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My mom taught me how to create the perfect Thanksgiving—and I miss her every year

I spent the morning of Thanksgiving, or sometimes the night before, picking bread for stuffing. It was a ritual I started helping mom with at a very young age, so young I can't even remember how old I might have been.

My mom taught me how to create the perfect Thanksgiving—and I miss her every year

Thanksgiving nostalgia is a special kind, particularly as we get older. I hold close my memories of the parade on TV in the morning, throwing football outside in the cold with my big brother, mom smacking my uncle's hand as he picked at the stuffing in the turkey as soon as it came out of the oven, the dreaded "What are you thankful for this year?", eating sandwiches only minutes after the meal was finished, everybody passing out on couches, chairs, and the floor, just happy to be full and together as a big happy family, which we seemed capable of achieving only on this one special occasion each year. They have become not just memories of those specific holidays, but also my lasting memories of those family members who are no longer with us.

For my Mom's final Thanksgiving, which my wife and I hosted in our Brooklyn apartment on the day before our city-hall wedding, joined by my brother and his growing family, my mom and dad and soon to be in-laws, I orchestrated the whole symphony, from hand shucked oysters through an assortment of homemade pies for dessert. It was the best turkey I'd ever cooked, smoked outside our apartment, and the stuffing was a triumph.

My mom had a brain tumor and by this point she'd already lost complete mobility to half of her body. This left her unable to help with any of the cooking, which she had forever done, and which I knew was difficult for her not to participate in.

At every one of the many Thanksgivings I spent with my family, which is to say the family I had before I got married and started a new one of my own, I spent the morning of Thanksgiving, or sometimes the night before, picking bread for stuffing. It was a ritual I started helping mom with at a very young age, so young I can't even remember how old I might have been.

As I grew older, not only did the pile of breadcrumbs grow with me, but I began helping with more and more of the many tasks involved in orchestrating the Thanksgiving symphony my mother so masterfully conducted each November. Before you knew it, I was carving the bird at the table.

That last year with my mom was the first year I truly came to understand what it was to cook a Thanksgiving dinner, and I don't just mean all the work, sweat and stress. As I cooked throughout the day, I often took a look over at Mom, who was in and out of sleep, but when awake, clearly very happy, not only to be once again with her big happy family, but to see the results of the cooking lessons and good examples she had given for so many years to her sons.

Here was a magnificent family event unfolding, grandchildren present (one of whom may have burned his little hand on a hot open oven), my wife and her family, who would become a part of ours less than 24 hours later and she finally got to just sit back and take it all in, and enjoy the fruits of her labor, along with a heaping pile of stuffing.

Some of the pride she had always felt in bringing the family together around a wonderful meal was now rubbing off on me, and as hard as it was to pull off that miracle of a Thanksgiving, I would be lying if I didn't say it was one of the highlights of my life.

Mom was there the next day for the best deal I ever got on Black Friday, when I married my amazing wife. She hung in there for a few more months, squeezing out every last moment of joy she could with her still growing family. Although she never got to actually meet our son, they still share a bond that's hard to describe, maybe from the time we all spent together while he was in the womb. Hearing our son shout "Grandma Didi" even though he never met her, brings a tear to my eye every time.

A few days after Mom passed away, just over two years ago, I found a note she had written to herself during a time of hardship. As she worked through a period of great loneliness, she wrote about what had been most meaningful to her in life.

In it she spoke proudly of her two sons whom she said had brought great joy into her life as soon as they were born, and that despite being far away from them with visits rather infrequent, they continued to be a great source of happiness and pride for her. She also recounted how heartwarming it was to receive a text message from one of her boys about a new recipe he had just tried, and how proud she felt that both of her sons now took joy in cooking for their families in the same way that she had for them.

Reading the note, I could feel the warmth of her smile break through the cold Maine air, as she proudly reflected on the time she'd spent letting her little boys stir the sauce, roll the meatballs, and of course pick the bread for Thanksgiving Stuffing.

My son spent his first Thanksgiving up at my childhood home in Maine, last November. We spent a lot of time thinking about Mom as we passed a lovely but very cold holiday up at the farm.

Mom's brother came to join us for dinner, and I pulled out all the stops. Everything came to the table hot. The turkey was juicy and delicious, and the gravy was my best ever. I believe we had a consensus at the table, that the highlight, as always, was the stuffing. Even our son, at less than a year old, seemed to agree.

This year, I'll ask him to pick the bread, just like my mom did with me. Maybe I can carry on the tradition of having the men of the family be the best cooks in the house. I know she would be proud of that.

A very important letter for new mamas

Listen, mom-guilt is a dirty liar. Yes, it's your job to fill your little human's needs, but you matter too. Don't forget to take care of yourself. Hang out with friends, take a drive blaring 90's hip hop or shower without interruptions—trust me, you'll be a better person (and mom) because of it.

Dear new mom,

You will shave again someday. Today is not that day.

Set expectations low, my friend, and set your partner's lower—at least where body hair and overall hygiene are concerned.

That conversation could go something like this: “From now on let's not consider shaving a “standard," but more like a gift that happens on birthdays and the first day of summer."

Voila, you are a gift-giving genius. You know what else is a gift? Shaving the inch and a half of skin that is between your skinny jeans and your boots. You're welcome world.

You will not be perfect at parenting.

Boom.

I have yet to meet a perfect mother, but when I do, she's going to be a tiger who is insanely good at making up songs. (Daniel Tiger's mom, we salute you.)

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Life

9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.

$79

Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.

$30

Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.

$32

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.

$37

The Snoo bassinet

Snoo

Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!

$1295

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.

$59.99

Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!

$46.99

Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.

$259.00

Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.

$27.95

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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