We were the closest family possible. Our world was turned upside down on 05/03/09 when my best friend, the person I love most next only to our children, my sister Trina was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer. Her body gave out on her on 01/09/10 but she will ALWAYS be a part of our daily life and will continue to be in my posts. I started my blog to chronicle our daughter's international adoption from Guatemala and have continued to use it as a journal.

What you will find is my family trying to adapt to our new lives that were handed to us.



Monday, December 27, 2010

No Title

Christmas is done.

I feel so guilty and horrible for what I'm about to say but here goes. Saturday, watching the kids open their gifts and playing with their toys I was happy for them but all I felt was all encompassing grief and intense sadness. That was when I was feeling, most of the time I was just plain numb. I tried to steer my memories away from last year, of the year before, of the year before that, etc... After Josh and Asa left it was just the five of us and I was paralyzed with the deafening silence that I heard. Yes, the tv was on, yes, Valentina was playing, yes there were some noises but it was what I DIDN'T hear that was unbelievable. The jokes between sissy, Beya and me, the conversation we would have normally had, the laughter, the fun, the pure joy that we used to have. Gone. I told mom that it's just unbelievable the difference one person makes. It may be just one person to some but to us it is the loss of one person that has shaken the very foundation of our formerly earthquake proof tight family.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

All Aboard The Polar Express!!!!!


Happy Holidays from my pride and joy!


I took these pictures Tuesday before my friend Janet came over from out of town with her family. It was really good to see her as the last time we had been together was at sissy's funeral. However, she gave me my birthday/Christmas present and now I'm addicted to Scentsy! I'm also bummed that I didn't get any pictures of us together or of her two kids.

Asa comes up with all of his own poses. He's a natural!



Yesterday (Wednesday) morning, ready to leave for the Polar Express!!! There is a railroad that does a Polar Express ride about 2 hours from here so we went. We had always wanted to go but never got around to it. Last year sissy was too sick to go so we scrapped it. I think this will be a new tradition for our family but hopefully next year the whole family can go. Josh and Norm were working and Grama wasn't able to go.


The kids were very excited. Valentina kept saying "This is the best train day EVER!!!"



On the train with Beya and Papa!!! As usual I was waaaaay behind on things and we didn't decide to do this until Monday. I tried to get tickets for the "first class" train car but everything was sold out, we were lucky to get our riff raff coach tix. After I bought them mom and I both went online and read reviews of it. Everyone who had gone on the first class raved about it and everyone who went on the regular class panned it. Mom and I were kind of scared but were determined to make it fun for the kids, even IF the windows were fogged up, the car stunk and the chefs didn't speak English. Yes, those were actual reviews of it.



Valentina looks like she's been hitting the sauce a little early.




We were ready to have some FUN!!!!

Holding onto her ticket for dear life, waiting for the conductor to punch it.


The Hobo stopped to have his picture taken with Asa. He was a great Hobo. When he first came storming in, yelling, Valentina kind of freaked but then became very perplexed asking me "why is the hobo so mad? Why is he angry?" By the end of the ride she was calling him a "Ho Ho Ho Hobo!"


Here come the chefs with the hot chocolate!


So happy with her hot cocoa.


Oh yeah, this is fun!


"Is that cookies I see down there?"

Sure enough!


Still not letting go of that ticket!



Here's the conductor!

FINALLY getting her ticket punched. As you can see, I'm trying to document everything. I'm so lucky that mom bought herself a decent camera for her birthday so between the two of us taking tons of pictures we got pretty much every angle covered.


So happy to have his ticket punched.

The Hobo was so good about stopping for everyone to take pictures. The conductor was too.



"IT'S SANTA!!!! I KNOW HIM!!!!!"


Santa was also good about stopping to have his picture taken with the kids while he was handing out bells.

One of Santa's elves.


"Yeah! I have my ticket punched and my bell is ringing!"


Hugging his punched ticket and ringing bell.

Beya and Papa. Mom said it was the best day she'd had since January 9.

Asa covering his ears. The last song that plays on the movie always makes Asa cry. I can remember sissy instructing me whenever I would put the movie on for Asa that I had to stop it before the last song started or else he would burst into tears. The first year Asa saw the movie I think he was 2 and he asked for it CONSTANTLY, only he asked for "Po Press" because he couldn't pronounce Polar Express. Of course as we pulled back into the train station the song started playing so Beya told Asa to cover his ears.

All clear, the song is over.

As we walked back to the train station we had to get a picture in front of where it said Polar Express and the Conductor was kind enough to get in the photo. All in all I thought it was a great experience, not at ALL like the riff raff I told Holly we were going to be in :)

FYI, Asa took this picture. I was fortunate enough to be able to meet my online friend Kathy. She found my blog 10 days after sissy died and emailed me. Her sister died from breast cancer 22 years ago and she told me that it still hurts and holidays are still hard and life is never the same. She has been a great friend, someone who knows what I'm going through and she has also been a source of support to mom. She lives somewhat near where we went so mom came up with the great thought of calling her to see if we could meet. Again, if only my mind worked I could have planned everything instead of emailing her a half hour before we left! She was so kind, called me right away and even left work early to meet us. It was so good to see her, hug her and talk to her. She was so sweet, she had gifts for the kids! I told her I'm always a little worried when I meet online friends in person because you never know if they are going to be weird or "normal." Luckily Kathy is weirdly normal, just like us, haha.

After the train ride the kids were able to get special golden tickets.
All in all it was a good day and I only hope that the kids will have a good memory of it so they will want to go again next year.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Happy Holidays

I thought I'd start off my blog with a scary photo of me but I just have to post it because even thought I look atrocious the kids both look adorable and it's not often that both of them are looking AT the camera AND smiling! As soon as I get more ink for my printer I'm printing this one and putting it my silver frame that sissy gave me that says "No Ordinary Mom."



Asa recently had a field trip to go bowling. I was in charge of 4 kids and at first I was very scared because last time I only had three kids but I lucked out and got four very well behaved children. They danced around and had so much fun. They even waited for me to give them the ok that it was their turn. I had never been bowling so it was a completely new experience for me.

Asa boy!



Going to Valentina's preschool Christmas program..... on the CORRECT day! Beya had bought her this cute dress the night before. I love it! Mom also picked up a cute, simple grey sweater with slight red accents for Asa.

One of the few pictures that were taken during the program where you can't see other kids.


One proud mama after the program. Just before the program started I was sitting in the audience and the fact that sissy wasn't here was such a hard, cruel fact that I couldn't keep it inside, I cried and cried. I have become quite an expert at crying in public that I can do it in a way where pretty much nobody can tell that I'm actually in the midst of a breakdown. I HATE crying in front of people.


Our table. Grama and Grampa were able to make it. Beya took the picture so that's why she isn't in it.



After the program. There was a craft area set up so Valentina made herself a wreath and started using it as a mask. She had a great time!


I collect nativity scenes and last year mom gave me this big one. I didn't feel like putting it up last Christmas. A few weeks ago mom pulled it out of the garage, dragged in the huge ladder from outside and was bound and determined to put it up. There is a perfect little corner ledge in our living room ceiling that held the nativity just right. I put up some white lights behind it so it's all lit up.


Christmas is this week. Christmas. I think I'm still in denial about it happening. Christmas Eve I think we sticking to our tradition of going over to Norm's family and then Christmas Day we're doing it at our house but we're doing a brunch instead of dinner like we did last year. Norm will be cooking (he makes awesome breakfasts, it's almost on par with a brunch you'd find in a restaurant) so again, that will be different. It's never far from my mind, however, that the last pictures that were ever taken of sissy and me were taken on Christmas Day 2009.



New Years Eve is going to be hell, sissy's last chemo treatment, the last time she was ever at my house. New Years Day, the last time I had a real conversation with sissy. That night I had a "feeling." It was one of the few times I've ever had a "feeling", it was that we were on the verge of something big happening, something that was going to change our lives forever.



January 2nd, the day sissy left her home forever, her house that she loved and made so warm, she lovingly referred to it as her dollhouse because it was so small, and went into the hospital for what was to be a simple blood transfusion. She expected to be home later that night.



The first half of January is going to be horrible. But then we start the second year. Everyone I talk to who has lost a sibling, parents who have lost a child, people who have lost a person who was part of their daily life, all say that the second year is worse. I told Beya a few months after sissy died that I thought the second year would be harder as we will be thinking that it should be easier and it won't be so that will hit us hard. The first year we've been on auto pilot. We have had to deal with things we never thought we'd have to, we are still in shock. I think reality will sink in and things are going to change and it will be shitty.



BUT BUT BUT BUT WE HAVE THE CHILDREN!!!!!! Oh thank you God for the kids!!!! I am so damn grateful for them!!!! I am so thankful to have my mom who understands my every movement and every mood. It is truly a miracle to have her with me. I also have two of the best friends I could ever hope for. I am so grateful to be able to talk to Amanda and Holly and they don't care that I when talk to them I can go instantly from laughing and joking to crying and inconsolable. I have much to be thankful for and I am so truly grateful for the bounty of what I have.



But I will forever be missing half of myself. Half of me is gone forever and can never be replaced, no matter what.



"I will not be licked by tragedy as life is a challenge and we must continue to work for the living as well as mourn for the dead."
-Rose Kennedy

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Week In Pictures

Here are some pictures (since I seem to always be blogging about my feelings) of the past week.

On our way to find a Christmas tree. I had a make a few break in traditions this year. First off, I've ALWAYS put up my fresh tree the day after Thanksgiving. This year we got it on December 4th. Second, for the last 16 day-after-Thanksgivings Norm and I have always gone to the same tree farm to get said fresh tree. Even the year we lived 200 miles away we still got it at the same farm. This year I decided we were going to go to a tree stand.
One tradition I DID stick to was decorating it all on my own :) I waited until the kids were in bed and I created my Product (RED) tree. I bought several Product (RED) ornaments years ago and they inspired me to make my tree a (RED) tree. Granted, not all the decorations are Product (RED) but that is where the idea came from. Since the kids were going to wake up to a newly decorated tree I thought it would be kind of magical to have a present wrapped and ready for them too. I put a small gift for each of them under the tree that they got to open.

Their Hanukkah present that night (Saturday, 12/4) was decorating two mini gingerbread houses. Ever since Asa was one, I've bought one of those gingerbread house kits for him (and then after she came home, Valentina) to decorate. Sissy and I were always kind of jealous and vowed to one day buy one for US that we could decorate beautifully. This year I bought a kit that had five mini houses, two for each kid and one for me! I thought of sissy the whole time I was making mine.


Our gingerbread village. Yeah, my house didn't turn out any different than the kids'!


The boy and me.

Beya had given each of the kids one of these ornaments that you color and then put a picture in. Asa and I did some experimenting and we came up with this silly picture.

My heart and soul.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Seriously?

Yesterday was a day to remember, both good and bad.

December ninth. Every damn month I tell myself "the ninth is no different than any other day of the month", like if I say it enough times it will actually come true. Every damn month the ninth is NOT like any other day of the month.

My mind was not my own yesterday. For starters I was glad that it was Valentina's preschool Christmas program, something good to happen on the ninth. It was a busy morning as I had to get Asa off to school and then get Valentina ready in a beautiful party dress so we could leave a scant 30 minutes later. Great big props to Beya who is such a help to me in every way imaginable. I have no idea what I would do without her. Actually I know by now that if I had to, I would still get through but I don't need to think about it because I DO have her and for that I'm forever grateful.

So Valentina was ready, very excited and off we went to the Christmas program. We pulled into the church parking lot, walked in and heard a bunch of kids but they were not in the classroom and the hall where the program is was dark. Hmm..... oh well. We followed the voices and realized they were all in the bathroom. Makes sense, have all the kids go potty before the program. Valentina was spinning around, very excited and happy to be performing shortly. Pretty soon we heard the kids come out of the bathroom and the row of them came around the corner. One by one I saw the kids were in regular clothes. Now the teacher had told me when I asked what Valentina should wear that some kids wear jeans, some dress up so this didn't seem odd to me. Even when I saw the teacher come trailing behind all the kids, looking harried and not at all dressed up it didn't dawn on me. Mom asked the teacher if today was the program and it wasn't until the words came out of her mouth did it ever come to MY mind that we might be off schedule. The teacher apologized and informed me that yes, I was a week early, the program wasn't until NEXT Thursday. I felt like the worst mom as I saw Valentina's face fall.

We got back into the car to go home with a very deflated little girl.

Shortly after we got home Norm called me. Our finances have been very dire lately. Norm has worked approximately three of the past 13 months, his unemployment through our state ran out the first of December and although he was able to get it through another state (he works in two states sometimes) it was going to be another waiting week and about a 35% decrease in an already small payment. It was going to take about 3 weeks of unemployment to make the mortgage payment. Now normally these type of financial problems would have me stressed out and cost me countless of sleepless nights. Not anymore, not after the 19 months we have had. I have had, and am going through, worse things in my life. Money problems? Yeah, they suck but it's not the worst.

Anyway, Norm called to tell me he got a call from someone in the Union Council Office asking him if he would be interested in a staff position.

Holy shit.

This means Norm would no longer be swinging a hammer. No more getting on a job and working for a few months and wondering if he would have a job when this one was done. No more worrying about what to do when this job would end. He would have an office job. This is what he has been working towards, dreaming of, volunteering on the negotiation committee, working for $200 a month as a financial secretary (which works out to be about $5 an hour given the amount of time he puts in), traveling as a Local Union delegate, this has been his dream for close to 10 years. He has actively been juggling these three things for years, trying to get noticed, working his butt off, taking time away from us to try to get this. He interviewed for this job about 2-3 years ago just before the economy tanked and the Council was put on a hiring freeze.

This call came completely out of the blue.

On the ninth.

At first I was so excited at the POSSIBILITY of this happening. Norm kept telling me that this was not a done deal, it was just a call to see if he would be interested in the job if it was available. Norm was gone all day (doing his $5 an hour financial secretary job at the Local) and I tried to keep this out of my mind, which really wasn't hard since the ninth brings up so many things. I cried over my sister. I missed my sister. I wanted to talk to my sister. The ninth is always difficult.

Later on in the afternoon, before picking up Asa for school, mom and I went to the store where we thought we had walked straight into an episode of "What Would You Do?" In the checkout line next to us there was a woman literally yelling and screaming at her elderly mother. The mom appeared to be having a stroke. She was shaking, pale as a ghost and could hardly stand up. The daughter was yelling at her mom "STAND UP STRAIGHT! I'M TIRED OF YOU BEING SO STUPID! QUIT ACTING LIKE THIS! MOM YOU'RE BEING SO DIFFICULT! QUIT BEING STUPID!" Everyone around us was aghast but not doing anything. Mom muscled her way past the other people in line and made her way to the mom and asked her if she was ok. The woman managed a feeble "no, I'm not" and mom asked her if she needed help to go sit down on a nearby bench at the end of the checkout stand. The daughter started yelling at mom "THIS ISN'T YOUR BUSINESS! SHE'S JUST ACTING! DON'T MAKE ME OUT TO BE AN INSENSITIVE BASTARD!" I lost it at that point and yelled across the lane "WELL YOU ARE!" Beya tried to be compassionate to the daughter and told her she knew it was difficult but that her mother seemed to having a stroke. Again the daughter launched into a shouting tirade against Beya and her mother. Mom realized that there was nothing that she was going to be able to do and came back to Valentina and me. The daughter kept yelling "I HAVE TO BRING YOU HERE BECAUSE YOU HAVE THE MONEY AND THEN YOU ACT LIKE THIS! YOU'RE MAKING A FOOL OF YOURSELF!" As soon as I got my things I called 911 to tell them what was going on. Mom and I waited until the daughter took the groceries out to her truck and I called 911 back to give them the plate number. The poor woman was still in the store as she couldn't walk and the daughter pulled out a walker to take back to the store, presumably to "help" her mom out to the truck.

The walker she pulled out was just like the one sissy had. It was red and the exact same model. My mind couldn't help but go to what if sissy had been treated like this.

My alarm had been going off for about 10-15 minutes throughout this ordeal reminding me I had to go get Asa. Beya and I felt helpless but I knew I had to pick up Asa and we had done all we could do. The 911 operator had instructed me to stay away from the daughter, to not confront her or have anything to do with her. Beya, Valentina and I drove off to pick up Asa.

While I was waiting for Asa to get out of school I saw a firetruck go by, headed toward the store. I hoped that it was going for this poor old lady. As soon as I got Asa we saw an ambulance go in the same direction. There wasn't anything else we could do.

Now it was time for me to go to my monthly pain management doctors appointment. Off the four of us went. I got there and checked in when I was told that I wasn't on the books. As soon as I was told that I realized I hadn't received my usual day before confirmation phone call.

My mind was not my own.

After finding out that it was NOT my fault and that it was a clerical error (yay). I still hadn't heard from Norm. By this time I was thinking that was it, the guy had just put feelers out to Norm and it wasn't going to work out. Fine, maybe in the future.

A few hours later Norm called me. "We need to find room at the house because I'm going to be having a company car. I start on Monday!"

What?????

Norm got his dream job.

On the ninth.

Every single time something good has happened this year it has happened on a significant date that had something to do with sissy.

This morning mom asked me if I thought sissy was up there, working things out for us. I don't know. I have no clue. I want to believe it but I don't know. It seems like there are an awful lot of coincidences on certain dates. Wishful thinking? Us trying to make a connection? Wanting to keep sissy in on our current goings on? I don't know.

But I want to think so.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Merry Christmas


I can't believe how great this picture turned out! I swear I have the cutest kids!
It's so bittersweet because I see how big they're getting and I just want to talk to sissy about them. We were supposed to raise our kids together. We had both waited until we were "older" to have kids and we had all these plans of what we were going to do. Every time we drove past the school we would always say "that's where Asa and Valentina are going to go to school! We can go pick them up together." All of these things that we were going to do are gone and I'm here without her and I can't believe it. I miss her so much and honestly do not know how we are doing this. It seems as if every day is worse. But these two children are the loves of my life.