My Secrets to a Peaceful Bedtime Without Yelling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

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

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

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

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

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

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

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

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

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

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

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

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

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

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

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

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

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

How to Fight Yelling Triggers and Win

Last Friday, Every. Single. Possible. Major trigger attacked me in full force.

P.M.S.? Check.
Lack of sleep? Check.
Hyper, loud kids from the school, no school, school, no school snow routine? Check.
Too much to do? Check.
Lack of exercise? Check.
Cluttered house? Check.
Fight with husband? Check. Actually double, no triple check!

And it was said fight with husband that really put me over the edge. It wasn’t the other triggers because I prepared for them.

I knew within minutes of waking up that the other triggers would be hanging out with me that day, attached to me at the hip, going everywhere with me, taunting me to yell every step of the way. So I prepared for them. I took some Ibuprofen, had a coffee, did some light exercise, picked up one pile to feel accomplished, and told myself “you will get to your to-do list when you can, it isn’t anything urgent, don’t stress.”

And for the most part, these preventative actions and thoughts helped me to fight those triggers and keep them at the back of my mind and not incessantly bothering me as I went through the morning, one of my hardest times of the day. I learned early on in my Challenge that if I can get through the morning without yelling then for the most part I can get through the day without yelling. Conquering the morning gives me confidence that I can succeed and well, confidence and success breeds more confidence and more success.

Anywho, as I came down the stairs last Friday morning, my triggers and my four little munchkins followed me. But so did my growing, but slightly unsteady, confidence so I actually felt okay. I felt I had acknowledged my triggers, dealt with them, and that the morning would be hard, but manageable. I felt that I could indeed choose love over yelling.

And then BAM!

My husband and I started bickering. (Not in front of the children mind you; we are really good about that!) We each said some not so nice things. I cried a lot. As our “chat” continued, my anger grew and grew… a lot. And as our “chat” ended, I realized that my desire to yell had also grown… more than a lot!

As my husband headed out to work, and I stood fuming, probably with smoke coming out of my head, ears, nostrils and every pore in my body, my sweet #2 dared to innocently ask me,

“Mommy, I can’t find my hat. Can you help me?”

I turned around to him, ready to explode and scream, “NO! Go find it yourself! NOW leave me alone. GO! SCOOT!” You see, I hadn’t “come down” yet from the intensity of the fight with my husband and I had no desire to be bothered. Shoot, I had no desire to deal with anything. I just wanted to scream and shout and let it all out. I most certainly didn’t want to look for a hat or deal with the rest of the day for that matter because I knew it would be tough and trigger-full!

As I began to open my mouth, I felt my heart beat rising and my hands sweating. I knew what that meant: a yell was coming. So I did what I needed to do…

I closed my mouth.
I closed my eyes.
I took a few breaths.
And then had a little pep talk with myself, repeating to myself one of my favorite lines that keeps me from yelling,

Orange Rhino, it’s not him that’s the problem, it’s you. It’s not the missing hat that’s making you want to yell; the fight is making you want to yell. The lack of sleep, the PMS, the dirty house, all of it is making you want to yell. You aren’t mad at your son, you are frustrated with other things. Don’t yell at him. Don’t take out your anger and frustration on him.”

It must have been a long pep talk and a lot of breaths because #2 said to me,

“Mommy, are you sleeping? Wake up. I can’t find my hat!”

So I did what else I needed to do…I woke up.

I woke up and embraced the reality that I needed to let go of the fight (enough) so that I could be present for my kids in the way I wished.

I woke up and embraced the reality that yes, it was going to be a hard day, but that I didn’t want to make it even harder by unnecessarily yelling at my son over a hat.

I woke up and embraced the facts that as much as I let go of the fight, that it would still taunt me that day. And that as much as I knew I didn’t want to yell, that I would still be tempted that day to do so because of all the triggers fighting me.

So after we found the hat – in the exact place it was supposed to be by the way – and we got half the house to school, I did what I needed to do to help set me up for a good-ish day.

I planned for when I could get in a long walk to help relax me and keep the kids out of the house and going crazy.

Tip12

I called my mom and let my frustration out so that I could distance myself even further from it.

I “indulged” and let #4 watch some extra T.V. so that I could clean and de-clutter and find some inner peace.

And I told myself over and over and over again that,

“I will get through this day. I will get through. I can do this.”

I got through the day without yelling. It was touch and go at a few moments (okay, lots of moments,) but I did it and then I collapsed readily onto the couch with a nice glass of wine and some trashy magazines! I mentally toasted to preparation and how creating a plan to fight my triggers means that my chances of yelling less and loving more go up immensely. Does planning also mean time and energy, both of which I am generally short on every.single.day? Absolutely-frigging-lutely!!! But in order to manage my triggers, I know I need to plan for them. I need to know what they are, when they are alive and desperate to push me, and how to tame them so that I own them, not vice versa.

My triggers used to own me.
It wasn’t fun. It was ugly. It was a brutal existence.
Now that I own them, it is no longer brutal, but a much more beautiful existence because knowing and owning my triggers is the core to a non-yelling existence.

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Here are some related posts I wrote about the power of tracking triggers.
Tracking my Triggers
What Triggers My Triggers
The Root of My Yelling

{sometimes} My Weight Makes Me Want to Yell

My weight is up right now and boy does it have me down. Now, my weight being up is not a new thing to me; I have struggled with my weight and body image issues for at least fifteen years. (Okay, that was kind. I think since I was fifteen is more like it.) Anyway, what is a new thing to me is that I am lacking the determination, the will power and the ability to get to where I want to be to feel better about myself. As a result, I am feeling many of the same ugly, heavy feelings I used to feel when I yelled.

At the end of the day, I feel guilty that I indulged in an ice cream sundae…again. I feel disappointed in myself that even though I told myself “today is the day I will gain control” that I didn’t stop myself when the bag of chips called my name. I feel like a failure whenever I look in the mirror and my face and arms are noticeably puffier. I feel out of control, as in completely out of control and unable to stop myself once I start. And I feel embarrassed, frustrated, and hopeless that I will ever get back on track.

And I don’t like it.

While many people would say “hey, don’t worry about your weight, you like fine and it is what is on the inside that matters” and I would say back “I know, I know” the reality is that right now, neither statement matters to me. What matters to me is that my weight isn’t making me happy, or confident or comfortable in my own skin. In fact, all these negative feelings are making me miserable and well they are making it a lot harder to actually accomplish what I want to accomplish! I know that I need to stop beating myself up in order to move forward. I know that I need to not just give up on the entire day, my entire goal, after one bad snack. I know that one “weak” moment doesn’t mean that I am a failure; it just means that I need to let that moment go and seize the next opportunity to be a little stronger. And I know that telling myself “eh, I don’t really care” is complete bull. I do care, it is just easier to say I don’t care because then when I feel frustrated with my weight I can say to myself “oh, you don’t care, it’s okay.”

But again, that is complete bologna; it is just an excuse to hide behind. I care immensely.

I care immensely that right now I am binge eating because I am feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, tired and emotionally spent. I care immensely not just because I am physically and emotionally unhappy with my weight, but also because I know it isn’t healthy, physically or emotionally. I care immensely because even though in the moment I “really want and need to eat,” in fact I know that what I really want is to stop this behavior. And I care immensely because my weight and my eating habits are huge, gargantuan triggers for yelling and even though I am not yelling right now, I am finding it very hard to stay calm.

You see, when I feel confident and happy with myself, it is so much easier to parent with love and patience.

When I feel like I do now, unconfident and crappy about myself, oh is it hard to parent with love and patience…oh is it hard to be an Orange Rhino and yell less and love more. Why? Because all I want to do is yell, yell, yell!  Do I want to yell at the kids? No. What I really want to do is yell at myself! I want to yell,

“Why can’t you find self-control and not eat all that junk? You know how. You’ve done it before. Like 5 times before. Just put the fork down. Get with the program.”

And “Why can’t you find just 15 minutes to exercise when you know it is important to you and that it makes you feel better in so many regards?”

And “Why are you making yourself miserable? You know you would rather eat healthy and feel healthy than eat crappy and feel crappy.”

Oh yes, I want to yell big time. But just like yelling at my kids does no good, yelling at myself doesn’t either. What would do me good would be to do many of the same things I did to support myself in my quest to stop yelling at my boys. Telling myself I can do it, telling myself that I can lose weight, that I do know how, that I will get there, now that would do me good. Going one moment at a time, celebrating any small success, that would do me good. Practicing and practicing and practicing “self-control” and forgiving myself when I slip up, that would do me good. Loving myself even when I feel fat, and gross, and like a total utter failure, now that would do me a lot of good!

And while all of the above would do me a lot of good, the one thing that I know would really do me a heck of a lot of good would be to start tracking what I eat. This is ultimately what always works for me because it helps me to see where I struggle (can we say night time indulgences after the kids are finally asleep?) and therefore where I need to focus my efforts. I have been trying to track for weeks now. But I can’t stay committed to it. And I know why – because it is hard and it takes focus, energy and honesty. Yes, honesty. Writing down everything I eat means admitting that I am binging on food to feel better and that is hard to admit.

Kind of like how writing down all the times I wanted to yell was hard because it meant admitting that I yelled way too much and that I needed to change. It is one thing to think, “I yell too much.” It is another to actually see just how much I yell on paper. Ouch! Oh tracking my yells and my triggers was a brutally honest but wonderfully helpful tool. In fact, I decided to do it in the first place because get this, I had tracked my food intake before when I lost fifty pounds and I knew that keeping a diary of sorts works wonders.

And it does.

As does waking up each morning and trying again despite what happened the day before. As does being awake for each moment, each opportunity and trying again despite what supposed “failure” thirty minutes ago.  Yes, I have been struggling for weeks now with my weight and it really has me down. But I will not let it keep me down; I will not keep putting myself down for failed efforts, because that just makes it harder and harder to move forward, and easier and easier to say, “Screw it, I quit, I give up.”

Instead I will embrace wholeheartedly what I heard a stranger say today: “Never. Stop. Trying.“

Never. Stop. Trying.

I can do this. I want to do this. I will do this.

P.S. For the record, I continue to be amazed by how much The Orange Rhino Challenge is the gift that keeps on giving; how what I learned on my quest to stop yelling has been so applicable and helpful to other challenges in my life.  

To learn more about The Orange Rhino Challenge, check out  my book “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!”

Learning to Let Go

So, I kind of hold onto any tangible thing associated with a good memory that I can…and I kind of always have! In fact I think I can trace it back to age 10. Around then, I received a corkboard from my parents and I immediately started covering it with every single memento possible.

Just one section of a very full bulletin board! I think those plastic roses are from a corsage my mom made me for my Tea Party themed 7th Birthday Party!

Just one section of a very full bulletin board! I think those plastic roses are from a corsage my mom made me for my Tea Party themed 7th Birthday Party!

Glittery “kiss” sticker from a boy named David that I received in 4th grade? Check. Pin up of Christian Slater? Check. Picture of me holding my first driving ticket? Check. Love letter from my first boyfriend in high school? Check, oh check! Oh yes, any small thing I could save I saved to help me savor my favorite memories, to help me savor what made me happy, what made me smile, what made me laugh, to help me savor all that was wonderful in my life.

Some might have called this a fleeting childhood hobby. But it wasn’t. As I headed off to college without my board, I started saving mementos in shoeboxes. As I graduated college, I continued saving mementos in shoeboxes but this time the boxes weren’t titled by year, they were simply title “Love Letters from my boyfriend” which soon became “Special Memories with ‘my man.’” Then of course I married my man and a shoebox wouldn’t hold all the memories from our wedding weekend so I took my parents trunk they had when they first married and filled it. I filled it with our “welcome to the hotel bag,” my bachelorette veil, my rehearsal dinner bouquet, my wedding day slippers, my “Bride-to-be” sweatshirt, our wedding favor and the newspaper from that day. Oh yes, I filled it with everything I could stuff in there because I didn’t want to let go; because I wanted to savor it all as long as I could and I feared I would somehow forget a detail.

I hadn't open this trunk until I took this picture. As promised, it brought my immense happiness.

I hadn’t open this trunk until I took this picture. As promised, it brought my immense happiness.

I locked the trunk back in 2004 and I haven’t opened it since. I haven’t needed to. Just knowing it is there brings me safety, brings me happiness and memories and besides, I have been busy filling four new mini-trunks with mementos from my boys’ lives. From first ultrasound pictures to hospital bracelets, birth announcements to birthday cards, birthday invitations to pre-school graduation invitations, first drawings to first writing samples, I have filled my son’s memory boxes with anything I thought they might want to see when older. Who am I kidding; I have filled their boxes because anytime I have something to add to them and I need to open them, I am filled with such incredible happiness and pride and gratitude and love that I can’t imagine NOT saving such things. Oh I just want to savor it all over and over again because despite the tough moments I share with my boys, there are many more incredible moments. So much so that a mini-trunk doesn’t do it all justice, but it is something. It is something to hold on to.

Just like my bulletin board doesn’t do justice to all the wonderful memories of my childhood…but it’s something. Fortunately for me, my parents never tossed it when I officially moved out. Instead they wrapped it up when they sold our house and it is now is in my attic, on top of my box of Barbie dolls and Cabbage Patch Kids and my box of “Little House on the Prairie Books” that I saved “in case” I had a girl. I pass my board, my visual timeline of my crushes and my interests, my childhood turned what I thought was adulthood (at the age of 18!,) every time I have to get to a box of hand me down clothes, a box of college photo albums, a box of childhood toys I want to share with my boys, or a box of achievements from my working days. And just like my wedding trunk and my son’s memory boxes, whenever I see my board, I think “oh I am so glad I held onto it.” I never once think, “Oh I should just toss it and let go of the memories.”

Why? Why don’t I doubt holding onto such things that I have had so long? Why do I ignore my husband when he tells me it is time to perhaps let go of some of the boxes in the attic (eh hem the box of wedding magazines and books from my era of I am going to be a wedding planner)? Because holding onto these mementos brings me happiness, immense happiness and brings me up and who wants to let go of a good thing?! The mementos that didn’t bring me up: breakup letters from my high school boyfriend, clothes from when I was overweight, letters of rejection from college and job offers, those I readily let go of because they bring me down. I know holding on to them will just make me upset if I have to see them again.

Which begs the question, then why oh why do I struggle to let go of mental memories that bring me down and not up? Just because these mental memories don’t have a tangible item to be tossed, does that mean they don’t deserve to be tossed or can’t be? Of course they deserve it…of course they should be because holding on to them doesn’t do me much good!

In fact, I have learned that holding onto “bad” memories does me no good. Good memories? Oh lots of good, hold on and savor away Orange Rhino. Bad memories, toss them away Orange Rhino, toss them away and let go! I know many people have said that holding on to “bad” memories does no good; I know this is not an original statement and yet, I didn’t really embrace it until I started The Orange Rhino Challenge.

When I began looking at why I yell and I started tracking my triggers I learned VERY quickly that my inability to let go of “bad memories,” bad experiences, bad conversations, bad weigh-ins on the scale, bad interaction with my kids, and most notably bad yells was at the top of the list. Oh I so quickly realized that my inability to let go so often pushed me to yell.

My inability to let go kept me pre-occupied. My inability to let go kept me thinking about my “bad” situation instead of focusing on the present moment and making it count. My inability to let go made me snappier and less present and wasted a lot of my time. My inability to let go consumed me way more than I ever wished. So I started practicing letting go of things that bothered me. I started saying over and over and over again “Let it go. You can’t change what happened. Don’t focus on the negative. Move on.” And I over and over and over again forced myself to engage in a happy action when I found myself not letting go; I looked at baby pictures with my boys or I started a dance party. And I over and over and over again made myself stop talking about the “bad” memory. I stopped indulging my mind in the conversation and stopped calling friends to relive the frustrating moment. Did I make an initial call? Sure. But I practiced letting go and not dwelling by over talking.

Was it easy to learn to let go? Um, NO.

It wasn’t even close to easy. It still isn’t easy, but it is easier.

The other morning I woke up to see all the people that had read my “I Yelled At My Boys” post and I immediately felt disappointment and sadness again that I had indeed yelled. My heart filled with crappy feelings and anger at myself over my “bad memory.” It didn’t think of all the good memories stored in my brain to bring me happiness, gratitude and determination when I was down – the comments from all of you, the flowers from my family and friends on my 365th day, the random emails and gifts from all of you. Nope, I immediately went to bad memory lane.

So, I read my post again and inhaled it. “Orange Rhino. You wrote about letting go. You know you have learned to. You know letting go has been one of your favorite lessons learned. LET GO. LET GO of the disappointment. LET GO of the sadness.” And then I inhaled all the supportive comments from everyone and I locked them away in my memory bank to never be let go of, to be held on to as tightly I have held on to the fake rose I got in 3rd grade that made me feel loved and special and brought me so much joy that day.

And I let go.

Oh, I have learned to let go and I have gained so much in return. 

I Yelled At My Boys.

520 days of loving more, yelling less

I have a confession.

On Friday July 12, 2013, after 520 days of The Orange Rhino Challenge, my public promise to not yell at my boys, I yelled. Big Time.

Yes, I, The Orange Rhino, yelled at my four boys.

There was no question if it was maybe just a snap or an emergency yell. Oh no, it was a full on, blood curling, yelling tirade complete with four children bawling and one mommy who just couldn’t stop herself.  And it was topped off with my feeling guilty, disappointed, and sad beyond belief.  And oh, oh how the look in the eight teary eyes staring at me proved that my boys shared my sadness and also felt anger, confusion, and fear.

“Mommy! You’re so mean. You’re back to day Zero on your Challenge!” screamed my almost seven year old.

“Too loud!!!!!” cried by almost four year old, the one closest to my rant, as he covered his ears and shook with fear.

“Ma Ma. Ma Ma,” sobbed my two year old who up until that moment, had never ever heard me yell.

“Why are you ye…lll…ing at us Mommy? We ddd…idn’t do an..y…thing! We got in the car like you asked!” my five year old tried to say between sobs.

He was right. Oh was he right. My boys had done absolutely, positively, nothing wrong. My yell was completely unnecessary, completely hurtful, and completely my own doing. I took my own sadness, fear and anger out on them, period. Blech.

You see my marriage boulder, which had truly started getting smaller, grew back a teensy weensy little bit that Friday morning and for some reason, I couldn’t handle it. As a result, everything bothered me.

The boys talking in normal voices? Too loud.
The boys asking me for some water? Too demanding.
The boys rough housing and laughing? Too much what, too much being kids?
The boys not getting ready for the pool when I asked? Too much what, not listening when I mumbled my request under my breath so quietly no one could hear it?

I felt my anger bubbling up and my sweaty hands, racing heart, shorter and sharper voice told me that I was flirting with losing it; that I was in desperate need of getting in control. So I tried. I tried so very hard to get in control of my personal stress by pulling out some of my Orange Rhino tricks. I talked to myself “hey Orange Rhino, you are not mad at the kids, you are frustrated with your situation right now.” I got a glass of cold water and physically tried to cool down and slow my breathing down. I talked to myself some more: “You can do this, you will get through this, just hang on, you don’t want to yell.” And I talked to my kids. “Boys, mommy is having a tough morning. I am feeling a little grouchy. Can you stop running around and help me get ready for the pool fast so we can go have fun and relax?”

It worked. For like 5 minutes.

For 5 minutes I found calm amidst the crazy, I found warmth amidst my anger, I found determination amidst my desire to just quit and scream. The boys stood in line for lotion, grabbed their towels, put their shoes on and got in the car. Yes! I went in the house to get my bag and came back to find kids not buckled in as requested.

And I lost it. In my loudest voice ever (or maybe it felt so loud because it had been 520 days since I heard it?) I screamed,

“WHAT ON EARTH DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?! WHY ARE YOU NOT BUCKLED IN? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? CAN’T YOU JUST LISTEN FOR ONCE!”

Seriously? I mean really just writing that, I feel ridiculous and ashamed. After everything they had JUST done to be helpful and wonderful I lost it because they didn’t do one of five things I had asked them? Was that necessary? Or even nice? No! But then again, I didn’t yell because they didn’t put their seatbelts on,

I yelled because of my own pain that was screaming to get out.

I yelled because, well, because I am human and sometimes despite best intentions, hard work, and a heart full of more love than ever, mistakes happen.

People slip up. I slipped up. I knew I would one day. I knew that even though I call myself an “Orange Rhino” I am still human. The only thing I didn’t know was, how would I react when I finally yelled? Would I react in a pre-Orange Rhino manner and let shame, guilt, and disappointment send me into a vicious cycle of self-disgust and negative thinking, making a one-time yell turn into a problem again? Or would I react in a new way, a way reflective of 520 days of personal growth?

Well, the most wonderful surprise happened as soon as my boy’s two minutes of crying and rightfully deserved yelling at me ended and heard my truly heartfelt apology. I didn’t turn into my old, pre-Orange Rhino self! Instead, so much of what I have learned and embraced the last 520 days came to life.

After I yelled, I immediately forgave myself and forced myself to think of what I had accomplished, not what I had “ruined.” This is an accomplishment in itself, a huge one! I have learned during this Challenge that in order to yell less I need to let go of negative thoughts, I need to be kinder to myself, and I need to focus on the positive as much as I can. After I yelled, my brain, clearly re-wired from 520 days of practice, actually focused on how I went 520 Days without yelling! That’s 1 year and 155 days. Or a little under a year and a half. Or a heck of a lot more than I ever, ever imagined. Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, I never would have forgiven myself or even stopped and written a positive post like this one. Nope. I would have dwelled about how I let everyone down and been negative until the cows came home.

After I yelled, I promptly took responsibility for my actions, reminded myself that sometimes “it’s me, not them,” and owned up to my mistake. Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, I would have just assumed that the kids were “at fault” and then justified my yelling with “well, my kids didn’t listen.” I never would have wondered and accepted that perhaps I was part of the problem.

After I yelled, I found perspective and realized that “hey I might not have been able to keep myself at the grumpy stage, but at least I was aware of my grumpiness and tried to control it.” Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, I wouldn’t have even realized my physical yelling symptoms or that grumpiness was a sign that a yell was coming and that I needed to stop and quickly find a way to calm down.

After I yelled, I very quickly said, “okay Orange Rhino, what do you need to do to take care of yourself? You clearly aren’t taking care of you and managing your stress and um, you need to!” Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, I wouldn’t have acknowledged for a second that taking care of me is important and I never in a thousand years would have known how to take care of me or tried to even make it happen!

And after I yelled, despite how painful it was in that particular moment to see in my sons’ eyes the fear and sadness resulting from my behavior, I actually felt a bit grateful. Yes, I felt grateful that I yelled because my response to this situation not only showed me just how much I have grown and changed for the better during this Challenge, but also how much I have learned.

I have learned that learning to yell less has taught me more than just that. It has taught me how to bring forgiveness, perspective, positive thinking, accountability, and so much more to all the relationships in my life and all the situations in my life making me a happier person all around.

I have learned that that mistakes are okay, that not being perfect is okay, and that trying my hardest and still charging forward to yell less even when I have had a “bad” moment, is way more than okay, it’s courageous and crucial. Because learning to yell less isn’t just a 365 day Challenge for me, it’s a lifestyle change and I am certain over the next however many years my boys are my sons, I will slip up and yell again, and I will need to charge forward, again.

I have learned that at the heart of The Orange Rhino Challenge is not just clocking days that are yell free but collecting more loving moments. Any moment that I don’t yell is a win and all the loving moments add up – that is what matters.

Yelling Less Loving More

And most importantly, I have learned again just how much yelling scares my kids, how awful it makes me feel, and no matter how hard it might be at times, I want more than ever to continue to be an Orange Rhino because it is changing me and my relationships in a heck of a lot more ways I ever imagined.

* * * * *

P.S. I was fine posting this until now. Now I am nervous that I will have disappointed you all. Please don’t let that be the case.

If you liked this post, you might also like these posts:
“Bottled Up Emotions Do Me No Good”
“(Sometimes) Marriage Makes Me Want to Yell”
“Choosing Perfectly Imperfect Moments”
“I Didn’t Rock Motherhood Today”

You might also like my new book due out in October, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” Part parenting guide, part memoir, I include a 30-day guide with key revelations, actions, and tips to help you on your own journey. You can pre-order it now to make sure you are one of the first to receive it by clicking here. 

When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Well, once again, this is not the post I intended to write tonight. Nope, not at all.
That seems to be the theme lately: not doing what I expected to be doing.
That was certainly the case last week on vacation.

Did I expect to spend the first three days in the rain? Nope. I mean sure, one day of rain, or some drops here and there, but most certainly not three days of thunderstorms.

Did I expect to find our normally quiet, spacious beach overcrowded because the beach one block over was getting filled in as a result of Hurricane Sandy? Nope. And when I say overcrowded, I mean so much so that if one of my boys even flinched I feared they would get sand on a stranger.

Danger. This mom didn’t expect this and doesn’t like when things don’t go as planned. In fact, in kind of makes her want to scream….

Did I expect to have not one, not two, not three, but four kids all not sleep through the night, every night? Nope. Of course I expected one or two, and I expected early risings, but for all to not sleep through, seriously?

Did I expect to discover our favorite breakfast place would have the same great food and view but awfully mean and hungover college boys instead of sweet and caring college girls who helped with the kids? Nope. I know wait staff changes, but after many a long night I so longed for a little help at breakfast besides the caffeine jolt from my coffee.

Did I expect to call 911 at 4:30 in the morning because I was convinced someone was in the house?

Oh wait, that wasn’t on vacation; that wasn’t last week. That was last night, or I guess this morning. I think I am still shaking and still traumatized by the whole thing. The baby cried out at 4:30. He quickly settled and then I heard footsteps. Then I heard what sounded like toys banging around. I waited in bed, my heart already racing, trying to figure out my next move as my husband was traveling. I decided it must just be #2 up early (he doesn’t sleep well). I waited for the sound to stop. It didn’t. So I grabbed the bat and went out into the hall. I checked all the kids’ rooms. All the lights were off; the rooms were quiet and the beds full. Then…

BANG!

The metal baby get at the bottom of the stairs crashed. I looked downstairs and saw lights on and heard even more noise and even more footsteps. I ran to my bedroom and called 911.

“Hello! Quick, hurry. Send someone to my house. I think someone is downstairs.”

“Hold on ma’am, where are you. Tell me what you hear. Police are on their way.”

“Someone is downstairs. I know it. I know it. Please there are footsteps and noise. Hurry! Hurry!”

I told her everything I could as quietly as I could. I prayed the baby didn’t wake and cry out again. The last thing I wanted was my four boys to wake up and get attention. The last thing I wanted was to be found, so I tried so hard to stay calm and not let my tears of absolute fear be heard. It was near impossible.

“Did you call out downstairs, to see if anyone answered?”

“No, I was too afraid. Please, hurry, hurry. I am so scared!” I sobbed. And I mean sobbed. I have never been so scared in my life. Visions of an intruder ran through my head as the banging continued. The beautiful calm voice came kept reassuring me as I continued to sob hysterically. A mere minute or two into the call, or rather an eternity if you ask me, she said:

“Okay, six officers are at your house and have surrounded the perimeter. Just stay on the line with me. You are going to be okay….Okay, the officers are walking around your house. Stay with me.”

“Please, please, tell them to come in. I can give you the garage code….”

“Ma’am, the officers see someone in your house. Stay calm. Okay, someone with a red shirt is walking around. It is a child. With blonde hair.” She matter-of-factly reported to me.

“THAT’s MY SON!” I bawled.

I threw the phone and ran downstairs.  I saw my sweet oldest standing in pitch black in the kitchen. I dropped to my knees faster than I ever have and let out the biggest sob of my life so far.

“You scared me! You scared me so much! I thought you were someone trying to hurt our family. I am so scared. Do you see how scared I am?” I said calmly-ish. Repeat, I said calmly-ish. I didn’t yell.

Flashlights flickered in every corner of the house. I opened the back door to a policeman and once again started bawling. I finally let out a breath; I don’t think I had really breathed for the last five or so minutes.

“It’s my son sir. My son.”

“What happened little guy?” The policeman asked so very nicely and reassuringly.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry mommy. I woke up and had a bad dream so I snuck downstairs to get something to eat. I think I will go back to bed now.”

“Sweetheart. Oh sweetheart. I am just so glad you are okay. This is why I have told you that we don’t go downstairs without an adult in the morning. This is why we stay in our rooms. Oh #1, you scared me so much.”

And on that note he shook his head quietly with understanding and turned and walked upstairs and went to bed as I apologized to the police officer and the other five of them waiting at the front door. I felt embarrassed to have made such a foolish mistake. I felt embarrassed that I didn’t think to pull back every cover in the kid’s room. I felt embarrassed that I was standing in the ugliest summer (ie. less cloth) pajama’s ever and that I hadn’t even thought to put on a robe to cover up what was hanging out, eh hem.

All six officers reassured me that I did the right thing; that this has happened before and it is better safe than sorry. I knew they were right but still, I feel a little silly today. Kind of.

I also feel a little proud. Just like I felt a little proud on vacation. Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, when something went awry and not as planned, I would get all bent out of shape. Beach closed? I would complain for two days, be a grump and be ripe to yell. Kids not sleeping? I would suggest packing up and going home and in the meanwhile, I would snap at the kids incessantly. Kid scaring the crap out of me? I would scare the crap out of him by screaming in his face.

Yes, before I taught myself to stop yelling, before I realized that I should expect to be triggered to yell big time by things not going as expected, I didn’t handle myself well at all when things went awry. In fact, I would get into such a funk that I either ruined a moment or missed out on an opportunity all together. The Orange Rhino Challenge hasn’t just taught me to yell less and love my kids more, it has helped me to love life more. I loved vacation – despite all the unexpected hiccups because I have taught myself to expect and accept the unexpected. Even my husband noted how calm I was compared to past reactions to similar situations. And last night was no different. I loved my son more than I would have in the past if faced with such a scenario because I have practiced handling the unexpected more gracefully.

My son saw fear in my face last night; not anger. My son felt love in my hug, not aggression. And as a result (or as I like to think) he heard every lesson I needed to teach him loud and clear…all without me getting loud.

I didn’t expect for my son to be the intruder in my house last night, but it taught him several great lessons. And I also didn’t expect The Orange Rhino Challenge to change me so much, to have taught me so many great lessons.

{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!

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.

Happy Days!

460 days of loving more, 30 days year two!

Even though I don’t have a math degree and I am not a statistician, I can say with 100% certainty (or is it accuracy? whatever,) that the days I feel happy are the days that yelling less is easier. Like infinitely easier. The direct correlation is undisputable, and that my friends, is one reason why I write the deep, dark, ugly, sometimes over-the-top emotional posts. Because when I write those posts, like the “Am I Good Enough” and “It’s Not You It’s Me” I find myself working through some of the ugly feelings that keep me from being happy. Or said another way, those posts help me to let go of the ugly feelings just a little bit so that I can yell less and love more.

I know I have been writing a lot of “those posts” lately. Part of me wants to apologize for not being uplifting and positive. Part of me wants to explain why I write them (wait, I just did.) And part of me, no all of me, wants to say thank you for letting me write those posts. All of me wants to say thank you for letting me be real and honest. All of me wants to say thank you for not judging me but for offering support and often times, understanding. Those ugly posts are difficult to write, difficult to share, and difficult to publish because I fear how they will be received. But I need to write them; I need to process the yuck in my life to get to the yummy.

You all know that Friday night I finally (can I get an halleluiah?!) wrote a post after a long dry spell driven by fear and well, overwhelmedness of too many yucky feelings! How do I choose just one to write about? LOL. But I did it. And guess what? Acknowledging the yuckiness, talking (or writing as the case may be) did indeed help me to feel lighter and therefore happier. I am so grateful I finally wrote that post Friday night because the next morning we headed out as a family for a 36-hour change of scenery. I needed to leave some baggage at home in order to enjoy the excursion and survive the stress of being away because well, taking the kids away from their routine always starts off exhilarating and always ends up exhausting.

Naps – missed. Bedtimes – missed. Restaurant manners when operating sans sleep – oh totally missed. Enjoying the few good moments stuck in between lots of moments of stress? So not missed. But would I have missed out on some of those good moments if I hadn’t written that post? Would I have been even closer to yelling in the really tough moments (um, two kids screaming over a fork at a restaurant with all eye balls on me?) if I hadn’t written the post? I say yes. Again, talking about the yuck and trying to figure it out is hard but it takes some weight off which really helps me to be in a better place and better able to take in some really awesome moments with my boys. So again, thank you for letting me write those posts; thank you for giving me a place to share; thank you for helping me enjoy some moments this past weekend like…

…when #1 ran up to me screaming “Mommy, mommy, I finally have a loose tooth! See, see!” He has been desperate to have a loose tooth forever. Forever! He was so excited; I was so excited! We wiggled it back and forth together. His finger first, then he said, “mommy you try, but be gentle!” Then we talked about the tooth fairy and how much he thought he was getting. Um, he was wrong when he thought $500 was the going rate, way wrong, but it was so precious!

And

…when #3 cuddled under his hotel sheets, rolled over and looked at me and with all seriousness in the world said “mama, I might fart under the sheets while you are next to me ‘cuz I have a ‘lil tummy ache, is that okay?” Okay, so it was kind of gross, but I loved that he was asking permission and that his eyes showed that he was greatly concerned. I was also grateful he was asking me and not my husband because he would have informed him that that is called a dutch oven!

And

…when #2 ran to our newly planted lilac tree with me when we got home and discovered it had bloomed. I got the scissors and cut some branches off and before I could even tell him about when I was a little girl and I cut lilac branches in my backyard with my mommy and how I looked forward to it every year he said, “Oh mommy, will the lilacs bloom every year? Can we do this every year, like a tradition?” That made my day. Made me day. I love traditions and I love that I have passed on that love to my kiddos.

And

…when #4 said “Happy Day!” to me after all his brother’s screamed out Happy Mother’s Day to me this morning. This little munchkin has just started talking these last few weeks and that in itself is the greatest gift ever. With his seizures and an apparent speech delay, my mind has been a nervous wreck (those two combined generally mean larger problems yet to be diagnosed.) But now, he is starting to talk and it is beautiful. I am so glad I wasn’t grumpy and could enjoy hearing him say “Happy Day.”

Yes, “Happy Day.” Today, and yesterday, despite their challenges (which were plentiful!) I would call happy days. And happy days make it easier to also call them yell free days. I know writing about the yuck, helps me get have those days, so again, thank you.

I hope tomorrow you have a “Happy Day” and a yell less day too.

Note: I am fairly certain this post isn’t coherent and doesn’t say what I want it to say. But I wanted to just get it out there; to help myself get back in the practice of writing. In case it wasn’t clear, my points were (1) thank you and (2) yucky stuff happens and can keep me from being happy (or feeling good) and can be a real trigger for yelling. Finding a way to release some of those yucky emotions is important to me on my journey to yell less.