Keeping up with Life

Our little family of three has been busy the last 6 months…

I never really thought that I could be so busy!  I know people tell you once you have a baby that your life will never be the same and you run out of time continuously, but I guess it is one of those things that you have to experience before you get it.  Every spare moment I have seems to be instantly filled with something, whether it’s sweeping the floor, doing the dishes, sitting, or petting the dogs–yes, I now pencil in time to pet the dogs.  Work has been going great–busy, but wonderful. My chair fitness has been going great, we have an average of 26 people; functional strength (weight lifting) is picking up steam, and summer hikes are a blast! We are going all over the valley, one step at a time!

James  and one of his old coworkers started their own business three weeks before baby M arrived.  He has been extremely busy and has been working 6 to 7 days a week on a normal basis.  Baby M looooves to hang out with daddy when he is home. All I have to do is say “Daddy!” and she gets so excited and starts to smile and/or laugh!  (I am still holding out that her first word is going to be “mamamama…” but at this point I am not holding my breath–turns out my daughter is a total daddys girl!)  James has been having a blast working but doing landscaping is very tough. He no longer likes the hot, sunny, 90 degree days like I do!

Baby M is as busy as the rest of us! She has been busy talking, laughing, and eating her feet! She is also figuring out how to sit up all by herself! In addition–she is EATING! Eating real food!  She loves it!  I have not been following the “rule” of introducing one food per week, starting with the vegetables.  She started off eating ice cream at my grandparents house in July.  Since then she has had croutons, french fries, sucked on a pickle, and has eaten real baby food.  I decided awhile ago that we were going to make her baby food since the packs or jars of food are super expensive.  So we bought a baby bullet (yes we caved for the baby expensive bullet, but the jars are so cute with the smiley faces on them and I couldn’t resist.)  Baby M has had bananas, apples, peaches, peas, carrots, sweat potatoes, and avocado–she is a big fan of all of them! Each morning we have a 2 ounce jar of a fruit with rice cereal in it; at night we have a vegetable or two.  She is a big eater!

Baby M is also quite an active little thing! She laughs at and loves the dogs–giggles whenever they walk past her or come up to her. She also acts pretty hurt when they walk right past her without looking at her.  At 6 months old she is able to sit up all by herself and I can tell she is very proud!  Her newest trick is getting her diaper off. The other day I thought it was just a fluke that she got the tab pulled off, so I put it back on, then it happened again and again.  I turned around for 10 seconds and she had gotten her diaper completely off and was rolling after my two dogs LAUGHING!

 

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February is Heart Awareness Month

Every month I change the bulletin board at work–ONE of my favorite things to do!  Like I have said before, I can put whatever I want up on my board outside of my fitness center.  The past few months have been things like “how to destress” or “how to beat the winter blues”–so this month, since it is Heart Awareness Month, I thought I would change it up and go back to some educational information.  Heart Awareness Month is actually all about heart disease, how to prevent it, and how to manage it if you have it, but that seemed rather depressing since I work in a place where 70% of the people have some sort of heart issue.  So I decided to go with how the heart pumps blood through our body and how the heart contracts.  I made the bulletin board interactive this month too! I am quite impressed with it, the residents seemed to like it as I was putting it up on Friday, and my coworkers were quite impressed!

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February Bulletin Board.

You can lift up the lungs to see the location of the heart in our body and once you lift the heart up you can see how the blood flows through our lungs!  It has everything you have ever wanted to know about your heart, right?!

At the start of the new year I started ‘Wise and Well’ Wellness Newsletter.  I am currently working on writing them through May for sure, but hopefully June as well. That way my coworkers won’t have to do do that while I am gone.  I am half way through May, so it is looking good!  It’s kind of bitter sweet–this is the last bulletin board I will do until June! One of my coworkers is taking over that duty until I get back.   This month contains D-Day and I will have 12 weeks off after my little angel is born.  My last day of work is February 19th–her due date, but honestly at this point I am hoping she is early. I will be going back to work the middle of May and will be going back part time. I will be working Monday and Wednesday 8:00am to 4:30pm and Fridays 8:00am to 12:00pm.  I am quite excited that my boss let me drop down to part time, that way Baby M is only in daycare for 2.5 days! When I get back I will be very busy, but it will be a blast! Here is my new schedule–and NEW exercise classes!!

Monday:
8-9:30am Supervised Gym Hours
10-11:00am Chair Exercise
12:30-1:00pm Lunch (The most important part of the day!!)
NEW!!! 1:15-3:00pm Hike around the Valley somewhere with the independent living residents in the summer and in the winter we will have a weight lifting class from 2:30 to 3:30pm.

Wednesday:
8-9:30am Supervised Gym Hours
10-11:00am Chair Exercise
12:30-1:00pm Lunch
NEW!! 2:30-3:30pm Weight Lifting Class

Friday:
8-9:30am Supervised Gym Hours
10-11:00am Chair Exercise
Home with my little girl by 12:30!!

During my down times I will work on my bulletin board if it is close to the end of the month, or work on my monthly newsletter.

I could not be more thrilled about my new schedule and so thankful that my boss thinks so highly of me that she allowed me to go to part time!

Baby Shower #2

My very thoughtful coworkers thought that I needed a baby shower in Montana since it is my first baby. I thought that one shower was enough–but they did not think so. I had my second baby shower this past week at my coworkers house with fellow coworkers and some of my friends who were able to make it on a Wednesday night!  It was a lot of fun and I think everybody enjoyed it.

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My coworker laughed then she showed me the cake because I guess the cake makers could not understand why I did not want a pink cake if I was having a girl. I love this one!!

I feel so blessed to have such great coworkers and friends, I was given so many more clothes and great gifts! I do not know how to thank them!

The hat is a handmade hat from one of the nurses that I work with. It has a pink ribbon at the bottom with little pink flowers in it. Very cute!  The dress is for when my little girl is 9 months old, I think it is perfect!

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This is all the gifts from the baby shower.  Brinks was very interested in the shampoos and lotions.  Again, I feel very blessed to have such great (and generous) people around me!

Snow Globes and Bulletin Boards

We have been very busy at work with the holidays.  My exercise class has been getting an average of 25 residents each class–with the record most at 30 still.  All of my residents love the class, even if they do not show it as we are exercising.  I always have residents telling me how much it is helping them stay limber, strong, and able to do daily activities.  Both my boss and the vice president of the retirement home are very excited to see the growth and enthusiasm that the residents are showing in regards to my class!

Other than exercise class I have been staying plenty busy at work. On Friday’s (after exercise) my boss and I will take residents out to lunch in town, go to a movie–the latest was “Love the Coopers”, we went on picnics this summer, hikes, and in January we are taking the residents out for happy hour downtown!  I also do activities every Friday with the residents in the assisted living portion of the retirement home.  This Friday we are making snow globes–which are adorable if I do say so myself!

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First the residents get to pick their character to put into their snow globe. Their character will go with a large and small tree.

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Then I will use the hot glue gun to glue these three objects into place at the top of a mason jar.

I will fill up their mason jar with water, the resident will be able to pick the color and amount of glitter to put into their snow globe, and then we will screw the top on the mason jar. Flip it over, add ribbon, and enjoy!

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Ta-da! Home made snow globes that I think the residents will love to make and shake this holiday season!!

You have to admit, they are quite cute!

I have not talked about my bulletin board outside of the fitness center in a long time, but I still change it monthly.  In October I had a board titled “Spooky Facts about our Heart”.  That was a popular one! It talked about how many miles of blood vessels we have, how much blood gets pumped through our body each hour, how many times our heart beats in an average lifetime….

November’s bulletin board talked about how to become a more thankful person–and I even remembered to take a picture of it.

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I really enjoy doing these! I can do whatever I want and cut out whatever type of pictures I want too.

December is “How to Destress during the Holidays.” I will take a picture of it and post it soon!

Work Update

I have not talked about my work lately because I have been preoccupied with the pregnancy and updates to the house–but mainly just Baby M.  I am still loving my job and the residents are loving watching me expand!

Work has been very busy.  My boss has been on maternity leave since the end of August and she gets back tomorrow!!  I was asked to step into her position as the Activities and Fitness Director while she was gone.  I was quite excited that my boss and the Vice President of the retirement home thought so highly of me to ask if I would step in while she was gone.  It was quite the learning curve as I have NEVER been the boss of anybody, managed a budget, planned community wide events, or had to go to major corporate meetings weekly (The retirement home I work for is owned by the hospital in town).  To be honest there were some tears when I first started because I stepped directly into planning an International campaign for all of the valley and surrounding areas to attend called Active Aging Week.  The first two weeks I was very happy that my coworker, the other Exercise Specialist, was the co-chair of the Active Aging Week planning committee.  Now, 12 weeks later, I am a pro at the Activities and Fitness Director position.  I am very happy to have my boss back so that I am able to go back on focusing entirely on my exercise classes.

I have been teaching my exercise classes while my boss has been on maternity leave, but I feel like they have been pushed aside slightly.  Even so, my exercise classes have been booming! Each month the average class size has been increasing!  In the past few weeks I have been adding quite a few new exercises and the residents have been loving it.  Recently the residents have been completely entertained by asking me how baby likes the exercises, if she kicks me while we exercise (and she does!), and have been telling me that she will come out running down the hallway!  I must admit, the last would be entirely amazing to witness!

I have had a few harsh moments at work. I have realized that it is probably a generational difference rather than the residents being completely and utterly rude.  In ONE DAY I had four separate residents tell me I was getting quite fat.  Two residents said it straight to my face, while the last two were talking amongst their selves. However, being 87 + years old their hearing is limited and their whispering is more like normal talking.  All four residents know that I am six months pregnant and my boss had the same experience; so we decided that it was not an insult but just a fact that we are growing a baby.  Still in all, those comments are a little hard to swallow–especially when they come the same day the doctor told me I gained 10 pounds in one month.  (Yes, I admit, when I got home and my husband asked how my day was, I instantly started to cry!)

As many of you can guess, I have lots of grandma-like and mom-like ladies at work. They are very excited for me, want daily updates, give me daily advice, tell me what I should and should not do, and are very worried when I push, pull, lift, or shift anything.  Ohh the generation gap–I have a few ladies that are very worried about me teaching my exercise class while I am pregnant.  They think that I should be at home nesting and relaxing.  I tried to tell them that I am not that type of person but my words hit a wall.  Overall, being pregnant in a retirement home is quite exciting! I love seeing the genuine happiness in so many residents faces. They are truly happy for me, very encouraging, and and are very excited for me to be a mom!

Having my office in the fitness center is always a new experience.  I still meet the same few people daily. I Have the same conversation with them repeatedly, re-introduce myself, and the best part!? each and every day these residents leave really liking me!  Over the past few weeks the hot discussion topics have included: Stocks and Bonds; a few new, young 70+ year old ladies who just moved in; terrorism; the attacks on France, Middle East, and all over the world; the fact that every person in America will need a gun soon; general politics; and the latest–the governor of Montana would like to allow 10,000 refugees into the state.  I am not going to share the residents opinions but I will tell you that they are very dedicated and passionate about these topics–as most people are.  In addition I will not share my thoughts on these topics but I will tell you it is quite interesting to listen to different sides of each topic.  From being around this generation I think I am becoming much more opinionated, fact based (because you better come with facts if you mention anything to this generation), and more definite in the positions I do take.

I will take a picture of my November bulletin board and December bulletin board once I put it up.  I am very excited about both boards. November is how to “become a more thankful person during the holiday season” and December is “how to destress during the holiday season.”

Stay tuned!

Gratitude

For my bulletin board this month I have decided to show the health benefits of being thankful and showing gratitude.  I have not finished it yet, since April came up too quickly, but I thought I would share my thoughts of what it will look like.  The residents, for the most part are pretty good at showing gratitude, but winter is rough on a lot of people (with the minimal daylight, cloudy, cold days) and elderly people are not any different.  Some of our residents have been in a funk since the middle of winter and especially since the flu quarantine that left over 50 people isolated in their apartments for over a week; they are mentally bored, easily depressed or bummed out, and quite irritable.  The activities I have picked recently have brightened their day, even if they were mad at me for waking them up, or for being too bossy and dragging them to the activity room.  I had a flower arranging project with bright pink, white, and yellow carnations, making Easter duck treatbags for their great grand kids, and Easter egg dying.  By the end of each of these projects, they were HAPPY.  So I thought I would start off the spring by “Tricking” their brain into thinking they are happy.  I say tricking because at first they MIGHT be showing or giving gratitude falsely or sarcastically (because we all know that elderly people are never sarcastic!) But after they start giving gratitude and thanks their attitude will start to change and in the long run “tricking” their brain will turn into true graciousness.  It’s like my mom told me repeatedly while I was in a pretty miserable place (both mentally and physically due to my last position and being so far away from family): She told me “Fake it until you make it.” in regards to my happiness.  Now, I am telling my residents to do the same thing.

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I copied this diagram, but changed the colors and made the lettering larger so that my residents could see it.

I will pick a few topics on the chart to focus on for the bulletin board that relates to elderly people, mainly between the ages of 80-100 years old.  One of my favorite ones is improved health; I am very excited to show this one to my residents. I found an article that shows, through research (because I am a fan of having scientific backup, this one is based on psychology) that before you go into any type of surgery, having an optimistic attitude greatly improves your chances of having better health outcomes.  Another one that I will focus on is Counting your Blessings.  Our society, as a whole, focuses on the negative of everything–just watch your local or national news.  Once again, my mom told me, “It’s the glass half full theory”, you make the conscious decision to focus on the negative versus the positive (yes, I have been told that a time or two before).  Elderly people are not any different, a lot of residents talk about:

  • how their health is failing (at 98 years old)
    • Continuously I tell them that they are 98 years old, most people do not live that long, and the ones that do, could not have this conversation with me while on the Nustep in the gym. (A Nustep is a sitting down version of the ellipitical, both arms and legs move)
  • how they can not paint like they used to (because their thumbs don’t work or their hands are too shaky) and won’t paint because of it
    • I tell them, maybe you can’t hold the paintbrush like you used to or make smooth brush strokes with acrylic paint, but you could do pointillism perfectly (I show them pictures from Seurat or Van Gogh with the short, almost erratic brush strokes–perfect for shaky hands or arthritic hands that can not move in a smooth matter) or to do watercolor that is fluid and watery (duh) and it doesn’t require as much precision.
  • how they can not drive anymore (because they can not see as well as they used to)
    • I got this one a lot while we were looking for a bus driver at work and I was the bus driver. I just tell them, no biggie, who wants to drive in the slippery snow anyways. If I could, I would have somebody pick me up in a warm bus and drive me to where I want to go in a heart beat.  I always told them that I would be willing to change positions with them any day!
  • how they can not run or hike like they did in their mid 20s (at 80 plus years old)
    • Hey, guys, I can not run like I did in my early 20’s either.  It’s ok, at least you can still walk, yes, you might have a cane, but you are able to walk outside on uneven ground for a good 3 miles at your age.  Who cares how long it takes you, you can still enjoy what you loved to do in your 20’s–be outside and enjoy the fresh air!

Once they get over what they can no longer do and focus on what they can still do, they are much happier and enjoy what they are still able to do.

Below are ways that I will tell my residents to start cultivating gratitude:

  • Maintain a gratitude journal. Emmons’ research showed that people who keep gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercise more regularly, report fewer physical symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole, and maintain greater optimism about the future.
  • Create a list of benefits in your life and ask yourself, “To what extent do I take these for granted?” Some people need such concrete visual reminders to maintain mindfulness of their gratitude, explains Emmons.
  • Talk to yourself in a creative, optimistic, and appreciate manner, suggests Sam Quick, PhD, of the University of Kentucky. This could entail simply reflecting on things for which you’re grateful or, if you’re facing a challenging situation, seeing how it can ultimately be beneficial. For instance, having to cope with particularly difficult people in your job or neighborhood can improve your patience and understanding.
  • Reframe a situation by looking at it with a different, more positive attitude, offers Quick. He provides this example: Rather than seeing his 6-year-old daughter as cranky, irritable, and troublesome, a father might reach the conclusion that the youngster is tired and needs rest.

Information provided by WebMD.

National Nutrition Month

You may or may not know, but March is National Nutrition Month.  At work there is a bulletin board outside my gym that I am in charge of changing each month. I was thrilled when I was put in charge of this task!  This is right up my ally! I can put whatever I please on the bulletin board–health/fitness related stuff, month related stuff, or just complete nonsense that lets the residents laugh.  This month I designed it as a St. Patrick’s themed National Nutrition Month bulletin board.  Take a gander.

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See, how fun! Who wouldn’t want to do this?

I have facts for older adults plastered all over the board too.  My favorite one says “Enjoy your food, but eat less”–such a simple concept, but seems so hard to follow these days.  Now, regardless of your political preference, you can not deny that Michelle Obama has done great things for nutrition and nutrition for kids. (PLEASE do not post your political thoughts on my blog–it is a political free space.)  One of the more recognizable changes in nutrition is the design of the food pyramid. It went from the traditional pyramid that we all knew as kids to a plate with the sizes defined as a portion of the plate.  I love the change–every person on earth understands that!

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Newer pyramid on left, older on right.


I personally think the old food pyramid makes more of an impact on people than the newer one.  But they did not ask me when they redesigned it.  I think the new one could lead people to misinterpret it much more than the old one for a number of reasons, but we won’t get into that.  I do however like that the new one is saying to eat everything in moderation and that one type of food is not more important than another.  My favorite addition? Exercise! The exercising guy walking up the stairs was a big hit for me when they changed it, maybe for obvious reasons.  Many of the older adults still believe that the older pyramid (one on the right) is the end all; the older one (if you forgot) tells us to start at the bottom of the pyramid and decrease the amount of what we consume as we go up the pyramid.  No no no, there was a reason that the old one was changed.  The base of our meals is no longer solely concentrated on grains.  I put a picture of My Plate up on my bulletin board because I wanted the residents to see what their plates should look like every day.

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I have gotten quite a bit of grief from some of our residents.  They do not believe the plate and I have been continuously defending the plate.  Most of them believe that we need to have a lot more protein than the plate shows. I finally had to grab a deck of cards and show them that a deck of cards is the actual serving size of the amount of protein we are supposed to have.  I had one guy laugh and told me that he could eat that in 2 bites, and what was he supposed to eat for the rest of dinner.  My response was very simple: Eat the rest of the plate.  He just laughed and said that I can not teach an old dog new tricks.  At 97 years old, I guess I can not win them all.  A lot of the residents do not like the idea of having so much of their plates full of vegetables–because “vegetables are for rabbits and they don’t fill you up.  I will wait for the rabbit to eat the vegetables and then I will eat the rabbit.”  Hmm…well there’s a thought. I have heard so many different views on nutrition. It has really opened my eyes to what people really do not know.

I have great news, totally unrelated to National Nutrition Month.  My chair fitness class has broken a record, I had 27 people a few weeks ago!  That is a lot of therabands, sponges, koosh balls, and chairs to find.  The normal size has grown to an average of 20-24 people every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  I am debating breaking the class into two classes, but I do not think the residents would be ok with 1. Changing the time and 2. breaking up the class.  They are stuck in their routines and I know better than to try to change the time on them, but we are getting pretty crowded in our small room.  I also thought about having everybody do an evaluation and putting them into different levels of class and then I would moderate each class based on what their level is, but again, not sure they will want to be separated.  More to come on that once I make a decision.

A few days ago I had two older gentleman in the gym exercising; both in their late 80’s, early 90’s.  It always starts out the same way, a conversation between the two men while the stock market is running across the bottom of the muted TV and radio blaring NPR.

Man 1: “Hey, how are your earnings today?”

Man 2: “What are earnings? Why don’t you just say what they are, portfolios, or maybe stocks so that this young lady can understand.”

Man 1: “Ok old man, have it your way, how are your STOCKS doing today?”

Man 2: “Oh they are doing just fine. Yours?”

Man 1: “Superb.” “I am still living here, and Jennifer is still employed, so somebody’s stocks must be doing alright.”

Man 2: “Well there you go Jennifer, your still employed, so somebody’s stocks are doing well.  There is some profound wisdom for you to start your day.”   “If the stock market crashes, 99% of the people living here would be out of a house” “What do you think of that.”

Literally, this is an everyday conversation.  It is fun, they enjoy bickering back and forth.  A few days ago they were talking about their times in the military and the good old days of basic training.  They decided that I was tough enough to make it through basic training, a complement well received.  One of the men was in the Marines, the other, in the Air Force.  The retired Marine was bummed that he is no longer able to chest press what he used to be able to do.  He also thought it was a drag that he is always out of breath.  He asked why he gets so fatigued so quickly.  The retired Airman chimed in and said “you’re ancient, what did you think would happen?!”

I could tell he wanted a real physiological response.  I told him that oxygen consumption decreases with age.  That is caused by a few factors:

(1) the loss of lung elasticity (so you can not take a deep breath like you used to). That decreases that amount of oxygen in the blood stream. **I did not tell them this, but lung capacity decreases by 40-50% by age 70.

(2) As we get older the amount of oxygen carrying proteins (hemoglobin) in the blood decreases, so less oxygen is getting to the working muscles, even if the lung capacity was normal.

(3) Our maximum heart rate decreases as we age (10 beats per decade of life). Therefore the heart is not able to pump the (decreased) oxygenated blood into the working muscles quickly enough to keep them oxygenated and working without fatiguing.

One of the men asked why that happens, the other guy said “that’s the body’s way of pushing us over the edge to the great beyond.” I said that it was just the way that we were put together.  They thought that it was pretty cool that our body’s can slowly start to shut down like that.  I guess at that age, dying is no longer scary.