Posted by: Michelle Mitton | December 9, 2008

Build-a-Bear Birthday Bash

Yesterday we spent the day putting up our Christmas tree (which I’ll tell you more about on Friday, you want more Alaskan photos right?) and in an effort to alleviate my work load today my good husband volunteered to step in and guest post for me today.

Really! He’s just that kind of sweet.

So he’s writing about his adventures taking Lillian to a birthday party last weekend that was held at Build-a-Bear (another favor he did for me for which I am completely in his debt). A new experience for him and he tells it as only a dad can.


And there I was–a dad–standing in the midst of a group of moms at a birthday party at Build-a-Bear. I was Daniel in the lions’ den. Oh wait . . . that metaphor doesn’t work because Daniel survived.

“Have you been here before?” was the first question asked when I arrived.

“Uh, no . . . isn’t it pretty much just a store to buy bears?”

That answer received a chuckle. I’m certain that the mom thought, “You silly, this isn’t Buy-a-Bear, this is Build-a-Bear.” She then explained the process.

It’s starts by choosing a bear carcass, then a dress, then shoes, then bows and even an electronic song and anything else you can cram into (or onto) a bear. Then they hook the bear up to an apparatus full of bear guts and fill the skin one limb at a time. The limp carcass comes to life slowly–slowly, very slowly–one limb at a time like a hot air balloon filling with hot air and lifting off the ground and then they sew it up. Before all this happened I was just a bystander; but I was soon to be a Build-a-Bear victim.

Lillian didn’t need an explanation. She figured it out by herself. “Dad! Dad! Here’s my bear,” said Lillian tugging at my jacket. Her hands were full with the makings of her own personalized bear. A pink bear covered with white hearts, a sparkly blue dress with butterfly wings, and glass slippers. She would have made Elton John proud.

“Dad isn’t she beautiful?”

“Oh yes,” I said in that parental voice that didn’t want to break the enthusiasm.

The party proceeded mainly with activities to prolong the purchasing activity until the grand finale of stuffing the bear. During that time I started to look around at the merchandise and I began to notice that everything had a price tag.

I mentally walked through Lillian’s purchase and started adding things up. Eighteen dollars for the bear. Fifteen dollars for the dress. Eight dollars for the shoes. Eight dollars for the special happy birthday song to be played with a push of a button when you grabbed the bear’s hand. I did the math in my head, “Forty-nine dollars,” I said. Then it sunk in . . . “FORTY-NINE DOLLARS! Holy cow!”

Or rather, “Holy bear!”

It was too much. But there was my daughter who had already named her bear, was holding the bear close to her heart and looking at it with adoration probably because the staff at the store had just spent the last hour in bear-bonding activities designed to cement girl and bear together in an eternal bond of love.

And there I was, about to break her little heart. Why? Because the birthday girl’s mother had quietly approached me to inform that parents were expected to pick up the tab for anything over $25.


Back went the shoes. It was too late to surgically extract the birthday song already embedded in the bear’s left paw right there on the store floor and I couldn’t bring myself to have Lillian put the dress back. At least we didn’t have to pay for the authentic beating heart thumping away in the bear’s chest though it kind of gave me the creeps and brought me back to my days of reading Edgar Allen Poe when I was in high school.

Even after all was said and done the final bill–my portion of course–was $16. I didn’t know how this was going to work so I looked at the other mothers and they also had looks of confusion. All the girls had gone upstairs for ice cream by this time but we finally figured it out, standing in line–me with the rest of the moms–to pay our portion.

So I guess all I can say is: “Stuffed bear with actual beating heart? Eighteen dollars. Fluffy Disney dress? Fifteen. Brittney Spears singing “Happy Birthday! . . . Happy Birthday! . . . Happy Birthday! . . . Happy Birthday! . . . Happy Birthday!” ad nauseum when you squeeze your bear’s paw? Priceless.

Oh no–wait–make that “Another eight dollars.” Plus tax.

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