“The Yelling Phase”

387 days of loving more!

Since my boys are up at the crack of dawn, well, really before the crack of the crack of dawn, come 6:45 we are all ready to get out of the house and I am ready for them each to be buckled into a car seat unable to touch each other. So every morning in the winter I buckle them all up and we drive to McDonald’s for mama’s piece of mind and…caffeine. Much to my son’s delight, we always stop to watch a commuter train pass and lately get to see the sunrise. It’s actually my favorite 20 minutes of the day. Except when, well, my 18 month old starts screaming.

Like this morning.  Us “older folk” were all happily chatting about the weather, what the clouds were telling us and then were grooving to “Thriftshop.” It was fabulous until sweet #4 started screaming. Oh. My. Gosh. It didn’t stop for 10 minutes!

Yes, my son is officially in what I so lovingly call “The Yelling Phase.” It’s the period of time where one of my boys really, really wants to talk but doesn’t have the words yet so instead of talking or jabbering he just screams. And screams and screams until I figure out what area he is pointing at. And screams and screams when I figure out the area he is pointing at but not which of the 25 items in that area he wants.

Yeah, that phase. There is nothing fun about it.

There is nothing fun about being stuck in a car and hearing him scream endlessly because he wants water but can’t say I’m thirsty or water. There is nothing fun about being at the dinner table and having him start to scream and then his brothers joining in because they think it’s funny. There is nothing fun about watching his little face start to look all exasperated as he so desperately tries to communicate. And there is nothing fun about worrying that he does indeed have a speech delay because if he does, well when combined with his seizure activity, it’s a situation I just don’t want.

So yeah, the “Yelling Phase” we are currently in, isn’t so fun. In fact it’s annoying, sometimes saddening, and often times out right infuriating especially if one screaming fit finishes and another one starts oh say, fifteen minutes later?

Within minutes of coming in from our “not-as-peaceful-as-planned” drive, #4 started screaming at me because I took out Rice Chex instead of Corn Chex (how dare I?) #1, #2, and #3 all started screaming at me to make him stop because it was never ending (trust me, I wanted to scream too.) I calmly said to them:

“Guys. Chill out. You used to yell too but I taught you how to use your words. You taught yourself how to use words. #4 will learn. He doesn’t want to be screaming, trust me. He just wants to talk; he just wants to be understood.”

“You mean he wants to be an Orange Rhino?” #3 said while get this, giving me a huge smile and a wink! A wink. I loved it!!!

Oh I laughed so hard! But it got me thinking.

This past year wasn’t the first time I learned not to yell; I had done it about 34 years earlier!

Yes, I too was a baby at some point. I too screamed as babies do, before I knew how to communicate otherwise. And as I grew, I learned to talk more and yell less. And eventually as I became a young adult and definitely before kids, I learned to not yell at all.

And then I had kids and I quickly found that I had no real idea what I was doing. I had no real idea how to successfully get them to listen. I had no real idea how to get them to understand the “lessons” I was teaching. I had no real idea how to communicate to them, or my husband or even myself, all the stress I was feeling trying to figure out this parenting thing while also navigating all the other responsibilities that came with being an adult. And well, it all got to me and got me yelling again…because I didn’t know otherwise.

In many ways, I was a baby again, right along side all four of my babies.

I screamed out of frustration, desperation, confusion, sadness, hunger, and because I didn’t know how to communicate successfully. I too was stuck in a “yelling phase” and just like my son is now, I so very much wanted to get out and move on but didn’t know how.

The good news? Phases are just that, phases. They are indeed temporary and with the help of many a supportive Orange Rhino, I got unstuck from my own “Yelling Phase.”

The other good news? My son will get unstuck too. And along the way I will have fun listening to every new word that suddenly squeaks out. And I will have fun watching his face light up with joy and pride as he realizes he can talk, just like how I filled with joy and pride every time I realized I could not yell.

(And the last bit of good news? I really, truly, believe you can get unstuck; that you can turn your current yelling situation into just a phase and not a lifelong style. Not just because years ago you already learned to not yell, but also because you too have many supportive Orange Rhinos rooting for you. Like 3,431 of them. How cool is that? You are so not alone! You can do this!)

Rumor Has It.

386 days of loving more! 

I’ve written a lot about my oldest son and his emotional struggles.
I’ve written a lot about my third son and his speech delay.
And I’ve obviously written a lot about my fourth son and his seizure activity.

But I haven’t written a lot about sweet #2. I am not sure why. It certainly isn’t because there is nothing to write. There is plenty of good, and plenty of not-so-good. If I had to guess I haven’t written about him because of all four boys, he is the one that I have figured out the least. I “know” generally speaking how to help my first, third and fourth sons with their issues because I understand their issues. Although there is no perfect clarity, I at least have a roadmap and a group of people to support and help me with their distinct challenges.

But #2, sweet #2, well, I am still working to understand how to help him. He struggles to fit in and has been picked on and excluded more than a four year old should be, which is perhaps why I don’t write about it. It is outright too bloody painful to admit and share. He struggles with impulse control more so than typical for his age group, which is perhaps why I don’t write about it because I feel judgment and labels will come flying. And he struggles with always feeling not good enough and well, sometimes I feel I contribute to that.

But you know what else, he gives the greatest hugs in the world. He rubs my back sometimes…just because. He tells me he loves me first thing in the morning right after he asks me “how did you sleep mommy?” And he has a zest for life that is absolutely, positively 110% inspirational.

Rumor has it that despite his struggles, which can be a turn off to me at times, and to his classmates and his teachers, he is an awesome kid. Wait, that’s not a rumor. It’s true. My second son is awesome. Like all of us in this world, he is just trying to find his way and as his mom, I am just trying to find my way to support him because the last thing that I want to be is another reason he feels picked on or not good enough. Not the rumor, but the truth, is that I just want to love him as much as I can. And sometimes that means letting him be right. Because sometimes, being right doesn’t really matter.

We were driving in the car last week and the song “Rumor Has It” by Adele came on. #1 started singing.

“Rumor has it. Rumor has it.”

Then #2 felt the need to sing too.

Puma has it. Ooooo Ooooo Puma has it.”

“That’s wrong! It’s Rumor has it. R-U-M-O-R!” said #1.

“No, it’s PUMA. I swear.” #2 insisted with such a passion that I almost thought he was right. I felt the need to intervene and correct him, why I don’t know. Maybe because he is also in speech therapy and is working on his R’s?

“Actually #2, it is rumor. Rrrr-umor.” I said sweetly and patiently.

“NO Mommy. It’s not. I heard it with my very own ears. I’m pretty smart you know. Really smart actually. Trust me, it’s Puma has it.”

“Sweetie, is sure does sound like Puma but it is Rumor.” I said again. And again, why? Why was I making such a big deal of this? Fingers crossed the song would be off the radio soon and it wouldn’t matter anyway. For the record I can’t stand this song. Can’t. Stand. It.

“NO MOMMY! YOU ARE WRONG AND I AM RIGHT!” He said to me ever so loudly and this time with tears in his eyes. He wasn’t crying…yet. The tears were just caught in the corner of his eyes, waiting to fall out as they always do. As they always do.

Hugging my number 2. Gosh, just looking at this makes me cry. Oh how I love him so!

#2 cries a lot. He cries when he gets picked on (understood.) He cries when no one sits next to him at birthday parties (the crying understood. The not sitting next to him? Not so much. He is awesome and funny and has a heart of gold.) And he cries when he tries so hard to say something right, when he tries so hard to be liked, to be a part of something.

Those small tears were the best gift ever to me. They reminded me that sometimes, being right really doesn’t matter. That sometimes, letting things go and moving on is not only okay, but necessary. This was one of those cases.

“Okay #2, you might very well be right. You do have good hearing ears, don’t you?”

“Yes, I do.”

The refrain played again.

“See mommy, Puma has it, I told you so. I am SOOOOO smart.”

And I was sooooo smart for letting go and accepting that it really is a rumor that it’s necessary as a parent to always be right. Because letting go, letting my son be right over such a small thing to me, but a huge thing to him, well, it gave him a moment of self confidence that he so desperately seeks…and needs.


So often I yelled because I wanted things my way because my way was *obviously* right, ie. how to clean up and organize the basement. As soon as I learned to let go a bit and pick my battles more carefully, yelling less became infinitely easier. 

Positively Powerful.

384 days of loving more!

When I decided to stop yelling at my kids last January, I quickly discovered that in order to keep the yelling at bay, I needed to start looking at myself. I realized that I couldn’t excuse all my yelling because of my son’s behavior, but that I had to start taking ownership of my own. I had to admit that sometimes I yelled not because they were actually bad, but because I was just in a bad mood. I had to admit that sometimes I yelled not *just*because my kids were balancing on the back of the couch, but because I was overwhelmed and out of balance. I had to admit that sometimes I yelled not because I didn’t love my kids, but because I didn’t love my body or myself that day. I had to admit that sometimes I yelled because I had an overall negative attitude and it impacted my thoughts and actions!

Yes, one of my most powerful lessons I learned was how much my thinking impacting my actions. Before the challenge, I dwelled a lot on negative situations (like a fight with a friend) and this just put me in a cranky, ready to yell at anything, mood. Before the challenge, I often told my husband about all the negative things my boys did during the day instead of all the positive moments. This of course just made me feel more frustration with them than love and that too just set me up to yell. Before the challenge, I often started the day thinking to myself negative thoughts about my weight and ability to parent; this thinking of course was self-fulfilling and demolished any chance to feel confident or successful that day.

All this negative thinking? Well, it did me no good! The more negative things I thought, the more negative I felt. The more negative I felt, the more negative things I saw in my kids and myself. The more negative things I saw, the more negative I felt. Oh the cycle just went on and on and on! Of course the only part of this cycle missing is that with negative thoughts and negative feelings came negative actions like….yelling! An interesting thing happened on my journey though – when I stopped yelling, when I removed the negative action, I felt lighter, I felt happier, I felt more positive. And when I felt more positive, I started thinking more positive. Well it turned out that positive thinking, acting and feeling is contagious!!! Once I felt it, I wanted more; I loved it!

It was so easy to fall in love with how great it felt telling my husband all the positive things my boys did at night. (And it was so easy to not yell the next day because I was filled with more love and positive energy!)

It was so easy to fall in love with starting the day saying “oh, my jeans don’t fit so well, but I am trying and I am proud I am trying to get more fit and I am happy because my life is good, regardless of how my jeans fit today!” (And this thinking of course gave me the confidence to eat healthier and feel more positive energy.)

AND it was so easy to fall in love with all the new positive actions I was naturally inspired to do as a result of not yelling. Not yelling made me more positive and I naturally wanted to do more random acts of kindness, say “I love you more,” and give more hugs.

Yeah, positive thinking is pretty powerful. I have always heard that to be true, I have always believed it, but this past year I proved it to myself. There are days when I do let a little negative slip in, when I can’t turn on all my positive vibes. And when those days come, I try to jump start my positive attitude by doing something nice for someone or saying something positive to my kiddos, even if they are screaming at the moment and I want to scream back!

The other morning started out rough. I buckled my boys into the min-van at 6:30 and drove to McDonald’s for a fresh hot coffee. Still grouchy as I ordered, I remembered how contagious positive actions are – how they can trigger an amazing domino effect. As I pulled up to pay I asked the gentleman to use my credit card for the order behind me as well. When that person pulled up to pay and discovered his coffee and breakfast was taken care of, a smile crept onto my face and my heart lightened. My positive attitude perked right up and kicked the negative attitude out. It was fantastic.

And this morning, when I discovered my pants wouldn’t zip at the same moment as my boys started fighting over the hairbrush and at the same moment as my negative vibe started waking up, I walked right over to my boys and said, “hey, you know what, I love you both, crazy morning hair and all!” After that moment I saw their adorableness and focused on that, not the yelling. It was fantastic.

It has been quite the journey learning not to yell and learning to look at myself deeper. And it has been quite the journey teaching myself how to fill my mind and soul with more positive thoughts. But honestly, it has been the most positively powerful journey and I am so grateful I made a promise to push myself last January to not yell for 365 days. Not yelling has been the most incredible gift because all that I learned has helped me not only to stay yell-free but also to lead a more fulfilling, happy, love-filled and positive life.



Choosing Perfectly Imperfect Moments

380 days of loving more!

A few weeks before my wedding I got some of the best advice from a friend who had just been a Bridesmaid. She said, “whatever happens, choose to smile and laugh, don’t be a b*tch.” I kid you not. At the moment, I thought this was peculiar advice. Of course I wouldn’t be a b*tch on my wedding day! I would be oozing love and joy and all things magical and wonderful of course!

And then during my cocktail hour, a friend and I went to hug and in our exuberance misjudged our arm placements. We collectively knocked his glass of red wine down the front of my dress. My beautiful, white, wedding dress. What’s a Bride to do?

I laughed, of course!

And then, as my mother and friends tried to rush me to the bathroom to save my dress, I joyfully said, “It’s all good! Really! Let me eat some h’orsdeuvres!” They looked at me in disbelief. Who was this Bride and where was the real person they knew who flipped out over the smallest things??? And then in the bathroom, as they all tried to clean my dress, I continued laughing and said, “Just give me some more wine, I’ll pour it on my dress in other spots and make a polka dot dress!” I was not kidding, not one bit.

All that is missing from this picture is my smile and my mother’s face with her draw dropped open, expressing her thought “The dress, the dress! The wine is on the beading and the front!”

Was I drunk? Nope. I just remembered the advice from my friend and CHOSE to not let the great red wine incident of January 3, 2004 ruin my Wedding Day. See, when my friend was a bridesmaid a few weeks prior to my wedding, she witnessed the Bride go ballistic on a fellow bridesmaid after she accidentally spilled wine all over her. My friend explained to me how the Bride singlehandedly ruined both her own wedding and one of her friendships with her terse words and screaming, hissy fit. As she shared this story with me she said, “Whatever you do, if something goes wrong at your wedding, because it probably will, don’t be that Bride. Choose to enjoy everything else around you.”


Such a key word. I am so glad that I chose on my wedding day to let the red wine incident go. In fact, short of getting married, it is one of my favorite memories of that day. Oddly enough though, despite that wonderful experience and knowing that I can always make the choice to focus on the positive and not the negative, when I became a mom I completely forgot this lesson! Before this challenge, I did a truly phenomenal job of letting small or big annoying things bring me down and ruin special days. Blech.

I remember my first birthday as a mom. I remember my son crying all day and my just wanting to have fun and celebrate. I let it get to me instead of enjoying all the phone calls and cards and flowers that arrived that day; I let the crying ruin my mood, my day.

I remember my first Thanksgiving with two kids and trying to get a family picture for a Christmas Card. I remember the tears from all three of us because no one was cooperating and I just wanted the perfect card. I let my disappointment get to me; I let it ruin my mood, my Thanksgiving day.

I remember our first family vacation to the beach with three kids in tow. I remember being so frustrated that it wasn’t a real vacation, that no child was sleeping, that I couldn’t sit back and read a book. I let my annoyances get to me; I let them ruin my first three vacation days.

On day 4, I finally woke up and remembered something. I had a choice. I could choose to complain and whine or choose to embrace the beach, crying babies and all. I chose to embrace all that was around me and ignore the few things getting me down. The rest of the vacation was great. Not perfect, but great nonetheless.

On my 365th day of my challenge when my son had his seizure I felt anger; and I have felt it for the last few weeks. BUT I made a choice that day. I would NOT let that seizure ruin my day, and I didn’t.  I had my angry moment and then I focused on how grateful I was that my husband was home to help. I focused on how grateful I was that even though the emergency medicine didn’t work, he still came out of the seizure okay. I focused on how excited my boys were to release balloons and eat celebratory cake. I focused on how lucky I was to have such a supportive Orange Rhino Community. And you know what else I did that day? After I cried, and re-focused on all the good things? I laughed.

I laughed because I knew in my heart of hearts that #4 would have a seizure that day. I just knew it, so much so I almost wrote it down on paper and hid it to show my husband later. If there is one thing I have learned as a mom it’s that chances are that on the days and times that I really, really want to be totally awesome and perfect and special, as long as I have young children, something will probably go wrong. Whether it be one child doesn’t nap and is cranky, one child gets a fever, one child falls, or one child just knows I want the day to be easy and therefore refuses to let it be as such, the chance is something will not meet my expectations.

And I have finally accepted that and it is OKAY with me and thankfully stopped yelling at those moments. My kids are just kids; they don’t need to be perfect. And I don’t need perfect moments. I just need happy moments and I can choose to make imperfect moments, happy. I can choose to be a little more laid back with more realistic expectations because that does help the moment go smoother (and keeps me from yelling.) And I can choose to focus on the good even when things happen beyond my control because they are going to, time and time again.

That certainly was the case two weeks ago. But thank gosh for The Orange Rhino Challenge because it is a daily reminder that just like on my wedding day, I have a choice every moment. I can let things get to me when my expectations for a special “perfect” day aren’t met and I can be a yelling, hissy fit b*tch, or I can be a loving mom who goes with the flow and appreciates the perfectly imperfect moments!

I am going with the flow a lot more now and I have got to tell you, it makes for a lot more beautiful, yell-free memories. This is entirely new territory for me – not letting unmet expectations ruin special moments or days – and I still struggle at times to remember to make the choice to focus on the positive. But when I do, oh does it truly feel better. It feels great not fretting and fighting over Christmas pictures, not complaining and crying over restless vacations, and not yelling and yipping over my kids behavior when they are just being kids and are trying their best to please me (because they are you know….)

At the end of the day, my kids are not perfect; I am not perfect. Together we will not always have perfect moments. But, we can have lots of happily imperfect ones that are perfect because we are together…and because I choose to focus on the positive, not the negative.

* Note: Emphasis on the I am not perfect. I am not, truly. I believe everything I have written here but will sometimes forget it. But I will still try to embrace and remember all of it because again, when I do, it is awesome.

What’s Anger Got to Do With It?

379 days of loving more!

Two Wednesdays ago was supposed to be a most joyous day. It was my 365th day of not yelling. I woke up excited, proud, and so happy. I woke up eager for the day of celebrating with my boys to start. I woke up to start writing only to hear all my 4 boys up at 5:30. Ironically, on this momentous day, I went to yell but stopped myself. I knew they were all awake because they too were excited; there was no reason to squash that! They too were planning a fun day and were eager to get on with it. I took a deep breath, closed my mouth and pretended to not see them as they scampered downstairs to decorate the kitchen with daddy and put out signs shouting congratulations. My youngest, #4, now 18 months, had settled himself back to sleep so I settled back into writing.

Around 6:30, I was informed that it was time for me to come downstairs as long as I was wearing my orange sweater and orange jewelry (well of course I was!) I headed to #4’s room to wake him so he could join me in the family celebration.

Well, this is where the joyous day took a turn. My sweet son was awake all right; and having another darn seizure. (Ah, two weeks later and the tears that I have held so tight to my heart finally start falling out as I write this….) I shouted down to my husband to grab the video camera and the emergency medicine to stop the seizure. We watched him, helpless. My husband, who never experienced a seizure, wanted so desperately to help him. “Don’t touch him sweetie, he’ll come out of it. 3 minutes can pass and we’ll give him his medicine.” I said, trying to be reassuring even though I didn’t even believe what I said.

I watched the clock and him anxiously. My other sons now stood beside us in the nursery.

“Mommy, come downstairs!”
“Mommy, here’s an orange rose for you.”
“Mommy? Mommy? MOMMY!”

I wanted to scream “NOT NOW!” but I knew that would break their hearts. I found all the calmness and togetherness I could and said,

“Oh thank you for the rose boys. I love it! And oh I am SO excited to see what you have done. I am so lucky! But right now I need to take care of #4, okay? I promise I will come down real soon. I love you.”

Darnit. It broke MY heart! My three sons were so proud and excited and I had to put that on hold because of another darn, not understood, unexplainable, yet potentially dangerous seizure.  And the seizure BROKE MY HEART too. Again? Really? I thought we were out of the woods. I was so hopeful. And today? Of all days? (Well today was actually the perfect day because Daddy stayed home late and could help and because it gave me one last chance to practice staying calm!)

3 minutes passed; we administered the medicine. It didn’t work. He continued to seize, his lips now turning blue at the edges; a trip to the Emergency Room was in order. I grabbed some things and we all raced downstairs.

I ran into the kitchen, the beautifully, 110% orange kitchen. Oh how I wanted to stop and enjoy the moment, the celebration of a year’s worth of work. Oh how I wanted to hug my boys and say thank you and it’s wonderful. Oh how I wanted to hug my husband and say it was just the perfect way to start the day. Instead I squeaked out an “It’s great guys, now please, run to the car.”

The oldest two ran; the third insisted on shoes that day of course. And not just crocs, but sneakers. And no he didn’t have socks on. My husband and I were getting antsy as #4 continue seizing but we stayed calm; we both know after a year of not yelling that getting uptight when needing to rush achieves nothing.

We arrived at the hospital. I ran in and got rushed into the Pediatric Emergency Room for oxygen. Twenty minutes later #4 finally woke up (he had fell asleep or passed out at home; I don’t know which one.) At that point my husband had sent me an email with a picture of the kitchen and I burst into tears.

Tears of ANGER. I was SO angry. So very, very angry. Angry at myself – I had bought a video monitor per the neurologist’s suggestion yet forgot to bring it to my desk that morning. What if I had it with me? Would I have seen the seizure earlier? And I was angry at my son’s condition, not him, but his seizures. Why today? Why today? Today was supposed to start with hugs and high fives, not tears and terror. And I was angry with the doctors who still do not agree on the proper medical path to take.

And it turns out, two weeks later, I am still angry. Why? Because we still don’t have a clear path. We still have seizures that are getting worse and we still have two of the top pediatric neurologists in the country disagreeing as to what to do. So yeah, I am ANGRY. I am angry because I love my son and want to help him and right now, it doesn’t feel like I can.

This anger has been eating me up for two weeks now, perhaps longer. And the result? I have not been a pleasant person to be around. I have not been as loving as I wish to be. And my kids, they feel my anger, my stress and they are showing it in their own way and are as expected, more difficult to be around. Which leads me to one conclusion:

There is no upside to anger.

None. Anger does me no good. It doesn’t make me feel better. It doesn’t help me move forward. It doesn’t help me be more loving and calm and understanding so that I can have a good head on my shoulders to figure things out and feel less angry. It certainly doesn’t help me parent better! Anger just brings me down. Yes, there is a moment for anger. Yes, I know some famous psychologist or something speaks of anger as part of the grieving process. So yes, I am okay with feeling anger, but it’s what I do with it that is really important. I need to let it go so that it doesn’t affect everyone around me, especially those I love dearly.

Anger has been on my mind for months actually, and not just because of the seizures. Looking back at my year of not yelling, I realized that anger is such a huge part of yelling. I have looked up definitions of anger numerous times on this journey to try and write about it but surprise, surprise, I didn’t like any of the definitions. So, I made my own this week:


Those are the five feelings I feel when I am headed towards anger.

I start mildly annoyed (ugh, you didn’t pick up your shoes.) The annoyance grows to negative feelings all around (don’t you ever clean up?) which leads to grumpiness (seriously, can you do nothing right, harrumph, this day is gonna stink), and then exasperation (oh my gosh, how can I get you to pick up your shoes? I don’t know what to do!)

Of course after all these feelings, comes rage followed by a big ‘ole yell! What starts so small and simple as annoyance can so easily lead to negative attitudes, grumpiness, and exasperation and rage. In the past, when I hit rage, or even exasperation, that is when I charged; that is when I charged with my words.

At the start of my challenge someone pointed out to me the most beautifully ironic thing:


Do you see it? Anger is hidden in the name of my challenge. Surreal. It is a complete accident and yet such a wonderful one. Because this challenge, for me, I realize now has been making sure that I don’t let myself ever feel all those 5 feelings at once again. It has been about teaching myself to manage them, so when they come on I can let them go. One by one. The key for me has been to tame the annoyance quickly so that it doesn’t spiral into the following stages; so that it doesn’t become full-blown anger.

I haven’t tamed my annoyance lately and it’s showing. I’m more negative. I’m grumpier. I’m getting exasperated; not just about my son’s medical condition but about my all my sons’ behaviors (acceptable and unacceptable.) And I know what’s next; a big ‘ole, most likely unnecessary, yell.

So, it’s time to let go of my anger. Because again, anger does me not good. Anger at my son’s medical predicament does me no good. Anger at my sons’ for whatever reason does me no good. Anger just leads me to yelling and that is not a path I wish to take again. There is no upside to anger; and there certainly is no upside to yelling.

End Note: I ended up having a great day. I got to snuggle with little man all day and still celebrate with my boys. All 5 of them. Daddy stayed home because of the seizure so it turned out to be a family day…even better! 

To read related posts to my son’s medical situation click on the links below!
Waiting to Exhale
Waiting to Exhale, Part 2
Code Orange Rhino
A Time to Yell

“30 Days to Yelling Less Project” Round 2 — sign up by 9:00am EST on 2/22/13

***Back by popular demand! There has been much interest in a 2nd “30 Days to Yelling Less Project” so here are the details for it!” If you have emailed me prior to tonight about this challenge, you are all signed up! Read below for details, but you do not need to email me. Get excited!***

When I first decided to commit to 365 days straight of not yelling I was overwhelmed. How on earth was I going to do just that? I didn’t know how to not yell, it had been a crutch for years, it was my go to! All I knew was that I truly, deeply wanted to stop yelling and that I needed support to do so. In the first few weeks, I found success not only with the help of The Orange Rhino Community but also in a few particular steps that I took, unknowingly. These steps, along with the support of others, helped me to get through day 1, and then day 5, day 10, day 30 all the way until day 365.

I know that many of you want to start The Challenge of committing to yell less but are intimidated by the enormity of it, by the stress of it, by the sheer commitment to it. I know many of you, like me, don’t know where to start!

 So let me break it down for you. Let me help get you going on The Orange Rhino Challenge by walking you through the steps I took in the early stages. Let me spread it out over 30 days and help you YELL LESS AND LOVE MORE.

Let me lead you through my 2nd “30 Days to Yelling Less and Loving More Project.” Here are the details!



  • It officially starts this MONDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2013. The 30th day is March 26th.
  • To participate email me at theorangerhinochallenge@gmail.com by Friday morning, February 22nd, 9:00 am EST. Please put “30 DAY CHALLENGE – SIGN ME UP” in the subject so I can easily add you to the list! I know many of you might see this blog post after the deadline. I need to keep to this deadline in order to get everyone in the email list on time but please, if you miss the deadline, join our FB community in the meanwhile until I announce another group!
  • Every weekday morning (EST), and weekends when appropriate, I will email all participants inspirational quotes, thoughts/goals and actions for the day, for example, Day 1: Think about what moment made you realize you needed to stop yelling.
  • The 30 days are broken down into 10 days of preparation/practice and 20 days of yelling less. I want everyone to feel successful – we all have enough stress on our plates to feel otherwise from this effort! The first 10 days are there to set everyone up for as much success and positive feelings as possible!
  • I encourage you to join our Facebook page www.Facebook.com/TheOrangeRhino so that you can share about your successes and get support from others. I also encourage you to write in the private blog posts included in the daily emails. Sharing is the key part – this is where we can all learn from each other and support each other. Most likely, this is where you will realize you are NOT ALONE.
  • As this is only the 2nd time I have ever done this, we will adjust how I help you accordingly!

The simple part is how this will work. The hard part is well, the work; it’s challenging ourselves to change. It’s accepting that you might have to look deep at yourself, not your kids, to stop yelling. Or more eloquently put:

“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.”~ Viktor E. Frankl

Or as one of my favorite authors said:

Things do not change; we change. “~ Henry David Thoreau

Change is hard. It can be scary and intimidating. And changing a bad habit can be an out right pain the a*s. But this change is worth it. The upside is enormous: a more peaceful life, less mama guilt, a stronger, more trusting and loving relationship with your kids, greater self awareness, a lighter heart, or the list goes on and on. But don’t let me tell you what I’ve gained, go gain it all for yourself and tell me about how you are YELLING LESS AND LOVING MORE on March 26th, 2013.

Am I an expert who knows what the heck she is doing with this idea? NOPE. (Let me make sure I spelled that right. N.O.P.E.) But I am going to try my hardest to share with you what I did and break down learning not to yell into really easy, simple, steps. And I am going to keep all my fingers and toes crossed that it helps you!

P.S. To all of you who have participated in Round 1. Many of the the actions and steps will be the same. I have, however, changed the order a bit and shortened the practice part. AND if you have already emailed me, I have you on the list! Don’t worry!

The Orange Rhino Game

376 days of loving more!
Here is an oldie that I swear by. In the early days my boys loved playing “The Orange Rhino” game and it helped me many a time. Still does! 

Originally Published February 2, 2012
Day 1, Take 6 (sigh)

Dear #1, #2, #3, and #4 (husband too I guess!)

I know that sometimes, well okay much more than I and you, would like, that I yell too much and too loudly. I always feel so guilty afterwards and ashamed…because I love you so. So I’ve decided to change. I’m going to work really, really, really hard to stop yelling altogether but I’m going to need your help. Ok? Can you do that? Can you help me?


Mommy Orange Rhino


As a start to feel the desire to yell at my cantankerous 2 year old I stop myself. Why am I yelling? Because I am tired. Because his whining is obnoxious. Because I am frustrated my husband is working and it’s a Sunday a day I look forward to help from him. Because my 5 year old wouldn’t leave me along for 10  minutes to do something I wanted. (So selfish of me, I know). I’m yelling because as wonderful as they are, my lovely children can be really tiring. But they can also be really wonderful. And honest.

“So #1, how am I doing with not yelling?”

“Terrible. Absolutely terrible. You just yelled at me the other day. And the other minute.”

Yeah, that’s pretty much an accurate summary.  I have no idea what has transpired since last week. Last week I went a whole 8 days. And I felt so good. So so good. To all you non-yellers out there, I know you are laughing thinking to yourself, 8 days is nothing. That is so easy. But to me, it was difficult. At first. That first day was EXHAUSTING. I remember coming up to bed after the day was over and saying to my husband:

“WOW I feel great from not yelling but darn, am I tired.”

It took every bone in my body to keep it together that first day. To find my inner pre-school teacher voice that speaks quietly and lovely and still gets respect and response. But somehow I did it. ALL WEEK LONG I did it. Every day I went without yelling I felt more invigorated and it got easier. And it felt so utterly amazing. I felt an energy I haven’t felt in years. I was bouncing of the walls with adrenaline and excitement.

I felt so powerful and in control which as a mom, is something I often DON’T feel. Ironically, I felt WAY more powerful and in control not yelling than yelling….

And yet, as my 5 year old pointed out just now, I am sucking at the whole not yelling thing. So we created a game to help mommy out.Anytime the boys sense that I am getting cranky and am about to lose it, they need to say ORANGE RHINO. It’s our little secret code. I love that they will help hold me accountable, because really they should. It’s not fair that I expect them to use indoor voices and talk to each other with respect and love when I don’t hold myself to the same standard.

As I write this I hear my husband ROARING at the three older boys…Now tears from one. Oh and now a  little voice “ORANGE RHINO daddy” ORANGE RHINO. So innocently my husband asks, what does that mean?  My 3 year old answers “It means you can’t yell at us. It’s not nice.” WOW. They actually listened to me. And better yet, they get it. Very cool.

So now we have our own secret game. I really hope it helps keep me in line. Really really hope it helps.

Mostly because I’m ready to give up. I’m totally overwhelmed by all the things in my life that I have pushed aside this week because I’ve wanted to write instead. The laundry. The piles of mess that scream  to be picked up. The doctors’ appointments I need to make. The closet organization that needs to happen. The list goes on and on. Everywhere I turn in the house there is something I need to do but just don’t want to. And what’s it been worth not doing it? Nothing. I still have yelled every day and haven’t been able to get back on the “good” streak. I keep telling myself that the sacrifices I am making today, this week, are nothing compared to the benefits that that will come from not yelling.

Uh oh, I’m getting all cranky and worked up.

Orange Rhino mommy, Orange Rhino!

How I L.O.V.E. My Kids When I Want to YELL!

373 days of loving more!

“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” ~ Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Oh, there are so many different ways I love my boys, how can I even count them all?! I love how kind they are to someone who is sick. I love how determined and creative they are when making Lego structures or drawing a picture. I love how enthusiastic and proud they are when they tell their crazy stories. I love how they give me endless hugs and sloppy kisses. I love how my boys are mine and I am theirs.

This is the first time I made heart pancakes but how could I say no when my boys told me everything needed to be hearts today?

And oh, there are so many different ways I like to show them my love. I make pancakes shaped like hearts because they ask. I pick up extra Spiderman Band-Aids , just in case, even though we have boxes at home. I laugh at their knock-knock jokes that aren’t even jokes, especially the seventh time around. I hang their schoolwork up in the kitchen covering every bit of free wall space possible.

Yes, it is very easy to love my boys and it can be very easy to show them my love. But I’ll be honest. Despite all the love in my heart, of which there really is so much, and despite how easy it is to say “I love you!” there are moments when my first desire is to start yelling instead of start loving.

Like when a bedroom is completely torn apart because there is a missing lovey. Like when the kids feel the need to run around the house shrieking and “accidentally” hitting everything in their path. Like when they refuse to listen to me or be even the slightest bit cooperative just because. Like when they seem to tantrum and whine on and on and on for no real good reason (at least in my eyes.)

Like when… the truth is they are struggling and “acting out” for a really good reason and they need me to love them, not yell at them.

But oh, in those infuriating moments it can be so hard to find loving thoughts or loving words! But this Challenge forced me too. Early on I found myself listening more, observing more, verifying more and empathizing more. Yes, I started yelling less and giving more

Tip 22 copyL.isten

Wow. I have been readily putting these four words to work for months but only just realized last week what you get when you put them together. LOVE. Cool, right? Here is how I L.O.V.E. my boys when I really want to yell….

Listen (to their story before assuming)
How often do I hear trouble, see trouble, or smell trouble and assume my kids are doing something naughty intentionally before even asking what’s going on? Just yesterday my 4-year-old son opened the front door, left it open and ran out to the car. Of course his younger two brothers followed; totally unsafe. I was so nervous, I went to scream at him, but I stopped. LISTEN. “Why did you do that?” “Because you said to go get in the car mommy.” Right. I did. He was doing what I asked. I didn’t say “Hey we are going to get in the car; wait by the front door.” So glad I stopped and listened before yelling! I’ve realized this year that a lot of the time, when I listen, my kids have really logical and understandable explanations for behavior that doesn’t deserve yelling, but rather slight refining!

Observe (external factors that could be at play)
For months everyday I picked up my son from school it was like Groundhog day. He got in the car, would proceed to yell at me because he was “cranky” and then enter the house and start running around wild. One day I stopped, looked at the clock, thought about what time it was (lunch time) and what time he had been up from and put the two pieces together. He wasn’t acting out to annoy me; he was wiped and hungry, two triggers for him! Problem solved. I give him a snack in the car the next day. Night and day difference. Observing time, day (Thursdays are tough because Daddy has be gone for four days), temperature (my kids overheat easy), smells (they can’t stand mint), brothers behavior (is a younger brother in the way) and noise (they all hate the baby crying) are great ways for me to understand all my boys and their behaviors, before I yell unnecessarily.

Verify (that something is upsetting or overexciting them)
It drives me bonkers when my kids don’t listen, time and time again. ARGH!!! One day early in the challenge, when the not listening was really awful, behavior was at its worst, nothing worked, and I couldn’t yell, I pulled my son towards me and hugged him tight. I had a hunch something big was bothering him. I asked: “You seem really upset, is something going on?” His reply “Yes. I really miss daddy. I am just so angry I want to roar at everyone.” We both felt better understanding the real problem; a weight was lifted.

Another take on verify…I take what I’ve learned from listening and observing and share it with my son. “Wow, look at the time. You seem hungry and tired is that why you are having such a hard time.” His response: “YES!!! When is lunch time? I barely had time to finish my snack at school.” Or “Wow, you are so excited it’s Valentine’s Day and you are having a party at school, aren’t you?” “YES! I just can’t sit still I am so excited!”

Tip 16Empathize (put it all together and put myself in their shoes)
Gosh, there are so many times when I don’t want to be told to take a deep breath, where I don’t want to be told “you’re hungry that’s why you’re cranky” but instead I want to hear  “Wow. Sounds like you had a hard day. I’ve been there. It stinks.” Or “You’re hungry? When I’m hungry I’m a bear. Let’s find something to eat!” Empathy goes a long way for me…and my kids. I’ve spent a lot of time learning to be empathetic this year. Learning to think like a kid. It’s amazing what happens when I do; so much is clearer and so much of my anger and frustration disappear. I get them. I get the problem. And I no longer want to yell. I just want to focus on loving my boys to help them feel better.

My boys have been pushing my buttons lately – I’ve been stressed so they’ve been stressed. It is hard in the heat of the moment to remember to stop and listen, observe, verify and empathize. Honestly, though, the little L.O.V.E. mnemonic trick has helped me this past week. I hope it helps you too!

xoxo, Happy Valentine’s Day!
The Orange Rhino

* * * *
Final Cover copyLearn more about my L.O.V.E. technique and other tips I use to keep myself from yelling in my new parenting memoir, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling and How You Can Too!” My book is a 30-day guide with simple steps, 100 alternatives to yelling, and honest stories to inspire and lead you on your own journey to yell less. It hits shelves this fall but Pre-order it today to guarantee the best price! Order here

What’s Next Orange Rhino?

372 days of loving more!

Last Wednesday I wanted to celebrate my 365 days without yelling by doing something fun with my boys. I decided on cake (what’s a celebration without cake?!) and releasing 12 orange balloons into the sky. The key? My boys and I were all going to run and SCREAM “WE DID IT!” at the top of our lungs while we let go of the balloons.

I was lucky enough to have my neighbor take some pictures to commemorate the moment. I didn’t think to video tape the scene which actually worked out fine. I couldn’t scream. I kid you not. I went to scream and it felt awkward. I was scared to. I couldn’t believe it. See that’s the thing. I think I have come to realize over the past year that more so than being a yeller, I was a screamer; a real screamer. I so disliked that part of myself that it seems my voice no longer goes there. It was an out-of-body experience to not be able to scream. But it was also really cool.

RELEASE! Letting balloons go to celebrate officially letting go of yelling! What a RELIEF!

We released the balloons and then stopped. They were stuck. My poor planning had me running towards a bunch of trees. DUH. The balloons had no where to go but the branches. Which actually was very symbolic. Here I was releasing the balloons, much like I used to release my frustration my yelling, much like I have released my old yelling self, and they, much like me, got stuck. When I first tried to stop yelling, I didn’t know what to do instead so I felt stuck. And now that I am a so-called non-yeller, I don’t know what to do with myself or the blog, and I am stuck.

I had been plagued with he question of “What now?” as my year started coming to a close. And here I was, my 365 days challenge over, still wondering, “but what now?!” Am I done? Is the blog over? Do I start yelling again? I was stuck. I didn’t know my next step and so it was apropos that the balloons also, were stuck.

One by one they released. And as they released and flew higher and higher away, I heard my eldest son, my sensitive one, crying louder and louder.

“Oh my gosh, what’s wrong?” I asked. “Are you sad your balloon is gone?”

“No. I mean yeah, but no.”

“Well what then?” I asked nervously.

“I don’t want your blog to be over. It can’t be over. I don’t want you to start yelling again. I didn’t like that mommy.”

Oh. My. Gosh. I love this child!!! (And all the other ones too of course; he is just the oldest and most aware at this point!)

“Oh sweetie, don’t worry, mommy isn’t going to start yelling again!!!”

“Promise?” he asked.

“Promise.” I said.

“Okay, well good. Can we go eat cake now?”

“Of course.” I quickly answered; agreeing to cake is easy peasy!

And off we went to stuff our face with frosting, I mean cake! As we walked inside the last balloons struggled free and went into the sky. They were unstuck and so was I. I knew after talking to my son that my blog must go on. A conversation with my four year old over cake confirmed it.

“Mommy, now that you’re done with the blog you have to do it again and again until you turn, um, 60. And if you need to, ya know, blow a bubble and then do a push up.”

“Oh I see. And why is that? Do you like Orange Rhino Mommy?”

“Oh yes. Because when you get mad at your kids its not nice to yell at them so you should stay never yelling so you should stay on the orange rhino blog forever.”


Okay, I don’t know if I am going to blog forever or until I am 60, but I do know that I am going to try and go another year. Not just because my kids give me good reason, not just because you all have given me good reasons, not just because I want to, but because I need to do it for me.

I need to make sure that this habit of mine, the yelling one, is gone. I need to make sure that I can continue to not yell even without the 365 days goal to inspire me. I need to make sure that I really have changed and that I really am no longer a yeller. Just because it has gotten easier to not yell, and just because I have gone 365 days, doesn’t guarantee that this year will be smooth sailing. Bad habits die hard they say AND they take constant vigilance and attention in order to make sure they don’t come back. I need this year of continued vigilance to help keep my “no yelling” at bay.

And besides, every year, life throws different challenges at you. Sure, I made it through is past year without yelling, but the true test will be this year when I get a whole new set of challenges and the “honeymoon” of my new habit wears off. Already I am seeing myself be tested. I am prevailing because what I learned in year one but clearly, the opportunity exists to keep learning.

And I welcome that. Learning is good. I will still blog and keep the page going for another year. That is indeed my goal. I will focus a lot more on personal triggers and how to manage them in order to be in a good place, a non-stuck place, so that I remain calm and happy and therefore patient enough and in control enough to not yell. There is indeed so much more to learn in order to keep yelling away!

I have always said learning to yell less is a process, and my process is still going. I don’t anticipate yelling again. I do hope though that I can learn to be less snappy and less grouchy on days like today when the stress is through the roof. In this case I should write through the rotten, moldy black floor that is now a hole in my house. But I digress. Because while I didn’t yell today, I wasn’t as pleasant a mom as I know I can be. And I would like to see more pleasant days this year. So I am going to keep working. Am I trying to be perfect? NOT AT ALL. Because if there is one thing I learned this year, it’s to love myself, to forgive myself and to let go of perfect. I am not a robot. I make mistakes. I can be grouchy. My goal is just to have more of the not-grouchy and to tell myself on those days when I am grouchy despite my best efforts that “hey, it’s okay, you tried your hardest, keep it up.”

Keep it Up.

Yes, I will keep this blogging thing up. I will keep this not yelling thing up, and I will keep this being part of  The Orange Rhino Community “up” because all three things are bringing goodness to my life that I am not ready to let go of! Balloons I can release; these three things, not so much.

Motherhood and Mixed Emotions

371 days of loving more!

Ironically, not 3 minutes before writing this post, I was talking about oxymorons, specifically “clean messes.” with my sons. Little did I know I would soon be in a “happy sad” place and then would experience a whole other set of motherhood oxymorons. Yes, motherhood is full of mixed emotions and many happen at the same time. It’s ugly and beautiful all at once. 

I just dropped my six and a half year old off at a gym class.

To be clear, I didn’t want to add another activity to his full schedule of school, swim, occupational and speech therapy. But he so desperately wanted to do a sports class and I figured, it would be really good for his social shyness and besides, how bad could it be?
I should have asked myself, how hard could it be?
Because, oh, it was SO hard for me!

I want that forty-five minutes with him around me. I know next year he will be in school all day. I am not ready for that. I want to keep him around me as much as I can. I want him to grow up, but in some ways, I really don’t.

I watch him run into the class, greeted by two new friends. One eagerly screams his name. My son smiles bigger than he ever has. He used to be so shy, so very shy and now he is so eager to meet and make new friends. He has come so far I think, but sometimes he still shrinks into his shell, he is still vulnerable. I feel proud and scared all at once.Oh, please be nice to be baby I think. Please treat him well. Please don’t say mean things to him. Please don’t tease him when he says his “r” wrong. Please don’t laugh at him when he jumps at the sound of a popping balloon. Don’t do anything but love him the way I do, okay?

I watch him stand side by side with Connor. I think that is his name. My son is just so excited to be liked and welcomed that he screams his new friend’s name in an unintelligible manner. He whispers something to Connor. Clearly a six-year-old secret, clearly one not meant for me. I get different kind of whispers, the “I love you” one’s, but now my son has other whispers for other people. I am not his main squeeze anymore, I think. But oh, good for him! I am happy and sad all at once.

Oh, please laugh at his joke I think. Please tell him you think he is funny, please tell him he is smart, please tell him he is awesome. Please tell him all the things I would be if I had him home with me during these forty-five minutes. Don’t say anything but things to make him smile and feel confident in himself, okay?

I watch him stand alone for a second. Connor and Jack have run off together. They are best friends, neighbors perhaps? They clearly have known each other for a while. My son stands, clearly pondering his next move. I recognize the uncertainty – after all he is my emotional twin. Do I follow them? Do I stand here and wait for them to call my name? Do I find someone else to run around and scream with? He makes a decision best for him at that moment; listening to his teacher who says sit down in circle time! Good move, I think. I feel relieved and unsure all at once.

Oh so relieved that he didn’t have to walk over and be rejected. Oh please I think. Please, will someone guarantee to me that my son will never be rejected like I sometimes was as a child, as an adult. It doesn’t feel good. It feels awful actually. Please let no one ever tell him to “go away, you aren’t cool enough.” Don’t ever let that happen to my sensitive son, okay?

I watch him say to Connor as he saunters over to the circle, “Hey, sit next to me.” Connor isn’t paying attention anymore. He has completely moved on to Jack. They grab each other and fall down into the circle laughing. My son gets up and immediately moves to be next to Connor. Connor doesn’t even notice. My son seems happy though, so it is okay. He knows what makes him happy; I know that he needs to learn the ropes for making friends on his own. He needs to learn by himself about keeping the good and tossing the bad. I feel nervous and angry all at once.

Oh please, say “yeah I’ll sit next to you!” I think. Please look at my son and acknowledge that he is there. Please talk to him and your other friend I think. Please include him. Just include him. Don’t exclude him. Please be nice and thoughtful; please don’t be unknowingly hurtful. My son has come such a long way, his self-confidence is FINALLY blossoming, please help it grow. Please do not squash it. Don’t say anything that could make him think he isn’t good enough, cool enough, smart enough, fast enough, okay?

I watch Jack and Connor start acting out and then start encouraging my son to misbehave too. My son wiggles and squirms and clearly wants to join in the mischief but also clearly knows he shouldn’t. Oh is he conflicted – he so wants to be included, but he so also wants to be good. I feel encouraged and frustrated all at once.

Oh please, please don’t be a bad influence on my son. Please, just teach him the good things: how to be a good friend, how to be a good student, how to be a good neighbor, how to be a good brother and son. Please don’t teach him any of the other junk; unless it is to teach him that the junk in life is bad and you don’t need it. And please, do not peer pressure my son into doing anything he doesn’t want to do.

Because I am not there to protect him, to help him. I mean I am, but I am not.

I watch him for a second more and realize that even though I want to stay and watch and mentally protect him for the entire forty-five minutes I need to walk away. I need to let go and let  him grow on his own. I need to let him make new friends. I can be his “Love Bug” and he can be my “Boo” but he needs to have other people in his life too. I can love him, make him smile, hold him when he cries, teach him when he is lost, encourage him when he is down, and I can make him happy. But other people can make him happy too; other people can help him learn about himself too, directly or indirectly. And I need to let that happen so he can grow. I need to let go a little bit. Oh, it is so bittersweet.

End note: My son did enjoy the class. He scored three goals and that mattered to him more than the fact that Connor and Jack left laughing together without saying goodbye to him. Then again, he was so caught up in feeling proud of himself (as he should, he couldn’t really “play” sports a year ago before occupational therapy) that he didn’t say goodbye either. I think the class was worth it. But still, ouch! It hurt mommy’s heart letting go!