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!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

What They Learn In School

The Pipsqueak grokked the whole idea of teasing pretty early (probably because Grandpa's really good at it). Not the nasty kind, the silly kind where everyone knows it's a game and no one gets their feelings hurt; stuff like, "Are you going to ride in your special seat today?" "No, in the trunk! <giggle>" She's also been pretty good about wrapping her mind around what's right vs. what's wrong, and (even though "ouch" is still The World's Funniest Sound Someone Can Make) is very sure that hurting someone is wrong -- if she even thinks she might have stepped on a toe, or that Uncle Brian made a funny noise because she accidentally poked him with an elbow, she'll immediately apologize entirely of her own accord.

So I got a bit of a surprise the other day when we were all out shopping together. (I had planned to catch up on horribly overdue yard work but there was a great sale on curtains & I've had white plastic trash bags taped up cafe-style over the windows for over a year now...)

AJ had bent down to test-fit some shoes on her slightly over-tired daughter's feet when the Pipsqueak reached out and purposely scratched her cheek. She didn't even leave a mark, but it was hard enough to hurt, and AJ let her know in no uncertain terms that this was unacceptable behavior, that it hurt, and that it had to stop RIGHT NOW.

But the Pipsqueak seemed to think it was funny and kinda-sorta tried again.

At that point, Grandma stepped in and asked Miri if she remembered how they had talked just yesterday, when she & Grandpa picked her up at school, about how one little boy was running around scratching people and that it was wrong, and that it hurt people, and that Miri had agreed that hurting people that way wasn't a nice thing to do....?

And my guileless niece looked her right in the eye and replied, "No."

[insert silent cry of anguish here]

After Grandma, and then Mommy, had a quiet but no-bones-about-it talk with the Pipsqueak about how she was not to hurt people like that, I was able to piece together more of the story. It seems that one of the little boys who's recently joined the day care group (which seems to have exploded in size almost overnight to our consternation) is a bit of a a discipline problem. He runs, interrupts, takes things, and will push and/or scratch other kids for the fun of it.

I'm pretty sure my niece now has a better understanding of what behaviors are unacceptable, and how hurting people is something she should not do even if she thinks it's funny (and that it's not funny)... and I think the lesson "took" because later in the evening when she thought she'd stepped on my foot she immediately apologized and made sure she hadn't hurt me.

But now we know she's learned some not-so-nice behaviors... and she's learned how to lie.

Can't wait to see what else she learns from her classmates in school... gaah....

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Something Serious, for A Change(?)

Warning: This post is not going to be like most of those that have come before it. (It may also trend toward the longer side.)

In the intro at the top of the home page, I include the statement that I "...intend to semi-regularly post reflections, thoughts, stories, and assorted whathaveyous pertaining to our trip to China, adoption in general..." Well, this is one of those "adoption in general" posts, and it may not be a terribly happy one.

I am thrilled to the core that the Pipsqueak is my niece, is a member of my family, is my sister's daughter. I have found my life view tilted askew from what it was in a number of ways as a result, and all of them are IMHO good. In my eyes, this little girl is literally The Most Important Person In The World -- no offense to anyone else, especially AJ, our folks, and the rest of the family... but y'all (and I) come second to her. (Interestingly, one thing I've learned is that there's room in that #1 spot for additional kidlings, but right now she's the only one there.) The adoption of this little Chinese girl has been an astonishingly positive, good, healthy [insert multiple positive adjectives here] event for this family; if the reports from the Chinese authorities are to be believed -- and we very thankfully have no evidence they shouldn't be (I've been quietly poking around) -- it is all equally good for her.

That said, I am aware that adoption isn't necessarily always rainbows and roses (to steal borrow the words of another blogger). Like all aspects of life, this particular gem has multiple facets, and some are quite dark & ugly.

Facet: There have been well-documented cases of babies & little children literally being stolen from their parents, of birth mothers coerced into giving up their children, of children literally being sold to "adoption agents" and of adoption agencies & government authorities engaging in an amazing variety of highly unethical (often outright illegal) activities to keep the funding flowing. I don't mean just in China. I mean everywhere. Even here in the good ol' USofA.

Facet: Not all adoptees grow up in good families. Not all adoptees grow up feeling, or being considered as, a "real" part of a family. Not all adoptees have been allowed to develop good feelings about being adoptees. Many adoptees are not only lacking basic information that non-adoptees take for granted (e.g., What genetically-linked medical disorders run in your family? Do I have my mother's eyes?) but are often legally blocked from getting access to that information even when it is available. Many adoptees who voice [concerns / unhappiness / fears / problems] linked to being adoptees often have their concerns dismissed by other members of society, and some have been very actively "shouted down" in online forums and the blogosphere.

Facet: Many people dismiss adopted children as not being "really yours" or even belonging in their adoptive family. Many people dismiss raising adopted children as being [a lesser calling / easier / less important / less meaningful] than raising biological children. Many people consider a family's love of adopted children less "real" than the same family's love of children with a direct genetic link.

Facet: Many people consider adopting a child of a different race equivalent to denying that child their rightful heritage. Many people consider transracial adoption to be nothing more than guilt-ridden Whites trying to erase a history of racism and/or make up for decades of White Privilege. There are even a frightening number of people who consider mixed-race families to be an actual sin against God.

Facet: Many people think of adoptees in terms of, "What good are you if your own mother didn't want you?" Many people think of adoptive parents in terms of, "What's wrong with you if you couldn't have kids of your own?"

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Unfortunately, most of the "facets" above carry a lot of emotional weight, making it extremely difficult to discuss any of the issues without extreme polarization (usually followed by extreme behavior) among those doing the discussing.

I won't pretend to have any of the answers... but these (and other) facets are all part of the same stone; denying the existence of any is roughly equivalent to denying the existence of the stone itself -- and yet the world is chock-full of adopters and adoptees so such a denial amounts to truly monumental delusion.

What brought on this darker post, you might ask... Several things, actually (many of which I learned of by reading the blogs of adoptive parents and adult adoptees). The two that knocked me off the fence -- I really wasn't sure if I wanted to post this, I'd been editing a post about cute things the Pipsqueak says -- are as follows:

1) A well-meaning group called Circle of Moms held their annual "Top 25 Mommy Blogs" survey, in which people could nominate blogs for the list and then vote for them. Interestingly, a number of the most popular vote-getters were blogs (mainly written by adult adoptees) that advocate changing how adoption works and that openly address the dark side of adoption and the different issues facing the members of the "adoption triad" (birth mother, adoptee, adoptive mother). One of the top-ranking blogs belonged to an adult adoptee who also had to unwillingly give up her own child for adoption -- but it apparently ruffled some feathers and was eliminated from the contest by COM for not being sufficiently supportive of adoption and adoptive parents. I'll skip the gory details; the end result was that COM cancelled the contest mid-stream and (still licking their wounds) have announced that they will be addressing next year's contest rather differently. The (often highly polarized) comments posted on the censored blog are an interesting, albeit sometimes painful, but informative (and in some cases probably necessary) read. The URL may change as new posts are added, but the original post on the Adoption Truth blog is here. (Note: This is a well-written blog but it is not of the "rainbows and roses" variety.)

2) One of my favorite bloggers introduced her new "What The ----" feature with a doozy: a tweet from the Catholic League that says, "Lesbian Dem Hilary Rosen tells Ann Romney she never worked a day in her life. Unlike Rosen, who had to adopt kids, Ann raised 5 of her own."  (That's a direct quote, copied, albeit without permission, from the screenshot of the original tweet.)  The entire tweet is positively oozing with "there's something wrong with you if you adopt," and "raising adopted kids is nothing compared to raising genetically related kids."  You can see the original post of this particular piece of drek on "I Will Pull This Blog Over!" by clicking here.

Maybe I'm a little too sleep-deprived... maybe I'm a little too sensitive... maybe I got tired of seeing posts from people of diametrically opposed polarities drown out (by sheer volume of bytes) posts from those in less extreme points on the spectrum of experience & belief... but when added to a number of other adoption-related posts, articles, and news stories I've encountered recently, those two required me to write. This isn't a good essay in terms of presenting a particular point of view and then supporting it with specific facts, and I seriously doubt I'm saying anything most adoptees & adoptive parents haven't at least thought of themselves, but I had to write something.  (Wait 'til you see the post I've been trying to compose in response to a note on an adoption forum where someone referred to adopting a child not directly related genetically as "sick" -- assuming I'm ever able to finish editing it without foaming at the mouth.)

In closing -- this post is using an awful lot of electrons, and they're not as cheap as they once were -- I have a couple of suggestions directly related to the two events/issues I mentioned above. As far as the firestorm ignited by the Circle of Moms contest, I'd suggest turning down the heat and adopting a "wait and see" attitude; the organization (and at least some of the people leaving comments on some of the blogs) seem to have learned a valuable lesson and will handle things a little more realistically next year. I'm convinced that there's no way COM will be able to satisfy everyone, but it looks like they're going to do a better job of accepting a far greater variety of the facets of adoption. (On the other hand, keep your matches handy for re-ignition in case I prove to be overly optimistic.)

And as far as the Catholic League is concerned... This is a case where "tweet" is a highly appropriate term, the strongly inferred beliefs being at best bird-brained and at worst an expression of nothing more than thinly-disguised hate. I would suggest that Twitter, Facebook, email, and even plain ol' snail mail be used to educate the birdbrained idiot who represented that organization.

[ . . . ]

Okay, I just wrote, deleted, and re-wrote the same paragraph several times; I'm looking for an intelligent ending to this post and the brain's just not working any more (been awake too many consecutive hours). I'll just leave y'all with a request to not over-simplify adoption as all supercalifragilisticexpialidocious goodness or blacker than tar in the shadows at night dark evil. Adoption encompasses literally the entire range of human emotion & experience, from the ingrained biological urge to perpetuate the species all the way on up through the definition of "family" and on to the subjects of parenting, religion, race, heritage, and culture.  If an answer to all this is really simple, it's bound to be the wrong answer.

And speaking of answers... Please try to leave enough room in your personal beliefs to accept the fact that different people will have different thoughts on the subject, will have different experiences, will have vastly different lives, and thus will have different answers -- and "different" simply means "not the same" and NOT "better" or "worse" (it's how AJ is trying to raise the Pipsqueak).

I moderate the comments posted in this blog, but do so with a light touch -- anyone have a response they'd like to share?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A Few Quick Pix

I don't post a lot of photos here in the blog for several reasons -- mainly because AJ and I both feel it is an important safety issue for the Pipsqueak to not be quite so easily recognizable to strangers. Yes, I do enjoy seeing all the incredibly cute photos most other bloggers post, but AJ is the Pipsqueak's mommy and her rules is The Rules. We also (unfortunately) know various individuals who've had some very negative experiences due to their kids' photos being easily seen online.

However... I also really enjoy sharing the cuteness of my niece with any-and-everyone so I'm always looking for a way to share it here in the blogosphere. (My co-workers long ago learned to not ask too much about what Miri's been up to lately -- I often take my laptop to work with me, and last time I counted there were about 40 gigabytes of Pipsqueak pix & vids on its internal drive that I will gladly share no matter how much of a rush the incautious inquirer may be in.) Late last week I was trying to organize the last few months' worth of images (not all of my niece and family, just mostly so) when I realized there are some photos that show some of the cuteness without actually divulging anyone's identity... (Dude, I think you just found a loophole...!)

So, without further ado (and to fulfill several requests I've gotten from visitors to the blog), here are a few photos... You can't see her face, but I assure you that IS the Pipsqueak you're looking at...!

December 2011: The Pipsqueak decided to spread her "zoo" out on Grandma's freshly-washed kitchen floor -- she'd run into the family room, grab an animal, run into the kitchen, deposit it just so in the desired spot, then go zooming back for the next one until finally joining them on the floor for a "nap" that lasted about 15 seconds.

February 2012: The Pipsqueak was very excited when I said she could drive my car. It took me about 10 minutes of careful bargaining to get her out from behind the wheel so AJ could take her home...!

March 2012: Budding artist at work! (The recognizable smiley faces are actually the product of other family members; the Pipsqueak's currently a loyal adherent of the "back and forth scribble" school of art).

April 2012: Back in China (and for several months afterward), the Pipsqueak seemed determined to rearrange Mommy's face. Nowadays she just likes to rearrange Mommy's 'do... often with equally "comfortable" results for Mommy...!

I know it's not much... but at least I found a way to share!   :-)

Friday, April 6, 2012


The Pipsqueak seems to have a bottomless bag of tricks from which she draws actions or statements or behaviors that leave us laughing, or shaking our heads, or gaping open-mouthed at something totally unexpected. Thankfully, the vast majority of these little tricks are of the positive variety... and she pulled a whole set of 'em out of that bag this week.

This morning, Miri repeatedly told her Mommy "Don't worry, I won't break any eggs."

It took a while, but AJ figured out they're doing the whole Easter egg thing at daycare. We're not sure why the Pipsqueak was focused on breaking eggs, but chalked it up to the same warning about the difference between uncooked and hard-boiled eggs that we got as young children. (Hey, don't all Jewish kids grow up coloring eggs for Easter...?!?)

One afternoon, when Grandma & Grandpa picked her up from daycare, out of the blue the Pipsqueak asked to "get food at Donald's"

We don't talk much about Mickey D's in our family, and it's not a place we go often, but it seems that Miri had stored it in her (seemingly all-encompassing) memory and decided that was what she wanted. Her surprised Grandma asked if she wouldn't rather have some homemade pasta, or mac & cheese, or scrambled egg and cheese, or even just some of the shredded cheese she's suddenly taken a liking to (Dude, do you detect a pattern here...?) -- but no, the Pipsqueak wanted "food at Donald's" and could not be dissuaded.

Grandma checked with Grandpa (who was trying to keep driving without laughing out loud) and they decided that it couldn't hurt too much to get a couple of cups of Mickey D's coffee while Granddaughter munched on some fries -- her usual order those few times we've taken her through the Golden Arches.


Make no bones about it, when my niece wants something, she knows exactly what she wants, thank you very much. She was not interested in fries, even with extra ketchup. She wanted Chicken McNuggets (and nuthin' but).

This from a little girl who has until now has loved meat the way Mother Nature loves a vacuum. I mean, the kid was only two when she told me "I don't like meat! Meat bad!" (Yes, that's an exact quote.) The daycare center's staff insist they have never broached the subject with her; to the best of our recollection it has not been a subject of discussion in any of our homes; and none of the vegetarian friends or relatives we remember her ever meeting have broached the subject in her presence -- but the Pipsqueak does not eat meat.

So here she is, asking for chicken nuggets (which she knows darn well are meat) -- and promptly finishing off an entire 6-piece package! None of us know if it's the beginning of a new phase in dining or a one-time reaction to something that happened at daycare, but until now we considered this as likely as Newt Gingrich saying he thought Barack Obama should serve a second term as President.

As an added bonus, as they walked through the parking lot to the car, Miri pointed to the big sign out front and told her grandparents, "That's an M, it's the first letter of my name!"

This from the little girl who happily randomizes the order of letters in the alphabet, who regularly tells me, "I write your name!" while scribbling shapeless blobs on paper, who flawlessly reproduces the tune of the alphabet song while only using about 18 letters... or 37... or however many suits her mood at the moment.

Needless to say, Grandma was kvelling mightily while telling me about all this on the phone. (I freely admit her jiujiu is doing the same.)

The Pipsqueak also gave me a couple of those "Huh?!?" moments this week. I had an early day on Wednesday (midday meeting at HQ) so I got to have a rare mid-week dinner with the rest of the family. Before we ate, Miri had me sit on the couch in the family room so we could read a book, and she grabbed one about animals that live in the sea. She was happily turning the pages and telling me aaallll about the animals in the pictures (very little of which matched what was actually printed on the pages, but I was having a blast listening to her make up little stories). We had a spirited round of, "shark BITES!" (which she seemed to think was the best part of the book) after which she turned to a picture of an octopus and loudly said "oh, yuck!" several times -- an expression I'd never heard her use before.

After dinner, she directed me to an easel her Grandpa had set up for her earlier in the day and asked me to "please draw a okoputs and skid" for her. She liked the way I drew the big eyes on the octopus, and appreciated the little wings I put on the tail end of the squid, but I didn't get too far into my discussion of the difference between the two when she loudly interrupted with, "draw me a monster!"

"You want me to draw a sea monster?"

"Yes! I like monsters! And draw me a spider! I like monsters and spiders!"

Oh-kay... This is the same little girl who seemingly just days ago didn't like any animals she thought looked strange, and who immediately asked to be picked up and held if she so much as thought there was the image of a spider in the vicinity.


I can't wait to see what she comes up with next...!