Archive for March, 2010

Caving in to peer pressure

March 30, 2010

0005200032868_LG It just wasn’t worth the fight.

I didn’t want to wear green on St. Patrick’s Day. I really didn’t. I’m not Irish, I grew up at a time when wearing green on St. Patrick’s Day was a way to identify yourself as Irish, specifically Irish Catholic, so I didn’t. I’d go to the parties, sure, and celebrate with my Irish friends, but I didn’t make an effort to wear green.

But this St. Patrick’s day I wore green. My kids are of the “you have to wear green or you will be pinched” school, and weren’t going to let me out without green (I tried to explain that the only possible folks that would pinch me would be them, and they’d better not, but I finally gave up and put on a mint-green shirt. Which, they told me later,  was actually blue. But I counted it.) Anyway, it wasn’t worth the fight.

Then there’s the Gatorade. I think Gatorade is evil stuff; the artificial color alone is reason for me to leave it on the shelf, when I pick it up to read the rest of the ingredients, I shudder. And face it, while my kids are active, they aren’t stressing themselves to the point of needing a salt infusion.

But, as beverage mom for basketball last week, I bought Gatorade. Because that’s what all the other parents do, and that’s what the kids, used to seeing the Gatorade barrel at sporting events live or televised, think they should be drinking when they are involved in a sport. Water is boring, juice boxes are baby stuff—bringing either apparently would have branded me as the lame mom and caused an immediate drop in social status for my kid. So I bought the Gatorade. It wasn’t worth the fight. (Of course, now I have three leftover bottles of Gatorade in the pantry. I’m not going to drink it, I’m not going to put it in my kids’ lunches—but I can’t just throw it out….arrgh!)

I wasn’t always this way. Pregnant, I thought everything was worth a fight (hormones, I guess; I even called the painter who had painted my cabinets a year earlier—badly–and made him come and redo them). As my kids grew older, I learned to pick my battles, but tended to fight back more often than sit back. These days, it seems, I’m resisting less and less. Weak? Caving to peer pressure? Or just worn out? I’d try to figure that out, but it’s just not worth it.

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The “shock” of menopause

March 17, 2010

My doctor has been bringing it up at every annual checkup for years now. How’s that perimenopause thing going? She’d ask me if I had hot flashes, bouts of extreme irritability, headaches–it seemed like we were covering it all. I also googled and pretty much memorized that basic symptoms list. And I even went to see Menopause the Musical.

So I keep thinking I’m prepared.

And I keep finding out that I’m wrong. Menopause is turning out to be like that classic dream of showing up for the exam and realizing you know nothing because you had never gone to class.

Oh, it’s not as bad as it used to be, I guess; my aunt told me recently that when her older sister had what turned out to be a hot flash they took her to the E.R. because they had no idea what was going on. I do know a little more than that. The operative word being little.

The weirdest thing to me, after being in pregnancy groups and post partum support groups and baby playgroups in which every weird symptom of pregnancy and the aftermath were discussed in complete detail, is that there’s not much talking going on about menopause. Maybe because it’s not so obvious as pregnancy; and because menopause ties in with aging, so asking a casual acquaintance how her menopause is going might be insulting. But I think it’s more than that. It almost feels like that first year when you got your period and were feeling too private about it to buy your frickin’ tampons yourself and instead had to send your mother to the store. You just don’t want anyone to know. (And by the time we all get over that feeling, perhaps we’re past it and no longer interested in talking about it.)

I’ve looked at those books out there that purport to lay it all out. But they seem all so “tippy”: they advise you to dress in layers and exercise regularly; they lay out the pros and cons of hormone therapy. But that’s not the information I need when I wake up in the middle of the night wondering, “what the hell was that?”

Like last night. The whole hot flash thing has kicked up from once or twice a month, which was more entertaining than annoying, to four or five times a night. I’m staggering around during the day in the sleep-deprived state I inhabited when my kids were babies. But OK, I get that hot flashes happen, and that they happen at night, and they won’t last forever. Hot flashes and night sweats are on all the checklists of menopause symptoms. (Another question—why do they call them symptoms? It’s not a disease. I think they should be called effects.)

So hot flashes weren’t my “what the hell’ moment. That came at some point during the night when the buzzing started. An unpleasant buzzing that felt like an electrostim device cranked on too high—or maybe a bug-zapper. It started around my belly button and worked its nasty way out, slowly, through my body, arms and legs, and eventually out my fingers and toes. It hurt.

I knew instinctively that this was one of those secret menopause symptoms that no one had warned me about—did they think I’d be scared? That maybe I’d someone chicken out of menopause, as if that were a real option?

First thing in the morning, I googled “buzzing electric shock sensation menopause”.  And on a few of the longer symptom lists on sites that are fronts for herbal remedy pushers, I did find “electric shock sensation under the skin and in the head, like a rubber band being snapped” or “a mild tingling sensation.” But mostly, the references to buzzing, to electric shocks, came in the occasional question tossed up on a discussion board, like “anybody getting intense electric buzzing before a hot flash?” that kind of thing.

These questions came up enough for me to figure out that yeah, waking up in the middle of a bug zapper at random times is just one more fun thing I’ll be doing for the next year, or two years, or three years. And that it’s just one more thing that no one ever told me.

The census wants to shrink my family

March 16, 2010

Media I have a husband and three kids. That makes us a family of five. Or so I thought.

Even when my older son left for college in the fall, I continued to think of myself having a family of five. I completely freaked out when I came home one day soon after my son’s departure to find that my husband had taken a leaf out of the dining room table and moved a chair off to the side; that leaf and chair went back immediately, and it remains there today. I need to see five chairs at the table or it looks weird.

When I buy little treats for the kids, I still buy three. One may have to be delivered by the mailman, but my college kid is not getting left out. I tried just buying two of something recently, I couldn’t do it; I left
the cart in line and went back for a third.

But today the census form arrived. And right there, just a few lines down after the start arrow, it states bluntly, “Do not count anyone living away at college. Leave these people off your form, even if they will return to live here after they leave college.”

Then comes question number one. “How many people were living in this house on April 1.”

The answer it wants is four.

So far, the form sits on the table, blank. Because it feels like the minute I fill it out I will have cut our family down by one, that I will no longer be able to think of myself as having a family of five, because, officially, according to the U.S. Government, we’ll be a family of four. And I’m just not ready.