10 years well spent: This volunteer has changed lives!

Phillips set to retire after a decade of service

Margo Phillips is set to retire her seat on the board of directors for Northeastern Indiana CASA after more than 10 years of service.

Margo Phillips is set to retire her seat on the board of directors for Northeastern Indiana CASA after more than 10 years of service.

ALBION – “I get so much more than I ever could give back,” said Margo Phillips a Northeastern Indiana CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) board member. After more than 10 years of service, Phillips is set to retire her board seat and is moving from the Lagrange area where she currently resides.

“I am involved in several things around the area, but it is really tough to leave CASA,” Phillips said. “If we weren’t moving out of the area I don’t know if I’d ever give it up.”

Phillips joined the board of directors at a time of change and transition for the non-profit. Northeastern Indiana CASA provides a voice for children who are involved in judicial proceedings, advocates for the child’s best interests, and works to improve their circumstances and quality of life. The organization serves Noble, Lagrange Dekalb, Steuben and Whitley counties, but 10 years ago, this cause was overseen by the area judges.

“I remember going to a meeting where the judges were going to hand this off to the community members. I didn’t know much about what it was about, so I Googled it,” said Phillips. “I was really touched when I heard CASA was about giving children a voice. I didn’t always have a voice when I was a kid. I liked the idea of kids having rights, having someone be there for them and having a chance at life.”

Having volunteered in other areas of the community, Phillips saw first-hand the need for community members to come along side children who were not always in a positive home environment.

“We automatically assume that these parents struggle with addiction or that they are poor, but these kids come from all sorts of backgrounds,” Phillips explained. “Whether it’s financial strain, addiction or volatile relationships, these children need a home that is stable and that can offer caring support and a nurturing environment.”

In her decade of service, Phillips has witnessed many “success stories” that touts the positive impact of Northeaster Indiana CASA. From corporate leaders to influential community members, Phillips has seen adults who built a life and give credit to their CASA volunteer for their success.  

“These adults only have a chance because of their CASA,” Phillips said. “Yes, they may have been moved to a foster home or even a boy’s school, but their CASA was there every step of the way. Our greatest resource is our kids. If someone will say ‘I will be here for you,’ it means the world. Many times, these kids have nothing else otherwise. They need someone to be there, to support them and to care. Our CASAs are people who have a direct impact on the destiny of a child.”

Phillips not only enjoys the work Northeastern Indiana CASA does with children, she has also “cherished” the time she has spent with other volunteers, board members and staff. She has developed a respect for the organization’s executive director Kristi Bachman.

“Kristi is filled with energy and love for these kids,” Phillips said. “She shares each pain and each joy these kids experience. She cries with them and celebrates with them. She has so much of herself invested in this cause.”

During her time as a board member, Phillips received several awards and recognition for her service and dedication to the non-profit. However, she is quick to share the honors with her fellow board members and volunteers.

“Our volunteers amaze me. They are so dedicated and committed,” said Phillips. “It’s great that we make such a difference and that we have such amazing support, but it stinks that we have to do this kind of work. Maybe someday things will change, but for now CASA is making a real difference.”

Given that Northeaster Indiana CASA serves somewhat rural counties peppered with small towns and communities, it might seem as if the need for CASA’s mission is not necessary. However, Phillips knows that the need is great and more volunteers are needed.

“This isn’t just something that happens on television or that happens in bigger cities,” she said. “I’ve heard these kids. I’ve seen their faces and I’ve heard their stories. This wasn’t something that happen off in some other place. I’ve sat 10 feet from them and heard it first-hand.”

Phillips said CASA volunteers want to see parents get the right tools and support to be the best for their children. It is “great” when a volunteer can help keep a family intact.

“I could have been a CASA kid,” Phillips said. “I say ‘but by the grace of God, there I go.’ Who will step up? We can make a difference and pay it forward. That’s what I wanted to do and that’s what I feel like I’ve done. There’s no change in just wishing things were different or by turning a blind eye to the need. Change comes when we come together to help each other and to break the cycle so our kids’ futures are better and brighter.”

To learn more about Northeastern Indiana CASA or to volunteer, visit www.neincasa.net.


NE Indiana CASA celebrates volunteers, 30 years of advocating

Several CASAs were honored for their years of service. Pictured, from left, are Pam Feller (10 years), Sonya Emerick (15 years), Stu Shipman (5 years), Cathy Aldrich (5 years), Bonnie Shipman (5 years), Lisa Laur (10 years) and Margo Phillips (10 years).

Several CASAs were honored for their years of service. Pictured, from left, are Pam Feller (10 years), Sonya Emerick (15 years), Stu Shipman (5 years), Cathy Aldrich (5 years), Bonnie Shipman (5 years), Lisa Laur (10 years) and Margo Phillips (10 years).

KENDALLVILLE – Volunteers were recently celebrated at an annual dinner held by Northeastern Indiana Dekalb, Steuben and Lagrange counties.

“Tonight we want to celebrate our successes, big and small,” said Executive Director Kristi Bachman. “We want to life one another up and help each other realize how important you all are.”

The annual dinner, held at Cobblestone Golf Course, highlighted several volunteers who had given years of service to the nonprofit.  Recognition was paid to Stu and Bonnie Shipman as well as Cathy Aldrich for five years of volunteer service; Pam Feller, Margo Phillips and Lisa Laur for 10 years of service; and Sonya Emerick for 15 years of service.

“All of our volunteers are so special and mean so much,” said Bachman. “We even have some past volunteers here with us tonight that are very cherished and special. Thank you to all of you for the part you’ve played in our 30-year history. I’m so proud of you all. You have made a real difference.”

Whitley County Circuit Court Judge James Heuer was the night’s speaker to which he shared his more than 25 years of experience working with CASA.

“We need you all and trust you,” said Heuer. “We rely on your insight and it is good to have you in the courtroom. Keep up the good work and all you do to help children in our area.”

According to Bachman’s report at the dinner, volunteers have already helped more than 460 children this year.

“I know this job you do is tough, it’s frustrating, it’s emotional and at times it’s heartbreaking. But as I’ve been so blessed to witness, it is also rewarding,” said Bachman. “Thank you to everyone for your part in making Northeast Indiana a better place for our children. I hope you feel a little lifted up, appreciated a lot and proud of what you do. Everyone in this room has had a part in making a better life for kids. You are a light in a world of darkness.”

See more photos of this even by clicking here!

Open houses scheduled in your area!


Northeastern Indiana CASA is looking for caring, compassionate people to take a child under their wings.  CASA is appointed by Judges to represent the best interests of abused, neglected, and at risk children in Court.  
Northeastern Indiana CASA will be holding OPEN HOUSES in your area on the following dates and locations:

  • Tuesday, August 9 at Cahoots Coffee Café  from 5-7 p.m. at 218 W Maumee, Angola
  • Wednesday, August 10 from 5-7 p.m. at Joanna’s Dealious Treats  at 201 S. Main St., Kendallville
  • Wednesday, August 17 from 5-7 p.m. at Carney Decorating Center House (formerly the Bed & Breakfast - next to the Decorating Center) located at 215 N. Detroit, LaGrange                        

Area CASA representatives will be on hand to answer any questions you might have about the responsibilities and rewards of being an advocate.  Enjoy some refreshments while you complete an application to volunteer!

For more information, please contact us at 260-636-6101 or visit our website at www.neincasa.net.  The next training is scheduled to begin October 17.
Northeastern Indiana CASA is funded in part by United Way and United Fund.


A generous gift becomes so much more than just dollars

Recently, Northeastern Indiana CASA received a donation to help further the mission to advocate for children and be a voice for kids. However, for Kristi Bachman, NEIN CASA's Executive Director, the donation was more than just dollars. 

"It’s easy to get discouraged in this job I do," said Kristi. "When I hear the horrific stories of abuse 'our' kids have suffered, and when I look at our list of kids waiting for an advocate – which never goes away - I feel the weight daily.  But there are many times in this job I am  moved by the goodness of humanity.  Last night was one of those nights."

A gentleman contacted NEIN CASA's office to invite Kristi to a special charity dinner to receive some recognition and a donation on behalf of NEIN CASA. 
"I had never spoken to this gentleman," Kristi said. "However, what we received was $500 from the Auburn Moose Family Center!  What a reminder that there are many wonderful people in this world -- Not only our dedicated advocates, but the many, many people who provide funds to keep our program going.  Thank you all for helping the children!!"

This donation did more than offer $500 to our nonprofit, but it offered support as if those who had given were cheering on the work being done by NE IN volunteers and staff. Thank you to Auburn Moose Family Center and for the other wonderful donors, supports and "cheerleaders" who support us in our work!

Superhero Spotlight: Jackie Boyle


***The following is series featuring Q & A's with CASA volunteers


Jackie Boyle is a volunteer and advocate for children through Northeastern Indiana CASA, serving Noble County.

Jackie Boyle is a volunteer and advocate for children through Northeastern Indiana CASA, serving Noble County.

Jackie Boyle has been a volunteer for Northeastern Indiana CASA for little over a year now. She serves Noble County and says the most rewarding part of being a CASA is "developing a positive relationship with a child who otherwise might have no other adult in his life he can trust. The CASA volunteer also gives the child a much-needed voice in court."

Q: What almost held you back from being a volunteer?

A: "I looked for a full year for a volunteer position after I retired from teaching, but I passed over CASA repeatedly because I thought it involved too much responsibility. While I recognized the importance of the organization and I saw the need for more volunteers, I didn't feel qualified for such an important task."

Q: What made you go ahead and do it anyway?

A: "After a year of not finding a volunteer position that I could really connect with, I decided to look more closely into CASA. After investigating for only a short time, I felt that this is where I needed to spend my time. I felt that I could use my skills working with kids doing something extremely important, and I made the decision to apply. When I went through the interview and heard about the training, I was sure that I had made the right decision, and I have not regretted doing so."

Q: What would you tell someone considering being a volunteer?

A: "I would tell people to look into the organization and to not be afraid of the responsibility. The training and guidance from the staff are excellent, and the kids in our community need CASA."

Q: If you could have any superpower what would it be? 

A: "I would eliminate drug addiction from the face of the Earth."

Q: If you could go back and be a kid for a day, what would you do?

A: "If I could be a kid for a day, I would go back to my childhood home in Fort Wayne. I was an incurable tomboy, so I was always outside doing something. My favorite spot was a shallow creek a block away, where we would play as kids. We would climb trees, cross the creek, get soaking wet, and make up wild adventures. We would spend all day there. It was great."

Q: What is a lesson adults could learn from children?

A: "Kids love their parents. Parents need to learn to put that love at the TOP of their list of priorities."


Become a voice for children in your area! Volunteers are needed!

Get volunteer information by clicking here!

Superhero Spotlight: Stu & Bonnie Shipman

***The following is series featuring Q & A's with CASA volunteers

Stu and Bonnie Shipman, from Whitley County, have been volunteering with CASA for more than three years. 

Stu and Bonnie Shipman, from Whitley County, have been volunteering with CASA for more than three years. 

Stu and Bonnie Shipman, from Whitley County, have been volunteering for more than 3 years. Together this couple finds their efforts rewarding because they are able to "connect with kids and ensure their lives are just a little bit better because of our presence."

Q: What almost held you back from being a volunteer?

A: "Stu was very reluctant to become a volunteer because he had never worked directly with troubled families.  I had been a teacher for 30 years and had always tried to help the children most in need, so it was a no-brainer for me."

Q: What made you go ahead and do it anyway?

A: "Stu became a volunteer because he was coerced, but has come to really appreciate and understand the role of CASA."

Q: What would you tell someone considering being a volunteer?

A: "Be fearless and do it!  If you never step out of your comfort zone in this life, you will never grow as a human being."

Q: If you could have any superpower what would it be? 

A: "To make parents 'parent' their children."

Q: If you could go back and be a kid for a day, what would you do?

A: "Eat ice cream for breakfast and then go to a day-long carnival."

Q: What is the best part of being a kid that you miss now that you are an adult? 

A: "Having an unfiltered mouth."

Q: What is a lesson adults could learn from children?

A: "Laugh more, cry more, and eat more pizza!"


You can make a difference!

You can be a voice for children who are powerless to speak for themselves.

Learn more about volunteering by clicking here!

Say What?!?!?! : A Parent's Goal Is Not to Raise Good Kids

courtesy of Dave Ramsey

We know our goal is not to keep our kids happy, turn them into little soldiers, or fulfill our unmet dreams. But if the goal is not to raise good kids, then what on earthis it?

Andy Andrews puts it this way: “The goal is not to raise great kids. It’s to raise kids who become great adults.”

It’s a subtle but powerful distinction. Kids can behave well out of obedience or fear, but that doesn’t mean they’ll do what’s best when they venture out on their own.Raising kids who become great adults requires instilling character traits that will inform future decisions and actions.

One of the best ways you can make sure your kids are ready to face adulthood one day is to teach them how to handle money now. That’s because money isn’t justabout money.

In Dave and Rachel’s new class, Smart Money Smart Kids, we learn that teaching kids to handle money really teaches them so much more.

When you teach a kid to work, you teach her responsibility.

That’s because work—whether it is chores around the house or a job at the mall—involves follow-through, best efforts and accountability. Work shows your daughter that she alone is in control of her actions, and that she will reap the consequences or rewards of her labor. Great adults are responsible.

When you teach a kid to spend, you teach him to use wisdom.

Spending money is fun. Kids totally get this. When you get involved, he learns that, yes, spending money is fun, but it’s also something that should be done with care. Smart spending requires good judgment—a vital life skill. Great adults use wisdom.

When you teach a kid to save, you teach her patience.

Our kids are growing up in a world of instant gratification. Saving money makes kids slow way down. This might hurt a little, but that’s okay. Saving money will show your daughter that she can’t necessarily have everything she wants right when she wants it. Great adults practice patience.

When you teach a kid to give, you teach him generosity.

Generosity is defined as the willingness to give, but that doesn’t come natural to many kids. As a parent, encourage the act of giving and watch your son’s heart change over time as he takes action.Generosity is a necessary weapon to fight against selfishness and greed. Great adults are generous.

When you teach a kid to avoid debt, you teach her honesty.

Debt allows people to live a lie. With debt, you can buy a bigger house, drive a nicer car, and eat fancier dinners. If your daughter wants to avoid debt for life, she’ll have to be honest with herself and everyone around her about what she can actually afford and, more importantly, who she really is. Great adults are honest.

When you teach a kid to be content, you teach him gratitude.

Contentment comes from the recognition that God owns it all. He created everything we have and all that we are. He cares about it all too. When kids grasp this concept, they can be okay with who God made them to be and what God’s given them to manage. Everything else is just a bonus. If your son learns to be content, he will be constantly grateful. Great adults practice gratitude.

Imagine your life twenty years from now. Your kids are grown and gone. What do you hope for their futures? Keep those dreams in mind as you start working on tomorrow today.

10 Powerful Affirmations That Can Change Your Life

courtesy of The Mind Unleashed

If you believe that you are what you feel, then life truly stems from your thoughts and emotions. Affirmations or the process of repeating positive words can boost your spirit to new levels. We must translate our thoughts into words and eventually into intention in order to manifest what we want in our reality. Affirmations are proven methods of self-improvement because of their ability to rewire our brains and have the power to change people’s lives. Science also says that positive self-talk definitely brings about changes in the brain. Here are 10 powerful affirmations that can change your life.

1) I can achieve greatness
One of the most influential ones is to tell yourself on a daily basis that you can achieve all the greatness in life. Focus on your vision and dreams and then attach the emotion to that vision. By telling this to yourself and believing that you can achieve greatness, it will eventually turn into reality.

2) Today, I am brimming with energy and overflowing with joy
Joy starts from within not from outside of yourself. It also starts as soon as you rise. So make it habit to repeat this to yourself first thing in the morning.

3) I love and accept myself for who I am
Self love is meant to be the purest and the highest form of love. When you love yourself, you automatically start appreciating and respecting yourself. If you have confidence and pride in what you do, you will begin to see yourself in a new light and be encouraged and inspired to do bigger and better things.

4) My body is healthy; my mind is brilliant; my soul is tranquil
A healthy body starts with a healthy mind and soul. If either suffers from negative emotions, the others will be affected. The number one cause of health or disease is you. You can also remove and revoke all permission that you have given consciously, subconsciously, to all the ills of the world because you share that pain. You are conquering your illness and defeating it steadily each day.

5) I believe I can do everything
You need to say this to yourself every day. Because this is something that is so important for counseling yourself to stay encouraged. By saying this, you are able to do anything and everything that you put your mind to.

6) Everything that is happening now is happening for my ultimate good
There are no victims, no accidents and no coincidences EVER. They simply do not exist in this reality as you and others will only attract what you and they are a part of. So know from the bottom of your heart that everything happens for a reason and in perfect synchronicity. You are at peace with all that has happened, is happening, and will happen. Your fears of tomorrow are simply melting away.

7) I am the architect of my life; I build its foundation and choose its contents
This is something that you should tell yourself when you wake up every morning. Every new day offers a fresh start and also makes an impact on others around you. You can make anything of that day that you like because you are the architect of your own life. If you begin your day with a positive thought and feeling it will transform your day into something incredible. Works every time.


8) I forgive those who have harmed me in my past and peacefully detach from them
That doesn’t mean you forget what they did, but you are at peace with what they did and the lessons served. Your strength to forgive is what allows you to move forward and your reaction to any experience is independent of what others think of you. You can forgive one thousand people and even if none of them forgive you, there will always be a sense of peace and freedom within you that they will never have until they share that sentiment. Your power to forgive them also instantly changes how they react to you.

9) My ability to conquer my challenges is limitless; my potential to succeed is infinite
Plain and simple, you have no limits but those you place on yourself. What kind of life do you want? What is stopping you? What barriers are you imposing on yourself? This affirmation will help you address all of the boundaries.

10) Today, I abandon my old habits and take up new, more positive ones
Realize that any difficult time are only a short phase of life. This too shall pass along with your old habits as you take in the new. You are a fully adapting being with creative energy which surges through you and leads you to new and brilliant ideas and the mindset that allows that energy to flow.

Josh Richardson is blogger, healer, and a constant pursuer of the natural state of human consciousness.

How to Monitor Your Kid's iPhone or Android Text Messages

Here’s some exciting news for parents looking to monitor their child’s text message activity. Child safety website TeenSafe has launched a new version of their app, which not only lets you view your child’s social network activity, but also lets you read the text messages they send and receive on their Android or iPhone.

Better still, you can even read text messages that have been DELETED on the phone!

Text message monitoring has been of huge interest in recent years. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, kids spend an average of 7 hours, 38 minutes a day connected to some type of electronic device. The big worry for parents is that they don’t often know what their child is doing on their phone, online, or in the real world — and their kids aren’t always forthcoming with what’s going on in their lives.

From sending friends seemingly innocent (but potentially provocative) photos, to online solicitations, sexting, or befriending some less-than-desirable characters, kids can make mistakes caused by youthful inexperience. Those actions can end up haunting a child and parent forever, but TeenSafe gives parents access and visibility into their child’s world.

TeenSafe also works on an iPhone. According to the website, you don’t need your teen’s phone to set it up, and you can monitor the iPhone without needing to jailbreak it, which can invalidate the iPhone warranty. All you need is your child’s Apple ID and password.

The application for Android smartphone installation is slightly different, but just as easy. Just enter some basic info, accept the app on the phone, and you're good go.

TeenSafe enables you to:

  • View your Teen's text messages, including deleted texts.
  • See Your Teen's Device Location.
  • Monitor Calls.
  • Monitor InstagramWhatsAppKik Messagesweb activity and more.

 Visit TeenSafe.com

Once you register with TeenSafe, the information gets downloaded to your private login page where you can read all the iPhone or Android text messages your child has sent and received. You can also view their phone call logs, phone contacts and web browsing history, as well as Instagram and WhatsApp activity. TeenSafe also uses the phone's GPS to track its location on a map.

And nothing shows up on your child’s phone, so they won’t know about it unless you tell them.

Admittedly, it can sound a little sneaky, but as long as you are the parent or guardian of the child it’s legal. As for whether or not you should tell your child, TeenSafe goes the common sense route by explaining that the decision is up to you.

Every family is different, and when it comes to protecting your children it’s sometimes good to open a dialogue. Other times it’s better to be discreet, such as when your child has already run into some trouble and you’re now trying to prevent him or her from encountering bigger problems.

So, whether you’re giving your child a cell phone for the first time and just want to keep an eye on them, or you have a teen exposed to more than they’re ready to handle, TeenSafe could be your way to safely and anonymously observe them without being a helicopter parent.

Discussing Heavy Topics: Why I Tell My Kids the Truth

courtesy of Parents.com

Whoever coined the phrase, “honesty is the best policy” likely wasn’t a parent. Because when dealing with kids, it’s typically not so simple. Son, Santa is watching. If you sit that close to the television, you’ll go blind. Put your seatbelt on or the police are going to take Daddy to jail. Lies, all of them. And pretty harmless ones. Except for possibly that last one.

But sometimes we can’t lie as parents, because we’re backed into a corner where the truth is too large to shove into our pocket. Once kids establish the ability to speak, they are going to have questions about life – tons of them, and even though the answer is clear to us, it likely won’t be to them.

Back in 2012, the most painful truth I ever had to reveal was sitting uncomfortably in a corner of my rattled mind. My mother, my sons’ grandmother, died suddenly at the age of 59. My younger son was 10 months old at the time, and sadly didn’t even notice her absence. But my older son, Antonio was a week away from turning three. My wife and I knew he’d be asking about her, and asking soon.

Then, one morning about two weeks later, I was driving Antonio to preschool, when he asked the question I assume he’d been holding onto for days.

“Daddy, is Grandma ever coming back?” My heart beat faster with each second off the clock as I desperately searched for an explanation which was neither deceitful nor harmful, one that satisfied the curiosity of a just-turned three year old. Three years later, I still have nothing satisfactory.

“No…she’s not. Honey, I’m sorry…but she’s not,” I managed to answer. I think he knew already, anyway. “But she will always love us and we will always have pictures and videos of her. And hey, how about that pillow fight you had with her last month?” I tried my best to deflect from the sadness, despite the growing lump in my throat. He nodded solemnly and buried his face into his car seat. Shortly thereafter, my father visited the Grand Canyon on vacation. When we told Antonio, he winced as he asked us, “Is he coming back?” He used to think you had to be “really old to die.” He was beginning to learn at an early age that life wasn’t exactly that simple. However, almost three years after losing her, when he brings her up, he smiles.

Two weeks ago, I was sitting cross-legged on Antonio’s bedroom floor, sorting through dollar bills and quarters. “Why are you taking the money from my piggy bank to the actual bank?” the almost 6-year-old Antonio inquired. After all, he was beginning to enjoy dumping it all out on the floor and swimming around in it like Scrooge McDuck. Without thinking, I answered.

“To keep it safe,” I said. I grimaced, immediately wanting the words back. Because I knew what the inevitable next question was.

“Safe from…what?” he shot back, confused.

And I found myself at the honesty crossroads. Should I be open with my rapidly maturing son and expose him to the potential evils of the world, or spit out some fairytale rhetoric that’d be a blatant lie. He made the decision easy for me.

“You mean, in case there’s a robber?” he asked, void of the fear I had expected to hear from such a question. I froze. My wife and I had had plenty of conversations about the upbringing of our children. How to discipline them, foods we’d allow them to eat before bed, etc. But how to answer a question that, answered truthfully might give him nightmares for a week? This wasn’t covered in any pre-offspring chat. I’d simply (or not so simply) have to decide on my own exactly how much truth Antonio was able to handle.

“Yes, in case there’s a robber,” I finally answered, nonchalantly. At that point, I couldn’t exactly say I was kidding. Trying to quell his anxiety, I added, “But I really don’t think that’s going to happen. What’s much more likely to happen is you misplace and lose the money, and we don’t want that to happen.” I shot him a playful grin, and he returned it and nodded. While I think I handled it appropriately, I often wonder if I planted a seed of fear far too soon. He hasn’t come running to my bed with nightmares since, so fingers crossed paranoia has been avoided.

I like to think that, by being candid and displaying the ability to explain how life works with my children, that they will be more likely to be candid with me. And that’s the type of relationship I want with my kids, where we’re both equally confident approaching the other with a question and receiving an honest answer. Unless, of course, that question is about the existence of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, or related to how their baby sister got into their mother’s belly. I’m not quite ready to scar them that much quite yet.

How do you handle the tough questions from your kids? Deflect them? Tell the truth regardless of the consequences? Let’s continue this conversation in the comments section.

Joe DeProspero is a freelance writer and blogger of all things parenting. His writing was once described as “every thought I’ve ever had that I didn’t deem appropriate to share with others.” He lives in New Jersey with his wife and two sons, and can be followed on Twitter @JoeDeProspero or emailed at jdeprospero@gmail.com.

This Mom Went an Entire Year Without Yelling at Her Kids, and Shows How You Can, Too

courtesy of Parents.com

How long could you go without yelling at your kids? A month? A week? Gulp, a few hours?

Parents, the kind who know how to behave in polite society, don’t lose their cool in public. Nope, we save the screamy moments for behind closed doors. But—blush!—Sheila McCraith was caught red-handed when her handyman came upon her yelling at her four boys, then all under the age of five. “We’re talking red-in-the-face, body-shaking, full-on screaming. I was mortified by my behavior…and then, after some soul searching, inspired to finally change my behavior,” says McCraith. McCraith set a formidable goal: She wouldn’t yell at her children for 365 days. Even more ambitious: If she did yell, she would have to reset her counter, and start her no-yell challenge over from the beginning. Because she’s human, McCraith did break down: eight times.

When McCraith went public with her experience, launching a blog called The Orange Rhino Challenge, she met many others—moms, dads, grandparents, teachers, caregivers—who identified with her struggle, and shared her same feelings of shame, disappointment, and frustration. Me? I’d prefer to hide from the conversation here and say I don’t have a yelling problem per se, but who am I kidding? I, too, have yelled with the best of them, and like McCraith, I’ve really regretted those times, even though my kids still love me and seem to forgive me.

Still, who wants to be a yeller, ever? That’s why I was so glad to learn about The Orange Rhino blog, which was one of our winners in Parents’ Best Blogs of 2013. McCraith has compiled her hard-won success and experience into a new handy, easy-to-follow book, Yell Less, Love More. What I love about this book is that it’s written by a fellow parent who’s so been there. (Four kids!) McCraith gets us. And she’s generously baring her screw-ups and success for the rest of us to learn, and to simply feel less ashamed and alone. “Parenting isn’t about perfection, but about progress,” McCraith writes. “Mistakes happen. It’s what I do afterward that’s more important than the mistake.”

These are just a few helpful tips from McCraith, a “recovering yeller.”

1) Yell at inanimate objects.

“Inanimate objects don’t have feelings, kids do,” writes McCraith, who’s yelled into toilets and into refrigerators. “The waffles in the freezer won’t get scared if I yell at them, my kids will. The toilet won’t scream at me, ‘You’re the worst person ever!’ if I yell into it; my kids will.” The more McCraith practiced controlling where she directed her yells—and the more her kids laughed watching her yell at her clothes—“the more I learned to calm myself down so that the yell didn’t come out at all.”

2) Track your triggers.

It’s hard, uncomfortable work, but McCraith suggests writing down when you yell, or even when you’ve wanted to yell and didn’t, so you can recognize trends. As she points out, when you can recognize triggers, you can gain mastery over them, instead of letting them master you. McCraith notes that writing down the superficial reasons—the kids left crayons out, or they wouldn’t stop whining—will help you to dig deeper when looking over the day’s events. Then you can ask yourself: Were the kids really acting “bad,” or were they merely being kids, and I was perhaps just in a bad mood? Did I have a fight with someone today? Is my to-do list overwhelming me today?

3) Fix the fixable triggers.

Agitated before dinner because you have no clue what you’re going to eat, and people still need to be fed day after day? McCraith suggests making a menu for the week every Saturday morning, grocery shopping for said menu, and posting the menu on the fridge. Poof! The stress of what to cook and not having the necessary ingredients is gone, along with a trigger for yelling. I identify with one of McCraith’s personal triggers: clutter. I can’t stand watching it amass in the family room, the kitchen, the kids’ rooms, and it’s when I’m most likely to have a sudden outburst. I like McCraith’s simple suggestion of taking five minutes each night to put away any clutter she sees. So the next morning when she has four kids asking for milk, juice, and cereal, she starts calmly with a clean counter, instead of an agitating, most-likely-to-trigger-yelling scene.

McCraith has these and many more wonderful insights. With 100 alternatives to yelling in the book, there’s really no excuse. She has a summary of her top 10 revelations about yelling, and I’ll be keeping this sweet, motivating one in mind:

“Good things happen when I don’t yell. Whether it’s extra hugs, extra spontaneous ‘I love yous,’ or extra special conversations, good things happen if I keep it together.”

Gail O’Connor is a senior editor at Parents and a mom of three. You can follow her on Twitter @gailwrites.

My Daughter is Not Giving Me a Hard Time, She is Having a Hard Time

All the tantrums, all the defiance, the yelling, the fighting and even the destruction; but none of it to make my life miserable. To believe that would be self-centred and narrow-minded. Even so, when faced with these events, it can be difficult to see that the hardship I am faced with at that moment is a drop in the ocean compared with what is going on for her.

I am sure if I could remember back to my four year old self, I would remember the confusion, the frustration, the jealousy, the feeling that nobody understood, the lonely feelings and the sad ones. I think I would also remember that the hurts I felt were real and mine to feel. They were not for someone else to own and reciprocate nor were they fabricated to give my parents a hard time. They simply were what they were and all I would have wanted was for someone to get me, to see me and to understand me.

But I don’t always remember this. I don’t always get it when my daughter is screaming at me or her sister and sometimes I don’t even really try. Sometimes it is easier to pass it off as tiredness or hunger and just simply her personality, rather than to truly see what is going on. It can be exasperating and if my mind is not strong, it can be easy to show annoyance and reflect my own hardships at having to deal with it, back at her

I am now beginning to realise that when I let myself become affected by her behaviour and begin to believe that my hard time is harder than her hard time, I am no longer being the respectful parent I am aiming to be. My reactions become intolerant and unempathetic. The effects of these reactions for my beautiful, sensitive girl are long lasting.

Lucy became upset recently after seeing her younger sister, Penny, receive a colourful new mattress protector to help with bed wetting. She didn’t show her reaction directly upon seeing the liner, in fact she ogled over it and admired the beautiful design. Lucy is a long way off staying dry through the night so, still being in a nappy, she does not require such a liner for her bed. I could tell she wanted one, though.

About 2 minutes after seeing the liner, Lucy’s behaviour became erratic and unpredictable. She swiped a car her sister was offering her out of her hand and shouted that she did NOT want to play with her.

Now, if I was not parenting objectively here, not seeing the bigger picture and not seeking to understand the hard time my daughter was having, it could have been easy to run to the defense of Penny, and to see the aggressive acts from Lucy simply as poor behaviour. Her hard time could have become lost in translation as I sought to discipline her and teach her that Penny was trying to be kind so it was not nice to treat her that way.

Instead, I sat with her as she was curled up screaming under her sister’s bed. She yelled for me to go away. I told her that I would go away if that’s what she wanted but that I still loved her no matter what.

My daughter is not giving me a hard time, she is having a hard time!

I paused before I left and said: “You know, whatever is making you feel sad is okay. It’s okay to feel what you are feeling.”

She cried louder as she blurted out “Daddy said I was naughty!”

As it turned out, Daddy had not said this to her, we have never used naughty to describe our children’s behaviour. But it made me realise that this is probably how she perceived herself at that moment. She knows what the word means and in her own mind she had convinced herself that this was how we viewed her.

Every time we react to her behaviour with exasperation as though she is giving us a hard time, we are sending her the message that we think she is naughty or there is something wrong with her, without needing to use those words. Every raised voice, loud sigh, stern word or cold shoulder is absorbed and swallowed by our little girl to be carried around with her throughout her days.

I admitted to her, “You know, Daddy and I both sometimes say and do things we don’t mean when we are angry. I wish we didn’t. We know you are not naughty. Nobody is naughty in our house. We always have to remember that we are all just still learning.”

She then blurted out: “You said you didn’t want to be my best friend (a phrase she herself frequently uses when things are not working out the way she is expecting it to)!” I was confused at first but she clarified: “When we went to Stradbroke Island, you told me I was not your best friend. I cried and went to my room and then you came in and told me you shouldn’t have said that!”

A vague memory stirred. The Stradbroke Island trip was over 8 months earlier and I seemed to remember having a stressful, emotion charge moment with Lucy where she was hitting at me, trying to bite me and shouting that I would never ever be her best friend.

In a moment of parenting thoughtlessness I had told her that that was okay. That I didn’t want to be her best friend.

In hindsight, it was an awful and immature thing to say to a child having a hard time and needing love and acceptance. I had believed in that moment that I was being given a hard time. That my hard time was more important than hers and my reactions came accordingly. Now, here she was, 8 months later, still holding onto that pain she had felt back then.

I am grateful, though. I am grateful that she has finally been able to verbalise these feelings. She has let us in on a little part of what is happening inside her, each time she snaps seemingly out of the blue.

She carries with her so many emotions. Her outbursts seem out of the blue because despite outward appearances she is is actually self regulating her emotions most of the day. The feelings are always there, simmering, but she covers them up through cleverly masked disguises.

I often say to people she seems to go from 0 to 100 in 0.5 seconds flat. But what I am now realising is that she more likely sits on 95 for much of her day, covering this up very well and then reaches 100, very quickly, screaming vehemently like a leashed tiger being tortured, when she can no longer hold it in.

As Lucy sobbed into my arms that day, I was able to deeply apologise and reassure her that my love for her was strong. I told her of all the qualities I loved about her. Her generosity, her kindness, her strength, her determination, her adventurousness, her ideas, her assertiveness, her helpfulness, her loving spirit, her zest for life, her confidence and bravery. I genuinely admire these things in her but I don’t get to tell her enough.

I also spoke about her ill feelings towards Penny. This is a HUGE part of her hard time: “You wish Penny wasn’t here sometimes. Sometimes you wish it was just you.”

She cried out “Yeeeeeeeeeesssssss!” as if i had finally got it.

I told her I get it. I told her I understood and it was normal to feel that way. I empathised that I had felt that way about my younger sister when I was little. I told her I couldn’t make Penny go away and that I loved her too but I reminded her that I was there for her and would always help her whenever she needed it. I also pointed out that my sister and I eventually had lots of fun together and are now best friends.

Her arms were wrapped around me but she clawed her fingers deeper around my back, trying to squeeze a little harder, not wanting to let go. I didn’t make her.

At those times, when my daughter is playing up, acting out or expressing emotion, I have to stop seeing these behaviours as personal threats against me and my sanity.

I must remember:

She is not seeking to derail me.

She does not want me to fall to bits on her.

She does not want me to see her as naughty.

She can’t cope if I can’t cope with her.

It is not always about food or sleep.

She is trying to tell me something; something important.

Her hard time is harder than my hard time.

It’s a lot to remember but I am committed and know I can do it!  (For a free copy of this text click here: I Must Remember Printable)

Volunteers as a CASA to be a voice for children!

Want to learn more? Click here! 

You shop. Amazon gives!

Northeastern Indiana CASA is excited to announce our partnership with Amazonsmile.com. When you shop online using our charitable link, a percentage of your purchase total is donated to NE IN CASA! Here's how it works:

  • Shop online using this web address: : http://smile.amazon.com/ch/35-2019598.
  • Amazon donates 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to Northeastern Indiana CASA
  • AmazonSmile is the same Amazon you know. Same products, same prices, same service!

Remember, Father's Day is Sunday, June 21. Help us grow our AmazonSmile donation potential by shopping for dad at http://smile.amazon.com/ch/35-2019598 in support of Northeastern Indiana CASA!

All around new faces!

Northeastern Indiana CASA has recently added a new staff member as well as two new advocates. We are excited to see our mission growing with great hearts that care for children. 

New CASA Volunteers recently were given their volunteer oaths to start their mission to advocate for children. Pictured is Noble Superior Court Judge Michael Kramer with CASA volunteer Jackie Boyle. 

LaGrange Superior Court Judge Lisa Bowen-Slaven recently gave new CASA volunteer Jennifer Lawrence her oath to advocate for children.

We are excited to add Melissa Hyre to our staff! Welcome Melissa!!! She will be working as a staff guardian ad litem.

Superhero Spotlight: Cheryl Weaver

***The following is series featuing Q & A's with CASA volunteers

Cheryl Weaver is a CASA volunteer in her 9th year serving Steuben County

Cheryl Weaver is a CASA volunteer in her 9th year serving Steuben County

Cheryl Weaver is from Steuben County and in her 9th year as a CASA volunteer. In this Q&A with Cheryl, she shares some passionate reasons why she gives of her time in order to be a voice for children.

Q:What is the most rewarding part about being a volunteer?

A: "Realizing a child's life is better because of my part in the process."

Q: What almost held you back from being a volunteer?

 A: "I was afraid I would let my 'soft heart' get in the way of my judgement.  I do struggle from time to time with this, but Kristi (Bachman, executive director) is always the voice of reason, and brings me back."

Q:What made you go ahead and do it anyway?

 A: "I was a teacher and loved working with children and their parents.  I wanted to volunteer somehow during my retirement years, and this seemed to fit my desires and my skills."

Q: What would you tell someone considering being a volunteer?

A: "It can be heartbreaking, but oh, so rewarding.  You can make a difference in a child's life for the brief time you are there.  And, that difference may not even be visible to you or the child, but it is there.  Show up - both physically, and emotionally.  Be there when you say you will be and let them know that you are just there for them for this time in their lives, not their parents.  Just show that you care."


You can make a difference!

You can be a voice for children who are powerless to speak for themselves.

Learn more about volunteering by clicking here!

Realtors participate in unique give-back

Members of the Northeastern Indiana Board of Realtors, pictured with Northeastern Indiana CASA Executive Director Kristi Bachman, are working to supply suitcases for children.

Members of the Northeastern Indiana Board of Realtors, pictured with Northeastern Indiana CASA Executive Director Kristi Bachman, are working to supply suitcases for children.

Have you ever moved from one house to another? The task can be daunting. But boxes, packaging tape, some muscle and a few pick up trucks can make the job a little easier. Imagine if you didn't have boxes, bags or suitcases to pack your belongings or transport those items. How frustrating, exhausting and overwhelming would it be to carry arm loads instead of taking truck loads. 

For children who are moved out of their homes, a suitcase can be a valuable item. Now Northeastern Indiana CASA will be able to provide suitcases to these kids thanks to the help and support of  the Northeastern Indiana Board of Realtors.

We are excited to partner with these professionals. They know first hand how the right tools can make a transition, such as a move, somewhat easier to weather. With the suitcases they are able to provide, children served through the CASA program will have what they need to carry and transport their personal belongings when it is necessary for them to be removed from their home.

Thanks to the Northeastern Indiana Board of Realtors for choosing to make a difference in such a great way! 

Want to volunteer as an advocate for children? Do you have a desire to give back to children? Click here to learn more about our volunteer program.

Teaching Children Etiquette

Home and Garden

To some, the words children’s etiquette may sound like an oxymoron or else something straight out of the 1950s. In 1965, the book White Gloves and Party Manners became the go-to manual for the young and socially-graced, delving into subjects such as how to set a table, exit a car, greet guests, sit properly, etc. In fact, it’s still around. But how many of us knew that?

Today, our overscheduled, multitasked days and nights make it hard for moms and dads to teach their kids anything but the basic pleases and thank yous – if there’s even time for that. Nevertheless, child experts say instilling manners and respect for others early makes learning stick, and will carry kids farther into their teen and early adult years as they get noticed and impress those around them. In short, the right way of doing things will make them stand out.

Maybe paramount to that, if approached in the form of a game, little ones are all too eager to learn and embrace the art, making it less of a power struggle for their parents. Believe it or not, even today appropriately shaking hands, helping behaviors, saying excuse me, first impressions, making eye contact, park and playdate etiquette, being on time, accepting a not-so-coveted gift, proper use of escalators/elevators/doors, good sportsmanship, and being a gracious host to friends and family are all learned behaviors. Most kids are not born knowing they shouldn’t interrupt, or how to hold the door for someone at the grocery store, not to point, or how to genuinely look someone in the eye when greeting them.

With that, games aside, it’s true that children learn by example – even if you think they’re not paying attention. Modeling behaviors is a great teaching tool. If you practice elbows off the table, so will they; if you tell a child to wait until you’re finished talking to speak, make sure you give her your undivided attention when you are ready to listen. She will understand that your attention is her reward for doing the right thing.

Always say thank you to your child – even if he’s only handing you his soiled painting smock. And say please – even if asking your son to pick up his toys for the 5th time.

For family games that cause kids to think and enjoy learning about etiquette, these ideas can be challenging and fun (be sure to make age-appropriate):

What Would You Do?
Cut out some cards from sheets of cardboard and write a different scenario on each. These may include someone pushing a stroller while juggling lots of grocery bags, friends spreading rumors about a classmate, passing and serving food at the table, sitting on a crowded bus or train when an elderly person steps up, etc. Have everyone choose a different card and explain how they would handle the situation.

Beat the Clock
Put all the necessary items (flatware; napkins; plates; salad bowls; glasses) for a proper table setting in the center of the table, or within reach of each child. See who can do a complete place setting the fastest, with no mistakes (again, make this exercise age-appropriate).

Dolls and Toys
Both genders learn well from using dolls and stuffed animals to illustrate manners scenarios. Encourage your children to use these to set up various scenarios (someone disabled who is unable to reach an item high up on a shelf in the grocery store), and ask them to demonstrate how they would handle it.

Etiquette Tea Party
No – they’re not dinosaurs. Most children hold a tea party at one time or another with their toy dishes, dolls, and stuffed animals (and mom or dad stuffed into a tiny chair!). But why not make it real? Invite their friends and have your daughter or son play gracious host. Have the boys pull out chairs for the girls. Serve tea and scones (or brownies, etc.), but make sure no one begins eating until all have been served. Place napkins on laps and teach them how to stir their tea without making a lot of noise. This is a fun, yummy way to learn manners – something they’ll remember and their friends will take home with them.

Manners Police
When you are reasonably sure your kids are mastering their manners, give each of them a little pad of bad and good manners “tickets.” If they catch one another or their parents defying the rules of etiquette, they get to hand out a bad manners ticket. If someone gets five or more of these, they have to clear the entire table or perform some other chore. Conversely, if they receive five good manners tickets, they get a reward such as a gold star or maybe a movie or meal of their choosing.

Beth Herman is a freelance writer and frequent Farmers' Almanac contributor with interests in healthy living and food, family, animal welfare, architecture and design, religion, and yoga. She writes for a variety of national and regional publications, institutions, and websites. Her Story, "Remember Any of These Famed Furry Friends?" can be seen in the 2015 Farmers' Almanac.

Volunteers equipped to benefit children

Recently, CASA volunteers gathered for spring training sessions to become more knowledgeable and equipped to advocate for children. 

CASA provides a voice for powerless children involved in judicial proceedings; advocates for their best interests; and strives to improve their circumstances and quality of life. As part of volunteer requirements, the training is one of several facets to the volunteer process. 

In addition to an application process, volunteers attend a minimum of 30 hours for initial training, and 12 hours of annual continuing education thereafter.  To learn more about the volunteer process, commitments and requirements, click here! 

View more photos from training by clicking here! 

Superhero Spotlight: Stan & Anne Ferguson

***The following is series featuing Q & A's with CASA volunteers

Stan and Ann Ferguson have been serving Steuben County for four years as CASA volunteers.

Q: What is the most rewarding part about being a volunteer?

A: "Feeling like you may have made someone's life a little easier, a little happier, and a little better."

Q: What almost held you back from being a volunteer?

A: "Our other activities and time commitment."

Q: What made you go ahead and do it anyway? 

A: "We felt it was a valuable way to use our time. It was something we as a couple could do together to help support those who face many hardships in their everyday lives. You get back more than you give." 

Q: If you could have any superpower what would it be?  

A: "An over abundant love to share with others in order  to take away the hurt, pain and rejection and give hope and joy!"

Q: If you could go back and be a kid for a day, what would you do?

A: "Nothing different. We were blessed with loving and stable families as well as good and fun times with both family and friends."

Q: What is the best part of being a kid that you miss now that you are an adult?  

A: "The ability to engage more freely and creatively in play."

Q: What is a lesson adults could learn from children?

A: "Find and experience the best in each moment."

You can make a difference!

You can be a voice for children who are powerless to speak for themselves.


Learn more about volunteering by clicking here!