I know, sometimes it's hard to know exactly when "this is it". From what I've heard, most people err on the side of thinking they are in labor when they're doing pre-labor work. I'm jealous that your mom had such easy labors!
So yes, you can have regular Braxton-Hicks and have it be a normal pre-labor activity. (I refuse to use the term false labor - there's nothing false about it!) A mother's intuition can be really powerful, though. Listen to yourself. You can call your childbirth provider, and they can talk you through a couple and have a guess on where you are. They are used to this
Last time with DS I had BH every 6 minutes apart, lasting from 4-8 hours. This lasted for 10 days. It felt like I was crying Wolf every day. "Is this it?!" When I finally went into labor, the contractions changed their character very drastically - they were clearly contractions and I just knew.
Anyways, this time I'm having them again, but this time they are crampy, kind of hurting. They were pretty regular for 13 hours last Monday night. Today I've been having them for the last 7 hours. I finally hopped on ContractionMaster.com, and they are 3.5 to 5.5 minutes apart. Hmmm... Should I cry Wolf again? The hospital is 40 minutes away and it will take MIL 2 hours to get here to watch DS. I just don't have a sense of urgency to call MIL, or the doula, or the midwife. I just want DS to go to bed so I can at least pack then get some sleep.
Good luck! Remember - a common bit of advise that I hear experienced moms tell first-timers is to make sure you sleep. If your contractions are mild enough to allow you to sleep through them, SLEEP!