Alena Maze Lee and her husband were fated to be together — there's no other way to put it. They first met at 13 years old and were best friends but then drifted apart after high school. Fast forward a few years, and they run into each other outside of a nightclub and reconnect but lose touch again not long after. Finally, after four kids and other relationships, they bump into each other again — where else but at a club — and finally decide to give it a go. Now, they have a total of seven kids and a lot of cultural exchanges. "We’re a blended family in terms of children but also cultures," said Alena. "My husband is Korean, and I am black, and my children are a mixture of races and cultures: African, American, and Korean."
Having a large family is something Alena takes completely in stride. "Growing up, my mother helped to raise many children in the foster care system," she said. "I always loved having lots of children around and knew I wanted to have many children of my own. My favorite part of being a mom is being able to live in the footsteps of my mother and my grandmother. I feel proud to have been handed down this motherhood title. I’m learning a lot from my own children and growing myself with the challenges and victories of motherhood."
Alena said that her husband's Korean culture has only brought the family closer together — food especially has been a (sometimes unexpected) unifier. "I remember before we were married, my husband took me and my oldest four daughters to eat Korean food," she said. "He ordered side dishes of octopus, fish cake, and dried anchovies. My kids were like, what is this?! It was a great experience for them to try all new sorts of food and for me, too. I really loved that Joe brought those types of new experiences to me and my girls."
Foods from her childhood also often make their way into Alena's kitchen. "I’ve introduced my husband to so many things!" she said. "Collard greens, cornbread stuffing, grits, Southern-style green beans, and sweet potato pie are just a few."
Blending cultures also means discovering new activities and ways to connect — Alena said that in addition to at-home karaoke dance parties and reading together, one of the family's choice ways to spend an afternoon is discovering new Korean bakeries to order in from — or experimenting in their own kitchen! Plus, all the kids are learning to speak Korean.
In the midst of all the hustle and bustle of family life, Alena always comes back to one room as an anchor for all her kids — the bathroom. "Currently, it’s the only space in our house where we have large mirrors, so it's a place that everyone goes to everyday," she said. "It's where we watch our family grow with us as we give our little ones baths in the sink, wiggle their baby teeth, do their hair, pose in their outfits, and so on." So to keep this precious area safe and clean, Alena uses Clorox® products — "I trust the products because my mother and grandmother trusted them," she said.
Plus, cleanup takes on an even more important role in her house. "For me, a clean home equals a clear head," she said, which is definitely needed when managing a household of seven kids. Alena also uses cleaning to instill a sense of responsibility in her kids. "Each child in our family is responsible for one thing until they graduate from it," she said. "Then it gets handed down to the next younger child. We do a little graduation celebration to celebrate this milestone."
At the end of the day, Alena says it's about teamwork: "The best thing is just to have them understand that it takes everyone's help, so we can get on to doing the fun stuff!"