I was trying to keep my voice down, because I wanted to keep going through the mechanics of the disagreement.  I wanted to stand there and make it exuberantly dramatic.  But I didn't, because there was someone in the aisle with us.  A young college girl, picking up school supplies for the summer semester.  She kept stealing glances our way, trying to figure out if we were actually having an argument, or if I was just being silly.

The truth is, Joel loves to catch me unaware as I debate over a decision that some might roll their eyes at.  You see, I haven't learned to be imperfect yet, but he's teaching me to roll with the punches.  He's teaching me to just shrug and not take myself so seriously. 

Because in MY world, it has to be perfect.  It has to go according to plan.  And when it doesn't, a tremor of anxiety runs through me and I become irritable and/or visibly upset.  I used to get upset - and he may argue that I still do - when he points these things out to me. 

I could bring up the example of how we each determined how we should be going though Paris' Louvre.  How I fumed and pouted until he gave me the map, and allowed me to lead.  How we walked every square foot of the Louvre that day.  It's one of our more famous examples of how we both like to control situations - but I'm much more set on it than he is.

I can deal with things that are unplanned or unexpected, but if it is *I* who has a plan in mind, and that plan does not go, well, as planned...it brings a raincloud right on over my head.

The longer I date Joel, of course, the less and less this becomes an issue.  Sometimes I have my bad days, sure.  But I'm becoming better at it (at least I'd like to think so).  I'm rolling with the punches more. 

So when he caught me yesterday afternoon, having a white girl dilemma about what kind of cash box I should buy for an upcoming garage sale - should I go with the $10 box with no room for bills on the top drawer? or should I go with the $17.99 box with the roomy dividers on top and space below for assorted items like checks - when he caught me doing it, I was embarrassed because he was totally right.  And I knew he was.  I'm only going to use this cash box once.  Just get the cheap one.  But I still felt like I had to prove my point, so I made it a little more dramatic than it really was, just to pretend I hadn't learned my lesson and changed my mind.

You might be surprised to learn I'm not an only child - I'm the eldest of two girls.  Sometimes I don't act like the older sister, and I totally know it. 

In the end, I picked up the $10 cash box.  But I held my ground on the price labels.  Doesn't everyone know that the best way to label garage sale items is with masking tape?  DUH.  ;)

I explained my multiple reasons for my masking tape decision, right there in the aisle.  And then it was his turn to pretend I was being silly (even though I was picking up the cheaper item!  on my own!), and our voices carried through the next few aisles, I'm sure, as we continued to poke and prod at each other's mental sweet spots.  We know each other well.  We walked out hand in hand from the store, cash box and masking tape in hand.

Bike Ride


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This was a good day.
A six-year-old should probably be gearing up towards being off the training wheels, but well, let's just say he doesn't get an opportunity to practice often - unless he's with us.  So, Joel bought him a brand new bike since his other bike stays at his mom's house.  We outfitted him with a helmet, and then we went for a nice long bike ride.  I think I counted five crashes, but it was more overconfidence and fast turns rather than balancing on the bike.
His little khaki pants just kill me.




Okay, don't tell anyone, okay?  My boyfriend is amazing.  Ah-mazing. 

In one of his acts of awesomeness today, he cooked a mexican buffet - yeah, not a meal, but a buffet - for my friend and I tonight.  Isn't he the sweetest?! 

I am amazed that every single day I get to call him "my own," and have to bite my tongue every time someone tells me their boyfriend is so great because they either...took out the trash, cooked them dinner, did the laundry, you know, a feat of epic proportions that occurs once a month...because he does that every day.  EVERY day.  I'm not even kidding.

Wait, why is he with me again?

Well.  I'm honored.  Truly.  Happy (almost) 18 months, hun.
On our last full day in Toronto, we decided to venture to Centre Island for a day of fun. 

We arrived around 10 a.m. to the ferry and climbed up to the top portion so we could feel the wind in our face.  We stood at the front of the ferry, taking in the water and the island that was drawing closer.  The clouds were ominous, darkening with every passing moment, but we continued on.  Once docked, we walked quickly to Centreville Amusement Park, which is a small ride-heavy park with an adorable "Coney Island" feel to it.  Almost all the rides were appropriate for children, and Little Guy rode all but four:  the ferris wheel (too high),  the bumper cars (not tall enough), the water bumper boats (not tall enough), and the log flume (but he watched me ride).  LG was very brave, as he normally - how do I put this delicately - spazzes out at the mere mention of some of the rides.  To our surprise, he hopped onto several of the more thrilling rides, such as a cute child's coaster and an indoor "Scrambler" where the cars move back and forth and fling you from one wall to the next.  He was brave, but determined that those rides were definitely not for him.  We rode with him on the carousel, the spinning teacups, the spinning monkey barrels (ugg, Joel and I don't do well on spinning rides), the haunted house, and several other rides.  There were several LG-sized car rides that he did as well.  As we were taking a ride on the Jalopies, the clouds decided to let loose and pour.  Pour!  We stood for a moment under the awning, deciding what to do next.  I noticed an ice cream parlor across the way, so we quickly ran into the parlor and ordered some delicious ice cream.  I hadn't eaten ice cream for what felt like months (which may not be inaccurate) so I savored every lick of my chocolate chip cookie dough cone.  After riding the Jalopies a few more times, the rain had somewhat died off and we moved on to the next few rides.  After about fifteen minutes, the rain had broken and the sun was shining through the clouds.  We finished up all the rides, and stopped for lunch at a restaurant inside the amusement park.

Then, we walked down to the other side of the island and rented a quadricycle:  a three-seated, four-wheeled bike!  It had a little canvas top over it, so we were shielded from the sun for the most part.  We rode the bike for about an hour and fifteen minutes, and then turned it back in and walked around some more and visited the beach.

The bike, though, was by far my favorite part of the experience because it was just so cute and classic.  I'll share a video of us riding it.  Little Guy is most helpfully talking...the entire time...and "helping" us ride the bike.  For whatever reason he is making baby cooing noises at the beginning of the video.  I didn't notice it until I was home and watched the video and realized...dude...you sound like a baby!

I love our little family.  :)
Here's me rockin' the log flume (by myself - LG was too chicken to go):
Joel hanging out on the beach...

Joel's dissertation prospectus is today!  Send him good thoughts!  :-)


We went and walked down by the riverfront upon awakening the next morning.

Then, the agony came of having to acknowledge the fact that we had to check out of the beautiful, relaxing room.  Who would ever want to leave?  Certainly not me.  But, I left with a renewed calmness, and a vow that I would one day have a bathroom like the one I spent many hours ogling over.  Come on, dissertation, you aren't going to write yourself...

After we were done with the wineries, Joel surprised me by bringing me to a bed and breakfast.  If you are imagining all B&Bs to be quaint and country-cutesy, strike that mental image out of your head, because look at where we partied that night:

Yes, that is a double shower with multiple showerheads.  AND, it functions as a steam shower too.  Can you say, HEAVEN.  You can pretty much bring a circus AND all of Indiana Jones' posse in there and still have elbow room.  It's awesome.  Here's a closer look:
The picture above is the B&B third floor.  We, for whatever stroke of good fortune, had the ENTIRE B&B to ourselves.  So if you are asking yourself, did she take the opportunity to prance and twirl around naked, the answer is most definitely yes.  Or maybe.

I cannot recommend this place highly enough - every detail was attended to, right down to the complimentary wine, cheese, and crackers supplied to us.  And then you might ask, well did you drink wine in the enormous jacuzzi tub?  And the answer to that question is most definitely - YES.  And, I had picked up some chocolate covered strawberries at a local chocolate store earlier that day and it went perfect, no, divine! with the wine. 

Here's the B&B info.

Joel was the mastermind behind all of the events you are about to see.  He's a quick mastermind too; I believe he planned all this within two days.  He wanted to treat me to a nice escape and congratulate me on passing prelims, so he told me to keep my weekend clear.  I had no idea what he was planning.

First, on Friday I left my class early and left my TA to proctor the exam my students were taking, and met Joel out in the parking lot.  We traveled to Missouri and went on the Hermann Wine Trail, one of many stops.  Hermann is a charming area, as it has quite a few German descendants and holds quite a wonderful Old Germany feeling to its historic setting. 
Visiting wineries is one of our favorite activities to do together.  We didn't drink much wine, just tasting and buying bottles we liked to bring home.

Winery #1:    Röbller Vineyard

We bought a few bottles, and moved on to Winery #2:  Bommarito Estate
At this particular winery, we were able to have an extended chat with the co-vintner of the estate.  She was really friendly and gave us some helpful suggestions about sweeting wines.   I didn't take any pictures of the vineyard, but this was the sky above the fields (I couldn't help but blow out the sky in post-processing, the clouds were incredible looking):
Winery #3:  Bias Vineyards
We stopped here and had a bite to eat as well, as Joel had packed quite the selection into the cooler:  sausage, three types of cheese, apples, crackers, chocolate.  There were some train tracks nearby that we had to cross over in order to leave the winery.
Winery #4:  OakGlen Winery and Vineyards
This winery had an absolutely incredible view.
Winery #5:  Hermannhof Vineyards
This is a winery within the heart of the town of Hermann.  Their style is old world, and they even have a cheese and sausage shop attached to the tasting room.  Some photos of the tasting room and their quaint wine cellars:
We traveled a short distance to Winery #6:  Adam Puchta
This winery had some seriously awesome wine.  Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures (I think I was more enamored with the wine).  Their tasting room, merchandise room, and outside seating were quaint and low-key, but their quality was amazing.

Then, we backtracked a little and went to Winery #7 (phew!):  Stone Hill Winery
Stone Hill has quite the interesting history, and they give tours every half hour of their extensive cellars. 
With tired feet but happy hearts, we went to our next stop:  a bed and breakfast!

“Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse.  "It's a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful.  "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

On Friday evening, Joel had Little Guy for the evening so we decided to go to Disney Pixar’s “Up.”  The premiere of the movie was so crowded that by the time we arrived and went to find our seats, the only seats for three available were up at the front.  Considering we were watching Up in 3D, we didn’t want to sit that close to the screen.  I motioned to two seats on a row further back, and one empty seat next to the aisle one row back from the two.  Joel escorted five year old LG to the seats, and I took my place on the edge by the aisle.  The movie began, and I don’t want to leak any spoilers here, but there are several heart-wrenching moments in the movie.  Every adult in the theatre was wiping their eyes, and Joel and I kept turning to look and smile at each other in our goofy 3D glasses.  One of the subplot lines in the movie involves a little boy who wishes he could earn one more badge to complete his adventurer training.  He hopes that by earning his last badge, he will entice his distant father to be at the award ceremony.

I haven’t given this topic much attention on this site, mainly because it hasn’t needed mention.  LG is not my son; he is Joel’s son from a previous marriage.  Currently, Joel shares equal custody of LG with his ex-wife, and the past year that has meant he has shared equal time between parents.  LG’s primary residence will remain at his mother’s, in accord with the divorce agreement.  For the most part, LG has dealt with the separation very well, only experiencing minimal frustration as he adjusts from one lifestyle to the other and has had no problems at school.

This summer is the first summer LG will experience a two week gap in between seeing the other parent; normally his schedule is set up for T/TH and every other weekend with his dad.  Now, he will be spending two weeks on and off with us through the summer.

Joel has arranged for LG to visit once a week for an overnight visit, and it has become increasingly difficult as LG struggles with the interruption in routine.  It is clear he misses his Dad.  Joel is struggling with the knowledge that even this minimal schedule will be broken by this time next year, as he will be graduating out of this doctoral program (at the same time I will) and we plan to move out of the area, though it’s unclear how far away.  It’s heartbreaking to watch, as I feel as if I can’t do anything to ease anyone’s pain.  I can only stand back and watch as the remnants of what was left of their previous life experience further change.  It isn’t always as dramatic as I’m making it sound, as we do become caught up in the everyday hustle, and mostly time flies right on by as if we are only passengers on this train called life.

But sometimes, sometimes that train comes to a halt, and the bare emotions that lay before us take our breath away with the sharpness that accompanies them.  I’ve been slow in wanting to gain LG’s true trust and genuine love.  He loves me, just like he loves everyone, as he is an equal opportunity lover.  He’s the kind of kid that has no qualms about hugging strangers and making sure everyone gets a chance to play.  He listens to me and responds to me and we both enjoy the time we have with each other.  Occasionally, though, and it seems to be right when we are both first together, we tend annoy the other.  I’m pretty sure it’s mainly my issue, as I’ve come to discover that I like daily activities to play out a certain way, and as to roughly quote something I read recently, “There is nothing that prepares you for the whirlwind that is a child.”  This interruption in how I’ve planned for things to go (call it a control issue, if you will) is often jarring and sets me on edge.  Once I get over that initial adjustment and add in the little whirlwind, I’m much better and I become the loving patient person that I know I am capable of being most of the time.  I do have the feeling sometimes of the velveteen rabbit, learning how to become real, how to deal with the real, raw emotions a child is so capable of eliciting.  It hurts, sometimes, but I’m coming to learn that I don’t mind being hurt.  

After the movie, we continued on to a local pizza joint that we affectionately call “LG’s Garden,” stemming from LG’s explanation to our waitress one evening about what the purpose of the back patio garden was for.  “Everyone should come here and write their names on the bricks when they eat here,” he excitedly continued, eyebrows raised, “and that way it can be everyone’s garden!”  Ever since, we’ve called it his garden, and it’s a nice place to take a five-year old.  They rarely have more than 5 customers at any one time, and so our favorite thing to do is to sit out on the back patio/garden all alone, listening to the music and eating good pizza and pasta.  This particular night, it was much more crowded that normal, but we still managed to score a table in the garden patio.  We placed our order, and LG became uncharacteristically quiet.  He wouldn’t answer any questions and had this very faraway look in his eyes.  He then climbed into his Daddy’s lap and snuggled against his neck.  Although I couldn’t hear what he was whispering, I knew exactly what he was talking about from the look on Joel’s face.  Joel comforted him, and explained that he missed him too, and he was very sorry that he also couldn’t be there all the time, and that he couldn’t move back in, but that LG had two sets of families that loved him very much.  LG didn’t move, only stayed pressed against Joel’s chest, his knees digging into Joel’s thighs.  His little fingers pulled down on the collar of Joel’s t-shirt and he snuggled in closer.  From where I was sitting, the fading light and the soft glow of the little lights in the tree behind them framed them both.  The image they were creating was crushing and heartbreaking, and my heart was aching as Joel’s eyes filled with tears.  I felt so apart from them at that moment, and decided to let them spend it alone, father and child.  

Our waitress arrived with our pizza and pasta, and we all quietly recovered for a few minutes as we started to eat.  LG broke the silence by enthusiastically noting, “This is the goodest pizza I have ever had!” and as he looked straight at me and grinned, my little velveteen rabbit heart swelled in my chest and I smiled back at him.


We are lying down, relishing the lazy Sunday morning.  LG volunteered to massage my back, so he asks me to lift my tank top up towards my shoulders.  He gives a few quick strokes and then starts paddling a plastic sword against my back.  He grows bored and holds still.  "You're hot," he observes.  "I am?"

"Yes," he says, and wiggles out of his shirt off and folds himself against my back.  "I like laying against people who are warm."  I grin at Joel and say, "Well, me too."  He flips over on his back and says, "Now we are laying back to back.  I want to lay belly to belly."  He lifts his 5-year-old self off of me and tries to move my shoulders.  "Turn over!  I want to put my belly on yours."  I grin but oblige, and flip over onto my back.  I pull my tank top up a little so my belly is exposed.  He lifts my tank top up higher and tries to lift it off of me.  "No, I want to keep my shirt on."  He frowns and says, "But I want to lay boobies to boobies."

I start laughing and say, "But you don't have boobies!"  He points to his little nipples and says, "I have little ones!  But you have big ones."  Surprised at his recent fascination with breasts, I try to change the subject and pull my shirt down tight.  He instead just lays down on me, resting his belly against my clothed belly and putting his head on my chest.  "I like it here," he says, lazily closing his eyes. 

I look over at Joel and he mouths, "I like it there, too."