What's New at the Pålssons'

 

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

Thursday, June 30, 2011

We had a great visit with Lin recently. She and I spent a lot of time on the balcony and on the deck. Lin got to see most of the local fauna the first evening—a hare, deer, and even a fox. One afternoon some friends came over with their two kids and Bengt grilled burgers. Another day we went to Stockholm's old town, and we took a nice little Segway tour (with Max). Max was thrilled! Then the four of us had a meal at our favorite restaurant, Hanoi Bar.

A couple weeks ago Max and I bought an additional new hamster cage and tubes (used) on an auction site. It is similar to Habitrail. We are hoping that our hamster will slim down and feel more energetic. So far he has not lost a single gram, although he learned to nagivate the tubes pretty quickly (after we reconfigured them to make it easier for him). Now he likes to eat and even nap in the tubes:

We got Max some new shoes the other day, size 42. This means that at 11½ years old Max has the biggest feet in this household.  (I wear size 41-42. Bengt wears size 40-41.) We can wear each others' shoes! That feels weird.

Lately I've been realizing that I'm losing more and more English words. I couldn't remember beech(wood) and had to look it up in a Swedish-English dictionary. Same with grains of sand. It's a bit alarming, and I'm not sure what to do about it. I read quite a bit in English (say about one book per week), but apparently that's not enough.

I'll be on "staycation" next week and the following week – yay! (Interestingly, there's a similar Swedish word, a combination of home [hem] and vacation [semester]: hemester. Neat.)


Saturday, June 11

Max called with an update. One of the boys spent the night in the ER after bonking his head on a water slide. He is now ok.

Max fell asleep around 2 a.m. and got up at 7:30. He sounded like he was in good shape, but I predict there will be some very tired kids coming home to their parents Sunday night.

They've been posting pictures and comments on a Facebook event page. It's pretty neat that parents who stayed at home can get these updates almost instantaneously.

It's 30 degrees C. (86 F.) in the shade here today, and sunny. Bengt has been napping much of the day (he doesn't do well in the heat). I've been mostly sitting out back in the shade, reading and doing Sudoku puzzles. J


Friday, June 10

Well, Max left this morning for Gotland with his 5th-grade class. They have been working towards this weekend for about two years, and I think they're going to have a great time. Max was a little nervous, but not as much as I would have expected. Five responsible parents are going along, so the kids are in good hands. They're supposed to have reasonably good weather, but it is cooler on that island. (It was downright hot here today.)

Yesterday we printed a packing list, and Max methodically collected his things and checked them off the list. That's my boy!

At bedtime we heard an unfamiliar loud sound coming from outside. It really got our attention, and it didn't stop. I couldn't imagine what it was, so I went outside on our balcony, and that's when I saw the deer, a pretty young buck, standing alone in our yard and basically bleating loudly. He was looking around, as if he were lost or looking for other deer. I've never seen a deer alone around here, and I've never heard anything like that sound. (In fact, I'd never heard any deer sounds at all, despite the fact that there are two small groups of deer in our area.) I saw other incredulous neighbors at their windows, as well.

The bleating continued for another minute or so, and then the buck wandered away. He didn't look injured or anything. I immediately got on the Internet and found several sites where you can listen to deer sounds and read what they mean. Like this one: http://www.myoan.net/huntingart/deer_calls.html

The sound closest to what we heard was "Buck bawl", which is supposed to signal the desire for company. But our buck's calls were much louder, longer, and more urgent-sounding. If I had to take a wild guess, I'd say this guy was recently given the boot from his original family and was wanting to find some other deer to hang out with. I don't know if that's how it works, but that was my gut feeling. I felt sorry for him but was glad he wasn't injured.

I got home from work at 5 p.m. today, did a lot of yard work, took several breaks in my favorite lawn chair, and tried to call a friend who wasn't home. Bengt has been fiddling with some records (yes, LPs) that he picked up someplace. Now suddenly it's 10 p.m. and dusk. It's so quiet around here without Max!

I thought we were going to have a lot of rain this weekend, but now they're saying it should be nice tomorrow. We shall see.


Monday, June 6

In the past month we've had incredible luck with the weather—beautiful on weekends, and any cool or rainy weather we've had has been while I was at the office. Now that our deck is finished, I've been spending practically every waking moment out there, including mealtimes. It's so gorgeous that it seems a shame to spend time indoors.

Thursday and today were holidays, and all three of us had Friday off, so we had a wonderful five-day break from routine—with fantastic weather every moment. It was paradise! I did loads of yard work, but also spent many hours reading, doing Sudoku puzzles, chatting with Bengt or Max, or just leaning back in my lawn chair listening to birds and staring at the sky. Here's the view:

We also got a big blow-up pool that we set up temporarily for when our little friends visited us. They loved it. It was fun watching them have squirt gun fights with Max. I could easily spend the whole summer like this (if the weather holds).

Max is the proud owner of a cute year-old dwarf hamster, Nuffe. Max bought Nuffe from a friend and is caring for him faithfully every day. This hamster is really fat, so the first thing we did is reduce his access to food, down to the amount that a hamster is supposed to get each day, and for now without the fatty seeds. We don't want him to go hungry, but hopefully this (in combination with a lot of stimulation in the evenings) will give him back his svelte figure and reduce the risk that he'll get stuck in the cage's climbing tubes (!).

Nuffe is still wary of his new owner but has let each of us handle him a few times so far. He has taken up residence in the playroom, and we are careful not to disturb him during the day, when he's sleeping.

I keep having disturbing dreams that we move to another house, either here in Sollentuna or in another town or even in another country. Each dream is different, but in each case I realize too late that we made a mistake. In some cases I have appealed to Bengt and begged him to get us out of the mess, and he managed to get our house sale & purchase revoked—at great financial cost, but what a relief to be able to get out of it. In one dream, Bengt had arranged for us to move to a house that was supposedly in a rich natural environment, so I was excited about that. It turned out to remind me of one particular Lake Michigan rental house we had for a week in Michigan City one year—grimy and dingy, with a dusty dog run out back! Bengt had clearly gotten that house because of the dog run (he wants a dog). I was livid. J When I told Bengt this dream, he suggested I seek counseling. J

Today they were showing a house right across the street from us that is for sale. After discussing it with Bengt, I went and had a look. (We are pretty upset that the lot next to ours has been split and a new house is going to go up there.) It was interesting to check out the house and the yard, but I was mighty relieved that it wasn't a house that would suit us. Moving – what an ordeal! I wouldn't mind if I never had to move again.


Tuesday, May 10

This past weekend I did many hours of yard work, and it was so satisfying! The area around the deck is looking much nicer. Among other things, I bought an expensive bush and planted it out back. It looks great! I bought a dozen 50-liter bags of topsoil and spread it around in back. I bought some ground cover and flowers and planted all that, too.

Today I left work a couple hours early and did more yard work. I got another dozen sacks of topsoil and more flowers. Planted the flowers and replanted the wild strawberries that I had dug up and saved before the deck was built. Watered everything intensely, as it is hot and sunny here! Woo-hoo!

Max asked me this morning, "Mom, can you fry water?" Doh! He's been asking so many obvious questions lately (and some of them he calls me at work to ask me). "Mom, what time is floorball practice?" (It hasn't changed since October.) "Mom, should I wear a my hat?" (It was snowing.) "Mom, where is my jacket?" (Right where it always is!)

Lately my mantra has become, "Max, use your own brain!" I don't mind if he calls me at work, but I have asked him to think for five seconds before doing so. Nine times out of ten he can answer his own question.


Saturday, May 7

The snow melted quickly, the weather improved slowly throughout the week, and today it was absolutely gorgeous again. I spent much of the day gardening and cleaning up the deck-building scrap. We had a few beams and boards left over, and I was going to haul it to the recycling center with the rest of the scrap, but on a whim I put an add on Blocket (auction site) and within an hour about 10 people had called. Within two hours a guy had come with a trailer and hauled it away. That felt good – better to give it away than haul it to the dump.

I also spent a few hours reading in the sun on our new deck. Awesome!!! We had a reasonably nice yard back there before, but for some reason it feels a lot more luxurious to hang out on the deck. We should have built it years ago.

We finally broke down and bought a trampoline last Sunday, and here you see Max and his friend Adrian jumping on it. Max has been outside a lot more lately.

I got a new computer at work. It's supposedly four times faster than my old one, but it has Windows 7. (I had Windows XP and avoided switching as long as possible. I loved that old dinosaur.) I may well appreciate it later, but until I adjust, it's just irritating to have a new operating system. It reminds me of when I got my new android phone and couldn't immediately see how to use the thing to make a simple phone call. Everything takes longer and requires more thought – which is annoying when you view machines as means to an end rather than as cool new toys.


May 3 – more snow!

We had a great visit with Marlin and Jackie. We visited Vaxholm and Stockholm's old town, went on SkyView on top of the Globe, did a round of flea markets, visited a local nursery, went for a walk in our neighborhood, enjoyed our balcony and brand new deck (finished while they were here), and more.

We had gorgeous weather! Here's a picture Jackie took of me and Bengt:

Nice, huh? This one was taken the day after they left (so yesterday, May 3):

I had to scrape my car before driving to work! In May!


April 3 – the last of the snow (we hope!)

It snowed twice more this week – ARGH! However, then it warmed up a bit, and now most of it has melted. It seems like spring has finally arrived. Fingers crossed!

That had to have been the longest winter we've ever had. Yesterday I felt amazed when I looked out the back door—so many colors! Nothing has sprouted yet out there, but there were all those different shades of brown, gray, ochre, pine green, and black. It was a riot of color compared to the snow-covered landscape we've had out there since November. (Since November!)

I played six little pranks on Max on April Fool's Day. It was fun!

  • I put a rubber snake in the cupboard. That was a small shock first thing in the morning when he went to get something to drink.
  • I put a small bowl of cereal & milk on the freezer over night. Then at breakfast time I covered that with a little more cereal & milk, so he couldn't see the frozen clump. Surprise!
  • I put an Easter egg dye tablet in the faucet in the bathroom, so the water came out yellow.
  • I hid is cell phone and acted like I didn't know anything about it. When he used our land line to dial the number so he could find it, he found it taped under his chair at the breakfast table. Hee-hee!
  • I put a little Post-it note over the lamp under Max's mouse, so it temporarily didn't work.
  • I hid a plastic bug in his bed, so he saw it when he pulled back the covers.

Max's teacher played a trick on the kids, too. She said that it was decided that next year all sixth graders would get new computers. She passed out an official-looking notice about it, and Max and a few of the other kids were over the moon – until she admitted it was a joke. (I don't know what Max was so excited about - he's got a fantastic computer already. Bengt keeps it in tip-top shape. He's so lucky!)

I'm still really enjoying Kakuro. I find it so relaxing. I love to sit in the living room and drink coffee and do puzzles. And now I've gone back and tried Sudoku again, and I like that, too. I realized there was more strategy to it than I originally thought, and that makes it more interesting.
 


Tuesday, March 15

Could there be any other preteen boys in Sweden who would happily watch Pride and Prejudice with their mom? In English? And want to discuss the characters and plot afterwards? And express concern that Mary Bennett might find it difficult to find a suitable mate? Oh man, we had such a fun Jane Austen evening last week! I never would have believed it. Must dig out Sense and Sensibility for our next movie night....

Max has been in line for two years at our local music school to take percussion lessons. (I think he was originally inspired by Ben's drums, and he's been talking about it more lately.) This week he finally got in. When I asked if he wanted to start drum lessons, he said, "Yes, if I don't have to quit piano." ?!?! I was pretty surprised. To me he always seems neutral about playing piano. Anyway, he starts drums on Monday. Hope he enjoys it. (Hope Bengt and I don't regret this as soon as Max starts practicing....)

Recently I got hooked on a new game: Kakuro. It's a solitary Japanese number game similar to Sudoku. I found Sudoku disappointing because it's not a real math game. The nine symbols (in this case the numbers 1-9) could be any anything – nine fruits, nine animals, anything. Kakuro is much more fun because you have to add the numbers together. You might pick up one of those cheap Kakuro magazines next time you visit the grocery store, and give it a try. (Or hasn't this caught on yet in the U.S.?)

I got a book of super-easy Kakuro puzzles for a certain six-year-old I know, and he enjoys it, too. Bonus!
 


Thursday, March 3

Rest in peace, little Speedo. He was a good fish. We got him in September 2009, so I guess he lived to middle age, at least. We tried to help him when he got weak but couldn't figure out what he needed, despite intense googling.

Now we have two platies left. I don't think we'll be getting any more fish. The aquarium thing has lost its attraction for us. Max is really pushing for a dog, now that Bengt is working for the Swedish Kennel Club. I don't see this happening in my lifetime.

Max has been off school this week. He's done very little but play Minecraft. This game consumes much of his free time (probably even more than sports) and 90% of his brain power, if the questions he's been asking me on the phone when he calls me at work are any indication.

I was complaining to a colleague about this, and it turned out the colleague is a big Minecraft player himself. He suggested I install the game on my own computer and join Max. We could build stuff together. Hmm. I can actually see the attraction, but the last thing I want to do after sitting in front of a computer all day at work is to sit in front of a computer all evening.


Monday, February 28

Ok, we are getting pretty tired of this cold weather. We've had low temperatures and snow on the ground since November, and we're ready for winter to end. Bengt is tired of shoveling snow, and I'm tired of shoveling out money to pay for the deer feed that the animals are eating more and more of with each passing day of winter. By now other animals have discovered the food – for example this hare and a field mouse. I thought mice hibernated! (I said this to a colleague, and he said, "No, mice don't hibernate. They come into my house.")

Max made up a great word the other day. He was having trouble remembering the word slippers, so he started calling them muffles. I love it! So much more descriptive (at least for this style) than slippers.


Wednesday, February 23

Yesterday I accompanied all the fifth-graders from Max's school to a local lake. In connection with their "safety on the ice" training, each of the students (almost all of them!) jumped into the lake, fully clothed and carrying backpacks. Then they climbed out using ice picks that they were wearing around their necks.

It was -13° C. and windy. As soon as they got out and got the safety rope off, the kids ran (many of them screaming their heads off—from shock, relief or exhilaration, I'm not sure) to a tent about 100 yards away, where they changed into dry clothes.

As you know, we have a very long winter here in Sweden, and we have lots of lakes, which we use for skating, skiing, and just taking walks on. It makes a lot of sense to teach the kids to wear ice picks whenever they're out on the ice, how it feels to go through the ice, and how to get out.

I posted these pictures on Facebook, but I can't resist posting them here, too:

 
Max approaches the edge and takes the plunge.


He's in! Man that's cold!


And he climbs out using his ice picks. Good job!

I wish I could post the video, but there are other kids in it so I can't do that without permission from a bunch of people. I filmed each and every kid jumping in and climbing out. (At the end of the school year each of the kids will get the DVD, edited by the gym teacher.) BOY did my back get sore from standing in the cold for three hours holding a video camera!

It was an interesting and rather exciting day. I was glad I'd taken the day off work to experience it.

Can you imagine the litigation nightmare this would be in the U.S.? Yet kids practicing football (for example) are worked until they throw up or keel over from heat stroke. I know there have even been deaths. How is that different? This is teaching kids, in a controlled environment, how to handle a situation that could otherwise easily result in catastrophe. I think it's great!


Sunday, February 13

I spent hours this weekend thinking about and researching possible vacations. There is so much to do and see in our beautiful world. It's hard to choose. Max has been itching to visit Hawaii. He got all excited when I brought it up as a possibility: "Hawaii! YES! Let's go to Hawaii!" But then a few minutes later: "Wait, are there cockroaches in Hawaii? Because if there are cockroaches, I don't want to go." Ha ha! I understand his horror of cockroaches. I've never seen one in Sweden.

A part in the flushing mechanism of in our upstairs toilet broke, and we had to order a new part. My interim solution: A little note pasted to the toilet seat, reminding us to use the downstairs bathroom. Bengt's interim solution: Duct tape. I burst out laughing when I saw him heading for the bathroom with a lamp strapped to his forehead, a wrench in one hand and a roll of duct tape in the other. But his mission was a success!
 


Saturday, February 12

I've been assigned to a new project at work and have been working 9-10 hours every day. It's grueling—but temporary. We're supposed to be done by the end of March.

We got a lot of snow Thursday and Friday. If we'd been in the US, schools would have been closed. But they don't do that here. Bengt and I went out to shovel the driveway at about 7:30, but our neighborhood hadn't been plowed yet (that didn't happen until late afternoon), and soon we started noticing our neighbors' cars getting stuck in the street. It was kind of funny looking down the long street and seeing all these cars stuck and people scrambling to move them. We took our shovels and helped a few people get their cars back into their driveways. (Then those we'd helped came with us to help others.) It was clear that no one was getting out of the neighborhood without four-wheel drive and/or studded tires.

After a rest, Bengt and Max went out and cleared the rest of the driveway. (Max was supposed to have a cooking lesson over at another school, but we couldn't get him there.) Bengt stayed home for awhile longer, until others with utility vehicles had made tracks in the street. Then he made a run for it, but he called me to say that if he'd had to stop, he'd have been stuck.

The situation was still the same at lunchtime, but I needed to get to the office so I tried and managed to get out, as well. It was true what Bengt said: I had to maintain a slow, steady speed, because if I'd had to stop, the car would have gotten stuck. The other streets were also bad but passable, having been plowed at some point.

We still put out deer feed every day. The five that come by here eat a whole bucket every day. I don't know if they would have survived without it, considering all the snow we've had this winter. At the very least they are a lot healthier and more comfortable than they would have been.

When I went out the other evening to refill the bucket, I slipped in the snow. It wasn't a bad fall – I just went down on my knees – but unluckily my knee went down squarely on a sharp rock. It punctured a vein in my knee, and by the time I got inside (a minute later), there was a lump big enough to impress Max. J I had to spend the next hour with an ice pack on it. Fortunately, we were about to watch an episode of Star Trek on DVD anyway. Now I have an ugly bruise that hurts when I touch it but fortunately not when I walk.
 


Sunday, January 30 – back from Athens

I had a great time to Athens this week. I was there with ReadSoft, for three days of constructive work meetings and events, but I also made sure I had two and a half days of free time.

During my free time I saw the usual tourist attractions, such as the Acropolis and Parthenon, the New Acropolis Museum, the National Archaeological Museum, Ancient Agora, Temple of Zeus, the "flea market," and so on. Of course I also took a little time to shop. I found a fantastic bead shop, where I picked out my own beads and they made a necklace to my specifications right there. And I bought a leather bag, since that's the thing to buy in Athens. J


Eileen and a view from the Acropolis.

The city seemed run down. There was graffiti all over the place, which is a real shame. But the people are so friendly and have a special flair. The place really grows on you. And the food was fabulous! A fresh and tasty variety of lettuce and other vegetables, fruit, pastas, cheeses, grilled halloumi, sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, olives, white wines.... Delicious, all of it! The hotel (InterContinental Athenaeum) had the best breakfast buffet I've ever seen. You feel like the good food really nourishes your body and mind. I don't know about you, but a good breakfast in the morning sets the tone for my whole day, especially if I'm going to be running around all day.

Something that made an impression on me was all the stray dogs running around. It was a little disconcerting at first, but they all seemed very friendly and well fed. I didn't see any that looked skinny or menacing. People would pet them and even play with them. This dog is napping in the entrance of a downtown H&M store. He probably thought that the carpet was placed there for his benefit. Customers stepped carefully around the dog when entering or leaving the store.

I saw plenty of stray cats, too – wary of dogs and people but obviously fed.


Sunday, January 16

Our new sofa for the TV room was delivered today! It feels dangerously luxurious to sink down into an individual reclining seat with a remote control in each hand!

Last Sunday I discovered that Max was going skating with his class on Wednesday (and several subsequent Wednesdays). And he didn't have any skates that fit. Envisioning a mad scramble to find skates this late in the season, I got online and actually found a pair of really good gently used skates right here in Sollentuna. These skates normally cost 600 kronor but a family was selling them for 200 even though they were barely used. Picked them up on Monday after work, and Max loves them. Woo-hoo! (Or, as Max would say, "giggety-gig!")

Speaking of skates, we still can't skate on any of the lakes around here. Even though we've had really cold weather since November, we also have a lot of snow. Atop of a thin layer of ice, that snow acts like insulation and prevents the ice from growing thicker. So this has been a very disappointing winter for skating.

Right now we're having a temporary thaw. The snow is melting and it's actually raining. Yuck! (When I went out to refill the tub of deer pellets, I bonked it against a tree to empty it, and I was drenched by an avalanche of wet snow from the tree.) But it's supposed to get cold again on Tuesday.

Yesterday I took Max and one of his friends swimming at the local pool. I swam laps myself, too. It felt great!
 


January 9

The Swedish National Veterinary Institute has recommended that people feed deer and other wildlife this winter due to the extreme volume of snow. Forty percent (!) of the deer population is at risk of starving to death, if they don't get some support. So since November we've been putting out reindeer and horse feed in a plastic storage container. As you can imagine, we have quite a wildlife show going on behind our house, and we have to refill the container every day.

At the moment we're having a thaw – our first one since November. But the deer are still coming by for meals. I took this picture from our back door today.
 


January 6 – floorball tournament in a snowstorm

Today I spent many hours carting Max and his friends around various school gymnasiums in Uppsala for a floorball tournament. We had a snowstorm and it was the worst weather I've ever driven in. Plus we initially didn't even know where we were going: I thought that all the parents driving the team would caravan. But no, it was every man for himself. Everybody just scattered after each match. Thank heavens one of the boys had a complete schedule, including school names, and he found driving instructions on his Android phone – and Max found detailed road maps on mine. They even found compasses on the phones. (I didn't even know I had those functions on my new phone…) Between the two of them, the boys told me exactly where to drive. I was impressed.

Still, it was harrowing driving in that storm. One of the schools was way out in the boondocks. The snow was blowing sideways, the road hadn't been plowed, and we couldn't even see the road – only the guideposts along the sides. Seriously, it was insane. They should have canceled that match out in the boondocks.

It's a three-day floorball tournament with kids from all over. The kids sleep on the floor in school classrooms. Other parents take over the driving tomorrow. Phew!

Bengt drove at last year's tournament. There was no snowstorm then, but it was a memorable 30 degrees below.
 


January 1, 2011 – Happy New Year!

We had a nice NYE celebration with our friends. We had lobster, crab legs, and cheese quiche, and then cake and ice cream. Hanna, age 10, made the chocolate cake, and I think it's the best one I've ever tasted. Later we toasted in the new year, burned some jumbo sparklers, and went through a pile of fireworks. We've celebrated with the same family since 2004 and I really enjoy this tradition.

This year we'd gotten some clay to occupy the kids. Here are some of the things they made. Isn't the penguin family cute? I thought the serving platter with saffron buns (done by the seven-year-old Elin) was very creative! Max made the egg in the frying pan and the yellow hat. (Later I made the little penguin—copying Hanna's design—and the cat on the rug.) Making things out of clay was surprisingly fun. Maybe we'll make that part of the tradition.

Bengt and Max went up on the roof (!) this morning and cleared off the satellite dish and ventilation opening. We've had an unbelievable amount of snow so far this winter – and about 8 inches more last night. Bengt is thinking of having someone come and clear off our steep roof, because the snow is "sticking" up there and getting really heavy.

But otherwise we are having the laziest day ever. I read a novel this morning, with a box of chocolates on the table beside me, and this afternoon I'm catching up on bill-paying, filing, and email. Max and Bengt have been in front of screens all day, except when they were out "rearranging the precipitation".

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