Fonticulus Fides

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Birthday Fun

Now that I’ve had a few days to recover, I’m going to indulge myself with telling you all about Zooey’s fifth birthday party, which we had on Sunday (his birthday was last Friday).

The theme was pirates. Zooey helped plan this year’s festivities. Sure is a lot of fun to have him involved every step of the way. The invitations were so cool – we printed them on parchment paper and burned the edges. “Avast ye mateys! Pirate ships will be gathering at H--- Harbor on the occasion of Dread Pirate Zooey’s fifth birthday! We shall hunt for Long John Silver’s treasure and there promises to be a pirate battle at sea, so come about for squirt gun and splash ball fun!” In smaller type, it said, “Wear yer swimsuit and sunscreen. Water socks or sport sandals will help ye keep yer sea legs on the slippery turf. If ye be fond of yer own squirt gun weaponry, be ye armed when ye arrive. Parents are welcome to come along for the ride.” Then the back had a map to our house, with various clip art to make it look pirate-y and some creative re-naming of streets and landmarks.

We rolled these up and tied them with a piece of twine. I’d saved clear liter-size bottles, and we put a few spoonfuls of sand in the bottom, dropped in a penny and a couple of small sea shells, then slid the invitation inside. We sealed the caps with electrical tape and added address labels, each person being dubbed with a pirate name like “Buccaneer Branden” and “Bluebeard Jake”. The post office happily sent them on their way for 83 cents postage (that’s a lot, but since we made the rest of the invitation, it was the same as buying pre-made ones).

When the kids arrived for the party, they went straight out to the back yard and filled up their squirt guns for the pirate battle. I had made two “boats” for them to defend. I used refrigerator boxes on their sides with four portholes cut on each side and one end pointed like a boat. The back was open. I cut a hatch in the roof so the boys could pop up and squirt each other. I also added a mast made out of a giant cardboard tube from the carpet store. I had drilled holes in the mast to accept a dowel going crosswise & stitched up sails from an old bed sheet. Then I added a pirate flag to the top (a plastic one from the party store, about a foot tall). The boys had sooooo much fun with these! At one point, nephew Branden was holding off the four younger boys. Meanwhile, Edyn splashed around in the wading pool by herself (cousin Maddie doesn't like to get wet, so she stayed inside on great-Grandpa Frank's lap and he read her books). I kept the extra squirt gun “loaded” so that when a boy ran out of “ammo” he could come to me and swap guns.

After the water battle started to die down, I asked who wanted to dig up a buried treasure. The boys clamored for sand shovels and scurried around the yard looking for an “X.” I’d buried the treasure in a low spot in our garden, sprinkled on some grass clippings and added two large sticks as the “X.” Zooey’s school buddy Jackson found it and all the boys pounced on it, digging it up. It was a wooden box (wrapped in plastic), filled with plastic gold coins and “jeweled” rings. Zooey jumped up and down screaming, “We’re the richest pirates ever!” Then the boys divvied up the loot and took it back to the boats so they could rob each other. They squirted the mud from treasure-digging off each other and the boats got so wet, they capsized but the kids thought that was great, too.

After about an hour of this revelry, I brought out a picnic snack (Zooey’s request). They all got juice boxes (which I normally don’t buy because they are pricey) and munched on “treasure map sandwiches.” These were flour tortillas with treasure maps drawn on with food-coloring markers. On the blank side, I’d spread a bit of light cream cheese and added lunch meat, shredded cheese and grated carrot, then rolled them up and secured them with sword-shaped toothpicks. Baby carrots, black olives and pretzels rounded out the snack.

After the snack, we played Pin the Parrot on the Pirate, Zooey’s brainchild. I had taped a large drawing of a pirate on the garage wall, and the kids colored their own parrots to pin onto the buccaneer. I had two other games planned (Musical Islands using rings of rope for the children to stand on when the pirate song was interrupted, and Oceans Away, in which each child had a different color bean bag representing his/her pirate ship. These were to be placed on a blue sheet – the ocean – and the kids would have held the sheet, then bounced it up and down until only one “pirate ship” remained.), but we didn’t get to them. It was time to go inside and change into dry clothes. (It was 104 on Sunday, and I thought they’d all catch a chill sitting inside in wet swimsuits, because of the 25-degree difference.)

When changed and dry, we had cake. I made this cake, which turned out to be surprisingly easy and more impressive than I could have imagined. Everybody chowed, then we did presents. Zooey got an amazing pirate ship from my in-laws, and the boys spent a good hour completely engrossed with it.

As the children left, Zooey gave each one a treasure box that he and I had made together. It was actually just a normal “natural” cardboard box, but we added some jewels and the child’s “pirate name” on top to make it look like a treasure box. Inside, Zooey put chocolate gold coins, Nestle Treasure candies, a toy telescope that really collapsed, a mini compass that sort of pointed North, a pirate eye patch, a temporary tattoo, Goldfish crackers and shark-shaped fruit snacks. Plus whatever gold coins/rings the kids had collected from the buried treasure. It was a lot of fun!

We’re making the thank-you notes this week -- a pirate with a parrot on his shoulder, and the parrot is saying “Thanks.”

It was a great party, and I probably had as much fun as anybody! But boy, was I tired when it was all over. Zooey and Edyn spent the evening exploring Zooey’s new gifts, particularly the pirate ship. Zooey would make a pirate walk the gang plank, and Edyn would rescue it, ask if it was okay, then plant a kiss on its bearded cheek and put it back on deck. Isn’t that a scream?

Okay, really do have some more important things to tell you, but I must sign off for the day. The magazine still isn’t done, much to my chagrin!



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