Sunday, April 1, 2012

Day Trip to the Aquarium

Not me-- nor my photo.
Today started out as one of those days... the kind of the day you wish is over before it even begins.  I am probably to blame for this.  Somehow, it always comes back to me.

We had been planning all week to spend today at National Aquarium in Baltimore.  As any autism parent knows, in order to do something so out of the ordinary from our daily routine requires days of "prepping" your child(ren) for the trauma of having to *cue the scary music* "be flexible."  I try to strike a balance in the flow of information during this prepping stage.  Not enough info means Birdie and Princess feel like they have been sabotaged by their dad and me;  too much info could lead to more stress if they feel the activities to come sound "scary" or like they might be "too much" to handle.  Apparently, I got the "prepping" all wrong for this trip.

The day began with everyone crying and screaming-- including me.

Birdie was crying because she noticed all the cracker snacks I packed to take with us had peanut butter in them (which she hates and Princess loves).  I obviously didn't love her equally and was not considering her needs.  She actually interrupted me to make this accusation of inequality just as I was about to ask her what kind of crackers she would like to take for the ride.  Oh well...

Princess cried from the moment she got out of bed until we got in the car to leave.  She cried because she was sure she had overslept.  She cried because all three outfits she tried on were either too itchy, too tight, too noisy, or too "not even".  She cried because the strappy sandals she had planned to wear were too uneven.  She cried because she determined she needed to wear socks with her Crocs.  She cried because she couldn't find her wallet in which she was sure was an additional $0.66 she could spend at the gift shop.  She cried because I mistakenly thought she had $3 rather than the $2 she actually had.  She cried because it was April Fool's Day and she just knew she was going to get punked.

To make matters even more enjoyable, our dog decided today was the perfect day to use our living room and kitchen as his personal toilet.  He pooped and pissed (it's not pee-- he didn't make it to the potty) everywhere except in his litter box.  What?!  You've never heard of a litter box trained dog?  Well, now you have.  Smooth move, Buddy.  Way to make Mama's day.

Once we got in the car-- something I almost wasn't able to talk my husband into-- the drama subsided a bit.  We stopped at McDonald's for coffee and breakfast.  (Nothing takes the edge off Birdie's nerves like a Yogurt Parfait.)  As we rolled out onto the highway, I hit play on the Beatles' Revolver album and Princess couldn't help herself but smile.  Ahhh... the miracle of Taxman.  I'll play it on continuous loop until she is 20 if I must.

We spent a good part of the drive listening to Captain Planet Birdie lecture us on the interconnectedness of life on Earth and how we should take care of all living things because they take care of us.  "Animals give us protein and plants give us food and oxygen-- things we NEED in case you're wondering, guys."  Princess quietly rolled her eyes in the back seat for the most part, but did chime in once in awhile if she heard the name of a critter she likes.

Finally, we arrived in Baltimore and the girls were thrilled.  The city is beautiful to see as you drive in over the water.  Camden Yard is instantly recognizable and the Inner Harbor is lovely.  The only hitch in the skyline is the smoke stack you pass as you drive in on 395N, which Birdie is convinced is billowing smog into the atmosphere and probably poisoning something in the Chesepeake.

We parked our car and crossed the street to the National Aquarium.  We went to the Will Call kiosk to pick up our tickets and that's when Princess realized which building was the aquarium.  She was scared terrified of the building.  It is unlike any building she had encountered before, with it's high-pitched glass roof and uneven roofline.  She did NOT want to go in.  A meltdown began right there in the courtyard in front of the aquarium.

Princess clung to my hand for the first half hour inside
B & P preparing to enter the Australian Exhibit
After much wheedling, cajoling, and dragging, I got Princess into the front door-- and instantly everything was alright.  The waterfall and steadily moving stream of swimming fish you encounter as you enter the building captured her attention completely.  She forgot everything she had worried about all morning in that instant.  It was magical.  For the next three hours, Princess and Birdie's only worry in the world was whether or not we would get good seats at the dolphin show.

The dolphin show, as exciting as it was, lost a bit of its pizzazz toward the end due to the hunger grumpies.  We left the show and decided to head to Houlihan's (or Holy-hahn's, according to B) for lunch.  We thought the restaurant would be a better choice than the crowded cafeteria in the aquarium.  WRONG!!  For what ever reason, the stars were not aligned in our favor.  Princess had the misfortune of getting soaked by her chocolate milk right after she received it.  (We learned after the fact that the lids on the kid cups didn't fit properly.)  Why?!!  Why now!  What great foresight that I ordered a beer with my sandwich...  As you can imagine, the whole restaurant soon knew of Princess's stroke of bad luck.  I was frantically trying to mop up the mess on P with every napkin we had.  At the same time, I was trying to convince her that the waitress, had not in fact, planned the chocolate milk spill as some elaborate April Fool's joke.  The world is out to get her, ya know.  I ended up taking Princess to the ladies' room to wash her up the best I could and remove the tights she had on under her skirt.  We returned just before the mac and cheese was served-- whew.  Food made everything better for us and a nice tip made everything better for our slightly abused server.

We seemed to be in the clear.  Woo hoo!  Take that, chocolate milk disaster!

We made it back to the aquarium just in time to get in line for the 4D Immersion Theater movie.  I learned a HUGE lesson at the movie today:  a movie with sensory input other than sight and sound is a bad idea for tired, stressed kids with major sensory issues.  I seriously underestimated the affect that a little water misting and well-times gusts of air could have on Princess's ability to watch the 4D movie.  During the previews alone, we experienced bats flying under our feet, rain, pirate spit, getting poked by an alligator, and rats running under our chairs.  By the time the main film started, Princess was so upset and scared by what was "under her chair" that I could barely coax her out of the theater.  She actually screamed like she was being murdered when she saw the whale on the screen swimming toward us, and then decided she should run.  "DON'T LET IT GET ME!!!!!"

I hear the movie was great.  Birdie seemed to like it.

Saving the rainforest one dime at a time...
The rest of the day was wonderful.  The exhibits were calm and relaxing and beautiful.  The crowds were manageable and the spaces in the building large enough to diminish feelings of claustrophobia.  After hitting all the exhibits once, Princess and I went to visit the Australian exhibit once more while Birdie and her daddy went to see the Rainforest exhibit again.  Birdie even donated money to save a piece of the beloved rainforest she was railing on us about during the car ride.  Everyone left the National Aquarium with a smile on their face, some new swag to remember the day by, and a familiar darkening around their eyes that promises a good night of sleep for all.  When asked if they had fun, only the good times were remembered and none of the bad.

See, honey, I TOLD you it would turn out to be a good day.  Glad I was right.  :)

1 comment:

  1. Despite the mishaps sounds like you all had a good time. The chocalate milk incident reminded of the mud mishap at school ;-)