The Relationship Between Self-Confidence and Yelling Less

My Voice is Yelling at MeI knew almost immediately that I was pregnant with my third son. Intuition, gut instinct, whatever you wanna call it. 14 years ago it was strong! And 14 years ago, not only was it strong, but when I felt it, I had the strength to listen to it, without hesitation.

I’m not sure when I started losing both – my gut instinct and the confidence to listen to myself. But somewhere in the last fourteen years, I did. And in losing both, a lot of internal conflict has ensued and therefore stress endured. And really, in losing both what I mean is, losing the ability to believe in myself and trusting myself.  It’s been a challenge I’ve been working to charge through.

Without my gut instinct fully functioning these last few years, it has been hard to make decisions. I constantly seek out advice from others – exhausting for me and my circle. I make more bad decisions than I used to. I feel less confident, less safe even because I don’t feel protected by my red-flag meter.

And then when I do have an inkling of a gut instinct / knowing what I truly deeply want, but won’t listen to myself, I still struggle making decisions. I go back and forth constantly doubting myself and make no progress. Well I make progress – driving myself bonkers that is!

All this said, there is one area where my gut instinct has started to come back online. Where I know exactly what I feel. My awareness that my “gut instinct” needs some love and attention. So that is what I have been doing. Learning to believe in myself again. I’m making progress ever so slowly and can’t wait to share how with all of you. It hasn’t been an easy task, but it’s one I’m willing to work on because it’s something I want to show by example to all my kids so on their birthdays they can look back at their year and say,

“Yep, I had a good year. I believed in myself and led a life I loved that was true to me.”

Happy Birthday kiddo #3. You remind me daily to be true to me. You also make me laugh when I desperately need it and for that, I am forever grateful.

Sending you all warmth today and a reminder to be you!
The Orange Rhino

–> Part of yelling less is being in a good spot when an annoying moment happens. Part of being in a good spot is having less internal conflict. This post might not seem to be about yelling less, but it truly, deeply is. I am writing slightly differently, but trust me, if you are following to learn to yell less, all messages will take you there.

Join us in The Orange Rhino Community for support finding your inner voice and yelling less in the process!


© 2023 The Orange Rhino

The Thanksgiving I Yelled at My Kids

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

* * * * *

I don’t like turkey.
Or cranberry sauce.
Or any of the foods that one typically serves on Thanksgiving for that matter.

Except well, for the white stuff: bread, butter, mashed potatoes, and more butter! But I love Thanksgiving Day. I love making a big, roaring fire and then cuddling up with my boys to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I love “oohing and ahhing” over all the floats together and sharing stories with my boys about when I was a kid and couldn’t wait to watch the Parade. I love sitting down to eat and first having cranberry juice with rainbow sherbet and telling my boys that this is a tradition passed down from my great-grandmother.

Oh, there is just so much to love on Thanksgiving Day.
And yet, I hated Thanksgiving 2010 because I ruined it.

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

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

So you think I would have stopped right then, right?
No more pictures needed, right?!

Who needs the "perfect" picture when priceless pictures like this exist?!

Who needs the “perfect” picture when priceless pictures like this exist?!

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

“Sit still!” I barked.
“Just one more! Be good!” I whined.
And my famous, or rather infamous, Thanksgiving 2010 line:

“It’s Thanksgiving, for cripe’s sake! I would be so grateful for just one good picture. PLEASE! Just smile!” I screamed.

The more I yelled, the more they cried. The more they cried, the worse the pictures were, so the more I yelled. Finally, I gave up and said ever so shamefully and nastily, “That’s it! I have had it. All I wanted was a picture. Thanks for nothing.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

YLLMcrop2This story is from my  book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids­–and How You Can Too!” Part parenting guide, part memoir, part journal, her book takes you on a 30-day journey full of honest stories, alternatives to yelling and steps to follow so that you too can Yell Less. Find more about my book here: and join The Orange Rhino Revolution at

Why am I Yelling So Much Lately?

I had been less than pleased with my yelling frequency lately so I had been pushing myself to figure out what was triggering me so much that I was unable to do what I know I needed to do (and could do) to stay calm in the tough moments.

I knew it wasn’t just because the kids weren’t listening (I mean sure, that is a trigger and is way annoying, but I knew it wasn’t just that.)

I knew it wasn’t because I was physically tired (I actually sleep now; game changer by the way.)

I knew it wasn’t because I wasn’t exercising or eating crappy foods. (I actually exercise now and eat crappy foods…less J)

I knew it wasn’t because of more obvious, “simple” and easy to manage triggers because I was struggling more than usual to keep it together.

I kept asking myself, “but why, why, why?” to dig deeper but all my digging led me to…nothing. No real, deeper answer. This gnawed and gnawed away at me, which for the record, didn’t help with the whole yelling less bit! My not knowing was a complete distraction (trigger); my not knowing made me personally cranky (trigger); and my not knowing made me mentally exhausted (trigger) because my brain was working over time looking for an answer.

Yeah, figuring out triggers can be a real pain the arse. But one beautiful fall day, it all became clear. (Cheezy, I know. But, the cheeziness is important. Stay with me.) I was out walking my puppy on a perfect fall day. The air was crisp. The leaves crunched beneath my feet. The sun shone brightly. There was not a car on the road; not a person walking near by jabbering. It was quiet. It was relaxing. It was peaceful.

I was just walking along, talking to no one, not listening to music, not doing a mental to-do list, when out of nowhere, clarity hit. (I read recently that boredom is important for the brain because it allows the mind to wander and be creative and problem solve – or something like that. I guess the article was right because my bored, at peace, brain problem solved the heck out of what my real big trigger was!)

I hadn’t set out on the walk intent to figure out this darn trigger. I just set out to get some steps in, some relaxation in (to prepare me to not yell when the kids barged in the door hours later), and some puppy potty-training in. So, it shocked the heck out of me when, bam, out of nowhere, my big trigger, that has been subconsciously bothering me for months, popped into my head, clear as the blue sky.

And that’s when my peaceful day turned dark.

When I realized what was really driving my yelling, the tears didn’t just fall. They poured. I got our puppy into the house (because god forbid any of my neighbors see me in my state!) and sat at the kitchen table with my head in my hands and bawled.

And bawled.

And bawled.

I pounded the table with my fists a few times too.

I asked why to the air, as if I would get an answer.

I shook.

I sobbed.

And then…and then…I finally breathed.

After all of my sobbing, I found myself exhaling.

My grey day turned peaceful again, and I felt like I had just taken a deep breath of that fresh, crisp, fall air that had only minutes ago made me feel so relaxed.

It wasn’t because I literally took a deep breath (you all know I hate taking actually deep breaths to relax!) it was because it physically felt so freakin’ good letting go and releasing so much built up pain, sadness and anger. Of course, my anger and pain didn’t go away, but the stress of holding it all in, did. I actually felt a sense of relief because I finally had crystal clear awareness of one of the big triggers that had been causing me to yell.

Yelling more than one likes, sucks.
Trying to figure out why one is yelling can also suck.
It isn’t always instant.
It isn’t always pretty.
It isn’t always the answer you want.
And, there isn’t always an easy way to manage the trigger.
But it always, always, is ultimately for the better.

Figuring out my big trigger took months. It took persistently, yet patiently, pushing myself really hard to look at my actions and challenge myself to figure out what the heck was going on with me, because I knew it was an instance of “it’s not you, it’s me.” The answer wasn’t pretty. My big trigger? I am a lot angrier about some things in my life than I thought. Like real, true, anger.  I didn’t expect the answer. I certainly didn’t want it; I don’t want to be an angry person! And the things I am angry about? I can’t change them, I can only change how I accept them and that means a lot of personal work, and ugh, who wants to add that to the to-do list?

But, knowing that I finally have a source of why I am struggling so much gives me hope that I can now more easily get back to a place of yelling less because I know what I am dealing with.

And that, that is way better for myself and for my boys.


(I know I continue to be vague about some stuff; but I need to be so thank you for understanding! )

My Secrets to a Peaceful Bedtime Without Yelling

I had the wonderful opportunity to actually, get this, sit down, drink a cup of hot coffee and hang out with a friend the other night. It was marvelous. Absolutely, marvelous. We covered all the basic gossip stories, you know would Kimye make it as a couple, what about Jen Garner and Ben Affleck, all the basic here’s what our kids are up to stories, mine finally potty trained, mine is still sick, and we covered all the basic how are yous, how are you feeling about work, about life, marriage, motherhood etc. And this is where we ended up talking about bedtime and how brutal it can be.

You see, I was on “vacation” and when I am on “vacation” with my kids, they NEVER ever go to sleep easily. Like never, ever! Did I mention, never, ever? I mean, it’s not like bedtime at home is a peace of cake but whoa is it easier than on “vacation.” Bedtime is simply a disaster on vacation because of all the, “I want to stay up late because you know it’s vacation mom,” and “I don’t want to share a room with all my brothers,” and “I don’t like the sheets at Grandma’s” and the “This room has weird shadows my room doesn’t.” And well, it is also a disaster because of the decrease in routine and increase in, eh hem, sugar and adrenaline.

Anywho, so we got talking about bedtime and my friend said,

“How the heck do you not yell at bedtime? I mean really. Does someone else do it for you?!”

My boys, just chilling, catching some rays. Can you imagine if bedtime was always this relaxed?!!

My boys, just chilling. Can you imagine if bedtime was always this relaxed?!!

Ha!!! Oh how sometimes I wish it were true. But it’s not. What is true though is that years ago, pre-The Orange Rhino Challenge, bedtime didn’t just use to make me yell at my kids, it used to make me scream. It was so stressful and anything but chill. And, it was the worst feeling to send my kids to bed almost every night with their hearts full of my anger, not my love. The absolute worst feeling in the world. Oh the guilt and shame. Blech! Thank goodness The Orange Rhino Challenge helped me identify bedtime as a trigger and pushed me to figure out how to manage it so that it wouldn’t be full of my yells. (My kids’ yells, well, that is almost always expected at bedtime!)

That night I shared with my girlfriend my secrets to not yelling at bedtime. Tonight, I share them with you, albeit in a way more formal manner and with way more detail, but hey, the main message is still there!

* * * * *

My biggest “secret” to not yelling at bedtime is that I finally, and fully, embraced and reminded myself of three Orange Rhino Revelations about sleeping that I learned on my journey to yell less:

  1. If I rush my boys at bedtime, it goes slower. Rushing is counterproductive.
  2. If I yell at my boys during bedtime, they cry, bedtime takes longer. Yelling is counterproductive.
  3. If I approach bedtime with a positive attitude, as opposed to dreading it, it not only goes faster and smoother, but it also becomes a very calm and special time.

These revelations keep me from yelling every night, as do these additional revelations and tips which are specific to my 5 top bedtime triggers.

Kids Dawdling and Not Doing Task At Hand
Orange Rhino Revelations: If I rush my boys, they will go slower. If I nag them, they will go slower. If I yell at them to hurry up, they will cry and definitely take longer. However, if I gently encourage them to complete their tasks so we can have more time to read books and snuggle, they proceed “faster.”

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

  • Tell myself over and over again that if I rush bedtime, it goes slower.
  • Tell myself that yelling will only make dawdling more intense.
  • Take deep breaths to help me slow down so that I don’t put off a “go, go, go” vibe.
  • Use humor to diffuse the stress and connect with kids so they want to do what I ask. Talk like toothpaste is stuck to my teeth. Brush teeth with finger.
  • Walk away and just start reading a book; invite them to join you when they have finished their tasks.
  • Give in! “Okay, so no one wants to brush teeth. Lets sing instead for a few minutes and then we’ll do it.” Sometimes the power struggle isn’t worth it!

Parental Stress, Exhaustion, and Therefore Huge Desire for Personal Time
Orange Rhino Revelations: My quiet, relaxing downtime doesn’t need to start as soon as all the kids are asleep; I can start it at bedtime.

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

  • Change into comfortable clothes to feel more chill.
  • Create a relaxing, quiet environment. Think spa! Turn the lights down. Light a spa candle. Listen to soothing music. Upside? It relaxes boys too, which helps bedtime go smoother!
  • (again) Tell myself that letting my stress and exhaustion push me to yell will just upset the kids which will make them move slower and will upset me more and make me yell more and will greatly delay getting to my personal time.

Bathwater (and Toothpaste!) Going Everywhere
Orange Rhino Revelations: Perspective is a powerful tool. When I can put things into perspective, I realize that yelling isn’t necessary and that again, it will make matters worse.

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

  • Use my “at least” technique to find perspective and calm, i.e., “At least it is just water and not sticky orange juice spraying everywhere,” “At least the water is on the tile bathroom floor and not the carpeted bedroom floor.” And the big one I use, “At least I have this special time at the end of the day to connect with my kids before they go off to sleep.” This last one really helps me to re-focus on what matters.
  • Put preventative measures in place: put towels down, wear an apron to keep clothes dry, do push-ups (or any exercise) while kids bathe as exercise creates positive energy and prepares me to handle the annoyance with more calm.

Asking for One More Thing, One Hundred Times!
Orange Rhino Revelation: When my kids ask for one more thing, it isn’t because they need one more cracker, one more book, or one more sip of water, it is because they want one more minute with me. If I give them that minute in a totally focused, calm, loving way, there will not only be less requests after, but also, I will then feel more comfortable being firm with the bedtime rules as I was just extra loving.

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

  • Find empathy. I put myself in their “shoes” (mind) and remember that when I was a kid, I did the same thing. This softens my heart and lets me give the connection to my kids they crave.
  • Offer a hug as a substitution; it will make everyone feel better.
  • Take a break. Walk away and yell into a closet. Clothes don’t have feelings, kids do.
  • If possible, tag out and have someone else help with bed.

The Unspoken Trigger: Approaching bedtime with dread and a negative attitude
Orange Rhino Revelations: Negative attitudes attract negative actions; when I approach the bedtime hour with grumpiness, the kids sense it and act grumpy right back which makes me yell. When I embrace bedtime with a positive approach, I am less distracted, more present, and we all enjoy bedtime more – it actually becomes a special time.

Orange Rhino Tips to Prevent Yelling:

  • Change attitude from, “I just want this hour over,” to “YES! Let’s get this hour started. It’s a great last chance of the day to enjoy my kids and show them my love before I don’t see them for 12 hours.”
  • Embrace the challenge of bedtime. “Yep! Bedtime is going to be hard. I know it. I accept it. I will not be surprised or annoyed when it is. I will just go with it.”
  • Talk positively to self, “I can do this. It is just 45 minutes. I have had successful bedtimes, I can do this one.”
  • Fake it until you make it! Smile lots. Laugh lots. Say “Bedtime rocks,” and “I love bedtime” lots.

So much for sharing one “secret” to a peaceful bedtime, eh? Well since I already shared a zillion, here’s one more. Bedtime in The Orange Rhino house still isn’t perfect as a result of all of the above, but it is a heck of a lot, and I mean heck of lot easier to not yell at bedtime than it was before and it is way more, way, way more quiet and peaceful!

The book!Bedtime isn’t my only yelling trigger 😉 That would be too easy! If you would like to learn about my other major triggers, as well as my solutions to them, check out my new book “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can too!” It is a 30-day guide with honest stories to inspire, 100 alternatives to yelling and simple steps to follow. It hits shelves this October but you can pre-order it now to ensure that you get one of the lowest prices and that you have it when I start a guided 30-day Challenge this fall! Click here to pre-order!  

How to Fight Yelling Triggers and Win

Last Friday, Every. Single. Possible. Major trigger attacked me in full force.

P.M.S.? Check.
Lack of sleep? Check.
Hyper, loud kids from the school, no school, school, no school snow routine? Check.
Too much to do? Check.
Lack of exercise? Check.
Cluttered house? Check.
Fight with husband? Check. Actually double, no triple check!

And it was said fight with husband that really put me over the edge. It wasn’t the other triggers because I prepared for them.

I knew within minutes of waking up that the other triggers would be hanging out with me that day, attached to me at the hip, going everywhere with me, taunting me to yell every step of the way. So I prepared for them. I took some Ibuprofen, had a coffee, did some light exercise, picked up one pile to feel accomplished, and told myself “you will get to your to-do list when you can, it isn’t anything urgent, don’t stress.”

And for the most part, these preventative actions and thoughts helped me to fight those triggers and keep them at the back of my mind and not incessantly bothering me as I went through the morning, one of my hardest times of the day. I learned early on in my Challenge that if I can get through the morning without yelling then for the most part I can get through the day without yelling. Conquering the morning gives me confidence that I can succeed and well, confidence and success breeds more confidence and more success.

Anywho, as I came down the stairs last Friday morning, my triggers and my four little munchkins followed me. But so did my growing, but slightly unsteady, confidence so I actually felt okay. I felt I had acknowledged my triggers, dealt with them, and that the morning would be hard, but manageable. I felt that I could indeed choose love over yelling.

And then BAM!

My husband and I started bickering. (Not in front of the children mind you; we are really good about that!) We each said some not so nice things. I cried a lot. As our “chat” continued, my anger grew and grew… a lot. And as our “chat” ended, I realized that my desire to yell had also grown… more than a lot!

As my husband headed out to work, and I stood fuming, probably with smoke coming out of my head, ears, nostrils and every pore in my body, my sweet #2 dared to innocently ask me,

“Mommy, I can’t find my hat. Can you help me?”

I turned around to him, ready to explode and scream, “NO! Go find it yourself! NOW leave me alone. GO! SCOOT!” You see, I hadn’t “come down” yet from the intensity of the fight with my husband and I had no desire to be bothered. Shoot, I had no desire to deal with anything. I just wanted to scream and shout and let it all out. I most certainly didn’t want to look for a hat or deal with the rest of the day for that matter because I knew it would be tough and trigger-full!

As I began to open my mouth, I felt my heart beat rising and my hands sweating. I knew what that meant: a yell was coming. So I did what I needed to do…

I closed my mouth.
I closed my eyes.
I took a few breaths.
And then had a little pep talk with myself, repeating to myself one of my favorite lines that keeps me from yelling,

Orange Rhino, it’s not him that’s the problem, it’s you. It’s not the missing hat that’s making you want to yell; the fight is making you want to yell. The lack of sleep, the PMS, the dirty house, all of it is making you want to yell. You aren’t mad at your son, you are frustrated with other things. Don’t yell at him. Don’t take out your anger and frustration on him.”

It must have been a long pep talk and a lot of breaths because #2 said to me,

“Mommy, are you sleeping? Wake up. I can’t find my hat!”

So I did what else I needed to do…I woke up.

I woke up and embraced the reality that I needed to let go of the fight (enough) so that I could be present for my kids in the way I wished.

I woke up and embraced the reality that yes, it was going to be a hard day, but that I didn’t want to make it even harder by unnecessarily yelling at my son over a hat.

I woke up and embraced the facts that as much as I let go of the fight, that it would still taunt me that day. And that as much as I knew I didn’t want to yell, that I would still be tempted that day to do so because of all the triggers fighting me.

So after we found the hat – in the exact place it was supposed to be by the way – and we got half the house to school, I did what I needed to do to help set me up for a good-ish day.

I planned for when I could get in a long walk to help relax me and keep the kids out of the house and going crazy.


I called my mom and let my frustration out so that I could distance myself even further from it.

I “indulged” and let #4 watch some extra T.V. so that I could clean and de-clutter and find some inner peace.

And I told myself over and over and over again that,

“I will get through this day. I will get through. I can do this.”

I got through the day without yelling. It was touch and go at a few moments (okay, lots of moments,) but I did it and then I collapsed readily onto the couch with a nice glass of wine and some trashy magazines! I mentally toasted to preparation and how creating a plan to fight my triggers means that my chances of yelling less and loving more go up immensely. Does planning also mean time and energy, both of which I am generally short on Absolutely-frigging-lutely!!! But in order to manage my triggers, I know I need to plan for them. I need to know what they are, when they are alive and desperate to push me, and how to tame them so that I own them, not vice versa.

My triggers used to own me.
It wasn’t fun. It was ugly. It was a brutal existence.
Now that I own them, it is no longer brutal, but a much more beautiful existence because knowing and owning my triggers is the core to a non-yelling existence.

* * * * *

Here are some related posts I wrote about the power of tracking triggers.
Tracking my Triggers
What Triggers My Triggers
The Root of My Yelling

{sometimes} My Weight Makes Me Want to Yell

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

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

And I don’t like it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it does.

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

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

Never. Stop. Trying.

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

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

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

Learning to Let Go

So, I kind of hold onto any tangible thing associated with a good memory that I can…and I kind of always have! In fact I think I can trace it back to age 10. Around then, I received a corkboard from my parents and I immediately started covering it with every single memento possible.

Just one section of a very full bulletin board! I think those plastic roses are from a corsage my mom made me for my Tea Party themed 7th Birthday Party!

Just one section of a very full bulletin board! I think those plastic roses are from a corsage my mom made me for my Tea Party themed 7th Birthday Party!

Glittery “kiss” sticker from a boy named David that I received in 4th grade? Check. Pin up of Christian Slater? Check. Picture of me holding my first driving ticket? Check. Love letter from my first boyfriend in high school? Check, oh check! Oh yes, any small thing I could save I saved to help me savor my favorite memories, to help me savor what made me happy, what made me smile, what made me laugh, to help me savor all that was wonderful in my life.

Some might have called this a fleeting childhood hobby. But it wasn’t. As I headed off to college without my board, I started saving mementos in shoeboxes. As I graduated college, I continued saving mementos in shoeboxes but this time the boxes weren’t titled by year, they were simply title “Love Letters from my boyfriend” which soon became “Special Memories with ‘my man.’” Then of course I married my man and a shoebox wouldn’t hold all the memories from our wedding weekend so I took my parents trunk they had when they first married and filled it. I filled it with our “welcome to the hotel bag,” my bachelorette veil, my rehearsal dinner bouquet, my wedding day slippers, my “Bride-to-be” sweatshirt, our wedding favor and the newspaper from that day. Oh yes, I filled it with everything I could stuff in there because I didn’t want to let go; because I wanted to savor it all as long as I could and I feared I would somehow forget a detail.

I hadn't open this trunk until I took this picture. As promised, it brought my immense happiness.

I hadn’t open this trunk until I took this picture. As promised, it brought my immense happiness.

I locked the trunk back in 2004 and I haven’t opened it since. I haven’t needed to. Just knowing it is there brings me safety, brings me happiness and memories and besides, I have been busy filling four new mini-trunks with mementos from my boys’ lives. From first ultrasound pictures to hospital bracelets, birth announcements to birthday cards, birthday invitations to pre-school graduation invitations, first drawings to first writing samples, I have filled my son’s memory boxes with anything I thought they might want to see when older. Who am I kidding; I have filled their boxes because anytime I have something to add to them and I need to open them, I am filled with such incredible happiness and pride and gratitude and love that I can’t imagine NOT saving such things. Oh I just want to savor it all over and over again because despite the tough moments I share with my boys, there are many more incredible moments. So much so that a mini-trunk doesn’t do it all justice, but it is something. It is something to hold on to.

Just like my bulletin board doesn’t do justice to all the wonderful memories of my childhood…but it’s something. Fortunately for me, my parents never tossed it when I officially moved out. Instead they wrapped it up when they sold our house and it is now is in my attic, on top of my box of Barbie dolls and Cabbage Patch Kids and my box of “Little House on the Prairie Books” that I saved “in case” I had a girl. I pass my board, my visual timeline of my crushes and my interests, my childhood turned what I thought was adulthood (at the age of 18!,) every time I have to get to a box of hand me down clothes, a box of college photo albums, a box of childhood toys I want to share with my boys, or a box of achievements from my working days. And just like my wedding trunk and my son’s memory boxes, whenever I see my board, I think “oh I am so glad I held onto it.” I never once think, “Oh I should just toss it and let go of the memories.”

Why? Why don’t I doubt holding onto such things that I have had so long? Why do I ignore my husband when he tells me it is time to perhaps let go of some of the boxes in the attic (eh hem the box of wedding magazines and books from my era of I am going to be a wedding planner)? Because holding onto these mementos brings me happiness, immense happiness and brings me up and who wants to let go of a good thing?! The mementos that didn’t bring me up: breakup letters from my high school boyfriend, clothes from when I was overweight, letters of rejection from college and job offers, those I readily let go of because they bring me down. I know holding on to them will just make me upset if I have to see them again.

Which begs the question, then why oh why do I struggle to let go of mental memories that bring me down and not up? Just because these mental memories don’t have a tangible item to be tossed, does that mean they don’t deserve to be tossed or can’t be? Of course they deserve it…of course they should be because holding on to them doesn’t do me much good!

In fact, I have learned that holding onto “bad” memories does me no good. Good memories? Oh lots of good, hold on and savor away Orange Rhino. Bad memories, toss them away Orange Rhino, toss them away and let go! I know many people have said that holding on to “bad” memories does no good; I know this is not an original statement and yet, I didn’t really embrace it until I started The Orange Rhino Challenge.

When I began looking at why I yell and I started tracking my triggers I learned VERY quickly that my inability to let go of “bad memories,” bad experiences, bad conversations, bad weigh-ins on the scale, bad interaction with my kids, and most notably bad yells was at the top of the list. Oh I so quickly realized that my inability to let go so often pushed me to yell.

My inability to let go kept me pre-occupied. My inability to let go kept me thinking about my “bad” situation instead of focusing on the present moment and making it count. My inability to let go made me snappier and less present and wasted a lot of my time. My inability to let go consumed me way more than I ever wished. So I started practicing letting go of things that bothered me. I started saying over and over and over again “Let it go. You can’t change what happened. Don’t focus on the negative. Move on.” And I over and over and over again forced myself to engage in a happy action when I found myself not letting go; I looked at baby pictures with my boys or I started a dance party. And I over and over and over again made myself stop talking about the “bad” memory. I stopped indulging my mind in the conversation and stopped calling friends to relive the frustrating moment. Did I make an initial call? Sure. But I practiced letting go and not dwelling by over talking.

Was it easy to learn to let go? Um, NO.

It wasn’t even close to easy. It still isn’t easy, but it is easier.

The other morning I woke up to see all the people that had read my “I Yelled At My Boys” post and I immediately felt disappointment and sadness again that I had indeed yelled. My heart filled with crappy feelings and anger at myself over my “bad memory.” It didn’t think of all the good memories stored in my brain to bring me happiness, gratitude and determination when I was down – the comments from all of you, the flowers from my family and friends on my 365th day, the random emails and gifts from all of you. Nope, I immediately went to bad memory lane.

So, I read my post again and inhaled it. “Orange Rhino. You wrote about letting go. You know you have learned to. You know letting go has been one of your favorite lessons learned. LET GO. LET GO of the disappointment. LET GO of the sadness.” And then I inhaled all the supportive comments from everyone and I locked them away in my memory bank to never be let go of, to be held on to as tightly I have held on to the fake rose I got in 3rd grade that made me feel loved and special and brought me so much joy that day.

And I let go.

Oh, I have learned to let go and I have gained so much in return. 

I Yelled At My Boys.

520 days of loving more, yelling less

I have a confession.

On Friday July 12, 2013, after 520 days of The Orange Rhino Challenge, my public promise to not yell at my boys, I yelled. Big Time.

Yes, I, The Orange Rhino, yelled at my four boys.

There was no question if it was maybe just a snap or an emergency yell. Oh no, it was a full on, blood curling, yelling tirade complete with four children bawling and one mommy who just couldn’t stop herself.  And it was topped off with my feeling guilty, disappointed, and sad beyond belief.  And oh, oh how the look in the eight teary eyes staring at me proved that my boys shared my sadness and also felt anger, confusion, and fear.

“Mommy! You’re so mean. You’re back to day Zero on your Challenge!” screamed my almost seven year old.

“Too loud!!!!!” cried by almost four year old, the one closest to my rant, as he covered his ears and shook with fear.

“Ma Ma. Ma Ma,” sobbed my two year old who up until that moment, had never ever heard me yell.

“Why are you ye…lll…ing at us Mommy? We ddd…idn’t do an..y…thing! We got in the car like you asked!” my five year old tried to say between sobs.

He was right. Oh was he right. My boys had done absolutely, positively, nothing wrong. My yell was completely unnecessary, completely hurtful, and completely my own doing. I took my own sadness, fear and anger out on them, period. Blech.

You see my marriage boulder, which had truly started getting smaller, grew back a teensy weensy little bit that Friday morning and for some reason, I couldn’t handle it. As a result, everything bothered me.

The boys talking in normal voices? Too loud.
The boys asking me for some water? Too demanding.
The boys rough housing and laughing? Too much what, too much being kids?
The boys not getting ready for the pool when I asked? Too much what, not listening when I mumbled my request under my breath so quietly no one could hear it?

I felt my anger bubbling up and my sweaty hands, racing heart, shorter and sharper voice told me that I was flirting with losing it; that I was in desperate need of getting in control. So I tried. I tried so very hard to get in control of my personal stress by pulling out some of my Orange Rhino tricks. I talked to myself “hey Orange Rhino, you are not mad at the kids, you are frustrated with your situation right now.” I got a glass of cold water and physically tried to cool down and slow my breathing down. I talked to myself some more: “You can do this, you will get through this, just hang on, you don’t want to yell.” And I talked to my kids. “Boys, mommy is having a tough morning. I am feeling a little grouchy. Can you stop running around and help me get ready for the pool fast so we can go have fun and relax?”

It worked. For like 5 minutes.

For 5 minutes I found calm amidst the crazy, I found warmth amidst my anger, I found determination amidst my desire to just quit and scream. The boys stood in line for lotion, grabbed their towels, put their shoes on and got in the car. Yes! I went in the house to get my bag and came back to find kids not buckled in as requested.

And I lost it. In my loudest voice ever (or maybe it felt so loud because it had been 520 days since I heard it?) I screamed,


Seriously? I mean really just writing that, I feel ridiculous and ashamed. After everything they had JUST done to be helpful and wonderful I lost it because they didn’t do one of five things I had asked them? Was that necessary? Or even nice? No! But then again, I didn’t yell because they didn’t put their seatbelts on,

I yelled because of my own pain that was screaming to get out.

I yelled because, well, because I am human and sometimes despite best intentions, hard work, and a heart full of more love than ever, mistakes happen.

People slip up. I slipped up. I knew I would one day. I knew that even though I call myself an “Orange Rhino” I am still human. The only thing I didn’t know was, how would I react when I finally yelled? Would I react in a pre-Orange Rhino manner and let shame, guilt, and disappointment send me into a vicious cycle of self-disgust and negative thinking, making a one-time yell turn into a problem again? Or would I react in a new way, a way reflective of 520 days of personal growth?

Well, the most wonderful surprise happened as soon as my boy’s two minutes of crying and rightfully deserved yelling at me ended and heard my truly heartfelt apology. I didn’t turn into my old, pre-Orange Rhino self! Instead, so much of what I have learned and embraced the last 520 days came to life.

After I yelled, I immediately forgave myself and forced myself to think of what I had accomplished, not what I had “ruined.” This is an accomplishment in itself, a huge one! I have learned during this Challenge that in order to yell less I need to let go of negative thoughts, I need to be kinder to myself, and I need to focus on the positive as much as I can. After I yelled, my brain, clearly re-wired from 520 days of practice, actually focused on how I went 520 Days without yelling! That’s 1 year and 155 days. Or a little under a year and a half. Or a heck of a lot more than I ever, ever imagined. Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, I never would have forgiven myself or even stopped and written a positive post like this one. Nope. I would have dwelled about how I let everyone down and been negative until the cows came home.

After I yelled, I promptly took responsibility for my actions, reminded myself that sometimes “it’s me, not them,” and owned up to my mistake. Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, I would have just assumed that the kids were “at fault” and then justified my yelling with “well, my kids didn’t listen.” I never would have wondered and accepted that perhaps I was part of the problem.

After I yelled, I found perspective and realized that “hey I might not have been able to keep myself at the grumpy stage, but at least I was aware of my grumpiness and tried to control it.” Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, I wouldn’t have even realized my physical yelling symptoms or that grumpiness was a sign that a yell was coming and that I needed to stop and quickly find a way to calm down.

After I yelled, I very quickly said, “okay Orange Rhino, what do you need to do to take care of yourself? You clearly aren’t taking care of you and managing your stress and um, you need to!” Before The Orange Rhino Challenge, I wouldn’t have acknowledged for a second that taking care of me is important and I never in a thousand years would have known how to take care of me or tried to even make it happen!

And after I yelled, despite how painful it was in that particular moment to see in my sons’ eyes the fear and sadness resulting from my behavior, I actually felt a bit grateful. Yes, I felt grateful that I yelled because my response to this situation not only showed me just how much I have grown and changed for the better during this Challenge, but also how much I have learned.

I have learned that learning to yell less has taught me more than just that. It has taught me how to bring forgiveness, perspective, positive thinking, accountability, and so much more to all the relationships in my life and all the situations in my life making me a happier person all around.

I have learned that that mistakes are okay, that not being perfect is okay, and that trying my hardest and still charging forward to yell less even when I have had a “bad” moment, is way more than okay, it’s courageous and crucial. Because learning to yell less isn’t just a 365 day Challenge for me, it’s a lifestyle change and I am certain over the next however many years my boys are my sons, I will slip up and yell again, and I will need to charge forward, again.

I have learned that at the heart of The Orange Rhino Challenge is not just clocking days that are yell free but collecting more loving moments. Any moment that I don’t yell is a win and all the loving moments add up – that is what matters.

Yelling Less Loving More

And most importantly, I have learned again just how much yelling scares my kids, how awful it makes me feel, and no matter how hard it might be at times, I want more than ever to continue to be an Orange Rhino because it is changing me and my relationships in a heck of a lot more ways I ever imagined.

* * * * *

P.S. I was fine posting this until now. Now I am nervous that I will have disappointed you all. Please don’t let that be the case.

If you liked this post, you might also like these posts:
“Bottled Up Emotions Do Me No Good”
“(Sometimes) Marriage Makes Me Want to Yell”
“Choosing Perfectly Imperfect Moments”
“I Didn’t Rock Motherhood Today”

You might also like my new book due out in October, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids and How You Can Too!” Part parenting guide, part memoir, I include a 30-day guide with key revelations, actions, and tips to help you on your own journey. You can pre-order it now to make sure you are one of the first to receive it by clicking here. 

When Things Don’t Go As Planned

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“THAT’s MY SON!” I bawled.

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

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

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

“It’s my son sir. My son.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

{Sometimes} I Choose Dishes Over my Kids, and That’s Okay.

502 days of loving more!

I like to be productive.
There, I said it.
I like to cross things off my to-do list.
Notice I say my to-do list, because yes, the list normally is all about me.

This list often includes: clean the kitchen, send emails, call friends, and organize playroom. You know, things that make me feel productive, accomplished, in touch, and organized. You know, things that make me happy and calm.

This list does not often include anything about my boys, per say. It does not often include: play board games with my boys, go to the park, paint pictures, or do science experiments. Sure sometimes the list has actions that have to do with my boys like: call pediatrician for well visit, make dentist appointment for boys, arrange playdates, or buy birthday present for a party. But hardly ever does my list have any direct actions about enjoying my kids and meeting their requests; you know doing things that would make them happy and would make me a “good, present mom.”

I often (or at least I feel that I do) prioritize my wish-list over my sons. And I often feel guilty about this. Really guilty. I mean, I want to be the super relaxed mom who doesn’t care about her to-do list and just wants to make play-doh creations. I try to be that mom. I stress that I am not that mom. A lot.

Oh, I hate that I focus on my to-do’s so much and that it is not my first instinct to think about what “can-do’s” I have the privilege to share with my kids that day. I hate that it is not my first instinct to realize and remember that when I hang out with my kids and do their wish-list items first, that doing so is something that does indeed make me happy, like really, super duper over-the-moon-happy. I hate that when I do play with my kids that even though I love it, right afterwards I can get the dreaded “shoot, I was unproductive” feeling in my stomach and immediately get back to my “I have to get a, b, and c done stat or I’ll go nuts and get cranky!”

Oh, how I struggle with my desire to be productive and also be a really present, fun mom. Last week I wrote about my struggle and my conclusion that being “unproductively productive” is a good thing. I wrote:

“Yes, six and a half years later I still struggle to accept that ‘unproductive’ intangible items like watching my kids reach important milestones, like looking out for my kid’s health, like teaching my kids to talk, to respect others, to be good people and like loving my kids unconditionally, the best that I can, when I can, are indeed, incredibly productive and not just incredibly productive, but also incredibly important.”

I wrote that and felt relieved. Aha! Finally, I had accepted a really important truth! Aha! Finally, I had figured out how to manage how my need to be productive triggered me to yell if I didn’t get a lot done that day; I just needed to redefine productive! Aha! Finally, I had gained insight into what really matters in life: organizing Legos by size, shape and color to make the most symmetric spaceship ever with my sons, not organizing Legos into bins to make the most tidy, efficient bookcase ever (by myself.)

With all these aha’s you would have thought I felt fantastic all last week. And I did. I did feel like a weight had lifted but at the same time, there was this growing feeling in my stomach of, but wait, was that a genuine post?

Did I really believe what I wrote? Did I really think that being “unproductively productive” was a good thing, something I really wanted, or was I fooling myself to feel better about my stress, my trigger, my personal struggle? The conclusion I came to was simple. And perhaps controversial.

Yes, I do believe that being “unproductively productive” is important, very important. Yes, being “unproductively productive” with my kids is something I want to embrace more and more. And yes, being “productively productive” is ALSO important, very important. And yes, being “productively productive” is something I will continue to embrace.

You see, I have learned during my journey to yell less and love more that taking care of me is really important. This means understanding me, understanding my needs, what makes me calm down, what makes me happy, what makes me feel relaxed enough to handle all the chaos and ups and downs that come with being a parent. I quickly realized over the past year and a half that if I am not happy or relaxed then my chances of staying calm enough to not yell are small.

And guess what? Organizing makes me happy. Cleaning my kitchen calms me down. Vacuuming makes me happy. Dirty dishes and clutter do not; they make me stressed. I know there are sayings that go along the lines of “the dishes will always be there, but precious moments with kids will not.” And I agree with this statement wholeheartedly which is why I used to feel guilty when I chose cleaning the real ceramic dinner dishes covered in spaghetti sauce over “cleaning” the purple plastic miniature dishes in the play kitchen covered in hot fudge, ketchup and pickle juice with my two year old.

This is the end of my kitchen counter. It keeps me sane. If I need calm, I organize it. If it is overwhelmed with clutter, I get cranky and close to yelling. Notice the stress relief hand lotion there for that exact reason!

This is the end of my kitchen counter. It keeps me sane. If I need calm, I organize it. If it is overwhelmed with clutter, I get cranky and close to yelling. Notice the stress relief hand lotion there for that exact reason!

But this past year and half I realized that it is OKAY to want to clean the real dishes. It is OKAY to want to be productive in order to stay calm. It is OKAY to need to be productive in order to get calm. It is OKAY to say, “I need to do something for ME in order to be there for my kids and not yell at them.” I do not have to feel guilty or embarrassed because I chose the dishes over my kids. The Orange Rhino Challenge has taught me to feel proud about learning what I need to do for me so that I can yell less and love more.

And it has taught me that struggling to be some one that I am not, struggling to push myself to be a person who doesn’t need or want to be productive just because that is what I feel I should be to be a good mom, just makes me stressed out! And we know a stressed out mom, is a yelling mom!

Wanting to be “productively productive” is okay.
Wanting to be “unproductively productive” is also okay.

What is more than okay, is finding the balance between both. And that is what I will continue to strive for so that I can continue to be true to who I am as a person and who I want to be as a mom. What I will not continue to do is push myself to be one or the other, because that just makes me want to scream!

What makes you happy? Is there something you want to do to stay sane but choose not to because you feel guilty? 

Read the post “Unproductively Productive”, the post that inspired this post, here.