What's New at the Pålssons'


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

May 30, 2002—Presents!

When I came home from work the other day, Max asked me if I had a present for him. I told him yes and pulled new pajamas out of a bag. One look at them and Max's lower lip drooped. I said, "What's the matter, don't you want new pajamas?" He shook his head, looking a little ashamed. He wanted a truck!

Then we got a big delivery from Ikea this morning. A huge truck pulled up and two guys came up the driveway with a pallet piled high with boxes. Max got very excited and cried, "Presents! Presents for Max!" Ohhhhhh! That made me want to buy the entire contents of the nearest Toys "R" Us store. Sometimes (I said sometimes) it's so sweet when they think the world revolves around them.

One of the Ikea delivery guys was talking on his mobile phone when he got here. I heard him say, "I'm over on Vaxmoravägen now.... Yeah, it's beautiful over here!" He was clearly admiring our house and/or yard. Made my day.

Yesterday after work I went and picked up Lina so that she and Max could play. I did it for Max and Lina, but also for Birgitta, who was sick. I was a little nervous that Lina would hesitate to get in the car with me, but she was very excited and came right along. She got a kick out of riding in Max's car seat in our front seat. She and Max played nicely all evening and Lina didn't seem uneasy at any time. When it got close to the end of our evening, she said she didn't want to go home, and Max said he didn't want her to go home. When Birgitta picked Lina up, she resisted and cried! I felt sorry for her but was gratified that she enjoyed herself so much and that it went so well.

Max peed in the potty again this evening. Only for the second time ever but hey, it's still progress.

May 26

I have to brag about Max's social skills. He and I got together with most of the moms & kids from our old mom's group today. We went to Bögs Gård again (the farm that's open to the public), and it was neat to see them all. Max was so friendly to all the kids. He can be nice and generous even when other kids are negative or irritated. That makes me feel so proud (wish I were more like that!). At one point Max and Lina were examining a neat-looking tricycle that a three- or four-year-old had left unattended. Then the kid discovered them and came running over, yelling, "No! Stop that! That's mine! No!"

Max stopped touching the bike but didn't respond to the yelling, just said "Hi!" to the boy. The boy didn't say hi back, but he didn't yell anymore, either. So Max pointed to the trike and said something about it (I couldn't hear). The boy replied grudgingly, and then Max said something obviously admiring about the trike and they had some kind of toddler conversation. I couldn't hear what they said, but I could see the boy relax, and Max kept his distance from the trike, and after a minute the other boy went back to the picnic table where he was sitting with his family.

I was so proud of Max, and I told him so the next time he came over to me. Not only did he not come running to me when the big boy yelled at him (in fact, he didn't even appear to feel alarmed or sad), but he managed to make friendly contact with that boy. I couldn't believe my eyes.

We spent four hours over there today. The weather started out cloudy, but it turned really nice while we were there. Max ate two hot dogs, drank two boxes of juice, and had an ice cream—and he'd had pasta before we went! Good grief, that kid can eat. (Now you know what's behind the thunder thighs in the picture of Max below! He's built like a wrestler.)

I also spent several hours doing yardwork today. And I had a short nap (a rarity for me)...

Last night we had friends over, and we didn't get to bed until after 1 a.m. We had let Max skip his nap (which he sometimes does) so that he'd go to sleep easily and earlier in the evening. But at 5 p.m. Max fell asleep at dinner, and we weren't able to rouse him after that. So he slept from 5 p.m. until 4:45 a.m.—ugh! Bengt was up with him until 6 a.m. and then I took over while Bengt slept some more. So that was kind of rough. On the other hand, we had an entire adult evening with our friends without hiring a sitter! It was worth it. (Though I don't know if I'd say the same if I'd taken the 4:45 - 6 a.m. shift.)

This weekend flew by way too fast. Back to work tomorrow morning! Have a good week, everyone!

May 22—Now with pictures

It's been awhile since I last updated this! We've been busy. (So what else is new?) The biggest thing that's happened since last time is my mom's visit May 10-20. I took the week off work. We had a nice time and the weather was gorgeous (unless direct sunlight happens to hurt your eyes, which unfortunately it does Bobbie's). Max was sick for three days of her visit, and Bobbie wasn't in top health, either, but we did things together like go to Millesgården, discuss decorating ideas, hang out at a local playground, and watch Star Trek episodes!

On Sunday Max and Bobbie and I went to Bögs gård, where they have animals and good walking paths and a nice café. That day they happened to have Iceland pony rides for kids, so Max got to ride! We just walked the horse around the field with Max riding, but of course he loved that.

Another thing that happened there was that when we left our stroller unattended for a little while, the resident cat climbed into the basket and fell asleep! That was so cute. Not only that—we were charmed when the cat stayed calmly in the basket while Max pushed it down to the café.

I wrote last time about Max having sleeping problems. Well, it became apparent that these were partly because of some type of sinus problem. He kept waking up once or twice each night, screaming with pain that receded when he sat up but flared up every time he reclined and tried to get back to sleep. We had to keep him upright and feed him warm liquids until his sinuses (apparently) drained.

We took Max to the doctor, and they did a nose swab and found pneumococcus, which is often carried in children without causing problems (they said), but since he had symptoms, he got antibiotics. The antibiotics cured the persistent cough he'd had but didn't solve the sinus trouble. So I took him back yesterday. Max wouldn't let the doctor anywhere near his nose (and we didn't force him), but the doctor said she could tell by his nasal voice that he had some sort of problem, like maybe nasal polyps, and she referred us to an eye, nose & throat specialist. Now we have to wait for the specialist to inform us by letter when we can get in.

In the meantime, the doctor recommended nose spray and tilting Max's bed. I was skeptical that such simple remedies could have a significant effect, but they did! At least last night. It was my turn to sleep in Max's room, and for the first time for as long as I can remember, Max didn't snore! I was amazed. Once I even got up to check whether he was still breathing—that's how quiet he breathed. He slept through the night, too. The only complaint he had was that by morning he'd slid down to the foot of his crib, and he said he didn't like the tilt. So tonight we try a smaller angle.

The doctor said that if we could solve the problem using nose spray and tilting the bed, then we could cancel the appointment with the specialist when we get it. But Max can't use nose spray indefinitely, right? Or do we just use it for a few more weeks or months and then check to see if he can do without it? Hmm.

Max's explosion of language and comprehension continues. He tells us everything he's thinking about, using a lot more words and complete sentences. If he is trying unsuccessfully to do something, he'll sit back and listen to instructions, watching how I do something, then try it himself with every expectation of succeeding. (Explaining things to a good listener is rewarding!)

One thing he's told me a couple of times is that he once ate a worm! I can't get it out of him where he did this or who was with him, but he definitely insists he ate a worm and it didn't taste yucky! On the other hand, he also insisted once that he ate his worm with pasta sauce, so I'm not sure how much credence to give his story....

And he tells us when he feels like throwing up, which is practical. We can stop the nausea-inducing activity (like swinging or riding in the car) or at least catch the barf in an appropriate container.

Max can get very angry and frustrated, and he sure lets us know! The other night I refused to give him more välling than the full bottle he'd already had, and he started yelling at me: Max angry! Max wants välling NOW! RIGHT NOW! Mamma! Go get välling! Now! Max very angry! ARGH!!! It's so funny that at times like this it's almost impossible to deal seriously with his anger and not crack up. Even Bengt gets a kick out of it.

Once we were discussing anger and I asked Max what kinds of things make him feel angry. Immediately he said, Dumma saker! which basically translates as "mean things". It's apparent to me that some Swedish person (probably Birgitta) had already discussed the topic with him.

Another little tidbit is that Max now climbs stairs one foot after the other like a big boy. There is an outdoor stairway that's particularly tricky, and I had the pleasure of watching Max practice on that one day recently. If he missed a step and his foot landed on the grass, he would back up a few steps and try that bit again. I think that's a really good strategy—it reminds me of when I practice a piece of music on the flute or piano. If I make a mistake, I back up a few bars and go over the tricky part again and again. I was pleased to see Max using that strategy at such a young age. It will serve him well all through life. (Bobbie says his backing up and trying again reminds her of me when I was little—determined to master something.)

Our next big event is the Nichols family visit in a couple of weeks. I'm really excited, and I know Max will be ecstatic. In fact, I don't think I can tell him until the very day they arrive (June 13), or the anticipation will be too intense, not to mention the fact that he could easily drive us out of our minds with his constant questions about when they're due to arrive. I've never seen a little boy with such a strong will.

By the way, here are the most recent pictures of Max. More to come in a couple of days.

April 29—A momentous day

Our exciting event of the evening was Max peeing in the potty for the first time ever. He's been saying he wants to poop after his bath, and he hops up on the potty, but he doesn't do anything. This evening he tried again, and when he couldn't poop I suggested he pee. And he did! We didn't make a big deal out of it, but it gave me a little thrill. I saw a flicker of light at the end of the diaper tunnel.

Max and I flew to Perstorp a few weeks ago. There was turbulence as we were about to land, and Max threw up. He really hates throwing up, and he cried. Fortunately I caught it in a barf bag. (Don't ask me how I knew he was going to throw up. Just a guess based on his discontented noises.)

He didn't want to ride in Farfar's car, because he remembered throwing up in it last time and being sad. But we managed to convince him that it would be ok.

The highlights for Max were playing with Farmor and Farfar, and buying ice cream from the ice cream truck with Farfar. Max goes nuts when he hears the ice cream truck. It's not the ice cream he's so crazy about—it's the singing truck. Though of course the ice cream is a delicious bonus.

One of the highlights for me and Sven and Anna-Brita was hearing Max pronounce all our names. If you ask Max what his name is, he says his full name now. If you ask what Farfar's name is, he'll say, "Pen Pålsson". Farmor is "Abi Pålsson" until we say "Anna-Brita..." and he repeats carefully, "Anna-Breeeta Pålsson". Farbror is of course Anders Pålsson. Max knows that Sven's sister is not a Pålsson. He calls her "Lisa nåt annat" ("Lisa something else"). At one point Max had been watching Disney cartoon, and he came in talking about "Donald Duck Pålsson" and "Mickey Mouse Pålsson". We got a kick out of that!

In general he's been talking non-stop. At times it gets so extreme that I find myself yelling inside my head, "For heaven's sake, could you quit talking for one single minute!!" Part of the reason it's so tiring is that he speaks very unclearly. Even I have to really work to understand him. When he sees that I don't understand, he works harder on his pronunciation and can often come up with a gesture, associated sound, or other signal to provide as a clue. (I think that's pretty clever. Though speaking clearly would also be clever!) But talking with him requires concentration. If you don't feel like concentrating, the only real alternative is to ignore him, which is rude, not to mention the fact that he doesn't put up with it—he keeps repeating stuff louder and louder until you acknowledge it! So you can see why it is trying at times. Do all kids do this??

And of course he has plenty to say. His imagination is blooming and he's making all kinds of associative leaps that wouldn't have been possible just a couple of months ago. We are roll-playing, making up stories and games, and pretending. For the first time, lately I've seen Max just sit and think. Then he'll suddenly come up with something to say. Like the other day we were riding in the car. Max was silent for about 15 minutes, and suddenly he exclaimed, "It's not cold in here!" (It was cold and windy and rainy outside, but warm in the car.) And today when we drove home from the store, Max was silent until he suddenly blurted out, "There's no ants on here!" (pointing to his lollipop). Hmmm—that one made me wonder a little.

In the same vein, he's also having nightmares, and he has graduated from fearing ants and bees (though he's still quite watchful of them) to fearing dragons. He insists on having a parent in the room with him while he falls asleep (which can take quite a while). He wakes up in the middle of the night and can't get back to sleep by himself like he used to. Sometimes I have to sleep in his room with him. It's really a drag for me and Bengt. But at this point I don't feel it would be appropriate to "Ferberize" him again. He seems genuinely alarmed and needs the comfort of and security of a parent nearby.

Max loves to have books read to him and discuss the pictures. He notices the words on the pages and asks what they are, though I'm pretty sure he doesn't understand the concept of reading yet.

Max is interested in developing his fine motor skills and dexterity. He loves to practice using scissors to cut paper into confetti, which he vacuums up with the dustbuster. I've used a lot of bandaids lately (after injuring my finger on the slide), and Max has gotten good at opening the bandaid's little envelope, taking the bandaid out, and removing the plastic tabs. Max enjoys helping around the house with chores—especially if utensils or tools are involved. He's pretty darn good at using a hammer!

I remember reading in a book or article about child development that kids aren't capable of feeling gratitude until about age 4 or 5. Well, I know that's not true now, because Max often bursts out with a spontaneous "Thank you!!" and you can see clear as day that it's heartfelt and not just because he's learned to say the polite thing. Last week we visited Saeed and Radin, and they gave Max a present. This was unexpected and Max said, "A present! For Max! Tack!" He was tickled pink. The other night I rocked Max to sleep, and he murmured, "Thank you, Mama." Today he got a sucker from the lady at the pizza joint when we picked up our take-away pizza, and he flashed a really warm smile at her and thanked her. I really feel that he understands the concept of thank-you because he is aware of his own feelings of delight when something unexpectedly nice happens and is aware of feeling relief when others go to some trouble to relieve his discomfort.

I guess that's a nice bonus that results from talking about feelings a lot. Max can say (or agree with my pointing it out) when he's frustrated, angry, sad, or happy. (However, he never agrees that he's tired! On ther other hand, he does sometimes ask to go to bed...) He recognizes those feelings in others, too.

When Max got acutely sick the other day for a short time, what he had was a reaction to eating tomato sauce. He's always had a sensitivity to tomatoes, but he wanted tomato sauce so I thought maybe he'd outgrown it. But we did get some test results back from Max's nasal swab that showed he's got a bacterial infection in his sinuses, so tomorrow we start him on antibiotics. I don't mind so much this time—he's fought this pesky thing long enough and had plenty of time to develop antibodies. Hopefully next time that bacteria comes around, he can resist the infection.

We had a few days of wonderful weather. Max would step outside and say, "Warm! Not cold! Nice!" We talked one morning about it the arrival of summer. I asked Max what he thought summer meant. He thought for a minute and then burst out, "Ben and Elliot coming to Max's house!!!" Having remembered this, he was suddenly convinced that Ben & Elliot were coming that day, and he was so excited. Poor little guy—another six weeks to wait! But Farmor & Farfar are coming this Sunday, and Grandma is coming in less than two weeks.

I wrote recently about Max and me sitting on the front steps one evening watching airplanes and chatting. We've been able to sit together several times since then. Once was when we were walking in a field. We sat down on some rocks and watched the birds and some goats that were grazing nearby. Another time we were out for another walk and Max got the idea to climb on top of this gigantic boulder. When we made it up, we sat down together to rest and enjoy the view from that height. I'm hoping that he's learning to associate nature with peace, relaxation, togetherness and contemplation.

Bengt has to return his nice cushy company car tomorrow. We're kind of bummed about that. But thank heavens for the good old 1984 Volvo! I just had it serviced, and it's still in good shape. Bengt is busy with his job search but no big breaks so far.

Well, that's it for now. Have a good week, everyone!

April 24

Howdy. Here are a few pictures from last week's work conference. As you can see, we sat in boring meetings from morning till night. :-)

Brace yourself for some venting...

I can't believe how busy we still are. We haven't even come close to finishing up the details of our redecorating. There's an endless list of details to take care of. This week we're dealing with:

  • Having the car in for repairs

  • A furniture delivery

  • Having our windows washed (since we know we'd never get around to doing it ourselves)

  • Bengt's job interview (which means I had to take off work early and make it up another evening)

  • A locksmith coming to fix the broken springs inside the mechanisms of some of our door handles

  • Filing our tax returns (mine was due April 1 but I just sent it in this week. I've never filed late before.)

Meantime, I'm working full time, there are still boxes everywhere (my personal peeve), and we still need to pick out and purchase several pieces of furniture. Argh!

To top it all off, Max is sick once again. Actually he never got rid of his sinus symptoms after last time. I called the doctor's office yesterday morning to make an appointment for him (this was before he even got "sick" again). After waiting on hold for 55 minutes (that's right, fifty-five minutes), I told the nurse what was going on and she agreed Max needed to see a doctor. But all of the "emergency" appointments had been used up for the day and she couldn't book any of the next day's. So I asked for a regular appointment but she said there weren't any free appointments for several weeks! She said to call back the next day! Can you believe that?!

Well, I did end up calling back this morning because Max came down with a fever and was an extremely unhappy little boy. I got an appointment for the afternoon and Bengt took him in. They took a sinus culture (Max told me later that the doctor stuck a stick up his nose and it hurt) and will get back to us late this week and prescribe medication (if any) according to what he's got.

In the meantime, he has perked up again, so it's no big emergency. But he hasn't been able to breathe through his nose for a couple weeks. That means he snores at night and wakes up uncomfortable several times each night, requiring parental assistance to get back to sleep. Bengt and I are exhausted! It's almost like having a newborn again.

I tore a chunk out of my left index finger going down a slide this evening. Max was scared to go down this long slide and asked me to go first, so I did. But I started going so fast that I wasn't going to be able to land on my feet at the bottom, so I grabbed the sides of the slide to slow myself down. Big mistake! Near the bottom the side lip merged with the bottom of the slide (or something like that) and formed a "V" that my finger got caught in! I wonder how many kids have had the same unhappy experience. Now I had to act like it didn't hurt so bad, or Max would have been afraid to go on slides. I showed him my finger (which was bleeding) and said we had to go home and wash it out and put a band-aid on it. I have to say he was very curious about it and caring. He kept asking if I was ok and if it hurt. The fact that it had happened on the slide didn't escape him, either.

On a brighter note, Max is a constant source of delight and wonder. I plan to update this page with his latest developments this coming weekend.

April 8

Max was sick again, but only for a couple of days. It's amazing how quickly little kids (or is it just Max?) can recover from illnesses and injuries. Max can have a high fever with vomiting one day, be just a bit dragged out the next, and by the third day he's ready to rock 'n roll. An adult would be wiped out for a week. He got a bad rash the other day with raw skin and blisters. I put some zinc ointment on it before bed, and by morning you could barely tell where the rash had been.

On March 31 Lina and Birgitta came over, and we had a wonderful afternoon and evening! The kids played great together, and Birgitta and I enjoyed ourselves. When they left, Max and I sat out on the front steps watching them depart, and then we stayed there for 20 minutes or so. It was a gorgeous night, and we just looked at the stars and airplanes overhead and chatted about our day. It was one of the most tender moments I've had with Max. I just love it when he can take a break from his constant high activity level and just hang out for a little while.

First thing the next morning, Max asked if Lina could come over. Later I heard from Birgitta that as soon as Lina woke up, she asked if she could go to Max's house.

Max has continued to play by himself for maybe 10-15 minutes at a time. On the other hand, he's harder to put down at night. He wants to go over the emergency plan in case of a bee sighting, hold hands with us, jiggle the bed, etc. It was nice when we could just put him in his bed and he'd snuggle down and go to sleep.

Max and I are off to Perstorp again on Thursday. Should be nice.

I've put some pictures from our redecorating project on a separate web page. Also, Bengt is supposed to update his website with recent pictures of Max. (If the link doesn't work, he hasn't gotten to it yet.) Enjoy!

March 31

Hello again! Thought I'd write a little more—stuff I didn't have time to get down the other day. You do realize that this is more for our own future enjoyment than because we think others are fascinated with every single little detail of Max's development...

Max still talks a lot about Ben & Elliot He mentions them several times every day, saying he wants to go on two airplanes so we can go to their house, or he wants them to come to our house. He talks to them on the phone now and then. The first time we called, he got all teary-eyed and trembly-lipped and longed for them even more after the phonecall. I felt so guilty! Now it's not so acute, but Max clearly thinks of his cousins daily.

Max is learning to let other kids borrow his toys. The other day he got so much praise after he let another little boy borrow his tricycle that today when we stopped by Martin & Felix's house, Max got off his trike and offered it to Felix. "Felix borrow Max's trike. Felix sit here [patting the seat]!" It was nice. Too bad Felix wasn't interested.

Then Max wanted to borrow our other neighbor boy's (Johan's) neat riding tractor, and the boy refused. Max was persistent in his requests but didn't actually try to climb on the tractor without permission. Max offered to loan Johan his tricycle, but the boy said no deal. The tractor is Johan's favorite vehicle at the moment and he couldn't bear to loan it out. Max accepted that after awhile. Good boy!

We had a breakthrough last week—Max played by himself for about ten minutes without calling for me once. He now plays by himself for 10- to 15-minute stretches. It's such a relief! Up to now he has insisted on the company of a parent every minute (at least when he's with us). He could manage a minute or two but not longer—not voluntarily anyway. I think his new willingness to play by himself is related to a new leap in imagination, because Max has suddenly gotten good at games that involve pretending. For example, he brings me pretend coffee and snacks. I mean he'll hand me something when he has absolutely nothing in his hand. He never did that before.

He can also sit and play computer games by himself for 10 or 15 minutes without attention, as long as we're close by in case he gets stuck or accidentally shuts down the program.

Speaking of computer games, Max has his own word for them: "Monigames"—a cross between "computer games" and "monitor". Which makes sense; as far as Max is concerned, it's the monitor he's playing with, not the computer, which is just a box that holds the CD. :-)

Max went through a very long stage of preferring me to Bengt, even when both of us were available. Bengt would come and try to interest Max in some activity, and Max would cling to me and tell Bengt to go away! That wasn't so nice for either of us, and it really wore me out, because I was pretty much on duty any time we were all home, every evening and most of the weekend. I pretty much had to leave the house to get any peace. (When Bengt cares for Max, they generally stick around the house.) Max also wanted to sit on my lap and be fed again. (Actually I didn't mind that so much, because meals went faster and were less messy, and I knew it was temporary.) And he wanted to sit on a lap to watch TV or read books. Even Sven & Anna-Brita noticed this when Bengt and Max were down there a couple of weeks ago. We all liked it. Max hasn't been the most cuddly boy, so it's nice to have him sit still in your lap for more than 30 seconds at a time.

But as I said, Max's clinginess on me was wearing me out. Fortunately, it's gotten a little better just this past week, coinciding with his willingness to entertain himself for short periods.

Max got interested in parrots because of a picture that Sven & Anna-Brita have on their wall. He kept talking about parrots, so a month or so ago I bought him one at Toys "R" Us. It has a voice-activated recorder, so whatever you say to it, it repeats twice, except faster and in a higher pitch. Kinda neat. Max immediately started playing with it and figured out what it was doing. But then somehow it kept escalating, with each of them talking louder and faster, until Max would run to me and hide his head against me in alarm. It was so funny! But soon Max had established who's boss, and things don't get out of hand anymore. :-)

Max's interest in alarm clocks, timers, the telephone ringing, microwave beeping, the ice cream truck, emergency vehicles, etc.—anything that beeps or rings or buzzes on occasion—has intensified. He continues to take apart alarm clocks—trying to get the beep out, I suppose.

Another newer interest is running trains and cars on tracks. Last weekend we visited friends who have a Brio train set with tracks, and Max really enjoyed that. Then last night we visited other friends who have matchbox cars with the plastic track. That was also a hit. I went by the toy store and learned that the Brio stuff costs a fortune here!!! It would cost a couple of hundred bucks to outfit Max with a new train set, for heaven's sake! Fortunately, Sven & Anna-Brita still have Bengt and Anders' old Brio train set, and those wooden tracks never wear out. We'll just get Max a couple of new engines & cars for it.

One thing that really annoys me is when we're out exploring the neighborhood and Max refuses to go home. When he realizes I'm serious about heading for home, he runs the other way (making me chase after him), insists on being carried, cries, and gets as close to having a tantrum as he ever gets. (Hmm. Now that I think about it, Max doesn't have tantrums. I guess I should just be grateful for that!)

Today Max broke the door to our washer. At first we thought it was impossible to fix, but I think Bengt has figured out a way to glue it and then seal it with silicon so that it will last maybe a few more months or even a year. The washer is old and will need to be replaced eventually, but would be a shame to throw out a perfectly good washer just because the door leaks. Plan B is to call around to used appliance shops or make the rounds at the recycling stations to see if we can find a compatible door. Sigh.

Max is napping now, and after his nap we look forward to Lina and Birgitta coming over. I hope they'll the rest of the afternoon and all evening! Time flies when they're here.

That's it for now. I feel like I'm finally catching up after my PC being unavailable for so long. Now I can start responding to emails again.

March 23-27 (it took me awhile to write this)

Wow. Incredible as it may sound, work is still in progress downstairs! They would have been done two or three weeks ago, but first the workers got sick (no doubt infected by us) and then the wrong baseboards were delivered and we had to reorder. So we can't set up furniture along the walls, and we still don't have the use of any of the rooms downstairs. Our computers were packed away until today (23rd) when Bengt set them up in the dining room. Argh!!

On the bright side, while we're waiting for the baseboards the guys have plenty of time to oil and polish our gorgeous new solid oak floor! It's really beautiful--worth every cent and all the grief waiting for the work to get done. The day I came home and saw they had removed the paper that was covering it for awhile, I was so thrilled that my hands went to my mouth and my heart started beating fast. The next day when I came home and saw how it looked after they oiled and buffed it, I was even more thrilled.

The wall colors we chose complement the wood very nicely, too. In addition, I did some special paintwork, using a cloth to roll paint and glaze on the wall, following Lin's instructions to the letter. The result is so sharp and professional, I can't believe I did it myself! Bengt likes it, too, and the workers asked how I did it and wanted to take pictures of it. I'm so proud of that.

We ordered some new furniture--it's due to arrive April 4. And the carpeting we ordered for the guest bedroom will arrive shortly after that. The walls and ceiling are painted already, so the room will be pretty much done when the carpet's down. Ahhh!

We've been sick a few times, which was a drag while the workers were here. One week Bengt was sick Monday thru Thursday, and I was sick Wed. thru Friday. Thank heavens Max happened to be healthy that week. But Max got sick again. And then the workers got sick. Sigh.

Also in the news tonight: Bengt was laid off. He found out about a month ago. Practically his entire office was shut down. So he's no longer working, but he gets paid for two more months. We hope he'll find another job by then. He says he's not worried about finding "a job", though it might not be his dream job with a large salary. In the meantime, I'll work full time starting Tuesday, since Bengt will be able to take care of Max more hours per day. Then I'll probably go back to part time (80%) when he goes back to work.

Ok, here is some of what Max has been up to...

Talking & listening...

  • Max seems to have grasped various grammatical patterns in both Swedish and English. He says things like "Max boomed" (Max fell down) and "Max go uped" (Max went up). It's charming.

  • He says "Ummmmm" while considering something, just as I do.

  • He says "Oh dear!" when something surprises him. I have no idea where he got that.

  • One afternoon after Bengt picked Max up, Max started saying "Mama Mama Mama Mama Mama Mama" 20 to 30 times a minute. He continued this all afternoon, nearly driving Bengt (unflappable Bengt) over the edge. Needless to say, I got to take care of Max for the rest of the evening starting the second I got home. Bengt said to Max, "You're lucky I love you and you're still alive."

  • Max tells us when poops, because he wants diaper changed. But he's not interested in the potty like Lina or some other kids his age. In fact, he seems to have no control whatsoever. If he's running around without a diaper, he can suddenly stop and pee, acting surprised. Oh well—no hurry. (Except that he barely fits on the changing table, he's grown so much.)

  • He tells us when he's hungry/thirsty/itchy/cold, etc. and what he wants to eat/drink/do. That's really nice for us. Less stressful trying to guess what he want or keep him comfortable. He reports to us what he had for lunch at Birgitta’s, too. I think that's funny. It reminds me of Marlin!

  • I think Max is amazingly good at talking on the phone. He understands who he's talking to, responds to questions, and comes up with his own topics for discussion. One problem is that he tends to point to things, not realizing that the other person can't see what he's looking at. Another is that he still doesn't speak very clearly, so only Bengt and I can understand most of what he says. But it's nice. Bengt and Max drove down to Perstorp a couple of weeks ago, and I called them there. Max asked me to come down, too. When I said it was too far, he suggested I fly!

  • Now we can actually read books from cover to cover instead of just looking at the pictures and discussing them. He can listen to the story and even fill in bits he's familiar with. One night a couple of weeks ago we were sitting and rocking, and I made up a story for Max, about a boy named Max who drove trucks and tractors and so on. The story went on and on, with not a word nor a movement from Max. I thought for sure he'd fallen asleep. But when I finished the story, there was only a three-second pause before Max demanded, "Again!" Since then there have been a number of stories, all about an all-powerful boy named Max who could do all kinds of fun stuff like drive fire trucks, ride giant cats and birds, jump over houses, etc. He loves it.

Speaking of Perstorp, Bengt came down with a bad cold in Perstorp, so he didn't have much energy for Max, and they had to stay an extra day (oh darn!). When I talked to him on the phone, he said he thought Sven & Anna-Brita were getting worn out, but they didn't utter a word of complaint and Sven was still playing with Max every waking minute. When I talked to Anna-Brita, she sounded breathless and said there was non-stop activity at their house. But she sounded euphoric! I just laughed. They are still head over heels in love with their grandson.

Max has been incredibly self-confident (even cocky), sensible, reasonable, and happy during the daytime. Then at night the fears come. One night he dreamt that a bee came and stung him in his bed, and after that he wouldn't sleep in his crib. He slept with us or in the single bed in his room. I thought for sure that he was out of the crib for good, but then I was out a couple of evenings and Bengt talked him into sleeping there again. (He's getting pretty big for the crib, but it's handy for us because he still hasn't discovered that he can climb out of it.) But we do have to go through this routine (approximately) every night:

Max: No bed! Bee come in bed and bite Max!
Eileen: You're afraid that a bee is going to come and sting you.
Max: Yes. No sleep.
Eileen: There aren't any bees in our house and I don't think a bee is going to come in here. But you know what to do if a bee comes, right?
Max: Mama!! Bee!!!
Eileen: That's right, you yell "Mama! Bee!" And I'll run into Max's room and get the bee and take it away so it can't sting Max.
Max: No more bee.
Eileen: That's right, no more bee. You don't have to worry. It's Mama's job to keep you safe and protect you from bees.

(and this continuation one night:)

Max: Mama's job?
Eileen: Yes, that's Mama's job. I keep you safe from bees and hot things and falling down. I wash your clothes and make your food, hug you when you're sad, ... (I rattled off lots of things.)
Max (wondering): Max's job?
Eileen: Hmm, Max's job is to help Mama wipe up messes...
Max: Yes.
Eileen: Unload the dishwasher...
Max: Yes.
Eileen: Feed Maja...
Max: Yes.
Eileen: Turn on the clothes dryer...
Max: Yes.
Eileen: Vacuum the floor... (etc.—all things that Max loves to "help" with)
Max: Yes.
Eileen: That's Max's job.
Max: Max's job. Mama's job. Yes.
Eileen: Yes, we all have jobs.

Well, I'm done writing for tonight. I still have a few things to put down—but later!

We wish all of you a Happy Easter!

February 15

Well, the work on our house is progressing, but it can't go fast enough for me. What a mess! The workers are here from about 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday thru Saturday (!), complete with hammer drills, sanding machines, paint fumes, etc. We've been without a subfloor downstairs for nearly two weeks—I think they'll put that in tomorrow. Much of the wallpapering and painting is done, and it looks nice. The stairway has been sanded—hence the dust in every nook and cranny of the house—and is about to be oiled. (We don't have to cover it with carpet again, after all.)

For some reason it's really stressful to me to have only dusty bare concrete as a floor, and to have to step carefully among the girders (or whatever they're called in English). Even more stressful is having these young guys around constantly, although I have to say that as young guys go, they're extremely polite, considerate and helpful. Max really likes them and asks first thing every morning if they've arrived yet. Or is it their power tools he likes? :-)

At any rate, maybe they can finish putting down the subfloor tomorrow, and get the hardwood floor installed on Monday or Tuesday. Then Bengt and I will have to move everything from the office, guest room and media room into the finished areas—ugh! And we start the whole process again in those rooms. It's all taking a lot longer than we figured (of course).

Yesterday afternoon I got a migraine headache and was really miserable for 24 hours. I would have stayed home sick today, but considering all the noise and activity around here, it was more restful to go to work! I felt really awful but managed to get through it. When this is all over, I'm going to need a major break.

Sunday night Max came down with a high fever, so we were home with him Monday and Tuesday. (The fever disappeared suddenly on Monday afternoon.) It was pretty inconvenient having the workers here then! But they were very considerate and purposefully timed their lunch break with Max's nap. That was really good of them!

This was the first time Max has actually chosen to take it easy when he didn't feel well. What a difference it made. Usually when he's sick he tries to keep up his normal pace, but he whines and cries and complains. This time we sat in the rocking chair for long stretches, rested in bed, watched TV, read books, etc. Even though he felt crappy, we actually had a pleasant time together.

At one point on Monday Max kept talking about Ben & Elliot and also about their big toy fire truck that he loved. So I asked Max if we should go out and buy one for him. He definitely wanted to do that, so we hopped in the car and drove to Toys "R" Us. Walked in, looked around for the fire trucks, and ended up asking an employee. I said we were looking for a fire truck, and Max piped up, "Biiiiig fire truck." The employee knew just what we wanted.

I took out my cell phone to call Bengt and ask if he thought it was ok to pay that much money for a toy. Thinking aloud, I said, "Should we call Pappa, or should we just buy it?" Max said, "Buy it." So we were out of there, truck and all, in five minutes flat.

Max really likes his new truck. It is LOUD! I put tape over the speaker where the siren sound comes out, but it's still way too loud. Man.

I thought Max might miss Ben & Elliot less, now that he has a truck like theirs. But no, obviously it's more than just their truck he misses.

The next mini-trauma after the high fever happened on Wednesday: We've been keeping the doors to all the rooms shut because of all the dust flying around. Max and Bengt were going from the media room to the office, and Max was dragging his hand behind him. He had his fingers in the door (by the hinges) when Bengt closed it. Max's fingers got pinched quite badly. They called me up at work and when Bengt put Max on, Max was still (after 10 minutes) sobbing so hard that he couldn't talk. All he could force out was, "Come [sob] home!" Poor little guy! Of course I came home to help calm Max. He'll probably lose two fingernails, but the fingers aren't broken and he actually hasn't complained since Wednesday evening.

We had a blast at little Malin's birthday party last Saturday. Boy, I never imagined kids' birthday parties could be so much fun for the adults, too. Neither Max nor I wanted to leave. I'm definitely plan to have a 2 1/2 birthday party for Max every year, instead of (or in addition to) a party right between Christmas & New Year.

February 3

We hope everyone had a nice weekend. Max and I enjoyed ourselves in Perstorp. Sven & Anna-Brita adore Max, and it's a refreshing change from routine to be there. Anders came for a day, as well, and Max was genuinely upset when he left.

Since we flew down, and our last flight was to the U.S., Max thought he was going to see his cousins Ben & Elliot. He did understand that we would see his grandma & grandpa & Anders, but somehow he thought it would be at Ben & Elliot & Lin & "Mart's" house. He was really bummed when they weren't at the airport to meet him, and he asked for them repeatedly throughout the weekend, in this pitiful voice. It actually brought tears to my eyes, telling him I understand how he misses them, but that we can't go see them as often as we'd like.

We flew home today, and even when Bengt picked us up from the airport, Max was bummed and kept talking about Ben & Elliot. So I suggested we call them when we got home. That perked him up! And he didn't let me forget it. Unfortunately, Mark told me that the whole family has the flu and the boys were still sleeping, so we'd have to talk another time. Poor Max! (Poor Nichols, too, of course!)

Bengt and I spent the evening carrying the last loads of stuff from our back door and front door down to the garage, because the workers are coming tomorrow to start ripping out floors and stuff. This starts an extended period of serious redecorating. Those of you who have seen our house know that it is long overdue! It will be so good to get the brown shag carpeting and brown woven wallpaper from the 70s out of here! Not to mention finally take care of the moisture problem we have in the foundation of our house. Doh!

Max's interest in vehicles is decreasing noticeably, thank heavens. Or at any rate he doesn't have time to pursue that interest, since he's also busy discovering animals ("aminols" or simply "amols") and, for some strange reason, clocks. Animals I can understand, but clocks? He wants to examine every clock closely, and he wants to know if it rings (like alarm clocks or clocks that mark the hour and half hour). If it does, he wants to hear it again and again. If he can get at the hands, he wants to push them around. If it ticks, he will hold it up to his ear and listen for a long time. Even things that resemble clocks are of interest. I never realized how many clocks there are in our environment, and how many non-clocks look like clocks: timers, certain thermometers, hydrometers...

One day about two weeks ago Max was alone in our bedroom for a few minutes. I went in to find he'd completely disassembled my alarm clock. He hadn't broken it, but it was in many pieces. He'd even got the circuit card out of it. I eventually managed to get it back together and working properly, and now unfortunately (to Max's dismay) that clock is off limits.

On another subject: I misplaced my cell phone last week, and I asked Max to help me look for it. I was happy to see that he understood exactly what I meant. (Cell phone missing, let's find it.) The first place he looked was behind the heating elements! I thought that was funny. That's where HE puts stuff that we later end up looking for!

Max is invited to Malin's birthday party this coming Saturday. (Malin goes to Birgitta, too.) Excellent. Both Max and I had a blast at the last birthday party we attended.

I added some more pictures on this page, so scroll on down to see them. And have a good week!

January 22

This evening I was getting some ice cubes for a beverage and Max wanted one. He thought it was too cold and asked to put it in the microwave to warm it up. :-) So we put it in a cup and nuked it for several seconds. When all that came out was a little water, Max looked back into the microwave, like "Where's my ice cube??" His confusion was amusing.

Bengt updated our picture page of Max. The new pictures are here.

January 15

We had such a nice trip to the US over the holidays. It was good to see everyone and we felt so much at home. The trans-Atlantic flights with Max weren't so great (especially the trip over), but now that it's over, all is forgiven. :-)

Max had an absolutely wonderful time with his cousins. The three of them connected. An enduring memory is of the three boys racing around and around the kitchen/hallway/playroom/livingroom circuit like maniacs shortly after we arrived. Another is of Lin and me taking the boys swimming, and still another is of Ben and Elliot spontaneously rounding up some of their books to give to Max for his birthday. Max still talks about Ben and Elliot every day and asks if they are sleeping and if we can go to their house. It smarts to tell him it'll be months before he sees them again.

Another thing Max enjoyed was sitting on the dryer, watching and discussing the washing machine action. I think Lin, Marlin and Bobbie all put in their time with Max in their laundry rooms. :-) Then there were wagon rides down the driveway and a walk in the woods with Grandpa...

We had a lovely Christmas in Kalamazoo, with breakfast rolls, presents, and a movie in the afternoon. And we all cleaned up present-wise. Max got the most amazing reversible fleece coat, handmade by Grandma. He loves it and when we want him to wear his more wind- and waterproof coat we have to keep that fleece coat out of his sight, because he insists on wearing it. I myself got (among other good things) a long massage with a good therapist and a gift certificate from a used bookstore where I later picked out a pile of books.

Bengt and Max spent two days in Brighton with our friends, the Marriotts, before I joined them on New Years Eve. (That's where these two pictures were taken.) Rick & Patty and their little ones, Evan and Nora, joined us there, and we had a New Years countdown for the kids at about 9:15, just before they crashed. We had hats and noisemakers and stuff, and we counted down, "Ten! Nine! Eight! ... Happy New Year!!" followed by lots of delightful noise.

When it was over, Max said, "Again?!" so we did it once more. Ha ha!

So we got to see some of our friends but not all of them. It was disappointing to leave without seeing everyone we wanted to see. Among other things, we didn't get down to Ohio this time—except we swung down to Bowling Green for two hours "on our way" from Saline to Kalamazoo to meet my own Grandma, Uncle Bob, and cousins David and Molly. They drove all the way to Bowling Green to meet us for lunch. That really amazed me.

One downer on this trip was that Max had a cold the whole time. He had a runny nose and at times coughed quite violently—even until he threw up. In the car from Kalamazoo to Saline he sounded like he was drowning, so on arrival we took him to Urgent Care. After the usual wait and examination and $99 fee, the diagnosis was, "He has a cold". Doh! But we were also told that "most of Ann Arbor" was infected with it and the doctor had seen 30 kids with the same thing in the previous two days. So we weren't the only ones...

I was coughing, too, but it was tolerable—to me at least. Max was (and is, every time I get a cold) very upset by my coughing. I couldn't sleep in the same room with him because every time I coughed, Max woke up, shrieked with fear, and scrambled across the bed to cling to me. Then he'd beg pitifully, "Not again! Not again! Please not again!" (Or in Max-language: No igen! No igen! Peeze no igen!)

Actually it was kind of alarming how afraid he was. I try all kinds of ways of reassuring him, but he just can't understand that it's okay. He can't understand that it's no worse when I cough than when he does. I don't know how to get through to him.

Another weird thing was the day Max cried pitifully pretty much from the time he woke up until I finally got him to sleep on my chest in the afternoon. He was really distressed but couldn't or wouldn't tell us what was wrong. Lin got an otoscope from her neighbor to check his ears with, but Max wouldn't let us get a look and we couldn't quite work up the nerve to hold him down with the necessary force. But after his nap he was perfectly normal and fine. We even took him out to have dinner with friends and he had a wonderful time. Go figure.

The birthday party we had for Max in Saline on the day of our departure was the perfect way to wind up the visit and deflect the sadness and stress of leaving. Lin did all the work (as far as I could see), and Marlin and Bobbie came over from Kalamazoo to attend. We had lunch and cake, and Max got lots more presents—among other things a large snake puppet sewn by Grandma. We're having a lot of fun with that s-s-s-s-s-snake.

I have to mention the pile of loot that Max inherited from his cousins—at least 1 1/2 large suitcases full of clothes, books, puzzles, and games. (We were really loaded down on the trip home! One of our six suitcases was barely under the 70-pound limit, and another wasn't much lighter.) Getting all that stuff is great fun and big savings. I feel like I won the lottery, having such a generous sister and brother-in-law with two older boys!

Here's Max on Jeff's riding mower—big thrill!—with Annika and Jack Marriott behind.

Though it was a good trip, we were all glad to get home again—especially Max. He was in the best mood ever for days, and he was glad to go to Birgitta's for daycare. He doesn't resist going there at all and often asks for her or the other kids over the weekend. We're so grateful we have her!

Bengt and I have gotten back into the swing of work. I don't know about him, but I was actually glad to get back to my routine life. I like knowing what to expect most of the time (which you can't when you're on vacation with Max), and I really do enjoy my work. Jet lag wasn't too much of a problem. Bengt and I would have been fine, but Max was up from 12:30 - 3:30 a.m. the first night (ugh) and I think 1:30 to 2:30 the second night. He continued to wake up for several more nights but managed to get back to sleep after some convincing. ("Ben's sleeping. Elliot's sleeping. Aunt Lin's sleeping... Max has to sleep, too.")

Since we've been home, Max has been using some of Ben & Elliots toddler-level computer games. Max literally astounds me with his competence. I wouldn't have guessed that a two-year-old could do so much. For instance, there is an activity where you drag puzzle pieces of different shapes and colors into position to form a picture. I'd never seen Max control the mouse (just basically scribble with it), so I figured I'd just do the puzzles myself and let him watch. Well, he did watch for about five minutes, and then he took the mouse from me and immediately started dragging the puzzle pieces carefully into position! I couldn't believe my eyes. He knew exactly what do to and displayed fine hand-eye coordination and control of the mouse.

With that program, you don't have to click + drag + release. The puzzle pieces "stick" to the cursor when you get near them, and they automatically fall into position when you get close to the right spot. But then we played other games where you have to click, and Max mastered those in about two minutes, as well. I'm sure now that he could manage click-and-drag if these games required it.

His only weakness, as far as I can see, is that he has a hard time waiting when you have to listen to instructions. He wants to jump right in and start playing, but the programs don't allow any actions until the instructions have been recited. Max gets frustrated with that. (I would, too! Once you know how to play, who wants to hear instructions again? Especially when they're delivered agonizingly slowly!)

Once again Max has proven that I expect too little of him. I guess I sometimes still think of him as a baby. But he's a little boy already, capable of performing surprisingly advanced tasks if we take the time to show him.

Max's language skills are improving every single day. He repeats everything I say and is showing that he understands when to use which language (though he doesn't always do it right). Bengt and I can understand Max most of the time now, and I notice we can often reason with him and "negotiate".

His imagination is also reaching new heights. He's into role-playing. For instance, he falls down on purpose, fakes crying, and comes to me for comfort. (Again and again and again.) He plays with his doll, putting her to bed just like I put Max to bed. He's also entered the "fort" stage—making tents out of blankets, climbing into cupboards and closing the door, etc.

And of course Max still loves to look at books, do puzzles, play with vehicles of all kinds, and of course run around like a maniac and jump on the bed.

Oh, and he's really good at petting Maja now. She has stopped running away as soon as he approaches, because she knows he can be gentle and pet her in the direction of her fur and not sit on her. :-)

Nowadays we really have to keep our eye on Max. He is very good at opening the DVD player and getting the DVD out. He puts a new one in (crooked), and when it doesn't play he puts another one in, and another. Then we've got three DVDs in the player, all full of fingerprints and (occasionally) scratches. Oh nooooo! We have about 30 little balls for various games at our house, but most of those balls are missing. They occasionally turn up in odd places like in the washing machine or freezer, behind heaters, etc.

Today I caught Max with a little box of Tic-Tacs that he'd opened. He was carefully pushing the mints into his iron where you're supposed to put the water.

We had Max's two-year checkup the other day. After five minutes with the nurse, she commented diplomatically that Max likes to keep busy and that he's strong-willed. I say "diplomatically" because actually he was tearing around her office, exploring every toy and gadget he managed to get his hands on, while successfully avoiding my attempts to get him back into his clothes after being weighed. DOH! (17 kg or 37 pounds and just over 3 feet tall.)

No doubt I've forgotten some things I wanted to mention about the trip... We want to say another heartfelt THANK YOU to everyone who helped to make our holidays so rich, by making us feel at home, taking time out to spend with us, and of course all of the presents (especially for Max). We love you!

Why not to buy markers for the kids...

January 10, 2002—Happy new year!

Still haven't been able to find the time to update after our holidays in the U.S. Maybe I will this weekend. But I wanted to start the new year off with a chuckle. This is just a picture that's been circulating on the Internet. We don't know the kids. But it's hilarious anyway, don't you think?




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