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.
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!