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We’ve started dedicating Monday mornings to a single tip or simple idea to get your week off to a better start. This week it’s my turn! -Sarah

plan a better week
Are you a pen-and-paper planner or a digital listmaker? As I’ve shared here before, I am a bit of both. I love the convenience of “the cloud” when it comes to managing work, home and family life in a streamlined way, but I also cling fiercely to a good old fashioned list.

(There’s nothing that helps sort out a jumbled brain full of tasks and to-do’s like the physical act of writing them down, right?)

But the reality of life in 2014 is, of course, that much of what crosses my desk never actually, um, crosses any desk at all. It pings in with a little notification sound by text or email. It lives online in a shared Google Doc. It hides behind the green Evernote app icon. It unfolds in a Facebook conversation thread. It streams through the speakers in my minivan, which connect via bluetooth to my phone. We live in crazy times, don’t we?

It’s all well and good until the going gets tough. I have my own little systems for staying organized by turning an email into a reminder, or capturing a thought digitally while I’m driving my car. I live by the search function in my email, which allows me to quickly look up that thing Meagan and I were discussing last week that I might have forgotten about. And while it does help to write out a to-do list to get focused for the day or the week, I find that in times where I’ve got a LOT on my plate, there’s only one way to get my brain out of the cloud(s) and onto firm ground where I can begin to make sense of it all.

I start printing stuff out.

Print
Printing a hard copy of something that I usually interact with on a screen has a calming effect. If I can hold it in my hands, mark it up with a pen, and leave it out in plain view on the counter or pin it up on a bulletin board, it seems somehow tackle-able. So during overwhelming times, I print. I print project lists for work, emails from the kids’ schools, and hard copies of my digital calendar. It’s all stuff I can access easily online from multiple devices, but when I feel my digital brain starting to overheat, the hard copies help it seem more manageable.

If your home and work life happen largely online or on-screen and you’re feeling stressed, why not give this a try this week? Here are a handful of ideas of things to print: [click to continue…]

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We’ve started dedicating Monday mornings to a single tip or simple idea to get your week off to a better start. Enjoy! -Meagan

plan a better week

Yesterday was a lovely day here in Southwest Michigan. The sun shone brightly, the birds sang. The kids biked up and down our alley frantically, as though trying to expel four months’ worth of pent-up energy. 

Which, to a certain extent, I guess they were. Luckily my boys get a decent opportunity to burn off steam between school recess, gym, walking to and from school, sports, etc; but there’s no doubt that we’ve been way more sedentary this winter than we usually are. And poor Clara has hardly been outside at all. I guess at some point, when it became too difficult to maneuver our ice- and snow-covered yard and we were on the 30th below-freezing day in a row and I hadn’t seen the sun in at least a week, I just gave up on the outdoors.

If you also live in one of the regions hard-hit by this year’s winter, maybe you can relate. And hopefully, you are now seeing signs of life, like I am: Sun. Birds. Grass (brown and dead though it may be.)

If so, it’s definitely time to go soak up some of that vitamin D-boosting sunshine, smell the spring air and get the kind of mental boost only those first warm early spring days can deliver.

But if you’re like me, maybe you’ve also gotten a little…out of habit when it comes to going outside. Maybe it almost feels like you’ve forgotten how! If so, here are some ideas to get you back in the spring mentality: [click to continue…]

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Every Sunday morning I share a moment from my week and something it illustrated about motherhood, family life, or simply being human. I invite you to set aside a moment out of your weekend for reflection and join me for Sunday Morning Tea. -Meagan

yogamat

Recently I started working with a wellness coach. It wasn’t something I’d planned – I haven’t been putting much emphasis on fitness or diet over the last few years, but still felt like I was living a reasonably healthy lifestyle. But when my yoga instructor, Kathleen, announced in class that she needed a few free clients to finish up her certification process, I remembered that I would like my pants to fit better and impulsively threw my hat in the ring.

During our first face-to-face session, Kathleen asked me to set a 10-12 week goal. I told her that I would like to make it through one of the more difficult yoga classes at our gym “without dying” and shared that I had been sticking to the gentle yoga classes out of fear that the harder ones would prove to be too challenging for me to make it all the way through without stopping.

“Well, that’s okay,” she said. “You can always go to the mat.”

You can always go to the mat! Of course. This is part of the reason yoga speaks to me so much more than other kinds of fitness classes: the knowledge that the mat is always available to me – that in fact, I am encouraged to use it if I think I need it. [click to continue…]

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This post is by Heather Caliri, regular contributor to The Happiest Home and blogger at A Little Yes. Heather writes about saying “yes” to little things that scare us. You can read all her posts here.

I have a morning habit that grounds me and strengthens me every day. I look forward to it, and depend on it to give me some equilibrium. I manage to make it a priority, no matter what.

What is it?

It’s reading advice columns while I drink a cup of tea.

You thought I was talking about yoga, didn’t you?

My habit doesn’t sound very productive. I spend fifteen every morning reading puff pieces in the Washington Post. I shush my kids and half-answer my husband and–you know what?

It really does me good.

I’ll be honest: I have mixed feelings about this habit of mine. Mornings are precious; I want to be present for my family. I could be using those minutes to cultivate habits related to my writing, or my faith; I could prepare for my day of homeschooling. Heck, I could simply empty the dishwasher. I could be doing so much more.

The only problem? I don’t want to. [click to continue…]

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Every Sunday morning I share a moment from my week and something it illustrated about motherhood, family life, or simply being human. I invite you to set aside a moment out of your weekend for reflection and join me for Sunday Morning Tea. -Meagan

snow, winter, tree, photography

This week marked the first official day of spring. And for those of us in the Midwest and the East Coast and every other place that’s been hit with a particularly hard winter, just knowing the spring is really on its way – even though my patio is still an iceberg and my yard is mostly dingy white and the temperatures hovered in the mid-30s for much of the day – is a huge relief. 

Because let’s be real here, people: unless you’re, like, Sarah and live in the land where the sun always shines, this winter has been a doozy. My kids had eight “snow days”, and probably a few school days that really should have been snow days except that administrators realized partway through the season that they were probably going to have to tighten the criteria by which a snow day gets declared, or the kids would be in school until July.

snow, winter

There are cars in my alley still completely buried in snow, only just starting to emerge. Our front yard is made up of varying levels of frozen dog poop, marking one blizzard to the next, like a geologic record of the season’s precipitation. After all, for two months there was never a single melt. It all just kept piling on, storm after storm.

But can I admit something here? As cold and snowy and occasionally pain-in-the-butt-ish this winter has been, I have to say I kept a surprisingly good attitude about it for the last three-plus months (we got our first huge snowstorm and snow day in early November, yo.)

Sure, I’m relieved that we’re moving into spring, and am practically salivating over the idea of summer. But I never experienced that sense of lingering disappointment this year that I usually get in mid-February, when the temps usually slide up above freezing for a day or two, then drop down again, then rise, then fall.

This year, it was all just…cold. And snowy. So every day, I knew exactly what to expect: more cold, and likely more snow. And because I never expected anything else, I was never disappointed when it didn’t come. In fact, I came to rather enjoy the drama of yet another plunging thermometer, the cozy chaos of all of us getting stuck in the house together, all day, again.

The other day I realized that the difference between my attitude about this winter as compared to previous winters is not unlike the difference between the way I embraced the babyhoods of my younger children as compared to the babyhoods of my oldest.

When I was a newer mom, I was like I usually am in February: irrationally hopeful. [click to continue…]

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We’ve started dedicating Monday mornings to a single tip or simple idea to get your week off to a better start. This week it’s my turn! -Sarah

plan a better week
I’ve noticed something about my eating habits over the last year or so: on weekdays when I’m home with the kids, I eat my healthiest meals at the oddest times. I’ll make poached eggs and toast late in the morning when it’s not really breakfast time and not quite lunch, or I’ll fix a really healthy bowl of oatmeal and fruit at 2:30 in the afternoon. I don’t even think twice about reheating dinner leftovers at 9:00am if I’m hungry and it sounds good.

And it makes sense, given my at-home rhythm and reality. Traditional mealtimes are all kinds of crazytown with three kids five and under. In the morning it’s a mad rush to get everybody breakfasted and lunches made for school. At lunch time I’ve got a baby throwing blueberries at the dog and a very picky three-year-old requesting 42 different variations on a sandwich he will never eat anyway. And while we do sit down together for dinner most nights, it’s the typical pass-the-baby relay race to inhale whatever I’ve managed to get on the table, plus milk refills and vegetable negotiations and all the rest. It’s not that I don’t eat at all at mealtimes, but it’s often rushed and mindless and often comprised of somebody else’s crusts or leftovers.

So out of necessity, I guess, I’ve taken to nourishing myself in between meals, at “off-peak” times of day. It didn’t start out as an intentional way to eat healthier, but now that it’s on my radar I make an effort to eat more of the “good stuff” – high-nutrient, high-energy foods with an emphasis on produce and lean protein – when I have a little space to breathe during the day. Even if it makes for seemingly odd food choices at totally random times of day.

salad
If you’ve noticed that your eating habits have fallen victim to the pace of at-home motherhood, why not give this a try this week? Here are a few thoughts on how to eat more intentionally in between meals: [click to continue…]

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Update:
Thanks so much to everyone who expressed an interest in the launch team! The team is now closed to new applicants, but I’d love to keep you posted about the book and other ways to get involved. Sign up for our email list and I’ll keep you in the loop!

writing picture- Meagan

I’m hard at work on something exciting!

Remember Beyond Baby, the 20-week email course I announced late last year to help moms tap into the selves they’d shelved while caring for babies and toddlers? The response was great – so great, in fact, that when I finished the 20th email I found that I didn’t want to stop.

I had so much more to say about the transition from “mom of tiny babies” to “mom of growing kids,” and all the possibilities, changes, and scary stuff we face as we move from the intense phase of early motherhood into a time when our children grow more independent.

From the time our babies take those first toddling steps away from us, our hands and hours slowly become more and more free – and how we use that freedom and extra time is the first step in creating a life we love when our kids aren’t so little.

So I’m turning Beyond Baby into a book: taking the activities and inspiration from the email program, editing, reorganizing and re-shaping it to be even better, and also adding 20 more weeks of content to create a full-length, 40-week program that will help you work through all the issues we moms face in our lives Beyond Baby.

And I need your help. 

As you probably know, there are a lot of parenting and motherhood books out there fighting for attention, and we authors need all the help we can get spreading the word! So I’d love to invite you to join my launch team – a special group who will get to check out Beyond Baby before it launches and help me help as many other moms as possible. (Oh, and no need to have been part of the email course to join the launch team. I’d love to have you either way!)

As a member of the Beyond Baby Launch Team, you’ll get: 

  • A free advance copy of Beyond Baby and the accompanying 40-week workbook
  • Access to a private group where I’ll share a behind-the-scenes look at what it’s like to write and launch a book
  • The opportunity to give feedback on certain aspects of the book during the production process
  • A special “thank you” with a link to your blog (if you like) on The Happiest Home
  • First opportunity to join the Beyond Baby affiliate program and make money by recommending the book to your friends and social networks.

In return, I’ll ask for:

  • An honest review on Amazon or another retailer site 
  • Any promotional ideas you might have to help get Beyond Baby in front of as many moms as possible!
  • Your help spreading the word about the book before and during the launch! 

Interested in joining? The first 50 people who apply will automatically get to join the Launch Team. If there is a lot of interest and I feel like I can handle a larger group I may expand on a more selective basis, but the first 50 are a guaranteed “in” – so don’t wait to apply!

{Update: Our launch team is closed for right now. Want to stay informed on the book release and other opportunities to get involved? Sign up for our email list right here.}

Got Questions? I’ve got answers!

“Do I have to be a blogger or have a large social following to join the launch team?” No! There are a lot of valuable ways to help get the word out. Maybe you’ll email the members of your mom’s group to let them know about the book, tell your family and friends on Facebook, or even put together a small group of moms to create a Beyond Baby book club. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to help an idea spread.

“I’m not a marketing mastermind. Is my input valuable?” Absolutely! If you’re a mom and a reader, you are exactly the person whose opinions I need to help me make Beyond Baby the best resource it can be. 

“I’m not on Facebook. Can I still join the Launch Team?” To keep everything streamlined we really need to run the Launch Team via a private Facebook group. It’s where the majority of people already hang out, so it keeps everything easiest for the most members. But even if you don’t join the actual launch team, there will be other opportunities to help spread the word about Beyond Baby, so keep an eye out or join our email list to get updates!

“What is the time commitment to join the Launch Team?” A lot of this depends on how long it takes you to read and write :) It won’t be super time-consuming, but I will expect members to put some time into reading the book, answering a few of my questions in the private group, and writing a fair review. The book will launch in early May, so the most intense period of promotion will be the last week of April through Mother’s Day. But I know you have children and other priorities and certainly don’t expect for you to spend all your free time on Beyond Baby! Give what you feel you can. 

Have a question that’s not answered above? Feel free to email me or leave a comment below. If you can’t commit to the launch team right now but want to be kept abreast of Beyond Baby launch news and/or ways you can help down the road, join our email list!

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podcast, parenting

Have you ever wished you could be calmer in the face of tough parenting decisions – and feel more confident with your choices?

If so,  you’ll love today’s interview with Todd and Cathy Adams, the husband-and-wife team behind Zen Parenting Radio. In the interview, we talk about:

  • How to pay attention to your gut and parent in the moment
  • Quieting the noise around you and becoming more self-aware so you can follow your instincts and sense of what’s right, rather than worrying about what “other people think.” 

You’ll definitely want to check out Cathy’s book, The Self-Aware Parent, and B.U. Inc, a workshop for kids taught by both Cathy and Todd which teaches kids to build their emotional intelligence and self-awareness and acceptance. 

Listen now!

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I’m also excited to have Shana Draugelis of Ain’t No Mom Jeans back on the show this week to talk about spring style! We discuss how to incorporate spring pieces into your look when there’s still snow on the ground (ugh) and how to dress for spring break – including trips to Disney World. 

Here are links to some of the pieces Shana and I talked about on the show: [click to continue…]

1 comment

plan a better week

It’s Monday morning, and if you’re like me, you’re thinking about ways to make this week go a little more smoothly than last. How to get a little more of the “must do’s” done while making enough room for yourself, how to feel less grouchy and rushed in the mornings or at dinnertime or at bedtime. 

One of the tips most often handed down by everyone from Ben Franklin to modern productivity experts seems simple: get up early. Start your day an hour or two before the rest of your family, and you’ll have plenty of time to dream your dreams and read your book and get the laundry started and run two miles and enjoy your coffee, so you won’t need to try to cram it all in throughout the day when you’re busy with family and/or work.

I know this is true. I’ve experienced the benefits of the super-early rise myself, when I’ve had the energy and the early bedtime and a little extra banked sleep and the promise of a gorgeous sunrise to pull it off. But this time of year? When the sky is gray and the air is frigid and the snow is turning black and just getting to my car without falling on the ice is a delicate maneuver? These days when getting up an hour early would mean rising to a house as dark as it was when I went to bed?

For this girl who tends toward night owl, it just doesn’t feel terribly realistic. 

But that doesn’t mean I have to give up on the idea of getting a little jump on the day.  [click to continue…]

8 comments

Every Sunday morning I share a moment from my week and something it illustrated about motherhood, family life, or simply being human. I invite you to set aside a moment out of your weekend for reflection and join me for Sunday Morning Tea. -Meagan

winter, road, driving  

The other day I was driving the familiar stretch of road between the grocery store and our home when I made an error in judgment that very nearly led to my plowing into another car.

Not paying full attention, I assumed a driver who stopped in front of me was trying to turn right into a parking lot – but actually he was stopping to let another driver make a left-hand turn into the road from behind a huge snowbank. As I passed the first driver on the left, the turning car suddenly lurched a few feet forward, nearly pulling right out in front of me before he slammed on the brakes. I had to swerve out of his way, realizing too late that he thought he had clear passage.

I drove the rest of the way home feeling a little sheepish and shaken, but forgot about it quickly enough.

The very next morning Clara and I were on our way to the gym. I was driving and she was peppering me with questions, which I answered thoughtfully for a few minutes. Until my mind wandered to something that I’d read on the computer right before leaving the house.

As we reached the gym I realized that Clara had been asking me questions relating to her birth, and I’d been giving her mindless “mm-hmm” answers to every question she’d asked for at least five minutes. I asked her to repeat back what she’d just said, and as it turned out, I’d unthinkingly approved a birth story in which she was born in the river amid biting fish and had floated to the surface with the help of arm floaties she’d apparently been wearing in the womb.

Oops. [click to continue…]

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