Soccer Girls


Nica is doing kindergarten soccer. To help her understand how the game is played, we got her Soccer Girls, which is kind of like army men for sports.


Pack o' girls

You can also get Baseball GuysHockey Guys, etc.


I love the concept of this toy; it’s a great way to teach your kid the basics of a sport and how teammates are supposed to help each other on the field.

One thing I don’t like is that the “field” the set comes with (a felt mat) is too small for the size of the players. It makes for a ridiculously crowded game. Archie solved this problem by drawing the soccer field on a giant sheet of paper.


White turf



Another thing I find irksome is that one player on each team comes with a ball already attached to her foot. And then there’s another ball that comes with the kit, which is gigantic.


Ball on steroids

This ball is size 3. This other one is size 79.


Nica has a lot of fun playing with this kit, especially with her dad, and a bit of what Archie is trying to teach her might be sinking in. But does she apply this on game day? Er, no. At least, not yet.


What you do see on game day:


En-masse running reminiscent of a herd of confused bison.





A lot of hanging off the goal frame.


They put aside their differences to hang together.



One kid who seems to be playing good D—finally!— but is really just tired or lazy.





No goalies are allowed in our games, but there is always at least one kid who is thinking, Hey, if someone stands here, maybe we won’t get scored on so much!





One kid who is really just there for the snack.


She smells Goldfish.

I wanna hug them and pet them and squeeze them and name them George.

Nica has had sets of Calico Critters since she was 3. The cats, the dogs, the hedgehogs, the rabbits…. They are all so tiny and fuzzy. They are so adorable, you want to take them in your hands and just pop their little heads off.

Why is it that cuteness brings out such violent impulses in women? You never hear, “Oh, my God, he’s so cute, I want to gently stroke his hair until he falls asleep like an angel.” Instead, you hear, “Oh, my God, he’s so cute, I could eat him”; “Oh, my God, he’s so cute, I want to die”; “Oh, my God, he’s so cute, I want to tear my hair out, run screaming down the street naked, and kill some innocent bystanders.”


The deer family. They are so precious. Let’s burn them alive.


Nica has a couple of the big playsets, and she really enjoys them. But the one she uses the most is the Carry and Play House.



When you open it up, it looks like this:


Et Voilà


You have to supply your own furniture and Critters, so this is a great gift for someone who has some Calico stuff already. Nica’s aunt and uncle got her the awesome Baby Playhouse Windmill, which she does play with from time to time, but she seems to use the simpler, portable one more.

I remember the days when Nica’s Critters did not have much strife in their lives. They just moved from one room to the other, played with each other, lined up for no apparent reason, went to bed. They hardly spoke to one another except to say “Hi!” and “Oh, thank you!” Now there’s all kind of drama goin’ on in Critterworld.


The Real Hedgehogs of Calico County


FYI, do not get Calico Critters if you…

… have small children who are still putting objects in their mouths. The Critters sets often include teeny, tiny, oh-so-chokey parts.

… are constantly misplacing your reading glasses and/or have arthritis. Your child or grandchild will undoubtedly ask you to retie the strings or bow on some lilliputian apron or dress. I guarantee it will drive you insane. Some of these outfits should come with microsurgical tools.


Ride, ride like the wind… or, you know, don’t.

When it comes to rides and ride-on toys, Nica confuses us. As a toddler, she loved being spun around by the arms but cried when put on a slow-moving ride at a kiddie park. She had no fear of slides, no matter how curvy or fast, but she freaked out on swings, even when they were barely moving. As a preschooler, she loved every minute of a pony ride but was deathly afraid of carousels. In the car, she loves when we drive fast over bumps and hills, but one odd night, she made us pull over on the highway because the car was going too fast for her (even though we were going no faster than other cars).

If I say, “We’re going on a little trip,” Nica says, “OK. As long as it’s not Disney World.” (Whaaat? What kid says that?) Then she asks, “Are there rides where we’re going?” and if I say yes, she tells me she would rather not go. Then I have to reassure her that there will be other offerings besides rides.

It’s a head-scratcher, all right. Sometimes I wonder if at one of the amusement parks we’ve visited, she saw something that we didn’t. Something that made her lose faith in the whole rides thing.


Dude looks like a crazeh


Whatever the case, getting Nica ride-on toys has always been a hit-or-miss experience. When she was younger, we bought her a kick-ass tricycle. It was neglected. She has no interest in learning to ride a bicycle, either, though she did have fun with her balance bike for a while.

But there are two ride-ons that have been huge hits and still are:


1. PlasmaCar


Nica tried this for the first time at an amusement park. (See? No rhyme or reason to this.) You put your feet up on the pads and propel yourself using that little steering wheel. It’s awesome.


2. Step 2 Up & Down Roller Coaster

This little coaster is so fun. Kids play with this thing for hours. 

And, um, the big kid likes it too.

 The big kid


(He also rides the PlasmaCar, but that one can hold up to 220 lbs, so, hey, practically a commuter option.)