at the Pålssons'
December 31, 2003
We had a nice Christmas in Perstorp, with Sven, Anna-Brita and Anders. It was relaxing and pleasant as usual. The only bummer was that Max was sick – really sick. He got a high fever the first full day we were there and didn't get better until it was time to go home. We gave him Tylenol constantly (adult-sized pills cut in half, which he willingly swallowed with water!), and that worked pretty well. Without it he got delirious a few times. Fortunately, no one else has come down with it (yet). I felt like crap yesterday but am fine today.
Santa (a.k.a. Sven) paid a visit on Christmas Eve, but Max was so sick that he didn't even open all of his presents before dragging himself back to bed. He didn't recognize Sven but expressed dismay that Santa was smaller and more tired than he (Max) expected. We agreed to send Santa some vitamins so that he'd be stronger by next Christmas.
Here are some pictures from the holidays.
Yesterday was Max's fourth birthday. He got gobs of presents and we had a yummy chocolate cake. Bobbie called to wish him a happy birthday, and Max spoke surprisingly good English with her. His active vocabulary is limited, but he knows the difference between Swedish and English, so he no longer chats in Swedish and expects English speakers to understand. It will be really neat to see what happens with his English when we visit Michigan next summer.
Some of Max's favorite presents this year are:
I got lots of neat things, including two seasons of Star Trek on DVD (now I have all seven seasons of STNG!) and a season of Friends. Also slippers, a waffle iron and a few good books. Bengt got a Ralph Lauren sweatshirt, some DVDs and a book, among other things. We both got money (much appreciated). And we got a gigantic flower basket as a thank-you for arranging and coding Tripp Trapp Trull's website.
We also got loads of Christmas cards. One of my favorite things is seeing pictures of all my friends' kids. I save them. Some people send posed/professional Christmas pictures, some send hilarious snapshots. Some pics make me laugh, and sometimes I just feel surprised that the kids have gotten so big. It's fun.
Some of Max's recent thought-provoking questions:
Happy New Year to all our friends and relatives! We hope you have a nice celebration. Bengt got some fireworks that we set off this evening. Max loves fireworks, and we had a blast sending them up. Bengt and I have a small bottle of champaign for ourselves. We'll drink it out on the balcony while we watch the fireworks that our neighbors will be setting off. Otherwise we have no special plans.
December 21 - Happy Holidays, everyone!
This picture was taken from our balcony a week or so ago, at sunset (which means about 3:00 pm).
Final countdown to Christmas. Bengt and I are a bit stressed.
The last couple of weeks have been pretty stressful at work, too. I've been editing others' work full time, which is exhausting. Normally I don't have to do much of that.
Today we got lots of snow. Bengt and Max shoveled the driveway and built a snowman. Eileen and Max went sledding. Then I called Anna-Brita in Skåne. "What's the weather like?" I asked. "Like spring!" What a shame.
After a whole weekend of hearing, "Mama! Mama! Can we..." and "Mama! Mama! What's ..." I often feel like I'm going to wring somebody's neck if I hear "Mama! Mama!" one more time. So here's an example of Bengt's sense of humor: When we got our new email accounts, Bengt had my initial password set to "MamaMama"!
Here's a recent exchange between me and Max:
Max (in English): Mama, Nils is making me sick! [I
don't think we've ever said that at our house. He must have gotten it from a
For Trekkers: A recording of Max's version of "Space, the final frontier..."
December 15, 2003
Max had his 4-year checkup this morning. Stats:
Bengt and I took the opportunity to measure ourselves. I have this fear of shrinking as I age. That's the last thing I need. But I am 178 cm tall—2 cm taller than I thought I was! Bengt, on the other hand, is 173 cm tall—2 cm shorter than we thought. Weird.
Christmas is approaching and the excitement is mounting. Over half of the presents on Max's advent calendar have been opened by now. (Each one was a little car or plastic animal.) We put up our Christmas decorations a few weeks ago and Max really enjoyed that. He liked the stockings and hung them on door handles all over the upstairs. (We don't have American-style doorknobs.) We have been painting with glitter glue and drawing with noticeably brighter colors (although Max still says his favorite color is black).
We had an excellent trumpet lesson last Monday. "Excellent" means that Max cooperated and played a lot.
Today, however, wasn't so great. Max flatly refused to play and then ate his muffin during the lesson even though I told him No. (Natural consequence: No more food goes into the lesson with us, even if it's meant for afterwards.) I myself actually managed to play Jingle Bells and a Swedish Christmas song. That was pretty cool! But it wasn't easy, with Max getting into things and interrupting us the whole time.
On the way home Max nagged the whole time for a real gun and a real sword for Christmas. I got irritated and then angry. (How many times am I supposed to have to say "No. Never."?) Then he insisted on asking all kinds of impossible theoretical questions like "What if I killed everybody in the world except you and papa with my gun or my sword? What would you do? What would the police do?" By the time we got home I was seriously annoyed.
When we got home Max succeeded in annoying Bengt so much that Bengt raised his voice (a rare occurrence). Max was sticking out his tongue at Bengt in spite of repeated reprimands and just generally misbehaving. Then Max started to cry when Bengt spoke sternly. ARGH!
When we were leaving our trumpet lesson last Monday, Ann-Marie told him, "I think you're a clever boy." Max replied, "I was extra cute when I was a baby!" Good grief, I wonder where he gets this stuff. Recently, out of the blue, he said, "Mama, I'm the sweetest boy in the whole world, aren't I!" (It was more a statement than a question.) I don't encourage bragging, but I know just how he felt. He enjoys being Max and is proud of what he can do. Fortunately, he's generous with his superlatives. He praises the other kids, most of his friends are his "best friends", and he is totally clear on the fact that while he thinks his own mama and papa are best, so do all the other kids. All the kids love their own parents best, and all the parents love their own kid best, says Max. So true.
I haven't mentioned Max's preoccupation with death lately, but he still thinks about it quite a lot. Just tonight he told me that he doesn't want to die and asks when he's going to die. I wish I knew how to reassure him. I've gotten (and used) a lot of sound advice from you friends & relatives who read this website. He is still worried, though.
Last week we got Max's school photograph. I think it's one of the best school pictures I've ever seen. The photographer did a great job!
I got my "tax report" for 2002. (In Sweden you file the details but then they figure out the tax for you, and unless you file the "EZ" version of the form, they don't let you know until the end of the following year what you owed...) I owe 12,000 kronor, to be paid by March! That's about $1600 at current exchange rates. Bastards! I hate getting that report right before Christmas. Here we were thinking we would take Max to Euro Disney (Paris) or go to Greece for a week early this spring. No chance of that now—especially if we want to get over to the States this summer (which we do).
On the brighter side, I'm going to London with work at the end of January. True, London is January isn't terribly exciting, but I'll get to see my friend Caroline, whom I haven't seen in years.
At work today I noticed that ReadSoft's global email address list (for ReadSoft associates all over the world) contains a listing for "Santa". I couldn't resist emailing a letter to Santa. Here's what I wrote:
December 4, 2003
Max and Bengt returned from Perstorp on Sunday, November 23 with this wonderful advent calendar that Anna-Brita made. For each day there is a little present that Max can open. Anyone who knows how much Max loves presents (big and small) will understand how cool this is.
On Sunday and Monday Max struggled with the idea of having to wait a week to start opening the presents. He talked about how he wanted to open them all at once, right now, and begged to be allowed to open at least one.
Max: Mama, what would you do if I climbed up on a stool and got a present and opened it right now?
Eileen: I'd be disappointed that you couldn't wait like we're supposed to.
Max: Would you be angry?
Eileen: No, just disappointed... I can tell you're having trouble waiting. It's hard when you're so tempted. Would you like me to put the calendar away until December 1 so it won't keep reminding you?
Max: What's "tempted"? [Eileen explains and offers again to put the calendar away.] No, leave it out. I'll try not to open the presents.
And he did it! He talked about it, but he left the calendar alone all week. I told him how proud I was of him for resisting temptation. I think it's a very important ability to have in life. I certainly wish I myself had more of that ability...
When I was in Perstorp in October, Sven commented that it's very satisfying to watch Max eat. I thought about that a lot, because it struck me as so true, and I wondered why. I came to the conclusion that (at least for me) it's not just a matter of seeing someone I love enjoy his food. It feels much more primitive than that. Seeing your child (or grandchild) eat with gusto provides some kind of instinctive satisfaction. Until very recently, good eaters were no doubt more likely to survive than picky eaters. Much as I want to help Max learn to eat right and avoid obesity, I love seeing him shovel it in!
And Max has been eating like a horse lately—even more than usual. Still, he hasn't gained weight. Instead, he has grown noticeably taller and thinned out a bit. Last week he propped up one of his legs for inspection and said, "Look what long legs I have, Mama!"—and sure enough, I was startled to see how much longer his legs were than last time I'd noticed. We measured him and he's 110 cm tall (over 3' 7"). It will be interesting to see what they say at the clinic about Max's development—physical and otherwise—at his upcoming 4-year checkup. As far as I can tell, he's still right on "his" curve (which is near the top of the standard spread). It just seems so extreme when you can actually see the growth and notice gigantic steps in development.
Max had an awful cold Sunday and Monday, but Tuesday noon he suddenly started eating again and asking to get out of the house. I had cabin fever, too, so the two of us went to a shopping center to pick up a few things we needed, and out to eat. (Max ate an adult-sized portion of spaghetti with rather spicy meat sauce, his new favorite food.) So we got off easy this time, as colds and flu go.
But here's something gross: I was trying to get Max to eat something Tuesday morning because he hadn't eaten anything in two days. He wasn't hungry but I coaxed him into eating a little piece of cheese—bad choice! Almost immediately Max started running for the bathroom. But he didn't make it, and the "result" got splashed all along the upstairs hall. Max and I were equally dismayed. "Oh, yuck! What are we going to do now?!" he said. Well, clean it up I guess... (Moral of the story: When your normally good eater says his tummy doesn't want food, believe him!)
Bengt and I have now "inherited" his cold. I'm home sick today, and Bengt should probably be home, as well, since he's sitting at work with a sinus headache. I'm going to miss our company Christmas party tonight! Boo-hoo!
Last week I bought a special alarm clock. Instead of (or in addition to) an audible alarm, this clock has a disk that you can place under your mattress. The disk vibrates and wakes you. I got it out of consideration for whomever I happen to be sharing a bed with—I like to hit the snooze button. Another good thing about this clock is that it has a gigantic digital display, so Bengt and I can read it at night without our glasses.
Well, the whole family as hanging out in our bedroom when I took my new alarm clock out of the box to test it. I plugged it in and was setting the clock time and the alarm time. Eventually the alarm time matched the clock time, but what I didn't know was that the thing was set for MAXIMUM WAKE-UP. I was holding the disk in my hand, and all of a sudden it started vibrating strongly, and a light started flashing, and the audible alarm sounded—on MAXIMUM VOLUME!!! It was as loud and alarming as a smoke detector or home security alarm! Very startled, I screamed and started fumbling for the "off" button. Max slammed his hands over his ears and was also extremely alarmed. Bengt—calm and cool as ever—burst out laughing at us. He said that the only thing missing on that alarm clock was a pair of hands to grab you and shake you and yell "WAKE THE FUCK UP!!!!!!" That alarm clock could wake someone out of a coma.
One reason I haven't updated this page in so long is that I've been working hard on a number of time-consuming projects. For one thing, most of our Christmas presents are bought and wrapped, and the Christmas cards are stamped, addressed, and almost ready to go.
For another thing, Bengt switched our email and web accounts, so I did the redesign work on my website that I've been meaning to do for years. I'd be interested to hear what this looks like on your browser. (It might look quite different to you from what it looks like to me.) Is it easy or difficult to read? Is there anything strange about how the pictures are arranged in relation to text?
And finally, I also created a website for the daycare company that takes care of Max. (Birgitta is one of eight caregivers who form the company Tripp Trapp Trull AB.) The site is ready to go up—probably tonight—though parts of it are still under construction. It's in Swedish of course, but if you're curious about what I've been working on, you should be able to see it by tomorrow at www.TrippTrappTrull.se.
This week was a good week. Everyone was healthy and Max is getting over his recent reservations about going to daycare.
At our trumpet lesson last Monday Max played along really well with Ann-Marie for about 5 minutes. Then he suddenly stopped, put down his trumpet and started whining that he wanted to go home. I tried coaxing and asking what happened but he just got upset and said it was no fun. Max and I left the room to confer in the hall. There he admitted that he was upset because Ann-Marie plays so much better than him! We talked about it for a minute and then he agreed to wait while I took advantage of the rest of the lesson to learn another note from Ann-Marie.
I asked if he wanted to tell Ann-Marie why he was upset. He said no, but I could. So I told her and she reassured him as well as she could. She said she'd been playing for sooooo long. Max said, "A hundred years?" "Almost!" She said Max plays better than any other three-year-old she knows. (Of course he's the only three-year-old she knows who plays trumpet, but he doesn't know that.) And he'll play better when he's four years old, and even better when he's five years old—if he keeps trying.
That seemed to reassure him a bit. But it's really a problem, his wanting to sound good right away.
The same is true with writing. He gets angry and throws down his pen because he can't write "MAX" as cleanly as Bengt and I can. He wants the lines to be straight but doesn't have good enough control of the pen. All we can do is practice—but he gets frustrated when we practice.
Also for some reason he waits until the last minute when he has to pee. He just can't be bothered until he's about to explode. He starts dancing around and it's obvious what's going on. I ask him if he has to pee and he says, "No, I'm doing the hokey-pokey!" and proceeds to do the Swedish hokey-pokey, which is really cute. But he knows he's not fooling me and gets this mischievous grin on his face.
Max has been eating like a horse. As much as an adult. Spaghetti with meat sauce or meatballs is still his favorite. He also eats immense quantities of fruit.
Last night I dreamed that I was at a huge flea market, and I found piles and piles of great stuff for practically nothing. For example, I found a decent little compact stereo with a CD player for $7, and a piano keyboard in a sterling silver case that, surprisingly, sounded like a wooden flute! I also found a car track set, which I knew Max would love and bought for him. It was such a great dream—very satisfying! I told Max about the dream and the car track. Hence the reference to that in the letter that Max dictated to Santa this morning:
I've been good this year. Mama has also been nice, and Papa too. Can I have the car track set that Mama dreamed about? I should get lots of presents since I've been so nice. Thank you for the presents last Christmas.
Hugs and greetings,
He signed his own name. :-)
Today Max and I went to the fire station in Upplands Väsby (about 8 miles north). They had open house and Max had a riot so we stayed almost three hours. Among other things, they were giving rides in a gigantic fire truck, with flashing lights, sirens and loud horns on. We stood in line twice, and rode once in front and once in the back seat. Of course Max was wearing his new firefighter's shirt, his helmet, and his boots with blinking fire trucks on them. Oh my!
We had such a rotten week this week that I forgot to tell you the interesting stuff that happened last week:
One night after I read Max his bedtime stories he said, "Mama, can we talk?" It was late but we rested in bed and he asked me if I like sleeping with him. I told him I would like to sleep in bed with Bengt, but I can see that Max is afraid to sleep by himself, and I love him and don't think that scared little boys should have to sleep by themselves, so I don't mind sleeping with him. That didn't seem to be the enthusiastic response he was hoping for, but apparently it suffices that I'm willing.
He told me about his fear of the dark. He asked what monsters look like. "I know they're make-believe, but what would they look like if there were any? What would you do if one came into this room and tried to eat me up? How would you get rid of it?" I think I convinced him that I can scare off any monster.
He told me about his fears about being left alone and asked what he should do if he finds himself at home all by himself.
Now here comes the interesting part: He said that the he wants to hold my hand while he falls asleep because otherwise he'll float away. When I asked what he meant, he said that he can float or fly away and be someplace else, even while his body is still in bed, but if he holds my hand that doesn't happen.
Well, I don't know if he has dreamt about floating away, had an out-of-body experience, or been delirious with fever at some point, but I wasn't going to tell him that we don't leave our bodies until we die. Having had an out-of-body experience myself, I can well understand how convincing the experience is. So I went right ahead and told him that I did that once—went walking around the house without my body, and that I suddenly felt scared and snapped right back into my body. I told Max that I think it's kind of neat if he can fly around without his body, that his body takes care of itself while he's away from it, and that he can always go right back in if he gets scared. That seemed to put him at ease, and since then he hasn't been so adamant about holding my hand while he falls asleep.
That was a surprise!
Anyway, we talked about a lot of things that night and the next (about an hour each night)—mostly various fears and other uncomfortable feelings. It seemed like he really got a lot off his chest. I felt so pleased that he could put his feelings into words and talk to me about them. And really, it was too funny the way he brought it up: "Mama, can we talk?"
November 7, 2003
We've had a rough week. (Again.) Max had strep throat and was totally miserable until Thursday when the antibiotics kicked in. He was okay today—just tired, and his appetite hasn't returned yet.
Then Thursday afternoon I got a migraine and was wiped out all evening and sick all night. Stayed home from work and was in bed most of the day.
That's about all I have to report! Pretty sad, huh? This week was a lost cause.
Max has developed an interest in letters and numbers, so we've been helping him learn. He can write his name but doesn't like to do it because it doesn't look as straight and neat as when Bengt and I write it. He gets frustrated and you can't reason with him. He likes to type it on the computer though, so it looks nice. He writes MAX and MAMA MAJA and PAPPA. Then he prints it out and feels proud.
Max always wants to know the correct answer to questions, too. He tries to fake it when he doesn't, and feels embarrassed when we tell him he's not supposed to know all the right answers. He often says, "I knew that—I just forgot for a minute." It gives the impression that he's learned from us that he's only a clever boy when he's right, and he must have learned that from us that he has to be clever and right. I don't see how we could have given him that message, because we're not high-pressure parents trying to create an achiever. It's embarrassing to me—which of course complicates things. I wish he would just relax!
We're having the same problem with trumpet playing—Max doesn't want to play because it doesn't sound the way it "should". It's no fun to play when it doesn't sound like when he hears brass instruments on the stereo. He won't practice, but Ann-Marie is fine with that and is perfectly willing to continue the lessons and see what comes of it. Having taken years of lessons myself, I feel embarrassed to go to a lesson without having practiced what we learned at the last lesson, but we talked on the phone and she understands the situation. She says it's really unusual for a child to be so frustrated and expect perfection right away. This evening Max and I played the piano together, then Max called Bengt to come listen to our "concert". Then we all listened to music together for awhile. That generated a nice feeling of togetherness and harmony.