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, June 30, 2017

Catching Up: Elementary School Science Share plus Bonus Wildlife (2017_03_15)

Every year, the Pipsqueak's school has a "Science Share" event (pretty much the same as the old Science Fair events from my school days, but with an added emphasis on the kids teaching each other & the visitors -- all good stuff). Last year, Miri teamed up with her BFF for a project near and dear to my heart: testing the melting rates of different types of chocolate. (You can read the post about last year's Science Share by clicking here.)

This year my niece was a solo act in which she ran a test to determine if color would affect the rate at which a sugar/water mix would crystallize and how much of the color would be absorbed by the sugar. The first test didn't work, partly because different containers were used for different colors and partly because... well, let's just say things didn't go quite as planned. The re-do worked out nicely. Grandma supplied four identical small transparent glass bowls and Mommy remembered to take all the required photographs, and the sugar did indeed crystallize very nicely over the course of a little over a week.

A few days before the Science Share began, I was asked to please lend a hand creating the display boards (partly because AJ's printer & laptop were having a tiff) so the three of us spread out over most of both the living & dining room areas with scissors, glue sticks, a bunch of photos AJ had emailed me that I'd printed at my house, foam board, et. al. There were a few last-minute downloads & printouts (once I'd finally gotten AJ's printer and laptop to cooperate) and a couple of minor disagreements over layout, but I was able to head back home secure in the knowledge that Miri's scientific research was ready to be presented to her admiring public.

Despite it already being mid-March, our crazy weather first dropped hail on our heads on the 10th and then added snow to its repertoire so when I looked out my back door the morning of the 15th all I saw was bare branches and snow. Hey, waitaminit... did that tree trunk just move by itself...?

What I had thought was just another fallen tree suddenly resolved itself into a young deer. And then a second moved just enough to be seen... and then a third... a fourth...  Despite their heavy winter coats blending almost invisibly into the white-brown-grey of the trees behind my house, I finally woke up enough to see a small herd of deer nonchalantly munching their way down the block. The mystery of where they came from was quickly solved when yet another furry eating machine bent its head a little and walked through a big hole in the fence between my neighborhood and the golf course next door. I grabbed my camera and fired off 20-odd shots through the dirty glass of the sliding door.

Yes, I know I said I took more than 20 photos... I just wanted to include the good ones. (I really had just woken up!)

I figured that having all that fuzzy cuteness in my backyard was a good omen, and remained in a good mood as I picked up Mom & Dad and we headed to Miri's school early that evening.  Event set-up was mostly complete, and we were glad to see the usual big turnout. (Side note: Unlike some other schools in the area, this one is blessed with a very high level of parent & family involvement. Also unlike some other schools in the area, said involvement is of a positive, supportive nature, with no calls to ban books, change history lessons, or stop teaching "erotic math" -- the last being something my mother's school was charged with by some parents a number of years ago. AJ spent a lot of time researching school districts long before starting the adoption process, and she done good.)

We found the Pipsqueak's display at one end of the gym and I began perusing the other displays while Mom & Dad spoke with other grandparents. (There were a number of duplicate experiments, but only one other like hers done by an older kid with the title reversed.) The kids were all supposed to remain at their displays to explain their experiments to passers-by and faculty, but after a few minutes of watching all the non-participating siblings & other kids run around having a good time Miri needed a little extra encouragement from Grandma to not wander more than a couple of feet away. (She wasn't the only one; about 1/3 of the displays I visited were unmanned when I passed by.) That little hurdle passed, Miri did herself proud; the comments sheet for her display had several very nice compliments concerning her presentation of the experiment, and one gentleman spent at least five minutes gushing about her ability to explain what she did and the self-confidence she displayed. (I think she unleashed her "little schoolmarm" persona on him.)

The event finally came to a close (not a moment too soon for the one display featuring Skittles -- I think the bowl was licked clean!) and Miri happily collected her certificate of achievement and a firm congratulatory handshake from the principal.

I lent a hand with some of the tear-down (folding tables, etc.) and then we went out for a celebratory ice cream before everyone headed for their respective houses. All in all, a good evening... despite Mom still wondering when she'll get her glass bowls back!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Catching Up: Our MIT CNY Luncheon (5 Feb 2017)

Despite the lack of big FCC celebration of the Chinese New Year, our circle of China adoption friends had the usual CNY luncheon. Even that was a little different this year, with one of the families now living in the Carolinas -- but pretty much anyone within easy driving distance showed up and a good time was had by all!

What better place to play and avoid the loud drums & cymbals than under the table?
Just the first of many hong bao devoured by the red Nian!
The Pipsqueak's Grandma enjoys a close encounter of the CNY kind.
This is what happens to a close-up when your subject gets so close that you almost fall over backwards...
Miri has always been a little afraid of this guy -- and I gotta admit those big empty eyes are a bit creepy!
The big red Nian makes its way through the crowd (nearly pushing Dad out of his chair)
The Pipqueak's Grandpa isn't sure if he should take a photo... or dive for cover!
Alas, I failed to catch any of the lucky flying veggies... but there were plenty left behind on the floor!
After the dance (and the accompanying loud drums & cymbals) had wound their way back to the front of the restaurant (Dude, how can you go back to the front?) and out the door, we settled down to finish our meal and then celebrated the 39th birthday of one of the group (for what was at least the 2nd time in his life), followed by the inevitable collecting of all the papers, stamps, crayons, colored pencils, pads, and other stuff employed to prevent pre- and post-meal boredom within the youngest generation of our group.
Oohing and aaahing over the cake that's about to be devoured... or just making sure to get a choice piece?
A small fraction of the kids' handiwork. One of these days I'll learn to read those characters...!
Eventually all the artwork & assorted bags, backpacks, leftovers, gifts, unused hong bao, art supplies, etc. was collected. After the requisite stop in the lobby for the kids to throw pennies into the fountain (followed by the requisite stop in the front entrance airlock for group photos of the kids), the entire group made its way out the door and the usual round of "goodbye" discussions began. (These usually consist of conversation separate from all that occurred inside the restaurant, only reluctantly reaching an actual goodbye 10-15 minutes later.)

As usual, the kids were running up & down the sidewalk, balancing on rocks in the landscaping -- at least when they thought none of the grownups would notice -- and generally making good use of the last few minutes before everyone scattered to their respective homes. I noticed the restaurant's back patio was flanked by a pair of the shaggiest trees I'd ever seen, and I was able to reach just far enough through the fence to grab a couple that would make good wands once I'd figured out what kind of tree they were[1]... an activity interrupted by the sudden need to remind the kids that it really wasn't a good idea to try to climb the big stone lions by the restaurant's front door[2].

Say hello to Betula nigra, commonly known as the River Birch, one of North America's shaggiest trees.
If we can't climb on him, then we'll just include him in our conversation!
Eventually everyone's stamina ran out and, one family at a time, everyone began drifting out to their cars with lots of laughing "Hi! Bye!" from the kids. We were one of the last families to leave, and were entertained by Miri telling us aaalllll about the Nian and the noisy music on the way home.

[1] My name's not Ollivander, but I am indeed a wandmaker. It's a fun hobby that letss me work with wood in a way I haven't had a chance to since the long-ago days when I used to help my grandfather in his basement workshop doing carpentry & repair work.

[2] The kids are actually pretty good -- their behavior's appropriate for their respective ages (and locations), they just kinda get a little carried away when in high-adrenaline groups. :-)

Thursday, June 15, 2017

That "Hometown Goalie" Look

I'm going to cling to whatever shreds of privacy the Internet has left me and not go into detail, but life has gotten one heck of a lot more complicated around here... more complicated than planned, more complicated than anticipated, and waaay the heck more complicated than any of us wants it to be. I've not been posting because sometimes the stress has made dealing with just one more "oh yeah I forgot to do that, too" a bit too much to deal with on most days.
I'm not  giving up on the blog, and have recently realized that this bit of crazy online sharing of personal life actually reduces stress so I'll probably be getting back into a (slightly) more regular schedule of posting again.  I've got lots of catching up to do (Dude, like that's anything new...?) and shall endeavour my utmost to do so with the greatest alacrity.

In the meantime, the Pipsqueak has hit a cluster of nice milestones that I want to share.  First, this is the last week of 2nd grade. The summer vacation schedule is a bit on the wild side but Miri's already looking forward to starting 3rd grade in the fall -- while the rest of us just keep looking at each other wide-eyed and silently mouthing, "THIRD? What happened to Kindergarten?!?" She's even told her Grandma not to worry about her next semester because she's going to be upstairs with the rest of the big kids and already knows her way around.

Warning: Kvelling ahead...The Pipsqueak's finishing the academic year with a mess of academic achievement kudos & awards, and her reading skills are well into what's expected of her halfway through next school year. She took it upon herself to learn cursive writing this semester (Why did they remove that from the curriculum?!?) and her penmanship's pretty darn good. (I won't compare it to the often-illegible scrawl I seem to have inherited from Dad.)

The Pipsqueak fell over rocking back & forth in time to some music on her 2nd day home, and she's still at it (minus the falling over part).  After a short foray into hip-hop, Miri settled on ballet and jazz and modern dance on top of the Chinese dance routines she learns at the CCACC school on Saturdays. She & the other girls in her Chinese school dance class not only gave their usual performance at the Lakeforest Mall CNY celebration, but this year added a couple of other large public venues to their list -- including a performance filmed for Montgomery County Television that aired for the first time back in February and that is still available online! (I'm trying to get AJ's permission to post the link for general consumption; family & personal friends who haven't already gotten the URL please email me if you want it.)

Meanwhile, the ballet/jazz/modern studio had their big end-of-semester show this past weekend (three 2-1/2 hour shows in three days!) and Miri danced in three routines in each show, biiiig (genuine) smile on her face the whole time.  AJ worked backstage at each show, and told us that on the first night a bunch of the older girls got out of hand & pulled the fire alarm "just for fun" -- which left poor Miri in a panic since she's still processing the experience of having to run out of the house in the wee hours of the morning when the house next door nearly burned to the ground. AJ was really proud of the Pipsqueak, though; she pulled herself together and just 15 minutes later danced onstage like nothing ever happened. There's one more big show this coming weekend (the Chinese dance end-of-semester shindig), and then a one-week "summer camp" with the dance studio, but that's it for dance until the summer's over.

The last milestone is the one I reference in the title of this post. It's an old expression I picked up from Dad, referring to all those small-town kids playing hockey without protective gear back in the day. It wasn't at all uncommon for the hometown goalie to inadvertently stop a flying puck with their teeth instead of their hand... and now the Pipsqueak's begun losing her teeth, too!

The first wiggly tooth stayed wiggly (despite Miri's best efforts to loosen it at every opportunity) for over a week before suddenly parting ways with the rest of her dentition at school. The Pipsqueak saved the tooth and brought it home to put under her pillow -- and since it was her first-ever tooth, the Tooth Fairy broke the bank and left a $5 bill under the pillow! A second tooth became wiggly just days later, but for a while we thought she might not lose it 'til college; no matter how much Miri worried at it with her tongue or (gently!) wiggled it with her fingers, the darn thing just stayed put -- until suddenly popping out three weeks later when no one expected it to.

Mommy and Grandma had already explained that the Tooth Fairy (and you can rest assured that Miri knows exactly who that is) would not be leaving any more fivers under her pillow because it was a special "first tooth" payment only. Still, the Pipsqueak's a natural-born negotiator so we were wondering if she'd look for a loophole to increase her earning power. (She's trying to save up some cash for a beach trip later this year.) Sure enough, when the reluctant tooth finally came out, she brought up the subject of how much money it might be worth and when her Grandma reminded her of earlier discussions of that subject, Miri's response was a hopeful, "Yes, but that tooth was from the bottom, this was the first tooth from the top of my mouth..."

Gotta wonder if the kid's gonna apply to a dance academy or law school...! (Once Mom had stopped laughing, she diplomatically explained that the top vs. bottom loophole was closed, to which Miri replied, "Okay!" with a sheepish smile.)

And now I think I need to get to bed for some overdue shuteye... I'll be posting more here soon (I've actually begun editing photos for the next posting), and in the meantime...

Oops, hang on, one more (non-Pipsqueak) thing... I don't like blowing my own horn or commercializing this blog, so I'll keep it real short: Please check out what's available at http://zazzle.com/tee_by_b (yes, I'm the "B"); right now I'm adding new designs & products every 3-4 days so check back often!

Okay, commercial's over (but I can use the money, honest I can) so now I'm really heading upstairs to bed.  I hope all's well at your end of the wire & I'll be back online here in just a few days!