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!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Down on the Farm

Quick note: all three family homesteads here in the MD 'burbs of DC came through Hurricane Irene in good shape. Lots of tree debris in the yards but that's really the worst of it for us. We still have one NY cousin unaccounted for (her neighborhood was evacuated) but she's NYPD so we figure she's kind of busy right now... but when we do hear from her, you can bet we're getting her #&@$! cell phone number...!

In any case, with hopes that all readers came through the storm (and the earthquake... and the fires... yeesh!) with nothing worse than a few new adventure stories, I'm going to start catching up on what's been happening in the Pipsqueak's world for the past few weeks.

Back on the 13th, before the ground rumbled and wind blew, we drove up I-95 into Pennsylvania to spend the weekend with some cousins -- with the added bonus of the Pipsqueak meeting a fellow 2-year-old addition to the family for the first time. Our original plan had been to rent a minivan because none of us have vehicles large enough for the whole family to cover that much mileage in any real comfort -- but we dithered over the safety of moving a baby seat that none of us really understand into a vehicle none of us were familiar with, so by the time we decided to "go with it" there weren't any minivans to go with. (This was actually A Good Thing; the rental would've cost us many hundreds of dollars.) The result was that we caravaned, with Mom & Dad in their car while I rode shotgun with AJ & the Pipsqueak in theirs. Our cousin had emailed detailed directions, and I'd printed out the same route on Google Maps with Street View photos of every exit & intersection where we had to turn (Dude, can you believe they have Street View photos of that little backwoods driveway?!), and there was a GPS unit in both vehicles, so confidence was high that we'd all arrive together.

Despite the usual (not entirely unexpected) later-than-planned departure, we were all in good spirits at the start of the trip; the Pipsqueak even took extra precautions to make sure she'd be rolling in fine fashion. We followed our well-known back route to pick up I-95 about halfway up toward Baltimore, and all was well... until we ran into a traffic jam. A big traffic jam. One of those where you wish you'd flown, or at least taken a bicycle with you. We still don't know exactly what the problem was but it was likely weather-related; during our lunch stop there was a short cloudburst of truly impressive volume (which of course we caught up to & had to drive through once we were back on the road), and many signs warning of standing water... but the bottom line was that we were in those vehicles a lot longer than planned.

Luckily, the Pipsqueak remains a champion traveler; she only got crochety a little before we stopped for lunch, but the Elmopalooza CD that AJ had in the car, along with some snacks her Grandma made sure we had, went a long way toward keeping the peace. Miri even found a new snack; we didn't have any of  the peanut butter crackers she likes, but I handed her one of the cheese-filled cracker sandwiches instead. After a few moments of indignant complaint, she got very quiet... and a couple of minutes later we heard a loud, "Bigan! More!" (Yes, my niece has progressed from calling me "Mommy" to an almost minor mispronunciation of my name -- but I love her anyway. <g>) I reached back and she put the two crackers in my hand -- with all that tasty cheese carefully scraped out from between the two crackers that she'd figured out how to pry apart. By the time we got to lunch, she'd totalled most of the package that way.

When we finally got to the farm, everybody hugged hello and we got to meet our new Cousin M while he & his grownups got to meet the Pipsqueak.  We quickly set off to meet Scooby the horse, and the Pipsqueak was happy but cautious -- this was only the 2nd time she'd ever met a horse in person (the last one had a friendly police officer on his back), and those teeth looked awfully big as he took the offered carrots!

The rest of the weekend was spent "doing nothing" -- walking around (dodging the ridiculously frequent rainclouds), catching up on family news, Skyping a cousin on the left coast (Miri tried to feed him goldfish through the screen), and just generally catching our collective breath to whatever degree was allowed by two highly energetic two-year-olds.  Miri & AJ had room of their own, as did Grandma & Grandpa, but Uncle Brian slept both nights on a nice, soft couch in the living room -- with the built-in alarm clock of not being terribly far from the big bin of cousin M's toys in the morning, (The loud emergency generator kicking off in the basement directly below the couch on the 2nd morning wasn't terribly conducive to sleeping late, anyway.)  As a semi-aside, it was interesting to watch the Pipsqueak during the Skype session; even though the last time she'd seen something like that was back in Guangzhou, she seemed to immediately realize the person on the screen was interacting directly with her and wasn't a regular TV show (some of which she's seen on a very similar laptop)... She reacted to what was being said very differently than from how she reacts to Barney or the Wiggles, and was happy to "share" her goldfish with the cousin on the other end. It seems she learned more from us than we realized at an earlier time than we thought!

Early mornings notwithstanding, a wonderful time was had by all, with the added bonus of pretty scenery around the house and really, really good homecooked food. (Okay, so the Pipsqueak had her packaged mac & cheese for breakfast... the rest of us ate the good stuff!) One cousin's iPhone survived the Pipsqueak watching a video on it, and the swivel chairs in the living room survived being used like carnival rides, and I eventually gave up trying to get a good, unobstructed, non-blurred, in-focus photo of the goldfinches & woodpeckers at the backyard feeder and just kicked back & chillaxed a while.

Unfortunately, real life had to be acknowledged, so after one more quick jaunt down the driveway to visit Scooby (about the only time we had real sunlight the whole trip!), we headed back down I-95 through several very impressive thunderstorms and pulled back into AJ's driveway on Monday afternoon. The Pipsqueak was pretty good coming home -- although both Mommy and JiuJiu were bargaining desperately with her for the last 5 miles before the mid-trip rest stop! -- and now we know she handles the typical crazy L family road trip at least as well as she handled the long flight home from China.

I think the kid is a born traveler; stay tuned...!

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