Tag Archives: kids

What Kind of Example are We Setting?

Yesterday my family celebrated my nephew’s third birthday at the place where birthdays are a business, Chuck E. Cheese.  Because my nephew’s birthday is in the winter and there are very few options for locations to have a party other than my sister’s house, I agree that having the party at the “House of the Mouse” seemed like a great, low-stress idea.  The party however though could not have been more chaotic.  It’s completely driven by the staff at the restaurant and is extremely impersonal.  There were four other birthday parties going on at the same time my nephew was having his, so that meant there was a group “Birthday Song” sing and Chuck himself stopped by only to dance a little bit and have his picture taken with the birthday boy, as well as every other birthday child there.  My nephew didn’t even open his presents there because we had to vacate the area at a certain time to allow for another party. But I digress, that’s just a general rant about the place.

 

Now, I have to admit, from time to time I do like to take Aidyn to Chuck E. Cheese so that she can run around and play without me having to worry too much about her wandering off.  We usually tend to go during the “off” hours, on weeknights and early on Saturdays as to avoid the larger crowds and birthday parties which I now have discovered has been an excellent plan.  You see, yesterday’s experience there was crazy.  Kids were running around being kids and I totally expect that.  It is touted as the place where “a kid can be a kid” after all.  What I did not expect was the rudeness that I encountered from the parents.

 

Why is it that this place, supposedly a fun place for children, bring out the worst in us adults?  For example, my husband, daughter and I were waiting in line to have our portrait drawn at a booth where a camera takes a picture of the subjects and the screen shows a hand with a pencil sketching the photo.  There were a couple of acquaintances in front of us getting their picture taken and we were next.  There was no one behind us.  As we were waiting, a woman with her son came over and stood on the other side of the machine.  She looked over at my husband and me and said “Are you in line?”  When we said yes, for whatever reason, she huffed loudly and then came around to stand behind us, like us being there in line was inconveniencing her.  Apparently the photo process was taking too long for her because she stood there impatiently tapping her foot, as if that would make us speed up, arms crossed and still huffing.  Finally she walked away, dragging her child with her.  We didn’t take any longer to get our picture done than any of those before us and did nothing to that woman to make her so frustrated.  I understand that she was probably stressed out, her kid wanted their picture taken, and it was taking longer than expected for their turn but really, what did that little interaction tell that child, and my child for that matter?  That if you don’t get your way right away you stomp off and drag anyone with you that you can?  Maybe it shows that losing patience because you have to wait is the answer.

 

Another instance of rudeness, most likely bred from frustration, was at the counter where we were waiting in line to cash Aidyn’s tickets for prizes.  Aidyn and my nephew were not so patiently waiting their turn to look in the cases at the prizes but my husband and I were doing our best to keep them contained.  When space opened up to the left of us, the couple in front of us with their children moved into that space, freeing up space on the right.  We moved forward, allowing the kids to look in the case and decide on which prizes they wanted for their tickets.  Now, at the same time, both employees who were working behind the counter had disappeared into the back and because they had been standing there for some time, the couple to our left were visibly frustrated.  When one employee returned, the male in the couple asked the employee a question, which the employee answered as he picked up his calculator.  After answering, the employee began to head our way, telling the man, “Just one minute please.”  When he asked us what we would like, the man to our left shouted and pointed his finger up into the face of the employee and said “We were here first!.” At the same time we pointed over at the couple and said “They were first.”  It was not that employee’s fault they did not know who was next, although he probably could have asked.  But did he deserve to be degraded like that, with someone’s finger in their face?  No.  A simple “Excuse me, but we were next” or even letting it slide would have been appropriate in front of the children.

 

I do not claim to be a saint but when I have my child with me I try to set an example of how to behave in public.  I can understand that going to a place like Chuck E. Cheese makes adults frustrated and causes tempers to flare and rudeness abound, but being adults we need to realize that we are adults.  Just because we are in a place geared toward children does not mean we act like children and throw tantrums and pout when we don’t get our way.  And with so many little eyes and ears watching and listening (and children are extremely observant) it is everyone’s responsibility to be on their best behavior.

 

Although I was appalled at the rudeness that I experienced, it really wasn’t that terrible.  For the most part people were kind and were just looking out for the best interest of their children.  It could have been much worse.  I leave you with this video a friend sent to me just the other day.  At least when I was at the party no one threw punches.

Birthday on a Budget

I am one of those people who believes that it is not always necessary to spend an exorbitant amount of money to have a fun, memorable event. I made sure to keep this in mind when it came time to plan my daughter’s fourth birthday bash – a Barbie themed party, complete with the cake, decorations, and balloons.  Normally, this type of event, a simple, at-home party, would have run me anywhere from $100 to $150 for a handful of family members and maybe a couple of friends.  This figure includes serving dinner but does not include gifts.

Planning is Key

The first thing I did in regards to the party was plan.  How hard is it to plan a small party for a four year-old?  Not very, but if you forget tiny details they begin to add up to big expenses.  Crafting your budget will enable you to know how many people you can invite, what you can spend on necessities including cake, ice cream, and supplies, and will keep you from making impulse purchases as you near the party date.  My budget was $30.

Aidyn decided a while ago that she wanted to have a Barbie-themed party.  When I first sat down to determine the supplies I needed to accomplish this, I came up with the following and noted the cost if I were to take a more non-DIY approach:

  • Spaghetti dinner for 18 – $20 (includes salad with fixings, spaghetti, homemade sauce, and garlic bread)
  • A Barbie cake – $15-$30 for a round or sheet cake from the local bakery
  • Themed plates – $2.99 for 8 (I would need two packages)
  • Themed cups – $3.39 for 8 (Again, would need two packages)
  • Themed napkins  – $3.39 for 16 (At last, something I don’t need to purchase two of)
  • Pink cutlery – $2.49 for 24 (8 of each, forks, knives, and spoons… would need two)
  • Balloons – $2.49 each for mylar balloons at Giant Eagle or Wal-Mart (would most likely need two)
  • Ice Cream – $2.50 on sale for each container (need two, Chocolate and Vanilla)
  • Potato Chips – Anywhere from $1.50 per package to $3.00 per package (would need two)
  • Pop – Anywhere from $1.25 each 2 liter (would need three) to $6.98 for a case of Pepsi.
  • Coffee – Already have that at home
  • Children’s beverages – Already have a variety of sugar-free Kool-Aid like drinks in the house
That adds up to around $70 for the least expensive party to around $95 for the most expensive.  That’s already pretty frugal, no?  But remember, my budget was only $30.  I needed to be able to meet this budget in order to host the party as well as purchase the gifts I wanted to give to Aidyn.  When all was said and done I only went $0.25 over budget.

How I did it

The first thing I decided to do was to nix the dinner idea.  Just because my child has a party does not require me to feed dinner to every person who walks through the door.  Would dinner be fun?  Of course, but it is a lot of extra preparation, expense, and clean-up to deal with, especially for a party honoring a four year-old child.  We decided to have the party at 4 p.m. and only serve cake and ice cream.

Next, onto the cake.  I detest store-bought cakes because, not only are they expensive, they are impersonal, sometimes sloppy, and you never truly get what you want unless it is made from a template they have made hundreds of times before (back to impersonal).  At first, I thought I would buy a pre-molded cake pan from JoAnn Fabrics (anywhere from $9 to $14 depending if a 40% off coupon was used), buy cake mix, make my own icing, color it myself and decorate the cake, but when I searched the internet for Barbie Cake ideas, I saw a wealth of possibility.  Barbie cakes that featured dolls with cake skirts were everywhere and seemed very nice and very doable and although I knew I would put more time into this type of cake, I knew it would be worth it.  Total cost of cake was $11: $2 for the doll, $2 for the cake mix, $5 for homemade fondant and icing, and an additional $2 for eggs and oil.

Decorations are always very costly.  Because party plates and cups are generally used and then thrown away, I decided to forego the Barbie plates and purchase a package of 20 pink plates for $1 at the dollar store.  I also picked up a package of pink napkins for the same price.  I already had plastic cutlery and cups at my house, so we used those, but even if we didn’t have these things, we would have purchased cups and used regular silverware.  As far as balloons go, we purchased two Barbie mylar balloons from the dollar store for $1 each and had six balloons, that we already had on hand, inflated with helium at Wal-Mart for $0.25 each.  My sister had the excellent idea of creating big poofy decorations from pastel tissue paper which cost $2 for two packages.  The poofs turned out beautiful and matched the girly Barbie theme perfectly.  Total cost for decorations: $7.50.

I didn’t have much leeway on the ice cream and potato chips.  I purchased two half-gallons of ice cream on sale for $2.50 each and purchased two bags of potato chips (one plain and one barbeque) for $1.50 each, also on sale.  I went the 2 liter route with pop and purchased three two liters (Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, and Orange) for $1.25 each.  I also made coffee and Kool-Aid that I had on hand.  Food and beverage total: $11.75.

Grand total for party: $30.25.

Sometimes it’s the Little Things that Mean the Most

Beautiful cakes ultimately get cut into and eaten, plates are covered with frosting and tossed in the trash, and even the most beautiful decorations get taken down.  It’s the memories that last.  What my daughter will remember is helping me bake her birthday cake, crafting decorations, spending time with her closest family and friends, and of course, receiving lots of little girl gifts.  She told me it was the best birthday party she ever had, not that she’s had many to compare with, but it really meant a lot to me that she had a nice time.

Also important to me is that as she grows, I’m teaching her a valuable lesson – that there is benefit in being creative with how money is spent and how memories are created.  For Aidyn, doing much of the work for the party together was fun and it undoubtedly made for some great memories.  Working together with the help of family and the fact that we are willing to put in extra effort to provide her with a wonderful party shows her exactly how important she is to all of us.  That’s something she will cherish for a lifetime.