My Vegas Itinerary

So, Michael and I went to Las Vegas for a couple of days last week. Would you believe that I've never been there? People are always shocked when I say that. Well, that's not completely true. I went to Vegas when I was eight years old.

My mom and my Nana were some serious gambling fiends, and for whatever reason, they thought my little bro and I would enjoy the trip. All I remember is my mom reaching around to give me a beat down every time I poked my legs into her seat on the long, hot, boring drive...running out of money and sitting just outside the casino at Circus Circus trying to get the attention of my chain-smoking mother and grandmother...staying in a tacky motel room with red carpet.

Years later I learned my mother was horrified to discover two prostitutes were entertaining their johns in the room next to us, and they could hear them through the walls. I just asked my mom today why she even bothered to take us. She said, "Because I couldn't find anyone to babysit you." Nice, mama.
Good times.

So now, twenty nine years later, I finally have an excuse to go back. Truth be told, my first choice for a vacation destination would be some type of beach and/or art show. We're not the gambling/drinking/partying sort of people. And it's not like I have the $$$ to just plan a trip. But Michael's brother was getting married and he didn't want to miss it, so this was the perfect opportunity for a mini vacay in Vegas.

What is that saying? Whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas?
Yep. *cough cough* I wish I could say we lounged by the pool, ate at fabulous restaurants, caught a show or too...but nah, not quite.

My Vegas Itinerary:
Wed. @ 11: Dropping off the chil'rens with my mama, who so graciously agreed to watch them all. I waved, said my goodbyes and I love yous and my mom snickered, "Wow, that was very enthusiastic!" and I laughed, thinking, we'll see how enthusiastic you are when I come back to pick them up.

Wed. @ noon: Planned to leave at this time, instead...wait for Michael to---> find an outfit for the wedding, change the oil on our car, deposit money in the bank and shave. These were the only four things--four things, count 'em--he was responsible for. Meanwhile, I had already reserved a room/cleaned the house/shopped for travel essentials/packed for both of us/packed for six chil'rens/created homework packets/safely delivered them to their grandma/got feet done/bought cute dress/got hair did/bought snacks for travel. I kept thinking of my sister's words, you are wasting precious Vegas time! Aarrgh.

Breathe in, breathe out.
Wed. @ 4: We pick up Hungry sister in law and we finally get out of dodge.

A couple hours later: Get off in Baker for some ice. Saw an angry lesbian become irate because she paid $4 for an 8 oz. bottle of Dasani. At that moment, I'm very glad I bought that case of water for $3.99 and I didn't care that Michael and Hungry Sister in Law scoffed at the amount of 'travel snacks' I brought. They always do, but I didn't hear anyone complaining as they munched on my Hot Cheetos.

Wed. @ 8: We finally arrive in Vegas. Its just getting dark and its raining. Listened to Hungry sister in law say, for what seemed like the tenth time, you could see the light from the Luxor in outer space. Okay. I think I got it.

Wed. @ 8:15: Shocked at how many people were walking the streets with giant-size funnels of some type of alcoholic beverage. Observing the true distance between hotels (they all look so deceptively close on Mapquest) and thinking these old, fat people know what's up as they whiz past in their little motorized carts.

Wed. @ 9: After some gangsta driving maneuvers, we arrive at Treasure Island. As I get out of our car BAM!! the Vegas heat just hits me in the face like Chris Brown did Rihanna. I can already feel the cuteness melting off my face.

Wed @ 10--midnight: Walk the strip. After walking--or should I say dragging cuz it felt like my husband was pulling me by my arm the entire time-- about a quarter of a mile, starved (Hot Cheetos only fill you up for so long), having already imbibed a cocktail on an empty stomach...I realize that I might not be cut out for this Vegas lifestyle. My issues: my new sandals kinda hurt, the smoke was grossing me out, my rubbing thighs were about to start a forest fire, I was about to stomp a mudhole in one of those people handing out naked lady flyers in my face (p.s just because you put a star over the nipples doesn't make it appropriate) and I just kept fantasizing about that bed with the beautifully crisp white sheets at Treasure Island.

When exactly did I turn into an old lady? Come on, woman--you're in Vegas!

Thurs @ 1 am: Head over to the Hard Rock Casino with some family. We see what we assume is a group of young ladies out on the town, miniskirts and high heeled pumps all around. Until a guy gets out of a car and booms, "Alright b!tches! Get up, its time to get back to work!" and they all stand up, pull down their skirts and clickclack back into the casino. Working girls.

Thurs. @ 4 am: I discover what time it really is. Up until this point, Hungry sister in law keeps telling me, it's still early, Dee. Red Bulls rule. Seriously.

Thurs @ 6: We walk out of the casino to find the sun coming up. I swear, I feel like a vampire, hissing at the sun. Get me to our room, now! I tell Michael. They're hungry but food can wait until tomorrow. I need to put my old, crusty self to bed before I spontaneously combust!

Thurs @ 6--1: Sleep in a gloriously cool, blackened room. We would've slept longer but I set the alarm. We realize we have to go to a wedding in three hours. We eat breakfast/lunch, I take a bath, Michael goes down to the casino...time gets away from us, as it usually does. I discover that my feet are on swoll and have doubled in size! Now I can't fit them into my kitten heel pumps without it looking like a can of biscuits exploded.


Thurs @ 4:45: Walking/running around the Wynn (in sandals, which totally don't go with my outfit but are necessary due to my exploding biscuit feed), trying to find the wedding salons, really hoping they are behind schedule since we were already 45 minutes late.

Thurs @ 5pm: We try to blend in, but they totally know we missed the ceremony. How many people can say they went to Vegas a whole day earlier and still missed the wedding? *cough cough*

Thurs @ 6: Head over to Mexican restaurant for dinner party. I'm greeted with a giant sized margarita. It is shut-yo-mouth-and-say-it-ain't-so-delicious. Totally makes up for the biscuit dough feet.

Thurs @ 9: The words "party bus" gets thrown around. I'm scared.

Thurs @ 10:30--Fri @ 3am: Said party bus is foggy from smoke machine, wet from dranks being spilled all over the seats and it smells like 25 different kinds of sweaty ass.

Fri @ 4 am: Time to end the night. We walk back to our hotel. Michael and Hungry sister in law decide they are hungry. I decide that I am tired. Food can wait. Michael deposits me safely at TI's lobby and they leave. My digestive tract decides it can't wait for me to travel the 18 floors to my room before I hit the toilet. Lobby restrooms it is. I give an apologetic smile to the bathroom attendant as I walk out the door. Then, sleep. Hello, beautifully cool, crisp white sheets.

Fri @ noon: Checkout and hit the Rio buffet, to see what the fuss is about. It was tasty enough. Hungry sister in law categorized all of her plates: Seafood, Italian, Chinese, Salad, and Fried. We spent the rest of the afternoon visiting the places I only saw through the party bus window. But the heat and the excessive amount of people...bah. I just couldn't handle it. And I missed the chil'rens.

We drove home later that day, around seven, to avoid the heat. It was a nice drive, with the sun setting behind the mountains. Will I return to Vegas? Who knows. Maybe in another twenty nine years. Yeh, that sounds good to me.


R.I.P Michael Jackson (1958--2009)

Thriller was the first cassette I ever owned and I listened to it over and over again on the Walkman my Dad bought me for Christmas. I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

I choose to remember him as a kid growing up in the 80's. When he was black. And had a real nose. [enter Forrest Gump voice] And that's all I have to say about that.

It's sad to see someone die so young.

I can't say which is my favorite song--its a three-way tie between "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough", "Working Day and Night" and "The Lady in My Life". But, "Remember the Time" is my all-time favorite Michael Jackson video. What is your favorite Michael Jackson song?


Hollywood, you suck...and your Transformers do, too.

This is one of my pet peeves. Hollywood and it's producers like to mass market and saturate the people's eye with their upcoming crap movies. Even if I lived like the Amish, I wouldn't of been able to keep the chil'rens away from Transformers when it first came out.

I grumbled through some of the unnecessary foul language, the dirty-old-man-ogling of Megan Fox and her irritating little pout, the mindless noise and violence and... seriously?...the masturbation talk really set me on edge. I remember kicking myself for bad parenting and not doing a quick review of the movie beforehand.

So of course, the chil'rens are pumped about Transformers 2. I, however, am not. I have no memories of watching this cartoon as a child. I was probably in the kitchen eating a snack every time this was on TV and my brother was watching it. Who knows? Booooorrrrriiinng.

But back to the movie. The chil'rens had plans to go to the drive-in tonight, wooohoooo, we're so excited, etc. etc. Of course, this was their plan, I had nothing to do with it. But little do they know they are not going to see it.

And this is why I feel Hollywood sucks. They don't care about your children. They don't care about the appropriateness of crude sexual humor. They don't care if a few F-bombs are dropped--even the word p*ssy was thrown in for good measure. They don't care if your ADHD-riddled child's mind is going into hyper-drive watching all that violence. And they shouldn't, I suppose. They are just about making money and entertainment.

But you, as a parent, should.

Michael went to the midnight showing of the movie and took one of our boys, much to the sadness of our other three who really wanted to go. He did a little lotto system to choose who would get to go with him, and the rest would get to see it at the drive-in later. Personally, I didn't think they would be able to stay awake. But Sol told me he stayed up for the entire movie and it was his dad who was snoring. Great.

But they both emphatically agreed it wasn't a movie for kids. Even Sol recognized that at 3 am, when he was standing over my bed, telling me about the movie. So now my other chil'rens are totally bummed that they can't see it. Which brings me back again to the total suckitude of Hollywood.

Why market it to children? Why air the previews on cartoon channels? Why plaster it on every billboard? Why put Transformer toys in Happy Meals?

Cuz they don't give an ish about you and your kids.

They just want your $$$.

So what I'm gonna do is put on my love beads, remove my bra (oops, its already off--my bad!), dance around barefoot in my long skirt and handmade sign and protest this movie. I'm gonna protest it by not taking the rest of my kids to see it. By not handing over my hard-earned $$$. Yeh, I know, the $67 is just a drop in the crap bucket that is the Hollywood movie-making machine, but still...it's the principle.

Fight the power, people.


"Things that are scary..."

So I was talking to Michael about how his little heathen children were going on about how they refused to have fat girlfriends/wives.

He chuckled and said, "That's okay. That's how their daddy used to be."

You could say that I have reformed him. He has since seen the error of his ways. I like to think that I broadened his horizons (literally) because baby mama had the body of a 13 year old boy. For the past twelve years he has lived the exciting life of curves, dips, hills, dimples, valleys and "squishiness". And its all good in our hood.

But he wasn't always like this.

One Thanksgiving evening, about fourteen years ago, I called him up and invited him to hang out with my family. We hadn't seen each other in several months because we had taken our friendship in separate directions. But on this night, he accepted my invitation and drove over to my grandparent's house in East L.A.

I have to admit, I was really, really hoping he had turned ugly. I knew it was going to be rough hanging out and being buddies if he still looked good and I was attracted to him. So when he walked in, looking all cute and whatnot, I was all daaaaaaangit inside. But on the outside I maintained my composure, and we spent the evening playing board games and laughing.

I'll never forget the night. We were playing Scattergories. I was being my usual smart-assed, know-it-all, overachieving-board-game-playing self. I wasn't gonna let up just because a cute boy was playing. Note: that's just how I am when we play board games. I wanna win!

Hopefully, you're all familiar with how to play Scattergories. You get a list of random things, you roll the dice and then have to name off all this randomness with whatever letter your dice has landed on. I was smokin' everybody. Apparently, it didn't occur to me that trying to show how smart you are whilst playing a board game wasn't all that attractive to the opposite sex.

But anyhoo.

The dice, if you can call it that--it's a faceted ball with letters of the alphabet on it--landed on "F".

Names of fruit...figs!
Type of animal...frog!
Things you throw in the trash...fish bones!
Type of spice...fennel!

U.S State Capitals...Frankfort!
College majors...finance!
Things that are scary...firestorms!

Needless to say, I was tearin' it up. Like I was gonna win a trophy or something.

When the timer went off and we had to reveal our answers, Michael had this tiny smirk on his face. Oh, just let me have the chance to wipe that smirk off his gorgeous face when I add up all my points, I thought.

So we all reveal "things that are scary".

Freddy Kruger.
Falling off a cliff.

Then he said it... "Fat chicks."

Whoa. Whoa. WHOA. D-d-did he just say what I think he said? Did he just go there? Oh no, he didn't! Oh, no he didn't just say he was scared of fat chicks.

You could hear the crickets.

And there was that smirk again. "What? That's my answer! I'm not trying to offend anyone. What?"

Pretty ballsy move considering he was sitting at a table with me and my auntie Glo, whose ghetto booty could smoosh him dead in a second. If she wanted to. Together, we could crush him to dust, a fine powder, if you will. That table was pushing about 500 lbs., yo. And that was just me and my auntie Glo. Recognize.


But my auntie Glo was a good sport. She laughed. I laughed. We all laughed. But for 1.5 seconds, I caught her nostrils flaring and I knew she was thinking, what kind of cocky little $hit did my niece just bring up in this house?

And I was like, daaaaaangit....he still looks good though.

Now you know where my son's obnoxiousness comes from. Every time Michael is ready to skin Diego alive, I remind him: He is just like you, dear.


Freeballin': the joy of having so many male role models nearby.

My boys love, love, love spending time with their uncles. They are a never ending source of cool. Even if it's just to hang out and clean up their yard, take trips to the dump, wrestle to the death on the trampoline, recycle cans, throw the football around, go fishing, cruise the mall, my boys really enjoy that time. We are blessed that we have so many male role models around to positively influence their lives.

It's takes a village, you know.

So Ben Diesel and Sol spent the night with their tio Eric, working hard at yet another uncle's house, then going to a pool party, and finally spending a night of unlimited video games and movies at my bro's house.

The next morning, Michael picked them up and the boys rushed in to get ready for church. When they are on their little "man vacations", they are a little lax with the bathing schedule.

Me: Did you take a bath today?
Ben Diesel a.k.a Cyan: Uh, no.
Me: Last night then?
Ben Diesel: Uh, tió Eric said we didn't have to because we went swimming.
Me: Ugh. What does that have to do with anything? Get in the shower, please!
Ben Diesel: But we were wearing our swim trunks yesterday, so tió Eric said we could freeball it, mom. We're freeballin'! You know what freeballin' means, mom?
Me: I know what it means, Cyan!

And he chuckled, long hair in his eyes, monkey face smiling, very proud of the fact that his masculine little testicles were swayin' in the wind, unencumbered by a pair of clean boxer briefs.

Ben Diesel: Yeh, I'm freeballin' it!

Heh. Thanks for the positive influence, bro! Its these little things they will remember for a lifetime.


No fat daughter-in-laws.

So yesterday during lunch, Noah decided he was going to rat out his little brother Cyan to Grandma. Did he hit someone? Steal gum from the grocery store? Say a bad word? Throw another one of his famous tantrums?


He just has a little thing for a girl at church with blond hair and blue eyes. For some reason, Noah felt that his choice in Caucasian crushes wasn't acceptable and he wasn't havin' it.

Noah: Grandma-mom! Did you know that Cyan is gonna grow up to be just like tió Eric?
Grandma-mom: Why?
Noah: He likes blond haired girls with blue eyes just like tía Cassie!

I have no idea where he got the idea that girls like Caucasian sister in law were unacceptable. *whistling*

Grandma-mom: And what's wrong with that? As long as she loves God, that's all you have to worry about. Who cares what color eyes and hair she has! She can have black hair, blond hair, straight, curly. She can be tall or short. She can be ugly, pretty, skinny or fat!

Gasps around the room.

Diego: Um...Grandma-mom. Fat? We don't want to marry fat girls! Oh, um...sorry about that, mom. *giggle* No offense.

I'm thinking, where is my boot? I need to stomp a mudhole in this kid. Like right now.

My mom died laughing. I couldn't help but laugh with her. I almost spit pasta fagioli through my nose.

Little heathen.


Bedroom mural project

Just because you are an artist doesn't mean you can do all things "artistic". Everyone has their gifts in specific areas. For instance, I'm not very good with pastels. I can't stand to oil paint. And I can't work an airbrush to save my life. Mural painting is one of those areas where I don't excel. Yes, I have painting and rendering skills, but to take on a mural is something else.

What people fail to realize is, painting on a large scale goes way beyond basic painting skills. You gotta play by a whole 'nother set of rules. I'm learning, I'm learning.

A few years ago, I painted a little girl's nursery for a family friend. Not something I do all the time, but it was a small bedroom, near my house and they were really flexible with the hours I could paint. Turned out fantasticals.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I got a call from the same family friend who wanted me to hook up the spare room she was making for her five granddaughters, who also happen to be my nieces. Was that confusing? You can figure it out. Follow along!

She wanted their names in pretty script and some bows in pink and brown. I was thinking, bows? Like Christmas bows? Hmmph. Well, okay. Simple enough.

She asked how come I didn't take on more projects like this to make money and I had to confess. It's just too difficult. First off, large scale is challenging for me. Second, my fat ass up and down a step ladder? Um, no thanks. And thirdly, it's a scheduling nightmare. Having to work around my husband's schedule and trying not to exhaust my only faithful and capable babysitter (grandma-mama)...well, in the end, it's just not worth it. But, because I did her other room...and she's practically family...and I know she'll pay me well...and she's got really good snacks at her crib...I said, yes, of course.

So this was the project I was working on a couple of weeks ago. Took me three days. I should say, it took us three days. Without Michael's help, it would have took me way longer. Way, way longer. He put his mural/sign painting expertise to use and helped me with the layout, which is always the most difficult. I can't tell you how thankful I was. He kept saying this was like having a romantic date with me, with each of us painting in our own respective corner.

So sweet.

That is the amazingly awesome part of being married to a fellow artist. He made the work fun. And it was nice to get some peaceful time alone to paint without being disturbed once. I even got to listen to the waterfall that was right outside the window, which was so nice. It made up for almost going partially blind and insane painting script on a very textured, bumpy wall.

But it came out fantabulous. The script? Very feminine. The bows? Classy. I am very pleased with how it turned out.

After we confirmed all the measurements, we created a pounce pattern for the lettering. Ya'll didn't think people do this freehand, did you? Teehee.

The chalk we used to put down the pounce pattern was making a mess, so we ended up just using the brown paint sort of like a stencil.

Michael was trying to photograph his hot mess of a wife. Don't think so! Above the doorway read: I am a child of God. The yellow is the stencil.

She wanted her grandchildren to wake up and read the words, "You are my sunshine."

Miss Selah's wall.

Putting the finishing touches...really, you could just keep going, touching up little things here and there, but you have to realize it's going to be seen from a distance. It takes discipline to stop perfecting every single line!

Miss Amarah's wall and all those cute curlicues.

Miss Stella Purple happened to get her own wall...so I had to give her a little extra oomph, hence the bow tilted to the side. Her own gangsta lean, if you will.

All the names are tied together by the bows and ribbon. And all those swirls? I was kicking myself in the butt later on! Heehee

This is a close-up of the textured wall. I don't know how people who paint outdoor murals do it. That is alot of work! It wasn't easy. But in the end, it turned out lovely!



Growing up, I used to stomp into my Nana's kitchen and peer over the stove.

"Nana, what's that?"
"Nopales! They're delicious! You want some?"

Cactus? Ew. My wrinkled up nose said it all.

But over the years, I learned to like them. She would cook them in scrambled eggs or in a red chile sauce. All from the cactus that grew against the fence along the backyard. I don't know what turned the tide for me, but I began to enjoy their bright, slightly lemony, green-bean like bite. It was probably the fact that she made them. That's what ties this meal to my heart. The memory of my chubby, soft Nana wearing an apron standing near her little stove, dicing up the cactus into little squares...that is what brings a smile to my face and warms my heart.

So when I walked into my Mom's kitchen on Saturday and saw what was on her stove, I got a little nostalgic. And to see the chil'rens eager to try it...the food that sustained raza and their familes over the years...the reason why you always see Latinos with cactus growing in their yard...well, it made me feel good. The chil'rens were amazed that they could eat something that grew off the back fence that was covered in tiny spines. It might seem insignificant to some, but it meant a while lot to me.
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