Diary of a Blah Mom, Entry #4, Valentine's Edition

Arnor Bieltvedt, www.arnorbieltvedt.com, @artbyarnor

Valentine’s Day is coming up so I’ve been thinking about the topic of LOVE. Especially the love that we have for our kids. Whenever I get together with my dear pal (you shall remain nameless but you’ll know who you are…) and the subject of her kid comes up, she always says without hesitation “I love my kid soooooo much” with a genuine look of joy and happiness on her face. It’s like the mere thought of her kid brings up such strong feelings of love, joy and peace for her in any given moment. Her kid is actually a full-fledged adult now but for years I used to marvel at how awesome her kid must really be all the time in every moment, to illicit this kind of a reaction from her mom. I mean we all love our kids…I know that. I love my kids! And I know that all my friends love their kids so much and would do anything for their kids. But in my experience it’s still rare for a parent to have this sort of automatic, immediate feeling of pure love at the mention of their kid/kids. Take me, for instance. At the mention of my kids my default response is something like, “My kids are all going through their own super annoying phases and driving me nuts.” Because, let’s get real here…IT’S THE TRUTH!!! I’ve got one who is obsessed with and constantly in need of: NEW THINGS. And in spite of the fact that we have instituted a family-wide spending freeze which started at Christmas and will continue indefinitely, he still insists on selling me on the merits of this, that or the other new thing he is 100% sure will totally revolutionize his experience of being alive. Then I’ve got one who is going through a super messy phase…she can’t be somewhere without leaving socks, shoes, tape, scissors, markers, crumbs, wrappers, toys, parts of toys, etc etc etc. Then finally there’s our little guy who has recently decided to scream bloody murder every time he feels he is being treated unfairly, which is ALWAYS. So at any moment in time you will probably find me patiently or not so patiently listening to another recital of the merits of such and such necessary item, while tripping over all sorts of things left all over the floor, while hearing a continuous blood-curdling scream in the background. And my feeling is: ANNOYED. Have I mentioned this before on this blog? In every diary entry? Riiiiiiiight….insert guilty-faced emoticon here.

So here’s what blows my mind though. All people are neutral….not inherently good, bad, annoying or lovable…it’s only our thinking that makes it so. And sometimes we may choose to think certain people in the world are bad and that’s ok. But at the same time, I find that I am accidentally, inadvertently, creating all of these negative thoughts and feelings about my kids. If my kids are neutral people in the world, why am I not choosing to love them madly all the time? The person who will benefit most from me loving my kids madly is….ME. Because I would get to feel all that love whenever I want to! Just like my friend!

So over the course of the last year I’ve been working on all those subtle thought corrections on a day by day basis…there are good sides to all of the stuff I’m so annoyed by. I love that my oldest, Theo, always has some plan of what he wants to do…selling customized goods is his latest project…which of course required the purchase of special acrylic markers and white t-shirts…so much for the spending freeze…woh woh woh…but I love that he’s doing it and he’s gotten a whole group of his friends into the idea as well. Elise does make messes everywhere but it’s also awesome that she is always coming up with fun things to keep herself busy and learning new things in the process…and Gus and the screaming? It’s not super lovable but whenever I approach him in his screaming moments he melts into a hug so easily, which is the best. See? These are much better thoughts to think…I’m so much happier with these thoughts. I love that loving someone like crazy doesn’t mean you pretend that they are perfect. You don’t have to become one of those doting parents who thinks everything their kids do is perfect all the time. And even my dear friend who always says “I love my kid” doesn’t believe her kid is 100% perfection. She just loves her so much. Which is such a beautiful thing! Btw, if you don’t have kids, this works just the same for husbands, friends, family members, etc. I’ve been doing this work on my husband, Arnor, as well and now I hardly know what our marriage is about anymore without me being constantly annoyed at him all the time…but recreating it in a new way is so worth it. And then of course, there’s the final frontier of loving myself more…and you know what’s weird, that’s the hardest one of all. I feel like I’m having a total identity crisis because I don’t even know who I am anymore without all the negativity. But it’s the identity crisis I want to have so I’m just gonna go with it. I wish you all a Valentine’s Day filled with loving thoughts about the people in your life and the resulting feelings of love, joy, contentment and peace YOU get to enjoy! One more thing: I love you all for reading this and appreciate it so so so so much! Thank you!!!

Entry #3: Gryla, the Icelandic Christmas Hag

The holidays are upon us.  This is a great chance for children everywhere to see some really cranky parents.  And by cranky parents I mean me, Leah…blah mom turned cranky mom.  Everything was bumping along alright until this past weekend.  I had a million plans for holiday achievements that needed to be achieved and I unfortunately forgot one critical thing yet again: I have 3 kids.  And they are SUPER WOUND UP about the holidays! So progress on all the tasks was pretty much non-existent…  I could just feel the stress and overwhelm building as I looked around the house at unwashed clothes, washed-yet-unfolded clothes, washed-folded-yet-un-put-away clothes, the half trimmed tree, the 3 boxes of Christmas paraphernalia still lurking around the edges of the living room, 150 unsent Christmas cards, not-yet-wrapped-up gifts, not-yet-tucked-into-envelopes teacher gift cards and all the promises I had made to the kids about BAKING. Elise reminded me of these promises no less than 30 times between the hours of 6 and 9 am on Sunday morning.  And on top of all this, (those of you with an Icelandic husband like mine will know) the Icelandic Santas started coming on December 12!!!  December 12!!!  The Icelandic Santas are this hilarious group of trolls/elves who come at night and bring candy or small toys and leave them in the shoes of Icelandic kids. They have names like “Pot Licker,” “Door Slammer” and “Window Peeper.”  They are a mischievous bunch and they live in a messy cave with their “grumpy, unpleasant, disgruntled and annoyed” mother, Gryla, the Christmas Hag, who cooks misbehaving children in her cauldron (This information is from The 13 Yule Lads of Iceland by Brian Pilkington.) and their father Leppaludi who lays low to avoid being cooked in Gryla’s cauldron. It’s all starting to sound awfully familiar though (apart from the fact that I don’t even own a cauldron)…is there some deeper truth here? In any case, if you want to avoid giving the kids candy every day, you must have 13 little gifts for EACH KID! (And since I have reluctantly put Arnor in charge of all this, there has been a lower proportion of carefully-thought-out toys and a larger proportion of ridiculous amounts of candy prompting additional early morning mommy crankiness, like the day he gave them each a giant candy-cane-shaped plastic container filled with Christmas M&Ms. To Arnor: If you’re going to give them candy, at least make it: SMALLER.) Plus each Santa has a special snack that he enjoys, which must be left out and found half eaten in the morning. 

Elise being cooked in Gryla’s cauldron…

By Sunday I was on the verge of spontaneous combustion and reminding myself that stop, drop and roll is the proper procedure should I suddenly burst into flames…plus I know exactly where the fire extinguisher is as well. So that is comforting. “Dozens of people spontaneously combust each year, it’s just not really widely reported.” (This is a quote by David St. Hubbins from the movie Spinal Tap).  I’m pretty sure 99% of the dozens of people who spontaneously combust each year are moms at Christmastime.  After a long day of stressing myself out with thoughts like, “You are way behind in EVERYTHING” I was finally tucking my simmering self into bed under 3 layers of blankets to prevent spontaneous combustion while sleeping, only to remember that we forgot to put the Icelandic Santa gifts in the shoes and partially eat the snack!  NOOOOOO!!! 

It wasn’t until Monday when the kids went off to school and I had a moment to think straight and get my thoughts out of the total disordered state they were in (perfectly mirroring my house) that I realized, all this stuff that I need/want to do is actually a great opportunity for me to work on my inner Gryla.  It was very helpful for me to realize that (as is always the case) none of the holiday stuff or household mess is creating my stress and overwhelm. I’m creating that all by myself. I have this belief that if I can get everything done and stay on top of my overly optimistic schedule, that means I am one of those on-top-of-it moms who succeeds at everything and looks good while doing it. If I can keep my family and house in order, that means I can probably succeed at building a successful company and my kids will probably turn out amazing and all the rest of it. So it’s not just about the laundry and creeping clutter and holiday achievements, it’s a deeper meaning that I’m giving to the laundry and creeping clutter and holiday achievements that is really driving me nuts. The question is: can I think of myself as an on-top-of-it-all mon who is destined to succeed even while surrounded by the messy house, unfinished tasks and wound up kids? Even if I’m off schedule?  Even if I’m on the verge of spontaneous combustion or worse, if I’ve actually transformed into Gryla the Christmas Hag?!!  The truth is, since my thoughts are up to me, then of course I can. It’s just going against the grain in my brain. My brain is like, “Yup, here we go again.  You can’t handle the Christmas season which is a sign that it’s never gonna work out for you. You’re Gryla the Christmas Hag.” and I’m just falling for it! 

So while I work on my own perspective shift and believing that I’m one of those amazing on-top-of-it-all moms regardless of my Gryla-like tendencies and untidy cave…I mean house..I want to wish you all a lovely holiday season!!!  I hope you will take a moment in the midst of your self-created holiday craziness to appreciate all the work YOU have put in to making this time special for your little ones and loved ones. Even if you’re on the verge of spontaneous combustion or worse, you, like me, have transformed into Gryla, you’ve probably only gotten yourself to this place because of a lot of sweet intentions and unmanaged thinking. If this is the case, appreciating yourself is the perfect gift for you to give yourself this holiday season…it’s free yet priceless, plus no gift wrap or ribbon or tag or gift receipt required! It might even prevent spontaneous combustion or transform you back to the charming non-hag-like mom you really are. (Note: if you really can’t find it in your heart to appreciate yourself, give yourself the gift of a Prada handbag with a big bow on it…I bet even Gryla wouldn’t have been quite so grumpy had Door Slammer or Sausage Stealer given her one…) 

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Entry #2: Thanksgiving and Total Household Perfection

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This month’s installment of Diary of a Blah Mom is about what it means to be a “blah mom” like ME.  So today was my big kids’ first day off for Thanksgiving break.  I’ve been at pop-up shows over the past two weekends for Sweetgood and I am noticing the creeping disorder around me…apparently I was getting a lot more done around the edges of life on the weekends than I had realized…not to undermine the fantastic job my sweet husband has done with the kids and home (and he’s currently making their dinner while I write this…what a guy!) but let’s face it, moms have certain super powers.  So today I decided to give myself the goal of: “TOTAL HOUSEHOLD PERFECTION.”  The amount of tasks I needed to accomplish in order to achieve “TOTAL HOUSEHOLD PERFECTION” was rather lofty.  Packing and shipping Sweetgood orders, many loads of laundry (I lost count), bathrooms, bedsheets, backyard junk cleanup, etc.  All with my 3 kids, plus their best neighbor buddy and Maggie the Schnoodle in tow.  I was busy, busy, busy and pretty annoyed and frustrated all day.  And the kids were so IN THE WAY.  Elise baked a cake (the resulting mess equalizing and thus negating all prior household accomplishments of the am).  Theo and his buddy spilled a box of party decorations down the basement stairs and did not, I repeat, did not clean it up…upon questioning it turns out they did not, I repeat, did not actually spill it…it fell on it’s own after destabilization in it’s already precarious location on the shelf next to the basement stairs…and I only discovered it on my way down the basement stairs to retrieve a grim reaper costume from 3 years ago located in the halloween storage box somewhere in the basement because I could not, I repeat, could not listen to Gus ask me for it again!  Gus is going to be the grim reaper for Thanksgiving.  And after all of this, I didn’t even get in a morning shower, so every time I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror my thought was, “YOU STILL HAVEN’T EVEN GOTTEN DRESSED FOR THE DAY??!!!”  I was repeatedly shocked by this fact…

You may notice, none of the aforementioned circumstances were working for me and my goal of TOTAL HOUSEHOLD PERFECTION.  But here’s the ugly truth….the only reason I was dreaming of TOTAL HOUSEHOLD PERFECTION was to escape the feeling I had from the moment I woke up.  And the feeling was: BLAH.  There you go, folks!  It’s the most boring feeling imaginable!  Never was there a more blah feeling than the feeling: blah.  Blah is basically a combo of bored and sad and disappointed…or something in that vicinity.  Since thoughts cause feelings, I can track the blah feeling back to something like “A super-awesome, extra-special, uber-dazzling mom would not, I repeat, would NOT be living in a ridiculously messy, dirty, disorderly house like this!!!”  TOTAL HOUSEHOLD PERFECTION was clearly the totally perfect solution.  On the other hand, is it possible to be in a totally perfect environment and still feel blah? And an even better question is: why do I so want to feel super-awesome, extra-special and uber-dazzling all the time anyway? Is that how I actually want to define a successful life?

According to Brooke, the life coach, being human means having positive feelings 50% of the time and negative feelings 50% of the time.  So what I was doing today was using the dream of TOTAL HOUSEHOLD PERFECTION and the busy-ness as a way to escape my negative feeling (blah-ness)….trying to escape the negative 50%.  But the side effects of trying to escape the negative 50% weren’t worth the trade-off…now that I think of it.  The busy-ness was really just going on in my head.  I can only do one task at a time, so busy-ness is a mind game, keeping me distracted (by design) and not present with myself and how I am feeling and not present with my kids.  AND not present with Maggie the Schnoodle for heaven’s sake!!  It also dulls me out in general, so while I was escaping the blah I was also not feeling warm and connected at any point in the day.  And I’m more wiped out than ever from my mental busy-ness and the frustration and stress from not achieving TOTAL HOUSEHOLD PERFECTION…not physically tired but mentally tired.     

So tomorrow’s goal will be: HIRE A STAFF.  Just kidding….instead it will be: “FEEL THE BLAH-NESS.”  I’m just going to anticipate feeling blah and bored and sad and I’m not going to try to fix it.  I’m going to hang out with the kids.  We are going to bake an apple pie.  I’m going to vacuum and mop the floors.  And blah-ness can be my sidekick through all of this.  I’m not going to expect the kids to be neat and orderly.  I’m not going to expect the house to be neat and orderly.  I’m not going to get it all done…if there’s too much on my plate I’m going to remove something from my plate.  I’m not going to be busy.  I’m not going to achieve TOTAL HOUSEHOLD PERFECTION (even though I’m still thinking it sounds awfully nice…).  I’m going to try not to judge myself based on how the house looks AND most importantly, I’m not going to expect myself to feel super-awesome, extra-special or uber-dazzling at all!  I’m going to just be the best blah mom I can be.  Thank you my dear friends for reading this to the bitter end!!!!  Please subscribe to my blog by clicking the subscribe button in the pop-up window or in the left side-bar. I love you and have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

Entry #1: You Can't Control the Uncontrollable

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I’ve decided to share some of my parenting challenges and insights here on the Sweetgoody-ness blog. For those of you who don’t know, I’m Leah, the owner of Sweetgood and mom of Theo, 11, Elise, 8 and Gus, 5.  And this is a little about my life!

My favorite/least favorite thing about being a mom is how my three kids bring up all of my crappy inner issues…and it’s  ALL THEIR FAULT!  Ok…not really…I used to feel like raising kids (especially my kids) was really hard, taxing work.  My latest realization is that it’s not raising kids that is hard, taxing work, it’s living in my self-created internal world, with all of my crappy inner issues, that is the hard, taxing work.  But let me explain…I’ve been doing a life coaching program for a little over a year now and the main tenet of the program is the concept: everything outside of you is a circumstance and all circumstances are neutral.  BAM.  I know, it’s crazy.  So, your rambunctious kids having a pillow fight in the bedroom: neutral.  The toys and random stuff strewn all around the house: neutral.  All 3 of them talking over each other as loud as possible all at once to be heard but I can’t understand any of it: neutral.  My 8 year old boiling over in anger at my 5 year old for repeatedly singing “Elise is a poop”: neutral.  My 5 year old boiling over in anger at my 8 year old for repeatedly singing: “Gus is a poop”: neutral.  I could go on and on.

So last night my kids were having a pillow fight in the bedroom and when I yelled at them to stop, they started chasing each other around the house.  My feeling (SUPER ANNOYED) was caused by the pillow fight and chase….or so I used to think.  It turns out my feeling (SUPER ANNOYED) was actually caused by my thoughts.  What were my thoughts in that moment?  I actually had to stop and check in with my brain.  And low and behold, it turns out my brain was saying,”Your kids are totally out of control and it’s your fault for a) raising them wrong to begin with and b) not immediately coming up with an engaging and quiet alternative.  You’re a bad mom.”  (I love how my brain sneaks, “you’re a bad mom” into just about every thought that rolls through my head.  My brain is like “What a refreshing morning jog….and you’re a bad mom…”)  So it makes sense that when I’m constantly telling myself that I’m a bad mom, my experience of parenting would be hard and taxing.  And it makes sense that when I’m telling myself “Your kids are totally out of control and it’s your fault for a) raising them wrong to begin with and b) not immediately coming up with an engaging and quiet alternative.” that I would feel SUPER ANNOYED.  And I notice that when I’m feeling super annoyed, the person I’m really annoyed at is: ME….B R U T A L. 

All I want is for the kids to just make the charming choice to curl up next to each other in a giant adorable cuddle and read to each other quietly.  Because if they did that, I would feel proud and warm and happy and loving.  My feelings (proud, warm, happy and loving) would be caused by the cuddling and quiet reading….or so I used to think.  But it turns out, if such a thing ever did take place in this household, those feelings would be caused by my thoughts in that moment.  If I imagine that moment, I am pretty sure my brain would be telling me: “Look how kind and sweet and mature and well-mannered your kids are!!!  You are such an amazing mom!” And then I would do two backflips and bask in the wonderful thoughts and feelings until one of them bonked the other one on the head with a book and my brain would snap right back to “See, that was just a blip.  They’re really a bunch of bad seeds and it’s all your fault for being such a bad mom!!!”  And then again I would be feeling super annoyed, probably flavored with disappointment and sadness.

The problem with all of this is that I’m allowing my feelings to be dependent on my kids actions, which puts me in such a weak position.  To feel good I have to make sure my kids always behave calmly and pleasantly and considerately and quietly.  Have you ever tried to force your kids to be calm, pleasant, considerate and quiet?!  I’ve been working on it every day since they were born and I can tell you, IT’S NOT WORKING OUT FOR ME!  The master life coach of the program I’m doing (Brooke Castillo) says (something to the effect of): “You can’t control the uncontrollable and the uncontrollable is any other human being.”  How hilarious is THAT?!  And the best part is that I turned 40 last year and when I heard this I was like…”oh yeah…that is so true…” For 40 years I’ve been trying to control people and failing…but never realized why?….Feeling a little dim but thank you Brooke!!! I’ve also heard her say that if controlling other people was possible, her whole program would be entitled “How To Control Other People” which really made me laugh.  Because of course, how great would that be?  I could make my kids behave so nicely and I wouldn’t have to do the inner work of choosing to believe I’m a good mom even at a moment when by brain is telling me the exact opposite!

But that is THE WORK, to love myself and believe I’m a good mom even when the kids are acting like wild banshees.  And to sometimes find the good in it…like who hasn’t had a pillow fight as a kid?  Am I really going to go on the record as being an anti-pillow-fight-mom?!  So maybe I can think: “I’m glad the kids are having such a good time together.  I’m a good mom for allowing it.”  Then, magically, from a place of self-love and acceptance, I can choose to stop the pillow fighting and chasing without yelling and becoming a wild banshee myself (which ironically further reinforced the idea that I was a bad mom).  Sheer brilliance.  It’s so great to be such a genius….sigh….But here’s the crazy thing: it’s not that easy to make the switch.  We think it’ll feel like rainbows and unicorns to think good thoughts about ourselves but actually it feels lame and bad at first.  Because choosing to give up the old thoughts is kind of like a mini identity crisis…that I’m choosing to have because I don’t want to be annoyed and frustrated at my kids anymore.  So it’s actually a great challenge…and I love it so much more than the powerless feeling I used to have.  I love having a way out of those situations…even if it’s only after the fact that I’m able to go back and see what my thoughts were and rethink them for when future circumstances arise…luckily with little ones, there will be no shortage of “circumstances” in my near future.  If any of this resonates with you, let me know.  I’d love to hear it!  Thank you so very much for reading this, you are a true pal!  Also, if you want to get Diary of a Blah Mom entries direct to your inbox, please join my email list by clicking the subscribe button in the pop-up window or in the left side-bar. XOXO

The Diary of a Blah Mom

This is ME, Leah Bieltvedt. I’m the blog writer here…the teller of quirky tales of motherhood and personal enlightenment or near-personal enlightenment or not-anywhere-near-personal enlightenment. I have 3 charming kids, 1 charming husband and 1 charming schnoodle (that’s a schnauzer-poodle for anyone who’s interested). I am the founder, owner and general busy-body of a lovely children’s clothing company called Sweetgood. I create all the patterns and samples myself and work with local makers to do the rest…I spend a lot of time in the glorious mini van. My days are a mixture of taking care of our kids, our home and my little company, usually doing one thing while planning or wishing or feeling stressed about one of the other things. I’m a self-help junkie and I’m always looking for ways to increase my own power within my life and brighten the days of myself and my loved ones. I hope you can get a laugh or an insight or a sense of not-alone-in-motherhood-ness from this little site of mine.