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Mandatory Pizza, actually not as good as Mandatory Art

Saturday I took Bryce to the birthday party from hell. When you click that link, please notice how all of the children in the photo are sitting, almost unnaturally, as if they have been threatened within an inch of their lives to look happy and celebratory in their FUN FUN PIZZA CHAIRS! Because at an Incredible Pizza Birthday Party, we practice "Round The Clock" fun, which means that the Incredible Pizza Employee Handbook dictates our every move, including the moves of the five- and six-year-old children who come into this establishment stupidly expecting to have a PARTY complete with freedom of movement and, say, arcade games, the very same arcade games we keep behind locked doors and threaten to remove if said five- and six-year-olds don't SIT DOWN AND ENJOY THE DAMNED CAKE FIRST, because that - THAT - is what our handbook says they must do, and we do not deviate from the handbook. The handbook tells us, for instance, that we start with the "name game" - a cheesy team-building game created for people aged 10-25 years who presumably have a more impressive attention span than the average five-year-old child - where the 20 party attendees are threatened within an inch of their guaranteed pizza buffet visit if they don't snap to attention, state their name AND the name of something "they like" which - how cute! - starts with the same letter as that of their name! And just to increase the time span of this FUN! experience, the handbook states that we must "do a re-cap" half way through. "Okay, kids, so to re-cap, this is Joshua, and he likes... what? That's right! Jupiter Jumps! And this is Isabelle, and she likes... what? That's right! Ice cream! Come on, kids! Put a little more excitement in your voices! This is Bryce, and he likes...? Bananas? No, Blake already said bananas, let's think of something else, mmmkay? Bryce can't like bananas, because Blake likes bananas!"

Most of the other parents at this party were doing what they typically do: pretending they were in a bar, that their plastic Incredible Pizza sprite-filled cups were actually shot glasses filled with very strong liquor, that the din of screaming, cooped up children was the long unheard melody of a local band playing as they chatted about anything other than the fact that their children were in the care of Incredible Pizza Handbook Minions. I, however, always on the edge of normal adult society, watched in horror as the kindergarten crew looked at the Incredible Pizza "hosts" first in attempted obedience, then in confusion, then in exasperation, and finally in utter, ecstatic rebellion, complete with manic laps around the party room, noise-maker horns dangling, honking between shrieks of insane laughter from their taut mouths. Oh yes, I watched. I watched these kids do what any group of five-year-olds would do under the same circumstances, and I watched the Incredible Pizza Handbook Minions throw their arms up in despair, roll their eyes in disgust, and proceed not to utilize the "name game" that had been created to prevent the very situation they then created by yelling out, over the deafening chaos, "GUYS! YOU GUYS! THE LONGER IT TAKES US TO CUT THIS CAKE, THE LONGER IT WILL BE BEFORE YOU CAN LEAVE THIS ROOM AND PLAY THE GAMES."

Yes, Incredible Pizza. That's a lot of fun. Keep up the good work threatening kids with unrealistic and illegitimate consequences, because, as the handbook tells us, KIDS WILL NOT HAVE UNAUTHORIZED FUN AT A BIRTHDAY PARTY. No they will not.

Sunday, Bryce and I accompanied John on a photo shoot at an art museum while Quinn tortured hung out with the only willing in-town grandparents for a day. Because of John's shooting schedule, we arrived before the museum was even open, and I started scrambling for ways to pass the time since I knew I had about three hours of potential disaster ahead of me. Luckily, the museum had a cafe, so Bryce and I had lunch, he in his fuzzy black hoodie and me in my ripped corduroys and braces, and together we avoided the stares of the artsy people in their Sunday best and their concerns over dropped kleenex (really...I'm not making that up) and their posed, sadly stiff family snapshots in front of the cafe art after brunch and quiet chat. Bryce is getting sick and was hacking and coughing with the bark of an angry seal all day, so we managed to get some looks.

But my kid - the one who I was worried would lose control and run screaming through the fancy art museum at top speed, ultimately crashing into a piece of blown glass that would bankrupt our family and turn him into an orphan -sat there and drank his hot chocolate and ate his lunch and commented sagely about the strange bird with ruffled feathers sitting outside in the rain during our entire meal ("maybe the rain is making him feel sick, and that's why his feathers are ruffled"). After the surrealistically pleasant hour in the cafe, we walked through the open lobby to buy tickets for Bryce to see the "sarcophagus" in the Egyptian art exhibit, and we passed John snapping pictures of his client, a bride. Bryce started hacking and seal-barking again, waving his hand in the air and whispering "hi, dad!" between coughs. After I recovered from the shock of recognition that my no-impulse-control kid managed to stand next to me and NOT clamor up to his dad in the middle of a job, not even so much as raise his voice one decibel level beyond "inside voice" volume, I bought our tickets and let Bryce lead the way.

What else do we have in this roo-- whoah, what's THIS?!

Do you people SEE this?! Something must be done. Seriously.

Bryce's take on post modernism. If you don't get it, it's just over your heads. Join the club. Unlike Incredible Pizza, we serve liquor here. (As long as you can name a liquor that starts with the same letter as your first name, that is.)