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, January 28, 2014

Bits of This & That (and a Heart-Melter)

I used to say that my parents had a better social life than I did. (Dude, it's true — you gotta get you a life!)  Well, lately, my niece has been putting them to shame. For example, this past weekend she attended three birthday parties in two days! Two of the parties, happily a day apart, were held at the same fire station.

Yes, I said fire station — who woulda thunk it?  The kidlings got to "drive" a real fire truck (read: sit in the driver's seat while it was parked in the garage), put out a real house fire (read: use a stream of water to knock down blocks in a model house), tour the fire station, and hold a water bucket relay (read: make a lot of moms who hadn't thought to bring along a change of clothes really, really nervous). All in all, a blast for the Pipsqueak & company, and AJ managed to get a cute photo of my niece "driving" the fire truck with a ginormous smile on her face.  (AJ admitted there were many missed photo ops & video ops because yours truly hadn't taught her the trick of using the iPhone camera without going through the entire unlock process. Argh.)

And, just to make the Jiu Jiu feel older, one of the parties was celebrating the 4th birthday of one of the grandsons of someone I went to junior high school with. I can feel them ol' bones creaking... (Hi, Kathy!)

One of the not-so-good things that happened over the past few weeks was a bit of a shocker.  We were all over at Mom & Dad's and the Pipsqueak was busy decimating a bunch of grapes. Just as Miri went to put a particularly big & juicy grape in her mouth, it slipped out of her hand and rolled across the floor under a chair.  Well, I'm not exactly sure where or how she picked up this particular expression, but my cute, darling, innocent little niece stomped her foot angrily and let out a nice, loud, "goddammit!" with all the vehemence & inflection one would expect of someone many times her age.

There was a shocked silence in the room — I think Miri realized she'd let a cat she wasn't supposed to have out of a bag she wasn't supposed to be holding — and then she got a bit of a talking-to from Mommy. Not loud, not angry, but decidedly vehement and serious.  We haven't heard anything like that since despite a couple of oopsies, so I think AJ got her point across to her daughter.

But still... Yikes!

The Pipsqueak is showing increased interest in letters and numbers of late, and is getting pretty good at printing her name. (Others as well, but with help; spelling is the next adventure.) When things got complicated (again!) a few weeks back and I had to pick Miri up at daycare & take her to work so AJ could turn around and take her home, she demonstrated how good she's gotten at counting all the way up to 30. This was followed by a request to learn bigger numbers, so we got all the way up to 100 before everything morphed into a discussion of how old everyone in the family is. Grandma & Grandpa got surprised comments along the lines of, "That's a big number! That's a big age!" while Mommy's age garnered a simple, "Ok, okay." My age, however, was met with a loud, laughing, "Uncle Brian, you are old!" (She later followed up with an impromptu, "I love you" so I didn't mind. No, really, I didn't!)

The "heart melter" I referred to in my title also came about three weeks ago.  I had gotten home from work lateand had literally just laid my head on my pillow when my cell phone started ringing. Now, I don't know  about you, but when a phone rings at 3:00am (yes, that does indeed say three  o'clock in the morning), my heart rate heads for the stratosphere and my first thought is something along the lines of, WHAT'S WRONG?!? The ringtone was the one assigned to AJ, so all I could think of was either Dulce had died on the bed (she's been sick lately) or Miri had gone onto the floor headfirst.

AJ knows her brother well; instead of "hello" she greeted me with, "Everything is alright!" She then went on to explain that about 15 minutes earlier, Miri had woken suddenly from a nightmare in a tearful panic, absolutely convinced that Uncle Brian had gotten badly cut and had to go to the hospital. No matter what AJ said, my niece simply would not, could not, calm down and go back to sleep without making sure I was alright. AJ handed the phone over to her and I heard this quiet, little-girl voice asking,  "Uncle Brian, I had a dream, are you okay?"  I reassured Miri (several times) that I was fine and that it was all just a dream & not real, and she finally said "Okay" and gave the phone back to AJ.  The next night, AJ called me (on my cell) at work around 9:00pm and said that Miri was still worried about me. Once again, I had a short talk with the Pipsqueak, reassuring her that the previous night was just a bad dream and that I really, truly was okay and not hurt at all. I finally got a cheerful, "Okay! Thank you! I love you!" and my caring, loving little niece headed off to bed while AJ and I said goodnight. (She asked me one more time in person the following weekend, closing the episode with a nice, big hug.)

I don't need to pick the petals off a flower going, "she loves me, she loves me not..." because I already know the answer. That's a pretty special kid my sister's got. <smile>

Friday, January 17, 2014

A Little Less Pipsqueakish

Okay... I know that if everything goes the way it's supposed to, little kids don't remain "little kids" for a terribly long time. I regularly have little bouts of "Yikes!" when I look at my niece and compare what I see to my mental photo gallery of that tiny little person that was handed to my sister in July of 2010, but every now and then I have a bigger "YIKES!" when I get an even clearer picture of how much less of a pipsqueak the Pipsqueak has become.

Take, f'rinstance, this photo:

I took this shot almost exactly one year ago, just after making several more holes in the walls of my sister's house. The Pipsqueak was excited to have her very own coat hanger, and happily hung up her jackets after thanking me for my efforts.  Look closely... See how Miri's reaching up to place a jacket on one of the pegs, and how the pegs are slightly above her head? See how the shelf is above the pegs, even higher above the Pipsqueak?

Well... When I was over at AJ's about two weeks back, I noticed that the shelf is now directly in Miri's line of sight, and the top of her head is visibly above the shelf.


Don't get me wrong; the Pipsqueak's still easy to lose in a crowd, and we still make jokes about affixing one of those tall bicycle flags to her when we go out... but holy moly, she's growing!


Don't be in such a rush, kiddo... You're aging your uncle!

Monday, January 6, 2014

That Loud Wooshing Sound You Heard...

...was 2013 heading past at what sometimes seemed to be much more than highway speed.


I'll keep my list of wishes a bit shorter this year: Here's wishing everyone a happy, healthy, prosperous year filled with love and good memories; a year with less pathos, more empathy, less drama, more good happenings, less worry, more happiness, less cancer, more good health, less divisiveness, and more equality of every kind for everyone.

Somewhere along the line, I decided I should do a "year in review" post (Dude, you're getting predictable in your old age) but it seemed to keep pointlessly growing until even Dostoyevsky would've probably shaken his head and left the room. Sooo... instead of looking all the way back at a year that I'm not entirely unhappy to see pass into history, here are a couple of quick updates.

Due to some of the (many) medical misadventures in the family over the past couple of months, it wasn't too long after the Pipsqueak's first Nutcracker performance that I had to get to work early, then leave work to drive past my house to pick her up at daycare, then drive all the way back to work with her so that AJ could drive all the way back home with her when she finished her work for the day. Mom was kind of upset about it, but I kinda just shrugged and Miri thought it was all a really fun grand adventure.

As you can see in the photos above, the Pipsqueak discovered that Mommy's highliters made good crayons, but when she got bored with that she took to writing me "notes" on a Post-It pad (one or two of which contained actual words!), running all the way down the hall, sticking them to my office door, and then running all the way back to Mommy's office to write more (laughing all the way, I might add). By the time AJ took her little dynamo home, I had five Post-Its on my office door and another in my hand.

As the month progressed, we also found a really strange-looking critter on the couch at Mom & Dad's house...

...and discovered that my niece and my folks' cat share nearly identical senses of personal space (at least as far as my folks' kitchen floor is concerned).

Somewhere along the way, Cousin E's boyfriend V (a really nice guy) managed to get Miri hooked on Tic-Tac-Toe, so when AJ and I met E and V with Miri for Chinese food on Christmas (hey, we're Jewish, I think it's actually in the rules somewhere...!) they had a marathon session in between runs to the buffet. She even let him win a game...!

New Year's Eve was -- as if I needed proof that I'm becoming an old fuddy-duddy -- thankfully quiet and low-key, spent at a friend's house. Part of the discussion that evening was about the oncoming bout of winter weather that was expected to hit New York and parts north. Our hostess admitted to being bummed that we were going to miss out on the snow...

...but she needn't have worried. With January 2nd being my first night back at work, I found myself looking out my window at 2:00pm at steadily falling snow while the radio cheerfully assured me we were only going to have light rain mixed with wet snow, turning to all snow in the wee hours of the morning before tapering off. By 3:00pm the forecast had changed to just "after midnight" and by the time I was out driving in the slop they admitted we were likely to get "a light dusting" of no more than an inch, and that would be "only on grassy surfaces." By 10:30pm, while I was out clearing and de-icing the center's front walk, they were still chirping happily about "an inch."

Yah, right.

I can normally make it home at night, from stepping out the door at work to stepping in my own front door, in about 20 minutes (assuming, of course, there aren't any police cruisers out & about). Well... I walked out the door at work at 1:40am... and didn't walk through my own front door until 3:05am. Just over half an hour of that was time spent digging, sweeping, and chipping my vehicle free of the combined 3" of fresh snow and hard-frozen slush from my drive in, and the rest was just negotiating roads that had been treated for that "light dusting" rather than the actual snow we had.

The roaring of the wind in the trees behind my house kept waking me up, so I finally gave up around 7:30am and went out to shovel the sidewalk in front of my house. (Not quite willingly; 'round these parts, The Law sez we gotta.) I have to admit it was beautiful outside; fresh air, bright blue sky, that special golden light that comes only at sunrise and sunset... Despite joking with neighbors about "biggest darn inch I ever saw" and "January has a twisted sense of humor," I appreciated the scenery enough to grab my camera and fire off a bunch of pics... a sampling follows...

The photo to the left's a closeup of the first tree on my block to catch the morning's direct sunlight; it looked more golden to the naked eye, but I still think it's pretty to see.

There's a very prickly Holly bush on the side of my house that's not usually
very photogenic, but this morning was an exception.
Just a light dusting, no more than an inch on grassy surfaces, eh? <sigh>
There's an Azalea bush under there somewhere...
This little concrete bear lives on my front porch. I kinda got the feeling he
would've much rather been hibernating in a warm, snug hole somewhere...

The sunlight finally reached over the houses to the trees in the backyard; I took
many photos of the white/gold/blue scene before the sunlight cooled to a more
usual blue/white hue and the trees reverted to wood instead of copper...

One last shot out my bedroom window before collapsing back into bed for a bit
of a nap. By the time I woke up, the combined sun & wind had stripped all the
branches bare once again.
So there you have it, my wishes for the new year and the first snowfall of 2014, with a few added bonus photos at no extra charge. <grin>  We've started off the new year chilly but pretty and I'm hoping that's a good omen... So I'll close out with one last refrain of "happy new year!" to one and all and look
forward to the next 12 months of adventure!