When my parents left on their first mission to Zimbabwe they were terribly concerned about "missing out" on what was going on with their children and grandchildren. All 11 of us were married by then with children a plenty (it is Utah, you know!) and some lived in other states and ALL of us were busy, buSY, BUSY! As the grandkids got older it just got harder to keep up with everyone. My husband encouraged me to start a family newsletter and so The Bouwhuis Family Newsletter was born and every month for the next four+ years we all got to catch up on each other's lives. It was a LOT of work but definitely worth it.
My computer has a program that has templates for calendars, agendas, letter heads, etc. (Microsoft Publisher) One option is Newsletters. I simply picked the one that I liked the best and filled in the spaces. It really was pretty simple. I chose an online picture that matched the month i.e. a Christmas image in December and then set the color scheme to match the image. I asked each family for their highlights each month and then occasionally for additional information depending on the article I was writing. I included photos as often as possible especially if they showed the grandkids in action. Because the newsletter was going to the whole family and not just Grandma and Grandpa, I included inspirational excerpts from their letters and emails in the newsletter as well. When my first son left on his mission, I added an article on his mission. When he would get transferred I would include a bit about his new area with a photo and statistics about his new home.
Don't leave this for the last minute: Work on it all month long. When someone sends something, cut and paste it to your newsletter. When you see a photo on Facebook or other social media that you would like to include, do it then. When someone texts you a quote, cut and paste it then. It only takes a few minutes if you set up your newsletter for the next month while this month's is printing.
Creating this newsletter brought me much joy. It lasted through my parent's two missions and through my oldest sons mission. When the joy stopped, I stopped and switched to a newsletter for my immediate family entitled If Your Last Name's a Color. (click here for that post)
Below is a list of some of the articles that were featured in The Bouwhuis Family Newsletter:
Every family would send me their "highlights" for the month. I would send out an email each month along with a deadline for when their 'highlights' needed to be sent. Remember, people are busy. Give them plenty of time along with a reminder email on the day that you're finalizing prior to printing. If you still don't hear from everyone, print it anyway.
It is what it is. Something from most of the family is better than nothing from everyone.
Calendar for the next month
My calendar would take up the bottom half of the front page and include anything the pertained to the family i.e. baptisms, blessings, reunions, get-togethers, etc. If there was more information included in another article in the newsletter, put the page number (for example: see pg. 4)
Birthday's & Anniversaries
A separate box contained a list of everyone having a birthday or anniversary during that month.
From the Great Ohio
This was the title for news from Mason when he was serving in Ohio.
Out of Africa
The title for news from my parents when they were serving in Zimbabwe.
At current count there are 60 grandkids and 4 great-grandkids on just my parents side. Jeff suggested an article highlighting each grandchild throughout the year. I took the number of grandkids at the time and divided it by 12 issues to figure out how many grandkids I needed to 'highlight' in each issue. The parent (or the child if they were older) were responsible to get me a current photo along with the child's favorite things - color, food, grade, friend, what they like to do in their free time, hobbies, etc. I didn't come up with the questions, the parents just interviewed the child. I would also include a list of the grandchildren to be highlighted in the next newsletter to give the parents a heads up. This article was only printed for one year.
Our Family in Motion
This was actually a photo collage with captions under each photo. Photos that showed our family in action - dance photos, sports, baptisms, blessings, birthdays, etc.
This was an entire page.
Out of the Mouth's of Babes
This was everyone's favorite part of the Newsletter. This is where we would record all of the fun things that people would say...especially the little ones. People would email or text these to me as they happened which is really the only way it will work. Forgetting is just a part of life. This took up as much space as it took. Sometimes I would get a lot of quotes and sometimes only a couple. Make sure to record who said the quote and if you have a large family, who their parents are. This will help out the family now but also help future posterity as they
read through your record.
Amamnesis means recollection or memory. I wrote down the name of each adult in the family i.e. Grandma, Grandpa, all their children and their children's spouses. I cut the papers apart and put all the names into an envelope. Divide the number of adults by 12 issues and that is the number of separate Anamnesis articles that will go in each issue. Each adult being featured was to send an article/story of a memory that they had. The field was wide open. They could remember anything even if it didn't have anything to do with our immediate family. Make sure to include a list of those who are writing their memory the next month.
In this section I would share a Family History story of one of our ancestors. Don't forget to include a photo with the ancestors name underneath along with how everyone is related to that person, for example: Jessie VanOrden Bouwhuis is Grandpa's mother and the grandchildren's Great Grandmother.
Out of the Best Books
I asked family members to review a few of their favorite books. Include the title, author, genre and a brief review. Include everyone, even the grandkids. This article lasted one year.
Anyone who wanted to could send their favorite quote or talk from General Conference. I only did this article when Conference was the previous month. Send an email or text on Conference Saturday and Sunday asking people to send their favorite things.
Use inspirational quotes to fill in space between articles.
Use inspirational quotes to fill in space between articles.
Postage: .49 cents each
Printer ink: $25 a cartridge
Having current family history recorded and helping
the missionaries to still feel part of the family:
Warning: Postage can get pricy along with printer ink...but not all families are as large as mine so it might not be an issue for you. It can also cause angst when people don't forward their items in a timely manner. It will only cause you stress if you let it.
Here's an example of what one of our Newsletters looked like:
(it's the only one that I had saved as a pdf on my laptop...probably not a superb example)