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Welcome to April!

Happy April, Everyone! Yes, it officially became “spring” last month, but I always feel like April is the official beginning of the season. The weather’s warming up here in southwest Michigan, little green things are starting to push through my garden beds, and it hasn’t snowed in at least a few days, so I’m hopeful that winter is really on its way out. Phew.  It’s hard to believe the dimpled little thing in the picture above was once Clara, isn’t it? She turned six in March, and every day I’m floored by how quickly she’s leaving that chubby-cheeked baby behind, and turning

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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 Look Back At 2010: Memorable, Major Milestones & Moments

2010 was a big year for me in so many ways. And while I’m already thinking ahead to what I hope 2011 will hold, I wanted to first take a look back at the moments and milestones–some huge, some not so big–that paint a picture of 2010 in my mind. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. I wrote a book about being a happier mom.

The Happiest Mom: 10 Secrets To Enjoying Motherhood. In bookstores April 1.

This was a huge goal for me, something I’ve been wanting to do ever since about 2007 or so, when I finally became tired of scanning the parenting shelves at the bookstore and finding mostly titles along the lines of “Motherhood Can Suck It” and “Parenting: The Hardest, Least-Appreciated, Most Awful Thing You’ll Ever Wish You Loved.” Of course, I was equally disillusioned with blogs and books that glossed over the hard parts, or sanctimoniously judged moms for ever daring to complain or take the easy way out. I knew there was another story to tell and I’m so grateful to Parenting Magazine and Weldon Owen Publishing for helping me tell it in a fun and fresh way in this book.

I’d love it if you’d pre-order a copy for yourself and/or a friend, and definitely let me know if you’d like to feature my book or interview me on your own blog. I’ll be sharing more details about ways you can help me spread the word over the next couple months. And thank you: the support and encouragement I’ve gotten from my readers since starting this blog was a huge reason the book is finally coming to fruition.

2. Actually, I wrote two books.

One Year To An Organized Life With Baby, Co-Authored with "The Zen Organizer" Regina Leeds, in bookstores February 1.

When you’re expecting your first baby, the sheer amount of information, emotions, and of course, new stuff you suddenly have to acquire, sort through, and otherwise deal with can be really overwhelming. Hey, even when it’s your second or third baby it can be overwhelming! Like anything else in life, one of the best ways to work through something that overwhelms you is to break it down into manageable steps. In this book, a veteran professional organizer (Regina Leeds) and a veteran mom (me!) walk you, week-by-week, through everything you need to know to get ready for baby: whether it’s knowing your birth options, deciding what gear to register for,  creating a welcoming nest for your baby, shopping for maternity clothes, or dealing with all the ins and outs of maternity leave; if it’s something you’ll encounter during your pregnancy or the first few months of your baby’s life, we covered it here. If you’re expecting or know somebody who is, pre-order a copy or two now!

3. I became the mother of a teenager.

Jacob in Florida, age 13 and one day

The day of my son Jacob’s 13th birthday brought a mix of emotions: sadness (how can my itty bitty widdle baby be this young MAN?), pride (he’s a pretty great kid and while I am trying not to pat my back too hard, I like to think I had something to do with that) and anxiety: I am becoming ever more aware of just how quickly the time speeds by, how few opportunities I have to help these children become whole, productive, self-reliant, kind, honest and happy adults. My responsibility is awesome and a little panic-inducing when I think too much about it. They don’t always get up in my face and express their needs as urgently as the little ones do, but I’m feeling ever more dedicated to really being there for my bigger children and helping them navigate the tricky, trippy adolescent years.

4. My family and I went to Disney World.

I have only been there once before, when I was a teenager, and I’ve always wanted to return with my own kids. This year we finally made it happen–and yes, we had a magical time.

5. I dabbled in video.

This was the video entry I made, with the help of my brother-in-law Scott, for a contest I took part in last year (no, I did not win.) I’ve been wanting to do video for a long time and making this video was so fun I’m newly inspired to make it a regular part of my blogging. So expect more video from me in 2011!

6. I became a homeowner.

After moving around a lot over the last decade and a half, my husband and I finally took the plunge and put down some real roots–in the form of a home contract. We’ve now lived in our big old home for 8 months, and while we’re still glad to be home owners, we’ve also learned a whole lot about what it really means to spend every extra dollar on “fun” things like roof repairs, a new retaining wall, and a garage door.

7. I put pigtails in my daughter’s hair for the first time.

They didn't last long.

After being a mom of all boys for 11 years, putting my only daughter’s hair in pigtails was something I looked forward to with considerable excitement. And it was just as sweet a moment as I’d anticipated.

8. I got braces on my teeth.

I’ve wanted to do this for over a decade, ever since my teeth started shifting forward in young adulthood. I just wasn’t happy with how they looked, and worse, it was getting hard to take good care of them. So I took the plunge and went metal. I’ll be blogging about my experience as an adult with braces for Damon System Braces and will link you there as soon as my posts are live.

9. I finally got a professional photo taken of my family.

Photo credit: Jennifer Mayo Studios

Before last month, I had lots of great photos of my children, individually and together. I had a fair number of my kids with me. But I had zero shots of all five kids, my husband and myself, unless you count one or two snapped at holiday parties by family members–you know, the kind of shot where somebody’s head is cut off or half of us are blinking or somebody’s giving bunny ears?  The amazing Jennifer Mayo, who specializes in both wedding and family portraits here in Southwest Michigan and also in Chicago, took these shots of all of us on a briskly cold day in downtown St. Joseph. She was so efficient that we managed to do the whole shoot before anyone got frostbite, and–wonder of wonders!–we all look cute and I never lost my cool.

10. I threw my hat in the ring.


Blissdom Conference ~ Nashville ~ January 26-28, 2010

I’m definitely going to look back at 2010 as the year I took a big step outside my comfortable little realm and put myself out there: I tried new things, I pursued new opportunities. And almost every effort I’ve made has led to something good, even if it wasn’t always what I anticipated: for example, I didn’t win the SAM-e contest but I made a great new local friend who saw my vote link on a mutual friend’s Facebook page.

Another example of putting myself out there: While I’ve spoken at several writing conferences over the years,  for some reason I’ve never spoken (or applied to speak) at a blogging conference. This year is different: I’ll be speaking at several “new to me” conferences including the Blissdom Conference and Midwest Moms Media Brand & Blogger Summit.

Hey, it wasn’t all great.

In 2010 I set high standards for myself that I didn’t always live up to. Sometimes I lost my patience. I also experienced a major loss. In short, 2010 was far from a perfect year: there are moments I look back at with sadness, anger, or embarrassment along with those fist-pumping “yes!” moments and soft, quiet pleasures.

Nothing is perfect, and it’s a little anxiety-producing when you think about all the different ways–good and bad–a life can change in a year. But right now, two days into this new year, I want to think about the good things 2010 brought me as I dream and plan for 2011. It’s going to be a happy year. Not perfect, not flawless, but overall…happy. Right?

What were your high points, major milestones, or most memorable moments from 2010?

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