And It (she?) Finally Broke.

18 days of loving more in year 2, 447 days total!

February 6th ish I came into my house to a rancid smell. It literally smelled like an animal had died and was hiding underneath the family room. Awful doesn’t even begin to describe it. I immediately called my handyman who came right over. I had to leave the house to get one child to a speech therapy appointment but I knew he would resolve the matter.

Not ten minutes after I leave, I get a phone call. I didn’t even have to answer it to know it was bad as it wasn’t my handyman; it was his boss.

“Um, hi Mrs. Orange Rhino.”
“Let me interrupt you. How bad is the problem? It’s not a dead raccoon is it?”
“No, no it is not an animal. You have a leak, a really, really, really bad leak. You have black mold under your floors, under your bookshelf and in the entire crawl space, air ducts, insulation, studs, everything. It’s pretty bad. When can you get home?”

Um, not soon enough? About forty minutes later I walked into the house.  It was so bad that both the handyman and bossman had waited for me.

“Well, we think it could be a crack in the foundation or maybe the heater under the bookshelf.”

“Hmmm. So about two months ago I noticed that the heater was making a lot of noise. I figured I was just super irritable that day and laughed it off. A few days later I thought it smelled funny; that the family room smelled like a steam shower. Again, I laughed it off. I can’t help but think the heater is the problem.”

My gut knew it was the problem. I had been telling myself for two months to look into it. But I kept saying “it wasn’t important” and “I’ll get to it when I get to it” and “I’m too busy.” The truth? I never prioritized it.

The men grabbed tools and started ripping out the bookcase. Well all be. Guess what? The heater? Oh yes, it had been leaking for ages. AGES. There was water everywhere. In fact, it was so bad that the iron pipe had turned green. And it get this. It was STILL spraying water.

It is three months later and I am still fixing the problem and still dealing with insurance.

I learned that day, and have remembered every day since that ignoring a small problem can often grow into a large problem and explode in your face, literally.

I learned this same lesson when the marriage boulder crashed in my path. We had acknowledged the small rocks for a while but rationalized that we would get to them, some day. And then bam, well, you know how that story goes (read here)

I learned this same lesson when my oldest was three ish and I started to yell a little more and a little more. I kept saying “oh, it’s just the sleep deprivation, you’ll chill out soon.” And then ahhhhhh, well, my yelling had become a huge problem and here I am, The Orange Rhino, a mom who wants to parent with warmth and determination, without all the yelling.

It is hard to take care of the small problems. They are so, well, small. At the time they don’t seem like they need attention, like they don’t warrant it. And let’s be real. I barely have time to tackle big problems, let alone medium ones and shoot, never small ones. But oh, oh has that come to bite me in the arse one too many times. Sure, there are ones that you ignore and it works out, but more often than not, at least for me, if it is a problem, it doesn’t just disappear.

I re-learned this lesson again today. UGH. The day the plumber came to fix the big, black mold he noticed a piece on the boiler needed updating.

“Is it mandatory I asked? Can I wait a while, until I fix this other big headache of a problem?”

“Sure, but I wouldn’t suggest it. You never know when it will go.”

It’s been on my list to do since February 6th.

Guess what piece broke today? Guess who found a basement filled with rotten water and a soaking went basement rug. Yup, that’s right me. Guess who honest to gosh almost lost it in the ugliest way ever? Yup, me. Because the kids were being bad? No, because I was just done.

Because I have lots of small “to-do’s” that I am ignoring and as a result, my ability to stay chill is pretty much nonexistent and is turning into a big, almost explosive problem. Today, it all boiled up and exploded internally. Did I yell? No. But I feel grouchy beyond words. I feel more impatient that ever. I feel full of yucky rage inside. I kept it contained today, but barely and again, not so prettily. I apologized to everyone for mommy’s uber crankiness and promised to do better tomorrow. That was the least I can do, but hey, I think that counts for a lot.

Now I need to forgive myself. And that will be the hardest part. Because right now I am sitting here thinking “Darnit, Orange Rhino. You KNOW better. You know that if you don’t get sleep, exercise, and eat healthy that you eventually get to a breaking point and it ain’t pretty.” I saw today coming. I felt it yesterday when my eyelids were literally half closed from 1 o’clock onwards and I felt like a zombie. I felt it this morning when my hands started sweating and my heart started beating faster when the boys were a little louder than I could handle. I felt it at 1 o’clock today when I rushed through nap time books because I just wanted alone time.

Yes, I felt the breaking point coming and I didn’t try to stop it.

The last month I have been pushing myself too hard. I have written about taking care of me but again, I have failed to do so. It is evident in my smile, or lack there of. It is evident in my tone. It is evident in the increasing guilt of not being happy with how cranky I am. And for this, because I know that I want to be doing better, I feel crappy and disappointed in myself.

I am okay with pushing myself. With telling myself that “I can do it” and “just one more day of craziness, then I will rest.” But only until a point. Because eventually, it becomes too much. Just like the pipe that leaked and leaked until it wreaked havoc, I know that left uncared for, my little stress, my ignoring the little things I need to get the stress at bay, will grow and grow until it wreaks havoc. Unfortunately for my boys, the wreaked havoc is usually in their direction.

I write this post tonight to remind myself to take care of me.

I write this post tonight to remind myself to acknowledge my warning signs that it is time for a break.

I write this post tonight to remind myself to find grace, to forgive myself for the rough day, to acknowledge that I hey at least, I did take a break at 1 (even if I should have taken it yesterday) and that hey, I am only human. I am doing my best. And that matters a lot.

Let it go Orange Rhino, let go. And for goodness sake, go take a hot bath, ignore your work, and get to bed!!

{sometimes} Marriage Makes Me Want To Yell

412 days of loving more!

Dearest Orange Rhinos. I share this post for two reasons. 1, so that you know that while I have gone a year without yelling everyday I am still taking the Challenge right along with you, especially now and 2, to share about a real personal trigger of mine that I imagine many people can relate to.

January 21, 2012: My handyman busted me yelling at my four boys and I decided to stop being a yelling mom and effective immediately start teaching myself to yell less and love more. I then spent an entire year working hard at my new goal of not yelling for 365 days straight. As I neared my end date of February 6th, 2013 (I had a few re-starts) people asked me, what’s next? What’s next? Will you do another type of challenge? Will you re-commit to another year of not yelling? Tell us, tell us! I didn’t know the answer. As I hemmed and hawed for direction, the answer unfortunately (fortunately?) became crystal clear. I needed to do The Orange Rhino Challenge for another year more than ever because on…

January 18th, 2013, my husband and I hit a bump in the marriage road. It wasn’t a pebble in the road, not even a rock; it was more like a wicked good-sized boulder that two people on their own can’t move. And to be clear, it wasn’t like Fred and Wilma Flintstone just dropped this boulder in our path out of the blue. Oh no. We’ve been looking at it together for years and have done a phenomenal job driving around it. Actually, such a beautiful job that we should be Nascar drivers. But there is only so long that you can avoid a huge boulder like this; it is only so long before you drive smack into it and your car comes to a crashing halt and the only thing you can do is finally admit that you have temporarily broken down and that it is time to address the problem.

So my husband and I, well, we are addressing the problem. We are finally talking about the big boulder in our marriage that we have tip toed around for ages. And let me tell you. It isn’t fun. It isn’t easy. It isn’t, well, it isn’t anything but really REALLY hard and sometimes really, really sad.

Every day since January 18th I wake up with a slight hole in my heart. I can feel it. I can feel the hole in my heart when I look in the mirror and see bags under my eyes from sleepless nights and crusty remainders of dried tears. I can feel the hole in my heart when my boys run into my room to say hi and I dig deep for energy and enthusiasm and find some, but not as much as I wish. I can feel the hole in my heart when my boys innocently try to help me by pouring (spilling) milk and my first inclination is to yell instead of respond peacefully like I had naturally begun to do for months on end. I can feel the hole in my heart when I go to bed and think “I did it, I didn’t yell today, but gosh was I closer than I had been for months and I am proud of myself, but still, I wish it was a smoother day.”

And I can feel the hole in my heart as I “try” to fall asleep after having just passed a wedding picture of hubby and I on my way to bed, and I can’t help but think, “How did we go from there…to here?” When I think, “I knew the path of marriage would be smooth and bumpy and that it would have beautiful views and some less than beautiful views, but I still didn’t think it would ever feel like this. I still didn’t ever think that we would get here.”

I didn’t think that my heart would break into a thousand pieces; that it would shatter like I imagine a windshield would in a high impact crash. But it did. And with that shattered heart has come anger and love and confusion and fear and hope and disappointment and immense utter sadness. Because I love my husband so; I love our family so; I love our life so. And with all of that, well, with all of those wonderfully strong emotions, has come a wonderfully strong desire to yell at my kids for no reason.

During my first year of The Orange Rhino Challenge I learned with clarity that most of the time the saying “it’s not you, it’s me” really is true when it comes to yelling at my kids. And right now, it is truer than ever.

On days when hubby and I talk about that status of things, I find myself wanting to yell at my boys for breathing too loud, for laughing too much, for asking too much.

On days when hubby and I don’t talk about the status of things and my mind wanders all over thinking and wondering and questioning, I find myself wanting to yell at my boys for being too rough, for being too messy, for being too whiny.

And on days when hubby and I talk but don’t talk about the status of things and instead hang and try to be normal, I find myself wanting to yell at my boys for not behaving perfectly, for not playing nicely, for not listening and ruining the family moment.

Yes lately, just about every day since January 18th has been a gigantic trial to not yell, a gigantic trial to stay calm and to not just remember, but to also live out all the beautiful lessons I learned during my Orange Rhino Challenge. And today, well today was no different except that another boulder got thrown in our path (I guess it is a good thing we have always enjoyed long car rides together, eh?)

And as I sat in my mini-van this morning, face in my hands sobbing my broken heart out wondering when the path will become smoother again, all I could think of was my boys. My beautiful, beautiful boys. The four pieces that make my heart whole even in the most difficult times. The four boys whom I love with all my heart and yet to whom I haven’t fully expressed it to recently because I have been so pre-occupied with my marital situation. The four boys who right now sense the stress in the house and more than ever need me, I mean really really NEED ME to show them love and not frustration.

MY four boys, who along side their mother, need The Orange Rhino Challenge more than anything in the world right now. We all need the extra calm, the extra focused attention, the extra security, the extra love that not yelling brings. Every day when I wake up and all I want to do is cry or hide or scream about the truth that is my life right now, I look at my orange toe nails, I look at my Orange Rhino signs, I think of the growing Orange Rhino community and I remember that of all things I want to do right now, there are some big things I don’t want to do. I don’t want to make my kids cry; I love them. I don’t want to hide from my kids; I love them. And I don’t want to scream at them unnecessarily because you guessed it – I love them. I might be angry at the situation in my life, but I will not let it impact how I love my kids. I will not let my anger and sadness drive me to yell at my kids. They simply do not deserve to be on the receiving end of any of my personal strife, I love them too much for that to happen.

And I will not let the anger and sadness from the situation drive my husband and I into a sinkhole that we can’t get out of.  Because I also love my husband with all my heart. We’re not done and we won’t be. Although I know some days ahead will feel like a rock slide is happening and I that I am getting hit left and right with tough emotions, I know that we will dig out and one day this boulder will be in our rear view mirror.

Life can be difficult sometimes. Kids can be difficult sometimes. And well, marriage can be really difficult sometimes too and any of these things can push me to yell. I know all of that. What I also know though? Adding unnecessary yelling to the mix just makes it all that much more difficult.

My Name is The Orange Rhino and I will not yell at my kids (or my husband) even when things get tough. I will continue to yell less and love more with all my might and all my heart.

I’m (not) Taking Care of Me.

398 Days of Loving More!

The first pimple was easy to attribute to P.M.S.
The first day of back pain was easy to attribute to “standing in one position too long.”
And the first night going to bed early was easy to attribute to “staying up too late the night before.”

But then when the second zit popped up in full force I knew it wasn’t P.M.S. as I never get more than one zit strategically located in the center of my face for all to see. And then when the back pain continued and got worse I knew it wasn’t just from how I stood because that back pain always goes away in a day. And then when I completely forgot an important conversation with my husband and couldn’t get out of bed the next morning because I was so tired, I knew it wasn’t from staying up too late.

Nope, all these recent ailments are from one thing and one thing only: STRESS. Or put another way, not taking care of me and trying to do too much. Right now, my body is trying to tell me something and it is sending out a pretty gosh darn clear warning: SLOW DOWN or you are going to have a meltdown.

Source: Google Images

And my body isn’t the only one telling me that, my boys are too. I didn’t need the throbbing pain of the pimple and my back to warn me, I just needed to listen to my boys. This past weekend I heard “Orange Rhino mommy, Orange Rhino” more than I have in weeks, months past and rightfully so. I have been completely on edge with them, grumpy as grumpy can be. And I know why, and my body knows why; I am simply not taking care of me.

A friend of mine always likes to remind me that if I am in an airplane and the oxygen masks drop down first that I need to put mine on first so that I can then assist my younger ones; that if I don’t take care of me, I can’t take care of them. It’s the truth. And guess what? I stink at taking care of me! While I have come a long way over the past year plus in learning that I need to take of me in order to be able to love my kids more and not yell, for some reason this past month I have completely forgotten the importance of it.

I know that for me, I need to get at least 7.5 hours of sleep to function normally AND nicely. I know that for me, I need to eat healthy and exercise to ward off grumpy moods and impatience. I know that for me, I need to interact with my friends to feel connected and therefore in a better place with my kiddos. I know that for me, I need to accept that I am not Superwoman and can’t do everything!

And right now I know that I am not doing any of the above. In fact I am doing none of the above and my body and my interactions with my boys are a perfect reflection of that. Actually, an imperfect reflection. I look all pimply and haggard. The bags under my eyes rival that of a zombie. The way I am walking makes the Hunchback of Notre Dame look like he’s standing up straight. And the way I am talking to my kids, the speed at which my heart is racing lately, the slight sweat that is starting in my hands, well it tells me I am close to completely screaming at my sons and I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit.

This weekend I had one of the closest calls I have had in a long time to losing it completely. I was bordering on becoming the “old me” and it was the biggest, hardest, warning sign ever that I need to slow down and take care of me so that I can take care of my kids with the love, patience, empathy and calmness that I aim too.

But again, I am not very good at taking care of me. I am really good at saying: “oh, I just have to get one more thing done tonight, I can manage on less sleep.” And “oh, I’ll start eating healthier tomorrow” or my favorite “but I really like being productive, it makes me feel happier.” Yes, these things might be true in stand-alone cases but not all together. This weekend proved that to me as I flirted with going absolutely ape sh*t on my son all because I was so worn down that I could barely control myself. I could barely control my emotions, my reactions, and my voice. Fortunately, my son squeaked out Orange Rhino before I became a charging rhino, but still, that moment was so close to out-of-control that it slapped me in the face. It shook me awake and screamed at me: “ENOUGH LADY! Start taking care of yourself now!”

So I am declaring the rest of March as “ME” month. My goal this month is to take care of me; to force myself to take breaks when I am tired, to force myself to find 5 minutes to play, to force myself to let some things go, to force myself to slow the heck down! Yes, I am going to “try” to slow down so that I don’t have the epic meltdown that I was headed towards with great (and loud) speed.

It might mean that I say no to more things and say yes to less things, but that is how it is going to have to be. It might mean that I write more because writing relaxes me and helps me figure out stressful issues sometimes, or it might mean that I write less because I need to go to sleep or connect with a friend.  And it might mean that I get less done because I am taking a bath or gasp, watching T.V., BUT I need to accept that so that I am more relaxed and have more love to share with my kiddos…and myself. Because right now, this burning the rope at both ends, well it’s leading to my boys and myself barely feelin’ the love and it just ain’t working for me anymore. I had my wake up call this past weekend and I am not ignoring it.

I am going to take care of me so that I can take care of my boys.  I am going to love me a bit, even if it is hard to do so, even if it feels selfish, even if it is hard to find the time, because simply put, I want to show more love to my boys than I have lately.

On that note, time to ignore my to-do list and go take a bath and go to bed early! 

L.O.V.E. Saved the Day!

390 days of loving more!

(This is not intended to offend anyone. I share it because it is real and a real trigger. When I identified this trigger back in October (read here), it helped me to acknowledge it and work with it instead of letting it make my desire to not yell impossible!)

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Simply put, today I blame P.M.S.

Yes, you read that right. I blame P.M.S. Today was the most horrifically, long, difficult day in ages and I so very much wanted to scream every single moment! The kids weren’t especially challenging, I was just especially so not with it! I had no energy. I had no patience. I had no desire to actively parent. I just wanted to be left alone! At one point today when I was clearly about to lose it over what, um nothing, I turned to my husband and said,

“DUH! I know why I am such a mess. It’s P.M.S. This big ‘ole zit on my chin that is screaming to be popped should have been the dead giveaway! And the fact that I can’t keep my eyes open? Duh!”

His loving response? “Good thing I’m getting on a plane in an hour then, eh?”

Ha! He had a good point! Yes, good for him, not for my boys! Once he left it went downhill. P.M.S. just puts me on such an edge that it is hard to stay calm and loving! I recall a post I wrote in October about what P.M.S. really stands for and today I stand by that even more so. It doesn’t mean Putting up with Men’s Sh*t as I thought in my teenager years and it certainly doesn’t mean Pre-Menstrual Syndrome. No, P.M.S. definitely stands for Pushing Me to Scream!

And that is exactly what was happening today! Everything was pushing me to scream. At one point, the fighting over who sat where on the couch for T.V. really got to me and I said, “That’s it! Mommy needs exercise, we all need fresh air, let’s go!”

I was so proud of myself for taking control of my trigger only to be frustrated minutes later when #1 and #2 started fighting over who found the super, huge, “perfect” pinecone first and wouldn’t stop screaming in the middle of the neighborhood. So we turned around and went home. I separated everyone into corners with books and started to cook dinner. I popped outside for two seconds to put food on the grill and returned inside to hear,

“Mommy! #4 is drawing on the kitchen wall with the dry erase marker.”

Are you kidding me?! How did he get it down?  I started scrubbing and scrubbing and it didn’t come off. ARGH! Well thank goodness for Google. “Apply hairspray and scrub with dry cloth.” Worked like magic. Of course once that was solved…

“Mommy, #1 threw something at me!” and then

“Mommy, mommy, I peed in my underwear” cried #3 and soon thereafter, now what 30 minutes past the great pinecone debacle of 2013, #2 started up AGAIN

“Mommy, but that was my favorite pinecone ever! There will never be another one.”

Oh. My. Gosh. ENOUGH! Enough of the craziness, the yelling, enough of my P.M.S. pushing me to scream even more so than a normal situation like this! So I started saying to myself over and over and over again “L.O.V.E. your kids Orange Rhino. L.O.V.E. them.”

My peaceful thoughts and attempt to regain composure were interrupted by the best line of the late afternoon:

“MOMMY! The grill! It’s on fire, look at all the smoke!” Yes in all the commotion I forgot that dinner was on the grill and was properly getting burned. Perfect! I ran outside, shut the door, threw open the grill, grabbed the spatula and instead of taking the food off the grill….just threw my arms up in the arm and let out a big ‘ole  “AHHHHHHHH!”

And then, again, instead of taking dinner of the grill (P.M.S. also sucks any rational thinking out of my brain), I started laughing.  What else was I to do? Right, save dinner. I salvaged the Italian Sausages and prayed that my boys would eat them without fuss. They did; phew. As we were headed up to bed, #2 said, AGAIN:

“But Mommy…my pinecone. Seriously, it was the most perfect pinecone ever!!!”
(Oh my gosh, enough with the pinecone!)

And that’s when I realized it was time to post on Facebook; it was time to let some frustration out or I was really going to lose it. And that is when I started saying “L.O.V.E.” over and over and over again. Just writing on Facebook, just sharing the L.O.V.E. mnemonic that, pushed me back to somewhat normal. I empathized with my son over the lost pinecone. I observed that my son peed in his pants because he was exhausted and because I hadn’t reminded him after nap to go. I verified that my oldest son had thrown the book earlier because he was pissed that daddy left on Sunday instead of Monday. And then I listened to myself say…

“Orange Rhino, P.M.S. is pushing you to scream. Not your kiddos. Take a deep breath. Bedtime is now. You can do this.”

Yes, L.O.V.E. saved the day…again! I remember writing in October that I never really thought of P.M.S. as a legitimate trigger. But it is. Today just proved it. And it proved to me that when it comes, it is a brutal, hard trigger to overcome. I can try to manage it by exercising and eating healthy and getting rest (which I did do today, I slept in a whopping 42 minutes), but if all that fails because life happens, well then thankfully I can always turn to L.O.V.E.

Click here for the original post: What P.M.S. Really Stands For

3 Ways to Yell Less at your Kids

350 days of not yelling, 15 days of loving more to go!

Dear Fred and Ted,

I know P.D. Eastman wrote about you hoping you would teach children about opposites. But did you know that you taught me, a thirty something adult, a really great lesson too? Well you did. Thank you.

Now back to bed!
Yelled the Rhino who was orange, not red!

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Tonight while I was reading “BIG dog…little dog” by P.D. Eastman to my three year old I couldn’t help but let out a huge chuckle at the end of the story. I mean here I was reading a book for a child and I was the one learning. In case you aren’t familiar with the book, here is the key part of the story. It takes place after Fred, a big dog, and Ted, a little dog spend sleepless nights in a hotel.

“The next morning, Fred said, ‘My bed is too little!’
‘My bed is too big!’ said Ted.
‘I know what to do!’ said the bird.
‘Ted should sleep upstairs and Fred should sleep downstairs!’
‘Back to bed!’ yelled Ted.
“Back to bed!’ yelled Fred.
Ted jumped into the little bed upstairs.
And Fred jumped into the big bed downstairs.
Ted slept all day long in the cozy little bed.
And Fred slept all day long in the cozy big bed.
‘Well, that was easy to do. Big dogs need big beds. Little dogs need little beds. Why make big problems out of little problems?’”

OH MY GOSH. YES! It is that simple. That is one smart bird!

“’Why make big problems out of little problems?’”

I mean really, why? Problems are hard enough as is, so why make them bigger? Or put another way, why take a little yelling trigger and escalate it by actually yelling ridiculously? All yelling does is make my boys cry, which then makes a once little trigger feel ginormous because now I have a sad, upset child on hand as well. Yep, yelling makes little “problems”, bigger problems!

Take laundry for example. I can’t stand sorting laundry. Socks in particular. I mean really. Why do The Gap and every other sock manufacturer have to print the size of the sock in the same color as the sock? How am I supposed to read the size? It’s not like anyone is going to see the size if it is an obnoxiously easy to read color. It’s on the bottom of the foot for goodness sake! Every time I am stuck sorting socks and digging through baskets of mixed laundry looking for a matching sock, I want to scream at my boys. Is the sock dilemma their issue? No. But it drives me nuts and makes me batty so if they approach me with a simple question, I am apt to want to scream at them. I am apt to want to take a small problem, a lonely sock, and make it a bigger problem, a crying child.

Solution: Do one child’s laundry a night. It’s that simple; no more sorting! I stopped washing mixed loads of laundry at the beginning of January. Now each child has a night and I am no longer digging for socks. Such a simple solution. Such a BIG relief. I feel like a new woman, seriously. No more snapping at my kids over unmatched socks is the greatest feeling! There was no need to make a big problem out of a little problem. I just had to think for a moment of a solution.

And then there is the case of the cluttered kitchen counter. I know my counter isn’t magnetized but I swear it is. It collects and holds tight to anything and everything in my house. School papers. Legos. Colored pencils. Snack cups. Magazines. Untouched Weight Watchers books. Small stuff from Hallmark from my mother-in-law that I don’t know where else to put. Shoot, anything that I don’t know where to put or don’t feel like putting away gets glued to the counter. And I CAN’T STAND IT. Just looking at the counter during the day makes me want to scream. It makes me so cranky and on edge that if my kids breathe on me or even leave a crumb I want to scream at them, unnecessarily of course. Yes, I want to take a truly small problem, a cluttered counter, and make it a bigger problem, a crying child.

Solution: Every night I take 5 minutes to clean the kitchen counter. 5 minutes, sometimes less. It is the most beautiful thing ever. Now when I start the day I can breathe easy. My skin doesn’t crawl throughout the day, my to-do list no longer has “clean counter” on it, and I don’t snap at my kids for putting stuff on the counter because I know it will find the right home. The solution was simple, I just needed to look for it.

And well of course then there is the morning rush to school everyday. There’s the get your backpacks, get your shoes on, go to the bathroom, get your jacket, get in the car, buckle up. And that is after all the breakfast fanfare. Without fail every single morning we are running to get #1 to Kindergarten on time because with four kids and eight slow feet and eight otherwise busy hands, getting necessary tasks done takes forever. In fact, it takes so long that I want to scream the marching orders at my children, not say them nicely. Yes I want to take a truly small problem say, get your backpack, and make it into a bigger problem, a crying child.

Solution: Alleviate just one morning task by doing it the night before. Every night I get the school bags from the closet and line them up in the kitchen. One less thing to do in the morning; one less moment I want to yell. The solution was simple. I just needed to acknowledge the problem.

Oh there are so many triggers to yell in my life. The good news? So many of them are easily solved if I just take a moment to think. The other good news? Just thinking for a bit about these small problems has kept them from creating big problems like children with hurt feelings and a mama filled with remorse and guilt.

Seriously, that little bird was right big time. “Why make big problems out of little problems?”

Here are two other related posts about simple solutions…
A Novel Idea 
The Silliest Fight 

“It’s not you…it’s me.”

349 days of not yelling, 16 days of loving more to go!

Dear Mike T.,

I apologize for how I broke up with you years ago. It was just a wee bit insensitive especially given how well you treated me. When that fortune cookie read “Friendship is the greatest gift” I just felt it was the perfect time to tell you that we were meant to be friends. It was just easier to say “It’s not you, it’s me” than to say the truth (that it was you). Ironically, twelve years later, now that I am a married mom with four kids, it is incredibly hard to say “it’s not you, it’s me.”  Anyway, I started this Orange Rhino Challenge 350ish days ago and have learned on my journey about looking at me and telling the truth and I keep thinking of you and our breakup. And I just wanted to say sorry.

I hope you are well, you deserve the very best,
The Orange Rhino

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It was May 2001. I had been dating Mike for about four months. He was a great guy with a great career. By day he worked in advertising, by night and weekends he was a volunteer EMT. He drove hours with me to meet my mom once and he rescued me from a drunk man hitting on me on Cinco de Mayo. He really was a great guy but in the end, he felt more like a friend than a potential serious boyfriend. So I dumped him. I told him all sorts of lines (lies!) that seemed easy at the time. I told him I didn’t want to be in a serious relationship. Eh hem. I met my husband two weeks later!

But the line that I still remember saying most clearly was “It’s not you, it’s me.” That was so easy to say at the time. It felt right even though it was a LIE. It felt easy to lie.

And now as a mom, as a person who has focused on figuring out how to not yell for the last year, it is INCREDIBLY HARD to say “it’s not you, it’s me.” Because that is the truth.  If there is one thing I have learned ever so clearly on this journey it is that I often yelled at my boys not because of them, but because of me.

It’s not you I am mad at … it’s me. I am mad at myself for running late.
It’s not you I am angry with … it’s me. I am angry with your father for something he said.
It’s not you I am frustrated with…it’s me. I am frustrated with the insurance agency for not paying our bills.

Oh the list goes on and on and on. And just like I still feel a twinge of pain for lying to Mike twelve years ago, I still feel a twinge of pain for lying to my kids all the years I yelled at them. I still feel a twinge of pain for yelling at them for something that wasn’t their fault. I still feel a twinge of pain for yelling at them when the fault was my mood, my environment, my stress, my issues.

And right now, this day, that twinge is HUGE. Last Friday, I didn’t yell but I snapped A LOT more than I like (even if within my “rules”) all because of my issues. Right now, all my snapping is entirely because of me and I don’t like to admit that. I don’t want to tell the truth. I don’t want to say to my kids,

“I’m sorry I snapped at you. You are being great today. It’s not you, it’s me.”

Because WELL I don’t want to admit that I have issues right now. It would be so much easier to yell at my kids than it would be to admit that I am struggling. Oh, but am I struggling! My struggles are big and real and ugly and painful. I don’t want to look at me right now, I want to blame someone else. I don’t want my feelings to be real, so instead I am tempted to take my anger out on the real people in front of me; the people I really love. Because while that would be uncomfortable, it would be more comfortable than dealing with me, with my issues.

For the past twelve or more years I took some really ugly skeletons and I shoved them in a box. I tied that box up so beautifully even Martha Stewart would be proud. No, she would be more than proud. She would be envious. But now, for various reasons, it is time to unwrap that box. And it has my soul rattled. It has me rattled. It has me sad and upset and overwhelmed and more. And I want to lash out. I want to scream at the top of my lungs.

In the old days, I would have yelled at my kids without thinking twice. Shoot, I’d have laryngitis by now. I would have yelled at them for anything and everything. But now, I can’t. I WON’T. Because my kids deserve better. Because I love them so. They deserve my love, not my wrath. And so I am struggling. Because when life is stressful and ugly it is hard to own it; it is easier to be nasty to anything in sight. It is hard to not yell BUT it would be harder to deal with the emotional aftermath if I did.

So I will keep saying the line that I so easily said twelve years ago…even if it is hard. Every time my anger tries to unwrap itself and tries to peak out at my kids, I will think to myself “It’s not you, it’s me.”

And then I will hug my kiddos because that truly is the most comforting thing in the world.

* Don’t worry about me. I will be fine. I just needed to write this. I debated not sharing it BUT so many people have dared to share hard stuff with me that I felt it was safe to do the same. Seriously, no worrying about me!!! Go hug your kiddos instead. And then laugh with me. I mean really. I have worked hard for 350 days to not yell and I have to be tested in the most ridiculous way the last 15?! Seriously, it is kind of funny! See, just writing and I feel better already!

My non-blog post, blog post

336 days without yelling, 29 days of loving more to go! 

Dear Orange Rhinos,

Tonight, I wanted to sit and write a deep, thoughtful post about the important of preparing for change. The importance of putting in effort even when you don’t want to.

Tonight, I wanted to sit and write up my plans for “30 days to yelling less” project that I spoke of on Facebook the other day. It will happen by the way. It will commence sometime next week and details will be forthcoming so that you have time to share them with friends.

Tonight, I wanted to sit and write about how sometimes my posts have nothing to do with yelling, but have more to do with me and my personal struggles and how that actually has everything to do with yelling.

Tonight I had lots of plans.

But none of them will get done tonight for two reasons.

1) I am exhausted and I need to go to bed!
2) I have other things to do.

As to being exhausted…I am physically and mentally and emotionally exhausted. #4 seems to be having new seizures of a different kind (read here) and as such we are off to the neurologist again. Can’t. Write. About. It. Just can’t. Can’t write about how I need to prepare for the doctor, how I need to write up questions and so forth so that I can maximize our visit. Can’t write about how scared I am of the epilepsy diagnosis. Can’t write about how scared I am that my son won’t be able to drive when he is 16 like his friends. Just can’t go there. Can’t write about all the insightful comparisons between preparing for doctors visits and learning not to yell because I just can’t think about it. Because I will cry. And the tears will most certainly ruin my new computer’s keyboard. And I can’t do that! And I can’t cry because well, I just don’t want to. Yet. And because once I start I know it will be a late night and it can’t be. I need to get to bed so I am “rested” enough to be the best mama I can be tomorrow! Lack of sleep = BIG trigger.

As to having things to do….I love blogging. I love The Orange Rhino Challenge. There is so much to love here, so much love that goes around, so much love to be had! And I want to write a “real” blog tonight for me, for all of you. BUT if I do write, and edit, and re-edit and edit again, and therefore ignore my never ending to-do list that I have pushed aside because I just don’t know where to start well then all I can say is: I WILL YELL tomorrow. And I don’t want to yell. Not just because of my challenge. But because I am a changed person and I don’t want my stress to get to me. I don’t want it to win! I want to be strong enough to acknowledge my triggers (lack of sleep and nagging to-do lists) and manage them. So I will tackle the list now so it doesn’t grow into a huge nagging problem and trigger.

So there you have it. I will do one thing on my to-do list and then snuggle into bed. I might cry there. It would be good to as bottled up emotions are also a trigger (read here). In the meanwhile, get ready for kicking off “30 days to yelling less” next Wednesday January 16th. The project will wrap up on Valentine’s Day, the day of love! I will spend 30 days dedicated to walking anyone who wants through the steps of not-yelling. I will break down the daunting task of changing and learning to yell less into 30 days. We will together, acknowledge our triggers and kick ’em in the a*s. Or at least learn how to manage them.

Like going to bed early.

Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite (or something like that),
xoxo,
The Orange Rhino

‘Tis the season for giving…or yelling?

310 days without yelling, 55 days of loving more to go!

Dear Perfection,

I am pretty sure this post won’t meet your expectations. But as a holiday gift to myself, so I can be less stressed, I am letting it go.

Happy Holidays,
The Orange Rhino

*

‘Tis the season for giving, or so the saying goes. Sadly, it more often turns out to be ‘tis the season for yelling. Because let’s face it, this season exaggerates every major yelling trigger possible.

More to-dos in even less time? More stress, more yelling.
More parties and late nights? Less sleep, more yelling.
More alcohol and junk food?  Less feeling good about our bodies, more yelling.
More anticipation for gifts, more impatience waiting for the holidays, more hyper kids? More overwhelmed parents, more yelling.
More spending of money? More fights over finances, more yelling.

The list could go on and on. But I think the point is clear. This joyous season is supposed to bring out the best in people but for me? Well I quickly realized on Thanksgiving that first and foremost it brings out my desire to yell. The stress of the season teases me to give gifts of anger, impatience, and annoyance to my boys…it pushes me to give anything but love.

I think it was the setting of the Thanksgiving table that kicked the Holiday stress into high gear.  Realizing that I needed to iron the tablecloth, decorate the table, wipe down the crystal glasses, find the candles, do this and do that just triggered the other to-do lists for the holiday season. Get a good family picture. Order holiday cards. Shop for the kids, the hubby. Decorate the house inside. Put lights up outside. Find the Elf. Wrap the presents. Buy gifts for the teachers and therapists. Find a good cheerful mood. Yes, the simple task of setting a table sent me over the edge and had me sweating and cursing under my breath within minutes. I quickly became agitated and lost site of the awesomeness going on; the awesomeness of my boys gleefully watching the Macy’s Day Parade just like I did as a child. I just wanted to plop on the couch with them and ooh and awe over the floats but instead I grumpily insisted I had “so much to do.”

As I wrapped up setting the table, the boys ran to me shrieking with joy that Santa was on TV; that Christmas was coming! A wee lad plowed right into my back, almost knocking the crystal glasses in my hand to the ground. I spun around, fire in my throat and then stopped. You see, my darling boys were all wearing matching orange polos that they picked out for Thanksgiving because orange was a Thanksgiving color. It worked brilliantly. The sight of orange immediately reminded me of my promise to be a more loving mom and not a yelling mom.

In fact, the shirts worked so brilliantly that I suggest all holidays this month change their signature colors to orange! Because holidays are wonderful and full of joy but also, full of stress and therefore full of opportunities to yell. So this holiday, now that I am woefully aware of how the stress makes me want to yell, I am going to remember my Orange Rhino promise and get back to the original saying “‘tis the season for giving.” This holiday season, I am going to give all the gifts that keep me from yelling, and then some.

I am going to give empathy to my boys. I am going to remind myself of how excited impatient, and hyper I was as a child as I waited for Santa to come. I will choose to be understanding of their behavior, not critical of it, even if I just want to scream chill out!

I am going to give enthusiasm to my boys. I am going to get excited about where the Elf is hidden; I am going to get excited counting down the days to Christmas; I am going to get excited talking about Santa even if I am tired of the same conversation, over and over again, or tired from a late night out or a late night up wrapping gifts.

I am going to give myself permission to not be perfect this Holiday season. I am going to remind myself daily that the best house decoration is a smile on my face; that the best wrapped gift is a joyous attitude; that the best holiday card is one that is mailed and not one with the perfect picture.

I am going to give myself a break when I step on the scale and it screams that I ate too many holiday cookies. I am going to tell myself it is okay, that tomorrow is a new day, that I need not criticize myself for enjoying the treats of the seasons.

I am going to give gratitude to everyone on my shopping list. Sure, a thoughtful, on-time present wrapped with a bow would be beautiful, but in case that doesn’t happen (because given this month, it won’t), I will write a meaningful note of how lucky I am that person is in my life.

I am going to give myself perspective. When I am up late meticulously wrapping presents I am going to remember that what is important this holiday is family, friends, love, tradition and memories and not the number of gifts under the tree or how pretty they are wrapped.  I am going to remind myself that a rested mommy will enjoy the memories as they happen more than a tired mommy who strove to make the memories perfect.

And I am going to give kindness to everyone, strangers, myself, my family, my friends. I am going to do random acts of kindness not just because it feels good, but also because sharing love is what the season is about.

Which brings me back to the beginning. ‘Tis the season for giving. Giving love that is. If I don’t give the gifts above, well, then I will most definitely give anger, frustration, shame and quite possible a big old yell to my boys. And that is most certainly not on my shopping list.

So season for yelling begone. ‘Tis the season for giving, the season for love, and I’m giving my boys the gift of not yelling.

 

Waiting. And Waiting. And Waiting. And Yelling?

307 days without yelling, 58 days of loving more to go!

Dear Clock,

Tick, tock. Tick, tock. Is it time yet? Are we there yet? Has the line moved yet? I spend too much time looking at you, wondering if it is time yet. Perhaps I should care less and enjoy the time that is now? Perhaps that would make waiting easier for both me and my kiddos?

Yeah, I know. Easier said than done.

The Orange Rhino

*

How much of our lives are spent waiting? Waiting for an answer. Waiting for someone. Waiting for something. A lot. More minutes than I can count. In fact you’d be waiting an awful long time for me to finish this post if I actually tried to count or even guesstimate how much time I have spent waiting in my life. And even then it would most certainly be a guess.

But there would be one certainty. I HATE waiting. It drives me nuts. Not just because I am a punctual person who doesn’t like to waste time, and an organized person who likes to maximize time, and a control-freak type person who doesn’t like to wait but likes to know now, but because well, it’s hard to be patient.

It was hard to be patient when I was in jr. high school and waiting for my first “real kiss.”

It was hard to be patient in high school and waiting to learn where I got accepted to college.

It was hard to be patient in college waiting to hear if I got my first job.

It was hard after college waiting and waiting for an engagement ring.

It was hard after the ring waiting and waiting and waiting two weeks past due date for labor to start.

Those are obviously big milestones, and the waiting was obviously hard. Even though I was waiting for great moments, the nervous anticipation of these great moments was a real pain in the tuckus as it brought me way up in excitement and then way down with disappointment.

But even for the little milestones, even the little non-milestones, waiting is hard. Waiting for gas when two kids are screaming in back seats is hard. Waiting for said kids to stop screaming so you can talk to the other kids who are crying and can’t hear you over the screaming is hard. Waiting in line at Starbucks for the lady on her phone not paying attention is hard. Waiting for night time to come so I can have some peace and quiet is hard. Yes, waiting for big and little things is hard!

Little man had his MRI today and I have to wait three to four days for answers. I want answers NOW. As in thirty seconds ago. I don’t want to wait to find out if my baby has something wrong with his brain because every minute that passes I am going to be anxious and scared and sad and hopeful for good news but still scared and still wicked impatient. It’s going to be an emotional roller coaster these next few days.

But I can handle it, the wait. Kind of. I’m 35 I have had the luxury of teaching myself patience over the years. Yet still, I will struggle. I will get angry every day that I have to wait. I will snap at my kids every day that I have to wait. I will feel nervous every day.

And again, I am 35.

But what if I were 3 or 5 and not 35? If I struggle with waiting and I understand time and life (or at least kind of do) as an adult, imagine how kids feel trying to be patient? Imagine how kids feel waiting?

Since they don’t quite understand time?
Since they don’t quite get why things can’t happen now?
Since they don’t quite embrace the whole patience is a virtue thing?

It must be hard as h*ll for them. I know how much I struggle with waiting. This week proved it to me as I waited for doctors appointments and wait again for results. Waiting makes me antsy, it makes me b*tchy sometimes, it makes me frustrated, it makes me snappy.

So is it any wonder that kids struggle with waiting too? How often have I snapped at them for getting itchy in line at the grocery store, Target, Dunkin’ Donuts? How often have I yelled at them in the past for complaining about waiting for me while I ran around the house getting jackets and snacks and shoes for everyone? Sure, they need to learn patience but don’t we all? Aren’t I still learning it? Don’t perhaps my boys deserve a bit more of my patience with them as they learn patience and the art of waiting?

Waiting is hard. Again I’ve learned to manage it. But for kids, well in my experience it just makes them ask more questions, be more hyper, listen less, sleep less.

And as a parent all those feelings kids express around waiting can let’s face it…get EXHAUSTING. Especially now with Christmas 15 days away. The questions of when is Christmas and the extra hyper around because my boys can’t wait, literally and figuratively, well, it has me ready to snap!

I want to yell: “Look at the calendar! We have 15 days to wait!!!”
I want to yell: “No it isn’t Christmas. Go back to bed!”
I want to yell: “Don’t you know how to patiently be patient?!”

But instead of yelling I am going to choose empathy.
I am going to remember just how much I HATE waiting. 

And as for me and how I am going to handle waiting these few days. I’m just going to wake up each day and “practice patience” by enjoying the moment. I am going to focus on the moment as best as I can. I am going to hug lots. Laugh lots. Pay attention lots. I am going to play lots and stay distracted so I don’t watch the clock or the phone. I’m going to enjoy the wait. I am going to dance in the rain.

Life isn't about waiting for the storm to pass...

It will be hard. But I won’t let it make me waste the time that I do have. Right now. And I certainly won’t let it make me yell at my kids because I’m in a bad mood or yell at them because they are tired of waiting for Christmas. I’ll embrace the wait, the good and the bad of it. Because I get it.

Waiting is hard.

Prioritizing my Husband

306 days without yelling, 59 days of loving more to go!

Dear Green Turtle,

People are going to wonder what this post has to do with not yelling. Here’s the thing: when I feel disconnected to you, when I feel like we are two ships passing in the night because of the stress of raising young kids, I get more snippy and much more likely to yell. When you and I are in a good place, it is easier to not yell. Today, super easy to not yell because I remembered that you count too!

The Orange Rhino

*

It was the Summer of 2010. My oldest was almost four and our third son was almost one. My husband and I were debating whether or not we would or should go for a fourth. We did a lot of soul searching that summer, both together and separate. My husband did his soul searching, pondering if he could handle four kids, while playing video games. I did mine, I know I want four kids but can our marriage handle four kids, everywhere and anywhere.I spent countless hours thinking: when I woke up, in the shower, driving here and there, when the kids were bathing, before I went to sleep and any second there was quiet in the house.

Why so much thinking? Truthfully? Because we were in what I thought was maybe? more than a marriage rut and I was worried. I was worried about where we were headed and that naturally made questioning a fourth child, well, kind of silly, no? But through my soul searching and talking with different people I realized that my concerns about my marriage weren’t abnormal and that they were in fact what a lot of couples experienced when children came along.

Disconnected. Tired. Out of sync. Unenthusiastic. Why? Because so much of their free time was spent not necessarily with each other as a couple, but either as a family or focusing on just the kids. And let me tell you, with three kids in 3 years, and my husband’s work schedule, this was most definitely our situation. We hadn’t fallen out of love as I often worried, we had just fallen off each other’s radar because every spare moment was about “survival.” It was about keeping diapers changed, mouths fed, hearts comforted, tears dried, fights avoided.  We let our couple-dom get lost, we let it become de-prioritized. It wasn’t intentional. It truly wasn’t. It just happened. We stopped focusing on us and only focused on the kids. Are they happy? What do they need? We stopped asked are we happy? What do we need (besides sleep and peace and quiet)?  I stopped making him a priority. All my free time was for the kids, then myself, and then sleep. (This is perhaps over the top, but you get the idea). Oh Orange Rhino, not good!

As I slowly started to realize this I had a huge epiphany. I love birthdays, always have, always will. My mom made my birthday’s incredibly special and as such I have dreamed to do the same for my boys. So for each birthday I spend HOURS and I mean hours planning. I find hours that I don’t even know exist. I go out of my way to find time creating the perfect birthday invitations, by scratch. 10 hours, easy. Finding the perfect plates, napkins, decorations, 2 hours. Searching for the perfect favors and party games, 2 hours. Baking and decorate the perfect cake, 10 hours. That is 24 hours. 24 hours per child.

And then comes my Husband’s Birthday. Before kids I would spend a couple hours thinking about what to do, where to go, what to buy him and then spend 2 to 3 hours making one creative thing to keep as a memory over the years. Maybe 4 to 5 hours total.

And now? The big aha? I spent max 45 minutes. For my kids I jumped through hoops to show them my love on their special day. For my husband? Not so much anymore. Awful. Just awful. The summer of 2010 I realized that I was marginalizing my husband. He deserved more than 45 minutes of preparation for his birthday. He deserved to know that I would go out of my way to make time and effort to make his day special, just as I would my sons. He deserved to know that they weren’t more important than him; but that all my boys are important to me. And always will be.

From that summer on, I have started making sure my husband’s birthday gets as much love, energy, and creativity as I would give to my sons. No, I don’t spend hours on invitations, but now instead of buying a cake at the grocery store last minute, I make him a cake just as I would my sons. And this year, my sons joined in the creativity and helped planned all the details of the day. It. Was. Awesome. The theme? Green Turtle, green everything. Daddy got balloons just like them, a green tablecloth, kazoos for party favors, polka dotted birthday plates, and got to enter a kitchen this morning “decorated” with green streamers. Everywhere.

Cake designed by the boys. #1 suggested we needed a beach so we smashed Graham Crackers. #2 said I needed to write Green Turtle instead of daddy. #3 said the turtle needed eyes and #4 just kept eating the frosting.

It was a fantastic day, despite the headaches from the kazoo chorus. It was fantastic to feel so connected to my boys and my husband. It was fantastic to see him light up at the sight of his personalized cake. It was fantastic to see the boys take joy in celebrating their daddy.

It was fantastic to have realized three summers ago that I had started prioritizing my kids over my husband and that I could change that at any minute and that that change could bring much greater joy to my life.