Hold On To Your Hats
A Scientist in the House

True Confessions: A Different Kind of Making

I've been creating some sort of "family calendar" every year since 1992. It started when Erin was in preschool. Her teacher had the kids each make a monthly calendar featuring special kid-art (I remember lots of handprints. . . ). I ended up adding a photo of the kids to each month - and I gave the calendar to my parents for Christmas.

Big hit!

So the next year, I made them another calendar. This was back in the days before digital cameras, so I created monthly scrapbook layouts using printed photos and kid-art and pretty paper. It was pretty quick and easy, and again . . . 

Big hit!

And so it continued. Every year I made a calendar for my parents. "Technology" improved each year. Paper companies started creating pre-made calendars you could purchase, with pop-in spots for you to just add your own photos. (Still nothing digital, of course.) Voilà! Instant and easy gift that my parents loved! I just saved a few photos each year for the calendar and made quick work of the whole thing.

And then . . . came the digital camera.
And Shutterfly.

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Suddenly, there was a big upgrade in the photo calendar department! With a commenserate upgrade in the time it took to put one together each year. Not just "popping in a photo" anymore. Oh, no! All of a sudden it was a multi-step, time intensive project: culling through the 100s (maybe 1000s) of digital photos I so casually snapped all year long, uploading those photos to Shutterfly, making sure each family member was (kinda) represented equally - and that the photos (kinda) fit the month.

But, boy! Did those printed Shutterfly calendars look great! My parents LOVED them. And because it was all digital, you could get price breaks when you ordered more - so I started ordering one for myself, too.

And Shutterfly calendar technology just kept marching on! Soon you could personalize the dang things with birthdays and holidays -- and add MORE pictures to the little date squares. There were themes and formatting upgrades. It just kept getting more and more "professional" looking -- and . . . more and more time-intensive to actually DO.

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But . . . these calendars were my parents' most cherished gift every year. My mom used to say, wistfully, "I wish your sister would make me one, too." Now my sister has many, many talents and gifts. Photography is not her thing, and she's had no desire to create digital calendars. This is not a shortcoming in any way. She just . . . didn't want to go down the create-photo-calendar-for-our-parents path. So I expanded my calendar project to encompass ALL OF US. And our pets, too!

For years, it became my most dreaded holiday task. It became . . .  The Daunting Family Calendar. It took hours and hours every year. (And it made me really grumpy and not much fun to be around while I was doing it.) Gathering photos. Sorting photos. Uploading photos. Creating the calendar pages. So much work! But so worth it every year. My parents loved the calendars, my sister loved the calendar. I loved having it FINISHED. 

Then the kids went to college. They wanted their own copies of the Family Calendar. (Because how else would they know when everybody's birthdays were???) So I was now creating this monster calendar incorporating photos of/from 9 people and a growing number of dogs and cats! 

Big task. Many hours of work. But . . . the calendars turned out beautifully and, really, everybody loved them! So. I continued on. (It was only once a year anyway.)

Then, in 2016, my Mom died. The kids were all grown and scattered to the winds. My dad was downsizing and moving to a small apartment. I was overwhelmed with many things. I decided to . . . let the calendar go. We'd had a great run with it, but I just didn't have the heart for it. (How could I make a Family Calendar without my MOM in it???) Everyone understood. So 2017 became the Year Without a Family Calendar.

And you know what? We all missed it.

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So I started making them again for 2018. But I tried to make it more manageable for myself. Fewer photos. Fewer "special dates" on the calendar pages. I stopped including my sister's family (she was okay with it; she had grown weary of my constant nagging for photos she didn't like taking in the first place anyway). It's still a giant task. But. . . still a favorite gift. 

And a huge silver lining:  I have the most wonderful stack of Family Calendars going back to 2004 now (the first year I created a digital calendar).

I am right now, this week, putting the finishing touches on this year's Family Calendar. (I'm late this year. I lost track of the time.) Like always, I'll be so glad and relieved when it's done! But you know what else? I've enjoyed the process this year! Having less on my calendar and to-do list helps. But it's also been such a treat to scroll through my photos and see that . . . we've really made the best of a really crappy year! All of us. Yeah. The photos are different this year . . . we've got masks in some of them, "pandemic hair" in most of them, we're working from home and not-going-anywhere, and - most notably - we're not together. But we're . . . there. And we're smiling. And we look even . . . happy.

It's good perspective for me right now.
A nice reality check.
I'm really GLAD I'm creating the Family Calendar this year!
(But I'll still be really glad to get it off my list today. . . )


(The photos in this post are of the 2020 version of the Family Calendar, now hanging in my mudroom.)


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I had no idea there were ways to make personalized calendars before Shutterfly, but old school sounds kind of cool. So many things changed after my mom died, but I love how you changed and adjusted your family calendar, and especially that you are able to enjoy the process of creating this year. How wonderful to see that this year held happiness and smiles (despite the pandemic)!


That looks so cool Kym. Also looks like something I am very glad you are doing and NOT moi! LOL

I did get a very nice Shutterfly card from my niece with pictures of her 3 children on the front and the back is filled with pictures of their art work. Very cool!


My daughter did the 'family calendar' for years....and they are all carefully tucked away with the cherished photos. I've missed that...with everything being on the phone these days I guess. Some traditions are hard to give up....and you are creating memories not just for 2021 with all those 2020 photos, but something you'll love forever. Good for you!!! I must admit, I can't imagine trying to do that without Shutterfly or at the very least Photoshop!!!


THE! BEST! I'll clink your finish with a glass 'round 6 tonight.


This is wonderful! I've done photo books after vacations but I've never done a calendar. Perhaps something to consider for 2021.


I wonder if I could forward this post to my daughter and perhaps a family calendar would be under my tree 😉


That is such a cool project!

Who knew that "pandemic hair" would become a thing. LOL I am definitely rockin' the pandemic hair right now. (Fewer cuts + growing it out + static = some pretty Einsteinian looking hair.)


What a gift you've given so many people, including yourself! You've built archives. As someone who's never been a scrapbooker and is not great at organizing digital photos (I actually LOST a slew of them due to a dead hard drive! I'm really NOT good in this department.)...this is something I've considered doing but never have. I know my Dad would love it. My FIL, too. That should be enough to make me do it. Maybe I'll get my photos under control this year. My word pertains to it, after all. Enjoy your finish!


oh gosh, Kym, you ALMOST make me want to make one, too! What an act of love, and what a treasure for your family! (also, loving the perspective it's giving you on 2020 - super helpful, especially right now!)


I love this - I just finished a photo book of my daughter's wedding at Shutterfly - it was my Thanksgiving weekend activity. Not as tough as a family calendar because all the pictures were pretty much in one place -- but still. A HUGE job. One I find myself getting kind of obsessive over, while at the same time, feeling just a bit crabby about. Thanks for sharing your calendar story.


I can really get why this has been such a treasured item in your family, especially this year! I hope that as you flip through the months of 2021, you look back on this year with the memories of how much you've been through -- and I hope living through a much better year, one that allows you to take photos together for 2022's calendar!


Wow, what a wonderful (fun) but time-intensive task! I love this idea (and had not even thought of Shutterfly...what rock do I live under??)


I've used a couple of services over the years. Ann used to have me make calendars that she'd give as gifts. Lately I've used a company called Parabo Press to make calendars of different types -- wall, flip, cards -- and haven't done it yet this year. But Malina LOVES those little calendars, and last year I made individual ones for each of my grandkids.

Gotta get going...


My sister made one a couple of years ago after her trip to Europe. It was fun to see my sisters (2 of them) in front of a big bed of tulips in Amsterdam (and other places). Your calendar is a way to keep your family close and a lovely gift to all!

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