What's New at the Pålssons'


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

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Hello, did everyone have a nice weekend?

We had our first snow on Wednesday—and it stuck. We've had flurries off and on since then, and below-freezing temperatures, of course. 

Friday when I picked up Max, he wanted to go swimming and had a major meltdown when I wouldn't go because I simply didn't feel like it after my day at work. He screamed and cried, wouldn't let me touch him, and tried to kick and hit me when I approached. He screamed that he wanted to go back to Birgitta! When I said he couldn't go back to Birgitta until Monday, he still wanted to call her and tell her about his trauma. He was absolutely beside himself and I told him he could call and talk to Birgitta when he calmed down. 

Well, it seemed like a half hour to me, but I guess Max was only hysterical for about five minutes. He got distracted for a minute and then calmed down pretty quickly. Afterward he seemed pretty surprised about the whole thing himself, and we had a pleasant evening. This is only one of a handful of times he's had a tantrum like that, and it makes a big impression on me. I feel glad the he feels close enough to Birgitta to want to go there or talk to her when he feels it's impossible to get along with me (for whatever reason). As Max gets older no doubt I'll make more serious "mistakes" (from Max's point of view). Good for him if he can get help or comfort from another adult.

Max has been saying for a week or so that he'd like to go someplace new, where he's never been before. So today he and I went to Sydpoolen, an adventure pool for kids in Södertälje (around 30 miles away), for the first time. They have water slides, a wave machine, and so on. Max had a blast and we stayed most of the day. After hours of excitement, it was amazing that he stayed awake for the whole 40-minute drive home. (He was pretty mellow, though.) 

After our adventures at the pool Max didn't want to put his shirt or coat on. I started to insist, but Max reminded me that he's in charge of his body. Hmm. I figured the worst that could happen was that he'd get cold and ask for his shirt and coat. Amazingly, he didn't, nor did he act or look cold at all. Maybe he was still hot from the sauna. But I sure felt silly walking to the car with a half-naked kid in sub-freezing temperatures. I carried his coat prominently so that others would understand that it was Max's choice to be out like that. One guy told Max admiringly that he was a real little Viking. 

He did this another time recently after swimming, but that time I insisted on clothes. When we got to the car, he insisted on taking off all his clothes and being strapped in naked. Weird! We went to pick up Bengt from work. Bengt got in the car, looked at Max and said, "Where are his clothes?!?" I just shrugged and said, "Ask him!"

After Max and I swim, he likes to explore the locker room, strike up conversations with people, and hide in the lockers while I get dressed. One time in Perstorp this last summer, Max popped out of a locker just as a middle-aged woman walked up to it. It startled her and she shrieked but then (thank heavens) burst out laughing. I think everyone in that locker room was laughing. 

During our drive to Södertälje we saw a church and Max asked me if he would get married in a church when he's big. 

E: Some people get married in church. That's your choice. 
M: Then I want to get married in a church, and I want bells. I want people to ring hand bells, and I want bells in the steeple—big ones that no one holds on to. And Mama, do you know who I'm going to marry?
E: Yes, you're going to marry little Sara.
M: Right! You remembered!

(He'd told me that completely out of the blue weeks ago, and I thought it was so funny. He hasn't mentioned it since, but obviously it's an idea that has stuck in his head.)

Lina came over to play with Max yesterday for around three hours (see picture above), and the two of them got along so well. And Lina wasn't anxious at all even though her parents left right away. Excellent.

Wishing a good week to all our friends and family!

P.S. I just put Max to bed. He insisted on sleeping with the firefighter helicopter that he inherited from Ben and Elliot. It's large and makes chopper sounds whenever you move the blades. In addition, it has buttons that make various loud announcements and obnoxious sounds. The last thing we need is for Max to hit one of those buttons by accident at 3 a.m. and JOLT us awake: Skywatch one-eight, airborn!!! Not to mention one of us getting an eye speared by the blades. Well, I insisted on removing the batteries, which made him pout but I told him, "I'm not sleeping anywhere near that helicopter if it's got batteries in. Your choice!" And after he fell asleep I found the thing practically impaled between his ribs so I put it on the floor where I can reach it in case he asks for it at 5 a.m. (Sigh.)

Tuesday, October 21

Max and I had a wonderful trip to Perstorp last weekend. Max loves visiting his Farmor and Farfar, and for me it was the most relaxing weekend there ever, I think, even though Max was pretty clingy. He had been asking to go there, and when our visit was over he begged to stay longer. Already he's asking when we can visit again. I asked why he likes it there so much—thinking that he'd say something about all the toys they have for him or the presents they give him. But he gave me one of his "what a silly question" looks and said, "Because I love my Farmor and my Farfar so much, and my Farmor and Farfar love me sooooo much!" Awwwww. Well, I love them too!

Yesterday's trumpet lesson went surprisingly well, considering how the afternoon started. Max wanted to go swimming when I picked him up from Birgitta's, and he pitched a fit when I said we had our trumpet lesson. He carried on for awhile and then fell asleep in the car. I let him sleep until 20 minutes before the lesson started. He hates being woken up, so he cried and complained right up until we got to the door of our lesson room, when suddenly everything was fine. He switched into explorer mode and was pleasant to Ann-Marie and made a nice sound on his trumpet.

However, as soon as she showed him something new and he couldn't do it the first time, he got frustrated and/or embarrassed and stopped playing. He only half paid attention for the rest of the lesson, so Ann-Marie concentrated on teaching me, so I can teach Max. (She said I have a much better tone than most beginners, which embarrassed me because I know that my tone is truly awful.) 

Toward the end of the lesson, Max got interested in the white board with the grand staff permanently marked on it. Ann-Marie showed him how and where to draw the C and D we had learned, and he drew a couple of C's. I thought that was kind of neat. 

I got a giggle out of this: On the way home I told Max that I had a question for him: Bengt and I hadn't decided how we were going to work the rest of the week—did Max want Bengt to drop him off and me to pick him up, or vice versa? 
"You pick me up." 
"Ok, you want me to pick you up. That's what we'll do. Now I know." 
"Any more questions?"  (Fler frågor?)

Here's another one: Max was trying to find a friend to come home with him from Birgitta's awhile back. None of the few kids his age at Birgitta's were available, so he asked Louise, who is almost 7 years old. Birgitta tried to intervene and said that probably Louise wouldn't want to since she's so big. Max said, "That's okay, she can come over—I have a big house!"

We've cut out Max's bedtime bottle of välling. He didn't want any for 4-5 days because of his sores, so I figured it was the perfect opportunity to quit. I didn't take any with me to Perstorp (Bengt said I was brave), and Max complained but didn't make a big deal out of it. We discussed it and he said he still loves his välling, so I compromised: He can have a bottle in the morning (for breakfast) but not at night. That's working out great because most nights he doesn't have to get up to pee, as he has virtually every night since he stopped wearing his diaper (in May). 

Max has become interested in letters and numbers, so we're playing around with that.

I'm on the early shift this week—got up at 4:30 this morning (even earlier than usual, trying to get some alone-time before work) and am exhausted. 

October 15

We've had an "interesting" couple of weeks. First, Birgitta was sick and then had two weeks of vacation. Max was assigned to go to Kersti (whom he knows), along with Nils, so we thought that would go fine. And it did, at first. But then Max's relationship with Kersti seemed to deteriorate, although they both made a big effort. Max started crying at her house, and she called us to pick him up early (which Bengt and I did immediately, since that type of behavior from Max is alarming). Finally he just flatly refused to go there, and we kept him home Wednesday through Friday last week. I stayed home with him until 3 p.m. and then worked until 10 p.m. That was gruelling, but fortunately I really enjoy the work I do, so I didn't mind too much. I still have a few hours to make up, but I got most of them in. 

On Friday we discovered that Nils, too, had refused to go to Kersti! So we got the boys together. Too bad we didn't know that earlier in the week!

Then over the weekend Max got gobs of sores in his mouth. I assumed they were common canker sores, but now I know that they're caused by some virus that's going around among the kids. They are horrible sores and extremely painful. Max has hardly eaten anything since Sunday, and he has drunk very little. For about 36 hours there he only drank about 1 cup of water and hadn't peed in 24 hours. He was waking up at least once an hour each night, screaming in pain. Bengt and I were ready to take him to the ER to get him on an IV. It was 11 p.m. and we made one last try to get him to drink—and he suddenly agreed to drink chocolate milk. 

Bengt stayed home with Max on Monday and Tuesday, when things were worst. I hate to admit it, but I simply didn't have the nerves for that constant crying and whining. Max had a slight fever and got lots of Tylenol, but he still would just pace around and cry and whine for hours. I felt soooo sorry for him but begged Bengt to do "sick kid" duty, and he agreed. (World's Best Husband!)

Speaking of Tylenol, we use suppositories (Max hates the taste of the liquid stuff), and Max has learned to insert them himself! I've never heard of a kid who will give himself suppositories, have you?? Should I be worried? (Just kidding. :-)

Max also refused to talk for a couple of days, since it just hurt too much. I just gestured and grunted. It's amazing how much you can understand when you know your kid so well. 

He still isn't talking much. The sores are still very painful, but they're receding now. Max has eaten five waffles in the past 24 hours (that's all he'll eat, for some reason) and has probably had enough to drink (barely). He felt like playing this afternoon so I took him to Birgitta's to play with his friends for a couple of hours. All five kids ran over to our car when we pulled in, yelling "Max is here, Max is here! Max! Max!" They were so excited. Max played it cool, but I could tell he was pleased. It must be wonderful to be so popular!

Bernhard was here for a weekend. We all enjoyed that. Poor Bernhard, though—they're still having intense summer weather in Frankfurt, while here it is cold and rainy, definitely autumn. Here's a picture of Bernhard and Max in Max's playroom. 

We haven't had any more trumpet lessons since I last wrote. October 6 the instructor had a day off, and October 13 Max had those awful sores.

Bengt and a neighbor cut down a tree in front of our house. Here's a picture from that, too. What a mess! The pine branches and pine cones are still all over the driveway. 

This is the tree that was right up by the corner of the house that you see in the picture. I was afraid the tree was going to fall on the house, but Bengt said they would secure it with a rope to another tree. That sounded like a risky operation to me, but it worked, thank heavens.

Max and I are heading down to Perstorp tomorrow evening. Max is really not well yet, but he has been begging to visit his Farmor and Farfar ever since they were last here (and before). I think he will do okay, and Bengt will get a well-deserved break. I just hope Max sleeps better than he has been lately.

I know there was more I was going to write, but at the moment I can't think what it was. Well, anyway I hope everyone else is fine. Thank you for your emails!

September 30

Yesterday Max had his second trumpet lesson. Though we hadn't "practiced" more than five minutes a day all week, his sound was better at this lesson. However, he told me even before we went that he was too tired, and he had those pink circles under his eyes. Sure enough, a few minutes after the lesson started, he said he was tired and wanted to leave. Ann-Marie managed to keep him occupied a little longer, trying out different instruments. He tooted on a French horn, a baritone, a trombone, and her own trumpet. She got us trying to make animal sounds on the shortcut (good idea!).

But then we did leave early. Max fell asleep in the car, and as soon as we got home he went straight to bed—skipping dinner—and slept all night. He must have been exhausted!

I borrowed a trumpet from Ann-Marie. Now Max and I can practice together. (According to the Suzuki method, a parent is supposed to practice with the child. I wish I were more interested in learning to play the trumpet myself....) 

Max has discovered body paint, as you can see here. He sits in front of a mirror and paints all parts of his body. Sometimes I help him. Then he takes a bath, and thank heavens the stuff washes off easily. 

Our friends Liz and Bengt had their baby on Saturday, three weeks early. He's healthy, surprisingly content, and cute as a button, and they're naming him Mark. Unfortunately he has Down's syndrome, which is a big shock to them. I was over at the hospital with them for a few hours on Sunday. 

Their daughter Ella was also there, and she seemed unconcerned, though we talked about it in front of her. She just loves her little brother. I brought Ella a "congratulations big sister present", which seemed to make her day. (I remember what it was like when Lin was born—the older sibling needs special attention! :-)

There are several different kinds of colds going around here in Stockholm (or in Sweden). Max, Bengt and I have all been affected. I was home from work two days last week and now again today. I don't like missing work, and I feel irritated with the world when my energy level is low, so I hope this is my last cold of the season.

A couple of weeks ago I did this little project with stones. I had a bag of them that I'd collected, mostly from Lake Michigan. And we had this flat steel thing that holds 16 candles. It was gray and boring, so I glued my stones onto the thing, one at a time. It was very relaxing work! I enjoyed it a lot and am pleased with the result.

September 23

Yesterday was Max's first trumpet lesson. Max fretted the whole way into the city, saying he had a stomach ache, that he needed air, what if he had to throw up, etc. Bengt said he was the same way when he took Max out the other day, so it's hard to say whether he was wound up about the lesson or just anxious in general lately.

The lesson went reasonably well. I liked Ann-Marie's style a lot. She didn't spend more than a couple of minutes at a time on any one game/task, and she let Max explore the room. He climbed up on a chair and looked inside the piano while Ann-Marie played, so he could see how it worked. He looked in the storage closets. He tried sticking his mouthpiece inside various objects. Ann-Marie just went with the flow. 

This morning she called me up so we could discuss how it went. We both thought it was fine for the first lesson. She said she would like to continue with him as long as it works out. 

September 21

This morning I said to Max, "I think that one thing your trumpet teacher is going to teach you is to play looooonger notes." He said, "Like this?" and proceeded to play tootootoootooooooooooooo about three times as long as he had been. "Yep, just like that!"

September 20 - Max the trumpet player!

This was a very exciting day. Max is to start trumpet lessons on Monday, and today he got his trumpet! He is very excited and happy and has been playing it off and on all afternoon and evening. Although none of us here knows anything about playing a brass instrument and can't instruct him, Max has managed to get surprisingly loud tones out of it. (It really surprised Bengt and me that he could get any sound at all.) He works the valves to vary the tone and is very proud of his new trumpet and careful with it. 

You may know that Max has been interested in the trumpet for a long time. At one point early this year Max was mesmerized by an orchestra playing some classical piece with a trumpet solo on TV. Bengt happened to surf to it while the three of us were talking in the TV room, and Max immediately turned away from the conversation to listen and watch. After a few minutes I asked him if he wanted to play trumpet when he's bigger. Dreamily he replied, "Nooooo... I want to play trumpet now." 

I thought he was too young to play the trumpet and tried to get him interested in piano, but Max was rather half-hearted about it. Bruce and Donna Hood encouraged me to check into the trumpet thing further, and then I talked to another music educator who felt that 3-4 years old isn't too early to start playing trumpet. She herself knew a 6-year-old who had started when he was 4. She gave me several tips on where to call and write in my search for a suitable instructor. 

It took me awhile, but last week I started sending emails and calling around. One place I contacted was the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. They have a regular program where kids can get lessons from student teachers, but the minimum age is 8. I registered Max anyway, along with a description of Max's interest and a request for any tips they might have on how I could find an instructor for him. 

The registration sheet was passed on to the main trumpet instructor at the college, who called us up that night to discuss it. I was already asleep, but she talked to Bengt for a little while, and then I called her back on Wednesday and we had a long and exciting—for both of us, was my impression—conversation. 

This instructor wants to work with Max herself, rather than turning him over to a student teacher. She has been looking at the Suzuki method for brass instruments, which is established in Norway but hasn't found its way to Sweden yet. Her youngest student to date has been 5 years old, and she's excited about teaching an even younger one—especially one as enthusiastic as Max. 

When we got around to talking money, my attitude was, This is going to be expensive, but as long as Max is interested, it'll be worth it. But she offered us the lessons for only 50 kronor (about $5) per 30-minute lesson! (Her normal fee is much higher, of course.) She explained it's because she has a personal interest in the matter and no prior experience with kids that young. We agreed that she can let a student or two observe sometimes, and I accepted the specific time slot when she was available (5 p.m. on Mondays, which suits us perfectly). This will be an experiment for all of us, but we're all very excited. 

She told me the stuff to get and asked if we could start right away. Could we?! YES! So this afternoon I drove into Stockholm and got the rental trumpet (it's called a pocket trumpet and isn't full size) and some other stuff. I don't know who was more excited, me or Max. He exclaimed, "It's a real trumpet, not a toy!" and thanked me profusely. He got a sound out of it almost immediately and has been carrying it around ever since. This evening before falling asleep he complained that his lips stung.

I don't get the impression that Farmor and Farfar are particularly enthused about this undertaking, nor do they appreciate all the noise. But they're leaving tomorrow morning...

I can hardly wait for the first lesson on Monday. I'll pay close attention so I can help Max when he practices. I wonder how much I should encourage Max to practice. Five or ten minutes twice a day? My impression is that's about as much purposeful practicing as he'd want to deal with. But he'll probably fool around with the trumpet much more than that. 

What an adventure! I see this as the beginning of what might become a very enjoyable hobby for Max, with many positive effects. Or maybe even a career, if that's what he wants. But we also realize that he might lose interest quickly. After all, he's only 3 years old. We won't be upset if he says he doesn't want to play anymore. We can try another instrument or try again next year or the year after. But as long as he's interested, we'll encourage and support him in this activity.

September 19

September 11, 2003 was a very sad day in Sweden. Our beloved Minister of Foreign Affairs Anna Lindh was attacked and stabbed in a department store on the 10th, and she died early in the morning on the 11th. She left behind her husband, two sons (9 and 12 years old), and countless shocked and sad admirers. She was a wonderful person and might very well have been Sweden's next prime minister. 

Shortly after Anna Lindh's death was announced, a mentally ill man walked out of a mental health clinic and stabbed and killed a five-year-old girl. Unbelievably brutal! More shock and sorrow for the little country of Sweden.

Today was the official memorial service for Anna Lindh—invited guests only. Over a thousand people came from all over the world to attend the very moving service, and millions more watched it live on TV. 

They have arrested a man for the attack, but he denies any wrongdoing. His DNA didn't match the hat that was found nearby, but he's still in jail because it isn't certain that the hat was worn by the perpetrator and there is apparently other evidence against him. 

Bernhard was supposed to fly up from Frankfurt to visit us on the 11th, but somehow his reservation was lost and he wasn't able to get on the plane. It's just as well. We were upset. He comes at the beginning of October, instead. 

Sven and Anna-Brita arrived on Tuesday the 16th. It's been wonderful having them with us this week. Max stayed home from daycare on Wednesday to play with them. At one point Max had them marching around the house in single file—Max tooting his toy saxophone, Anna-Brita with a xylophone and Sven with a tambourine. Hilarious! They also brought with them several wonderful toys. 

Sven has been telling Max stories of "the little troll" that he makes up on the fly. Max just loves it! And I love hearing them laugh together. Sven has been putting Max to bed, too. Tells a "little troll" story and then Max drifts off to sleep. 

Anna-Brita reads story after story to Max. He loves, this, too.

September 10

Things have been going smoothly around here. Max has been healthy and charming, talkative, imaginative, self-confident, and very cooperative. He wakes up in a good mood and things have been going great at Birgitta's, too.  

Last weekend Bengt, Max and I drove to Strängnäs, about 90 minutes away, to visit some friends we haven't seen in awhile. It was a fun day. Here's one of the pictures we took. You can see Ellen, Max and Hanna.

But Max had some problems with the car trip. On the way there, there was a brief traffic jam. We were in the left lane, so we had a truck on one side and the highway median on the other. Max felt trapped and was near panic when traffic started moving again about two minutes later.

About five minutes after we started the drive home, Max announced that he had to poop. At that moment there was no place to stop, as the road wound between a graveyard and some apartment buildings. We intended to stop soon, but it wasn't soon enough for Max—he panicked and threw up. We pulled off the road and he threw up more. We pulled down his pants to poop, but that had passed. His panic didn't have as much to do with needing a bathroom as feeling trapped. I really felt for him. I guess this stems from the car wash incident over a year ago. 

I thought of something I forgot to write down: A couple of weeks ago Max and I had been shopping and were dashing for the bus home. We passed a man who was hunched over in a strange way, motionless, so I stopped and asked if he could use some help. "Yes, please," he said. His leg had seized up on him and he couldn't walk. I took his arm and helped him straighten up and get to a bench, where he just wanted to rest for awhile. He had been heading to the convenience store to buy some cigarettes, so he gave me some money and I went and fetched some for him. 

Max stayed with the man while I went to the store, and when I came back they were holding hands and talking! When there was nothing more we could do for the man, Max and I said good-bye (Max saluted him :-) and we headed for the bus stop again. We'd missed our bus, but Max said, "That's okay, there will be other busses." I felt like cheering and hugging Max for having the right attitude, but I didn't want to make a big deal out of it. We just talked briefly about helping other people, and I said I was glad we could help that man and Max was good at helping.

Max's favorite piece of music is currently the Star Trek theme. We have it on CD, thanks to Marlin, who I believe picked it up at a garage sale. Max plays it many times every morning, and listens intently. He loves the trumpets in it, and still insists that he's going to learn to play that instrument. I can really see him as a trumpet player! 

His favorite computer game right now is pinball, namely Space Cadet, the one that's commonly installed with Windows. He's gotten really good at it, thanks to Bengt's tutoring. Gets tired of it after 15 minutes or so, fortunately.

Yesterday I was pretty tired. In an effort to get me moving, at one point Max said, "Come on, old timer!" I burst out laughing. I didn't know where he'd gotten that expression but figured it must be from one of his videos. It made me realize that I'd been slacking off on watching with him. (I don't really want him watching TV without supervision, but you know how it is...) So today I watched The Fox and the Hound with him and, sure enough, that expression came up.

I had my cholesterol checked several months ago, as I do every year because my family has problems in this area. So far I've been lucky, having elevated levels but nothing alarming. This year it was different—it had jumped up to 316! The doctor was going to prescribe medication immediately, but agreed that it wouldn't hurt to wait a month and see if I could make some changes and get it down myself. (I'd been eating atrociously for ages and smoking more than usual, and this was good motivation to change my habits.) I went back a month later and it was down to 301—still far too high, of course. But I was on the right track, so she encouraged me to keep trying. 

Last week another check showed it was down to 270. The "good" cholesterol is quite high, too, so apparently I'm not in any immediate danger. I'm on the right track so I go back in 6 months to check my progress. She didn't say how low it had to go in order to avoid medication. Hmm. 

Tomorrow our friend Bernhard is coming from Frankfurt for a long weekend. Really looking forward to that. 

I hope everyone is having a good week.

August 30

We had a rough week. Sunday night Max got sick with a high fever, headache and sore throat. By Tuesday he was throwing up and had diarrhea, wasn't eating (duh), and had bad pain in his stomach, chest, legs and feet. He was drinking lots of fluids, so our major concern was his sluggishness. Usually he still tries to play when he's sick, but all could do was sleep and lay on the couch, alternately watching a rented Chip and Dale tape on TV (he watched it countless times) and moaning and whining. Wednesday when we got him dressed to take him to the doctor, he had alarming red splotches, mostly on his thighs but also on his stomach and the palms of his hands. 

The doctor took one look at him and sent him off for a quick throat swab. Max didn't like that but tolerated pretty well, and the results we got after 10 minutes were negative so the doctor figured it was Coxsackie's virus. But she called another doctor in to look at his weird rash. Max dutifully pulled down his pants to show her, and the palms of his hands were white with red splotches. She thought it had to be strep and recommended a throat culture, even though the quick swab was negative. 

Max was horrified but submitted to the procedure. But the nurse really stirred things up in the back of his throat, and Max raced to the bathroom and threw up, then cried all the way home. I felt so sorry for him!

Sure enough, when the results came back on Friday, it was strep and we got him on penicillin. 

Unfortunately the dumb doctor prescribed some extremely foul-tasting liquid. (I tasted it too, and I'd have trouble getting the stuff down myself.) We've gotten artificial-banana-flavored stuff before, which Max took without much coaxing, but this stuff is really disgusting. He begged me to give him a suppository instead! (We'd been using Tylenol suppositories all week, which he takes willingly when he's feeling crappy.) 

When Max finally realized that I wasn't giving in and he'd have to take the medicine, he asked for Pappa to come help him. So I called Bengt upstairs and Bengt just commanded: Here, take this stuff quickly now and get it over with. Down the hatch! and sticks the spoon thingie in Max's mouth. It was very obvious that Max appreciates a firm hand at certain times! So Bengt is the official medicine man. I thought that was interesting.

Anyway, the penicillin has kicked in and although Max is still pretty sick, he did play for several hours today and got some food down. 

Max had his police shirt on when he got sick and refused to take it off. He wore that shirt all week! Poor little sick policeman! 

At one point Max was being so demanding, constantly ordering me around and whining, that the sympathy I felt for him was wearing thin. But in the middle of it all, he said Mama, you're a good helper. 

Thursday evening I went to the store where they buy and sell used toys (on commission). My intention was just to drop off some stuff that Max doesn't play with anymore, but they had some great things there. I ended up getting like $150 worth of toys (new price) for $40. Like a bucket of excellent Lego pieces we've never seen before that allow us to build a fire station and some fire trucks. And the wooden blocks that you can build into a marble maze. And (best of all, in Max's eyes) for $1 a Buzz Lightyear sword that lights up. To infinity and beyond!  He's sleeping with that sword this very minute. The new toys have distracted him from how shitty he feels, and he's so appreciative. (That's what makes it so fun to get toys for him. And he doesn't care if they're used. He understands the concept that I take his discarded toys and basically trade them for different ones.)

Although Max is still pretty weak, lately he's been boasting about how strong he is. He asks if we want to see how strong, and when we say yes he strikes this hilarious pose. He lunges forward on one leg, holds his fists up to his chest, elbows straight out, flexes his muscles and makes a strained face—just like a bodybuilder on display! I have no idea where he got that. The first time he did it I laughed loudly, and he didn't appreciate it.

Max and I have started using these Brain Quest flashcard type of things for two- to three-year-olds. We do it only a few minutes every day, but Max has gotten the hang of responding to the questions in English and is increasing his vocabulary. At first he really had to concentrate and struggle to say the English words. I learned to give him 10-15 seconds before telling him the answer or giving him a hint, because he doesn't give up easily and really wants to come up with the right answer himself. He got annoyed when I told him the answer too soon. 

But now I can see he's gotten the hang of retrieving the right language from his brain. If he doesn't come up with the right word in a few seconds, it's simply not there. It's fascinating for me to watch. A clinical specialist in bilingualism might be really interested in this.

For my birthday this week Bengt got me (among other things) Season 5 of Star Trek Next Generation on DVD. Max has been watching the episodes with me. Bengt doesn't think this is appropriate for a three-year-old, but Max insists, so he is being initiated into the world of Romulans, Vulcans, Klingons, Data the android, and starships. And he really likes the theme song. :-)

Last September Marlin helped us repaint our upstairs hall. Today we finally got the pictures back up over the stairway—the ones that take two people to put up. All my pestering Bengt about it finally paid off!

We've had very cool weather lately—jacket weather. Summer ended too soon! 

We hope everyone is well and appreciate your emails!

August 21

Today is Sven's 80th birthday! I was sorry we couldn't be there to congratulate him in person. A phonecall is not nearly as fun. Here's a picture of Sven and Max from last month.

Things are pretty hectic at work. And this week I'm on the "early shift", which has been kind of rough. I don't like to get up so early. 

I'm wondering if/how everybody was affected by the big blackout last week. We read all about it in the papers here. Nancy told me there wasn't much trouble in Kalamazoo, but what about other places?

The weather's starting too cool off here. It's warm enough in the sun but cool in the shade. I haven't started wearing a jacket yet, but other people have.

Small blessings: In addition to the fact that we no longer have to buy diapers for Max, our garbage collection bill is down to a fraction of what it was during the diaper stage! (We pay for garbage collection by the kilo. Diapers don't dry out in the trash can, so we were paying to have all Max's pee hauled away!)

August 17

Wow, what a day. Max and I spent most of the day at Skansen (zoo, amusement park, and more). We were there when they opened at 10 a.m. and didn't get home until 4 p.m. Max was fast asleep in the car. When he woke up, I refused to carry him up the driveway and two flights of stairs to his room, because I was exhausted myself, and my leg hurt, and I'd hurt my foot somehow, as well. Bengt was there to carry Max, but for some reason Bengt wasn't the required parent at that particular moment. So Max threw his worst tantrum ever —actually his first true tantrum with kicking, yelling, throwing himself on the floor, and hysterics. 

In spite of the hysterics, I could see Max observing my reactions. All I did was sit by him, making sure he didn't hurt me or himself, and wait for it to blow over. In between sobs he told me he was very angry with me. I said that's ok, and I was very sad that he was so angry with me, and at the same time it didn't change the fact that I was too tired and hurting to carry a 50-pound boy up the driveway and two flights of stairs. 

In some strange way, the tantrum was cleansing for both of us. It can't get much worse than that, and now we've been there. After he calmed down we had a nice cuddle on the couch. :-)

About a week ago outside my office I found a sweet little dead bird that had recently hit a window. I put it in a little box and brought it home for Max to see. (He loves birds and has never gotten to touch one before.) He held the little bird and cooed over it and stroked it very gently. We opened its beak and looked in its mouth to see if it had a tongue. (It didn't.)

Max wanted to keep the bird, but I explained about decomposition. I showed him that the eyes were already dried out, and that the rest of the body would also dry out or mold and eventually fall apart, just like the pine cones in our yard or a piece of fruit that we keep too long. So that evening we put it back in the little box, in a bed of Kleenex, and buried it under the roots of a giant pine tree in our back yard. We put a stone on the grave and decorated it with pinecones. 

When we were finished, Max said (sounding surprised at himself), "I'm sad because I miss the bird! I think he wanted to live!" and burst out crying. I had been fighting back tears myself (it really was a sweet little bird...), so we sat there and cried together. Then when we were done crying, we continued sitting there for awhile (a rarity for non-stop Max), just thinking and sometimes talking a little.

My plan had been simply to give Max a chance to touch a bird, but it turned into a fairly big experience for a three-year-old. I feel good about the way it went, but I have no idea how far other parents would have gone with this (if they'd brought a dead bird to show their son—which no doubt they wouldn't). Is Max going to be in therapy for this later?

Max is very interested in bodies, including what's inside. I was half tempted to suggest we dissect the bird. Why not? I think Max would have been fascinated and not freaked out at all. But I wasn't sure where I myself stood on that. (How do you teach respect for the bodies of our dead fellow creatures while satisfying scientific curiosity? Where's the line?)—Nor was I prepared to deal with the comments of other adults who would hear about it from Max.

A couple weeks ago we had a really fun visit at some friends' house—Liz and Bengt, and their daughter Ella. It was a wonderful evening summer with wonderful grilled food that we ate outside. The kids ran around the yard a lot and got along great. It made me so happy, not just because I had a good time but because the grilled food, the smell of grass, the sweaty children's bodies, and the mellow mood of the adults reminded me of good times visiting family friends when I was a kid. That's what these pictures are from. (I just made little copies so you could get an idea of what the evening was like.)

July 30

Yesterday I took Max to Gröna Lund, and we had quite a day! Max rode on his first rollercoaster (the one show here, the Ladybug). I rode with him, and he loved it! He wanted to go again and again, but because of the line we only went twice. Fortunately, they send it around the track three times each time they fill it up. Generous!

Max also rode by himself on the "Little Viking", the swinging boat shown here. (You can see Max in the red shirt.) There was no line so he rode four times in a row. He wasn't scared at all. I'll never forget the wonderful grin of delight that appeared on his face as soon as that thing started moving.

We went on some other rides, too, like the big Ferris wheel and a water ride. Max would have gone on much wilder rides, but he didn't have the minimum height required. He ate like a horse from the tex mex buffet at a restaurant we visited, and before we left the amusement park he got a metallic Spiderman balloon which he thinks is very neat. This morning he asked if we could go back today, but I think we'll wait awhile. Mama was worn out!

Today when I got home from work, it was so muggy that I took Max over to the lake. He played with a boy named Simon for about two hours. It was wonderful.

One unpleasant thing happened, though: A woman came to the beach and crouched down close to Max and Simon, watching them intently. After a few minutes the other family was so concerned about this that they decided to leave and called their son away. While I was gathering up our own things, she tried to engage Max in conversation and then grabbed his wrist! 

Max put up a struggle but she held on. Eventually he yanked back so hard that the small woman nearly stumbled into the water after him, which she didn't want so she let go. Then she had the gall to come over and ask (in broken English) if he was my son. When I said yes, she indicated that he has nice skin or a nice face or something. (I couldn't understand her.) I was about to launch into her about grabbing children, but she walked away. I thought about reporting it to the police, but Bengt figured no harm was done and she was probably just mentally unbalanced. 

Max wasn't upset by what happened, so I didn't make a big deal out of it, but now he knows that no one is allowed to grab him like that—especially not a stranger—and what to do if something like that happens again.

My impetigo became intolerable so I'm on antibiotics now. The sores stopped oozing within 24 hours and I feel so much better. Phew!

July 27

Last Monday Max and I flew back from Perstorp after a lovely week with Sven and Anna-Brita. (Bengt had been down there with him the week before, so Max was there fore two weeks.) 

It was paradise for Max, with so many activities and so many people paying attention to him. He spent a lot of time at Ugglebadet (a place with outdoor pools with water slides), a nearby lake and the ocean. He visited Dinosaur World twice, and he got many fun presents and lots of good things to eat from Farmor and Farfar. Best of all, he spent a lot of time with them and some time with Anders. 

On Sunday evening Anders and Max and I went to play mini-golf. That was kind of fun, though it was too hot. Two funny things happened while we were there....

There were three older ladies playing in front of us, and when Max saw that one of them had trouble getting a certain hole, he said, "Shall I show you how to do it?" She couldn't resist accepting Max's offer, and he showed her the Max Pålsson method, where you use the club like a broom to sweep the ball in. 

"Aha, very good."
"That's how you do it."
"Very good, thank you for showing me."
"You're welcome."

Later on, Max said he was very thirsty, so I gave him some money and told him to ask the "old guy" (gubben) at the little kiosk what was available to drink. Max walked over there, but there was apparently more than one older man over there, because he yelled to me across the whole mini-golf course: Which old guy? Argh!

While in Perstorp, Max got a bad case of impetigo. He had scabby sores all over his face, and a few on other parts of his body. Bengt and I had discussed it on the phone, but I still wasn't prepared for what Max looked like when I got down there. (And they said it had improved!) We continued treating it with hydrogen peroxide and the antibiotic ointment I had with me, and by the end of the second week the sores were almost gone.

Unfortunately, I got it from Max, and it's harder to treat my sores. I have three on my neck and one on my leg, but I also have 10-12 sores on my scalp, and I can't very well put peroxide or antibiotic ointment on them. They itch moderately and ooze constantly -- it's really disgusting. I'm going to check the pharmacy tomorrow and see if they have antibiotic shampoo, but I guess I'll end up going to the doctor and getting a course of oral antibiotics. Argh!

The only thing Max missed at Farmor and Farfar's house was other children to play with. He didn't complain, but he did put a lot of effort into finding playmates (usually with good success) wherever he want. When we got home, Max asked for Nils, but when Bengt got them together, they didn't get along at all (for once). Max got his feelings hurt and came home sobbing. 

But then something wonderful happened: A family is staying next door while the woman's parents (our neighbors) are away. They heard Max outside playing, and the woman brought her son over to say hello. Jimmy is just 6 mos. older than Max, and ever since they met, they've been playing together for hours every day. They get along absolutely wonderfully. As soon as Jimmy comes over, they start entertaining themselves by playing with cars and trucks, playing cops and robbers, role-playing with plastic insects (thank you, Bobbie!) and dinosaurs, playing with Max's train set, splashing in the little pool we have set up in the yard, tossing a ball back and forth, etc. They come to me every once in awhile for a drink or to fix a toy, but otherwise they require no supervision at all (though I've played with them some). (That's nothing like when Nils is here. Nils and Max play rough and often require adult intervention.) It's like a dream come true, for all of us! 

I only wish the family really lived next door. Fortunately, they only live about a mile away, and the mother (Charlotte) wants to continue getting the boys together, since they get along so well. And since the grandparents live right next door to us, I imagine that will be easy to accomplish. 

Birgitta was on still on vacation last week, and will be for one more week, so Bengt and I are taking turns working every other day. There are plenty of things that Max wants to do, so we're keeping busy. Among other things, this week Max wants to go to Gröna Lund, an amusement park in Stockholm that Max calls "Greenland". We'll also go to the lake again, since we've been having warm, muggy weather.

July 12, 2003

Bengt and Max have been in Perstorp all week. I wish I could have been there for Anna-Brita's birthday, but I also needed this solitude. On Monday I fly down and Bengt flies back. I plan to take Max to the pool every day, so I hope the weather hold up.

I've been meaning to write down a few things that have happened...

In my last entry, I wrote that Max got sick. It turned out he had strep throat, but he recovered pretty quickly when he got antibiotics. All in all, he barely ate for five days, but I wasn't worried because he was drinking a lot and he has plenty of fat reserves. It was nice not to have to worry about him or beg him to eat.

You know all those lovely flowers I planted (see picture from last entry)? Well, one morning a few weeks ago we stepped out the door in the morning and, what the—? The deer had eaten up every last flower and bud! Even some of the ones right in front of our front door. I was so bummed. Those flowers cost me about $150 and a lot of backbreaking work. Most of the plants are recovering now, but I bet the deer are just waiting for their next feast.

Oh well. It is kind of cool to have deer. And apparently these flowers grow back even nicer after they've been cut back.

Max turned 3 1/2 years old a couple of weeks ago, and we had a party for him. The morning of the party, I told him "This is the day!" I won't make that mistake again! The party didn't start until 2 p.m., and he asked every two minutes when his friends were going to arrive and his party could start. By the time it finally started, he was exhausted. He definitely had a great time, but he fell asleep as soon as the last person left. 

Max got presents at his party, but that didn't seem to be the main thing. He liked having all his friends over, and he loved it when we sang Happy Birthday to him. Here's a picture from the party. What a big boy!

On Monday I took Max to the playground. School is out for the summer, but there was a herd of 7-year-olds there at a kind of day camp. We stayed for three hours and I watched in amazement as Max interacted with the bigger kids. When we first got there, he marched over to two kids, said hello, and dumped out his bag of toys (dump trucks and such). One asked Max if he would like to ride on the rope thing with them. He said, No, I'm going to play with my dump truck. But you can play, too. Do you want to play with my excavator?

Later some of the boys were riding their bikes around the playground like daredevils, doing wheelies and stuff. I was reading the paper and not paying much attention, but Max got into a dialog with the boys (who probably enjoyed being admired) and then got them to come over and show me their bikes. Max told me he wanted a bike like theirs, that he can do tricks on. The boys told me about their bikes and gave me tips on what to look for in a good bike!

I thanked them for the good advice and told Max that he would have to learn to ride his two-wheeler without training wheels first. He said he wanted to do that ASAP. I think he's too little, and I'd hate to see him fail, but if he insists, I guess we'll put protective gear on him and let him try when he gets home from Perstorp.

Anyway, then Max went to a different part of the playground, where the day camp workers had set up a sort of water slide, a loooong piece of plastic on a big hill, with water spraying on it. (This is the same hill where the kids go sledding every winter.) The boys were being maniacs on the slide, and he asked if he could join them. They said yes—and I of course got the permission of the people in charge, as well. Max stripped down to his underwear (the others had swimsuits on) but then got scared and wanted me to slide down with him. Of course I couldn't, so he watched for awhile, trying to work up the courage. A very nice girl offered to go down with him, but Max declined. Then one of the boys suggested he hop on halfway down, instead of starting at the top. Max did that a couple of times and was soon starting at the top like the other kids. 

He had such a blast on that hill, sliding down fast, on the verge of losing control, and then charging right back up the hill with his little arms pumping. And as always I was proud of him for conquering his fear—and for holding his own with those rowdy boys, who kept trying to cut in line. 

Afterwards, when they turned the water off, another one of the little girls came up and offered Max her extra towel. Wow, what nice kids!!

We hung around for awhile longer, and then Max (with a little prompting) willingly went over and thanked the day camp leaders for letting him join in. They said he was welcome back any time. What a success!

Our tiling project in the kitchen turned out great! Bengt finished it late the night before Max's birthday party. Phew! Unfortunately I don't have a picture of it (yet), and Bengt took the digital camera with him to Perstorp. 

Here's a little conversation that Max and I had on the way home from someplace recently, as nearly as I can remember it:

Max: Mama, why is that little light blinking?
Eileen: Because I turned the blinker on.
M: How did you turn it on?
E: By pushing this lever, like this.
M: Mama, why did you turn the blinker on?
E: To let the other drivers know that I'm going to turn. It's important to let the other drivers know what I'm going to do, and it's important that they let me know what they're going to do, so we don't crash into each other. 
M: You mean, when the light blinks in here, it also blinks on the outside of the car? [DOH! I'd forgotten to mention that!]
E: YES, exactly! We can see it in here, and they can see it out there. Now watch, I'm going to turn the other way, so I turn this other blinker on.
M: Look, Mama, that driver up there is going to turn, too! [Pause] Mama, what's that pedal down there on the floor?....

This kid is obsessed with driving. 

Bengt and Max and I were getting into the car together the other day. I asked Bengt, "Are you driving, or am I?" Max piped up, "I'm driving!" and giggled.




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