For her 5th birthday, Kaitlyn wanted to go to Sea World, and Amber and I were more than happy to oblige. While we were there, we were checking out the dolphins, and Kaitlyn proclaimed that when she grew up, she wanted to be a dolphin trainer. Knowing her the way we do, Amber and I knew to take her seriously.
Over the past almost 6 years, Amber and I have done our best to continually encourage Kaitlyn to pursue her dream. We’ve taken her to Gulf World in Panama City Beach several times, and surprised her on our first visit with a dolphin encounter where she was able to get up close and personal with several of their dolphins, and we’ve encouraged her to research the educational path she will need to follow to achieve her dream. Within the last 12-18 months, she has even read the National Audubon Society’s Guide to Marine Mammals of the World at least once, too.
Recently, Amber was able to convince Kaitlyn to look at being something else other than a dolphin trainer; Kaitlyn is now striving to be a marine veterinarian with her specialty being dolphins. By adjusting her track, Kaitlyn realized that she will be able to make even more of an impact.
To help her keep focused, I had Kaitlyn really hone in on what it will take to be, in her words, “the best dolphin doctor in the world.” She has started to live intentionally. What that means is that she has her goal, and she works every day to make her dream become a reality. It means that she is determined to succeed, and that she will not be deterred by anyone or anything.
Amber and I know that once Kaitlyn sets her mind to something, like she has done with her career goal, nothing is going to stand in her way. We are fortunate that we get to witness her steely determination each and every day, and we look forward to her realizing her dream.
Kaitlyn loves dolphins. She fell in love with them right around her 5th birthday on our trip to Sea World. While we were there, she was fascinated by them as we watched them swim and play from the underwater observation area. She named one that was seemed to be paying particular attention to her Archie (also the name of her stuffed dolphin, of course). Ever since then, Kaitlyn seemed drawn to dolphins and has remarked several times about her desire to work with them when she grows up (of all the things she has wanted to be in just under 8 years, this has had the most staying power). At some point in the very near future, Amber and I are going to take her on a dolphin watching tour, and we would love to also have her do one of those swim with the dolphin experiences, too.
This morning, we were watching the Today show like we do every morning. They were doing a story on President Obama’s trip to Japan, and that story included some commentary about Ambassador Caroline Kennedy. As part of the story about Ambassador Kennedy, it documented some of the things she has done during her time in Japan to promote goodwill between our countries, and also one of the things that she has spoken out against that the Japanese people have been somewhat critical of her for. And it was the action that was criticized that had Kaitlyn all emotional and on the verge of tears this morning.
Apparently, it is a pretty popular thing in Japan to do something called a “herded dolphin hunt.” Which, you can imagine by its name, involves fishermen in boats basically “rounding up” pods of dolphins so that they can be hunted. Needless to say, Kaitlyn is not too happy about the practice. Once she started to regain her composure after the story aired, we could almost see her resolve starting to harden and her determination form in her desire to have that practice stopped.
Kaitlyn definitely feels a connection with animals (that is sort of a hallmark of people with Asperger’s), especially dolphins. Amber and I have no doubt that if she decides that she is going to work with the animals, she will, and if she decides that she wants to help carry the torch in stopping dolphin hunting, we know that very little can stop her. And we will support her every step of the way.
Yesterday, we had our second appointment of our follow-up with the psychologist who initially diagnosed Kaitlyn with Asperger’s. All part of the process, I guess. The purpose of this second round of visits (the first was back in November) was to compare Kaitlyn’s progress from then to now, and to set new benchmarks going forward. We will be receiving a detailed report soon, which I am sure Amber and I will have to read several times each, just like last time. We are getting better at reading and deciphering different tests and evaluations and their results.
The appointment yesterday, unlike the one in November, was a one-on-one with Kaitlyn and the doctor. Back in November, it was the three of us together. Kaitlyn wanted us to come in the room when the session was getting underway, and we stayed just long enough to let her get comfortable. The doctor later told us that she did not even know we left the room. Amber and I had the joy of sitting in the waiting room during the session. For nearly two hours.
At the end of the session, Kaitlyn opened the door and waved us in. We were given a brief overview of what he went over with her, and he shared some of her responses to different questions. Amber and I were not surprised, either, when he disclosed to us that some of her answers took him by surprise; to hear a trained psychologist who sees countless patients over the course of a year and during his career say that our 6-year-old had surprised him with her responses was nice to hear. He told us that some of her responses were what he would expect from patients way older than she is.
He also shared with us how she would describe us, if she were to compare us to an animal. I figured this would be good, and I was not let down. For Amber, Kaitlyn said that she would be an elephant. She picked an elephant because they are fun, and because then Amber could spray her with water from her trunk. Interesting. And if were not obvious from her selecting Amber as an elephant what I would be, then I guess maybe you were not paying attention. Clearly, I would be a shark in Kaitlyn’s opinion! She chose shark for me because I like to scare people (I do get a kick out of scaring both of them) and because Kaitlyn would get to chase me (she would be a dolphin, by the way, and dolphins are fearless when it comes to taking on sharks). So there you have it, our family consists of an elephant (Amber), a shark (me), and a dolphin (Kaitlyn). I am sure that Kaitlyn would be happy to assign you an animal that you can be. All you have to do is ask. And don’t be surprised when you are a lemur and your spouse is a falcon, because, like elephants and sharks, lemurs and falcons are logically connected.
I am off to scare some people!
Kaitlyn had a pretty good start to the school year, so Amber and I decided that we would do something special for her. We wanted to make it a big surprise, so we did not tell her that she was getting a special weekend trip, and we did not tell her where we were going once we got in the car.
We packed up our suitcase Thursday night under the cloak of darkness. The secrecy of our operation would have made SEAL Team Six jealous (ok, so maybe not). Amber put the suitcase and Kaitlyn’s movies and some snacks in the car Friday after school while Kaitlyn was watching PBS Kids on TV; that is the best time to do anything secret in our house because we could parade the Marching Chiefs through the living room and she would not budge. I came home from work, we loaded up, and we left.
Kaitlyn had no clue where we were going during our entire drive, and really only mentioned what would turn out to be our destination because she saw a sign for it about 70 miles outside of Atlanta. Even when we checked into our hotel, she had no idea. And she was still clueless until we were pretty much at the Georgia Aquarium Saturday morning. Operation Archie was a success. On a side note, it was a little ironic that there is a Legal Sea Foods restaurant across the street from the aquarium.
We had to wait a few minutes for the aquarium to open, and Kaitlyn could barely contain her excitement. At the entrance, she was in awe of the few fish they had swimming around, and once we got in, we let her lead the way. She wanted no part of touching the sting rays at the first exhibit, although she was happy to teach us more than we needed to know about them. She talked Amber into going down the whale slide at one of the exhibits, and talked me into going through the tunnel under the penguin exhibit. That was pretty tough for a tall guy like me, and for good measure, I bumped my head when I stood up in one of the observation ports that comes up in the exhibit.
We got to see the beluga whales, the giant whale sharks, and a ton of other fish. While we thought that Kaitlyn’s favorite part would be the dolphin show, it turned out she probably enjoyed watching feeding time the best. She sat right in front of the glass, eating her apple, and enjoying watching the fish eat. She explained to us what they ate and why, and seemed intrigued by the manta rays.
It was strange, given her love of dolphins, that Kaitlyn did not enjoy the dolphin show. That is probably not entirely accurate. She liked the dolphins, but really did not like that there were loud noises and that it got dark. She is not a fan of loud noises or the dark.
After the show, Kaitlyn picked out and paid for her own souvenir, and it was time to go. We decided to walk around Centennial Olympic Park for a little bit. Kaitlyn did a few cartwheels and played on the little playground they have there.
We ended the day at Flip Burger Boutique in Buckhead. Flip is one of Chef Richard Blais’ restaurants, and we made it a point to visit since we were staying less than a mile away. Blais is known for his unique approach to food, and we were not disappointed. We did not eat much, only a side of fries, because the real reason we were there was to try one of his famous liquid nitrogen shakes. Kaitlyn had a Fruit Loop shake with lemongrass foam, and I had the Krispy Kreme shake. Amber had an iced coffee drink. Kaitlyn’s shake was really good; I was not sure what to make of the lemongrass foam, but it tasted just like a yellow Fruit Loop. My Krispy Kreme shake came out smoking and bubbling from the liquid nitrogen, and when I got around to eating it, it was very rich, just like a Krispy Kreme donut.
Our nightcap was enjoying watching the Noles beat Miami, which was the perfect end to a great day.