The Real Housewives of New Jersey star “loves the holidays,” says a source close to the Giudices. She’s busy decorating her house and preparing “every trimming imaginable” – and maybe even a lasagna to go with the traditional turkey dinner, as she has in years past.
“But this year is different,” says the source, “because she has everything else weighing on her.”
Giudice was sentenced to 15 months in prison on Oct. 2, after pleading guilty to bankruptcy fraud and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud. When she gets out of prison, her husband, Joe Giudice, 44, will serve a 41-month sentence for the fraud counts – and a concurrent 12-month term for failing to file a federal tax return in 2004.
Despite her looming prison sentence, Giudice “is going about life with as much normalcy as possible,” says a friend of the cookbook author. She’s busy preparing for Thanksgiving as usual, “cooking and decorating,” says the source. “They will be with Joe’s family.”
She’s also spending as much time as she can with her daughters – Gia, 13; Gabriela, 10; Milania, 8; and Audriana, 5 – before she heads to prison. “What is to come in the future is going to be hard, there’s no question,” says Giudice’s friend. “Nobody is a substitute for Mom.”
As always, she continues to get them ready for school each morning, drives them to karate class and soccer practice and tucks them in at night. “She’s running back and forth with the four kids,” says her friend. “She doesn’t even have a nanny. Her life is her kids and maintaining a happy home. Every day she’s trying to make them such a priority.”
Being away from her daughters is the most difficult part of her ordeal, says another source. “She cares about her daughters more than anything else in the world. It’s put her in a difficult position, so she is just doing the best that she can and enjoying these moments with them.”
She’s also trying to maintain a positive attitude. “You would never believe anything is wrong with her,” says the source close to the Giudices. “You would never know she is going to prison from the way she is acting. She has been out shopping, going out with friends, but is spending most of her time with her kids and her family. She is enjoying her life before she goes in. She’s not depressed at all.”
Giudice, who has said she is a survivor, is also praying a lot these days. “She’s praying for her children, for her family and for her father,” says the source. “Teresa’s father is very ill. Her biggest fear is that he passes while she is in jail.”
Even though Giudice is putting up a strong front, “I’m sure she’s scared,” says her former legal crisis manager, Wendy Feldman. “For somebody living life on TV – prison is going to be hard.”
• With reporting by JENNIFER GARCIA and PATRICK GOMEZ
For more on the Giudice family’s plans for Thanksgiving, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now