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!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Catching Up, Ranting, Rambling, and Some Personal News...

Hey, lessee... I last posted here on...



I've shoveled a lot of snow, lately. I'm tired of shoveling snow. I used to really like all that white stuff, but lately I've been thinking it's high time that someone handed God a bottle of a really good dandruff shampoo and then turned around and gave Old Man Winter a kick in the cojones (or any other body part of your choosing -- I just want to kick Old Man Winter).  I like having four seasons, but I am SO over winter... and even now that it's Spring, somehow it's still feeling like Winter. There's still a small pile of hard-frozen snow in front of my house where the stuff was all-too-recently piled higher than my vehicle. The ground is so saturated with water from the melting snow & ice, trees are falling in the slightest breeze and I'm reluctant to walk on any surface that isn't paved... while those surfaces that are paved are slowly fragmenting into something one used to find only on an automobile manufacturer's test track that takes even the most luxurious sedan's suspension system right to its very limits of capability.

I haven't put my snow shovel away in two months. No, not "a long time that feels like two months," or "a long enough time for me to exaggerate a little." For two whole freakin' months, it's leaning against the railing that (along with a change from tile to carpet) marks the divide between "foyer" and "living room" in my house. Open the front door, and there it is, looking even more worn than I feel, with a bit of a long, thin rust mark on the floor from its metal front edge.  I'm putting that fakakte shovel away this weekend -- I hope Old Man Winter gets the message!

Aside from kvetching about Winter overstaying its welcome, I've been doing lots of other stuff. One particularly nice thing was when the whole family was invited to share some good friends' Gotcha Day celebration, which included a lot of reminiscing (some happy, some not) of the people & events that marked The Wait for all the families represented around the table.  Can four whole years really have slipped by already?!?

I have decided that my niece is powered internally by at least two small nuclear reactors. I've included a quick sample of a typical dance that can go on (and on and on and on) for 15-20 minutes at a stretch; not only is Miri able to out-do the Energizer Bunny, she's got better moves than her uncle! Meanwhile she has continued to amaze us with unexpected off-the-cuff actions and remarks that seem appropriate to someone several years older. She was recently bumped up to (re)join the five-year-olds at daycare; even though her birthday's not until June, most of her friends are slightly older and were moved up into that group at the beginning of the year, leaving Miri with the Threes and Fours. AJ spoke with the teacher, whose response was something like, "Sure, no problem -- she's smarter than a lot of those kids anyway!"  (Okay, I stopped kvetching, now I'm kvelling. But I won't apologize. <g>)

 I (we) have also become familiar with the "Frozen" movie and characters. I don't mean "oh, yeah, there's these two sisters and a crazy snowman, and a guy whose best friend is a reindeer" familiar; I mean "we watched the full movie several times and Miri is singing along with most of the songs from memory and can almost quote entire scenes" familiar. Things have gone so far, she's already told Mommy that she'll have an Ariel birthday party next year, this year she's going to have a Frozen party, and after the party everyone will come back to the house and watch it on the TV there. (She's also told this to several of her little friends, a couple of whose mothers have already had to ask AJ when the party is supposed to happen because now their kids won't stop talking about it!) To be honest, it's actually a pretty good movie and we like its many messages about love and caring and family and being true to yourself and being accepting of others... but just once I'd like to go to sleep without hearing "Let It Go" echoing in the back of my mind.

Ah, to be young again...!

And, using that last comment as a segue, I'll share A Watermark Moment that I had this week. Mom & Dad had taken me to a doctor's appointment (more on that in a moment), and on the way home we discovered all three of us had a hankering for pancakes so we stopped at an IHOP for lunch. Lo and behold, Yours Truly was noisily shocked to discover he now qualifies for the "Senior" menu at that fine culinary establishment. The shock wasn't quite as bad as when I first realized I was 30, or the even greater shock when I realized I'd reached the half-century mark... but I think it left a mark. (Dude, weren't you just in high school  college  grad school  YIKES....)

And as for that doctor's appointment... It was a pre-op exam.  To make a long story short, what I thought was a brand-new honkin' big floater in my eye has turned out to be a case of my retina going on walkabout, so an otherwise nice gentleman will be doing some rather drastic things to my right eye bright & early this coming Monday morning. I'll be offline for a while while we try to convince all the different parts of my eye's internal anatomy to play nicely together.

I'll have to wait to see how long it is before my next post, but I can pretty much guarantee that it won't be until mid-April... so, until then, I'm sending you all wishes for a happy Spring & a pain-free Tax Day, and a reminder to get your eyes checked regularly!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I Shoulda Known...

...that I would be late with my last Chinese New Year posting. Just like last year, we closed out our month-long(!) CNY celebration(s) with the annual CCACC luncheon. Since last year's venue was temporarily shut down a couple of months ago by the Health Department (yikes!), the event was held at a somewhat smaller restaurant that seemed hell-bent on making up for the lack of space with an overabundance of really good food. (Dude, I get the feeling you're not complaining... <burp>) In addition to the good food & good company, a big added bonus was finally getting to watch my niece perform a ribbon dance with three of her classmates from Chinese school. The ribbon may have been several feet longer than Miri is tall, but the girls did a fine job. Heck, I even won an Amazon gift card in the raffle! The event closed out with the usual bubble wrap "firecrackers" that rapidly morphed into a group of very happy, very loud young girls running around holding the long strip of bubble wrap over their heads like a miniature version of the Chinese dragons who'd performed at the end of the meal. All in all, a very nice way to close out our family's celebration of the Year of the Horse.

...that the Pipsqueak would continue to become less of a pipsqueak.  Several people have recently been heard to comment, "Wow, she's getting big!" and even Miri herself has begun taking some umbrage at comments including words like "little," "small," and so on.  There have been a few times lately where, in conversation with Grandma or Mommy or Uncle Brian, she's asked about the ladybug references that periodically come up. She seems to like the idea, so I'm probably going to begin using "Ladybug" as much as "Pipsqueak" as my niece's nickname... partly because it's become a better fit, and partly because she seems to like it more. :-)

...that my closest relatives are excellent conspirators. This past week, my year count hit the double-nickel mark. (Dude, you gotta stop joking about that matching your bank account... Um, it is a joke, isn't it...?) My actual birthday was a very low-key affair, celebrated primarily by my taking the evening off from work. The original family dinner plans were shelved when Miri got sick early in the week (happily, just a short bug), so my folks picked me up and we brought some fast food over to AJ's house where we had a heart-shaped birthday cake (chosen by & baked with help of Miri) and then watched Frozen on cable. (A pretty good movie, by the way!)  I was satisfied just spending a quiet birthday with the people most important to me while staying home during a week of really crappy evenings at work, but my sister and mother apparently had other ideas.  I shoulda known; they've staged highly successful surprise parties for my birthday several times in the past.

Talking with Mom when I got home Friday night, she reminded me some of our out-of-state cousins were in town and -- since Miri had been sick a few days earlier -- were getting together with us at AJ's house on Saturday. First clue: Your mother told you to "try to look a little nicer" when you asked if just jeans and a tee were good enough.  Saturday rolled around and I was very proud of myself when I was actually ready at the arranged pick-up time... and then surprised when I didn't hear from my folks for another 20 minutes, and then to say they were running late. Second clue: Your mother calling 20 minutes late and very calmly saying she & Dad were just running a little behind, no big deal.  We got to AJ's and my cousins hadn't arrived yet. Unusually, Miri called out "hello" from upstairs but didn't come downstairs to greet us... and when I heard her excitedly talking & playing with someone, AJ said one of the young children in the neighborhood had come over to play. Third clue: your niece ALWAYS comes to say hello to you... and that other little kid's voice sounds familiar. Strangely, none of the food Mom had spoken about bringing to the house was in evidence, and there was no talk of the family going out to eat together. Finally, after quietly conferring with AJ in the kitchen, Mom asked me to take something upstairs to Miri's room; I was met at the top of the stairs by an even more-hyper-than-usual Pipsqueak who excitedly blurted out something about "Mommy and I are making a surprise for you but I'm not supposed to tell you because it's a surprise!" before running and shutting herself into a nearby bathroom. Fourth clue: Your niece can't keep a secret and if she's talking about Mommy making a surprise, then Mommy is making a surprise.  AJ started to close the door to Miri's room but when I told her Mom asked me to put something in there, she just grinned and opened the door -- revealing one of my oldest friends (the familiar voice!) sitting there with a smile. My discovery of Janet was quickly followed by the arrival of my cousins... and then some unexpected friends... and more unexpected friends... and then even more unexpected friends... a pattern that was to be repeated until AJ's house was packed with a loud, happy crowd of friends & family (and food, lots of food, all hidden in the trunk of our folks' car until the right moment).  One of our friends had even prepared a game of "Brian Jeopardy" that had everyone laughing (and my friend Karel, who's known me for more than four decades, laughingly threatening to tell all present stories about Brian's Dark Side). The last folks left after 10pm, and a wonderful time was had by all. Definitely one of my better birthdays... thanks, gang!

...and that I'd be writing this when I shoulda been asleep in bed, already. So I think that now I'll just say goodnight.