Kaleb, 4, and Zack, 1, have the same birthday: May 5th. Cinco de Mayo. A day of festivals, celebrations, insanity.
This year we decided to celebrate at Chuck E. Cheese – “where a kid can be a kid.” And where parents are sucked into a tornado of hyperactivity.
We had the party on Saturday, three days after the official birthday, so as soon as we walked in the door, Kaleb was primed for party. "Can I open the presents?" he asked. "When can I open the presents? Can I open the presents now?"
We came with a small stack of presents, two cakes (that I stayed up past midnight making), one 80-year old uncle, and three children under four. We ordered the pizza, situated the children and began the festivities.
Rich took Kaleb and Leah and a handful of tokens to the playland. Keep in mind that at Chuck E. Cheese the absence of these two children does not equate to tranquility, because just three chairs down another party is a brewin', complete with Chuck E. Cheese himself doing the Macarena, flanked by a whole slew of frightening, life-size, mechanical muppets, lip- syncing pop-song parodies. It’s not just loud, but stupefying – a world where the Wiggles and Barney make sense.
I tried having a conversation with Uncle Bill but he had already turned down his hearing aide and was mesmerized by what looked like a giant ostrich relaying the Chuck E. Cheese news on four television sets mounted to the ceiling. Zack was just as dumb-founded as his 80-year old table buddy.
I busied myself by putting the finishing touches on Kaleb’s birthday cake: Doc Oc and Spiderman action figures. The kids returned, the song was sung and the cake revealed. Kaleb tore the toys from the cake and began licking their feet as he made his way back to the playland. I had barely eaten my pizza when he returned, crying.
“I lost Doc Oc’s arms,” he said, holding out a Doc Oc with only two octopus arms instead of four.
“Where did you loose them?”
“In the place with all the balls.”
The Ball Pit. He had taken his first two birthday presents into the ball pit and lost Doc Oc’s arms.
Rich distracted Kaleb by having all the kids get on the Chuck E. Cheese stage to dance. When the curtain began to drop Rich grabbed all three kids and made his way back to the table, tipping over Zack’s birthday cake. It dropped onto the floor, frosting first.
As I sat on the floor, scooping up fist-fulls of green frosting with the occasional plastic frog, I wondered if this party was going to get better or worse. Note: wet wipes remove any trace of green food coloring from Chuck E. Cheese carpet.
I decided to climb into the ball pit myself and extract the Doc Oc arms. I refused to let those action figures be just another thing that went wrong at that party. But when I saw the pit, bustling with at least 10 young children, I decided not to risk getting arrested.
So we did the next best thing. My husband told the all the kids in the pit that the first one to find a Doc Oc arm would get tokens, lots of tokens. The battle began.
This story has a happy ending. Some kid found the arms and Doc Oc went home intact. A second cake, frozen at home, was thawed as a replacement for the one that went belly-up at Chuck E. Cheese.
And little Zacky was able to have his cake and eat it too.