Monterey Bay Aquarium a feast for the senses

Last weekend, Scott and I took our sons, 3-year-old Sam and 15-month-old Max, to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. That place is like an underwater fairy tale!

We went on a Saturday, which I'm not sure I'd recommend because the aquarium was packed. Despite the crowds, we still got to visit some incredible exhibits.

The first thing we saw upon entering was the Wild About Otters exhibit. Earlier, we'd pointed out otters floating on the surface of Monterey Bay, but seeing their sleek bodies and open, curious faces up close was another experience all together. One friendly otter swam right by us at Sam's level, which made him squeal with delight.

Max was hypnotized by the 28-foot-high kelp forest exhibit which featured huge sharks and a wide variety of fish moving through the water in a peaceful, easy rhythm. Each time a leopard shark would glide by he'd kick his legs and practically leap out of the stroller. Sunlight streams through the exhibit, which enables the kelp in the exhibit to grow up to four feet per day. We even got to see a halibut undulating just above the sand. It's such a strange looking fish with those two eyes on top of its flat head.

The Splash Zone is an area completely devoted to helping kids learn about the wonder and mysteries of our oceans. Whoever designed that place is a genius. Sam loved the interactive displays located all throughout the galleries. There are so many features geared toward children, from videos to trivia games to the 40-foot-long touch pool where you can actually feel underwater creatures. There's also a water play area where kids can experiment with tides, the force of ocean waves and learn how ocean animals interact with their environment. It was all about science and learning and fun, and Sam ate it up.

There's also a terrific penguin exhibit in the Splash Zone that features African black footed penguins. Their little guys were like comedians dressed up as butlers. We were fortunate to see them floating in a line at the edge of the glass. They really seemed to enjoy the crowd gathered there and were all too happy to perform.

The Jellies " Living Art exhibit closes Sept. 1. If you've got a chance to go see it, I'd highly recommend it. The jellyfish are lacy, mysterious and beautiful. It is easy to forget how dangerous they can be. The lighting in the exhibit highlights their unique beauty. I could have easily stayed in that exhibit all day.

The aquarium is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Tickets can be purchased on-site or beforehand online. For information, check out their Web site at

Adventures in Toddlerhood, Vol. 1

The other day I was working on some last minute preparations for our weekend away while Max played happily by my feet. I glanced down and noticed that he somehow had gotten a hold of my credit card.

I had one of those moments, you know, where you think to yourself, "Maybe I should do something about this." But then I looked at him, conveniently occupied and playing so contentedly and thought, "What can it hurt?"

You can see where this is headed, can't you?

Suddenly, I heard the unmistakable grind of our paper shredder spring into action. I jerked away from the desk, wondering simultaneously how I could have been so negligent, how I was going to get Max's hand out of there and how I was going to explain this to the 911 operator.

What I saw instead was the last sliver of my credit card as it slid through the shredder, lickety-split.

Max waved up at me with all 10 of his glorious, chubby little fingers and said, "Baah."

I'm sometimes a slow learner, but I figured this one out pretty quickly. The shredder now has a new, higher home, as does my wallet. And thankfully, Max still has all of his fingers. Lesson learned.

n Amy Roby can be reached at


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