at the Pålssons'
March 31, 2003
I've been sick since March 20! It started as a sore throat, then spread to my lungs, sinuses, and even my eyes (scratchy, runny and crusty). I finally broke down and called the doctor on Friday. She prescribed penicillin but it is not helping as much as I'd hoped--or at least not as fast as I'd hoped. I'm still home from work and won't be able to go back at least until my eye infection is under control.
Bengt and Max were in Perstorp Tues. thru Sat. It didn't turn out to be the relaxing and productive break that I needed, but of course it was good that they were away so I could rest and avoid infecting them.
Max has been a real homebody these past few months. He likes to stay home or be around our neighborhood and play with Mama & Papa or his friends. He doesn't want to travel and is clearly happiest at home. He expresses a lot of appreciation for his home and his friends.
I was considering taking Max with me to Michigan with me in May. When I asked him whether he'd like that, he asked for more info (like how we'd get there and how long we'd be gone), then stated in no uncertain terms that he did not want to go. He said he wanted to see his cousins and so on, but he didn't want to go because (1) it's too far away, (2) the trip takes too long, and (3) two weeks is too long to be away. (He actually listed these reasons, believe it or not.) I waited a week and asked him again, expecting a different response (you know how kids are), but he said exactly the same thing again. I waited another ten days and asked yet again, and he said with exasperation in his voice, "I told you I don't want to go!" Good grief! His articulation of his reasoning, as well as his consistency, really surprised me. Needless to say, we're not going. (It's just as well. It would be too stressful without Bengt along. Eileen + Max on an airplane together for 10 hours = red alert! red alert! "Excuse me, flight attendant. Would you mind restraining this sticky, whiny, restless three-year-old while I go slit my wrists in the lavatory?")
Max also did not want to leave for Perstorp on Tuesday, even though he wanted to see Farmor and Farfar. He objected vehemently when we got him ready to go to the airport. When we got him into the car, he accepted his "fate" and became apathetic. I really hated that situation and even Bengt was close to calling the whole trip off. It was rather extreme and I wondered for awhile whether "unnecessary forced travel" would be one of the things Max will accuse me of when he reaches that stage of blaming me for past sins. But as my friend Gunilla said, traveling to Skåne to see the grandparents isn't a cruel or unusual thing to subject a child to; we've done it many times before, and for various reasons it was a good time for another visit.
They called here every day, and Max said he was enjoying his visit but wanted to come home. He also missed me. Bengt said that one night when he want to bed, he burrowed down into his blankets and said, "Niiiiice. I'm going to dream about Mama." (Precious!!) On Saturday he was very glad to see me at the airport. When he caught sight of me, I was fascinated to see him contain his joy by pursing his little mouth to control his smile. He walked calmly into my arms and gave me a very long hug, with one short interruption to plant a demonstrative kiss on the lips. He called me his nice, sweet mama and I really felt appreciated!!
I've been meaning to tell you that Max is now sleeping by himself. (He slept by himself for ages when he was younger, but in recent months he'd been insisting on company at night.) I practiced with him for a week, calling out to us from bed when he needs us, and us coming. We switched roles, and we pretended it was morning and Max got praised for sleeping by himself. After that it was a piece of cake. We still stay with him while he falls asleep, but it only takes a few minutes and he obviously doesn't really need that—it's just because it feels nice to be together.
Max came tippy-toeing into our room the first morning after he slept by himself. Some little sound prompted me to open my eyes, and when I did Max's face was about 1 inch from mine! I had to laugh. He asked me, "Mama, what should I call you when I wake you up?" I thought that was funny. I guess he was wondering the best way to wake someone up.
So now Bengt and I have been able to sleep in the same bed again. We complain about each other's snoring. Bengt recorded my snoring on our little digital recorder, which I thought was highly unnecessary. ;-) When I tried to record his awful snorts and sputters, he actually heard the soft click of the recorder being turned on, woke up instantaneously and said, "Stop recording me." How does he do that?!?!? So lacking a basis for comparison, we asked Max who snores loudest, Mama or Papa. Max pointed wordlessly to Papa. HA! So there!
We had a very nice spring, while it lasted. Some lovely little blue flowers came up in our garden, and Bengt and I managed to do some raking and trimming. However, now winter is here again. It is snowing outside as I write. Rats. Wonder how long this will last.
There was lots more I was planning on writing, but my head feels like it's full of cotton balls and I can't think what I might have had to say...
Hi there. We had gorgeous weather most of the week, and it really lifts our spirits! Even Maja is much happier.
We did a lot of yard work today. I pruned our apple tree myself, after having gone to a seminar on the subject last year. Max enjoyed the day outside, too, dragging branches around and clipping sticks with the small pruning shears.
Saturday morning Max and Bengt were up, and I was sleeping in. Max wanted to see me, so Bengt said to go look in the bedroom but be quiet because I was sleeping. Well, he was quiet all right, but he tickled my feet until I woke up! That kid has already figured out how to get around rules! :-)
Yesterday we went to a housewarming at some friends' new house. Max said he didn't want to go, and as we got ready to leave he nearly got hysterical. He kept asking weird questions like, "What does Björn look like?" (Our friend's name is Björn.) Well, Björn means "bear" in Swedish, and it turns out Max thought that Björn was a real bear. He was terrified! Of course when we arrived and he saw that Björn was just a regular guy, he settled down to play with Mimi's toys and had a blast. After three hours Bengt and I were worn out but Max wanted to stay...
Have a good week, everyone.
Just a few notes...
Sweden's annual book sale started today. It is a frenzy and I spent about $50, but I got such great books! A novel and a new Swedish dictionary for me, a book about beer for Bengt, and some great children's books for Max. One about a garage (where they fix cars), one that shows and explains how a house is built, one about emergency vehicles, and one about dinosaurs, plus a dinosaur coloring book. They're terrific books and Max loves them.
Max has been home with Bengt so far this week because he's got pink-eye. He's fine during the day, but we've had rough nights because his eyes bother him a lot when he's horizontal. But it's getting better now.
Max has been expressing his appreciation for our house. He's told me that he really likes our house, and he often says, "I like my playroom" or "I like my bedroom." Bengt says that when they get home from Birgitta's, Max says with an air of pleasure, "Our house. We have a nice house." It makes me feel proud and happy that Max feels good here and appreciates what he has.
He continues to play by himself happily for longer and longer stretches of time. Of course we still play with him a lot, but now Max can entertain himself. Whew, what a relief! He likes playing with Play-Doh and stuffed animals, but his favorite activity is playing with cars. Among other things, he "drives" them around and lines them up in looooong lines (he has many cars).
We've been talking about America. Max said he wants to go visit Ben and Elliot. I told him I'd like that too, and I also mentioned that it would involve a long ride in an airplane. Max didn't like that and said that Ben and Elliot should come visit us, instead. I don't blame him.
In Sweden we can get Boston Public on TV now. I've started watching regularly since Jeri Ryan (a.k.a. Seven of Nine) joined the cast. :-)
Music to my ears:
The fanfares (now with cymbal sounds) are still with us every day. Max is obsessed. He particularly enjoys it when we march around the house together, singing fanfares.
Max is becoming aware of his dreams. One morning after he slept fitfully, crying out several times, he told me that he'd had bad dreams about falling into a deep hole filled with large machines. The next night he wanted me to hold him tight while he slept so he wouldn't fall into a hole. It was an excellent opportunity to talk about dreams.
Finally, I want to mention again how much Max loves to eat. He eats as much as many adults, and I don't know where he puts it all! (I do understand how he burns it off, though. He's a powerhouse! Phew!) Of course it's good (at least for now); I know other parents who worry because their kids aren't interested in food and are very thin. Max has been so strong and healthy—we're so lucky! And when he does get the occasional cold or flu, I really appreciate not having to worry about a couple of days with a minimum of calories. I just hope he won't have problems with obesity when he's older. I guess he'll be fine as long as he's active.
Oh, what a great little boy we have! Brag brag brag brag....
February 2, 2003
Max and I went to Sweden's National Museum of Natural History today. He liked it, but some of the animals (like dinosaur models) and some of the exhibitions scared him. The most fun was probably the meal we ate in the museum's cafeteria... Then we went to the gift shop and Max played with the zillions of little plastic animals they had in there. He got to pick a couple of items to buy, but surprisingly he didn't choose the animals. He chose a little plastic container with a magnifying glass lid, a plastic placemat with dinosaurs on it, and a set of magnet wands with metal chips and magnetic marbles for experimenting with magnetism. How could I resist requests like that?
I think it is so much fun to show Max new things, especially now that he can talk so well and communicate what he's thinking and feeling. But sometimes it wears me out. He talks and asks questions constantly. He wants explanations for everything. He comments on everything. In a fit of exasperation, I recently asked him to stop asking Why? Why? Why? for a little while. He understood and tried, but he couldn't stop. He said, "Mama, I think there's something wrong with me. I can't stop asking why!" I laughed so hard.
On Saturday morning Max was "helping" me make breakfast, and he
dropped an egg on the throw carpet in our kitchen.
Later Max told Bengt: Look, that carpet is wet. I dropped an egg on the floor and Mama said "shit".
Saturday afternoon I want ice skating with a friend, Christina. We went all the way around the lake (14 km) and I'm not sore. Yay!
Max's greatest interest right now is listening to fanfares, like the one at the beginning of Universal Studios films. He goes around "singing" them, and he says he wants to play fanfares on a trumpet. He and Bengt sit at Bengt's PC and search the Web for different fanfares. Last night I heard him singing one to himself just before he fell asleep. Good grief!
Bengt and I were sorry to hear about the space shuttle catastrophe. Especially we feel for the families. I myself also feel for the poor Nasa employees who are asking themselves what went wrong and whether they might have been able to prevent the accident.
Have a good week, everyone.
January 27, 2003
Hello there! Max and I returned yesterday from five days in southern Sweden. I took him down by train to visit Sven & Anna-Brita. I had a two-day company kick-off in Helsingborg on Thurs-Fri, so I left Max with them. It was his first time away from Mom & Dad, and he did great! I don’t know who was happiest—Max, or Sven & Anna-Brita, or me, or Bengt who got five days of solitude here at home.
The trip itself was a bit stressful, though. Max is very susceptible to motion sickness. The last few times we flew, he threw up on the plane. (He often feels sick in the car, too, and we have to stop and let him out as soon as he complains, or he throws up.) So this time we decided to try the train. It’s a longer trip but I thought it would be fun for him and didn’t think he’d get sick. Wrong! He got nauseous almost immediately and threw up twice. Thanks to the fact that Max lets us know when barfing is imminent, there wasn’t any mess, and the conductor and other passengers were very kind to us. But it wasn’t a pleasant experience. Within ten minutes Max was asking if we were there yet, and the trip was over four hours long. Ugh.
For the trip back I got him some medicine for motion sickness, and it worked great, so the only problem was boredom. (Fortunately, Max is pretty social and he went around visiting the other children in our car on the train.) Next time we’ll fly—and we won’t forget the medicine (which I didn’t know until Friday was available over-the-counter—most drugs are available by prescription only in Sweden).
Tomorrow is Bengt's birthday. I got the present and Max made the card.
January 20 - Twerp boy turns household upside down!
Max has been driving me close to the brink these last couple of days. He tests every limit and does everything I ask him not to. Yesterday I took him to the store with me and he wanted to buy an expensive toy truck. I said no and he yelled at me and insisted on having it! He didn't throw a tantrum, but he got closer to it than he ever has, I think. After an hour I dumped him at the childcare center at the mall (and he seemed as glad to be rid of me as I was to be rid of him) and went for a quiet meal and a smoke!
This morning he woke me up at 5:15 a.m. and asked for välling. We don't get välling before it's time to get up, and I told him and reminded him of the good reasons for that and offered him water instead. But he asked me again every few seconds for the next hour! I tried everything I could think of, including turning my back on him and holding a pillow over my head. At this he cried and said I'd hurt his feelings!
I told him I didn't want him to talk, I wanted to go back to sleep. He said, "I can talk if I want to! Don't tell me not to talk. I have a fine, nice pappa and I can talk to him." It sounded almost like a threat! :-) I told him I was very frustrated and why, but that didn't stop him from continuing his whiny demands.
Finally at 6:15 he we quiet for 15 minutes, but he couldn't get back to sleep (nor could I), so we got up. He said he wanted a pancake, so I made him one but then he didn't eat a single bite (until Bengt fed it to him later). He'd woken up way too early, so he napped at Birgitta's and then didn't want to get up from his nap. He cried inconsolably and Bengt had to go pick him up. Ten minutes after he got home, he was fine.
Then this evening he stuck to me like Velcro and pushed every conceivable button. Among other things, he won't leave Maja alone no matter what I say, and she is scared of him and runs away, which makes him even more determined to catch her.
Max is more cooperative with Bengt, so naturally Bengt thinks it's my fault and I probably give in to his demands sometimes. Not true! No fair! I've been talking to other moms and apparently this is a common thing, that toddlers give their moms an appallingly hard time.
Now the little twerp is sleeping, and Bengt is sleeping with him tonight. And tomorrow night, too, for that matter (I just decided), since Bengt gets the rest of the week off when Max and I go to Perstorp!
Lately Max has enjoyed pretending to be various animals. His favorite ones to imitate are dragons, rhinoceroses, tigers, elephants, monkeys, cats, dogs and frogs. But the other day he was running around the house with a diaper on his head. What the—? Turns out he was imitating the turkey in Boynton's book Blue Hat, Green Hat. The one who always puts his clothes on the wrong body parts. And he took his role very seriously.
I don't know how we managed to forget to tell Max his whole name, but it was just a couple of weeks ago that Max heard that his name is Maximilian Anders Pålsson. It took him many tries before he learned to say "Maximilian". Then for days he went around saying, "My name is Maximilian! I like my name Maximilian!"
Last week Max asked me, "Do all children have pappas?" When I said yes, Max looked satisfied and said, "I have a pappa, and he loves me."
Next Wednesday Max and I are taking the train down to Perstorp. We used to ride the train down every time, but then the trip got a little hairy with a toddler and I preferred to fly. Now Max doesn't want to fly because it makes nauseous, so I agreed to try the train again. I booked seats in a "family car", where I hope they'll have a few things to occupy the kids and above all fellow passengers who won't be annoyed by active & talkative Max.
I'll be attending a kick-off at our head office in Helsingborg on Thursday and Friday. There will be dinner and entertainment until late both nights, so I'm staying in a hotel in Helsingborg rather than taking the train back to Perstorp every evening, as I'd originally planned. So I'll be with him there on Wednesday night, but then the grandparents, Farmor and Farfar, will be on their own with him for over two days! I think Max is ready for it, though. I talked to him about it, and he happily said that he wants Farmor to sleep with him one night and Farfar the other. (I know Farmor is planning to sleep downstairs with him both nights.) I think it will go just fine, though I know he'll be glad to see me on Saturday.
We'll come back on Sunday. I imagine Bengt will be well rested by then!
January 10—Max's police motorcycle
Today I took off early from work and went into Stockholm to participate in filming for a possible documentary about Americans living in Sweden. It was interesting and kind of fun, but the best part is what I found when I arrived early and started browsing in a nearby store: The children's battery-powered police motorcycle shown on here!
I would never have bought something like this for Max, but it was on sale for 1/3 of the normal price. I called Bengt and he agreed, so after the video shoot I went back to the store with the guy who had organized the shoot, who had generously offered me a ride home. We got lots of comments from passersby as we carried the thing down the street to his car.
No doubt it would have been good to save the thing for Max's 3 1/2 year birthday, but I simply couldn't wait. Bengt and I gave it to him after dinner this evening. It didn't get the ecstatic response I anticipated, but he definitely likes it. It has a panel of buttons for various police-vehicle sounds, turn signals, numerous blinking lights, rearview mirrors (which for some reason aren't shown in this picture) and compartments on the back and under the seat. All right up Max's alley, as you know. You start it with a key, which fortunately is connected to the motorcycle by a string, so it can't get lost. There is a single "gas pedal" to make it go, and a button that makes it go backwards if you want to back up. It seems easy to steer and powerful enough to go up a hill or driveway. It doesn't work very well on our hardwood floors because they are so slippery that the plastic wheels spin, but I'm sure it will work great outside in dryer weather. Though the age range suggested on the instruction booklet is 4-8, Max can operate it and steers carefully to avoid running into things. He is not a daredevil (yet). He likes to drive it around downstairs and sat on it while watching TV this evening. He said it was a fine motorcycle and hugged it.
We got such a good price on the thing and I'm so sure that Max will have a blast with it for several years that I can't regret buying it. The only regret I have is that I've never seen any other kid with anything like this, and I think that other parents will disapprove. Swedes are so anal about equality. I will probably feel embarrassed when others see Max tooling around on the thing when the weather gets nicer. My hope is that Max will at least share willingly.
Also, it would have been good if the present had been for a special occasion, like a birthday. On the other hand, maybe over the years I will manage to communicate my own values. Instead of thinking up and buying expensive presents solely because there's something to celebrate, I'm more inclined to buy Max what he needs and wants, when he needs it and when a good opportunity (like a sale) presents itself. Within reason, of course. Why not wait until after Christmas to get big-ticket items? The only present Max got from Bengt and me for Christmas & his birthday was a Lego dump truck that I knew he wanted. All of the other presents (and there were many of them) came from friends and relatives. I'm glad now that we didn't buy him other presents.
I'm a master at justifying my own shopping behavior, aren't I?!
I stayed with Max while he fell asleep this evening, and at one point he turned over during a dream and clearly said, "Let Maja ride!" I liked the idea of Max letting our cat ride his new motorcycle.
Here's something gross that you probably don't want to know: Our bathtub drain backed up, so Bengt removed the side of the bathtub and worked directly on the drain in the floor underneath. Now, I'm perfectly happy to do many of the typically male jobs around the house and yard, and deal with car repairs and the like, but plumbing totally grosses me out. Bengt eventually pulled a gigantic hair rat out of the drain! It was over a foot long and as thick in diameter as the drain. Soooooo gross! Bengt joked that he thought it was Maja he was pulling out of there—it just kept coming! Clearly it was my hair (Bengt uses the downstairs shower and, in any case, has little hair) but I could barely stand to look at it. I was afraid I'd have nightmares about it. Bengt got lots of bonus points in my book for taking care of that!
I fell asleep while putting Max to bed tonight and then woke up at 12:30 a.m. Bummer! I can't get back to sleep! I read for hours but finally gave up, and now it's almost 5 a.m. I can feel that my body should be asleep, and I keep yawning, but I can't get to sleep. If I do drift off in an hour or so, no doubt sirens and beeping from Max's new motorcycle will wake me up by nine at the latest.... (We put tape over the loudspeaker, since even Max was clapping his hands over his ears at the sound, but it's still pretty darn noisy.)
Maybe I'll go play NetGammon for awhile.
Have a good weekend!
January 5, 2003: A day of delight at the animal exhibition
Oh, my. Max and I had a wonderful time today. Sollentuna is the home of one of Stockholm's two exhibition halls, and this weekend was the annual animal exhibition. Max and I spent hours there. We got to see and pet a lot of animals, like cows, horses, sheep, goats, rabbits, guinea pigs, mini pigs (pets), cats, minks, polecats, rats, snakes of all sizes, many types of birds, and so on.
Max rode a rather wild mechanical horse and managed to stay in the saddle, and he got a prize for that (a poster from a horse race and a piece of candy). We watched a pony show/race featuring very young "jockeys" riding miniature horses, as well as a show in which rabbits jumped through an obstacle course (hilarious!). Max got to see where I bought Maja four years ago. He drew a picture for the owner of the "cat hotel" and got a prize for it (a placemat with a picture of cats on it). He got to sit in a gigantic tractor and watch sheep get sheered (shorn?).
But the highlight was definitely riding the child-sized cars they had. They were pretty simple things to drive (hold the gas pedal down with one foot and steer as usual), but I didn't think Max would be able to coordinate it. There was a maze of "roads" to drive on (not just a circle or oval to drive in) and lots of little cars on the road. But he wanted to try it, and sure enough, it took him all of about 30 seconds to get the hang of it. He watched where he was going, steered clear of obstacles and other drivers, and took his foot off the gas when others got in his way. I couldn't believe my eyes, and he was so proud that he could actually drive. (You know how obsessed Max is about vehicles...) He drove a "race car" and later a child-sized tractor, twice each. I would have given a lot to have had our camera or video camera with me. What a sight! The cost was reasonable, too, I thought—only 10 kronor ($1) a shot.
But what made me feel even more proud was how cooperative and grown-up he was (and has been lately). He can be so reasonable and obliging! He didn't try to insist on petting animals that had "no petting" signs and didn't try to get me to buy him the junk they were selling there. (He asked once when he saw things he wanted but accepted a "no".) He got close to and even petted several parrots, even though in the past he was badly scared by a parrot and has been afraid of large birds for a long time. He waited his turn in line and didn't complain when I told him it was time to stop driving the car & tractor. He was reluctant to leave the exhibition when I said we had to go after hours of excitement, but he didn't whine or pitch a fit. As we left he chose a small Winnie-the-Pooh balloon to buy, without even asking for a big (and outrageously priced) one or more than one balloon.
Afterwards we picked up a few groceries—Max's weariness showing only in his choice to ride in the cart rather than push one. He said, "What a nice balloon I got!" and told Pappa about all his adventures when we got home. So our outing was incredibly pleasant and rewarding. I love doing stuff like that with him. I told him how proud I am of the way he could drive and of how cooperative he was. He likes to hear that. He said, "I'm a fine boy!" I said, "Yes, I think you're a very fine boy."
Of course there are still areas for improvement. :-) He won't poop in the potty because it says might splash him, and for some reason that thought upsets him. In the mornings he refuses to go downstairs without adult supervision. We asked him why, and he replied, "Because there might be a ghost down there. The ghost would get me and take me to the fire station and spray me!" Good grief!
As we were leaving the exhibition, there were a couple of police cars parked out front. Max asked if we could take one. I said we can't take cars that aren't ours, and he asked me what would happen if we did. To make a long story short, this started a long discussion about police, thieves and jail. At home he acted it out by having me act bad and then locking me in the bathroom.
It's been really cold here this past week. Right now it's -20º C. (-4º F.). Fortunately it's not windy. When we left the exhibition, I was afraid the 19-year-old Volvo wouldn't start, but it did (barely). We would have had to take the bus home—brrr!