What's New at the Pålssons'

 

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

September 18, 2002—Hello from Eileen and Elmo

For heaven's sake, where is the time going? It feels like I just wrote yesterday!

Since I last wrote, Max was sick for a few days. He woke up with a fever last Thursday and told me he didn't feel good. He stayed home with Bengt, but at around 3:30 Bengt called and said Max was having a meltdown and could I come home. So I came and hung out with him for a little while, and finally he fell asleep at 4:45 p.m. and slept through the night! Poor tired gubben!

Max has suddenly started peeing in the potty. He tells us he wants to go and sometimes refuses to pee in his diaper. Or he holds it and then floods his diaper and it leaks. He doesn't do it all the time, but all of a sudden he's interested and willing. Huh! However, he's stated that he won't poop in the potty.

Here's a funny thing: When I leave for work in the morning, Max tells me, "Don't take car!" Or if I say I'm taking the car, he says, "No, I need the car today!" He got this from Bengt, obviously. It cracks me up.

Every morning when I leave for work, Max cheerfully waves bye-bye from the balcony. And when I come home, he runs and hugs me and tells me about his day. It's great!

I got up the other morning to find Max and Bengt enthusiastically playing floorball (like field hockey except with a whiffle ball) in the upstairs hall, using two fly swatters and a ball of tin foil! I deduced that it was time to buy Max's first sports equipment, and I got him two floorball sticks and the appropriate ball. I already had a floorball stick, so Bengt and I can play with him without throwing our backs out.

We got the operation date for Max's adenoidectomy: October 1. I don't think we'll talk to him about it until a day or two beforehand, because of his limited concept of time.

Max has been playing with his toy vehicles constantly. He really enjoys lining them up, "driving" them around (using his hands, even if they could be turned on because they have batteries), crashing them, etc. Tonight before falling asleep he told me that he's very afraid of cars and trains and trucks hitting him. We talked about it for awhile and I said that that is, indeed, a danger. That's why we don't let Max go in the street by himself or walk on train tracks. That's why there's always an adult with Max who can take care of him until he learns how to do it for himself. I tried to reassure him that (for once) he is afraid of something that is actually dangerous, and that we are aware of the danger and we will protect him until he can protect himself. He talked about being safe and fell asleep curled up in my arms. I'm kind of relieved that his fears are becoming more realistic. It felt kind of ridiculous trying to allay fears of dragons and birds and car washes.

We've having some nice fall weather. Too bad I spend most of it at the office! I'm getting really antsy for Bengt to find a new job so we can go back to our old routines (more or less). I know he's anxious to do that, too.


September 8

When I come home from work, Max runs to greet me and tell me something about his day. On Friday when I came in, Max said:

Hi Mama! I jumped on the mattress with Tua, and I fell off and hurt my ankle on the asphalt, and it hurt and it bled and I cried, and we cleaned it and Birgitta put a Band-Aid on it—Birgitta's nice—and then it felt better and then we had a snack!

(Of course he didn't speak that correctly, but I understood everything he said.) It all just tumbled out of him. It was quite an experience for him, apparently. Bengt said that Max had to call up Sven & Anna-Brita and tell them the story, too.

Yesterday Bengt was pushing Max on the swing at the playground, and Max suddenly let go. He fell head first into the sand and was pretty shook up but not seriously hurt. They came home and I gave Max a cotton ball drenched in Bactine, and Max went to his mirror and cleaned off the sore by himself. Now he has a lot of little pinhead-sized scabs on one cheek.

I'm on a mission to find larger diapers. Almost a year ago we tried the largest size of every brand, and all of them were too small even back then. Max's thighs and tummy are so thick and sturdy that some of them couldn't even be fastened around the middle, and even when they could, the tape cut into his thigh. I can't understand this because the package gives a weight range of, for example, 16-26 kg. Max weighed 17-18 kg back then and the dang diapers were still too small! The exception was one pull-up diaper that we've been using ever since, and now that one has begun to bother Max. In addition, it is a rather thin diaper and it leaks almost every night. ARGH!

I called up Pampers' customer service and found out they are introducing a new size (larger) this fall. The rep said it might already be available in some stores. I called around and drove around today looking for it, but to no avail. I also called up the children's clinic where we take Max, because I know that some older children need diapers at night and you can get large diapers by prescription. But I was told that's for older kids and not for "little ones" like Max.

So I guess we have to live with these tight, leaky diapers until the new Pampers size turns up in the stores or until Max gets fed up with diapers, whichever comes first. Right now I assume he's going to be in diapers for awhile longer...

We're having summer weather again. The nights are cool but today the temperature was back up in the upper 70's. Amazing.

By the way, if you're interested, you can read the article I wrote about being an information developer (a.k.a. technical writer) at ReadSoft. It will appear in the September issue of ReadSoft People, the magazine that is distributed to our offices worldwide. There are pictures of me there, too, that they took to accompany the article. (They'll only use one picture, of course, as well as one of each of my DOC colleagues.)


September 5

Now I want to let you know that Bengt has updated our website with more pictures. Not all of them are of Max. There's a picture of the four Pålssons there, and a couple with Bernhard, and pics of Jeff and Annika Marriott, who visited last month.

Also, I was so busy telling you the basic scoop on Max's upcoming operation that I forgot to tell you how Max handled the visit to the doctor's office: Max was just great, I couldn't believe it! He let the doctor look in and clean wax out of his ears, use a tongue depressor to have a good look in his mouth, and examine his nose with an instrument used to expand Max's nostrils! He tensed up a little with the instruments (no doubt because he had a stick poked waaay up his nose before and did NOT like that), but he didn't complain or get upset. And when we left he just said good-bye to the doctor and strutted out of there like he'd done it every day of his life.

I know kids who are very upset by doctor's visits, and I can't tell you how great it is to not have to worry that Max will freak out at the doctor's office or not allow himself to be examined properly. When your kid is sick, it's some comfort to know that a doctor's visit won't traumatize him.

Speaking of Max's operation, after a brief look on the WWW I discovered the correct English name for this procedure: adenoidectomy. He's having his adenoids removed. Here are two random articles on it, if you're interested: 

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Poor Bengt has a cold. Fortunately, Max and I haven't gotten it (yet). Max is full of energy. On Wednesday morning Max woke me up at 3:45 a.m. because his diaper had leaked and the bed was wet. We got everything changed and dry, but he couldn't get back to sleep. Finally I woke Bengt at 5:30 so I could get more sleep and function at work. ARGH! But the following night Max slept through the night, and therefore so did I. We were both in a great mood today. Hurrah for an uninterrupted night's sleep!

Oh, here's another little factoid I can share: Max recognizes most places in Sollentuna that we've driven to several times. From main roads he spontaneously points out the turnoffs for our doctor's office, the grocery store, the car wash, the beach, Stinsen mall, Bögs Gård (where we visit animals, etc.), and so on. He knows when tunnels are coming up, even though he's still using a rear-facing car seat. From the grocery store, he knows where to find the pizza joint. He knows his way around the mall—or at least he knows where all the elevators and escalators are! :-)

I remember as a little girl riding to church in the car, being excited about recognizing a major landmark, which was this gigantic neon star-like structure that was probably the sign for a hamburger joint. But I was probably four or five years old then, and I'm sure Max is 100 times better acquainted with his neighborhood and his town than I ever was. He really pays attention when we're out, and he knows his way around! From what I understand, Max's cousin Ben has been the same way from an early age. I think I'll start teaching Max the street names. He will be interested to learn that most streets have names, and I bet he'll soon have them memorized.

As August came to a close, it was officially confirmed that this summer we had the hottest summer in recorded history here in Sweden. Records were set for high temperatures in virtually every part of the country. It was quite pleasant, though—nothing like what a record-hot summer in Michigan or even (God forbid) Texas would have been like. Many days it was well into the 80's but pretty tolerable as long as the air was moving. We have a couple of fans and we used them a lot this summer. Most nights cooled down into the low 70's or even the 60's. Only a few days was it hot & muggy enough to make us wish we had air conditioning here at home. We also got very little rain this summer.

All that changed promptly on September 1 when it finally started cooling off. The past two mornings almost (but not quite) motivated digging out our fall jackets. And this afternoon we had thunderstorms (yay!) with loads of rain. Our electricity even went out. I was sitting at work at about 5:50 p.m. when suddenly all the lights and computers went off. That caused a little stir at the office! But fortunately most people had already left, and I was getting ready to leave myself. I came home and took Max for a walk in the rain. We got our boots on and went puddle-stomping and exploring down by the lake.

Actually, it did rain briefly the afternoon of my party, August 31. The little kids got very excited. They hadn't seen rain in months and had probably forgotten what it was, can you imagine? Max came running up to me, "Mama, it's raining! It's raining! Come look!"

Another weekend ahead. It's incredible how fast the weeks fly by. Doh! It's 11 p.m. already. This was supposed to be just a short note. Gotta go!


September 3 - Eileen is 40 years old!

I had a great 40th birthday! First Sven and Anna-Brita and Anders came up for a long weekend. We really enjoyed their visit, and they gave me flowers and cards and contributed to my "digital camera fund". That was super.

Then Bernhard came up for this past weekend, and while he was here we had a party. Around 30 people showed up, including lots of kids. We served dinner (veg. lasagna, grilled chicken and hot dogs) and two cakes. Everyone raved about the lasagna, which was gratifying.

At the beginning the party was pretty hectic. There was so much activity that I didn't really get to talk with some people who had to leave early with their little kids. But Max really enjoyed having the children there--until he suddenly ran out of steam, that is. He kicked all the kids out of his room, saying "Out! Go away. Max has to rest." They took some toys with them to the livingroom and Max promptly fell asleep for the night.

Later it calmed down. It was a fun party and a good way to celebrate my birthday.

On my actual birthday I worked as usual and served cake to my colleagues as per Swedish tradition. When I got home, Max met me by calling, "Happy Birthday!" and Bengt and Max had nice presents waiting for me: The entire third season of Star Trek Voyager on DVD (Bengt had already given me the first two seasons on earlier occasions), and a collection of Star Trek postcards. That was great! The birthday card was a picture of Jean-Luc Picard, and inside it said "Happy Birthday from your three favorite men: Bengt, Max, and Patrick Stewart." Excellent! Max helped me by opening my present and then handing it to me. "Here you go!" I really liked my presents, which made a big impression on Max. "Mama likes presents, too! Just like Max!"

Max enjoyed having the Pålssons here, and he also enjoyed Bernhard's visit. Bernhard was great with Max, playing with him and stuff while Bengt and I prepared for the party. Unfortunately Max is in a really bossy mode right now, so he's not much fun to play with. But they were good buddies by the time Bernhard left. Yesterday Bengt was rocking Max and saying, "Papa loves you... Mama loves you..." and Max said, "Bernhard loves me..."

Bernhard said he'd never heard parents talk to their kids about feelings like I do and that it was a joy to see us together. That made me feel soooooo good!

Max has continued to have problems with snoring and mouth breathing at night. Frequently he wakes up during the night or too early in the morning and cries and says his nose hurts. We took Max back to the eye/nose/throat specialist yesterday, and he agreed to scrape the swollen gland out of his nose. This is a common procedure in Sweden but I don't remember ever hearing about it in the U.S. Max will get a general anesthetic and will be in the hospital only for one day (no nights). We haven't got the operation date yet, but they assure us it will be before Christmas. I hate to subject Max to an operation, but we think that it's the lesser of two evils. Max's friend Nils had the same operation a couple of months ago, and his parents said it wasn't bad and it really helped.

I don't think I told you, but for a month or so (I think it was June) Max was constantly asking me whether I was angry with him. Usually I wasn't, and I couldn't figure out why he kept asking. So I tried to be aware of when I was angry, and I realized that (1) I was using anger in my attempts to set limits and (2) Max was very distressed when I got angry. When I thought about it, I remembered that I, too, had been upset by anger directed at me when I was growing up. I remember thinking, "I'm doing my best, I don't mean any harm, and they still get angry."

So I decided to change my approach to teaching limits. The easiest way to explain how is by giving an example: I told you about how Max used his white board markers where he wasn't supposed to (on himself, on the walls, on his toys). With my old approach, I would have spoken sharply with Max and of course taken the markers away. Even if I didn't feel angry, I would have given Max the impression that I was. I thought I had to show my displeasure.

With my new approach, I say something like, "Those markers are only for the white board, but I see that you can't resist using them on other things. It's hard to resist, isn't it? So we'll put the markers away for now. We'll try again next week and see if you can use them only on the white board. Look at all these marks on your legs. Will you help me scrub them off?"

In other words, I assume that he's trying to be "good" but doesn't always succeed, I physically prevent him from crossing the line again, and I try to involve him in "fixing" whatever went wrong. I've noticed an incredible difference. After just a week or so of this, Max almost completely stopped asking me if I'm angry. We feel closer and I sense that he feels more secure. And when I do get angry (which is pretty rare actually), he doesn't seem to get scared, although he does try to make peace with me.

Bengt says he doesn't remember his parents or nannies getting angry with him when he was little. I thought that was incredible, but now I realize that they must have had a similar approach. This must be why Bengt doesn't get alarmed or take it personally when people are angry with him, though he does make efforts to resolve it.

Bedtime seems to be a good time for Max to work on unresolved issues, for which he needs my undivided attention. He won't let Bengt put him to bed. A couple of weeks ago Max and I lay down to sleep and he said, "Come close to me, Mama." When I moved closer, he pulled my face close to his and put his forehead against mine intimately. He said, "You know, Mama, I'm afraid of..." and proceeded to describe his fears to me in detail. We talked about them for at least an hour and a half. About a week later he did the very same thing again, except this time it didn't take so long to sort through them.

We've made up stories about the things he fears, and he tells them to others during the day. For example, we agreed that a large bird could be Max's friend. If Max can't find his fire truck or tractor, Max could ask a big bird to fly up and circle the area to look for it. The bird would find the missing vehicle and bring it back to Max, then hug him with its wings. The moral being that while large birds scare Max with their loud screeching, they could still be his friends.

Yes, of course we first tried reasoning with Max and telling him that the birds aren't dangerous, that they are more afraid of Max than he is of them, and that Max is bigger than they are. But the reassurances weren't working and I realized that effective reassurance would have to assume interaction between Max and the birds.

Boy, being a parent really challenges one's ability to find creative solutions!


August 19

Hello! Just a few little comments and things after our weekend, which whizzed by incredibly fast....

This weekend Max and I were in the mall and for the first time he asked to go look at toys. He clearly wanted to buy some new toys. I think that's kind of funny. I've purposely avoided taking him with me when I buy toys, so he's seen toys at stores only a few times in his life, but he's figured out where they come from.

One recent evening Max and I were out walking in the woods behind our house, and all of a sudden he pointed his finger at me and said, "Don't take my poop." Of course then I knew he'd pooped. He's so funny.

On Saturday we went to the lake with Max's friend Nils and Nils' father, Lars. Lars was lamenting the fact that it's hard to get his son (who is very thin, just like Lina) to eat. Near the end of our outing we went for ice cream. Nils didn't finish his, but Max scarfed down two hotdogs and asked for a third (which was refused) before eating his ice cream! Poor Lars looked stunned.

Max's weight is above average for his height, but I don't worry about it. I do worry sometimes that Max might have trouble with his weight when he gets older. But I guess I prefer that to his possibly getting too few calories while he's growing and developing so fast. It's nice that he's a "good eater" and we never have to worry that his health could suffer due to lack of nourishment. Max is taller and much heavier than Nils, who is 13 months older. As a matter of fact, now that I think about it, Max is bigger and much sturdier than any kid his age that I've seen. Yikes!

Max also wants to try every new food, even after he's tried it before and not liked it. I think that's great! I like to think that Bengt and I encouraged this by always letting him spit things out if he doesn't like them. Max knows words like "spicy" and "salty". His tolerance for spicy foods is increasing, and his favorite tastes are sour (like Bengt) and sweet (like me).

Max notices and gets concerned when other kids around him (like in the mall or at the playground) are in distress. If we are near enough to them, he will sometimes tell the accompanying adult, "The baby is sad" or "That boy doesn't want to go home" or whatever he thinks is the problem. It can be a little embarrassing. Fortunately he can get past it if I tell him that the baby's mother is taking care of her or whatever. It's kind of nice that he notices and cares about others' feelings, but I wouldn't want him to be so upset that he can't rest until the other kid is ok.

For some reason I'm kind of going through some sort of major reattachment with Max, and we are more affectionate than ever. But I don't want to make him sound like the perfect kid. His twerp factor is high. We tried the markers again this weekend and he was just fine for 15 minutes while I watched him, but as soon as I turned my back he was drawing on himself and on the wall. He goes after Maja with garden tools or scissors raised and ready to strike. (Don't worry, he doesn't even come close to catching her.) This evening when I was making dinner he got ahold of some flour and made a "pie" on the floor. He will often take off in the other direction when we tell him firmly to stop or come back. He splashes me every time I give him a bath, even though he knows it makes me angry when my clothes get wet. And so on.

Bengt and I have noticed a distinct worsening of Max's fears this past week. It's disappointing because we've been doing our best to reassure him so that he feels safe. Now he won't even go outside to his jungle gym by himself because he's afraid that birds are going to get him with their sharp beaks. (We have some big loud birds around here. Maja doesn't like them, either.) This evening I asked him to tell me everything he's afraid of. He said birds, dragons, car washes, chainsaws (that was a new one), parrots, bears, and maybe a couple of other things. We tell Max again and again that we understand there are dangers and he's afraid, but we are here to keep him safe. Whenever possible we help him confront his fears and work them out. (Sometimes they actually get worse, though—like after the car wash incident.) What are we doing wrong?

One evening a week or so ago I asked Max if he remembered being in my tummy. He said that he did and asked if he could go there again. I said he's too big to fit in my tummy now, but I could still hold him like a little baby. So we got in the rocking chair and I held him like a baby and rocked him. I asked him if he wanted me to sing lullabies to him like I used to, and he did. He wanted to hear them over and over. We both really enjoyed that. But since then he hasn't suggested we do it again, which is fine too.

This evening he told me he wanted his crib back. I said it might be uncomfortable for him since he's grown so much, but we could set it up again if he wanted to. That seemed to reassure him and I bet he'll forget about it now. But all this makes me wonder if he's afraid of becoming a big boy and all that entails. It would explain his total disinterest in controlling his bladder & bowels, too.

Any thoughts? Do we just keep plugging along and wait for it to pass? Or try another strategy? I guess I don't mind if Max is afraid or wants to hang back a bit. Maybe we should just let him be who he is right now, without trying so hard to cure his discomfort. ???


August 11

Hello! I hope you all had a nice weekend! We had a warm, sunny weekend. Max and I went to the water slide and hung out at the lake yesterday. He was very kind to a slightly younger boy who was looking longingly at his dump truck. When I pointed it out to Max, Max picked up the truck and carried it to the boy and said, "Borrow it?" (in Swedish). The he came back, got his own little truck, and started driving it around in the sand by the dump truck, encouraging the boy to play. He's so nice!

Last weekend when we went to the lake, I experimented with leaving Max at a specific spot to wait for me. I've tried it about once a month for the past six months (always when I can secretly keep my eye on him, of course), and he has always wandered off or waited a few seconds and then got scared and started after me. This time he stayed put for a couple of minutes, till I got back. He got high praise for that.

Today Bengt and I spent most of the day working on our house and cleaning. I took the side off the tub and scrubbed under it—ugh! I detest doing that. Max helped us a bit and also entertained himself for short periods.

Max's big adventure was going to the carwash. Pappa was vacuuming the car so I thought I'd finish the job by taking it to the carwash. (Didn't feel like scrubbing it by hand.) I asked if Max wanted to go, and he did. But then when we were getting ready to leave, he said he was scared and didn't want to go. I said fine, the carwash isn't dangerous, but I could understand if he was scared and of course he didn't have to go. That made him want to go again.

The carwash where we usually go, where you can park your car inside and then go out and start the thing, was closed for maintenance, so we drove to another one. This one you have to punch a code for and then drive in, and it starts right up. No chance to get out of the car, as far as I could see. As we watched another car get washed before ours, Max got scared again and said he didn't want to go in there. But I didn't want to drive home without washing the car and was sure it would be okay. I said he could sit on my lap and he said ok.

So we drove in and Max sat on my lap. The thing started up and it was loud. Max got agitated and said he was scared and that his stomach hurt. When the brushes started up, he cried, "Drive out! Drive out!" But I couldn't. I spoke to him calmly and reassuringly, and he tried to get ahold of himself, but he was near panic. He said he was going to throw up, and then he did. It must have seemed like an eternity to Max by the time it was over and I could drive out and over to the side so we could get cleaned up.

Max was fine as soon as we got out of there, but I feel bad that I took him in someplace where I knew he was scared and we couldn't get out on a moment's notice. Max talked about it all the way home and told Pappa all about it first thing. Then we called up Farmor and told her, too. We talked about a bit before bed and he doesn't seem traumatized. I think he does understand that it wasn't really dangerous, even though the loud noises and huge brushes seemed scary.

I mentioned before that I got a white board for Max's playroom. He loves it! He loves drawing on it and he loves erasing what he's drawn. He draws dragons, flags, and poop. (At least that's what he says he's drawing.) Unfortunately, he also loves drawing on himself. He understands that he's not supposed to use the pens on anything but the white board, but it's so hard to resist. Once when he was unattended for a few minutes, he used the black marker to apply eyeliner and lipstick to himself, just like Mama. He also drew lines all over his legs and one hand, colored in the tracks on his Brio train set, and even made a few marks on two walls. So now the markers have been put away for awhile. We'll try again in a week and see if he can control himself better. Fortunately, white board "ink" can be cleaned off skin pretty easily, and we're not so picky about what he does with his toys. We still have paint so we can touch up the walls. So no panic, but it was a lot of work to get it cleaned up.

I want to add some stories about Max that I previously forgot to write down...

I have mentioned Max's fear of dragons, and the fact that I got some "dragon spray" to help reassure him, and I also told you (here) about the incident when the parrot scared Max. What I forgot to tell you was: The night after the parrot incident, I had to leave Max alone in the bedroom for a few minutes, even though he was extra scared. I gave him the dragon spray to protect him and left the room. When I came back he was absolutely terrified. Hearing me approach, he must have imagined that I was the dragon coming to get him. I found him sitting stiffly in the bed, with the most terrified look on his face you can imagine (eyes wide open, mouth frozen in a silent scream), holding the dragon spray out in front of him at arm's length like you might hold out a cross for protection when approached by a vampire! Poor little guy! Still, I'd have given a lot for a picture of him like that—it was so dramatic and so endearing!

Max has been interested in looking at poop—animal poop, his own poop, and other people's poop. I often let him look at mine when I'm finished, but the other day he asked if he could watch it coming out. I said, "No, that's too private." He asked, "'Barrassed?" and put his hand to his mouth like he was a little ashamed at having asked. That's the first time he used the word "embarrassed" and I was impressed that he knew that word. I asked him where he learned it but he couldn't tell me. But clearly he understands what it means. That boy is really good at identifying feelings!

Have a good week! We have Jeff and Annika here from Brighton Monday-Wednesday.


August 2

Max is a major ice cream monster. The other day he came into my bedroom, where I had snuck off to enjoy a dish of ice cream by myself—which I rarely do. I had finished it and put the dish aside. But as soon as Max entered the room, he said, "Mama eating ice cream?" and his eyes darted around until he found the bowl! I swear he smelled it when he came in.

He can also eat berries until he busts. Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, gooseberries—you name it. This evening I picked wild blueberries in the woods by our house for tomorrow's breakfast. But by bedtime Max had eaten most of them. His mouth was colored deep purple, but we've discovered a way to keep his hands (and therefore our walls and door handles) from getting messy: We give them to him in a cup and he drinks them.

Lina and her parents returned from their vacation the day before yesterday, so Birgitta and I got Lina and Max together yesterday. Max was soooo excited to see them! He played rougher than usual with Lina, but I think it was just enthusiasm.

Lina has gotten even thinner. (If she were any thinner I'd say she's emaciated, but it hasn't quite gone that far.) Birgitta says that Lina eats very little. She gets too distracted and isn't interested in food. Even candy and ice cream she just nibbles on and then runs off to play. She eats to stave off hunger pangs and that's about it. Max, on the other hand, has fattened up again (he lost some weight when he was sick) and we often have to ask him to stop eating so he doesn't throw up! Birgitta and I thought it would be great if we could somehow combine the two kids and get a happy medium.

Max has been singing a lot. Sometimes he even comes close to carrying a tune properly. He has favorite songs that he has me play over and over on the stereo, and yesterday he sat down at the piano and plunked on it while singing. (I think that's pretty wild since neither Bengt nor I ever sing while playing.) So I went and got some books of children's music that Anna-Brita gave us and played some familiar songs for Max. He seemed to like it, though not as much as playing himself.

I was thinking of starting back to work this week, but I went in Monday morning, read my email, met with my colleague to see what was going on, and realized that I could just as well stay home for another week. So I left after two hours and took Max to the lake instead. I'll start back this coming Monday instead.

With Bengt helping with Max, I got some more work done around the house. This weekend I think I will be able to finish patching the cement around the foundation of our house. I've already used two boxes of cement but I think the third might do it. The last two winters have really caused a lot of cracks. In one place a big chunk had fallen off. It was tricky patching that one! Unfortunately the new cement isn't exactly the same color as the original, so now it looks all patchy. Maybe we can paint it later this summer or fall.

Today I went through Max's clothes to sort out the things he's outgrown and figure out what he needs for fall and winter. Which is absolutely nothing, since he has gotten everything he needs from Ben and Elliot, Erik Forsgren, and a few things that I already picked up—for example rubber boots, which Max loves to wear because it means he can stamp in puddles. I have them in many sizes already, all bought on sale of course. I polished shoes, bleached the stains out of a lot of clothes, and ironed. I guess today was wardrobe day....

In case you haven't already seen them, there are some relatively recent pictures of Max available.


July 27 (Saturday night)

Bengt and Max are flying back from Perstorp tomorrow. I got a lot of work done at home this week: painted and redecorated Max’s room, bought a used "white board" and refinished and mounted it in Max’s playroom (for him to draw on and arrange magnet toys on), cleaned, got started on a photo album, did some maintenance on my personal filing system, took a carload of stuff to the recycling center, etc. etc. At the beginning of the week I kind of overdid it. I got a headache and had stiff muscles, so I found a good novel on my bookshelf and went to bed early.

I had planned to be off work next week because Birgitta (Max’s caregiver) will still be on vacation. However, Bengt hasn't got a job yet, so I think I'll leave the two boys to fend for themselves while I go to work! :-) Going to the office is definitely more restful than being at home. At home there’s always something going on and an endless list of chores or other tasks that I "should" get done PDQ. As soon as Bengt goes back to work, I’m going back to part time!

Max continues to make huge improvements in his vocabulary and ability to reason. It is such a relief to be able to explain things and see that he understands, reason with him, make deals, and negotiate. I especially like when he tells me how he’s feeling, physically and emotionally. He always warns us before he throws up (when he’s got the flu or motion sickness), and he can tell us if he’s sad or afraid or whatever—and why. That makes it so much easier to help him than if he just cries or whines without explaining.

This week Bengt dialed the phone for him every day and Max actually carried out intelligible phone conversations with me. He says "Hello, Mama" and "Bye-bye, Mama" when appropriate, and I understand everything he says in between.

During each phonecall, Max asked me to come join them in Perstorp, and each time he said he would be happy when he could see Mama again. My baby misses me!

Max slept great when I was in Perstorp. I slept right beside him, and for all he could tell, I was there when he fell asleep, stayed all night, and was still there when he woke up. He clearly appreciated that. He's still terrified of dragons and we've decided not to "Ferberize" Max (let him cry it out) but stay with him when he thinks he needs us—at least for now. In fact, this week I moved a second single bed into Max's bedroom so a parent can sleep with him easily when necessary. (I took down his crib, too, since he'd stopped using it.)

While I was in Perstorp with Max, Sven & Anna-Brita took him to Bengt's Gård, where among other things they have various animals for the kids to look at, pet, and feed. Max loved that, but towards the end they were looking at a parrot when a dog barked and scared the parrot. The parrot squawked loudly and Max was terrified. He screamed and clung to Anna-Brita, who was forced to pick him up and carry him away. (Normally she doesn't carry Max, because he's very heavy and she's not a spring chicken.) He told me about it when they got home—over and over and over. He was clearly very upset about him. I pointed out that Anna-Brita had helped him, and there is always someone there to help him. That fact subsequently became part of the story.

Max still isn't the least bit interested in potty training. He wants to run around without his diaper, but when I ask him if he wants to pee on the potty and stop using diapers for good, he says "no" in a tone of voice that conveys "of course not—are you crazy?" I don’t know what the current thinking is in the US, but here they say to wait for the toddler to let you know he's ready. I have also read that boys generally wear diapers longer than girls. So I guess we’re looking at up to another year of diapers. I'm starting to get anxious for the diaper period to end, although I don't look forward to the transition, during which he'll probably need to be whisked to the bathroom on a moment's notice and accidents will be frequent.

I can't believe my week of solitude flew by so fast. I left the house a few times to shop, and I talked with Bengt and Max on the phone each day, but otherwise I was alone—and I loved it! I didn't feel lonely at all, and I enjoyed being able to work without interruption. I also enjoyed being able to sleep when I wanted, not necessarily when it's customary to sleep, and not because I had to sleep in order to be fit to take care of Max. I find I don't need a lot of rest when I can sleep when it suits me.

So I can't say I missed Bengt and Max, but that's only because I knew they'd be back in a week. If they were taken from me or we had to live in separate countries or something (like refugees often have to live apart from their families for extended periods) or something like that, I'd be devastated. I'm so happy to have Bengt and Max in my life!


July 11

Max was very ill last week. He had a high fever, blisters in his mouth, and just generally seemed very uncomfortable Wed-Fri last week. Saturday he was a lot better, and Sunday completely back to normal. Since then his sinuses (or whatever it was) have suddenly cleared up. After months of problems, he's stopped snoring and is sleeping a lot better. He slept through the night two times this week! That makes such a huge difference in the quality of my own sleep. He has stopped napping most days, too (since he's rested when he wakes up, and not starting the day with a sleep deficit), so he sleeps from about 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. That seems about right for him and for us. What a relief!

Unfortunately, Bengt got what Max had. He had a very high fever and severe body aches Sunday and Monday. Tuesday he was much better—just a little weak. I didn't get it—knock on wood.

Max and I are flying to Skåne on Sunday. We stay for a week, and on the following Sunday Bengt relieves me in Perstorp. I get a week of solitude and R&R here at home. I'm really looking forward to both weeks.

Max and I have been at the lake three times and had two hours on the water slide since the Nichols were here. That's really a great campground and recreation area they have there. There are people there from all over Europe, most notably Danes. I didn't realize we had something here in Sollentuna worth coming all that way for.

I took Lin's advice and got some "dragon spray" for Max. It's just an empty but nifty-looking little spray bottle from Ikea. When Max says that he's afraid of dragons in his room, I "spray" it around () and it reassures him.

Yes, I went to Ikea last weekend, and when I got home with various odds and ends, Max asked if I had a present for him. I got out the blue plastic clock that I'd got for his playroom and gave it to him. "A clock! A blue clock! Nice!! Thank you, Mama! A clock! Max's clock!" He just loved it and was so grateful! Good grief. We decided together where to hang it on the wall.

One day last week Birgitta told me that Max had played dragon and chased two other kids around and around the playground, breathing pretend fire, for twenty minutes. They were all shrieking with delight, running round and round on a set course.

Miscellaneous things that Max has been saying lately:

  • Mama, mama, went to town, upsadown! (From the last page of a Dr. Seuss book: "Mama, mama, I went to town! Inside, outside, upside down!")

  • Max can! (Both as a demand, as in "Let me do it", and as a statement of pride when he's done something by himself.)

  • CALM DOWN! (Yikes. I think he got that from Bengt.)

He's also yelling at Bengt and me a lot when he expresses his demands. And he has a lot of demands he feels very strongly about these days. MAX WANTS VÄLL-ING!!! Sheesh! We're getting a good strong dose of the "terrific twos". We try to let him know that we don't appreciate the yelling, without letting it get to us, and respond faster and more positively when he simply asks nicely. He is reasonably good at saying please and thank-you, but yelling is also an option in his mind, apparently. He will also sulk demonstratively when he's angry. At least we haven't had to deal with any tantrums (yet)...

Max is really interested in music now. We have a couple of kids music CDs that we play a lot. (He asks us to put them on.) There are specific songs he likes and sings along (off-key) and makes motions to. I think that music is important, as I think books are important, so I'll be getting him some more music to listen to. (Of course we have a lot of music in this house, but I mean music that suits his two-year-old taste.) We have a Barney CD, but Bengt detests it and says it is evil. ;-)

You saw the recent pictures, right?


June 29, 2002—Happy Birthday Max: 2 1/2

We had a birthday party for Max this afternoon. Since his real birthday is December 30, we decided to celebrate 1/2 years so that his friends would be more likely to be able to attend a party (and so that Max would have two gift-yielding celebrations a year instead of basically only one). As it turned out, five of the 11 (!) kids we invited are out of town this weekend. July is the big vacation month here, and many people take off earlier. Next year maybe we'll do it a little earlier.

On the other hand, in retrospect it's a good thing all those kids and their parents didn't show up! We had our hands full! With six excited kids 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 years old, and a total of ten adults, there was a lot going on here. Bengt and I offered quiche and salad, grilled chicken and hot dogs, various extras, a two-layer chocolate and vanilla cake (which Max proudly helped make - and we put 2 1/2 candles on it) and a cheesecake. The beer was appreciated by the parents. :-) Max understood that this was his party, and he ran down to the door every time the doorbell rang. He greeted the guests and collected his present with a "thank-you". Most of the kids had a blast. It was a bit rough for Lina and for Hanna. (Max plays nicely with them normally, but not with the rambunctious Nils and Tua around.) I think the parents enjoyed it, too.

When everyone eventually left I felt like it had gone far too quickly and I hadn't had much time to talk to people. Max was dead tired but too worked up to sleep. We watched TV for awhile and then read books. That kid can read 20 books a day! He just loves it—all kinds of books, such as:

  • Picture books about animals or common objects, insects, whatever

  • Any story involving one or more moving vehicles

  • Stories that include animals

  • Dr. Seuss

  • Just now, books geared towards potty training, like Everyone Poops

All age-appropriate, of course. :-) The common denominator is the books all have good pictures. I tried to read Winnie the Pooh to him, but it was for older kids without many pictures, and Max lost interest after about two pages. We got lots of new books from Ben & Elliot when they came, and I know that if Lin approved of them, they're fine for Max!

It's actually really fun reading with him. We talk about the stories or pictures and what Max thinks of them and so on. One kind of weird thing is that Max seems to think that the things in the books are real. If he sees a dog in the book, he wants to pet that dog. If there's a picture of a boy playing with a toy tractor, Max wants to borrow that tractor. I tell him he can't because it's just a picture of a toy tractor, a picture in a book. So then Max says he wants to climb into the book. I tell him he can't, and he thinks that's because he's too big or the book's too small.

On the other hand, I've tried to get him to imagine things or picture them in his mind, but he doesn't get that at all. We close our eyes and I say that I can see Pappa (for example) in my mind, but Max says he can't and that's that. Obviously I don't quite have a handle on the workings and the limits of a child's imagination. But I'm learning!

Max also likes to hear stories that Bengt and I make up, or when tell a story about something that he once experienced.

But I digress! I was talking about Max's party. But actually I want to write about the Nichols' visit. They left one week ago and I still haven't been able to find the time to sit down and record some of what we did and how it went...

The Nichols' visit, June 13-22

Bengt and Max and I met Lin and Mark, Ben and Elliot at the airport early in the afternoon. I was so happy to see them! Max was very tired and had a hard time waiting. When they finally game through the gate, I think he was a little surprised that they looked different, so he was a little reserved but still hugged them. Bengt video-taped the arrival.

The first day we just hung around the house in case anyone crashed. No one did, but Lin & Mark were pretty tired. The boys all ran around outside. Ben is an amazing climber! He was scrambling up boulders that it never would have occurred to me could be climbed. Mark told me he loved our house, which really made me feel good!

On Sunday we drove to Vaxholm in our rented van (white, with RENTAL CAR written on each side—it looked like an airport shuttle, ugh) and then took a two-hour boat trip to Finnhamn, where we stayed two nights in some cabins right next to each other. That was really fun. Lin & Mark rented a rowboat and Lin took everybody out for rides. Lin and Ben & Elliot swam a bit, but the water was pretty cold and the rest of us didn't do much more than wade. It was fun, though. The Nichols did a lot of hiking around the island, while Bengt and Max and I took it easy. This is partly because Max tends to want to be carried when a walk gets goal-oriented but mostly because my ankle was still bothering me pretty much. I could get around all right and even carry Max sometimes, but I had to take a lot of Tylenol and didn't want to overdo it on the uneven surfaces.

Elliot and Ben each fell in the water! First Elliot slipped off a rock and got his shoes & socks wet. Then Ben, fully clothed, got surprised by a large wave and was swept right off a boulder and into water up to his neck! Fortunately neither of them got hurt. However, later Elliot tripped while running and skinned both knees—one pretty badly. Good thing we had Bactine and band-aids with us.

I think everyone enjoyed the boat rides there and back. They were pretty exciting for Max. He was especially fascinated by the engines and talks about them even now.

On the return trip, Max went up to a total stranger and told her that he wanted to see the motor but the man said no because it was too loud. [They don't let people down in the engine room because of the noise.] So now he was going to buy some juice. I don't know why Max thought this woman would be interested. She clearly wasn't!

Max had his cold (still) the whole time the Nichols were here. When he started complaining that his ear hurt, we took him to Immediate Care and sure enough, he had an ear infection. But since he had no fever and had recently had two courses of antibiotics, the doctor didn't want to prescribe more antibiotics. He prescribed something else to help keep that system clear, and recommended Tylenol for the pain. Actually it worked quite well, and I was relieved not to have to give Max antibiotics again.

(When we left the doctor's office, Max turned and said, "Thank you doctor! Good-bye, doctor," closing the door. A woman sitting nearby exclaimed, "He's so cute!!")

Unfortunately, Max managed to give his cold to Mark, who got a sore throat and lost his voice before the talk he gave in Manchester! I feel bad about that.

One day we went to the Wasa Museum, but it was such a gorgeous day and so dark and dank inside that we didn't stay long. Instead we drove to the old town (Gamla Stan) to walk around for awhile. Max had fallen asleep in the van, so I ended up just sitting in the van with him, but I didn't mind.

Another day we went to the lake to swim. It was a gorgeous day and the water wasn't too cold. It was great, especially the big water slide that we discovered! I'd never noticed it there before—maybe it's new. We paid $5 each for the boys to go for one hour. Lin and I got to go free, since Elliot (at first) and Max (each time) insisted on riding on a lap. I really enjoyed it, and Max shrieked with delight the whole way down every time. He talked about that slide for days afterward, and we're definitely going back there as soon as the weather warms up again.

We all went to the playground at the neighborhood elementary school several times. The boys enjoyed that very much. There was some equipment that Ben & Elliot hadn't seen before and thought was really fun. One evening a boy a little older than Ben asked Ben (through me) to play soccer with him. It was neat watching the two boys play. It looked like they were on approximately the same level. Lin and Elliot got in on the action, too. I video-taped it. :-)

Our yard was (and still is) full of snails and slugs of all sizes, which I think made a big impression on Ben & Elliot. Max is mental about snails (loves to pick them up, collect groups of them and watch them slither around, etc.—even wants to taste them—yech!), and he and I recently learned from a gardening neighbor to cut slugs in half with a gardening scissors whenever we see them, because otherwise they multiply like mad and take over your garden. Well, all this made quite an impression on Max's cousins. There was lots of pointing out and handling of snails, and Elliot got in on the slug-chopping action.

Elliot was also very fond of our kitty, Maja, and she enjoyed his attention.

The Nichols didn't rush around to tourist sites or plan a lot of activities, which I think was good for everyone. As a good aunt I should have made sure that Ben & Elliot at least got more exposure to Swedish culture. I feel a bit guilty that we didn't manage to get to a maypole on Midsummer's Eve day. It was raining off and on, and we were slow that day... But that's no excuse. I think they did have a good experience, though, and everyone had a good visit. My own favorite times were when Lin and I got some chances to talk, and when we all went to the lake. We certainly hope they'll come again before too long!

Bengt has scanned a bunch of pictures from the past couple of weeks, and he says they'll be up on his site on Monday. There you'll probably see the worst haircut in history on Max. What happened was, Max was pretty desperately in need of a haircut, but neither Bengt nor I managed to take him before the Nichols arrived. Right before we went to Finnhamn, I was really fed up with Max's hair. Max and I talked about it, and we agreed I should trim it. Unfortunately, the tool I tried using was Bengt's beard trimmer. Never try that. It doesn't work like a regular hair trimmer! DOH!

When I saw I was in trouble, I went and got Lin to help me, but she didn't do much better with that thing. We did the most basic repair job with scissors but then it was time to leave for Finnhamn and there was no time to take Max someplace to get his hair fixed. I was pretty embarrassed. I even asked the check-in woman at the cabins whether she knew of anyone on the island who could cut hair. No such luck. So Max had to go the whole three days with that weird-looking haircut. It didn't bother Max, but it sure bothered me, especially since we were taking so many pictures!

First thing on Wednesday, I took him for a haircut. What a relief! I told my hairdresser that my sister had cut Max's hair. (Lin kindly gave me permission to say that, so I wouldn't have to feel embarrassed with the hairdresser forever after. ;-) Thank you, Lin!


June 10

I sprained my right ankle very badly at 10 p.m. Friday night. I was tinkering around in the yard and stepped down on it wrong so it flipped over on the side. I heard and felt a big "crack" and the pain was incredible. Thank goodness Bengt heard me calling and came out to help me. As soon as the initial most intense pain eased up (after a few minutes), he helped me into the house and got me an ice bag. But within minutes it was very swollen and I felt sure it was broken. I got all shocky (cold, thirsty, dizzy, sick) and couldn't put any weight whatsoever on that foot.

We called around and got someone to come stay in the house with Max (who was asleep of course), and Bengt took me to the ER. After an hour or so the doctor still hadn't had a chance to see me, so Bengt went home to relieve the "babysitters", at my urging. By then I was calm and knew I could handle things and then take a taxi home.

After two hours I saw the doctor for two minutes, and he sent me up to have the ankle X-rayed. I was really surprised that it wasn't broken. How in the heck can it hurt so badly and not be broken in at least three places?? :-) The nurse said that a sprain can hurt every bit as much as a break. No shit!

So they wrapped up the ankle, gave me a lot of advice, and sent me home. Fortunately I had crutches with me. (I'd kept those after my knee operation in 1990—I knew they'd come in handy someday...) I got home at 3 a.m. but couldn't sleep without pain killers. However, in the morning I was actually able to hop around, putting just a minimum of weight on my foot. They had told me at the hospital to use the ankle as much as possible, as soon as possible, to keep it from stiffening up and speed up the healing process. I took their advice (mostly out of necessity—you can't be immobile when you have a toddler in the house) and it really worked: I could walk almost normally today (Monday), as long as the surface I'm walking on is perfectly flat. If there's any unevenness at all and I have to use my ankle & foot muscles, it's very painful.

My entire foot is swollen and black and blue—even out to my toes, strangely enough. All except my heel! It looks pretty funny. I'm supposed to keep it wrapped in an elastic bandage as long as it continues to swell up when I walk on it. No problem! I'm just glad it isn't broken. I guess I have the Gerber "bones of steel" to thank for that. And I believe I'll be able to walk pretty well by the time Lin & co. arrive on Thursday.

But phew, I'll never forget how badly that hurt, and I'll never say the words "just a sprain" again.

Anders was with us this weekend and is staying until Wednesday. Max really enjoys playing with him and this evening was curled up on the couch with him, watching Tele Tubbies. It's good to have Anders here.


June 6, 2002

First an update on Max's health status: The nose spray and tilting the bed gave us some relief for a couple of nights, but then his symptoms worsened and finally it was intolerable. We had a referral to a specialist on June 10, but we couldn't wait that long. Tried to get in but were finally forced to go back to our regular clinic. There the doctor found that Max had a sinus infection, an ear infection (his first!), fluid in his lungs, and (to top it all off) pink eye! He was one unhappy little camper with very sleepy and worn-out parents.

So on Tuesday Max started a course of heavy-duty antibiotics. And last night Max slept through the night for the first time in months. Bengt and I are breathing a sigh of relief and crossing our fingers that this will take care of Max's health problems and difficulty sleeping through the night. It would be really nice if we were all healthy and rested when Lin, Mark, Ben and Elliot arrive next Thursday!

Now for the latest language developments:

  • "No way, Mama!" (When asked to do something he doesn't want to.)

  • When we give Max nose spray, he resists until we say, "It's ok, it won't hurt." So Max repeated these words when Bengt was resisting Max's attempts to examine Bengt's eye with tweezers! "Don't worry! This won't hurt!" DOH!

  • "RAP!" (Having unfortunately heard Mama exclaim "Crap!" after dropping something.)

  • Comforting me, he strokes my shoulder and says, "Little guy!"—just like I do to him!

  • If I say I can't do something, he says, "Mama big boy! Mama can do it!" Just like I sometimes encourage him. (Though, by the way, I try to avoid making becoming a big boy seem like the ultimate goal and something he should strive for. There are advantages to being a little boy, and he might as well enjoy these while they last, the way I see it.)

This evening on my way home from work I noticed that there were two street sweepers (those big machines) at work on the playground of the local elementary school, sweeping up all the gravel and sand from the concrete play areas. I came and got Max and we went to watch them, because ever since a street sweeper woke him up from a nap a couple of weeks ago he has been afraid of them. Max was nervous about going over there, but with Mama at his side he felt safe enough.

As we watched the trucks at work and talked about them, Max gradually relaxed and then started asking if he could have a ride. Then, after about an hour, a boy of about 7 or 8 pulled up on his bike. The door of the smaller street-sweeping truck swung open and the boy hopped in. The driver was obviously his dad or some other relative. This gave me the courage to ask the guy if he would consider giving Max a ride. But just when I did, the man discovered that he had a full load of gravel and sand that he had to go dump. He said if we wanted to wait until he got back, he would give Max a ride.

After 25 or 30 minutes (and countless queries of, "Street sweeper come back now? Ride the street sweeper now?"), sure enough the guy came back and the older boy graciously hopped out to let Max have a turn. (The kid was obviously enjoying Max's admiration.) Max rode with the man, who didn't talk but just concentrated on his work. Max sat very still and didn't touch anything. I was able to walk alongside (though several yards away, of course, to avoid the dust and spray) and was in Max's view the whole time. I mouthed to him the question, "Is it fun?" and Max nodded, but he didn't smile. His enjoyment was clearly on a different level. It was a new experience for him, and I think he even enjoyed the satisfaction of conquering his own fear.

That was our memorable day, and that concludes today's report! :-)

Hope you are all well!

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