Monday, September 24, 2012

The impression that I don’t get

“I’m Miss Lisa,” my three-year-old son Evan said a few nights ago.  Then he just stood there, staring at me.

“Are you being Miss Lisa right now?” I asked.  Miss Lisa is one of the teachers at his daycare, a woman who somehow manages to care for four infants at the same time, which seems a lot like juggling four chainsaws all day, except chainsaws would demand less attention.  And be much quieter.

Evan nodded and continued standing in silence.  This was his version of an impression.  I’d never really noticed Miss Lisa just standing there like that before, but Evan seemed to think he was nailing it.

“Now do Richard Nixon,” I said.  More silence.  Somewhere, Rich Little was breathing a little easier, confident that this young upstart wouldn’t be stealing his gigs anytime soon.

“You be Mommy,” Evan said, breaking character.  It took me a moment to respond -- I’d been so entranced by Evan’s deft mimicry, I’d almost forgotten who I was talking to.

In the next room, my wife Kara had our infant son Zack in his high chair, feeding him a bowl of oatmeal.  In a minute, the oatmeal would run out, then the screaming would begin, growing louder until someone corked the screamhole with a bottle.

For the moment though, it was quiet.  I thought about how to do an impression of Kara that would resonate with Evan.

“I’m Mommy.  Stop doing that dangerous thing you’re doing,” I said.

Evan just blinked.  It was my first impression since the brief period in college that I’d decided I could do a decent “Sling Blade” guy (“Some folks call it a sling blade.  I call it a kaiser blade, pass me another beer, mmmm hmmm.”), and I’d bombed.

Without missing a beat, Kara’s voice came from the other room: “I’m Daddy.  Do whatever you want.”
I had to admit, she’d really gotten to the essence of my parenting style.  Kara and I both laughed, and the variety hour might have continued if the oatmeal hadn’t run out right then.

No matter how much food you give Zack, when it runs out, he will scream.  This happens because babies, as it turns out, are really horrible people.  They’re quite unconcerned with your feelings, or whether you have a preference for the decibel level at which information is conveyed to you.

“Oh, you rearranged your entire life to care for me?  And now you’re suppressing your gag reflex while you shovel odd-colored mush into my mouth, when you should be watching the movie in the Netflix envelope that’s gathering dust on the kitchen counter?  Well, as soon as I see the bottom of that bowl, I’m going to show you my gratitude.  Oh, yes, the entire neighborhood will know of my gratitude,” they say, with their eyes.

Zack is actually a wonderful baby, and we couldn’t be more fortunate.  Which is exactly the point.  Even a wonderful baby loves nothing more than to scream in your face, preferably after waking you up.

Eventually, babies learn to talk and things greatly improve, but until then, they are pleasant about 20% of the time, which is the window during which their parents take pictures to post to Facebook.  Babies have excellent PR people.

As Zack screamed from his chair, Evan ran over to dance around and entertain him.

“Look at me, Zack, look at me!” he said, running around in circles and waving his arms in the air.

Zack stopped screaming and smiled at his big brother.  With each day, the ratio of pleasantness improves.  By the time they turn three, kids are fun more like 80% of the time.  I imagine that this improvement continues until the child becomes embarrassed to be seen with you in public.

You can do your best Mike Todd at

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Getting on his low horse

The ranch owner approached us, towing a reluctant Smart Car of a horse behind her.

“Here's your pony,” she said, handing the lead rope to my wife, Kara.

Kara clenched the rope as if the pony might make a dash for freedom, though as the animal stood there, head down, it appeared that it hadn’t dashed anywhere since Roy Rogers was in training spurs.

“You can go ahead and put him on,” the woman said, motioning toward our son, Evan.

“Doesn't he need a helmet first?” Kara asked.

The ranch lady was old school.  She didn’t realize that parents these days like to put helmets on their kids if they're doing anything more dangerous than consuming McNuggets.

“We’ll get a helmet at the barn.  You’ll have to put him on the pony yourself.  I broke my ribs a few weeks ago,” she said.  She didn’t go into further detail, and I wasn’t going to pry.  Fortunately, the pony didn’t seem to have been involved in the rib mishap.  We would have wanted details if the woman had broken a shin.

I plunked Evan into the saddle and he gripped the horn tightly.  Joy spread across his face as he realized his lifelong (and also relatively recent) dream of riding a horsie.

Nitpickers might point out that a pony is not a horsie.  Horses and ponies are members of the equine family, but they’re not the same thing.  To these people, I say: Give me some credit for understanding that a pony is not just a baby horse.  It took me at least twenty-five years to get that.

“What’s the pony’s name?” Kara asked, hoping to help Evan strengthen his bond with Buttercup or Moonbeam or Elmer.  

“Oh, you would ask me that,” the lady replied, as if Kara had just asked her something totally off-the-wall, like how to calculate the volume of a triangular prism, or why the light bulbs at Outback Steakhouse are pink.

Another moment passed as she stared at the pony and tried to call up a name.  Then she said exactly what you want to hear from the person to whom you’ve just entrusted the safety of your three-year-old: “Honestly, I took so many codeine this morning, I couldn’t tell you my grandkids’ names.”

We didn’t speak again until Evan had his helmet on.

“You can go wherever you want,” the woman said, motioning toward the barn and pastures.  Then she walked away, and we never saw her again.  Wherever she is, I hope she found what she was looking for.  Probably more codeine.

So Evan rode through the pasture on a horse with no name.  Kara and I took turns leading the pony, and Grandma and Grandpa would cheer every time Evan rode past.  His huge smiles more than paid for our afternoon trip to the country.

“Are you having fun, Evan?” I asked.  

“Daddy, you just stepped in it!” he answered.  I’d been trying to steer the conversation away from manure, but Evan wasn’t having any of it.  With so many horses wandering around the farm, Evan never ran out of conversation material.

“Look, we can go ride around those barrels over there,” I said.

“The horsie just stepped in it, too!” he replied.

For its part, the pony seemed rather indifferent to the whole affair -- Evan’s enthusiasm was only contagious to humans.  Every time we circled past the barn without going in, the pony let out a little sigh and trudged on.

After about thirty minutes in the saddle, our little cowpoke got tired.  We unsuccessfully scanned the horizon for our doped-up guide, then returned the pony to the nearest farmhand and headed home.

It was a special day, and we’ll always carry some of that farm with us.  Mostly on the bottom of my shoes.

You can lead Mike Todd to water at  

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Week two of two-week hiatus

Back with original programming next week.  Until then, pictures of my offspring!

Monday, September 03, 2012

Two-week hiatus

You ever get that feeling that you'd rather just send an old column to your editor instead of killing yourself to write a new one?  Dude, I had that same feeling!  Two weeks in a row, unfortunately.

Here's the one I sent in last week.  It makes me worry that I was a funnier person in 2006.

Anyway, if you can't dazzle them with a new column, baffle them with cute baby pictures!