Monday, March 26, 2012

On kidnappers or contractors

The kind of van that could only belong to a kidnapper or a contractor greeted us in our driveway, the ladder on top suggesting the latter.

“Hey, David’s still here, buddy,” I said to my son Evan.

“Yay!” Evan yelled from the backseat.  Evan loves running around to the back of the house to watch our contractor David doing loud things with power tools.  I fear that it’s refreshing for Evan to see a man using a drill for something other than taking the battery cap off Tickle Me Elmo’s foot.

Also, when’s the last time you heard somebody yell “Yay!” the way the word was meant to be used, rather than with a world-weary roll of the eyes?  Non-ironic expressions of happiness are just one of the many benefits of living with a toddler, in addition to all the ear-cleansing screaming.

As we walked around the driveway to see how much progress David had made that day, Evan repeated the line he says every time we look at the back of the house: “David building a scween woom.”

“That’s right,” I said as we rounded the corner to see David standing on the wooden platform he’d built.  I would have tackled this project myself, if not for the extenuating circumstance of my complete lack of applicable skills.  The aforementioned toddler also requires a fair amount of attention, and though he probably wouldn’t notice if his daddy lost a few digits, it’s still best that I don’t get too close to a table saw.

“I like David,” Evan said.

“That’s nice.  He’s a good guy,” I said.  I hoped David could hear his littlest admirer, though he didn’t turn to face us.

“David a little bit scary,” Evan said. 

I glanced up to see if David had heard his littlest now-heckler, but he seemed to be wearing ear protection, which is generally a good policy at our house.

Being “a little bit scary” to Evan is actually the highest form of praise, putting David in the same category as spicy chicken, Tyrannosaurus Rex and riding in the car with the windows cracked.  Evan loves things that are a little bit scary, but without that context, being told that you frighten children would probably brighten your day as much as having a 10-penny nail come through your shoe.

I just ended the last sentence that way to prove that I know what a 10-penny nail is.  Or at least that such a thing exists.

But we’re getting to the age where I need to be cautious about bringing Evan around people who don’t want their real or imagined attributes loudly pointed out, which I think is pretty much everyone.  You probably won’t see us in the mall for a few years.

But Evan does love watching the construction project in our backyard, and he’s David’s #1 fan.  For a toddler, it probably doesn’t get any better than having a construction site come to your house, short of having Dora the Explorer move next door or having your parents start a triceratops farm in the backyard that doubles as the local fire department. 

This might not be the most opportune time for us to have undertaken this project, with a baby due any day, but we decided to build a screen room because it’s something we knew from the start that we wanted to add to this house, and we figured that if we’re going to do it someday, someday might as well be now.  It’s the same way we decided to go ahead and have two kids.  If you know you’re going to do it, stop dithering and just do it. 

My point is that you can get into a lot of trouble thinking that way.

You can hand Mike Todd his fingers at

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Thinking outside the uterus

The regular reader(s) of this column might have noticed that, lately, I’m having a difficult time writing about anything that isn’t directly related to local news.  Specifically, news that is local to my wife’s uterus.

The fact that a baby could very well come flying out of there at any moment makes it difficult for me to think about too much else, but I should probably spend some time recognizing that there’s a big world outside of my wife’s uterus, which is why this column will be devoted to various other topics that I’ve been neglecting, such as the Republican primaries, and perhaps my wife’s fallopian tubes.

I’ve been watching those primaries closely this year, mostly because they make me feel young.  Back in the year 2000, when bald spots were still things that happened to other people, I started driving my first car that had a CD player installed.

“Well, I’ve made my last mix tape,” I thought.  “And also, I’ve had my last thought about Newt Gingrich.”

Not that I spent that much time thinking about him anyway, but it just seemed like that space in my brain could be emptied out to house more important matters, like the phone numbers to the houses that my childhood friends no longer lived in.  But now that Newt is back in the headlines as a frontrunner among the nearly seven billion people who will never be president, I’m transported back to the days when my cranium was sunburn-proof.

Incidentally, for anyone who is concerned about the state of their bald spot but is too afraid to look, you can judge the severity of the situation by the altitude of the barber’s mirror at the conclusion of your haircut.  As the bald spot widens, the handheld mirror will drop lower and lower.

“It’s good?” the barber will ask, holding the mirror an inch from your clippings on the floor.

“Yes, the back of the chair looks fantastic,” you’ll say, content to imagine that the top of your head still looks the same as the last time you saw it, when you were twelve.

This is the kind of hard-hitting political coverage that the reader(s) of this column have come to expect, and it’s honestly a nice change of pace from the wall-to-uterine-wall writing that I’ve been doing lately.

Never mind that Kara’s doctor estimated that we have a 50/50 chance of having the baby in the next two weeks, and that he gave us this prediction last week, which means that I might very well not be able to type the rest of this sentence without having to fling the laptop across the room and run every red light between here and the hospital.

Fortunately, that didn’t happen, but I did take a break to eat a Double Stuf Oreo, the existence of which still baffles me.  The superiority of the Double Stuf is self-evident to anyone who has ever compared it to the original Oreo.  In a just world, Double Stuf would be the default, and anyone who wanted the inferior original could pick up a package of Half Stuf.

Insights like this wouldn’t be possible if I allowed myself to be consumed by the thought that very soon, we’re going to be sharing our house with a toddler and an infant, which means that the folks going through Navy SEAL training will be getting a better night’s sleep than us.

We may not have many sleepable moments on the immediate horizon, but at least we know what we’re getting into this time.  Actually, that kind of makes things worse.

Regardless, we’re very much looking forward to welcoming the newest member of our family.  As it turns out, he’s much more fun to think about than Newt Gingrich.

You can request more election coverage at

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Two months of hard labor

“Did I take my pill at 2 o’clock?” my wife Kara asked.  I stared blankly at her, which is how I answer most of her questions.

“I don’t remember if I took a shower this morning,” I replied.

“It would be a little early to take my next dose, but I’d better do it anyway, just in case,” she said.

Kara’s doctors have been pumping her full of medication for over a month now, attempting to reinforce the levees that our unborn baby keeps trying to breach.  We’ve been to the hospital twice already, and since our first son Evan was born two months early, the doctors this time around have taken to injecting several ounces of prevention into Kara each week.  Still, she’s having contractions regularly, which will come in handy someday, when our future son misbehaves.  “I was in labor with you for two months,” should be a surefire argument-ender.

Some of her medications can’t even be bought at regular-people pharmacies.  A few weeks ago, I wandered around the hallways of the local hospital, trying to find the pharmacy that was hidden somewhere deep within.  Finally, I found a sign by the elevator that said, “Radiology: Second floor.  Oncology: Third floor.  Pharmacy: There’s a pharmacy in here?”

It wasn’t so hard to find, actually, once you pushed the boulder out of the way and removed the vines from the door.  And there, in a normal hospital room that looked like it should have curtain tracks running across the ceiling, was a miniature pharmacy, stocked with everything a normal store dedicated to human health would be expected to have, except Red Bull, candy and cigarettes.

The pharmacist charged $75 for the small paper bag that she pushed across the counter.  When I peeked inside, I expected a bright light to shoot out of the bag and light up the room, like the briefcase from Pulp Fiction.  Instead, the bag contained a tiny green vial with a mysterious-looking liquid, which supposedly contained ten doses of a medicine that would improve our baby’s chances of going full-term, but looked much more likely to turn Kara into the Green Goblin.

Every week, she has to have a specialized nurse give her an injection in her back, and she has to bring this vial with her, which seems a little bit like having to bring your own bamboo to your caning.  In any event, when she brings up the two-months-of-labor thing for the entirety of our future son’s teenage years, she should remember to mention the shots, too.

For all the trials that Kara’s enduring right now, including suffering through my rendition of scrambled eggs for dinner three nights a week, she does seem to be improving the prospects for a delivery that won’t involve whisking our son to the neonatal intensive care unit.  He’s already five-and-a-half pounds, a good deal heavier than his older brother at birth, though he’s still likely to spend his formative years on the receiving end of any wedgies given in our house.

Before going through this firsthand (some a little more firsthand than others), Kara and I thought that pregnancy was a simple matter of waiting nine months for the baby to be done, but the reality has been much more touch-and-go.  Hopefully, it’ll keep going for a couple more weeks.

Even if the baby were to be born tomorrow, he’d have a bit of a head start.  Two weeks ago, they found some skin on Kara that hadn’t been jabbed yet, so they gave her a steroid shot meant to help the baby’s lungs develop faster, in case of an early delivery.  There’s a very good chance that he could be the first child born into our family already holding the home run record.

You can call your shot to Mike Todd at

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Battening down the hatches

We need a place to put a baby.  Adios, computer room.

"I don't wike wallpaper!"  Nobody does, my man.

 First grandpa deployed.

 Time for a break.  Wee-oooo!
 Second grandpa deployed.

Bring it, baby!

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Second time’s the charm

“So you’ll try for the girl next time?” the lady at the pizza shop said, while her husband, standing by the ovens, smiled and nodded.  I’d just told them that we were expecting our second son within the next month or so, and they were already filling my wife’s uterus before its current occupant had vacated the premises.

Our pizza man once bragged about having four children without ever changing a diaper.  Easy for him to smile and nod at me.

“Taking care of lots of kids is simple!  Just be born before 1940, and then let your wife do everything,” he said, with his eyes.  This is a generalization, of course, but I suspect that a father born after that date who attempted to navigate parenthood without changing a single diaper would end up with at least one pizza box inserted into at least one orifice sideways.

The husband and wife at the pizza place are sweet people, and they make a delicious pie, but it was the second time that day that someone had made a comment about me and Kara trying to have a girl “next time,” which implies that we’ve achieved an undesirable result on this go-round.

When I came home with the pizza and told Kara about our conversation, she just shook her head from the couch, which has been her home/prison for the past three weeks, ever since her doctor put her on bed rest.  When she gets up to go to the bathroom, you can still see her perfect outline on the couch, like when Bugs Bunny runs through a wall.

“I am NOT doing this again,” she said, pointing at me with her needle.  Some people, when faced with daunting life challenges, get driven to drink, or to do drugs.  Kara’s situation has driven her to something even more unthinkable: crochet.  

Our friend Anna came over last week to teach Kara how to make a blanket using nothing but yarn, needles and vast, unending stretches of time.

As Anna showed Kara how to do it, Kara had a look on her face much like she was being shown how to pickle an anchovy.

“Once Anna leaves, those needles are never going to know the touch of a human hand again,” I thought.

Kara then blazed through crocheting her first baby blanket, and is halfway through her second.  She crochets as she knocks TV shows off our DVR queue, which makes her blankets the most enduring thing ever to come out of The Bachelor.

She continued looping thread around her needle as we discussed the imminent addition to our family, and how we’d agreed many years ago that two seemed like the perfect number of children for us, despite the family planning advice we might receive with our pizza.

My parents never had to deal with the “next time” comments, since they had one boy and one girl.
“One boy and one girl is the rich man’s family,” my dad used to say to me and my sister.  I always thought that expression meant that as a parent with a boy and a girl, you couldn’t ask for a richer family life.

When we found out that Kara was pregnant again, I asked Dad, “What does that expression mean, ‘rich man’s family’?”

He paused for a moment.  At that point, we didn’t know the new baby’s gender.

“It means that you’d better be rich, because you’re going to have to buy all new stuff,” he said.

I don’t know if that’s the truth or if he was just hedging his bets, but either way, I’m glad they don’t have any pictures of me in my sister’s “Daddy’s little princess” bib.

You can crochet Mike Todd a homemade email at

Outbrain, I give you zero stars

Earlier this week, my mom wrote me an email with the subject "Starstruck," asking where the star ratings at the bottom of my columns went. Indeed, they were missing.  Sometimes, they'd do that, then come back in a few hours.

Turns out, the company that provided the ratings widget (Outbrain) just decided that they weren't going to support it anymore, so all the star ratings that ever got posted to this site over the past few years just got deleted at the beginning of the month. I'm annoyed.

 I sent their customer support an email with the subject "My ratings are gone, along with my fondness for your company," (snap!), but I can't imagine that's going to do any good.

Anyway, I may look around for another easy way to drop some feedback on the columns here without having to write an entire comment with actual words in it. In the meantime, my buddy Chunks (a.k.a. Jered Four-Star) is going to have to find someone else whose averages he can bring down.

Update: Blogger offers a ratings widget now, which might explain why Outbrain stopped making theirs.  In any event, I've added Blogger's ratings widget to the site now, so Chunks, four-star me to your heart's content!

Addition to the update:  Also, I need to get a life.