This past Saturday was Shawn’s 9th birthday party. We arrived at right on time for the party, gathered up the gifts from the trunk of the car and walked into the madness. The first thing you notice is the volume. It’s loud, really really loud. Music, games, children yelling and playing music, coin dispensers clinking, ect. It kinda made us take a step back and question if this was going to be a good day or not.
As we walked in we passed through the kid check gateway, having no kids we were waved right in. If you come in with a child in tow, they number you and the child with a matching number. To get the kid out your number must match.
After passing through the gateway, we wandered over to the party area. We didn’t see Shawn or Sara anywhere. There was a large balloon with his name on it floating over one of the revered banquet tables, but we completely missed this detail. After a few moments of panic that we might be at the wrong location, Sara arrived with Shawn, Shawn’s brother Donny (age 5) and Donny’s brother Ram (age 3), all of the party treats, a huge spiderman cake and a very tired look on her face. She was sick.
After we all got settled at the banquet table we dug out our online coupons walked over to the token lady and came back with 3 buckets of tokens. We each took a huge pocket full and gave a good pile to Sam. We spent most of the party feeding tokens to the three boys and the other party guests.
When we got back to table, most of the other guests had arrived. The gift pile as large and Shawn was in full smile mode. Once all the kids were settled, the pizza arrived. The kids all seems to enjoy it, but it was greasy cardboard pizza. In fact, later that night, a few of the kids had tummy aches, and our bets are on the pizza. Little Ram, who is a big eater normally, helped himself to 5 slices on his plate. Each piece was in a different stage of consumption.
It was about now we had our first child freak out moment. Chuck E Cheese, the giant rat, made his first appearance. The rat walked out and wandered round the room greeting the children. Little Ram completely freaked out and needed constant reassurance that the rat was not going to eat him. It was really hard not to laugh as it was too cute.
The Chuck E Cheese and his helpers then crowned each of the birthday kids (there were 3, one who was also in full Rat terror mode, bawling uncontrollably). They then gave each birthday kido a medal and then oversaw the cake lighting and ceremony. Sam was on video duty and Anthony was on photo duty.
Shawn had a really cool spiderman cake. It had this really cool looking black frosting. Unfortunately when the younger party goers got their cake, and the cake naturally got all over there faces, hands, arms, hair & clothing, the black frosting left stains (oops!). But they loved it!
Once the cake was devoured, it was present time. We got Shawn a kid’s microscope set (which got a great face reaction) and the complete Captain Underpants book collection. He got quite a few board games, 3 or 4 small lego sets and a really cool drawing set.
After presents the kids all ran off with their little cups of tokens to play. Anthony started to help Sara clean up. After the banquet table was all cleaned up, all of us helped Sara compress all the presents, leftover cake and goodies to a booth table near by.
Joshua took Donny and Ram out to play in the little kid area. This mostly involved standing under the over head play tubes keeping an eye out for Ram, who LOVED the overhead tube play area and decided to take up permanent residence in it.
For the next hour we took turns sitting at the table and chatting with Sara (who was sick) and checking on the little ones. Sam played big brother and babysitter to one of the party guests who’s mom had dropped him off alone.
It was right about then we had our second and final child breakdown. Donny came running back the banquet area to get more tokens and noticed that everyone was apparently gone. He started to cry, lucky Sara was right there and scooped him up and reassured him and we had only moved to a smaller table near by.
We don’t know if this location is typical of all of the other locations, but most of the games and video games were focused around getting ticket stubs. There were not a lot of just plain video games. The ticket game concept is you pour token after token into the machine and get a couple tickets.
Before you leave you cash in your tickets for very very cheap prizes (dollar tree would be embarrassed to carry these items). Shawn walked out with a face painting kit and Donny got a plastic spoon, yes really a plastic spoon. Both of them thought they were the coolest and grandest prizes in the world, their little faces beamed with joy and pride! So kido happiness mission accomplished. Financial prudence… well not so good. Each prize takes a hundred tickets and you only get a few tickets for each .25 token. Even with the coupons we printed out at home we dumped a bundle.
All in all a REALLY fun day. Like each of our experiences with Shawn, we take little mental notes on how we would do things with our future kido. When it comes to Chuck E Cheese, we are a bit torn. The kids clearly had a blast, but the greasy food and money pit games make us wonder if when we are in the parent seat if this will be the venue we would pick. Mr. Cheese seems to have one goal and that is getting all the parents money.
But one thing was SUPER clear. Sara had given Shawn the best birthday party ever!