Monday, January 30, 2006

A good day, overall

I had not known they were close. This past Saturday our microwave crossed over the silicon Jordan to be with our TV. One appliance crash is a tragedy, two is a . . . well, a double tragedy, to be honest.

It was the only unpleasantly chaotic event in an otherwise joyfully chaotic day. We had a friend's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese's in the morning. It was the same one I had gone to when I was a kid, which blew the boys' minds. I hadn't been to visit Mr. Cheese in about 5 years or so, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well the place had rebounded sine my last unpleasant vist.

For a place filled with screaming kids playing ear-splitting games, it was clean, had friendly and helpful staff, and simple yet effective security measures to ensure that your kids leave with you; the food was better than I had remembered, and all the games were one token each. We'll certainly come back, mostly due to the helpfulness of the staff and the single-tokenness of the games.

As soon as I realized they couldn't leave without me and had let go of their hands, the boys ran off in 4 different directions. My main fears were that Sam would get lost and that Jonah would get into some kind of scrap with another kid (or parent). Neither proved true.

Sam's favorite thing to do was to put tokens into the slot of his games. It was some work, because no two games had the same slot. I counted 3 main types: vertical flush metal slot, horizontal angled metal slot, vertical plastic slot & change return combo. Sam mastered them all. As for the games themselves, his favorites let him drive. There was the simple scrolling one with flags, a high-tech 2 Fast 2 Furious street racing game (he sat in my lap & steered while I pushed the accelerator; we came in 7th), several rocking cars of the type seen outside grocery stores, including one that took your picture, and a truck driver game. If it had a steering wheel and a token slot, Sam was on it.

Jonah was all over the place. Climbing, running, mugging for TV cameras, playing "big-boy games", like the Mechwarrior one with a moving cockpit ("Dad, look! I'm inside a ROBOT! With GUNS!"). He played enough games to get 16 tickets, but the lizard prize he wanted ("He's blue and sparkly!") was 100 tickets. I talked him down to a slightly smaller sparkly blue lizard, which was 50 tickets, and then I had to talk Timothy into handing over 34 tickets, which he did with more graciousness and patience than I've normally seen in oldest children. I think the promise of his own room in the new house (a someday-coming sanctuary) has softened him up a bit.

Most surprising to me was that Jonah had completely figured out the ticket-reading machine, into which you feed your tickets and then receive a reciept to hand in at the ticket-redeeming counter. Clever machine, clever boy.

Stephen was a man on a mission. He stopped to eat just one slice of pizza and was then back out, working the room for tickets. He made over 50 on his own, which seemed like a lot to me. Following Sam, I would see Stephen at various games, concentrating. He smiled when he showed me the tickets in his cup; otherwise, he was on the hunt.

Timothy, though, amassed over 200 tickets through the day. A couple of lucky hits on the Sponge-Bob game (50 tickets apiece), he was generous with his winnings. He seemed to enjoy the games themselves as much as winning the tickets.

All in all, a good time. No fights, no breakdowns, no 911 calls.

While we were at Chuck E. Cheese's, my wife was at home cleaning. We're still selling our house (4br, 2.5ba, at end of street, etc.) and she was giving it a thorough going over in anticipation of weekend visits from realtors et al.

When the boys and I got home, we were instructed to stay in the TV room and not to leave upon pain of death. I opted to go outside and blow the last of the leaves out of what we euphamistically refer to as "the grass." This was a nice hour of semi-manual labor that allowed me to listen to a couple of lectures of my China history course. Art & intellectual history, though. No wars or funny stories in that hour, oh well.

I did manage to get the boys outside to help in the yardwork. I had blown the leaves into the street, but since we had returned The Sucker, we had to manually collect them and move them to the woods. The boys did surprisingly well, given that we don't do yardwork often. Timothy, as usual, was trying to think of different ways to make it easier. Stephen needed convincing that this was worth doing. Jonah needed reminding that this was what we were doing, and Sam kept picking up leaves and putting where they belonged.

We finished and packed up to leave for the final event of the day: picnic with friends. Nice day, new park, time to get out and let the kids run around like the wild things they are. I've noticed an odd difference between older parks and newer ones: there are few places to sit down in new parks. No benches, seats, logs, etc. This appeared to be okay at Brook Run, because there were very few sitting parents. Most were walking along, both closely following behind their Most Precious Lifestyle Accessory (okay, that's not fair; most were just first-timers, at whom we must quietly laugh, and upon whom we should not heap scorn).

I, on the other hand, have learned the fine art of Paying Attention Elsewhere (TM), and wanted to sit down. My buddy found a good seat, and we commenced to talking while our wives watched the youngest two and the older kids played like crazy. It was a fantastically good time, ending only when the security guard (?) came over and announced that he was closing in 40 minutes.

Apparently the park closes at sundown, which makes sense, but it was odd nonetheless. Timothy & I went to throw the football in a game of 350. Jonah joined us (20 minute warning). We headed back and watched the 2-year-olds playing together in the sandbox (5 minute warning). We cleaned up our table (please leave now) and gathered up the children (I'm closing the gate now). As we left, the guard was leaning over the gate, waiting. We waved good-bye and headed home, the sun just dipping below Atlanta's ubiquitous tree cover. Oh well.

As for the microwave? Well, it turns out that a microwave oven is one of those odd appliances that almost everyone has, and that a few lucky souls have more than one. We had received the recently departed one from my grandmother when we were married. But our first & second apartments and first house had all had one built-in, so our gift stayed in its box.

My sister and her husband, always generous, were now in the same boat, with an extraneous microwave. So they gave us theirs. My parents even dropped it off on their way home, while we were at my wife's parent's house celebrating 5 birthdays. Big families are good. Nice familes are good, too.


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