What's New at the Pålssons'


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

December 20, 2005

Max is okay again. No doctor visit was required. In this picture, taken two days ago, you see him playing a computer game in spite of fever and chills. He watched a lot of TV. But yesterday and today he was well enough to practice piano and do fun stuff like wrap Christmas presents with me and write Christmas cards to his friends.

Bengt was home with Max today. He was good enough to put a couple of coats of oil on our new counter top in the laundry room.

I picked up some new special prescription food for Maja. We are having a little trouble getting her to eat the stuff that the vet originally prescribed. She's not supposed to lose weight, but she's a picky eater. (It's not that she's too skinny, but losing weight wouldn't be good for her kidneys.) So I have a close eye on her intake. This new stuff seems to go down a little easier.

December 18 – Laundry!

On Wednesday our washer and dryer were finally supposed to be hooked up after about eight weeks. But when one of the workers went to drill a hole for some reason, he drilled right into a water pipe! They had to rip out part of the wall again to replace the pipe. I was close to tears when I heard.

The good news is that by the next day they had it patched up well enough to install the washer and dryer. Consequently, those two machines have been going almost non-stop since then. We just finished the laundry today (Sunday).

Today I went to the hardware store and bought a new countertop, solid birch. It's about 10 feet long, so it was tricky getting the thing home! Bengt stayed home with Max, who unfortunately is sick again. (Fever, lethargy. But not as bad as last month. I just hope he doesn't give it to Bengt or me just in time for Christmas.)

I've been noticing recently that the American books I've been reading to Max are putting negative ideas into his head that wouldn't otherwise have occurred to him. It seems like the books are supposed to point out potential problems and solutions, but these are problems Max wouldn't have thought of.

For example, there's one where Arthur's teacher's roof is damaged, so the teacher moves in with Arthur's family for a few days. Initially Arthur is horrified. Then he tries to act really good to impress the teacher. Then his classmates tease him and call him "teacher's pet". This was all so confusing to Max. Why wouldn't he want his teacher to stay with him for a few days? (Max loves his teacher!) Why would he act different from usual? (His teacher thinks he's terrific just the way he is. Or at least she gives that impression.) What's "teacher's pet", and why would the other kids call him that?

Then there was one where Arthur gets glasses. One of the things Arthur did when he couldn't see properly was accidentally walk into the girls' restroom at school. The girls started screaming and Arthur was taken to the principal's office. Good grief, what's the big deal! (I mean, I understand that American kids think it's a big deal. But Swedish kids don't, and Max was mystified about all the trouble Arthur's mistake caused him.) Then Arthur got glasses, which helped him see a lot better, but other kids teased him and called him four-eyes. Max used to think glasses would be cool. But now he realizes that other kids might make fun of him. Great.

Anyway, I'm discovering cultural differences in the books (not for the first time) and finding myself at a loss to explain to Max what American kids are like or why they behave as they do. Hmmm.

December 12

What a weekend! I spent way too many hours assembling two new Ikea cupboards, with five drawers each, for our laundry room. Then I addressed and sent all our Christmas cards. Phew!

On Sunday I took Max to a Christmas concert that I thought he would enjoy. It's an annual thing that I go to with a friend of mine and whomever else wants to go. But Max didn't enjoy the concert, and he spent much of the two hours letting me know how much he wasn't enjoying it. The whole time I was just about to take him out of there and go home, but then he'd be quiet for a few minutes and I'd think it would be okay.

Then he'd start up again, groaning, complaining, asking questions, squirming, pulling on my arm, etc. I wanted to SMACK him! We don't do that, but during that concert I really felt I understood people who do. I was gritting my teeth the whole time, and by the end of the concert my nerves were shot. We really should have left earlier. But as I said, there were calm periods so I kept thinking he would stick it out.

On the way home, we had a heated discussion about who had wronged whom. I felt fully justified in my complaints, but Max pointed out that I was treating him like an older kid, expecting him to sit through something like that. (Boy, he's good at defending himself, isn't he?!) True enough – I misjudged what he'd be interested in or capable of sitting through in a pinch. In the end we both apologized.

It's really dark here. I almost hit somebody with the car a couple of weeks ago. It was particularly scary because I was really paying attention. (I mean, if I hadn't been paying attention, I would have told myself to pay better attention and then felt confident it wouldn't happen again. But this near accident couldn't have been prevented by paying closer attention.) The guy just walked right out in front of the car at a pedestrian crossing (where pedestrians have right of way). He was dressed in black and I just didn't see him.

That made me realize that I myself am guilty of walking around at night in black clothing. I have snap-on reflectors that I can easily wear, but I always forget because it's already getting light by the time I leave the house in the morning. So I took my black winter coat and my black canvas jacket to a tailor to have reflective strips sewn on, like I did for Max's jacket. (Max's jacket already had reflective strips, but the reflective properties had weakened with washing and I had them replaced.) But to sew reflective strips on my coats would have been a lot of work and therefore very expensive.

So I bought some adhesive reflective fabric strips and stuck them across the back of my coats. It's very.... visible! Bengt says I look like I belong at the airport, directing planes as they taxi over to the gate. Ha ha! But I feel a lot safer.

Actually I don't think it looks bad. Many people have reflectors sewn onto their outerwear over here.

Max decided to stick with gymnastics until karate lessons become available.

December 8

Maja survived an illness – for now

While Bengt was away in Lund last weekend, Maja stopped eating and started sleeping around the clock. She didn't seem to be in any pain but was apathetic. Max and I took her to the vet Sunday morning, where they examined her, took some blood for tests and gave us some special food to give her.

Monday they called and said that her kidneys are shot. Various kidney-related values were way too high and she was no doubt nauseous, which is why she wouldn't eat. So I took her in after work and they put her on an IV. Tuesday the vet called and said she hadn't improved much, but another day could do the trick. Wednesday (yesterday) she called again and said things weren't looking much better, and her prognosis wasn't good, but it would be worthwhile to give it one more day. So I agreed to another day, while at the same time preparing myself (and Max) for the worst.

Bengt tried talking to Max about Maja (I was out last night) and basically Max's main question was, What animal can we get next? But when I talked to Max about it when I got home, he showed a lot of anxiety and cried. It could be because I was upset myself or because he has always talked to me about his fears and sorrows.

At any rate, I had a very rough night. Even though Maja isn't one of my all-time favorite cats, and she even seriously gets on my nerves sometimes, I didn't want her to die. I would absolutely go and be with Maja while they put her to sleep, but the thought of holding her and comforting her while she died was wrenching. (I've done it before, as I know a lot of you have.) Plus all kinds of other issues related to death kept welling to the surface.

So I didn't get much sleep, and it felt good to keep busy at work until the vet called around 11 a.m. and said Maja had pulled through! Her blood values were almost normal and she was eating!

I called Bengt and Max's school (Max's teacher told him), and picked up Maja a few hours later. She seems just like her old self. But she will have to eat special food for the rest of her life, and eventually kidney failure will take her down. She may last just another month, or (if we're lucky) several years. I guess we'll just enjoy her while we have her.

Tidbit: On the way home from the vet on Sunday, I told Max, "That cost 300 bucks." "How can such a little cat be so expensive?!" Max exclaimed.

Fortunately, our pet insurance covered more than half of the costs related to this illness.

Max may take a break from or quit gymnastics

Max had his annual gymnastics show on Sunday (after we took Maja to the vet). That went fine (with Max dressed as a black panther – see picture). But Tuesday was their last practice for the semester and a parent was supposed to be there to help or celebrate or whatever. Max acted up uncharacteristically and I felt both very angry and embarrassed. I wanted to smack him. He apologized later but neither of us knows what got into him. ARGH!

At any rate, Max has asked for karate lessons several times. He's been in gymnastics for quite awhile, and if he wants to try something different, I'm game. I found a place in Sollentuna, but the waiting list is a year long and kids can't start until they're 7 years old. But I'll keep looking. Or maybe he'll find something else in the meantime. He can skate for the rest of the winter, anyway. And take skiing lessons.

Max's armpit rash came back

To our dismay, Max's armpit rash came back as soon as we discontinued his twice-daily applications of anti-fungal cream. However, by the time we noticed it, his skin was already cracked and dry, so instead of cream I smeared it with Vaseline, thinking I'd just soften it up before starting the anti-fungal treatment again, but VOILA! It went away for days!

I couldn't believe it. All this time we've been convinced it was fungal, when in fact it responded much better to Vaseline. Now we check it about once a week and apply Vaseline if necessary. I guess it's mild eczema after all, in spite of its unusual (for eczema) location on Max's body. Weird.


I did four loads of laundry at Svenssons' (Mattias' family) last weekend. Christel gave me a key and I just came and went as the laundry required. I really appreciated that, and their laundry room is right by their front door, so I don't think I bothered them. It was kind of a pain driving over there for every step of the laundry process, but now we can get by until next weekend, when (hopefully!!!!!) the g.d. laundry room will finally be finished. (The tiling was finally finished yesterday, but now we need the other people to come back and move the washer, dryer and hot water heater from the front hall back into that room, as well as connect all the stuff and put all our cupboards and stuff back. They say they'll be her next Wednesday....)

Another thing I did last weekend was sew a sheep costume, if you can believe that. For Max's nativity play at school. It would have been nice to live close to Grandma Bobbie right about now! But I muddled by. Got some fake sheepskin from a craft shop and made a sort of oversized T-shirt out of it. Slapped a cute tail on the back and sewed some ears onto a white wool cap, and voila. Max was rather pleased. B-a-a-a-a-a-h!

Remember Max's bunnies that he has held in his arms every night since he was a few months old? Well, we forgot (horrors!) to take them with us to Perstorp a few weeks ago. When I realized it, I got pretty nervous about telling Max. When I did, he said he wasn't happy about it, but it would be okay. And that was that. Well!

Another big boy development: Max no longer has to get up to pee at night. Or if he does, he doesn't wake me or Bengt. He hasn't sleepwalked in quite awhile, either.

He's in a pretty good period right now. Apart from the occasional outburst, he's reasonable and good-natured. He seems to be continuing to settle in and feel more comfortable at his school. I see (or think I see) affection developing between him and his teacher. And (or should I say "but"?) he asks questions and wants to discuss things constantly. Typical topics (if you can call them that): Where does water come from? Where do dead cats go? When can we go to Egypt? Who made it a law that children have to go to school, and why? Why can't we see more stars, if there are so many of them? Reincarnation. Etc. etc. etc. I see the value of these questions, but sometimes I get exhausted by all this chatter (especially if I'm Max's sole adult contact for a day or two) and have to ask for time out from it.

November 27

That was a nasty virus Max had, but he was better by the weekend, and Bengt and I didn't catch it. (Knock on wood.) That was a relief. A lot of people have had what seems to be that same virus. Bengt and I must have gone through it before and become immune.

Max and I were in Skåne last weekend. We had a good visit with Sven and Anna-Brita and also got to see Anders and his girlfriend Li. It was nice.

And we got to do laundry! We took two big suitcases of dirty clothes down with us and came back with two big suitcases of clean laundry.

Since Max started school, "responsibility" for his health care has been passed from the local public clinic to the school health care system, which in turn farms it out to a different clinic, this one private. Max was called in for a check-up this past Monday. The lady doctor, who spoke broken Swedish, checked his height, weight, ability to write his name and catch a ball, and a few other things.

She declined to check Max's vision, even when I pointed out that Bengt had gotten glasses at age 6 or 7 and we are already noticing nearsightedness in Max. She said she would check it in a year or two. (?!)

She said that Max has a mild curvature of the spine but that she would not put it in his record. (?!) Instead, we should ask that it be rechecked next time he sees the doctor.

Then she read us the riot act about his weight. There's no getting around the fact that Max is chubby, but look at the pictures – does he look obese? Tell me the truth. I don't believe so. I am heavy (though I wasn't as a small child) and above all, Bengt is has a sturdy, compact build that Max inherited.

This doctor went on and on about how much we need to curtail back Max's eating. I said he's going to go hungry if we cut him back to that small amount of food. She said, "He'll get used to it in a day or two." That's B.S.

I suggested that surely it's enough to just prevent him from gaining weight, and then let him grow into his weight. She said Max could stand to lose weight.

She said it's important for Max to be physically active. I pointed out that he is physically active, plus we make it a point to encourage activities such as gymnastics, swimming, skiing, skating, soccer, etc. She said that Bengt and I should take him on a one-hour walk every evening after dinner.

GEEZ! That's when I got sarcastic. Yes, I myself could to with a one-hour walk every evening, but Max is not interested enough – and neither are we – to make it anything but a colossal chore. If it's one thing we don't need in our family, it's more chores and "shoulds".

Throughout all this, Max was sitting there listening to the doctor say how fat he is and describe the lengths we should go to in order to solve his problem. At the same time she was being so sticky-nice, saying that it's for health reasons and not because of how it looks. I was very uncomfortable and annoyed, and Max kept whispering to me, "Mama, let's get out of here!" Finally we did. We just gathered up our stuff and left. I was fuming. Max had an attack of diarrhea (as he does when he gets stressed).

Man, I didn't know what to think. But when I mentioned the one-hour evening walk to Bengt, he snorted. That was reassuring.

Then the mother of another kid in Max's class asked me whether we had had our school check-up yet. Turns out the doctor had sounded the warning signal about possible developmental problems or something, because her son had not responded the way she (the doctor) expected. The mother was very upset when she left there and even complained to the receptionist. She talked to the teacher, who said nonsense, her kid is fine.

The doctor said we will be called back for an interim check-up in six months, to check Max's weight. I'm going to request a different doctor if she's still there.

Max played with his friends all weekend. He spent Saturday with Albert, among other things skating with his brand new skates, (which are three sizes bigger than last years' skates)! Today Max played here at home with Mattias. Bengt was home with them, while I was out shopping for some black pants for Max to wear to his "Nobel dinner" at school tomorrow. (They're supposed to dress up.) When I got home, Max was sobbing pitifully. Bengt was just going about his business, serving dinner to them. Mattias was eating in silence.

Turns out Max and Mattias had gotten in some sort of fight. Mattias said he felt like crying, too. Max told his side. Then Mattias told his side. Max cried, "LIAR!" (in English). "He's lying!!" he cried to Bengt and me with deeply indignantly pain. I have never heard him so upset by a friend's behavior. The expression on his face said, I can't believe this! I can't believe Mattias would do this to me!

Obviously, they did not agree on what had happened. Max was very upset. Mattias was morose. I said (among other things) that maybe the two boys had spent too many hours playing by themselves, but I hoped this wouldn't ruin their good friendship. I called Mattias' father, who came and picked him up. Meanwhile Max cried broken-heartedly in his room. He couldn't bring himself to say a civil good-bye. Yikes!

Footnote: Mattias turned up the next day with his mother and apologized. Max accepted and they are best friends again.

November 10 – We're in sorry shape

Max has been sick all week. He has a sore throat, moderate fever, and his throat and lungs are full of phlegm. He can't (or won't) eat and has completely lost his voice. I called the doctor, and they said it's a virus that's going around. All we can do is treat the symptoms and wait it out.

On the first day Max was home sick, he watched over four hours of Popeye cartoons on DVD. I still think that might be what really made him sick.

Bengt and I have been taking turns staying home with Max. But the other day one of Bengt's teeth split in half and he had to get an "emergency" appointment (two days later) with the dentist. That was at 8:00 this morning. Fortunately he made it home in time to let me go to work on time to give the 10:00 seminar I was scheduled to deliver to my colleagues, "Using Microsoft Word Effectively".

Workers have been here intermittently to work on the laundry room. Twice they poured cement on the floor. The cement smells awful as it dries, and it's too cold outside to open the doors and air the place out (especially when Max is sick).

There's still laundry room cupboards and sacks of stuff everywhere. (It's incredible how much we managed to cram into that little room!) We're constantly stepping over and around stuff.

We haven't been able to do laundry here in close to three weeks. We still have clean clothes, towels, etc., but there are piles of dirty laundry both upstairs and downstairs. I found out there is a Laundromat in Stockholm, and we'll have to go there if our laundry room isn't completed by next week. It's closed evenings, so one of us may have to take off work to do laundry. Now that's what I call service!!!

A friend is arriving from the U.S. this evening, for a long weekend. The place is a mess. I really hope he doesn't catch Max's crud. I'm giving him separate hand towels....

I have a sickening tickle in my throat. Wah!

On the positive side: The blasting for the tunnel has begun moving away from us. It is no longer right underneath our house, so the noise is receding. What a relief!

November 6, 2005 – Halloween

Here's a picture of Max dressed as a pirate for Halloween. None of the pictures turned out well, but you can at least see what he looked like. He painted the blood and scars on his face.

Swedes are having a difficult time deciding when to celebrate Halloween. We had trick-or-treaters on October 31, but also on various days after that. We had to buy more candy yesterday.

Again (from the October 31 entry): Here are some of the pictures that the photographer took of our family last month. We ended up purchasing the pictures rather than ordering prints. That's why we can show them to you like this.




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