One wedding and a divorce

Tomorrow is my wedding anniversary. I got married when I was 22, I'm 33 now, I'll let you do the math.

Boy, was I stressed out. We'd planned the event for a whole year. I had friends coming from all of France, and the U.S. as well. We rented a castle, yes, a real castle, all white and beautiful, with a huge park, a great caterer and an awful D.J. We had trusted the caterer with the guy, he seemed alright, having asked us to make a list of the songs we absolutely hated and the ones we wanted.

I had asked for jazz during dinner, and then cool things to dance after that. The idiot actually played Billy freaking Joel and couldn't stop talking as we started eating. It felt like the 80's. I was so mad I think the main thing my guests remembered was me lifting my dress, looking berated, running to the man and swearing I was going to shoot him dead if he didn't stop instantly and played the music we had asked for. He looked really scared, but then again, I looked really scary.

It was my dream, you see. I wanted to be a princess, in a castle, wear a beautiful dress and have everyone oohing and aahing when they saw me. I remember going upstairs in the middle of the evening, looking out the window and thinking, there, it's real, and I won't mess it up like my parents did. At the time, I thought holding a marriage together was just a matter of will./

Eleven years later, here I sit, on my terrace, in Paris, typing like a madwoman on a computer, with no husband to share the memories with. I messed it up. It just went wrong. And I was the one to make the decision. I think I made the right choice, even back then. I married the right guy, at the time. We had two wonderful kids, we were happy.

When I look back at the ceremony, at the party, I wish I could time travel and tell that young woman to enjoy it while it lasts. Tomorrow will be a tough day. I'd like to spend it crying, curled up in bed. But I have two children, so I'll take them to the Tuileries, we'll go take a ride on the donkeys, to the playground, and we'll get ice cream on the way back. I haven't had the chance to cry much, lately, except for a very drunken night on my great friend's shoulder. I cried buckets, I think I let out all I had in me. I'll just hold the tears back, tomorrow. And wait for the next day.

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left), or by email at the bottom of this page? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.

Portraits of Autism - Guest Post from Kim

This week, I'm conferencing in Prato, near Florence. Yes, I will make sure I don't spend all my time in the conference and plan on doing some exploring. And I'm taking Room with a view with me, which Better World Books duly delivered along with a guidebook to Tuscany. In the meantime I can't do a portrait, so I've asked my friend Kim, who has a fantastic blog in which she records her daughter's many and frequent words of wisdom, The Imcombobulation of an Incredible Imogenation, to write one for me.  Kim's daughter, Imogen, is a bit like a Dalai Lama with a sense of humour - you'll learn a lot from her, and you'll have a laugh in the bargain. Kim is also a great photographer and you can see her pictures on her other blog: As I See it: A Daily Photograph Journal.  Go and check them out for yourself.

I took Imogen and Julius to the Fringe Festival today. I’d been on my own last weekend and got to see two fantastic plays and I wanted to give the kids their first taste of fringing.

Edmonton hosts the largest Fringe Festival in North America. And it’s incredible. There’s a huge range of plays and performances. Thousands and thousands of people flock to the sites for non-theatrical entertainment as well—street performers, musicians, fortune-tellers, and other carnival favourites are scattered through the streets as are food vendors hawking grease, sugar, and alcohol. What’s not to love?

Well, if you’re two and a half or four and a half and fall on the autism spectrum, there’s potentially a lot not to love. Noise. Crowds. Unpredictability. People talking to you and expecting a freaking response. An appropriate response, even. Jerks.

But I refuse to keep my children at home, avoiding life and interaction just because it’s easier. For them. For me. Home is controllable in ways that the public sphere is not. There are no loud, sudden noises at home (save for the blasts of bass from drugged-out neighbours but that’s another rant story); there are no crowds in our living room; there is no music that cannot be turned off in an instant. However, there are no open spaces in which to run at home. There are no other kids to be near whilst running. There are no other people. Just the three of us. And contrary to popular belief, people with autism are not anti-social. They’re just social in different ways.


A photo I'm proud of

This is Sister3's entry or week 24 of tara's gallery at sticky fingers.
Ce theme this week was : "a photo I'm proud of"

I took this picture something like 10 years ago.
I had an argentic camera of course, remember, the ones which don't show you the picture as soon as you take it ?
The one that costs an arm (french expression...means very very expensive) for pictures absolutely horrible sometimes ?
Well this picture was taken with this camera
When I arrived at the photograph shop to pay for my pictures and see them for the 1st time, the photographer gave me an enlargement of this picture, I mean for free, telling me it was beautiful !
I was proud, and my husband (boyfriend in fact 10 years ago) was also !
So 10 years later, He was trying on sunday to find and old postcard, and found this picture ! We laughed, and had fun remembering...
And then I went on sticky fingers...And of course choose to show you this picture !
Sorry for the horrible way of writing, Even I can tell it's fulll of faults and strange way to write in english, but Sandrine is in Italy this week, so she won't translate.

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left), or by email at the bottom of this page And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.

Pfff 2nd time I post, 2nd time there's no way I can copy this stuff with the link !
Please, go on an another post, like the last "week end charter" for example, and click wherever you want....
thank you !


Dancing Queen

Here's my side of the Week End Charter about Dancing. Put your heels on, ladies, we're going to Cuba! Oh, and sorry about the mistakes, I was late for the flight, and Sandrine took an actual one to Italy.

There is always, always, a time to dance (thank you, Niko). I once made the vow to go dancing at least once a month. That was a few years ago. I never kept my promise. Last time I danced was, hold on a little, well, I can't even remember. At some New year's eve, I guess, but I can't seem to remember which year it was.

Last Thursday, I went dancing. I went to an actual club, even better, a Latino club. With Salsa, Merengue, Pachanga, girls twirling, guys moving their hips: heaven on earth.

When I lived in Cuba, I took dancing lessons. There were three of us, all expats, trying not to die of boredom, and we convinced the hotel manager that it was good for us and for the dancers. We had a two-hour lesson three times a week. The first few sessions were not that good. We changed partners, tried every combination and even fought a little. After a little while, we managed to find our partner. I never changed for six months. I think that guy, who never touched me outside of a dance floor, is probably the man who knows me best, who could tell how I felt the minute he laid his hands on my body. Dancing does that to you. Especially Salsa. Bodies talk to each other. He never taught me the names of the moves, one look, one light touch on my back and I knew what to do. It came so naturally, he said I could have been Cuban. How sweet of him. There is another story behind that one, but as a dear friend of mine promised me he'd write it someday, I'll let him do it.


I can dance like a zombie

 For our Weekend Charter this week, we've chose the theme 'Dance'. When I agreed to it, I thought at first I was humouring my sister - I don't do much dancing this days outside my kitchen, not just because I don't go out so much but also because Turkish pop and I don't get on that well. I'm picky.

But then I remembered what we did last autumn.  And there, I felt, is a story worth telling.

Look, Maman, there's this really fat zombie in the Michael Jackson video. If he can do the dance routine, so can you!

With this encouragement under my belt, I decide that Yes, my daughter and I are going to take part in the 2009 Thrill the World dance event. Our friend Jo is organising the Ankara event right here, on campus. She's sent out ads on facebook and pasted them all over the place. There's to be rehearsals, for four weeks beforehand, weekday evenings and a couple of hours on Saturday mornings. 'Im indoors is onboard with this. He'll take Max shopping Saturdays while we rehearse.


Portraits of Autism #6

This week is still pretty much the middle of the summer holiday for Turkish kids - they start again late September, after the break that comes at the end of Ramadan. We didn't go to the centre this month until yesterday, and then, we spent the time observing our own son via a web cam. So this is what I'll write about.

I can't believe she gets him to concentrate like this.
He is sitting at a small desk, writing down assiduously the words that N. dictates. N. is the same slight, confident woman I described calming down a teenage boy on the verge of an autistic meltdown. She's extraordinarily firm, but Max knows that. He knows it's no good messing with her, so he just does as she says.

He looks like he's enjoying this. He actually likes reading and writing. Look - he doesn't even look slightly bored.



Here's my entry for Josie's awesome Writing Workshop. I chose the prompt "First Kiss".

I like the song, for a start. I like kissing, also. It feels a little weird saying it, me not knowing you and yet knowing that some of my close friends are reading this. I think there should be a free kiss thing, just like the free hugs. Kisses make you feel good.

Kissing is big. I mean, Pretty Woman didn't want to kiss Richard Gere and also, I'm French and well, there's the French kiss. I never knew why it was called that, which reminds me that we also talk about French fries. Weird. Anyway.

First kisses matter. The first kiss I had was wet. That's honestly all I can remember about it. I barely remember the guy, but hey, I was 11 years old and I kissed a lot of guys since then.

My second first kiss, I believe, was the kiss I gave my husband at our wedding. That was my first kiss as a bride. It was not as wet as the first first kiss but it was just as awkward. I mean, seriously, kissing in front of all the people you like, including your own parents, for F's sake, it's a lot to deal with.

My third first kiss was the first time I kissed my son. It was not wet at all, but a little awkward, too. I guess I'd never really made peace with the idea that it was an actual human being growing inside of me.

There was a fourth first kiss, but that one, I'll keep to myself. Some things are just not to share.

I'm certainly hoping there will be a fifth first kiss.

I think there can be hundreds of first times. You just need to keep your eyes wide open and make things happen.

So, free kiss, anyone?

Oh, one last thing. If you liked this post, would you mind terribly clicking on the RSS feed, here, or the Google connect buttons (top left), or by email at the bottom of this page? And if you didn't like it, you might still want to look around. There's three of us, you know, so you're (almost) bound to find something you like. And then, if you've still got time, you could share this post or stumble it, or both and get in touch with your local tv station to sing our praises. We'll love you forever.

Preserving memories.

This is my entry for Tara's Gallery over at Sticky Fingers. The theme this week is Memory.

Our first year in Turkey. One of our very first trips - to Cappadocia. We're overcome by the sights of the fairy chimneys, the pureness of the air, the way the people look like peasants, wearing traditional gear, not like tourist touts. We've seen the churches, carved inside the rock, painted in amazing blues and greens, the faces of the saints scratched out by later Christians who weren't fond of iconism, and everywhere, the Pantecrator, looking down at you like a benign, and slightly spaced out hippy.


My husband has it all. So do I. What are you going to do about it?

Disclaimer: I really don't mean this to come across as a criticism of stay at home mums - only those people, men or women, working or not, parents or not, who claim that it's the only valid choice. Also, I don't normally read Good Housekeeping or the Daily Mail!

J has two children and a full time job. J is, on the whole, happy, fulfilled, and wouldn't dream of giving up either children or career. 

How likely is this scenario?

Well, according to some people, including actress Emma Thompson in an interview for Good Housekeeping, and Lorraine Candy in the Daily Mail, it is highly unlikely for about 50% of the population of developed countries, and highly likely for the other half. Does it depend on how fulfilling the job is, how well-paid, how good an access to childcare A has, and A's other living conditions? You'd think these things would make a difference - working in a factory 10 hours a day to support three kids single handedly while living in a tiny flat may make for a slightly less satisfying life than an interesting writing or teaching job, a partner who also earns, two kids and a house.


I want it all and I want it now

Dear fans (yeah, I know, but it feels good to write this) I'm sorry I've been away for a little while, but my life has been a tad hectic these past few weeks. I'm back, though. For good. Because I miss writing, and because I'm starting to take Sandrine's threats pretty seriously. Man, she's scary.

Yesterday, Sandrine the Barbarian sent me a link to an unbelievable article on the Web. Some Carrie Bradshaw wannabe published a note on how women had it all and it wasn't progress at all. So basically, having a husband, a job, kids and a dog is too much to handle and we, women, should probably choose between having kids and a career. Now, let me react to that in the most sensible manner: BULLSHIT.


Portraits of Autism #5

One thing that's supposed to be a sign of autism is the inability to interact with others. You know: autism means being locked inside yourself, being by yourself. This is probably one of the biggest myth about autism. Max has never been 'locked inside himself', and he's always been quite a social little thing. He loves it when we have guests, flirts with all of his older sister's friends (quite outrageously at that) and is great with younger kids. But what he's always had trouble with is forming relationships of any kind within his peer group. And that, not the inability to form relationships at all, seems to be what a lot of autistic people have difficulties with.



We've been working very hard this summer on getting Max to do some school related work, practising his reading and adding - he's nearly there. But of course, what child, autistic or otherwise wants to do school work during the summer holiday? So like all good parents, we have a bribe system. We made little cards with placeholders for five stickers. When he has all five, he can have a (small) gift of his choice. He tells us what he wants, and we draw it on the card. Past requests have included small cars, bubble mixture, colour pencils, etc.

More Waves

Because Tara from Sticky Fingers is on holiday this week Chelle from Chelle's Place has bravely decided to host a Pretend Gallery. The theme is water.  So, in continuation of last week's post, here are some more waves.

Is it 'natural' for boys to play with guns and girls to like pink? Come on!

I feel I haven't had a proper rant for a while. What with the holidays and all, I've been positively calm and cheerful, and, frankly, that's not healthy. So here's something that really gets me going.

Back when Charlotte was at Kindergarten, they used to play this game. The children would be sitting in two groups - boys on one side, girls on the other. The teacher would shout out: 'Who likes pink?' and all the girls would have to yell 'I do!'. Then the teacher would ask  'Who likes Blue?' and the boys would have to answer. That's not really what pisses me off. I'd long decided that this particular school could not teach my daughter very much, and at home, we worked hard to counteract every single one of their efforts towards gender discrimination.

No, what really gets to me, is normal, non-sexist people. The ones who tell you that yes, this is all very wrong, and schools shouldn't be allowed to put such ideas in children's minds. But then they start nodding and smiling wisely, and using their confiding, yet down to earth voice, they tell you that once you have a boy, or a girl, you can't help but notice certain things. Boys just like to play with guns - there's nothing you can do. If you won't buy them toy ones, they'll just use a random stick and shoot the hell out of you. And girls, well, they're different. They're quieter, aren't they? And they do like pretty things.

All this has nothing to do with the way you bring them up, they say. You never bought guns, or hair ribbons. They just naturally turn to them. They really weren't expecting their boys or girls to be like that - after all, they've always thought of themselves as feminists, and wouldn't have dreamt of pushing gender prejudices in their own home - but, somehow, they are. That's nature for you. Shame, isn't it. Those theories about equality were so nice and pleasant. Well, you can still be a feminist, but you just have to moderate certain points of views as you get older and wiser, don't you?

Bollocks to that.


Seeing the archelogical sights of the Turkish Aegean with kids. Part 2

This is the second part of my post on how to travel with kids in the agean. For the first part, dealing with transport and entrance fees, go here.


The sites are all hot. Ruins don't exactly provide much shade... So make sure you're taking plenty of water. And I mean plenty: go for one litre per person per site. Even for the smallies. Also, you might want to bring snacks for the children just to keep them going.
Efes is particularly hard going for a child. It is less 'wild' than Priene, for instance, so there's less climbing allowed, it is a steep climb in the heat to visit the theatres, and the site itself is long and uphill. You might want to consider taking a horse drawn carriage at the entrance. It will take you round the back, pausing at the cave of the seven sleepers (an attractive ruin of a church with some fun legend attach to it). You then get on the site from the top, which makes it a lot less painful to see the whole site. The price of the ride is not negligible, but, believe me, it's worth it.

 So very hot...


Portraits of Autism - Guest post from HRH (and his mum Jen).

So we're on the beach. Building sandcastles, swimming, getting sunburnt. Having a great time.
So I can't write a portrait. But I've managed to convince my friend Jen from The King and Eye to lend me one of her excellent posts so the series could carry on! So here's a guest post from Jen, or rather from her 2.5 year old son, His Royal Highness, who'd rather speak for himself!

Hi, I am HRH. I am 2.5 years old. I wanted to come tell you more about myself. I haven't written here since my letter to Santa so I thought it was time I stopped by and remedied this.

A very nice lady, with the initials S.N. gave Mama a book called '10 Things Every Child With Autism Wishes You Knew' by Ellen Notbohm. By now, some of my extended family have read it too and found it very helpful.



This was originally a guestpost over at Belgravia Wives. She has taken a break from blogging, but go and have a look at her stuff anyway - it's well worth it.

The first time I heard the word serendipity was in London, somewhere South and not very glamorous. I was listening, wide-eyed, to some boy pontificating on the topic, nodding at his every word, hoping he would like me if I did. I even let him sing me a very whiny song called 'Serendipity'. I can't remember who that was by. I tried to like it. But looking back, I didn't feel very serendipitous at the time. I felt like a right idiot.
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