Friday, April 11, 2014

The B word

I don't usually get this question (thankfully), but randomly, I've been asked three times in the past week if I have a boyfriend.

Conversation 1 was with an old acquaintance I ran into.

Acquaintance: Are you still dating that guy you were with a while back?

Me: Oh no. It's been ages.

Him: So you're single these days?

Me: Yes and no.

Him: What does THAT mean? Because if you're single I might have a nice guy or two to set you up with.

I explained that I am not currently taking new dates, but that my relationship is still in its first trimester so I'm not quite ready to call myself NOT single. It's a big commitment.

Conversation 2 occurred at my pottery studio while Robot was there with me. When he got up to go to the bathroom a fellow potter cornered me and asked if he's my boyfriend.

"Well, you know..." I answered (or rather failed to answer) him vaguely. Luckily he didn't press the point when Robot reappeared a few seconds later.

Finally, today at lunch my student Y was inspired by an ill-advised conversation yesterday with her birth mother that involved a promise that said birth mother would procure my 8-year-old student a boyfriend.

Y: Ms. Heathen, you got a boyfriend?

Me: Well, Y, that's a very personal question and I am not going to answer it.

Y: So what's his name?

Me: [after almost blurting out "Robot!" but catching myself just in time] Y, I told you I don't want to discuss it.

Y: [in a slightly pitying tone] Ohh, so you don't got one?

Me: Y! We're not going to talk about this anymore. Who wants to listen to some Raffi?

And this is the child who some would have labeled cognitively delayed! So I guess I'm not quite ready to use the B word yet, at least in public.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sharing is not fun

My twin autistic four-year-old students, who we affectionately call the "wolf children" because it sometimes seems as though they were raised by wolves, continue to be a source of joy, hilarity, and frustration. Lately, we've been using a strategy called "social stories" for M, the wolfier, more theatrical of the two. The idea is that we print out a few pages about a social situation we want her to work on. For instance, when she was nervous about a field trip last week, we printed photos with accompanying sentences about things she'd see and do on the field trip -- "I will ride the bus to the field trip. On the bus ride, I will keep my voice quiet so I can hear my teachers' directions." By reading it a few times and looking at the pictures she'll start to internalize some of the ideas.

Today I brought out a different social story, "Sharing is fun!", during math center time when M started to growl at other students who were sharing some plastic animals with her. She eagerly grabbed the book from my hand and started perusing it. I thought it was a positive sign that she seemed so excited by it. Unfortunately, I noticed after a few minutes that the words had undergone a change:

"Sharing is NOT fun," she read, running her finger over the words on the cover. "I WON'T share crayons and pencils. I WON'T share blocks and toys." She looked up and glared meaningfully at the other four-year-olds in her group, who continued to play with the plastic animals obliviously, before continuing to the section about how to ask for a turn ("I WON'T ask a friend if I can have a turn").

*Sigh*. Apparently "M is going on a field trip!" got a re-write, too. You guessed it -- the new title became "M is NOT going on a field trip."

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Pink, blue & purple

It was literacy center time in first grade. Kids were participating in reading groups, correcting sentences and cutting out and illustrating a poem to glue into their poetry notebooks. 

J hates cutting. I offered him a deal: if he cut the top half, I'd do the bottom. When he was done, he handed me the half-cut poem along with a pair of purple scissors. "These are for you, because girls like purple," he explained. 

I groaned inwardly. I didn't want to take away from literacy time by launching into a long discussion about gender, but I also want to do what small part I can to send my students the message that these rigid gender rules no longer apply. I decided to address the matter quickly. 

"You know, J, some girls do like the color purple," I told him. "But girls can like any color. Some girls like green, other girls like blue, other girls like yellow. And boys can like any color, too. Red, green, purple, you name it." 

J looked at me blankly.

I tried to make one more point before wrapping things up. "J, when you talk about me, or Ms. M or Ms. C or any of your teachers, there's a better word that you can use than 'girl.' Girls are children. Am I a child? No. So do you know what a grown-up girl is called? A woman." 

The two other members of the literacy group piped in at this junction (both of them are female). 

"And women wear dresses!"

"And they get married!"

I gave up. Maybe, just maybe, J and the girls now think that some of those dresses that women wear are a different color than pink. It's doubtful, but one can always hope. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Two feet forward

If I'm honest with myself, I have had a few moments of being a little bit crazypants the past few weeks. Maybe even more than a few. For instance:
  • When Robot told me he was at a specialist doctor's office, but failed to specify what type of specialist, I decided that it was probably an oncologist. (It wasn't.)
  • There have been times when I haven't heard from him in as short a span as two hours, and become certain that he's going to break up with me. 
  • When he woke himself up from a dream by saying "Nooooo!!!" out loud, I asked if he was dreaming about me. (Fortunately, apart from that, I've mostly succeeded at hiding my crazies from him.)
  • He sent me a text that read, "You're pretty great." I thought, "Only PRETTY great?! He's clearly losing interest!"
We've been having a *lot* of fun together lately. On Sunday we drove up the coast and went exploring. He took me rock climbing for the first time, and I managed to neither injure nor humiliate myself. And one night he serenaded me on his guitar with an enchanting mix of Bob Dylan and Iron and Wine.

But really, I like Robot so much that it doesn't much matter what we do. Spending an hour shopping with him at the camera store, or going to the library to look for a book for one of his students, or even driving with him to the airport is about 1,000 times more fun than going out on a fancy date with any of the guys I've dated over the past two years.

Robot is away for a couple of weeks, and I'm ready to let go of the crazies and put both my feet in. Watch out, CVS, I might even be ready to invest $1.99 in a toothbrush.

Saturday, March 1, 2014


I get very superstitious when I have a new boyfriend. It's hard to believe, but I've never had even a SINGLE relationship work out, so you can understand my trepidation.

The other day I went to the CVS and spent a solid ten minutes in the toothbrush aisle, debating whether I should grab a toothbrush for my new boyfriend, Robot. (No, he doesn't work in IT.) I just couldn't bring myself to do it, so eventually I walked away, toothbrush-less. I was sure that if I got him one, it would end up being thrown away unused.  So until things feel more solid or my dentist gives me a free one I'm making him use mine. My dentist would not be happy about that, but so far the relationship gods seem to be smiling on me, and if my dental hygiene suffers it's a small price to pay.

This weekend, he mentioned that his birthday is in a week and a half. Like the many toothbrushes I've thrown away over the years after just a few uses, I have invested time and time again in gifts for boyfriends for birthdays, holidays, etc. that had to be returned, or that I was stuck with. I bought La Moustache yarn to knit him a sweater just before our epic breakup; with Monkeyboy, in addition to several generous gifts, I had purchased ingredients to bake him his favorite cake. Most recently, in December I bought one Christmas gift for Trusty and was about to purchase a second, non-returnable one.

I don't think that Robot is going to turn out to be another Monkeyboy, nor do I anticipate that we will be breaking up in the next ten days. I like him an awful lot, and the feeling seems to be mutual. But I'm not running any risks. I'll be buying him a birthday gift en route to his house on the day of. If the only store I can find is a gas station, so be it. Happy birthday, Robot, I got you a gas card.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Idaho datin'

"Next time you're here, I'll take you fishing," promised my cousin on my second-to-last day in Idaho. My revelation that I've never fished has been a big topic of conversation this week.

"Don't forget, we have to go hunting, too," I reminded him. "And you know what else I'd like to do? I'd really like to get up to Cousin Clide's cabin one of these days."

"You got it," he replied. "We'll take a couple of ATVs up there and drive around."

There was a pause, then, "You know, if you ever moved to Idaho, you'd be pretty popular," my uncle told me. "A girl who wants to go fishing, hunting, and four-wheeling - the guys would be into you."

"She likes beer,too," added my cousin.

Monday, February 17, 2014

He's got swag

My roommate has introduced a new term to the lexicon: swag. It turns out that swag does not mean free stuff that you get at fancy events, as I had previously thought; it means a magical combination of confidence, charm and humor that makes men attractive to women. Or, in its absence, makes a perfectly good-looking man utterly devoid of interest.

I was flattered and intrigued when my post-Kevin date started sending me a stream of texts indicating that he was interested in me and might even be thinking that I could be a Kevin. He didn't beat around the bush. But was I interested? I was on the fence; I thought he might be flaggy. When he asked if doing donuts in an empty parking lot during a snowstorm sounded fun I thought, is this guy for real?? That's so not my style.

But then I went out with him again, and then again, and he got a glowing endorsement from one of my oldest friends and brought me a photo of a rose (it'll never die) and a fancy bottle of wine on Valentine's Day, and we stayed up till 3 am watching the Olympics and it was the best Valentine's Day ever. And by the time I flew to Idaho five days after I met him I was thinking yes, I will go do donuts with you in an empty parking lot. Whatever you want to do, I am IN.

The man's got some serious swag, and it's powerful stuff.