There's a backstory, of course. For the past 10 months I've been hearing about Joseph's plans for an outer space theme for his 6th birthday, and I even recently scoped out the Rock Creek Park Planetarium as a possible venue. And then one day in the car he said he wanted a ninja party. Before I could even break the news to him that his tae kwan do studio won't do birthday parties until you have a gold belt, he informed me of the above.
"But I thought you wanted ninjas," I said. "Yes," he replied. "At the water park."
Ninjas at the water park? Oh, jeez. But wait! "Not just ninjas, Daddy. Ninjago!"
I decided wholeheartedly to let Joseph call the shots this year on all his party details. I wanted him to be able to say he got exactly what he wished for. The reserved party area at the water park was booked within 24 hours. The rest took a little while to work out. Because there is practically no Ninjago merchandise available anywhere. The series is over (for now....it seems it will be resurrected next year due to popular demand) and almost everything has been discontinued.
Wait - you don't know anything about Ninjago?! Then you must not be into LEGO's much. You see, there are these 4 guys - Cole, Jay, Kai, and Zane - who are being trained in the ancient martial art of Spinjitzu by Sensei Wu so that they can each master the power of one of the 4 Golden Weapons, each of which is linked to an element (fire, ice, earth, and lightening). They must fight to protect Ninjago from Sensei Wu's evil brother, Lord Garmadon, whose son, Lloyd, winds up becoming the fated Green Ninja who saves the day. Well, that's the short version.
After scouring the internet and analyzing every possible invitation on Etsy, I was informed by Joseph that it was of utmost importance to have the green ninja on the invitation. I thankfully found this one, which he loved. You get a PDF and can print as many as you want! Since it was a relatively small party and almost all of his friends live in the neighborhood, I printed up some fun envelopes and hand delivered the invitations.
Like last year, we rented the "Funbrella" area at The Water Mine. Everyone was welcomed with a sign I customized and a map of Ninjago. Some of the images came from the internet, but I built the LEGO "6" and took a photo of it to print. I also scanned and enlarged images from the LEGO Ninjago Character Encyclopedia and glued them to poster board to make props like the golden weapons.
I made a Lego utensil holder and made sure to include some chopsticks. It kinda seemed like an Asian influence was appropriate with ninjas. I printed out some placemats (I modified this free download) to look like Lego blocks and folded a bazillion origami shurikens (ninja stars), making sure to include something for every color ninja as requested by the birthday boy - red, blue, black, white, and green.
I dipped fortune cookies in almond bark and added sprinkles in each ninja color too, and we had a big pitcher of Lloyd's Green Ninja Power Punch along with some other snacks.
Joe Joe seemed pretty happy with the setup and the kids had great fun palying with all the props during lunch. They all tried to take different things home, but they were the birthday boy's to keep.
One of my favorite crafts every year is making a birthday banner. I came up with the idea of Lego blocks in all the ninja colors, and included pics of the main characters from the show. It was blowing in the wind the whole day, so there are some pics from home as well. I tried an Asian-looking font, but in the end the LEGO font looked better.
After "The Melted Frosting Catastrophe of 2012" I thought long and hard about what to bake this year. I came up with chocolate cupcakes, dipped in chocolate ganache, and topped with a chocolate sugar cookie iced to look like Lloyd. My boy wanted chocolate, so chocolate he got! I ran short on a few cookies so I turned some marshmallows into Skulkin Army heads with edible food markers. Joseph very considerately asked me to make something vanilla for the kids that are allergic to chocolate (which, by the way, there are none), and I humored him with a cake covered in fondant to look like a giant Lego brick. I used a Martha Stewart recipe, and it was apparently the best cake I have ever made.
The fondant was actually a disaster but I camouflaged it well. I really should have YouTubed how to cover a square cake in fondant in advance! I look pretty happy for pulling this off, and the kids were pretty happy to dive in. I was, however, the only one who used chopsticks to eat cake ;)
I owe Missy big time for distracting the kids by blowing up balloons and sticking on ninja eyes (printed on adhesive mailing label paper using this image) while I readied the desserts. They got to take them home along with other party favors - bubble swords, and oversized LEGO brick pencil cases and Ninjago folders with stickers that I found on clearance at Toys 'R Us - I only had to frantically run around to 3 different stores to find enough of them to go around. And just about every single kid wanted blue. I knew that would happen :(
There was also a color coordinated candy bar that guests could snack on, but then the kids could fill up mini Chinese take out boxes to bring home. I bought these acrylic boxes at the Container Store last year for just a dollar or two each, and this year I covered Lego baseplates with each color and used double-sided tape to attach them to the covers so they are removable and reusable. I bought one large baseplate and pretty easily cut it up with an X-acto knife. P.S. do you know how hard it is to find black candy that doesn't taste like licorice? Or white candy that doesn't taste like mint?
The kids had a lot to take home (oh! and more origami shurikens!), and we had the Funbrella cleared out in no time, leaving us to stay and play in the park for as long as we wanted.
After 5 or 6 hours in the sun, we had one tired little ninja on our hands, but his party was a success! We changed out of wet suits and into this awesome shirt from iHEARTbricks, and we were off to make plans for the arrival of the Tooth Fairy. But that's another story...