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!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Our Family Is Growing!

After all the craziness of the past two weeks, I finally have something really, really good to announce: our family is growing!

Cousins N down in Florida welcomed their new daughter into the world early in the day on Tuesday the 22nd.  Mom & baby are doing great (will be home for Thanksgiving!), and newly-minted Big Brother A is looking forward to helping out with his new little sister.

I can't wait for the two youngest cousins to meet each other & see what mischief they can get into!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Would You Freakin' CUT IT OUT?!?

I was going to post about a party we went to, or maybe about something the Pipsqueak said last week that stopped me in my tracks, or maybe about this being National Adoption Month.

Instead, I have to vent for a moment.

AJ is the MOD (Manager on Duty) at work today -- it was supposed to be my turn, but there were schedule problems so I took her day a couple of weeks back and she went in to work for me today.

Last weekend, AJ & Miri had their little automotive adventure, where someone turning into traffic against a red arrow T-boned the SUV and left them hanging upside-down. (The SUV has since been officially totaled by the insurance company.)

Well, on the work today in a rental vehicle, stopped at a red light with other vehicles stopped in front of her... AJ got rear-ended by a woman who was too busy talking to her passenger to notice the light had changed or that there was a double line of motionless vehicles in front of her. (Turns out she has the same insurance company as last week's idiot.)

AJ is physically alright, was even able to continue on her way after the police had taken their report, but she is badly shaken... and so are the rest of us.  The Pipsqueak will still occasionally stop to talk about "I upside down, car broken" or "I on the roof!" and AJ's bruises are just barely beginning to fade, and all of us (except for the Pipsqueak, who thankfully doesn't really understand) are still reeling from the very real possibility we could've lost my niece, my sister, or both just a few days ago.

And now this.

People, when you drive, you have ONE priority, ONE thing to do, ONE subject that should occupy ALL your attention: DRIVING.  Your passengers will understand if you don't look at them while driving (if they don't, then they shouldn't be in your car). Your cell phone should stay in purse or pocket, and even with a hands-free system your conversation is secondary to your driving. If you need to discipline your kids, find something you dropped, eat or drink, look up directions, or anything else that takes your attention away from driving, then pull of the road at a safe spot to do what you have to do.


Sunday, November 13, 2011


I spent most of today with the family. The Pipsqueak was her usual self (even has her old cold back, darn it!) but the reality of what could have happened yesterday was really sinking in for AJ. She's given us more details about the accident, and all I can think of is how obscenely close we came to losing her and Miri.

Even though the tow company's yard is officially closed on Sundays, the woman who answered the phone told AJ she could come anytime between 1:00 and 4:00 and she'd let her in to get all her belongings out of the Highlander. We tossed some boxes & shopping bags into the trunk of Mom & Dad's car and headed over en masse to ensure AJ got everything out of the wreck.

Important note: If your vehicle ever has to be taken to a tow yard or junkyard, the insurance adjuster was adamant that EVERYTHING with a name, address, phone number, bank account number, credit card number, or any other kind of identifying data on it (even if it doesn't include a name) be removed from the vehicle ASAP. You don't need to deal with identity theft on top of the complications of a motor vehicle accident.

We were shocked at the damage, but as I said earlier, the engineering worked; at one point AJ said, "I loved that car!" and I replied, "And this time it loved you right back!" Afterwards, with visions of the horrors that could have been dancing in our minds, we caught our collective breaths and had a nice family dinner at the place Dad's nicknamed the slop chute. It's never felt so good to take turns chasing the Pipsqueak when she'd set off on safari or unexpectedly follow someone to the buffet.

But right now I'm going to shut up and post some photos as a warning to one and all: You may never need all the safety features of a well-built vehicle, and you may never need all the special safety features of a really good car seat for your child -- but one look at the photos below should be a wake-up call to the fact that maybe, just maybe, you will... and it's only because we followed the adage of "it's better to have and not need than to need and not have" that my sister and my niece are a little bruised but otherwise OK.

Let's all be safe out there, 'K?

Any Landing You Can Walk Away From...

"Dear God: Thank you for the reminder of my mortality. Now cut that sh*t out. Amen."

The above (slightly blasphemous) prayer is something I came up with back in 1988 when, beginning with my grandfather on January 2nd, we either had a funeral, an unveiling*, or news of a death literally like clockwork every 6 weeks. Nonstop. All. Year. Long. (There was one short gap -- during which we had to put down the family dog.)

Well, I found myself whispering that prayer again today.

AJ had a full to-do list for today, including some activities with the Pipsqueak, some professional visits, shopping, even a veterinary appointment for one of the cats.  She managed to get the Pipsqueak to & from Little Gym without incident, but ran into a little trouble on the way to the vet.

A little trouble as in spending most of the day in a local ER after someone cut in front of her at high speed and hit AJ's full-size SUV so hard that when it finally came to a full stop it was resting on its roof and my sister & niece were hanging upside-down in their harnesses.

Happily, many strangers stopped to help (plus there was a fire station just a few blocks away), and while AJ's Highlander is likely a complete write-off all the engineering did what it was supposed to; everyone (even the cat!) came through the accident with only bruises and a few scratches.

I can't tell you what I felt when the phone rang just after noon and I heard my obviously shaken mother say, "AJ just called, she's been in an accident and they rolled over, she's in an ambulance but she doesn't know which hospital they're taking her to and I could hear Miri screaming in the background, we're on our way to pick you up."

By the time I jumped into the back seat of Mom & Dad's car, we knew where we were going and that everyone we at least roughly in one piece. When we got to the hospital, we were told only two people could go into the ER to visit at a time, so I hung out in the lobby while Mom & Dad went back. After wandering back & forth for about 15 minutes, Dad came back out, handed me the car keys, and asked me to go around the corner to where all the ambulances were parked to retrieve the cat. I walked over (and into the off-limits area) to find seven ambo crews in various stages of preparation to leave. I asked if anyone had a cat they'd picked up, and had to laugh when almost everyone present called out "THEY HAVE A CAT!" and pointed at one of the vehicles while several crew scrambled to get the carrier for me.

I took an obviously upset kitty out to the car, and was surprised to be joined by Dad after just a few minutes. He told me things were actually looking pretty good, and after we got the poor cat situated in the car we headed back inside and he snuck me past the front desk into the ER proper. I immediately felt better about the situation; as soon as I walked into the examination room, the Pipsqueak looked up and said "Hi, Biyan!" with a big smile. She did pretty well, only really crying when bothered by one of the doctors.

Lots more happened, but the bottom line is that my sister & niece are home, safe and sound, only slightly worse for the wear. All the adults are aware of how horribly worse the situation could have been; even the Pipsqueak was talking about "I upside-down" and "car broken" with wonder in her voice.

So here I am, sitting in front of the TV typing on my laptop, trying to get my own shakes muted enough to go upstairs and get some badly-needed sleep. I am infinitely grateful for the aid of caring strangers who stopped to help my sister & niece when they witnessed the accident; for the EMTs and fire company personnel who made sure they got the Pipsqueak out of her upside-down seat without falling or getting hurt; for the engineers who designed and built that seat so that a little girl would have only minor bruising from the straps after a high-speed rollover; for the people who designed, built and installed the Highlander's roll cage, safety harnesses, and suite of airbags; for the EMT on the ambulance who helped calm the Pipsqueak by showing her a silly talking cat app on his smartphone; and for the hospital nursing staff who rushed my sister & niece into the pediatric wing of the ER and found a way to do everything they needed to do in a way that allowed AJ to hold her daughter in her arms the entire time. And I am infinitely grateful for our worst concern after all this being the need to arrange for a rental car and retrieve AJ's personal property from her wrecked vehicle.

"Dear God: Thank you..."

* In the Jewish religion, the gravestone/memorial is not placed & dedicated until a year after a burial; these are usually referred to as graveside "unveiling" ceremonies.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea... (Part 3/End)

By the time we'd had lunch, it was a lot warmer out on the beach -- warm enough to think it would be fun to let the Pipsqueak dip her toes in the ocean for the first time ever.  Mom & Dad were pretty zonked by this time -- they'd been full-time babysitters for the past couple of days, and even just a few hours with the Pipsqueak can be exhausting -- so AJ and I took Miri out while they took a nap.

At first, the Pipsqueak was, as usual, excited by the possibility of playing in the water (if something involves getting wet, it's all good in her mind). Pausing a few feet shy of the breaking surf for a few minutes, AJ & I were amused by watching Miri laughing so hard when waves broke near her that she nearly fell over a couple of times. Then, bit by bit, the Pipsqueak happily followed Mommy right up to where the breaking waves washed over their feet...

...and all of a sudden, she was scared by the water. Neither AJ nor I could figure out what caused the sudden about-face, but it may have been either the sight of small shells & flotsam seeming to move on their own, or the sense of vertigo as the water rushed past her feet and made it look like she was moving even while standing still. Whatever the cause, it was definitely a change -- and the Pipsqueak definitely wanted some distance between herself and the water.

We walked a short distance along the beach looking for shells and came across a couple of families with small children playing in the surf. Miri watched two little boys chasing each other around in the water, obviously (and loudly!) having a lot of fun, and all of a sudden everything was good again.

The longer the Pipsqueak stood in the water, the bolder she became, moving forward to meet the waves and getting into deeper water until it often came up to her knees. It wasn't long before she had an "oops" moment and was wet from head to toe, but she was having so much fun that AJ decided a new diaper could wait and continued meeting the waves with her daughter. (The Pipsqueak's uncle, in the meantime, was busy taking photos and videos... so busy, in fact, that the fresh pair of jeans he'd put on just before going onto the beach wound up soaking wet all the way up past the knees... Oh, well... the old pair was still clean enough to put back on...)

At one point, one of the women nearby struck up a conversation with AJ and asked if she'd adopted the Pipsqueak from China. It turned out that she worked for United Airlines and was very familiar with the flight we'd taken to & from China last year. She spoke about how many very young new adoptees she'd seen aboard the aircraft, and how much she enjoyed working on those flights because of all the new families... and also mentioned that she had noticed the decrease in China adoptions that has left so many adopting families gasping for air (and grasping for hope) as the time it takes to complete an adoption stretches out for longer & longer periods of time.

Eventually, as the conversation petered out, I noticed the Pipsqueak had begun to shiver and, even though it was with some obvious reluctance, she agreed that it would be alright to return to our hotel room to dry off. (Even though she was chilled, Miri still had a lot of fun playing with the cold water coming from the hose the hotel had in place for patrons to rinse off beach sand before entering.) After everyone had dried off and changed into fresh clothes, and heard umpteen delighted repetitions of "I like water!" and "I play in water!" we headed to the lobby for the hotel's complementary Afternoon Hihgh Tea.  There were cups of a really tasty custom-blended tea (it included a touch of orange, a touch of cinnamon, and other spices) and honest-to-goodness fresh crumpets, so the five of us thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

It wasn't long before the Pipsqueak decided she should go exploring, so I took her hand and we wandered around the lobby area. When we came to a small Halloween display in the gift shop window, I got the characteristic "Up!" and hoisted her aboard so she could get a better look. There were several big rubber spiders in the display, and she didn't seem too sure she liked that -- until I explained they were just toy spiders that wouldn't hurt anyone, and the were there just for decoration. At that point my normally insecto/arachnophobic niece surprised me by taking great pleasure in pointing out each of the different toy spiders in the window, explaining in a very businesslike tone "Bug, not bug, spider toy. Okay!"

After further exploration and some conversation with other hotel guests, we all came to the joint realization that we were hungry and set off for some shopping & dinner.  We only wanted to use one vehicle, but yours truly occupies a noticeably larger volume of space than Mom or AJ -- so they sat in the back seat (where the Pipsqueak's child seat occupies a surprisingly wide stretch of real estate) and I wound up driving my sister's SUV for the first time. (Dude, you're driving someone else's car with your entire family aboard to supervise, covering unfamiliar territory with obvious speed traps and construction zones... but hey, no pressure, right...?) I got us to the very end of the boardwalk without incident, and we walked past Ripley's Believe It Or Not! (playing, AJ insists, the same cheesy soundtrack they had on loudspeakers when we were both in high school) and wandered the boardwalk for a while, buying salt water taffy and such.

Then it was back into AJ's SUV and off to the all-you-can-eat buffet at... oh, wait, it's off-season so they're closed... Okay, we'll go to -- oops, it's off-season so they're closed on Sundays. Okay, we'll go to... uh, oh... The pattern repeated itself everywhere we looked, until we finally drove all the way back to the hotel to see if they had any more copies of the city guides that listed all the restaurants. We checked out a copy of the guide while the Pipsqueak napped for a few minutes, and after a couple of phone calls found a place on the edge of town who still had AYCE shrimp or crabs on the menu.

Dinner was fun -- the shrimp were excellent, and they actually included a large plate of tasty fried chicken as a "side dish"! -- and we spent a lot of time helping the Pipsqueak color on the placemats while unsuccessfully trying to get her to eat anything vaguely meat-like. (I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but my niece seems to have been born a dedicated vegetarian on all but the rarest of situations.) We all eventually ate our fill and headed back to the hotel for the evening.   After convincing the Pipsqueak that going to bed would be A Good Idea (whereupon she began demanding that we all to to bed!) and after laying out more padding under my sleeping bag than the previous night, it was lights out.

I'd like to say the extra padding helped, but a truer statement would be "kinda, a little, if you squint just right..." (Dude, a concrete floor is a concrete floor no matter what you but between it and your backside!). I still managed to catch a few Z's before it morning once again came rolling 'round. Sunrise wasn't as spectacular, and the water was rougher, but it was still nice to wake up and see the ocean right outside the window.

AJ's conference was over so there was no breakfast buffet to stuff our faces at -- but that was not a problem, as I'd been hearing about this particular hotel's chocolate chip pancakes for the past several years... and I'm happy to say they were worth the wait! The Pipsqueak showed little interest in any kind of breakfast (with the exception of wanting to share my coffee) until she discovered the small ceramic cup of butter that had come with Mommy's pancakes, whereupon she happily ate it all with a spoon. None of us were particularly interested in eating our butter that way, but Miri thoroughly enjoyed herself and all too soon it was time to check out and hit the road.

The siren song of discounted shopping in nearby Delaware was beckoning, but I was due back at work that afternoon so we split up after checking out. I loaded Mom & Dad's overnight cases and some of AJ & Miri's things into my SUV to give them more room and we said our goodbyes.  The Pipsqueak put a smile on my face by giving me not one, but two hugs, and telling me "We play! Happy! I like water! We play!" several times... and then it was back onto Route 50 heading west while everyone else headed north to the outlet malls. The Beast gave me a trouble-free run back home (giving me the best MPG I've seen in all the years I've been driving it), and I got back with plenty of time to spare to drop everything off at our folks' house, get home, clean up, and go to work.

I was in a great mood at work for all of about 15 minutes, but that's another story... Meanwhile, it was a lot of fun to help the Pipsqueak  discover the ocean, waves, and shells on the beach for the first time; I'll be remembering this trip with a smile for many years to come.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Harbinger of Things to Come...?

Just a quick present-day note before finishing (I promise, really I do!) the OC story...

The Pipsqueak was feeling very two-ish the other day, driving Grandma & Grandpa slightly nuts after the picked her up from day care.  She's always liked cheese, always liked pizza, always liked mushrooms, especially liked having the three combined... So of course when presented with a piece of mushroom pizza from a nearby eatery whose pizza she's enjoyed many times, she refused the pizza, refused the cheese when it was peeled off the crust, then literally flung pieces of mushroom across the kitchen and began to cry.  (Later in the evening, she happily demolished any & all of the same pizza that Mommy was trying to eat.)

The above episode notwithstanding (and it was just one of many that evening), the moment that made Grandma laugh out loud (presumably to avoid crying by that point) came a while later.  The Pipsqueak had begun coloring, then wanted to watch the Wiggles on TV instead... which she semi-ignored until, in a sudden burst of manic energy, she flung her crayons around the room.   After Grandma had requested that Miri pick up her crayons several times (and been ignored or countered several times), she resorted to some "tough love" and laid down an ultimatum: pick up the crayons or the Wiggles are turned off.

This, of course, flew like the proverbial lead balloon... so Grandma did the unthinkable and she turned off the Wiggles show while the Pipsqueak was still (kinda-sorta) watching. Once Miri had finished expressing her displeasure with this heinous act of reprehensibly vindictive mistreatment, the episode came to a close with the following exchange:

(Grandma) "Miri, if you pick up your crayons, you can watch the Wiggles, but you have to pick up your crayons first."

[Short, contemplative silence]

(Pipsqueak) "Watch Wiggles, then get crayons!"


I can't wait 'til the kid's a teenager...!  <8-o

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

"By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea..." (Part 2)

Morning came sooner than I'd hoped, but it was kind of fun to figure out how we were all going to get in & out of the single bathroom and get downstairs while breakfast was still being served... kind of like the craziest of our mornings in China, but with our folks added into the mix. I peeked out the window while waiting my turn (our room faced the beach) and realized that dawn was just breaking -- so I grabbed my camera and concentrated on catching the first beach sunrise I can remember ever seeing. (Dude, you've been at the beach at dawn before... you just slept through it!) Here are two of the better photos... I think they're pretty good, especially considering the fact that I was only half-awake and standing with my legs crossed...!

Unlike China, we didn't have to wait for Miri to finish a bottle before leaving the room, so we made it to the dining room with time to spare.  As usual, there was some negotiation with the Pipsqueak over what would or would not be eaten, but in the end she had taken at least a few bites of a pretty good (but wildly varied) selection of food culled from everyone else's plates. There were a few uncertain moments when AJ had to go one way while the rest of us went another -- the Pipsqueak was not happy about Mommy leaving without her! -- but the promise of a walk and playtime on the beach quickly returned the mood to a pleasant one.

The four of us made our way to the beginning of the boardwalk (a long stretch near the hotel was closed for repairs) and soon were watching the Pipsqueak rediscover the joys of beach sand.  She played on the steps for a while, making "cakes" with a cup, or watching how sand dribbling between her fingers got caught by the wind, or giving a few moments' curious attention to the gulls' tracks criss-crossing the beach... while I tried to figure out how to use a digital camera when the sun's glare made the image on the screen invisible. (Note to self: buy a hood for the thing before your next trip to the beach!)

After a little while, Miri's usual affinity for water got the better of her, so we parked the stroller where we could keep an eye on it and headed for the water's edge. (While making sure the stroller was going to stay put, I noticed Sandpiper tracks circling every corner of the wooden stairs... The birds themselves were nowhere to be seen, and I couldn't find their tracks anywhere else, but I think I put together a nice composition while shooting half blind...)

As we made our way across the beach, we (the adults) began picking up bits of shell that fascinated the Pipsqueak -- who promptly began to pick up nearly every fragment of shell or feather that she found and running to have Grandma put it in her cup. We got pretty close to the water but it was still too cool & breezy to risk getting wet so the shell hunt proved to be a great way to distract my water-loving niece from her favorite element... although she seemed a little unsure about why it kept reaching across the sand to touch her. (None of her previous experience with water included actual surf; she seemed to think the waves were chasing her up the beach!)

Eventually we decided to resume our walk, and headed back to the boardwalk... passing just an arm's reach away from a particularly plump gull who didn't seem the least bit perturbed by our being so close. (I noticed there were quite a few gulls who looked like they were not only well-nourished but who might conceivably be large enough to mug any beachgoers to relieve them of their food...!) Since a quick look around failed to locate Mr. Hitchcock, we headed further up the boardwalk to do some shopping.

Following Miri in the store was... interesting. I figured Mom & Dad could use a break, so I kept an eye on the Pipsqueak while they looked around without her. First she found a rack of bright pink tee-and-shorts sets obviously sized for teens that she insisted were just right for her,  repeatedly taking sets off their hangers and putting them in the stroller; then she noticed a tiny little spider walking on one of the tees so she pulled most of them onto the floor and began stomping on them while telling me "bug bad!"  This was followed by her insisting on wandering around the store on her own, which led to a lot of repetitions of "Sorry!" or "Excuse us!" as other patrons suddenly found a little girl literally underfoot while they shopped... then she focused on some garishly decorated travel mugs on a low shelf, which led to some rather intense negotiations to ensure they all remained there. At some point I made the mistake (in one of the calmer moments) of checking to see if a floppy hat would fit her properly and was rewarded with a loud annoyed noise while the hat went flying... Even with the intervention of Grandma & Grandpa, I was very glad to check out and get back out onto the boardwalk.

We decided to sit & rest for a few minutes, and it wasn't long before all the activity caught up to the Pipsqueak and she fell asleep in her stroller. It was nice to just sit & talk, watching the (sparse) crowd go by and enjoy the ocean breeze for a while, until it was almost time for AJ to spring loose from the conference.  On the way back to the hotel we passed a family in one of those multi-seat bicycle buggies that beachgoers can rent to ride on the boardwalk, and that family's father recognized the name of the ship on Dad's cap so we all sort of stood around while the two old Navy hands compared notes on when they'd been deployed on the carrier, who was from which squadron, and so on... Which sort of made the trip complete, since I can't remember any family trips when Dad's worn that cap when that hasn't happened. (He's had the same experience with TSA screeners at BWI, ticket-takers in line at Disney World, patrons at a buffet near where we live... it actually feels kind of weird to go somewhere and not have him stopped by someone who noticed his cap!)

The Pipsqueak (and the other man's family) eventually made it clear they were getting impatient, so we began walking again just in time for AJ to call all our cell phones, one by one, each time hanging up just as each of us figured out which phone was ringing & which pocket we'd put it in. I called back and found the last session had ended early so she was wondering where we were. We agreed to meet on the hotel's veranda, where we all caught a few more rays and the Pipsqueak celebrated getting her Mommy back while we tried to figure out where we wanted to have lunch.

NEXT: Fun in the surf and the end of this post (I promise!)

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Celestial Dandruff (October 29th)

I'm still trying to compose the 2nd half of the post about the Pipsqueak in Ocean City, but figured I might be able to get away with a fast out-of-synch bit o'filler.  These are a few of the photos I took (through a securely closed window in a toasty-warm house!) on October 29th. I can't remember ever having snow come down this early, but at least we got lucky -- 'round these parts, the clouds began to break up just as the white stuff actually began to stick.

Brings to mind the old saying, "climate is what we want; weather is what we get." It doesn't take much prompting for me to call this "weather," through and through!

Oh, well... looks like it's gonna be an interestin' winter...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

"By the Sea, By the Sea, By the Beautiful Sea..." (Part 1)

Note: I'm still catching up; this post is about the events of October 15-17.

One of the professional organizations that AJ is involved with holds an annual convention in Ocean City, Maryland* late each year. Since it's off-season, they get a good deal on hotel accommodations, and during the periods of free time there's a much higher ratio of beach::visitor than during the summer months. Over the past few years, our folks have taken advantage of the opportunity for a mini-vacation and joined AJ for at least one full day of family time at the beach.  (*I specified OC-MD because one can also spend time in OC-FL, OC-NJ, or OC-WA!)

Last year, for the first time, AJ had the Pipsqueak in tow, so our folks spent a bit more time babysitting and a bit less time vacationing... quite a bit more time babysitting, in fact, since my niece expressed very little interest in sitting through the many professional presentations & training sessions!  The weather was a bit on the grey, blustery, and cold-ish side, so despite some happy moments of discovery (the Pipsqueak had never seen the ocean before, or so much sand in one place) it was a bit less of a "play" weekend than everyone had hoped for. In addition, Miri was so young (and so bundled up!) that it was all Just Another Trip for her, one that generated a lot of photos but that she didn't seem to really remember in any significant fashion.

This year, with the Pipsqueak much less "baby" and much more "little girl," the expectation was that she'd be keeping her Grandma & Grandpa occupied during the day, then (hopefully after an afternoon nap) keeping Mommy occupied while Grandma & Grandpa attempted to recharge their batteries. As usual, I was hoping to use the weekend to catch up on my long-and-still-growing To Do list, but it was made clear that I was welcome to share as much time in OC as I felt I could. At first I was seriously tempted to try to spend the weekend "constructively" with yard tools, spackling knife, and recycling twine firmly in hand...

...but then I got to thinking.  Dad's eighty-one... Mom's approaching 80... and the Pipsqueak would never again be a two-year-old discovering the ocean for the first time.

I did the bare minimum of what I really had to do (and not much of that, to be honest), called our folks to let them know what I was doing, tossed my old sleeping bag and a couple of changes of clothing into the Beast, and hit the road. Since I left a couple of hours later than I thought I might, I soon found myself driving a rural highway alone, in the dark, with a radio that couldn't pick up any of the local stations along the route. I remember one phone call to update my folks on my progress (what did we do back in the days before near-universal cell phone coverage?!?) when I had to admit I had absolutely no idea of where I was because I was between towns, forgot which one I had just left, and all the fields on either side of the road were pitch black.

I finally crossed over one last bridge, made one last turn, and parked in the hotel's lot.  Mom & Dad came downstairs to find me and escort me upstairs --  they had neglected to tell me which room they were in and I had forgotten to ask. As we walked in past several large "WELCOME CLASS OF 1954!" banners and a raucously loud party room, Mom said they hadn't told the Pipsqueak that I was coming because they wanted to keep it a surprise. I poked my head around a corner in the room to see Miri very much awake & active on one of the beds, and she absolutely made my day by yelling out my name and bouncing up & down on the bed in excitement to see me. (It's always nice to know my niece likes me!)

Miri helped me finish off a little Mac & Cheese and a granola bar, and we talked about how we would have time to play together in the morning, then everyone filled me in on the double rainbow they'd seen the day before, I played with Miri for a little while... Eventually the Pipsqueak settled down enough (after an abortive attempt by Grandma to trim her fingernails) for everyone to get into bed for the night. By "bed" I refer to where the rest of the family was sleeping; I had my old mummy bag on the floor, with one of the bedspreads folded up underneath for "padding" -- an arrangement that very quickly made me nostalgic for all those beds I complained about in our hotels in China.

I remember lying awake a long time (at my age, a mummy bag on a hard floor is not comfortable!), musing about the last time I'd spent any appreciable time staying in a hotel with the Pipsqueak & AJ, but eventually even the repeated ouch! of banging various joints on the floor dulled enough for me to doze off. I was looking forward to spending at least one day at the beach with my niece, my sister, and our folks...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Super-Quick Adoption Month Note...

There's a "real" post coming really, really soon -- I promise!  In the meantime, remember that November is National Adoption Month, and November 18th is National Adoption Day.

Just a couple of small seeds for thought...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Uncle Duty

NOTE: I started composing this post a few weeks ago before I got really, really busy and then got really, really sick... But I'm posting it now in the interest of catching up!

The Pipsqueak had a pretty bad cold a couple of weeks back. (How can such a small body reach such high temperatures?!?).  AJ stayed home from work to take care of Miri, but she could only do that for a limited time; eventually she had to get back to the job -- so the Pipsqueak's Grandma & Grandpa had to take care of her during the day (when she would've normally been in daycare) for most of the week.

As usual, my timing was a little off... but I managed (with the help of a phone call after I fell asleep halfway through getting dressed!) to spend some "Uncle duty" time today keeping an eye on Miri while Mom & Dad took care of a couple of of life's little necessities that couldn't be handled with the little one in tow. When I got to the house, the Pipsqueak came running to the door to say hello -- but after about 30 seconds of happy greeting wanted to know why I didn't bring Mommy home with me (oh, well, at least she's got her priorities straight).  There were a few strained moments when, after explaining that Grandma & Grandpa had to leave for a little while, I had to go out because my beast was blocking the driveway; that particular problem was handled by Grandma holding the Pipsqueak up at the front door where she could watch me move the SUV to a spot in front of the house and then walk back in.

We watched the Wiggles, we played some games, I wiped up some of the sour cream & mashed bananas Miri had played with, we sang a couple of songs, I picked up some of the raisins Miri had squished into the couch cushions, we played on the Pipsqueak's little slide -- and then, after turning down my offer to go for a walk, my niece cuddled up next to me on the couch, tucked herself up under my arm, and went trustingly to sleep.

I sat there for a few minutes, fretting over my leaving my cell phone in the pocket of my jacket (now hanging in the next room), leaving the closest handset for Mom & Dad's phone at the opposite end of the couch, and leaving the TV remote on the other side of the room... and then I thought about how much my little niece has grown in the past few months. She's still a little thing, but the growth & development we've seen in the past year -- heck, just in the past few months! -- have me feeling pretty sure she's not going to be tucking herself in under my arm for a nap too much longer. The result was a very peaceful, pleasant half hour spent just savoring the quiet  and watching Miri snore quietly next to me.

The Pipsqueak woke up on her own just as Mom & Dad pulled back into the garage, and it wasn't long before I was explaining to her that I had to go to work. She wasn't too sure about that, but acquiesced when I promised that I was going to see Mommy at work and send her back home. I got a nice hug, a happy "goodbye!" and then, when I didn't move quite fast enough, the Pipsqueak's trademark "go, go!" as she pointed toward the door.

Despite essentially being thrown out of my parents' house by my diminutive (but strongly opinionated) niece, I had a nice glow the rest of the day... You wanna talk about quality time, there's nothing that can beat sitting quietly on the couch with my little 2-year-old niece trustingly tucked up against my side, snoring just a little bit but feeling safe, secure, happy and loved.

Funny thing is... she's right. :-)