Sunday, July 18, 2010

A holiday in the Destructosphere

**UPDATE 7/20** After I turned this column in, my editor at the Chestnut Hill Local noted that the column didn't end so much as stop. I know! I can't believe he reads 'em all the way to the end, either. I thought only my mom did that. Anyway, I tacked on a couple more paragraphs at the end of this one. So we've got that going for us, which is nice.

As noted below, I've become temporarily interested in embarrassing myself in multiple mediums. Media. Medii. Please forgive the illustrations below (except for Kara's, which rocks), and bear with me until this phase passes, which should happen around Wednesday or so.**

“It would be way more of a vacation if we could leave those two at home,” my wife Kara said, motioning to the backseat. We’d been preparing for our first family vacation in two years with a mix of trepidation and more trepidation; this was our first time taking the Cirque du Todd on the road since the addition of our smallest (unless you measure in decibels) member of the family.

We’d found a cottage on Lake Champlain, Vermont, that allowed pets, so the dog, who had been mournfully watching us pack the car for three days, clinging to our heels with a look that said, “Don’t ditch me don’t ditch me don’t ditch me,”

leapt at the invitation into the backseat, completing the traveling menagerie and ensuring that none of our responsibilities would be left behind.

Up to that point, we hadn’t taken a vacation with our son Evan because traveling with an infant promised to induce much more stress than it would alleviate, especially when our destination wouldn’t come furnished with doting grandparents. But Kara and I were beginning to feel as if the world didn’t extend beyond work, our house and Babies R’ Us, so it was time to venture out once again, giving me my first opportunity to play the role of Vacation Dad, which meant I got to swear loudly while trying to fit ten pounds of junk into a five-pound Toyota.

“There, we’re all packed, but I had to stuff some things into the air vents,” I proclaimed proudly.

“What about clothes for you and me?” Kara asked.

“Oh, we exist, too. I completely forgot,” I replied.

The next day, we pulled out of the driveway with the car’s rivets creaking and moaning, the dog’s head sticking out of the window only partly by choice.

Upon arriving at the cottage, Kara and I stumbled out of the car, rubbing our temples. Evan had spent the previous two hours doing his best vuvuzela impersonation.

Artist's recreation:

We were greeted by Ruth, a sweet woman who brimmed with anxiety about renting her cottage to anyone, let alone a family with such obvious destructive potential.

After she got done explaining the strict leash laws, she took us inside to show us around. Kara and I shot glances at each other, noting the vast number of coasters, candles, plates, mugs, pictures and other breakable items that existed at an altitude of lower than twenty-four inches, an area that is known in Evan’s presence as the Destructosphere.

“This switch here controls the porch -- Where’s your dog?” Ruth asked.

“She’s right, oh man,” I replied, just as I turned to see a black streak shooting across the beach, hitting the water like a meteorite. Apparently, leash laws were made to be broken, especially when the front door can be nudged open with a wet nose.

In the end, we proved that it is possible to enjoy a vacation with an infant, as long as you don’t expect to do anything that might be described as “relaxing” or “sleeping past sunup.”

Kara spent the better part of the week slathering Evan in enough sunblock to squelch the sun itself. By the time she finished applying the third coat of SPF 50, the sun’s rays actually bent around Evan, making him completely invisible. We had to locate him by following the sounds of breaking coasters.

Kara’s packing of a tanker’s truck worth of sunblock proved to be prescient, as our trip coincided with National Terrify the Dog Day, known in some areas as the Fourth of July,

Guest awesome drawing by my illustrator Kara

which this year brought with it a heat tsunami of the kind that, apparently, waited to strike until some poor fools rented a cottage with no air conditioning.

You might think that hanging out with your family in 103-degree heat would bring everyone closer together, like how three Hershey’s Kisses turn into one big Hershey’s Kiss puddle if they’re left in, say, 103-degree heat.

But as it turns out, baking your family inside a convection cottage isn’t the best way to bring everyone together. The best way is to have your awesome new next-door neighbor rat out the people you’re renting from (“You know, there was a wall unit in the bedroom window last summer. I wonder where Ruth put it.”), so that you can call Ruth, grovel, help her lug the air conditioner from the trunk of her car into the window and then huddle on the bed as a family, together, gulping the cool breeze in a reasonable facsimile of relaxation, until the invisible baby gets loose and starts knocking over picture frames.

You can throw your leftover bang snaps at Mike Todd at


  1. "bare" with you? As in, get naked?

    Anyway, nice artwork. And glad to hear the first family vacation was a success. :)

  2. Bare? I have no idea what you're talking about. Clearly, it says "bear" now. I mean, it always said bear. What? No, my eyes always twitch like that.

  3. The artwork's a nice addition!

    I've never understood the notion of bearing with someone. It would make more sense to ask someone to either turtle with you or sloth with you.

  4. Thank GOD you wrote this post....

    If I may print it, and put it on our refrigerator, for my husband to read, I'd really appreciate it.

    He thinks that vacation with our crew (7yr old and dog) is a breeze, and doesn't understand why I'm stressed to the max when we go into a house filled with non-baby/non-puppy proofed rooms, and the owner looks at you like "are you out of your mind for thinking you'll stay here?"

  5. Congratulations to you and Kara on surviving (typed while still laughing!).

  6. "The Sun's Rays actually bent around Evan making him invisible" Hahahahahaha Best line of the column. As the kids say lmfao

  7. Russ -- Dude, you're right. Bears are way too fast to be associated with that saying.

    Tim's Mom -- ON THE FRIDGE?! That's the same thing as a Pulitzer. I'm counting it.

    Loon -- Thanks so much! It wasn't always a given, the surviving part.

    Perlson -- Do the kids still say that? I'm going to ask mine, as soon as he can talk.

  8. Thank God for "awesome new next-door neighbor"!

    P.S. No need to concern yourselves over another baby anytime soon. Your new fam addition is ANN-D-N. :)

  9. ANN-D-N. I can't decide if it's an acronym or a Wheel of Fortune puzzle. In either case, my two best guesses:

    1) Another New Nice -Doggie- Network.
    2) ANNUDON

    Dude! Wait! Can I solve the puzzle?

    Awesome New Next-Door Neighbor!!

    Sorry, I'm a little slow every day. I'd already written my whole reply before I solved it. Yes, they were a great addition to the family for that week. And I'll take the annuity, Pat.