My Staycation, Your Questions

 418 days of loving more, Day #2 of my Staycation!

Hello Orange Rhinos! My family and I are taking a much needed “staycation” this week so I will be disconnecting until Monday, April 8th. I know many of you have just recently discovered The Orange Rhino page and blog and are starting up your own journeys to yell less. Yeah! I also know how hard the first days and weeks can be so I wanted to make sure that in my absence you were still supported because I want everyone to succeed. Why? Because I know how crappy it felt to be a yeller and because I know how great it feels to now be on the other side. I wish that I could be online everyday with you all (and that I could catch up and respond to all your questions and comments and emails) but I need to take this time with my family.

I am very curious to see how I do without seeing The Orange Rhino logo daily J I must admit, seeing it, sharing posts, writing blogs all keeps my promise top of mind. And I must also admit that reading your comments and seeing your enthusiasm for the Challenge has brought me much needed strength and inspiration to keep going during this more challenging time in my life. All that said, more than ever my family and I need this break, together. My boys miss me greatly. I haven’t been as present as I wish due to that “Boulder” in my marriage I spoke of earlier this week. This week is my chance to re-connect with them and show them how very much I love them. I am looking forward to the much-needed together time, to slowing down, and to getting the grumpy out of my attitude that has moved in recently!!!

(Okay odd moment. You know you are a parent when…you write Grumpy and think you are a Care Bear!) That said, after this week I hope to act a bit more like Sunshine or Funshine (whoever the yellow one is) and a bit more like Tenderheart because as my 4 year old just informed me when I asked who I should be, he said “Tenderheart because he’s always nice!”

Keeping with the Care Bears comparison (why not, right?) I have put on my Cheer Bear attitude and lined up Facebook Posts and Blog posts for this week to keep The Orange Rhino on top of mind and keep you inspired. I hope they help! What I love about our growing community is that I know that you will all comment and support each other all week along until I am back up and running. Thank you in advance for that! I am really excited about the guest blog posts as they are beyond honest, beyond brave, and very inspiring. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did!

Also, since I haven’t been able to respond to all your questions and I won’t get to them this week, I wanted to answer some here briefly that keep coming up!

1. I am NEW to the Challenge, what is the best way to start?
Read 12 Steps to Stop Yelling At Your Kids and the two posts linked in it: Forget 365 Days and Tracking your Triggers. Tracking your triggers is hard and time consuming but a really, useful tool. Then check out the Resources page and print The Orange Rhino sign. Make one for each child and ask them to hold it up like a stop sign when you are getting cranky! And SPREAD the word. Seriously. Tell your friends your family and get them involved. Get accountable by starting on the FB page what your goal is. Comment on other people’s posts to give and find support.

2. Did you tell your kids when you started?
Yes I did. They were my biggest help! They were constantly reminding me of my promise by holding up their signs and saying “Orange Rhino mommy!”

3. Is your husband on board?
Here is the funny thing. When I started this, he didn’t yell or rather he rarely did. Maybe once a month? So I didn’t need to get him on board. But now that I don’t yell when he does the kids go ballistic at him saying Green Turtle!!! (That is the name he gave himself.) So now he is on board and is trying hard to embrace it because he has seen that yelling really gets us nowhere except a more challenging place or a longer tantrum!

4. Is there any official Orange Rhino gear?
Not yet but I am working on it! I am hoping to have that taken care of in a few weeks so that we can all have Orange Rhino bracelets, keychains and more.

5. I keep failing and am back to day one. This sucks, what should I do?
I suggest doing what some others have done. Stop the counter on the day you yell, say day 2 and start it up again when you don’t yell. This way you focus on the positive. Also, reconsider your goal. Perhaps choose one moment a day to master, ie. bathtime and add moments on once you get one under control. Also re-visit your triggers. It isn’t easy. I know for me when I am trying to lose weight and I feel like I am failing the best way for me NOT to lose weight is to keep telling myself I suck (which by the way, I am uber good at!) When I tell myself I can do it, I want to do it, and I will do it, the weight comes off. It is hard to constantly work at something when the results aren’t immediate but I know it is easier when I stay as positive as I can and when I am as honest with myself as I can be as to why I am struggling, read Truth or Dare? To see what I mean!

6. Your alternatives are great but don’t necessarily work for me. Thoughts?
Read this post “Do I Really Want to Yell.” My alternatives work for me because they calm me down and help my kids calm down. So the question is, what calms you down in the hear of the moment? I had no clue what worked for me until I started this Challenge and had to find a way!!!

7. What defines Yelling?
If you read my Challenge Details, you will see how I broke down my yelling parameters. Basically, I defined a non acceptable tone of voice (ie. yell) as one that had venom in it, one that was intentionally mean and non-loving, one that had great potential to create tears or to tear down my child’s confidence. I still snap on occasion, for example a quick “OUCH” when accidentally hurt or a quick “Enough!” but it is more a slip of the tongue and not a “I’ve totally lost my cool and I am being mean”. The truth lies within – I know when I crossed the line in the beginning because my gut felt awful! Another big distinguisher is yelling to vs at as I discussed in The Emergency Yell. I am okay with the occasional yelling to in emergency or if I am upstairs and they are in the basement and I need something. That said, if I do it too much then they tune me out!

8. Why were my first few days easier than now? I went several days without yelling and now I can’t go one day?! Help!
I went seven ish days without yelling and then I just snapped for the silliest reason; so silly I don’t even remember it! And then it took my three ish tries to get going again because I spent so much mental energy thinking about the fact that I failed and because I didn’t have all the original adrenaline that got me going. The first seven days I succeeded I put all my mind and energy into the process. I think I got cocky after such a successful start and I took my eye off the ball so to speak. My suggestion would be to surround yourself with orange reminders, to talk about your successes so you feel confident, to start each day telling yourself you can do this and to make sure you have a support network to help get you going. I texted my “Orange Rhino” friends constantly my first few days and tries to keep me going.

I hope this all helps some – have a great week and thanks in advance for supporting each other while I am staycationing!

Do I Really Want To Yell?

My name is The Orange Rhino and even though I have gone 415 days without yelling, as you all know, due to a big ‘ole personal challenge, lately I am STRUGGGGLING.

Every morning I wake up and I look at my orange painted toenails and think to myself “I am going to be calm today. I am not going to be grumpy. I am not going to get snap happy and I am not going to yell.”  And then thirty minutes pass and I already feel my blood pressure rising. I feel my palms starting to sweat. I feel my patience waning. I feel myself thinking “UGH. I just want to yell and shout and let it all out!”

Exactly.

I want to yell and shout and let it all out.

But yelling at my boys is not an option I will choose. I simply will not because I know it doesn’t work and just makes me feel crappier. As much as my body thinks that is what I want to do, I know better. I know that yelling is not what I want to do. No, when I feel like I want to yell what I really want is to feel more peaceful inside.

When I want to yell, what I really want is…to feel better.
When I want to yell, what I really want is…to have the house picked up.
When I want to yell, what I really want is…to have the house quieter.
When I want to yell, what I really want is…to release some of my stress.
When I want to yell, what I really want is…to feel in control.
When I want to yell, what I really want is…to feel listened to.
When I want to yell, what I really want is…to cry.
When I want to yell, what I really want is…to get my kids attention.

When I want to yell, what I want, what I really, really want is a loving (easier) moment with my kids instead of the stressful, frustrating, annoying moment that I am currently in.

It is for all of these reasons, that I started doing such silly alternatives to yelling because they allow all of the above to happen, without the yelling. Banging my chest like a gorilla? Gets the built-up stress out. Turning the lights off? Gets my boys to quiet down, instantly. Blowing bubbles? Grabs my kid’s attention. Making a horn with my hand and tooting it? Gets my kids to listen. Yelling into the fridge? Gets me to cool down so that I can calmly asked for the house to get picked up.

Yes, all of my silly alternatives are just that, silly. But they work. They get me to calm down so that I can say what I need to, so that I can do what I need to, so that I can say and do what I know makes me an effective yet peaceful and loving mom.

Like getting down to my kids eye-level and talking to them, asking them to get their shoes…again.

Like asking them why are they crying and whining and then repeating it back to them so that I can have empathy.

Like hugging them when they are frustrated because their brother broke their Lego creation…again.

Like putting my to-do list aside for 5 minutes so that I can really be present and connected with them.

I know (okay well not all the time, okay definitely not all the time) how to be as effective a parent as I can be. But, I can never access that information and do it when I am all worked up in a twit. Nope, can’t do it. So I work to un-twit myself. The other day the boys were running around and screaming and it was driving me so nuts that I wanted to scream “SHUT UP!!!” but instead I decided that I needed to scream and run. So I did. I stopped making breakfast and ran around the house for 2 minutes with my boys. IT ROCKED and was just what I needed. I then said “okay boys, enough running and yelling. We have gotten it out of our system and now it is time to color and be quieter while I make breakfast.” WIN.

There are times of course where it is not as easy to un-twit. When I just truly want to cry. So I do. Yep, I have cried in front of my boys and I am okay with that. When they ask “Mommy, why are you crying?” I just say “Because boys, I am stressed out and having a rough moment. But I feel better now. Thanks for asking about me.”

And there are times when I have no bloody clue what to do because they are so trying and because this is the first time I have been a mom. Yes, I have four boys but oh each ones has different needs; each one I need to respond to a little differently, so no, I don’t always have a clue! Sometimes I don’t know how to help my kids, or how to help myself. Sometimes I just don’t know what to do next. Yeah, these clueless moments are always fun moments {sarcasm font} because it is in those moments that I know I am just a second away from yelling. It is in those moments that I take a deep breath, call a friend, or start talking to myself telling myself that I can do this, telling myself that I WANT TO DO THIS. That I WANT to yell less and love more!

I learned recently that sometimes for lots of different reasons, it is hard to admit what I really want; it is hard to tell the truth to myself. I have also learned that it is hard to go forward when I don’t know what I want, or rather when I am not honest with myself as to what I want.  And I learned that even when I finally know what I want, like to be a non-yelling parent, that I can’t get there if I don’t continually keep reminding myself of what I want.

And well, at the end of the day, what I really want with my kiddos are a bunch more loving moments. I don’t want to yell, I just want a peaceful moment with my kiddos. I want to feel calm inside. I want to laugh with them. I want to smile at them. I want them to trust me. I want them to hug me. I want them to know how very much I love them.

And I want to struggle less than I am right now. I need to remind myself why I am taking The Orange Rhino Challenge so that I stay on task so tonight I am adding to my list of alternatives to yelling. It is both a silly and serious alternative and also per this afternoon, a tested and approved one.

When I really want to yell I am going to add a little Spice Girls into my life. I am going to sing…

“I’ll tell ya what I want, what I really really want, I wanna (huh) have peace and I wanna (huh) love you!”

(And for the record, I never really wanted to bring Spice Girls back into my life. But hey, whatever works!)

Growing Calm

414 days of loving more…and growing more calm!

Dear Orange Rhinos,
Tonight’s post is written by fellow Orange Rhino Francesca Kaplan Grossman. She shared it with me recently and well, her conclusion rocked me to my core because it is exactly what I have been working on the past year and it is exactly what I need to do more than ever right now, especially in light of my last post (here.) Thank you Francesca for writing such a beautiful piece and bravely sharing it with us.

The Orange Rhino

*
Growing Calm
By Francesca Kaplan Grossman

I am really good at growing things. When I was sixteen, I found a small round marble under my right nipple. When I was twenty-two, I was brave enough to have it removed. When I was twenty-three I found out I had been growing all of this extra inflamed tissue in my stomach, rendering me essentially housebound for a year with Crohns disease. I’ve gotten out since then. When I was twenty-nine, I lost my thyroid to cancer. Then I grew twenty-five pounds from having no thyroid. My body burgeons like April in Virginia. Seriously. If I it were physically possible for skin to bloom cherry blossoms, I think I could do it.

All of the mini-gestation periods my body has undergone- the autoimmune, over-inflamed, swollen, thick, cancer parts that have grown – made me certain that my body was severely compromised and getting actually pregnant (with a baby) wouldn’t be so easy.

The fertility doctor, a small man with a kind smile, said,

“If you aren’t 36 yet, don’t worry, I can get you pregnant.”

I wanted to say,

“Well, I appreciate that, but I think I’ll stick with my husband.”

But I didn’t want to seem rude.

“What’s different at 36?” I asked him.

“The eggs. The eggs are different. They are older. And your body has been through a lot, so the eggs might present themselves as even older than that. We should get going.”

Again? Again I was growing bad things? The very things that would grant or deny me my children? I couldn’t stomach it.

I went home and fell asleep next to my painfully optimistic husband and I dreamt of an endless grocery store full of puckered cardboard egg cartons. I flew through the aisles, opening every one. In some cases they were empty, in others, rotten, leaking thick yellow mush.

I panicked and made the next possible appointment.

“I’ll do whatever needs to be done,” I said, nodding my head, agreeing with myself.

“Well, how about this, why don’t you guys try on Thursday,” the doctor answered, and smiled kindly again. “If that doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.”

We were pregnant by Friday.

And two years later we did it again, but this time on our own. I was growing good things. Healthy things. Beautiful things. Babies.

I cannot remember a time in my adult life that I have felt as healthy as when I was pregnant. Both times, I threw up constantly, my face erupted in pimples, I was swollen, and pocked, flushed and saggy. My feet only fit in flip flops, my rings had to come off. I was short breathed and heart burned. I couldn’t sleep. I missed sushi.

But I felt amazing. Finally, once, and then twice, my body was working correctly. Functioning. Flourishing. I was finally growing something inside of me that wasn’t going to kill me.

I feel done having kids. We are so fortunate to have two healthy, happy ones. But I miss being pregnant. And I am devastated that I will never feel that way again: the power, the gift of having something pure grow inside me. I hate that the next time I feel something growing it won’t have sharp elbows or a pink angel kiss on the forehead. I hate that instead of palming my belly to feel movement of a life, I fingertip-explore my body for lumps of danger. I hate that it will always be possible that there is something wrong, and it will never be that kind of right again.

For a little while, this thought crushed me. What would I do if I could never grow anything positive again?

But recently it occurred to me that something else has been growing inside of me for the past few years. Something good.

I have been growing calm. Like a soft golden nugget way deep down, it grows, and has slowly been filling up my chest for the past four years since I had my first child. Further plumping up since I had my second one.

I wasn’t always a calm person. Just ask my husband. Or my sister. Or my cat. I was anxious, and quick to judge, sometimes angry for no reason at all. I also did it all pretty quietly, keeping it inside. I allowed it to fester. I allowed it to grow.

I’m neither medical enough nor yogi enough to know if that anxiety and judgment and anger snowballed into the terribleness that grew inside of me all of those years, but I can not believe it had no connection.

Which is why when I miss an important commitment because I screwed up on the dates, I apologize, and let it go. When my children drive me to the edge, I do not yell, but breathe in deep. When my husband and I fight, I walk away, and then walk back to him to figure it out. When my cat forgets we have a litter box, when my daughter pours honey on the floor, when my son cries that I am the meanest mom ever in the middle of the grocery store, I choose to go against the fury.

I have to let the calm grow. Because it has immediate purpose, and I recognize and respect it for the power it yields. It protects me.

*

The Orange Rhino’s response: “I have to let the calm grow.” YES. I too was not always a calm person. Shoot, I am still not as calm as I wish but I am nurturing the calm within me and I am helping it to grow. Like Francesca writes, I believe calm can grow. I believe positive things can grow inside of us even when negative things used to grow. I am proof, and Francesca’s story is proof that calm can grow. So let it. Let your yells go and let the calm grow. Nurture it by practicing yelling less, by being patient with yourself and the yelling less process, by letting things go and by forgiving yourself on days that you are not as calm as you wish. Here’s to all of us Orange Rhinos growing a little more calm each day! Again, thank you Francesca for sharing.

 

{sometimes} Marriage Makes Me Want To Yell

412 days of loving more!

Dearest Orange Rhinos. I share this post for two reasons. 1, so that you know that while I have gone a year without yelling everyday I am still taking the Challenge right along with you, especially now and 2, to share about a real personal trigger of mine that I imagine many people can relate to.

January 21, 2012: My handyman busted me yelling at my four boys and I decided to stop being a yelling mom and effective immediately start teaching myself to yell less and love more. I then spent an entire year working hard at my new goal of not yelling for 365 days straight. As I neared my end date of February 6th, 2013 (I had a few re-starts) people asked me, what’s next? What’s next? Will you do another type of challenge? Will you re-commit to another year of not yelling? Tell us, tell us! I didn’t know the answer. As I hemmed and hawed for direction, the answer unfortunately (fortunately?) became crystal clear. I needed to do The Orange Rhino Challenge for another year more than ever because on…

January 18th, 2013, my husband and I hit a bump in the marriage road. It wasn’t a pebble in the road, not even a rock; it was more like a wicked good-sized boulder that two people on their own can’t move. And to be clear, it wasn’t like Fred and Wilma Flintstone just dropped this boulder in our path out of the blue. Oh no. We’ve been looking at it together for years and have done a phenomenal job driving around it. Actually, such a beautiful job that we should be Nascar drivers. But there is only so long that you can avoid a huge boulder like this; it is only so long before you drive smack into it and your car comes to a crashing halt and the only thing you can do is finally admit that you have temporarily broken down and that it is time to address the problem.

So my husband and I, well, we are addressing the problem. We are finally talking about the big boulder in our marriage that we have tip toed around for ages. And let me tell you. It isn’t fun. It isn’t easy. It isn’t, well, it isn’t anything but really REALLY hard and sometimes really, really sad.

Every day since January 18th I wake up with a slight hole in my heart. I can feel it. I can feel the hole in my heart when I look in the mirror and see bags under my eyes from sleepless nights and crusty remainders of dried tears. I can feel the hole in my heart when my boys run into my room to say hi and I dig deep for energy and enthusiasm and find some, but not as much as I wish. I can feel the hole in my heart when my boys innocently try to help me by pouring (spilling) milk and my first inclination is to yell instead of respond peacefully like I had naturally begun to do for months on end. I can feel the hole in my heart when I go to bed and think “I did it, I didn’t yell today, but gosh was I closer than I had been for months and I am proud of myself, but still, I wish it was a smoother day.”

And I can feel the hole in my heart as I “try” to fall asleep after having just passed a wedding picture of hubby and I on my way to bed, and I can’t help but think, “How did we go from there…to here?” When I think, “I knew the path of marriage would be smooth and bumpy and that it would have beautiful views and some less than beautiful views, but I still didn’t think it would ever feel like this. I still didn’t ever think that we would get here.”

I didn’t think that my heart would break into a thousand pieces; that it would shatter like I imagine a windshield would in a high impact crash. But it did. And with that shattered heart has come anger and love and confusion and fear and hope and disappointment and immense utter sadness. Because I love my husband so; I love our family so; I love our life so. And with all of that, well, with all of those wonderfully strong emotions, has come a wonderfully strong desire to yell at my kids for no reason.

During my first year of The Orange Rhino Challenge I learned with clarity that most of the time the saying “it’s not you, it’s me” really is true when it comes to yelling at my kids. And right now, it is truer than ever.

On days when hubby and I talk about that status of things, I find myself wanting to yell at my boys for breathing too loud, for laughing too much, for asking too much.

On days when hubby and I don’t talk about the status of things and my mind wanders all over thinking and wondering and questioning, I find myself wanting to yell at my boys for being too rough, for being too messy, for being too whiny.

And on days when hubby and I talk but don’t talk about the status of things and instead hang and try to be normal, I find myself wanting to yell at my boys for not behaving perfectly, for not playing nicely, for not listening and ruining the family moment.

Yes lately, just about every day since January 18th has been a gigantic trial to not yell, a gigantic trial to stay calm and to not just remember, but to also live out all the beautiful lessons I learned during my Orange Rhino Challenge. And today, well today was no different except that another boulder got thrown in our path (I guess it is a good thing we have always enjoyed long car rides together, eh?)

And as I sat in my mini-van this morning, face in my hands sobbing my broken heart out wondering when the path will become smoother again, all I could think of was my boys. My beautiful, beautiful boys. The four pieces that make my heart whole even in the most difficult times. The four boys whom I love with all my heart and yet to whom I haven’t fully expressed it to recently because I have been so pre-occupied with my marital situation. The four boys who right now sense the stress in the house and more than ever need me, I mean really really NEED ME to show them love and not frustration.

MY four boys, who along side their mother, need The Orange Rhino Challenge more than anything in the world right now. We all need the extra calm, the extra focused attention, the extra security, the extra love that not yelling brings. Every day when I wake up and all I want to do is cry or hide or scream about the truth that is my life right now, I look at my orange toe nails, I look at my Orange Rhino signs, I think of the growing Orange Rhino community and I remember that of all things I want to do right now, there are some big things I don’t want to do. I don’t want to make my kids cry; I love them. I don’t want to hide from my kids; I love them. And I don’t want to scream at them unnecessarily because you guessed it – I love them. I might be angry at the situation in my life, but I will not let it impact how I love my kids. I will not let my anger and sadness drive me to yell at my kids. They simply do not deserve to be on the receiving end of any of my personal strife, I love them too much for that to happen.

And I will not let the anger and sadness from the situation drive my husband and I into a sinkhole that we can’t get out of.  Because I also love my husband with all my heart. We’re not done and we won’t be. Although I know some days ahead will feel like a rock slide is happening and I that I am getting hit left and right with tough emotions, I know that we will dig out and one day this boulder will be in our rear view mirror.

Life can be difficult sometimes. Kids can be difficult sometimes. And well, marriage can be really difficult sometimes too and any of these things can push me to yell. I know all of that. What I also know though? Adding unnecessary yelling to the mix just makes it all that much more difficult.

My Name is The Orange Rhino and I will not yell at my kids (or my husband) even when things get tough. I will continue to yell less and love more with all my might and all my heart.

Truth or Dare?

408 days of loving more…

I pretty much remember all the “Truth or Dare” games I played in junior high school, shoot probably even before then. They were all the same. We sat in a dark room in a circle and all of us girls squealed out “not me, not me, YOU go first” while the boys watched us probably thinking, “Enough already, pick a dare!” And whenever it was my turn, I always pretended to hem and haw about which to do, a truth or a dare, when in reality, I always chose the same option: TRUTH.

Truth just always seemed so much easier to me when I was growing up. Dares were scary. Oooh…kiss a boy with my tongue! Oooh…prank call my crush and sing a love song. Oooh…run around the house screaming and angering the host family parents. Or at the older parties, gasp, oooh…take your shirt off! Um, no thank you. But, accepting a “truth?” Well truth was easy; all I had to do was give an answer. How hard can that be, right? Who do you like? When was your first kiss? Which actor do you want to marry? (For the record, it was always a toss up between Christian Slater and “Jake Ryan” from “16 Candles.”

Dare: Put a trashcan on your head and walk around bumping into walls.
Truth: Kids are stinkin’ adorable sometimes and this picture never gets old!

The way I saw it back then, I didn’t have to do anything for a truth but to say what was on my mind. A dare? Well a dare I actually had to push the envelope, I had to find courage and step out of my comfort zone. So yeah, no thanks to a dare.

But now, now I am older and wiser (ha!) Now, as I face more difficult emotional situations that require me to tell the truth in order to move forward, like managing one child’s anxiety and another child’s health scares, like figuring out how to balance mehood and motherhood, like dealing with the challenges marriage can bring, AND like admitting that I yell too much, I am realizing that truths are indeed dares.

In order for me to tell the truth, the REAL truth, I have to actually dare myself to step out of my comfort zone because telling the truth, the honest, no holds back, emotionally raw truth, is SCARY. Actually, it’s outright friggin’ more than scary. It’s petrifying and exhausting and paralyzing.  It means putting myself out there for criticism. It means admitting to things that I don’t necessarily really want to admit to. It means having to actually accept the truth and live with it once it has escaped my mouth and maybe even, gasp, deal with it.

Yes, truths are dares. They both take courage. So as I have aged and been faced with more truth telling my thought has pretty much been, “Yeah, no thanks to a truth…can I just kiss a boy instead please, pretty please?!”

But last January, as I saw the tears fall down my boys’ faces after I screamed a scream I’ll never forget, I knew it was time to stop hiding the truth. I knew it was time to dare myself to tell the truth about my yelling habits. I knew it was time to find the courage to change. It was as scary as scary can be because, well, starting The Orange Rhino Challenge wasn’t just daring myself to admit I had a yelling issue, but it was also daring myself to talk about a subject no one else dared to talk about. It wasn’t just daring myself to push myself harder than I wanted during challenging moments, but it was also daring myself to do something at which I might fail.

Starting The Orange Rhino Challenge was perhaps one of the biggest and best dares I have ever taken in my life. Up until last winter, I was pretty much risk adverse. I hardly ever stepped out of my comfort zone and yet, here I am, 400 something days of not yelling and I couldn’t be more happy that I stepped out of that comfort zone. Deciding to quit yelling and daring to tell the truth was scary but oh, was it freeing and oh has it helped me become a non-yeller. Someone said to me recently “The joy of saying the unspeakable, of saying the ugly and sometimes uncomfortable truth is that you can then label it, accept it, and begin to move forward.”

Yes. Yes. YES! This is the truth; I have lived this statement the past year and I know it to be true.

Telling the truth that I yelled too much took a huge weight off my shoulders. I no longer had to put all my energy into hiding my truth but I could begin to re-focus my energy on crafting a new truth. I could begin to develop the truth that “I yell less and love more one moment at a time.”

Telling the truth that I yelled too much helped me to finally say to myself, “ok, now that you have fin-a-friggin-ly identified the problem, you can create a plan to change and start working to resolve the yelling issue; you can finally go to bed without feeling guilty!”

And telling the truth that I yelled too much led me to the creation of The Orange Rhino Challenge which in turn led me to finding all of you, a supportive, non-judgmental community that has helped me move forward one day at a time.

That’s right. One. Day. At. A. Time.

Because even though I have gone over 400 days without yelling, every day is a new day with new potential to yell. Let’s face it; kids are awesome at giving us lots of opportunities to practice patience and not yelling! And so every day I remind myself about the truth I want to live, that I want to be a mom who parents with warmth and compassion and patience and understanding and love and of course all without the yelling. And every day I need to dare myself to live that truth and make it real.

And everyday I need to accept the truth that I am not perfect, but that I am trying my hardest and then dare myself to not just accept this fact, but really, truly embrace it and not let it ruin my day!

And everyday I need to accept the truth that I might be grumpy and close to yelling, and that when I am, that I need to then dare myself to forgive myself and let go.

And everyday I need to believe the truth that I can do this, that I can continue to dare myself each day to find the courage to keep finding all the energy, creativity, patience, empathy and love that is needed to not yell.

I can do this. One day at a time. One moment at a time.

And I double dare you to try with me 😉

*

In my life right now I have two big truths that I am trying to ignore, that I am too scared to fully admit, to fully talk about. Let me tell you this – they are eating me up. They are making it harder and harder to be the mom I want to be because they are weighing me down. As I reflect upon this blog post two things are clear to me. (1) The lessons learned from my journey to be a non-yeller are applicable to other aspects of my life too and (2) if I actually write about these two truths I am ignoring, if I dare myself to share them, well then I might just feel better and might just have an easier time at not yelling. Who is going to double dare me to share? Stay tuned….

The Emergency Yell!

405 days of loving more!

A few weeks ago during dinner time the doorbell rang. I had of course just settled everyone down to eat, I mean complain over what I served, and the last thing I needed was an interruption. I tried to ignore the ring but it was followed by a knock. Clearly it was important. I told the boys to stay put and eat dinner and that I would be right back.

I headed to the door and saw a gentleman standing outside with a “Cell Phone Company not to be named” badge. Okay I figured, pushing my fears of strangers aside, he’s legit. Maybe he is here to tell me they are finally fixing the signal in the neighborhood; now that would be awesome! I slowly opened the door, once again telling my boys to stay put and to come nowhere near the door. (I have a thing about strangers seeing that I have four young boys in my house.)

“Hi Ma’am, I work for “Cell Phone Company” and we are in the area trying to figure out why the signal is so poor.”

(Score! This was going to be good. Maybe I could finally send text messages without problems!  Turns out, I got unnecessarily excited.)

“We have a scanner that shows that there is a signal interrupting our “Cell Phone Company” service. It is coming from your house. Have you installed anything recently?”

At that point I was weirded out. A scanner? He was scanning my neighborhood while driving a car with not one sign that read “Cell Phone Company”? Was this really legit? I hemmed and hawed before answering him, debating how much information to share. Something was just NOT feeling right.

“Well, no not really. We have a booster to help get a better signal but we have had that for ages. There was a power outage recently though and that could have effected everything.” I said calmly through the small crack of the opened door. There was no way I was opening the door any wider.

“Hmmm. Well, do you mind going up to your attic to take the booster down? If you turn it off we can tell if it is the problem. I can then walk around your property and see if the signal gets better.”

Right. It’s almost dark out and you want me to go in the attic, leave my 4 kids alone and unplug the booster while you walk around my property? AS IF.

“Excuse me,” I said. “Do you have a business card?”

“Actually, I am out. I gave my last one to the customer a few blocks away.”

Make that a double AS IF I was going to do anything to help him solve a problem. Just then two of my boys scampered towards me to see what was taking so long and #4 started screaming, no doubt saying “get me out of this high chair now before I throw dinner everywhere!”

“You know,” I said, “I can’t take the booster down now. It’s dinnertime and I need to go. You can stand in front of my house and scan and then return with a business card and a properly marked vehicle and I will determine if I want you walking around my house.”

“I understand.”

I shut the door and ordered the boys back to dinner. They weren’t listening. Then I saw this man who I deemed had questionable requests and questionable identification start walking towards my side gate. What the ????

“Boys. Sit down at the kitchen table now please.” I said calmly. They didn’t budge; this seemed to interesting to them.

“Mommy who is that? I don’t want to eat. Can we see what he’s doing?” They badgered me with questions and I tried to stay calm so they didn’t freak out. Honestly though, I felt anything but calm. I quickly called my husband but he didn’t answer his phone. Crap. What was I supposed to do?

I looked and the boys were headed towards the back door to watch the man. To me, again, legitimate or not, this was an emergency. This was a stranger that I did not trust.

“BOYS!” I yelled from across the room, “THIS IS AN EMERGENCY. I DO NOT TRUST THAT MAN AND I WANT YOU TO COME BACK TO THE TABLE.”

Well, since they haven’t heard me yell in ages, they hauled a*s to the table. And they sat there obediently. My quiet and calmer (although lets be real, not entirely calm) voice returned.

Now that I had their attention I was able to say what I needed to. “Guys, I don’t know him. I need you to stay close to me and to listen to everything I say, okay? Remember, strangers are danger until mommy or daddy says its okay. I am sure it will be fine but right now, hang out with me and ignore him, okay?”

And well they did. And then the door creaked open and I peed my pants in fear. Oh yes, yes I did (how is that for honesty?)! Daddy then walked in earlier than expected, like say 2 hours early, and said,

“Hi guys, who is the man in the driveway?”

Seriously? I told him the situation and he took care of it while I started cleaning up food that had been flung to every corner of the kitchen in my absence. I then settled the boys into their night time TV show and spoke with my hubby.

“Oh babe. I was scared. It was so sketchy! And then I yelled at the boys because they wouldn’t stay away and I feel bad but I felt it was an Emergency.”

“No, it was. You were right to do that. It was sketchy and they needed to know strangers can be danger.”

“I know but still I hate yelling.”

“Sweetheart, in emergencies, when you yell TO your kids but not AT them, it’s all good.”

Not only was I thrilled my hubby was home early that night to make me feel safe, but I was also thrilled he said that. I needed the re-assurance that I handled the situation right. And what he said is exactly what I have felt from the start. In my eyes, there is a huge difference between yelling to my kids in an emergency and yelling at them.

Yelling at someone is mean; it’s outright hurtful, even in emergencies. In this case it would have been “BOYS! Don’t you ever listen?! What’s wrong with you? I said get over here now!”

Yelling to someone in emergency is simply loud; it’s an intentionally louder voice in the direction of someone who needs to hear the message.

And well, the night of the Verizon stranger, I yelled to my kiddos and it worked. And not only did it work but it reinforced to me why I am so glad I stopped yelling. Because that night, when I yelled not only did they listen, but they really heard me explain what I had to about strangers. Before when I yelled, they didn’t really hear me, they didn’t listen and they didn’t get the message. Why? Because my yelling was so expected; I did it with such frequency that they tuned me out. Mommy’s yelling again? “Did she say anything? All we hear is blah, blah, blah, blah!”

The night of the Verizon man I needed to be heard and definitely not tuned out, just like I would need to be in an emergency situation. Whether it be “EMERGECNY! STOP! CAR!” or “EMERGECNY. QUICK. #4’s HAVING A SEIZURE. GET MOMMY THE PHONE!” there will be times when I need to really raise my voice to be heard. And I am okay with that so long as it is only in emergencies…because if I do it too often, it will lose its most necessary power at the most important moments.

*

As to whether or not the man was legit, time will tell. He gave my husband an email address. My husband emailed him but never heard back. He has yet to return to the house so I am taking that as an okay sign that we are good. Phew. 

Lesson from a Lost Lovey

401.5 days of loving more!

Well, crap, I lost one of my son’s loveys AGAIN. You would think I would have learned the first time…and the second time…and the third time…and the fourth time that no matter what “friends” stay in beds and cribs all day. But clearly, based on my digging through trash, and drawers, and cabinets and taking apart toys and furniture (again), I haven’t learned my lesson.  UGH. Why am I writing? I smell! I need to take a shower, then ice my knees from crawling all over the floor all night, and then ice my finger that I dropped not one, but two dresser drawers on as I hastily pulled them out in search of Mr. Bunny.

But, oh, oh the things we do for lost loveys!
And, oh, oh the agonizing heartfelt pain of losing a lovey.

Why is that by the way? Yesterday when Mr. Bunny was missing, my 19 month old didn’t care. He had his back up one so all was well with the world and yet I spent at least one hour looking for the lost lovey. One hour that I could have spent taking advantage of having Grandma here to help and actually checked off a few things on the to-do list. But no, I insisted on looking for Mr. Bunny. I just HAD to find him. Why?? Why am I more attached to my kid’s loveys than they are? Seriously?!

While they have cried over lost friends (loveys) in the past, eventually they move on and choose another friend as a best friend to snuggle with at night whereas I continue to dwell on how I lost track of such a sentimental friend; how I failed my kiddo. I know, sounds a bit extreme, but it just feels so awful because losing a lovey isn’t just losing a stuffed animal, it’s losing something so much more, it’s losing something that I would never, ever want to lose, that I promised myself I would never ever lose because of it’s importance…to my son and to me.

My son’s lovey is an extension of me when I am not there. It’s a guaranteed source of comfort for him when everything around him is falling apart. It’s a friend to hold in the emergency room when mommy has to use two hands to help keep the breathing mask on. It’s a friend to snuggle when I am out of the house and he misses me. And well, my son’s “lovey” isn’t just my son’s security item; I’m realizing that as I write this that it is also mine! Knowing that when all my efforts to soothe my son’s tears don’t work, that Mr. Bunny can magically make them stop, well, that gives me security. Knowing that my son has a friend that is soft and gentle and cuddly, a friend that can’t hurt him, that gives me security. And yes, knowing that my son still needs and wants a lovie gives me security that he is still indeed a child, that my baby isn’t all entirely grown up…yet.

Yes, I think I am most devastated about Mr. Bunny missing because I am just not ready to lose a symbol of my last son’s childhood. I know he and all my boys will grow up, but oh, even though these days can be hard and long, I am in no rush for my boys to grow up. And even though it was a big pain to have spent hours today looking for Mr. Bunny, I am glad that there are still loveys in my house to be lost and hopefully found! Childhood goes by faster than all the experienced moms told me and I am just so not ready to lose Mr. Bunny, the first lovey #4 ever received and one of the last threads to having a “young” child in the house.

My son’s lovey is something ever so special to both of us, something that I always want him to have when he needs, and let’s face it, it is something I always want to have around, whether in his crib, his hands, or in his memory box, because it reminds me so very much of his precious infancy, of his childhood. Mr. Bunny simply is NOT allowed to be lost. I will put him away in a safe place when my son and I are both ready to do so (okay, when I am ready to do so.) But tonight is not the night. Even though I conceded earlier tonight with a very heavy heart that Mr. Bunny was indeed lost, I will look again once more tomorrow. I am not just holding on tight to any symbol of the precious moments in my son’s childhood, but I am also holding on tight to the hope that I will find him!

Mr. Bunny where are you? WE miss you and love you!!!

*

I wrote the above after I called off the search party. Taking a break from looking cleared my mind. When I closed the computer to go to sleep, I had a new idea pop into my head. It donned on me that #4 has been on his tippy toes more and more lately, that he has been reaching his little fingers higher and higher, that he has been bound and determined to get into drawers that he can’t reach.  I ran to the one room full of drawers galore and like a child on Christmas morning and tore open the drawers with excitement and anticipation. Voila! Mr. Bunny wasn’t in the bottom two drawers but in the 3rd drawer…the drawer I thought he couldn’t reach! I grabbed Mr. Bunny and ran to my mother…

“See! See! I knew it! I knew he was in the house!”

I jumped up and down like a child. I was as happy as my son probably was when he finally got that difficult drawer open.

Which got me thinking.

When something really matters to the heart, remain patient, persevere and get on your tippy toes to reach higher. My son was determined to open that higher drawer. He didn’t quit when he couldn’t, when it got hard. His mind was on it and he kept at it. I have no doubt that he pushed himself up on those tippy toes, stretched his chubby little fingers out and then shoved Mr. Bunny in with all his might. I had this same attitude when I started The Orange Rhino Challenge but have sometimes lost my determination. I am going to embrace and remember this attitude whenever I want to quit. If #4 had quit, he wouldn’t have opened that drawer he couldn’t reach. Yes, then I wouldn’t have heartbreak yesterday but I also wouldn’t have been reminded to keep pushing myself when the going gets tough. If my 19-month-old son can push himself to reach higher, so can I.

10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling At My Kids and Started Loving More

399 days of loving more!

Someone asked me this past weekend, “So, what were your findings from not yelling for a year? Did you learn anything?” Huh. Pretty good question. And it got me thinking, “Well, what did I learn?” I’ll tell you this; I learned a lot, a lot more than I can possible fit in a blog post! So I share with you the top 10 things that I learned from my Orange Rhino Challenge where I promised to not yell at my 4 boys for 365 days straight.

1. Yelling isn’t the only thing I haven’t done in a year (399 days to be exact!)
I also haven’t gone to bed with a gut-wrenching pit in my stomach because I felt like the worst mom ever. I haven’t bawled to my husband that I yelled again and again. And I haven’t heard my sons scream, “You’re the meanest, worstest, mommy in the whole world, I don’t love you anymore!” Yep, I learned real quickly that there are upsides to not yelling!

2. My kids are my most important audience.
When I had my “no more yelling epiphany,” I realized that I don’t yell in the presence of others because I want them to believe I am a loving and patient mom.  The truth is, I already was that way…but rarely when I was alone, just always when I was in public with an audience to judge me. This is so backwards! I always have an audience – my four boys are always watching me and THEY are the audience that matters most; they are the ones I want to show just how loving, patient and “yell-free” I can be. I want my boys to judge me and proclaim, “My mommy is the bestest mommy ever!” I remember this whenever I am home and thinking I can’t keep it together; obviously I can…I do it out and about all the time!

3. Kids are just kids; and not just kids, but people too.
Like me, my kids have good days and bad days. Some days they are pleasant and sweet and listen really well; other days they are grumpy and difficult. By the way, I am always sweet and never difficult. Always. Ha! And like all kids, my boys are loud at times, they refuse to put their shoes on, and they color on the wall, especially if it is covered in brand new wallpaper that mommy loves. So, yeah, I need to watch my expectations and remember that my boys are kids: they are still learning, still growing, and still figuring out how to handle waking up on the wrong side of the bed. When they “make mistakes” I need to remember that not only does yelling not help, but like me, they don’t like to be yelled at!

4. I can’t always control my kids’ actions, but I can always control my reaction.
I can try my hardest to follow all the parenting tricks of the trade for well-disciplined children, but since my kids are just kids, they sometimes won’t do what I want. I can decide if I want to scream “Pick up your Legos! ” when they don’t listen or if I want to walk away for a second, regain composure by doing some jumping jacks, and then return with a new approach. P.S. Walking away and taking a breather can actually get the Legos picked up faster than yelling.

5. Yelling doesn’t work.
There were numerous times when I wanted to quit my Orange Rhino Challenge, when I thought yelling would just be easier than finding deep breaths and creative alternatives to yelling. But I knew better. Early on, I learned that yelling simply doesn’t work, that it just makes things spiral out of control and it makes it hard for my boys to hear what I want them to learn. How can they clearly here me “say” “Hurry up, get your backpacks, your shoes, your jackets, don’t touch each other, go faster, you an do it yourself!” when it’s all a garbled, loud mix of intimidating orders that are making them cry?

6. Incredible moments can happen when you don’t yell.
One night I heard footsteps coming downstairs well after bedtime. Although infuriated that my “me-time” was interrupted, I remained calm and returned said child to bed. As I tucked him in he said “Mommy, will you love me if I go to heaven first, because if you go first, I will still love you. In fact, I will always love you.” Tears still come to my eyes just writing that. I can guarantee if I had yelled “GET BACK IN BED!” we never would have had that sweet, very important conversation.

7. Not yelling is challenging, but it can be done!
I am not going to say not yelling is “easy peasy,” but getting creative with alternatives certainly made it easier and more doable. And after yelling into the toilet, beating my chest like a gorilla, singing Lalala, Lalala it’s Elmo’s world, and using orange napkins at mealtime as a reminder of my promise, it certainly got a heck of a lot easier. Sure, I feel silly at times doing these things, but they keep me from losing it. So do my new favorite words: “at least.”  These two small words give me great perspective and remind me to chill out. I use them readily in any annoying but not yell worthy kid situation. “He just dropped an entire jug of milk on the floor…at least it wasn’t glass and at least he was trying to help!”

8. Often times, I am the problem, not my kids.
The break-up line, “It’s not you, it’s me” rings uncomfortably true when learning not to yell.  I quickly realized that oftentimes I wanted to yell because I had a fight with my husband, I was overwhelmed by my to-do list, I was tired or it was that time of the month, not because the kids were behaving “badly.” I also quickly realized that acknowledging my personal triggers by saying out loud: “Orange Rhino, you have wicked PMS and need chocolate, you aren’t mad at the kids, don’t yell” works really well to keep yells at bay.

9. Taking care of me helps me to not yell.
I was always great at taking care of others; I was not, however, always good at taking care of myself until now. Once I realized that personal triggers like feeling overweight, feeling disconnected from friends, and feeling exhausted set me up to yell, I started taking care of me. I started going to bed earlier, prioritizing exercise, trying to call one friend a day and most importantly, I started telling myself it’s okay to not be perfect. Taking care of me not only helps me not yell, but it also makes me happier, more relaxed, and more loving. Ah, the benefits of not yelling extend far beyond parenting! There is no doubt that I am in a better parenting AND personal place now that I don’t yell. Just to name a few unexpected benefits of not yelling: I do more random acts of kindness, I handle stressful situations more gracefully, and I communicate more lovingly with my husband.

10. Not yelling feels awesome.
Now that I have stopped yelling, not only do I feel happier and calmer, I also feel lighter. I go to bed guilt-free (except for the extra cookie I ate that day, oops) and wake-up more confident that I can parent with greater understanding of my kids, my needs, and how to be more loving and patient.  And I am pretty sure my kids feel happier and calmer too. I know everyone wants to read, “I stopped yelling and not only do I feel great, but also my kids are now calmer AND perfectly behaved.“ Well, they aren’t. They are still kids. But, yes tantrums are shorter and some are completely avoided. Now that I am calmer, I can think more rationally to resolve potential problems before meltdown mania.  But forget perfectly behaved kids for a second. My kids are most definitely more loving towards me, and now tell me quite often “I love you Orange Rhino mommy!” and that feels more than awesome, it feels phenomenal.

* To get started on your own journey to yell less and love more one moment at a time, read:
12 Steps to Stop Yelling At Your Kids or
Orange Rhino Alternatives to Yelling 

* * * * *
YLLM1“Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too” is now available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Qbookshop and many other places listed hereWritten as a 30 day guide, each day shares even more key lessons I learned that inspire me to not yell as well as honest, sometimes funny sometimes serious stories from my journey, simple steps to follow to start your own journey to yell less, and three alternatives to yelling to try out. 

I’m (not) Taking Care of Me.

398 Days of Loving More!

The first pimple was easy to attribute to P.M.S.
The first day of back pain was easy to attribute to “standing in one position too long.”
And the first night going to bed early was easy to attribute to “staying up too late the night before.”

But then when the second zit popped up in full force I knew it wasn’t P.M.S. as I never get more than one zit strategically located in the center of my face for all to see. And then when the back pain continued and got worse I knew it wasn’t just from how I stood because that back pain always goes away in a day. And then when I completely forgot an important conversation with my husband and couldn’t get out of bed the next morning because I was so tired, I knew it wasn’t from staying up too late.

Nope, all these recent ailments are from one thing and one thing only: STRESS. Or put another way, not taking care of me and trying to do too much. Right now, my body is trying to tell me something and it is sending out a pretty gosh darn clear warning: SLOW DOWN or you are going to have a meltdown.

Source: Google Images

And my body isn’t the only one telling me that, my boys are too. I didn’t need the throbbing pain of the pimple and my back to warn me, I just needed to listen to my boys. This past weekend I heard “Orange Rhino mommy, Orange Rhino” more than I have in weeks, months past and rightfully so. I have been completely on edge with them, grumpy as grumpy can be. And I know why, and my body knows why; I am simply not taking care of me.

A friend of mine always likes to remind me that if I am in an airplane and the oxygen masks drop down first that I need to put mine on first so that I can then assist my younger ones; that if I don’t take care of me, I can’t take care of them. It’s the truth. And guess what? I stink at taking care of me! While I have come a long way over the past year plus in learning that I need to take of me in order to be able to love my kids more and not yell, for some reason this past month I have completely forgotten the importance of it.

I know that for me, I need to get at least 7.5 hours of sleep to function normally AND nicely. I know that for me, I need to eat healthy and exercise to ward off grumpy moods and impatience. I know that for me, I need to interact with my friends to feel connected and therefore in a better place with my kiddos. I know that for me, I need to accept that I am not Superwoman and can’t do everything!

And right now I know that I am not doing any of the above. In fact I am doing none of the above and my body and my interactions with my boys are a perfect reflection of that. Actually, an imperfect reflection. I look all pimply and haggard. The bags under my eyes rival that of a zombie. The way I am walking makes the Hunchback of Notre Dame look like he’s standing up straight. And the way I am talking to my kids, the speed at which my heart is racing lately, the slight sweat that is starting in my hands, well it tells me I am close to completely screaming at my sons and I don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit.

This weekend I had one of the closest calls I have had in a long time to losing it completely. I was bordering on becoming the “old me” and it was the biggest, hardest, warning sign ever that I need to slow down and take care of me so that I can take care of my kids with the love, patience, empathy and calmness that I aim too.

But again, I am not very good at taking care of me. I am really good at saying: “oh, I just have to get one more thing done tonight, I can manage on less sleep.” And “oh, I’ll start eating healthier tomorrow” or my favorite “but I really like being productive, it makes me feel happier.” Yes, these things might be true in stand-alone cases but not all together. This weekend proved that to me as I flirted with going absolutely ape sh*t on my son all because I was so worn down that I could barely control myself. I could barely control my emotions, my reactions, and my voice. Fortunately, my son squeaked out Orange Rhino before I became a charging rhino, but still, that moment was so close to out-of-control that it slapped me in the face. It shook me awake and screamed at me: “ENOUGH LADY! Start taking care of yourself now!”

So I am declaring the rest of March as “ME” month. My goal this month is to take care of me; to force myself to take breaks when I am tired, to force myself to find 5 minutes to play, to force myself to let some things go, to force myself to slow the heck down! Yes, I am going to “try” to slow down so that I don’t have the epic meltdown that I was headed towards with great (and loud) speed.

It might mean that I say no to more things and say yes to less things, but that is how it is going to have to be. It might mean that I write more because writing relaxes me and helps me figure out stressful issues sometimes, or it might mean that I write less because I need to go to sleep or connect with a friend.  And it might mean that I get less done because I am taking a bath or gasp, watching T.V., BUT I need to accept that so that I am more relaxed and have more love to share with my kiddos…and myself. Because right now, this burning the rope at both ends, well it’s leading to my boys and myself barely feelin’ the love and it just ain’t working for me anymore. I had my wake up call this past weekend and I am not ignoring it.

I am going to take care of me so that I can take care of my boys.  I am going to love me a bit, even if it is hard to do so, even if it feels selfish, even if it is hard to find the time, because simply put, I want to show more love to my boys than I have lately.

On that note, time to ignore my to-do list and go take a bath and go to bed early! 

The Orange Rhino, a.k.a. {…}

395 days of loving more!

Hi.

My Name is The Orange Rhino.

I am also known as T.O.R. in my email replies when I am really tired and I am also known as mama to my baby, mommy to my older boys and babe to my husband. When I was in elementary school I was known as Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street because I have a big nose. When I was in Junior High School I was known as Heather because I loved that name and hated my own. When I was in college and I went to my brother’s fraternity parties I was known as “Robert’s sister” code for “don’t touch her.”

Yes, I have had many a names in my life.

But to you all, I have never revealed my real name. You all only known me as The Orange Rhino. Many of you have asked why? Are you hiding something? And lately the big question is: are you always going to stay anonymous?

The answer is, I simply don’t know. I am T.O.R.n

I do know that I am most definitely NOT hiding something. I don’t care that people know I used to yell at my kids. Shoot, I would scream it from the rooftops! And if I shared my name and you googled it you would learn that I was in student government in college and that I wrote a really heartfelt yet very sappy note to the videographer of my Wedding about how much I loved our wedding video. So I guess I am hiding something – I am a sappy dork. Wait, pretty certain you all knew that already!

But seriously, when I started this blog a year ago I had three reasons for anonymity. First, to be honest, I was hesitant of the Internet world. I was hesitant that someone from my past (yup, you read that right) would find me. I’m over that now because of all the things I learned in order to yell less, one of the big things I learned was that I needed to let go of big things that brought me down. This fear was one of them. So yes, it is gone. Yet another upside to learning not to yell!

Second, I wanted to protect my boys! I knew that writing about my journey to yell less would obviously cover some parenting (and individual) challenges and while I knew that writing about them would kind of expose my boys, I didn’t want to over expose them by sharing any of our names.

And lastly, well, I genuinely wanted to have a moniker that when I used it, it reminded me of my promise to not yell. And oh the Orange Rhino does that! When I see orange, when I hear orange, it fills me with warmth and confidence. And when I see rhinos, when I hear rhino, I think of charging and how I used to charge so frequently. And when I see my Orange Rhino logo and I hear my boys say “Orange Rhino!” to me, I remember, “I want to be a mom who has the energy and determination to forge ahead and parent with more composure and warmth and without the yelling!”

I love my moniker. I love being an Orange Rhino. I love signing emails “The Orange Rhino” or “T.O.R.” because every time I write that word it reinforces to me my promise to my boys to not yell but to love more. And I love that we are not just a group of parents supporting each other, but instead a crash/herd of Orange Rhinos because it reminds me that I am not alone on this journey (and well it is really fun to picture a bunch of Orange Rhinos!)

And a year later, as I look back at my original decision to be anonymous, I gotta say that I really like being anonymous and I have this idea in my head that you all like that I am anonymous. But, I have been advised recently that I need to become The Orange Rhino a.k.a. {…} if I want to have our community grow. And oh I really am so T.O.R.n about this! I do want our community to grow because I so very much want other moms and dads and caregivers to find the support to yell less that I found in our community. I so very much want other moms and dads and caregivers to go to sleep with less guilt from yelling and more pride from loving. And I so very much want other moms and dads and caregivers to know that they are NOT alone in the parenting challenge to overcome yelling. I have felt alone before, I have felt the guilt before and I don’t want others to feel that unnecessarily!

But again, I want to protect my boys and I want to focus on The Orange Rhino moniker and not my real name.

So I turn to you all, the big Crash of Orange Rhinos! What do you think? Does being anonymous help or hurt? Maybe I share my face but not my name? Maybe I don’t share my name and I wear a mask? Maybe I share everything? Maybe I keep everything as is and change nothing? Please do share your thoughts…just know that I might take the opposite stance because there really are pros and cons to both sides!