Sunday, December 25, 2005
So our Christmas is just about over, and for most of you it is just beginning, assuming you read this as soon as I finish writing it. It's just before midnight, Maxine is off to bed. She had her bath, and was fed, then went to sleep with little resistance. This on top of a solid three hour nap earlier this evening. Apparently, Christmas tired her out real good.
We went to Horyon's former church today, with the in-laws, and Maxine was baptized. Before any of you get your theological feathers ruffled, Korean Presbyterians don't consider this to be a guarantee of salvation, more like an infant dedication ceremony. And they like to do it on Christmas, so five or six other babies also got dripped on. I wasn't really paying close attention, because Maxine was so much cuter than they were. I mean, they were cute babies and everything, but we were the last down the aisle, and the congregation actually made "Oooh!" and "Ah!" noises as we walked. From left to right, Young-hwan, Horyon's father Young-soo, Horyon's mother, Myung-hee, holding Maxine, Horyon and myself. This is the front of the sanctuary of their church.
I hope that you take a close look at this picture, as I know some of my Uncle's do. Horyon made the dress and the hat for Maxine, back when Maxine was inside Horyon's tummy, causing nausea and discomfort to only one of us.
For Christmas Eve, we went to a party at our church. Horyon and I wore festive hats, and Maxine wore a cute little pink number that I believe was a present from someone back in the States. Sorry, I don't keep good track of these things.
I would like to point out here that Horyon is looking good, and it's not just the Santa hat. We had a good time at the party, though one incidence shook things up. I had held Maxine while Horyon got her food and started eating. By the time I went back to get my traditional Christmas Eve meal of pizza, fried chicken, chips and salsa, and kim-bap (a.k.a. California rolls), there weren't many people back in the buffet line room, and there was no pizza. So I meandered a bit. I was half-listening to the conversation between a foreign friend of mine and a Korean man, when my friend collapsed on the floor and started thrashing around.
I've only known him for a short time. He comes across as a tough guy sometimes, and at first I thought he was pulling a stunt to make the Korean man leave him alone. Harsh as that sounds, I've actually met a foreigner who used that tactic.
However, it quickly became apparent that he was not faking it. We moved the buffet table out of the way, and I got down on my knees next to him. One of our church members is a doctor, and he came in and helped. I held my friend's hand, to keep him from beating it against the floor or the wall. It was a scary experience. I was reminded of my Boy Scout first aid training, and how long ago it was, and how very much of it I have forgotten.
I'm not sure how long the seizure/fit lasted, but he did come out of it by the time the EMTs arrived. Pastor Benjamin and the church member who is a doctor went with my friend to the hospital, and I haven't heard anything else, since we didn't go to our usual church today. I'm leaving out my friend's name, as I'm not sure what the proper blogger etiquette is in situations like this. Horyon suggested that I think about it before I write, and I'm trying, but sometimes I seriously misjudge how people will react to this sort of thing.
I thought about leaving it completely out, but that would be wrong. It would be like describing a Thanksgiving dinner and not mentioning the mashed potatoes. Yes, the mashed potatoes are not the center of the meal, but it wouldn't be complete without them.
Yikes. That's the lousiest simile in the room. I apologize for it, and hope it will leave quietly.
It shook me up quite a bit. When I got back to my table with my cold food, I found myself coming down from a severe adrenaline rush. And like most perspective-altering experiences, no one around me had noticed it. They had sort of noticed that I took a long time to get my food, but didn't know that anything had happened. When I told them what I had experienced, the first reply was from someone saying, "Yeah, I saw something like that..." And the next thing I knew, the conversation had moved on.
And so I am left wondering, how many times have I completely brushed off someone else's life-changing experience? If you are reading this and you think I have done it to you, please let me know! Because I owe you a big apology. (Unless, of course, you are one of my loser friends who I blow off on purpose. You know who you are.)
I have also taken this experience as a reminder that it is nothing short of a miracle that you and I continue to function, day after day. The body is a very complex chemical juggling act, one in which small mistakes can lead to big problems. Don't worry, I won't tell you to keep track of your balls.
Since I don't like to finish a post with the kind of humor that gets me smacked by my mother, I will close with a gratuitously cute picture of Maxine with a lame bunny rabbit toy. Not only does it have only two legs, but those legs are pinned to its body. Only the F.S.M. knows how he got that green shirt on.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Definitely Christmas. Around the first week in December, Korea starts to get all Christmassy, with decorations, lights, and occasional Christmas carols. Nothing too extreme, really. The only places that can be counted on to have outdoor lights are churches, and you're just as likely to hear the regular pop/trash music on Christmas Eve as an actual Christmas song. But it's enough of a Ghost of Christmas Presence (sorry, couldn't resist) to remind me that I'm not home, and I'm missing out on a truly huge cultural event. And for me, it's also a family event.
My Christmases growing up were not exactly right out of a painting by that guy who paints Boy Scouts and Santa Claus all the time, but they were pretty cool. My Mom's family lives fairly close together, and usually we all met on Christmas Eve for Grandpa's oyster soup and lots of other food, turkey among them, if I could convince Mom that it was worth the trouble. After dinner we would by pass out presents, with the children (was one of them me?) helping, if not taking complete charge. We would then open them, from youngest to oldest. I was the oldest of the cousins, and it always seemed to take forever to get to be my turn.
Sometime during the evening we would go to church, for either an evening service, around seven o'clock, or a late service, around 10 or 11, and sometimes both. Usually some or all of us were participants in one way or another. We would come home, alone if it was the late service, and Chris and I were allowed to open one present.
Christmas morning was for Mom and Dad and Chris and me. Chris and I used to wake up early and go see what Santa had brought for us. I don't remember ever believing in Santa, or even talking about it with Chris. Mom and Dad might have a better idea about when that particular dream got trampled on by reality. Anyway, Chris and I had these huge, long stockings that Mom crocheted for us. As per the instructions, we hung them by the chinmey, with care. We were fortunate to actually have a chimney, which was (and still is) conveniently connected to a fireplace. Sometimes Dad built a fire on Christmas Eve, and it was the coolest thing. I don't know whether it's racial memory, or some kind of human instinct, but a fire in the fireplace is a very comforting thing, relaxing and exciting at the same time. Just don't get a fireplace with those glass doors. I mean, sure, you've still got the visuals and the temperature thing, but without the smells and the sounds, you're missing out on what it's all about!
Anyway, Chris and I were allowed to open the presents in our stockings as early as we wanted. Presents under the tree, however, waited until Mom and Dad could be there, camera in hand, ready to get those really good vibes that you get from kids getting presents.
I remember being in that vibe, living the excitement of Christmas morning, with what seemed like an endless array of presents laid out before me, each one with the potential to be something really exciting, or maybe socks and underwear.
Yikes. It's one a.m., and we have an important phone call to make in the morning. I'll continue this later.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
telling me that he enjoyed my Thanksgiving stuffing story, and I realized that I hadn't really written much since then, so here I am.
The moral of this story is twofold:
1. If you email me and tell me you like what I'm doing, I do it more.
2. Writing HTML links isn't really that hard. Getting them to work, however, is another story.
Go ahead and check out Dave's site, Social Studies for Kids. It's an excellent resource for teachers, and adults can learn a thing or two from it, too.
Anyway, I thought I'd catch you up on what's been going on. In case you were worried, the Ol' Pink Eye this post is named for is none other than Yours Truly, Me. On Wednesday I woke up with my eyes a bit gummier than usual, but thought nothing of it. I spent four hours interviewing my students for their final exams, and all morning they told me that my right eye was red, and that I looked tired and sick.
Yeah. Lesson number one: don't tell people they look bad, especially when they do.
By the time I got home, Horyon took one look at me and sent me back out to the eye doctor.
The eye doctor is a pro all the way. He wastes no energy on pleasantries and talk. He speaks English very well, and doesn't waste any of it on the usual "Nice to meet you"s and "Are you an English teacher?"s. He had me sit in the special chair, put my chin on the chin rest, then said, "I'm going to invert your eyelid. Look down." I caught the last bit, but was still sorting out the first when he grabbed my eyelid and turned it inside out and took a picture of it. He showed me the picture on the screen, and told me it was very red. I could see that, but really, and quite counterintuitively, have no idea what color the insides of my eyelids usually are. So I nodded and agreed, just like my students do when I say things like, "You can see that using the right verb in this situation is absolutely necessary, right?"
A few minutes, and one more inverted eyelid picture later, we were done. I told him thank you and offered my hand. As he shook it, he told me that he was going to have to wash his hands again.
Note to self: don't offer to shake hands with the doctor. He is physically unable to resist the impulse to shake back, though it goes against all his training, and perhaps his very nature, and will do nothing but annoy him.
Other note to self: Ah hell, shake hands with him anyway.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
She's having more fun than it looks like. Trust me.
Taking care of Maxine is a tiring task, and we would be completely swamped without Horyon's parents. Here they are giving Maxine a bath at our home. However, they often take care of Maxine and Horyon both at their home, coming to pick them up when needed.
In all the talk of who Maxine resembles most, it has been noted that she has definitely received her Grandpa Kang's forehead. Even he pointed out that all of her facial features seem to be in the lower half of her face. But I digress. Frequently. And much to the annoyment of the people around me.
As I was saying, taking care of Maxine can be exhausting, and one time my father-in-law was too tired to help properly. Somehow he managed to put a diaper on Maxine inside-out. That may not sound too bad. After all, if your socks are inside out, or your shirt, or your underwear, what difference does it make? Yeah, people stare at you funny, but for some of us it doesn't make that much difference.
But a diaper is different. The inside is made to soak up liquids, and the outside is made to hold liquids in. Or out, as the case may be. When Maxine peed, the inside-out diaper funneled it all directly out, soaking up nothing, and allowing her clothes and the sheet under her to soak up all that baby juice.
If you will allow me to digress again, apparently there is a Korean product called "Baby Juice," obviously intended to mean "Juice for babies", but with a name like that, how can one not make fun?
Back to my story. I've been wanting to tell this one on Horyon's father for a while, but it's hard to tell it without sounding a bit mean. And so I waited until I had the proper follow-up story to go with it:
On Friday, Maxine pooped her pants. We followed our usual procedure: Remove baby's pants, open diaper, wipe down baby's butt with those wet towel things, wash baby's butt in warm water, put on new diaper and pants. Horyon did the re-diapering, while I cleaned up the cleaning up mess. I was then set-up with a bottle, a hungry baby, and the goal of transforming the hungry baby into a sleeping baby. I was well on my way towards this goal, and had fed Maxine most of the contents of the afore-mentioned bottle, when I felt something warm and wet dribbling on my leg. I checked the bottle. It was sealed tight. And Maxine was smiling big. That happy look she gets when things are balanced out right.
I cupped my hand under her bottom, hoping to catch most of the gift she had given me, but there was a lot of wee-wee there. That's when I realized that her pants weren't as big as usual. She was not wearing a diaper.
Yes, we had managed to top the inside out diaper trick by skipping the diaper altogether. You see, Horyon was taking some cold medicine, and it had made her quite groggy. I roused her from her slumber to help clean up anyway. We washed Maxine, and dressed her in clean clothes. I had to wait until she was asleep to shower my bottom half, since Horyon was out like a light. Of course, as soon as I got out of the shower I could hear Maxine whining. It was a long night for her and me.
My last concern is accessorizing. I'm not actually opposed to it, but I think that it's a habit that can get seriously out of control. On the other hand, if accessories make her smile like this every time, I may end up spending a few bucks on little shiny things myself.
I don't think she has enough hair yet to need cute hair pins, but Horyon disagrees.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
So I was standing in line, waiting for the chef to carve and serve turkey to the people in front of me, and I jokingly wondered aloud if he would give me the drumstick if I asked nicely. We all laughed at the slightly absurd picture it brought to mind, and the next thing I knew the chef plopped a big 'ol drumstick right on my plate, even though I was fourth or fifth in line.
I quickly moved through the rest of the buffet, filling in the few remaining empty spaces on my plate, and moved back to the table to conquer the beast.
By the end of the evening, I was stuffed. I didn't hurt, like last year, but I was pretty darn full, and quite proud of myself. Later that night, I fed Maxine, and realized that I was an amateur. Because let me tell you something, every time my baby eats she looks more stuffed than I do. I mean, she even has milk leaking out of her mouth by the end. And the look on her face is very recognizable to me. It says, "Holy cow, let me unfasten my diapers. I can't even stand up, I'm so stuffed."
And then I realized: Maxine has actually eaten a countable number of meals. Probably around four or five hundred. To her, it is still a brand new experience. No way could I count the meals I've eaten in my life time. And as much as I enjoy it, she is enjoying it with that exuberance that only comes from doing something for the first time.
Not only that, but she is enjoying everything like it's the first time, because for her, it practically is! She loves being touched, though she still kind of spooks if you get too close to her eyes. She seems overjoyed when we change her wet diapers for dry ones. She even enjoys farting, I think. Today she farted, and I said, "Oooo, she farted!" and Maxine smiled and made a high pitched sound.
And let me tell you, if there is any positive feeling that rivals a first kiss, it is getting a smile from your child.
I'm tired a lot these days. Horyon caught a cold yesterday, so she sleeps a lot when I'm home. That means that I'm taking care of Maxine a lot, which I enjoy. Still, I hope that Horyon recovers quickly. The only advantage to this cold is that she is taking medicine to keep her fever down, and it makes her breast milk a bit of a sedative. So after feeding, Maxine usually knocks right out. [Don't worry, the doctor knew that Horyon was breastfeeding, and told her that they give the same drug to babies with colds. Maxine is not becoming addicted to something nasty.]
This past weekend we set up the baby monitor, and now Maxine has her own room. It's really cool. Horyon and I can talk in normal voices instead of whispering. It's nice.
It makes me wonder, though. Horyon told me that when she was growing up her entire family slept in the same room. All together. No walls. And yet somehow she has a brother and a sister. And I have to wonder, how could that have happened? I guess the older generations do know a lot of stuff that we younger people haven't figured out yet.
One last note: I have my schedule for next semester. I'll be starting in the afternoon, one or two o'clock every day, and finished by five or six most of the time. That means that I will be staying home with Maxine in the mornings. Just me and baby, all morning. Six days a week.
Am I nervous? No. Nervous is the wrong word. Mostly because I don't think far enough ahead to be nervous about things three months down the road. Perhaps apprehensive is a better word. Or maybe periwinkle. I'll let you know when I get it figured out.
Friday, November 25, 2005
Two weeks ago, I realized that my coworkers and I had not bought a Chusok present for our manager, Mr. Kim. Since I spearheaded the effort last year, and it didn't happen this year, I figured that it was up to me to make it happen again. So I did. Passed out notes, collected $10 each from the coworkers, and bought an expensive bottle of French liquor. I also bought a $30 gift certificate to Outback Steakhouse for the English office assistant, Joon. Joon is the go-to guy in the English office, the one we count on to get things done. The guy who came to our house when the typhoon two years ago broke the window. Good guy, Joon.
So I gave them their gifts, then headed home. By the time I got home, we had about an hour to get ready to go, because American Thanksgiving Day is the day that Kyungsung university treats its foreign professors to a very nice dinner. We got Maxine dressed up, and her bag packed, and we actually managed to get to the Westin Chosun (a very swank hotel at the end of Haeundae Beach) on time.
The had roasted turkey on the buffet. Very, very nice. They didn't have mashed potatoes and gravy, or Mom's corn casserole, but they did have an assortment of raw fish (sashimi), four Indian curries and nan bread, shrimp scampi, cold crab legs, East Virginia crab cakes, fried soft-shell crabs (my first time to try that delicacy. Yum!), Jack Daniel's BBQ ribs, some fine Korean dishes, and desserts that were worth exploding over, including three kinds of pie and custard.
I restrained myself to just three plates, and didn't even pile them high. Oh, and one small dessert plate. And a few glasses of wine. But enough about me.
Maxine was the Belle of the Ball. She was cooed over, admired, photographed, and just plain loved by everyone there who failed to roll at least an 8 out of 10 to ward off baby charms. She slept through most of the evening, but woke up in time to poop twice.
One of my coworkers, Kay, asked me what was the most surprising thing about being a father. I really had to think about it, because for the most part I've been too busy and tired to be surprised. My honest answer, which holds true after consideration, is that I was surprised at how quickly and completely I fell in love with Maxine. Maybe I'm just not taking into account the months of pregnancy during which she was present, though not vocal. I'm not sure. Whatever the cause, the effect was immediate and overwhelming: she instantly became the most important person in my life.
On further consideration, another surprise is that I am not as worried as I was before Maxine was born. And I'm surprised at how little she cries. Granted, half an hour of baby crying can seem like an age, but a half-hour stretch of crying is very rare, and usually subsides after she burps, vomits, farts or poops.
We've taken to keeping the house very warm. Last night I gave up and slept on the sofa in the living room, and tonight I will, too. I just can't sleep through the night when it's too hot. However, this week a package arrived from home with a baby monitor! So this weekend, tomorrow in fact, Maxine is moving out to be on her own, in her own room. She is still not allowed to date, but she may decorate however she sees fit.
One last little random note: I find myself singing to Maxine when she's restless. Don't know if it helps much, and it reminds me of how little I know the lyrics to even my favorite songs. But some standards are impossible to forget. I sang "Rockabye Baby" (how many words is that?) to her. Nice little melody, don't have to strain for the notes. But after you sing the same little set of words over and over, it starts to get a little dull. And then when you think about the words, it starts to get a little morbid. Allow me to remind you:
Rockabye, Baby, in the tree top,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle, and all.
Yikes! What's up with that? I composed a follow-up verse, that I think you will find complements it nicely, though some of the rhythms are a bit of a stretch:
I wouldn't want to sleep in a tree,
I hope my folks don't do that to me,
'Cause if I fall and land on my head,
I might get dain bramaged, or end up in the hospital.
(That was the PG version, with slightly less violence than the original, in which the singer hypothesizes that he/she will end up dead.)
It's been a long evening. I started writing this 6 hours ago. I've cooked, assisted with giving Maxine a bath, brought in some laundry and hung other laundry, and I've prepared my sofa, now it is time to lie in it.
Peace, and thank you for being m friends,
Saturday, November 19, 2005
At any rate, I have decided to help her by publishing photos of her during these exercises, and labeling them appropriately. If you, my trusty readers, wish to add anything to my descriptions, please feel free to email me. Just let me know which picture you are talking about.
She does smile from time to time, but it's brief. Horyon and I believe that she is really doing it to show that she is happy, though.
[Warning: the next session involved bodily functions that may embarrass you, offend you, or make you jealous.]
Today we went to the doctor. The last couple of days Maxine has had digestion problems. She spits up, she poops more often, and she toots like a fog horn. The vomiting is the biggest problem, because it makes her restless. (Isn't that true for all of us?) Once she vomits, it takes longer than usual to get back to sleep, and she seems to wake up sooner. Horyon has had a couple of nights with no more than an hour of concurrent sleep totaling only 3 or 4 hours for the night. Fortunately Friday was a holiday for us (APEC day, a non-standard holiday).
The doctor told us pretty much what I expected: it's normal. Just her guts growing up.
During the exam, he did something that was equal parts repulsive and cool: he put drops in Maxine's nose. This did not make her at all happy, and puzzled me a bit. Then he got down a little vacuum hose and a disposable head for it, and sucked the snot and boogers and stuff right out of her nose. This relieved my puzzlement, but seriously wiped out all possibility of happiness for Maxine. I imagine that the noise it made inside her head was part of it, but the experience as a whole must have been pretty shocking.
I think that it has improved her breathing. It makes sense, when one considers that we live next to a paint factory and a cement yard. Sometimes my nose-nuggets can get pretty...
Sorry. I got carried away there for a moment. I believe that my girls have gone to bed, and if I am to get a reasonable amount of sleep tonight, I should follow suite.
p.s. Stupid spell-checker didn't know 'snot' or 'booger'. Now tell me, who can use a computer who doesn't know the important words?
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Last night, for example, Maxine went to sleep around 11 p.m. Not bad at all. She then woke up around 3 a.m. Pretty standard. Usually, she goes back to sleep after feeding, burping, and a change of diapers, but last night it didn't work out that way. Around 4:30 or 5, Horyon asked me to get up and make formula for Maxine. Usually she breast-feeds, but after being awake for a long time, under stressful conditions, Horyon doesn't provide enough milk for Maxine to sleep soundly, so they resort to formula.
I popped right out of bed with a smile on my face and a song in my heart, and made formula. (Would you believe a grin and a whistle? How about a grimace and a rhythmic groan?) This time I managed to do it without dropping anything on the floor, or making any kind of mess, and I actually got the temperature right the first time. I was quite proud of myself, or at least I am now in retrospect. I went back to bed, and the spot I was laying on immediately became too hot to be comfortable. So I rolled over. That cool spot lasted about a minute. So I rolled onto Horyon's side, as she was busy feeding Maxine anyway. That lasted a bit longer, as she had been up long enough for it to totally cool off, but eventually it got uncomfortable, too. My original spot had cooled down some, so I rolled into it.
After completing this circuit a couple of times, I realized that I was simply not getting back to sleep. I got up and went to the bathroom, and felt great. Not because of the physical process of urinating, but because the bathroom is the coldest room in our house.
(Just a side note here: in every Korean apartment I have lived in, the bathroom was always the most poorly insulated room. In one apartment, it was so cold that it actually hurt my feet to take a shower in the winter. The apartment we are in now, however, is a big improvement. It has a bath and a half, and it is only the half-bath, off the master bedroom, that is cold. The full bath actually has heating in the floor like the rest of the house. Progress indeed!)
I went back to the bedroom, and told Horyon that if I were to sleep, it would have to be in a different room or with the bedroom window open. So off to the sofa I went.
By that time, it was around five in the morning, and my eight o'clock wake-up call came pretty darn quickly. Fortunately for me, Horyon only allows me to "snooze" past a certain point, then she nags me awake. Sometimes I miss my clanging alarm clock, unused since Maxine arrived. It was the only alarm clock I could find in this city that actually has old-fashioned bells on top, which are rung by a small mallet bouncing back and forth between them. It's not a wind-up, but it's the next best thing. Even ticks loudly, like a wind-up. And when the alarm goes off, it wakes up the neighbors. It's that kind of loud. Somehow, for me that is less annoying than the "beep beep beep beep" of digital clocks. In the States, I like to use a clock radio tuned to NPR, but here I think it would be a bad start to my day to wake up listening to Korean talk-radio.
So last night was also not so great. Not typical of our nights here, but not exceptional, either.
The last tiring thing is a whole different issue. One which I do not care to tackle this late into an already long post. So I bid you all goodnight.
Sunday, November 13, 2005
I would like to prelude this entry by pointing out that so far Maxine has been a wonderful baby. She sleeps lots for someone less than 40 days old, and usually she goes to sleep fairly quickly. But last week had a few bad days, during which we couldn't get her to sleep until one or two o'clock in the blessed morning. I wake up around 8:00 most days, and find that I usually stumble through days preceded by not enough sleep.
The big problem so far is that Maxine goes to sleep fine in one's arms, but has a tendency to wake up when put in her crib. It then takes a long time to get her back to sleep, by which time one is quite nervous about laying her down again. It drives Horyon to distraction. She worries so much about it that I think she wakes Maxine up with her negative vibes.
I do a bit better, because my natural tendency is to not worry, and because I am usually kept as reserve troops, called in when Horyon is at wits end. By that time, just being held by someone who is not frazzled is enough to calm Maxine down. Sometimes. And other times, I just hold her and play with her and rock her for 30 minutes, or 40, or an hour.
Still, I am so happy to have my girls home. It's worth getting less sleep. It's worth getting spit-up on my shirt twice a day. It's worth doing the dishes in a zombie-like state. Because when Maxine happens to smile, even though it only lasts for a few seconds, my world lights up like Christmas. And when she laughs (usually while breast-feeding!), it's even more amazing.
I can hear that Horyon is having trouble now. Time to call in the troops.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
This week has been a long one for me. It's Saturday night, Maxine is sleeping, and I am finally catching up on my Roblog. Six days since the last update. Pretty sucky, huh.
So here's the story: since rearranging our home to prepare for Maxine's arrival, my computer has been in our bedroom. That just seemed to be the most convenient place for it, as Horyon needed a room for her sewing, Maxine needed a room for existing in, and both of those activities require much space. But things just haven't worked out quite as planned.
For starters, Horyon felt (justifiably) that it would not be a good idea to have Maxine in a different room where it is difficult to hear her. So we looked into baby monitors. The cheapest one in Korea was around $200. I thought that sounded a bit pricey, so I went to my old friend Amazon.com and found one for about $60. Problem is that shipping stuff like that to Korea tends to add huge amounts to the cost, in shipping and duties. So I had it shipped to Mom and Dad. They just got it yesterday and will mail it to us on Monday. So we're waiting.
And with Maxine in our room, I can only sit and use the computer when she's awake, which, as I mentioned earlier, was only about four hours per day, though it is creeping up. I'm pretty sure that now she's awake more like 6 or 8 hours per day. Not always quality hours. Plenty of patting-on-the-back-waiting-for-a-burp hours (often followed by cleaning-up-after-spitting-up-in-spite-of-burping hours).
I can still use my work computer, but I've been grading midterm exams and projects the last couple of weeks, so I don't have time at work for personal stuff. Which is, now that I think of it, both annoying and appropriate. I mean, where's the fun in spending the whole work day actually working?
So my infrequent computer time this week went to email and occasional baby research. (Results: babies start off quite small, but eventually get bigger. In between, they sleep, fill diapers, eat, cry, and occasionally give one enormous bursts of joy.)
So a couple of days ago, I unplugged my computer from where it was and moved it to where it is: Horyon's room. My comfy office chair was evacuated to my office long, long ago, so now I make do with one of our diet chairs. I call them diet chairs because they are usually at the kitchen table, and they are so uncomfortable that they inspire you to get up and leave before you have eaten all you want to eat.
But the lack of a computer is only one small factor in making this a long week. More next time.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Nelson and Melanie Townsend are friends of mine from back in my early days at K.U., and Melanie was a friend in high school. I sort of introduced them to each other, though I bear no responsibility for that. They now live in Kansas City, not too far from Leavenworth, and I visited them this summer. As you can see, they have two boys, Baird and Ky, so I thought they would be perfect people to ask for advice on things like car seats. They obliged by giving me advice and offering me a car seat. So I took it.
And on Sunday we went to Church, and carried Maxine in it! My good friend D.A. took this picture. Yeah, Maxine isn't looking at the camera, and Horyon looks nervous. Don't worry. She's not nervous, just tired.
Of course, Maxine is always tired. Something to do with being one month old. She is taking in so much information every day that she needs to sleep lots to soak it all up. Horyon and I agree that she is cute sleeping or awake, but we feel a bit bad that she didn't wake up for this photo session.
As you can see, I took proper care to install the carrier in the middle of the back seat, the safest place in the car. I still remember the first few (hundred) times driving around with my parents in the car. I was incredibly nervous, even though it was obvious to me that I knew everything that I needed to know about driving. I expected this first drive with Maxine to be like that, but I managed to stay pretty cool. I swore at other drivers quite a bit less, having decided that there are some words my little Maxine doesn't need to learn just yet.
Our church service starts at 10:30, and we made it there by 11:05, just in time for the sermon to start. Our church has a pretty loud Praise Team, and Maxine was sawing logs by the time we came in, so it was probably just as well that we missed all the singing.
We usually manage to arrive much closer to the starting time, but Sunday morning (sorry, I started writing this yesterday, so please don't be confused by the yesterday/Sunday/today references!) we were pretty tired. In fact, we were pretty proud of ourselves for getting everything together and out the door at all!
Saturday I drove over to the in-laws' home and loaded my car down with all the stuff that had accumulated over there, including the crib, a baby tub, diapers, formula, clothes, and Horyon's necessities. We loaded Horyon and Maxine into her father's car, using the car seat for the first time, and drove home. Our apartment still (today is Monday) looks like we just returned from vacation. Not much floor space in the living room, though the kitchen is coming together.
Before leaving, Horyon's mother helped us bathe Maxine for the last time. No problem. Usually after a bath, Maxine likes to nurse a bit, ruin a diaper, then go to bed. But Saturday was not a "usually" day, and Maxine let us know that for sure, in the only way she knows how: crying.
I could not do anything to make her stop, and I felt terrible. It was obvious that I have not been around her enough to be comforting when her entire world has been turned upside down. The only time that she would calm down was when breastfeeding, and only one of us is any good at that little trick. But even breastfeeding only kept her calm for 10 minutes or so, then back to fussing and crying.
Still, I held her and let her cry for as long as Horyon could stand it. And somehow we managed to get her to sleep for a few stretches of 30 or 40 minutes. But she wore down Horyon's patience in a way that I have seldom managed to do myself. At one point Horyon walked over to me holding her and said (in Korean) "Why don't you stop crying?!?!?" . Which wouldn't be surprising, except that she dropped the baby voice and used words and structures appropriate for scolding an adult.
And so I realized that part of our partnership involves me being strong when she weakens, and vice versa. And believe me, the vice versa happens much more often than the... versa vice? You know what I mean.
One other insight gained this weekend:
From now on, my life will no longer be the same as it was B.C. (Before Children). In fact, it won't even be the same day to day, because Maxine will grow bigger and smarter all the time. And if I start to think that the way she is is the way she will always be, I will get in trouble. I need to be ready for constant change.
The whole idea makes me excited, above and beyond the tiredness.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
2. I get overloaded on Korean pretty quickly these days. Once again, in my Peace Corps salad days I could go for days, sometimes weeks, without speaking English to a native speaker or participating in a conversation that wasn't either boring or frustrating for everyone involved. Now I find that I am much happier with long stretches of silence. Perhaps in preparation for a life that will no doubt have very few of these.
3. Closely related to that, I find that if I am talking with Horyon while her parents are nearby, they (including Horyon, though she is getting better about it) will interrupt our conversation (in English, of course) at the drop of a hat. It sometimes feels like they wait until I am talking with her to say something, though I am sure this is my overactive imagination stirring my brain with a soldering iron.
Of course, my parents-in-law are good, kind people. The problem I have here definitely falls into the category of "culture clash," a force well known for starting wars, trading embargos, and the renaming of "freedom fries". The clash is this: in America it is rude to interrupt other conversations, no matter who you are. Some people forget this sometimes, but when reminded they usually feel guilty.
In Korea, as I understand it, someone who is older than you simply can not do something rude to you. They can be inappropriate, unkind, or even cruel, but being older sort of allows you to define what is polite and what is not. Of course, age is not the only defining factor here. Social status and gender also play a role. But if an older person is rude to you, you simply do not say or do anything to indicate it.
This is how I understand the situation, and as one who is in Rome, I find that I feel very uncomfortable pointing out how I feel about these interruptions. At the same time, they drive me nuts.
Back to my list:
4. Can't eat Korean food for breakfast every day. Once a week or so is ok, as long as it's one of the non-spicy soups (yes, they do have non-spicy soup). Throw it in also for lunch and dinner every day, and I start to crave McDonald's. How sick is that?
5. Convenience: my clothes are here. My computer is here. My kitchen is here. My bathing/grooming supplies are here. Not to mention my bed again. Should I come home every day for an hour or two to use this stuff, or move a load of it over there? Horyon already has a big pile of stuff over there, why add to it?
6. Alone time. I am a person who very much needs to be alone from time to time. Every day, if possible. I enjoy the company of other people, but even the people I like the most leave me tired. And even though I love Horyon more than myself, I have found that three or four days in a row with her, all day and all night, makes me irritable. And time at work simply does not count as time away from people. Not for a teacher it doesn't. At the in-law's home there is not enough space to go away without going out or making a big deal about it.
7. Disagreements over parenting issues. This is way too long a topic for this already bloated post. I'll save it for tomorrow. Or the next day. Or whenever.
I am well aware that most of these problems I have are my problems. No need to remind me of that. If I were more patient, flexible, and obsequious, I could no doubt face these difficulties with a shrug and a knowing smirk, enjoying the challenge and emerging with more fortified character and a better sense of self.
Yadah yadah yadah. Self-improvement is for those who need to be improved.
In more tangible news, my cold is much improved.
And my girls are coming home Saturday! Huzzah!
Saturday, October 29, 2005
Horyon had her picture taken by her father before leaving, since I couldn't be there to see them go.
And somehow Horyon managed to get a picture of Maxine looking right into the camera. I'm impressed, and a bit jealous.
And finally, one trick we found to make Maxine feel more comfortable was to let her arms wave free. Before that, we always swaddled her. We found that she prefers to sleep with her hands in the "stick-em-up", or "Superman-in-flight" position:
Yeah. She's even cuter in real life.
Friday, October 28, 2005
I am still sick, but slept well last night. God bless whoever invented Nyquil. Can't get it in Korea, but I bring some back every time I go to the States
So after being sent into a state of near panic by her nurses, which happened a couple of times during this process, and seeing the doctor, Horyon was brought into the family delivery room where her mother and I were waiting. She was pretty sweaty, but I've seen her look more tired after hiking. She told me that it didn't really hurt that much, it was just some strange pressure. I felt much better hearing that, though I figured that we were in for a marathon night.
The next three hours went by pretty quickly. Horyon and I talked, and then I coached her through her contractions. Due to our sparse practice schedule, which mostly involved talking about the breathing techniques rather than actually doing them, I had to be reminded of what to tell her to do. Luckily, she remembered. She's always been a better student than I.
The only parts that seemed to drag for me were when the nurses came in to do stuff. They would pull a curtain around her bed and kick me out. When I hovered too closely they would shoo me out. When they started gearing up for the serious part of the operation I got really antsy. They set up the stirrups and other stuff without letting me hold her hand or see her. I felt like it would be too pitiful to talk to her through the curtain, and was afraid of interrupting their questions for her.
Those of you who have had children in the States may be a bit taken aback by this. Understandable. If I thought there had been any chance of communicating my distress and the reasons for it to the nurses or doctor without distracting them from their work, I would have. But the fact is that these family birth rooms represents a very large paradigm shift for Korea. As recently as five years ago, it was virtually unheard of for the father to be present at the birth of his own children. He paced around in the waiting room, just like in "old" t.v. shows and movies back in the states. (My apologies to those of you who don't think they are that old. I just happened to have grown up in a time when it has been expected that the father would be with the mother as she gave birth.)
Horyon told me afterwards that the hardest times were when they kicked me out. She wasn't sure that she could have had Maxine without me. I reassured her that she could have, and made some tacky joke about conceiving Maxine without me.
Back to the story. Whenever they kicked me out, I had trouble relaxing. Finally I found that if I sat on the stool just this side of the curtain, I could see the reflection of the proceedings in the t.v. set provided in the room.
(That's right. There was a t.v. in there. We never turned it on, and I sort of wondered who would want to watch t.v. under these circumstances?)
I found it much easier to relax being able to see what was going on. I won't describe what I could see in that reflection. Suffice it to say that I have a better understanding of why they don't allow husbands to watch. Personally, I was impressed, and any sense of disgust or shame was way in the back of my mind. All of you mothers out there have an even higher respect from me now.
And so I was allowed to stand by Horyon for the climactic moment. I couldn't hold her hand, because they had installed hand grips on her bed, which Horyon didn't let go of. I didn't see Maxine's head first come out, but I did see as Horyon pushed out the rest of her body. The doctor quickly held her upside down to drain the fluid from her lungs. She came out long and thin, slightly grey, very wrinkled, and covered in slime. And I fell completely, head over heels in love with her, right that very moment. The tears ran down my face as I struggled to put words together. "She's so beautiful," I managed. There has been nothing in my life to compare to that moment. Falling in love with Horyon took weeks, and was overwhelming again and again. Maxine grabbed me all at once, demanding that I surrender everything to her. And this powerless little being who couldn't even focus her eyes yet, managed to overpower me.
They toweled Maxine off a bit, then let her suckle at Horyon's breast. They also let me hold her for a few minutes, finally justifying the little blue robe that they made me wear the whole time. She weighed 2.68 kg, just over 5 lbs. Under 2.5 kg they put babies in the incubator immediately, but Maxine managed to be just big enough to avoid that indignity. I later heard that she spent a few hours in the incubator, just to help her stay warm. I'm afraid I can't tell you how long she was. I looked in the little booklet the hospital gave us, and there were a number of numbers that may have been the correct one, but I wasn't sure, and neither was Horyon. So you get nothing.
I wanted to attach some pictures, but I'm having problems with my internet connection right now, so they will have to wait until next time. Instead, I offer this snapshot from my notebook, written late that night:
First impressions of being a father:
It's amazing to fall completely in love with someone at first sight. To see a wrinkled, grey, tiny human, covered with blood and slime, and instantly know that she is the most beautiful person in the world.
To meet the new most important person in my life.
To hold such a tiny baby in my arms, and know that she will only be mine for 20 or 30 years before she finds someone to love more than me, or at least love differently.
Holy cow. I'm a father. A tired father.
There you have it. The rest is pretty anticlimactic. As the drugs wore off, Horyon began to realize how truly painful it is to have a baby. Over the next couple of days she told me that she didn't notice any pain while holding Maxine, but as soon as she was alone it hurt.
I don't believe that I can make anyone understand this if they haven't gone through it themselves. It was as intense as a religious experience, yet as solid and real as a physical injury. I now understand the fathers who have told me that being at the birth of their child was the highlight of their life.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
I caught a cold this week. Big fun. It has taken away my number one
pleasure, holding my daughter. I work, go home, and sleep. When I
stop by to see my ladies, I don't get to hold either one of them.
Blah blah blah miserable blah blah blah.
On the other hand, fall is finally asserting itself in Pusan. I
actually wore a jacket today. Of course, some of my students have
been wearing ski jackets for the past month, but they seem a bit more
sensitive to the cold than I am.
Part two of the Birthday story will come this weekend. Between
sleeping and writing a test for my freshmen.
Robert Sack and Kang Horyon
Hyundae I-Park Apt. 101-1902
Sunday, October 23, 2005
On October 5th at 9 in the morning, I was getting ready to go to work, and Horyon was having trouble eating breakfast. She told me that she was having some pains that might be false contractions. It was still 8 days before Maxine's due date, so we didn't really expect anything. I had read that only 8-10% of babies arrive on or before their due dates, and that first time mothers often deliver 2-3 weeks late. Still, I was a bit worried. I asked Horyon if I should drive instead of biking, in case she needed a ride to the hospital. She said no, get on your bike and ride!
Whoops. Sorry about that. Horyon didn't say that, the rock supergroup Queen did, in their song "Bicycle Races". But it's a good line, and if she had known it, I'm sure Horyon would have used it.
Anyway, I did get on my bike and ride. Horyon called after lunch to tell me that she had called her folks, had lunch with them that day. Her father picked her up around 11:30, and they stopped by the Megamart (a big supermarket) to pick up a couple of things, walked around for 20 minutes or so before heading home. They had lunch, and Horyon was still feeling cramps in her stomach and lower.
Around 3:00 she told her parents she wanted to go to the hospital. They told her it was unlikely that anything was happening this early, but she didn't listen. Thank God.
When they checked in, the nurse told her that there were three other patients ahead of her, and did she want to be seen before the other women? She was demure, and told the nurse that she would wait. By the time the 2nd woman had gone in to the office, Horyon had set aside demure mode and gone into what's-happening-to-my-body mode. She was shown in, and hopped up on the table for the exam. (Well, "hopped" my not be the best word, considering the way she was sitting down and getting up at that point, but I digress.) The doctor took a look at how things were going and immediately told her that she would be having her baby that evening, as she was already dilated 3 cm.
Being the polite family that they are, they waited until 4:00 when they knew my classes were finished before calling me. I was so excited that I left my planning notebook in the classroom I had just finished in.
I pedaled home at record speed, and got another call, this time from Horyon. She told me that I didn't need to hurry, as she was in the collective delivery room, no family allowed. They were waiting for a family delivery room to empty, but until then I wouldn't be able to see her.
So I took a shower. At that point it was more than a luxury. If I had gone to the hospital smelling like I did, I could have cleared any room in the place with the power of my b.o. alone. I then grabbed some clean clothes, a book, my camera, my mp3 player, and my car keys, and left.
I got to the hospital by 5:15 or so, and her mother and I were escorted to the family delivery room at 5:30. They told us that Horyon would be along in 5 minutes or so, so we sat around for about 45 minutes. I think the nurse told us it would be 5 more minutes a couple of times, but I've been in this country long enough to ignore that sort of thing.
When they brought Horyon in, she had be epiduralated (not sure of the verb there, but mine sounds good, right?), shaved, and scared silly by a nurse saying, "That's funny, I wonder why we can't hear the baby's heart-beat?" Bad nurse! Foolish nurse! Scaring my honey like that! She was worked up enough that the doctor had to come and confirm that everything was just fine, and please continue with what you were doing, thank you very much.
Hence our wait in the family delivery room.
And on that note, I will leave you with the promise to finish sometime in the near future.
Please do it! It will save me a lot of hassle in putting together mass emails to let you know I've updated the page. After I email you all to let you know about this, the Notifylist will be my main way to get in contact with you.
Please keep in mind that if you change email addresses, it will take your name off the list, NOT update you automatically!
Saturday, October 22, 2005
First of all, like most Korean names, it is clearly divided into two syllables, with a slight emphasis on the first: "Eun" and "hye".
The "Eun" is the same as the "on" sound in "bacon". Nothing like the word "on" at all, and also nothing like the "un" sound at the beginning of "unobtrosive" or "unconstructive".
The "hye" is pretty much the same as the word "hay". Koreans tell me that it is not the same, and that there are subtle distinctions between "hye" and "hae". I usually respond by outlining the subtle differences between "Yeah" and "Whatever".
The spelling is not exactly random. It follows the latest rules for romanizing Korean names. To a Korean, they make sense easily. At birth registration time, registrating for American citizenship time, and passport time, this will make things a bit easier, as it is very important to be consistent with spelling in these things.
Oh, and last time I tantalized you with the promise of nude bath pics. The first one is getting ready to take a bath. Maxine was a bit upset at the preceedings, but she managed to adjust.
Oh, and in my last entry I tantalized you with the promise of nude bath pics. Please note how I managed to cleverly conceal the naughty bits.
Thanks for tuning in. Peace, Rob
Friday, October 21, 2005
And here I am, no breakfast, and a bit of an agenda for the day, but feeling the need to write a bit. While we were at the hospital a photograpaher came and took pictures for an album we will be receiving later. I took one, too:
The guy definitely knows his light. I took a quick picture on automatic setting, and liked the results. He took closer shots, and they look wonderful. I'm hoping to get the files from the studio. I'm willing to pay for them, but sometimes they can be funny about that sort of thing. As though the only way I am ever going to have any of the pictures they took is if I pay $5 a pop for them to develop them for me.
Enough complaining. Horyon and Maxine came home from the Resting Place on Thursday. Well, they went to Horyon's parents' home, that is. She's had some difficulties. Thursday night Maxine woke her up about five times. Nurse for at least forty minutes, sleep for an hour. Repeat. Five times. Yikes. When I saw Horyon yesterday afternoon, she was exhausted. But last night, Friday, she slept well: woke Horyon up just twice. Perhaps because she had a bath.
I did take pictures of the first bath at home, but the camera is at the in-laws' place. You'll get to see later, maybe in the next post. Warning, they may contain nudity!
Tuesday, October 18, 2005
On Thursday Horyon will leave the resting place to go stay with her parents. This is a move which I have mixed feelings about. Don't get me wrong, I love my in-laws, but they sometimes drive me a bit crazy, and we have differing opinions on how to raise children. I think I will just leave it at that for now.
Yesterday Horyon told me that we need to go to Seoul to the American Embassy before Maxine is 30 days old. I was skeptical of this, but upon checking with the U.S. Embassy website, found that indeed the Korean government likes to have foreigners check in within 30 days of arrival. Even the babies. So I started asking at school for someone to cover my Friday morning classes next week.
When my coworker Paul heard this, he told me that it was a bunch of baloney. He is also married to a Korean woman, and they have two kids. The first they rushed to Seoul, only to find that it wasn't really necessary. The second kid, they delayed 3 months. No problem. He said they had to pay some fee, maybe $20 or $30. Well worth not having to take a one-month-old baby on an all-day train ride and visa run.
Meanwhile, Budding Science Fiction Fan Maxine enjoys her first novel. Well, it looks like she's enjoying it, right?
My intention was to use the book to show some scale, but after taking the picture I realized how amusing it was. If you're considering bugging me about the Darwin reference, consider lightening up.
Monday, October 17, 2005
In Korea, people believe that a woman who has just given birth should be pretty much immobilized for a month afterwards. That may sound a bit backwards to us, but traditionally it might be the only 'vacation' a woman ever had after getting married.
The seventh floor of our obstetrics hospital is made for this rest. The women have individual rooms with attached bathrooms (including a shower, but not stall. Prepare to step in on a wet floor) and all the heat you can stand. More than I can stand, even wearing shorts and a t-shirt.
While in this resting place, the woman is fed nutritious food, three meals per day plus substantial snacks. Both meals and snacks include 'mi-yeok-guk': seaweed soup. It's pretty decent miyeokguk, especially for a hospital. It's supposed to be good for replacing the woman's blood supply and generating breast milk.
The babies are stored on the fourth floor, which is also where the delivery rooms are. They have a standard nursery with a big glass window so that people can make fools of themselves in front of an audience of infants.
I have discovered the hard way that the floor is hard and hot. The hard way is by spending the night sleeping on it, though sleeping may not be the most accurate word to describe what I did there. "Tossing" and "turning" are a couple of closer candidates.
Horyon and Maxine are doing relatively well. As tired as the whole thing is making me, Horyon is even more exhausted. We are trying to breastfeed exclusively, but find that we need to use formula occasionally to give Maxine enough food to sleep well. Unfortunately, Horyon has some sort of infection where the episiotomy was sewn up, so sitting upright is very uncomfortable for her. This makes breast-feeding, eating, talking with visitors, and a variety of other activities uncomfortable. But she is tackling it like a trooper. Often she goes down to the nursery to feed 3 or 4 times during the night.
And Maxine is still the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I know, she has kind of skinny legs and arms, but her cheeks are chubby, and if she grows into her feet she will end up as tall as my cousins Doug and Mark.
Peace to you all,
Saturday, October 15, 2005
So I think I'll add a picture.
Tada! That took about 4 tries, spread over the whole morning. The last time it just worked, without my doing anything different.
This is one of my favorite pictures. Usually we keep Maxine wrapped up like a little baby burrito, so we don't get to see her hands and feet. She still seems uncomfortable with her limbs flailing around, though she seems to struggle to not be wrapped up.
Well, I'm off to the resting room to visit my favorite ladies. Next time I'll explain that whole concept.
Well, I knew you'd be disappointed if I didn't post a picture. This is Maxine at just about 1 hour old. She's still sporting a bit of the the amniotic styling gel look, but she's not nearly as grey and wrinkled as when she came out.
Still not sure if this will work, so I'm keeping my writing short. I'm not even sure if the image quality will be reduced on the site. If not, you will be able to save it to your computer and print it up if you like.
I decided that maybe the best way to keep my friends and family updated was by blogging, and Gmail linked to this one. Said I'd be able to add pictures, too. We'll see.
Wish me luck, and feel free to pester me if you think I'm not writing enough, or if I'm not answering the questions you think I should. I'm going to leave it open to comments, and hopefully that will keep the whole thing two-way.
A Brief Introduction
Here is a link to my cung post, which remains the only word which I have ever invented, and which has not, as far as I know, caught on. Yet.