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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

#TalkEarly: raising kids to be leaders

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When I attended the #TalkEarly Summit in Washington, DC in August, my favorite part of the session was a talk from Lisa Graham Keegan. Lisa is an education reform advocate, author, member of the advisory board of The Century Council, and a mom of five adult kids.  

I loved Lisa’s presentation because it was honest, frank, and inspiring. My favorite part was listening to Lisa talk about how she worked to keep her own kids on a positive path.

Instead of focusing on just trying to get her kids not to do things, she raised them in a culture of service and leadership. She instilled in them that it’s their responsibility to live for a purpose and to be leaders for other people. 

In other words she concentrated on filling her kids’ lives with purpose and meaningful work, rather than just trying to help them avoid potholes.

That really spoke to me because it’s so different from what I grew up with. I honestly don’t remember anyone encouraging me to develop a sense of responsibility to others, besides basic kindness and charity when needed. I was never told that I was, or could be, a leader. And the way I was guided, particularly in my teen years, focused much more on not getting into trouble than it did accomplishing amazing things. 

I grew up in a middle-class, small town family in the Midwest. If anything, I absorbed the message that I shouldn’t take myself too seriously or put myself above others. I think those are both great lessons to learn, but they can also lead us to be minimize ourselves and what we have to offer. 

As a teenager I lived for the day to day and didn’t give a whole lot of thought to what I might be able to give to the world…what my purpose might be for being here in the first place.

So Lisa’s talk inspired me to think about the way I can incorporate messages that don’t come naturally to me into the way I interact with my kids. How I should be talking to them about living their lives as an example for others, and how what they do doesn’t just affect them, but everyone around them. Not only talking…but modeling, too.

It changes everything when you look at it that way, doesn’t it? If I see the way I parent my kids as not just about me and my child but also as potentially helping or influencing a newer mom, it makes me think more carefully about the choices I make. Likewise, if kids see themselves as role models and leaders, they’re likely to make a lot safer and more responsible choices when faced with tough situations like underage drinking or drinking and driving.

So I’m trying to overcome my Midwestern “don’t take yourself so seriously” sensibility when it comes to helping my kids tap into their best selves and recognize themselves as leaders.

One thing that’s helping me is realizing that everyone has the potential to lead. It’s not a zero-sum game: if I’m a leader, it doesn’t make everyone around me a follower; it just means we all lead different people in different ways.

I made plenty of bad choices with alcohol as a teen because I saw myself as a follower. I didn’t consider myself to be in-control or empowered or working toward a greater purpose. I didn’t think about the way my choices impacted others. I just sort of floated along and am very lucky not to have hurt myself along the way. 

If there’s one thing I want for my kids – and this took me many years to learn for myself – it’s the ability to stand up and say “This is dangerous” or “This is dumb” Or “We don’t need to do this to have fun.” 

And not just the ability, but the desire. To see in themselves a purpose that isn’t served by partying or putting themselves in dangerous situations.

To do that, I need to help my kids see themselves as leaders, not followers.

They need to recognize in themselves a responsibility to help others, even to shape opinion.

To do that, they need to feel like what they say matters and will be heard. How can I do that? I haven’t quite worked it out yet, but I’m thinking it looks like this: Listen. Take them seriously. Tell them what they do matters. And always encourage them to do a little better…for themselves, and for others. 

Look for more posts about talking early to kids about drinking over the next few months as part of the #TalkEarly program sponsored by the Century Council. 

 

 

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