Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Coming soon to a derelict book club near you

This summer, I'm banding together with three other columnists from The Chestnut Hill Local to put out a book of our best columns. It will most definitely be a money-losing venture, but since our house has a septic system that can't handle too much paper, it's best for now if I only flush our money down the john figuratively.

We're each submitting 10 columns. I never know which ones are any good -- sometimes, I'm humiliated to post a column, only to find out people liked it. Other times, I'm all psyched to post a column that, in retrospect, sucks. If you have any input about which columns that should be included in the book, please holler my way. If you'd rather not leave it in a comment, you can email me at mikectodd@gmail.com. Muchas gracias, amigo(s). Any input is much appreciated.

Dude! I almost forgot to post a picture of my dog:

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Getting your lawn mowed for free? Priceless.

“How old is your baby?” our tour guide asked as she showed us around the daycare facility.

“About negative three months,” I said, pointing to my wife Kara’s belly.

Getting your baby into daycare before it is born might seem a bit premature, but getting wait-listed for daycare when both parents are working isn’t really a practical option, especially when your wife is not confident about her ability to hold it in for an extra few months until a spot opens up. While Kara will be able to take some time off after the birth, we need to make sure we’ve appropriately planned for her post-labor labor.

“We nurture starting at the youngest ages to help children reach whatever educational goals you have in mind for them,” the guide said.

I suddenly felt irresponsible for not spending more time mapping out educational goals for our eventual child, beyond getting him behind the lawnmower as soon as possible.

As someone who has always exercised his soon-to-be-revoked right to flee the room whenever a diaper was being changed, I just assumed that the first couple of years were a race to get the baby potty-trained. In fact, for the months that a baby just kind of hangs out wherever you put it down, I don’t see why nobody’s invented a potty that you can just strap directly to the baby. That seems like a great idea, with the benefit of continuing the proud tradition, at least among the males in my family, of spending all day on the john.

“And if you’ll be breastfeeding, here’s the fridge where you can store the bottles that you pump,” the guide said.

Kara tensed up a little. I could tell she was thinking about the time, during our honeymoon in New Zealand, when we went on a tour of a farm that performed daily sheep-shearing shows, an event that we couldn’t pass up if only for the sheer alliteration of it. And on that farm there was a goat, a baby goat that wandered freely amongst the tourists. The farmer passed around a baby bottle filled with milk, gesturing toward the goat.

“Hang on tight,” the farmer advised as Kara took hold of the bottle and gently pointed the nipple towards the tiny little goat, which then latched on and yanked as if it thought Kara was a snowblower that needed starting. Kara shrieked, almost coming out of her shoes as the goat guzzled and yanked. When it was my turn, the goat almost wrenched the bottle out of my hands. King Arthur didn’t pull as hard on the Sword in the Stone.

To date, everything we know first-hand about breastfeeding, we’ve learned from that goat. I think Kara has nightmares about it. Sometimes, she’ll shoot awake in the middle of the night, sweating and bleating.

As the tour of the daycare facility ended, our guide smiled and handed us a festive-looking pricing sheet, printed on bright yellow paper that was meant to fool parental brains into thinking that they were looking at something happy.

“Oh, I’m sorry for the mix-up,” I said, scanning down the prices. “We’re here to talk about daycare, not condominiums.”

Of course, you can’t put a price on the peace of mind of knowing that your child is well looked-after, unless that price is printed on bright yellow paper. After visiting several more daycares, Kara and I did find a place, recommended by friends, that we’ll probably end up using.

In the meantime, I’ve learned from this experience that I can’t sit idly by, expecting someone else to plan our child’s educational goals. At night, I’ve started reading to Kara’s belly, hoping that our baby is paying close attention as I carefully dramatize our lawnmower’s owner’s manual.

You can get Mike Todd’s goat at mikectodd@gmail.com.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

You’ve lost a friend in Pennsylvania

Getting my mom to join Facebook seemed like such a good idea at the time. In retrospect, it was an innovation on par with New Coke, the Hindenburg and The Matrix sequels.

“Oh, that’s for you kids. You don’t want me lurking around on Facebook, seeing what you all are up to,” she said a few weeks ago. Up to that point, Mom’s favorite social networking site had been her living room.

But my wife Kara and I insisted, thinking that Mom would enjoy using Facebook, catching up with some old friends and keeping up with current ones. So during a weekend visit to our house, while my dad and I huddled around the kitchen sink, trying to figure out the right combination of expletives and wrenches to get the new faucet installed, Kara and Mom huddled around the laptop, working on installing Mom into the world of online social networking.

Initially, the installation looked very promising. “Ooh, hey, I haven’t talked to her since high school!” Mom said, high-fiving Kara as they trolled through Facebook’s oceans of people, chumming friend requests overboard along the way. By the end of the weekend, Mom had connected with a couple dozen friends and family members. Your Facebook account isn’t fully mature until it gathers more friends than the number of people you’ve actually met in your life, but it was a good start.

The troubles began later in the week, when Mom changed her relationship status to “Married” to reflect her forty-one years of marriage to my dad.

Immediately, some family friends from my generation posted comments like: “Congratulations on finally getting him to tie the knot!” and “Hubba hubba -- who’s the new beau?”

“They’re making fun of me,” Mom said over the phone. “What did I do wrong?”

“Nothing, Mom. They were just joking around,” I said.

“Well, okay, but I don’t really understand the point of all this. Your cousin just told the whole world what he ate for breakfast,” she said.

“You don’t have to read everybody’s status updates,” I replied.

“I had Special K with fresh blueberries this morning. Do you think I should tell everyone?” she asked.

Clearly, her generation lacks the healthy narcissism of mine. Mom’s enthusiasm for Facebook gradually waned over the next few days as waves of shallow communications washed across her screen. Then a family friend uploaded a picture of Mom in which she’d been caught mid-sentence, clearly not ready for the flash to go off. It was the upload that broke the camel’s back.

“I’ve been trying for three hours to delete this photo of me,” she said, sounding exhausted. “How do I get rid of it?”

Unfortunately, pictures from your past, uploaded by your friends, are an indignity one must suffer as a Facebook user. A friend of mine from college recently uploaded pictures of me from the regrettable period several months after I’d decided to grow my hair out. Growing your hair long isn’t something you just do. It takes lots of dedication and baseball caps.

The first comment read like this: “Hey, Mike looks like a mushroom. Look out, Mike! Super Mario’s going to jump on you!”

I tried to explain to Mom that she couldn’t delete pictures that she hadn’t uploaded. The best she could do was to remove the tag that contained her name.

“Well, I don’t think Facebook was meant for my generation. I’m going to leave,” she said.

“Leave? I don’t think you can leave,” I said. “It’s like the mafia.”

Somehow, though, Mom left. I picture her dropping from the ceiling at Facebook headquarters, suspended from the small of her back by a cable like Tom Cruise in Mission: Impossible.

If you’d like to issue a friend request to my mom these days, the best place to start would probably be her living room.

You can de-friend Mike Todd at mikectodd@gmail.com.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Sunday, April 12, 2009

An apple a day didn’t work

As the nurse pumped up the cuff on my arm, I inhaled and held my breath, hoping to trick my blood pressure into reading lower. This probably doesn’t work, but it’s much easier than exercising.

“Okay, your blood pressure looks fine,” she said, ensuring that I will hold my breath during those tests for the rest of my life.

Ordinarily, I avoid the doctor like the coughing coworker, but my wife Kara ambushed me with an appointment for a physical.

“Now take off your shoes and hop onto the scale,” the nurse said. Just my shoes? Everyone knows that a scale’s output is not valid unless you’re completely naked, you’ve skipped breakfast and you’re hanging on to a bouquet of balloons, which you hopefully procured before getting naked.

I quickly tossed my wallet, my keys and my cell phone into my shoes. There’s no way I was getting pounded for their ounces.

“This is not a regulation match,” I said to the scale as I stepped on. Clearly, a pair of jeans weighs ten pounds. Make that fifteen.

“Now take off your shirt and have a seat,” the nurse said as she stepped out the door. “The doctor will be here in a moment.”

Call me old fashioned, but when I’m meeting people for the first time, I generally prefer to be shirted. Sure, the doctor’s time is precious, but whatever efficiency could be gained by saving him the three milliseconds it takes to doff a T-shirt in his presence seems greatly outweighed by the corresponding loss of dignity during the initial handshake.

Of course, my aversion to disrobing in public is not shared by everyone. I once attended a minor league baseball game with a friend who didn’t feel that the world should be deprived of gazing upon the fruits of his gym membership.

“You think it’s okay to take our shirts off here?” he asked me.

“OUR shirts?” I thought. On any given day, I spend much less time wondering if I’m allowed to take my shirt off in public than I spend considering whether or not you could defend yourself against a charging moose by just standing sideways behind a tree.

My buddy decided that it was indeed okay, and he spent the afternoon basking in all his biceptual glory, undeterred by the fact that a grown man in a non-beach setting should only take off his shirt if a giant letter from a sports team has been fingerpainted onto his chest, which somehow makes it okay.

When the doctor came in, he skipped the handshake, which suited me fine, since I was dressed like I’d just narrowly escaped an early morning house fire. He punched my medical history into his laptop, asking me questions that never offered an opening to talk about my most exciting medical moment: the time I almost fried off my pinky finger with a model rocket engine. That rocket took me to the emergency room and beyond.

After it became clear that I’d come to the doctor’s office for no reason other than to score a few husband points with my pregnant wife, the doctor started talking about his own family. He talked glowingly about his kids for a moment, and then he asked, “Would I be happy if I never got married and never had kids?”

“Of course not,” I thought, answering his rhetorical question in my mind.

“Absolutely!” he replied a beat later. “It would just be different. There’s a yin and a yang to everything.”

That’s not the advice you’re supposed to give to a man in my situation. You’re supposed to lie and tell him that having a family of your own is all yin and no yang. Or all yang and no yin. Whichever the good one is.

You can yin Mike Todd’s yang at mikectodd@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

You've been mooned

Just fiddling around with the new camera, turning dials and seeing what happens. Here are some shots of the nearly full moon last night:

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The blue team wins

A little while back, I posted our most recent ultrasound pics without mentioning what the pictures confirmed: that we are expecting a little boy human to join us outside of Kara's womb in a few months.

You can't really tell one way or the other from this shot:

But here's the same picture with the boy parts graphically enhanced:

Monday, April 06, 2009

This one's for the Boyce

The pooch and I took a stroll through Boyce Park in Dover, NY yesterday. There's a rickety old launch ramp for hangliders at the top of the hill behind the park, but judging from the trees growing in front of it, that thing hasn't been used in years. Still, it's a nice view, and if I was the mayor of Dover, I'd use that ramp to issue my proclamations.

Here are the best shots from the new camera, which I still haven't broken yet:

Sunday, April 05, 2009

A grown man goes to nursery school

At five months into her pregnancy, my wife Kara’s nesting instinct has cranked up to such a degree that on several recent occasions, I swear I’ve caught her warbling to herself. She has become so consumed with getting the nursery set up that it’s all I can to do to keep her from dragging sticks and shiny objects into the house.

“This crib got the highest rating on Consumer Reports,” she told me last week, pointing to a picture of a crib that looked exactly like every other crib.

“Perfect! Let’s get that one,” I said.

“You don’t even care,” she replied. Of course I did care, though I also wondered how Consumer Reports could possibly differentiate one crib from another. It must have gone something like this: “Four sides? Check. Room for a baby? Check. Okay, this one’s a winner.”

Kara has been talking with her maternally experienced friend Jen, who sent Kara a list of necessary baby purchases, written in a strange and inscrutable language. Boppy, Bumbo, bouncer, Jumperoo. These words have not previously existed in my universe, and though I’m somewhat curious to translate them into English, I’m afraid that doing so will be very expensive.

The one item on Jen’s list that I recognized was something called a glider. I was impressed by the foresight of adding a flying device to the list, probably to keep the father aeronautically entertained while mother and baby were off partaking in activities for which an adult male presence would be even more useless than usual.

“Oh, yeah, we definitely need one of those,” I said.

“Yeah, we do. A glider is a kind of rocking chair for nursing,” Kara replied, sensing my overabundance of enthusiasm. They really shouldn’t give something so boring such an awesome name.

If you saw us in the parking lot of Babies R’ Expensive, where we spend much of our free time lately, you might think that I’ve become more of a gentleman as Kara’s condition, for which I am admittedly 50% responsible, has progressed. You would see me go to her door first, unlocking it and opening it like Cary Grant opening the door for a maternity-pantsed Ginger Rogers.

The truth is that our passenger-side door lock conked out a couple of weeks ago, no longer responding to the remote control and forcing me to be a gentleman. We need to get that thing fixed, lest I start wearing a top hat and begin regulating my body functions at the dinner table.

Before we realized that the lock was broken, Kara would stand there, yanking on the handle and saying, “Let me in!”

“Dude, you must have been pulling on the handle when I pressed the button. That’s what you get for jumping the gun,” I’d say, yawning and stretching before reaching over to unlock the door. Gun jumpers must spend at least five seconds standing in the penalty parking lot.

Unlocking the door for Kara by hand has brought me back to our college days, when remote controls were only for TVs and it was socially acceptable to own a couch with duct tape wrapped around the cushions.

Penn State created its parking spots to be romantic; exiting a car often required climbing out of your window onto the roof of adjoining vehicles. Back then, Kara and I would both squeeze beside the car, crunching ourselves into a slot that was more size-appropriate for cooking Pop Tarts.

I could tell that Kara was girlfriend material because, once we’d managed to get her into the car, she’d reach over and unlock my door as I walked around. Who would have guessed that in just ten short years, we’d be getting ready to buy our very first Bumbo together? Whatever that is.

You can offer Mike Todd a ride in your glider at mikectodd@gmail.com.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Very graphic material

A few months ago, I created my first banner graphic for this site:

My buddy Josh Perlson, who probably told me that he does something with graphics for a living in between our recitations of Big Lebowski quotes, said that he could do better. Then he cranked out these puppies:

Those banners were cool, but I never used them here because it felt weird putting up pictures of people I'd never met before. It would be like putting the picture that came with the frame up on my mantle.

So then we came up with the idea of ripping off famous designs, and Perlson went to town. Here are all of the banner graphics that he's created so far:

There are also some that aren't in the rotation 'cause they just didn't feel quite right. Anybody have any ideas for these? Like, the Froot Loops one needs a catchy slogan, but I got nothin'. Here are some that aren't on the page yet:

Dang, even as I scroll back through these, I am freaking impressed. Perlson, you're a good man. I can't repay you in graphics, but if you ever need to me plagiarize anything for you, just say the word.