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.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Little (Big) Things

This past week has been worse than usual. There are things, feelings and emotions going on that are almost unbearable but I can't do anything about it. That said, I'm very happy to have shared a very special night with Beya.

Thirty years ago, when I was only a year older than Valentina, I remember watching Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer get married upstairs in my grandparents home. We sat on the bed and watched the pomp and circumstance. I dreamed of becoming a princess one day. It is such a special memory for me and one that I have remembered clearly for three decades.

Today I was very fortunate to be able to watch Prince William and Kate Middleton get married with Beya by my side. We pulled an all nighter and finally went to bed after they reached Buckingham Palace, around 4:30 am our time. I was so glad to be able to do the same thing I had done 30 years ago with my mom. Did the wedding have any impact on our family? No. But it was a lovely, happy distraction and something that was exciting to do. In fact yesterday mom and I had sketched what we thought the dress would look like. For the record Beya was closer than I was :)

Even Asa and Valentina were excited to watch it. I had thought of waking up Valentina to see it live but decided against it as she was sleeping so soundly and I had DVR'd it. This morning while Asa was getting ready for school and Valentina ready to go to Grama's we watched the Today Show and they had all the highlights and recaps. They were both happy to see it and I loved that they were full of anticipation.

So even though this was a small thing in our life that really has no effect on it, it was a big thing to be able to share this tradition, thirty years in the making, with my mom. I can only hope that we will be able to do it once more when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge watch their firstborn get married.

Thank you mom!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter Rabbit Hole, Part Deaux

I must post this video clip from "Rabbit Hole" once more because I actually have been Becca in this clip. I can speak from a personal experience that words very similar to these have actually come out of my mouth and I have had those blank, horrified stares directed my way. I can't make this shit up! This scene always made me laugh with this stark look at reality and now that it has been MY reality, well, it's even funnier now.

About a week before Easter, Valentina was having a blast playing with all of Asa's masks that he has accrued over Halloweens passed. She made each of us put one on.

Asa triple tasking; working on the computer, wearing a mask and letting me take his picture.

Of course Valentina never does anything the normal way, oh no. Here she is wearing her mask the VALENTINA way, which is to dance and become another character altogether. Valentina doesn't walk, she gallops, glides, hops, skips or stomps. She never just gets excited about something, she jumps up and down, yells "YIPPEE SKIPPEE!", claps her hands and dances about. These are things done the "Valentina Way."

Yet another example of PJ's done "The Valentina Way". She wanted me to cut off the arms because she wanted them short sleeved. The girl is obsessed with short sleeves. So off the arms went...... and of course the natural place to put them were on her knees! The girl keeps us all laughing and seeing life through her fearless, amazed, happy eyes. I'm am so grateful for her.

And Asa Boy! Oh my dear, sweet, Asa Boy. Here he is being the goalie on his team. He makes a HORRIBLE goalie as he always leaves the goal unattended, too anxious to get in the game itself. You should see him, he is watching the ball intently, kicking, cheering his team on and just works himself into a frenzy......AWAY from the goal! It's nail biting to watch him because we want him to get back in FRONT of the goal! He just has to be in the action.

Saturday, April 23, 2011. Beya and Papa hid eggs for me since it's too hard, the memories of doing it with sissy are impossible to shake off so they did the honors. Here the kiddo's are getting ready to descend on the backyard with their baskets. The weather was great and sunny so we decided to do the egg hunt Saturday as the forecast called for rain on Sunday (which was correct). We spent all day outside doing crafts and having a picnic.


Check out our MexiGhetto soccer goal. The frame is from my grandparents garden swing that got smashed during a windstorm last year. Papa hung up a tarp from the top and voila! He needs to patent it before the MLS finds out about it and tries to steal the idea from him :)

Asa doing the honors of breaking the first cascarone of the holiday.

Easter Sunday, Valentina ready for mass.

THIS is Valentina, always dancing, always acting, always twirling, always performing. She just loves life and gets every last drop of happiness out of each day.

Asa didn't go to mass, he stayed home with Norm and me. It was wonderful! I got to have some one on one time with my boy. He is getting his first look at his Easter basket here.

A Star Wars Lego Ship! He couldn't wait to open it and put it together with Uncle Norm.

The kids' Easter picture.

Every year Trina and Asa would make the bunny coconut cake. I don't think I made it last year, although I have no memory of last Easter so maybe I did. This year Asa and I made it while Valentina was at mass with Beya and Papa. We had so much fun together.

After mass we all went to lunch. I was able to hold it together until the drive home when all the tears and feelings I had pent up finally came out. I cried the whole way home. I can't say I felt better because I didn't. Crying doesn't make me feel better, nothing makes me feel better. Well, that's not quite right, the kids make me feel better :) I'm so grateful for them and for my parents. I'm so so so so lucky to have the best parents and the best kids. Beya is always there for me and she helps me so much.

I love and miss you dearly, sissy.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Easter Rabbit Hole

Papa came home from mass Sunday and said it was Palm Sunday. Mom argued with him, as did I, because if Sunday was Palm Sunday that would mean that next Sunday is Easter. No, Easter isn't for another two weeks. Well wouldn't you know, I checked my calendar and Papa was correct.

Easter. Fuck.

I hate Easter. I think it might be the most difficult holiday for me. Well that and Halloween. And Thanksgiving. And Christmas. And Fourth of July. Okay, they're all hard but when I think of Easter my mind immediately goes to Trina's last Easter, 2009. She and I had so much fun hiding the eggs for the kids and thinking of how fun the next Easter would be with her new baby. We'd have THREE kids to hide eggs for! How fun! Little did we know that she would be dead in nine months. There would be no third baby. There would be no more fun, joyous egg hiding. That was our last Easter together.

I hate Easter.

Speaking of rabbits, Beya and I watched "Rabbit Hole" a few weekends ago. It was very sad how excited I was to see that Comcast had it on InDemand even before it came out on DVD. The movie was extremely realistic and very true to life. Nicole Kidman did a phenomenal job of portraying a grieving mother trying to keep herself busy when the axis and compass of her life is gone. There were several scenes that I have lived out myself but I'm not going to say which ones. It took a while for the enter movie to sink in but once it did I sobbed. I cried over the loss of countless adventures that sissy and I will never have, the inside jokes we will never make, the parenting conversations that are gone forever and for losing my best friend, my "person".

I've been mulling over the idea of getting a family ring for some time. I have a necklace with the kids' initials and birthstone, a necklace with Trina and the kids' names, birthstones and birthdates engraved and a family charm bracelet with each of our birthstones. I want a ring with the birthstone of each of the kids and sissy's. I was casually and innocently looking at some online when I saw the following:

It was like a punch in the gut.

At first it made me angry. Angry that some sisters are able to exchange this with each other but I can't. Angry that some sisters take each other for granted and don't even talk to each other. Angry that my sister is gone forever.

Then I became sad. Sad that some sisters are able to exchange this ring with each other but I can't. Sad that some sisters take each other for granted and don't even talk to each other. Sad that my sister is gone forever. That is grief in a minuscule nutshell, having multiple, conflicting feelings all at the same time. It's like bipolar on steroids.

Yesterday mom and I were watching a segment on the Today show about mid life crisis and when they hit. Mom said she thought 30 was a tough age. I disagreed with her and explain how all my life I couldn't wait to be 30. I looked forward to my 30's. In my mind once I hit 30 I would have a child, I would know that I wasn't the most important person in my life, I would be having fun being a mom, I would have a better sense of who I was a person. Mom remarked that I had a great 30th birthday. Better than that, I had a perfect 30th birthday blowout. We all went to Vegas for three days and my best friend along several other family members showed up to surprise me. It was three days of partying and celebrating. I got a tattoo at 2 am on my actual birth date with Trina by my side. It was perfect. I told mom that I had three and a half years of my 30's being exactly what I thought they would be.

It was at this time that mom looked at me like I was crazy. She reminded me that no, it wasn't like that. After I turned 30,

* I started paperchasing for an international adoption

* I was diagnosed bipolar

* We had to deal with Trina's bipolar episodes

* I had several bouts with severe depression

* I've had chronic, severely limiting pain since I was 26

* I had to wait for nine long months knowing my baby was living in substandard conditions 3000 miles away

* I went through multiple mental medication concoctions with varying degrees of side effects, some of which not only didn't work but made things worse until I found the right cocktail that worked for me

* Ditto the above for sissy

* Not bonding with Valentina for months after she came home and feeling a tremendous amount of guilt over it

So no, I guess my first few years of my 30's weren't as perfect as I thought they were. But in between and even in the midst of the above struggles,

* I had spa days with sissy

* I got to spend time alone time with Asa being the perfect aunt

* I went to multiple concerts with sissy having fun and once in a lifetime moments

* I had countless "girl days" with Beya and Trina

*I had so many side splitting laughter fits with Beya and sissy

* I had dozens of fun filled holidays

* I had several long and short family vacations

* I had pure, unadulterated, sheer joy

On May 3, 2009 when I was 33 cancer invaded our lives.... again. Even after that we CHOSE to have fun. We CHOSE to find the happiness and good and fortunate things in our lives. That's not to say I didn't also had breakdowns, crying fits, denial, acceptance, fear and terrifying moments because I did. I asked why. I still ask why. I will never get an acceptable response to that question.

On January 9, 2010 when I was 34 my sister was taken from me.

I feel like my 30's are over. There will come a time when I hit 40 and become older than my sister ever was.

For the five years I have left in my 30's,

* I will be grateful to have my parents

* I will hold tight to Asa and Valentina

* I will work on my marriage

* I will continue to go through the motions of having an outwardly "normal" life

* I will not take electricity for granted

And for the rest of my life,

* I will miss and mourn my sister

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Spring Break Pictures

First off, Valentina is doing pretty damn good with her tonsils. Today was the first day she ate something and then cried because her throat hurt. Mom made tacos for lunch and the corn tortillas were too hard for her. Well that and I'm such a fucking idiot. I've been so careful to keep her away from anything acidic including citrus and especially anything tomato based. What did I put on her taco? Tomatoes. To quote Charlie Sheen, "duh!" The nurse said this is to be expected around Day Five as the scabs are forming and it's more tender now. She really has been a trouper though. I write down when I give her medicine but I can tell when it's getting close to her next dose because she starts to drag and is more lethargic. On the flip side I can always tell as soon as the meds kick in because she's dancing around and yelling and singing. Our first night in the big city. We had dinner at a diner just a few blocks away from our hotel and Valentina was hamming it up. I just have to say this, that diner had the best sandwich I've ever eaten in my life. Seriously. I've been craving it ever since and have been trying to recreate it to no avail. Oh, and the onion rings! They were very flavorful and not at all greasy. It was an amazing meal. The next morning. We hit the small cafe next door to our hotel where Valentina had a yogurt and Asa couldn't find a muffin he liked. I think I bought him three different ones and he didn't like any of them. He sure looked cute though! Valentina with her yogurt..... and her papa.
At Chuck E Cheese. We met my aunt there with two of her grandkids. All the kids had a great time. This game had a light that went around and you had to jump when it came to you, basically an electronic jump rope. Look at where Valentina's feet are in this picture.......

...... and in this one. Yes, she really is that high off the ground. The girl can jump!

This submarine game was Asa's favorite.

Check out that concentration.

The equestrian of the family.

Valentina seriously rode this damn horse at LEAST 10 times.

I surprised the kids with ice cream when we were at one of the touristy pit stops.

Back in the hotel room, just kicking back and watching a movie on the portable DVD player that we never travel without.

Asa at his first soccer game. Speaking of which, sadly our team has lost their first two games of the season. To be honest, we're getting our asses kicked. Last week the score was 4-0, this week it was 5-0. Last season Asa's team went undefeated. I guess that's the difference between having a great coach and a worthless one. I do not like his current coach, he doesn't really do anything but I do think it's good for Asa to be on the losing team for once. He's still having fun and loving the game. I think for Fall season we're going to put Asa in the level above his current one so he can go back to having his amazing coach. I have stayed in touch with his old coach and he even came to Asa's game last week just to see Asa and help out. Coach made Asa promise that he would get him a ticket for his first MLS game :)

Valentina starts ballet next month and she's very excited. We will have a full schedule with school and multiple after school activities.

I wish so badly sissy was here to participate in the chaos, in the adventures, in LIFE. I miss her so much and nothing is the same without her.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Void Of Adenoids And Tonsil-less

Valentina had her tonsils and adenoids out on Tuesday. She was a little scared but did great in pre-op. We had bought her a new pair of PJ's and the night before she was very excited because she was looking forward to getting her presents.... and wearing pajamas ALL DAY!!! (her words, not mine). The doctor explained everything and told me the surgery would take about an hour so I figured it would be at least an hour and a half before he came to get us from the waiting room. WRONG! It was no more than 40 minutes when he called me back. He looked very serious and given the quick timeline I was scared but he told us that she did good, her tonsils were big but that her adenoids were huge. So off to the waiting room I went again until the nurse called me back. About 5 minutes later the nurse came to get me. While walking back to the bed where Valentina was, the nurse filled me in; Valentina was kind of freaking out because she was crying, therefore couldn't breathe through her nose and her throat hurt so she was having difficulty breathing through her mouth. When I saw my baby girl my whole body went into shock. The panic on Valentina's face and sheer terror in her eyes brought me back to a few days before sissy died. I wanted to freak out but I had to stay calm. I honestly think my mind went somewhere else because the next thing I knew mom had magically materialized, sitting next to me and I was holding Valentina. The reaction Valentina was having was horrible. They were monitoring her vitals and the alarm kept going off because she was so agitated. I'm not going to get into specifics but it was awful. After about an hour they told me it was my call as to if we wanted to go home or stay there. Valentina desperately wanted to leave so we went home. Poor thing kept throwing up. She must have thrown up at least 8-10 times the first day. The second day was better, she only threw up once. Now, day 4, she's doing really good. She has refused to ever take the Tylenol with codeine or Motrin so she's getting regular Tylenol around the clock, every four hours. I set my alarm when I go to bed and give it to her throughout the night. She's been sleeping with us and will continue to for about another week so I can keep an eye on her. So that is what we have been up to. All in all it has gone better than I could have hoped for, after we got past the first day. I miss my sister and wish she could be here.

Friday, April 08, 2011


I cannot begin to explain how damn proud I am of myself for actually creating a new blog design!!! It all started when mom said I need to change mine up. I wanted to see if I could do it myself, well, it was more of a distraction than anything else but I did it!!! I really did it!!! Since I can't bring myself to change my blog, I changed a private one that I started after sissy died. I deleted all the posts since I ended up posting everything on my blog and/or writing it my book so here it is, the link to the blog I created.

Technically I'm not done yet since if I were to change my blog, this blog, I would need to add pictures of Norm and Joshua but I just can't contain how proud I am of myself.

P.S. I ordered the bell :)

The Bell

I love Crate and Barrel. Love it. I've only been to the store a handful of times and I only buy things that are on sale but I love it. Trina always thought I was silly because I liked it because she thought it was highly overpriced and nothing suited her taste but she would humor me and go with me. Actually we always went everywhere and since I usually drove, her and Beya were my hostages. Anyway, every once in a while I have conversations with sissy in my head, especially when they are about unusual, different things. Take for instance my crush on Karl Pilkington. I know EXACTLY what she would have said and what words she would have accented, what sentence she would have repeated, etc... I hate having dreams of her but I love having these conversations with her. I watched "Castle" yesterday by myself and we talked about it together. So, I was cruising through Crate and Barrel online and look what I found: I love it. In my head I reached for the phone and told Trina all about my great find at Crate and Barrel. Again, I know exactly what she would have said, how she would have laughed at me, how I would have defended what a steal and find this bell was and we would have laughed until our sides hurt and tears were streaming down our faces. All over a bell. I miss sissy so much it hurts and even now I take things day by day, sometimes minute by minute. I hate that I can't have these conversations for real, but I'm grateful that I knew her inside out and can have these conversations in my head. One clarification I needed to make about my post yesterday. I gave my first quote and proceeded to tell a story but completely forgot to explain how the quote tied in with my story. Last year was hell. This year isn't really better, it's different. I can't compare the two because they are so different but last year I was in shock. I didn't really grieve. I spent most of the year in denial and shock. BECAUSE I didn't grieve I didn't really exist. This year I'm grieving but I'm also feeling more. You can't feel when you don't grieve because the shock and horror of losing such an integral part of your daily life puts you in a coma. I thought the quote,
"Man, when he does not grieve, hardly exists."

was spot on. Last year I didn't grieve and I hardly existed. Literally.

The pain is worse now because I am grieving but I am so grateful for my children, my parents, my family and my friends that are my family.

And finding that elusive bell :)

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Grief And Quotes

I was watching "Criminal Minds" last night and was struck by the opening narrative quote:

"Man, when he does not grieve, hardly exists."

- Antonio Porchia

That is so true.

Here is why.

Last week Beya and I went to Target while the kids were at school. We had actually gone the day before but Valentina had thrown an epic fit so we had to leave without buying anything. I was literally dragging her out. Yes, I was that mom with that kid. Trust me, the stares and dirty looks I was getting were not fun but hardly the worst thing I've been through. So yes, Beya and I went back to the scene of the crime to actually BUY the things we needed.

As we pulled into the parking lot we were laughing at something that I don't even remember what it was. But the fact is, we were laughing. And that brought me back to over a year ago when mom and I went on our first Target run without sissy. It was horrible, it is one of the few memories I have from last year. Mom and I sat in the car and sobbed. Mom kept repeating "we just have to get through this moment" and I replied "but it's too hard. This moment RIGHT NOW is too hard." Beya and I just sat there, cried and then managed to pull ourselves together to go in.

Last week we were laughing when we walked in.

Part of me was hesitant to write this post because people see us laughing and assume that we are all better, that we have grieved (past tense) and have "come out the other side". That has got to be one of the worst and dumbest ways to describe grief because you are never done with it. Grief never goes away. One of the truest quotes is:

"You are never ok again,

you just become more ok with things being shitty."

- Holly G

I have the best and most truthful friends.

Mom and I find it easier to laugh with each other because we know that we are both still thinking the exact same thing at all times, "if only Trina was here. How is it possible we are doing this without her?"

Sunday the six of us (Norm, Beya, Papa, the kids and me) went on a two night getaway. Norm had meetings for work so we all packed up and left our metropolis for another metropolis that is about a 2 1/2-3 hour drive away. It was the first time I had been there since sissy had died. The four of us (Trina, Josh, Norm and me) had gone there several times for weekends away and had always had so much fun. There are so many memories locked in that city. When Trina and Josh were dating and he still lived there, she would go spend the weekend with him. She was also self employed in sales and the head office was based up there so she would have to travel up there for work too. As we drove past the exits my mind wandered back to not just our trips up there but to when sissy would call me while she was driving that stretch of freeway. We would talk for an hour (easily) about everything and ever so often she'd read off which exit she had just passed. There were so many memories, each one more stabbing than the last, that I cried for about an hour in the car with Norm (Beya and papa drove my car with the kiddos).

I thought I had been through the worst of it but oh no, I woke up in the middle of the first night literally sobbing. My face was wet with tears. In my dream sissy and I were on vacation in that city, laughing, having fun, excited for the upcoming U2 concert and then sissy was sick and when I woke up sissy was dead. I hate dreams of sissy because we are always having fun and it just slaps me with the reality that that will never happen again.

But we did have fun on our little trip. We did touristy things with the kids, things that I hadn't done in the city since my first trip up there when I was about 14. The only thing that sucked was the snoring. Oh, and the uncomfortable beds. And the face that they were mini beds. Queen size? Ha! They were like twin beds! Even my ambien couldn't get me to sleep (as Jen can attest to and yes, ambien is to make me sleep, as much as my behavior contradicts that). We got home Tuesday afternoon and I'm so glad we went. Once I get my pictures downloaded I will post some of them.

Valentina's surgery is scheduled for next week. After taking her to the ENT he confirmed that Valentina's tonsils and adenoids are so big that they are blocking about 85% of her airway. Her voice is going to change because for the first time she will be able to breathe normally. Of course no mother wants their child to go through surgery but then I think of the countless surgeries Aviana has been through (actually I'm sure Jen could tell you the exact number she's had) and I realize how minor a tonsillectomy is. Of course my mind also meanders back to when I took Trina to the doctor for the pain she was having, he listened to her and then informed her it was normal pregnancy pains. On her trip to the ER on May 3, 2009, the worst possible diagnosis we thought was a blood clot.

"When you hear hoof beats think horses, not zebras."

"Sometimes it is zebras. Sometimes it is."

- "Off The Map"

Sometimes it is. But sometimes a tonsillectomy is just a tonsillectomy.