Sunday, August 30, 2009

Things that go shriek in the night

A few evenings ago, I bumped into my neighbor Jimmy while out for a jog. I mean, he was out for a jog. I haven’t jogged anything but my memory since I can’t even remember.

Also, do people still refer to recreational running as jogging? When I was a kid, people went jogging all the time. This was back when dudes’ running shorts covered the same amount of skin as their headbands. But you never hear anyone talk about jogging anymore, especially not in Nike commercials, perhaps because it doesn’t sound as hard-core as running. I feel like runners probably look at people who call themselves “joggers” the same way Hell’s Angels might look at those guys who ride those three-wheeled motorcycles that look like giant tricycles.

Anyway, Jimmy took off his headphones and said, “How’s it going with the new baby?”

If you don’t want to hear endless tales about sleepless nights and mountains of diapers, you should never ask a new father that kind of open-ended question. And you especially shouldn’t read his newspaper columns.

“Well, Evan slept for a five-hour stretch last night,” I said.

Jimmy shook his head and said, “Man, I’m sorry to hear that.”

Not yet having any kids of his own, Jimmy didn’t realize that getting five hours of sleep with a baby in the house is a huge milestone, an event to be celebrated, if not with parade floats, then at least with exhausted high-fives. For my wife Kara and me, getting five hours of sleep in a row meant that after two months of searching, we had finally reached the Land of Breast Milk and Honey.

“Does he usually wake you up through one of those baby monitors?” Jimmy asked.

I laughed. Before having a baby, I always thought that baby monitors were a necessary ingredient to child-rearing, like footed jumpsuits and patience. After bringing Evan home from the hospital, Kara dutifully set up the base of the monitor next to his crib in the nursery across the hall from our bedroom. As we settled into our first night with the walkie-talkie unit on the bedside table, Kara asked, “Do you think it’ll be loud enough to wake us up?”

A few minutes later, Evan began the shrieking that has since become our regular nocturnal soundtrack. The baby monitor lit up and began echoing the shrieks. While a crying baby is generally loud enough to wake your nearest congressperson, we found that without a baby monitor, you really miss out on the full Dolby 5.1 surround sound experience. Still, by the second night, we felt comfortable leaving the baby monitor off, confident in our ability to detect Evan’s crying, so long as he remained in the same zip code.

Since that first night, we’ve turned into reasonable imitations of actual parents. It used to take twenty minutes to dress Evan, mostly because trying to thread his arm into his shirt sleeve felt like we were trying to push a feather duster head-first through a garden hose. But now we can dress him in under a minute, occasionally without getting peed on.

Some things, though, remain a mystery. Even though he’s let us have a couple of five-hour stretches, most nights begin with Evan doing his best imitation of an air raid siren for about four hours.

“Babe, do something,” Kara will say. “I’ve already been in there three times. He’s fed. He’s dry. I don’t know what else to do.”

“Okay, I know exactly how to fix it,” I will mumble. I walk to our bedroom door and shut it, dramatically increasing the tranquility in our bedroom, until Kara realizes how I’ve addressed the problem.

After I told all of this to Jimmy, he wished us luck and jogged off, probably to double-check his contraceptive stash.

You can kick Mike Todd out of bed at

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

More baby pictures, you say?


Monday, August 24, 2009

Best Memphis picture ever

That's Memphis doing her best crocodile impersonation with her cousin, Luna. This might not come across in the picture, but they're the best of friends. Really.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The voyages of the Battlestar Domestica

“What did I just say?” my wife Kara asked me last week. I froze, having no idea what the correct answer might be. Normally, I hang on her every word that doesn’t immediately precede or follow the word “dishwasher,” but this time she’d caught me completely tuning her out. In my defense, I was engaged in a very important activity; our Netflix queue wasn’t going to organize itself.

Since having our baby two months ago, nobody leaves the house except to literally or figuratively bring home the bacon. We’ve found ourselves relying heavily on our new Netflix membership to help deal with our exile from civilization. Currently, we’re working our way through the Battlestar Galactica series for the eight hours a day that Kara is running the breast pump while I give Evan his bottle. Given the ambient noise while he’s being fed, our baby is probably in for some disappointment when he realizes that he’s not growing up on a space station. Of course, we read him lots of books, too, but anyone who has read a book to a newborn probably knows that you can find a more attentive audience by reading “Green Eggs and Ham” to a sack of flour, though the sack of flour is much less likely to squeal and fart on your arm.

As we watch the humans and Cylons chase each other around the screen, I wonder what our parents did for entertainment during the countless hours of bottle feeding. Back in those days, they probably just stared at the walls, or maybe used their free hands to churn butter.

Kara glared at me, waiting for my response. I tried to gather clues: She was sitting there with her laptop open, fingers poised above the keys. She was waiting for my input on something, probably. But what?

“Um, could you repeat the question? Or what you said right before the question?” I asked.

She shook her head, slammed her laptop shut and left the room. It was a very 21st-century altercation. Years ago, people didn’t have laptops to slam shut at each other. They had to settle for slamming doors and kicking bedpans over.

“Wait, I remember!” I called after her. “You said that you wish the scale of one to ten went higher so that you could use bigger numbers to express your love for me!” Turns out, that wasn’t it.

Kara and I have proven to be a harmonious baby-raising team, but it’s impossible to live in a state of constant exhaustion without kicking up a cloud of formula powder from time to time. Some people have babies because they think adding stress and subtracting sleep will strengthen a faltering marriage. I would imagine that these people spend a good amount of time dislodging toasters from their drywall.

After successfully raising a puppy last year, Kara and I felt fairly prepared for raising a baby, though at the time we couldn’t have known that our baby would come into the world with “I Ain’t Going Down Til the Sun Comes Up” as his theme song. We’ve since found that having a dog prepares you for having a baby in the same way setting off a few bottle rockets might prepare you for a nuclear blast. The concept is similar; the magnitude is not. Still, with each passing day, Evan sleeps a little bit better and we get a little less likely to frighten small children at the grocery store as we amble zombie-like past the watermelon bin.

There’s a poster hanging in a local diner for an old movie with the tagline: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” What a nice, incredibly stupid sentiment. You show me someone who thinks they never need to apologize, and I’ll show you someone with a toaster in their wall.

A few minutes later, Kara and I both apologized. She might have said something else as I checked our Netflix queue to make sure that that movie from the poster wasn’t in there, but I can’t be sure.

You can confess to being a Cylon agent at

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The fifth year’s the charm

Staring at the gigantic, burlap-sacked root ball of the weeping cherry tree sitting in our driveway last week, I realized that perhaps I should have chosen something other than the gift of backbreaking manual labor for Kara’s anniversary present.

With five years of marriage under our belts, I have survived well into my second term as Kara’s husband. If we’ve managed to hang onto it this long, though, it now seems unavoidable that we must surrender the title of newlyweds. Now we’re usedlyweds. Or like-newlyweds.

Kara and I have been married for so long, back when we were single, salads didn’t come in pre-made bags. You actually had to buy a head of lettuce and chop it up yourself with a sharp implement, like a caveman. Also, back in those days, people were cruelly forced to watch rectangular movies on square TVs. They were truly times to try couch potatoes’ souls. But we persevered so that our children may never have to worry about their aspect ratios.

The traditional gift for a fifth wedding anniversary is something wooden. Because we’re pining for each other? Because we make each other sappy? Who decides on these random materials for anniversary gifts, I have no idea, but Kara and I have been playing along for the past few years. After days spent perusing wooden jewelry she’d never wear, wooden statuettes she’d be embarrassed to display and wooden furniture we didn’t need, I realized that, oftentimes, trees are made of wood.

“It needs to be a weeping tree?” asked the man at the nursery.

“Yeah, my wife has always wanted a weeping tree in the yard,” I said.

For a moment, I thought that perhaps the idea of planting something that stands in our front yard, permanently weeping, didn’t have quite the symbolic thrust I was shooting for, but if the past five years have taught me anything, it’s that, um. Well, they haven’t really taught me anything, but Kara liked weeping trees so that’s what she was getting.

The tree wasn’t the only thing weeping when the truck dumped her gift in our driveway and I saw how big the hole needed to be. If the root ball had been an asteroid headed for Earth, it would have inspired at least three Jerry Bruckheimer movies.

I spent several hours in the yard swinging my pick and sinking my shovel, giving myself many days of wedded blisters. By the time the hole was wide enough and deep enough to even consider accommodating the root ball, it was large enough to bury Grimace.

Incidentally, why did McDonald’s choose to name one of its most prominent mascots Grimace? Of all the names it could have chosen, Grimace just seems like about the last one you’d ever want associated with your food. “Hi, kids, meet Grimace. And here are his friends, Chagrin and Irritable Bowel. Now let’s eat!”

Kara really liked both the tree and the backbreaking manual labor I got for her, and we’re hoping that this outdoor plant will fare better than our indoor ones. The survival rate seems to increase greatly when we let our plants go feral.

As far as keeping up the tradition of choosing gifts based on traditional anniversary materials, I’ m not so sure. The gift for the sixth anniversary is something either candy or iron. “Happy Anniversary! I couldn’t decide between a bag of Skittles or a fire poker, so I went ahead and got you both.”

I’ll have to be careful next year if I go the fire poker route. If you’re going to give a bad present, it’s a good rule of thumb to make sure it’s not something that could be brandished.

You can elect Mike Todd to another term at

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sunday, August 09, 2009

The Eye of the Diaper

If a Mongol horde was galloping around your living room, swinging their swords in vertical circles and occasionally lopping the heads off of your floor lamps, you’d probably have a hard time thinking about much else. Having a baby is pretty much the same thing.

The reader(s) of this column may have noticed that since my son Evan was born six weeks ago, this space has largely been devoted to our frenzied experiences with first-time parenthood. At least I think that’s what it has been about. When you’re running on two hours of sleep a night, reality can be difficult to discern, which is exactly what I told Newt Gingrich as he rode his yak across my backyard yesterday.

My buddy Johnny, who doesn’t yet have Mongolian horsemen riding circles around his coffee table, called last week and asked, “What’s new with you?”

I tried to think of something non-baby-related to tell him, but I couldn’t do it. A man can only share so many breastfeeding anecdotes with his buddies before the phone calls dry up altogether.

I’d just spent the better part of that afternoon fending off unwanted advances from our child. Evan was opening his mouth like a little bird and then plunging his face into my chest.

“Dude, what’s he doing?” I asked my wife Kara.

“It sure looks like he’s trying to breastfeed on you,” she laughed.

“Seriously? Have my man boobs gotten that bad? This is insulting,” I said.

Undeterred, Evan squeaked and tried to go in for the kill again, mushing his forehead into my T-shirt. It was a strange experience, being objectified by a six-week-old. It was also the first time I’d ever had to say, “Hey, Buddy, my eyes are up here.”

Johnny would have been chagrined if I’d have admitted to him that I now spend most of my limited time outside of the house scoping out other people’s minivans, a thought that would have been abhorrent to my childless self only recently. Say what you will about minivans, they’re honest about what they are. SUVs lie to the world, bragging about mountaintop expeditions on the outside while their insides are full of cupcakes and Lunchables.

You never think you’re going to be a minivan person until the day you try to squeeze a car seat into the backseat of your Toyota Matrix, forcing you to slide the passenger seat so far forward that you could crack a peanut between the headrest and the windshield.

“Is this going to work?” I asked Kara as she wedged herself into the remaining space.

“I guess, as long as we wipe off the dashboard. It tastes dusty,” she said.

And even if Johnny would have wanted to hear about any of that, he certainly wouldn’t have wanted to know that Kara and I pass the time and stave off the encroaching insanity by changing the lyrics to the songs that we sing to our wailing child.

Yesterday, I snuck up behind Kara to hear her singing “Where is Thumbkin?” to Evan, with the modified lyrics: “How are we today, Sir? Very tired I thank you.”

It can only be due to exhaustion that Kara and I found ourselves tag-teaming a recent diaper change, singing, “It’s the eye of the diaper, it’s waking all night. Rising up to the challenge of our chi---ild.”

Incidentally, in doing thorough and exhaustive research for this column (i.e., Googling “Eye of the Tiger lyrics”), I discovered that there are a lot of people in the world who actually believe that the lyrics go “…eye of the tiger, cream of the fight,” rather than “…thrill of the fight.” I have no idea what the cream of the fight is, but I’m almost positive I don’t want any in my coffee.

You can fill Mike Todd with cupcakes and Lunchables at

Friday, August 07, 2009

More cuteness to behold

Our son Evan is now negative three days old. He was scheduled to be born on August 10, but he didn't get that memo, so he's been hanging out with us for the past two months. Happy Almost Shoulda-Been-Your-Birthday, Buddy!

Anyway, the human head weighs eight pounds, and now so does Evan:

The other side of the shirt says "per" but it should say "lion":

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Paying the toll at the Carpal Tunnel

“Oh, yeah, Baby!” I said last Saturday night as I successfully executed a just-mastered parental maneuver: The Burp.

“Braaaaaaaaaap!” said my son Evan, his eyes bulging.

“Whoa, that was a good one!” my wife Kara said, and I appreciated the recognition of a belch well coaxed. Sadly, a good burp has become both the pinnacle of achievement and the height of entertainment in our household. I can remember a time, not that long ago, when a good Saturday night was one in which the cops left the party without taking anyone with them. These days, the only functions that we attend come from our baby’s body.

Having an infant in the house forces you to prioritize your life; in our case, at least, maintaining any semblance of coolness appears to be the first casualty of parenthood. There must be other parents who manage to somehow stay cool while singing “This is the Song That Never Ends” and emptying the Diaper Genie, but it seems only a matter of time before Kara and I stop catching pop culture references and start wearing socks with sandals. I can already feel the hair growing faster out of the right side of my head in preparation for my forthcoming combover.

But as we lose touch with our real or imagined coolness, we’re gaining confidence in our fledgling baby-keeping-alive abilities. A few short months ago, I didn’t even know how to hold a baby. Whenever someone would try to hand their baby off to me, a bolt of fear would shoot through me as I tried to think of a plausible excuse. If you ever find yourself in a similar situation, “I’d love to, but I’m wildly contagious right now,” is a tough excuse to beat.

It’s not just that I was scared about holding a baby incorrectly, with their big pumpkin heads flopping all over the place on their tiny little pipe-cleaner necks, it’s that you never want to be the one holding the baby when it starts to cry. When people start passing a baby around the room, it becomes a game of Hot Human, with the loser being the one holding the little tater when the wailing begins.

Plus, everyone knows that babies can smell fear. When you make a baby cry, which is exactly what you’ll do if you’re worried that you will, all you can really do is make the handoff to the parent as quickly as possible, and next time roll around in the yard first to mask the scent of your apprehension.

As my second and final week of paternity leave winds down, though, I’m finding that baby-handling isn’t nearly as difficult as I’d once imagined, even if it doesn’t come without the risk of bodily harm. Since I am the resident bottle giver (the position of resident breast pumper was already filled), I have spent exactly one third of my recent life holding a baby in one hand and an upturned bottle in the other, and not the kind of upturned bottle that might make sitting in the same chair all day more entertaining. When you lock your arms in the same position for a cumulative eight hours a day, it starts to take a toll on you. Clearly, our baby should have come with a more ergonomic design.

I’ve been trying to think if there’s a less cool injury in the world than getting Carpal Tunnel Syndrome from feeding a baby. I picture myself in the waiting room at the physical therapist’s office, sitting beside a guy who didn’t have spit-up stains on his shoulders.

He’d look at me and say, “I pulled my rotator cuff while pitching in the seventh inning of a no-hitter. What happened to you?”

“Oh, I, uh. Well,” I’d answer, trying to think of a response that sounded cool. “It involved a lot of nipples, is all I can say.”

You can pat Mike Todd on the back at