Someday you’ll forget: 4 memory-keeping ideas for busy parents

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Scrapbook

because-I-said-so-tealWill my kids need therapy when they’re older because I’ve failed to properly document their childhood?

Don’t laugh — it’s a question that has honestly kept me up at night. Sure, I’ve got pictures of their childhood — maybe a thousand pictures per kid, which is approximately 998 more pictures than my parents ever took of me. But the photos are mostly stored on my cell phone, computer and removable hard drive. I have a few stacks of printed photos, but they aren’t yet in albums and they lack context. I don’t have a mommy blog — unless you count that one I started years ago and promptly abandoned — and I totally stink at journaling. You know those amazing one-liners your kids come up with that you swear you’ll never forget? Yeah, I’ve already forgotten those.

My mom was no scrapbooking queen, but she did keep a proper baby album with our more impressive milestones and managed to put together a scrapbook of school photos and certificates for each of us five kids. My kids? So far … they’ve got nothing.

I really want to be better at capturing the magical and not-so-magical moments of childhood. My kids don’t need elaborate scrapbooks that represent a significant investment in Hobby Lobby. But I’d like to give them at least a photo album or two with a few lines of information — surely their journalist mother can produce that.

I know I won’t keep up with anything overly involved or complicated. I need quick, almost effortless solutions. Here are four memory-keeping ideas for busy parents:

1. Take advantage of Instagram

Uploading a few pictures a week to my Instagram feed with a short caption has actually gone a long way in alleviating the guilt that I’m completely failing to document my kids’ lives. True, the pictures are still living in cyberspace, but I’ve recently discovered awesome companies such as Chatbooks that create automatic photo books from your Instagram feed.

2. Get Project Life

This is basically a scrapbook in a box, but you don’t need glue or scissors or creativity, really, to put it together. All you add is your photos and a bit of your time jotting down the memories on journaling cards. This is perfect for those who want the feel of a homemade scrapbook without the huge mess and effort. True confession: I ordered my Project Life kit from the Home Shopping Network, but the kits are now available at craft stores like Michaels and Hobby Lobby.

3. Keep a running log

Keep a dedicated notebook in the kitchen or another central location and make a habit to put pen to paper when your kids spout awesome one-liners or do hilarious things. Write the date with each quote, and if you have more than one child, don’t forget to add a name. You could also start a text or e-mail message thread with your significant other that includes these quotable quotes, or if you’re more tech-savvy add them to a Twitter feed with separate hashtags for each of your children.

4. Go old school

There is nothing wrong with printing off photos, putting them in acid-free photo albums and calling it a day. If you can, include a line or two describing each photo or listing everyone on the photo — because in twenty years all of those babies pictures may look mighty similar.

My kids may still need therapy when they’re older, but at least it won’t be for lack of a childhood photo album.

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Natalie Hollingshead is a former magazine editor turned freelance writer and editor. She writes regularly about home, family, food and travel for a handful of publications, and is co-author of the book "Happy Homemaking” (Cedar Fort, 2012) with Elyssa Andrus. A native of Alberta, Canada, Natalie lives in Orem with her husband and their three children.

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