Why My Latino Christmas Was Anything But

Disclosure: This is a compensated campaign in collaboration with Sears and Latina Bloggers Connect.

Growing up in a small rural community dotted with orange groves and horse trails and a predominantly white presence, I was acutely aware that my family was different. Not only were we not white, we weren't like the Mexican families that worked at the local dairies. The foods we ate, the language we spoke and the customs we engaged in were similar but...they weren't entirely the same either.

This was especially true during the holidays.

I had a best friend named Maria De La Torre who lived across the street. Her family was from Mexico and her mother didn't speak any English. As a young girl, I used to be mystified by their Christmas traditions. They recognized the Feast of our Lady of Guadalupe, their large family celebrated Las Posadas, complete with tamales, ponche Navideño and piñatas filled with Mexican candy. They also celebrated Dia de los Reyes Magos and I was like, a plastic baby? In the bread? This was in stark contrast to the Christmas that was familiar and beloved to me.

Sure, my Mexican-American family enjoyed the tradition of tamales but our holiday celebrations were as American as apple pie.


Happy Birthday Kandinsky: Modern Art 4 Kids Craft

Today's Google Doodle.

I am a big fan of Google Doodles.

I love to see how Google changes its logo to recognize and celebrate special days, holidays and people. It's so creative!

Today's Google Doodle captured my art loving eye in a heartbeat. December 16th commemorates Russian painter's Wasily Kandinsky's 148th birthday. Kandinsky is considered the father of abstract art, and I have a huge love for abstract art.

I wanted to share a project that I did with my art class from Modern Art 4 Kids several years ago. I was inspired by this project and wanted to recreate it with my kids (who were only 3, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 at the time -- my babies!) and my lovely art students that I taught at our homeschooling co-op.


A lesson about fathers my uncle taught me

As a young girl growing up, my uncles were a vital part of my life. My mother is the middle child of seven siblings and she has always been close to her four brothers. Over the years, they've served as a continual source of love, support, protection and influence.

My parent's divorced by the time I was seven years old, so my life had changed drastically from living in a home with my father to seeing him a couple weekends a month. My uncles helped fill that void in my heart.

My uncles and their families were a big part of our lives. Barbeques, camping, birthday parties, Halloween parties, Christmas, football games, amusement parks, driving down to Mexico in the summer etc. Our families just blended together seamlessly, and even more so once my mom became a single mother.

I lost one of those uncles last week and as I tend to my family and sit down at my computer to work, his face continues to drift into my mind. He loved me and nurtured me like I was one of his own. I have so many memories of him. He had the biggest heart of anyone I know. He was an amazing cook. He had the best smile. He was a rascal. Everyone knew if you were going to spend time with him, you were going to have fun.


11 Gifts Your Teenage Son Wants This Christmas

The truth is...the older your kids get, the harder it is to buy them gifts for Christmas.

Remember how fun it used to be, buying them little gifts and hiding them in the closet until you could wrap them? How they used to be so happy playing with the box the real gift came in? There are no more cute footsie pajamas to buy. No more toy keyboards to plug in. No more board games involving candy. No more Legos to stuff in their stockings. Their tastes change, naturally. The worst part?

Gifts are so much more expensive when they're older. Shopping for teenagers for Christmas is actually kind of depressing.

Seriously -- my bank account is really emo right now.

My kids rarely, if ever, get what they want on Christmas. I mean. We try to get them one big thing they want and then a few smaller gifts that we want to give them. Those smaller gifts may or may not include socks and underwear.



Netflix: Veggie Tales in the House

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post as part of the Netflix Stream Team. As always, all opinions are 100% my own.

When my boys were young, they were hooked on Veggie Tales.

My little brother Jeshua was seven years old when I had my first baby, but he was already a Veggie Tales fanatic. He had this bootleg video tape (tape!) with the first handful of Veggie Tales that he watched over and over.

O, where...is my hairbrush? O where o where o where o where o where....


Teenage boys and their crazy hair

One of the favorite things about my boys is their hair.

I've been known to be slightly obsessed with it.

From the beginning, I wanted to give them a sense of individuality. So while all of my friend's boys were all rocking military haircuts, fades, shaved heads etc. my boys had long hair. Never all at once. Sometimes, only one would have long hair. Maybe two at a time. But all four of them have had long hair at some point in their young lives.

And it's understandable because their long hair is glorious. All thick, brown waves. Except for my oldest son, who has perfect ombre ringlets.

It's kind of disgusting, actually.
I'm just jealous.

Anyhow, my son Sol was growing out his hair because he wanted it to look like his favorite professional street skater, Paul Rodriguez. Somewhere along the line, he also had aspirations for dreadlocks. We're a reggae-loving family, so I was cool with all of it. My husband had dreadlocks for a short time and we always talked about one of our kids having them someday. Sol's hair is curly and so is mine, so I've done my best to teach my boys how to manage their curls. But not Sol. He completely gave up on taking care of his hair. It had become a rat's nest.

Nevermind that I could see the girls visibly swoon whenever he passed them on his skateboard. Sweaty, stinky, hair in his eyes, wearing jeans he wore for Lord knows how many days. I know the feeling of swooning over a skater boy. I married his father and he was exactly the same way.

Much to my chagrin, he was beginning to take on the persona of a punk kid whose parents didn't take care of him. It bothered me because obviously, this is not how we've raised him. Along with his holey shoes (skating can eat up a good pair of shoes in less than a month), his faded band tees and that hair, he was beginning to look homeless.

This really bothered me.

I could see that my free-spirited, Bob Marley-loving, creative son needed a change. Michael was finally over it and made the decree.

That's it. You're getting a haircut next week.


DIY: How to Make a Children's Memory Book

Disclosure: This is part of a sponsored collaboration with Latina Mom Bloggers and Pampers. All opinions are 100% mine.

When I had my first child, I was obsessed with his baby book.

I wanted to document everything. First of all, I had a journal that I wrote in all throughout my pregnancy. Then, when my son was born, I dutifully filled in his baby book with his family tree, his weight, what was going on in the world the day he was born, etc. As he began to grow, I added the date his first tooth came through, when he started to call me mama, they way he loved to eat avocados and the first time he giggled uncontrollably (I laughed until I cried).

It was so important to me that I remembered every part of our life together at this special time.

Then I had another baby. And another. And another,  and another etc. You know how the story goes. Suffice it to say, only one of my six children has a complete baby book. He likes to tease his siblings about it, too.

I guess I'm the only child mom really loves!

All teasing aside, I still wanted to document the lives of my babies and I've done so, here on this blog. What I also did over the years is collect small journals and fill them up with notes, photos, prayers and funny stories for each of my children. They don't have to be fancy, leather-bound books. They don't have to include every detail of their busy life. You don't even have to go out and buy a baby book. You can just as easily give old books a new life and make your own, documenting special moments of love with your children.


Your child's "feel better" smile: Smiling it Forward with Tylenol

Disclosure: I have received information about the TYLENOL® SMILING IT FORWARD™ program from McNeil Consumer Healthcare Division of McNEIL-PPC, Inc., the makers of TYLENOL®. The opinions stated are my own.  This is a sponsored post for Latina Bloggers Connect.

One of my favorite memories as a child was my mother taking care of me when I was sick. Of course, I wasn't too fond of the sick part but I knew I would have my mother's undivided love and attention. The whole ritual of putting on a cool pair of pajamas and climbing into bed, the cup of warm chamomile tea on the nightstand while my mother fluffed a crisp white sheet over me is one I will always hold dear.

As the white linen lightly cascaded down around me, I remember feeling so comforted and loved. It is a good feeling.

I realize that I do many of the same things that my mother used to do when my children are sick. I make my kids change into their softest pajamas. I make a comfortable bed for them out of cozy blankets and cool sheets. I brew a cup of herbal tea with honey. If they are uncomfortable because of a fever, I let them take a lukewarm bath.

It doesn't matter how old my children get, they still want my comfort, my love and my undivided attention when they aren't feeling well.


DIY: Mexican Fabric Clutch Bag

Ya'll know how I am about that ethnic fabric life.

Keep your Michael Kors bag.
Your Coach bag.
Your Kate Spade bag.
No me gusta.

I am forever loving the richness and the Boho-chicness of bags that rock the ethnic fabric.

I love love love the beautiful colors, the patterns, the culture -- all of it.

It's been my thing to stalk Mercado GlobalIxchel Triangle and various Etsy shops for beautiful purses and clutch bags. Even though the holidays are upon us and I should really start on my Christmas shopping (since I have a bajillion kids), I still find myself browsing online and on Instagram, hovering around like a vulture and waiting for one of these bags to fall from the sky and into my lap.

I want.

As much as I'd love to own one of those bags (the stories behind each one sound amazing!) my mother-of-a-large-family sensibilities totally prevent me from buying one for myself. Sigh. Not when I have a little girl who is currently wearing jeans that look like she's waiting for a flood (she grew so much over the summer!) and a son who is currently rocking holey shoes like it's nobody's business. 

This means I have to DIY it.


Girl Style: How To Make No-Heat Rag Curls #NoMoreTangles

Disclosure: This is part of a compensated campaign in collaboration with JOHNSON’S® NO MORE TANGLES® and Latina Bloggers Connect. As always, all opinions are mine.

I love having girls. In fact, I waited eight long years and had four sons before I gave birth to my first daughter. She was so worth the wait -- pretty and feminine, with long eyelashes and wispy fine hair. I'd always hoped my girls would inherit my curly hair, and I found myself studying their wispy strands and looking for any hint that it would eventually bend and curve like a curl.

I'm still waiting.

One of my laments (and running joke) as a mother is the fact that my sons were the ones blessed with thick, beautiful curls and not my daughters. Wah.

Don't get me wrong, my daughters have great hair, too -- the fine wisps on their head gave way to thick, wavy hair. Thank goodness. My heart is happy to note that it also takes a curl really well.

Now that the holidays are upon us, it's time to find a pretty hairstyle we can do for our family celebrations, parties and posadas. Since I am in a perpetual rush during this busy holiday season, I don't like to fuss too much with a complicated hairstyle for my daughters.  I especially wanted to find a style that would steer them away from the damaging effects of a curling iron and flat iron.

My daughter Xixi always requests pretty spiral curls so we tried this simple rag curl technique. You can cut up an old t-shirt into 5-6 inch strips -- you definitely don't have to be fancy with this. In fact, I liked the idea of the rags over foam curlers because I knew it would be more comfortable for Xixi since she was going to sleep in these overnight.


Conquering body image fears

Me, last summer, doing my best Stevie Nicks impersonation at Venice beach.

It's no secret that I have body issues.

First of all, I'm a woman so that is kind of a prerequisite. Also, I grew up with a slew of daddy issues stemming from my parent's divorce. Strike number two. Lastly, I was the girl that developed early...the girl with thick thighs and hips in a sea of classmates with "little girl" bodies...the "chunky" one in the group of skinny friends, the big girl, the fat girl, etc. etc.

It wasn't until I got married and became a mother that I truly accepted my body for what it is: strong, healthy, capable of carrying six lives in my womb and birthing them in a powerful squat during the early morning hours inside a birth tub. In my kitchen, no less (you've got to love homebirths). Forget worrying about cellulite and arm flab and a squishy stomach -- I was in awe at the miracle my body performed over and over again. It was amazing.

How could I possibly hate the flesh that my children loved to snuggle with, the body my husband has loved and caressed for the past twenty years?

My body issues have come a long way. At least, I thought so.


Recap: Family fun at Target's Skeletown Square

A candid of me and my family in front of Skeletown Square taken by an L.A Live photographer.

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

How was your Halloween?

My family tried something new this year and skipped trick-or-treating and the local harvest festivals and went to L.A Live to enjoy Target's Skeletown Square to celebrate both Halloween and Dia de los Muertos.

My kids were excited by the prospect of hanging out in L.A on a Friday night, even if it was Halloween. I love that my kids are always up for adventure. I promised them there would be plenty of candy and other fun stuff so of course they couldn't resist.

L.A Live was especially lively because of the Laker game happening right across the street. The game, coupled with all of the people dressed up in fun costumes (and some really scary -- there was a Walking Dead zombie that freaked us out!) made for a fun night of treats (for the kids) and people watching (for me).

A video posted by Denise Cortes (@pearmama) on


Make Your Own: Painted Mexican "Tile"

Being a third generation Mexican-American, I try to keep my culture alive at home by filling it with things that I love and that possess the spirit of Mexico. Something that is specific to our culture and beautifully functional all at the same time is Mexican tile. I’ve always loved the look of Saltillo and Talavera tile but I’ve never had the time or the budget to install it in my home.

I've had this idea of creating my own Mexican “tile” using a stenciled pattern and paint for years now, after reading an article in Better Homes & Gardens. I tore out the pages and put it in my idea folder (this was before Pinterest, ya'll), knowing one day I would make it happen. Working with Sherwin-Williams Latino, I finally accomplished it! You can read the original post (in Spanish) here.

I decided to start small and paint the stair risers in my front porch. It was a good place to experiment and I knew it would provide the most impact, since it’s the first thing you see when you enter my home. The plan was to create this “tile” using paint, which has the power to transform any space, especially this set of plain concrete steps.

Do you remember my Painted Heart Walkway diy? It was already fading, so adding something that was visually interesting to the space was exactly what my boring porch needed.


Join Us for Pampers’ “Regalo de Amor” Twitter Party

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post with Latina Mom Bloggers. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Come and hang out with me, Pampers Latino and Latina Mom Bloggers for the Pampers "Regalo de Amor" Twitter Party on Wednesday, Nov. 5 at 6pm PST/9pm EST to celebrate the love we feel for babies and all of the precious moments you and baby share together.


DIY: Calavera Block Prints

I've always been enchanted by woodblock prints. This technique, originated in East Asia, has been around for centuries.

As an artist, there are mediums that we learn and implement in our work organically. Not all techniques are created equal! There are some mediums that are really hard for me (pastels) and there are others that I just don't have the patience for (oil paints). Then there are those mediums and techniques that I just haven't gotten around to learning yet. Block printing is one of them.

That said, I've always wanted to learn how to carve my own designs and make woodblock prints and I finally tried it! It was very cool. I made some fun calavera designs for Dia de los Muertos, in the grand tradition of Mexican artist Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852 - 1913).

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