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I am part Irish-American, part Italian-American, and have some Dutch and French blood running through me as well. Growing up, I most identified with my mother’s Italian side of the family. They were around more often.


Both of my parents were from Queens, New York. Their definition of “Italian” was quite different from people actually born in Italy.

My Grandfather’s name was Al Capone.

Sheer coincidence, but he was known to pack quite the punch. My mother was his first child, but he later had two other children with a younger woman, the same woman he had an affair with while married to my grandmother.

This left me growing up with an aunt and uncle who were my age. (That’s always been an interesting one to explain.)

My aunt and uncle were my first examples of what being Italian meant. At least what Italian meant living here in the tri-state. They had heavy New York accents, wore team jerseys, never shied away from bar fights, and had their own interpretation of the Italian language.

Have you ever eaten a ganole? Sure you have. It’s a cannoli. That’s right, ganole, gannoli, ganoul, ganoolie. All New York-Italian slang words for a cannoli.

Then there is hot gaba-goul. That would be hot capicola. Oh, It gets better. If you are an Italian, and you do something foolish you are called “Stu-nad” or considered a “stugats”, sometimes even a “doo-da-doo.”

If a woman is an undesirable female or skanky (for lack of better terms), she’s called a “skeevatz.” And, if you are a lady of the night or of the streets (or if you cross a jealous Italian woman), you’ll likely be labeled a “putana.”

Let’s not forget the many other entertaining and somewhat fascinating words that New York and New Jersey Italians keep in their lexicons. Goomba, goomah, oobatz, boombatz, ming, proshoot, biscott, buttagots and calamad just to name a few.

Needless to say, I didn’t have the best or most accurate examples of where my Italian roots first sprouted.

But, these family members were always fun and endlessly funny. They were also generous and kind in spite of their downfalls.

He didn’t have much, and he probably didn’t know much, but I loved him and all of them when I was growing up.

If you needed a dollar, my Grandfather would find you five. Even if that meant he went home with empty pockets. He didn’t have much, and he probably didn’t know much, but I loved him and all of them when I was growing up.

The Irish side of my family was, in fact, a stereotypical Irish family from a lower socio-economic status. My Grandfather, who passed away long before I was born, struggled with alcoholism. My two uncles, whom I never saw or spoke with for the majority of my life were also alcoholics, and from what my father had told me, very belligerent ones.

I listened to tales of nights when fists were thrown and noses bloodied in their home. I’ve even heard stories of my father having to lift his own slurring dad off the floor because he was so incoherent from drinking. A sight no child should ever see.

They didn’t have a lot of money, and they dealt with issues that come along with alcoholism; like anxiety, passive aggressiveness, bullying, and estrangement.

In social sciences as well as psychology and behavioral psychology, there are patterns called “multi-generational emotional processes” recognized in all cultures.

In the Irish culture, a few of these are; alcoholism, passive aggressiveness, teasing (also known as bullying), coping with tragedy with high drama but avoidance, and estrangement.

My father’s family fit the mold.

I didn’t have cousins my age on my mother’s side. I didn’t know my cousins from my father’s side except for two who lived in Florida. When I did meet my other cousins as adults, it was too late to have much in common with them. Several of them had inherited the generational process of alcoholism. Not something I wanted to be around.

It was difficult to feel so much disappointment time after time, but as I became an adult, I understood and respected why my parents chose to keep myself and my sister distant from many of our biological family members.

So, where did all of this leave me?

Well, inevitably I’ve inherited some of these traits. Some of the multigenerational systems have spread like a disease into my generation. My sister and I have been estranged for several years. I crave beer like most people crave sweets, I have a fiery temper and never back down from a verbal confrontation. It’s impossible for my father and me to have healthy conversations (he blames all of that on me of course, because it’s too painful for him to admit that these behaviors have been learned and passed down).

I hear myself using Italian slang with my children, and I even notice myself making facial expressions, gestures and sounds that my mother and father made.

It sounds as if I am only going to take a disgruntled turn here, but I’m not.

My mother sacrificed everything for my father and her children. She taught me what it meant to be strong through being stoic and also taught me when to draw a hard line when necessary.

My father worked hard with every bone in his body to give my sister and I much more than he had ever had and taught me what it meant to work hard and stay focused. One of the greatest pieces of advice came to me from my father. The advice was that “Jealousy is a wasted emotion, and it will run your life if you let it.” So, I have never been a jealous person and always embrace my self.

In spite of all of the insanity, I’m still proud to be who I am and have the parents I had and have.

In spite of all of the insanity, I’m still proud to be who I am and have the parents I had and have.

Both of my parents had a great sense of humor and were good to their friends. They loved music, food, friends, the arts and did their best to give me the security of family despite all of the “missing leaves” on our family tree.

And, when my mother got sick, my father never left her side. They taught me what it meant to love. What it meant to choose a partner that is also your best friend, and how to work things out no matter how difficult they may appear to be.

Now, what did I do with all of this baggage and negative genetic material? I still embraced some of it. Even some of the traits others may find undesirable.

I never let anyone push me around, and I protect the people I love fiercely. I took my hard-headed Irish-Italian mind and filled it with any source of information I could find so I could channel that power with intelligence, and not just emotions.

I also admitted my faults and sought out extensive therapy and education to stop many of these patterns so that I could have a healthy marriage, healthy friendships and be the best mother I can be.

Of course, I haven’t gotten rid of all of it. But I discovered great news on this extensive journey for change: it takes approximately three generations to break a multi-cultural emotional process. My generation is one of the first that has the knowledge and empowerment to stop these negative cycles.

That gives me hope.

I hope it gives many of you hope. In spite of the disappointing reality that it’s nearly impossible to repair damage that might have existed with parents or in the past, know that there’s great possibility that our children pave a new path. They can do more and be more than us, and change the ways of behavior in systems and society.

Be proud of what you come from. Crazy or really crazy. It has given you the tools to become who you are, even if those tools caused you great pain.

Your friends are your chosen family. They can help fill voids you didn’t know how to deal with as a child. And, work hard to change the things that cause you shame.

Don’t just pretend that they aren’t there, or someday you might see them in the clearest mirror of all, your children.

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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

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This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Mamas have a hard time carving out time for themselves. Our families almost always take priority, meaning things like skincare can easily fall by the wayside. Even though studies have shown the benefits of caring for ourselves also benefit our babies benefit our babies, it often feels just one more task to add to our to-do list.

Fortunately, it's possible to skip extensive routines and start small. If you have just five minutes (or more!) to spare for yourself this week, try these self-care products you can sneak during nap time or after you finally get the little ones down for the night.

If you only have 5 minutes: Remove your makeup

One of the most important ways to care for your skin at the end of the day is removing your makeup. Start with a cleansing towelette to easily wipe away even stubborn mascara and eyeliner so you can go to bed with a clean slate.

Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, Amazon, 2-pk $8.97

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If you have 10 minutes (or more): Use a jade facial roller

After cleansing, use this jade roller to gently massage your face to boost collagen, flush out toxins and improve circulation in your skin.

Jade Facial Roller, Amazon, $11.99

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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Chrissy Teigen has been very open about the ways pregnancy has changed her body. Mom to 2-year-old Luna and 4-month-old Miles, Teigen—a former swimsuit model—has famously embraced her postpartum body (stretchies and all), while noting that she's still, at times, insecure about it, but she's not ashamed.

That's why, when a man on Twitter commented on a photo of Teigen's red carpet look for the Emmy's to ask the whole wide world (and Teigen herself, he tagged her) if she was pregnant again, Teigen was quick to shut down the shamer.

"I'm asking this with the utmost respectful [sic], but is @chrissyteigen pregnant again?" The man wrote.

"I just had a baby but thank you for being soooo respectful," Teigen replied (from the Emmys).


Fellow moms were quick to jump to Teigen's defense. Many pointed out that Teigen actually looks incredible for any human, let alone one who is four months postpartum. Other mamas were quick to chime in with stories about their own lingering baby bumps.

For a lot of women, our bodies are different after having a baby. Sometimes that means we're a little rounder in the middle than we used to be. It happens to almost everyone, even red carpet-walking A-listers, like Teigen and actress Jennifer Garner, who once told Ellen Degeneres that she would have a bump forever.

"I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump," Garner explained in 2014, after paparazzi photographs fueled speculation that she and Ben Affleck were expecting a fourth child. "Forever and ever, not another baby. Just a bump like a camel. But just in reverse," Garner jokes.

Like Garner, Teigen dealt with the pregnancy question with a sense of humor, but she shouldn't have had to defend her body from the Emmys. As many, many Twitter users pointed out to the man who asked, it's never cool to ask a woman if she is pregnant.

It's not polite to ask, and it's no one's business whether a woman's bump is a pregnancy, some fabric, a burrito, a weird shadow or (as in Teigen's case) basically a figment of someone's imagination.

A lot of mamas online last night chimed in to say that while Teigen's stomach doesn't look like it did in her Sports Illustrated days, it still looks pretty freaking amazing.

Yes, after two kids, Chrissy Teigen doesn't look like a swimsuit model. But she shouldn't have to. She's not a swimsuit model anymore. She is a cookbook author with her own Target line and she hosts a hilarious TV show. She's also a mother. She is so much more than her midsection.

"Honestly, I don't ever have to be in a swimsuit again," she recently told Women's Health. "Since I was 20 years old, I had this weight in my mind that I am, or that I'm supposed to be. I've been so used to that number for 10 years now. And then I started realizing it was a swimsuit-model weight. There's a very big difference between wanting to be that kind of fit and wanting to be happy-fit."

Teigen is happy with her body, and we're happy she spent Emmy night educating the internet about respecting women.

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As parents, we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make sure our babies' brains are developing as quickly as possible. But the irony is, for many years the best way our little ones can learn and grow is through play. In fact, research has shown that reading stories, playing simple games, and engaging with toys is one of the best ways to boost baby's brain development for years to come.

It's those kind of findings that fuels the work at People Toy Company, a Japanese-based toy company that believes in encouraging the natural development of children through research-backed toys. Every toy in their line is developed to make playtime engaging for parents and children alike while helping little ones achieve developmental milestones through play.

Here are 10 of our favorite toys for engaging little minds and encouraging motor development from baby's first weeks and beyond.

TOYS TO STIMULATE LITTLE BRAINS BEFORE 6 MONTHS

1. Mochi Double Pendant Necklace (newborn on)

It's a fact of life that babies love to explore their world with their mouths. Save your jewelry by swapping in this teething necklace made from rice. Babies will love the easy-to-hold shape and textured design—you'll love the neutral color palette that goes with any outfit.

Mochi Double Pendant Necklace, Amazon, $15.99

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TOYS TO STIMULATE LITTLE BRAINS AFTER 6 MONTHS

1. Magic Reflection Ball (6 month)

Encourage independent play from six months on with this constantly changing reflection ball. Use the suction cup to attach it to different smooth surfaces to encourage pulling up and standing later on.

People Magic Reflection Ball, Amazon, $8.99

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This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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