Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Whale of a Great Slumber Party at SeaWorld

A while back I conceived of this brilliant plot whereby I would conspire to convince SeaWorld that TheMotherhood.com and I could make fantastic co-hosts for an awesome event at their San Antonio location.

Friends, I must talk a really great game because I convinced the brilliant (and occasionally omniscient) Kami Huyse and SeaWorld as well as the amazing Cooper and Emily of TheMotherhood.com that this was a very good idea.

The next thing any of us knew (ha! as if it was simply movie magic easy LOL!), we were blowing up air mattresses with some of the most fantastic women in Texas to sleep with extremely cute but a little smelly puffins.

I've felt at a cross-roads this year, more so lately, which may or may not have anything to do with a recent birthday. I don't mind getting older or even middle-aged, aside from the minor physical inconveniences (great scott, the plucking!) (the sagging elbows!) (the creaky knees!) (enough!) but the big benefit of aging is supposed to be wisdom and perspective, and I'm determined to get me some of that, especially as I watch my days end at 9:30 p.m more and more often and start considering my reminder iPhone apps and Advil as best buddies.

You don't need me to tell you that it was so incredible to spend the night at SeaWorld. You can guess how it felt to fulfill a version of my nearly 30 year "From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs Basil E Franweiler" fantasy. You comprehend how awesome it was to check off some cool items on my bucket list:
  • sleep with polar aquatic birds,
  • stick hand in dolphin's mouth,
  • gain approval of killer whale matriarch,
  • perfectly mimic seal,
  • make BFFs with beluga whale, and last, but not least,
  • over divine food, listen to major executive passionately talk about green initiatives.
You can imagine how much I enjoyed having the park all to us. You know those animals are amazing. Incredible. You may even know personally know how very hard it is to stay behind the blue line while beluga whales flirt with you and, like sirens, entice you to leap in their pool and frolic with them, shedding the last stressed mantles of your humanity.

But how did this add to my Ultimate Life Goal and Commitment to Meaningful?

Aside from the obvious and pat answer that everything beautiful and experiential is worthwhile (which sort of smells slightly new agey to me, a scent only two grades above Dolphin Food and Puffins Au Naturel):

Things are richer with personal connections

Beautiful settings don't hurt, either.

I always get more out of a place when I know enough about the place to ask questions beyond the pat and obvious (although I'm not above acting like a second grader and asking questions such as, "What do they think of their poop, if they deign to notice it there in the tank with them?")

But I like to get a deeper appreciation for the little things of a place and how they fit together to make the whole such a wonderful picture.

What makes me take notice is seeing a place and event through other people's eyes and being aware of the place through knowing important things about it.

These things connect me, personally. I'm engaged. That makes it matter more, which, in turn, makes it a richer experience.

Being able to share that with others only enriches it more.

I loved being able to share it with Heather, Erica, Kelly, Joy, Dwan, Colleen, Debi, Dawn, Rachel, Emily, and Kami.

Slumber parties and inside jokes

Is it feeling a little clammy in here to anyone other than me?

While Emily and I were waiting for the fabulous Suzy of SeaWorld and Kami, we were shooting the breeze when I trotted out a memory of being on a bus heading to sleep away summer camp, a time I always loved. My hair, long and straight except for the feathering around my face, blew back in the wind from the open windows. My shorts-clad legs stuck to the hot fake leather seats, which had that acrid sweet smell old bus seats always had. Beside me, my friends Brandy, Shannon, Laura and Jenny sat laughing. We were so thrilled to be together we began belting out "Don't You Want Me, Baby." We were young, excited, happy, carefree, and on our way to the best time of the summer. Who was new? Who was back? Who grew up over the past year? Who was different? Who was the same? Most importantly, which guy would be cutest and who would hook up with him?

Now, nearly thirty years later, I had the same excitement buzzing in me as I waited for the WildSide adventurers to arrive for our camp. Would the ladies I only knew online seem as familiar and friendly as they did online? Would they look like their photos? Sound like their blog posts and tweets? Were they as giddy about being in a major theme park overnight, just us, as I was? Would anyone know the book From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler if I kept referencing it? Was anyone else feeling unbearably light inside?

What I found were women even more amazing than I expected, who were very real, and kept it real, all while maintaining a wonderful spirit for adventure. Despite the risk of getting drenched, everyone hung right by Mrs. Shamu. Despite our great and knowledgeable guide Chance sharing good information, and knowing the rule about the blue line, plus being warned that "whales look sweet but are NOT furry warm cuddly creatures," we all nearly leapt in the pool with the beluga whales.

These ladies asked tough questions, and every member of the SeaWorld team from executive Dan Decker to our guide Chance, SeaWorld comm rep (and indispensable cheerful and professional help) Suzy, our camp counselor Brooke, or anyone else on hand to help us enjoy ourselves, had the answer.

SeaWorld is awesome. I love their commitment to conservation and green choices. Who doesn't love a graceful and gorgeous dolphin being friendly? There is so much to see, learn and do there.

But it's even more awesome with a well-educated guide (getting a Ph.D) who calls out "Hey Hotties!" when he wants our attention. (And we must have been like herding cats, seriously.) And at night. By ourselves. With good food. and chocolates and mocktails. Who doesn't love a good sleepover when everyone has good laugh at silly slippers and people share their stories?

WHALE DONE! Such a Duh! and yet, Life Altering

Looking mighty bottle-nosed to be a whale, but at SeaWorld, hungry aquatic animals will be whoever you want for a bucket of fish. KIDDING!

We got a copy of this book, WHALE DONE!, which discusses the techniques SeaWorld trainers use to encourage the desired behaviors the animals display during performances (and other times).

I've read the positive parenting books. I took the classes. I went to puppy kindergarten. Four times.

I want to do this, and yet, it's a struggle. I come from a completely and totally GOTcha life (read the book, you'll get it) and setting expectations and working in a WHALE DONE way is, and probably always will be, a struggle to me due to background, habit, culture, temper, and so forth.

But through this book, and events like this, I keep feeling doors and windows in my mind open.

And you know, when I go away (mommy guilt) it helps more than a little to know I will be bringing back something more than 9admittedly VERY CUTE) stuffed penguins. (Stuffed with fluff, folks, I mean, what do you think we did in the penguin encounter all night? I assure you NO AQUATIC POLAR BIRDS were harmed in the making of this spectacular event.)

To read others' take on t he event (and isn't it awesome to read different takes on the same thing? see? ENRICHING! No wonder blogs are so popular.):

Heather http://www.savingssosweet.com/2009/11/seaworld-san-antonio.html

Dwan http://mommadjane.com/walk-wild-side

Debi http://sabusykids.com and http://voices.mysanantonio.com/sabusykids

Kelly http://www.savvymoxie.com/2009/11/sleeping-at-sea-world.html

Dawn (Lettergirl) http://notgoingpostal.com/2009/11/17/lessons-from-a-seaworld-slumber-party/

Colleen http://bit.ly/wild-side and http://babypotential.typepad.com/start_here_grow_far/2009/11/introducing-some-of-texas-finest-and-funniest-mommy-bloggers.html

Special thanks to the amazing SeaWorld hosts: Brooke (our counselor), Chance (our guide), Dan (our Big Wig), Kami (our Hottie Van Hot), and Suzy (our amazing contact).

And the fun doesn't end. SeaWorld, as you might have gathered, is so much more that simply an incredible and fun destination. They offer so many resources for parents. Come check out this circle, Raising Enlightened Kids, at TheMotherHood.com., where you can "discover the stories, photos, projects, lessons and fun SeaWorld offers for families who want to add meaning and culture to their family time. Let's talk about giving back, positive relationships, conservation, animals, education, and more!"

We've had, already, a really enlightening talk with SeaWorld trainers about how to use positive methods in work and home to accentuate the positive and reach desired behaviors let me just say...afterwards my kids made it to school on time, neat, and all of us were HAPPY.

Full disclosure: I worked with SeaWorld for this event. However, this post represents nothing other than me and my own thoughts about the event, and was not in any way solicited or compensated by SeaWorld.

4 comments:

Kyla said...

I so wish I could have gone...our schedule just couldn't flex properly to squeeze it in.

sabusykids said...

Thank you for making this amazing event happen for us. I really appreciated meeting you, look forward to seeing you again soon and really am enjoying getting to know you through your blog. See you in The Motherhood!

Kami Huyse said...

Honestly, you made this event so much the richer for all of us. You were the ultimate den mother, with the biggest purse that had everything anyone would ever need. Thanks for making this special girlfriend!

Erica said...

You're so awesome Julie! I love the pictures you were able to get--beautiful! I'm so glad I had the pleasure of meeting you and all the other lovely ladies! We should definitely get together again and soon! I'm thinking a a nice central place, you know, somewhere like Austin...*wink, wink* I think we can make it happen Keep in touch! Oh yeah, and I love your posts; you are so eloquent. Can't wait to see you again and be able to chat more (sans the flip...maybe)