At one point, about eleven years ago, I went through this ruthless cleanse and dumped all of my music in this giant dumpster behind Michael's apartment. Goodbye Prince....farewell Beastie Boys...adios Wu-Tang Clan. Killa beeeeez. Part of me wanted to climb in that thing and pull it back out. I mean, what would be my alternative? Kirk Franklin? Jars of Clay?
Personally, I don't know what defines something as "Christian music". There is music that is non-offensive and good for "little ears"...Christians shouldn't object to listening to that sort of music, right? Then there is the music you hear on "Christian" radio stations...which personally, I find very boring and non-inspirational. Not so much because of the content but because of the style of music. Ya'll know me...I need some funk, hip hop, punk, ska, reggae, rap and rock. Then there is the music you would sing at church...which I clarify as "worship music". And I like worship music, I really do. But the other stuff...cringe.
Thankfully, I stumbled upon Fred Hammond's Pages of Life. And Cross Movement. Wooooo boy, talk about havin' church up in here! Those two artists saved me over the years, until I realized that the music I listened to didn't define me. But I still had to be cautious about what I listened to because it affected the state of my heart and mind.
These days, there is so much more to listen to. The chil'rens fill up their MP3's with Lacrae, P.O.D and Moi. They are constantly asking for some Rage Against the Machine but I have to deny them because of the profanity.
And...I don't want them to be heathens just like their mama.
So I leave you with Lacrae and his anthem from 2006. Yeh, this song is two years old but my boys bump it like it's new.
Michael hates when I wear his socks, for this reason. I stretch out the elastic. Apparently, my cankles are too much for the poor little sock to take. Then when he tries to wear those very same socks and they are loose and falling down, he'll call out, "Have you been wearing my socks again, woman? Look, my socks are all drunk now! Stay away from my socks!"
I refuse to believe that my shapely Popeye-like calves can do this damage. I mean, my socks are fine. Why don't I do this to my own socks? Maybe because all of his socks are .99 clearance socks from K-mart that his mama bought him. Cheap. Mmmmkay?
Shoot, that'll teach him for accusing me of creating drunken socks. Shoooooot.
This has been something that has plagued me my entire life. I must be in denial, right? Growing up, my brother's beef with me was the fact that I jacked up his baseball socks. You know, those long ones that go all the way to your knee? Well, I would have to wear those when I played softball and more often than not, I stole a pair from Eric's drawer. Then when he went to pull some out, there they were all loose and tipsy.
Oops. My bad.
So I guess this is my scourge in life. I am a bad influence on your socks. I will get your socks drunk until they are laying there with their mouth hanging open. Busted. I am a sock-ruiner.
See...it's making me get all gangster.
I'll be back soon.
When Mikey was a little boy and our court order strong-armed his mother into letting us see him every other weekend, things were going well for a while. But then stuff just happened along the way. And for the life of me, I sit back and wonder when exactly it all went wrong and what we could have done to prevent it. Mikey lived with us briefly and then moved back in with his mom. Then we didn't see him for over a year. Then we got to see him this summer. And that was it, his mom cut us off again. But then out of the blue, four months later, we got a call from him.
You should have heard the excitement in our house! Michael came alive...the chil'rens came alive!
Everyone was so happy and excited. Sadly, we had to go through hell to see that boy. Harassment, cursing, threats, the police....we had to go through a lot to get him in our van and drive off. Now you understand why my eye was twitching like crazy. I love to see my stepson growing into a young man at the ripe old age of 15. I remember when he was a little baby, with a fat, round head and pouty lips. He was so cute. Now he is as tall as I am, thin, with a little mustache and deep voice. He makes me proud to be his stepmama.
In him, I can see what Michael must have been like when he was that age, and what the future holds for my own sons. What really blesses me about Mikey is how he can effortlessly blend back into the family. It's like he never left. He walks around in his basketball shorts and leaves his dirty boxers on the bathroom floor. He spends time with his sisters. He answers all of his brother's relentless questions. And what is his simple request of me? "Mom...can you make me spaghetti? Mmmm, I haven't had your spaghetti in a long time!" Of course I will make him his spaghetti. It's something that I cook for him pretty much every time he is here with us.
And Saturday night, as we headed out for Art/Fusion at Back to the Grind, he came out of my room holding my brown slip-on Vans. "Oh, Mom. Can I sport your Vans?" You know I must love this kid if I will allow him to wear my precious brown slip-ons. I don't know what the future holds for us. I don't know if we have the finances and the perseverance to go back to court to resolve our issues. I'm just blessed that he was here. That we got to tell him that we loved him. That he got to sleep in our home. That we got to hug him. That Michael got to have all of his seven children under his wing just for one weekend.
Sing it to the tune of Fergie's "Fergalicious."
This is what I call my girls when their hair is uncombed and they look like little ragamuffins. Ugh.
Growing up, my mom was a french braid nazi. My hair was ruthlessly parted, brushed within an inch of it's life and tightly braided practically everyday. This is why my eyes are so slanted. It is from years of abuse at the hand of my mother and her antique, wooden-handled brush.
I think I was well into junior high before I was allowed to wear my hair down and loose. To this day, if my mom is around, she will look at my hair and furrow her brow, "Ooh! Put all that hair up in a ponytail! How can you stand it in your face??"
So with my own daughters, I've discovered that I am a bit more lax with the hairstyling. Sure, I may wrinkly my nose in disdain when I see a little girl walking around with wild, hippie hair. Why is that poor child walking around like a little scagg? The rule in our house is, if you are going somewhere, you have to have your hair combed. If you are home...you can walk around with a bird's nest in the back, hair that is crunchy from maple syrup, and hair that is dangling in your eyes.
And that's just my hair.
Seriously, though, it still bugs me but I can't rationalize taking the time out to do neat hair if we are just going to be home by ourselves. Sometimes I will watch Xixi make her way past me from the back yard, her cheeks hot and flushed and hair all stuck to her sweaty forehead and I will get a flashback and I'll turn into my Mother.
"Look at your hair, Xixi!"
"What? Do I yoot ug-leeee? I don't wanna yoot ug-leee, mama!"
"Then comb your hair, girl."
So it has become the custom for me to ask the girls this question, "Do you want to comb your hair and look pretty or do you want to have your hair hanging in your face like a scagg?"
In unison. "We wanna look pretty, mama!"
"Then get me all the stuff."
And by stuff I mean, detangling spray, a comb, a brush, rubberbands and barrettes. I am a mean mama when it comes to doing hair. You should see my nieces. Their ponytails are slick and tight, there is not a stray hair anywhere in sight. I have seen them endure an entire day at Disneylandia, getting on rides and taking a nap, and their chongos are still in full effect.
Awwww, brings back memories. Mother would approve.
Well, the very next morning as I was smooshed into my lovely pillow surrounded by my lovely warm bed and soft, furry husband, I was nudged awake by Diego. Just like when he was two years old...every morning he would stand by the side of my bed--never Michael's--and with his raspy little voice he would squeal, "Mama! Wake up! I'm hun-gweeee! Maaaamaaaaaaa!" It used to drive me nuts.
On this morning he was dressed in sweats and tennis shoes. And a beanie. To keep his long, flowing locks from getting in his face, I suppose. "Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Wake up. Come on. You said we were gonna go jogging! Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Wake up!!"
Now, it's easy to say no to myself. It's easy to make excuses to myself. But to my son, it's not so easy. So I heaved myself up, got myself together just enough so I wouldn't scare anyone and we were off.
So we went over to this park that has a track. We decided to walk a bit and then try to run a little. When I was walking, I was cool. I got a little stride going, I was breathing fine, we were able to laugh and chat.
"Mom! I thought we were going to jog!"
We went for it. And every fiber of my being cried out, what on earth are you trying to do to us??? I haven't actually jogged or ran since I was in high school and I played softball. It was a struggle to run just a quarter of the track. But I did it. And Lawd have mercy, my thighs must weigh about a hundred pounds each. My knees were shaky. My whole body was shaky. Note to self: buy a full-body suit to prevent things from bouncing up and down and unpleasantly jiggling and becoming a distraction.
I know, I know...I shouldn't have pushed so hard so soon. I should have walked like a little old lady so I wouldn't give myself a heart attack. But I hate that. I am the type of person who likes to throw herself into something. If we are playing volleyball, then I am going to try to spike the ball in your face. If we are at the batting cages, then I am determined to hit every pitch that comes my way. If I decide to give birth, then I'm doing it 100% natural, in a birth tub, on the kitchen floor....six times.
That's just me.
But oh...I paid. I paid dearly for that little jog. And the jog I had after it. And after that one. My thighs burned. They creaked. They trembled. They hurt. Then Diego and I decided we would just walk. That way I could guarantee my own survival. And he loves it. He loves to walk and chat and plan the rest of our day.
And I enjoy talking with him and seeing him for the boy that he is becoming. So there you have it. I am attempting some sort of exercise. I wish I could say that I have been eating less so I could lose some weight but alas....it hasn't happened. But I'll get there. Someday.
Cookin' everyday ain't easy. There have been many times when I have thrown stuff together just so I can say I cooked something for them. On those days, you can tell mama wasn't exactly feelin' the love. Then there are those days when I try out a new recipe and introduce something new and I have a little twinkle in my eye.
I have to say though, I get really discouraged when I try something new and it's met with disgusted groans, battles at the dinner table, or requests for "just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich". It kinda makes me want to throttle them.
I saw this recipe for Pasta Fagioli soup at A Year of Crockpotting and I was interested. It sounded really tasty for a cool, autumn day even though it was in the low 90's around these parts. I had most of the stuff already in my pantry.
My only problem with crockpot cooking is that my crockpot is too small to feed my family. Apparently, I need a crockpot the size of a whirlpool tub. Oh, and I never remember to turn it on to give it enough time to cook for dinner. So I just adapted the recipe (by adding some Italian turkey sausage to the ground turkey) and cooked a vat of the stuff. I even got fancy and threw in the kidney beans even though I always pick them out of my chili beans.
Oh em geeeee was that stuff tasty. It was delicious!
And the best part was, the chil'rens loved it. We all loved it so much we managed to stretch out that soup for nearly three days and we didn't get sick of it! A big, steaming bowl with some toasted cheese bread from Trader Joe's and it was on and poppin'.
I love when I get a new soup recipe to add to my repertoire. In the winter, there is nothing better than a pot of soup simmering on the stuff. Currently, these are the soups on rotation at my house:
- Chicken Tortilla soup
- Albondigas soup
- Chicken Noodle
- Beef Stew
- Tom Yum Koong
- Potato Cheese Soup
- Tortellini Soup
- Yucatan Chicken Lime Soup
- Benihana Soup (that's what the kids call it)
- Chili beans
- Chicken & Rice Soup
There are a couple of other soups that I want to try like a Zuppa Toscana soup and a Cioppino, which is a seafood stew. That one I promised to make for my stepdad but the thought of dealing with mussels and stuff is a little intimidating.
If you have any tasty recipes, let a sister know. I am always up for an adventure.
There is something cool happening tonight at 8pm at Back to the Grind in downtown Riverside.
Art/Fusion: Fall of Man
Come on down for some coffee, cool people, second-hand smoke, good music and art. Lots of cool art, including yours truly. Michael is also going to do some performance art i.e. GRAFFITI. Yay, spray paint fumes! Be still my heart.
So come on down. Get some culture!
At least, the hair is. Specifically, my new bangs. I decided to get bangs again. I threw caution to the wind and my sideswept, long bangs and went for a blunt cut fringe.
You know how I like to live dangerously.
That and because I was so tired of my ever widening forehead. I don't know what it is, but whenever I get a haircut, my hair is shocked into a funk for at least two to three days. No matter what I do to style it, it just looks retarded.
So it is my custom to hate the bangs for at least a week...until they grow on me... they grow out a little...and I remember how to style the naps on the side on my head with heat within an inch of it's life.
The minute I got off the car Michael looked at me with a snarl on his face. So I know the bangs weren't working for him.
Can't do anything about it now except let 'em grow out.
In this case I was lucky. One of those new brothers turned out to be Paul. We were blessed to be passed all that spoiled-little-kid-I-need-all-the-attention-you-stole-my-mommy phase. We grew to be true friends...we went through alot. First off, his mom is married to my dad...that alone should reserve many 'o counseling sessions for us. When I moved out to L.A. to finish college...Paul moved to Pasadena to live with "the folks". We were into lots of the same things so we hung out alot. I can't say we were always on our best behavior. But then again, we were young and ig'nant.
Paul, remember that turkey loaf you puked up on the side of the street after that party in Santa Ana?
Awww, good times.
He probably doesn't remember the turkey loaf since half of his brain cells are fried. But at the time, it was hilarious. One night he brought over this new chick. I gotta say, we were accustomed to Paul's constant parade of females who were entranced by his dimples.
Duuuuude...who is this girl?
He swore up and down Kristina was cool and that he really liked her and that we would like her. And she was just about ready to turn 18, so it was all good. And by all good that meant she was almost legal since he was about five years older than her. But don't women mature at a faster rate than men? I guess you could say they were just about even.
Now it is fifteen years later and they are still together. But just a couple of weeks ago they decided to take that leap of faith and get married. You know, make the old ball and chain really legal. I was very happy for them. Some might think, they've been together that long...why bother? But there is something magical that happens when a man can call a woman his wife. Not his lady, or his woman, or his girlfriend...or his baby mama.
Being wifey means something.
So congratulations Paul and Kristina! We love you. May your marriage be blessed and may you always feel like you are on your honeymoon.
My eye has been twitching all day. My left eye. Literally, all day. I can't get it to stop. Like every couple of minutes it will start spasming for a few seconds. It's kinda embarrassing, like if other people can actually see my eyelid vibrating.
I'm not under any new stress (being broke and caring for six chil'rens--that ain't nothin' new)...I didn't eat anything strange. I haven't drank any caffeine today so I don't know what is the deal. Michael pointed out that I have been drinking alot of those little powdered tea packets that you put in a bottle of water that contains lots of artificial sweetener. Hmmmm, could that be it? I don't know.
It's kinda freaking me out. My eyes...my eyes!
Have I mentioned how much I have missed Sandals? If you haven't noticed, we were gone for a minute. But now you will be seeing my bright, smiling face. And I am sooo glad. I forgot how amazing this church is. How they continually think outside of the box in terms of inspiring people to serve God in new and creative ways, with a whole heart.
What we did today was symbolic of the hearts of people who want to live like Jesus, who want to reach out to a dying and hurting world...and how we want to change how people view Christianity.
I was sitting towards the back and didn't realize that there were hundreds of shoes at the bottom of the stage. Pastor Matt talked of helping people in need. In our world. In our community. They need shoes. Would you like to offer yours?
Needless to say...I walked out of that church barefoot today. So did my husband. He gave up a brand new pair of boots that he just got for his birthday. It was the first time he even wore them.
It made me very emotional to see people get up out of their seats and take off their shoes. What if they were giving up their favorite shoes? What if they were their most expensive pair? What if they had plans after church...and now they had no shoes to speak of? But then I started to think of those people who would get to wear these shoes. Nope, these weren't the shoes tossed in the back of a closet, dusty and forgotten. They were the cool shoes someone chose to wear to church today. I continued to be emotional as I walked out to the parking lot after, looking at all the barefoot, sock-footed people.
It made me think of Romans 10:15: How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the good news!
Well, last weekend came the first actual rain in like seven months. And then in came all those disgusting little rodents.
Here at the Cortes household, the score is this:
Rodents: 0 (for now)
Rodent haters: 8 (could be more but I lost count)
Yep, in the span of a week, we have managed to catch eight mice. Count 'em . Eight. And there is still one scurrying in the garage, we just haven't caught it yet. Oh, but your time is coming soon, you filthy little rat bastard.
See? These freakin' mice got me all foul-mouthed and stuff.
It all started on Halloween night. Everyone was finally asleep and the house was quiet. I was sitting at the kitchen table, on my laptop. All of a sudden, I heard this persistent munching sound and it was driving me nuts. Mice. Then I started to hear this chirping sound. For a second I thought it could be some birds in a nest.
But oh no.
They were not birds. It was mice. Chattering away like Gus and his homies in Cinderella.
I was waiting for them to make me a dress and sew the pearls on it but they were too busy munching on all the leftover crumbs that manage to hide under my stove.
I got up quietly to observe. What I saw horrified me (how's that for a Halloween scare?). About three to four baby mice popping in and out of the bottom of my stove, all chirping away.
It was soooo disgusting.
That was when I realized that those sticky "humane" traps we put out worked about as well as me catching them with my hands. They would simply take the peanut butter blob off of it, get a portion of their tail caught on the corner and then they'd break free and scurry off. Ugh. When the traps would be moved in places we didn't originally place them, I knew those crafty little suckers were breaking free.
I knew we would have to bring out the big guns. Literally. One night I found Michael in the dark, perched on his stomach in the middle of the kitchen floor, pellet gun poised on a pillow...with a flashlight pointed into the pantry. Have you ever seen Ratatouille? When that little old lady catches Remi watching the cooking show when she is asleep? And she just about shoots her own house apart trying to get at those mice? Ahem. Uh, yeh. That's what it was like.
So after trying in vain to hunt the mice with the pellet gun....PING! PING!! PING!!....we decided to put out the neck-breaking traps. Yes. We waited until the chil'rens were asleep so we could put the traps out in the middle of the kitchen floor. In less than an hour we had caught four. Snap! Snap! Snap! Snap!
Music to my ears.
The next morning there was a big commotion before breakfast because the chil'rens saw a mouse on the loose in the pantry. So we knew we didn't catch them all. Michael managed to find the hole where they were traveling in from the garage and then he sprayed it with glue adhesive. Then the mice were getting stuck in the hole.
The day after that I was once again on the laptop at the kitchen table. In the middle of the day. I kept hearing this paper rustling. I looked up to see a mouse on my kitchen counter, shaking down a napkin for it's crumbs. The balls on that mouse. I imagined there might be a countless number in the walls, since this one was brave enough to venture out during the day, onto my kitchen counter no less. Everytime he heard a noise, he would climb into my stove burners.
You can't be serious! Is this some sort of infestation???? When will this killing field end??? Is this Mouse Armageddon??? I can't take this anymore!!!!!!
Get ahold of yourself, Pearmama.
It's been three days. We haven't had anymore mice caught in the traps we've laid around the house. I think we just might survive this scourge. I'll keep you posted.
Solomon won the grand prize of best costume for the little Halloween party we had for the chil'rens in our family. He was a greaser...sideburns, tattoos and all. What was the main thing he kept pestering me about that would take his costume to the next level?
Those candy cigarettes, of course. The chil'rens are fascinated with the whole concept of smoking cigarettes. Not because they find it appealing, but because it's a disgusting habit...why on earth would anyone want to do it? We have discussed the adverse health effects...the black lungs, the wrinkles on your face, the way it makes your fingers, clothes and hair smell...not to mention the foul thing it does to your breath.
"Mom, have you ever smoked?"
"Only when I was at a bar, drinking--"
"Mom!! You used to go to bars? And you drank beer??"
Scratching head. "Uh. Oh. Um--I, uh..."
Mary jane notwithstanding, I only smoked when out at a nightclub and everyone else was smoking and drinking. Ironically, it seemed like the natural thing to do. And it had to be menthols. Ew. Disgusting, I know. I never got into a regular habit, thanks to a friend who threw out the pack of menthols I bought at the gas station.
To me, smoking was just something that you did. My grandparents smoked, my Dad smoked, my Nana smoked, my aunts smoked, my uncles smoked...they were just from that generation. Growing up, my mom also smoked, but she quit by the time I was in high school. Oh, the memories of my parents walking out of the bathroom with a cig dangling from their lower lip. So yeh, my lungs are probably black and shriveled due to the second-hand smoke, even though I quit smoking anything around twelve years ago.
As I kid, I used to try to dodge the hot ashes that would fly into my rolled down window and threatened to burn my thighs as my dad smoked in the front seat and shot his ashes out the window. My Nana would lay on her bed and watch her novelas, all while smoking her unfiltered Pall Malls. When she dozed off, she would burn tiny holes in her bedspread. When you live in a world where everyone smokes, you don't look at it like it's a nasty habit.
But I now look at smoking with a snarl on my lip.
When out in public and I see someone lighting up a death stick, it's become my habit to furrow my brow and look at the offending person like they are a leper or something. I don't mean to be mean....it's just instinct because it smells so bad and it's so gross and it feels like you are violating my civil right to inhale clean air. Which is totally funny because I live in the I.E...there is no clean air around here.
Maybe if my mom didn't quit, I would have picked up the habit. So I'm thankful for her decision. I really believed she prevented me and my siblings from picking up the habit. I was already well on my way, stealing cigs from her purse and smoking them in the garage while I talked on the phone when I was about twelve or thirteen years old! That is craziness.
Personally, I have plenty of other monkeys on my back....the last thing I need to deal with is a smoking habit. For that I am very thankful.
I have a hole in my lip.
Are you like me? I can't seem to make it through a meal--or a beverage--without getting some of it on me. It's ridiculous.
And so embarrassing! I hate walking around with food stains on my shirt. It's bad enough I'm a fat ass...I don't think a food stain on the front of my shirt helps matters.
But until I learn to keep food from dribbling down my lower lip, I just keep on spraying my clothes with OxyClean and/or Grease Lightening.
This recent stain was from a Volcano roll at Joe's Sushi. Mmmmmm. All that hot crab was so totally worth the stain. I just covered it up with my necklace and kept eating, just like an self-respecting fatty would do.
I had to release some creative expression.
These are the final images for my Sugar Skull images. I'm tellin' you, once I got started, I just couldn't stop. Four was cool, then I started on the fifth just cuz. But then I didn't like the idea of a uneven grouping...so I had to keep pushing for the sixth. And the sixth sugar skull has the honor of being inspired by my dear cousin, Sam and her lovely rockabilly style. For some reason, I scanned it before I finished the background, so the finished Sam looks just a bit different. But it's framed now, so I couldn't scan it again.
I really like how they turned out. I uploaded them below in order of completion so you will notice that I started out with a really rough, primitive style which was a deliberate plan on my part. I wanted to try something different. Normally, I obsess over clean lines, color combinations, smooth finishes and blends. It seems like that old design/illustration training keeps coming out, despite my best efforts to let loose and try something a bit different. Michael is always telling me just flow, girl. But after so many years of school and being in this really controlled environment, in terms of my art, sometimes it's a big challenge for me to "just flow".
Around sugar skull #4, I introduced prismacolor pencils to the design and that seemd to revert me into some old habits. Not that that's a bad thing, mind you. If you are an artist and have never tried Prismacolor
That should definitely carry me into brisk middle age.
These pieces are currently on display at the Pharaoh's Den in Riverside. I was a little chapped at how they were hung. That is always an issue for an artist. You never know how your stuff is going to be hung when you put it in a show. No one wants their stuff put in a remote corner...or upside down...or scattered around the room. Which is exactly what they did to my sugar skull series, even though Michael stipulated they were a set. They proceeded to hang them up separately. Yeh, they still look cool but they lose their impact. Instead of a loud shout, they are whispers around the room. Bummer. But they are there, nonetheless.
Michael suggested that I ask them to rehang...but I didn't want to come off like a stank biatch so I just let it go. My Frida paintings (which they did manage to hang together--go figure) are also on display. Thursday is the Riverside Art Walk, so come on out for the closing of the show, even if I am just a little butt hurt.
Anyhoo, give a sister some love!