Lessons from the Jacuzzi

It was 40 degrees in the Blue Ridge mountains, so a dip in the porch jacuzzi seemed like a good shock to our spring break cabin adventure. My in-laws established this annual tradition which I’ve come to love.  Partly because of the change of scenery from the Florida flatlands, but also because I get loads of alone time to explore my inner Daniel Boone.

Earlier that day my wife and kids were being entertained by “Bio and Bia”. I noticed this golden opportunity and casually mumbled, “I’m going to look into a thing I saw downstairs.  Nothing interesting.  Carry on.” I slipped silently down the stairs to the basement without arousing suspicion.   Alone at last with my book, the frigid mountain air, and a jacuzzi.  Life didn’t get much better than this.

I stripped down to my shorts, brazenly shook my fist at the icy 40-degree breeze, and jumped into the steamy, bubbling jacuzzi.  In the distance, a lone wolf howled in solidarity and a chipmunk scampered up the jacuzzi and gave me a high five.  I pulled out A Beginner’s Guide to Rugged Mountain Life and soaked in this rare oasis of solitude.  The combination of crisp mountain air and hot, fizzy water was both invigorating and relaxing. On this lonely mountain top, Eden was a wrap around porch and the tree of life was a jacuzzi.

Suddenly, my effervescent meditation was abruptly popped when my four-year-old burst through the door yelling, “I FOUND YOU!!” and immediately slammed the door shut.  I screeched like a wounded animal and my Beginner’s Guide fumbled from one hand to the other, barely escaping a hot, watery grave. “PAPI!! IT’S C-COOOLD!” he yelled through the window. Confusion and fascination were written across his face as he saw this magical, boiling mini-pool on the edge of a forest.

At that point, I had a choice.  I could dismiss him back to the rest of the tribe and continue with my effervescent Eden experience, or I could embrace the interruption and invite him to join in.  I wish I could say I always embrace the interruption, but alas… I’ve chosen the TV or the phone over the child many times.   This time, however…I made a lasting choice.

“Wanna come in?” I asked.  His eyes widened as he reconciled taking his clothes off in freezing weather, then jumping in water.  “SI!!!!!” It didn’t take him long.  Donning his spiderman tighty-whities, he cautiously stepped into the jacuzzi, beaming with excitement.  “Papi! It’s cold up here…but it’s hot down here!” he pointed out.

We dove underwater and explored the aquatic caverns of the Mariana Trench.  Hot lava jet streams threatened our deep sea diver suits and spewed bubbles around us.  Strange formations that resembled steps rose for miles to the surface.  A giant oarfish swam gracefully between us.   Suddenly, from the distant beyond, we heard a mermaid call, distorted by the lava jets and millions of gallons of water above us. We regulated our suits and rose to the surface and found my wife,  wearing a jacket instead of a sea-shell bra, informing us that dinner was ready. Our adventure ended, but a special memory had been created.

I don’t know what it’s like to have children grow up and become more independent…but I’ve seen Toy Story 3, so I know how this will eventually play out.  For that reason, my prayer is that I will see these “interruptions” as unique opportunities to win the heart of my children. One day, there will be other contestants in the battle for their heart.  Some will be good, some will be bad.  My role is to guard their heart while they’re under my care, so when they depart, they will understand who they are and whose they are.

Parenting isn’t always a jacuzzi adventure,  but it is a series of decisions that form the building blocks of our children.  I have built up the blocks, only to topple them later on.  I’ve taken relational moments and squandered them on fruitless activities.  This is where God’s grace steps in and allows our parenting victories to eclipse the failures… when relaxing jacuzzi escapes become wondrous, memorable explorations of Atlantis.



Big Gulp

We’ve all heard about Bucket Lists: a catalogue of things we would like to do before we arrive at our Sell-By date.  However, I have found that parenting comes with its own unique list… a list I call the Un-bucket List.  This list includes things we never thought we would do, but ended up doing as parents.  Here’s a sample from my Un-bucket List:

  1. Sucking another human’s snot out with a flexible straw.
  2. Pre-chewing another person’s food, then plopping that food in their mouth.
  3. Eating that same food after it’s been rejected.
  4. Smelling another human’s butt to determine if a deposit has been made
  5. Wiping that human’s butt once the deposit has been confirmed.

… and other accomplishments under the guise of “it’s ok, we have the same germs.”  Today’s Ringside Parenting story tells the tale of a recent addition to my Un-Bucket list… an addition that will be difficult to swallow.

We prepared for our hour and a half drive to Sea World with the usual pre-trip checklist: tumbler cups full of water for the adults, diaper bag, snacks, stroller, toys, and a kid’s movie in case of emergencies.  It was a lovely Florida summer day and both the skies and roads were clear… until we arrived at the entrance to the park.  At that point our free-spirited ride turned into a crawling caravan waiting to get into the parking lot.  Elias had recently conquered the potty training challenge and was doing an exceptional job of holding it, until the back and forth lurching of the van tipped his little bladder beyond holding point.

“Tengo que hacer pipi!!” he warned us loudly. I scanned our surroundings: nothing but lines of cars waiting to get in, some of them abandoned by their drivers who created their own parking spot.

“Can you wait?!”

“No papi… I gotta go NOW!” he screamed, grabbed his crotch and grimaced.

Like a front line field medic with nothing but her wit to keep wounded soldiers alive, Yarei moved into action and took one of our big tumbler cups, open the window and flung out the water.  In one swooping move she unbuckled him, stood him between the seats, and let sweet relief pour into almost half the cup.  After looking in front and behind us for spies, she quickly discarded of the contents in a nearby plant.  Crisis averted, we decided we too would abandon our van and begin our Sea World adventure.

Fast forward 4 hours and we returned to our van. I cranked up the AC, set the kids to ‘auto pilot’ with a DVD movie and began the journey home.  An hour into the  drive, Elias burst out,  “MAMI! Tengo que hacer pipi!”  Having seen the effectiveness of the pipi-cup, Yarei decided to avoid a stop and just had Elias relieve himself in the same way.  Always content to try something new, he happily complied, but this time about half the amount came out.  The cup was secured in the middle console cup holder, but I still eyed it suspiciously, as if its contents knew they were not where they were supposed to be.

Once home we began the mad rush to get the exhausted kids into bed before they reach total melt down.  Back and forth Yarei and I marched like worker ants as we took turns bringing in sleepy children and van cargo, which seems to multiply on the way back. Finally, after deactivating the little time bombs, I let out a sigh of relief and headed back to the kitchen to quench a thirst that had been building up since we got home.

Now, I don’t know about your house… but we are an omnipresent- water-drinking house.  Partially empty water cups are left everywhere and shared by everyone.  It’s a type of water Eden… until innocence was lost.

I entered the kitchen to a typical post-trip scene: left over snack containers on the table, diaper bag on the chair, a lonely kid shoe on the floor, and the travel tumblers along with other cups of water on the counter.  Finally quiet time, where a thirst-quenching cup of water can be enjoyed without interruptions.

I reached out for a yellow tumbler cup and raise it to my parched mouth.  As the liquid glided down my tongue it stopped midway and put a choke hold on my throat.  My eyes flared as the synapses between taste buds and brain jolted into a frenzied attempt to decipher what I just ingested.  Time grinded to slow motion as my brain rerouted all body resources to determine if the unthinkable had just happened. The kitchen swirled around me and went dark like a dimly lit cave. Before me appeared an ancient table made of thick, black wooden beams adorned with burning candles on each corner. Upon it lay a wide variety of cups – plastic cups, sippy cups with curly straws, golden goblets with safety lids, and metallic chalices with rubber grips.  And next to the table stood an even more ancient Templar Knight with a long white beard, resting on his shield.  He looked up from his immortal sentinel pose and simply stated:

Knight meme

With a wave of his gauntlet the cave vanished and I was back in my kitchen, gagging and spewing what had now been fully registered as Elias’ pee. 

Yarei walked in shortly after and witnessed an odd contortion on my face followed by an unintelligible gurgling sound.

“Oh, by the way… don’t drink from the yellow cup,” she stated matter-of-factly as she placed a can of garbanzos in the pantry.  “That’s where Elias did pipi.”

Thus was added the most unthinkable item to my parental Un-bucket list.  And if you think this story is ingesturine for a big surprise.

big gulp


Rhino Vs. La Caca

Bathtime with my kids reminds me of the old school Battle Ship game.  It’s all about moves and counter-moves.  Unfortunately, my one year old’s moves are mostly of the bowel type, so, like a good Naval Admiral, I must always have a counter-move ready.

I recently discovered her recurring naval attack when I was bathing both my 3 and 1 year olds together.  In order to keep the peace and maintain them in the water long enough to sanitize them, we’ve thrown in a random assortment of toys including action figures, balls, a rubber ducky, a snake, and some cars.  One day while I was dodging torpedo splashes in futility, I noticed out of the corner of my eye what appeared to be an unidentified toy in the water.  New snake? Odd shaped action figure? My mental viewmaster slides were trying to find a match with all registered toy images, but to no avail… until it switched to a different target search: potty pictures.  A match was found, and it confirmed my worst fear.  Selah had just launched a silent, brown torpedo in the water that could unleash a chain reaction of events.  I had to act quickly before impact, so I grabbed a nearby bucket, scooped up and disposed of the deadly discharge before any further damage was done.  Bathtime was aborted as I conducted a thorough crew decontamination followed by an evacuated into life rafts.

This should not have come to me as a surprise, since this 20 pound stealth submarine once shut down an entire hotel pool when one of her torpedoes managed to squeeze its way out of her baby bathing suit.  I should have learned my lesson.

I decided to enlist the sharp periscope eye of my three year old as a lookout.  I instruct him to be on “caca alert” in the event that Selah launched another attack during bath time.  He took the charge with much pride.  Recently, at the beginning of bathtime when I reminded him to be on caca alert, he saluted me with his right hand and thrusted his Rhino-man action figure forward with his left.

“Rhino va a pelear con la caca!” (Rhino will fight the caca!) He bellowed with the grit of a war-torn commando.  All he needed was a pint-sized cigar protruding out of his mouth.

“Bien hecho” I nodded and saluted back at my little SEAL.

Bathtime begun with a new sense of confidence in both of us. I was in the crow’s nest looking out for brown bullets, Elias and Rhino were on the surface and underwater scanning for any pre-torpedo vibrations/bubbles.  Selah babbled and splashed with her usual look of innocence… but something was stirring inside her.

Five minutes of playtime had passed and there was no breach of our perimeter.  Rubber ducky bobbed up and down peacefully, yet his blank stare betrayed a deep concern.  Elias was showing me his latest Rhino karate back flip when he suddenly screamed “PAPI! CACA ALERT!!!” Selah had adapted her weaponry to evade our new surveillance plan and launched a full spread mini torpedo net that covered more area with less effort.  Time was of the essence as the little projectiles flowed back and forth with every movement of water.  Without missing a beat Elias erupted, “RHINO VA PELEAR CON LA CACA!!!” and he began thrashing at the water back and forth, back and forth spewing the toxin in every direction. “NO CACA, NO!!!!” growled Rhino Man as he took the brunt of the brown.

The Brown Alert siren blared in the background as life slowed down to one of those slow motion moments where all you hear is a low, resounding “NOOOOO!!!” followed by distorted faces, swinging rhino-men, and beaming toddlers reveling in the moment.  Elias finished his thrashing with a look of triumph.  “I got it!!” he declared as he lifted Rhino up to gold medal position for the crowds to see.  Selah followed with her own pudgy fist in the air and a one year old’s squeal of delight “AGA EHHHH!!!”

With one hand covering my brow and the other leaning against the wall, I stood there a defeated Admiral overwhelmed at the casualties before me. I had been outwitted by a one year old stealth submarine with a full spread mini torpedo assault.  I would turn in my resignation to my Fleet Admiral and accept my position swabbing the poop deck.

… but not before Elias roared, “OTRA VEZ, PAPI!!!” (again, Papi!)

rhino vs caca

Future Planning

I heard it once said… “A man has a plan.” This is why we have retirement plans, hurricane planes, and zombie apocalypse plans. But what about “embarrassing picture plans”? You know… the ones you purposefully take so that your child can remember his humble beginnings before he was a “cool kid.” By the time my son graduates from high school, it will be the year 2030. Mars will be the newest vacation spot and subsequent safe zone from Skynet. The highlight of that year, however, will be Elias’ “life in review” pictures. Who knows, maybe we’ll even have the ability to turn them into 3D holograms that can be experienced. And leading the parade of milestone memoirs will be this picture with his best amigo.

Here’s to the future.

chicken motivation

Potty Training Economics

My Luchadora wife recently developed a genius motivational system for the potty training of our two year old: the coveted Potty Treasure Chest.  It’s a Potty Pirates dream, filled with cheap, made-in-China,  dollar-store toys which give about 5 minutes of play time before they break.   No matter, though, because every time the little Pirate makes a deposit into the Bowl Bank, he is rewarded with a trip to the Treasure Chest!  Flawless system… so we thought.

Elias has made some big strides in the past three weeks, to the point where he informs us that it’s time for a deposit and a visit to the Treasure Chest.  The other day we were playing with some blocks when he suddenly pauses and, like a bloodhound picking up a scent, perks up his chubby face, sniffs and says, “I gotta go caca!”

I scoop him up and knock down the blocks as we answer the call.
“I get trevor chess!”  He yells as we swing around the corner and have the bathroom in sight.

“Si Elias, if you do caca, you get treasure chest.” I assure him.

I plop him on the Bowl Bank and he begins the deposit process with a few choice grunts and growls.   Just then, Yarei walks by the bathroom carrying Selah.

“Make sure it’s a big caca,” she says to me, matter-of-factly.  “Recently he’s been doing a series of little cacas instead of pushing it all out at once.  I told him he only gets treasure chest for a big caca.”

“Clever,” I thought. “He’s maximizing his caca power.”

“But how am I supposed to know if it’s a big one?” I asked, but she had already disappeared into Selah’s room.

Without missing a beat, Elias beams, “I did big caca!”

I inspect the deposit, and in my unprofessional opinion, it was not a “big caca.”  He was obviously holding out.

“No Elias.  Esa es caca chiquita.  Sientate y has mas caca” (sit and make more caca.)

“NO!! Es caca grande, no es caca chiquita!” came his protest.

“Eliiiias”, I cocked my head to the side and gave him what I thought was a “papi knows that’s a little caca” look.

“NO PAPI! ES CACA GRANDE! ES CACA GRANDE!” he pleaded with his eyes as if saying, this is the best i’ve got!

I was at a loss.  Without a set standard of caca grande vs. caca chiquita, I couldn’t argue with his claim.  I didn’t want to be accused of tampering with the Potty Training scales, because that opens up a whole pandora’s box of consequences.  What’s next, right is wrong and wrong is right? No absolute truth? I had to make a decision.

I studied the deposit one more time, rubbing my chin as I squinted at it. After a long pause that probably seemed like an eternity to him, I said.  “Ok… es caca grande.  Vamos al treasure chest!” I shouted in triumph.

“TREVOR CHESS!!!” He yelled at the heavens, fist in the air.

Just then, Yarei emerged from Selah’s room.  She peeked into the Bowl Bank.

“That’s a caca chiquita.”

Elias looked at me as if to say “I need absolutes to find my way in life.  Don’t mess this up.”

In my best authoritative voice I settled the issue.  “Look… unless you put some kind of scale in here to give me an absolute standard, I have to take his word for it.  It’s the law of cacanomics.”

And off we went on a quest for our friend Trevor Chess.

Elias checking the going rate for "caca grande".
Elias checking the going rate for “caca grande”.

Breaking Water Prank

“my water just broke” said the text from Yarei.

It’s one of those select texts that make the record player of your life scratch and everything, for a brief moment, grinds into slow motion as the minions in your brain try to sort out the information. W a t e r . B r o k e. Plumbing? No. Financial problem? Negative. Birth of child: check. As I glanced at the text, I gripped the steering wheel and pulled a “Fast and Furious: Riverview Drift” hair-pin turn on Big Bend Road… imaginary smoke and all. As soon as my 4-cylinder hot rod stabilized and the blinker was safely turned off, I called Yarei.
“Are you ok?!”
All I heard was a nasal snort.

“Hello? Are you ok?!”
Snorting again…
“BAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Fooled you!!”
In the background I heard elf-like snickering… I could only assume it was Elias, who was in on this diabolical scheme.
“What?! You were joking?! You don’t joke about this! What if I sent you a text saying ‘I just broke my coccyx while riding four wheelers’ ? ” (highly probable).

Between bouts of mocking laughter, both adult and elf sized, she replied “You thought it was true?!”

“Of course! I’m on high alert, you pot-bellied mocker! You better not pull this again.. i’m likely to ignore you, only to watch the ambulance whiz by as you and Elias wave at me from the window… with grins on your faces.”

And so the record player resumed onto the next song: It’s the Final Countdown.

Newparent Log, Part 1

Our first 32 hours of parenthood have been great.  I’m blessed to be married to a woman who makes motherhood look like the beautiful art it is.  I find myself looking in wonder at our new son, Elias, and the Divine intervention that goes into making and delivering a baby. When Yarei is carrying him, I marvel at the fact that he lived inside her for 9 months.  I had the priviledge of being present at his birth and I sure am glad I watched a video about this process before having a front row ticket to the live event (although nothing can prepare you for this show).  Yarei had labored for over 62 hours and this was the culmination of a very hard, painful and exhausting road.  I told her that I would be comforting her and stroking her hair on the northern hemisphere  of the birthing process because the video of “the southern hemisphe” was a tad much.  Well, once it was show time the nurses asked if I wanted to be a part of the “Southern Hemisphere Welcoming Committee”.  I couldn’t use the “well, i have to stroke her hair” excuse because it’s not like I couldn’t be at both poles in a matter of seconds.   When people say the two greatest days of their lives are their wedding day and the day their child was born, I can now understand both of those great events. As part of the “welcoming committee” I was to encourage Yarei to push along with the nurses.  The nurses would cheer along saying “you’re doing a great job!”  and “you’re doing this for your baby!”  I was quiet at first, with eyes big as hubcaps, not sure what to say or do.  In a bewildered daze, I gave the occasional hair stroke, and whimpered small word of love and encouragement as she bore down on each contraction. But then the 5th contraction came along and I was feeling bolder and a little more creative.  By then, the baby’s head was emerging and I thought “you’re doing a great job” just wasn’t the kind of cheer I wanted to use.  So I opted for:

  “Way to go, Yarei!!  He’s prairie doggin’!!” 

Well, that little cheer had the opposite affect I wanted as it sent Yarei into a belly laugh, which then ended the pushing action.   Ooops…   but in the end, he emerged victorious like the honey badger, with a little fist coming out right after the head to indicate the beginning of the Elias revolution!!