How to Document This Time in History for Your Family — Part 2: A Family Journal

This post is a continuation of a post I wrote a few weeks ago that was inspired by the quote below:

After publishing that first post, I decided that the age of my kids (five and 18 months) should have no bearing on our ability to put together a family journal of our lives during this significant time in the history of the world. I have no experience with pandemics, but if there’s one thing I’d dare to call myself an expert in, it’s journaling.

So three weeks ago, I pulled my bin of blank books out of the storage closet, picked out a spiral-bound one that’s perfect for the job, and got started. The buy-in from the kids began with letting them decorate the cover with some awesomely appropriate stickers that just happened to be in the bin (thanks, Mount Inspiration!).

Family Journal cover
Our kids decorating the Family Journal cover.

Since we were already a week into our social distancing experience, I decided to leave a bunch of pages blank at the beginning of the book to cover those dates with photo memories. Then I ordered some free prints from Shutterfly. They arrived a couple of days later and I didn’t worry about details or exact chronology, I just taped them in, added a few captions and viola, we were all caught up! We’ll probably decorate them with drawings or stickers later, but the important part is done.

Sample photo page from St. Patrick’s Day.

The next thing I did was ask my son to draw a picture of our family on the front cover, which is, of course, my favorite page – especially the giant heart next to us that he’s so proud of. That evening, I got him to come up with the sentences for our first entry. I wrote them down on paper and since he was excited about learning how to type, he even copied them into a Google Doc.

First page of our Family Journal.

Later that night, I printed them out and taped them in. I also taped in a cute letter he drew us before bed. The next day, he happened to stumble into a passion for drawing cartoons step-by-step from YouTube videos, so I asked him if I could put one in our journal. To my delight, he was proud to have it in there and has since given me a bunch more hand-drawn creations to include. In fact, every time he makes something he loves, he says, “Let’s put it in the journal”. He opens the book every few days to flip through it and see what’s been added. And yesterday, I caught him showing it to his baby sister. A boy after my own heart.

Yoda and Monster. By Brayden.
Hand prints and journal entry.

Essentially, the first half of the book (from front to back) is for chronicling our experiences as a family. In addition to the written entries, we’re including things like photos, notes, letters, drawings, hand prints – you name it. Anything we want! Sometimes the kids help me, sometimes they don’t. I try to write a couple of sentences every evening before bed, but sometimes I forget. Does it matter? No! If we miss a few days, I write about them later (if there’s something I want to include) and just tell it like it is: “The past few days have been crazy around here, so we forgot to write!” Whatever is going on, I just try to be honest about it and don’t put any pressure on myself to write every day or make it seem like we’re having the ‘perfect’ pandemic experience. The unexpected perk of taking a few minutes to jot something down before bed is that it forces me to end the day on a positive note. I want this part of the journal to be something I can read with our kids now and as they get older, and I want it to reflect the best of this experience. I want them to see our team turning lemons into lemonade.

Letters we put in the mail last month.

My next plan is to start working on is some quick, fun lists:

  • Post-Corona Things We Can’t Wait To Do List 
  • Songs, TV Shows & YouTube Channels We Like
  • What Mommy & Daddy Did to Stay Sane
  • Things We Learned While We Were At Home

But getting back to keeping it real, I also decided that the journal wouldn’t be complete without a section of entries from an adult perspective to an adult reader (the kids when they’re older): what I’m affectionately referring to as “The Mama Notes”. If you read our book from back to front, you’ll find a few longer entries about what’s really been going on around here. Sometimes I write letters. Other times I print emails or articles or Facebook posts and put them inside envelopes I tape to the pages. The next thing on my list to include is excerpts from my Social Distancing Diary, aka the Google Doc I keep open on my kitchen counter to vent my frustrations and keep me company while I’m alone all day with the kids.

Envelope with Entry 1 from The Mama Notes.

In essence, I’m incorporating whatever I think will help paint the most vivid picture of this time in history for our family. My goal is twofold: I’d like it to be fun to flip through the pages with the kids as they get older, but I would also like our Family Journal to serve as a helpful resource for dealing with whatever challenging times may lie ahead for our children or grandchildren. Through this unique lens, I want to help our children get to know who we are as a family and how we work together in times of struggle. They’ll be able to find all the statistics, media footage and commentary online, but what I believe will better serve them in the future is knowing how their parents prepared, how they reacted to events unfolding around them and what they did to protect themselves, their loved ones and their community.

Want to get started on creating your own Family Journal?

Here are a few quick tips:

  • Choose a spiral bound book if you can. The flexible binding allows you to glue fun stuff like art work and puffy stickers in without losing the ability to close the book properly.
  • To get started now, just leave a few blank pages at the beginning for some kind of summary or photo collage of the first few weeks – then jump right in. If you’ve been writing or posting on social media at all the past few weeks, you’ve already got more content than you realize. Just print some of that stuff out and put it in. The longer you wait to start, the less likely you are to do it.
  • Use tape loops on the back of photos instead of glue. Glue makes the pages bumpy and the corners of the photos pop off when you turn the pages.
  • Tape an envelope to the last page of the book or the inside of the back cover for anything you might want to include later.
  • Forget perfectionism, just make it fun. Your family will thank you!

Already have your own Family Journal? Please share your pics or ideas in the comments below, along with any suggestions you have for our book. We would love to hear from you!

One thought on “How to Document This Time in History for Your Family — Part 2: A Family Journal

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  1. Wow! April I am so impressed! I do love that idea and have not done anything so far besides taking photos and videos that capture this time- just on the hamster wheel of cooking, cleaning, playing, fighting and laughing. I did start asking 3 questions in the morning and 2 at night from my 5 minute gratitude journal, I just sent it to you via text.

    Thanks for the inspiration! I am off to magic some easter magic… would love to catch up soon! Thinking of you and sending good vibes your way- you are such a stellar mama!!

    On Fri, Apr 10, 2020 at 1:04 PM In Word & Upward. wrote:

    > @ In Word and Upward. posted: ” This post is a continuation of a post I > wrote a few weeks ago that was inspired by the quote below: After > publishing that first post, I decided that the age of my kids (five and 18 > months) should have no bearing on our ability to put together a f” >

    Like

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