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At our house this week, the kiwis are ripe every two hours, and Italy Hedgehogs are born after a speedy 17-hour gestation. Evan and Will got iPod touches for Christmas and have become enthusiastic owner/operator(s) of Cartoon Gardens. It’s the first thing they’ve gotten excited about that didn’t involve bodily function sound effects, zombies, or rabbits used as projectile weapons, and I couldn’t be happier.

Apparently, it’s like a lot like Farmville (a black hole of a time suck that I’ve managed to avoid so far) in that you manage the purchase, growth, and sale of produce and a surprising variety of animals. Will’s farm has about a hundred butterflies, a scorpion, and a whole herd of weevils. I tried to explain that weevils are BAD for crops, but, apparently, these are NICE weevils…and they earn you experience points (or “XP”, if you’re ultra hip).

The boys are learning about money and PATIENCE (which we could all use a bit more of). Thank god they already know how to tell time, or they’d be asking me every five minutes if their new butterflies were about to hatch.

I’m learning, too. Today I learned a new F word……”freemium.” That means the game is FREE, but you can pay real clams for “premium” content. On Day 2 of gardening, Evan informed me that he “needs $100” added to his my iTunes account so that he can buy more stuff for his garden. Um, yeah, “NO.”

That was a week ago, they’re still having a great time, and it hasn’t cost me anything….unlike this chick (complaining in the App Store)…..

“Game is a scam!!!! Just got Notice of $200 charges to my account on this game….played by my 8 year old. Thanks for the FREE game!”

Hello? — It’s called paying attention to your kid AND your credit card, honey. Honestly! Scott spent $0.69 on iTunes yesterday, and I knew about it about 30 seconds later, when I got the receipt in my email.

Tragedy hit the farms yesterday afternoon, though. After a week of carefully cultivating their crops, the farmers had to……return to school. When they got home, crops were withering, eggs weren’t hatching–it was a regular Dust Bowl in the patch.

Thankfully, they were able to replant and get on a schedule more compatible with their day job as 4th graders. I have been assured that this setback should not impact the price of produce in our area. Phew!