The way to a man's heart is through his stomach

At least, that's how the saying goes.  It's the simple truth, too.

Nothing can make my husband more of a puddle of love for me than when I cook something delicious for him. It all started when we first started dating. We got together just a couple of weeks before Valentine's day, which was sort of awkward.  Do you keep it casual (so you don't scare him off) or do you go all out and express your undying love for the person--giant teddy bear and box of chocolates included?

To keep it on the safe side, I decided to bake him cookies. I figured it would be a thoughtful gesture. I mean, who doesn't love cookies? I baked him Mrs. Field's double-rich chocolate chip cookies. Bought a recipe book and everything.

Just some double chocolate chip cookies that I baked homemade. No biggie.

Nevermind that my family teased me for days. Yes, miss-feminist-Chicana-no-man-can-tame-me-I-am-woman-hear-me-roar was actually in the kitchen baking cookies. From scratch. For a dude.

What I wasn't prepared for was Michael's reaction to the cookies. He like, swooned into the bag of cookies. He swooned into me. With every bite he took, he gave a contented sigh and he stared at me with hearts in his eyes. I think he even hugged the bag of cookies.

I learned a huge lesson that day. Making this man food makes him happy.

We've been together for nearly seventeen years, partly because I have not forgotten that simple lesson I learned long, long ago. Happy wife (who cooks) + good food = happy life.

I'm happy to say that my husband looks at me just as adoringly as he does his spaghetti and meatballs.

Guess what else I've learned? This "making good food" tactic works on pretty much anyone with a stomach. Delicious things bubbling on your stove makes your home feel cozy, inviting and yummy smelling. It makes your children excited and content and they feel like they have the best mommy in the world because she makes the best stuff to eat.

Bottom line, people love to be spoiled by good food. It makes them feel loved.


Blended family woes once again

A bittersweet milestone happened in our lives recently. We have fulfilled our child support obligation.


Nineteen long years of contributing to my stepson's life. Four years of contributing voluntarily and fifteen years of being strong-armed by the State of California's Child Support Services. Arrears (because they didn't except proof that he was supporting his son for the first four years), negative credit rating, liens on property, wage garnishment, income tax interception...then there was that time they "mistakenly" took over $1000 from his paycheck but wouldn't give back (they said they would put a hold on it, just in case he ever got in arrears again).  I mean, ugh. You mention the child support office and I would immediately get a knot in my stomach. I never begrudged the money that was owed because I knew it was for Mikey but I really disliked the tactics the child support system used.

We paid a piddly monthly sum, to be sure. You can't put a sufficient number on what it takes to raise a child. I don't think it mattered anyhow. Even though we also contributed to school supplies, camp, clothes, vacation, dental and medical insurance, drove to their home every other weekend for over ten years (and they lived 80 miles away) etc. it was never enough.

Either way, there is one thing I am thankful for and that is we're finally out from under the thumb of the State of California's Child Support Services. So imagine my surprise when we got this in the mail. Zero due for current support.

I'd hear horror stories about child support ending and how difficult it would be to close your case. I'm still apprehensive, until I receive a letter stating our case is closed. I recently wrote about this topic over at The BabyCenter Blog titled, What happens when child support ends? Knowing that some might misinterpret my relief over child support being over as cause for celebration, I kept it low-key.

Am I relieved? Yes, of course.

Does anyone know all the heartache we've gone through ever since Mikey was a little boy? NO, not even close.

The money we paid doesn't mean anything in the grand scheme of things. We had so many hopes and dreams for Mikey and tried so hard to stay in his life. It just sucks all the air out of me when I think of how it's been these past few years.

To read people's comments, blasting me for being ignorant, bitter, that we must not have tried hard enough, that we must care about our children together more and shame on me for being a horrible stepmother who views her stepson as a burden--someone even visited this blog and left me a nasty comment (read it here)--well, if you think for one second that it made me feel bad or made me want to go back and defend myself....you are sorely mistaken.

I laughed.

Not a funny haha laugh. More like a dark, bitter haha.

There is no way I could share what the past eighteen years were like. There is also no way I would dignify those comments with a response. Not when I've laid out my life on this here blog for the past six years. I've shared about this topic--blended family woes--numerous times. I've poured out my heart. I've even ran the risk that my stepson's mother could easily find me and this blog and then go insane after reading the things I've written about her. I stand by every word I've written over the years. Not a day goes by when we don't think about Mikey or mention him in some way.

One of the last photos I have of Michael and Mikey together, it was taken at his middle school graduation, 2008.
Michael and I both know that things will change. Until then, we wait. Mikey will grow up. He'll become a father himself. Then he'll understand.


Dream big

It's good to have dreams. I have hopes and dreams but I'm the type that likes to keep them to myself and diligently work towards achieving them. Not my husband. Michael is a big, visionary, let's paint the sky purple and fly on surfboards to see the moon--in other words, he is a dream big type of person. He doesn't care if you think he sounds crazy or if it seems impossible.

Sometimes I can be negative and give him the side eye. I mean, really? What kind of paint could we use that would evaporate in the clouds? How much would that cost? Would we be able to install seat belts onto the surfboards? What if it rains? 

I don't want to say that I'm a Debbie Downer or a Nancy Negative but sometimes reality is heavy on my shoulders and I get a little uptight. Dreaming is something for people who have the time, I grumble. But when I witness my children sitting on their father's lap, chatting and giggling, dreaming up things for their future, I realize how special his capacity to dream really is. And if it wasn't for him, the chil'rens would miss out.

Today Michael was making an early dinner for the kids since Mondays are busy with Boy Scout meetings. Together with Maya and Xixi, they made mini pizzas made on pita bread rounds from Trader Joe's. They sprinkled cheese, perfected their seasoning blend and began to dream about Maya's own pizza shop called Midgey's (Maya's nickname). Midgey's would be unique because all of the pizzas would be made on mini-pita rounds and you can make it to order. All of the toppings would come from an organic veggie garden. Remember the photo processing huts from back in the day? The ones you could drive through and pick up your developed photos? They envisioned a drive thru mini-pizza stand, complete with a giant pizza on a fork on the roof, and signage that said,


We wondered if it would be politically correct to call it Midgey's since that is short for Midget and the pizza's were "mini".

Hmmm. Oh well.

It's okay because this was their dream. And no one can tell you no in your dream.

Ever want a captive audience? Draw something with your kids.

Midgey's mini pizzas.

Xixi said she didn't want to cook the pizza, she just wanted to take the orders and talk to all the customers.

Dream big, for yourself and for your kids. They will remember.


The latest on the Babycenter Blog

If you want to see some really sick, weird, creepy, life-like strange baby shower cakes, head over to The Babycenter Blog and check out my latest slideshow post: The strangest baby shower cakes ever (pics!). So far, emotions have ranged from comedic laughter to utter disgust.

Go figure. Either way, go and see for yourself!


Henna-inspired TOMS shoes

I bought myself a new pair of TOMS about four months ago. My old black ones were getting kind of mangy, with a hole starting at the heel, scuff marks, fading. And they smelled kinda funky. I wanted a pair of red ones but since I never NEVER wear red and own nothing in this color in my closet, I didn't buy them. I bought grey instead. But I knew I couldn't just rock a plain grey shoe.

I hook up lots of stuff for other people, for loved ones, and clients but I rarely do it for myself. But this time was different. I pinned this amazing henna-inspired pair of TOMS on my Pinterest board a while back, and I told myself I would recreate them somehow. Not a straight up jack move--no, that's not my style. But I was definitely inspired to put down some of my black and white designs onto the shoes.

So I did.

Let me just tell you. These shoes went everywhere. They went to baseball practice, where I worked on them in the park while my kids played/practiced. Then they went with me to the baseball field, where I worked on them in the car during night games because it was too cold to sit on the bleachers. They also visited my mama's house, too. But their farthest venture turned out to be the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as we made our way down to Cabo San Lucas on the Crafty Chica cruise. While everyone was working on various projects, I busted out with my pair of TOMS, where I helped myself to a juicy Tulip fabric marker from my swag bag.

This is when I saw the light.

Up to this point, I had only used a black Sharpie marker on a portion of the shoe. When I decided to use the Tulip fabric marker, I couldn't believe how rich the black color was! So much darker and opaque than the Sharpie marker. The pointed tip helped me control my line design, too. I was hooked. I even went over the Sharpie lines with the Tulip marker.

Scandalous, I know.

As I was working on my TOMS, I paused to plan my next area of attack. I noticed Patrick Murillo--Mr. Mantastic Crafter himself--was eyeballing me.

He said to me casually, "I notice you're pretty good at those line drawings."


"But listen..."

Jaw drop.

"Don't cover the whole shoe with your designs."

Clutch my pearls.

"Leave some empty space. It looks better."

I was like, whoa.

So I took his advice. And believe me, it was hard. It was hard not to go all Pearmama over those TOMS shoes and cover every square inch of the fabric until my hand cramped up and I went blind in the process.

That is my usual steez.

But instead, I took the advice of my fellow artiste and...they came out fantasticals, iffa do say so myself.

First thing I did was create a simple layout for my design, using a light-colored watercolor pencil.

I am now a hardcore fan of Crafty Chica and Tulip fabric markers.

Close up.

I've got my eye on you.

All done.

Now, if only I'd actually put them on my feet instead of leaving them by their lonesome at the bottom of my closet.


Craft: Teacher Appreciation gift

School is out next week.

Thank you dear Lord baby Jesus.

We made it. I'm still alive. I'm so close to freedom that I can almost taste all of the projects I'll be working on for the next three months while the chil'rens are "not in school". Truth be told, the boys didn't finish where I wanted them to in math, so they'll still be doing math lessons everyday. But compared to the workload we had this year...this will, most definitely, be a summer vacation. For all of us.

The chil'rens had amazing teachers at their charter school. They were so caring and loving to my babies, and they put up with a nonconformist, anti-public school, unschooling rebel of a mama. I wanted to show my appreciation for all of their hard work throughout the school year. While they might prefer gift cards, I just couldn't let the end of the year go by without making them something.

Like a chef makes you something delicious to eat.
Like a woodworker builds you something amazing.
Like a person with a beautiful voice sings you a song.
Like a gardener plants and harvests and shares his crop with you.

I like to make things for people I care about.

It's how I show you I love you, ya know?

I found a few cool ideas on Pinterest, but in the end I decided to make something that was sweet and personal. That's when I came up with the idea to do a simple monogrammed frame. Something that the teachers will always remember my children by. The apple was the sweet touch.

I gathered a few unfinished wood frames from Ikea that I have stacked around the studio for such occasions as these and painted them black. Then I measured and cut squares of burlap fabric to fit inside the frame. I found a font I liked and then grabbed my husband who is the family sign painter so he could freehand the letters for me.

Yes, freehand. He's ridiculous like that.

I then filled in the letters with black craft paint. To create the added touch of the apple, I used white paint to create the shape of the apple and stem. Once it dried, I painted on top of the white with red and green. If I had painted directly on top of the burlap, the apple wouldn't have had such vibrancy in color. Also, it has to pop from the black.

Once the burlap was dry (with the aid of my handy-dandy hair dryer at 7am because YES, I finished these in the morning before my kids had school--what can I say? I like to live on the edge.), I fit the squares into the frame. Yes, you have to move them around to fit directly in the middle and although one of my designs was a little too big for the frame, I thought it gave a rustic feel to the monogrammed frames.

Yes, when in doubt, call it rustic.

Cyan and his frame for Mrs. Medeiros and Maya's frame for Mrs. Mendez
I can't forget Xixi's frame for Mrs. Kiley!

These Teacher Appreciation gifts were really simple and sweet. It was cool to walk into Open House and see their frames hanging near the teacher's desk! My babies were so proud.

I think that beats a gift card to Target or Starbucks any day.

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