Hippity Hoppity Time: It’s An Ordinary Blog Easter 2014 Recap

Happy Easter, everyone! I trust that today has been enjoyable for each and every one of you. I had such a great day today with my little family and I discovered that Easter with a three year old is an absolute blast. In case you missed it (which I won’t fault you for, it was a year ago ;)), check out how we celebrated Easter 2013. This year, our bunny was lazy busy and didn’t put nearly as much care and thought into C’s basket as last year’s out of the box idea but I still think E’14 was a success. Take a look:

Easter 2014

Our day started off relaxing at home. We let C open her gift from us (which was a Repunzel doll she had here eye on during our visit to the Disney store) but the rule in our household (at least until she’s older) is that the Easter Bunny doesn’t come until after naptime so our celebratory festivities were on hold until the afternoon. During her nap, the Bunny arrived and put together hear basket (which is pictured above in the center) and also dropped off some goodies for Mommy and Daddy (to the left and right of the basket in the picture). E.B also put up our annual Egg Hunt signs and hid colorful eggs throughout the yard. When C awoke from her nap- the fun began.

Egg Hunt

Eggs were filled with mini marshmallows and reward points for her responsibilities chart (more on that system this week). Watching her run around the yard was such an incredible joy- it’s one of the many, many reasons I just love parenting this magnificent child.

The Great Egg Hunt 2014

It's An Ordinary Blog

We also treated her to another “Mommy and Daddy” gift because, honestly, what’s a holiday without just a little toddler spoilage, right?!

Easter Basket

From our family to yours, Happy Easter 2014!

 

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My Interview With @MarlonWayans & A Quick Review of “A Haunted House 2″

A_Haunted_House_2

Release Date: Friday April 18, 2014

Running Time: 87 Minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated R for crude and sexual content, nudity, pervasive language, drug use, and some violent images (basically all of the things)

Cast: Marlon Wayans, Jaime Pressly, Gabriel Iglesias, Cedric The Entertainer

Last month, I had the opportunity to sit down and interview Marlon Wayans in anticipation of the release of his latest film “A Haunted House 2″, which hits theaters nationwide this weekend. I was, admittedly, a little apprehensive to sit down with Wayans and interview him about a movie I knew very little about but, as it turns out, Marlon is a really pleasant and down to Earth guy which made the interview really enjoyable. Although most of the discussion revolved around the new movie and his vision behind it, I did have a chance to learn a little bit about his film career and the childhood that’s led him to it.

I appreciated that he had a very realistic perception of where his movies fit into our cultural landscape. That is to say, these are not the best films of all time and he knows it. He does not view himself as a visionary, but as a jester.  He wants nothing more than to make a silly movie that makes people laugh. At one point in the interview, Wayans said something that made me respect him both as an individual and as a comedian. Instead of trying to be the best at everything, Wayans just wants to be the best version of himself. Isn’t that what it’s all about, anyway?! Also, not unlike myself: Wayans loves a good selfie. It didn’t take a lot of convincing to get a picture with him during out conversation. Take a look:

Marlon Wayans It's An Ordinary Blog

It is in the same regard of not taking one’s self too seriously that “A Haunted House 2” is at least partially successful. The first fifteen minutes featured genuine laughs from well-timed slapstick and outrageous overreactions to insane circumstances.  It’s been awhile since I’ve spent a good 15 solid minutes laughing and I appreciated the movie for that reason.

Most of the remainder of the film featured slightly less successful recycled versions of previous gags. Many of the jokes relied more on shock value than cleverness and weren’t as well received as they were the first time around. The middle part of the movie became redundant the laughs were increasingly fewer and further between.  Gabriel Iglesias, playing Wayans’ neighbor, did have a funny bit that managed to not get old, and the final act is somewhat redeemed by Cedric the Entertainer reprising his role from the first movie and adding some much needed freshness into the climactic ending.

On my scale from one to ten where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again: I give “A Haunted House 2” a 2.4374 with an emoticon based sub ranking of “HAHAHAHA…ha…huh?!…ew.…ha…meh…ha.”

“Under The Skin”: A Mini Movie Review

Under The Skin

"Under The Skin" movie review

Run Time: 1 hour 48 minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated “R” for graphic nudity, sexual content, some violence and language

Cast: Scarlett Johansson

If you’ve been following along with my blog for a while, you know that I see a lot of movies (and I mean a whole lot) but it isn’t often that I get out to see a sci-fi drama like “Under The Skin”, which opens in the Kansas City market this weekend.

The film, which is accurately depicted in its official trailer (which you can take a peek at below), is an interesting take on what it means to be an alien learning about life in the human World.

“Under The Skin” follows the journey of Laura (played by Scarlett Johansson “The Avengers”, “Her”), an alien who preys on lonely men in Scotland, as she attempts to break free from her life as a huntress to explore what it means to be human.

The movie makes sense without actually making a lot of sense (if that makes sense). It gives away a lot without actually giving away anything. It will confuse you, intrigue you, and leave you in a thought induced transient state like only a good sci-fi drama can do.

Overall, on my movie review scale from one to ten where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again: I give “Under The Skin” a 4.3876 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of: “Wow. That was interesting!”

Side Note: “Under The Skin” would be a GREAT drinking game movie. When it comes out on DVD (or if you happen to go to a theater that has a bar) use this as a reference:

1 Shot: Every time Laura attempts to pick up a man in her creepy van but fails.

2 Shots: Every time Laura looks really, really confused.

3 Shots: Every time you’re really, really confused.

1 Shot: Every time Laura attempts to pick up a man in her creepy van and succeeds.

10 Shots: If you understand EVERYTHING you see in this film.

0 Shots (at all): If you don’t enjoy it because, honestly, you’re just not into sci-fi films.

Reflections on “Heaven Is For Real”

Heaven Is For Real

Release Date: Wednesday April 16, 2014

Run Time: 100 Minutes

MPAA Rating: PG

As you might remember from my previous post on Parenting Without Faith, religion is something that we think a lot about in our household. I think it’s for that reason that I was so excited to discover “Heaven Is For Real”. The movie (and adapted screenplay of the book with the same name), which has a release date just in time for the Easter holiday, is based on the true story of the Burpo family. After Nebraska born Colton, the son of Todd and Sonja, apparently has what is commonly referred to as a “Near Death Experience”, he begins to recount his journey to Heaven and back rocking his family to the core.

I will be the first to admit my skepticism regarding the accuracy of the story. It’s hard to digest the possibility of a young child actually spending time in the afterlife and one has to wonder whether or not his experiences were influenced by the religion in which he was raised or if he would have witnessed the same regardless. I was also a little bothered by the fact that they kept bringing up the financial situation of the Burpo family throughout the film. As a natural skeptic, I thought they would have had better luck without those details. Regardless of my personal feelings, doubt, and questions regarding the storyline, the movie was very well done.

What I appreciated most about the film was the way that the cast portrayed the familial relationships that were such a huge part of the story. From the performances of Greg Kinnear (Todd Burpo) and Kelly Reilly (Sonja Burpo) as a loving couple who puts Christ at the center of their family to Margo Martindale (Nancy Rawling) and Thomas Haden Church (Jay Wilkins) who perfectly portray the most caring and loving friends a family could ask for, every cast member worked together to bring this story to life.

The intended audience (Christian families in search of a feel good Easter film) will love the message this season. Overall, on my scale from one to ten where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again: I give “Heaven Is For Real” a 7.839 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of “Hallelujah!”

We Went To New Orleans (Part 1)!

 KCtoNOLA

Our family loves to travel and we’re fortunate in that we have family and friends spread throughout the continental United States. For the last several years, we’ve gone back East at least once every 12 months but we haven’t taken a real “vacation” in a very long time. Don’t get me wrong, we absolutely love spending time with loved ones but those kind of trips aren’t really “vacations” (the kind of travel where you stay in hotels, do touristy type activities, and have absolutely no obligation other than to enjoy your time away from home). When the opportunity to get away for an extended weekend came up over my daughter’s spring break (from preschool), we jumped at the chance to head down to a place we’d never been before.

One of the things I appreciate most about this country is that there are so many different cultures that exist in different regions. The experience of traveling to a place like New York is so vastly different from what you would see in San Diego, Oregon, or Nebraska. Having been to several of the states already, I’ve had the chance to witness first hand the various types of cultures that exist in each area but I’ve never experienced New Orleans. I’ll admit that I’m somewhat ignorant to Cajun culture (even after my trip to New Orleans, I still feel that I didn’t really get the full Cajun experience (maybe we’ll try southern “Cajun Country” Louisiana next time). New Orleans was great, though. Just great. And I can’t wait to share our journey with you.

When we first decided to head to NOLA (I feel like I can use the acronym now since I’ve been there- I’m totally down with the verbiage, right y’all?!) we knew absolutely nothing about the city (other than the fact that they host Mardi Gras each year). After leaving, I feel like we know slightly more than nothing about it. Nevertheless, it was a really enjoyable few days away from home that provided a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.

The drive down from Kansas City was brutal, even with splitting it up into two days. We made the mistake of leaving in the afternoon (which, normally wouldn’t be a problem) to head down to Little Rock, Arkansas (the halfway point for our journey). The final stretch between Kansas City and Little Rock was dark, mountainous, and somewhat frightening. Highway 65 South is full of small towns, underlit roads, and deer which made for an interesting journey at night. By the grace of God (and careful driving), we made it to our hotel in North Little Rock.

Wyndham Riverfront Little Rock

 A huge thank you to the Wyndham Riverfront in North Little Rock, Arkansas. We booked our stay through Priceline.com and had an incredible experience at the hotel. The staff was friendly, the hotel was comfortable and clean, and the free breakfast was one of the better ones we’ve had at a hotel chain.

Our breakfast on day two helped to sustain us through the long drive down to New Orleans, which took us through parts of Mississippi that were so unbelievably rural it was shocking. In my next post, I’ll tell you more about it.

Until then…

Creative Gift Giving For Kids: Idea #1 (For Less Than $30!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

gift ideas for seven year olds

It seems like everyone in our lives celebrates a birthday (haha), am I right or am I right?!  I absolutely love coming up with creative ideas for gift giving and I thought I’d share some of my ideas with all of you.  Today, I want to talk about gift giving for the six, seven, or eight year old in your life (this might also work for children who are slightly younger or slightly older, depending on the child).  I should mention that this idea is one that I think would be absolutely perfect for children who will be staying home during summer break since it provides daily activities that inspire creativity and encourage imagination. That said, I bring to you the Super Sleuth Spy Kit. The best part?! This gift can be assembled for a little less than $30!

We were recently invited to a birthday party for one of our sweet friends who was turning into a seven year old. Although the theme was “Monster High”, I knew I wanted to do something a little out of the box (I love unique gifts) for our gift to her.

gift ideas for a seven year old

 

The inspiration for this gift idea came to me when I was perusing my local Target for gift ideas.  While walking around the book aisle, I came across Judy Moody’s Mini-Mysteries and it was there that the lightbulb went off in my head. Why not create a Super Sleuth Spy Kit for her?!

 

Creative Gift Ideas for Kids

The book (which retails at around $6.00), provides some great suggestions for items to put in your very own spy kit. With only a couple of exceptions, I purchased everything the book suggested and separated them into gallon size zip lock bags based on which type of sleuthing the items would be most appropriate for (because you all know how important staying organized is to me).

Super Sleuth Spy Kit for Kids

The first bag included all of the materials a seven year old would need to collect evidence during an investigation: Composition books, a magnifying glass, pencils (and a pencil sharpener), and tweezers.

Disguise Kit

The second bag included some materials that could be used as disguises. As you know, a super sleuth can never be too careful. The book recommended also including a hat but I figured she probably already has a few around the house she can use.

Lock Pickers

No detective is complete without their lock pickers (bobby pins), of course!

Spy Material Kit for Kids

Some of the other items included in the kit were a mirror, lipstick (chapstick) for writing secret messages (sorry Mom and Dad ;)), a ruler, tape for picking up fingerprints, and a cup for listening through walls.

Spy Snacks

And because spies often get hungry on the job, I also included some fun super sleuth spy snacks.

Super Spy Kit Gift Idea for kids

I put all of the items together in a large case and wrapped them together in her gift bag. I will admit that I was nervous when we gave her the gift at her party. I wasn’t sure how it would go over with someone her age (especially after she got a series of new dolls from other guests) but her mom tells me she’s had a lot of fun collecting evidence all around their house.

Tips For Organizing Your Life: Toddler Toy Edition

546 Organized toddler room

As any parent would tell you, young children accumulate a lot of stuff. All of the toys, books, games, dress up clothes, and stuffed animals that multiply with each passing holiday, birthday, or visit to Grandma and Grandpa can become a little (or a lot) overwhelming. One thing I’ve learned in parenting my three year old is that messiness begets messiness.  The less organized I am, the less likely my daughter is to keep her belongings organized.  I’m slowly trying to change our household habits and I’ve noticed a huge difference in how my toddler treats her belongings. Once I got everything organized, I implemented a standing rule that once she’s doing playing with one toy, book, puzzle, or game she has to put it up before getting something else out. So far, it’s been a total success!

Organizing your toddler's room

When my daughter was an older infant and started actually playing with toys, I kept them in bins and thought I was organized.  Now that she’s older, I realized that’s not going to work for much longer. We were constantly missing puzzle and toy pieces and having a difficult time finding all of the parts to the one puzzle we wanted to work on.

Bins For Toys

I dumped out all of the toys from each bin (one by one) and organized them.  Then I set aside all of the puzzles (I did the same thing for the toys and games) that were missing pieces to organize later when the lost pieces came home. Tips for organizing I only used two of the puzzles for the picture because, honestly, nobody wants to see the ungodly mess that was my daughter’s room the day that I took on this project.

Tips for toddler organizing

Each puzzle went into a gallon size zip lock bag which was labeled with the name of the puzzle, toy, or game, a description, and the number of pieces that are supposed to be included in the bag.

tips for organizing toys

It is so much easier to make sure we have the right amount of pieces for each toy to avoid a meltdown later on.

Tips for organizing toys

Putting them in the labeled bags also helped make it easier to store them in my daughter’s bins. Take a look:

Tips for organizing toddlers

I did the same thing with all of the other toys in her room.  I know it may *seem* like a lot of work but, trust me, I am confident you’ll find that it is totally worth it.

organizing toys

Tips for organizing your toddlers room

toddler toys

Since they don’t fit into gallon size bags (and because it’s not safe to put plastic bags over ‘living’ things) all of her dolls live together in a bin of their very own:

Toy bin ideas for toddlers

The last thing that I did was to create a small reading area in the corner of her room with several books and all of her stuffed animals (which were outgrowing her bed) so that she can relax and read to her favorite monkey, dinosaur, and bear.

Toddler Reading Area

How do you stay organized?

Mad About It Monday: Commercials We Know & Hate

madaboutitmondays

Hello, friends and happy Monday! It’s been a while (longer than I’d care to admit) since my last “Mad About It Monday” post so I thought I’d jump right back in with a list of my top five favorite commercials to HATE. We don’t watch a lot of television in our household but we do take the time to catch up with our favorite programs on HuluPlus after the child goes to bed each night. Hulu provides us with the opportunity to see a whole slue of no good, just plain awful commercials that I cringe at the very thought of. I’ve compiled a list of five of the worst commercials we all know and hate and encourage you to share yours in the comments.

#5- Chase Freedom “At The Pumps”

At first glance, most viewers wouldn’t think anything of this seemingly innocent commercial but if you pay attention, at about four seconds in, you see something terrifying.  Here we have this woman, at the station, pumping gas while her car keys are in the ignition and the car is on. Really?! Don’t they specifically WARN you against keeping your keys in the ignition while pumping gas? Let me save you the trouble of looking it up, yes. Yes they do. Now, logically, I know that there’s a very minimal risk of a spark from your car being on causing the gas pump to blow up while you’re pumping but, why even risk it?!  Is it really that hard to turn off your car for three minutes while you fill up the tank?  I mean honestly, I’m surprised she wasn’t also smoking and spraying gas everywhere in the commercial. What a dummy.

#4- Disney Side “Lion King”

Dear Grandpa,

No. You narcissistic tool bag. You just can’t resist ruining the moment, can you?! Congratulations, you’re officially uninvited to our upcoming family Disney trip because we can’t trust you to behave yourself. What’s next, will you photo-bomb the pictures of complete strangers and tackle your favorite characters, shoving small children out of the way to get to them? Nice. Not. That set you just ruined, by the way, took a PTA mom hours to put together and now the kids can’t finish the play that they’ve spent months preparing for because you’re a life ruiner, Grandpa. You jerk.

#3- Geico Commercials (All of them)

Dear Geico,

No. Just no. Please stop. For the love of all that is holy, knock that crap off. That is all.

#2- Learn To Be 

Hi Melissa, it’s called Google. Or your parents. Or a teacher. Or your math book. Or anyone else other than this really creepy math tutor that you randomly happened to find on the internet. Aren’t you the slightest bit worried that an adult is weirdly smiling at you over the webcam after reciting the definition of something you could have very easily found on your own? Haven’t your parents taught you about the dangers of using video chat with complete strangers? I guess not because they clearly aren’t available to help you with your easy geometry homework, either. Hold on, don’t go anywhere. Okay, I’m back. I just did a search for “How do you find the area of a triangle?” and more than 86.8 million results popped up. I did this without giving a possible predator the layout of my home. You’re welcome.

#1- AllState Check 

Who just inserts themselves into someone’s check battle at a restaurant? I mean, honestly. How the hell does he even know that she saved money on insurance? That is CLEARLY grounds for a restraining order. Oh, and here’s a tip for YOU, Dennis Haysbert, nobody cares that you were once on the show “24″ over ten years ago. And no, you are not, in fact, responsible for a black person becoming president.

 

 

“Enemy”: In Review

Enemy

Release Date: Friday March 21st, 2014 (Kansas City Market)

Runtime: 90 minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated R for some strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon

Sometimes in life, there are films that are so unique, so intense, and so well done that they become timeless works of art. “Enemy”, which opened in the Kansas City market on Friday, is not one of those. Rather, it is a film with grand aspirations.  Unfortunately, it is a film that just doesn’t quite deliver.  Several weeks ago, when I was looking at upcoming films for review, I took a peek at the official movie trailer for “Enemy” and had chills.  In looking back, the film’s trailer was its best attribute.  It had suspense and a build up that left me nervous and wanting more.  The film itself, however, could not maintain that same momentum throughout its entirety despite its relatively short runtime of only 90 minutes.

Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam, a professor at a local university who lives a relatively mundane and simple life.  Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal plays Anthony, a local movie star who lives a seemingly happy existence with his pregnant wife.  After spotting his exact double in several small local films, Adam becomes weirdly obsessed with uncovering the mystery behind his doppelganger.  Once Anthony discovers Adam’s existence, he, too, becomes awkwardly obsessed.  The two meet up in a dark hotel room (honestly, who just meets a complete stranger an hour away from home in a remote hotel room?! WHO?!) for a confrontation that is supposed to be intense but just falls flat. Afterwards, the plot takes you through a series of twists and turns that seem a little forced and leave audience members more confused than interested before providing an ending that leaves you questioning whether or not the cashier at the concession stand put something in your drink.

“Enemy” has so many twists that it ties itself into a knot it cannot undo.  It asks far more questions than it answers, and I left feeling confused and unsure as to what I had just seen.  A good twist is one that you don’t see coming, but after it happens you feel like you should have.  “Enemy” substitutes needlessly complicated for clever and throws enough at you in hopes that you don’t notice.  Gylenhaal does a fine job in playing two distinct characters, but it is not enough to make up for the shortcomings of the screenplay.

On the It’s An Ordinary Blog scale from one to ten, where one is the worst, five is the best and ten is the worst again, I give “Enemy” a 1.23574 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of: “Ummmmmm, whhhhaaaaat?!”

“Divergent”: In Review

Divergent

Divergent

Release Date: Friday 21 March 2014

Run Time: 140 Minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense violence and action, thematic elements and some sensuality

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Theo James, Kate Winslet, Miles Teller, Ashley Judd, Tony Goldwyn

“The Hunger Games”, “Twilight”, and “Harry Potter” are all examples of popular young adult novel series turned wildly successful films.  Given the incredible success of its predecessors, it would stand to reason that “Divergent”, which opened in theaters across the nation yesterday, would follow suit.

“Divergent”, the first in a series of three (books), follows the story of Tris Pryor, a sixteen year old living in the futuristic dystopian society that was once Chicago.  After a series of wars and societal problems, the city divided into five factions based on qualities that they believed maintained peace.  At the age of sixteen, children in this society are tested to see with which of the five factions their instincts most closely match.  With their results to guide them, the children must then choose a faction to live in as they become official members of society.  Not everything is as it seems and during her initiation into her chosen faction, Tris’s life is turned upside down.  Conflicts within the city and plans to overthrow leadership put the bravery of Tris, her friends, and her loved ones to the test in a series of twists and turns that keep the audience focused on the story.

For those reasons, the first book was an incredible read.  It was a captivating page turner that kept my attention right until the very last page.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the film.  My biggest complaint about the movie is that the screenwriters diverged (see what I did there?!) a little too much from the book.  They failed to provide any substance to the characters that readers came to know and love through the books, and they put too much on the table taking some of the suspense and drama out of the story.  I cringed at the changes that were made to the plot, the fact that they simplified the story, and that they failed to capture some of the things that were so great about the first book.  Although the movie was mildly entertaining (ignoring the fact that I’d read the books), it was truly disappointing.

Would be fans with a few hours to burn will find that their time is better spent reading the books, which are far superior to the first film.  Overall, on the It’s An Ordinary Blog movie review scale from one to ten where one is the worst, five is the best, and ten is the worst again, I give “Divergent” a 1.39025 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of “Facepalm”.