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photo: Keiko Zoll

For a long time—too long, it felt like—I wasn’t sure I’d ever get to be a mom.

I went through five years of infertility, five years of wondering if someone would ever grow up and call me “Mom.” It’s been 10 years since that day I got the call from my doctor’s office, that left me stunned at just 26 years old. It’s been five years since my son was born, my little wonder of science. He doesn’t call me “Mom”—I settled on Mama, instead.

When my son was just seven months and three days old, I posted a photo on Facebook, calling it Judah’s “In/Out Day”—the day he spent as much time out as he did in; he was born premature at 34 weeks, three days. Perhaps he’d sensed my impatience at becoming a mom.

Now, as I reflect on my journey to motherhood as many years into it as it’s been leading up to it, I have so many things I would say to my 10-years-younger self. Namely this: It’s going to be so rad, more rad than you can even fathom. It will be terrifying, joyful, exhausting, renewing—and by golly, you’ve got this.

At this moment, right now—this is what it’s like parenting my five-year-old.

Five years old is:

…building LEGOs with you for hours on end or teaching you the finer points of hand-braking in Mario Kart for the Switch.

…trying to help you find the words for those big emotions.

…you running circles around me on YouTube already—and I’m a pretty hardcore internet nerd to begin with!

…that time you broke down when I asked you to eat a banana I had anthropomorphized by giving it pretzel stick arms—and you gave it a name (Banana Man), an identity and apparently, a soul.

…wondering at what point during the school year they’ll teach you how to tie your shoelaces as I rush to tie them every morning before school.

…melting when you come home from school telling me about your “best friend” and all the awesome things you do at school together.

…having the tough but compassionate conversations when you ask why you don’t have a little brother or sister like your classmates do.

…blowing through more construction paper and tape in a month than seems humanly possible. I swear your art teacher doesn’t even go through this much paper!

…listening to you play pretend in the next room, so fully engulfed in your own wonderful world of make believe—hearing snippets of my own words and phrases you’ve made your own, parroting the world around you in your own way.

…figuring out what to do with all the worksheets, drawings and school work that comes home each week in your folder while marveling at how you perceive and record the world around you.

…realizing I can’t pull a fast one on you anymore, like that disappearing finger trick—because you’ve figured it out on your own and are showing it to me now.

…giving you more responsibilities around the house, like feeding the cats, pouring yourself a bowl of cereal or helping to unload the dishwasher.

…hilariously watching you try to find your own sense of comedic timing and schtick as you invent your own knock-knock jokes. They don’t always make sense, but I’ll always laugh.

…questioning how much is too much: swim, instructional pitch baseball, LEGO club, art club, basketball, nature camp. We want you to explore, to flourish, to discover your passions—but we have to remember, you’re still only five years old.

…you offering me a hug when you can tell I’m upset about something—and knowing that you can see my big emotions, too.

…an eye-opening pantheon of kids’ shows available for streaming at the touch of an Apple TV remote. Better still is knowing you’ll grow up seeing so much more representation on your screens than I did as a kid—that women, kids of color and family configurations of all types will be the norm, not the exception, as you get older.

…your fierce and loyal protection of your “stuffies” and your surprising commitment to equity so that each stuffed animal rotates each night to get their turn to snuggle with you.

…seeing the limits of your own memory when I show you photos from when you were three or four, and you can’t remember the context. You’re forgetting things from when you were little—and truthfully, I’m not even sure how I feel about that.

…you wiggling your first loose tooth and remembering the years of letters I would write to my own Tooth Fairy—who always wrote me back, too.

…trying to explain that yes, life can be unfair and no, you can’t always win, without dulling your hope.

…you playing games like “Fee Fee Fee, I See Something You Don’t See,” in the doctor’s waiting room, the Color Game in the car (“I see a red light. I see an orange cone…”) or making up riddles on the fly in the grocery store.

…getting absolutely schooled by you just about every time we play UNO.

…pondering with your dad about what you’ll be when you grow up. You say “pet vet” and “Rex Sox pitcher,” but we both you know have a shocking command of numbers already at your age—and wondering how can we keep up, how we can best support you and your education.

…you bursting into tears during the middle of story time before bed, suddenly panicked and consumed with the realization of your own mortality and figuring out (on the spot) how to explain why people die.

…pants with ripped knees. So many ripped pants. Also, how do you keep growing this fast and not physically feel it?

…watching your independence blossom since the first day of kindergarten. Most mornings it’s a quick, “Bye mom!” as you run off to school where for those first few days, you wouldn’t let go of my hand.

…knowing—and watching—you find our own place, your own way, always walking just one more step farther ahead, always a little more eager to let go of my hand wherever we go—and being both okay with that—and proud, too.

All those years ago, I could have never even dreamed motherhood would be like this. Every day I watch him learn, grow and discover the world around him, I am so thankful I get to be not just “a” mom—but his mom.

 

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photo: Courtesy of Intrepid Travel

Spring is finally on its way—and it’s time for another Spoke Writing Contest! Don’t forget: our Writing Contests now run for six weeks at a time instead of monthly, so make a note of dates.

Let’s Talk Theme: Your Parenting Journey

They say life is a journey, and none more so than the experience of parenting. We want to hear about your family journeys, whether it’s a special story about the first time you took your kid to Disneyland or the journey of welcoming a new member to your family. We want your stories of where you’ve been—and where you’re headed—together as a family this year.

Contest Writing Prompts

Need some inspo? Here are a few ideas to get your started:

  • I Never Thought I’d Become a Parent: My Journey from Infertility to Parenthood
  • The Hilarious/Epic/Disastrous/Surprising Story of My Kid’s First Flight
  • A Parenting Road Map of Realistic Expectations During Your Baby’s First Year
  • Our Family’s Journey of Adoption
  • The Surprising Story I Found When I Made My Family Tree
  • Our Family Tree Looks a Little Different from Most & That’s Okay
  • Recapping Our Family’s Cross-Country Road Trip (& What We Learned Along the Way)
  • How I Overcame My Fear of Flying—with Kids
  • Our Family’s Trip of a Lifetime
  • The Weirdest Trip We’ve Ever Taken as a Family

Feel free to write about whatever you’d like as it relates to this theme, and make sure your post fits into one of our three Spoke post categories: Real Talk, Rockstar Parenting or Parenting Humor.

The Fine Print

Three winning posts will be selected by our editors and based on quality, originality and page views.

  1. Each winner will receive $100 each for their original post. (Remember, only original posts are eligible for Writing Contest prizes.)
  2. Entries must be submitted no later than 11:59 p.m. Pacific by Apr. 30, 2019. Winners will be notified and announced the next month.
  3. To enter, please use of the following Red Tricycle Article Code with your post: #parentingjourney2019. (No caps and please include the hashtag.)

We can’t wait to read your awesome entries!

—Keiko Zoll, Spoke Contributor Network Editor

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It’s springtime, which means celeb baby season is abuzz with news that Lauren Conrad is pregnant with her second child! The 33-year-old star of The Hills made the announcement in a sweet and of course, super stylish post on Instagram Tuesday morning.

“It’s been hard to keep this one to myself!” Conrad captioned her post. “Very excited to share that our family will be getting a little bigger this year,” she added.

No word yet on whether Conrad and husband William Tell are expecting a boy or a girl, or even a hint at her due date. Chances are, however, they’re likely to find out the sex of their baby, as they did during Conrad’s first pregnancy. She told People at the time, “I don’t really love surprises. I like to have all the information. And I was sharing my body with someone—so I wanted to know as much as possible about him.” Conrad and Tell welcomed their first child, son Liam James, in July 2017.

“When we found out [we were having a boy, I was so excited,” Conrad told People in 2017.

Let’s also give major props to Conrad for waiting until the day after Apr. 1 to make her pregnancy announcement—so as not to be mistaken for an April Fool’s Day prank done in poor taste (Justin Bieber, take notes).

Congrats to the whole fam—and we can’t wait for even more stylish pregnancy updates at Conrad’s gorgeous IG feed.

—Keiko Zoll

Featured photo: Lauren Conrad via Instagram

 

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It’s April Fools Day, which means nothing can be trusted on the internet until the clock strikes midnight. If there’s one thing internet humor craves, it’s a good prank—and the web is rife with them today. Even though some of these internet hoaxes are too good to be true, honestly, we still kind of wish they were!

Don’t be fooled with our list of the best April Fools Day pranks on the web this year.

Talk to Your Plants with Google Tulip

This prank is perfect for springtime. According to the video above, a Dutch research university partnered with Google to discover how to talk to plants. Google Tulip is supposedly the company’s first venture into human-plant communication—and the results are pretty hilarious.

 

Pupbucks Is Starbucks—for Dogs

In a tweet, Starbucks announced its newest concept store, Pupbucks. “We see how much our customers love dogs, so we wanted to offer an experience just for them,” a weary but loyal barista explains in the video above.

 

IKEA Adds CBD-Infused Vegan Meatballs to Its Menu

While this prank didn’t come from IKEA itself, the execution by VegNews magazine is almost too convincing. Definitely had to do a double-take on this one to realize that nope, IKEA is not in fact, selling CBD-infused meatballs.

 

The Girl Scouts Are Building a Girl Scout Cookie Theme Park

According to a press release from Girl Scouts USA, America’s iconic Girl Scout Cookies will take on a new life with their very own theme park, called Girl Scout Galaxy, set to “open” in 2021. Rides include the Coconut Cruizer (a lazy river with floats shaped like Samoas), the Thin Mint Thrill-a-Coaster, the Trefoil Funhouse and Mission: Lemon Liftoff—where passengers blast off to outer space.

 

Honda Introduces New ’90s-Inspired “Pastport” Package

Break out your rollerblades and Hammer pants, because Honda has turned ’90s retro chic into a whole new style of its own. Dubbed the “Pastport” trim package, Honda transforms the interior of its Passport SUV with all of your faves from ’90s cars: digital clock, coin holder, a mount for your pager and even a sweet tape deck.

 

HelloFresh Now Offers a Unicorn Box

From licorice noodles to frosting-covered pizza, recipe-kit delivery service HelloFresh has served up one tasty-looking April Fools Day prank this year!

 

Shutterstock Has Opened a Brick-and-Mortar Library So You Can Browser Photos IRL

Stock image provider Shutterstock had a big announcement on Apr. 1, that it’s building the world’s largest library. Whether you’re looking for the perfect photo of happy millennials holding sparklers or portraits of disgruntled ostriches, Shutterstock’s new library will have whatever you need, in full, watermarked glory.

 

https://www.instagram.com/p/BvtGw6QlOLb/

Halo Top Releases Edible Ice Cream Face Masks

Just sayin’, I’d pay real money for these. This is like a self-care winner right here for tired moms!

 

SodaStream Teamed Up with NASA to Recycle Burps Back into Soda

This particular April Fools Day prank has us definitely saying, “Excuse me?”

 

Fresh Direct Unveils Cauliflower Milk Called “Caulk”

To quote Mugatu from Zoolander: “Cauliflower…it’s so hot right now.”

 

Gender Reveal Mozzarella Sticks

To be fair, Farm Rich was probably inspired by this IRL gender reveal lasagna.

 

Mr. Potato Head Has Been Replaced with Mr. Avo Head

Hasbro has fired Mr. Potato Head and instead hired a new “hipster” replacement: an anthropomorphized avocado.

 

McDonald’s Now Offers Shake Sauces That Taste Like Milkshakes

Raise your hand if you dip your french fries in your milkshake? McDonald’s sees you—and knows what’s up.

 

Logitech Renames Wireless Mouse to “Hamster”

After seeing a petition online asking for a renaming of wireless mouse devices, computer peripheral maker Logitech has decided to go with a name that more accurately reflects these helpful tools: hamster! And honestly, it really does make more sense than wireless mouse.

Happy April Fools!

—Keiko Zoll

Featured photo: Courtesy of HelloFresh

 

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On Monday, Mar. 25, Apple held a keynote event where it finally unveiled Apple TV+, the company’s foray into the world of streaming video subscription. Nestled in the nearly two-hour keynote event were all sorts of neat, exciting announcements especially appealing to moms and dads—and we’ve rounded them all up here!

Read on for all the cool new things Apple has planned that parents everywhere can totally get behind.

A Coding TV Show Just for Preschoolers

Apple announced Apple TV+, its first video subscription service offering original programming. It's not all just for grownups, as Big Bird himself came out on stage to introduce a new show from Sesame Workshop: a TV show all about coding, just for preschoolers. Pricing and availability for Apple TV+ will be announced this fall. 

Why parents will love it: A STEM-focused show for the preschool set—from Sesame Workshop, to boot? What's not to love!

A Better Kid-Friendly Experience for Apple TV

Besides original programming on Apple TV+, the company announced that its popular Apple TV app will get major upgrades with a big redesign. With Apple TV Channels, the Apple TV app will now bundle just about every available streaming video provider out there—including hulu and Amazon Prime Video—along with popular cable networks, too, like Showtime and HBO. What this means is that instead of having to scroll through pages of apps to find your streaming shows and movies, the Apple TV app keeps everything your family watches all in one place.

Cindy Lin, Apple's director of program management, showed off a much user-friendlier interface for Kids content on the Apple TV app. Speaking of her own 5-year-old son, Lin said, "whether we want to learn something new, be inspired by other kids or just let our imaginations run wild, I love that we have a safe place to explore together." Parents will be able to see the new redesigned Apple TV app with an app update coming in May.

Why parents will love it: All of your kiddo's favorite characters, shows and movies—and all in one easy-to-navigate place.

Apple Arcade Ups the Ante for Gaming

Apple Arcade hopes to change the gaming experience as the "world’s first game subscription service for mobile, desktop and the living room." With new and original games from both indie game developers and major title producers, Apple Arcade will allow subscribers to try any of its handpicked, curated game for free. Apple Arcade will also support the development of games that might not otherwise have gotten the chance.

In a video promo for the platform, Sam Rosenthal and Cedric Adams, creators and game devs of the forthcoming title Where Cards Fall, explained why Apple Arcade is such a big deal: "Where Card Fall tells a very personal coming-of-age story that other publishers wouldn't take a chance on. We're not shying away from uncomfortable, formative experiences. We see the characters at school, we see them at the homecoming dance, we see them have a fight with their mom... It's really important for us to be authentic. There's no guns, there's no killing—we're just telling a story. We're almost the complete opposite of the current market and most people typically wouldn't see it unless Apple Arcade existed."

Why parents will love it: Without having to worry about shady in-game pop-up ads or or the kids accidentally buying in-game currency, Apple Arcade offers a more family-friendly experience to paid gaming.

Say Hello to Apple Card

Chances are you've used Apple Pay, especially if you're juggling kids with one arm and groceries with the other. Apple's tap-and-go payment service just took on a physical form with its first IRL credit card. Like other rewards credit cards, the Apple Card offers 2 percent Daily Cash back for all purchases (3 percent for purchases made at Apple Stores or via the App Store), applied directly to your Apple Cash account via your Apple Wallet.

Unlike other credit cards, however, Apple has upped its commitment to the privacy of its customers' data, where "unique security and privacy architecture...means Apple doesn’t know where a customer shopped, what they bought or how much they paid," the company said in a statement. Apple Card will be available via application from iPhones everywhere starting this summer.

Why parents will love it: Rack up that cash back, even on all those kids' games and apps you buy for your iPhone or iPad.

—Keiko Zoll

All photos: Courtesy of Apple/Featured photo: Keiko Zoll via screenshot

 

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After months of waiting, Disney and Pixar just dropped its first, full-length trailer for Toy Story 4 on Twitter Tuesday—and wow. Just—wow. There is so much awesomeness and nostalgia to unpack here and it’s fair to say, pretty much any parent planning to watch this trailer should grab a tissue to have on hand!

In the final film of Pixar’s beloved Toy Story franchise, they are getting us all right in the feels. Watch for yourself right here:

The first trailer for Toy Story 4 finally reveals the origins of Forky, one of the new characters introduced in a teaser trailer earlier this year. Voiced by TK, we learn that Bonnie—the little girl who inherited Andy’s toys—made him Forky at school and he plays a central role to the entire plot of the last film in the series. We also meet some creepy ventriloquist dolls as it looks like Bo Peep, now a lost toy, has explored an entirely new and very different life without Woody and the gang.

Are you ready for it all to come to an end? You know what they say: all good things…

Toy Story 4 opens Jun. 21, 2019 in theaters nationwide.

—Keiko Zoll

Featured photo: Disney Pixar via YouTube

 

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Flapjack fans rejoice! Make your calendars because Tuesday, Mar. 12 is Free Pancake Day and we’ve got the scoop on where to get free pancakes all day long.

Head to your local IHOP—a.k.a., the United Nations of Pancakes—for a free short stack of Original Buttermilk Pancakes on Tuesday, Mar. 12. Here’s an even better reason to grab yourself a piping hot stack of pancakes for National Pancake Day, (besides the obvious benefit of a free meal): these are pancakes with a purpose.

You might know Free Pancake Day as National Pancake Day. Same thing, right? Yes—but IHOP has upped their game to make free pancakes even better by renaming their big day to “Free Pancake Day: Flip it Forward for Kids.”

 

For each stack of pancakes IHOP serves on Free Pancake Day, the national chain will donate money to help children battling critical illnesses. According to IHOP’s website, the company has raised more than $30 million to help its community partners since the first National Pancake Day in 2006. IHOP has chosen to spotlight three charities at its National Pancake Day website: Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, Shriners Hospitals for Children and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS).

There’s even a new item on the menu, courtesy of the company’s charity work: IHOP asked kids who were treated at any Children’s Miracle Network hospital to create their dream pancake recipe. After some very tasty work, the pancake pros picked three finalists—with six-year-old Brody taking the top prize for his OREO Oh My Goodness pancakes. IHOP will donate one dollar for each of these cookie crumble-topped pancakes sold on National Pancake Day

Get free pancakes and help kids in need at the same time? Now that’s a delicious idea!

—Keiko Zoll & Erica Loop

Featured photo: peter lewicki via Unsplash

 

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With movies like Baby MamaKnocked Up and What to Expect When You’re Expecting, Hollywood has always had some pretty rosy depictions about what it’s like trying to get pregnant. But for one in eight couples—or about 12 percent of married women in America—getting pregnant isn’t so simple…or glamorous. A new indie film, Making Babies, sheds both a comedic and poignant light on what it’s like trying to get pregnant when you can’t.

Written and directed by Josh Huber, Making Babies stars Eliza Coupe and Steve Howey as a young married couple trying to start their family. When things don’t work out, they head to a fertility specialist played by Ed Begly, Jr. The trailer captures so many of the painful—and painfully absurd—moments that come with dealing with infertility.

(FYI: if you’re a parent after infertility, you’re going to need a tissue handy. Making Babies cuts so close to home if you’ve been through it.)

As someone who battled infertility for five years, there’s so much in this trailer I can relate to personally—and honestly, any hopeful mom-to-be will find something that speaks to her, too, in this film. From the late Glenne Headly’s line about, “Maybe you’re just not meant to have a baby right now” to showing the simultaneous joy and jealousy of attending a baby shower for someone else when you can’t conceive, Making Babies looks promising as a compassionate portrayal of what it’s like to experience infertility.

With so many women and couples experiencing infertility, films like Making Babies help erase the stigma associated with it. It also provides two very important reminders to anyone having trouble trying to get pregnant: first, that infertility is nothing to be ashamed of and more importantly—you’re not alone.

Making Babies heads to theaters nationwide on Mar. 29.

—Keiko Zoll

Featured photo: Courtesy of Making Babies via IMDb

 

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Photo: Eleni Koureas via Unsplash

New Year. New you—maybe? Maybe not. But there’s no denying there’s a certain kind of re-energy this time of year, inspiring us to do and be our best—if not for ourselves, then definitely for our kids.

New for Spoke this year? Our Writing Contests now run for six weeks at a time instead of monthly. We know it’s not easy trying to whip up brilliance in just four short weeks, so we gave you two extra.

Let’s Talk: Theme

For our first Spoke Writing Contest of the year, the theme is “This Organized Life.”

Everyone loves a fresh start and there’s something about this time of year that inspires us to do and be better. Whether it’s your parenting resolutions in the New Year, your rockstar organizational hacks or just how you stay motivated as a parent (or even motivate your kids), we’re here for all the ways you plan to make 2019 your best year yet.

This Organized Life: Writing Prompts

Need some inspo? Here are a few ideas to get your started:

  • The One Parenting Resolution I Promise to Keep This Year
  • The Parenting Resolution I’m Ditching This Year
  • How I Get My Kids Motivated & Out the Door on Time
  • Clever Organizational Hacks for…Kids’ Rooms, Pantries, Nurseries, Closets, etc.
  • How I Use __________ to Organize My Life
  • Ease Ways to Squeeze in a Workout/Meditation/Self-Care During a Busy Day
  • Why I Get Up Before Everyone Else (or, conversely: Why I Go to Bed After Everyone Else)
  • Time Management Tips for New Parents
  • Things Better/Easier/Cooler than a Family Calendar
  • Apps that Save Me Time (& My Sanity) as a Parent

Feel free to write about whatever you’d like as it relates to this theme, and make sure your post fits into one of our three Spoke post categories: Real Talk, Rockstar Parenting or Parenting Humor.

The Fine Print

Three winning posts will be selected by our editors and based on quality, originality and page views.

  1. Each winner will receive $100 each for their original post. (Remember, only original posts are eligible for Writing Contest prizes.)
  2. Entries must be submitted no later than 11:59 p.m. Pacific by Feb. 28, 2019. Winners will be notified and announced the next month.
  3. To enter, please use of the following Red Tricycle Article Code with your post: #organizedlife2019. (No caps and please include the hashtag.)

We can’t wait to read your awesome entries!

—Keiko Zoll, Spoke Contributor Network Editor