I Got Knocked Down.

19 days of yelling less Year 2, 448 days total

Dearest Orange Rhinos,

Oh how I wish I could write an upbeat post. I feel that the last ones have been downish and I don’t like to be all down. I think a mix of up and down is good, you know? But alas, this post is not an up but instead, another down. I am hoping it is the last one for a while because not only does it get boring for you all to hear my woes J but it also gets exhausting for me to feel the woes.

I just got some very disheartening news. Doesn’t matter what it was. It just sucked. Big time. Let me put it simply. With all the ugliness and stress going on in my life right now (read this post about marriage and then this post about parenting if you don’t know what I mean), I had one thing that was keeping me going. Well, I guess two. First, you all have kept me going. Truly. Watching this community grow and witnessing strangers helping strangers is honestly the most beautiful, soothing thing in the world. I will be having what feels like the worst day and I will log on and read your posts and I smile and my heart smiles. I only wish I could reply to everyone, that would make me even happier. But I can only do so much. I know you understand.

The other thing that kept me going, the other thing that has helped me smile and not let the ugliness of my life bring me down lately I like to call a “a dream come true.” There is something I have dreamed of for years, since I was in high school really, and it was happening. It was not definite but it was happening. I felt ecstatic. I had hope that good things do actually happen; that the saying that has been protecting me for years “It’s too good to be true” was actually wrong. So yeah, I had lots and lots of hope. Hope has kept me going these last four weeks and now it has been taken away from me. It doesn’t feel good to say the very least.

When I received the heartbreaking news I cried silently. I then said “Well, at least it is Tuesday and I have a babysitter to help me and I can go to my room and be angry and sad all by myself.” And that is exactly what I am doing right now. The anger has subsided. I do feel bad for the toilet though. I yelled really loud at it. So loud in fact I am surprised the porcelain didn’t crack. Maybe that is because my heart cracked instead? Sigh.

So I have moved on from anger and now I am just stuck with the sadness and the lost sense of hope. I will not lie and tell you that I don’t feel like I am at rock bottom. I am there. There are only so many hits a girl can take, you know? As I write that I say to myself exactly what I said to a friend a month ago when my heart broke: “Have no fear. I will be okay. I have been knocked down a lot in my life. I know how to get back up. I am a fighter. I will be okay.”

I am a fighter.

I will be okay.

I am a fighter.

I will be okay.

Yes, I have been knocked down a lot in life. That is the honest to gosh truth. I have had my fair share of blows, but haven’t we all?

Haven’t we all been heartbroken, disappointed, and angry at some point whether it is over a fight with a friend, the fight to lose weight, or the loss of a loved one? It doesn’t matter what knocked me down today; I am pretty sure you all know how I feel. Whether it be from the examples I just shared or from just being a parent or even from the obvious, learning not to yell. Oh how the process of learning to yell less can make you feel pretty knocked down at times, am I right?

When I started The Orange Rhino Challenge I went 7ish days without yelling and then I lost it. I knocked myself down. And it felt awful. But, I got back up because I didn’t want to stay down; I refused to stay down. As I sit here crying, wondering how I am going to get up this time, how I am going to stop all the tears and go make dinner, I can’t help but think of three quotes that I have shared with you all when you yelled and felt knocked down:

“If you have made mistakes, there is always another chance for you. You may have a       fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing we call “failure” is not the falling down, but the staying down”.
~Mary Pickford 

Um, yes. I have fallen down. In many ways, I feel I have failed. Even though I know I am not the direct reason of my heartache, I still feel I have failed. But I will not stay down. I will not let myself be a failure.

“What looks like a loss may be the very event which is subsequently responsible for helping to produce the major achievement of your life.”
~Srully D. Blotnick 

Um, yes. I feel that I have experienced a huge loss today. A loss of hope, a loss of self confidence, a loss of enthusiasm. But maybe indeed this loss will be a gain. It has to be. It just has to be.

“Life has many twists and turns and sometimes what looks like a very bad day can just be clearing the way for good things to come.”
– J Kim Wright

Um, heck yes. I can say for certain that today has been a very bad day. I tried to stay strong and hide my tears from my eldest who was with me when I got the news. “What’s wrong mommy?” “Oh, I am just very sad and hurt.” “What can I do to help? Can I give you lots of hugs and kisses until you don’t remember anymore why you are so sad.” “Thanks sweetie. That is such a kind offer. I’ll be okay. I promise.” Yeah, my six year old could tell the depth of my pain so I would say it was a bad day. But oh, oh that must mean that it is clearing the way for good things, right?

Yes. It has to be. It just has to be. I believe all the quotes above. And I believe the cliché that this is “a blessing in a disguise” because just today I said to my husband “something has to give, and I can’t figure out what.” And well although it stinks to not have been the one to decide what has to give, at least something did give.

Yes, I feel pretty cruddy right now but I can’t stay negative because it will not get me anywhere positive.  I have no other choice but to believe these quotes, to believe the hope they offer because right now, in this moment, I so very much need them to be true, I so very much want them to be true.

Thirty minutes ago I slammed the door to my room, screamed into the toilet, and then collapsed on the floor in tears. I have wanted to do that for a long time. I didn’t know what to do with myself. I truly didn’t think I would find anyway to pull myself up off the floor. Thirty minutes ago I was lost with no hope, no strength. And now, after writing, I have a little more hope, a little more strength. I no longer feel like I am at rock bottom thanks to those  quotes. I believe in them and I hope you do too. If you feel knocked down tonight or tomorrow because you yelled, please know that I know how you feel and my heart not only goes out to you, but it is right there next to you, getting up with you, believing with you that tomorrow will be a better day.

We can do this together, Orange Rhinos, this not staying knocked down thing. We can get up again.

Who is with me?
(P.S. Please do know that I will be okay. I feel better already after writing this. And this song is now in my head and it is making me smile!)

And It (she?) Finally Broke.

18 days of loving more in year 2, 447 days total!

February 6th ish I came into my house to a rancid smell. It literally smelled like an animal had died and was hiding underneath the family room. Awful doesn’t even begin to describe it. I immediately called my handyman who came right over. I had to leave the house to get one child to a speech therapy appointment but I knew he would resolve the matter.

Not ten minutes after I leave, I get a phone call. I didn’t even have to answer it to know it was bad as it wasn’t my handyman; it was his boss.

“Um, hi Mrs. Orange Rhino.”
“Let me interrupt you. How bad is the problem? It’s not a dead raccoon is it?”
“No, no it is not an animal. You have a leak, a really, really, really bad leak. You have black mold under your floors, under your bookshelf and in the entire crawl space, air ducts, insulation, studs, everything. It’s pretty bad. When can you get home?”

Um, not soon enough? About forty minutes later I walked into the house.  It was so bad that both the handyman and bossman had waited for me.

“Well, we think it could be a crack in the foundation or maybe the heater under the bookshelf.”

“Hmmm. So about two months ago I noticed that the heater was making a lot of noise. I figured I was just super irritable that day and laughed it off. A few days later I thought it smelled funny; that the family room smelled like a steam shower. Again, I laughed it off. I can’t help but think the heater is the problem.”

My gut knew it was the problem. I had been telling myself for two months to look into it. But I kept saying “it wasn’t important” and “I’ll get to it when I get to it” and “I’m too busy.” The truth? I never prioritized it.

The men grabbed tools and started ripping out the bookcase. Well all be. Guess what? The heater? Oh yes, it had been leaking for ages. AGES. There was water everywhere. In fact, it was so bad that the iron pipe had turned green. And it get this. It was STILL spraying water.

It is three months later and I am still fixing the problem and still dealing with insurance.

I learned that day, and have remembered every day since that ignoring a small problem can often grow into a large problem and explode in your face, literally.

I learned this same lesson when the marriage boulder crashed in my path. We had acknowledged the small rocks for a while but rationalized that we would get to them, some day. And then bam, well, you know how that story goes (read here)

I learned this same lesson when my oldest was three ish and I started to yell a little more and a little more. I kept saying “oh, it’s just the sleep deprivation, you’ll chill out soon.” And then ahhhhhh, well, my yelling had become a huge problem and here I am, The Orange Rhino, a mom who wants to parent with warmth and determination, without all the yelling.

It is hard to take care of the small problems. They are so, well, small. At the time they don’t seem like they need attention, like they don’t warrant it. And let’s be real. I barely have time to tackle big problems, let alone medium ones and shoot, never small ones. But oh, oh has that come to bite me in the arse one too many times. Sure, there are ones that you ignore and it works out, but more often than not, at least for me, if it is a problem, it doesn’t just disappear.

I re-learned this lesson again today. UGH. The day the plumber came to fix the big, black mold he noticed a piece on the boiler needed updating.

“Is it mandatory I asked? Can I wait a while, until I fix this other big headache of a problem?”

“Sure, but I wouldn’t suggest it. You never know when it will go.”

It’s been on my list to do since February 6th.

Guess what piece broke today? Guess who found a basement filled with rotten water and a soaking went basement rug. Yup, that’s right me. Guess who honest to gosh almost lost it in the ugliest way ever? Yup, me. Because the kids were being bad? No, because I was just done.

Because I have lots of small “to-do’s” that I am ignoring and as a result, my ability to stay chill is pretty much nonexistent and is turning into a big, almost explosive problem. Today, it all boiled up and exploded internally. Did I yell? No. But I feel grouchy beyond words. I feel more impatient that ever. I feel full of yucky rage inside. I kept it contained today, but barely and again, not so prettily. I apologized to everyone for mommy’s uber crankiness and promised to do better tomorrow. That was the least I can do, but hey, I think that counts for a lot.

Now I need to forgive myself. And that will be the hardest part. Because right now I am sitting here thinking “Darnit, Orange Rhino. You KNOW better. You know that if you don’t get sleep, exercise, and eat healthy that you eventually get to a breaking point and it ain’t pretty.” I saw today coming. I felt it yesterday when my eyelids were literally half closed from 1 o’clock onwards and I felt like a zombie. I felt it this morning when my hands started sweating and my heart started beating faster when the boys were a little louder than I could handle. I felt it at 1 o’clock today when I rushed through nap time books because I just wanted alone time.

Yes, I felt the breaking point coming and I didn’t try to stop it.

The last month I have been pushing myself too hard. I have written about taking care of me but again, I have failed to do so. It is evident in my smile, or lack there of. It is evident in my tone. It is evident in the increasing guilt of not being happy with how cranky I am. And for this, because I know that I want to be doing better, I feel crappy and disappointed in myself.

I am okay with pushing myself. With telling myself that “I can do it” and “just one more day of craziness, then I will rest.” But only until a point. Because eventually, it becomes too much. Just like the pipe that leaked and leaked until it wreaked havoc, I know that left uncared for, my little stress, my ignoring the little things I need to get the stress at bay, will grow and grow until it wreaks havoc. Unfortunately for my boys, the wreaked havoc is usually in their direction.

I write this post tonight to remind myself to take care of me.

I write this post tonight to remind myself to acknowledge my warning signs that it is time for a break.

I write this post tonight to remind myself to find grace, to forgive myself for the rough day, to acknowledge that I hey at least, I did take a break at 1 (even if I should have taken it yesterday) and that hey, I am only human. I am doing my best. And that matters a lot.

Let it go Orange Rhino, let go. And for goodness sake, go take a hot bath, ignore your work, and get to bed!!

Baby Steps ARE Big Steps

13 days of loving more year two, 442 days running total

Dear Orange Rhinos,

This is another, pull up your chair, grab a cup of coffee, tea, or wine and a box of chocolates kind of post. Expect typos, lack of clarity and a boat load of enthusiasm. Actually now that I am writing, forget the aforementioned beverages, it’s more like a champagne kind of night for me, for all of us. You’ll see why.

I wrote something in response to two comments today that got me thinking, really, really thinking. Several of you wrote about something you achieved, eluding that it wasn’t much; that you still yelled, but baby steps were taken and that is good. And then there was the question… “Right?”

And my answer…HECK YEAH!

Baby steps are BIG steps, big time!

Now, I don’t know what those of you who wrote those wonderful comments were feeling at the time and I will not presume to know. So I will just tell you my story. I am terrific at playing down small successes in my life. I don’t know why, I just do. But really, again,

Baby steps are BIG steps, big time!

Think of it. When a baby takes a first step, I don’t know about you, but I run for the camera, the phone, the video camera, the everything electronic to record it. To record the one, singular small, step. Shoot, even the quarter of a first step I recorded and then jumped up and all around like a happy monkey shouting for joy. “You did it! You did it baby! You walked!” It was a baby step literally but it was a BIG step and it was celebrated appropriately with hoopla galore!

Think of it. The first drop of pee in the potty. Not a full on pee, fill the potty (or in my case, spray the piss all over the potty) type of pee, but just a drop. I don’t know about you, but I have never been more excited about pee in my life until I saw the singular first baby drop ever so slowly drop into the toilet water. I think I called everyone I knew when each child peed in the potty for the first time. It was a little itsy bitsy baby pee but it was a BIG step and celebrated appropriately with hoopla galore!

And forget kids for a second.

Think of it. The first time you held a boy’s hand because he liked you and you liked him and you were “going steady.” It wasn’t any major stop the presses romance or full on intimate existence (shoot, I was what, in fifth grade, we won’t even talk about when my first kiss was…way too embarrassing!) but yet it mattered. It was a baby step towards the beginning of a relationship, it was a baby step at the beginning of a lifelong journey of relationships, but it was a BIG step at the same time and celebrated appropriately with hoopla galore! (How many girlfriends did you call? How many times did you write about in your diary??? I called lots and lots. And I think I ran out of ink for my pen!)

Oh there are so many baby steps in life. I do a great job celebrating the baby steps my kids achieve and that I experience as a mom: oh baby had first words, first food, first sleeping through the night, first laugh, first crying when I left. All baby steps…all BIG steps because they show signs of growth. And I truly celebrate and document them like mad. #4 sad Mommy today. Not just mama but mommy. I think the entire playground knows that because I shouted out with such glee!!

So why, why is it when I achieve baby steps in my life as a friend, a wife, a person, that I don’t shout with appropriate glee? Why do I play the success down?

As a friend: Oh I gave my name to someone new at the PTA, I shared a small secret about my life, I called and invited a new person to dinner. All baby steps…all BIG steps because they take courage…and yet I stay quiet and say, “yeah, well, I should have done that years ago. Everyone else has the courage. I am just shy. So, big deal” instead of sharing and celebrating.

As a wife: Oh I admitted I was wrong about which night was trash night, I said I was sorry when I knew it was important even if I didn’t feel it, I didn’t nag over everything, only every other thing on my honey-to-do list. All baby steps…all BIG steps because they required selflessness and embracing the relationship, not just the me-ship…and yet I stay quiet and think “whatever, that is part of marriage, it’s what I should be doing” instead of congratulation myself on growing.

As a person: Oh I didn’t dwell as long on fights with my mom, I did something 95% perfect instead of 110%, I acknowledged I was grumpy, too grumpy with my kids and made myself laugh to snap out of it. All baby steps…all BIG steps because they required mental talking and self control…and yet I stay quiet and think “yeah, so what, you still have room to grow” instead of shouting from the rooftops that I am trying and trying hard and that is HUGE and worthy of a champagne toast.

Oh, the list could go on and on of little achievements in my life, in all our lives I presume, that we deem to be baby steps that are really BIG steps. And, oh, I could go on and on sharing the list of my excuses for why baby steps are small and don’t deserve celebration. Yes, I am the queen at playing down my baby steps in life.

Enough of that. That bologna thinking stops tonight.

Am I saying every baby step needs a parade equivalent to Macy’s Thanksgiving parade? No (I acknowledge that there is a fine line between celebrating and bragging but that’s a whole separate post.) But for me, today made me realize I need to stop ignoring my baby steps of success and acknowledge them, even if just to myself. If I can celebrate every single baby step, literally and figuratively, in my children’s’ lives, then I can do that for me and I should do that for me. Positive reinforcement helped my kids take more first steps, more first bites of foods (green beans aside, they STUNK), more risks, more of everything and will do the same for me. Baby steps are BIG steps because the first step is often scary. It takes so much courage to let go of fear; it takes so much strength to do something that is imagined to be hard or uncomfortable. And it takes positive reinforcement to make those baby steps keep happening. So again, time for me to start embracing that…

Yes baby steps are BIG steps. And they are worth acknowledging and celebrating.

Cheers to all of us!!! (Source: www.Francetravelguide.com)

So forget the wine tonight. Open a bottle of bubbly with me and Toot Your Rhino Horn LOUD AND PROUD for being here and a part of The Orange Rhino Community. For showing up and trying. For succeeding. For succeeding by learning from a yell. For succeeding by not quitting. For succeeding by finding the courage to admit you want to change. For taking the BIG baby step.

(And then take two aspirin because I don’t know about you, but Champagne gives me a wicked headache.)


All my support,

The Orange Rhino

This Has To Be Said

Dear Orange Rhinos,

I feel like we should be having this conversation instead of you reading it. So let’s pretend. Here is a glass of wine and a cup of coffee (um both with chocolate, obviously, since this is a heart to heart); grab whichever you prefer.





First off, a disclaimer. This post is not going to be perfect. It will probably have grammatical errors. Wait, all of mine do and that is usually intentional, I digress. This post will probably have typos and errors because I am not going to really proofread it because I want to post it tonight, immediately. Actually, I have wanted to write and post it for months but you know, life happens. And while the message is really, truly, madly, deeply important and does deserve all the editing and correcting and quasi-perfecting, it ain’t gonna happen.

And maybe that is okay. Because that is kind of the message. Grammatical errors happen. Typos happen. Yells happen.

Yes, yells happen.

Yells happen. Sh*t happens. We have a bad day. We have P.M.S. The kids have a bad day. The kids have I.A.J.A.K.S (I am just a kid syndrome). And so yells happen. And it feels sh*tty, really, really sh*tty. And on top of feeling sh*tty from yelling once an hour, once a day, once a week, once a month, or once every few months, chances are you have other things in life that make you feel sh*tty. I know I do. Some days I feel cruddy about my weight gain. Some days I feel cruddy about my grumpiness. Some days I feel cruddy about the lack of “quality” time I give my kids. Some days I feel cruddy because of finances.

My point? There are SO many things in life that can make us feel cruddy. I do not ever, never, ever, EVER want this blog or the Facebook page to be a source of that. Never. I do not want to add to anyone’s stress. Which is why I share the following points:

(1) The Orange Rhino Challenge “rules” are there are NO real rules! (well except that you are nice to everyone who is taking it)
I set up the 365 days straight and the yelling-meter because I am a cold turkey, organized, need parameters type of personality. Without such things, I don’t stay motivated. That is just me. Counting days and level of yells may work wonders for you or it may not. Either way is ok. I just want you to feel good about yourself for (1) deciding to change, (2) making the effort, and (3) discovering that you are trying hard and making progress. You are making progress by the way, whether you see it or not. Awareness and taking on a hard habit to break IS progress! I have felt the opposite of all three points and I simply DO NOT want you all to feel that. End of story. So if my “rules” are doing that, adjust them. At the end of the day, taking The Orange Rhino Challenge means challenging yourself to YELL LESS and Love More irregardless of whether or not you are counting days. Which brings me to the next point.

(2) Set a Goal that works for you!
Only you know how you operate. While it is said that having a concrete goal helps one to achieve, there is no reason to say that 365 days straight needs to be your goal! Pick something that motivates and inspires you. Maybe it’s going to bed feeling less guilty. Maybe it’s going the first hour of the day yell-free. Maybe it’s making it through the morning routine. Maybe it’s 3 days, then 6 then 12. Maybe it’s just showing up and trying. My point? Do what works for you.

(3) Count or Don’t Count!
If counting towards a goal works for you, embrace it. If it makes you stressed out, don’t count. Again, this should not be a place of added anxiety. I would cry if it were. Really. I don’t like seeing anyone I care about stressed. And I care about all of you. I do. When I started this challenge I met a great woman I named Mrs. Sunshine (she just had a ridiculous positive attitude.) Anyway, she found that counting stressed her out. So she stopped. She focused on just general awareness and living in the moment, enjoying the moment, doing the best in the moment. That worked for her. Guess what? She has gone a long time without yelling.

(4) Either way, it’s all about LESS is MORE. Yelling Less is Loving More.
Again, I chose a 365-day straight goal. My mom (who has a background in therapy and all that jazz) told me I was nuts, that I was setting myself up to fail, that it wasn’t about perfection. Looking back at the year, I can say that my goal was fine and that in achieving my goal I can say that it truly is about YELLING LESS (whether for 365 days or 365 moments.) Every day that I yell less than I would have pre The Orange Rhino Challenge is a win.

Any moment that I don’t yell, is a win.

Eventually, all the yell-free moments add up. Whether they add up to a year straight, a day straight, a month, or a few months straight, they add up and symbolize something better than the alternative. And that to me, is what matters. My mom was right. This isn’t about perfection. I am not perfect. Never will be. I am sure there will be a day when I yell. I am sure it will catch me wicked off guard. I am sure it will catch my boys off guard. And I am sure that I will get up and go on with life, waiting for the next opportunity to yell less and love more. And it will be okay because there will be more positives in my days than negatives. (And by the way, you should know that I TRULY believe that you all will get to the point where you have more +’s in your days than –‘s. You will get there. You will get there!)

This is the moment where I normally would stop and torture myself to get the above sentiment perfect. I know I am not saying what I want to say. I know I could do better, that I could write it more powerfully, more succinctly, that I could turn it into an entirely separate post, but I also know that it is okay to not be perfect. What matters is knowing me, taking care of me, so that I can yell less and love more tomorrow. I have learned that this year, big time.

This Orange Rhino needs to sleep tonight in a big way. I went to bed at 8 last night and couldn’t fall asleep until 11 only to be up at 5. I was a witch today and I hated it. But I forgave myself and did the best I could because at the end of the day, that is all we can do. Our best, in any given moment. It might not be perfect and that is okay.

(Right? It is okay. LOL. Someone please tell me it is okay and that the above point made sense. Because even though I am telling myself it is okay you all know that I am a work in progress and still trying to embrace that imperfection is perfection bit!)

Sleep well. Forgive yourself if you yelled. Set your own adjustments to the rules to inspire you. Do what you need to do to challenge yourself to be an Orange Rhino!

All my best,
The Orange Rhino

Oh, Motherhood, Sometimes You Break My Heart

Originally posted April 17, 2013 when I was on Day 435 of not yelling

Motherhood, motherhood, motherhood. You challenge me, you scare me, you delight me, you raise me, you please me, you displease me. Oh motherhood, you make me feel so many emotions. It is a rare a day goes by that I don’t feel elated one moment and deflated the next; only to feel elated a moment later.

Today was no different.

Around three o’clock today I received some thoughts about one of my sons that were disheartening.

Cue emotions: Sadness and Guilt.

It doesn’t matter which son it was about or what was said. It was neither bad nor good; it was just hard to hear. No, it was heart wrenching to hear. Absolutely heart wrenching. The “news” broke my heart. Even though I know it will all work out and that I know he will be fine, I will be fine, we will be fine, it still hurts to know that one of my sons is struggling. Upon hearing the news I immediately started in with the:

“It’s my fault. I am a bad mom. I am not present enough. I don’t play too much. I expect too much. I don’t expect enough. I don’t do enough. This is my entire fault. And if it isn’t my fault for acting wrong, it is my fault for sharing my DNA.”

Oh yes, I played the “I suck as a mom” card over and over and over in my head this afternoon. I was so down that I couldn’t even cry. I was past crying.  I went through the motions of dinner calmly and lovingly. We all went peacefully up to bed and I kept my fingers crossed for a nice, dry bath time!

Tip23Cue next emotions: Joy and Laughter.

Bath time was a sh*tshow, but I loved every minute of it. You see, the bathroom joins two of my boys’ bedrooms, creating a grand total of 4 doors, or better yet, 4 ways to escape. I was doing my best to coral my munchkins into the bathroom, but tonight, oh tonight they had me beat. I would close one door only to have my mischievous 21 month old start running to open the next door; he of course was two steps behind his older brother who had opened another door. Doors slammed and laughter erupted as four little boys literally ran circles around me. I did all I could do: laugh. It was hysterical, I mean here I am a somewhat fit thirty-five year old woman unable to catch four kids and get them into a bath. Not infuriating at all; nope not tonight. I took major delight in the laughter, in the happiness, as it was such a welcomed treat compared to hours before.

My joy continued in the bathtub. Tonight’s bath was overflowing with bubbles. #2 decided he wanted a mustache and dipped his entire face in the soapsuds. He came up looking like Santa Claus instead.

SantaOf course #3 and #4 followed suit. Seeing three faces covered in white soapsuds with just sparkling eyes peeping out was priceless. Of course #4 then decided to taste the soap and went diving in with his mouth wide open, just like a duck looking for a fish. He came up with a mouthful of soap and then blew it all out in my face while laughing hysterically. Tonight, at bath time, I was so grateful to be relaxed and calm and present. I think my sadness earlier made me more in touch with my love for my boys tonight and that allowed me to focus and stay connected. And well, not yelling totally helped too!

The circus continued well into story time. I was moving slow tonight, savoring every minute of bedtime. Such a gift to take bedtime slow without yelling. Such. A. Gift. #1 and #2 snuggled next to me for story time and #3 plopped down on my lap. OH BOY. That left nowhere for #4 who now considers himself, you know 4 even though he is yet to be two! He started pulling hair and trying to move everyone. He gave up. He literally straddled #3 and plopped down right on top of him so that he was in the center of it all, staring right at me.

His green eyes sparkled with pride and we all burst out laughing. It was a beautiful family moment that again, I savored because I wasn’t rushing it or yelling. Every child then scampered off to their rooms, their loveys in hand and hopefully their hearts full. I made my rounds of hugs and kisses and “I love you because….”

Then I got to the room of my son who I had received the thoughts about earlier.

Cue new emotions.

Cue: sadness, frustration, fear, empathy, concern, confusion, hope, guilt, pain and love, endless, endless love.

I had saved his room for last intentionally. Tonight, tonight I wanted to snuggle a little longer, talk a little longer, love a little bit more. I wanted to make sure that he knew he was a good kid. That I knew he was smart, talented, loving, likeable and more. You see, he doesn’t see that in himself. My sweet young child already is insecure more than the average child and it breaks me in two. No child should feel what he feels. No child should struggle as he does. And especially not my child.

“Okay munchkin, time for bed.”

“How about a book?” he asked.

“I was thinking tonight, instead of reading we could snuggle longer and talk more.”

“Okay I guess. As long as it is longer than the time we spend reading.”

“Absolutely. Twice as long, I promise. And I will sing you the lullabies I sang to you when you were a baby.”

He jumped into bed all excited.

“Here, come closer for a really big snuggle. I want you to feel all the love in my heart that I have for you.”

He snuggled up, a big sh*t eating grin on his face. The next part I wish I was creative enough to write and dream up. That is not the case. This actually happened.

“Do you feel my love? Do you know how much I love you?” I asked.

“Yes. I feel it all the way down to my toes. I feel it between my toes. And I feel it to my fingers and between my fingers. See here mommy, see the kind of V between my fingers? It’s like the bottom of a heart. Between every finger there is an imaginary heart where I feel your love for me.”

Tears STREAMING down my face, I said:

“Well good. Then if you can see those hearts in your hand, you will know that I am always with you and that I will always love you.”

“Okay, can you start singing now?”

I sang and then if on queue, another emotion arrived: the challenge of letting go.

“Mommy, you can stop hugging me now. I like to fall asleep alone.”

“Oh, okay. I love you though, with all my heart.”

“I know.”

Oh my dear son, I know you “know” but I truly hope you really “know” how deep and strong my love is for you. I am here for you dear son, I will fight for you and with you my dear son. I will help you, I will help me, my dear son. We will get through this.

Cue new emotion: Determination.

Yes Motherhood is one heck of a roller coaster of emotions, many of which I have never experienced in such depth. And yet, I wouldn’t trade it in for the world because at the core of all these conflicting emotions is one very clear and unwavering one that is driving them all: my deep love for my boys, my four sweet beautiful boys.

* * * * *

I share more of my heartbreaking motherhood stories, as well as steps to stop yelling, tips to prevent yelling, and fun, not heartbreaking stories,  in my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” You can pre-order it by clicking here.

I am Angry, But I Will Not Yell

4 days of Year 2, yelling less and loving more 

Today was a beautiful afternoon.

For the first time in what feels like ages, I was at peace. I was completely present with my sons, smiling and laughing as they ran up and down the driveway jumping high to pop the bubbles I blew between my own laughs. I was completely present as I listened to #4 say “Bub” “Bub” over and over as each iridescent bubble floated into the sky. I was completely present as all four ran together, TOGETHER, not fighting or arguing, and completely happy as a brotherhood.

And then I wasn’t present.
Just like that.

We came in for dinner and I picked up my phone to see texts stating: “we’re okay.” “I’m okay.” “Are your parents okay?” I opened Facebook to see my feed streaming with statements of safety and I was no longer present. My mind drifted to memories of 9/11 and the same sense of panic that ensued as I made sure all my friends that worked downtown were safe. I was again lost in a state of panic as I called my parents and asked: “what the heck happened? Is everyone we know safe?” I so desperately wanted to turn the news on but more desperately wanted to protect my children from images I knew they would never forget and not even come close to understanding.

So I stood frozen. Paralyzed with sadness and devastation. And yet knowing that the meatloaf was burning, the kids were screaming to eat, and that at that moment, life had to go on. That at that moment, my kids needed me. That at that moment even though I wanted to scream, “SHUT…UP mommy wants some peace to read her newsfeed and to call friends,” that wasn’t an option.

Because that response would have been something they would never forget and would not come close to understanding. Why is mommy acting so mean? So vengeful? So rageful? Why is mommy scaring us so?

The answer is obvious to me – because mommy was (is) scared and angry. Yet, I didn’t want to unleash that on my children because they did not deserve it. So I did what I have taught myself to do when I have ugly feelings and want to yell: I told them how I felt.

Did I yell? No.
Did I bottle up my emotions? No.
Did I share my emotions? YES.

I clapped my hands hard. CLAP! CLAP!

“Boys. BOYS. Mommy is very sad right now. Mommy is feeling angry, not at you but at something she heard. Mommy is very frustrated. I need your help. Please, can we be a little quieter and eat our dinner peacefully? Please. I need you to help me so that I don’t yell at you unnecessarily.”

I am not sure what happened next to be honest. I was still in a bit of a haze, trying to get meatloaf on plates and milk in sippy cups. They may or may not have been quieter; I couldn’t tell, as my mind was loud and louder by the minute. My thoughts were screaming at me “How is this possible?” and “Stay calm for the boys. Shelter them for this event. Shelter them from your anger.”

It was a fight and I am not talking about the disagreement over what was being served. No the fight was an internal fight to keep myself from losing my cool on my kiddos just because I was in a mood. Were they being bad? No. They were acting pretty gosh darn normal. I just had no patience. I had nothing in the tank accept ugly feelings and those ugly feelings well, they wanted to get out. They were racing to get out and they had nowhere to go but at my precious children. But I would not let that happen. They did nothing wrong.

So I just kept sharing my feelings, showing them in a loving way, that it’s okay to have ugly feelings way. And I just kept teaching them how I have learned to handle my mean emotions in a way other than yelling: by talking and sharing about them. When I say my feelings out loud, when I hear myself say the strong, ugly emotions, it is like a waving a orange flag in front of my eyes that reads: You are upset, remember to stay calmish. It sounds silly, but it works.

A few weeks back my “10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling Post” was shared on a site where someone decided it necessary to blast it. The commenter wrote something along the lines of “Yeah, great advice. Close your mouth, show no emotion, don’t show your kids anger or disappointment, just stay calm and pretend everything is okay.”

At first I was pissed. Really, really pissed. How dare he insult me when I am trying to do something full of love? How dare he throw hate at me? And then, today I was finally grateful. Because he made me realize that I am doing the exact opposite of what he wrote. I am not pretending everything is okay all the time. Nope. Not at all. I am still sharing my emotions – all of them, good and bad and let me assure, I have had my fair share of bad ones this past year – I am just sharing them in a constructive way. I am no longer using them to hurt my kids. I am sharing them in a loving way – even when I feel crappy.

Even though I no longer yell, I am most certainly not pretending everything is okay (in life or with unacceptable behavior.) I am most definitely showing my emotions, but again, in a loving manner, not a condemning, beyond hurtful manner.

After #4’s 1st, and 2nd, and 3rd and 4th (the worst) seizure, I cried in front of my boys and told them how scared I was, yet positive it would all be okay…and that I loved them.

After we received my father-in-law’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, I cried in front of my boys when #1 said ever so calmly to #2, “Grandpa is still here, he just doesn’t remember things like he used to. But he still loves us you know.” I told them how sad I was…but that I loved them.

After Newtown, Connecticut happened, my husband’s hometown, I cried in front of my boys and said I was angry that someone would hurt someone else…and that I loved them.

And when #1, #2, and #3 pulled #4 out of his crib to the floor, I said that I was angry and scared because that wasn’t safe…and that I loved them.

And when the boulder in my marriage tried to pin me down, I cried in front of my boys and said that I was frustrated and discouraged…and that I loved them.

And today, at dinner, at bath time, at bedtime, I cried in front of my boys and said: “I am scared, and sad, and angry, and frustrated…but I love you and I will not yell at you even though I am feeling all those ugly feelings.”

My boys definitely understood that my feelings weren’t pretty ones tonight. They could see in my eyes, my smile (or lack thereof) and they could hear it in my short answers. But they also knew that I loved them. Pre Orange Rhino Challenge, I would have let all my ugly emotions, whether a result of their behavior or my own life situations, free onto them. They wouldn’t have felt love, but anger, pure anger and it would have stung and brought tears. I can say now, without a doubt, that I can show emotions without yelling. I can model to my children how to feel angry without letting it hurt people unnecessarily. I am okay with feeling angry, I am okay with telling my kids I am angry at them or at something else, or sad. I am just not okay with letting it be hurtful.

While I am distraught from today’s events, I am grateful to finally be able to let go of this one man’s negative comment. And I am grateful to have been able to show my emotions constructively to my boys instead of yelling because really, even though I thought I “wanted” to yell, what I really wanted to do more than anything in the world tonight was to love my boys and hold them tight, not push them away.

* I feel the need for disclaimers tonight. (I guess I haven’t completely let go of his comment.) I do think yelling out ARGHHHHHHH when angry is okay, just so long as I don’t do it at my kiddos. I also think that if the stress of today got to you, to give yourself a hug instead of hardtime. It’s a lot to take in. 

The Orange Rhino Re-Start

429 days of loving more

A horrible thunderstorm hovered over our house for what felt like hours last night waking all of us at least two to three times. At one point I was convinced lightning had hit the house it shook so hard. And while it hadn’t, my boys started this morning as if it had. Frazzled and burnt from not sleeping well, every darling son of mine was striking at each other with hands and words and loud, loud, thunderous yells. It was horrible. Absolutely, horrible.

So I demanded a re-start to the day. I sent the three boys to their rooms for some rest as I collected myself and re-gained the calm and the determination to stay calm that I started the day with. And it worked.

This morning’s re-start allowed me to re-focus and then re-connect with my boys in the loving, calm manner I know we all desired. And as I basked in the joy of my re-start, I started thinking (quiet and calm allow that, it’s amazing!) I realized that if I replaced “z” in realize with “v” I would have exactly what I want in life right now: to RE-ALIVE.

What is “re-alive?” The official Orange Rhino dictionary states it as a verb: to become alive, again.

I re-alived 400+ days ago when I started The Orange Rhino Challenge.
Yes, when I stopped yelling at my boys, I became alive again.

Parts of me that had been stuffed away for years came out. I started laughing more. I started smiling more. I started walking with a greater pep. I started sleeping better. I started finding joy in the small things, in the normal moments with my boys like bath time, dinnertime, playtime, chat time.

When I stopped yelling at my boys, I simply felt calmer because I WAS calmer. I had to be calmer in order to think clearly enough to control my temper. And this newfound calmness made me happier than I had felt in a while. This is not to say that I was not happy before. I was. But I also had a cloud of guilt and anger that followed me wherever I went preventing the happiness from lasting as long as I wished. I would have a great moment and feel happy and then I would yell and that happiness would disappear and the guilt and anger with myself would hover around for a while. Because that is the thing with guilt and anger. They are strong emotions – they are hard to lose, to overcome, to forget, to forgive.

But oh, oh those emotions didn’t have a chance to enter my world when I put everything I had into being as calm as I could be. Nope, they didn’t stand a chance. Because when I fully focused on being calm then when frustration arose I handle the situation well and afterwards I felt pride, joy, invigoration and pure utter happiness. And it felt AWESOME. Totally awesome. This happiness seeped into so many aspects of my life: my relationship with my boys, my friends, my husband, my family, my everything. This happiness and new found calmness carried me through some really trying times during the first year of The Orange Rhino Challenge: trips to the emergency room, one son being repeatedly being picked on, my father-in-law getting his Alzheimer’s diagnosis, one son needing more therapy, and more.

I know it sounds cliché to say that my happiness from not yelling made all the challenges of my life manageable but it did. That happiness made so many ugly, heavy emotions that used to come mainly from yelling smaller. So yes, life was more manageable when I focused more of my energy into being calm. And I want that back.

To be clear, I am happy today. I still feel the same pride when I don’t yell. And I am still most definitely calmer than I was a year ago, way calmer. But if I re-wind the past two months, I can honestly say that I am starting to take for granted my non-yelling attitude. I sense that I am not trying as hard to be calm and patient the first go around and instead am working harder to get calm after I’ve heard “Orange Rhino Mommy!” I know part of this new behavior is because of the stress of my life (okay a big part of it, like 97%.) And I know part of it is because I assume I won’t yell so I am subconsciously not putting as much effort in. But reasons aside, I don’t like it.

Am I yelling? No. Am I snapping more than I like? Yes. Am I grumpier more than I like? Yes. Am I letting my personal crap sneak into my relationships with my beautiful sons even though I vowed I wouldn’t let it? Yes. Is this all okay? Of course it is “okay.” I am not, never will be and never intend to be perfect. (Will I keep reminding myself of this though daily? Ha! YES. Like I said, I am not perfect but I am still working on embracing that it is okay to not be perfect!)

But all that said, even though I know it is okay to be grumpy on occasion, I also know that I want to feel calmer again, I want that happiness again. I cannot change the stress in my life. Stress will always exist. But I can change what I do to make myself feel happy and calm in order to keep that stress manageable. And for me, focusing, I mean really re-focusing on not yelling and being a calm and warm mommy, just like I did in my first year, will help combat my current stress. I know it will.

I put this thought to test today. After I re-alized I wanted a re-start to feel re-alive, I decided to pretend it was Day 1 again; that I needed to act calm, speak calm, and do anything possible to make sure that “Mommy Orange Rhino” wasn’t said. It was a fantastic day. FANTASTIC. Did it have moments I wanted to yell? Heck yeah. But because I aimed to keep myself calm, I was able to handle those moments easily and lovingly, not agitatedly with a big dose of grumpy. I felt better. WAY better. My kids responded better. And I, I had the biggest shit eating grin on my face when the last son fell asleep.

I felt again what I felt 400+ days ago: that invigorating feeling of “I DID IT!” We had a great calm yet at times frustrating day. Parts of the old me that had started to go dormant again the last two months peeked out. I think it is the perfect time for those parts of me to peek out; it is spring after all! The buds are just peeking out. The flowers are getting ready to bloom. It is just about the time where the weather pushes me to grab my son’s hands and skip down the sidewalk whistling and smiling because it is so gorgeous out. I want to be ready for that. I don’t want my grumpiness to hold me back.

So tomorrow is the perfect time for me to re-start. To re-focus. To re-set my ticker back to 0. That’s right. I am officially going for another 365 Days. I am going to keep my continuous days ticker up so I don’t lose focus of all the good, but I am also going to set a new goal of 365 days effective tomorrow, April 12, 2013. I know me. I am a goal driven person. Goals keep me focused. Sharing my goals keep me accountable and will help me not take for granted my new found non-yelling attitude and will definitely help me not let my stress push me to become a frequent grumpy and not-calm mommy.

This day wasn’t the only thing that needed a re-start, I did too and I couldn’t be more excited. Re-starts are a great opportunity. Bring it on Year 2!


Today, I Want(ed) to Quit.

426 Days of Loving More!

Today was a really long, hard day. I mean Mondays always are so I shouldn’t be surprised. Daddy goes back to work after being home for 48 hours and the boys know they won’t see him until Saturday morning. Mommy goes back to being a bit more high strung because well, daddy is back at work and because there are five hundred and one places to drive to and things to do that slide over the weekend. And the kids go back to being even more high strung because of all the aforementioned reasons. Ugh, Mondays are not my favorite day of the week!

And today, well, today was an especially rough Monday because Daddy had been home for 10 days straight and we had all vacationed as a family together over that time. Re-entry into the “real world” stunk for all of us. Literally and figuratively.

The day started with realizing that the kitchen disposal had backed-up into the basement and dried, rotten food was all over a bathroom creating a stench that even a skunk would avoid. The upside? This explained why we had ants suddenly crawling out of the sink and the grout in the bathroom floor finally turned white again after layers of bleach and cleaning products.

The day ended with realizing that #4’s little cough was now a croupy cough and that he was still sporting a nice fever that could very well bring on a seizure and a trip to the Emergency Room. The upside? Lots of snuggles and falling asleep after a long crappy day with a little head nestled in my neck.

But oh, oh in between realizing the bathroom stunk and that a trip to the Hospital might happen, I also had the “opportunity” to realize that many of my triggers for yelling were still in fact triggers: endless unmanageable energy, endless whining, and endless clinginess. Oh, oh was it a day!

#1 had so much energy (anger really that vacation was over) that he was bouncing off any and all walls, even the imaginary ones outside.  If there was a wall, he was bouncing off it right onto another. And with every bounce his impulse control became smaller and smaller to the point that there was none and most behaviors that he knew were not acceptable were suddenly totally acceptable. Awesome.

#2 had so little energy because he woke up at the crack of dawn to try to say goodbye to Daddy only to realize that Daddy had already left. Cue Tears. All. Day. Long. Only with breaks to whine. So I guess he too actually had a lot of energy since he managed to keep up the crying whining gig all day. Fairly impressive stamina if I might say.

#3 had so much energy that he held on tight at pre-school drop-off and wouldn’t let go for the life of him. Then of course he had so little energy because he wouldn’t nap because he just wanted to be with mommy every second of the day.

Yes, with one feverish child on hip and one separation anxiety ridden child holding onto my leg, I wobbled around throughout the day trying to keep my own impulse control in check so that I wouldn’t bounce off the walls or start alternating between crying and yelling. Because honestly, that is ALL I wanted to do.

Cry and yell.

I wanted to cry that vacation was over and that I was back to the go-go-go of the school world. I wanted to cry over my struggles as how to best parent to my four wonderful, yet at times demanding children. I wanted to cry over all the stress in my life.

Yes, I just wanted to sit on the floor, throw my hands up in the air, and cry until all the chaos disappeared and everyone had magically gotten back into the rhythm of reality.

But I didn’t. I totally could have. I am fine with showing emotions in front of my boys; I am fine with showing them that sometimes people cry when stressed. But for some dumba*s reason instead of giving into my need to release the stress, I walked around grumpier than grumpy and positioned to yell at anything and everything.

I finally had it. I was done. I had had enough of trying to keep it together. I had had enough of all the crazy energy, the crying, the whining, the clinging. I just wanted to stinking scream at each child. I picked up my Blackberry and emailed my husband.

“I quit. I simply don’t have the energy or patience to not yell. It is so exhausting. I don’t care anymore.”

And then the phone rang. Right on cue. Phew.

“Hey – what’s going on? Are you for real? You can NOT quit. You do not want to quit. I know you don’t mean it.”

And you know what, my husband was right. I didn’t want to quit; I did care, immensely. I just wanted the day to get easier (and to go back on vacation!)  I didn’t really want to quit and start yelling, I just wanted a little of my son’s abundant energy to help me find a little peace. Realizing what I really wanted, well that kept me focused on finding said peace. Or at least finding a piece of the peace. Okay. A really small piece of the peace. (But peace is peace, right?!)

Was the rest of the day perfect and abundantly peaceful? No. I still had to talk myself down when a hockey stick was accidentally thrown at me.  I still struggled and took a thousand deep breaths when three adorable, but defiant and over-silly children, wouldn’t get in the bathtub and then one wonderfully persistent four-and-a-half-year-old wouldn’t go to bed because his pajamas were missing. And I still struggled and had to remind myself constantly to not rush my darling separation anxiety ridden sudden when he would  not go to the bed for the life of him.

But I didn’t quit. Because I knew in my heart of hearts, that even though things were tough, my boys were struggling for good reason and I was struggling with them for the same exact reason. They didn’t need me yelling at them for feeling exactly what I was. Nope. And because I knew in my heart of hearts that quitting, while tempting, was the last thing I wanted to do.

My Pause (before yelling) Button.

Last day of “Staycation”, 425 days of loving more!

Dear Orange Rhinos,

We are lucky to have another honest, inspiring guest post. This writer has asked to stay anonymous and it goes without saying that I respect that! She is a married 35 year old working mother of two boys ages 6 and 2. She has been following the Orange Rhino page since last fall and actively trying to work on her progress since January. Many of you have asked me how to stop and catch myself. And that is why I love this post – here is how this mom does just that!

Happy T.H.I.N.King,
The Orange Rhino


I’ve been working on being a more patient person, especially with my boys. Not that I yell a lot (though when I do I instantly regret it.) More like I snap a lot or I am impatient a lot. I could be the snapping turtle or the impatient bunny or something. I’ve been doing great this last week or so.  I’m determined to overcome my impatience. I’ve seen successful days and I know it is possible. I’ve learned that the airlines are right about one thing: You have to put on your oxygen mask before your kids. In other words, take care of yourself so you can take care of them.

All the trigger tracking I’ve done with this challenge have shown one thing. When I write down why I yelled, snapped, or used a mean tone, nearly every time it is something like I am hungry or I am tired or I don’t feel well or I am distracted with something else or I am feeling impatient.  The common denominator in all those statements is “I”.  The boys can do the same exact thing in two situations, and if I am well rested, not distracted or hungry I react calmly.  If I am hungry/tired/stressed, I react impatiently.  Nearly every time the boys are just acting age appropriately like the small boys they are.  I am not acting age appropriately like the 35-year-old mom I am.

Someone needs to grow up here and it is not them.

I can’t rationally expect them to control their emotions and not throw temper tantrums when they watch me model temper tantrums to them. I know this, and it is improving.

I can see improvement.

I am noticing that when something happens that I would usually instantly snap “stop that” or “no”, I can pause for just a second to quick think.  Why do I feel I need to say no?  Is what they are doing dangerous?  Are we getting ready to leave so we can’t get out more toys?  Or am I saying “no” just as a habit and just because I don’t feel like dealing with the normal mess and noise that having young boys creates?  Usually if I can make myself pause, I can make the right choice.  Right now I just have to work on that pause button.

I need to focus on my relationship with my husband, too.  He is patient and wonderful not only with the boys but with me.  I don’t (usually) shout at him but I can be the most negative, demanding person at times (more times than I care to admit).  Seriously I don’t know how (or sometimes why) he puts up with me.  It is because he WILL put up with me at my worst behavior that he deserves my best behavior.  Just because he CAN and WILL do it does not mean he SHOULD have to do it.  So again I need to slow down my immediate reaction of saying the first (negative) thing that pops into my head and THINK first.  Is what I am going to say appropriate for this situation?  Is this something that a grown woman should be saying?  Or does it sound like a whiny child?

I did not create this acronym but I find it is helpful.

Before you speak, press your pause button and think.  Is what you are going to say?


I’ve been keeping track of my good times and bad times on a calendar. Each day is divided into 4 smaller squares.  If I get through 1/4 of the day nicely, I color a small square, etc.  The whole day and the whole large square is colored. Looking back at March so far, the majority of the days are 3/4 or fully colored.  That is great!  That shows I can do this; I can WIN.  And when I win, my whole family wins. 

Tone Down The Yelling, Turn Up The Music!

6 days of “Staycationing”, 422 days of loving more!

Dear Orange Rhinos,

Here is the 2nd guest post this week while I “staycation.” You all know I love music and how much it has helped me conquer the whole yelling thing. I of course thought I was the only one who found music so helpful. When fellow Orange Rhino Dianne Hibbs wrote this post and sent it to me I felt normal and inspired, both of which are always nice feelings! Dianne just finished her first 30 days of The Orange Rhino Challenge. Enjoy this honest post about how she started, how she made it, and how she feels now! 

Hope you are all having a good week and thanks Dianne!
The Orange Rhino


Hi, fellow Orange Rhinos! I am honored to be a guest blogger during T.O.R.’s well- earned staycation. I want to tell you how music has helped me with the Challenge. But first, please allow me to tell you how I got here.

I am a nice person. By nearly all accounts. I am compassionate and I generally like people and try to see the best in them. I have reasonably good manners. Which is why it came as a bit of a surprise to me when I realized I was a yelling mom. It was shocking to hear my rational, mild-mannered husband saying to me one day, “I just don’t see how you can yell at a 16-month old like that.” And my shrill shriek reply, “Put your head between this door and that door jamb and let him slam it on you like he just slammed it on me and you will see exactly how!”

True story.

That’s the earliest specific memory I have of it, and that’s an extreme incident, of course, but it grew from there and I saw myself becoming an everyday yelling mom. With all my heart, I wished I wasn’t. And I’ve been working on it diligently for years now with some successes and some failures. To be clear, I am a good mom. I love my kids to the moon and back and they know it. I’ve cared for, nurtured and encouraged them; celebrated their joys and introduced them to new ones; held them; dreamt with them; taught them and delighted in them. Sadly, I also yelled at them. Loudly and often. And not just when they slammed my head in a door.

Some say, “Oh, everyone yells at their kids!” I don’t disagree. But I was way past my comfort level and unsure how to turn it around.

So, I joined the Orange Rhino Challenge. We were asked to write on the password- protected part of the website about the time when we realized the yelling was something that had to change. I wrote about a day when my children (6 and 3) and I were looking at their baby books. The older one said, “Mommy, when I was little, did we have troubles?” We talked more, but I already knew what he meant. I could see the wheels turning in his smart little head as he tried to pinpoint when all this ugliness began. It broke my heart. Later, I decided,

“This is IT. He and his little sister may not remember when the yelling began, but they will remember what happens from here on out. And it will shape them. And it will define how they see me. It’s not too late to change, but it is TIME. NOW.”

In my quest to become a non-yeller, I’ve found music to be a great ally. Children’s music, in particular, has saved many a day for me and my children. You know that saying? “Music has charms to soothe the savage beast?” When my kids were younger, we found Susie Tallman’s Lullabies for Sleepy Eyes to be ethereal and soothing. (Full disclosure: Susie is my friend and I love her music so much that I started working about an hour a week for her, keeping up her Facebook page and writing posts on her blog.)

Many people play lullabies to soothe babies, of course, but I found it extremely helpful for the stressed, anxious, over stimulated, tired “beast” mom: Me. Other children’s music we tried was sometimes plinky, tinny, and agitating to me. I would play it to entertain and benefit the kids, but I found myself more irritated and ready to snap at them when it was on. When we listened to smooth and steady lullabies, played on real instruments by true musicians, the kids were happy and I was more calm. I started playing more lively music for fun family times together (still seeking out only better quality stuff, from Susie and other artists, after learning my lesson from the plinky) and would switch back to lullabies when I felt the volcano about to erupt, or after it already had. Even now, I still put on something classical as an act of prevention if we are about to start, say, a papier mâché project.

I believe good music of any style can be a great distraction, a positive outlet for our energy, a soother in tense moments, a way to bring the family together, and a source of inspiration as we work toward less yelling or even – gasp! – no yelling. I find that the kids are more engaged with the children’s music and my daughter will even complain, “Ugh! Dat’s gwown-up music!” when she gets in my car if I have the radio on.

When I began the challenge, I was very hopeful I would make it to the goal of no yelling, but I was only a little confident. As I read the incredibly honest and touching input from some of the 800+ parents participating along with me and the amazingly helpful insights and tips from T.O.R. herself, I felt my confidence rising. An important part of the process was identifying triggers that seem to lead to yelling (hint: often having very little, if anything, to do with the kids’ actual behavior) and learning how to eliminate them, modify them, or accept them. Each day that I made it to evening yell-free, I marveled. The support from the group and our leader enabled me to do what I had not done in all my previous attempts to have a calmer, happier home. At this writing, I am proud to say that I have actually made it 30 days in a row without yelling at my kids! (I yelled on day 31. Sigh. But 30 in a row is still fantastic!)

It’s an ongoing process, and sometimes I will slip. But I’m feeling liberated and wonderful. My husband and kids are thrilled and we’ve celebrated a great deal. What I’d done before had helped, but this site came exactly when I was ready for it and has been very important in making my non-yelling dream a reality.

Along the way, in each bit of progress, music has been important, too. Whether we are singing and laughing to Bare Naked Ladies’ Snack Time, dancing to our favorite Sesame Street music videos, or relaxing with Mozart, music guides us where we want to go. After a challenging morning recently, my daughter and I were listening to Ziggy Marley’s Family Time. He does a duet on that one with Paul Simon called “Walk Tall.” As we sang along, “Walk tall, walk tall . . . even if you fall, get up!” I realized the music was giving me a boost to keep up the hard work. “Nothing is ever gonna keep me down,” Ziggy and Paul sang, “I jump over hurdles, I’ll come around. And if at first I don’t succeed, I’m gonna try it again ‘til I get what I need.” The words resonated. And the irresistible rhythm and melody reminded me how much more fun it is to sing than to yell.

I salute you all as you take on this challenge. Tone down the yelling. Turn up the music! I wish you joy in your journey.

P.S. My son asked if he could share a message, too. Here it is: Hakuna Matata! (The Orange Rhino bets you’ll be singing that all night now…and hopefully tomorrow too instead of yelling!)

Hakuna Matata! (It means don’t worry for the rest of your days…it’s our problem free, philosopy, Hakuna Matata!)








Dianne Hibbs writes about sharing music with children on the Susie Tallman & Friends blog www.susietallman.com and Facebook page www.facebook.com/susietallmanandfriends and hopes you will visit her there for free music samples, tips, giveaways and more.