Sunday, December 27, 2009

To daycare and beyond

“I don’t think I want to do this anymore,” my wife Kara said last week, just before she took a deep breath and pulled open the screen door to the daycare center.

We stepped inside to see the sort of semi-organized chaos you’d expect to see in a facility that caters to people who need to be told on a daily basis not to eat paint. Just inside the door, a boy sat on the floor, struggling to pull a Buzz Lightyear costume over his shoes.

“Are you going to infinity and beyond?” Kara asked. The boy looked up at her as if she were completely insane, apparently not as big a Toy Story fan as the bunched-up astronaut suit around his ankles suggested.

We made our way back to the infant room, a place that was amazingly quiet, considering that the adult was outnumbered four-to-one. About a year ago, when we first reserved our spot at daycare and our son was a black-and-white peanut on an ultrasound printout, four-to-one sounded like pretty good odds. After six months of parenting, though, I don’t understand how any single person can care for four babies without first stepping into a phone booth to put on a caped leotard, or to frantically dial 9-1-1.

“Hello Evan! Nice to meet you,” said Valerie, the Woman of Steel. The one-year-olds buzzed around our shins, dragging toys across the room and standing on their tiptoes to peer into Evan’s car seat. While they were adorable, their enthusiasm didn’t appear to be the only thing contagious about them. It looked as if we’d wandered onto a set during the filming of “Revenge of the Miniature Snot Monsters.”

As we talked, Valerie deftly moved from nose to nose, wiping them as quickly as she could, but they seemed to just keep running faster, like the conveyor belt from “I Love Lucy.”

As an adult, it’s easy to forget about runny noses, which are much more likely to figure into your day if you’re under five, kind of like fire trucks and zebras. Not that these things aren’t important once you grow up, but to a kid, boogers, zebras and fire trucks play a role in about 50% of their cognitive transactions, with the other half being reserved for tractors and Dora the Explorer.

We knew that kids were more likely to catch colds once they enter daycare, but the dramatization playing out in front of us was sobering. Since having a baby, Kara keeps a bottle of Purell in a holster, with a backup strapped to her ankle. There are no longer any bacteria in our house, except of course for the Purell-resistant kind. We’ve thinned the herd so much that only the strongest bacteria can survive at our house, the kind of bacteria that get tribal tattoos on their flagella and spend their afternoons bench pressing ants.

Kara took Evan out of his car seat and held him to her shoulder. As I reached out to wipe some drool off of his chin, I dropped the burp cloth onto the floor. Kara looked at the cloth and then back at me with a look that said, “We have to incinerate that now.”

Valerie, as practiced in dealing with overprotective new parents as she was with overproductive mucus membranes, said, “We clean the place from top to bottom every night. Don’t worry. We know what we’re doing. Everything’s going to be fine.”

And of course she was right. A few moments later, we shook her hand and left with Evan, his dress rehearsal successful.

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be back to drop him off for his first full day, which should give us just enough time to custom fit a sneeze guard over his car seat.

You can douse Mike Todd with Lysol at

Sunday, December 20, 2009

International infant of mystery

“Let’s get you zipped up, Dr. Evil,” I said to our son Evan as I zipped him inside his fleece car seat cover. Evan winced as the first winter wind he’d ever experienced swept across the parking lot. Technically, it was a fall wind, since it happened before December 21, but really, when a wind is cold enough to make you question the series of life decisions that resulted in your living in the Northeast, that’s a winter one.

While Dr. Evil is the perfect nickname for any infant, the name works double-time for Evan, who just discovered the joys of sucking on his hands, so he often unintentionally strikes the pinky-to-the-lips Dr. Evil pose. He doesn’t yet show an inclination toward world domination, but sometimes I get the impression that it might be on his list of things to try, right after solid foods.

Evan was born in June, so I fear that the past few weeks have been a bit of a shock for him, as we drag him from store to store in search of non-sweater Christmas gifts. My wife Kara and I are trying to shake it up a bit this year, since over the past few Christmases, we have distributed more sweaters than L.L. Bean.

The upshot of our travels is that Evan, who probably until very recently thought he lived in Florida, is getting his first real taste of winter. Winter is most definitely an acquired taste, like beer, salt-and-vinegar potato chips and many other things that are bad for you, which is what your body was trying to tell you in the first place, before you went ahead and acquired the taste anyway.

Fortunately for Evan, his old man has a thing or two to teach him about surviving tough winters. For instance, if it weren’t for me, who would teach him what to do after you run over the garden hose with your snow blower? I feel that I am uniquely qualified to offer advice in this department. Answer: You take a kitchen knife to the garden hose, but only after you’ve told your fingers how much you’ve enjoyed knowing them.

As an addendum, if one little area of snow is lumpy, but the rest of the driveway isn’t, you probably shouldn’t run over the lumpy spot with the snow blower. No good can come of it.

Evan will also need to be taught that while the dog normally needs to take a walk every day, if it’s really cold outside, you can skip it. This will cost you one sock. The dog will be happy to take payment behind the couch while you’re watching reruns of Supernanny.

Someone also needs to tell him to make sure he has warm pajamas once he gets married, because if any expeditions need to be made beyond the covers, he will almost certainly be leading them.

“Oh, I just heard my phone ringing downstairs. Can you go get it?” Kara asked a couple of nights ago.

“Dude, it’s cold out there. Ugh. Where’s your phone?” I said. I may whine, but of course I will go get things for her, eventually. In our house, chivalry is not dead, despite my best efforts.

“In my purse,” she said. This is her answer every time she asks me to retrieve something, even though her purse has never rested in the same place twice. The Northwest Passage is easier to find.

“Where’s your purse?” I asked.

“In the diaper bag, somewhere downstairs,” she said, making my target a bit larger. Since having a baby, her purses have become like Russian nesting dolls. This process apparently continues, with bigger bags swallowing up the smaller ones, until you have no choice but to buy a minivan.

You can wreck Mike Todd’s snow fort at

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Christmas cards from the edge

“Better hurry,” my wife Kara said. “There’s not much time.”

Our son Evan was perched on her knee, issuing warning coos. To the untrained ear, they might have sounded like happy-baby sounds, but we’ve had enough practice to know that the thunderheads would be rolling in soon.

“This stupid camera makes you punch seventeen buttons in the right order to set the timer,” I said, trying to stay cool. “I feel like I’m playing Simon over here.”

If you’re unfamiliar with Simon, it’s an old game that made you punch brightly colored buttons in increasingly complicated sequences, accompanied to the sound of robotic beeps. Believe it or not, Simon actually used to keep children entertained, but you have to remember that this was before Nintendo or Miley Cyrus had been invented. Before Simon, kids spent all their time wearing tri-cornered hats and chasing after a metal wheel, trying to keep the wheel rolling by smacking it with a stick. And also avoiding the plague, which back then was called mouse flu.

“OK, I think it will work this time,” I said, pressing the shutter button and running towards the couch. The way our camera works, when the timer is set, you get a series of long beeps followed by a couple of short beeps, which sends the signal to the dog to start sniffing your crotch. I suppose this might count as a canine version of a holiday greeting, but it doesn’t make for the best Christmas card photos.

Kara and I finally decided to break down and send a few Happy Holidays cards this year, though we haven’t quite worked out how to take a cute family photo, which is a prerequisite, if for no other reason than to prove that you can get everyone to sit still for ten seconds. We might just give up and choose an easier way to pass the time, like juggling flaming wreaths or figuring out what to get my mom this year that isn’t a sweater or jewelry.

We’d put off beginning the Christmas card tradition for many years because once you’re in, you can never get out, like the mafia or an alumni association mailing list. Once you send that first card, the only way out is to fake your own death.

But now that we have a baby of inestimable cuteness, we decided that it’s time to bite the fruitcake and start sending some cards around.

“Smile, everybody,” said Kara as I jumped onto the couch beside her.

“WAAAHHHH!” said Evan. Despite my best efforts, the dog heeded the signal from the camera just in time for the flash.

“Dude, the dog just did it again,” I said.

“Hey, where’d Evan’s other sock go?” Kara asked.

And so it went for nearly an hour. Trilogies have been filmed with fewer takes, and still we didn’t have a winner.

I’ve been campaigning for us to just send around our outtakes. Outtakes are always the best part of the movie, especially a movie with Eddie Murphy in it. Besides, taking 700 pictures to get one decent, calm shot of our family is basically the same thing as Photoshopping the love handles off of the model for the cover of Vogue. Reality has not been accurately depicted.

But Kara thinks we have the potential to get a shot in which the two of us, the baby and the dog are all behaving ourselves relatively well. She also thinks that root beer doesn’t get as cold as other liquids in the fridge. She has many crackpot ideas.

“We’ll try again tomorrow,” she said.

And so we will. And probably the day after that, too. Anyway, if you’re on our mailing list, I hope you’ll enjoy our first Christmas card, which should arrive in time for St. Patty’s Day.

You can say cheese with Mike Todd at

Monday, December 07, 2009

Snow day

We had our first snowfall over the weekend. I submit the following as evidence:

There was also a severe cuteness advisory in effect:

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Lord of the Leaves

“I think you stole my iPod,” I said to my wife Kara yesterday. She chuckled and shook her head, not looking up from her laptop.

“No, seriously, give it back,” I said.

“Did that help?” she asked. My time-tested technique of locating lost items is to accuse an innocent person of stealing them. The only other effective method is to buy a replacement, which assures you’ll find the original, provided that you’ve also lost the receipt. But wildly accusing loved ones is much cheaper, so that’s Plan A.

“Maybe you should stop looking for it and take the dog outside,” she said.

At the sound of the word “outside,” Memphis jumped off the couch and ran to the sliding glass door, prancing near the handle. Somehow, she’s managed to pick up a foreign language better than I did through five years of Spanish classes. Her vocabulary is still pretty limited, but she understands enough to tell when a trip outdoors is pending, or that I’d prefer for her to stop ripping the heels out of my good work socks. Actually, the second one might have more to do with my delivery than with her English-as-a-Second-Language skill. Screaming is the universal language.

Ever since I dumped a jar of Thanksgiving turkey fat over the deck railing out back, the dog has been trying to go feral. I couldn’t figure out why she was repeatedly ignoring my calls to come back inside until I noticed the slurping sounds coming from just off the side of the deck, as Memphis licked her newfound delicacy off the leaves that I hadn’t yet blown to one side of the yard so that nature could blow them back the next day.

Incidentally, is there any tool that can make you feel more God-like than a leaf blower? You simply point your hand, and the leaves scatter like armored warriors attacking Sauron, or Magneto, if you prefer. And if you don’t know who Sauron and Magneto are, you can console yourself that, while this paragraph might not have made any sense, at least you were cool in high school.

In any event, I’ve learned a new thing this week, which is that liquefied turkey fat is irresistible to a dog, much like steroids to whoever broke the home run record this year.

“Or you could feed the baby, if you prefer,” Kara said.

“Didn’t we just feed him?” I asked.

“Yes,” she replied. “We’ve always just fed him.”

Not that it will do me any good until I find my iPod, but a friend just showed me an article about a new application for iPods that can listen to a baby crying and tell you what the problem is. This application does not sound like it’s worth thirty bucks. I can tell you why the baby is crying: either he’s hungry or there’s a clown nearby.

Babies do not stop eating. The plant from Little Shop of Horrors was probably written by someone with a baby at home.

“Feed me, Seymore!” our son Evan yells every two hours, in so many words.

Of course, it’s not fair to compare a baby to a singing plant that devours people whole, mostly because babies can’t sing. Also, they don’t end your life, just your social life.

Desperate in my search for the iPod, I picked up the lid on our little ceramic pumpkin to see if I’d left it in there. Over Thanksgiving weekend, that pumpkin had severely disappointed Kara’s sister Sarah.

“Dude, cough drops?” she said. “Who keeps cough drops in the candy pumpkin?”

“They’re vitamin C drops,” Kara replied. “We’re trying not to get sick around the baby.”

But that’s who we’ve become: The people who keep cough drops in the candy bowl. Before you know it, we’ll be giving out pennies for Halloween and complaining that we don’t understand how to use any technology that’s been invented since we were twenty-five.

Speaking of which, did you steal my iPod?

You can liquefy Mike Todd at