The Jake-and-the-Neverland-Pirates-meet-a-penguin-friend-and-helps-him party was up first. I started out really strong, I taught myself to use Ribbit (because, let's face it, I am way too cheap to spring for Photoshop) and designed some pretty nifty invitations. I'm not gonna be opening an Etsy shop any time soon, but I was pleased that I finally figured out a way to do some semi-decent graphics:
I had lots of ideas about food labels, and birthday banners and all manner of printables, all based around those red and white stripes that I so painstakingly layered onto the invitation.....yeah, none of that happened.
I knew from the start that the food would be simple for this party, because I let Milo pick the menu. Like a lot of kids his age, he likes small food, and he likes junk food, so he picked "chicken popcorn", and pigs in a blanket, easy enough to pop in the oven right before party time. He wanted apple slices and veggies, but I didn't even have to prep the veggies because the kid is obsessed with pre-made veggie trays from the supermarket. The only nod toward "theme" food was a bowl of Goldfish and a bowl of potato chips - Fish & Chips, get it?? Groan. I know.
In my head, I had a gorgeous, pirate-y tablescape planned. The reality was, once I started pulling out pirate toys and penguin decorations, Max and Milo took over and decided they were in charge of the table. Eh. Okay.
|The world's simplest buffet, decorated by the kids.|
That left me plenty of time to obsess over the cake. I know, I KNOW, I promised to never ever make another birthday cake. I am a glutton for punishment, I suppose. The cake turned out okay, I guess, but, you know, not as good as it looked in my head. Never as good as it looks in my head.
|That Duplo palm tree is at least one layer deep...|
Saving all that money on the cake (heheheheheh, saving money vs. saving sanity, why do I choose the former every time??) made me feel free to splurge just a bit on a party supply I've been coveting for awhile, glass milk bottles for drinks. You know you see them on Pinterest ALL the time. I just love them, or maybe I just love all the striped paper straws they are always photographed with. Anyway, I despise the mess and waste of juice boxes and cups at parties, and finally took the plunge and ordered two dozen 10oz bottles, which really are a great size for little hands. Everyone wrote their name on their bottle with Sharpie, and it was a breeze to collect them all up and wash them in time for the next party.
Okay, so here's where I really dropped the ball. Aside from the buffet table, I did not have one single, solitary decoration. No crepe paper, no balloons. No beribboned personalized banner decorated with skulls and crossbones. No treasure chests overflowing with exquisitely designed goody bags. Seriously, it was like any other playdate at my house, just with cleaner bathrooms.
I fretted over the weather, all week. We have a very small house, and anytime we have a party, no matter the time of year, I count on at least some of the guests to at least sit out on the back porch, if not out on the patio. We spent the better part of last week under an inch or so of ice. I obsessed over the forecast, really counting on the promised "60 degrees by Saturday!" It didn't happen. Everything melted, yes, but it definitely wasn't 60 degrees, and it sprinkled on and off all day.
As luck would have it, and I don't know why I was even surprised by this, the kids wanted to play outside anyway. So that worked out, even though I am sure some of the parents were not thrilled that I wasn't making more of an effort to keep the kids indoors.
I did have one planned indoor activity, decorating treasure boxes. Those kids who weren't busy scootering up and down my driveway in the rain were happy to sit inside for twenty or so minutes, armed with markers and sheets of stickers.
|There's always the two or three kids who get REALLY into the|
craft activity. These three were very creative, given the limited
resources I supplied them with ;)
For a fourth birthday party, I thought 2 hours was a good length (especially knowing I had a second party that evening!) so about halfway through, I rounded up the kids for the one big activity I had planned - a treasure hunt.
After my revelation that Milo was not, in fact, under the influence of hallucinatory drugs when he insisted on the whole Jake-and-the-Neverland-Pirates-meet-a-penguin-friend-and-helps-him thing, and that such an event DID actually happen on Neverland one day, I promptly downloaded the episode to mine it for inspiration. The plot is, basically, that a penguin washes up on Neverland, looking for a new home for his penguin colony, and they've heard that there is a place on Neverland called Ch-ch-chilly Canyon (I am beginning to think that Neverland must really be an archipelago). He needs to find it, and then use this magic penguin statue/beacon thing to call all the other penguins. So the pirate pups help him, Hook tries to steal the magic penguin statue/beacon thing, and they all chase him away by throwing snowballs at him.
So. I briefly outlined the story for the kids - luckily most of them already knew what I was talking about - and said that Percy the Penguin sent Milo a treasure map, that would lead to a penguin treasure. I lined them all up at the front door, and we set out with the map.
|Little bandanna-ed pirate buddies, off on a|
|Step One: go around the palm tree.|
|Step Two: Ring the big bell.|
|Step Three: Walk the plank, and bounce off the trampoline.|
Look at that well-mannered little bunch waiting in line to
go to the next step!
We were on our way to Step Four: Walk through the Tea House, when what did we spy coming across the lake, but Captain Hook and Mr. Smee!
|Hook and Smee arrive by canoe. I've mentioned what|
a great sport Adrian is, right?? Max, too. He was so excited
to be Mr. Smee.
The kids shouted for Hook to leave, and told him he wasn't invited to the party....
|Get lost, Captain Hook!|
....but Hook was determined to steal the treasure. So, we retreated to the back porch, for an epic snowball fight.
|Wee pirates, throwing snowballs with all their might.|
|Hook and Smee fought back vigorously, but they were no match for the|
band of pint-sized pirates.
With Hook and Smee on the run, we were free to finish the treasure hunt, which ultimately led to a magical penguin statue, also known as a piñata.
|For the first time EVER at one of our parties, EVERY kid got a|
whack at the piñata before it burst. Yay!
The snowballs, by the way, were awesome. They've got some heft to them, so they're fun to throw, and have an interesting squishiness to them that is very reminiscent of really good packing snow. Plus, you can throw them in the washing machine, which I REALLY need to do now. Yeah, they were a buck apiece, but something tells me we'll be getting lots of use out of them.
After that, it was cake time:
|Happy Birthday, Milo!|
and as Dr. Doofenshmirtz will tell you, dessert is a social cue for the party to end. So that was about all she wrote, for the Jake-and-the-Neverland-Pirates-meet-a-penguin-friend-and-helps-him party. The kids took home their bags of piñata candy, and their treasure boxes, and those that I remembered to give them to got a packet of instant snow and a little telescope to add to their bag....no fancy hand-crafted burlap bags of pirate booty, I'm sad to say.
Big ideas, ladies and gents. Big ideas. Practical reality. The more I say it, the more I'm starting to embrace it.