Thursday, February 26, 2009

Another banner day

My buddy Perlson has outdone himself once again with another new banner graphic for the site, which went into the rotation yesterday:

Go Joe! Does anybody remember that there was a character from G.I. Joe named Snow Job? He was the Arctic trooper. Not to be confused with the desert trooper, Dry Hump.

Anyway, Perlson is blackmailing me, saying that he won't do any more banner graphics unless I put this one into the rotation:

I'm conflicted. On the one hand, that's a terrible picture of me thirty seconds after I woke up at Perlson's house a few weeks ago. On the other hand, that picture makes it look like I have way more hair than I actually do. At times like these, I ask myself: WWCCD? (What would Cobra Commander do?)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Robby Wrednesday wredux

Here's a shot my buddy Rob took in California. This one's called Arabian Kites:

After staring at this picture for half an hour, I think I finally figured out that Rob called it Arabian Kites 'cause the clouds look like a genie coming out of the lamp. Also, any genie who doesn't let you wish for more wishes is totally cheating.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

And here's to you, Ms. Anderson

If I know you, internet, you're probably sitting around right now thinking, "Hey, Mike, how come you think Ruth Anderson from Lafayette Hill, PA is the coolest person in the universe?" Well, OK, I'll tell you. Here's her letter that was printed in last week's Chestnut Hill Local:

But little does Ruth know, I'm already famous. You might find this hard to believe, but I have OVER ONE HUNDRED friends on Facebook. I know, it sounds ridiculous. Nobody could possibly have one hundred friends. But I do. And then some. I wonder what all my OVER ONE HUNDRED friends are doing right now. And also I wonder who many of them are.

But I digress. Thank you, Ruth. This made my day.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Putting the guy in gyno

On the whole, my first gynecologist appointment was a resounding success. I’d never had much occasion to visit one until about two months ago, when my wife Kara was scheduled for her first ultrasound, so it was with some trepidation that I accompanied her into the office, even though Kara has spent years training me to hang around in women-only places, mostly by stranding me outside of the dressing room at Victoria’s Secret while I held her purse, leaving me to stare at the ground and wait for my handler to return like a horse tethered outside of a saloon.

As I followed Kara through the door into the waiting room, I half-expected to be met with shrieks and swung handbags. The ob/gyn office was a frontier whose threshold I’d just never really thought about crossing, kind of like the ladies’ room at work, which, incidentally, I’ve heard also contains couches. I don’t know what to make of this, except that the women’s room must be a very, very different place from the men’s room.

Most men would probably prefer to hang out on a couch at the loading docks, or beside the dumpster at a fishery than in the men’s room. I’ve been thinking about how badly injured I’d have to be to make resting on a couch in the men’s room seem like a good option, and even if faced with that situation, I’d probably just sit there long enough to apply the tourniquet before moving on.

In any event, the office was nothing to be scared of, and there was even another father-to-be in the waiting room gamely flipping through a Women’s Day magazine.

A few minutes later, we watched the screen on the ultrasound machine intently as the medical technician moved the wand, which had been slathered in ectoplasm, back and forth, trying to locate the baby that a dozen pregnancy tests had promised would be in there.

We held our breath for a few moments until she said, “Oh, there we go.” A tiny gray peanut with a visibly beating heart popped up on the screen.

“Hello, there,” I said as Kara squeezed my hand, our eyes transfixed on the first glimpse of our baby. The room filled with a rhythmic swish-swish of a tiny heartbeat.

“There’s only one heartbeat, right?” Kara asked.

“Yes, just one,” the technician replied. So much for topping the octoplet lady. We were at least six babies short of making it onto Oprah.

The technician printed us out a picture of the ultrasound right on the spot. It’s pretty cool that modern medical science is pushing the boundaries of how early you can start boring people with your baby pictures. I can never see anything even vaguely humanoid when I look at other people’s ultrasounds.

“Oh, look at his cute little nose,” I’ll say.

“Dude, that’s not his nose,” they’ll reply.

But when it’s your own kid, that gray static sure looks like something worth framing.

Perhaps the most unexpected thing I noticed during the appointment is that one of the chairs had little slips over the stirrups that featured advertisements for a new medication. Is there no place too sacred for advertisers to tread? Backstops at baseball games, tiny screens at the gas pump, nets in tennis matches and now the stirrups at the gynecologist. A few years back, the country rose up in outrage when advertisements for Spider Man 2 were proposed to be placed on the bases at some major league baseball games.

At the time, I thought, “Oh, okay, so there are some limits to where we’ll allow advertising. That’s nice.”

But now I take it back. Clearly, if the stirrup is not the limit, then the sky is.

You can smack Mike Todd with your purse at

Friday, February 20, 2009

My sister, the civil rights attorney

My sister Amy's birthday today got me thinking about her wedding last September in San Diego. Here are a few pics:

That day was so perfect, really, this is what it felt like:

But then California went and did something stupid. It passed Prop 8. This made Amy mad.

Making Amy mad is something you shouldn't do. My formative years went much more wedgie-free once I figured this out.

So Amy quit her job at her high-falutin' law firm in Manhattan and she's packing her bags to move back to San Francisco, starting work for the National Center for Lesbian Rights in a couple of weeks, where she is going to do even more things that make me proud to be her little brother.

My sister, the civil rights attorney. That just sounds so cool. What's cooler than that? My sister, the astronaut? Like, maybe a Mars astronaut. Maybe.

Anyway, happy birthday, Ame. I got you this shiny blog post. But don't worry -- we got you a sweater, too.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Robby Wrednesday wrides again

Here's a shot my buddy Rob took at Mt. Baldy, California. This one's called Parking Lot Huck:

Apparently, California has much prettier parking lots than we do.

I'm being followed by a moon shadow. And the FBI.

Last week, as I took the dog out for her final walk of the day, the full moon lit up the backyard, casting shadows all up in my grill. No, seriously, my grill is out there.

But the shadows from the moon made me think of that song by a pre-terror-watch-list Cat Stevens. You know the one: Hard Headed Woman. Or was it Peace Train?

Anyway, here's a picture of the scene with the shutter left open for thirty seconds, which I'm very proud of myself for figuring out how to do:

I almost didn't post this picture, but then I thought, "Oh, I can't keep it in. I can't keep it in. I've gotta let it out. I've got to show the world, world's got to see."

Okay, no more Cat Stevens references. Good night, wild world. I'll always remember you like child, girl.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Being pregnant is not for the feint of stomach

Men who have never been married to a pregnant woman could be forgiven for assuming that the “YOU DID THIS ME!!” phase only runs for about the final ten minutes of a pregnancy, because this is what we have learned from our primary source of information on the subject, which is reruns of the show Friends.

The most naïve men might even think that having a pregnant wife guarantees them a designated driver for nine months. This viewpoint is flawed for many reasons, not the least of which being that pregnant women don’t need to go to parties to find reasons to spend their evenings with their heads in the toilet. They can do that just by sitting at home and waiting for a few minutes.

In the three months that my wife Kara has been pregnant, I’ve observed that the term “morning sickness” seems to be something of a misnomer. “All day sickness” or just “sickness” would explain the phenomenon much better.

I had always thought that the beginning of a pregnancy was the time when a new mother-to-be would stand in front of the mirror, lovingly rubbing her tummy and glowing while thinking about lullabies, tiny fingers and paint swatches for the nursery. Kara has certainly been glowing lately, but not quite in the hue I would have expected. The theme song of the first trimester appears to be much less “What a Wonderful World” and much more “It Ain’t Easy Being Green.”

Now that she’s entering her second trimester, though, Kara is hoping for a reprieve from the worst of her symptoms. The stacks of literature she’s read have promised better times ahead, if only temporarily. While there’s no such thing as an average pregnancy, the general expectation seems to go something like this: About four months of extreme nausea and exhaustion, followed by four weeks where things are pretty cool, followed by four months where it looks like an oompa loompa’s hot air balloon got stuck under your T-shirt, followed by many long hours of screaming, sweating and pain as the husband tries to figure out how to put the crib together.

In any event, most guys don’t seem to understand, not that they ever entirely could, the difficulty that comes with carrying a baby, even before the most obvious stomach-stretching adversities have begun. Take, for instance, my friend Johnny, who hasn’t spent much time around pregnant women, and who inspired me to write this column as a public service to any men who might find themselves tempted to downplay the tribulations of the first trimester.

When he showed up at a mutual friend’s house and found Kara lying down on the couch, taking up two seats, he asked if she could sit up straight so that he could sit down, too.

“Dude, I’m pregnant. Can’t you pull a chair in from the dining room?” Kara asked.

Johnny rolled his eyes and said, “Oh, I see. Playing the pregnancy card already.”

I ducked behind the end table so as not to get caught in the blast that was about to knock Johnny out of his Skechers.

“The pregnancy card? Seriously? YOU try being pregnant. I’m exhausted and sick all the time. Could you just drag in another chair? I need to lie down for a few more minutes,” Kara said, hospitably allowing Johnny one more strike than her husband usually gets.

Not sensing the imminent danger, Johnny replied, “I mean, that might fly in the last three months, but you’re like baaaaarely pregnant. It’s not like I asked you to go clean the gutters, or handed you an axe and asked you to go chop wood in the backyard.”

It was to Johnny’s great benefit that, indeed, nobody handed Kara an axe at that moment.

You can hide behind the end table with Mike Todd

Thursday, February 12, 2009

It's Robby Wrednesday!

Since I ran out of pictures after the first and final installment of Costa Rican Monkey Friday last week, I think I'll start a new feature around here called Robby Wrednesday. My buddy Rob takes a mean picture, using a camera that doesn't fit in your pocket or make phone calls or anything.

Here's one called Hawaiian Stripes:

You know you're a good photographer when your pictures have names.

You could also venture over to Rob's site and see his pictures all at once, but that would be like eating all your candy on Halloween night. It's much better for your tummy to let me dribble them out here one-at-a-time on Robby Wrednesdays.

Some astute readers might feel compelled to point out the first Robby Wrednesday is taking place on a Thursday night. To those readers, let me say: "Well played." But Robby Trhursday doesn't sound like Scooby Doo when you say it out loud, so it's disqualified.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Ultrasound: Not just an awesome name for a band

Here's the newest Todd's first ultrasound from just over a month ago:

Or was this the first sonogram? I have no idea what the difference is.

Anyway, when I sent this picture along to our family, my email said, "For somebody who looks an awful lot like an unshelled peanut, he or she is very photogenic, don't you think?"

My mom sent this response: "What a beeyoutiful baby!!! Don’t you dare say our grandchild looks like an unshelled peanut!! Ha ha."

And she was right. After about another month of development, our little baby is starting to look a lot more recognizable as a person. Here's the most recent picture:

For Kara's sake, I hope the top hat doesn't get any bigger.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Finally passing a pregnancy test

We’d been trying to get pregnant for almost exactly one year. Well, technically, my wife Kara had been trying to get pregnant, but I was pitching in as best I knew how.

As the months passed, I’d empty the trash can in our bathroom and occasionally dump out a used pregnancy test or two, the disappointing results of which Kara had stopped reporting to me long ago. This is how it goes for people who actually want to have a baby. Teenagers can get pregnant just by sharing a sundae with the same spoon.

But just over three months ago, while I was deepening my crater on the couch playing video games, Kara came downstairs and held a pregnancy test in front of me. Sensing that the more important moment was transpiring offscreen, I paused the game.

“Does that line look blue to you?” she asked.

I stared at the plastic stick for a moment, and then looked up at Kara and replied using the same words I’d said to her so many times before: “I have absolutely no idea.”

“I can’t tell, either,” she said.

If you see one blue line, the test is negative. If a second line (the “money line”) shows up, you’re pregnant. But the instructions failed to explain what it means when you see one blue line, and then a few minutes later, a hint of a whiff of a line appears, one that is barely detectable, faintly grayish, perhaps sorta bluish and otherwise nearly invisible.

We decided that the worst thing to do would be to get too excited, only to face another letdown.

“The last one looked like this, too. I’ll take another one in the morning,” Kara said, heading back upstairs and leaving me to a moral dilemma: after the biggest news of your life may or may not have been delivered, how long should you wait before you unpause your game?

The next morning, the money line showed up slightly darker. By the following day, it was ocean blue, which was fitting, because we were headed to the beach.

After a year of trying to get pregnant, it has been our experience that the most effective way to get a bun in the oven, or, perhaps more fittingly for us, a pizza in the microwave, is to book an all-expenses paid trip to Cancun, the kind that comes with all the booze you can drink. Two hours after Kara booked our trip, she came downstairs with the fateful pregnancy test that, in its own illegible way, let us know that for the next year or so, I’d be drinking for two.

In the few short months that Kara has been pregnant, we’ve learned so much. For instance, while a pregnant woman feels sick all the time, medicationwise, she gets sent back in time to maybe five years after we stopped treating people with leeches and whiskey. Pepto, aspirin, Ibuprofen and many other common drugs may be over-the-counter, but they’re off the table.

A couple of days after we’d had the results of the home tests confirmed, I found myself in the pharmacy saying, “I need some headache medicine for my wife. She can’t take Advil because she’s pregnant.”

It sounded so funny to say out loud that Kara was pregnant, like how the words “fiancé,” and then the words “my wife” used to sound so strange.

The whole thing was so new and exciting to me, I expected the pharmacist to wheel around and shout, “She’s pregnant? She’s pregnant! Hey everyone, this guy is a giver of life. It’s a miracle!”

Instead, he said, “The Tylenol’s over on Aisle 3, past the Q-tips.”

The pharmacist’s reaction to the news didn’t give me nearly the lump in my throat that our parents’ did.

In any event, something tells me that I’d better beat all my video games while I still have the time.

You can high-five Mike Todd at

Thursday, February 05, 2009

It's Costa Rican Monkey Friday!

I'm starting a new regular feature on this blog, Costa Rican Monkey Friday.

Here's a Costa Rican monkey Kara and I happened across last year in that place. What was it called again? Oh yes, Costa Rica.

Man, that's a cute monkey. Unfortunately, this is the last installment of Costa Rican Monkey Friday, 'cause I'm out of pictures. We had a good run, though, didn't we?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Michael Phelps was framed

Here's the photo that got Michael Phelps in trouble:

But this picture was taken completely out of context. Look what happens when you flip the photo around and zoom out:

Really, who amongst us hasn't partaken in youthful dalliances with an alphorn or two?

The banner on the page goes 'round and 'round

My buddy Perlson whipped up a bunch of awesome banner graphics for this site, but I couldn't decide how often I should switch them around. Plus, I kinda liked the original one I'd created with Memphis running through the snow. It was quite the dilemma.

But then the interweb site known as The Google took me to this dude's blog, which explained how to rotate through different banners every time the page is loaded. Apparently, this is a feature on other blogging platforms like Wordpress, but Blogger makes you jerry-rig your way through it.

Anyway, it seems to be working now, so you should be able to rotate through the different banners by reloading the page. So, you know. Wheeeeeee!

Monday, February 02, 2009

The Gran, the bad and the studly

After talking to my folks about how much Kara and I enjoyed Gran Torino, Mom sent me this picture of Dad from back in the day, when he had a Gran Torino of his own:

How could a man like that not have a complete badass for a son? We're still trying to figure it out.

Anyway, Clint didn't like Dad messing with his wheels.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Being Awful Brave is awfully hard

A couple of evenings ago, I watched from an upstairs window as an adult red fox loped across our backyard. It’s rare that we get to see any wildlife at our house without turning on the Discovery Channel, though unlike the animals on TV, this particular fox didn’t look crisp enough to have been transmitted in HD. Reality can be disappointingly standard definition.

“Babe, look out the kitchen window!” I yelled down to my wife Kara. By the time we’d all assembled in the kitchen, there was nothing to look at but the iced-over deck that I hadn’t shoveled after the last snowstorm, and which stood as monument to the ills of procrastination: what once could have been removed with the whisk of a broom was going nowhere without the rental of a jackhammer. When Kara complained that she accidentally performed a triple salchow on her way out to walk the dog, I reminded her of on old Inuit proverb: “A bag of de-icer costs ten bucks, but waiting until April is free.”

Just as we started to turn away from the window, the fox came darting back across the yard, sending our dog Memphis into a barking frenzy at the sliding glass door, like she thought the fox was trying to deliver a UPS package. Memphis puts on a good show when she’s behind a pane of glass, then she quivers behind Kara’s leg when I shake out a new trash bag.

I like the idea of a fox living nearby. Back in the Indian Guides, my name was Red Fox, only partly because I was a fan of Sanford and Son.

If the phrase “Indian Guides” sounds slightly anachronistic now, that’s because it is. The world was a different place twenty years ago. Cultural sensitivity and car seats hadn’t been invented yet, and smoking was still considered a good source of fiber.

All of my friends were in Indian Guides, a youth program sponsored by the YMCA, the major attraction for us being that we got to go camping, but we didn’t have to wear our uniforms to school like the Cub Scouts did. Several of us would eventually go on to become Eagle Scouts in high school, but we’d all rather have committed hari-kari on our Trapper Keepers than wear kerchiefs to school.

All the kids in our tribe had cool-sounding names like Straight Arrow or Running Bear, except for the Yoder kid, who, aptly in more ways than one, let his dad give him the name Awful Brave.

My dad, whose name was somehow Night Owl even though he can never stay awake through the 11 o’clock news, was the medicine man for our tribe, which meant he was the only one who could prescribe our Ritalin. Actually, it meant that he would tell us stories around a bonfire, sometimes to hundreds of kids at a time, while wearing the ceremonial headdress, which was a fur hat with buffalo horns. He ended every story with: “That’s the way it was told to me, and that’s the way I’ve told it to you.”

I would love to think that I am also the kind of man who could, for the love of my (future, hypothetical) children, be coerced into telling stories to hundreds of people while wearing a horned hat. But until someone hands you the hat, how do you know how you’ll respond?

I just checked to see if the Indian Guides still exists as a YMCA-sponsored program, as it now seems, at the very least, that it would have been due for a name change, much like a certain football club from our nation’s capital. Sure enough, Indian Guides was changed five years ago to Adventure Guides, and most of the Native American themes have been dropped, except when taught by guest-lecturing experts.

These all sound like worthy changes, and I’m glad to hear that the program has continued as a non-kerchief alternative for kids. Still, Red Fox was an awesome name.

You can withhold Mike Todd’s medication at