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Pardon our dust! (And, yay for changes!)

We’re doing a little spring cleaning here at The Happiest Home! Sarah’s been working hard behind the scenes to switch us to a new theme that will make it easier for you to navigate content and discover gems that have gotten buried over the years. We appreciate your patience while we roll out the new changes, and – whoops! – apologize if some older content somehow winds up in your inbox along the way. Want to stay up to date on what’s happening here amid all the changes? Fill out the box below and we’ll get in touch with you via email

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Looking for inspiration and real-life connection? Join me at the BEYOND Retreat next fall.

You know one of the biggest benefits of slowing down and doing less? When you step off of the merry-go-round of doing, doing, doing just because it seems like, well, the thing to do, you suddenly have all this “new” time and energy and brain space to pursue things that mean a lot to you. For years I’ve been dreaming of putting together an event bringing together awesome women in one place to dream, plan, recharge and get inspired. And now it’s time to make it happen. In October of 2015 I’ll be hosting a small but mighty group of women (is

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“Fun Parent” vs. “Boring Parent” – It’s Not Fair! But Is It True?

My husband made this lunch for my daughter last week. I know. I should have known it was coming when I caught him poring over Bento box tutorials on YouTube, watching a woman meticulously arrange smiley faces onto tiny rice-ball heads, then cap them off with pita-pocket hats. The very next day, Jon made a special trip to the grocery store for supplies. And that evening, he and Clara hovered over the kitchen island for a good half-hour creating The Lunch To End All Lunches.  Heart-shaped salami framed by heart-shaped cheese slices, people. A tiny little star cutout peanut-butter sandwich with honey and sprinkles

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Delegate Like Downton: A Strategy For Managing Home Helpers

Imagine this: it’s a Sunday afternoon. One child just got done shoveling the walk, and another is unloading the dishwasher. You, on the other hand, are reading a magazine, sipping a cup of tea and enjoying the calm of a neat (enough) kitchen…that you didn’t even have to tidy up yourself. Sound like a fantasy? It’s not! It’s actually how my Sunday afternoon played out…and it’s a pretty common scenario around here. It hasn’t always been this way. Earlier in marriage and motherhood, I was surrounded by mess and chaos, and bogged down by resentment. Why didn’t other family members recognize

At Home with Meagan

5 Must-Have Kitchen Tools

I’ve been wanting to do a regular video series, like, forEVER. But when I had kids home with me during the day, I found it was just too difficult to find quiet pockets of time to shoot and edit regularly. A five-minute video may not seem like it takes much time to do, but there’s a lot of set-up and production involved, even in the most “candid” vids.  Now that my days are my own, though, I’m finding that I’ve got the space and quiet to take on some of those things I’ve been wanting to do! So, here it

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Whimsical Girl’s Bedroom Ideas

We’re moving! In less than two weeks my family is relocating to Southern California and we couldn’t be more excited. Our new house is ready and waiting for us and I’m itching to get into it and start settling in. One of the biggest differences between our current house and the one we’re moving into is the flooring. We have carpet now – lots of it – and we’re moving into a house with all hardwood floors. And while the new floors are beautiful, it’s going to be awfully echo-y in there until we get some area rugs down. One problem:

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Gardening with Kids, The (Really) Easy Way

I’ve always wanted to think of myself as the kind of mom who grows herbs indoors using a DIY seed-starting kit, turning toilet-paper rolls or egg cartons into frugal mini-gardens which nurture her child’s green thumb, creativity and resourcefulness. In reality, I’m the kind of mom who intends, every year, to start seeds indoors eight weeks before the ground is warm, or start a windowsill herb garden, but always forgets to gather the supplies or set aside an afternoon for putting together a system. So this year, I decided to skip all the usual “Oh man, I can’t believe I

a conventional life

I was 20 and poor when my first son was born. All my friends at the time were poor; either college students or other young parents trying to make ends meet. We ranked one another’s relative wealth by the size of a CD collection or the lack of rust on the beater car’s muffler. I remember once a neighbor knocked on my door, asking to borrow $10 so she could buy her baby some diapers. I felt rich because I had it to spare.

In those days there was no pressure to keep up appearances. My friends who were not yet parents had no idea if I was doing a good job or not. And as for my friends who were parents, well, as long as I could  afford to feed and clothe my kids, they thought I was doing pretty well. Our little family was healthy and good-humored. We had not yet been loaded down with life’s many little crises.

So it was easy to imagine unlimited possibilities for our life: we’d be bohemian homeschoolers, perhaps living in a bus or RV and traveling the country. Or maybe we’d have a traveling band (never mind that neither my husband nor I could actually play an instrument very well). Or we’d live in a yurt. Or in another country. We’d move off the grid, raising goats and chickens on our own organic farm. We’d strike it rich, or be happy starving artists…or artist types, at least. In my fantasies there were no children in need of expensive dental care. In my fantasies, I’d blow off the disapproval of in-laws over my educational choices and wouldn’t care at all what anyone thought of us living in a yurt. In my fantasies, I wouldn’t mind at all having to get up at 5 AM to milk the goats.

Fast-forward a little over a decade, and I am amazed sometimes at what actually happened: we live pretty conventional lives. We worry about school quality, we shop at Target, we pay the bills, we drive the kids to their various practices. We make dinner, make the bed, make ends meet. I fret when I look in the mirror and see lines around my eyes. I fret about how we’ll pay for retirement. I have become the 30-something parent I never thought I’d be. And as it turns out, I’m pretty content with the life we lead. Sometimes that worries me: how could I have so thoroughly bought into a system I once wanted nothing to do with? And sometimes I laugh at my 20-year-old self: how could I have ever thought that wanting a car that you can’t hear coming from two miles away was frivolous and materialistic?

A few weeks ago, I saw the movie Revolutionary Road. I’m a sucker for housewife vintage fashion, I love Kate Winslet (Leo’s not too shabby himself) and my sister had been raving about the book for weeks.

It was a good flick, in the way well-acted, yet dark and depressing films can be. But while watching the movie, I found myself feeling irritated toward the people in it.

“Of course you’re just like everyone else, what did you expect!” I found myself inwardly shouting at Kate Winslet’s character. “And hey, just what’s wrong with everyone else, anyway?”

I think I was angry with her partly because her dismayed confession: “We’re just like everybody else!” set off a glimmer of recognition in some small, mostly unexplored part of my soul. The desire to be one of a kind, to have a life that’s bigger or somehow more than the norm, the wish to be different and unusual and unconventional…even as I recognize the futility of that desire, it still flickers there like a timid flame. I got annoyed with Winslet’s character because she reminded me of that small part of myself that isn’t happy just being me and living my life.

While I’ve loved being a mom and even think there are a lot of benefits to doing it young, of course it was hard at times to be in such a different place from most of my friends. There they were, at 21 or 23 or 25 with so much possibility before them, so many different roads they could choose to go down. Whereas I’d pretty well locked myself into a certain kind of life before I even had a chance to think about it.

The funny thing is, twelve years later most of my friends and I are in about the same places. I have more kids than they do, but we all have similar incomes, live in similar homes, drive similarly walking-the-line-between-gently-used-and-beat-up cars. We do similar things for fun.

And I have friends who are ten or more years older than me, whose kids are the age of my older boys. They tend to live in bigger homes, drive nicer cars, eat better meals when they go out, and go out more often.

Then there are my friends, old and new, who have chosen or fallen into less conventional lives. They make their living as artists or musicians or actors. They live in city lofts or yurts or sod houses off the grid. Or they live at the opposite end of the spectrum, in relative luxury. Their kids go to interesting-sounding schools or no school at all. Or they have no kids. They travel the world. With lives that interesting, certainly they don’t have the same minutiae to worry about that the rest of us do, right?

But that’s just a trick our minds play on us.

People, as a rule (because there are always exceptions, aren’t there?) have lives that are a blend of the fascinating and the boring as hell.  Sometimes we get caught up in the minutiae until it’s all we have. But even people whose lives seem fascinating have to worry about the boring stuff.

And when it comes right down to it, we all live a variation of the same basic life.

We eat and we sleep, we go places and come back home. We entertain ourselves and look to others to entertain us. We laugh and we cry, we love and hope to be loved back.

Some of us do it in more or less lavish surroundings, or with different creatures around us; in different climates and with different politics…but the basics of human life are pretty much the same.

My life has its boring moments, yes, but so does the life of pretty much everyone I know. That doesn’t mean I am. It’s my job to live the richest, fullest, most interesting version of this conventional little life of mine. And I can do it right here, right now.

Even if I never, ever live in a yurt.

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