Friday, September 4, 2009

How Kelley got her groove back

I woke up this morning feeling like crap. I've got a little bit of a cold, and I hadn't slept well, and when I woke up the kids were all over me, showing me stuff and asking for stuff. I felt like crawling under the covers with Kleenex (actually Stop & Shop brand tissues, to be honest) up each nostril to save myself the trouble of getting up. But as I (half-heartedly) ironed Jason's clothes and (reluctantly) poured the kids' cereal into bowls, I gave myself a little pep talk and determined to make something better out of this day.

After my shower, I blew my hair dry and put on a little makeup. This is not customary for me - there's a 50/50 shot of me taking a shower on any given morning, let alone remembering to put on deodorant. Makeup is usually reserved for parties, funerals, and clothes-shopping. Annabelle walked in to pee, stopped dead in her tracks when she saw me gawking at myself in the mirror, and gasped, "Mom! You look dramatically gorgeous!"

Things were starting to turn around.

The girls inexplicably have the day off from school today, so we knew we'd have some special girl time this morning while Nathan was at his drop-off gym program. Still feeling half-crappy, half-cautiously-optimistic, I decided that we'd do something tried-and-true (read: minimum-effort) for fun - Chuck E. Cheese's. Yes, I realize that today is a beautiful summer's day, and We Should Be Outside, but after the way I woke up this morning, throwing death looks at anyone coming near me, I'm just proud to have made it out of the house at all.

When we arrived at Chuck E.'s, there was only one other car in the lot, probably on account of it being such a heavenly day and all. We walked in, and immediately I felt a sense of calm wash over me. It was a bit (I'd imagine) like the feeling a drug addict gets when he scores: sweet relief in the knowledge that fun would be had for the next couple of hours with no interference from that pesky outside world.

The girls filled their fists with tokens and made a beeline for the photo and drawing machines - they love to commemorate our trips to Chuck E.'s with these little portraits of themselves having fun. I looked on happily and realized that we had the whole place to ourselves. I sauntered around the place, checking out the salad bar, the air hockey table, the mini-carousel with exaggerated interest. I waited as long as I could, probably a good three or four minutes - you know, so I wouldn't look like an addict - and then I nonchalantly walked over to the Street Hoops game, all, "Oh, hello! What have we here? Maybe I'll try my hand at this little game," as though I hadn't been playing once a week for the past four weeks, desperately trying to beat the high score.

I glanced over my shoulder, locating the girls. Yup, they were still right behind me, having a blast on some Win Lots of Tickets! game, and yup, we were still the only customers in the joint. It was safe to play. Hands shaking, I placed my first token into the slot. The familiar "street" music came on, and the deep-throated voice told me that it was time to shoot. I leaned forward, hustled the black basketballs closer to me, and then aimed each one toward the chain-link hoop.

"Ooooooh," I shuddered as I sank ball after ball, "This is goooood."

I played a couple of games, advancing each time past overtime, double-overtime, and into the playoffs. My only goal in life for those two hours this morning was to beat the high score of 150. Oh, and to look like someone who a) has never played this game before and doesn't really care about the outcome, and b) knows where her kids are.

I made a deal with myself that I would play just three games and then I would hang out with the girls. With surprising willpower, I followed through and met up with the girls after a few quick games. We had fun together, playing that game where we'd race to shoot water into a little target and then shaking and lurching through the simulated roller coaster ride. But often the two of them would run off, "Anna, look! We can climb in the tunnel!" and I'd be left alone and defenseless against the siren song of Street Hoops.

Once, when I had broken the record for the first time with my 163 points, I looked over to my left and saw Madeleine staring at me with an expression of either surprise or terror - I couldn't tell which. I looked behind me to where she was staring, and there was Chuck E. Cheese himself, purposely standing about 3 inches away to scare the crap out of me. I jumped a mile with a loud gasp, and everyone thought it was a hoot. "Ah-ha-ha!" I fake-laughed, a good sport.

I was really thinking, "Get out of my way, Rat - I'm in the zone here."

After the girls said their hellos to Chuck E., they started in on this game that lets you win coupons for ice cream and cotton candy. It was right next to the Street Hoops game, so what could I do but play some more? As I hit my first six shots in a row, I knew that this was going to be my best game ever. I was so focused that it took me a minute to realize that not all of the "street" music and DJ-scratching sounds were coming from my terminal - someone else was playing next to me. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Chuck E., grabbing the street balls with his giant rat hands (paws??) and making shot after shot.

Oh, it was on.

I have to say that the rat put up a good fight, but who could have had a chance against my outrageous 173 points? As our game ended, I looked over toward Chuck E., flushed and ready to start trash-talking. Then I noticed a little boy standing nearby (Yay! There was another mom who flipped this beautiful summer's day the bird!), and I decided that I would be setting a better example for the kiddies if I just smiled demurely and said, "That was fun. Good game!" I politely left out the rest: "Now you're my bitch, Chuck."

I wasn't the only one with a major victory today. Annabelle won a free ice cream coupon for herself and a free cotton candy coupon for her little sister. She felt like the big hero, and boy, did they relish those treats, especially because I never would have let them eat that shit at home.

As our morning came to a close, we traded in our tickets and picked out some worthwhile prizes: a High School Musical diary for Mad and a big package of colored clay for Annabelle. My prize? Happy kids, bragging rights over a costumed rat, and a sunnier disposition that has lasted me the rest of the day.

Disclaimer: Please take note of my repeated mention that Chuck E. Cheese's was virtually empty while we were there. I would not have played and played that game if there were little kids waiting for a turn. I might be an addict, but I'm not a total jerk.


  1. This is the funniest story I have heard in ages. Nicely played, Kel. Nicely played.

  2. laughed out loud more times than i can count!

  3. "Get out of my way, Rat - I'm in the zone here." = Priceless.

    Loved it. Hilarious and adorable.

  4. "now you're my bitch..." hahahaha!!