What's New at the Pålssons'


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

August 27, 2001—What a nice birthday!

I had a lovely birthday yesterday—the best one in years. Bengt's parents were here, and they came upstairs in the morning with hugs & good wishes & a present. Later, Bengt gave me my big present: a Palm Vx that he bought together with Lin & Mark and my parents. I love it! I had been hoping to get Bengt's old one when he upgraded, but a new one is even better. I spent hours yesterday preparing data for it. I need about two more hours of preparation, and then I can throw away my stone-age paper calendar/address book forever. :-)

Then Sven & Anna-Brita stayed with Max so that Bengt and I could go out to eat by ourselves. This is a very rare occurrence, and it was wonderful. Bengt and I had great food at a Greek restaurant, and great conversation. It was really a treat.

Max just loves his grandparents, and he had a wonderful weekend with them. So of course he wasn't sad at all when Bengt and I went out. Still, when we came home, he danced a "war dance"—spun around in circles, jumped up and down, and shouted, "Mama! Papa! Mama! Papa!" It was heartwarming.

THEN (perhaps the best part of the day), Max asked me to get in his tent with him. (He has a little play tent with a tunnel.) There isn't enough room for both of us, but I crawled in with my upper body and laid down in there. He lay down beside me and held my hand, and we "talked" and then got quiet and just stayed there together. With our busy lives, it's a rare treat just to take the time to "be", without doing anything—except when sleeping. Especially with a toddler who is very active and not particularly cuddly. I kept expecting Max to jump up and start running around again or playing, but he was as mellow as could be and just wanted the quiet company of his mama. I was really surprised and happy.

So I felt very close to my whole family yesterday, and that was the best present. :-)

Max made progress in his speech during just those few days that Sven & Anna-Brita were here. It's becoming clearer to him that there are two languages going on in our household. He's starting to drop his made-up words and say Swedish ones. Yesterday he tried to get me to say "åka" rather than "ride", but I said it's okay if he says "åka" but Mama says "ride". He seemed to accept that (for now).

August 21—Busy!

Sorry I haven't been reporting as usual. We've been so busy! The garage sale we had this past weekend was so much work! We took in well over $300, and it was an interesting experience, but we probably won't do it again. I should have advertized more to get people here from a wider geographical area. Most of the people who came were from our own neighborhood. Also, most of the people came on Saturday, so I wouldn't continue it on Sunday if I were to do it again.

Many of the Swedes (who aren't used to garage sales) said that it was a great idea, a good initiative. They said it was fun to go to garage sales, and more people should have them.

We only sold about 1/4 of our stuff, so there is a lot to sort through. I already made one trip to the recycling center and Salvation Army, and I'll have to make at least one more trip. A few things we decided to keep after all. Some others I can probably sell by placing individual ads in the newspaper. Ugh!

Yesterday Max and I had a really pleasant morning. Max hung out with me (rather than watching TV or insisting that I follow him around the house to supervise whatever he wants to do) and was very cooperative. While I ate my own breakfast, Max ate an entire bowl of yogurt with cereal mixed in, all by himself, spilling almost nothing! While I drank coffee, he looked at his books and we chatted and listened to classical music. We brushed our teeth together and he didn't protest when it was time to leave for daycare. It was the most relaxed morning we've had in a long time—which is ironic when you consider it was a Monday morning after a very busy weekend.

Otherwise, Max has had a few tough days. Recently a new molar came in, and I suspect that he's got another one on the way, because he keeps fiddling around in his mouth and certain foods seem to cause pain. (He's getting his molars about six months later than average. Hmm.) He's also going through a major growth spurt. Overalls that he wore last week suddenly didn't fit this morning. Shoes that fit two weeks ago aren't wearable any longer, even for a little while and with thin socks. No doubt he's got some growing pains to contend with.

Birgitta, Max's usual daycare provider, has developed a chronic problem with her shoulder. (Bengt and I also have problems with one shoulder—it's probably Max's fault!) So she can't work for at least three weeks. Max has been going to a woman named Helena instead. This is probably a source of stress for Max, as it would be for anyone who suddenly changed where they spent a number of waking hours each day. But he's tolerating it quite well, and the other kids really like him. They come to meet us as we approach, and they take his hands and pat him and so on. Helena lets him pick a new toy out of her huge closet of outdoor toys each morning, and of course he likes that. He eats well and doesn't complain when she puts him down for his nap. What a flexible boy!

Max really enjoys cleaning and wiping up messes. After he eats, he wipes his tray with a dishcloth if we let him. He wipes up spills from the floor and is glad to throw things in the trash when we ask him to. He "helps" to unload the dishwasher and load the washer and dryer. He wants to vacuum but isn't big enough to operate the vacuum cleaner (and unfortunately he wore out his midget vacuum cleaner). If we remind him, he puts things away when he finishes using them, and he likes to bathe, brush his teeth and hair, swab his ears with a Q-tip (which of course we supervise closely), and so on. We hadn't started to make an effort to train him on these things at all, since we thought he was too young. He's either imitating us or getting it from daycare, and now he's reaping a lot of praise for it!

Max patted a crying baby the other day. He also kisses his stuffed animals. Awwwww!

What's not quite so cute is Max's increasingly intense fascination with vehicles and construction machines. When we're outside, he points to every single vehicle he sees (moving or parked) and asks whether he can ride in it. Then I have to answer no and explain why, or he keeps asking the same question over and over again. Argh! I'm getting pretty tired of it! At the same time, I guess there's probably some developmental reason for his interest. And regardless of the reason, I think it's my job to support and encourage any interests that aren't harmful. (Right?) I take him on bus rides as often as possible. I wish you could have seen the look of joy on his face the first time I came home from work and asked Max if he'd like to go ride the bus with me.

I told you about the Bumble Ball before... Max is still pretty scared of it, but he's also a little bit fascinated. I let him take it to daycare the other day, and seeing all the other kids (and adults!) laugh with delight when they saw it loosened him up a little. Now he likes to hold it but still never turns it on and can get very upset if someone turns it on near him. He's afraid of the mixer and juicer, too. Pretty strange for a kid who loves vehicles and vacuum cleaners! Go figure.

August 5—Max's first complete sentence

Hi again. Bengt and Max got home early Friday evening after a very exciting (for Max) and relaxing (for Bengt) week in Perstorp. They had a pretty good drive. Max didn't act like he'd missed me much, which of course is good. He was well taken care of. However, he did bite me a lot Friday and Saturday. He didn't mean it to hurt. I could see he just wanted to be closer to me, because he was in a good mood and I could usually get him to hug me instead.

He's also been very vulnerable with me—more sensitive than usual. I've inadvertently made him cry three times since he got home. For instance, once when he had his teeth clamped down on me and didn't respond to "No! Stop!", all I could think of to do on short notice was to grab a bit of his bangs and tug. He let go immediately, and then he started crying. I didn't pull hard enough to hurt him, so it was obviously his feelings I hurt. Poor guy! He didn't mean to hurt me.

Another time, we were looking at pictures that were spread out on the floor. He stepped on some and I pushed him back. I didn't push him hard, but he plunked down on his bottom, and he burst into tears because Mama pushed him! I felt so bad.

Anyway, I've been spending a lot of time with him, and hugging and kissing him a lot, and today he only tried to bite me once. We'll have a lot of time together this week, too, because Birgitta is still on vacation. I'll stay home with Max in the mornings, and Bengt will come home around 1:30 so I can work 2 to 8 p.m.

We got some great pictures, and here are a few of them. The picture at the bottom shows Max with a pink mustache. He was drinking his very first milkshake. Flavor: banana and raspberry. (This was at home, before the trip to Perstorp.)

One of my colleagues went to Hong Kong for vacation, and at my request he got me a Voice Stick (shown in the picture). We can use this to record Max's voice and save the recordings as wave files. Here's the first one! Bengt made this 50-second recording while out on a walk with Max this morning. At about the middle you can hear Bengt ask Max a question (he asks "what was that?" in Swedish) and Max says, "Bus" five times. At the end of the recording, Bengt asks "what's that?" again, and Max answers, "Lawn mower. A lawn mower. That's a lawn mower." (Except he says "aw mo" for "lawn mower".) This is the first four-word sentence I've heard him say.

Max has been sleeping a lot more since he got home. No more waking up at 4:00 a.m.! What a relief. I guess life in Perstorp is just too exciting for sleep. He probably likes sleeping in his own bed again, too.

July 29—Eileen and Max's week in Perstorp

Ok, here's a long report. You'll have to skim it to get the good stuff (if any), unless you're reeeeeally interested in this diary of our family activies. As you can see, I'm trying out a few icons. Hmmm.

Max and I had a really good week in Perstorp. We had fantastic weather—actually a bit too hot, but we weren't complaining—so we spent a lot of time outdoors. Sven & Anna-Brita spent a lot of time with Max, and Anders came for a day, as well. They're so good to him!—And to me. Most mornings I got to go back to bed after bringing Max upstairs (among other things).

Two mornings Sven took Max out for a morning jaunt around town. After three hours they came charging in, both breathless and excited like little boys. They plopped down and had a drink while Sven told us all they had done. Max chimed in with lively comments of his own, but we didn't understand many of them.

Another day the grandparents took Max to Bengt's Gård. There are a lot of animals there, including perky little kids (that is, baby goats) that Max got to pet. Max also gleefully chased rabbits, which scattered in all directions when Max got close. He loves skittish animals.

Then he got to ride a pony, wearing a large helmet and with an adult holding on to him. There were several playgrounds that included trampoline-like setups that Max got to jump on. (As you know, jumping is one of Max's passions. I'm starting to look for a gymnastics program I can get him into at an early age—not because I have visions of him becoming a great athlete but because he enjoys it so much.)

According to Sven & Anna-Brita, Max was very cheerful and cooperative during the entire outing. A funny thing happened as they were preparing to drive home, though: A-B had trouble getting the belt on Max's carseat fastened. When she'd fiddled with it a bit, Max gave her a withering look that said, "Don't you know how to buckle that??" I knew exactly what A-B meant when she described Max's facial expression. He's looked at me that way on occasion, and it's really disrespectful, at times almost a sneer, but I can't take it personally when it's a one-year-old. A-B found it hilarious, too. It would sure be irritating to get that look from a twelve-year-old, though. (I don't know where he's getting that facial expression. I don't think any of us have looked at him like that.)

There are a couple of really nice playgrounds very close to Sven & Anna-Brita's house, and of course the water park Ugglebadet. Max and I were there twice. He liked jumping into the kiddie pool. I let him go under and then hauled him up. They also had a new, small, Little-Tykes-style slide into the kiddie pool. The steps were pretty slippery! At first we had to "spot" Max every time he went up, but he soon learned to be careful. He'd run up to the slide, pause and say "Akta!" (Careful!), and then slowly climb up, placing his feet carefully. Good job!

There is a deep diving pool there, which of course Max enjoyed watching but I didn't allow him to jump in. Sometimes when someone was bouncing on a diving board, Max would yell, "Akta!"

At the pool Max met a man in an electric wheelchair. Max inspected the wheelchair carefully, and they guy maneuvered it around for him a little. Using gestures and his limited vocabulary, Max asked the guy to drive the wheelchair into the pool. :-) Yeah, that would have been something to watch!

The highlight for me was the water slide. I went down it by myself a couple of times to test it, and then I took Max down on my lap or between my legs. Since I braked (by pressing my legs outwards) when we got near the bottom, I was able to land on my feet and keep his head above water every time. He loved it, and so did I! As soon as we got out, he'd usually point up the hill and rush me along. When he saw I was behind him, he took off up the steep hill to the top of the slide as fast as his little legs could carry him. Sometimes people pointed and laughed.

One two-person game that was invented during this trip goes like this: One player pretends to sleep, and the other pokes the sleeper, who pretends to wake up startled. Max can play this game endlessly.

A kind of cool thing happened one evening as I was putting Max to bed: He asked me to lie down in the bed next to the crib while he went to sleep, and I said that I didn't want to go to bed now, but that he could call me if he needed me. I said, "Max says, 'Mama!' And Mama says, 'Yes, Max!'" Max's facial expression indicated he was considering this, so I repeated it to make sure he understood. His face lit up with an appreciative smile and he hugged me. Then he went to sleep by himself with no further ado.

Speaking of sleep, Max went down pretty easy in Perstorp. He seemed to recognize the place and feel at home. He took good naps, but each night he woke up around 4 a.m. wanting a bottle, and since we were in a relatively unfamiliar place, it was difficult for him to fall back to sleep—which meant it was difficult for me, too. The latest he got up for good was 7:30. Once he didn't get back to sleep at all, so I kept him occupied downstairs until 6 a.m. and then handed him off to the grandparents. Ugh.

Another interesting thing happened when Max was picking A-B's potted flowers, which we'd repeatedly asked him not to do. When he persisted, three adults (including Anders) simultaneously said, "No!" Max's mouth curled down and his lip shot out and he nearly dissolved into tears—poor little guy! I rushed to reassure Max that we weren't angry and didn't mean to hurt his feelings—we were just trying to get him to stop picking the flowers. He composed himself and went back to playing and didn't pick any more flowers (for awhile). We think that Max reacted to Anders' "No", which sounded stern like Bengt's.

Max's speech is still evolving very quickly. He talks constantly, quieting only when he's tired. We don't understand much without gestures, since his words often don't sound much like the appropriate Swedish or English words. For example, Max at first called both Sven and Anna-Brita "Anna" (though we say Farfar and Farmor). Later in the week he started calling Sven "wa-wa" sometimes.

Twice when we were riding in the car, Max tried to tell me something and I couldn't understand. He tried again and again, increasing the volume (funny). The same thing happened to Anna-Brita. We just can't understand what he's talking about, which is frustrating for all of us. But frustration is his motivation to learn, so I guess it's fine for now.

Max is consistently picking out older Volvos (which all have the same boxy shape) and calling them either "Mama ba" (Mama's car, since I often drive a Volvo like that) or "Boh-boh ba" (Volvo car). He also says "anoda ba" (another car). Vehicles of all kinds are still a major focus of Max's attention. He sits transfixed while watching a home video showing all kinds of vehicles and machinery. Anders made it for him. What a considerate and attentive uncle!

During a visit to Perstorp a year ago, I bought some expensive but wonderful jeans that still fit great and have held up extremely well. When I mentioned to Anna-Brita that I'd like to go back to that store and see if they still have that brand of pants, she told me they were having a summer sale (as were other clothing stores). I rode her bike into town and had a very productive shopping trip. Everything I bought was very good quality and on sale—the perfect combination.

Bengt drove down to Perstorp on Friday. He said he enjoyed his first couple of days alone, but then he got a bit bored and restless, and he missed us, so he came down a day early. We'd talked on the phone almost every day, but I was glad to see him. Max seemed glad, but not surprised, to see him. Max was more interested in Bengt's car! We took that as reassurance that Max had been well cared for during the week.

I flew back on Saturday, and Bengt and Max will drive home this coming Friday, so I'll have almost a week to myself. It's like heaven! I got home yesterday afternoon and had a totally AWESOME evening. Bengt had cleaned the entire house before he left, and he left me a wonderful present: Two seasons of "Friends" on DVD. After unpacking and taking care of some household stuff, I ordered a pizza, poured myself a glass of wine, and watched almost a whole season. No interruptions. No need to be quiet because another family member was sleeping. No one else to consider when I took breaks or rewound the tape to watch some scenes again. Ahhhhhh!

Today I puttered a lot:

  • Went grocery shopping

  • Bought some heavy duty pruning shears and trimmed back the hedge that was nearly obscuring our mailbox. (The mailperson will be relieved.)

  • Got some navy blue dye and dyed a formerly beige sweater that had a hopeless stain

  • Answered some e-mail

  • Started clearing out the garage and sorting things for our garage sale next month

  • Scrubbed the livingroom wall where Max practiced his scribbling talents using a black crayon

  • Wrote all this down!

There's no lack of things to do this week, and I'll be putting in my six hours at ReadSoft most days. But I'm enjoying almost every minute of being on my own for a week. I can work at my own pace and be alone as much as I want. Hopefully by Friday night (when Bengt and Max get home), I'll have had my fill.

The only disadvantage is that my sunburned back is itchy, and there's no one here to scratch it for me!

July 20

Hi there, just a quickie because I'm preparing to leave. Max and I fly to Skåne tomorrow morning. We'll stay with Bengt's parents for a week, and then Bengt will relieve me and I'll fly home. I think it'll be a really nice visit, especially if the weather's nice. I'm taking our swimming gear!

Max's regular caregiver, Birgitta, was on vacation this week, so he stayed with Gudrun, his sub. He didn't complain at all. What a flexible little boy.

One evening Max was really tired. He was sitting in his highchair chewing a mouthful of food, and all of a sudden he totally lost it—started sobbing. Bengt and I couldn't figure out what was the matter, but he was hysterical so Bengt got Max out of the chair and held him against his shoulder. Max cried for awhile and then fell asleep. We put him straight to bed, even though it was rather early for bed. He slept for 12 hours straight. My theory is that Max just bit his tongue or something while chewing, and since he was tired it sent him over the edge. Poor little guy. It was nice to see him take comfort from Bengt, though. Often he insists on coming to me, if I'm around.

I didn't think Max could babble any more than he already was, but he yacks more each day. His speech is sounding more and more Swedish. He understands me perfectly, but what comes out of his mouth seems to be Swedish. I just repeat back to him whatever he says (or rather, what I think he's saying), but in English. Sometimes I say something like, "Yeah, you see a myra—that's Swedish for ant. The English word is ant. That's an ant." You don't think I'm overdoing it, do you?

Lately Max has enjoyed being chased. Bengt and I chase him up and down the hall, and he runs as fast as his little legs will carry him and screams with glee. At one end he throws himself on the couch in the TV room. We catch him and tickle him a little. At the other end he dives into his tent. It's a hoot. Once I hid in the laundry room and made a grab for him and a "monster" sound as he ran by. This scared him pretty badly. He screamed, hugged me, and then hit himself on the head with his fist a few times. I think the emotion was so intense that he didn't know how to handle it. I want to avoid doing that again.

Max is going through a fat stage. This afternoon he was running around with no pants or diaper on, and I noticed that from the back you can't tell where his butt ends and his thighs start. It's all one very firm dimpled cushion. :-)

Bengt tells me he put some new pictures on Max's website today.

Have a good weekend, everyone!

July 14

Max is on a TV kick. First thing in the morning and first thing when he gets home from daycare, he runs to the TV room and climbs up on the couch for a dose of Tigger or Baby Mozart/Bach/whatever. It's very hard to dissuade him, so lately Bengt and I have been just letting him watch. He really seems to enjoy it right now, and maybe it's just a phase or his way of sitting still for a little while. He goes running off to play voluntarily after an average of 20 minutes.

We usually watch with him, first of all because we point out things and "discuss" what we're watching, but also because it's fun to watch his face when he watches TV. But Bengt and I have been getting pretty darn tired of Tigger! We have some Sesame Street on tape, but Max doesn't enjoy that (yet). So this week I bought "Babe". At least it's something different. New movies for toddlers *on DVD* would make good Christmas presents for Max... (We like DVD because you can jump into the movie at any point without rewinding and searching.)

On a possibly related subject, Max is talking and making himself understood more and more. He works at pronouncing words more clearly, and will patiently say them over and over if we don't understand at first what he's saying. He has great pronunciation on some words, like "orse" for "horse" (that's one of my favorites). For other things he has his own unique pronunciation or has made up his own word. For example, he says "eee" for "outside", "dawh" for "truck", "beess" for "bus", "appa" (which is similar to the Swedish word) for "drop", "me" (which is similar to the Swedish word) for "ant", and so on. He still has real baby pronunciation for words that he's known for a long time, like "ba-ba" for "bottle" and "owa" for "Maja". At least he's being consistent, so it's becoming easier for those of us who know him well to understand him. The other evening he figured out how to say "ts" and went around making that sound over and over. Cute.

His little buddy Lina is even more verbal. She says all kinds of things, including prepositions like "on", "beside", and "under" (except in Swedish, of course). I didn't know such little kids could understand prepositions—just nouns and verbs. That's as far as Max has gotten, in any case.

Max is still very interested in bees and other insects. He will stand and watch bees on a bush for several minutes, and he knows not to touch them. I show him what happens when we touch bees—I jump back, shout "Ow!", shake my hand in the air, and then fake crying. Max knows perfectly well what I'm getting at (although I think he believes bees are hot and that's why we can't touch them), and he enjoys the show.

We had some unusually hot weather in Stockholm. It reached well over 80 degrees every day for about a week, and then for a couple of days it was close to 90. There were very few clouds and no rain. Few places have air conditioning here, since we don't usually get such temperatures. We do have A/C at our ReadSoft office, but either they don't turn it up enough or it's just not powerful enough to combat this heat, so it was around 78 inside—but I wasn't complaining! I bought a little fan for my office and was quite comfortable. We had fans going at home all the time, but it was pretty hot.

I felt sorry for the people who had to ride the subway at rush hour. Those trains are packed during rush hour, and the newer ones have no a/c and you can't open the windows. They were like ovens. (Imagine buying new subway trains with windows that don't open but no a/c. Doh!) I especially felt sorry for the drivers of those trains. I can't imagine having to work in that heat. They had to use the old trains (the ones you can open the windows in) on some lines that got really bad.

Heat doesn't seem to bother Max, and he was just as active during the hot days, though he slept one to two extra hours every night.

Now it has finally cooled off, although it's still pretty nice. We spend a lot of time outside! I can't believe summer's half over already.

Oh, I almost forgot: Bengt took Max to Toys R Us the other day, just for something to do. They came home with two child-sized nylon tents connected by a tunnel! I couldn't believe it. They are similar to the one shown here, though there's an additional tent at the other end of the tunnel.

The tents and tunnel take up so much space when they're set up—which is hard to believe when you see the little package they came in. The storage case is just a round, flat nylon bag about two feet in diameter. The tents and tunnel are made of nylon on "memory wire" that pops up into its intended shape when you take it out of the bag. The instructions warn, "NEVER let small children unfold or fold this product without adult supervision, as it can open with some force." And they weren't kidding. Bengt went into the other room to get it set up, and I heard this "Thwak!" sound from the tent and then "Woa!!" from Bengt. I walked in there and it was all set up! Too bad Ikea can't use some similar principle to make their furniture easier to assemble! ;-)

And yes, Max does enjoy his new fort. In fact, he tries to sleep in it, but it's so exciting that he can't get to sleep.

July 5

Well, the Fourth of July passed uneventfully here. I don't think I remembered it a single time yesterday. I hope you all had a good time, though. Did you do anything special?

I think I'm having one of the best summers of my life. It's very warm here, and skies are clear. Bengt leaves for work very early, and later Max and I get up and hang out for awhile. We eat breakfast, drink coffee (Max gets milk with a little coffee in it, if he wants), get dressed, play or do a little housework or whatever. Whenever we're ready, it's off to see Birgitta. It's so wonderful that Max literally never complains about going, and it's also wonderful that I don't necessarily have to be at work at a specific time, so we never need to rush. This morning Max and I slept in until 8:30 (!) and I didn't get to work until 10:30. No problem! (Most days I get in early.)

When I come home at 5:30, it's still warm and sunny. There's still plenty of time for Bengt and me to play with Max before his 8 p.m. bedtime. And it's been a long time since Max has complained about bedtime, too. Ahhh, it's a good life!

The other day Max was acting up at the dinner table. First he was banging too loud on his plate, and then he started throwing his silverware and sippy cup. He didn't listen when we asked him not to do that. Finally Bengt said "Max! No!" Max paused, and then his lip jutted out and quivered. He almost started crying. He held out his hand toward Pappa and looked real sorry. Wow! Bengt made it clear that the apology was accepted, and the meal proceeded calmly. I think that's the first time I ever saw Max offer an apology.

June 28—Max 18 months old

Our little Max will be 1 1/2 years old on Saturday. It's such a great age for him.

Bengt took him to the clinic for his 18-month checkup yesterday. Among other things, the midwife Birgitta checked his height (87 cm or 34 1/4") and weight (14.115 kg or 31 lbs. 2 oz.). Max has regained the dip in weight he had at his 15-month checkup because of all the illness he had when he first started daycare. Now he's back to his spot at about the 85th percentile (in both height and weight) on the curve. He's grown out of many of the clothes we have for him that are supposed to fit at 24 months.

Max also got a vaccination for measles, mumps and rubella. He cried out when he felt the prick but didn't cry.

Birgitta also checked some developmental things. For instance, Max pointed out body parts when asked in English and used a crayon to scribble on paper. Bengt pointed out that Max has achieved the developmental milestone of scribbling on the walls! (He drew black lines on the livingroom wall while under Bengt's care...)

As Bengt and Max were leaving, Birgitta commented that Max must be easy to take care of. Yep, I'd say he's pretty easy compared to some other kids his age around here!

Max has gotten over his fear of bees and now goes quite close but doesn't touch. He still likes to talk about them, though. He also talks a lot about owls. This started a few weeks ago when we heard an owl (at least it sounded like an owl to me) in the woods one evening. We've heard it a few times since, and Max goes around making the "hoo-hoo" sound and saying "owl" (though you wouldn't recognize the word if you didn't already know what he meant).

You know that Max sleeps with this white bunny from Ikea. Well, I got a brown bunny down from his shelf the other day, and Max fell in love with it at once. After playing with it for awhile, he talked about bedtime and I knew he wanted to sleep with that bunny. When he was finished playing with it, he dropped it into his crib, and he's been sleeping with it (as well as Classic Bunny) ever since. It's a really nice bunny that I think he got from Grandpa and Grandma (Marlin and Bobbie).

Let's see, what else? Oh yes, Max can now go down the big slide on his Little Tykes gym by himself. He kept wanting to hold our hands, and I'm all for that if he feels unsure, but Bengt encourages him to push himself in such things, and sure enough, he did it by himself. It's a really fast slide, and Max can't handle the landing like a big kid. He either lands on his bottom or tries to put his feet down but pitches forward onto his tummy. But Max just thinks that's fun, because we've got a bouncy air mattress at the bottom. Bengt said Max was really charged up when he discovered he could go down by himself.

Here's another tidbit about Max: When he wants to do something and I won't let him, he rarely gets mad if it's because I'm protecting him. I actually think he understands that. He can get very angry, though, if it's something he normally can do but it doesn't suit me just then. Like if we're late for daycare and I stick him in the stroller rather than letting him walk, or if he wants to go for a walk in the woods but it's past time to go in for dinner. He screams and cries, and you think he's going to throw a tantrum, but then he gets over it completely almost immediately. I don't know whether he gets over it because he realizes that "resistance is futile," or he doesn't hold a grudge, or he's the sort of person to just accept what he can't change and enjoy it the best he can. Well, I'm pleased about it either way!

June 24—We had a fabulous weekend!

Hi there! We had such a fun weekend—the best one in ages (except when we were in Cozumel).

Friday was Midsummer's Eve. We celebrated with the typical potatoes and pickled herring, and Max ate some! I couldn't believe he ate that slimy fish. I thought it was an acquired taste. Bengt and I were also celebrating our fourth anniversary. It was a lovely dinner.

Yesterday we picked up that Little Tykes jungle gym that I mentioned before. We bought it used from a family who's moving back to the States. Here's a picture of it from Little Tykes' website. Pretty neat, huh? The description on the website says:

This extra-large gym in dazzling tropical colors provides unlimited hours of climbing, sliding and crawling fun. There are four different play levels, a large play area underneath and a sturdy, crawl-through tunnel. Two slides are included: one 3-foot and an extra-long, wavy 6-foot slide.

Picking it up was a little more complicated than I had anticipated. Good thing we rented a small trailer, because we weren't able to dismantle it! I mean, we got some of the pieces off, but basically we had to transport this huge multi-colored object in one piece on the trailer because some bolts were rusted into the nuts and we couldn't get them out.

We brought it home and unloaded it in the front yard. I scrubbed the thing off while Max played and Bengt returned the trailer. We had the hose out, and we discovered that if we put the large slide on the downward slope of our lawn and squirted it with water, a naked Max would ZIP down that thing at lightening speed and be deposited with a gleeful scream on the grass. It was really a little too fast for him now, but next summer when he's a little older, I'm going to take that slide back down to the front yard (it's easy to dismantle from the gym), put a shower curtain or something at the end of it, and it will will be a helluva water slide for Max and his friends!

Well, to get back to the story: Bengt and I were worried about how to get this gigantic and surprisingly heavy thing up the slope to our back yard, but then Bengt came up with the idea of using a rope. I pulled from the top while Bengt pushed and lifted from the slope, and in just a few minutes we had it up on the flat area on the south side of our house.

Getting the pieces back on it took a little time (and trial and error), but it worked out, and Max just loves it! He won't go down the large slide without holding on to an adult's hands (fortunately—although we did put a double air mattress at the bottom in case he got it into his head to try), but he loves climbing on the rest of it and going down the small slide by himself. It's a gas to watch him!

Max's darling friend Lina came over today, with her mother Birgitta. The two kids played in the pool on the patio. They really did play together, with amazing cooperation for a couple of one-year-olds. I've never seen such small children play together that way. Birgitta and I were so pleased. They also played on the gym, and Lina loved the slide, too.

Max was such a happy camper all weekend. He was such an incredible delight to us, with all his talking and laughing and running around. Bengt and I laughed out loud many times. (And you know Bengt doesn't laugh at just anything.) I'm really sorry to see this weekend come to an end. But I hope we'll have more weekends like that this summer. And the days are still so long that we can probably squeeze in a couple of hours of thrills on warm weekday evenings, as well. If we're not too tired from working.

Max is still talking about bees. He keeps wanting to hear the story of how I chased the bee out of his room. He tells me that he sees a bee and wants to be reassured that "That's not a bee." Fortunately, he doesn't seem seriously worried.

June 22

This morning a bee flew into Max's room through an open window. I opened the window and shooed the bee out, to Max's extreme fascination. He talked about it for the next hour. "A bee? A bee?"

Later we were outside on one of our long explorations, and Max was examining a flowering bush. Suddenly he spotted a bee. He shrieked and ran over to me! My guess is that he's learned at daycare to be afraid of bees. Too bad. I keep telling him that bees don't hurt us if we don't touch them.

Max's most recent breakthrough is that he's learned to blow. He can blow a little horn and use those party gadgets that pop out when you blow into them. I'm unreasonably proud of him, and Max is clearly pleased with this new talent, as well.

Max's most recent interest is getting a little pile of something and then transferring it to various containers and places, and then back again. For some reason this holds great fascination. Yesterday it was drill bits that he found in a box. Pick out each drill bit from the box and put it on the floor. Pick up each drill bit from the floor and put it back in the box. Then back on the floor. Then back in the box, countless times. Then a variation: Place each drill bit in Mama's hand. Then transfer each one back to the box. About twenty times. Then yet another variation: Sit on the other side of the box and repeat each action five bazillion times. I don't want to see another drill bit for at least a year.

This morning it was the six stones he picked up outside, that he likes to play with in the house. Put them into a cup and the spread them out on Mom and Dad's bed. Gather them up and put them back into the cup. Then back in the bed, hiding them under pillows and so on. Then back in the cup. Let's try dumping them in the clothes hamper! Not good, Mama has to help me get them out. How about dumping them into Mama's full coffee cup? Hmmm, that's strange, Mama didn't like that. How about if I dump them on my head? Ouch, that's no good. Now I'll put them in Pappa's slipper. That's a good place to leave them. :-)

You've seen the newest pictures, right?

Have a good weekend!

June 16, 2001

My dad just left after stopping off for a short visit on his way to Russia. We all had a good time, thanks partly to the weather, which was just perfect. We were able to be outside as much as we wanted.

Max clearly remembered Marlin, and called him Boo-pa. That was pretty neat. They spent about five hours outside exploring the neighborhood one day (in two shifts), so I got a lot done around the house and even got to relax a bit. Another day they also spent several hours outside, and then we set up our inflatable pool on the front patio. Max absolutely had a blast playing in that and using the spray nozzle on the hose, and we had a riot watching him. I think the funniest was when Max would sit in the pool with a big container and dump water over himself, sputtering and laughing. We got some great pictures of that (among other things). I can hardly wait for Bengt to get them on the website for you.

One nice side effect of playing in the pool is that it tires Max out and he sleeps like a log.

Today we went to little Ella's first birthday party. Ella is the daughter of our friends Liz and Bengt. The party started at noon, which is normally Max's naptime, so I was a little worried about how that would go. But I stuck Max in the car seat, gave him his bunny, and told him it was naptime. He put his head back and fell asleep within minutes. When we arrived, he slept for another half hour in the car while I read a book. He woke up in a good mood and after he got his bearings, we went over to the party.

The party was outdoors and there were lots of nice adults and kids there, as well as plenty of toys and good things to eat and drink. All the adults helped take care of all the children, so I didn't have to watch Max every minute. We both had fun and I didn't want to leave! But when it was time, Max waved and said bye-bye, and got into the car without complaint.

In the car on the way home, Max was tired, but he didn't sleep. He just "talked" with me the whole way home. He also held my hand for awhile, which lately he has liked to do when we're in the car.

I've bought three pairs of sandals for Max and had to return each of them. Other kids have these dainty little feet, but Max has such stubby, boxy feet that it's impossible to cram the front of his foot into sandals that are supposedly his size. If I buy them big enough for the front of his foot, the sole of the shoe is way too big. Since I'm not willing to spend $30 on a pair of sandals that have adjustable straps in the front and middle, and that he'll only wear for a couple of months anyway, he may have to wear his sneakers all summer. His feet get hot and sweaty, but he hasn't complained...

June 11

When Max and I were outside yesterday, it got too warm for his sweatshirt so I went and got him a T-shirt. But when we took the sweatshirt off, Max didn't want to put the T-shirt on. I let him run around for awhile with no shirt. He was very conscious of the feel of the warm breeze on his chest and back. I picked a dandelion and stroked it across his chest so he could feel how soft it was. So Max started gathering things and checking how they felt on his chest, like long blades of grass, twigs, even gravel. It was fun watching him enjoy being bare-chested.

Lately Max has stopped wanting hugs for comfort when he hurts himself. Or he wants just a brief hug and then he recovers by himself. I don't know what's behind this change, but I wonder if it has something to do with how he is comforted (or has learned to comfort himself for small boo-boos) at daycare. One thing all the daycare workers here do is blow on a boo-boo. I suppose it's the equivalent of "kissing it and making it better", without spreading so many germs. All the kids want their boo-boos blown on, including Max recently.

Max talks almost constantly now. Everything he sees and does is narrated. We still can't understand much, but some words are becoming more distinct. For example, he was practicing turning the fan in his room off and on, and I taught him "low, medium, high, and off". He said "low" and "high" almost perfectly. "Medium" was "um-um", and he didn't attempt "off". The other day we were eating strawberries, and Max said that word so well that Bengt and I recognized it. (But if it had been out of context, we wouldn't have.)

Tomorrow Max's grandpa arrives. I'm sure those two will have fun together—one little kid and one great big kid.

June 8

Hi there! Max had an exciting week because two of our neighbors were putting in a new drainage system around their house (like we did two years ago) and they had ... EXCAVATORS!! Max loved to watch them work. We got to know the neighbors a lot better, too. :-)

But now they're finished digging, and the excavators have disappeared, which is very disappointing to poor Max. I think he's asked me at least twenty times about those excavators. He understood what I said—that they were all gone—but he had to keep checking for himself, just to be sure.

When I was in Chicago, I bought Max a Bumble Ball, one like Ben had when he was little and I thought was super neat. I was so excited to give Max this Bumble Ball, but he's terrified of it. He refuses to get anywhere near it. We put it away for a couple of weeks, and when we got it out again, Max picked it up to bring to Bengt to take away, and he accidentally hit the "on" button. The thing started dancing, and in Bengt's words (and he's not one to exaggerate), "Max freaked out." He started screaming. I guess we'll try again around Christmas...

Speaking of Chicago, I forgot to mention that the first time I got my travel lipstick out of my makeup case and took off the cap, the tip of the lipstick was bitten off and there were little teeth marks on it! Obviously at some point Max got his hands on it... Nothing is safe from him.

I'm becoming known in the neighborhood as "Max's Mama". Lots of little kids call me that, even when I run into them without Max along. I kinda like it.

May 31

I can't believe tomorrow is Friday again already. The weeks just whiz by!

Here's a funny thing that Max did the other day: He took the bookmark out of the book I'm reading, closed the book, and handed me the bookmark. Bengt narrated, "Here Mama! Here's your bookmark!" Oh, thanks. (Sigh.)

To me, it seems like Max is getting cuter by the day. Right now he's going through a very self-confident stage. He doesn't seem to be afraid of anything (which doesn't mean he's not cautious when trying new things). He smiles and laughs a lot, and he's constantly expressing his preferences. And boy does he have preferences! The other day he absolutely refused to get dressed in the morning. He tore off his diaper and ran around the house naked for an hour. He only got dressed when I made it clear that we weren't going outside with no clothes on—and he wanted to go outside.

Speaking of clothes, Max has certain preferences, and twice this week he insisted on putting other clothes on after I'd dressed him. One time was pajamas. Who cares about pajamas? Max does!

And speaking of pajamas, I bought Max a nice, soft pair of used pajamas, but the snaps kept popping open. They were pulled into a point, I guess, from a lot of use. But I discovered that one good thwack with a hammer made them as good as new. It flattens the part of the snap that sticks up so that it sticks better. Isn't that a good tip?

Recently we've been taking long exploratory hikes, Max and I. We usually end up down by the lake, and after an hour or two when I finally decide it's time to head for home, Max wants to be carried home. WOA! There's a very steep hill and it's a huge effort to carry him home!

Well, I thought it was because he was worn out after all his running around, and it was my fault for keeping him out so long, so I've been carrying him home. But yesterday I decided we were staying up here in our neighborhood, and when Max took off downhill, I tried to get him to turn back. We were in the woods, so it shouldn't have mattered which direction we walked in. That's when I discovered that Max has a clear preference for running downhill. He absolutely refused to walk uphill, and he didn't budge even when I tried waiting him out. He wasn't worn out those other times—he just wanted to be carried uphill! TWERP! He's got way more energy than I do.

Today it was such a pleasure (as it often is) to drop Max off at daycare. The other kids were already playing in the yard, and when we arrived they called out, "Max is here! Max is here!" and gathered around. He immediately ran off with some of them to play. It's heartwarming. We're soooo lucky with our daycare situation. I don't feel guilty at all about going off to work.

Max and I have colds again. So what else is new.

May 27—We're in rare form

Howdy folks. Right now we're enjoying both beautiful weather and perfect health. None of us even has the sniffles. Knock on wood!

Birgitta, Max's caregiver, was off this week, so he stayed with Gudrun, another caregiver in the group Monday through Wednesday. (Thursday was a holiday, and Friday Gudrun was off as well, so Bengt stayed home with Max.) That went very smoothly. On the way to her house, we would talk about the fact that we were not on our way to see Birgitta. Max understood—he shook his head and said something that sounded like "No Birgitta." So he wasn't surprised or upset when I left him with Gudrun.

I was a little worried about naptime, but that went fine, too. The first day, he protested for about two minutes before falling asleep. The second day, he simply snuggled down to sleep with Bunny like he does at home. (The third day, we were at home for Max's nap—see explanation below.) Gudrun apparently taught him to leave Bunny in the crib, because now Max tosses Bunny back in after every sleep instead of carrying him around the house.

The other day Max and I took a long walk around the neighborhood, and we met a nice woman with a son of her own. We were invited into her yard, and Max played around and climbed on their stairs. Their yard was like an obstacle course because they're in the process of building a garage. This woman was shocked at how I let Max climb around where he could potentially fall. She kept having heart attacks whenever he got anywhere near the edge of a small embankment or climbed up a couple of steps. She would lurch for Max involuntarily, and then stop herself and cover her eyes or clutch her heart.

The woman's reactions really made me think about how far I let Max go and what I allow him to do. I have to consider adjusting my approach when someone reacts so strongly. But after thinking about it and discussing it with Bengt, I think our approach is working for the three of us. We let Max run or climb most places where falling down couldn't really injure him. I mean, we'd let him get a small scrape or bruise, but nothing more. If we don't think he can handle it, we warn him but let him try anyway. How else is he going to learn what he's capable of and push his limits? Often times you can see him really taking stock of a situation and assessing the risk of whatever he wants to do. Then he either gives it a shot or holds out his hands for support. And he's usually right—he rarely falls.

Of course, if one little slip could have dire consequences, I don't take a risk. For instance, he's not allowed to run around on top of the big kids' jungle gym. If he tripped, he could go flying off the thing.

But I have to admit that I made a mistake on Wednesday. I used to let Max sit on the changing table and watch me put on my makeup or brush my teeth, if he wanted to. I trusted him not to try to get down from that height. But on Wednesday he very suddenly dove off the table, head first. It was a freak thing—he wasn't in exploration mode but in a familiar environment, and he just didn't think. It was wrong of me to expect that he could stay aware of the height he was at.

At any rate, his forehead and nose hit the floor first, and Max immediately started screaming, first from pain, then mostly from fear and surprise. His nose bled just a little. I held him in my arms for a long time, till he calmed down. We were supposed to go to Gudrun's, but he didn't want to get out of my lap, so we just sat and read books and talked. Then he slept for a couple of hours. When he woke up, he was completely normal. Didn't even have a bump on his head.

Of course I felt horrible. I'm just glad we got off so easy—no real injury, and just a morning of work missed. Bengt wasn't even mad at me. (I think I'd have been furious with him if he'd let Max get hurt.)

This afternoon was sunny and warm, so I took Max over to the campground and public beach that's about two miles away. We roamed the mini-golf course, had a picnic, then ran down to the lake. I took off Max's pants and diaper and let him wade. At first he went a little too deep (in spite of my warnings) and stumbled to his hands and knees. The water was very cold, which he didn't like, so after that I sure didn't have to worry about him going deep. Letting him take an involuntary quick dip was a lot more effective than other methods of keeping him in shallow water. Plus, the look on Max's face when he was suddenly up to his armpits in icy water was priceless! Ha ha!

Max babbled about our day at the campground all the way home. I could tell what he was talking about because he "talked with his hands"—making motions to show what he'd done. For instance, I showed him how to swish his hands in the water to get the sand off, and he did the same motion while talking in the car. I love it when he talks to me, even though I can barely understand.

We had my colleague Birgitta and her little girl Lina over for coffee yesterday. We just let the kids run around in the yard and play with outdoor toys. Max wasn't very good at sharing, but the kids were adorable—hugging each other, trying on each others' shoes, chasing the cat, etc. I got about 8 minutes of really great video.

I can't believe the weekend is over already. Waaah! Not that I mind going to work, but there's still so much to do here at home. We're never going to get this place in shape.

May 21—You are now entering ... the motor vehicle zone

It’s been awhile since I wrote. I went to Chicago for five days to attend the annual conference of the Society for Technical Communication. It was a great conference. I met a lot of nice tech writers and learned a lot at the technical sessions. Among other good speakers I heard was Richard Lederer (whom you might now from NPR's "All Things Considered").

For the first time in my life, I didn't mind the long flight one bit. In fact, it felt like absolute luxury to sit relatively undisturbed, reading and watching movies and chatting with passengers in neighboring seats. It was like a day off! No toddler to worry about or entertain or hold in my lap for hours on end. As an added bonus, American Airlines now offers noticeably more leg room than they used to.

Sven & Anna-Brita stayed here with Bengt and Max while I was away. That was good of them, and they all seem to have enjoyed it very much. Max still attended daycare, but it was nice for him that there were several adults around mornings and evenings. One thing that Anna-Brita thought was funny and charming was when Max wanted to walk all the way to daycare, holding on to the stroller. When she asked if he wouldn't rather ride, he simply said, "No" without breaking his quick stride.

Even though I was away for less than a week, I noticed changes in Max when I got back. He was markedly more articulate and looked a little older. He's also no longer afraid of the vacuum cleaner, which is still a favorite "toy".

The first thing Max did when I got home was have a fit because we came in the house. (He'd been outside with Sven, waiting for me, but it started raining, so we came in.) I guess it's pretty common for kids to have tantrums right after being reunited with a parent, 'cause they've been saving up their emotions.

But then he went around babbling happily with "mama! mama!" interspersed everywhere. When he went to bed I could hear him talking to Bedtime Bunny about me. He wanted to be with me more than usual the whole weekend, but he wasn't clingy.

Late this afternoon Max and I were out scouting the neighborhood for interesting happenings, when we chanced upon a man vacuuming out his cars. Double bonus – vacuum cleaner and cars, Max’s absolute favorites! Max waved a greeting to the man and then plopped down on the ground to enjoy the show.

Max is now to the point where he can often state what he wants, instead of just whining and (if what he wants is near) pointing. And even if he can’t tell you what he wants, you can ask him if he wants specific things and he’ll say "no" (and mean it) until you hit on what he wants. Yesterday he even nodded (yes) for the first time. What a relief (for both of us) to be able to communicate this way.

There are few words that Max pronounces correctly, but I suppose that’s normal, especially since he’s hearing two or more alternatives for everything. He has made up his own words for many things. These always have the right number of syllables but often don’t sound anything like the actual word. For example, “lo” means book and “dee” means stairs.

He has a special sound that means “here, take this” and another that means “headlights”. “Ata” means “pasta” (which at least is closer to the correct pronunciation). He has gone with “Dada” instead of Pappa, even though we never say Dad or Daddy. He knows his own name (“MA!” - always spoken with emphasis). When I encourage him to pronounce the "x" sound in Max or excavator, he says “MA - ts” or “eh - ts - dadada".
Speaking of excavators, Max is still heavily into his book of trucks. He often fetches this book (more often than other books) and climbs up to my lap to review his repertoire of vehicles. He has gotten pretty good at identifying them. For example, he can find the page with the excavators and point out a van and a pickup truck.

Now he's getting down to the parts, pointing out wheels, headlights and windshields. When we're out on walks, he wants to know what every visible part of a car is called. I don't even know what every part is called! Nor do I care. But I guess I'd better start caring...

Max loves to put on his shoes, and he also likes to wear others’ shoes. He knows which family member all of our shoes belong to. If I tell him he needs to wear boots instead of shoes (for puddle-stomping, a favorite outdoor activity), he goes and gets them.

This evening Max noticed that he has boogers, and he offered to share them. He picked them out of his nose and tried to put them in Bengt's! Lovely.

More soon, I hope. Right now I need some sleep.

May 5, 2001—No, I'm NOT pregnant!

Several people suggested that I take a pregnancy test when they read my last entry! But I'm sure I'm not pregnant. Dream on, it ain't gonna happen.

Anyway, I'm feeling better today. Still a little nauseous sometimes, and I still feel the sting in my throat, but today I have much more energy. Could it be a kick from the big bag of M&Ms that Bengt brought home from Tallin for me? Quite possible!

This morning Bengt and I were discussing what to do about our stairway. Max likes to go up and down constantly, and there's nothing for him to hold on to. He's actually quite capable of handling the stairs without a railing, but Birgitta (I assume it was her) has taught him to always hold on, so now he insists on it, and I guess that's not a bad idea...

So first we were thinking of just installing some large hooks and threading a smooth rope taunt through them. (Actually, the first solution Bengt proposed sounded nicer, but it was also more complicated and I was doubtful that the project would be completed before Max's fifth birthday.) So I went to the hardware store to see what was available in the way of hooks and rope, and I realized that Swedish curtain rods would look better and be pretty easy to install. The most common curtain rods are basically just strong pine dowels (our staircase is pine), and there is matching hardware to attach them and support them in the middle in case the curtains are particularly heavy. You can get end knobs so you don't see the blunt ends of the dowel. Sounds a lot like a kid-sized railing to me!

Or does someone else have a better idea?

This afternoon my whole little family was outside in the beautiful weather. Bengt parked his car across the bottom of the driveway so Max couldn't dart into the street. Max was in a good mood and managed to entertain himself in the yard for awhile (mostly pushing his strollers and a walker up and down the driveway). Bengt cleaned out the gutters and spruced up one of our balconies, while I straightened up the garage and started sorting through stuff for our mid-June garage sale. I don't want to start too late with that and get overwhelmed.

Otherwise, nothing new... Take care!




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