Moments in time: recording family memories

Just a few months later, Clara's already forgotten about this toy. Will I remember the moment in a few years?

Time (the theme for September here at The Happiest Mom) keeps moving along. Kids grow and change so gradually you almost don’t see it happening, yet so quickly that a year goes by in a blur. And you know what happens when you wait too long to record those little moments you thought you’d never forget: one day you realize your son hasn’t lisped in weeks and you can’t quite conjure up the way he used to pronounce “love”, or you can’t remember exactly what your daughter used to call her dolly…before she stopped playing with it altogether last month.

On Monday I published an interview with Gretchen Rubin, where she shared the excellent idea to write a one-sentence journal “so I can hang on to the little memories that would otherwise get forgotten.” As somebody who doesn’t write down my kids’ milestone as often as I’d like because I feel obligated to turn them into long and well-written essays, a one-sentence journal is the perfect solution: no pressure, just grab it and jot it down.

A big part of the challenge of finding a memory-recording method that works for you is realizing which ones don’t work for you. For me, that would be scrapbooking. I tried hard for a while to be a scrapbooker, trying to be like my stepmother Brenda, who regularly churned out thoughtfully narrated and attractively designed books for each member of the family while also keeping up on get-togethers, holidays and vacations.

Sure, it was fun collecting all those pretty papers and little stickers, and I love admiring a well-done scrapbook. But it just wasn’t playing to my strengths: each painstaking page took me an hour, and by the time I was done working, I’d have a crick in my neck, a stiff shoulder and a haphazard page that highlighted my awful handwriting and poor scissoring skills more than it reflected a moment in time with my children.

As I added more kids to the family I did the math. At an hour per page, it would take me approximately 20 hours to document a year of each child’s life. Multiply that 20 times 5 kids, and…well, it became clear that the majority of the photos we took would never see the light of day if I tried to scrap them all. What’s more, I wasn’t enjoying myself. And that’s the true test of any hobby, isn’t it?

Maybe you feel the same way about scrapbooking or have difficulty doing those heartwarming memories justice in written journal entries. I hear you. I asked my Twitter friends for suggestions of unique, fun, and easy ways to commemorate their kids’ lives, and no surprise, they were full of ideas. Here are some of my favorites, with my comments afterward (just FYI, some of the abbreviated twitter-ese has been filled back out, because I know a lot of readers, like me, are old-skool…er, I mean, old-SCHOOL…and like blog posts written in standard English.)

thinkingmonkey: Every so often, I record interviews with my kids. Love the facial expressions and answers to questions about favorite foods, best friends, etc.

seriousabtplay: Yearly we make a video compilation of highlights, friends & school programs. Also write a letter for DD for her to open after she turns 21.

mamacooldog: I create Video Birth Announcements as a job, but think they’re great as a keepsake. Kept on DVD & digitally. For me (not clients) I make tons of short videos. Keep them on my phone and send to grandparents. 1st bike ride video made yesterday!

(Meagan: Love the video ideas! You can go as simple or as complex as you want, and what a great lasting memory of something like the child’s first bike ride. Note to self: keep batteries charged and camera by the back door.)

isekhmet: I like to do digital voice recorder interviews, like the kids were a source for a story.

mbhide: We are old fashioned! We record audio! Songs they sing, jokes they tell 🙂

(Meagan: And audio is even more simple. No need to make sure the kids or parents look presentable. Love the idea to record specific things, like jokes and songs, and interviews!)

treerootandtwig: I have a special box for anything creative they’ve done at school – writing, art, etc. Love to see their talents progress! (Meagan: What I love about this? ANYONE can do it! No need for special equipment or supplies, or specific talent on Mom’s part.)

isabelkallman I’m investing in custom portraits by Etsy artists. Have collected several now over the years. Putting a wall together. You can find great Etsy artist recommendations at Cool Mom Picks. (Meagan: I love this idea—unique, creative, stylish. Look at examples of some seriously amazing portraits of Isabel’s kids here and here).

jenniferswilson: I keep a journal including their words, keep photos organized & share w/ others, @KristinRutten has a Logbook for that. (Meagan: Love that entrepreneurial moms have come up with ideas to help record memories!)

MarthaAndMeBlog: I write a holiday newsletter each year with that year’s events. I don’t send it out though (it’s just for us) and keep them all in a binder. (Meagan: Great idea! Fun, creative, and you can be as braggy as you want without annoying the relatives 🙂 )

babysteph: Invest in a good natural light photography session for the whole family. (Meagan: Great tip. I’ve been meaning for months to set up a family photo session with Jennifer Mayo, a fabulous photographer who covers the Chicago/NW Indiana/SW Michigan area. Thanks for the reminder to get on that, Steph!)

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling inspired to try some of these great ideas. Which ones could you see yourself implementing in your life—and why? And if you’ve got any great memory-saving ideas of your own, of course I’d love to hear those too…please share!


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  1. Kristin Rutten
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