into my gmail contacts. I kid you not. I am not what you say technologically gifted! I really wanted to run another 30 day Challenge but with the current set-up in my life, manually entering names just wasn’t an option. I hemmed and hawed about not running another Challenge but finally decided I would just take a leap of faith and use the email service many of my blogging friends used.

So I figured out how to set up a form to get subscribers. Score.

And then I figured out how to embed said form into a blog post. Double Score.

And then I shared it with all of you and got 6,000 people. Holy Smokes! Triple Score and then some.

Last night I decided to log in and do a practice for today. Um, negative one thousand score.

In all my research, I didn’t confirm what would happen if I had more than 2,000 people sign up. I mean, I had NO idea this idea would get such a response! I am floored and excited and scared and nervous all at the same time! Any who, so it turns out that because I am over 2,000 people, my account needs super duper verification in order to be used.

I learned this last night.

At 8:00 p.m.

I wanted to send out an email tonight. At 8:00 p.m.

But I can’t. Because my account is on hold.

The customer service reps are “barely” on during the weekends. So I am stuck patiently waiting until Monday at 9:00am to resolve this issue. I am stuck with the thought that I will let 6,000 people down by not being able to send an email tomorrow morning.

Now let me tell you a little something about myself. I don’t like letting 1 person down, let alone 100, let alone 600 or 6,000! Pre-Orange Rhino Challenge days, if this exact last 24 hours went down I would have been all worked up, in a hissy and probably snapped and yelled at my kids unnecessarily. Yes, I would have taken my frustration out on them.

But guess what? The thought never crossed my mind today! Why? I have learned in the last year plus that some things you can’t control and when that is the case, I need to let go or let out a yell. Letting go is a harder choice, but is always better. So today, I let go of the frustration. I let go of the disappointment in myself that I didn’t plan better. I let go of the high expectations of myself and I said, “It will be what it will be, do not let it ruin your day and especially don’t let it eat you alive.”

Because honestly, before this Challenge, it truly, madly, deeply would have. I would have dwelled and dwelled and been cranky all day. I wouldn’t have enjoyed a great workout. I wouldn’t have enjoyed building a pool out of Legos with my son. I wouldn’t have enjoyed actually going to a pool with my sons. I wouldn’t have laughed as much as I did at my life tonight when the house felt like a circus and my husband and I were the spectators, not the ringmasters!

Oh my gosh, not dwelling was SO FREEING and I truly believe I have made a lot of progress on “this skill” because of learning to not yell; because of forcing myself to realize what triggers me and to fix it. It feels so good to let go of frustration and not unleash it on my kiddos! Is a little bit of me still annoyed and disappointed and worried y’all will be mad? Of course. Because I care, immensely. Please don’t take my excitement that I let go the wrong way J and please know that I am sending an email every few hours to get things working. Oh, and please know that I will figure this all out and we will get rocking on our journey to yell less and love more.

But until then, I toot my Rhino horn for letting go! TOOT!