Saying “Quiet!” without Yelling “QUIET!”

Dear Orange Rhinos,

As to be expected, I am always looking for new alternatives to yelling. Always. And then I received this email from Orange Rhino Shannon and I fell in love with the alternative. You see, my boys are all in to “top secret codes.” My oldest son has a top secret word he says to me when he just needs space and doesn’t know how to cope. Needless to say, after two long days at camp he has been saying “Darth Vader!” a lot! And all my boys obviously say “Orange Rhino!” to me when I am close to yelling and can’t cope! Secret words work great in our house, truly. They help us to communicate and help each other all while having a little fun too. But sometimes, they are said a little too loudly and all the screaming gets to me. Sometimes, I need an alternative that is fun but also calming and quieting.

Enter Shannon. Check our her blogpost below that she originally shared on her own blog.  Make sure to read all the way to the end. There is a surprise at the end that I just love that she made for all of us after I asked! Thanks Shannon for sharing!

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I, like all mothers, am not perfect.  I sometimes let my toddler skip her veggies at dinner, she eats more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches than I would like, and when I am tired, frustrated, running late…I have a tendency to yell.

In the back of my mind I know I am yelling because of my issues, not my toddlers, but I raise my voice anyway.  This usually just ends up causing my daughter to cry, not do what I wanted anyway and me feeling bad for raising my voice at her.  Not once has my yelling got my toddler to put on her shoes, stop playing with her food,  or whatever it was that moment that I found so offensive.  That realization (with the help of theOrange Rhino) led me to reevaluate my parenting.

In her blog, the Orange Rhino gives many ideas on how to stop yelling and communicate better, and I loved a lot of them and have even started yelling at my toilet when I have had enough at her suggestion LOL.  It was reading the list of suggestions, that I had the AHA moment, that I already had the tools needed to yell less and love more.

When my daughter, or life pushes my buttons, I turn off my voice and turn on my hands (and no that doesn’t mean I spank her lol). My using sign language to communicate during tense moments does multiple positive things.  Since I am no longer using my voice, my daughter must turn and look at me, she can’t ignore me as easily.  She has to focus on my hands, so this usually diffuses a tantrum, and even if she is in the middle of a tantrum, she can still be understood through sign.  I know I can never understand what a toddler is trying to say through screams or sobs.

Because I am yelling less, my daughter is yelling less.

I am modeling good behavior on how to properly deal with anger and frustration.  Hopefully she grows up to learn to communicate through feelings and not yell or hit or even worse, bottle them up.  When something upsets her, she now comes up to me and signs “I angry!”  This opens up a dialogue for us that can continue in either english or ASL (which ever she chooses to go with), and we communicate through what her feelings are and why she is feeling them.

Thanks to Sign Language and the Orange Rhino I am learning to become a calmer and quieter mother, and I am seeing a calmer and quieter toddler.

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Given our top secret behavior at home, I immediately asked Shannon a few signs to use to complement our family secret codes. I knew my little “spies” would eat ’em up. I must admit – people have suggested to me before to use sign language with my son with a speech delay. I am not sure why I was hesitant about the idea and ignored the suggestion, but I did. I am so glad that NOW I am not ignoring the idea but using it. When my sons scream at me, I respond “quiet” with my hands and not my mouth.

I had been trying for months to not engaged engage in a conversation with them until they have spoken to me in a quiet voice. Before Shannon’s video (which by the way, she made all on her own for us, woot!) I would talk to them and get more and more frustrated telling them to use a nice voice. “Please talk to me nicely.” “#2, I asked you to talk to me nicely.” “#2 use your quiet voice. PLEASE.” Oh, hearing myself repeat myself drove me bonkers. Okay, it still does on some days. But now, now that communicate silently and I don’t hear the broken record, I maintain calm much easier.

It is working beautifully.


You learn something new every day, don’t you? And for the record, how cool is “Orange Rhino” in sign language? As Shannon first started to do It, I actually immediately thought of the “Peace” sign. I don’t know why, just did. Coincidence? I think not!

Yelling Less, Loving More is PeaceFULL.

To find Shannon’s original post, go here:

To see another video full of some of my other alternatives, click here:

How Motherhood Drove Me to Meditate

Last Day of Vacation!
If you are new to this blog, welcome! I am on a brief vacation and have collected several guest posts to share while I am taking a break. They are all from different parts of the world. Yes world. People are yelling less and loving more from Montana, United States to Ireland to Mexico to Australia and more. Pretty powerful if you ask me. We are ALL in this together. Have a fantastic week and if you ever feel alone, know that somewhere in the world, literally, there is an Orange Rhino awake working hard too. All my best for a great week…I’ll be back online around July 8th! 

This guest post by Carla of Massachusetts, United States really spoke to me for one reason and one reason alone. It is kind of an embarrassing one but hey, it’s the truth. I can’t take deep breaths. Nope. I have tried and tried. My OB tried to help me through four deliveries when the epidural only worked 50%. My husband tries weekly to help me. I try to help me learn to take deep breaths. It just doesn’t come natural to me. In fact, I hate it when someone tells me to take a deep breath. That said, I read this post and thought “you know what? I REALLY need to try. I really need to try HARDER to take deep breaths because there could be really upside.” Thank you Carla for inspiring me! After I read this I tried taking a deep breath…with my kids doing it with me. It was a great start and calmed me down a bit in the moment.

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Several times each week, I sit down on a small maroon cushion in my daughters’ playroom and pay attention to my breathing for about twenty minutes. Every time my mind wanders, I try to come back to my breathing. Yep, I’m meditating.

Let’s be clear. I am not the meditating type. I talk fast and eat fast and few things give me as much of a thrill in life as checking tasks off my to-do list. I can’t be trusted with a TV or a pint of ice cream, and I’m not a fan of drum circles or patchouli.

I didn’t start meditating because I was searching for enlightenment or inner peace; my ambitions were more banal than that. I just wanted to stop yelling at my kids. I was never a yeller before I became a mother, but somehow the combination of fatigue and frustration resulted in me raising my voice far my often that I wanted to.

I felt terrible every time it happened—it’s just not how I wanted to treat my girls (ages 3 & 4.5). I would immediately apologize and we’d have a nice snuggle, but there are only so many times you can say you’re sorry without changing your behavior before your words become meaningless.

That was the last thing I wanted—literally—because if they wouldn’t listen to my words, then I would probably end up yelling even more.

I had to find a way to make a change. I talked to my therapist about it, and she had some great thoughts about why I was yelling (I grew up with two yelling parents, for example). That’s useful to know, but it didn’t actually help me stop. I read all sorts of books and blog posts (including many here on The Orange Rhino!) with really great tips and tricks for how to yell less, but my problem was that by the time I remembered to take a deep breath or count to ten or give myself a time-out in the bathroom, the deed was already done.

What I found, time and again, was that I had plenty of ideas about what I should be doing instead of yelling, but in the heat of moment, I wasn’t doing any of it. Instead I was snapping at my daughters and then feeling horrible about it and then getting annoyed at the girls again because I was in a bad mood. It was a terrible cycle, and I needed to find a way out of it. I needed to find a way to create space—space in my brain, in my frustration, in my response to my daughters when they were making me completely insane even if they were just behaving in ways that are perfectly normal for toddlers and preschoolers.

As I continued reading and researching, it became clear to me that meditation was the answer. This was not the answer I wanted. I wanted some fast and easy trick that I could do and move on. Meditation is like exercise; you have to get your butt off the couch and do it on a regular basis if you want to see the benefits. I definitely didn’t want something else like that on my plate.

The good news is that when I do meditate (and I won’t lie to you – I don’t get to it every day), especially for a few days in a row, I definitely notice the benefits. I’m calmer and more patient with my girls, and significantly less likely to yell. In fact, when I have been meditating, I hardly yell at all.

Every time I sit on my meditation cushion and pay attention to my breathing, I’m learning to tolerate boredom and frustration (and trust me, there are few things as frustrating than sitting still for half an hour at a time when the rest of your family is still snoozing in bed and you’ve got a to-do list a mile long racing through your brain), which means I’m less likely to get frustrated with my daughters once they wake up. I’m learning to pay attention to the little things, which means I’m more likely to notice when my girls are just starting to get hungry or tired so I can take care of things before we end up in a three-way meltdown.

And so, most mornings I get up early, stumble downstairs with sleep in my eyes, and do my best to stay awake so I don’t fall over. I focus on my breathing, and then about 3 seconds later, my mind wanders. I find myself thinking about taking out the garbage or an ex-boyfriend from high school or a blog post I should be writing. I go back to my breathing, and four seconds later I’m wondering if my favorite color is bright blue or turquoise. And then I breathe again. It’s boring, it’s frustrating, and I feel ridiculous sitting there as the cat keeps nudging me to pay attention to her.

In the end, it’s all worth it, though, because I’m yelling less.

If you’d like to learn how to get started with mindfulness meditation, check out this great article on ZenHabits or spend some time on

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Carla Naumburg, PhD, is a mother, writer, and clinical social worker. She writes the Mindful Parenting blog for and is a contributing editor at You can follow her writing on Facebook and Twitter.





Memories of a Mummy

Day 6 of The Orange Rhino’s Vacation…
If you are new to this blog, welcome! I am on a brief vacation and have collected several guest posts to share while I am taking a break. They are all from different parts of the world. Yes world. People are yelling less and loving more from Montana, United States to Ireland to Mexico to Australia and more. Pretty powerful if you ask me. We are ALL in this together. Have a fantastic week and if you ever feel alone, know that somewhere in the world, literally, there is an Orange Rhino awake working hard too. All my best for a great week…I’ll be back online around July 8th

Am I the mom I expected myself to be? Am I the wife I expected myself to be? Am I the friend, the neighbor, the sister, the daughter I expected…expect myself to be? Oh, I can pretty much answer no to all of those questions. Yes, I hold high expectations of myself. Yes, that is most definitely a trigger for my yelling. Yes, I am adjusting my expectations. Yes, it is hard. Yes, I am not alone. K. from Wales, United Kingdom shares her experience about the same topic. She is so brutally honest it is beautiful. Have a read and then let us know, do you relate?

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My main trigger has to be the constant adjustment and realisations of not being the mummy I expect myself to be, or the person I was before having children. 

Ultimately it’s the journey of finding my way that underlies my yelling.

I have two amazing girls aged 4 and 6 and love them to pieces. Before children I was an active person cramming as much into life as possible, with travelling, being in the military as a volunteer and also teaching children with Special Needs, with the patience of a Saint. My first pregnancy and birth did not only not go to plan or follow any of the suggested journey’s and outcomes in the books 😉 It turns out my body is not a good pregnant body, and after 2 C-sections and significant wear and tear on my back, I am no longer even half as active as I was. I have high expectations of what a good mum should be, but as I don’t live on the TV, with a huge family support network and children that comply with every demand, that’s been a bit of a wake up call.

I also for some reason seem to have misplaced my patience where my own children are concerned and have become this volatile mass of complexity that is slowly unraveling as I adjust and resolve my life plan step by step.

I have weekly physio on my back which is likely to continue for another year, so cumulatively with everything, I wont be going back to teaching, or the military and my life has had to adjust on a journey I never anticipated.

This process is my top trigger to yelling at my little treasures as I come to terms with finding personal fulfillment in different avenues. To manage, and find a path, I set up my own sewing business on Heritage Crafts. This fits around life as a mummy as going back to my original career is not really and option. But as its not as extreme as travelling in the Borneo jungle, or working in the field of Autism I battle with myself feeling worthy. I then grasp a magical moment with my girls, when they say they love me, or when I cuddle and slightly lift (don’t tell my physio) my youngest and she automatically rubs my back, or seeing them set up a teddy bears picnic in the garden and singing in Welsh. I am doing a good job, they are happy, they are singing and despite the constant battle I have not to yell at them because I am finding things a challenge, they make me worthy.

I know its me that needs to give me a break, and Operation Orange Rhino has been a life line. I think I’m only about 4 days in as I’ve had to re start so many times but I’m getting better and my girls are worth every second.

~ K. from Wales, United Kingdom

Grrrr! What is not to love?! Photo by K. of Wales, U.K.

“I know its me that needs to give me a break.” Um, I could have written that line myself. And I also could have written the line “finding fulfillment in different venues.” K has touched upon many thoughts I have dared not write about. Thank you K for sharing and giving me the nudge to address these thoughts more! And good luck to you!

Stop Seeing Red.

Day 2 of The Orange Rhino’s Vacation…
If you are new to this blog, welcome! I am on a brief vacation and have collected several guest posts to share while I am taking a break. They are all from different parts of the world. Yes world. People are yelling less and loving more from Montana, United States to Ireland to Mexico to Australia and more. Pretty powerful if you ask me. We are ALL in this together. Have a fantastic week and if you ever feel alone, know that somewhere in the world, literally, there is an Orange Rhino awake working hard too. All my best for a great week…I’ll be back online around July 8th!

Dear Orange Rhinos,

Many of you have written to me in emails that you “see red” all the time and therefore scream all the time. Wow. I had totally forgotten that the saying “seeing red” means to be ridiculously angry when I chose the name Orange Rhino. As such, many of you have asked me, wouldn’t have Red Rhino been a better, more accurate name for the Challenge? You know, because yelling generally stems from anger, from seeing red? Well yes, it would have been better if I wanted to still see red. But I didn’t want to see red anymore, I wanted to see orange, I needed to see orange. I wanted to see warmth in my actions towards my kids; I wanted them to see warmth from me. I wanted to feel the energy and determination that the color orange represents…and I wanted to see myself transform from always seeing and feeling red to seeing and feeling orange! Hence Orange Rhino and not Red Rhino.

I am glad I chose orange because now anytime I see the color orange, I am indeed reminded of my promise to not yell and of all the positive feelings I wanted to feel. When I see orange I think, I can do this. I have the energy. I am determined. I will do this. It is amazing what happens when we “see” things in a certain way.

Which is why I found this email from Kim, an Orange Rhino, so wonderfully powerful. How we “SEE” things is huge. Here is a take on how Kim is starting to see orange by seeing things in a different way.


First of all, thank you so much for being the Orange Rhino that you are and for sharing your experiences with us all. Your voice is so authentic, vulnerable and real. It’s those qualities that allows all of us in cyberspace the feeling of connectedness, with you, each other, and ourselves. Thank you.

Last night I had a realization and this morning I feel that part of honoring my realization and making it real and solid for myself includes sharing it.

I read your blog because, yes, I’m a recovering yeller. Lately, I don’t feel like yelling is my obstacle, per say. Tone of voice, attitude and irritability on the other hand, BIG problems. What I realized last night, after watching a PBS documentary about children in India coming together as a community to get water for their families, was that I need to see my children.

Really SEE them.

Pay attention to their individual souls. Because when I focus on SEEing them, feeling them, my focus is not on my own childish self. My husband has gently suggested that often my interaction with the boys reminds him of a teenage sister who is babysitting her younger siblings. That was hard to hear, but so true. So much of my reaction to them has been based on my own desire to be left alone, to not be bothered, to not be annoyed, to have beautifully behaved children so my life is easier.  In other words, not because I want them to grow as individuals and get along well in life, but just so I cannot be bothered. So when they are bouncing and not listening at bath time, I can step back and realize they aren’t intentionally trying to piss me off, they are just seeking attention from me because I wasn’t available earlier in the day. I can SEE them saying, hey mom, look at me, BE with me, SEE me, I’m trying to be funny, that’s who I am, I’m trying to interact with you.

And yes, realizing that I need to SEE them brings me to the next realization, which is, I also need to SEE me. Maybe I need some time alone, some peace and quiet. But that doesn’t mean it needs to be ALL day. I can see me and take care of me and then see those two boys who are growing and changing before my eyes.

As I write this, I’m reminded that this is exactly what you speak to in your blog. Today it’s finally sinking in for me. I had to share. Thank you for the space to do just that.

Kim S.
Montana, United States

I loved this email. Thank you Kim. May we all SEE our children and ourselves, really truly, so that we may see more orange and less red. Thank you for the insight! 

Work In Progress: Yelling

Dear Orange Rhinos,

Tonight I share with you a brave guest post by Melody, a fellow Orange Rhino. I have been saving it for the right time and tonight is that night! Sweet #4 (my seizure prone little one) is rocking a 104 fever along with bouts of coughing and wheezing. I so very much want to write about the anxiety I felt earlier at the doctors, then dinnertime, and then bedtime. I so very much want to write about how it (the ugly stress monster) tried so very hard to trigger me to yell. But alas, tonight has been spent in and out of his room checking on him so no writing. Let’s hope tomorrow night?!

I will share with you though that I won tonight; that I didn’t let my trigger get all trigger-happy! Take that anxiety and stress; this Orange Rhino knows how to talk herself out of yelling now. But it wasn’t always that way. Oh, no, it most certainly wasn’t. Melody recently sent me this link to one of her posts about her journey to yell less and love more. As I read it, I found myself thinking, yep, yup, oh yeah, I have been there, I have sooo been there. Tonight, I was practically there again. The intensity of all the crying and the chaos and the worry had me wanting to tear my hair out, maybe even tear my necklace off.

I think we have all been there. I took great comfort re-reading this post tonight, realizing I am not alone. So tonight, in lieu of writing, I share this piece from Melody that I bet many of us can all relate to in hopes that we all feel less alone on this journey.

All my best and thanks Melody,
The Orange Rhino


Wednesday WIP: Yelling
By Melody W.
March 13, 2013

I am prone to bouts of yelling. I’m just not perfect. I don’t recall there being any yelling in my home growing up. My parents had/have three kids so they did have to yell to get our attention at times. But I can’t recall excessive yelling. I have all good thoughts and feelings about my upbringing.

So where did it happen? When? Somewhere along the line after I moved out of the nest I started to yell. Violently. I just raged. I don’t know why it started if it wasn’t in my nature. Since I’ve left the nest I haven’t always been in the ideal of situations. Perhaps the anxiety of uncertainty pushed me to anger, which pushed me to rage. Anything would set me off.

In January, maybe it was the fifth? We went to look at a house. The house we are working so hard for. We are so close to closing it hurts. Anyhow. We were on our way there. We had had a pretty good morning. We were all excited to see the house. I was feeling anxious. What if we couldn’t afford it? What if it was a waste of time? What if the boys misbehave while we are there and we have to leave…or Felix has a blow out diaper? Just my typical “its all in my head” crap that brings me down. My amazing husband said something…and he looked at me. And I lost it. I grunted and scream and growled and hollered. I yanked the necklace that was around the rearview mirror down…no I ripped it off. The owl pendant that I love flying through the car.

I stomped my feet.

I almost cried.

It was nuts.

My boys were quiet. They were scared. Stephen was angry in response and I sent him into a foul mood. I apologized, I told Maddox I was sorry and it wasn’t okay. But you can’t undo words. Apologies are formalities and you cannot undo what has been done and what has been said and there are things you just can’t say or do to people you love. And I did. I do it all the damn time. This is just one example.

Well I’m proud to say that today is day one of my no yelling challenge.


Melody is still working on her Orange Rhino Challenge to yell less and love more. She was proud of herself for starting back in March; I am proud of her for still trying every single day, especially while pregnant which I know 3x over, makes not yelling not easy! Thanks Melody ( for sharing so bravely and for helping me out tonight!

The Mother I Am Becoming.

Dear Orange Rhinos,
Tonight’s post is by Heather. She wrote this note to me a while back and I asked her if I could share it, not because of the complimentary message, but because of the truly inspirational message she shares. I hope you enjoy Heather’s “Orange Rhino Challenge” story as much as I did. Thank you Heather for writing and for so openly sharing with us all; I know your story will touch many hearts in the way it did mine.
All my best,
The Orange Rhino
I’m not a yeller.  I grew up with parents who never yelled, with grandparents and aunts and uncles who never did either.  In fact, my first exposure to a family that yelled as a form of communication was during my first trip to stay with my long-distance college boyfriend’s Italian family, who rely on raised voices to get their point across; I was so traumatized by the experience that I hid in my guest bedroom for hours.  (He’s now my husband, so I did get over it.  Eventually.)  My friends even joke that my “outside” voice is smaller than their “indoor” voices.

But there have been more moments in my parenting career than I’d like to admit that I’ve completely lost it on my kids, who are nine and five years old. Each and every instance has left them shaking and in tears; they’ve left me wracked with guilt and anger, trembling myself, and wondering, “What did I just do?”.  

I’ve been reading The Orange Rhino for the past year.  I haven’t commented on the posts, nor contributed to the Facebook discussions because “I’m not a yeller”.  But as last spring turned into summer and our family began preparing for my husband’s nine month deployment with the Army, my stress levels rose and my patience with anything began dwindling.  I was yelling more frequently at lesser infractions.  I told myself I’d sign up for and begin the challenge the day he left.
In the days, weeks, and initial months that followed his departure I was completely and totally overwhelmed.  I locked my keys in my car one day, then in the house the next.  The locksmith and I became good pals.  I forgot playdates I’d scheduled with our friends, forgot to go grocery shopping when we were out of bread and milk.  I was getting by, but barely, with my new responsibilities as the only actively parenting parent, knowing that in this town that’s more than halfway across the country from our families it was all on me to make it work.  I was aiming not for thriving, but for merely surviving.

Three months into the deployment I finally found my bearings.  We had a schedule, we knew what to expect each day, and I discovered that I was, indeed, stronger than I’d realized.  By the time I remembered to sign up for the challenge I wasn’t yelling so much anymore; I was still reading the Orange Rhino posts, and every time I almost did overreact at something my kids did, I stopped myself and thought better of it.

One day back in February both of my kids had a snow day from school, but as I work from home I had tasks to attend to; I left the kids mostly to their own devices.  At their current ages this is not something that is normally a problem; they don’t require constant monitoring, nor do they need me to entertain them.

At one point I left my desk for a quick break and realized the house was unusually quiet.  I went upstairs, only to discover my 5-year-old son “cooking” in my bathroom sink, which had just been thoroughly cleaned the day before by my twice-monthly housekeeper. He had brought up a bag of baby carrots, an apple, a bag of broccoli salad, a strainer, and a kids’ safety knife (thankfully not an actual paring knife!), along with a big jug of real maple syrup and had been making himself a snack.

He’d cut a wedge from the apple and hacked a bunch of carrots into odd shapes, tossing them into the strainer with the broccoli salad and pouring a generous amount of syrup over it all.  It wasn’t the biggest mess I’ve ever seen, but it was highly unexpected.

My first instinct was to yell but I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and collected myself. When I felt as though I had control of my emotions I very calmly helped him seal up the produce bags, had him put them away in the kitchen, then when he returned to the bathroom I handed him everything else to put away. He helped me wipe up the sink when he’d finished, and we went downstairs together so he could eat his snack.

To my own surprise I didn’t yell or lecture or even scold him.  I just quietly reminded him that next time he wants to “cook” he should ask me first and keep it in the kitchen where food prep belongs. As we walked back downstairs together he apologized to me, and I accepted it.

A year ago, under different circumstances, that would have been cause for a BIG yell-fest on my end, and a lot of crying as a result on his. Instead we both handled it calmly and appropriately.  Though I’ve read a library’s worth of parenting books and blogs and news articles, the credit for my change in behavior goes to The Orange Rhino and this blog.  Because she has written so honestly about her journey and transformation, I have evaluated my own; I’ve overcome my struggle with losing my temper with my kids on a regular basis.  Being a mom who yells and demoralizes them was never who I wanted to be but found myself becoming, and I am grateful for the solidarity of a wide community of parents who have also found themselves wandering down that path and hating it.

I’ve noticed that by intentionally sitting down and talking about my expectations and disappointments when my kids have done something wrong, rather than yelling at them for slipping up, I am much more calm on a regular basis. This has, in turn, led them to be more calm, too. Things around our house have been more than pleasant; they’ve been fun!

There have been occasions when I’ve put the kids to bed by 7pm so I could sit down and watch my favorite TV shows in peace, and because the hour has been earlier than their usual 8pm bedtime I’ve allowed them to play.  (Don’t judge – we don’t have a DVR and there are some shows that can only be watched live. Plus, by the end of the day I’m DONE, and so are they.)  More and more frequently I’ve heard my kids giggling and playing together upstairs, which is a huge change from the arguing that had been rampant just a few months earlier. Me not yelling has led my kids to behaving better in general, and all of that has made this deployment 100 times easier than it would be if we were all stressed out all the time.  It’s true when they say, “When Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy”, and in our case the opposite is accurate, too.  Even when I’m faking the happy, it sure beats fully showcasing the anger.

We’re in the home stretch now; with less than two months to go until my husband returns and with an actual return date circled on our calendar, the excitement is starting to build.  Part of our redeployment adventure also includes a Permanent Change of Station (PCS, or military move to another base) this summer, and I’m in the midst of getting my house ready to sell in preparation for that event.  Though a big move like this is something I’ll have done six times in the twelve years of his career and our marriage, it does not get emotionally easier with each move.  This one will be the hardest so far as we’ll have been here for three years, the longest we’ve ever been stationed anywhere (3 full years, as opposed to the 33 months we lived in Germany, 5 months on the east coast, 2.5 years in the Rocky Mountains, and 23 months in Okinawa – yes, we’ve lived overseas twice).  My kids have spent more of their lives here than anywhere else; we’re leaving the first house we’ve ever bought, friends that have become our family, and schools that have supported us during this challenging year of life.

So for me this summer will be a mixture of bliss and sadness, filled with the “hurry up and wait” mindset that comes with this life that we’ve chosen for ourselves.  I know I’ll rely heavily on the techniques I’ve been practicing these past months, and will continue reading the blog posts for inspiration about how to carry forth when I don’t think I can take any more.  I’ve always liked being a mother, and now I find myself liking the mother I’m becoming.

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. 

Through Clenched Teeth.

Day 3 of my “Staycation”, day 419 of my “Yellcation”

Dear Orange Rhinos,

In my absence this week, I am fortunate to have several guest posts from fellow Orange Rhinos. Each post is beautifully honest and beautifully inspiring and very relatable. Very. I have yelled through clenched teeth in the past. I have wondered if my kids were as miserable as I. And I have most certainly felt that I have failed at a parent. Read this wonderful guest post tonight by Dana S. and know that you are not alone.

Best and Thank You Dana for having the courage to share,
The Orange Rhino


It was my husband’s birthday weekend and his wish was to spend Saturday at the track so I was home with the kiddos. The last several weeks had seen bad weather and more bad weather, creating an atmosphere of cabin fever that would drive Daniel Boone to the Fontainebleau.  Tempers had therefore been short and fuses had been growing shorter by the minute so we decided to surprise Daddy and take him lunch at the track.

I had been yelling at the kids since 7am and already had a headache, just from being angry.

Our good-deed-outing unfortunately deteriorated and only served to create more havoc. Once we arrived at the track, I was in such a bad mood that despite the fact that the kids behaved fairly well there was just no snapping me out of it. I strapped the kids into the stroller and rolled out the front door toward the parking lot.  As soon as I got out the door, I heard yelling, cussing and crying.  I looked up to find a young dad beating his little boy’s butt while his young son cried for him to stop and his dad continued to hit him while chastising him because the little boy apparently laughed out of turn.  He then stopped and almost threw him into his car seat while mom sat in the front seat silently and another sibling also sat silently in the back seat.  Dad looked up at me coming out the front door pushing my two young kids and I don’t believe he could have cared less that I witnessed his downright brutal punishment of that 5ish year old boy.

I pushed my stroller across the parking lot to my SUV in silent shock. As I fished out my keys, both my kids began to jump out of the stroller in a busy parking lot—an obvious no-no.  All the emotions and chaos of the day boiled over in me and before they completely cleared the stroller, I bent down and got in both their faces.

I began yelling through clenched teeth for them to get back into the stroller immediately—yes, safety first, I know—but it didn’t stop there.  All my frustrations rolled out as I yelled, my teeth remaining clenched, red in the face, standing between the cars out in that busy parking lot. 

And you know I was waving my finger in the air.  Finally I had said my piece and stood up, just in time to make eye contact with a couple in their mid-fifties who had emerged from their car and had watched me deliver the conclusion of my yell-fest.  There was no way they could hear what I said, but we all know that body language often speaks louder than words.  The realization of an audience made my heart stop and I swear I felt the blood drain out of my face.  They kept moving and probably had never even noticed me there, but the damage was done.  The kids fell asleep on the car ride home and I used the drive to reconsider myself as a parent: comparing myself to the dad who appeared so angry at his son for laughing, realizing I hadn’t enjoyed my kids for 5 full minutes that day nor laughed with them, and realized how miserable it made me feel—and I had tears rolling down my face when the realization dawned on me that my kids could potentially be as miserable with me.

Something had to change.

I came home and put my sleeping beauties to bed and fired up the laptop.  I started on Pinterest and low and behold, someone had pinned a rather innocuous description: “Don’t yell at your kids for 365 days”. I spent the rest of naptime combing the entire Orange Rhino site from front to back and top to bottom.  Hubby got home from the track and I went right back to T.O.R. site.  Not only was the premise exactly what I needed after my failed parenting day but the author was Real. Normal. Relatable. And there were other real, normal, relatable parents on the site and on Facebook who were doing this.  If they could do this, so could I.

I started the very next day.  The first day, I found it remarkably easy to “behave” myself and keep an even keel by having a goal, a purpose if you will: not to yell.  The second day wasn’t as easy, although I remained a success.  I had to make an effort to think before I spoke so that I wouldn’t lose control of my emotions nor my volume.  The next couple days, admittedly I stayed around Level 4 but I counted it a success because I kept The Orange Rhino Challenge in the forefront of my mind and continued to think before I spoke and didn’t yell. And I saw a change in my household.

My kids were calmer; they listened better; they were somewhat…slightly…a little bit quieter.  My husband had seen me on T.O.R. site every night and finally researched it himself, and even though he had never been a yeller, he also began to make a conscious effort to control his tone and began reminding me of The Orange Rhino Challenge if either of us began to get frustrated with a kid.

That’s not to say it’s been smooth sailing the entire way.  We’ve had to restart the challenge quite a few times.  I yelled and when I did, I gasped and realized what I had done, saw the look of shock on my kid’s face because she knew Mama had been making an effort, and immediately felt like crap about myself.  I’m always transported back to the parking lot that day when that dad was beating his little boy’s butt and cussing him out for laughing.

I have struggled—struggled—with this challenge, and I realize our family has unique circumstances that classify us as uber stressed, but that’s all the more reason to work even harder to make this challenge a success.  I am writing this at 10pm on March 27 and I yelled at my kids approximately 3 hours ago.  I am going to take the next 3 days to regroup, reread The Orange Rhino website and print some resources and reminders, and begin a new challenge on April 1. My husband and I are going to begin this new challenge together and take it one week at a time.  I’ve signed up to be a part of the next 30 Day Challenge so I hope that by then I’ll have my methods figured out and at least several consecutive, successful weeks under my belt. As The Orange Rhino herself has said, just the fact that you’re making an effort to do something is to be celebrated!

Note: These thoughts are all Dana’s. I didn’t not ask her to say anything specific about me or The Challenge! And today is your day Dana. April 1st: it’s no joke…I believe you can do this!

Growing Calm

414 days of loving more…and growing more calm!

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

The Orange Rhino

Growing Calm
By Francesca Kaplan Grossman

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

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

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

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

I wanted to say,

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

But I didn’t want to seem rude.

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

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

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

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

I panicked and made the next possible appointment.

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

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

We were pregnant by Friday.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Love beats Fear

342 days of not yelling, 23 days of loving more to go

Dear Orange Rhinos,

Tonight I share a guest post written by a friend of mine, Natalia Mehlman Petrzela. While this post isn’t about yelling, per say, the take away is one that most definitely applies and well, it really inspired me and I just couldn’t help but share. Natalia teaches a class called intenSati in New York City that combines movement and affirmations – this year’s mantra is LOVE BEATS FEAR… this is MY YEAR! I read this post and immediately thought WOW, what mom doesn’t feel afraid? Gosh I can count the amount of times I have felt afraid on one hand, wait, I don’t have enough hands! I felt afraid when I realized one year ago that I yelled too much. I felt afraid when I decided I wanted to yell less and love more. I felt afraid when I thought I was the only mom that yelled too much. I felt afraid when I dropped my son off at Kindergarten. I felt afraid when my son started having seizures. Oh yes, fear is a friend of mine, both in my life as a person and as a mom. I share this guest post tonight because I know a lot of you are excited to join my “30 days to yelling less” project and because I know a lot of you are also AFRAID of the hard work, of the change. But I also know you love your kids. I hope this post will inspire to focus on your love for your kids and not your fears. Don’t let your fear hold you back from changing; instead let your love for your kids grow.

The Orange Rhino


Choose Love over Fear in 2013 by Natalia Mehlman Petrzela

“Everything happens for a reason,” the saying goes, and the same self-help culture that gives us that maxim has made it reflexive to respond to bad things by seeking “the lesson” or even “the perfection in every moment.” Clichéd as it’s become, this dogged commitment to find meaning in — or even gratitude for — adversity is probably a good thing, even if the quest for a “takeaway” from tough moments is occasionally only a temporary distraction from the drama.

I tried, like many parents and people, to make sense of the double-whammy fate dealt in late 2012: first the Krim family tragedy in which a Manhattan mother came home to find that her trusted nanny had brutally taken the lives of her two children, and then the Newtown shooting in which 20 young children lost their lives, many in the first-grade classroom of their suburban schoolhouse. Hurricane Sandy and the destruction it wrought in the intervening weeks added to the sense that tragedy, and random tragedy at that, was closing in on us, and fast.

The only message I could discern in these arbitrary and terrible acts was powerful, and hardly positive: Danger lurks everywhere. No one can be trusted. If my children are out of my sight, it’s entirely possible they are in mortal danger.

And what were the fruits of this lesson?

After the Krim murders, at work (at a job I love), at the gym (my indulgent “me” time), and every moment my children were out of sight, all I could think about was how they might be at risk. Each night, my hand shook as I opened the door and it wasn’t until I had them in my arms that I realized I had been holding my breath, terrified of what I might find. Then I would feel terrible for mistrusting our wonderful, caring nanny and hide my feelings with false humor… And the next day the cycle would start all over again, only slightly mitigated during the hours I felt my son was “safe” at preschool.

And then the Newtown shooting happened. With another “safe space” invaded, fear resurged. I’d sit at my computer and realize twenty minutes had passed in which all I had done is map out the danger zones in my son’s school and conjured various worst-case scenarios involving my children. I couldn’t wait for the holidays — a time when I usually jokingly gripe about lack of childcare — so I could have my little ones in my care 24/7. Then everything would be perfect, right?

Well… on the first night of our vacation, far from these incidents and the relentless coverage of the fear-mongering American media, I was preparing to bathe the kids after a jaunt in the hotel swimming pool. I was holding the baby and telling my son (repeatedly) to stop playing with a glass door as my husband showered. Then, standing right between his two watchful parents, my son slammed the door into the wall, shattering it into thousands of pieces and leaving him and my husband covered in blood and glass. My scariest mommy moment to date was mercifully short: the cuts didn’t even merit stitches, my son skied for the first time not two days later, and he now boasts about the ambulance ride to the spotless Alpine hospital in which he spent just one night. We are all still breathing sighs of relief.

Once again, I sought “the lesson,” since my assumption that my presence could fend off danger had shattered as readily as the door, and this time it was crystal clear: there are things to fear ABSOLUTELY EVERYWHERE. Our choice, however, is whether or not to let fear define our worldview. If we do, these anxieties will surely disfigure all our experiences, whether or not they “come true.” When we are fearful, it is inconceivable to engage with the world lovingly or happily. Anything beautiful – from a child’s independence to a peaceful workout to full engagement with one’s work – is impossible to appreciate if fear is constantly creeping in to whisper what tragedy might lie around the corner.

So in this month of resolutions, I have a modest proposal, but one that is already transforming my own experience of my children and my life. I am determined to choose love over fear, no matter what. I know I cannot safeguard my family completely, but I also know I can deliberately embrace uncertainty as representing possibility rather than peril. I know I can choose to be present in every moment, whether I am reading bedtime stories, writing, running, or doing the three-hands-and-heart-full juggle inherent to parenting young children. No matter what happens, I know that it is in my control to spend my time enjoying the beauty that is in my life already, rather than fearing that one day it will be wrested from me. And to me, that is the most important lesson of all.