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June 19, 2001: The ongoing quest for cool stuff

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My nephew's third birthday was Monday, and so we celebrated in fine style Sunday afternoon, gathering all local family members (which included myself and both sets of grandparents) for burgers and cake, served on 'Little Engine that Could' plates. There were balloons on each chair. There were matching paper napkins, and the birthday boy wore a pointy birthday hat. It was festive in the way only a small child's party can be.

But to prepare for this little shindig, we had to first find a present worthy of a small boy on the occasion of his third birthday. Such a present should not only garner some form of excitement from the recipient (hence, clothes are never an option), but also guarantee that his parents will let us back into their house at some later date. To this end, we had to (very reluctantly, I might add) pass on the nifty Duplos box that was shaped like a piano, and - in the manner of the most annoying toys for small people - talked in a high cutesy voice and asked if we wanted to play a song. It didn't just ask, mind you. No, it waited for short intervals and then piped up to remind you it was there.

We finally settled on a set of take-it-apart-yourself construction trucks that came in a satisfyingly large box, and not only had a battery operated power 'drill' (all the bit attachments were of sturdy plastic that wouldn't make a dent in styrofoam, but sure sounded and looked neat when it was running), but also served the (evil, twisted, amusing) purpose of allowing my nephew to strew its 80 small plastic pieces all over the floor for maximum swearage when they're stepped on later. Hey, I know my duties as an aunt. I take them seriously. And we *did* leave not only the obnoxious Duplo piano behind, but we also left that cool fire engine with 'realistic' sirens and bells too. I think we deserve credit for that one.

While we were at the toy store making the momentous decision of what to get for my nephew, we had to cruise down the aisles, cringing at the mind-bogglingly pink assortment of Barbie accessories, poking at all the baby toys in their oh-so-lovely primary colors, and meandering through the puzzles, where we happened upon something that - although it wasn't a puzzle - had to come home with us anyway.

Tonight, we were little late meeting friends for dinner because Richard and I were huddled over a casserole dish filled with water and - yes, you guessed it - an Alien Pod. Inside the clear blue plastic pod was our very own little green alien zygote (I swear, they called it a zygote. I am not making this up), amid a handful of little crystals. Ah, but submerge this little beauty in water, and within minutes the little crystals start to swell up, and the pod bursts, spilling the squishy little crystals - and the contorted little green squishy alien - into the water where, the package assured us, the entire container would then become full of Cyber Gel and the alien would continue to grow over the next four days til he (she? It?) reached full size.

We were late for dinner because we were really hoping to watch the pod pop open. Unfortunately, we missed the 'hatching', but when we got home a few hours later, the casserole dish (or in other words, the only thing we own that's clear glass that's large enough for this sort of thing) was full of an open alien pod, a little green spongy alien, and yes, oodles of Cyber Gel to squoosh happily between fingers.

I'm thinking that we're going to have to make another trip to that toy store sometime soon to stock up on more of our little alien's friends and relations. It's never too early to start shopping for Christmas...

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