Whale Watching

Or, “My Vomit-Covered Birthday Adventure”

By: Bevin

It was late the night before my birthday, and I decided I wanted to celebrate with a family adventure. I hopped on my computer and googled my way to whale watching. The perfect out-of-the-norm outing that’s easy and takes zero prep! I bought tickets online (http://2seewhales.com/details/details.asp) and emailed my son’s teachers stating:


Marco is suffering from a case of It’s His Mom’s Birthday And She Likes Him Too Much To Let Him Go To School And Miss Out On Going Whale Watching With The Family!!

*It’s a very rare syndrome, and we are hoping for a swift recovery so he can be back in school tomorrow morning.


In the morning I packed up my 10-month-old daughter, Giovanna, 4-year-old Marco, and my appropriately aged husband, Ron, and off we wentWhat I brought:

  • A book on whales for my son to look at as we drove
  • Sunscreen
  • Binoculars
  • Water
  • Pb&j sandwiches (this food works for anyone in my family)
  • Bag of Swedish fish (my version of “in case of emergency break here”)
  • Change of clothes for both kids
  • Standard baby gear such as diaper change, etc.
  • Warm layers and hats
  • For me, I included one of those flowy cotton sweaters that’s a great layer because if one of my kids gets cold they love getting wrapped up in it like a blanket. I also have a wonderful circle scarf made from sweatshirt material that can double as a blanket, wrapping around me and the baby carrier. When I’m not sure what to expect, I like to have flexible options.

We got to Long Beach early and stood at the front of the line on the docks to watch the birds, the boats . . . and the floating garbage. Since age nineteen I’ve lived in cities, and my kids have lived in cities their entire lives. I never ignore the garbage and pollution. We talk about it as much as we talk about the beautiful and abundant life around us (yes even in cities!).  It’s something I want them to always see and know doesn’t belong. I also used this time to manage my little four-year-old’s expectations—stressing that the most important thing isn’t seeing a whale (because we may not), but having the adventure of searching. That way even if we only saw a few seagulls, it would still be a successful trip.


We finally boarded the boat, and I was happily surprised! Since we arrived early, we snagged prime seating: tiered, padded benches that let us see everything without having to move. I settled in legs criss-cross applesauce, Giovanna wrapped up close in my sweater and nursing her way into a nap, and Marco nestled in between my husband and I. I was ready for smooth sailing! (I sound like I really have it all under control don’t I . . .)

The boat started out and the waters were very rough . .  . I thought it was amazing! It was like a rollercoaster ride on a boat! However, my son’s enthusiasm sunk—he was convinced that a whale was coming up under us, and the boat was going to sink. A repeat phrase from him was: “This was the worst idea ever.”

We wrapped Marco in our arms so he felt secure, and did our best to talk him down, explaining that the boat’s job is to float on top of water, and it’s very good at its job. Attempts to distract him by pointing out fishing boats and container ships (explaining that they might be carrying toys) fell short, and it was time to break out the reserve stash of Swedish Fish. I barked like a seal begging for fish and he’d toss me one . . . anything to keep this adventure going! We had 2 hours and 40 mins left out on the water, and I was starting to regret my choices.


Luckily, we were saved by dolphins. Over the loudspeaker, the tour guide instructed us to look for splashing on the horizon. The boat headed over, and we were suddenly engulfed by hundreds of dolphins. It was totally magical. “A mega-super-duper-pod,” Marco declared. He stood up and forgot how this was my worst idea ever, instead pointing out the different dolphins. I woke up my daughter by accident, and had her looking out through the rails at the dolphins all around us. I was back to my  I’m-the-best-mom-ever and happy-birthday-to-me high. Thank goodness. As we and the dolphins moved on to search for more life, my son settled in happily, my daughter nestled back into sleep, and all was well. We lived happily ever after . . . Just kidding.

Behind me up on the deck, some poor kid started puking . . . then another . . . then another . . .

Ron was just returning from the snack bar with a beer for himself and a bag of chips for Marco. He turned to me and was beginning to express his thankfulness that none of our family got seasick when Giovanna woke from her pristine sleep and started vomiting all over me. That’s right folks—we were now down to two hours left on the boat, and I was covered in vomit. Like, a lot of it. I did my best to contain it to my front, catching it and wiping it up with that lovely infinity scarf (not how I intended to use this item), all the while trying to keep as calm and quiet as possible to keep my groggy, disoriented baby from fully waking up. It was like playing a real life game of Would You Rather. The option of keeping her warm and bundled and asleep even though it meant we’d stay covered in puke was way better than trying to clean up and expose her to cold wind on a choppy sea. A pacifier, some lullabies, and she dozed back off.


Wrapping my sweater around us both, I sat back to enjoy the rest of the trip. What else was there to do? Let a little vomit get in the way of a fun birthday adventure? I spend a lot of time trying to teach my four-year-old to be flexible in the face of disappointment—so why shouldn’t I do the same!

After a few more wildlife sightings (but no whales), we got back to land. Marco said, “This was the best idea ever!” I wiped off the puke, changed Giovanna into fresh clothes, and Ron took the kids to the << http://http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/ >> awesome aquarium next door <> while I walked down to the shopping center and bought myself a brand new birthday outfit.

I couldn’t have had a better birthday adventure. It included some good lessons . . .  like,

bring an extra outfit for myself too next time, and maybe don’t nurse a baby on choppy waters! Perhaps more important was the reminder that the only thing that can stop an adventure is trying to control it.


Being a mother of young children has changed my adventures; being a mother of young children in cities has changed the access to the type of nature I have, but neither have changed my desire for exploration and experience. My desire to connect to the natural world, not just the buzz. I want balance for my children. So we explore together and whatever happens along the way . . . just happens. There’s always detergent.