Monday, June 7, 2010

A Very Pirate Birthday

Saturday we had Zach's birthday party. The past couple of years we have had Zach's party "off-site"- that is somewhere other than our house, so that there was less clean-up and preparation. This year I wanted the party very small- I told Zach he could invite 4 friends. I was hoping to find a play place with open play time, where we could just pay for Zach and his friends to get in, do lunch either there or somewhere else, and be done with it. However, that apparently wasn't in the cards, because there was only one place with open play time, and I really didn't want to go there. So instead I took a deep breath and suggested having a pirate party at home. Zach loved the idea, so we went with it. I got a few ideas online and then started planning. It was a fair amount of work to plan it, but nothing excessive, and it was fun.

We were all excited when the big day arrived. I decided that it'd be a lot more fun if Mike and I got in on the dress-up action just a little. That meant I didn't have to wash my hair (or shower, for that matter) the morning of the party, which was fine by me!

Zach and Drew did a little pre-party cuddling. Drew chose not to dress up as a pirate, which surprised me a little because he usually loves putting on his pirate costume, especially if Zach is wearing his costume.

I didn't want to go crazy on decorations, so I opted not to buy a bunch of balloons or do a lot of streamers or anything. I'm just a low-key kind of gal. I did get this big door thing, though, and Zach thought that was pretty cool.

The kids pretty much all got here within a few minutes of each other, and as they arrived, they came right into the dining room, where I applied a pirate tattoo, a head wrap, and an eye-patch, and Zach handed each child a foam sword. The boys promptly took to sword-fighting and were off. At one point while they were still just arriving, they were all chasing Drew, which was fine until they sort of got him in the face, and then he was done with that.

So I had told Zach he could invite 4 friends, from preschool, play group, our church group, or other friends, and he chose 4 from preschool- 3 boys and 1 girl. I didn't want the lone girl to feel weird with all those boys, especially at a pirate-themed party, so I told Zach he could invite one more girl. That was a pretty easy choice for him, and at first, all 5 kids were all coming. The day before the party, however, one of the girls canceled. So when Sydney, the lone girl, showed up to the party, I felt bad. And she was very shy at first, even though she knew all these boys from preschool. They were all totally engaged in sword-fighting right away, and I think it was a little overwhelming for Sydney, so she stayed upstairs and did puzzles with Mike and Drew. After a while it was time for the boys to come upstairs to decorate their telescopes, and that was the perfect activity to get Sydney comfortable with all the boys.

Here are the kids decorating their telescopes. I spray-painted paper-towel rolls black, and used sparkly gold stickers to put each child's name on his telescope. Then the kids applied pirate stickers and yellow cellophane to the end. The only problem was that the stickers for some reason have not been sticking very well. Some of them stuck better than others, but most of them sort of came up around the edges. The kids didn't seem bothered by it, so whatever.

After the telescope-decorating, the kids went back downstairs for more sword action. Those $1 foam swords I got at Target were a huge hit. This time even Sydney joined the boys and seemed to have a great time. Zach has just adored Sydney since they started preschool together 2 years ago, and I definitely witnessed him including her, so hopefully she felt ok about things.

Then it was time for a game. This was essentially pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey, but it was a treasure map and the goal was to put the flag on the X. Zach went first and clearly couldn't see and didn't attempt to cheat.

Zach picked Sydney to go next, and I don't know if she could see or not, but she got her flag right exactly on that X. The next kid was pretty close, too, then one was off a little, and then the final child to go, who had shed a few tears about being last, obviously cheated. It was hilarious. You could see him walking towards the right side of the door, then lifted his head up, turned, and put his flag exactly on Sydney's flag. He probably should work on his subtlety if he wants a career in politics or anything.

As the game ended, the oven timer beeped, letting us know that lunch was ready. The original plan was to order pizza and have watermelon and lemonade, but the day before the party while at Target, Zach noticed a box of corn dogs in the freezer section and decided that was what he wanted for his party, and I was fine with that. I figured it was probably a lot cheaper than ordering pizza! Only one kid (the one who cheated so obviously at the game) didn't like corn dogs, so Mike made him a PB & J instead, and he was happy with that. Zach was more than happy to eat the leftover corn dog, too, so it was a win-win situation.

The kids finished their lunches and it was time for cake. Just like last year, Zach wanted a chocolate cake with cherry frosting. He also wanted it to have a skull and crossbones on it, and for a while I really struggled with how I would do that, because Zach does not like white frosting. At first I bought this black spray that you spray on frosting, and I planned on making a skull and crossbones stencil and putting it on the cake, and then spraying the rest of the cake black, but that would have made the skull and crossbones pink, since cherry frosting is pink. Then my mom suggested cream cheese frosting, and I knew Zach liked that, so I dyed the pink frosting black (I did not use the spray- that whole thing kind of weirded me out), made a batch of cream cheese frosting, and piped it onto the cake in the shape of a skull and crossbones. I had wanted to put teeth in the mouth to make it more real, but I just couldn't see how I could do that without running a huge risk of totally screwing the whole thing up, so I decided to just leave it. The cake decoration was nothing to put in a magazine or anything, but it was good enough for a bunch of 5 year-olds!

I like this next picture because you can see that Zach is either really excited or taking a big breath so he can blow out the candles. I think it's the latter, since he'd already seen the finished cake.

Cherry frosting is one of those flavors that I think you sort of either love or hate. Mike hates it; Zach and I love it. I wasn't sure how it would go over with the kids, especially if they saw the dark color and expected chocolate. However, everybody but one kid ate all their cake, so I'd say they didn't mind the frosting. Drew definitely liked it and took his sweet time eating it, sitting at the table long after the big kids had moved on to presents.

The kids were all excited about Zach's presents. I think these boys played Star Wars every day at preschool, so of course there were various Star Wars toys.

One of Zach's favorite gifts was this new light saber he got from Caleb. The thing that cracks me up is that Zach has a light saber that was a hand-me-down gift from some friends of ours, and it lights up and makes the light saber noise and everything, but he is always more enamored with the plain, plastic light sabers that don't light up and don't make noise. It seems so backwards to me.

He also got a neat Buzz Lightyear sprinkler thing, and a neat Lego fire engine kit. He is enjoying his new gifts a lot. Now we need to get to the thank-you notes!

I like this picture because you can see how excited the kids are about whatever Zach's opening, and you can see Drew still eating his cake in the background. That was actually probably a blessing, since he might have wanted to help open the presents more than Zach was willing to allow.

About a week before the party, I made up a tentative timeline, just to see if I had enough activities planned. It wasn't a strict schedule, of course, but it was just a guide for me to help things move along. I could not believe it when it was 12:15, and the kids were sitting down to lunch, and I looked at the timeline, which said, "12:15-12:40- Lunch & Cake." I was just amazed that for the most part, things took the amount of time that I thought they would.

The last activity I had planned was a treasure hunt, and the idea was to get the kids outside, running around to find the clues, and end up at the front door with their little basket of party favors hidden in a treasure chest. This was definitely the activity Zach was most excited about going into the party, and thankfully, it didn't disappoint. The kids LOVED it, and it went so smoothly. Each kid was able to find one at least one clue, and it was just fun. It was probably my favorite part of the party, too, and the part that (aside from the cake, maybe) I put the most time and effort into. I had 8 different clues hidden around our front and back yards, with two in two different neighbor's yards. I used pirate jargon and made the clues rhyme and tried to make them not too difficult. Here are all the clues laid out on the counter.

The first clue was by the grill, and it sent the kids to look around the slide. I love Zach's running stance in this picture.

Another clue sent the kids to the hose.

The last clue was in Zach's jeep in the garage, and it sent the kids to the front porch, where the treasure was waiting. The treasure box contained 6 gold Chinese take-out boxes with beads, gold and silver coins, bold bracelets, plastic rings, a couple of pirate-themed party toys, and gold wrapped candy like Rolos and Hershey's Treasures. I looked high and low for chocolate coins, but could not find them. One clerk at a mall candy store told me to check Chocolaterie Stam, which is a fancy chocolate place here, but I knew I was not going to spend that much money on a party favor! The kids loved their loot, and the parents had just arrived, so it was perfect timing!

Unfortunately, one child had to leave a few minutes early, so he didn't get to participate in the treasure hunt, which was a bummer. I gave him his treasure as he left, but I still felt bad. And we didn't get a good group picture while he was there, but this is the rest of the gang.

I was definitely pleasantly surprised by how the whole party went. It was a lot more fun and a lot less stress than I expected. Zach and the other kids all seemed to have a blast, which was the main objective, and it just was really a good experience. I was sure to save all the decorations and games in case Drew wants a pirate party in a few years.

I can't believe my little boy will be five tomorrow!


Rob said...

I knew pirates loved corn dogs!

zinncaulfield said...

Glad it was a hit! Did you ever check Cost Plus/World Market for gold coins?

Sandy said...

You might have to plan a party for Anders some day...