at the Pålssons'
Sunday, December 27
This morning I spotted a deer resting behind our house. After a minute she noticed me moving around in the window with my camera:
Thursday, December 24: A white Christmas in Sweden
We've been scraping ice and shovelling snow for the past ten days. (I was even having to scrape ice from the inside of the car windows, until I googled it and found the excellent tip of leaving a window slightly cracked. That works!) Our local ski hill is scheduled to open on the 28th. Yippee!
I wanted to share this funny little commericial with you, in case you haven't seen it before:
Saturday, December 19: Lots of snow
We got gobs of snow, and it's cold! YES! The ski hill is supposed to open right around Christmas.
I'm getting lots done at home this weekend. For once we barely had anything planned. Today was the first day in a long time that there hasn't been anything on the calendar for any of us.
Last night I dreamed that we had another baby. In my dream I was glad, but at the same time it was a grueling ordeal and we were having to start all over with the newborn stuff, OMG. I was pretty relieved when I woke up and found it wasn't true.
Here's a picture of Max in his new floorball goalie outfit, which was far more expensive than I expected....
Monday, December 14
By now we have our Christmas tree up, and Max's advent calendar is half empty. Bengt and I put lots of nice little goodies on it, so that took the edge off his hunger for Christmas. However, yesterday I put the wrapped presents under the tree, and Max accused me of child abuse. J
We had our first guppy casualty the other night: One of the gups jumped out of the aquarium and wasn't discovered until morning, far too late to save him. Our friend Li warned me that this might happen, but I thought if they hadn't done it so far then they wouldn't. Now we have a thin sheet of acrylic covering the aquarium.
Bengt and I signed the papers for our new kitchen last week. We still have some prep work to do, but we might have the kitchen installed by February. Woo-hoo!
Recently I bought something really great, namely a silk comforter. First I was going to get a new down comforter, but I don't like how the geese are tortured. I once had a very thin silk comforter that I adored. (Max confiscated it a few years ago and still uses it every night. It wasn't quite warm enough for me, anyway.) I started looking online and the king-sized commercial ones are pretty expensive. I was going to buy one anyway, but then I found a Chinese woman in Helsingborg who imports them herself, directly. I picked it up when I was on a business trip last week. I've only used it a few nights so far, but I adore it! It's heavier than down, in relation to its thickness and warmth, and I like the added weight. Yet I think it breathes better, and it feels luxurious. Highly recommended!
It's about 30 degrees right now, and we're supposed to get a lot of snow in the next three days. Many children will be ecstatic. Many adults will have a difficult time getting to work. We might get to skate & ski over Christmas after all—that would be something!
Hope you're enjoying the holiday season so far!
Sunday, November 22
It's been a busy month. I'm finding it difficult to get in my hours at work, since commuting just a few miles costs me up to an hour each day due to the #¤&*# trafic. It's infuriating!
However, I took vacation days off while Nancy was here. We spent days talking, reading, shopping (usually grocery shopping or looking at kitchen stuff), cooking, watching cool stuff on DVD, etc. We even went to a spa and got massages – thanks to Bengt for the gift cards! It was fantastic that Nancy came over. Bengt and Max enjoyed her company, too. She's a very non-assuming guest and easy to be around.
Max commented that Nancy and I almost always agree on things. (As opposed to Bengt and I.... J) It's true that we new feel the same way about many, many things. We certainly didn't start out that way when we met, as teenagers. It's funny how our values, tastes, etc. are converging over time.
This weekend Bengt and Max and I drove to Perstorp, where Max and I saw Anna-Brita's new apartment for the first time. It was quite nice. We also saw the empty house (not yet sold), which was less disconcerting than I feared. The main thing is, of course, not the house but Sven and Anna-Brita. The empty house doesn't make their situation better or worse. It was good to see them both.
Bengt and I were talking recently and for some reason I mentioned Socrates. Max came into the room just then and jumped all over what he thought was being said: "What's that—soccer tease?" J
Despite that example of misinterpretation, for a kid who isn't speaking it full time I think Max is showing amazing prowess in English. He makes puns and dry but hilarious little comments off the top of his head, just like Bengt. I enjoy it so much, and I envy their skill. I don't seem to have any imagination at all when it comes to language. I just describe things or provide instructions. But I can't complain – it's earning me a good living.
Another day the three of us were were discussing how I was to take Max for a haircut the next evening. I slyly suggested that Bengt might have dinner waiting on the table for us when we got home. Bengt's blunt reply had Max and me in stitches: "Yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt."
(Actually, Bengt did have dinner waiting for us. And yes, I do recognize the movie quote. I just never would have thought to use it myself.)
Max is getting excited about Christmas. The parental units are already in possession of his carefully compiled wish list, with stars next to each item indicating how urgently the item is desired. And lately he's been compulsively singing a little holiday jingle in anticipation of presents and time off school. (Eyes rolling.) He's still got a month to wait...
We're invited to a Thanksgiving pot-luck dinner next Saturday. I'm really
looking forward to it, since I haven't experienced one in many years. We'll have
all the traditional foods. I'm taking a beet & feta cheese & walnut salad
(granted, that's not traditional, but it's fabulously delicious, as Nancy and I
discovered last week when we tried it) and pumpkin pie. I'm a bit nervous about
the pie, which needs to be planned carefully here in Sweden, where both pumpkins
and condensed or evaporated milk can be difficult to find.
Sunday, October 18
It was a relatively calm weekend, but raining and cold. Max had two floorball matches. (Won one, lost one.) After we got home, Max sat in the car alone for awhile by himself. At first I thought he might be upset because of the match his team lost. He said no, he didn't mind losing, it was just pleasant to sit in the car, thinking and listening to the pitter-patter of rain on the roof. He did look very content. I told him that if he can continue to enjoy the simple things in life, he'll have a happy life no matter what.
On Tuesday a guy is coming to our house to help us plan our new kitchen. We will be ripping the whole thing out, right down to the floorboards, and starting over. (This is the original kitchen from when the house was built in 1978, except the fridge and dishwasher had been replaced at some point.) We may even take out the wall between the kitchen and dining room. (That is my idea; Bengt still needs convincing….) This expert kitchen guy will take all the measurements and then sit down and plan it with us and figure out what questions we need to answer. Then we have a follow-up meeting with him after a week or two, after which he will submit an offer for the whole job. I'm very excited about getting a whole new kitchen, even though we probably won’t actually have the work done until spring.
Have a good week, everyone!
Friday, October 16: The ReadSoft move, and more fish
This was a very stressful week for me. ReadSoft moved to a neighboring suburb, and after 13 years it's a bit difficult getting used to the new office. New room, new sounds, new smells (above all the glue smell from when they glued down the carpet) new voices, new "traffic" going by my room, new places to eat, new routines, new equipment, etc. All of this is stressful to someone like me.
But the worst part: New ways of getting to work. Until now I had a 25-minute walk to work. If I chose, I could drive in 10 minutes and there was free parking. Now I have to take a bus (which I wouldn't mind except it takes at least 45 minutes due to traffic). Or I can drive and hope I get a parking space, there being far fewer of them.
There are advantages, of course. Almost everything is nice and new. The corridors are wider. And there's a gigantic mall within walking distance, which can be very convenient.
But I would have preferred to stay in Sollentuna. I've been stressed out all week, but I'm trying to be kind to myself by wearing comfortable clothes, getting plenty of sleep, and eating chocolate. J
The first day at our new office was pretty comical. It seems like a maze when you go there for the first time so although we had maps, people were wandering around the halls going, "Where's my room?" "Where's the kitchen?" "Where's reception?" "I don't know where I am!" It reminded me very much of the first day at a new school when I was a kid—except everybody was lost!
We had our first big snow on Wednesday, major flurries for several hours. It didn't "stick", though it's been quite cold (right around freezing) for a couple of weeks.
Aquarium update: Max and I enjoyed Speedo so much that we got a new, "real" aquarium, with a pump, heater, and everything. Got the setup used, from a family who lives nearby—found their ad on the Internet. J So then we got four little guppies to keep Speedo company. We call them "the gups" or "the gangsters".
Unfortunately the little guys are getting their tails nipped by Speedo. (The personnel at the pet store said that wouldn't be a problem. They were wrong.) It's sad—they were in such good shape when we got them. We haven't lost one yet, but Max gets pretty upset when he notices the gups have new chunks taken out of their tails.
I've found it expectedly interesting to watch and feed these fish. It's even fun to monitor the values (nitrate, Ph, etc.) in the aquarium water to keep the fish comfortable. A new little hobby..... I could see someday maybe getting a much larger aquarium and a bunch more fish. We'll see how this goes for awhile, first.
Here's a picture of me during a recent outdoor team-building day.
Sunday, September 20: Speedo the Siamese fighting fish
This is a marathon month. There are meetings or activities every day, which I find grueling. Yesterday the three of us and a couple of other families worked most of the day at a flea market to raise money for Max's fifth-grade class trip. We had great weather – about 74 degrees and not a cloud in the sky. My lips got burned! The place was mobbed, both with sellers and buyers. We earned about $400 for the class.
At our last flea market, a couple of weeks ago, Max and I picked up a large glass fish bowl for a buck. We were going to get a goldfish, but while reading about fish care on the Internet we learned that only Siamese fighting fish are happy in such a small home (2.5 gallons) with no filter. (That explains why our four goldfish didn't last very long in the bowl we had when I was a kid....) So we got the water ready and decorated the new home with shells, Petoskey stones, beach glass, and live plants. When the home had matured a bit, we went and bought the fish – very exciting.
The first few days this fish was very sluggish. He didn't seem sick, just lazy—except he barely ate. We went back to the store and bought frozen mosquito larvae, which apparently all aquarium fish love. Sure enough, that got his appetite going and now he eats the flaked food, too.
Max still hadn't thought of a name, but when he saw how sluggish this fish was, Max named him Speedo. J (Runner-up: Tuvok. J)
Reading more about the care of these fish, I realized that the water was too cold for Speedo. We keep our house pretty cold, especially right before we are forced to close the windows and turn on the heat. It was only 65° in Max's room, where we keep the bowl, and the water is supposed to be at least 72°. If it's not warm enough, fighting fish get... sluggish. Doh!
As it happened, it was time to close up the house and turn on the heat anyway, and I also moved Max's nice warm lava lamp (which Max uses as a night light) right up next to the fish bowl. Now the water is 70° or so and the fish has perked up a lot. He also recognizes when he's going to get fed, and he's fun to watch. We feed him twice a day, and we clean out his bowl and replace some of the water once a week.
Last week Max kept babbling some Finnish phrase he'd picked up. It was starting to get on my nerves, and I said, "What does that mean? Will you please quit saying that?" Max replied, "It means, 'You're the best mom in the world.'" That's Max's humor for you. I burst out laughing.
For more humor, read the top 15 things likely to be overheard if you worked with Klingon tech writers.
Sunday, September 13: Time to speak my mind
I don't normally express political opinions on my blog. But I've been following the controversy in the US concerning Obama's health care proposal, and it's incomprehensible to me. Why is it ok to have public postal service, public libraries, public schools, etc.... but not public health care? The one thing that everyone needs at some point....
Why is Obama is being called a Marxist and a communist because of his proposals? Do Americans think that countries that have public health care, such as Sweden, England, and France, are communist? News flash: These countries aren't communist, and their citizens all have a higher life expectancy than Americans (not to mention the fact that they don't have to worry about being turned away from a hospital or doctor's office if they lose their job).
I thought Americans would be generous enough to share the cost of health care more equally. But the spirit of solidarity that Americans showed after 9/11 turned out to be short-lived indeed. It's apparently ok to spend tax dollars on killing our enemies in other countries but not on saving American lives in the USA.
I feel deeply saddened—and frightened, and embarrassed, and angry—by the hateful atmosphere, by the shameful lack of solidarity with fellow citizens, and by the personal attacks on Barack Obama, whom we Americans elected as our president and who has never (as far as I know) misled us about his goals and priorities. He's doing what he said he would do. Go Obama!
Friday, September 4
The weeks are flying by fast, now that fall activities are in full swing. Max has piano, floorball twice a week + matches, and soccer twice a week + matches. Fortunately, he has been able to get to soccer and piano by himself, and I never have to negotiate with him or anything since it's all voluntary on his part. I have my own activities as well – work outings, school meetings, fundraising activities for Max's class trip, book group, a tax seminar, etc. etc. We rarely have time to socialize, and the stress level is rising....
Bengt and I want to redo our kitchen, right down to new flooring. But it requires a lot of planning, and I'm having trouble finding the time. So far we've agreed on what type of fridge and freezer we want, and I've narrowed down dishwasher choices. But there's so much more: Flooring, cupboards and doors (I think that'll be the hardest for Bengt and I to agree on), handles, countertops, "window treatments" (I still think that's a silly expression), microwave, stove & oven, etc. Knowing us, it'll take us a year to work out all the details – ugh. Then we'll hire someone else to do the actual work.
Max and I were watching Trek the other day, and two characters were having a conversation about the immense responsibilities of being a parent. One of them was listing all the things you have to do as a parent, like see to your child's education, pay attention to their emotional development, provide for all their needs.... Max grabbed my arm and said, "Just like you, Mom. You're such a good parent!" Boy, it literally increases my strength and motivation when I get spontaneous praise like that from my kid. Especially when there's no ulterior motive. J
He has been growing like a weed. His feet are now almost as big as mine and Bengt's (we wear the same size shoe). He's strong as an ox, too. He has all those sports, plus his school's gym teacher works the kids pretty hard twice a week.
Speaking of strength, yesterday I bought a new bathroom scale that measures not only body weight, but bone weight, water content, muscle and fat. It works by sending a weak electrical pulse through your body and measuring the resistance. Isn't this more interesting than simply calculating your BMI? Now, I'm certainly not going to tell you my fat percentage or muscle weight, but I will admit that Max's muscle weight is almost as high as mine (!), in spite of his short stature. I'm hoping this new gadget will motivate me to walk or work out more and eat a bit less.
At work, I finished my big task of polishing a translation into seven languages. It's amazing how much of a language you can learn by spending a few weeks on a task like that. I now recognize many more words in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, and Danish. (The project also included German and Swedish, but I already know those languages.) I see how verbs are conjugated, how the past tense is formed, and what endings verbs take when they become adjectives. It's all very interesting to a geek like me. I got a new dictionary out of the deal, as well. J
I'm now involved in two very busy projects at work, so I feel a bit frazzled by the end of every workday. Fortunately, I "leave it at the office" and never think about it when I'm off. I see that as one of the perks of rarely working from home.
Sunday, August 30
Our family was playing Cluedo recently when Max (despite losing the game) suddenly burst out, "I'm so happy!" When Bengt and I chuckled, he said, "Really! I'm serious! It's like a feeling of happiness running through my body!" I thought that was great – and it also made me think. Joy in life can come from small pleasures, like playing a board game with your family, just as much as expensive adventures like traveling to Alaska.
In that vein: At a recent work meeting we were discussing selling our software to some very out-of-the-way countries. A skeptical colleague said, "We don't want to get paid in goats." That tickled me (and a few other colleagues) so much that we started reusing the expression. "Hey, thanks a lot! Great work.... Can I pay you in goats?" Or "That'd be great if you could do that. How many goats is it going to cost me?" Bah ha!
When I told Bengt about this, his response was, "You people need to get out more."
This evening I took Max and a neighbor boy, Jakob, to a new skateboard park about a mile from our house. It was built by the county, and anyone can go at any time. There's no personnel, no cost.... no signs, no anything. There were a lot of young (and youngish) guys there. The average age seemed to be around 22. As far as I could tell, there were only two other kids below age 13.
So I thought it might be a little rough, but I was amazed at how civil it was. The guys applauded each others' cool tricks, even when they didn't know the guy who did the trick. When they fell or failed at a trick (which happened constantly), there was no swearing. Isn't that amazing? I didn't hear a single swear word in the 90 minutes we were there. I didn't see any evidence of embarrassed self-consciousness. And everyone did their best to stay out of each other's way.
Max and Jakob are beginners, and after watching for awhile they scoped out a relatively easy part where they could get started. The big guys were whizzing by on that spot pretty frequently, and I was a little worried that Max and his friend would be in the way and considered telling them that this wasn't a good place for them to practice. But after they started using that spot, the big guys avoided it pretty much and it seemed fine. I thought that was really tolerant and friendly, considering how crowded the place was. They showed us that everyone can take their space at this park.
After about 45 minutes we noticed that guys were starting to use that spot again. It was like a gentle poke: "Ok, you two newbies, you need to move on." But by then they had gotten in the groove and could use other parts of the park, and they had enough control (barely) that they could steer out of the way of "traffic".
There was not a single girl there, which I found sad. Also, very few of the big guys had any protective gear on -- not even helmets. Max and his friend were of course padded to the hilt—and it was a good thing they were, because as beginners they took some pretty bad spills. Jakob took a substantial thump to the head once, and landed flat on his back once. Yikes! Max got the wind knocked out of him. That was hard to watch, but the padding and helmets did their job. Fortunately, this sport seems to be a little less dangerous than I first thought. I didn't see any actual injuries while I was there and no bloodstains on the concrete (yes, I looked). And at any rate, I don't think it would occur to Max and Jakob to ride skateboards without their protective gear at this point.
They had a blast.
Sunday, August 23
I'm still congested but am much better now. I read that for some people, the H1N1 virus is like a bad cold, so I hope that's what I had and that I'm now immune to that particular virus. Back to work tomorrow!
Because I'm polishing up a Portuguese translation at work, I ordered a new Portuguese dictionary online. It was described has having over 40,000 words and phrases, and over 65,000 translations, and 458 pages, so I assumed it was a full-size dictionary. However, it's only 6 x 4 inches, and the print is so small that neither Bengt nor I can read it without a magnifying glass—I'm not exaggerating! How can they publish something like that? I guess it's good for someone who wants to travel light—and who has exceptionally good eyesight....
This summer we've had a lot of crickets and grasshoppers in our area. In previous summers I've missed that nice cricket chorus that you hear in Michigan on warm summer evenings, but this year we have it! Max noticed it, too: "It sounds just like in Michigan!" Here is a specimen we discovered last weekend in front of our house. It's at least two inches long. I've never seen one like it here in Sweden before. In our back yard we have a lot of the regular brown variety of grasshopper right now. More dragonflies than usual, too.
Monday, August 17, 2009: Summer's over
Wow, it's been a long time since I wrote. Part of the reason is that I've been busy. Another part is because Max now reads this, and he (understandably) feels embarrassed when I write details of his inner life, publish nerdy pictures of him, etc. Yet another part is because of our work for Social Services, which isn't something I can blog about.
I'll try to be better, and write about what I can. I did write a travelogue of our Alaska trip, at least! That was a wonderful trip. Since then we've been mostly taking it easy at home, although a couple weeks ago Max and I did a thoroughly enjoyable overnight trip to Skara sommarland (amusement park) with friends.
Bengt's mom has moved into an apartment. His dad is settled in the retirement home but is not well. It's been a strenuous and sad summer for the family.
Max and his friends start school on Wednesday, so today and tomorrow are their last days of summer freedom. Today they spent most of the day playing computer games and watching a movie. (I told them no screens tomorrow.) For lunch I gave them money and sent them to a pizzeria, which they loved. I didn't want to prepare their food, as I have a bad cold, which is why I'm home from work.
Max decided to continue with soccer, floorball and piano, but quit ju-jitsu. Three organized activities is plenty—though he's also thinking of joining scouts again. We'll see if the requested scout troop has any vacancies.
We're still having pretty nice weather, but some evenings are quite cool. Clearly fall is on the way. Soon we'll start up the book group again, and other fall activities will be underway, as well.
Last week Max and I finished viewing all seven seasons of STNG. We've been watching since the end of June last year. There are 178 episodes, so by my calculation that's an average of three episodes a week. Maybe I should be embarrassed, but we've had fun, and it's the only thing we watch together. In our defense, we watched more when we were sick or stuck on a plane, and we skipped a couple of the creepiest episodes. Max just might be the only boy in Sweden who has seen virtually all episodes of Next Generation and Deep Space Nine.
We've already started on Voyager. J