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!)
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.
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!