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


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


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:


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

Holiday Happiness for Moms, Part 2: Dealing with Critics

Christmas Day may be behind us, but for many of us today kicks off week 2 of holiday celebrations. That means that many of you are gearing up to spend a lot of time with family–close and extended–and friends, old, new and in-between, in the next few days.

And for some of us, that means a whole ‘nother kind of holiday stress: the kind you experience when you wonder if your parenting is being judged.

Whether it’s your great-aunt’s raised eyebrows when your kids go feral after hitting the candy dish, or your father-in-law freaking out because you breastfeed the baby in the family room, nearly every family gathering leads to at least one occasion where you feel like you might be getting the Glare of Judgment, even if it is sometimes just your perception. (After all, your uncle Bob might just seem to be staring intently at your kid because he’s hit the eggnog too hard and is trying not to throw up, not because he finds your kid ill-behaved and you negligent).

When you get in a group of people who don’t see you and your kids day in and day out, it’s easy to feel like your parenting skills–and authority–aren’t respected. Maybe your kids weren’t “grateful enough” for your father-in-law’s liking when they opened a gift. Or maybe they’ll be so enthusiastic they’ll let out a squeal that sets off your cousin’s dog a-yipping. Maybe your relatives will criticize your lack of a routine, or your decision to loosen your usual standards and let the kid have a sip of soda. Maybe they’ll think you’re too rigid because you insist the kids make their usual bedtime of 8 PM even in the midst of a celebration. Or maybe they’ll just oh-so-helpfully–but annoyingly–try to “help” by inserting themselves in every parenting situation. Maybe they don’t say a word, but give each other those Looks that mean they disapprove…of something, if only you could tell what.

What’s a mom to do? I asked my Twitter friends for their best advice for dealing with judgment, criticism, and general busy-body-ness during the holidays. Here are some of my favorite responses:


“I try to use a pat phrase: “Oh, that’s interesting” or “What an interesting thing to say” when people offer unwanted advice.”


“Breathe and pretend they’re not there, unless there’s something menial I can ask them to do to shift the focus.”


“I appreciate that you have a strong opinion but this is our family decision.” Lather, rinse, repeat. Never engage.


“Stay cool. Keep retorts light. When able, ask yourself if criticism has any merit. Sometimes there’s a kernel of truth.”


“I find redirection to another task works wonders. Like you really need their valuable skills put to work w/other kid or task.”

As you can see, these wise moms know that when it comes to dodging the barbs of OPP (Other People’s opinions about your Parenting) there are a few rules you’d be wise to live by:

1) Assume positive intent. Your mother-in-law isn’t slipping your child candy to make you mad (probably). Your cousin doesn’t have kids, so how could he possibly know that tantrums are normal, even in unspoiled non-brats? Sometimes you’ll just be fooling yourself if you go into each scenario assuming the other person only has the best possible intentions, but if it means you manage to keep your cool–and your relationships intact–who cares? If they don’t approve of you, your kids, or the way you parent your kids, that’s their problem. It only becomes yours if you let it.

2) Be honest with yourself. Like martijen said, sometimes there is a kernel of truth to criticism. Sure, it’s nobody’s business if you decide to ignore your child’s tantrum rather than putting him in a time-out, but it might be nice to at least move him to another room so his screams don’t drown out the Bing Crosby record your grandma’s enjoying. On the other hand, a gathering including children is always going to be prone to loud noises, frantic activity and the kicking of little feet, and anyone who has a problem with that needs a reality check. As long as you’re trying to accommodate others while meeting your kids’ needs,  you’re doing the best you can.

3) Disengage and Distract. If things get heated and you find yourself sucked into an argument, you can always back out and try some evasive action: “You know, we’ve decided to do things this way, and it’s the right decision for us–I’d rather not talk about it anymore. Anyone want a piece of pie?” Somebody is going to want pie, so you’re pretty much guaranteed an “out”.

4) Save the “Big Discussions” for later. A family gathering is not the time to try to lay down ground rules with meddling parents or have a big ugly air-clearing exercise with the in-laws. Save it for after everyone’s gone home and you’ve had a chance to really think over what you’d want to have happen differently next year. After all, some of the issues that come with having small children will come to a natural end, and others might not seem like such a big deal after you’ve had a chance to calm down. Conflicts and disagreements over parenting issues with extended family and in-laws are pretty much unavoidable,  but you have to decide which hills are worth dying on, and which issues you can let go–or just wait out until they’re no longer an issue at all (infant sleeping, diapering, and/or feeding issues have a funny way of becoming non-issues as soon as the baby’s turned into a toddler).

In the meanwhile, just come up with an exit strategy in case you feel your face getting hot and an angry retort forming on your tongue. Hint: An emergency diaper change makes a great excuse and can buy you a good fifteen or twenty minutes alone in a back bedroom.

What are your strategies for dealing with critics, busybodies, and “helpful” advice from family?

Want more ideas
for creating a happier home life?

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