9.25.2006

Little Miss Maya

I just wanted to talk about my first daughter for a minute. I have been blessed in so many ways by this child.

I waited seven long years for her!

Year after year, Michael and I would visit the Ultrasound Man's office to see just exactly was baking in the ole mama oven. We'd think to ourselves, surely we couldn't have FIVE boys in a row. But we did. When I got pregnant again, the trip to get an ultrasound ceased to be an exciting event. Michael went to work. I went to Kaiser alone.

I told the techs, "I have five kids of one sex. I'm not gonna tell you which. If you see something, don't tell me because I don't want to know. No pressure!" So after they gelled up my belly and were crushing my bladder to near-explosion, the tech says quietly, um, I see something very interesting. There I am laying there, thinking my baby has three hands or something. She said, I can clearly see the sex. But you don't want to know, right? And I couldn't help myself! I told her to go ahead and tell me. A girl! I started bawling like a baby. I just couldn't believe it! Finally, my baby girl. Afterward, the techs told me, we just knew you were a boy mama!

Then God blessed me again by allowing her to be born the day before my own birthday. What an awesome gift. When she was a day old, my sister brought me some California rolls and I celebrated the happiest birthday I've had in years.

Her birth was so fast-paced it was a little scary. I went to bed at 1 am and an hour later, I woke up to this huge contraction. It didn't hurt but it alarmed me because it really felt like something powerful was going on in there. I stood by the sink frozen, not wanting to move. Then a couple of minutes later, another one.

Ok, I think this little girl wants out!
I thought to myself.

I called up my midwife Del and let her know what was going on, then I stomped into the livingroom to find Michael playing on the computer.

I started barking orders.

Put water in the birth tub!
Get the supplies out!
I need some towels!
Hurry, this baby is coming!


He looked at me like I was crazy, but when another contraction hit and he saw me there moaning and groaning, he knew I meant business. Once I got into the warm water of the birth tub, it hit me, I am finally going to have a daughter. I was so excited!

I didn't worry about the fact that my midwife still wasn't there, and contractions were coming fast and furious. She called to say she was just getting off the freeway and I yelled loud enough for her to hear, "Huuurrrrrrryyyyyyyy!!!!" I'm thankful this baby decided to come when she did because my midwife's from Orange County...there is no way she would have made it during the day fighting traffic on the 91.

Praise be to God.

The minute Del walked in I was so relieved because her presence is so comforting to me. Now this baby could come when she pleased. And she did. Two hours and forty-five minutes after that first contraction, she was born into the warm water. She was so beautiful. As we were tending to the placenta, Michael wrapped her up and carried her over to his conga drums, where he played a little for her. She was so quiet and content in his arms, as if those drums were familiar to her. And they were, since her daddy had played them often while she was in the womb.

For days I kept checking her, to make sure she was in fact, a girl.

And she is, in so many ways. So different from her brothers. They've all been cavemen during their toddler years, getting by on grunts and finger-pointing. Not Maya. She has spoken clearly ever since she was about ten months old. And she is sassy. She can hold her own against five brothers. She loves X-Men and battling on the trampoline. And when all the boys want to go swimming, she runs after them calling me, "Mama! I need my trunks!"

I just love everything about her, her face, her lips, her hair, her smell, her voice, her cute little clothes and shoes. Her brothers can survive on two pairs of sneakers. Not Maya. She needs white sneakers, boots, sandals, flats, flip-flops, slip-on Vans, Converse, black dressy shoes etc. etc. And don't get me started on her purse collection! That is just the way girls are.

I am so thankful God blessed me with daughters at this season of my life. She is so much fun to raise. And I have a built-in security crew with her big brothers. Who is the most protected female in all the land? A Cortes chick, that's who.

9.20.2006

Homes cool

Yesterday was the second day of our homeschool co-op. What's a co-op, you ask? Its when a group of homeschooling families come together and organize "school" for a day, with qualified parents being teachers to other students in a classroom setting.

My children have never been to a formal school before, the extent of their classroom experience being sunday school. They were super excited about joining this co-op! They got uniform shirts, backpacks, lunch-pails, the whole nine yards.

Fun for them, a mini-nightmare for me the night before with five lunch pails laid out on our long butcher block counter....five sandwiches...five apples...five mini water bottles....five juice pouches...you get the idea.

I give all you chicks who send your kids to school credit!! It is alot of work. I don't know how you do it. Thank God I only have to do this on Tuesdays! Yes, I homeschool four of my kids but think about it...we can learn in our pj's...all I have to do is brush my teeth and wipe the booger out my eye before we work on sentences, or the parts of the brain, or math problems. If I want to get really fancy, I might put on a bra. My kids can spend the day in their swim trunks if they please and if we feel like eating scrambled eggs and turkey bacon at 1pm, we can. There is much liberty in homeschooling, and for that I'm thankful. I was blessed to see my children so excited and eager to go to "school" and for the opportunity for them to meet new friends, to learn about new subjects in different ways.

The day is really challenging, for me. Aside from getting everybody ready and prepared, I also have to prepare my things to teach my art class. I teach Exploring Art to a group of 3rd through 6th graders. They are a great bunch of kids. I only have a couple of knuckleheads, one of them being my own child, Noah. He's the boy who always speaks out of turn, wants to lay on the floor by his desk and ask me every two seconds, "Are you done yet? Can we play Heads Up 7-up now??" And that was on the first day.

Just yesterday I had to lug a crate full of paint, brushes, a 5 gallon bucket, a blue tarp, a big roll of butcher paper and a rubbermaid tote filled with the paper and my big fat art books. Add my kids and all their paraphernalia and the Santa Ana dry hot wind and a mom that is PMSing (that would be me, in case you were wondering) and you have a recipe for disaster.

It is times like this that I remember why I love art so much. It has the ability to make me forget me and my mind focuses solely on what I am doing at that moment. I can't count how many years I spent growing up, sitting at my drafting table drawing, drawing, drawing away. I would snap out of my concentration to find my mom standing there, with a pile of laundry in her arms, calling my name. I just love the feel of paint, the texture of my paper or my canvas--just the smell of the paint gives me a feeling of excitement, wonder, inspiration, comfort.

I am aspiring to teach these kids about the Modern Art Masters like Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse, Cezanne, Gauguin, O'Keefe, Monet, Rivera and Calder to name a few. Yesterday the kids studied Jackson Pollock, who was best known for his Action paintings. He would lay down a huge piece of canvas down on the floor of his studio then he would drip paint off the end of his brush. He would literally be in his painting because he would stand on the canvas. So, imagine a room full of kids flicking paint everywhere. It was good times. I had fun! Made me forget all the homework my kids are going to have, having to lug all my supplies back to the car, having two fussy little girls that were going to need a nap, and one fussy mama who needed to take off that icky polo shirt. I just got into the painting, the beauty of the turquoise and the green and the purple as it splashed down onto the paper. I was so proud of my students. They did a great job. And I came away from that class refreshed.

To be honest, I didn't think I was going to be able to pull this off. Sure, I went to college and studied art but I didn't think I would have enough knowledge to pass to the students. But then I remembered my favorite teachers in school. They were the ones most passionate about what they were teaching. I want to be that kind of teacher. I love art. If its possible, I love Modern Art even more. I may not be able to fully articulate what abstract means (I had a mom ask me that yesterday and I got all tongue-tied), but I love what each and every one of these artists have created and I want to convey that to these children. Realizing that has made me look forward to being with these kids each week as they discover art.

So what are we studying next week? Georgia O'Keefe, probably one the most famous American woman painter of her lifetime. Her body of work is amazing and absolutely beautiful. Go and google some of her images. You know you need some culture.

9.15.2006

Move your hand! Move your hand!

I was thinking about a blogging homie Brandi and the post abou her son Dexter going buckwild at Target. It seems our children become little extortioners when we are out in public. They know we won't readily give them a smackdown when they act out of line.

Hmph.

I have a few tools at my disposal before I launch a full-on attack. I have already fashioned the Death-Ray Stare (which, coincidentally, is very similar to my mom's--bulging eyes, flared nostrils, snarling through the teeth when you speak), the Finger Snap (this is usually when I am on the phone and can't scream at them), the Hover (I stand over them and use the deadliest whisper I can muster as they cower in my shadow), and The Threat (you just wait until we get home). After utilizing my assortment of tools and having my blood pressure rise to dangerous levels, they usually settle down.

My children are, more than anything, loud. Embarrassingly loud. Brings back memories of my dad constantly telling me, "I'm not across the street. I'm sitting right in front of you. Quit yelling!" They are also very clumsy. Again, they get that from me. So wherever we go, we command attention not only because there are so many of us, but because we are so loud and trip all over the place. Thankfully, they have confidence that mom will deliver if she is pushed to the edge, even while out at Trader Joe's, or Lowe's, even the sanctuary known as Target. And Dad, well, Dad doesn't give a rat's behind where we are and who is there, he will regulate. Loudly. And with force.

Ah, good ole Daddy.

I'm always interested when I see mom's out shopping with a cute and innocent-looking, tantrum-throwing psycho of a child, and they are offering treats or blackmailing with the promise of a toy. I've been known to finish my dinner and/or my Target excursion with a screaming child with legs flailing like a freakin' egg-beater. Hey, I am a woman on a mission.

Yes, its embarrassing. And tiresome.

Sure, it would be easier to just give in so I can get my shopping done. Calmly, and with a smile on my face, I try not to pay too much attention to the curious/disapproving/irritated/sympathetic stares. I tell myself, am I more concerned with what others think or not rewarding bad behavior and shaping my child's character? They usually stop the griping after a couple of aisles anyway, when they know Mama isn't going to give in and they get tired of exerting all that effort.

My mom did not let us get away with anything when we were out. Thats what beaner mom's are famous for. I just knew I wasn't going to get that Barbie or that cheeseburger or those pair of shoes if I whined and pitched a fit. And she always delivered on her promise, you just wait until we get home...I'll deal with you later. Here is a Friday funny for you all. G.Lo is letting out all our secrets, yo! I couldn't resist. There are a couple of profanities, for the faint of heart out there. Enjoy....

9.01.2006

Friends

Now, there are acquaintances, there are friends and then there are homies. I've been one of those people who painstakingly make friends. Meaning, it takes me a while to feel people out and confide in them and just be comfortable with them. I can count my true friends on one hand. Friends that have been there for me and although we might not be able to see each other all the time, when we do get together, its like we pick up where we left off.

Over the years, there has been one person who was a constant in my life, my cousin Diana. We spent countless summers together, we used to write to one another, we even went to college together for a year. I have so many memories that include her. When we would spend summer vacations together, we would also be bedmates. That meant there was alot of talking, whispering, laughing and back scratching. Whenever something was going on in my life, I wanted to tell her all about it. Now, our busy lives don't let us stay connected as much as we'd like, but when we are together we are still busting our guts laughing. She's going to kill me for putting her picture up, but she should be thankful I'm not putting up her prom picture, or when she was wearing her huge bifocals. Ahem.

Another dear friend of mine is Carolina. Boriqua in the house! She came from a large, loving Puerto Rican family with four sisters. They were all tall and beautiful with hazel eyes, huge rack, light creamy skin and beautiful curly hair. I'm not kidding, they made me feel like I was an ugly duckling sometimes with my burgundy hair, combat boots, my torn jeans and the fact that I loved to rip the loudest burps. Anything to antagonize them, really. They used to call me salvaje which means savage in spanish. Wasn't that sweet? What evened everything out was the fact that they all had huge feet, like size 11. Much to their envy, whenever we went out shopping, I could buy whatever shoes I liked. They had to order special shoes. We all worked together at a video store Carolina managed. We had alot of fun, renting whatever movies we wanted, talking about all the boys we liked, having fat girl parties. Carolina had a beautiful, mother-like quality about her. She was always sweet and caring and I never once saw her lose her temper. She would always wear these muu-muu's to bed that her abuelita bought her. Funny thing was, we didn't have alot in common. She didn't like any of the music I did, she never went to any concerts, we had opposite tastes in clothes, she was absolutely disgusted by the fact that I liked to smoke cigarettes (the marijuana kind) etc. but we got along wonderfully as we worked together and carpooled to school three days a week. During my college years, she was a true friend. Now she is an old married lady with three kids and we see each other on occasion, but not as often as I'd like.


Another homie from way back is Amparo. Yeh, I bet you never heard that name before! Her name is as unique as her personality. We did so many crazy and stupid things together such as go to countless nightclubs, parties, drag queen shows, film festivals in Hollywood, shoplifting art supplies, selling drugs, getting high, walking through Melrose, going to concerts, hanging out at Tower Records to look at magazines and books all day, shopping for fat girl clothes, art shows, graffiti shows...you name it, we did it together. Even if we had nothing to do, we would do that together. She would lay on my bed and sketch in her book and I would sit at my drafting table and paint. Some of the most fun I've ever had I had with Amparo. The cool thing is, she was with me during the time I fell in love with this skinny, crazy graffiti artist. She heard me talktalktalktalk about him and cry when I couldn't have him. She was also with me the day we fell in love. She was my maid of honor at my wedding. Shoot, we ate In-N-Out burger the day of my wedding when we went to get our nails done and something that had never happened to me, happened. I was so nervous I couldn't eat my cheeseburger! Oh, we laughed about that one too. Sometimes I just have to look at her and she will make a face or a gesture and she will have me in tears, laughing my butt off. She lives all the way in East Los so I can't just call up my homie and have her hang out with me, which is what I'd love to do. But when we do get together, we have a blast. Funny thing is, we look alot alike...people always ask if we are sisters. So we say we are...we are siamese soul sisters.

It is a beautiful thing, knowing you have friends that you can count on, that want to lift you up, not tear you down. One of my dear friends that I met about two years ago is Rita. Anyone that knows me knows that I love me some Rita. She has such a big heart and compassion for others. She is always concerned about you and has a heart to pray. She is one of the few women I know who, when we are talking on the phone or in person, will stop everything and say, "Let's pray." That is a blessing to me, knowing that whatever I share with her, I know she is willing to go before the Lord and intercede. That is powerful. That is true friendship. We also have other things in common...we both have large families, we are stepmoms, we both have crazy husbands that love God, and we are dedicated to our families. I know she has my back and I have her's. She is ghetto fabulous and that's what I love about her. If you can love a man with 5150 (the police code for any person that, as a result of mental disorder, is a danger to others) tatted on his neck, then you will have my life-long devotion.

It feels good to know I have friends. Proverbs 17:17 says a friend loves at all times. And thats what friends mean to me...more people to love during the journey.
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