Things didn't actually start out all that bad. My Canon Vixia m500 arrived in the mail from Amazon this morning despite the fact that it wasn't due to get here until next week. There wasn't enough time to charge it before I had to leave but I decided to drag it with me figuring I could find an outlet at the playgym. The plan was for me to drive my mom, grandmother, and uncle to Connie's place and from there we'd follow them to the playgym. The first fubar occurred as I was following Connie's car as they made a left turn onto a busy main street. I'm trying to look both ways and figure out if I could make the turn, when my uncle calls out in Chinese from the passenger seat 'It's all clear on the left'. I asked 'really?' since it seemed like there were a crapton of cars zooming over, he said 'yeah, it's clear' and so I shrugged and made the left only to just avoid slamming into a car, pulling a swerving maneuver that looked like it came out of Cannonball Run. My conversational Chinese isn't bad as long as it's basic. What I hadn't realized is how much context plays into it in a way that would never happen in English. In my brain, though I heard the chinese word for 'left', based on the context I just thought he meant 'right'. I mean, who the frak sits in the passenger side seat and tells you the traffic on your side of the damn road is clear? He can clearly see better than me on the right since I'm having to lean forward and crane my head that direction. Still, since I managed to avoid pancaking us, I guess you can chalk it up as a win.
We got to the location with no further incidents and as I mentioned before, it was the same place Maddie had had her birthday party the previous year. After everything was carted inside, setup began with laying all the crap out for the 30 or so kids who would be attending. They would have a hour to play in the gym and then there would be another hour for food/cake/whatever.
Here's the final table setup. Potato chips, pirate booty popcorn, apple slices, and other assorted snacks.
I also wandered over to take a picture of Maddie's birthday cake. It's been a tradition in our family to always get number cakes, at least up until you're 9. My mom started it for our birthdays and it's been carried through ever since. You could smell the cake from 10 feet away. You know that scent of sugar in the air as the whipped cream just aerosolized and permeates a room? It was just like that. I hadn't eaten anything all day and the scent of sugar was sending sending impulses to the primitive part of my brain. I took the opportunity to flag down Connie and asked her when the pizza would be getting there.
'There is no pizza', was her response.
'What do you mean there's no pizza? There was freaking pizza last year!'
'It's 2pm. We had the party at noon last year. Who in the world would want pizza at 2pm?'
At that point, I admit that my mind broke and I had no response handy. It's like if someone came up to you and asked you what green smelled like. WTF? When had some sort of time limit been placed on when it's acceptable to eat pizza? 8pm? Sounds like pizza time to me. 4am? Mmmm some pizza sounds good. Just about any god damn time would be good for pizza. So what if it's after what some people think as lunch time? Snack on the god damn pizza. Pizza is a god damn anytime food.
At this point I staggered away my mind filled with disarray. No pizza. I ate a handful of chips but it just wasn't the same. I plugged in my camcorder after fiddling with it for a bit and went out to see what the kids were up to in the gym.
Maddie was having fun running around playing on all that various pieces of equipment included the in ground trampoline. Frankly, just walking across these things made me feel creaky and off balance. I kept getting the sense that parts of my body were bending in ways they weren't supposed to.
Will seemed to be having fun as well, but he also had more trouble than Maddie. I don't know if it's because he's younger or if it's just that he's flabby. He got stuck in the foam pit and had to be rescued at one point by Jeff. I had learned my lesson and damned if I was going in there.
Morgan was actually the most entertaining to watch so I spent most of the time following her around. She wanted desperately to play on whatever Maddie was playing on, but she just didn't have the balance or coordination. She wanted to join right in but you could also see that self-preservation instinct kick in. I just tried to make sure she didn't end up being trampled.
Connie went to take some pictures of Morgan and happened to arrive just in time for a faceplant. Morgan couldn't really manage to jump on the things anyway so she just tended to stand around until the ripples from the bigger kids sent her tumbling to the ground.
Connie figured the foam pit might be more fun for Morgan and carried her over there. I should mention that Connie also got momentarily stuck in the damn thing and had to slowly work her way over to the giant ball before she could climb out.
Here's Morgan after realizing she could move in the foam and couldn't escape. Connie had gone off by this point and I had to reach out and snag Morgan out of the death trap.
My mom took Morgan over to a less hectic part of the gym, with more stable footing, and spent some time playing with her. Morgan seemed to have fun crawling all over the padded inclines but she just wasn't big enough to do much else.
I thought this was a very nice picture. Oh, and also at some point in the midst of all this I did go back to check on my camcorder. The battery is pretty puny but I was able to record a little bit of video. I'm actually uploading it to youtube right now so hopefully by the end I'll have it to embed here. Due to my slow upload speed it's taking over 3 hours to get the files transferred.
Maddie meanwhile was still having the time of her life. As the birthday girl, there was a staff member taking her from station to station with some of her friends and she was being pampered with all the various activities.
At the end they even broke out the parachute. Now, I have no idea what one of these go for but as far as I'm concerned, it's a must-have for any gym. I remember when I was in elementary school they used to bust these things out once upon a blue moon and it kicked ass. About the only thing that even came close to matching it were that game we used to play with the little rollyscooters you sat on while trying to kick that gargantuan inflatable cloth earthball around. I wonder if schools even have that anymore or if the liability concerns make it untenable. I still remember some of the kids being able to kick that sucker into the air and if it landed on you, you were smashed flat to the ground. In case you're curious, the ball pretty much looked like this:
Again, Maddie as the birthday girl was the star of the show. Here you see her running around on the parachute. After this they had her stand on the hole in the center and everyone did the big lift and run inside thing.
The more I think about it, the more I wonder if maybe I should see how much one of these suckers cost and buy one for the kids if it's reasonable. This would be a ton of fun to play with on a nice summer day with a bunch of friends.
At the very end, the staff member put Maddie on his shoulders and hoisted her through the hole in the middle while everyone else cheered for the birthday girl. I didn't manage to get a picture of that because of my sloth-like turn of speed. You'll just have to picture it for yourself.
And then the hour of funtime was over. It was back to the party room for snacks. It was around this time that I started to not feel well. I'm still not sure what caused it but I think walking on those damn trampolines contributed to it. All that bouncing made me motion sick and I was starting to feel really nauseous and headachy. Being in a room full of little kids and no pizza surely didn't help things any.
Will, being a certified carb addict, attacked the various snack foods with gusto. You can see how Connie loaded an extra napkin full just for him because he was hoovering up everything in the area.
Morgan was also munching away though she was kind(?) enough to pass all her apple slices to me while she concentrated on the chips and cheese popcorn.
And then it was time for cake. I was really starting to feel crappy at this point and it was all I could do to stay upright. My head was spinning and the nausea was increasing.
It took a bit for the candles to me lit. Jeff was having problems with the matches and it took a while for someone to offer up a lighter. I guess if you think about it, there's a clear downside to no one smoking anymore. Back when I was a kid, you could pretty much guarantee a crapton of the adults would be smokers and have lighters on hand in an instant.
This was the last picture I took. By this point, I had managed to charge the camcorder enough to be able to video tape this moment. It looks like the videos have finished uploading so lets see how it turned out. The first video is of the dreaded foam pit and a general pan of the area.
I didn't notice it at the time but it appears I panned right past the staff member bouncing Will up on the ground trampoline. Now that looks pretty fucking cool. Also, just in case you're curious, we often call Morgan 'mei-mei' which in Chinese means little sister. Really, unless whiteys are around, most of my family never really uses her name.
It turns out that Connie and Jeff's best couple friends have a son named Henry. It always catches me off guard because I've never known another Henry in my entire life. I'm used to having the name all to myself and I always respond whenever one of them is calling their son. It's kind of disconcerting really.
And here's the birthday cake and candles and singing. You'll notice that Will blew out Maddie's candles. Luckily she didn't throw a fit, which I thought was actually kind of likely at the time. He's such a little bullethead.
Anyway, right after I shot this video I started to feel even worse. I could barely stand up as everyone wobbled and the nausea was getting out of control. I had to flop down on one of the couches in the room and really couldn't move. At one point I had to have my mom surreptitiously drag the garbage can over so I could deposit some apple slices and mashed up chips into it. I'm not sure I've ever felt this bad before due to motion sickness, so it could also have had something to do with my medication or whatever. I was down for the count and felt like crap for hours afterward. It was all I could do to stagger to the car not ralphing ever 5 steps. It was also at this point that I discovered the cake was all gone. Not that I wanted to eat cake at that very moment, but still, I'm sure once I recovered I would have liked to have had some. It had smelled delicious. The car ride was a nightmare and even when we finally got home, I refused to leave the car because I'm not sure I could have if I wanted to. I actually ended up falling asleep in there and didn't climb my way out until near 7pm. Even now, I still have this residual pounding in my head and something throbbing behind my eye. At least the nausea is gone. Still, on the plus side, I did discover that my mom had snagged the last piece of cake for me from Connie and I was at least able to salvage something from the day. I guess it wasn't a total loss.
It was delicious.