Monday, November 17, 2014

Wait, what's that symptom called?

Many of my long-time readers know that I've been experiencing menopausal symptoms since I was about 30. And then I took a whole bunch of drugs to try and get pregnant, and I experienced what felt like every other possible hormone-related symptom. 

I have a new one. If I think about it, it's been coming on slowly for a few months now, but it was very mild and I guess I always assumed it was related to the weather. But I started taking a low-dose HRT (Estrogel Propak) and now I see it for what it really is: a symptom of decreasing estrogen levels that makes me think I'm losing my fucking mind. 

It's called formication. No, read it again. Right. With an "m". 

And it's the feeling that your skin is crawling right off your body. If you Google it (and many of you have probably already done so), you'll see that it is also described as a feeling that there are insects crawling all over your body. It's a symptom that people with the DTs sometimes get.

I've had one really bad episode and a couple of somewhat bad episodes so far. The bad episode actually started while I was driving, and that wasn't something I want to repeat. I got home and took an antihistamine - there was no rash, but I was so itchy that I thought I must be having some kind of allergic reaction. Then I had a sudden thought that it might be related to the new drugs I'm on and googled "skin crawling + estrogen" and it all made sense. This also may explain the very random hives I've been getting every so often (like, one hive at a time, on my face, with no explanation) for the past few years. 

It gets better once I take my daily dose of hormones, which I do in the evening, no earlier than 9pm. The problem is that it often starts around 7pm, and I don't want to keep taking my hormones earlier and earlier or I'll end up taking them at noon, which is ridiculous and ill-advised, as they make me sleepy. 

So it looks like I just try not to scratch for an hour or so each night. But holy crap, it is maddening. Like, "tie me up in a straight-jacket and put me in a padded cell" kind of crazy-making. And I KNOW what's going on. 

So, ladies, as you approach menopause, be aware of some of the symptoms of decreasing estrogen levels. Because otherwise, you'll think you're losing your ever-loving mind. 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Dear Moe (September and October)

My dear, beautiful boy. I can’t get over how much you have changed and developed in the past two months since starting full-day junior kindergarten. Let me tell you about some of our adventures since September.

Your debut at school went super well. You were excited, happy and eager to be at school, and the drop-off went well on the first day and every day since. I’m so proud of your self-confidence. You made a friend right away – Nathan – and the two of you have been pretty inseparable ever since. You have other friends, too, and come home with lovely stories about sharing and trading classroom toys and the various games you play on the playground. You bid your Daddy goodbye each morning with a flying high-five, and head happily off into the Early-Day Program.

It has been wonderful to see and hear all the amazing things you are learning. Your class did a unit on butterflies – your teacher had a butterfly habitat in the classroom and you were able to observe first-hand the life cycle of caterpillar to “hanging J” to chrysalis to butterfly. And every week for a few weeks, you had a butterfly release party (complete with lovely paper crowns) where your classmates would send butterflies off into the wild with some great songs (“Gotta go, gotta go, gotta go to Mexico!” and “Fly, fly away, butterfly”). You were very disappointed that you were not one of the children chosen to actually release the butterflies, and it was a sore subject for a week or so. But it was a good lesson that not everyone gets picked to do everything. (You were selected to be the leader to the cloak room one day, though, and were pretty darn happy about that, even if one kid barged in front of you and went in first anyway. I explained that you could take comfort in knowing you were the TRUE and CHOSEN leader. The world is full of turkeys, darling. Try not to let them get you down.)

Meet the Teacher Night was lovely, if chaotic. You took great pride in showing us around your classroom and following the teacher’s classroom scavenger hunt. We are looking forward to the Parent-Teacher Interview appointment in the next week or so. It will be nice to see the work you’ve done on projects related to themes like worms, fall colours, and more recently, knights and castles.

You have brought home incredible artwork (complete with descriptive sentences!), and it has been so wonderful to see that you write your own name on your work now. In September, you were obviously using a model and the letters were very carefully formed. Now, you work without a model and your signature is fantastic. The first, third, and fifth letters are always backwards. It’s adorable. We have noticed your growing interest in numbers, reading, and French. You can count to ten in French. You understand addition and are getting very good at it. You often quiz me with mental math questions, some of which we work on together. We do your reading homework and your sound book together every night at story-time and it has been amazing to watch you improve each day. For the past two weeks, we have received lovely praise in your communications book from your teachers praising how well you read your weekly reader to your friends.

In addition to being in the Early-Day Program before school in the mornings, you have been in the Extended-Day Program in the afternoons. In October, we reduced to this three days a week, with Granny picking you up on Mondays and Tuesday. In January, we’ll go down to one day a week and (a freshly retired!) Grandma will pick you up on Wednesdays and Thursdays. While you are at school for the same number of hours that you were at Robin’s, school is just so much more intense, and the days feel very long for you. Also, you don’t seem to really enjoy the afternoon program all that much, for a number of reasons.

You have greatly enjoyed your time with Granny, though. You have raked leaves, steamed broccoli, taken bus trips, and played all kinds of games together. Your favourite game is one that most people call Store, but for some reason, you call it World.

You have had some wonderful day-long playdates with Grandma in the past few months, too. She took you to Funhaven (your head just about exploded with how much fun you had), and to the Canadian Children’s Museum to see the Bob the Builder Exhibit. You have great conversations together. I know you’ll be very happy to have more time with her in January.

Autumn has brought all kinds of great adventures. We celebrated your scholastic debut with a photo session with Sara McConnell, who you remembered from the family portraits we had done for your third birthday. You had a great time, and we were really pleased with the results.

I brought you to the Ottawa Geek Market, which was held at Nepean Sportsplex at the beginning of October. You were dressed as Mario, and you were a total hit. They had face painting there, so I had the woman paint you a moustache. People stopped to take photos with you. People were offering us all kind of free stuff because you were just so darn cute. We got our photo taken with the TARDIS and you met (and were enchanted by) a remote control K-9. You did end up with a slight case of the “gimmies,” but you enjoyed watching people play video games and left with a spider man change purse and a great new board game (My First Carcassone). You asked if we could go back again the following weekend. I had to break it to you that the Geek Market is only on twice a year.

We had a lot of exciting lead up to a great annual event that Uncle Mark puts together: Game-A-Thon. I explained that Daddy and some friends would be playing video games (and table top games) for 24-hours straight to raise money for the kids who are sick at CHEO. I also told you we would go and spend the day, that our chosen family would be there, and that you could do THREE 30-minute sessions with your DS. You just about lost your mind with excitement. And then a few days later, you were sorting money from your elephant bank and set aside a pile of coins, asking, “Can I raise these coins for geo?” It took me a few minutes to figure out that you meant “Can I donate them to CHEO?” You made a very nice donation to the money pot at the event, and had the time of your life. You played Mario Kart 7 with Loralei, you played Rock Bank with Sean, you played Forza with Uncle Mark, and you played Trouble with Becka. You ate Timbits and Ringolos for lunch. It was insane.

And THEN, as if that wasn’t enough, I took you from there to Gemma’s house for her birthday/Halloween party! I was worried your brain would explode. You made a Mr. Potato Head pumpkin, played with a toy ambulance, wowed people with your costume, ate a plate of lasagna and an entire cupcake, and then left with a loot bag, a glow stick, and a helium balloon. We tied the balloon to your wrist for the trip home. We got into the house, and as I was taking off your shoes (hard to do with a balloon on your wrist), I saw you pulling at the ribbon. I asked you not to untie the ribbon yet, until I could help you. You failed to heed my warning. The balloon sailed up to our stucco ceiling and popped with a spectacular sound. It took you a moment to figure out what had happened, but you understood when I held up the broken balloon. Trying to be brave, you said, “At least I still have my glowstick.” And then you burst into tears.

I explained that it is perfectly okay to be sad about losing something you were excited about having. We sat on the couch and had a cuddle, you took solace in your amazing Potato-Head-Pumpkin, and soon felt better. But you declared solemnly that you never wanted another balloon again because it would pop and you would be sad. I hope you can learn that as painful as it can be to lose something or someone we love, what we gain from loving in the first place can far outweigh the pain of the loss.

Our lives have been full of new babies lately! In the past few months, you’ve met Baby Harriet, Baby Dorothy and Baby Rowan. You find them cute, you enjoy “holding” them (sitting with them propped up against you on the couch) and are intrigued by how small they are. You are always really excited when you find out you will be spending time with one of them. 

Aunt Janine came across another small and cute creature… in her backyard. She found a newborn kitten, which she wanted to bring to the Ottawa Humane Society. So we drove her there, and you watched as she surrendered little Egon (who didn’t even have his eyes open yet). And while we were there and I’d already dosed with you Benadryl, we stopped in to pet the kitties. You LOVED petting the kitties. I think we will have to dope you up on Benadryl and bring you back there again. 

You greatly enjoyed Halloween this year, trick or treating for longer than you ever had, and making lots of friends along the way. I was very proud of how hard you worked to be polite and say “trick or treat,” “thank you!” and “happy Halloween!” to each person. 

In September, we started you into two weekend activities – one on each day of the weekend. On Saturdays, you have swimming lessons. This has been a long time coming. We have all worked really hard to get you comfortable in the water since the Swimming Lesson Disaster of 2012. This has involved trips to Bambi and Simon's large and quiet pool, swimming at Ted and Jen's, swimming at Disney. Things started to look promising in July when you were willing to be in the pool and not glued to me. You had a real breakthrough in August when you suddenly decided that if you were wearing a lifejacket you could actually let go of the edge of the pool. It was amazing. You blew us away with your first lesson – you were one of three boys and the only one who didn't end up crying or refusing to go into the pool. You listened, participated, and did everything asked of you. Within a few weeks, you were dunking yourself under water. You will be graduating from Low-Ratio Sea Otter soon, and we've already signed you up for Low-Ratio Salmander. I worried about having you in two activities at the same time while starting kindergarten, but I have no regrets. 

Because you're still really enjoying gymnastics! Your coach this session is Flex, and she is very pleased with your progress. We need to work on your stork stand a bit by practicing at home (I forgot this week) and we also need to have you practice front rolls and remind you to tuck your damn head. You keep ending up stuck in a half headstand! But you love your class, and it's been wonderful to watch your confidence and sense of discipline grow. 

The transition has gone very well, but that doesn't mean you don't miss Robin and her family. We've found a few occasions to see them, and are working on finding more. You had a really long chat on the phone with Robin a few weeks ago, and I think she was impressed with how well you could hold a conversation. She's looking forward to seeing you this weekend. 

You are such a lovely boy, Moe. Like Olaf, you love warm hugs. You have always taken great care of me, reminding me to eat breakfast in the morning. But this past few months, you got to really take care of me because I had a concussion. You were very patient with my need for rest, and played quietly when I asked you to and came up to cuddle with me gently if it was time for me to wake up. 

Your emotional capacity is growing. There have been a few instances this past few weeks where something in a book or television show has made you cry because it is so sad. When Gerald dropped his ice cream cone in the book Should I Share My Ice Cream?, I must have read it pretty convincingly because you burst into tears. And in one episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates, Jake and his crew lose Bucky and sing a very sad song about how hard it is to say goodbye to someone... and you wept. We always assure you that it's okay to cry at sad things, and remind you that things will work out in the end. The fact that you have been able to talk about your feelings in these moments is wonderful, and we are very proud of you. 

You've developed a few fears – you have never been a fan of the dark, and for a while you were having nightmares about piranha plants. But your sense of humour is also blossoming wonderfully. The other day I gave you permission to eat your banana while sitting on the couch, and you headed into the living room. Then I heard you calling, in a strange little voice, “Hello? Hello?” I came into the living room and you were talking into your banana, saying, “I'm calling you on my banana-phone to ask you to please open my banana!” 

You have grown curious about the concept of death. You occasionally mention, in an off-hand manner, that someday you'll be dead. You ask when we are going to die. It's never done in a morbid way, and it's often hilarious. 

And you are getting so tall. You can turn on most light switches on your own, and I marvel at how much space you take up when you lie down in the bathtub or when I see you stretched out in bed. You are looking so much older lately, that I occasionally wonder where my little boy has gone. But then you climb into my bed and put your head on my chest and ask me for a butterfly kiss and I'm reassured that you'll be here with me for a while longer yet. I love you so much. Thank you for being the best part of our lives.