How To Get A Two-Year-Old Boy To Take A Cold Shower

When we moved into our new crib and were advised that there was no hot water, I didn’t flinch.  No hot water?  No problem.  We could do it.  The first week down here we lived in a spot that had no hot water and if I remember correctly, CK was desperately clutching onto my torso with his naked body wailing “No Mas Agua!”  as I tried to peel off his arms and legs that were wrapped around me like a boa constrictor.  No, this kid does not like cold showers.  He probably thinks Costa Rica is some kind of bathing hell.  First you take away my bath tub, and then the hot water?  Dad, do you really love me?

Who was I kidding ‘no hot water, no problem’?  For some reason I was confident that things would go differently this time around.  Dorein, the owner, actually offered to put in a hot water attachment, but I modestly refused.  Hot water is a luxury down here and if others are getting by without it, we would too.   When I declined her offer, she said her son, Reese (3 years old), loves his warm showers.  Doh!  What have I done?  Arrogant gringo.  Oh well, my kid will just have to deal.

It took me a while to develop a strategy to get this kid in the ice cold water.  My brother stayed with us the first two weeks we were there, and he wouldn’t stop complaining about it.  He had a right to.  It was cold.  I’m not going to lie, but kind of refreshing considering the heat.  If it was really hot out, the water pipes got blasted by the sun and if you waited until mid afternoon to take your shower, the first 45 seconds was actually quite hot before it went back to Arctic cold.  Shower times were cut in half, if not more, because of the water temperature…we were taking the quickest showers ever!

CK, meanwhile, shared my brother’s frustration.  To him, “vamos a banarte” just as well meant, “let’s go to the torture chamber.”  I’m sure he was so confused on why I would ever make him go through such discomfort on a regular basis.  The only way this was going to work was if I was in there with him.  It took me a little bit of time to get used to the water myself before I would turn to my boy who had fled to the corner of the shower, crying into the tiled walls.  Oh man.  Let’s get this over with.

And that was the name of my first strategy “Let’s get this over with.”  It took a lot of arm strength to pick him up, hold him under the shower, get him soapy and rinsed off before he kicks and screams his way out of there.  I would try to do it as fast as I could, but it was never quick enough for either of us, and he would always come out with suds all over his body (we’ll just wipe those off with the towel).

“Let’s get this over with” was retired.  I had to think of something else.  The next strategy I tried was called “The Pass Under.”  I would hold him on my side, then quickly pass him through the streaming water.  He was under the water for all of a half second at a time.  His tears weren’t as big as his response to “let’s get this over with,” but he still wasn’t a fan.  It also was really hard for me to get him cleaned in 1/2 second intervals.  We had a little more success with “The Pass Under,” but the technique still had some flaws.

The last and final strategy I came up with was a success.  It was improvised when I was trying to execute the “The Pass Under.”  Somehow I thought of adding some bouncing and singing to the strategy which started to make him laugh and smile.  I was onto something.  I followed it with a move that came a little too naturally.  I put my hand under the water, smashed it against my face, and gave CK a look of complete and utter surprise.  This kid started laughing so hard I could see where his gums hit his skull.  After I made sure he was still breathing, I did it again.  And again.  Next thing I know, I was doing my best Roger Rabbit impression when he was making the villain weasels laugh so hard, they died.  CK was having a ball and actually started imitating me, splashing water in his own face.  Have we made a breakthrough?  I was able to get him all soaped up and thoroughly cleaned off during our 10-minute (record long time) slap stick shower, and not one tear!

That shower was the beginning of the end of CK’s cold shower woes.  Now instead of saying “Vamos a banarte” I say, “Let go splash some water in my face!” and he joyously agrees, ready for his ice cold shower.



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Caribbean House Swap

Seahorse adventures.  Might as well call us Gypsy Adventurers, because we were on the move yet again.  Although unlike gypsys, we have both of our eyes, all of our teeth (or baby teeth), and no beaded head wraps (I’m thinking of those Louisiana voodoo gypsys who look into a crystal ball and tell you that you are going to die in a voice sponsored by Marlboro Reds).  Our family reinforcements had returned to Gringolandia so we were back to being solo.  We did, however, successfully persuade my brother to stay for two weeks longer.

Well, I can hardly say that we convinced him.  The Caribbean has long arms making it very hard to leave, especially when you have to go back to the stresses of med school/residency placement as he did.  Not to mention the snow that seems to have taken over all of the United States this winter.  I’m not missing that.  The biggest thing about spending the American winter months on a Caribbean beach is that I don’t have to bundle my child up in an insane amount of layers just to go outside.  That is the worst.  You got the long underwear tops and bottoms, the fleece, the pants, the snow pants, the socks (maybe two pairs depending on how bad his frostbite toes are from yesterday), the jacket, the gloves, the scarves, the hat, and a plastic bucket to catch all the snot that streams out of this kids face like a fire hose.  You have to give yourself 45 minute prep time to go play outside, plus or minus a few minutes depending on how many times your child runs away from the layer application process.

Down here, slap on that sunscreen and done…clothing optional.  Don’t get me wrong, trying to put sunblock on this kid can be a challenge too.  He underestimates my sneakiness though because I can usually put some sun lotion in my palms when he isn’t looking and surprise him with it.  After that, it’s like a rodeo.  How much sunscreen can I get on this mini long-horned bull before he bucks me off?  The lotion-y hands don’t help my grip none neither* (*spoken in rodeo cowboy), so he escapes pretty easily.  Once I catch up to him and then he escapes for the third time, I call it.  “Vamos a la playa,” and he jumps in victorious glee with globs of sunblock blotched all over his body and hair.  How the hell did I get some in MY hair?  “Vamanos!”

We had found a one bedroom apartment to rent in a “Caribbean Style” hotel that was right across from the beach.  The location was choice: directly across from beautiful Playa Negra, 3 minutes north of town on bicycle in a very diverse neighborhood.

That is right across the street from our new crib. I heard the States got a lot of snow this winter?

“Caribbean Style” housing, however, means permanent dust engrained in the loose flooring, cold water (when the water works), and mosquitos the size of mangos.

Our kitchen/living room or bedroom during my brothers extended stay. That's right. sleep on the kitchen floor my brother. Brothery Love.

The bathroom. The size of two polling booths...upgrade!

(I did have a nice picture of our bedroom which was basically the size of the queen bed, but somehow CK’s pants disappeared so I decided to spare you the full moon, even though it is pretty cute.)

The apartment was much bigger than our last jungle rental shed, and we didn’t have to go outside to get to the toilet, which is always a bonus.  The one down fall to our new place, was the amount of heat that got trapped in there.  There were screen windows and everything, but the sun hit it hard and it didn’t get much breeze off the ocean since it was behind another larger apartment.  There was definitely a 10+ degree difference from inside the apartment and out on our ocean breezy porch, but yes, we had an ocean breezy porch.  The next challenge is getting this kid used to cold showers.

Our bathtub with hot water boiled from the stove. Cold shower training starts tomorrow...

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Are these the Terrible Twos?

It was only a matter of time before the Terrible Twos were going to hit.  Better sooner than later though, huh?  I know some people who still suffer from the Terrible Thirty Twos (love yourself people!).  To tell you the truth, as a whole, CK isn’t really going through anything of the sort.  He is a very happy little boy and seldom does he really breakdown, unless homeboy is hungry or tired, but who doesn’t break down when you haven’t slept or eaten?  Lindsay Lohan.  Nuff said.  CK has, however, developed this one little habit that annoys the fuck out of me and I’ve decided to blame it on the Terrible Twos, even though there hasn’t been very much terrible in his twos.  It’s a good an excuse though, ‘Damn Terrible Twos’.

When this kid gets upset, I believe a multiple choice tab falls down in his head and he proceeds to choose which reaction properly suits the current catastrophe that has made him so extremely frustrated and mad. ( See Table 1):

Table 1

“Man, I am fucking pissed! Should I:

A:  Scream as loud as I can so my screeching voice echos off even the screen doors and strings of rabid saliva wiggle at the opening of my mouth from the sheer force of my roar, which I will not stop until blood starts leaking out of my Dad’s ears?

B:  Throw whatever I can find, even if it’s my favorite yellow school bus, and once it leaves my hands and gets hurled into the jungle bush, I will start to cry even harder until I forget what I was initially upset about and the only thing important to me now is getting my bus back.  “Iwan elo bus!”

C:  Flop down to the ground as if my legs have turned into jelly or like I collapsed from heat stroke and stay lifeless, arching my back backwards while Dad tries to pull me out of the bat shit I just fell in?

D: All of the above.

Luckily, CK doesn’t choose D (a majority of the time).  His favorite reaction to pure frustration is the option letter C.  He has mastered ‘The Flop’ better than Vlade Divac.  You would think he was raised by the Mexican national soccer team the way he dramatically falls to the ground when he gets upset.  (Along those lines, one good thing about the flopping is that before the age of 3 he has already mastered 80% of what it means to be a professional athlete.)

CK’s flopping never happens at a convenient time or place, and that’s what kills me.  He has pulled “The Flop” in the sand after I had just washed the whole beach out of his crack or when we have to cross the street fast so we don’t get hit by a big ass bus.  He knows it’s an inopportune time when he pulls it too.    “Oh, you want me to hold your hand and cross the street fast so we don’t get hit by that bus?  Well take this!” and he collapses in the middle of the street like a girl at a Justin Bieber concert and Dad tries to keep him upright by pulling up on his arm, conscious that his whole limb might just come out of his arm socket because little dude refuses to put his feet underneath him.  Because of this fear, I eventually swing him into my arms and hold him horizontal across my chest as he tries to flop out.  It looks like I am taking this poor child somewhere horrible…like the dentist.  “Dude, calm down and let’s figure this problem out not in the middle of the street.  In case you haven’t noticed, pedestrians do not get the right away around these parts.”  “The Flop” is the worst because you want to just leave him lying there for the principality of the matter, but that falls in the realm of child neglect, and bus tire treads might leave a mark on his sensitive skin.

I’m sure new strategies of showing his anger are bound to develop throughout his youth, but hopefully he grows out of this flopping shit.  That is, unless he becomes a pro athlete, and yes, that is still the plan…

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Operation Save Single Dad: Family to the Rescue

How long can a single parent go without completely losing it…like Homer going after Bart?  Don’t worry, it doesn’t get to that point with us and no, I don’t choke CK until his tongue begins to vibrate out of his mouth.  CK’s hair also doesn’t look like the design on Charlie Brown’s shirt, so just disregard that last comparison to the Simpsons.

Most sane single parents (hell, single or not, just parents) tend to migrate back towards other family members that are available to help out, right?  Not me.  Not this guy.  What was I thinking?  Can it be the numerous head injuries I suffered in my high school sports career?  Maybe it was college (that was a major head injury).  Something must be wrong with me, and it’s not just my single Dad body odor, as I sweat through this heat, trying to do everything for this kid and finishing the day being too tired or without any time to even take a shower  (that smell can’t help my nonexistent game with the women neither.).  Why move back to family when I can go to a third world country and be a single parent, surviving in the jungle?  Sigmund Freud would even have trouble with this one.  Luckily for me, however, my family continues to remain super supportive and makes sure to come to us, no matter how far away we are.

Since the day CK was born, my mom has made the journey every three months to visit us, where ever we may be, to spend some quality time with her first grandson.  I think my body knows when the three-month visit is upon us because a couple of weeks prior, in anticipation, my patience starts to thin out, as well as my hair.  My knees start to ache like your grandpa’s before it rains.  My subconscious knows a break is on the horizon and the sharpie comes out, crossing off the days in my eternal calendar.

It means that this Dad gets to check out, sleep in, and go out for a beer.  Maybe even stay out later than 7, (if he can stay awake).  Maybe even have a conversation that isn’t based on what color the cars are that pass by, (if he doesn’t fall asleep at the bar after one beer).  The three-month visit is when I get to press the reset button, and recharge for another three months of minimal help.  It was crucial!

Well, the three-month visit was now here, and my mom wasn’t the only one coming.  My brother and sister were also joining the infantry, as well as two amazing friends.  We rolled deep (6 people, not including King Chubby, so 6 3/4), and CK was in for a treat…as was Dad.  The three-month visit was finally a reality and what better place to have it then the Caribbean of Costa Rica.

My sister and friend were the only ones that had traveled to Costa Rica before, but none of them had been to Puerto Viejo.  After surviving another 5 hour bus ride back to San Jose to pick up the crew, with CK sleeping on my lap for half of it only to wake up in his own pool of drool that had seeped through my shirt, we rented  a van and started to head back to the coast.

The ride back was pretty uneventful if you don’t count the 2 hour delay while leaving the city due to the highway being repainted (only in the 3rd world).  We had rented a house in Cocles for the week and no one was more excited to spend time with my family and friends then this guy.  I also built it up for CK as we had brought down several pictures of my family that we looked at before bed at least 3 times a week.  CK started the family week sleeping in my room, as usual, but only a couple of days into the visit, he had moved into the room with my mom who got to take over the wake up and morning feeding of the beast.  I will love you forever, ma.

My siblings are probably some of the coolest people I know too.  There are four of us total, and now 75% of our brother/sisterhood was here in Puerto.  I was psyched.  My brother brought down his harmonica and my sister her trombone, that’s how cool they are.  My sister even brought it out to the bars a couple of nights to play with the local reggae cover band called Plan B.

My sister can bring her horn to a show, talk to the musicians, sit in on a song no matter what it is, then get asked to stay the whole set because she is the shit! She does this on the regular...apparently internationally as well.

She ended up playing Santana, Bob Marley, and some jazz standards, and basically rocked the joint.  She even made $5 in tips.  That was $5 more than I had made in 3 months of being here.  She had been there for all of 24 hours!  What the fuck?!

Yeah, she's bad...

The next night she played with the same band at a different bar and made $20 because their lead guitar player didn’t show up, so she was the lead.  CK even stayed up to see 20 minutes of her second show and was thoroughly impressed with his Tia.  Now he loves the trombone and can pick it out of a song that is playing.  “Ah, Ombone!”

Shoulder time with Tio! Dad's shoulders were not jealous...

The 10 day visit was much-needed on all parts, for everyone involved.  CK got a break from Dad and Dad got a break from CK.  Each of us was showered with love and the time went by way too fast.  It was the complete opposite of a family vacation gone bad and everyone enjoyed each others company so much, there were tears shed when it was time to say goodbye.  Hasta 3 months…

Yeah, my family is awesome!

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Naked Time v2.: Potty Training in the Jungle

Everyone has got their own strategy of how to get their kid not to crap themselves, no?  The bribe method is a favorite, where you hold a bag of M&Ms in front of the kid’s face like a carrot for a donkey and throw the candy in their mouths once they make it in the toilet.  The problem with that is once the kid is older and supposedly well potty trained, he/she will associate M&Ms with using the toilet.  Therefore, on his/her first movie date, once the M&Ms get whipped out, accidents are bound to happen.  Why do you think movie theater floors are always sticky?

Another bribe may be to let them watch their favorite episode on TV…five minutes worth of TV for every nugget they get in the john.  You have to load up that toilet if you want to watch a full 30 minute episode!  Then you got the hippie method where when the parents have use the bathroom, they pull down their drawers where ever they are (the park, the dentist’s office, the supermarket, etc.) and physically show the child how you are supposed to do it.  The idea is to get the kid to pee in unison with the parent so they become potty trained, then go tree hugging for the rest of the afternoon.

The gangsta method is putting a knife to the kids throat if they don’t go, but that usually scares the shit out of them anyway…and Child Services gets contacted.  I don’t recommend that one.

I prefer to use Naked Time as a way to teach CK to use the bathroom, mostly because I vicariously live through him as he runs through the jungle beach, naked as a college nude model, peeing all over the place…how liberating no?  You see, here in the jungle, as I touched on before, you can pee or poop or throw food waste anywhere and it disappears faster than Bernie Madoff’s fortune.  The whole idea I have for Naked Time potty training is that CK can actually see what happens when he gets that ‘going feeling’.  If he is wearing pull-ups or training underwear or origami newspaper drawers, he can never put together the ‘going feeling’ with what happens next:  his pants just magically become full, he has a horrible stench like our homeless beach friends, and he starts chaffing running with a full load in this humid environment.  When he is naked however, and he gets that ‘going feeling’, he can then physically see the stream shooting out or the brown (sometimes other colors depending on the amount of tropical fruit he ate) blob making its way past his thunder thighs and scrapping against his ankles and feet before it hits the ground.  Visual learning here people.  Eventually I hope he can put 2 and 2 together.

Making a game out of it is always fun too.  Can you hit the coconut?  What about making it in the hole that the crabs live in?  Before someone goes and calls PETA on us, no animals have been harmed during Naked Time potty training sessions.  I promise.  It’s an ingenious method, but it can get a little messy if he isn’t necessarily right in the jungle at the time.

I have had to clean up some major nastiness during Naked Time potty training sessions.  He has left his mark on doormats and not in a flaming brown bag.  He has been on top of stairs and dropped a deuce that hits every stair coming down like a slinky…now that bowel had some major movement.  Regardless, I think it’s worth it because I have that feeling that he is slowly but surely getting it…especially when I make him help me clean up his mess.  He has learned the word “Yucky” and “What a mess!” and what kid likes to clean up his own shit?  Poco a poco we are working on getting rid of these expensive and wasteful diapers.

So if you see a little round child running around naked in Costa Rica, mind your distance, it could be a potty training session…

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Moving Out of Our Jungle Shed (Rags to Riches)

As much as I enjoyed being able to simultaneously have both my feet in our bedroom, kitchen, and ‘living’ room, it was time to move on.  I sure will miss having to walk outside, side stepping giant millipedes and spiders to get to the toilet, then avoid the pile of bat shit that decided to sleep (and crap) in our polling booth bathroom.  Or simultaneously washing the dishes, naked while taking a shower and bathing CK in his plastic water basin.  It’s gonna be hard to say goodbye to our ant friends that arrive in hundreds to show me where I did a mediocre job of cleaning up the savage remains of CK’s morning milk and granola.  Jungle rental shed, you will be missed…

There must be some sort of study out there that shows two months of living outside of town, in tiny quarters with your 2-year-old son in the Caribbean jungle has its effect on a parents psyche.  I’m not hallucinating yet, so I think I’m good.  Regardless, we had gotten to know the area a little better and so it was time to get a little more comfortable.

Also, in a week, CK was in for a surprise…reinforcements were coming!!!  The infantry had been mobilized and my family had decided to coordinate a 10 day visit to make sure we were actually alive and no limbs had rotted away from staph infections.  I was so looking forward to see the crew, but even more so because I would be able to sleep in, take a break from the kid, and maybe, just maybe, go out for a drink?!?!?  Could this be? Might it happen?

Before they arrived, however, we needed interim housing for a week since I didn’t want to start another month lease at the shed.  In a prior post, I introduced Amelia, one of CK’s best friends down here.  Well, this is where Amelia lives, and they invited us to stay for a week until my family arrives.

Roundhouse Rachel is what they call her. This is her beautiful, solar-paneled, self-sustained house made out of 100% local teak wood.

It has 4 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and a huge porch with toddler play toys and tents.  It’s tucked deep in the jungle where she built her own road to get back to her property.  She rents out the house when she isn’t there and also runs a business out of here.  Check it out:  We were very fortunate to receive such a generous upgrade.

Our old kitchen...

Rachel Ray's Food Network Jungle Kitchen

They even had bathtubs! We haven't seen one of those in months!

Jungle play porch...

Co-hammock swinging is a favorite on the porch.

Solo swinging is fun too...right out into the jungle!

We were so grateful to Rachel and Amelia for letting us stay with them for a week.  Single parents looking after single parents.  Much love.

Amigos buenos...


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A Very Brief Single-Parent-Land Follow Up

I may have misled some people with my last post.  Please don’t think that Puerto Viejo is some sex crazed beach village that can’t keep their pants on, with babies overflowing out into the gravel roads.  It’s not like that.  I do believe, however, that any beachfront culture in general, gives way to heightened sexuality due to the lack of clothing everyone doesn’t wear.  It sounds elementary, but I think it’s true.  It’s something primal.  (And I think that’s what you get to say when you have a degree in Sociology.)

Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean that people are having sex all over the place.  I don’t need to cover CK’s eyes when we go into the super mercado because some people are going at it in the produce section (or reproduce section).  Nor am I trying to provide an excuse for unprotected casual sex…nor making babies just to plant your seed.  That’s just how it is though, like it or not.

The whole point of the last post, which I am not sure I got across, is that single parenting is nothing out of the ordinary in Puerto Viejo.  It’s part of the culture, and this community shows a lot of love to the little ones, no matter whose kid they are.  There is an unspoken understanding among us single parents of what we can provide each other for support, like other children to play with, or some adult interaction to keep our sanity and maybe talk about something else besides going to the potty, or a large Pina Colada.  We look out for each other, because this shit can be tough at times, regardless of whether you are a single parent or not.

CK chillin with the 6-year-old twins whose single mom is German. You will not meet two sweeter girls who speak English, Spanish, German, and French. They have an infectious laugh and play so well with CK. Well done super Mom and supportive community!

So I apologize for the misunderstanding that my last post may have caused, but now that’s all cleared up, enjoy your weekend, and wear a condom.

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