at the Pålssons'
March 19, 2004
We returned from our vacation in Bahia Feliz on Gran Canaria late last night. (See pictures.) We had a good time overall. It was warm (actually too warm in the apartment), though two days were incredibly windy. Like many of the other kids at the resort, Max got a cold and hacking cough, probably from getting too cold in the wind after swimming.
The apartment was nice enough, and it had satelite TV with a Swedish channel or two and BBC, which Bengt appreciated. We used the fridge and microwave, and it was nice having two rooms rather than just one where everyone sleeps.
The roof of the apartment building just below & in front of ours was being worked on the whole time we were there, and that was a pain. It completely obstructed our ocean view and I plan to submit a complaint form and hopefully get some money back.
It was a charter trip and the personnel was very friendly and helpful. It wasn't all-inclusive, but we had breakfast and dinner buffet and the food was pretty good (better than in Cozumel). They had a kids' club (Bamse-klubben) that had good activities, but Max was reluctant to go there after he discovered that the personnel wasn't willing to call parents on request. (Max is used to being able to have me or Bengt come pick him up at the drop of a hat, as soon as he says the word.) But virtually everyone there had kids and he made lots of friends—Ida, Fredrik, Magnus and a few others.
The beach was small and rocky, but the pools were quite nice. There was also a very nice playground where Max spent many hours climbing around and playing in the sand. And of course we did some exploring. Max noticed the different trees and plants. (In fact, the first thing Max said when we got on the shuttle bus from the airport to our resort was, "Mama, I've never seen a real palm tree before!" He was awed and found the landscape very interesting. He thinks Spain is neat. (Of course he doesn't understand that Gran Canaria isn't typical for Spain...)
One day I took Max to a nearby water park, Aqua sur. That was lots of fun. It had a separate section for little kids, with vigilant lifeguards enforcing strict rules, so I could relax and not be right beside Max every second. (He had his floatation vest on, too.)
Another highlight was something we could have discovered at home, if we were relaxed and playful enough: Bengt's new way of playing with Max's stuffed animals: Bonsai Bunny and Ninja Rabbit. He had Max and me laughing hysterically! (Someday soon I must get this on video.)
One time when I was relaxing in our room (reading a book on our bed), a little Norwegian girl wandered into our apartment. She started looking around, exploring under the kitchen table, etc. I called out, "Hello."
"Hello," she replied. "Are you visiting us?"
"No, you're visiting me. This is my apartment."
"Oh!" She wandered out.
Two minutes later she's back. "Do you want to see my baby brother? He's sleeping in a stroller outside."
"Yes, I'd like to see him."
She led me out to our patio, where she had a real baby stroller (not a toy), draped with towels to protect a baby from the sun. I thought, Wow, she's pretty little to be out walking her little brother in a stroller! She carefully peeled back the towel to reveal ... her doll. "This is my baby brother. He was in my mommy's tummy."
I admired her "brother" and we got to talking. The girl said that her name was Ingvill and claimed she was six years old, though her parents like to tell people she's three. She said she had two little brothers. I asked her if she was from Norway. She claimed she was from Sweden, though she spoke Norwegian. (I figured her family was Norwegian, living temporarily in Sweden.)
Later the girl's parents told us that her name is Lone and that the family is from south of Oslo. Lone is actually 3 1/2 years old and has one little sister.
Lone visited us quite often during our week-long stay, and though she played with Max if he was available, she didn't seem to mind much whether he was there or not. She would just wander in and start chatting with whoever was there or playing with whatever was lying around. Interesting girl with a very lively imagination! She wasn't one of Max's favorite playmates, however.
Anyway... the flights were a bit tedious, almost six hours each way, but Max slept 3 hours each time and we made good use of a travel game that Lin had sent.
By late Thursday night we were glad to be home. It felt great to sleep in our own beds again (the ones in the apartment were not comfortable). Without the fans blowing constantly, the quiet and cool temperature were a big relief. Bengt hugged his stereo.
The picture above is of Max with his new Buzz Lightyear, which Grandpa got him. Thank you, Grandpa! (And thank you, Lin, for sending the box!)
Uncle Anders was here last weekend. We all had a good time, especially Max. Anders had lots of presents for Max, too, which of course Max appreciated. Two nice books of Bamse cartoons, for example.
A couple of days ago Max had been whiny and irritable all evening. He was also coughing a bit. As we were getting him ready for bed, Bengt said, "Do we have any cough medicine to give Max before bed?" I said, "Yeah, in the bathroom drawer. And get him some anti-whining medicine, too!"
Max said, "Anti-whining medicine? I want some of that!" I laughed and said I was just joking. Disappointed and hurt, Max said, "Now my real tears are coming!" and burst into tears. I tried to comfort him, but he was angry with me and went to get his bunny. He said accusingly, "I'm hugging my bunny, trying to get happier."
Ok, I lost a few points on that one!
But yesterday when I picked him up from Birgitta, he wanted to go swimming and I said yes. He asked Nils if he wanted to go, and Nils said yes, and his mother, Susanne, who was there to pick Nils up, also said she'd go.
We had a riot! With another adult there, it was more fun for me, and Susanne was also good with both boys. She got Max to go down the water slide by himself, which I've known for ages that Max could handle but haven't been able to convince him to try. And once he knew he could handle the long water slide, he went on the other two himself, as well. In addition, for the first time Max actually swam around the pool! (He was wearing a floatation vest.) He was only dog-paddling, but he could get around, and that made him feel so proud and independent. It was great!
Hi! Sorry it's been awhile. Things have been going smoothly here, so there's nothing much to report. Just a couple of Max stories:
I discovered recently that Max can do push-ups. Real ones, with his body straight. I don't remember how the subject came up, but I described how to do them and voila, Max started doing push-ups! He is pretty heavy and I had no idea his arms were so strong.
I also discovered this morning that Max has watched Gladiators on TV. It came on right after the Saturday morning cartoons, which I was watching with him. When Gladiators came on, I wanted to turn the TV off, but Max said he wanted to watch. I said that the show is for adults only, and he said he's watched it before and it's really neat. When I expressed doubt that he'd seen it before, he described the show. Good grief! I guess we're going to have to buckle down and monitor his television viewing a bit more closely!
A funny little thing happened last night: When Max went to say good night to Bengt, Bengt kissed him exactly the same way he does when he drops Max off at daycare. By pure reflex Max asked, "Who's picking me up today?" We all got a kick out of that.
Here's a picture of Max in his "Bamse" cook's hat that Farmor and Farfar sent.
We've had the weirdest weather this past month -- alternating periods of cold and lots of snow, followed by thaws. We try to keep the driveway shovelled as soon as it snows, because the thaws turn it into a temporary but dangerous sheet of ice. The recent thaw has given me a hankering to get out and work in the yard. It's too early to do anything, but it's getting lighter, there are birds chirping out there, and I look forward to cleaning up the yard and planting flowers. Spring is in sight!
I'm feeling stressed and would like nothing better than to go and relax with the novel I'm working on, so this will be short.
I was in London Thursday through Sunday last week. It was a very interesting conference but very tiring, with lots of presentations to attend in a very stuffy conference room. I wrote an article about it (the lighter side of things, not the technical details) for our company magazine. (Here it is, for those few of you who might be interested.) Meanwhile, I'm still catching up on my work and following up on things that I jotted down during the conference.
Sven and Anna-Brita were here Wednesday through Monday, and that was great for all of us. Max didn't miss me at all. The only time he asked for me was when he was sick, which he was for about 24 hours. Three of the kids were suddenly throwing up, and Max was one of them, so either they all got the same 24-hour bug or somehow they must have eaten something bad. Anyway, I'm very pleased that Max was so content here with Bengt and Sven and Anna-Brita. It's so nice to be able to get away for whatever reason and know that Max is perfectly happy.
I spent too much money in London. Got myself some DVDs (much cheaper than here), many books, and presents for Max (from "the world's largest toy store", Hamleys) and for Bengt. I wish I could have found something for Sven and Anna-Brita after all they've done for us!
Here's a picture of Max hiding in the "fort" he made in the closet and shares with Maja.
On Monday we had our last trumpet lesson, at least for a while. Max is still interested but isn't practicing, and going to lessons was stressing me out. But we will keep the rental trumpet for now and let him pick it up when he feels interested again. I know enough about the trumpet now to teach Max a few things, and we can go back when we need more lessons.
I'm really looking forward to our vacation next month!
Max was quite sick but recovered from his illness very quickly! He was pretty much himself again by Friday afternoon.
I was at home today with a migraine. ARGH!
The day after I booked our vacation (see below), a colleague of mine returned from his own vacation. It turned out he had taken his family to exactly the same resort, and exactly the same group of apartments within that resort, that I had booked! He said it was a nice place, and great for the kids. He wrote down tips for us, like where eat lunch (only breakfast and dinner are included) and where to shop if we want to do that.
Max and I were down in the garage the other day so I got out the suitcase that I was thinking he could use for our trip. He was thrilled! He brought it upstairs and dragged it back and forth in the hall, showing off for Papa. He practiced opening and closing it and started talking about what he'd take. One of his first questions was whether there would be a washing machine there. When I said no, Max said he'd need to take extra shorts and bathing suits. He said he would take his bunnies (required nighttime companions) and milk and välling. I said we can get milk there, but we can take välling.
Max is very excited about this trip. So am I! It still feels pretty far off, though.
Now I want to write down a few things just for posterity...
For weeks Max has been insisting that Bengt and I tell him sad stories of real things that have happened to us or to other people. It's pretty strange, but my take on it is that he realizes that many of his fears (dragons, monsters, ghosts) are unrealistic. At the same time, he understands that the world can be a dangerous place and that sad things happen. I guess he wants to get a feel for what kinds of things are worth being afraid of.
Shortly after this stuff started coming up, Max asked me to explain how his "dragon spray" works. (I bought a special little spray bottle that we kept with us when Max was scared. I pretended that if a dragon or other dangerous animal appeared, dragon spray would disable it. It worked quite well.) I thought, oh shit, now I have to tell Max that there's nothing but air in the dragon spray bottle, and it will make him distrust me.
I told Max that when he was littler, he couldn't understand that there weren't any dragons or monsters, like he does now. So I got the dragon spray to help him understand that he was safe. There's nothing but air in there, but it helped him understand that no dragons or monsters could get him, and that Mama & Papa will help keep him safe as long as he needs us.
He accepted this very matter-of-factly and didn't seem disappointed at all. Now the spray bottle is just another bath toy. Phew!
Max has been very considerate and cooperative lately. Here's a conversation we had the other night before bed:
Max: Mama, when it's your birthday, would you
like someone to give you flowers?
A few days ago I asked Max why he opens the toilet lid after he flushes. He couldn't really say -- it is just a habit. I told him I would like it better if the lid were kept closed. Then today I happened to be in the bathroom when he flushed and closed the lid. I didn't say anything (it's not that important), but suddenly Max remembered and closed it again, saying, "Oh, I'll close this again, because I remembered you like to keep it closed." I was thrilled. I thanked him and added that it really feels good when someone remembers how you like things. He agreed. COOL!
The other night Max told me that when he's a big man, he wants to have a baby boy named Kalle (nickname for Karl). Then he stated that I would be the Mama. He and I would get married. "But what will we do with Papa?" HA HA! He'd be left over!
No, I said, I will be the Farmor. We talked about that for a minute. "Ooooooohhhhh," Max said. He got it. "But who will be Kalle's Mama?" I said that was up to him to decide. Previously he said he was going to marry Sara, and if he does that, then Sara will be the Mama. "Ooooohhhhh!" He got that, too. We made some real progress that evening on the accuracy of his vision of the future. :-)
Max and I often have these intense and rewarding discussions at night before he falls asleep. He often confesses some fear or other, or asks serious questions, or wants to cuddle or have his back rubbed. We play out complicated situations with his stuffed animals, or read a book carefully chosen by Max and discuss every page. It has become a problem, because he basically stays awake as long as I'm willing to talk with him. When it's Bengt's turn to put Max down, Max is almost always out like a light. When it's my turn, I am often in there for 30-60 minutes or even longer. I tried moving our talks to daytime, but there are too many distractions. I can definitely understand that. I guess we'll just have to go to bed earlier, so we can have that time together without it encroaching on his sleep time and my adult time.
Max continues to eat huge quantities of food. Birgitta told me today that she has been limiting him to two helpings at lunch, and I approve. He loves sweets when they're around, but for a snack he's perfectly happy to eat a plate of raw vegetables -- excellent! He also loves most kinds of fruit and drinks a lot of water and milk, even when sick. Bengt and I are so lucky we never have to worry about nutrition.
Of course he does some irritating things. He sometimes continues doing annoying things (like banging a spoon on the glass table or poking us with a toy sword) even after we've asked him several times to stop. It's like he wants to see where the boiling point is. Afterwards he seems to feel almost annoyed with himself. Somehow I can relate. A four-year-old isn't entirely in control of himself and is sometimes unaware of or confused by his own motivations.
He also interrupts when I'm talking to other adults, though he'll usually wait if I hold up my index finger (meaning "one moment please"). He won't wipe his own bottom after a BM and often talks too loudly. He yacks and can ask a million questions during a half-hour TV program (the Pause button on the VCR and DVD player are in constant use). He gets whiny when tired and gets pissed if I point that out. He still thinks farts and burps are hilarious, but at least he says "Excuse me."
On the other hand, he can wash and rinse himself in the bathtub (even his hair!) and gets dressed by himself. He can usually keep quiet if someone is sleeping. He's easy to reason with and is good with Maja. All in all I couldn't ask for a more delightful four-year-old.
Max has been going around saying in a dark voice, Evil never wins. I guess that's something Buzz Lightyear (his current hero) says. Pretty funny -- he says it at some very appropriate times!
This evening Max drew a map. It included Sollentuna, Africa, Spain, France, Australia and America. As an afterthought he added China. He would like to visit these places but doesn't want to sit on a plane for more than three minutes, so he wishes that "Q" (from Star Trek) could just snap his fingers and put us there. However, he is willing to fly to Gran Canaria because he agrees it'll be worth it.
Woo-woo! We just booked our spring vacation -- our first one in three years! The three of us will be going to the "Blue Village" Bahia Feliz resort on Gran Canaria for one week in March. (Click the tiny camera on the website to see pictures...) We are pretty excited -- especially Eileen and Max. I showed Max the pictures from our last spring vacation. He doesn't remember that, but the pictures were enough to thrill him. He said, "Mama, if we go to a place like this while it's so cold here, I'm going to kiss the sand!"
(For my own future reference: The other resort we were thinking of was Blue Village Playa Flamingo. Maybe we'll try that one next time.)
One of the great things about these "Blue Village" resorts is that they have a kid's club for ages 4 and up, where they can spend three hours per day and one evening without parents! I think Max will really like their activities. The place is owned and operated by a Swedish company, and Swedes take care of the kids. I think Bengt and I can leave Max with them for awhile every day without worrying. There won't be any language problem, and maybe he'll meet friends there that he can play with at other times of the day, too.
Max also stated that he wants his own child-sized suitcase with wheels and a handle. I have a small one like that which he's never seen, so I'll put a ribbon on it and give it to him.
But first things first -- Max is sick again. It seems to be the same thing he had over Christmas. What a drag. For all of us. Bengt had to go pick him up early from Birgitta's. But I should have known this morning when Max woke up and commented that his heart was beating fast. Then had no appetite for breakfast.
We had a trumpet lesson on Monday that went very poorly. Max was uncooperative and just flitted around. That evening I told Max that I wanted to stop going to the lessons. He said he wanted to keep going. I said I didn't like the way he was acting there, and we weren't learning anything. I explained again what a teacher is and that we are supposed to listen to her and try the things she suggests, so that we can learn to play the trumpet. I asked why he wouldn't cooperate, and he said that he kept thinking about other things, like things that had happened at Birgittas, and whether I was going to let him buy a can of Fanta after the lesson. In other words: He couldn't concentrate.
So we talked about concentrating and how that's something that is sometimes hard for little children, but we can practice that, two. Max himself suggested that we start out by practicing for one minute twice a day. I agreed -- two minutes a day is better than nothing! (Actually, he doesn't know how little a minute is. If I wanted, I could set the timer for two or three minutes and he wouldn't know the difference. But I won't.)
So we plod on...
January 6, 2004
I've been working over the holidays, to make up for the unpaid leave I had to take in December. I didn't have any vacation left but took off over Christmas anyway! Bengt stayed home with Max. Today they went to see Disney on Ice at the Globe. Max loved it, though a couple of parts scared him (like when a gigantic whale ate Pinocchio). He got a souvenir -- a collapsible Mickey Mouse sword with blinking lights. That's just Max's speed right now -- he loves anything with blinking lights, sounds, and buttons to turn things on and off. Weapons are also very hotly desired (but are generally discouraged by Bengt and me).
On the other hand, Max's favorite toy for the past several months has been a folding measuring stick, if you can believe that. The stick has stimulated his imagination in amazing ways. He bends it into all sorts of shapes -- letters of the alphabet, numbers, arrows, animals, weapons, machines, you name it. He even slept with it for awhile. It just goes to show that all these expensive toys are pretty unnecessary.
Bengt bought Max some ice skates yesterday (at my request), and they tried those out this afternoon. I guess Max had a hard time staying up on them, but I think he'll learn. Some people made a little ice rink over at the elementary school, so we don't have to trudge all the way down to the lake for a 15-minute skating session. I'm anxious to get out my own skates, though, and go for a spin around the lake!
Max and I had a great time at the domestic animal exhibition in Sollentuna on Saturday. Here you can see Max petting a rat. No qualms -- he thought it was great and asked if we could get one! Nooooo. Later he wanted his face painted. The makeup artist asked what he wanted to look like, and he said a lion. Cute, huh?
He got two small souvenirs at the animal fair, too. That was interesting: He saw lots of things he really wanted while we wandered around. In between looking at and petting animals, he stopped and asked the vendors questions about toys and gadgets. I encouraged him to wait until we were ready to leave to decide what he wanted, so he could choose what he wanted most and not feel sorry afterwards. That worked really well. In the end he chose a stuffed animal (a kitten), and plastic a tiger head on a stick with a lever that works the tiger's mouth. He has enjoyed those toys a lot since he got them.
Another thing he did at the exhibition was go into a bathroom stall by himself for the first time. YAY. I was really tired of cramming into a stall with him. When he finished, he went out to wash his hands but couldn't find the paper towels. "Can someone show me where the paper towels are?" he asked loudly. I feel so proud of him when he speaks up to strangers, whether he's making friends, asking questions or announcing his needs. It gives me a little thrill each time he demonstrates his confidence. He still makes new friends wherever he goes. Usually (always?) Swedish children are shy or reserved to some extent, but Max can usually break the ice.
Tomorrow is officially the first day of work and daycare after the holidays. In a way it will be a relief to get back to normal routines.
Here's a funny story I got from Marlin, for those of you whom he didn't send it to (if any ;-): I thought it was pretty funny, as I experience the same type of things with Max, but of course not to this extreme.
Did you hear about the Texas teacher who was helping one of her kindergarten students put on his cowboy boots? He asked for help and she could see why. Even with her pulling and him pushing, the little boots still didn't want to go on. Finally, when the second boot was on, she had worked up a sweat. She almost cried when the little boy said, "Teacher, they're on the wrong feet."
She looked and sure enough, they were. It wasn't any easier pulling the boots off than it was putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as together they worked to get the boots back on - this time on the right feet.
He then announced, "These aren't my boots." She bit her tongue rather than get right in his face and scream, "Why didn't you say so?" like she wanted to. Once again she struggled to help him pull the ill-fitting boots off his little feet.
No sooner they got the boots off and he said, "They're my brother's boots. My Mom made me wear 'em." Now she didn't know if she should laugh or cry. But she mustered up the grace and courage she had left to wrestle the boots on his feet again.
Helping him into his coat, she asked, "Now, where are your mittens?" He said, "I stuffed 'em in the toes of my boots."