What's New at the Pålssons'


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

October 31, 2005 – Pictures!!

Last Friday Max received a diploma for being the kid who made the most progress in October. The other kids wrote the justification, which is printed on the diploma (my translation)

  • Max is a good friend.
  • Max is honest and is happy to let others borrow his things.
  • Max is friendly and kind.
  • Max did a good job becoming part of the group, and he plays with everyone – both boys and girls.

Max seemed pretty proud of this diploma, so obviously they presented it in a good way. I think he feels better liked now. Me, I had a little bit of a bitter aftertaste: "Some other kids made this adjustment very difficult for him, and now they're giving him a diploma for his social improvement..."

Max hugged his teachers when he left that day. I'm not complaining.

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.

October 22 – School is still a trial

Max cries almost every day when we drop him off at school. Bengt and I have changed our schedules so now Max gets dropped off later, when more teachers and children have arrived, but it is still hard. He clings to us and cries. Sometimes a teacher has to hold him back while we walk way. It must be awful for Max, though they say he is fine five minutes later. It's also very hard on me and Bengt. We feel guilty. What more can we do? How long to we allow this to continue before we switch schools?

Parting is almost as bad in other situations, too, though. So it's not just school. If Max is awake when I leave for the office in the morning, he usually clings to me and tries to get me to stay home. When Bengt and Max left for Perstorp the other day, Max clung to me and cried.

On the bright side, Max's reading, writing, and math have improved quite a lot since he started school. The teachers say he does great. He functions well and seems cheerful. None of us understand why he makes such a fuss in the mornings. I just wonder how much anger or grief he is suppressing in order to deal with these difficult separations and the necessities of each school day. Am I worrying for nothing?

The scaly patches under Max's armpits came back! We used anti-fungal ointment to get rid of them over a year ago after repeated recurrences, and now they're back again, for the fourth or fifth time. They are very dry, and when we don't treat them they crack and become very painful. They are responding well to the ointment again, so we have to assume it's a fungal infection. I can't imagine where he keeps picking this up. We all hate the stupid ointment routine. However, as usual Max is very cooperative when it comes to taking care of his body.

Here you can get an idea of the results of our bathroom redecoration. The top one shows the sink, cabinet, towel racks and the new glass door into the sauna. The second one shows the tile better, and you can see the shelves over the toilet. (I love the solid oak shelves we chose, and I think the oak goes well with the white and gray tile.) The plants are plastic, of course – there's no window in there.

September 28 – Max's body can't keep a secret

Max is becoming nearsighted. I checked his vision the other day and I can definitely see better than he can. It's not bad yet, but I think he'll be wearing glasses within a year. Bengt is terribly nearsighted and has been wearing glasses since age 6. (I got my glasses at age 10.)

We had a little secret here at home that we didn't want Max to tell. (Just regarding an item that we own. No big deal.) But Max wanted very badly to share the secret. He worried about it and it slipped out a few times to his friends. Yesterday evening Max asked me, "Mama, can I tell that secret to my friends?"

"No, I don't want you to tell people that," I said.

"Mama, I already told lots of my friends at school," he admitted guiltily.

"Max! I wish you wouldn't have done that."

Rushing to his own defense, he exclaimed, "It was my body! My body pushed the words right out of my mouth!"

I started cracking up. "It did! It did!" he insisted. I said, "I know it did. I understand exactly what you mean. You wanted to tell, and the words just came out, and you couldn't stop them." "Yes! That's what happened." Boy, I know just how that feels.

Bengt and I had our first conference with Max's teacher on Monday. Afterwards, when he and I discussed it, we noticed how very differently we think about the teacher and the school. Bengt is anxious for them to buckle down on the nuts and bolts rather than paying so much attention to "fuzzy" stuff like how Max is getting along with the other kids. Bengt wants to work with them to come up with a concrete plan of study, with goals and then steps for how to achieve each one. (That's the manager in him!)

I'm more interested in having Max start out slowly (and less intensely than they're already going at it), enjoy himself, make friends, learn to deal with the older kids, gradually increase his ability to concentrate and focus, etc. I also want Max to learn to read this year, and to get some more hands-on practice with math concepts (and the teacher agreed that these were both suitable goals for Max this year). But I trust them to provide a good learning situation for Max, and I don't have to have it all written down in Max's planning book. (This is how I am at work, too: No detailed plan necessary. Just work diligently according to proven procedures, cooperate, and good stuff gets done.)

Bengt basically doesn't trust them, I guess. (He'll trust them after he starts seeing results.) That's not the teachers' fault. That's just Bengt.

Anyway, Bengt and I had our first energetic argument/discussion in a long time. We both feel strongly about our positions. One thing is for sure: We both care deeply about what Max does at school, the guidance he receives, and what he learns. I guess Max is a lucky kid in that sense.

Clearly Max's biggest challenge this year will be learning to focus for longer periods. He's not unusually unfocused, Maria said. He's just young, and concentration takes practice. He's shown he can focus for long periods on something he's really interested in. It's just hard for him to stay focused if he's less interested. He's already made great progress, she said. The first couple of weeks were rough. Now it's much easier for him.

She said Max is very verbal, very inquisitive, very social, very secure in himself. He is almost always cheerful, helpful, and kind to other children. He is concerned and wants to help if someone is unhappy. He interrupts other people a lot – we need to work on that. So concentration and not interrupting are really the only things to work on. Testing showed that Max has all the basic school readiness skills, and he is interested in reading and writing, as well as a host of other subjects.

I see that Max is still a bit stressed and less than perfectly happy at school, though. I worry that he's sitting still more hours per day than is natural for such a young kid. This first year would have been easier for him at the other school, I feel convinced. (His school day would have been over at 11:30, and he would have known many of the kids.) But we're trying to plan for the long term....

An interesting little challenge is what to do about Max's English. This first year Maria will put him in with the first-graders, and let him be her little "assistant teacher". It will be a way to let him shine and improve his confidence about his own abilities (which I feel is low). After the first semester or the first year, we'll have to come up with a new plan. As a kid who speaks English at home, Max has the legal right to English instruction on his own level, but that doesn't start until first grade, and I'm not sure that what is offered is what we want for him. But I figure I can always provide materials to support his English studies, if the teachers will just give him time to work on them and a little guidance.

Max played with his friend Albert again last weekend, this time at Albert's house. The two boys had such a great time. That family has a great yard for playing in!

Yesterday I screwed up and didn't take my keys to work. (As usual, Bengt and Max were still at home when I left, so I didn't need them.) So when it was time to pick up Max and take him to gymnastics, I suddenly discovered I didn't have any car keys or house keys. I could have taken the bus to Max's school, but we couldn't have gotten into the house until 9:30 at night, because Bengt had a seminar scheduled after work.

I ended up calling around and arranging for Max to go over to Adrian's house. Then I talked to Max on the phone and he agreed to ride his bike over there. Later he told me he was a little nervous about doing that (instead of being picked up as usual), but he did it anyway. We've been working on helping him handle little stressful situations like this, where plans change or something doesn't happen the way it was intended, and that effort really paid off yesterday!

So while Max was at Adrian's, I took the train to Stockholm, met up with Bengt and got his keys. Then turned around and came back. DOH!

I realize this website makes it look like Max is my whole life. Believe it or not, I actually have thoughts and feelings that are separate from Max and have nothig to do with him. I just don't prioritize writing them down. I like writing stuff about Max – especially funny stuff that I can enjoy when I read it later. Lately I've been thinking I might keep a journal again, though. Separate, just for me. I'm not so wrapped up in Max that I forget about my own development. We keep changing and growing all our lives, don't we.

September 24 – We've been photographed. And laundry room renovation is about to begin.

We had a family portrait taken today. The photographer came to our house and took the pictures outside. We were lucky – it was a gorgeous day. The photographer was great. Her name is Kate Gabor – check out her great website! However, I have the worst haircut ever! I had my hair cut two weeks ago, just before we scheduled the sitting the first time (but Kate ended up coming down with stomach flu and cancelling). I got a layered haircut, and I wasn't satisfied with the layering on the right side. There was a section where it looked like she had just grabbed a chunk of hair and chopped it off.

So I went back this week, thinking to get it fixed before our new appointment with Kate. But the stupid hairdresser did the exact same thing again – except even shorter!!!! ARGH!!!! I'm never going to her again! And I don't know if I'm going to like our portraits. This haircut is really not me, and incidentally it's very difficult to keep my hair out of my face. It's just like when I was growing out my bangs back in 1997! Argh!

Some workers are going to start ripping out our laundry room on Wednesday. Wah. I'm not looking forward to it. At least we can expect it to go better than the renovation of our bathroom. It couldn't possibly go much worse! And now we know there's mold under the wallpaper, so we won't be unpleasantly surprised.

We're going to buy a new hot water heater, while we're at it. Ours is almost 30 years old! And new countertops. We're doing it in the same style as our bathroom, in white and gray tile. Speaking of which, I just took a couple of our bathroom, and I'll try to get them up on the website this weekend. I'm in the process of switching computers, so it's a little complicated right now.

September 21 – Things seem to be looking up

Things seem to be going better at school:

  • Max seems to be getting used to the very minimal supervision that he and the few other kids have when they are dropped off early in the morning (around 7:45). There's an adult there, but she doesn't pay any attention to the school kids, since she has little ones to take care of. The lack of adult supervision was alarming to Max at first. But now he understands that that person is there to help them, too, if they need her. They can always go to her, even if she doesn't come to them. And they only have about 20 min. before the first teacher shows up.
  • Max seems to be making more friends. He is feeling more relaxed, and is always enjoying some game or activity with others when I arrive to pick him up. The other day when I got there, two five-year-old boys from the preschool were following him around, clearly admiring him. Max was talking to them and showing them things in a friendly and proud—but not condescending—way. He was obviously enjoying his role as the big kid. And he can use a dose or two of that, after being the very youngest kid in his school.
  • I think he is getting better at concentrating, paying attention and trying a task several times before giving up. I've noticed it in his trumpet and piano practicing (yes, he actually practices, sometimes for up to 25 minutes), and I assume it's getting easier at school, too.

Exciting steps forward!

Max was invited over to Birgitta's house the other day. I went to get him at 2 p.m. He had his bike at school (I recently bought him a bike lock, which he chose the combination to and is very proud of), so he rode over to Birgitta's himself. I drove separately and arrived about 30 seconds before he did. Four kids dashed over to the car, screaming, "Max! Max! Max is here!!!" I got out and said, "Sorry, Max isn't in the car, but he'll be riding his bike up here any second now."

The kids ran down to the end of the driveway and watched for Max. "I see him! There he is!! Max! Max! Yay Max! Yay Max! Yay Max!!!" they cheered and yelled excitedly as Max rode up. I can't imagine a more enthusiastic reception. I was touched, and Max was obviously affected and very happy to see everyone. He looked... victorious, really. Like someone who had worked hard and managed to win a challenging race.

Birgitta told me later that Malin had come over for the afternoon, even though she was allowed to go home after school since her sister was sick at home. She just had to see Max. Sweet! Bianca (who attends a school in another neighborhood and also stopped going to Birgitta) also showed up, after Max. I had a hard time prying Max away from there when it was time to go home.

A few days go Max and I had approximately this conversation:

M: Mama, does the papa help make a baby?

E: Yes, of course.

M: With those little things made in here? [Points to testicles.]

E: That's right. We've talked about sperm.

M: But how do they get in there to the egg? Do people use some sort of tube or something?

E: Your penis is a tube.

(I'll omit a couple of lines here, since this is a public website. Suffice it to say that Max now understands the basic mechanics.)

M: How long does it take to do that?

E: Oh, anything from one minute to a half hour.

M: ......Do I get to choose how long it takes?

E: Yes, pretty much.

M: Then I think I will choose one minute. That sounds kinda yucky.

They're still blasting right under our house to build that tunnel. They don't blast much on weekends, thank heavens, but if I'm home during a weekday I'm usually startled at least once by a sound similar to a machine gun, except about 1000 times louder and deeper. They set off a whole round of explosives at once, and it's seriously loud and shakes the whole house for several seconds. Although we know what it is, it's so loud that I always startle violently and think, "HOLY—oh yeah."

Today the explosives company came by and installed a vibration meter on our house. I thought, "What? Why did they wait so long? Is it going to get worse??" Bengt said jokingly that he was going to go out and kick the thing next time they blasted. :-)

September 18

Well, there hasn't been any more teasing at Max's school, as far as I can tell. All of the kids have strict instructions to tell a teacher immediately if they feel teased or are given the cold shoulder. Even if it turns out to be a misunderstanding, it's best to clear it up immediately.

Yesterday a school friend came over for the first time. When they called to ask if Max wanted to play, he started jumping for joy. This is the kid he's been talking about the most. I was so happy for him.

Albert is very tall and mature for his 6 years, IMO. Seems like he should be in first grade, but he's in Max's "grade 0" class. (I wonder if he's born in January. He could be a whole year older than Max.) When I was around, he seemed pretty shy, but otherwise he seemed pretty comfortable here. He stayed here for seven hours (!), which is as long as his parents would let him, and he and Max played wonderfully the whole time. No doubt Max and Albert will be playing together a lot.

After Albert left (after dinner), Max and I went for a bike ride. We ended up at the school playground, where Max started riding around in circles, practicing doing little wheelies. Then he started riding his bike in circles around the soccer field, faster and faster, around and around. It was evening by this time, the air was cool, and he was going like a maniac, pushing himself. I just stood nearby, kept my mouth shut and marveled at his energy and determination. His frenzy struck me as therapeutic and I didn't want to interrupt. For some reason I could imagine just how he felt—how freeing it was to ride around in circles like that, in the cool autumn air at dusk.

After that I helped Max with his bedtime routine, and we had a loooong talk about bad words. Albert says a bad word often. (He has two older siblings.) It's the Swedish word for "devil", and it's considered swearing. Max wanted to know what was so bad about saying "devil". Have you ever noticed how hard it is to explain why certain words are considered nasty, while other words with the same meaning are not?

Max has been saying various bad words since he started school. Even the "f" word, believe it or not! He says the kids at school say "f--- you", because Markoolio (popular singer among teenies) sings it on one of his CDs! I told him that was absolutely not acceptable to say, no matter how angry we are. He insisted on knowing its meaning. I tried to get out of it, but he was tenacious. I said he was not to discuss its meaning with any other kids, and he agreed. (Yikes! Do I trust him on that?) So I told him the meaning in rather round-about terms, and he seemed to get it. He was satisfied, in any case. Good grief.

He also learned the meaning of "discipline", which occurred in a story we'd read. Later, when I thought he was asleep, he heard me in the kitchen, getting ice cream. (Rats. I was trying to keep quiet.) He called out, "Why are you eating ice cream? You already had some today!" I said, "Because I'm choosing not to use discipline right now." "Oh." 

Today Max has been playing with Adrian all day. I'm glad he's not forgetting the friends he already has but is just spreading himself a little thinner.

At a store today I found a special kids skateboard for $6. It has optional blinking lights and optional funny singing, like rock-n-roll chipmonks, loud. (Good grief.) It struck me as something Max would love, and it was so cheap that I couldn't resist buying it for him. Sure enough, he was overjoyed. When I was helping him put on his protective gear, he burst out with, "It's so fun being a kid!!"

Speaking of which, a week or so ago, he asked me, "Mama, is it fun having a boy like me?" Yep, I said. Most of the time.

September 11 – more teasing, then a nice weekend with family

I gave Max a haircut (a nice, normal one of course) Wednesday afternoon, and on Thursday he came home saying the kids had laughed at his haircut. He was really mystified and hurt by the kids laughing at him. He seemed ashamed and looked down at the table when telling us. I told him emphatically that it's not his fault, but I don't know whether he believed me.

I called the school on Monday morning and told them that Max had been teased twice and was upset. The teacher I talked to, was surprised and dismayed and said she would deal with it immediately. Later I heard that she immediately gathered the kids together for a meeting. I don't know exactly how they discussed it, and Max can't give me details about the conversation, but when I talked to him Max seemed satisfied and optimistic.

Max said one of the third-graders cried at the meeting, because he, too, had been teased, for wearing glasses. He said no one got teased on Friday. We'll see how this coming week goes. We will not tolerate our 5-year-old being teased at school.

Sven, Anna-Brita and Anders were here this weekend. It was a pleasant visit, though poor Anna-Brita was coughing a lot.

She, Sven, Anders and I visited a couple of flea markets on Saturday and got some good stuff very cheap. For example, for a total of 90 kronor we found three books that we know they can get at least 500 kronor for by placing ads in Skåne. And I got a pair of almost new winter boots for Max for 40 kronor. (New ones cost at least 350 kronor.) I really love a good deal!

Of course then I went out and bought a pair of blinking Spiderman tennis shoes for Max for 250 kronor....

Another nice thing we did was have dinner at a nice restaurant, Bistro Edsbacka, here in Sollentuna.

And of course Max enjoyed spending time with his uncle and his grandparents.

September 11. Not a nice date for many people. My thoughts are with families who are still suffering.

September 6 – teased / night owl / disrespect / sleepwalking

Max had gym class today for the first time. He told me this evening that "it was hard to change clothes". I thought he meant that he had trouble getting his pants on or something. But he said other kids were laughing at him! What the — ? I'm really disappointed that the kids at his school would do this, or that it would be tolerated. (Maybe it's not tolerated, but there was no adult around.) Maybe it's the same everywhere. I thought Max would be spared the humiliation of being teased. It's hard to find a more socially fearless kid. Before this, I just couldn't imagine other kids teasing him.

Max was really surprised, too, and hurt, and he didn't know how to react. He doesn't know why they laughed at him when he took his clothes off. He tried to tell another adult (one who's not really in charge of these kids), but that person didn't listen.

One of the kids who was laughing is Max's "mentor", whom he admired. Max was especially disappointed by this, and understandably so. Granted, the "mentor" is only 7 years old, but geez!

I gave him a couple of things he could try saying next time. I also suggested he talk to his teacher about it. (Maybe that was a no-no?) I think Bengt and I will bring it up to the teacher ourselves. We have a meeting with her on September 19.

Max has been acting mean and disrespectful here at home. Figuring he's getting this behavior from somewhere, I asked him this evening whether the kids at school are generally mean. "YES!" he answered emphatically. "Well, sometimes."

Bummer. Major bummer.

On the up side, Max has been telling us about a boy named Albert and saying that he wants to play with Albert after school. Bengt talked to Albert's mom at soccer today, and apparently they are also interested in getting the two boys together. All of Albert's friends went to the other school (as did Max's). We have their phone number now.... To be continued.

Our evening ritual has become very important to us again. After reading a story to Max, I usually lie there with him for awhile, discussing things, listening and answering questions, and just holding him. Just like when he was really little and was afraid of lots of things and wanted to discuss these fears with me during our quiet time. During this time he is very affectionate and says repeatedly how much he loves us. This is a different boy from the one who tries to refuse to brush his teeth and talks back in neutral situations.

I'm having a hard time dealing with his talking back. I get angry and raise my voice, which I've discovered doesn't help. Doh.

Max said, "You made me mean!" I said, "No one can make you mean. You feel mad because I'm making you brush your teeth, but no one can make you mean. It's your choice how to act."

This evening I threatened not to let him watch TV tomorrow, if he wouldn't cooperate after watching TV tonight. That had the desired effect. :-)

Max has also been waking up at night and then staying awake for an hour or more. He comes in to me and Bengt and asks us stuff. I'm talking 3 or 4 in the morning, when we are seriously out of it. I vaguely remember a couple of questions from last night:

Mama, how long are a fly's antennas?

Mama, does a fly squeak when you kill it?

I must have answered in the affirmative, because the next question was: Mama, how loud does a fly squeak when you kill it?

ARGH! Obviously, we're trying to get him to stop waking us up for idle conversation!!!!

Another time Max woke me up and told me that he had dreamed that his friend Mattias was jumping in and out of his bed.

Max still gets up to pee, usually an hour or two after he goes to bed. The other night he almost peed into his wastebasket! I came up the stairs and found him with his pants down, aimed at the wastebasket. Another time I came up and found Max asleep on the toilet! Yet another time I heard he was up, so I went to investigate and found him walking in tight circles in his bedroom – I guess to keep from wetting himself.

Sometimes he starts wandering around. He doesn't have any idea what he's doing or where he's going. He doesn't talk or respond well to verbal commands, so we just lead him to the bathroom and then back to bed. I guess this is sleepwalking? Prompted by having to pee?

Tomorrow we look forward to a visit from Sven, Anna-Brita and Anders.

September 4

Max played with his friend Mattias Svensson all weekend. Much of that time they spent playing with cars and trucks in the driveway. Where do they get all that energy?!

School seems to be going more and more smoothly. I don't know exactly what's changed, but when I arrive to pick him up, I can tell he's more engaged and involved than he was at first. There are always groups of kids scattered around, involved in various activities like playing in the woods near the school, riding their scooters, playing with an electrical set, building something with Legos, painting, playing a board game, etc. Max is always involved in some activity, and never (it seems) with the same kids. I guess he doesn't really have favorites yet, although he has asked to play with a boy named Albert after school, and he is also very fond of his "mentor," Casper.

On Friday Max's teacher wrote in his book that he is already much better at sitting still and paying attention when he's supposed to, and that he's adjusting to school very well.

She also wrote that she had talked to him about only doing what feels right and not succumbing to pressure from other kids, and that he had gotten better at that. I don't know what she means – must ask her about that.

Yesterday Max asked me what insolence was. I was pretty surprised and asked where he heard that word. Max said he heard it on Rescue Heroes. I explained the word and gave some examples. Max seemed confused. He said, "Rocky Canyon [or whichever character it was] said that if someone didn't get their insolence in 6 hours, he would die." I puzzled over that for a minute. Then it hit me: Insulin! We started over with a new definition....

August 28

School went ok for the rest of the week. Max looked forward to being off over the weekend, but he didn't refuse to go during the week, and he was less touchy when I picked him up.

Each kid has a planning book where the teacher and student plan what they're going to work on and track the progress they're making. There's also a spot where the teacher writes a note to the parents each week, and where the parents reply. This week the teacher wrote that Max found a place in the group right away, and that while he says it difficult to sit still when they sit in groups, he manages quite well. I wrote back that maybe what Max actually finds difficult is listening and concentrating for those periods, rather than sitting still. He can certainly sit still for long periods in front of the computer or TV...

One day when I picked him up, he was playing with a girl, Francesca, whom he said was his best friend there. The teacher said that the two of them had had a lot of fun that day.

Bengt and I went to a dinner party last night. Max spent the night with Nils. It was his first time sleeping at a friend's house, but it went without a hitch. He was hesitant before, but his friend Adrian spent the night here a few weeks ago, and Adrian wasn't nervous at all and had no problems whatsoever. Max said, "If Adrian can do it, I can too." He was enthusiastic about sleeping at Nils' house, and it went great. Excellent! I myself had problems with this until I was at least 10.

Tomorrow Max starts piano and trumpet lessons, 20 minutes each, with 10 minutes in between. We'll see how that goes.

After Max's bath the other night, he was posing in front of the mirror and combing his wet hair in various supposedly cool (but actually goofy) styles. He was talking to himself, saying how cool he was. I just stood there watching. It looked so much like how a teenager would preen. Then he added a few sound effects like juicy farts. The combination of 15-year-old attention to hair and 5-year-old fart-and-poop humor was too much and I burst out laughing. He was a little miffed that I wasn't taking him seriously, but come on! I wish I could have filmed him!

I had a nice birthday on Friday. Bengt gave me an iPod Mini, which I had wished for. I got other gifts, as well, and lots of good wishes. I baked brownies for my colleagues. (Swedish tradition is to treat your colleagues to cake or whatever.)

Tonight I'm going out with a friend. Tomorrow back to work.

August 22 – Third day of school

We had the crappiest weekend in a long time, as far as I'm concerned. Max was in a foul mood. He whined, nagged, tried to boss me around, yelled and wouldn't respond to reason. On Friday evening (after I wrote my last entry) we got so mad at each other that we set the timer and stayed in different parts of the house for 10 minutes. Later he apologized, but I have to say it wasn't so easy for me to forgive him right away, he was such a brat.

Saturday night he threw up. But he's not sick, he's stressed. He kept waking up, saying, "I want to be with you." Bengt went down to the guest room and Max slept peacefully with me in our bed.

Max (yelling): "You hate me when I'm mad!"
Eileen (from the edge): "No, I don't hate you when you're mad, but I certainly don't like how you're acting."

Sunday Max announced his decision to quit school. "I'm not going back to school, and you can't make me!" Then he served up more yelling and other nastiness when he was found out that school isn't optional. Sigh.

His friend Johan came over on Saturday, and I had the impression that they weren't getting along as well as they usually do. I packed them up and took them to the beach (we're having a warm spell), and they got along much better there. (See picture above.)

His favorite friend (Adrian) came over to play for a little while on Sunday, and after 15 minutes Max came to me and said, "I want to play with a different friend." Argh. In the afternoon I went shopping for 3 hours, just to get out of the house, picking up such necessities as new underwear, new soccer pajamas and a Spiderman gym bag for Max. I ran into Adrian's parents there and vented to them. They seemed to sympathize. Adrian's school starts tomorrow.

Max can tell you things he likes about school (for example the woods that they can play in, and the food, and a buddy or two), and he hasn't said that he wants to go to the other school (where all his friends are going) or even back to Birgitta. And he can't name anything he doesn't like about school, except that he has a hard time sitting still. I think what's throwing him for a loop is the drastic change in his routine. It's like when an adult switches jobs – most people find it extremely tiring and stressful the first couple of weeks.

Today (Monday) when I picked him up, he was happier than last week. He said it went slightly better today. And he wanted to go play with Nils instead of staying home in front of the TV. (YES! Go out and play! At someone else's house! PLEASE!) I take that as a good sign.

August 18 – Second day of school

When I picked Max up today, he was perfectly fine and he gave me a big hug. Two teachers came over, and they said everything had gone well. (And to me they mentioned their surprised at what Max ate for lunch: A huge plate of vegetables, and then soup.) They reminded Max what he needed to bring tomorrow (a snack) for their little field trip.

On the way home, Max said that they had sat together and discussed summer experiences. He had to sit still and listen for 1/2 hour, which was very difficult and stressful (he said with his strongest emphasis). He had to keep changing positions, and even lay down, although it wasn't allowed. I sympathized and asked him if it was like the other night when we went out to dinner and he had a really hard time sitting still for two hours at the restaurant. YES, he said, it was just like that. I told him that's something you have to do in school, but that it would get easier.

First he said that he wanted to play with a friend when he got home. (That's usually what he wanted to do after daycare.) Then he changed his mind and said he just wanted to watch TV. I said he might feel like this for awhile – worn out after school and just wanting to relax and watch TV or listen to music or sleep. People feel tired when they make such big changes in their lives, and it takes time to adjust.

August 17, 2005 – First day of school!

Yesterday was Max's last day at Birgitta's. He got to choose (in advance) what they had for lunch, and we supplied brownies and ice cream for a little party. Max got a drawing and a hug from each child, and a present (a book about dragons) from Birgitta.

I think he was pretty fine with the whole thing, although when it was time to go there in the morning, he resisted strongly. I think he was anxious because it wouldn't be a normal day and he knew he'd be the center of attention.

Today Max started school. Or rather, they didn't have school activities, but the kids were welcome to stay there after the upprop, which is where they call each kid's name. All the families were standing around, and when a kid's name was called, he or she came forward, shook hands with the principal, and went to his or her teacher.

One of the kids was too shy to come forward. Max went forward and shook hands, and then he whispered to the principal, "I don't know which one is my teacher." The principal pointed out the teacher (Maria).

Actually, this school doesn't have classrooms with individual teachers like in a regular school. All three teachers (it's a small school, K-3) share responsibility for all the kids. But Maria has overall responsibility for Max, I guess.

He stayed until 1 p.m., when he called Bengt and said he wanted to come home. (Bengt had stayed home, just in case.)

It's been a stressful week for me. I felt sad and upset saying good-bye to Birgitta, with whom we'd had such a wonderful relationship since February 2001. We took her and her husband out to dinner and also gave her a present.

And I feel stressed by this big change in Max's life. There will be new routines, new situations for Max to experience and work through, new classmates and parents to get to know and keep track of, new aspects of Max and his abilities (in the formalized learning situation) to become familiar with. I think it will go well, but we never know in advance, do we? I hope that Max finds good friends (in spite of the small group), enjoys learning, and manages to sit still and concentrate for the required periods.

Max is stressed, too. You can tell because he's been argumentative, stubborn and resistant. He broods and smart-mouths me, then turns all cuddly and cooperative. He has mixed feelings about all this, he says.

There are a few new pictures on Max's website.

August 14

Max told me a couple of weeks ago that he wouldn't like to be a girl. "NO! YUCK!" When I asked why not, he said that girls are crazy about boys and like to chase them and kiss them. He got really animated and laughed when he told me about being chased and kissed by Malin (age 6) and some of the other girls. He said he liked it. But he wouldn't want to be a girl doing the chasing. 

July 28 – Summer's speeding by

After all the wonderful clear weather we had the first two weeks of July, we were due for some rain, and boy did we get it. I was in Perstorp with Max last week, and it rained—sometimes constantly—every day. Bengt is there with him this week, and it's been more of the same. It's fairly sunny here in Stockholm, but that doesn't help them much.

Max has been spending a lot of time with Sven and Anna-Brita (and Bengt and me). Lots of neat activities, such as:

  • A visit to the zoo
  • Crab fishing
  • Several hours at a nearby adventure playground (team-building style)
  • An afternoon at the ocean (despite the rain)
  • A couple of hours at the local outdoor pool (also in the rain)
  • A wonderful afternoon at Li's (Anders' girlfriend's) cottage on the coast (it rained then, too, but we also had a miraculous couple of hours of sun
  • Countless hours of playing with vehicles, Legos, and games with the grandparents
  • Bedtime reading by Anna-Brita, or bedtime stories about "the troll boy" (trollungen) told by Sven
  • A fair amount of TV, as well as hours of listening to his favorite pop artist, Markoolio, whose songs we adults now know by heart

In the past Max has sometimes acted cocky and rather spoiled when visiting Sven and Anna-Brita. This time he's incredibly cooperative and good-natured, well-mannered and considerate, appreciative and cuddly. He's in a an unbelievably pleasant period right now, and suddenly you can talk to him in a way that was impossible just a few months ago. It makes me feel in love with him. And so relieved!

Here at home I've been finishing up our vacation scrapbook with an account of and pictures from our trip to Gran Canaria in March, and the difference in him is striking. When I think back on (and read my own account of) how clingy and anxious he was then, compared to what he's like just now, it's like two different kids. You can see on his face in those pictures how anxious and unhappy he was. And it wasn't being away from home; he was already in a bad stretch when we left. He enjoyed the respite from the long Swedish winter, despite his difficulties, but we all would have enjoyed it more if he'd been at a different point in his development.

It's really amazing what different distinctive periods kids go through. I wish there were a road map somewhere, so parents would know what to expect.

We've got some neat pictures from the past two weeks, but Bengt has the digital camera in Perstorp. They come back on Saturday.

July 13 – Nichols' visit, and bathroom finally finished (almost)

We had a great visit with Lin & Mark, Ben & Elliot. Part of the time we just hung out and had meals together, which was really nice. We had wonderful weather (actually, a bit too hot some of the time) the whole time they were here.

Here are a few special things we did:

  • Went to local lakes a few times.

  • Did some sightseeing in Stockholm's old town.

  • Took a cruise to Helsinki. On the Viking cruise we upgraded to A4 cabins, which were small but had windows. That was really nice. Most of us slept well on the ship, but Bengt was bothered by the vibrations and white noise.

  • Celebrated Max's 5 1/2-year birthday together. We had his party on July 3. Lin decorated the cake that I made, among other things. Ben and Elliot helped when the kids "fished" for candy.

See pictures! (Maximize the window immediately after opening.)

Ben and Elliot have really grown up since we saw them last summer. They are smart, kind, interesting boys who were very generous in getting along with their younger cousin Max.

Lin, Mark, Ben and Elliot left at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning. Max hugged them all good-bye the night before, at bedtime. When we went into the bathroom to brush his teeth, he locked the door and burst into tears. He really misses his cousins and has been saying how empty the house feels without them.

Not surprisingly, the bathroom wasn't finished when Lin and the boys arrived on June 30. The guys were still here working here and there was construction debris all over the place. Then they turned the water off when I was about to fix dinner, and we had to go pick up pizzas instead. On Friday they were underfoot, as well, and again turned off the water at dinner time. Dinner was already prepared, but we couldn't wash up before eating and I had to go to the neighbors' for water to drink with our meal. 

They hooked up the shower but didn't test it, so when Ben and Elliot showered Friday night, we found that the water was either scalding hot or ice cold. It turned out these "experts" had hooked up the hot and cold water to the wrong sides of the shower thingie, so there was no way to regulate the temperature! Of course they didn't come back Saturday or Sunday to fix that, in spite of several phonecalls—they waited until Monday, when they were once again underfoot here. At least the toilet and sink were working—though the drain leaked into the wastebasket.... ARGH! REALLY BAD WORDS!

Now they are supposedly "done", but the new lighting isn't hooked up and we can see that the tile has been laid very unevenly. In addition, there are specks of dirt or something in the grout, so the floor looks like it's old and moldy, though it's perfectly clean now that I've scrubbed it. This whole thing has been such a fiasco. We got the bill yesterday and we shall see how much of it we end up paying.

June 27

Max: Mama, how many days until my cousins get here?

Eileen: Three days.

Max (ecstatic—he's been waiting for months): BOOM chicka BOOM chicka boom-boom BOOM!!!

Our bathroom still isn't done. I feel I'm getting an ulcer from helpless anger at the contractor who is making such slooooow progress.

This picture is from when Max and I visited Gröna Lund a couple of weeks ago. Max enjoys these rides a little more than I do....

June 19 – Short words on various topics

Today I picked up a registered letter from Migrationsverket. They accepted my application for Swedish citizenship. I can't say I'm excited, but pleased and reassured. I'll apply for my Swedish passport soon.

Of course I haven't given up my American citizenship.

Tomorrow Bengt and I will have been married eight years. Together we've moved to Sweden, bought a house, gotten jobs (or several jobs, in Bengt's case), raised a five-year-old and a cat, traveled, and much more.  

Max had a fever when I picked him up from Birgitta's on Wednesday. He had a really high fever for about 40 hours, and then suddenly he was fine on Friday morning. I stayed home with him on Friday, though. (Bengt stayed home on Thursday.)

When Max's fever spikes, he complains of an upset stomach. He gets all shaky and feels like he's burning up. I cool him down with a wet washcloth and Tylenol.

His underarm fungus reappeared during his fever. Coincidence??? I can't figure it out. He's been rid of it for months. You can't get fungus from nothing, can you? Could he have gotten it from his T-shirts, which we just started wearing again now that we have warm weather? I wonder if I should scald all of Max's shirts. I wash our clothes in 60° C., which is considered hot enough to get yucky underwear clean, but is that hot enough to kill fungus? Argh!

So we've started using the fungus cream again....

We had a very warm and sunny weekend. Really pleasant. Max and I went to Gröna Lund (amusement park) yesterday. Today I shopped most of the day – for stuff for the house, and then for groceries. I found some great shelves for our bathroom. Almost bought a nice coffee table for the TV room but then abstained because the salesperson was rude.

Max and Bengt's pet names for me: Mamasaurus or Mamalicious.

Max has often told me that I am his favorite parent. I don't know why he compares, but... Then the other day he wanted to tell me something but was afraid of hurting my feelings. I told him he didn't have to tell me, but if he did want to tell me, it would be all right.

First he waited a few hours, then he repeated his hesitation and asked if I was sure it would be ok. Yes, I was sure. He said that now Papa is his favorite. My first thought was, "What did I do?" But I thought about it a few seconds and said, "That's okay. I know that boys sometimes prefer their mothers, and sometimes their fathers. I don't mind. I know you love me, too." Max burst out with relief, "Mama, come here. You're going to get my very biggest hug!" He stood on the bed, opened his arms wide and hugged me long and hard. I guess he'd been feeling guilty about his recent preference for Bengt.

June 13 – Max's first pun

Out in the yard:

Eileen: Bengt, we have an ant infestation here. We need something to kill these ants.

Max: You mean antibiotics?

He got loads of praise for that one!

Another gem (though not a pun): "Mama, this välling bottle isn't clean. When I sniff it, it smells like so-and-so's feet!" [Name omitted to protect the stinky-footed person.]

Come to think of it, I guess it's been awhile since we sterilized those bottles! ;-)

FYI: I called the clinic about the lack of growth I wrote about a few days ago. They said that's normal – kids don't grow steadily.

Check out Max's website. He's currently figuring out what websites are and how they work. He understands that he has a website, and he wanted to compose the intro text himself. He dictated it to me. (It's nothing special, but I thought it was neat that he wanted to have a say and came up with the text.)

June 9, 2005 – Summer's here!

We've having really nice weather. It finally feels like summer. HAPPY!

On the down side, our yard is full of snails, and they eat everything in sight. I've killed hundreds of them so far. I crush the ones with shells and snip the rest in half. I know it's disgusting, but when they start to take over your yard, you have to take drastic measures!

Max asked me today, "Who's smallest in our family?" "You are," I replied. "Maja counts," he countered.

Lately Max has been exclaiming how much he appreciates Maja. "I just love having a cat!" he says. Or, "Maja's so soft and cuddly, I just love her!" And Maja must be noticing the increased affection, because she has started sleeping on his bed at night sometimes. At least for awhile. She never did that before. Max feels honored.

Max has been eating like a horse. He's hungry all the time—or at least he claims to be. You wouldn't believe how much food he can put away. He would eat constantly if we let him. For example, yesterday I picked him up at 2 p.m. He had eaten lunch earlier but was munching on an apple when I arrived. When we got home, he ate another apple and a banana. He wanted a sandwich but I refused.

Then we went grocery shopping and he got a bottle of drinkable yogurt, which he polished off right there in the store. As we left the mall, Max begged for a meal at McDonald's, but I refused. When we got home, he ate almost a quart of strawberries before soccer practice. I don't know what he had for dinner, because he ate at a friend's house, but no doubt he ate a lot. But when he got home he claimed to still be hungry, so I gave him an open-faced ham & cheese sandwich (no butter) on whole wheat right before bed. Good grief! 

Of course he's getting quite chunky. He thinks all food smells good and even sniffs the cat food longingly! YUCK!

I measured Max the other day and he has only grown 1.5 cm (less than an inch) in the past five months. I knew he hadn't grown much, since he hasn't outgrown any pants in that time. The pants we bought last fall are actually wearing out. That's never happened before.

Anyway, 1.5 cm is very little considering that he's been growing 9 cm/year since he was 2 years old. Should I be alarmed? Or is he probably chunking up now in preparation for a growth spurt?

Here's something else: Max hasn't been sick since Christmas. That's a record—one we're grateful for!

Max has visited his new school twice since I last wrote. He seems to feel very comfortable there and is looking forward to starting there this fall.




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