It’s one of those days, when I’ve got myself booked for every single minute of the day, and there are still things on my list that aren’t going to get done.  But even though life is busy, there are still so many moments I want to remember, to capture, to think about a little bit more than I have time to right now.

Sam went outside and salted my icy sidewalk this morning.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it really, really was.  It’s the first time I can remember him actually performing a task that was seriously helpful – and that sounds awful.  He’s shoveled in the past, but always as part of a team.  He was the junior member of The Cohen Men Shoveling Troupe.  Or the junior member of the Mama/Sam out there chugging away because Daddy was working.  So while he’s followed directions and moved snow from place to place, he wasn’t really doing much at all.  He’s washed the car for me a few times, but really – that was more about keeping him occupied and busy and happy than it was about getting the car clean (especially because it generally ended up all streaky and weird after he and his friends finished sloshing water and sponges everywhere).  But this morning, he got ready early, took his little salt bucket thing and got the job done.   Now if I could just get him to start taking out the trash…

Jessie is still clicking along.   She’s grown up so much in the past year, and it still isn’t something that I’m used to.  She reads, a lot.  She went to the bookstore the other day to get a new book and walked out with a law textbook.  Because that’s how she rolls.  She lugs around three or four books in her bag, because you just never know what she’ll be in the mood for at any point in the day.  She’s not grown up all the way, not yet.  But she’s getting there, faster and faster.  We’re experimenting with our relationship, if that makes sense.  She understands more, and is testing limits and challenging assumptions.  I’m learning what to let slide, and what I can’t.  She’s learning how to control her emotions (and that’s no easy feat for my drama prone girl), but she’s becoming more and more aware of how her reactions impact the rest of the family.   She’s watching John Oliver at night, paying attention to the news in the morning and loves talking about politics.

Julianna is still my baby.  She just is.  She’s ready for kindergarten, I know she’s not going to allow me to get away with calling her the baby for much longer, but she’s still mine.  She still falls asleep snuggled up in my arms, and makes me stop what I’m doing every.single.time a song comes on that she wants to dance to – because the dance isn’t enough unless it’s done for an audience.  Her hair is down past her little butt when she’s in the tub, and her favorite way to wear it is long.  I can usually coax her into a braid before bed, which helps with the knots.  She’s got a headband collection – and literally always has one on.  For a while there, she was rocking a sleep mask at night which she wore pushed back on her forehead – a nighttime headband.  She’s newly obsessed

Marc is still loving his new job – although I think what he loves most is the normalacy of it.  Coming home every night before the kids are asleep, being there all weekend long.  Shabbat dinner every Friday, and synagogue every Saturday.  Life is suddenly predictable – I can make plans, knowing that our weekends are going to have both of us available.

Winter driving isn’t my thing.  To be perfectly honest, driving in general isn’t my thing.  I can drive, and I’m not BAD at it exactly.  But I don’t enjoy it on a good day, and would always rather be in the passenger seat, a to-go cup of coffee in my hand and no responsibilities other than conversation and possibly manning the radio. 

But that’s not my life, and that’s okay.  My life involves a lot of driving around Worcester, dropping off and picking up kids at various locations, and in the past few weeks, it’s been challenging.  Excepting the accidents (I got stuck in the snow at least once and had to be dug out, and there was one horrible experience of a flat bed sliding all the way down my street, with my car attached, dragging the poor driver and me trapped in the car along with it before we crashed into a snowbank), driving in general is crappy these days.  The roads are ridiculously narrow, and the game of chicken at the intersections scares the bejeezus out of me.  When you hope and pray that nobody is coming, and just ease out – only to slam on the brakes at the last minute before you hit the car that you couldn’t see, and he couldn’t see you – it’s not something I can get used to doing.

All of the schools are a disaster.  Parking is an exercise in patience and guts – because you need both, to cram your car into the snowbank and pray that you’ll be able to get back out. The drop off lanes are so compromised by the huge snowbanks, and there are a lot of little kids and big SUV’s fighting for space. 

All of this complaining is leading up to my wonderful, incredible discovery this morning.  I drop off at an elementary school across town for my son, and then off at Sullivan for my sixth grader.  She’s a student at the Goddard Scholars Academy – and that parking lot has been a mess for weeks and weeks.  Unlike the elementary school, there’s no need for me to park and get out to get her, she comes out on her own.  But also unlike the elementary school – there’s a LOT of cars, all crammed into one parking lot, with buses and hoards of kids all over the place.  I’d get stuck there more often than not, trapped in a line of cars waiting for the chance to get thru the narrow lanes.  But today – oh, today – THE SNOW WAS GONE.  The lanes were wide, enough for two cars without any fear of side swiping any of them.  You could get out of the parking lot without being afraid of accidentally sliding into another parent or a bus.  It was glorious.

It’s not something I ever appreciated, prior to the past month or so.  But finding a school parking lot where it was safe to drive, safe to drop off and easy to pick up – it was the best part of my morning.  God bless the snow removers.  And remind me again – spring is coming, right?

Ah – February vacatioh.  It’s my least favorite of the vacations – the winter one is lovely.  It comes at the end of a busy holiday season, everyone’s got fun, new stuff to do, read and play with after Christmas and Hanukkah.  The April vacation comes just as spring is starting, the snow is melting and we can get outside and run around.  But the one in February is just silly.  It’s especially silly this year, because Massachusetts is having the snowiest month.  Ever.  Zillions of snow days, and the kids have missed a bunch of extra days because we live on the hill from hell.  At this point, I no longer remember what it’s like to have them in school five days a week.

But February vacation it is – and it’s been chaotic, loud, and messy.  We weren’t able to get Glennys until Wednesday because of yet another blizzard (and it’s still unclear if we’ll be able to get her home because we’ve got another weekend storm coming).  So the beginning of the week was quiet and calm.  Recovering from the last storm for Monday and Tuesday, we were still stuck in the house, but it was relaxing and fun.  Then Wednesday, we picked up Glennys, Sarah came over that night and hasn’t left.  It’s been a non-stop slumber party at my house for the past several nights, and I’m so tired, I could fall asleep right now.

It’s interesting to me how much things have changed.  I’ve had these six kids here for vacations since before Jessie started school, and there are some things that are as true now as it was seven years ago.  The house will always be a mess.  I’ll never be caught up on dishes or laundry.  Dollhouses, army guys, and barbies will be everywhere.  But now they mix in making their own board games, and working on the Pikenesian society they made up a few years ago.  They drink coffee sometimes, but also keep using Julie’s sippie cups.  They stay up a LOT later – it’s close to midnight most nights before I can coax them into laying down. 

My favorite part is that what they seem to enjoy the most is just telling stories.  Remembering back to when they were little, and they all talk over one another and laugh and yell.  Because even when it seemed like all we were doing was just hanging on and hoping to survive their respective childhoods, what we were really doing was building memories.  Building a family.  These people really, really like each other.  Not all the time, and sometimes they do try and kill each other, but mostly – they’re all really good friends as well as brothers and sisters, and I love that. 

In other news – we’re still settling into Marc’s new job, having two cars, and living life like normal people.  Marc gets up at five every morning and is out of the house by five thirty.  I’m still adjusting to the fact that he’s going to bed so much earlier, he’s conking out around the same time the kids are.  But he’s got two glorious days off on the weekends, and I’m still not used to it.  Being able to make plans, and know that he’ll be here for them – it’s fabulous.

There are still a lot of things that we need to figure out – I don’t know what I’m going to do in the fall (and there’s a Pampers commercial that features a little baby in a bathtub – every time it comes on, I swear to God my uterus ACHES).  We need to start looking for a new place to live this spring/summer.  I need figure out what kind of activities we’re going to be doing this summer, I’m leaning away from structured summer camp, and maybe looking at a class or two for each of them instead.  I’m looking forward to Marc’s next step at his new job, when he’ll be based out of Worcester and not forty five minutes away in Westford.   And both of our computers are broken – which is why I’m not blogging as much.  I had borrow Jessie’s laptop to get this post done.



Because it wouldn’t be a weekend without my obligatory “I hate the snow” post – here you go.


On the upside, it’s the start of February vacation (because the nine or ten snow days the kids have had so far apparently isn’t enough), so I don’t have to worry about driving them anywhere.  And we’re getting used to being snowed in now.   The snowstorms really started the last week in January, and Marc started his new job on February 1.  So we got clobbered that last weekend he was working, and ever since then, Marc’s had the flexibility to work from home when the weather gets really sketchy.

We sleep in late, and wake up gradually.  Always, my first step is to check the heat to make sure that it’s still working, then I click on the coffee and wait for the rest of the house to wake up.   We bop around the house, all five of us, mixing and intermingling and then separating out for alone time.  We read many, many books, play too many video games (I’m looking at you Sam) and lose hours watching sitcoms from the last century on Netflix (hello, Jessie).

Marc and Sam were outside for a while (I couldn’t convince either girl to go out with them).  Marc shoveled and pushed the cars around, Sam discovered that our poor dead camry (the car he drove into the garage) makes a perfect base for his sledding hill.   Now everyone’s back inside, cocoa-ed and dressed in dry clothes.  Sam and Julie are parked in front of the window, alternately playing games on my phone and keeping an eye on the guy across the street who’s shoveling off his roof.  I told them to call me if he falls.  Jessie has taken over my dining room table (which I had painstakingly cleaned in a misguided plan to fold ALL the laundry) with barbie dolls and dollhouses and Marc is hiding out in our bedroom, watching sports talk radio (which doesn’t make sense, but apparently, they videotape two guys doing their radio show and then broadcast it).

The blizzard is over.  And there’s another snowstorm on tap for Tuesday and then again on Saturday.  I may never leave the house again.

I never planned on getting married.  I didn’t think it was real – the idea of  lasting love between two adults.  I didn’t think you could build a life with someone, not really.  In the end, we were all alone, and the important thing was to be able to take care of yourself, emotionally, financially.  Children, yes – I wanted children.  But I really did believe that marriage was something that other people did.

I was raised by a single mother, in every sense of the word.  It’s not just that my parents weren’t married anymore, my dad wasn’t around at all.  There was no child support, no weekends at Daddy’s house.  There was just my mom, doing her best and struggling her way through raising four kids alone.  That was my model, my plan.  I didn’t know it could be different.

Then I met Marc, and everything changed.  Not all at once, but really, looking back now – it certainly seemed that way.  I went from being single to being a partner.  He saw what we could be together before I did, and I’ll always be grateful for that.  He trusted this future, when it was entirely unrealistic to me.

It’s been thirteen years today, and I still don’t quite believe how lucky I am.  I’ve got this guy – this amazingly brilliant, gorgeous man who loves me more than anything.  I’ve got these beautiful stepdaughters that I love, this daughter who stuns me with her grace and sweetness, this son who has taught me more than anyone, and this baby girl who will always, always – no matter how many times I tell myself that she’s not a baby – she’ll always be mine.


I’ve got this incredible life, filled with everything I never thought I’d be lucky enough to call my own.  And it’s not perfect, and I yell too much, and the kids fight, and sometimes Marc makes me crazy.  The house is a disaster more often than not, the kids stay up too late and don’t eat enough vegetables.  Marc and I are so busy we don’t always remember to stop and really look at each other and check in.  But I love him, and he loves me, and there’s nothing, nothing, in this world that I depend on more than my relationship with him.  He’s my partner, my other half, my best friend and the love of my life.  And today, and all days, I’m grateful, so grateful for him and for the life we’ve built together.


I was in an accident on Friday.  I haven’t blogged about it yet, mainly because it was the single most terrifying thing that I’ve ever had happen to me.  I wasn’t injured, and neither was my car.  But the man who got dragged alongside the car as the flatbed and my subaru careened down my icy road ended up with a broken leg and a whole lot of bruising.

My car wasn’t working right, and we had called a tow truck to get it over to the mechanics.  I had backed it out of the driveway, and the tow truck driver had dropped down the flatbed to hook it up.  While he was on his hands and knees, hooking my car to the chain, the truck started sliding.  It picked up speed as it went, dragging him along.  I was in my car, along for the ride as well.

The flatbed, towing my car, the poor screaming tow truck driver, and me stuck in my car, went faster and faster as it slid down my hill, finally crashing into the snowbank.  And everyone survived, with nothing more permanent than a broken leg, a whole lot of bumps and bruises on the part of the the driver, and a couple of days when I couldn’t stop crying.

Because I’ll never be able to forget those few minutes.  When I was trapped in a car that was sliding out of control, down a hill that ends in Rte. 9.  In that moment, when I was sure that he was dying and that I was trapped, with no way out – with my kids watching out the window, when all I could think was that I couldn’t die, I had three kids, I had to escape and couldn’t – in those minutes, I was sure that he was going to die, and that I probably was too.

We’re fine.  He survived, and is out of the hospital.  I’m mostly okay.  I cried all day Friday and a good part of Saturday, but I’m mostly okay too.  I wasn’t hurt at all, I just went for a really fast ride down the hill.  Trapped in a car, attached to a flatbed, hearing him scream in agony and knowing that there was no way out for either one of us.

So my kids probably won’t be going to school tomorrow.  Maybe Wednesday.  But we’ve got another storm today, another one on tap for Thursday night into Friday, and I’ve heard rumors of another for Sunday.  And I’m staying safe inside.  With my kids.   Because the hill, in Worcester, with the feet and feet of snow, and the layer of ice and mud and slush that have refrozen over and over again – I’m not taking any chances.

It’s a question I never know how to answer.

I’ve given birth three times.  I have three children with beds in my home, three children that I do everything for.  Three kids that I buy clothes for, that I feed and make sure they brush their teeth.  Three kids that I attend parent/teacher conferences for, agonize over whether they’ve done their bat mitzvah studying, worry about their math grades, and know the name of their friends.   I snuggle them to sleep at night, make sure they’ve got their shoes on the right feet and lunch in their backpacks each morning.  I hear about their days, teach them to read, explain the way the world works to them.

But I’ve got another two.  And they’re mine too.

Part of it is that when I claim that I’ve got FIVE kids, I’m making a pretty big statement.  FIVE kids is a lot.  Five kids is a deliberate decision to have a really big family.  I didn’t exactly make that decision.  Although I kind of did – all three of mine were conceived deliberately into a family that was already in progress.  Sam has four sisters.  Jessie is as much the middle child as she is the oldest (and the youngest of the oldest three, but that’s another blog post…).  When Julie colors her family, all five kids are there.

I only gave birth three times.  I only take care of, on a consistent 24/7 basis, my three kids.  But there are five of them.

There are five kids at my Shabbat table.  My daughter is the youngest of the “Cohen girls.”  (Because Julie is, as always, in a class by herself).  Jessie relies on her Sarah as her big sister, and lots of times, is only willing to participate in activities if her big sister is going too.  Lilli is the one person who can and will throw down with Sam – literally, she’ll sit on him and he loves it.  Julie is very much the youngest of five kids.

My husband has five kids.  He’s most definitely a father of five.  He loves all five of them, he doesn’t distinguish between the ones that we had together and the ones from his first marriage.  They’re all his.

The obvious hitch is my saying that I have five kids is that I don’t.  Two of those five have their own very involved, loving mother who does all of the things for her two that I do for my three.  She knows their doctors, she knows their grades and their friend’s parents.  I don’t want to presume to take that away from her.  I wouldn’t want someone to do that to me – my role as my children’s mother is MINE and I wouldn’t want to share it.  I assume that she doesn’t either.  She’s their mother, I’m their dad’s wife, their siblings’ mom.  I’m their friend, but I’m also the mom when they’re here with me.

In the end, the truth is that they are mine.  They’re just not only mine.  They’ve grown up with me, I changed their diapers (at least the younger one).  I’ve been there for the science experiments, I taught them how to change a diaper and why breastfeeding is totally normal.   I yell at them when they’re too loud, I’ve made them pick up blocks and legos and princess houses.  I’ve dressed them in leotards and ballet shoes, braided hair and bandaged boo-boos.  I buckled car seats and poured drinks.  I’ve pushed them on swings, and taken them to the park more times that I could possible count.  I know what they like to eat, what they like to read, and what they like to watch.  They’re mine too.  They’re my family – they’re my husband’s daughters, my in-law’s grandchildren, and my kids’ siblings.

To say that I only have three kids is inaccurate.  As inaccurate as claiming that I have five kids.

I just don’t always know how to sum that up in a quick response.  So I stick with five.  Or three.  Because both are right, and wrong at the same time.



I hate driving in the snow. I just do – and I hate it extra because I live in Worcester. I’m not certain if Worcester roads are worse than all the surrounding towns, or if it just feels that way.

It took me two hours to drop my oldest two off at school today. They go to different schools, across the city from one another, and it normally takes me about a half hour. Today, two hours.

I got stuck on June Street, when a giant white van pulled out of a side street in front of me. I tried to stop, but the roads were so slippery, the brakes did nothing. I don’t think I was going faster than ten or fifteen miles an hour (because I FREAKING hate driving in the ice), but I still couldn’t stop. Given the choice between slamming into the van or the snowbank, I went with snowbank. Which was totally the right decision, but it still meant that I was totally stuck. In a snowbank. With three kids in the car.

I put on the hazards, and got out. No idea what I thought I’d be able to do, but I trekked around the car, thru the snowbank and looked at the car. Got back in the car, put on the hazards and started frantically trying to get a hold of my husband or ANYONE who could come with a shovel and try and get me out of the snowbank. I tried rocking the car back and forth, trying to calm down the kids – one of whom was completely freaked out and begging me to go home (as if I could go anywhere…).

But before I could get a hold of anyone, I realized that someone had stopped. With a shovel. And then someone else stopped. With another shovel. And they shoveled me out, pushed me out, directed traffic so that I could pull out, and then sent me on my way. I’m so sorry that I was so frazzled and frustrated, because I didn’t get their names. But the two guys that I think of as Orange Coat Guy and Grey Coat Guy – please know that I’m so grateful, and that you absolutely saved me this morning.

Julie’s not a movie sort of kid.  Actually, none of mine are.  Which clearly comes from me, because Marc has been known to wax poetically about movies he’s seen in the past, movies he’s missed out on seeing and fantasize about movies he’s like to see.  I don’t like movies, so I’ve never really made a point to make sure the kids see them.  They’ve seen their fair share, I guess.  But I was burned by the fact that two of them had really bad reactions to them – Jessie fell apart when Moses’ mom shoved him down the river in the basket of reeds, and then Sam lost his mind sobbing when Ariel left her entire family to go live with Prince Eric.

I digress… again.  I blame the snow – I’ve been stuck inside while seventeen feet of snow has been dumped on my world, and I’m starting to go a little crazy.

Anyway – the other day, maybe a week ago, I turned in desperation to movies.  I found Mary Poppins and popped it in for the two little kids.  Sam watched it with some degree of interest, but Julie fell in love.  She’s watched it four times so far, and wanders around the house singing.   It’s the only movie I can ever remember her actually sitting and watching.  And she’s watched it four times.  Each time, plopping herself down and watching the entire thing.

The big kids are outside, building snow forts and cleaning off the car.  We’re on a week of snow days, there was a half day of school last Friday, but I kept them home because the roads were still slippery.  They’ve been home since last Tuesday (Jessie was out on Monday as well with a cold).  More snow predicted for Thursday and Monday.

I’ve lived in New England all my life, so it’s not like I’m not used to snow.  But this winter has been particularly calm – with what felt like very little actual snow.   Until my birthday weekend, when all hell broke loose.  It’s been storm after storm, and the last one dumped about three feet out there.  My kids were home all last week (Sam went on Monday, but Jessie was sick), and I’m thinking they’ll probably be home again tomorrow, maybe even Tuesday, depending on how long the actual storm continues.

It’s also been a tough week because of the heating issues.  I think I feel a little extra battered by the weather because it was so cold here in the house.   Almost like a minor form of PTSD – I now hear a blizzard forecast and start to preemptively shiver.

Other than the weather woes, all is well in my world.  Superbowl today, and I’m even minor-league excited about it.  I’ll be making a trip to the library first, because it’s been a long week and I’m almost out of reading material.  Kids are all still sleeping (as is Marc), and I’m sipping my second cup of coffee and staring out the window, wondering where another foot of snow is going to go.

Big week ahead for us – Marc starts his job on Monday.   Everything changes for us now – his schedule is going to be so dramatically different, home on the weekends, and predictable “normal” hours during the week.  Two cars – which is going to be so fabulous, I lack the words to describe the impact it’ll have on everything.

Julie is writing all the time now – identifying the letters and matching the big ones with the little ones.  She asks for us to write out messages that she can copy onto cards to give people, and has created her own “calendar” that she keeps on the refrigerator.   It’s one of those things that I didn’t entirely realize she was doing – but she clipped a marker to the paper and every day, she draws a picture of her face, with appropriate smiles or weather notation so she can keep track of what happened during the month.

Sam has had a pretty sweet vacation week as well (because that’s now how I’m looking at it – a week of January vacation).  Devin was here for two days and spent the night in between.   Sam’s a kid who thrives on interaction (which is sort of the irony of Sam – he’s my most anti-social kid in some ways, but mostly, he’s the kid I have to make sure has lots of peer interaction as well, because he’s happiest with his buddies around).  He and Marc have played board games and he’s spent a lot of time recreating lego creatures.   He did a little baking with me, and has spent a lot of time with Julie – those two still play together really well.

Jessie has been focused on her writing, she’s working on a book these days, and when she isn’t doing that, she’s binge-watching netflix or sketching out her dream house.  She’s planning on four kids – all girls, Emily, Elisandra, Ginger and Penelope.   The last two are twins and she makes them share a room.  She’s reading more and more, in the middle of three different books – because I have raised her to believe that life is too short to read just one book at a time.