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I was raised in a traditional Irish Catholic family in a suburb about 25 minutes South of Boston. As a young girl, I attended church most weekends with one set of grandparents or the other.


When I became a teenager, our dad had a rule that we either had to make it to 4 p.m. Mass on Saturdays or be up for Mass early Sunday morning. Most weekends, I chose the Saturday Mass. I attended CCD classes, received all my Sacraments, was married in the Catholic Church, and even taught CCD (or Sunday School) classes.

When my son was born, his father and I baptized him into our faith without hesitation or question. Growing up so close to Boston, it was as if other Irish Catholics were the only kids I went to school with, played with, and later worked with. I even married another Irish Catholic. I did everything just as a proper Irish Catholic girl from the Boston area should.

Until I didn’t.

In 2011, after a 10-year relationship and a four-year dysfunctional marriage, I made the gut-wrenching decision to end it and filed for divorce. Divorce is a huge no-no among us Irish Catholics – all Catholics, actually. Long thought to be a mortal sin, this school of thought is just now slowly starting to evolve.

To date, some priests still refuse to accept confession from someone who has been divorced. I know this because it happened to me. The priest at our then neighborhood parish, where my son attended CCD and would soon receive his First Holy Communion, flat out refused to accept my confession, instead pushing annulment paperwork on me. But I digress.

Shortly after separating from my husband, a dear childhood friend and I reconnected. Our friendship blossomed into a beautiful, deeply meaningful, supportive, and loving relationship. In what seemed like a whirlwind, we were engaged to be married. There was only one problem: as committed to my Catholicism as I was, my new fiancée, Mike, was just as committed to his Judaism.

Raised in a traditional Jewish home, he attended a year of Hebrew School for every CCD class I attended. As I was receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation, Mike was making his Bar Mitzvah. While I taught CCD classes, Mike’s mother had spent decades working for their family Temple.

We were at a crossroads. Or were we?

Mike only once asked me if I would consider converting to Judaism. When I emphatically responded no and explained to him how very sacred my faith was to me for so many reasons – including memories of time shared with my beloved grandparents and the fact that my son had been Christened a Catholic – Mike casually responded with, “I figured I’d at least ask. No biggie.”

No biggie? What were we going to do? Where and by whom would we be married? And what about potential future children? Would they be raised Catholic or Jewish?

After frantically drilling my very calm and level-headed fiancée with all of these questions, the answers became crystal clear. It really was no biggie. We would blend our respective faiths and traditions, each one of us respecting the other’s.

Our first holiday season spent living together as a family was wonderful. Mike taught Jack, who was now five, how to make potato latkes, just as his father had taught him, and Jack loved learning to play Dreidel!

The trip to the local nursery to pick out our Christmas Tree was a first for Mike, as he had never before had one. Mike’s introduction to Jack’s Elf on the Shelf, “MJ”, was quite hilarious, as he had never heard of the concept, much less been responsible for ensuring that MJ didn’t lose his magic.

The first night of Hanukkah fell on Thanksgiving that year, and we spent it with my in-laws and now brother-in-law’s Irish Catholic girlfriend and her family. A chef, Mike had to work early Christmas morning that year but was able to experience one of my most adored traditions with me and my family: Christmas eve at Nana’s house.

Each new experience and tradition we shared with one another went off without a hitch. In fact, we soon learned our differences actually helped to bring us closer. Admittedly naive and grossly uninformed about the Jewish faith, I loved learning about it from Mike, and he seemed to enjoy learning about my faith as well.

The best thing about our newly blended, Interfaith family was what it offered Jack. Jack had the unique opportunity to learn about both Mike’s faith and his own. Judaism is the foundation of Catholicism. Jesus himself was a Jewish carpenter. What better way for Jack to learn about his own Catholicism than from the very beginning, the origins, the foundation?

Unfortunately, it is all too common for a child growing up in Boston to learn that “they” are different from “us.” Our city’s history speaks for itself; we haven’t always been the most open-minded place. I don’t have to worry about that with Jack, though. We have been blessed with a wonderful man who loves and supports us both, and who happens to be Jewish. Jack loves Mike and would never see him as “one of them” or “other.”

It’s been four years since that first holiday season we spent together as a family. We’ve been through many changes, including two cross-country moves. Each holiday season is better than the last, and Jack knows more about Mike’s faith at nine than I did at 30 when we became engaged. Mike and Jack have developed an unbreakable bond based in mutual respect, trust, and love. And Jack is growing into a well-informed, tolerant, and open-minded little boy.

For all of this, I will be eternally grateful.

Mike and I were married in 2015. As for my panic-stricken wondering about where and by whom we would be married, it turned to be “no biggie” after all. We had an intimate ceremony with only our two closest friends present, and Jack escorted me down the aisle, in Las Vegas!

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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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I can vividly remember the last time I remember feeling truly rested. I was on vacation with my family, and my dad and I had started a tradition of going to sleep at 10 p.m., then waking up at 10 a.m. to go for a run. After five days of twelve hours of sleep a night, I remember actually pausing and thinking, "I am truly not at all tired right now!"

That was probably 15 years ago.

Of course, being tired pre-kids and being tired post-kids are two entirely different beasts. Pre-kids, tiredness was almost a badge of pride. It meant you had stayed up late dancing with friends or at a concert with your boyfriend. It meant you had woken up early to hit a spin class before gliding into work, hair still damp from your shower, for a morning meeting. Being tired meant you were generally killing it at life—and I was still young enough that, with a little concealer, I could look like it.

Tired post-kids is a whole other animal.

Tired post-kids means you probably still went to bed at a reasonable hour, but you're still exhausted. Maybe you even slept in past sunrise... but you're still exhausted. You may not have worked out in weeks... but you're still exhausted. And staying out late dancing with your girlfriends? (I mean... is that real life? Was it ever?) Nope, didn't do that. But—you guessed it!—you're still exhausted.

Sometimes I look at my husband and say, "I think if I could sleep for about five days, then I would feel rested again."

But considering the average new mom loses almost two months of sleep in her child's first year of life, even that is probably a low estimate of what I really need.

Because being a mom is exhausting.

It's exhausting always putting someone else's needs above your own. I often find myself actually giving my daughter the food off my plate (because, when you're two, mom's meal must be better even if you're eating the exact same thing).

Or I'll sacrifice sneaking my own nap to lie uncomfortably with her on the couch because it means she sleeps an extra 30 minutes.

Or I'll carry her up and down flights of stairs she is perfectly capable of scaling on her own because, well, she's tired or it's just quicker than nagging her to hurry up all the time.

I often end the day bone-tired, shocked at the physical exertion of just keeping this little person alive.

It's exhausting remembering all the things. The mental load of motherhood is so real, and sometimes I'm not sure it won't crush me.

I schedule and remember the doctor appointments, keep the fridge stocked and plan the meals, notice when my husband is low on white shirts and wash and fold the laundry, add the playdates and the date nights to the calendar, and add any assortment of to-dos to my day because, well, I'm the parent at home, so I must have time, right?

And when I drop one of the thousand balls I'm juggling, I writhe under the guilt of failing at my responsibility.

It's exhausting not getting enough sleep. The sleep gap doesn't end after baby's first year.

Studies have shown that parents lose as much as six months of sleep in their child's first two years of life. That sounds unbelievable at first...but I completely believe it.

Because sometimes I stay up later than I should just to get a few minutes of "me" time. Because sometimes my sleep-trained daughter still wakes up in the middle of the night with a nightmare or because she's sick or for no real reason at all and needs me to soothe her back to sleep.

Because sometimes I'm so busy trying to keep it all together mentally that I don't know how to turn my own brain off to get to sleep. And because sometimes (almost always) my daughter wakes up earlier than I would like her to and the day starts over before I'm ready.

It's exhausting maintaining any other relationship while being a mom. I try not to neglect my marriage. I try not to neglect my friendships. I try to make time for friendly interaction with my coworkers. I try to be there for my congregation. I try to keep all these connections alive and nurtured, but the fact is that some days my nurture is completely used up.

It's exhausting doing all of the above while being pregnant. Okay, this one might not resonate for every mom, but we all know being pregnant is hard. Being pregnant with a toddler? I'm shocked it's not yet an Olympic event. (I'm not sure if we'd all get gold medals or just all fall asleep at the starting gun.)

Most days, I'm so tired and busy I honestly forget that I am pregnant, only to be reminded at the end of the day when I finally collapse on the couch and the little one in my uterus wakes up to remind me. My body is doing amazing things, sure—and I have the exhaustion to show for it.

Of course, I know that this is just an exhausting season of life. One day, one not-so-far-off day, my children will be a bit more grown and be able to get their own breakfast in the morning. One day, they'll actually want to sleep in, and I'll be the one opening their curtains in the morning to start the day (maybe before they're really ready).

One day, they'll always walk up and down the stairs themselves and will stop stealing my food and I'll be able to nap without making sure they are asleep or with a sitter. One day, they won't need me to remember all the things.

And the really wild part? Just thinking about that day makes me miss these days, just a bit.

So, yes, I'm tired. I'm always tired. But I'm grateful too. Grateful I get to have these days. Grateful I get to have this life.

But also really grateful for those days I get to nap, too.

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For the first couple years of a child's life, their feet grow so rapidly that they typically need a new shoe size every two to three months (so, no, you're not imagining how many shoes you've been buying lately!).

Fortunately, things tend to slow down as they start walking and hit school age. Even so, it's important to make sure they're wearing the right size for maximum comfort and healthy development.

That's why we teamed up with the experts at Rack Room Shoes for tips on helping the whole family get back to school on the right foot.

1. Get professionally fitted at least once a year.

We love online shopping as much as anyone, but for the health of your child's feet, it's worth it to make at least an annual trip to a store to get them properly sized on a Brannock Device (yep, those old-school sizers you remember as a kid are still the most reliable indicators of foot length and width!). Back to school is a great time to plan a visit to a store with trained associates who can help ensure your little one is getting the right fit.

2. Remember not all feet (or shoes) are created equally.

Most babies have naturally pudgier feet that thin out as they get older, and many kids need a wider or narrower shoe than their peers. Visiting a store and speaking with a trained associate can help you gauge which shoe brand will best suit your child. Once you have that benchmark, shopping online will be easier.

3. Get good closure.

Shoe closure, that is. Nowadays, there's a variety of ways to fasten kids shoes, from slip-ons to velcro to elastic laces. Provide your child with a few options to find the closure that works best for you both.

4. Watch for tell-tale signs your child has outgrown their shoes.

Children will often be the last ones to tell you their favorite shoes are uncomfortable. If your child is tripping or walking funny, it may be time to size up.

5. Try the push-down toe method.

Think your kid has outgrown their kicks? Push down on the toe of their shoe with your thumb to see how much wiggle room they have. The ideal size is to have about half a thumb's width between the tip of the toe and the end of the shoe. (That space equates to about half a size.)

6. Pick a style they'll want to put on. (Here are some of our favorites!)

Most moms know the struggle of getting kids out the door in the morning—the right pair of shoes can help cut down on the (literal) foot-dragging. Opt for a fun style (consider shopping for their favorite color or a light-up design) that they'll be begging to wear every day. (But feel free to buy a second pair that's more your style too!)

You'll love that they're classic converse. They'll love the peek of pink.

Converse Girls Maddie, $44

BUY

7. Don't forget the sneakers.

Whether they're running through the recess or racing in P.E., school-age children need a pair of well-fitting, durable sneakers. Be sure to get them professionally fitted to ensure nothing slows them down on the playground.

8. Understand the size breakdowns.

Expert retailers like Rack Room Shoes break up sizing by Baby, Toddler, Little Kid, and Big Kid to make it easier to find the right section for your child. For boys, there's no size break between kids shoes and men's shoes. Girls, though, can cross over into women's shoes from size 4 (in girls) on—a girl's size 4 is a women's size 5.5 or 6.

Looking for more advice? Step into a Rack Room Shoes store near you or shop online. With a "Buy One, Get One 50% off" policy, you can make sure the whole family will put their best foot forward this back-to-school season. (We had to!)

Who knew Amazon had so many dreamy nursery must-haves? Maybe you have a friend or family member about to have a baby or you're preparing for your new bundle of joy—either way, you can save tons on grabbing some essentials on Prime Day.

We've rounded up our favorite nursery items from basics, like cribs and changing tables, to the essentials you never knew you needed (hint: lots of storage!).

1. 6-drawer dresser

This gorgeous dresser has plenty of space for baby's clothing and accessories—and will transition seamlessly to a big kid room one day. Even better? The top is large enough to be used as a changing table. The shade of white is great for any gender, too!

Dresser, Amazon, $239.99 ($329.99)

BUY HERE

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