Saturday, March 31, 2012


Today I bought some branches of boxwood on the street outside my Parisian apartment. This is a French Christian tradition: You keep the branches in your house, let them dry, and next year on Ash Wednesday, you burn them until they're all ashes... 
Then, during the Lent Season, you don't have any boxwood in your house, until next Palm Sunday, when you go out and pick up new branches.
It's a symbol, and it might bring you luck. I love picking up traditions, and even though I've lived many times, and many years in France, I didn't know about this particular one.  I saw the women selling boxwood in the street, and I went over and asked them what it was all about.  I did have an idea it was for Palm Sunday, but I guessed the point would be to bring the branches to church tomorrow. 
Now I know.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Birthday in Paris

My kind of breakfast these days. Once in a while I head out to the nearby café where I'll order a cappuccino and a croissant, and then I sit there and write for a while. 
Paris agrees with us all, she really does. The kids don't want to leave now, and they started saying  "home" about the apartment almost immediately. We enjoy the city, the people, the food, the sights, pretty much all of it. 
Today is my birthday, and first I'll spend it writing and reading here at home, and then I'll meet my husband for lunch, but I don't know where yet, since he wanted to keep it a secret. 
Tonight we'll order in pizza for everybody, and there might be a cake...

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Exploring the heights of Paris: Sacre-Coeur

Sacre-Coeur, ( in English: Sacred Heart and in Norwegian: Hellige Hjerte), the landmark on top of the Montmartre hill. This white, domed church can be seen from most places in Paris, and it's beautiful and different from other churches.  It's new (the first stone was placed in 1875), and the stone is of a kind that gets whiter all the time, beause of chemical reactions with the different weather conditions. For me, it's very much a part of my first Paris experience, in 1988, but last wednesday was the first time I ventured up in the arched gallery that goes all the way around the big dome. About 300 steps to walk, a little claustrophobic, but what a wonderful view when we arrived up on the gallery. 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Picture of the day: A World of Questions

A world of questions behind those eyes...  Four years old and wondering about pretty much everything.
En hel verden av spørsmål bak de øynene...  Fire år gammel og lurer på det aller meste.

Friday, March 23, 2012

William Ropp

All photos: William Ropp
Yesterday I went to the Maison Européenne de la Photographie, the European House of Photography in Paris.  One of the exhibits I attended, was the one with the works of William Ropp, French photographer who makes amazing pictures.  The 20 pictures displayed on the walls were all in black-and-white, shot mostly within a studio setting, with a particular play of darkness and light. On a screen, we could also admire a series of pictures shot in Africa and another series, this one in color, of child portraits.  These pictures carry a strange quality of "ugly beauty", they are intriguing, yet disturbing to watch.
I spent a long time in this exhibit, contained in one single room.  The exhibit was produced jointly with the Charleroi Museum of photography, and with the support of Ellen K Fine Art Photography in

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Picture of the day: Family portrait by Jonatan.

My husband, myself and my youngest daughter, photographed by my 4-year-old son. We're sitting on the top of the Sacre-Coeur church.  (He was begging to use my camera, and this is all him.  We didn't guide him, and the picture is not cropped!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Book Review: Den Evige Jøde

Another book on my "mountain", this time a Norwegian one. The title means "The eternal Jew".
As far as I know, this one isn't translated to English, but there is a French translation: "La Juive d'Amsterdam".
It's a story about a jewish father and his child wandering through Europe in the 1500s. A beautiful novel, a strong tale of humanity, history, art.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Book Review: Mes Amis Mes Amours

I'm continuing my climb on "Mount Vancouver" (The reading challenge I do this year, see here for explications!) This was the 4th book I read, and I finished it in February, while sitting on a porch in the old city of Florence.
Mes Amis Mes Amours is written by Marc Lévy.  Many of his novels are translated to English, but I can't find a translation for this one.  So, for the moment, it looks like you have to read French to enjoy it. But: There is a movie based on this book: "London, mon amour", I haven't seen it, but it might be a good way of getting to know the characters and the story.
It's about two men in their thirties. Divorced, fathers, old friends, they end up living together in "Frog Valley", the "French ghetto" of London, UK.
The title translates "My friends, my loves", and that about says it all.  It's about friendship, parenthood, love, lost love, and it's about starting all over, being in a foreign country, finding a direction.  A nice read. A good, little book from one of my favorite French writers.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Picture: Bal au Moulin de la Galette by Renoir

 Bal au Moulin de la Galette by Auguste Renoir is one of the most famous Impressionist paintings. It was painted in 1876, and you can see it in Musee d'Orsay. I saw it again last week, when I took my whole family there. And, by the way, the place itself is just a few minutes' walk from where I live right now. I walked passed it  a couple of days ago, and suddenly I imagined this scene coming to life. 
The painting is about a party.  A night of dancing, wine, people having a good time,  and you can feel the presence of the artist himself.  He's there, as so many times before, and he just paints what's there in front of his eyes. Without allegories, without a deeper meaning.  Just life, the way it comes.  
That's Impressionism.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Cradle by Berthe Morisot

This painting  has the title "Le Berceau" (The Cradle), and it was painted by Berthe Morisot in 1872.  The picture depicts her sister Edma with her newborn baby Blanche.
Yesterday I visited the Marmottan Museum to see the first ever retrospectiv exhibit on the works of Morisot, and even though this particular painting wasn't there (You find it in the Musee d'Orsay, and I saw it just a few days ago), I choose  to show you this one.  It's my favorite among her paintings,  the way it radiates peace, serenity, but also the ever-present worries hidden behind a mother's expression when looking at her child...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Impression - Soleil Levant by Claude Monet

I stood in front of this painting today, in the Marmottan Museum in Paris.
The title means: "Impresssion - Rising sun."  All alone on a modest wall, between two open doorways, there it is, the painting who gave the name to to Impressionism as an art form.
Painted in 1872, or maybe one or two years later, the critics were not very impressed by it...
And, one art critic, Louis Leroy, mocked the title, calling Monet and his likes "Impressionists". Well. He couldn't know that him being funny on the painter's behalf should create a word who would forever describe the art mouvement in the late 1800s.
The painting is modest, and  understated, Monet probably didn't spend much time painting it.  The scene is in Le Havre, at the old harbor, and because of the morning fog we can only faintly see the hints of modern industry, boats and a few people in dark silhouets against the rising sun.
I love the painting.  I've seen it before, and this time I stood there for a while, disappearing into it.  Hardly anybody else stopped to even look at it, something I find extremely strange, but there was a new temporary exhibit at the museum, and I guess most people came there because of that, and maybe they had no idea they just passed a historically important  piece of art...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Montmartre pictures.

Walking around my neighborhood in Montmartre, Paris, I feel like I'm constantly on a movie set. Small houses,  cobbled streets and lots of colors. And then, suddenly, a street musician, playing Tchaikovsky or Beethoven on his violin, or the sound of a piano coming from an open window. Couples  kissing in the middle of the street, little school kids staring while munching a croissant.
Early in the morning, one day last week, I  was climbing up the steep streets and stairs outside my apartement,  looking for a perfect place in the sun, to read for a few hours.  Since I had forgotten my camera at home, these snapshots are taken with my cell phone.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Picture of the day: Child Carrying

Memories from last fall: Wearing my almost 4-year-old in a Mei Tai carrier.  We were hiking in the hills around my in-laws' farm, and when he became too tired to walk, he enjoyed sitting on my back for a while. 

Monday, March 5, 2012

My little French School Boy / Min lille franske skolegutt

So, the first day of school went really well.  This little guy and his sister were incredibly well received, and when we left, he was busy drawing a picture, and hardly had the time to say goodbye...  He had a great time today. They had been out playing in the park, and he was allowed to eat lunch in his sister's classroom. I'm so happy for him, that it all went so well!

Første skoledag gikk kjempefint.  Denne lille mannen og søsteren hans ble tatt så godt imot, og da vi skulle dra, var han travelt opptatt med tegning, og hadde knapt tid til å si hadet til oss...
Han hadde hatt det så fint, vært ute og lekt i parken, og han fikk spise lunsj i klasserommet til søsteren sin.  Jeg er så glad for at det gikk så bra!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

School tomorrow...

Photo: Robert Doisneau 1950
So, after this first week in Paris, where we've been all together more less non-stop, things will be different from now on...

My two youngest will start school tomorrow, and we have a meeting in the two eldest's school, where they start the day after.

We have a pragmatic attitude towards this, meaning that, if it doesn't work out, if either one of the kids is not happy with the Parisian school experience, we'll do home schooling during these weeks.  But, I really hope it will work out, since I believe it will give them something great to carry with them in life.  They'll learn lots of language, of course, and probably much more, and, hopefully, they'll make new friends.
There is me too. If we do homeschooling here, I can forget about my researching, studying and writing projects. Or, I may not have to forget about it completely, but it will definitively be harder, since we live in a tiny apartment here, and my husband has to go to work.

But, right now, I'm most of all anxious because of the little ones, and mostly because of my youngest.  He is so sensitive, constantly taking in the world around him, and he is a thinker, analyzing and questioning everything...
The school the youngest will be attending, looks great, though.  It's mall, cozy, and they have 50% of the teaching in English language. I do think they will love it there! But right now, while watching my little boy sleep, I just hope and pray everything will turn out for the best, that this will be a good thing for him and his siblings.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Unnatural to Let Babies Cry

This article was published in the Norwegian Newspaper Dagbladet on February 28th 2012. Here is my English translation. 
Denne kronikken: Unaturlig å la babyer gråte sto på trykk i Dagbladet tirsdag 28. februar 2012. Jeg har her oversatt den til engelsk.
In Norway, we can  frequently read about sleep problems in children. As a mother of four and a breastfeeding / new parent educator, I'm interested in this topic, but I find it frustrating that it is often argued that infants have a sleep problem when they can't fall asleep by themselves. This is a huge misunderstanding that largely comes from the 1950s, when parents were encouraged to let babies cry it out, until they fell asleep.

"Sleep Experts" say that children from approximately 6 months  should sleep alone, in a crib, and that one should not pick them up and comfort them if they cry, but only show up in the doorway with increasingly longer intervals. This is also known as the Ferber method and it's really about letting babies cry themselves to sleep. Parents are encouraged to persevere, be strong, for their child's and their own good.

The Ferber method should already have been dismissed a long time ago, as something fundamentally wrong. To tell new parents that they should just sit there, while their child is crying alone in another room, is to me incomprehensible. The term sleep problem is in my opinion misused. It is not a problem when a little baby can't sleep alone. Nor, when she needs milk or comfort at night. It is perfectly normal. For an infant, it's natural to sleep close to mom or dad, and it is necessary to be fed during the night for many months.

It makes me so upset when they keep publishing articles that tell parents that their baby has a sleep problem, when this is not the case. They problematize what's normal, and spread unnecessary stress and frustration. New parents often have unrealistic expectations and concepts of what it's like to have a baby. It is not a hobby project or a pet they're  having in the house, but a child, a brand new person with her own specific needs, and parents have the responsibility to provide nurturing, comfort and security, which is extremely important for a newborn.

To quote midwife Rachel Myr: "You do not become parents to sleep better. Now it appears that parental sleep is more important than that the children feel safe and loved. "And those who smilingly can confirm that  CIO work, they see the issue from only one side. They may have noticed that the child, after a few days (or weeks ...) no longer cries at night, but is calm throughout the evening and night. Yes, it does "work", but why do they usually stop crying? Simply because they give up. Because they understand, without being able to understand, that it is useless to call for help. They resign

And this is what British researchers describe as dangerous. A comprehensive study from 2004 by neurologist Dr. DeBellis and colleagues, tells us how large amounts of cortisol is flushed through the brain when the baby cries a long time without being comforted. This inhibits the development of some parts of the child's brain. Dr. DeBellis calls it a brain defect,  that is mainly about the greater propensity to aggression, anxiety and depression in adulthood.
Margot Sunderland says in her book "The Science of Parenting" that the brain is formed in the first few months of life, and that comfort and care is essential. Sue Gerhardt writes in "Why Love Matters" that emotional experiences in early childhood have a measurable effect on how we evolve as human beings. Both of these psychologists have been working for years with the results from the British brain research.

Few people would let their partner, or a good friend, just "cry it out". They would do everything possible to find out what is wrong, or at least try to comfort. It is interesting that so many out there look upon it differently when it's about a baby, because it is probably much, much worse for this little one to lie there crying alone. As an adult, we know, after all,  that this is now and not forever, and, we can actively seek help. The infant, however, is a 100 percent at the mercy of us and it should be obvious to react very quickly when she tries to tell us something. This is the beginning of communication, something extremely important for us humans.

The American pediatrician William Sears says: "
Needs that are met disappear. Needs that are not met,  never disappear completely, but come back in other forms, often as anxiety, depression or aggression." The baby can't get up on her own, or put her problems into words. If she is met when she cries, she learns that when she is hurting, scared or unsure, there will be comfort and help. "I am not alone." This will, according to the English scientists, be part of the brain's structure, and the child learns, unconsciously, that a problem is followed by a solution. Later on, she is more likely to have an "it'll be all right" - attitude to life.
But, if she instead learns that she can just as well stop crying, because help is not coming, then even the smallest things may lead to a  "disaster scenario" later in life, and she is more likely to be the type who become depressed or angry at the slightest problem.

A common argument is that when the child is fed, and has a dry diaper, there is no reason to pick it up. This is a severe simplification, and turns children into machines. There is an ocean of possible reasons why she is crying. Everything from itching, that some of the clothes feel uncomfortable, that she was a little thirsty, is hurting or simply is afraid and feels alone in the dark. Infant needs and wants are the same thing. The babies are not trying to test us as parents, they are not "persistent" with screaming to get parents to do what they want them to.
And, if mom or dad comes back every 10 minutes, they could as well stay out all the time. Because in the baby's world, those minutes are like an eternity. What can not be seen, is gone. They are unable to imagine that Mom or Dad ever will come back.

Babies are not monkeys or dogs that we train to adapt to our desired lifestyles. They are new persons in a big, scary world, and the parents' job is to teach them that they are not alone, just so that they may develop as confident, independent human beings.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Getting settled in Paris

Arrived in Paris two days ago, after 2 1/2 days of traveling. Our apartment is really nice, and not that tiny after all.  Or, it is tiny, I guess, but maybe the simple fact that we knew, helped us see it differently, and also that we really thought about how we were going to manage, helped making the transition smoother.
And, it's cozy here. The building is from the 1800's, with high stucco ceilings, wooden floors and the typical French windows. The area is perfect. Montmartre, cafés, parks, playgrounds. It's lively, but not noisy. We'll like it here!
But, getting settled takes some time.  Unpacking, looking for lost items, and lots of organizing and making of systems. After all, we'll stay here for 7 weeks, and even though we are in the worlds most beautiful city, we'll have everyday life here, with work, school, grocery shopping and laundry.