3 Reasons Chuck E. Cheese Should Die in a Fire

One of the few upsides of having 1.5 more children than average is the gift of laughter. Specifically, laughter at all of the stupid things you used to do when you only had one kid.

Remember when we said we would never parent with television?

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Hahah. Heh.

Oh those were the days.

One of the most bizarre rituals I used to partake in was the Giant Elementary School Birthday Party.

Number 1: I Don’t Need More Friends

When your are in the throes of raising your oldest child, there are a lot of things that seem like a good idea at the time. One of them is the massively large and/or overly elaborate birthday party that you throw for them in Kindergarten or first grade. Like pretty much everything else we do for our first child this is A) largely a mistake and  2) doesn’t really benefit anyone except us. Here’s how it works.

You, the parent, drop anywhere from $300-$500 on a pre-packaged Birthday Experience Center involving inflatables, animatronic critters, and/or an 18-Wheeler loaded with video games. In return, you get a chance to impress the other parents in your kid’s class and hopefully make some friends for the next 4-5 years until they all split up for middle school, because if there’s one lesson we’ve all learned as adults it’s that if you need temporary friends the fastest way to get them is to flash the cash.

You also get to find out who “Ian” is and why he’s always on Red.

Hyperactive children bouncing on the sofa
“I only got to YELLOW but Ian got to RED THREE TIMES. Mrs. Sanchez said he was going to get an office referral if he didn’t stop eating pencils. Can I invite him?”

You justify this to yourself by adding up the cost of cake, ice cream, pizza, a carton of Marlboros, a bottle of Jack Daniels, a Johnny Cash CD and attorney’s fees for representing you when you lose custody of your children and decide it makes perfect sense to outsource the entire experience to a Birthday Experience Center.

The moment of truly poetic irony comes when you tell yourself that you don’t really have the time to do all of this anyway, even though this is your first child and YOU WILL NEVER HAVE MORE FREE TIME than this.

Number 2: The Trauma

I attended a Chuck-e-Cheese pizza party once in 1984. I must have done well enough to end up on someone’s “Top 10 Friends” list, or at least the “Top 15 Just In Case Someone On The Top 10 RSVPs No”.

I remember Loudness, Skee-ball, Pizza, and Dragon’s Lair. And tickets. Lots and lots of tickets.

Returning to the Lair of the Rat in 2014 was a completely different experience.

“Where a kid can be a kid! Or a wombat! We don’t really know with the additives in the pizza, could go either way!”‘

I freely admit that as an adult my tastes have gotten substantially more lame.

I no longer “Rock Out” with or without anything else that might rhyme with “rock” hanging out with me.

I listen to classical music mostly because it’s a reasonable replacement for Marlboro’s and Jack Daniels and far more acceptable to be caught consuming in a minivan full of children.

My idea of a fun Friday night is staring at a camp fire, listening to the crickets chirp, and enjoying some Chateau Vin du Box, vintage le Tuesday Last Week.

I write love letters to my rice cooker because of the superior way in which it makes oatmeal.

Overall, very lame indeed.

Hey, good excuse to re-use this image.
Hey look, good excuse to re-use this image.

The occasion this time was Faceman‘s second best friend’s birthday party.

This year all of my son’s classmates must come from extremely wealthy homes because we’ve turned down invitations to:

  • SkyZone
  • JumpZone
  • JumpHouse
  • SkyHouse
  • The 1956 Yankees-Dodgers World Series
  • A backyard BBQ with U2
  • The Dali Lama’s reading of The Vagina Monologues

djj3q

It’s only October.

Fortunately, Faceman is actually child #3 and I don’t need or want any more friends. Also if we ask our son “Who is Declan?” and the response is “Declan who?” we’re not going because it involves messing with one of our carpools for swimming and that dog don’t hunt.

Anywho.

As someone who is no longer 48″ tall, Chuck E. Cheese has lost some of the magic for me. My son seemed to enjoy running around and putting coins in machines to get a varying number of tickets out in a bizarre parody of strip club economics.

The pizza was a member of the pizza species in the same way that Taco Bell is Mexican food.

There was an Art History major in a giant rat costume who challenged the Birthday Boy to an air guitar contest. And lost. Hopefully on purpose because the dude was only 7 and can’t reliably spell “guitar” without turning one of the letters backwards in an adorable fashion.

There were animatronic characters lip-syncing to muppet characters displayed on flat screen TVs covering pop music from 10 years ago.

It was loud, cringeworthy, and tacky beyond description.

The kids loved it. Especially the Giant Talking Rat part.

I looked for a corner and curled up into a fetal position and silently sang We Built This City to myself over and over.

WeBuiltThisCity

Number 3: The Mingling

The “best” part about these affairs is that they are conventionally not “drop off” parties, so the adults are contractually obligated to stay and mingle. This works really well because even in our fairly affluent and progressive community it’s still 99% of the time the moms who do these things so they get together and talk about particle physics or whatever it is women talk about when their men are not in earshot.

Mrs. Nostrikethat, however, is wise to these games, and so I am sent to make nicey-nice and be the legally responsible adult. Also, it’s easier than dealing with the other 3 kids.

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I go to meetings for a living. I can endure mind-numbing boredom and stupid people LIKE IT’S MY JOB. Because it is.

 

As a dad, I can often get a lot more accomplished than a mom in a room full of other moms. Normally, I am completely ignored (just like high school), which mean I can just sit there, read my Kindle and collect gossip.

I am also really good at the “sit near a group and slowly move into it” move, where I just sit near a group of women who are talking and make eye contact with the speakers an an assertive but hopefully not sexually-harassing way and eventually incorporate myself into the conversation. This is a useful technique for when I have an opinion on something I hear being discussed, like the Halloween Party debacle at the school.

Mostly though the other moms don’t know what to do with me, so I’m left to fend for myself.

Just like high school.

Judgement-free zone

It’s not that those of us with N > 2.5 kids are directly judging those of you with less, it’s more like we are marathoners listening to people who are training for their first 5K: everyone’s race is hard, we’ve just done a little more a little longer. Feel free to keep inviting us to your birthday parties, and we will dutifully consider at least a third of them before pressing the Delete key because this Franzia isn’t going to drink itself and you don’t need to impress me, nor I you.

Just the opposite of high school.

 

Guest post: Halloween shopping is AWESOME

Not to be outdone by her big brother, my lovely daughter has decided to join the blogging universe. All exclamation marks used in this post are organic, free-range, and humanely harvested. Enjoy!


A couple days ago I went to the local costume shop to find a costume. My friend was going to meet me outside the store but my younger brother decided he wanted to be a Storm Trooper from Star Wars and we had to look at the costume now. (Brothers, am I right?) So we asked the very obviously bored store-guy to bring the costume to us.

Just as he brought it my brother decided he didn’t want to be a Storm Trooper because the costume didn’t come with a light saber. Just then my friend came up, and one thing you should know about this friend is she takes her shopping seriously!

So she was trying to decide two costumes to try on, and decided to help me find mine. I came in looking to be something candy-like. We didn’t find any super cute ones, but we found 6 other ones! So I spent half an hour trying them on then, decided I didn’t want any of them. I wanted a completely different one, a Mad Hatter costume.

The first one I tried on the zipper was busted.  Then I finally found one with a working zipper. Naturally, once I put it on I had to find a matching wig!  The first pink one was a COMPLETELY different shade of pink. The second one was red. Finally, I found a color I liked, RAINBOW!

Then, I realized I wanted a boa, so I tried on 16 boas, a blue one, a purple one, orange, green, red, pink, rainbow, yellow, maroon, indigo, neon green, neon pink, glow in the dark, magenta, periwinkle, and black. It turns out the whole time my brother was whining and complaining about how he wasn’t feeling well. Whoops. After I tried on all 16 boas I decided none of them matched well enough with my outfit, but I bought one anyway!

In my head I thought that I would put it on my dog, this is what I figured he would look like:

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Then I realized two things. First, he is not a Chihuahua, and second, he is FAT  slightly chubby.

But this is the first costume I tried on:

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: I loved it… until, I remembered I wore it 2 years ago. That would be so embarrassing to be seen in a costume from TWO YEARS ago! Finally, the last costume I tried on:

pic4

It was perfect! Then I remembered the fact that my little brother was not feeling good. Again, whoops. All though, thankfully it turned out he was just hungry. I was very glad, because I did not want him vomiting all over my new costume. Then we bought MEGA M&Ms!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YUM!

pic5

Keep celebrating Halloween! Remember, FREE CANDY I mean, ummm… oh, fun and dressing up! Thanks for reading my post, and I hope you enjoyed a look into a 5th grader’s mind around Halloween!

The first time I was ever fired

There was an online discussion not too long ago in which a young lad of about 19 was lamenting that he had just been fired from his job, and he thought he was a total failure and his life was over. Always one the help out the Youths Of Today, I jumped in with A Helpful Anecdote.

I have been fired at least half a dozen times in my life– although fortunately all of them fall under the “young and stupid” category of Life Lessons. You never forget your first time, though…

I was, I think, barely 16. It was only my second job ever, and my first “real” job in that I went to an office and worked with a bunch of adults. I was a help desk guy for a large healthcare company, and one of my good friends managed to score me the interview. I was pretty excited about it because I was really into computers and I had no real conception of just how soul-sucking corporate America could be.

Back in the Bad Old Days of Windows 3.1, it was pretty common practice for big companies to set up their employees computers such that it only displayed one group of icons, under the belief that if Patty in Accounting ever saw there was more on her computer than a spreadsheet program everything might go completely sideways. God help us all if they ever discovered there was Solitare.

What moms did on the computer before Facebook was invented. Image via http://www.museumofplay.org

So I sit down for my first day of the job and log into The LAN, which was pretty fancy. The first thing I notice is that my main administrator application group wasn’t opened on login, instead the business user application group was. I had to close one to open the other because. Worse, my settings were erased on every login by the network policy, so every time I tried to fix it my work was undone.

I cannot begin to explain how frustrating this is.

Let me begin to explain how frustrating this is.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, try imagining using an iPhone with one app per page, and every time you hit the home button you went back to the first page, and you couldn’t task switch or ever change the order of the apps, and there’s a hundred apps and you regularly use app number 73.

Or to put it another way, imagine leaving the house for an hour only to discover that an invisible tormentor has broken in and made everything hanging on the wall just slightly crooked, and does this whenever you leave the house.

Being a tech savvy guy I immediately determined that problem was that my network account must not have sufficient privileges, because if I was an administrator I would be able to save my settings. I was not one of the lesser ordinary users, and given my job as help desk intern this was clearly an oversight on their part. Fortunately for me, one of the Old People left his administrator console logged in and had just stepped away to get some coffee. Using his account, I gave myself administrator rights, and sure enough my desktop was now remembering what it looked like when I logged out.

Satisfied with my superior technical skills, I whistled as I walked with the team to my welcome lunch at Bennigans.

I had a Monte Cristo. It was delicious.

Who knew deep-friend lunch meat dusted with powdered sugar could be so darn tasty? Image via wikipedia. Yes, the sandwich is so good it has a wikipedia entry.

I didn’t even pay for lunch!

The next morning my manager, an Extremely Pregnant Black Lady, asked me to accompany her into a conference room where I was joined by an Extremely Frumpy White Lady, who I discovered worked for Human Resources.

Then I discovered that Human Resources did more than just hire people.

Despite all protestations to the contrary, I was being asked to leave. Immediately.

It seems like a “security violation” was a fire-able offense, even the first time.

I’m pretty sure I cried like a four year old with a skinned knee.

By the time I got to the parking lot I had chalked it up to a Extremely Pregnant Black Lady over-reacting and went on about my way, obliviousness intact.

I was able to stay oblivious for a good number of years, but as my father said to me so very many times, reality has a way of biting us all in the butt sooner or later.

As I retell this story 20-some odd years later, I find myself siding with the Extremely Pregnant Black Lady… that young knowitall kid really couldn’t tell his head from a hole in the wall for many, many years after that.

He turned out all right in the end, though.

Which is better than the Monte Cristo sandwich ever did. Shudder.