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!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I'm Proud of Myself

My folks have an addiction.

Nothing really dangerous, nothing of medical importance; they just seem to have developed the habit of visiting a certain nearby secondhand store and finding great deals on stuff for the Pipsqueak.

Every. Single. Week.

Now, before you think I'm complaining, let me set the record straight: Despite the occasional frequent chuckle over the constant appearance of new toys, books, occasional clothing, and assorted tchochkes, I think it's great that they're able to get battery-powered toys for under two bucks, or children's picture books for ninety-something cents.

This past weekend, I was shown their latest discovery: a fairly large, brightly colored merry-go-round featuring "baby" versions of the major Mickey Mouse Club characters, with the option of having them go 'round and 'round while music played, or having them sit still while a bright light projected changing pictures of the characters on the ceiling.

At least that's what it was supposed to do.

The music played, and the picture on the ceiling could be focused sharply... but the merry-go-round refused to budge, and the projected picture never changed. Dad tried different batteries, and we both futzed around with it, but to no avail. Suddenly, the motor began grinding, and after more  futzing around Dad & I got the characters to move... as long as we held the darn thing upside-down.  We started to take it apart but after I removed the first batch of screws from the bottom I realized there was a second batch still holding things together... and for the next few minutes Dad & I kept finding things that would get in the way if we continued trying to separate the parts.  At least the projector worked (even if the picture didn't change), and the music was loud enough... I left with a promise from Dad that he wouldn't try to disassemble the toy without me.

Come Sunday... We're back at our folks' house and Mom mentions that, sort of egged on by her, Dad had indeed managed to open up the toy -- and now it didn't do much of anything, and they were thinking of tossing it in the trash. It had only cost them $1.91 plus tax, but I don't like losing arguments with inanimate objects... plus I'd already seen the Pipsqueak's reaction to the Disney characters and didn't want to let her down.

The next hour was... well, "interesting" may be a euphemism, but it really was kind of interesting. First I had to figure out why the big center post was now crooked (it was OK the last time I'd seen the toy), and why the motor now sounded more strained but was doing less... and what the heck did those last four screws attach to...?

Well, I'm proud of myself.

First, I had to figure out why the central pillar was crooked... done. Then I had to figure out how to remove the top without pulling the focus mechanism... done.  Then I had to figure out how the motor was supposed to move the carousel... done. Then I had to figure out why the motor didn't move the carousel even though it was running... done. Then I had to figure out how to take up the slack in the elastic band that drove the carousel... done. Then I had to figure out how the same motor could drive the picture disk for the projector... done.

Dude, you're on a roll!

Then I had to figure out how to put it together so that all 8 screws in the base lined up with the right sockets, the lamp lined up with the electrical contacts, the carousel gears lined up with the motor's drive gear, the axle for the picture disk lined up with the sockets in the top & bottom pieces, and the gear for the picture drive lined up with the motor's secondary drive gear, all at exactly the same moment, all while losing the ability to see what was happening inside as the halves came together...

Dude, you're screwed!

Just to add to the joy, the only way the meshiggineh thing would sit still on the table was fully dismantled or upside-down, neither of which was helpful to me... the only angle at which Dad could hold a flashlight to let me see inside as the halves of the base came together had it pointed directly at my eyes... and the Pipsqueak insisted on sitting on my lap and "helping" with the operation. (This last made it all the more difficult because I didn't have available the emotional release of the usual language I'd use in such a

As I contemplated the very real possibility of losing yet another argument with an inanimate object, the Pipsqueak got bored and returned to watching The Wiggles in the next room... Mom finally gave up telling me I should just give up... and Dad stopped making suggestions. Then I noticed the picture disk could be removed... and that freed up the vertical axle to travel up & down in the central post... and the main drive gear wasn't fastened down, so I could move it up, slip the vertical axle's drive gear under it and let gravity worry about dropping everything back into position as I joined the two halves of the base... and in a flurry of activity everything got unscrewed, aligned, repositioned, seated, mounted, and screwed back into place in about 1% of the total time I'd spent trying to figure the damn thing out.

The toy still managed to block my being totally victorious; nothing I did could make the picture disk rotate, so whatever I lined up over the lens would be an unchanging image on the ceiling. After a quick check with the Pipsqueak's grandparents, I set things up so that the projected image was one of a certain famous mus musculus and I fastened the top into place.

I was very proud of myself; aside from the projection not changing, everything worked!  The Pipsqueak was ushered back in, and was immediately entranced by the figures going 'round and 'round, popping up & down just like on a real carousel. There was much smiling and many loud repetitions of "Up and down! Up and down!" complete with hand clapping -- plenty to help an uncle forget the preceding hour of frustration and pinched fingers.

The real reward was when I turned off the light in the room and switched the toy to projector mode. Miri was a little bewildered at first -- she wanted "up and down!" to continue -- but then her Grandma pointed to the image on the ceiling and she looked up, screamed "MICKEY!" and gave me a smile that'll last 'til I'm eleventy-seven years old.

We were worried something might break (re-break?) in transit, so Dad & I taped up a bagel box that happened to be nearby and the Pipsqueak supervised our carefully lowering her new toy into place for its trip home. She literally would not let the box out of her sight until I assured her I would personally make sure her Mommy would take it home, and sure enough when the time came for everyone to leave Miri made sure the box went into the car.

So, score one for the Jiu Jiu; not only did I manage to overcome the multiple engineering and construction challenges this new toy threw at me, I also managed to make my niece literally scream with delight.

I'm proud of myself. :-)

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