I might as well face it: I'm addicted to Webkinz (http://www.webkinz.com).
It all started late last year when Doodle's friend introduced her to Club Penguin (http://clubpenguin.com/). Wikipedia define Club Penguin as a massively multiplayer online game for children developed by New Horizon Interactive. Using cartoon penguin avatars, players can converse, play minigames, and participate in other activities with one another in a snow-covered virtual world. The girls love the penguin world (and I sometimes play games for them to amass points more quickly), but it comes with a catch: to take full advantage, you need to be a member, paying something like $7 a month. This was an expense that I have been unwilling to incur, despite intense pleading by both girls.
I was somewhat relieved when Doodle's interest shifted to Webkinz, developed by Ganz. It's a similar virtual world but membership is free with the purchase of a cute, $10 cuddly stuffed animal. Like Beanie Babies, they can be somewhat hard to find and appear to rise in value. There's a bunny and a dog that now go for something like $60. The difference is they give you access to loads of online fun. I've been sucked into playing games for the girls, and can't get enough of Quizzy's Word Challenge (sort of like Boggle) and a few other games. Last week the girls got me my own Webkinz for my birthday, so I've been busy decorating Ice Cracker the polar bear's room, buying her trampolines and bathtubs and clothes to maintain her health and happiness, and sending virtual gifts to the girls through the Webkinz mail system. I think I need intervention.
Doodle has a whole network of friends with Webkinz, including her cousins, so they are able to send each other notes and gifts. Most of Tootle's friends don't have older siblings so they would look at her blankly if she talked about Webkinz with them; fortunately Doodle's friends get a kick out of getting things and sending them to Doodle's little sister. Doodle and I are even planning her 9th birthday party as a Webkinz party; it's going to be a lot of work so hopefully that will be less time for me in Webkinz World over the next month. Otherwise I'll have to start Webkinz Anonymous.