My niece joined the family on July 12th, 2010. This special young lady's mother is my younger sister, which in classic Chinese culture makes me her Jiu Jiu (舅舅) -- thus the title of this blog. Here I intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general, and (mostly) watching my niece grow up. Since the web is a very public place, I will attempt to maintain my family's privacy while telling the story... but I invite you to follow the blog and come along for the adventure!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Clingy Baby, Big Lunch (July 19, 2010)

The three of us got back to the room without any problems only to discover that the Pipsqueak had decided she needed some reassurance that she wasn't going to encounter any more doctors, no way, no how. (Eight months later, she's still one of the toughest patients her pediatrician has to deal with!) The instant one of us put her down, she'd start wailing -- and if we thought she was loud in the clinic, well... (Dude, this hotel room's got great acoustics!) We finally gave up and took turns holding her, then somehow got her into the stroller and moving quickly enough to avoid all but the most cursory of cries.

What came next I can only refer to as The Grand Tour -- no matter how hard we tried, AJ and I simply could not find the playroom! Eventually, after over 15 minutes of encountering shops, dining rooms, and more assorted nooks & crannies than we thought could fit into a single building, we figured out which floor we were supposed to be on & how to find the playroom once there. The rest of the group was already there, hard at work on their paperwork, so I took Little Miss Dontputmedown and AJ joined in on the paperwork party.

Now, don't get me wrong; I enjoyed (still do!) any chance to hold my niece, and she was certainly light enough to not be much of a strain... but as any parent will tell you, hanging onto a crochety baby who doesn't want you to sit still, put her down, interact with other people, or reposition her to minimize back strain... Playroom or not, it wasn't much fun. I walked around with her but she fussed; I tried to interest her in some of the toys but she fussed; I tried to sit down with her but she fussed; I tried... well, you get the idea. Lisa took a break from the ongoing chorus of, "write your name in box six, then check 'yes' in box seven, then write..." to give me a break from my increasingly unhappy niece but even she could only keep the waters dammed up for a few short minutes. I had enough time to take one quick photo and get the worst kink out of my back before I had to again try to keep the Pipsqueak occupied while AJ tried to finish the papers that only she could fill out.

We finally caught a break; the Pipsqueak had spent so much energy screaming at the nurses & doctors in the clinic, then yowling when we tried to put her down in the room, then crying (probably out of sheer frustration) most of the time we were in the playroom, she finally just fell asleep. Unfortunately for me, I had just slouched down onto a couch, so I was kind of trapped underneath and didn't dare move out of fear I'd wake her again. Eventually I was able to sloooooowly move into a more comfortable position, and until AJ was done with the paperwork I was actually enjoying just watching the little one sleeping quietly on my belly. This, of course, was a great photo op for my sister; here's one of the better pix she took before we headed out for lunch -- with another major milestone, the completion of the Consulate paperwork.

It turned out that I could've probably done jumping jacks on that sofa; the Pipsqueak barely stirred when we put her back in the stroller and slept all the way to the restaurant a few blocks away. Once there, we were treated to a brand-new experience. Walking in through an entrance featuring a wide array of fish & turtles swimming & crawling in plastic bins & tanks, we moved through the lunchtime crowd (many of whom seemed openly curious about us) to the back of the restaurant, where we found a large round table with what looked like a big metal wok in the center. While I wondered what they were going to cook for us when a waitress came over and filled the bowl with steaming hot water from a teapot -- and proceeded to rinse all our plates & utensils in the water in front of us! (I later found out it was supposed to be a sign of a better restaurant in a country where public hygiene is usually far below Western standards.) There was then a bit of an adventure as she tried to move the hot bowl (still filled with hot water) away and replace it with a large, glass lazy Susan that almost met with disaster a couple of times until several of the group helped get it in place.

Lunch was pretty good, with a wide array of dishes that helped wake up the Pipsqueak, but just barely. Even with a bowl of congee and a plateful of mommy's food available, she remained clingy & sleepy through most of the meal. The one thing that we both thought was a good sign was the fact that the one person she seemed to really want to have holding her was AJ -- I may have been a convenient spot for a nap and Lisa may have been a familiar figure to distract her, but her new mommy was definitely the person she wanted comforting from.

After lunch came another milestone, this time a sad one: it was time for Lisa to return home. She'd been the one constant for us all since reaching Nanning, and had been negotiator, translator, purchaser, arranger, helper, schlepper, baby holder, kid distracter, friend, traveling companion and helper-outer for us all -- and (as we found out that day) had been away from home and her husband for two months. We were shocked at the news, and the knowledge that she was going home for the first time in a long time helped take the edge off our losing her. She told us that her husband was an advanced math instructor at a regional university, but when I suggested she take one of his courses so they could spend more time together she laughed and said that what he taught was so advanced, she couldn't understand any of it! We took turns hugging goodbye & taking family photos in the White Swan's downstairs lobby, and then (with one of the girls nearly in tears and all of us a little choked up) went our separate ways.

Most of the remainder of the day fits the description I posted in our travel blog that night: The rest of the afternoon was dedicated to doing laundry, passing the Pipsqueak back & forth, hunting for little things in our luggage, passing the Pipsqueak back & forth, figuring out plans for the next few days, passing the Pipsqueak back & forth, and passing the Pipsqueak back & forth. She had been a happy, outgoing little crowd pleaser the previous day, but today she just wanted to be held and comforted and just would not let us put her down. During the course of the afternoon, she had a couple of bottles and took a couple of short naps (joined for one "longevity nap" by her mommy & uncle) but we just could not break that unhappy mood.

During one of the quiet naps, I took telephoto pictures of the few remaining blocks of old city across the river, struck by how different it was from the much newer buildings that had been put up around it in the past few years. (I didn't realize at the time that I would be walking through that area the next day.) I was distracted by a group of workmen who seemed to be constructing a walled rooftop patio on a nearby building. They seemed to be taking great pride in their work, carefully making sure the brick columns were properly aligned by stepping back a few feet to see how they looked from a distance. The only problem was that they were stepping back onto the very edge of the building's roof with no safety gear of any kind. The two photos below show you how the guys were working... and then show you just where they were stepping back to admire their handiwork.

Eventually the Pipsqueak's mood improved a bit, and we joined our traveling companions for dinner at Lucy's. (We were all beginning to get just a tad frayed around the edges, and home-style food was just what we wanted.) We headed back to the White Swan (and I took advantage of a good opportunity to catch the building's famous trapezoidal shape lit up for the night) and everyone else decided to go swimming again, but AJ and I were feeling pretty beat so we retired to our room to just chill for a while before bed (and get some more laundry done). We had a nice long Skype session with our folks -- the Pipsqueak even seemed to be distracted by that for a few minutes -- and I took advantage of the extra time to wring more water out of all my wet shirts & socks hanging in the shower.

The next day was going to be an important one -- we would find out if the U.S. Consulate had accepted the paperwork to allow the adoption to be finalized -- so we settled down for the night, the Pipsqueak and my sister dozing off together in bed as I finished writing about the day's adventures in our blog.

NEXT: It's official! :-)

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