A Bunch of April Fools

A buddy of mine from law school texted me on April 1st to remind me of a prank gone wrong during our 1L year. I figured I could pass this cautionary tale along to all the would-be April Fools jokesters out there. For those of you who are unaware, law school courses are typically graded on a curve. For each grade a professor gives a student that falls above a set median in a Bell Curve, that professor has to give another student a corresponding score that falls below median grade in most cases. This means that one person’s win is another person’s loss. Additionally, you only have a handful of grading opportunities in each class. Scoring well on any assignment is crucial to success. Hold on to this fact. It’s important.  

***Writer’s note: To protect all innocent parties, and to protect myself from any additional civil exposure, I have redacted all names and replaced real people with fictional names. ***

If you know me, you know I love relationships. I say hello to almost everyone and I love striking up conversations. I particularly enjoyed speaking with teachers and professors. You can learn so much by listening to subject matter experts. Prior to a class in early spring, I overheard our Con Law prof joking with a colleague that our section didn’t read the assignments. I jokingly **wink** said that I read EVERY word of EVERY case, but that he should never call on me during class. Somehow, that snowballed into us talking about how funny it would be if he called on me and I gave a stumbling Johnny Cochran response that had nothing to do with the assignment. I then realized that April Fools’ Day was right around the corner and asked the professor if we could prank the class. Here is what we agreed to do: Professor Reid would call on me, and ask me to give the facts of the case. I would try to finesse my way through it while making it clear that I did not read any of the assignments. Professor Reid would get angry and say that he was going to give a pop quiz. Now, remember what I told you about the scarcity of grading opportunities, the Bell Curve distribution of good scores, and the adversarial nature of law school success. The joke should be funny because of the intensity of the situation. 

At this point I need to pause and share a little about my particular section. Sections are the cohorts law students are divided into for classes. You see these people every day and take the required 1L courses together. Our section was pretty diverse. We had younger folks who were only a few years out of undergrad. There were older folks who had a decade of work experience, but decided to go back to school. And then there was a guy who was closer to retirement age than the rest of us were to high school. He was a serious, but good-natured guy who barely tolerated our snickers when we laughed at slip-and-fall cases in Torts. Remember this, too. It’s also important. 

Law school is a stressful endeavor. You have to find little pockets of joy. Thankfully, I was born to search for and discover joy. To relieve stress I worked out, dove into the sweet escape of music, slept, and wrote articles for a Lampoon Law Review. A bunch of us would submit satirical, mock law review articles to make each other laugh. Omar McNulty would compile these articles and deliver them to our section before Friday classes as if they were true Law Review publications. Everyone would read their papers in silence, have a laugh, and forget that we were living in hell for just a few minutes. Those few minutes were enough to find joy. 

With this is mind, I thought to myself: this is going to be hilarious. Everyone is going to love this joke. So, I was giddy. I had a little extra pep in my step over the next few days. The daunting task of trying to interpret the constitution felt a little less overwhelming. I had a mission and a goal to bring joy to my section with the help of Professor Reid. Life was good. 

On the day of the prank I walked by Professor Reid and winked at him, but he did not wink back. I thought to myself: “Wow! This guy is really in character.”  However, this was foreshadowing of a dark turn of events. As we settled into our seats, I looked around the room at all of my unsuspecting victims. All of their innocent faces were glued to their books and computers. They didn’t realize they were in the eye of the storm. Neither did I. 

At this point Professor Reid bursts into the room. This usually pale-faced man’s complexion was beet red. He is furious about something and I wonder if he’s going to delay our prank. He then yells for the first time all semester and goes into this long-winded rant about how we are not working hard enough in his class and that real lawyers took professional school seriously. Now, Professor Reid is hopping mad and saying he knows we don’t read his assignments. I legitimately believe he has forgotten about our plan and I’m a little worried about where all of this is going. I don’t have much time to live with my thoughts because Professor Reid points at me and says: “Mr. McRae, tell me everything you know about **insert a case I have never heard of* and let me know how you would apply the precedent.” 

Since I’d never heard of the case, was unsure of the status of our prank, and had the eyes of the whole class on me, I just calmly let him know that I hadn’t read that one. This is when things went left. Professor Reid demanded that we shut our books, power down our laptops, and gave us a pop-quiz that would be worth roughly 50% of our final grades. Remember that demographic data I provide earlier? Here is why that was important.

That older student I mentioned? He grabbed his heart because he thought he was having a heart attack because of the shock. As he keeled over, my mind raced. Would I be slightly responsible for a death? I didn’t have long to consider this as my mind also raced back to my grade. My peers? Some of them were literally praying out loud. Others fought back tears. All of the jokesters from the “Friday Funnies” mock Law Review? Ashen faces searching for help that would never arrive. 

Me? Well, I was scared. I was looking into the face of death, and death was smiling from ear-to-ear. Professor Reid projected the questions to the front of lecture hall and we all did our best to answer questions that trial attorneys with 50 years of experience wouldn’t be able to discuss. When it was all over we turned in our work and you could see the souls of everyone in that room leave their bodies. You know that scene in “Saving Private Ryan” when the bomb goes off and the survivors are shell shocked? That was us. 

And then Professor Reid yelled: “Gotha! April Fools! You can thank Mr. McRae for all of this. He’s a funny guy.” At this point the older student who thought he was suffering cardiac arrest finally drops his hand from his heart, let’s out an audible sigh, and maybe a single tear. Color returns to the faces of my peers, and a few “thank goodness” breaths escape those dreamers awaking from the nightmare. I looked at Professor Reid and he, from behind the biggest turd-eating-grin, mouths: “That was funny. Let’s do it again.” I had to laugh. I thought I was his accomplice. I was merely his victim. The case he asked me about doesn’t exist, but the pain he inflicted that day was real. To this day, I don’t participate in jokes on April 1st. Too much PTSD. However, many years later I, I can look back on this with joy. 

The Grace of Giving Up

The last two years have been a whirlwind of joy, successes, milestones, good food, great friends, and new adventures. In the midst of all of that joy, there have been some real challenges. There was a dark cloud that colored the past two years in my life, and it can be pinpointed to one thing: I did not take kindly to being a working mom.

After maternity leave, I lost the luxury of being at home with my Emma Beaux. It was tough to miss things like Emma’s first steps while I worked on projects that took me across the state and country. Hearing secondhand accounts of my child’s milestones hurt in ways I could not imagine. This heartache weighed on me and I struggled to be a good employee because half of my soul, heart, and being was miles away. I had one of those all-encompassing jobs that I thought required all of me. If you know me, you know that I have always given my all to work and academia because that’s where I found my greatest validation.  As a result, I did not have grace with myself, and decided that I could  not be the employee my company required and the super mom that Hollywood depicts.

I couldn’t. I cried. A lot. And then I quit my job.

Quitting was the best decision I could have made for myself and our family. Quitting initiated a few things: Calvin started a dream professional scenario, we took 3 months in Maine to heal and enjoy summer and family, and then we moved again, to a new place. I had no job, no career plan, and honestly I was equal parts excited to be a full-time mom and terrified of what that might mean. I had no idea what would fill our days or how I would nurture Emma’s precocious mind. Emma and I were both excited for our new adventure. However, our first day at home together was less heaven and more of a National Lampoon’s vacation from hell. I learned that toddlers require a lot of scheduling, and that fights between momma and kiddo can happen well before those teenage years. “Two-nagers” can be equally as sassy as pre-teens, let me tell ya.

Thankfully, God set provisions out for us. We set up a fun schedule, we made new friends, and we rarely said no to play. Those were our rules. We changed Emma’s nap time to coincide with the nap times of friends. We structured our days with morning play, time to reflect, and afternoon coffees with folks I admire. We plugged friends, libraries, museums, parks, and gyms into all of our free time. There was no deadline to meet, and no boss to please, so we embraced flexibility and self-care. To that end, I started practicing yoga and got to catch up on reading. Spending time with my girl helped me to get to know her and learn more about myself.

Recently, I started an incredible new job. I always  knew in my spirit that my time at home with Emma would not last forever. So I was determined to savor every moment. I wanted to be whole again. I wanted to find myself and be the type of mom that I dreamed of being. Leaving the corporate world for a beat allowed me to do this work. I had to quit to make room for play, and I had quit to realize my value. What I learned in my 8 months of being a full time mom was grace. I learned to have grace with myself, grace with my husband, and grace with a toddler and her independent spirit.

Grace brought me full circle. The issue wasn’t with being a working mom. It was with giving myself wholly to work that didn’t fulfill me. It was with trying to be all things to all people. Grace gave me the peace to find validation away from offices and work product. I was able to define my own success. Now, my work life is in the proper context and amplified by the smiles that I know will greet me when I log off for the day.


Fake News Is For The Children

Fake news is a global debate. NPR’s Avi Wolfman-Arent wrote a story  detailing how fake news is affecting students. Wolfman-Arent spoke to middle-school teacher Nick Gurol, who says his students now believe the Earth is flat because NBA player Kyrie Irving has been an outspoken proponent of the scientifically inaccurate theory. I sent this article around to some friends and we joked about how unfair it is that kids can blame fake news for ignorance. Can you imagine how poorly this would have gone over if we had tried this as lower school students? Where was fake news when we needed it?! Well, it’s never too late for justice. Here are some ways you can use fake news to help with adult life.

One of our favorite shows is “The Affair” starring Dominic West and Ruth Wilson as a couple with two different narratives around the same events. Each episode is split between their dueling vantage points which offer alternative, self-serving, and contradictory versions of the same incidents. It’s compelling because recollections of events are often like that no matter how loving relationships are. Scenes are viewed differently because humans have unique personal experiences that frame the way we process moments. For instance, Mo would like for you to believe that I was asleep during her contractions. This is simply not the case. Were my eyes closed? Yes.  Was I under the covers in our bed? Yes. Were snoring sounds coming from our room? Yes. Thanks to fake news I can now claim that my eyes were close because I was praying for the safe arrival of our baby. Now, we have a healthy and strong baby girl thanks to my praying. You’re welcome, Mo.

Also, not all fake news is bad for education. Jay Z may be an astute businessman, but he is not going to be your kids’ 4th grade math teacher. On the “The Life and Times of Sean Carter Vol. 3” he raps, “I’m the one like five divided by four.” Before alternative facts were accepted, this would have gotten a red letter “X” on his notebook paper. He’s got 99 problems and the remainder is 1. But let’s not cast stones at Mr. Z because he missed one little math problem. It has been a minute since my last lesson in long division. Emma may have some homework questions I can’t answer. No worries. All I have to do is apply a little alternative math like Jay Z and my wrong answers turn into cool rap lyrics. I might even win a Grammy. That’s what I call addition by subtraction.

Another delicious alternate truth is how tasty Tylenol is. If you offer Tylenol to Emma she will purse her lips and shake her head to reject it. However, if you pretend like you want to drink it and then offer it to her, she will greedily accept it. For this reason, we put on elaborate hoaxes about how good it tastes. Mo and I will even pretend to fight over the syringe containing the Tylenol until she snatches it from our hands and drains its contents. Popping (medicine) bottles and telling tall tales.

All jokes aside, I’m really excited to go on this journey of discovery with Emma. In the aforementioned article an Ivy League professor advises teachers to “give students the tools to think like a scientist. Teach them to gather evidence, check sources, deduce, hypothesize and synthesize results. Hopefully, then, they will come to the truth on their own.” Tall tales, myths, and inaccurate information have always existed. It’s our duty to help future generations ascertain what is real and what is not while in world where misinformation is prevalent. I may not have all the answers, but I know where to find them: The Onion and Babylon Bee.

Mother’s Day Gift

You can’t spell mom without M-O. Mo has been an incredible mother to our kid. She makes sleep deprivation, busy schedules, and responsibility look effortless and glamorous. She is the epitome of what a good mother is. However, I never want the title of mom to be the only thing that defines her. Before having a kid, Monike graduated from The Johns Hopkins University and Georgetown University with honors. After that, she worked in esoteric policy worlds that I can barely comprehend. Before that, she was a world traveler, lover of food, and reality television enthusiast. In our first conversation we discussed European trips, La Liga soccer, and sweet tea.

Needless to say, she is a powerful woman with many interests. Unfortunately, it is easy to momentarily take for granted how amazing the woman behind the miracle is. Conversations about Baroque architecture in Prague can get put on hold to discuss ear infections. Planned trips to Paris can be delayed until first steps are taken. These detours are beautiful, but only if you never lose sight of the incredible person you have by your side.

I never want to forget who Mo was before she became a mother. She was my friend, love, and date to watch bad movies. Motherhood is wonderful, but my Mother’s Day gift to Mo is to remember the other amalgam of things that make her such a wonderful human. I hope that we can do this for all of the mothers in our life. They are more than sources of milk, night nurses, and disciplanarians. They are astute business people, comedians, friends, thought leaders, matriarchs, and much more. For that reason, I endeavor to spend this day, and every day, acknowledging those truths.

Boyz II Men’s “A Song For Mama” perfectly articulates how these women make me feel. “Mama! Mama, you know I love you. Mama! Mama, you’re the queen of my heart. Your love is like tears from the stars. Mama, I just want you to know: loving you is like food to my soul.” I’m grateful that Mo is able to be these things for Emma. I’m equally as grateful that she’s able to provide these things to me, as well. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms of the world. I hope that you get to spend the day with loved ones who see all that makes you incredible. They’re a gift to all of us.

Cancel Culture

Mo and I devote 30 minutes at the end of every day to decompressing and talking about the news. A topic that has popped up more than once in the last few months is “cancel culture” and what it means to society. Getting “canceled” means you have committed an infraction so egregious that you should be erased from the public eye forever. Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby currently headline an inglorious list of cancelled Hollywood figures.

I am 100% in support of people who have done bad things having to face the consequences of their actions. Depending on the circumstances, the consequences should include arrests, fines, and public apologies. However, I am afraid that the cancellation process lacks foresight and nuance in many cases and applies a one-size-fits all approach to cases of varying severity. Once a person has been cancelled, it is expected that any trace of their existence needs to disappear. In essence, their ability to atone for their mistakes has been canceled, as well. It would be irresponsible to proceed with habitual bad actors as if nothing ever happened. Banishment is clearly warranted in those cases. However, after a period of banishment, it may be important to see reformed bad actors in the public sector bringing time, resources, and voice to programs that empower those they have wronged.  A “canceled” individual isn’t welcomed to return in any space, and that may be an opportunity cost that eradicates valuable teaching tools.

I don’t believe that cancelation or utter destruction of every wrong doer serves the greater good. We all have different starting points and crossroads in our journeys. People should be held accountable for previous infractions, but we should allow some room for those who recognize their mistakes to have reasonable accommodation to atone. Growth in in the area of malfeasance, positive evolution as a person, and actions of penance should be celebrated. In my personal life I’ve had 180 degree changes on issues. In my youth I held beliefs that I no longer hold and did things that I now regret. However, I’ve had the benefit of life experiences and interactions with great humans to serve as a great teacher. None of us are perfect and all have fallen short in areas. Although we should all strive for perfection, none of us can reasonably expect to be our best selves at all times. In an age of 24 hour news and social media, mistakes are more visible than any time in history. This is a blessing and a curse. Bad actors can no longer cloak their misdeeds in darkness. Previously marginalized people now have outlets to share their pain, avenues to get justice, and support. However, your worst moment can be your legacy.

If you are willing to grow, your worst moment shouldn’t define you. However, if that one moment is indicative of larger character flaws, then it should be the quality associated with who you are. Weinstein terrorized women for years. Cosby was proven to be a serial rapist. Their punishments fit the crime. But I’m also reminded of Chris Hemsworth, and his apology to people of indigenous descent. When confronted about dressing up as Native Americans Chris expressed his deep regret by saying he would like to take the opportunity to confront the larger issues surrounding the mistake. He explained that he, “was stupidly unaware of the offense this may have caused and the sensitivity around this issue.”  Chris sincerely and unreservedly apologized to all First Nations people for his ignorance and thoughtless actions. He ended his apology by adding: “I now appreciate that there is a great need for a deeper understanding of the complex and extensive issues facing indigenous communities. I hope that in highlighting my own ignorance I can help in some small way.” Although he did a bad thing, he grew in a way that birthed positivity. In fact, he did not stop with an apology. He then threw his celebrity, resources, and platform to endorse issues plaguing indigenous communities. Canceling him before he had that opportunity would have removed an outcome where goodness prevails. It also removes any incentive for people who can change to behave better.

We have seen this in other instances, too. Dr. Seuss spent the end of his career devoting his literary talent to promote diversity. Many believe this was to make up for the offensive nature of his early work. The David depicted in the Old Testament of scripture spent his latter years in penance for mistakes made in his earlier years of leadership. The key designation is not that they were given a pass for their mistakes. Their mistakes were places where they found room to grow and do better after being taken to task for their errors. Folks who can accept that they committed a wrong, and find ways to rectify those ills deserve a place in society. Complete banishment should be reserved for those who do not demonstrate a desire or ability to serve penance to the communities or people they’ve hurt.

The best apology is changed behavior. If your words and actions do harm, you should be held accountable. If you say and do things that show growth and promote true healing, you can do real good despite past mistakes. You may not be able to return to places you once occupied, but you can learn to be a better person in a different space. There should be room to make mistakes. Also, there should be room to grow. It takes nuance to abhor injustice while celebrating growth and progress. Our perspectives change with new knowledge and experience. If we can demonstrate growth, we are worthy to be forgiven before we are cancelled completely.

Mundane Beauty

Having a kid has helped us to live in the present. Mo and I started this blog to have fun, and memorialize the mundane moments that make life grand. Those moments, however, have made it nearly impossible to write. Life is busy. We wake up early, I run to the gym, come home to make coffee and breakfast while Mo feeds our kiddo, and then we start our days.

Many of you know that we moved from Washington, D.C. to Austin, Texas last year. Mo had a unique opportunity to work on a great project with the Austin Independent School District. I had the amazing opportunity of supporting her this year by becoming the lead parent while managing a few very cool projects. Those projects allowed me to work from home, travel less, and spend more time with Emma which freed up Mo to do a deep dive into her work. I have learned so much about life, love, and priorities during this time.

For personal reasons, we wanted to avoid daycare and nannies for the first two years of Emma’s life. This has required us to be intentional about our time together. Part of this intentionality included scheduled dates. Being busy has made marriage even more fun. To accomplish a night of drinks, dinner, and dancing we need a babysitter. Also, scheduling a day around a date means that we probably won’t see each other until it’s time to go out. It feels like we’re in upper school and I’m trying to make time to see the object of my puppy love. These dates have helped me become a better partner, father, and business person. I want to quickly explore those avenues.

Women in the workforce are under so much unfair additional stress. Emma breastfed for 9 months. To provide nourishment for our child Mo had to schedule 25 minutes into her morning sets of meetings, pump during lunch, and find ways to pump during her afternoon office hours. I never even considered how difficult it must be for women who travel often for work to be away from their young children or how many accommodations they must make to make those trips possible. These realizations have helped me to see Mo more clearly for who she really is: a queen, a rock, and an unbreakable force to be reckoned with. I’m lucky she’s on my side.

I never thought I would be a dad. I just figured I would be a cool uncle who never settled down and had all of my paternal instincts satiated by living vicariously through my sister. When we decided to grow our family it was because we both felt like we had so much love that we wanted to share and we were grateful that we were able to share that with another person. We were fortunate to have 3 months each of maternity and paternity leave. For logistical reasons, we opted to use our time together. During our leave is when I realized how useless dads are in the early stages of a child’s life. Mom wakes up to feed, mom makes the milk, and mom has to adjust to having a new body. Being at home with Emma helped me to learn how to meet her needs, discover ways to assist Mo, and understand how to be the person I need to be to help give our child every advantage in life.

Business Person
This may sound wild to you, but being so busy has helped me to become more efficient. To meet deadlines, create work product, and farm new business I have to ensure that I am maximizing my time. This necessity has kept me off ESPN during “office hours” and given me the focus I should have developed in graduate school. Also, I have a family who needs me, so I only accept work that is profitable and is something that I am comfortable being apart of the legacy she sees.

We have a lot of exciting things happening in our lives, and we’re extremely busy. But we started this blog to have fun, and memorialize the mundane moments that make life grand. And we’re going to have fun sharing lots of fun news when the time is right.


Hashtag MomLife

I never thought I would be a laissez faire mother. I mean, I create spreadsheets for fun. To say that I love structure, rules, and coloring inside the lines is an understatement. So, it was a shock to me that I began to reject rigidity when Emma arrived. Honestly, it’s just too hard to follow every rule to the letter while you’re pumping, working, feeding, and maintaining some semblance of sanity. Ecclesiastes 9:11 is a verse that I cling to in regards to parenting. It says, “the race is not given to the swift nor the strong, but to those who endure until the end.” That’s my motto as I try to endure these adorable salvos. In this time, I have learned that enduring means adjusting and breaking a few rules.

Sleep Schedules

I don’t believe in sleep schedules anymore. Even if I did, Emma doesn’t listen to me, and I am not willing to fight with her yet. Plus, I would rather my babe gently doze off  in my arms after some innocent play and gentle rocking. That’s much more desirable  than having her wail alone in her crib until she falls asleep. When I attempt to let her “cry it out,” I usually end up crawling into the crib with her to pay my pennance. And, believe me; it’s nearly impossible for an adult to climb out of a crib without pulling a muscle. How do babies escape their cribs so easily? Cal once remarked about crying he overheard at night. I haven’t had the heart to tell him those were my tears. I don’t understand the phrase “sleeping like a baby.” That’s not because English is my second language! It’s because I haven’t found these babies who sleep. Emma sleeps more than most, and I still haven’t woken up refreshed in 208 days. But who’s counting?

Hot Mama

I love maternity high fashion and all the accoutrements: breast milk, spit up, and pee-pee. Breast milk is magical. It comes from my body, feeds my child, and gives her all the nutrients she needs. Emma has also discovered that if she stops suckling, breast milk will squirt all over me and give my shirt a nice sheer aesthetic that you just can’t find on the rack (pun intended).

Spit up: Now, that Emma is eating solids, spit up is less frequent. But when it happens, it gets all over me. Every time. I love wearing dark colors. My closet is basically a series of black and navy Pantone swatches . Off-white spit up really pops on those colors! Every top you own will take on  a macabre Lilly Pulitzer print comprised of Gerber products and saliva. Thankfully, spit up is a tricky substance to wash off clothes while you’re on the go. So, depending on if it is the start of my day or the end, I may not attempt to clean it up. Who are we kidding? I almost never clean it up. Remember? I’m exhausted. I just embrace it and wear it like a badge of honor.

Pee-pee: What can I say about pee that hasn’t been said about fake news? It’s everywhere and it stinks. The good news is that baby urine is sterile. So, you don’t have to run out of the grocery store when those Pampers spring a leak on aisle 6 at Whole Foods.

Lay off me. I’m Starving!

I like to think that Cal and I are foodies. We have eaten at eight Michelin rated restaurants around the world  and even more Bib Gourmands. In between we have cooked tasty meals and found holes-in-the-wall that serve pure slices of heaven. We even choose vacation spots based on cuisine. I obsess over ingredients, chefs, and food trends. Food pictures on Instagram make me want to jump into my phone with a knife and fork. Moreover, we have been taking Emma to restaurants since she was 4 days old, and continue to take her with us as we explore new places. We want her to share this love of food with us.

With that in mind, we subscribe to a feeding method called Baby Led Weaning (“BLW”). There is a lot of content out there about feeding your baby solids. Please pick whatever is best for your family and your little one. BLW was recommended to us by a dear friend and I love it. Cal is on the fence about it, but he’s wisely afraid to oppose my decisions. BLW encourages your child to eat what you are eating. You let your child explore textures and learn to chew and swallow on his/her own.  BLW is working for our family.

However, I thought I would be able to have those iconic pureed food moments you see on television with Emma. I planned on having a pureeing system, baby food meal prep days, and a freezer full of colorful cubes of organic baby food. Although I bought in to (literally and figuratively) making homemade food for Emma, I threw in the white flag on that idea after she refused to even open her mouth for the food I prepared. I had to adjust which didn’t fit into my pre-pregnancy plans, but feeding Emma what I am making for dinner cuts my prep time in half. It also means if she doesn’t like what we’re having, I didn’t waste time making her something new. I take note of her likes and dislikes and try to meal plan around that.

Change Is The Only Constant

We are all trying to figure this parenting thing out. It’s hard. I pray that at the end of the day we all learn to love and laugh at our hectic lives just the way they are. A really important person in my life passed away recently. Ana Pizarro lost her courageous battle with cancer a couple of weeks ago. She was my host mom when I studied abroad  in Lisbon, Portugal during undergrad. Over the years she became much more. She was an amazing mom, and helped to teach me how not to take things so seriously. I want Emma to love her life, love her family, and love living. In order to do that, I am trying to schedule less and live more. I may not figure it all out today, but the race isn’t over and I will endure till the end.

Siri Says

We knew we wanted to have a baby a year before I became pregnant. We were ready. I read the books, the baby blogs, and Pinterested everything from swaddles to bassinets. It felt like the right time for our family to expand. I am not sure there is ever a perfect time, but I was comfortable in my career and knew it was the right time for us. When we found out we were expecting, the joy we felt was indescribable. If you know me, you know times like these are when I enter the deep rabbit hole of research and planning. My google sessions were ridiculous. Just imagine that I had on a white lab coat and chalkboards all around me like a mad scientist. It got real, folks. I was truly shocked by some of the answers to my seemingly simple questions, however.

Q: How many extra calories can I eat now that I am pregnant? A: Medical professionals advise you to only have 300 additional calories per day.

What the heck?! How is that even possible? I thought I was supposed to be eating for two? Two of me should be able to eat a whole pizza, right? Let’s be honest. I can polish off an entire pizza by myself just because it’s Friday. Are expectant mothers supposed to eat like college girls getting ready for spring break? How else am I supposed to get that “pregnancy” glow without consuming multiple slices of NY style pizza. The meat sweats can be attractive with the right filter! Trust me.

Q: Can I still get a pedicure? A: No!

Well, that sucks! The only way to counteract the look of swollen toes and ankles is a pretty shade of Deborah Lippmann polish. I am sure there are plenty of scare stories associated with pedicures and pregnancy. However, I put pedicures in the “mama needs this category” and ignored all the internet shaming. I can’t hear your complaints when my toes are on fleek.

Q: What sushi rolls can I eat while pregnant? A: Veggie rolls.

This was the saddest realization of my pregnancy because sushi was my number one pregnancy craving. However, since I am masochist, I ate hundreds of fish-free rolls  while Calvin had all the tempura. One day I will punch him for that. Not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But one day. Also, avocados are a superfood. If you close your eyes, the buttery goodness  of avocado can help you forget you’re eating an inferior roll and drown out your husband’s commentary about how good his spicy tuna rolls taste with wasabi.

Q: Is it safe to attend a concert while 8 months pregnant? A: Yes.

We bought tickets to this show before we knew Emma was coming along, and I was really excited to attend. But as we got closer to the due date, I began to get sleepy somewhere around 3:00PM every afternoon. But, since I vowed to stay “cool” during my pregnancy I was committed to going to the show unless I could find something on Google that told me not to… I begged Google to help a girl out and tell me that it was silly to go to a concert that far along in pregnancy. Siri could have  at least pointed me towards some fear mongering site that said concerts are too loud and might hurt the baby. Despite a great performance, I was far too pregnant to stay awake no matter what. As a result, I fell asleep 30 minutes after the lights went dim in the arena, and I woke up with a little drool on my face. Not a big deal. Emma, you definitely got the “cool” mom.

Q: How can you reduce heartburn? A: Avoid caffeine and spicy foods.

Many highly regard researchers have found correlations between caffeine, spicy, foods, developing baby hair growth, and heartburn for expectant mothers. Apparently, Emma  grew every single one of her long strands of hair at conception. Prior to pregnancy I drank coffee like a beat cop who works the night shift. I can’t live without that sweet, sweet nectar.  So, I was already on thin ice as far as heartburn is concerned. My love of spicy food didn’t help either. Little Serrow in D.C. is my favorite restaurant in the entire world. They serve northern Thai cuisine. Each dish has flavor blessed by Jesus and spiced by Satan. Needless to say, I had horrific heartburn during pregnancy. At least Emma has a head full of hair. At least Emma has a head full of hair. That’s not a typo. I have to say that over-and-over again to make myself believe those Zantac sandwiches were worth it.

Google kept me sane during  my pregnancy. However, I don’t want to parent via a search engine. So, I’ve decided to stop my urge to Google ALL the time and just parent. I don’t have all the answers, but thankfully, there is always a lady in line in the grocery store who can tell me if I’m not doing things the right way. HAHA.

**Mo picks up phone, holds down the home button** Q: Siri…

Air Jordan

Traveling with a baby is not for the faint of heart. In fact, it’s a cruel sport where the winner doesn’t receive accolades or acknowledgment. Your only reward is being alive when you reach your destination. Thankfully, we have been really lucky with Emma. She takes after her papa and enjoys lengthy naps on planes, in cars, and around people trying to make small talk about the weather. Prior to being a parent, my worst nightmare concerning air travel was being seated near a crying baby. This is coming from a guy who was once detained by Egyptian airport security in Cairo. Sitting in a flimsy plastic folding chair under a flickering fluorescent light in a windowless room while people discuss your fate in Arabic is somehow more comforting than hearing a baby wail while struggling to reach coasting altitude in a confined space. At least the Egyptian airlines gave me drink vouchers for the inconvenience. Screaming babies on planes just reward your suffering with more tears.

With that said, kudos to the brave men and women who take kids on long trips with or without a partner. Not all heroes wear capes. Some heroes wear drool, food, goldfish crumbs, and their least stained clothes. Fortunately, I have the MVP of parenting as a partner to help transport Emma around the world. To save yourself some tears and trips to the wine rack, you have to form a team to win at the travel game. Mo and I’s team is just the two of us. Everyone else- TSA, other travelers, our own sweet baby- is the enemy. Each team member has to play his or her position flawlessly. In this game, moms are Michael Jordan. They have all the skills, resources, and intuition needed to win. Dads are, at best, Scottie Pippen. I don’t say this to assign gender roles or to diminish the value of fathers or Scottie Pippen. Scottie Pippen is one of the greatest NBA players ever, but his primary role was to support Michael Jordan. When we hit the road, I consider myself helpful when I can just fill in where Mo needs help.

This strategy has gotten us through five different flights, countless metro rides, too many car trips, and one lazy river cruise. We are far from experts, but we haven’t had (fingers crossed) a bad trip yet. Here are two hacks we’ve used to avoid major disasters on flights. Mo has a million more that she’ll gladly share with anyone who wants them via email or PM, as well. Hopefully, we can help someone else raise a glass in celebration of a successful trip instead of pouring out breast milk for your fallen homies.

Make It Rain: We will literally pay any price for any resource that will make travel easier. To that end, having TSA pre-check, buying preferred seating/boarding on direct flights, and checking every bag we don’t need makes air travel a (relative) breeze. Having free hands means everything while you’re navigating crowded airports with a squirming human and direct flights reduce the amount of time you’re hurdling through the air inside a sardine tin with a tiny person. It also takes away any excuse dads have to wear cargo shorts during travel. You’re welcome, ladies.

Is That A Baby In Your Pocket or Are You Just Happy To See Us: For us, baby-wearing is the most efficient way to go through TSA. A wrap allows us to have four hands instead of two; it comforts Emma, and keeps our little one calm. Mo prefers the Solly wrap. Although the initial cost for the item is rather expensive, the breathability and ease of storing it is well worth the price.  We don’t have a ring sling, but we are debating adding this to our baby-wearing repertoire. Emma doesn’t really like the bulkier carriers and we found our Ergobaby was difficult to stuff into our carry-on bags.

We have flown with Emma several times and each time has been a bit different. We have flown as a couple and as individuals. Each scenario has its own unique challenges. We’re not experts, but we’re still alive. If you have helpful tips, please share them with us. We’re still trying to figure out the best way to be Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen.



The Poop Incident: A Cautionary Tale

I love being a working dad. I have the pleasure of working from home and pulling double duty as Emma’s primary care giver while Mo is at work. People always ask me if it’s tough or if I’m happy doing this for our family. The short answer is that I have never been happier. The long answer is that every day has its own individual joys and challenges. One particular challenge was what we’re now referring to as “Poopgate 2017.” Let me set the stage for you:

Our family moved from Washington, D.C. to Austin, TX (yee-ha!) earlier this year. When we arrived, I started a new role that required me to be on conference calls, Skype, and Google chats all day while Mo hit the ground running in the ATX office of her firm. Emma is an easy baby and I did not doubt my own ability to take care of my daughter. Mo is one of the best moms ever but until my first day of watching Emma while Mo was at her office, I had never been solely responsible for Emma’s well being. We were able to take 3 months each of paternity and maternity leave. During that time I was able to build confidence in warming bottles, giving baths, and changing diapers. This is where I need to pause: changing diapers.

Our daughter only poops once a week. Her pediatrician assures us that she is healthy and that she will become more regular over time. Until then, we’re enjoying not having to change several dirty diapers a day. Not only are we saving money on Pampers(!), but we’re also saving money on Glade Plug-Ins. Usually, Emma’s poops occur every 7 days. They are as predictable as having Beyoncé songs played at Soul Cycle. However, her weekly poop is always a blowout. For those who are unfamiliar with this term, a blowout is when a poop is so massive it requires a complete outfit change and shower for baby and parent. It’s total destruction.

I was never unlucky enough to be around during a blowout. I was either running errands, grocery shopping, or away from Mo when Emma blew the dams. However, the week before Mo went back to work, Emma missed her poop day. No worries, right? We figured she would just do it the following day and we would be in the clear. But another day passed and then another and we reached the weekend. Mo, being the great planner that she is, tried to get my emotionally and tactically prepared for possibility that a stink bomb might go off on my first day of duty (dad joke intended) alone.

At that point I started pleading with Emma to do her business before we went back to work. I bribed her with future trips to Disney and new stuffed animals. I read blogs about how to encourage movement. Nothing worked. Monday rolled around and I figured that things couldn’t go too badly without Mo. I’m competent, dang it! The day started out well. Emma napped while I wrote reports and she ate silently as I discussed planning initiatives. In fact, things went so well that I decided to take Emma out for a lunch date at a local taco stand. When we returned I set up her Dock-A-Tot on the chaise portion of the couch, put on my work sweatpants, poured a cup of tea, and dialed into my conference call. I distinctly remember thinking, “Parenting is a breeze.” And then it happened.

After being called on to provide a response for a client, I heard a sound emanate from the bowels (once again, dad joke intended) of Hades. It was a sound so gruesome that I will never be the same again. While trying to maintain my composure as I answered question on the phone, and I peeked out the window to see if the Apocalypse was occurring. It was. But the reckoning was happening in my house and coming out of my daughter. Poop bubbled out of the bottom of the diaper at a rapid speed. It was like Whack-A-Mole. As I tended to the initial leak, a bigger breach opened and more poop escaped up her back. As all of this is happening, I’m still trying to answer questions about project costs and ROI. However, the monster I’m battling doesn’t care about fiscal analysis discussions. It is a relentless foe. At this point I had two choices: 1) let this play out, burn the Dock-A-Tot, and move when she finished or; 2) Get my baby to a tub. When scholars tell this story 100 years from now, they’ll say that it was pride in country that made me choose the latter and run for cover under the flow of gentle water.

I picked Emma up and extended her body away from me until a series of seismic explosions compromised the integrity of the diaper. I pulled her in closer to avoid disaster and sacrificed a t-shirt that didn’t deserve that type of death. At that moment my sweet baby looked at me through her wonderful eyes and smiled a smile that melted my heart like nothing I have ever experienced. I rinsed her off and finished my call on mute while we sang our favorite songs together.

So, the long answer is that every day has challenges. However, the joys greatly outweigh any ruined laundry or dirty diapers. I’m glad I get to spend time with my incredible girl.