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January 28, 2001: One

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My niece turns one tomorrow (and we just won't talk about what a shock it is that an entire year could have passed already!), so naturally we bought her a dump truck full of Duplos. Neither of us cared whether it was a 'girl' toy or a 'boy' toy; it just looked really fun and the pieces were all big enough so she couldn't eat them.

We flew up to Seattle to deliver the dump truck in person. It wasn't wrapped, so getting it up there was a bit interesting. The Duplos were in a net bag in the bed of the dump truck, so when I laid it on its side, they spilled out in a little amoeba lump and the whole thing got stuck in the security pass through. Then it didn't fit in the overhead bin, but luckily the plane was nearly empty, so the flight attendant allowed us to simply belt it into one of the seats. Of course there were the requisite comments about how we were getting a truck for a little girl, suggestions that they put the truck in the aisle as the plane took off, teasing about loading it up with peanuts and giving it a push down the aisle for a 'self-serve' approach to flying. Despite all that, the truck made it to Fiona in one piece, and she seemed quite happy to get it. It was full of things that made a satisfying 'clump!' when she took them out and dropped them onto the floor. She could gnaw on them without any danger of swallowing or hurting herself. And she quickly learned that some adults will gladly build Duplo towers for her to whack over with glee.

My sister had a birthday lunch for her on Sunday (both she and Bil-2 completely forgot that it was Super Bowl Sunday, and quite frankly, so did Richard and I). Her in-laws and Bil-2's brother and his family came over, filling the house with the noise of three well-behaved but incredibly energetic little boys, and a whole host of adults who were more than happy to make buffoons of themselves just to get a certain little girl to smile. As it was her first birthday, Fiona was given a chocolate cupcake smeared liberally with frosting. She mushed the frosting a bit, having fun with that texture, but once she was given a bit of the cake itself, there was no stopping her. By the time she was done, she'd managed to smear the chocolate goo all over her face, hands, the tray of the high chair, and (much to my delight), her hair as well.

The trip this weekend was a lot of fun, and not just because I got to see my niece coated in chocolate. This weekend, my sister and I took the opportunity to teach Richard something that he will have to know if he is to be a true member of our family.

The game is based loosely on solitaire, in that you play the cards red/black down in front of you, yet build on the aces as well. However, the numbers are a bit different, and when you've got sixteen aces laying on the table to build upon from four players, it can get more than a bit confusing.

I don't know where the game came from, or why it's called 'Nerts', or who taught it to my parents. But as far back as we can remember, my parents have played it, and the game is always the same - a wild and crazy frenzy of people tossing cards and trying to be the first to get rid of the base pile. How many cards you get into the center is just as crucial as being the first to finish, which means if one of the players has long nails, things could get ugly. And yet it always degrades into laughter and teasing, especially to whoever manages to lose. Back when we were kids, my little sister was the one who tended to lose, usually to me. From their conversations, it appears that she regularly trounces her husband. Despite the teasing Richard received the first game we played, he managed to hold his own in game two.

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