Visible M(others): The Blog as Digital Family Scrapbook

I've been selected to participate in a gallery exhibition over the course of the next six weeks titled "Visible M(others): Images of Parenting in Visual Culture." The show runs March 4 - April 11, 2010 at the Boise State University Student Union Gallery and is free to the public (go see it!). I'm collaborating with Shannon Paterson over at We'll both be writing new posts on Thursdays of each week for the six weeks of the exhibition, exploring ideas of how our "mommyblogs" act as a sort of "digital front porch swing," a place to share information and be heard, a forum for asking questions, showing off our kids and our skills. Mommyblogs act not only as an informational outlet, but a creative force in our contemporary maternal culture, as the blogs are not only loaded with verbal creativity, but photography, crafts, and other digital imagery, documenting our lives as mothers. Provoking complex questions, the exhibition presents new perspectives on traditional, contemporary, alternative or imagined parenting and how they operate in a visible/invisible landscape of maternal visual culture.

My mom has been an avid scrapbooker for as long as I can remember. As the oldest child in my family, of course, I have the most pictures, many pasted and carefully captioned in a number of scrapbooks, from one lovingly hand-quilted and cross-stitched by my mom to a puffy painted one in my high school colors just for the hundreds of cheerleading pictures I have. Both my parents are really into family history and documentation, and I certainly gained that interest from them. As my adult life gets busier and busier, I still have the good intentions of scrapbooking but never seem to get around to it. I have boxes and folders full of old love letters from my husband, concert ticket stubs, restaurant menus, city maps, positive pregnancy tests, first haircut snippets, and, of course, photos galore. Like all first time moms, my documentation of my pregnancy with Lucy and her first year or two of life is great. But, poor Alice, got the shit end of the deal, as my second baby. I still have good intentions, mind you. My mother-in-law is a rep for Stampin' Up, so I've got gorgeous scrapbooking supplies coming out of may ass. I just don't really have the time. Nor do I have the inclination to print the hundreds of digital prints that are collecting on my laptop; there lies the unfortunate dilemma of film photography vs. digital. Thankfully, great sites like Shutterfly will do most of the work for you. I just did Alice's first year baby book on Shutterfly for about $25 and 3 hours of time. I do think, though, for that amount of time, I could've done it myself for free (sigh).

What I love about this blog, however, is that it acts in much the same way as a scrapbook does because it includes photos. To me, though, it's more like a journal. I don't usually cuss in my scrapbooking - "Happy Motherfuckin' Birthday, Baby Girl!" just doesn't seem appropriate. It is, however, a more accurate portrayal of my everyday life and is more real. Which is what I love about this online journaling. I get to document some unique, silly parts and activities of our everyday lives, like this:

Earlier this week marked the 1st Annual Brown Family March Viewing of The Wizard of Oz. When I was little, the airing of The Wizard of Oz on television in March marked the beginning of spring and my parents made it special.

We all put our 'jamas on, got our sleeping bags out, and ate Jelly Bellys. In the early 1980s in rural Idaho, Jelly Bellys were gourmet candy that we only got once a year. I anxiously waited for mixing those tasty little morsels in my mouth to make flavors all my own. It's Buttered Popcorn, however, that still remains my favorite.

While you can now pick up Jelly Bellys everywhere, including your neighborhood dollar store, I've tried to keep them a special treat just for this movie viewing occasion. We all love this movie so much and never tire of watching it. I've had this VHS copy of the film for as long as I can remember. In fact, Eric and I watched it on one of our very first dates and, years later, the iconic theme song played as we walked down the aisle after saying "I DO!" in Nevada.

So out came the Sleeping Beauty sleeping bag and all our beanbags, too. Alice was so worried for Toto and Lucy realized for the first time it was all a dream. These are the sorts of things I love documenting on this blog, these sort of special, ordinary moments. And, sometimes, some extraordinary, sad things, too. This week also marks the one year anniversary of my traumatic layoff - the one that scarred me, scared me, and shook me to the core. The one it took me a year to come to terms with. My metaphorical house was whipped up in a tornado and came crashing down, killing the big bad witch, but leaving me lost in a world I'd never seen before. With a little help along the way, from new friends and old, I grew to love Munchkinland and realized that there truly is "no place like home."

Thanks for coming along on this ride with me and reading my blog as I stumble my way through it. I do see what a special document this is, not only for my sanity, but what a unique chronicle of a piece of my family's life and our story for my girls to have and share with their kids in the future. Now, if I can only find the time to print it....