Coincidence or Conspiracy?

Dear Orange Rhino Community,

I had the honor of being interviewed for a newspaper article recently. I don’t know when the article will publish, but I know this. I loved telling my story about The Orange Rhino Challenge. I loved the chance to stop and realize how much not yelling has really benefited me in so many ways beyond my parenting.  And I loved sharing about the incredible Orange Rhino community.

Talking about The Orange Rhino Challenge always gets me going – in a really good way. One of my favorite questions that got me all fired up because the answer still shocks me is: have you ever wanted to just scream your head off and quit? And if so, what happened?

My short answer? Oh yes, of course! Lots of times. It is hard work not yelling especially on the really hard days but miraculously every single time, truly every single time I hit my breaking point, someone surprised me with the most perfect, supportive gesture at the most perfect time. It’s surreal. There is a quote that goes something like “when you have a dream and believe in it, people conspire to make it happen.” I have proved this quote true to be true and that is what I have loved so much about The Orange Rhino Challenge. It is moms and dads, mostly strangers, helping each other to make dreams of being a better parent happen. It’s just been an amazing, very touching journey.

My long answer? It turns out the real quote by Paulo Coelho goes:
“When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize this dream.”

Yes. Yes, yes, yes! There have been many times when I wanted to just quit, but you all didn’t let me. Knowingly, or unknowingly, you all conspired to not let me quit when I wanted to.

I remember clear as yesterday the time I was driving up the hill around the corner from my house. I was talking to my mom, no bawling to my mom, saying “I just don’t think I can do this. It is so hard and exhausting and I just want to quit. I love writing but it stresses me out too because I feel so vulnerable after I share some of more personal stuff. Why did I make this promise? If I quit I’ll just let myself down and more so my boys so I can’t quit but oh I want to so badly. Mom….what am I supposed to do?” She of course said that I can do anything I put my mind to, that I couldn’t quit and to just give it one more day.

I came home to a surprise package from an Orange Rhino. The most beautiful note was inside as was this adorable Carter’s Orange Rhino sweatshirt. I mean really, Carter’s had orange rhinos on their clothes when I had my challenge going? What are the chances? I felt the world was sending me a message: don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. You’re onto something. Believe in yourself. Be an Orange Rhino!

And then there was the time when I was so overwhelmed with my to-do list that I couldn’t get a grip and I just wanted to scream at my kids. And voila! a college-ruled note pad showed up at my door in honor of one of my posts. My spirit lifted and I finally started chipping away at my list and the stress on my shoulder. I survived another day without yelling.

And I could go on and on about the most beautiful, gracious, thoughtful emails I have received from all of you thanking me for sharing. What you don’t realize is that every single one of those emails LITERALLY came when I was at my weakest. It was uncanny, really. I would be minutes away from writing my “this is my last post, I have had enough” post and one of you would send me a message that gave me strength and hope and I kept going. So really, I should be thanking you, not vice versa! And I should be thanking you for every time you read something I wrote, shared something, commented or even just liked my page. Your interest kept me up, reminded me that I was not alone, and pushed me through the day.

As does this little keychain. I’ll never forget the day I was so exhausted I dropped to the floor in tears and later on one of you messaged me about this awesome key chain. It was the only orange rhino and you said I must get it. Again, what are the chances of there being an orange rhino out there? Or even a friend finding an orange rhino butter dish to give to me? And what are the chances that the year I launch my blog orange would be the “it” color and everywhere I went I would see orange? And what are the chances that there would be a huge 10′ rhino statue where we went away for Mother’s Day? I mean really. Rhinos became cool this year. Coincidence?

Some people say you see what you want to see. That you can call all this perfect timing and perfect placement a coincidence. But it’s not.  It’s a conspiracy, a really powerful and awesome one. This year I have felt the world, all of you, conspiring to help me and well shoot, I am sitting here writing this with tears in my eyes.

I have changed this past year. I have grown up. I have opened up. I have found me again. I have found a more loving, patient and understanding relationship with my kids and I just feel really blessed to have had so much love and support. I am so grateful that I had a dream and the universe did indeed conspire to make it happen!

I have 6 days left on my Orange Rhino Challenge. My son asked me today what I was going to do to celebrate. He said I should bring a bunch of animals to our yard and paint them orange… and…(more importantly) that I should thank everyone.

The thing is, saying thank you just doesn’t even seem strong enough, but it’s a start.

THANK YOU.

Sincerely,
The Orange Rhino

 

How I “survive” bedtime.

358 days of not yelling, 7 days of loving more to go!

Dear Bed Time,

Oh Bed Time. Bed time, bed time, bed time. You used to be one of the hardest, longest hours of the day that I never thought I would survive without yelling! Within minutes of starting you, I would begin to experience sweaty palms, heart palpitations and of course an angry, impatient, yelling voice. Sadly, I have many a vivid memory of a bedtime gone terribly, terribly wrong. But ever since my “bedtime epiphany” early on in this Challenge, bedtime in The Orange Rhino house has been out right more enjoyable. And on some nights, get this, I actually LOVE you, dear bedtime. Can you believe it? All because I no longer “survive” you, but welcome you!

Hugs,
The Orange Rhino

*

I used to dread the bedtime hour. Dread it. The crying over the TV being turned off. The having to practically push each child upstairs. The water splashing all over me during bath time. The taking way tooooo long to brush teeth, to get dressed, to pick out a book. The running in and out of the bedrooms instead of sitting down for story time. The tickling each other during story time. The doing everything possible to keep from going to sleep and keep me from “me time.” I could go on and on. The bedtime hour in The Orange Rhino house used to be an absolute sh*t show storm! And at the end of a long day, well, it drove me nuts.

And so I used to scream, not yell, but scream. A lot.
And every night as I pulled my boy’s bedroom doors shut, I would feel awful, not bad, but awful.

DSC_0878And then one night about 350 days ago, it donned on me. Sometime between getting drenched with bath water, having toothpaste smeared on my jeans, listening to my boys argue over which Berenstain Bears book to read and feeling my blood pressure rise rapidly, I realized that I was approaching bed time ALL wrong.

You see, every night I was going into the bedtime routine with two totally useless and actually quite counterproductive thoughts:

1) “Harumph, this is going to be long and hard and ugly and a real pain in the a*s.” and
2) “Let’s get this hour done with already, I just want to get to my couple of hours of peace and quiet and uninterrupted me time.”

Yep, these two thoughts pretty much guaranteed the demise of bedtime. With a negative attitude like that bedtime didn’t even stand a chance for success or even a peaceful existence. Why?

If mommy is grumpy, the kids act out, mommy yells, the kids act out even more. Bedtime takes longer.

If mommy rushes, the kids go slower, mommy yells, the kids go even slower.  Bedtime takes longer.

And then….

If bedtime takes longer and the kids go to bed over tired and upset from mommy yelling, then chances are they won’t sleep well. And if they don’t sleep well, then the next day mommy and the boys are tired and by bedtime everyone is grumpy. And if mommy is grumpy, the kids act out, mommy yells and you guessed it bedtime takes longer. The cycle goes on and on and on.

Clearly, my negative thoughts about bedtime really did all of us a disservice. So I decided to let them go. That’s right, let them go. I traded in my negative thoughts for some much better ones. I stopped worrying about how I would “survive” bedtime and starting thinking about how I would embrace it.

Instead of thinking ugh, bedtime is going to be hard, I started thinking…

“Yes! Bedtime is going to be hard. I know it. I accept it. I will not be surprised or annoyed when it is. I will just go with it.” The result? I am calmer, the boys are calmer and most nights, bedtime goes infinitely smoother with a lot, and I mean a lot less tears.

And instead of thinking, “lets get this hour done already so I can have my glass of wine and peace and quiet” I started thinking…

“Yes! Let’s get this hour going! It’s my last hour of the day with my boys before I say goodnight for 12 hours. It’s not even a full hour; it’s only forty-give minutes. I can certainly stay calm for forty-five minutes! I am not going to rush; it does no good. Instead, I am going to enjoy the “forced” slow down and make the most of bedtime because I have no where else to be.“ The result? Bedtime is now one of my favorite hours of the day and not just because it is one hour closer to me time.

 

6.25.07 (2)I now love bedtime because in my forced slow down mode, I am more present than ever. I don’t rush the giggles in the bathtub as my baby splashes about with complete awe of the running water; I soak them up. I don’t rush my Kindergartener reading and discovering new word after new word; I listen proudly. I don’t rush Eskimo kisses and singing ABC’s with my three year old; I stare at his sweet face and think how lucky I am. And I don’t rush my four year old telling a wicked long story before saying good night; I enjoy every detail and then close the door with thrill that another night went smoother than it did a year ago.

Yes, changing my expectations for bedtime and slowing down has made all the difference in the world.  In fact, slowing down has actually made bedtime faster. Even on nights where I do have somewhere to be, staying calm and going slow makes bedtime faster. But forget a faster bedtime for a second. Slowing down has led to sending both my kids, and myself, to bed with more love and less disappointment in our hearts.  And that is way more important than an extra minute (or thirty) of me time.

(Do we still have our nights where I think just “hurry up already and get in bed!?” Yes, of course! But even in those nights, bedtime is still better than it was pre-Orange Rhino Challenge.)  

* * * * *
Learn more about my strategies to not yell during bedtime and other trying moments in my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” It hits shelves October 1st but you can pre-order it now by clicking here.

A little perspective.

356 days without yelling, 9 days of loving more to go! 

Dear Perspective,

It’s so nice to have breakfast with you. Whenever I start the day with you by my side, not yelling comes so much easier. I remember that kids are just kids. I remember that spilled cereal isn’t the end of the world. I remember that it’s more important to have a good good-bye than a rushed one. I remember that not yelling is what matters to me more than not cleaning up. Yes perspective, you have been a dear friend of mine during this no-yelling challenge. You are welcome to come for breakfast, lunch and dinner any time. Just know that my house isn’t always clean and that I am an awful cook.

Cheers,
The Orange Rhino

*

I remember crying my eyes out on Thanksgiving this past year. There was a commercial for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. I don’t recall the exact details but the message was clear: yes, this little boy just ran into the house with mud all over his shoes but a year ago he was in a hospital bed and didn’t have the energy to even get out of bed. The mud? It doesn’t matter. The fact that he can now walk? That matters. While the main message was all about the power of St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, I took home a secondary message as well.

The Power of Perspective.

This wasn’t a new lesson to me. I realized on Day 3, take 2 (I think) of my Orange Rhino Challenge the importance of perspective. Just tonight I found a half written post about the subject. Why I never finished it I don’t know. Maybe because I knew that the power of perspective had such a profound impact on me that I feared I wouldn’t find the right words to express how I felt.

I wrote this: “Perspective. That’s all I need. 8 out of 10 times I’m yelling for no reason at all. For example, the fact that #3 is learning to feed himself is more important than the fact that the baby just crawled in the syrup that dripped off the piece of waffle that fell on the table after it fell off the fork.” I didn’t finish the middle of the post but did write an ending:

“Somehow I made it through today without yelling. And trust me, today the odds were stacked against me. But I did it. And I think it is all because of Perspective. I stopped and looked at things differently and that made all the difference.”

Here I am 353 days after that initial attempt at a post still struggling to find the perfect words to express just how important the role of perspective played in this challenge and how I went about finding said perspective. And I can’t find all the words. But I can find two.

At least.

These are my two new favorite words.  Seriously. Add it to any moment you want to yell and voila! life seems easier as it is filled with newfound perspective. Here’s a little perspective that keeps me from yelling day after day after day!

“Oh there is syrup dripping on the floor….at least the entire bottle isn’t dripping.”

“Oh he is climbing on the table… at least he isn’t hanging by the chandelier.”

“Oh he destroyed his bedroom…at least his brothers didn’t copy him.”

“Oh my life is so crazy with three kids with different therapy needs…at least they are in my life to love.”

I could go on and on and on. I think I will, at least for a bit. Here is a little more perspective.

“Ugh. I have 362 days left of this challenge…hey, at least I have gone 3 days that is better than none.”

“Ugh. I yelled today…hey at least I am trying to not yell.”

“Ugh. I still don’t like how this post is turning out…hey at least it will be done and off my mental to-do list that is bogging you down!”

See, at least really works wonders. Does at least not suit your fancy? Substitute any other word or phrase that helps you see spin the situation into positive light. My other popular choice? I’m grateful.

“It seems I have so many triggers…hey I’m grateful that I know who I am and what I need to work on.”

No matter what words you choose, the power of perspective remains the same.

Is it always easy to find perspective when things are rough? Is it always easy to stop and say at least or I’m grateful and keep on going? No, it isn’t. Sometimes the moment is too frustrating to be able to find perspective, to even want to find perspective. And sometimes it takes me longer to find perspective than I wish. Some moments it takes 3 seconds, other times 3 hours, or even 3 days.  But when I finally find that perspective, I truly feel a weight lifted. I feel a sense of peace and calm that allows me to parent with more patience and love. Do I care that if it took me longer than desired to get to that moment, or that it was hard to get there? Nope. Because at least I got there!

Don’t yell…spell?!

352 days without yelling, 13 days of loving more to go!

Dear #1,

You have the most amazing timing, really. And the most adorable spelling. I have loved watching you learn to spell and write this year. Your first word? Green. Spelled? Gin. Did you know Tanqueray, the gin with a green label, is my favorite? Love it! And I love you. You left this note for me this morning and it’s like you knew I would need it today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You are very special and important too,
Xoxo,
Mommy Orange Rhino

*

As I hurried to get dressed this morning #1 called out from his room “what rhymes with special?” I paused. Mecial? Lecial? Shoot. I couldn’t think of anything.

I called back,  “I can’t think of anything. Sorry!”

He responded with, “Huh? And Mommy was that a yell?”

“No sweetie, I was just talking loudly so you could hear me.”

“Huh? Oh, yeah, duh.”

He then appeared in my room, paper and pencil in hand, wit, sarcasm and intelligence in mind.

“Next time mommy, just walk into my room and tell me. I’ll hear you better and you won’t have to yell. Oooooh. Yell and Tell. They rhyme!”

And then my mind started churning. Here are a few new alternatives to yelling that rhyme. Hopefully it will make it easier to remember them or at least make you laugh. My mind tried to come up with an idea for each letter of the alphabet but alas, that was so not possible. Enjoy!

Don’t yell…ring a BELL!

Don’t yell…pick up your CELL (and call a friend.)

Don’t yell…go to your DELL (and post on The Orange Rhino Facebook page.)

Don’t yell…act like an EL…ephant (swing your arm like a trunk and be silly.)

Don’t yell…FELL down and do a push up (okay, fall, but you get the idea.)

Don’t yell…GEL (you know, dance, like the commercial for Gel inserts for shoes?)

Don’t yell…okay, skipping the letter H J

Don’t yell…act like JELLo (get jiggly and shake all the stress out.)

Don’t yell…MELLow out!

Don’t yell…QUELL(this means suppress, I had to look it up!)

Don’t yell…SELL your request (you know, like a live auctioneer. Can I get a clean up? A clean up? Who wants to clean up? Any takers?! Do I have one? Two? You get the idea.)

Don’t yell…TELL. (Yes this one is easy to remember!)

Don’t yell…go the WELL and fetch a pail of water (or a glass, from the sink, yes, that might work better!)

Don’t yell…get all ZEALOUS with staying calm.

There you go, 14 new ways to practice not yelling. I personally like “Don’t yell…tell.” So simple. And then again I also like “Don’t yell…GEL.” I mean really, who didn’t love those commercials? Are you gelin’? But really, I just like the whole not yelling thing. It has mellowed me out, quelled lots of potentially big problems, and filled me with a new zealous attitude for life. Seriously.

So here’s to rhyming. Here’s to not yelling. And here’s to my son for inspiring this post (and me on too many occasions to count.

3 Ways to Yell Less at your Kids

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

Dear Fred and Ted,

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It’s not you…it’s me.”

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

Dear Mike T.,

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

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

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No more excuses.”

346 days of not yelling, 19 days of loving more to go!
Favorite Song Friday #??!

Dear Orange Rhinos,

This is one of my favorite workout songs. It get’s me, well going! The message is simple and totally applies to this challenge. The lyrics are below with my thoughts in parentheses enjoy and well, LET’s GO! No more excuses.

Cheers,
The Orange Rhino

(P.S. To see my other Favorite Song Fridays look in the far left column of my blog and they are under the Category “Favoring Songs.”)

*

Let’s Go by Calvin Harris

Let’s go!
Make no excuses now
I’m talking here and now
I ’m talking here and now
Let’s go!
Your time is running out
Let’s go!
I’m talking here and now
I’m talking here and now
It’s not about what you’ve done 
(you yelled in the past, it’s the past)
It’s about what you doing
 (you’re working on changing)
It’s all about where you going
 (the future with less yelling is yours!)
No matter where you’ve been
Let’s go!
Let’s go!

Let’s go!, Let’s go!, Let’s go!…
There ain’t no better time
I’m talking here and now
 I’m talking here and now 
(the support is here)
Let’s go!
Right now is where you shine
 (trust me, by even following this blog and pondering change, your shining)
I’m talking here and now
I’m talking here and now
It’s not about what you’ve done
It’s about what you doing
It’s all about where you going
No matter where you’ve been
Let’s go!
Let’s go!

Let’s go!, Let’s go!, Let’s go!…
Let’s make it happen… (BELIEVE in yourself to make it happen!)

 

I will not yell at you, I love you.

345 days without yelling, 20 days of loving more to go!

Dear Parenting Magazine,

Hold the press! Don’t run that article, I lied. My son DOES listen to me. And not only does he listen to me, but he gets it.  He totally gets The Orange Rhino Challenge, he gets the not yelling thing. Oh, this year has not been for naught. Woot!!

Cheers,
The Orange Rhino

*

Is there a real article coming out? No. That’s just a dream of mine.

Does my son sometimes not listen to me? Yes. That’s reality. He’s a kid. Wait, he’s a person. I don’t always listen either you know.

But has he been paying attention, has he been taking in all this Orange Rhino stuff, has he watched me learn to handle anger more calmly, has he listened to me at least some? OH YES. How do I know? Check out this sweet little story from yesterday. I am smiling ear to ear just thinking of it. And maybe stamping my rhino feet in excitement too.

It was bedtime. I had settled one half of my fraternity into sweet slumber and headed towards #1’s room to give him a gentle heads up that lights out was coming. He started to get all huffy puffy. I knew what was coming. A big ‘ole holler. An “I hate bedtime! I never get enough time with you! I don’t want to go to bed yet!!!!! ARGHHHHH!”

I inhaled. I waited and waited and waited. The yell never came. Huh? Then I saw him grab a book, squint at me and start to take aim. Oh, maybe it was coming? Maybe the book was gonna get tossed at me in disgust? Nope.

“Mommy” he grimaced.
“Yes?”
“I’m angry. Really angry with you. And I really want to yell. But I won’t. Because I love you.”

HELLO LITTLE ORANGE RHINO!

Photo: vh1.com

I love you too! And I am so proud of you! This small exchange was such a huge accomplishment for both of us, especially for him. My darling #1 is beautifully emotional and is working on reigning in the emotions that sometimes turn ugly. This was the first time he actually succeeded at doing so. Oh, this was such a win. Such a win. I was grinning when I started writing this and now tears are falling. I am just so very proud of him.

You know, there have been so many times on this journey that I wished I started my challenge earlier. If only I think. If only I started four years ago then I wouldn’t have taught my boys to yell at me, to yell at each other. If only I learned to say out loud “I will stay calm” years ago then I wouldn’t be plagued with the thought “it’s too late, I already taught them to yell, I can’t undo it.”

But clearly, it isn’t. It isn’t too late. And I should know this. Because I have taught myself to change. It wasn’t too late for me, it isn’t too late for him, for any of my boys. I can help them change today, this moment, any moment I choose. I can continue to teach by example. And I most certainly will.

And I will most certainly continue talking out loud as an alternative to not yelling.
I will continue to say:

“I love you, I don’t want to yell.”
“I need your help, can you please help me clean up so I don’t lose my cool?”

And I will continue talking to myself, which by the way I do OFTEN. I talk to myself so much that my head spins but it has helped me through so many tough moments when I have wanted to yell. So many. I say,

“I will not yell. I will not yell. I will be calm.”
“I can do this.”
“I’m exhausted, but I will not yell.” And
“Hey Orange Rhino, enough already. Stop being a crabby biatch.” (That’s a personal favorite. HA!)

Oh, there is so much I will continue doing when this year is over. But mostly, I will continue believing that I can not yell. I will continue believing that it is not too late to teach my children to not yell. My son chose love last night over anger and as the one on the receiving end of that love, I can say it felt great. So yeah, I will also continue believing that LOVE TRUMPS ANGER.

 

Mom’s on Vacation!

344 days without yelling, 21 days of loving more to go!

Dear Gorgeous Turquoise Blue Ocean,

Where art thou? I should be sitting by you RIGHT NOW! Did you not see my smoke signals tonight telling you to inform your private all-inclusive resort to send the private jet to come take me away? Did you not see the steam come out of my head as #1 broke down into pieces just like his taco just did? Did you not see the steam come out as #2 kept telling #1 that his taco was perfect and that it didn’t break because he held it right? Did you not see the steam come out as #3 insisted he wouldn’t eat tonight but would wait until dinner tomorrow night? Did you not see the steam come out when I took #4’s temperature and it read 103.7? Clearly you need glasses. Or you need to stop drinking my margaritas.

I really hope to see you soon, this mom needs a vacation!

Best,
The Orange Rhino

Photo courtesy: www.firstchoice.co.uk

*

One beautiful day this past summer my husband and I sauntered outside to the patio, drinks in hand. A vodka tonic for him, a Corona for me. We had huge, and I mean HUGE plans to sit at the patio table and enjoy said beverages. After all, it was the perfect late afternoon for doing so. That is what grown ups do right? I mean, that is what we used to do, pre-kids.  Just as I pushed my lime down and turned my bottle upside down, my vision of relaxing turned upside down.

“He pushed me!”
“He took my toy!”
“Waaaaa” (I fell).
“Mommy, mommy, mommy, MOMMY, I need you NOW.”

Ah. I sighed. It was another day in the life. I chucked to myself that I actually thought I would have a peaceful afternoon with 4 kids under five and a half and decided to make light of the situation.

“Hey honey, lets pretend we’re not here. Let’s pretend we’re on a tropical beach somewhere before kids. I’ll go first. I’m in Mexico. I’m wearing the bikini I wore on our Honeymoon. The one that will never ever fit again. I look thin and have no stretch marks. Oh, and I still have boobs because I haven’t nursed 4 kids yet. I am reading a book and I am not getting interrupted. Oh wait, the waiter just interrupted me asking if I would like lunch and another Strawberry Daiquiri. YES PLEASE.”

My husband TOTALLY caught to my idea. He even closed his eyes for this little exercise, which while started out feeling silly, ended up feeling awesome.

“No wait. Not Mexico. I’m in Hawaii.”
“Well, shouldn’t we be together in the same place?” I said.
“Sure. How about Dominican Republic, where we had our first vacation.”
“Oooooh, Perfect. I am SO there” I eagerly replied. By now the kids had sorted things out and were playing peacefully so we continued our game.

“I have just finished a beer and another one is on the way. I am about to eat Nachos without sharing them and then I am going to take a nap. A nice long nap. So long that we might not eat dinner until 7 or 8. GASP. We aren’t going to have dinner at 5. Oh, hey babe, can you pass me my sunglasses?”

We actually continued this visualization exercise for a good couple of minutes. It was A LOT of fun. We were complaining that we had kids? No, not at all. We were just finding a way to find peace in the middle of a really long stressful day. And it worked. Not only did it keep us from yelling but it also gave us a little secret joke to bond over.

The next weekend my husband was dazing off, hand in heads. My six year old asked him,

“Daddy, what are you doing?”
“Daddy’s in Machu Picchu.”
“Huh? Where? You’re not there you are right here in New Jersey! Only mommy goes to Machu Picchu!”

I burst into laughter. I knew exactly where my hubby was and I immediately went there too. And it kept me from losing it. I actually have become a regular in “Machu Picchu”; my private jet is parked next to the Mini-Van. And my kids know I go there OFTEN as they always hear me say, “Give mommy one moment please, she needs to go to Machu Picchu.” They think it’s hilarious. I think it’s a saving grace!

Why this story now? Why tonight? Because I was going to lose it tonight at dinner and my 4 year old sent me on vacation.

As I was shaking my head and taking deep breath after deep breath with every single piece of taco meat thrown on the floor my sweet #2 looked at me and said,

“Mommy, do you need to go to Machu Picchu?”

Oh I SO DID. And I SO WENT. I put the crumbled taco pieces down, sat on the floor, and pictured myself by the beautiful ocean. I heard it crashing against the rocks. I smelled the fresh air. I tasted the perfectly blended Strawberry Daiquiri and I let the warm sun soothe me. It was fantastic. It was just the vacation I needed.

I never thought that I would be one to “visualize” in order to relieve stress. But then again, I also never thought I would be a yeller. And guess what? I’ll take the trip to Machu Picchu any day of the week over yelling. Any day.

Who’s with me?

* My husband and I randomly picked Machu Picchu. I think there is a funny commercial about moms in Machu Picchu? So maybe we aren’t that original and Machu Picchu doesn’t seem to be at the beach! But at least we are on vacation, a quiet one. Even if only a few minutes, or seconds. 

Help a mother out…

343 days without yelling, 22 days of loving more to go!

Dear sesame seed bagel,
I think I blame you for my near catastrophic yell last week. But I also thank you for reminding me about how important it is to help a mother out, any mother out.
Cheers,
The Orange Rhino

*

It was T-100 minutes until I took sweet son #4 into New York City to meet a third neurologist. I was anxious. A.N.X.I.O.U.S. and all my boys sensed it. I decided that a huge Diet Coke and a fresh toasted sesame seed bagel with chive cream cheese would help ease my nerves. So I buckled all the kids into the mini-van and headed to the bagel store at 6:45 in the morning.

I was pleased with my decision. I was pleased with my managing my emotions and determining what I needed to feel better, what I needed to stay cool, calm, and collected.

My boys, however, WERE NOT pleased. Normally they love the morning car rides. We talk about the weather, what songs we like, how diggers are made, how much I love them. But oh no. Not this morning. This morning they wanted to talk about how much they hated car rides. How much they hated each other. How much they hated that #4 would spend all day with me, alone, and they would have to spend the day shuffled between two babysitters. Oh, and why couldn’t daddy be home to help instead of traveling? They didn’t want me. They wanted daddy. In fact, they wanted nothing to do with me or the bagel store or having a pleasant morning. In fact, I think they wanted to see if I would lose it. Honestly.

Yes, last Thursday morning not one person in my household was happy go lucky. We were the cranky bunch. I knew I needed to stay calm. I knew I wanted to stay calm. But as we parked the car and the screaming continued, I knew I was about to lose it. I knew the likelihood of a massive meltdown from EVERY SINGLE BOY was huge. So I found my eerily quiet, soothing voice and tried to be uber positive and loving as we headed into the store.

“Oh, #2 thank you for unbuckling your brother.”
“#1, you are so strong, thank you for holding the door.”
“#3 you are being so patient. Thank you!”

Yes, I was pulling out all sorts of praise out of every orifice I had to try to make them feel loved; to try and make myself feel like an okay mom. Because at that moment, I SO wasn’t feeling it. I was feeling guilty for spending so much time lately with #4. I was feeling ridiculous for dragging them to town just for a bagel. I was feeling crappy for being cranky with my boys just because I was nervous. I was feeling sad that I snapped at my boys on a morning when they were just nervous too, on a morning when they needed my re-assurance that #4 was going to be okay. Ugh. I was just having one of those mommy mornings where I felt like I was crap and just wanted to cry.

Yes, I just wanted to sit down in the middle of the bagel store and cry. Oh, and I just wanted to boys to sit the blankety-blank down in their chairs and be quiet. Just for five seconds. That was all I needed.

Then I heard a voice. The most beautiful voice.

“You know, you are a great mom. You are being so patient and loving. I wish I saw that more. Your boys are lucky.”

WOW. Did my mystery angel KNOW that I needed that reassurance right then? Did she see through my mommy clothes and into my heart? Did she have super powers and know that I was about to go ape-sh*t in the middle of the store?

“Wow. Thank you so much.” At this point tears started forming in my eyes. I couldn’t help it. I felt so alone and nervous and frustrated and impatient at that moment. I was trying so hard to keep it together and not yell despite my personal angst, yet I was slowly unraveling.

I continued, wiping a tear away. “You don’t know how much that means. I had a rough morning and well, thank you. Thank you. You made my day. Truly.”

And she did. She MADE MY DAY. I remember writing a post last August about a stranger needing a friend and how I became that friend. Ironically, it was at the same exact bagel store as I was in last Thursday. That post could have been about me. I needed a friend. I needed some support. I needed to know that it was okay, that I was doing a good job. I needed that woman in my life at that moment.

And guess what? As moms, as parents, as people, we all need to be told we are doing a good job. Especially when we least expect it. Especially when we are struggling. That woman took 30 seconds to pay me a compliment. It was the best gift ever. She gave me STRENGTH to keep parenting with love, she gave me strength to not yell. It may sound silly, but she saved my Orange Rhino Challenge that morning. And I am grateful. So grateful.

It doesn’t take much to compliment a struggling parent. Or to reassure them. In fact it takes less than 30 seconds but can impact that parent all day. Trust me. I know. I experienced it. And I have been paying it forward every day since. Every day since last Thursday I have told a struggling mom that I think they are doing a great job. And I have always received a warm, “really?” but “oh my gosh thank you I needed that” smile.

So is this post a post about learning not to yell? Not really. But what it is about helping others and perhaps unintentionally helping them to not yell at a particularly tough moment. And that to me is important. Because you just NEVER know when you are going to need the favor returned.

So go ahead. Share this story. Tell your friends they are good moms. Tell a stranger tomorrow she is a good mom when she is trying her hardest to hush her crying baby in the middle of the coffee store. You won’t regret it. And she won’t forget it.