This weekend, we celebrated Cruz's upcoming third birthday with a pirate party. Since his first birthday, I've attempted to throw a party for him prior to his actual birthday so the festivities are through and we have time to clean up and soak up our boy turning another year older with quiet, fuss free, and simple celebrations and traditions. I've learned over time that while I love planning and throwing a good party, I never want it to come in between the true celebration. And this year, I think I did it right. If you would have walked into our house or backyard on Saturday afternoon, you would have seen something out of Neverland, but by Sunday morning at nine, all was back to normal. I sat and sipped leftover apple cider, watched Cruz tackle his pile of new toys, and was filled with only happy memories from a party I was pretty proud to throw. Memories of smiling faces holding Styrofoam swords as we trudged through the neighborhood on one creative treasure hunt. Memories of a pirate table that came together exactly as I had envisioned it. And memories of a little boy who loved his Lightning McQueen undies from Charly about as much as anything and would have rather preferred to dance instead of diving into more presents. We dressed like pirates, drank Captain Cruz's signature ale, and ended the night around a campfire under the stars. And while I'm thankful for a week of no potato salad prepping, burlap tying, or obsessive weather forecasting, I'm always a little sad to see the excitement and anticipation of another party through. Especially this one --- I think my most favorite yet. :)
Last year, I brought Cruz's favorite TV show to life - a Sesame Street shindig complete with a herd of our friends' children, a game inspired by each character, and a makeshift 'Hooper's Store,' complete with more candy and prizes than I knew what to do with. This year, I simplified. I stuck to a smaller group of family. I replaced games with a pirate treasure hunt and photo booth. And instead of a table (and later pantry) full of candy, we stuck to a smaller menu and a single layer cake. I had fun reusing many supplies I had around here and utilized my husband's talents in the pirate talk and cardboard ship department. We all learned a thing or two about pirates this weekend thanks to my husband, including the definition of 'poop deck' and 'hemp halter.'
Highlights and snapshots from our pirate party...
...One of Cruz's very favorite activities this summer involved dressing up like pirates and going on make believe treasure hunts. So, it was only fitting that our party began with a treasure hunt around our neighborhood. I left this part up to Beau and he came through in a big way. First, he free handed a treasure map, including familiar landmarks from our neighborhood --- Sa'gaar Road instead of Sager Ave. and the vast Green Hills to replace the familiar Greenhill Road. Then, through a series of pirate riddles and clues, we made our way through the neighborhood until we reached the final treasure...
An example of the first clue...
"Yarrr! Come now me maties,
Yarrr! Come all me crew,
A treasure is hiding, it waits now for you
So gather 'round for I tell ye tis true
The first clue is not hiding
Tis right in plain view!
It's the pits when you're cold and your hands are all blue,
No furnace or stove pipe, yet this will sure do..." (our backyard fire pit, of course. :))
The kiddos carried their swords and there were many laughs shared as we listened to Beau take us through our treasure hunt. It eventually led us to 'Rock Island,' where we found what seemed to be a sunken treasure ship filled to the brim with hundreds and hundreds of gold doubloons...
My treasure hid true!
But now that you found it,
'tis more work to do!
To steal a pirate's ship
is a deed unforgiven
Lest ye be cursed
Find the treasure in hidden.
Hang it up high
with sticks you can beat it
But hurry and do it
for I may come back to sneak it!"
We hauled the treasure ship back and after several good attempts to get inside its walls, the kiddos found the loot stored inside. Down came a shower of gold --- fake doubloons from Hobby Lobby, golden Hershey's nuggets, rolos, and ring pops. The kiddos (and adults alike) filled their pockets before we celebrated our treasure with a pirate's feast for the best of 'em.
For food, we served smoked pork butt sandwiches, potato salad, fresh fruit, and individual 'seven seas' dips for chips. We munched on Grandma Mary's famous treasure 'chex,' popcorn, and pirate head suckers, drank a hefty amount of Captain Cruz Ale and sea water, and for dessert, satisfied our sweet tooth with cupcakes and birthday cake.
Cruz opened his own pile of loot shortly after we ate, and was once again overwhelmed with wonderful gifts from his favorite people. His very own electric guitar, a bow-and-arrow, a pirate treasure chest, lots of fall clothes, a new set of blocks, some pirate duplos, a race track, and a set of figurines from the movie, Planes, to which he has requested he sleep with every night since. He was sort of interested in his presents, but made mama happy by dragging out the process in his own unique way. He adored his undies from Charly, wanted to dance to his guitar as it was passed around the crowd, and oftentimes requested for Charly to help him open, as if he just couldn't handle the stress of it all. An eager Charly proved to be the trick and soon we had a pile of new toys to find new homes for in our house.
We ended the night with birthday cake, a fun pirate photo booth, and a gourmet s'mores bar and apple cider around a bonfire. Beau's other contribution to the party was yet another hit - a child-sized cardboard pirate ship complete with a mast and one scary pirate sail. I lovingly nudged everyone to embrace their inner pirate and take a picture for Cruz's memory book. We had fun with mustaches and eye patches and I think I even caught glimpse of Great Grandpa Merle sneaking a red bandana home in his pocket! I'm loving all these photo booth concepts at wedding rights now and thought it'd be a fun way to celebrate at our party!