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, September 4, 2012

Quite A Meal...!

I was tempted to use the title, "Quite A Weekend," but (except for a few quick points) I'm going to concentrate on a single, highly entertaining, meal the family shared on Monday night.

First, some quick news bites:
  • As I type this, the last of our "Adoption Bunch" friends are finally, after seven years of waiting, meeting their daughter in Jiangxi Province! 
  • The Beast is gone! I  mortgaged my soul  sold my firstborn  got a darned good deal on a 2012 RAV4, so the increasingly failure-prone and even more increasingly expensive to maintain Mountaineer is now the problem of a local Toyota dealership. (The last time I felt this good about going into debt was when I bought my house... the Beast really wasn't gonna make it though another winter!)
  • The biggest of the baby gates at AJ's (the one by the front door with the ridiculous installation I referred to as Gate #4 in this post) finally pulled all the way out of the wall this week, and the decision has been made that the Pipsqueak is now old enough for us to just patch the wall and do without... and when I told Miri that shows she's growing up but that she shouldn't be in a rush to grow up, AJ very quietly added, "no, not too fast" with a quiet half-smile.
  • There have been some new but not necessarily positive changes with the Pipsqueak's daycare provider, so AJ (who took off Tuesday like her big bro) will be checking out a couple of other nearby daycare alternatives... more news as it becomes available...
  • The Pipsqueak got her first set of tap shoes this weekend, and this week will be adding highly-anticipated tap dancing lessons to her already greatly-enjoyed ballet lessons. She's already putting on "recitals" for anyone she can corral, I can't wait to see what happens with the new skill set!
  • The Pipsqueak also starts Chinese school this coming weekend (she's looking forward to this, too); happily, the daughters of some other families in our "adoption bunch" are already at the same school and are looking forward to welcoming their friend. (And I'm trying to figure out how to reset my Rosetta Stone software back to square one so I can start to follow along!)
...but about that meal I referred to...

The Toyota dealer was doing land office business today, so it took forever and a half for the last stages of paperwork to get through the mill.  We had a good time swapping kids' photos & stories with Lisa, the Chinese-born saleslady I was working with[1], and a good time sharing Pipsqueak pix & stories with the Chinese-born finance guy[2] who happened to pick my papers from the "in process" rack at random, so that helped pass the time a little... but by the time we got ready to transfer all the  junk  crap garbage  stuff I tended to haul around in the Beast to the RAV4, it was so late that we begged off to get some food beforehand.  (I did, however, have time to enjoy my niece's loud, "WOW!" when her Grandma pointed out Uncle Brian's new car. <g>)

We got to the OC Buffet with only 20 minutes to spare, decided our meal would be too rushed, and opted for a nearby IHOP; Mom was a little nervous because there were only 2 other people inside, but friendly smiles from the greeter & wait staff changed our minds & we read through the menus with rumbling tummies.

And then the floor show started.

AJ said, "There's something in my tea..." and fished out a (sealed) packet of honey! She told our very apologetic waiter not to worry about it, and a few moments later the Pipsqueak pulled open the package, dipped a fingertip in and took a taste, and then spent the next several minutes happily glomming onto as much honey as she could lift out a fingerful at a time. She then asked about all the mini-carafes of syrups on the table, and when I told her the one on the end was strawberry, she lit up like a thousand-watt bulb. (She likes all kinds of ice cream and will usually finish most of what she's given, but strawberry... well, nary a drop of that particular flavor is ever wasted!)

Just as Miri began asking why the rest of us weren't eating, her hot chocolate arrived -- piled high with all the whipped cream AJ had forgotten to ask the waiter to leave out. At first Miri thought it was ice cream, but she decided she liked it anyway... and very quickly began slopping hot chocolate all over the table while whacking the pile of cream with her spoon. When AJ asked her to stop making such a mess, she demanded -- loudly! -- that we "Take it off! Take it off!" so we dumped the packets of coffee creamer onto the table and spooned the cream into the little bowl they'd come in. The drink was still too hot, so Miri contented herself with spooning the cream into her mouth, an action that soon changed to her sticking her tongue out & making silly faces at her uncle while pretending she was eating all kinds of exotic things.

Luckily, our food arrived before the Pipsqueak realized there wasn't any whipped cream or honey left anywhere on the table (aside from what she had dribbled, dropped, or smeared there herself) and she contented herself with shuffling her mini-pancakes around on the plate until they presented a sufficiently pleasing arrangement beside the eggs. I doused one with strawberry syrup for her to try (not until Mommy added a sufficient spread of butter, of course!), and Miri spent the next few minutes taking bites of pancake, inhaling her scrambled egg (and some of my omelet, and some of Grandma's, and some of Mommy's!), and alternately playing with or chewing on a couple of pieces of bacon.

That is, she was doing all that when she wasn't rearranging her pancakes... excitedly bouncing up & down on the bench seat (with the added attraction for all of watching Mommy try to drink hot tea with a hyperactive little girl bouncing up & down excitedly just inches away on the same seat)... dancing to the music playing on the PA system... passing little fragments of bacon back & forth to us... looking for more honey... and/or just excitedly going on and on and on about whatever came into her mind. (There are times my niece's stream of consciousness more closely resembles the mighty Mississippi than the gentle mill stream.) We had to keep reminding her to use her "inside voice" -- more customers had come in and were sitting in several nearby booths -- but she kept cracking the four of us up with her jokes & antics.

Partway through the meal (just as AJ managed to get a forkful of her own meal into her mouth), Miri loudly announced, "I have to go potty!" so AJ trundled off with her.[3]  As usual, they were only about  halfway back to the table when my niece began to loudly announce to any- and everyone within earshot that she had just gone potty like a big girl, and it was once again easy to see which of the other patrons had experience with potty-training kidlings and which didn't just by watching their faces.

After several more minutes of food-borne fun, Miri suddenly decided she had to sit next to her uncle. Dad & I slid over to make room and rearranged the table a bit, and I found myself next to a bouncy, talkative, sticky-handed, playful dynamo who spent the next 15-20 minutes alternately taking bites of pancakes, bouncing up & down, and running her sticky goopy messy hands through her uncle's hair (usually followed by her laughing at my silly 'do). There were a couple of quieter moments when Miri just leaned into me while eating, so I didn't mind the baby mousse up top... and she absolutely blew me (and her Grandma) away when she suddenly turned to me, said "You're the best!" and gave me an impromptu hug. (Those were her exact words, and none of us had ever heard her say that before.)

We eventually got to the point where all the empty plates were cleared from the table (except Miri's, especially after she told the waiter, "I not done! Don't take mine!") and everyone was in agreement that the Pipsqueak's last few pancakes would go into a doggy bag, so Dad picked up the check and headed for the cashier... followed (about two seconds later) by his granddaughter, moving at something close to Warp 8. Both AJ & I called out, "Dad!" to warn him, whereupon she began yelling "Dad! Dad!" at him while wrapping herself around one leg and laughing.

I was talking with Mom & AJ about the car-buying process when I looked up and noticed the Pipsqueak was now in the arms of the cashier, both of them bent over the cash register. I mentioned that my niece seemed to have made a new friend, and the three of us watched as she stood on the counter by the register, obviously having a very involved conversation with the cashier, eventually scooped back up by her Grandpa. As soon as her feet hit the floor, Miri came charging back to the table with a proud, "I did it! I did it myself!" and Dad explained that she had "helped" the cashier, watching closely and even (with a little hands-on help) pushing some of the buttons.

We finally headed out, with many smiles from the cashier and greeter (even a high-five!), and headed back to the dealership after i finished negotiating with the Pipsqueak over who sat where ("Brian, you sit in the back, I sit in my seat!") and where the styrofoam box with her pancakes should go. The Pipsqueak "helped" move all the stuff from one car to the next, but was a little disappointed when I said she couldn't ride in it yet because I hadn't had time to get her special seat installed correctly. Mollified by promises of a ride "real soon!" in Uncle Brian's new car, we all headed back to AJ's to wrap up a couple of things (and watch a very involved impromptu song-and-dance routine that somehow involved Ariel, the ocean, and a demonstration of how mermaids swim).

All in all, a very busy (and expensive!) afternoon and evening... and one heck of a lot of fun, too!

[1] I just realized she shared a name with the incredibly helpful guide we had for most of our time in China...! She even went so far as to "jump the line" with my paperwork and push it ahead of other customers' when Mom admitted her blood sugar was getting too far out of the healthy zone due to her not eating for too many hours.

[2] When AJ came into the dealership with the Pipsqueak so we could all go to dinner together, he took one look at Miri and exclaimed that she's natural-born with the kind of eyelids that are the #1 requested cosmetic surgery in China, almost the equivalent of breast augmentation surgery in the U.S. We'd never heard that before from anyone, but he was (pleasantly) adamant about it...!

[3] Potty training is ongoing, and the Pipsqueak is getting pretty good at it. Monday was actually the first day we didn't have a single "oops" and she peed and pooped several times just like a big girl should! (She's actually very proud of that, something we're encouraging.)

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