Sunday, November 15, 2009

Not The Party I Expected . . . Aaarrrgh!!

Ok, I will be the first to admit that somewhere during the preparations for J’s birthday party we may have walked the plank and gone overboard.  But long ago I made the realization that most of what I do for parties, I do for myself.  The kids don't care if all the activities mesh with the theme or if the cake is beautiful.  But I do.  Those things make ME happy.  So, as much as I'd like to claim altruism when it comes to my party planning, the ugly truth is that I do it for purely selfish reasons.  But I will NEVER tell my kids that.  I WANT them growing up thinking that I slaved away JUST to make their birthdays extra special.  But seriously, who would have thought that planning a pirate party would be so much fun?  Aaaarrrgh!!

I’ve never considered myself much of a pyromaniac, but it was surprisingly fun to burn the edges of these invitations.  And none of my neighbors even called the fire department.

Other prep work included cutting, stamping, painting, washing, baking, stapling, drilling, routing, tying, hammering, and sewing.  Yes, sewing.  I actually dug out my old hand-me-down sewing machine, dusted it off, and tried to remember how to thread the bobbin.  That’s symbolic of a pretty massive effort on my part.  Usually, I draw the line at sewing for parties.  I am definitely NOT much of a seamstress.  But once Shaggy figured out why the needle was completely stuck and the smell of smoke was permeating the kitchen, it didn’t take all that long.  And though it could be argued that it was technically unnecessary, the pirate do-rags really did look better with a hem.  For the record, I better add “fixing sewing machines” to Shaggy’s list of mad skills.  He doesn’t know much about sewing machines, but he was able to pull it apart, fix the problem and even reassemble it correctly.  Blimey!

I called upon Shaggy’s plethora of artistic skills to paint pirate flags and a little Jolleyboat which was once a cardboard box.  My only request was that the image wasn’t scary.  I’ll let ye scurvy dogs be the judge of how well that turned out.

The main attractions at the party were a big pirate ship, lots of colorful "cannon balls" to throw at the pirate dinghy, a swing over shark infested waters, and a treasure hunt.  Yo-ho-ho!  My vision of the pirate ship was fairly simple.  Our old inflatable pool next to a stick in the ground sporting a pirate flag.  Easy.  Except Shaggy took that task on.  It ended up slightly more complex than the picture in my head.  Hence the stapling, drilling, routing, tying and hammering.  But it was perfect, more than I would have even thought to ask for.

The swing over shark-infested waters was also set to be pretty straightforward. A rope.  Tied to a tree branch.  With a knot.  Hanging over a kidde pool filled with a little water.  And an inflatable shark.  But Cap'n Shaggy, for some reason, was concerned with things like child safety, rope strength, and the likelihood of breaking the tree branch.  So he used lots of rope, and a seat.  And he made it strong, extra strong.  Like he does with everything he makes.

The treasure hunt was great, probably our best one ever.  More like a picture treasure hunt, since the kids were too young to read.  The picture clues took them all around the yard trying to find the next clue.  They had to rescue some mates from the brig, walk the plank, wrestle an octopus, find a message in a bottle, and attack some black balloons in a pirate raid.  Once they had all the clues, the pieces fit together to lead them to the spot with buried treasure.

I spent hours decorating the cake.  Which, admittedly, is one of my favorite things about birthday parties.

Should have been a great party--the best one J has had all year.  And it was, for everyone EXCEPT the birthday boy.  It wasn’t that it was too complicated.  Every activity was geared towards him and the things he likes.  He chose the theme, after all.  And I made sure that the activities were unlikely to trigger his anxieties.  It wasn’t that we invited too many people.  I like to keep my parties small and manageable.  There were only five guests.  All kids that have come to his parties before since we didn’t want to risk the social anxiety thing.

So what went wrong?

It all started when the first guest arrived and J hid in the backyard.  He didn’t want to be seen.  It would have been nice if the little matey had mentioned this aversion before.  He had insisted that he wanted to invite some friends when we first started planning the party.  As subsequent guests arrived, he started crying.  Inconsolably.  Then he cut his toe on a stone which sealed the deal.  Long term meltdown.

Poor J spent the first half-hour of his party crying, and the second half hour curled up on my lap.  I was extremely grateful that only one parent stayed (and a very understanding, nonjudgmental one at that).  The only thing worse than dealing with one of J’s meltdowns . . . is dealing with one of his meltdowns in front of an audience.  Which also explains our marked lack of a social life.

The third half-hour of the party, J stayed inside, playing with a present that I let him open early while the other kids were treasure hunting in the backyard.  At that point, he was beginning to show a little happiness and excitement.  Thank you for cool presents!

The final half-hour was redeemed with cake.  J requested that we didn’t sing to him and he didn’t make much effort to blow out his candles.  But he DID eat his cake with gusto.  Ahoy, everything is better with cake.

Once the guests left, who all had a fabulous time and didn’t seem to mind J’s tears, we had a party do over.  That was when the birthday boy finally let loose and enjoyed his party, even requesting me to take pictures.  Noooo problem.

So, at the end of the day, all the grumpiness was forgotten and we were left with just a very young pirate in search of a little adventure. 

And as you can see, even pirates like to hug their little sisters . . .

. . . and examine their fingers very closely.  Shiver me timbers, you never know what might be lurking under those nails after a day in the backyard!

I foresee many family-only-parties in this boy’s future.  I suppose the good news is that he has a fairly large and crazy family to make those parties fun.
Fair winds, me hearties!


kara said...

Whoa. I'm sort of speechless. Except I have a lot of comments. What a stinkin great party. And, why didn't you ever throw me a bday party like that at school? And, who took all those amazing pictures? And, the pirate flags...Shaggy painted those? What the???!?!?!? And, did you send your family away for a month while you PREPARED for this party? And, and, and...seriously, NICE WORK! I think I'll stick to telling N that the ward easter egg hunt is her birthday party. Worked last year.

Mom said...

WOW! I second everything Kara said. What an amazing party! Your cake was a work of art, along with the costumes, decorations, activities, etc. I'm sure it makes the prep work even more fun since you can take advantage of Shaggy's talents and desire/willingess to be involved. I'm glad J enjoyed his party, even if it wasn't until all the guests went home.