The “Secret” Trigger I am Focusing on to Help Me Yell Less at my Kids

As you all know, this past summer I found myself yelling at my kids way more than I liked and as a result, I found myself re-reading my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” (I also found myself feeling embarrassed, but more on that later!)

And you all also know that as a result of following the 30-day plan in my book, it became abundantly clear to me that the reason I was yelling so much was because I wasn’t taking care of me. At all. I shared with you all that once I did start taking care of myself again, that I became an Orange Rhino, again. This was a totally true statement. But there was a big piece I didn’t share; the whole “how I really started taking care of me” bit. I just didn’t feel brave enough to share that truth; it was too raw, too brutally honest, too potentially damaging, too well, lots of things. But I have decided that it is too powerful of a truth to not share, so here goes.

* * * * *

One day this past summer as I tracked my triggers and tried to figure out why the heck I was yelling so much, I found myself aimlessly surfing the Internet (no doubt trying to self-soothe my frustrations by getting lost in the world of celebrity gossip and hysterical e-cards.) While surfing, I stumbled upon a quote that struck a nerve and made me really think. Like, really, REALLY think. The quote more or less read,

“We give to others what we feel within.”
Repeat.
“We give to others what we feel within.”

Maybe, just maybe, the reason I was yelling so much was because I didn’t feel love within so therefore I couldn’t give it to my boys?YES! YES! YES! Finally all my struggling to Yell Less and Love More made sense! Maybe, just maybe, the reason I was yelling so much was because I didn’t feel love within so therefore I couldn’t give it to my boys?

“Could that really be true?” I thought to myself. “Did I really have no love within?”

Based on the pit in my stomach, I knew that I had found the truth I sought; I knew that there wasn’t enough love within me. Or more appropriately, I knew that I had love for my kiddos and my life, but that the love I had for myself was so lacking that it was overpowering all the positive feelings within me.

And more painfully, I knew that because I didn’t have much love within to share, I was instead giving out what I did have within: an abundance of anger, frustration, shame, disappointment, concern, and strong dislike.

Fortunately I didn’t have to look hard to figure out where all these intense not-so-loving feelings were coming from. I couldn’t stand the fact that I was (am!) the author of a book about not yelling, a book with alternatives to yelling, simple steps to follow to yell less, and stories to inspire and yet here I was spending my summer not doing any of what I knew to do to keep yelling at bay and being anything but inspirational. Yep, here I was a mere seven months after my book published and I had to turn to it for advice. This reality was crushing me. Crushing me. I couldn’t stop saying things to myself like,

“What is wrong with you, why can’t you just get it together?”
“I feel like such an imposter, writing one thing and doing another.”
“I am so disappointed in myself and I bet people will be disappointed in me.”
“I am so ashamed of myself; I am so angry that I have slipped.”

Nor could I stop saying not-so-nice things to myself about other aspects of my life for just as loving thoughts and actions are contagious, so are negative thoughts and actions. As my negativity about my “yelling too much, and I should know better” grew, so did my negativity towards myself about my relationships, my work in general, and my body.

My goodness, I was yelling at myself, berating myself, seemingly all the time. I wasn’t just giving out what I felt within, I was giving out what I was doing within! Of course I was yelling at my kids when I was with them; it was just a natural, instinctual extension of what I had done moments prior!

Thank goodness this wasn’t entirely a new trigger that I didn’t know how to manage. Thank goodness I knew exactly what I needed to do to yell less!

I needed to love myself more so that I could yell at my kids less.

I needed to love myself more by allowing myself to be proud of my successes (520 days straight without yelling and a book) instead of letting myself magnify my misses.

I needed to love myself more by forgiving myself for past yells while reminding myself that while I might be an Orange Rhino, I am still an imperfect human and that is more than okay.

I needed to love myself more by giving myself compassion. Of course I was struggling to yell less, I had just had knee surgery, followed by a blood clot, all with four kids home for summer vacation!

I needed to love myself more by letting go of what I hadn’t done to focus on what I could do.

I needed to love myself more by accepting my body as more than a number on the scale; it was the home to four children for thirty-six months in five years.

I needed to love myself more by telling myself that I am doing the best I can in this moment and that counts for a heck of a lot.

I needed to love myself more by nurturing myself with quiet time and “doing what I love” time.

I needed to love myself more by stopping all negative thoughts before they have a chance to grow and fester.

And I needed to do one other thing. I needed to learn how to do and say all of the above on a daily basis, not just every once in a while! I needed to learn how to make loving myself an unwavering and natural part of my life so that I wouldn’t once again find myself sliding into old yelling habits.

Loving myself more and yelling at myself less is arguably one of the biggest and most important triggers to manage.[pullquote] Loving myself more and yelling at myself less is arguably one of the biggest and most important triggers to manage.[/pullquote]I knew the power of this trigger when I started my Orange Rhino journey and now I know it even more. Of all my old triggers to push me to yell, it is the only one that was strong enough to re-surface.

I am yet to get even close to mastering this trigger, but just knowing that I need to really work at it has made a difference. Thought-by-thought, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, I am working to be kinder to myself. I am reminding myself of all of the promises above. I am reminding myself that if I want to give out love, and I so very much do, then I need to foster love within. And ironically, I am reminding myself that I must be patient and kind to myself, that I must love myself as I learn to fully love myself, for steady change will not happen instantly.

I know I have a lot more learning to do to make this new habit of loving myself a prevailing part of my life, but I can tell you this much so far: loving myself more since this discovery this summer, has already resulted in yelling less, a lot less. It hasn’t been easy, that’s for sure, but it has been entirely worth it. I am no longer giving out a variety of negative feelings but am once again giving out pride, enthusiasm, kindness, support, encouragement, laughter and love. I am giving out the best of me instead of the worst and am getting back the best of my kids instead of their worst. Yelling at myself less, loving myself more, well it’s a win-win for everyone.

* * * * *

Yesterday was my birthday. As I found myself grateful for all the presents I received, I decided I would gift myself the commitment of really, really learning to love myself more. Yes I have been working on it the last five months, but I know that I need to, ehem WANT TO, make a deeper commitment. I look forward to my continued learning over the next twelve months and I hope I share it with you all as frequently as I wish. I will, however, love myself and be kind to myself when I “fall short” of my goals 😉

 

YLLM1To learn how you too can track your own triggers and yell less and love more – both at your kids and yourself – click on the book to the left.

 

Just Start Somewhere.

Dear Diary,

I have been avoiding you for quite some time now.
Yes, avoiding you.
Please don’t take it personal.
This is most definitely (and legitimately!) one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” situations!

I could list 1,001 reasons why I haven’t been writing but at this point, are they really relevant? Are they really what I want to focus on? Do I really want to focus on the past or do I want to move forward and focus on the present, the future? Yes, that is what I want – to move forward. I am certain there will be a time and place when sharing my 1,001 reasons for not writing with you will make sense. And I am certain there will be a time when I feel more comfortable sharing them (I know, odd coming from me, the one who feels comfortable sharing everything), but right now is not the time.

And that is really hard for me to do because folks, if you haven’t guessed it yet I am an anal-retentive, logical, sometimes-organized person! The whole idea of writing posts that don’t reflect my life chronologically drives me bonkers! The whole idea of not thoroughly explaining to you all how I have arrived at this type of post drives me bonkers! I want to explain to all you newish folks why I started with “dear diary” and how this post actually fits in within the grand scheme of The Orange Rhino Challenge.

So why don’t I write those posts you ask? Why don’t I take you back in time with me? I don’t know! I go to write those posts and I hit a block. Actually, I hit a lot of them. Think of it this way. You know how when you don’t call a friend one day and think, “oh, I will call her tomorrow?” and then tomorrow doesn’t happen or the day after or the day after that? And then before you know it more than a month has passed and you still want to call but feel so bad for not calling that you don’t actually make the call?

Yeah, well that is how I am feeling about my relationship with writing right now. Oh how many times I have yearned to write to you dearest diary. Oh how many times I write to you in my head but then avoid writing to you in reality. Oh how many times I sat down to write to you and instead surfed Facebook because the distance between us had grown so much and with it my hesitance., and my fear but we will save that for another day. And oh, oh how many times I said to myself, “just write already, you know you want to, you know you will feel relieved once you start, you know it is a great stress relief, just do it!”

But I couldn’t just do it. I guess you could say that I fell out of my habit of writing. I lost my groove (am I allowed to even admit that here?) and I think we all now how hard it is to get back into a groove. It is brutal! The whole “no more eating chex mix for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert” practically killed me yesterday but alas, I had to get back into the groove of eating better as my body was begging me too. And don’t even get me started on the having to get back into the going-to-school-groove after vacation. Yesterday was Such. A. Tough. Morning. And Day. And Night. Everyone is tired, cranky, disappointed, just wanting to be in pajamas and therefore struggling. Fun times!

I did manage to get into those two grooves yesterday and have continued them today. Partly because the out-of-groove period was so short and well mostly because I had no choice! But getting back into the writing groove? Well clearly it hasn’t been so easy-peasy! But I desperately want to get back into the groove so yesterday I did something about it.

I just started somewhere. Anywhere. 

Just Somwhere 1.4.16I told myself to, “just sit and write, stream of conscious style like you used to do. Write to your ‘diary’; it might not be your ideal format for this post but it will get you started so just to do it.”

“Just do anything,” I said to myself. “It doesn’t matter if it is good or meaningful or post-worthy, it just needs to be a start. You just need to start writing. You just need to start practicing again, to get the flow going.”

So that is what I did, that is what I am doing. And wouldn’t you know it, it feels fantastic! I can feel my desire to write to you again, as in sooner than a year from now, growing. Feeling fantastic is a pretty contagious feeling and all I needed to get to that feeling was just starting somewhere.

Just starting somewhere…
Without fear if I would succeed.
Without fear if I would continue to succeed.
Without fear of what people would think.
Without fear of whether or not I would do it right.
Without fear if I was doing enough to get going.

Without fear of well, anything that could keep me back from just doing.

It wasn’t easy letting go of aforementioned fears but I can tell you, it was worth it. AND, if you are like me and are struggling to go after something you want, perhaps, oh say, learning to Yell Less and Love More in 2016, it will be worth it for you if you let go of any fears, hesitations, excuses, concerns you have that are holding you back from starting your own journey to be an Orange Rhino. You don’t have to let go of those feelings forever, just long enough so that you can Just Start in the moment. Because once you get started, once you start to gain momentum and feel fantastic, you won’t want to stop. Trust me.

Will you, will WE, have setbacks along the way? Will you, will WE, have setbacks oh say hours after we started? Probably. And then we will just start somewhere again. We will take any step forward that we can and that step will matter because it will move us forward.[pullquote]Will you, will WE, have setbacks along the way? Will you, will WE, have setbacks oh say hours after we started? Probably. And then we will just start somewhere again. We will take any step forward that we can and that step will matter because it will move us forward.[/pullquote]

Great you say, but what blooming step can I take? Here are a few in no particular order because again the point is to just do something, anything to help close the distance between your goal/desire/dream of yelling less and your current state. They may seem like small steps, but small steps are bigger than no steps and more importantly, the small steps will lead you to where you want to go!

  1. Tell a friend you want to yell less. Tell more if you have the energy, and if not, no worries! You can grow your support circle as time continues.
  2. Surround yourself with orange reminders. Print out one orange rhino (download here) and put it up. Add more as your commitment grows.
  3. Write a diary entry to yourself about what is holding you back and let it go. Email it to me if you want to officially send it off and free yourself of it.
  4. Track your triggers for just 1 hour (here’s a free download or you can find it in my book with more details) Forget days. Just do an hour. Just get started.
  5. Set you phone timer for 20 minutes. Tell yourself that you just need to stay calm and choose a more loving tone for 20 minutes. You can so do that! If it needs to be 5 because it is a tough day, then do 5. Just start somewhere!
  6. Pick one, just one tip you want to try today and use it over and over and over.
  7. Adjust your expectations to help you get over your hesitance by telling yourself, “Today I am just getting started. I don’t need to worry about success right this moment. I just need to get started. I just need to get my mind more engaged in The Orange Rhino Challenge.”

Just starting somewhere certainly isn’t easy, but I think that not starting at all, that wanting to do something and not doing it all is a heck of a lot harder and a much greater burden to carry.

* * * * *

Phew! I did it! I achieved my goal for this week. Did I struggle all last night and this morning about sharing this without any connection to all of my last posts? Yes! Am I sitting here thinking I should save this post for later, for when I have written the posts that lead up to it so that everything is “in order” and “done the way I would ideally do?” Heck yeah. But again, I can’t do that. If I wait, if I don’t just take another step forward by posting, I will get stuck again and I don’t want to be stuck – I want to be moving forward, closing the distance between my dreams/hopes/goals and where I am today.

Who is with me? Who is moving forward today? What 1 step are you taking?

* * * * *

YLLMcrop2 If you would like more details to get started, you might enjoy this blog post: 12 Steps to Yelling Less or my book which gets a lot more detailed! You can the entire scoop on it here: “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too! A thirty-day guide with tips, stories, and insights. 

 

4 Jedi Mind Tricks to Help You Yell Less

Our household (apparently like most of the world!) has recently been all about the new Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens.” My five boys (if you include my husband and I most certainly need to in this case!) have literally been talking about it non-stop since they saw the first commercial for the movie back in November and quite possibly have been even more excited about its release than Christmas! Their enthusiasm was incredibly contagious and I couldn’t help but to join them in their excitement so…I made sure that we had tickets for this past weekend and I made sure that we had watched all of the Star Wars movies before we were blasted off to the movie theatre on Saturday, December 19th. I am so glad I got completely wrapped up in the Star Wars mania as the entire experience, especially the movie, was an outright blast.

It should be of no surprise then that with Star Wars on my mind 24-7 that the blog post “Jedi Mind Tricks to Yell Less” popped into my mind. Although I have been quiet on the blog for quite some while, my mind most certainly has not. Boat loads of blog posts written it has; just typed them out it has not! :) Seriously, every day my mind thinks about yelling less and being an Orange Rhino. As I shared in my book, the journey to Yell Less and Love More didn’t stop the day I reached my initial goal. Everyday I recommit to my promise to yell less and everyday I work to keep said goal on my mind so that I can successfully be The Orange Rhino that I want to be.

Some days it is easier than others.
And well some days the dark side is strong in me and keeping it at bay is tough.

Thankful I am though, for a few new mind tricks I have developed over the past year that are helping me to stay on The Orange Side and away from the Dark Side. I share them with you just in case you too are looking for some ways to “trick” your mind into the best mentality needed to stay on The Orange Side!

Trick #1: Use the Word “Now”
Nope, I don’t mean use it when trying to get your kids to do something, I mean saying it to yourself! I have always found perspective to be a powerful tool to prevent yelling. I add the phrase “I am grateful” to the beginning of frustrated comments or I add the phrase “at least” at the end to help ground me. “I am grateful that you are healthy enough to run around wild and crazy!” “I can’t believe you spilled the milk…at least your brothers didn’t too!” Perspective works wonders and now, “now” is another phrase that helps! This one is particularly useful for me when I get frustrated about my how hard I have to work on certain days to not yell. Using the word “now” reminds me that the current situation doesn’t predict the future. It gives me a sense of hope that success will come, that just because I am struggling today doesn’t mean I will forever struggle. [pullquote]Using the word “now” reminds me that the current situation doesn’t predict the future. It gives me a sense of hope that success will come, that just because I am struggling today doesn’t mean I will forever struggle.[/pullquote]

Saying “ugh, I am struggling to yell less” left me defeated and angry with myself which totally didn’t help on the tough days! “Ugh, I am struggling to yell less now” leaves me encouraged to keep going and to reach for the future. “Now” also encourages me that my kid’s behavior isn’t permanent. Oh the difference between, “He won’t listen to me” and “he won’t listen to me now” (but maybe, pretty please!, he will in the future if I keep trying to communicate?!) Just knowing that the rest of the day could get easier keeps me positive which helps me yell less. It sounds silly, but using the word “now” really helps to chill me out and to inspire me to keep working hard. So start using this word, now 😉

Trick #2: Remind Yourself that the Urge to Yell Will Pass
I read the most fascinating book last spring: “The Willpower Instinct” by Kelly McGonigal. I soaked up every word and filled the pages with notes and insights and questions for myself as so much related to my emotional eating challenges and my passion to yell less and love more. One key take away I had from the book–and I am going to muck it up here here and I can’t find the book to make the statement accurate (yes I loved it, yes I lost it, yes I am wicked annoyed) so please bear with me–is that urges pass. No matter how big an urge is, the desire to engage in a non-desired behavior (smoking, binge eating, complaining) or yelling (my addition as it wasn’t mentioned in the book!) will pass. The best way to help the urge pass is to not fight it, but rather to accept it. “Okay, I so want to yell. I can feel it in my body. I feel my hands sweating. Okay, these feelings will pass.” I use this trick a lot lately for a lot of different things and it has been a game changer!!!

Trick #3: Asking yourself, “What do I know to be true?”
Full disclosure, I learned this trick from my therapist…kind of. She taught me to say this phrase to myself whenever my youngest son got a high fever and I started fearing he would have a seizure. (Remember, last year was a brutal, brutal year for my son Mac and admittedly it took a toll on me.) So now I fight my nerves by saying, “What do I know to be true? I know that I can give him medicine and that helps. I know the hospital is close if there is an emergency. I know his blood tests are okay and there isn’t a bigger problem.” This method totally works in that situation and I have adapted it to work with yelling less too, in lots of different situations.

My kids aren’t listening. “Okay, what do I know to be true? They are so excited for Christmas they can’t focus. I know I acted the same way as a child. I know there behavior right now isn’t because I am a bad parent or because they are bad kids.” Empathy achieved. Calmness achieved. Yelling not achieved!

My kids won’t go to sleep. “Okay, what do I know to be true? If I yell the process will go slower. My kids are dawdling because they want me, not because they want to piss me off. I can do this.” Confidence achieved. Calmness achieved. Yelling not achieved!

My kids aren’t the issue, my insecurity is! “Okay, what do I know to be true? I am snappy with the kids because it’s me, not them. I am worried that parents are talking about me because of my son’s temper tantrum at the park. But I know that they are other reasons they might be talking. Maybe they are talking about the 70 degree weather in December (ridiculous!) Maybe they are talking about the fact that I handled the tantrum as well as one could. Maybe they are talking about how we need a girls night out.” Trigger management achieved. Calmness achieved. Yelling not achieved!

I so know to be true that this trick works!!!

10312592_922991747750098_1771945357641160096_nTrick #4: Tell Yourself that the Force is Within You
We all know Yoda is a wise teacher and perfectly teach about self-confidence in this exchange with Luke he does:

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

Um, yep. Accurate you are Yoda. On tough days, when I start to doubt my ability to be an Orange Rhino and I tell myself “I can’t do this,” then not yelling just becomes harder. But on those tough days if I tell myself that I have the force within myself, that I have the energy, determination, and skills to stay calm during a meltdown…to be loving when all I feel is anger…to turn around and take a break when I am at wits end…to use an alternative to yelling…to be empathetic, well then, then I succeed.

Struggling to believe that you have the force within yourself to yell less? Tell yourself about all the times you did indeed not yell! You have been successful, you have used the Orange Rhino force and you will continue to do so! Believe in you I do! I leave you with a final Star Wars quote (and yes I had to research all of them as I don’t know them by heart like my hubby) from Obi Wan Kenobi in appropriately the movie, “A New Hope:”

“Remember…the Force will be with you always.”

If you seek more insights and tips to yell less and love more, and if you seek to no longer feel alone on this journey, but rather understood and supported, check out my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” Knowing how us parents have limited time. I have broken down the journey into 30 days, with each daily reading taking no more than a couple of minutes.

The Thanksgiving I Ruined by Yelling at my Kids

Unfortunately, before I started my original Orange Rhino Challenge to go 365 days straight without yelling at my four boys (then ages 5 and under), the “Not-So-Great” Thanksgiving of 2010 happened. Oh, how I wish that I’d decided to teach myself to “Yell Less, Love More” before that turkey day — for then this story wouldn’t still be stuck in my memory… because it wouldn’t have happened in the first place! Nope, all the lessons I learned in my 520 days straight of not yelling would have come into play and prevented me from ruining that Thanksgiving with my relentless yelling. Sigh. Oh well. Here’s how it went down, literally.

* * * * *

I don’t like turkey.

Or cranberry sauce.

Or any of the foods that one typically serves on Thanksgiving, for that matter.

Except, well, the white stuff: bread, butter, mashed potatoes, and more butter!

But I love Thanksgiving Day. I love making a big, roaring fire and then cuddling up with my boys to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I love oohing and ahhingover all the floats together and sharing stories with my boys about when I was a kid and couldn’t wait to watch the parade. I love sitting down to eat and first having cranberry juice with rainbow sherbet and telling my boys that this is a tradition passed down from my great-grandmother. I love eating ice cream turkeys with my boys, a tradition passed down by me!

2014-11-26-ThePerfectThanksgivngPicturebyTOR.JPG

Oh, there is just so much to love on Thanksgiving Day.

And yet, I hated Thanksgiving 2010 because I ruined it.

I ruined it by yelling, big-time. Over a picture. A freakin’ picture. Seriously?! Yes, seriously. As soon as the parade wrapped up, I decided it was the perfect time for the annual “Let’s watch Mom jump up and down and act like a clown to make us smile” holiday card photo shoot. Yes, of course, this moment after James, Edward, and Andrew (then ages 4, 3, and 1) had just been sitting peacefully and quietly for an hour, and only wanted to run outside and play — this was the perfect time to ask them to sit still, again. And smile. And keep their hands to themselves. And try to be patient with my constant requests for, “Just one more picture, please?” I knew at the time that I was pushing my luck, given the circumstances and their ages, but I still pushed.

As expected, given my picture-taking history, my boys whined when I told them it was picture time. As I geared up to corral them into the living room (and to start offering bribes galore), Andrew took off as usual and ran into — of all rooms — the living room. He jumped onto the couch, laughing hysterically as he crashed into the pillows. James and Edward of course followed suit, and all three boys started laughing and tickling each other and having a grand old time. So much so that, when I shouted, “Hey, look at me!” they didn’t realize I had just taken a picture. It was, and still is, one of my favorite pictures in the entire world. The happiness. The love. The joy. The smiles. It melted my heart.

So you’d think I would have stopped right then, right?

No more pictures needed, right?!

Wrong.

I wanted to make sure that I had the best picture. The perfect picture. I wanted to see if I could do better, even though I felt I had just been delivered a miracle. I got greedy, really, really greedy, and I asked, “One more picture, please?” They acquiesced for a few minutes, but understandably soon grew tired of my never-ending demands to sit still and smile. They had behaved wonderfully and cooperatively for so long; now they were done. They had reached their limit and started squirming, whining, pinching each other, and refusing to cooperate. So I started yelling. And I didn’t stop. I didn’t stop because I so badly wanted the perfect picture and I thought that yelling would force them to behave. (I now know better!)

“Sit still!” I barked.

“Just one more! Be good!” I whined.

“WHY CAN’T YOU JUST DO THIS FOR ME?!” I yelled.

And my famous, or rather infamous, Thanksgiving 2010 line: “It’s Thanksgiving, for cripes’ sake! I would be so grateful for just one good picture. PLEASE! Just smile!” I screamed.

The more I yelled, the more they cried. The more they cried, the worse the pictures were, so the more I yelled

Finally, I gave up and said, ever so shamefully and nastily, “That’s it! I have had it. All I wanted was a picture. Thanks for nothing.”

James, Edward, and Andrew then promptly ran out of the room, crying to Daddy and the grandmas. James screamed, “Mommy’s a meanie.” Edward sobbed, “I don’t like her.” Andrew just cried and cried, clearly scared by how loud and nasty my voice had gotten. And I went to the bathroom and also cried and cried, feeling all the same thoughts as my kids. I pouted the rest of the day as I felt so mortified and ashamed that I had screamed at my young children for behaving well — ashamed that I had unnecessarily taken my own problem with perfection out on them.

I couldn’t look any of the other adults in the eye for the rest of the day. I felt so sad that my need for the perfect picture pushed me to lose it so horrifically. My guilt and shame then kept me from enjoying the holiday. Thanksgiving is one of the days where I often feel nothing but love, and yet, that year… that year I couldn’t feel it because I had yelled to the point where all I felt was hatred for myself. [pullquote]Thanksgiving is one of the days where I often feel nothing but love, and yet, that year… that year I couldn’t feel it because I had yelled to the point where all I felt was hatred for myself. [/pullquote]

The sad thing is that Thanksgiving wasn’t the only time I felt such anger at myself for yelling at my kids over trying to get a picture. Nope, it had happened many times before. And while I sit here wanting to write that it’s all just because I am a perfectionist and seek perfection in everything I do, that’s a partial cop-out. It goes deeper than that.

Yes, yes, I seek the perfect picture of all my boys looking at the camera, smiling flawlessly and not picking their noses. But it’s not just because I am a perfectionist; it’s also because I am insecure. Oftentimes in life, I seek comfort, confidence, and reassurance that I am living a happy, good life — that I am doing well at this parenting thing, that I have happy children. And, well, whenever I feel that way, I find that looking at pictures soothes my insecurities and proves to me that I am doing OK.

If I feel frustrated and down and overwhelmed by the challenges of parenting, I can look at that “perfect” picture and look straight into those gorgeous twinkling eyes and remember that it is all worth it, that my kids are happy and it’s worth the work. If I find myself feeling sad that life is passing by too fast, my kids are growing up too fast, and I feel I have missed out, I can look at that “perfect” picture and remember: no, I didn’t miss it, I was right there and it was wonderful. And if I feel stressed about life in general, then looking at pictures of my family having fun, enjoying a special vacation, enjoying a special holiday, enjoying each other helps soothe my negative mood and move me to a more positive, grateful, happy, and definitely less stressed place.

Pictures bring me comfort by helping me feel secure in this world, and, rightly or wrongly, I rely on them for this. That is the real reason I push for perfect pictures. I don’t yell at my kids during picture time because I want the most beautiful picture ever; it’s because I am afraid that if I don’t get that picture, then I won’t have something to look at when I need it most. I yell at them because of me, because of my insecurities, not because of them and their inability to sit still longer than children their age should.

The Orange Rhino Challenge and all the trigger digging I did helped me to see the real reason I yelled. And by default, it helped me let go and chill out during picture time. Now when I find myself struggling to not yell at my kids when I desperately want a picture, I say to myself:

Hey, just relax. You’ll get what you get. Don’t push it or you won’t get a thing except crying kids, an upset you, and therefore a bad picture and a more upset you. It’s not worth it! Yelling doesn’t work, it just makes things worse. Remember, it’s not them you are frustrated with; it’s you. They are doing fine — you are causing the stress. Chill out. Just chill out. Remember, the goal isn’t the perfect picture. It’s enjoying the moment. Don’t ruin it by yelling.

I can happily say that I now enjoy those special moments in my life even more than before because my need for perfection and my instinct to yell aren’t dampening them. Do I still struggle and have to push myself to let go of perfection at times? Yes. Do I still struggle and have to push myself to “Yell Less, Love More” during trying times? Yes. I am the Orange Rhino, but I am not perfect! But I struggle a lot less and for that I will jump up and down, act like a clown, and do all sorts of crazy things to make myself smile and feel good about my progress. Because of all the things I have learned as part of my my Orange Rhino Challenge to Yell Less + L.O.V.E. More, one most definitely is this: the goal is not about perfection, it’s about progress.

And I am making progress — I am yelling less and loving more — and that is what matters to me more than perfection.

This story originally appeared in my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can too!” Part parenting guide, part memoir, part journal, her book takes you on a 30-day journey full of honest stories, alternatives to yelling and steps to follow so that you too can Yell Less. Find more about her book here.

“Yell Less, Love More” Book Club Starts November 1st!

I wrote the following kind of sarcastic, kind of true, sentence in my head back in July. Or was it June? Perhaps even as early as May?

“My name is The Orange Rhino and I wrote a book about how to stop yelling at my kids and now I need to read my own book.”

Well, that was probably the most fun sentence I have ever shared with you all! Oi! I had full intentions of sharing that sentence with you all this past summer, followed of course by all the “wonderful” details about how I had started struggling with yelling again. I didn’t keep it from you out of embarrassment, nope that was definitely not the case; it’s just that the following happened….

Shortly after that sentence started floating in my mind (okay, bombarding my mind,) I finally accepted that it wasn’t just a sentence, but that it was a true statement that needed to be brought to life. Yes, I finally accepted that it was time to really, like really, really, focus more of my energy on being an Orange Rhino. It wasn’t that I hadn’t been focusing on yelling less and loving more, oh I totally had been, it’s just that I finally accepted that I needed to take my efforts to a new level because I wasn’t making as much progress as I hoped. Although I felt a wee bit deflated and a big bit frustrated, kind of like I did when I started my journey to stop yelling back in January 2012, I felt these yucky feelings to a much lesser degree because this go around I knew that I had a tried-and-true resource to help me.

I had my book.

Seriously, this was my first thought when it hit me hard that I needed to up my game and oh did it bring me immense relief, comfort, hope, and determination. I knew in my heart that my book would help me figure out why the heck I was yelling so much again. I knew it would remind me of some of my favorite tricks to try in the heat of the moment. I knew it would give me inspiration to keep going when I wanted to quit trying to improve. And most importantly, I knew it would guide me back to being the parent I loved being and knew I was capable of being.

So I picked my book, and started reading.

As hoped, my book did guide me right back to being The Orange Rhino I hoped to be.
And well, at the same time it guided me away from writing hence the non-existent post this summer!

You see, as soon as I started following the 30-day guide in my book, and started tracking my triggers and digging deep, I quickly realized that the biggest thing I needed to do to get me back on track was to take care of me. Like, immediately. Like, should have done weeks, no months ago. “Of course you are struggling with yelling,” I thought to myself, “you aren’t doing any of what you know to do because you have absolutely nothing left in your tank. You are more than depleted. You need an honest to goodness break.”

So took a break I did, from anything and everything that I could.
Oh, and yell less and love more I also did, and still do.

I am successfully back to being The Orange Rhino parent I aim to be and man am I grateful! The land of The Orange Rhino is a much more peaceful, pleasant, and enjoyable place to be than the land of the grumpy grey rhino! That said, I know that I still need to keep my mind 110% focused on staying in this state to ensure that I really stay in this groove. So, I am planning to re-read my book again and I would love it if you read along with me and take this journey alongside me!

ImageLet’s get to and stay in Orange Rhino land together…and let’s do it with a book club!

Yes, a book club. Yeah! Finally…after months of wanting to do one I actually have the reserves to do one. I am psyched, are you?! Here are the details.

 

Book Club TIMING:
November 1, 2015 to December 1, 2015.
Each day we will read 1 day out of the book, which averages about 3-5 pages so the time commitment to reading is completely manageable!

 

WHERE:
The book club will be held online at The Orange Rhino private community (www.theorangerhino.com/community) Why here instead of Facebook you ask? The private community offers a very organized approach to sharing information and therefore gives all members the ability to easily:

  • Connect and communicate with others, especially those who share some of the same struggles as you do, giving you more personalized information/stories to help you on your journey and a wicked awesome support network
  • Read posts by others that guaranteed will make you feel less alone and more hopeful
  • Stay on track and follow along even if you missed a day (all posts have headers and will clearly indicate which day is in discussion)
  • Privately post questions and concerns and receive nonjudgmental advice and loving support
  • Search the content for specific topics without having to scroll through numerous posts (think of The Community as an online yelling encyclopedia! Struggle with yelling in the car? Search “yelling in the car”)
  • Keep track your own entries which in effect gives you an online diary which is a great tool for this journey, and
  • Return to and review the Book Club information even after the book club is over

Also, many have shared with me that despite a love for Facebook, it is also indeed a major trigger J so I hope that just by being at The Orange Rhino private community you will already find yourself yelling less and loving more even before you are deep into the book club!

HOW the Book Club will work:
Each morning (assuming no emergencies!) I will post which pages to read and a question to think about/write about that day. When applicable I will also share links to other blog posts, links to other resources, extra inspirational quotes and extra tips to try. Additionally, I will offer the choice to sign up for a daily email reminding you to check in. Accountability is a great tool in the journey to yell less, as is having as many reminders as possible!

BONUS features for this Book Club!
Many of you have already participated in the book club so not only will I add new material, but also I am adding a few things. This Book Club will include occasional:

  • Conference Calls to help guide you through some of the more “technical” aspects of the book*
  • Videos to encourage you to keep going (and so I can pretend that I am sitting in a coffee shop, talking to you live!)*
  • Online Chats on the Community to answer any questions*
  • Giveaways of Orange Rhino paraphernalia to celebrate the book turning 1!*Times and dates for the calls/videos/chats will be shared ahead of time

How to SIGN-UP and get started:
As all book clubs go, I will lead the days’ discussions based on the content in the book. So, understandably, you need the book to participate! My sincere hope is that the combination of the book content and the enhanced support and conversation on the community will truly help make your journey to “Yell Less, Love More” both easier and enjoyable! Ready to start your journey?

  1. Email any proof of purchase of the book/e-book (photo, screenshot, receipt) to YellLessLoveMore@gmail.com. DEADLINE Thursday, October 29th
  2. You will then receive an email with your login information for the private community and other key information. It might take a few days to receive your email as I manually enter everyone into the Community and it takes a bit of time. Thanks in advance for your patience!
  3. IF you did the last Book Club, then you do not need to send proof of purchase, just an email so that I can add you to the new forum (you will still have access to the old ones.)
  4. You can start reading the book now if you want – or wait to read with us so you are at the same spot as others. If it were me, I would read the Introduction and then just flip through the rest to get a feel for the layout of the book and some of the questions.

So there you have it, all the information you need to participate in the next “Yell Less, Love More 30-Day Challenge Book Club!” I really hope that you will join and that we have the chance to read the book together!

Looking forward to November 1st and taking this journey alongside you,
The Orange Rhino
a.k.a. Sheila

6 Tips to Happier Siblings and Therefore a Happier Me!

It’s funny how life can work out.

On April 29th I received a new book in the mail from a colleague.
On May 2nd I tore my ACL.
And on May 3rd the fighting between my boys intensified greatly.

Understandably, though, right? I mean, here I was, stuck on a couch, unable to play with my kids, hardly able to hold a conversation, and completely unable to crawl into bed and give good night snuggles. Not only were my boys already on edge with everyone as a result of witnessing my accident, but now they were also desperate for my attention of which I had so little to give. So, they started fighting with each other even more than before which is to say, their fighting went from slightly intolerable to majorly intolerable and oh my gosh did it make me want to SCREAM!!!

Luckily, the book I had received was Dr. Laura Markham’s new book, “Peaceful Parents, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life.” I mean, talk about perfect, timing! Every second I had enough energy, I read Dr. Laura’s book for I simply could not put it down. All of the non-preachy insights and ideas that just made good, logical sense that I knew I could remember and implement had me hooked!

I would love to share with you all that I took away from the book because I know that fighting siblings is a wonderful trigger for yelling. Gosh, between the extra noise, the lack of peace, the frustration around, “why can’t we just get along and have a fun family time,” the physical outbursts at each other, and the competition, it all leaves me wanting to yell! Am I right?!

That said, I underlined and highlighted so much in the book that if I shared all of my takeaways I would just be re-writing the book J So alas, here is my main takeaway and then a few other takeaways that have been game changers for me in how I approach my boys when they are fighting and how I approach parenting in general.

My Main Aha: Kids need coaching on how to problem solve when they are fighting, not just to “work it out” by themselves.

You all know I am a fan of the concept that discipline means to teach and that my role as a mom is to teach my kids. Before this book, though, for the most part I followed the “work it out” themselves approach. Sure when things were huge I stepped in, but for the most part I let them figure things out. This worked sometimes (think small issues) but for the most part, one kid just ended up frustrated and either walked away screaming at the other or came running to me crying. Which when I think back, makes total sense! Kids aren’t born knowing how to compromise, how to listen to each other, how to make “I” statements, or how to “fight fairly and productively.” How can I expect them to “work it out” themselves when I haven’t really, truly taught them the tools to do so in the first place? I mean sure, here and there I share a lesson, but the lesson really needs to be right then and there during the fight so it can be put to use. I need to coach them. I need to teach them to problem solve on their own. Which is exactly what I focus on now – teaching them to problem solve. Teaching them this skill is so much more than about reducing sibling fighting by the way; it’s about giving them a life skill that is so ridiculously important, on so many levels. So focus on teaching them problem solve I have. And the results have been mind blowing.

About one week into my injury, the boys were out fighting in the back yard over who could use the red toy (because obviously the blue one at their feet was inferior. Duh.) I gave it a few seconds to see if they could figure it out and when I realized things were about to escalate, I stepped in and used Dr. Laura’s tips.

“Uh-oh! It seems we have a problem. But we can solve this. Let’s see. Why don’t you each tell me what you think the problem is…without using your brother’s name. Andrew, you go first….Okay, James, your turn….This is like Scooby Doo guys! It’s a mystery as to what the solution is. Let’s problem solve; what can we do here?”

Side note: the amount of times I bring cartoons into my parenting sometimes scares me, but it does make relating easier! Moving forward.

I followed Dr. Laura’s suggestions for how to continue the rest of the conversation. Within minutes, NO JOKE, and without raised voices or tantrums, the boys ON THEIR OWN came up with a solution. Before I could even say “good job!” they had run off playing TOGETHER. Laughing. Happily. Like I said, Happy Siblings = Happy Mom. I then SAT in a chair UNINTERRUPTED!!! for 20 minutes watching them play. It was a miracle. It was beautiful.

Coaching my kids through a fight instead of letting them work it out on their own was the biggest take away for me from the book and it has continued to be a useful insight/tool/life saver. Just the other day two of my boys were walking together, holding hands, whispering to each other and evidently making a plan. They had been fighting minutes before but with the mere prompt of, “Looks like we have a problem,” they figured it out. Again, lifesaver!

Here are 5 other inspiring tips that have made this summer a wee bit more peaceful. (Note: these are my interpretations of her points; I might interpret somewhat wrong so apologies Dr. Laura if I do. Regardless, you inspired me to think and act better so thank you!)

  1. Use “And” instead of “But”
    The word but sends the message that whatever you just heard and acknowledged, well doesn’t really matter. “I know you are angry BUT we don’t hit.” It’s okay to be angry. That shouldn’t be dismissed. So instead I try to say things like, “I know you are angry AND we don’t hit.”
  2. Focus on “Taking Turns” instead of “Sharing”
    Taking turns on the child’s initiative (outlined in book) promotes generosity from with-in which is a great life skill as opposed to forcing sharing which doesn’t do so as much.
  3. Beware of Unintentionally Fostering Competition between Siblings
    The simple and personally frequent statement of, “Stop picking on your brother!” automatically pits them against each other as opposed to: “In this house we use kind words.”
  4. Use the Past to Find the Positive
    I am a firm believer in catching my kids being good as a really useful parenting tool. That said, this summer it has been HARD, hard, hard with one of my kiddos. Dr. Laura’s advice? If you can’t find something positive now, use an example from the past. Duh! So simple, so effective.
  5. Keep Kids from Ganging up on Each Other
    This is a huge one in our family L which saddens me to no end. I so often say, “You and you, don’t exclude him” which puts the “offenders” on defensive (we aren’t!) which means the chances of behavior changing are slim to none! Using the Socratic method of asking questions instead of accusing works better. “We aren’t leaving anyone out, are we?”

51W1RnmJewL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_“Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings” truly empowered me to get the sibling fighting in my home to a better place and I do feel that we have made major strides in that department…with room to improve, of course! But seriously, with less fighting and shorter fights, there is a lot more happiness in this house and for that I am way grateful. It’s been a hard summer as is and I can’t imagine how it would have been if the fighting was where it was 3 months ago! Yuck. So thank you Dr. Laura for sharing your book with me and for making my life a wee bit saner!

2 Lessons About Yelling the Maine Diner Debacle Can Teach Us

Today I read the now viral article about how the owner of a diner in Maine yelled at a customer, a customer who happened to be a two-year-old child. Supposedly, the child was carrying on and on and the owner had enough so she screamed at the child to knock it off. Understandably so, this popular story has elicited a lot of responses about who was right and who was wrong. And while I would love to share my opinion on that matter, instead I am going to focus on one line from the article that reminded me of one of the many important lessons I learned when I stopped (and started and stopped) yelling at my kids.

The last line of the article reads, “I wouldn’t say I was sorry (for yelling,) because it stopped. When things stop, it’s usually a good thing.”

The owner isn’t alone in her thinking that the yelling worked so it’s a good approach. In my four years as The Orange Rhino, a parent determined to respond to triggers warmly and without yelling, just about every single parent I have communicated with has shared the same sentiment. “But yelling works. It stops the behavior that I want to stop.”

I get this sentiment. Oh how I get this sentiment. Trust me!

I have thought that “oh, well yelling works” more times than I can count! I have wanted to buy into this thought as a supporting theory for why it is okay to yell at my kids oh so many times! Yes, when all else fails and my constructive attempts to get my kids to clean up, to stop hitting each other, to go to bed, or to do whatever haven’t worked, yelling has “saved the day” and “worked.” When I used to get loud and mean enough, I eventually either scared my children or hurt their feelings enough so that they stopped dead in their tracks causing the annoying behavior to stop as well.

But does that mean the yelling really worked? That it was a good thing?
I am going to argue no.

Yes, on the surface level the yelling worked. When I yelled, I achieved a short-term goal of getting a said behavior to stop. But let me be honest; that really isn’t my main goal when I think of getting a behavior to stop. One of my main goals as a parent is to teach my children so that their good behavior continues and their “bad” behavior disappears not just for a moment but mostly forever. I don’t want to just stop it once; I want to stop it for (again, mostly!) always. But I cannot teach effectively and change behavior if I am yelling. To teach effectively I need to speak clearly and my kids need to be in a good enough place to receive my words. Yelling successfully achieves neither of those necessities! [pullquote]To teach effectively I need to speak clearly and my kids need to be in a good enough place to receive my words. Yelling successfully achieves neither of those necessities![/pullquote]

There ain’t no doubt about it, but when I am yelling, there is nothing clear about my communications (well, except that I’m pissed.) I’m yelling so loud and fast, and my heartbeat is racing so much that my words come out as a jumbled incomprehensible mess, completely destroying my communication efforts. Even if my kids were in the best listening place possible, when I yell I am not giving them anything coherent to take in so no, no my yelling isn’t teaching what I want to teach effectively, so no it isn’t “working.”

But what does put kids in a good listening place anyways, you ask? What puts them in a place where they won’t tune me out and will want to (kind of) listen? In my experience, my kids listen best when they feel calm, safe, and undistracted. Does yelling do that? Um, nope, not really. My boys can’t focus when I yell. I can see it in their eyes that are looking anywhere but one spot. I can see all the distracting thoughts bouncing around, “When will she stop?” “I hate her when she yells.” “I’m gonna tell daddy.” “I don’t care. Whatever mom.” They don’t focus on my words; they focus on their own thoughts and potentially own response, “You’re the meanest mommy ever,” being one of the all time favorites!

I also learned that my kids listen best when I speak in a tone that doesn’t hurt their ears or scare their minds; when I use a tone that invites them in and encourages them to listen. Does yelling do any of those things? Again, um, nope, not really. I mean gosh, whenever I have been yelled at, whether as a child or adult, my response has basically been piss off! Yelling doesn’t motivate me to change, it motivates me to do anything but change! It motivates me to tune out the messenger…fast! And it motivates me to be stubborn and difficult, which by the way, I am wicked good at and which double by the way is a trait my children inherited. So no, yelling doesn’t work for me – it actually works against me!

You know, I often think of the Peanuts cartoons when I think of what actually happens when I yell at my kids. I think of how in the cartoons the kids only hear, “Wah, wah, wah!” That’s like my kids when I am yelling!! Yes, they hear the yelling, they get the message I’m pissed, but because my yelling pushed them to tune me out, they don’t get the rest of the message, the lesson that I am really, really, really trying to share. They don’t hear, “STOP HITTING YOUR BROTHER NOW IT’S NOT NICE.” Instead, if I am lucky, all they hear is, “stop hitting, wah wah, wah, wah!”

Is it great they get the message stop hitting?! Heck yeah! But I’ve learned that if at the same time – the time when the behavior I want to change is happening – they don’t also get the message that it isn’t nice, that hitting isn’t how we treat people, etc… it’s hard for them to make the connection between the bad behavior and the lesson. It’s hard for them to internalize the lesson and therefore make the right decision the next time.

So again, yelling doesn’t work as “intended” to, which is to say, it doesn’t stop behavior for the long haul. Yelling simply doesn’t open doors for communication and learning, but rather, it closes them.

Okay, except maybe in one situation. We all know my book is titled “Yell Less, Love More.” That’s because yells will happen. In those yelling moments we might not teach and we might close doors to learning but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be re-opened. They can be…immediately after the yell. Then is the best time to teach an entirely different, unintended lesson: mistakes happen and when they do, we need to apologize.

(Maybe I did share my opinion after all, eh?! And no, that was not intended!)

* * * * *

YLLMcrop2Want to Yell Less and Love More and learn more of some of the lessons that helped me stop yelling at my kids? Check out my book, which is part memoir, part journal, part physical reminder to not yell! It is available here. It is a 30-Day Guide to help you on your own journey to discover your yelling triggers and and to create a plan to manage them. Filled with honest stories to inspire you and remind you that you are not alone in your struggle with yelling, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” also shares 100 of my favorite alternatives to yelling and my favorite tools.

My Physical Therapist Saved my Life

It was the Friday exactly three weeks after my ACL and meniscus knee surgery. My recovery seemed to be going as expected. My knee was moving well. The knee pain was gone. I could walk around with crutches. The swelling in my leg was a bit more than usual though but I was assured that some people just swell more and since it wasn’t creating pain that all was well.

That morning, though, I woke up with a sore calf. I knew massage would relieve the mild pain so I found myself actually excited to go to physical therapy (a.k.a. pain and torture.) But first, onto Andrew’s his pre-school graduation to watch him go onto a stage for the first time in three years (yahoo, anxiety be gone!) and then to celebrate with mini-mozzarella sticks and ice cream at Friendly’s.

It was going to be a great day – and it was, until mid-bite of my umpteenth mozzarella stick, when I noticed that Mac had a huge, and I mean huge, red, hot swollen lymph node in his neck. The last time this happened it lead to a high fever and a seizure so I naturally began to worry.

Celebration be done. Such bad, bad timing. I was so disappointed to have to take my focus off of Andrew and back to Mac’s health issues which has been the focus of our lives since oh, September. I begrudgingly (and nervously) called the Pediatrician. We decided that I needed to bring Mac in immediately to make sure that a major infection wasn’t brewing. So, the boys quickly took the last bites of their volcano sundaes and we headed out so I could hit the doctor.

Unfortunately, this new event in the schedule meant that I had to skip physical therapy, which by now, I was desperate to go to. Fortunately though, Mac just had a virus and that entire weekend he never spiked one of his infamous high fevers and never had a seizure. Phew. Crisis averted.

One crisis averted that is.

The cramp in my leg refused to go away that weekend. I did all the calf stretches that I knew. I massaged my calf until the cows came home. I rested with my foot up. I made sure to walk heal to toe and not vice versa which I knew caused leg cramps. But nothing helped and in fact, the pain worsened and worsened. I woke up Monday morning and could barely walk because I couldn’t put any pressure on my left leg. It was dreadful. “Darn leg cramp,” I thought.

As I hobbled into physical therapy a few hours later, my PT, Tyler, greeted me and nonchalantly asked, “So, how was your weekend, how are you feeling?”

“Mostly good. I am sorry I had to cancel last minute Friday. I actually really wanted to come as I have this calf cramp that just won’t go away. And this morning it was difficult to walk. It feels like a tight muscle but I stretched and stretched and it won’t release.”

“Oh,” he said. “Let’s get you up on the table and check it out.”

I oh so ungracefully threw myself up onto the table, ready for him to you know, just fix the pain.

“Let me know if anything hurts when I press on it, okay?”

It was like a game of duck, duck, goose but this time it was, “Nope, Nope, Nope, OH MY GOSH OUCH!” I had one very, very tender spot the size of a thumbnail. Everything else around it was sore, but not like this. Anytime he gently touched it, my leg jumped in pain.

“I am going to have another PT examine you just for a confirmation that it isn’t wise to do physical therapy today.” Well, needless to say she agreed that physical therapy was off and they both agreed to what I was then told:

“We think you might have a blood clot. You probably don’t but we should check it out just to be on the safe side because you don’t mess with blood clots. If you miss one, it can be really bad.”

I walked (who am I kidding, hobbled) out of the PT office and headed to get an ultrasound on my leg (yeah for having access to an entire medical team in one building!) Truth be told, I wasn’t worried at this point. In fact, I was actually laughing at the irony of the situation. You see, I always bring concerns to doctors (I guess I have a weak tolerance for pain) and never once have I been right to be concerned. So why would I have any reason to be concerned this day when I didn’t even start out concerned? I mean really, the one time I should be concerned and on alert, and I am so not.

Well, that feeling of laughing at the situation lasted a whopping hour and came to an abrupt halt when I overheard the ultrasound tech say to my knee surgeon, “yada yada yada…blood clot in her calf…yada yada yada.”

“Wait, did I hear that correctly?” I thought. The tech turned to me and said, “Okay, it is safe to go home.” Now mind you, he hadn’t even directly told me I had a clot so I didn’t truly have a clue what was transpiring.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Didn’t you just say that I have a blood clot? And if so, why are you using the word ‘safe’ to go home? Am I at risk for something bad happening?”

“Yes, you do have a clot. The doctor said it was safe to drive home but that if you start to have a hard time breathing, to go to the ER immediately and tell them you have a blood clot. But you should be fine. The doctor will be calling you very shortly to discuss next steps.” Yeah, so NOT reassuring that everything was going to be fine. Don’t worry, but be on alert, and the doctor is going to call you stat.

“Okay,” I said, completely shocked, overwhelmed, slightly numb and the obvious one, scared. I knew the concerns that came with blood clots. A few years prior, ER doctors ruled out a blood clot in my lungs, but only after they told me that a CT was crucial since uncaught blood blots can be lethal!

I took maybe six steps out of the ultrasound office before my phone rang. The doctor will call you very shortly turned out to be, two minutes. Again, so not reassured all was well!

“Hi, Sheila this is Dr. blankety blank. You have a blood clot in your calf and we need you to go to Urgent Care immediately to be examined. We need to make sure that you have no other blood clots, especially not in your lungs as that can be very dangerous.”

The fact that I was now being sent directly to Urgent Care upped my fears a notch. As did sitting in the Urgent Care waiting room and bumping into the ultrasound tech who said,

“Oh, you can’t be waiting out here. You need to be brought in immediately.” He then informed the desk staff that I was an urgent, urgent matter. So much for the “don’t worry” and “it’s safe” speech, eh? That said, I get it. I know he isn’t allowed to give me a medical diagnosis so I don’t fault him for holding back the potential severity of the situation.

Did I mention that I was going through all of this alone? Yeah, that sucked. I had visions of being admitted to the hospital for days under observation. Shoot, I had visions of this darn blood clot moving to my lungs and wreaking havoc if you know what I mean. And then shoot, the doctor I saw said the following to me,

“You are very, very lucky we caught this in time. Blood clots can be incredibly dangerous.”

She didn’t say the d word (death) or the l word (lethal) but I knew she was implying it. I could see it in her eyes. I could hear it in her voice. I could feel it in my heart.

Which finally brings me full circle to the title of this post.
My physical therapist saved my life that day.

(And end of story. Too worked up to write any more. The whole effectively having my life saved is just a wee bit overwhelming. To say the least. Back in a few….and I’m back, tears wiped away.)

* * *

My first move after I left the doctor’s office, blood thinner prescription in hand, was to go find my physical therapist and thank him. I walked into his office and tried to crack a joke to lighten my mood (and to keep me from having an emotional meltdown in his office.)

“Winner, winner chicken dinner!” I said. “You were right. I have a blood clot.”

We exchanged the knowing look I had just shared with the doctor, but at a deeper level for we both knew that it was his attention to detail and desire to be on the safe side hours before had indeed, saved my life. I tried to thank him but the words I wanted to say couldn’t come out. I mumbled something like,

“Thank you. You know you saved, well you know,” and then stopped. It was just too much to say out loud. I wiped the tears away and reverted to third person to make it easier on me. “Tell your wife you saved a life today and that she should be proud. See you soon.”

* * *

I hesitated titling this post “My physical therapist saved my life” for fear that it sounded too dramatic. But it’s not. It’s the absolute, gosh darn truth. And over the next two weeks, I was reminded of this incredibly frightening yet amazingly wonderful truth every time I met with yet another professional regarding my diagnosis. They all said the exact same thing to me in the exact same manner. Delivered in equal parts intensely concerned and intensely relieved, I heard over and over again,

“You are really lucky. Your physical therapist saved your life.”

Yep, I am really lucky. You know what else I am? Overwhelmingly grateful to be alive.

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

A Moment of Truth for Mac (and us)

Dearest Orange Rhinos,

Thank you so much for your loving comments, posts and emails a few weeks back when I shared about Mac’s health situation. My sincerest apologies for not replying until now, and even now replying via a large blog post. It might sound weird but responding to you all after I posted made the situation feel even a little more real and well, it had been feeling surreal which believe it or not feels better than real!

But alas, I did move into the land of reality that Tuesday, April 7th when my husband and I brought Mac to see the Hematologist. I knew where we were going – to the Children’s Hospital section of the local hospital. I had been there many a times before with Mac and my other boys – to see the Neurologist, the Rheumatologist, the Urologist and several other pediatric specialists. I assumed we would sit with Mac in the normal waiting room, watching the fish and staring up at the wicked cool painting on the ceiling. I assumed wrong. You see, our doctor is also a pediatric Oncologist so we were sent to the special waiting room – the one that is secluded and infinitely more sterile (as it should be.)

Reality hit – along with tears in my eyes and sweat in my palms – the minute I opened the door and saw two children who clearly were currently undergoing chemotherapy. My heart broke and fell into a thousand little pieces; and not just because of my fear for my son, but for my sadness and fear for these beautiful children who stood before us, laughing and smiling despite of their Cancer. Walking into a pediatric cancer waiting room was nothing short of a terrifying experience, but I will leave it at that as you do not have to feel what I did.  No one should.

Moving right along….The receptionist asked for our names and I truly felt like I was going to vomit as I said Mac’s name. “Mac is here to see Dr. H,” (you know the guy who treats rare blood diseases and pediatric cancer I thought to myself; you know the guy who is going to tell me if it is potentially as bad as I fear; you know the guy who is going to tell me if we need to do all the tests that I had been led to believe might happen and that I knew to ask about, like a bone marrow test.)

We waited a whopping five minutes (an A+ to that doctor’s office for being on time) to see the doctor, although in truth, I had been waiting since the previous Thursday at about 3:15 when I made the appointment. Yep, I had been waiting days to meet the doctor and move on to the next part of this long and tiresome journey. Dr. H was quite nice and after listening to our story and reviewing the notes, he finally said,

“Well, I don’t think he has Leukemia.”

He continued,

“Many parents come to see me and that is there assumption. But I assure you, I see no signs of Leukemia.”

He read my mind that I needed more proof and he went through all the data, showing me what was normal in the testing and what we would see if it were Leukemia. I of course felt relieved, but I’ll readily admit, I wasn’t entirely relieved because while I fear(ed?) Cancer, I never feared Leukemia. He went on to share his hypothesis of what was going on.

“I don’t see many red flags, and in fact, if it were not for Mac’s fevers, bruising and seizures, I would tell you not to worry one bit. But those factors do draw my attention. You have done a great job getting the proper testing done to date given the facts and I believe that Mac’s low white blood count is simply his norm – that when it looked normal, it was actually elevated. I do not think he has cyclic neutropenia. I think and hope that when he gets a fever again, that his numbers will go up. This will prove my theory and that we truly do not have to worry or do more elaborate testing; just a blood test if and when he is sick again.”

Not gonna lie, I know I should have felt truly relieved, like jump for joy relieved, but I wasn’t. I felt awful about myself that I didn’t feel more joyous (I had just gotten better news than many patients in that office) but the pit in my stomach just wasn’t satisfied. Fortunately, my husband made me feel better by admitting that he too felt relieved, but not. All we had was a theory and to boot, a theory that was ENTIRELY opposite of what another equally experienced Hematologist had said. Who should we trust? Could we truly stop worrying? Was it really okay? Or were we missing something? I just wanted a solid, completely and utterly 100% definitive answer as to what was going on with Mac.

I just wanted to know if I could breathe again; if I could finally exhale.
I just wanted to know if I could finally start telling myself, “It will be okay.”
I just wanted to know if I could stop desperately fearing another horrific seizure.

And well, while I was close to being able to do all those things, I couldn’t; that was to say until last Wednesday when Mac spiked a wicked high temperature.

I knew the drill – the Hematologist had told us to immediately get blood work if Mac got sick again. The bad news is that Mac was really hit hard this time. As soon as he spiked (it happens out of no where it seems) he was lethargic and out. He couldn’t stay awake and even collapsed onto the floor of the hospital waiting room during registration. In fact, he was so out of it that during his blood work, he slept. The poor thing.

Awoken by my flash....Although sick, he looked so peaceful and snuggled up.

Awoken by my flash….Although sick, he looked so peaceful and snuggled up (and I record fevers on my phone with dated pictures.)

20150415_154629.jpg

This kid is a champ – no tears when he gets his blood drawn, even on days when he is wide awake. Love him so much.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not gonna lie – my heart was racing with major, major fear. I knew what this test meant: either the doctor was right and we could worry much less OR the doctor was wrong and we needed to worry more.

It was the moment of truth.

The good news is that we are fortunate enough to be able to get blood work done at the local hospital and that our Hematologist works there so we were able to immediately get in and get results within forty five minutes. As soon as the most incredible phlebotomist took Mac’s blood (she rocks and we love her and are so grateful for her skills…and lollipops!) we went over to our pediatrician’s for a check up (protocol with Mac’s high fevers.) Now, our pediatrician is also connected to the hospital and has access to the blood work. Without telling me that he was checking to see if it was ready (it had been a mere twenty minutes), he pulled up the results.

I wasn’t prepared for what he said…because I wasn’t expecting results so soon. I was totally caught off guard when he casually said to me,

“Well, his counts went up. Doctor H. was right. It doesn’t look like cyclic neutropenia and his immune/blood system is doing what it should. We can now focus on the other hypothesis of Periodic Fever Syndrome – which is a likely contender now.”

DSC_0012

This is me last Thursday – just had to capture my happiness to share with my mommy and the sweetness that comes from a snuggle.

Folks, I almost dropped Mac at that point.
I finally exhaled.
I finally breathed, like really breathed.

The tears were yet to come because I was in such shock that after months of bad test results we FINALLY got good ones. Finally. Did I mention, finally?! Finally a test result that didn’t increase our worries but brought them down.

Last Wednesday was a good day. A really good day.

And now the tears come.

It was a really, really good day and I just feel so fortunate to have the pediatrician we do and the hospital we do. They have made this journey just a wee bit less painful and I am so grateful.

I am also grateful because that day our pediatrician witnessed what I have been witnessing for the last eight months – that Mac feels on fire, literally, at 99. Not 100.4 as all say is that proper fever threshold, but 99. We talked about it and a new theory, a life changing one, developed. We are hoping (time and mommy charting his temperature dependent) that Mac runs cool so that 99 for him is actually 101 ish. If this is true, then not only do we know he is getting fevers more than we thought (tough news, but helpful news) but also that I can treat fevers sooner before they get out of control and cause seizures. This is huge folks, huge. Like, mega huge.

I am trying to hold onto this newfound hope…despite the last few days.

20150422_094004.jpgMac’s fever was pretty fierce and lasted four days. And although it has broke, he isn’t back  to being himself. In fact, he has taken naps every day since last Wednesday, which isn’t his usual. Normally I would be ecstatic for the surprise naps (YEAH! Me time!) but they are alarming to me especially because he is falling asleep early in the day and staying asleep despite being completely uncomfortable. My husband and I have decided to wait until Friday to push for more blood work. I am hoping that tomorrow brings no naps; now who the heck would have ever thought a parent would wish that?! Ha!

I will continue to keep you posted and I am so hoping that my newfound hope will help me find my way back here, a place that I so miss being a part of on a more regular basis.

Much gratitude to you all for being here, for staying here, and for supporting us,

The Orange Rhino,
a.k.a. Mac’s (and James, Edward’s and Andrew’s) mom
a.k.a. Sheila
a.k.a. The Mom who still can’t believe she is hoping for no surprise naps tomorrow!