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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).

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.

First Birthday Party Gift Ideas

I went to the birthday party of one of my dearest friends’ daughter this past weekend – her first birthday.  It is a monumental occasion, those first birthdays.  It is a reflection of the past twelve months, of the accomplishments and milestones that have been crossed, of remembering that amazing moment when parent and child first lay eyes on each other.  And, in Addy’s case, it was extra-sweet: she had been born nine weeks early, spent six weeks and NICU and overcame some pretty big obstacles along the way.  Here she was, a year later, diving into a applesauce-sweetened spice cake and smearing pale pink icing from ear to ear (and not necessarily just her own ears!).  Those first birthdays are definitely a major milestone.

It was time to turn on a bit of the think-tank to come up with a present for Addy; after all, there were over forty other people in attendance (don’t freak out – they were all mostly relatives) and all bearing gifts.  Your typical tub toy or outfit wouldn’t hold a candle to this crowd.  So, I sat down and created a list of some ideas for gift-giving to be a little bit “different”.  Because, at a year old, birthdays are more a celebration for the family than a simple party for the child.

1.  Pick a theme: how about a bathtime gift that includes a soft towel (in Addy’s case, pink), a cute kiddo wash cloth and some tear-free bath soap and lotion?  Or, what about an outside play gift with a hat, some sunglasses and sunscreen or bug spray?  A snack basket is also a good idea – fill it with toddler treats and finger foods.  Mom will definitely appreciate it!

2.  Think of the future: U. S. Savings Bonds are EXCELLENT little-kid gifts.  A $50 bond costs $25 and is a great way to invest in a child’s future.  Or, if the parent has a designated account for the future, inquire about how to go about making a contribution.  It is a gift that will last forever (or at least until the child is old enough to use it!).

3.  Membership has its privileges: one of the best gifts I’ve seen given was a year-long membership to the local zoo.  What about a museum or a play area?  Memberships have a wide range of prices, so call around and ask.  It can be something the family has an avid interest in, or perhaps give a membership to something the family hasn’t had the opportunity to explore!

4.  Time and talent: Do you have a special gift, such as painting or sewing?  Perhaps a portrait or a one-of-a-kind quilt is up your alley.  Or, how about offering some “outing time” for the birthday kiddo while Mom and/or Dad get a few moments to breathe?  Having a new face to play with can be a benefit to the parents AND the child.

5.  Pictures last a lifetime: If you’ve been able to capture a few photos of the honoree over the year, making a collage or even an album is a wonderful gift.  Another idea is to collect photos of family and friends and compile them into a touchable, usable album for the birthday child.  Children love looking at pictures of people, and when it is people they know, that’s even sweeter.  And, with the technology of today, make a slideshow and burn it to CD!  It makes a great gift and momento!

What are some innovative and different ideas you’ve done or seen for those amazing first birthdays?  Leave a comment and share!


We spent this weekend in the company of my family.  My parents were in town, as well as my uncle, aunt and cousin from Slovenia.  And, my almost 92 year old grandmother was here as well.

There’s something nice about being around family, especially those you don’t get to see all that often.  And, for the boys, it was a wonderful experience in meeting a great group of people who are a part of their family history.

My grandmother is quite spry for her age.  She has her own house, her own car, drives herself (scary as that sounds, yes), is of VERY sound mind, and doesn’t look a day over 60.  She loves to play with the boys.  This weekend, they had a baseball game going, then it was time to dance to “The Wiggles” and after the pie for dessert, they had time to sit and read together.

It is those little moments that I want to stay with my children for a very, very long time.

A great idea is to share the experiences children have such as these through a product like My PhotoStory.  Take a look at it through the link and see the endless possibilities with this!

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

My favorite photo from our wedding isn’t one that the professional photographer took.  It is a 4×6 snapshot I have in a frame on my desk, taken by a close friend of ours at our reception.  It isn’t anything fancy, no formal pose, just Scott and I, grinning from ear to ear and glancing around at the camera.  A true capture of the moment.

My favorite photos all seem to be that way – ones that were caught off the cuff, in a moment, the blink of an eye so to speak.  My kids walking down a beach on our vacation.  Another one at my parents’ house where the boys were deeply engaged in a conversation over whose turn it was to ride the big wheel.  The picture of my niece and nephew running through my backyard.

Next time you wonder if it is really necessary to take your camera with you, do it.  If you don’t, you might miss out on the picture of a lifetime.

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