Entry #7: Loving What Is…or Isn’t…

Blah Mom and the Covid Crew

I’ve been reading Loving What Is by Byron Katie. That’s “Loving What Is” as opposed to my own personal mantras; “Hating What Is” and “Loving What Isn’t.” It’s an amazing book about dropping into the beauty of reality. I am noticing all the ways I am arguing with reality and how that hurts me. Here’s a great example from my own personal history book. My oldest son, Theo (he’s 11 now), was a horrible sleeper as a baby. I really started going nuts about it when he was around 9 months old. He woke up at night…multiple times…for months…years…decades! Ok not decades…but let’s say 1-3 years. It was bad. It was all the things all the books told me was wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong (and definitely not right). I had read all the books so I thought I knew what to do. But I didn’t. So I turned to: MORE BOOKS. More books gave my lots more ideas which didn’t work at all. I felt awful because I believed more sleep was the key to Theo’s future success and I believed that I should be able to make him SLEEP! I was SURE I was just doing it wrong. I was also pretty sure there was something wrong with me, causing all the methods to not work for me.

When I look back I see that I was in a deep state of “Loving What Isn’t” and “Hating What Is.” I loved the idea of him sleeping through the night every night, falling asleep peacefully at his bedtime and napping solidly for 2-3 hours every afternoon. I loved the idea that his brain would develop so well with all that sleep. I loved the idea of the peace and downtime and SLEEP I would get if he slept better. I loved the idea of me being the mom who could take care of business. It was a beautiful vision that I LOVED. And I hated: everything that was reality. He was AWAKE at 10 pm, after having cried for 2 hours (sleep training). Then he was AWAKE at 1 pm. Then he was AWAKE at 5 am and ready to start the day. And finally: He was NOT NAPPING at 1 pm, after having cried for 2 hours at last night’s bedtime, awoken at 1 pm, and awoken again at 5 am to start the day! And I hated the reality that all of the books I read and the things I tried didn’t work. I hated the reality that I couldn’t control his sleep.

When I look back I remember how Arnor treated me with the sort of kindness and compassion that you have for someone who is completely insane. He spoke to me in a gentle voice, agreed with everything I said, tiptoed around… He had not read any of the books and would have just rolled with the under-sleeping baby, had I not been 100% convinced that reality was wrong and the picture in my brain was right. Theo eventually grew out of it. That is to say with 100% clarity and assurance: I did not TRAIN him out of it. He grew out of it when he was ready to. And since then he has slept fine. 

When I went on to have my two other babies, I found that I felt so much more peace and enjoyment in that baby phase. I had gotten the idea of a perfectly-sleeping baby out of my head, so I didn’t have that vision to love. So when they didn’t sleep very well, I just accepted it and moved on. I remember talking about the whole baby sleep drama with my college roommate, Jenny, and she said, “Your kids sound just like you.” (If I remember right, she also pointed out that me fighting endlessly with reality didn’t surprise her much either…ahem). It had never really occurred to me that maybe my kids had just inherited my high energy, borderline hyperactive tendencies. And I realized: those tendencies have actually served me pretty well through the years. I started to find ways to make my life better within the confines of reality. I think this was the equivalent of loving what is.

It turned out that I was so much better at coming up with creative solutions for my life once I stopped fighting with reality. Elise and Gus both loved to sleep in the car and their naps never survived the transfer from car seat to crib. Some of my friends from back then will tell you, I was the mom who removed that giant convertible toddler car seat (the one that’s not designed to be conveniently removed) at any and all times and lugged it around with the sleeping baby in it. I found a method of balancing it on our other stroller, which didn’t endanger their safety too much. And you know what? It worked a lot better than the advice in all the books! I was happier and I had more time to myself. I could plan my day around those car naps. 

As I think back on this, I start to notice all the ways I’m “hating what is,” now. Or let us say, fighting with reality rather than accepting it and moving on. I’m challenged by remote learning and remote summer school because I have limited time to work on my company. And I see how I’m fighting with it rather than finding the clever workarounds. I’m so disappointed by the evaporation of our summer travel plans that I can’t even imagine a clever workaround for summer fun right here at home..even though we have such a lovely home, this should be a no brainer! And on it goes. Byron Katie says that reality is never wrong. Reality is always right, because it just IS. Clearly I’ve got my work cut out for me….I hope you are all well and I wish you a lovely summer! Thank you for reading!

Gus asleep in his giant toddler car seat…I couldn’t find a photo of him asleep in it, OUT of the car…apparently I didn’t find it that photo-worthy at the time. I also couldn’t find a photo of him asleep in the car seat lacking a large bag of Doritos…and what’s worse: this photo was taken in Iceland…so we actually purchased this bag of Doritos in Iceland…Oh the SHAME….

Entry #6: How to Create Inner Drama

This post is about me and my son, Gus, pictured here. Photo by Chandra Wicke Photograpy

Ok, I admit, this isn’t a how-to blog post…sorry if that’s a big disappointment. If you DO happen to be one of those naturally balanced, peaceful humans and you are tired of meditating and breathing deeply, this post might help you find the path towards inner drama…I’m the perfect guide because inner drama comes so naturally to me! It’s like, I don’t even have to TRY! In the absence of all the external things that used to keep me busy and distracted, I have up-levelled my inner drama to keep myself busy and distracted.

99% of my inner drama is too ridiculous and embarrassing to even write here…and if you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that that’s really saying something. In any case, one shareable example is how I got myself all twisted into a Bavarian pretzel because Gus doesn’t really miss school or his friends all that much…except for his friend, Rocco. And he really doesn’t like Zoom calls…his nursery school teachers have been running Zoom calls for his class and the other kids really look into the camera, engage with each other and the teachers and ask and answer questions. In contrast, Gus does not engage, say hello, or ask or answer questions. Instead he does one or more of the following: plays with the Zoom settings, messes with my computer, rotates his Zoom background, mutes and unmutes himself, raises and lowers the sound on my computer, makes loud bizarre noises, answers questions with loud bizarre noises, makes strange and bizarre faces, answers questions with strange and bizarre faces, falls off his chair on purpose, hides behind things or under the table and/or asks me repeatedly if the call is over yet. As the weeks went by I was gradually getting more and more stressed about Gus’s lack of Zoom ability…and wondering why the other parents were all saying how much their children LOVE the Zoom calls, miss their school and their friends while Gus is…well….pretty satisfied with his new hermit lifestyle. 

I spent lots of time coming up with stressful theories to answer my question. For example, he has social anxiety, he has a social disorder, he is simply not as smart as he should be for his age, etc. And then, as if things weren’t bad enough, his new school (he is going to kindergarten next year) decided to host Zoom calls for the new kindergarten families…we were on our call with the head of the lower school, the kinder family welcome committee, the lower school parent organization president (who happens to be my dear pal) and 6 other new kinder families. Each kid/family was supposed to say hello, introduce their family and a stuffed animal and then say one activity they were doing to keep busy at home. After all 6 other kids had raised their hands distressingly enthusiastically (if you’re us), introduced their families, stuffed animals and safer-at-home activity unnervingly eloquently (if you’re us), it was Gus’s turn. Since Arnor and I were on the call with him, he could not engage in a lot of his usual shenanigans, but what he did do was: refuse to speak, hide behind his stuffed animal and at one point he actually leaned toward the camera and rolled his eyes rather slowly. Arnor and I laughed it off at the moment and then proceeded to lie awake in bed half the night trying to figure out if/when to have him psychologically analyzed and creating a distressing motion picture in our minds of how this could all play out for THE REST OF GUS’S LIFE. 

The next afternoon, my friend (the lower school parent organization president who had also been on the call) texted me saying she had spent all day smiling to herself about Gus rolling his eyes on the call. And I was like “I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that Gus will never function normally in society!” The humor in the situation hadn’t even occurred to me! My friend had also sat in on the other kinder zoom calls and informed me that a lot of the other kids had been shy and resistant…those kids just didn’t happen to be on OUR call…Murphy’s Law. I was reading Loving What Is by Byron Katie and I love how she describes the brain as coming up with thoughts all day and when we believe these thoughts we use our imaginations to turn the thoughts into dramatic movies in our brains…it’s not just the thoughts, it’s also the visuals…we actually use our memories of how things looked, sounded and felt in the past to create a future reality that’s only in our minds. And then, and this is the worst part, WE FALL FOR IT! Because we’re SO TALENTED at it! Our inner movies are very convincing. What Byron Katie points out is that when we do this, we are living in an imagined future based on the past…and do you realize what we’re NOT doing? We’re not experiencing our lives in the present! In my panicked movie making/watching state, I wasn’t even able to experience the Gus of now because I was so hooked into the past/future imagined version of him with all of his imagined freaky social and mental issues. 

Besides considering movie-making as a new career option, I’ve also been taking the opportunity of being here with Gus all day to watch him without my movie-maker lens for a change. The Gus of now doesn’t really like Zoom calls and likes people much more in real life. He plays with his siblings all day. He does enjoy talking on Zoom with his one friend, Rocco. One day while I was vacuuming, he got his toy microscope out of the closet, unpacked it and all of it’s accessories, pulled out a blank slide went to the yard and found a dead bug, placed in on the slide with a drop of water, tried to cover the slide with a slide cover (which didn’t work because he bug was too thick) and came to me to ask me to label the slide with the word “bug.” Then he looked at it for a while under the microscope and exclaimed, “It’s so  a m a z i n g!” I love that he actually remembered all of the steps to prepare a slide from the last time we did this a couple weeks ago. I’ve decided maybe Gus isn’t really mentally behind and perhaps he inherited some hermit-like tendencies from his parents…ahem…but other than that he’s the exact Gus he should be. And I am making some small steps away from inner drama and toward inner peace. Soon, you will find me sitting cross-legged on a mat in an empty room rubbing a small stone (imagery courtesy of my mom’s friend). I hope you are finding your way towards inner peace. OR, if you’re looking for more drama, hopefully this was somewhat instructive for you. I am so thankful to you for reading and for being one of my dear Sweetgood Weekly subscribers. I appreciate you so much!!! Lots of love to you!!!

Entry #5: Homeschooling Edition

Hello friends! I hope this edition of the Diary of a Blah Mom finds you well, in the midst of such unusual times. I’m finding it hard to stay my usual blah self with all the distressing news and information out there in the world. Not to mention all the stress in here (inside my brain). If you have a brain that is highly skilled at looking for danger (just hypothetically…not speaking from personal experience here) then the constant news stream, designed to get our attention, is a recipe for panic. Plus, I’m feeling a lot of disappointment because I was planning to attend 6 shows for Sweetgood this spring and as of now only 2 of them are still on the calendar and I expect those to be cancelled sooner or later. I’m not supposed to leave home anymore to drive patterns, fabric, cut fabric pieces, finished garments, etc, around LA. So Sweetgood production is at a standstill. For a brief moment I thought I had it figured out: Since I can’t focus on the spring shows or the manufacturing of the spring pieces, it makes sense to just stay home, relax and focus on the online aspect of the business. YES…PERFECT…GREAT IDEA!  But wait…I’m now responsible for homeschooling 3 children!!!

Newsflash: Homeschooling is not as easy as I thought it would be. That’s because I’ve never done it before! If any of you reading this are teachers or homeschooling moms, let me say that I have a new appreciation for you! Not that I didn’t before…but now I’m really scratching my head and asking all the experts I know, how exactly someone like me is gonna make this work. I’ve never thought thoughts about how to homeschool before. The only thought I’ve thought about homeschooling is: “you’d have to be a special breed of mom to have the patience, enthusiasm and devotion to do it…and I’m probably NOT that special breed of mom…” At first when school went remote, I thought, “Great, Arnor will be home too so he can totally help me! He’s a teacher and he’s great with the kids! Two parents can somehow manage to do the job of one capable homeschooling mom. Then I realized that he needs to teach all of his classes from home! The only option was to squeeze him into the corner of our upstairs bedroom, to remove him from: “the chaos.” In case you’re not catching on here: “the chaos” is ME homeschooling the children. So the past week of homeschooling (AKA: “the chaos”) was a good occasion to reflect on some of my unhelpful thoughts about myself and my capability to manage my children’s education here at home…or lack of capability in this case. Of course, thoughts like that will tend to create the exact chaos I’ve been experiencing…funny how that works.

I feel like I’ve been thrown back to a time when the kids were little and not in school and they needed my near-constant attention. While Theo and Elise are moving out of this phase, Gus is still very much in constant need of my attention (at least HE is 100% sure of this). Plus Elise needs a lot of help with her math and reading and Theo needs someone keeping an eye on his progress. So there aren’t any real breaks in this schedule, except for the occasional and all too fleeting moment when everyone is playing peacefully together or the dreaded yet beloved screen time…just like when the kids were little (I think anyone with multiple little ones knows that nap times never coincided in a way that could be used as work time…unless that was just me?) So there’s very little time for me to do all the work I was planning to do on Sweetgood over March and April. Just like back when the kids were little, there was little time for me to work on all the creative/business endeavors I wanted so badly to do. 

The thing is, when I look back I realize I used to be so hard on myself. When the kids were little I basically chose to put them first while choosing to hate myself for not putting my creative/business endeavors first. So I would either beat myself up for not getting my own work done while taking care of the little ones all day (and night) and not giving myself ANY credit for it…or I would get my own work done…which usually meant staying up all hours when I was already exhausted…which was really just another form of beating myself up. It was like I could not accept that this was a time in my life when I wouldn’t be able to achieve these lofty goals. Or maybe I just wanted to be mad at myself? Was it a good distraction from other emotions I didn’t want to feel? I’m not really sure but what I do know is, I would set the goals and then use them as a reason to hate myself. I could feel all this creeping back to me last week when I realized my Sweetgood goals were slipping away in a cloud of educational apps and instructions for their use, workbooks, worksheets, zoom calls, teacher emails with ideas for what we can do at home, classroom texts, instagram posts about creative homeschooling ideas, and so on. And I felt the self-hatred kind of creeping in…because now I’m going to be an entrepreneur who puts her real dream aside…again. 

So I happened to hear the perfect coaching call the other day in which Brooke (Life Coach School) said, “When we take something quality and good and important to us and we do it, and then we put ourselves down by saying it’s not enough, we ruin our own energy stream when we could utilize a contribution that we’re making to energize us. ‘I did this and this is amazing, I did this and this is amazing’…enjoy your contribution….It’s important that you allow yourself to be proud…that will shift and energize you.” This almost gives me the chills because I’ve spent so much of my life doing the EXACT opposite, especially since having kids. And I have so recently gotten out of my negative thought loop (putting the kids first and hating myself for it), because the kids grew up and eventually they were all in school. But I never really learned the lesson I needed to learn…I just felt better and more appreciative of myself as I had more and more time to do my own work. So I’m finding it so interesting to get this bizarre opportunity to relive the same circumstances and to make a different choice than I did before. I’m so disappointed to put the business goals aside, but I’m choosing to do it because the immediate needs of the kids are more important right now and I know the lofty goals I have for Sweetgood can wait. I’m learning to make homeschooling work and I’m learning to appreciate THAT as my contribution right now. I know THAT is the lesson that’s in this for me. My brain SO WANTS to tell me why I’m a horrible entrepreneur because the only thing I’ve accomplished for Sweetgood this week is….THIS blog post…and it took me a l l  w e e k…and my brain is telling me: “This blog post isn’t enough”…but I’m going to choose to give myself credit for it AND all the educational assignments and projects completed….all the walks we’ve taken…all cookies we’ve baked together…and all the quality time we’ve spent together in the lovely moments when I wasn’t a banchee….if I can create more moments like those, I will be so appreciative of myself! And I would like to come out of this feeling like I created a stronger connection with my kids, my husband and myself.

So right now I’m practicing thinking these thoughts about teaching, homeschooling, the kids, my life, etc:

“I will get back to my Sweetgood goals when the kids go back to school. And whenever that is, it will be the exact right time.” This helps me relax about my own stuff…and create expectations for myself that make sense…and be present in the NOW.

“I give my kids permission to be cranky, grumpy, angry, to fight with each other and to argue with me as much as they want.” This is a great little thought…it’s almost a trick, because (as you may have noticed) there’s nothing I can do as a mom to fix a cranky, grumpy, angry kid…at least not in the moment, even though I SO WANT TO! So giving them permission, helps my brain relax and gives me space to move along and not mirror those exact feelings and behaviors back to them (not that I’ve ever done this but…hypothetically…).

“When they all ask for my help at once, I will think about baby birds squawking for a worm and then help them one at a time.” I don’t know why this popped into my head one time, but I like it.

“Being this important person in my little ones’ lives is the best thing ever.” It really is amazing that they love me as much as they do…especially given all of my “human-ness.”

“I can create a balanced and calm environment.” If my thoughts are calm and balanced, everything around me feels so much better.

“It is fun to be a part of their education.” I mean…it IS fun to see what they are working on and what they can do!

“I am doing a good job at homeschooling, especially for a beginner.” Little credit please…appreciate myself for all the little things and build on that.

“This is the most important work I can do right now.” That’s why I’m doing it so I might as well value it and be proud of it.

“It is fun to have everyone at home all together.” For example, Arnor is trying to cancel a flight now and singing along to all the 80s songs playing from the phone while he’s endlessly on hold…he’s on spring break this week so I’ve got extra help…for now…

“It’s so fun to catch them completely immersed in their OWN discovery of the properties of materials and how things work.” I picked this one up from my favorite nursery school teacher! I love how it moves me from my own experience into thinking about the kids’ experience…and reminds me to really notice these moments and how special they are.

“Let the children lead, then pay attention to what captures their attention most…that’s your cue of where to go next.” Same source as above! Since the schedule is a bit more open now, why not think about what the kids are interested in and try to direct the learning to that?

“It’s amazing to watch them develop and facilitate this growth.”Ditto and thank you! (if you’re reading this…) It’s helpful to remember that the whole point of school is to help kids learn and grow…when I pay attention to that aspect, it becomes a lot more fun.

Maybe something in my story will resonate with you. I would love to hear what your experiences are. Please leave a comment or email me back or text me or IG message or FB message me…at least we’ve got OPTIONS for communication even if it’s not in person. I want to wish you all health and safety. I also want to wish you a special time with everyone at home all together. I ALSO want wish you much success with homeschooling if that’s what you are doing too. I ALSO ALSO want to wish you toilet paper, butter, eggs and spaghetti noodles. May we all come out of this healthy, stronger and more appreciative of each other and our lives as we used to (and will again soon…hopefully) know them. Thank you all for reading…you are the best! 

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.