Sometimes "Uncle Duty" puts me in interesting positions. Like the time a year ago when I took the Pipsqueak to a friend's birthday party and found myself the only adult male in the waiting room as the kids bounced (literally, at times) all over a gymnastics... um, gym. No matter which window I stood by or which little clump of mommies I tried to stand near, I always found myself separated from all the other adults by more space than they kept between themselves. I think it was only when I followed everyone into the party room for pizza & cake (at which point a couple of daddies joined the crowd) and began helping set up & serve that anyone realized I was chaperoning one of the kids and not just some weird guy ogling their children. (I think I actually said that verbatim to one of the moms, who cracked up -- but had a slightly guilty expression, too!)
Imagine, then, my joy when AJ pointed out she had to work on Sunday, and Mom & Dad were really tired, but Miri had a birthday party to attend... and was really looking forward to Uncle Brian taking her...
I'm not one to disappoint my niece so I spent the next several days reminding my sister that I needed to know the time and location of the party. Eventually, she sent a text message(!) with the time and place: SkyZone, a huge all-trampoline indoor "park" where the kids could burn off as much energy as they could muster.
I picked up the Pipsqueak on time(!) and she talked nonstop aaaalllll the way from Grandma & Grandpa's house to SkyZone. There didn't seem to be much parking (uh-oh) but I found a spot a short walk away and my thoroughly wired niece kept up her soliloquy all the way to the entrance.
We both got real quiet when the door closed behind us -- the noise level in the place was somewhere between "the U.S. Olympic jackhammer team is practicing here" and "there's a 747 throttling up in the back of the room." There were humans of all shapes & sizes in orange nonskid socks everywhere, moving every which way, and when I asked Miri if she saw anyone she knew the reply was a worried negative. I eventually saw what looked like a customer service desk and guided the now slightly overwhelmed Pipsqueak in that direction.
I opened my mouth to ask where the party was and realized AJ had neglected to give me one teeny-tiny bit of information: neither Miri nor I knew the birthday girl's family name, which made it kinda hard for the very patient girl behind the desk to tell me where the party guests might all be located in the chaos. She finally directed me to the opposite side of the building (did I mention this place is BIG!?), where the first thing I was asked by the girl behind that particular counter was if I had completed the liability waiver in advance.
Oh, this is fun -- not only do I not know who the heck I'm looking for, but I was supposed to have already filled out a liability waiver...?!?
I dragged my increasingly lost-feeling niece over to an open computer terminal and shortly afterward was able to return to the sign-in desk --where I was super-relieved to run into the birthday girl's mom (whom I recognized). A few moments later, the Pipsqueak had swapped her sneakers for a pair of bright orange nonskid socks and the entire party group went to one of the large net-enclosed "pens" whose floor consisted entirely of trampolines linked together. I noticed one of the fathers actually shooting photos from the bouncy floor (in bright orange nonskid socks, of course) and the birthday mom said adults could also bounce if they wanted, so I let Miri know I'd be right back and returned to the sign-in desk for my own bright orange fashion statement.
Unfortunately, as soon as I mentioned "photos" the girl said they allowed photos but no cameras or electronics were allowed on the trampolines themselves. I decided not to rat out the other father and went back to shoot my pics from the regular floor. (By then he had given up his camera so he could keep bouncing with the kids.)
From that point forward, the afternoon became one long demonstration of just how much energy kids in 6-8 range actually have... and how difficult it is for old geezers like yours truly to keep up with them. The noise level remained astonishing, but after a while I was able to tell apart the high-energy music blasting from the PA system from the kids' yelling while following said kids from the bouncy pen to the foam pit (on the far opposite side of the facility, of course) to a larger bouncy pen and back to the original, all the while dodging other kids and adults who were either being equally energetic or equally overwhelmed.
Miri may be a pipsqueak but she held her own, happily running along the padding between trampolines or bouncing all over the place. I'll be quiet for a moment and let y'all see what it (sort of) looked like -- believe me, the blurring in the photos was almost visible to the naked eye!
Here's the foam pit...
...and here's the bouncy pen the kids spent most of their time in:
At one point I turned to one of the young "lifeguards" and jokingly asked if employee benefits included unlimited Excedrin. After I explained what "Excedrin" was (Dude, you're getting old!), he laughingly said that it sounded tempting, but that the staff all got used to it pretty quickly and, besides, "it's only like this on weekends."
Still feeling slightly overwhelmed by the nose and activity, I cringed as the lifeguard blew his whistle to signal the end of "bounce time" and followed the group to a couple of party rooms for pizza and cake. Many of the adults (including me) were happy to discover the birthday girl's parents had arranged for separate party rooms for the kids and their grownups, older siblings, caretakers, etc. -- a very nice touch I'm going to remember for future plans. Everyone jammed into one room for the obligatory loud
"So," I hear you say, "why did it take more than two weeks to type & publish this post?" Well, we seem to have run into some uncharted shoals. First, I became unemployed at the end of November (yep, you read that right, unfortunately -- don'cha love downsizing?) Then Dad developed a problem and there was an ER visit & a couple of doctor's appointments... Then Mom had a problem and there was another ER visit... Then there were a couple of additional appointments for Dad, followed by what turned out to be very successful semi-minor surgery early on Thursday. (I say semi-minor because he didn't have to stay in the hospital overnight, but there was still some definite slicing & dicing going on that had all of us thoroughly concerned.)
What's been keeping our spirits up during the repeated "uh-ohs" and doctor visits has been how the Pipsqueak's been keeping her grandfather in line. (He's quite bad at following instructions like, "don't bend," "don't lift," "don't climb stairs," and such.) She'll draw herself up to her full height, hands on hips (sometimes wagging a finger at him for emphasis) and start off with, "DAD! You have to listen to me!" and then spend the next several minutes lecturing him on how he should behave and why. The funniest was when my cell phone rang just as we were leaving the ER one night and I found myself talking to my niece. I asked if she wanted to speak with Grandpa (she was really, really worried about him) and gave him the phone -- and Miri spent the next 7-8 minutes politely reaming out her grandfather for not behaving himself while Mom & I tried to not laugh out loud.
It's been a wild couple of weeks but things are (finally) looking much better -- and now we know that if we can't get Dad to follow his doctor's orders, we just have to stand back and let his granddaughter deal with him :-)
So now that we're all (almost) up to date, I'll sign off with an almost-belated HAPPY HANUKKAH! to one and all! (Miri's been unintentionally amusing us by asking friends, "Are you Jewish or Christmas?")