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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Sleeping, Grades, and one bad joke.

She didn't sleep as well last night. The second time she woke up, Horyon pushed me out of bed, so I went and took care of her.

Then I put her back to sleep the way I did the previous night: I let her cry in bed for a bit. This time it lasted maybe five minutes before she was out, and she stayed out until morning.

I finished my grades today, and entered them into the university computer system.

Funny thing about my university; they call themselves "Kyungsung Digital University", as though "digital" was their middle name. Before this semester, I always had to submit my grades on paper forms. I calculated them on a computer, wrote them on paper, and someone else entered them on a computer. I figured "digital" meant that we were using our fingers a lot. So finally this semester we entered our grades for ourselves. And I finished today. Only one day late. Not bad for me. And I finished by around 7:30 p.m. Early for me, considering some of my deadline stories. Here's my favorite:

My first semester I misunderstood the deadline, realizing that they were due on the very day that I was supposed to turn them in. It was late June, and I was in an unairconditioned office all day, until late at night. If you consider 4 a.m. late at night. Some consider it early in the morning. So I finished, got on my bicycle, and rode home. When I arrived, I found that the elevator was not working. So I walked up the stairs. Nineteen floors. Carrying my bicycle. By the time I got to our apartment, I was dripping with the sweat and stink of a long, hot day. I was so ready for a shower that it really wasn't surprising that there was no running water. No electricity = no water pump to fill the tank on the roof of the building that provides water for our shower, sink and other various faucets. So I lay down on the living room floor, in a shallow pool of my own sweat, with a fan blowing on me. I can't remember whether I slept or not. I may have just entered one of those vision quest kind of things where my spiritual guide told me to not be such an idiot in the future. No doubt if I had remembered that I could have avoided such predicaments later. But I didn't, so the predicaments kept whacking me in the head like the branches in a forest you run through at night.

My last adventure saw me locked in our office building late at night, convinced that if there was a fire I would die because the doors were all chained shut. Took me about 15 minutes to realize that if they were all chained from the inside there simply must have been someone in there with me. It could have turned into a horror movie plot, but it just turned into sheepishly waking up the guard to let me out.

You know what John the Baptist and Winnie the Pooh have in common?

That's right. If you remember the first part of this post, or if you were at one of the sermons given during First Christian Church's 150th anniversary last summer, you already know the answer: they have the same middle name.

My father-in-law has been sick this week, which contributed in part to my tardiness in preparing my grades. Speaking of which, my stomach is suddenly not happy with me. I gotta cut this short.



Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Full Night's Sleep

Last night I put Maxine to sleep, then Horyon and I argued about it.

I sat in her room, next to her crib, and listened to her cry for about 20 minutes. Periodically she stood up, so I picked her up and laid her back down. Three or four times, I guess. Finally her crying dropped off to sniffling, then to just heavy breathing, then she slept. Horyon thought that I had been holding her, so she didn't object.

Before Horyon and I went to sleep, we talked about my strategy:

"How can you just let her cry like that? Don't you want to pick her up?"

"Sure I do. But she needs to learn to sleep without being held."

"That's so cold. In Korean families we always hold or touch the baby to put her to sleep. Usually right next to the parents."

"Fine, if you sleep in the same bed. Maxine sleeps in a different room, and it is a bad habit for her to always fall asleep in our arms. She needs to learn to sleep by herself."

"You Westerners are so obsessed with independence. Sometimes you take it too far. Look at me, I always slept in the same bed with my parents, and I turned out all right."

"I was raised to sleep alone, and I turned out all right too."

"No you didn't."

Ah, nothing like a good laugh to lighten up a heavy conversation. Horyon wasn't really mad at me, but this was our first major departure in policy for some time.

The rift was starting to close by 2 a.m. For some reason we were both awake, and Maxine wasn't. The conversation was much shorter:

"Has she woken up yet?"


"Ok." ~snore.

At six, when Horyon woke up to go to work, I woke up too.

"How many times did Maxine wake up last night?"

"She didn't."

"At all?"

"Not at all." (just a brief note: Horyon spent 9 months in England a couple of years before she met me, and she picked up a smidgen of British pronunciation. "Not at all" is one of her specialties, and it is cute enough to die for.)

"Not at all". For the past month or two, Maxine has not been able to sleep through the night. On a good night, she wakes up just once. We haven't had a good night in a long time. Two or three times is more usual, and just in the past week we had a night or two where she woke up every hour or so. It's had some impact on me, but Horyon's the one who takes it hard. When I get up and try to take care of Maxine, she just keeps on crying. It takes that something special a mother has to calm her down.

I guess I should say it takes those special somethings. Ah, I remember fondly the time when I thought that breasts were mostly for amusement. Now I see that they are, in fact, for putting babies to sleep. And who can blame them? I mean, once you settle down with...

I'm sorry. This is supposed to be a family oriented post, and I was straying a bit off the path there. I trust that you will forgive me and continue reading.

And so, this evening, Horyon put Maxine to sleep using her traditional ways. Tomorrow (if I am on the ball and get my grading done) I will let you know whether the change in methodology has contributed to the improved sleeping schedule or whether I was just lucky.



p.s. Love that baby.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Gratuitous Pictures

First off, I added a little bit to the middle of my previous post, Lunch Guests. Specifically, a picture that I had intended to put in, then forgot about. I also added some explanatory text, to prove that maintaining a blog is about more than just pushing buttons and giggling to yourself.

Now here are some Maxine pictures:

Game Time!
Our favorite game with Maxine is the ring toss! She seems to enjoy it, too.

Sleepy Time!
Maxine usually goes to sleep being held by one of us. I am fully aware of the problems that we will be facing because of this in the future, but we are just not in a position to sacrifice multiple nights of sleep to train her otherwise. It is one of our plans for summer vacation. However, in the mean time, there is something very, very pleasant about having a baby fall asleep in one's arms.
And when it happens that both myself and Maxine are ready for a nap, that can be nice, too.
Actually, this is early in the morning. Maxine has been awake, breast-fed a bit, then went back to sleep with me. I stayed awake just long enough to make sure she went to sleep, then I joined her in dream land. Of course, I didn't make it all the way there, because in the back of my mind was the constant worry that I might roll over and squish my baby. That would be bad. But I was far enough gone to not notice my charming wife taking our picture.

Maxine very rarely spends time in bed with us. The most common occurrence is on the Saturdays which Horyon has off. In spite of the rarity of bed sharing, I frequently find myself waking up in a panic over where in the bed Maxine is. I feel around desperately, and sometime grab Horyon, confused that she is Maxine and worried that she is about to fall out of the bed.

That's it for now.



Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Lunch Guests

Yes. We were, in fact, guests of Ronald. He is quite the polite host, if a bit stiff.

Ok, actually in the past week we have hosted two groups of people for lunch, right here in the Sack household. As of late, this is a decidedly uncommon occurrence, as we mostly find ourselves hosting Maxine, without much time for anyone else. However, circumstances allowed, and there were guests that I have been trying to invite for some time.

Late last year, our church hired two new full time staff people.

As I wrote that, I realized that perhaps I need to explain a bit about our church, as it would not fit the model of "church" that you probably have in your head, unless you've lived and gone to church in Korea; there are not many English speaking congregations here, and most of them are affiliated with a "regular" Korean church. Though perhaps "affiliated" is too week a word. Back in the States, small churches, including those made up of ethnic minorities, often start by meeting in the building of an established church. My understanding is that they pay rent, clean up after themselves, and otherwise have little interaction with the host church. Of course, the host church may take enough interest to insure that the guest church is not sacrificing goats or drawing pentagrams on the floor, but would otherwise no more manage the guest church than a landlord would decide what the tenants should do on weekends.

If such a host/guest church relationship exists in Korea, I have yet to hear of it. The standard seems to be something like this: a normal Korean church decides that they want to have a service in English, so they start one. If they are a big church in a good location, they draw a few foreigners, who in turn draw more foreigners. However, many of the people who attend are usually Koreans. Most churches that I know of seem to have congregations made up of about 3/4 Koreans. It would be inappropriate for me to assign motives to all of them, but these are a few that I have heard myself: Some of them have attended church abroad, and want to have a similar experience. Some of them are invited to come by foreign friends. And many of them come to work on their English.

Drawing from my experience at Crossroads, our previous church, the host church (Pujon Church) does not perceive the English service to be in any way separate from the mother church. It is simply one more option that Pujon Church offers to its members. At Crossroads, the Pujon Church leadership was more than once heard to refer to Crossroads as "The English Club". On any given Sunday, there were about 30 people in attendance. One member was/is the paid part-time leader, though the church has never hired someone who is an ordained minister.

Our current church, AIM (Antioch international Ministry) is a bit different. Until recently, it had one full time minister, Benjamin Ahn. Benjamin went to seminary in the States, as well as doing some pastoring there. He was then hired to replace the previous pastor of AIM. Our host church, Suyoungro Church, obviously takes their English ministry more seriously than Pujon church does. Perhaps that's why their numbers are better: in the neighborhood of 300 people attend the Sunday morning service.

Yeah, I'm getting around to the lunch. Patience young Skywalker, patience.

Anyway, I had always had a kind of suspicion that AIM was still, at heart, more focused on their English service as an English club than as a congregation. The foreign members are very involved, but don't really make any high-level decisions. There are no foreign deacons or elders. (Granted, that one's pretty tough when most foreigners stay for just a year or two, and the average age of the foreign membership is probably under 30.)

And so I must admit to some surprise when AIM hired Esther Berg and her daughter, Kate, as full time ministry staff. Pastor Benjamin is now overseer for all of the foreign ministries (Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, and one or two others that escape me at the moment), and Esther is... co-leading the English service. It seems to me that her role is growing larger as she settles into it.

Esther and Kate are wonderful people, very committed Christians. They sold their home and got rid of most of their stuff before coming here. Truly a leap of faith, especially from the perspective of someone who has boxes and boxes of stuff back in America in his parents' home, as well as a house of his own.

Now back to my second paragraph:

Late last year, our church hired two new full time staff people. Foreigners, Esther and Kate. Quite an auspicious occasion, if you ask me. I have gotten to know them somewhat, and enjoy their company, but hadn't been able to spend much time with them. I'm afraid that Suyoungro Church is working them Korean style: non-stop. And so back in April, I asked if they would be able to come to our home for a (hopefully) leisurely meal.

I can't remember the last time I had so much trouble trying to schedule an appointment. Between the four of us, we were backed up a month and a half. Then Horyon had a good idea. [In case there was any doubt, she's the one who comes up with the good ideas in this little partnership.] Election Day!

In Korea Election Day is a holiday, right there on a Wednesday. Not in America. In America, voting is more like a hobby: you should do it in your spare time. In Korea, there are still very many people alive who clearly remember a time when there was no vote for anyone. The Japanese did not impose a democracy on Korea, and even after they were booted out, Korea has had spells of being ruled by non-democratically elected men. So Election Day is a holiday. However, as near as I can tell, Korea and the States both have voter turnouts of around 50%.

Anyway, meeting on Election Day put us at least two weeks ahead of our previous plan.

In addition to Esther and Kate, I had been trying to get together with my friend Aubrey for some time. Aubrey is a friend from church, and she has a very entertaining blog, which is updated much more frequently than mine. I met her last year when I volunteered to host her Wednesday night church small group meetings in my office. It only lasted a few months, but it was a lot of fun, and since then she and I have stayed in contact. Since we only see each other in passing at church, and otherwise communicate by email, she expressed a desire to meet with the Sack family, so she could hold Maxine a bit, and have a conversation of more than two exchanges. I agreed, and when the Esther and Kate date was finally set, I invited her along.

We had a pretty good time. I cooked chicken curry, which was a hit with almost everyone there. Unfortunately, Kate has some serious allergies, and when she found out that there was coconut milk in the curry (makes for a wonderful flavor and texture), she filled up on rice and braised pumpkin. She was such a good sport about it, though. I knew she had allergy problems, and had tried to avoid any of them. We were fortunate that Horyon mentioned the coconut milk at all, as it could have been a major medical emergency if Kate had eaten any of the curry.

So we sat and talked, ate french bread toasted with feta cheese on top, talked, ate curry, talked, and finished it off by eating ice cream and talking some more. As usual in these gatherings, Horyon felt a bit left out at times. For example, she knows Saturday Night Live, and has even watched a small handful of episodes. (She found even fewer bits to be funny than the rest of us.) But she is not well-versed enough to name any of the actors or bits that they have done. I myself am barely functional in SNL lore, as I haven't watched regularly since Clinton's first term. (Yikes! I'm referring to my past in terms of presidential terms! Loser!) Still, Horyon enjoyed some of the conversation, and participated in enough that our guests probably didn't notice.

Maxine was also admired and passed around. She usually does well with strangers, but she's not used to having strangers here in the Sack Home. She cried at first, but quickly got used to the added attention.

As you can see, she made a special connection with Aubrey. I'm afraid I neglected to mention that she wrote a bit about hitting it off with Maxine in one of her clever posts. Aubrey's post gets into a little more detail about that connection. I will add no more other than to say that I laughed when I read it.

By the time everyone left and we had cleaned up, it was late afternoon. We were a bit tired, but not as bad as if it had been a dinner appointment.

Right. That's lunch number one. Lunch number two came a week later. Horyon's brother, Youngwhan (more letters in his name, but easier to pronounce than Horyon) and his girlfriend came to lunch. Actually, he had suggested that we have lunch on that day, as it was also a mid-week holiday. Either Liberation Day or Celebrate Kimchi Day.

Hmmm, must have been the first, as EVERY day is Celebrate Kimchi Day here in Korea. But I digress.

Youngwhan suggested that we have lunch together. Our plan was to go to a nice restaurant and eat good food. The problem is that bringing Maxine to a restaurant requires getting a room. (Stop whatever you're thinking, assuming you think like I do. Higher class Korean restaurants always have rooms to eat in, with doors and walls and stuff so that you cannot disturb, or be disturbed by other customers, like people with kids, babies or animals. That kind of room.) Actually, finding a place like that isn't the problem. Paying for it is. Since Maxine's arrival, the bills have stacked up a bit. There are many necessities that single people don't think about, like diapers, large, brightly colored noise pieces of plastic a.k.a. rattles, play mats, cribs, clothes, cleaning supplies, a new vacuum cleaner (the old one... wait for it... sucked, but not enough), and other things that will no doubt come to mind after I publish this entry.

The point being, our bank account was dry, and the next credit card bill was already sort of looming, and the idea of a $100 meal (for four) was just not appealing. So I offered to cook.

I made a couple of beer can chickens, some mashed potatoes (warning, that last link will want to leave a cookie on your computer, but it's worth it!) and some steamed veggies. I think it went over well. They ate almost all of the chicken, though the mashed potatoes didn't have much (ahem) appeal. Of course, they would have been better if our guests had shown up at 1:30, as we had planned. By 2:30, when they did show up, the potatoes weren't in as good a form as when they were fresh.

This time I got to be on the narrow end of the conversation. I mostly kept Maxine company this time, as well as carving the chickens (which by the way kept very well in the oven on its lowest temperature that wasn't off). Basically, I had no idea what anyone was talking about until they turned to me and told me in simple Korean that the food was delicious. Because as bad as my Korean is, it is most assuredly sufficient to talk about food.

Horyon told me later about the conversation. I think perhaps it would be best if I just didn't write anything about it at all. By the time everyone was gone and we had cleaned up, we were all exhausted, and still had to prepare food for Maxine.

I think I'll write about that in a different post.

Horyon and I both sort of scavenged our dinners. Maxine went to bed cranky, and so did we.

And those are our lunch-hosting stories. And now I will throw in some Maxine pictures. This is Maxine with her first watermelon. It's also her first time to feed herself with her own hands. Those two teeth are coming in handy here.

"Dude! That's some goooood watermelon!"

Until next time



Thursday, June 01, 2006

Notes to Maxine

As I mentioned in my Roblogging post, one reason I do this is so that someday Maxine can look at this record of her life and feel a huge amount of guilt over the suffering she put her mommy and daddy through.

No, no, that's not right. She will finally understand why her parents are such boring people, having seen what they have been through, and perhaps will not blame us quite so much for being who we are.

And so I have a few things to offer:

#1 Who did this?
#2 Ida Know. I've never seen that puke before. Please take it away.

I don't have any photographic evidence for the following behavior, but if it persists, I will.

Until recently, Maxine was very good about diaper changes. She would lie calmly, sometimes holding onto her feet (which can actually be helpful at some stages of a diaper change), and rarely pee or poop-squirt on me. But the past few days, she has become averse to it for some reason. As soon as I lay her down on her back, she tries to turn over. Considering that in January she couldn't turn over at all, she has become quite good at it. If I am quick, I can get her pants off, but by the time I am ready to reach for the diaper, she has flipped. When I put her back on her back, she is ready. She arches her back if I hold onto her legs. She wiggles lots. She cries as though she were being spanked. When I eventually get the wet diaper off, she usually manages to go over easy, then get up onto her hands and knees.

Now I'm in panic mode, because anything that comes out of her at this stage of the game ends up on her bed. You are probably thinking that I should have put something down first to soak up any accidents. Good idea, but she doesn't do this every time, and I haven't had an accident yet.

Oh, and if it hadn't occurred to you, this is even less fun when she has dropped a load into her drawers. I have had to bathe her from the waist down on a couple of occasions.

I'm really not sure what's going on here. Maybe she has spent such a huge percentage of her life on her back that she just doesn't want to do it anymore. She even sleeps on her side most of the time.
She generally sleeps quite well, though she's been fighting a cold for the past week and a half. The sniffling and coughing are not bad, but she has occasional fevers that are quite rough. Horyon has slept with Maxine on the floor for a couple of nights in the past week.

But as I said, she usually sleeps well. Not only that, she wakes up well, too. We have an electronic baby monitor that we use to listen in on her while her door is shut. That way, Horyon and I can do noisy things while Maxine is sleeping. Like clean the house, 'n stuff. In the morning, I usually know Maxine is awake when she starts whining and calling out for rescue, but sometimes she doesn't. Sometimes I will hear a sound from the monitor that makes me suspicious. I listen closely, and hear occasional knocking sounds, stirring sounds, and maybe a little baby "hmmm." When I go into her room, I usually find that she is wide awake, and keeping herself amused. The last time, I found her at the foot of her crib turned sideways:

She's happy to see me when I walk in, but not desperately, dog-after-all-day-at-work happy. Just happy, like "Hey, it's Daddy! How ya doin'?" happy.

Horyon and I are very much aware that Maxine is a good-natured baby. We consider ourselves to be truly blessed. But everyone has to have some naked baby photos and stories to hold over their kids later, right?

And she's getting better at standing. She can now pull herself to standing from a stationary object if it's the right height.

What a cool baby.



p.s. Did I just write "What a cool baby?" Friends, being a parent changes you. No doubt.

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.