Family Yearbooks

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

One of the true joys in my motherhood is creating our family yearbook. I understand this is incredibly nerdy, but it offers me a huge outlet for creativity and the preservation of our yearly memories gives me so much peace.

We live in an odd time for childhood (hah, that's the understatement of the century!) but particularly when it comes to capturing memories. People are taking pictures of ev.ery.thing.all.the.time. and then snapping or 'gramming or tweeting them - but where do they all go? How often are we going back to look at these moments, or having them printed somewhere for the kids to enjoy?

Our family yearbooks are some of my most prized possessions (truly! I say that if our house was burning down besides living things - our yearbooks is what I would save). The kids love looking back at them, especially the ones from the years they were born and spend the whole time calling out, "Oh! Remember this?" to each other. It is such a treasure of all the smiles and moments that make us this blur of a life; we pack so much into the year that often times Brandon and I can't recall a single thing we actually did. And then we all look back through the yearbooks and snuggle up a little closer because we can see it right there - in the smile laughs of those we love most - we really made the year count. We keep them all easily accessible in the living room and they are a favorite choice for screen free indoor time.

I have a family yearbook from 2010 (the year we had Grey) up until 2017-18 (last school year) and this is the first summer in the history of my project that I am up to date on the current yearbook! By the start of the new school year, I will finish last year's yearbook (Sept2018-Aug2019) and be able to start the new one!

So how does one start a family yearbook project, you ask? I have written about it before here and here  and here- but I would suggest you start where you are; in this year! When I started, it was 2012 (we actually have 2 yearbooks that year because I was just learning how and really included way more than necessary). Then I went back and worked on previous years which was a lot harder because my photos were all over and unorganized. Speaking of photos - that's the first step...

Photos: this past year was the first year that every picture in the yearbook is from a phone - I did not pull out my 'real' camera once (!!) I have a google pixel that takes beautiful pictures and then automatically backs them up to my google drive, which is also linked to my shutterfly. The ease of not having to upload pictures is nothing short of miraculous.

I take photos all year long of big events and normal every day things. It helps that I write a weekly Around Here post for my blog because that holds me accountable to capturing even the 'boring' things we do that really make the yearbook meaningful in later years when it highlights all the tiny things that made our life full during the year that our kids were exactly that age.

And then really, once you have the photos - the rest can be as easy or challenging as you want. There are some awesome companies out there that will do ALL the work for you. You just dump all your photos in and they take care of the organization and layout, then you print that sucker! Do a search, read some reviews, and you'll have an idea in no time.

Me? I like to go the challenging route of choosing each border, sticker, and layout design for each page. Thanks former life as a high school yearbook staff member (Hi, Mrs. McBreen!) I love the creativity and design that goes into each page - so I pour my heart into all the little details and re-sizing of photos. It is major geek town, but it brings me joy.

Read on for more info on how I put our yearbooks together (all photos are from our current yearbook that is in progress, so some pages having missing photos yet!).

You definitely do not have to put the time and meticulous effort that I do, but I think a family yearbook is a worthwhile investment no matter how much time you put into it. It is meaningful for the whole family, and I can promise that remembering those moments with your kiddos while looking through the photos will bring you a lot of gratitude and happiness.

The skinny on Team Studer family yearbooks:
Company used: Shutterfly photo books
Size: 12x12 flat lay pages
Timeframe: September-August (school year)
Photos: 1000 (or close to it)
Pages: 90-95

Layout: most of my yearbooks use the format below which makes it easy to follow for creation purposes but also for using the max amount of pictures in the least amount of pages. (when I first started creating our yearbooks when our kids were younger than school age, I organized by moths of the year).

Introduction Pages 

  • Dad & Mom - including questions that we answer each year (what meals were our family favorites, what #parentingfail happened, our favorite memory from the year, etc)
  • Kid photo page (12 photos each of just their faces from the whole year)
  • Pets page 

The rest of the book is then organized by category based off of the same seven questions. After years of looking through our photos and figuring out a way that I can get as many photos in the book in an organized way in the least amount of pages, working through these categories/questions helped me so much. Each question has it's own "title page" that includes some photos that also fit into that category.

What was it like to live in our home this year? 
photos on title page: random little moments from normal life (sunrise/sunset from our porch, kid doing homework at the kitchen table, kids in the bathtub, snacks, etc)

  • Big 'ole Snugs (hugs and no personal space couches)
  • Indoor & Outdoor playtime
  • Kids who are growing up (responsibilities, chores, cooking, etc)
  • Kids who are silly (silly photos)
  • Bumps & Bruises (literal, and life challenges)
  • Upgrades (home reno, new vehicles, new haircuts, home projects, etc)

With whom did we spend our days?
photos on title page: any picture with anyone!

  • Siblings 
  • Just Us
  • Family
  • Friends

What milestones did we accomplish?
photos on title page: first time events (a kid at the dentist), a kid with a trophy/ribbon, a good test score, a piece of artwork, etc

  • Parent work accomplishment/Teaching year
  • Kids in their grade levels (including a preschool page)
  • Races
  • Competitive/All Star sports/Shows (not regular season stuff)
  • Volunteer group pages
  • Religious events (baptism/holy communion)
  • First time/year events (raising chickens in 2018)

What gave us cause to celebrate?
photos on title page: parties, new baby visits, graduations

  • Birthdays (for friends/family)
  • Our kids' birthdays (dbl page spread for each)
  • Family Reunions
  • Bridal/Baby showers
  • Weddings

What seasonal traditions did we enjoy? 
pictures on title page: screen free week, ice cream stands, adult leagues

  • 12 Months of Kindness
  • County Fair
  • Sport seasons (football, cheer, basketball, soccer, baseball, volleyball)
  • Hunting Season
  • Winter fun (sled-riding page)
  • Summer fun (swimming page)
  • Fishing Season
  • Camping

Where did we go to visit?
photos on title page: local favorites (playgrounds, pools, parks, libraries)

  • Pumpkin patches/berry picking farms
  • Hiking trails
  • Ski/Snowboarding lodge
  • Amusement Parks
  • Zoos
  • Vacation
  • travel (trains, planes, boats)

What do the holidays feel like? 
photos on title page: mini holidays we celebrate (st. patricks day, mardi gras, juneteenth, valentines day, etc)

  • Halloween
  • Thanksgiving
  • Marco & his antics (our Elf on the Shelf)
  • Christmas season
  • New Years eve
  • Easter
  • Mothers & Fathers days
  • Fourth of July
  • (The title page includes mini holidays we celebrate - Valentines day, Juneteenth, Mardi Gras, Day of the Dead, St. Patricks, etc)

One of the hardest parts of family yearbooking is that you feel like you have to include every single photo from every single thing. I'm here to remind you, you don't. Choose the best ones and move on. Honestly, the best part about the photos/pages is that they are going to jog you and your kids memories about things that happened that day/trip that you never even got a picture of!

Good luck and happy reminiscing!

Around Here Week 30: 07/21-27

Monday, July 29, 2019

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this minute.

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  419+ hours (of 1000)
Up 25 hours this week as we continue through this beautiful summer weather. There were some days that were downright perfect this week with an incredible breeze and blue, sunny skies. It's been dipping down into the low 60s though in the evening and at one of Grey's baseball games it was actually fall-chilly! We all wanted long pants and hoodies! The wild blackberries are starting to come out and I got a handful for a snack while walking the dogs on Friday morning. 

Reading and finishing Miles Morales: Spiderman by Jason Reynolds. I started (a little late) our next Book Love Foundation summer club pick: Still Life with Tornado by A.S. King. I'm listening to The Lost Man by Jane Harper on Audible during my half marathon training. It is so good - enough to keep me distracted from the miles! 

Half marathon training miles this week: 9 miles
I ran at the North Star track, CT track, and at the Que with Loni for our Saturday morning long run (4miles). I tried lengthening my stride on the straightaways at the CT track on Thursday night and whew, that gave me soreness in all kinds of new places (hah!) The half is in the end of October, so I still have a long way to go, but it's one mile at a time - no matter how slow! 

Classroom visiting for the first time this summer. The kids and I stopped into school and spent some time in my classroom organizing and digging into planning for the upcoming school year. Gah, so nerd-excited for school to start. I got my schedule, mapped out the year long curriculum for most of levels, and did some prom committee research. 

Training our chickens to stay off the patios. If you want a good laugh, just come watch me work on this - with a water gun in hand, I run outside shouting like a mad woman, "Get off my porch!" Eventually, the chickens will start to realize if they don't want a lunatic running and yelling at them, they'll stay off. We also moved our old patio chairs farther away from the porch to encourage their perching away from our space. Speaking of chickens, we found their hidden egg stash too; under one of the front bushes - 10 eggs!

Planning our upcoming mini road trip/family vacation. Brandon has a conference for work and the whole family is encouraged to come as the conference is located in the Kalahari Poconos resort! So we stretched the mini vacay out to include a little something special on the way to (Knoebels amusement park!) and on the way home (Lake Tobias Wildlife Park). I get such a geeked out thrill searching and mapping it out on google to find family fun along the way.

Choosing two slips from our summer fun jar including a visit to Laurel Hill State Park and Ebensburg Pool. The choices were a little staged (hah), but the kids were happy to get a chance to explore. Unfortuntely, Laurel Hill State Park swimming area was closed (too murky from all the rain) but we made the best of it by wading in the water, climbing on their cool playground structure, building a huge sandcastle, and finding seashells. We had Maldet with us on Thursday when we went to Ebensburg pool and the kids were so great. I was amazed how easy the trip was; everyone helped carry things to and from the car, no whining, no issues; and everyone happily swam from the moment we got there until the whistles blew for adult swim at 3p!

Writing a short story! The idea hit me like a lightening bolt and in the middle of a conversation with Brandon, I stopped and said, "sorry, I have to go write a story right now!" hahhaa. My very encouraging family and friends are holding me to trying to get it published, (eee!) so we shall see.

Visiting our extended family at the Plunkett reunion. We squeezed in a trip to Altoona before the baseball game to have lunch and play games with our cousins on my Dad's Mom's side. The kids are always so happy at family reunions and the girls even stayed behind with my parents while the boys headed to the baseball game.

Feeling so proud of Grey the last week or so. Since his birthday in April, I feel like we have been fighting constantly and I was just giving him lectures all day, everyday and was feeling so frustrated with his attitude and choices. He was really growing through something and my response to it all probably was terrible, but mommas gotta mom, right? Thankfully, it appears he has come out of the fog and I keep hugging him & letting him know that I am so proud of his help, and patience with his siblings, and his reactions to disappointment. Lawd, send me all the patience forever, please and thank you.

No bummer summering with our besties with an afternoon at the Quemahoming. While the kids kayaked, swam, and playground'ed, Kate and I got to catch up and laugh. Always so good for my soul. Every time we have our kid kayaks with us, we get asked about them - so if you're in the market for some kid-size kayaks; we have two of these. Our kids love them and they're light enough that they are responsible for carrying/dragging them in and out. Violet (4.5y) is completely independent on it in the water and Rusty (3y) is getting there; still figuring out turning. (tip: we bought ours at the end of the season last year and they were marked down to like $50 each, check out Walmart online too!)

Summer sporting for the final week! We had our co-ed volleyball playoff game and lost in the first round. So bittersweet to end the season, so we had a big team 'family' dinner at the Crow's Nest afterward. I love those cats! Grey finished out his all-star baseball season with the last two tourneys at ETJ and CV. He learned a lot about the game, made some new friends, and loved having a baseball summer. We got to have one of his teammates over for a sleepover on Friday night much to Grey's delight (and Violet's! haha, she followed the two of them around like a little pup).

Frugal living by using three zucchinis that were gifted to us from my Aunt Thelma to make two loaves of zucchini bread (they didn't make it 12 hrs before being gobbled up!). Brandon and the kids washed and cleaned the inside of both vehicles at home. I downloaded the Ibotta app on my phone and scanned my first receipt ($0.50 earned!). I packed lunch for the pool and the Que instead of buying something special on the way to/from. I used my Audible credits from our prime membership to download a book on tape for my half marathon training for free.

Making zucchini bread, three ingredient chocolate chip muffins, french toast, frozen pizza, turkey tacos, bbq pork chops and rice, frozen popcorn chicken, and chopping up lots of watermelon for the kids.

Keto'ing with some really incredible meals. Heather & Albert brought us dinner on Monday night with her incredible Keto pizza crusts and toppings that we devoured. Brandon made grilled porkchops and roasted garlic and cheesy brussel sprouts. We had turkey taco wraps thanks to the Keto friendly Tumaro brand (thank you Heather!) I had chicken jalapeno popper casserole and air fried chicken with coconut flour. My handsome zoodler husband also made us shrimp and broccoli over zoodles with alfredo which was to die for. For the family reunion, we made buffalo chicken dip with cucumber and green pepper dippers - and we've been chowing down on cocktail peanuts because they are best quick snack everrrr.

Around Here Week 29: 07/14-20

Monday, July 22, 2019

A glimpse into what it is like to live in our home just this minute. 

photo cred: Jenn Valentine 

Intentional Outdoor Hours:  394+ hours (of 1000)
Up 25 hours this week. We visited the Quemahoming on Sunday night for a little afternoon kayak and swim with Mallory. We worked on the chicken coop this week and I did a little weeding in the garden - we have a zucchini starting to grow! We had a fire on Friday night and then did lots of swimming at Pappy & Gigi's this week too and Rust has almost got swimming with no floaties down! He and Violet both learned to swim at 3 years old! He can now jump off the diving board and swim to the ladder (with a grown up in the pool). We have four little fish, I tell ya!

Reading Miles Morales Spiderman by Jason Reynolds (almost done!) and some Spanish teacher blogs to start digging into ideas for the upcoming year (only a little more than a month away!) I found a great powerpoint about procedures that has my mind spinning with ideas and I am really excited to get caught up on my Book Love Foundation Summer club reading.

Summer Camping for the girls. Our local community arts center holds various week long summer camps, and the girls each attended one this past week. Violet spent 4 mornings participating in a farm-themed art camp. Gemma auditioned (last week) and participated in their theater camp all week. She spent the full day (9:30-4) learning the choreography, songs, and her line (1!) as she played Ms. Greer and danced in the ensemble as an orphan.

Tending to Grey who was the next victim on the Norovirus train. He was down and out for two full days and is still trying to get back into normal eating again. I think it was one part stomach bug and another part of summer worn-down from swimming and baseball. He needed the rest!

Snagging some goodies during Amazon Prime Days. My favorite of all was our Legit Camping double hammock; I'm honestly in love and cannot believe we have not had a hammock before in our life - like what were we doing!? I also purchased this essential oil diffuser, this set of dry-lock kayak supplies, and wool dryer balls.

Supporting our family as they said goodbye to grandfathers. Two sets of cousins laid grandpas to rest this week and we attended their viewings to give our love and support. We always take the kids with us and remind them how we behave and why we come. We remind them that our friends/family are sad because someone they love went to heaven, so what we can do is to be there and give a hug and pray with them.

Staining and painting the chicken coop. B did most of the work (although Gem and I tag-teamed one side) and it looks great!

Registering for some fall races. I signed Grey and I up for the 5K Que Classic for late September and then I succumbed to peer pressure from Loni to register for a half marathon at the end of October! I looked up a half marathon training plan and I'm scheduled to start with 1mile on Monday!

Smiling at Rusty's new favorite phrase, "this is taking a long time!" which he comments about anything and everything that takes more than 30 seconds.

Upgrading to a new phone after three years with my original Google Pixel. My battery was totally shot (dying at 40%!) and it was necessary. Brandon and I upgrade at the same time, so we both got the Google Pixel 3A and are so happy with it - I love it for the unlimited photo storage and camera quality; which is 90% of why I use my phone. We also picked up a "house phone" which is really just a bargain cell phone that we are keeping at the house to use like a landline. But no games or apps or even wifi on that thing - it's strictly for calls and texts.

Feeling proud of Gem for her performance in Annie Jr. on Friday night. After her week of theater camp and practices, she danced and sung her way through the show. Afterwards, she reluctantly came over to hug me and then burst into tears. I asked her why she was crying and she said, "I'm just so happy and proud!" She can hardly wait to go back to theater camp again next summer! She came home each night singing all the songs and even taught a dance to Violet. Violet's eyes were all gleaming with adoration as Gem spun her around and patiently showed her how to do the steps. Gah, sisters.

Getting outside water! We have been without a hose for all of summer after our pipes burst this winter during one of the deep freezes. I didn't even realize what a burden that was until Brandon and my Dad re-piped all the water lines. It is a miracle to have hose water again and make such a difference for watering all our planters and filling up the chicken water. The kids first request was to use the sprinkler (hah). The hugest thank you to our handymen!

Pulling into the drive-ins on Saturday night with our cousins to watch The Lion King/Toy Story 4 double feature. We had no child awake by about 15 minutes into the second movie, so we packed up and headed out before it ended - truthfully, I was starting to doze off half way through the first movie (lol).

Summer sporting with two baseball tourney this week. Grey's all star team came in second place in the West Surburban tournament and then had two games in the ETJ tournament later in the week. Brandon and I had two volleyball matches on Tuesday night and our record has us in the playoffs next week. After our games, we all went to Tollgate for wings as a team and I'm feeling a little sad that our co-ed league season is almost over. Love these cats!

Frugal living by freezing our own picked blueberries for the long winter months to come, choosing to buy the 3A pixel phone ($400 less dollars than the 3 pixel!) and refraining from other in-store purchases (phone cases, head phones, car phone holders) and holding out to see if I can find them cheaper on Amazon. We continued to keep the A/C off and just open and close curtains to keep it cool in the house until the heat wave during the weekend (first time turned on all summer!) I signed up for the lifetime warranty on our new hammock and put our new wool dryer balls to use right away (no more dryer sheets to purchase!) I was inspired to start this note thanks to Ashley after she introduced me to The Prudent Homemaker

Making blueberry muffin bread; one to keep and one to gift to a friend. Mallory helped make egg sausage casserole for breakfast on Monday, and Grey is still practicing his grilling skills making hot dogs and hamburgers two different days while swimming at Pappy& Gigi's house. We had kielbasa, turkey burgers, and hot dogs on the grill various times this week, and Rust made some frozen corn treats for the chickens!

Keto'ing with church picnic chicken on the grill, buffalo cauliflower (OMG, yum!), cheese 'bun' sundowner turkey burgers, cheesy chicken fritters, and lots of delicious salads piled high with avocado and sunflower seeds.  Non-scale victory this week was having to use a hair tie to hold my capri leggings up during our volleyball games; they are getting so loose that it is distracting! And a big bonus this week was I was able to donate blood without any issues with low iron. I was denied donating twice this year for low iron and I was totally in the clear this to donate this week- thanks Keto!