food things and poo things

stories for my children

October 24, 2014
by Katharine Blair
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nails and conspiracies

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I have vivid memories of my mother just a little older than I am now. She’s perched on the couch in the front room of our house on West, feet on the floor filling her nails in one of her long white night gowns. What a ridiculous thing to do I thought as I passed through the room. Little did I know that one day I’d finally negotiate an uncomfortable truce with nail biting and have nails that would require filing of their own.

I was just older than my eldest then and Mom seemed a quite proper adult. It delights me to no end to reach this age myself and find out she was only a person with slightly more experience than I.

Today I filed my nails and painted them a color I would never choose but one I saw so often on Mom.

Today I’ve been chucking to myself as I putter through the day that these children of mine? They think I’m an adult but some day they’ll know the truth. Until then, let’s keep up the charade. Lord knows when they find out it’s going to get a lot harder to get them to do, well, anything really.

October 23, 2014
by Katharine Blair
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stillness by design

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There is a post all about how we have changed and adapted here since Peter left for California in the works but for today perhaps just a look at how we’ve been spending our days.

With the good weather waning we have been so happy with our decision to get out and explore as many of the parks in this city as we can before we go. Today was the Chester Hill Lookout followed by Todmorden Mills, The Brickworks and the south end of the Beltline Trail.

There was walking and hiking, sketching and a stop by the water to eat but mostly there were the beautiful moments caught between siblings. An older brother encouraging his little buddy to stop and sketch his findings. Two girls, one tall and a little awkward, one smaller and always struggling to catch up. On these adventures I usually lag a little behind, watching, documenting and listening. These children of mine never cease to amaze.

In the woods they quickly set aside their petty differences and become advocates for each other: ‘Mom, he’s having trouble. Can we wait?’, ‘no, it’s really great. It looks just like the tree you showed me’. They spot birds for each other and carry the little one’s scooter without being asked. They seem so happy here.

This is the stillness we’ve been working so hard to create in our everyday lives. Waking by our own clocks, listening to ourselves and each other to find just the right compromise between what needs doing and what each of us wants. Sometimes it’s as easy as trading off who does what or who goes where (oh, the joys of older kids!) but mostly it is a careful dance through the morning as people wake up and find their bearings.

Once we are all gathered and finished making our plans for the day we set out to one corner of the city or another and quickly lose ourselves in the trees.

Interwoven of course are lessons, like karate today, that pull us back onto roads but even then we sneak back home along the water. Throwing rocks into the lake at dusk, talking about dinner and pinhole projectors and the eclipse we only managed to see the beginning of before the city took over, obscuring it from view. This city that I
love, city within a park, you’re making it hard to leave.

August 17, 2014
by Katharine Blair
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revisiting

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I remember the first time I saw the looms in the Meeting House at Riverdale Farm. I was just old enough to understand that in that room crammed full of wood and wool and history amazing things were happening. I still look up at those windows every time I visit. So fun to sit down to do a little weaving at my own loom with a little friend on my lap and know that I’ve found a way to sneak them in.

August 14, 2014
by Katharine Blair
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Beltline

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This morning was probably my second to last long run before Peter leaves and I wanted to make it count. Beltline to Mount Pleasant, down the other fork of the Beltline to the Brick Works then up the DVP to Stan Wadlow. This city within a park is living up to it’s name.

August 4, 2014
by Katharine Blair
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Scarborough Bluffs

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This morning I headed out for one of my last long runs before Peter leaves next weekend. I took four hours to run over to the Bluffs in the longest windiest way I could think of them back home sticking as close as I could to the water.

A fortuitous post I found on the way to me down to a gravel path that runs alongside the lake south of the Mission before dead ending just to the left of the picture on the bottom. Not wanting to head back up to the road I set of scrambling across the Bluffs up and over the greenery at the bottom left of the image before doing to the rocks that lined the sore, taking my shoes of and wading/climbing to the beach.

When I reached the park two groups stopped me to talk and I realized they had been watching my whole adventure from the far shore. I probably use the word dangerous the or for times in each interaction but I’ll definitely come back. A lovely way to spend my last few quiet miles.

June 25, 2014
by Katharine Blair
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food even when you don’t want it

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I’ve been thinking a lot about food.  It started with an attempt to cajole daughter number two to increase her calorie intake in the fall.  The doctors were getting antsy again and I was having trouble making sure I got the food in that I was needing so we set out together to try eating five meals a day in an effort to spread out the effort.  She gained better than expected but I continued to struggle.  Right around the time our move got delayed I started experiencing huge dips in energy mid morning that came on like a fog I couldn’t escape that would hover around my head for hours clouding my thoughts and ability to reason.  Next came the heartburn that manifests like a sickly, sour taste at the back of my throat then finally I got my period back after the babe (I know, 27 months, no one cares) then promptly lost it again.  After repeated trips to the doctors for bloodwork and an ECG and finally a stress test to try to reproduce the effects while being monitored, I resigned myself to taking the referral to a sports doctor my doc had suggested to see if he had ever heard of anyone else with the same complaints.  Throughout this whole period I was watching what I ate.  Sugar was out (including tums) since it aggravated the heartburn.  Beans followed and bread was reintroduced after an elimination period.  I was getting really fun to eat with.  Don’t even ask about the sauerkraut. Sauerkraut three times a day interspersed with fresh pickles to rebuild the gut flora.  Weeks where I’d manage three days pain free and remember what it was like to feel normal again, except for the fog.  Always the fog.

In preparation for the sports doctor I starting tracking my eating and activity metrics so I could best represent the problem.  I searched high and low for apps that would let me easily record all the ins and outs without making my food and exercise a focal point of some sort of social media nightmare.  I finally found FatSecret (horrible name, great product) that lets you track these things without turning it into a game and forcing you to invite your friends to ‘motivate/laugh at/with you’.  After filling out the preliminary info about my height, weight, activity level and goals the app assigned me a calorie level I was to strive for in order to maintain my current weight (my goal) in a healthy way.  2600 calories.  After tracking for two days I found that not only was I coming in under that total but that my energy expenditures were much higher than expected.  Clearly the discrepancy was causing some of my problems, no?

The truth is I don’t know.  After a week or so of trying to eat closer to the prescribed number of calories (I still haven’t made it all the way to matching output) I was still foggy and battling the heartburn but I got my period back which in all but the obvious ways can’t be a bad thing.  Always nice to know that you are functional at base levels even if that does mean that you are also fertile and therefore a person who has to consider such things. I’ve been recording now for nearly a month and I really can’t say what I’ve managed to sort out other than some deep seated conflicting ideas about food and exercise and body image that I’m slowly sifting through.  I’m trying to eat the more than 3000 calories I seem to expend but it is hard to do it well without beginning to look at the food with loathing and fatigue.  I feel defeated by this process much of the time but given that I’m headed into a period where it will just be me and the kids alone for months I’m feeling the pressure to do what I can to get it under control.  Last but certainly not least, I’m feeling closer than ever to kid #2 who struggles everyday to sustain herself with food she neither craves nor enjoys.  Many, many times in the last few weeks we commiserated about the difficulty of eating because you know you should when you’d rather do anything but.

This week’s goal is to inch the food a little closer and try to find a way to adequately estimate calories burned for a breastfeeding woman who lugs a toddler and bag full of crap everywhere she goes. Yesterday I spent to much time trying to figure out which walking speed best approximates the amount of energy I expended while digging through for bind off clothes for the socks I knew were there then the time spent wrestling said toddler to get them on. Desk work, my ass. Let’s get some real activity categories: Holding an average toddler at arms length over a drinking fountain for five minute intervals; squatting repeatedly to find the thing you said was there but they refused to believe you and look for them selves; tying and trying tiny shoes. To hell with it. Tomorrow I’m crediting myself for six hours sleep and 18 hours of calisthenics, heavy.

May 27, 2014
by Katharine Blair
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moving forward

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Today started like all days, with an early alarm and a trip to the gym but then, on the elliptical I got an email from Dad telling the sweet story of the first time our family went to what would become a special place in my childhood. It is the anniversary of my mother’s death. I had Peter read the email, too caught up to reread it myself and set my mind to having a great day. We walked to harp (16k/10 miles round trip) stopping at the hospital to refill our bottles with ice water and at the grocery store for frozen treats which we shared with a fellow traveler we met along the way. I watched my children play at ‘Stinky’s’, the park I played in as a child.

We came home tired and sore and burnt (just me. Who knew you could burn the backs of your calves?) to meet a cousin turned babysitter then Peter and I went out on our first date in eleven+ years.

Wish I Was Here was wonderful. It was sad and touching and funny but also a bit too much. The story centers around the looming death of a father/grandfather and the way a death can make clearer all the truths we try to hide from ourselves. Ten years ago Garden State found me a little awkward and ambivalent in my new role as adult and WIWH seems to have followed right along to where we are now. The loss of a parent, the trade offs we make as couples to allow each other happiness and the ways on which we take these gifts for granted. So touching, so poignant, so perfect for today.

May 22, 2014
by Katharine Blair
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for all the wrong reasons

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I’ve been writing a post in my head for the last hour about how terrible it is that we sell exercise to women with headlines like ‘six moves for perkier tata’s’ and ‘sexy ass and abs workout to get you ready for the beach’ but the truth is that I used to have a great ass, pre kids and life and whatever, and regardless of my ability to see through the misogynistic messages in these taunts I’ve spent the last seven weeks in the gym trying to get it back.  The worst part? It’s working and I couldn’t be happier. The takeaway, I suppose, could be that I’m a strong woman who is owning her body and doing what makes her happy but in reality I loved that ass and how other people liked it and how it made them like me.

This body of mine and I are on interesting terms these days. Out from the comfort of being a person with young kids and probably more on the way, I have to own it differently now. Like all other parts of my life it needs new focus and a new sense of purpose and for now I think I’ve found it. Since my foot acted up again I’ve been in the gym nearly every morning, skipping out early before the kids wake, and I’m finding meditation in the drudgery and pain of pushing and pulling, molding and growing this body of mine into the body of my imagining.

I’m thinner now than I ever was pre kids. And stronger. I can do deadlifts for days and I make secret boards on Pinterest with tips for figure competition and photos of women who’ve obviously put in the work. I can tell you the advantages of a three day split over a five day and how best to structure a workout to get the most result for your effort. I know what a v-taper is and I’m working towards having one of my very own.

It’s early days for sure but right now this new world is invigorating.

It took a couple of weeks to see change but eventually I did and then a few weeks later Peter caught on. Now I catch him lingering a little longer when I call for a towel and it’s a pretty great feeling. After eighteen years it’s nice to still be able to turn his head but honestly my proudest moments happen when I’m alone, in the gym, stacking one more plate than last week, knowing that I’m putting in the effort.

So… Superficial pursuit or reclamation of my body after years of childbearing? I’m not sure yet but I do know I’ve got a workout pinned called ‘how to get haters’ that influenced the plan I’ve got for tomorrow and my alarm is set for six o’clock. I also know at my stress test today the doctor got bored waiting for me hit the target heart rate so I must be doing something right.

And some good news: After nine weeks I went for my first run on Saturday. It was wonderful and difficult and I loved it. Who wouldn’t with a park like this at the bottom of your street.

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.