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Dear not so Lil’ J,

I’ve heard people call the 9th birthday “halfway to adulthood” Honestly the thought makes me shudder. I can’t believe I’m halfway through you living under my roof (though I don’t think I’ll mind if you decide to stay a bit longer). But let’s not talk about that right now. Let me tell you how fun your 9th year of life has been, and while doing that, share 9 things I love about you.

1. How excited you get for a brand new day

“This is the plan for today… *sigh*” Is how you like to start a day, with a plan for what we’re going to do and all of the fun you’d like to have. You love making fun plans, and it’s fun watching you execute it.

2. Your hard work

I’ve watched you grow a lot this past year in learning responsibility, and hard work. You’ve set goals and worked hard to achieve them in cheerleading and in school. We all get a little lax sometimes, but once you set your mind to something, you go for it and work really hard.

3. How you love to snuggle

I’m pretty sure if you were in a snuggling contest you’d win. You love hugs, holding hands, and all kinds of affection. Sometimes I get a little over-snuggled but deep down I really treasure it and I hope you keep it up.

4. Your sense of humor

I don’t know when it happened but you seem to be getting funnier by the day. You listen to everything your dad and I discuss, and are really good about putting things together. The combination makes for some really funny surprises that come out of your mouth. I really need to start writing these down more. For instance you overheard me talking about an irresponsible babysitter. Then later when your dad was looking for the remote you said “If I was an irresponsible babysitter where would I put the remote?” Your dad had to try very hard not to let you see him laughing.

5. The way you notice editing in movies

You’re like a little sponge, absorbing so much of what you see and hear. And you’re so perceptive. You’ve caught on to different transitions and editing techniques that I’ve shown you, and you point them out in videos and movies we watch. Now I just need to get you to help me edit more!

6. Your huge smile is the same now as it was when you were a toddler

You’ve loved taking photos since you were just a baby. You still do. And when I look at a couple of photos side by side I can see how your facial expressions haven’t changed much.

biracial toddler girl with a big smile wearing a hear valentines shirt

7. You are so helpful

Not only are you helpful but you relish in it. You like making me breakfast in bed. You’re happy to bring me water, or a snack while I’m taking a bath. And you love helping out with your baby sister. I’m so glad that your younger siblings have you to look up to.

8. Your love of Disney

“Do you want to talk about Disney?” It’s a phrase you’ve started saying a lot and it cracks me up. It’s like you know my weakness. Same with your dad when you bring up talking about Rocky. You forge interests in things that we like knowing that we’ll cave and engage in a conversation or movie-watching whenever you want. It’s pretty smart when you think about it. But I do love that my love of Disney has rubbed off on you so beautifully.

9. That you’re still as sweet and adorable as ever

I thought for sure your 8th birthday was the last time you’d request a new build a bear toy. But here we are, with yet another added to your collection (even though I’m trying to enforce a strict no stuffed-animals policy). You still held my hand as you walked in for your first day of school.

You run out of cheer practice for water and a quick hug and kiss before you run back in. I love that you still like to be around me, even around your friends. And I selfishly hope that never ends.

I love that you are my daughter. A bright bit of sunshine in our home. Happy belated birthday sweet baby J. I hope this next year of life is your best one yet!

Love,

Mom

Continuing our summer Disney movie series I am going to share about three press conferences I attended during the Toy Story 4 junket. This is part one. You can read part 2 here.

I sat in the same theater room where we screened Toy Story 4 and in walked members of the Toy Story 4 cast, including the iconic Tom Hanks, voice of Woody.

Toy story 4 characters kids review

I sat beside a new friend I met that morning. Zack, who writes for D23. We’d been geeking out about Disney news all morning and now here we were within reach of some Disney legends.

The press conference was only about 15 or 20 minutes. I didn’t even try to ask a question because, well after interviewing Oprah and meeting her at the after party, I decided I was just going to sit back and let others have their big moments. I just wanted to be present and soak it in.

I did share some tweets about the news, and snap a few photos for my instagram stories. But mostly I just enjoyed it.

I’m sure a quick google search will take you to all sorts of articles about the press conference and get you a play-by-play of the entire interview. One of my friends wrote a great one. But I wanted to focus on something that stood out from each press conference for me.

During this press conference it was Tom Hanks talking about what Toy Story means to so many of us. I shared this during the press conference and a lot of you responded to this as I did.

“Woody still is this three dimensional emotional bag that kids carry around with them,” Hank said. “What I have truly appreciated is that no matter how old you are now, when you see one of the movies, you’re the same age you were when you saw the first one. And there is not a bump, there’s not a jolt. There’s no nostalgia. Nothing ages poorly. It’s exactly as it was and sort of always will be.”

Tom Hanks Toy Story 4 interview
via Disney

This is what I tried to explain when I shared my review of Toy Story 4. It took me back to when I was 9 watching the first movie for the first time. Except this time I was beside my almost 9-year-old daughter. And it was as if we were the same age, enjoying a timeless classic.

He went on to say that it’s not just about the stories or the characters, but the emotional bond we form with them all.

“And I have always been dazzled when they have come back and said we’re going to try another one,” Hanks said.

ORLANDO, FLORIDA – JUNE 08: Tom Hanks visits Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios on June 08, 2019 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by John Parra/Getty Images for Disney)

Yes, the creators were bold. They did it again. And this time, arguably better than the others.

Toy Story 4 hits theaters this weekend! June 21st. Go see it then come back and let us know what you think!

Toy story 4 movie poster

.I was going through some old papers when I stumbled upon a small notebook we’ve had for years. I opened it and flipped through the pages to see our newlywed budget from nearly 14 years ago.

My husband had an athletic scholarship for so we had a huge discount on rent, and we tried to be as frugal as we could in other ways.

from humble beginnings to dream home: interracial couple newlyweds

Even back then we were extremely aware of money. Not that we had a lot, or much at all. But we were careful not to spend more than we had, and to save what we could. Even if that was just a few dollars a month.

We would separate our money from each budget category and put the cash for the month into an envelope. When money for food was gone it was gone, and we had to eat what was already in the house until the budget reset the next month.

I created a regular meal plan for us to make sure we stayed under budget. There was Sonic 5 burgers for $5 night. We split that third burger, and we rarely splurged on fries.

There was $5 pizza night. And we ate a lot of ramen noodles and grilled cheese.

At the end of the month whatever was left over we could use as fun money, or save.

I remember being so excited when I’d saved enough to buy us our first couch–A futon from the local thrift store. It was no more than $40.

The first automatic payment I set up was to ourselves… A $75 auto draft from our checking account to our savings account. We still have it set up to this day.

Though we no longer use envelopes, and our food budget is much larger than $150, we’ve continued to live by the same disciplines for years. Living below what we make. Saving everything we can.

I think part of that had to do with having a scarcity complex.–Being so worried we would run out of money.

When we transferred schools, lost our rent discount and were both finishing school. We applied for any job we could get, and we were excited when we both got on campus jobs as custodians. Excited to earn on the “higher end of pay”–Something like $7/hr. We earned and saved extra money by donating blood plasma on a regular basis–Two to three times a week, or as much as they allowed. The cookies and juice at the plasma center were a midday meal I looked forward to.

How a leap of faith brought us together and made me believe some things may be fate.

There were times where both of us had jobs, just one of us had a job, and for some scary moments when neither of us were working.

We learned to live extremely conservatively. And as our salaries increased, our lifestyle, for the most part, stayed the same.

Afraid that something could go wrong and we may not always be able to afford a car payment, we saved and paid cash for our cars (except one time, and after that we said never again).

We use credit cards for rewards points but pay them off every single month. And we try our best to live off one income, and save the other.

Discipline is doing what you want. Even when you don't want to. Click To Tweet

When I set out for the goal of finding our dream home I was dumbstruck by the prices of what we wanted. It seemed unwise to set a goal so high. Especially when we were used to spending so much less. And I didn’t want to be “house poor.”–Where we’re barely able to afford our home, much less anything else to go with it.

But I thought what if we saved enough to pay for a lot of it up front… That would change everything.

Our payments would be comfortable.  And we’d prove to ourselves that we are able to afford our dream and continue to live off similar monthly bills.

We were paying extra on our current home, and those extra payments, along with fees on another property (we’ve since sold) add up to a similar monthly expense.

I did a lot of math and discovered that saving to put half down would be that magic number. To upgrade our home but not our bills.

Now we’re less than three weeks away from closing. Almost across the finish line. We will spend one last Christmas in our beautiful house where we’ve made a home, then ring in a new year at our new place.

It still doesn’t feel real. I don’t know if that feeling will hit once we sign on the dotted line, or when the moving truck pulls away. But those cute college students who split a third cheeseburger every Monday night have gone so much further than I’d ever dreamed. And I’m so proud of them.

How about a good old fashioned journal entry today. It’s been a minute right? I’ve been trying to share more of my useful thoughts lately but sometimes you just need to brain dump. And I think there’s something to be said about recording an experience when you’re right in the middle of it, unknowing how everything is going to turn out.

So this week is kind of a big deal. There are three major “what ifs” up in the air. Which is funny because I’m literally on an airplane right now trying to write this post from my phone while the service is decent. So excuse any forthcoming typos. I’ll edit this tonight.

I’m heading out on one more trip before this baby arrives. This morning I’m going to California for the Mom 2.0 blog summit. It’s one of those things I was planning on going to, then not planning on going to (hello Sneaky!) then finally last minute decision to yes, still go.

I’m helping present the blog award for Best Photography at the Iris Awards ceremony, and I’m up for a couple of awards myself. I’m just so freaking grateful to be nominated that I knew I couldn’t NOT go and experience this, win or lose.

You’d think being up for Blog of the Year would be enough excitement for one week, but there’s even more going on.

Remember operation dream house? Well in just a month we’ve had some crazy developments. The thing is, one I get an idea in my head, I’m like a freight train–Impossible stop.

My husband is a bit more of a stop and go kind of guy. Gas, break, gas, break, reverse.

Much to my surprise he agreed to entertain my dream house initiative IF and only if I managed to secure a significant down payment, and got rid of our condo.

We’ve owned a condo in Utah for 11 years and it’s been a thorn in his side almost the entire time. You know, one of those things you look back on and go “yea, I kinda wish we hadn’t done that.” I don’t like the word regret, and I was really trying to turn that situation into a positive: Renting it out. Considering paying it off and having it as an option when our kids went to college.

I was fine hanging on to it. By as soon as that became an object in the way of my new plan, I was ready to cut ties. On the phone with a realtor the next day and giving our tenants their 30 days notice.

“I’ll handle it,” I told him. And handle it I have.

Meanwhile I have been browsing homes in our area. I did my own browsing but nothing for sale even remotely caught my attention. I stumbled upon a home that sold in a neighborhood I liked about a year ago. While doing some research on how that sale went down I found out it was sold by one of the moms from my daughters cheer squad.

I was subconsciously aware that she was a realtor but until now it hadn’t struck me as an *ah ha!*

I tried to do some undercover investigating and casually ask some questions at practice about homes specifically in our area “is that something y’all specialize in? I mean like, could y’all know about stuff going up first?”

The thing is we are in no rush to move, but I wanted to keep an eye on the market, and if the perfect place appeared be aware and possibly ready.

I picked the realtor and she’d send me houses and we’d check them out and I was like “meh…” Some places really caught my attention online but left me underwhelmed.

During this time my husband began to come around. The wheels were in motion for our condo to sell and the idea of moving was sounding less and less impossible.

The thing was the more houses I saw, whether online or in person, the more I worried about if and when my dream house would appear. Houses that I could kinda sorta maybe consider went under contract the next day. So it seemed as though I’d have to decide fast and if you’ve ever seen me at the grocery store debating toothpaste you know I can’t decide ANYTHING quickly.

Our realtor suggested we check out a new neighborhood development with acreage lots slightly further than I was looking. I threw the idea out at my husband and he grew more excited than I’d ever seen him. There was a spec home for sale that he really liked. But when I went and saw it, while I loved many things about it it didn’t feel like THE one.

Is that even a thing?

Is finding a house like finding a husband? Would I know without a doubt that was the house for us?

The kitchen was too large (I know, I’m the only woman in the world who would say such a thing) and the bonus room upstairs was smaller than I wanted. And the fourth bedroom was upstairs away from the rest of the rooms in the house. It was close, but not perfect. And I wasn’t disappointed when I saw it went under contract.

We saw a few more homes and debated just buying an acre or two of land to build on in a year or so and find a custom builder. But the idea of designing a house from scratch, was one part thrilling and three parts terrifying.

Remember me… Ms. Indecisive. I imagined the emotional breakdowns with an architect. No, that wouldn’t work.

On a whim I mentioned the other builder in this neighborhood to my realtor and said I’d like to go by and just pick up some information. They have lots of cute homes but none were quite speaking to me. But some had potential.

Long story short I was interested in one but the building realtor pointed out another that started at a lower base point and with the potential to add more rooms upstairs. We passed on it initially because it didn’t appear to come with a third car garage. Once we realized it did I was sold. Then once I found out I could add some space upstairs and stay within budget I was officially in love.

I had found the one.

Things have been touch and go since then. Choosing a lot, submitting offers, waiting on answers, submitting counters.

Not everyone is made for this type of back and forth. There have been a couple times my husband has wanted to pump the breaks or flip us around all together. But the thing is, you can’t give me the green light and allow me to go 90 on the freeway then suddenly pull the emergency break. No my dear, we are going for the finish line.

So now we wait. I’m at a crossroads this week waiting for answers.

Thanks to an incredible realtor, we had two offers on our condo before even listing it on the MLS. Its inspection is this morning. Results from that will determine if we can really close this deal as quickly as we hope. Which will in turn give us the full confidence to move forward with what I really believe is our dream house.

I’m currently waiting to hear an offer back from the builders on our counter offer and praying that all works out the way it’s supposed to (which hopefully is with us living in it).

And finally, I’m waiting to see if I bring home an award for the heart and hard work I’ve put into this blog. But with everything else up in the air at the moment, this would just be the cherry on top.

By the end of this week I’ll have a lot of answers and by golly I’m hoping they’re good ones! Wish me luck.

I’m a list-maker. I love making vision boards, setting new year’s resolutions, and other ambitious goals. So when Juicy Juice expressed interested in sponsoring my thoughts on a summer bucket list I naturally said yes. All opinions are our my own, but I may have gotten some awesome ideas from my friends in our #Cherish365 group.

How to make a family summer bucket list.

I decided we should make a summer bucket list because while we have the best intentions and so many ideas of what we’d like to do, executing those things is another story. I used to look forward to my husband’s days of because it meant we would spend time together and get to do something fun. Lately I look forward to his days off because it means I can get some uninterrupted work done while he goes out with the kids. Problem is I miss my husband, and I wish I was there for the fun too. We were each taking turns doing things with the kids, but rarely all doing them together. It was time for us to make a list, and get to crossing them off.

We each wrote down some of the things we want to do this summer. Here’s most of what we’ve come up with so far:

-Go kayaking
-Visit a water park
-Go on a family bike ride
-Have a picnic
-Ride a train
-Collect and create art rocks
-Have a family Disney Movie Night
-Have a water balloon fight
-Go to movies in the park
-Volunteer together
-Family workout
-Make our own drink umbrellas
-Build a fort
-Go out to eat together
-Make popsicles
-Stop the ice cream truck
-Have 3 date nights (sans kids)
-Take family photos
-Build a fort
-Sleep in

How to make a family summer bucket list.

You can pretty much guess who wrote each one. My husband and the kids love their water balloon fights in the backyard. They’re usually on the trampoline. I’ll join in now and then but I’m usually off limits cause I’m holding the camera (see my strategy?). I’ll refill the balloons or during their breaks bring them water or some Juicy Juice Splashers which are a 50/50 blend of fruit juice and filtered water.

How to make a family summer bucket list.

My kids aren’t adventurous at all so some of these things will really be a stretch for us. Like kayaking for example. I am all about trying the “firsts” together. There’s a great lake in Austin that my husband and I kayaked on with Snoop before we had kids. I’d love to take our kids to try the same. On the same trip we can have a picnic and ride a train and all of us will be happy.

Movie nights are an easy one, but movie nights in the park will be new. It’s been something I’ve wanted to go to for years, but I keep forgetting to execute. And some of the other goals are already in the works.

I also love this idea to take a park crawl:

What’s on your summer bucket list?

How to make a family summer bucket list.

I’m teaming up with Juicy Juice this to share our family adventures and inspire others to enjoy family time this summer. All Juicy Juice products are made from real juice, with sweetness that comes only from the fruit and no added sugar. My kids love it and I feel good about it. All opinions are mine and my family’s.

 

Disclosure: I’m a sponsored Align Influencer, but all opinions are my own. Please see below for additional disclosure

Ok, now I’m a believer.

When I first heard about daily probiotics I thought it was some kind of vitamin.

‘Sure, I’ll try it!’ I thought. I’m all for getting in vitamins, all the A D and Cs

But when I investigated the package I quickly realized these were not vitamins.

Probiotic are live bacteria and yeasts that are good for your health. Particularly your digestive system.

“Right!” I said to myself. “I’ve heard of this kind of stuff in some yogurts.”

I set it aside and told myself I’d come back to it later. This seemed like something for old people to use, or people with stomach issues. Not something I needed.

The New Year hit and one of my goals is to better myself physically, mentally, and emotionally. From drinking more water, exercising a few times a week, learning piano, meditating, finding better makeup for myself, taking better care of my skin—it’s been an interesting process.

A couple of weeks ago I tried a Dead Sea facemask for the first time (loved it). I’ve also started setting alarms throughout the day to remind myself to chug a glass of water. Most recently I decided to give probiotics a try.

Ya’ll, I kid you not, I have noticed a difference from the probiotics. I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t believe it. With all my recent travel I have been getting jet lagged and I have been getting airplane bloat (really, this is a thing I recently Googled when I swore I was looking pudgier after my flights). All of the stress of getting behind on work, keeping up with homeschool, and crazy ambitions like starting a daily vlog… They all catch up to me and effect my body.

At the risk of sounding like an infomercial… I started taking Align and I noticed a difference. I don’t feel bloated and I feel like my stomach insides are all functioning properly. I dig it.

Have you ever tried a probiotic? 


Align is the #1 Doctor and Gastroenterologist recommended probiotic brand‡. It fortifies your digestive system with healthy bacteria 24/7*§. Only Align contains B. infantis 35624, a unique, patented probiotic strain.

There is also Align Jr. which comes from the same makers and has no artificial sweeteners and no artificial colors and with continued daily use, helps fortify kids’ digestive systems with a unique healthy bacteria 24/7* with their tasty chewable tablets for kids 6-12 and is great for kids when they are adjusting to new or stressful schedules as well.

Align partnered with bloggers, such as me, to get the word out about its great product benefits. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. Align believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Align’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

ǂ Among gastroenterologists and doctors who recommended a brand of probiotic in an AlphaImpactRx 2016 Survey.

“It worked mama!” My daughter exclaimed. “I saw a ladybug and I wished on it and my wish came true!”

She told me she wished to learn how to ride her bike that afternoon. On two wheels that is.

How many more firsts will I get with my kids?

We set out to check the mail. My son asked if he could bring his bike–A balance bike. And my daughter wanted to bring hers too.

My husband took the training wheels off of it a couple of weeks ago, but they hadn’t had much time to practice together.

“Do you want to teach her?” I had asked him. “It’s sort of one of those Daddy right of passages.”

“Yea, I’ll teach her!” He said.

But we had a few cold days, followed by a family vacation and then he was back to work. I wasn’t sure how likely it was she’d actually master the process in a day but what the heck, it was worth a shot. Or we could at least get some practice in.

She tiptoed on her bike a half a mile to the playground. She felt discouraged on the way there because every time she tried to lift her legs and pedal she’d quickly lose her balance.

“It’s much harder to learn on this uneven sidewalk,” I told her. “Just wait until we get to the playground and have more space.”

The sidewalks have cracks, bumps, uneven areas and cars blocking the way. It was a challenging course for any rider.

Once we reached the playground her brother tossed off his helmet and ran to the slides. I asked Lil’ J if she wanted to play or keep practicing and she said she wanted to keep trying to ride her bike.

I ran down the sidewalk with her two, three, four times. Each time she went a little further. She crashed and burned a couple of times but she’d get back up, determined to try again.

Finally, after about six runs I gave her an initial push but let her take it from there. She didn’t stop. I ran behind her to the end of the sidewalk cheering her on. She pedaled backwards and came to a stop and I gave her a high five. She beamed with pride.

She did it a few more times and once she got comfortable I took out my camera to take pictures of the occasion.

How many more firsts will I get with my kids?

How many more firsts will I get with my kids?

How many more firsts will I get with my kids?

As I watched her determination and tried to capture the moment as best as I could, I noted the date–February 18th, also my brother’s birthday–My daughter learned how to ride her bike. She balanced on two wheels for the first time.

Then it struck me… Her firsts are slowing down. Her first smile, first word, first steps, first time using the potty, first day of school… They’re all behind us. How many more will we have?

Not many.

So we celebrated. I told her this was a big deal in need of a treat and we went out for ice cream.

Losing her first tooth, first daddy/daughter dance, her picking up a book to read for her own leisure, first tryouts, first time driving a car… There are more to look forward to but I can sense they’re slowing down. I don’t want them to end or become less sweet.

I don’t know how many more “firsts” will have her jumping up and down with excitement or pining for ice cream. But I know I’m going to cherish each one.

Fun ways to celebrate your kid's milestones so you can remember and cherish forever.

I’m sharing this story in partnership with Align. See below for additional disclosure.

I have a thing for challenges. Challenges are like a fun competition where everyone wins. In December we did an acts of kindness “challenge” where every day we did a random act of kindness for someone.

We have a photo a day challenge I mostly put on myself, but now that my daughter has her own camera maybe I’ll have her join in. We also have a very ambitious 365 books challenge we’re working on. I’m pinning down a few more ideas for us to try this year. Here’s what I have in mind:

1 . Family workout
My husband is easily the most fit person in our family, and daily workouts are his thing. He often encourages us to join him. My kids love it. Me on the other hand–I sometimes have to be drug into the garage to play along. A family workout challenge would be healthy and fun for everyone to complete.

2. Try something new
It’s so easy to get caught in the day to day routines. From trying a new food, restaurant, sport or skill–Busting out of the ordinary and trying something new together has the potential to be a really fun challenge.

3. Daily Probiotic
I’ve been reading more about probiotics and another great challenge idea is to take a daily family probiotic like Align and Align Jr. which can help support digestive health.*

Align Jr. comes from the makers of Align, the #1 Doctor and Gastroenterologist recommended probiotic brand‡. Align Jr. has no artificial sweeteners and no artificial colors and with continued daily use, helps fortify kids’ digestive systems with a unique healthy bacteria 24/7* with their tasty chewable tablets for kids 6-12.

4. Daily letters
With homeschool my daughter does a lot of handwriting practice (we call it copywriting). She’s usually copying classic poetry but I think it could be fun to take a detour and write letters to friends and relatives. From thank-you notes, to birthday wishes and “thinking of you” cards and pen pals… This is a challenge that could last a while.

Deciding home school

5. Daily Gratitude
We love doing this around Thanksgiving but it’s been something I’ve wanted to try to implement more often through the year. In the morning over breakfast, or at night before bed, just jotting down some of the things we’re grateful for. Recognizing your blessings and expressing gratitude tends to keep me feeling happier all the time.


We’re a family that loves to play and challenge ourselves. That’s why I partnered with Align on this post.

ǂ Among gastroenterologists and doctors who recommended a brand of probiotic in an AlphaImpactRx 2016 Survey.

Align partnered with bloggers, such as me, to get the word out about its great product benefits. As part of this program, I received compensation for my time. Align believes that consumers and bloggers are free to form their own opinions and share them in their own words. Align’s policies align with WOMMA Ethics Code, Federal Trade Commission (FTC) guidelines and social media engagement recommendations.

Hi! I’m Jennifer Borget

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I'm a part-time journalist, full-time wife and mother striving to make the world a better place and inspiring others to do the same. This is the space where I share my journey in making the most of every day.

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