Recently, I decided to do something wild and crazy and take the kids to the Maui Ocean Center over in Ma‘alaea. For those of you that don’t have kids, taking a six-year-old and a 19-month-old anywhere is kind of like sticking a screwdriver in an electric socket. Oddly tempting, but over all a really bad idea.
Alas, ridden with newly working mommy guilt, I packed them into the car and started the trek from Upcountry Maui to sea level. Out popped the Eminem CD, in went Veggie Tales, which is severely scratched and only about three songs still play. This is a good thing.
I’ve been to the Maui Ocean Center a number of times over the years, and have to admit that it’s a pretty dope place to hang out, even with munchkins in tow. It’s clean, educational and has pretty great selection of sea critters… Except no Hawaiian monk seals! Yeah, yeah, so they’re kind of endangered. Whatever. They’re also really cute and I want to pet one.
I must admit that I got really excited while looking at “The Map” and saw what appeared to be an exhibit of said seals. I made the kids go there first, because, well, I’m bigger. I was sorely disappointed when we found it was just a big life-sized plastic impostor. They did have real seal noises piped in though, and a video. But it only made me want to pet one more.
We moved on. Hannah was the keeper of “The Map”–we consulted the thing at least 52 times. There were several moments when I’d turn around and find her shuffling off, nose-in-map like a manic tourist. She can’t read, but she’s pretty good at directions.
The highlight of the morning was in the Deep Sea section of the reef exhibit. It’s this creepy-cool place where you sit in front of a gigantic glass wall and watch stingrays and tiger sharks swim around you. It was perfect timing, actually. As soon as we entered, the scuba diver in the tank started communicating with the audience over speakers. The kids sat nicely because it’s just that fascinating.
In between comments, my boy, who has just started talking, points to a large fish swimming by and screams, “puppy dawg!” I wasn’t sure what was more embarrassing—his misidentification of a living creature that’s not a human, or his twang. I knew naming the kid Jack Bart was gonna come back and bite me in the ass.
We ate pizza and hot dogs at the Reef Cafe, checked out the turtles and hammerheads, and dipped our hands into the little pond full of wana and sea cucumbers. They’re my second favorite sea creature because they’re just so entertaining to squish. I mean, I wouldn’t harm one now, especially at the MOC, but as kids at the beach we’d pick them up and squirt all the water out of them as though they were are personal water guns.
Finally, exhausted and sunburned, we hit the gift shop. I hate the gift shop. I hate it because there are so many neat things in there. It’s huge and filled with so many things that I don’t need but am tempted to buy.
So I instruct my daughter that we can only get one small toy today, because I’m broke. The reality is that I’m just cheap, but she doesn’t need to know that. We hit the cash register with a big plastic stingray for Jack and a lollipop and fishing game for Hannah.
The total? Over $16. Huh? It didn’t add up until I flipped the lollipop over and discovered that it was six bucks. What the hell? For six bucks I can buy a beer and rent 300 from Blockbuster. Does it transform the stingrays into Oompah Loompahs that sing campfire songs?
I returned it, though I did let Hannah choose something else. I’m not completely lame. She chose an aquarium snow globe with a mini tiger shark that swims around in it. But the thing she held on to all the way home was “The Map.”
Starr Begley wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up. MTW