Captain Kangaroo

kangarooI think Rodney Dangerfield cemented the hilarity of a kangaroo when he exclaimed “that kangaroo just stole my ball!” in the multiple Oscar award winning flick Caddyshack. It’s funny because it was a ridiculous animatronic gopher that stole his ball and also because Rodney Dangerfield is like a boardwalk drawn caricature come to life. I also watched the movie a thousand times in college, laughing at it surrounded by like minded (and possibly inebriated) scholars.

Fast forward to the present in which I am now a very responsible adult raising 3 upstanding children in the ways of Victorian etiquette and the kangaroo theme persists. Whenever the question of “What should we name the <cat, dog, scarecrow, frog outside the window>?” comes up, my default response is Captain Kangaroo. I’ve never actually seen the TV show of the same name but it doesn’t matter. It’s just hilarious to think of referring to myself as Captain Kangaroo. Do I have bizarre L-shaped legs and wear a yachting cap? Am I an actual Captain of something important but think I’m a kangaroo?

Then in today’s Wall Street Journal, the resident wordsmith – Ben Zimmer – dove into the etymology of yet another great variation of the word, a Kangaroo Court. My immediate thought is of a courtroom where the judge is a kangaroo with a Colonial British wig on, ludicrous. But one possible origin story is that in the neighborhood of Kangaroo, Mississippi back in the 1800’s a gambler was tarred, feathered and dragged into the literal Kangaroo court to face his sins. It’s almost too much. I mean, I wish I lived in this town so I could tell people I’m a Kangaroo. Not to mention the fact that tarring and feathering is a real thing. The lunacy of it!

And apparently our illustrious President twitted that any testifying by other illustrious political types regarding his illustrious Presidency would be worthless as it would happen in a Kangaroo Court.

Now, I think it’s safe to say that these days America, in general, is one huge Kangaroo Court. I mean it’s a really not too much of a stretch to see our entire government as being a herd of actual wild kangaroos, jumping around, fake wigs and all. But that’s a post for another day. My point is only that kangaroos are funny animals and using the word in strange ways is funnier.

A Rotten Center Console

Driving the children to school today was wonderful. Sitting in traffic. Listening to the twins simultaneously beat each other and laugh. Basking in the humidity that is October in St. Louis. While I sat there at the wheel, fielding questions and pretending to break up fights, an aroma crossed the helm.

Not like the nice kind you get when entering Costco while they’re cooking those magical pumpkin pies. No, this aroma was disgusting. Not quite like the smell that emanates from the L’Oreal factory in Clark, NJ – that one is disgusting but somehow fruity. And also not quite like that of the dog food factory that apparently is connected to the James Madison University campus in VA. On a hot, rainy day that stench will melt your pupils.

This smell, friends, was rotten. As the stink laid itself over top of all my other senses, my sense of Parental Intuition That Your Kids Are Fucking Around was triggered by the conspiratorial tones and giggling coming from the middle row of our cupcake delivery van. So, at a red light (so many red lights), I turned around to see the twins pointing and laughing at SOMETHING inside the little known and seldom used center console storage compartment.

When I calmly inquired “Children, what are you examining”, they slammed it shut and looked at me wide eyed, replying “Why Father…nothing”. When I implored they show me, they seemed to take joy in presenting me with the fruits of their labor. It took me a minute of staring, and gagging, to see through the mold and garbage to determine the little shits had stored a leftover blueberry pancake in this tightly enclosed space…many days ago. So I took a DEEEEEP breath and asked them to refrain from such activities in the future.

I then had a fleeting thought of who would be laughing at who were I to give them each a nice swirlie before bed.

Biting in the Night

Last night, at approximately 1 AM, Sarah and I awoke to screaming. Hoping that our 6 year old, Milan, had not fallen out of bed with her broken wrist currently healing in a giant purple cast – we raced to the source of the commotion…

5 hours earlier, we happily noted how cute our 5 year old twins were, sleeping next to one another in a queen sized bed. Normally they sleep in their own bed. Mostly because they fight each other like Lisa and Bart Simpson. A week ago, I heard grunting and thumping at bedtime. Walking into their room, I discovered the 2 of them, on the floor, tangled up in sheets and blankets. Maren in her underpants, Hendrick deflecting blows to the head. Both hissing at one another. But until we get them new beds, sharing is caring.

And wouldn’t you know it, the screaming was coming from the twins room. So, while we were happy to see Milan had not fallen out of bed, finding Hendrick wailing like a stuck pig and Maren pouting was not how I envisioned REM sleep. When queried on the source of his pain, the conversation went like this…

Hendrick: Maren bited me!

Me: (stifling a laugh) Maren, did you bite your brother?

Maren: (growling) mmm, YES, but he bited me too!

The use of “bited” of course made me laugh but even more so was my immediate thought that one of them started the fight in their sleep. I can only assume that a hand or foot got flung astray and the offending twin then lashed out with a firm chomping. Which of course was retaliated upon with more teeth. And it’s not out of the question that Hendrick was hungry, the boy never stops eating.

 

They normally share a room and Hendrick is normally the first one asleep. Maren then stays up, singing in French or harassing her brother – throwing “dou dou’s” at him  and insisting he wake up. If she does rouse him, he greets her with mumbled threats and groaning.

 

So my theory is that one of them was rolling around in their sleep which pissed off the other enough to trigger a feeding frenzy. Once my initial frustration of being blasted out of deep sleep went away, I couldn’t stop laughing at these 2 tiny humans biting each other in their sleep.

A Day in the Life of Perfect Parenting

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.

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Swiss Family Stender – The Opportunity

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.

Open Door

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.

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I HAmsterdam

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.

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.

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Viking Quest!

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!

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“I am Viking Captain Redbeard and I demand BEER! And meat! And also BREAD!”

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