Eight

A portrait of a happy red head girl smiling by Kuala Lumpur based photographer, Erica Knecht

She turned eight yesterday, my baby girl. This unknowable force of life who I did knew even before she was born is eight years here. I'm eight years a mother. We're eight years a family.

 She’s tender, my girl; the underside of a dove, but tucks it away, cloaks it in iron, in fire. She’s steadfast in her wants, wild like the ocean. She wants to be a fashion designer, and artist, a singer. She has perfect pitch, and she sings at the top of her voice. She moves with the grace of a dancer, but prefers kung fu lessons. She comes alive in the water. She’s sure and unwavering. She’s a deep feeler. She has the best social radar I’ve ever known. 

This past year has been one of bloom. The more space I give her, the more she shows she’s capable. She gets up on weekend mornings and listens for Lyra to cry out. She lifts her out of the crib, and carriers her into the living room. She changes Hugo out of his pull up. She fixes them breakfast and entertains them till the grownups rise. She apologizes unprompted. She offers to read to her brother. She looks for Hugo over the gate at school, and gives him her snack when she sees him at recess. 

She’s weathered this move mostly effortlessly. She has been braver than I know how to be. She went to school, gulped back tears, and entered the classroom without me. She came home with two new friends, and about three centimeters of hight.

I dreamt this child before she was born, hair flames of curl and swirling with energy. She came into the world an enigma, and has puzzled me ever since. Of all my children, she’s the one over whom I’ve fretted most, never sure what was going on inside her mind, always worried I was failing her in some capacity. It was this girl, her fire and intensity that pushed me as a parent, forced me to begin thinking outside existing paradigms of childrearing. She drew me to question and wonder and consider and think deeply about what she needed, and what I needed to parent well.  She taught me patience. She taught me stillness. She taught me curiosity. She taught me and is teaching me non-judgment. She brought healing of old wounds because she more than my others has needed a whole and present parent. 

The older she gets the more interesting she becomes. And I look forward with my ribs wide open to who she'll grow into.

A red head baby on a white bed in Fukuoka, Japan, by Kuala Lumpur family photographer, Erica Knecht.
A young girl with red hair swims at the W hotel Nusa Dua by Kuala Lumpur Photographer Erica Knecht.
A young girl in at the pool at Grand Hyatt Jakarta by Kuala Lumpur based photographer Erica Knecht.
A little girl runs on the beach near Lovina, North Bali. Photograph on Portra 400 film by Erica Knecht, a Kuala Lumpur based Photographer.   
A little girl stares out at the ocean in Lovina, Bali by Kuala Lumpur photographer Erica Knecht
A girl wades into the ocean near Byron Bay, Australia by Kuala Lumpur photographer Erica Knecht
A reflection of a girl running on the beach at twilight near Byron Bay, Australia by Kuala Lumpur family photographer Erica Knecht.
An artistic black and white portrait of a little girl by Kuala Lumpur based photographer Erica Knecht

Bee in The City

People will tell you that you can’t go walking in Jakarta. People will say that it’s not safe, the sidewalks are treacherous, the pollution is thick, there are gobbling about.  And so everyone stays in malls, breathing recycled air, wallowing artificial light. They drive their kids to school even though it’s two buildings away. 

 

But not us. We love getting out and exploring the neighbourhood. Yes, the sidewalks are broken, but we can wheel around the holes. Yes the pollution is thick some days, but not always. And the goblins exist only in the minds of the unadventurous. 

One of my favourite parts of the day is walking Stella to school. We pass by the security team and Stella offers a “selamat pagi, bapak.”  We walk by the ojek drivers who crouch next to the river, and they wave at us. Hugo sits in stroller quietly. As we cross the street, he extends his arm, palm out, to stop the traffic. 

There’s always a sight that catches my eye, that stirs something inside of me. Perhaps an ondel-ondel waddling down the sidewalk; a street vendor selling golden crisp tempeh; a stranger who offers a smile so warm it lets you see into her insides. Maybe it’s just the buildings and the clouds reflected in a black and gritty puddle. There is something, always something, that is worth seeing. 

Sometimes when there’s no school on and the kids and I are up for a wander, we head down the back streets, we pass luxury malls and skyscrapers, food sellers and motor-cycle taxis, and we go to our favourite cafe. Stella walks next to me, quiet and nothing. Hugo sits in his Bugaboo Bee3 watching the world go by. 

I love this time with my kids, being out in the world together. I love seeing, really seeing what’s real and true all around us. There’s so much to discover, so much worth noticing. And there is beauty everywhere. 

Some time ago, I partnered with Bugaboo and Little Steps Asia on a cool little project. We're working on the Bee in The City promotion. Have a look! And check it out: City guides for some amazing South East Asian metropolises, including my beloved Jakarta. The intent is to get out there, and notice what is lovely about this city. So, have a look. I’d love it if you would. You can find the City Guide here. And below, some gorgeous images of our cafe adventures by Viveash Photography. (Also, her insta is the best ever.) Enjoy!

Stay in-the-know and on-the-go in four of Asia’s leading cities.  Bugaboo, the iconic Dutch stroller brand, and Little Steps Asia, the leading website in Asia for parents, teamed up with local parent trendsetters to offer insider tips on where to stay, play, shop, and explore. Take an artsy stroll through Hong Kong, taste your way through kid-friendly neighborhoods in Singapore, shop for Indonesian designers for kids in Jakarta, and stay in unique boutiques in Kuala Lumpur. Grab a copy for your baby bag or download it on the road – the city is yours!

For more great tips on what to see and do in South East Asia, check out Little Steps Asia, the Facebook Page, and their Instagram. And of course, Bugaboo's Facebook and Instagram

First Film

 

A few weeks ago my husband surprised me with a new camera. A film camera. A beat up Nikon F80. I didn't know how I'd manage to find film, or find a place that develops film, but I was stoked. It's long been a dream of mine to learn film photography. 

Well, in short order I did find film. In a traditional market nearby, actually. And I DID find a film lab, in a modern, indie market not that nearby!

I got my first rolls back last night. They are by no means amazing, but this is a strat. That I even have anything that is almost properly exposed is actually a miracle.  

And so, herewith I present mooooooooooore pictures of bali. Because obviously that's what's needed here. (And prepare yourselves. There's more where this came from.)

I'm really excited, guys.  

Too Much Love

 

This is not a real blog post. I am only coming here to tell you that Hugo has learned to climb up on the furniture, swinging his plump little leg up onto the couch, and exerting every ounce of strength to pull his body up. Stella is delighting in this milestone, demanding to hold her “bro” on the couch. And then proceeding to squish and hug him to the point where he’s squirming, and believes the rough love is an invitation to wrestle, and I have visions of falling babies, banged heads, concussions, and rivers of tears. 

 

These days we often find ourselves saying, OKAY! ENOUGH! TOO MUCH LOVE! TOO MUCH LOVE. 

 

A Morning Walk

 

I took Stella to a trial day at what will become August this year, her new school.

We left our house early, when the pavement was still wet with last night’s rain. The sun hadn’t quite yet burnt off the morning softness. We walked together, hand in hand. She carried her backpack, and I thought, how big you are. 

We walked between sprawling shopping malls and towering buildings, the two of us together, her little hand in mine. Early morning office workers were buying breakfast at  the kaki lima carts. We walked past a line of them, tempeh frying, noodles pouring into bowls, the smell of lemongrass, ginger and cooking oil. The vendors looked up and waved at us, hallo baby! they said.

We stepped up to the sidewalk, detritus from yesterday crushed up against the curb. Even the litter looks fresh after a heavy overnight rain.

I thought, maybe we’re the luckiest family in Jakarta. We live here, in this gorgeous building in this beautiful city, everything is so vibrant and loud and wonderful and surprising. The sun shines most mornings and everything comes alive before it’s even eight. And we get to be out here, walking on this street, living it all.

Come August Stella will move to the big kid school. We’ll give up driving every morning in a taxi and inn August we’ll get to walk this way every day. In August we’ll get to recognise the food vendors. We’ll be know by the ojeks waiting for fares next to their motorcycles. We’ll wave to wave to the woman sitting next to her drinks stall with a baby on her knee. We’ll know the shortcuts between the tall buildings, and which stall has the best fried tempeh.

Come August will step out of our protective bubble. We’ll feel like regular people in a regular neighbourhood. And that sense of community, or normal, everyday real life