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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Wrappin' Up Christmas

Above is the Christmas Card that my parent are sending to everyone who sends them Christmas cards, and a few who might not. I was quite proud that Maxine had the biggest grin of all the grandkids, as well as the fewest teeth. You may even recognize the Maxine picture, as my Dad downloaded it from this very blog to use in his card.

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


When my students ask what my favorite holiday in America is, the honest answer is that ANY holiday during which I am actually IN America is the best. But which one do I miss the most?

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

Ol' Pink Eye

Today I got an email from my dear friend Dave White
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

Some fun stuff

Horyon seems to be mostly over her cold, though she still needs more sleep than usual. This gives me extra time to hold Maxine, which I love doing.

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.



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.