With another Friday Fun Day upon us, the question was, what shall we do? I know! Go whale watching! I wish. But taking 3 little kids whale watching by myself seemed a bit much. So I just took a picture of this sign that I love.Instead, we headed to the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, or The Little Aquarium, as we like to call it. We are fortunate enough to live very close to the wonderful Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific. But sometimes it's nice to hit the little Aquarium for a more low key, intimate experience. There is a suggested $5 donation, and lots of staff on hand to answer questions. On a Friday afternoon, we had the place pretty much to ourselves. Every one had fun.
James finally worked up enough nerve to put his hand in the touch tank and touch a star fish. After he did he said "that was so easy. I'm not even scared of touching the pokey ones now." But he wouldn't do it when I asked him to. William still wouldn't touch anything. Lilly, of course, loved putting her hands in the touch tank. And then in her mouth. Ewww.
The boys really love the whale room. They like to press the buttons to hear the calls of all the whales. They like the giant whale skeleton hanging from the ceiling and the giant hooks and harpoons on display. William likes to show me that he is almost as big as a whale tail. Almost William.
The best part of the afternoon though, was an unexpected lesson about the grunion. Grunion are pretty famous around here. Every year, when the grunion come on shore to lay their eggs, people go on grunion runs. For some people, a grunion run is a chance to catch these sardine sized fish with their bare hands, while they flop around on the sand. For others, it is just a chance to watch them spawn and lay their eggs before returning to the sea. I've never gone on a grunion run, but now I think I might give it a try. To watch, not to catch.
One of the staff members at the aquarium asked us if we'd ever seen grunion eggs hatch. When we said we hadn't, she invited us to come hatch some ourselves. First, she told us a little bit about the grunion. She explained how the female lays her eggs in the sand and then about 10 days later, a high tide will wash over the eggs and they will hatch, floating their way back to sea with the tide. She said that after the grunion lay their eggs, you can scoop up a handful of sand and it will be full of eggs.
She then gave all the kids a little jar full of sand. She poured in a little sea water and instructed them to gently swirl the water around the jar, mimicking the action of the waves. The eggs will rise up with the water and float around. Within a few minutes, she said, your jar will be full of tiny, swimming grunion.James held our jar and gently swirled the water inside. At first, the water was cloudy with sand and we couldn't see anything. Then he set the jar down and as the sand settled, there they were: tiny little fish swimming around. It was so cool.
The boys were so excited that they had hatched the eggs. It was pretty remarkable to see it happen before our very eyes. Now we all have an interest, an investment, in something we never even knew, or in my case, cared, very much about. I knew about the grunion, but I never really thought about them. Now I can't wait to take the boys on a grunion run. We have something new to learn about.
It was another Friday Fun Day success. Friday Fun Days have turned into something really wonderful for us. James now tries to turn everyday into Friday Fun Days. Sunday Fun Day, Monday Fun Day... We don't always do something grand. A couple weeks ago William chose walking on the beach and playing at the beach playground. That is something we do often. But there is just something special about doing it on that day. I brought juice boxes. We ate bagels on the pier and watched the surfers. It is fun to be together.
Sometimes I lament the fact that we haven't yet taken the kids on "amazing" vacations. I wonder if I'll get to take them to Europe, to ride a funicular railroad up a Swiss alp, to see the Statue of Liberty. But then I remember, the time we spend with them, no matter where we are or what we are doing, is what they will remember. I didn't go to Europe when I was a kid. I did go to Yosemite. And I remember every detail about that trip. They are some of my most cherished memories. A couple of years ago we spend a week at a beach house on the central coast. James was only 3, but he remembers, and still talks about it, all the time.
He also talks about the Orange County Fair, where we go every summer. William loved visiting the Wyland gallery (all those lovely dolphin statues) in Laguna Beach. These trips are no Statue of Liberty. But to them, they are wonderful. Where ever we go and whatever we do, I can make it special, meaningful, and a lasting memory. Sometimes I forget that.
Sometimes it takes is a jar of tiny fish eggs to remind me. Happy Friday Fun Day everyone!