What's New at the Pålssons'

 

What's New at the Pålssons'
Self-absorbed rambling, useless trivia and shameless bragging

October 29, 2000—Sick again!

I hope all of you have had a good weekend.

I've come down with a sore throat, and Max has a runny nose (and maybe a sore throat, too—how are we to know?). We've been getting one illness after another since we started going to that open daycare place. I suppose it's just as well we start getting all the viruses out of the way now, while I'm home with Max. I know that kids always get lots of illnesses right when they start daycare or school. It has to be endured sooner or later.

Halloween is becoming more popular in Sweden, so this year I bought some candy to have at home in case we get any trick-or-treaters. I think last year we got a couple, but I didn't have any candy so I pretended no one was home! Or else Bengt gave them money. I know he has done that once or twice. Anyway, this year we have good candy, so I'm hoping for some little tykes to come around. Max would enjoy that.


October 27

I've noticed a few new things about Max in the past week or two.

For one thing, he loves to empty shelves (as I've written previously—clear them of CDs, books, videos...) and drawers. He pulls out the drawers of his dresser or changing table and yanks clothes out. He tosses them behind him, then uses his heels to swivel around on his bottom, grabs the things and tosses them back over his shoulder. He can do this for quite awhile—repeatedly tossing things behind him, then swivelling around and tossing them away again. I understand the attraction of emptying shelves and drawers, but not tossing the things around like that.

I let him empty whatever drawers he wants. He can entertain himself for 15-20 minutes this way, and it only takes me a minute to stuff the things back in. (I don't fold them anymore.) Shelves are a different matter. He can clear the toys and books off his own bookshelf, but we don't let him throw our books and CDs around.

Another thing is that Max definitely has favorite scenes in his videos. (He has three baby videos that we let him watch now and then.) One scene is when a stuffed bug drops down into the picture with a loud noise. Then it jiggles around, then it is suddenly jerked up again with a plopping sound. He seems to like both the colorful bug and the sounds.

Another scene shows one of those children's toys where you place the colored balls onto holes then hammer them into a box, and the balls roll through and down and out of a hole in the front. The film of that toy in use includes sound effects, and Max really likes that scene. He laughs out loud every time. I also remember that he really liked that toy at his cousins' house two months ago. Must buy him that toy! (Any volunteers among the grandparents?)

It was just a week or two ago that Max started reaching out towards things that he wants to touch. It's interesting to learn, finally, what interests him. I like that he's able to "ask" (by his motions) for things, and it's really nice to be able to understand him.

Max also suddenly understands a lot of what I say. It seems like very day I discover something new that he clearly understands. He's also getting much better at not doing things we ask him not to. For instance, he hasn't dug into the cat food in about a week. He'll crawl over to it and watch Maja eat, but he won't stick his hands in it or bother Maja while she's eating. He crawls over to the little table covered with remote controls in the media room, but today he didn't touch it—which I think is an act of sheer will power, since he loves remote controls!! Sometimes he shakes his head "no" when he catches himself about to do something he shouldn't, and he stops. It's so touching! I try to enjoy this, because no doubt he'll soon get to the stage when it's more interesting to disobey than to comply.

Max thinks it's really funny when I put a pacifier in my mouth. Grinning, he charges over, yanks it out, and stuffs it into his own mouth—but not for long. He's never been interested in pacifiers.

I bought a baby doll recently and started playing with it with Max. If I clap her hands, Max claps. If I shake her head "no", Max shakes his head, too. If I shake her head "yes", Max laughs. If I ask him where her eyes or hands or feet are, he reaches for them. If I pull a blanket over her head, Max pulls it down.

Max likes to pull people's hair. He will try to grab anybody's hair, including other children's hair and his doll's hair. When I hold Max on my shoulder to comfort him, he often strokes my hair—about the only time he is gentle. And he's equally fond of fur, such as Maja's fur or the fur on a stuffed animal. He loves to bury his face in that.

We've been offered a spot, after all, at the daycare where we originally wanted Max. Actually it's with a home care provider (is that the right term?) named Birgitta who is a partner at this open daycare we've been attending. I've talked with her about it several times in the last few days, and today Max and I went over to her house to check it out and to meet the other kids she takes care of.

Advantages to the big daycare group:

  • If Max is to be an only child, then being in a larger group might be an advantage. There would be more opportunities for him to interact with different kids and in different situations. It would challenge his social skills. On the other hand, I don't know whether we really want to give a one-year-old extra challenges. Maybe now's the time to just let him feel secure in a small group and let him develop other skills.

  • The little ones spend most of their time in or around the daycare building. Max can probably sleep when he needs to (if he can sleep with all that racket) rather than at the same time as the other kids that Birgitta takes care of. They are usually not home, inside, anywhere near Max's current naptime.

  • Max would spend lots of time with a large group of little kids approximately his own age, some of which are bound to become good playmates in our neighborhood.

  • More variety? More stimulation? Max needs stimulation.

Advantages to Birgitta's group:

  • Seven children ages 1 (Max) to 7 years old (though the 6- and 7-year-olds are only there after school) would expose Max to kids at a wide range of ages.

  • He'd still get to meet other kids, like when he's at open daycare one morning per week and when he's farmed out when Birgitta is ill or on vacation.

  • Bengt and I would have more control over who is taking care of Max. If we send him to the big daycare, we can't choose what group he ends up in or which adults are assigned to take care of him.

  • It's slightly closer.

  • Max being the way he is (good-natured, cooperative), I think he may get more attention in a smaller group. In a large group, it's the sad or aggressive children who get the attention. I want Max to be seen and heard even when he's not whining, crying, or getting into trouble.

  • Calmer, less noisy environment. Is that what Max needs, especially while he's little?

It's stressful to contemplate switching, because that would mean (a) trying to get out of the contract that we already signed with the other place. They have three months' notice and it's uncertain if they would wave it because Max hasn't actually started there yet. And (b) the spot with Birgitta isn't available until about February 15. So we'd have to work something out for 6 weeks before Max could go there, because I definitely want to return to work in January. Would we have our friend Kim take Max? (She has offered.) Would we send him to the big daycare place temporarily? Would we change our parental leave and stay home longer? There are options, but it would be tricky.

Still, it seems like a small price to pay for a good daycare spot for years to come, if that's what we decide would be best for Max.

Another option I'm thinking about is having Max try out the big daycare until next fall, and staying on the waiting list at this other place. By that time, we can probably pretty much pick which daycare provider we want, including Birgitta, if we determine that Max would do better in a smaller group.


October 22—Back from Perstorp

Howdy. We hope you all had a good week and are ready for a new one!

The four-hour train trips to and from Perstorp were a little tense for me. When Max wasn't sleeping or eating, he preferred to be moving around and exploring. During each trip there was about an hour when I had a very difficult time entertaining Max and keeping him still. I don't know what Bengt and I are going to do during the long plane trip to Cozumel in March! Bring lots of good new toys, I imagine!

Max flirts with everybody on the train. People walk by and he makes eye contact and smiles at them. He leans across the aisle and peeks between the cracks in the seats to get people's attention. If someone responds, he reaches out. He makes funny noises to check the response. During part of the trip home, we had quite a group of people gathered around our seats to interact with him. Funny.

Also, once I left him on the floor in front of our seats, playing with (I thought) a captivating toy, so I could go to the bathroom. (Yucky floor, I know, but I was a little desperate and I figured it wouldn't kill him.) When I came out the door after my lightning-quick potty break, there was Max crawling down the aisle toward me. Passengers were leaning out of their seats, pointing at him and laughing. He really did look cute. After that I asked one of his many admirers to take him if I had to go.

Sven and Anna-Brita had moved almost all of their knick-knacks out of Max's reach! If you've ever been to their house, you know that this must have taken some time. They moved everything to one back bedroom and then kept that room closed off. They also temporarily removed pictures that were hung low enough for Max to reach. I couldn't believe they went to this much trouble, but I sure appreciated it! We would have spent most of our time chasing after Max.

They also had a big bin full of nice toys for him. What he loved best were all the toys with wheels. He loves to spin them. If I could invent a toy, I would make a big board with different kinds of wheels and balls to spin. But he'll probably be over that phase in another few weeks...

Max certainly enjoyed playing with his grandma and grandpa, and from the looks of it they enjoyed playing with him! They all spent a lot of time on the floor laughing. Max also learned to walk behind the plastic bin that the toys were kept in. He just pushed it ahead of him, down the long hall. When he got to a dead end, grandpa and grandma kindly turned him around, and back toward the kitchen he'd go on his stubby little legs. It was a sight.

Another highlight was climbing stairs. Max can climb a whole flight of stairs in 30-40 seconds. You have to stand behind him to make sure he doesn't topple backwards, and he can't go back down (we're working on that). As soon as he gets to the top, he wants to be carried back down so he can climb again. So it's a bit tedious for us adults.

I got to swim once and nap several times in Perstorp. In addition, Anna-Brita planned and prepared all the meals. Those were luxuries for me. Unfortunately they were balanced out by the many night awakenings. That first night, we were up for two hours in the middle of the night, plus later wakenings. The second night Max woke up at 3:30, 5:30, 6:30 and 7:30. He went back to sleep pretty promptly, but I didn't always. The third night, Max only woke up at 6:30 and 7:30. He was obviously getting used to the new environment by that time. Then we turned around and came home! Naps, however, were fairly easy the whole time. I guess new surroundings aren't so upsetting when it's just a nap.

Good thing we had Max's stuffed rabbit with us. He clung to that thing!

Uncle Anders came for some hours on Friday to see Max. That was good of him. I want Max to see his uncle as often as possible.

Sven and Anna-Brita were so sad to see us go. They said the house would seem so empty without little Max. He got a very cute sweater and cap that A-B knitted for him.

Max finally has a tooth! It's not all the way in yet, but you can see and feel a little corner of the bottom left front tooth. When I saw it, I felt incredibly and irrationally proud and happy. I cheered and hugged Max and praised him. As if he could affect when his teeth come in. And as if his having teeth were an advantage for me. (It's not—I'm still nursing morning and night). But I really felt pleased by this sign of toddlerhood.

Max is now very responsive to the following (among other things):

"Hello" and "good-bye" (Swedish, too): He waves.

"How big is Max?": Raises arms above head and smiles, waiting for us to say, "Sooooo big!"

"No": Shakes head no.

If you drum on his back or tummy, he hums so it makes that funny sound. If you "strum" his lips, he does the same so it makes the "b-b-b-b" sound. He also strums others' lips!

Max does the following on verbal request—no other cues: Coughs, shows tongue, claps hands, comes when you call him (if he wants to), stops doing something (ditto), jumps, etc.

Nothing of great interest planned this week. We will visit open daycare a few times, go swimming once or twice, go to the park and swing as long as the weather holds (we're having great fall weather), and in between I'll be frantically trying to keep up with various arrangements, phonecalls, errands, shopping, laundry, bills, etc.

Oh, hey, something funny happened recently: I was asleep and had dreamed myself back 10-15 years in time. Bengt woke me up by carrying Max into the bedroom. I looked up in a daze and thought, "Who are you, and what are you and that baby doing in my room?" For a second there, I didn't recognize them! That was really weird.


October 16—Just when you think it can't get much worse...

I had a 30-hour migraine headache this weekend. Light sensitivity, vomiting, the whole shebang. Bengt came down with some kind of awful bug and has had a very high fever, chills, etc. And little Max, of course, is still not well and is demanding extra attention. Yesterday brought us to our knees.

Today Bengt stayed home from work (even though he "couldn't") and spent all day sweating and shivering in bed. My headache was gone by this morning, though I was still lightheaded and weak, and I was definitely in the best condition of the two of us. Max was whiny and demanding and hardly napped. When he woke up early from his afternoon nap, he sobbed and sobbed, obviously in some kind of discomfort—hard to tell where it was coming from. We had run out of Infant Tylenol so I went to a neighbor's and got the Swedish version (suppositories). Gave one to Max and it seemed to help a little. He kept falling asleep on my shoulder but then jerking awake with pain. Also, he kept rubbing his eyes and chewing on his fingers.

Finally we thought to look in his mouth, and I think I saw and felt a little pointy thing sticking up out of his bottom gum. We rubbed some Baby Orajel on there and presto! He's rockin' and rollin' now. A happy camper. So I expect that tomorrow or Wednesday we'll have a tooth or two to show for our trouble.

Max has this neat rattle, large and made of hard plastic, shaped kind of like a dumbbell but with one end smaller than the other. (It was Ben's favorite when he was little.) He loves to bang that thing around—especially now that he can control it well enough that it doesn't bonk him on the head. Doh! Anyway, the other day Bengt took a cylindrical pencil holder and rolled it towards Max. Max watched it intently as it rolled closer and closer. He had that rattle in his hand, and as the pencil holder rolled up to him, WHACK! he creamed it with his weapon! Just like swatting a fly. Bengt said it was hilarious.

We've been having trouble with the GFP that we had installed a couple of weeks ago. It keeps getting tripped, shutting off power to the whole house except the fridge and freezer, which are on a separate GFP. (Smart, huh?) I think we've got it narrowed down to the clothes dryer. It must be that appliance that's tripping it. But what to do about it? It doesn't always happen when we run the dryer, and the dryer seems otherwise to be working perfectly. Gotta call the electrician tomorrow. Sigh. Another item on my list.

Another irritation: On Saturday we had two rolls of film developed. Got them home and saw that half of one roll is missing, including the negatives. They stop at 15. Called the lab and they don't have them. They will try to track them down. Yeah, right. Argh! There are so many of these little annoyances, and when I'm already stressed, it just drives me crazy! Like the travel highchair I bought at Ikea a few weeks ago. I assembled the floor model and found it quick and easy. But the one I got home was impossible to put together, even with brute force. I had to drive back to Ikea (20-minute trip each way) to return it. Aaaaaaargh!

Wednesday Max and I take the train to Perstorp, if we're well enough. I will be glad to get out of here and get a change of scenery. I plan to have Sven & Anna-Brita take care of Max a couple of hours each day and go swimming by myself. Sorry, Max, you can't come! Mommy needs a break! Back on Saturday.

Ok, Bengt has been taking care of Max for a little while, but I should go relieve him. I'm sleeping with that tube of Orajel next to my bed tonight...


October 13

Max had a terrible night last night. He kept waking up, obviously in discomfort. He clung to me, shrieking, and I may be projecting, but it seemed from his behavior like he couldn't understand why I didn't make him feel better. I can well imagine that he believes mama has the power to make pain go away. Any time he falls down or gets his fingers pinched or something, I pick him up and the pain quickly recedes. How is he to know that it would recede even if I didn't pick him up? Now I pick him up and the pain doesn't go away and he gets terribly frustrated.

Bengt and I keep giving him Infant Tylenol every four hours. It seems to work for about two and a half hours.

Max woke up at a normal time this morning but has been napped quite a bit today—three naps totalling eight hours! Bengt worked at home, which is always great for me because he can listen for or take care of Max for short periods while I eat, finish a phonecall, go to the bathroom, whatever. This little "out" gives me so much more control and makes me feel calmer.

It occurred to me this morning that with Max being nine months old, he has now been "outside" just as long as he was "inside". What a strange thing: The time since he's been born seems sooo much longer, since so much has happened.

It also seems awesome to me that whatever reality Max experiences right now, he will accept without question—at least for awhile. If I grew little Lego connectors on the tips of my fingers every time I played with Legos, that would seem natural to Max. If the house burned down every evening and magically reappeared every morning, Max wouldn't question it. That goes for interpersonal relationships, too, of course. Whatever weird family interactions a toddler experiences are accepted without question. Scary thought.


October 12—It's chicken pox!

This morning Max kept wanting up on my lap, and as soon as he got up, he wanted down again. Up and down, up and down, and he was so whiny that it was driving me to the brink. On the spur of the moment I decided to take him to the clinic and have him checked out.

The doctor got a swab of Max's throat and it wasn't strep throat, so she ordered a blood test. We went to the lab and little Max was soooo good! He only blinked when the nurse stabbed his finger, and then he sat there watching with calm curiosity while she squeezed a substantial amount of blood from his finger into a vial! She put a little band-aid on his finger and he thought that was fascinating. The wait for the result was no problem; Max charmed everybody in the waiting room. They were probably wondering what I was doing there with this obviously NOT sick child...

The blood test was just fine, but the doctor wanted to have another look at the spots she'd noticed on his back and chest. I'd seen the spots myself but not thought much of them. She called another doctor and nurse in to look at them, and they all agreed: It's chicken pox.

This can't be what's been bothering him for the past several weeks, but it can certainly explain why he's been particularly difficult these past couple of days: he's probably itchy. When I pick him up, I rub his back and stuff, soothing the itch. As soon as I put him back down, the itching starts again. It must be just as frustrating for him as for me.

They said it's good that he's getting chicken pox out of the way while he's so young. But right now it's not so much fun. I guess we'll have to stay away from other kids for awhile, too (unless the parents agree to expose their kids to the chicken pox—which I know some do on purpose). I'm going to have to think of more interesting things to do here at home, or we'll go absolutely stir crazy.

As an aside, Max had such a good time in the waiting room this morning, in spite of it being nap time, that it made me realize he's already bored by open daycare. Max is very interested in brand new people, toys, and surroundings. He just loves for new people to pick him up and talk with him. I don't get the impression that this is average behavior at this age. I wonder if our long trip to the U.S. in August came at an ideal time to trigger a long-term thirst for intense stimulation. Or maybe he's just naturally like this.


October 11—One good nap bought us a lovely afternoon

This morning I took Max to open daycare, and by the time we got home he was exhausted. Still, he woke up crying from his nap after only 35 minutes. I picked him up, blanket and all, and rocked him back to sleep. He woke up again after another 30 minutes, crying again and still obviously not rested. So I took him to bed with me and nursed him for an hour. He slept solidly, though he whimpered and cried in his sleep—bad dreams. Poor little guy! I wonder what's bothering him.

Finally, he woke up again and was happy to see that I was still there with him. We lay like spoons for 15-20 minutes, with his head on my arm, while I stroked his back. We made noises back and forth (talking). We were able to be really mellow for the first time in months.

In the afternoon, Max was in a good mood and we did a few errands. Toward the end, Max had been getting fidgety in his stroller, when he suddenly started shaking his head vehemently and saying, "Aw da! Aw da!" It was hard to miss the message there: All done shopping!! I headed straight for check-out.

At the front of the store, they had one of those little cars that you put a quarter in and your kid can ride for a few minutes. I stuck Max in there and he had a ball. He pounded and spun the steering wheel the whole time. Then when it stopped, he looked at me like, "What happened?" He started rocking his body, trying to get the thing going again. When it didn't work, he tried rocking harder, and he whacked his head on the dashboard! It hurt and that was the bitter end of Max's first mini-car ride. His first (and hopefully only) car accident.

The afternoon nap was too short and Max isn't rested. Bengt is probably dreading the long evening ahead. I'm not dreading it because I'm going swimming!


October 10—Oh, for cryin' out loud!

Things are still hectic around here. Max is whiny, clingy, and not sleeping well. He's sucking on his fingers and chewing on everything, so I still say it's a combination of some phase he's going through and teething. Bengt just snorts and says Max is sick. It's true he's had a runny nose off and on since the beginning of September, and he coughs now and then, and he has had a mild fever occasionally (judging by how warm he feels when I hold him), but I don't think he's sick enough to warrant a doctor's visit. It seems like every other kid (and adult) is having the same sniffles and stuff, including me. What do you think?

Today Max's morning nap was way too short, and then he wouldn't go down for his afternoon nap until the "normal" time, and then he woke up from that nap early, as well! I was sleep-deprived and frazzled myself, so in desperation I took him to our bed and "plugged him in". We both fell asleep for over two hours.

Max didn't get a spot at the daycare we wanted to send him to—the one he's used to visiting already. The line is too long, and there might be a spot for him next fall—or there might not. Geez! He's been registered since the beginning of June, but I can see now I should have signed him up the day he was born!

Anyway, we got a spot at a nearby Montessori daycare. We went and visited them today and signed the papers. It didn't feel as good as the other place. They are a little short of personnel, in my opinion. Max will be in one of two groups of up to 16 one- to three-year-olds. Each group supervised by only three adults. I think that's pretty poor, but when I look at the statistics in the book I have on daycare, I can see that they're doing pretty well compared with other places. When I visited there today, the kids seemed fairly content and not neglected. Anyway, they break the large groups down into smaller groups for various activities, depending on age and need.

Max was very tired when we went for our visit, but he enjoyed crawling around and exploring the new things and the people. He crawled up to one of the staff and held up his arms to be picked up. (That kind of surprised me—a total stranger!) Several of them commented that Max seems very social and will have an easy transition to daycare. Let's keep our fingers crossed. He'll probably be starting the second week of January. I don't know how they do it in the U.S., but in Sweden one parent stays with the kid for up to two weeks, leaving him for longer and longer periods, depending on how the child does.

Uncle Anders was here for two days. It was nice to have him around. Max thought so, too!

Next week, Wed-Sat, Max and I will be in Perstorp. We're taking the train. I plan to leave Max to enjoy the doting care of Sven & Anna-Brita while I go swimming every day.

The other day, the three of us were sitting in the TV room and Maja sauntered in. Max said, "Maja!" It was loud and clear. His pronunciation was perfect (although granted, it's not a hard word). He just loves her. He chases her any time he sees her and grabs hold of her tail. If she's lying down, he grabs fistfulls of fur and buries his face in her tummy. She usually puts up with it for 30 seconds or so before pulling away—he's too rough. She has never scratched Max or even hissed at him. (Except she hissed the first day he came home from the hospital and she realized that this little bundle was alive!) What a good kitty!

Lately Max wants to eat what I'm eating. Fortunately, he's also old enough to tolerate it, so I usually give him small, soft pieces of whatever I have—cheese, pizza, pasta, vegetables, etc. He likes to try to drink from a glass, too. I haven't been using his sippy cups, but I guess it's high time for that! In addition, he's started grabbing the spoon away from me and sticking it in his own mouth. (Other babies his age have been doing this for ages. It's very messy, so I'm grateful I've been spared this long.)

Swimming is still a favorite activity. If Max doesn't seem sick, we often go over to the pool. He sticks his face right into the water and paddles like mad with his stubby little arms and legs. He gets annoyed that I hold on to him, but believe me, he would sink like a rock if I didn't. Babies' heads are very large and heavy compared to the rest of their bodies. I bought some swim wings or whatever they're called, but he cried when I put them on his arms. Maybe they were too tight or something—will try again. I tried the rings that they have for around the waist, but they're too big for him. I've only ever seen older kids wear them.


October 4—Heimlich maneuver used on Max

On Monday when we were at open daycare, Max got his mitts on a slice of apple left over from the other kids' snack. He's been gnawing at and eating bigger and bigger pieces of food, so I just let him have it. Well, he choked on it, so I sat him up straight to cough, but then he couldn't even cough. I was just starting to consider the Heimlich maneuver when one of the daycare workers, who was sitting right across from me, reached out her arms towards Max. I handed him over and she did the Heimlich maneuver on him. Out popped four pieces of apple! Max took a few deep breaths and then went back to playing. Didn't seem to mind having his diaphragm compressed suddenly. I guess he was just relieved to be rid of the food that was preventing him from breathing.

Well, that was a little alarming. I guess he's still too small for apple slices! Doh!

Still, it was kind of nice that this happened and I know that I wouldn't have panicked. I was about to do exactly what the daycare worker did. Since practicing on those dolls at the Red Cross course, both Bengt and I know what to do if Max chokes, and we know that it's almost always easy to get food out of a child's breathing passages if you know the right technique. I'm so glad we took that class.

Max is still pretty clingy and is not sleeping well. I'm taking the brunt of it during the day, when Max wants me with him every second, and Bengt takes the night shift, when Max wakes up two or even three times. Bengt says he's feeling more and more tired at night, but so far he's still ok during the daytime. I said, watch out. It sneaks up on you.

I made two loaves of bread yesterday in the bread maker that I bought two years ago. (This is the first time I've used it!) I'm pathetic. The bread was good, though.

And I bought a hot sandwich maker the other day. I had one in Ann Arbor and liked the sandwiches but thought it was a pain to clean. Then last week I read a test of sandwich machines in our consumer magazine, and there were two models that were said to be easy to clean. They're cheap, so I went out and bought one. Sure enough, the sandwiches are good and the thing is easy to clean. Bonus.

Speaking of food, I must go eat before Max wakes up from his nap!!!


October 1—Velcro boy

Yesterday I took Max with me to pick corn. At this place, you shuck the corn before you weigh and pay. I sure wish I'd had my camera, because I would have gotten a great shot of Max sitting on a pile of corn husks, gnawing on an ear of corn!!

On our way home, Max faked crying loudly because he wanted out of the car. I guess I'm glad that he's confident that his cries will be responded to. If he could talk, he wouldn't have to resort to fake crying. Poor guy—it must be frustrating to have clear desires but no way to express them except crying or fussing.

Well, that's not entirely true. Max shakes his head "no" when he doesn't want something, and Bengt and I try to respect that when we can. We've also noticed that he associates the head shake with other words besides "no"—such as "not" and don't". For instance, I can say that something's "not a good idea" and Max will shake his head no. Smart little guy.

When we are at home, Max has been really clinging to mommy for the past two weeks. He wants to be with me all the time and, for example, doesn't want to play alone in the livingroom while I fix my own breakfast and coffee, which is the routine we've had since he was born. He usually wants to be with me rather than Bengt—I'm sure not because Bengt isn't treating him right but because of a real security issue at the moment. He won't play by himself as much (except at daycare), but wants me with him every moment. If I leave him on the floor for a minute, he crawls after me and then pulls himself up on my pants and begs to be picked up. He squirms when I put him in the carseat and whines and sometimes cries even when I put him in his highchair!

I read in a book that it is a stage in development at this age. I guess it is this same stage that's making him wake up at night, calling out for us again. Whatever it is, I hope it passes soon. On one hand, I want to show Max that I'm available for him when he needs me. On the other hand, having him with me—right on me—most of every day is exasperating and exhausting! I've lost my temper a couple of times, I'm ashamed to say. It's difficult to make Max understand that I need to be able to scarf down a meal or pee without him on my lap or anxiously pulling on my legs...

By the way, Max still doesn't have any teeth. I'll really miss that toothless grin when he gets some!


September 30—Max is 9 months old today!

Things have been a bit better since I last wrote—primarily because I've been sleeping in the guest room! Bengt takes care of Max at night. It's easier for him because he always falls back to sleep quickly, whereas I can be awake for an hour or more just because Max cried out once.

Twice I've taken Max to the local pool to play. The kiddie pool is too cold for him, but the "adventure pool" is warmer and he loves all the fountains and running water in it. The only problem is that he really wants me to let go of him, and I can't because the water is too deep. If Max were to sit up straight in it, his mouth and nose would still be under water. He throws himself onto his belly, pushes away from me, and makes swimming motions with his arms and legs, but of course he can't really swim (though he obviously thinks he can). He protests impatiently because I won't let go of him. The very shallow part (only about one inch deep) is too boring and if I put him down there, he crawls immediately towards the deeper, more exciting water.

After about a half hour in the water, Max suddenly climbs up on my shoulder and his body gets all limp. I take him in for a quick warm shower, sit in the sauna for a minute to get dried off, give him some juice, and hightail it out to the car. He's in a daze during the short drive home, and when I put him in his bed he falls asleep immediately.

Max's new talent is putting his finger to his lips and jiggling them to make the "b-b-b-b-b" sound. He does it on mama and pappa, too.

And in the past week the speed of his crawling has just about tripled. He can cross the livingroom and grab a handfood of cat food in the kitchen in just a few short seconds. He also "cruises" now, and when something moves away from him (like a chair he's pushing on), he either follows it or falls safely onto his bottom or hands and knees.

Max is also learning to be more gentle with Maja and with other things like plants and mama's face. He can stroke things with one finger—though he doesn't always choose to.

Max is definitely handing out hugs. He'll sometimes pat my arm while he hugs me, and "talk" into my ear (or slobber in it).

I took Max to that daycare twice this week. It's much nicer than the other one we visited on September 21. Actually, the daycare is run by eight women who take care of children in their home. They formed a company that rents this space, and they take turns staffing it four mornings per week. So you get to meet all eight of the women and all the kids in the different groups—but never at the same time. They have a common waiting list, which Max has been on since the beginning of June. He has good chances of getting in this January. Then he would be familiar with the facilities where they spend part of their time, and he would already know the kids.

Yes, Bengt and I have decided to start Max at daycare part time in January. Each of us will work six hours a day. That way, I can drop Max off around 9:30 and Bengt can pick him up at 2:00 or 2:30. We'll continue that way for four months and see how it goes. Bengt will need to go back to full time in May, so hopefully Max will be ready for a longer day. I'll continue working only 6 hours a day as long as Max needs me.

I'm pretty psyched about returning to work part time. I feel MUCH more affectionate towards Max when we've been separated for a few hours. Even if working creates more stress in some respects, I think my spending time away from Max, in an environment in which I feel more in control and competent, will do us both good. And of course Max will get to spend more time with his daddy!

Last weekend I slipped on the stairs while carrying Max. I managed to stop my fall by sticking my hand between two slats of the railing, so the very good thing is that I didn't drop Max. The bad thing is that I wrenched my arm, my hand, and above all my pinkie finger which got stuck. A little chunk got ripped out of that finger and it is pretty bruised. I haven't had much trouble with it since last weekend, but at the time it hurt so badly that I had to lie with my legs up for 5-10 minutes to keep from fainting. Well, since then I've been wearing my indoor Birks (which have tread) all the time. Or when I'm not wearing them, I'm very careful when wearing just socks on the stairs!

This morning I took Max to a local lake (Edsviken), where we saw two fountains, quacking ducks, a big black dog (woof!), a small gray dog (yap yap!), small children climbing trees, and a construction vehicle in use. We took the bus there and back. Needless to say, it was a very exciting morning. ;-)

Last weekend I bought a toddler swing on sale at Ikea, and this week I got the special screws needed to install it and hung it on our front porch. Max loves it.

I also bought a simple high chair for keeping in the trunk of the car for when we visit friends or restaurants or whatever. This model was supposed to be very easy to assemble, and the display sample at Ikea was very easy. However, the one I got home is literally impossible to get together. The legs don't fit into the seat. So now I have to go back and wait in line and exchange it. ARGH!

Another thing I bought was frosted plastic bins for our recycling. They fit very handily under part of our counter and look nice, as well. Of course I promptly labelled them with my handy electronic label maker. Small pleasures... :-)

On Thursday an electrician came and installed a GFI (ground fault interrupter—I think that's what it's called) in our house. All of our electrical outlets are child safe, but still, if Max (or Bengt or I, for that matter) should manage to get a 220V jolt, the GFI will prevent it from being harmful. It's reassuring to have it in place now.

Lately Max has been sitting still for reading books—sometimes two in a row. His favorites are Doggies (Boynton) and Brown Bear, Brown Bear. Of course he likes the animal sounds in them. I've been trying to help him make the connection between the animals in the books and those we see on our walks. I like to see that smile of recognition.

Max has had a runny nose off and on (mostly on) ever since he caught cold on August 29. Come to think of it, so have I. It's really getting old. I think that this tenacious cold is what's causing Max to wake up most nights. Maybe I'm projecting, but I have to assume that Max's throat is getting dry and scratchy at night, just like mine. I don't want to let him cry if he's having the same problem I'm having. Any thoughts on how to beat it?

While I was writing this, Max crawled right up to my PC and very accurately pushed the power button, shutting me down! Argh! (Couldn't help feeling proud of the fine motor skill needed to push the button, though.)

Have a good weekend, everyone!


September 25—Rough nights (and days) again

Hi. Hope you're well.

We're really having some rough days and nights. Max isn't sleeping enough hours at night, and most nights he wakes up too often. Then, of course, he's irritable and whiny during the daytime (and so am I). Most of his naps are very short. He has a very runny nose, so it looks like the problem is a cold. My guess is that he has a sore throat. Not a bad one, but enough that his throat gets scratchy at night and wakes him up.

I've just given Max a nice big dose of Baby Tylenol and put him to bed. Let's hope that he sleeps well. I'm sleeping in the guest room tonight while Bengt takes night duty for the first time in a long time, so I have high hopes for getting a lot of sleep tonight.

Why not start early? Good night!


September 20—Max's first daycare experience

Max and I visited a daycare center today. Max sat in my lap and looked around for a little while, but soon he was down on the floor, playing with the new toys and watching the other children (many of whom are older). The room was huge, and Max crawled all around, exploring every part. (I felt proud of his independence. He doesn't seem anxious that I'll leave him, and he's obviously not afraid of new things or people or even crowds.)

At one point Max took off out of the room and down the hall, so I had to go after him. But there was nothing dangerous to get into, so all I had to do was keep my eye on him so he didn't swat other children (he doesn't know how to be gentle when touching others—but it wasn't a problem) or get whacked or scratched by another child. The other kids were all really nice—obviously used to having little ones around. Some of them even hugged him!

For myself, there were other moms to talk to—one of whom I already knew and another who lives just around the corner from us but whom I'd never met, who has a son two months younger than Max. I'm really happy to meet moms with kids right near me. Our kids will probably play together in the years to come.

Of course, I also had my eye on the personnel. They seemed great. Very fond of the children (of course), down-to-earth, and happy with their jobs. There was a little presentation for us first-timers. Nice.

Anyway, we stayed about 1 1/2 hours, during a time that normally would have been Max's naptime, so I was astounded at how well he did. He chilled out during the stroller ride home, and then he fell asleep in his crib within minutes and took a nice, long nap.

I signed up to bring Max to this open daycare up to four times a week. It doesn't cost us anything, but the daycare gets money from the county for being open to at-home parents. I can't leave Max there, but we can participate in all their activities like singing, toddler gymnastics, baking, etc.

We plan to visit another daycare tomorrow. It's not in our area, but I want to have something to compare it with. Before long, Bengt and I will have to choose which daycare we want to send Max to in April.


September 18

Just a note: Max had his height and weight checked today for the first time in a long time. His height (76 cm or 30") has followed the curve in the chart perfectly, while his weight (10,940 g or 24 lbs., 2 oz.) has dropped off a little. Nothing to worry about, of course. He does look a little bit less chubby just now—probably because of his new-found aerobic exercize (crawling).


September 17 - Another week has passed!?!?

Our friend Caroline was here Thursday through Saturday. Caroline lived in Uppsala when I lived in Stockholm last time (1990-93). We worked at Mitsui together for a year. Now she works in Moscow. I really enjoyed her visit, even though Thursday night was a rough one sleep-wise and I was exhausted all day Friday. Seeing old friends is a rare treat.

Today Max and I went for a walk in the woods. Then we went over to the park, where Max went on the swings and played in the sandbox. On our walk home, we stopped and talked to a neighbor who had two dogs with him. Max sure loves dogs! Then Max "asked" to come home and be put to bed. (He wasn't crabby, just zoned out in his stroller.) He slept like a log.

Things are still improving—slowly—on the sleep front. Max is still waking up one to three times every night, even though he isn't getting anything to eat or drink. He goes back to sleep quickly by himself, after we go in to reassure him, but I'm really looking forward to the first night when he doesn't wake up at all.

Did I mention that Max is definitely down to only two naps per day, finally? They are usually rather long—around two hours each. But he doesn't sleep more than 10 hours total at night.

Two nights ago I turned the night light off after Max went to sleep. I thought I might have been wrong about him being afraid of the dark, but he woke up crying hard. Poor thing! So from now on he gets his little lamp.

I just took over the bookkeeping for American Citizens Abroad because our Treasurer is leaving the country next week. So now I'm learning Quicken and relying heavily on the accounting skills I learned in high school! Hope I can keep the books from disintegrating into chaos until we find a new treasurer.

I'm so bummed the weekend is almost over. There was so much I wanted to get done, and almost none of it is done! I don't know how the time could possibly fly by so fast. And we definitely won't get things done during the week. Hey—maybe I'll call that sitter and have her come by and play with Max once or twice, so I can do stuff like install more child safety gates—at least the urgent stuff. Max is crawling all over the place. The other day he climbed up two stairs (of course I was right behind him).

This coming week Max and I will be visiting two daycare centers. We don't have to make a final decision yet, but we can see what it's like at different places and participate in their open times. (These daycare centers let parents and kids who don't have regular daycare drop by at certain times every week to play and sing.)

Have a good week!


September 12

The night before last, when Max awakened for the second time that night, I made a rash decision and let him cry. I was sure he couldn't possibly be hungry, and I couldn't find any other problem—he just wanted help getting back to sleep. So I let him figure it out himself. It took about 15 minutes—that's it! Here I was expecting him to cry for a lot longer. Several hours later, he woke up again, and that time he cried for only about 7-8 minutes. Even later, I heard him stir and move around in his bed, but he didn't cry out.

He woke up at 8:30 in a very good mood, and he went down for both of his naps that day in his crib, by himself, with only mild protests the first time and none the second. Both of those naps were good and long (almost two hours each), which means that he is getting through that semi-awake period that comes after 50 minutes all by himself.

Last night went to sleep in his crib by himself and didn't call out until almost 6 a.m. Bengt giggled his crib a little (although I don't think he needed that, really), and Max fell back asleep and didn't wake up until 8:30. That was his first full night without nursing!

Today, too, Max went down for both his naps by himself, with only a cursory protest. I'm really happy that Max is again able to get to sleep and stay asleep without nursing. Just think, the three of us are going to get so much more sleep, and the price was only about 22 minutes of crying. I'd say that's a good deal.

Max has apparently developed a fear of the dark. Since we put a night light in his room, he seems much less upset when he does wake up at night.

Babyproofing the house is taking a lot more time than I expected. Attaching shelf units to walls so they won't tip over, fastening cords to walls so Max can't yank them, installing gates in the doors (most of the Swedish models have to be screwed in), etc.—it takes hours just for one room! Ugh. And it's all urgent, because Max is very mobile and very curious.

Last night I finished up the Red Cross course on child safety and first aid. We learned how to prevent and treat many different types of accidents and injuries, such as choking, cuts and scrapes, hard bumps on the head, broken bones, teeth knocked out, and drowning. We practiced mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and CPR on dolls of different sizes. It's awful to think of any of those things happening to Max, but it's also reassuring to have a better idea of what to do if it does. Just hope I can keep calm and remember all I learned! Bengt is doing the same course, but at a different time from me.

When I came home, Max was extremely happy to see me. I know he had a good time with Pappa, but he's pretty attached to me right now. A look of joy spread across his face when he saw me, and he started jumping wildly in Bengt's arms and leaning toward me. When I took him, he wrapped his arms around my neck, pressed his little body against me, and buried his face against my shoulder. Wow! It was really a rush to get such a welcome.


September 9

Last night we went to a restaurant with friends, and this time Max did much better than last time (see May 29). The people at the table next to us were extremely noisy, and sometimes they startled us all with their yells, but Max didn't cry or even whine. Towards the end he was tired, and we were having dessert so Bengt gave him some vanilla ice cream. He was somewhat interested in the new taste but refused to eat any more after about four spoonfuls. (He certainly didn't get his ability to turn down ice cream from me!)

Another new food is rice cakes. Yesterday I gave him one just to keep him occupied while I prepared his lunch, and by the time I got to him about 1/3 of it was gone and it was all soggy around the edge. After lunch I gave it back to him and he ate the rest! So today I bought a kind of plain, thin cracker that the Swedish moms give their babies to feed themselves. I've tried giving him small pieces like cereal and small pieces of bread, but Max has trouble letting go of them once he's got them into his mouth. It works better with these larger pieces that he can bite off (or rather, gum off—he still doesn't have any teeth).

Also, yesterday afternoon Max crawled from the big windows in the livingroom through the dining room to the kitchen and was about to sample Maja's cat food when I caught up with him. Up to now, Maja has had food available constantly, but from now on she'll have to adjust to two or three meals per day. And I'll put her water someplace where she can get to it but Max can't.

On a different subject (for once), I just finished Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and just loved it! It was the kind of book where you miss the characters when you're done reading it. I can't wait to read the other books in the series. I admire the author's ability to write something that both children and adults can enjoy so much.


September 7

Today I left Max with a non-family member for the first time. I left him with Birgitta and Lina for two hours while I went swimming. It was great for me, and Max didn't seem to mind at all. Birgitta said he was a sunbeam.

Max stood up in the bathtub today. Just grabbed the side of the tub and pulled himself up. Good thing I bought a rubber mat for the tub at Ikea yesterday.

He nose is still runny, and it's driving me crazy because he protests vehemently when I try to wipe it. So I don't wipe it. The stuff is pretty thick, so it just gets caked all around his nose and looks really gross. Other moms probably think I'm negligent. Then in the evening I put him in the bathtub to soften it up, and he still cries when I wipe it off. For heaven's sake!!!

I noticed today that when Max is about to do something new, he often turns to see what I'll have to say about it. Cool.

As I'm writing this, Bengt is kicking a kid-sized soccer ball against the office wall and Max is laughing hysterically at it. It's really fascinating to see what babies find funny.

Max has been more huggable lately. He often rests his head on my shoulder, and he tolerates being rocked in the rocking chair (rather than insisting on being carried around). He has also started passing out kisses. Except Max's "kisses" consist of him placing his wide open, drooly mouth on whatever part of your head is handiest—your chin, nose, mouth, forehead, or ear. And since he has a cold, there is sure to be a good deal of snot mixed in with the drool when he's finished. Eeeeeow.


September 6—hyper smazmo crawling, talking, laughing boy

We visited a friend and her daughter yesterday. The daughter is a week older than Max, and I think it's so interesting to compare and marvel at their differences. For instance, Lina is extremely agile. I saw her sitting on the kitchen floor in the splits while fingering a toy! She was perfectly comfortable. I don't think Max bends that way. On the other hand, Max seems stronger. We put him in Lina's walker and he hopped in it, easily lifting the whole thing into the air and banging it on the floor. Lina's mother looked startled and said that Lina had never done that.

Max had a very good day today (and therefore so did I). He was in a good mood all day. Lately he's been going to bed earlier and sleeping better, so maybe that's why. He's also getting into the habit of acting like a total hyper spazmo boy for an hour or so every evening. It is really entertaining to watch! He's very entertained by the simplest game, like peek-a-boo or a funny sound or whatever, so he laughs and yells and talks loudly during his entire spazmo period. This evening he was scooting all over the kitchen floor on his bottom (a new method of locomotion!), shouting with delight. When he seemed to be running out of steam, we put him in the bathtub and he splashed as hard and long as his little arms could splash (which was very hard and very long), laughing all the while. You just have to marvel at all his energy and at how easily entertained he is!

We've been giving Max a bath every evening lately. Partly because it is part of a good bedtime routine, and partly because Max enjoys it, but mostly because by the end of the day he has buggers caked on his nose. (He yells and cries if I try to wipe them off, and I'm learning to choose my battles.) Those little nasties are easier to wipe off once and for all after they've been softened by the bath water that Max splashes on his own face.

Max can crawl more quickly today than yesterday, and he's now aware that he can not only crawl to get a toy that's out of reach but crawl to another room. He crawled to another room for the first time today.

I fed Max a fish and potato dish today (baby food), and he liked it. When I fed him the same dish at about five months, his gagging made quite a show.

Our 17 new oil-filled, programmable electric radiators were delivered today. They don't get as hot as the 22-year-old ones that came with the house, so Max can't burn his hands on them, and they have safety covers for the controls so he can't fiddle with them. The one for the downstairs bathroom has a towel rack on it. Tomorrow two men are coming to install the new radiators and haul the old ones away. This will be great! We're just now getting some cooler weather and are starting to turn on the heat.

After Max's "aw da" statement yesterday, I started paying more attention to his babbling and to his reactions to what I say. It seems clear that he understands a lot more than I gave him credit for, and I'm alarmed. I had no idea that babies this young could understand words! I know Bengt was a very early talker, but I just didn't expect it at this point. (Crack open those child care books again, Eileen!) For instance, he's been squirming on his changing table when I want to change him, so for the last week or so I've been giving him something to hold while I change him, to keep him on his back. I say, "Here, hold this comb (or whatever) for mamma." At first, I had to hold the item in front of his face to get his attention. Now he turns and grabs upwards in one movement to get the comb when I say that. In addition, I think he knows the different names of the things I've been giving him (must test that again).

I've also heard Max "say" things and I think I know what he's saying. For example, I heard him say "dop" when he'd just dropped something. (I've been talking about DROPping things lately.) YIKES!!!! But they could just be coincidences, so I have to watch him awhile longer before I say for sure which words he's using. Stay tuned.


September 5

Max seems more alert and conscious every single today. Some new things he did just today:

When he was finished eating, he said "Aw da!" and refused to open his mouth for any more. Though it seems incredible, I'm pretty sure he was saying "All done." (We always say "All done!" when we're done eating.) I'm going to watch him carefully to see if he does this again at his next meal.

A couple days ago I started clapping and saying "clap" and "clapping". Now Max can do it himself. Even if I only say the word "clap" (without actually clapping), Max will clap.

When I went into Max's room after he'd had his morning nap today, he three himself face-down on his bed with glee! It reminded me so much of something a much older kid would do—throwing himself face-down, as if he'd been jumping in and bouncing around in his bed for years.

He is suddenly crawling much further. He uses his left leg and kind of drags his right.

Max stares at Bengt and me as if really "seeing" us for the first time. He talks to us and responds immediately to a smile or a stern look or a word or phrase he recognizes.

I have to go now, but I will try to write more tomorrow or the next day. Just wanted to get these things down. Bye for now!


September 2, 2000

Last night Bengt and I had our first night out together without Max since he was born. Steely Dan, Bengt's favorite group, was here in Stockholm and we went to see them. We thought it was a good concert, and it was fun to get out by ourselves. We left Max with Anna-Brita, even though he has a cold. Apparently it went just fine. Max had some discomfort because his nose is extremely runny, so he didn't sleep well, but other than that things went well. We are really grateful that she could stay here for the week and then take care of him. We wouldn't have left him with just any sitter, especially not when he's sick.

Anna-Brita left today. Boo hoo! I wish Bengt's family lived closer (not to mention my own).

Max got his cold at the mom's group that met on Tuesday. One of the other babies that was there had a very runny nose, and all the kids crawl around and chew on each others' toys. I know of at least one other baby who was there and who also got infected, and I am annoyed with that mom who brought her sick kid to infect the others. :-(

The treasurer of American Citizens Abroad in Sweden, an organization I'm on the board of, has resigned because she's moving away. We haven't yet been able to find anyone to take over her duties. So I'm taking that on, as well. (I'm already the member database coordinator.) I hope it's not too much work, and I definitely hope we can find someone else to take over that duty by the end of the year!

I can't believe I'm still trying to get caught up on my e-mail, thank-yous, laundry, appointments, etc. that have been waiting since I got back! Being away for almost four weeks really set me back!

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