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.

55622606
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.

 

How My Tomato Plants are a Perfect Metaphor for This Summer

I aspire to be a gardener in the same way I aspire to be handy: first I borrow a bunch of stuff from my neighbors, then they end up taking pity on Mrs. Nostrikethat when it’s been two weeks without load-bearing walls and finally they end up doing most of the work while I am entrusted with operating the Keurig.

Every year, with glasses firmly rose-colored,  I try to take on a simple vegetable garden. Every year I manage tomatoes that could be called “tomatoes” in the same way that a Twinkie could be called “food”.

To make matters worse, I am surrounded by green thumbs. My mother relates to vegetables on an almost instinctual level–although I am sure being married to my dad has given her plenty of practice. My neighbors all have several successful well-established garden plots. My Facebook feed is ripe with Gaea’s Bounty, too:

Oh I have too many tomatoes this year, does anyone want some salsa?”

My peppers just won’t stop growing!”

Gardening is so easy and fun!”

Dutifully I watered and fertilized. My gifted starter plants actually grew and started to flower. I Believed.

I can totally survive the End of Days now. Who needs a grocery store? Man I am amazing.

Then my plants stopped responding to light, water, and nitrogen.

tomato_plants

 

They looked like Thursday night after a week of double shifts working to close.

I tried giving them coffee because that always perks me up and I get my vegetative qualities from my dad so I thought the reverse might be true.

Still they wilted.

It’s as if they said “It’s August, I’m tired of life, let me leave you with a sampling of anatomically ludicrous fruits to taunt you with what might have been.”

“P.S.- you suck.”

Now let me introduce you to my mums. Despite not even the slightest amount of concern from me regarding their well-being they have come back every single year, bigger than ever. They are the ordinary Homedepotus Onsaleacus variety bought 4 or five years ago because we needed some “fall color” or something equally womanly. I think decided to plant them in that little spot because it was a nice day and I was avoiding doing the dishes.

mums

 

We have had by all accounts a pretty fantastic summer. We’re luck enough to have friends. Some of those friends like us enough to invite the travelling Nostrikethat circus to go places with them. Our kids have amazing grandparents, near and far, who shower them with attention. We did swim team. We swam in a lake. We got lost in the woods. My most favorite moments, though, always seemed to just happen.

Sitting in camp chairs on the driveway drinking beer with the neighbors on a Tuesday night.  

Listening to the kids tell jokes at the dinner table. BANANA SANDWICH! HAH!

Sharing a quiet glass of wine with Mrs. Nostrikethat after the kids have exhausted themselves from playing outside all day.

Staying up late with my oldest to play video games.

I’m sure there’s a metaphor in here somewhere.

Or maybe I just need to remember to ask someone to water the plants when we go away for a long weekend.

Nah.