| Written by Ronnie |
This story book is an important memory keeping endeavour of mine, and this first volume was a true labour of love. (You can click on each of the images for a larger version.)
It all started back in 2013 when I realised I'd forgotten so many of our daily and weekly rituals as a family before we moved to our present home. What did our week look like back in Angus' first year when we lived on campus at college? What did our days look like when Pete was first born and I was struggling to cope with two children? What did the mornings look like? What did the afternoons look like? And how on earth did we ever get through dinnertime, bath time and bedtime after Jamie was born and we had three little boys under two and a half? The things I never even thought were worth documenting suddenly became things that I wanted to remember.
It made me feel really sad that I couldn't recollect many of theose details, and it got me thinking that these everyday rituals, whilst seemingly mundane at the time, are what ultimately makes up the story of us, as a family. The things that we do every week. The things that we do every day. Without even realising that we are doing them.
I'd always been drawn to Ali Edward's Week in the Life project, but I never managed to successfully document a week in its entirety. Plus, I would often have a hard time trying to pick a week to document because I knew I wanted to choose a week that resembled a 'normal' week. It was when I wrote our feature article for Fete magazine back in 2013 in which I answered questions like 'What does a normal weekend look like for your family?' that I realised I wanted to do something similar for our own memory keeping.
Inspired by the beautiful format of Fete, I decided to put together something akin to a magazine. But it would be all about us. It would not be about events or special occasions (which are documented in our family's life albums already), but it would solely be about the things we do over and over again as a family. The weekly and daily rituals. The small details that essentially make up the bigger story about our family life. In terms of what to call this project, I used the name of a mini series that I did on my Pink Ronnie blog around that time: Our Story Right Now. I thought this would be an apt title, seeing as this is exactly what I'm aiming to do: documenting what our family life looks like at a particular point in time.
The next thing I had to consider was how regularly I wanted to do this. It didn't make sense to just do it the one time, as I knew I want would to capture and document our family life into the future. Monthly would be overkill, so I decided on quarterly, and following from there I knew immediately that I would want each volume to coincide with the seasons. This would allow me to use seasonal imagery in each volume, to help give each of them a strong visual impact, and it also meant that there was a beginning and an end to the period of time that I was document. And so I called the first volume Our Story Right Now, Autumn 2013.
(I should point out that soon after I completed the first volume, I quickly discovered that it's unrealistic to try to produce something like this four times a year. So instead, I've been working on one for Autumn and one for Spring each year.)
With the 'magazine' concept in mind, I quickly settled on Artifact Uprising's large vertical soft cover book, and even now as I flip through the book, I'm so happy with my choice. So happy. It's beautiful. And it really does have the feel of a magazine.
For the cover, I knew even before I began the design that I didn't want to use a photo with people in it. Instead, I wanted the cover to be slightly abstract, with a simple image that alluded to the season. Part of the reasoning behind this is so I can easily create a series of these books over the years and have them bear similar covers to each other. The other part of the reasoning is simply that I love the photo. The fern - just gorgeous.
A big benefit to documenting our family rhythms and rituals in this way was that I didn't come up short on any photos for any of the sections since I had three months worth of photos to choose from, and it also meant that I got to pick and choose my favourite photos. Yes, some of the photos overlapped with the ones already included in our family's life album, but this didn't matter to me in the least because this keepsake had its own specific purpose.
I kept the layout of the images as simple as I could, as I wanted to keep the focus on the images themselves (and the stories that they told) rather than the design of the book. At most, I had about eight different layout templates in Adobe InDesign set up for image pages, and I stuck to these for the entire book. Pages of text were always placed next to full page images.
For the bulk of the text, I stuck to my favourite classic serif font: Century Schoolbook. For the cover and for the headings in the first part of the book, I used the font Didot, which has a more contemporary feel to it. The footers were all typeset in Century Schoolbook Italic.
In terms of the structure, this book is divided into three sections:
1) Our weekly rhythm: A recount of what we do as a family for each day of the week.
2) Our daily rituals: A description of what we do as a family every day.
3) A day in the life: A documentation of one particular day.
The first part of the book was all about our weekly routine. I decided to call this section: Part 1 - Our Weekly Rhythm.This section was then divided into the seven days of the week, ie. seven distinct parts. Each part began with a full page image on the left and a page of text on the right. I kept the layout of the text as simple as possible, with a simple heading at the top (e.g. MONDAYS) typeset in Didot and in all caps. The text itself was formatted into two equal columns, and I used more than one paragraph only when it was necessary to do so. At the bottom of the text pages, I placed a very simple footer: Our Story Right Now: Autumn 2013.
As I mentioned above, my goal for this memory keeping project was not to document any particular week. Instead, I wanted to capture what a 'normal' week looked like for our family. Inspired by the interview questions that Fete magazine had sent me, I decided to simply ask myself the question: "What do we normally do on a Monday? What do Tuesdays normally look like? What is our usual Wednesday routine?" And so on and so forth.Words flowed easily when I kept this goal in mind.
In terms of my writing process, I actually typed up the text as I went when I was designing this first book. However, this proved to be extremely time-consuming. At one point, I became quite discouraged and I remember wondering if I should even bother persevering. But I reminded myself of the importance of what I was doing and how precious it would be to create a keepsake like this, and so I persevered. And boy am I glad that I did.
My tip would be to write your words before you begin the process of designing/creating something like this. Not only does this allow you to focus on the journaling without all the other distractions of choosing images, laying out, etc. but it also means that once you start designing, you can keep going until you finish without having to start and stop multiple times because the words aren't flowing. This is what I did the second time round with my second book, Spring 2013, and it worked beautifully.
If you still find the writing part difficult, try starting with bullet points. List everything that you as a family do on a particular day, and then base your writing on that list.
To give you a sample of what I wrote, here is the text for Saturday:
On Saturday mornings, Rick sometimes does pancakes or scrambled eggs for breakfast. Afterwards, we clean up and Rick retreats to his office to prep for Sunday. The boys usually spend the rest of the morning playing and chasing each other, while I keep an eye on them as best as I can. By late morning, we’re usually up at the church re-arranging furniture and making sure the hall is all set up and ready for the Sunday services. As the boys get bigger and stronger, they are increasingly interested in helping out with the setting up. One of their favourite things to do is pushing the chairs along on the square trolleys. We then take the boys up to the local shops where we treat them to chocolate milk and sultana buns for lunch, and then it’s back home for their nap time. Once they’re down, Rick keeps working and I either have a lie down myself or work on one of my projects. When the boys are all up again in the afternoon, we try to enjoy a bit of family time in our backyard – the boys love riding on their cars and scooters, and sometimes they might venture over to the bush for a bit of exploring. I tend to stay on the sidelines, snapping photos on my iPhone and making afternoon tea for everyone. From there on, it’s dinner and bedtime for the boys. Rick then spends the rest of the evening working while I enjoy some downtime by myself – sometimes in front of the television and sometimes in front of the computer. Whenever possible, we try to be in the same room as each other, but otherwise, we’ll have a cup of tea together at about half past nine or ten o’clock to debrief and talk about the next day. After showering, Rick keeps working until he’s happy with where he’s at with the sermon. I usually go to bed before he does, though he always comes in to say goodnight to me before I go to sleep. Most Saturdays, he’ll get to bed close to one o’clock in the morning...
As you can see, it's very simple stuff. Very ordinary. Mundane, almost. But oh so precious because it's our story. And you know what? One year on, our Saturdays now look very different to that. Which again reaffirms in my mind the importance of documenting our story in this way.
And here are the words for Friday:
Rick’s day off! Even though Angus has preschool, we allow ourselves to take things a bit more easily on Friday mornings. Sometimes we give each other small sleep-in’s. (More often than not, it’s Rick giving me the sleep-in.) Every second Friday or so, I usually ask Rick to make scrambled eggs for breakfast and he always happily obliges. After Rick drops off Angus at preschool, we usually hang around at home until we decide what we want to do for the rest of the day. Sometimes we stay at home so that I can catch up on some memory keeping or photo tagging whilst Rick spends time with the boys. Other times, we head out to our favourite cafe at Dee Why for brunch − usually when we haven’t already had scrambled eggs. We always park at the car park behind the Surf Lifesaving Club. At the cafe, the waiters know us and always give us a nice big table inside. We almost always place the same order: one big breakfast, one scrambled eggs with turkish toast, an extra turkish toast, two babycinos and two coffees. While we wait for the food to arrive, Pete and Jamie entertain themselves with colouring in, using the crayons and paper supplied by the cafe. We always have such a nice time − going there always feels exactly like what an ideal day off should be like. After we leave the cafe, we usually head over to the sand to soak up the beautiful views.
(continued from above) Sometimes if we feel like going somewhere different, we head over to The Armchair Collective in Mona Vale, where I order the BRT (backon, rocket and tomato) without fail. I usually order the same thing for Rick, and for the boys, it’s milkshake with thick cut chips or banana bread. (The thick cut chips are to-die-for.) After our cafe outings, we generally go home for the boys’ quiet time. At three o’clock, Rick goes to pick Angus up from preschool. Most of the time, we spend the rest of the evening at home. However, on the odd occasion, Rick might take the three big boys to the park up the road for a late afternoon play before coming home for dinner. After we put the boys to sleep on Friday evenings, Rick and I usually spend the night together, watching Scrubs or a movie that we’ve rented from Civic Video at the local shops.
In terms of layouts, I stuck to several layouts which I simply repeated:
a) full-page images
b) smaller image with white space all around, centred on the page
c) double-page image with a white margin
d) four images to a page with a white margin all around.
For the double-page images, where there was sufficient negative space, I would include a small heading and a concise line of text to describe the photo.
In another two posts, I plan to write about the other two sections of the book in more details, and I'll also share photos from those pages.
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Honestly, I can't begin to describe how precious this keepsake is to me.
Ten years from now, this will be the keepsake that I'll pick up and read to find out exactly what our daily/weekly family life looked like back in Autumn of 2013, when Bear entered our lives...
If you are interested in creating a similar story book for your family, you can purchase the template for this story book here.