Wednesday, March 21, 2012

3rd Angelversary

March 26th is fast approaching. Natalia’s 3rd Angelversary. Part of me can barely believe it has been three years since she gained her wings. The other part of me feels every moment she’s been gone like strike to my heart.

Like the rest of the hard dates (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Talia’s birthday) this past year, we have been extremely busy leading up to it. It has been the trend this year. My work has been throwing new curves every day. Not in a bad way but definitely the shake things up way. That in its self would have been enough to keep me on my toes. Edgar has been busy working on new projects with work. Sophia has been going a mile a minute with school, gymnastics and friends. AND we are all planning our first long vacation. We have always just taken off for 1 or 2 days here and there.

I see the faces of Natalia’s friends, who are all turning 10, and wonder what changes would have taken place in her face. I wonder what subject would have been her favorite and what activities she would be involved in. She is still on the library 1st grade student list (Thank you Lisa!) which is perfect because she loved reading. I see siblings arguing with each other and can still hear Natalia calling Sophia “punk” and then knocking her off the top bunk. Which she claimed was an accident…but as I had just walked in the bedroom to see Pia go flying, I have my doubts. :)

We have always done something on Natalia’s Angelversary. On the first we went to Monterey to play in the waves with her. The second Angelversary, we went to San Francisco to visit all the spots we had spent so much time at while she was sick. This year we will be spending it doing the things she loved here in Fresno. She was always so excited to come home to Fresno. We will ALL be getting pedicures, going to the zoo (I have not been to the Fresno zoo since Natalia got sick) and having dinner at Famous Dave BBQ. I can hear her little “ooo yay” every time I think about our plans.

This is the year of our first big vacation without Natalia. We are off to Disneyland. It is not really without her because I feel her in so much of what we are planning. The girls have never been to Disneyland. We were waiting for Sophia to be tall enough to ride all of the rides. God forbid Natalia would get to ride something that Sophia couldn’t. Those of you who know Pia, understand just what kind of vacation nightmare that would have turned out to be. God love my stubborn, no fear, full throttle youngest child. We have gotten a lot of fabulous advice and tips from our friends…Huge thanks go out to Tammy for insider clues, Debra for the map and first time visitor pointers, Miriam for the Ariel’s Groto tip and everyone else who helped us to make plans. Sophia has had a blast checking everything online and deciding what all absolutely MUST be done and seen.

This trip will also be a test. Sophia has not done well tolerating time away from home. Home is safe to her. There is no life changing drama at home. Most of her early life travel was between home and taking Natalia to the hospital at UCSF. Long hospital stays, hurting sister and stressed out parents left a lasting impression on Sophia. By the end of day 2 away from home she becomes anxious to the point of constant tears and all she talks about is how much she misses home. We will be taking pictures of Natalia and the dogs with us to put around the room to make it more home like for Sophia. We’ll see how she does.

Much Love,

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

20 Days and counting

Two of the BIG Four are down. The Valle Family holiday season consists of Thanksgiving (Nov), Christmas (Dec 25), Natalia’s Birthday (Jan 24) and Sophia’s Birthday (Apr 13). Once we get through these 4, the rest of the year is much less stressful. In fact it’s almost peaceful. I refuse to let Natalia’s Angelversary on March 26th be part of the Big Four. The day she earned her wings will always be set apart from celebration days. By the time April rolls around for Sophia’s birthday it’s hard to tell who is more excited, Edgar and me or Sophia herself. It has become the high point of the year for both Edgar and I.

I have to seriously laugh and thank my oldest child for the shear amount of time consuming items that she has thrown into our lives this season. We have never been this busy before. From Thanksgiving to her birthday we have been & will be busy. We had a lot of activity going on at house between Thanksgiving and Christmas and it brought Holiday cheer along with it. January is shaping up to be busy as well. Sophia has stuff (school, gymnastics, friends’ parties, etc.), Edgar’s work is always hopping and my work has its reaccreditation on January 24th & 25th. I will be busy making sure my department is in compliance. Paperwork helps keep me employed! LOL!!

We will be spending Natalia’s birthday with her in Monterey. The hotel right on the beach she loved and Sophia playing in the ocean. Of course, Chinese food and the Aquarium are on the agenda. It wouldn’t be Natalia’s birthday without them. I expect the weather to be beautiful. Natalia always makes sure the time we spend with her at the ocean is amazing no matter what the forecast has called for. It can be pouring down rain and windy but not long after we get out of the car the blue skies appear. Little did we know when we spread her ashes in the Bay, she would make sure whenever we visit her at the water’s edge she would make it beautiful. 20 days and counting down baby girl!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Makes me smile...

I seem to have a love hate relationship with the Holiday season now. Especially Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving was Natalia’s favorite holiday. She would count down the days and ask everyone around her “how many more days.” She would talk about all the different types of Deeelicious food items that would be available to try. I can still hear her ooh and aah over the selections to be tasted. Yes, she loved to cook and eat.

She would ask exactly how things were prepared, as if, storing the recipes away for the time when she would be a chef. This year, I was able to make peace with a lot of emotions that have been swirling around in my heart and Edgar and I have decided to take Thanksgiving by the horns. Next year we will begin having Thanksgiving at our house. It will be a feast of senses with everything baby girl loved and more…because now Sophia is more vocal about cooking. It will be a time to share with family again. I am not saying there won’t be sad moments but we know that this is something Natalia would love, everyone coming to her house for her favorite holiday.

Christmas…oh joy…You know, SO FAR, this year is not as hard as last year. The first Christmas without Talia we were able to keep extremely busy because we were moving into the house. The hardest time for me was Christmas shopping. My feet would carry me to the Crayola aisle in every store and my heart would be crushed again. Last year had a fog around it, as if God was taking the harshest edges of our grief away. It would clear for few hours and the pain would be intense but then the fog would roll in again and soften it. I did most of Sophia’s Christmas shopping online because there was no way I was going into a store and find myself looking for presents for Natalia. This year, I have moments, I don’t know how it will be the closer to Christmas we get but right now it’s not as bad. I was able to do the majority of Sophia’s Christmas shopping in an actual store. I even had to brave to Crayola aisle because Sophia has a passion for drawing and painting. I still can’t look at certain things in that aisle, like color books, but I’ve made my peace with that. I also think Natalia has been making sure we have a lot to do this Christmas season so that we don’t have a lot of time to reflect that part of us is missing.

It’s not that we ever forget part of us is missing. It’s just that Natalia has gotten better at knowing when we need her presence and her warmth to wrap around us. And that makes me smile…

Much Love,

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

That Moment

Wow, maybe it is a sign of emotional stability that I don’t write on Natalia’s Friends that much anymore. Maybe it is just that I am part of cancer parent support groups with people that understand that while certain things can tick me off or make me sad IN THAT MOMENT, those moments don’t last very long. I thank God that it has become moments rather than hours/days/weeks. Speaking of Natalia does not bring on grief, it is always there. Speaking of Natalia brings me joy for knowing & cherishing her amazing life. Yes, tears will come but that is because my love for her has nowhere else to go. I can’t wrap my arms around her, so each tear represents a hug and kiss delivered.

I will admit that my tolerance for outside influences affecting my children has become minuscule. In other words, my BS tolerance is at its lowest point. I know this. I completely admit to it. I am working on making it better. It took me a long time growing up (& a write up on my first ship, the idiot should have known a helicopter wouldn’t be delivering a daily newspaper to the middle of the Caribbean) to curb my blunt, not thinking before I speak, responses to things. But trying to censor my brain and mouth in certain situations has become hard again. I see the cringe in people’s eyes when I talk about Natalia. It’s all I can do at times not to blurt out “she lived and had a great life on this earth, do not diminish her time here by refusing to talk about her.” When I talk about outside influences, I don’t mean the “hard knocks of life” influences or the “learn by making mistakes” influences those I actually cherish because they show me how much Sophia is growing as a person. I really love and cherish the person she is becoming. It sometimes amazes me how incredible of a girl she is…I am allowed to be prejudice; I am her mother after all. Outside influences are other people’s projection on how we should live our live. Back off!!! We are managing incredibly well, given we are now working with the Plan B of our life.

Life now is all about keeping us happy with our sanity intact. If the situation doesn’t allow for that…bye-bye. It might seem selfish, but I don’t care. I am trying to raise a child that wishes with every candle she blows out that her sister will come back to her. I have to continually explain to her that no matter how much she prays to either God or Jesus they cannot return Natalia to her earthly body. When she is told God & Jesus “save” lives she thinks it means mean literally saves lives not souls. She is not impressed. At least she is still talking to them and praying because she is back to refusing to go to church. I will not force her to go back. We had to make Sophia do so many things when Natalia was fighting cancer that I will allow her control over certain aspects of her life. Yes, we got her a cell phone for her birthday! A kick butt Android that allows her to have a ton of pictures of her sister at the touch of her fingers. Sophia has an issue with being out of control of things and the phone allows her instant access to pictures and people when we are out and about. She cannot take it to school or to play, not because she is not responsible, but because she is 7.

“I just want to be normal!” Yep, a stake to the heart with that comment while she was getting ready for school. Sophia is getting better at understanding and verbalizing her emotions. But, man-o-man, I was not prepared for that one. How do you explain to a child that while she is “normal” like other kids in so many ways that, I hope and pray her friends will never know our family’s version of “normal”? She is blunt and down to the “T”. So do not ask for her opinion on things unless you really want to know how she truly feels. Yep, that’s my child. She can be brutal and shows the intelligence of someone much older than her 7 years.

The first day of 2nd grad. I think this hit all 3 of us hard. Sophia was so excited to go but not long after the 3 of us got to Weldon she became very quiet and reserved. Two words usually not associated with my youngest child. Her quiet behavior all day worried some of her friends. She was back in Pia form for day 2. Edgar and I lasted until she walked into her classroom before the breakdown. Sophia is now officially further along than Natalia in school. That was hard. Seeing all the other families with siblings trying to get to the correct line was hard on the 3 of us. It really brings the fact that Natalia should have entered 4th grade this year home. While I love, really love, seeing how much her friends have grown and achieved, that first day of school truly sucked! Then trying to explain to her teacher on back to school night the best way for her to deal with Sophia’s sad/quiet moments, oh yeah, poor teacher I cried through my explanation. It totally and incredibly sucks that I even have to explain it. The teacher already knew Sophia’s situation but needed to know not ask Sophia emotional questions when she is having her moments. Either leave her be or give her a quick hug to let her know she understands. That Sophia had to lose her best friend/co-conspirator/sister to cancer sucks even more then having to explain it!

Well, I already feel better. I guess no matter how much I vent to other cancer mamas, I really need to put Natalia’s Friends to more use again. I am bottling things up and this page allows me to get things straight in my head. It helps keep me sane.

Thanks for listening!

Much Love,

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Oh Hell No!

Well, today was interesting to say the least. I called the girls pediatrician this morning to see if I could move up Sophia’s yearly check up. She has been complaining about leg pain for the past few months. I put it off to growing pains. But last week she started to complain about her legs feeling numb and tingly. Definitely not growing pains anymore. Surprisingly, they had an opening at noon today and so I took her in.

No surprise, Sophia has grown 6 ½ inches in the past 10 months. Definitely SOME growing pains going on. The hard part of the visit was when Dr Vasquez started doing basic neurological tests with Pia. Arms out then touch the nose, making circles with her thumb and pointer finger, quick switch hands, shoulder shrug, resistance tests. For a minute, all I could see was Natalia being put through the same tests over and over. All I could think was NOT THIS CHILD! I am quite proud of myself for not coming unhinged in the exam room. I asked appropriate questions and got answers in doctor speak. “Right now” he believes she is running low in electrolytes and this is why she is getting the tingly numb sensation, like her legs are asleep. He wrote up orders for lab tests and let me know he really thought that this was the issue. She is extremely active and doesn’t slow down for pain or this numbness. It is not constant and affects her mostly at night. He also said that if the labs didn’t show the results he expected that he would consult a neurologist. I really like our pediatrician! He is good about giving his opinion and then saying if that isn’t the correct answer here is what our next step will be.

I am extremely proud of Pia for her bravery at Quest. She had to do a blood draw. The MA wanted me to hold her in my lap and hold her arm still. I looked at Pia and said, “This is like when they used to poke Natalia for her tests. Do you need me to hold you still or should I just hold your hand for courage?” Pia’s answer…”Just hold my hand, Sissy showed me it was easy.” The MA was not happy and continued her you cannot move at all spiel. Pia watched through it all and didn’t bat an eye. When it was over she told the woman that putting the tourniquet on her hurt worse than the needle. Go Pia!!! Hopefully, we’ll have our answer soon. For now, I’m looking up ways to add more electrolytes to her diet.

Much Love,

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Growing Up

Let me first apologize to my husband. Poor Edgar, I seem to have some of my biggest meltdowns not long before he has to walk out the door for his shift. Not only does he have to deal with not so good people but he has to worry about how I am holding up.

Today's melt...I was folding laundry(oh joy)when I realized, Sophia won't fit into her jeans by the middle of summer. She is getting so tall. I thought "Oh, I will need to buy her some new ones soon." Then it hit me, she is big enough for the next set of Natalia's clothes. I stored the boxes in the back of Pia's closet but I kept thinking she would be big enough "in a couple of years". That's when the baseball bat hit. It has been a couple of years. Sophia is now older then Natalia was here on earth. She is finishing 1st grade and excited for second. I am so incredibly proud of the person she is becoming. The other morning I asked Sophia if she was worried about taking a test in school. She said she never worries about them because sissy is always there to help her with the answers. Blew me away!

As I went to grab the box, Natalia's voice told me to open the other box too. The box of Natalia's special pieces, the ones that were never to be worn by anyone again. She told me it was time. Talia always got a kick out of it when Sophia fit into her old clothes. She would giggle and tell Pia how cute she looked and funny things she remembered about wearing the piece. Although they are now the same age, Natalia will still be passing Sophia clothes for the next couple of years. Natalia was tall for her age and the steroids added a lot of weight, where as, Sophia is right there with her classmates in size. Today when she saw me pulling out the clothes Sophia said sissy told her it was time for her to wear her stuff. There are some pieces that won't ever leave the box but others Talia and Pia will giggle about together, as usual. And that helps me get through.

Much Love,

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Angelversary

Angelversary Day…Natalia was definitely with us all day.
We decided not to leave at the break of dawn, as was the original plan, because of the weather. The rain was forecasted for the entire day and low temps in the San Francisco area made us want to wait until the sun was up for a while. Coffee at Dutch Brothers…they’re always so nice and upbeat, not to mention the coffee is high octane! Hit the highway at 9am with the tunes blasting! Storm clouds and wind all the way between Fresno and San Francisco.

We made our turn off the highway onto Octavia and the rain slowed to a sprinkle. We drove around UCSF and past both Family Houses that had been so much a part of our lives for 11 months. We parked the car at Judah and 9th to walk down to our favorite Chinese place, Nan King Road Bistro and the rain stopped. We walked around for a bit after to settle lunch and check out some of our favorite shops. Then Donut World…for the necessary chocolate donut. Back in the car for the drive to Ocean Beach and the skies opened up. We decided to brave the rain and cold to walk on the beach only to be driven back into the car after being blasted hard by sand (I was still finding sand in my scalp Monday morning after 2 showers). We waited maybe 10 minutes, the wind died down, the rain eased and by the time we walked down to the surf the sun had come out and the rain completely stopped. Yep, Natalia at her best! Edgar & I gave Sophia only one rule, do not get wet! SHE stayed dry. I, on the other hand, ended up soaked below the knees because I was so focused on a rock in the sand that I didn’t notice the fast approaching surf. Natalia never could stay dry either. She was always so focused on what the water was revealing in the sand to notice when the waves were coming back in. I felt so close to her, yet so far away, in that moment.

We played on the beach for over an hour then decided to head out, but, couldn’t make ourselves leave SF quiet yet. We ended up at Fisherman’s Wharf just strolling around enjoying the remainder of the beautiful day. By the time we got home late Saturday, we were totally wiped. The trip and the emotions of the week had taken their toll and the 3 of us spent Sunday not moving more than necessary. The trip to San Francisco helped restore some peace to our lives. We all felt Natalia with us and that was the greatest gift of the day. We feel her presence at different times but when the grief threatens to overcome everything else, her healing calm can be hard to find.

Our life for the next few weeks will be surrounded in the chaos of preparing for Sophia’s birthday party. She has never had an “invite the friends” birthday party. When she was little we combined Easter dinner with her birthday celebration. We left her 4th birthday party to take Natalia to UCSF for a 2nd opinion just after she was diagnosed with the brain tumor. Her 5th birthday was 2 weeks after Natalia passed away and no one was in a big party mood. Her 6th was spent in Phoenix with the Wish Riders so this year… Pia’s getting her Backyard/BBQ/Bounce house rocking birthday party. She got to pick EVERYONE one she wanted to come, including adults. In addition to her own guest list, she is making a checklist of things that need to get done around the house before the party. Her notebook contains all!!! We have orders not to touch the notebook! A MAJOR special guest coming to town for her birthday and we can’t wait for her to find out who it is…Sophia has no idea this person is coming!!! It will really help make this birthday truly special.

Much love to you all,