"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016."

Stella: You're really into making wishes these days. A friend of yours told you that wishes must be kept secret. So now, you're convinced that if you speak your wish out loud, it won't come true. This means that the expression, "I wish...." has been banned from our family lexicon. I tell you what I wish though: perhaps you could listen as carefully to your parents as you do to the consul of your friends? Maybe? Yes? 

Hugo: You so want to do whatever Stella does, even if it does kiiiiiiiiiiiiinda scare the pants off of you.



"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2016."

Stella: It's been  a rough couple of weeks. But I can't really say enough about how flexible you've been, how, after all the changes of this past year, you're just handling things.

Hugo: We've been taking lots of naps together. It's probably one of my favourite parts of the day. It's such an indulgence for me, lying down in the middle of the day, made justifiable by the fact that I'm eight months pregnant. And it's also such a sweet time for us together. I did this with your sister when I  was pregnant with you, and now, I'm so glad to be able to share this time alone with you, just the two of us. 



project 52_that wild road_china blog
that wild road_project 52_china blog_week 39

"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016."

You know when all of life's minor and largely insignificant problems conspire to drop in your lap all at once and knock you flat on your face for a few weeks? Yeah. That. Suffice to say, it's been a hell of a few weeks round here with super fun exotic Asia problems like BUGS and also a side helping of pregnancy worry and various other issues that have kept me from being a regular person on the internet. And likely, these issues won't be resolved for another while yet, but we're just trying to carry on regardless. So, in the meanwhile, here's a project 52 update.

Stella: You've made a couple of really good friends these past few weeks. You've got your school bud who rides the bus with you and plays cat and spies together with you. And, now you're forging a friendship with a group of german kids, a couple of whom speak good English. After a lonely summer it's amazing to see how you're able to make friends across cultural and linguistic boundaries, how brave you are socially, and how much happier you are with a couple of proper friends to call your own.

Hugo: This bike, man. You're all about it. It's the first thing you ask to do in the morning, and you're basically on that bike until evening. Any time we leave the apartment you plead to bring your bike along. Now with the days being a bit cooler and the weather so fair, you're outside almost the entire day making circles around the playgrounds on your bike, faster than I thought was possible for a little guy like you to travel. 



that wild road_china travel blog_project 52_38.52.16
that wild road_project 52_china travel blog_38.52.16

“a portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016.”


Stella: You’ve been so helpful this week. Since I’ve been on “bed rest” (which I’m defining pretty loosely by the way), you’ve been reminding me to sit down, rest, and not to carry heavy things. Instead, you’ve taken it upon yourself to transport your brother here and there, particularly across the sandy playground because woe is everything if Hugo’s feet touch sand.


Hugo: This week, I could not get you inside. You’re out on your bike each morning at seven to drop Stella at the bus. You do a few tours of the complex with Papi and then it’s back in for a short post-breakfast snack. By 8:30 you’re ready to go out again with Ayi  and I don’t see you again until lunchtime. As soon as Stella comes home from school we’re riding bikes, playing on the swings, and running around the playgrounds together. 



"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2016."

Stella: In the last several weeks, you've really grown, not in hight, I mean, but in mind. You now have the concentration to sit with me and play a board game. You can reason and plan without reacting immediately. And on this particular morning, you read me four sentences (in French!!!!) Six and a half is a nice spot to be.

Hugo: You're taking over as the resident trouble maker. You're charming as all get out, but boy, your passions can be ignited when you're unhappy. You scream and shout and cry, often declaring GULAH! providence of that particular phrase remains unknown. A friend remarked to me, "He's just the right level of naughty," charming but cheeky. Mostly I agree, except perhaps when you are shouting a few choice gros mots over and over and over from atop the climbing frame in the crowded playground when I tell you that it's time to go home. 



"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2016."

Stella: I'm coming to see how important it is for you to fit in. You are watchful, always aware of what the people around you are up to, and how you might follow along. You watch as tourists sit on these steps in the centre of the city city, and so you too, love to sit here and watch the great towering buildings above us. The thing is, though, with your red hair and pink face, you do make quite the tourist attraction yourself.

Hugo: You've been taking these unreasonably long naps during the day, so when bedtime rolls around, you have no interest in sleeping. I've been keeping you up after Stella goes to bed. You sit in the living room and play cars for a time while I rest on the couch. Then, you come and lie down beside me, telling me all manor of stories and singing me your silly made-up songs. Your one from this week: "Banana, banana, we are each other!" You are a joy and a charmer, my boy.


china travel blog_that wild road_project 52_week 35
china travel blog_that wild road_project 52_week 35_hugo

"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2016."

Stella: You started back to school this week. And it's been totally fine. Which, admittidly sounds like damning with faint praise, but considering all the upheaval you've been through in the last year, it's pretty remarkable how unremarkable this rentrée has been. You're in CP this year, officially a big kid. You walk up to your classroom all on your own; find your own way to the bus; and, (and this is major) you get to eat in the cafeteria, where apparently they serve duck? To school kids? At lunch? I dunno. Très Francais.

Hugo: With your sister at school, it's back to days of you and me. Though you spend most mornings with Ayi while I work, and then we hang out in the afternoons waiting for your devoted playmate to come home from school. I must say, though, days are a lot quieter with no one to destroy your train tracks or endless lines of traffic. Still, I do try to get you out for at leats one adventure per week with you. And let's be real, what I classify as an adventure is riding the subway to our favourite bread place, and then walking to get groceries. Although, there is usually an ice cream in there, too. So,



"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016."

Stella: It's your last week of summer holiday before school starts. I wish I could say that I've packed it full of adventure and exploration, but sadly, we've been hanging out at home a lot. I've started back to work and that's kept us homebound. But you've been hanging out with a friend from school. We did do an ice cream and burger date. You've been spending lazy mornings with your comic books. And you've been logging the hours in the playground. So, your last week of freedom has had a few perks.

Hugo: Your imagination is starting to expand. This concentration you've had since you've been small is deepening and you are quietly content, sitting on the floor, driving around your cars. You're telling little stories, sending your cars through the car wash, taking them to the garage, and fighting fires. Which, always cracks me up, because according to your understanding a fire fighter is someone who fights people using fire. 


shanghai blogger_china travel blog_project 52_week 33
china mom blog_project 52_week 33

"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016."

Stella: After almost two years hiatus from the television (with exceptions for sickness and long plane journeys), we've just started letting you watch TV on a Sunday. We're fairly excited because we can snatch an hour or two of quiet time on the weekend. You think you've won the lottery. But it kiiiiinda is all you want to talk about now, TVTVTVTVTV, and that does drive me a little bit bananas. 

Hugo: With all this newfound media exposure, you're super into princesses right now. You get a little bit of TV too, when you wake up from your Sunday nap. Inevitably it's Sofia the First. And so, outside the strictures of North American culture, and in the absence of other media exposure telling you otherwise you think that it's totally reasonable for a car-loving little boy to aspire to be a princess when he grows up. And I'm not one to tel you otherwise, because I kinda love it when you ask me to put on your princess crown.     


project 52_that wild road_shanghai blogger
project 52_week 32_that wild road_shanghai blogger

"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week. in 2016."

Stella: You're starting to make some regular friends in Shanghai, and boy has that ever been a sea change for you. It must be difficult, going to a school in a new language, adding that weight to the already ponderous task of navigating a new social environment in a new school. You're so invested in your friendships that this period without playmates has put you off your equilibrium. So, you can imagine how glad I've been to see you playing with friends in the playground, even if I'm a little less glad to field 10 000 questions per day re. if it is indeed yet 4:30 PM.

Hugo: You tricked me into thinking that you'd learn to use the toilet this week. YOu were actualy in jocks early this year, until I had to go away for a week, and left you in the care of your beloved grandmother who decided that her toilet training days were behind her. (Fair enough.) So. Anyway, you spent all of Monday evening running back and forth between "the little green toilet" and the big toilet, producing a few drops, and then proudly emptying them into the loo, explaining each time AND PUT IT IN THE TOILET. Sadly for me, interest in the potty has since waned. Except for when you and your sister figured out how to make potty hats. But we can't show those pictures here. Too bad. 




project52_that wild road_China Travel Blog
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"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2016."

Stella: We gave you Papi's old iPod to listen to, and you're loving it. So far, you have a nice balance of musical influences, with kiddy songs, J-Pop hits, a few Beatles tunes, contemporary American top 40 type nonsense, annnnnnd German punk rock. 

Hugo: Your sister cut your hair this week. She said that she needed to so that you could see better. Apparently you were in on the plan, having granted your permission prior to the deed. People keep saying it looks like a new, sort of hipster doo, so we're keeping it. For now. (Or at least until I can get my act together and get to the hair place.) 



"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016."

Stella: I kept you home from summer camp this week. You said that you wanted to stay home spend time with your brother. Secretly, I'm glad I agreed. It is nice to have the break, and I've been enjoying walking around the city with you two. Especially since almost every adventure involves an ice cream. Although I will say, that time at home has allowed you to explore a bit more than I'd like. Case in point: that time you decided to give your brother a hair cut. 

Hugo: You sure are a clown. You're cracking bum-bum jokes at every opportunity. And then you giggle, and cover your mouth with your chubby toddler hands. I kind of love it.

I'm starting to think I missed out a week somewhere in this project.  I have a inkling that I should be on week 31, but I'm not? Question mark? I suppose that's what happens when I am completely inconsistent with my posting here on this blog and take extended six-week hiatuses. Anyway, we'll just keep posting along this schedule and see where we end up at the end of the year? Fingers crossed?




"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2016."

Stella: You're really interested in the city around you. You are studying the map and following along, listening to the bits of history shared by the tour bus.

Hugo: You like looking at all the cars and their wheels. In fact, when you don't have a vantage point from which to see the road, you complain in a terribly tragic voice, "I can't see the wells (wheels)!"

 The kids had been asking, again and again, since our first days in Shanghai, to take them on a "city bus ride", as tourist busses are called in Jakarta. And I enthusiastically promised YES! ONE DAY! Somehow maybe subconsciously hoping that perhaps I'd never actually have to make good on that promise, because anything tourist + china = the seventh circle of hell. Well, that day finally did come on this particular weekend when we happened to walk by a tourist bus stop, and Stella in all her enthusiasm inquired about the wait time (five minutes!!) and the price (100 RMB, kids FREEEEEEE) and you know, there's not much I like more than FREEEEEEEEEEEEE. So, off we went. It was boiling hot. Like 40+ degrees with no A/C. And Hugo was minus one nap. And we had just spent the entire morning roaming around the city. And it took two hours. And we had to change busses about 100 times. But they loved it! Really! They were so pleased to be riding up above the city watching the buildings go past. Plus, the bus passed right in front of our apartment building, and we managed to convince the driver to let us off at our door. So! Anyway, a lovely end to a weekend outing. 



"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016"

Stella: You love books. Specifically comic books. And especially Lucky Luke and Tin TIn. While the genre is sort of a departure from your regular cultural diet of pink princess frilly rainbow sparkle, I do kind of love this weird little quirk of yours. Not least because you'll sit quietly for ages, pouring over your books, studying the pictures, trying to understand the story. And, boy, am I excited for when you learn to read. A whole new world is going to open for you.

Hugo: You love books and doing what ever your sister does. Case in point: Your current princess obsession. You want to be a princess when you grow up. You want to watch Sofia the First. You want to pint your nails and wear flowing dresses and tiaras. Because that's just what your sister does, and you want to be just like her.  



"a portrait of my children, once a week, every week in 2016"

Stella: You're fascinated by our surroundings, and full of questions about Chinese culture. You want to know why people dance in the mornings with rackets and balls, why people "cigarette" as you call it, why people drive scooters on the sidewalk, why they sell lotus pods in the subway station, why real estate agents congregate outside apartment complexes. It's interesting for me to see what you notice as new and different here.

Hugo: You really hate cicadas. It's true, they are incredibly loud here. Every time we go outside, you cover your ears and say, "What's dat noise??!!!?"