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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

Working from home with… Kathleen Fordyce

Welcome back to our Working from home with… guest post series! Today writer/editor Kathleen Fordyce shares her tips for working from home when you have little kids at home with you. Enjoy!

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Tips for Working at Home with Kids

Since giving birth to my son more than five years ago, I have had different opportunities to work from home. As a single, working mom, the flexibility helps me cut expenses on commuting and traditional daycare, seek out projects that interest me and enables me to spend precious time with my little guy.

While it has its perks, working from home is not always easy. There are days when I have back-to-back deadlines, my son is clamoring for more attention, paper airplanes are flying over my head, the babysitter is unavailable and the neighborhood kids are all knocking at my door asking if we can come out and play.

Over the years I have come up with some coping mechanisms in order to be able to work from home with a baby, then a toddler and a 5-year-old in half-day preschool. My son just started full-day kindergarten, but I still work with him at home in the afternoons, vacations and sick days. With a little planning, creative solutions and good time management, I believe any parent can work from home with kids.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1)   Get up early or stay up late to squeeze in uninterrupted work time

No matter how many hours you work with a child in tow, it will never compare to some quiet time alone. I used to be a night owl but since my son gets up pretty early and no longer naps, I am exhausted by the end of the day.

Even now with him at school, I get up most days around 5 a.m. to get in about two hours of uninterrupted work time before he opens his eyes. While I know a 5 a.m. wake-up call is not appealing, I have discovered it has its perks. I start my day at my own pace and by the time the house is waking up, I already feel accomplished because I have crossed some pertinent tasks off of my to-do list.

2)   Have crafts and toys set aside that kids can only play with when you work

When my son was a baby, he was content as long as he had an area to crawl and some toys to bang and chew on. As kids get older, the most challenging part of working with them at home is keeping them entertained. The best way to battle this is to have a few things set aside to keep their attention.

Allow them to go off on their own at first to find something to do. When they start hanging around complaining of boredom, have some things handy and pre-prepared to hand them. I keep a special bucket of toys that my son can play with only when I am working. He also loves to create and do arts and crafts on his little desk, which is right next to mine in the office. Check your local craft store for some quick, easy and inexpensive craft packets, which can are  a big hit.

3) Set up snacks and leave them in a place where kids can reach them

My son is always hungry so before I sit down, I make sure he has a drink ready in the fridge and some snacks out in bowls where he can reach them. Always be sure to have a few options, so you don’t have to deal with the whining about wanting something different. I leave grapes and carrot sticks in a bowl in the fridge and pretzels or goldfish in a bowl on the counter.

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4) Spend quality time with your kids before you work

Before I sit down to work, I spend time with my son. The key is to give all of your attention –that means no phone, email or distractions. I explain to him that at a certain time I need to stop and go back to work, but for now, I can do almost anything with him that he wants to. When the time comes for me to go back to work, he is usually ready to play on his own.

Once your work time starts, though, be sure you are clear about the rules for interruptions. When I am on a call, he can only interrupt me if it is an emergency and must play quietly in the next room. And if I cannot concentrate due to excessively loud playing or too many interruptions, he has to go play in his room until I’m done.

5)   Use screen time to your advantage

I monitor my son’s time in front of the television, video games and iPad. But I also know that this is one of the most effective ways to keep him occupied for long periods of time. On days that I know I have a lot of work to do, I will save his screen time for when I need to work.  This way when I am curling up with my laptop, he is happily curling up with a movie or video game.

6)   Work in spurts around your child’s schedule

While longer periods of work time are crucial, you should also sneak smaller bits of time throughout the day depending on your child’s schedule. Naptime is the most obvious time, but even if your child doesn’t nap anymore (I miss those days!), you should be on the lookout for other opportunities.

When my son would fall asleep in the car while running errands, I would pull out my notebook or phone to get some things done. (Be sure to keep an ongoing to-do list so when you can grab a minute, you don’t waste it trying to remember what needs to be done.) I will also squeeze in work when he gets invited over to our neighbor’s house after school, has his friends over to play or for the half-hour during his weekly swim lesson. Every little bit helps.

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7)   Learn to let some things go

This is probably by far the hardest part, at least for me. In order to use small moments of time throughout the day for work, you need to give up using the time for other things like laundry, cooking and cleaning. You can’t do it all, and if taking your career, passion or hobby to the next level is important, you need to prioritize your day accordingly. I try to follow one basic rule: when my son is quiet and occupied, I work.

Whenever I get frustrated by the Legos littered on the floor, the sink full of dishes or laundry piled high on the couch that needs to be folded, I remind myself of the work I was able to accomplish and the fun my son had at home that day. Then, I get back to work.

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Thanks, Kathleen! Kathleen Fordyce is a writer, journalist and currently Associate Editor of ShriverReport.org. You can read more of her work or follow their journey at KathleenFordyce.com

Want more work-from-home tips and ideas? Here’s Meagan’s series from this summer, with everything from time management ideas to some gentle get-it-in-gear inspiration for those of you who want to launch a work-at-home adventure of your own.

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