Sunday, March 29, 2009

The lights aren’t on, but somebody’s home

“Don’t you think it would be fun to learn to dip our own candles?” I asked my wife Kara last week.

“Not especially,” she replied.

“What about churning our own butter?” I said.

“I don’t think we even use butter. Is Country Crock butter?” she asked. Upon opening the fridge and inspecting the container, I learned that Country Crock makes no claim at all as to what it actually is. The words “butter” and “margarine” are nowhere to be found, just “Country Fresh Taste,” which could signify that the plastic tub contains any number of country-related flavors, like ham, banjo bits or gravel.

“I just thought it might be fun to pick up some pioneer-style hobbies,” I said, “since the power company is going to shut off our electricity in two weeks anyway.”

Recently, I’d noticed an increase in the ratio of letters from the power company in the piles of mail that I’d been throwing away without opening. The vast majority of our mail doesn’t warrant reading; it’s always credit card companies trying to trick me into looking. They dress up the envelopes so that even the most wary person will be tempted to peek inside. The envelopes bear messages in bright red ink that say things like: “IMPORTANT ACCOUNT DOCUMENTS: OPEN IMMEDIATELY OR THE PUPPY GETS IT!”

Each time I open a piece of junk mail thinking I’m about to see an actual important account document, only to find a useless credit card offer inside, I hear, somewhere off in the distance, a credit card CEO yelling from the top of a skyscraper, “Made you look!”

If federal regulations would allow, I’d get a coal-fired mailbox, or perhaps an eco-friendly shredding/composting combo unit. So it was completely on a whim that I opened a letter from our power company to find a friendly reminder, which they’d cordially labeled “FINAL TERMINATION NOTICE.”

“Oh, man,” I thought. “That would be an awesome title for an action movie.”

Actually, I immediately worried about telling Kara. Very few things irritate her as much as delinquent bills, especially ones that are the responsibility of her delinquent husband. In our house, we refer to late fees as either “lazy taxes” or “stupid taxes,” depending on the reason they were incurred. In general, the world is fine with letting you be lazy or stupid, but you have to pay for the privilege, usually by the day.

I stood at the end of the driveway, holding the letter and wondering whether it was worth disturbing our domestic tranquility to inform Kara of its contents. Whenever I find myself thinking, “Life would be easier if I didn’t tell Kara about this,” that’s when I make a point to talk to her. A good marriage is based on open communication, and also on the continuing possibility that, if you just hang in there long enough, you will be rewarded by your spouse’s inability to finish her chicken sandwich. Ooh, and maybe an onion ring or two.

As it turned out, during the course of a web upgrade, the power company had deleted the entries of several autopay customers, causing us to miss our first electric bill in the eight years we’ve lived around here.

“You mean you just deleted us out of the system?” I asked the customer service representative during my call that was important to them.

“Yes, that’s right,” she said cheerily.

“On purpose?” I asked.

“I’m not sure about that part, but it definitely happened during the upgrade,” she replied.

So now that we’re back in the system, Kara and I will have to forego for now the adventure of living in a house with no electricity. But this experience has taught us many valuable lessons, not the least of which is that our power company throws around the term “upgrade” very loosely.

You can send Mike Todd some compost at

Thursday, March 26, 2009

No more dog pictures, I promise.

Mmmmmmm... That lie tasted good.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Boring you with baby pictures: Just warming up

It's about time to run a technical diagnostic on this blog to see if it can handle pictures that aren't of my dog. Let's try boring the Internet with some prenatal pictures of our baby, hot off the ultrasound machine.

Here's the cutest black-and-white, grainy left foot I've ever seen:

Profile with mouth open:

I know most of my friends haven't spent much time looking at ultrasounds, so here's the same picture with a visual aid to help you locate the baby's head:

Here's the profile with mouth closed:

And here's the profile with mouth closed, plus visual aid:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The thundering approach of little feet

The most common, and most useless, advice an expectant couple receives is: “Have all your fun now, while you still can.”

My wife Kara and I both appreciate the sentiment, but its ominous undertones make us a little uneasy. It sounds an awful lot like the advice you’d give to some peaceful villagers moments before the thundering hooves of a Mongol horde become audible.

The theory behind this advice seems to be that Kara and I need to become fun camels, storing as much fun as we can now so that we’ll be able to cross the arid, joyless desert of parenthood on the fun reserves we built up during the period of our lives when we could still go to movies that featured cars launching off of toll booth dividers and crashing into the bad guys’ helicopters.

Unfortunately, our capacity for having fun has already been somewhat diminished by Kara’s pregnancy, so I don’t know how we’re going to get our hands on enough fun to stash our leftovers for later. Kara can’t drink wine or ride roller coasters, and while I’m technically still allowed to do both, neither are activities I’d be proud to do by myself.

Kara keeps herself entertained these days by rubbing her tummy and saying, “Dude, why can’t our baby find somewhere to sit besides my bladder?” Perhaps it would be more fun if she added patting her head to the mix, but this seems like a weak gruel upon which to base our future fun sustenance.

Luckily, there is one bright spot: the video game Resident Evil 5 has already come out, in plenty of time for me to conquer it before our baby arrives in August. As a potentially good father, I was worried that there would be a conflict in the release dates.

Over dinner with friends recently, when asked if we were anxious about impending parenthood, I replied, “I’m just concerned that Resident Evil 5 isn’t going to come out before our baby does.”

I looked up from my plate after noticing that the clinking of silverware around me had stopped, except for Kara’s. Even the other video game geeks at the table were staring at me in disbelief. Obviously, these people had never played Resident Evil 4.

As a rule, non-hobbit movie sequels get worse with each increment, while video games get better. (As a corollary to the rule, nothing good ever comes out of movies based on video games or video games based on movies.) Resident Evil 4 was such a great game that its players, drooling on their couches and muttering incomprehensibly to themselves, became indistinguishable from the zombies they were decapitating. Resident Evil 5 is likely to render responsible parenting impossible. Fortunately, the timing will work out such that the drool on our couch will have long been dry before our baby starts adding its own.

After watching several of our friends make the transition to parenthood, it seems they haven’t actually stopped having fun, it’s just that the definition of fun has changed.

“Check out this trick,” my buddy Josh said to us on a recent visit, propping his son Isaac into a sitting position on the kitchen counter. He took his hands away slowly and Isaac, tottering slightly, remained upright.

“Taaa-daaa! Isn’t that awesome?” Josh asked. “He can sit all by himself!”

Isaac was actually sitting better than his old man was doing about a decade earlier, when I came home from a late night of studying to find Josh slumped over on the couch beside several empty beer cans, watching episodes of the children’s show “3-2-1 Contact” from the 80s on cable.

“This show is great. Did you know it had Morgan Freeman in it?” he asked, like that somehow made the show more intelligent, as if I’d stumbled in on him watching Masterpiece Theater.

You can change Mike Todd’s bib at

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More dog pictures, you say?

Memphis and I headed out to the woods last weekend for another photoshoot with my new camera. I have to thank our friends Jen and Gary (of gigantic dog fame) for recommending the Nikon D40. I'd name it Lucille if that didn't imply that I knew how to use it.

Here's one that got away. This would have been the best picture I've ever taken if I hadn't been focusing on the effing tree in the background instead of the dog. Regardless, I need to get Memphis a cape:

Here's the best of the rest. All of these were taken in James Baird State Park. My apologies for posting a hundred pictures of my dog, but Memphis needs your attention right now. I'm too busy uploading pictures of her.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Will Mike get beaten up for this column?

While walking the dog a few weeks ago, I bumped into a neighbor whose wife was expecting twins any day. Walking the dog is a great way to meet neighbors. We’ve only had Memphis for a year, and already I’m on a first-name basis with Nicki, Brendan, Bailey, Lex, Misty and Trinity. For the most part, I have no idea who their corresponding humans are, but on this day, there was some chatting to go along with the posterior sniffing.

“I don’t walk too far from the house anymore. And I keep my cell phone handy, just in case,” the human said.

Once he discovered that I, too, had ditched a pregnant woman to create a moving obstruction in the street, he became interested to know if my wife Kara and I were still getting along as well as we had before passing our pregnancy test.

“Do you guys find yourselves getting into ridiculous arguments? My wife and I just had a fight about spoons,” he said. “At least I think that’s what it was about. There’s no way to be sure.”

Fortunately for us, Kara hasn’t been experiencing the traditional pregnancy mood swings that we had been bracing for. It would be better described as a mood trapeze, really.

“Babe, I know you’re not really mad at me,” I tell her after she catches me putting bowls onto the “wrong” rack in the dishwasher. “It’s just temporary insanity.”

“It’s not temporary insanity!” she says (insanely).

“You mean it’s permanent?” I ask, horrified.

In all honesty, living with a pregnant woman is every bit as wonderful as living with the non-pregnant variety, and even though she’ll try to blame it on the baby when she cries during an Adam Sandler movie, you’ll remember that this is the same woman who cried during “X-Men 2” and the preview for “I Am Sam.”

Kara is just hitting the halfway point of her pregnancy, where passersby might think she looks kind of pregnant, but will still generally exercise the good judgment not to say so out loud. If Kara were on the cover of US Magazine, the headline would read: “Does my wife Kara have a baby bump?” But then the article wouldn’t tell you, because if a headline ends in a question mark, that means the author doesn’t know, either.

The four month mark seems to be the eye of the pregnancy storm, when Kara gets to feel normal again for a few weeks, though the previous months have been instructive about how it feels to go to sleep at 9pm, a bedtime I hadn’t experienced since the 80s. Now that her exhaustion has gone into remission, we have settled back into our normal routine of me hassling her to stop reading and turn out the light.

“I’m almost to the end of the chapter,” she says.

“How much more?” I ask. She flips five pages past her thumb.

“Five pages,” she says, hoping that I haven’t noticed her subterfuge.

“You know that I know that pages have writing on both sides, right?” I reply.

“Okay, ten pages. Will you scratch my back?” she asks. Now that her tummy is expanding and making her skin itchy, her back requires constant attention. It takes less back scratching to fill an Illinois Senate seat.

“I just stopped scratching your back twenty seconds ago. My fingers need a break. Ask me something else,” I say.

“Will you rub my neck?” she asks.

Of course, I comply. While she’s dealing with changes that make her skin feel like The Incredible Hulk’s shirt, it’s the least I can do. For the next several months, though, it’s probably best if we avoid the topic of spoons altogether.

You can help Mike Todd load the dishwasher at

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mama don't take my Kodachrome

After I waited for a WHOLE WEEK like Calvin waiting for his beanie, my new camera finally came in yesterday. Now I really do have a Nikon Camera, and I do, indeed, love to take the phoooooot-to-graphs, or at least I will, as soon as I figure out which button does that. Also, why was Paul Simon worried his mama was going to take his Kodachrome away? Probably because he was huffing it.

So I've been running around for 24 hours taking pictures of everything (and by everything I mean my dog), trying to figure out how to work this thing. I'm pretty sure it's the best purchase I've ever made in my life, despite my fumbling with it to this point. Our future baby is going to get a tan from the flash bulb.

Here's the damage I've been able to do so far:

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Robby Wrednesday: Thursday edition

Here's a shot from Rob called Malibu Carnival:

If I'm not mistaken, that's one of those potato sack slides. We buy our potatoes individually plastic-wrapped so you can just nuke 'em in seven minutes. Maybe we should start buying them by the sack instead, so we could bring our own sacks to our next carnival. We'd be like those bowlers who don't have to rent shoes.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

King of the wild frontier

While tromping through the woods with Memphis last weekend, we happened upon the biggest pawprints I think I've ever seen. Being the expert tracker that I am, I immediately identified the prints as bear tracks.

Here's a picture of Memphis' paws beside one of the prints, taken with the tail from my coonskin cap held out of the way:

When I got home, the stupid Internet said that a bear track looks like this:

And a dog track looks like this:

Which is pretty much exactly what we found. Oh well. Still, we must have been hot on the heels on one big effing dog. Something like an English Mastiff:

or a Giant Pomeranian:

Sunday, March 08, 2009

To maternity and beyond

After it became clear that the button and the button hole on her non-pregnant-person pants were destined ne’er to meet again, at least not prenatally, my wife Kara finally surrendered this week, making the switch to maternity pants. You wouldn’t be able to tell by looking; maternity pants look just like normal pants, except that they have an elastic band hidden under the shirt that allows so much growth that Kara could easily, if she were so inclined, sneak into a movie theater concealing a large soda, a bucket of popcorn and a teenaged walrus. This added functionality raises the obvious question: Why aren’t all pants maternity pants?

This question seems especially relevant to me right now, because Kara keeps dragging me to Pizza Hut, where I busily set to work growing a sympathy belly.

“I’m craving their creamy Italian salad dressing,” she tells me. To which an average person would reply, “Pizza Hut has salad?”

It does, unfortunately, and Kara can ignore its siren call no more than she can be disabused of the notion that a salad can serve as a meal. All by itself. Seriously.

“Please, no more Pizza Hut,” I implore her. “I’ve ingested more Pizza Hut than should be expected of any one man. Have mercy on me.”

But of course, pregnant women are not famous for having mercy upon the people responsible for their conditions. Like a twitching needle on a seismometer, she lets me know that there are precious few moments remaining before disaster strikes.

“If we don’t leave for Pizza Hut soon, I might get grouchy,” she says quietly, at which point I’ve already started the car.

Really, it’s nice that she wants to eat anything at all, as the first months of her pregnancy were marked by far more aversions than cravings, unless you count her sudden attraction to the toilet. She still hasn’t lost her superhuman sense of smell, though, which is so powerful that she could probably qualify to be an X-Man (named Nostril?) if only she could find a maternity leotard cool enough. At the very least, before her nose goes back to normal, she could probably pick up a few extra bucks at the airport sniffing luggage.

If you ever want to go as a pregnant lady for Halloween, just stuff a pillow up your shirt, and when the door opens, say, “Trick or…ew, what stinks?”

With her senses heightened and her squeamishness so easily triggered, supporting Kara by accompanying her to Pizza Hut is really the least I can do, though definitely not the least greasy. While she can order a salad for dinner and be content, I’m more from the school of thought that the proper place for a salad at dinnertime, absent hungry bunnies, is between the patty and the bun.

Besides, the place is not called Lettuce Hut. When I’m there, I have no choice but to order their shimmering, shiny pizza, which then allows me to fix my hair by the reflection off of the crust. We’ve eaten there so many times recently, I’m thinking of joining the pro wrestling circuit under the stage name Grease Trap. I’m still working out the details of my signature move, but it will definitely be called “the stuffed crust.”

I never thought I’d live to see the day where I’d be complaining about a woman forcing me to eat too much pizza, which is a phrase that had no meaning to me until very recently. With grease beginning to seep out of my pores, though, I’m starting to have many new health-related concerns, primarily that they’re going to put me in a pen at the county fair and make a contest out of which kid can catch me.

You can put Mike Todd in your purse and sneak him into the theater at

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Robby Wrednesday: Wreloaded

Here's a shot from Rob called Nag & Colt, taken in Baja, Mexico:

When thinking about what sort of caption this picture deserved, I thought that maybe after complimenting Rob on another awesome photo, I could sneak in some sort of pun on "nag" that would test whether or not Kara ever reads my blog. But then I thought it might be wiser not to risk my recently proven ability to procreate.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Memphis and Coaliath

Last weekend, our friends Jen and Gary came up to visit, bringing their two-year-old daughter and their 140-pound Newfoundland, Coaly.

Here's what our puppy Memphis looks like standing next to Coaly (all photos courtesy of Gary):

The dogs hit it off famously. I think, though, that in varsity tug-of-war, they would have been in different weight divisions.

These pictures remind me of a skit from Robot Chicken called "The World's Most One-Sided Fistfights Caught on Film".

I have nothing more to offer but maximum cuteness from the You Have Two Seconds to Take This Picture Before Chaos Reigns Again department:

Monday, March 02, 2009

Another day, another banner

Perlson strikes again:

This one's in the rotation now. My suggestion for a caption was "A weekly column that stuffs cheese in places you'd never dream of," but it works better with Perlson's idea. Also, blotting pizza with a napkin makes it diet.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Taking care of the practice baby

A couple of years ago, my wife Kara and I couldn’t even consider the possibility of having a child, in no small part because we’d accidentally moved into our current house before selling our old one, a chest-clutching deviation from the original gameplan.

If you are among the 13 million people who have watched the post-anesthetization observations of the small boy in the YouTube clip titled “David After Dentist,” you might be familiar with some of his questions, which could well have been asked by someone paying two mortgages every month, namely: “Why is this happening to me?” and “Is this going to be forever?”

It wasn’t forever for us, but for the six long months that we owned a vacant house, the thought of adding a baby to our family was out of the question. We were practicing birth control via real estate, a mode of contraception that, thanks to the moribund housing market, continues to grow in popularity.

When we finally sold the house, all four of parents were surely thinking, “Here comes our first grandchild!”

But Kara and I were thinking, “Here comes our first rectangular TV!”

Actually, we were really thinking that we needed a practice baby, a way to get our feet used to the water before diving in. Our puppy Memphis has been invaluable in this regard.

For the first eight weeks, Memphis taught us what it was like to wake up every couple of hours. Eventually, she woke us up less and less, until she just naturally started sleeping through the night. Though the entire process took two whole months, Kara and I have great confidence that a baby will settle in much faster. A few weeks of reduced sleep might even be fun, like a slumber party that keeps on going.

Having a puppy also gets you used to the idea of being tethered to your house. You can’t just run out without first making sure that your dog’s needs are taken care of. Of course, we understand that there are probably differences here between puppies and babies, especially in regard to how long you can leave them crated. Most veterinarians say six hours is the absolute maximum for a dog, so I expect a pediatrician would say something in the same ballpark for a baby. Perhaps, though, you can get a couple more hours out of a baby if you leave the TV on for them. Tuned to PBS, of course. You want your child to learn while you’re at the ballgame.

Of course I know you can’t really crate a baby, which is why people bring screaming ones into whichever movie theater I’m in, but I do have serious reasons to doubt whether I’ll actually be fit to be a father before the August deadline, when our baby is scheduled to be delivered. My main concern is that I’ve never been able to toss a baseball to myself and hit it to a desired location. Pretty much every father I’ve ever seen has had this ability, especially my own, who could hit a pop fly or a grounder right to me every time, calling the shot beforehand like Babe Ruth.

Sometimes, I picture our own child, glove on knee, yawning, perhaps texting a friend with their free hand, as their father keeps yelling, “Just a minute!” and whiffing, over and over again, the ball pathetically plunking at his feet. Then I wake up screaming.

Also, with the publishing of this week’s column, I have successfully met the challenge from reader Anne Carra of Roxborough, who asked if I’d ever been able to use the word “moribund” correctly in a column. Of course I hadn’t, because as of a few hours ago, I thought a moribund was something you dunk into your coffee.

You can send Mike Todd a practice email at