One Truth About Asking For Help

Welcome to all the new Orange Rhinos! I am so happy that you have found this Community! Before you read this post, you might want to read the following posts (hyper-linked by the way): {Sometimes} Marriage Makes Me Want to Yell, Oh Motherhood, Sometimes You Break My Heart, I Got Knocked Down, and Happy Days! While they are not necessary to get the point of this post, they might provide some key background info!

Dear Orange Rhinos,

As you all know, I have had no problem telling you all lots of my big “truths.”
There is the obvious first truth I shared about my yelling problem.
Then there were the truths about my struggles with my boys’ individual challenges.
Then there was the truth about the boulder in my marriage.
And of course along the way, I have shared indirectly about some of my challenges.

I have written about how I struggle with finding patience. I have written about how I struggle to keep my expectations of my boys, and myself, in check. I have written about how I struggle to let things go. I have written about how I struggle with my self-image, both from a weight perspective and an “am I a good enough” mom, wife, friend, person perspective.

I have always felt better after I wrote about my personal struggles, and then felt better yet after I found the courage to post them. Ironically, while writing hides my face and my voice, it has never once hidden my true emotions. Writing somehow always forces me to open up, to dig deeper, to figure out what is going on in my head, good or bad. Writing takes my “insanity” and makes it “clarity” to steal from a current song. Writing keeps me honest. Writing keeps me real. I can’t hide from myself when I write. The truth begs to be released from my mind and into my fingers once I sit down to the computer.

So what do I do when I sit down to write and am filled with fear because I don’t want to admit to the truth? (A) Write about my writing silence and that I am struggling but not be totally upfront. (B) Write that I am trying to get back up and write again. (C) Write that I am no longer knocked down, so to speak.

Answer? A, B, and C. I wrote about all of the above in two posts, Am I Good Enough? and Happy Days. I have to say, I have struggled with writing ever since the Happy Days post. I wrote that post to try and feel better. I wrote that post because I didn’t want anyone to think that I was still down. I wrote that post because I didn’t want to believe that I was still down. I wrote that post in hopes that it would make my insanity, clarity.

While that post was true, it also felt like a lie. Because I left so much out. Which I know is okay, but still, because my writing is my place where I am real, I felt like I was lying to me and well even to you. And I don’t like lying. It doesn’t feel good. And I especially don’t like lying to myself; that is perhaps even harder and more uncomfortable than telling the truth because the lie just festers and doesn’t stand a chance to be resolved.

I have learned many things during my journey to not yell; a big one has been that the more honest I am with myself about any personal struggles, the easier it is for me to take charge of them, instead of them taking charge of me and pushing me to yell.

But lately, the honesty hasn’t been so pretty and it has been taking charge of me.

I have been hiding from my struggles by not writing. I have been making sure that just about no one knew how I was really doing, myself included! All this hiding and not being totally honest with myself is simply creating a sense of stress that is unbearable; a sense of stress that makes it hard to be the mom, the person I want to be; a sense of stress that makes it so much more tempting to yell! When I have done the 30-days to yelling less challenge, I have asked people to own up, like really own up to the hard personal stuff so that it can be addressed and improved and not act as a catalyst for yelling. Perhaps I should take my own advice?

Um, yes, most definitely.

So tonight I will do just that. I promise that the next paragraphs will be hard, uncomfortable, embarrassing and risky. I guarantee that I will hit “post” and worry that I have again written a post that turns people off because I came across too negative and too down, but I need to share my truths because I can no longer sit with the personal lie. I need to embrace the truths that I am struggling with so that I can struggle less with staying calm with my beautiful boys.

The truth is, I have been having panic attacks for a few weeks now. This is new to me. I have never felt them before. A few times I have thought I was having a heart attack. One was so bad that I actually had my husband note what time it started. I didn’t realize what it was at the time; I thought I was just out of shape. I was wrong. I don’t like having panic attacks; I don’t like that my stress is so that I am having them either.

The truth is, I am constantly feeling overwhelmed and under pressure. Some of it is self-afflicted; some of it is the reality of my life right now. I am working on embracing the latter half, accepting that it is okay and normal to feel a wee bit overwhelmed as a mom at times and that it is normal to feel overwhelmed by the current big stressors in my life. I am also working on not being so hard on myself for feeling overwhelmed!

The truth is, I am exhausted. I am not just exhausted from my literal insomnia, but exhausted from working so hard in all three major pillars of my life at the same time: parenthood, marriage, and me-hood. I know many people will think, “well shoot, life isn’t supposed to be so hard, you are doing something wrong.” And I know many people will say, “well shoot, of course life can be hard, that is when the good stuff happens, you are doing something right.” And I am guessing that the answer lies somewhere in the middle. And I am also guessing that the answer will come in due time, that I just need to be patient.

The truth is, there are only so many days in a row that I feel comfortable saying, “Mommy is having a really hard day,” or “Mommy is really tired that’s why she is grumpy” or “Mommy is sorry that she is so cranky today.” I don’t want my boys growing up telling tales of a yelling mommy…and I also don’t want them growing up telling tales of a mommy who had a hard day, every day. 

The truth is, I love my boys.

I love my four little orange rhinos in the making…

The truth is, I love my boys so much that…I asked for help. Which really was NOT an easy thing for me to do. In fact, it was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do short of going through what I am right now. I like to believe, no wanted to believe, that I could handle all this stress on my own. I wanted to believe that if I did everything I have learned about keeping myself calm over the last 450+ days that I could get out of this funk. But it wasn’t working; NOT because what I learned was wrong, but because sometimes, I need to ask for help.

Two weeks ago I went to see a doctor to help with my newfound anxiety and insomnia. I am pleased to report that I am happily sleeping again and am starting to feel better.

Which I guess brings me to three other really important lessons I learned in my journey to yell less: I can’t do everything on my own, trying to do so will just stress me out and push me to yell, and most importantly, asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. 

 

*If you liked this post, you might also like…Truth or Dare 

Barely Hanging On

465 days of loving more all together, 36 days year 2

“But mommy, alllll my friends have lost a tooth, why haven’t I? It’s not fair. It’s so not fair. The tooth fairy will never come. I am so unlucky.”

This has been the standard statement shared passionately with me by my six and a half year old every night at bedtime for the past oh, I don’t know, eighteen months? Needless to say, the question has been getting old. But I get it. He wants to feel like a big kid like his friends. He wants to let go of his baby teeth. Okay, maybe I don’t totally get it because I don’t really want him to loose his baby teeth. I don’t really want him to be a big kid, but oh, I can’t deny his strong desire to grow up. I can’t deny the truth in his emotions; I can’t deny that growing up is going to happen; I can’t deny him the excitement of looking forward to loosing his first tooth just because I am not ready for the tooth fairy to be part of my life.

So every night for the past eighteen months or so, I have shared my somewhat standard statement,

“Oh buddy, I know. It is hard. But your teeth will come out when they are ready. Everyone is a little different and does things at different times and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you aren’t a big kid just because you haven’t lost a tooth. It will happen soon. I promise, it will.”

And it did. One promise I made finally came true. Last Saturday, out of the blue #1 came running up to me and said,

“Mommy, mommy, I finally have a loose tooth!!! See, see?!!”

I looked. And I looked.  And I even wiggled it with him. And I have to admit. I jumped up and down with excitement with him like I was a six year old losing my first tooth. I was so happy for him. Seeing the sparkle in his eyes, the pride on his face, the joy emanating from every aspect of him, it was, well, contagious. My baby was so happy. No, my big boy was so happy. A little bit of my heart cried, but mostly it felt the happiness.

It’s been a fun week, being on tooth watch and all. Everyday at school pick-up I’d ask,

“And, and? Do we still have all our teeth?”

He would joke and say, “Nope! I lost it! Just kidding mom, fooled ya!”

Today was no different except this time he asked me,

“Mommy, when is it ever going to fall out?”

“When it is ready. That tooth is teaching you patience. It is teaching you how to stay calm when super excited!”

“ARGH!” he grumbled and curdled up into his car seat.

Fast-forward three hours. All four boys and myself are hanging out in the doctor’s office waiting to check #4’s lungs. I use the term hanging out loosely; really we were all trying to not bump into each other and bother each other in the cramped space! The only thing hanging out was #1’s tooth. As he sat there, I said,

“Hey, let’s check out that tooth. Maybe we could have Dr. K pull it out while we are here?” I then looked at it, touched it ever so gently and changed my statement, “Hey #1, that tooth is going to fall out any moment. It is barely hanging on!!!”

The nurse came in and started doing stats and everything. #1 sat patiently on his chair; his tongue not so patient as it pushed the loose tooth back and forth, giving me the heebee jeebez.

“Hey Nurse L, I have a loose…”

PING!

“What was that?” asked Nurse L.

“MY TOOTH! MY TOOTH! Don’t move it is next to your foot!” he screeched as blood oozed out of his mouth.

And sure enough, this perfect little white tooth lay on the floor. We scooped up the tooth and carefully wrapped it in a homemade gauze pocket.

“#1, yes, you may hold your tooth in your pocket. BUT do not take it out. You are a big boy with big teeth coming in and this is a big responsibility.”

“I got it mommy,” he said.

I knew it was risky but he was so happy, proud, and excited. I just couldn’t deny him of that by holding the tooth. And besides, I have to let him grow up and learn. Well, I must say I think he grew up a lot today, and not just because he lost his tooth, but because he lost it twice. Driving home from the doctor, I heard a very feeble,

“Mommy, I didn’t listen. I took my pocket out of my pocket. And I dropped it in the worst place possible.”

I didn’t think that was possible. I mean I did, but really, REALLY?!!

“Did you take the tooth out of the pocket?” I asked nervously.

“What do you think?” he cried.

“Where is it?”

“In the worst place possible, I already told you.”

Trust me when I say, this is one hole in the car you don’t want to have to put your hand in. It collects EVERYTHING. Gross! The things we do for love….

And that my friends, was the truth. There was no denying it. You know that small, dark hole that is folds and folds of fabric where the seat belt recesses into? The dark hole that collects cheerios and spilled milk and dust and grossness over the years, and in this case, three years? The hole that you can barely get a finger in to scoop things out? Yeah, that hole. That is where the tooth fell.

I got home and immediately started trying to get it out. #1 sat on the driveway crying. I felt so incredibly bad for him I felt the loss too. My heart ached with him.

“Will you find it mommy? I can’t believe I lost my favorite tooth. Now the tooth fairy will never ever come! I’m so stupid!” he whaled.

Meanwhile, three other children climbed all over the back seat and me as I tried desperately to get the small tooth. Every time they moved, the tooth fell deeper into the hole. Every time I thought I had it, I pulled out a blooming Cheerio. Every time someone moved closer to me, I moved closer to yelling. Every time #1 whaled, I thought, “yeah, I told you to listen.” Every time I thought that, my heart ached because #1 is struggling right now with impulse control. Struggling. While this taught him a valuable lesson about controlling his impulses, it was the worst way to learn.

Again, my heart ached with his. And instead of being empathetic, I let all my sadness and stress about not being able to find his tooth get to me. I was barely hanging on to calm. His not listening to me in the first place, my struggle with the reality of his struggling with impulse control, my not being able to make his heart happy, well it all led me to say rather snapfully,

“You know #1, I told you this would happen. You didn’t listen.”

I didn’t yell, but my words were full of shame and I could tell that I only worsened his wound. I didn’t like the taste of my tone one bit; I didn’t like that I separated us at a moment when we both needed a hug. This was such a big milestone for both of us; we both wanted it to be all sweet and perfect and yet, I was anything but sweet. Given the situation, I could have, no should have, been a lot more loving. And I feel awful. I can’t take back what I said. I can just apologize, which I did, and forgive myself, which I am working on.

At the end of the day, I am not perfect and nor do I need to be. I just want more good moments than bad moments. And at the end of the day, I am grateful that I was there when he lost his tooth and that we shared a not good, but an incredible moment together. And I am grateful that I didn’t totally lose it and starting screaming (as I totally would have done pre-Orange Rhino Challenge) because in keeping my quasi-cool I was able to do some awesome mini-van surgery with my neighbor. Together, we figured out how to take apart the mini-van and shake that tooth lose.

Yes, we found that tooth.
Yes, my son and I cried together.
And yes, we were both barely hanging on today for different reasons, both individually and with each other, but ultimately we found each other and that, despite the momentary gory details, made it a great day.

Munchkin fell asleep dreaming of the tooth fairy. Can’t help but wonder if he would have fallen asleep as happy if I had completely yelled and screamed at him over his mistake?

My Notes to Two Strangers

Dear Dad & Daughter at the restaurant tonight,

I apologize for listening to your entire conversation tonight. Yes, I completely, utterly 110% eavesdropped to every word you shared for thirty minutes. I just couldn’t help it. I heard one line and I was hooked. Your conversation was beautiful. It was inspiring, touching, heartbreaking, scary and affirming. Thank you for being in the right place at the right time. I needed to hear your conversation tonight, so thank you.

All my best to you; may you both continue to talk to each other as you did tonight,
A Secret Admirer, a.k.a. The Orange Rhino

*

My doctor’s appointment wrapped up early tonight and I had thirty minutes before the babysitter had to leave. I haven’t had any me-time lately so I decided to seize the free chunk of time and the beautiful weather and go sit outside for a quick dinner.

I sat down and ordered a beer and nachos and soaked up the warm weather, the breeze, and the absolute peace and quiet. Of course it wasn’t really quiet. There was noise all around but none of it was that of my four children asking for another napkin, another crayon, another trip to the bathroom or another French fry so to me, it was perfectly quiet. It was so peaceful in fact that my supersonic hearing picked up on the conversation next to me.

A teenage girl, somewhere between eight and twelfth grade (it is so hard to tell these days, you know?) sat across from her father nervously playing with her napkin. By the information she shared it was clear that she didn’t live with her dad, that her parents were divorced and that this was her night with him. They talked easily yet with a bit of tension. But still, they talked. He asked poignant questions, she answered politely. I heard their voices but not their words until she said this,

“You know dad, at this conference thing kids were talking about how at parties you raid the medicine cabinets at your own home. You then bring all the drugs to the party and dump them into one big bowl. Everyone then takes a handful, or two, of the drugs, and then chugs two drinks. It is really, really stupid.”

I sat there, my beer in my hand; my mouth dropped open and tears filling my eyes. My heart pounded with fear, really? Really this is what kids do? How frightening! And really, really this daughter felt comfortable to talk about drugs and actions with her dad? How phenomenal. I sat there all confused except for one thought: “way to go dad!”

The conversation continued. She shared more about how she was making new friends, how she wasn’t so worried about being friends with the cool kids anymore, how she didn’t want to be in the wrong crowd, just a good crowd. He listened quietly and nodded appropriately and then replied to her brave sentiments of truth,

“I am really proud of you sweetheart. It is hard to make new friends. It is hard to turn away from bad situations. I am so proud of you.”

He must have said it at least three or four times. Again, tears filled my eyes and all I could think of was, “way to go dad!”

The conversation continued, this time focusing on her upcoming graduation. She mentioned that some girls were buying fancy dresses; that she didn’t really care about a puffy dress, that graduation wasn’t a big deal. Again, her dad listened sweetly and replied ever so lovingly,

“Graduation is a big deal. I am proud of you. Your mom can take you shopping for a dress if you want. Or even I can, after dinner. We could go to what’s that place, JC Penny’s or the place with the JC in it?”

“You mean J. Crew dad,” she laughed.

“Yeah, we could go there. I’m proud of you. It’d be an honor to get you a dress.”

“Nah, it’s okay,” she said, “I’ll just wear something from my closet.”

Their dinner arrived and silence commenced. I of course had to interrupt it; it was time for me to get going and while they had talked and connected, I had written both of them notes and wanted to hand deliver them.

You see, as I sat there listening to them, watching them both try so hard to connect, yet connect so easily, I just wanted them to know how awesome they were doing. I wanted the dad to know how fantastic it was that he had raised a daughter who felt comfortable talking about drugs and personal struggles with him. I wanted the daughter to know how fantastic it was that she had found the strength to turn down drugs, to turn away from a bad crowd, and to now be graduating. I wanted them both to know how much their honesty and lovingness reminded me of my promise not to yell; how I hoped to have such conversations in the future with my boys, how I knew remaining yell free was one key to achieve that.

(Okay, pardon the grammatical errors. I was nervous writing the notes!!!)

I looked down at the two notes I scribbled on dinner napkins. I pondered doing nothing. I pondered crumpling up the napkins and not saying a thing. I pondered minding my own business, wondering if I would rock the boat by saying anything. And then I thought how nice it feels to be paid a compliment. I decided that the risk was worth it. I reached into my wallet and put some money inside the note for the daughter. I wrote next to it:

“I have four boys. I will never buy a graduation dress for a daughter. I know your parents would love to do so for you; trust me, it is an honor for them. But let this be a little contribution towards it. You deserve a new dress to celebrate.”

I nervously pushed my chair back and walked to their table.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I apologize for listening to your conversation. But I was just really touched and so I wrote you each a note. I hope someday that my boys feel as comfortable talking to me as you all talked to each other tonight. Best of luck to you both.”

I quickly left the napkins and scurried off, praying they wouldn’t return the money or catch me crying.

Today had been a hard day, a throw-in-the-towel type of day, an I-can’t-do-this-parenting-thing type of day, an I-don’t-want-to-do-this-parenting-thing type of day, an I-just-want-to-freakin’-yell-and-be-mean type of day. There is a lot I didn’t want today. But, let me tell you, hearing this dad and daughter talk drugs and good crowds and bad crowds, well, I do want that type of thing in my future. Big time. I want my boys to feel safe talking to me about everything and I believe that having a “yelling less and loving more” home is a great way to get there. I have been having to worker harder with the not yelling bit lately; my stress has made it harder to stay calm and I have truly wanted to give up, or rather, give in to the desire to yell. But witnessing this beautiful conversation tonight, well, it reminded me of the what I can have if I continue to yell less and love more and for that, I am re-inspired (and grateful!)

If you liked this post, read “I Just Want The Truth” 

My Son’s Apology

461 days of loving more, 32 days of loving more year 2

I guess you could say I am kind of a superstitious person. I always avoided cracks when I was a kid, you know, so I didn’t break my mother’s back. And um, okay, I can’t think of any other superstitions that I followed growing up. But now that I am a mom, well, I can list a thousand superstitions. Here are my top four:

1) If the baby is sleeping through the night or even well – you don’t say anything, period. My mother-in-law still doesn’t get this. She calls and always asks, “and how are the kids sleeping?” I literally close my mouth and hum until she gets it and changes the subject. I just don’t want my night’s rest to be jinxed, ya know?

2) If your kids haven’t had the stomach bug or a runny nose for weeks – you don’t say anything, period. My husband didn’t get this until the great Stomach Bug Disaster of February 2012. We were at Friendly’s one night and he so bravely announced: “You know, we are so lucky we haven’t ever had the stomach bug hit our house.” I kid you not, less than ninety minutes later #2 started decorating the cream rug with macaroni and cheese. #1 followed and then #3. And yes, they each passed it back and forth to each other. For two weeks. Eh hem. Like I said, you just don’t talk about not having the stomach bug!

Shhh…don’t say a word!

3) If your kids are playing nicely and you are actually able to sit back and enjoy the moment – you don’t say anything, period. My mother still doesn’t get this. Okay, none of our family gets this. Simply stated, with four boys six and a half an under, if there is ever a moment like this it is beyond impossible, no, it is impossible to not jump for joy and do a boogey dance. And without fail, the boogey dance generally inspires one son to join in and then in the process he elbows his brother in the face and he starts yelling and then his brother follows suit and the last one starts crying because it is too loud. Like I said, you just don’t say anything if there is peace, you just enjoy it. Silently. To yourself. As long as the minute lasts (okay, or two minutes!)

4) If bedtime is going smoothly – you don’t say anything, period. I forgot this one tonight. Big time. Bedtime was going so smoothly for a Monday night that I couldn’t resist but think to myself “You are rocking it Orange Rhino.” Um, mistake! Tonight’s bedtime story totally made me think that superstitions’ are indeed real. (Yes, I know that they kind of aren’t real and that crazy bedtimes can just happen, but still….) Anywho, I can say one thing that I do know for certain to be real: not yelling can lead to great moments.

Putting four kids to bed by myself is always a challenge. Pre-Orange Rhino days, I used to come out of bedtime with sweaty palms and a heart wiped from racing, sometimes from loving but more often than not, from yelling. I used to rush, rush, rush bedtimes and it made it so miserable for all involved. I used to yell “Brush your teeth! Get dressed! Hurry up!” all too frequently and it truly made bedtime go longer. Tonight though, as I chased my naked 21 month old down the hall to coral him back towards the bath, and then reached out with my free arm to swoop up my 3 ½ year old trying to escape, I smiled and thought to myself ever so smugly, “You know, I feel flustered but I am staying calm. I am not yelling. I got this bedtime in the bag. You know tonight, I will post ‘How I Survive Bedtime’ because right now I am encapsulating that post.”

Carrying this thought in my mind and a wiggly child under each arm, I proudly went to the bath. #2 got in without being asked. Score. #3 got in without being asked. Double score. #4 got in without much fight. Triple score. Bedtime continued like this for the next 10 minutes. Teeth brushed, pajamas on, books read, no problem. Then I went to tuck #2 into his own bed.

As I tucked him in, he started getting all fresh telling me to “go away” and “get out of my room now” to “be quiet.” You know, now that he is 4 and 350 days or so apparently, fresh is the new way to talk. Ugh. I tucked him tightly, told him that was no way to talk to his mother or anyone, that it was rude and hurtful and that I would indeed leave. He did politely reply,

“I didn’t hear the words come out. I didn’t know it was rude. I couldn’t help it.”

He pulled the sheets over his head as I calmly walked out. As I started to shut the door I heard, “now I am all embarrassed.”

I calmly and lovingly replied,

“Well, now you know those words aren’t acceptable. Do not talk to me that way again please. I love you, good night.”

I walked out and went to tuck #3 and #4 in. I had JUST settled both to sleep when I heard #2 start shrieking at the top of his lungs, which is a definite no-no once lights are out. Lights out means quiet. Period. Clearly not tonight. Harumph.

“MOMMYYYYYY! MOMMYYYYYYY!!! COME HERE NOW! RIGHT NOW!”

#4 started crying, #3 started whimpering “It’s not fair that he is still awake!”

Meanwhile, I started thinking, “It’s not fair that bedtime ain’t over yet!”

I headed towards #2’s room, my feet hitting the floor a little, okay, a lot more heavy than I wanted them to. My hand grabbed the doorknob rather aggressively and my racing heart made it blatantly clear to me that a yell was desperate to come out. And then this little voice stopped me:

“Mommy?” the little voice squeaked, “Mommy, is that you?”

The softness soothed my heart and reminded me to quiet my growing yell. It reminded me that yelling had no place at this moment. That it wouldn’t accomplish anything. That it would just get the other boys all riled up.

I slowly opened the door, my heart still racing a little, but not nearly as much. Before I could even start in with my bedtime lecture about lights out, #2 said,

“Mommy, I’m sorry I yelled for you. I just really need to tell you something. I’m sorry I told you to get out. I didn’t know it was rude. I’m sorry.”

It was the most sincere, sweet, and loving apology, an apology that I most certainly would not have heard if I had barged in yelling. My son’s apology made me feel that I am indeed doing something right as a mom. My son’s apology made for the most perfect ending to tonight’s bedtime. My son’s apology made me realize again that great moments happen when I don’t yell. 

If you liked this post, here is a direct link to another bedtime story that had a great ending as a result of The Orange Rhino Challenge:  “Is Yelling Really Worth It?”
And here is the link to “How I ‘Survive’ Bedtime”

 

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.

The Mother I Am Becoming.

Dear Orange Rhinos,
Tonight’s post is by Heather. She wrote this note to me a while back and I asked her if I could share it, not because of the complimentary message, but because of the truly inspirational message she shares. I hope you enjoy Heather’s “Orange Rhino Challenge” story as much as I did. Thank you Heather for writing and for so openly sharing with us all; I know your story will touch many hearts in the way it did mine.
All my best,
The Orange Rhino
*
I’m not a yeller.  I grew up with parents who never yelled, with grandparents and aunts and uncles who never did either.  In fact, my first exposure to a family that yelled as a form of communication was during my first trip to stay with my long-distance college boyfriend’s Italian family, who rely on raised voices to get their point across; I was so traumatized by the experience that I hid in my guest bedroom for hours.  (He’s now my husband, so I did get over it.  Eventually.)  My friends even joke that my “outside” voice is smaller than their “indoor” voices.

But there have been more moments in my parenting career than I’d like to admit that I’ve completely lost it on my kids, who are nine and five years old. Each and every instance has left them shaking and in tears; they’ve left me wracked with guilt and anger, trembling myself, and wondering, “What did I just do?”.  

I’ve been reading The Orange Rhino for the past year.  I haven’t commented on the posts, nor contributed to the Facebook discussions because “I’m not a yeller”.  But as last spring turned into summer and our family began preparing for my husband’s nine month deployment with the Army, my stress levels rose and my patience with anything began dwindling.  I was yelling more frequently at lesser infractions.  I told myself I’d sign up for and begin the challenge the day he left.
In the days, weeks, and initial months that followed his departure I was completely and totally overwhelmed.  I locked my keys in my car one day, then in the house the next.  The locksmith and I became good pals.  I forgot playdates I’d scheduled with our friends, forgot to go grocery shopping when we were out of bread and milk.  I was getting by, but barely, with my new responsibilities as the only actively parenting parent, knowing that in this town that’s more than halfway across the country from our families it was all on me to make it work.  I was aiming not for thriving, but for merely surviving.

Three months into the deployment I finally found my bearings.  We had a schedule, we knew what to expect each day, and I discovered that I was, indeed, stronger than I’d realized.  By the time I remembered to sign up for the challenge I wasn’t yelling so much anymore; I was still reading the Orange Rhino posts, and every time I almost did overreact at something my kids did, I stopped myself and thought better of it.

One day back in February both of my kids had a snow day from school, but as I work from home I had tasks to attend to; I left the kids mostly to their own devices.  At their current ages this is not something that is normally a problem; they don’t require constant monitoring, nor do they need me to entertain them.

At one point I left my desk for a quick break and realized the house was unusually quiet.  I went upstairs, only to discover my 5-year-old son “cooking” in my bathroom sink, which had just been thoroughly cleaned the day before by my twice-monthly housekeeper. He had brought up a bag of baby carrots, an apple, a bag of broccoli salad, a strainer, and a kids’ safety knife (thankfully not an actual paring knife!), along with a big jug of real maple syrup and had been making himself a snack.

He’d cut a wedge from the apple and hacked a bunch of carrots into odd shapes, tossing them into the strainer with the broccoli salad and pouring a generous amount of syrup over it all.  It wasn’t the biggest mess I’ve ever seen, but it was highly unexpected.

My first instinct was to yell but I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and collected myself. When I felt as though I had control of my emotions I very calmly helped him seal up the produce bags, had him put them away in the kitchen, then when he returned to the bathroom I handed him everything else to put away. He helped me wipe up the sink when he’d finished, and we went downstairs together so he could eat his snack.

To my own surprise I didn’t yell or lecture or even scold him.  I just quietly reminded him that next time he wants to “cook” he should ask me first and keep it in the kitchen where food prep belongs. As we walked back downstairs together he apologized to me, and I accepted it.

A year ago, under different circumstances, that would have been cause for a BIG yell-fest on my end, and a lot of crying as a result on his. Instead we both handled it calmly and appropriately.  Though I’ve read a library’s worth of parenting books and blogs and news articles, the credit for my change in behavior goes to The Orange Rhino and this blog.  Because she has written so honestly about her journey and transformation, I have evaluated my own; I’ve overcome my struggle with losing my temper with my kids on a regular basis.  Being a mom who yells and demoralizes them was never who I wanted to be but found myself becoming, and I am grateful for the solidarity of a wide community of parents who have also found themselves wandering down that path and hating it.

I’ve noticed that by intentionally sitting down and talking about my expectations and disappointments when my kids have done something wrong, rather than yelling at them for slipping up, I am much more calm on a regular basis. This has, in turn, led them to be more calm, too. Things around our house have been more than pleasant; they’ve been fun!

There have been occasions when I’ve put the kids to bed by 7pm so I could sit down and watch my favorite TV shows in peace, and because the hour has been earlier than their usual 8pm bedtime I’ve allowed them to play.  (Don’t judge – we don’t have a DVR and there are some shows that can only be watched live. Plus, by the end of the day I’m DONE, and so are they.)  More and more frequently I’ve heard my kids giggling and playing together upstairs, which is a huge change from the arguing that had been rampant just a few months earlier. Me not yelling has led my kids to behaving better in general, and all of that has made this deployment 100 times easier than it would be if we were all stressed out all the time.  It’s true when they say, “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”, and in our case the opposite is accurate, too.  Even when I’m faking the happy, it sure beats fully showcasing the anger.

We’re in the home stretch now; with less than two months to go until my husband returns and with an actual return date circled on our calendar, the excitement is starting to build.  Part of our redeployment adventure also includes a Permanent Change of Station (PCS, or military move to another base) this summer, and I’m in the midst of getting my house ready to sell in preparation for that event.  Though a big move like this is something I’ll have done six times in the twelve years of his career and our marriage, it does not get emotionally easier with each move.  This one will be the hardest so far as we’ll have been here for three years, the longest we’ve ever been stationed anywhere (3 full years, as opposed to the 33 months we lived in Germany, 5 months on the east coast, 2.5 years in the Rocky Mountains, and 23 months in Okinawa – yes, we’ve lived overseas twice).  My kids have spent more of their lives here than anywhere else; we’re leaving the first house we’ve ever bought, friends that have become our family, and schools that have supported us during this challenging year of life.

So for me this summer will be a mixture of bliss and sadness, filled with the “hurry up and wait” mindset that comes with this life that we’ve chosen for ourselves.  I know I’ll rely heavily on the techniques I’ve been practicing these past months, and will continue reading the blog posts for inspiration about how to carry forth when I don’t think I can take any more.  I’ve always liked being a mother, and now I find myself liking the mother I’m becoming.

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!!

Baby Steps ARE Big Steps

13 days of loving more year two, 442 days running total

Dear Orange Rhinos,

This is another, pull up your chair, grab a cup of coffee, tea, or wine and a box of chocolates kind of post. Expect typos, lack of clarity and a boat load of enthusiasm. Actually now that I am writing, forget the aforementioned beverages, it’s more like a champagne kind of night for me, for all of us. You’ll see why.

I wrote something in response to two comments today that got me thinking, really, really thinking. Several of you wrote about something you achieved, eluding that it wasn’t much; that you still yelled, but baby steps were taken and that is good. And then there was the question… “Right?”

And my answer…HECK YEAH!

Baby steps are BIG steps, big time!

Now, I don’t know what those of you who wrote those wonderful comments were feeling at the time and I will not presume to know. So I will just tell you my story. I am terrific at playing down small successes in my life. I don’t know why, I just do. But really, again,

Baby steps are BIG steps, big time!

Think of it. When a baby takes a first step, I don’t know about you, but I run for the camera, the phone, the video camera, the everything electronic to record it. To record the one, singular small, step. Shoot, even the quarter of a first step I recorded and then jumped up and all around like a happy monkey shouting for joy. “You did it! You did it baby! You walked!” It was a baby step literally but it was a BIG step and it was celebrated appropriately with hoopla galore!

Think of it. The first drop of pee in the potty. Not a full on pee, fill the potty (or in my case, spray the piss all over the potty) type of pee, but just a drop. I don’t know about you, but I have never been more excited about pee in my life until I saw the singular first baby drop ever so slowly drop into the toilet water. I think I called everyone I knew when each child peed in the potty for the first time. It was a little itsy bitsy baby pee but it was a BIG step and celebrated appropriately with hoopla galore!

And forget kids for a second.

Think of it. The first time you held a boy’s hand because he liked you and you liked him and you were “going steady.” It wasn’t any major stop the presses romance or full on intimate existence (shoot, I was what, in fifth grade, we won’t even talk about when my first kiss was…way too embarrassing!) but yet it mattered. It was a baby step towards the beginning of a relationship, it was a baby step at the beginning of a lifelong journey of relationships, but it was a BIG step at the same time and celebrated appropriately with hoopla galore! (How many girlfriends did you call? How many times did you write about in your diary??? I called lots and lots. And I think I ran out of ink for my pen!)

Oh there are so many baby steps in life. I do a great job celebrating the baby steps my kids achieve and that I experience as a mom: oh baby had first words, first food, first sleeping through the night, first laugh, first crying when I left. All baby steps…all BIG steps because they show signs of growth. And I truly celebrate and document them like mad. #4 sad Mommy today. Not just mama but mommy. I think the entire playground knows that because I shouted out with such glee!!

So why, why is it when I achieve baby steps in my life as a friend, a wife, a person, that I don’t shout with appropriate glee? Why do I play the success down?

As a friend: Oh I gave my name to someone new at the PTA, I shared a small secret about my life, I called and invited a new person to dinner. All baby steps…all BIG steps because they take courage…and yet I stay quiet and say, “yeah, well, I should have done that years ago. Everyone else has the courage. I am just shy. So, big deal” instead of sharing and celebrating.

As a wife: Oh I admitted I was wrong about which night was trash night, I said I was sorry when I knew it was important even if I didn’t feel it, I didn’t nag over everything, only every other thing on my honey-to-do list. All baby steps…all BIG steps because they required selflessness and embracing the relationship, not just the me-ship…and yet I stay quiet and think “whatever, that is part of marriage, it’s what I should be doing” instead of congratulation myself on growing.

As a person: Oh I didn’t dwell as long on fights with my mom, I did something 95% perfect instead of 110%, I acknowledged I was grumpy, too grumpy with my kids and made myself laugh to snap out of it. All baby steps…all BIG steps because they required mental talking and self control…and yet I stay quiet and think “yeah, so what, you still have room to grow” instead of shouting from the rooftops that I am trying and trying hard and that is HUGE and worthy of a champagne toast.

Oh, the list could go on and on of little achievements in my life, in all our lives I presume, that we deem to be baby steps that are really BIG steps. And, oh, I could go on and on sharing the list of my excuses for why baby steps are small and don’t deserve celebration. Yes, I am the queen at playing down my baby steps in life.

Enough of that. That bologna thinking stops tonight.

Am I saying every baby step needs a parade equivalent to Macy’s Thanksgiving parade? No (I acknowledge that there is a fine line between celebrating and bragging but that’s a whole separate post.) But for me, today made me realize I need to stop ignoring my baby steps of success and acknowledge them, even if just to myself. If I can celebrate every single baby step, literally and figuratively, in my children’s’ lives, then I can do that for me and I should do that for me. Positive reinforcement helped my kids take more first steps, more first bites of foods (green beans aside, they STUNK), more risks, more of everything and will do the same for me. Baby steps are BIG steps because the first step is often scary. It takes so much courage to let go of fear; it takes so much strength to do something that is imagined to be hard or uncomfortable. And it takes positive reinforcement to make those baby steps keep happening. So again, time for me to start embracing that…

Yes baby steps are BIG steps. And they are worth acknowledging and celebrating.

Cheers to all of us!!! (Source: www.Francetravelguide.com)

So forget the wine tonight. Open a bottle of bubbly with me and Toot Your Rhino Horn LOUD AND PROUD for being here and a part of The Orange Rhino Community. For showing up and trying. For succeeding. For succeeding by learning from a yell. For succeeding by not quitting. For succeeding by finding the courage to admit you want to change. For taking the BIG baby step.

(And then take two aspirin because I don’t know about you, but Champagne gives me a wicked headache.)

 

All my support,

The Orange Rhino

This Has To Be Said

Dear Orange Rhinos,

I feel like we should be having this conversation instead of you reading it. So let’s pretend. Here is a glass of wine and a cup of coffee (um both with chocolate, obviously, since this is a heart to heart); grab whichever you prefer.

 

 

 

 

First off, a disclaimer. This post is not going to be perfect. It will probably have grammatical errors. Wait, all of mine do and that is usually intentional, I digress. This post will probably have typos and errors because I am not going to really proofread it because I want to post it tonight, immediately. Actually, I have wanted to write and post it for months but you know, life happens. And while the message is really, truly, madly, deeply important and does deserve all the editing and correcting and quasi-perfecting, it ain’t gonna happen.

And maybe that is okay. Because that is kind of the message. Grammatical errors happen. Typos happen. Yells happen.

Yes, yells happen.

Yells happen. Sh*t happens. We have a bad day. We have P.M.S. The kids have a bad day. The kids have I.A.J.A.K.S (I am just a kid syndrome). And so yells happen. And it feels sh*tty, really, really sh*tty. And on top of feeling sh*tty from yelling once an hour, once a day, once a week, once a month, or once every few months, chances are you have other things in life that make you feel sh*tty. I know I do. Some days I feel cruddy about my weight gain. Some days I feel cruddy about my grumpiness. Some days I feel cruddy about the lack of “quality” time I give my kids. Some days I feel cruddy because of finances.

My point? There are SO many things in life that can make us feel cruddy. I do not ever, never, ever, EVER want this blog or the Facebook page to be a source of that. Never. I do not want to add to anyone’s stress. Which is why I share the following points:

(1) The Orange Rhino Challenge “rules” are there are NO real rules! (well except that you are nice to everyone who is taking it)
I set up the 365 days straight and the yelling-meter because I am a cold turkey, organized, need parameters type of personality. Without such things, I don’t stay motivated. That is just me. Counting days and level of yells may work wonders for you or it may not. Either way is ok. I just want you to feel good about yourself for (1) deciding to change, (2) making the effort, and (3) discovering that you are trying hard and making progress. You are making progress by the way, whether you see it or not. Awareness and taking on a hard habit to break IS progress! I have felt the opposite of all three points and I simply DO NOT want you all to feel that. End of story. So if my “rules” are doing that, adjust them. At the end of the day, taking The Orange Rhino Challenge means challenging yourself to YELL LESS and Love More irregardless of whether or not you are counting days. Which brings me to the next point.

(2) Set a Goal that works for you!
Only you know how you operate. While it is said that having a concrete goal helps one to achieve, there is no reason to say that 365 days straight needs to be your goal! Pick something that motivates and inspires you. Maybe it’s going to bed feeling less guilty. Maybe it’s going the first hour of the day yell-free. Maybe it’s making it through the morning routine. Maybe it’s 3 days, then 6 then 12. Maybe it’s just showing up and trying. My point? Do what works for you.

(3) Count or Don’t Count!
If counting towards a goal works for you, embrace it. If it makes you stressed out, don’t count. Again, this should not be a place of added anxiety. I would cry if it were. Really. I don’t like seeing anyone I care about stressed. And I care about all of you. I do. When I started this challenge I met a great woman I named Mrs. Sunshine (she just had a ridiculous positive attitude.) Anyway, she found that counting stressed her out. So she stopped. She focused on just general awareness and living in the moment, enjoying the moment, doing the best in the moment. That worked for her. Guess what? She has gone a long time without yelling.

(4) Either way, it’s all about LESS is MORE. Yelling Less is Loving More.
Again, I chose a 365-day straight goal. My mom (who has a background in therapy and all that jazz) told me I was nuts, that I was setting myself up to fail, that it wasn’t about perfection. Looking back at the year, I can say that my goal was fine and that in achieving my goal I can say that it truly is about YELLING LESS (whether for 365 days or 365 moments.) Every day that I yell less than I would have pre The Orange Rhino Challenge is a win.

Any moment that I don’t yell, is a win.

Eventually, all the yell-free moments add up. Whether they add up to a year straight, a day straight, a month, or a few months straight, they add up and symbolize something better than the alternative. And that to me, is what matters. My mom was right. This isn’t about perfection. I am not perfect. Never will be. I am sure there will be a day when I yell. I am sure it will catch me wicked off guard. I am sure it will catch my boys off guard. And I am sure that I will get up and go on with life, waiting for the next opportunity to yell less and love more. And it will be okay because there will be more positives in my days than negatives. (And by the way, you should know that I TRULY believe that you all will get to the point where you have more +’s in your days than –‘s. You will get there. You will get there!)

This is the moment where I normally would stop and torture myself to get the above sentiment perfect. I know I am not saying what I want to say. I know I could do better, that I could write it more powerfully, more succinctly, that I could turn it into an entirely separate post, but I also know that it is okay to not be perfect. What matters is knowing me, taking care of me, so that I can yell less and love more tomorrow. I have learned that this year, big time.

This Orange Rhino needs to sleep tonight in a big way. I went to bed at 8 last night and couldn’t fall asleep until 11 only to be up at 5. I was a witch today and I hated it. But I forgave myself and did the best I could because at the end of the day, that is all we can do. Our best, in any given moment. It might not be perfect and that is okay.

(Right? It is okay. LOL. Someone please tell me it is okay and that the above point made sense. Because even though I am telling myself it is okay you all know that I am a work in progress and still trying to embrace that imperfection is perfection bit!)

Sleep well. Forgive yourself if you yelled. Set your own adjustments to the rules to inspire you. Do what you need to do to challenge yourself to be an Orange Rhino!

All my best,
The Orange Rhino

Oh, Motherhood, Sometimes You Break My Heart

Originally posted April 17, 2013 when I was on Day 435 of not yelling

Motherhood, motherhood, motherhood. You challenge me, you scare me, you delight me, you raise me, you please me, you displease me. Oh motherhood, you make me feel so many emotions. It is a rare a day goes by that I don’t feel elated one moment and deflated the next; only to feel elated a moment later.

Today was no different.

Around three o’clock today I received some thoughts about one of my sons that were disheartening.

Cue emotions: Sadness and Guilt.

It doesn’t matter which son it was about or what was said. It was neither bad nor good; it was just hard to hear. No, it was heart wrenching to hear. Absolutely heart wrenching. The “news” broke my heart. Even though I know it will all work out and that I know he will be fine, I will be fine, we will be fine, it still hurts to know that one of my sons is struggling. Upon hearing the news I immediately started in with the:

“It’s my fault. I am a bad mom. I am not present enough. I don’t play too much. I expect too much. I don’t expect enough. I don’t do enough. This is my entire fault. And if it isn’t my fault for acting wrong, it is my fault for sharing my DNA.”

Oh yes, I played the “I suck as a mom” card over and over and over in my head this afternoon. I was so down that I couldn’t even cry. I was past crying.  I went through the motions of dinner calmly and lovingly. We all went peacefully up to bed and I kept my fingers crossed for a nice, dry bath time!

Tip23Cue next emotions: Joy and Laughter.

Bath time was a sh*tshow, but I loved every minute of it. You see, the bathroom joins two of my boys’ bedrooms, creating a grand total of 4 doors, or better yet, 4 ways to escape. I was doing my best to coral my munchkins into the bathroom, but tonight, oh tonight they had me beat. I would close one door only to have my mischievous 21 month old start running to open the next door; he of course was two steps behind his older brother who had opened another door. Doors slammed and laughter erupted as four little boys literally ran circles around me. I did all I could do: laugh. It was hysterical, I mean here I am a somewhat fit thirty-five year old woman unable to catch four kids and get them into a bath. Not infuriating at all; nope not tonight. I took major delight in the laughter, in the happiness, as it was such a welcomed treat compared to hours before.

My joy continued in the bathtub. Tonight’s bath was overflowing with bubbles. #2 decided he wanted a mustache and dipped his entire face in the soapsuds. He came up looking like Santa Claus instead.

SantaOf course #3 and #4 followed suit. Seeing three faces covered in white soapsuds with just sparkling eyes peeping out was priceless. Of course #4 then decided to taste the soap and went diving in with his mouth wide open, just like a duck looking for a fish. He came up with a mouthful of soap and then blew it all out in my face while laughing hysterically. Tonight, at bath time, I was so grateful to be relaxed and calm and present. I think my sadness earlier made me more in touch with my love for my boys tonight and that allowed me to focus and stay connected. And well, not yelling totally helped too!

The circus continued well into story time. I was moving slow tonight, savoring every minute of bedtime. Such a gift to take bedtime slow without yelling. Such. A. Gift. #1 and #2 snuggled next to me for story time and #3 plopped down on my lap. OH BOY. That left nowhere for #4 who now considers himself, you know 4 even though he is yet to be two! He started pulling hair and trying to move everyone. He gave up. He literally straddled #3 and plopped down right on top of him so that he was in the center of it all, staring right at me.

His green eyes sparkled with pride and we all burst out laughing. It was a beautiful family moment that again, I savored because I wasn’t rushing it or yelling. Every child then scampered off to their rooms, their loveys in hand and hopefully their hearts full. I made my rounds of hugs and kisses and “I love you because….”

Then I got to the room of my son who I had received the thoughts about earlier.

Cue new emotions.

Cue: sadness, frustration, fear, empathy, concern, confusion, hope, guilt, pain and love, endless, endless love.

I had saved his room for last intentionally. Tonight, tonight I wanted to snuggle a little longer, talk a little longer, love a little bit more. I wanted to make sure that he knew he was a good kid. That I knew he was smart, talented, loving, likeable and more. You see, he doesn’t see that in himself. My sweet young child already is insecure more than the average child and it breaks me in two. No child should feel what he feels. No child should struggle as he does. And especially not my child.

“Okay munchkin, time for bed.”

“How about a book?” he asked.

“I was thinking tonight, instead of reading we could snuggle longer and talk more.”

“Okay I guess. As long as it is longer than the time we spend reading.”

“Absolutely. Twice as long, I promise. And I will sing you the lullabies I sang to you when you were a baby.”

He jumped into bed all excited.

“Here, come closer for a really big snuggle. I want you to feel all the love in my heart that I have for you.”

He snuggled up, a big sh*t eating grin on his face. The next part I wish I was creative enough to write and dream up. That is not the case. This actually happened.

“Do you feel my love? Do you know how much I love you?” I asked.

“Yes. I feel it all the way down to my toes. I feel it between my toes. And I feel it to my fingers and between my fingers. See here mommy, see the kind of V between my fingers? It’s like the bottom of a heart. Between every finger there is an imaginary heart where I feel your love for me.”

Tears STREAMING down my face, I said:

“Well good. Then if you can see those hearts in your hand, you will know that I am always with you and that I will always love you.”

“Okay, can you start singing now?”

I sang and then if on queue, another emotion arrived: the challenge of letting go.

“Mommy, you can stop hugging me now. I like to fall asleep alone.”

“Oh, okay. I love you though, with all my heart.”

“I know.”

Oh my dear son, I know you “know” but I truly hope you really “know” how deep and strong my love is for you. I am here for you dear son, I will fight for you and with you my dear son. I will help you, I will help me, my dear son. We will get through this.

Cue new emotion: Determination.

Yes Motherhood is one heck of a roller coaster of emotions, many of which I have never experienced in such depth. And yet, I wouldn’t trade it in for the world because at the core of all these conflicting emotions is one very clear and unwavering one that is driving them all: my deep love for my boys, my four sweet beautiful boys.

* * * * *

I share more of my heartbreaking motherhood stories, as well as steps to stop yelling, tips to prevent yelling, and fun, not heartbreaking stories,  in my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” You can pre-order it by clicking here.