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That moment when you realize the adults were right…

1997. Like most teenage girls, I saw Titanic in the theater…four times. I was in love with it. In love with the scale of it, the costumes, the music, and most especially with Jack and Rose. Along with all those other young women in the audience, I was shocked that Rose couldn’t make room for Jack on the raft and that he perished in the water. I cried and cried over what could have been between the two of them. And while I recognized the positive impact his brief presence in her life had on her future, I couldn’t help but feel like it would have been so much better had they been able to live that life together.

2010. The movie Blue Valentine. It’s the story of Cindy, a practically minded girl and Dean, a dreamer of a guy (…sound familiar yet?). The movie’s hard to watch because these two people, when they’re young, have such a passionate romance and courtship. They decide to get married even though their entwined future is filled with uncertainty. And they end up hating each other because they are exactly who they seem to be.

2012. The 15th anniversary of Titanic’s release, and I make plans to watch it on the big screen with my friend Jennifer (with whom I saw the movie at least twice the first time around). We went in and had a very unexpected reaction. For one, I understood the line “a woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets” in a way I never could have at 18 years old. And two, I couldn’t shake the feeling that if Jack and Rose had stayed together, they would have turned into Dean and Cindy. They would have stayed who they were and ultimately it would not have been enough. Rose would have resented Jack for not being able to keep a job, and Jack would have resented Rose for asking him to. Jack was in Rose’s life just long enough to inspire her to wish for more for herself. She went on to live a full life in honor of his memory but without any of the real life issues they would surely have had.

In that moment, sitting in the theater at the end of the movie, basically sobbing, I realized that back in the ’90s at least, James Cameron knew more than I did about relationships. And he made exactly the right choice for Jack and Rose.

2014. I have a five year old child who thinks he is a peer with adults. He is smart, articulate, and has been treated with respect his whole life, therefore he believes his opinions and preferences are on an even playing field with mine or any other adult’s. On one hand, this is adorable and awesome. We can reason with Cooper more effectively perhaps than other kids his age, because he catches on quickly. He’s fun to have conversations with because he can keep up (and if he can’t, he’ll just make it up as he goes along!). On the other hand, it is a constant challenge because he doesn’t buy into the whole “I know better because I’m older and wiser” argument. And honestly, I don’t fully either. I was a smart, opinionated, articulate kid for many years, and it was frustrating to feel like my thoughts/feelings/words were set aside *just* because I happened to be a child. So I very intentionally work to not do that with Cooper. Thanks to James Cameron, I can look back on my life through a different lens and accept that sometimes, though….sometimes adults knew better simply because they had lived longer. They had experience on their side where I only had instinct. I know we won’t be able to protect Cooper from every bad decision he may be tempted to make over the years. But my hope is that we can build a trust in our relationship that assures him that when we say we know something, even if the *only* reason we can give for knowing it is that we’re older, that we’re saying it because we have his best interest at heart. And until he has his own Jack and Rose Reality Check, I hope he’ll be able to trust whatever wisdom we’ve gained just by being alive longer. Until then, I hope he can reconcile himself (and sooner rather than later for my own sanity!) that sometimes….the adults are right.



It’s hard to believe, but Cooper started Kindergarten a few weeks ago! Starting school is such a definite life transition, but he’s handling it like a champ! Cooper was SO ready for school. He has always thrived on routine, he’s very social, and he was chomping at the bit to start reading. School’s been going for a little more than four weeks, and he hasn’t complained once about going. He loves his teachers, has made some new friends, is sounding out every word he can see and constantly coming up with numbers to add and subtract! He’s just thriving, and it’s a thrill to watch.

Of course, the whole transition was a little more emotional for us! We could not be more proud of our boy, but it’s a crazy thing to think he’s officially moved into a phase of life that will last the next THIRTEEN years (probably). In an even more pronounced way than before, he has a whole little life that happens away from us every day. The amount of responsibility thrown at these kids who were just babies a few weeks before is astounding. Even though he’s done great, I was overwhelmed on his behalf with all the new things they have to learn in the first few weeks. Not just letters and numbers, but school rules, how to walk in a line, the teacher’s lingo, a schedule. It’s crazy!

For Cooper, there’s the added responsibility of managing his diabetes while he’s at school. Of course, we’re still several years away from him being able to do that independently, but already he has taken on more responsibility (dropping off his supplies with the nurse every day, walking to and from class alone). It was very stressful for me to add so many more people to our diabetes management team – two teachers, a school nurse, an after-school care teacher, and a friend’s mom who picks Cooper up a few days a week. I like to be in charge, and it was really challenging for me to accept that I won’t be in charge most days. Obviously, we tell the teachers and nurse what our preferences are, but Cooper is one of 19 students in his classroom, and one of several hundred at his school. We have to balance his individual needs with our preferences and the needs and preferences of all those other kids and parents. More days than not I speak to the school nurse once or twice during the day. She’s great about calling if anything pops up that’s out of the ordinary, and I appreciate that so much. As Cooper’s body adjusts to the new schedule, we make adjustments to his pump settings as needed, and we all figure out together what’s going to work best each day. I feel like as we all get used to the schedule and each other, those calls will become less frequent, but for now, it works. It’s still pretty stressful for me, but I’m working on it. 🙂

Paul and I both loved school and still love learning about new things. We could not be more thrilled that Cooper seems to be following in our footsteps. We’re so thankful for this great experience and can’t wait to see what comes next!

Packed and ready to head out for the first day!

Packed and ready to head out for the first day!


Here we go!

This is what confidence looks like! :)

This is what confidence looks like! 🙂

The pond outside Cooper's school. What a way to start each day!

The pond outside Cooper’s school. What a way to start each day!

Cooper's story about how he prepared for Kindergarten. Target should be pretty pleased with this brand identification! :)

Cooper’s story about how he prepared for Kindergarten. Target should be pretty pleased with this brand identification! 🙂

First homework!

First homework!

Words, words, words.

Words, words, words.

Celebratory donut with friends to start the year off right. Go Cooper!

Celebratory donut with friends to start the year off right. Go Cooper!

12 minutes this week…

If you’ve spent much time around kids, you know they develop their own version of their native language as they start to work things out in the world around them. No matter how many times we try to explain the concept of days and weeks to Cooper (we even put a calendar in his room to help), he still calls today “this week.” So, if you tell him you’re going to do something “later this week,” he thinks you mean later today. And if you accidentally answer the question “Can we go to Target this week?” in the affirmative, you’re going to have to deal with a meltdown when he realizes you meant two or three days from now.

The kid is also a master negotiator. If you’re discussing anything where the amount of time spent doing the thing is negotiable (playing in the bath before getting clean, watching a bit of a show before bed, playing Legos together, letting Mommy rest on the couch before making dinner), Cooper always brings “twelve minutes” to the table. Are you ready to get clean? In twelve minutes! You can watch a few more minutes of TV before bed. Twelve? I don’t think he has a real sense of how long twelve minutes is (because I’ve definitely cheated and called anywhere from three to twenty minutes “twelve”), it just feels relatively substantial to him.

Last night I had a bit of an epiphany. Twelve minutes, in the grand scheme of things, is not that long. But twelve minutes devoted to a single person, where you’re not being pulled in any other direction, and you can give your attention wholly to them, is a pretty big deal. I don’t know that I spend twelve minutes of my day on ONE single activity very often. I’d probably be ashamed to know how often I interrupt myself to check some form of social media. And even if I spend twelve straight minutes on Twitter, my mind’s energy is fractured into however many parts it takes to process each individual tweet, consider whether I’ll comment or retweet or favorite for later. If I’m watching TV, I’m often also reading or playing on my phone or responding to email. There are very few times when I let my mind just do one thing. I feel like that’s an unhealthy way to live.

I’m certainly not the first to wonder about how social media and inter-connectivity can ultimately make us more unsocial and disconnected than we naturally would be, or how it can pull our attention away from being with our kids and living in the moment. I’m definitely not anti-smart phone or anti-Twitter/Instagram/Facebook/Words With Friends. My life right now – my job, my relationships, my social life – depends on being connected. I accept that and I enjoy it for the most part.

But for my own mental health, and for the sake of one of the most important relationships in my life, I can commit to giving my son twelve actual, uninterrupted, undistracted minutes this week (and by that I mean today for those of you just skimming this while you’re on the toilet or wherever and who missed the explanation at the top). Twelve is a minimum, obviously, but it’s a good place to start.

Last night, Cooper asked if we could play in the loft before dinner. I was super hungry, but knew that after dinner, the evening would be busy with laundry, getting prepared for the next day, winding down for the evening. So I agreed to do it “for a few minutes.” Predictably, he responded with “twelve?”

I set a timer for twelve minutes on my phone then turned the ringer to silent so I wouldn’t get any notifications except the timer going off. Yes. Twelve minutes. This week. It was glorious.


Summer only “technically” started this past weekend, but we’ve been living like it’s summer for weeks!

Our neighborhood pool opened!

Our neighborhood pool opened!


We visited the beach and Cooper fell in love with the ocean!


He can’t get enough of the water this year!


Paul and his mini-me. 🙂


Cooper took his first airplane ride that he can remember…


…and loved every minute of it!


We toured Baltimore and spent some fun, quality time with Ben, Bird and Phantom.

The three musketeers.

The three musketeers.

Our friends Brian and Anna (whom I met during a study abroad in France in grad school!) came up for a weekend visit and wooed Cooper with presents and fireworks!

Our friends Brian and Anna (whom I met during a study abroad in France in grad school!) came up for a weekend visit and wooed Cooper with presents and fireworks!

Cooper fell asleep in a Target shopping cart....what??

Cooper fell asleep in a Target shopping cart….what??


And Paul played his first gig with his new 90’s cover band!

This summer has already been amazing, and we’re still in June! Can’t wait to see what* the rest of this season holds!



*Although, honestly, it’s probably a lot more indoor activities because it’s getting HOT!


The grind…



The last several weeks have been a blur for me. Busy at home, busy at work, busy as a wife/mom/friend/daughter/employee. The word that keeps coming to mind is “grind.” I feel like I just keep pushing through because you can’t just stop, right? So I put my head down and do a load of dishes (and then another, and then another…), and I get to work and I start on a to-do list that covers almost three pages of a legal pad, and I check Cooper’s blood sugar and keep up his food/bolus log and change his infusion site every few days. These things are never ending. They’re not always hard, they’re just….always there.

There’s a lot of chatter about maintaining a work/life balance, especially among working moms. I love my job, but I’m mentally exhausted at the end of most days. I love a clean house, but I want to choose reading over chores. I love hanging with Coops, but I crave rest. I love having me-time, but I feel guilty for shirking other responsibilities.

It is a grind, and it goes round and round.

That word kept coming to mind so often recently that I actually looked up the definition. My favorite is “to wear down, polish, or sharpen by friction.” ‘Worn down’ is what I’ve been feeling lately, but I like the idea that the grind is also polishing and sharpening me. I’m encouraged that working through this season will get me to a place of strength and balance and a little more wisdom.

For now, I feel the grind. I feel the friction and it’s often uncomfortable. But I hold on to the hope that I am being polished and sharpened for whatever comes next.

Checking in and catching up…

We three Wheelers are currently in one of the busiest times of our lives. I appreciate the moments, then, when we can check in with extended family and spend quality time reconnecting. A few weeks ago, Paul’s parents, his brother, and his brother’s wife came to town for a weekend. It’s rare that all seven of us are together, and we were able to have a nice relaxing time together, talking, watching movies, playing video games, and even having family photos made. You can see a selection of photos from our session here: This was our third time working with Candice and Daniel of The Beautiful Mess and we had a blast!

All too often, it can be easy to only notice what makes us different from our families. Old annoyances and childhood arguments carry over into adulthood and color our relationships. I’m always thankful for moments that unite us with our families and remind us just how blessed we really are to have such supportive, fun, engaged, strong, hilarious people in our lives.

Coops Eyes


Wheeler Family

My own life…

If you know me in real life, you probably know that I’ve been married for a long time. I got married relatively young, 20 years old, and am now 34. I’m just a few years away from having been married for longer in my life than not, and because I’ve done a lot of growing up in the last 14 years, my relationship with my husband, Paul, has been the defining one of my adult life.

If you know me in real life (or even just through social media), you probably also know that I love to travel. I enjoy traveling for work, for pleasure, for necessity. I like flying, I like roadtrips, I like trains. I love packing and staying in hotels. Whenever I meet someone new on a trip, the pattern of conversation goes like this: “Oh, how long have you been married?…14 years!? Wow, you must have gotten married so young!…And your husband lets you come to [insert destination] without him?”

One of the dangers for women, especially, is losing their sense of SELF after they get married or have kids. I see my friends who are wives and moms fighting the good fight all around me to hang on to who they ARE outside of these roles. Of course, OF COURSE, who we are evolves over time to include being a mom, being a wife, etc. OF COURSE, Paul and Cooper are the most important people to me and I would not make a decision that would put those relationships in jeopardy. But I have an independent streak a mile wide, and it’s extremely important to me to make sure Michelle is still in there. That she – that I – don’t get lost in who I am to everyone else. And the thing is – I really think this is healthy. When I know myself, I’m better able to BE Paul’s wife and BE Cooper’s mom.

So, yes. My husband “lets” me travel and seek adventures with family members and best friends. He “lets” me have girls’ nights. Early in our marriage, Paul and I realized that the biggest difference between us is I need more social interaction than he does. He’s a homebody and doesn’t need holiday parties, birthday dinners, cookouts and whirlwind weekend getaways as often as I do to feel balanced. We figured out (after a few frustrating arguments) that he didn’t mind if I attended these things alone, and I didn’t mind if he didn’t go when he didn’t want to. “You don’t care if I go without you?” “No, you don’t care if I don’t go with you?” “No! So, we both get what we want?” YES. There have been plenty of times where Paul does guy stuff without me – he has an annual weekend party with a group of college friends where they eat junk food and play board games or computer games together. A few years ago, he went to Puerto Rico with some guys to hang out on the beach for a few days. Once a week, he and some guys from our church get together for male bonding (believe me, you don’t want the details). And I “let” him do all of that because, just like I want to know myself, I want Paul to know himself.

One of the most controversial things I ever say about marriage is that I don’t need my husband. I don’t think it’s healthy to need him. I WANT him. I want him to be in my life, I want to do things with him, I want to know him better than anyone else. I want to live with him and raise Cooper with him, but I don’t NEED him to feel complete. It is empowering and enriching to know that we are together because we WANT to be – not because we feel like we couldn’t live without each other and not out of a sense of obligation. Just simply because we want to be. And because we WANT to be together, it is not threatening to us to encourage each other to have “our own lives.” Obviously, there’s a balance necessary here – we make time for date nights and our own weekend trips and time that’s just for us to reconnect with one another. But I have my stuff and Paul has his. And it works for us.

And having said all that….I went to the Oscars this weekend! This was the second year my best friend Bird and I got to be part of our favorite event of the year. Last year we sat on the red carpet bleachers as fans, this year – through some connections we made last year – we were hired to work the same event. It was a BLAST. We worked hard and it was a LONG day, but we had the absolute best time. And now, for sure, I don’t think we can ever go back to watching it at home on TV. We’re addicted and we have to keep going back! I’m so grateful for opportunities like this – it’s my favorite thing about being an adult. And I’m SO thankful for a husband who “lets” me have my own life and supports these crazy ideas that I come up with.


Checking out the red carpet the day before the ceremony. Isn’t she beautiful??