103...a fat kid story.

I vowed I would never have a fat kid in my house.


Not because I am cruel. The main reason is I remember what it was like to grow up as the little fat girl. Always being bigger than everyone is your class. Not running as fast as everyone. Being teased. Your mom having to buy your clothes in the ladies section, and then hemming your pants at home. Remember, they didn't carry husky or plus size lines for kids then.

I didn't want to put that on my children.

I've seen some fat kids. Cellulite on their bellies. Red, sweaty faces while they do the simplest of tasks, pulling down their tight shirts to cover their stomachs. So what I continually strive to do is make sure the chil'rens have a well-balanced diet. We eat fresh food, lots of fruit and water, very little snack/processed/junk food in the house. If we do have cake, sugary cereals, pop tarts, frozen pizza, its definitely a treat. But their diet consists mainly of home-cooked food.

What can I say? I have four boys who are very rambunctious. They love to skate, ride bikes, wrestle on the trampoline. They work hard, they play hard. Never in a million years did I expect one to pack on a little extra weight.


Over the past year, I began to notice he was developing a little gut. His face is a little rounder. His love handles feel like baby walrus skin. At least, what I believe baby walrus skin would feel like, anyway.

I swear.

By no means is he "fat". He still wears the same size Noah does (who is skinny), only he doesn't need a belt to keep his pants from falling down. He is still active. I don't need to shop in the husky department. You see, he's on the precipice of fat.

But I've discovered myself doing something bad.

I've become my parents.

I nag him about his food choices (lots of carbs--bread and white rice are his faves). I police his portions when his skinny brothers get thirds and sometimes fourths. I huff over his lack of physical activity...his favorite thing to do is read, draw and watch TV (don't know where he got that from). I ride him for his overall slovenliness (he is a bit lackadaisical with the brush and deodorant). Yeh, I'll admit to calling heifer, chunky, husky, slob (he is messy, too), cochino. I know, mean and horrible mother, right?

And the kid's not even fat.

So why put this complex on the poor child?

All he has to do is watch his portions, get a little more active and I believe when puberty hits, he'll grow out of his thickness and he'll be okay (like his Uncle Josh, who also went through a stage of possessing baby walrus skin). But it won't be that easy if he sees himself as fat.

I know this.

But that child-parent cycle is vicious, yo.

A couple of weeks ago, Michael took Diego to the gym with him and Noah. He was totally excited. They got to play racquetball and lift free weights. All at six in the morning. When they came home, Diego breathlessly told me how much he weighed.


Which is not alot. He is turning 11 soon, he wears a size 8 shoe. He's gonna be a big boy. Noah weighs about 93 lbs.

I got this very unpleasant flashback. A fat kid flashback, if you will.

I was in the fifth grade. The Fall brought with it some boobs, hips and a bubble butt for me. Sigh. Not exactly a welcome thing when you're in a classroom with little girls that still wore pigtails and tights under their dresses. My Dad picked us up and took us to the doctor's office to get a physical exam. When the nurse put me on the scale, I cringed.

Scales were to be avoided at all costs.

Does anyone remember the President's Physical Fitness days in elementary school? A whole day devoted to physical activities, ribbons and prizes etc. Not exactly a fun day to a girl who enjoyed drawing for hours or staring into the trees, happily fantasizing about life and whatnot. I vividly recall my teacher lining us up for the nurse's office. There, they would measure our height and weigh us, so they could group all the students accordingly on Physical Fitness days.

Every year I was grouped with Pam Ulufanua. She was Samoan.

Nuff said.

But imagine that. Waltzing right up to the scale with your entire class standing right behind you. I remember having stomach problems days before this would take place. It was awful. I even tried to stay home, pretending I was sick. I can still feel the dread, like if it was yesterday.

So that day at the doctor's office with my Dad, I was mortified to discover I weighed 103 lbs.

103 lbs.

To be a developing girl and be over the century mark. It wasn't a good thing. I was so embarrassed. I anticipated the teasing. I hung my head for the rest of the afternoon.

To make matters worse, my Dad decided to announce to everyone the number on the scale. And for several weeks, my nickname was "103". My brother called me that. My uncles called me that. I hated it.


So when Diego told me that he weighed 104, it just brought back a flood of memories. And I vowed I would not tease him about his extra weight. Sometimes I forget, but the rest of the chil'rens remind me. Remember, mama, when you were teased and it made you feel bad?

Yesterday, Noah and Diego were up at 5 am. Crazy kids. When they got back from the gym, Diego proudly announced that he weighed 102 pounds. I was proud of him, happy that he was going to crack the code.

But it still stung, how aware he was of the number on the scale.

I can't help but think its my fault. No matter how hard you try to not make the same mistakes your parents did...it comes back in some form. And what's worse, you feel powerless to stop it. But I think when you become aware of it, you acquire the tools to combat it. Diego has his father, his brothers, his sisters who will support him even when his mama is still in her own fat funk.

I'm relieved to think of it.

This is Diego at two years old. This is how I would often find him, laid out and watching Sesame Street. I should have known then. LOL

My Diego now.

Last month, upon his return from camp (which explains his overall crusty appearance). This is also testimony that you can't get a normal picture from this child.


Ya mon!

This is how I know the chil'rens are all me and their dad.

We were in art class and everyone was sketching with color pencils. For a brief moment, there was lull in the chatter. Not a common occurrence with a classroom full of elementary students.

Then Noah speaks up, to no one in particular.

"Dude, we need some music in here. I wish we could listen to some Bob Marley!"

Blank stares from the other kids.

Except his bro Solomon, who was also in the class.

"Yeh! Buffalo Soldier...dreadlock rasta! Stolen from Africa..."

"Exodus! Movement of jah people..."

"Don't worry...about a 'ting. Cuz every little 'ting's, gonna be alright!"

"I wanna know ya...and treat ya right. I wanna know ya, everyday and every night..."

"No woman no cry. Nooo woman nooo cry!"

"Them belly full but we hungry...a hungry mob is a hungry mob!"

"I shot the sheeeeriff but I did not shoot the deputy!" After that song, Sol bust out with grin, complete with his crooked dimple.

And they just kept trading off Bob Marley songs to one another like that.

I could not stifle the huge smile on my face. I mean, that's what we do around here. We listen to good music. Their dad paints. I paint. They line up on the kitchen counter and draw. That's what our life is like (on a good day). So to see the chil'rens correlate the two...we're doing art...and now we need cool jams.

Well, that just puts a smile on my face!

This is why I am so opposed to those ridiculous Kidz Bop cd's. I never understand why parents liked them so much. Why feed children mindless, regurgitated, cleaned up pop music? You can let them listen to quality music and they'll get it.

They will. Trust me.



Out of the blue last night, Noah asked me this question.

"Mom, what's a virgin?"

Sigh. Heavy, heavy sigh.

I almost opted to not answer and have his Dad explain it to him. Not because I was embarrassed but because I know the chil'rens. They can take a topic and run with it.


So I took a few moments to formulate my answer.

Ahem. A virgin is someone who has never had sex before.

His eyes widened. "Ok, now I get that part in Transformers."

Then I went on to explain how God wants a person to stay pure before they are married. Its just better that way, I reasoned.

He nodded with me. "Yeh, I don't want to sin against my own body."

I nodded emphatically.

Then I added, "You will be free of disease."

He threw his head back, "Yesssss. No herpes!"

Um, okaaaaay. I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing out loud because he was so relieved.

I continued, "You will preserve your mind and body for the person God wants you to marry. A special woman just for you."

"That's a good thing. I don't want to get my girlfriends' pregnant. Like Dad."

*cough cough*

Then I had to think on my feet.

"Yes. We all make mistakes. You see what a hard time Daddy has dealing with Mikey's mom. Its not fair to have a child that can't have both parents in his life. So...its just best to wait until you are in love and get married and then have a baby. So being a virgin is a good thing, Noah." I added, with emphasis.

I was seriously starting to break a sweat.

"Yeh. Plus I don't want to have sex and then have to raise a bastard."

I almost choked on my own saliva.


"What, mom?"

"Don't ever say that word again! Don't ever CALL someone that word either!! That is a bad word! Very inappropriate!"

Then he looked rather sheepish.

"Awright, mom. I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'll never call anyone that again!"

I started thinking about how he even knew what that word meant. The chil'rens have an ongoing list of words that are forbidden for them to say (d*ck and sonofab!tch being the most recent). Once they asked me if it was ok to say the word bastard and I told them NO and explained exactly what it meant.

So he must have put two and two together.

These chil'rens are going to be the death of me!

Pizza Night

Occasionally, I will pull something exciting for the chil'rens to do out of the thick recesses of my brain. It was a Friday night, I had one extra monkey to take care of. Instead of sloppin' the food on the plates like a bitter old lunch lady with black shoes and a hair net, I decided to make it a fun, hands-on experience. So Pizza Night was invented.

I guess you could go the extra mile and have your kids chop up all the ingredients themselves. I just thought it would go smoother (and safer, since I had just almost chopped my two fingers off three days before, using my newly sharpened knives) if I did all the prep work myself. A few of them rolled out their own dough and they were all put to the task of building their pizza. They were very excited, to say the least.

Sol comes in from the backroom, dazed from his video game playing. It takes a minute for his brain to function properly after playing Lego Star Wars.

Sol: Uh, mom. What's going on? What are we doing?
Me: What does it look like, Sol? We're making pizza!
Sol: Our own pizza? We get to make our own?
Me: Yeeeessss. Just like that time we went on that field trip to John's Incredible Pizza, and you got to tour the place and they let you make your own pizza! Remember?
Sol: Uh, mom. I didn't get to go to that field trip. You only took Cyan, Maya and Xixi.
Me: Oooooh. That's right. My bad!

Anyhoo, the chil'rens had fun, it was delicious, and very inexpensive. The best part, the chil'rens look at me with happy, smiling faces.

They were very impressed how everything was laid out for them.

Yes, I let them slop it on. Now is not the time to worry about mess!

Whenever we do something like this, I need my hype man around. He gets the kids excited and keeps them in line!

And up in the air it goes!

The girls, building their pizza...they piled on the veggies, which made this old lady's heart happy. But then when it was cooked, they pulled them all off.

My two knuckleheads.

Look at that yummy cheese stretch!

This was the adult pizza. Mmmmmmmm!


New digs.

I'm always on the lookout for some sort of project to do to make my home even more beautiful. When you are on a budget--and by budget, I mean waiting on manna from heaven--you have to be creative with the things you've got. I am notorious for moving furniture around, rehanging pictures, buying new pillows and painting furniture.

I cannot tell you how many times we've rescued furniture from yard sales, church sales, dusty garages and the side of the road. If its "antique" or "vintage", chances are the quality of construction will stand the test of time. All it needs is some TLC.

Before you think I have all the free time in the world to restore furniture, remember this: when someone has the motivation, they can do pretty much anything. If I wanna do something, I can carve out time for it and get it done. If I don't wanna do something, that's when it sits for months in my garage, waiting for my attention.

My brother had this really cool door propped up against the back of his house. What are you gonna do with this? I asked him. Nuthin, he said. Someone had given it to him. Now it was just taking up space. So he gave it to me.

Where it ended up propped against the back of my house.

But I didn't forget about it, oh no no. I was waiting for the time to come when I would redo my room because I was sick to death of the green I've had on the walls since we moved into the house. I knew I could use the door in some way. At first I envisioned the door as a kitchen table. But with the wood carvings it would be impossible to use without fitting a piece of glass over it. And then I had visions of grimy fingerprints and me spraying it with Windex every two seconds. Too impractical. What about for the front door? Too large, not worth cutting down to fit.

Then I was watching HGTV and saw a door used as a headboard.


That's what I wanted. So I hoped and prayed the door would be okay under the eaves, away from the wind, rain and sun. Well, a couple of weeks ago, the stars and moon aligned and Michael was ready to help me with my project. Now, I was all set to patch and stain it, but he went ahead and did it, which was really nice of him. Thank you, dear sweet husband!

Well, the beauty of the headboard surpassed my expectations. It came out amazing! It was a nice way to finish off my room, which is made up entirely of vintage furniture, aside from the mattress and duvet. I put up this antique mirror I bought at a yard sale for $3, some old candle holders we spray painted expresso brown to hang on either side of the headboard and oooh la laaaa.

My new digs.

"We" had to sand and patch the door with wood filler before staining it. Whenever Mike works on a project, you will find Sol nearby, helping out. And what wife doesn't enjoy watching her man work shirtless? Eye candy! LOL

The end result. I feel like I'm sleeping in a hotel everyday. Heh.


Spread your wings and fly!

During the craze of preparing the chil'rens for their first day of school this week, I didn't post anything about my oldest son, who turned 12 last Wednesday.

Yes, I am old enough to be the mother of a tween.

I will be cliche and write, I remember when he was just a little baby just like it was yesterday. And I do, I do remember. Just me and him. Every single accomplishment he made, every new food he tried, his delicious giggling, the thrill of taking him a bath... I remember it all.

And now we're on new territory. The dude has hair under his pits. Just like a grown man, he likes to boast. He's asked me to pluck the stray hairs off his unibrow, so I did. His feet are growing really fast and his shoulders are getting so wide it looks like he's got a hanger under his shirt...while he's still wearing it.

But its more than the physical changes.

He's growing into this awesome young man. When he returned home from camp this summer, I had several people come up to me and tell me what a good kid he was. How helpful, kind, funny. How he loved to pray for people. It moved me, it really did. We've sacrificed wealth, creature comforts, free time and sanity so I could be home to raise these kids. It feels good knowing our efforts haven't been in vain.

I can't help but think God didn't bless me with this son so I could make this life-changing impact on him. Oh, no. Its been the other way around. I made drastic changes in my own life the minute I discovered I was carrying him. He helps me to stay organized. He helps keep me accountable. It was he who made me come home, want to be a wife and mother and give him what my parents tried but couldn't accomplish: an intact family. You see, I was unmarried and about to graduate from college when I discovered I was carrying him.

The thought occurred to me that he's at the age where he clearly sees his parent's shortcomings. Do you remember when you looked at your parents like, you people don't even have it together and you want to tell me what to do? I remember it. My son is aware of money struggles, marital struggles, family struggles. And yet he still loves us, still has faith in his mama and daddy.

For weeks he's tried to get his Dad up early so he can "train" him and get him healthy. I have to say for almost two weeks straight he tried, but Michael often stays up late and he just couldn't open up his eyes as early as Noah was trying to get him up. Then last week they had a breakthrough. Michael told him, "Maybe if you make me a cup of coffee, that would help." He showed him how to make it and that was that. Noah woke up his daddy at 6 am, complete with a cup of instant coffee. I swear to you, it was hot and sweetened and everything.

And his father woke up and got dressed.

After a visit to the YMCA, his reward was driving lessons around the empty high school parking lot across the street. He couldn't stop talking about it all day. Driving...its pretty easy, he told me.

So do you understand me when I say this son has been a blessing to us?

I love you, son.

Hope you had a happy Birthday. Stay strong. Spread your wings and fly.

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Beast like me.

Now that she is four years old, I think Xixi must have taken some sort of smart ass seminar when I wasn't looking. She has been super sarcastic with me. Granted, I have the same exact habit and I find myself aiming this sarcasm at my kids. I do it with Michael, too. When I'm getting all smart alecky, I can see my husband's eyes glaze over like he is planning my death, are at least causing me some sort of bodily injury. But Xixi, its like she woke up one day with a 'tude and a sharp little tongue.

What's up with that?

And it's not just sarcasm. It's this crazy, don't-you-know-yo-mama-will-snatch-you-up-by-your-hair-if-you-keep-talkin'-like-that kind of attitude.

Take Monday, for instance. Nap times in my household--beyond the baby years-- are code for, I can't stand to be around you for another minute. If you want to continue living, please take a nap. So, I put her in bed. Obviously, these children do not grasp the divine privilege of getting to take a nap in the middle of the day.

A few minutes later, I went to check on her and she was having a full-on Barbie/My Little Pony reunion on her window sill. Toys, dolls, doll clothes, crayons, brushes, rubber bands, barrettes and coloring books strewn all over the floor.

In a matter of minutes.

I put her back in bed, gave her the warning and shut the door behind me.

Then I went to check on her about ten minutes later. She was doing the same thing, humming to herself quietly, without a care in the world. This time I bent her over and gave her a good one on her padded little behind.

I know, that was like kicking a puppy. Shooting a baby deer. Stomping a baby chick's nest.

C'mon, my daughter inherited her mother's butt. That spank didn't hurt her in the slightest. It was the message I wanted convey to her that was important, not unlike whacking a small dog with a rolled up newspaper. You may be the baby, you may be my mini-me, you may have the cutest little New York accent, but I still have to deal with your naughty little ways! She let out an obligatory cry and before I could even get out of the room I hear her little voice.

"That didn't even hurt."

It kinda sounded like this: Dat didn't eeeven hwut.

Oh really?

All of my Pentecostal background came right back to me. The robes, the speaking in tongues---ooooh, shamma-lamma-ding-dong!--the dusty bible hitting the pulpit, it all came flooding back. I was ready to get all Old Testament on her.

Spare the rod, spoil the child. Oh, you know me too well, Lord. I won't spare anything!

Do not withhold correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
See, she won't die, cuz I only wanna beatest her a little.

Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. All I'm doing is saving this poor child!

Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him. And that is what I felt like doing, driving far, far from here.

Xixi got...how can I put this delicately?...an Old Testament can of whoop ass opened up on her. You'd think I was killing her with the way she screamed bloody murder.

"Now, did that hurt enough?" I asked, in the sweetest tone I possess, with a smile on my face.

She just cried louder. I would have spanked her for that, but I already had a crowd of boys at her door behind me, demanding to know what happened to Xixi, and why did I have to spank her. So I told them if they didn't disperse from my view, they'd get what Xixi just got. They all scurried away like roaches.

That's what I thought.

Later on that day, I overheard Xixi playing with her dolls again.

Oh my gosh, like yeh. Hi, friend. Do you like my dress? Do you wanna come and play? Uh, yeh, like totally! Um, hey friend, did you know I have like, the meanest mama evah? Um, like yeh, she gives lot of spankings and I didn't even do nuh-thing, alls I said was that didn't even hurt...duh! Uh-huh...

I told Michael what she said and he just laughed. "That' s what you get. Your daughter is a beast just like you. Like mother like daughter."

I swear, I get no respect around here.

He's got a point though.



Fourteen years have passed...


That's a really long time.

I am so old.


I created this painting for my Chicano Art History class at CSULA in 1995. Fourteen years ago. We had to turn in a project at the end of the semester, so I created a trio of paintings. Looking back, I've discovered that is my favorite way of conveying my images, in a triptych. I've used this method over and over.

I guess because there is perfection in three's...Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Sadly, I have no idea what happened to the other two pieces. I think I may have given one to a friend, the other who knows. They were small, really powerful paintings--a testament to my cultural awakening.

The one I gave to a friend was of a small girl in pigtails, holding a bloody tongue--it was about the cutting off of the mother tongue, my frustration at not being able to speak Spanish. Yes, it was all very Chicana-power!-I-wear-braids-Mexican-peasant-dresses-and-carry-a-serape-purse.

Good times.

This is the only painting from the triptych that still exists. My Dad had it all these years. I recently got it back, its hanging in my livingroom. It's called, "Mother's Milk".

I love, love, love the drop of breastmilk.

I know, I'm strange.



Two words...


Oishii Time Lapse: RETNA's Tina Turner for American Revolutionaries from Oishii Creative on Vimeo.

Feels good to know that an artist from humble beginnings...a graffiti artist, first and foremost--is able to attain and enjoy this level of success with his art. He also did a Jimi Hendrix portrait that was sick.

Just sick.

You go with your bad self, Retna.
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