Howdy. I'm Matt Todd. My wife and I have four kids and a dog,. I'm passionate about orphan care. I'm a die-hard fan of the Evansville Aces, the Indiana Hoosiers, and Star Wars. I'm trying to live life by the Todd family motto: "It behooves us to live!"

Ashes, birthdays, and legacies

By Oskar H. Solich (Rhingdrache) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Eleven years ago, I celebrated a significant birthday milestone by participating in an Ash Wednesday service. You know: the service that’s all about reminding you that you came from dust/ashes and you will eventually return to dust/ashes. It was a memorable experience for several reasons.

The service was conducted by two seminary professors of mine. Considering how I come from a non-(some might even say anti-)liturgical church background, I had never experienced an Ash Wednesday service until I was a student at Emmanuel. My first Ash Wednesday service was eye-opening. And awkward. And memorable. It wasn’t a foreign experience for me this second time around, but it was still unique. And it didn’t hurt that two of my professors were imposing the ashes.

“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”

Thank you. Thank you very much, Dr. Blowers. That’s exactly what you want to hear the day you turn thirty. “You’re gonna die soon.” I know, I know. Thirty is the new twenty. Or is it forty? I don’t know. And I don’t know if it really matters all that much. The point is that time keeps on ticking. There’s nothing you can do to stop it. Continue reading Ashes, birthdays, and legacies

Our Indiana Comic Con Quest

Our Indiana Comic Con QuestTowards the end of February, I approached Christy with this proposal:

“After Aly’s (ISSMA-related) choir concert that Saturday morning, how about I take all the kids with me to Comic Con downtown? Aly and Mihret would be free. I’d just have to pay for me and Aiden.”

I thought this was the perfect win-win-win proposition. 1.) I’d get to go to the first-ever Indiana Comic Con. 2.) Christy would get to have some time to herself, which is hard for her to come by. 3.) I’d be stepping up my effort to properly raise a gaggle of geeks. It was the best idea I’d come up with in a long time.

Here’s how she replied to my foolproof plan:

“That’s money we don’t really have right now. I don’t think that’s a good idea.”


She seemed pretty committed in her response, so I really wasn’t going to press the issue. She was probably right. There are a lot of irregular expenses coming up. It probably made sense not to spend the extra money. Besides, some family members still send me birthday money. So I figured I could use that cash to cover the admission prices anyway.

Then my birthday came. My family gave me a nice little surprise. Christy was going to take Mihret to her school’s Carnival on Saturday and I was going to take the big kids to Comic Con! Christy and the kids had already planned the whole thing out before I approached Christy with my proposal.

My family.

They get me.

A rough start

When Saturday morning finally came, it started with a potentially disastrous beginning.

That’s right. My worst nightmare came true. I slept through my alarm and Aly almost missed one of the most important performances of the year. I’m convinced that it’s only by a miraculous act of God that she got there in time. We were sure that her choir was scheduled to perform at 8:00. We pulled into the parking lot at 8:01. Our hearts sank as we approached the gym and heard voices singing. We were late. She had missed her performance. Her grade was going to suffer. All because Dad couldn’t set his alarm.

“Well,” I said, “you should support your classmates. Let’s stand at the door and listen.” We walked to the door and peeked in the window. A different school was performing! We quickly looked at the schedule that was posted on the wall and found her choir. She joined them with approximately 4 whole minutes to spare.

They finished warming up together. Aly and the choir filed into the gym to perform. And they sounded wonderful!
Aly's choir

Whew. Crisis averted.

When we got home, I threw on my Chewbacca shirt, ate the breakfast that Christy had prepared for us, and we were on our way to a day full of all-out geekness. And walking. Lots of walking.

With all of the events happening downtown that weekend, I was a bit worried about getting gouged in a parking lot. Some of those event parking prices are ridiculous. I parked in a lot that was right across the street from the Convention Center. And it only wound up costing me $7 for the whole day.

Whew. Another crisis averted.

When we entered the Convention Center, things got a little crazy.

"Hey kid! The line ENDS here. It begins… THERE" #LongLine

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A lot of digital ink has been spilled about what went wrong with the logistics of Indiana Comic Con. Since this was only my second ever convention like this (GenCon was my first), I’m nowhere near an expert. So I’ll just say that signs are a good thing. And if you really want to get a grasp on how many people will be there, it would be a good idea to make it cheaper to buy tickets ahead of time instead of at the door.

Now, let’s move along…

Indiana Comic Con Randomness

As you can see, we had a great time while we were there. Even though a sword fight or two might have broken out.

And then a sword fight broke out

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I really enjoyed seeing the collectibles. I honestly wish they had more.


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They also had another Shockwave from Japan. He cost $350.

That’s a lot of cash. I think I’m in the wrong business. 😉

The Droid Factory was the first Star Wars toy I ever had. I remember standing in the toy aisle at Service Merchandise, trying to convince my parents to buy me a sand crawler. It was awesome. I was pretty sure that it even came with an escape pod. But there were no action figures that came with it. So my parents talked me into getting the Droid Factory so I could build my own droids to play with. It was pretty cool.

Dude! I have this!!!

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Aiden recognized the Droid Factory when he saw the box. Parts of the toy are still in my parents’ basement. He remembers playing with it. That was a pretty cool moment where we were able to bridge our generation gap.

I like to give mom a hard time about my Star Wars toys because I used to keep all the boxes. One day, while I was at school, she threw all of them away. I use pictures like this to remind her how valuable those toys would be if I still had my boxes that she had tossed out. In reality, I know that the toys are nowhere near mint condition because they were played with over and over and over again.

But it would still be cool to have the old boxes.

While I was excited to see items like Shockwave and the Star Wars Droid Factory, I was most excited about explaining the awesomeness that was Intellivision to the kids. They didn’t quite understand my excitement, but I did get them to admit that I would totally kick their collective tails in biplanes. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t have an extra $150 sitting around. I’d have been tempted to buy this.
Intellivision - $150

Aiden really enjoyed talking to some of the comic book artists, especially Ron Braun. I think he also enjoyed hanging out with Darth Vader. Unfortunately, it appears that he was seduced by the Dark Side.

I guess Aiden joined the Dark Side 🙁

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There is still good in him. I can feel it…

Aly really enjoyed the costumes. She liked seeing the costumes everyone made. She also liked dressing up herself.

Aly at Indiana Comic Con 2014


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Aly and Elsa

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I think the 6(ish) year old Batman was her favorite.
Young Batman and his Batmobile at Indiana Comic Con 2014

We’ll be back

We had a good time at our first-ever Comic Con. While there were some bumps in the road, I think the overall experience was worth it. Aiden and Aly have both said they’d like to go back next year. So, we’ll be back, Comic Con. Hopefully it’ll be even bigger and better next year!

Indiana Comic Con Selfie

Free food makes birthdays fun again

Dark Side has birthday cake

This past weekend, I celebrated another birthday. Of all the people in our family, I think Mihret was the most excited about the fact that my birthday was coming. For more than a week, she had a countdown to my birthday. I’m pretty sure it’s because she knew that this would make her even closer to her birthday. In our family, my birthday comes first on the calendar. Then it’s Christy’s. Then Aly’s. Then Aiden’s. Then…finally…Mihret’s. So now that my birthday has passed, she can check my name off the list of birthdays she has to endure before it’s time for what she really cares about: her birthday.

Me? I’ve been getting kind of excited about my birthdays again. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t know if I’ll ever be as excited about my birthday as Mihret is about my birthday. But I do get excited nonetheless. It’s not about the cards or the facebook birthday wishes or the birthday cake or the occasional visit from a dancing gorilla. Those all pale in comparison to what truly makes birthdays exciting again.

Free food!

OK. That’s not entirely true. There were other memorable moments. Like being inundated with birthday well-wishes from friends on facebook. That’s always fun. Especially when they include images like this one:

This Darth Vader birthday card isn't funny. But it is funny.

I’m pretty sure someone has actually given me this card for my birthday. But that’s OK. It’s still funny. Kind of. I mean, it’s really not funny because it implies that I’m ancient. But yeah, it’s still funny. Especially since I can’t remember who originally gave me the card. Gosh. Maybe I really am getting old.

Then there was this one:

Pug Darth Vader

And this one:

Happy little Millennium Falcon painting

My facebook friends get me.

Even Spike TV gets me, apparently.

I have to admit, though, that it felt a little creepy that Google wished me a happy birthday when I went to search for something.

Google wished me a happy birthdayI know that I had given them my birth date at some point. Probably when I signed up for Google+ way back when. But since Google isn’t exactly known for having a stellar privacy record of late, it left me feeling a bit flummoxed. I don’t really know why, though. I mean, I’ve known for a while that they’ve been reading my email.

Now, by now I know what you’re thinking:

“This post is great, and all, but you said there was food. I want free food!”

When it comes down to it, I like birthdays again because of one simple thing: free food! And it really isn’t that hard for you to get free food, too. Here’s a simple list of all the places I could and should hit up over the next month. This list is not exhaustive by any means. A simple query with your favorite search engine will produce far more results than I can share here.

That being said, I think this is a pretty good list. It has lots of good stuff. If you want to get in on the free birthday goodness, you’re gonna have to give up an email address for most of these. In the end, though, I think it’s worth it. Because who doesn’t love free food?

There’s a method to my madness with this list. Some offers are good for just a few days surrounding your birthday. Others don’t expire until 30 days later. So I’ve ordered these offers by how long the offer lasts. The first one is only good on the day of your birthday. The last one expires a month later. Everything else falls somewhere within that continuum. Clear as mud? Good.

I’ve also included links for you to sign up. It might take up to a month for them to enroll you into their system. So don’t wait until the last minute.

You want free food on your birthday? Here it is!

  • Firehouse Subs: Free medium sub (on your birthday) – details here
  • McAlister’s Deli: $5 coupon – sign up for Deligrams
  • Baskin Robbins: Free 2.5 oz scoop or 3 oz swirl – join the Birthday Club
  • Famous Dave’s: Buy one entree, get one half off – sign up for the Email Club (you also get a free burger for joining)
  • Auntie Anne’s: Free pretzel product with the purchase of a pretzel product – get
  • Qdoba: Buy one, get one free – get Qdoba Rewards
  • Cold Stone Creamery: Buy one, get one free – join My Cold Stone Club
  • Buffalo Wild Wings: Free snack size wings – enter the Buffalo Circle
  • Chili’s: Free dessert (with purchase of an adult entree) – sign up for Chili’s Email Club
  • Sirloin Stockade: Free buffet – join their e-Club
  • Jason’s Deli: $5 coupon – sign up for their Mailing List
  • Texas Roadhouse: Free sidekick of ribs or appetizer (with purchase of adult entree) – join their email club
  • Moe’s Southwest Grill: Free entree (with drink purchase) – subscribe to Moe’s E-World
  • Fazoli’s: Free dessert – join the efamily
  • O’Charley’s: $5 off a $20 food purchase – become a member of the O’Club
  • Scotty’s Brewhouse: $10 coupon – become a VIP 
  • Benihana: $30 coupon (for dinner use only) – join the Chef’s Table
  • Noodles & Company: Free bowl – sign up for their Noodegrams
  • Steak n Shake: Free double steakburger with cheese and fries – join the eclub
  • Red Robin: Free burger – become Red Robin Royalty
  • Champps: Free Mile High ice cream pie – join the Champps MVP League
  • Buca di Beppo: Free brownie sundae – sign up for the eClub (they also send you a deal for your wedding anniversary)

What birthday freebie goodies am I missing? I’d love to add to my ever-growing list!

Oh…by the way… I wrote this post while sipping my free tea from McAlister’s Deli, thanks to what is the equivalent to a $5 gift card. Tea from McAlister DeliWhenever your birthday is, I hope it’s a happy one full of freebies from your favorite neighborhood restaurant!