Renee Winick mug

Renee Winick

For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed taking pictures. Long before cameras were part of our phones, even before we could immediately see whether our pictures were blurry or if someone’s eyes were closed, way back when we used film and had to wait a week to find out if our photos were a success, I loved taking the shots.

I was the unofficial photographer for family get-togethers, house warmings, grad parties — you name it, I took pictures of it. When my kids were born, I went from a photography enthusiast to a card-carrying shutterbug. The great thing about being an unapologetic photog is that those around me eventually got used to the fact that, if the family was together, photos would be taken. In fact, they eventually started to count on me to bring a camera (or, later on, a phone with a “good camera”) to all family functions.

The only downfall is that sometimes this photographer forgot to put herself in the pictures. After not getting even one picture with my children on their sixth birthday, I promised myself to be mindful of the need to get in front of the camera every once in a while.

Around the time that my kids were born, a friend of mine started working as a consultant for a scrapbooking supplies company and began to host scrapbooking weekends a couple of times a year. The serendipitous timing of this still amazes me. Those scrapbooking weekends were exactly what this tired mommy needed. The weekends gave me the opportunity to print my favorite hundred or so pictures from the last few months and document the many milestones of my growing babies. More importantly, they allowed me to get out of the house for a few days and recharge my nearly-depleted battery.

One of the biggest draws of the scrapbooking weekends was that I got a chance to enjoy fun and fellowship with other women. Some of those ladies were already dear friends and others became great friends and confidants. Like the food and wine that we passed, advice and stories were shared between us. We discussed how to manage teething tots and shared potty-training tips while also giving the thumbs up or down on page layouts and photo choices.

As the years went by, our discussions morphed to the tougher topics of teenage angst, aging parents and the death of loved ones. We’ve laughed hard, we’ve cried quietly, and we’ve seen each other through the highs and lows of life.

When I look back at my first scrapbooks, I see signs of my inexperience. I smile when I remember the amount of time that I spent trimming the photos into cute shapes, choosing the coordinating paper and stickers, and deciding on the perfect page titles. As the years went by, I spent less time trimming pictures and choosing paper and more time selecting photos that told my family’s story all on their own. This transition closely mirrors my journey as a mom. In the beginning I sweated the small stuff and sometimes lost sight of the beauty found in the daily chaos. I eventually learned to appreciate the little messes and big smiles of life with twins.

Another way that I evolved as a scrapbooker and as a mother is that I eventually succumbed to the pressure and went to “the dark side.” I allowed my scrapbooks — and my children — to go digital. It could be argued that both were done out of necessity. It could also be said that both were done to make my life a little easier. Both are true. I no longer needed to print hundreds of photos and lug a half dozen crates filled with scrapping supplies because I now could create scrapbooks on my laptop.

Likewise, I no longer needed to lug around handheld games or forfeit my phone to entertain my kids because they were now able to play games on our family’s old phones. That meant that my husband and I got new phones out of the deal — I call that a win-win!

I’ve been a photo lover my entire life, a mom for nearly 16 years and a scrapbooker for just about as long. Like most things in life, my approach to all three have changed with time. Perfection is no longer expected or even the goal. I now realize that it’s not about the photo being flawless, it’s about the memory I’m capturing. It’s not that I’ll never make a mistake as a parent, it’s that my children know they’re loved unconditionally.

And, it’s not important that the scrapbooks I create are incredible works of art, it’s important that they’re made with love and that the time creating them feeds my soul. It took some time, but now I understand that everything in life is better when viewed with a soft focus.

Renee Winick has lived in Prior Lake for nearly two decades, where she resides with her husband and twin son and daughter. She is also a contributor to the TODAY Parenting Team website.

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