Emotional muscles in their infancy

So, you've been jogging consistently, lifting some weights and riding your bike on occasion. You're in pretty good shape, right? Well, you decide to play basketball with kids 15 years your junior and the next day your body feels ravaged. Muscles ache in places you didn't even realize you had muscles. You're sore because you're using under-utilized muscles. The great thing is, that your muscles (the ones you didn't know you had) are breaking down, but when they rebuild they're stronger. 

Yesterday, Sarah called me in tears. She was at the doctor's office with Simeon, and he had just received his first round of vaccinations and I could hear him crying in the background. Meetings be damned, I wanted to drive to him and comfort him. But I couldn't. I've progressed (I think I can call it that) in my career to the point where I have real responsibilities. But these responsibilities felt very flimsy in the moment. I gutted out the rest of the day, and drove home as quickly as possible. I needed to hold him.

When I arrived, he was clearly not himself. He had a rough day; you could see it all over his face. The timbre of his cry was one I hope to never hear again. After thirty minutes of crying, Simeon fell asleep. 

He was exhausted, and I was wrung out. 

Sat down for dinner, and started to cry.

Walked by his room, started to cry.

Laid on the couch, started to cry.

I asked myself, "What's become of me?" Even that made me cry.

The only thing I can figure is that I've had some emotional muscles that haven't seen much (or any) work and have become atrophied.  I suspect that these emotional muscles really only see work once you become a parent. This theory makes me feel slightly better about being a blubbering idiot, at least.

I was discouraged that these emotional muscles felt so weak. Dads are supposed strong and stable family presence, right? That's how my dad seemed when I was growing up, anyway. 

However, upon reflection, I'm actually encouraged to know that I have the muscles to begin with; and, Lord willin', after the soreness subsides they'll rebuild and become stronger.


Saturdays with Simeon

Saturday is a good day for very well established reasons, so I need not explain them. But, Saturday's have just gotten better for me. You see, Sarah has asked if she can go out on Saturday mornings to work out and maybe have breakfast with a friend or two. That, of course, leaves me and Simeon at home, just the two of us.

I may have a difficult time telling you why it was so wonderful, as most of the joys of fatherhood seem very slippery when it comes to writing about them. So, I'll run down our first Saturday morning’s activities, and maybe we can discover what made it so great, together.
  • Simeon woke me up gently. Not a cry so much, but a whimper as if to say, “Dad, I’m awake now. Let’s hang out.”
  • I held him in front of me and asked him what he was going to have for breakfast, and told him what I was going to have in my best British accent (which mysteriously transitioned into a New Zealand accent) — this coaxed many smiles out of him. One smile alone is enough to make my day.
  • He let me eat my breakfast before he started licking his lips.
  • I fed him and he looked curiously at me the entire time. He burped well, so no stomach ache.
  • I changed his cloth diaper, which makes him bear a striking resemblance to a Sumo wrestler. He stared the ink drawing of a monkey (Sarah's named him Moe) I put next to his changing table.
  • Saturday is college football day, so I put him in an IU shirt that our friend John Garrison gave him.
  • I laid on the floor with him in his little play gym. We played with the dangling rattles and such.
  • I noticed how his neck is getting quite strong, so I ran to get his Bumbo (its a little baby chair that allows babies to sit upright)
  • Sarah came home and told me you’re not supposed to put babies his age in Bumbos yet. Simeon begged to differ.
  • We took him to a focus group about my friend’s baby food enterprise. In the middle of my contribution, Simeon poo’d in the most indiscreet way, and looked darned pleased doing it.
  • We took him to the library and the grocery
  • He slept the rest of the day
Nothing extraordinary. I just seem to find new ways and reasons to love Simeon everyday — especially Saturdays.


Tom Bodett – He's no George Lopez

Tom Bodett is a real guy.

Through the 80s and 90s I'd always figured that Tom Bodett was a figment of some ad guy's imagination. I'm not altogether sure how, in all my NPR listening, I was lost on the fact that Tom Bodett is a man who lives in Vermont, United States of America, and Alaska before that.  

I've always liked Tom Bodett, the character. As a child, my family sought out Motel 6s (preferably with a pool) like they were Mexican restaurants (my parents are like blood hounds when it comes to sniffing out the nearest mexican restaurant), I always felt a kinship with him. He was just so likable as the "we'll leave the light on for ya" guy, that it made me feel better about staying in a place where the bed spread felt like sleeping with a curtain. 

I found out about Tom Bodett's double-life from a friend, Colin, whom I had only talked to for the first few months of having "known" him.  After we met in person, we were discussing how we had one another pictured based on only knowing one another over email and phone conversations. Colin mentioned that he thought I sounded like Tom Bodett on the phone. I can see how he got that; I do have a very deliberate delivery. Colin also mentioned that Tom Bodett (I can't seem to type only "Tom" or "Bodett" – always "Tom Bodett") has a blog. He might as well have told me that Max Headroom runs a breakdancing clinic in Des Moines.

I was all like, "Woah, woah, woah, Tom Bodett is real?" He was all like, "yeah, and a talented writer, too."

I had to check it out. To my everlasting delight, Tom Bodett's writing and podcasts are completely consistent with the Motel 6 character I've grown to love. He does humor that makes you smile, not belly laugh. I like that.  

I would like to think that Tom Bodett is different than other characters who are based on themselves. For instance, I suspect that when Jerry Seinfeld, Larry David and George Lopez (I've never actually watched the George Lopez Show – not that I'm admitting to, anyway) play "themselves," they're actually playing a caricature of themselves, or someone who shares their name; I don't think that's a stretch. 

It is conceivable that Tom Bodett has created a public character that he maintains through various media, that he's giving people, like me, what they want; but, I don't want to believe that. I choose not to. 

I choose to believe that Tom Bodett, if given the chance, will leave the light on for me.



Sundays in the Noel household are a day of rest. Part of our weekly rest exercise is that we don't cook – without a microwave anyway. This means that Sunday is, as Sarah puts it, "clean out the refrigerator hodge podge meal day (COTRHPMD)". COTRHPMD is just as it sounds. All of the food we've accumulated in the previous week(s) or month(s) gets pulled out of the ice box (I'd like to make a motion to re-popularize the word "ice box" in place of refrigerator), and spread out on the counter. You are free to either eat a random collection of foods, or do as Sarah often does, combine different food items into a new never-thought-of-before-and-for-good-reason dish.

We moved COTRHPMD to monday this week because of the long Labour (can we also start putting the "u" back in Labor) Day weekend. We figured that if protestants can move the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday we should have no trouble moving our own faintly sacred tradition. 

So here's what was on the menu yesterday:

For Ryan:
  • A 4-day old frankfurter with ketchup, whole grain mustard and sauerkraut
  • A ham submarine sandwich donated by our dog-sitter when we went to pick up our dog, Mu Shu. (I'm not sure why she gave it to us. Maybe she's like my great grandmother who would always insist you take a biscuit before you left the house.)
  • A salad with all the veggies that are a day or two from being unfit to eat.
For Sarah:
  • Gnocchi (a dumpling-like potato pasta) that Sarah made longer ago than I can remember, and has been frozen since then.
  • Vegetarian breakfast sausage links — she mixed these into her Gnocchi. The thought of this still makes me gag a little bit.
  • A salad (see salad description above)
For Simeon:
  • We defrozeified some old breast milk just so he wouldn't feel left out.
Oh, and it wouldn't be a real COTHRPMD if after dinner Sarah didn't say, "Ryan, why do you always have your hands down your pants?"