Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Trip tip: Keep a journal

Life moves so quickly, and with kids, it's life on warped speed. I can remember using a cassette tape to record bedtime stories the first time we left our first baby, now 11 years old.

"What's bedtime without me reading `Goodnight Moon'?" I asked my husband.

"Honey, a 6-month-old will hardly know if it's you or Grandma," he assured.

But I loved the idea of recording traditions, however big or small, and it applies to so many aspects of parenting. Being the record keeper, especially in the memory department, I'm constantly looking for ways to preserve those precious moments in as many ways as possible. We took the kids on a 10-day trip to California, chock full of sightseeing, visits with friends and family, and lots of memories that were sharp in the moment, but would fade over time. I wanted to preserve as much as possible to extend the pleasure for everyone, and to provide a record of a very important time for our family. My tip for fellow moms: Keep a journal, and let everyone participate in writing it.

It doesn't need to be fancy or expensive. In fact, I took along a blank black and white composition notebook – total cost, $1.99. Here are some ideas for fun ways to fill your family journal:

-Itinerary. Up front, I wrote our basic itinerary – I pasted the outline of cities, hotels, restaurants, sights. Each day, I wrote highlights of what we did, where we ate, etc.

-Friends and Family. Believe it or not, we saw 28 family & friends on our 10-day trip, so I also kept a list of those people. You could even make an autograph page and have the folks you visit leave notes for the kids.

-Funny Quotes. We also kept a "funny quotes" page which the kids loved, where we kept track of the offbeat and funny things we said or heard ("Hey, that RV has a mailbox!").

-Handprints. Our kids are relatively young, so this was a fun keepsake. You could also do footprints of really young kids, which makes for giggly fun. We helped each kid trace their hand & illustate a page including their favorite parts, meals, experiences of the trip to put their handprint – literally – in the journal.

-Favorites/Highlights. It was fun to share favorite experiences, and to see what gave the kids the biggest thrills. Our tour of Alcatraz was a universal favorite for a while, until we saw Shamu at Sea World, and I fulfilled a life-long dream of swimming with dolphins. But even the seemingly smaller adventures got lots of votes – throwing a football at sunset on the beach; eating ice cream before dinner; watching seals sunbathe on a pier; driving Lombard – the Crooked Street (three times!); and on and on.

Then, I started writing, and writing. My husband and kids also made entries, so it became a great collaborative effort. With young kids and long days, you end up in hotels with lots of time on your hands, but it's hard to blare the TV or radio when little ones are asleep. It was so fun to curl up in a chair and remember the fun of each day. Plus, on long car rides between our stops, it made for some fun reading & recalling.

We wrote only on the right-hand pages, and I plan to add souvenirs/keepsakes like tickets, brochures, etc. to illustrate the book. I'm the least artistic person you'll ever meet, but this was a fun, simple way to capture and preserve the moments ... together.

Amy Kossoff Smith, Founder of The Business of Motherhood, is a nationally recognized Mompreneur who owns a Web site,, and blog, Available 24/7, just like Moms, the Web sites offer parenting tips, resources, and a host of ways to manage the job of motherhood.

The Business of Motherhood

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