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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: Sandra Day O’Connor

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

Sandra_Day_O'ConnorDid you know that Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman to be appointed to the United States Supreme Court and all-around glass ceiling shatterer, is also a mother of three?

Sandra Day was born in El Paso, Texas in 1930 and spent her earliest years living on a cattle ranch on the Arizona-New Mexico border. Starting at age eight, she spent the school months with her grandmother in El Paso, but her childhood was very much defined by her time on the ranch where, she’s said, she’d “get up at 3 a.m. and be in the saddle by sunup.” Living 35 miles from the nearest town taught her the importance of both self-reliance and taking care of one’s neighbors. She also inherited a formidable work ethic from her parents and gained an interest in conflict resolution from her knowledge of Indian tribal councils. Growing up in a rural area may have also protected her from the weight of contemporary assumptions about what girls and women could do.

After graduating from high school at age 16, O’Connor attended Stanford University and went on to become the first woman to attend Stanford Law School, where she finished third in her class (the late Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist was first). Of that time, O’Connor states, it “simply wasn’t in my mind that I couldn’t make it into law school.” Making it into law school was one thing; getting a job as a lawyer turned out to be another one entirely. Despite her lofty credentials, no fewer than 40 law firms refused to interview her because she was a woman. She eventually received an interview at one firm – for a secretarial position. (In a delicious ironic twist, the man who offered her that secretarial position was the very same one whom Ronald Reagan tapped to call to offer her a position on the Supreme Court. Ha!) She finally found a job as a deputy county attorney in San Mateo, but the only way she could get hired was to work for free. O’Connor was shocked: “I think I was naive. I had never stopped to think that it might be hard to get a job.”

In 1953, an opportunity for her new husband, John O’Connor, brought one for her as well. After his own graduation from Stanford Law, the couple moved to Germany, where he had been posted as a lawyer for the U.S. Army. Meanwhile, Sandra found a position as a lawyer for the Quartermaster Corps, which provided food and supplies for the army. After three years working and traveling in Europe, the couple returned to Arizona where they welcomed their first son, Scott, in 1957. Sandra immediately tried to figure out how to combine motherhood with her career. Given that she’d had such a hard time finding a job with a firm, she decided to open one of her own with a friend, working in the mornings as a court-appointed attorney for impoverished clients and taking care of Scott in the afternoons. Over the next few years, Sandra built her client base and her family; sons Brian and Jay arrived in 1960 and 1962. At that point, she decided to take a break from the law and spent the next few years as a stay-at-home mother, all the while volunteering for the Arizona Republican Party.

After her hiatus from paid work, she took a job in the Arizona Attorney General’s office in 1965, starting part-time and building up her hours as her boys got older and spent more time in school. Soon she was appointed by the Republican Party to a vacancy in the State Senate, a position for which she was reelected in 1973. Smashing yet another glass ceiling, O’Connor became the first woman to serve as Majority Leader of the Arizona State Senate. From there she was elected a county judge and then became part of the Arizona State Court of Appeals until 1981 when she was appointed to the Supreme Court.

O’Connor was nominated for the Supreme Court by President Ronald Reagan, who had made a campaign pledge to appoint the first woman to the Court. From the outset, O’Connor’s nomination was challenged by religious and anti-abortion groups who wanted a justice who would be willing to overturn Roe v. Wade. Despite these protests, O’Connor was confirmed by the Senate, 99-0. As a justice, she favored a narrow approach to each case and tended to vote with the conservative bloc of the Court, but as the court itself became more conservative, she was more often a “swing voter” (a term she loathes). As for the abortion question, O’Connor voted in favor of precedents that would limit access to abortion, but supported the idea that the right to choose is protected by the Fourteenth Amendment, writing in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.”

O’Connor retired from the court in January 2006 in order to help care for John, who suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease. She has spent her retirement tending to John (who passed away in 2009), remaining engaged with the law both as a substitute judge and legal scholar, and developing iCivics, interactive civics lessons for students and teachers.

There are now three women on the Supreme Court – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan. Of the three, only Ginsburg is a mother. This fact has drawn a lot of attention, especially as part of the never-ending “Can women have it all?” debate. Writing about the issue before Kagan’s confirmation, Lisa Belkin noted the generational difference between O’Connor and Ginsburg on the one hand and Sotomayor and Kagan on the other: “Not much was given to or expected of women [when O’Connor and Ginsburg were young], which created a paradoxical freedom…as women’s paths ascended, they also narrowed…There would be no taking five years off to stay home with your children if you hoped for a seat on the Supreme Court.” Belkin goes on to call the Kagan nomination a “realistic – and cautionary” message to mothers trying to reach lofty career goals.

As slowly as “quiet feminist” Sandra Day O’Connor’s climb began, she did indeed reach the apex of her profession. Who will be the next mother to follow in her footsteps?

Image: Sandra Day O’Connor from the Library of Congress via Wikimedia Commons.

 

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