How Not Yelling Helped me Manage a Hospital Visit

Dear Orange Rhinos,

I love champagne so naturally I love the sound of a champagne bottle popping open signaling me that bubbly goodness is sips away. POP!

I love playing tennis so naturally I love the sound of a new container being open signaling me that stress relief is moments away. POP!

I love eating popcorn so naturally I love the sound of kernels cooking on the stove signaling me that buttery deliciousness is moments away. POP!

DSC_0162And I love jumping on trampolines, especially with my kiddos on a beautiful spring day when the sky is crystal blue and when every time you jump your eyes see nothing but splashes of spring pink, purple, yellow, white, and green.

What I do not love, rather, what I did not love two Saturdays ago was the loud sound my knee made when I landed incorrectly on a trampoline, signaling me that horrific pain, a long recovery, and probably surgery was not far away but imminent. POP!

Champagne bottles are supposed to pop. Tennis canisters are supposed to pop. Popcorn is supposed to pop. Knees? Not so much, like not at all. But that is exactly what my left knee did.

I had just finished instructing my kids how to jump and land safely. I launched myself into the air (with complete and utter confidence mind you since I did this as a gymnast when I was a kid and since I daily jump on a small exercise trampoline while working out) and then got distracted talking to my friend and didn’t pay attention to landing. The result? I landed, my knee POPPED and I dropped, immediately grabbing my knee. You know the football players who get sacked in a game and immediately drop and you wince at the same time because you can tell they are in immense pain? Yeah, that was the kind of pain I was in.

My friend ran and got my husband while her brother stayed with me and graciously let me grab his arm and squeeze it with all my might. I still wasn’t crying as I was just focused on trying to breathe and not scream so bad as to freak out Mac who was right there watching the whole thing. My husband came out and asked, “Oh babe, what happened this time?”

He had a smirk that I totally got. I mean, two falls ago I fell going down one measly stair and broke my right foot and this fall I busted my shoulder while helping Mac during his seizure. I mean, I just have a knack for hurting myself in the most silly, ridiculous manner. I smiled back a bit and squeaked out,

“No, it’s really bad. I can’t move my knee. I can’t straighten it. I don’t want to. You have to take me to the ER now.”

As soon as we got in the car, my husband ever so delicately dared to ask, “Well, was it at least your left leg?”

“Yes, thank goodness!” I said. “I have already had that thought. So at least I can drive a bit!”

We laughed and then I returned to grimacing and screaming as every few seconds a shoot pain stabbed me in the knee. Folks, did I mention how much this sucked?

Luckily for me, we live five minutes from a wonderful hospital. And luckily for me, the ER was not crowded! We went in, I got registered and then my husband headed off, as he needed to get the kids from our neighbor.

Cue: tears.

I cried because of the immense pain.

I cried because I knew walking outside in the glorious spring weather (a favorite past time of mine) was now out.

I cried because of the revelation that my newfound focus on exercising and eating healthy in order to gain weight was mostly out.

I cried because I had a strong feeling that surgery was in the future and I have feared ¬–and successfully avoided¬–surgery my entire life.

I cried because I knew from last year’s broken foot what having an injured leg meant: relying heavily on others…again, feeling stuck at home…again, feeling helpless…again.

And I cried because I have needed to cry about all sorts of things for months and I have been holding it together for some asinine reason.

The tears, well, they just kept a coming and coming as I sat in the waiting room and then as I laid down on the stretcher in the pediatrics hallway (apparently the ER registration was empty because the actual ER had already filled up with all the waiting patients!) Side note: of all the places I had to be put, I had to end up in the Pediatrics section where I so often take Mac. And yes, that made a lot of tears fall as I cried about being grateful I was there for me, and not him.

The ER doctor FINALLY came over and took one look at me and said, “Let’s get a quick overview and then get you some pain medications it is clear you need some.”

“Uh huh,” I sniffed.

And then when we he finally said, “Okay, you need an x-ray but first, I want to give you your pain medication because moving your leg for the x-ray will hurt. Do you want oral meds or via a shot which will work faster?”

I hate shots. But I didn’t hesitate,
“Shot please. Now.”

Notice the frozen peas! My boys were psyched I took that night's veggies with me to the hospital. LOL!

Notice the frozen peas! My boys were psyched I took that night’s veggies with me to the hospital. LOL!

And the tears started again because the pain was just growing as the swelling grew and grew. And the tears started because I have actually never had such a severe injury and it was all-new to me and I just wanted my mommy and my hubby. I didn’t want to be alone – but also didn’t want to bother anyone because in a screwed up manner, I guess I wanted to cry in peace, you know? Don’t ask 😉

And the tears didn’t stop until, well the Monday after really, and well to be honest, they still sneak in every day. I left the hospital with a knee brace and strict instructions to get to an orthopedic surgeon on Monday. I slept all day Sunday…literally. Pain is exhausting it turns out ☺ At last Monday came and after getting a late afternoon STAT MRI done (the doctor took one look at my knee and my face and said, “I am certain you have a torn ACL), I cuddled into bed with all my boys and put a movie on so we could rest and they could hopefully just fall asleep nice and easy for me.

The doctor called within ten minutes of everyone finally settling down (of course!) and told me what I feared,

“Well, you have a torn ACL, a torn meniscus, and a torn something-or-other ligament. Given the extent of your tears and your age, I strongly suggest surgery.”

And what do you think happened next? Well after I got off the phone? Yep, more tears.

Torn ACL.
Surgery.

I am an athlete of sorts and have always feared “the torn ACL” and the recovery. I have also feared surgery since I was a kiddo and increasingly feared it since having to put my kids under anesthesia numerous times for important MRI’s. And yet here I was, being told I did one and need the other. Blech.

DSC_0168I have until May 22nd to get over the surgery fear for after getting several opinions and weighing the options, I have decided to have the surgery. I am getting over the ACL fear – the knee is torn, not much I can do! Until then, I am doing physical therapy three times a week to strengthen my leg so I recover better. I am daily feeling grateful for my friends who have stepped up to help me with the kiddos. I am hobbling around the best that I can, sitting in my rented wheelchair outside taking in the spring as best as I can even though I can’t walk. (Side note: my new ride is a lifesaver in preparing meals and cleaning up when I am tired from crutches or “walking,”)

And I am trying my best to find both the humor and perspective in the situation. As I keep saying, “What can I say? I like to go all out. Why tear one ligament when you can tear three?”! I mean after all, I am the crazy person who committed to 365 days straight without yelling ☺ And on that note, I’ll bring this entire post back to The Orange Rhino Challenge and well, to the title of the post! In addition to finding humor now to help soothe my frustration, while on the stretcher in the hospital, between tears, I was trying to find perspective to calm me down. I was thinking how grateful I was that I had access to good care. I was thinking how glad I was that my husband was home. I was thinking that hey, at least it is my left leg. And yes, I did think, well at least I got a pedicure done recently. Ha! [pullquote]Do you know why it was instinctual to find humor and perspective in the face of stress and frustration? Because I learned to do so on my journey to Yell Less and Love More! Both actions are now habits that I apply to so many tough moments in my life making me that much more grateful for The Orange Rhino Challenge![/pullquote] Do you know why it was instinctual to find humor and perspective in the face of stress and frustration? Because I learned to do so on my journey to Yell Less and Love More! Both actions are now habits that I apply to so many tough moments in my life making me that much more grateful for The Orange Rhino Challenge! For real.

Lets all keep moving forward, one step, or one hobble at a time!
All my best,
The Orange Rhino

15 Ways to Keep Your New Year’s Resolution to Stop Yelling at Your Kids

Orange Rhino YellingYou all know that in January 2012, I promised my four boys, then ages five and under, that I would go 365 days straight without yelling. I had just been caught yelling at them by the handyman and the disappointment in myself that I had become a yelling mom, a mom I so never thought I would be, coupled with the sheer embarrassment, pushed me to finally admit that enough was enough and that I needed to change.

After numerous starts and re-starts, I finally met my goal on February 6th, 2013 and well, I just kept going, and going. The upsides to not yelling, like less temper tantrums, tears (both my kids and mine,) and berating myself, along with more listening, enjoyable bedtimes, and laughter (just to name a few) made all the hard work so worth it that I had no desire to pull back my efforts! I have only had a few slip ups since that February day, but with new health concerns for my three year old, new parenting challenges and new personal struggles, I am finding that the increased level of stress is making it much harder, like, much, much harder, to respond calmly instead of yelling.

So, when December 31st rolled around, instead of sitting down to make a list of any new resolutions, I decided to make a list of reminders for how I could continue to succeed at my old resolution of not yelling at my kids. I hope my list helps you out as well because I know I am not the only parent struggling with this resolution!

Preventative Measures to Keep Yells From Growing in the First Place

  • Schedule a scream if you wake up on the wrong side of the bed or get a stressful phone call. Letting out a big ‘ole yell outside, in the garage, or into the closet relieves tension instantly and gets you to a less grumpy place.
  • My mom told me to rest because I needed to. Of course I said I didn't need to. I ended up not getting up for 2 hours. Mom was right - I needed the break! Loved this moment!

    My mom told me to rest because I needed to. Of course I said I didn’t need to. I ended up not getting up for 2 hours. Mom was right – I needed the break! Loved this moment!

    Take care of yourself. Prioritize sleep, exercise, me-time, and connecting with friends so that you are in a better place to combat personal things that can push you to yell like: hunger, exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed and experiencing any tough feeling of parenthood like loneliness or not-good-enough-ness.

  • Surround yourself with orange by sticking orange Post-It notes in oh-so-popular yelling areas and by wearing orange clothes so that everywhere you go you are reminded of your promise to be an Orange Rhino and not yell. That and well, orange gives off a warm and energizing vibe, a vibe desperately needed to keep yells away!
  • Laugh, talk and cuddle with the kids whenever you can because when you are all connected and regularly enjoying each other’s company, you all behave better! Seriously. Joyful moments breed joyful attitudes, remember that!

Tips to Stop a Growing Yell When Preventative Measures Don’t Cut it.

  • 279637_10150723865045004_5947675_oRe-tape newborn pictures that have fallen down off bedroom doors so that when naptime is a struggle or when some darling child needs one thousand and one cups of water to fall asleep, you are reminded how fragile your child was, and always will be, so that you are inspired to proceed with gentle and not harsh words.
  • Exercise to get your body, instead of your mouth, moving! Drop and do a push-up so you don’t yell a put down! Do jumping jacks so that you stop feeling so jumpy and irritated! Let the endorphins released from exercising (stretching included) bring you to a happier place.
  • Start vacuuming, scrubbing the floor, or wiping down counters to get the similar calm-down effect as exercise. Added bonuses? Also get a cleaner house, more sculpted arms and if vacuuming, a noise to drown of the yelling of the kids which you know can be a major trigger!
  • Say, “I love you sooooo much” so that the blatantreminder of how strongly you feel about one of your munchkins dampens the desire to yell. Saying “I love you” is like an elixir to stop yells, especially when it is said over and over again which lets be honest, will be necessary sometimes!
  • 72224_10150308214670004_6138642_nStare at a favorite picture in the room of you and the kiddo driving you nutso so that you focus on the positive memory you shared and not the current negative one you are experiencing. In other words, zone out for a minute so you don’t blow up for 10 minutes! Remember, if no picture can be found, staring at an inspirational quote or personal mantra also helps get you re-centered. One favorite mantra: “I can do this. I will not yell.”
  • Splash cold water on your face to cool down. Or put your head in the freezer, whichever. You know you can get hot when a yell starts to grow which can make you get irritated. And if you get irritated, then you will probably want to yell even more! And if you want to yell even more well…then literally cooling down is a lifesaver. Note: If you are in the car, open the window and put your head out like a dog. Just watch out for passing cars of course! Ha!
  • Find perspective by saying you are grateful for whatever annoying thing happened. For example, “I am grateful my son spilled his milk all over the floor because it meant he was trying to learn how to do it himself.” Or “I am grateful my son spilled his milk and not my coffee. That would have been a disaster.”
  • Sing out emotions or just sing for the heck of it because even though you have an awful voice, it gets attention! Plus, singing, “I am so angry I could yellll,” makes you laugh both at yourself at your kids (in a good way, of course) because their, “mom is a wicked awful singer” expressions are priceless.

Alternatives to Yelling When All Else Fails and a Yell is Inevitable.

  • Turn the yell into garbledegook (I am not sure that is even a word, but that is the entire point.) When a yell is literally on the way out and you are too late, jumble all the words and sounds up so that you sound ridiculous. This will not only stop the kids in their tracks, but it will also make us all laugh which is an instant mood changer. Likewise, talking like a robot or as if you have marshmallows in your mouth, also work.
  • Stress Ball 2Squeeze the nearest squeezable thing (and no, this definitely does not include kids!) Think Play-Doh, kitchen towel, cereal box, pillow, jacket, steering wheel, or seat of a chair. What also works is putting your hands in your back pockets and squeezing (the pockets that is, not your butt!)
  • Just let out a primal scream, but leave all words out. The reality is that sometimes it does feel good to scream; it just doesn’t feel good to yell negative sentiments at others. So if a yell is most definitely coming out, let it out but just save the words and aim it away from the kids. (P.S. I always follow this up with an, “I’m sorry I lost my cool.”)

And last but definitely not the least, the most important of all ways to ensure that you don’t slip into your old yelling habits, should you slip up–rather, when you do because you might be an Orange Rhino but you are still human–make sure to immediately forgive yourself. Remaining mad at yourself will just make you grumpy, angry, and disappointed which are three surefire ways to make it even hard to keep yourself from yelling when the next tough moment arises.

YLLMcrop2For 85 more ideas on how to stop yelling at your kids, and for a detailed step by step guide to further help and inspire you, check out my new book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” available in all major bookstores and online here.

Yell Less by Saying “No” More

I wrote this article for Empowering Parents earlier this fall when I felt a huge desire to say “yes” to every volunteer opportunity that came my way. I have learned from my journey to Yell Less and Love More though that saying “no” really is okay and a great way to say “yes” to a more calm me and household! I share this today because the idea totally applies to the Holiday Season and the inevitable pull to do perhaps more than one needs to or should! Enjoy…

10703595_10152767635452177_5860047255170585397_n-2 Read here: Yell Less by Saying No More  

 

4 Lessons From Not Yelling That Helped Me With Life in General

Today is my second son’s sixth birthday.  And like every one of my past sons’ birthdays, I woke up so excited to run into his room and give him a big hug and sing happy birthday. I also woke up hoping, with every single finger and toe crossed, that the day would run more smoothly than usual so that my son and I could share an extra special, peaceful day together free of fighting amongst brothers. And I woke up knowing that I needed to adjust my expectations for a great day down a notch or two because I was just setting myself up for disappointment and frustration and therefore yelling!

You see birthdays in our house are tough, tough, tough! The three non-birthday boys get all sorts of jealous and “it’s just not fair” tantrums happen hourly, if not more often. On top of that, when there aren’t tantrums, all four boys are super hyper because that is just what happens to my boys on any special occasions. It is our experience, after years of research that “Holiday Hyper” + Tantrums = One heck of a disastrous day.

By 8:11 am this morning, we were already on our way to disastrous land. The birthday boy even seemed more sullen than usual; I am certain all the fighting to get the first piece of breakfast cake (yep!) and the begging to share his new LEGO got to him. How couldn’t it? So when daddy called this morning to say, “Happy Birthday” to the birthday boy, I broke down in tears before handing the phone over.

“How’s the morning go?” my husband innocently asked.

Darth Vader“ARGH! #1 can’t keep his hands to himself and keeps punching Darth Vader. #3 has been screaming that he hates birthdays since he got out of bed. The best line being, ‘See I hate birthday parties because my cake falls over.’ Quality. And #4 didn’t nap yesterday and his brothers woke him up way too early so his crankiness is out of control. And to be honest, I have just had enough of parenting! It is so hard and I feel like I am sucking at it and that’s why the mornings have been so rough. I love our boys but they are a handful. A handful. And I just, well, wanted #2’s birthday to start off on a great note, you know?!” I sobbed to him all in one fellow swoop, not even stopping to take one breath.

Then #3 hit #4, #1 told me we had 2 minutes to get to school or he’d miss his field trip, and I had to get #2 on the phone real quick, and well, I just felt like I was going to explode! Miraculously (actually, I think the good cry helped me chill), I got everyone where they needed to be and I headed to work out to get some much-needed “me-time.”

A minute before I entered my class, I received this email from husband,

Tip 8“Babe, don’t let life get you down. Our kids are a handful, but usually a handful of joy and fun. You have a lot of reasons to be proud of how you parent the boys so focus on that. Take a moment, smell the roses and enjoy what you accomplished six years ago: not sneezing, laughing, or talking before the doctor told you that you could so #2 didn’t come flying out onto the floor! You created our son and he is awesome. Be proud of that.”

He was right. Our kids are a handful – full of whining, not listening, arguing, and being royal pains in the butts at precisely the wrong moment. But they are also, and more so, a handful of joy – full of love, tenderness, empathy, joy, hope, laughter, and total awesomeness.

I loved my husband’s take on my statement, “our boys are a handful.” It brought me some much-needed perspective and helped me re-frame how I approached the rest of the day, which as a result was much, much more enjoyable.

This “insight” and realizing the “Power of Perspective” was the first of four insights that both surprised and inspired me today. I shouldn’t have been surprised by any of them though; they are old ones that I learned on The Orange Rhino Challenge. One of the best unexpected benefits I discovered in taking The Orange Rhino Challenge is that many of the tricks and revelations I learned to keep me from yelling, also help to enhancing my life in other non-yelling situations. Sweet!

Here are three other key insights I learned on my journey to yell less that popped up in my life today in non-yelling situations.

1. Keep practicing and staying on course; results will come.
I have been working my butt off (ha, literally, oh wait, I am not working my butt off, that’s the problem) to try and lose some extra weight gained during my foot injury. Well, I have been working at it since January. January folks. Nothing has changed and doctors confirmed there is no medical issue. The conclusion? I just have to get my metabolism alive again. So, I am trying my hardest and greatly discouraged and just wanting to quit my efforts. Why bother, right? I asked my always motivational exercise instructor today, “What should I do? Do you have any advice? I just want to quit. I am doing all this extra work and nothing!” Her response: “Just stay the course. Keep going no matter what. All the work is working you just don’t see the results yet. But you will. It will all just click. Whatever you do, don’t quit.”

Such solid advice and exactly what I learned on The Orange Rhino Challenge. In the beginning I felt like I was getting nowhere…fast. But all the good and bad moments were teaching me and preparing me to succeed. So to you: keep practicing not yelling, it will click. Repeat, it WILL click. And to me: keep working out, it will click. Got that? No quitting young lady!!!

2. Go one moment at a time; keep expectations in check.
I totally cried my eyes out to my therapist today (yes, I have one and no, I am not ashamed) that I just wanted a full good day with my kids because lately all the days have been ROUGH. Her response, “May I suggest you adjust your expectations a bit? Perhaps instead of wanting a full good day, you just aim for a good moment, then a few more, then maybe a day will come.” Well, I practically spit out my coffee at that point. I paid her to hear what I write EVERYDAY to all of you and what I tell myself daily in regards to yelling?! LOL. She was so right.

So I say to you: aim for one good moment of not yelling. When you have that, then aim for more, and then more. Good moments attract more good moments and eventually they all add up to a full day. And to me: aim for one good moment with your sons. Enjoy that like mad. More will grow from that joy.

3. Be nice to yourself; positive thoughts attract more positive.
After my oldest son’s bedtime “it’s not my birthday and life is so unfair and my brother has better LEGO’s than me” tantrum to end all tantrums (which by the way he did totally naked making it hard to take him seriously), I decided to sit in his room with him for thirty minutes past bedtime and help him with his LEGOs. It was the best moment (see, moment not day) with him all day. Until he said, “I am such a loser. I can’t keep my LEGO creations together like my brother.” My heart sank. So young to be talking to himself like that. My reply? “Honey, you are not a loser. Don’t be mean to yourself. Love yourself. You deserve it.”

And then the irony kicked me in the butt, you know, the one that won’t shrink come hell or high water. “Don’t be mean to yourself?” Hello, I am mean to myself HOURLY and it does me no good, in fact, it makes me feel crappier which makes me get closer and closer to yelling for no reason. I guess I should take my own advice. Especially since on The Orange Rhino Challenge I learned that positive thoughts attract positive thoughts and positive results. So I say to you: Tell yourself you can change. Forgive yourself if you yelled. Be proud of your non-yelling moment. Catch your children being good so they show more good behavior and you want to yell less. And I say to me, “Just be nice to yourself already! Love yourself more!”

All these thoughts in one day. Well, and that I have yet to figure out how to make a Yoda birthday cake! And on that note, I’ll leave you with some Master Yoda wisdom that applies to The Orange Rhino Challenge.

Luke: “I can’t believe it.”
Yoda: “That is why you fail.”

Believe that you can learn to yell less, and yell less and love more you will!
(Sorry, totally couldn’t resist!)

* * * * *
Final Cover copyCurious to know what other Orange Rhino Revelations I learned when I stopped yelling that have enhanced my life in general?! Check out my new book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling and How You Can Too!” It is a 30-day guide, each day containing a personal story, top revelations, suggested actions to try on your own journey and then three tips to try instead of yelling. I personally love the revelations piece as they are kind of like the cliff notes version! This way, on days when you want to read but only have a spare minute, you can just read the revelations. Pre-order my book by clicking here (turns out pre-ordering saves you money!) 

{sometimes} My Weight Makes Me Want to Yell

My weight is up right now and boy does it have me down. Now, my weight being up is not a new thing to me; I have struggled with my weight and body image issues for at least fifteen years. (Okay, that was kind. I think since I was fifteen is more like it.) Anyway, what is a new thing to me is that I am lacking the determination, the will power and the ability to get to where I want to be to feel better about myself. As a result, I am feeling many of the same ugly, heavy feelings I used to feel when I yelled.

At the end of the day, I feel guilty that I indulged in an ice cream sundae…again. I feel disappointed in myself that even though I told myself “today is the day I will gain control” that I didn’t stop myself when the bag of chips called my name. I feel like a failure whenever I look in the mirror and my face and arms are noticeably puffier. I feel out of control, as in completely out of control and unable to stop myself once I start. And I feel embarrassed, frustrated, and hopeless that I will ever get back on track.

And I don’t like it.

While many people would say “hey, don’t worry about your weight, you like fine and it is what is on the inside that matters” and I would say back “I know, I know” the reality is that right now, neither statement matters to me. What matters to me is that my weight isn’t making me happy, or confident or comfortable in my own skin. In fact, all these negative feelings are making me miserable and well they are making it a lot harder to actually accomplish what I want to accomplish! I know that I need to stop beating myself up in order to move forward. I know that I need to not just give up on the entire day, my entire goal, after one bad snack. I know that one “weak” moment doesn’t mean that I am a failure; it just means that I need to let that moment go and seize the next opportunity to be a little stronger. And I know that telling myself “eh, I don’t really care” is complete bull. I do care, it is just easier to say I don’t care because then when I feel frustrated with my weight I can say to myself “oh, you don’t care, it’s okay.”

But again, that is complete bologna; it is just an excuse to hide behind. I care immensely.

I care immensely that right now I am binge eating because I am feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, tired and emotionally spent. I care immensely not just because I am physically and emotionally unhappy with my weight, but also because I know it isn’t healthy, physically or emotionally. I care immensely because even though in the moment I “really want and need to eat,” in fact I know that what I really want is to stop this behavior. And I care immensely because my weight and my eating habits are huge, gargantuan triggers for yelling and even though I am not yelling right now, I am finding it very hard to stay calm.

You see, when I feel confident and happy with myself, it is so much easier to parent with love and patience.

When I feel like I do now, unconfident and crappy about myself, oh is it hard to parent with love and patience…oh is it hard to be an Orange Rhino and yell less and love more. Why? Because all I want to do is yell, yell, yell!  Do I want to yell at the kids? No. What I really want to do is yell at myself! I want to yell,

“Why can’t you find self-control and not eat all that junk? You know how. You’ve done it before. Like 5 times before. Just put the fork down. Get with the program.”

And “Why can’t you find just 15 minutes to exercise when you know it is important to you and that it makes you feel better in so many regards?”

And “Why are you making yourself miserable? You know you would rather eat healthy and feel healthy than eat crappy and feel crappy.”

Oh yes, I want to yell big time. But just like yelling at my kids does no good, yelling at myself doesn’t either. What would do me good would be to do many of the same things I did to support myself in my quest to stop yelling at my boys. Telling myself I can do it, telling myself that I can lose weight, that I do know how, that I will get there, now that would do me good. Going one moment at a time, celebrating any small success, that would do me good. Practicing and practicing and practicing “self-control” and forgiving myself when I slip up, that would do me good. Loving myself even when I feel fat, and gross, and like a total utter failure, now that would do me a lot of good!

And while all of the above would do me a lot of good, the one thing that I know would really do me a heck of a lot of good would be to start tracking what I eat. This is ultimately what always works for me because it helps me to see where I struggle (can we say night time indulgences after the kids are finally asleep?) and therefore where I need to focus my efforts. I have been trying to track for weeks now. But I can’t stay committed to it. And I know why – because it is hard and it takes focus, energy and honesty. Yes, honesty. Writing down everything I eat means admitting that I am binging on food to feel better and that is hard to admit.

Kind of like how writing down all the times I wanted to yell was hard because it meant admitting that I yelled way too much and that I needed to change. It is one thing to think, “I yell too much.” It is another to actually see just how much I yell on paper. Ouch! Oh tracking my yells and my triggers was a brutally honest but wonderfully helpful tool. In fact, I decided to do it in the first place because get this, I had tracked my food intake before when I lost fifty pounds and I knew that keeping a diary of sorts works wonders.

And it does.

As does waking up each morning and trying again despite what happened the day before. As does being awake for each moment, each opportunity and trying again despite what supposed “failure” thirty minutes ago.  Yes, I have been struggling for weeks now with my weight and it really has me down. But I will not let it keep me down; I will not keep putting myself down for failed efforts, because that just makes it harder and harder to move forward, and easier and easier to say, “Screw it, I quit, I give up.”

Instead I will embrace wholeheartedly what I heard a stranger say today: “Never. Stop. Trying.“

Never. Stop. Trying.

I can do this. I want to do this. I will do this.

P.S. For the record, I continue to be amazed by how much The Orange Rhino Challenge is the gift that keeps on giving; how what I learned on my quest to stop yelling has been so applicable and helpful to other challenges in my life.  

To learn more about The Orange Rhino Challenge, check out  my book “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!”

When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Well, once again, this is not the post I intended to write tonight. Nope, not at all.
That seems to be the theme lately: not doing what I expected to be doing.
That was certainly the case last week on vacation.

Did I expect to spend the first three days in the rain? Nope. I mean sure, one day of rain, or some drops here and there, but most certainly not three days of thunderstorms.

Did I expect to find our normally quiet, spacious beach overcrowded because the beach one block over was getting filled in as a result of Hurricane Sandy? Nope. And when I say overcrowded, I mean so much so that if one of my boys even flinched I feared they would get sand on a stranger.

Danger. This mom didn’t expect this and doesn’t like when things don’t go as planned. In fact, in kind of makes her want to scream….

Did I expect to have not one, not two, not three, but four kids all not sleep through the night, every night? Nope. Of course I expected one or two, and I expected early risings, but for all to not sleep through, seriously?

Did I expect to discover our favorite breakfast place would have the same great food and view but awfully mean and hungover college boys instead of sweet and caring college girls who helped with the kids? Nope. I know wait staff changes, but after many a long night I so longed for a little help at breakfast besides the caffeine jolt from my coffee.

Did I expect to call 911 at 4:30 in the morning because I was convinced someone was in the house?

Oh wait, that wasn’t on vacation; that wasn’t last week. That was last night, or I guess this morning. I think I am still shaking and still traumatized by the whole thing. The baby cried out at 4:30. He quickly settled and then I heard footsteps. Then I heard what sounded like toys banging around. I waited in bed, my heart already racing, trying to figure out my next move as my husband was traveling. I decided it must just be #2 up early (he doesn’t sleep well). I waited for the sound to stop. It didn’t. So I grabbed the bat and went out into the hall. I checked all the kids’ rooms. All the lights were off; the rooms were quiet and the beds full. Then…

BANG!

The metal baby get at the bottom of the stairs crashed. I looked downstairs and saw lights on and heard even more noise and even more footsteps. I ran to my bedroom and called 911.

“Hello! Quick, hurry. Send someone to my house. I think someone is downstairs.”

“Hold on ma’am, where are you. Tell me what you hear. Police are on their way.”

“Someone is downstairs. I know it. I know it. Please there are footsteps and noise. Hurry! Hurry!”

I told her everything I could as quietly as I could. I prayed the baby didn’t wake and cry out again. The last thing I wanted was my four boys to wake up and get attention. The last thing I wanted was to be found, so I tried so hard to stay calm and not let my tears of absolute fear be heard. It was near impossible.

“Did you call out downstairs, to see if anyone answered?”

“No, I was too afraid. Please, hurry, hurry. I am so scared!” I sobbed. And I mean sobbed. I have never been so scared in my life. Visions of an intruder ran through my head as the banging continued. The beautiful calm voice came kept reassuring me as I continued to sob hysterically. A mere minute or two into the call, or rather an eternity if you ask me, she said:

“Okay, six officers are at your house and have surrounded the perimeter. Just stay on the line with me. You are going to be okay….Okay, the officers are walking around your house. Stay with me.”

“Please, please, tell them to come in. I can give you the garage code….”

“Ma’am, the officers see someone in your house. Stay calm. Okay, someone with a red shirt is walking around. It is a child. With blonde hair.” She matter-of-factly reported to me.

“THAT’s MY SON!” I bawled.

I threw the phone and ran downstairs.  I saw my sweet oldest standing in pitch black in the kitchen. I dropped to my knees faster than I ever have and let out the biggest sob of my life so far.

“You scared me! You scared me so much! I thought you were someone trying to hurt our family. I am so scared. Do you see how scared I am?” I said calmly-ish. Repeat, I said calmly-ish. I didn’t yell.

Flashlights flickered in every corner of the house. I opened the back door to a policeman and once again started bawling. I finally let out a breath; I don’t think I had really breathed for the last five or so minutes.

“It’s my son sir. My son.”

“What happened little guy?” The policeman asked so very nicely and reassuringly.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry mommy. I woke up and had a bad dream so I snuck downstairs to get something to eat. I think I will go back to bed now.”

“Sweetheart. Oh sweetheart. I am just so glad you are okay. This is why I have told you that we don’t go downstairs without an adult in the morning. This is why we stay in our rooms. Oh #1, you scared me so much.”

And on that note he shook his head quietly with understanding and turned and walked upstairs and went to bed as I apologized to the police officer and the other five of them waiting at the front door. I felt embarrassed to have made such a foolish mistake. I felt embarrassed that I didn’t think to pull back every cover in the kid’s room. I felt embarrassed that I was standing in the ugliest summer (ie. less cloth) pajama’s ever and that I hadn’t even thought to put on a robe to cover up what was hanging out, eh hem.

All six officers reassured me that I did the right thing; that this has happened before and it is better safe than sorry. I knew they were right but still, I feel a little silly today. Kind of.

I also feel a little proud. Just like I felt a little proud on vacation. Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, when something went awry and not as planned, I would get all bent out of shape. Beach closed? I would complain for two days, be a grump and be ripe to yell. Kids not sleeping? I would suggest packing up and going home and in the meanwhile, I would snap at the kids incessantly. Kid scaring the crap out of me? I would scare the crap out of him by screaming in his face.

Yes, before I taught myself to stop yelling, before I realized that I should expect to be triggered to yell big time by things not going as expected, I didn’t handle myself well at all when things went awry. In fact, I would get into such a funk that I either ruined a moment or missed out on an opportunity all together. The Orange Rhino Challenge hasn’t just taught me to yell less and love my kids more, it has helped me to love life more. I loved vacation – despite all the unexpected hiccups because I have taught myself to expect and accept the unexpected. Even my husband noted how calm I was compared to past reactions to similar situations. And last night was no different. I loved my son more than I would have in the past if faced with such a scenario because I have practiced handling the unexpected more gracefully.

My son saw fear in my face last night; not anger. My son felt love in my hug, not aggression. And as a result (or as I like to think) he heard every lesson I needed to teach him loud and clear…all without me getting loud.

I didn’t expect for my son to be the intruder in my house last night, but it taught him several great lessons. And I also didn’t expect The Orange Rhino Challenge to change me so much, to have taught me so many great lessons.

Dinosaurs, Dolphins & Darn Dilemmas

I am off today. Simply off. I didn’t sleep well as I knew I wouldn’t. First grade orientation was last night and while my oldest son did great, mommy didn’t do so great. My stomach was in knots all night at the thought of meeting new mom friends; at the thought of all the volunteer opportunities and what I could say yes to versus what I wanted to say yes to; at the thought of my oldest son going to a school where he’ll be the youngest; at the thought of another big milestone sneaking up on me, pushing me to once again realize just how incredibly fast my boys are growing up.

So yeah, I went to bed with a lot of my mind, which meant I didn’t sleep a wink. Not a wink. And when my darling boys woke me up at 5:30am this morning (totally normal given their early bedtimes,) I practically lost it. Actually, I wanted to lose it but was too tired to even make words. I stumbled to their rooms, ordered them back to bed, ordered lights out and ordered them to stay quiet until 6:00.

6:00 came around and I dragged myself out of bed. My eyes could barely open, my legs were wobbly and my bed just screamed at me “come back! Please come back!” I knew it would be a rough morning until I had a good dose of Diet Coke. Turns out, my normal morning drink didn’t even get me going. Shucks. I continued to stumble through the morning, struggle to find patience wherever I could.

And just now, at 1:30 p.m., I looked hard for my friend patience but couldn’t find her anywhere (or at least fast enough.)

As I headed to get #3 and #4 down for naps, I sent #1 and #2 to their rooms for their quiet time. Not two seconds after sitting down to read to #3, I heard massive tears and screaming. I walked down the hall, calmly and slowly.

“What is the problem?” I asked.

“He took all the toys!” cried #2.

“But they are my toys!” screamed #1.

(But I just want quiet!) I thought to myself.

Meanwhile, #2 found something new to entertain him so I sent both boys back to their rooms, hopeful that naptime for the other two would commence.

As bloody if! #1 and #2 are at it again. I walked down the hall, less calmly and less slowly this time.

“What is the problem, now?” I asked.

“He came into my room asking for the toys!” cried #1.

“But he isn’t sharing and the dolphins aren’t his!” screamed #2.

(But really guys, they aren’t your toys to begin with they are your brothers, so enough already! Can you give me a break here?) I thought to myself.

I counted out even piles of dolphins and dinosaurs, gave a handful to each boy, sent them back to their rooms, again hopeful that naptime for the other two would commence.

What was I thinking? Both boys are overtired from late nights and sleeping problems; their current ability to listen and control impulses is, um, not virtually non-existent, it is non-existent!  #1 and #2 started up again. This time I didn’t walk down the hall; I stormed down the hall. There was no calm in my step. There was no slow saunter to my step. There was just sheer annoyance and impatience.

I got to the end of the hall, my heart beating, and my hands shaking.

RED FLAG! I know when my heart races, my hands shake, and my feet are stomping that a yell is brewing. I started to open my mouth but thankfully, my mind intercepted my words. My mind screamed: “Dude, don’t yell! I know you desperately want to and think it is the only thing that will work but it won’t! They will just cry and carry on more and then naptime really will never happen. Come on, you can do it.”

I slowly and cautiously opened my mouth, a little nervous as to what tone would come out.

“What is the problem NOW?” I asked.

“#1 came in my room without asking and took my dolphins and dinosaurs.” #2 sobbed.

“But moooooom, they are mine. Really. They are mine. I need all of them to play. Honesty. Truly.” #1 sobbed.

“You know what boys, enough is enough. Hand all of them over. They are mine. You are both tired and need a sleep. To your rooms, lights off, quiet time for 15 minutes. No ifs, ands, or buts.” I stated confidently and full of hope that it would work.

The thing about parenting without yelling is that while I know it is the right path for me, sometimes I still get sucked in by the notion that yelling is the only approach to parenting during difficult moments. Today was one of those moments. I was tired and had little energy to keep myself together. I wanted to scream my head off! I wanted to scream and cry and carry on like they were! I wanted to say,

“But boooooys, I don’t care about your dolphins and dinosaurs and dilemmas! I care about getting your other two brothers down for their naps. I mean I care about you, but right now, whoa nelly, do I not care about your small plastic toys.”

These small plastic dinosaurs and dolphins almost made me yell. Really?!

Oh yes, I was tempted. But I knew better. I knew screaming would have just induced more tears and more crying and would have prolonged naptime of the other two which would have then produced more crying and even more screaming. I totally knew yelling wasn’t worth it and that is what kept me from losing it.

Did my boys take a rest? Not really. Did they settle down long enough for me to get the other two for their naps? Yes. Did they perhaps learn that fighting over toys and not sharing leads to no one having their toys? I think so; I hope so. I do know though that the chances of them learning in that moment were a lot higher without me yelling.

And I know that the toilet directly in front of me during this entire exchange offered me great support – while one side of my head said “just yell, just do it,” and the other side said “no, don’t!” the toilet lovingly said “hey babe, if you need to yell just yell into me and flush it away. Problem Solved.”

And yes, I did actually consider yelling into the toilet at that moment. If there is another thing I have learning from The Orange Rhino Challenge besides the fact that yelling just makes things worse, I’ve learned that letting out frustration into toilets, freezers, bags and closets, works. While yelling into the toilet may be unconventional, it is definitely better than yelling at my kids. 

“Terrifyingly Satisfying”

476 days of loving more

We took our boys to an amusement park this past weekend. Family adventures always bring mixed emotions for me. On one hand, I feel excitement about getting out of the house together and doing something fun. On the other hand, oftentimes the larger hand, I feel nervousness about being out of the house together and having to keep an eye on everyone!  Watching four kids six and a half and under in a crowded, public place is out right exhausting and hard. My neck doesn’t stop turning looking for four identical shirts and my head doesn’t stop counting 1-2-3-4-check. Certain family adventures definitely scare me: the park, the pool, the mall. After I have conquered any of those adventures I feel such pride, such satisfaction, such “oh-my-gosh-we-did-it-yeah-for-us-now-lets-take-a-nap!”

Luckily this past Sunday’s adventure my parents came along so the kid to adult ratio was 1:1 making it a less scary experience and way more satisfying. I actually got to fully enjoy watching my children scream with glee on their first “roller coaster” ride’ I actually got to fully enjoy hearing them laugh as they jumped in the bounce house; and I actually got to fully enjoy seeing them smile as they “won” “Wac-A-Mole.” They loved every ride, every game, and every food treat they got spoiled with that day. Of course darling #4 was less than pleased that he had to be an observer for the most part, but he found joy in snuggling with his Papa Smurf he “won” at Skeeball.

The highlight of the day totally caught me off guard. There was this one ride where you lie on your stomach and get strapped in. You then spin around and around, up and down. Looking at it I just wanted to throw up. #1 and #2 just got over their fear of rides this very Sunday so the thought of them wanting to try this shocked me. The fact that daddy and grandpa were willing to do it with them shocked me even more!!!

They all strapped in and I prepared for the worst – to be cleaning up vomit and changing outfits. Thankfully, that was so not the case. Everyone, well except for grandpa, smiled and laughed the entire time. They had a blast. When the ride ended the boys went over to help grandpa out. He took one look at them and said: “Boys, that was terrifying!”

“No it wasn’t! It was sooo much fun! Let’s do it again!” Screamed #1.

“Grandpa it was great! Scardy pants!” Yelled #2.

And then #1 ran over to me laughing “Mommy, mommy, that was great but grandpa was, um, um, Grandpa what were you?”

“TERRIFIED.”

“Right, terrified. Grandpa was terrified. But I wasn’t. I was so brave. Cool, huh, mom?” #1 said. He was so proud of himself. So was I.  So was I.

Later in the car #1 wanted to tell the story again…how Grandpa was terrified, but that he wasn’t.

“Remember mommy, I was brave and what was Grandpa???” and then a big pause. “Right, he was satisfied.”

“You mean terrified,” I gently replied.

We had this same exchange four or five more times that day. #1 kept saying Grandpa was “satisfied” and I kept saying that he meant “terrified.”

After the last exchange, a smile crept over my face. This Freudian slip of my son’s, saying satisfied instead of terrified, was the new highlight of my day. It made me think of all the times I have been terrified, only to end up feeling immensely satisfied because I faced my “fear/discomfort” and managed it.

I was terrified to get up on a stage and be a live auctioneer for the first time… and now I am more than satisfied with how much I raised for the American Cancer Society.

I was terrified to move from New England to North Carolina where we had no family or friends…and now I look back and am more than satisfied that I learned to adjust to an entirely new place.

I was terrified to learn that we were pregnant with #3 when #2 was just seven months old…and now I am more than satisfied that they are so close in age.

And of course, I was TERRIFIED to start The Orange Rhino Challenge. Terrified. Terrified that I would fail. Terrified at how hard it would be. Terrified that I wouldn’t be able to keep up writing. Terrified at what people would think about my “yelling truth.” Terrified that even though I was starting now, that I was already too late to change the so called damage I had done to the relationship with my boys.

Terrified. Plain terrified.

But I did it. I took on a fear; I took on an uncomfortable situation, and now I feel more than satisfied. I feel proud, joyful, and grateful. You see, I am generally a risk adverse person. I avoid situations that I think I won’t like, but really want to engage in. I avoid situations where I think I won’t succeed. I avoid situations where I might succeed, or even like, but just don’t want to take the small risk that I could be wrong.  And I avoid situations that scare me.

Yes, some situations I avoid are legitimate. Poisonous snakes for one. Dark alleys for two. But avoiding situations because I fear I will fail, or won’t be liked, or won’t do well enough, is that really legitimate? Does that bring me satisfaction or regret? Is that really how I want to live my life? (Yes, those are rhetorical questions….)

There are so many situations I have avoided to date because of fear; so many situations that I look back on and say, “shoot, I wish I had just found the guts and gave it a try, or I wish I found the guts to not quit.” This challenge is one of the big times in my life that I have faced major discomfort and at the same time major desire to face said discomfort and actually not walked away. What if I had walked away? What if I had avoided my yelling problem because of my fear of failing, because of all my fears associated with starting?

Then I wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t be calling myself an Orange Rhino.

Gosh am I glad I didn’t walk away from fear this time. Gosh I am so glad that I can say, “I am glad that I tried.”

Yes, my journey to yell less has been terrifying at times. Why I am sharing so much with the world? How do I handle this unknown parenting situation without losing it? I have succeeded, but how do I ensure I keep all the positive change going? And yes, there have been and will continue to be terrifying moments. But more so, much more so, it has been a satisfying experience to say the least. In fact, the extent to which it has changed my life, the extent at which it has changed me, the extent to which it has been gratifying, well, that extent in itself is so large that it is terrifyingly satisfying.

My Notes to Two Strangers

Dear Dad & Daughter at the restaurant tonight,

I apologize for listening to your entire conversation tonight. Yes, I completely, utterly 110% eavesdropped to every word you shared for thirty minutes. I just couldn’t help it. I heard one line and I was hooked. Your conversation was beautiful. It was inspiring, touching, heartbreaking, scary and affirming. Thank you for being in the right place at the right time. I needed to hear your conversation tonight, so thank you.

All my best to you; may you both continue to talk to each other as you did tonight,
A Secret Admirer, a.k.a. The Orange Rhino

*

My doctor’s appointment wrapped up early tonight and I had thirty minutes before the babysitter had to leave. I haven’t had any me-time lately so I decided to seize the free chunk of time and the beautiful weather and go sit outside for a quick dinner.

I sat down and ordered a beer and nachos and soaked up the warm weather, the breeze, and the absolute peace and quiet. Of course it wasn’t really quiet. There was noise all around but none of it was that of my four children asking for another napkin, another crayon, another trip to the bathroom or another French fry so to me, it was perfectly quiet. It was so peaceful in fact that my supersonic hearing picked up on the conversation next to me.

A teenage girl, somewhere between eight and twelfth grade (it is so hard to tell these days, you know?) sat across from her father nervously playing with her napkin. By the information she shared it was clear that she didn’t live with her dad, that her parents were divorced and that this was her night with him. They talked easily yet with a bit of tension. But still, they talked. He asked poignant questions, she answered politely. I heard their voices but not their words until she said this,

“You know dad, at this conference thing kids were talking about how at parties you raid the medicine cabinets at your own home. You then bring all the drugs to the party and dump them into one big bowl. Everyone then takes a handful, or two, of the drugs, and then chugs two drinks. It is really, really stupid.”

I sat there, my beer in my hand; my mouth dropped open and tears filling my eyes. My heart pounded with fear, really? Really this is what kids do? How frightening! And really, really this daughter felt comfortable to talk about drugs and actions with her dad? How phenomenal. I sat there all confused except for one thought: “way to go dad!”

The conversation continued. She shared more about how she was making new friends, how she wasn’t so worried about being friends with the cool kids anymore, how she didn’t want to be in the wrong crowd, just a good crowd. He listened quietly and nodded appropriately and then replied to her brave sentiments of truth,

“I am really proud of you sweetheart. It is hard to make new friends. It is hard to turn away from bad situations. I am so proud of you.”

He must have said it at least three or four times. Again, tears filled my eyes and all I could think of was, “way to go dad!”

The conversation continued, this time focusing on her upcoming graduation. She mentioned that some girls were buying fancy dresses; that she didn’t really care about a puffy dress, that graduation wasn’t a big deal. Again, her dad listened sweetly and replied ever so lovingly,

“Graduation is a big deal. I am proud of you. Your mom can take you shopping for a dress if you want. Or even I can, after dinner. We could go to what’s that place, JC Penny’s or the place with the JC in it?”

“You mean J. Crew dad,” she laughed.

“Yeah, we could go there. I’m proud of you. It’d be an honor to get you a dress.”

“Nah, it’s okay,” she said, “I’ll just wear something from my closet.”

Their dinner arrived and silence commenced. I of course had to interrupt it; it was time for me to get going and while they had talked and connected, I had written both of them notes and wanted to hand deliver them.

You see, as I sat there listening to them, watching them both try so hard to connect, yet connect so easily, I just wanted them to know how awesome they were doing. I wanted the dad to know how fantastic it was that he had raised a daughter who felt comfortable talking about drugs and personal struggles with him. I wanted the daughter to know how fantastic it was that she had found the strength to turn down drugs, to turn away from a bad crowd, and to now be graduating. I wanted them both to know how much their honesty and lovingness reminded me of my promise not to yell; how I hoped to have such conversations in the future with my boys, how I knew remaining yell free was one key to achieve that.

(Okay, pardon the grammatical errors. I was nervous writing the notes!!!)

I looked down at the two notes I scribbled on dinner napkins. I pondered doing nothing. I pondered crumpling up the napkins and not saying a thing. I pondered minding my own business, wondering if I would rock the boat by saying anything. And then I thought how nice it feels to be paid a compliment. I decided that the risk was worth it. I reached into my wallet and put some money inside the note for the daughter. I wrote next to it:

“I have four boys. I will never buy a graduation dress for a daughter. I know your parents would love to do so for you; trust me, it is an honor for them. But let this be a little contribution towards it. You deserve a new dress to celebrate.”

I nervously pushed my chair back and walked to their table.

“Excuse me,” I said. “I apologize for listening to your conversation. But I was just really touched and so I wrote you each a note. I hope someday that my boys feel as comfortable talking to me as you all talked to each other tonight. Best of luck to you both.”

I quickly left the napkins and scurried off, praying they wouldn’t return the money or catch me crying.

Today had been a hard day, a throw-in-the-towel type of day, an I-can’t-do-this-parenting-thing type of day, an I-don’t-want-to-do-this-parenting-thing type of day, an I-just-want-to-freakin’-yell-and-be-mean type of day. There is a lot I didn’t want today. But, let me tell you, hearing this dad and daughter talk drugs and good crowds and bad crowds, well, I do want that type of thing in my future. Big time. I want my boys to feel safe talking to me about everything and I believe that having a “yelling less and loving more” home is a great way to get there. I have been having to worker harder with the not yelling bit lately; my stress has made it harder to stay calm and I have truly wanted to give up, or rather, give in to the desire to yell. But witnessing this beautiful conversation tonight, well, it reminded me of the what I can have if I continue to yell less and love more and for that, I am re-inspired (and grateful!)

If you liked this post, read “I Just Want The Truth” 

My Son’s Apology

461 days of loving more, 32 days of loving more year 2

I guess you could say I am kind of a superstitious person. I always avoided cracks when I was a kid, you know, so I didn’t break my mother’s back. And um, okay, I can’t think of any other superstitions that I followed growing up. But now that I am a mom, well, I can list a thousand superstitions. Here are my top four:

1) If the baby is sleeping through the night or even well – you don’t say anything, period. My mother-in-law still doesn’t get this. She calls and always asks, “and how are the kids sleeping?” I literally close my mouth and hum until she gets it and changes the subject. I just don’t want my night’s rest to be jinxed, ya know?

2) If your kids haven’t had the stomach bug or a runny nose for weeks – you don’t say anything, period. My husband didn’t get this until the great Stomach Bug Disaster of February 2012. We were at Friendly’s one night and he so bravely announced: “You know, we are so lucky we haven’t ever had the stomach bug hit our house.” I kid you not, less than ninety minutes later #2 started decorating the cream rug with macaroni and cheese. #1 followed and then #3. And yes, they each passed it back and forth to each other. For two weeks. Eh hem. Like I said, you just don’t talk about not having the stomach bug!

Shhh…don’t say a word!

3) If your kids are playing nicely and you are actually able to sit back and enjoy the moment – you don’t say anything, period. My mother still doesn’t get this. Okay, none of our family gets this. Simply stated, with four boys six and a half an under, if there is ever a moment like this it is beyond impossible, no, it is impossible to not jump for joy and do a boogey dance. And without fail, the boogey dance generally inspires one son to join in and then in the process he elbows his brother in the face and he starts yelling and then his brother follows suit and the last one starts crying because it is too loud. Like I said, you just don’t say anything if there is peace, you just enjoy it. Silently. To yourself. As long as the minute lasts (okay, or two minutes!)

4) If bedtime is going smoothly – you don’t say anything, period. I forgot this one tonight. Big time. Bedtime was going so smoothly for a Monday night that I couldn’t resist but think to myself “You are rocking it Orange Rhino.” Um, mistake! Tonight’s bedtime story totally made me think that superstitions’ are indeed real. (Yes, I know that they kind of aren’t real and that crazy bedtimes can just happen, but still….) Anywho, I can say one thing that I do know for certain to be real: not yelling can lead to great moments.

Putting four kids to bed by myself is always a challenge. Pre-Orange Rhino days, I used to come out of bedtime with sweaty palms and a heart wiped from racing, sometimes from loving but more often than not, from yelling. I used to rush, rush, rush bedtimes and it made it so miserable for all involved. I used to yell “Brush your teeth! Get dressed! Hurry up!” all too frequently and it truly made bedtime go longer. Tonight though, as I chased my naked 21 month old down the hall to coral him back towards the bath, and then reached out with my free arm to swoop up my 3 ½ year old trying to escape, I smiled and thought to myself ever so smugly, “You know, I feel flustered but I am staying calm. I am not yelling. I got this bedtime in the bag. You know tonight, I will post ‘How I Survive Bedtime’ because right now I am encapsulating that post.”

Carrying this thought in my mind and a wiggly child under each arm, I proudly went to the bath. #2 got in without being asked. Score. #3 got in without being asked. Double score. #4 got in without much fight. Triple score. Bedtime continued like this for the next 10 minutes. Teeth brushed, pajamas on, books read, no problem. Then I went to tuck #2 into his own bed.

As I tucked him in, he started getting all fresh telling me to “go away” and “get out of my room now” to “be quiet.” You know, now that he is 4 and 350 days or so apparently, fresh is the new way to talk. Ugh. I tucked him tightly, told him that was no way to talk to his mother or anyone, that it was rude and hurtful and that I would indeed leave. He did politely reply,

“I didn’t hear the words come out. I didn’t know it was rude. I couldn’t help it.”

He pulled the sheets over his head as I calmly walked out. As I started to shut the door I heard, “now I am all embarrassed.”

I calmly and lovingly replied,

“Well, now you know those words aren’t acceptable. Do not talk to me that way again please. I love you, good night.”

I walked out and went to tuck #3 and #4 in. I had JUST settled both to sleep when I heard #2 start shrieking at the top of his lungs, which is a definite no-no once lights are out. Lights out means quiet. Period. Clearly not tonight. Harumph.

“MOMMYYYYYY! MOMMYYYYYYY!!! COME HERE NOW! RIGHT NOW!”

#4 started crying, #3 started whimpering “It’s not fair that he is still awake!”

Meanwhile, I started thinking, “It’s not fair that bedtime ain’t over yet!”

I headed towards #2’s room, my feet hitting the floor a little, okay, a lot more heavy than I wanted them to. My hand grabbed the doorknob rather aggressively and my racing heart made it blatantly clear to me that a yell was desperate to come out. And then this little voice stopped me:

“Mommy?” the little voice squeaked, “Mommy, is that you?”

The softness soothed my heart and reminded me to quiet my growing yell. It reminded me that yelling had no place at this moment. That it wouldn’t accomplish anything. That it would just get the other boys all riled up.

I slowly opened the door, my heart still racing a little, but not nearly as much. Before I could even start in with my bedtime lecture about lights out, #2 said,

“Mommy, I’m sorry I yelled for you. I just really need to tell you something. I’m sorry I told you to get out. I didn’t know it was rude. I’m sorry.”

It was the most sincere, sweet, and loving apology, an apology that I most certainly would not have heard if I had barged in yelling. My son’s apology made me feel that I am indeed doing something right as a mom. My son’s apology made for the most perfect ending to tonight’s bedtime. My son’s apology made me realize again that great moments happen when I don’t yell. 

If you liked this post, here is a direct link to another bedtime story that had a great ending as a result of The Orange Rhino Challenge:  “Is Yelling Really Worth It?”
And here is the link to “How I ‘Survive’ Bedtime”