28/52

 

"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.  

27/52

 

"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??!!!?" 

 

26/52

 

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

Stella: You're feeling more comfortable at school, I think. Each day, it seems like you're coming home with new words, with tales of new songs or games you're playing, or delicious things you ate for lunch (sausages are always a winner, but you tasted and liked even, fish and enthusiastically ate spinach). In the mornings, you still stick pretty close to me at the bus stop, but when the bus arrives, you race with the other kids, eager to be first in line. Still, I know it's not so easy for you, starting again, making new friends, creating a new routine, and all in a new language. I'm just so impressed with how well you're managing it all.

Hugo: You were so happy to discover your toys again. Our shipment arrived this week, and you were just so glad to see your cars and your garage again. Each toy we unwrapped was greeted with delight. I think seeing your stuff in our new place will really help you to feel a bit more settled.   

25/52

 

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

Stella: You're singing French songs pretty much non-stop. I can't always understand exactly what it is that you're singing about, but I'm glad to see you taking so much joy in your new language.

Hugo: Your favourite part of the day is when we get to "kick up Stella" from the school bus. It's pretty quiet at home just you and me all day. So, when it's time to go, you get in the stroller and we walk off together to collect her from the bus stop. When her bus pulls up, you shout "HOORAY! Stella's Bus!" and then, immediately after she get's off, you guys demand muffins and then start fighting about who got the biggest piece. 

24/52

 

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

Stella: You're loving the sidewalks, the subway rides, the new friends, the playgrounds, the parks, and the noodle soup. Though you do think that the lobby of the hotel in Jakarta was better. And you miss reflexi, and manicurists that came to our house, and the fact that we used to live on top of a shopping mall. 

Hugo: Our days are quieter and slower, and I think you're missing your sister. After about six weeks of having her at home all the time, she's back at school and it's just us. Most days you ask me, even before we're done breakfast if you can "kick up Yaya." I always remind you that we will pick up Stella after your sleep, and you're always brutally disapointed.  

I think these two images exemplify perfectly my children's emotional state after this big move. Stella is launching headfirst into life in China. Hugo's first steps are a bit more tentative. And I embrace and celebrate both ways of being. 

23/52

 

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

Stella: I can't believe how well you're doing at your new school. Though you tell me you don't want to go to school, you walk towards the bus stop happily chatting about your day. Then trundle off on the bus without complaint. You went on a field trip to the zoo and were up at the crack of dawn, too excited to sleep. You came home brimming with stories of elephants and bears. I watched you one evening playing your heart out with two little kids who go to your school, and you did just fine even though you didn't share a language. You are picking up key play phrases and navigating the social world just fine. Sure there's been moments fraught with anxiety and some pretty intense feelings (and boy those moments have been difficult) but I have a feeling you'll be just fine.

Hugo: You're getting your two-year-old molars and you've been pretty unhappy about that. Thankfully they haven't impacted your sleep much (so far!) but you've really been clingy and sad during the days. 

22/52

 

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

Stella: It was our first full week in China. And you're doing surprisingly well. You're settling into your new school, even though you don't yet understand the language. You're making friends even though you can't quite communicate. Your courage really astounds me. To be honest, I feel like I hardly remember this week as I was sick in bed with a terrible case of the flu. But somehow you did all of this. And you turned six. And you lost a tooth. 

Hugo: You're still having a hard time. I get it. This is a big change for you. And, plus, I've been sick in bed and fairly unavailable to you. Still, I've been enjoying the one-on-one time we've been having. Hanging out just you and me, even if I've been too sick to do anything more than lie on the floor while you push cars around. It's really special this quiet, in between time we been having as we're getting accustomed to our new life here. 

21/52

 

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

Stella: You started your new school this week. On your second day of school, we all walked you to the bus. You were so excited about the idea of riding the bus like a big kid, but as the bus pulled up and we ushered you forward, your little lip quivered, and you tried to bravely hold back tears. You got on anyway. You reported to me that you sobbed silently for a few minutes, but you did okay. You got to school, found your classroom, and did it all in a language you don't even yet understand. I'm so proud of you.

Hugo: On your last morning in Indonesia, you were totally out of sorts. You really are sad about this big change, and it's no wonder. This is your home, and there are so many people here who love you. When we left the hotel that night, you were sort of shell shocked,  not wanting to say goodbye to anyone. But as we were about to pull away in the taxi, the gravity of what was happening hit you, and you lept up, and waved at the window, "BYE BYE IBU." So we stopped the car and you had one last cuddle with your beloved Ibu Vera. 

20/52

 

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

Stella: We're about to move, and you basically seem unphased. It probably helps that we've pulled you out of school, and are filling your days with playdates, parties and outings. And maybe our little sojourn in the presidential suite also sweetened the situation somewhat. Still, I'm amazed at how positive you are about this upcoming change.

Hugo: You're having a much harder time. You understand profoundly what is going to happen, and you're pretty sad about leaving the only home that you've ever known. You're breaking down and weeping at just about anything, crying, "I DON'T WANT TO." I know that this has a deeper meaning, so I'm allowing you more space. There are more cuddles, more time, and more opportunities to sit on my lap. I'm here to help you work through this. 

19/52

 

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

Stella: It's been lovely watching you here in Australia. We've been spending so much time outdoors, walking, running, climbing and exploring. You're getting bold and daring, and more willing to stretch beyond your comfort zone. You've been meeting children in the playgrounds and making friends easily  I'm so glad that in a few weeks we'll be moving to China where you'll have access to kids and outdoor play.

Hugo: After a week in Australia, you've started asking, "is this gluten free?" and you've taken to drinking coconut flat whites. I think maybe you're accessing your inner hippie?

 

18/52

 

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

Stella: This so you, my beautiful wild one. You promised us you wouldn't go in the water. But, five minutes into our walk, you were soaked through and shivering, so I lent you my scarf and sweater and we continued on our walk down the coast.

Hugo: Although you do agree to touch the sand now and then, you're still pretty unsure about actually walking on it. Good thing papi has such strong shoulder and agrees to let you take a ride "on his head."

17/52

 

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

Stella: We're in Australia this week. You love it. You become your most full self and wild self in the roaring surf and whipping wind. I'm feeling almost guilty for moving you so far away from the seaside. 

Hugo: Big news! You finally let your feet touch the sand! Though you still do stay well away from the surf, this is nonetheless a major accomplishment. 

16/52

 

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

Stella: With a big move about a month away, we're trying to pack in as many things on your Jakarta bucket list as possible. We are making time to profit from the warm sunny weather and play at the pool with your friends. 

Hugo: Whenever we don't know what to do with you, we come down to the end of the hall and watch the traffic go round the traffic circle. You call out all the vehicles you see, Look! A bus! A city bus! Police! Look! A siren! You call this activity, "Seeing Cars." 

Where I've been

 

You might wonder where I went. Or, more probably, you might have totally not even remarked on my absence from the internet and went about your days breathing and eating and loving without even a thought in my direction. ;)

I took an internet break. It was kind of unintentional. I just kind of felt the need to close down, turn inward, to quietly hibernate for a while. So, I was off Facebook, off Instagram, away from my blog, and hardly even answering my emails. I mean, you should see my inbox. Yikes.

My internet fast coincided with a big period of upheaval, so it was kinda basically perfect for me to turn away and focus on the internal, really. We got some major news, a big move dropped in our laps, we were traveling like crazy, and well, that required all of my energy. 

In the last six months, I’ve packed and unpacked our family of suitcases nine times. And boy, am I excited to finally move into an apartment, and ditch our luggage in the furthest reaches of our storage room.

Here’s a brief outline: My in-laws came to visit, and we all had a great little holiday with four kids five and under. Then one little cousin came down with the chicken pox, and ended up stranded with us in Jakarta for about 10 days extra. Then my mum came to visit, overlapping with our poor marooned cousins, and just as she was here, we found out we’d be moving to Shanghai. So I dropped everything and flew to Shanghai to have a look at schools. My mum, bless her, stayed behind and looked after my babies, including Hugo who had by then come down with his own case of the pox. I got back to Jakarta, and a few days later took off on a fairly epic (and wonderful, but totally exhausting) camping trip in the wilderness of West Java. Then, we came back to the city, I ran around like crazy wrapping up my business stuff. We pulled Stella out of school. I took off for Australia, attended a workshop of my dreams, then was joined in Australia by my family and I had an unbelievable two weeks with my little traveling tribe. We got back to Jakarta, unpacked, did laundry, and then the movers came. We packed up our little life, into 130 boxes, dealt with some last minute paperwork emergencies (there are always paperwork emergencies) and began a life lived out of suitcases. Thhhheeeen, my good childhood friend arrived in Jakarta to visit (a trip that had been planed before this sudden move) and so we spent our last days in the city exploring it with new eyes. Which, if you ask me, was kind of perfect. There were a few parties, a few tearful goodbyes and then we flew out the night my friend left. And then, Shanghai! Here we are!

You know, it’s funny, I told this friend when we were hiking out in the hills outside Jakarta, “I’m totally going to get sick the moment I stop to take a breath.” And, guess what happened? 

So, I got flattened by the flu the day after we arrived in Shanghai. Which was not ideal timing, considering the husband went to work right away, and I literally couldn’t move. And was in charge of caring for two small children strung out and emotional after a big upheaval and confined to one small hotel room. That went about as well as you could imagine. ;) (And by that I mean, the kids subsisted on a diet of french fries, ice cream and rancour. They also gave their best effort towards the goal of scratching each others eyes out while I was rendered immobile by fever, dehydrated and a bone shattering cough, and there was a brief period wherein I was pretty sure that if the flu didn’t kill me, the children surely would.) All of this is just a lesson, really, in maybe chilling the eff out the next time we have a move on the horizon. But we’re here! And fine. And slowly settling into a routine. 

And now that I’m finally feeling a little bit of energy returning, I’m maybe, just maybe, going to find the time to come back here once in a while and write some things. No promises tho, because you know me, k?

 

14/52

 

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

Stella: On our camping trip, you and your friends spent the entire time outdoors. You and your friends played happily for hours on this wooden platform with two old brooms, some bits of wood, some sea shells, and some stones. It was the stage for your restaurant at sea, your pirate ship, you entire little world. 

Hugo: When you wake up, most days you come into our bed bringing your "paci" and your "blank". We have agreed that now you're a big boy, the paci is only for sleeping time; it stays in your bed. Nevertheless, you try to convince us that it's still night time, that it's still dark, that it's not morning. You unroll every argument in your book, always prefaced by a very genial, "how 'bout..."

I've been noticing that the past several weeks my weekly portrait have been, shall we say, a little lacklustre. I find that when I'm busy thinking about (and lets be real, obsessively worrying about) big things like, ohhhh, moving to another country, it's pretty hard for me to be mindful with my photography. 

I'm tempted to make promises to myself, swearing that I'll do better next week, that I'll get a more glowing portrait, but the reality is, life is crazy right now, and it probably won't happen. So, better to accept what is, rather than push against the tide. 

Which brings me back to my motto for the year: Be like water. I couldn't ever have imagined how exactly I would need these words this year.

13/52

 

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

Stella: You spent most of this week in the ocean, playing non-stop with your friends. Every time we go to the sea, I'm amazed to see how you come alive in the waves and the salt water. 

Hugo: You stayed home with Papi and Ibu as you were suffering from a flu. Though before we left on our trip, you sure enjoyed our trip out to car-free day and were quite taken with these lizards.

Stella, Nannie and I are just back from a wonderful camping trip to Ujung Kulon national park. We went with a big group of friends: eight adults and six kids. They kiddos spent five days totally outside, with nothing to keep them entertained save for a bamboo platform and two ancient wooden brooms. And their imagination. And we basically, they needed nothing from us the entire time. They were busy running around the camp site, chasing monkeys, stalking dear, and watching monitor lizards, happy "cooking" and playing "sea side restaurant" or "pirate ship" or "family". It was really lovely to see them all, this gang of multi-aged kids, getting along so well.