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.

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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


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


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



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”.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel”: In Review

The Grand Budapest Hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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

Run Time: 100 Minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated R for language, some sexual content, and violence.

Cast: Bill Murray, Saoirse Ronan, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwartzman, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Jude Law

Happy Friday, Folks!  Director and screenwriter Wes Anderson has done it again in his newest film “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, which hit theaters in the Kansas City market today. Anderson, who is well known for his work on hit films such as “Moonrise Kingdom” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, (forgiving “The Life Aquatic”) always hits the mark with his quirky, witty films that engage and sometimes mildly confuse audience members.  Going along with that theme, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” does not disappoint.

The film follows the life and adventures of Gustave H, played by Ralph Fiennes (well known for his role as Lord Voldemort in the “Harry Potter” series), the most attentive and incredible concierge who ever existed and his trusted friend and lobby boy Zero Moustafa (played by Tony Revolori).  The two join together after the death of a wealthy hotel guest and lover of Mr. Gustave who leaves some of her fortune to her favorite concierge.  The adventures that follow and the people they encounter along the way will leave moviegoers laughing right until the very end.

If you enjoyed the weirdness of “Moonrise Kingdom”, you’ll surely not be disappointed by this film.  Overall, it’s an enjoyable ride with beautiful scenery, a fun and easy to listen to score, and a cast that plays together nicely.

On the It’s An Ordinary Blog movie rating scale from one to ten where one is the best, five is the worst, and ten is the best again I give “The Grand Budapest Hotel” a glowing 9.3546 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of “That was seriously enjoyable!”

Join Me For The Color Run!

The Happiest 5k on the Planet

I am so excited to announce that I will be participating in the Happiest 5k on the Planet this may! The Color Run is coming to Kansas City on May 31st and I am thrilled to be a participant in this year’s race and to have the opportunity to share a discount code so that you can register, too! These events are a great way to get out and enjoy a healthy activity with thousands of metro area residents. One of the things I love most about The Color Run is their focus on celebrating healthiness, happiness, and individuality. At the race you’ll find seasoned runners, power walkers, people who want to enjoy their 5k at a leisure pace, and many people in between. I fall somewhere in between.

5k Magic

This year, The Color Run is doing things just a little bit different with the 2014 Kaleidoscope Tour! With new t-shirts, new headbands, new wristbands, AND awesome sling bags for EVERYONE that is registered. All of that, combined with great race attractions and fun music, The Color Run is sure to be an event that everyone will enjoy (relax, it’s only 3.2 miles, you can do it!).

The Color Run Magical Bracelet



I just love the design of the new gear The Color Run rolled out this year especially this fun 2014 bracelet which, apparently, has magical properties known to promote super powers (maybe it’ll help me run faster?). Fantastic.

Color Run Discount

Ready to join in on the fun? Register through The Color Run website at:, take a look at their newly redesigned website (it’s awesome), and type in the code COLOR5OFF for your discounted race registration!

The Color Run

Who’s ready to get colorful with me?!



How “Queen Elsa” Broke My Heart

Elsa Frozen

My daughter celebrated her third birthday a couple of weeks ago (more on that in a later post) and, now that she’s getting older, we’ve started allowing her to watch Disney films. It would be an understatement to say that we’re movie fans in this household (duh- I write movie reviews) and that love for film is something my husband and I are passing along to our child. I don’t mind when my daughter pretends as if she’s Queen Elsa from Disney’s “Frozen” or Merida from Disney’s “Brave” but she said something the other day that caught me completely off guard.

“I want to be just like Queen Elsa.”

Now I know it’s common for little girls to emulate and want to be like their role models (and Queen Elsa is a great role model to have) but it broke my heart to hear my three year old child say that she wanted to be anyone other than the amazing little lady that she already is.

We live in a World where most of us are constantly trying to be like everyone else, chasing unattainable standards of beauty (you can read more of my thoughts on this from my previous posts on the subject), thinking we’re never good enough, and nothing could have prepared me for the day when my daughter wanted to be different from who she already is. I explained to her that many of the same characteristics we appreciate about Queen Elsa are ones that she already has.

She is strong.

She is smart.

She is wonderful.

I recognize the innocence in my daughter’s words. I understand that she may not already be feeling that sense of inferiority that seems to plague us all with time but the mere fact that she feels the need to be different from the perfect person she is concerns me.

How do we find a balance, especially in our society, of encouraging our daughters as they look up to the heroes around them and teaching them that just being the person that they already are is good enough?

“Non Stop” Movie Review


Release Date: February 28th, 2014

Run-time 106 Minutes

MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, some language, sensuality and drug references

Cast: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore

Liam Neeson has been a well respected and talented actor for decades, but it is only in the last few years that he has hit his stride as an action star.  It is too his credit that it does not seem weird or forced for a man in his late fifties (now early 60s) to suddenly begin starring in action movies left and right.  Neeson is able to pull it off and has the strength and presence to be a believable hero.

“Taken”, “Taken 2”, “Unknown”, and now “Non-Stop” all share similar Neeson performances, He is confident and capable and trying to figure out what is going on.  This has led my husband and I to describe these similarities as being “Liam Neeson-y”. His name may also be used as a verb or whatever works in the context.  For now, this is done mostly as a compliment.  Forteen more of these movies and he will move into the Nicholas Cage zone.  No action star wants to be in the Nicholas Cage zone.

With all that said, Liam Neeson goes Liam Neeson all over this movie.  Neeson portrays Bill Marks, an Air Marshal who receives a text while on a flight saying that a passenger will be killed every 20 minutes until $150 million is deposited into an offshore account, which, as it turns out, is in his name.  The remainder of the film follows Marks as he tries to uncover the truth, prevent catastrophe, and make sense of the events unfolding around him.  The best parts of the film, besides Liam Neeson going all Liam Neesony on the bad guys, are the great chemistry between Neeson and his co-star Julianne Moore the plot twist at the end which moviegoers will likely not see coming.

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 “Non-Stop” a 3.482 with an emoticon based sub-ranking of “Did he just open a can of Liam Neeson on them?!”

Our DisneySide Celebration!

If you’ve been following my blog for a while (or if you know me in real life), you’re probably aware of this already but my sweet, loving daughter recently turned into a three year old. Coincidentally, I was also recently given the opportunity to host a Disney Side At Home Celebration for friends and family. Even though we hosted a Disney themed birthday last year, we decided it would be perfect to show our Disney Side while celebrating C’s birthday.

Disney, along with a few other partners, teamed up to provide some incredible decorations, activities, and take away items for our guests. Take a look at what they sent over:

American Tourister

Everything came in this great American Tourister (the official luggage of Walt Disney World). This luggage is pretty fantastic. It’s lightweight, easy to use, and will undoubtedly be perfect for our next trip.

American Tourister

Hanes TShirts

The first item that was included in our hostess packet was this pack of children’s shirts and fabric markers, provided by Hanes. These were an excellent addition to our party. The children had the opportunity to decorate (and then wear) their own shirts and show their Disney side. My daughter wears hers as a smock for artwork. It’s pretty fantastic.


Disney Decorations

Disney also provided wonderful Mickey Mouse Clubhouse partyware and decorations.

mickey mouse

Combined with the colorful inflated balloons we added around the house, these decorations helped our guests show their Disney side.

Disney Side At Home Celebration

Other items included stickers, temporary tattoos, ESPN Sports bracelets, a Disney planning DVD, recipe cards and measuring cups for ABC’s “The Chew”, face painting tutorials, Muppets calendars, Crasins, and some fantastic cookie cutters most of which were used as favors in each guest’s treat bag.


Speaking of party favors, I encountered some great finds while shopping my local Target. They had tons of Disney, Disney Junior, and Star Wars (which is also now owned by Disney, like everything else in the World ;)) goodies for children marked at only $1 a piece.

Disney Water Bottles

Treat Bags

Favor Bags

Also included in our Disney Side kit (and not pictured) were Run Disney cards which we used as placemats for each child, bumper stickers, HP Photo card packs, and a beautiful 8×10 “So This Is Love” Minnie and Mickey art which went home with each guest.

Our primary focus during the event was to help our daughter and her friends celebrate her special occasion so most of our pictures have other children on them. In the interest of respecting the privacy of our friends and their children, I have not included them on this post. If you’re following me on Instagram, however, you can see more pictures from the party.

We were so honored and thrilled to have been selected to show our Disney Side and encourage you to do the same with your friends and family. Disney is such a special part of our lives and it’s always fun when we have the chance to celebrate with Mickey, Minnie, and all of the other characters that are so wonderful.

*Disclaimer: I received these products free of charge in exchange for hosting a Disney Side at home celebration. All expressed opinions are uniquely my own. Questions about this post, or any product reviews contained herein can be sent to