I feel like I’m constantly behind on a million things I want to do…but maybe that’s just life with kids? Lately I’m obsessed with wanting to write things down for my kids so they have documented memories forever. I think a lot of it has to do with how much Marlowe is changing, and how big Jenson is getting. Marlowe is in the stage of becoming a little girl – so verbal and discovering new things constantly – and Jenson is such a big boy now! I’m still amazed with how his mind works and how intuitive and empathetic he is. He’s so sweet and listens pretty well unless he and Marlowe are feeding off each other’s crazy behavior.
So anyway, time is passing by and I want to remember everything – every look, every sweet thing they say, each expression. Impossible, but I shall try.
The easiest way for me to keep track of the small details that I’ll forget, is by jotting them down on a basic calendar hanging on the kitchen wall. I use to write down what we have going on, plus milestones and funny things they say or do at the top on the memo lines. Some people prefer electronic calendars, but I’ve never been good at updating – even when I needed to for work. I like this one because the top page has lines where I can write these things down. These calendars have been instrumental in helping me fill out the books when I’m months behind!
Baby books and memories
I’ve finally completed Jenson’s pregnancy journal, baby book and caught up his birthday book. I’ve finished Marlowe’s 1st year calendar, my pregnancy journal for her, and have nearly completed her baby book (if I get it done before age 2, I’m okay with it). I still need to update her birthday book with her 1st birthday, though some of this is documented in her baby book. (I’ve linked to all of the various books in case you’re on the hunt) Unfortunately I’ve fallen off track with posting monthly updates about Marlowe, like I did with Jenson’s first 2 years. It’s a bummer because 12 months – 2 years are some of the months with the biggest changes for babies! I hate that most baby books only go to 12 months (with 1 page for subsequent birthdays, etc). There’s so much to document for toddler years! Marlowe wasn’t even walking at 12 months and now she’s a rambunctious, opinionated, and sweet little girl. There really aren’t any good “Toddler books” that capture all of the milestones, the funny things they say, special trips and holidays, etc. Marlowe’s birthday book has a page or two where you record info from that year, so that’s better than nothing.
I have thought so much about wanting to write one, but…time. Meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out the best way to make one for my kids. Luckily I have a great memory and between the blog, a paper calendar on which I write things, and a million photos, I’m able to remember much of Jenson’s toddler years. I even have the plans for how I want to set one up, but just haven’t found quite the right format/book I want to use for it. I bought a scrapbook album and am going to see if I can make that work.
I actually print photos for albums because I’m a big believer in photos that you can hold. I loved looking through photo albums growing up. I’m not a fan of photo books because no matter how easy people say certain companies are to set up, I never find them easy – or perhaps I want things more customized/organized. I’ve finally put their professional photos in separate albums for each of them (minus the last photo shoot), and I’m starting to sort photos and decide which ones I want to put in albums versus just keep in photo boxes. After being obsessed with finding the “right” album I was looking for, I bought a buuuuuunch of albums at Costco when they had them on clearance for $10 for 2 albums – they are close to what I was looking for, size and format-wise, so I was pretty happy about that. Pretty sure Lo was like ‘WTF’ when I kept bringing these home. They sell on similar ones on Amazon for about $16 for one album, so $10 for 2 couldn’t be passed up. After I bought the first few, I ended up going back and buying all of the black ones they had left. I’ve done a pretty good job at printing photos when I see photo sales. I store all of my photos on my computer in individual monthly sub-folders, organized in yearly folders. I go through and edit the ones I’m keeping (which takes the longest), and then create a subfolder labeled “print” for that month, where I copy the ones I want to print. I try to keep it to 100 photos per month (which may seem crazy, but some months have have 800 edited photos that I keep on the computer).
Sales on photo printing sites are usually for 100 free (pay shipping) or 1-cent, 5-cent photos, etc., so sticking to that number makes it easy to print the whole month at once and keep track of what I printed. I only print in matte (I hate glossy), so most of my orders are mail-order where matte is available (or Costco). I typically use Shutterfly, Snapfish, York, or Amazon. Amazon is the cheapest option if the others aren’t offering deals – shipping is free, which is where the other companies screw you. Once I print the photos I want for that month, I change the subfolder to “printed (the month) (the company I used)”. When the photos come, I label the envelop with the month and year and put them in a storage container. Maybe someday I’ll be caught up and can put them right into an album (hahaha).
I have several books that are question and answer format or prompts, etc. that are for collecting memories about my childhood, their childhood, and everything in between (I’ll list these below in case you’re looking for some good ones). I’ve been making an effort to fill in a page here and there during nap time, otherwise they’ll never get done.
I have over 100 posts sitting in draft form for this site – plenty of which are probably out of date and irrelevant now. I don’t get to publish on this site nearly as much as I’d like, because I have to focus on the website that makes me a little money – Columbus on the Cheap. Even though I’ve now failed at monthly, or even quarterly updates of the kids, I have posted a few “what we’re up to” posts in the past year that give a sense of our life.
Apps I use for memories and photos
There are plenty of apps that can help keep you keep track of memories and photos of kids. Before you pick one, make sure you know what kind of options you have for saving the info or printing it out, as apps can disappear or change at any time.
- Qeepsake: I get a text message everyday asking a question about Jenson or Marlowe. These can be printed in a book that they organize, but it’s a little pricey. You can also log in via computer to fill out the answers, and can copy and paste if you want to back these up. To be honest, even with a text message at a time I designate, I often forget to respond (shows how much of a fan I am of texting/phones in general). Luckily, you can go back and answer the questions you miss. You can also text memories and photos that you want to save outside of the questions you ask, which I rarely take advantage of, but should. This is a great option for people who are fans of texting, and receiving the daily texts are good for people who aren’t! There is a free version, where you’ll get 1 question a week – or paid versions where you get more than that for up to $7/month. I opted for Qeepsake plus for daily texts, but the free or less frequent ones would be sufficient for people who are good at texting in random memories and photos.
- Recently: Similar to a photo book, this is a monthly “magazine” album that is printed from my iPhone photos for about $10/month. You can choose 50-100 of your favorite photos for the book. The pages are thick cardstock. It’s a good way to keep a monthly album of what’s happening in your life. It wouldn’t be that much more to print off 100 photos and keep them in an album, but as I know, that’s easier said than done. I can organize and order this book in 20 minutes.
Books I have to document memories:
- Pregnancy book for Jenson: The Belly Book – this one is nice because it isn’t too serious and has short prompts.
- Baby book for Jenson: My Baby Book – From the same line as the Belly Book. Good enough prompts…short and sweet.
- Birthday book for Jenson: Your Birthday Book – Same line as the other two and just as good. They are all a little cheeky, but it’s better than too cheesy.
- Toddler Memory Book for Jenson: The Next 1000 Days – I though this would be the answer to my lack of Toddler book problem, but I just don’t really like it. I still give credit for being the only one that exists, but it could be improved greatly. The first issue is that it starts at Year 2, even though most baby books only go until 12 months. Its actually because they have one called The First 1000 Days as the first book you are supposed to use, and then start this one at 2 years. Since I didn’t do that, it doesn’t quite work for me. What I don’t like most about it is the prompts. They are really open-ended and vague…basically just a title on the page and you add whatever you want. For example, in Year 2, one page is called “Tractor Rides”. It’s basically open to interpretation of what you want to include, but its too vague for me. Do I take it literally, or do I just make something up? Another is called “Flowers I Picked” What? The drawn photos are kind of ugly too. It does have some redeeming prompts – especially in the later years, but not what I’m looking for.
- Pregnancy book for Marlowe: Pearhead Pregnancy Journal – This one is okay, though I wouldn’t pick it for a second time mom. It asks lots of questions that aren’t really applicable for a second pregnancy – like advice from your doctor about what you should eat, etc. The second time around, things are a little different. You need less advice and kind of know what you’re doing. It had reference pages to help you decide what you need to buy (and we already had all of that). The questions were kind of repetitive. It was just a little boring to me. By the time I realized that, it seemed too late to buy a different one.
- Baby book for Marlowe: CR Gibson First 5 Years Memory Book The 5 year thing is a little misleading, as the subsequent years after the first are really just one page around their birthday. However, compared to other baby books, I do like the layout and the appearance. It captures all of the right memories and allows for some additions of whatever is important to you. I don’t love the order of pages, but that seems to be a problem with all of the books I’ve looked at.
- Baby Calendar for Marlowe: CR Gibson First Year Calendar (pictured with her baby book above) This matches the baby book and has spaces for monthly update at the top of the calendar, stickers for milestones, firsts, holidays. It’s a quick way to keep up with all of that stuff if you leave this hanging up somewhere you’ll see it for when you aren’t going to grab out the baby book to jot things down. Unfortunately I didn’t have it hanging most of the time, so just had to copy the info from my regular calendar when it came down to it.
- Birthday book for Marlowe: It’s My Birthday: A Celebration of my First 18 Years – I really hadn’t looked too much at this until recently, and I really, really like it. It goes through age 18 (I believe) and it includes a couple of pages for each year – including info about the child, interviews with the child, etc. Basically, it’s more complete at capturing the details past year 1 than any of the other baby books. It’s ring bound too, so I think I could add pages if I wanted. The pages that come are a little smaller than 8×11, so I’m not sure how it would look though.
- Mommy’s 5 Second Journal: This little book has cute short prompts that take just seconds to fill out. I just open the book and fill out whatever page I land on.
- Letters to my Children: A friend gifted these to me – it’s a little booklet of 12 pages with prompts to write letters to your child. Each one folds up into an envelop that you date and seal with a date to be opened. Instead of marking exact “open” dates, I write to open at specific times in their lives (“when you are starting a family” “when you need me”, etc.). I’ve done about 3 for each of them so far. I also have blank journals for which I have hopes of writing them other letters through the years…you know, because I don’t have enough books in which to include memories.
- Mom, Tell me One More Story: I don’t remember how I found these books, but I love them. There are different questions/prompts on each page that cover specific times from my life, our marriage, the kids’ lives as they grow up. It’s pretty thorough and impressive for $12. There are other formats too: “Dad, Tell me”, Grandparent options, Share you life with me, etc.
- Memories from Your Mother (Paragon Books). I picked this up at Aldi around Mother’s Day for about $7. It has questions to answer about different parts of our life. I haven’t really looked closely at it or written in it yet. It appears to be out of print, but you can find it as a resell online – just make sure it’s a new copy.
- Our Family, Past and Present Another book that I picked up at Aldi, and very similar to the one above. They only had one of that, so I got this one too so I could fill out one for each. I can’t find it online in a quick search though.
- Yearly calendar from Amazon: I use to write down what we have going on, plus milestones and funny things they say or do at the top on the memo lines. Some people prefer electronic calendars, but I’ve never been good at updating – even when I needed to for work. I like this one because the top page has lines where I can write these things down.