Stage-by-stage tips for documenting your child's life

Life is short. Time flies. This year is flying by. Where does the time go?

It seems to me that the older I get the more those phrases come flying out of my mouth. Admittedly time and how fast it’s cruising by popped onto my radar with a vengeance once my daughter was born. All of a sudden there was this little being who was growing and changing by leaps and bounds daily; she became a vivid reminder of how precious and fluid time really is. Often the question rolling through our sleep deprived minds is, how best to document their beautiful existence?

There are so many tools at our disposal, scrapbooks, baby books, photo albums, school memory books, journals…I’m getting overwhelmed just thinking about it (and all that I haven’t done past that blessed first year when you can’t go too far wrong). Now, rumor has it that documenting of any kind gets increasingly difficult when you add more children to the mix. I might be mama to an only child, but I totally believe that. I gave a solid effort of scrapbooking the lives of my nieces and nephews for the first couple years of their lives. I sort of made it to number five. (I have eight nieces and nephews, so...)

So rather than beating ourselves up over what has yet to be done, let’s look at what we can do and how to make the goal of documenting our children’s lives a little more attainable.

Before we dive into the various books and such, let me just say this: Take pictures. Take oodles and oodles of pictures – especially during the early years, kids change so much and so quickly – you probably won’t regret taking a picture, but you will regret the one that you didn’t take. Especially in this digital age where you have total control over which pictures get printed or not; just take the pictures, you’re not exactly wasting film anymore.

Birth-12 months: The obvious choice here is the baby book. Pages with statements just waiting for you to fill in, the occasional picture placement and voila, you’re good to go. Referring back to the trickiness of finding the time with subsequent children, I will only say this to you: If you had a baby book for your first child, you’ve got to for the rest. As the baby of the family, trust me when I tell you how much it has always meant to me that my mom had a baby book filled out for ALL of us.

Solution to the busy, exhausted mom who doesn’t have time to fill in her fourth baby book: become one with your calendar. Jot down the specials that will eventually find its way into the baby book – first time rolling over, sitting up, eating solids, steps, teeth…You can always refer back to the calendar later to fill in the baby book.

Toddler years: Once your kiddo starts talking, it’s time to start the memory journal, or to establish some method of tracking their ridiculous cuteness. You think you won’t forget those adorable little gems that come falling from their mouths, but time marches on and life fills in, so write it down. I’ve got my toddler Abby-isms on the computer, in notebooks…You name it they’re somewhere, and someday I will actually get them in one place and into a book of some kind. But for now, I feel totally accomplished that they at least exist. Baby steps.

Remember how scrapbooking was so huge for awhile? Well, let me tell you this, having your pictures in a slide-in-the-spot photo album is just as special as having them on a page all bedazzled, but with the added bonus of not being so time consuming. (And, I'm just going to say it, if ever you're making some kind of video and you need to scan photos, it's infinitely easier to use this type of photo versus one that has been re-shaped/specially cut and tightly secured to a scrapbook page). My personal vote is to get the albums that you can not only slide the picture in, but there is a little spot on the side that allows you to caption the photo.

Preschool years: If your kiddo goes to preschool you will find yourself with the first influx of school papers and crafts. For those items we graduated to an adapted scrapbook. I got a book that has the clear plastic pockets – all I had to do was slide in our favorite creations and papers for the year, and there we had it.

We also started our “School Memories Book" at this point, which takes minimal time in the land of upkeep. A few questions you fill in with the help of your little one, a handwriting sample from them (love that!), a place for the class photo, her photo, and a pocket for any specials you want to save.

School years: Now that my kiddo is in kindergarten I’ve been working to get on board with a daily journal written to her (Update: Daily how adorable). Some entries are as short as something funny she did or said that day, while others are longer “love notes” to her. Essentially it is The Story of Us. My plan is to add pictures occasionally and to just keep creating journals as the years go by.

And finally, in this day and age of always advancing technology and blogs and "vlogs," take a page out of the former Disney Channel series Good Luck Charlie and consider creating a video journal for your kiddo.

I definitely don’t have all of the answers, and I’m certainly not as caught up as I’d like to be, but more often than not, it’s all about the baby steps.

What tricks have you discovered to help you keep up with all of the memory books, albums, and pictures?

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