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Oh, Barnacles! 

SpongeBob SquarePants is just getting started

SAT 7/19

How much SpongeBob can you take? The cartoon character has parlayed his demented cheerfulness into popularity not only with the lunchbox-set, but among a more elusive adult demographic, too -- the hipsters. You can buy SpongeBob stickers, backpacks and the like at KB Toys and Famous-Barr, but you can also buy them in the same shopping mall at Hot Topic, where the post-pubescent and the green-haired mingle. How did SpongeBob get so cool?

The secret is of course the show itself, which features the occasional cutaways to live action, deadpan humor (we love Squidward) and cunning wordplay that appeals to parents whose kids force them to watch the show. Children and their SquareParents are welcome at a series of Nickelodeon-sponsored events at local bookstores, including a free 1 p.m. SpongeBob storytime/game-playing/ craft-making/sing-along/contest with prizes at Borders-Sunset Hills (10990 Sunset Hills Plaza, 314-909-0300). This will get us all ready for the SpongeBob SquarePants movie, coming to theaters in 2004. Yippee! -- Byron Kerman

Monster Mashed

Every time we hear about someone dancing the mashed potato, we find it impossible not to think of the movie Dirty Dancing. (And then we think of Jennifer Grey, and then we think of Joel Gray, and then we think of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins...but we digress.) The mashed potato (both dance and side dish) helped define the '60s, and that's the decade that's being saluted at this week's Atrium Adventures kids' activity at the St. Louis Galleria (Brentwood Boulevard at Hwy. 40, in the food court area, 314-863-5500). Kids will dance the twist and the mashed potato and decorate records to take home, from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., for free.

Ages 3-12 have already enjoyed playing with teddy bears and Silly Putty at previous Atrium Adventures this month, and before July ends they'll have the chance to continue exploring American pop culture with disco, pet rocks, E.T. , Nintendo games, Care Bears and Hot Wheels. Now where's the beef? -- Byron Kerman

Hey, Birdbrain!
Flying is dreamy

SAT 7/19

If your kid is one of those little twerps who plinks at birds with a BB gun, take him to Come Fly With Me at the Sophia M. Sachs Butterfly House (15193 Olive Boulevard, 636-530-0076). When he gets close to one of the giant raptors that the World Bird Sanctuary will have on display and sees the broad wingspan and wicked claws that eagles and hawks sport, he'll never shoot at another bird. Instead, he can channel his energy into kite-building or glider-making, skills the Butterfly House volunteers will be more than happy to instruct him in today, too. Admission is $4-$5 and the event runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- Paul Friswold

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