food things and poo things

stories for my children

April 24, 2014
by Katharine Blair
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shaken

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Yesterday the world lost Douglas McArthur.  Father of three, grandfather of three and husband of one of the strongest women I’ve ever met.  Over the last few years cancer has moved at lightening speed through his body but only in the last few months did it really begin to take it’s toll.  Doug’s death was quick and as pain free as such a thing can be but we are still heartbroken.  His open heart, big laugh and booming voice that never failed to frighten small children will be missed by all those who knew him, loved him or, like me, had the chance to know him as a child then again with our own children.

The loss of a parent is never easy and this one rocked me.  Doug was by no means young (nearly 75) but nonetheless the response from friends has been that it is the first sign that we are entering an age when it becomes apparent that our parents are fallible.  Only an overgrown child in her thirties would think seventy five is too young but that’s what I was thinking yesterday when I got the call.  Seventy five is too young because I’m too young.  We all are.  In our eyes our parents will live on forever, always there with a bit of advice and a warm home to come back to.  None of us is truly ready to contemplate the day when that is no longer true.

It does not escape my notice that when I hug Marg this weekend it will be 11 months from the day she hugged me, having driven Steph and Shawna up from Toronto to my own mother’s funeral.  Mom’s death was a fluke, an anomaly, a death too atrociously premature to count as part of the whole but now, with Doug gone, I can see we’re really here.  This past year has been hard, next month will be hard but yesterday really brought it all to the forefront.  Today I’m taking things easy and moving a little slow while I think hard about Doug and my Mom and way time rushes past when all we want is to hold on and make it stop.

 

**The above photo was taken without permission from Doug’s daughter Stephanie because it is so wonderful.  Doug with his new grandaughter, born to Fiona in his final monnths.

April 8, 2014
by Katharine Blair
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lost and found

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Yesterday I lost my wallet on the streetcar.  It actually started six hours before when my youngest hit me on the top of the head and broke my glasses, dropping a lens.  Without missing a beat I called for the hot glue gun, fixed them and put them back on, then I called Peter and told him that this day was a little out of control.  Too little sleep on the babe’s part mixed with our busiest day of the week is a pretty bad combo. But somehow I was game.

Lunch and dressed and on the streetcar we went downtown to harp where we met Peter and I tried somewhat unsuccessfully to stay awake while listening to the lesson. Then back on the streetcar.  Silence, on punishment of no snack, allowed the babe to finally fall asleep then I started digging through my bag for samosas.

Let me be clear, I knew this streetcar would be short turned.  It was the first of two 501′s following a third by only minutes so it was bound to be shuttled of onto the Woodbine loop for redirection and sure enough I was right.  Fumbling, I managed to carry the babe, still asleep, off of the streetcar and onto another one, awfully proud of everyone for their help.

Arriving at our stop, I sent the middle two ahead and the eldest and I went in search for somewhere warm and dry to sit while we waited.  The babe woke just as we say down and I began rooting through my bag for my wallet but it was not there.  We went over what had happened and decided it must have been left on the first streetcar, now long gone.

From the dojo phone I called Peter: ‘find it. No, I don’t know how, just try please’. On a whim I flagged another driver who gave me a number to call that led directly to lost and found and was told to wait and call back around midnight when the car would be in.  Defeated we went to the park.

When Peter came he has good news. Wallet found.  It was being held on the west end and at least some of my id was still in it which meant maybe I wouldn’t have to reapply for health cards and library cards and the like for me and the children.  Relief.

After all our lessons were over for the day we drove west and Peter ran into the streetcar yard to get the wallet.  All and all our adventure cost us a couple of hours and sixty five dollars in stolen cash and tokens but thankfully the cards were there and Peter’s wedding ring, which lives in my wallet just in case I find a good replacement (his joke, I promise).  It also gave us a great excuse to eat poutine and call it dinner.

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These are both pictures from inside a 501 streetcar, one of the original six of this model that came new to Toronto when I was a child. My kids are getting a new streetcar for their generation as well.  It looks sleeker and more like a train but I have a soft spot for these.  In their day they were modern and open where their predecessor was antiquated and cramped.  When my kids rode one of the old ones recently they couldn’t believe the lack of standing room or how you practically had to rub yourself against the other passengers to get in and it off the seats.  Me? I can’t wait to come back in a few years and see the future streaking along Queen street, my favorite line.

March 14, 2014
by Katharine Blair
0 comments

devious mathematics or holidays need food

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I’ve looked into you, Tauists.  I’ve watched your videos and read your manifesto but you can’t fool me with all your fancy math, we both know what this is all about.  You are among the very small but well connected minority of the population that hates pie and in your spite you want to take away our enjoyment as well.  Well look, I’m not buying it. Tauday? Who are you kidding?  When they stuck a two in front of my age it didn’t trick me into thinking it was better (6 is clearly superior to 26 anyway) and doing it with pi is not going to work either.  You can’t take your ‘it’s not even an accurate representation of the constant’ and your ‘you don’t know the meaning of infinite’ and put them right where they belong, in the bin of other holidays that failed for lack of yummy food connections.  Celebrated Arbor Day or the delightfully named Civic Holiday lately? Probably not.  If the later wasn’t a day off work in August you’d probably never even know about it.  No food, no holiday.

Get a great food involved and we’ll celebrate anything.  The birth of a mythical man? Check. The resurrection? No problem, but only if it includes those great chocolate egg laying rabbits we all love.  A day designed by advertisers to sell us flowers and chocolates and cards through the amazing power of societal shame and  one-upmanship?  Did you say chocolate? In February? I’m in.

So here’s a little advice Tauists, get a food, make one up, it’s March so this should be easy (think high in fat and salt), and market the crap out of that thing then, once we’re hooked on it, try out that math talk again.  Until then, leave me to my pi.  It’s March after all and these hips don’t grow themselves.

* For more info on these busybodies, you can visit them here: http://tauday.com

March 13, 2014
by Katharine Blair
2 Comments

having the freedom to read

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Today on Twitter author John Green noted that a group of parents in Colorado is petitioning to block a new book list proposed for students in an elective in young adult literature.  The text of the petition appears below:

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In recent consultations John’s novels (Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns) have been singled out for particular scrutiny.  For my longer response to the school board scroll down.  For my two cents: Looking for Alaska contains one of the most truthfully awkward and sad sexual encounters I have ever read.  My teenage self cringed and laughed and cried when I read it.  If this passes for pornographic, we are in a whole lot of trouble.

Now, my letter:

 

Stasburg High School
56729 East Colorado Avenue
Strasburg, CO
80136

To the School Board,

I am writing this letter in support of the book list compiled for the elective Young Adult Literature class at Strasburg High School.  As a parent of four children aged two to eleven I determined early on that one of the greatest gifts I could give my children was a love of reading and have tried, along with my husband, to do just that.  Beginning with reading to them as babes in arms we have shared all the books we loved as kids and worked with local librarians and book store owners to expose them to the wonders of language.  As toddlers they progressed to picture books then gradually to novels read aloud as a family and eventually on their own.

I now have two proficient readers and another just around the corner.  The eldest is eleven this year and as such is just entering into what may prove to be the most confusing and defining part of her life, adolescence.  As a true bookworm this child has spent most of the last few years exploring the lives of kids like her and, most importantly, those a little older than her through the worlds of Percy Jackson and the Divergent trilogy and countless others.  I did the same at her age.

Books were a place to get answers.  To find out what other kids were feeling and thinking and doing when I didn’t feel I could ask.  I read about sex and dating and drugs.  I read about divorce and racism and diversity.  I read about illness and death.  When my home was mired in violence I reached out through books into the homes of others who knew my pain and of those whose lives seemed almost aspirational from where I sat.  When it seemed like sex was the answer to making friends and keeping up with my peers, books reminded me that there is more than one path to friendship.  Books were my lifeline to who I was and who I wanted to be.

I have never censored the books my children read.  Why would I?  We have honest and open conversations about our reading and our lives.  I read a great book and pass it along, they do the same.  They have their own library cards and are encouraged to use them.  I ask ‘what are you reading?’ and they usually answer.

When I find a book shuffled into a stack when I come in or hidden between the mattress and the frame I know that they are doing what I did.  Reading for answers.  Reading for exposure and knowledge and fun.  I might take note of the title or see what they think they want to hide but rarely is it salacious.  We talk about sex at our house.  And love and death and pain.  We are their parents after all.  It is our job to guide them as best as we can through these muddy waters and out the other side.

Of all the proposed books on the reading list there are only a couple that I don’t already have on our family bookshelves in hopes that one of the kids might come to them when the time is right.  The missing ones are only missing because I have not encountered them yet.  Each of these books provide a world, a context, a foothold for a young person to grab onto in their journey towards their best self.  Any of us should be pleased to have such great writers and storytellers looking out for the hearts and minds of our children.

Thank you to the teacher who compiled this list and looks to offer this course, I would have loved to have taken it, and thank you to the School Board for considering my opinion.

Katharine Blair
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Complete proposed book list:

Young Adult Fiction Elective Course (grades 10-12) Book List:

  1. Feed by M.T. Anderson
  2. Thinner Than Thou by Kit Reed
  3. Delirium by Lauren Oliver
  4. Uglies by Scott Westerfield
  5. Taken by Erin Bowman
  6. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
  7. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  8. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  9. Will Grayson, will grayson by John Green and David Levithan
  10. Go Ask Alice by Anonymous
  11. 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
  12. Paper Towns by John Green
  13. If I Stay by Gayle Forman
  14. Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver
  15. Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  16. Looking for Alaska by John Green
  17. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  18. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare
  19. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis

March 11, 2014
by Katharine Blair
1 Comment

sprinkles!

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I made doughnuts tonight.  They were wonderful.  It was unanimous, we should have them again and again.  If only this hadn’t been a short of back of the napkin recipe I made up as I went along.  Oh well, I guess we’ll just have to make them again.

See those ones up there in the round container?  Those are headed up the street to some little lovelies that have a particular penchant for doughnuts.  I’m curious to see how these homemade vegan ones stack up to the ubiquitous coffee shop variety.  Who knows there could be many more in our future.

If you come calling one Sunday morning and there is no answer maybe just go ahead and assume we’ve had our fill of homemade doughnuts and gone back to bed.  Don’t worry about us.  A little tea, some fruit and we’ll be right as rain again in no time.

Oh, what if they freeze? We could be done for.

March 8, 2014
by Katharine Blair
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premature reconciliation

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The calendar says it’s time to ‘spring forward’ but the weather seems to disagree.  Truth is we never get spring until much later but today’s near zero temperature did make today’s long run up the DVP, over to the bank and home a whole lot nicer. That bit under the culvert alone took a good deal of resolve since I didn’t know if I could trust the ice.  If it were only a little bit warmer I’d have had to contend with thaw.  This time of year I’ll take what I can get.

March 7, 2014
by Katharine Blair
0 comments

back to the future

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The internet is back up today and I swear my baby shook with excitement when we told him the wheels on the bus video was available once again.  Other priorities: catching up on the longform.org/longreads.com postings, restarting the phone and downloading all three seasons of Veronica Mars so I never get caught having to live without it ever again.  Hat tip to Peter for realizing the benefit of that last one and losing no time in getting it started.

And now for the tally of all the things I found time to do without the internet this week: paint two bedrooms, the hallway and the living room, clean out the ‘crap room’, read two novels (only one of which was YA), rearrange the bedrooms and get a new set of bunk beds into the kids room, watch a million horse movies (or two but it very much felt like more than that), work out the first half of my 2014 running plan and, you know, play with the kids.

Thank goodness all that is over.  Now we’ve had chili fries for dinner and we’ve got big tv plans for the rest of the night.  Welcome back internet, we missed you so.