One of my college friends, Susan, is expecting her first baby (a girl!!) later this year and asked for recommendations on how best to record her daughter’s all-too-quick first years—whether there was something I wish I had done (or thankful I did do) with Frances and George. By her own admission, she is private and is unsure if blogging is the way to go.
It was such a great question and one that I had honestly not thought about until she asked … so being that I am (apparently) not a very private person, I wanted to brainstorm my answer on my blog. And I would love to hear from others on their recommendations because I know there is no right way to preserve those lightning-fast first months.
If you have told even one person you are expecting a baby, you are sure to get at least 5 different baby books to help you chronicle that first year. Use them! Or rather, pick your favorite one and fill it up as best you can (and then immediately, without guilt, give the rest to Goodwill; they will be used and loved by other newbie mothers and you won’t have them around as constant reminders that you have failed to fill all of them up with baby memories). Chances are they will all contain similar content (monthly stats—weight, height, etc.; “firsts”—first smile, first tooth, first step; family information—grandparents, great-grandparents, godparents, etc.), so just go with what format you like and think will be the most efficient way to keep up your book.
Both Frances and George had calendar baby books (from Current catalog, I think) which I loved. Twelve months’ worth of information that you personalized starting with the month your baby was born, lots of “firsts” stickers to use on the exact day those events happened (if you have your head together enough to remember; otherwise, feel free to “guestimate!”), and plenty of room for pictures and other memorabilia that you will want to hold onto (hospital bracelets are my favorite). They were very simple, which is what I needed that first year (especially with number 2), but they don’t skimp on both emotional and technical information that you may want to remember for years down the road (i.e., how much did your huge 3-month-old weigh again??).
One last thought on the baby book—try to record memories as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the baby book may become just another stressor in your life of a “to-do” item you have yet to check off. Have it in a handy place (the kitchen is where we kept ours because we seem to be in there most often) and set aside a designated time each week (or day if you’re super organized) to breeze through it and write down anything that’s recently happened. Of course, I would also avoid the “all or nothing” mentality—don’t stop writing things down because you missed a month or two. It’s okay; just pick up again where you left off and go back later if you can.
If you have read my blog, you know I am anti-clutter to a fault (I have a standing weekly appointment at the Goodwill donation center). But even I recognize the importance of keeping those irreplaceable items for no other reason than because they mean the world to you—baby shoes, first pacifier, first tooth. So I have a memory box for each child (two now for Frances) that I use to store those little treasures. I have to weed out a lot, which is hard; but one box every four years seems reasonable. I want Frances and George to have memories of their childhood—but not an entire basement full.
Before I started blogging, Will was the family photographer and I am so very, very thankful that he was. In that first year, particularly those first six months, your baby will change in ways you won’t even believe. Take lots and lots of pictures—you will never regret it. In fact, I would shy away from blogging during the first year anyway (especially if you’re already wary of it) because most of the changes occurring in your baby are visual (pictures) or can be captured in the baby book.
Some of my greatest joys have come from looking back on candid pictures of Frances and George as babies—I can almost still feel them in my arms when I scroll through the images on our computer. That time goes quickly as it is; I would just try and capture them on film as much as possible.
Three thoughts that piggyback on the picture recommendation:
1) Have an organized system on your computer to store your pictures;
We keep ours in a chronological month/year format (i.e., October 2008; November 2008, etc.). It’s not a perfect system for recalling pictures if you can’t remember the exact month you took it, but you can almost always remember the season and the year (let’s hope) and start from there. We do designate folders for special occasions like beach trips (“Sandbridge 2010”) and other vacations (“Spain 2012” – woot!), but keep those folders in the same chronological order as the other pictures.
2) Get a good camera or cell phone with a decent camera that will inspire you to take pictures;
I don’t mean that you have to spend $700+ on the latest Canon SLR camera—in fact, I wouldn’t do that. The more portable the camera the better because when you have a diaper bag, a car seat, a stroller, a purse, and a baby to lug around the last thing you want is a big, heavy camera. You want something that you can take easily out of one of the five bags you are carrying and snap a few pictures of your first outing to the park, first dip in the pool, or first visit with the cousins.
Since getting my iPhone last fall, it has unintentionally become my daily camera for candid shots (because I always have it with me), but I still use my regular camera (a Canon G12) for special occasions and trips because I feel like I have more control over what the pictures look like.
3) Download pictures as soon as possible.
There is nothing more intimidating than a digital camera or phone with over 600 pictures patiently stored in the memory card and waiting for their instructions. Download as frequently as possible, store them in the month/year folder, print out your favorites for updating your frames, and delete the memory card (along those lines, I highly recommend a backup system for your pictures—CDs, iCloud, or something similar).
|I use Walgreen's website to print out most of my pictures for next to nothing and hang them around the house.|
I credit Will (and Apple computer) 100% with the idea of making video montages of the first years with Frances and George. They take some time, but they are by far my favorite way of capturing their childhood—those early newborn movements, the toddler giggle, their sibling playtimes. Sight, sound, and music—the perfect combination.
Frances's 1st year
George's 1st year
If you have the patience (and a Mac), I highly recommend learning how to make these videos. The program itself is very user friendly; the hard part is narrowing down pictures, video clips and music choices. Will’s videos tend to be long (which I love), but you can make them as short as you’d like.
Some of my favorite shorter videos ...
Frances counting to ten in Spanish
Frances and George and their endless energy
As they have gotten older, blogging has been my favorite way of preserving their childhood. It doesn’t have to be a public blog either (like mine); you can make the settings for invited readers only (which I better be one, Missy, should you go that route : )). My motivation behind blogging has changed over these last two years:
· My blog started as a way for me to keep myself mentally stimulated after coming from a highly verbal profession (lawyer) to a highly emotional one (full-time mother). There is no doubt, it still meets that goal; although as it turns out, this new profession is plenty mentally stimulating as it is.
· My parents, Will’s parents, our extended family, and our friends have all been able to keep up with Frances and George on a nearly daily basis. I’ve had many people tell me they feel like they know my children even though they haven’t seen them in a year or so (or ever!)—I never get tired of hearing that. If I can capture their personalities in writing and share them with those that mean the most to me, my mission is accomplished.
· Will has been good about printing out my blog every year for my “surprise” Christmas present and I couldn’t be happier. I’m not a scrapbooker (but if you are, this is another excellent way to keep memories!), so to have a hard copy of my blog is simply priceless.
Should you decide to start a blog, my one suggestion is to have a good schedule for writing and stick to it. I post something every-other day (usually) and that has worked for me—but, of course, this is part of “my job.” If you work outside the home, once a week or three times a month might be more doable. Like anything else, if you don’t do it regularly you run the risk of always playing catch-up with your posts (Christmas pictures in April, while adorable, don’t always capture the spirit of the season).
What we wish we had done
I talked with Will about this one and we came up with two thoughts:
· 1) Do a better job of annual handprint images (ceramic or even finger paint). We don’t have any of these, except those they did in preschool that aren’t great quality. Looking back, it would be nice to have a handprint from each year (maybe on their birthday). Those little hands aren’t so little anymore (*sob!*).
· 2) Date, date, date everything. For these last two years, France especially has taken an interest in art and writing/reading. Needless to say we have a lot of homemade treasures floating around the house and some of them have been so great I have framed and hung them in various rooms. Unfortunately, I failed to put the date they were made anywhere on them. This is one of the “Truths of Parenthood”—you always think you will remember everything about a certain age (8 months; 2 ½ years; etc.) because at the time, it is the greatest age yet. But you never remember. So, put a date on it and you don’t have to!
|Kid art in the guest room|
|One of my favorites by Frances--an owl--so recent that I have yet to hang it on the wall.|
And, I think I’m finally done! I know other parents have different (and probably better) suggestions on how to record keep, so I would love to hear from anyone—I know Susan would appreciate it as well.
Thanks again, Susan, for the great question. Here's to a happy and healthy pregnancy! And a happy Saturday to everyone!