Eli and The Day We All Became Pirates

I read somewhere this week that in order to be existentially fulfilled, one should do whatever makes one forget to eat or sleep. There are two things that fit this bill for me- writing and party planning!

Eli turned four this week and we had already been enthusiastically planning for his pirate party for most of the year to date. We spent the entire week leading up to the party creating the ‘Pirate Music’ soundtrack that would lend the right swashbuckling atmosphere to the event. It ended up being a perfect mix of Pirates of the Caribbean style scores and toe-tapping reggae. Hudson still requests ‘py-ate mooosic’ as one of his top two playlists (the other one is zumba)!

In the week leading up to the party I used every meal time as a strategic preparation time, making double of at least one part of the meal to be frozen and baked later. We had Serbian cheese burek, sausage rolls, and I made extra sweet onion chutney, smoky eggplant pickle and guacamole. The kids helped me dip the pretzels in white chocolate to make ‘crunchy bones’, the inspiration for which was, of course, Pinterest.

The highlight for me, though, this time, was the decorations! I felt like a kid again drawing a mysterious treasure map for the kids to follow and find the pirate coins (of which we had enough to kick start a pirate company after Dave got completely carried away at the shops one evening!). Dave took the kids out a couple of times to give me space to create and indulge my obsessive side and time absolutely flew while he was gone. There were Jolly Rogers adorning our black doors, piratey slogans on the blackboards and a Pirate Menu decoding the fare on offer. We christened our ‘ship’ the Black Pearl and stuck up some ‘portholes’ on the walls to give the feeling of being out at sea. One would think, from my unbridled enthusiasm for such events, that this was MY birthday!

Everyone knows that the crux of the whole party is the birthday cake. Not really, but it sure can feel that way with all the amazing fondant covered works of art that adorn Pinterest. Based on my past experiences with this part of the proceedings I approach the cake with awe and caution. On Eli’s second birthday I attempted to use a car mould without first reading the instructions and when I opened the oven to check on the progress I was greeted with a now half-filled mould that was in the process of pouring batter out of every side with a thick burnt layer now stuck to the bottom of the oven. When searching for pirate ship cake ideas I came across an incredible one but was very careful not to show it to Eli in the (very likely) event that mine would look more like its ‘cake wreck’ version.

I made two rectangular cakes two nights before the party and began assembling the cake on Friday night. I started by cutting the base into an elongated arrow head shape, then placed a triangle of the second layer at the front on top and a smaller rectangle on the back of the base. I placed a smaller version of each of these on top again and then covered the whole thing with chocolate buttercream frosting. As I placed the frosting covered pretzels around the edging and eased in the hazelnut chocolate portholes into the sides, it began looking more and more like a galleon! I edged the top with licorice and looped some blue and green sour straps as waves around the base of the ship. When the skewer sails were erected, I stepped back and surveyed the result- it actually worked!!

Eli awoke on the Saturday and came tearing into our bedroom- “It’s my PARTY today, Mum and Dad!!” He exclaimed. Hudson was still catching on what all the fuss was about, but he was his usual excitable self all the same. We gave Eli a couple of presents but decided to save the main ones for his real birthday on Monday. He immediately raced off to adorn himself in his new pirate costume and recklessly brandished his sword at everyone. I became inspired to draw eye-patches on everyone with my waterproof black eyeliner, though that may have backfired when Eli belatedly decided he didn’t want his anymore and made his eye red by trying to remove it. Dave, the party pooper, wouldn’t let me near him with my makeup. I can’t understand why!? I had grand plans of making him look like Captain Jack Sparrow, but alas, it was not meant to be…

When the guests arrived, the food began to leap out onto the bench, and, as usual, it seems I had prepared enough to feed double the intended amount of people. I covered the bench with my staple- brown paper- and arranged the antipasto ingredients directly onto that. Next to that went the home baked olive bread, the mini ham and swiss cheese filled crab croissants, the frankfurt sloops and galleons (mini and normal sized hot dogs with all the trimmings), mac and cheese bites, jelly ships, rocky road, fruit platters, burek and vanilla cupcakes.

Dave is the games master and he had the children eating out of his hand with Musical Pirates, Pass the Treasure Parcel and then the much anticipated Treasure Hunt! He gathered the kids and they traipsed from the Black Pearl, through the shipwreck (our deck), the Captain’s Quarters (the cubby house), the murky swamp (the trampoline), the Pirate Coffins (our veggie gardens) to the quicksand (our sand box) where they unearthed an authentic looking treasure chest! Searching for treasure can’t be that easy, though, so the next challenge was to tackle the meanest looking pirate (my Dad) to steal the key to the locked chest. When the lock clicked open the and the pirate coins spilled out, the look of wonder on the kids’ faces was absolutely priceless!

When the food had been eaten and the presents opened, we were left with a quiet sense of satisfaction mixed with exhaustion at a memorable and incredible day. Eli did an amazing job throughout the day, responding with appropriate manners when opening presents and not obnoxiously asking people if they brought him something when they came through the door. He cracked it at one point when we went to play the pin the eye-patch on the pirate game, but quickly recovered when I took him aside to calm him down. It turned out the pirate was just a bit too scary looking.

We’ve already started thinking about Hudson’s birthday party (a Postman Pat theme is the current favourite) and Eli has decided he wants a circus theme for his 5th party! Planning parties are such a fun part of being a mum, even if I do become slightly obsessive in the lead up.

It is a little crazy to think my eldest child is now four! Eli Thomas Hughes, we are in awe of you and who you are becoming. You are so mature that sometimes I forget that you are still a little boy. You have an incredible understanding of the world and are such a great big brother to Hudson and Ivy. I love watching you create games and scenarios out of your vivid imagination and I love our special times chatting when I put you to bed. Thanks for all the humour and light you bring to our lives. We truly couldn’t imagine life without you.

Side note: Dave got a little inspired and has changed the layout of my blog so there are a few elements that need a bit of rearranging and tweaking. And no, that profile photo is not me, but trying to decipher html code is about as fun for me as poking myself repeatedly in the eye, so it may hang around for a little longer until I can get up the motivation to try changing it!

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