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Bridging the Physical Gap for Families

When my older son was little, we lived within 20 minutes of all of our relatives – both sides of the family.  He spent the first four years of his life being immersed in extended family.  But, due to a job change for my husband, we ended up moving about four hours away, creating a huge gap in our families’ lives and our son’s.  We found a way, though, to keep family close while still miles away.

In our new home, we created a “family tree” wall.  We framed pictures of all of our relatives, each person with his or her own individual frame.  And, along the hallway leading to my son’s room, we hung these photos.  Each night, as my son finished his bathroom duties and headed off to bed, we said, “goodnight” to all of our family.  It was (and still is) a wonderful way to keep him in touch with those that were such an intricate part of his first few years.

As an alternative, take a group photo the next time a large number of family are together and frame this.  Keeping it in your child’s room will be a nice way to keep those family members close to your child.  It is a great way to keep loving faces familiar (and names, too).

Birthday Mementos

With each year that passes, I stand in awe at all that my boys accomplish.  I guess what they say is true – time flies when you’re having fun!  At each birthday, though, I want to stop time, take a moment and relish the experience of my child right then, right there.  While that isn’t possible, it is quite easy to “freeze frame” the memory into something tangible.

Here are several ideas to hold on to those precious, fleeting moments as your child grows up.  These are adaptable at any age and are a great way to remember these amazing years.

  • Make a stepping stone.  Stepping stones are quite easy to create.  Craft stores usually sell kits to create one, or you can gather the materials yourself to make your own.  Use either a disposable baking pan (such as a 9 inch square aluminum pan) or, if you want a round stone, use a saucer for a large flower pot (we’ve done this one!).  Purchase a bag of quick-set cement, mix up a batch and pour it in the pan.  After it starts to set, have your child press his or her hands or feet into the cement.  You can decorate it with rocks, colored stones or other objects.  Be sure to use a stick to write the year in the stone as well.
  • Design your own plate – there are some inexpensive kits available for creating a unique design.  My boys have “birthday plates” they created and use on their special day.  Try Plate Works Design Your Own Plate or, for a twist on this idea, why not create a wall clock?
  • Preserve those special birthday cards by creating a unique placemat for your child.  Take a piece of poster board, cut it to an appropriate size for a placemat, and glue special cards to the posterboard.  Cover the entire creation in contact paper to protect it from spills.  Imagine the fun of looking back at neat cards and notes received on birthdays past!
  • Use a kit, such as My Photostory, to chronicle the past year in photos.  This is an awesome tool for preserving those special moments from the past year.  Once the book is completed, it is sent off for production and mailed back in a bound, archival-quality product.  This is a wonderful idea for those milestones, such as the first birthday, turning thirteen, turning eighteen…
  • Create other projects to mark the occasion, such as mugs, wristwatches or a painting.  Another great kit is a calendar kit.  Use a picture or a drawing from each month of the past year to create a special birthday edition calendar for the following year.  Or, use the calendar to record special events from the past year.

Birthdays are a wonderful time to reflect on the amazing growth our children go through.  Marking it with a tangible reminder is a wonderful gift to you and your child!

Collections For Kids – How To Chronicle Those Memories

I know it is hard to believe, but here comes Christmas!  And, with the dawn of the holiday season looming in front of us, it is time for me to get busy on our traditional ornament purchase.

Each year, since the birth of our first son, we purchase an ornament for each child, one that suits their year.  For my older son’s first Christmas, it was an engraved silver cradle (he was 4 months old at the time).  For his second, a glass yellow duckie, just like a bathtub duckie that he loved to chew on and play with.  The following Christmas brought a snowman ornament as we experienced our first snow that year, and then came the line of baseball Santas, soccer Santas, football Santas – whatever the sport du jour was for the year.

With my second son, we honored his first Christmas with the same silver cradle, engraved with his name and birthday.  Each subsequent Christmas brought items similar to his brother’s: a Santa ornament, a tricycle ornament, and last year, a puppy ornament.  Each year marked with a special ornament to help spark those memories of some wonderful occurrance during the year.

It is a tradition in our family, this ornament-of-the-year bit that we’ve started.  And, it makes for a wonderful collection.  Collections can be just about anything.  When I was born, my grandmother started an add-a-pearl necklace for me: each year, she added a pearl until I was eighteen.  When I got married, I wore those pearls with my wedding dress.  It is a sentimental and irreplacable collection of memories of my grandmother as well as memories of each year that the pearls mark. 

What special items, if any, do you collect for your child?  Baseball cards?  Photographs?  Ticket stubs from events?  Share with us some of your favorite ideas for remembering those fleeting childhood days with your children.

Memorial Day – And A Special Gift

Memorial Day around our house typically involves one of the following events: cookout, traveling (usually from a grandparents’ house), swimming, fishing or visiting.  Sometimes, it includes all of these.  Those are the best Memorial Days.

Being a day set aside to remember those who have given their lives for the freedom of our country, Memorial Day holds a special place in my family’s circle.  I have several relatives who have served – uncles, cousins, aunts – and family members who are now gone but were an integral part of different events in history, such as my grandfathers and even further back from that.

After writing about creating a family tree last week, I found an alternative to my idea that is a wonderful way to honor our family on Memorial Day.  Create a photo collage family tree!  Instead of simply writing names and birthdates upon leaves of the tree, add photos of each family member.  It is a wonderful gift to give to a family member, and it is also a super way to keep your younger children in touch with relatives who might not be close by.  The poster can be laminated to protect it from fingers and spills.  This would also be an excellent project to do as a family (especially if the weather turns yucky and you are desperately looking for some indoor fun with the kids!).

Make Memorial Day a time to focus on your family…where you’ve been and where you’re going.

Letters to Travis

My mother-in-law started a project almost 8 years ago that has evolved into an Event each August.  She hand-wrote a letter to her first-born grandson, my son, Travis. 

The letter was a recap of events from his first year and her thoughts and feelings for him.  It ended up being two full pages by the time she finished, transcribed onto some beautiful paper and placed in sheet protectors in a binder.  We placed the binder on the bookshelf in his room, a treasure among his treasures.

Each year, my mother-in-law slips a letter into his binder, a reflection of his year, the feelings she has for him, and the hope she has for him in the ages to come.  Each year, a letter on one or two pages, lovingly written and placed in the binder.  And each year, I sit down and read the letters, from beginning to end, marveling at the growth of my child and the amazing relationship he has with his grandmother.

Composing a letter to a child each year is a small gift with insurmountable meaning.  It is a treasure and a keepsake, a reflection of the past and a hope for the future.  Start a letter binder for that special child in your life.

Consider stepping it up a bit and binding the letters into a book!

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