What's New at the Pålssons'

 

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

July 11, 2004

We had a nice weekend, with a visit from Anders (always a pleasure) and a trip to Gröna Lund, Stockholm's amusement park. Max got a day pass and was thrilled to try out (and repeat endlessly) all the attractions he was tall enough for, including two rollercoasters (see picture—click for a larger version), fun house, mini free fall, Ferris wheel, bumper cars, love canal, and so on. 

We went pretty early, and initially we paid for parking until 3:30. But when our parking time ran out and we were nowhere near ready to leave, Max and I left the park and went back to pay more. Even so, Max would have liked to stay longer when we were forced to see to our car again at 7 p.m. 

Anders was with us for a few hours at Gröna Lund before he had to go out to Arlanda for his flight home. He went on this rollercoaster with Max, too, and I wish I'd bought the picture! Max went on the smaller one by himself, but rules required an adult to accompany him on the large one. It had all those warnings like for pregnant women and people with back problems not to ride, and not to wear caps or glasses. (My glasses stayed on okay, but I almost lost my headband.)

The last time we rode it there was a line, and I noticed some parents and others looking at us like, "Is that little kid going to ride this rollercoaster?" One mom even asked me (nicely) if he could take it. When I told her it was our third time, she burst out laughing and was reassured. I saw a couple of 10-year-olds wimp out when they got close to the head of the line. 

Ironically, Max got scared and upset on the kiddie Ferris wheel. On that ride he was locked into this little Plexiglas box by himself, with no way of communicating with the outside. (I didn't think anything of it until afterwards.) There was some kind of malfunction and the operator had to walk away and get a different key to make it go backwards. The delay, and being stuck in there by himself, made Max uneasy, and he knocked on the glass to get my attention. But I was watching the operator and other people and didn't notice Max, who got upset because he was calling and knocking and I didn't hear him. Oops! He recovered very quickly, though. 

Max played darts (rubber ones) and "won" a sparkly necklace, which he was really pleased with. (Actually the woman at the stand was just being kind and gave him the cheapest prize.) Then he played a game of chance and got his pick of a large collection of cheap items, and he chose a ring to match. He says it's a magic ring. 

One thing I didn't like at the amusement park was the bathrooms. Yuck! I had Max drinking a lot, and he had to pee about every half hour (it seemed like). When lines developed in the late afternoon, that was no fun!

Not much else is new. I'm feeling overwhelmed with things to do and details to take care of, as usual.


July 4

Happy Fourth of July! We hope our American friends and family are having a nice weekend!

Max has been practicing his English for our trip to the U.S. He's getting much better, but it's still an effort for him and you can tell it's not his native language. He has a reasonably large vocabulary (considering the circumstances), but often there's some perfectly common word that he can't think of, like curtains or lettuce. And he often doesn't say things quite right. For example, the other day he when we were standing around outside he said, "Mommy, I'm being attack from ants!" He also doesn't say the "th" sound correctly—but then I guess there are lots of four-year-old Americans who don't. 

Max and I went to the sea yesterday. We drove about 40 min. to a nice beach. Max found a boy that he played with for about 4 hours. Then he and I played mini-golf. By the time we got into the car to go home, Max was just about comatose. He fell asleep about two minutes into our trip home, then went to bed as soon as we got home and slept all night, until 5:20 a.m. when he woke up and started bouncing around like a spring-loaded toddler.

Anyway, our beach visit was a nice adventure. However, besides the nice sound of the waves, I didn't think it was worth the drive—we have a much bigger beach just a few miles away from here, and they have a water slide. 

Today we went to a Fourth of July brunch at the Hard Rock Cafe in Stockholm. It was nice enough to visit with other Americans, but it wasn't my favorite way to spend half of a Sunday.


July 1, 2004

Today the Olympic flame was transported through Sollentuna—right past ReadSoft while I was at the office. Many of my colleagues were outside to watch, but I missed it because I had my nose buried in my work. Our receptionist sent me a picture of it, though. 

You won't believe this: Max was sick again. He had a very high fever on Monday morning, and he was flat on his back all day Tuesday, as well. He said his throat hurt when he swallowed, so I was afraid it was strep. On Wednesday, he still had a fever (lower) but was bouncing off the walls, obviously recovering nicely. Today he went back to Birgitta, and was happy to do so. Glad we didn't have to resort to antibiotics this time!

Yesterday I saw Max stretched out in the bathtub. He took up the entire length of the tub and I took a good look at him for the first time in months. It was one of those moments that force you to reevaluate: It struck me that Max is absolutely no longer a toddler. He's a kid, a boy. It may have been obvious to others before now, but not to me.

Bengt and Max are out on the driveway practicing basketball. Max likes to dribble and is proud that he can. The sound of the ball hitting the pavement is a "big kid" kind of sound. I didn't expect to be hearing that so soon. Maybe we should get a basketball hoop.

In the past few weeks Max has learned how to fool me. He kept telling me something like, "Mama, I dropped the flashlight and it broke" or "Mama, I dropped my water balloon in the livingroom and there's water all over the rug." When I didn't believe him, he asked why. "Because you're smiling" or "because of how your voice sounds". He learned quickly! Now he can fool me pretty easily. "Fooled you!" (lätt lurad!) he says happily. It's kind of irritating, but he's enjoying it so much that I haven't yet asked him to quit it.

This morning Max and I listened to brass music. He said it's the best music. Then he asked where his trumpet was. We got it out and he tooted on it for awhile, for the first time in a couple of months. He got frustrated that it didn't sound like on our CDs but seemed reassured when I explained again that he can have fun just tooting away, and eventually it will start sounding better. So I guess there's hope that he'll get interested again.


June 27

Max and I had a fine time in Perstorp. Unfortunately the weather was absolutely awful. We stayed indoors almost the whole time, and shorts were out of the question.

Max loves Farmor's cooking and eats non-stop while we're there. Here you can see him having blueberry glop with milk and cream one morning. He was even allowed to suck up the last drops with a straw! Happy camper.

As always, Max was sad to leave Farmor and Farfar. Max told me the night before, "I'm going to feel sad when we leave tomorrow. Farmor is like another mamma to me." Wow. And it is wrenching to see the three of them say good-bye. Bengt and I may send him down there for another week this summer. It seems like all three of them need it. Max is not allowed to fly unescorted until he's five, but flights are cheap so I guess I could escort him down and then fly back on the return flight that leaves half an hour later. Bengt could do the same when he picks Max up—or spend a couple of days in Skåne himself.

Here's a first: Today Max brought home two six-year-old friends. After charging around for awhile, the three of them got civilized and settled down to a nice board game. They played for 20 minutes or so, occasionally asking me to read the rules for them when they weren't sure. Later, after the others had left, I asked Max who won the game. He couldn't remember! He guessed they just stopped playing when they got tired of it. Huh! 


June 22

On Sunday we had Max's 4 1/2 year birthday party. You may remember that we have the party in the summer because his actual birthday is December 30, a very inappropriate time for a kids party. There are pictures on Max's website.

One of the games we played at the party was the Swedish version of Simon Says (Gör Si, Gör Så). I don't think the kids had ever played that game before, but they were surprisingly good at it. Three of them (one of which was Max) were so good that we couldn't fool them, so all of them won first prize. 

The party was three hours long this year. Whew! Next year we go back to two hours.

But Max had a wonderful time. He loved the presents Bengt and I got for him, too: A remote control drawbridge for his Brio train set, and a police siren & light thingie for his bike. Afterwards Max thanked us so profusely for his party and his presents, it was heartwarming. It made me want to throw him a party every week.

He's such a big boy now that I sometimes forget he's only four. I treat him like a much older kid and expect him to act accordingly, then get impatient with him or even lose my temper when he doesn't. No fair. I hate when I see I've hurt his feelings or expected too much. He's so trusting, open and loving towards us.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is Tripp Trapp Trull's big summer outing. This year they're going to Eskilstuna Zoo. Max is looking forward to the adventure. I hope he doesn't get sick on the bus trip. It'll be a long day for those kids (and for the caregivers).

On Thursday Max and I go to Perstorp for a long weekend. We'll have a good time there, and Bengt will get a break here at home.

Max's most interesting question today: Why isn't there enough room in my nose for fingers? (Varför får inte fingrarna plats i näsan?)


June 15

Hi again! I just love this picture of Max so much that I had to put it up on the website. Max found these "ears"—actually ear protection that Grandma Bobbie made him a few years ago, with various attachments such as funny ears. He liked them (although I doubt he'll be wearing them regularly) and tried on the various attachments. 

Doesn't Max look big and old in this picture? Every day I marvel over how big he is, both physically and mentally. He has a big heart, too. How did we get so lucky?!?!

Below is a picture of him with the ears when he first got them... Check out the drool on his chin! I remember that!

I discovered something new about Max recently. I always knew he had excellent spatial orientation and could find his way around our town at a very young age. Now I think he has some kind of photographic memory of places he's been. Yesterday I took him to a remote shopping center that we'd only visited once before, about a year ago. He recognized the road leading to it immediately and said, "Hey, I've been here before!" He also pointed out the fact that we parked in a different parking lot the last time.

Also, about 10 days ago when we were driving on the highway south of Stockholm (where we don't drive very often), we drove past an exit where we once had to stop so that Max could get out and pee in a parking lot. As we were driving by, Max pointed down the exit ramp at the parking lot and said, "I peed there!" (Note that he wasn't even seeing it from the same perspective as when we stopped to pee there!) 

Many other times he's amazed me by pointing out the way to places he hasn't visited in months. He can do this even when we approach from a different direction. 

Sometimes he wants to know where some store or pool or something is, or he asks where I'm off to. I explain it in terms of landmarks (not street names) and relative to where he's been before, and he gets it. It just floors me.

I could send him off with a visitor to this town (I'm talking about Sollentuna) and trust that Max could direct them just about anywhere they wanted to go (that Max had visited before), and back. It's kind of freaky! I know I never had this talent.

But I'll tell you one thing: If I ever get lost and Max says he knows the way, I'll believe him! Yep, I'd take directions from a four-year-old.

I guess this is just his "thing". Other kids memorize all car models, or learn to read at age three, or have astounding math or motor skills or something.

Regarding Road Runner: Max has watched a lot of this cartoon recently. When he was sick, he was afraid he'd laugh so hard that he'd throw up! (But he watched it anyway.) Now he's realizing, says Bengt, that the Coyote is never going to catch the Road Runner. That kind of spoils the fun for him. 

Next step: Three Stooges? I know Max, and I know that he would laugh himself into hysterics over Three Stooges. (I hate them, myself, but you gotta admit it's a guy thing.) I asked Bengt to wait on the Three Stooges. So much violence! (Slapstick, not the same as realistic violence, but still...)

Man, am I sickening or what! I just bragged absolutely shamelessly about Max. But you know the main target audience is loving grandparents, right? And I write it for posterity. 

Mark, the baby of friends whose birthday party was in progress when Max was suddenly stricken with strep throat, came down with a high fever the other day. It looks like he got strep from Max. ARGH! Poor Mark!

Bengt is enjoying the soccer matches. I hear cheering from the TV room now and then...

We're all fine and healthy now. Hope you are, too!


June 13

Max was really sick Saturday through Tuesday. It took awhile for the antibiotics to kick in. He had a "nest" down in the TV room where he could watch Road Runner cartoons to his heart's content. He is good about drinking fluids (even though his throat hurt a lot when he swallowed), and he swallowed his penicillin tablets without complaint. We even managed to get a some yogurt and fil into him, which helps the stomach's flora deal with antibiotics. 

What you don't see in this picture is the "barf bowl" that he had within easy reach on the left. Max was nauseous a lot of the time, and having the bowl nearby eased his fears about possibly not making it to the bathroom on time. But he made it every time – he's good at recognizing his body's signals.

I heard something that tickled me a couple of weeks ago: There is a child at daycare who has an English-speaking father. The kid got sick during the day and the father had to be called and asked to come get the child. The caregivers were discussing this and scratching their heads and  trying to figure out how to describe the child's symptoms in English, when Max overheard them and translated for them. They were like, "Oh yeah, we can ask Max!" The one who told me said it was funny to realize that they, with all their schooling and experience, were struggling with something that a four-year-old on the premisis could easily help with with.

Next week is max's 4 1/2 year birthday party. We're looking forward to it. Max insisted on inviting so many of his neighborhood friends that I didn't feel I could invite our really good friends who don't live in the immediate area and whom Max doesn't see so often. We are invited to those kids' parties, though (and we always enjoy them so much), and this puts me in a difficult position. I don't really know what to do about it. Have two parties???

I did cut down Max's original list a bit, but he really does have lots of friends here that we can't not invite. He plays with neighborhood kids constantly. He's even asked to have sleepovers! (Ok for Max, but I don't think the other kids are ready for that yet – not to mention me!)

Recently Max said out of the blue that he wishes he had his own room, "with nothing in it except paint on the walls." He would sleep in there, he said, by himself. I was pretty surprised. You may know that Max has his own playroom and bedroom. I told him that if he wants an empty room, then we can move all his stuff from his bedroom to his playroom. And we're happy to let him sleep by himself! 

It was funny to watch his mind wrapping itself around the concepts that (1) he actually has two rooms all to himself – a luxury that neither Bengt nor I has, (2) he gets to choose (or at least have a strong say in) how to arrange and use these rooms – imagine the possibilities! – and (3) Bengt and I don't sleep with him because we want to but because Max insisted on it in the past. That was a lot of aha's to take in at once. You could almost see the cogs churning.


June 6

We haven't had an easy time of it lately. I got a sore throat and fever last weekend, suspected strep but wanted to tough it out without antibiotics. (I've had too many courses of penicillin in the past few years.) I wasn't too miserable and even went to work (and avoided contact with my colleagues). I was managing, though I was exhausted every evening. 

Then the infection spread to my eyes, and that was too much – I went to the doctor and got salve for that. The doctor said I should be on antibiotics so I went ahead and got penicillin, too. I was feeling worlds better by the next day.

But then Max came down with it yesterday. It hit him like a train – all of a sudden he was wiped out and had a shockingly high fever. I got up early today and managed to get him an appointment at Urgent Care at 11 a.m. So by noon he was on antibiotics, but they haven't kicked in yet and the poor guy is utterly miserable. I expect he'll be on the road to recovery tomorrow, though. 

Here's a funny thing Max did the other day: He was babbling on and on about something, trying to figure out how to solve some problem or other, and suddenly he interrupted himself and said "Ding!", held up a finger, and announced his solution to the problem. Maybe you had to be there, but it really tickled my funny bone. It was literally like a light going on in mid-sentence – sound effects and all.

The picture below is from our visit to Skansen last month. Max and Mattias had a great time "driving" their "rental car".


May 27

Max and I were role-playing with his stuffed animals the other night. Max was a leopard and took good care of his leopard son. Then he asked me to bury him. "I'm dead and my son is sad." Yikes. I covered him up and assumed the role of the bereaved leopard. "Oh papa, I'll miss you! I wish you weren't dead! (kiss kiss kiss) I love you and I'll never forget you." And so on. 

Pretty soon I heard sobs coming out from under the burial site. Max jumped up and threw himself into my arms for comfort. "It's really sad when someone dies!" By then I was fighting back tears myself. I think I did a good job of reassuring and comforting him, without blowing it off (because it is sad when someone we love dies, and it would be a lie to say it's not). But sometimes I worry that he's thinking heavier thoughts than a four-year-old "should". Bengt suggested I not play those sad roles with him anymore. But I think it's important that Max feel he can trust me/us to talk/play about anything. No subject is forbidden. Scary, sad, or sticky personal issues lose some of their potency when they can be shared—I hope!

Another story, on a lighter note: Max and I were at the mall a couple of weeks ago and we happened to walk by the optician's. I suggested we go in and look at the glasses, and Max agreed. I was curious to see what Max would look like in glasses, since I assume he'll be wearing them by the time he's 10.

Max looked over the kids' glasses and picked out a copper-metalic rectangular frame. It looked great on him! He didn't look like a dweeb or anything. I had him try on a few others—more kid-like ones, like round blue frames and stuff—but the ones he picked out were by far the best. Huh, how did he know? Maybe those were the most similar to my frames (which are rectangular and frameless, but the stems are copper-colored), and if we share the same basic face shape and coloring then I guess it's logical that he and I might look good in the same shape & color frames.

Max has been having friends over every day after daycare and every weekend day (if we're home). A different friend every day, usually—older, younger, boy or girl, the old regulars or someone he's just starting to get to know at daycare. They often stay for dinner (I call the parents and ask), and after they get picked up Max asks if someone else can come over! He just loves having friends over—and I like it too, because I like to see the kids having fun and because it's actually easier on me when Max has someone to play with.

The next week it starts over. If he doesn't see a regular playmate for a week, he starts to miss them.

Today he went to Malin's house, for a change. I got to work an extra 90 minutes!

We're thinking of taking a weekend trip to Legoland this fall, and Bengt and I have been wondering if we can get one of Max's friends to come with us. I think all three of us would have more fun if that worked out. I don't know if other parents would let their 4-, 5- or 6-year-old child go away for a weekend with another family. I guess it won't hurt to ask... But which kid?! For various reasons, I hesitate to ask Max.


May 23

Max and Bengt have been down in Skåne since Wednesday afternoon, and I had the rest of the week and the weekend by myself! It was heavenly! I got a lot of work done around the house and also managed to relax a lot. I worked on two photo albums, cleaned out a lot of trash on my computer, replied to lots of email that I needed to get to, did a lot of yard work, shopped, and so on. I had a bad headache all day yesterday, though. Borderline migraine. This time I'm pretty sure it was caused by hard cheese. That's the only thing I ate that could have brought on a headache. (Hard cheese is a known trigger of migraines.) For some reason I'm becoming very prone to them in my old age! I still haven't gotten my appetite back.

Another thing I did this weekend was divide up Legos (Duplo) into 22 (twenty-two!) suitable sized sets to auction off on Tradera (which is like a Swedish version of eBay). I'm very curious to see how much we get from these auctions. We had two gigantic tubs overflowing with these Legos! My deal with Max is that he can get big-boy Legos (smaller size) after I've sold these. We'll buy some in the U.S. this summer.

We've been having very strange weather. Yesterday we had hail for the third time in two weeks! I was driving home in the rain and drove right into what seemed like a wall of hail. The hail accumulated on the streets and, of course, in our yard. I was worried that the flowers would be damaged, but they seem to have made it ok. Right now it is very cool (near freezing I think) and raining. Yuck. 

But we can now get strawberries (from Belgium) in the grocery store, and last week we even found corn on the cob. Max loves corn on the cob, and he was so excited to see the corn that he started jumping up and down. A store clerk happened to walk by and Max called out, "Thank you for having corn in your store!!" The clerk chuckled. It cost a fortune but of course I bought some.

Max's dagmamma had several extra kids last week because another caregiver was sick. When I took Max to daycare one day, he promptly went in another room with two of the "new" girls. But while I was still there talking to Birgitta, he came out again and hid behind some curtains—obviously embarrassed and uncomfortable—very unusual behavior for Max. We asked what was wrong. Max answered with a shaky voice, "I'm in love!" We had a hard time hold back our laughter. "I'm in love with little Sara!"

Birgitta said, "Well, that feels nice, doesn't it?" "No, I feel shy! I have butterflies in my stomach!" he said.

We thought he really did feel in love, but when we had friends over later that week, he said the same thing. We talked about his feelings and it turns out he just felt shy with new people, and he was repeating words that he heard on TV or something. It reminded me once again that kids often don't know exactly what they are saying. Or rather, they use words incorrectly, just like anybody learning how to talk or learning a new language.

More tidbits... Max goes around talking and singing constantly. Sometimes it's pointed, and other times it's just absent-minded babbling. Once when he was playing last week I heard him say to himself, "Kent Agent. På lördag klockan 18. I ettan." ("Agent Kent. Saturday at 6 p.m. On channel 1.") It was obvious he was mindlessly repeating a trailer he'd heard on TV. He even talks and sings in his sleep. Sometimes he sits up and starts jabbering about something, not realizing he's dreaming. I just tell him to lie down again, and he does. It wouldn't surprise me if he started sleepwalking.

Max's friend Mattias was over recently, and Max wanted to play together but Mattias was totally absorbed in fiddling with some toy and wasn't responding. Max said his name over and over, and Mattias didn't even look up. It was really strange, and Max got irritated, then annoyed, then really angry and upset. He didn't know how to take that, and he came to me for help. 

I said, "Mattias. At our house we answer other people when they're talking to us. Don't you do that at your house?" That got his attention. I also meant to tell him that it's okay to play by yourself, but it's still rude not to at least respond when someone's trying to talk to you. But the boys started playing right after that... Anyway, that was a first. 

Bengt's aunt Lisa (Sven's sister) died Monday night. She'd had cancer and been very weak for a long time, and she wanted to go. I still feel sad about it. 

Max knew Lisa, too. He heard about it at Farmor and Farfar's house and seems to have taken it calmly. I'm interested to see what he'll say to me about it, though. He tends to bring up things like this at bedtime, when he has my undivided attention and likes to bring up serious matters (and less serious matters).

I guess that's it for now. I hope everybody had a good weekend.


May 13, 2004

Hi! I hope that all of you reading this are well. 

Daycare is closed for planning activities today and tomorrow, so another mom and I took four kids to Skansen today. We had a fun time. The weather was clear but cool, and most of the animals were out. All four of the kids enjoyed riding kiddie cars, and the three older ones climbed a lot and were noticeably braver and steadier after 30 minutes. There are pictures!

Just a month ago we had sleet, and then spring hit us very suddenly. Everything bloomed and turned green at once, and last weekend was very warm—in the 70's! Bengt and I finished the most back-breaking yard work and got our garden planted, and as I write this Bengt is mowing the lawn for the first time this year. It's cooler today, but there seems to be no more risk of frost. 


May 1

Bengt and I went to Birgitta's the other day for Max's annual review. She showed us his binder, where she keeps her own pictures of him, as well as selected drawings and paintings. This one charmed the pants off me, and she gave it to me. Can you guess what it is?!

All was fine at the review. It was fun for Bengt and me. We got to talk about Max for an hour, and there were no problems to speak of. On the contrary, we went over the few rough spots that had come up last year, for example occasional tears when we dropped him off, and established that this is absolutely no longer a problem. We were hard pressed to come up with anything to jot down as possible room for improvement. Finally we came up with stranger danger, since Max is so outgoing that he'll talk to anyone. He needs to know that it could be dangerous to go off with people he doesn't know. I talked with him about this today, and he seems quite clear that he can never go off with someone else (stranger or not) without telling the adult who's responsible for him. 

Today Max biked over to his friend Alexander's house, over by the school, by himself. Bengt let him go over there without even calling first. When Max didn't come back soon, Bengt called over there to see if Max was playing with Alexander over there and if that was okay. He was, and it was. 

I took Max to a local fair the other day. Got some good pictures – they're on Max's picture site.

Most recent question that required a detailed explanation: Why do we need light to see?

Okay, in case you haven't guessed, the drawing is of the U.S.S. Enterprise! Any trekker would be proud to see their three-year-old draw something like this. (He drew this in November – hadn't turned four yet.)


April 19 – A big step for Max, and new neighbors

Max has recently taken some kind of gigantic leap. Suddenly he's communicating on a different level, like a much older kid. I can't really explain it, but here is one example: He came home from a friend's house the other day and found me hard at work pulling weeds, with a gigantic pile of them next to me. He asked, "How did all these get here?" I said that I'd pulled them to make the area look nicer. He commented, "It must have taken a long time to do that!" 

The difference is that he was seeing things from another perspective besides his own. He saw (and commented on) how much time I spent doing something. I felt acknowledged in a way I'm not used to from a four-year-old. It's like he's suddenly somehow changed his strategic position in relation to Bengt and me. 

This is also apparent in the way he negotiates to get what he wants. It's no longer just whining or begging, but really arguing for his cause in a way that shows that he can see things from our perspective. And he's willing to compromise. We can discuss more complicated things now, and in more detail. 

On some level I think he realizes that he's taken a step forward. Suddenly some type of inner struggle for understanding has been won. He feels more confident and harmonious, and he's having a respite from bad dreams. I think this might be a good time to reapproach the issue of him possibly sleeping by himself... (That problem is described at the bottom of this page.)

Max had his friend Tua over for a little while on Saturday. He wasn't very nice to Tua (he imitated her and teased her), and after a little while she asked me to call her mom to come pick her up. Max felt guilty about that and was almost in tears until we talked about it and he decided to apologize to her. This morning he remembered it and apologized to her as soon as he saw her, without any prompting.

Otherwise, Tua and even Louise (8 years old) have been pretty frequent visitors to our house after daycare. I find it amazing that the kids still want to be together after spending the whole day together. Last week we had both Tua and Louise here one afternoon. They stripped off all their clothes and jumped on the beds, shrieking like a bunch of chimps on speed! (They asked permission first.) It was hilarious! 

Mattias (who has another daycare provider) has also been here a few times, and Birgitta reports that a boy named Hugo (ditto) is another favorite playmate of Max's. We know Hugo and Mattias thanks to the network of daycare providers who mix and match the kids quite a bit. Excellent!

On the other hand, in the last couple of months Max hasn't been getting along with his long-time friend Nils. Nils came over one afternoon last week and there wasn't a single five-minute period without yelling, biting (Nils), hitting (both boys, I suspect, though I didn't actually see Max hit), and outraged crying (Max). We agreed that Nils isn't to be invited back for awhile. Oh, well.

Another happy note: We met a family who recently moved into our neighborhood. Bengt met the father and son first, at the playground. They had already heard of us through öppna förskolan (daycare). Bengt said they were really friendly and that I should go by there sometime and say hello. So a few days later I was out with Max, and we dropped by to see whether the boy (Alexander, 3, a very pleasant boy and a good playmate for Max) could go to the playground with us. They had friends over, so it didn't suit them to go to the playground, but Gabriela invited us in to join the group for lunch! I almost went into shock, this is so un-Swedish. (They lived in the U.S. for 10 years.) After a minimum of coaxing, we actually took her up on it, and we really enjoyed it. The two other families (very friendly!) had to leave an hour or so after lunch, so then we ended up going to the playground after all. We spent 4-5 hours with them that day! 

Saturday Max played over there without me for a couple of hours, and yesterday (Sunday) we had them over for a barbeque, and that was a blast, as well. Like a breath of fresh air. Thank heavens for new neighbors!


April 11 – HAPPY EASTER!

I've been writing actual emails to people this week, so most of this entry is bits and pieces from what I've written to people. It might be a bit fragmented...

The Easter bunny came to our house this morning for the first time ever. Apparently Max's stuffed animals woke up and were very curious about what the Easter bunny left, because most of them were gathered around the loot when Max discovered it this morning. He got lots of candy and a little present, too. 

It was exciting for Max, and he liked the touch with the animals, too. When he told me about it later, he said, "My stuffed animals were all there looking at the giant egg! It was so cute!"

Unfortunately I missed the actual moment of discovery because I was crying and throwing up. I had a migraine today—probably the worst one ever, but fortunately not the most tenacious. I don't know which is worse: the indescribable pain or how sick I get. The headache woke me up this morning and didn't start fading until 12 hours later. Now I feel pain-free but shaky and not ready to eat or move around much. 

And it was my own fault. I ate some of the Easter candy (chocolate) before bed last night. Chocolate is one of the triggers for me. I love chocolate and haven't wanted to give it up completely, but I can't predict when it will set off a migraine. After today's utter misery, I'm considering swearing off it for good. 

Bengt was so good to me. He took Max outside a fair amount and kept him away from me. Not that Max needed much coaxing; he could see what bad shape I was in, and he hates to see me in pain. 

All this is on the tail of strep throat woke up with Monday morning. I got to the doctor early (Tuesday p.m.), so by Thursday I felt a lot better, but I had diarrhea from the penicillin, and anyway the doctor told me I'd be contagious for two more days so I should stay home. I watched a lot of TV, did laundry, checked up on our mortgages (which you have to keep a closer eye on than in the US) organized some drawers and stuff, etc.

Max went to the doctor's office with me on Tuesday. When I was about to get a throat swab, which I detest so much that my eyes welled up, Max said, "I'll wait outside!" and scooted out the door.

Thursday afternoon, Friday and Saturday Bengt and I did yard work. We did lots of spring chores like raking leaves and digging out weeds. Our backs (among other things) are sore, but we got a lot done. Thank heavens the weather has been nice! This is the first weekend that the ground isn't frozen, believe it or not. Tomorrow (also a holiday here) is supposed to be nice, as well. So our yard should be all prepped for planting spring flowers by Monday evening! We can't actually plant flowers yet, though, because (A) we still get frost every night and (B) our car broke down so we can't go buy flowers!

Yep, the Volvo seems to be on its last legs. Bengt had it in the shop on Thursday and was able to drive it home just fine, and Max and I drove it around on Friday, but today it wouldn't start. Boo hoo! So it looks like we're going to have to buy a car soon. And Bengt's contract at ReadSoft ends this month, so he'll be unemployed again. Great timing.

Bengt went and bought a used 8 mm projector and a special box to project into and film off of. He's hoping to make some money buy converting people's 8mm home movies to DVD. I think it sounds like a good idea. He has done other things for friends, like getting stuff off the Internet and making DVDs, converting stuff from one format to another, etc. He says some of it is kind of tricky to figure out, but once you know how to do it and have the right equipment, it's a cinch.

Bengt took Max to a speech therapist the other day. It was the midwife (whom Max visits every year for a check-up) who "sounded the alarm" and referred him to the therapist because he was pronouncing words using "t" instead of "k" and "d" instead of "g". I know Max can say the words correctly—he just forgets sometimes. If I remind him, he says them right. (He wants to speak properly, which is nice.) Other than that, I think he speaks Swedish well—a bit better than average for his age, even. His active English is weak, but we're working on that off and on... Again, he's interested in speaking correct English, which is a big plus. Some of his friends even enjoy learning English words from him.

Anyway, Bengt reported that the speech therapist tested Max and said that yes, he can make all the sounds, even if he doesn't always use the right ones. She instructed us to correct him passively (just responding to what he said, but pronouncing the words correctly)—which we already do. Max is to return in 6 months for a further check-up, which is just routine when their pronunciation isn't 100%. In addition, she said that Max's language development (Swedish, that is) is average or a bit better than average for his age. (I guess there's a difference between language development in general and pronunciation in particular. That makes sense.) That makes me happy, especially considering all the English he's also getting.

I think I may have mentioned this before, but kids here don't start first grade until the calendar year they turn 7, so Max won't start until 2006, and he'll be the youngest in his class. And there's no kindergarten (per se), so no organized teaching kids to read until age 6-7! Obviously, Swedish kids generally start reading and doing math later than American kids. It has occurred to me that we may get a little guff from some well-meaning Americans during Max's 5-7 age range. "What? He's 6 years old and isn't in school or even kindergarten? Hasn't learned to read yet?" 

Of course, Bengt and I are already teaching Max whatever he's interested in. We've been working on letters and numbers in a relaxed and unstructured way ever since Max got interested awhile back. I was starting to get worried because he confuses "3" and "E", "S" and "Z" and so on. But Lin reassured me that it's perfectly normal. 

Max is learning all kinds of other stuff, as well. It's incredible how much he understands about the human body (right down to cells and bacteria—stretching the limits of my high school biology knowledge now...), about animals and plants and birds, about planets and the solar system, etc. And there's so much that interests him more than 3 Rs right now—understanding people and how our society works, comprehending different ways of measuring things (fluids vs. distance vs. weight, for example), how people earn money and how we use it, etc. He doesn't really understand where our water comes from and where it goes (who does?), so I'm currently trying to organize a field trip to the local water tower for Max and his friends, with a water company person to explain how it works and hopefully open the doors around the base to show us the giant pumps or whatever. 

These are big questions for a four-year-old. Not to mention all the physical things he's learning, like somersaults, hopping on one foot, riding a bike, combing his own hair... Geez, and we want him to sit and memorize 29 letters of the alphabet (plus another 29, if you count both caps and small), and a bunch of numbers! I'd choose those other subjects, too!

A fun thing is that Max suddenly enjoys playing board games and can follow the rules and take turns. (Six months ago he couldn't count well enough and didn't see the point of rules and taking turns.) He got lots of games for Christmas and his birthday from Sven and Anna-Brita and from Anders, who works for a game company. We play those a lot now. Neat!

Another development: Max just recently started being able to tell right from left. He likes to give instructions when I'm driving. "Turn right up there. Then right again at the light." He knows his way all around town (actually, he already knew his way around a year ago) and can direct me to any of our normal places like doctor's office, three different shopping centers, two pools, the lake where we feed the ducks, ReadSoft, etc. He even asks about and remembers the names of streets, which I think is especially cool because I didn't learn the names of major streets in Portage (besides the ones we lived on) until eons later. Like when I was 9 or 10 or so.

When I praise Max for what he's learned (like "Wow, Max, now you've learned right and left! You got it!"), he says "thank you!" in such a sweet and genuine way. I'm so glad he can (at least for now) accept praise and feel grateful for it, without getting shy or overly proud/boastful.

Max has just started leaving the safety of our yard by himself. He's gone to three neighbors' houses to ask if the kids can play. This has opened up a whole new world for him. And for Bengt and me, too—it's great that Max can just go knock on the door and ask kids to come out to play, instead of us having to call around to the parents! 

And Max is certainly more content when he has someone to play with. It's funny to watch what happens at the nearby playground. He immediately scopes out the different groups of kids and then hones in on one. If they don't respond appropriately (some kids are shy or want to play by themselves), he moves on to his second choice.

The other day we went to the playground and the place was deserted. Then a little girl showed up and acted like a magnet on Max, who followed her around. She was very shy, so Max didn't get in her face but hovered close by in case she decided she wanted company. Every once in awhile he'd toss a question or comment her way, like he was fishing, hoping for a nibble. And I know from experience that if she'd have responded at all, he'd have reeled her right in.

Bengt's latest: I was telling him about the incredibly gigantic booger that Max had picked out of his nose (at my request). Bengt said, "You should have saved it!" Ooooooohhh! Gross!


April 4, 2004

We had a really nice weekend. This is the first weekend that's been warm enough to do yard work, and Bengt and I really dug in. Before I owned a home, I never thought I'd enjoy gardening, but each year I enjoy it more. It's satisfying work, and it's certainly a lot different from housework and of course office work. 

Today Max's friend Mattias came over to play, and the two boys thoroughly enjoyed themselves for the four hours he was here. They also played very independently, which was a great break for me and Bengt. They required very little attention and didn't even mess up the house. Of course they were outside most of the time, and their clothes were filthy and soaked when they came in... BOYS!

Max is once again in a questioning phase. He wants very much to understand the world he lives in. When he and I were in Perstorp last weekend, we were just falling asleep when Max asked, "Mama, can we talk?" I knew then that he had questions on his mind, and sure enough, he hit me with the biggest one so far: "Mama, how does the world work??" I just burst out laughing.

Turns out he wanted to understand things about our planet like how it can be night in Sweden when it's morning in Australia, and spring in Sweden but autumn in Australia, and how the moon can be round when it doesn't look round (we had a half moon). I bought a globe for Max, and he thinks it's neat, but what we really need is a model of our entire solar system or a movie that explains it all. I don't think they make documentaries like that for four-year-olds, but they should, because I think Max could understand it if they showed it carefully and used easy words.

Many other questions have to do with the human body. What makes bones? (I explained about bone cells and showed him pictures of different types of cells.) How does the brain work? How come my body hasn't gotten rid of this cold yet (it's been three weeks)? How does the dentist fix it if I get a hole in my tooth? What are these two balls behind my penis? 

It's neat that Max is learning so much about his body, and one related development is that he insists on taking care of his own body. He washes himself at bath time and actually does a really good job, even with his hair, with no help at all! When he brushes his teeth, it looks like he's doing a good job of that, as well.

Now if only he could manage to sleep by himself. He really wants to but is still scared of bad dreams. He doesn't have nightmares very often, but they are very upsetting when he does. I read him a book about bad dreams, but the message didn't seem realistic to him. He believes he can really get hurt in his dreams and doesn't feel that he has any control over them. So he tries to stay awake and wants someone close by when he does sleep. It's not a huge problem, but it will be nice when Bengt and I can both sleep in our own bed without Max feeling like we betrayed him by leaving him alone.

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