“2 Out Of 3 Ain’t Bad” (Meatloaf and I Philosophize About Weighty Matters)

 

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I’m convinced that wives and mothers can’t lose weight.  I think all the 24/7 nurturing we do just keeps us hungry all the time…

But, apparently guys can.  Weight, I’ve come to find out, melts off dudes like a popsicle in July.

The whole thing started this past November. We were facing down the front-end of the annual Holiday “Celebrate with Food Season,” but we kind’ve looked like we were already on the back-end. We decided to put the entire family on a Preemptive Holiday diet.

To keep everyone motivated, we assigned a cash prize for the individual family member who could lose the most weight by Christmas Day. My plan was to use my prize money to buy the tiny new jeans I would soon be requiring.

We weighed in.

Well, actually my husband and my son weighed in. I know it’s vain, but I spotted myself a couple of days to get to a more respectable “starting weight” before my first official weigh-in. (After all, we were writing the numbers down in a notebook where everyone could see them.)

That might sound like cheating, but it actually made it harder for me to win, as we were judging the contest by, “percentage of total body weight.”  In fact, the entire contest was a bit of a sham because everyone knows weight drops off faster when you have more to lose.

And also if you happen to be a guy.

I knew I was starting out at a disadvantage in this contest, but I didn’t mind because I was a shoo-in to win. Men don’t know crap about dieting. Moved by pity for them, I mercifully resolved to give them verbal encouragement, support and diet tips along the way.  And that’s just what I did.

Until the whole damn thing backfired on me, turning into one of those Brady Bunch episodes that ends with a critical life lesson. Remember the time Marcia befriended a “Plain Jane” girl at her school, gave her a makeover, loaned her some outfits, then taught her everything she knew about cheerleading?

The friend ends up not only making the cheer squad, but also beating Marcia out for her position as Cheer Captain. Then she turns on Marcia and becomes a cocky little brat. No good deed goes unpunished. Never ever ever.

That’s exactly what happened to me during our Biggest Loser Challenge. I taught them everything I’ve learned during a half-century of dieting – all the tricks of the trade. I started a Family Weight Loss Journal, whipped up protein smoothies, steamed vegetables and even texted inspirational quotes I found on Pinterest. In short, I acted as a free Personal Trainer/Life Coach.

The weight started dropping off.

Of my son and my husband.  Not me.

In fact, I’m pretty sure all the energy I devoted to the effort rendered me even more ravenous than usual.

My daughter came home this past weekend. It’s been a while since she had seen her dad and brother.

“Tommy and Dad are both so skinny!” She exclaimed.

“What exactly are you trying to say?” I responded.

“That Tommy and Dad are both so skinny???”

I was super irritated.  I stopped short of asking her if she was calling me fat.

Lest you think I’m just a sore loser I must hasten to assure you I’m proud of my menfolk. The two of them did so amazing with our challenge that it doesn’t even matter how I did. Wifery and motherhood transcend that level of self-interest. It’s more than enough for me that 2/3rds of us lost weight.

Nonetheless, the second my hubby stepped off the scales yesterday, I was ready for him. I shut down his daily gloat with a dirty look and some eye rolling before he even had a chance to start tossing numbers about.

He seemed a bit miffed.

“Why can’t you just be happy for ME?”

“I AM happy for you. I just don’t want to talk about it all night!” I quipped petulantly, as I took another bite from a miniature container of Haagen Dazs.”*

In the words of the great musician and 20th century philosopher, Meatloaf, “Baby we could talk all night, but that ain’t getting us nowhere…2 out of 3 ain’t bad.”

Speaking of meatloaf, we haven’t had it in awhile. I think I’ll make it for dinner tonight.

All this nurturing is making me hungry.

*A Ginger Snapped Fail-Proof Diet Tip – purchase only the miniature containers of Haagen Dazs.  Way less calories.

 

“Love Means Never Having To Say You’re Sorry” (Wait – That Can’t Be Right…)

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When our daughter and son-in-law became engaged, our church required them to spend a few evenings with a “Mentor Couple” prior to the ceremony to examine the various aspects and challenges of marriage.

My husband and I were mildly affronted, as we obviously fancy ourselves their “Go-to Mentor Couple.”

Yet, we were never so offended as we were the evening they were assigned to discuss the topic of “Marital Conflict” with these well-meaning strangers.

After 33 years of marriage, 11 cross-country moves and 5 kids, my husband and I may not have written the book on marital conflict, but we certainly contributed a few chapters. Marital Conflict is our jam. We can mentor the hell out of our own adult children and their Intendeds in this area, thank you very much.

I’m not trying to suggest we’ve hosted as many fights as Madison Square Gardens, but we’ve had a spat or two. The most recent that springs to mind is the time my husband drove off and left me at our son’s high school graduation. He justified this action by claiming that I “stood around gabbing too long.” Everyone around us was brushing off crumbs when this Ginger snapped.

As such, I always feel a little validated when I hear about friends of ours in rock solid marriages experiencing conflict. Once at a joint family dinner with old college friends, the subject of marital strife arose and our friends’ daughter enthusiastically jumped into the conversation.

“I’ll never forget The Battle of The Crepe Myrtle Trees!”

Eager for every detail, I scooted my chair closer. Our Goddaughter proceeded to regale us with a delightful story about a time her dad got over-zealous with his new chain saw and pruned her mom’s prized Crepe Myrtles down to the nubs.

“She was furious!” she continued, “I’ve never seen her so mad!”

“What happened next?” I goaded.

“She said, ‘Get in the car Kelli, we’re going to Starbucks before I say something to your dad I can’t take back!'”

What a let-down. I expected more fireworks from my feisty friend. After all, she’s the one who taught me the term “A-hole” back in ’82.  As hard as it may be to believe, at the tender age of 19, I’d never been exposed to this word. And maybe I didn’t know it at the time, but it would eventually become an essential part of my marital lexicon.

My friend has clearly mellowed over time.

Another friend, one of the kindest, most “chill” women I know, told us over lunch about a text her adult daughter sent in their family’s group-chat recently.

“Remember that food-fight you and Dad got into that one time?”

Her husband was quick to respond and reassured everyone that the episode “was all in fun” and no one was “actually mad,” but my friend went on to confide,

Oh, I was mad all right. The nearest thing to me at the moment was a squeeze bottle of mustard, so I squirted him with it!”

Now that’s validating. If you can’t put your hands on actual Mustard Gas, I guess regular old table mustard will do in a pinch.

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My Sister-in-law, who is a Realtor, told me that she attended a closing recently whereby a widower was selling his and his deceased wife’s home of 40+ years. As the older man signed on the dotted line, he teared up and mused,

We had some great fights in that old house…”

I couldn’t help but be struck by the irony – all those days, weeks, months and years of building a home and a life together – it was their arguments that he commented on and seemed to miss the most.

Perhaps the rest just went without saying…but, if those walls could talk, I’m sure they’d say that couple loved each other.

The highly acclaimed movie, “Love Story,” (1970) starring Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal misled an entire generation with the phrase, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry…”.

Love means frequently having to say you’re sorry, and also “Pass the French’s please.”

“I’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” (How I Shed Unwanted Holiday Pounds, Bills and Family Members)

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The Christmas Receipt Basket overfloweth

The first week of January may very well be my least favorite week of the year. To borrow an accounting term, I’m operating in the red in every department.

For starters, I’m fresh out of calories. We kick off the Seasonal Eating Marathon at Thanksgiving and don’t come up for air  until the very last New Year’s black eyed pea is sopped up by the last chunk of cornbread. I refer to this dietary style as, “food layering.” I layer my next meal or snack right on top of the preceding one with no break in between.

Food wasn’t the only over-indulgence, as evidenced by the bills that are rolling in.  I admit, like most people, I get caught up in the frenzy of creating the “Perfect Christmas” and that costs a bundle. I spent way too much money at Trader Joe’s and Anthropologie, which naturally guilted me into buying gifts for people other than myself.  It certainly added up.

But what I’m really looking to shed this week is people. I’m sick of everyone. On January 1, when I started my epic diet and budget, I knew it was time to thin the herd, so to speak.

I’m ready to be alone.  I want everyone to go back to wherever it is they came from so I can suffer and sacrifice in solitude.

Pondering my annual Holiday Hangover prompted me to examine creative strategies I could employ to shed those superfluous family members:

I started by showing my husband the dreaded Receipt Basket. This is a tiny Christmas-themed basket I keep in my closet that contains all the receipts we’ve incurred since December 1st. It represents every last quart of eggnog, gift card and snuggly-wuggly pullover I purchased for our enormous family.

That did it for Jimmy. It was almost too easy.  He took one look at that bushel of receipts and I saw tail lights as he headed back to work.

One down, three to go…

I recently discovered (a little late in the game) that most universities offer something called “Intercession.” This is an adorable little miniature semester compressed in between the two main semesters that we all know about.  It’s like “Yuletide Summer School!” For approximately $1000 your local university will take your college student off your hands from January 3rd until right before the Spring semester starts.

On the one hand, I hadn’t really budgeted for a sandwich semester, but on the other hand, I reasoned, it’s probably less than I would spend entertaining my daughter for the next two weeks. Plus, she’ll get another credit under her belt. I might actually be saving money.

So, Gracie packed up and left yesterday. I was looking forward to her helping me take down the Christmas tree, but we’ll both be glad she took Intercession the next time we sit down and map out that rocky path to Graduation.

I immediately felt thinner and richer when she pulled out of the driveway.

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Getting rid of the boys is proving a little trickier. They really don’t have anywhere else to go. The dormitories and high schools are locked up tighter than the Little Drummer Boy’s drum.

We encouraged James to pick up some shifts at the restaurant where he worked last summer. He complied. He informed us this morning that he was able to secure a single lunch shift one week from tomorrow!   That should kill about 3 or 4 hours until they let them back on campus mid-January.  As an added bonus, I think they’ll feed him for free after that shift.

With James so gainfully employed, that just leaves Tommy.  I’m not worried about him though. He’s your typical teenager. All I have to do is start pulling boxes out of the attic and taking down decorations and he’ll make himself plenty scarce.

I don’t know which is worse – that I’ve lost that loving feeling or that I’m so shamelessly candid about it.

The truth is – I can’t miss them ’til they’re gone…

“We Wish You A Merry Christmas!” (Just When You Swore You Couldn’t Read One More Christmas Letter)

Merry Christmas Friends and Family,

I was awoken by a threatening text at 6 am the other day from my mother.  It said, “You better send me a Christmas letter this year. I didn’t get one last year.”  

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I was a little perplexed.  (And scared if we’re being completely honest).  Ever since I became a mother and realized my offspring provided non-stop writing fodder, I’ve written a Christmas letter. It was always a labor of love, but I enjoyed the writing and found it rewardingly cathartic to make fun of the people I made…

SO MUCH FUN, in fact, that I eventually morphed our annual Christmas missive into a weekly blog.

I decided the first year of the blog NOT to write a Christmas letter, as everyone we know was inundated by our family via my posts.  I got some flak for my lack of effort, so last year I wrote a Christmas letter and posted it on my site – saving on stamps and reaching a wider audience, but apparently losing my own Mother in the process.

I don’t know why Doris didn’t read it…I sent her a link(?)

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Emilie (30) and Matt are all settled into their new house and new marriage. So settled, in fact, they decided it was time to take the next logical step…they got a puppy. Her name is Bella Louise. The very same thing happened to them that happened to us with our babies. It seems like a great idea at the inception, because puppies and babies are so small, adorable and uncomplicated.  But, they woke up one day and Bella was a teenager.

Even though I’ve been unjustly labeled, “not-a-dog-person,” I pick Bella up from Camp Bow-Wow one day a week and help out in any other way I can.  Like my own children, she is now bigger, smarter, stronger-willed and frequently uncooperative. I’m including a video at the end of this letter of a recent training session Emilie had with Bella. (I’m secretly glad Emilie’s an attorney and not a dog-trainer.) Matt and Emilie really do love their dog; no regrets. I mostly feel the same about my kids.

Mollie (27) is in Amsterdam completing her second-to-last semester of law school with her fiancé. They will return to NYC for their final semesters, graduating in May 2017 from Fordham Law (Mollie) and Columbia Law (Jace). Law school must be considerably more laid back in Europe than it is in the U.S. because every time I turn around there’s a picture of them looking relaxed and happy, in front of the Vatican or the Eiffel Tower.

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Wedding date – June 1, 2017

They Skyped me and Dad the other day to deliver the sad news that, due to final exams, they won’t be home for Christmas. Sometimes with Skype, after you say your good-byes, the picture disconnects before the audio. When that happened the other day, I overheard Mollie say to Jace, “They did well!” I’m not sure if she was referring to our ability to Skype or absorb disappointing news, but either way, it’s good to know we are evolving as parents.

James (19) and Tommy (16) are constantly calling me, texting me or coming in my room to provide me with an overview of their grades. They must have something running in their brains akin to an academic version of a Wall Street ticker tape. They are constantly analyzing, “I have ___ in this class, so if I make __ on this test and ___ on the exam, I’ll end up with a ___ in the class!” This practice continues x 2 boys x 5 or 6 classes each. Every time a new grade is posted, I get an updated Hypothetical Grade Prognosis Report.

Maybe it’s because they are no longer playing sports and their uber-competitive natures are manifested in this way. I don’t really know…but James’ STATED LIFE GOAL is to, “Kick Emilie and Mollie’s ______ academically.”

And Tommy’s is to kick James’. I mean, goals are good right?

(* All family photos courtesy of Gravies Instagram account!)

(* All family photos courtesy of Gracie’s Instagram account!)

You can probably imagine the considerable amount of heat this puts on Gracie (21). The proverbial middle child, sandwiched in between her accomplished older sisters and her competitive younger brothers, she remains remarkably undaunted by filial pressure. It’s not that she isn’t analytical like the others…of course she is. We have similar conversations to the ones I have with the boys, “If I wear ___ to the game with that off-the shoulder ___, and don’t “Instagram” it, I can wear ___ to the party on Friday with ___, for a totally different look!”

Rotating one’s ensembles and keeping one’s presentation fresh in these challenging times of social media saturation, requires focus and an unswerving attention to detail. We are certain she will parlay these skills into an amazing career when she graduates one year from May with a degree in Ad/PR.

* All family photos courtesy of Gracie's Instagram account

(* All family photos courtesy of Gracie’s Instagram account!)

Jimmy and I  congratulate ourselves on another anniversary this Monday.  It seems we will have been married 32 years.  Apparently, when I wrote my bios a few years ago, I said we were married 33 years. I was off by 3 or 4 years. It doesn’t matter. When you float/flounder around in a cloud of domestic bliss, time is simply irrelevant.

We hope 2017 brings you and your family perfect peace and harmony. But if for some reason it doesn’t, remember you can always write a blog about it.

Love,
The Blanchard Family

* PS – Thank God for Gracie’s Instagram Account…

“Give It A Rest Ye Merry Gentleman” (May Nothing You Dismay…)

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We were headed to the Company Christmas party.  I was running late, per the usual. My make-up was almost done, my outfit was on, I even had a handful of product I was about to slather into my hair, but I lacked accessories.

Obviously, I could use a little help.  I turned to my loving spouse who was, of course, dressed and ready to go.

Jimmy! Grope around under the Christmas tree until you find a small green box that says, ‘To Gracie, Love Mom and Dad.‘  Lift the lid, without disturbing the bow, and bring me the bracelet that’s inside!”

A myriad of expressions crossed his face, but I was in too much of a frenzy trying to do my face to interpret his face.  Besides, I’m no stranger to the 3 D’s of marriage. (Disappointment, Disapproval and Dismay)

“You’re not actually planning to wear it, are you? “

“Yes, go get it!”

“You can’t do that. It’s a Christmas gift!”

Oh, you dear little man…Go get the bracelet!  You’re wasting precious time. Of course I can wear it! For starters – I way overpaid, so it needs to be worn to as many events as possible. Before Christmas, after Christmas…it doesn’t matter…it’s a bracelet…it can’t talk, so it won’t tell on me.

Secondly, it’s not uncommon for me to take some of the Christmas gifts I purchase out for a “trial run during the month of December.

It just makes good sense to try things out before you give them away.

Besides, this gift is for our daughter, Gracie. The very girl who sashayed into my closet before we left for a performance of The Nutcracker a few years back, saying she needed ‘something else’ to complete her ensemble.   She promptly pulled a scarf (previously purchased for Mimi) out of it’s Christmas gift bag and flounced it around her neck. (Promising all the while to re-wrap it when we got home.)

She doesn’t have a leg to stand on as far as this bracelet is concerned.

I’ve talked to many women through the years about the perils of Christmas shopping. One of the chief complaints I hear is that when a woman finds “something darling” for her mom, sister, daughter or bestie, she loves the item so much that she has to buy two.  This practice can really add up. Am I right?

My way is more cost efficient

Shhh…it’s bad enough that I have Santa breathing down my neck this time of year, the last thing I need is to be Christmas-Shamed.   Please understand – THIS IS NOT RE-GIFTING. Everyone knows that “re-gifting” is when you receive a gift you DON’T LIKE, re-wrap it and give it to someone else. That’s just tacky and rude. I LOVE the item I’m giving you! That’s why I’m wearing it, using it, reading it or playing with it before I give it to you.

It’s not re-gifting, it’s pre-gifting.

I seriously don’t see why Jimmy was freaking out.   I’m obviously saving him tons of money by not buying two of everything.  Plus,  it’s not like I “try out” the gifts I give HIM for Christmas.

Rest assured ye merry gentleman – your chain saws, pressure washers, ladders and other boring gifts are always safe from me.  You receive them pristine and untarnished every Christmas morning.

(The price tags dangling off of them should be a dead giveaway…)

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“Do You Hear What I Hear?” (The Unending Quest For Marital Harmony)

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I think we can all agree that surviving the Holidays can be a litmus test for any marriage. It can put a Yuletide strain on even the most harmonious of unions.

First a couple marries one another and then they begin the process of marrying everything else in their lives, including their respective Christmas traditions. There’s a lot to sort out: Turkey? Ham? Your Mom’s or mine? Not to mention church schedules and whether to open gifts Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

If those trivial issues don’t complicate the season, I can personally attest to the fact that conflicting ideas about how much money to spend can definitely make for a memorably epic Christmas collision.

Luckily for me, Jimmy and I have been married 33 years, so we’ve managed to iron out every Holiday wrinkle imaginable.

Until we got the idea this morning to put together a Christmas playlist.

It went like this:

Jimmy – “I’m going to change some light bulbs around the house, do we have a Christmas CD we can play?”

Me- ” Ummmm, probably not, I think people have Christmas Playlists on their smartphones these days.”

Jimmy- “Okay, take some notes – I’m going to give you a list of songs.”

Okay, thought I – in the true spirit of the season, I suppose I can do that. (He is, after all, about to climb a ladder and literally light my world, the least I can do is put his tunes on a playlist.) He rattled off his faves.

-Bruce Springsteen (Santa Claus is Coming to Town)
-James Taylor (Baby It’s Cold Outside)
-The Eagles (Please Come Home For Christmas).

3 songs does not a playlist make. The little elves down there in the iTunes Store are snickering. I reminded him of two lesser known songs that have sentimental meaning to our family. Gloria Estefan (Christmas Through Your Eyes) and Harry Connick, Jr (When My Heart Finds Christmas). He readily agreed and I added them.

We were up to 5 whole songs when, out of the blue, he remembered he liked John Lennon’s iconic nod to the humble Christmas carol. After an exhaustive search, I discovered the song is named “War Is Over.” Maybe that should’ve been obvious to me, but it was not.

Found it. Downloaded it.   Merriment ensued.

Jimmy was calling it good. But I thought those 6 songs were going to get monotonous pretty fast. I took the liberty of adding Karen Carpenter’s, “Merry Christmas Darling.” He didn’t seem to mind. I could still hear him whistling away on his ladder.

But, in the course of my search for a Very John and Yoko Christmas, I stumbled across many other worthy songs I felt complimented and completed any decent catalog of Christmas music. Being a wife who has her finger on the pulse of her husband’s musical tastes, I pulled the iTunes trigger a few more times.

The whistling stopped. I had gone too far. It seems I had taken a few too many liberties and besmirched his Rock and Roll Christmas with a bunch of “Christmas Crap” he doesn’t like.

What the hell is that? I don’t want all those extra songs I didn’t ask for...”

Apparently he didn’t want to have to “wade through” my selections to hear his.

It didn’t take me long to weary of justifying every $1.99 download. I promptly deleted all my carols from HIS playlist and made a second playlist. I labeled each accordingly: “Less Is More – Jimmy’s Christmas Playlist,” and “Les Has More – The Essential Christmas Playlist.”

So much for marital collaboration and oneness. He clearly still has a few of his own ideas about Christmas.

I’ve prudently decided this wouldn’t be a great time to discuss how much money I’ve spent on the holidays so far. “Less is More”  is rarely ever my style…

“One Is The Loneliest Number” (Helping Your Youngest Cope With Almost-Empty Nest Syndrome)

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“Siblings share everything – even Santa Claus…”

Slowly, but surely, we’ve emptied out our home, as one kid after another flees the scene. But, when our second-to-last child packed up and left home in August, there was cause for immediate concern. Our thoughts turned instantly to our youngest child. How ever would our little red caboose survive?

After-all, all Tommy has ever known is a full house. What would life be like for him with no siblings? Who would help him absorb the daily excesses of our signature over-zealous parenting style?

Our fears were unfounded. Our worry was in vain. It seems that after 5 months of life as an “Only Child,” Tommy seems to quite embrace his living situation. In fact, he may even be flourishing.

We haven’t had an “Only Child” since those halcyon days when Emilie was a toddler.  At the tender age of 2, she was too young to truly exploit all the inherent advantages; but you can bet after 16 frustrating years of being the youngest of 5, Tommy is keenly aware and appreciative of the perks available to him as a “Lonely Only.”

VIP PARKING:    Park wherever you want. There are several open garage bays available.  Who are you blocking in?  Um – nobody!  And if dad is traveling, feel free to pull right up under the Porte-cochere. It simply doesn’t get more convenient.

FACE TIME: Since there’s only one kid left, and no one else vying for our attention, when Tommy walks in the room we immediately put our books face-down and/or mute the TV. We are all-ears. Ready, willing and able to give a damn.

TOP NOTCH HOME SECURITY: Gone is the angst-ridden concern over where to hide restaurant leftovers, Halloween candy or that last bottle of Gatorade so it will be safe from your siblings. Mom’s on a diet and dad’s not home – your crap is completely yours.

APPLIANCE KING: When you need to throw a shirt or a coveted pair of jeans in the wash, no one else’s pesky stuff is cluttering up the machines. Gone are the long lines. No need to take a number. You are Numero Uno around here; from the toaster to the microwave to the washing machine, you rule all the appliances in your kingdom.

Ditto all television sets and gaming systems.

What’s more, without all the sibs around sucking the literal life out of YOUR MOTHER, she’s more likely to tap into her dormant nurturing instincts and do your laundry for you.

The other day Jimmy asked Tommy about his lavish new lifstyle. He was quite frank and unapologetic, remarking, “It’s payback for all the years of disrespect I endured as the runt of the litter!”

He went on to tell his dad that he might even be dreading the holidays a little. His siblings will be home next week disturbing the peace and asserting their domestic dominance once again.

Or maybe they’ll behave like the “Houseguests” they arguably are, deferring to him as their Gracious Host?

Tommy isn’t exactly sitting around waiting for Santa Claus to drop off a Magic 8 ball for the answer to that question…it’s “Highly Doubtful.”