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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Baby’s First Food

boy-254185_960_720As I sit here, struggling with a massive cold given to me by my granddaughter (ever notice how rosy-cheeked toddlers can look kinda cute with a stuffy nose, but grandmothers not so much?) I find myself reflecting on baby’s first foods.  That may be because nothing appeals to my appetite at the moment, and I couldn’t taste much anyway.

Also, one of my BFF grandmother pals recently told me that her daughter was about to start her 6-month-old infant on solid food in addition to breast milk. We both immediately assumed that baby’s first food would be Cream of Rice cereal or something similar.

Well, we were wrong. This new mother was planning to start her infant daughter on mashed avocado, followed by cooked sweet potato in a week or so.

No cereal in sight.avocado-885272_960_720

Now, there’s nothing nutritionally wrong with that. In fact, vegetables may be a better way to go. But it did surprise my friend and me as veteran moms. For their first solid food, our babies got cereal, just like the “bowl full of mush” in Goodnight Moon. It wasn’t even a question.

And I couldn’t help thinking about the technicolor glory that mealtime was going to be for my friend’s daughter. After all, drool-infused cereal dribbling down a baby’s chin is one thing, but drool-infused green avocado is another.

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A nice dish of poi, ready for baby

But babies are pretty hardy little people, and their first foods reflect the culture of their parents. In Hawaii, a fermented paste made from taro root is a nutritious baby staple. In India, babies aren’t shielded from spices – a popular dish called khichdi combines lentils, rice, and ghee (clarified butter) with a dash of turmeric. And in Peru, babies slurp the seedless pulp of the vitamin-rich granadilla fruit, a variety of passion fruit.

Now, to paraphrase the poet Tennyson, as grandmothers ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do and die, or at least be careful not to criticize our kids’ parenting decisions.  So, if we want to keep on the good side of our daughters or daughters-in-law, we smile and puree the passion fruit.

I remember that when I was a breastfeeding young mother in the 80s my mother was constantly questioning whether my boys were getting enough food. They were. All she did was make me doubt my own instincts. So, I vowed to be more supportive when I was a grandmother.  And I swear, I do not give my granddaughter food that’s not mom-approved (well, maybe I did give her a raisin or two without checking first.)

There are a lot of good, nutritionally-sound options for baby’s first foods if you think outside the cereal box. Nowadays, parents have access to a lot of useful information on this topic, starting with their pediatricians and supplemented by books and websites like HealthyChildren.org, sponsored by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

So, bring on the avocado!

What’s the most surprising food you or one of your children has given an infant? More importantly, did the baby like it or did it need to be scraped off the wall?

“Sick grandmothers” and other pinch-hitters

cold-1972619_960_720Are you the designated “Sick Grandmother” in your family?

Let me explain. While talking with a group of women the other day, many of whom happened to be grandmothers (funny how I’m constantly running into other grandparents these days) I mentioned that I care for my toddler granddaughter on a regular basis.

One of the women said, “I know how that goes. I’m the sick grandmother.”

At my look of surprise she went on to explain that in her family, whenever one of her grandkids gets sick at school, she gets the phone call from the school nurse to pick him or her up.

That makes sense. Working parents can find it nearly impossible to get time off on the spur of the moment when a kid gets sick at school. Families that have a grandmother or grandfather nearby who’s able and willing to perform that service are lucky indeed.

It got me to thinking that there must be other grandparents who pinch-hit for their working-parent children in other ways as well.

I’ll bet there are Snow Day Grandmas, Field Trip Chaperone Grandmas, and Soccer Practice Grandmas, just to name a few.

valentines-day-1947567_960_720So this Valentine’s Day, how about a shout-out to all the grandmothers and grandfathers that step up and step in for their adult kids when help is needed with the grandchildren? There’s no glamour in picking a kid up at school who’s just barfed all over the Quiet Rug (and yes, that child was me, once upon a time) but grandparents, like parents, do whatever needs to be done for the children in their lives.

Hillary Clinton once quoted an African proverb that says it takes a village to raise a child. Well, if you don’t have a village, an extended family, especially one with grandparents, can make a pretty good substitute.

What about you? Are you a sick grandmother? Or if you’re a parent, do you have a grandmother or grandfather who’s on call for emergencies, and how does that work out for you?