Parenting on Empty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I literally needed to get on the road and drive.

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

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

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

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

If you enjoyed this piece, check out my new new book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” It is a 30 day guide to yelling less but also a parenting memoir with each day sharing an honest, heartfelt  story from my Orange Rhino Challenge Journey. Also included are simple steps to follow for your own journey to yell less and daily alternatives to yelling to try. It hits shelves this October but you can be one of the first to receive it by pre-ordering it here

“I Can Do This.”

Well, I did it.

Yesterday I woke up and thought, “today, today is the day I am going to conquer my current trigger (my weight)” and I did. Just like that. Snap of the fingers, ya know? Super duper easy. Or easy peasy as my seven year old would say.

Ha! As if!

The day started at 4:30 as littlest man is getting his two-year molars and the poor thing was howling like a wolf and completely inconsolable. My go-to coping method for exhaustion? Eating and eating and eating some more. I guess I think that if I keep my arm and mouth moving it will literally keep me awake?!  But yesterday for some reason I didn’t give into my desire to eat and eat when I was tired but not hungry.

Come round 2:00 pm I wanted to crash my head into my kitchen counter. You see next to eating and eating my go-to method for exhaustion is drinking lots of Diet Coke, like lots of it. The problem with this plan? It most definitely makes me want to eat more and more and it most definitely makes me crave the “bad stuff.” But yesterday for some reason I didn’t give into my desire to have more than one.

Then 7:00 hit like a ton of bricks. All four kiddos were tucked snug in their beds and it was time to work out. It was time to actually do what I told myself I would do tonight no matter what. It was time to remember that working out is important to me, that it does make me feel good physically and emotionally, that I do have time for it. But oh, oh I wanted to just plop on the couch, grab a glass of wine and do nothing. But yesterday for some reason I didn’t give into my desire to not exercise.

Nope, the only desire I gave into all day was my desire to achieve my personal goal. Again, it was super duper easy, easy peasy. Ha! As if!

Even though I plopped into bed last night giddy and proud and pumping with adrenaline that I finally “did it,” that I finally got back on track and found the energy and determination I needed to focus on eating healthier and being healthier, I plopped into bed UBER exhausted, perhaps more exhausted than I started the day. And not just because I had just exercised and been awake since 4:30, but also because I had mentally spent all day talking to myself. Looking back at yesterday, It wasn’t just “some reason” that I didn’t give into my desires that would steer me off track; it was this reason. It was these conversations with myself.

“Orange Rhino, you don’t want to eat the kids pancakes, you aren’t hungry.” I said to myself. Myself replied, “Right. You are right. I don’t want to. I can do this.”

“Orange Rhino, I know you think you need another Diet Coke but you don’t, you need some water and a walk or a dance party.” I said to myself. Myself replied, “Right. Water will make me feel way better. I can do this. I can do this.”

The most dominant and recurring conversation though, the one that felt like I was in ground-hog day? That would be this one.

“Orange Rhino, stop it right now. Right now. Stop telling yourself that working out for 20 minutes instead of 30 doesn’t count. Stop looking at your achievements from today as small and pathetic; instead look at your achievements as a step in the right direction, a step better than yesterday, a step better than nothing.” I said to myself. Myself replied, “Right. I know, I know. Baby steps are big steps. Stay focused on the good. I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.”

Or wait, would it be this conversation?

“Orange Rhino, stop it right now. Right now. Stop worrying about how you are going to get through the day. Stop worrying about how you will lose all the weight you want. Focus on now. Go one moment at a time. All the moments add up and will lead you to your goal.” I said to myself. Myself replied, “Right. I know. I can do this. I can do this.”

Oh yes, I spent much of yesterday reminding myself to stay in the moment and celebrate what I was doing right instead of thinking of all that I was doing wrong. And oh yes, was it exhausting but worth it! All the constant chatter with myself helped me to stay on track, to get through each tough moment. Each successful moment gave me confidence and my confidence just grew and grew over the day and carried me well into today, just as I knew it would, or rather, as I hoped it would. So tonight as I sit here writing, I am celebrating two days of feeling back on track, feeling good about myself and I credit it mostly to talking to myself.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, I have had a lot of experiences in my life where I lacked enough confidence to get over a hurdle. As a result, I just stayed in limbo, wallowing in self-pity really that I couldn’t just “snap out of it” and find the courage to jump the hurdle. Whether it be as small as having the guts to finally accept my first kiss (I was shy, okay a prude), trying a new food as a young adult at a business meeting (I don’t like new tastes, at all), sharing a contradictory opinion (I greatly fear offending people), going down a really high slide with my boys at an amusement park (I fear heights, big time) or as big as not yelling at my kids (this one is self-explanatory) I have so greatly struggled to often times just do it. I have let fear and lack of confidence stop me. But every time I finally “just did it” by telling myself “I can do this.”

Okay, that is a partial lie. I did it by telling myself “I can do this, I just a small win to believe in myself, I just need to go one small step at a time.” Just go for a peck on the lips. Just take a small bite. Just share part of your opinion. Just get to the top of the slide. Just go one moment not yelling. And then two, then three hours, then six hours, then a day.

Yes, telling myself “I can do this one moment at a time” has always helped me finally find the courage, energy and determination to get on track towards meeting a goal or overcoming a challenge. While it might not be easy-peasy to remember to say this to myself, it certainly makes it a heck of a lot easier to accomplish something than telling myself I can’t.

Yelling Less Loving More

(P.S. The other thing that helped me have two really good days? You all. Just sharing my struggle helped it be more real, it helped me realize how important it is to me. And you all sharing your support gave me the strength to wake up and get going. Thank you. Now it is my turn to return the favor. You can do this “yelling less, loving more” thing. You can! I know you can. Just go one moment at a time…..)

I Yelled At My Boys.

520 days of loving more, yelling less

I have a confession.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It worked. For like 5 minutes.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yelling Less Loving More

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

* * * * *

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

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

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

Was Yelling at me Really Necessary?

You all know that I have never made a mistake in my life, right? And that I am perfect?

Nope, I have never put red socks in with my husband’s white undershirts, dying them pink.
Nope, I have never accused one child of doing something when it was another, causing a major uproar in the house.
Nope, I have never hit the garage when pulling in, not even twice, or three times, turning my blue bumper a nice shade of white.
Nope, I have never bumped into a stranger, spilling his coffee all over him.
Nope, I have never forgotten to pack my son’s lunch, leaving him “starving” at school.

See, I am perfect. I never make mistakes.

HA! Who are we kidding? I make mistakes all the time; then normally I apologize and make it right. Today I made a mistake. It was an innocent one. But guess what? I have never been more embarrassed or publicly shamed by such an innocent mistake. And I have never been less willing to apologize and make it right. Why? Because when I made said mistake, I was yelled at.

It all started with a left turn. My boys have been going to the same camp for four years now. Every summer I always forget on the first day that pick-up is different than drop off and that I can’t make a left turn into the driveway but that I have to park on the street and wait, patiently in line. The head counselor always reminds me and I graciously back up and go to the line. I have no problem with waiting in line; I have no desire to cut the line. And I have no desire to intentionally forget the “rule” but you know, these things happen.

People forget simple things.
I forget simple things.
I make mistakes. I am human after all.

So today when I pulled up instead of walking as I had the past two days, and I saw that the driveway was empty, I completely forgot the rule to go to the street. I just assumed I was the first one there and that it was okay to turn in. WELL, I was SO wrong. The head counselor stopped me and politely reminded me of the rule. My response?

“Oh goodness. I totally forgot and it looked empty so I figured it was okay. I will back up and go get in line. Sorry!”

The response was “No, you are already here, just pull up and wait for the kids to come out.”

“Are you sure? I don’t want to cause trouble.” I said, again, always the first to make amends if I make a mistake.


So, I followed his direction. I pulled up. Well, if looks could kill.

Four, maybe five other of the camp leaders and the security guards looked at me.  Then they all started talking to each other. Thanks to my ridiculous hearing, I could hear it all.

“Who does she think she is? Why is she cutting the line? What is she doing?”

At this point ALL the other parents who had been waiting in line were lined up behind me, car windows down waiting to ask for his/her child. Obviously, now was the perfect point to announce publicly to everyone that I made a mistake.

The security guard, with the MEGAPHONE, said:

“HEY LADY in the blue minivan. You can’t cut the line. You need to drive around like everyone else and wait like everyone else. It’s a really simple rule.” He then motioned with his hand where I should go, as if I wasn’t going to listen to him.

Ouch. There was nothing nice, understanding or polite about it.

I didn’t like being yelled at. Nope, never have, never will.
I felt shamed.
I felt pissed off to say the least.
I had made a simple mistake; there was no need to yell at me. None, whatsoever. Mistakes happen. Mistakes Happen!

I parked my car and walked in. I had to pass the mega-phone-mega-not-nice gentleman and my first instinct was to apologize, because again, that is what I do when I make mistakes. But I couldn’t find it in me. Nope. All I wanted to say was,

“You know, that wasn’t necessary. I made a simple mistake. There was no need to yell at me in front of everyone.”

The fact of the matter was that yelling at me wasn’t necessary. At all. And the fact of the matter was that his yelling at made me too angry to be polite; too ashamed to be polite; too frustrated to be polite. So I walked right past him, got my son and left. I didn’t even make eye contact. It seems I couldn’t “forget his yell” and that “forgetting a rule” caused me to “forget my manners” as well and be the bigger person.

And that is when it hit me. Recently on vacation, when my son whipped me with his frog lovey, I said to him,

“#1, you know you don’t do that. I reminded you yesterday.”

His response?

“I forgot mommy. Sometimes I just forget what I am supposed to do to be right. To be good. It is hard you know.”

I will not lie. At that moment, I brushed off his answer with an “uh huh” and I really felt like he was b.s.’ing me. I thought to myself,

“#1, that is a lie. You didn’t forget, you just chose to do it and ignore what I had told you before.”

But today, oh today I realized I perhaps made a mistake.  Today I realized, maybe he did just forget. I just forgot a rule today. I forget lots of things, even to-do’s I write down on paper an hour prior. There is so much I want to remember to do: remember to thank my husband for all his hard work for the family, remember to catch my kids doing good instead of catching them doing bad, remember to call my friends and check in regularly instead of letting too much time pass, remember to give my kids a hug and kiss each night before bed even when I am rushing to get to me-time.

Yes, there are a lot of important things to remember. And of course there are a lot of little things to remember too: buy more diapers, pick up medicine at the pharmacy, sign permission slip for school, arrange playdates. The list of things to remember goes on and on and on.

And the same goes for my son. Except for him, remembering all the big stuff and the little stuff is harder because he is younger with less experience. If I can’t remember a simple rule, and I don’t like getting yelled at for making a mistake, why would my son? Why should I not believe him when he said that he simply forgot? I am certain there are times when he does legitimately forget “the rules” because his mind is overflowing with things to remember. And I am certain that other times he is truly full of bologna and didn’t forget a thing at all.

Either way, today just proved to me yet again that yelling at my son for simple mistakes or forgetting something won’t do either of us any good. Yelling won’t inspire him to genuinely apologize and yelling won’t keep his mind open to remember the lesson about whipping me. When I got yelled at today, I shut down. I didn’t want to be nice back. I didn’t really hear every word he said, I didn’t fully listen. Nope, instead I focused on how crappy I was feeling in the moment. Yelling didn’t make me want to follow the rule better next time; it just pushed me to want to break it again for spite or at least do something nasty. (Mature right? I know. Like I said, I am not perfect.)

But seriously, above all else, today proved to me that of all the things I need to remember, one of the top ones is definitely to work hard to remember is to yell less and love more. Oh, and I need to remember that if I make a “mistake” by snapping too much or being shorter than I like, not to yell at myself. It really does no good.

If I Were a Kid….

504 days of loving more!

“Mommy, what time do you go to bed?”

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

“Why are you asking me this?” I said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This picture could totally be of my brother and me.

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

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

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

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

502 days of loving more!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Unproductively Productive”

495 days of loving more! 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Again, terrific attitude right?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’d say being unproductive was definitely a win.

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

My Nerves Got the Best of me.

490 days of loving more!

Let’s be clear about one thing.

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

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

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

Enter last week.

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honestly, We Need More Honesty

485 days of loving more!

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

* * * * *

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

Some blizzard, eh?

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

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


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

Double shoot.

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

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

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

Her response? The best response EVER!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

I discovered I wasn’t alone.

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, I started healing.

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

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

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

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

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

* * * * *

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

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