My family gathers around food. It’s just our thing. Father’s Day is about Dad’s famous grilled chicken. Christmas is for ham balls, chicken wings and queso dip. The girls, Hank and I have dinner every Friday night with my parents before playing three rounds of euchre (Team Granny Panties vs. Boys). And the granddaddy of them all, Big Breakfast, is a feast of Dad’s dippy eggs, pounds of maple sausage and bacon, mugs and mugs of coffee (with the naughty creamer, of course), pancakes, fried potatoes and cinnamon rolls that takes place around my parent’s dining room table every-other Sunday. In a way, this is our church, and the sermon is always written in shameless digs and sarcasm. The congregation is questionable at best.
I could talk about Big Breakfast for hours. Seriously. It’s all about how much time you have. You’ll have your constants, like Dad dripping in sweat over four pans of food, yelling out in desperation through a potato-smelling smoke, “How many more eggs do we need? Marilyn! I asked how many more eggs do we need?” Poor guy. He’s always just slaving away as the rest of us get our coffee in hand and watch CBS Sunday Morning, which is always, always on. You’re guaranteed a story about somebody, usually my mother, falling down. It seems someone in our family falls down at least once a week. Which is probably some form of karmic justice because we all laugh like idiots at the storyteller’s misfortune. I mean, I’m sorry, but if you don’t think folks eating pavement is a side-splitting good time, we just can’t communicate. I always get the middle cinnamon roll, because, it’s the best. Duh. And there are always babies fighting and biting each other over plastic princesses.
Then we sprinkle in some excitement occasionally for extra flavor. There was the time the girls called 9-1-1 five times, unbeknownst to us, and a sheriff showed up. There was the time the entire family spent an hour trying to wrangle a 200-pound pig named Kevin Bacon into a horse trailer. There was the morning Matt belched so loud (also not uncommon) that Mom startled and instinctively turned so quickly she popped something in her neck. Or the beautiful Sunday morning Mom and I were sitting on the deck while the kids played and I leaned too far back in my plastic chair and flipped over backward. Or – and this is one of my favorites – the time my nephew took us on a Polaris ride and my brother, really, really had to go to the bathroom, so he jumped off the moving four wheeler when we got close to the house, his butt cheeks clenched so tightly he only came down on his toes and then waddle/ran all the way to the door.
And then there’s my tiny white nemesis. My parents have this rescue dog, Josie. She’s one of those tiny things, a mix of two different breeds that both have names that sound like poop, Caca-something or Doodle-other. All I know is she loves my dad’s soft bosom and licks her butt and then licks his face and I’m the only one who finds the entire relationship completely appalling. Plus, just the juxtaposition of this giant man holding a frail little dog never seems normal to me. Big Rog, knowing how I feel about the tiny mutt, refers to her as “my little sister”. “Aw, aren’t you going to say hi to your little sister?” “Your little sister had to be sedated to get her teeth cleaned, poor thing.” And so on. Well, at the last Big Breakfast, my ten-tons-of-fun brother pulled a skin tag clean of her neck with his bare hands because he thought it was a tick. She let out of tiny yelp and the whole thing was over as fast it it began. “What is that?” he asked, holding it up between his thumb and his index finger. “Oh my gosh!” Mom replied. “You pulled off her mole!” As Spike would say, “I was laughing to tears.”
See, what I mean … how much time do you have? It’s a sunny-side-up sideshow at a low-budget three-ring circus, this family.
So, why am I talking about all this? Well, partly because I got sidetracked, but I started because Big Breakfast is now part of a winner-takes-all contest several years in the making. It’s sort of a Try that with Matt … and Hank, and Kirsten, and Rog, and Marilyn. That’s right, we invited the whole kookie clan to join us for an extra-special, family-wide weight loss challenge. The Hupe Heifer Showdown began on Sunday, February 19. Six weeks, person who loses the highest percentage of body weight, wins.
Let’s meet the competitors.
Honestly, we’re more allies than anything so it’s really hard for me to be an asshole about this one. I make his food, so sabotage wouldn’t even be a game at this point. (“They’re these weird Swedish nutrition bars. My mom used to give them to the kids in Africa to help them gain weight.”) Plus, I’m pretty sure his heart isn’t in it and he’s only participating to humor the acorns at the nuthouse.
Why he could win: This guy can drop some weight when he wants to. But he also has an addiction to authentic Mexican fare and miscellaneous goodies. Dark horse here for sure.
Considering the parameters of the challenge, either one of these clowns could just demolish us if they wanted to. Their plan is to adjust their macronutrients (proteins, carbs) and workout more. Now, this brings up a topic that must be addressed. This is not a joke, you guys. My parents wear denim to workout. We’re talking full-on, chafe-your-nether-regions, unforgiving, tough as Clint Eastwood, 5-0-1 jeans here. I once walked a 4-mile race with my dad while he was wearing jorts, aviators and a ball cap. They just go out there like, “Hey, no big deal. I was just doing some light grocery shopping and decided to pop in for a little workout. What’s this spandex you speak of?” And it just baffles me entirely.
These people also grew up in a time when the shelves weren’t crowded with food and to waste wasn’t an option. When my dad was little, he once ate his entire meal after, af-ter, someone at the dinner table sneezed and skyrocketed a boog right onto the side of my dad’s plate. He just pushed right past it. If he put that type of dedication toward cleaning up his diet and moving a little more, or my mama did the same, this could be theirs for the taking. Although, I did have a tense 20-minute argument with my dad over the benefits of white bread (him for, me against) on Friday, so … I’ve got that goin’ for me.
Why they could win: A lifetime of refined flour and 9 p.m. snacking set these two up for some serious success if they can change their habits.
On the morning of our initial weigh-in, Matt was running a few minutes late. As we all started going through the breakfast buffet a la Roger, my big brother walked in the back door, peeled off his shirt, then his pants and then pulled his boxer briefs up his crack before stepping onto the scale. The Chris Farley-esque stunt had Mom bent over clenching all of the pee-releasing muscles. It was bold. It made a statement. It lessened my appetite. I’m pretty sure this dude would sit in a sweat suit hovering over coals in a sauna for 48 hours straight to win this thing. I’ve been seeing him at the gym at 5 a.m. and I know he wants it. Problem is, he also wants deep dish pizza and all of the chocolate cakes. The struggle is so, so real.
Why he could win: I’ve often thought that Matt was missing the chip inside most people’s bodies that says, “No! Stop! This is the most I can take!” He’s lifted a riding lawnmower into the back of a truck by himself. The guy is Thor dressed up as an insurance agent. When he turns it on, he can hammer some workouts. Plus, he sweats like a whore in a Texas church in August.
Dear, sweet, chocolate-covered Kirsten. My sister has six, count ‘em, six little girls. She runs ragged on all the days that end in “y” and the past few months in particular have been heavy with stress. To cope, she focused on what she needed to do for her chick-a-dees and less on taking care of herself. (Raise your hand if the lyrics to this tune sound familiar to you?) When you grow up with the nickname “Skelator,” the concept of having to work for a good weight can be a bit foreign. Kirsten has always been long and lean and now she finds herself in unfamiliar, and uncomfortable, territory. She’s rich in knowledge about healthy eating and so, so short on time, so she has her sights set on regaining balance for sure.
Why she could win: In her own words: “Because I’m too stubborn to let Matt win.” One of my fondest memories from childhood was watching Kirsten chase Matt around the island in the kitchen with a butcher knife after he’d pushed her buttons one too many times. What I’m saying is, there’s a history here. If it’s between cutting off an arm and losing to Matt, she’s severing the limb.
I have spent so many words in this space talking about my love of sweets and lack of control, it would be silly to steal more real estate expanding upon it now. Other than, just for the sake of transparency, i should mention that Hank brought home five boxes of Girl Scout cookies last week, so the cards are somewhat stacked against me. I hope somebody gets a damn patch on their sash for the internal shit I’m going through right now.
Why I could win: If Kirsten and Matt somehow destroy each other before or at the final weigh-in, my odds are pretty fair. Here’s hoping.
Those are the ponies. Ladies and gents, place your bets!