Wednesday, August 27, 2008

HUH? and the Hole

The past couple of days I have been working with Luke on asking "What?" instead of "HUH?" when he needs me to repeat something. I have NO IDEA where he learned "HUH" from?! His parents don't say it, I don't think I say it to him, etc. Today, he finally started to realize and catch himself before he said "HUH." I recognized this and praised his efforts, saying, "Good job, Luke, you didn't say 'HUH'!" He giggled, and with a huge grin on his face said, "HUH, Mare?" Is this kid funny or what?

Yesterday, we were walking into Barnes and Noble for story time when Luke fell flat on his face on the sidewalk. I mean this in the most literal sense. No hands, knees, or elbows broke his fall. The kid just busted. I quickly put Emme down and picked Luke up, worried he had broken the fall with his face, only to see huge tears streaming down his cheeks. An older lady, who witnessed the fall, walked over to Luke and told him she saw him fall so hard it knocked a big hole in the pavement. With those words, Luke's tears stopped immediately, he knelt down, and began searching for the hole he left in the pavement. Thankfully for me there was a large chunk of cement missing near where he landed and I quickly moved his attention in that direction. Even upon leaving an hour later (after story time) he proudly showed his friend, Annalise, where the hole is the pavement was.

Monday, August 25, 2008

They get cuter everyday.

I'm not biased. They really do get cuter everyday! I hadn't seen Emerson and Luke in nearly 10 days and was about to go crazy with thoughts of how much they might have changed during that time! Luke is officially potty trained. Yay, Lukie, you are such a big boy! The kids start school a week from tomorrow. I still can't believe summer is almost over. Today, Jennifer and I took both kids to get their shots. Luke calls them "sharks." Poor guy broke our hearts when he said he was excited to go to the doctor and see Dr. Ernie. He is really into playing doctor kit right now! Emme did great, too. All said and done, Jen and I were probably more anxious about it than need be. We were really blessed. 

The pics above: 1) Reid and I got Emerson a little Mexican dress on our trip and she looks precious in it. 2) Luke wanted to show off his funny face for the camera.

Forever a Pi Beta Phi

The Mission of Pi Beta Phi Fraternity for Women
 is to promote friendship, 
develop women of intellect and integrity, 
cultivate leadership potential 
and enrich lives through community service.
-Pi Beta Phi Mission Statement

I don't even know where to begin when I talk about Pi Phi. When I think about college, I think about Pi Phi. When I think about my friends from college, I usually think of some fun night we spent hanging out in the rec room. Some of my favorite and not-so-favorite college memories happened in the Pi Phi house (pictured above) where I lived for my sophomore, junior, and senior years of college. Even though I didn't learn domestic skills - cooking, cleaning, etc.- I did learn a lot about time management, people, and myself. I will forever be grateful to my dad for allowing me the opportunity to join such an amazing group!

For those of you who might not know, Pi Beta Phi is a national fraternity for women. The University of Arkansas chapter, known as Arkansas Alpha, was established in 1909 (someone will correct this if I am wrong). And, from that time many women from all over the US have been a part of the grand AR Alpha tradition of what I like to call - Excellence. For the past six years we have been striving to make our excellence known nationally, and by the hard work of many members we haven ranked as one of the top ten chapters each of those years. Notably, however, we achieved the number one chapter ranking out of over 130 chapters in the US and Canada for the past two years. It is called the Balfour Cup, and, everyone in the Pi Phi community knows we're rock stars. ;)

After serving as a VP and President for my chapter, I knew that advising a chapter after I graduated was definitely something I wanted to do. I didn't, however, realize I would get the opportunity so soon. So, here I am, helping out on the Alumni Advisory Committee (AAC) with the Texas Betas at SMU. Tonight was our first meeting of the school year and it was so fun to jump back into all things Pi Phi. I will be advising the Vice President of Communications and the Panhellenic council representative. I am so excited to be back in the swing of things and get to see girls enjoy their college years! 

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mexico Vacation Album 2

Mexico Vacation Album 1


We are back from our vacation in Cabo. While we always have mixed feelings about coming home from a trip, it is nice to be back in Dallas - a place we love so much! Our week was nothing short of much needed relaxation TOGETHER! With Reid's crazy travel schedule these times together have been few and far between. We are thankful that his job does allow us time away from computers and the Blackberry. 

Our days were pretty relaxed - wake around 9, breakfast, beach, watch Lost, take a nap, dinner, and to bed around 10. Why can't life always be so leisurely? The weather was great. It wasn't as hot as Dallas and only rained as we were leaving for the airport. The Westin was awesome, and though it was "black flag" everyday, we still enjoyed hearing the waves crash while we sunned on the beach. I realized I didn't get any pictures of our actual room, only the view of the ocean from our balcony (which are not yet loaded into the albums above).

One of the seven pools at the resort started to leak the first day we were there. To preserve the water and mend the damage they had to drain the pool and close it off to guests. For any inconvenience this caused (which was no inconvenience to us, at all), we received an invitation upon check out to return in the next 18 months and stay two nights for free! Looks like we'll have to go back to Cabo!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mary Daniel Turns 11!

My sweet cousin, Mary Daniel Johnson, turns 11 today (She is the one with long blonde hair on the far right in the picture above). Mary Daniel was what I think of as my first baby cousin. This was the first birth of a family member that I was old enough to understand. I remember being so excited to know what name they had decided on for her, how sweet her mint green nursery was, and how graphic the home video from the delivery room (yes, I have warned you my family is open)! She is now known as "Mare" to all the cousins that came after her. I am so proud of the girl she has become. She is sensitive, thoughtful, and loving of God and her family. She is beautiful and girly, but can rough it hunting with her dad. It was a joy to be part of her first 11 years, and I can't wait to see how she continues to grow in the years to come! 

Happy Birthday, Mare!


The other Mare

Been Thinking...

For reason's I do not yet know, God has given me the ability to talk about my family's situation without shame. I thank each of you who reads for encouraging me as I lay it all out here. My aunt called the AR Alzheimer's Association with the hope of finding another woman in Arkansas who had experienced a parent's early on-set diagnosis as a teen. Her hope was that someone with a similar situation would be willing to talk with my sister, as none of us can truly relate to the affect it had on her at such a young age. My aunt was shocked to learn that there was, in fact, a woman with a similar situation, but she refused to talk about it because she was embarrassed and pain-stricken. Obviously, I don't have the same outlook as the anonymous woman, and I pray I continue to feel freedom to express my pain, doubt, anger, frustration, joy, and peace.  

I'm was angry. It's simple. I hated what was happening to my family. At the beginning, when Mom was first diagnosed, I experienced a wave of different emotions. I was saddened, angry, and then severely anxious. I have suffered anxiety attacks, felt so numb to God's love that I wasn't sure I could ever worship again, and wrestled with the thought of not having my own children simply out of fear I will inherit the Alzheimer's gene. All this to say, from the beginning I knew God had a plan. I definitely asked "why us" a lot, but I knew that God could see a much bigger picture. On good days, I thank God that He can see something I cannot. On bad days, I remind Him I never asked to be used this way His plan.

So how am I today? I recognize that I am unable to live each day apart from the peace He allows me to feel. I am not anxious, I don't get angry as often as I did in the beginning, and I can talk openly about my family's situation without becoming overly emotional. I am, however, sad. I am sad for my dad, who's angry heart has turned to a downcast spirit. I am sad that my sister missed out on having a mom to share her high school and college years with. I know that it is hard for her to see all her friends and their mom's together. And I am sad for my brother's deep denial. Sad for the regret he may feel if he doesn't come to terms with what is happening to his mom.

And, as for what purpose our experience may have in God's big plan, I grow more and more confidant everyday that there is a reason. Today, I was reviewing the Live Feed on my blog that shows who has viewed my blog and how they found it. Someone I have never met from Hamden, CT performed a "Google" search with the words, "Elderly mom keeps saying 'she wants to go home'." With that search, that person found my blog. I realized if I can help at least one person it will have all been worth it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Emme and Luke Update

This week Emme was quite a little mess. She is into everything. She loves handing things to people- toys, things from my wallet, food, etc. The other day she even helped me fold her laundry (meaning she handed me everything I had already folded). So sweet. On Friday she did something amazingly sweet. She picked up her pink baby, held it to her shoulder, and started swaying. I think her mom got an action-shot so I will see if I can get a copy. 

Luke is still potty training. Friday was his first day to realize the urge to use the restroom. We also didn't have any accidents Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday! What a big boy! He also got a new pair of shoes with his dad last weekend and is SO proud. He has asked everyone if they want shoes like his. We, of course, tell him, "YES!" 

The kids start school in less than a month. I can't believe the summer has gone by so quickly. Emme will be going for the first time. She isn't even my child and I am feeling nostalgic about how much she is growing. How am I going to handle my own children going to school? We'll see how it goes...

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Long Goodbye: When do you get help?

Last night I explored the unthinkable. That sentence might sound dramatic to you, but I assure you adding "drama" to my life is the last thing on my mind. Four years ago my dad and I visited a support group for family members of Alzheimer patients. It seemed silly for us to go; my mom was not like any of the people they described. I went to two meetings and decided that my emotional well-being was being greatly jeopardized. My take away from those meetings was something that would continue to haunt my thoughts- "You will know when you can't take care of them anymore. It is then that you must get help." And so, it is with every passing day, days when she seems worse, when she can't remember how to hold and eat a sandwich or put her arms through her bra straps, that I think, "Is it time to get help?"

I remember telling my dad at dinner after one of the meetings that we would not ever need help. He agreed. I was empowered by the unconditional love I had for my mom and assured myself that we would do it on our own. The reality that has struck in the past month, is that we are all to angry to do it alone. We have reached a breaking point. My mom is becoming more like the disease and less like herself, making my dad quickly frustrated, not at her but at what it has done to his beloved mate. And so, I know the time is drawing near.

I sat at my computer last night and researched in-home care options. I was tired of my dad denying that we needed help- that it is in our family's best interest that we not try this on our own any longer. I filled out a questionnaire about the progression of my mom's disease. Every single question about her ability was answered as "Dependent on Others." It wasn't until that moment I realized it truly was time. It was no longer assisting with finding shoes, turning on the TV, or brushing her hair. She had reached the point of needing help for every activity but walking, sitting, and standing. My beautiful, self-sufficient, loving, thoughtful, articulate, socially active mom had become "Dependent." It was one of the hardest realizations I will have on this journey.

With all options researched, I have also realized my dad's hesitation to bring someone from the outside into our home. Knowing the options feels like a relief and a defeat. How can we just leave her, even if it is only for a little while? Will this new person learn to love her as much as we do? Will my mom be scared? Can a new situation like this make her worse?

All are questions that won't be answered in one day, though a quick fix is what I want. Now is where prayer must become our outlet. It is without prayer that this situation may certainly fail. I ask you to please pray for knowledge and wisdom to be imparted to us over the next few weeks as we seek-out help. And, if you now of anyone that can work with Alzheimer patients we are open to recommendations. This is a continual learning process and I thank you for allowing me to share my thoughts with you.

With love and gratitude,


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Molly's Family

We cannot, Lord, Thy purpose see,
But all is well that’s done by Thee.

I haven't been able to stop thinking about this family. Some of you may have seen part of this email, but I wanted to post the like to the entire letter. Dennis Rainey is the President and Cofounder of Family Life, a division of Focus on the Family. He and his wife, Barbara, have six amazing children. I had the pleasure of growing up with one of their daughters and getting to spend time with this amazing family. One of their daughters, Rebecca, and her husband, Jacob Mutz, had a baby girl in June. God had bigger plans for her life than anyone expected, and she was only on this earth for seven days. Please continue to pray for this sweet couple and their loss. Pray that they will continue to see the blessing of baby Molly's life.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Starbucks vs. Sonic (aka Reid vs. Mare)

Reid has been catching up on our finances since he has been home. He said he was disgusted with the amount of Starbucks and Sonic we consume. We each survive on Americanos and Diet Coke. I argued that my addiction was cheaper and healthier than his, and therefore, totally legit. He did not argue. Instead, my smart husband did some research at work the next day and found the article below. Thanks, Reid, the findings are lovely and I probably should stop drinking diet coke.

Check out this article I saw on today ( It talks about 8 common foods and their (sometimes) supposed health benefits.  Here's two I found interesting:

No need to feel guilty anymore about that double-shot Americano that gets you going in the morning. In fact, coffee is looking more and more like a health drink. Among its remarkable benefits, new research shows, coffee may reduce the risk of diabetes, heart attack, gallstones, Parkinson’s disease, kidney stones, and cirrhosis. One caveat is that black coffee may lead to thinner bones, especially in women, but the simple solution is to add milk to your coffee.

There’s not much good news to relate about soda. Both the high-fructose corn syrup in regular soda and the artificial sweeteners in the diet varieties may kick your pancreas into overdrive, which boosts insulin levels and causes weight gain. Research last year from the American Chemical Society found that chemicals in beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup (called “reactive carbonyls”) may increase the risk of diabetes. In addition, the caffeine and phosphoric acid in colas may thin the bones of those who frequently consume them.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Silent Prayers

I wrote this on August 31, 2001. I was a senior in high school. "Closed like confessionals" was a writing prompt in my Creative Writing class. I would never have guessed my mom would be diagnosed with a disease that would slowly and painfully lead her to be the person I described.

Closed like confessionals was her heart which ached from within. Her emotions showed nothing. The look on her face always dim and confused. She thought about a lot of things in her mind sealed with silence. She wondered how long it would be until someone let her soul out of this dark room. How she longed to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but that light was nowhere near. She spent her days among rambling thoughts echoing in the darkness. Her heart was still. She showed no movement. Did the people she used to be friends with notice her anymore? Did they wonder where the loving woman had gone?Maybe they did, but she would never be able to express how much she missed them. She was closed up inside herself now. There was no way out, no way that she knew of. Silent prayers were her only hope.

New Widget: Live Feed

Not gonna lie, it is really cool to see how many people all over the country are reading my blog. I never anticipated it being something people would visit everyday, but here you are. What an encouragement it is to know that you read, and it motivates me to continue to honestly share my life with each of you. Thank you for making this worthwhile.


A Letter To Eleanor

My sister was going through a box of pictures and found notes from my mom. There were two letters folded together. One for Eleanor (almost 5 at the time) and one for George (8). "Well, where the heck is my note?" I asked, only slightly offended. Our conclusion is that I had already accepted Christ into my heart, and therefore, did not need a letter. On a side note to all parents, if you are going to write a letter to two kids just jot down something remotely nice for the third! Anyway, my sister said I could share my mom's sweet words. George is out of town, and has not yet learned of these letters, so I will wait to post his after he gets the chance to read it. I never thought a simple note, not even written to me, would be so special!

I look at you as you sleep and cannot believe how big you are. Almost 5 years old! I hope you will always know how much I love you! You are so very very determined. I pray each day that God will use that determination to bring you closer to Him. God made you just the way you are and I'm so glad. I love your funny little way of acting silly and singing songs, of holding your "baby" while sucking your thumb. To me you will always be my "baby." I hope for you, as I do for George, to pray to receive Jesus into your heart and make Him #1. That, sweetheart, is your only hope for a fulfilled life. I have tried life without Christ and I can tell you first hand that it's empty. Without Christ there's no direction. My prayer for you is that, each morning of your life, you will commit your day to God. He has blessed you with some special gifts. One being determined!!! Another is that He's given you an instinct to be a little Mother. You love to take care of the toddlers! You are affectionate and loving, kind and gentle. Just know that Daddy and I love you very much.

Friday, August 1, 2008

More Emerson and Luke

It has been a big week at the Lilja house! Luke is almost potty trained! We are so proud of how quickly he has caught onto this new way of life. He has really cute dino and sports underwear and is very proud. Today was his first time to go on an outing wearing big boy pants. We went to play at the mall (August in Texas is not park friendly), ate lunch, and then went home to have a rest time in his room. He made it all day without an accident. No naps and almost potty thing we know he'll be driving!

Funny story I might get in trouble for sharing ;)
Today, Emme's mom was talking to her while we were in the kitchen. She was calling Emme "Princess" and "Pea Pie." These are the usual endearing names she uses for Emme, but all of a sudden she called her "Pea-ness" or as I heard it "penis!" I didn't say anything for fear I was the one that had heard wrong, but she quickly realized her mistake in combining "Pea Pie" and "Princess." I guess we all have potty training on the brain! HA! I will never that her live it down!

Emerson is keeping busy with her babbling! She is trying so hard to talk and it is so cool to watch her learning! It has been so fun to teach her new "words." She has learned Mare (though does not ever say it), thank you, please, hi, and bye bye. What a little princess!