food things and poo things

stories for my children

June 25, 2014
by Katharine Blair

food even when you don’t want it


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

moving forward











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

for all the wrong reasons




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



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

lost and found


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.


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

devious mathematics or holidays need food




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:

March 13, 2014
by Katharine Blair

having the freedom to read


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:


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

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
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