Monday, January 19, 2015

George and the Penguin

My son, George, asked Santa for a penguin.

Yes, he wanted a penguin as his Christmas gift. A real live, black and white, flightless bird.  Not a puppy or kitten or even a new gaming system for that matter. A Penguin.

He has loved penguins since he was a baby. He has a whole library of books just on penguins and I am not sure how many stuffed penguins he has. He sleeps with all of them every night.

My first reaction was, "What, are you crazy!  People can't own penguins!"  Followed by all the reasons penguins cannot be a house pet.

George had a comeback for every reason and went straight to the big guy because if anyone can do it, Santa can.  Great, now what?

So my mom, who had been visiting, goes home and tells this to my sister Lucy and her boyfriend, Ricky.  "Well," Ricky says, "You know you can adopt a penguin at the Philadelphia Zoo."

Really?  Well, if you can do it in Philadelphia, I must be able to do that here too.

My search started and it turns out that you can, in fact, adopt a penguin at the Mystic Aquarium. You can adopt other animals too, which is a really cool gift for any animal lovers you may know.

I chose the level that I wanted, and sent in my paperwork and money.  The package I chose gave George a penguin, a couple free passes, a stuffed replica of his penguin, adoption paper, fact sheet about his African penguin, a picture, and the aquariums magazine with subscription.

While perusing the website, I discovered that you can have breakfast with the penguins on January 18. Well, of course I had to add that in too!

The final touch was to have Santa write a letter to George about why he had to adopt and keep it at the aquarium, how happy he was that he was good for most of the year and to please be nice to his sister.  That last fact did not sink in yet.  It was all put in a penguin Christmas gift bag to be put under the tree.

Christmas Eve was a really nice day. Both, George and Gracie were in the pageant at our church. We had my in-laws for dinner. Kids were excited to wear their new Christmas jammies and then we all read The Night Before Christmas.  All very normal until we tucked the kids into bed and George started to cry, saying he knew he would not get a penguin.  I can't even explain the heartbreak I felt. I laid with him a bit and he finally fell asleep.

Mr. RWM, had doubts that this was going to work. He said he wanted a real penguin that he can keep at the house and this is not what he was getting.  I was a mess when I finally went to bed. I could not sleep at all.

Christmas morning the kids ran in to wake us up yelling that Santa had come. Oh good. I think I just fell asleep. LOL

Mr. RWM, goes down first to turn on the lights, put on the Christmas music and start the coffee.  We keep the kids upstairs until he is ready for us.  What a great morning we had. Kids were just so excited. Clearly, there was not a penguin in a cage sitting in our living room, but George seemed ok.

Finally, he sees the penguin bag. Opens it and is not sure what to make of it.  I am pretty certain his first thought was that he just got another stuffed penguin.  When he sees the letter from Santa, he brings it over to me to read. Friends, I know I wrote it, but I got so teary and nervous, I had to hand it over to Mr. RWM to read.

George loved it! He was so excited to have his very own penguin, even if it didn't live in the house with us.  Honestly, I think with all the stuff he knows about penguins, deep down inside, he knew he could not care and keep a penguin on his own.

George's penguin was named Blue-Pink but we didn't know if it was a boy or girl.  He also wanted to know how old he was.

(The names of the penguins at Mystic are all by the colors of the bands they wear on their wings.)

January 18 was the day we would first meet his penguin and get all our questions answered.  We were all really exited about it.  Even Mr. RWM.

The weeks leading up to the breakfast we talked about Blue-Pink just like he was part of the family.  And the night before the breakfast, George had trouble sleeping.  He was just so excited!

We had to get up pretty early to be at the Mystic Aquarium by 8 am.  Even with the lack of sleep, both kids got up excited and ready to go.
Waiting in line to go in.

We got there with plenty of time to spare.  Seemed to be about hundred people attending the breakfast.  We walked into the main part of the aquarium and tables were set up all around the different tanks.  It was pretty cool.

The kids and Petey the Penguin.

Breakfast was good. Pancakes, sausage, eggs, coffee and juice. It was buffet style.  We got some food and soon they wheeled in a couple penguins.  They talked about the Africa penguin and some of it's behaviors and how they train them.  People swarmed them so we waited a little and finished eating before we went up.

Blue-Pink was not one of the penguins that were brought in. That was ok, because we knew we could still go see him at the penguin exhibit.  Since we had the trainers attention though, we thought we would asked our questions about our penguin before we went to see him.

I started to tell the one trainer that for Christmas, Santa was able to adopt Blue-Pink for our son.  His face dropped and he said, Blue-Pink is no longer with us.

How can that be, we just adopted him five weeks ago!  He calls over the other trainer who is the assistant supervisor.  She pulls me aside.  Mr. RWM has to now distract the kids because we don't really know what, "no longer with us" means.

She tells me, Blue-Pink was born with a heart condition. He did not make it to his first birthday. And to make it worse he had already passed away before we adopted him.  I started to cry. I had a hard time speaking to ask my questions.

I cried because I felt so bad for this little penguin who we had already considered part of our family. But I mostly cried because I just did not know what we were going to say to George.  I was not ready to share this news with him and I knew I could not physically do it.

It was clear to Sarah, the assistant supervisor, how important this was to us. She said she was going to take care of it and ran to the office for paper and pen so that she could take all our information.  I wanted to be able to still get a penguin for George.

While she was doing that, I filled in Mr. RWM. Shocked. He was shocked. Someone really dropped the ball here and now we had to tell our nine year old son.  We decided to tell him that another aquarium needed a penguin and they sent him there.  Neither one of us had the heart to tell him that he died and we don't plan too until he is in college. Maybe later.

I pulled it together enough to talk to the trainer.  She said he was born with a heart condition and that it was very uncommon to see this.  When they did the autopsy, they were surprised he lived as long as he did.  He had a brother and a mother and father who were still at the exhibit. I wrote their names down so we could try to find them later.

George seemed to handle it well. He was disappointed but no tears.  We told him he would still get a penguin and they would call me this week.  He wanted to know where Blue-Pink went, but we said we did not know.

We still had until 9:30 to enjoy the penguins they brought in, not to mention the rest of the aquarium before they opened to the general public at ten.  We enjoyed being able to do this without a huge crowd.

Can you find the fish?

Close up look at eels,

and barracudas.

We chatted up the trainer and learned so much about African Penguins. The kids ran around looking at all the tanks and just had a great time.

At 9:30 we had to leave so they could clean up and get ready for the opening at 10. We had a pass to stay the day but had to leave and come back in.  Right before we did that, Sarah came back over to us and told us to meet her at the penguin exhibit once we were back in.

We didn't know why but were excited to meet her there.

Friends, we got a private, "backstage" look at the penguin exhibit and how they are cared for.  It was amazing!  Sarah went above and beyond what she needed to do and we appreciated and loved every minute of it.
My family, Sarah and Purple-Red.

So happy to watch the penguins swim.

We stayed at the aquarium way longer than we expected. Nothing was missed. From there, we had dinner at Mystic Pizza and to finish off out day, we took the kids to see The Illusionists.  Very exciting show!
Waiting for the show to start.

Kids fell asleep in the car.  I went to bed happy and sad. We had a pretty good day, but I know George was disappointed. He handled it well and I am proud of him.  So much time went into getting a penguin and we still don't have one.  Soon though, very soon.  I hope...

Yes, a non running post but one that I really wanted to share.  Running wise, all is good. Think I may skip the March half marathon, but still on the fence.  Either way, I will volunteer there which will get me a free entry into one of the sprints I want to do this year.

I will keep you posted on the penguin and let you know when and if we get another.

Run Strong, Think Big! ~ Nicole


  1. You totally made me cry! lol!!! I'm so sorry that there was the mix-up but I'm happy to hear that George will have "his" penguin soon!


    1. I know, sorry! I knew it would pull at the heart strings of the animal lovers out there. Thanks for reading!

  2. Even knowing what was coming, this was so heartbreaking! I can't wait for George to get his penguin!

  3. Wow. What a fantastic idea. I'm sorry about the penguin. Clearly the different departments were not in contact with each other or a penguin with questionable health probably would not have been adoptable. They really seem to have tried to make up for it, though!

    1. They did, thank you. Hope to hear from them soon with a new little guy for my little guy.

  4. This is the coolest ever!!! What an awesome gift from Santa ;)

  5. What a great story! I spent many hours at the Mystic Aquarium with my boys and had great times with them. Now that they're teenagers, it's not high on their list to go there anymore, so enjoy the visits there.