Today was an off-schedule day for us, and I'm not good at these days! Routine means order, control, and predictability (or at least the potential for these things!). But, today Joseph (4) did not have preschool because of teacher conferences. So, besides the 10-minute conference, we had no plans (we missed the younger kid's library story time because it was at the exact same time as the!).

While I was complaining about this, my husband suggested Chuck E Cheese. He reminded me that we had 30 free "Chucktober" tokens, and that it should not be crowded on a school day morning. Plus, he was close and he might be able to join us for lunch (a big perk!).

Ever since my friend and I took our 4-year-olds here to celebrate their preschool graduation, I have detested this place. Gianna, who was 4 at the time, spent the majority of our field trip flipping out under the table. Chuck E Cheese scared her to death! She's a little better at 6, but I bet she would still run to the booth to avoid him (although hopefully she wouldn't climb under the table!).

Because I had no better plan, we headed to Chuck E Cheese. It didn't start expected. The poor person in the big mouse costume...he/she only came over to make my children happy. And, instead he/she got tears and looks of horror and panic. Unfortunately, Gianna passed her fear on to Cecilia who passed it on to Justin. Joseph seemed unphased, so perhaps it is not genetic!

We settled in after the poor mouse walked away looking sad (okay, my's hard to look sad when you have a huge smile painted on your big costume head!). Daddy joined us which made us all happy. Pizza always makes me happy, so we were all okay. It was after lunch that I looked around...

The other patrons were two unlikely groups of women: a group of middle-aged women clearly dressed for the office (with no children in sight) and a group of very elderly ladies...most had walkers, a few in wheelchairs...with no grandchildren in sight (although they did have a younger lady who seemed to be leading the group). How odd...certainly not what you'd expect!

One of the working ladies and I recognized each other. She is the mother of a former classmate of my daughter's. I asked what they were doing, and she explained that they had a rotten morning at the office, and they thought this would be a great way to reenergize for the afternoon. I think it worked...they were all smiles as they left with their sodas in hand! It made me feel blessed to be with my husband and children (minus kindergartener) at such a happy place in the middle of a random Thursday.

It was the senior citizens that left the biggest impression. They were gathering at the door as my husband was cashing in our prize tickets. I suddenly realized that I was holding something that could potentially brighten their day...a very happy 6-month-old baby. I was grateful that she had just eaten and napped.

I have often thought about bringing my babies (I've been blessed with 5 of them in recent years) to a nursing home. I have always had a very special spot in my heart for the elderly. I pray for them every day, especially the lonely in nursing homes who do not receive visitors. Who better to visit them than precious babies!? Especially 6-month-old babies who give off huge grins to almost everyone!

That said, I've never actually done this (brought my babies to a nursing home). But, here was my chance to share my bundle of joy (albeit at Chuck E Cheese!). I headed over to the group hesitantly. I didn't know quite what to expect.

Lucy did the rest. She put on a show...smiling, cooing, squealing, and bouncing. One-by-one, the ladies fussed over her and kissed her pudgy cheeks. I saw beautiful soft, wrinkled faces with bright eyes overcome with happiness and emotion. I wondered if these ladies were thinking of their own babies.

As the last of the ladies slowly made their way out the door, all the while waving to Lucy, their young leader caught my eye. "Thank you," she mouthed to me. I knew that we had made a difference in their day...perhaps even more than the change of scenery provided by the arcade games and flashing lights.

I decided it made great sense for people (of any age!) to come and experience the joy of a child once again...whether it be by playing mindless silly games or by witnessing the innocence and wonder of a baby's smile. I think I like this place.

I was once again reminded that we can never really plan or expect when God will richly bless us (or use us to bless others)! With a grateful heart and warm memories, I took my happy and tired crew home.

Aside from the scary mouse, this day was a true gem...just as I expected (yeah, right!).

Copyright 2012 Trish Bolster