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, April 29, 2016

Oh What Fun It Is...

As annoyed as all the grownups might have been about all that white stuff left behind by Snowmageddon II, the Pipsqueak thought it was all pretty cool -- especially since Grandma and Grandpa had bought her a new sled[1].

As the weather improved and schools stayed closed, I got a lot of questions about if I thought all this snow was good for sledding that eventually culminated in, "Are you going to take me sledding, Uncle Brian?"

So... on Wednesday I headed over to Mom & Dad's and was greeted by a small but exceedingly well-bundled and excited little girl at the door. After a token attempt at clearing the snowplow-created wall across the bottom of the driveway, I started launching Miri off a big pile of snow at the top of the driveway and across the front yard. She had a great time the first few slides, but after repeatedly bouncing completely out of the sled began complaining it was too bumpy. I tried smoothing out the sled run but then we were endangering Mom/s little lilac bush (one of two that resolutely refuse to bloom).

The hill on the side of the house is a lot steeper than the slope in the front yard, but being covered in virgin snow it struck me as a better choice of venue. Okay, so the sidewalk was clear of snow... and the hill would aim my niece directly at the street... and she was worried about going down too fast... C'mon, what's life without a few challenges?

Harking back to my own childhood sledding on that same hill, I chose a good part of the slope without any trees or bushes and built a bridge of snow across the sidewalk. Once that was done, I took a few extra minutes to build a wall (with a ditch in front of it) to make sure the Pipsqueak stayed out of the street no matter how fast the sled was moving. The first couple of runs were a little scary but it wasn't long before she was having an absolute blast, often doing a running commentary of the imaginary race she was running with (apparently) several dozen other sleds, horses, and whathaveyous. The only problem was that she decided it was "too much work" to pull her super-lightweight plastic sled all the way back up to the top of the hill so I soon found myself trudging up & down the hill alongside her.

All those ups & downs continued long after the sun sank low enough to keep the entire hill in shadow, but every time I mentioned that I could no longer feel my nose, ears, or feet the Pipsqueak always managed to bargain for "one more" time. Eventually I managed to convince her that Uncle Brian was becoming Uncle Popsicle so Miri agreed to do just one more run for real... and immediately lost one of her boots in the deepest snowdrift she could find.

She did a good job, because it took me a couple of minutes to pull the boot loose from the snow and put it back on her foot. Correction: TRY to put it back on her foot. She rolled back & forth laughing, shrieking loudly every time her stockinged foot touched the snow and generally wiggling around so much that I finally had to threaten to sit on her to hold her still enough to get foot back into boot. (Somehow each complaint about how cold & wet the snow was morphed into still more gales of laughter... which, to be perfectly honest, I didn't mind in the least.)

Both feet once again warm and (almost) dry, the Pipsqueak bargained for just a few more sled runs, and I surprised myself by actually convincing her to do them in the still-sunny front yard.  I cleared my snow bridge off the sidewalk (gotta teach those citizenship lessons!), then smoothed out more of the big bumps in the front yard and spent the next 20-something minutes seeing how far Miri could slide before either coming to a stop and/or falling off the sled. Even she had to eventually admit it was getting too cold to really be fun but I had to promise we'd do it all again the next day before heading home.

Thursday was another bright & sunny day and Mom's call for "uncle duty" came early, so I pulled my jeans out of the dryer and headed back over for more sledding. The sun was strong and there wasn't any real wind chill to deal with, so Dad joined us outside.  Based on many years of experience, Mom lectured him on NOT trying to shovel any snow while he was outside, so of course the Pipsqueak appointed herself his chaperone. Any time she saw her Grandpa bend over, pick at the snow, or show signs of trying to actually use a shovel, she would immediately stop what she was doing and give him a sound talking-to. (She was also worried that he might accidentally break "her" snow shovel, a half-size plastic shovel originally bought to keep in the car for emergencies.) Since Dad is insistent that he's OK doing all the stuff he's not really supposed to do any more, the photo on the right is just one of a series I took of him being lectured by his granddaughter.  ("Dad! DAD! You're not supposed to do that! You should listen to Grandma!")  It got to the point where I had to remind Miri that Grandpa actually was allowed to walk around in the snow...!

We chose a good part of the hill and I rebuilt the snow bridge across the sidewalk (along with a new wall & moat to stop the sled from reaching the street). Each of the first few runs helped locate new bumps or holes that had a combined effect of bouncing my niece all the way out of her sled and/or steering the darn thing away from the bridge across the sidewalk. I made the bridge wider & deeper, shaped part of the run down the hill to keep the sled heading in the right direction, and built a launch platform at the top to make sure the sled stayed put until both Miri & I were ready for it to head down the hill. For at least an hour I was treated to the sight of my niece scooting downhill (usually faking "I fell out!" at the bottom), then trudging down the hill myself to bring up the sled while she negotiated the uncertain footing, then reassuring her the sled wasn't going anywhere while she gingerly balanced on the slope while trying to step in without actually paying attention to where she was looking or putting her feet. (Dude, she's six, whaddaya expect?)

I was eventually able to convince the Pipsqueak that she was capable of navigating her way uphill and dragging the sled behind her at the same time, so I spent the second hour having to only trudge halfway down & up the hill... except for the few times she accidentally let go of the rope attached to the sled... or let go of the rope attached to the sled on purpose... or slipped and slid most of the way back down the hill on her belly laughing too hard to stop before she reached the bottom.

In short, we both had a blast.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and after a while even my nuclear-powered niece's batteries began running down in the cold. (I had long before lost all feeling in several extremities but she was having such a good time, I didn't want to stop her. She's only going to be a six year old experiencing her first-ever good sledding weather for the first time once in her life, and I felt privileged to be part of it.) Once again, the hill became completely shaded as the sun sank toward the horizon and Miri wasn't entirely unhappy when I cleared off the sidewalk (again) and we headed 'round the house to the front yard.

Before going back inside for dinner, I realized we had forgotten a very important task: we had to build a snowman!  I only got partway through the first few bars of the song from "Frozen" when Miri suddenly had the same idea, and we began gathering large chunks of half-frozen snow left by the snowplows and crunching them together near the center of the yard. With a few extra handfuls of snow as mortar to hold the chunks together, we quickly built a... um, snow shape. I kept trying to recreate the usual big-medium-small ball shape of a traditional snowman but Miri was having so much fun sticking odd-shaped pieces of snow to the figure that I never quite succeeded. Even after Dad joined in a little, the Pipsqueak was moving so fast that we never really managed to make the figure I had in mind... but somehow none of us minded. :-)

It took a few minutes to get all the snow shovels put away properly, and then we all took some time to admire the sunset. As the sky began to fade, Mom called us inside for warm drinks and soon AJ joined us for dinner and the many stories her daughter had to tell about her adventures in the snow that day. I'm not sure which of the two of us was more disappointed when I had to tell Miri it was unlikely we'd be able to go sledding again the next day because the weather was changing -- but I reassured her there would be many more chances in the future.

Later that night as I dropped off to sleep, I couldn't help but think that it had been a wonderful day well-spent.

[1] The pipsqueak has a big, multicolored plastic thing they call a "sled" these days. Somewhere in our folks' garage is my "Snow Hawk," a steel frame with wood slats and a big handle on the front to twist the frame for steering. It's a little beaten up (Who put that tree in my way?!?) but THAT is a "sled" (I'm old school) and I'm looking forward to when Miri's big enough to use it.

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