What's New at the Pålssons'


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

Friday, June 19 (Midsummer's Eve)

A view from our balcony early this afternoon:

(Remember when I planted all these flowers, Mom?)

Another view from our balcony, later this afternoon when 90% of Swedes were (or wanted to be) outside celebrating Midsummer's Eve:

Raining cats and dogs. Typical.

Tuesday, June 16 – school's out, all activities are over

Last Wednesday was Max's last day of third grade. They had a really entertaining graduation ceremony for the whole school on Thursday. It was a pleasure to attend—and funny, too: At one point the kindergartners were singing (or rather, yelling at the top of their lungs) a summer song, to background music. Except they were singing much faster than the background music. The music teacher was trying to slow them down, but finally she gave up and had the sound guy shut off the background music, and they finished a cappella to an enthusiastic round of applause. J

Another number in the program was a recorder quintet. Their counting was not the best, and they just barely stayed together (more or less) until the end of the piece, ending within a couple of beats of each other. The music teacher wiped her hand across her brow dramatically when it was over. Geez, I was sweating bullets just listening! J

Another little girl played a guitar solo. She was really good.

The whole thing was just so cheerful. Good vibes. (Everyone was probably glad to be done for the school year. Can't say I blame them.)

The graduation was held outdoors, and we were soooo lucky that the weather held. We heard thunder in the background, and it looked like the sky was going to open up and rain buckets on us any second. Until today, it had been raining for two weeks here, sometimes for days at a time. Today was pretty nice, and I think everyone feels thankful the rain finally stopped.

Yesterday Max's sort-of-report cards arrived in the mail. It said he met all the targets (that's how they put it—it's pass/fail) this year. The "grades" in his separate English class (for kids with English spoken at home) are a little more nuanced: failed/passed/surpassed. It said he surpassed the targets in all aspects of English that they work on. Wow, the whole family felt good about that.

Today was the last day of soccer – parents against kids. The parents won, but only by one goal. Bengt and Max said I played well, but they're only being kind. I don't know what I'm doing out on the field. Max and Bengt certainly played well.

I'm so psyched about our upcoming trip. The whole thing was just about worth it solely for the pleasure of looking forward to the trip. I don't think I've ever been so excited about a vacation before. Not even when we went to Cozumel, because Max was a toddler and it was harder to enjoy. (Plus he was really sick right up until the night before we left, so I was panicking.)

Sunday, June 7

This was a busy weekend. The kids in Max's class organized a flea market to earn money for their fifth grade (!) class trip. Actually the parents did most of the work. I spent many hours sorting through stuff to get rid of. (Of course, some of that had to be done anyway. Max's closet was full of stuff he'll never wear again.) Then we made signs and put them up, and fixed coffee and muffins and stuff to sell to the visitors.

Many of us showed at the school at 9 a.m. to set it all up. We opened at 10:00 (though early visitors had been pawing through the stuff for half an hour by then). Sweden's EU election was today, and the school cafeteria was set up as voting station, so we had set up right outside the school. Smart, huh? We had many customers, most of whom would probably not have made a special trip to the school to check out a flea market organized by a third-grade class. But since they were there anyway....

You can't see how much stuff there was. There was a lot of stuff. As soon as the tables started looking a little empty, we'd haul out more stuff. I don't know how much we earned, but I'd guess over a thousand dollars—a good start for a class trip still almost two years off!

Max and I leave for Vancouver two weeks from today. I'm really excited.

June 1

Here's a picture of the hare who we often see on our property (but who actually lives across the street). You can't really see how big he is, but maybe you get the idea. This one doesn't hop like a bunny hops. He kind of lopes like a ... I don't know, what animals lope? (Antilopes perhaps? J )

I saw a young hare last week. Cute!!

And yesterday I saw a hedgehog right down our street. I feel happy to be living in a suburban area where a few wild animals can survive.

Monday, May 25

Phew, another brutal Monday (except for the weather, which was gorgeous)! The last one of the school year, though, because floorball and ju-jitsu practice are over.

The three of us drove to Skåne this weekend. Saw Sven only briefly, but Max and Bengt went three times. (Here you can see three generations of Pålsson men.) I spent more time visiting with Anna-Brita, pulling weeds, preparing food, sorting through stuff before their big move, and . . . shopping. Microscopic Perstorp has two nice little boutiques where I find nicer clothes than I can find at the mall here in Sollentuna. They have a good shoe store, too, but I didn't need shoes.

Speaking of shopping, last week I took Max shopping for a few things he needed: Summer shoes, a backpack, and a water bottle. It was like pulling teeth, and that's beyond my comprehension for someone who enjoys shopping for things I need. I even like shopping for things he needs. I even went to the mall ahead of time and scoped out the offerings so I could take him straight to the right spots. But he detests it. He just groans and says that shopping "breaks his legs".

However, he could stand around drooling over cell phones and video games for hours without tiring. Oh—a funny thing happened: He was looking at an iPod Nano and saw it had a $10 price tag. His jaw dropped and his gum fell to the floor. (Afterwards he realized that the $10 was for the rubber sleeve, not the iPod itself.)

After many weeks of research and debate, Bengt and I agreed on which video camera to buy, and I was given the mandate to go pick it up. Yessss! I looked forward to it all day. Then I went to buy it after work . . . and the store was out of them. Argh! They probably won't be in until next week.

Here's another funny thing Max said: He was taking a shower in grandma's basement and I was keeping him company since apparently it has become a spooky place since we were there last. He asked me to turn away while he washed his private parts. "Viewer discretion is advised," he joked.

When I related that little story to Bengt, his was response was, "That kid watches too much TV."

Sunday, May 14

What beautiful weather we've been having recently! It really lifts my spirits! I planted four new bushes in front of the house on Friday. I've got a bunch of flowers in that are growing like mad. I'm evening trying tomatoes again this year. (In the past I haven't had very good luck with tomatoes.)

Today all three of us were out doing yard work at the same time. That was very satisfying, for some reason. Bengt taught Max to mow the lawn and then paid him 50 kronor for his efforts. Bengt gave Max all these tips and instructions, and Max listened and followed directions with a good attitude. What a good kid. He'll be 10 in December, my little gubben! Unbelievable.

Bengt wanted Max to continue doing a paid chore (a different one) that he had started balking at. He offered to increase the compensation involved. Max said ok, how much? Bengt offered 25 kronor instead of 20.

Max said 26, Bengt said ok.

Max said 27, Bengt said ok.

Max said 28, Bengt said no, so Max accepted 27.

Later I had a talk with Max and explained how to negotiate compensation or the price of something. We practiced a few times.

The next day I asked Max to run down the hill and pick up a book from my friend. I offered him 10 kronor for his trouble. He immediately shot back, "Fifty!" J Ah, I was proud. (He ended up getting 15.)

We've been doing Mad Libs most nights before bed instead of reading. Max likes to have a good laugh just before going to sleep.

Found out a couple of weeks ago that ReadSoft will be moving to nearby Kista in October. A new office might be nice, and it's not that far away, but I won't be able to walk to work anymore. There won't be parking there, either. (People are expected to take public transportation, which is a reasonable expectation since it's close to both a subway and a commuter train line.) Bummer. So Bengt and I have some logistics to work out when the time comes. He usually drives to the train station and leaves the car at ReadSoft so that I can drive Max to his various sports and piano lessons in the late afternoons.

Max's life changed so much this year that we've pretty much been able to retire the concept of "screen time", his 1-hour TV/DS/PS limitation on weekdays and 3 hours on Saturdays & Sundays. Some days he has no time for screens at all. Other days, even on weekends, he barely has time for that stuff anymore, he's so busy playing sports, riding his bike, skateboarding, and doing other things with his friends. (Mission accomplished!) Technically he still has limited screen time, but most days we just waive it since he runs around so much—no point making him track the minutes.

I should go relax. This will be a crazy week. Mondays are nuts, with piano, ju-jitsu and floorball all in the same evening. (And Max has English, his extra class, on Mondays.) We don't get home until bedtime.

Tuesday, April 28

Max has a fever today, which is why I am home and once again have the time to update this website.... for all the good it does, since I don't have any news. We're just plugging along, with Max normally attending at least five sports practices per week, plus matches, piano lessons and homework. I think at this point we're all looking forward to summer break—not so much for the break from school and work as for the break from all the after-school activities. J

I read in Max's class's weekly newsletter that the kids had signed up for extra activities. Expecting to have to organize still more sports equipment, permission slips, and snack packs, I asked Max what he signed up for. He said he signed up for writing. ???? That's right. Some kids are going to put together a school paper, and Max signed up for that. I'm happy about it, but I guess I shouldn't be surprised, since the last thing he needs is more sports (though he sure enjoys them).

I helped Max with his first book report in English last week, and I was surprised to find he can effortlessly write compound sentences, with largely correct spelling and punctuation. He wrote down the whole plot of the book, and the only thing he needed help with was determining what details could be left out.

Then again, I found this on the grocery list recently: COOCKIES

(Actually, I don't buy cookies. He was just testing his luck.)

Bengt and I are as busy as ever, taking care of things around the house and in the yard, organizing a book club (me), guiding our two little friends when they're here, planning vacations (fun!), and so on. Recently Bengt and I have both gotten involved in a parents group that is helping Max's class earn money for their fifth-grade (!) class trip. The class will be having a flea market on June 7. Ah, right up my alley! I'm heavily involved in that—and in return I hope to be relieved of other duties such as selling sausages and tube socks at my workplace.

By the way, the destination for the class trip hasn't been chosen yet. Max's first choice is Thailand! Ha ha. (Although, when this came up at the parents' meeting, there were immediately plenty of volunteers to be chaperones.) A more realistic destination, if it looks like the kids can earn enough money, is Gotland. I've never been there, so I'd volunteer for that!

Lately Bengt and I have been marveling over how tall Max is. You gotta wonder how fast he's growing, when even people who see him every day think he looks tall. So I just measured him, and he's 4' 9" (146 cm) tall. I had to buy him a new winter coat at the end of the season, about six weeks ago. His wrists were poking way out of the sleeves. (It didn't bother him, it bothered me.)

Monday, April 6 – my best April Fools joke ever (I thought)

Max's school had scheduled a parents meeting on April 1. That gave me an excellent opportunity to play a prank on Max. Bengt and I came home with this flyer that I had prepared in advance. It says that school uniforms will be required starting next fall. And that boys have to have their hair cut short before fall term. J I was so psyched, and had really steeled myself to keep a straight face and show a realistic reaction to this news. Bengt was similarly prepped.

When I showed Max the flyer, he fell for it hook, line and sinker. Unfortunately, he barely reacted. First he kind of went, "Huh, okay." Then, on second thought, he wondered, "Can they really decide how I have my hair? Is that allowed?" I said I guess they could, since it said so right on this announcement. Then he shrugged and said "Ok, whatever." When I tried to incite some feelings of dread by pointing out why he might not like to wear a shirt and tie to school every day, etc., he countered, "Look on the bright side, Mom!" Geez, an incorrigible optimist! Is this really my kid?

Then he spent the rest of the evening waiting anxiously for an April Fools joke to be played on him. Finally at bedtime I told him that the school uniform thing was the joke. He got choked up and cried out in dismay, "Oh no! I ruined your April Fools joke!" And it's true that springing it on Max didn't work out. But I had fun planning it and making the flyer and looking forward to what I thought would be his horrified reaction.

I've been working on a Swedish translation of a popular online backgammon game. And Max had a big soccer tournament this weekend, and I had to take my turn working in the cafeteria. Plus we had our four-year-old friends here for the entire weekend, which was great but really wore me out. I actually have sore muscles from keeping up with them. So it has been busier than usual around here.

I worked today and Max went to daycare. Then I took Max to jujutsu and did the grocery shopping. Came home and did laundry and straightened up. (Bengt is sick again—another bad cold.) But now we're off for a next week. My mom arrives tomorrow for a week-long visit. Hope she doesn't catch Bengt's crud.

If I don't write again before then, Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 29

Brutal Sunday morning: We went to a party last night, then turned our clocks ahead, and then I took Max to floorball practice this morning. I'll be going to bed early tonight. At least I'm over my cold.

Last weekend Bengt and Max lit a fire out in the backyard and we toasted marshmallows. Max had been wanting to do that for ages.

Max tried out for a speaking part in a TV commercial last week. Unfortunately he didn't get the part, which isn't surprising, since auditions lasted for two days. He certainly had the right attitude, though—he was cooperative and easy to work with, and he really tried to do as they asked.

On the way to the audition I was coaching him on the lines and on how to show cooperation, and on the way home (after eavesdropping on the audition and realizing that his acting this time wasn't very convincing, though his cooperation was obviously sincere) I tried to give him a realistic idea of his chances. He seemed a bit down in the dumps, and I confessed that sometimes I don't know whether to be really positive and encouraging, so that he'll feel confident, or whether to point out ways I think he can improve and help him see things realistically. He said, "You're doing it right, Mom. You should be realistic." Then he thanked me for taking him to the audition. Nice.

I read a funny story in the newspaper this morning: A deer wandered into a Stockholm grocery store through the delivery entrance. It ran through the stock room and out into the store, where it panicked and butted a customer. Another customer grabbed the deer around the neck and led it out the front door. Ha! Imagine you're about to enter a neighborhood grocery store and you encounter someone leading a wild-eyed deer out of the store! J That would make my day.

Sunday, March 15

I recovered pretty well from the flu I had, only to come down with a cold on Monday. I missed two days of work this week and that dang cold is still hanging on. Grrr. I haven't been skating since before I had the flu, and now we have temperatures above freezing (barely), so the county has stopped maintaining the ice rink on the lake. So that's it for this season. L

Max has discovered yet another sport: floorball. The team he wants to join practices Sunday mornings at 9:00. K And he has no intention of giving up jujutsu or soccer. At least skiing is over for the season....

I heard this gorgeous song on a recent episode of the TV series House. It was apparently written by the show's composers, Jon Erhlich and Jason Derlatka.

Click here to see the actual scene from House.

February is book sale month in Sweden. So a couple weeks ago I was shopping for books online, and I found myself laughing out loud at the titles. After awhile I started writing them down:

  • Life in Ancient Mexico Coloring Book
  • Taking Up Serpents: A History of Snake Handling
  • Range Rover Official Parts Catalog
  • The 12 Steps to Holiness and Salvation
  • The Development of Harmony in Scriabin's Works
  • Ending Our Resentments - Workbook
  • Pet Owner's Guide to the Bearded Dragon
  • Pa's Poopy Chair
  • Contented Dementia
  • Building a Godly Home (with CD)
  • Bambiraptor and Other Feathered Dinosaurs
  • How to Prepare Sermons
  • The Wolf's Story: What Really Happened to Little Red Riding Hood

Needless to say, at that website I didn't find many books that I was interested in purchasing.

I'm currently reading Obama's Dreams From My Father. Really interesting and well written, in my humble opinion.

Friday, February 20

I wasn't quite uncomfortable enough, so today I commenced vomiting. Spent the entire day on the couch in front of the TV. Man, what a waste of a beautiful day.

Watched an episode of Jerry Springer again. OMG, I can't believe that show. No wonder people think Americans are nut cases—many of us are!

Max says he feels ok (so far), but he has an incredibly stuffy nose. Here he is using a neti pot to rinse out his nasal passages before bed.

Thursday, February 19 – sick

What a crap week. I suddenly felt pressure in my chest Monday afternoon and understood that I was succumbing to the crud Bengt had for the previous 10 days. By evening I had a high fever, chills and muscle pain. Only slept 3 hours Tuesday night due to chest pain, so I called the clinic on Wednesday and was given one of the precious appointments that they set aside for acute situations. Bengt took me in (good husband that he is), and I had a blood test to rule out pneumonia or other bacterial infection. (Actually I was kind of hoping for bacteria so I could get antibiotics.) Just getting dressed and sitting up in the car and in the waiting room was an ordeal—I almost passed out.

Apparently I have pleurisy (irritation of the sack that surrounds the lungs), which makes breathing painful. It's not dangerous, I just feel like a train wreck. Apparently this is all caused by some nasty virus, and I’ll recover without any intervention. In the meantime, I'm allowed 4g of Tylenol per day to help with the pain and fever (and it really helps!), plus an over-the-counter expectorant. Really grateful I'm not nauseous or headachy, so I can read and watch TV and check email, though not much else.

This was bad timing in the sense that we were supposed to have our friends, the little boys, over this weekend. I missed my own book group meeting on Tuesday, and I'm missing today's kick-off at work. In addition, we've had prime skating weather all week, and with this breathing problem I'm guessing it'll be awhile before I can skate again. To top it all off, I was offered a spot in a TV commercial, to be filmed on Saturday. Not Max. Me. This could have been my big break! (Ha ha.)

Max has been anxious to ski again, so I'm going to pick him and one of his buddies up after school today and drop them off at the ski hill. All their equipment is already in the car. I won't even have to get out of the car and it'll take about 15 minutes. I can handle that today, thanks to large doses of Tylenol. J The other boy's parents will pick them up at 7 or 8 p.m.

I'm happy for Max. I know how exciting it is to participate in a newly discovered sport. There's something special about it, more than other activities we get enthused about. It's not just mental excitement but physical euphoria. You know what I mean?

February 15 – another active weekend

We're having nice, cold winter weather. I took Max skiing yesterday—twice. (And to a birthday party in between.) He was so happy because his new (used) skis work better for him than the ones we rented two weeks ago. By closing time (yes, we stayed until the place closed) he was going down a harder hill that has a couple of small jumps. He still doesn't like to go very fast, but likes to be in control, so he snowplows a lot. But it's nice to see him make such major improvements each time he skis.

Today he was anxious to go again, but I wasn't willing to stand around in the cold for another day, watching. So I drove him and two of his friends over, got them started, and left them there. All the parents agreed it was ok. The kids have money and cell phones. They'll call when they want to be picked up. And Max called a little while ago, just to check in. That's great. It's new to have such a big, responsible kid who can be left alone to ski with friends.

In parting, the dad of one of the other boys said, "Go for it!" That was quite different from what I said when I left them: "No broken bones, please."

I went ice skating. (I went Friday, too.) And did laundry. And cooked. And did the grocery shopping. Bengt had the flu all week, but he seems to be recovering now.

The other day Max and his friend played me a "song" on Max's cell phone. They said, "Isn't this a terrible sound?" I said, "I don't know, start the song." They said, "It's playing!" I thought they were pulling my leg, but they weren't. They were amazed that I couldn't hear the sound that they—and their friends—could hear perfectly clearly. They said it sounded like bats, very high pitched, uncomfortable to listen to. I really couldn't hear a thing. I read recently that kids can hear much higher pitches than adults. Apparently it's true!

Sunday, February 8 – skiing

Last weekend I took Max skiing twice. That was really neat. The last time he went skiing was three years ago, when he had lessons three consecutive weekends. We weren't sure he'd remember anything, and he was nervous but eager to give it a try.

Turns out the skis I got for him are still too long (especially since he's a beginner), so we rented the whole kit and caboodle for 350 kronor ($45). He was wobbly and uneasy for about one minute, and then he quickly got his bearings and went down the bunny hill about 20 times.

Then he got his nerve up and went down the bigger hill with a couple of friends he'd run into. He wiped out and his skis popped off, so he spent the rest of the afternoon on the bunny hill.

The next day we went back, and I encouraged him to try the bigger hill again. "Never!" he said. But after half an hour he went off to give it another try. Watching him tear down that hill, I expected him to wipe out at any moment. But he made it, much to his own surprise. "I'm in shock!"

He went down the bunny hill a few more times, practicing braking harder and criss-crossing the hill like a good skier. (I'm sure there's ski-specific terminology for criss-crossing, but I'm not familiar with it....) Then he went back to the bigger hill with a friend. (Probably no matter when we hit the slopes, we're going to run into people we know, since the place is only 1/2 mile from our neighborhood. Nice!) And after that he got visibly more steady and in control with each run. It was a joy for a devoted mother to watch. J

At one point Max did have a bad wipeout. He lost control and hit a plastic fence and broke it. The employee who helped untangle him gave him a broken-off piece of the fence as a souvenir. Fortunately Max wasn't hurt or deterred at all. And fortunately I didn't see it happen.

As for me, I tried on the skis I bought for myself (used) several years back, and I could barely get my feet into the boots. There was no way I could wear them for even ten minutes. I don't know whether my feet grew or I never tried the boots on in the first place, but it was a good excuse to chicken out. I was really nervous I'd screw up my knees or (perhaps even worse) embarrass my kid. Eventually I'll probably break down and rent some appropriate equipment and try it, but only on the gentlest slope and definitely with no one around to witness my efforts.

Anyway, Max is really psyched to ski as much as possible. And why shouldn't he, with the hill that close. A mom I ran into on the slopes gave me a tip of putting a "used skis wanted" ad on a website. So I did that, and within four days I had bought appropriate skis, boots, helmet, and poles from two different families right here in Sollentuna—for 370 kronor ($47), almost the same as it would have cost to rent the gear for one more weekend. Man I love a good deal. And they were happy to get rid of their unused stuff.

However, we're back to our normal winter weather now: Just above freezing, and sleet. Argh! This is when I detest living in Sweden!

Bengt and Max just got back from a hockey game, Sweden vs. Finland. Sweden won, 4-0. Yesssss.

Friday, January 30

I really enjoyed the Obama-rama, where many Americans and Swedes celebrated the inauguration by watching it together on large TVs and then having dinner together. Obama's speech was great, I enjoyed the benediction (though I don't understand why we have so much religion in our inauguration ceremony—what about separation of church and state?), and the music was entertaining. Watching the actual swearing in was awesome. The funniest part was afterwards when the Bushes got on their chopper to depart. The Obamas waved good-bye to them, and so did all of us! "Good-bye! Good-bye!" we all called out cheerfully, waving at the TV screens. J What a wonderful day that was.

Last Sunday Max played in a soccer cup consisting of 6 (six!) games. It was indoors, so it was hard work chasing that ball around and it really wore him out. Good! They all enjoyed it. And they did ok, winning some games and losing others. Here's a picture of his team of 9- and 10-year-olds in a huddle with their perky and knowledgeable coach, Lotta. Sorry about the poor quality....

Today I ducked out of work and went skating during my lunch hour. Good thing I had all my gear in the car. It's the first time in almost two weeks that the ice has been good enough, after we had warm weather and then sleet.

Recently I purchased long underwear for the first time in my life. Got it from LLBean. I'll try it out this weekend when I take Max skiing. For some reason suddenly he wants to ski downhill. We actually own appropriate downhill skis for him, but no boots, so we'll rent those for now and see how he does.

I keep having the most bizarre, disturbing dreams. When I wake up I feel preoccupied and grouchy. I'm ready for the dreams to stop now.

Have a good weekend!

Monday, January 19: Obama-rama!

Max and I are home today. He's been nauseous off and on since Friday. I thought he just ate something that didn't agree with him, but yesterday evening he barfed. Must be some sort of bug.

Tomorrow evening will be exciting: I'm going to Stockholm to watch Obama being sworn in on big-screen TV with fellow Americans. I'm calling the event "the Obama-rama."

I've been skating about every other day, and today I made the 9-mile course in 60 minutes. Woo-hoo! (That's not a good time in general, but it's my personal best...)

The other night I dreamt that Max was chosen as one of five boys in the world to get to go up in a spaceship. Everyone was excited about it, but then he backed out... because he was worried about the bathroom situation.

Then I dreamt that while visiting Germany I had to go to the hospital for some reason. They thought something might be wrong with my heart and recommended explorative open heart surgery (?!) by this "alternative" surgeon. I was terrified and had an awful time deciding whether or not to go through with it. Finally I agreed, and I was awake—though not in pain—throughout the surgery, which I experienced as gruesome and horrifying. However, afterwards I was told that a lot of polyps had been removed from the inside of my heart. I recovered very well and felt much better, and I knew it had been right to go ahead with the surgery.

I've been watching the occasional medical documentary on TV. Maybe I ought to stop doing that (!), though I find them fascinating. Some of these films show surgeries in all sorts of detail, and it sticks with me for days or even weeks. Max often watches with me, and he isn't grossed out like I am. Intellectually I know that surgery is not inherently disgusting. It helps people, and there's nothing gross about what's inside our bodies. I don't know whether my squeamishness is instinctive or cultural, but I know a lot of people feel that way. But I don't see any reason to keep Max from watching medical shows if he's interested. Do you? He likes learning how the body works, as well as the different things that can go wrong and how to fix them.

Below are Max and his friend Daniel on the lake. Max is standing on the edge of the 9-mile-long skating rink. See the little skaters in the background, above the boys' heads?

Tuesday, January 13

We were really busy last weekend. Still I managed to skate almost every day and was in a good rhythm, and I shaved 5 minutes off my time on the 9-mile course. But now everything's thawing – argh!

I have to tell you this funny story: I was out with two four-year-olds the other evening, and I pointed out the full moonthe fullest and closest of the year. One of the boys said that Spiderman could fly to the moon. The other refuted the claim: "No! Spiderman can't fly to the moon!"

I thought to myself that the second boy had a better knowledge of reality (in spite of his belief in Spiderman), and I was about to confirm his statement and start a discussion about how living creatures can get to the moon by spaceship. But then he added, "Spiderman isn't powerful enough. Only Batman can fly to the moon." J

Sunday, January 4

We've been skating every day. And Max is now the proud owner of a pair of tour skates that I bought on sale yesterday. Today he played ice hockey with a friend, so I took the opportunity to skate around the lake at my own pace. It was such a perfect day for it—about -10° C (14° F), calm, and not a cloud in the sky—and I finished the entire circuit, which is around 14.5 km (9 miles). That took 70 minutes, so obviously I'm not the fastest woman on the ice.

But speed isn't the important thing. There are all kinds of skaters out on a day like today, from beginners of all ages, to parents skating with babies or toddlers in backpacks (or pulling or pushing them on sleds), to experienced enthusiasts who race right by you. Fortunately the plowed path is wide enough to accommodate everyone. It was just beautiful!

I always get a cramp in my right hip and my left foot when I first start out, but they go away when I concentrate on relaxing those muscles. Strangely, it's not my legs or hips but my arms that are a bit sore from all the skating this past week. I think I've been using my arms a bit for balance, which isn't really correct technique. The correct way to tour skate is leaning slightly forward, with one or both hands behind your back. Now I know why.

On the other hand, Max does it correctly and his back muscles get sore. I'd rather have sore arms than a sore back.

I saw that someone was injured today, writhing in pain on the ice and surrounded by a small group of people who'd stopped to help. All other skaters (like me) skated on by rather than stopping to gawk, in spite of how curious we might have been. I like that. I wouldn't want a crowd of gawkers staring at me if I'd taken a bad fall.

This evening Max is at Disney on Ice with his friend's family. It's a rare for me and Bengt to have an evening to ourselves. It's very quiet!

January 1, 2009 – Happy New Year!

We had such a fun NYE with our friends. We had fresh lobster and another fish dish, as well as lots of snacks and beverages. Later we toasted in the new year a couple of hours early (for the kids' sake), burned some sparklers, and set off a bunch of fireworks, which Max (as usual) was allowed to light under Bengt's strict supervision. Afterwards some of us went for a walk. The weather was perfect – cold, clear and calm.

Max got to stay up past midnight for the first time. We watched others' fireworks from our balcony. The neighbors gave us a great show. They must have spent a fortune on fireworks.

In addition to bringing in the new year, we celebrated Max's 9th birthday, as you can see here (what a doofus).

This morning all three of us slept until 11:00. I think that's the latest we've ever slept without having jetlag.

We liked the lobster so much that today I went and picked up three more lobsters, which we scarfed down for lunch—dipped in butter, of course, compounding the sins of yesterday. But New Years is the only time you can buy fresh lobster at local grocery stores, so what the heck.

A great new years present was that our favorite skating lake finally froze over. They haven't run the ice machine on it yet, but Max and I went skating on the 30th and then again today. It's such great exercise, and really fun! It's a shame that Bengt doesn't enjoy skating. (Actually, the thought of Bengt on skates is pretty funny, for some reason. Something like imagining a wrestler practicing ballet.)

Other than skating, we had a lazy day today. Max had a friend over for awhile. I did some scrapbooking. At one point I sat down to channel-surf and ended up seeing Jerry Springer for the first time in my life. Now I understand what all the jokes are about! OMG, it's amazing the kinds of things people will say and do on TV. Even the audience is outrageous.

Here's a strange thing that happened to me a couple of weeks ago: I was just standing in a doorway talking to Max when suddenly I felt a sharp pain in my big toe. It felt like I'd stubbed my toe into a shard of glass. I hadn't been walking, so I couldn't imagine what it could be, but still I took off my sock and looked for whatever sharp object must be sticking out the front of my toe. Nothing. What in the heck? It hurt, but if you can't see anything, what can you do? I forgot about it after awhile.

Then the next morning I noticed a big purple bruise on the front of my toe. It was painful to the touch and has been ever since, though less and less as the bruise slowly heals. That's one of the weirdest "injuries" I've ever had. I wasn't even doing anything.

I've been reading every chance I get. It's so enjoyable, and there are so many good books out there (and of course an awful lot of duds). I would really suffer if my eyes got so bad that I couldn't read. I don't feel like books on CD or MP3 would do it for me (though of course I wouldn't know until I tried).

Speaking of reading, I have that age-related thing going on with my eyes. I have four different pairs of glass around the house which I use for different situations. Keeping track of all of them is making me crazy. So yesterday I finally went to my optometrist and ordered new progressive glasses. They were having a sale, 40% off all frames, and I always end up choosing expensive frames so it was a good opportunity. Even so, it cost me over $1000. K But I'm really looking forward to getting ONE pair of glasses that will actually (hopefully) work for me most of the time. 

We wish all of our friends and family all the best for this year and beyond!




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