January 15, 2007

Today was a Workplace holiday — no disrespect to MLK’s legacy, but for me this has always been one of those, “Wait, what do you mean there’s no mail today?” holidays; ditto President’s Day — and after Riley and I had watched a little Elmo, gone on a fruitless outing for a sled, and walked a skittering, careful path around our still-snowy neighborhood with the backpack carrier (which, now that Riley’s bigger and heavier: oy, as in oy, my fuckin’ back), we found ourselves mired in the late afternoon doldrums, the Long Dark Tea-Time of the Toddler Soul.

While he assessed and rejected a variety of distractions I offered and ultimately became thoroughly entranced with the Roomba Virtual Wall Unit (all I can guess is that the buttons look vaguely like the Lotto machine thingie at the grocery checkout line, and lord knows he loves to punch the everloving shit out of those), I decided to document some of Riley’s more awful toys, the ones that I hide in his closet until times of great despair and desperation.

First of all, the corn popper:

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I call this the Corn Baller, because I can’t help it, and I’ve been watching a LOT of Arrested Development lately. It seemed like such a cute toy idea for his first birthday. And it is cute, sort of. At first. I mean, until he’s been pushing it for longer than 2.3 seconds, after which time the BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG of those balls “popping” kind of, ha ha, makes you feel like you’re going craaaaAAAAAZY.

The talking, singing dog:

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My family bought this for Riley, because they are a vengeful lot who have not forgotten the Manic Panic hairdye stains I left on their towels in high school. This terrifying Fisher-Price plush hellhound giggles, sings, and chirps little phrases, depending on where it’s being touched (Inappropriate Contact Dog complete with rape whistle is a separate model). I can personally attest to the fact that if you throw this dog into a closet with great force, it will pause long enough for you to assume it’s turned off, then an unearthly giggle will float out from behind the closet door and a squeaky voice will accuse, “You got my nose!”

The talking, singing fridge magnets:

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Another gift from my side of the family. Ah, I can still hear their diabolical laughter during the Christmas present-opening festivities this year.

This is a LeapFrog product that has various animal shapes that can be stuck together, and a plethora of things that can be pushed in order to produce noise. The animal shapes, when pushed, belch forth a hideously catchy tune that goes, “You made a match! Look what you’ve done! Something something something cow pig horse something SOUND! MOOOO (baaaa, neiiigh, ETC)!”

The whole nightmarish ensemble is meant to cling to the fridge, probably so you can whip up a nutritious dinner while Junior, handily distracted, stays out of your way.

Of course Riley loves it. OF COURSE.

The nostalgic Parker Brothers toy:

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Here’s one from JB’s parents, who learned that Riley loves any kind of phone and so went to a Goodwill looking for a toy version — then gifted Riley with his very own Merlin Electronic Wizard. Once you flip the switch to On, the toy intones, “I AM MERLIN. SELECT GAME. SELECT GAME.” Merlin also has such witty repartee as “MERLIN WINS” and “MINDBENDER”. Riley is fond of the Music Machine setting on Merlin, I am fond of hiding Merlin in the bottom of his closet underneath the singing dog.

The wooden puzzle:

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Another one from JB’s family (I think?). A nice wooden puzzle seems pleasant enough, doesn’t it? Sure it is, until you’ve stepped on one of those motherfucking shitass pieces of wood for the billionth time OW GODDAMMIT. That missing piece in the upper left? Is totally embedded in my right foot.

The “Pop Goes the Weasel” phobia-box:

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(Don’t go freaking about the octopus, now. Octopuses = totally cool, unlike the monkey death box.)

I got this music box toy as a baby present when I was still pregnant and had to put on the fakiest smile of gratitude you ever saw because I swear to god I would have rather opened a box of live tarantulas than this box that requires you to turn a little crank while it plays its horrifying tune and the inevitable heart-stopping conclusion grows ever closer as the music tinkles on and on and a single solitary droplet of sweat begins to run down the side of your face oh my god oh my god and the crank turns one…more…time and space and time seem to hang silent and echoing and FUCK!!! – a monkey leaps out and eats your face pops up.

Seriously, this thing is even worse than those Pillsbury biscuit cans. I think my idea of hell would involve this box, a bunch of biscuit cans, and someone slowly blowing up a neverending supply of balloons.

I’ve tried to play it for Riley, but I end up cringing so much and shielding my face (okay, I might have some…mental problems, here) that I can barely hold it together long enough for the monkey to do its thing. Riley is mostly interested in trying to shove the monkey back down into the box once it’s popped, while I take the time to catch my breath and fan my sweaty dĂ©colletage.

Anyway, those are the worst of the lot. I didn’t even get around to the spinning, rideable zebra with lights and music (LOVE YOU, MOM), or the fake CD player thing that squeaks, “I love to sing nursery rhymes!” in such an oddly porn-star voice I can’t help inserting my own dialogue (“I love to do the piledriver!”), or the xylophone which can be banged on over and over and over and over and over and over, oh my god.

However, they have all saved my sorry ass on more than one occasion during the Long Dark Toddler Times, and so here they stay. Along with the Roomba Wall Unit, of course.

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Colleen
Colleen
15 years ago

Man, if I’m the first to comment, I’ll be thrilled. I love your writing and can totally relate to the late afternoon toddler angst!

Emily
15 years ago

Of all porn-ish positions you could have chosen, it HAD to be the piledriver, didn’t it? Of course it did, because that’s the one which makes me snort and then instantly e-mail this entry to my husband, who will appreciate it for obvious reasons that are non-toddler-toy-related.

Pete
Pete
15 years ago

Gawd I laughted at this one. Save everyone of those and give them as presents to your grandchildren and laugh.

Pete
Pete
15 years ago

Oh, and wait until you get Legos embedded in your foot, especially with your hardwood floors.

Lulu
Lulu
15 years ago

I had to physically restrain my mother from buying that talking dog for my one year old nephew. She didn’t seem to understand that those toys? The ones that shout and squeal and narrate and blabber? They aren’t fun for the parents. The parents, they want to strangle such toys.

This is further amusing considering that I still cringe if a door closes too quickly in her house. Because I grew up in one of those houses where the VERY AIR I BREATHED WAS FAR TOO LOUD.

Kate
Kate
15 years ago

After reading for so many months, your reference to The Long, Dark Tea Time of the Soul, and your version of Hell are what compel me to post a comment. Your idea of Hell mirrors my own almost perfectly, except you forgot to mention toasters popping. I have to leave the room while I wait for my Eggos.

At my fifth birthday, my mom gave everyone at my party balloons and all the kids decided it would be fun to sit on theirs and pop them. I had a meltdown. I don’t if it caused the phobia, or I already had it, but I still have flashbacks.

Jen
Jen
15 years ago

Oh jeez, a friend of my husband’s gave our daughter a bunny version of that electronic dog toy, and my first thought was “Why does he hate us? We’ve always been so nice to him.” Luckily, Sophie’s still young enough that we can preemptively veto certain questionable gifts before she gets attached to them, and/or realizes she’s getting gypped out of a toy. Maybe that makes me a horrible, sucky mom, and I’m positive it also makes me a total ingrate, but ultimately I reeeeeally don’t care. I figure a sane, non-homicidal mother is more important for my kid’s happiness and well-being than getting to play with some of the horrible, torturous things she’s been given.* And yes, I will be exercising this fabulous, heady power for as long as I possibly can.

* Honestly, for us our single friends are almost always the worst offenders here. Have you noticed this? Is it just me? Are they trying to punish us for reproducing? They’re always the ones who think they are soooo far away from being parents themselves that they feel free to foist some evil piece of singing, flashing, plastic from Satan’s bung hole on us without fear of revenge, because, oh god, what a HOOT, ha ha! Oh, but fate is twisty and surprising, and my memory is very, very long…

Philos
15 years ago

I checked the mail at work today and was surprised there was no mail. I got home from work, and once again was surprised there was no mail. It was only upon reading your post that I said “Oh, yeah!” and laughed at myself.

Also, I really like the way the large octopus is lurking in the background of that picture. The octopus is all, “Psst! Riley! Riiileyyyyy! Hey, Riley! C’mere! Let’s play! C’mon, I wanna show you sumthin’ cool…” and at this point you might be thinking hey Mr. Octopus, way to be reeeeally creepy, but the truth is he’s harmless, he just found a way to climb up on the counter and get into the cookie jar (octopi are experts at getting into jars, as it happens). Hmm, maybe you should let Mr. Octopus see if he can get the monkey out of the box permanently, that’ll spare you further stress.

Umm, right. Done now.

Jennie
15 years ago

My daughter has that dog. I’m pretty sure it’s evil. It stays on the quiet setting (which is still pretty damn loud) and more often than not is buried at the bottom of the toy box. It does, however, randomly say things like “Hug me!” and scare away my friends. Oh, I just bought that magnet thing for her birthday. I will probably hate myself in the very near future. The worst part of it all is that I have done this to MYSELF. At least you are sane enough to not have spent your own money on the evil baby toys! And that whole monkey-in-the-box thing? I share your fear and loathing. I walk past them in stores and cringe, and will BREAK IT if someone gets it for my baby. You’re so brave for letting Riley play with that thing!

Donna
Donna
15 years ago

I buy my grandkids all the obnoxious toys too, and I’ll tell you why. This is payback for all those toys that they (my kids) insisted on playing with when they had nice, quiet toys that they wouldn’t touch.
I specifically remember the tuneyville choo choo train that had little records that went into to it and it chugged around the house playing tunes ad nauseum. The jack in the box that was the clown that looked just like the clown in IT.
And the most evil of all, Teddy Ruxpin. Fuck me runnin, that was a spooky ass evil possessed toy.

Laura
15 years ago

I’m am not kidding when I tell you that I spent all of August and September in a knee length cast due to stepping on an errant toy. It was fun disclocating the bones of my right foot and “disrupting” the plantar something or other tendon. Toys are dangerous…to parents more so than children. When my son was small, the toy that darkened my dream was the Vtech “Action Ball”… sometimes I still hear, “Hello Baby…hello…hello…hello baby…bunny rabbit…dog woofwoof” in my dreams.

Swistle
15 years ago

That chair, though–that is from HEAVEN. I am lusting for that chair. Golden velvet, unusual shape. Mmmmmmmmm.

We have a lamb-shaped electronic toy that I swear is trying to seduce. It says innocent words such as “red” and “yellow” and “circle,” but it says those words in such lascivious tones it makes me nervous.

diane
diane
15 years ago

“Seriously, this thing is even worse than those Pillsbury biscuit cans. I think my idea of hell would involve this box, a bunch of biscuit cans, and someone slowly blowing up a neverending supply of balloons.”

OMG! Someone understands….I hate those pressurized biscuit cans and want to run when I see someone blowing up balloons.

Thanks Linda, now I feel normal (at least by our standards)

mrscrumley
15 years ago

On Fuller’s first birthday my neighbor gave him a keyboard. A musical, looks like a piano, does lots of different tempos and instruments keyboard.

That is the “toy” we keep reserved for those dark toddler afternoons.

jonniker
15 years ago

That goddamn dog. We bought that for my nephew and instantly regretted it, although he LOVES IT LOVES IT LOVES IT, and argh. It says “I love you,” doesn’t it? That freaked the hell out of my aunt, who was carrying it inside for us and thought there was a stalker following her and telling her he loved her in a baby voice.

Beth Anne
Beth Anne
15 years ago

I think every mother can relate to this post. Of course we have that stupid talking dog, too. Is there no way to turn it off? We recently enforced a “no battery operated” toy rule around our house. We still have plenty, but I don’t want anymore. With the next kid, I’m enforcing that rule from the time he/she is born.

Kaire
15 years ago

I thought I was the only one with the can o’ biscuits phobia. I have to close my eyes to whack it on the cupboard. As for the reason we single people buy such horrible noisy annoying toys for your kids? It’s not that we hate you, it’s that we have some kind of evil gene in us that giving such crap makes us happy inside! Of course, that’s why we haven’t settled down and had kids of our own (plus we know how bad payback will be!)

Kelly
15 years ago

We have that leapfrog animal thing too. Despite having the letters ones (both the alphabet and the “word whammer”) my 2yr old LOVES the animals. He’s set on having the “horse behind” in at all times, which is automatically translated in my head into “horses ass”. I hate HAAATE those banjo songs!
(honest, the alphabet versions of that toy are WAY less annoying!)

Tammy
15 years ago

You have no idea how hard it is to not say something about the octopus … could you at least take a picture of it in the background without it lurking in the shadows though? Could ya? I would probably feel much less creeped out by it!!! LOL.

Noisy toys. I have to admit that as much as I can’t stand to hear noisy toys when other children are playing with them, my daughters toys don’t bother me. First of all, if I am in another room and can hear the toy, I know exactly where she is and don’t freak because OHMIGOD IT’S QUIET! Second, and probably most important, they make her happy. She loves anything that makes any kind of music and well, that makes it not so bad.

With that said, if I were visiting a friend’s house and their child were to start playing with the loud, musical toys, I would likely get a twitch.

Ang
Ang
15 years ago

Effin Fisher Price! They do make some noisy, annoying toys!

I used to try to find the loudest, most annoying toys to give to my niece and newphews for birthdays and Christmas. It was so funny to watch the parents’ faces.

AND! I gave all my noisy toys to my brother and sister for their kids. Ya know, ‘cuz I’m nice like that—giving them toys my kids don’t play with anymore. HA!

Aunt Linda
Aunt Linda
15 years ago

Ingrate. And I always thought you were so found of puppies. Your Mom says, next time we see Riley, she shall give him a toy and say “Now, your Mommy is going to put this in the closet. But when you want it, you just cry til she gets it for you. And when you’re old enough, you just get it for yourself.” Jeez. Aunt Linda

veralynn
15 years ago

Oooooh I LOVED Merlin. But mine didn’t talk. Tell Riley I want to come over and play! :)

libbyfish
libbyfish
15 years ago

I didn’t realize there was a support group for things that pop. hello my name is libbyfish and i too am afraid of things that pop. i honestly thought i was the only one. i can’t even buy those biscuits because the thought of just picking it up and having it explode in my hand on impact makes my skin crawl.
come to think of it… i bet it all stems from that jack in the box from hell i had as a child. it all makes sense now!

Angie
15 years ago

why not take the really irritating toys and give them to your daycare? That way, he still gets to play with them, but you don’t have to deal with it. Also, the daycare people seemed so appreciative – new toys are expensive. I did that to a few of the toys, notably a frog just like the talking dog, and other crap I just had wayyy to much of.

Nikki
Nikki
15 years ago

Heee…. my daughter got that damned dog for Christmas. He lives in the bottom of her toy basket. She’ll periodically unearth it, and it ends up scaring the crap out of her whenever she crawls over it. And the stupid songs it sings are maddeningly catchy– I find myself humming them as I go through the day. I, too, thought I was the only person who feared the whomp biscuit! Glad to know I’m not alone…

Alyson
15 years ago

Ok, this doesn’t work on grandparents (way too late for them) but for brothers/sisters/BILs/SILs with kids who give your kids noisy toys, there is retaliation. Give their kids Noisier Toys! Of course, this can escalate into some sort of warped noisy toy arms race, if you do not adopt a Cold War attitude as soon as possible. Negotiate some sort of Detente as soon as possible. My SIL broke the Detente only once…..(I had negotiated terms early, when our children were still infants, on the advice of my mother). In return, on her next kiddie birthday, I searched for the noisiest toy possible and then bought TWO! You see, she has twin boys!

My MIL once gave my boys a robot that made a gun shooting sound and then said “I’ll get you!” My husband was thrilled with this gift on many levels……He turned to his mother and said “If you get a call at 2 in the morning and hear that…..you’ll know who it is!”

diane
diane
15 years ago

you make perfect sense…there is no way a pop up box will be allowed in my house when I have children…those are just evil!

dorrie
dorrie
15 years ago

MERLIN1111

Made me laugh at work again! Of course, I am so hopped up on cold meds that I am effectively incoherent but still! Funny! I used to love merlin but the thought of hearing that for long periods of time makes my skin crawl. Ew.

Sunshyn
15 years ago

The new biscuits, you don’t even HAVE to pop the can. It just… pops on its own. BAP! (sorry). We had the Tooneyville Tooter in 1980, thanks to the kids’ PATERNAL grandmother. My mother would never give a gift like that, because gifts like that ended up living at HER house for when we came to visit! Gawd, that thing was annoying. I’m not as annoyed by the noisy toys now as I was then; being the grandparent maybe deadens the effect, even when the kid is living with me? I don’t like loud. His toy power drill drives me nuts, and any of his noisy, ghetto blaster cars have to stay on the carpet in the OTHER room, but I do buy them for him, because, well, he loves them. And we have a piano, a real piano, with NO LID. “Quiet fingers,” we say. “No, you can’t play the piano with your arms.” Or your cars… But we do let him play, because we hope he learns to play for real. I can pick out songs in the key of C, usually. I became #1 Nana the other day because I played “Fruit Salad Yummy Yummy” and changed the words to “Hot Cocoa Yummy Yummy.” Now try and get THAT annoying song out of your head. Bwahaaaahaaaaha.

Caitlin
Caitlin
15 years ago

Yeah, but more importantly–hot chair!

Selfmademom
15 years ago

Your relatives sound eerily familiar to mine. Latest toy purchased for my son: drums with their very own set of sticks. Good times.

Leigha
Leigha
15 years ago

We have the same damn dog that you’ve got (properly hidden in the top of our closet), and we’ve got not one, but TWO Corn Ballers – the one you’ve displayed, and a version that he can sit on and ride around. All were gifts from my in-laws. The dog just creeps me out; sometimes, in the middle of the night, I swear that I can hear it giggling from my closet.

Other toys we have had to put away:

GeoTrax train set – he gets completely pissed when the train goes off the track, which happens every time he runs across the track and breaks it.

Giant Legos – I couldn’t take one more of those things wedging themselves in the soft underside of my foot. They’re carpet bombs in the middle of the night.

Books, like The Lonely Firefly and Noah’s Ark – I could not stand to read them ONE. MORE. TIME.

Amy
Amy
15 years ago

Oh my god! I totally have that horrible singing dog! I know your pain. It was so annoying after a while that it got “accidentally” left at Grandma’s house for a long-term sleepover. I’ve stepped on that thing more times than I can remember trying to sneak out of my daughter’s room at bedtime. “You’re my friend!” Yeah, bite me, dog.

Also, we have so many (LOUD!) cell phone toys! My daughter is usually double-fisted, one shoved to each ear, yammering in her very own adorable and intelligable language.

Thanks for the laughs this morning!

Julie
Julie
15 years ago

Absolutely a spot-on description of hell. I make my husband open all the biscuit cans, and I hide in the bathroom until he’s done. Why do those pop up monkeys still exist? Didn’t they freak out past generations enough?

I think my son has nearly every toy you mention, save the Merlin (although there’s this horrible cell phone thingy that actually CAME WITH the singing dog that might give it a run for its money). He even brought the dog on an airplane. Thank goodness you can turn it off from the inside, because that on/off button on the foot? DOES NOT WORK, PERIOD.

Yes, they all came from the grandfolks. Probably my parents, if I remember correctly.

jen
jen
15 years ago

I’ve only ever had to take the batteries out of one toy. That was a pickup truck that made a BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP noise, usually when I tripped over the toy box while the children were sleeping. 5 months after I took the batteries out the girl came and said “hey mommy! the truck no beep!” aargh. I love the corn popper and I love the puppy. The only thing I hate about puzzles is the pieces go missing. But the one thing that made me laugh was “this thing is even worse than those Pillsbury biscuit cans.” ha! I can’t handle those! They get me every time, even when I know it’s going to happen!

Kelsey
15 years ago

YOU CAN TURN THE DOG OFF??!!! Hallelujah! It’s at the bottom of our toy box and often, when putting other toys away, it cries out to the kiddo, who then has to take everything else out just to retrieve it.

Wendi
Wendi
15 years ago

I love that chair. i want it!

oh yeah, i hate the leapfrog thing too. I am always setting that thing off when i shut the dishwasher.

Jessica
15 years ago

HA! Tommy got the possessed dog for Christmas, too. (Thanks, Sister-in-Law.) So far he hasn’t shown much interest in it, thank God. I’m in a quandary – hide it and pretend it’s “lost”, or sigh and hand the thing over when he decides it’s the best thing ever. Hmm…

Actually, the horrid singing pots and pans toy is the most evil thing we have. I think it’s Fisher-Price as well. At least it has volume control and you can switch it to “learning” or “music”. The “learning” mode is definitely the lesser of the two (really evil) evils.

kate
kate
15 years ago

Oh God- the fridge farm. I hate that thing. If farmer Tad asks me to “listen to his banjo” one more effing time…

But it is slightly better than my other favorite cooking distraction- “Here’s a bunch of lentils, enjoy.” I end up pulling tiny razor-lentils out of the bottoms of my feet for days. But oh, blessed moments of toddler distraction. It’s almost worth it.

Tina
Tina
15 years ago

On my son’s second birthday he got TWO of these hideously loud battery-powered trains that beeped, flashed, lurched and hooted. Not to mention they sucked enough juice to require majority shareholding in a battery factory to afford the running costs. And yes, both bought by single friends.

Also on the hell of popping things – I too was reduced to tears at a childhood birthday party by the evil balloon-bursting game, but the thing that has me cowering against the far wall and whimpering now, is when the cork starts eeeeeasing out of a bottle of champagne.

Stephanie
15 years ago

You made a match, look what you’ve found.
You made a match,
A Pig Horse, that’s silly!

Sundry
15 years ago

Stephanie: AAAAAARRRRRRRRRGGGGGH, that’s it *exactly*. THAT’S SILLY, HEE HEE HEE!

Leah
15 years ago

Sweet chair. My grandma has one just like it, which she willed to Simon within two minutes of meeting him because he liked it so much.

Josh
Josh
15 years ago

Oh thank God there are other people who hate jack in the box toys. I grew up with one that had this disembodied head on a spring and clicked like some sort of panzer death box with every slight movement of the handle. And it wasn’t even a normal head, it was one of those freaky marionette like heads with the beady eyes and the overly rosy cheeks like a posessed corpse. I hated that scary bastard.

And I’m with you on the biscuits too. It’s the anticipation that kills me. My mom derived great pleasure when she saw me trying to make dinner for the family and I had to open a package of croissants. I always think that I’m going to be that dumbass on the news who blows his fingers off with the one pillsbury tube that gets double stuffed. It could happen.

Sundry
15 years ago

Christ, JACK IN THE BOX. That’s the name I could not think of and kept calling it a monkey weasel pop death chamber, etc.

Leah: that chair was my grandmother’s! Luckily the rest of the family thinks it’s ugly so it’s MINE ALL MINE now. You know, sitting unused in Riley’s room.

Jen - Lance's Wife
Jen - Lance's Wife
15 years ago

Oh! I warned you about that corn popper. I HATED that toy! Have you seen ELF? Will Ferrall has to test the Jack in the Box and he does your reaction perfectly! Once you have nieces and nephews you’ll be able to exact revenge – noisy books are my favorite. Oh, and removing the batteries and wondering out loud why their favorite toy doesn’t work anymore.

Heidi
Heidi
15 years ago

The biscuit can phobia always used to perplex me. They barely pop, why would you be afraid? However one night I just started to pull the strip and the can EXPLODED! I screamed so loud I hurt my throat. My husband ran into the kitchen and found me on the floor laughing hysterically with tears running down my face and biscuits all over the kitchen. I couldn’t even talk it scared me so bad. I hate to say it but a normal biscuit can experience is now disappointing. But I also loved the creepy jack-in-the-box when I was little.

Wendy
Wendy
15 years ago

Aaarggghhh! Those biscuit containers! “Press Spoon Here”. Like hell I’m going to do that! I might as well stand in front of the toaster and wait for the toast to pop up! Too bad the toaster doesn’t play “Pop goes the weasel” so I’d have an idea of when to expect it. So glad to know I’m not alone in this dis-ease. Wonder what we could name it? Anticiphopia? The fear of planned surprises? Could be in Wikipedia before you know it. Love your blog. Best wishes from OHIO.

Anais
Anais
15 years ago

You never fail to crack me up, Linda. This is going down as one of my favorite entries. Also, your suctopus gets cuter everyday. I just want to pinch those adorable squirrel cheeks!

Matthew
15 years ago

You will grow to hate the Fridge Farm Magnetic Animal Set, in the unlikely event that you haven’t already.