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.


The alternative gift guide (for some specific types of 7-and-unders)

1. For the siblings who want to play a game together but can’t sit still (or there’s a toddler in the mix): Chameleon Crunch Game

The object: to throw bugs into the chameleon’s mouth, which opens and closes at random. For added action, the chameleon moves around a bit (and says a couple of phrases). Both my kids (ages 5 and 22 months) love playing this. They had fun playing this with their 3-year-old cousin, too.


2. For the on-trend kid: Furby

It’s ba-ack! And it’s one of the hot toys of the season, no less.


3. For the anal-retentive Legoist: Lego Sort & Store

Shake, shake, shake, and your Legos get sorted by size into different trays. Now if you could just hack a Roomba to pick them up off the floor first….


4. For the DIY diva: Fancy Nancy Sticky Mosaics Fancy Tiaras

The tiaras turn out pretty snazzy! Warning: You and other family members will be expected to wear the creations.


5. For the kid who just can’t wait to take driver’s ed: Drive Time Street Signs

For the driveway, or, in our case, for the kitchen. Whichever.


6. For the budding magician: My First Magic Set (with DVD Instructions)

We got this for Nica’s birthday, along with a hat and cape. She now performs full magic shows in front of audiences (she’s very picky about which audiences, though—she got it like that). The included DVD doesn’t quite jibe with the items in the set, but Archie and Nica figured it out. Archie is her “lovely assistant” during her performances.


7. For the kid who has everything except maybe a street named after him: Personalized sign à la Sesame Street

Adorable! Great for a luxe birthday party or for room décor.


8. For the Barbie lover who’s interested in her culture and maybe other people’s too: Dolls of the World (pictured, Princess of South Africa Barbie)

We got Nica the Princess of the Korean Court Barbie, because she’s getting more curious about her ethnicity and feeling some Korean pride these days.

9. For the kid who likes to touch gross stuff in the name of science: Scientific Explorer’s Sci-fi Slime Science Kit

This is so in Ham’s future.


10. For the baby with jokester parents: Buff Baby: Dumbbell Rattle

I totally would’ve gotten this for Ham when he was an infant. Because he was enormous, and it would’ve been hilarious. Damn!


11. For the music lover who loves to build stuff, too: Quercetti Saxoflute

This is a cool toy the kids’ aunt and uncle got for them. Both Ham and Nica enjoyed making different wind instruments. I did not enjoy washing out the saliva afterward. But, you know, that’s just me.


12. For the kid who can’t decide which (s)he loves more, Angry Birds or Star Wars: Angry Birds Star Wars Fighter Pods AT AT Attack


Angry Birds Star Wars 5″ Plush

This is on the list because, come on! This is bizarre! Yet strangely cute.

Sing-A-Ma-Jigs: adorable, or off-putting in a flesh-eating-monster kind of way?

There are many kinds of Sing-A-Ma-Jigs. Here is a sampling.

There are even some that are duos.

You press their tummies, and they sing (one note per push). You press their left hands, and they change modes (jabber, song, scale).

Yes, the Sing-A-Ma-Jig fad is way over, but we just got this one recently. She’s called Frost, according to her tag.


Frost sings the song “Sing, Sing, Sing” in a medium-high voice. Each type of Sing-A-Ma-Jig sings a different song and has a different voice. When put together, they are supposed to harmonize. We tried it at the store and it wasn’t mind-blowing, which is why we just got one.

Their mouths are funny:


The first thing Nica said when she started playing with Frost was “She has real teeth!” Indeed, they are pretty realistic.

The kids have fun playing with Frost once in a while, and they think she’s very cute. Me, I’m torn. Some days, I think this:


But some days,  I think this:


It’s a toughie.