at the Pålssons'
August 10, 2006
I haven't had a chance to update this website in ages. But I just got some pictures up on Max's website (which I'm going to rename "Our family pictures" website). There are pictures from:
Don't miss the two short movies that you can click in the menu on the left side.
Monday, June 19
Last week was eventful! Friday was Max's last day of school. Everyone gathered at 9:45 and the kids put on quite a show for the parents, mostly singing and reciting poems that they had written. A few played instrumental solos. I handed out gifts to the staff on behalf of the parents. (Someone else had collected the money and bought the presents.)
Afterwards the kids got their "report cards"* (not grades, but a written report about the year's challenges and successes, as well as some observations about their personalities), and we all had cookies and beverages. Max's teacher has a new job at another Vittra school in the fall, so we were sorry to say good-bye to her.
The school provides daycare during the summer, so Max is still going there until our vacation starts, but he doesn't have to do any work.
Saturday I took Max and Nils to Rösjöbadet, a local lake. They played in the sand, frolicked in the water and rode the water slide. We also ate lunch there. It was sunny and hot.
Sunday was Max's assigned 6 1/2-year birthday. He had a party, and 14 kids came. Bengt and I had hired a clown to entertain them. They were pretty excited when he arrived, and they seemed to enjoy the show, although they had to sit on blankets in the hot sun for almost a half hour. Several times they spontaneously jumped up and started hopping around, they were so excited—just like toddlers do! I was tickled.
Although I saw Max laughing some, afterwards Max said he didn't think the clown was very funny. "I'm glad the other kids thought he was funny, though!" he added.
After the clown's performance, Max opened his presents. Some favorites are a Styrofoam rocket, a Lego Bionicle, and a Hot Wheels car. Then we had two kinds of cake, a French chocolate cake and princesstårta, which is actually very little cake layered with lots of whipped cream and coated with marzipan. These were Max's choices, and we went ahead and got two cakes because 16 guests were expected. (Two didn't end up coming.)
Then it was over and our house was trashed. :-) Two friends stayed an hour longer to play. Then Max went over to Nils' house for grilled dinner, and I was grateful for the break. When I rode my bike over to pick him up at 7:30, they offered me a glass of wine. Before I knew it, it was 9:15 p.m. and way past both Max's and Nils' bedtime. Oops! Oh well, I guess that's what summer is for.
See pictures, if interested.
Max got a letter from Finland today, from the 13-year-old boy that he struck up a friendship with while we were on vacation at the end of February. They have been corresponding ever since. I find it fascinating that they actually have common interests. This time Mikael sent pictures of Lordi, the Finnish group who won the most recent Eurovision Song Contest. Max just loves that group. In fact, he and two friends impersonated Lordi at his school's "show and tell" time not long ago. Bengt and I saw a video of it that a fellow student made, but we were not impressed.
* Max's report said, among other things – and I'm translating and paraphrasing – that he is a very self-assured boy with both feet on the ground. Still, he often seeks out adults to talk to, and he asks many existential questions about the mysteries of life and so on. He is very curious and has questions about most everything.
Max is gregarious and has no difficulty talking with new people. He plays with both girls and boys, and is empathic and considerate. He knows right from wrong and is honest when there are conflicts, admitting when he has done something wrong.
He has had some difficulty concentrating and maintaining focus during schoolwork, but we expect this will improve as he matures. He likes to work with practical, concrete material rather than books and papers. But he learned to read this year and now reads quite smoothly...
June 16 – Max the Trekkie
Max and I have been watching a lot of Star Trek. This has been going on for months. We used to watch Next Generation, but we pretty much exhausted all the kid-friendly episodes, so we switched to Voyager, which he also enjoys. Once or twice he has had bad dreams afterwards, but otherwise he seems fascinated with it.
This evening we watched a TNG episode again, because now we've exhausted the kid-friendly Voyager episodes, as well! (Or at least, all that I have on DVD. I have a birthday gift request in for more Voyager seasons on DVD....) Anyway, Max was singing along with the theme song, making up words to the melody. "Space is a good place to explore.... Lots of beautiful suns and stuff... We avoid the Borg... We want to get home [Voyager]..." I was charmed. I never thought of making up words to the theme song before. He is so gung-ho!
I can't tell you how relieved I am that summer has arrived. This past year has felt long, cold and wet. Summer will rush by way too fast, but I plan on enjoying what I can while it races by.
My biggest challenge is the snails. We have a serious snail and slug problem this year. Last year was also really bad, but at least you could find the buggers and kill them. This year there are probably the same number of critters, but they are 1/8 the size. So I can rarely find them to kill them, but they eat just as much as full-sized snails & slugs. I've decided to break down and buy chemicals. Must do that soon, before all of our pansies are eaten up.
June 15 – a beautiful weekend, partially spent in the ER
We had an absolutely gorgeous summer weekend. Saturday we had friends over for a cookout and watching Sweden play in the World Cup. The men & boys were extremely disappointed that the game ended with 0-0. Even Cecelia and I were affected, though we don't really care about soccer.
Still, afterwards the men and boys—all in their soccer jerseys—went out and played some soccer in the front yard – two 6- and 7-year-olds against two 40-somethings.
While they were playing, Birgitta and Bernd happened to walk by. How fortuitous! (See my previous post.) Birgitta called out, "Heja Sverige!" ("Go Sweden!") I heard later that Bernd was so upset by Sweden's failure to score that he had to get out and walk off his frustration. But Max was thrilled to see Birgitta and ran to the street to hug her.
Sunday was just as gorgeous as Saturday. Unfortunately, I spent it in the ER. I got a blood clot in my left leg Saturday night. Since it didn't go away overnight, I called the med hotlines around here, trying to get someone to tell me I didn't need to go in. I really didn't want to go. They said I had to. I drove myself in, leaving Bengt and Max to their relaxing summer day at home.
The clot passed about an hour after I got there. Typical! I wanted to leave, but they said I'd better stay and have the tests anyway. I had to wait awhile – I was there a total of about five hours. But I was prepared with two books, some fruit and a Diet Coke. It could have been a lot longer.
Of course they didn't find anything. But the doctor told me that I was right to come in and that I should come in again if it happens again. My lower leg was swollen and painful for several days after that, but today (Thursday) I am completely fine again.
"That guy looks like Crushley." (He meant Wesley Crusher from Star Trek.)
"Immediately. Immediately. Mama, I can say it! Immediately!"
"I wonder what it feels like to be a farfar [grandfather]. I've never been one, and I wonder what it would be like. Some grandchildren aren't very nice.... Actually, some farfars aren't very nice, either."
Yesterday we dug out our home video tapes from when Max was a baby. We watched about an hour yesterday and a little today, as well. Yesterday Max had a lot of difficulty accepting that the people on film were him and me. (Bengt he recognized.) He kept saying things like, "Why is she doing that with that baby?" and "Why is that baby crying?" I can understand why he didn't recognize himself in that tiny baby, but I don't think I look that different. Today he understood, though. It seemed like he had thought about it a bit and accepted that he's watching what we did a looooooong time ago.
It's great fun watching that footage. It brings back so many memories! I remember a lot of grinding tedium and weariness, but I also remember feeling infatuated with Max, and you can see it in the films.
I told him tonight that even though I thought he was the cutest baby in the world and was so happy to have him, I'm even happier to have big six-year-old Max, who can talk with me, do things with me, do lots of things for himself, and so on. And I meant it. He smiled and said he loved me. Guess he needed to hear that. :-)
Max has been rather crabby for the past week or so. Finally today I asked him what has been bothering him. He said that he wants to be sick. I replied that he wants to stay home from school. He said yes, he wants to sit around and watch TV and play computer games and stuff for hours. We have friends coming over on Saturday, and he has a birthday party to attend on Sunday, but I'm ready to let him do whatever else he wants this weekend, even if it means excessive TV or games. I guess everybody needs that now and then, right?
This evening as Max walked by a tub of toys, he reached in and pulled out a foam and plastic airplane. It was all crumpled. With tears in his voice, he said, "If I try to fly this, it will just crash. This is the airplane that Birgitta gave me. Why did I let it get ruined?" And he burst into tears and threw himself onto his bed.
Of course, it's not the airplane he misses, but Birgitta. She was like a second mom to him for years, so I'm surprised we haven't seen more of this. Max hasn't mentioned her in weeks, but now he wants to see her. I assured him that we could, and he felt better immediately. I'll call her up on Saturday and see if she and Bernd would like to drop by sometime soon for coffee or lunch or whatever.
I had to run an errand in the city today. I knew that Max wouldn't be excited about driving in after school, so I enticed him with fun activities on the way home. I gave him these choices, all of which I would have enjoyed myself:
He's so funny – he chose the restaurant! And he loved it. He ate up everything we ordered and asked for more. On the way out, he called out to the cook, "Your food is delicious!" The cook, looking thrilled, asked Max to come back soon and gave him a package of cookies.
Max still dictates letters to me when we write to people in English. When we get to the end, he says, "Sinceriously, Max Pålsson". (He thinks that's the correct word!)
Max has been playing at his friend Johan's a lot lately. Johan has Playstation, Max does not. On Saturday he started talking about going over there again. To deter him and to compensate the neighbors for Max's frequent presence, I called over there and offered to take all three kids to Gröna Lund, Stockholm's big amusement park. Turns out the mom wanted to go, too, so all five of us went, which was great! We all had a blast.
In the pictures below, you can see Max getting in on some clown action. First he stands stock still while the clowns juggle bowling pins right past his face. (Another kid bolted and nearly got whacked. Yikes!) Then he danced with them. Fun!
Max thinks clowns are a lot of fun. So we booked a clown for his 6 1/2 year birthday party, which will be on Sunday, June 18. (You may remember that we celebrate the half years, since his actual birthday is December 30, when it's difficult to plan a party.)
May 25, 2006
Holy cow, it's been over a month since I wrote. A lot has happened since then.
For one thing, I took a quick trip to the U.S. First I flew to Las Vegas, where I attended the annual conference of The Society for Technical Communication. Another ReadSoft colleague also attended. We had three intensive days of technical breakout sessions and other meetings. It was a lot of fun, and we learned a lot that will be very useful to us in our work. I'm so glad I went!
My cousin Andy, whom I hadn't seen in years, happened to be in Las Vegas the same week I was. What a coincidence! We got together, and it was great to see him! Incredibly, that was the first time the two of us have ever done anything by ourselves, without the rest of our families.
We met at my hotel (Bally's) and took the monorail to Star Trek: The Experience. We checked out the souvenir shop and had dinner at Quark's Bar & Restaurant. In this picture we're enjoying Romulan Ale. There we spent so much time getting caught up that we ended up with too little time to take in the attractions. It was worth it, and I thought I wouldn't mind missing them, since I had read on the Internet that the attractions weren't exciting. But when I got back to my hotel that night, I knew I had to go back to The Experience the next day, preferably with other trekkers.
So the next morning I put up a note on the STC conference bulletin board, and that evening eight other technical writers showed up to go to Star Trek: The Experience! We took the monorail over and had dinner at Quark's. Then we headed to the attractions. I think we all loved it. It was just a blast. The employees acted pretty much like Starfleet personnel. At one point I had a realistic-looking Borg coming up behind me, and it was pretty creepy.
The shuttle simulations were exciting – and so realistic that I got a bit motion sick. During the Borg invasion, visitors wear 3-D "safety glasses", and it looks like flying Borg gadgets get blown up right in front of you. Wisps of air when things whiz by and misty sprays of water and when things explode in your face make the simulation feel pretty realistic. And when I got poked through my chair at the point when I might have been assimilated, I screamed in surprise. (Those who had been through it before cracked up.) I wished that Bobbie and/or Max there with me. I think they would have loved it.
I went through the Klingon attraction a second time, but it wasn't nearly as fun once I knew what was going to happen.
At the souvenir shop I bought some books which I later discovered much cheaper on Amazon. But I got Max a phaser, a Star Trek T-shirt, and some Starfleet rand pips that he just loves. I also bought some Romulan Ale, which I hauled home in my carry-on bag. (What was I thinking???)
Anyway, after four nights in Las Vegas I was ready to get out of there. That city is really a bit over the top, with slot machines everywhere (even by baggage claim at the airport!), all the glitter and shows, and outrageous prices (such as $3.50 for a piece of fruit at my hotel). My hotel room was absolutely gigantic, but I didn't spend much time there and would have been happy with a room half the size if it hadn't smelled like perfume.
The Las Vegas airport needs some serious attention in the area of efficiency. It took an hour to get my baggage when I arrived, and when I left it took 70 agonizing minutes to get through a relatively short line at check-in.
From Las Vegas I flew to Chicago, where I spent three thoroughly enjoyable days at my Aunt Mary and Uncle Si's house, along with my mom, Aunt Mabel, and (briefly) Lin – and let's not forget Astrid, Andy's cat who was visiting while Andy was in Las Vegas. That was the best visit we've had in a long time. I also had the opportunity to shop a bit, and I came back completely loaded down with books (most of which I'd purchased for Max on Ebay), clothes, and other items. Phew!
Check out what the inspection people at O'Hare did to my suitcase! I couldn't believe my eyes when it plopped out at baggage claim here in Stockholm. People burst out laughing with they saw it.
Marlin & Jackie's visit
Marlin and Jackie arrived four days after I got home. We had a really good time. I had never met Jackie before but had heard so much about her that it felt perfectly natural for her to come and stay.
I don't feel like I was much of a hostess – we only went into Stockholm twice, to the Wasa museum, to the old town, and to Kungsträdgården – but I guess the idea was just to spend time together. Bengt cooked a lot of food, and we watched a funny movie one night.
While I was in the US, Sven and Anna-Brita were here to help out with Max. That was great because Bengt could still work full time (or almost full time) while I was gone. Anna-Brita also planted some flowers here, which I appreciated since I hadn't had a chance to do that yet.
Bengt, Sven and Max went to see a traveling circus (Cirkus Maximum). Bengt told me that Max laughed so hard at the clowns that he fell off his chair. I wish I'd seen that! I love when he laughs like that.
Max had his first piano recital while Marlin and Jackie were here. Marlin and Jackie were all set to go see it, but Max was nervous and said that he didn't want any audience except me. So they stayed home, but Max had worked hard on his pieces and he played just fine. I think he enjoyed it after he got started, and I thought the whole thing was pretty neat. The instructor taught him how to announce his name and the name of the piece he'd be playing, and how to bow to the applause afterwards. I also got some tips on how to teach Max new pieces, when I observed a lesson that was tacked on to the end of the recital.
So that was the last piano lesson for the year. Tennis has also ended – Marlin watched the last tennis lesson. Max will start up both again in the fall, as he enjoyed them both. Soccer continues for a few more weeks before summer break.
Max has his first loose tooth. It was loose before, but now it seems obvious that something's happening... I think.
Marlin and Jackie took the time to look at a couple of my photo albums, which was gratifying. I don't think anyone (including me) has looked at those in a couple of years. And look at the likeness we discovered between Max and me. Here is Max at age 5 1/2 and me at about age 4:
I wish I could find an earlier picture of Max with a pose and expression comparable to those in the picture of me, because back then his face was rounder and his nose less defined. And although you can't see it because of the differing print quality, we have the same coloring. (We are both "winters".)
April 21 – Easter and a new bike
I wanted to tell you about our Easter weekend. We had a nice drive down to Perstorp. When I was a kid I thought car trips were awful, but now I find I enjoy them. Bengt does all the driving, and Max and I just relax, look out the window, listen to our respective portable listening devices, read, doze, etc. It gets a little old when Max has to have frequent updates on "How much longer 'til we get there?" But he does pretty well.
The visit itself was also nice, of course. Anna-Brita and Sven had their home fixed up with Easter decorations and flowers. The food was great (as always), with the added bonus of an unlimited supply of chocolate. Max got an Easter basket on Easter "Eve" and had his own little Easter egg hunt in the yard. He got a kick out of that.
Max figured out for himself that there's no Easter bunny and asked for confirmation on that point after we got home. When I told him the truth, he seemed more charmed than disappointed to learn that the Easter basket came from his Farmor and Farfar and that I was the one who hid the chocolate in the yard.
As you can see from the pictures, Max got a new bike. It was waiting for him at Farmor and Farfar's house as soon as we arrived, on Good Friday. There is always a present waiting for him there, but this one took the cake. Max has been wanting this particular bike for a long time; his friend Mattias has one just like it. It is a 20" three-speed bike with shock absorbers and a hand brake (in addition to foot brakes), and the frame has a painted flame design. Hot!
I knew about the bike and was ready with the camera. ☺ I was probably as thrilled as Max about him getting a new bike. His old one was way too small. You might think this one looks small, too, but the seat and handlebars are in their lowest position. We will raise them a bit after he gets used to the bike. I read in a consumer guide that it is dangerous to get kids a bike that is big enough to "grow into." They have trouble controlling it. It's better to get the next bigger bike, even if that means you have to get a bigger bike every couple of years. Max's last two bikes (12" and 16" bikes) were both used, so I don't have a problem with that. This is his first new one since his trike.
Max loves bike riding, so this is an important item for him. I was so happy that Sven and Anna-Brita wanted to get it for him.
Bengt and I had to assemble the thing, and it wasn't easy. There were three different sets of instructions included in the box, and none of them matched the bike! The picture from the store catalogue was of more use than the instructions! (This is the sort of thing that I find really annoying.) But we managed.
Anders and Li came over on Sunday and we had a good long visit with them. They gave Bengt and me a nice bottle of wine!
Sunday evening Max and I felt like watching movies, so we went to Perstorp's video rental place and got two VHS films. Max got Spy Kids, and I got Flight Plan with Jodie Foster. Anna-Brita and I enjoyed the latter after Max went to bed.
So that was our Easter.
We are having some of Bengt's colleagues over for dinner tomorrow (Saturday). The rest of the weekend will be spent on yard work. We had four large trees cut down this week. They were all old and unhealthy, and one was actually threatening to fall on our roof during the next storm. I was sad to have to take out the birch that grew at an angle right in front of our house, but its roots were ruining our driveway, and it turned out the tree was rotten inside, anyway, so its days were numbered.
Our neighbor is salvaging trunks and branches from the fallen trees for his wood burning stove. We also had our big apple tree and lots of bushes and hedges heavily pruned. There are small branches and sticks everywhere, including huge piles of them all along our driveway. The workers are coming back later to haul it all off, but we have to gather it up and arrange it in piles so they can load it up more easily. I did yard work for almost three hours after coming home from the office today. (It's lucky our days are so long now, even if it's not warm yet.)
Have a good weekend!
April 20 – !!!!ARGH!!!!
Hope all of you are enjoying some nice weather.
It snowed here today. Not just a few flakes, but real flurries. This is going down in my book as "the winter that never seemed to end" or "the winter that hung on for dear life."
At least the snow didn't "stick."
April 12 again
I was so busy complaining about the weather that I forgot to give you an update on Max. The biggest news concerns reading. Several times in the past couple of weeks I've come upon him reading in his room – just sitting on his bed reading a Swedish kids book. What a surprise!
And the other night I accidentally discovered that Max can read English, too. I had a book in my hand and he just started reading it! I was flabbergasted, because we haven't worked on this at all. I tested a little and discovered he can read just about any simple text. And if the "hard" words are spread thinly, he gets those, too. (In other words, he can't—or won't—read a long sentence containing many difficult words, but if there is only one or two "stumblers" per sentence, he generally gets them right.)
I asked who taught him. "No one." Did you learn at school? "No." Have you been following along when I read to you at night? "No." Then how the heck did you learn to read English? "By reading." You learned reading by reading? "Yes." But how did you figure out the different letter combinations in English? "I don't know. By reading."
He couldn't explain it any better than that. It got me thinking about computer games. He plays a fair amount, and most of our games are in English, so I think it may have started with words like Stop, OK, Play, Continue, Start, Play Again, Exit.... and that continued to messages and short instructions that he reads while playing. We used to have to read these messages to him, but come to think of it, we rarely have to help him these days. Max even surfs the Internet himself. (Uh-oh!) He types stuff into the address line, like www.disneychannel.com, and voilá! We really have to keep an eye on him, because he will register for stuff and install unwanted software on his computer. (BOY am I glad I don't share a computer with him anymore!)
Last week I put out various K-2 workbooks on the coffee table in the living room, hoping they would catch his eye. This evening they did. He sped through most of a K reading readiness book and then started a K math book but found that too boring. Picked up a G2 math book and that was more interesting. He was very reluctant to put it aside at bedtime. Cool.
Another sign of growing up: Max has kicked the välling habit. We ran out about two weeks ago and suggested to Max that this was a good time to quit. We would have bought more if he'd strongly requested it, but he hasn't. He seemed to want to quit. A couple of mornings he said how nice it would be to lie in bed with his välling (which he still drank out of a bottle), but he hasn't actually complained or requested that we buy more.
I can see all our American readers cringing, but I think this is a pretty normal age for Swedish kids to stop drinking välling. Many continue far into their school years, but then they usually drink it out of a cup.
Max has been playing with his friend Anton, a very nice second-grader, a fair amount. I commented once recently after Anton left, "He's a nice boy, isn't he." Max said, "Yes, he's reeeeeaaaaally nice. And he smells good, too." That cracked me up. He asked me why people smell so different. I said it's just like we all look different – we smell different, too.
Here's another picture from our vacation last month. (Thanks, Wendy!)
That last snow had melted by Monday evening – at least the streets were clear and dry. In pure and absolute denial of the fact that it could conceivably snow yet again, I went and had the summer tires put on the car. Not surprisingly, there was no line. I was glad to give the bored shop employees something to do, and I was out of there in record time. ☺
If it snows again, somebody please shoot me.
Happy Easter! (Thanks, Bobbie, for the cartoon!)
April 10 – More f---ing snow!!
Yesterday (Sunday) it looked like the last of our snow was finally melting. I was out working in the yard for about two hours. It felt great to get a lot of junk raked up in our back yard.
But this morning I looked out the kitchen window and it was snowing. Rather copiously. It was cold, too. Max was in the room and I struggled to find a swear word that expressed my extreme dissatisfaction but was suitable for young ears. "Oh... oh..... oh....... BIG FAT F-WORD!!"
There were many grumpy people at work today. We were all like, "Oh, come on!!!"
We had a thaw and thought that spring had arrived, but two days ago we got a new layer of snow! Everyone (even the winter lovers I know) was disgusted.
This morning I took Max's clothes down to him in the tv room, where he was watching cartoons.
"Time to get dressed. You have to go to school."
"But it's Saturday!"
"They passed a new law that all children have to go to school on Saturdays and Sundays, too. Come on, get dressed."
"You mean I can't stay home on weekends anymore?!?"
"Nope. You still get summers off, though."
"Awwww! I don't want to go to school today!"
Hee hee! Got him good! Tonight I plan on serving snow for dinner. :-)
March 29 – an unpleasant visit to the dentist
Boy, am I bushed! What a day. First I took care of a job applicant who was visiting from Germany most of the day at work. Then I had to leave work early to take Max to the dentist, where he got his first filling.
Max has always been just fine at the dentist, but he knew that getting a filling is a bit more unpleasant than an examination, and he was worried. The dentist used some sort of salve to numb his gum, and then she injected the anesthetic. Max thought that was very unpleasant.
But the worst was when she immediately started drilling. Does it, or does it not, take a few minutes for anesthetic to take effect? When I got my last filling, I remember having to wait around for 10 minutes or so until it reached its full effect. When it hadn't taken effect after five minutes, I cried out and we stopped and waited a few more minutes.
Max didn't get any break. The dentist just grabbed the drill and started drilling immediately after the injection. He started crying and calling out, and I suggested that we stop and wait for the anesthetic to take effect or just give him a break, but she just kept on! She looked at me and said, "It doesn't hurt, I promise you—he's just scared." She told Max several times, "It doesn't hurt, it doesn't hurt," while he was crying and calling out!
Max and I (discussing it afterwards) both appreciated the fact that the dentist wanted to get the job over with as quickly as possible, but we were angry with her for saying it didn't hurt. How could she say that, when Max was the one getting drilled! He's the only one who can say whether it hurts.
It also hurt Max when she put the form around his tooth before filling it. He felt the metal digging into his gums. (I myself saw blood welling up. I was hoping he couldn't feel it. Unfortunately, he did.)
In addition, she didn't give him a breather in between the different stages of filling his tooth. She said she would explain each step before she did it, but then she didn't do that.
It was pretty unpleasant, but Max isn't traumatized or anything, and it did go pretty quickly. (I just hope it's filled properly.) Mostly I'm very angry and disappointed with myself for not speaking up for Max with more determination—for not putting my foot down. Worst case, I could have simply pulled her away from him.
Why didn't I do that? Why didn't I speak up for my six-year-old—the one who never cries when he gets a shot at the doctor's office, who takes any kind of medicine, and who has always been great about brushing his teeth and visiting the dentist, and who is certainly no wimp—why didn't I stop the dentist when Max cried out that it hurt?
It's because I have this voice inside that says, "She's the professional, she must know what she's doing, just do your best and let her do her job." Also: "She's a busy professional. She doesn't have time for this nonsense. We'll just have to deal with it."
What a crock. We're customers. Patients. Max was a kid experiencing unnecessary pain, crying out for her to stop. It's unpleasant getting a tooth filled—Max can deal with that—but it doesn't have to hurt that much. And he shouldn't have to learn to fear dentists at this tender age.
Next time: Discuss it with the dentist before she begins work. She has to:
If she doesn't do these things, I'll have to stop her. Period. Even if we have to leave there without a filling and go find another dentist. The world won't come to a screeching halt if we piss off our dentist. She might even learn something from us.
It's been a whole month since I wrote, and I feel overwhelmed with all that I want to write. I think I'll start with today and work backwards!
But first a picture of Max sleeping. I took it last night.
Speaking of sleeping, the other night when I went to the bathroom before going to bed, I found Max asleep on the toilet! I handed him toilet paper, but he didn't do anything with it until I jiggled his arm and told him what to do. Then he went over to the sink and washed his hands....and washed and washed, swaying in sleep, until I led him away from the sink and back to bed.
As you may know, our cat Maja has been sick with chronic kidney failure. In December we had her hospitalized for three days, and we thought she wouldn't make it, but she made a surprising recovery. However, after that she slowly declined again (as we knew she would eventually).
This Tuesday I decided it was time to let her go. I made an appointment and took her to the animal hospital to put her to sleep. It was very difficult to make that decision and carry out. I cried buckets! Fortunately, the vet arranged everything very nicely and handled it perfectly. Maja was put down without any pain or anxiety. I was petting her and talking to her the whole time, and the vet was such a great support. They even had the lights dimmed a bit, and candles burning – a nice touch.
I'm relieved to be rid of the responsibility of taking care of a sick cat, but I miss Maja. She always sat on my lap to be petted as I read the paper on weekends. And she always slept on a little ottoman next to my bed at night. It hurts now to see that ottoman without Maja on it.
Max is already talking about our next pet. He is very interested in rats, and I'm not entirely against it. They seem more interesting, intelligent, clean and social than hamsters. They also have the advantage that they sleep at night, whereas hamsters are nocturnal.
But we're waiting on that. I'm not ready for a new pet yet. And we agreed to pet-sit for awhile before getting a new pet. That way we can try out different kinds of pets. Who knows, maybe we will just pet-sit regularly instead of getting our own pet.
Teeth and eyes
At a routine dentist visit last week, it was discovered that Max has two cavities! I'm so bummed! We got a big song and dance about how to brush teeth, let them "rest" between meals, etc., but I feel we already take good care of his teeth. They admitted there is a hereditary factor, and that's what I'm afraid of. Bengt has a mouthful of fillings, while I didn't get my first one until I was over 30.
Speaking of teeth, we noticed a couple of weeks ago that Max's lower right front tooth is a little bit loose. Max is already looking forward to a visit from the tooth fairy. He wonders what she looks like and said he was going to try to stay awake all night so he can see her. I'm not sure if he believes me when I say she knows when children are only pretending to sleep and won't come in then.
Another thing I noticed a couple of weeks ago is more pronounced nearsightedness than what we noticed in November. I called the optometrist, but they don't see children under eight years old. You have to take children to an ophthalmologist. So I called our clinic to get a referral. I guess it's no panic, but Max obviously sees less clearly than I do.
My own eyes are changing drastically. My next pair of glasses will definitely have progressive lenses. I can't read or work at my computer with my regular glasses, even for five minutes. If my reading/PC glasses aren't handy (like if I want to read the list of ingredients on a package in the grocery store) I take off my glasses. DRAT!
On February 14 I left for Lisbon, for a company kick-off. On Feb. 18 I joined Bengt and Max, who had flown to Lanzarote (Canary Islands) on the 17th. Max and I stayed on Lanzarote for two weeks, Bengt for only one. Our good friend Wendy joined us on Feb. 20 and stayed on for a day after we left.
That was a pretty nice vacation. We had about a week of pretty good weather (good enough to spend by the pool or on the beach). We also had several days of so-so weather (windy and partly cloudy, but acceptable) and two days of rain and very high winds. We did lots of interesting things but also rested a lot and hung out by the pool or played at the beach. When confined indoors we mostly played cards, read, and watched TV. It was great to get away from cold, snowy Sweden. (We still have lots of snow, and it's pretty cold.)
Max was pretty pleasant and relatively independent most of the time. He made several friends that he played with quite a bit:
We had a good time with Wendy, who is a good person to travel with.
Max ditched his water wings on the second day of vacation, and didn't use them at all after that. Without floatation devices, he learned to swim very quickly! By the end of our trip, he was swimming back and forth across the deep end of the pool with no trouble, among other things. He still dog paddles a lot, but at least he keeps his head above water. He also dives properly from the side of the pool now (instead of belly flopping).
See pictures from our vacation. (Click the arrows at the bottom to browse among the pictures. You may have to scroll a bit. Let me know if you find the pics difficult to view.)
One of Max's sayings during vacation: "Rise and sunshine!"
Another: "Let's go back to lägret." He meant lägenheten, apartment, but for some reason he kept saying lägret - base camp! I loved that.
Max's skin cleared up while we were on vacation -- no more eczema or chapped hands. But within just one day after we got back, his hands were red and chapped again. He hadn't even been outside, and we had the humidifier on. I don't understand it.
The person who took my boots never called me. My note was gone from the bulletin board when I took Max to his tennis lesson last Sunday. I like the boots that person left me better. It's weird that someone tried to cheat me but ended up doing me a favor.
At Max's fourth ski lesson last Sunday, the instructors took a group of five- and six-year-olds up the big ski lift. We parents saw them take off toward that lift but were not told what lay ahead. I heard about it that evening, since Max tells me the upsetting occurrences of his day – if there were any – during our quiet time right before sleep.
When Max realized that he was expected to go up this giant hill on the adult ski lift, he got really scared. He started crying but didn't tell anybody. Fortunately, an instructor noticed and reassured him. Max got on the lift, but on the way up he was pretty freaked out and felt like he was going to throw up. At the top he fell when he tried to get off. He said it was painful and humiliating. He got down the hill ok but was adamant that he wasn't going up again, so the instructor brought him back to the bunny hill, where he got to practice with the kids who hadn't progressed as far.
I promised to help Max talk to the instructors and let them know that he doesn't feel safe on the lift and wants more help.
So today we talked to the instructors, who at first tried to blow off Max's fears but then agreed to take Max up on the lift between their legs. Max agreed, but he still cried and tried to come over to me when they started heading toward the big lift. An instructor intercepted Max and was, I thought, rather abrupt but effective. She turned Max's face toward her own, dried his tears with her mittens, and said, "Stop crying, or your face will get cold. You have to listen to us. We said we'd take you up on our legs. You agreed. It's not dangerous and you'll have all the help you need. You're ready for this. It'll be fine. Now let's go." (Something like that.) She gave Max a little push down the hill toward the lift.
Later Max told me that they did, indeed, take him up on their legs several times, and then they helped him learn to ride the big lift himself, and he did it several times. It was fine.
He fell down several times on the steep hill, which he didn't like, but then he got better at handling steep hills, so he understood that it helped him. He seemed pretty happy with the experience, overall. Still, he's glad tomorrow is the last lesson. It's been pretty intense!
I watched Max skiing today and it was very cool. He can ski pretty fast for a little guy (though he's by no means a daredevil), and has pretty good control. By the end of each lesson I can see substantial progress.
Piano is also going well. Max practices for about 10 minutes every day without argument and without a timer. No coaxing or bribery necessary. I've gotten over my struggles almost completely, having figured out what type of help is useful and tolerated. The whole thing is much more relaxed.
Often Max plays songs that were assigned for previous weeks, just because he likes hearing them or showing off. The other day he played a couple of minutes for a school friend who came over. I think that's a good sign.
The other day we were talking about his piano class (three kids) and Max said that one of his classmates can never play the way she's supposed to. Max said (perfectly seriously), "She must have a tiny brain." I'm sorry to say I burst out laughing.
Of course I then hastened to add that everyone has about the same size brain. It's just that people are good at different things. Plus this girl is always tired. She gets carted into Stockholm for French school, and by the time her dad picks her up and brings her to piano lesson, she's tired and probably hungry. I feel sorry for her.
Max's school first-grade friend Daniel came home from school with him for the first time this week. (I just wanted to write down when their friendship started. I think they will be playing together more and more.) Nice kid. Seems good natured and earnest.
We had our parent-teacher-student conference yesterday. Max fidgeted and squirmed and fiddled with stuff the entire time. At least he managed to stay in the same room with us and focus for short periods. Last time he was all over the place, and finally Maria and Bengt and I just conferred without him. For some reason this is an excruciating situation for him.
Max has made great progress reading and writing. His farmor sent him a whole page letter a couple of weeks ago, and Max just read it out loud, pretty smoothly, and understood everything. (I was shocked. I've continued to read to him and didn't know he could read so well himself.) He is happy to write things down, for example items on the grocery list or labels on his drawings. His math skills are much better than before, too. He often makes careless mistakes, but when he focuses, he knows what he's doing.
This term Max is supposed to keep trying to improve his concentration. Max has a new arrangement with Maria: He gets to alternate work and play to a greater extent. He hates to sit and work and concentrate for long periods, so he gets to switch activities more often and generally play more (but not disturb the others). But when he is working, he needs to also practice focusing and concentrating.
Maria observed that Max is clearly a hands-on type of boy. He doesn't like working with paper and pen much (though he can do it just fine when he applies himself) but really goes for the concrete learning tools and games. You can see his energy level bounce up when they take out these other materials.
Max brought up the fact that many of the kids swear. They do it when the teachers are out of earshot, even though every one of them agreed to the rule, "no swearing." And Max does it himself, even though he doesn't like it and doesn't want to join in. He asked for help in curbing the swearing.
Maria asked Max to come to her when he gets upset. She told me that occasionally things happen at school – someone gets in trouble or someone gets hurt or upset – and Max is empathetic and gets upset, too. But he tries to hide it. Usually she notices, but she would like him to be able to come and talk to her about it or ask for help, rather than hiding it (presumably feeling ashamed of being upset).
Bummer. I'm sorry he tries to hide it. I guess the older kids are teaching him that it's shameful to cry.
Max and I went to see Chicken Little in our local movie theater on Friday. We thought the beginning was hilarious. Then it got a bit weird. Whatever. I was bummed that Chicken Little didn't sing the Numa-numa song in the movie, as he did in a trailer we'd seen.
Max's hands are in terrible shape – all dry and cracked, especially his fingertips. Both the teacher and I have been smearing them with greasy salve. Max doesn't like the salve but asks for it anyway, to help heal his fingertips.
Max went to Malin's birthday party today. It was nice to be invited. Max really likes Malin but they haven't seen much of each other since August, when Max stopped going to Birgitta. Nils was also at the party, and he came home with us and had dinner with us. He seems to be in a hyper phase again. But Max tolerates it and so do we. Nils has a good heart.
January 29 – The mysterious disappearance of Eileen's new boots
If you haven't read the January 28 entry yet, read that first.
I took Max to his second ski lesson today. He liked it a lot, though he said his legs were a little tired from snowplowing so much.
Right after that, he had his first tennis lesson. It was a blast! Max is very excited about tennis now. There are two young (but excellent) guy instructors and only seven kids – all boys. Max is the biggest kid in the class, which is kind of nice for him after skiing (where some of the kids have been on skis before) and gymnastics (where he was probably the least agile kid in his group). In tennis, strength and coordination are what counts, and Max has both. Plus the games and exercises that the kids did today were just plain fun.
I enjoyed watching Max at the lesson today. I feel outrageously proud when I see how outgoing he is, and how he listens and follows instructions, and how strong and fine he is growing. I admire his capacity for enjoyment. That really makes up for those times when.... when I'm not quite so proud. :-)
When we went to leave the tennis club, I went to get my boots from the long lines of boots and shoes. (As per Swedish custom, people take off their footwear when they enter many buildings – even buildings like tennis clubs or public buildings, if requested to do so.) I found a pair of boots virtually identical to mine, in my size, very close to where I'd left mine. But these boots weren't mine, and my own boots were gone!
I searched everywhere for my boots. Then I went to the office and asked what to do. They agreed that most likely someone had simply taken my boots by accident. And they agreed that I had to take that person's boots. How else was I supposed to get home in the snow and ice?!
So I wrote a big note and posted it on the bulletin board, which, conveniently, is in the same room where everybody leaves their footwear. I put my contact info there in case whoever it was wants to trade back.
Then I took Max home and went grocery shopping. And while walking around, I found I like these other boots better than my own! They're slightly smaller and stiffer, and my socks don't slide off inside them. So I'm hoping that the person never calls – or that if they do, they will like my boots better, and we can trade.
My boots are only a month old, but these boots look very new, as well. Though it kind of gives me the creeps thinking I'm wearing some stranger's boots, I could get used to it. They're not old or stinky. The owner is probably some respectable woman like me with clean feet and clean socks.
By the way, Max was not particularly tired after 1 1/2 hours of skiing and 1 hour of tennis. He came home and played with Nils for almost three hours. Good grief! He did fall asleep quickly this evening, though.
Max and I made paper snowflakes the other day. I unfolded one and Max said, "That's wonderful!" I love it when he says that.
He speaks English with me most of the time these days. His vocabulary probably isn't the same as most American six-year-olds, but it's growing. And he gets along just fine in English.
I didn't get to half the things I wanted to do this weekend! Rats!!!
January 28 – Three "firsts" in one weekend
Hello all! Yikes, I see it's been three weeks since I updated this page.
Today is Bengt's birthday. Max made him something out of construction paper. (It looks neat, but we have no idea what it is.) I gave him a set of CDs he's been wanting. He's been getting telephone calls from well-wishers. Otherwise we're not having any special celebration.
Bengt and Max have each had colds a few times recently. Bengt is still sniffly. I haven't been affected (yet). Woo-hoo! I love when it skips me. I'm militant about everybody using a separate hand towel in the bathroom. I believe that helps.
First movie viewed in movie theater
Yesterday I took Max to a movie theater for the first time ever. We saw Narnia, although in Sweden it's recommended for kids 11 and up. ?!? If a parent takes the kid, the minimum age is 7. Good grief! He's been longing to see that movie, so I got him in anyway. He already knew the story, since we had watched the BBC version at home, so I figured it wouldn't be too stressful.
Max sobbed when Aslan was crucified. And he was a bit scared at a couple of points, but not terrified. Generally he isn't affected so much by what's happening in a story as by the scary music they play. He whimpers when they play scary music, and holds his hands over his ears the same way other people close their eyes during a disturbing scene.
He had to be reminded a few times to keep his voice down, but otherwise he behaved himself and watched the entire movie (2 hours and 20 min.) without fidgeting or asking to leave. He didn't even need a bathroom break.
First ski lesson
Max had his very first ski lesson today. He is in a group of about eight six-year-olds, all beginners. He has never been on downhill skis, and of course his first time down the hill was a disaster. Embarrassed and frustrated, he started sobbing, which Bengt and I observed from a distance. (Parents are generally banned to a spot behind the safety fence.)
At first we let the ski instructors handle it, but when Max kept sobbing I went in and wiped his nose and talked to him. A lot of kids were having problems. I think I saw four of the eight kids in Max's group cry today. One poor girl sobbed continuously in spite of her father's presence and encouragement.
Max wanted to quit immediately, but somehow I got him to try one more time, and the second time went much better. I could see he was cautiously pleased with himself. Then he went two more times, each time improving greatly. By the end of 1 1/2 hours he could zigzag through a little obstacle course at a controlled speed.
By the end of the lesson he was delighted with skiing. "I can't tell you how much fun this is," he exclaimed. "I love skiing!"
Max has ski lessons three Saturdays & Sundays in a row. We have the skis in the back of the car now, so we can go over to the slope and practice any time, for example after school. The slope is about 1 km away from our house. It's a pretty neat place, for being in little Sollentuna.
First tennis lesson
Tomorrow Max has his first tennis lesson. His friend Johan plays tennis, and Max wanted to quit gymnastics (at least for now) and try tennis.
They happened to start a small new beginners' class winter term, and surprisingly, Max got in. (Normally there's a wait list.)
It's unfortunate that his tennis lesson is right after a ski lesson the first three Sundays. I think Max may be pretty wobbly after hours of these new (for him) types of exercise and rather intense concentration. But after skiing is over, it'll be easy weekends for Max, with just a tennis lesson each week until summer break.
I'll let you know later how the tennis goes.
Piano's going fine
Max is still taking piano lessons. He definitely does not enjoy the lessons, but he's quite willing to practice for a few minutes each day. The instructor has just started assigning songs that you use two hands for, and this is a big challenge for Max. So lately he's been getting frustrated and embarrassed during practice.
I sit with him while he practices, but I don't enjoy it. I struggle constantly with questions about how much to push him and how to help him in the best way. I don't want to push him so much that he hates it and resents me for it, but I also don't want to let him off too easy and rob him of the chance to learn to play piano properly. I'm tired of negotiating and coaxing, which is what it comes to if he gets frustrated with a piece.
I just realized (while writing this) that I need to come up with a new strategy during practice. Something like, "You practice your assigned pieces for 10 minutes every day. You can do it whenever you want, but you can't watch TV until you've practiced. (Work first, then play.) Here's the timer. I'm happy to help you." How does that sound??
School's going fine
Max has seemed much happier about school lately. A couple of weeks ago I told the teacher that Max dreaded going to school because he felt he had to work too hard. So lately she has been letting him "work with other material" when he gets too weary of working on what was assigned. I think this has been a huge help. I don't feel concerned that he'll get behind. He's barely six! I was more concerned that he was growing to hate school.
Since then Max has completely stopped complaining about school. Bengt says there's no problem dropping him off. And as always, when I pick him up I always find him having a blast with other kids (different constellations of them every day). Lately he's been outside every afternoon, which I appreciate. The boys chase each other, wrestle, ride on their bottoms down a hill, and run around in the (small) woods by the school.
To me it looks like Max gets along great with these kids, including the older boy who gave him such a hard time last fall. I like how Max always says good-bye to each buddy when we leave. If it's a Friday, he wishes each of them a good weekend. "See you on Monday!"
But on weekends he wants to play with neighborhood kids that he's known for years.
The most efficient government process ever
Yesterday I applied for my first Swedish passport. (You may remember I became a citizen last fall.) This is how it went:
Done! I was literally in and out of there in two minutes! It blew my mind.
January 7 – Max's stats
Height: 125 cm (4' 1¼")
Here is Max with a rabbit at the animal exhibition yesterday. He really dug this rabbit and petted it for a long time.
January 3, 2006
Max: Mama, when you had a baby, how come I came? How come it wasn't some other kid?
Eileen: I don't know. No one knows how that's decided. I guess you just got lucky. :-)
Max: If you'd gotten another kid, you might have loved that kid more than me.
Eileen: Impossible. I can't imagine loving any kid more than I love you.
Max: Maybe just as much?
Eileen: I guess that's possible. But not more. And I'm really glad we got you.
Max: Me, too! :-)
Pictures from Christmas, etc.:
January 1, 2006 – Happy New Year!
We hope everyone had wonderful holidays. We had relaxing family time in Perstorp with Sven, Anna-Brita and (for a time) Anders. We ate lots of delicious food (all of which was prepared by Anna-Brita), read, chatted, watched TV, and played with Max. Everyone was healthy and Max had a visit from Santa (a.k.a. Anders). Here Max is helping Santa read the name tags on the presents.
One of Max's favorite presents was a "laser alarm", a three-piece set that you set up so that an infrared light shines in a triangle between three gadgets. If someone crosses into that triangle of space, one of the beams is interrupted and an alarm sounds. Max really enjoyed setting this up so that people would inadvertently walk into his rigged space. One time Anders and I were sitting in the living room, and out of the blue we heard Max's alarm sound. Sven had triggered the alarm in the TV room or his own bedroom – for about the fourth time. We cracked up. Maybe you had to be there.
Another favorite present was (is) a medieval fortress made of plastic, complete with all sorts of attackers, dragons, horses and weapons. I was surprised that Max requested this, but he just loves it. Another funny moment in Perstorp was when Max had just finished laboriously setting up the whole fortress scene to his satisfaction. Anders was on the floor with him, and he chose that moment to try out the catapult. Bulls eye! The "rock" hit the fortress with a smack, sending a bazillion pieces flying. Max covered his face with his hands for a moment, and then walked to the TV room and buried his face in the sofa. He was pretty bummed, but for some reason it was difficult for the rest of us to contain our laughter.
Bengt, Max and I drove home on December 27. I actually enjoyed those drives. I listened to my iPod, read, or just looked out the window while Bengt did all the driving (which was his preference). I hadn't been that relaxed in weeks! Max sat in the back and played Game Boy games or listened to music on his portable CD player (with headphones). Of course, he wasn't always silent. He loves to sing along with the music, and with headphones he can't hear himself. He sings at the top of his lungs, hideously off key. But Bengt and I didn't mind – it was actually fun to listen to. I wished I'd had my digital recorder with me.
I went back to work on the 28th. Bengt is home for almost two weeks with Max, until school starts again, except for this coming Wednesday, when I'm staying home. Max is having a very lazy, unproductive little break from routine. Bengt is doing a good deal of relaxing, as well.
Yesterday Bengt and I cleaned house. Boy did we clean! It was a complete pigsty after months of work on our laundry room and chaos in the whole downstairs. Boy did it feel good to get things looking decent again.
Then we had our friends Gunilla & Mats, with Hanna and Elin, over for dinner. We had the new year countdown at 8:30 p.m. and then fireworks that Bengt permitted Max to shoot up (!). Actually, Max was great. He lit each fuse with "his" lighter and then ran for his life each time. Anyway, I think it's safe to say that a good time was had by all.
We also had cake to celebrate Max's 6th birthday, which was the day before. Max got a great present: A remote-controlled dragon that walks and makes noise, with light-up eyes and mouth. This goes great with his medieval fortress!
Another birthday present Max received (this one from the Roses, Bengt's American "parents") was some Brain Quest cards with questions to stimulate the mind. The questions are intended for 6- and 7-year-old American kids, and I thought they would be too hard for him, seeing as he's barely 6 and hasn't experienced the same language and culture as American kids. But it turns out the questions are not too hard. On the other hand, we're getting some unexpected answers out of Max.
Q: Which word in this sentence is incorrect: We saw mouses running through
Q: What did the ugly duckling grow up to be?
So we are getting some laughs around here. No doubt I'll be posting more of these....
This evening I was watching Star Trek on DVD and Max came in to watch with me. He always asks numerous questions, so we have to pause the show and discuss various things, and it takes about an hour to watch a 40-minute episode. We watched one last Deep Space Nine episode together, and then a Voyager episode, which we haven't watched since last spring. On hearing the theme song, Max exclaimed, "Oh, I've missed this song!" That's my boy. :-) Afterwards Max asked, "Did I ask too many questions?" I told him no, I didn't mind his questions tonight, and I got a big, looooong hug for my patience and the togetherness.
Too bad I didn't also get a hug for taking him skiing and sledding today. ;-) That wasn't something I felt like doing after our exhausting day yesterday.