Sunday, August 14, 2011

An Octopus's Garden By the Sea

Sea Life Aquarium, Carlsbad, California
This summer we were meant to go to a water park. I'd cut a deal with the dear girl: if she attended a couple of computer animation workshops she could go to a water park. Water parks are her idea of summer heaven. I'm much less enthusiastic, especially after the wrenched toe incident of 2007 and a series of online reviews featuring human waste.

But still, a deal is a deal, and I was bracing myself for a day of sliding down inclines of various sorts in all kinds of questionable water.

Happily for me, we didn't wind up at a water park. Our girl, you know the one — the one who is described as inflexible and rigid — changed her plans. 

Here's how that happened.  

When we checked into our hotel in San Diego, our girl caught a glimpse of the siteseeing brochures that lined a case in the lobby.* One of them was for the La Jolla Caves Kayak Tour. We've missed kayaking on the Hudson this summer after the sewage treatment plant fire that leaked untreated waste into the river during the hottest days of July.

I took this hotel-lobby-brochure opportunity to introduce the kayaking possibility.

"Hey Sweet M, what would you think about going on a kayaking tour of underwater caves?

"Underwater caves?" she asked, with mounting excitement.

"Yes, underwater caves."

"Well," she said, "When you're in a new place it is important to see the sites."

"So you'd be game to go to the underwater caves instead of a waterpark?"

"Oh yeah, underwater caves sound good."

And that was that. A plan was changed. A deal was renegotiated. Our girl's longtime inflexibility is giving way to a willingness to try something new.

La Jolla Kayaking Tour at La Jolla Caves
 (photo: courtesy Yelp)
Her dad and I were a bit nervous about the kayaking tour. Her swimming skills are not great, and there was the matter of walking across the sand to the shore line since she still freaks out when her feet hit the sand. And then there was the hurdle of her making her way through the surf line out to the open water.

True to form, our girl started to freak out when her bare feet hit the sand

Ewwwwee.  It's sand.  It's scratchy.  Oh, NOOOO, there's an insect.  Did you see the insect?

Other people on the tour started to stare.

Fortunately, the folks at La Jolla Kayak were awesome. They put our girl in a kayak with Tommy, a seasoned former lifeguard, so she was in incredibly competent hands.

I told our girl to take some slow deep breaths because pretty soon her feet would be in the kayak and there would be no sand.

And that's what she did — she headed right out through the surf line with Tommy.  She was terrified, but she did it.  And once she was safely past the breaking waves, she was full of questions for the guides: what are these pink things on this kelp? (sea anenomes that attached to the kelp because the water has been so cold); are those sand sharks camouflaged? (yes); where are the sea lions? (it's too overcast for them to hang out on the rocks today).

We couldn't have been more proud of our inquisitive seafaring kayaking girl.

Pelly's Mini-Golf Course in Del Mar
The next day we hit Pelly's mini-golf course in Del Mar and the Octopus's Garden by the Sea exhibit at the Sea Life Aquarium in Carlsbad, which has my vote for best aquarium ever because it's just such a perfect scale for kids and families. They have all sorts of multisensory experiences: tide pools for petting starfish, tactile displays of shark skin, whale skin and eel skin, and the huge underwater tunnel with sharks and rays swimming above.

It was a perfect day of mini-golf and underwater creatures, sans water park slides and slimey waters.  Since that afternoon, I haven't been able to get the Beatles tune out of my head  . . .

I'd like to be, under the sea
In an octopus' garden in the shade
[. . .]

Oh what a joy for every girl and boy
Knowing they're happy and they're safe
We would be so happy you and me
No one there to tell us what to do
I'd like to be under the sea
In an octopus' garden with you . . .
In an octopus' garden with you . . .
In an octopus' garden with you . . .

Our world may never be as safe and easygoing as Ringo Starr's Octopus' Garden in the shade, where no one tells us what to do.  And none of us will ever be as flexible as our octopus friends.  But I think I can say we're stretching every day.

*I was in San Diego for the Blogher 2011 Special Needs Mini Conference. More on that soon! 


Liz Ditz said...

So nice to meet you in person. I'm just sorry we didn't have more time to talk.

I'm envious of the kayak tour -- I saw that too, and thought about going Sunday morning. Ended up having brunch with Aurelia Cotta and another mutual friend instead.

MothersVox said...

The feeling was mutual! I wish you'd gotten out on the kayaking tour -- it was really lovely, though so cold that even the sea lions had gone off to warmer waters! Our girl enjoyed it, as did we! And that Sea Life Aquarium in Carlsbad was absolutely brilliant. A very nice conclusion to the lovely BlogHer11 weekend.

audball said...

What a fabulous trip and what a great experience for your gal! It's so amazing what interests will push our kids to try...we, too, have found that a strong desire to try something different helps overcome so many fears. The best part is that your M will remember what she was able to accomplish and it will help propel her to try new things again! :) And, of course, the fact that she had a superb time is just the icing on the cake...

(And then there's the rest of the world that laughs at us as us moms [and dads] have tears in our eyes from the "simplest" things. I'm sure you were just beaming and so proud of your girl walking on the sand to the kayak! I know right where you're coming from :D!)

MothersVox said...

Thanks Audball. We were *thrilled* that she wanted to do this and managed the challenges! You're right that doing something new paves the way for more new adventures.

La Jolla Kayak said...

Thank you very much for the kind words! We are glad to have had such a positive impact and thank you VERY much for taking time to write about your day on the water!

Anonymous said...

So cool! Atlantis next!

MothersVox said...

Hey @j, so great seeing you pop up here! And it was cool. The kayaking and that aquarium were pretty amazing. But I really did want to go to Atlantis -- that looks like a waterslide that even a slide-shy gal like myself could love. So it's on the list for next time!

How are you and yours? Let's meet up after the back to school transition has been completed!