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

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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.

 

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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:

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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!

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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!

There’s no prep class for life

When I’m trying to procrastinate I do what a lot of people do and that’s browse Reddit. There’s a thread where various teenagers are posting what is the biggest current problem they are facing, and adults are responding with why it’s not a big deal. As I read it, I was struck by the feeling that these anxious, stressed-out kids are doing exactly what we told them to do.

Cures for the common ennui

Here at Nostrikethat Industries, we are focused on solutions, not problems. Also, wine in a box. We focus on that a lot.

The cheaper, the better.
The cheaper, the better.

Because this is the Internet, I get to be an expert despite the lack of any formal training, aptitude, or even real intelligence.

By the way kids, that was lesson 1.

Here are my recommendations for the teens of today.

Go sell something for a living

Cures: anxiety. Also treats (but does not cure) “I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up” syndrome.

One time I bought vinyl siding for my house because I really liked the door to door sales guy that showed up and I was afraid to say no. He even had that little kit where he poured the water through the vinyl beads and everything! I’m not sure I remember what that was supposed to prove, but it was impressive at the time. It turned out we could neither afford vinyl siding, nor did we really need it so through a little loophole called “both homeowners needed to sign the contract” we escaped sans siding.

Years later, I somewhat accidentally found myself in technology sales. I learned a lot, mostly about how hard it is to sell things for a living. I also learned how to take rejection and get on with my life. I’m no longer in sales, but I am no longer afraid of sales people, either.

First prize is a Cadillac el Dorado, second prize is a set of steak knives, third prize is you're fired.
First prize is a Cadillac el Dorado, second prize is a set of steak knives, third prize is you’re fired.

Hang out with little kids

Cures: ennui, existential crises, lack of motivation

For reasons unknown, one year when I was maybe 13 I signed up to be a camp counselor at vacation bible school. I have a younger brother so I thought I was prepared for dealing with little kids, but being around a bunch of 6 year olds making macaroni art and making animal noises during the Noah’s Ark song was awesome. Except for snack time: when they want their juice and crackers, they want it now.

Little kids have a refreshingly simple outlook on life. Most of it occurs over their head, so unless there are cookies up there it’s not worth worrying about. As long as there are legs to hug, grass to roll in, and friends to chase everything is pretty amazing. And little kids are so excited to do things! Maybe it’s only for five minutes, but man what a five minutes!

Create something awful

Cures: Apathy

We live in an time where, thanks to technology, the barrier to entry for so many things is so very low. Don’t wait to go to film school, start shooting movies now with your cell phone. Don’t go to college and study theater, just make machinima with Minecraft. Teach yourself to code. Write horrible blog posts.

You don’t have to go to college. There are no gate-keepers holding you back. Go. Create. Express yourself. Of course it will be bad.

That’s the point.

You don’t get to good until you go through a lot of bad.

And get off my lawn

One of the best comments in the Reddit thread was “Teenagers’ problems are just adult problems without perspective.” I get it, kids are kids, and the point of being a teenager is to have these kinds of problems. I still wonder how many of our children are this way because we made it so.

We wanted our children to be “team players” and “achievers”, so we made them play half a dozen sports so they could achieve trophies and medals, but now they don’t know have to have unscheduled fun.

We’ve taken away or neutered rites of passage except going to college, and so many our children are obsessed with this one at a time where the average cost of a college education at an in-state public university is almost $20,000 for residents, despite the overwhelming evidence that the world needs welders and mechanics.

We’ve made it so our children cannot leave our sight without us, and we have given them cell phones so that when they do we’re never more than two swipes away. Somehow, we’re surprised when they’re so comfortable around us that they move back in and never leave.

As parents, we are conditioned to sign our kids up for classes: art classes and music classes and SAT prep classes ad nauseum because if there’s something you want to do, there’s a class you should take first.

Unless that something is “live your life”, because there’s no prep class for that.


Have any more recommendations for the teens of today? Leave a comment!