Thursday, October 29, 2009
Sunday, October 25, 2009
As I came downstairs last weekend to find my wife Kara, our son Evan and our dog Memphis arranged in their usual positions on the couch, Kara said, “I couldn’t get the dog to stop licking Evan’s sleeve this morning. She seems to like the way this outfit tastes.”
While we’ve tried to keep the dog from licking the baby too much, it has often been a losing battle. Having a baby around the world’s dumbest and friendliest dog (an honor for which
I thought back, trying to come up with a reason why
“Dude, she was licking him because he spit up on his arm last night,” I said.
The point, of course, is that both dogs and babies are disgusting. But you invite them into your house anyway, for some reason. Maybe it’s because of the chance to make the world a better place by molding their young minds, teaching them about the rewards of good decisions and the consequences of bad ones, which they’ll need to be successful in life unless one of them becomes an investment banker.
For us, besides being an opportunity to stress-test our laundry machine and our collective patience, parenthood has also been a voyage of personal exploration, a voyage that recently took me to our refrigerator, where I stood, famished, holding a dry bowl of Special K with a freshly poured glass of orange juice on the counter behind me. The orange juice had no pulp in it, because even though I prefer orange juice that could be eaten with a fork, Kara thinks pulp is weird, so we compromise by getting orange juice with no pulp in it.
In a moment of sheer horror, the dream of a non-breakfast-bar breakfast slipped away when my eyes alighted upon the gaping hole where the gallon of milk should have been. Ever since Kara started running her breast pump, she’s been drinking a lot more milk, perhaps in solidarity either with Evan or with her fellow pumpers.
Incidentally, if I was ever in a support group for women who had to pump, I’d definitely lobby to call our group the Moo-Moo Sisterhood.
Anyway, you find out a lot about yourself, and your limits, when you notice the four-ounce containers lining the top shelf in the fridge, the containers that your wife has worked so hard to fill with the very liquid of which you are now in so desperate a need.
“Why haven’t you ever tried it? I want you to try it and describe it to me,” one of my buddies said recently.
“Dude, that’s just weird. You’re welcome to try it if you like,” I said.
“That’s way weirder. She’s your wife. It’s completely natural. And it’s less weird than drinking milk from a cow, when you think about it,” he said.
And I did think about it, the whole time I crunched through my dry bowl of Special K.
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Sunday, October 18, 2009
“What, it’s not like he’s pointy,” I said, offended that Kara would put our son in the same category as a pair of scissors.
Kara was running the breast pump and watching TV, determined to keep Evan on breast milk for as long as she can. Since Evan spent his first month in the hospital feeding on bottles, he never could quite get the hang of breastfeeding afterwards. The doctors called it “nipple confusion,” a term that I had previously thought only applied to Super Bowl halftime shows.
“Did I just see a nipple?” we all asked, confused.
I sat down with Evan on the couch and saw a priest being interviewed by two cops on TV. All of a sudden, I had déjà SVU: the feeling that you’ve seen this episode of Law and Order before. Déjà SVU usually doesn’t strike until fifteen minutes into the show, making you feel doubly guilty for wasting your life twice.
“This is the one where the bad guy doesn’t quite get what he deserved, but the cop learns an important lesson, right?” I asked.
Just then, perhaps realizing that a bottle was imminent, Evan pinched his cheeks into a little smile, a trick he just recently learned.
After my buddy Josh had a son, he reported that the first six months of fatherhood were the toughest because the only two moods you ever saw were crying and non-crying indifference. Just as I was starting to wonder if Evan would ever develop a third mood, he started busting out these beautiful little smiles that are the infant equivalent of a friendly wave from a motorist who just cut you off.
Your baby can barf on your work shirt. He can demand to be fed at 3:30 in the morning, then again at 5:00. He can make you stop a stream of pee with your bare hand, like Superman stopping a laser beam. That little smile erases all of it, except for the stain on your shoulder, just like how a wave from a driver makes it okay that he just ran over your foot.
“Check out this smile!” I said to Kara, holding the baby up by his armpits. His legs caught underneath him, and for a moment, he was supporting his own weight, another one of his recently acquired tricks.
“Rawr! I want to smash things,” I said, rocking Evan back and forth on his feet.
“When he does that for me, I make him dance,” Kara said.
Evan is already quite adept at punching himself in the face. You never see babies in Anne Geddes calendars dressed up like bumblebees while they sock themselves in their own faces, but it sure seems to be how they enjoy passing the time. It’s not like he’s really trying to punch and scratch himself, but when he spends the bulk of his days shooting his arms and legs around in an odd rhythm, like he’s watching a Richard Simmons video that we can’t see, he’s bound to land a few blows. Sometimes, Kara puts socks on his hands at night. Hopefully we won’t have to graduate to one of those lampshades that the vet uses.
“Wait a minute. King Kong didn’t stomp on
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Sunday, October 11, 2009
I understood why without asking. With Michael Vick now wearing the jersey that we once would have proudly purchased to begin our son’s indoctrination into liking everything that we do, starting with professional sports and leading to politics, religion and pizza toppings, we’ve been forced to think about whether a person can be both a dog lover and an Eagle lover.
“Maybe I’ll get him a Giants jersey instead,” she said.
“That’s not funny. Don’t even joke about that,” I said.
But I understand where she’s coming from. While Kara enjoys having her postseason hopes crushed annually just as much as every other Eagles fan, she’s from
While Kara could probably give up on the Eagles without surrendering too much personal investment, I’d have to give up on a lifetime of caring more about Randall Cunningham’s gold-tipped shoelaces than my own fashion sense, which is probably why it took me two years to notice that I was the only kid in middle school still wearing tie-dye.
My hero growing up was “Arkansas Fred” Barnett, who caught that impossible 95-yard touchdown pass against the Bills in 1990 almost entirely due to the sheer strength of my adoration. The biggest villain of my childhood was head coach Rich Kotite, who committed the unspeakable sin of making the Eagles boring, a problem that I might be willing to trade for today.
When I was twelve, I waited outside the Eagles’ training camp, grabbing autographs on my dad’s old football from as many players as I could accost. The only legible signature when I got home was from Izel Jenkins, the cornerback whose nickname was “Toast” because he got burned so often. I’m not sure if that made the football worth more or less, but either way I never threw it around the front yard again. Mostly because I was in the basement playing ExciteBike on the Nintendo, but still.
These days, though, I feel guilty for trying to goad Kara into still rooting for the Eagles. If we hadn’t both said the words, “I hope nobody signs Michael Vick,” the day before the Eagles signed him, I might be able to broach the subject now without reeking of rationalization.
We both expected the boos greeting Vick’s first appearance on the field to show up on a seismometer, but it seems as though the silence has been much louder. Apparently, everyone has decided that it would be much easier to stay angry at the guy if he wasn’t so danged good at football.
“How about a Jets jersey?” Kara asked. “They look a lot like Eagles jerseys if you squint.”
Maybe that will be the compromise for now. Kara will still watch Eagles games, but not with the same level of enthusiasm. And I can’t shake the feeling that the dog is shooting us sideways glances.
But while Kara might be a lost cause for now, fortunately for me, I’m very weak-willed, the kind of person who enthusiastically embraces vegetarianism between meals. Generally, I can keep a boycott going for exactly as long as it remains convenient and cost-effective for me to do so, and taking a moral stand against the Birds sure doesn’t sound like very much fun.
But if Michael Vick pulls off any impossible plays this season, it’ll be a safe bet that it was due to something other than the sheer strength of my adoration.
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Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Can you find the baby in this picture?
It's easier in this one:
Sunday, October 04, 2009
Then all of a sudden, seemingly out of nowhere, a Nirvana song came on. I nearly swerved off the road as I double-checked the station.
“There must be some mistake. The classic rock station is playing a song that came out while I was in high school,” I said.
My father-in-law laughed. “It only gets worse from here. Just wait until it starts showing up on the oldies station,” he said.
And I wondered if someday I might find myself sitting in my motorized recliner, eating shaved carrots with raisins mixed in, playing “Smells like Teen Spirit” for my grandkids as they fidget in their seats the way I used to do when Grandpa put on the Lawrence Welk Show.
“Everybody started wearing flannel shirts after this song came out,” I’ll tell them.
“That’s great, Grandpa,” they’ll say.
“It was back in the summer of 1994 when I saw my first mosh pit…” I’ll begin, not noticing that they’ve left the room.
My advancing age became even more apparent last weekend, as I picked up the phone to check in with my parents on Saturday night.
“They won’t be home. They have social lives,” my wife Kara said as she burped our son Evan.
Oh, the indignity of having parents who are cooler than you. It was already bad enough with my dad being a better dancer than me at weddings.
Fortunately, as we think about dipping our toes into the shallow end of middle age, Kara and I are doing so with a child who has actually started letting us sleep some at night. But we’ve found that having a good baby is a lot like having a well-trained werewolf. You still have your hands full.
Though we’re starting to become more comfortable with venturing out into the germ-addled world with Evan, for the past few months, Kara and I have basically been tag-team wrestlers, with only one of us allowed into the ring at a time (the ring being anywhere but our house). I’ll walk in the door, we’ll high-five and she’ll be off.
“We’re like the people in Ladyhawke,” I said recently.
“What’s that?” she asked.
“This dude and Michele Pfeiffer were in love, but he turned into a wolf at night and she turned into a hawk during the day so they could never be together. Matthew Broderick was in it. It’s a movie from when we were kids,” I said.
“Maybe from when you were a kid. I’m not sure I was born yet,” Kara replied, noting for the first time (that day) that she is two-and-a-half years my junior, and reveling in the last few months of her twenties.
The point here is that more people should catch Ladyhawke references, if only because it is one of the top three Rutger Hauer movies of all time, right up there with Omega Doom and Hostile Waters, two movies that I’ve never heard of, either.
While there’s not much point in worrying about getting old, I’ve found that it is a pursuit that can keep you entertained pretty much as long as you’d like.
In any event, when your wife turns thirty, aren’t you supposed to try to get a younger one then? Or was it forty? I have to check our vows to see if we said anything about that.
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