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It is 2am, no 3, no 2 when my bleary eyes blink at the clock. He stands at my bedside. “Mama.” he says softly. “Mama” he repeats when he sees I am awake. “I can’t sleep” I lift the blanket in an invitation and he climbs in. Within 30 seconds his long lashes are resting on his cheek and his fingers curl at his face. I, however, am up.


Between my shoulder pain, my miniature bed hog, and one and a half cats, my portion of the bed is crowded. My husband sleeps through. The one upside to being deaf in his left ear is that he can put his good ear on the pillow and stay blissfully unaware of the goings-on in our bedroom in the small hours of the morning.

I know that sleep will come slowly, so I lie in my slim slice of bed and try to make use of my extra hours of awake time. I think about what Steve and I were discussing right before we turned out the lights, whether or not to put our cat to sleep.

When my husband and I met we each had 2 cats and a dog. Mine were all boys. His were all girls. It was the furry Brady bunch minus Alice to cook and clean. Fourteen years later we have one last cat left from the original bunch. For 2 years we have been taking her to the vet twice a month to get an antibiotic and steroid shot to ease some sort of sinus situation that she can’t fight off.

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Tonight I listen. She is about in the middle of her sinus cycle. I can hear her breathe as she pulls in and out with extra effort, but she doesn’t have her choking sounds that mark the worst of it. When she really needs the shot she is a mucous spewing Darth Vader who I can hear from half a house away.

She was the bottom of the barrel in our menagerie. Everyone but the Saint Bernard and the peaceful cat with dreadlocks picked on her. Her defense was to flatten herself and stay completely still while she was under attack. Her big move was making no move. I would intervene on her behalf then stay and watch her slowly rise to her feet and slink away in distrust.

For the past six months she has been dropping weight. Recently my husband and I took her into the vet together, thinking we would be getting the final answer on her health. The vet came into the room puzzled. “All of her blood work is good.” He told us. “Her kidney function is perfect, I think we just continue to treat her sinus condition and keep things going.” He went on, “as long as she continues eating and eliminating we can assume she is doing relatively well.” Steve and I looked at each other in strangled silence, her regular elimination may be a sign of health, but it is also a problem.

For years she has been peeing on our stuff. Bags, beds, towels, rugs, couches, sweatshirts, the bare floor were all regular targets. In fact anything less than 4 feet off of the floor was fair game. Three years ago we had taken her in for a medical work up that showed this was behavioral not medical. To address the situation we switched litter, added litterboxes, changed litterbox location. In case it was emotional we separated her from her worst enemy. Still she peed. Sometimes it would be weeks between incidents, sometimes hours. If you have dealt with pervasive cat pee you know our struggle.

Tonight as I think about arranging her death I go through the same calculations I have in the past. What proportion of her life is positive? She doesn’t care that her hair is greasy. She doesn’t care that half of her tail has been amputated leaving a long, strong, unattractive stump. She probably does care about her breathing difficulties. Because of treatment she only deals with them half the time, so is that enough? Is half the time not being able to breathe well enough of a reason to hasten her death? How much are we factoring in the misery of misplaced cat pee into this irreversible decision. I don’t think she is at death’s door. Maybe just on his front path. How close does she need to be to the end for this to be an act of mercy, rather than one of convenience.

Lying in my bed with my too thin blanket I look longingly across the room towards my regular quilt. It is in the wicker basket waiting to be washed. She had wet my bed just this afternoon. Steve and I stripped it together, half laughing half crying. Before we did it we lifted her so, so, gently off of the bed and placed her on the floor where she stood at a slight uneasy angle before walking slowly to the water bowl. Presumably re-loading.

As she wakes up beside me I pet her and hear her purr rise to the noise level of her breathing. She navigates over my son and makes it to my water glass. I’ve chosen the widest one so she can fit her head in it. I look at her ears nicked with years of bullying and want to take them between my fingers. I know it will make her twitch so I don’t do it. As much as her peeing makes me miserable I still want to take care of her. I don’t know whether taking care is to help her fight or to let go. I know how she would handle it if she could choose. She has never participated in a fight in her life. If death were a visible beast barreling towards her she would lie down low and wait for it to be over.

She travels from bedside table to blanket stumbling twice in her journey. As I examine her skeletal form and her crusted eyes meet mine. I wonder if she has anything to tell me. She is really just trying to find a spot to rest. I stroke her as she settles down so slowly. I can see the speed of her heartbeat in her fur. She is alive, and then she won’t be.

After we wake up I call the boys in to say goodbye. I explain that she might not be here when they get home from school. The boy that snuggled her last night meets my eyes as he reaches towards his cat.

“Rest in Peace” he tells her, kissing her bony head.

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As mamas, we naturally become the magic-makers for our families. We sing the songs that make the waits seem shorter, dispense the kisses that help boo-boos hurt less, carry the seemingly bottomless bags of treasures, and find ways to turn even the most hum-drum days into something memorable.

Sometimes it's on a family vacation or when exploring a new locale, but often it's in our own backyards or living rooms. Here are 12 ways to create magical moments with kids no matter where your adventures take you.


1. Keep it simple

Mary Poppins may be practically perfect in every way, but―trust us―your most magical memories don't require perfection. Spend the morning building blanket forts or break out the cookie cutters to serve their sandwich in a fun shape and you'll quickly learn that, for kids, the most magical moments are often the simplest.

2. Get on their level

Sometimes creating a memorable moment can be as easy as getting down on the floor and playing with your children. So don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees, to swing from the monkey bars, or turn watching your favorite movie into an ultimate snuggle sesh.

3. Reimagine the ordinary

As Mary says, "the cover is not the book." Teach your child to see the world beyond initial impressions by encouraging them to imagine a whole new world as you play―a world where the laundry basket can be a pirate ship or a pile of blankets can be a castle.

4. Get a little messy

Stomp in muddy puddles. Break out the finger paint. Bake a cake and don't worry about frosting drips on the counter. The messes will wait, mama. For now, let your children―and yourself―live in these moments that will all too soon become favorite memories.

5. Throw out the plan

The best-laid plans...are rarely the most exciting. And often the most magical moments happen by accident. So let go of the plan, embrace the unexpected, and remember that your child doesn't care if the day goes according to the schedule.

6. Take it outside

There's never a wrong time of year to make magic outside. Take a stroll through a spring rainstorm, catch the first winter snowflakes on your tongue, or camp out under a meteor shower this summer. Mother Nature is a natural at creating experiences you'll both remember forever.

7. Share your childhood memories

Chances are if you found it magical as a child, then your kids will too. Introduce your favorite books and movies (pro tip: Plan a double feature with an original like Mary Poppins followed with the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns!) or book a trip to your favorite family vacation spot from the past. You could even try to recreate photos from your old childhood with your kids so you can hang on to the memory forever.

8. Just add music

Even when you're doing something as humdrum as prepping dinner or tidying up the living room, a little music has a way of upping the fun factor. Tell Alexa to cue up your favorite station for a spontaneous family dance party or use your child's favorite movie soundtrack for a quick game of "Clean and Freeze" to pick up toys at the end of the day.

9. Say "yes"

Sometimes it can feel like you're constantly telling your child "no." While it's not possible to grant every request (sorry, kiddo, still can't let you drive the car!), plan a "yes" day for a little extra magic. That means every (reasonable) request gets an affirmative response for 24 hours. Trust us―they'll never forget it.

10. Let them take the lead

A day planned by your kid―can you imagine that? Instead of trying to plan what you think will lead to the best memories, put your kid in the driver's seat by letting them make the itinerary. If you have more than one child, break up the planning so one gets to pick the activity while the other chooses your lunch menu. You just might end up with a day you never expected.

11. Ask more questions

Odds are, your child might not remember every activity you plan―but they will remember the moments you made them feel special. By focusing the conversation on your little one―their likes, dislikes, goals, or even just craziest dreams―you teach them that their perspective matters and that you are their biggest fan.

12. Turn a bad day around

Not every magical moment will start from something good. But the days where things don't go to plan can often turn out to be the greatest memories, especially when you find a way to turn even a negative experience into a positive memory. So don't get discouraged if you wake up to rain clouds on your beach day or drop the eggs on the floor before breakfast―take a cue from Mary Poppins and find a way to turn the whole day a little "turtle."

Mary Poppins Returns available now on Digital & out on Blue-ray March 19! Let the magic begin in your house with a night where everything is possible—even the impossible ✨

After a pregnancy that is best described as uncomfortable, Jessica Simpson is finally done "Jess-tating" and is now a mama of three.

Baby Birdie Mae Johnson joined siblings Ace and Maxwell on Tuesday, March 19, Simpson announced via Instagram.

Simpson's third child weighed in at 10 pounds, 13 ounces.

Birdie's name is no surprise to Jessica's Instagram followers, who saw numerous references to the name in her baby shower photos and IG stories in the last few weeks.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to experts.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

At this moment in time, Simpson and her husband, former NFL player Eric Johnson, are probably busy counting little fingers and toes , which is great news because it means Simpson's toes can finally deflate. She's had a terrible time with swollen feet during this pregnancy, and was also hospitalized multiple times due to bronchitis in her final trimester.

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We're so glad to see Simpson's little Birdie has finally arrived!

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Spring is officially here and if you're looking for a way to celebrate the change in the season, why not treat the kids to some ice cream, mama?

DQ locations across the country (but not the ones in malls) are giving away free small vanilla cones today, March 20! So pack up the kids and get to a DQ near you.

And if you can't make it today, from March 21 through March 31, DQ's got a deal where small cones will be just 50 cents (but you have to download the DQ mobile app to claim that one).

Another chain, Pennsylvania-based Rita's Italian Ice is also dishing up freebies today, so if DQ's not your thing you can grab a free cup of Italian ice instead.

We're so excited that ice cream season is here and snowsuit season is behind us. Just a few short weeks and the kids will be jumping through the sprinklers.

Welcome back, spring. We've missed you!

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The woman who basically single-handedly taught the world to embrace vulnerability and imperfection is coming to Netflix and we cannot wait to binge whatever Brené Brown's special will serve up because we'll probably be better people after watching it.

It drops on April 19 and is called Brené Brown: The Call to Courage. If it has even a fraction of the impact of her books or the viral Ted talk that made her a household name, it's going to be life and culture changing.

Announcing the special on Instagram Brown says she "cannot believe" she's about to be "breaking some boundaries over at Netflix" with the 77-minute special.

Netflix describes the special as a discussion of "what it takes to choose courage over comfort in a culture defined by scarcity, fear and uncertainty" and it sounds exactly like what we need right now.

April 19 is still pretty far away though, so if you need some of Brown's wisdom now, check out her books on Amazon or watch (or rewatch) the 2010 Ted Talk that put her—and our culture's relationship with vulnerability and shame—in the national spotlight.

The power of vulnerability | Brené Brown

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If Marie Kondo's Netflix show got people tidying up, Brown's Netflix special is sure to be the catalyst for some courageous choices this spring.

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My husband and I recently had a date night that included being away from our son overnight for the first time since he was born three years ago (but don't let your heads run away with a fantasy—we literally slept because we were exhausted #thisiswhatwecallfunnow). It was a combination of a late night work event, a feeling that we had to do something just for the two of us, and simple convenience. It would have taken hours to get home from the end of a very long day when we could just check into a hotel overnight and get home early the next day.

But before that night, I fretted about what to do. How would childcare work? No one besides me or my husband has put our son to bed, and we have never not been there when he wakes up in the morning.

Enter: Grandma.

I knew if there was any chance of this being successful, the only person that could pull it off is one of my son's favorite people—his grandmother. Grammy cakes. Gramma. We rely so much on these extended support systems to give us comfort and confidence as parents and put our kids at ease. Technically, we could parent without their support, but I'm so glad we don't have to.

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So as we walked out the door, leaving Grandma with my son for one night, I realized how lucky we are that she gets it...

She gets it because she always comes bearing delicious snacks. And usually a small toy or crayons in her bag for just the right moment when it's needed.

She gets it because she comes with all of the warmth and love of his parents but none of the baggage. None of the first time parent jitters and all of the understanding that most kids just have simple needs: to eat, play and sleep.

She gets it because she understands what I need too. The reassurance that my baby will be safe. And cared for.

She gets it because she's been in my shoes before. Decades ago, she was a nervous new mama too and felt the same worries. She's been exactly where we are.

She gets it because she shoos us away as we nervously say goodbye, calling out cheerfully, "Have fun, I've got this." And I know that she does.

She gets it because she will get down on the floor with him to play Legos—even though sometimes it's a little difficult to get back up.

She gets it because she will fumble around with our AppleTV—so different from her remote at home—to find him just the right video on Youtube that he's looking for.

She gets it because she diligently takes notes when we go through the multi-step bedtime routine that we've elaborately concocted, passing no judgment, and promising that she'll follow along as best as she can.

She gets it because she'll break the routine and lay next to him in bed when my son gets upset, singing softly in his ear until she sees his eyelids droop heavy and finally fall asleep.

She gets it because she'll text us to let us know when he's fallen asleep because she knows we'll be wondering.

She gets it because just like our son trusts us as his mom and dad, Grandma is his safe space. My son feels at ease with her—and that relaxes me, too.

She gets it because when we come home from our "big night out" the house will be clean. Our toddler's play table that always has some sort of sticky jelly residue on it will be spotless. The dishwasher empty. (Side note: She is my hero.)

She gets it because she shows up whenever we ask. Even when it means having to rearrange her schedule. Even when it means she has to sleep in our home instead of her own.

She gets it because even though she has her own life, she makes sure to be as involved in ours as she can. But that doesn't mean she gives unsolicited advice. It means that she's there. She comes to us or lets us come to her. Whenever we need her.

She gets it because she takes care of us, too. She's there to chat with at the end of a long day. To commiserate on how hard motherhood and working and life can be, but to also gently remind me, "These are the best days."

After every time Grandma comes over, she always leaves a family that feels so content. Fulfilled by her presence. The caretaking and nourishment (mental and food-wise) and warmth that accompanies her.

We know this is a privilege. We know we're beyond lucky that she is present and wants to be involved and gets it. We know that sometimes life doesn't work out like this and sometimes Grandma lives far away or is no longer here, or just doesn't get it. So we hold on. And appreciate every moment.

As Grandma leaves, I hug her tight and tell her, "I can't thank you enough. We couldn't have done this without you." Because we can't. And we wouldn't want to.

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