Have Twins, Will Travel

New England Aquarium

Boston, Massachusetts – Back in our own house in our own country, we’re trying to transition to a new routine, which will include preschool for the twins, starting next week.

This week, we got nothin’. No babysitter, no grandparents, no Finnish kindergarten. Just Daddio and me and jet lag and food poisoning (seriously) and a pair of twins that still need just as much care and attention as they did before we went to Finland.
This is a rather trying, albeit temporary situation. Which I addressed by taking the twins to the New England Aquarium. Why not? Clearly we had to go somewhere! (They have room full of toys that they have not seen in more than a month, but they are still bouncing off the walls by 9am.)
For the last year or so, the Giant Ocean Tank at the New England Aquarium has been under renovation, and the penguins were relocated to another facility. Other wonderful exhibits such as the Shark & Ray Touch Tank and the Marine Mammal Exhibit were not affected, but still… The Giant Ocean Tank is the centerpiece of the aquarium – both literally and figuratively – so the aquarium experience was significantly diminished without it.
The `New Aquarium Experience’ re-opened over the summer, so here was our chance to check it out.
I have to admit that I did not at first notice a big difference in the Giant Ocean Tank. The concept is exactly the same. It’s essentially a 200,000-gallon saltwater tank that is three stories tall. A ramp circles the outside of the tank, allowing visitors to admire the coral reef and observe the marine life at all different depths.


0091dacaAnd what marine life it is! Giant sea turtles, several species of sharks and loads of colorful reef fish provide non-stop entertainment. Apparently, there are more species of fish than before, although this was not obvious to me (as there were a lot before).
Nonetheless, the new tank does offer a greatly enhanced experience, especially for little people. The reason is simple: bigger windows. When we used to visit the aquarium, the twins could not really see anything in the Giant Ocean Tank unless they were being boosted up. (Do I need to point out that boosting is not always possible when there are two twins and only one parent?)
On this visit, the twins had a perfect view, even from their stroller. If they chose to get out – which of course they did – they could press their noses right up to the glass with no assistance from me. The twins were face-to-face with “bootiful” French angelfish and scrawled file fish and schools of slippery silvery specimens, not to mention sharks and, yes, Myrtle the Turtle. Twin S actually had to step away on several occasions, when the big fish were just too close for comfort. Twin V squealed with delight when they went whizzing past.


0101732cThe top of the tank is also totally redesigned for easier viewing. Again, now the twins could see everything that was going on. Specifically, the aquarium staff were catching stingrays and clipping their barbs to avoid being stung in the future. Apparently, it does not hurt the rays, but they sure don’t like it. “It’s like clipping their nails,” I told the twins. Watching the rays’ nails get clipped is obviously fascinating stuff and we watched for a long while. This is the kind of demonstration that the twins would not have been able to see at the old aquarium.
In short, we spent the entire morning at the Giant Ocean Tank, with no time to visit any of our other favorite exhibits. This has never happened before. So even though I was initially disappointed that the aquarium looks pretty much the same, it’s not the same. The improvements are vital.
Later that day, when Twin V saw a flock of starlings flying by, he said `Look! A school of birds!’ That was cute.
I’m not going to get technical with him, as starlings actually travel in a murmuration. A school of birds, it is.

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