11.05.2007

Leelo vs. the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Leelo vs. the Monterey Bay Aquarium

There are few places Leelo loves as much as the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We don't go that often for three reasons: we live 90 minutes away, I refuse to go any time it might be crowded (i.e., all Summer long), and Leelo's schedule rarely has a hole big enough for a major excursion. But we go when we can, because it makes my son so damn happy. (Oh, and my daughters, too. Hi, girls!)

I knew that the trip was going to be a challenge, even with brave Jo Spanglemonkey at my side. Leelo is well on the way to being potty trained, but he is still not entirely reliable. It is really difficult for him to focus on bladder control in an environment with multiple distractions (not surprisingly, he is most successful at keeping dry while riding in the contained, simplified environment of our car). He has never been to the Aquarium in underwear rather than pullups without a dedicated Leelo point-person shadowing him. He has never been to the Aquarium the day after a thoroughly successful sneak campaign to pillage large amounts of his sisters' Halloween candy.

Still, he did well on the drive down. We stopped in Gilroy for potty and coffee, and he stayed dry. We parked in Monterey, at the parking lot four blocks distant from our destination, and he stayed dry. At block three, though, he started grabbing at his crotch. I asked him if he needed to go, and he looked at me with pinched desperation. I looked around and realized, with escalating panic, that there were no potty options for entire stretch between Leelo and the Aquarium entrance -- only ticky-tacky tchotchke shops and roped-off construction areas. I had Mali in the stroller and my companion Jo Spanglemonkey was on the three big girls (her Sophie, my Iz, and Iz's friend Emma), so I left Jo in the dust, grabbed Leelo's hand and Mali's stroller, and bolted for the gate.

We almost made it. As I slammed a stack of membership passes on the counter, asked if I could run for the bathroom, and was given a warm, polite "of course," Leelo started peeing all over the floor. Sigh. Not his fault.

Nor do I think it was his fault when he had another accident 30 minutes later. He was in his happiest, most exciting place on earth, the wave tunnel!



I have a hard time controlling my bladder in the wave tunnel. It's just too exhilarating. And I am not a potty-training child who has a hard time focusing on bladder control in overstimulating environments.

However, this second accident meant that his backup shorts and underwear were wet, and that he had to wear a pullup under damp shorts. Our boy was not pleased. Vocally. Loudly. Thankfully, the aquarium was not that crowded, nor do yowling children attract much attention there.

While Jo and the girls checked out the main otter tank, I ducked into a gift shop to get the girls matching octopus shirts, to prove to myself that I was not actually freaked by the octopus that had scared the shit out of me only moments earlier. The girls seemed thrilled by their shirts, and asked to go into the store to check things out for themselves.

Iz popped right back out again and asked if she could have a mood necklace. I said "Brand new shirt not even five minutes old what? That means NO."

She whined. Then she said she wished her generous soft touch Auntie Bree was there (Auntie Bree bought Iz a Webkins after Iz got a big No from me). I then told Iz that 1) No means No, 2) Nagging means Hell No, and 3) Telling me, after I had just gifted t-shirts to her and her friends, that she wishes someone nicer was here to buy her more things means Give me your shirt right now and you can have it back in an hour if you stop whining and don't mention that fucking necklace ever again.

I also told her that I really needed to focus on helping her brother through his damp shorts crisis. Case in point: while we were talking, and even though I was holding his hand, Leelo managed to whip off his pants and was standing in the middle of the busiest section of the Aquarium, naked from the waist down. I have to admit that it was a fine demonstration of motor skills and coordination.

The girls then decided they were hungry. I asked the information desk people if we could get one of the many volunteers to help us with our trays as we navigated the cafe; they said they could help us but that there was also a sit-down restaurant. Score! We sat and were served and I had a much-needed glass of wine and the kids were so happy with the food that they couldn't stop eating and almost didn't talk at all. Both an adjacent diner and our waiter informed us that our kids were Incredibly Well Behaved. Wow.

I took Leelo to the bathroom, as it'd been an hour since his wave tunnel accident. Bone dry.

Leelo then told me that he "Want to go see the fishes!" and ran for it. We made our way over to the Open Ocean tank. Leelo slammed some people out of the way, and only gave a two-handed running smack-push to one big guy, but everyone was cool about it and downplayed my profuse apologies. Mali squealed to get out of her stroller to go see the jellyfish, so Jo and the big girls helped mind her so I could stay with Leelo as he spaced out in front of the Open Ocean tank.

Then we went to the potty again. Again he was dry. In that same post-second-underwear-accident pullup.

Next was the Whale play area. Mali loved dressing up in whale costumes and pushing all the cetacean and pinniped sounds buttons. Leelo did too (so much so that I downloaded him some humpback whale ditties from iTunes when we got home).

Then Leelo kept asking to go on the slide. I thought he meant Spash Zone, which is closed for another few months, but actually he meant the new Otters exhibit downstairs (where he'd only been once, in May). Smart boy!

Next was the Lower Open Ocean tank. Happy happy happy boy. Happy big girls. Happy Mali, naming all the critters gliding by. Though she kept insisting that the giant sunfish was a sea turtle.

Potty again. More dryness for Leelo.

The last place we visited was Jellies As Art. Leelo loves jelllies. Here is my favorite picture from the trip, of him in the Moon Jelly room (he is in silhouette). I got a real pang out of seeing him there, as I don't know if he'll ever understand my story about the magical time I was on a boat with his dad, at night, surrounded by glowing moon jellies. Iz loves that story. Mali will. It's possible that Leelo already does, but there's no way for me to tell. Not now.

Leelo and the Moon Jellies

We left Monterey and opted for the mountain route home. We joked about crashing Grace's home, but instead stopped off in Scotts Valley for more potty and coffee. Leelo was dry. He was also very grumpy about using that potty, and had to be encouraged to go.

Then home. Leelo's original pullup was still completely dry when he changed into underwear. Smart, talented, perplexing, wonderful boy.

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