Prioritizing my Husband

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

Dear Green Turtle,

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

The Orange Rhino

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Confirmed: my computer is a big ‘ole trigger

280 days without yelling, 85 days of loving more to go!

Dear Dell,

I hate to inform you but having you back in my life after two weeks has proved to me that that you are indeed, a trigger for my desire to yell.  Bummer. I do love you. But I love my kids more so…I think you might need to go or at least go to a new location in my house. Permanently. Sigh. Separation will be hard but we can handle it. I know we can. We have to!

xoxo,
The Orange Rhino

*

Ever since we got power back my kids have been driving me nuts. Which is totally backwards right? One would think that without power – without easy access to TV and heat and food that the kids would have driven me nuts. But that wasn’t the case. Sure we had our moments when they did but as a whole, no, they didn’t bother me as much as I anticipated given all the chaos, uncertainty and um moodiness that I brought to the house. They actually did pretty gosh darn well. I will toot their rhino horns for them!

I keep asking myself why? How? How did I go so long under the circumstances and stay calm (besides the part that I have grown and changed since I started the Challenge and truly have less desire to yell now)? How did my boys go so long and stay so relatively calm? Especially given all their personal triggers?

This morning when I was on the computer AGAIN, and they were “annoying” me, AGAIN, a light bulb went off as to one of the reasons I was able to not yell the last two weeks. (Nice pun, eh?!)

I was completely utterly absorbed in people.com as I thought they were all playing nicely and that I could take a breather after the great cereal debacle of November 14, 2012. Then one kid started poking me asking me innocent questions. Then another started crying. And another started yelling. I turned abruptly from my computer screen and opened my mouth ready to scream “WHAT DO YOU WANT, LEAVE MY ALONE?!”

This is how I looked Monday (if I were blonde and looked like her, anyway) when my computer showed me a black screen. Again. Now if you turned the head away from the screen that is how I have acted for the past few days at least once an hour. sigh.

I was so beyond bothered to have been interrupted (a huge trigger).

I was so beyond bothered that my kids needed me, no WANTED ME. Really? REALLY!!! Writing that makes me cringe. I hadn’t felt that in two weeks and yet this week, since power came back on, I have felt it at least ten times a day. If not more.  And I really think my computer is largely to blame.

I was simply more engaged the last two weeks because I didn’t have a computer to run to for a break when I wanted one, or when I wanted to hide from the chaos by searching aimlessly on yahoo.com, people.com and facebook.com. Yes, I need breaks. Breaks are good. But I see now that I took them much too much when my computer was around. Because it was an easy escape.

Without a computer, there was no easy escape. I had no choice but to listen more attentively, to help resolve problems.  I couldn’t run from the madness by reading about The Bachelorette Jef and Emily. AND without a computer to entertain me, I had more opportunities to stop and play because what else was there to do? Without a computer I was “forced” to connect with my family first. Without a computer my kiddos remained my focus – I didn’t get distracted by the allure of the small portable black box that is actually a big black hole that sucks me in and doesn’t want to let me out.

Free of distraction, I was able to be more engaged and present with my boys which is exactly what I NEEDED to be. I needed to focus on helping them handle the situation anyway that I could. I needed to be focused on them to keep their behavior, and mine, in check with minimal meltdowns because the last thing I needed amidst all the insanity was an epic meltdown. What I didn’t need was to know if Emily was with Ari or not.

I liked myself better the last two weeks. I thoroughly enjoyed feeling less snappy and less bothered AND I thoroughly enjoyed hanging with my boys distraction free. All and all it was much more peaceful, fun, interesting and easy…EVEN under the circumstances!

So starting tonight, the computer is going UPSTAIRS, out of sight. It can no longer be the first thing I see when I walk in the door. Nope, I need to remove the temptation to escape to it when the going gets tough. I’ve tried but before but this time it is even more clear to me that the change is necessary, no not necessary, desired. It is going to be an adjustment. But it has to be done. I can do it. I have to do it.

Note: I am trying to move on from talking about no power as I am sure it is over done at this point! That said, if it isn’t and you do want to know about other lessons learned the last two weeks, let me know and I’ll share them!

 

Monday morning misery

278 days without yelling, 87 days of loving more to go!

Dear Monday,

Why can’t you ever be nice to me? First you fill my house with tears, then you break my computer and then you break my dryer. Yes, I blame you for all those things because I feel like it. Harrumph.

A disgruntled Orange Rhino

*

Picture this. It’s Monday morning. Not just any Monday morning but one after a two week vacation from school and any routine really. Now add three over-tired kids because they don’t get daylight savings and one baby who likes to pick up everything and move it. Oh! And don’t forget the super high-strung mommy who didn’t sleep a wink because of her own nightmares. Okay. Can you see all the tears? Can you hear all the protests against going to school? Can you feel all the tension? If so, you were at my house this morning. It gets better.

Now imagine all four boys in the car. I realized I didn’t have my keys to start the car and look for them. They are no where to be found. I ask the boys as they always take them. Nothing. No response. No remorse. Which meant one thing. Darling baby played hide mommy’s keys, again!So here we are. After tears and meltdowns and air-punching and angry screams and finally getting buckled in to go to school..and we can’t. Are you KIDDING ME I bark rather fiercely.”Everybody out!” I ordered. “Help me find the keys.””Aw mommmmmm” they complained back.

“Look, you guys encourage him to take the keys, you help look.”

We all went inside and dropped to our knees, aka baby height. 5 minutes later, keys found in the play kitchen. Excellent.

And queue the whining about school and the tears to start again. This time louder and with much more vigor and passion. Excellent.

After I wrestled four kids BACK into their car seats I couldn’t help but think to myself, who doesn’t love Mondays?! T.G.I.M. Anyone?! No takers?! How about T.G.F.D.B.O.A.T? Thank god for deep breaths oh and Tuesdays. Tomorrow is a new day. New moments. New opportunities. Bring it on Tuesday, or better yet, Monday realize you are MINE and can’t mess with me.

Oh yeah!!! As a homeschooling Mom, I'm tattooing this on my forehead!!! How about you @Meg Shank???? ;)

 

Tracking my Triggers

260 days without yelling, 105 days of loving more to go!

Dear Hurricane Sandy,

Please blow over, no pun intended. I’ve been tracking you for days so that I can know what kind of problems you’ll bring, when to expect your wrath and what I need in order to handle the situation properly, or at least the best that I am able. All this tracking got me thinking back to the first days of this challenge when all I did was track. So while I know you are going to be a pain in my a*s the next few days I do thank you for inspiring tonight’s post and getting me to finally write it as it has been an idea lurking in my mind for months.

Cheers,
The Orange Rhino

*

The similarities to tracking a hurricane and tracking my triggers for yelling are pretty remarkable. I would track, track, track my triggers so that I could be prepared for my own storm path; so that I could know what problems would cause me to yell, when precisely I would yell, and what I needed to have in the future to be ready, mentally, in order to prevent major “storm” damage. Guess what? All the tracking? It really helped me prepare.

Yes, storms brewed in the early days. OH DID THEY EVER. I think I texted my friends five to seven times a day saying “I’m gonna lose it” and they would write back “No!! Don’t do it! You can hold it together!” But after a few days writing down all the times I yelled or wanted to yell, I saw patterns. I saw that I yelled at the same times of day. I saw that I yelled whenever I felt rushed. I saw that I yelled whenever I had my blackberry in hand, if I had just had a disagreement with my husband.

Were the findings discouraging? YES. Because there were a lot of areas of improvement and because there were a lot of findings that I never would have guessed, like how much a simple conversation about “weekend plans” with my hubby could put me in such a mood that I would yell at any child for no reason.

But just knowing the triggers, knowing that there were easy things I could now fix and yell less, like putting out snacks the night before, and knowing that there were things that I could personally CHANGE about me, well, you know what they say. Knowledge is power. This knowledge brought me clarity. It brought me a path. I don’t the technical, PhD. Study, formal rationale for why knowing a problem and labeling it makes it easier, but in this case, it did.

As I tracked more I found myself yelling less and texting my friends for support less.

Maybe it was as simple as seeing all the times I yelled on paper? Maybe that just was so ugly it really scared me and motivated me? (I know that works for me with weight loss – if I track what I eat for a week. WHOA NELLY. Suddenly I realize how bad I was and I get back on track.)

I don’t entirely know the answer for why tracking is such a powerful tool. Again, I am not a professional. I am just a mom trying to figure it all out. I don’t why tracking worked, but it did. It worked wonders – just like tracking and preparing for a Hurricane. I now know the storm is hitting tonight and I am prepared, as well as I can be. I have alcohol for after the long days (haha), I have caffeine for the long days (haha), I have canned goods, flashlights, water and more. I tracked, I got informed, and I am prepared. This storm will not take me by surprise and I am ready.

So tonight, in honor of Hurricane Sandy, I share with you my best attempt at a “professional” Trigger Tracking sheet. It is pretty close to what I wrote down and how I handle the information. I am a dork. These attachments will make that clear. But they helped me. They were integral to my figuring out how to stop yelling. Because once I looked at the “data” and could figure out a plan, I attacked each trigger one by one. And as I yelled less, I felt better. So I attacked 2 new triggers. And mastered those. And it just grew and grew and grew.

DOWNLOAD these two sheets below to see how I tracked my triggers and got on the path of not yelling!

Trigger Tracking Sheet Example (this is my best replica of what I wrote down in the beginning)

Trigger Tracking Sheet (a blank version if you want to print and try tracking yourself!)

What P.M.S really stands for

254 days without yelling, 111 days of loving more to go!

Dear T.M.I.,

Did I just cross the line with this post? What can I say. It’s that time of month. I have P.M.S. big time and it takes over my ability to think rationally.

Not sincerely (because I don’t feel sincere or nice when I am suffering from P.M.S. I just feel grouchy and mean),

The Orange Rhino

P.S. My apologies in advance to male readers. I am not trying to offend you. Really.  

*

I remember being thirteen and seeing a button in Claire’s, the be all and end all of stores for teenage girls. The button read:

P.M.S. Putting up with Men’s Shit

I remember giggling and calling my girlfriends over from the tacky jewelry section to see the pearl of wisdom that I had found. Because you know at 13, after a mere few months of being in the womanhood club, not only was I cool enough to make jokes about PMS but I was cool enough to make jokes about boys being annoying. Because I understood them both perfectly. PMS and boys that is.

Fast forward 22 years. I am much wiser. Now I really understand both.

1)      P.M.S. only happens once a month, not weekly or daily, so it definitely does not stand for Putting up with Men’s Shit.

2)       P.M.S. actually means Pushing Me to Scream. Scientists and doctors and other professionals like to call it Pre-menstrual Syndrome. But that is too weak of a name. Pre-menstrual syndrome is too delicate, too polite, too nice. It doesn’t get at the heart of the matter, the intensity of what really happens to a woman during that blessed week each month.

Because, yes, 1 time a month, P.M.S makes me want to scream. The other three weeks a month I just want to yell. But that one lucky week a month when I am blessed with P.M.S I don’t want to just yell, I want to scream, scream, scream. Three weeks a month I have to work hard to not yell. But when I have PMS?

Oh. My. God.

I don’t think “working hard” begins to even describe my plight.

I have to practically hide from my kids to keep from yelling because every word sounds like a whine which this time of month sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard.

I “have to eat” to keep my mouth full of Oreo cookies, Tostitos, Cheez-its and other crap just so that I can’t yell.

I have to constantly put my head in the freezer to put the hot flashes at bay, to keep my temper cool.

I have to wear extra loose clothes so that the feeling of tight pants, tight shirts, and a tight bra don’t drive me batty and put me on edge.

I have to do jumping jacks what feels like every friggin’ second to keep my aggression in check.

I have to go to bed way earlier than I like because my normal exhaustion coupled with my P.M.S exhaustion leaves me a wretched, crotchety person.

UGH. Like I said, P.M.S. makes me want to scream, literally and figuratively.

I love that 22 years ago I thought I totally got P.M.S. HA! If only I knew what a horrific pain in the arse it was I wouldn’t have been making jokes about it; I’d be figuring out how to get rid of it.

I still don’t have the answers that work for me (in regards to P.M.S. or to Men) but I do know this. When I finally started circling on my calendar on the days I was at my worst, the days where I practically screamed, that days where my tolerance was negative, the days where I snapped way more than I liked, I realized that my worst days were always P.M.S days.

I kind of never thought of P.M.S as a trigger. I never really took P.M.S. seriously until recently. I don’t know why. Maybe because it has been a part of my life for so long that I have kind of accepted it? Maybe I thought I handled it better than I actually do? Maybe because my 4th pregnancy played with my system enough that it made P.M.S. come alive more ferociously? Maybe because I didn’t want to admit that this trigger would be with me for years and years on end?

But oh, oh is it ever a trigger (professionals even say so, which “kind of” makes me feel better). And these last few days? I totally blame PMS. The good news? Figuring out and acknowledging that my PMS week is going to be a hard week has helped. Because I start the week mentally prepared for extra challenge, prepared that I am going to have to work harder and somehow that makes it easier. Not manageable, but easier.

Now if only I could figure out how to not stuff my face when P.M.S.ing (she writes as she reaches for more M&M’s).

How do you handle P.M.S.? Please share all secrets!! Does laughter do it? This worked momentarily for me. Check out this video. It’s brilliant.

My name is The Orange Rhino and I yell at my kids

Written today, but should have been written sometime in January 2012. If I had had the guts then to completely admit to all that’s included below….

Dear Internet World,

My name is The Orange Rhino and I yell at my kids. A lot. A lot more than I like. A lot more than I ever imagined I would. I don’t yell at them ALL day (or everyday) but it kind of feels like it. And well, I am sure it definitely feels like it to my four boys. Because most of the time (again NOT all the time) when I yell, I don’t just yell, I YELLLLLL. I’m talking a full on screaming at the top of my lungs yell accompanied by one or all of the following: red face, shaking hands, screeching voice, eyes squeezed shut in sheer disbelief.

Photo: mymommymanners.com

I yell at them for leaving legos on the floor, for not hanging their jackets up, for putting their shoes right where I walk so that I trip.

I yell at them for pissing everywhere BUT in the toilet, for emptying half the bathtub on the floor, for spitting on the mirror during toothbrushing time.

I yell at them for hitting their brothers, for pretending to shoot each other with guns, for not stopping rough play when someone is crying.

I yell at them for complaining about what I serve for dinner, for throwing their food on the table if they don’t like it, for saying they aren’t hungry and then begging for food. 10 minutes after the meal is over.

I yell at them for playing instead of going to bed, I yell at them for getting out of bed too early, I yell at them for waking each other up in the morning.

I yell at them to hurry up and get out the door, to pee before getting in the car, to stop picking on each other while we wait in the car line at pick up.

I yell at them for begging me to put the TV on, for asking one more time to play with their LeapPad explorers, for pleading for more toys.

I yell at them for interrupting me when I am on the phone, for not stopping talking when I have said I need a break, for talking too loudly.

I yell at them for not saying please and barking orders at me, for calling their brothers mean words, for being fresh with me.

I yell at them for not keeping their hands to themselves in stores, for intentionally taking a toy from their brothers, for pushing each other.

I yell at them for temper tantruming for what feels like hours on end, for slamming doors when angry, for throwing toys on the ground and at me when they don’t get their way.

I yell at them for silly things, for serious things, and “you’re-just-being-annoying” things.

I yell at them when I have had enough of them not listening, when I am tired of being patient and empathetic, when I am overwhelmed with the challenges of parenting.

I yell at them when they are only being mildly annoying but I am cranky, or tired, or not feeling well, or anxious, or sad, or preoccupied, or busy, or just not in a good place.

Am I missing anything? I am sure I yell at them for a lot more. Because it looks like I CHOOSE to yell at them for just about everything and anything.

Oh, yes I did forget something.

I yell at them for yelling at me, for yelling in the house, for yelling at each other. Wait, I wonder where they learned to yell at me? To yell at each other?

Crap. They learned that from me.

Crap, I yell a lot. I lose my patience a lot. I forget they are just kids, just people, a lot. I don’t stop and question my expectations, a lot.  I get lazy and don’t try to find self control, a lot. I tell myself I am going to change, and then do nothing, a lot. I wish I could stop yelling, a lot.

Because yelling makes me feel really, really crappy, A LOT.

My name is The Orange Rhino and I am tired of being a yelling parent.

I am tired of being disappointed in myself for not keeping it together. I am tired of knowing that my yelling is hurting my kids’ feelings and probably doing some emotional damage too. I am tired of yelling and having it achieve nothing but making things worse. I am tired of not setting a good example for my kids. I am tired of getting on my kid’s cases for everything, for not letting them have a little more breathing room. I am tired of not putting the energy into finding a way to end my yelling. I am tired of saying “oh, I only yell on occasions, but when I do it is bad” when really, that is a lie. I am tired of going to bed (almost) every night feeling guilty and ashamed of how I treated my boys.

My name is The Orange Rhino and I am going to go 365 days straight without yelling. I make this big commitment because this nasty habit of mine needs to vanish not for a few days, but for life. I make this big commitment not just because I know I can do better and because I want to do better, but also because my kids deserve better.

(My name is The Orange Rhino and I DID go 365 days without yelling and I believe that you can too!)

 

The silliest fight…

227 days of not yelling, 138 days of loving more to go!

Dear Self,

You let the silliest things both you and tempt you to yell. Seriously, loosen up a bit, will ya?

The Orange Rhino

*

Every morning and every night I get agitated over the same thing: toothpaste on the bathroom counter and toothpaste spit all over the bathroom sink. But let me be clear, it isn’t just on the counter it is smeared all over and on good days, it is dripping of the sides of the “used” toothbrush so that the toothbrush leaves a nice mark wherever it sits. Oh, and the spit isn’t just in the sink, some of it has accidentally “sprayed” on the mirror. And the wall. Perhaps on the toilet seat too because wouldn’t it be fun to spit into the toilet? It looks like a sink you know. Yeah, once my kids have brushed their teeth unsupervised the bathroom smells minty fresh and looks freshly “decorated.” I. CAN’T. STAND. IT.

And every morning and every night it makes me want to yell at my older two sons.

And every morning and every night, and especially right now, I think to myself, really?? Really you are going to yell at your kids over toothpaste?

Yes, it is messy and sticky and one more thing to clean up.

Yes, it is frustrating that no matter how many times I remind them to wipe down the counter and rinse the sink when done, they still forget.

Yes, it is maddening that it seems they have no regard for being neat and tidy or respectful of my wishes to use proper “bathroom etiquette.”

Yes, it is annoying to have to make extra trips to CVS just to buy more toothpaste because of the constant waste (because no kid in my house every squeezes just a little toothpaste on the toothbrush.)

But no, the great toothpaste fight really isn’t worth yelling at my kids.

Because they are 6 and 4.5 and are still learning.

But more so, as I finally realized this morning as I wiped down the counter again for the umpteenth time, they are actually doing something RIGHT and I should focus on that behavior and applaud it instead of ridiculing the inconvenient behavior.

Without my having to ask, they are not only remembering to brush their teeth but also actually doing it! ON THEIR OWN! This is miraculous! Worthy of a celebration even! It took me months of reminding them to get to that point. Months! My older boys brushing their teeth on their own is so incredibly helpful; it is one less thing that I have to remember to ask them to do and let’s face it, I need all the help I can get!  And not only is it good for me, but it is good for them. Brushed teeth = less cavities, something my mouthful of cavities (and Novocaine from having a crown put in today) is really wishing I had remembered to do when I was a kid!

So as I grumbled under my breath this morning about the mess, I decided to let go of the great toothpaste fight. I decided to embrace the good behavior and stop harping on the bad. I decided to accept that it will take months for them to remember to clean up after themselves and that is okay. I decided to focus my energy on bigger problems, bigger annoyances.

I decided that it is really no big deal to have to take 5 seconds to wipe down the counter and 5 more seconds to gently remind the boys the etiquette of tooth brushing. Taking 10 seconds is a heck of a lot more convenient than locking up the toothpaste in my bathroom and having to go get it and then monitor their brushing while I have two tired younger brothers pulling at my leg for one more book. Taking 10 seconds to set an example and teach is a heck of a lot better for my kids than telling them “no, you can’t do this on your own because you make a mess.” Taking 10 seconds after they have already brushed their teeth, which is a huge accomplishment, is WAY better than spending hours in the dentist’s office in the next years if they didn’t brush their teeth because mommy was too swamped at bedtime to hound them to do it.

Yeah brushing their teeth on their own and making a mess is WAY better than the alternatives.

Besides, they will get it someday. It might be when they move in with a fiancee 20 or so years from now, and she has the same pet peeve, but they’ll get it. And until then, I’ll just keep on gently reminding them to clean up.

Some “yells” at my kids I will never forget…

226 days without yelling, 139 days of loving more to go!

Dear Nerves,

Whenever you find me, you take over my entire being and make me an absolute b*tch! You are one of my worst triggers for yelling. Could you do me a favor? Could you either stop invading my body or send me a manual on how to handle you? I would be most appreciative. So would my boys. I am much more pleasant when I am not nervous!

Warmest Regards,
The Orange Rhino

*
There are several “yells at my kids” that I cannot shake from my memory, like this one. I think it is so “memorable” because it is exactly what I didn’t want to achieve that day. 

I was 36 weeks and 6 days pregnant with number four. It was potentially my last night as a mom of three kids and I wanted it to be special and perfect because I knew once #4 came, I would be even more exhausted, more cranky, more busy than I had been the last 8.5 months. I wanted to have one last hurrah with my three boys. I wanted to take them out for a fun dinner where they got all my undivided attention. I wanted to laugh and joke with them. I wanted to have fun with them. I wanted to snuggle them into bed feeling secure that when #4 comes, they will still be as important as ever even if they didn’t feel like it because lots of my energy was going into caring for their new baby brother. Oh how I wanted to shower them with hugs, and kisses, and lots of love that night.

But I didn’t. Instead I showered them with impatience, intolerance and lots of yelling.

All because I was anxious.

and scared.
and tired.
and frustrated.
and disappointed.
and grumpy.
and short tempered.

I was all sorts of not positive emotions.
In fact, I was EVERY EMOTION but what I wanted to be that night.

All because the next morning I was headed to the hospital to try and flip #4 out of breech position. I had three natural deliveries and was terrified of a C-section if he didn’t flip, terrified of recovering from a C-section with three older boys at home, terrified of the potential of an emergency delivery at 37 weeks as a result of the procedure, terrified of feeling disappointed if my last delivery was a C-section and not the delivery I wished for, terrified of having a baby NOW when I wasn’t mentally ready, when the house was still under construction and so not ready to welcome a baby.

I wanted SO BADLY for the procedure to go well. I wanted SO BADLY to have special time with my boys just in case I did deliver tomorrow. So much so that I was an absolute mess b*tch!

And it came out in the form of yelling.

“KNOCK IT OFF #1!”

“DAMMIT, #2 WHY CAN’T YOU LISTEN?!”

“BE QUIET #3! USE YOUR WORDS!!!”

Oh, I yelled most of the day. It was AWFUL. Absolutely awful. And then came dinner. We couldn’t go out to Friendly’s as planned which just added more disappointment to my list, further fueling my mood. So we brought it home.

I opened the styrofoam containers which had trapped in the steam from the once hot food.

The boys started eating.

“My food is soggy.”

“Icky.”

“I didn’t want macaroni and cheese.”

It was my turn to complain. But I did more than complain. I SCREAMED at the top of my lungs so much so that my hands shook and my face turned bright red.

“GOD DAMMIT KIDS! All I wanted was a nice peaceful and special meal before tomorrow and you’re ruining it! Absolutely ruining it! ”

They stopped complaining and all simultaneously burst into tears, my then 5 year old telling me that I was the meanest, worstest mommy ever.

My heart sank. I was mortified and ashamed and OH SO INCREDIBLY SAD.

They weren’t the ones ruining dinner, I was.

The pressures of my current situation had absolutely gotten to me and I had taken it too far on a day when all I wanted were loving moments, when all my boys NEEDED were loving moments. I felt so disappointed in myself. So disappointed in the lost moments that day. So disappointed that they might wake up tomorrow and be with the babysitter and without me for three days and their most recent memory would be of mommy screaming at them like a lunatic.

Oh the guilt at that moment at me alive.

“Oh boys, I am SO SORRY. Mommy is just so stressed and I lost it. I am so very sorry. I love you so much.”

We eventually cleaned up from dinner and made it up to bedtime. As bad as losing it was, it did whip me into the emotional place I wanted to be pretty quickly. Patience found me, helping me to have the bedtime I wanted: a slow, peaceful, loving half an hour. We chatted longer during bath time, we cuddled longer over story time, we snuggled longer during tuck-ins to bed. I let everything go a little longer that night. I cherished everything a little bit more. And it was wonderful.

I didn’t get the day I wanted, but I did get the bedtime I wanted, that I so desperately needed. I had found the strength to FINALLY get a hold of my behavior; I had found the strength to FINALLY rise above the pressure. And I was proud of myself.

I think #4 was too. En route to the hospital the next morning he did one really big (and painful!) fist pump in the air and flipped into position. Not only did I get to have the natural delivery I wanted, but I also got to go home to my boys and try again for a fun-filled, loving day before #4 arrived. And I got it. Times 13.

How to YELL at your kids without really trying!

197 days without yelling, 168 days of loving more to go!

Dear Friends and Family,

I have done some serious research these last 197 days and now share with you the official Orange Rhino tested and approved 15 Rules to follow to ensure that you too set yourself up to be in the kind of mood all day that makes you want to yell at anything and everything! Whether you do one of the following or all of them, if you are anything like me, you too can feel the desire to yell numerous times throughout the day!

* Do not try these at home if you want to make it through the day without yelling. If you find yourself doing one, tell yourself immediately that is why you are cranky and then find the strength to fix it. Pronto.

** Your triggers might be slightly different than mine. Your own research and acknowledgement of your triggers will allow you too to have your own set of official Orange Rhino “How to Yell” Rules!

Enjoy!
The Orange Rhino

*

Rule 1: Go to bed late so when the kids wake YOU up you are tired, cranky, and grumpy. This will guarantee that you are more annoyed at how slow the kids get dressed, more annoyed at the mess that are their bedrooms and MUCH more intolerant to the level of noise that well-rested kids bring.

Rule 2:  Don’t do any preparations for the next day the night before. Don’t set out breakfast plates and silverware, pack kids’ backpacks, write to-do list etc…. This way when you are running late (which you will be because of Step 1) you fall even more behind schedule and feel the need to yell at your kids to go faster, which by the way, won’t work, so you’ll want to yell even louder and longer.

Rule 3: Eat a really crappy breakfast (and lunch…and dinner) so that you a) feel guilty about what you ate b) feel physically gross from what you ate and c) feel pissed that you overate, again. This will definitely ensure massive crabbiness and mood swings.

Rule 4: Forget that your kids are JUST kids and that they are still LEARNING even if they seem more grown up than a few months ago. Go ahead and ask them to do all sorts of things they struggle with like making the bed, sitting still during a meal, cleaning up an entire playroom on their own, controlling their temper. When they are struggling, don’t even bother to stop and help them because you assume they need to learn and that they’ll get it someday. Instead bark orders at them to hurry up, to get it together. Their lack of response will infuriate you and certainly make your throat start to itch to scream.

Rule 5: Take Rule 4 even further. When you ask them in the first place to do something, make sure to do so when they are busy and playing. Added bonus if they are really into their activity and really really having a fun time. Don’t give them a heads up or warning that a transition is coming, just ask and expect. Oh, second added bonus. Make sure to ask them from across the room while you too are busy multi-tasking. This way they really won’t hear you and will really be un-inclined to cooperate.

Rule 6: Think to yourself how your kids misbehave, how they drive you nuts, how they always fight without stopping to think about how often they do behave, how often you are overwhelmed with love, how often they do play together. The more negative you think, the worse you’ll feel, the worse you’ll perceive their behavior, the worse off you’ll all be. Trust me.

Rule 7: Take Rule 5 even further and call your friend or your mom and talk out loud about your issues so that you really focus on the negative without trying to find the positive.

Rule 8: Dwell all day on one thing that you can’t control, can’t change. Don’t accept it and move on, instead think about how much it annoys you. Better yet, dwell for a few days, or even a week or more about something that is bothering you that you can change but don’t have the strength or courage to. This way when your kids ask you a simple, innocent question you’ll be pre-occupied and will snap, or worse.

Rule 9: Ignore help. Don’t ask for it. Try to do it all on your own. And when you are really struggling, definitely don’t ask for help. Keep trying to prove to yourself you can do it which by the way, you might be able to do for a while, but then you’ll crack and you’ll most certainly yell. Like raging scream yell.

Rule 10: Engage yourself in the same situation that always leads to yelling (um serving dinner late so the kids are extra whiny and temper tantrummy while I need to be cooking), so every day at that time can be like Groundhog day but only louder (your yelling, not theirs) and with more guilt (for said yelling and for knowingly setting yourself up for frustration. Again.)

Rule 11: Don’t engage yourself in your children’s lives. Focus more on checking email and keeping the house clean. This way they will beg for your attention and you’ll be annoyed they are interrupting you and like Step 8, will be inclined to snap or worse.

Rule 12: Create a to-do list that is just long enough to stress you out. You know, a list that is totally unmanageable. This way, when you look at the list your heart starts racing and your head starts pounding. This will make you totally intolerant to any and all requests from the children and definitely want to yell.

Rule 13: Have a really big glass of wine (or equally large gin and tonic) after the kids go to sleep. It will taste great at the moment and will take all the stress of the day away but the next morning it will make you feel sluggish and irritable and primed for yelling. Added bonus: Couple this with going to bed late. This is always a winner and a fabulous way to start the day off on not one, but two really wrong feet.

Rule 14: Assume that your kids are the reason you yell and that it is never because of you and how you are feeling that day. In other words, disregards Steps 1-13 and assume that no, these rules don’t set you up to yell it’s really just the kids mess, their yelling, their not listening that is responsible.

Rule 15: Tell yourself that you can’t do it. That if you can’t even go one hour, how can you go two hours or a day?

*
Does Rule #15 really apply to you?  Then come join me on The 2nd Orange Rhino Challenge day, this WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 29th. A day where I encourage everyone to go just 1 day without yelling. Just 1 day to see that yes, you can do it!

Do any of the other rules speak to you? Sadly, they ALL speak to me on too frequent a basis (and these are just the top 15!) But alas, I will be working on each one a lot harder the next 168 days. Follow along with me at www.Facebook.com/TheOrangeRhino to see how I handle those rules.

Things that make me go AHHHH!!!!

Day 1, Take 7, 365 days to go, again

Dear C+C Music Factory,

Oh it’s been a while! All due respect to your song but things don’t make me go “hmmmm” they make me go AHHHHH! I’m trying so desperately hard to figure out the things that make me go “AHHHHH” so I can just go “hmmm” instead. Hope  I figure this out soon because this is DAY 1 TAKE 7. Enough already.

Hmmm….

The Orange Rhino
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDxlzFbYfHY (for a little musical flashback!)

*

The Things that make me go AHHHH!

Oh where should the list start. Well the last 90 minutes is a perfect summary of the majority of things..

  1. That my two year old starts the day whining even after a great night’s sleep, for the 9th day in a row.
  2. That when I go to the bathroom there is pee on the seat, pee on the floor, pee everywhere and the bathroom smells disgusting.
  3. That my five year old, despite also having a good night’s sleep, couldn’t keep it together for 20 minutes and is already picking on his 3 year old brother.
  4. That my three year old can’t figure it out for the life of him that he should stop kicking his 5 year old brother repeatedly.
  5. That my two year is still whining, 90 minutes later. But now he is pulling on my pants, wanting me to change his diaper, to find his measuring tape and his hammer, to put the baby down now. Does he not see that I am feeding the baby?
  6. That as I finally finish feeding my dear baby and he lovingly spits up all over both of us so now we smell like regurgitated cat vomit because he is on the hypoallergenic formula. Just lovely.
  7. That as I finally get to change my 2 year old’s diaper, my 5 year old and 3 year old are playing “Superbowl” and tackled each other into the granite fireplace and are both bawling.
  8. Did I mention that now the baby is whining because he needs to burp again. You know that whine the “ehhhh ehhhh ehhhh ehhhh.” The one that is like fingernails on a chaulkboard but worse and it doesn’t stop?!
  9. That it isn’t even 8:30???

 

HOLY SH*T! What a sh*t show this morning was. An absolute sh*t show. And just when I was starting to lose it my three year old redeemed himself. ORANGE RHINO!!!! Orange Rhino mommy. Yes sir. Thank you for the reminder. You saved me from myself.

But even though you saved me sweet little boy, and I am relieved that I have not lost it and stand a chance at making it through the day not yelling, I can’t help but wonder, what the heck am I doing? Why have I taken on this ridiculous challenge?

Yes this blog is for me, the challenge is for me and my family, but part of me really wants it to take off. I want to have a following. Why? Because I want to have support but also, and more so, I want to see an Orange Rhino community develop that supports everyone struggle  to stop yelling and struggling with parenthood. And I am so afraid, not just of failing the challenge, but of disappointing those who I love, those who are supporting me and those dreams I have of finding a way to support others.

Every day I go up and down. Up and down. One minute I am ecstatic to be doing this project. It feels right. I feel passionate about it. And then the self doubt starts in. The self doubt that is always present. Everything I do, I question myself. Why can’t I just have faith in myself, like I used to when I was young? What happened to me? When did I get lost? Did I get lost when I became a wife? When I became a mom? I don’t know. I just know the confidence I once had in myself is gone.

Just now I stopped typing to think, a whopping 5 seconds and WHAM. The oppressing feeling of self doubt hits hard. “This is silly Orange Rhino. You’re wasting your time. Stop this project now. Focus on something else. Why are you bothering? You won’t be able to do it. You’re fooling yourself. After all, you’re on Day 1. AGAIN! For the 7th time!!!” Oh so of course the other side of my brain tries to kick in to motivate me, but it only motivates me with negative thoughts “You can’t stop now. All you have done since you graduated college is dream of things you want to do.  AND YOU NEVER DO ANY OF THEM. And if you start, you stop. You quit. You are a quitter.”

And then that list of things I’ve never done only got worse when I became a stay at home mom. “You’re home now. You’re not making money. You’re not paying for childcare so you darn well better be a great, not good, but a great mom. You should do this and that and that and this. Why aren’t you doing any of those things?”

Yes, this is how I think and talk to myself. And that is why, if I can find the strength I NEED to do this project. I need to follow through on something, for me. So I am happier with myself and therefore a happier person and by default a better mom. And this is the perfect project if I can find the much needed resolve to do it. This project will not only make me feel better about myself but it also gives my boys a most wonderful gift: a happier, more loving, less yelling mom. It’s a win win. If I can just do it.

I ask again, non-existent Orange Rhino followers, will you help me? I know I *should* be able to do this on my own. But it’s hard. I need the support. I need to find faith in myself, that I can do something if I put my mind to it. I don’t know where or how my confidence got lost, but it’s gone. And quite frankly, I miss the person that it belonged too. All that’s left is a shell of that person. And I’m pretty sure my husband misses her too. And I guarantee the boys would love to meet her and I would love them to meet her and experience what it means to believe in yourself….

(P.S. I am back dating this post. Know that I feel MUCH BETTER now. I was just hormonal that week, I think…)