Total Pageviews

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Thanksgiving Follow-up

One of my favorite Thanksgiving activities is stuffing. That's right, stuffing myself. At the dinner I mentioned before, they had turkey. As many of you know, turkey is one of my favorite foods, especially the drumstick. At family Thanksgiving dinners, you can recognize my plate because it's the one that looks like it came from a Renaissance Festival.

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


Well, Thanksgiving was yesterday, but yesterday was pretty busy for me. Thursday is my toughest teaching day: One class at 11:00 a.m. (a very reasonable hour to start, IMHO), one hour for lunch, then three consecutive classes. By the time I finish at 4:00, I am usually ready to collapse, but that was not an option yesterday.

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

Practicing Facial Expressions

It seems to me that Maxine often tries out her facial muscles without really having any idea what messages she is conveying. I consider this a pardonable social offense, as she is just a baby. However, if she continues doing this into her teens, I may have to take steps.

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.

Kinda Blue


Not Amused



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

Can't stand the heat?

Another reason that I am not getting enough rest is the current climate in our home. Not the emotional climate, but the temperature and humidity. With Maxine in our bedroom, we keep the temperature a little high, and the humidifier on all night. Makes it a bit hard for me to get to sleep at night, and if I wake up, I have to get out of the bedroom.

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

Lack of sleep...

Another reason this (sorry, that) was a long week was the lack of sleep.

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

A Long Week

I can't believe that Horyon had been doing this for a month before bringing Maxine home.

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 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

First Night and Going to Church

We went to church today! It wasn't as hard as we expected. However, it would have been much more difficult without a contribution from two special friends of mine:

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

Almost Home!

Horyon and Maxine will come home on Saturday!
I am very much looking forward to it. Yeah, I know that it will be hard. I know that my nights will no longer be composed of one continuous stretch of sleeping. I know that I will usually smell of baby barf and poo. I don't care about any of that. I just want to be with my wife and daughter.
Of course I am welcome to stay at my in-laws' home. They have made that very clear, and don't understand at all why I don't. So here are my reasons:
1. I've spent the night there a few times. Sleeping on the floor no longer works for this very former Peace Corps Volunteer. Yes, I spent three weeks at a training sleeping on bare boards with a mosquito net for a combination blanket, sheet and mattress, with my towel wadded up for a pillow, but I was younger then, and I like to think more foolish.

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!



A Brief Introduction

Roblog is my writing lab. It is my goal to not let seven days pass without a new post. I welcome your criticism, as I cannot improve on my own.

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.