Being a mom can mean you forget to brush your teeth today.

Being a mom can mean you actually forgot to brunch your teeth on a lot of days and that next dentist visit is going to suck.

Being a mom can mean you never get more than 6 hours of sleep.

Being a mom can mean you’re someone’s only source of comfort.

Being a mom can mean your arms area really strong from carry around the equivalent of a 23-pound sack of potatoes all day.

Being a mom can mean you get yelled at every day.

Being a mom can mean not remembering the last time you objectively felt good about how you look.

Being a mom can mean  you have exponentially more gray hair than you did a year ago.

Being a mom can mean you often have your fingers up another person’s nose.

Being a mom can mean you don’t remember how an adult romantic relationship is supposed to work.

Being a mom can mean all your work never feels done.

Being a mom can mean staying up past 10 pm is going to hurt the next day.

Being a mom can mean you have surges of love that overwhelm you and leave you tongue-tied.

Being a mom can mean you cry because it’s too much sometimes.

Being a mom can mean you’re more flexible than you were a few months ago because of all that playing you do on the ground.

Being a mom can mean you’ve mastered picking things up with your toes because your hands are full.

Being a mom can mean you ignore your other children more—the dog and the cat—and it makes you sad.

Being a mom can mean some friends haven’t called you since the day they said “congratulations.”

Being a mom can mean you bond with a lot of people in a whole new way.

Being a mom can mean not a whole lot has changed.

Being a mom can mean everything has changed.

Being a mom can mean you haven’t been a dreamer lately.

Being a mom can mean you finally figured out how to live in the moment.

Being a mom can mean the kindness of others is appreciated more than it ever was before.

Being a mom can mean sometimes you need an advocate.

Being a mom can mean parts of your body will never stop hurting again.

Being a mom can mean you finally found the best person on earth to spoon with.

Being a mom can mean singing the entire Beatles catalog as goodnight lullabies one night at a time.

Being a mom can mean you laugh a lot more each day than you used to.

Being a mom can mean you wish you could fit into this one really cool onesie.

Being a mom can mean you really understand now how good you have it.

Being a mom can mean something different to everyone.

 

 

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My only regret during this entire pregnancy is that I haven’t been writing much about it. And I have SO many thoughts and things to say, my brain can’t stop. Pregnancy is hilarious and odd and spiritual has had its (thankfully few) worrisome moments so far. It’s been a regular part of my day but it’s also been this crazy thing I’m carrying around that I keep being unable to fully process minute by minute. You mean there is a human in there and soon they will be literal, all skin and bones and eyes and tiny fingers and hunger and tears? I can’t even put it together. The hormones I’m swimming in contemplate this and want me to cry, whether out of recognition of the miracle—there is no other word that fits as well—that it requires to actually get a baby to full term or because OH MY GOD THIS IS SO REAL, WHAT or a thousand other reasons. Or because of hormones. Yeah.

Jim and I are not people who even gave it time or had the inclination to sit and dream together of the family we would someday have or what it would be like to be parents together. We make plans about lots of things, but more so we tend to do things because they are right in the moment. I’m not taking about spontaneity, but of living as fully as you can where you are right now without the future or the past as a ball and chain. That thinking is an active part of the way we live, and it has led us here.

I always thought I’d be really freaked out if I was going to have a baby, but in the past that might have more a symptom of considering being in that position while not in the right relationship. Somehow this actually hasn’t been a scary process, at least not for me. I had my moments in the beginning of realizing the weight of What Was To Be. But it faded quickly. There’s not much room or reason for that when you’re happy and your partner is the best partner your imagination couldn’t ever have dreamed up and the people in your life are nothing but gracious and giving of their time, good advice, and strength. And you feel loved. And oh, there goes the impulse for the crying again. Not blaming the hormones this time.

Here’s to writing more.

So here I am chopping up some garlic tonight. Maybe it’s the fact that it’s organic garlic with purple skin (fancy) or a really fresh one, I don’t know. But this garlic is sexy. Yeah, it’s sexy. Have I always felt this way about garlic? I can’t say. Before I even undress it from its papery sheath, I can smell it. Those glands at the sides of my throat and underneath my jawline quiver. Seriously, there isn’t even another word for it. I bend over the cutting board to take a big whiff. Beautiful. But if logic didn’t tell me it would burn, burn, burn, I would shove this garlic straight into my mouth and chew past the hurt. I couldn’t stop admiring it. You know how sometimes you have chemistry with a person and their scent, even when–especially when?–they’re dirty, it drives you crazy? This garlic, man. This garlic. I’m almost loathe to roast it, which was the point in the first place. I covered it in a little oil and used my fingers to get it all good and soaked in it. As someone who washes my hands three to five times while I cook anything, that’s new.

Regular me: Why use my hands when I have a spoon right here?

Tonight me: Must. Touch. Garlic. Must lick garlic essence off fingers.

Sometimes you just want something.

I’m in the middle of reading this series about the zombie apocalypse, and I should have known it would be poor reading before bed. I can drink coffee and fall asleep like it’s my job, but zombie gore gives me fitful dreams.  So I thought, oh, writing, of course, that’ll get the adrenaline down. Not likely.

I tore through Book Three tonight in one sitting. It’s that engaging. I have but my boyfriend to thank, for his is the golden library card that allows me to borrow books like this one, and this one and this one. The part of Glenview we live in doesn’t collect taxes for any library, so we simply don’t get to apply for cards, even to Glenview Public Library. It’s a stupid beaurocracy we live in. And in these uncertain times, it’s fortunate to have someone in one’s life who understands the need for zombie graphic novels and borrowed cookbooks.

In the distant past I periodically wrote entries in my hand-written journals or my livejournal (R.I.P.) called “The State of the Sandy,” intended to be a way of setting goals, checking in on my progress and letting my far-away friends know what’s really going on in my life. And, really, to take a look at how I feel about some things because sometimes a truth pours out through my fingers that my conscious mind wasn’t aware of. Thus, the beauty of journaling in the first place. This is something like that.

Let’s get down to brass tacks. This has been a difficult year. I moved back to my hometown (Chicago) after ten years living away, to a family dealing with a lot of grief and a terrible money situation. My large, tight group of friends here are no longer very friendly with one another. I’m evolving and realizing that the career I’ve sacrificed everything for in the last six years isn’t making me happy in its current state.

It’s a time of change, and to think about these things too hard is to light a wick that leads to self- implosion and over-consumption of ice cream. There’s a lot to deal with in the business of my life that’s currently out of the hands of myself and most people involved. We all know how we got here, and some of it is shameful and some of it is remains beautiful in our memories. Mistakes were made, small victories have been celebrated, and life still goes on in a course one can’t predict, despite our efforts. But that’s always been true.

Focusing on the things that are still in my control, being thankful for what I do have and realizing that every day is truly a new one is what I’ve got to work with, so with that I’m keeping positive. I’m exploring new paths for my work, even though it means I’m broker than usual right now (Risks! Love them).  My family is heartbroken over their losses, both personal and literal, but I’d much rather be here with them in their trench, baking cakes and doing favors and trying to remind them they have a sense of humor, than blissfully unaware of it all in New York.

I still feel like a stranger here, starting over without really starting over, 50% of my life still in boxes in the garage waiting for the next move.  I’m feeling the weight of the immense lack of stability in my life, but I’m thankful I’m at a point in my life where it’s just added poundage, not a load that’ll topple me.

I share stupidly personal things because I know a lot of my friends are going through questionable moments too, and history has taught me there’s something about the mind’s pressure valve that eases down when one knows they’re not alone. I don’t feel alone; all I know about is everyone’s problems right now. Despite it all, life’s not bad. If I’m smiling, that’s just me happy to be in a good moment with good people. There’s no rule that says when times are hard they have to affect everything. Change is good, and the way I look at it, I’m just in the middle of another bout.

Also see: “The Facts of Life” theme song, below.

The Martha Stewart Show today was a rerun from November where she and a friend visited the Brooklyn Flea Market. They wandered to the artisanal craft booths, the organic ice cream cart, the ASIADOG stand and the pupusa makers, only making me feel homesick. I’ve never used “homesick” to refer to New York before. Now there’s a lump in my lung where the breathing is supposed to be.

What always amazed me about New York was the drive people had to create niche businesses and pursue their art in a way that made the goliath city feel like it had secret farms, old-world artisans and that sneeze-and-your-neighbor-knows-mentality. Or at least the first two. A village feeling while being the center of the business and entertainment universes.  Home cooking adjacent to glass and metal. People who do pickling at home and others who actually appreciate it and buy it. I know Chicago must have lovely small-batch foods and unique wares on every scale, but all the strip malls are obstructing my view. If anyone has ideas of great neighborhoods to walk around or places I must stop by knowing what I like, your walking tour ideas are welcome.

If you’re curious about the flea market’s wares or other reasons why this Brooklyn episode was great/made me hungry, you can watch clips or the whole thing here. There’s also a pupusa-making demonstration, mmm.

There was a time when I was so determined to learn how to properly decorate a cake that I woke up early on Saturday mornings, sometimes still drunk, to get to my Wilton cake decorating class at the Queens Michael’s store. I imagine that someday I will tell young people the tales of my early three-quarter-mile walks with pounds of pastries and mixed buttercream on my back. Oh, the sacrifices I made so an engaging, flamboyant cake decorator from New Jersey could teach me how to make iced roses while I pretended I wasn’t about to fall asleep in a pile of cupcakes! Because those are the stories kids like to hear, right?

I must say, I rarely use the skills I learned in that basic class. I probably should have taken more $22.50 Wilton classes, but Saturday mornings just weren’t my thang. I personally think all one needs to make beautifully-decorated pastries is decent tools and some imagination. Example: Can’t a frost a cake evenly? Frost as evenly as you can, then apply pressure to the cake with the flat side of a butter knife tip and pull away. If your frosting is still fresh, it should spike out. Repeat all over and voila, you have a pretty gorgeous, spiky cake without disturbing your perfectionist within.

Seriously, creativity will get you everywhere. My inspiration has most recently been the book Hello, Cupcake! (that I got on sale at Home Goods) and various other Google image searches of tasty treats.

For my nephews’ 2nd and 4th birthdays last week, I made them birthday cupcakes shaped like Thomas the Tank Engine and a dozen dogs.

For the Thomases I made vanilla cupcakes from my cupcake guru Shelly Kaldunski’s Cupcakes book and half a batch of Martha Stewart’s royal icing recipe (which was still way too much icing for this) and tinted them (it takes a lot of patience to get the color you want, adding in dye paste little by little so you don’t over-do it) in five batches: black, blue, grey, red and white (which I didn’t have to mess with, as white”s the icing’s original color. Then I “glued” on the Oreo “wheels” with some more dabs of royal icing and let them sit and dry overnight. Bonus tip: I bought small squeeze bottles (2 for $2.49 at Michael’s) and used them to pipe the royal icing. Awesome, easy control.

As you can see from the tear, it’s hard for small children to have these dangled in their faces while they eat lunch without wanting to touch them. When it comes to dessert, I can relate.

I also made a dozen dogs of three varieties:  chocolate labs, chihuahuas and schnauzers.

All these are a rather simplified version of the original from Hello, Cupcake! Snouts are all marshmallows covered in buttercream, eyes and noses are  royal icing, the floppy brown ears are melted and rolled-out Tootsie Rolls, the Chihuahua ears are Oreos with buttercream piped on and the schnauzers get their body from a mini cupcake sitting on top of a big cupcake.

To make the fur I filled a pastry bag with white buttercream and used a star-shaped decorating tip that looked like it would do the trick and copied what it looked like they did in the picture in the book. This isn’t high-school math, you can copy anyone you please.

I won’t lie: this took a while. I can’t stand the taste of store-bought tub frosting and I’m not a big fan of boxed cake mixes, so I made all the batter, frosting and icing from scratch (if kids are going to eat sweets, why not give them the good stuff?). To learn how to properly use royal icing, which I’ve never made before, I just Googled around for a few tips. Like I said, the Wilton class more helped me not be afraid of using weird ingredients (like meringue powder for the royal icing) than taught me to be a badass with a pastry bag. Anyone can make pretty outstanding dessert decorations with some patience and some research.

In that vein, here are a few good resources for those with questions about the ingredients and how to handle them.

Wilton’s Cake and Dessert Decorating 101 Certainly this is a brand’s Web site, but they kind of have the monopoly of baked-goods doohickeys, so they at least know their stuff.

Baking 911 Whoever made this put a lot of time and love into answering just about any question you could have about baking measurements, techniques, tips, and anything having to do with adding sugar to butter, eggs and flour.

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