Monday, March 31, 2014

Our dolphin encounter

Our water experience at Discovery Cove began by snorkeling in their Grand Reef where we swam with tons of fish and rays.  There were even sharks that you could see from under water, but they were separated by glass. 
The main reason we went to Discovery Cove was to "swim" with dolphins.  I wouldn't call it "swimming" but we did have an encounter with two dolphins. We met Capricorn first.  
At 45, he is the oldest dolphin at Discovery Cove and has lived in all of the Sea World parks, including the one that used to be in Ohio.  Kyle thinks he probably saw Capricorn when he was a kid!  Capricorn is one of only four Discovery Cove dolphins that was born in the wild. Capricorn gave us all rides.  We held onto his flipper and dorsal fin and he carried us in the water.  
As always, Grace was the first to volunteer for a ride!


After meeting Capricorn, we met the youngest dolphin at Discovery Cove - Axel.  Axel is only 4 years old. He had all his teeth (Capricorn didn't have ANY!) and had much smoother skin and not as many ridges on his tail.  Axel was also much smaller.
It looks like Nana is riding Axel but she is behind him.  He really was small!
Axel eats 19 pounds of food a day so I bet it won't be long until he grows much bigger!  All the dolphins swallow their fish whole, so not having teeth wasn't a big deal since they don't need to hunt for fish like they would if they lived in the ocean.

The trainers show you how to signal that you want a kiss - one hand on top of the other right on the water's surface.



We had a fun experience and all agreed that we would do it again!  

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Discovering Discovery Cove

Discovery Cove is an all-inclusive day resort right near Sea World.  They only let 1,300 people inside a day to avoid crowds and to maintain a secluded, resort atmosphere. Inside, it feels like you are at a hotel in the Caribbean, with lush vegetation,  a sandy beach, and multiple opportunities to swim in their reef, lagoon, and lazy river - most of which have fish and animals swimming with you.  They are known for their dolphin encounter but other cool features included the Grand Reef where you can snorkel with fish, rays, and sharks (behind glass) and an aviary where the birds expect to be hand-fed throughout the day.

As soon as we arrived and checked in we met this marmoset.   I loved that the trainer was telling the kids about not getting an exotic animal as a pet.  He suggested, instead, that they get a degree in biology or zoology and get a job working with animals every day.  The marmoset was wearing a belt with a leash on it.  The trainer told us that Discovery Cove does not let visitors hold or pet the marmosets.  We are also primates so if a visitor had a cold we could infect the animal.  Raising just one animal like this costs over $20,000 a year.  They are major assets for Discovery Cove so they are very careful about protecting them!
We went to the aviary before changing into our wetsuits.  I thought of my friend and wildlife photographer, Jim Roetzel, when I was taking these photos of the birds.  He says you always need to have the bird's eye(s) in your photo and to include some background - a branch, leaves.  How'd I do?







This owl was my favorite. But I have to admit, he scared me a little!
The birds are used to being hand-fed every hour.  Many were very friendly and eager to land on an arm or shoulder to get a snack.  The workers told us that they also put pans of food deep in the foliage for the birds that are shy and stay away from visitors.





 Kyle waited patiently and eventually some birds landed on his cup of food!
 This peacock was not shy at all.  He pranced right in, stood in the middle of all the people, and fluffed his feathers in a bright display.




It was so deliberate that we wondered if he was trained to do this.  He stayed for a long time and turned several times so everyone could take his picture.

After the aviary, we met Morty the Torty.  He is 8 years old and about 80 pounds.  We were told tortoise live to about 80 years old and can weigh up to 200 pounds.  Morty is still a baby by those standards!

Grace gets right up front and never hesitates to ask questions and touch the animals when invited to do so.  She is so brave and curious.  Love that about her!

Here's the teaser....we got our first view of the dolphins on the way to get our wetsuits. There are 45 of them living at Discovery Cove.  We met two - the oldest and the youngest.

More in the next post...

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring break 2014

Outside my window it is cold, grey, and freezing rain is falling.  Spring has STILL not come to Ohio.  We have seen little bits of it here and there, but I was really hoping that when we returned from Spring Break we wouldn't need the winter gear anymore.  That seems like wishful thinking.  I guess looking at our photos from a fun few days in Florida will have to keep me warm for now.

The Polar Vortex made its way to Florida, too.  It was a little chilly some days we were there, but MUCH better than Ohio and even cool weather didn't stop Grace from swimming.
Our hotel had a view of Sea World, but we started our adventure at Universal Studio's City Walk.
Grace loved the moving walkways and we all played a little Forrest Gump trivia at Bubba Gump's restaurant for lunch.

Grace and Nana tried their skills at "hanging ten"!
And Daddy bought Grace a minion named Stuart from New Jersey.
Later that afternoon we had our first experience of Sea World.  Since we went later in the day, the crowds were minimal and we could see a lot in a short time. The small aquarium near the entrance was pretty cool.  It was amazing to see how graceful the rays were as they floated by the glass windows and how the school of fish move together.
The purple seahorses are real!
And the special "6-year old girl" under water exhibit was pretty cool too!
Right before closing, we went to the Clyde and Seymore sea lion show.  Kyle said he remembers almost the exact same show from when he was a kid and there was a Sea World in Ohio.  Grace thought the show was hilarious!  She loved when the sea lions stole fish from the plate when their trainer was not looking.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

First Piano Guild audition - She did it!

Not being musically inclined or having any musical training, the idea of "Piano Guild auditions" was completely new to me.  All I knew was that Grace has been memorizing a piece of music called "Candy Corner".  Today, she went into a classroom at Kent State University's music and performing school, gave her sheet music to a judge, sat at the piano and played from memory.  Once I posted all this on Facebook, I found out that many of my friends had done these auditions when they were younger.  So I Googled it.
Taken with an iPhone through the glass window of the classroom door.  
Piano Guild is open to students of all ages and levels.  The purpose of the auditions is to establish goals for the earliest beginner as well as the advanced student.  These goals attempt to give music study some definite direction and provide a measurement for progress.  A piano curriculum encompassing the best of piano literature and stressing American compositions has been standardized by the National Guild of Piano Teachers.  All piano students have a yearly opportunity to attain the goals set for them through a non competitive audition.  Auditions are private (student and judge only) with well-qualified musicians serving as judges.  Students are judged on individual merit in the areas of accuracy, continuity, phrasing, pedaling (Grace can't reach the pedals yet!), dynamics, rhythm, tempo, tone, interpretation, style, and technique.

We won't get Grace's results until her next lesson, but she is already a winner in our eyes.  Just going in there was a lot for a 6-year old.  We are very proud!
She loved her ribbon which just commemorates the first year she did this. Grace wore it to lunch, to the store, and then made sure I hung it on the kitchen bulletin board as soon as we got home.