Best Toy of Christmas: Magna-Tiles

One of the big winners of this Christmas was the set of Magna-Tiles that we gave to Aiden. These magnetic building tiles are easy to use and incredibly versatile. They offer instant satisfaction to your budding builder, which is nice when alternatives such as Lego can take a lot of time to complete. The Magnatiles have been a central toy in our living room since Christmas, standing the test of time better than most toys around here!

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I find playing with Magna-Tiles just as fun and relaxing as Aiden does, and even Damien gets in on the action from time to time… though admittedly he’d prefer just to smash towers than to build them. He did, however, LOVE when we created our own mail system. He would “write” notes, send them in the mailbox, then Aiden would collect and deliver them. Pretty awesome.

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If you do invest in Magna-Tiles (they aren’t cheap), I recommend the 100 piece set. The 30 piece set doesn’t give you enough tiles to do many things. 

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Christmas 2014: The Highlights

This year, our Christmas was the most relaxed it has been since the kids were born. Both boys were excited about Christmas and Santa, loved all the events we went to, and suffered very few tantrums. The boys are at an age where things (events, social gatherings) are definitely getting easier!

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We did a lot during the Christmas season. My extended family only celebrates on Christmas Day, so the rest of Christmas is spent with our more immediate family (which includes the two grandmas). As Aiden was keen to always bring up, we first celebrated Hanukkah, with candles and even some chocolates and borrowed dreidels for Aiden’s class.

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During the month of December, we did a lot: the Shipbuilders Christmas Market several times, the Vancouver Christmas Market for the first time, Bright Nights at Stanley Park, the Polar Express, Canyon Lights, The Holiday Hi-Light Festival, Scuba Claus at the Aquarium, and more. For me, Christmas is about these memories we create as a family, at events, watching movies or even just driving around to see the lights. These are the moments that make Christmas special. 

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On Christmas Day, we opened presents and, despite our efforts, still ended up purchasing too much. Apparently Damien would have been happy with only some chocolate (as he repeatedly exclaimed during opening his stocking, “This is not chocolate! Where the chocolate?”), but loved his keyboard.

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Aiden was in more of a rush this year, pushing himself and Damien to keep opening, though Damien was content to slow down and play and eat instead. But with Aiden’s insistence, they kept looking for “more presents!”, a key indicator that we gave them too much!

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Despite all that, there was a lot of gratitude this year and a lot of great play from some well-thought out presents. The boys had a great day, visiting family, connecting, and even eating (which is rare at big meals!). A wonderful year of memories. 

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How was Christmas for you?!

A Christmas Ornament Tradition is Born

Every year, I pick out one (ok, sometimes two) special ornaments for myself. I love a Christmas tree that reflects memories, not just a co-ordinated grouping of ornaments. In the past, I’d purchased things I like, but since becoming a parent I also made purchases that reflect memories with my children. Last year, for example, I found a sparkly steam train that serves as a reminder to me of Aiden’s many-year-long love of trains. 

This year, we are starting a new tradition. Thanks to some keen shopping from my mom, the boys each received their own ornament this year. These ornaments are theirs to keep. When they one day move out, they will have several years’ worth of special ornaments to start their own traditions with. 

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I have a few of my childhood ornaments on my tree already and they are very special to me. I hope this tradition brings them many years of joy in the future as they grow up. 

Also, this? I’ll never forget this:

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Polar Express: Matching PJs Edition

We rode the Polar Express run by the West Coast Railway for our third time. This was, by far, our most enjoyable year, though that had as much to do with planning as with the age of our children. This year, we rode the train at 2pm, which allowed us to fully enjoy the activities in the Roundhouse after the train ride, while still preserving the illusion of “arriving” at the North Pole. 

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Though Aiden is not as obsessed with The Polar Express as he was in the two previous years, he did still enjoy the entire trip. His face lit up when the conductor came by and when the child actors came in pretending to be the children from the movie. Very nice addition to the experience and one we did not expect at all. Aiden literally glowed! He was also beside himself with excitement to tour the interior of the engine that mimics the real Polar Express:

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The next bonus was the child-led controls in the mini train area, which was a highlight for Aiden. He was mad we had to move on when Damien lost interest, but that was our only low point in the night. 

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Each year the experience gets better and I am so happy it’s a part of our holiday traditions! Damien also loved riding a moving train, even though he’s not as immersed in the Polar Express culture.

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This year, I managed to get both kids into their PJs (I wavered and gave them their Christmas Eve PJs early, since SO CUTE!) and planned it all better, to have two layers of PJs to avoid the cold. This year Aiden was interested in wearing his PJs, so that was a bonus. He didn’t want them last year and the previous year he only consented to wear the top. Finally, after years of struggling to find them matching PJs (who knew it was so hard), I purchased a matching set (2 months in advance, let me tell you). Huzzah!

The Best Christmas Gifts for Men

Every year, there is a lot of chatter about what to buy for the men in our lives. Be they husbands, boyfriends or Dads, men can be hard to buy for! Now, I know each guy has different tastes, but I know we can do better than ties and golf stuff, right?! Following my post on The Best Stocking Stuffers for Guys, I put together this Shopping Guide to the Best Christmas Gifts for Guys that involves both gifts my husband has asked for in the past, or currently has on his wish list, plus a few ideas of my own. 

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  • Bluetooth speaker – my husband asked for (and received) the UE Mini Boom for his birthday. He did his research on options and hit on this amazing bluetooth speaker that we use either in our office or move around wherever we want some extra music! Since it’s bluetooth, you can play from your phone or any bluetooth-enabled device. 
  • Car Tech Toys – there are a lot of toys you can buy for cars, depending on your guy. Whether it’s accessories for the car itself or, in my case, tech gadgets. Our top recommendations include the Portable Smartphone Mount, which clips onto your vents!, an extra charger (variable depending on your car) or an audio cable so you can play music or podcasts or get audio directions directly from your phone 
  • Cards Against Humanity – even for non-gamers, this entirely inappropriate game is perfect as a gift! Bonus: you can give expansion packs in future years!! They make great stocking stuffers ;)
  • BBQ Rotisserie – you can buy a brand-specific rotisserie for your BBQ, but they are super expensive. You may find a universal rotisserie like this one works for you. My husband got this last year and though it doesn’t fit as snugly as a super expensive option would have, it still works. We roast TWO chickens at a time on it!
  • Home Brew Kit – my husband wants to brew his own beer, but space has always been an issue. He recently discovered the Box Brew Kits which are not only super amazing looking, but don’t require a lot of space. If you don’t want to give a DIY kit, I highly recommend a selection of craft beers! You could even invest in a couple of growlers and pre-fill them with a local beer. 
  • Clothes – when it comes to clothes, I like to buy something that will actually get worn, but is nicer than what my husband would typically buy for himself. Wether this is a nicer pair of jogging pants (like Lululemon) or a great sweater (Banana Republic has the most flattering ones in a variety of styles!) or a new fleece jacket or something of that kind. 
  • Pedicure – because, have you seen his feet? Well, he may deny he needs it, but team up to get him to go with another guy pal if you think that will get him there. Trust me, he’ll thank you. There are salons that offer men’s pedicure options.
  • Tickets & Gift Certificates – this one is really personal. Does your guy like sports, theatre, movies, music, trips? Is he a foodie? Scour sites like Groupon for deals, or grab tickets to a coveted event and wrap it up in a larger box. If you have kids, secure your babysitting as part of a “date night” package.

Here’s hoping these gifts are a hit with the guy in your life!