Hey, remember when I had a baby... I don't know the exact date, but it seems like... oh... about two or three months ago?

Turns out that baby went and turned three years old without my consent.

I guess it's been a little bit more than three months.

Since we seem to have gone and created ourselves a Pirate-Themed-Child, we went with the old standby and had a pirate-themed birthday party again. This little gem was one of The Dormouse's favorite field trips in her camp last summer. She had a great time and talked about it for days afterward. I didn't go on that trip and wondered what it was like, so when we were thinking about what we could do to celebrate The Caterpillar's birthday this year, the conversation went something like this:

Me: "We could... take her on that Pirate Adventure thingy The Dormouse went on last summer."

KoH: "Isn't that for older kids really?"

Me: "Well, there's no age minimum and I think if we went on one of the morning cruises, there'd probably be more little-ittles... so it'd be more fun for her in that case."

KoH: "Aren't we overdoing the pirate theme just a little bit?"

Me: "Maaaybe... I suppose we could invite all her preschool and church friends over to have a party at Chuck E Cheese."

KoH: "Pirates it is."

Me: "That's what I thought."

There's a version of this in Baltimore too - apparently on that one in the evenings, they have adult-themed "Bring Your Own Grog" versions. I debated which to do, but ended up choosing the Annapolis-based one for two reasons: One) The Dormouse had sworn to me up and down that the one she went on was at the Baltimore Harbor so this might at least be different for her too since she'd been twice before, and Bee) I hadn't been to Annapolis in awhile. Once we got there, we learned that this was not only the exact one The Dormouse had been to twice but she knew it so well, that she remembered all the staff people's names. What a terrible source for information she is.

Anyway, Pirate Adventures turned out to be the perfect thing and I cannot rave enough about how worth the money this was. They have party packages, but you have to bring a lot o' kids to make those worth it and I learned my lesson from the Bounce House place I rented last year where only four of the fifteen kids we invited showed up, making the grand total about $eleventy-bajillion-dollars-per-kid. I've become a believer in the number of guests should equal the birthday kid's age method of guest list building. It was just our family, as it was last year, and we didn't opt for any of the special party rooms you could rent afterward, which was perfect for The Caterpillar and made it one of the cheaper birthday celebrations I've planned in my days as a Julie-Your-Cruise-Director-For-Toddlers.

The staff here were so fantastic with the kids that I can't even imagine the Baltimore version being half as fun as this was. When you arrive, they dress the kids up as pirates and paint their faces, arms and whatever other skin is still showing with "tattoos."

Because we are weird, we come with our own pirate girl outfits. The Caterpillar rejected hers however, because, "THIS SKIRT IS CHOKIN' ME!" and instead found a costume from the costume bucket. She still looked pretty cute.

The whole thing is an hour long cruise around Annapolis harbor in which the children learn how to talk like a pirate, find a note in a bottle, hoist the Jolly Roger, look for a map, find the keys to Pirate Pete's treasure chest, find the X that marks the spot, pull up treasures that are buried deep beneath the sea, discover and drink Pirate Pete's secret stash of Pirate Grog (ginger ale), and then defend the ship from that inimitable Pirate Pete himself by shooting water cannons at him to knock him off his rowboat after which, they do a Pirate Dance of Celebration.

I can't rave enough about how wonderful these folks were with the kids and honestly, that's what ended up being the most fun - watching the main staff person and the captain of the boat interact with the children. On our cruise, there were maybe fifteen to twenty kids, most between the ages of three and five. With that age group it's easy to lose them but I seldom saw a child drop focus. She had their rapt attention the entire time and each kid was given lots of chances to participate and constantly given reinforcement by hearing their names (all the kids were given "pirate" names -- Mad Dog Madison, Blackbeard Blake, etc.). If the staff member ever did think she was losing them, or maybe a couple were looking like they thought it'd be more interesting to climb over the side of the boat and cause an international waters incident, she'd just yell out, "All hands on deck!" This meant everyone must drop to the ground and make sure both feet and both hands were touching the floor. I'm considering using this at dinner time in our house.

I feel like I should take a moment here to say something about Three. So far, Three, you're not that much better than Two was. Two was cranky when it woke up and threw fits for no discernible reason or worse yet, for a reason which we all understood but just thought was ridiculous. Two was full of worries about not talking and screaming fits about the car going upside down and potty training in fits and starts with lots of accidents. I was hoping Three would leave all that behind, but when I picked up The Caterpillar from preschool today and she was wearing someone else's underwear, I think I came to the full realization that Three probably won't be suddenly different just because it's here.

But you know what?

That's okay, because this is what comes along with Three:

And I can live with that.