Sunday, October 28, 2012

Take a little trip with me

In my experience, if you’re going to fall down a flight of stairs while carrying a baby, it’s best to do it at around 3am, when the sleep deprivation will have you all woozy and shock-absorbent.

Of course, some might argue that if you’re carrying a baby, it might be better to avoid falling down the stairs altogether.  This is a compelling argument, but one that is easy to ignore when you’re stumbling around the house in the middle of the night with your brain running in standby mode.

It all happened, as these things do, so fast.  One second, I’m walking down the stairs with Zack in my arms, quietly suggesting to him that maybe, after seven months, it would be okay if he decided to see what sleeping through the night felt like.  The next moment would cause me to seriously reevaluate my nocturnal footwear decisions.  From here on out, whenever I purchase white gym socks, I am basing my decision entirely on which socks have the highest coefficient of static friction.

See, Dr. Rowe!  I was too paying attention in physics class.

My heel slipped off the front of the (thankfully) final step, and I went down like a sack of potatoes, taking my tater tot along for the ride.  As two generations of Todd men sailed through the air, I hope Zack appreciated that Daddy’s reflex was to clutch him tight and take one for Team Todd.

The thud echoed through the house, followed immediately by Zack’s cries.

There’s nothing scarier than causing harm to your offspring.  Most parents, if given the choice between losing their own pinky finger in a table saw accident or having their kid get a little paper cut would, without hesitation, choose the paper cut.  But they’d feel really bad about it afterwards.

The timing seemed strange for this to happen, since I’d just added “tripping while carrying Zack” to my mental catalog of things to fear.  I’d filed it alongside the fear of having my cell phone fall out of my breast pocket and land in a toilet, and the fear of drinking a wasp that crawled into a Coke can while I wasn’t paying attention.  About a week before it happened, I’d realized that it COULD happen, which is why I’m never drinking a Coke outdoors again, or going to the bathroom.

It also seemed an odd coincidence that this wipeout happened so close to Halloween, the time of year when we celebrate our deepest fears, and also festoon our department stores with Christmas decorations.

“What was that?” my wife Kara called down the stairs, alarmed.

“Nothing, it’s fine,” I gasped, not sure if that was true.

I’d landed hard on my backside and elbows, and was only somewhat comforted that I could tell the difference between the two.  The important thing, though, was that I didn’t fumble our child.

I limped around the room apologizing to Zack, who settled down almost immediately.  He’d been frightened by the fall, but hadn’t been hurt.

I wanted to explain to Kara that I was a hero, but it’s hard to be the hero when you’re also the idiot who caused the problem in the first place.

“He’s fine, everything’s good,” I said, looking up at Kara as I placed Zack into his swing, clonking his head on the plastic mobile on the way in.

“Dude, seriously?” his wide eyes said.

That happened about a week ago, and we’ve navigated the stairs successfully many times since, perhaps because of the crampons I’ve strapped over my socks.  Undeterred by the incident, Zack still insists upon an audience around 3am every night.  If this keeps up, it might be worth a shot to try from a few steps higher next time.

You can crawl into Mike Todd’s Coke while he’s not looking at

Monday, October 22, 2012

Showering in expletives

“What can I pinch with this?” my son Evan asked, holding up the pair of channel locks I’d left on the bathroom counter.

When it comes to which tools our three-year-old is allowed to play with, my wife Kara and I draw very different lines, as I discovered the first time I let Evan wield a Phillips-head screwdriver.  Kara acted like I’d handed him an anthropomorphic chainsaw that taught bad grammar.

“Tell them you don’t want no more dinner!” the chainsaw would yell as Evan sliced it through our dining room table.

“I’m not sure that’s the safest thing,” I started to say, but then this huge smile spread across Evan’s face as he scissored the air with the channel locks like he was trimming hedges, and I realized that there was still hope for one of us to be a decent do-it-yourselfer.

I surveyed the landscape for something suitable.

"There, my underwear on the floor," I said.

Evan picked up my underwear with the channel locks and ran around the bathroom, waving my undies back-and-forth like he was in the color guard at a halftime show.

“Pinch, pinch, pinch!” he yelled.

For all the parents out there who are struggling to find ways to keep your kids entertained, forget the iPad.  All you need is some channel locks and a pair of striped boxer shorts.  Plaid might also work, but I have yet to test it.

I turned my attention back to our leaky showerhead.  A good showerhead should be leaky by design, but this one was leaking out the wrong end, against the wall.

“Hey, this could be the perfect time to switch to a water-saving showerhead,” I’d said to my wife, Kara.

She carefully considered the idea by immediately saying, “No way.”

“But think about how much less you’d be getting,” I said. My persuasion tactics could use some honing.

“I really enjoy showers.  Don’t take that away from me,” she said.

Point taken.  The shower is the only place we can escape from our children.  We should probably install a
TV in there, and perhaps a can opener and some shelves of emergency rations.

For some reason, I offered to fix the shower while entertaining both of our kids.  After the first minute, I’d lost the first member of my audience to the siren call of my crumpled-up underwear, but his little brother Zack watched me from his bassinette in rapt attention.

“Now watch Super Dad fix the plumbing while taking care of two kids!” I said.  Then, with a flourish, I snapped the pipe in half.    

“Aw, dude, that wasn’t supposed to happen,” I said, the presence of my offspring making it impossible to apply the proper expletives to the situation, at least out loud.

Evan became bored with the channel locks and set them down, then put his nose an inch from Zack’s face and yelled, “BLAGOO BLAGOO BLAGOO!"

“Hey, Evan, don’t do that,” I said, pulling him back by the shoulders to reveal Zack’s huge smile. To Zack, Evan is David Letterman, the Cirque du Soleil, Coldplay, Six Flags Great Adventure and HBO original programming all rolled into one.  Being manhandled and shouted at by his big brother is Zack’s greatest joy.  Something tells me that this will serve him well in life.

“Well, show’s over, folks, until I can get to the hardware store,” I said.  We left the bathroom and prepared to shatter the silence elsewhere in the house.

In some respects, the operation had been a great success.  Since nobody could use the shower anymore, it was saving a ton of water.

You can plumb the depths with Mike Todd at

Monday, October 15, 2012

Happy birthday to me

For my thirty-fifth birthday, I decided to give myself a week off from writing the column.  It's also a gift to you: the gift of two minutes back.  Enjoy, and spend them wisely!

Here are a few pics while you think about what you're going to do instead:

Only 110 seconds left!  Quick, to Facebook!

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Be prepared (for homophobia)

“Hey, this popcorn is pretty good.  How much did it cost?” my wife Kara asked, standing outside our pantry about a year ago.

“Eighteen bucks,” I replied, and she coughed so hard a kernel lodged in her cerebellum.

“It’s not an eighteen-dollar bag of popcorn.  I made an eighteen-dollar donation to the Boy Scouts, and look!  Now we have a bag of caramel corn, too,” I said.

That’s what she gets for sending me to the grocery store.  It’s impossible to walk past a table of earnest kids selling overpriced goods by the exit, especially if those goods are slathered in caramel.

Besides, I was glad to support the Boy Scouts.  Getting my Eagle Scout in high school was one of the proudest accomplishments of my life, and I hope that someday, my two sons might learn the same things that I learned from Scouts: camping, fishing, homophobia, canoeing, etc.

Of course, some people might take issue with at least one item on that list, but I can assure you: we always treated the fish humanely, except the ones that we dragged out of the water by their lips.
As for homophobia, of course we didn’t really learn that.  I actually can’t remember gayness being an issue in my Scouting days.  Some of my fellow Scouts were probably in the closet (or, in Scouting terms, “in the vestibule”).  I joined Scouts when I was twelve, and I knew I was straight by that time, but a depressing number of years would pass before I got to do anything about it.

You know what they say about girls liking men in uniform?  In my experience, that doesn’t apply to the Boy Scout uniform.  I blame the kerchief.

But these days, it’s hard for me to separate the Boy Scouts from its headline-making turn as an organization that actively excludes gay people.  It seems completely backwards to me that an organization that requires teenage boys to wear hiked-up knee socks would be in a position to turn anyone away.

“I heard some Eagle Scouts were sending their badges back to the national office in protest.  Maybe I should do that, too,” I told my sister Amy on the phone.  Amy’s older than 18, female and gay.  They’d let a three-toed sloth be a Boy Scout before her.

“You worked hard for that.  Don’t do it for me,” she said.

“I was hoping you’d say that.  I have no idea where it is,” I replied.  A good protest should involve picketing or self-immolation, not rummaging through your parents’ storage room.

I’m sure the Boy Scouts would rather not deal with this issue at all.  Like most adults, they’d probably prefer that teenagers were neither straight nor gay, but asexual, like coral.  That would make the world a much easier place to deal with, but it would also ruin our American Pie movies.  

The whole thing just makes me sad.  Some of the best experiences of my life, the closest bonding times with my dad and the sharpest things I ever whittled happened because of the Boy Scouts.

But if my two sons wanted to join, I’d hesitate.  Keeping them out of Boy Scouts seems like boycotting apple pie, but then apple pie doesn’t discriminate against people for being who they are.  It’s delicious for everyone.

Fortunately for us, my oldest son is only three years old, and I can’t imagine that this kind of thinking (such as it is) will survive for the nine years until he’s eligible to join.  That doesn’t do much good for kids in the meantime, though, who have to either hide who they are or make their s’mores somewhere else.

I passed some Boy Scouts in the mall yesterday, selling their delicious wares.  I’m rooting for them and their troop, and wish them all the best.  The Girl Scout organization doesn’t similarly exclude, though, so for the time being, it looks like I’ll be taking my caramel in Samoa cookie form instead.

You can do a good turn daily with Mike Todd at

Monday, October 01, 2012

The deck chairs on a sinking relationship

“I can’t believe she dumped me for a LAWYER!” my friend Johnny said last week.

“What does it matter that he’s a lawyer?” I asked.

“It just makes it worse,” he replied.

Johnny is my connection to the dating world, a strange and fascinating place where complete strangers meet online, then come together over sushi to discover that they don’t like each other.

“Didn’t we spend our last three conversations going into great detail about how insane this girl was?” I asked.    

“Yeah, but I still thought I had a chance,” he said.  When you reach your mid-thirties and you’re looking for a life partner, insanity is no longer a disqualifying personality trait.

A few weeks earlier, I talked to Johnny after he’d just gotten back from his first date with her.  While we were talking, he received a text that read: “I think we can both agree that didn’t go so well.”

From that inauspicious beginning, things somehow got even less auspicious, with their brief relationship degenerating into multiple text battles, ugly words exchanged and, most bafflingly, more dates.

The rules must have changed since I was on the dating scene.  My wife Kara and I have been together since the year 2000.  Back then, cell phones were still used for making phone calls, and the Internet was still primarily used for circulating naked pictures of Jenny McCarthy.

Technology and dating seemed to purposefully have very little overlap.  Dinners, for example, were often served by candlelight, even though light bulbs had recently been invented.  

Back then, text and friend weren’t verbs, and “getting to second base” didn’t mean telling everyone on Facebook that you were “in a relationship.”  That’s still not what “getting to second base” means, incidentally, but one could argue that tagging someone as your significant other on Facebook should at least count as a ground rule double.

After listening to Johnny’s stories from the front lines, it’s clear that I wouldn’t survive long in today’s dating world, especially if Kara found out.  I don’t even have unlimited texting on my phone, so it would be especially disheartening to receive insulting messages from my dates afterwards.  I’d have to pay twenty cents for that salt in my wound.  Please break my heart via email, so that I can save the twenty cents to apply toward my next ill-fated spicy tuna roll.

“When we were in college, nobody had a real job, so that wasn’t even a factor.  Now, if you’re not a lawyer or a CEO, you’re starting out with one strike against you.  Why did that guy have to be a lawyer?  Why?” he asked.

“I’m not sure being a lawyer is as awesome as you think it is.  There are plenty of miserable lawyers.  I suspect there’s one more in the world right now,” I said.  Never mind that Johnny only knew this guy’s profession because he received a text stating: “I’m dating a lawyer now.  I’d say good luck, but I’m not sure you deserve it.”

 There are plenty more fish in the sea besides jellyfish that sting with their text messages.  And Johnny’s back to trolling for them, hopefully in saner waters this time.

Meanwhile, the biggest drama in my life is that our three-year-old might be starting to figure out what’s happening when Kara and I look at him and say, “Maybe it’s time for him to take an ennaypee.”  He might not know that we’re spelling N-A-P, but I think he’s starting to catch on, and it’s only a matter of time before ennaypee and bee-ay-tee-aytch lose their clandestine power altogether.

How do parents communicate with each other after their kids learn to spell?  Successful parenting is all about love, and also subterfuge.  Maybe I need unlimited texting after all.  

After reading this column over again, I can see why Johnny and I spend more time talking about his problems.

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