The Queen: Michelle

The Queen: Michelle
I am 28 years old. Still a princess but the queen of my family. Spoiled beyond belief. Lucky and truely blessed. A lover. A crafter. A mother. A wife. A friend. This is me.

My King: Junior

My King: Junior
The LOVE of my life! He completes me and balances me out in every way. He's a workaholic. He's loud, blunt, and crazy. He drinks Monsters like his life depends on it. Above all he is the greatest Daddy I could ever ask for, for my children. And he treats me like his Queen (and he calls me that too).

The Model Child: Diego Ray

The Model Child: Diego Ray
9 years old. My only boy. He is the epitome of the perfect child. He is so responsible and independent. Wise beyond his years. He is laughter, he is love, he is compassion, he is simply amazing. He keeps me grounded and reminds me always that I am beautiful. He is a natural born leader and takes care of the household and family better than me!

The Diva: Alayna Danae

The Diva: Alayna Danae
7 years old. She is drama. My fashionista for sure with a style all her own. Sensitive and loving when she wants to be. Thumbsucker. My biggest headache because she is the most like me. She is the only one who can cause me to become uncontrollably angry. She loves to dance. She loves to model. My bookworm and most academic.

The Wild Child: Arielle Marie-Grace

The Wild Child: Arielle Marie-Grace
4 years old. This one is something else. She is pure comedy. Never a dull moment with her crazy antics. She is also the crybaby. She does things her own way. She knows what she wants and isn't afraid to be cute to get it. My Disney loving pal. So girly. Her favorite color is pink. Loves Rapunzel. Will wear a dress every single day. Can't leave the house without a bow in her hair. She refuses.

The Munchkin: Atalie Belle

The Munchkin: Atalie Belle
2 years old. My sweet baby. She loves her Mommy above all else. She is a cuddlebug for sure. The calmest most well behaved baby ever! But she has TONS of energy. She is so small and petite. She loves to sing and dance. She so SO ready for ballet and has yet to even step foot in a class. She loves Minnie Mouse and watching Disney Jr. She is hilarious and talks way too much.
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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Goodbye Mommy

I feel better knowing that she has been laid to rest.

Now I can help my husband heal. He's taking it the hardest. And all I want to do is ease his pain. He's not a talker. And the only person who could get him to open up was my Mom. He's been up and down emotionally this week. And all I could do is try and be here for him if and when he's ready to talk. He doesn't think I will understand. But I do.

Although her and I had a very different relatioship than him and her... she was still my Mom and very much the center of my world. I talked to her everyday. I lived pretty much my entire life with her. If I needed her she was there. She spoiled me more than a Mom should. She yelled at me when needed (which was a lot since I lived with her) but she always found a way to make me happy. Pozole on my birthday, caldo when I was sick, she bought me everything I asked for, she always took me out to eat. She was the only person I could always count on no matter what it was that I needed. And I know Jr definitely felt the same.

He made me cry last night. As I tried talking to him about it and how he was feeling... he kept blowing me off like I wouldn't understand. I kept trying to remind him that I was feeling the same as he was feeling. And that we could talk about it together. When he told me, "What do you want me to tell you? Hey how does it feel to know that your Mom is gone?" I shuddered. It sounded awful coming like that. The he said, "She was my ONLY friend and I watched her slip away... I prefer not to talk about it."

He's is so strong. He's right. He watched it all happen. He had no control. And now I understood why he's been feeling so guilty. But in reality he did everything. He can't be superman even if every second of the day he tried to be just that. He's not made of steel. There was nothing he could have done differently. And I hope he can understand that. I only wish I could be half as strong as him if I am ever in that situation. He took care of my Dad. My Dad wasn't alone that night. And that's what my Mom would have wanted. My Mom was his backbone and he needed someone at the hospital with him that night. I am glad it was Jr. He's an Angel.An Angel with tattoos... but an Angel nevertheless. He made the calls that morning. He was there for my Brother, sister, and family when they arrived to the hospital. He was there to catch me when he had to break the news to me. And Angel with tattoos.

And today,,, he proudly helped my Brother, uncles, brother-in-law, and Grandpa carry the casket. He never left my side today. On the hardest day of my life he was there. He's just doing what my Mom prepared him for. To take care of her family. To take care of her daughter and grandchildren. She may not have raised him... but she prepared a good man.

Everything was beautiful today. Just what she deserved. The sun was shining. I was happy about that. It rained on the day she died and it rained yesterday on the day of the viewing. But I was told by my sister-in-law's Mom that the Angels are cleaning and mopping to make sure the staircase to Heaven is immaculate for a very special Angel and that the raindrops are tears of joy to welcome such a person! How can that not make you smile? To know we got rain both days. And today the sun was shining behind all the clouds. She always gave me what I wanted... so I know she put in a good word for the sun on my behalf.

Again we got lots of help from people. Her work catered food from Buca de Beppo for all the people who came to our house afterward. After tonight we won't have family here anymore. for 7 days we've had a non-stop flow of people in my parents house, where Jr and I have been staying too. And tomorrow they'll all be gone. And we'll have to try and re-adjust. And get the kids back on schedule before they start school again on Monday.

This for me will be the hardest. How am I going to go on? I know I will be okay. We are all together and we will be okay. But how? And when? I want so much to make sure my Daddy will be fine. I am more worried about him than anything. But just like I called my Mom everyday to ask her every question I could think of... I know she will show us how to go on. I can't tell you what that will be right now... but as the days continue I know that whatever we're doing... she's still guiding us and protecting us. And I need her more than ever...

The Hardest Day of My Entire Life

And I say this because the day she died was hard. But not compared to today. Today is the day we laid her body to rest. And now it's the day we have to figure out how in the world we are going to go on without her. We now have to step up and fill those shoes... high heel shoes might I add... and continue on with what she's taught us. It's so hard because we literally came to her for EVERYTHING! What I was gonna wear, money, the kids, how to cook things for dinner, emotional issues, marital issues, friendship issues, pretty much everything you could think of. Now I'll have to ask myself... what would my Mom tell me... and hope I can find the right answer. I have to now become my own person.

The funeral was beautiful and afterward everyone came over to eat food catered by Buca de Beppo on behalf of Cox Communications. Here's some pictures of the rest of our day:

We miss you Mama!


My handsome uncle Mario

Mario with my cousin Chato and Diego

My Mom's first Best Friend Denise and my Mom's goddaughter Kerissa

Me and my cousin Chato

Chato, Me, and Mario

The Troublemakers

Then another photoshoot inside at night

The Noriega clan and then some...

Daddy, Willie, and I: For those of you wondering... Willie IS family! He slept on my aunt and uncles couch some 20 years ago and never left. He keeps coming back and my Mom loved when he'd fly in on Thanksgiving day to just to spend it with us! He's our Mexicanese cousin okay... just leave it at that.

Mario, Daddy, Me

Daddy, Me, Cecy

My Mom always joked that everyone needed a Junior in their life. So I guess we have a transfer of ownership now... Kika!

Monday, December 28, 2009

The Viewing

By far the hardest part of the whole week.

I thought I was prepared. I said my goodbye to my Mama in the hospital. She was still her. I could smell her. I could still feel her with me. I was sad but she looked so peaceful despite the tubes in her mouth and nose.

But after not having her around through Christmas and not seeing her for 6 days proved to make things harder again.

For the past 6 days we've had tons of family here. They've kept us distracted. We gather to eat, we laugh, we tell stories of my Mom, it helps us. Had this not happened over Christmas week we would have been alone during this time, until the actual services. But lots of family came over and has helped to keep us in good spirits.

So the drive over there was so short but so long. Junior and I discussed it right away and decided that we would not want any of kids at the viewing. The last time they had all seen her was 2 days before she passed at Ducky's birthday party... and that's how we wanted them to remember her. We felt, especially for Diego, it would be harder for him if he actually saw her. And for this reason, as a family we also decided on a closed casket for the funeral. So after dropping the kids off we arrived at the funeral home. The same funeral home we used for my Abuelito 5 years ago.

Walking into the funeral home was okay. We had huge collage frames set up with lots of pictures... and our favorite picture was framed into a signature mat so that people could sign. Some family were already there. Jr and I both were hesitating before entering the room. I could us both holding back and trying to drag it out. But as more people started to show I decided that I wanted to go in and see her before anyone else. I felt ready... so Jr grabbed my hand and we walked in.

I didn't look up until we reached the casket. And then I looked. And broke down into tears. I was not at all prepared. I felt ready seconds before... but I was not. She looked so different. Beautiful. Oh my goodness was she beautiful resting there. Her hair was done, her nails were perfect, her eyebrows perfectly shaped, because she had gotten everything done just days before, and wearing the dress she wore for her and my Dad's 25th anniversary vow renewal ceremony. But she was different. Like she was not her anymore. Jr asked me if I was okay. I told him that I thought I was prepared but I was not. But I wanted to see her, I wanted to kiss her, and I did. I felt her. I felt her hair. I felt selfish for wanting her back. I felt like I took for granted everyday I had with her. Selfish. Selfish. There was nothing left unfinished between her and I... and in fact hours before we were together laughing, eating, wrapping gifts, and everything was perfect. Nothing out of the ordinary but it was perfect.

The night never got easier. In fact it just was harder and harder as more people arrived. So many condolences I felt overwhelmed. I am completely and utterly grateful for all the people who went. In awe of the amount of people there. Family, friends, co-workers... just amazing. And a few people went up to share the memories we have of her and to tell stories about her. It was beautiful. We laugh, we cried, we laughed again, and then cried some more. I wish I could have been brave enough to go up there. But I wouldn't have been able to even choke out one word. I am better at writing my feelings. I can cry while doing it (just like now) and I can still say everything I want to say.

And I left there knowing that I could still see her one more time. Tomorrow. Before the mass they will open the casket for family one last time. A final farewell before we lay her body to rest.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Telling Diego

I dreaded this the most. When I woke the kids at 4am in the morning to be taken to my cousin's house... I still didn't even know what was going on. Luckily for most of the day my cousin and her husband kept all 3 kids at their house while we went to my Dad's. Lots of people were bringing food, coffee, desserts, and everything they could think of. I napped off an on the rest of the morning.

By late afternoon our kids were finally on their way to my parent's house. I was so nervous. Jr and I couldn't sit still. Once they arrived and before they had a chance to see everyone's crying faces we pulled Diego aside and walked him straight into what used to be their bedroom. And the first thing out of his mouth was, "Where's my Jamma?" But as we took a few seconds to answer his smile quickly faded. My Mom always said he was 6 going on 30... and I know she was right. It is such a blur what I told him exactly... but I know I started out with... "You know Jamma has been sick for a while... and this morning we had to go to the hospital to be with her again. And I'm sorry baby, but she died..." And that's when I lost it. And so did he. Diego has always been smarter and more maturer than kids his age and he knows what it means to die. Jr and I held him for like 10 minutes and let him cry. And we cried. How hard it is to tell your 6 year old son that they greatest person in his life has just passed away. My heart was completely broken for him. I had her for 25 years. And he didn't. We told him she loved him the best always. He was her baby. Her buddy. and as long as he never forgot her she would always live in his heart. Because physically we would no longer get to see her... but in his heart she can live forever. In his memories she could live forever. And that would never die. Jr had a hard time seeing him that way. So I asked Diego if there was anything he wanted to say or if he had anything to ask... I didn't want him holding anything in. He asked, "Was it because she smoked?" I explained to him smoking was bad (he was always on her case about it) but assured him that it wasn't the cigarettes that caused it. Because I know Diego and he'll start to worry about Jr next and his smoking. He worries about everything enough as it is. Then he choked out, "That means I won't get to see her again and I can;t even kiss her anymore." And his crying began all over again. And again my heart broke. I wish I could shelter him from everything, I wish I could magically take away all his pain. I am 25... I can handle it. It would take time but I can deal. But my 6 year old was dealing with emotions that I never had to deal with until I was 20 years old when my Grandpa passed away. I had years of memories and stories of my Abuelito... where as he won't have that. It's unfair.

Grandpa came and joined us soon after and we held him and cried some more. And we agreed that we'd make a scrapbook all about her. Diego's main concern was that his new sister will never get to meet her. And we want to make sure that all his sisters remember their Jamma and that he never forgets her as well.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day

Christmas morning we got up and went to see our Goddaughter Arianna. She's so cute.

And her and Arielle like to hug goodbye

Afterwards we went to my Mother-in-law's for a while. Watched a movie. Okay well, I slept, but everyone else watched the movie.
And then the kids went outside and got to ride on the quad that my brother-in-law Luis bought for his son Anthony.

Alayna loved riding with her Nino

Diego was proud cuz he could drive it alone

Arie got a turn with Daddy

She is just the happiest kid... even with her Chucky smile...

And Duck learned to ride alone too!

And after all that fun we met back with my family and my Papa's house. And he brought out all his millions of hats and we had fun trying them on. Fun times!

The Guys: Edgar, Daddy, Papa, Mario, Raul, Diego, and Jr

My Boys <3

The Twinkies, Matthew, and Diego

The Girls: Rebecca, Alexis, Kika, Me, Arielle, Jessica, Cecy, Paula, Alayna... Oh and Mario in the back!

Then we put Papa in women's hats... he was a great sport! LOL

And my uncle Mario fell in love with Diego. He asked me if he could adopt him and take him back to L.A. with him. Diego was SO ready to go! Haha!

How Does This Happen?

My Mom has been sick since January. I had to drive her to Doctor appointments. Many many Doctor appointments only to see her frustration. They diagnosed her with vertigo, then migraines, but nothing they prescribed seemed to help her. My Mom was never satisfied with one opinion and went to more Doctors to try and find out why she was always seeming to get dizzy and have headaches. She had many tests done, MRIs, CT scans and tried too many new medications. Nothing ever seemed to make her feel better. My Mom was strong, independent, and hated to feel like she needed people to help take care of her. There were many occasions that my husband or I had to help her and I could see how much it bothered her to have to put us in that position.

I can't believe how much my husband took over and did everything for her. There wasn't anything he wouldn't have done for her. He was happy to live in her house, as cramped as we were, just to know she was doing okay. They were buddies, he told my Mom more things than he even told me! He confided in her, he looked to her for guidance, he always wanted her approval and advice. She was the only person that could get through to him, he only listened to her, and she loved him. I always joked that she loved him more than me. She really did.

Last week she passed out. My Dad and her were at home and I got a call late at night from her that she was on her way to the ER. This was the first time my Dad saw firsthand what Jr and I had been dealing with for practically the whole year. He was scared. I immediately knew that someone needed to be there with them at the hospital. I called Jr and he was working. But he sent Loyiel. We told Loyiel that she was on new medications, the names, the procedure she had just gotten done and basically informed him with anything they should know at the hospital. But by the morning she was back at home.

The next day I went to visit her at home but with 3 loud kids I had to leave because I felt like she needed to rest. That night I got a call from her. Telling me that she was having blurry vision off and on all day and that her arm was going numb. I did research and her symptoms pointed to a stroke. By the time I called her back to tell her about it she had just gotten off the phone with my sister-in-law who had told her the same things. So I arranged to pick her up for her next Dr appointment so we could ask about it. After reading to Jr all about a stroke he decided that he wanted to go to the Dr with us that day. But a few hours later she called me again that she was on her way to the ER again. She said her veins were black and she was still having numbness in her arm. So this time I sent Jr to hospital too. They were there into the middle of the night. By early morning he called to tell me that she was being taken by ambulance to another hospital for more testing and admitting her there since there was no room where she was at. Again Jr, My Dad, and Loyiel were there with her. The guys kept her laughing. She was there for 3 days. The black veins turned out to be tape residue from her first trip to emergency. We laughed about it... but since she was there already they did do more tests and concluded that had a mini stroke. Our last pictures taken with her were there. My sister and I posed for a few pictures while we cracked her up in the hospital room.

Friday they finally released her although they wanted her first thing Monday at her Dr again. And they insisted she schedule another MRI because they saw something on her brain that the wanted to take a look at. And she needed to start seeing a cardiologist as well. I was there to pick her up from the hospital along with my Daddy and we got to bring her home. On the drive we talked about how happy she was to be out of there. All she wanted was her own bed. She was frustrated beyond belief and grouchy because she hadn't smoked in 3 days. She had to quit and so far she was doing good. She immediately started calling and making her appointments.

Saturday my Dad and her spent the WHOLE day together doing ALL their christmas shopping. My Dad said she enjoyed picking everyones gifts. She played with the kids toys. And very much enjoyed her day. My dad also said they talked about a lot of things.

Sunday was my nephew's birthday party. We were happy she was out of the hospital in time to be there. The weather was great and we spent the day at the park.

Monday she decided after 2 weeks of not working to go to work. We all thought she was insane! But that's my Mom. She worked for 4 hours and then went to her Dr appointment. Her Dr immediately told her she was crazy and that she wasn't to be at work or DRIVING! So that night my Dad and I went to Walmart to finish buying 4 gifts she needed and pick up her medications and such. We picked up Jack in the Box on the way home. We had dinner. And then my Mom and I wrapped all the gifts. Actually she wrapped them. We talked about so many things while wrapping. She didn't let me see any of the gifts either. And she had so much fun playing with the kids toys. To the point where she unwrapped Diego's gift... played with it... and then wrapped it again. She showed me the purple shoes that she had bought 2 days earlier and was bragging about since then. She made my Dad put them on her and she sat there in Pjs and purple high heels. She was so happy about them. And just before 11pm I left with her van. The plan was I was to come back in the morning (since my car battery was dead) and pick her up to take her to finish her Christmas shopping. So I went home and went to bed.

At 3:25am Jr got a phone call from my Dad asking him to come over because my Mom had passed out again and he needed to take her to the hospital. When it comes to my Mom Jr wastes no time. He slipped on his shoes and jacket that were right next to him... grabbed the keys... and told me that he needed to help my Dad because my Mom was sick again. And in less than a minute he was gone.

A little while after I got a few missed calls from Junior. So I woke up and called him back. He said to get the kids up and dressed because my cousin Vanessa and Frank would be coming by to pick us up... take the kids to their house... and going to meet him at the hospital. At that moment I said, "...Why?" He said she needed to see me. So we did just that.

As soon as we got to the hospital my world fell apart. I saw Jr waiting by the door beside the emergency entrance. As soon as I walked up to him I could see the tears in his eyes as he immediately grabbed me from falling. He didn't have to say anything because I already knew. I started to cry as he said, "I tried everything baby... everything... but your Mom is gone..." I couldn't believe it. I thought just 5 hours before she was fine. I saw her. I felt her. I kissed her goodbye. We had plans to shop which was one of our favorite things to do together because we always ended up somewhere to eat. I couldn't be true. My worst fear and the bad feeling in my stomach was confirmed with just a simple look. I don't remember how I stopped crying but I do remember asking to see her. My Dad and husband started walking me over to her room but before we entered my Dad stopped me. He said, "Before you go in, know that she has tubes in her nose and mouth still. Ignore them and look beyond what you see and don't pay attention to them."

I walked into the room and broke down again. It was hard to actually see the reality of what was to come. She looked like she was sleeping... and Kika had actually said, "She's sleeping look at her." I kissed my Mommy. She felt so cold. But it felt like she was still there. I could smell her. But that was the point that I finally calmed down. I felt at peace. As strange as it may sound I was happy for her in that moment. She could be with her Mom again. She didn't have to deal with all the frustrations of seeing many doctors. She had enjoyed her grandkids, made up with people she was fighting with, she finally started learning about her Catholic faith, and nothing seemed to be unfinished. All those thoughts alone brought me peace. That and knowing that my Mom would have never wanted us sitting there sulking after her. The next few hours were a blur. Family came in and out to say their goodbyes. And I am talking aunts, uncles, cousins, my grandpa. That was hard. Having to see his first born child go before him. He said, "I can't even cry. I am still in shock." As he sat down next to her and immediately reached under the blanket to touch her hand. I felt my heart break again and had to leave the room. I felt so bad. How does one deal with having to bury their own child? How is my Dad going to go on without my Mom? Who's going to cook for him? What's he going to do living in an empty house all alone? And that's when Jr pulled me aside and asked me if I was okay. He asked me if I needed anything. And if I wanted to cry to just let it out. I was too busy making sure my Brother was fine, my Daddy was fine, and Jr was fine that I forgot that I needed to grieve too. So again I cried.

Jr took it extremely hard. I could see it in his face. I've only seen him cry once in my life. And this was nothing compared to that. The look of guilt broke my heart. He felt like he wasn't quick enough. It was awful to see that he felt like he didn't do enough... when ironically he did more than anyone else would have done. Then he finally told me what happened.

She got up to go to the bathroom. She got dizzy and called for my Dad. My Dad was able to get to her before she passed out. But my Dad couldn't lift her or move her. Jr was there in a flash and the front door was already open when he arrived. That's when he panicked. He got into their bedroom and said that the image in his head is something he can't shake from his memory. And he could hear her struggling to breathe. He lifted her like nothing and told my Dad to grab her purse. The loaded her into the van and he did 120mph and ran every red light to the hospital. Just before they got there my Dad told him that she had stopped breathing. He said that he tried to punch it but the car wouldn't go any faster. They got there he jumped down and grabbed a wheel chair, yelled for help, and took her out of the car and was met by nurses. They immediately started working on her. He stood there with my Dad as they shuffled them into another room. Jr said... he was angry that they didn't let them in. After 10 minutes they went to get them and took them in. It wasn't looking good. They were breathing for her but she didn't have a pulse and heartbeat. Jr started making calls to my brother, sister, and I. He said all him and my Dad could do was cry as they saw everything unfolding before their eyes. I am glad that Jr was there and that my Dad didn't have to be alone. They worked on her for an hour before stopping. Shortly after we started arriving.

I can't believe how strong my Dad was. If it wasn't for him I think I would have gone crazy.

The holidays have been hard for me. In the moments when I am alone or at night trying to sleep are the hardest. It's hard to be alone with my thoughts. Christmas was a good distraction but I know the hardest thing for me is yet to come. We did everything she wanted. We bought a real tree for her house the day before Christmas Eve. All her grandkids decorated it. The whole family went to Christmas Eve mass since she had invited us all a week prior and was so excited to have us attending. It was beautiful. But for me it was hard not having her there to watch everyone open their gifts. The kids were so excited. I was happy to see she got everyone what they asked for. And she bought me new makeup. Nothing fancy... but it meant so much that she got me exactly what I wanted.

And now we have a Christmas Angel on our tree on her tree. It is all her. Christmas is all for her.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve was particularly hard for me. It was hard watching everyone open the presents that my Mom picked out and wrapped herself. She got everyone just what they wanted. Nothing huge... but something we wanted. Somehow these gifts mean so much more to me than they would have.

My Mom was so looking forward to it. Every since I was a little kid I remember her not really liking Christmas. Once I got older I asked her why. She said she wasn't sure but she attributed it to the fact that her Mom (who she lost when she was 24) always LOVED Christmas. It was her favorite holiday. And when my Mom was little she had the best memories from Christmas. And after she lost her Mom it wasn't the same anymore. She tried for us... but I always knew it wasn't as exciting for her... and I can remember this since the time I was about 6 or so. And it wasn't until about a year or so after I had Diego that she finally slowly stared liking Christmas again.

And this year she was full of Christmas spirit! So I am determined to not let this time of year be a sad time... but happy. She wanted a real Christmas tree this year so Jr went out and bought one yesterday for my Dad and set it up. And Rebecca and I strung it with lights and a beaded garland around it. And today the kids got to decorate it. And we tracked down an Angel for the top. My Mom is now our Christmas Angel. All we've ever owned was a star and now we'll have an Angel for her tree. And she would have loved her tree. It's beautiful.

Nevertheless it was a nice night spent at my aunt's house for dinner until past midnight. And then back to my Mom's house (like every year) for more presents until about 3am.

My Abuelita and Me

My girls in front of Jamma's tree once we got back home

Diego in front of Jamma's tree

Arielle and her Nina... she loved spending time with her since she only sees her a few times a year.

Decorating Jamma's tree at 1am!

(I put up my Mom's favorite ornament for fear the kids might break it)

My Daddy and Sister

Then Juan helped Diego put the Angel up on the tree

Dogpile on Grandpa... he loves his grandkids!

Arielle LOVES the toy that Jamma picked out for her... I know she was smiling up there watching Arielle open it.

And me and Daddy at the end of our long night...