Cold sores.

I hate them. With a passion. I have been afflicted with cold sores for as long as I can remember. Anytime my body is under some kind of stress, like getting too much sun, a bout with the flu...BAM. Cold sore eruption. And it ain't pretty, people.

My affliction has lessened in severity over the years, I will say that. When I was in college, my cold sores were so bad they made me miss classes, for fear I would frighten my fellow classmates with my lip deformity. My lip would swell up so big I looked like a freak...or a chick who just caught a beat down. The elephant lady. It was that bad. My mama must have thought it was that bad too because she always allowed me to stay home to stew in my own embarrassment over my herpetic lip. There is nothing more humbling than going about your day with a cold sore looming under your nose.

Some mornings I'll wake up and feel that familiar tingling, itchy sensation on my lips. Daaaaaaaaaangit, I will mutter. Another cold sore! Then I review what's been going on in my life over the past week or so. Then I understand why I got the cold sore in the first place.

Aside from watching my stress level, it's hard to prevent them. I have tried so many remedies. Ice cubes...didn't work. Carmex...useless. Blistex...even more useless. Campho-Phenique...made me smell like a weird old lady. Herpecin-L...made me look like I had a piece of soggy bacon on my upper lip. Ew. Tea bags, to dry the sore out...just formed giant scabs. Not very cute. I've tried prescription meds, the ones they use for people with herpes. Ahem. Then tried to live that down when the sibs found out I was treating my herpes simplex 1.
And believe me, this is a family disease. My mom, dad, brothers, sisters all get them. I was thoroughly convinced I would have one on my wedding day. Thankfully, I didn't. But Michael did. Poor thing. But better him than me. A couple of the chil'rens have started to get them, too and that really sucks.

I tried to search for some natural remedies, when I discovered that tea tree oil was used to treat cold sores and their healing time in half. So I bought a bottle. Dude. That stuff is awesome. I could go on and on about the uses of tea tree oil (antiseptic for cuts, gargle for mouthwash, cure for athlete's foot, zit remover to name a few). So the first time I feel a little tingle, I grab a q-tip, saturate it with tea tree oil, and I put it to the sore. Yeh, I look like a moron sitting there with a q-tip against my lip but I discovered if I did it early enough, it would keep the cold sore from even forming. And it's gone in a day.

Then there are those times when the cold sore does it's magic while I am asleep...and then it's too late to attack it with the tea tree oil...and I get a full-on sore. Like now. All because I spent the day at Huntington Beach last Thursday and I foolishly decided to take a nap...in the sun. Overcast sun, mind you, but it was still the sun. That is what I get, I suppose, for laying out with my buttcheeks exposed (the beach was practically deserted) like some giant sun goddess.


So now I must deal with this lip. Aaaaarrgh. Oh, and do yourself a favor. Don't google cold sore for images. Shiver. You didn't think I was going to take a picture of my own affliction, did you?


The Rocker Crafty Chica rules

I am a huge fan of the Crafty Chica. She is an inspiration to all of us brown girls who love art and crafts and all things mexican! She is doing her thing. Imagine my giddy surprise to learn that she put a line out of all her cool crafty stuff at Michael's. So we went today. I had to pace myself. I wanted everything...the charm bracelets, the appliques, the sugar skull tote bag, the charm bracelets, the inspiration cards, the glitter, the paint, the loteria cards, the empowerment guardians. Yeh, pretty much I wanted to put everything in my cart.

But I practiced some self-control.

We bought all three sets of the inspiration cards, with the intention of framing our favorite ones. There are lots of different types of crafty chicas. There is rebel crafty chica, spunky scrapper crafty chica, strictly business crafty chica, the activist crafty chica, the cultural crafty chica...the list goes on. Turns out, I'm a total rocker crafty chica.

The Rocker Crafty Chica
Want to know her secret weapon? Music. She always has to have the speakers bumping as she creates. Rock, jazz, reggae, country, even classical--the tunes help clear her head so she can work her magic.

That is totally me. I have to work with music playing because it totally feeds into my creative process. So I am dying here, listening to Michael's mp3 player. But I can only hear so much rap and Justin Timberlake. Yes, I have revealed that my dear man loves him some JT. I am in dire need of an ipod so I can put all my "painting" music on it. Am I the only person roaming this earth that doesn't own an ipod? Quite possibly. We were checking out a Zune on Friday night. But we ended up buying some new paint brushes, more paint, some canvas and those crafty chica inspiration cards instead. That was about $125 right there. Sigh.

For now, I listen to project playlist. But I have to wait until the chil'rens go to bed before I listen to my gangsta rap and some RATM. Cuz that's how I roll.

"Why don't you dance with me, I'm not no limburger!"

I was looking on You Tube for a B-52's video to send to my Auntie Gloria because she was a huge fan in the early 80's. And when my Dad would pick us up for the weekend, we would inevitably end up at my Nana's house, where my Dad's little sisters still lived. Auntie Gloria was one of them and she has always been one of my favorite aunties.

On Saturday nights, they would shower and put on their cool 70's-style muumuu's and get ready for a night on the town. Of course, they would be listening to cool music on the record player. Yes, record player. I would sit down and flip through the albums and listen to all the groovy music and watch them put on their too-light concealer, blue eyeshadow, fake eyelashes and glittery lip gloss. Oh, and they always used steam rollers to make their giant Farrah Fawcett feathers. Good times.

I always thought she was saying why don't you dance with me, I'm not no limber girl. It's limburger, as in limburger cheese, which I have no idea how it must taste. But it must be bad. Anyhow, I have very fond memories of dancing around as a little girl to this song with my aunties. It gives me really warm, fuzzy feelings.

B-52's have always been such a creative band. There are some black and white clips on You Tube of them performing this song...in 1978! That was thirty years ago! Amazing.

And they were still rocking the bouffants, too. Gotta give them much love for that.


I think it was the cushy bed in Palm Springs that did this to me.

I woke up this morning in a bad mood. I got to up to go pee and I realized, in this dreamy state, that I was like a piece of barbacoa roasting on a freakin' spit. Rotating rotating rotating. Trying find a comfortable spot on the bed that didn't bother my back.

And then when I was finally awake I realized that my mattress is done for. I think we are due for a new one. I'm not sure what the protocol is for buying a new mattress...how many years...what is the dust mite weight maximum...seriously, what does Martha Stewart recommend? I have no clue. But I imagine that the protocol for us poor folks is...you wear that sucker down til there is a giant hole that sucks you up in the center of the bed...then you wait until the mattress gods smile down on you with some unforeseen cash flow (i.e. income tax return) and then you go out and buy a new one. Sadly, I don't see a new mattress in our immediate future.

For us, it's been four years. I know its been four years because we bought it about one week before Maya was born. I was on this crazed mattress hunt, to get my room all set up before I had my baby. I was very concerned that I would get some sort of amniotic fluid or blood on it so I made sure to stay away from the bed while I was in labor. That is why Maya was born in the kitchen.

As the years progressed, we have gone from a full to a queen and then to a cal king. When we had a full, we slept practically braided onto one another. So naturally, there was lots of relations havin'. No wonder we kept popping out the babies left and right. Wink wink. But I was concerned that our little ones would get smashed in between us while I nursed them in the middle of the night. So I would position myself in the middle and put the baby on the outer edge, tucking the baby with a hundred pillows so they wouldn't fall off the bed. It's a miracle they didn't suffocate by pillow and not big heavy sleeping daddy.

One night, when we only had two little ones, I woke up and I couldn't find Diego. He must have been about three months. I sat up frantically, only to find him sleeping peacefully on the floor, still swaddled in his receiving blanket. I almost died. But really, it sounds worse than it was. Our bed was really low to the ground so he didn't fall more than a couple of feet. But still, I was horrified. I am a terrible mother. I don't think I got any sleep that night because I kept reliving the image of Diego laying on the floor like a little doll in my mind over and over.

But it sure explains alot of things about Diego.

So with the threat of smooshed chil'rens looming in our minds, we eventually went out and bought a queen size bed. That was heaven. Or so I thought. As we added more and more babies, we outgrew cribs, toddler beds and our bed. I resigned myself to sleeping on my side, with one arm straight up under my head and the other holding my chi-chi. Fo' reals. There were mornings I would wake up to find myself gripping it for all it was worth but no baby in sight.

I never claimed to be one of those militant attachment-parenting style mama's who gleefully hailed the "family bed". Nope, wasn't me. I wasn't worried that I would harm my child's development or that they would grow up to be insecure if they slept alone. It just seemed normal and natural to have my baby in bed with us. Once we stopped battling trying to get the chil'rens to sleep all alone, all was peaceful in our home at night. We tucked them in with us, or very nearby and they were fine.

But I yearned for the day when I would sleep without any other bodies touching mine in the middle of the night. At least, little bodies that still wore diapers. If you had curly hair on your chest, it was all good...come to mama. And when I did get some rest without any chil'rens nearby, I was positively giddy.

Then we graduated to the cal king. The big daddy of mattresses. I consider myself lucky if I get to graze Michael's foot in the middle of the night. And I ain't complainin', because a sister needs her beauty sleep. But I usually wake up with a girl or two stuffed in my butt. I can live with that.

But now there's that hole. Dang that freaking hole. Now when we get in the bed, we slide down like two cue balls in the corner pocket. It sucks. You in the middle, literally. Heh. I like to think we have worked the mattress in. We have gotten our use out of that poor thing. Wink wink. But in reality, it's probably been all the chil'rens piled onto it and the weight of my fat booty that have worn the mattress down. Sigh.

I'm thinking we should downgrade back to a queen. That way I won't pay an arm and a leg for nice bedding. It won't take up so much space. And I will get to graze a little more than Michael's foot at night.

Wink wink.



Little miss Selah

I have a niece that is two and a half but she is pretty much a 15 year-old trapped in a toddler's body. She has grasped a very firm command on the english language at an early age. You can basically have a full-on conversation with this little chica. While Xixi (who is older by five months) is still struggling with her hard c's ("Oh, that baby is so 'tute', mama!"), there is Selah sounding like a scholar and naming off all the animals she saw at the circus, with precise clarity. And the 'tude...wow. Reminiscent of her mama, at the age of 16. Boy, was she pleasant to be around. Heh.

So Selah, she may be little but you'd think she was a big girl already. Her uncle Josh was teasing her about the round little belly she had. And he kept asking her if she had a baby in her tummy. To which she kept replying no, only mama's have babies in their tummies. Like duh, uncle Josh. And after a while, she was growing exasperated with him.

So she looked at him like he was stupid and said, "No! I don't even have chi-chi's yet, uncle Josh!"

If this is what you get at two and a half years of age...then my sister and her husband are in big trouble. Run, Jen, run like the wind!



It is one of my pet peeves. It is such an ugly trait to have because the greedy person assumes that all they have is a direct result of the work of their own hands. So they try to hold onto it for dear life.
I try my best not to be a greedy person. With what little I have, I will give to a person in need. Even if I don't know when I will be able to replace it, or buy more of something, I will let it go. Because it wasn't mine in the first place. And I have comfort knowing that God is the One who supplies all of our need, according to His riches and glory.

Growing up, I lived in a house that constantly had people over. Aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, grandparents. My mom always welcomed people in her home. I never saw her miserly or tight-fisted with what she had. She would bring out the best cuts of meat and cook meals for people. She would give clothes, furniture, little trinkets, blankets, etc. She never made people feel like they were imposing. She never required that people reciprocate, she just gave from her heart. And for that reason, her home always feels warm and welcoming.

When she was a young, single mother she had a friend who was always dropping by with her three kids right at dinner time. They would sit at the kitchen counter and hungrily watch my mom cook dinner. Of course, she always invited them to stay and eat. And they did. Often. And one of them was a ravenous teenage boy. Being as young as I was, I never thought of the impact of feeding four extra people on a single mother's budget. But she did it anyway.

And the interesting thing is, my mom never lacked anything. The more she gave, the more she received.

Sometime during the week, our pantry and the refrigerator would get filled up again, only to be poured out on more family, more friends, potlucks, etc. See, God was taking care of us. Maybe you see it as karma...my mom was putting it out there into the universe and it was sending good things back to her. Either way, I learned to never be tight-fisted. I learned to be gracious with what I had and to help those in need...and when I was in need, there were people around to help me. As a young girl, I saw this played out over and over again.

So it saddens me to see people who are greedy with what they have. I feel sorry for them actually...because they are foolishly believing what they have is truly theirs. We recently went to someone's house for a little birthday party. Well, for some birthday cake, actually. Let me just say that I realize it must be a burden to invite a family who has six kids over for anything. But by that same token, this family with six kids doesn't think twice about inviting more people to join us for anything. What a sad and lonely life that would be.

Anyhow, the chil'rens were being served big, thick slices of chocolate cake to fill their little bellies. Someone reached into the fridge to serve them all glasses of milk. And the hostess, the person who spends the money to fill up that fridge with more milk, she told the person who was serving, "No, give them all water." I heard her say it but I automatically assumed it was because she didn't have any milk. I know she is struggling. I realize that. So I didn't give it another thought. But then Sol came trailing in after everyone was finished and he was served a piece of cake. Then he went straight to the fridge and then proceeded to serve himself a big cup of milk. From a full gallon in the fridge.

And that kinda bugged me.

Because at that point, I figured the hostess decided she didn't want to waste her milk on her guests. She wanted to keep it for her kids for the rest of the week. Okay. But it's a $3.99 gallon of milk. And I just thought it was very sad considering that the hostess is always welcome in my home and feels comfortable enough to open up my fridge and pantry and help themselves to whatever they like. And they often stop by unannounced and then eat lunch and/or dinner with us. With her children, too. Yeh, they are little and may not eat alot but it's the principle we're talking about here. I never say there isn't enough. I never try to hoard or hide stuff. Even if I am down to my last whatever, I just keep moving forward having faith that my needs will be taken care of. I always offer what is good and whatever I will offer my own family, I will offer to her and her family.

So it was tough for me to swallow. Just considering all those things. And knowing that my kids would have liked to drink something other than water, just like her kids do when they are over at my house.

I've talked to Michael about this subject before and he says that people are just raised differently. And perhaps she doesn't realize she is doing anything wrong. And hopefully I am being a good example for her. Which is just what I expect him to say, dear man that he is.

I just want to say, girlfriend...you have only a little because you give a only a little. Don't be greedy. Don't hold onto what you have for dear life. Some would just turn it around and treat her the same way. That would be a natural response. But I would never be that way. It's wrong. And I can't say that I am 100% sure that she realizes what she is doing is...greedy. So I can't hold it against her.

And I have to follow my mama's example in this because it is true, it is good and it is right. I saw it laid out in front of me day after day. And I've seen the blessings that stem from it.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4


Brown and proud

I have this sticker on one of my art bins. I used to have it on one of my really old art bins that I used in college but then it broke. And I wanted to preserve the sticker so I pulled it off and retaped it onto another art bin.

The sticker means something special to me. Seventeen years ago, I attended a rally to commemorate the National Chicano Moratorium's march to protest the Vietnam war. Also, to remember the death of Ruben Salazar in 1970. We ended up at Ruben Salazar Park. It was so, so long ago. My friend Carolina drove out from Riverside to my new home in East L.A. to hang out and indulge in some brown pride.

I bought this sticker from one of the many booths that were there, selling their wares. There were brown berets marching around. Lots of militant young women wearing peasants tops, chunky jewelry and purses that looked like mexican blankets. When I got home, I displayed that sticker boldly on my art bin, which was a constant fixture during my college years. It always reminded me of my mom, and the little black and white photo booth pic she took while pregnant with me.

But it meant even more than that. It symbolized a time of cultural awakening...of a deeper understanding of what it meant to be an "American" yet with very unamerican ways...of the knowledge that my descendants were here hundreds of years ago and were tied to this land just as I was...that my body pulsed with both European and indigenous blood. And finally, that my experience as a Mexican-American...a Chicana...was as unique and defining as the nopales that grew on my mama's back fence.

San Francisco in September

I reserved my tickets for the Frida exhibit in September!! I am so totally excited. You just don't know. You would think I was going to a concert or something! Heh. Me and one of my oldest homies in the world are going for a trip up to San Francisco in three weeks to see the Frida exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco.

Just me and her...no kids...no husbands...just me and her and some rockin' tunes as we drive up the coast in her Scion to spend a few days. Oh, and snacks...lots of snacks. We can't forget the snacks.

When I get there I'm gonna have to contain myself. I might shed some tears. I know I will shed some tears. To see Frida's artwork in person...to see her brush strokes...that is going to be really mind-blowing. I am most excited to see Frida and Diego Rivera, 1931 with the red shawl and The Two Fridas in 1939.

I can't wait!


How we relaxed into love...

We spent the last three days in Palm Springs, on a marriage retreat. The theme of the retreat was...relax into love. You don't gotta tell me twice. So off we went, into the vast desert that is Palm Springs.

It was h-o-t.

Apparently God smiled down upon us, because they said at this time of year, the temperature is normally between 113--115 degrees. Hello, death, come and take me now. Uuhhh, yeh. Pearmama doesn't do 115 degree heat. She dies. It was 101 degrees instead. And believe me, that was plenty hot. Even at 2 am. on our way back to the hotel after grabbing a snack, it was hot as hell outside.

But the resort itself was beautiful. Most likely the nicest place I will ever get to stay at. The pool, the fire pits, the restaurant, the sushi, the room--it was all very lovely. And what is it with hotel beds? They are like a little piece of heaven on earth. If you make your mind forget about that black-light investigative report on questionable hotel linens that you saw on Dateline...it's wonderful. All those pillows, the air, the crisp white sheets, the darkened room...the absolute supreme absence of children...good times, good times, my friend.

As usual, we had a whole host of issues trying to get there. Traffic, arguing, the heat, tire problems in the middle of the desert which caused us to turn back into Banning to buy a new one (Punk Rock Mom, I so totally wished I had your phone number so I could call you and tell you I was in your hood and holey smokes was that hood hot and desolate!), then realizing we were running late and I still had to shower and make myself presentable. Then when we checked in, we had a credit card issue.

We are hopeless, really.

I don't know how this fancy resort hotel stuff works. That's what happens when you have six children and you don't get out much and your idea of vacation is packing up said children and staying on the beach in Mexico in a tent. Oh, and by the way, Palm Springs is expensive. Saturday night we went out to dinner with friends, we were flabbergasted to discover the guacamole dip cost $22!


But I digress. Palm Springs is a beautiful place. The mountains, the air, the palm trees. Gorgeous.

This was the first retreat that we were content to just lay around and do nothing. We relaxed, enjoyed each other, and just tried to soak up as much time together as we possibly could. Indoors, because I was horrified every time I thought about going out in the heat. Pretty much anywhere I get to stay with my husband, alone, is special to me. Every trip we have every taken alone has been so memorable to me.

Thanks, dear, for hanging in there with me.


self portrait

If I've been a little absent around these parts lately, it hasn't been in vain. I've still been on the grind, working on a few paintings to display next week at the Life Arts building in downtown Riverside. While looking through a pile of samples for my art class, I found this self-portrait already sketched out, ready to be painted. I did this sketch about five months ago. I liked that hairstyle. I just might go back to it in the fall. I almost always do self-portraits with curly hair. So this was a little different.

The chil'rens kept saying that my cheeks were really fat. Well, I have news for you. They are fat. Among many other places. I am dealing with it.

Otherwise, I'm happy with how it turned out.


When Children Attack...

Piñatas, that is.

I think the chil'rens pride themselves on how aggressive they are toward poor, defenseless piñatas. As all the little brown children are in line, awaiting their turn, my boys are seething with testosterone, pounding their chests, jumping up and down, laughing maniacally and hoping they will get a crack at the piñata.

You can almost see the crazy.

Then when they get their turn, it's like you're watching Bum Fights...only it's not a toothless transient getting his head kicked in, but a pink, little Tinkerbell piñata with crepe paper twirls and glitter.

I kinda feel sorry for that piñata.

Sugar Skull Denim Jacket Made With Felt

 I can rarely sit down to watch a movie and/or TV unless my hands are doing something. It just feels like wasted time to me. I am usually folding laundry, matching socks, organizing Michael's clothes, clipping the kids toenails or sewing something.

So while we watched a movie, or should I say I watched it, Michael slept and forcefully blew air out of his larynx--not enough blood and violence to captivate his attention, apparently--I finally finished up Maya's jacket that I started way back in April.

Only now it doesn't fit her (her arms are too long), but it is just right for Xixi. Since Maya had her heart set on the jacket, now I have to go out and buy a new one in her size and do one just for her. My daughters are really competitive like that. And they are only 3 and 4! This is only the beginning.

I think it came out really cute. I used felt squares, glue and a needle and thread. Eventually, my goal is to make all of my stitches straight and uniform. And I need one of those thimble thingies because I stabbed myself about twenty times.

It hurt like crazy.

Lest you believe I am incredibly talented and creative, I should say that I totally jacked this idea. Totally. There is this chick named Suzi Boneshaker. She is amazing with the felt and stitching. I saw some of her Day of the Dead stuff and loved it. And naturally, my artist mind thought, hmmmmm, I could do that! So I did. And I'm quite satisfied with myself.

But I have to give props to where props is due.

So thanks, Suzi. Thanks for creating this really cool idea that I could then appropriate and eventually replicate for myself. Heh. To see more of Suzi's stuff, go to her Etsy shop. That will make me feel less guilty for jacking her idea.

Just slightly less.

How to:

--cut your felt square into the shape of a sugar skull
--cut out eye sockets, nose, mouth and teeth shapes
--cut out bow shape
--glue down shapes onto another felt square
--use needle and thread for decorative stitching

Just a little love on the front of the jacket

Since my girl is boy crazy just like her mama, she is always thinking about love. I thought it was a cute idea.

I used some of the colors she wears alot--pink, light green, baby blue, and yellow. This is the perfect kind of jacket to wear over a cute sundress.

Close up. The crooked yellow stitching on the mouth drives me nuts but I wasn't about to take it out and start over. I think the bow turned out really cute.



Why my Dad will never own a Toyota Camry.

In an effort to cut his gas expenses, my Dad went out and traded his big old Dodge Ram 1500 for a Nissan 350Z. Not too shabby, Dad, not too shabby. There was some joking amongst the familia that Dad was having a mid-life crisis. I guess you could call 58 years mid-life. But being my father's daughter...I would say that this is around his fifth or sixth mid-life crisis. Heh.

So this ride is cool beans with me, Pops.

When I was really young, I'd say 10 years old or so, my Dad used to drive a little green MG. Not really the type of family car you would envision for a father with three small children to have. But then again, we didn't live with him, so we just had to make do whenever he came to pick us up, which was twice a month. Since it was a two-seater, seating arrangements went something like this: me in the passenger, Eric sort of half-laying over the speakers in the back and Jen, poor Jen, crouched in a little ball at my feet. Good times. I was always comfortable.

Of course, this was the early-80's. No seat belt laws were enforced. Unbeknownst to me and my siblings, my parents fought bitterly over this car. There was lots of "mid-life crisis" mutterings around the house, but it never made any sense to me. My Mom was pissed that my Dad drove that little car, and that he endangered our lives by expecting us to cram ourselves in it. Yes, he was a single man but he was also a father! What are you thinking, Ray? But in the end, Dad won. That was one battle my Mom decided to let go. He kept coming to pick us up in that little MG.

And we survived.

So when my Dad pulled up at my house today to show off his Nissan 350Z, I got a little flashback and chuckled to myself. Dad is well within his rights to buy a car like this, most definitely. That great big Dodge Ram was a waste of money and space. Dad isn't the rugged construction type so it was never used to it's full potential. But this little car, it's right up his alley. What is it with old dudes and fast cars?

He said to me, "Mija, can you really see me driving in a Toyota Camry?" And we laughed. He was right. I couldn't imagine Dad not driving a cool car.

A blast from the past...Dad chillin' in front of his beloved MG in L.A.

Never eat yellow snow and never drink yellow water from a Dasani bottle

I saw this bottle on my kitchen counter. I was a bit worried. It could be something as harmless as some apple juice or iced tea...or it could be a big old bottle of pee. With all these boys on the loose (their father included), one just never knows. I've found the cup I use to rinse my daughter's hair in the bathtub filled with pee...the next morning, mind you.

It wasn't pretty.

The chil'rens don't normally put juice in water bottles, so I was a bit perturbed. But I had to do it. I had to sniff it. Cuz if it was pee...well, you know, I couldn't leave a bottle of pee on my kitchen counter, now could I?

But if it was pee...dude, I would be seriously pissed off. I'd be choppin' off some heads in about ten seconds. So I gingerly unscrewed the cap. Slowly put it to my nose.

Apple juice.

Dear Lawd! Whew. That was a close one.

And as I was ready to publish this, the thought occured to me that I didn't have to sniff the stupid bottle at all, I could have just threw it in the trash...but what fun would that have been? Heh.


The toothbrush

I have a green toothbrush and Michael has a blue one. They are very similar in color. Sometimes, in my haste to have sparkling white teeth and fresh breath, I will grab the blue one.


And I will really get in there, scrub off the fuzzy feeling on my grill...dig in deep on my tongue...the whole nine yards. Rinse and spit. Then repeat because I am anal retentive about my brushing. I have to rinse and repeat about three times. Then when I do the final rinse, I come to the startling realization that I've been brushing my teeth with Michael's toothbrush the entire time.

And it kinda makes want to puke.

I mean, sure, it's my husband. I've swapped spit with the man for over twelve years. It's been lovely. We've repeatedly exchanged bodily fluids for heaven's sake. Then there was that embarrassing moment during Maya's birth when he had to handle a smidge of poo. That I produced. But still. All that action with someone else's toothbrush just freaks me out. Seriously.

And now I'm off...to buy a bright red toothbrush.


"We were chillin in the park, just waiting for the sun to go down (on a Sunday afternoon)..."

It must be the scandalous graffiti vandalist in him because my dear husband enjoys making a production out of whatever art he does. He loves an audience. Everything becomes a live art performance.

Me, I would bore you to tears as I plastered by face near my canvas with my #000 brush, hunched over like a old, fat bear. When I paint, I zone everyone and everything out. It's even worse if I am listening with headphones on. If people watch me I get self-conscious.

But not Michael. He digs having people standing around watching what his next move is going to be. He loves to oooh and aaahhh them with his talents and skills. Here is a piece he did at our church's outreach at the park last Sunday.

A funny.

Overheard at the Cortes household.

Maya, to her Uncle Josh: "Why did my mama get a tattoo?"

Uncle Josh: "Cuz she's a cochina!!"


Fat girl + Souplantation = Happy fat girl

Whenever we are out and about and we will inevitably have to stop and get something to eat, my vote is always, always for Souplantation. Number one, it's all-you-can-eat. And that is magic to a fat girl's ears. Oh..and it's healthy, there are tons of fresh veggies, it's inexpensive, it's loud and child-friendly and pretty much everything is delicious!

It's become this little game Michael and I play. Whenever he asks me what I want to eat, I will make a Xixi face and say, "Souplantation!" And he will do his best to locate one for me. One time he was like, "Sorry, honey. I did my best. I can't find one around here." And then we pulled into this parking lot and what did my fat little eyes behold?! A Souplantation...in Brea.

I knew I made the right decision in ignoring what my mama said about marrying you, my knight and shining armor!

If we are in L.A. or Orange County, we're set. We pretty much know where they all are. But out here in the I.E....well, there is only one. In San Bernardino of all places. That sucks. Hospitality Lane might as well be in another state cuz I ain't feelin' it.

So we will be in Palm Springs in a couple of weeks, and instead of ending up at In-n-Out or Subway for lunch, I thought I would research me some Souplantation. Suck again. No luck. But then I saw that there was one in Long Beach...right around the corner from where we were when we went to drop off my paintings at the Picture This Gallery. Right around the corner.

That hurt.

Like a knife in the heart. Since we were in a time crunch to get back to Riverside...at two in the afternoon...on the 91 freeway...and we didn't know where else to eat...we ended up at Norm's. Yep. Norm's. Sigh.

So, so close.

I don't know if I can adequately explain my obsession with Souplantation. My Dad used to take me there when I lived in East L.A. He lived in Pasadena, so we would simply walk there. And my homies and I would always seem to find ourselves in a booth, laughing and eating mountainous piles of green salad, chinese chicken salad, pesto pasta, clam chowder, focaccia bread, chili beans, cornbread, steaming hot brownies and more mountainous piles of green salad. We would search for coupons in the L.A. Weekly and get our grub on. It was good times.

Souplantation makes me happy. It always sounds good. I will never turn it down. I have made followers of the chil'rens, too. And I don't feel guilty eating there since the food is healthy and for the price we pay, we could be eating nutritionally-bereft iceberg lettuce salads and pancakes as big and heavy as a murder weapon at Norm's. It's a win-win.

So if you've never eaten at Souplantation, ya better ask somebody. And if you have eaten there and found it so-so, don't kill my buzz and start complaining about the joint. It's sort of my happy place.


My Lovey is 3!

It was my baby girl's 3rd birthday on Saturday. The night before, I sat in the room where she was born and contemplated her birth...the emotions, the smells, the sounds, how she felt in my arms when she first came out of the water.

And then I contemplated how different my home is now. The absence of baby paraphernalia is what first strikes me. No crib, no swing, no high chair, no potty seat, no car seat, no diaper bags or bottles.

That was my life for ten years. To see it gone just feels strange.

Now that Xixi is three years old, a new season of life is upon us. A season of learning...of trying new things...of just a teensy weensy bit more freedom for me. It's kinda nice.

To hear Xixi talk so much, to watch her reason with others, how she is conscientious about mothering her babies and cleaning up her room, how much she loves to be spoiled by her daddy and big brothers....I just can't seem to understand where the last three years went. And now...here's to toddlerdom and beyond.

Happy Birthday, my Lovey!


I focused so much on how the tattoo was going to feel...how much it was going to hurt...that I didn't even consider what it was going to feel like afterwards.

Right about now my arm looks a little like Popeye's forearm, all swollen and nasty. The first night I left about half a dozen imprints of my oiled up tat on the sheets.


I had this idea of what getting a tattoo would feel like. And I was sincerely hoping that it wouldn't be as bad as I imagined. But when Joe put the needle against my skin and began the outline, I was sooooo disappointed. Oh, nooooo. This hurts so bad. I'm not going to be able to endure this. I already feel like dying and he just began. This will be my first and my last tattoo!

Then began a series of ugly faces and muttered curse words. Angie was sitting back and watching me with big eyes.

After a couple of minutes, either the pain lessened or I was numb from the needle. It wasn't bad at all. I could talk and laugh and I was beginning to believe I would live to see another day. The part that hurt the most was the outline, especially near the inside of my forearm. Oh Sugar Honey Ice Tea. That hurt. Joe kept telling me, "Would you quit moaning!"

"Leave me alone, Joe! That is how I process pain! You should hear me giving birth."

I love the way it turned out...not perfectly symmetrical but organic and beautiful. True to the original design. Joe told me I should turn the design upside down, away from me so it looked better when I showed it off. But I explained that since it was my tattoo and for my enjoyment...I wanted it facing toward me. And that is how he did it. And it looks really, really cool.

Some said it was too large for my arm but I don't think so. It's pretty bad ass. When my dad saw it, he smacked the crap out of it, just for good measure.

"Aaaaaaaaggggghhhhhhhhh!! What did you do that for??" I panted.
"So you can learn!" He said.

It was all very George Lopez's grandmother.

After that, it was burning like it was on fire. I was really whiny. But the sick part was, I was already envisioning what my next piece would be. The pain of that needle is getting further and further in my mind. I never thought that would happen!


Just poppin' my collar

Holler at your girl...I got a little blurb about my Frida paintings in the District Weekly of Long Beach. The article is called "Your Own Personal Frida" by Theo Douglas. Check it out. I thought it was very cool. He did make a little boo-boo in that he said La Beach Bunny Frida was wearing sunglasses and she wasn't. Not that I'm complaining or anything like that. Heh.

Of all the beautiful pieces in the show that he could have wrote about, he chose to discuss all three of my paintings. Very, very cool. I am relieved that he saw the humor in them, as well.

I'll admit, I got a little misty.


The chil'rens were playing outside today with a couple of the neighborhood kids. Being the hypersuspicious mama that I am, I of course, have to be up their butts to supervise. You just never know, right?

So I let the chil'rens play out in front, and I find some sort of activity to do in the garage so I can appear busy yet tune my ears into their conversation and activity. It never ceases to amaze me how these neighborhood kids show up at my door and then proceed to stay for hours without their parents coming to stop by and check in on them, call...something. At all. Not once.

For a couple of days now, our dog has been messing with the neighbor boy, Ryan. The chil'rens keep complaining that Chela has been humping on his leg. I didn't believe them because first of all, I've never seen her do this. And second, I thought female dogs didn't have the need to hump....only the males get all crazy.

But then I saw her do it. She wrapped her scrawny little legs around his arm and she started to get her hump on. Ewwwwww! Then the minute she realized I was watching her, she took off to run and hide.

Disgusting animal.

Diego was laughing hysterically. "Chela put her vagina on Ryan's arm!! Ahahahahahahahahahahahahha!"


So I googled it. Apparently spayed or unspayed females do hump. Sometimes they get in an over aroused state and I'd say that eight kids running around screaming would fill the bill. It also said they hump to show dominance. Which explains why she would hump on the neighbor kid and not one of the chil'rens who feed her, bathe her, give her water and yell at her to stop scratching at the door. But ew. Gross.

I guess you learn something new everyday.

The source of my discontent

So I am anxiously awaiting the new Ikea catalog. Not because I love mass-produced furniture made by the Swedes. Or because I can never seem to make it out of that store in a good mood because it is one huge maze and everything seems to end up in my cart.

No, not that.

But because I love to plant my sweet ass on the sofa and simply flip through that catalog, page after page. I like to see how family friendly their designs are and how I can incorporate the ideas in my own home. And it's not just the Ikea catalog. Its the Pottery Barn catalog, too. Shoot, I'll even sit down to pour over the SureFit catalog--and I don't even use slipcovers. Not to mention the stacks and stacks of Better Home & Gardens, Country Living, Country Home, Cottage Living and InStyle I possess. We've already gone over my magazine addiction so we won't get into that one again.

But I digress.

The thing about this catalog is...it makes me a very grouchy, disgusted, and unsatisfied mama. Seriously. I start looking around my house with contempt and a snarl on my face.

Ugh...look at this place. I need new stuff. I like vintage and all, but for once I'd like not to have to sand and primer and paint everything. I would die for a drawer to open smoothly. Hiss. It smells in here. Its the sofa. I wish I could get a new one, one without the tiny rip in the corner that Michael created the first week we bought it. We need knew duvet covers. How many times can you wash pee out of a duvet? I hate my room. It needs to be painted. I've had these two wicker chairs for a decade now--eww! Some of that new wicker furniture would be nice! That fuzzy carpet! A closet for Michael's stuff! Shoe organizers! Drapes! Wine glasses! A place to hang my jewelry! More rice paper lamps! My kitchen cabinets are scuffed. A whole new kitchen would be nice. Ooooooh, look at the kids' stuff. A loft bed...the boys would love the loft bed. A swing hanging from the ceiling would be cool. Who am I kidding? My savages would have the roof caved in within hours. Sigh. We need new stuff. Ugh...look at this place.

I've come to realize that reading home improvement magazines affect me more than if I read, say, an InStyle magazine or an Allure. Do I fret that I'm not skinny enough to wear that dress...or have full enough hair to carry off that hairstyle? You think it would motivate me to work out...get on a diet, etc. Nope. I simply enjoy the fashion stuff for what it is. If anything, I bemoan the fact that I am not rich and can't afford to go to fabulous luncheons where they are auctioning off handbags...or splurge on spa treatments...$300 shoes...professional blow-outs...expensive makeup.

But the home improvement magazines get me right here. Where it hurts. And what I am beginning to realize is they breed discontent in my soul. I look around and instead of being thankful and grateful for what God has provided, I gripe. Instead of pondering the less fortunate, I am wishing I could pitch everything I own in the trash and start fresh. And oh! The desire to have lots of money. That's what it boils down to, right? If I had lots of money, I could live like the people in the magazines. I could buy everything I wanted, naturally.

Discontent and greed are a nasty combination. But this magazine/catalog habit is a long-standing one. One I know will be hard to break. Now, magazines in and of themselves can be harmless...it's my own mind that is in need of regeneration.

Mrs. Greenthumb.

I'm one of those people who wish they had the time, motivation and big enough greenthumb to have a garden. Then I would grow some herbs wink wink and vegetables. Lots of vegetables! The first thing I would grow would be a mess of tomatoes.

I am very picky about my tomatoes.

The nasty, pale, mealy so-called "tomatoes" that taste like butt that I am forced to buy at the market....gross. But I buy them nevertheless, so they can fulfill their duty in my sang-weeshes and salads. Even still, I can only tolerate them drowned in salad dressing or salt and pepper.

I remember eating juicy, dark red tomatoes as a child. Does anyone else have that memory? As big and tasty as a plum! Even though I am allergic to them (I get a red puffy ring around my lips and it ain't cute), I would eat them. All during the summer. They actually had flavor. You wanted to eat them. This has been my gripe year after year.

Why don't tomatoes taste like this anymore? My only solution is to continue buying mini pearl tomatoes at Trader Joe's or just grow my own. I hear it's not too challenging. But come on. This is me we are talking about. My succulent cacti are barely hanging on for dear life.`

If I could grow my own tomatoes, I wouldn't have to endure the crap at the market. I would just go without and wait for the next tomato season. This is most definitely something to ponder for next summer.

Fresh, homegrown tomatoes...bright green basil and fresh mozzerella. MmmMmmMMMmmmm!


The mecca for bald heads.

I've found it.

So Saturday before the Frida exhibit, I had a million things to do. As usual. Before we made the long trek out to Long Beach...the L.B.C when Snoop was sippin' his gin and juice and he wasn't lovin' them hoes and he had his mind on his money and his money on his mind.

After a quick lunch at Subway for a few $5 footlongs--doesn't the song from the commercial get stuck in your head?--I realized I didn't want to travel all over town to find something for my dear husband to wear that night, so we headed across the street to...Sears. Yeh, that's right. I said it. Sears.

There is no shame in my game.

Am I the only wife that still shops for her man? I have no choice, really. If I don't, he will wear some paint-stained t-shirt or beige dress pants and a polo that is too short for him. Not because he is a fashion retard but because he spends little to no time and money on his appearance. He is one of those "I dress for function" type of people. He is also more concerned with how his seven chil'rens are dressed. So I don't fault the man. He is just being a good daddy.

So my job is making sure the man looks good. Add it my list of other jobs.

The curious thing about Sears is about 98% of the customers are brown people. You won't find too many Caucasians up in that place. Unless they are old. Old white folks still remember when that place sold popcorn, chocolate and nuts. Wow. I am really dating myself, aren't I? My point is, fashionable Caucasians will usually head to the mall. And thats cool. Leave Sears to old Caucasians and raza.

Because truth be told, they seem to have more clearance racks then clothes they are selling full price. And I ain't complainin'. Since it is literally down the street from my house and they have lots of name brands and tons of clearance racks, I will browse the store. And I am always enjoying the excessive amount of brown people shopping there. Let me tell you, raza be lovin' them some Sears!

And the bald heads, the pelones, the ones wearing the throw-back jerseys and jeans in a size 52...they were swarming around the South Pole section. I've come to the conclusion that the South Pole section at Sears is like the mecca for bald heads. They were getting all their polos for 40% off...their size 52 jeans for 50% off. You know, the jeans they have to lift up at their thigh so the cuff doesn't drag on the floor. All the hyna's with the dark lipliners and drawn-in eyebrows should head to Sears to find them a bald head.

Cuz that's where they are.

And I'm not hating. I'm just sayin'.


2008 Frida Exhibit

This was my favorite. It was absolutely beautiful, painted in both acrylic and oil on wood.

This was a crowd favorite, painted by Carlos Flores. It was totally kick ass. Wish I had painted it!

See my three babies?

This was an actual music box. Apparently it sold the second the curator put it up for display. Eerie, isn't it?

Would it be wrong to put these in my daughter's room instead of Bratz? These were so cool!

This piece was created with collage. Loved the Mayan glyphs.

There is my Frida, throwing up the "W". One lady asked me, "What is a Dickie?" I was like, "Whaaa? Huuh?" She didn't know what Dickies were.

Me and my homie, my siamese soul sista, Amparo. Yeh, I know. We look alike. Hence the name, siamese soul sista.

What a handsome couple!

Raquel called me, "The Artist Formerly Known as Pearmama". LOL

The view outside the gallery. They had lots of jewelry and I wanted it all.

Awesome! I used to do things like this to my Barbies all the time. This particular artist was recreating the horrible accident that crushed Frida's organs and forced her to wear a brace.

A view of the wall. I love my pregnant Frida. She is so lush and beautiful.

Loved this piece, too.

This was painted by my homie Amparo. Lots of blood, sweat and tears went into this piece. She is so talented! I'm so proud of her.

"Frida's Chi-chi's"...need I say more?

Overall, it was a beautiful show. I am so proud of the fact that I got to display my art alongside so many talented people. Just to see the many interpretations of Frida and her life and how it has inspired so many people was touching. Thanks to all my family and friends that came out to see the show. It meant so much...I felt so special! It was an important night for me. It symbolized the end of my ten year hiatus from painting. It feels good. I feel alive...like that little thing that's been missing all these years has been discovered. I can't wait to start on something new.

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