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!

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Very (Very) Active Period of Time...

NOTE: This post has been delayed by several evenings of spotty, extra-slow, or completely nonexistent Internet connectivity. Thank you, Compost, for such wonderful service...! It's a good thing that I've got the Internet back, because watching TV is still a painful experience with all those freezes, blackouts, dropouts, and other such fun & games.

The past few weeks have, in a sorta quiet way, been a VERY active period (at least for our group of "adoption friends").

But first, an update from the home front... Last weekend I got to spend some quality "Uncle duty" time with the Pipsqueak, since AJ had manager duty on Sunday and Mom & Dad really needed someone to help keep the family's smallest but most active self-mobile nuclear reactor under supervision. Miri wasn't feeling too good early in the day, and threw up rather thoroughly on herself, a blanket, a pillow, and the big family room couch just minutes after I arrived.  (She almost got me, too, but I cleared that particular spot on the couch with nanoseconds to spare -- my reaction time isn't as good as my sister's but it's getting better...!)

Some paper towels, a lot of calming talk, and a clothing change later, the Pipsqueak was feeling better... so much better, in fact, that she went from looking pitiful to happily demanding to watch Wiggles videos on my 'puter. So we watched the Wiggles... then Mickey, then more Wiggles... then a few (non-scary) shark videos on YouTube, then looked for princess pictures out on the 'net... then took a quick trip back to YouTube for a few minutes of "Cinderella" until she got bored and said she wanted a different princess, followed by more Mickey (same videos, unfortunately). Then still more Wiggles. Then the same Mickey videos again... Finally a request for Barney or Dora, so it was over to Netflix for a few episodes of each... Aaaaaallllll afternoon long, into the evening, right through dinner (which I ate slowly because I made sure to keep a hand where it could yank my laptop out from under Miri's cup, or spoon, or anything else she was wielding that could do to my laptop what she'd done to Dad's).

My niece spent most of the time either sitting on one or another of my legs, or sitting on my lap, or occasionally standing/jumping on my lap (ouch).  For every video. The entire day. Yeah, she climbed into Mommy's lap every now & then once AJ was able to spring loose & join us, but usually she clambered back onto yours truly after just a few minutes had passed.

Lest any reader mistake the above for complaints... well, they're not. I may have gotten sore and sweaty (just like her uncle, the Pipsqueak tends to run a bit hot) but I'm acutely aware that this is a time of my niece's life that is passing at breathtaking speed, so I'm getting all the Cuddly Little Girl time I can before she decides I'm just an uncool grownup and banishes me to the sidelines. (I say this partly because we squeezed in a few minutes of photos from our China trip between Barney & Dora, and the change in Miri in less than two years' time is astonishing.)

And now that I've spent some bytes kvelling over my niece, on to the "very active" part of the post. There's a group of very special people we've become friends with over the years, all supporting each other through the painfully long adoption process, regardless of agency, or timing, or anything else. For the past few years, each get-together has been marked with the (oh so slow) addition of kidlings, one after the other... and still everyone has been helping the families who haven't yet been matched with their children "keep the faith" during the ever-increasing wait.

And now, after years of referrals trickling in one at a time... One couple just returned home last week from China with their new daughter, another family will be returning home from China this weekend with their new son (and their daughter, one of the first China babies of the group, has turned out to be a great traveling companion & wonderful big sister), and -- FINALLY! after years of waiting -- the last family in our group still waiting received their referral this past Monday, a super-cute little girl born late in 2010.  So now it's looking like our next late summer crabfest will finally have a full complement of kidlings, and AJ & her fellow mommies can dust off those long-shelved plans for a group outing to a toddler-friendly amusement park... we may even have outgrown the banquet room at the restaurant where we have our annual Chinese New Year dinner!

All this adoption travel, and the imminent end of The Wait at long last for all the waiting families in our group, has brought back a lot of memories & triggered a lot of thoughts that I'll try to address (to some degree) here in the blog over the next couple of weeks. It's a real jumble of, "omigod, has it really been that long?!?" and memories of the craziness between referral & travel day, and happiness for friends whose paperchase is finally ending, and memories of what it was like to attend the showers & barbecues while the Pipsqueak was still nothing more than a dream & a gleam in my sister's eye, all with a dusting of bittersweet at how the familiar adoption ecosystem on Shamian Island is apparently coming to an end now that the U.S. consulate has moved and the White Swan has closed for major renovations (allegedly to reopen as a non-adoption-friendly business hotel in 2013).

Wow... just realized how much of a run-on sentence I typed in the preceding paragraph, but I can't seem to untangle it into more proper English; there are just too many memories and images coming into my mind every time I think of all that's going on at the same time!  Tell you what -- I'm going to try to get some sleep (after all, I've had to make up for several nights without Internet connectivity!) and then, assuming Comcast doesn't mess me up again, I'll start collecting my thoughts into something resembling a logical structure.

But, in closing, I just wanted to say that it is just absolutely so GREAT that now, after 3/4 of a decade has passed(!), every remaining family in our group of "adoption friends" is finally done with The Wait and can move forward with their lives.

Where's that extra-large smiley icon when you need it...?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Some Quiet Monday/Tuesday Thoughtsa

I'm typing this in the wee hours between what most people would consider "Monday" and "Tuesday" (Dude, this has got to be the most nondescript block of wee hours in a week!)  so please forgive me if I ramble a bit... I kinda/sorta have a point that I'll get to eventually, I promise...

This was another (thankfully rare) Pipsqueak-free weekend for me; aside from a super-quick "conversation" with the most energetic member of the family on the phone, we didn't get to look for new pictures of princesses or sharks (long story) on my 'puter or sing our special personalized version of The Wiggles' "Big Red Car."

I was also very proud of myself for finally -- seventeen months after having new windows installed! -- buying curtains for the two front rooms to replace the trash bags I'd taped up for privacy... and the same curtain set that was $24.99 at BB&B was only $9 on clearance at K-Mart! (Who says guys can't shop, huh?!?!?)

I've also been following along on the blog of some friends who are in China meeting their new daughter right now -- Gotcha Day was the 6th (China time) and so far things are looking pretty good. It's been bringing back lots of memories, which have made me dive into the adoption-related parts of the blogosphere even more than usual.

Which got me to thinking, as the saying goes.

Maybe it's the recent "Circle of Momsgate" ruckus, maybe it's just my becoming more open to a wider range of opinions about adoption, or maybe I've just developed heightened senses that make my ears perk up (so to speak) when adoption is discussed... but I'm beginning to wonder if I'm a minority in the adoption blogosphere.

I'm not referring to the incredibly small number of males of the species who blog on the subject (and there seem to be darned few of us out here). I am referring to the type & content of my posts. The vast majority of the prose I've produced talks about my (mis)adventures as an uncle, the silly/cute/funny stuff that the Pipsqueak sometimes seems to attract like iron filings to a magnet, the adventures involved in watching a little girl grow up... sometimes there's a bit of reminiscing going on, or a teeny-tiny bit of privacy fade to allow some personal feelings and/or self-analysis to show up... but lately it seems that most people blogging about adoption in any way are talking about Serious Issues.

You know, the fun stuff: Adoptee rights. First mothers vs. adoptive mothers. Mothers' loss of their babies. The unique problems adoptees face just trying to live day-to-day like everyone else. (I'm not making light of these very real, very serious issues; I'm just trying to keep the general tone of this particular post a bit lighter.)

The most recent thought inducer was a post in the Adoption Magazine blog, where an adoption "blog hop" was begun back in April. (The list is now closed to new additions, but you can find the blog hop here.) Unlike the CoM blog contest (which really was an online popularity contest), the AM blog hop is a listing that doesn't go tap dancing in the minefield of popularity or appropriateness of one's point of view. Instead, it is a list with two very simple rules: the blog must be by someone affected directly by adoption (Dude, someone finally figured out there's more than just parents involved with these kids, are those hosannahs I hear?) and the blogger needs to be respectful of others' views.

I like that: short, sweet, to the point... and polite. And accepting of diversity. (I like it so much that you'll find me at #106 on the list.)

However, to borrow from Monty Python: There is one small problem. I clicked through the list of links pretty much at random, and out of a dozen or so blogs I sampled (to be honest, my samples were often just posting before moving on to another blog) ONE seemed to have posts similar to my own, and ONE seemed to be leaning in that direction while aaaallllll the others seemed to be much more involved in discussing some of the more serious issues in the adoption world.

I'm really not a Pollyanna; I've made a conscious choice to concentrate on telling the story of my sister's journey to adopt her daughter and of my niece's growing up rather than discussing the issues in the background. I've (barely) begun to talk about those issues, and I can guarantee there will be plenty of such discussions in the future, but that's simply not the purpose or focus of my blog.

Does that really make me a minority? Are blogs supposed to be serious, issue-oriented online publications with only minor, temporary deviations into the territory of Cute?

I believe in diversity, even in publications and writing -- so I'll be keeping my blog the way it is. But (and consider yourselves warned) there will indeed be forays into much more serious territory every now and then.

But someone's gotta keep the lighter side in view, don't you agree?

Might as well be me...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Simple Joys

Aah, to be young again...  To immerse oneself in, and be completely entertained by, the simplest of pleasures...

Playing with water in the sink while Mommy patiently waits for you to finish (after carefully substituting a plastic bowl for the glass cup you were playing with)...

Tumbling and jumping and acting silly on Mommy's bed with all your stuffed animals to help...

Showing Grandpa you know how to make funny beeping noises with a tablet and stylus (thus reminding all adults in the room they are actually obsolete, since you knew immediately how to use the tablet & stylus while they all had to learn)...

Or simply having fun with Mommy and Cousin E, building towers of blocks taller than yourself and then laughingly knocking them down only to build them up (and knock them down again) over and over...!

Aah, to be young again...!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


One of the surest signs that AJ's China Baby is progressing through toddlerhood and really becoming a little girl is the slow but sure disappearance of many unique words she used (some for a very short time, some for the better part of a year).  The process is a little bittersweet for us grownups; we mourn the loss of some really cute bits of very personal communication abandoned in favor of more correct English while simultaneously feeling pride (and maybe some relief?) at the increasing speed with which the Pipsqueak groks the English language and moves forward in her own life journey.

I'm not making fun of my niece; I just want to share some of her unique vocabulary that I (and the rest of the family) think is cute.  (Dude, you do realize that at some point Miri will read this post when she's older and will be sorely tempted to whack you upside your head with a 2x4, don't you...?)

In any case, without further ado, here's an alphabetized list of some common Pipsqueakisms as presented by the Pipsqueak herself:

Ana Ana = One of the princesses I really like, the one who was turned into a frog but finally turned back into herself again. [Note from Brian: This is the name that the Pipsqueak settled on for Tiana, the princess in Disney's "The Princess and the Frog"]

bandee = This is the thing that Mommy sticks on me to cover my boo-boos and keep them clean while they heal.

bang = This is the tool that Uncle Brian used to hit some nails into a piece of wood. It made a loud noise but Mommy told me it would so I wasn't scared, and it was interesting to see the nails get shorter each time he hit them...

Bigan = This was my Jiu Jiu's name before I learned to call him "Brian" or "Uncle Brian" (but after I spent months calling him a bunch of things that he says sounded suspiciously like badly mangled pronunciations of "Sheboygan").

Booty Booty = This is one of my favorite princesses, the one who went to sleep after pricking her finger and had to be rescued by a handsome prince. I really like her pretty gowns!  [Note from Brian: As you've probably guessed, most of us refer to this princess as "Sleeping Beauty"]

brulala = That funny thing Grandma insists on unfolding & holding over my head when it's raining, no matter how lightly and no matter how much I want to jump around in all that fun water falling from the sky.

buboos = I really like these, whether I'm making them with soapy water or with that funny slippery water that comes in plastic bottles. Sometimes I try to catch them but I really just like to watch them float through the air. I wonder how they do that...?

chakik (or chatik)= I like to put this on my lips, it helps keep them smooth and feeling good. I especially like it when Cousin E shares hers with me (it's usually cherry flavored).

chokit = This is my most favorite food. I'm beginning to call it "chocolate" like the rest of my family, but why bother with that extra syllable...?

ellegater = This is a big box, kind of like a little room, that we get into in different places when we want to go up or down without using the stairs. I like standing in the corner, even if there aren't any strangers riding up and down with us. I'm not sure I like the music that's usually playing from the ceiling, though...

frigitater = The big metal box in the kitchen with a door on the front that has cold food on the inside and lots of magnets holding my artwork on the outside.

Gick = One of my favorite cousins. I can't figure out why everyone else calls him "Nick" instead...

happy cake = I usually just call it "cake" now, but this is that really yummy food that we get to eat at parties after we blow out the candles. (Now if I could just figure out why everyone gets so agitated when I taste the candles...!)

I welcome = How I'd reply when someone said "thank you" until I realized when Grandma or Mommy said, "now say you're welcome," they really meant "now say the phrase, 'you're welcome'!"

jamas = I wear these when I go to bed. Right now my favorites have ladybugs on them.

need up! = Why should I waste time saying the entire phrase, "I want you to pick me up" or "I want to you to cuddle me" when I get all the desired results with just these two words?

Pigutt and Eeyow = These are two of Pooh's best friends. I like them almost as much as I like Pooh himself.

pyooter = These are the machines everyone in my family seems to use all the time, especially my Jiu Jiu. I like his best; it has lots of woggle and Mickey videos on it... but why does he always get so anxious when I start randomly pressing keys, or hitting the screen? (I used to play a lot with Grandpa's, but for some reason it doesn't work so well now that I've poured a cup of orange juice into it... I wonder why...?)

screwter = This is the special tool that Uncle Brian used to turn all the screws that hold together my toy kitchen, and to attach all those silly gates that keep me from falling down the stairs in my house, and to attach all those latches to the kitchen cabinet doors that I figured out how to open anyway...

Sezme = That really fun place on TV where Big Bird and all his friends live... especially Abby, my favorite!

shoop = That wet food that comes in a bowl that all the grownups insist on eating with a spoon even though fingers and slurping work just fine. Really, they do!

weasel = When I'm over at their house, sometimes Grandpa sets this up and Grandma hangs paper on it for me to draw and scribble on. I don't know why she always giggles when I ask for it...?

woggle = My favorite performing group. My family calls them "The Wiggles" so I'm beginning to do the same, but I know this is their real name...!

= = = = =

In closing, since I don't want to seem unfair, I present one of the more common AJisms that we seem to be hearing more of as time goes by:

nonononokaaay = For when what she's trying to stop the Pipsqueak from doing gets done anyway, usually while she's in the middle of telling the Pipsqueak to not do it...!