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!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Catching Up: Purim 2016

QUICK NOTE: I thought I posted this a week ago. Really, I did. Shows you how organized I've become as 2016 squeezes its increasingly ugly self out the door. Here (with my more than slightly embarrassed apologies) is a catching-up post I coulda sworn y'all had already seen. (Dude, you gotta get on the ball!)

There's an old joke that most Jewish holidays are based on the same premise: "They tried to kill us, we won, let's eat!"  In my mind, the holiday that best matches this scenario -- and possibly gave rise to it in the first place -- is Purim [1].  It also tends to be the most fun holiday, with kids (and increasingly often their parents) dressing in costumes and lots & lots & lots of audience participation and loud noises actually encouraged during the service.

For those readers unfamiliar with the holiday, here's Purim in a nutshell: In the ancient Persian empire, Queen Esther (whom the king does not know is Jewish) and her uncle Mordecai discover and foil a semi-secret plot by viceroy Haman to kill all the jews in the kingdom. There are enough plot twists and complications to make an excellent movie or mini-series  -- but the modern-day fun comes from dressing up as major characters in the story[1] and making LOTS of noise every time Haman is mentioned during a reading of the story in synagogue. The "let's eat" part of the holiday comes after the service, with special pastries called "Hamantaschen" (with many other possible spellings) featured as a special treat. Hamantaschen are triangular to mimic the supposed shape of Haman's hat, and while classically filled with sweetened poppy seeds they are also frequently filled with chocolate or fruit preserves.

Since the Pipsqueak is part of the synagogue's kids' choir, her participation in the holiday service was a foregone conclusion -- so she and Mommy started planning her costume well in advance. After some false starts, they latched onto the idea of the Pipsqueak dressing as a Hamantaschen. I had some big rolls of brown craft paper I'd saved from Amazon shipments, so AJ applied some creativity -- along with a bunch of colored paper, tape, and markers -- to turn one of them into a giant wearable Jewish pastry for her daughter. (Sorry; this is the only photo I have of the costume that doesn't violate AJ's guidelines for Pipsqueak photos online.)

We got to the synagogue on time for Miri to join in on the choir rehearsal, after which she participated in a couple of the holiday crafts activities being offered to help keep the kids occupied prior to the actual planned mayhem.  I think her favorite was making a little reproduction of King Ahasuerus (or was it Mordecai?) on a stick. (Think about it, Dude -- "King on a stick! Getcher king on a stick here! King on a stick!")  I can't vouch for the historical accuracy of the crown or purple robe, but I have to admit that's one of the happiest kings I've ever seen...

The crafts were followed by a BYO dinner which was itself followed by a short period of chaos as tables were rolled out of the room and rows of seats were set up. The rabbi (who was as much into having fun with the holiday as any of the kids) eventually managed to get things down to a low enough roar to start the actual service. After some songs from the choir, baskets filled with groggers[2] were passed around and I'm glad to say they were put go good use by one and all. In keeping with the fun attitude, the rabbi kept the story of Esther extra-entertaining by using the projection system so the congregation could read along... with each slide embellished with the likes of minions, the Big Hero 6 crew, smurfs, Lego Movie characters, and the like.

Once the story reached its end (and the groggers were collected for use again next year, much to the relief of the parents present), it was time for the costume parade! Despite an amazing similarity to the annual rounding up and herding of cats from the lowland pastures to their summer grazing grounds in the mountains, the rabbi & helpers managed to get all the kids in costume (along with several costumed parents) sort of lined up and moving along parallel paths.

Unlike the days of my youth, when such events only included characters drawn from the Story of Esther (leading to a parade of dozens each of Hamans, Esthers, King Ahasueruses, and assorted ancient warrior-type guys), the parade also included several video game characters, a couple of cowboys, a nurse, enough Marvel & DC superheroes to protect several planets, a handyman, a fireman, and, of course, a hamantaschen. Oh, and a rhinoceros -- I kid you not. (He was only about 4'1" but a rhino nonetheless.)

The parade wound around & through the sanctuary and out into the lobby, where a grand assortment of baked goodies & drinks waited to help celebrate the holiday. One highlight of the celebration was the rabbi coming up to Miri, taking one look at her yellow-centered costume, and exclaiming, "An apricot hamantaschen! My favorite!" (Yes, we like the guy.)

The celebration wound down after a little while and everyone began streaming home, and Miri shed her disguise as tasty baked goods. At least until next year. :-)

[1] As you will see, the holiday is becoming something of a "Jewish Halloween," with costumes of pop culture figures increasingly supplanting the classic depictions of biblical characters from the story.

[2] Groggers are  ratchet-based noisemakers that one spins around to make a racket. They,  along with lots of booing, are enthusiastically employed at every mention of Haman's name during the reading of Esther's story.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Another "At Long Last"!

We seem to be completing a lot of long-term projects around here lately!

(Dude, you're stretching the definition of "project" to the breaking point, ya know?)

For about a month now, Miri has been getting slowly but increasingly upset over something that y'all might consider a bit silly: she's the only person she knows in her grade who hasn't lost a tooth yet.

Make that, hadn't lost a tooth yet.

She's not worried any more -- because finally, after a bit over three weeks' worth of wiggling, testing, pushing, and worrying over a loose baby tooth, she finally achieved that oh-so-wanted "hometown goalie" look.

She was so happy about it that we let her pick a place for a celebratory dinner out. (An added bonus was that, unbeknownst to us, the restaurant just happened to have a $5 off special on BBQ ribs that night, so Mom & I happily pigged out on a full rack each).

After checking to make sure the right tooth had come out, it took AJ all of maybe 15 seconds to realize that it was the same tooth that we officially dubbed "first" when all the Pipsqueak's chompers began to appear... So that's one more childhood milestone now past, albeit a bit later than expected.

But right now I have to get back to my Medical Terminology textbook, I'll post again in a few days... Y'all stay warm out there!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

At Long Last...!

One of these days, I'll actually catch up on what's been happening during the year... in the meantime, today was a red-letter day!

You might remember a series of posts about my (mis)adventures in creating an Olaf-themed toy chest for the Pipsqueak [here, here, and here].  Unfortunately, the chest has been sitting in my foyer since then, occasionally holding up a few shopping bags or the day's mail; AJ simply hasn't had a place to put the darn thing. (This has been especially puzzling to her older brother who specifically chose a chest that can act as a child's seat as well as storage chest to replace a couple of the large, space-occupying-but-otherwise-useless big baskets or cardboard "toy chests" she's been using for years... but that's a whole 'nother can of worms.)

Well, imagine my surprise when the following showed up on my phone a little while ago:

And here's my response:

It's a bit late today, but it looks like last year's birthday gift will be part of this year's Hanukkah gift! Cue the fireworks and celestial trumpets...!

(Dude, you're forgetting something...!)

Oh, yeah, before I go... Every time I mourn the loss of all those cute Pipsqueakisms of Miri's toddlerhood, she comes up with something new to remind me that even in the field of speech she is definitely her own person. The latest two:

- "I'm so cold my teeth are jittering!"
- "Mommy, I want you to read me a bed night story."

Also, she has lately taken to singing "The Twelve Nights of Christmas" whenever given half a chance... at least in between complaining about the apparent lack of attention the public is paying to Hanukkah and wondering aloud "why is everything only Christmas?" The catch is that what she's singing is only the melody of TTNoC but the lyrics are some nonsense silliness that one of her BFFs taught her... and she thinks it's absolutely hilarious when one of us tries to correct her with whatever part of the real lyrics we can remember. [1]

So, anyway, here we be, I'll be posting again soon... Stay warm, y'all! 

[1] I'm good with the partridge, turtledoves, French hens, calling birds, and golden rings... just please don't ask me to remember the correct order of anything after that!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Pipsqueak Security

Hey, wow, is it really December already? Amazing how time flies when you're having fun really, really busy & preoccupied!

Anyway... As the family technical support department, I often spend a lot of quality time with various iDevices. Most recently that was Mom's iPhone 4S, which decided that my updating it to the most recent possible version of iOS was a security violation and locked everyone out. To make a long and curse-filled story short, I eventually figured out the login credentials for Mom's AppleID account (Dude, didn't you set up that account yourself so you'd be sure to always have that information...?) and set about updating and/or installing the various apps she wanted.

The first app I put on was the FBI Child ID app, a free download I heartily encourage everyone with young kids to install on their smart devices.[1]  I entered as much of the information as I could and then posed my niece against the front door for an ID photo to add to the app. That got me wondering about how current the data was on my phone, and I immediately realized the photo I was using was from Miri's first day of school.... LAST year.

Since I didn't have a more recent photo I thought was appropriate in my camera roll, I grabbed the Pipsqueak from the kitchen and had her pose again, which she thought was kind of funny (and thus resulted in several silly poses before I could get a "real" ID pic). The fact that I kept posing her for photos to use in an app on my phone was intriguing, so she began grilling me interrogating me asking me what I needed the photo for, why I needed the app on the phone, what the app was used for... LOTS of questions that required some careful verbal wordsmithing to explain the safety aspect without making it sound like she was going to be snatched and/or get lost every time she went someplace with family or friends.

The Pipsqueak seemed to absorb it all and was quiet for a few moments, then marched back into the kitchen and asked Grandma for a pen and some paper. She was soon busy crafting what she told me was a "child ID security file" for herself.  Unfortunately, it was getting late so I couldn't stay to see the finished product and soon forgot about it.

Fast-forward to this past Thursday, when I was over at my folks' again (letting Mom sample an iPad Mini 2, which looks like it's going to be added to the list of devices I have to configure & support, argh). There, hanging among various slowly-aging holiday cards and the Pipsqueak's artwork was the completed homemade "Kid ID" file:

First & last name obscured for security, of course.

And on that note, I'll sign off for the evening. :-)

[1] The FBI Child ID app is currenty available for iOS and Android devices.

>> iOS (iTunes): https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/fbi-child-id/id446158585?ls=1&mt=8

>> Android (Google Play): https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.fbi&feature=search_result#?t=W251bGwsMSwxLDEsImNvbS5mYmkiXQ