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, March 27, 2012

Whoops, Falling Behind...!

"Sorry about that, Chief!" Life seems to have gotten complicated again. Nothing really awful, just... complicated.  I honestly hadn't realized that my last several blog posts actually existed only in my (slightly warped) mind.

I've got a half-finished post I'm still editing on Pipsqueakisms, have managed to stifle myself prior to posting what would've been a really, really nasty essay about a traffic court judge, and have repeatedly been driven to distraction / laughter / gasps / desperation (or any combination thereof) by my niece.

One quick update note... about a week ago, Miri and her Grandpa were teasing each other (a hobby they share), with the Pipsqueak sort of whacking him on the chest -- something Miri usually does with us all, we're still working on that "gently" thing, but she's pretty good about it these days -- and Grandpa gently bopping her atop the head in response. (Dude, they're gonna think your family's a bunch of maladjusted violent brawlers, you should explain it's all very gentle, with lots of explanations of the difference between playing and hitting, and that your niece has a very well-developed sense of what's teasing versus what's real... I would, but you just told 'em yourself... Oh, yeah, okay, carry on...)

[ahem] As I was saying... There was some playful, teasing back-and-forth bopping going on. At some point, Grandpa asked Miri why she wasn't hitting Mommy instead of him...

...and the Pipsqueak turned around, gave her Mommy a big hug, and said, "I won't hit Mommy because I love her!"

I missed this because I was at work, but I have it from a trustworthy source that my little sister had a little trouble speaking out loud for a couple of minutes afterwards.  (Of course, upon hearing the story, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to remind AJ of her fears that the Pipsqueak wouldn't remember she was supposed to be her Mommy when she first returned to work... Amazingly, she let the remark pass with just a chuckle.)

It all kinda made up for the Pipsqueak requiring (yes, requiring -- Grandma's been known to smilingly refer to her as The Little Dictator) that I re-play The Wiggles' rendition of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" seven times in a row this past weekend... [sigh]

Okay, gotta run, will do a "real" post soon, I promise...!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Further Revenge of the Baby Gates

Okay, so they're not exactly baby gates, but the purpose is the same: keep an astonishingly curious (and amazingly crafty) little girl out of places that spell "trouble" (with a capital T that rhymes with D like in "danger" or... oh, um, sorry, kinda got carried away there).

As I was saying... it wasn't exactly baby gates, but I spent some time this past evening dealing with similar safety devices: latches to keep kitchen cabinets closed.  If you mosey into our WABAC machine for a moment, you might recall this post, or perhaps this post, where I recounted my assorted (mis)adventures with installing devices to help keep the Pipsqueak safe.

"Wait a minute," I hear you say; "Your sister has an active toddler in the house and she hasn't done anything to lock away dangerous cleaners and chemicals?!?"  Not to worry; she did... or, to be correct, she and our folks tried to help while I installed magnetic latches on every. single. cabinet. door. that the Pipsqueak could potentially open in the kitchen.  The problem is that the latches mounted with adhesive pads instead of screws, so it wasn't terribly long before they began moving out of place -- and a couple of them just plain broke at one time or another, leading AJ to try to find a different solution.

After a few false starts, she found a package of latch locks that could allegedly* be used on both drawers and cabinet doors and I set out to install them one evening. With help from Dad and "help" from the Pipsqueak, I figured out where I could attach the receiver hooks and a quick way to mount the restraining hooks and confidently began attaching the first latch set. After a few minutes I realized AJ's cabinets were made from thinner wood than I'd thought and I had to change my installation plans. After a few more minutes I realized I was a lot less flexible at 53 than I was at 35. After a few more minutes I realized I should have brought my own screwdrivers instead of depending on AJ's removable bit "twelve million tools in one" model.

And after a few more minutes I realized that I could huff and puff and silently curse in my mind (remember, Miri was "helping" me) all I wanted... but that little screw, no matter how sharp, was NOT going past some hidden obstruction inside the door frame, and that was that.  Of course, no one could find either of the two electric drills AJ was supposed to have in the garage, and it was getting late (and I was having a little more trouble getting up each time I pulled my head out from under the sink) so we called it a night.

Well, this past evening, with trusty Dremel Moto-Tool in hand (do they still make those?), I returned to the scene of the crime and tried again. This time, I used the Dremel to drill a super-thin guide hole the entire depth of the screw, and all my huffing and puffing paid off with the 2nd half of that first latch being installed in only two five fifteen minutes. Of course, I had to warn the Pipsqueak that my tool was going to make a loud noise before I turned it on, and she nervously retreated to Mommy's arms -- until I turned it on and she realized it sounded like Mommy's vacuum cleaner but only half as loud, so she again decided to "help" me.

We all marveled at the wisps of smoke that rose from the hole while I was drilling, and at the obviously burned sawdust adhering to the drill bit when I finished, but Miri thought it was all a Very Neat Adventure and kept insisting on standing right on top of me while I worked. (That's with the "five" minutes is crossed out in the preceding paragraph.) I then turned to attaching the catch hook for the 2nd door, and had to lay down on the kitchen floor to do so. I won't go into details, but AJ took some really cute photos of me laying there holding a screwdriver over my head while the Pipsqueak made herself comfortable laying at first next to, then on me as I tried to work.

It was with a great sense of satisfaction that I grunted, creaked & groaned my way back into an upright position and showed AJ how both doors would only open about 1-1/2" before the hooks grabbed, just as they were designed to do. While Miri tried to figure out why she suddenly couldn't open the cabinet doors, AJ and I discussed whether I should try to fix her reluctant printer or continue with my installation work and add the same latches to other cabinets.

Then, from behind me in the kitchen, I heard a quiet "click" and turned to see my niece happily swinging the now-unlocked cabinet door wide open.


I'll close this post with the comment that kid-proof door latches aren't necessarily as kid-proof as they claim, no matter how careful you are with choosing and measuring and installing. The plan now is for AJ to pick out some handles to install on all her kitchen cabinet doors so we can use the ugly but much more effective external "handle tie" type cabinet locks.

Oh, and I couldn't get the fershlugginer printer to cooperate either.  But my niece did enjoy watching some Wiggles videos with me on Mommy's 'puter and had a grand time being tickled, so the evening was generally a success. :-)

*I say "allegedly"because the two situations are very different -- keep this in mind when doing your own installations. Drawers pull straight out in a back-and-forth motion and usually have internal framing just above the opening that gives you a nice hunk of wood onto which to fasten part of the locking mechanism. Cabinet doors usually have no framing around the internal edges, so there's very little material onto which to mount part of the latch -- and the doors swing open in an arc, so the two parts of any latching mechanism will actually be meeting at a constantly-changing angle. Trust me: you really do want to use those ugly external wraparound locks that fasten to the handles on your cabinet doors.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Hippopotamus, A Small Bird, and Two Female Sheep

Well, it's that time of year again -- the time I magically become a whole year older.  Somehow, during the preceding 360+ days, my age barely inched forward... and then WHAM! and I'm a whole year older. Dunno why, but that's the way it works.

I'm old enough to remember wondering why my folks said it was important to watch a boring funeral on our little black & white TV (JFK), for Mighty Mouse cartoons to still be in production, for computers to be massive beasts that occupied entire rooms and could be afforded only by governments and very large corporations, and for China to be that odd place I could get to if only Grandma & Grandpa would let me use a bigger shovel to dig in their yard.  I'm old enough for birthdays to be (relatively) pleasant things that are celebrated in a decidedly low-key fashion, with gifts being optional and at least one person in the room to wonder aloud how many points over their daily allowance that piece of cake had set them. (Dude, that cake didn't set you back a day's worth of points, it set you back a month's worth of points...!)

For my niece, on the other hand, birthdays are still really neat celebrations with cake, and cards, and cake, and lots of family and/or friends, and cake, and getting dressed up in a special pink party dress, and cake... and did I mention cake?  I guess I should be glad that the Pipsqueak is a lot more interested in eating cake than in getting gifts (although "mine" seems to have leapt to very near the top of her list of favorite words).

We had a family celebration for Cousin J's birthday last week, and when the cake was brought out after dinner Miri insisted that he & she wear party hats. Mercifully, I was able to skip trying to balance a brightly-colored cardboard cone on my head this weekend -- but wow, did we ever get asked about when we could eat the cake...! (No, that's not a complaint, I happen to think that the Pipsqueak's still at an age where it's doggone cute.)  I even had Miri's help blowing out the candles. I said I was going to count to three, and then we should both blow the candles out -- and she handled it like a champ, puffing right on cue and actually getting one candle flame to flicker.

Dad picked out the cake, so it's only slightly smaller than a Volkswagen (showing my age here; I'm referring to the original Beetle), and about as chocolate as a chocolate cake can get. Again, I'm not complaining -- it's just that for only the 2nd or 3rd time in my life, I had to stop eating about halfway through my piece and I didn't finish 'til we had leftovers tonight! (In this case, "leftovers" is shorthand for "three largish slices from when I first cut it along with the untouched other half of the behemoth.") Miri didn't mind in the least, except for when the super-rich cake and an odd assortment of other things she'd insisted on eating during the day combined with the skin from a large grape she'd stuffed into her mouth against everyone's advice all combined for a bit of what is politely referred to as regurgitation. (Gotta admit AJ's reflexes are getting pretty good; even with her daughter in her lap, only part of her arm and a teeny bit of leg got caught.)

Of course, all that was forgotten tonight at the first mention of cake (we could literally hear the Pipsqueak's heartfelt "YAY!" two rooms away), and both evenings were pleasant, low-key affairs with plenty of family in attendance.  I felt extra-special when my niece insisted on singing "Happy Birthday" to me alone tonight... and did a darn good job with both lyrics and tune!

Unfortunately, I have to get back into a regular work schedule (took Friday & Monday off) so I'm going to post this and hit the bed... But did I just hear someone in the back of the room asking about the weird title of this post...?  That's easy: take the common vernacular expressions for the first two animals and the standard name for the last pair, then say it fast. Here, I'll lead off... hippo birdy two ewes, hippo birdy two ewes... (Dude, that joke is older than you are... and there's dirt in your front yard that's younger than you!) (Shaddup and help me finish this slab of cake!) (Oh, okay, don't mind if I do...)