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!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Look Back at Tumultuous 2016

Aah, twenty-sixteen. Such a lovely year. Increasing national strife, increasing instability around the globe, several memorable mass shootings, a "Who's Who" list of public figures meeting their maker, and a U.S. presidential election that has left more than 50% of the voters going, "HEY, WAITAMINIT...!"

Seriously, I can't remember ever hearing so many TV newscasters, radio DJs, and just plain ol' folks on the street literally begging a year to hurry up and be over as I have in the past month or so. (Incidentally, I'm typing this intro on December 29th -- but I plan to publish it only after the calendar has flipped over into 2017 for fear there will be yet more newsworthy, probably negative, events to comment on.)

But still, all was not horrible and/or terrible and/or ripped from the pages of an Ionesco novel. Yes, the Pipsqueak's family had some medical misadventures and professional misadventures and personal misadventures, but there were also good things scribbled on our calendars. So... I now present for your illumination and entertainment, 2016 in a (longish) nutshell:

 We started the year with AJ, the Pipsqueak and I joining friends for an overnight stay at National Harbor and a visit to the "ICE!" exhibit, which was a lot of (sometimes extremely cold) fun for all despite bad beds and slow elevators. We got to spend some quality time with a seldom-seen cousin from far away, helped celebrate several birthdays, and found that "Snowmageddon II" was a royal PITA but still nowhere near as awful (at least 'round these parts) as originally forecast.

Despite a spate of assorted medical appointments, the month included a LOT of Chinese New Year celebrations & dance recitals, and closed out with one of Miri's first performances as part of the synagogue's Children's Choir.

Only slightly marred by the end of my severance/unemployment income, March included another batch of birthdays (including my 57th -- yikes!), still more celebrating of the Chinese New Year, a "South Pacific" matinee, Miri & her BFF presenting their experiment's results at their school's annual "Science Share" event, the Pipsqueak impersonating baked goods, an Easter egg hunt & dinner with friends, and the first of several requested & long-promised play dates I had with my niece.

This month had a sad tinge as our MIT group bid bon voyage to a family moving out of the area, but things improved as we celebrated Mom & Dad's 63rd anniversary, had a full day's worth of quality uncle & Grandpa time with Miri , and had a nice bunch of  mishpocha and friends together for Passover. The Pipsqueak also got to perform in her school's talent show -- two shows  lasting 3 hours each! -- dancing cheerleader-style to "We Got the Beat" by the Go-Gos. Oh, and AJ, Miri, Cousin E and I shared a nature walk that included some unwanted but ultimately comical interaction with a highly inquisitive Canada Goose. (Dude, at least it didn't mug you like that sheep in Norway!)

This month, things quieted down a little -- as long as you don't count the first honest-to-goodness hail storm we've seen around this area for a long time. There were a few birthdays, and both regular & Sunday school end-of-year picnics/celebrations that were enjoyed by the Pipsqueak and her grownups.

If may was easy-going, June was "gotta go now, we're late!"  Miri had a joint birthday party with her BFF early in the month, a family party on the actual date (also the last day of 1st grade!), and a "regular" solo birthday party near the end of the month... all interspersed with friends' birthday parties. The Pipsqueak performed in two hip-hop/ballet recitals with one dance class, performed in a ballet recital with a 2nd dance class, performed with  her 1st grade classmates in "Billy Goats Gruff" at school, and performed one last complex Chinese dance with her CLAPS classmates. Somewhere in there, she started taking swimming lessons -- developing a wicked-fast backstroke! -- while her grownups had another spate of medical appointments before we all collapsed from exhaustion. (We didn't really -- it just felt like we should!)

In addition to the Independence Day fireworks, we enjoyed celebrating both Mom & Dad's eighty-somethngth birthdays and the annual recreation of AJ & the Pipsqueak's official adoption portrait. We also enjoyed watching Miri perform in the end-of-season show at day camp as well as in two dance camp shows. There was another round of assorted medical  "stuff" but all was again well by month's end. Mid-month we also took a nature walk with cousins that led to an amazingly close encounter with a mama deer and her fawns. It was around this time that I began a family tree project based in part upon the realization that even though we'd likely never truly know the Pipsqueak's birth story & lineage, the rest of us had no reason to not know ours -- and we were steadily losing the generation who could fill in the blanks.

We all had a great time with our annual visit from the Lawnguyland branch of the family (including an epic SuperSoaker battle), more dance camp, and then AJ, Miri and I spent time in Rehoboth with friends -- a real "first" for all three of us. (Unfortunately, that "first" was also a "last" for my camera, thanks to some errant grains of sand in the lens mechanism.) The Pipsqueak had a few red-letter days of her own, including "bridging" from Daisy to Brownie, seeing a live matinee of "Hairspray" with Uncle Brian and Mommy, and starting -- much to her rapidly-aging uncle's shock! -- second grade at the end of the month.

Things quieted down again this month -- although not by a whole lot. There were several birthdays celebrated (including AJ's 51st), the bar mitzvah of the son of one of AJ's friends from elementary school (yikes!) our annual MIT Crabfest (at which Mom & Dad were given gifts as the honorary grandparents of all the kids in our adoption group for Grandparents Day), Miri's start-of-year school picnic, and I even managed to get up early enough to accompany Miri to her school's "Dads at School" event, which turned out to be a heck of a workout and lots of fun for both of us. Oh, and Mom finally had her 1st cataract surgery, which went very well. (The surgery on her other eye was postponed when she came down with a bad cold.)

We started with Rosh Hashonah and quickly moved on to a close relative's (successful) surgery and AJ finally leaving the nursing home where she'd worked for roughly 17 years (11-1/2 overlapping with Yours Truly). That segued into Yom Kippur, around which time I caught whatever bug had been keeping Mom down -- and we  both felt so crappy, we missed a concert I'd bought tickets for.  Even better, while doing research for my family tree project I discovered that we'd lost another cousin back in July. The month finally sneezed, hacked, and coughed its way to a more pleasant ending with watching Miri's dance class putting on a Halloween dance presentation and then seeing the Halloween costume parade at her school. (And on Halloween proper I had over 120 trick-or-treaters ring the doorbell!)

I finally knocked my cold down enough to see a live performance of "Sister Act" with my sister, followed shortly thereafter by the &#@%$! election results. We felt better the next weekend when a cousin introduced the super-nice Significant Other we'd been trying to meet for couple of months and who we quickly found out now holds the title of fiancee (the wedding's in February). Scattered among several birthdays later in the month was a very successful International Night event at the Pipsqueak's school and a pleasant Thanksgiving celebration with all of the local family plus our Florida contingent and a couple of extra cousins.

The year closed with our first really wintry weather, another scattering of birthdays and Miri performing with two classes in her dance school's end-of-year show. There were more doctor visits, and the Pipsqueak finally lost her first baby tooth. The entire family attended a performance of "The Nutcracker" at the Olney theatre with most of our MIT group, and AJ & I sent Mom & Dad to a dinner theatre as an early Hanukkah gift. We had some old friends over to co-celebrate the first night of Hanukkah and Christmas Eve, and closed out the year with AJ, the Pipsqueak and I accompanying much of the MIT group to this year's "ICE!" display at National Harbor.

And that is 2016 in a (large-ish) nutshell. I've glossed over a lot (and left a few things out completely), but still plan to make more detailed posts about several of the events I mentioned. In the meantime, it is now officially 2017 so I with you all a healthy, fun, and prosperous...


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