Zoot Suit riot: Troops strippin' zoots

Yeah, never forget that the whip snapped your back
Your spine cracked for tobacco, oh I'm the Marlboro man, uh
Our past blastin' on through the verses
Brigades of taxi cabs rollin' Broadway like hearses
Troops strippin' zoots, shots of red mist,
Sailors blood on the deck, come sista resist
From the era of terror check this photo lens,
Now the city of angels does the ethnic cleanse
Heads bobbin' to the funk out your speaker, on the one Maya, Mexica
That vulture came to try and steal your name
But now you found a gun, you're history, this is for the people of the sun.

--Zach De La Rocha, "People of the Sun"

When I heard them play this song at Coachella, Zach called out, "What up, raza?" My blood started to pump and I almost wanted to cry with pride.

Every time Zach raps, "Troops strippin' Zoots", I always think of my grandfather, my mama's dad. He wasn't a gangster, or a cholo. He was a zoot-suiter, a pachuco. Probably because it was the hip thing to be. It's what was in style at the time, in the early 1940's.

My mom often tells the story about how he would wear his zoot suit, how he stood a tall six foot one, with curly hair and a handsome face. Sadly, he would have to be very careful and strategic when he made his way home because there were always white soldiers home on leave, looking for any brown-skinned man with a pompadour and a zoot suit to beat up. They would assault them and then strip them of their fashionable attire. How degrading. It makes me infuriated every time I think of it.

I think of the movie Zoot Suit, how Daniel Valdez's character is innocently getting ready for a night out on the town, ironing and making sure his creases are straight. His mother calls him from the kitchen to eat dinner and he heats up a tortilla and makes himself a taco. Little did he know what would happen to him that night, unfairly accused of killing a man at Sleepy Lagoon. Then there were the flashback scenes from American Me, when Edward James Olmos' father is in a tattoo shop, decked out in his zoot suit. Riots break out, sailors come in and attack them and rape his mother. It's such a sad legacy. But the movies vividly portray the times.

Little did my grandfather know--as he crept through the streets of East L.A., trying to get home safely--he would marry a beautiful, curvy woman who people called Honey...she was also his neighbor. Together they would share seven children. They would eventually own a rancho, complete with cows, horses, chickens, geese, turkeys, and pigs. Later, there would be twenty-five grandchildren. And later still, forty-nine great-grandchildren.

I look at this photo of my grandfather and I always feel an immense swell of love and pride.


Me and pets don't mix yet we are continually mixing.

I've said this before, me and dogs have a love/hate relationship. I love them when they don't stink, when they sleep alot, when they like to cuddle, when they are running around happily, when they bark and let me know someone is at the gate.

I hate them when they shed fur everywhere, when they poop in my house, lift their leg on my furniture, chew up chanklas, break out of the yard, bust through my screen door, dig holes, get the squirts right by my back door and spread fleas everywhere.

I have a very colorful history as a dog owner.

Yes, colorful. That is the best way to describe it. I subscribe to the George Lopez/Latino stance on dogs. They are animals first, family members second. Therefore, animals should be treated as animals.

But relax, I'm not so mean. They have beds, blankets, toys, water and food.


If you've noticed, certain loved ones of mine have alluded to the fact that I am a dog killer. No, no, no, that is not the case. Seeing as how we have a new furry friend, I thought I would break down and confess my history.

I need to cleanse myself, therefore releasing myself of any liability for my new furry friend.

I'm just sayin.

Hold on to your butts.

Ok...our first dog was Coco, a German Shepherd. Since I didn't want the chil'rens to step in her ginormous piles of ish around the yard, she spent the better part of her life in a dog runner. I think she was starving for attention. She would twirl in circles and spaz out whenever we would walk outside.

She was all but screaming, DON'T FORGET ABOUT ME, FAMILY! I NEED LOVE!

I mean, come on, I've watched enough of the Dog Whisperer to know this dog needed some human time. To make matters a bit more unpleasant, she began to chew her tail. I don't mean just chomp, I mean she chewed a nub off of it. In the process of spazzing and jumping around when she saw us, she splashed blood all over the place. Her runner looked like a freaking murder scene. We would put ointment on it, bandage it, put a muzzle on her, stick her head in one of those cones...she would still get at her tail. So now none of us wanted to go and pet her because she would get blood on our clothes. Ew.

It was just our luck to have an emo-self-mutilator as a family pet.

I know, right?

So Coco got...how shall I delicately phrase this...removed from the home. Which was a relief to me. I just had too much stuff going on to be dealing with a crazy animal.

Then about a year later, I was at my brother's house when we discovered his neighbor's had a litter of pups and wanted to get rid of them. Would we like one? Uh, no thanks. But when I heard they were half chihuahua/half dachshund, I went to check them out. And they were so freakin' cute. I went home to talk to Michael about it. Eventually, he went back to pick out a pup and she was really small and cute. Chela. Yes, that's right she's a Mexican dog.

I broke all my pet-hater rules and let her snuggle on the sofa, I watched tv with her on my lap, I bought her a cozy bed, a studded collar. She went with us when we went camping.


For reals. I know, your girl is slippin'.

My dear husband thought she was lonely, so he charmed the owners out of another dog. A male, this time, Gus. They frolicked around the yard, they slept braided together at night. All was content in our little family.

Then I gave birth to our sixth child. It was around this time, in August, and it was blazing hot. The puppies were now four months old. I had a two week old baby and it was one of the first days here alone without Grandma-mama for assistance (prepared meals and clean laundry!). Can I say I was slightly overwhelmed? We had gotten in the habit of feeding one dog at a time so they wouldn't squabble over their bowls. So we would put one dog in the crate, feed the other and then switch. The crate was in the back yard, in a shady area under the eaves.

Little did I know that crate would turn into a dog roaster

So I instructed the boys to feed the dogs. I reminded them, don't forget to put the dog in the crate. Of course, they listened. They fed Gus first, put Chela in the crate then they switched them around. They left Gus in the crate and then came inside the house. Meanwhile, I am here, enjoying the a/c, putting my gorgeous, chubby little babe to sleep. Nowhere in my mind did I even ponder the plight of my dogs.

It was about two hours later when I suddenly did ponder them.

Sol came in front the back yard and told me, "Mom, I keep trying to play with Gus but he won't wake up! He's still asleep."

Oh, noooo. We forgot to take him out of his crate. This can't be good.

I told the boys to go and watch cartoons and I went out to look for him. The boys must have moved the crate away from the house because it was right in the middle of the yard in full sun. He was dead, already stiff. I felt soooo bad. I tried not to alarm the chil'rens, and distracted them with toys and cartoons until their Dad could come home and deal with our deceased pet.


For that point on, my family has not ceased in teasing me about being a "dog killer", a "dog roaster" and a host of other unpleasant names. But I put on my big girl chonies and I deal.

It was an accident, people. An accident I am still trying to live down, four years later. They let me take care of Meatball one weekend, and look what happened then. Don't forget about my love birds, Lolli and Pop.

So we've enjoyed a one pet existence for four years. Then my husband decided to get a pit bull mix named Zuco a few months ago. He was white, mild-mannered, and super cute. When he wasn't humping Chela's face, he played with the chil'rens, went on walks, etc.

Then he got Parvo and died.

With this pet's death, the chil'rens were old enough to understand. They bawled their eyes out. I mean, seriously bawled. I sat there that night, with six sobbing chil'rens on my lap. It was sad, it really was.

Then a couple of weeks after that, my husband decided again that we needed another pet. As if we hadn't killed enough already, right? Enter Roscoe, a lanky, brindle-coat mini-Boxer mix. He was just too freakin' hyper. After four years of Chela, who lays around and sleeps all day and for the most part is pretty low maintenance, this dog got on my last good nerve. To boot, he loved eating the figs that fell all over the ground of our back yard. Do you know now what you get from a fig-lovin' dog?

Fig squirts.

Everywhere. I'm still shoveling up petrified fig squirts to this day.


Roscoe also had a licking issue. He licked everything. He would go to town on your toes, if you didn't shoo him away. And he was a squirter. In his excitement, he would pee all over the place. He was like this unattended garden hose, soaking everything in his wake. He once even peed on my husband's face, right on his sunglasses, when he bent down to pet him.

Oh snaps.

So I had enough of this dog. Personally, I felt no loyalty to him, considering my husband brought him one night without as much as a mention of it to me. I didn't want Roscoe, sorry to say. So it wasn't difficult to say he needed to go.

I made the ultimatum. Find Roscoe a new home or I will take him on a Chicago ride.

And if ya'll don't know what a Chicago ride is, ya better ask somebody.

So Roscoe went to a very loving home, a drug and alcohol recovery home, where the men dote on him day and night. Michael went to visit him, and he said he was already getting chubby and he was extremely happy.

That was also when Michael got squirted in the face.

So I thought maybe that would be it. We were destined to be a one-dog family. Chela was a lifer. She is a Mexican dog, after all. She's descended from the great pyramids of South America, yo. You can't kill this dog. And I know because I've tried.



Enter Oobi. My sister had a tiny long-hair chihuahua that she couldn't tolerate anymore. I guess she figured, what's one more living thing my sister has to care for? Let's see if she wants him.

I'm happy to say he has survived throughout this week. He hasn't pooped or peed in the house once. He doesn't really bark. He loves his crate--which we make sure is always in the house now--his toys, his food, his new family. He's pretty obedient, which I totally owe to my sis, who used to regulate with a flyswatter.

We're trying to get him to mellow a bit, to actually sit down and chill instead of buzz around like a spazz. But I guess that's normal when you only weigh about 3 or 4 lbs. We're teaching what are Oobi-free zones. Most days, Chela is wearing him like a hat, since his favorite thing to do is hump Chela backwards.

But, so far so good. I kinda hope he lasts.

His poop is the size of a tootsie roll, so that's a good thing. We want to change his name from Oobi to Doobie because he is white with some grey/black on his face. Heh.

Long live Oobi Doobie.



I love my church!

Peep this video. Every week they do a short announcement video called "The Transmission" before service begins. While we were at the beach baptism, they asked me to do it and I was all, no, I'm boring and I'm embarrassed and I'm shy and not nearly as interesting as....him! Pointed to my husband and told them they could probably get him to rap and beat box, since he doesn't have a shy bone in his body. You could wake homeboy up from a deep sleep and he'd be ready to freestyle.

So he did.

And here he is.

Transmission 029 from sandals church on Vimeo.


All the bands I wish I had seen...

I was thinking of my friend Ricky, who bought orchestra seats to see Depeche Mode in San Diego. Well, they cancelled the show and he was S.O.L. Too bad so sad. I would have been crushed, for sure. Not to be put out in the cold, he got tickets to see them play at the Hollywood Bowl. Good man. And in the O.C.

Lucky dog.

I don't think that would have been a possibility for me. One, I just wouldn't have the motivation and two, finances. I couldn't justify the expense. I don't have that kinda money to buy tickets to several shows like some obsessed groupie.

*cough* Ricky. *cough*

I mean, as it was, we lived off of beans and tortillas for weeks when we bought our tickets for Rage Against the Machine at Coachella. I risked going into overdraft for that show. I kept thinking, well if the lights get shut off, I have plenty of candles.

It's not like the good old days when I lived in L.A. and shows cost $22 bucks or so. The cheapest I ever paid was to see Tool in San Bernardino for $14. $14!! That is insane. It was in a gym or some sort of barn...but it was Tool, yo.

I really like Depeche Mode, but I resigned myself to the fact that I already saw them in concert in '91, when Violator first came out. And that is fine with me cuz Violator is my fave Depeche Mode album. But then it got me thinking about all the bands I got to see in concert...and those I never got to see. There were a variety of reasons...sold out shows and I wouldn't pay scalper prices...the venue was too far away...my stupidity...or the opportunity just never presented itself to me.

So here is my list, in no particular order. For some strange reason, I really needed to make this list, to reconcile the fact that I probably won't ever see them play live cuz I am poor and an old lady.

1. Red Hot Chili Peppers...I remember they were playing at the Long Beach Arena and I had some family event happening. I love me some Anthony Keidis, always have. They also played at Lollapalooza in '92 but I didn't make that show which is really unbelievable because I managed to make it out to 4 out of 7 Lollapalooza's. It sucks because I could have killed two birds with one stone and saw #2 on my list.

2. Pearl Jam...they also played at Lollapalooza in '92. During my early college years, I had a major thing for Eddie Vedder. Not because he was so handsome or sexy or anything...but because his lyrics were so deep. I love all of Pearl Jam's music, so that makes me sad I never got to see them live.

3. B-52's...I've been listening to this band since I was a little girl, thumbing through my aunt's stack of vinyl records. They were quirky and cool and they wore beehives. And yet, I never got to see them. Boo Hiss. Like I always say, who doesn't love some beehives and fag hags!

4. U2...sigh. 'Nuff said.

5. Prince...for years and years I wanted to see Prince. I started listening to Prince because of my Dad, who was a big Prince fan. There I was, a little kid of ten years old listening to this album with some black guy in a pair of speedos and a trench coat. Heh. I missed a chance to see him play at the Hollywood Bowl in '96...then the opportunity presented itself to see him play at the Staples Center in '04. It was one of the best concerts I've ever been to. So I guess I can cross Prince off this list now, can't I?

6. And finally, Sublime...my hands-down, all-time favorite band. They are a perfect blend of all my favorite things: reggae, punk, hip hop, dub and ska. I can never be sad listening to Sublime's music. They were still selling music out of the back of their van at the time, doing lots of local shows. My stepbro's girlfriend was really into them, and they'd always play their music when we were together. Who is this band? I remember asking them. And I even went to Cal State Long Beach for a year or so and they were really popular there and played lots of parties and bars. I guess the stars and moon weren't aligned right because I never got to see Bradley Nowell play before his untimely death in '96. It just wasn't meant to be. But until then, I have their entire discography on my ipod...

I know there are lots more, but these are the main ones that stand out in my decrepit mind.

Concerts are exciting. But I remember what Coachella was like and that was just a couple of years ago. I am waaaay too old for that business! I need concerts that cost $40, they feed you a dinner and everyone sits in their seats. Fo reals. Heh.

I guess in my granny, crusty years, I will always have my memories.


That thumb sure must be tasty.

I have a thumb sucker.

Out of six chil'rens, I had one pacifier-crazed baby (my first and last--I learned my lesson after many sleepless nights when the paci couldn't be found and all my backups were under sofa), three that could care less to suck on anything else but my Nat Geo boobs, one that sucked his two middle fingers so it always looked like he was getting ready to whistle...and then there is the thumb sucker.

I admit, I encouraged the habit. When you have five children under the age seven years old, crazy things begin to happen to your mind. Irrational thoughts. And when my screaming, fussy, blotchy-faced newborn found her thumb...she shut up. She remained quiet. She was content. She fell asleep.

I could maintain my sanity for another day.

She was actually too small to find her own thumb, so I guided her a couple of times. It was way easier than sitting there and holding the stupid paci in her mouth until she got the hang of it. She took to the thumb beautifully.

My mother said, "Oh no, she is sucking her thumb! Her teeth are going to be ruined!"

And I sat there, feigning concern, like, oh no, thats not good.

But inside I was like, damn skippy! Keep sucking that thumb, baby!! Don't listen to that woman!

Every night I could hear her petite little sucking sounds.


It was comforting to me, in a way. It was as if she wore those little bells on her shoes. I could always hear where she was, if she was getting into things, if she was asleep.


Most days I would find her, sucking her thumb and twirling her hair into a little dreadlock. It was cute.


Past tense.

My thumb sucker is now five and a half years old. Her grill is a little crooked. The nail on her thumb very rarely grows beyond her fingertip. She still resorts to sucking her thumb when we're in the car...and when she watches cartoons...and when she goes to sleep.

Our conversations have gone like this...you're a big girl now...don't you think you should stop sucking your thumb...pretty girls have nice, straight teeth--don't you want nice, straight teeth...your thumb has germs on it, you know...you need to stop sucking your thumb...that thumb is nasty....GET THAT THUMB OUTTA YOUR MOUTH!

Today we were driving home from Kohl's. It was about ten o'clock at night. She was relaxing in her booster seat. I could hear her sucking.

"Maya, when are you gonna stop sucking your thumb?"

She paused to reflect for a moment. Then she pulled her thumb out of her mouth and said, "When I'm old enough to wear a bra, that's when I'll stop sucking my thumb!"

Oh, my midget. I gotta love her! You gotta admit, though, her rationale is on point.


The tree.

I am thankful that my parents, divorced almost twenty years ago, still have a good friendship. It has made my childhood and my adult life much more peaceful. I never worry about planning family gatherings or the holidays because I know they are fine being in the same room together.

If anything, they will sit in the kitchen and chat like two comadres.

Not like two people who were once married and all that entails but like friends who have known each other since they were 14 years old, walking the streets of El Sereno.

My mom always says she doesn't think of my Dad as an ex-husband, but more like a brother. Which I think is cool. I don't think I could hang if my parents were still clinging to resentment in their old age. Seriously.

Recently, my mom bought me two trees to plant in my yard, her effort to beautify my Malcolm in the Middle lawn. If there is any type of plan to improve her eldest daughter--whether it be to get me organized, to encourage me to wake up at the crack of dawn and make my husband a full-on breakfast and then pack his lunch, to get my fat ass to shrink in size, to fix up my long-neglected yard--she is on board.


So she bought me a crepe myrtle and a jacaranda tree. About the latter, she waxed on and on about how beautiful it would grow, how it would shade the house, how it had tiny little purple flowers and feathery leaves.

Don't you remember the jacaranda tree we had when we lived in San Diego? Oh, it was so beautiful! Right in the middle of our back patio...

I had vague memories of the tree because our shoes would always stick to the purple flowers on the ground. What I really remembered were the palm trees we had in the front, and how my Dad would curse the trees and the dates that would spill all over the place. Dad really hated those palm trees.

So Michael went ahead and planted the trees and I began to look forward to the privacy and shade it would provide the boys' room over the years, how our yard looked a little less bare. Like someone actually cared.

Fast forward to Saturday night, when my Dad was over and we went to the store to run a quick errand.

Dad: Mija! Is that a jacaranda tree?

Me: Yes! My mom just bought it for us.

Dad: Ugh! Have Michael take it out! Those trees are horrible! The leaves get all crinkly and they make a mess and then those stupid purple flowers spread all over the place and they are all sticky! Man, I hated that tree. Remember the jacaranda we had in the back yard in San Diego? All I did was clean up after that damn tree. Have Michael dig it out before the roots dig in. Ugh!

Me: Chuckling to myself. No, I don't remember the tree. But my mom said it was beautiful, though. All the little purple flowers...

Dad: Yeh, she would say that! I was the one that was always cleaning up those little purple flowers.

Too funny.

And this is how it's always been between my parents. Two totally different recollections, two totally different people, two totally different ways of loving their children. I often wonder how they were ever in love and had a life together.


Baptism at the beach

Today my oldest son was baptized in the Pacific Ocean.

Noah will turn 12 in a couple of weeks, and as my oldest child, he is very serious and conscientious about his faith in God. Seriously, sometimes he makes me feel like a heathen. He blows my mind when he prays. I like to think that a child's prayers are more holy because they don't carry around the baggage that we adults do. So when he asks for God's spirit to dwell in him, for His hand to touch his heart, to forgive him of his sins, I know God is listening.

Noah expressed an interest in being baptized sometime last year. I wanted to wait until Sandals did their baptism at the beach, so it would have some serious John the Baptist flava.

We were at Corona Del Mar State beach. It is really beautiful there. We had quite a walk and climb on some rocky cliffs to get to the place where they were baptizing, but it was worth it. Places like these always make me remember how blessed I am to live in Southern California.

Watching people walk into the water and make a public confession of their faith made me remember when I was baptized, probably around the same age as Noah. It was at my Nana's full gospel church. They had one of those baptism pools behind the pulpit. They made us wear white gowns. It was all very thank-ya-Jesus-Hallelujah-Halleluuuuujah-Lawd-Lawd-Jesus and shamma-lamma-ding-dong and all that good stuff. It was very Pentecostal up in that church. Mine was a very different experience, but I remember taking it seriously, too.

Noah: Mom, will I feel different?
Me: I think so.
Noah: When I come up out of the water, will I be a new creation?
Me: That's what the bible says, mijo.
Noah: I can't wait. It's gonna be cool. I'm not gonna want to beat up my brothers anymore!

On that one, I didn't respond. I thought I would let him discover things naturally. Sure enough, on the way home, he pounced on Solomon in the backseat. Then he felt really bad afterwards.

Noah: Mom, I really need God in my life.

Don't worry, son, you are not alone.

Noah with our Pastor Matt.


She's not dramatic

Oh no, not at all.

Yesterday I found Michael's fat cap Sharpie marker without it's lid on the bathroom counter. Oh no, I wonder where they scribbled on the walls with this permanent marker? I didn't see anything on the bathroom walls or in the girl's bedroom, so I shrugged it off.

But then this morning I discovered some little person had wrote all over my sofa cushion...the sofa cushion that I cursed when I bought it because I didn't have the presence of mind to check, while in the store, if I could reverse the back cushions. No, they are sewed in place. So I can't just turn the cushion over and forget about the dark blue scribble of permanent ink.


Yeh, the sofa set is five years old...but they still look decent and in this financial climate, a sister doesn't know when she'll be able to get a new set. So that dark blue scribble hurt.

I didn't see her do it, but I had a feeling Xixi was the culprit. The fact that she ran for her room to hide when I discovered the scribble didn't help her case either. The other chil'rens were standing around, ooohing and aahhing over the stain. So I called Xixi over to me. She was a like person inching toward a fire, afraid they would get burned.

Me: Xixi, did you do this?
Xixi: Yeeeees.
Me: Xixi, what are markers for?
Xixi: For colorweens and dwawings (that's colorings and drawings, folks).
Me: Are you supposed to write on Mama's walls?
Xixi: No.
Me: On books?
Xixi: No.
Me: On mama's furniture?
Xixi: sigh. Noooooo.

I didn't spank her but I did put her in the corner. Normally, I'm not a naughty corner type of mama, but putting Xixi in the corner while everyone is around her playing is like torture for this little girl.

So while I cleaned the ceiling fan, she sat in the corner. First she slid down off her knees and plopped on her butt. Then she laid down. Get up, I told her. I walked into the garage to do something and when I returned, it was like she was taking a mini-vacation. She had grabbed a pile of books, crossed her legs and began to enjoy herself. All she needed was a glass of ice tea with a lemon wedge.

Me: Um, excuse me. There is no relaxing and reading while in the bad girl corner.
Xixi: But mama--
Me: There is no talking either. Zip it!!

She whimpered and cried a little. She said she had to pee. She asked how long she would be in the corner. And I tell you, she wasn't even there for five minutes when I heard her little voice cry out.

"Maaamaaaa! Do you want your little baby to die right here?"

Oh, no. She's not dramatic at all. Too funny!


You don't mess with the Grandma-mama bear!

Last week, the stars aligned with the sun and moon, and I went out to lunch with my mama and a couple of the sibs. Apparently, my mama and my baby sis were gonna meet at the Olive Garden for some soup and salad, and since I was running an errand in the area and I only had one kid with me--and being that I'm the moocher that I am--I totally ingratiated myself on the deal. But then my bro and Caucasian sister in law were at home, and they decided to join us. Then my other little brother wasn't far behind, he didn't want to be left out.

So what was gonna be an intimate mother/daughter/granddaughter luncheon was now a small family gathering.

Now, let's get a head count. My mama, Josh, my sis Jen with her three girls (ages 3.5, 2, and 4 mos.), my bro and Caucasian sister in law (their two boys, ages 6 and 2). Then there was me and Maya (considered one of the "good ones").

Six adults and six kids.

I know, right?

Of course they seat us in the center of the room, with all the booths surrounding us, all eyes peeled on us. It was lunch time so it was busy. I positioned myself in the middle...away from the whining 2 year old in the highchair on one end and the crazy/loud 2 year old on the other. I was totally impersonating a mom with only one child--smiling, peaceful, without a care in the world.


If you've ever been out to lunch with more than one child, you know its a game of Russian roulette. Sometimes they are happy and charming and smiling at everyone. The old people bless you and say how cute your kids are. The waitress comments on how well behaved your children are. Then there are the other times. When the old people aren't blessing you, but looking at you like you're disrupting their wonderfully calm, child-free, retired right to life. When the kids are behaving like Linda Blair, before the exorcism. They are bucking in their seats, frothing at the mouth and you are giving them that just-wait-until-I-get-you-home-I-will-tear-that butt-up glare.

If I've learned anything, it's the restaurant better offer crayons, chips and salsa, crackers for the kids and a Xanax for the parents before the food gets on the table or kids start to unravel. Like, crazy unravel.

Just like my niece Fia. She was hungry and pissed cuz they were lagging with the bread sticks...which made her cry...for like, a really long time. In reality, it was probably less than five minutes. In crying child years--not unlike dog years--it felt like a reeeeeeeally really long time. Long enough to get a few unfriendly stares from the people around us.

The old people were chomping on their Italian trio but there were no smiles in sight.

My sister Jen, she took it like a champ. It really frustrates me to see parents get all worked up because their children are fussy and/or crying in public. They are more concerned with not offending others around them instead of trying to figure out why their child is upset. Jen was like, wassup, she's hungry, haven't you ever heard a child cry?...get over it.

Meanwhile, I am sitting there with a stupid smile on my face because for once, I am relaxing, not a care in the world...whistling, if you will. I mean, come on, it's usually me about to have a breakdown in a restaurant.

There were two women sitting in a booth across from us. Apparently, we were their chief form of entertainment for the afternoon. They sat there with their brassy blond highlights, wrinkly sunburned cleavage, drinking some cheap Olive Garden red wine, wagging their tongues and shaking their heads in disapproval. I had to turn around to look at them, and the both times I did, their lips were curled and they were openly staring.

"...oh my God, there are just too many of them."

I caught that remark. I just shook my head. Caucasian sister in law was floored that people could be so rude. Jen just shrugged her shoulders. Meanwhile, I was chowing down on my bread stick like, What? Ya'll just don't know. I go through this allll the time. It didn't slow down my bread stick consumption whatsoever.

But then there was my mom, who was sitting across from me. Her eyes were slightly narrowed, her nostrils flared, her leg was bouncing up and down in this agitated way. I was thinking, run, run blond ladies! Run for your lives! Do NOT mess with a grandma-mama bear! She will rip you a new one first and then ask questions later. She wanted to beat up a man at Costco once because he was a little slow to use his brakes as we were all crossing the street. She stood there in front of his car like Clint Eastwood, snarling her lip, all, "Don't you see my grandchildren crossing the street, punk?"

Mama is gangsta. She don't play.

If my mom is anything, it's fiercely protective. Her grandchildren are her pride and joy, her heart. She is one of the most hospitable, kindest, most helpful women you will ever meet. But if you mess with her grands, you will get dealt with.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself.

"Mom, calm down. They are just ignorant people, that's all."

She kinda laughed it off and said the only thing stopping her from getting up and giving the two ladies a piece of her mind was the fact that she had on her christian lady hat, complete with Jesus' thorns on it that said, His pain, your gain.

Don't you just hate when that happens?

So apparently if she didn't have on this hat that identified her as a believer in Christ, it would have been on and poppin'. I could just see it now....mom getting up...pushing her chair out of the way....tossing her hat to the side...Dr. Dre's What's The Difference Between Me and You bumping in the background.

Ah, good times with the family. Good times.

It was still a good two days after it happened and it was still chapping her butt. She was still formulating what she would have said to those women, what she would have done differently, etc. etc.

Oh, mama.

If I only had a fraction of her spunk...
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