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, April 18, 2016

Staying Occupied During In-Between Time

After the crazy-active opening of the new year, we returned to our just plain crazy routine as 2016 settled in around our shoulders. One of the things that had marked December was a series of medical adventures ranging from minor and annoying to not so minor and frakking scary, so we were all hoping for a calmer January. (I was also hoping that maybe, just maybe, things would calm down enough for me to be able to really dedicate myself to finding a job, since mine was eliminated at the end of November.)

I was still picking up the Pipsqueak from after-school care and taking her to dance a lot more often than in the past, and there seemed to be a swarm of birthdays and birthday parties, so I got to spend (continue spending) more time with Miri than had been "normal" before. The two of us settled into a routine...

1) Uncle Brian arrives at KidsCo to be greeted with an in-depth analysis of what he would be doing with his niece for the rest of the evening.

2) If it's Monday, it's especially early and Uncle Brian puts some extra effort into getting his niece signed out, into the car, and down the road to ballet. If it's Tuesday it's not Belgium and it's not quite so early so Uncle Brian puts a little effort into getting his niece signed out, into the car, and down the road to hip-hop. Either of these includes either handing over cheese sticks and/or granola bars to silence the cries of, "I'm starving!" or explaining why he has neither cheese sticks nor granola bars in his pockets.

3) It it's neither Monday nor Tuesday, Uncle Brian spends the time walking to the car explaining why he was taking his niece home instead of, well, pretty much anywhere else.

4) Upon arrival home, Uncle Brian prepares his niece's de riguer mac & cheese -- being sure to carefully mix in a small ice cube until it's fully melted so that the dish is exactly the correct temperature. This is usually followed by plaintive cries of, "I'm still hungry!" and some variation of the old Twenty Questions game in an attempt to figure out what else his niece wants to eat. (There was that one time Miri chose fish sticks and then actually started crying because Mommy knew how to make them but Uncle Brian could not possibly know the right way, never mind the instructions on the container nor all the platefuls of fish sticks he'd prepared for himself over the years -- but once the first plateful turned out OK, they became a regular menu choice.)

5) Any remaining time before Mommy gets home (often 2-½ or 3 hours) is spent by Uncle Brian  trying to keep his niece occupied without watching "Disney's Descendants" AGAIN (and again and again and...)

One day I came up with a brainstorm that Miri really loved but I'm not quiet sure my sister appreciated quite as much: I introduced my niece to the art of building a fort in the house. Not Legos or Lincoln Logs or any such thing -- the old-fashioned kind that one usually sees only in TV commercials and nostalgia books these days, made with cushions and pillows and chairs and blankets and whatever else isn't nailed down or too heavy to move.

Our first fort was a sorry affair, some towels and a blanket and a couple of cushions, most of which collapsed long before Mommy could see her daughter's efforts. The second time, however, I vaguely remember my inner child sadly shaking his head, then standing up, resolutely pushing me aside and striding purposefully onto the construction site. By the time we heard the garage door opening, I had even enlisted a hula hoop, some clothespins & bag clips, and several extra pillows in the construction of what Miri thought was the absolute best sofa fort she had ever seen in her life.

There's actually a kid in there somewhere...
When AJ came in she took one look at our handiwork and started laughing, then played along while Miri "hid" (obviously wiggling around and giggling loudly) from her inside the fort. I apologized for the two bag clips that I'd broken and for rearranging every pillow or cushion that I could get my hands on, but AJ is used to her brother's periodic bouts of child-like insanity and was actually impressed when she got a closer look at the weird construct on her living room sofa.

Miri and I built a few more forts in the following weeks but this was definitely our best. She lost interest over the following weeks but still talks happily about how much fun it was to build them and then hide from Mommy when she got home.

And me? I had a a blast -- and am especially glad I got to introduce the Pipsqueak to something that was such an integral part of my own childhood and share the joy with her.

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