Monday, July 25, 2011

Documenting Your Kids' Lives

When my brother and I were little, my mom filled journals with the funny things we said and the milestones that we reached. When we were a little older, she would read us the funny stories. I cherish these journals.

Now that I'm a mom myself, I want my kids to feel as special as I did when my mom would read to me from her journal. And these days, there are so many ways to record our memories and document our childrens' lives, that it can be downright overwhelming.

A few of my favorites are below.

Memory Box
In my opinion, no matter how you record your memories, you also will want to include a memory box. I have a plastic box with a lid in each child's closet. I periodically toss in items that are special - cards they receive, the outfit they wore home from the hospital, Miles's preemie diapers to show how small he was... you get the idea.

Traditional Baby Books
It worked for our parents, right? Well, sort of. My older brother's baby book is full - complete with locks of hair from his first haircut and pictures pasted in from every month of his first year. My book? I think my name is written on the cover, and that's all.

I had high hopes for a baby book when Miles was born, but I quickly realized that I didn't want to conform to someone else's ideas of what I should record and what I shouldn't. And who can handle printing all those pictures?

Journals or Diaries
If you love to write, tracking favorite stories or funny things your kids said in a journal is a great way to document their lives. You could always paste in a favorite photo here and there or tuck in one of your favorite art projects. Ideally you'd be disciplined enough to track things on a fairly regular basis (kids change so quickly!) but even just a few stories and quotes can be meaningful when your kids are grown.

Facebook
If you're someone that updates their status regularly, you might already be documenting your child's life. Take a look at your wall and go back a year or two. Chances are you've already recorded that first step, first word, first haircut - and all the funny things they've said since. You can always print your wall or take screenshots for a paper record.

Blogs
An obvious option is to start a blog. Blogger offers free blogs, and you don't need to know a thing about HTML to get started. Blogs are a great way for you to post your favorite photos, videos and stories that you don't want to forget. They're also a great way to share your life with out-of-town family and friends.

If you're nervous about posting information on the web, you can password protect your blog and only allow certain people to view it. You can also protect your children by using their first initial or making up fake names for them on the blog.

My favorite thing about using blogs as baby books is that with a click of a button, you can turn your blog into a book. Blurb.com is my favorite tool for doing this. You download their software, follow the easy step-by-step instructions, and your blog becomes a book - pictures and all. You can customize the cover and order it in hard cover or paperback - and it's not overly expensive. This would be a great thing to do once a year or so as a special gift for your child.

Photo Books
It seems that every photo software program lets you create your own photo books these days. It's a great annual project to document your lives. It's also a great way to remember a specific vacation or special birthday since the photo books can be short and sweet too.

Monthly Letters
Writing a letter to your child each month can be a fun way to record what's happening in their lives and in yours. Whether you send it to them in an email, write it in a journal, print it for their baby book or memory box or post it on your blog, it's truly a special gift for your child.

Annual Keepsakes
A friend of mine paints an ornament for each of her children during the holidays to symbolize one big thing that happened during the past year. For one child it might be starting kindergarten, for another it might be learning to ride a bike. The ornaments become part of the family tradition and will be keepsakes for years to come.

I can't paint, but I write a book about our family each year. I include all of the major things that happened, and I mail them to our friends and family as holiday cards. I also print one for each child and toss it in their memory box. (Click here to see the books I've written so far.)

Email
Create a free email account for your child and send them emails throughout their lives. You can attach pictures, tell funny stories, include videos - whatever you want. And one day - when you decide it's time - you give your child the password to read every email you've sent them throughout their lives. How amazing is that?

I know I've barely scratched the surface here. How do you record your family's memories?

Anna Luther, mother of three

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