It’s no secret that Aiden is obsessed with trains. It’s the one constant in his play – he always goes back to his trains. He has a huge collection of Thomas trains, a special order Mallard when he stopped thumb sucking, a variety of specialty trains (diesel and steam), and even a CN train. We keep our eye out for special train-related gifts, as do his grandmothers. He will occasionally go ‘off’ his trains for a period of time, but it’s never long. Even at age 4, he gets a great amount of joy out of pushing his trains around and around, coming up with sophisticated stories.
Now that Damien is getting older, he’s taking more of an active role in the train play in our house. He is less likely to purposefully or accidentally pull tracks apart, and seems to enjoy pushing trains around the tracks. His favourite thing is to push trains down hills or through tunnels, to watch the motorized trains go on their own, or to derail the trains he’s playing with, followed by his “what happened?” sign.
Here’s a video of Damien, our second train-obsessed boy! I’m so glad that Aiden is grooming his train playmate though, because there’s only so many times I can push a train around!
For the second year in a row, we boarded the Polar Express out of Squamish-based West Coast Railway Association. The experience was mostly the same, though 15-minutes longer on the train ride. The conductor on the ride was amazing this time around and they really upped the fantasy factor with small details such as the “spirit” walking the aisle. To draw out the experience, the cookie and hot chocolate were served separately this year, which I liked. We had both Oma and Babby there, which really made the experience fun for our boys.
Although I love the whole experience, it is still a little slow for the young ones since the train does a lot of track switching and doesn’t travel very far. Aiden was a little disappointed that the locomotive was not steam-powered and that it was not snowing, like in the book / movie. He would notice those things, right? We also made the mistake of not immediately lining up for Santa and then having to wait an hour for our visit. Oh well, it meant skipping the mall Santa visit.
Damien woke from a nap about 10 seconds before this photo was taken! Although I put them in PJs, as per the suggestion for the Polar Express adventure, I didn’t think about using the cute PJs for the photo. Oh well, next year!
I also think it’s crazy how different parenting a second child is! We never would have taken Aiden to The Polar Express at this age, or Squamish either. Damien actually is ok in his car seat during the day, so he stayed awake for all but the last 2 minutes of the trip (grr, we hoped he’d nap). He napped twice while we were at The Polar Express and we all went out for dinner before our trip home. Aiden fell asleep almost instantly at around 5:30 but Damien cried the whole way home. Boo for that.
For the second year in a row, we included a trip to Bright Nights in Stanley Park to ride the Stanley Park Christmas Train. Though Ianiv is right in calling it the “Gong Show Nights”, I consider Bright Nights to be a highlight of the holidays. I love walking around looking at Christmas lights and would, if our kids didn’t go to sleep so early, consider many more such outings during the holidays (Van Dusen, Trinity Street, etc). As it was, we had to book our train trip at 5pm and go home right after to get the kids in bed – Aiden fell asleep in the car.
2011 and 2012 Bright Nights in Stanley Park
We missed out on some of the Bright Nights festivities, like choirs, but we had a nice walk around to look at the lights and enjoyed some popcorn and chestnuts. Aiden was quite impatient to ride the train, as we expected, so there was a lot of whining too ;)
The train did not disappoint. I was surprised to notice that the train ride had been themed this year, with elements of the lights and the performances (as well as the synchronized music) altered since last year. I honestly thought it would be exactly the same. So, nice surprise.
Aiden loved the train ride (we got the front seat!) and Damien was mesmerized too – looking all over the place, taking it all in. Great night.
This is our second year building a gingerbread set. Last year we made a gingerbread house and realized, too late, that we should have read the packaging. The house had to be assembled and left for several hours to set, which was difficult for a toddler to sit through. This year, I bought a gingerbread train which, though it’s recommended to let set, can really be decorated right away.
Set on the EZ Build Tray, the train has enough support to be decorated while the icing dries. The same company also makes houses, so I’d be interested to know if the houses of this brand can also be decorated right away.
The icing was nice and thick, with plenty to spare (um, eat), so we had a lot of fun sticking on the candies. My only beef with the set is that all of the candies are hard candies (or gum). I would have preferred a mix of hard and soft/gummy-like candies. I like the gummy candies because the sugar adds a nice shimmer.
All in all, it made for a fun half hour. :)
Aiden celebrated his 3rd birthday back in October at Gymboree. Aiden will happily tell you how he “likes to go to Gymboree all the time,” so we felt like it was a great place to celebrate his birthday with his friends. With so many friends, parents and siblings, it was great to have a place where they could run around. Gymboree parties can be themed, so we chose to make a “train” theme. Teacher Dallas (whom Aiden adores) and Miralia both helped to pull off an amazing train-themed party.
We kept the flow of the party pretty loose, involving elements of the train-lesson from the Play & Learn class as well as free play. To my surprise, Aiden was eager to do parachute time as well. We had the group there for 2 hours, giving the kids time for free play as well as enjoy lunch & cake.
Although lunch was logistically difficult for us (we had to order the pizza a day before & reheat it since no pizza place is open until after 11am!), the party was a hit! I absolutely love planning parties, so I was so excited to cater to Aiden’s train theme. I created a ‘snack train’ out of old shoe boxes based on some inspiration on Pinterest, bought co-ordinating decor, and printed off a few train-themed elements. I was hoping to create some train tracks with painters tape outside the door, but the rain & lack of time derailed my efforts.
Aiden’s Babby put together this amazing train cake for his birthday too! What a hit that was!
See all the photos here.