Friday, August 05, 2011

Back to Blogging 101

Last week, I used Blog2Print to make a hardcover book containing our family blog posts from 2005 until we left for France in 2008. The process was simple and speedy; the result is so much fun to peruse!

Browsing this blog book has caused me to reflect on the purpose of this family blog. As I skimmed through these years of our lives, I was struck by a few things. First of all, I liked to chronicle the odorous messes surrounding potty training. Secondly, I didn't post very frequently. (I think the third trimester of Talia's pregnancy warranted a whopping two posts.)

I blog more often nowadays for several reasons. First of all, blogging gives me an outlet to write. Now that I am no longer a student composing paper after paper, I feel a much stronger need to express myself via the pen. After communicating with tiny ones day after day, I am embarrassingly out of practice when it comes to engaging in adult conversation. Too often I find myself befuddled by "Mommy Brain" as I ineloquently spit out the wrong words at the wrong time. When I write, I have the luxury of revision in expression. I can be witty, wry, insightful, or even indignant without the pressure of performing in the moment.

Furthermore, when I write I feel like I am engaging myself intellectually. Growing up, I was generally known as the "smart" kid. While there were times when I disliked the label, now that I have fewer formal opportunities to exercise my brain, I mourn the idea of intelligence slipping away. Writing is one way I cling to this piece of my identity.

Blogging as a means of finding personal self-fulfillment is admittedly self-centered. And yet, there's an inherent tension because this blog really isn't about me--it's about my family. I blog because, let's face it, I think my kids are great and cute, and I want to have a record of all the fun things that happen from day to day. (Because, let's face it, if I don't write it down right away, my Mommy Brain will forget.) Or perhaps I blog because my kids aren't always great and cute, and life is hard and I want someone to share it with. I want to be able to look back and realize, wow, that was tough, but we made it!

In rereading my earlier blog, I realized that somehow, somewhere, I crossed over and turned the family story-sharing blog into the family history. Perhaps I've become a little too literal in answering the question, "What's Up with the Wheelers." Just because something nifty happened doesn't mean I have to blog about it. Just because pictures were taken doesn't mean they have to be posted. This blog can be fun and valuable without the pressure of chronicling every visit and vacation.

In addition to blogging, I print pictures and label photo albums. (Sure, I'm two years behind at the moment, but I'm working furiously to diminish the gap.) For a while, I've been torn as to whether this blog should become the single family record. After a bit of debating, I've decided that, no, both serve a distinct and valuable purpose. This blog is the treasured receptacle of amusing anecdotes and occasional deep thoughts that are adorned by Jason's gorgeous photography.

In the future, this blog will probably be somewhat less of a travelogue. This busy Mom simply can't keep up with the online chronicling of every wonderful get-together. No matter how I try, I can't keep up with all the cherished visits with family and friends. It's a vicious, guilt-ridden cycle, wherein I worry that omitting an event will somehow reflect poorly on how much I value the relationship, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Enough already. It's time to stop the insanity. If we are fortunate enough to meet in the real world and I never blog about it, my sincerest apologies. Chances are that our fun spanned far beyond the virtual realm, and we were far too busy living life to spare time for posting about it.

At the moment, I would love to post all about our fantastic trip to Omaha. Despite the blazing heat, we did it all. Literally. Slip 'n slides, budgies at the zoo, dressing up like pioneers at the Mormon Trail center, tracking woolly mammoths at Fontanelle forests, chasing balls for hours at the Children's museum, dancing to Jazz on the Green, wildlife safaris in the Heartland style (think bison), Stormchaser baseball games, bike riding (Talia conquered the two-wheeler), bowling, swimming, sewing, crafting and on and on and on.

I'd love to tell you all about the gruesome Dinosaur Museum we visited in Fruita on the way there, or the amazing hoodoos we hiked through in Bryce Canyon on the way home. And photos? I've got hundreds.

But unfortunately, in the real world, children need to be fed, suitcases need to be unpacked, and diapers need to be changed. And oh, there's a house that needs to be cleaned! Life just keeps charging forward.

So instead, I'll tell you how Brooklyn cracked open her chin while jumping into the hotel swimming pool in Grand Junction on the way home. Nothing like a last minute trip to the ER to help you get the flavor of a town! Fortunately, our brave girl was treated like a princess. No wait at the hospital, plus she walked away with five stitches and a Tinkerbell blanket.

As for Talia, her latest news is that she's decided to serve a Disneyland. She talks of little else. Oh, plus I let her play my french horn today. Is four too young to start a brass instrument? She was actually really good. Blowing as hard as possible to make an extremely loud noise seems the perfect outlet for all that pent-up energy. While handing over my personal instrument seems unwise, I may start perusing Craigslist for an old cornet.

And Eli, well, he opened up his burrito today, spread it out on his high chair, turned around, and sat in it. As I peeled the tortilla off his rump, the girls squealed in unison, "Ewww, Mom, that looks like..." I quickly interrupted with "Yes dears. I know."

And thus, my blogging returns to its earliest roots. Long live the potty humor!

But Mom and Dad, just in case you miss the mounds of pictures, I want you to know that you're always welcome to come browse our photo albums. :)


Julie L said...

Hahaha. Great reality check. But I miss the pictures, too. Bring your photos to the reunion so we can all see them. I'll have to check up on the blog book. Sounds like a great idea.

It does take a whole lot of time to maintain a blog and I guess it's important to evaluate that and decide the purposes. I started mine simply to have a place for the children who live far away to keep in touch with home. But I am afraid they are the ones who really never read my blog, so I'm not sure anymore why I'm doing it. I worry that I'm doing this instead of sending letters and making phone calls. I'll have to give that some serious thought.

Your writing is terrific. Don't quit doing that! And I always LOVE the photos. We just had a kind of mini-reunion with Brent's family on Monday. There I got to meet my niece's children, whom I have not seen in years. I told her oldest that I knew she didn't know me but I felt like I really knew her from her mother's blog (which she has started adding to as well). "Oh," she said, "I do know you, too." Her mother said she reads every blog I post. Maybe there are some far reaching effects, even if it's to keep contact with extended family, too. There is, I believe, some great value in these days to extending our villages to include the far flung. Blogs are a great way to do that. (Ouch - sorry about the book reply)

Anonymous said...

Yet another thoughtful post Milkweed! However, unless one of our computer clocks is inaccurate, you posted this latest entry at close to 1:00 a.m. So, unless you have an "awful" job (such as a medical resident, or grave-yard shift train dispatcher) you might consider sleeping at that time of day. Although I too often have trouble sleeping, I've found it easier to sleep while in bed than while sitting in front of a computer screen (unless I take my laptop to bed -- which alas, instigates other family issues).

On balance, I agree with the main message of your post. You simply do not have the time, energy, or inclination to chronicle every aspect of your fine family's life, either in writing or via photos. However, I also agree with Julie's comment that blogging helps distant friends and relatives keep in touch. Although I would enjoy seeing photos of your children using our backyard "slip-n-slides," I do have mental memories and I do not keep score of which events you include on your great blog. I simply appreciate what you choose, or find time, to share, and so long as I get updated photos of my grand children say, every 45 minutes or so, all is well :). Seriously, once blogging becomes a chore, it is time to pause and reflect. I suspect our final judgments will not include a mandatory blogging element.

And so ... I'll close with a few quotes on blogging (to help all of us be of good cheer - and maybe supply additional perspectives):

“Breathe. Know that the Internet has no eraser.” -Liz Strauss

“I believe the term 'blog' means more than an online journal. I believe a blog is a conversation. People go to blogs to read AND write, not just consume.” (Michael Arrington)

“I guess my point is, if you’re one of these people considering giving up on blogging in exchange for paying more attention to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and MySpace, or whatever they throw at us mere mortals, bear in mind you are giving up on something rather unique and wonderful.” (Hugh Macleod)

“Don’t focus on having a great blog. Focus on producing a blog that’s great for your readers.” (Brian Clark)

Chou said...

Kara, the potty humor is ALWAYS appreciated. :) We appreciate whatever you have the time and energy to share, and never feel left out, because the point is not to see us, it's to see you. Love!

Brittney Richards said...

I've always wondered why I keep a blog. I enjoy reading what others post and knowing about all the exciting things that happen to other people and their lives. I seriously enjoy everything you post with or without pictures; although the ones with pictures sure are cute. You have cute kids. I don't think I have anything exciting to blog about (I guess I do now - I have Eliza). SO I sometimes wonder if what I blog about is "good enough." When it comes right down to it - I have to remember why I blog. Unfortunately I don't do a very good job of scrapbooking pictures or journaling. I know that my mom and mother in law and grandparents check my blog regularly to see what we are up to. Bruce's grandma tells me on a regular basis that she loves my blog- especially all the pictures of Eliza. Although it's nice to please grandparents, when it comes right down to it, I blog for myself. If I don't get around to making an intended post or documenting some trip - it's not a loss to me I'm not blogging to impress anyone. There's probably not a whole lot of people who read my blog anyway.

I guess what I am saying is that I hope you continue to blog and document your life so I can feel in the loop, but if goes on, right?