Milo started preschool this year, which is new for our family. It means he has a whole lot of little friends whose parents I really don't know, at all. If it were Max's birthday, I'd be all, "Heeey, Max wants a dance party for his birthday and it's gonna be in the backyard so it can't start until 7pm" and all of our usual suspects would be all, "Heeey, a kid's birthday party at night time? Par for the course at Jen's house," and it would be no big deal. Anyway, I decided to rent out the local dance studio, which has a nice big windowless room that I can totes control the lighting in and have the party at a much more reasonable 2pm.
Last week, I began moving forward with the plans for the party, and I'm happily filling my Oriental Trading shopping cart with all sizes and shapes of glow sticks, when Milo says, "I want a Jake and the Neverland Pirates party."
Ok, no problem at all, I haven't purchased anything, invitations have not gone out, I haven't even put down a deposit on the dance studio or anything. A Jake party is so much easier, anyway, and we can do it at home. Fantastic. I empty my shopping cart and start looking for Jake ideas.
"But also a glow dance party. At home."
Oooooohkay. This is also not a big deal, right, actually solves my biggest problem with his party in general, which was how to blend the dozen or so 3-5 year olds from preschool with all of the older, family friends who would expect to be invited to any party at our house? So, Jake party from 2-4, then the preschool friends leave and our other friends with older children can come over for supper and they can run around the backyard all night with glow sticks and KidzBop. Perfect.
Milo has specifically requested a piñata for his party, so I search for crocodile piñatas, thinking Tick Tock the Croc and all that. I show him three to choose from. He says, "No, I need a penguin piñata."
Do what? Now, my little boy has a long-documented love for penguins, but this is a reach, for me, thematically, and I can't get over it. "Honey, it's a Jake party. Why would you have a penguin piñata? It doesn't fit. Why not a crocodile? What about a pirate ship? Treasure chest? Work with me here...."
"Penguin. At the party, it can be Jake meets a penguin friend and helps him. I love penguins."
WTF. I don't even know what to do with this.*
So while I ponder the Jake and the Neverland Pirates Meet a Penguin Friend and Help Him 4th Birthday Party, I thought I'd revisit last year's festivities, which seem so much simpler now, despite the pony.
At this time last year, my about-to-be-three-year-old loved two things: horses, and his brother's bow and arrow, which he was absolutely never allowed to touch. Obviously, this meant throwing him a Brave birthday party. It may be the only Brave party on record with little to no mention of Merida, but I just can't resist the opportunity to indulge my love of all things Disney.
I decided to focus on the Highland Games aspect of the movie plot, and devised four events. The first three were simple: the Caber Toss, the Stone Put, and Archery ("I'll be shootin' for me OWN hand!"). Naturally, I don't have any photos of these activities that don't feature other people's kids....so I'll just have to describe them. For the Caber Toss, I got a couple of big cardboard mailing tubes, and painted them to look like wood. Kids stood behind a line, and chucked 'em as far as they could. Pretty simple. The Stone Put was just my trusty corn hole game, easy enough. I don't know why kids like corn hole so much. The kids played both of these games independently throughout the party. Archery was a little more controlled, naturally, with heavy supervision by the dads.
There's Max, showing off his mad archery skills. Oh, right. Max. Need I say it? NEVER MISSES A CHANCE TO WEAR A COSTUME.
I made "clan sashes" for all of the kids to wear, out of strips of plaid fabric and elastic hair ties dressed up with sparkly fun foam to look like gems. Max naturally had to go several steps further. He wanted me to make him a kilt (!!!!), but was satisfied when I took a big piece of leftover tartan and pinned it around him. We paired it with the shirt, socks and jumper from his Christopher Robin costume and, in a nod to the February temperatures, the leggings from his Flynn Rider costume.
The main event was the pony rides. Well, one pony, one horse. Twinkie and Bear. Milo was so excited about Twinkie and Bear. Could not believe real horses were going to come to his house. He could not wait to ride on those horses.
Yeah. Not so much. The child did not once get up on either horse. But he sure loved them. Wanted to feed them apples all day long, and brush them, and walk alongside them, and basically just grin at them. And all of his friends loved riding them, so I'll chalk it up as a win, if not an outright victory.
|Max on Bear, Milo, with bow and arrow in hand, racing alongside.|
|Max on Bear|
and also found these great, inexpensive kits to make bear claw necklaces, which fit in with the Brave theme quite nicely:
Also visible on the table were the two take-home items (other than the necklaces and sashes) for the guests. One was a bear "cake pop:"
I used mini Moon Pies for the head. Mini Oreos for the ears and snout, with a red M&M for the nose. Candy eyes were purchased at the craft store (I had no idea such things existed). Stuck everything together with a little white icing and jammed a lollipop stick into the bottom. Done and done.
The other item.....oh boy. I got it in my head that I needed to include the will o' the wisps from the movie into the party somehow. Milo is a sugar fiend, and so it occurred to me that the cotton candy that I am forever denying him at the grocery store (they display it in the produce department at my local supermarket. The PRODUCE DEPARTMENT. Come on, Lowes, help a mother out.) would make the perfect will o' the wisp, and figured I'd pick up a couple of bags of the blue stuff and tuck it into some plastic Brave cups and call it a day. Except I waited until two days before the party to go buy the cotton candy, and that's when I discovered that my supermarket does not stock cotton candy in February.
I was committed, though, that's the thing. So what do I, being me, do? I rent a cotton candy machine. The cotton candy machine comes with a huge carton of pink sugar, but I can't have pink, so then I find myself going to three different stores to buy up all of the tiny jars of blue decorating sugar I can find. And then spinning said sugar into cotton candy in the middle of my living room, with wisps of candy floating all over the place and the floor getting stickier and stickier....well, suffice to say, I got what I deserved. Heh. This girl needs to learn how to just let it go, sometimes.
For food, I made chicken nuggets and pizzas, pretty standard little kid party fare. I did attempt to make the pizzas look like targets, with rings of cheese and other toppings, but by the time they cooked the effect was pretty much lost. We had apple slices with a toffee cream cheese dip, and celery and carrot sticks...and I suspect more of those got fed to Bear and Twinkie than eaten by the kids.
I did cupcakes in lieu of a big cake, and those I frosted white with rings of M&M's to look like archery targets. The arrows were made out of Pocky sticks, with fondant fletchings:
This party, all in all, was well-recieved. The pony rides far overshadowed the other activities, but that was expected, and reflected in the amount of effort I put into planning and preparing. We lucked out with the weather, for sure. It was cold, but not unbearable. I was delighted by my niece, who, as always, was dressed perfectly for the occasion (she and Max are not at all alike, right?):
but at the end of the day, this kid was still grinning, and that's what matters most to me.
* In the wee hours of this morning, I was struck with a sudden thought, and stumbled to my computer to Google "Jake and Neverland Pirates penguin." Yep. It's a thing. Who knew? (I mean, besides my three year old, obvs.)