By JULIE REPPERT
Christmas always was an exciting and magical time for me - I couldn't wait to see what Santa was going to bring me.
When I woke up on Christmas morning, my brother and I would sneak out into the living room to assess the mountains of presents left for us by Santa, sitting by the tree and fireplace, and oogle over our stockings overflowing with goodies and treats hanging from the mantle.
As we "plunged into the cornucopia" of gifts, as Ralphie Parker from "A Christmas Story" would say, we found one amazing toy after another.
It's kind of interesting to compare the toys of the '80s and '90s to the toys of today and see how different kids' interests are from then to now.
I was so happy just to get stuffed animals for Christmas. I always got at least one every year. And I think a lot of kids used to use their imaginations for a longer period of their childhood in years past than they do now.
The imagination is a great place! You can do anything you want to do and be anything you want to be. Some of the toys would represent us going on adventures to different planets or places in time. We could talk to the animals and fly through the air with our friends.
I'm not a video game hater, because I have played my fair share, but I think computers and video games have contributed to cutting imaginations short at times.
Many kids' Christmas lists now consist of computers, iPads, smartphones, video games and other electronics. Video games became popular with Atari and Nintendo, but my brother and I had a ColecoVision first.
The games started to suck us in and my brother and I would fight over who got the controller to play the Smurfs game. When my brother got his Nintendo, he even installed a key lock on the system so I wouldn't be able to play with it when he wasn't there. All I wanted to do was play Mike Tyson's "Punch-Out" and beat King Hippo and Soda Popinski.
But before the video and computer game craze got out of control there were these things called board games. Some even are still around today, believe it or not!
But '80s and '90s board games were ridiculously great. I loved playing board games and I had so many of them to choose from when friends came over to play - Hungry, Hungry Hippos, Mouse Trap, Shark Attack, Monster Mash, Splat!, Pizza Party, Guess Who, Don't Break the Ice and Dizzy Dizzy Dinosaur.
How many of you remember any of those? I would play games for hours!
I was a pretty big tomboy when I was in elementary school, but I did really like a few dolls.
I had lots of Strawberry Shortcake dolls and Rainbow Bright and her friends Twink and Starlite. I wasn't a fan of Barbie, but I loved her punk rock counterpart Jem.
The Jem cartoon show was great (or at least I thought so). Jerrica lived a double life as a rockstar and when she touched her star earring she would transform into Jem, frontwoman for rock band Jem and the Holigrams.
I still have the dolls packed away at my parents' house. Jem, the Holigrams and even members of their rival band, the Misfits, are all part of my collection.
I had tons of other toys too, like My Little Ponies, Pound Puppies and Purries, Care Bears, Micromachines, My Pet Monster and Popples, to name a few.
One of my most favorite toys I ever got was Teddy Ruxpin. A mechanical bear who talked and moved his mouth and blinked his eyes when you inserted a cassette tape (yes, those things before CDs and MP3s) into a tape deck on his back.
I also had his pal, Grubby, who talked when he was plugged into Teddy. I would read along with their books while they told stories of their adventures.
I always took really good care of all of my toys and kept a lot of the original packaging. I've been told that a lot of my toys would be worth some money, but I can't seem to part with them, even if they still are at my parents' house taking up space.
I just think the toys of the '80s and '90s were great. But I think everyone else might challenge that the toys of their era were the best, too.
I just like thinking about the toys that made me happy when I was a kid and how much fun I had opening them on Christmas morning and playing with them for hours.
Whatever time you grew up in, I hope this brought back some childhood memories for you or helped you remember past Christmases and toys you got when you were young.
Reppert is Assistant Lifestyle Editor.