11.22.2006

Happyness


I saw Oprah today. This is rare for me because I don't usually watch Oprah. She has achieved a god-like status and its a just a little bit disgusting. I must be the only stay at home mom who doesn't regularly watch Oprah.

I watched her interview the cast of Dreamgirls on Monday (gasp), so I knew she was going to have Will Smith on her show today to talk about his new movie coming out, The Pursuit of Happyness. First of all, I love me some Will Smith. Second, I love me some Will and Jada. In Hollywood where all the marriages crumble after two years, Will and Jada are still going strong after almost ten years. I will be really sad if they ever divorce. You don't see too many strong couples of color in Hollywood.

So I have been anticipating this movie ever since I saw it on 20/20. Wow. It looks awesome. Ten minutes into Oprah, I'm already getting all emotional and teary-eyed. I don't know, I just felt it deep in my heart...the struggle this single father had after his wife left and he determined to be there for his son and raise him, even though they were poor and homeless. They stayed in a shelter while the dad (Chris Gardner) worked as an unpaid intern for a stock brokerage firm. Will's real son Jaden plays his son in the movie and he talked about how it made the movie more real for him because he could really visualize being that dad sitting on the bathroom floor of the subway, holding his son while he slept because they had no other place to go.

What really moved me about this story was Chris Gardner himself. He came from a very dysfunctional home where his father left the family and his mother was regularly abused by his stepfather. But his desire was to break the chain of abandonment by a father. He said that despite the fact that they were homeless, they were always together and he knew of families that had millions whose children couldn't remember the last time they spent time with their parents. He son, now grown, said he had no memories of being without a home...he just remembered his dad and always being with him.

That really struck a cord with me because I really struggle with what I can't provide for my kids. Its tough living on one income. Sometimes its downright scary. I doubt my decision to stay home and raise my kids all the time. I could provide so much more for them if only I worked. I could take them out to lunch every Sunday after church. I could buy them each their own Heely's. New toys, trips to the movies...these are just silly things off the top of my head.

Let me clarify that deep down I know staying home is the right choice, its just when my children don't have the same things other children do, I really question myself. Take last night, for example. On our way to pick up my stepson, we pulled over to take Maya to the restroom. We ran into Best Buy. Noah walked in with us, in awe of all the huge TVs, Ipods, video game consoles, the dvds, etc. I just knew he was thinking, why don't we have a TV like this? We don't even have a working remote! Why can't we have cable? Some things just had to be trimmed off our monthly budget. How come I can't have a PS2? And a Gameboy Advance? He didn't ask me any of those questions, but I was feeling so guilty he might as well have. I'm so blind sometimes that I can't see how my children are developing character in lean times. When Noah realizes he can't just ask Mama and Daddy for something he wants, he figures out a way to get it. He calls up his uncle and asks him if he needs help cleaning his yard. He walked up to our elderly neighbor Gerry and explained to him how he was starting a new business and all it would take is $20 for a car wash. Just last weekend at our 777 outreach, Noah saw a business opportunity...when he realized all those Monster cans were just sitting in the trash, he grabbed a bag and started digging for cans to recycle. And if all else fails, he can go to his Grandma-mama and she will buy it for him. Hey, a kid has to have options.

I really struggle with the fact that I want to give my kids stuff so they can know they are loved. You want to give gifts to those you love sometimes. But I know, in my right mind, that stuff doesn't matter. Being here with them everyday matters, making meals for them, teaching them, snuggling up on the sofa watching Cars with them is what matters. Its strange, how we take things for granted. Staying home with them has become so familiar to all of us that I don't see it for what it really is, a blessing.

Lord, help me to clearly see the privilege it is to stay home and mother my children on a daily basis. Your Word says You will supply all our need according to His riches and glory. Please help me to be faithful.

God is good. He brings real life examples to stress a point to me. I ran into a family Michael and I used to go to church with tonight at Stater Bros. They had four young daughters and lived on a tight budget--driving an old car, struggling to pay for braces and shoes that constantly needed replacing. Their girls were sweet, intelligent, they helped with the smaller children, they dressed modestly and by the world's standards, were pretty simple. Their aunt also attended the same church with her two daughters (their cousins). They were very spoiled with their regular mani/pedis, their cell phones, their expensive clothes, their highlighted hair, etc. I know this isn't going to represent every family, and this is an extreme example so bear with me...but where are these young girls today? The first family's daughters go to college, they work various jobs to support themselves and help out their family. The second family went down a very hard road. One of their daughters left her husband and baby and was addicted to crystal meth. Their younger daughter also got hooked on speed, but is thankfully in rehab now. To me, it just showed how the first family survived just fine even though the parents couldn't give them everything they wanted like the second family. Those poor girls never got a chance to develop any character, any work ethic because mom and dad were there to give them everything they wanted.

Its stories like this one and Chris Gardner's that give me some hope that I am doing the right thing...that I'm not depriving my kids...and that I'm living out the conviction that God placed in my heart over nine years ago, the day I found out I was expecting my first baby. I know that being home with my kids isn't a guarantee of anything, but I am still grateful for the privilege.

11.21.2006

Herbs are cool

I'm sick. I hate being sick. I really, really really hate being sick. First of all, mama's don't get sick days or vacation pay. I can't call in. My kids still wake me up saying they are hungry, dirty laundry doesn't wash itself and my toddlers need a mama who is awake. I have a sinus infection. I guess I am prone to them. This is what I get for having a love of cheese. So right about now my head feels like its being squeezed by a vise...my eyes are sensitive, itchy and watery...and my nose is like a drippy faucet and if you sat by me you'd swear I was Darth Vader. Nice.

So most normal people would make an appointment at Kaiser, get a prescription and be on their way. If I can only express how much I hate going to see a doctor. How I despise being herded in like cattle, the doctor spends about 3.5 minutes evaluating my health, scribbles on his pad and later, see ya wouldn't want to be ya. And then I pay for a prescription that costs enough to cover a movie and grub on date night with my man.

See, I'm not a normal person. If you walked into my pantry you would discover that I don't have Advil or Motrin or Tylenol for a simple headache. I don't own any Pepto-Bismol. I do have some Nyquil that my husband smuggled in...and some children's Tylenol that my mom bought that I give to my daughter because if her fever gets too high she has seizures. I don't even have a medicine caibinet! For about five years I've been reading up and studying herbs and natural healing because its really fascinating and humbling to discover how God created the earth to fulfill so many of our needs.

For so many years I was either pregnant or nursing so I couldn't take any kind of allopathic medicine, so I started to search for things gentle to my system and my growing baby. Herbs were the perfect alternative. If I felt a little blue or grumpy, I would squirt some St. John's Wort herbal extract in my chamomile tea. If I had a headache or backache, I would get my Skullcap. When my kids are screaming and I feel like screaming with them, I take some Motherwort. When my kids complain that they have a tummyache, they ask for some tea and I make them some warm Spearmint tea. I add Tea Tree and Lavender essential oil to my wipes so it smells fresh and flowery while I'm wipin' my baby's butt. I've made my children infusions of Cherry Bark and Echinachea for stubborn coughs...Throat Coat, Gypsy Cold Care are staples in my tea drawer. For nasty foot problems I've had Michael soak his feet in Comfrey and Golden seal. Cold sores get doused in Tea Tree oil. Burns get soothed by fresh Aloe Vera. My son takes homeopathic medicine along with his nebulizer and inhaler for his asthma. Foot scrubs, natural insect repellent, massage oil, face cream, face cleanser and scrubs, shampoo and zit cream, I've made them all. It wasn't easy, or cheap and yes it's easier to just buy the stuff, but it was cool to know I could make my own if I needed to. When my babies were born, instead of tending to their umbilical cord with alcohol, I would sprinkle ground rosemary on the yucky little stump. People would freak out when they saw me do it or when I gave it to expectant mothers in their baby shower gift. But its a natural antifungal and would make the stump fall off in two to three days as opposed to two weeks with alcohol. Good stuff.

All the above to say that when I am sick, I choose to search for other methods to heal myself. Except for last night...I was so congested that I had to sleep practically sitting up and Michael told me, "Just take some Nyquil so you can go to sleep!" We sounded just like the commercial. I was so beat and so tired of blowing my nose that I gave in and chugged some Nyquil. I slept like a rock but I still woke up feeling like crap. So I've sworn off the hard stuff, been on herbal tea all day, I used steam to loosen my congestion and I've been laying around to give myself the chance to feel better. Thank God for little brothers who are on vacation and love me enough to come over and help me out by watching my kids, cooking meals for us and letting me sleep. All in exchange for unlimited Myspace usage.

So the next time you hear someone say they use herbs to heal...don't assume they are some Cheech and Chong rejects, witches or health freaks. The herb world is utterly fascinating and powerful. It also gives you a greater appreciation for those people who were alive centuries before us and thrived. Since I've been in the thick of mothering these past few years, I have put my herbs and my studying to the side but I'm going to pick it back up again because it really made me feel alive with the knowlege. Now if I can only figure out how to split my head open so I can relieve some of this sinus pressure.

11.17.2006

Some culture for your eyes


Just thought I'd share the latest abstract creation painted by my love, Michael. He is gifted, handsome, kind, God-fearing, a good daddy, he's hot and he's talented. I can't describe the feeling I get when I see something that my husband has created with his hands. His art encompasses all that is within him...complexity, passion, boldness, color and depth. His art makes me love him more than I already do. It reminds me why I was so darn attracted to him in the first place. One would think that when two artists marry, there would be alot of competition and criticism going on...I'm happy to say that is far from the case. We spur on another one in our creativity, we encourage one another, we congratulate one another. As he worked on it last night, I thought to myself, hmmm, he hasn't even touched the turquoise yet. Which is amusing because he usually starts off with turquoise, orange and brown. Just like I start off with green, blue, and purple.

There are times when I feel guilty about the path we have chosen for our lives, having this large family and all the tears, laughter, stress and hard work that goes into it. Its not regret, but a quiet feeling that Michael could have been have been very happy and succesful being one of those artists that live in a loft and live and breathe art all day, painting for galleries and commissions. That was the life he led when we first met. He lived at St. Elmo Village, which is an artist's cooperative in the heart of Los Angeles. He had his own studio, he was surrounded by other artists, he participated in art workshops for children every Saturday morning. It wasn't unusual for me to stop by and find him working on a large piece, stretching a canvas or for us to get creative and take a few black and white photos. My favorite was when he would make me a cup of herbal tea with honey and we would silently sketch until late in the night. But, you know, God had other plans for him, for us. And I have faith that God is using our gifts and our family for a higher purpose besides painting and living an unconventional artist's life.

The look on a loved one's face when they are doing something they love is priceless. Michael does a slew of creative work, from airbrushing, web design, murals for the city of Los Angeles and several schools, movie productions and All Out Artists, designs for Ghettoish to name a few...but what makes him appear content and utilizes the natural talent he has within him is painting. I hope as the years go by and as the crazy pace of our life raising seven energetic children slows down a bit, he is able to sit down in front of his big wooden easel with paint stains all over it (which he doesn't have yet, but I plan on blessing him with at some point in our married lives--I guess when I get a job...hmph, could be a long wait then), he can turn on his jazz music, make a cup of herbal tea with honey and he can paint til the sun comes up.

11.15.2006

Mmmm, mmmmm good

Oh dear.

If I can only confess how many bags of this stuff we eat at my house. Trader Joe's Chile Spiced Mango.

Its to die for.

Pieces of dried, unsulphered (sulphur is the stuff they put in dried fruits to make it look plump and attractive--its bad for you!) and lightly dusted with cayenne and salt. If they squeezed lemon on it I would die and go to heaven. See, being a beaner, we have grown accustomed to eating any and all snacks with chile, lemon and salt. When I went camping on the beach in Mexico this past summer, I was in awe of all the treats they offered with those three magical ingredients. Candy and nuts of all kinds drenched in the stuff...fresh coconut, watermelon, cantaloupe and mangoes on sticks, hot corn slathered in mayo, butter, parmesan cheese, chile, lemon and salt. I'm pretty sure on a mexican woman's honeymoon she is rolled and sprinkled and coated in the stuff...then propped on the honeymoon bed. Seriously. While we sunbathed on the beach, these little carts rolled past us selling coco-locos (I'm pretty sure thats what they were called). The vendor split open a bag of chips and nuts, she spooned in these pickled chicharron thingies, cut up some cucumbers and put those in there and then squeezed in the lemon, chile and salt. If you were brave you asked for a squirt of hot sauce. Then she mixed it all up and we ate it with a spoon. Ahhhhhhh (those are the angels singing).

Back to my Trader Joe's snack (see how off track I can get talking about snacks?)...I've got my kids addicted to them too. They are chewy, slightly sweet, spicy and salty. But they have just enough sweet, salt and spice to balance everything out. I can't stand to eat dried fruit that tastes like cardboard. I like to make myself believe this stuff is good for me since it is dried fruit, low in calories and 0 grams of fat and $1.99 a bag. We go through about five bags a week, not counting the bags I stash for emergency. And having a large family, I can't really go out and buy snacky stuff for our pantry--cookies and ice cream and chips is unheard of in our house. But this stuff I will stock up on. Cyan, who is four years old, asks me for some pretty much all day long. So does Maya. "Mama, sssss can you ssssss get me some sssss water, please?" Its a little spicy but they can hang, just like good little beaners.

My next obsession I think will be Triscuits...Rosemary and Olive Oil Triscuits. Don't hate because you don't schedule your food obsessions like I do. I am making my way through a box as I type this (every third cracker or so I have to clean the crumbs off my laptop)...they are so flavorful and yummy I might not have to sprinkle chile, lemon and salt on them. Sacrilege, I know. Now I just have to figure out a way to discover snacks that my kids don't like.

11.02.2006

Love is in the air

Yes, the Sandals marriage getaway is finally here! I am so excited I can barely contain myself. Michael and I haven't had a chance to get away for about two years now so I would say we are due. What I have to resign myself to is the grind that must take place to get out the door. For all you normal folks, I'm sure its stressful but for me, its practically insane. Aside from packing my things and my husband's things (I don't think he's ever packed for himself during our entire relationship--I know, my own fault!), I have to pack backpacks for six children. And before that occurs, all the laundry has to be done.

Gulp
.

We divide and conquer when it comes to babysitters. One of my boys is going with his favorite aunties, my other little boy is going with my brother and his favorite cousin and the rest will be with Grandma-mama where they get to help Papa in the yard, they get to pet the horses next door and they are always guaranteed a trip to Denny's or Home Town Buffet. So its good times for them. I'm so happy my children will be safe and well-taken care of so I can be free to enjoy the weekend with my husband.

I am giddy thinking that we can hold hands (no kids to carry, no stroller to push), we can eat adult food (no going to places that offer kid's meals and cups with lids), we can drive out there and listen to music as loud as we want (I can listen to uncensored gangsta rap-hehe) and I won't have to turn around fifty times during our trip to tell someone to stop crying or threaten a beatdown, I won't have to change any diapers for 2.5 days. Oh, and I get to look at my man with fresh eyes and remember why I fell in love with him in the first place. I won't have to nag him to take out the trash, or put air in the tires or to feed the dog...I can lust after him all I want and know we have a whole hotel room to ourselves. And we won't have to worry about waking anybody up and hearing them cry. At least I hope not!

And now the madness begins...have a great weekend everybody! I know I will.
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