Birthday Zoo

by Heligirl on October 20, 2010

in Daily Ramblings

What do you get the kid who has way too much crap already? That was the conundrum facing the Heligirl household last month when Sweetness snuck up on the big 0-3.

We don’t live in a huge house because we live close to the city. So our little 3-bedroom ranch (with no family room), is getting a bit on the cramped side. It’s like décor by Fisher Price with a kiddie kitchen and art easel in the dining room, a corner of the living room (including one of my end tables) dedicated to toys, and the kids’ two bedrooms spilling over with stuff.

My first gift thought was clothes. She was low on 3T stuff. But, I have to admit, that SUCKED when I was a kid. A present that turned out to be clothes was a wasted present as far as I was concerned in my youth. But, you can kind of get away with it for a 3-year-old girl if the clothes are cute. But that’s the cutoff. I know better than to pull that one when she turns 4. Or even this Christmas I’m afraid.

My brother, Plunger Face, told me shortly after Sweetness’ birth that he was going to buy her her first bike. He’s an extreme bike rider and insisted he’d choose the right one. Since she’d spent most of last summer playing on her buddies’ bikes, we decided this was the big bike birthday. How do I compete with that?

Fish and a frog. That’s how.

Sweetness absolutely loved the beta fish in her preschool last year. She ran over to check on him each day we were there. And I knew she also loved frogs (just like mommy did at that age).

So off I went to the pet shop, kids in tow, the day before her birthday. I chose a little African Dwarf Frog (a frog that prefers to be in the water all the time) and an albino cory (a kind of catfish). I was told they’d play well together and the cory sure stands out and is quite active.

Then I lined up a bunch of betas in their little cups for Sweetness to make a choice. They were red, blue, red and blue, white with speckles, greenish, etc. I think I had about 6 different ones that all looked healthy to me.

She chose the blue with some red. I moved them all around and asked her to choose again. She pointed at the same one. Done.

All said and done, it ended up being about $100 for a 2.5 gallon aquarium and all the fixings. Fish and frog were about $10 of that. Sheesh.

Sweetness then had fun looking at the birds and various other creatures, as well as the dogs playing in the dog hotel the pet shop ran. She had no clue about the frog.

After putting the kids to bed I went to work that evening and put the aquarium together. It said I was supposed to let it run a few days before putting in fish. Uh oh. I had overnight.

The next morning when Sweetness got up, I took her out to the living room where the tank sat firmly atop the steel fireplace insert (which we don’t use unless the power goes out so don’t call PETA just yet). She was thrilled beyond all measure to see a frog in her tank along with the beta she picked out.

Every morning now she goes up and says “˜hi’ to her fish. Every evening she asks if she can feed them. Every Sunday I take ¼ of the water out, wipe down the inside walls and add new water (changing the filter once a month).

This turned out to be an excellent gift for Sweetness. She enjoys watching the fish and frog (the former she’s yet to name and the later is Happy Birthday Frog, or HB Frog for short). Her brother gets just as much of a kick out of them.

She is also getting a little science education. We talk about fins, gills and flippers; fish and amphibians; how HB Frog needs to go to the surface to breath; how it upsets them if we tap on the aquarium; and what we need to do to care for these special animals. I love walking in the room and finding both kids standing there looking at the aquarium and one pointing out the animals to the other.

Sweetness also helps me feed them every evening. I measure out the food and she drops it in. Hell hath no fury like a 3-year-old who catches Mommy feeding the fish herself.

And, you know, I like it a lot too. The filter is very quiet. I don’t hear it at all. But the soft glow of the aquarium and the relaxed movement of the animals are tranquil additions to the otherwise rather chaotic living room.

This was my best gift idea yet. And it takes up a lot less space than another toy and its not made by Fisher Price.


Jenn Erickson/Rook No. 17 October 20, 2010 at 5:28 pm

I love that you didn’t buy your daughter more plastic junk, and opted for a really interactive, thoughtful gift that will provide plenty of learning opportunities and will hold her attention so much longer than any toy! Way to go Mama!
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Twitter: Heligirl
October 25, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Thanks. I really love it too! And I’m happy to report all the animals lived while we were in Hawaii. Yeah. Sweetness was thrilled to see her froggy when we got back. Great to see you Jenn!

Momma Drama October 20, 2010 at 5:36 pm

that is the best present ever! we have a 60 gallon fish tank and you’re right – hell hath no fury like a 3 year old that doesn’t get to feed the fish! We do it every night before bed – or rather Daddy does it.

My favorite part? – “and it’s not made by Fisher Price” 🙂
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October 25, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Yes, that’s our ritual now too. As for Fisher Price, I was gagging at the pet shop with all the pink fru-fru aquarium stuff they had. I could have gotten her a pink aquarium with candy-like gravel and a princess castle in the middle. Granted, she did seem to notice that one, but it looked more like a toy than an aquarium. The last think I needed was to teach her that an aquarium was a toy. There’s a line, people. But they’ll make anything if they think they can sell it.

Booyah's Momma October 21, 2010 at 7:17 pm

This is a great gift idea! My daughter has been asking for a puppy… but I like the fish idea much better. No walking, and no poop scooping. You are brilliant!
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Twitter: Heligirl
October 25, 2010 at 3:43 pm

He, he, thanks. Not as brilliant as you my sewing queen! 🙂 Seriously, we have two dogs and three cats. I really needed to put the kabosh on the quadro-peds. 🙂

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