Ed and I typically go out on one weekend night, about three weekends a month. There's also the occasional midweek date, though these have been pretty sparse for a while. Most of the time, we wait to leave until after the kids' bedtime, but because they are psychic and seem to wake up if we don't tell them we're going - and then are shocked to find us gone - we tell them it's "Date Night" and we'll be away for the night. Connor requests to join us on occasion, so on Friday, Ed deemed that Saturday would be family date night. And oh what a night. (And by the way, it's not that we don't do stuff with the kids, it's just that we typically do it during the daytime, and we don't often pull out all the stops in a manner akin to a date night.)
Having already made our annual bowling trip, we needed to come up with another outing. The first idea I came up with was visiting a paint-your-own pottery studio. Both Helen and Connor were into this idea, and then I remembered that they might do this in Colorado with my mom, so I decided to come up with another idea. The winner? Build-a-Bear.
This idea poses two problems. First, the closest Build-A-Bear to us is located in a shopping mall. Ed does not like shopping malls. At all. Really. As soon as we get close, he starts getting tense. Second, since we've never been to a Build-A-Bear, we were certain to get fleeced. I almost called my sister for advice on how to maneuver the Build-A-Bear, but decided to just wing it. Possibly a mistake, but I did ask for a tour of the store as soon as we got there, which didn't really help at all, but made me feel slightly more informed.
For the uninitiated, let me break it down for you.
Step 1. Walk into overpriced store and have sensory overload. Keep your wits about you if you are me. Decide you have quite possibly found hell if you are Ed. But, decide it's OK because your darling daughter is clearly going to love this.
Step 2. Tell cashier you've never been here and ask to be shown around. Get a little nervous as you notice the cashier sniffing blood.
Step 3. Have cashier tell you: select an animal from a bin, take it to the stuffing machine, pick out the accessories. Pay at the end.
Step 4. Clarify that the puppy being carried by the larger dog that your son has already fallen in love with is an accessory.
Step 5. Actually select animal skin.
Step 6. Rip tag off animal skin because 2 year old won't stop talking about it and expressing annoyance.
Step 7. Wait in long line of adults wondering why on Earth adults would choose to be here without children.
Step 8. Step up to stuffing machine. Listen to instructions about how to make animal skin come to life. Press pedal to make stuffing fly from stuffing machine into animal. Be wary at first, but impressed in the end.
Step 9. Choose heart to put in animal. Watch your mother as she almost has a heart attack, wondering how long it will be before some child of hers with OCD has a nervous breakdown that a heart, A HEART, has been left in the animal and can't it please, please, please be removed immediately?
Step 10. Receive animal.
And now? This is where the fun really starts.
Step 11. Give animal a bath. (Don't ask me. It's a hair dryer thing and a brush.)
Step 12. Sort through approximately 500 different accessories. Learn that any outfit can be used on any animal.
Step 13. Choose puppy that goes with big dog. Test out magnet to make sure it works and actually attaches to big dog.
Step 14. Choose dog bed.
Step 15. Choose sweater for dog.
Step 16. Choose pink cat underpants that are almost identical to your own underpants.
Step 17. Find t-shirt. Discard t-shirt, get pink dress.
Step 18. Get pink shoes. Look over all shoes carefully to make sure the best shoes have been selected.
Step 19. Choose red underpants for dog.
Step 20. Go back to dog accessories.
Step 21. Discard red underpants in favor of leash that taller customer has pointed out.
Step 22. Discard sweater in favor of dog toys.
Step 23. Ask cat holder if she's getting a bed for her cat. Immediately regret it.
Step 24. Watch cat holder fall in love with ridiculous pink "Hello Kitty" chair. Practically beg her not to take it home.
Step 25. Convince her that fancy pink purse is better.
Step 26. Go up to cashier. While waiting in line, have holder of fancy pink purse tell you she's going to trade it for the pink chair. Beg her again not to do this. Watch as she throws pink purse on the ground and walks entire length of store to acquire ridiculous pink chair.
Step 27. Give her props for making it to the front of the store and purchase pink chair along with everything else.
Step 28. Watch son beam with excitement at the fancy cardboard box he gets to take his dog home in.
Step 29. Watch daughter burst into tears when cat disappears into box. Watch as cashier quickly rescues cat from box.
Step 30. Pat yourself on the back for single-handedly keeping the recession from deepening.
Step 31. Wish your kids were old enough to just go have a beer with you.
Final score: Build-A-Bear 1, Family 0. Unless you don't count the small fortune we dropped there for the dog, the dog bed, the puppy that the dog carried, the dog toys, and the leash or the cat; OR the pink underwear for the cat, the pink outfit for the cat, the pink shoes for the cat, or the ridiculous pink 'Hello Kitty' chair for the cat. If you don't count this, then the final score is Build-A-Bear -2 stuffed animals and accompanying accessories, Family +2 incredibly happy children. (And lest you think I did not hold the line, I did NOT allow noisemakers to be put in the toys.)
After the Build-A-Bear extravaganza, Helen INSISTED (I know, Helen, insisting on something? You find it impossible to believe, but stay with me for a minute) that she be allowed to walk through the mall, carrying the ridiculous pink 'Hello Kitty' chair. The girl's height renders her invisible to almost every person found in a shopping mall and she can't walk a straight line under the best of circumstances, and carrying a chair as big as herself could hardly be considered the best of circumstances. And hello, big tall guy, is it really necessary to be walking and staring at your handheld device texting someone? I don't think Ed would've felt at all bad if you'd actually hit the deck after almost tripping on Helen. Sheesh.
But we made it out of the mall, stopping only once more at Cakelove to get carry-out cupcakes. I told the kids we could go on date night once a month. I already know Connor has his heart set on another Build-A-Bear experience, but we'll be doing something a bit quieter next time. In fact, we might be calling up that Paint Your Own Pottery night!
Helen clutched her pink chair the entire ride home, lamenting once that she was sad she didn't have the box for her cat, but remembering that she had cried when the lady at the store put her cat in the box.
The cupcakes were deemed delicious.
As I tried to balance the camera on the trashcan to take a timed photo of the four of us to commemorate our big outing, Ed reminded me that I had a tripod in my office. He fetched it, and we gave one final hurrah.
P.S. We have been home for over an hour, and Ed still sits dazed in the corner of the room drinking a beer, watching football, and commenting on how the people at Tyson's looked so..."stylish". I'm wondering how long it will be until I convince him to step inside a mall again. My money is on 6 months. However, after more contemplation, he has decided that Build-A-Bear is a good idea.
P.S. Helen and Connor, you should know that every person I have spoken to that knows me and has read the post has started our conversation with "you went to Build-A-Bear? Are you crazy? I cannot imagine you and Ed in a Build-A-Bear!".