Monday, December 26, 2011

Sunbathing in a winter wonderland

“What that guy doin’?” my son Evan asked as the flight attendant put on a yellow life vest and pretended to inflate it.

“He just has to show us a few things before we can go fly in the sky,” I explained. 

“Want that guy done so airplane take off,” Evan said.  A keen student of the human condition, Evan had quickly picked up on the importance of griping about the minor inconveniences of air travel.

Thirty minutes later, as Evan played peek-a-boo with his mom across the aisle, I pointed out the window and said, “Look, Evan, we’re above the clouds now!”

I couldn’t wait to see his little eyes take in this brand new sight, his sense of wonder taking flight as the heavens spread out before him.  Evan looked out the window for a moment, saw the sun glinting off the countless miles of puffy clouds beyond the airplane’s wing, then pointed at the little TV on the seat back in front of him and said, “Wanna watch Dora.”

If he’d cared to look, Evan could have had a perfect view out the window.  He sat perched in the car seat that I’d lugged from the airport parking lot to his seat on the plane, which was as easy as dragging a recliner for about two miles, stopping once to wedge it through an X-ray machine.

When we left our house that morning, it was 40 degrees and drizzly, perhaps the least pleasant type of weather that doesn’t require FEMA to assist afterwards.  When we landed in Fort Myers, Florida, it was 72 degrees and sunny.  Sometimes, it’s tough to remember why living in the Northeast seemed like such a good idea.

We were travelling to Florida for the wedding of Kara’s cousin, Lori, at the beach.  Before we left, as I packed my sandals and bathing suit, I realized that the Northeast did have at least one major thing going for it: The promise that you’ll never have to take your shirt off in public for at least five months after Thanksgiving.  This is quite a benefit, since vast swaths of my body have recently become indistinguishable in many important ways from pecan pie filling.

I’m not the only person to recognize this benefit.  When he could pick anywhere in the world to live, why would Santa choose the North Pole over Naples?  So he’d never have to take off his big red suit in front of anyone, that’s why.  Around Christmastime, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get to keep your bowl full of jelly under wraps unless you live in a frozen wasteland.

“Kwissmas lights!” Evan said as we drove around Naples in the evening with the windows down, admiring the palm trees wrapped in lights.  The scene was beautiful, but not right.  Christmas is supposed to be a holiday that distracts you from the misery of winter.  When a warm breeze is caressing your skin, good tidings and cheer just feel like overkill. 

Also, what do you get your dad for Christmas when the weather never gets cold enough for him to need a sweater?  No thanks.  You can keep your seventy-degree Decembers, Florida.  I’ll be whistling as I chip the ice off my windshield at the mall, Dad’s sweater in my shopping bag, the evidence of my Thanksgiving indiscretions safely tucked beneath seventeen layers of down and Gore-Tex.

We’re hopping back on a plane tomorrow to come home, and as much as we enjoyed the perfect weather and the beautiful wedding, we’ll be glad to get back to our little piece of frozen wasteland.  If we stayed here any longer, we just might start to think that the most wonderful time of the year doesn’t have to involve bodily fluids frozen to our faces. 

You can put Mike Todd into his upright and locked position at

Monday, December 19, 2011

An unlikely vehicle for good news

My wife Kara and I stood on either side of the front door, watching the red beams of light streaking across our yard from the ambulance in our neighbor’s driveway.

“Should we see if there’s anything we can do?” I asked, already knowing that of course there wasn’t.

“I can see that your house is full of emergency medical personnel, but I just wanted to let you know that I got my lifesaving merit badge in tenth grade, in case you need me.”

So we watched for a few more moments, long enough to see a cop car roll into Jimmy’s driveway, then decided that we were inching towards crossing the line from concerned neighbors to gawkers, so we went back to the living room.

“I guess we could wait and see if he needs anything later,” Kara said.

I tried to picture a circumstance under which our checking in with Jimmy would be more helpful than intrusive.

“Anything I can do for you, Jimmy?” I’d ask.

“Oh, yeah, this devastating life event just reminded me – we need milk.  Think you could pick some up for us?” he’d reply.

In the end, we decided that the most neighborly thing to do would be to let Jimmy and his wife Christina have their privacy, then check in with them later.

A few nights after that, I took our dog out for a stroll and saw Jimmy in his garage, banging things around.  It seemed a good sign that he wasn’t wearing a full body cast, though we hadn’t seen Christina since that night.

“Hey, Jimmy!” I called out from halfway down his driveway.

“Whoa!  You scared me,” he said.  Someone should invent a wristwatch with one of those friendly little “I’m sneaking up behind you” bells that little girls and Dutch people have on their bikes.

“I saw the ambulance here the other night.  Just wanted to make sure you guys were okay,” I said.

“It was nothing.  I just had a little heart attack,” Jimmy replied, in the same way he might have said that he just had a little snack to tide him over ‘til dinner.

“Oh my god, Jimmy, are you serious?” I asked.

“No, no, no,” he said, laughing.  “I don’t think I’ve told you, but Christina’s pregnant.  She was having some pain, and we’re both worrywarts, so I called 911.  As soon as I dialed, I thought maybe I shouldn’t have done that.  They took her to the hospital, and we were back home in two hours.  She’s totally fine.”

This is their first pregnancy, so they’re understandably jumpy.  Kara is entering the sixth month of her second pregnancy, and after enduring all-day morning sickness, stretched ligaments and pinched nerves, we continue to be amazed that there are so many humans everywhere.  Seems like more people would have decided that they’d rather just get a pug instead.

“Christina has been sick for five months straight,” Jimmy said.  “She says, ‘I thought this was supposed to be a magical experience.  Except for the fact that there’s a baby at the end of this, there’s nothing magical about it.’”

Then he paused and said, “It’s good to be a guy sometimes, isn’t it?”

So instead of having a calamity next door, it turns out that we’re getting a new little neighbor.  As a nice coincidence, Christina and Kara are both due in April, so we won’t be the only ones in the neighborhood with our lights on at 3am this spring.

Misery might love company, but so does crazy baby-induced exhaustion.  And joy.

You can sneak up on Mike Todd at

Sunday, December 11, 2011

It’s beginning to look a lot like bedlam

“What do you think you’re doing?” my wife Kara asked.  I froze. Once that question has been asked, it’s a safe bet that it’s already too late to provide a satisfactory answer.

“Eating a candy cane?” I asked.

“Right, you’re eating a candy cane ten minutes after we hung them on the tree.  Candy canes are ornaments,” she said.

“Delicious ornaments,” I agreed.

This is our first year with a Christmas tree that came from the ground rather than Home Depot, so we’re still getting our traditions in order.  Kara grew up in a candy-caneless household, so she can be forgiven for not knowing standard consumption practices.  

“Each person is allowed to eat two candy canes per day,” I explained.

“Two a day?  The tree would be barren in a week.  Let’s just buy some extras, and you can eat them out of the box,” she suggested.

She’s so funny sometimes.  Eating a candy cane out of the box when free-range candy canes are hanging in their natural habitat in the next room would be like strolling through a ripe orange grove while drinking a glass of Tang.

Kara and I never bothered with making too much of a fuss over Christmas decorations in the past because we were never home for Christmas, always turning our menagerie into a roadshow.  We want our son Evan and his forthcoming sibling to grow up having Christmas at home, though, so this year, the grandparents are trekking to us, and our old plastic tree is keeping the squirrels company in the attic.

“This one’s all scraggly,” Kara said as we wandered around the tree farm last weekend.

“This one’s too short,” I said.

“Dis one!” Evan said, pointing to a sprout that would have been better qualified to serve as a garnish at Christmas dinner.

Eventually, we found a winner, though I’m not 100% sure that the tree viewed it that way.

When we decided to get a real tree, we didn’t quite understand the responsibility we were taking on.  Getting a real tree is like having a new pet in the house.  You have to constantly give it water and clean up after it.  You wouldn’t think that a dead tree would require that much care, what with it already being dead, but nobody seems to have told the tree, which is drinking like a former child star.

I’m not sure the trees in our front yard appreciate the Christmas treatment, either.  As I wrapped lights around our weeping cherry tree, occasionally snapping off twigs and apologizing, I got the sense that the tree viewed this experience the same way a pug might view being dressed up in doll clothing.

“Oh, we’re doing this again?  Fantastic.  Yes, please, make me beautiful.  Oh, I look so much better now.  Clearly, you have a better aesthetic sense than nature does,” the tree would say.

But all the hubbub does seem to be working its magic on Evan, who gets more jazzed about Christmas every day, which is really the point.  Last year, he understood that wrapping paper was fun to wave around, and that was about the extent of it.  This year, you can already see the Christmas spirit taking hold.

“Luvoo, Wemphis,” Evan said after he helped hang some candy canes on the tree, expressing his love for our dog, Memphis.  He walked over and wrapped his arms around her.   When he noticed that Memphis was just standing there, not returning his hug, Evan looked up at us and explained, “Wemphis no have arms.”

Which will significantly reduce her chances of getting in trouble for plucking candy canes off the tree.

You can dress Mike Todd in doll clothing at

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Heeding the call of duty, and nature

“No, Evan, those aren't yours,” I said, proud of myself for being a good parent.  If Bernie Madoff’s dad had taken similar corrective action many years ago, the world might still think that a Ponzi scheme is a mischievous but harmless plan hatched by Potsie and Fonzi, perhaps to steal some of Mrs. Cunningham’s meatloaf.

“Wahpops!” Evan protested, holding out his ill-gotten Dum Dums.  Just moments earlier, I’d watched Evan root around in the back of the cubby next to his, pulling out two small lollipops.  He knew exactly where they were, so he must have watched his mark stash them there earlier in the day.

We were the last people leaving daycare, so nobody else had witnessed Evan’s first attempt at grand theft sucrose.

“Those aren’t your lollipops, Evan.  Please put them back, right now,” I said.

“Wahpops!  Wahpops!” he cried as he put them back into his friend Logan’s cubby.

The tears continued well into the ride home.

“I’m sorry you’re so upset, buddy, but it’s not nice to take other people’s things,” I said.

The hollering was tough to listen to, but I was glad that Evan’s first experience with stealing was unpleasant.  A little shame goes a long way.  My parents caught me stealing a pack of gum from Wawa when I was four, and the experience so traumatized me that I never stole anything again while they were looking.

At Evan’s daycare, the kids earn lollipops in return for successful visits to the potty.  Ordinarily, I hate to miss out on Evan’s learning experiences during the day, but this is one activity I’m happy to farm out.

Before I’d ever changed a diaper, I assumed that any sane person would want their kid potty-trained within about the first week home from the hospital.  You’d just prop your kid on the john until things started clicking, then you could spend all the time you would have spent at the changing table on the couch playing Call of Duty.

Now that Evan’s two-and-a-half, though, he’s having to drag me into the bathroom, demanding to be potty trained.

“Go potty, Daddy,” he’ll say, tugging on my hand, and I’ll sigh.

“Okay, okay,” I’ll reply.

We’ll spend the next two minutes getting him ready, peeling off clothing and arranging his seat and stepstool.  Then he’ll sit down, kick the bowl with his heels three times and say, “I’m done.”

“You didn’t do anything, Evan,” I’ll say.

“Done!” he’ll reply.

Then we’ll spend the next five minutes putting his clothes back on and washing his hands, getting ready to repeat the process again in half an hour.  After some initial signs of progress, we've gone 0 for our last fifty attempts.  We're in danger of becoming less productive than Congress.

As much as changing diapers isn’t the most fun thing to do, there are scarier things to contemplate.  When a dog has accidents, you’re pretty much guaranteed that they’ll happen on the floor.  With a kid, there’s a decent chance you’ll have to burn some furniture in the backyard.  When I look at our couch and how it fits perfectly in the room, I think I’ll be fine with changing Evan's diaper until sometime just before his prom.

The morning after the Great Lollipop Caper, his teacher met us outside her classroom as I dropped Evan off.

“Oh, did you see that Evan got two lollipops yesterday for going to the potty?  He was so proud, he ran over and stashed them in his cubby to show you later,” she said.

This time, the shame was mine.  Evan had stashed his rewards one cubby to the left by accident, and was too upset by my reaction to explain what had happened.

Sometimes, when you least expect it, the Dum Dum turns out to be you.

It's easy to take candy from Mike Todd at

Sunday, November 27, 2011

It’s a male pronoun!

“I can’t get him to turn the right way,” the nurse said as she slid the wand across my wife Kara’s gooped-up belly.

I glanced at Kara to see if she’d picked up on what the nurse had just told us.

Three years ago, when I accompanied Kara to the ultrasound for her first pregnancy, the nurse made a big deal out of telling us the baby’s gender.

“Are you sure you want to know?” she asked.  We both nodded, leaning in.

“It’s a boy!” she said with a big smile.  Balloons and confetti fell from the ceiling, and Kelly Clarkson walked slowly into the room singing, “A Moment Like This.”

For the second pregnancy, though, the nurse didn’t bother with the big reveal.  If I’d understood correctly, she had just informed us via pronoun choice.

“Everything checks out!  You have a healthy baby,” she said as she put the wand away and snapped off her gloves.

I raised my hand.  A dude in a gyno’s office needs to be careful not to speak out of turn.

“You’ve said ‘him’ several times.  How sure are you that it’s a boy?” I asked, after she called on me.

“It’s still early to tell, but I’m 90 percent sure,” the nurse replied.

Kara and I had been careful not to have a preference about the gender, since our preferences would have little influence over the outcome, kind of like watching an Eagles game this season.

Still, now that we knew we were having another boy, I started to get nervous.  Our debut boy had been such a success, had we set ourselves up for a sophomore slump?

“We’re good parents.  We’ll be fine,” Kara said.

But already, by the time we got home, the slacking off began.  With Evan’s ultrasound three years ago, we scanned it immediately and emailed the grainy images to our parents, plus anyone else who would look at them and probably several more who wouldn’t.  You couldn’t tell whether you were looking at an image of a baby or a satellite map of the Eastern Seaboard, but during those first few weeks, we were second only to Ken Burns in making people look at black-and-white photos.

This time, though, a couple weeks after the appointment, Kara said, “Oh, we never scanned the ultrasound pictures.”

“Meh, the scanner’s not plugged in.  Too much hassle,” I replied.

This is how it begins.  The firstborn gets a hand-embroidered birth announcement, a scrapbook detailing
every moment of their first year and enough photos to create an animated flipbook that would take a year to flip through.  The next child has to search through newspaper archives to find proof that they were born.

We’ve heard from many parents who say they simply didn’t have time to focus on taking pictures or doing arts and crafts once they had more than one child.  The historical record stops upon the second child’s birth, leaving future archaeologists scrambling to piece together the events that led to the choice of a rubber ducky theme on the second child’s first birthday.

Kara and I have vowed not to let this happen to us, but it’s already happening.  Last time, we painted Evan’s nursery several months in advance, agonizing over the color choices, straining our eyes to see the difference between Polar Sky, Morning Glory and Cloudy Day.  Paint companies could spare us all a lot of hassle by just having four colors to choose from, calling them: Kitchen, Living Room, Bedroom and Apartment/Ceiling.

To get the second nursery ready, we’re just arranging a pile of old clothes into a nest in the corner of the garage.

No, actually, we’re already looking at swatches again.  And hoping that his older brother will help our next son prepare for the parent paparazzi.

You can make a nest in your garage for Mike Todd at

Monday, November 21, 2011

Turning over some old leaves

I snuck around the corner with my camera, unaware that I was about to get blindsided.  Photographers often get attacked by their subjects, but I’d been lulled into a false sense of safety, perhaps due to the lack of grizzly bears in the area, or perhaps because I was in my living room.

My son Evan yelped as he scrambled around his little inflatable ball pit with his older cousin Jordyn.  “I’m going to get you, Evan!” Jordyn said, and Evan squealed with delight.

I crept into the room slowly, as to not alert my quarry.  As the camera came up to my eye, Evan spotted me.  He stopped playing and looked distressed.

“Aw, he’d rather I joined in the fun,” I thought.

“Go ‘way, Daddy,” Evan said.  My heart, and then my camera, dropped.  I thought he wasn't supposed to
talk to me like that until he was a teenager.  My demotion from Hero of the Universe to Embarrassing Loser Who Follows Me Around happened about a decade sooner than I’d expected.

“Evan, that's not very nice,” I replied.

He looked away, and I could tell he felt bad about hurting my feelings.  He didn’t want to be not very nice.  Fortunately, I’d just taught him an important lesson about being polite.

After a few more beats, Evan looked back at me and said, “Pwease go ‘way, Daddy.”

It was an improvement of sorts, like putting fresh-grated parmesan on moldy pizza.

I couldn’t really blame him for wanting some uninterrupted time with his cousins, though.  Our house, which is normally the most boring place without CSPAN cameras, was buzzing with cousins last weekend for a family get-together.  Or beeping with cousins, rather than buzzing, since most of them spent a good deal of time gazing into various electronic devices.

“Do you have an iPod Touch?  An iPad?  A Wii?  A laptop?  What’s the password on the computer?” my little cousins asked as they scoured the house for entertainment.  Even the old Playstation2 in our basement, a relic of the Great Nerd Era of my early twenties, was unearthed.  If the microwave had a bigger digital display, the kids probably would have played that, too.

I’m pretty sure the kids all realized that I was part of the family, but it’s entirely possible they thought I was live-in tech support.

Of course, when I was a kid, I was equally entranced with video games, and back then, games consisted of four rectangles of various sizes moving around the screen, set to rhythmic monotone beeping.  If I was ten years old right now, I’d probably see less sunlight than your average slot machine.

Actually, the kids did break away from the video games for long enough to scrape together a leaf pile in the front yard.

“Weaf piyoh!  Weaf piyoh!” Evan yelled.  As far as I know, he’d never seen a leaf pile before, but it seems to be one of those things that come pre-loaded in the human brain under Things That Are Awesome, which consists mainly of the subfolder: Things I Can Jump In/On.

Before our guests arrived, I’d spent several hours blowing a Shenandoah’s worth of leaves off of our yard.  To assemble a decent leaf pile, the kids dragged the leaves back out, creating large trails as they walked their armloads across our property.  You have to respect the initiative of children who are willing to unrake a yard by hand.  Too bad I couldn’t figure out a way to harness that energy to get them to do my chores.

In the end, I was glad they did it.  Leaf fights are good for the soul.

When they were done, for the first time in at least a decade, I got to enjoy jumping around in a leaf pile, too.

Until Evan kicked me out.

You can rake Mike Todd off your yard at

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Trying to change the Chanel

“Babe, please don’t make a scene,” I begged.

Kara coughed and waved a napkin in front of her face.    

“I can barely breathe.  It’s so strong I can smell it with my eyes,” she wheezed. 

I smiled at the waitress as she walked past, glad that she didn’t stop to ask any questions.

Usually, when an aromatic offense has been committed, I’m willing to claim whatever culpability can’t be pinned on the dog, but in this case, my innocence was never in doubt.  The perpetrators had just been seated in the booth directly behind us, three women who must have applied their perfume in the parking lot, using sponges borrowed from a softball team’s carwash.  When I turned around to sneak a glance at the cause of the assault on our nostrils, I swear I actually saw shimmering plumes of perfume rising off of the women like heat off a desert highway.

Our friend Jim, sitting across the table from us, smiled and waited to see what entertainment might ensue.
On a normal day, Kara wouldn’t have made a fuss.  But she’s four months pregnant now, so normal days don’t happen anymore.

If you’ve never spent time with a pregnant woman, you might not realize that they aren’t like regular people.  Their noses have evolved to give them Super Scent Sensitivity and Enhanced Revulsion, perhaps the most useless superpowers of all.

The last time Kara was pregnant, we ventured out for a nice birthday dinner, and I made the mistake of applying a single squirt of cologne first.

“What’s that awful smell?” she said as we drove to the restaurant.

“I’m wearing the cologne you got me, the stuff you said I should wear more often,” I said.

“Don’t ever do that again,” she said, hanging her head out the window.     

At lunch with me and Jim, though, she didn’t have the luxury of not keeping her head and arms within the vehicle at all times.  She scanned the restaurant, looking for an escape.  To protect the anonymity of the perfume-bathers, it’s probably best not to mention which restaurant we were dining in, except that when we there, we were family.  Paying family.

Our drinks, salads and breadsticks had already been delivered, so moving to another table discreetly would have been impossible, and might have required a U-Haul.  The tables around us were packed, anyway.

“Seriously, I think might be sick.  I have to move,” Kara said, waving the air in front of her nose.  I glanced behind me again, checking to see if the women had noticed the commotion.  Fortunately, it didn’t seem that they had.  We benefitted from the cover provided by the hairdo of the woman sitting closest to us, a perfect globe that would not have fit through a regulation basketball hoop.

All of a sudden, Kara had a brilliant idea, one that would just about solve the problem.

“Jim, will you switch sides with us?” she asked.

Jim, being a good sport who also happened to not be pregnant, agreed. 

We slid our plates and drinks around and surreptitiously reseated ourselves. 

“Ah, it’s better over here,” Kara said, and I agreed.  The women, still involved in their own conversation, seemed none the wiser.  Almost everyone was happy. 

Jim’s eyes started to water.  He seemed to be having difficulty breathing.

“I think this might be Chanel Number Infinity,” he whispered.  We decided that a simple mathematical error might have caused a regular bottle of Chanel #5 to become Chanel^5.  Whether this was Chanel to the Fifth Power or not, this was not a fragrance that was meant to be worn in any venue smaller than the Superdome.
In the end, we all survived, even Jim.  And Kara and I won’t be surprised if our next baby is born smelling like Marilyn Monroe.
You can fail Mike Todd on his sniff test at

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Bull Hill

Here are some pics from Monday, when the pooch and I took a hike up Bull Hill in the Hudson Highlands. Decision to burn a half-day of vacation: validated.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Strip mining in the morning

I could no longer sit idle and watch the desecration continue.  Evan’s plastic spoon moved deftly through his Lucky Charms, strip mining out all the marshmallows and leaving nothing but oat rubble behind.

“No strip mining,” I said, pointing to his bowl.

He stared back at me from his high chair, his ability to comply hindered by his limited knowledge of mineral extraction techniques.

When I was a kid, my favorite cereal (that I was allowed to eat) was Raisin Nut Bran, which consisted of delicious, nut-rolled raisins surrounded by flakes made of 100% fancy recycled resume paper.  I’d noticed that General Mills had stopped putting enough raisin nuts into the cereal, and, in desperation, considered switching to my parents’ fiber fests. 

Then one day, I saw my big sister Amy pour a dry bowl of Raisin Nut Bran, pick out all the good stuff one-by-one, then pour the flakes back into the box. 

“What?  The flakes are gross,” she said to my protestations, which is where the conversation ended, since she could beat me up.   

“Eat the other stuff, too, not just the marshmallows,” I explained to Evan, lest he follow in the path of his wayward relatives.

“Marshmallows,” Evan agreed as he fished a purple horseshoe out of the bowl.

I shook my head as Evan popped the marshmallow into his mouth and started digging for more.  While he was distracted, I snuck another sip of orange juice and quickly set the cup back down behind the cereal box.

He glanced up, sensing that something sneaky was going on.  I played it cool.  In a moment, he returned to digging.  The coast was clear, and I took another sip.  Letting your child catch you with juice is like letting your prison guard catch you with a file.  It will be confiscated.

“Juice!  Juice!” your child will yell, pointing at the cup.  After you hand it over, you’ll be forced to watch, powerless, as your child pours half of the juice into his mouth while the other half cascades down the shirt you put on him ten minutes ago.

There was a time when fathers didn’t hide their orange juice from their children, but all those dads died of scurvy, so now my kind is all that’s left.

Having a child who can talk is fantastic in many ways.  “I can’t wait to hear what this little person has to say,” is a common sentiment expressed by parents whose child is not yet of talking age. 

Assuming that Evan is a representative sample, though, I can tell you that the children of America would like you to know that they want more juice, Daddy.  Also, you just drove past a tractor.  Tractor!  Did you see the tractor?  Tractor!

I’m not wild about Evan eating sugary cereal, mostly because I never got to eat any when I was a kid, so he should suffer, too.  If he wants Cinnamon Toast Crunch, he should spend the night at Johnny Poole’s house, like I did.

Incidentally, does anyone make regular cinnamon toast anymore?  I don’t think I’ve seen a slice of it in fifteen years.  If the world was a fair place, we’d have kept the cinnamon toast and ditched the Funyuns.
“He shouldn’t be eating this.  I never got to eat anything sweeter than Cheerios,” I said to my wife, Kara, as she joined us in the kitchen.         

“It’s only on weekends.  Besides, you grew up dumping spoonfuls of sugar on everything,” she said.

I keep forgetting what she knows and doesn’t know about my upbringing. 

She sat down at the table and picked up the cereal box before I had time to react.

“Juice!” Evan yelled.
You can strip mine the good stuff and leave Mike Todd behind at

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Over the railing and through the roof

“I think I’m going to be sick.  I can’t stand this worrying,” my wife Kara said.

“Mmmph,” I replied. 

“Did you really just fall asleep?” she asked.

“Maybe a little.  We all deal with stress in different ways,” I replied.

Kara was tossing and turning because a few hours earlier, our son Evan had taken some big steps towards becoming a big boy.  Unfortunately, those steps sent him over the railing of his crib headfirst.

We were standing just outside his door when we heard the whump and hollering, and we already knew what had happened before we pushed his door open, holding our breath that he’d be okay.  And he was, not counting a bloody nose that stopped after a moment, though Evan seemed to think that counted.

“Climb over the bed and fall on the head!” he proclaimed after he’d settled down, perhaps inventing a new slogan for a public service announcement. 

The conventional wisdom is to leave your child in a crib until they won’t stay in it anymore.  Of course, toddlers don’t really have a great way to communicate that they’re not so keen on staying in their crib anymore, except to fling themselves over the railing, which does get the point across, but something a bit less dramatic might be nice.
Most parenting advice is insanely cautious, sometimes bordering on paranoid.  Let your child eat popcorn?   Don’t be ridiculous.  That’s a choking hazard.  Push him around on a Big Wheels without a helmet?  No, a child must be encapsulated in plastic if moving faster than 1.5 mph.  Let him trick-or-treat without SPF 50 rubbed onto his eyelids to keep him from getting a twilight sunburn through his Elmo mask?  That’s a trick question.  He’s not allowed to wear a mask.

But letting your toddler plummet headfirst from a height that would make Greg Louganis flinch?  Oh, that’s just your child’s way of telling you that it’s time for a big boy bed.

The next day, Kara ordered a toddler railing for the crib.  Basically, it’s the same as the railing that’s already there, except that it’s topped with coils of barbed wire.  We’re told that this should keep him safe, as long as he doesn’t have access to a spoon and a poster of Rita Hayworth.

While we’re waiting for the rail to get here, we’ve piled enough pillows and down comforters around the crib that Jackie Chan could fall off a scaffolding and enjoy a fluffy landing there.   

Of course, once Evan’s crib is converted into a bed, we’ll be thrust headlong into yet another new phase of parenthood, the phase where the child is no longer caged for half of his life.  The idea is frightening.  If given the choice between having a toddler or a hyena roaming our house at night unattended, I’m not sure which we’d pick.           

The first round of baby-proofing we’d performed over a year ago assumed that a parent would be in the room with the child.  Now, we have to assume that Evan will have access to some areas of the house while we’re asleep, a prospect that is keeping us both up at night, some directly, some indirectly.

“Our room is a deathtrap!” Kara declared last night in the darkness, picturing Evan scaling every unsecured piece of furniture.

“Mmmph,” I replied. 

“Really?  How can you sleep?” she asked.

“I guess I can’t,” I said.

Round 2 of baby-proofing the house has already begun.  I’ll be spending the next several days bolting and strapping every loose item in the house to our walls.  By the time I’m done, you’ll be able to open all of our doors and windows, pick our house up and shake it, and nothing will come out. 

You won’t really be able to do that, of course.  The doors and windows will be nailed shut.
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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hike the Hudson Valley

For the past year, Evan's been dragging me along on tons of hikes around the Hudson Valley.  We decided it would be a fun project to build a website documenting those hikes, and creating online trail guides so that other people could get out and enjoy these cool places.

The result,, just went online last week.  I know 50% of the people who read this blog are my mom, and the other 50% might never visit the Hudson Valley, but I sure wouldn't complain if anyone wanted to like the Facebook page for the site, or click the "Like" button at the top of the homepage.

Whether anyone uses the site or not, it's been a fun project.  Here are some shots from some of our adventures: