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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

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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

Historical Motherhood Series: Dear Abby

This post is by Kristen Levithan, Happiest Mom contributor and blogger at Motherese. You can read previous historical motherhood posts by clicking here.

Earlier this year, the world lost a mother and writer who millions had come to think of as a friend. Pauline Phillips, better known as “Dear Abby,” died of natural causes on January 16, 2013 at the age of 94 after years of battling Alzheimer’s. In addition to being the author of the most widely-syndicated news column in the world, Phillips also paved the way for future generations of writers and bloggers for whom writing publicly about private life has become second nature.

“Abby” was born Pauline Friedman in Sioux City, Iowa in 1918. Her parents were Russian Jewish immigrants and Pauline was the youngest of their four daughters. Her identical twin, Esther, went on to become the equally famous syndicated columnist, Ann Landers. The fact that the sisters earned such success in their shared calling was a pattern established early on: the girls attended school together through college, where they both majored in psychology and journalism and toned their advice-giving muscles with a shared gossip column in the school paper. Pauline and Esther seem to have inherited their journalistic instincts from their parents. According to Phillips, “My contemporaries would come to me for advice. I got that from my mother: the ability to listen and to help other people with their problems. I also got Daddy’s sense of humor.”

After being married on their shared birthday in a double-wedding ceremony (talk about family togetherness!), the sisters’ lives began to diverge. Pauline and her husband Morton had two kids: son Edward and daughter Jeanne. In her children’s younger years, Pauline was a stay-at-home mom. She was outspoken about her “1950s” values, calling her “code of conduct…husband and kids first” and believed that couples with marital issues should make an extra effort to be civil to each other in front of their children: “When kids see parents fighting, or even sniping at each other, I think it is terribly damaging.” However, Pauline decided to pursue a career of her own when, at age 37 and with no work experience at all, she contacted the editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and boasted that she could offer him a better advice column than the ones he was currently running. Skeptical, but intrigued, he gave her some letters to answer as a trial. When she brought back her responses the next day, he praised her writing and hired her right away.

Assuming the pen name Abigail Van Buren (Abigail in honor of the Biblical prophetess and advice-giver and Van Buren after the president of the same name), Phillips launched the advice column that would lead to her fame as “Dear Abby” in 1956. Answering letters from people from all walks of life, she dished out advice with a signature mix of humor and heart, offering up tough love and compassion in equal measures. Her New York Times obituary notes the “comic and flinty yet fundamentally sympathetic voice” with which she “helped wrestle the advice column from its weepy Victorian past into a hard-nosed 20th-century present.” She considered her subject “the most intimate of human difficulties,” and, by shedding light on those difficulties, made people feel heard and less alone. Phillips also weighed in on taboo subjects like gay rights, gun control, and sex in a way that helped make their discussion more mainstream.

One example of her snappy exchanges from the late 1950s:

Dear Abby, Our daughter-in-law was married in January. Five months later she had a nine pound baby girl. She said the baby was premature. Tell me, can a baby this big be that early? Wondering

Dear Wondering, The baby was on time. The wedding was late. Forget it.

Phillips’s entrance into the world of professional journalism ruffled the feathers of her sister Edith who had taken over the Chicago Sun-Times‘s well-established “Ann Landers” advice column the year before. Phillips did not tell Edith that she was planning to apply for a position at the Chronicle and then, after being syndicated, offered her column to her hometown Sioux City Journal at a cheaper rate, as long as the newspaper promised not to run her sister’s column as well. The sisters eventually reconciled, but their rivalry continued. There seems to have been plenty of room for both of them in their shared world, however: after only two years of writing their individual columns, the sisters became “the most widely read and most quoted women in the world.” Eventually, each column went on to have a readership of around 100 million and the sisters became fixtures on the celebrity circuit.

Phillips began co-writing “Dear Abby” with her daughter Jeanne in the 1990s. Jeanne took over the column in 2002, when Pauline’s Alzheimer’s had progressed too far for her to maintain her writing schedule and personal appearances. Now, as “Dear Abby,” Jeanne seeks to continue her mother’s tradition of wise advice, tenderly and humorously delivered. When Pauline died last month, her daughter remarked, “I have lost my mother, my mentor, and my best friend. My mother leaves very big high heels to fill with a legacy of compassion, commitment and positive social change. I will honor her memory every day by continuing this legacy.”

Please join me in offering up a bit of thanks for a fellow mother who was never afraid to say what was on her mind, making it that much easier for all of us to do the same.

Image: Pauline Phillips, November 1961, courtesy of Easter Seals via Wikimedia Commons.

Additional source: Life magazine, April 7, 1958, 102-112.

 

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