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!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Bits of This and That

Ooh, I did it again.  I let the blog sit without any actual blogging.

I'd scold myself but the truth is that my exhaustion meter has been pegged for a while... I swear it's gotten to the point where the needle's pushed the aforementioned peg aside and is moving so far into long wavelengths that it's registering heat instead of color.

There have been job issues, weather issues, job issues, medical issues, job issues, and did I mention that I think my job is trying to kill me?  (Example: This past Friday, I trudged through my front door at 3:58am... after dodging not one, but two drunk drivers on the way home.)

So lemme stop bellyaching and try to type some adoption-related and/or Pipsqueak-related stuff before trying to catch up on all the missing shuteye. (Note to whatever power or powers run the universe: Next time around, could you please rearrange the laws of entropy so that the tiredness from one disrupted night of sleep does not require one full week of sleep to make up?  And while you're at it, please fix that odd law that says one small messy area in a clean room will spread to cover the entire room in messiness but that one small clean area in a messy room will simply shrink to nothing with nary a whimper? Thanks in advance...!)

The big news is that the Pipsqueak is officially no longer really a pipsqueak: she finally inched an ounce or two past the 40 pound mark, so now AJ is shopping for booster seats and the child seats that have been a permanent fixture of all family vehicles will soon be replaced! Miri seems to be less excited about it than her (crazy) uncle, but it's a milestone we've all been hoping to reach "any day now" for close to a year. Of course, things being what they are 'round these parts, AJ figured out exactly which booster seat she wanted (and even had a Plan B model in mind) only to find the store she'd checked out and priced out also happened to be sold out -- not just of booster seats, but sold out of EVERYTHING because they'd planned to move to a new location but (according to sales staff) the contract fell through just after they held a massive "all inventory must go!" sale that AJ somehow missed the adverts for. They promised her the booster seats she wants will be available again next week, so stay tuned...

Miri has also exhibited at her first science fair, and received a Certificate of Excellence. That is, she exhibited at what the school calls a "science share" and was partnered with BFF H, and I have yet to see their "share" project (Dude, you were just at your sister's house this evening and you forgot to remind her to show you!  D'oh!) The funny bit is that when AJ texted me a photo of the certificate, I responded by saying I thought it was way cool and was wondering what M thought about it -- and AJ's reply was that she didn't really know because at the beginning of the event her daughter was too busy crying because she didn't think she looked pretty enough compared to the other girls!  Seems that many of the other mommies got a (totally invisible and imaginary) memo to dress their kids up a bit for the display but the (totally invisible and imaginary) memo never made it to my sister's desk. Lesson learned!  (I did get a chance to ask Miri how she felt about it earlier tonight, and she simply replied "good" before asking for my phone so she could play a game on it. Aah, priorities...!)

Argh... I know there's lots of other stuff I wanted to post, but (even though you can't tell), nearly ten minutes passed between my typing this sentence and the ending parenthesis of the preceding paragraph, unseen by me because I dozed off while contemplating what to type next. I'll try to pick up the thread in a near-future post, but for the moment I think it's best if Miri's Uncle Brian puts his laptop someplace safe and goes to sleep....


Monday, March 9, 2015

Happy New Year (One More Time)!

Okay... The longest of our three annual new year celebrations (and the one that lasts the longest) has finally come to a successful close. Last year, the big FCC-MD event was snowed out; this year, it was our private MIT group's lion dance luncheon.... but we still slipped a bunch of good Year Of The Hooved Mammal That Goes Baah celebratory events in between the awful weather events and awful health events, nonetheless.

The especially good news is that Dad was in the hospital after "only" three days, and while we still have some concerns -- and Mom got thoroughly sick for a couple of days as soon as Dad was home -- everyone was (finally) healthy enough to enjoy the annual CCACC-CLAPS New Year Banquet.

We had a venue change this year. The last two banquets were held in a very good restaurant in Rockville that simply did not have the space needed for the usual crowds, so this year the banquet moved back to the New Fortune Restaurant [1] in Gaithersburg where the event had originally been held each year for a long time. (The venue change two years ago was due to a bit of a tiff they had with the local health department, but all is now copacetic.)

Ironically, the way the restaurant floor was divided up with screens left us all squeezed very tightly together, and as we quickly discovered, the table positions had to be adjusted by expert teams of restaurant staff because the tabletops were held in place by gravity alone, with nary a screw, peg or drop of glue to attach them to the table legs... which made moving the already-set tables quite the adventure (although no loud "events" occurred). There were also some unexpected last-minute changes in table assignments that left the Pipsqueak and her grownups on the opposite side of the room from the family we'd planned on sitting with and with a worse view of the performance area... but as soon as things got rolling, we all settled into our seats and decided to enjoy things as much as we could (which turned out to be quite a bit).

There was a family of three sitting with us whom we'd never met before, and they turned out to be excellent table partners with fun stories & puns to share. Add in the seemingly endless massive plates of food (much of which ended up going home in white foam boxes) and all the performances & contests on the schedule, and you've got yourself a pretty good new year celebration.

I don't have a lot of photos to share -- AJ still doesn't like me posting easily-identified current pics of Miri online and I shot a lot of video instead of stills, but I have a few images to post...

Miri, in costume for her performance, waited impatiently to feed the lions.
The two "adult" lions (I only had video of the two "baby" lions and the dancers who accompanied them).
Just before the start of the ribbon dance; Miri's partner was unable to attend, but the dance went very well -- and there were no wardrobe malfunctions this time!
All in all, the event went off well and despite the crowding & unexpected changes, turned out to be a fun time for all and a great way to close out this year's Chinese New Year celebrations. I even found out why no one seemed to be able to agree on whether the correct animal is sheep, goat, or ram; it turns out the Chinese name for goat translates roughly as "mountain sheep," so different folks went with different animals... which is why I'm sticking to my "hooved mammal" reference so I get it right pretty much no matter what!

So, on that note... Gong shi fa cai to one and all and here's wishing everyone a very happy, healthy and prosperous Year of the Hooved Mammal that Goes Baah!

[1] The New Fortune is well-known in the area for its weekend Dim Sum menu... but I've always been most tickled by the fact that the big "New Fortune" sign is right next to an equally big "HR Block" sign... How appropriate is that mix of business names?!?

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Happy New Year! (?)

Ooh, I'm late. Like, LAAAAAATE in wishing everyone a happy new year.

It's the year of the sheep... or perhaps the goat, or maybe (according to some sources) the ram.  Maybe I'll just refer to it as Year Of A Hoofed Mammal That Says "Baah" or something like that. Yeah, that'll  work.

I haven't posted for a while because life, already a complicated proposition, has become much more complicated of late. That's the cupcake; the icing is a healthy dose of exhaustion, and that pastel-colored pleated paper cup that you bake the cupcake in is just a big ol' dose of stress. There's a limit to how much up-close-and-personal family information I'm going to run up the flagpole, but not everything is going smoothly in Pipsqueakland.

For some time now, Miri's Grandpa hasn't always been feeling well. Sometimes it's pain, sometimes it's just plain ol' feeling extra-super-duper-cruddy. There've been a number of doctor visits, several specialist visits, and more are planned... but as I type this, he's in the hospital (for a couple of days now) and is doing "okay" but that's about the best way to put it. He's expected home on Wednesday (an extra relief for the Pipsqueak's Grandma, who's been sleeping in a chair next to him the whole time) but we all suspect life's going to be a little different from now on... and those few words are hiding several gigatons of stress, worry, concern, and sleeplessness for all the Pipsqueak's grownups (and even a bit for the Pipsqueak herself, thanks to that amazingly big, open, loving heart of hers). I'm not going to go into any more detail for the time being, but it's been a hell of a way to start off a new year.

All has not been horrible and hospital since my last post, but I'm fighting to keep my eyes open so I'll let my camera do some of the talking for a bit. First up, the annual FCC-Maryland Chinese New Year celebration (the one that got snowed out last year):

Miri's in the foreground (in pink); she always has fun feeding the lion!
After "feeding" the lion, Miri noticed a few red envelopes that had dropped to the floor and was worried the lion wouldn't get a chance to eat them, so she made sure to pick them up and had me help her chase the lion around the room with the dropped envelopes...

That's me in the checkered shirt; we're trying to feed the lion several envelopes it had dropped.
AJ got several good shots of us with my camera despite us chasing the lion all over the place.
I had to laugh out loud at one point; after feeding the lion several times with dropped envelopes picked up from the floor, Miri decided other people should have a chance to feed him and began waving a handful of envelopes in the air while calling out, "Does anybody want some money?!?"

As usual, the Tai Yim Kung Fu group did a great job with the lion dance!
To close out the celebration, we couldn't use firecrackers indoors so several large rolls of assorted bubble wrap met their happy, noisy demise under a small herd of jumping kids.

The Pipsqueak got a little help from Mommy after she (as usual) took off her shoes.
Unfortunately, Old Man Winter decided he'd skipped over our area one time too many, so it wasn't too many days after the photos above that I took several photos very much like the following while spending the night at work:

This was around 10pm; there was a whole lot more white stuff by morning!
You'll notice is said "spending the night at work" and NOT "sleeping at night at work" -- I dozed for maybe 30 minutes all night, and after shoveling the front walk twice during the night was outside at 6:30am with our Environmental Manager and one of his intrepid crew working to clear the walkways & parking lot and dig out the cars of the staff who'd overnighted with us. I got home around 10:30, dug out my parking spot & front walk, took a nap, and was back at work the next evening. (Ugh.)

All that mess (and some additional wintery goop) caused postponement lion dance luncheon that our "MIT Group" had planned to attend, so we kept hoping things would improve. Unfortunately, the weather seemed to have found a new groove...

I've got waaay too many photos that look like this one...!
Luckily, there was enough of a break in the unpleasant (I'm being understated) weather to allow everyone to attend the annual CCACC CNY celebration at Lakeforest Mall where -- unlike last year, when I had to work -- I got to watch Miri and her classmates perform a ribbon dance. The girls did a fantastic job (even though the Pipsqueak was shorter than everyone else, including the ribbons) and got a nice ovation from the crowd. We were especially proud of Miri's performance because about halfway through she had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction as her decorative belt dropped off and got tangled with her feet. She handled it like a pro, getting right back up and (after my sister practically teleported to the spot to take the errant belt and then teleported back to her seat) picking up her next move right on cue with nary a misstep. Later, as we sat watching some of the other groups perform, she said something to me about being unhappy her performance hadn't been perfect, so we had a long talk about how that type of thing sometimes happens even to professional dancers, and about how what was really important was that she got right back up and continued dancing and how proud we all were of her for being so grown-up about it and not letting the problem stop her. I know she got the message because her smile could've lit up the whole mall.

My niece's budding prowess as a dancer notwithstanding, Old Man Winter came back into the picture with even more slop, goop, and general yuck, so the postponed lion dance luncheon ended up being a total washout. It might have been just as well, because along the way Dad had a couple more of those unpleasant episodes, and then the Pipsqueak herself came down with a really, really ugly stomach virus that's left AJ's van smelling slightly of puke and Lysol. (Not exactly the world's loveliest scent, in case you were curious.)

Then Dad came down with the same virus... and then came the evening I actually crossed paths with the ambulance taking him (with Mom in tow) to the hospital as I took the Pipsqueak to work so AJ could take her home from there... So now here we are, hoping to be able to attend the CCACC New Year banquet this weekend (Miri and classmates are scheduled to repeat their dance at the event) and keeping our fingers, toes and eyes crossed waiting to see how Dad's going to be faring.

Hell of a way to start a new year, but we're all still together, and that (for this family, at least) is What Counts.