Non-toy Gift Ideas for Toddlers

J’s second (SECOND!!) birthday is this week, and because I have such wonderful and generous family and friends, they’ve been asking what the little guy would like for his birthday. Like a lot of kids his age, J has more toys than he could ever play with, so we’ll be asking for some non-toy gifts for him this year. I’ve put together a list of gift ideas that are perfect for toddlers (and their parents) that go beyond the world of toys!

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Weekend Recap

Today is June 1….WHAT?! I can’t believe 2014 is almost half over.

We spent the last day of May at the 2014 Blondes vs. Brunettes flag football game, a fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. This was the second year Akron hosted the event, and my first year playing in the game. Last year, I cheered on Katie. It looked like so much fun, I decided to play this year.

And it was a great time! Unfortunately, the Brunettes’ winning streak was ended this year: the Blondes won 18-14 on a touchdown in the last minute of the game. But I still had a good time (and 2 interceptions!).

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Me and Katie – co-caption of Team Brunette

After the game, I did as little activity as possible. Holy sore muscles! I’m still feeling it today, which reminds me how badly I need to get back into shape!

As happy as I am that we raised over $8,000 (!!!) towards the end of Alzheimer’s, the highlight of my day was getting this gift from Katie:

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And inside the envelope was…

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HECK YES I WILL BE!

I’m honored that she asked me and so excited to help her plan her wedding! Check out the amazing gift she got me:

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Unreal. She’s so good at this stuff – I always tell her she should do it for a living. The basket is in the theme of her wedding colors (mint and pink) and the destination – HAWAII!

I’m over the moon happy that Katie has found the love of her life. She certainly deserves to be with someone as wonderful as she is! I’m so blessed that I get to be a part of the beginning of their new life together. Cheers to Fall 2015 and the soon-to-be Mr. & Mrs.! ❤

Since Ryan is working, today has been a Mommy/Baby day. We did a little shopping with my mom and nephew, then headed to a birthday party for the son of one of my high school besties, Katielynn. Her son is an absolute doll – and 100% boy! He’s hilarious to be around, if you can catch him! He’s way to busy to chat with his mom’s friends. 🙂

The baby is napping, I have some chili simmering and a glass of wine is calling my name. Hope everyone had a fantastic weekend!

 

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Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day to all dads out there!

I could write a novel of a blog post about my dad and how amazing he is. Instead, I want to write on this Father’s Day about a cause that is near and dear to my family.

In January of 2012, my father was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (“MS”). At the time, my mom, sister and I knew nothing about the disease, except that it was something you really, really didn’t want to have. The more we learned about it, and the more we saw my dad suffer, the more we hated everything about it. It’s a horrible disease, and those who have it – and their family members – need support.

This year, my extended family members and some friends are joining the Bike MS Pedal to the Point bike ride on August 3-4. This fundraising ride starts in Brunswick and offers five riding distances:

– 30 miles (Brunswick to Oberlin),

– 75 miles (Brunswick to Sandusky)

– 100 miles (Brunswick to Sandusky, with the addition of the Kent Clapp Extra Lap)

– 150 miles (Brunswick to Sandusky and back, two full days)

– 175 miles (Brunswick to Sandusky and back, with the addition of the Kent Clapp Extra Lap, two full days)

I’m doing the 30 mile ride with my mom, Ryan and some friends are doing the two-day 150 mile ride, and other members of the team are doing the various other distances.

We would LOVE to have any and all people interested in riding to join our team! And if you can’t ride, please consider donating to the cause. When my dad was diagnosed, almost everyone I told about it had a friend or relative who also has MS. It affects so many people. Too many.

To join our team, make a donation or just learn more about MS, please visit my personal page.

Happy  Father’s Day!

Summer Bucket List

Even though the “official” start of summer isn’t until the end of this month, the presence of flip flops, shorts and sun-kissed cheeks in Northeast Ohio shout that YES! Summer is here!

Lauren Conrad’s team at Laurenconrad.com posts a “Tuesday Ten” with ten items they love in a category. I absolutely love this idea and want to start doing it on my blog. Last Tuesday, the post was about a “Summer Bucket List“. Seeing how makes lists is right up my alley, I immediately started my own Summer Bucket List, which is listed below. It’s a tad late for a “Tuesday” post…you know what they say about the best made plans…but I’m not too worried about it. : )

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1. Go to a drive-in movie. Did you know that there are only about 350 drive-in movie theaters left in the United States? Growing up, I was oblivious to this, as one of those theaters is in my hometown. If you’ve never been to a drive-in movie, you simply must go. You must!! It’s such a fun experience to sit outside and watch a movie. We’re very fortunate in the greater-Akron area to have three of these theaters. I haven’t been to one in years – so this summer I’m making sure I get to at least one movie-night at the drive-in.

2. Successfully grow lettuce. I am an expert at killing plants. I’m not proud of it, but it’s true. This year – on recommendation of my green-thumbed friend Katielynn, I decided to grow lettuce. Apparently, it’s pretty easy to take care of (and pretty hard to kill). Plus – we eat a lot of greens, so we will make us of the crop. Wish me luck!

3. Give to others at least once a week. Whether that is by donating money to a good cause, running a race for charity or sending a friend a card when they are going through a rough time – I’m going to make it a point to give to others this summer.

4. Landscape! Our front garden needs it…badly.

5. Bike in the MS ride in August. I’ll be doing this with several other family members. I see this as a two-step process:

Step 1 – buy a bike.

Step 2 – learn to ride this bike.

Yeah…it’s going to be a long summer…

6. Play tourist in Akron. I think when we live somewhere for a long time, we forget all the cool things the city has to offer. Akron has many beautiful, interesting and fun things – and I plan to spend at least a day exploring.

7. Catch up on my reading goals – or as close as possible. We are on day 155 of the year – which means I should have read about 15 and a half books so far this year. Well…I haven’t. I’ve only read 9 books so far this year, which means I’m a little behind. But summer is the time to get getting lots of reading done, so by the end of August, I hope to have as close to 24 books read as I can. Any fun summer reading suggestions?

8. Try a new recipe in our Vitamix once a week. WE GOT A VITAMIX!! I am so super excited about this investment. Yes, it was expensive (actually, crazy expensive ), but that machine does a HECK of a lot. Frozen drinks, smoothies, hummus, peanut butter, soups…it’s amazing.

9. Spend as much time by the water as possible. Any body of water will do. Water. Water water water. I love water. Sitting by it, swimming in it, riding on a boat in it, enjoying a meal by it – pretty much anything. Water puts me in an amazing mood.

10. Spend less time in my car and more time on my bike and walking. This of course will only apply to short enough distances and depends on if when I get my bike. I am always bragging on how awesome our neighborhood is because there is SO much SO close to our house – coffee shops, restaurants, a movie theater, a library, a couple of grocery stores, a farmers market, a few parks – all within 1 mile of our house. Now that I have the SUV, I am certainly more aware of the cost of gas – so less driving will help in that respect as well. All that moving will do a body (and wallet) good!

What do you all want to do this summer? I’d love to hear what fun things you have planned : )

Clutter Challenge – Days 7 – 16

Yes – that’s right: I’m going to post about getting rid of 7 things each day for 10 days. That’s 70 things out of my house. As voluminous as that sounds, it was super easy to get rid of that much because we tackled our basement.

For us, the basement is the black hole where things we don’t use very often or don’t quite know what to do with go. When we moved into our house, my husband and I established a rule that we would clear out the basement every year to get rid of things we haven’t used in the last 12 months. The logic behind this is that if we went four full seasons without using the item, we most likely never would. There are obvious exceptions to that (pictures, my wedding dress and anything else we are keeping for legitimate sentimental value), but for the most part, that year-rule has held true.

The only problem with that is we didn’t do this in 2012. Whoops. Bad for our storage, but good for me during this clutter challenge.

The month of May has me running around like a crazy person from one commitment to another, so my de-cluttering had to be done in small sessions. So I apologize for the delay in posts, but I have not fallen off of the bandwagon.

We first concentrated on clothing and shoes and will be donating everything that is in good shape to a local homeless shelter. It’s kind of sad how much stuff Ryan and I have been holding onto but not using. However, it feels SO good to be getting it out of our home and giving it to others who need it.

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That is one of two boxes and four bags of clothing and shoes Ryan and I cleaned out of storage. I had already packed the other box and bags into the car before I remembered to take a picture, so you’ll have to visualize the entire amount. 🙂

Our cleaning binge didn’t end there – but I had to save some for days 17 and beyond! Stay tuned…

Clutter Challenge – Day 2

Day 2 of the de-clutter challenge. Today was an easy day for me. As I was looking through my closest for something to wear to work, I came across a shirt I hadn’t seen in a while and thought “Huh. I forgot I even had this.”

Dun-dun-dun.

The shirt had to go. I couldn’t remember the last time I wore it – and I couldn’t see myself wearing it again. I made up my mind to pick 6 more articles of clothing before I could change my mind, and just like that – more clutter gone.

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Besides the clothes, I did get rid of one pretty big thing today. It makes me sad to even say it, but I finally gave in and got rid of the Red Boat.

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That old girl has been with me for the past 6 years and has treated me so well. Ryan has been asking me for over a year to get a new car, but I just couldn’t do it. Now that I have, I honestly do feel really sad about it. I’m really going to miss her.

However, I didn’t think this counted as one of my “7 things” for the day, since I replaced my old car with a new one:

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That beauty is a 2011 Buick Enclave. As a neurotic accountant, I cannot buy new cars (hello, immediate depreciation!), but this car is new to me – and it’s certainly newer than my old car. It drives so nice – almost nice enough to make me forget about the Concorde…

…almost.

Kindness Counts: Be the Match!

Happy Friday! For some people, the end of this week is extra exciting, since there is a federal holiday on Monday: Martin Lurther King, Jr. Day.

Most people know that the third Monday of January is reserved as MLK Day, in honor of the man who believed in freedom and justice for all people, but perhaps something you didn’t know is that almost 20 years ago, in 1994, MLK Day was designated a national day of service.

[On a side note – 1994 was almost TWENTY years ago?! Unreal.]

Anyway, hopefully all you lucky guys and gals who have the day off will choose to volunteer your time to contribute to the greater good!

For those of you who will be at work (like me – ugh), there’s still a way you can be a part of the cause: join the Be the Match! bone marrow registry.

I know, I know: bone marrow donation is a big deal. A big, scary deal. Or at least that’s what I always thought before my sister, Kendall, asked me to join the registry a few years ago. I thought there were huge needles and bone-drilling procedures involved – but apparently that is not how things are done anymore. Kendall, an RN at the Cleveland Clinic’s bone marrow ward, explained that the process is actually similar to giving blood, and while there is some prep-work involved on the donor’s end, it’s a [very, very, very, very, very] small sacrifice for a living-saving gift.

So often I hear from my sister how much bone marrow is needed – and that’s just in little Cleveland, Ohio. I can’t imagine how big the need is around the nation. Joining the registry is one of the most selfless – and easy – things you can do.

Can you think of  any greater service to our nation than to volunteer to save someone’s life?

Yes: bone marrow donation IS a big deal. Especially to someone in need of a life-saving transplant.

Take full advantage of MLK Day’s national day of service – join Be the Match! – and challenge someone else to do that same.