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, August 29, 2014

Milestones, Get 'Em While They're Hot, Milestones...

Well, it had to happen sometime.

The Pipsqueak -- that tiny, semi-scrawny, almost-bald Chinese baby who wrapped me around her finger and then peed all over me (twice!) before even reaching Guangzhou -- has started school.

That's school, as in public school, as in omigawd she's started to grow up!

(Dude, take a deep breath... that's right... there ya go...)

I can't quite imagine how AJ feels about her little baby starting Kindergarten (yes, Kindergarten is too "real school" so stop laughing at me), but I keep alternating between happily amazed, happily proud, and scared outta my wits over the passage of time.

Miri, in the meantime, says she is having a good time. She likes her teacher (I'll call her "Miz F") and is already making new friends, and hasn't once said she doesn't want to go to school. (We heard that a couple of times when she was at KinderCare.)  Oh, sure, a couple of mornings have been a bit rough around the edges, but she's liking it so far. (The kids are "staged" in the gym before heading off to their classrooms in groups, and Miri doesn't like large noisy, crowded spaces. She's also admitted that she's apprehensive about getting lost in the crowd, or maybe being forgotten by Miz F and left behind when her classmates all go down the hall to their classroom. We're working on it with her...)

AJ and I are both products of the same school system, and Mom retired from teaching after several years as part of this system, and my (very friendly) next door neighbor is an elementary school teacher in the same system, so we know it well -- thus I have no doubt whatsoever that there will be times the entire family will have to be involved to keep this little girl's vivid imagination and love of learning alive despite the best efforts of an "excellent" school system to ensure she fits the mold as designated by the expert du jour. That said, she's getting off to an excellent start with a teacher who seems to be dedicated to teaching her (rather large) class important lessons from Day One without jamming anything down anyone's throat, and who seems to genuinely be following her Calling. We'll see how it all turns out...

...but the Pipsqueak is now officially in public school!  (Yikes!)

We hit another milestone just a couple of days before school started. I don't know if I've mentioned it, but Miri and AJ have been sleeping in the same bed ever since the Pipsqueak was disturbed frightened terrified by the crib in our room at the White Swan. After coming home, she slept in the crib that AJ had prepared for her a handful of times (probably a single-digit number), but as far as I know every single occasion was marked by AJ placing Miri in the crib for a nap after she had already fallen asleep elsewhere. The one time she thought the Pipsqueak would spend the night in the crib, only a few minutes had passed before she heard a quiet, "Mommy?" down the hall, followed by, "Mommy!" and then "Mommy!" and finally "MOMMMEEEEE!" before she gave up and retrieved her unhappy daughter.

Miri had a blast crawling around in & under that crib the day we took it apart, and enjoyed helping us put together the frame for her "real big girl bed" (the same one AJ slept in well into her teens), but I think I actually slept in that bed more times than she did. Early this summer, during a conversation about how she's becoming a big girl now that she was about to turn five, she proudly announced that when she turned six she would really be a big girl and that's when she would start to sleep in her room instead of with Mommy.

So imagine my surprise last week, just a few days before Miri's first day of Kindergarten, when both Mom & AJ (in separate conversations) proudly told me that the Pipsqueak had spent the entire night in her own room, by her own choice, and slept as soundly as she did in Mommy's bed. She's been doing that almost every night since, only padding down the hall to ask Mommy if it was okay to sleep with her "just a little bit" after a couple of particularly rough mornings.

(In the interest of reporting the whole truth, I have to add that the whole "sleeping alone in her own room" thing has gotten a major boost from a soft pink night light that projects a picture of some of Miri's favorite Disney princesses on the ceiling to keep here company. My kid sister's a pretty smart shopper when she puts her mind to it... <g>)

One more milestone (and I'm rather late in reporting this one) is that as of the beginning of the summer, the Pipsqueak's been taking swimming lessons. She started at her neighborhood pool under the tutelage of a young female lifeguard she liked a lot, but semi-surprised me (and I think AJ) by continuing with another guard when the young gal left early for a pre-college vacation trip. She's since continued at an indoor pool and, even though she's still not really coordinating the "swing your arms" cycle with the "breathe air instead of water" cycle, is progressing nicely and is actually looking forward to continued swimming lessons.  I mention this particular milestone partly because, former lifeguard that I am (four consecutive summers, high school into college, oh so many lifetimes ago), back in April or May I had offered Miri swim lessons by Yours Truly. I had picked her up from KinderCare and when the conversation turned to summertime activities like swimming, I explained that I used to be a lifeguard and would be very happy to spend some time with her in the pool teaching her how to swim. Miri thought about it for a few moments and then, in a very matter-of-fact voice replied...

"Not this year, Uncle Brian. Maybe when I'm just a little older... like when I'm nineteen!"

(I swear that is a verbatim quote from my then not-quite-five niece.)

Oh, well... at least she's learning to swim!

And on that note, with the knowledge that I still owe y'all a nice entry or two about our multi-day trip to Lancaster County, PA last month, I'm going to sign off and try to catch a few Z's. It's been a little stressful lately, so sleep seems like A Good Idea.  (Among other things, I am now scheduled for cataract surgery in early October.) I'll get caught up soon, really, I promise!

In the meantime, I just had to share these milestones with y'all... I mean, it's not every day that my niece has her first day of Kindergarten!  :-)

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