The Look of Fear Had to Stop

69 days down, 296 to go!

Dear Orange Rhinos,

I am on a “Staycation” this week and have two great guest blogs for you to read. When I first looked for volunteers, Darlene from MommyBabySpot, immediately offered up. Given her enthusiasm for the challenge and her honesty, I really looked forward to her post and was not disappointed.

Happy reading,
The Orange Rhino

*

About a month ago, I discovered a shocking fact: I have a yelling problem. This isn’t something I’ve had all my life, rather the opposite actually. I’ve always been the first one to attempt to remain calm and talk through a difficult situation. But, my soon-to-be 3 year-old son combined with my 5 month old son and a rather stressful life has served to undermine my calm collectedness. It had been brewing and getting worse for about 7 or 8 months and finally reached a head.

My name is Darlene and I am a yell-oholic.

My oldest, Avery, has been the one who has witnessed this transformation of his chill Mommy. So what happened? It’s not just that I have a toddler and a baby, but there’s much more to it. I feel I need to give a brief overview of the past 12 months or so of my life so you can see why I’ve snapped (this is by no means a “look how awesome I am” list, just a bit of background):

  • I am a 28 year-old single mom and a stay-at-home mom (I don’t get many breaks)
  • I moved a pregnant me and toddler back into my parents’ basement (still living there) after fleeing a bad relationship
  • I gave birth in November to Ranger
  • I finished my BA in December (I wore Ranger the last 3 weeks of classes) – it took me 10 years to finish but I did it! *pats self on back*
  • I am working towards my ICEA childbirth educator certification as well as my breastfeeding counselor certification
  • I am trying to start a childbirth education business, blog and youtube channel
  • I try to help as much as I can with my developmentally disabled brother
  • I feel huge amounts of guilt for not giving Avery and Ranger the attention they need and deserve as I try to get back on my feet and start this business

So, as you may have surmised from the above list, I’ve been a little stressed lately. Poor Avery has been adjusting to all of the things I’m trying to accomplish, a baby brother and trying his best to be a happy 2 year-old and in the process severely pushing my buttons. It wasn’t his fault I didn’t have time to focus on him like I used to. It wasn’t his fault that he has the energy of a two-year-old and is trying any way possible to get Mom’s attention. Yelling was not helping!

I realized one day, while trying desperately to put Ranger down for a nap and shut Avery up, that I was turning into one of those mothers I never wanted to be. Avery was screaming back at me, I was furiously telling him to just be quiet, the baby was crying because Mom was suddenly a banshee…and then I just stopped. I put the baby down, walked over to Avery and gave him a big hug and told him how very sorry I was and that I would try hard to get back to being a good Mommy and showing him how much I love him.

He must have understood because he got quiet and we both just hugged for a minute.

I had no idea how I was going to pull that promise off, but I knew I had to. I want both of my sons to be happy and I realized I was making everyone miserable (including my parents). I didn’t want Ranger to see me as this yelling woman carrying him around and I didn’t want Avery to fear me.

I hated seeing that fear and dread in his eyes along with that need for my love and attention.

Soon after this incident, I was working on my blog (or maybe Facebook page) and came across The Orange Rhino. I read her posts, read what she was about and breathed a sigh of relief. I wasn’t alone! There were other moms struggling with the same thing I was and wanting to stop. I signed up immediately. I’ve taken on the entire 365 day challenge.

It’s been HARD!

I haven’t been yelling that long but it’s still not an easy habit to break. Yelling stopped everyone in their tracks and got things accomplished…sorta. It also broke down my boys and destroyed our relationship.

I am currently at 5 days with no yelling and I feel great. It’s taken me about 2 weeks or so to get here, but I haven’t yelled since Good Friday and this is the longest I’ve been able to go. I have noticed that when I have yelled recently, it’s become something that is over quickly instead of the tirades I used to go on. I’ll yell one word just to get Avery’s attention, but I’ve even stopped doing that lately.

I’m already noticing a change in my relationship with Avery. I’m more loving towards him (I had gotten to the point of not enjoying our time together) and he’s more responsive and happier. Ranger seems happier too, more laid back and not as quick to have a total melt down. I feel better about my parenting and like I’m more in control of the situations. I’ve even gotten back into setting aside time twice a day to totally focus on Avery and do some sort of activity with him as well as giving him quiet him-and-mommy reading time before bed.

Yelling has been replaced with the question: “Is what you are doing a good idea?” Maybe Avery’s a bit young to really ‘get’ that question, but it makes him stop and I help him decide that he needs to stop and redirect his energy. I’ve also started telling him to look at me when I’m explaining something or asking him to stop his unacceptable behavior. This helps me feel like he’s listening and I can also read him better and adjust my message to suit his understanding and mood.

But, I have to admit…I haven’t only stopped yelling. Avery’s behavior had become alarming to me. So, along with not yelling I’ve also cracked down on Avery’s food and mine. I have cut out junk food and as much processed food as possible. So, no yelling and a healthy diet have already changed my relationship with my boys and the harmony of our little family.

Thanks Orange Rhino for the community and support to help me stop yelling and repair my family.

*

You’re most welcome! Thank you for your honesty and sharing with us. One of my favorite parts (besides the obvious how strong you are for leaving a bad relationship, how determined you were to get your BA, how courageous you are for wanting to change amidst such stress), was how you phrased what yelling and not yelling have done to your family. You wrote:

“…Yelling broke down my boys and destroyed our relationship.” Wow. Such a powerful statement, one that I think many of us can relate to, even if we don’t want to admit it.

You also wrote how in not yelling for just 5 days you’re more loving and your sons are happier. Wow. Another powerful statement, one that I think we all dream of. Being more loving and having happier children.

This no yelling thing is kind of cool, right?

Less Yelling at my kids = Less Frustration

68 days down, 297 days to go!

Dear ChiWei,

Thanks for asking a great question! You might not like my answer. It is going to sound hokey and unbelievable and well, weird. But the truth is the truth right? I hope my answer is helpful and that it encourages you to give T­­he Orange Rhino Challenge a try.

Cheers,
The Orange Rhino

*

Question:
If you (The Orange Rhino) don’t yell, how do you let out those emotions that a nice scream-fest would relieve you of?  I mean, not yelling for a year is some serious business, and that can be some serious festering!

Short Answer: I don’t let out those emotions because believe it or not, I don’t feel them building up anymore!

Long Answer: Read below!
I started to write a response and then I realized I needed a graph. Seriously, you would think I am a mathematician based on how I see things in chart and graph form. Anyway, I hope that this line graph answers your question.

Isn't it pretty and fancy?!! ha!

Believe it or not, right now I have little to no festering going on. Yup. You read that right. Little to no festering going on, so not a lot of need to release emotions. But it was NOT always like that. The level of festering has gone up and down, mostly driven by the lack of release, just as you identified. But per the graph, I think my “fester” level will be pretty low, if not zero, from here on out. Why? What changed from start to now?

All of this happened…

Days 0 – 2 of Not Yelling: Hard. As. H*ll. Period. No other way to describe it. Not yelling was exhausting. At the end of each day I had nothing left in me. Absolutely nothing. I was totally spent and frazzled from talking to myself ALL DAY LONG reminding myself to use my indoor voice, to try whispering, to be more patient, to do this to do that all to ensure I didn’t yell. All the talking in my head was enough to make me want to scream! Despite the mental exhaustion (which is why I rated these two days at HIGH) I didn’t miss yelling. Not yelling was too new to have any festering going on. No release needed.

Day 2 ~ 2 weeks of Not Yelling: No room for festering, only feeling fantastic. Absolutely fantastic. I had a natural high growing rapidly from the pride and satisfaction of controlling myself, from the improved behavior of the boys, from the greater sense of calm in the house. This natural high easily covered up any built up stress from not relieving said emotions via yelling. That, and there is this great Orange Rhino Challenge Community 😉 that kept “listening” to me every time I wanted to yell. So I guess I did a little releasing in that way, but otherwise, again no need to.

2 weeks ~ 4 weeks of Not Yelling: Hello Reality!
This would be approximately the time I started yelling into my closet, into my garage, into the fridge. Yup. Yelling at anything that didn’t have feelings and yelling wherever/whenever my boys weren’t around to witness it. Why now? Why did I start feeling the need to release now? Because the honeymoon wore off and the reality hit. Not yelling is a lifestyle change and it is HARD work. The pressure of trying to keep it together, to not yell, was intense. The initial high had disappeared, although still came in spurts throughout the days, and I just wanted to quit. But I couldn’t. So I yelled at inanimate objects (that was my “out” if you will). And sometimes I stomped my feet. And I felt better. And it brought me the release. For a while.

4 weeks ~ 8 weeks of Not Yelling: Kickboxing anyone?!
I am not sure, when, how, where or what happened during this time period but not yelling simply became habit.  I was over the hump! I lost all desire to yell, both at my kids and at my clothes, it just wasn’t fulfilling anymore (read here). On the outside, I had it all pulled together. Nope, no tension to release via a scream-fest here. But then one day WHOA! My husband said to me: “Babe, you need to take kickboxing or something, anything, you’ve got some serious tension growing!” He was right. I had actually just looked into kickboxing the day before.

8 weeks ~ 10 weeks of Not Yelling: Much smoother Sailing
I didn’t take up kick-boxing but I have made exercise a priority as I find it is my release. And heck, it is way better than yelling. Yelling doesn’t burn nearly as many calories or help my jeans fit! So the substitution is definitely worth it. Between exercising and not yelling, I am less tense, less angry, less worrisome, less everything negative. I truly feel more peaceful and at ease with myself, my parenting, my life AND I feel much more in love with my kiddos.

You see, as I have learned to not yell, I’ve learned to be more loving, more patient, more calm, and more understanding of my kids and their “annoying” actions. As a result, the kids’ behavior is actually LESS frustrating to me which means LESS (no) yelling which means LESS (no) festering. Seriously. So I am not really finding the need to release pent up emotion as much. Because it doesn’t exist.

That said…there are moments when I feel frustration just starting and then I immediately do some of these odd tricks to ensure the feelings don’t grow and have no place to go but out, via a scream!!!

PUSH-UPS. If I know that I am going to lose it, then I drop and do push-ups until I feel better. I know, it sounds funny but it is a double win, quadruple actually. It makes me feel better (releases endorphins or something like that?!), makes my arms look better, it makes me kids stop and go WTF is mom doing which defuses the situation AND sometimes it even makes them want to join in which makes them feel better too. Sometimes instead of push-ups I do wall presses, jumping jacks, or stomp my feet. (The latter is really good at getting a marching band going with you which absolutely  defuses the situation.)

MUSIC Nothing like a good ‘ole fashioned dance party to fun music (Girls Just Wanna Have fun?!) to get me moving (more exercise) and smiling.

FACEBOOK Seriously, sometimes in the heat of the moment just typing it out on The Orange Rhino Challenge FB page brings me release. It’s like I took the stressful moment, typed it out (sometimes rather aggressively, for sure) and sent it into cyber space never to be seen again. And if writing it out doesn’t release my stress from not yelling, then just being on The Orange Rhino Challenge facebook page will. Because it brings me peace by reminding I am not alone in this struggle. Seriously.

 

It takes Courage to Not Yell at my kids…

65 days down, 300 to go!

Dear Mean Man at Smashburger (story here),

I had words for you a year ago and I have words for you now. I am no longer going to let your past meanness make my stomach turn every time I drive by Smashburger. I am no longer going to avoid eating somewhere I want because of my embarrassment from yelling at you. I am no longer going to be afraid of running into you and having to relive that awful encounter we “shared.” Why? Because I found courage to overcome those fears. So prepare yourself to be seeing me again. I know I’m ready, are you?

Peace,
The Orange Rhino

*
1 man. I was afraid of running into 1 random man for 12 months. 12 months. That’s 365 days of ridiculousness and numerous missed opportunities of enjoying a good greasy burger. I know that is a wee bit dramatic but you get the point. I let fear, a pretty irrational and easy to overcome one, keep me from enjoying a good thing. And I didn’t just miss out on the burger. Every time I drove past Smashburger and mentally relived that horrific moment I lost touch with the current moment. I lost touch of a moment that I could be enjoying. And since I am awesome at dwelling, I lost touch of other moments later in the day too.

Yeah, I have issues. I get that.

I get that normal people wouldn’t let some things a stranger said get to them for 12 months. But what can I say, the fact that he picked on me when I was vulnerable, sad and frustrated because I didn’t know what was wrong with my son, the fact that he picked on my son when he too was vulnerable, sad and frustrated, well it just hit a nerve.

It hit a nerve so hard that I couldn’t let go of it for 12 months.

Until today.

Today I found the courage to go into Smashburger and get those fries I wanted a year ago. After 365 days I found the courage.

And where did I find said courage?

The Orange Rhino Challenge.

How you ask? That doesn’t make sense. What do not yelling and courage have to do with each other?

Oh so much. It took major courage to admit to myself, to my family, to my friends, to the cyber world that I yell too much. And it took major courage, perhaps even more, to decide to change and stop yelling at my kids, because in doing so, I knew I was taking on a very difficult challenge. And I was, and still am, desperately afraid of failing and reverting to being the mom who I like, but don’t always love because she yells. But I needed to take on This Challenge, for my kids and myself, even if it was going to be hard, even if I was afraid.

And so it donned on me yesterday, if I can find the courage to start this challenge, and go 65 days without yelling, then I certainly can find the courage to go into a silly fast food restaurant and buy some fries. And I can even run into the mean man if our paths are meant to cross.

Because, now, 1 year later, I am an Orange Rhino. I am a mom (person) who has the energy, determination and STRENGTH to forge ahead and exist with more composure and warmth (and certainly without the yelling)!

I am a mom who has the COURAGE to change. I am a mom willing to admit I was being silly. I am a mom who CAN do something she didn’t ever think she could do in a thousand years.  Whether that means not yelling at my kids or going into Smashburger. And I am glad I have changed. Not just because I finally got my fries (which of course didn’t live up to my expectations, perhaps because victory of overcoming my fear tasted better?) but also for this reason.

I didn’t go to Smashburger for an entire year because of how badly that experience made me feel. One man’s nastiness when I was vulnerable, sad, and frustrated made me feel that way 10x over and silently impacted my life in little ways for a year. (I know that sounds silly, but it is true. Gosh did I get a sinkin’ feeling in my stomach every.single.time. I had to drive by en route to the grocery store.) I felt all this tension and I am an adult.

So, imagine how my kids felt when I used to yell at them when they were vulnerable, sad, and frustrated???

When they just wanted to be loved and held and told it was alright after I stepped on a favorite toy they left out and my foot broke it? When they just needed love, not a snide lecture, when they didn’t want to go to bed because they were scared of monsters but couldn’t explain that to me?

Imagine how I made them feel. Imagine how long they feel, not felt, that pain? I know kids are supposedly resilient and forget but still.

Just sayin’…. Food for thought.

So I am glad I have changed. I am glad I found the courage to do this Challenge and I am so glad I have found you all, The Orange Rhino Community. The Community that has supported me via Facebook messages, by reading my blog, by sharing themselves. You might not realize it but you helped me find the courage I needed to achieve this today:

Notice the fries are almost all gone?! Or are you too busy laughing at my "cover up" attempts to stay anonymous?! Either way, I DID IT!!!

See? I actually did it!!! I wasn’t just writing about it! I walked right on in, head held high, and bought my fries. Yes, I surveyed the restaurant over and over for Mr. Mean. Yes, I had a few butterflies in my stomach. And YES I feel GREAT. In fact, I am still giddy.

Because today I Smashed a fear. I heard it Sizzle out and disappear. And then I Savored the moment. I savored how great it felt to have the strength and courage to do something I was afraid to do, to do something I didn’t think I could do. It. Was. Awesome. Kind of like realizing that I’ve gone 65 days without yelling at my kids, something I never thought I could do, something I never had the courage to do. It. Is. Awesome.

 

Self Awareness

64 days down, 301 to go!

Sorry there is no post tonight. I had big plans, gigantic plans for posting tonight. And then life happened. And I am okay with that. I have to be. Because if I let it get to me, the disappointment in myself for not posting, then I’ll be cranky. And if I am cranky I’ll yell. And that I will not do. Not when I am 1 day away from 300 days remaining! Not when I know I can survive as a mom without yelling.

One of my personal rules for not yelling: Self Awareness. Know your triggers and treat them with respect 🙂 One of my triggers is being pre-occupied with feeling not good enough, not doing a good enough job. Well tonight, I am not letting that trigger win. I will not be set up to be cranky. Instead, I am going to focus on feeling good about having self awareness.

Please check back in tomorrow. I will definitely be posting.

The Orange Rhino

No Clever Title…Ask me why?

63 days down, 302 to go!

Dear Brain,
Is it too much to ask of you to be creative when I need you to? To come up with a clever name for the idea I am about to share? Clearly it is. Because I’ve been sitting here for several hours trying to come up with a catch phrase that will intrigue people and inspire them to respond and yet all that is happening is I am quickly growing frustrated and tired. So the gig is up. I either don’t post and be frustrated that I didn’t or I post something that doesn’t meet my standards. I’m going with the latter. And I am going to be okay with it. In fact, I am going to feel liberated. Trying to live up to my standards all the time is exhausting. Enough already. I put too much pressure on myself and that makes me stressed which makes we want to yell. And we know I can’t do that anymore. So this is my first attempt at letting my standards slide, a little.

P.S. Since you refused to be creative tonight can you at least telepathically ask the readers of this blog to forgiving of the grammatical errors and lack of organizational clarity?? 

Thanks,
The Orange Rhino

*


“Questions provide the key to unlocking our unlimited potential.” – Anthony Robbins

A friend of mine who helped me get this blog going (THANKS!) gave me the great idea of having a night when I open the blog up for questions and then I can reply to one question that week. I love this idea for so many reasons – and I am brain tired tonight so I am going to use bullet points to tell you why.

  • Your questions force me to remember how I have kept from yelling, how I have gotten this far…
  • Your questions force me stop and think and push myself a little harder to try new ways to keep from yelling…
  • Your questions remind me I am not alone on this journey and force me to KEEP GOING even when I want to quit!

In short, your questions INSPIRE ME. And I hope my answers INSPIRE YOU. 

Have you ever noticed that Rhinos always have little birdies on their backs? It is called a symbiotic relationship (thanks Go, Diego go for reminding me of that this morning) – the birds help the Rhino and the Rhino helps the birds.

It is the same here, at The Orange Rhino Challenge. You help me with your questions and in turn, I want to help you.

So once a week I am going to open up the blog for YOUR QUESTIONS. Please post your questions in the comment section below. Any and all questions are welcome, ie:

  • Why do I feel like giving up yelling is like giving up drugs or chocolate?
  • How do you not yell at your kids during a pillow fight? Walk me through it?
  • Do you really feel like a better person?
  • Why should I do this Challenge?
I will answer 1 of the questions weekly. And someday, when my brain is working, I will have a clever title for the question night beyond “Ask the Orange Rhino.” Suggestions WELCOME. Orange Rhino Request? Rhino Revelations? You ask, I’ll tell, not yell? Please ask, don’t yell? You ask, I’ll listen?
We’ll see how this works. In the meanwhile, let’s give it a go.
What is your Orange Rhino Inquiry?

 

Yelling makes me Feel Better, Part 2!

62 days down, 303 to go!

Dear Orange Rhino readers,

Given the response to last night’s blog I feel obliged to share with you a story B.C. (before challenge). What I am about to share is embarrassing (at least in my eyes) but I share it with you for two reasons: 1) to show you that I was indeed a yeller and 2) to show you the power of The Orange Rhino Challenge, how it has changed me.

Read tonight’s post and then yesterdays if you have the time 🙂 Look at the difference! Taking this challenge has changed me in so many ways. Besides the fact that I am now uber cheesy, writing things like CHOOSE LOVE, I am actually a more positive, patient, calm, loving person. And I am like this in all aspects of my life, not just parenting. Because the adjustments I am making to keep from yelling are spilling over into the rest of my life, ie. yesterday’s story where I didn’t dwell, or yell, where I chose to not be angry because I knew it wouldn’t do a darn thing. That story would have had a different ending if it weren’t for The Orange Rhino Challenge. It would have looked more like this…

Enjoy,
The Orange Rhino

*

Date:   April 2011 (a year ago almost to the day!)

Background:
Every month for 7 months straight, #3 would get a 104+ fever that would last for 5-7 days. During the fever, he wouldn’t eat or drink due to mouth sores and severe lethargy. When the fever broke the dehydration and starvation would hit…along with a huge wave of cantankerous behavior and screaming fits out of the blue that lasted for up to an hour. And nothing would soothe him. Nothing. It was MISERABLE.

So here we are 7 months into #3’s mystery illness. I am about 7 months pregnant and my boys are 4 ½ year old, 3 years old, and 19 month old.

It’s a beautiful spring day. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, sky is blue and a light breeze is blowing. It was the perfect day right out of a movie. We were having work done to our kitchen so we had to go out to lunch. Okay, I thought, what a great opportunity to try the new burger joint (I can’t even remember the name because I blocked it out.) Being wicked pregnant and all, the idea of a burger and fries sounded beyond delicious. Especially since I would have a babysitter in tow and could actually sit and enjoy said burger.

Or so I thought.

I purposely went out to eat early, before the crowds, just in case #3 had a meltdown since we were in a post fever week. I figured at 11:15 at a casual, almost McDonald’s type place we would be safe.

Boy was I wrong.

The minute, no I mean second, I opened the door #3 started one of his out of control, horrific, miserable tantrums. As #3 started up, and I tried to hold him and soothe him all while carrying a huge baby bump, my babysitter took #1 and #2 to the bathroom. And that’s when I felt them.

The two blue, almost silver eyes, no daggers, glaring at me from across the restaurant. They were so full of venom that I literally felt them tearing me apart. Judging me. Ridiculing me. Resenting me. Hating me. Hating my child.

I was trapped. Literally, and emotionally.

I couldn’t leave because my boys were in the bathroom. I couldn’t leave because I was so appalled and hurt by this man’s glare that I was paralyzed with sadness. Sadness from having a sick child who I hadn’t been able to help for months. A sick child who I literally just had 12 vials of blood taken that week to see what was wrong. To see if maybe something was seriously wrong. Like really really wrong.

I was trapped and I didn’t know what to do. I kept trying to soothe #3. We walked away from the man but I refused to leave. I refused to give him, the ONE man in the restaurant the satisfaction. But then I had enough. My pregnancy hormones got the best of me.

Me:  “Excuse me, do you have a problem?

Jerk:  “Yeah I do. Your kid. You. Take him outside.”

Me:  “I can’t. I’m waiting for my family and our food. He’s hungry. He just needs to eat.”

Jerk: “Well, I’m trying to enjoy my lunch here. Take him elsewhere. You’re not even trying to stop him.”

I’m not even trying??? EXCUSE ME? Who the h*ll did he think he was? I was trying my damndest. What did he think I should be doing, yelling at my kid???? I am the FIRST to take my child out of a restaurant when they misbehave and are disruptive. But not here. This was a fast food, child friendly place. I had just as much right as he did to stay in there.

Oh did the tears of frustration and sadness start. And they FLOWED. At this point more people were coming in. The jerk’s eyes kept glaring but now were accompanied by a shake of the head. Look down, shake head, look up, Glare. Look down, share head, look up, Glare.  Repeat.

My babysitter came out with my boys, saw me crying and asked what was wrong. Bawling (hello pregnancy hormones!) I said:

“That mean man is picking on me and #3. I can’t soothe him. Let’s try to eat and if that doesn’t work, we’re out of here. ”

Just as I said that I decided no bloody way was this man winning. I wanted to sit and enjoy my fries because they were ridiculous. I stood up, stuck my pregnant belly out, took #3 on my hip and marched right over to him. But this time it wasn’t just him vs me. We had an audience. Oh yeah, my immature side was ready to come out and put on a show.

“Excuse me.”

He didn’t look up. Oh he knew what was coming.

“Excuse me.” I said, this time louder, more like a yell…

“Do you have kids?”

“Yes I do.”

“Well I feel sorry for them. I feel sorry that their dad has no heart. And no patience. I feel sorry for your wife that you would look at me, a pregnant mom STRUGGLING and working her ass off to help her child, and not offer help, but just judgment and criticism.”

Now the tears were really flowing. Thank you hormones for the dramatic gesture.

“And guess what. My son’s tantrum? It’s because he’s sick. Really sick. And we don’t know what’s wrong with him. In fact, he was just tested for Leukemia this week. Leukemia. Do you know what that is? Yeah that’s right. So how about that??? Next time you want to judge a mom, get all the facts.”

I turned around. Mouths were dropped. The place was quiet.

I was mortified.

Finally one of the cashiers stood up for me and brought me napkins and a water. I asked her for a take out bag. She readily obliged. I think everyone wanted me the heck out of there.

My kids looked at me.

“Mommy, why do we have to leave?”

“Because that jerk wasn’t being nice.”

“Mommy, what’s a jerk?”

Oi vey. Add that word to the list of things they shouldn’t know at their young ages.

*

I haven’t been back to that Burger Joint since. And I just remembered the name. SmashBurger. Well isn’t that appropriate. I now remember wanting to go over and smash his burger and say “Here’s your SmashBurger you a*shole.”  But I think I did enough damage that day.

I can easily say that he deserved to be yelled at it, that it was okay. But it wasn’t. I could have been more “eloquent” in my message. And I can easily say that yelling made me feel better. But it only did for a moment. Because once I started yelling, I couldn’t stop. And by the time I did, I was embarrassed by my tirade. Really embarrassed. So embarrassed in fact that I won’t go back to that restaurant out of fear of having someone recognize me…1 year later.

So once again, yelling didn’t achieve anything, because that guy is probably still a jerk, because I scared my kids and simultaneously taught them how NOT to handle a tough situation. And because that restaurant probably still has unbelievable french fries that I am too afraid to go and enjoy. And I really like French fries. And more importantly, I really love my kids and don’t like to scare them.Oh, Orange Rhino Challenge, where were you when I needed you?! Just glad that I found you….

(P.S. My son is healthy now.Phew.)

Yelling makes me feel better

61 days down, 304 to go!

Dear Nasty Lady at the Restaurant,
It was so nice of you to make fun of my husband and I while we were in ear shot. Thanks, I really appreciated (and needed) that. Looking back, you inadvertently taught me that I have changed and that yelling really doesn’t achieve a thing. So I guess my thanks is genuine. Darnnit. I really didn’t want to say anything nice regarding you.

Blech,
The Orange Rhino

*

A few weekends ago, my husband and I had the rare opportunity to go out to dinner, just the two of us. Well, at least in theory. We didn’t have our four boys with us but instead we had the privilege of being squeezed in between two other tables of 2. In fact, we were so close together it felt like we were a party of 6. I could hear everything the couples next to us said. You see, I have supersonic hearing and can carry on my own conversation and hear and remember 1 to 2 others at the same time. It’s mostly a blessing, ie. I can hear my boys whispering their plot to cause trouble from across the room while on the phone. But it’s also a curse. Big time. On this particular night out, it was a curse.

In usual self confessed dorky Orange Rhino husband and wife fashion, the first thing we did on our intimate night out was talk business, tonight’s conversation being what reward system we want to use at home to help the boys become more responsible. We’re thorough and analytical people. We covered all the pros and cons of different systems. Actually, we exhausted all the options.

Do we do points or stickers on a chart? Or do we do money or gold dabloons (ie. Jake and the Pirates) in a jar/treasure chest?  Do we only reward good behavior or do we also subtract for bad behavior?

We decided on gold dabloons in a treasure chest. Most visual, most fun.

Next.

Well how many gold dabloons do you get for clearing your plate? For making your bed? Then how many gold dabloons are needed for a reward? What about #3, he is too young to collect, he’ll want instant gratification. How do we handle that?

I won’t bore you with the iterations. You get the point. We were being anal, but to us, it was an important conversation. Helping our kids learn to be responsible, polite, loving kids is important to us. Is that dorky? Is it loserish to be committed to finding a reward system that will easily, clearly, and fairly help inspire these new behaviors? I don’t think so.

Well to our neighbors to my left, specifically the single, clearly no children, under the age of 30 woman, our personal and important conversation did. In fact, she thought our private conversation was hilarious. So funny in fact she felt it necessary to start making fun of us. Yup. While we were sitting not more than 2 feet away. And given my supersonic hearing, I heard every word.

Her: “What losers. They are out without kids and they are talking about reward systems.”
Him: “Shhh. You’re talking loud. They can hear you.”
Her: “I don’t care. Wait, do I lose 2 gold dabloons for being rude? Or is it 1?”
Him: “Shhh. Please. Seriously. It’s embarrassing.”
Her: “Honey, you get 1 gold dabloon for saying please. Would you like 2 gold dabloons for getting out of bed in the morning?”

I won’t bore you with her iterations either as she went on for oh say, 10 minutes? And it just got more hurtful with every jab at us. Tears slowly started to fill my eyes and I fought my hardest to keep them from falling onto my plate. I fought my hardest to keep her from knowing how upset I was. I fought my hardest to keep myself from taking my glass of red wine and throwing it at her yellow blouse. You see, I’ve had the distinct honor of catching people talking badly about me on numerous occasions…the first being when I was 6. Yup, it was that bad that I still remember it. So to say the least, this chick, this obnoxious chick, really hit a nerve.

And oh did I want to YELL. I wanted to scream at her. I wanted to tell her to go screw herself and that she had no idea about parenting and how hard it is. I wanted her to get up to go to the bathroom and have to say “Excuse Me” to us  just so that I could say, “Of course! That is 2 gold dabloons for asking so politely!” And well if she never got up I wanted to turn to her and say “You know, I can hear you. And it is incredibly rude to be listening to my conversation and making fun of it, all while we can hear you.”

But my husband wouldn’t let me do any of those things. As he so perfectly put it that I immediately put it in my blackberry to remember…

“What would yelling at her do? Sure it would make you feel better, but what would it accomplish? Nothing. You’ll still feel crappy. She might pick a fight making things worse. And it will ruin what is supposed to be a nice night out.”

He was right. Yelling REALLY would make me feel better. But he was also right that it wouldn’t achieve anything. The cons of yelling far outweighed the pros… darn it!

So I sat there, not yelling and trying to ignore her and enjoy my dinner. Which is exactly what I did. Which was a really big step for me. Before Challenge, I would have sat there and pouted, sat there and felt embarrassed, annoyed, angry, sat there and thought well maybe she is right, maybe we do sound like losers. Before Challenge, I would have let her ruin my night.

But not tonight. The new me, The Orange Rhino, who is learning to stay calm, find perspective, let go and more, decided to think Screw her!  This is my night out with my husband. I am not going to let some nasty woman ruin my night. I am not going to let anger ruin my night. I am going to choose love. I am going to choose to love my time with the one I love.

And I did.

And it felt great. Much better than yelling would have. My husband gets 2 gold dabloons for great advice. And I think I deserve 5 for listening to said advice, 10 for telling him he was right, and 20 for not yelling (even though she more than deserved it!!!)

Even though this post is about me as an adult and not a mom per say, I think the take aways apply to my life as a mom too, don’t you? When have you wanted to yell but didn’t? Did you feel better?

 

“Stay Calm and …”

58 days down, 307 to go

A Flashback to Day 2, TAKE 3

February 9, 2012

Dear Ketchup?,
I want to thank you for causing a pretty intense allergic reaction on #2’s arm tonight right in the middle of the Orange Rhino family melt-down hour. I really needed another medical problem to look into and resolve. It’s not like I don’t have enough on my plate with the news that #3 is allergic to peanuts and that #1’s nose is still bothering him two weeks after his adenoid surgery. But I hate to tell ya, while you tried really hard to get me all stressed out and all geared up to yell at the three other kids clamoring for my attention during your little trick, I didn’t. Better luck next time. Go find some mustard to pick on. Or better yet, figure out what the heck caused the allergic reaction.

Cheers,

The Orange Rhino

*

YAHOO! Day 2 success! Yeah baby. Feeling good. Love being back in the saddle. It’s amazing how just one day so easily turned into two. And it wasn’t easy but the high of success, of knowing that I COULD do it, made me thirsty for more. Thirsty for more of that feeling of control, of peace, of love, of pride.

I was proud of myself for keeping it together. Especially when I wanted to scream at #1 “just shut up!!!!!” because his jabbering at me, all while I was anxiously watching #2’s arm rapidly swell up, was getting on my nerves just as fast as the reaction was spreading. The hives went from the elbow to his fingers in seconds puffing up his entire hand. I was scared sh*tless; I had never seen such an intense allergic reaction before. I had no idea what caused it (I think the ketchup, buy maybe the corn, or a bug bite?) and I couldn’t call the doctor because it was between office hours and on call hours. Perfect timing. Why does this always happen to me? And how dare the doctor’s office not have coverage at the worst hour of the day, when everything happens?! That’s a whole separate post….

Anywho, while I knew the pediatrician would say give him Benadryl, FAST, I was hesitant to give it to him. In the past #2 hasn’t responded to it at all and actually had a psychotic response which included throwing books at my face. Seriously. But somewhere amidst this fear, and anxiety, and chaos, I found peace and control and was able to think things through rationally. I decided to risk the Benadryl because I knew that stopping the reaction was far more important than my not wanting another busted lip or my not wanting to deal with #2 bouncing off the walls until 1030 that night.

Thank the Benadryl Gods, it worked. Reaction stopped quickly and Thank whomever, #2 didn’t have an adverse response. And I guess thank the Orange Rhino Challenge for keeping me in check! Phew, crisis averted.

I am so glad I didn’t yell.

Not just because I don’t want to go back to 0 again and have to struggle to get out (it was such a crappy 9 day struggle!) but because it would have just made matters worse. #1 was jabbering away because he was nervous. When I’m nervous or scared, he feels the same, x10. If I had yelled at him, in his fragile state, he would have just burst into tears. Then I would have had two hysterical kids to deal with which on top of my stress at that moment, would have definitely SUCKED. And it would have easily put me over the edge making it impossible for me to think clearly. Which is precisely what I needed to do – both to handle the situation and to keep from yelling.

I stayed calm and thought things through.  

Oh frightening, I just paraphrased a line from one of my boys’ TV shows. In a Word World TV Show episode, two of the Word Friends frantically try to build a word and can’t. So another friend says:

Stay calm and think things through.

Stay calm and think things through.

Yes, that is sound advice Word Friends.

I will keep trying to stay calm and think things through – it worked wonders for me tonight! (I will also try to watch more adult TV shows…I am a little worried that I am naturally reciting a kids show. LOL)

*

Fast forward 55 days. I am still staying calm and thinking things though. When I want to yell I stop and think, why do I want to yell? Is it really necessary? Will it even work or will it makes things worse?

Is there another solution to yelling that will get the same, rather, better result??? The answer is yes. It’s always yes. Except well maybe in emergency situations, see Challenge Details 🙂

There are lots of other solutions to yelling. And when I am CALM and think things through, I can figure out the non-yelling solution fairly easily. It might take longer to get my desired action to take place, but the benefits are well worth the wait. So I am doing my darndest to stay calm, at ALL times. And let me tell you, seeing as I am not naturally a calm person except in emergencies (this is backwards, I know, I’m weird!), this is a huge task for me. Huge. Gigantic. Enormous!!! But I have proof it works so I am going to keep at it until the calmness has taken over my entire body, kind of like an allergic reaction, but a really good one!

Are you trying to not yell? What is your favorite non-yelling solution? Tell me! If I am going to go 307 more days I might need some new tricks! 

P.S. If you are celebrating one of the holidays with family this weekend (like I am) and you get stressed with all the extra chaos (like I do) and want everyone to go home early (like I will) just remember…stay calm and think things through and then maybe you won’t yell at them to get the heck out of your house!!! LOL. Enjoy the holidays.

How does it feel NOT yelling at my kids for 56 days?

56 days down, 309 to go! 

Dear Neighbor,
You asked me how it feels to not yell for 56 days. Are you sure you want the answer? The real answer?

Prepare Yourself,
The Orange Rhino

*

Yesterday I told you not yelling felt great. Amazing.
And it does. More than most of the time.
In the beginning I told you it made my kids listen more.
And it does. More than most of the time.
But I can’t lie.
Sometimes not yelling doesn’t feel amazing because sometimes
my kids don’t listen more.
Because they are kids.
And just like me, they have good days and bad days.
And during those moments when they don’t listen,
I mean REALLY DON’T LISTEN and it feels like they are all giving me the middle finger  and don’t give a hoot what I have to say…
I want to yell.
I want to yell because Yelling used to be my go-to parenting method when all else failed.
And it always worked. It always got my kids to stop and listen.
Because it scared them.  And I don’t want to scare my kids. I love them.
And so I can’t yell.
And it turns out, I can’t even cry…

This afternoon was brutal. Change is coming to the Orange Rhino Household and mommy is anxious, and overwhelmed, and nervous, and scared, and sad. The list goes on and on and on. And my boys sense it. When I am anxious #1 is twice as anxious and his response is to be over silly and hyper and to not listen which of course gets #2 and #3 acting the same way. The three feed off of each other and the house goes from acceptably calm and quiet for having 4 boys in it to loud, rambunctious, and intolerable. Simply stated, if mommy shows signs of being anxious, even if she isn’t yelling, then my household spirals into a world of chaos. A world where I feel like I have no control, no power, and I just want the madness to stop.

And today I just wanted to cry. I stood in the middle of the chaos surrounding me – my boys running around yelling and my to-do list yelling at me to get to it – and I wanted to cry. I wanted to bawl. I wanted all my feelings of being overwhelmed to pour out of me and be gone. But I couldn’t.

The tears wouldn’t come.

I was pissed. I felt cheated. How come my boys can release their anger, their frustration, their anxiety via a good ‘ole fashioned temper tantrum, with tears pouring out, and I can’t? I was pissed I couldn’t cry and I was pissed I couldn’t yell. Because both would have made me feel better and I couldn’t do either.

Harrumph.

What did the situation feel like?

I felt weak, truly. I felt like I could just collapse.
I don’t think I could have even screamed if I wanted too, I was so tired.
I felt overwhelmed.
I felt desperate.
I felt hopeless. Powerless.
I felt defeated.
I guess you could say I felt pretty sh*tty.
All I wanted to do was cry.
And the tears wouldn’t even come.
I couldn’t yell and I needed to release.

I couldn’t move my legs to stomp out my frustration because they were too weak from walking back and forth, room to room, talking directly to my boys to try to get the desired behavior. My legs were too weak from going up and down the stairs bringing #1 to his room to cool down, again and again.

I couldn’t even whisper because I was tired of trying to communicate.

I couldn’t even bring myself to get the camera because well, what was the point? The kids were running around me in a whirlwhind, a camera wouldn’t catch them, there wasn’t a photo that would make me laugh.

I couldn’t even take deep breaths because my heart was beating so fast from my blood boiling.

I felt hopeless. Powerless.
I felt defeated.
And all I wanted to do was yell.
Because I knew that would work.
I knew it would stop my kids dead in their tracks.
It would demand they give me attention. It would demand that they listen to me.

If only for a moment.
One moment.
But then the tears would come. Not mine, but theirs.
And with it the guilt, theirs and mine.
So I knew I couldn’t yell. And I didn’t know what else to do.
I didn’t know how to stop the madness.
And so all I wanted to do was cry.
And the damn tears wouldn’t come.
They wouldn’t free me from my feelings.
They wouldn’t let me body release the frustration it felt.

So I stood still, paralyzed by frustration.

I stood still.

And suddenly I stopped trying to control the situation. I stopped trying to control their behavior. And I started trying to control MYSELF. I searched for calm. And clarity.  And tried hard to not pull out my hair or throw something across the room in the process.

Clarity came first. Get a book. Just start reading. They will come.
And I did.
And they did.
And then the calm came.
I survived another whirlwind of boys’ insanity without yelling.
Phew.

*

So how do I feel not yelling for 56 days?

Well at the beginning of this post tonight I’d say I felt powerless.

Because yelling gave me power to handle and stop the most difficult situations. And without it…I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to discipline when the going gets really tough without saying mean things and raising my voice to a ridiculously loud level. And it is REALLY frustrating. So frustrating that the tears wouldn’t even come because my body was so tense. And it kind of sucks to realize that. To realize how heavily I relied on yelling.

But, wait, I just realized something else. LOVE when that happens. I DO know what to do. Don’t yell. Stand still. Just stand still and wait until composure finds me. Because it will. Because I want it to find me. And when there is a will, there is a way. And boy am I glad it did find me. Because really, choosing not to yell and following through, feels pretty amazing. In fact, I don’t feel powerless anymore, I feel powerful.

What do you do when you feel like you have lost control of your household? Do you yell? If not, please tell me your secret! Do you stand still? Do you get a book? What do you do when all. Else. Fails?! Comment below…

“Daddy yell. Daddy not nice.”

55 days down, 310 to go!

Dear Fellow Orange Rhinos,

I have some very exciting news to report. We have another Orange Rhino in the making! My dear husband, someone who inspired me to be a better person from the moment we met (truly), someone who supported my wish to start and take on this Challenge from Day 1, someone who RARELY ever yells, has decided it is time he takes the Challenge. I couldn’t be more excited. Not just because it means more love going around the house, but also because it means I have an immediate Orange Rhino Challenge partner at my side. Challenges are doable alone, but hard. Challenges shared are more fun, more rewarding, and easier. Easier because we can watch and learn from each other real time. Or so that is my hope.

Post-it Countdown. Orange, of course. With silly inspirational sayings each day. Of course. This is what I used before I had a fancy ticker.

 

Here’s to you “Maxwell.” I’m proud of you! I made this to help you since you so lovingly made me something the day I started. Hope it helps!

Cheers,

The Orange Rhino

*

 

I am going to out my husband. I hope he doesn’t mind. Pretty sure he won’t since we’ve all been there, done that. Me A LOT more times than him. Yesterday we were struggling as parents. Really struggling. The three older boys were just wound up beyond belief and we were, well, tired from the night before. From a crazy night of staying out until, get this 11:30. WHOA.

So we were basically spent by 4pm. And that is when the boys just got really started. So considerate of them. They were running in and out of the house, up and down stairs, calling each other poopy faces, throwing pillows, making a deliberate mess, yelling. You know, they were being kids (perhaps not well behaved at this moment, but we all have our moments!) But today neither my husband nor I had a lot of patience for it. We wanted to sit on the couch and be lazy. Like the good ‘ole days. We had no desire to try and keep peace in the house…we had no desire to parent.

But obviously, we had too. We tried. Oh did we try!

And nothing we did to settle them down worked. Nothing. We kept trying old ways, new ways. Even our tried and true start whispering didn’t work. They just were h*ll bent on not listening to us. We both looked at each other. Exasperated. It was time to clean up for the night. So we split up. He went upstairs. I stayed downstairs.

Through the chaos, I remained calm.

My husband, however, finally lost it. Completely. So bad that our 2.5 year old came running to me saying “Daddy yell. Daddy not nice.”

Oh and was that an understatement! (I am NOT passing judgment. My rants were far worse and more frequent than his. And no one is perfect. Especially me. I might not be yelling but I still have other areas of improvement. Trust me.)

Anyway…

I heard the tears from #1 and the tone of my husband’s voice and ran upstairs. This had to stop. Forget it being mean and hurtful and all that jazz…I knew it wasn’t going to work. Yelling wasn’t going to inspire my son to clean up. It wasn’t going to stop him from calling us “garbage cans.” It wasn’t going to stop him from being “silly” and throwing books at us. It wasn’t going to make him less mad at us for stopping his party. No, it really wasn’t going to accomplish a darn thing except piss him off more and make him feel unloved. And it is our job as parents to make him feel loved, unconditionally.

So I flew upstairs and the following words calmly came out of my mouth:

“Sweetheart, you need to stop yelling. It is not going to work. He needs love and empathy.”

I couldn’t believe those words came out of my mouth. My trash talking, yelling, ridiculing mouth. I used to be the yeller in the house. I used to look to my husband with wide eyed wonder, thinking how does he stay so calm, so patient? How does he never yell? How come I always do?

Now the roles were reversed. And it felt great. Not just because of the good ole husband vs wife “I told you so” spats that go on J but because it felt great to be on the other side of the yelling spectrum. Mostly because when I was on the yelling end, I felt crappy an awful lot. And guilty. And disappointed in myself. Now I feel proud, empowered, present, mostly calmer and so much more.

I really hope that my husband finds the same feelings. Especially the so much more piece that I can’t yet put into words!

After we managed to regain calm in the house and got the kids settled to bed my husband looked at me and said “I think I need to start The Orange Rhino Challenge.”

This was one time I was actually eager to say, “Yes dear, you are RIGHT!”

Are you trying The Orange Rhino Challenge? Are you doing it alone or with a friend? The more the merrier! Even try getting your kids involved. Read “The Orange Rhino Game” to see how my kids are involved.