I had the pleasure of reading this hilarity from McSweeney’s Internet Tendency thanks to my favorite sister-in-law Erin. I highly recommend it for anyone who dabbles in the meditative-chakra-Non GMO-fermented-bountiful universe-wheatgrass smoothie lifestyle. I felt that a response to this article was necessary in the form of how perfect our family is. Specifically regarding the act of our perfect parenting and positive thinking.
At 5:30 in the morning, I breathe deeply through my nose as a 5 year old human, named Milan, taps my forehead. The perfect alarm clock. While she claps her hands at me to signal feeding time at the zoo, I spring out of bed and blissfully stroll to the kitchen for breakfast prep. I attribute the fact that my daughter treats me like a trained circus animal to our reverse-helicopter parenting approach. Let them run free and reap what you sow!
To start the day off on the right foot I begin to scramble 3 farm fresh, cage free, extra happy, unvaccinated eggs from chickens that roam the alpine pastures of Switzerland. Mid-scramble, the male half of our 4 year old twins – Hendrick – appears. In typical fashion, he is grinning ear-to-ear and gives me a warm hug followed by his morning refrain “Good morning Daddy, I love you, I would like rice, apple fritters and kale chips for breakfast.” To which I reply “Morning CHAMP! You got it!” During this exchange with my son, Milan is informing me that she will be having meatballs and porridge for her morning meal.
My friend Dave made a great suggestion recently regarding this blog. It can be hard to take a step back and think on it, but the past year has been an eventful one for our family. We moved from America with 3 kids under the age of 5 to Switzerland. A lot of words come to mind as I think about the last 12 months – fun, insane, exciting, exhausting but mostly awesome. Dave’s point was that our situation is relatively unusual and there might be other folks out there contemplating something similar. So why not share how it’s gone thus far, how we did it and all the other things that come with it? I love it, so I’ll kick it off with The Opportunity.
There’s a book titled The Secret by Rhonda Byrne that at first glance seems a little hokey – ok, a LOT hokey – but once you get past that it’s solid. The content is serious and deep. My brother Tyler and I listened to the audiobook version on a cross country road trip. In and of itself this is a regular coup d’état for us given the time not listening to it was spent blasting BPM house music on XM Radio, leaning out the window and screaming or discussing the finer points of how much your head spins from an 11% barrel aged imperial stout. We weren’t exactly reciting Shakespeare.
Dave – my oldest friend – and I have had a lot of adventures over the years.
In high school we would drive around in my sweet Mitsubishi Starion for hours, gas being around $1/gallon back then. When it rained, the car would stall out, which was entertaining in a McDonald’s drive thru. Or if parked, the headlights would flip up and down whilst the horn blared incessantly leading to finger pointing and laughing.
In college, well, there’s really not enough room here for that chapter. But we both made the trip on more than one occasion to visit our respective higher learning institutions. He at James Madison in Virginia and me at University of New Hampshire in said state.
The snozzberries taste like SNOZZBERRIES!
“I am from Holland, isn’t that veird?!”
Not cho cheese
A favorite memory would be a visit of Dave’s to UNH, hanging out in the dormitory lounge I lived in (because emergency housing) late one evening. Suddenly, the door burst open and a neighbor stumbled around until he found our garbage can. Which he promptly picked up and dumped all over my roommates desk, then muttered some obscenities and disappeared. No explanation, no context. I’ve never laughed harder.
Buried in a family photo album there exists a Stender ancestor caught on film. From my admittedly weak memory, he was a Danish ship captain from the late 1800’s who was lost at sea. Then there is my brother, Tyler, who can sprout the bushiest red beard you have ever seen. In fact, his business card reads Tyler “Captain Redbeard” Stender. As well, the spelling of my first name is typical in Denmark. (Not in the States however, where my school teachers liked to correct it for me.) And last but definitely not least is the fact that both Sarah and I have a large percentage of DNA that traces back to Scandinavia. SCIENCE!
“I am Viking Captain Redbeard and I demand BEER! And meat! And also BREAD!”
“Hey, look at me! I’m a PARENT!”
What do you suppose the abbreviation HD stands for? Being a car guy, I would first go with Heavy Duty, as in pickup truck. Next, Hi Def television. Then maybe Hodor Hodor Hodor. But in the context of an English-Speaking-Parents Facebook group I belong to here in Switzerland, it means House Dad.
As in “Oh yeah, I have a HD, he’s looking for a drinking buddy too.”
Or “My neighbor is a HD, he looks like he’s always wearing pajamas.”
It turns out I’m a HD, well sort of a part time HD. Like Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom, but speaking Frenglish and threatening to beat my children with noodles.
I even have the mug!
I used to daydream about surfing in Polynesia and howling Ferrari V12’s. Today, I still fantasize of such wonderful things but the daily wandering thoughts are DOMINATED by something much more critical to my survival. Coffee. Falling asleep at night, I think about my first cup in the morning. In the morning, I ponder if I’ll have 3 or 4 cups on this day. At lunch time, my tongue lolls at the thought of après-lunch liquid gold.
There’s a great saying, represented most commonly in hashtag form, floating around social media – But First Coffee. This mentality can be applied to anything, much like adding “in bed” to the end of fortune cookie wisdom.
“I have to go to work.” But first coffee.
“I have to feed the children.” But first coffee.
“I have to breathe oxygen.” But first coffee.
You get the idea.
Or at least I do. Because this is my reality. I’m addicted to it and I love it. Not a love/hate sort of thing, just true love. I may be the worst Catholic of all time based on my record of attending mass (because never) but I have my own goddess and her name is Coffee. I worship at her temple 7 days a week, 365 days a year. I do have limits which is why I don’t say 24 hours a day but certainly it’s more than a doctor likely recommends.
They look so calm here…
This past weekend made us 1-for-2 on attending international birthday parties. Two Sunday’s ago we were skunked on our car rental meaning no party for the children. Which was exceptionally awful considering we had rented helmets and purchased sleds for the kiddos. Though I should be saying sledging as that is how the Swiss refer to it. Of course, watching Hendrick rocket down a hill on a plastic disc – trying to crash into his friends no doubt – is not exactly what I would imagine as a stress-free afternoon so perhaps it was for the best.
We had better luck this past Sunday since we needed only ride the train 1 stop and walk to our destination in La Tour De Peilz. The birthday girl’s parents did a great job on the party site. Basically a room with some tables and a snugly closed door meant the pack of 4 year old asylum patients were completely contained and ready to bounce off the walls while the parents sipped wine and chatted.
It was a strange déjà vu moment for me. 16 odd years ago, I was spending a college semester in Budapest taking in the culture and, uh, studying. We had an apartment that was also basically a room with some tables and a pack of wild inmates. Only in this hazy memory, there were no parents present and the wine being consumed was by the bottle instead of by the Dixie cup. I don’t recall if it was a birthday party but we did play games and certainly bounced off the walls.