Papa’s got a broken heart

sad-674811_960_720I’ve taken a 2-week hiatus from writing a post for an unfortunate reason – my husband had a heart attack. I’ve spent the last two weeks going back and forth from the hospital while he had bypass surgery and recovered in the cardiac care unit. He’s home now, and I have the awesome responsibility of caring for him while he continues to recuperate.

This event has had many impacts, and one of them is that it’s disrupted my regular care of our granddaughter. Her parents took her to see Papa briefly in the hospital – she caught a glimpse of him through the door – and she’s been by our house to see him, too.

But how do you explain something like a heart attack to a 2-year-old? And why Papa can’t pick her up or hug her like he used to, at least for now?

I’ve had to be strong for my husband, our adult sons and their spouses (who were really freaked out) and now our granddaughter. My own reactions have been all over the map. I’ve been scared, numb, weepy, and one memorable day when the hospital staff was dragging its feet about discharging my husband although he’d been there longer than usual (10 days), I had to fight the urge to punch people who got in my way. I guess “angry” covers that reaction.

Now, Nanas are supposed to be emotionally stable and smell like snickerdoodles. That’s hard to do when you’re getting up in the middle of the night to administer pain medication and spending your days cooking heart-healthy meals, cleaning and doing the loads of laundry that seem to come with nursing someone who’s recovering from open-heart surgery.

We were very lucky. My husband’s surgery went well, and we have every hope that he’ll make a full recovery. With the appropriate lifestyle changes, he’ll be a healthier man.

However, I know life will never be the same for us.

I wish I’d known more about the symptoms of heart disease. We dismissed too many red flags as indigestion or anxiety. I wish I’d insisted my husband take the stress test that a few months ago a doctor recommended in an off-the-cuff way. The irony is, just before his attack struck, he was planning to set up that appointment.

Heart disease is scary, and a husband’s heart attack is every wife’s worst nightmare. But as we’ve found, the head-in-the-sand approach to dealing with heart disease doesn’t work. Don’t be as foolish as we were, no matter how frightened or uncomfortable the subject makes you. Here’s a simple chart of symptoms. If you suspect you or your loved one has any of them, please don’t delay getting it checked out.

Do it for those you love – your spouse, kids, and grandkids. They’re depending on you to take care of yourself.

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Ouch! The baby broke grandma.

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This photograph from a 1917 National Geographic Magazine illustrates exactly how I hurt my hip.

Carrying a baby around on your hip is fine when you’re a young mother. It’s a classic maneuver, convenient and comfortable for you and the kid.

But when you’re a grandmother of a certain age, hip-hauling a baby can be hazardous.

Especially when said baby is actually a 20-pound toddler and you’re carrying her through a throng of revelers at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, where you can’t safely put her down to toddle for at least an hour, and of course you forgot the stroller.

As your hip aches the next day and for many days after you may have to face the brutal fact that you’re not as young as you think you are. As Shakira says, “Hips Don’t Lie.”

 

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Yes, there were puppies like this at the tree-lighting ceremony, providing another reason for my granddaughter to try to squirm out of my arms

When I’ve thrown my hip out yet again (mopping the floor will do it, too, which I think is an excellent reason for me to retire my mop) I rely on the aptly-named yoga pose “Happy Baby.” This has got to be the most undignified exercise ever, and that’s saying a lot when you consider how other yoga poses look.

But Happy Baby works like a charm  – not just for my hips, but for my lower back as well.

In fact, ever since I started caring for my granddaughter on a regular basis I’ve been forced to create – and stick to – a morning exercise routine. It’s a simple matter of self-defense – grandkids can be murder on your joints.

I don’t dare skip my morning stretches: I used to stretch for fun but now I stretch for survival. Daily stretches are that only way I’ve got any hope of getting back up when I go down on my haunches to play with the baby.

 

In addition to Happy Baby, every morning I try to do a modified  Sun Salutation (it looks a little like this, but I don’t do it nearly as well), a gentle back bend and my favorite stretch, Child’s Pose, which is great for my knees. For a while, I toyed with adding the FiveTibetan Rites, which are much like yoga, but I haven’t really gotten into those yet. The first rite, which I call the Spinner (you turn in a circle) makes me dizzy. I guess it’s tougher than it looks to be a whirling dervish.

What about you? I’d like to hear from other grandparents of small children about how you stay flexible. Do you have any tips for keeping in shape for your grandkids?

And now, here’s our gal Shakira with some musical inspiration to help us keep our hips and other joints moving smoothly:

 

Images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay

 

Grannercize

 

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Like everyone else in the universe, grandmothers know that they must exercise if they want to stay healthy as they get older. (FYI, “older” is always at least 10-15 years out from your current age, no matter how old you are.)

But if you have a schedule that’s packed with paid or volunteer work, caring for grandchildren, and just the many tasks that seem to fill our waking hours, how do you make time for fitness?

Welcome to Grannercize, the grandchild work-out.

Yes, taking care of your grandchildren can double as an exercise routine. In fact, it often happens without you even realizing it. That’s why you’re so exhausted when the kids finally go home.

Here are some exercises I find myself doing while caring for my grand-daughter. I’ll bet you can adapt them to your workout routine, too:

Squats. Just for fun, count the number of times you have to get down to your grandkids’ eye-level to communicate with them or prevent a mishap. Trust me, your average gym rat with his 10-20 reps will look like a piker compared to you.

Lunges. See if you can pull whatever that is the baby’s picked up before it makes it into her mouth. Do it quickly, but remember not to overextend your knees – keep them over your ankles. And try to switch legs occasionally, if you can stop panicking long enough.

Dead lifts. Pick up the baby, put down the baby. Repeat a couple of dozen times a day. Lift with your knees or your back will hurt in places you forgot you had by the next day.

Weight lifting. Children gain weight at an amazing rate when they’re young. And so do their car seats, diaper bags, strollers, toy boxes and other paraphernalia – at least it seems that way. Watch your biceps grow as you lug the kids and their stuff around your place. (Bonus points if you have stairs.)

Treadmill. The repetitive nature of this device, once used for prisoners and now eagerly sought out at your local gym, can be duplicated by the endless bending down and picking up of food and utensils that get thrown from a high chair by your grandchild.

Incidentally, if you’re going to be using a high chair a lot, it pays to invest in a dog. Dogs do an excellent job of keeping the area under the chair free of food. They don’t mind soggy crumbs or pre-digested bits, either. And dogs are endlessly entertaining for children, who’ll undoubtedly start to toss food overboard just to see the dog gobble it up.

Fitball or balance ball. An easy-to-duplicate exercise. All you have to do is try to stay vertical when you trip on a toy while carrying your precious grandchild or an armful of laundry. You’ll be wobbling and trying to right yourself with the best of them.

Relay race. Can you grab the kid like a baton and make it to the bathroom in time? Unfortunately there’s no hand-off, but there are fun consequences if you lose this one.

Army crawl. You can get the benefits of this boot-camp favorite by getting down on the floor and crawling on your elbows along with the baby. Babies love it; your knees not so much.

Elliptical.  Roll your hips while you push a stroller uphill. You’ll be sweating and panting in no time.

And, of course, there’s always running in place. That’s pretty much how I remember my years parenting two active boys.

There you have it. Get a thorough work-out without leaving your home environs or following an exercise video. Just another way grandkids keep you young!

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons