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!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Starting the New Year Icily, Part 1

As 2015 drew to a close, the Pipsqueak did something she hasn't done before: while enjoying all the pretty Christmas light shows & decorations, she periodically wondered aloud why so little attention seemed to be getting paid to Hanukkah. This led to some really interesting discussions (and a couple of book purchases on Amazon), but it showed us that Miri really is analyzing and thinking about a lot of things we hadn't realized she was paying a lot of attention to. The best thing about it was the chance to have a whole bunch of "teaching moments" all the differences and similarities between the various religions followed by Miri's family and friends. (For those of you who don't know our family, the Pipsqueak's circle of cousins covers a wide range of religions, ethnicities, and nationalities -- so this really is all Good Stuff.)

Most of this stuff is animated...!
Meanwhile, we all enjoyed driving past the more nicely-decorated (or simply more decorated) houses in the area, including one a couple of blocks up the street from Mom & Dad that we're pretty sure gets an annual thank you card from PEPCO after the holidays, possibly also the region's "Most Crowded Front Yard" award. Every now and then we'd come across a big electric Hanukkiah and/or inflatable Hanukkah-related figures, invariably accompanied by a little voice piping up, "Take a picture of me with it, Uncle Brian!"

Finally, there was one last round of homework assignments to be completed and the holidays began "for real" with school going on hiatus into January.  Over the past couple of years, the holiday season has included a visit to the "ICE!" exhibit hosted by the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, but this year we were going to do it a little differently -- a whole bunch of the MIT[1] families would be staying overnight, letting the kids have nearly two whole days of hotel adventuring. We had tried to keep it something of a surprise but the Pipsqueak (as usual) figured things out a lot earlier than any of her grownups had hoped for (somehow not dimming her enthusiasm in the least).

Mom & Dad decided that an overnight stay wasn't in the cards for them, but that Uncle Brian had darn well better be there, so bright & early on January 1st I drove up to AJ & Miri's and they piled into my Rav with a couple of suitcases. Yes, two suitcases for an overnight -- the Pipsqueak was (again as usual) adamant that she have her own, and we've learned that arguing with a force of nature is best reserved for really important arguments. (And yes, it really was fairly bright & early; the previous night was one of the quietest, most low-key New Year's Eves I've ever had.)

The first challenge was parking. Finding the parking garage was easy, but getting in was another story; the Gaylord hosts one of the largest New Year's Eve galas in the area for a local radio station and several bajillion hung-over overnight partiers were all trying to exit while we were trying to enter. I remember telling AJ that I finally knew how salmon felt during spawning season as I cut tiiiiight corners through & around the stacked-up vehicles all trying to squeeze out the exit at the same time.

We had been worried about meeting up with the rest of our group (it's a big place) but AJ and I suddenly realized aloud in tandem that the vehicle directly in front of my was the family of Miri's uber-BFF S so I just followed them up a few levels of parking garage and we ended up in adjoining spaces. After getting the girls to stop having SO much fun saying hello, we began the long march to the front desk for check-in. We waited a little longer than we thought really necessary for the elevator (soon to be a recurring theme), then walked past a big chunk of the complex to the ballroom entrance, then walked down an impressive corridor to the ballroom area, then through the huge expanse of the ballroom atrium, then... you get the idea. Eventually we found a few more of our group with news that others were on their way, and after a while everyone was checked in while admiring the sumptuous decorations. (Most of them, anyway. As you'll see, the main tree looked like a prop from a bad "Star Trek" imitation on SyFy.)

Once everyone had finished settling into their rooms (ours included a glorious, up-close-and-personal view of the building's air conditioning evaporators directly outside our window) the next order of business was to get some food into a small herd of grumbling bellies. After vetoing the idea of one restaurant due to prices and gasping/laughing at the prices listed on a sample menu, we chose the sports-oriented place where we'd enjoyed dinner during our previous visit (detailed in this post from January of last year).

We put our name on the wait list and waited. And waited some more (the place was busy). Any concerns about all the kidlings becoming bored were quickly eased by their all plonking themselves happily down on the floor (right in the middle of things, of course) and engaging each other in a noisy card game, the rules of which seemed to redefine the phrase "free-form" but which were consistent in their inconsistency. After another ten minutes of crowd watching, getting the kids to move to where they wouldn't be stepped on, talking, getting the kids to move to where they weren't blocking traffic, reading the sample menu, getting the kids to move away from the bottom of the escalator, and wondering how to keep the kids from getting stepped on, we were ushered through the restaurant and into their outdoor patio. (To reiterate from my January 2015 post, the place is so big that several restaurants have "outdoor" seating areas in the fully-enclosed atrium.)

There was a little confusion as we attempted to herd all the cats into a single enclosure, but soon we were all happily sitting, kids at one table and grownups at another, running our poor waitress back & forth with forgotten/changed kids' drink orders and such. We burned through a good sized chunk of the $100 restaurant allowance that was part of our overnight package but for the next hour-plus we all just enjoyed good food & each other's company while watching the crowds go by and periodically making sure any meltdowns at the adjoining table were minor in nature. (With two sets of siblings in the mix, some additional drama was to be expected -- but the kids really were being good.)

After a while we all decided it was time to take advantage of our unlimited access to the ICE! display itself, and everyone gathered what they needed... but that's for my next post.

NEXT TIME: "Brrrrr...!"

[1] MIT = "Moms In Training," the name used by our group of adoption friends during The Wait when the title really fit. Since it was technically correct for about seven(!) years, we've just kept using that name because it's a lot shorter than "our group of adoption friends."

No comments:

Post a Comment