Archives for the month of: March, 2012

My son, who was turning 6, has wanted a Chuck E. Cheese (CEC) birthday party from the moment he stepped into the place. I have always resisted — wanting to have home birthday parties where I could geek out with a theme! But, alas, he became slightly more independent and opinionated this year and Chuck E. Cheese it was. Now, first let me tell you I am a BIG fan of the Chuckster. I know, I know — there are the haters out there. And believe me, I have been on days where I thought I was going to lose my mind with the crowds and noise. But — I love the fact I can go and sit and breathe for a few while the kids play in a safe, clean, relatively inexpensive environment. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a party.

We were originally going to go and commandeer a booth and decorate it and provide the kids with pizza, drinks and tokens — we weren’t going to buy a party. But, last minute — literally — the morning of his birthday, he proclaims how he CAN’T WAIT to go in the ticket blaster. The ticket blaster, available ONLY with a party, is right off the set of a game show — it’s a clear booth that the birthday boy or girl steps in. They turn on the air and tickets start flying. The object is for the kiddo to grab and keep as many tickets as they can get. There are special tickets in there too — ones worth 200, 500 and 1000 tickets!

So, I panic and wonder if I can get a party last minute. Not only did I get a party — I got to do it online in literally minutes. I was looking for the phone number to call them and realized they have an easy-to-use birthday party reservation system where you can customize your party with food, cake, novelties, gift bags, balloons and more! It also shows you all the available times. Did I mention you also get a party host?

I made the reservation for the minimum amount of kids (4), even though I had 8, intending to just get the perks of the ticket blaster, a inflatable crown, and a commemorative medal. I was going to add on to the party myself and buy extra pizza and drinks for the kids that exceeded the reserved amount. I wanted to use my coupons. I explained that to the staff and there were more than amenable to it. I also told them I didn’t need a host — as I felt guilty for booking a party for 4 and really having it for 8. I wasn’t trying to be cheap — I was just trying to maximize my coupons. But they insisted on helping!

So, I show up with a handful of kids, Grandparents, and an armful of presents. The kids are yipping and bouncing — excited to get started. But — as I told them I had a party reserved and they searched their paperwork, I realized I had reserved the wrong day. I had no party scheduled. The staff literally jumped into action — saying it was no big deal and they could make this happen. In literally under 10 minutes they had the entire set-up for us! Their willingness to accommodate my mistake and needs were FANTASTIC! I was so grateful! The party host did everything! He took my order (and coupons) from the table, got us drinks and refills, served the pizza, picked-up throughout the party, engaged the kids and kept the excitement high! He constantly checked-in with me to see if I needed anything. I was soooo impressed!

In the end, we had full bellies and 8 kids with HUGE smiles on their face. My son hasn’t stopped wearing his CEC medal and now my soon-to-be 8-year-old has confessed she wants a party at Chuck’s too! Were there any negatives? Not many! It was a bit hard to round up the kids — as they were in 8 different directions, but the staff was patient. I am unsure if I would have a drop-off party for anyone younger than 5, as it is difficult to watch them all. I would also recommend a weekday party as the crowds were minimal. I have been to weekend parties and felt suffocated. But, overall, I would 100% recommend it and do it again. A huge thanks to the Herndon Chuck E. Cheese staff for making my child’s day special (and easy on mom)!

Learn more about their birthday parties here.

When I found out I was pregnant with my oldest child, my husband and I were in the Army, stationed in Monterey, CA. In the small town where we lived off-post, there was a picturesque mommy-and-me parenting center that every mom in the area went to for classes, reading time, and open play. I took my first prenatal yoga class there, and wished with all my heart that we’d be able to stay at that duty station so I could take my daughter to classes there. But of course, we moved before my daughter was born, and moved again and again. I kept looking for a place like the one I’d been to in California, but couldn’t find it. Finally, we settled in Northern Virginia. And finally, I found the place I’d been looking for!

smalltalkers is a Mommy & Me, Play Together/Learn Together Parenting Center in Centreville that offers a wide variety of opportunities and activities for moms and their little ones to enjoy. The focus is on babies and toddlers, with new classes for preschoolers and children up to age six. Classes are all age-specific and developmentally-appropriate. The space is bright and clean and engaging; on Fridays and Sundays there are Baby & Toddler Open Play hours that allow parents and their little ones to interact and socialize in a fun and child-centered environment.

Owned by Terri Lee, a retired pediatric speech therapist who teaches the Baby Play infant development and communication classes, smalltalkers is adding new class offerings and expanding its schedule next month. New classes include Prenatal and Baby-wearing Hula, ZenBaby Infant Massage, Toddler and Family Music classes, SmartArt for toddlers, Sing and Sign sign language classes for ages 3-6, Baby Signs for 6-18 months, Mommy and Me Yoga classes for crawlers through age 4, and Infant CPR and First Aid. In addition to teaching Baby Play classes, Terri Lee also hosts Baby & Toddler Open Plays twice a week, a New Moms Group, and occasionally teaches a popular “Toddlers and Tantrums” seminar. There are classes for so many different interests and ages, every day and evening of the week.

After looking for years for a parenting center like the one I’d been to in California, I am thrilled to have found smalltalkers. Come check out what smalltalkers has to offer. Learn together, Play together!

For more information about the programs and activities available, or to register for a class, visit smalltalkers online. For the chance to win a $50 credit toward any smalltalkers class with registration in the next 90 days send a blank email with “BABY” in the subject line to This contest ends on Sunday, February 5th. Winner will be announced via Facebook between February 5th and 8th.


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