at the Pålssons'
December 30: Max turns eight today
Today is Max's birthday. But we'll celebrate it tomorrow, along with the new year, with some friends.
Christmas was great. We had a relaxing trip down to Perstorp. Bengt preferred to drive, so I read vacation catalogues most of the way. I was so engrossed in them that I was surprised when I looked up and we were in Perstorp and it was cold and dark. Fortunately the warm welcome we received cheered me up.
We relaxed, ate a lot of good food, read, and played games. Bengt's brother Anders came over December 24-25. We even had a visit from Santa (a family friend did the honors). Max admitted to me the night before: "Mama, I know Santa's not real. But don't tell Papa." Ha!
At first I thought Max didn't want Bengt to be disappointed that there's no Santa. Then I realized he didn't want Bengt to know that he (Max) knew.
We all got some nice presents. Of course Max had the biggest pile (as he should). His favorites included a remote controlled vehicle (for use outdoors), another remote controlled Lego contraption (for use indoors), SingStar for PS2, and a new computer that he and Bengt put together out of individual components here at home. (Woa, that's a lot of presents, isn't it. Yikes.) He is also enjoying the books he got, although he is loathe to admit it. Best of all, he enjoyed spending time with his farmor and farfar and uncle.
You can see pictures on our photo gallery.
We drove home on the 27th. It was an uneventful drive. I worked on Friday, though I was not even remotely in the mood. Should have taken the day off. I'll work Wednesday & Thursday next week, as well.
December 18: Curling and cats
I tried curling for the first time today. I went with some colleagues. It was really fun!
Unless you have your own curling shoes, you have to borrow them there—just like you borrow bowling shoes at the bowling alley. (Yuck.) These were in much nicer condition than most bowling shoes I've seen, however.
It looks like I'm wearing a bowl on my head, doesn't it? The helmets all looked like that. Why did we wear helmets? Because the ice was really slick, and one of the curling shoes has a Teflon sole! I never knew that. Most of us fell down at least once. I fell once but I landed well.
I was more afraid of breaking my wrist in a fall than cracking my head open. Of course a head injury could potentially have worse long-term consequences, but a wrist injury seemed to me far more likely. I take good care of my wrists and hands, as in injury there would put me out of work for awhile (or even for good). Someone who works at a computer all day is almost as dependent on good hand and wrist movement as a pianist. Not quite, but it's comparable, don't you think?
Anyway, where was I? Yes, curling was fun. I probably wouldn't take it up as a sport, but I'd do it again any time. It was fun to do with a group of people you like. I went bowling a couple of weeks ago with a different group. That was also fun.
I absent-mindedly opened a little box I'd gotten in the mail today in front of Max. I shouldn't have done that, because it was a present (a PC game) that I'd ordered for Max. He got a glimpse of it and flipped out, because he really wants it and has wanted it for a long time. (It's The Sims 2.) I put it aside, thinking he'd leave it alone, but he went after it and grabbed it and dashed away. I had to chase him all over the house to get it back. He did a good job keeping it from me, and I was laughing so hard that I had a difficult time wrestling it away from him. Finally I got it back, and I barricaded myself in the laundry room and hid it. He went in there after me but couldn't find it. So he knows what it is, but he won't see it again until his birthday.
We are taking care of two cats for about six weeks—the same cats we took care of last Christmas & New Year. The owner is on vacation in Thailand again. The cats like it at our house. And we like having them, for the most part. What I don't like is feeding them that smelly cat food the second I get out of bed in the morning. (If I don't, they start meowing and wake everybody else up.) I hate wet cat food so much that I have had nightmares about it. And at the moment I keep thinking I smell it everywhere. Like today at work I thought I smelled cat food.
The other downer is cleaning their litter box at least once daily. They sure poop and pee a lot!!
But I like having them around. And I'm a cat magnet. They like to sleep on me. They lay on me when I try to read the paper on weekend mornings.
(Some friends are going to look after the cats while we're in Perstorp. In case you were wondering.)
Max has had dark or translucent circles under his eyes for about a month. It looks like he's not getting enough sleep, but he's been sleeping the same as always and he's no harder to coax out of bed in the morning. He says he feels fine, and he is as active as ever and eats well. Still, Bengt and I both feel a bit uneasy when we see those circles. I got him some multi-vitamins last week, just in case. What else could it be?
December 16: A good deal
Last night I used the very last dab of petroleum jelly from this little 1 1/4-oz. plastic container of Vaseline. As I was about to throw it away, it struck me that for as long as I can remember I've been dabbing Vaseline from this particular container on my lips. (I learned that trick from my friend Laura back in high school, when we both needed soft lips for our flute playing and not much more.)
I think I've had this jar (can you call it a jar even though it's plastic?) for at least ten years. Probably longer. And it probably cost about a buck and a half, right? Man. You don't see a deal like that every day. Don't you wish all products were as priceworthy?
I love a good deal. Even if it's only a two-dollar jar of Vaseline. Part of it is knowing that I got every last molecule of product out of that container. No waste, no unnecessary trash. I feel the same way when I actually wear out an article of clothing. It doesn't happen very often, but it's very satisfying when it does. And then—call me ridiculous—I thank it before I place it lovingly in the trash.
December 15: New neighbors!
We are getting some new next-door neighbors. The family is moving in right now. Max and I went down there and met them. (We didn't waste any time, did we? Max has been looking forward to this for weeks.) The new neighbors are a really nice family with two boys (5 and 7). YES! And a baby on the way.
The two boys came and played at our house for a couple of hours. They seem like nice kids. The seven-year-old will start first grade at Max's new school on the same day he starts there.
The neighbors on our other side also have their house up for sale. We have our fingers crossed that even more boys aged 5-10 will soon join the neighborhood.
December 14: Blipville
Max has joined an online community, Blipville, where he chats with friends, makes new ones, practices online etiquette (or I should say he tries to acquire some) and learns about the dangers and pitfalls of interacting online.
I'm glad his computer is right next to ours and not in some out-of-the-way place like his room.
Residents of Blipville use "money" that you can acquire by buying for real money (all major credit cards accepted). He bought about 10 bucks worth, with my help. The other day I asked him what he had purchased with this money. He said:
Oh my God, I had the best laugh over that. (Max laughed with me.) He buys leather mittens online because it's cold. Boy, when Max grows up the con artists are going to have a field day with him. I almost wish I were one of them! :-)
By the way, the virtual snowboard comes with a virtual helmet. As soon as you pick up the snowboard, a helmet magically pops onto your head. You can't ride without it. What a clever touch! I like it.
Another tidbit about snowboarding in Blipville: When you hit people, they don't go flying. You go right through them! Imagine their surprise! Max finds it very entertaining to snowboard through other citizens of Blipville.
But on to our next scenario:
December 13: Lucia Day
Today was Lucia Day. In Sollentuna they line the main roads with big, heavy-duty candles that stay lit the whole day—a nice touch!
Max was great in his role as narrator in the school play. (Except he said "successed", which was in the manuscript the teacher gave him, instead of "succeeded". Grrrr.) He made a cute Frosty the Snowman, too. Unfortunately, none of our pictures from the play or the singing turned out well. It was just too dark, and when we did get a decent picture there were lots of heads in the way. If someone else gives us good digital pictures of the event (which has been known to happen), I'll publish a couple.
Max has one more week left at his school! After New Year he switches schools! Exciting.
We've received unexpected support from the parents of kids who go to Max's school. When we told them Max is switching, some said they were thinking along the same lines. One mom said outright, "Well, then I'm going to switch [child's name] next fall." Another emailed me, asking about our decision, because she wants to take her kid out of the school immediately. A third said that when she told her son, he immediately responded, "I want to switch, too!" and they are thinking about it for the fall. So we may have been the first to leave the school, but we certainly won't be the last.
The teachers (or at least one of them) have been chilly towards us.
Both Bengt and I had our company Christmas parties last night, so we were both out late. Max spent the night with Nils. (Yes, in the middle of the week!) Apparently it went well. But I was really tired today.
We went to a Lebanese restaurant for julbord (normally traditional Christmas food, but in this case Lebanese food). The food was really good. The entertainment was "torture", as someone in our group called it. Loud live music from a synthesizer, with a singer and a belly dancer. The music was so loud and piercing that it was painful. People were openly plugging their ears, and at least one person left because of the volume. I'm tempted to report the place to the health department.
Today we got a letter from Vägverket (the road commission). Some of you know that we have been arguing with them about the granite wall on one side of our property that was damaged during blasting for a tunnel under our house. This past summer Bengt and I paid out of pocket to have huge boulders removed quickly before they fell down and squashed somebody. It was expensive (over two months' net salary, just to give you an idea) but urgently needed because of the danger.
Vägverket had been saying that the damage was not caused by the blasting. We disputed that. After a few letters back and forth, and after they contacted the guy who did the work for us, they have now finally agreed to pay half. That's certainly better than nothing, and we'll accept that. I'm really relieved that they agreed to at least share the cost. It felt so unfair that we were stuck with that expense. And I'm proud that I stuck to my guns. Bengt was ready to give up after the first round of letters. He thanked me for my persistence, which made me feel really good.
December 10: The rushing around begins
Had an average weekend. Too much to do. Had to organize parts of two costumes/outfits for Max's school play, as he has two roles (narrator and Frosty the Snowman). Thank heavens the school has a Frosty outfit, except they didn't have the hat. Of course Frosty needs a hat. And he is supposed to wear white pants under it—who has white pants? And then we discovered late Sunday afternoon that Max's only footwear consists of tennis shoes and snow boots, so I had to run out and shop for nice black shoes. :-/ Which he will wear probably twice before he outgrows them. Good grief.
The play is on Thursday. I'll try to get a picture or two.
That sneaky Max hid a rubber snake under my pillow like this the other day. Scared the dickens out of me for a split second. He enjoyed that.
P.S. I had to add the word "rubber" to this entry after several people asked me whether that was a real snake!
December 2—Speed skate times
Max's skate times (for 250 m), for future reference:
I think it's funny that they measure fractions of seconds at this young age. But whatever!
By comparison, a teenage speed skater was timed at 16-point-something seconds while we were there (I think it was). Woa! And they said his time wasn't that good.
December 1, 2007—Max switching schools
Well, it's decided: Max is switching schools after the holiday break. He has had his ups and downs at his current school, and we don't deny there are many advantages there, but since September he's been saying he wants more kids in his class and his school. Even on weekends he complains that he doesn't have enough friends to hang out with. And when he wakes up on weekday mornings he's likely to moan, "Oh no, I don't want to go to school" or "I wish I was sick so I wouldn't have to go to school." He needs more excitement, more stimulation—more kid-style chaos, I guess.
At this point Bengt and I are confident that Max will do all right academically no matter which school he attends. The main thing is to motivate him to go, and hopefully having more friends and different after-school activities will do the trick.
So we applied and got for a spot at the public elementary school in our neighborhood, which is even closer than the private school he attends now. We visited the school and talked to the vice principal and Max's prospective teacher, Cecilia. Max liked everything he heard and saw, except his classroom, which he thought looked small and boring. But despite the classroom he wants to go there. He happily called up his farmor and farfar yesterday and told them the news.
Max already knows lots of kids who go there, and in January he'll meet many more. I hope he'll at least double his circle of friends. He said if he could he would start at his new school on Monday.
November 13—Skates & skating
Max has tried speed skating twice now and really likes it. He got to borrow a pair of special skates for the whole season, free of charge. What a deal.
And there's an added bonus: After racing around for 90 minutes, he is like a pile of jelly. He just sits in the car quietly and stares straight ahead. :-D
Another added bonus: They teach any parents who want to learn. And parents who don't care to learn are still welcome to skate around the rink (it's outdoors) on their own long-distance skates.
When you get into speed skating here, you go to training sessions one to three times per week. Once is "required", twice is fine. We plan to go Mondays and Fridays after school. It starts at 4:00, so I have to pick Max up earlier to get there on time. But it's only through February, when the season ends.
I took Max and Nils skating at the indoor rink yesterday, as well.
Bought myself some new skates today—figure skates, so I can skate when I take Max & friends to the indoor rink. I already have long-distance skates for outside.
We have snow, and it's been cold for a long time, so maybe we'll have a good long skating season. I'm actually really looking forward to a lot of skating! I guess I'm finally catching skating fever after all these years in Sweden. Max and I had a blast last year skating on the nearby lake that had a path cleared on it with the Zamboni.
Max's question of the day: "Mama, what's a gizmo?"
Max's comment of the day (after we picked up pizza): "I just love when the car fills up with the smell of pizza!"
A favorite colleague, very competent and really pleasant, gave notice at work today. He got a more interesting job, apparently. I'm happy for him but sad for me and the rest of ReadSoft.
P.S. Swedish snowsuits have great reflectors on them, don't they! In this picture you can see the reflective stripes right through the "red team" vest he was wearing!
November 11—a couple of pictures from Friday's Halloween party
Max is the skeleton. I'm the zombie (further below).
In my last post I forgot to write about Halloween.
Halloween was actually on the Swedish calendar this year for the first time. And it was on October 31. (There are some differing opinions here about when it should be.) It's becoming more and more popular but is loathed by some as just another crazy American tradition.
This year it fell on a Wednesday, and Max and a neighbor went trick-or-treating that day. I went with them (mostly to watch out for traffic, since they were dressed in dark costumes and it was very dark out). Most people were able to dig up some candy to give the boys, and they seemed to think it was neat. One or two families didn't have any candy on hand and but were polite/apologetic. Two people were simply rude. After awhile we learned to look for houses where they had some sort of Halloween decoration. Any house where kids live was also a good bet.
The only other trick-or-treaters I saw was a gang that went around on Friday. Maybe they didn't do it on Wednesday because it was raining.
Tomorrow we are having a Halloween party at Max's school. A few of us parents organized it, and it's a lot of work! But this evening I did something fun: I went into Stockholm and bought a zombie costume. It's really creepy looking and I'm looking forward to wearing it. I hope to scare the dickens out of Max. :-D I'm not going to let him see it before the party.
Max is signed up for speed skating. That starts tomorrow.
He is still enjoying dancing. Last week they had a competition to see who was best at this dance they'd learned. I don't know what the criteria were, but Max was in the lead (so far)! I noticed when the kids came out of their studio that Max was enjoying a new sort of respect from the other boys. He was joking around with ones who threatened to beat him next time. And "next time" was this evening, but they had a sub and didn't continue their competition.
Piano has been very hard work this fall, until recently. The teacher had been pushing the two boys hard to prepare for a piano test next spring. People come from the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and administer a standardized test. Finally I went and talked to our teacher and told her that although it was nice to see so much progress, we were having to work so hard that Max wasn't enjoying it anymore. I told her that for us, enjoyment is more important than achievement when it comes to music.
Since then she has lightened up. They are still on the same track, but slower. Maybe the boys—or at least Max—will take that test next fall instead of this coming spring. Whatever. I just don't want Max to get burned out on practicing.
Max has been remembering his dreams lately. When I seem him in the mornings (I don't always), he tells me what he dreamed. This morning he had dreamt that he was in a Home Depot type of store and an employee asked him to man the info booth. So Max did, but after awhile some other employee came along and looked at him like, "What the heck are you doing back here? You're just a kid!"
Another dream he had was of playing at a place like Kid Kingdom except it was half under water. It was like a two-story acrylic-walled room with the top floor above water and the bottom floor under water. I thought that sounded like a cool idea and asked him to draw it sometime.
Bengt is pretty much over his cold by now. He was home from work Monday and Tuesday. He would have stayed home on Wednesday, too, but he had some seminars to lead and there was no one to replace him.
Have a good weekend!
November 4, 2007
A couple of weeks ago I went to Costa Brava (eastern coast of Spain) with my department at work. There were about 80 of us. The travel was relatively grueling. We had to get up at 5 a.m. two mornings to get to the airport on time for the flight down and the flight back. The hotel was quite old and not equipped to handle a conference. For example, we asked for a projector and were given an overhead projector. Doh! But we made do and it was worthwhile.
One colleague was apparently stressed out and his blood pressure got too high (I heard). He was obviously unwell that first day, and then he had a grand mal seizure at breakfast the next morning. I think most of us had only seen seizures on TV. The real thing was upsetting. The guy stopped breathing and turned a bit blue. Fortunately he came out of it relatively quickly. An ambulance came and took him to the hospital.
I won't describe the work stuff, as no one else would be interested. But I want to mention that I got a room to myself (what luxury!) and this was my view of the Mediterranean Sea from my little balcony:
We stayed three nights. I loved falling asleep to the sound of the waves. We got one free day, and as it was about 70 degrees I spent that day on the beach. I didn't swim, though several of my colleagues did. The most relaxing activity in the world for me is collecting stones or sea glass, so I spent hours doing that. I also read some, chatted with colleagues, and just stared out at the ocean. That was great!
Meanwhile, back in Sweden... we got our first snow yesterday. Max did a major happy dance when he woke up and discovered it. (As for me, I just groaned.) Then he pulled on his snowsuit and went out and played in it (though it was pretty wet) for a couple of hours.
Speaking of snowsuits, I had to buy one online because Max now wears the largest normal kid-sized snowsuit they sell in most stores here, size 140, which supposedly fits a 9- to 10-year-old. (Granted, he is tall for his age. Several people commented on the picture further below, saying that he looked tall.) H&M doesn't carry that size in their stores, but you can still order it online. Geez! I was pretty amazed that I couldn't buy a snowsuit for my 7-year-old in the biggest (I think it is, anyway) Swedish clothing store. Whatever. I was just glad to get one—and glad the on-the-ball salesperson thought of telling me it was available online.
I also bought new ice skates and a new helmet for Max last week. They cost a fortune!
Bengt has a terrible cold, but so far Max and I haven't caught it (knock on wood). I hope he recovers soon.
To get Max out of here so Bengt could rest, I took Max and one of his friends to Sweden's Museum of Natural History today. The boys really enjoyed it. The place also has an IMAX planetarium, so we also saw a movie about paleontology and dinosaur digs. We were lucky to get tickets—all three of today's showings were sold out, but there were some no-shows.
We are rearranging our office space at work. There are ever more of us and no more space available to rent in our building, so we either have to get cozy or find a new office. So after 10 years in my spacious room back in a dead end (which I loved because it was quiet) on the fourth floor, I moved down to a small room in the third floor annex. I miss my old room, but I'm really grateful I still have my own room. They knocked out the wall between my old room and an adjoining one, and four people will share that starting next week. Yikes!
There is a lot more "traffic" going by my new room, so I'll have to get used to that. It is also much warmer for some reason, which is actually pretty nice because I don't have to bundle up for work. I didn't realize how cold it was in my old room until I moved.
A colleague walked into my new room a few days ago and said, "Hey, this is a nice room! You get a good feeling when you walk in here. What is it about this room?" This was a male colleague. (Sorry, but I don't think a lot of guys notice that type of thing.) That made me feel really good. Simple: A few healthy plants, a few pictures, a couple of personal decorations from home, a relatively clean desk, and the lack of tacky curtains (which I trashed as soon as I took over the room).
The third floor annex was a dump (frankly), with old junk sitting around everywhere, tacky signs and posters on the walls and bathroom door, a pantry that was never used, etc. I think the occupants had spent so many years there that they didn't see how ratty it looked. With their permission, I tore myself away from my work tasks (which I enjoy) and spent a day getting rid of the junk and straightening up. Next week I'll spend a little time making the pantry usable, with a coffee machine, a few basic dishes and utensils, a lamp (there was not even any lamp!?), and so on. I figure, I spend eight hours a day there. I want it to be reasonably nice. Fortunately, management agrees wholeheartedly.