A Digital Family Shoebox of Summer Memories....

This summer, instead of letting the kids overdose on laptop gaming during their down time, my husband and I are going to DO THINGS with our children.
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School's out, and I'm scrambling! Yes, the kids are going to camp, but all that time normally filled with homework and play dates is free, free, FREE. I can think of a few more "F" words to go along with free, but let's just go with frightening. And perhaps François, my older son's name.

This summer, instead of letting the kids overdose on laptop gaming during their down time, my husband and I are going to DO THINGS with our children. We've made a list of museum exhibits to see and activities we're going to do and vetted it with the little people -- we're all psyched about it! Our kids are obsessed with technology and getting old enough to overshare personal info and demand hours and hours of electronics time, and these activities will hopefully limit that time. BUT, there's no way we can avoid their cajoling all summer, so I brainstormed ways to bring technology into our family summer adventure.

It all started with a spreadsheet. Fueled by the late hour and a glass (or two) of wine, I researched everything I could possibly think of to do in and around New York City this summer. I categorized it by dates, times and price, then saved it into our Snap Sync family cloud for Simon and the boys to check out on their own screens. They all made comments and flagged the things they were really excited about, suggested deleting a few, all of which I defended mightily. "What, you don't want to see the light show at the Guggenheim or run a 5K with me in Prospect Park? OK, fine," I sulked. But we've come up with a list and action plan, sort of like the big poster board Judy Moody made for her Not Bummer Summer, just a digital version in the cloud so anyone can edit it anytime.

Next, remember how your mother told you, "If you don't write it down, it never happened," and we all kept journals and shoeboxes of images? In 2013, it's more like "If you don't document it, filter it and share it," it never happened. Sharing is big for our family, as we live in the world of reality television and a large part of our business involves documenting our lives. But even for families who have never been in the public eye, we share. We all share. We take pictures of everything, and we upload them everywhere. National Geographic estimates that in 2015, 105 billion digital pictures will be taken, with 50% of those on phones. In 2011, there were 140 billion photos on Facebook, which was 10,000 times more photos than held by the Library of Congress! But what about the narrative? What good is a phone full of photos if there's no story to explain them? If all you do is post it on your page, will you ever go back to that memory or will you forget about it? What about sharing them with your children, not just your social network?

As we work our way through our spreadsheet of activities, we're going to let each boy take along a camera phone. We have LOADS of them that don't have phone numbers attached but work quite handily as camera and wi-fi devices. When we go to Governor's Island or the Brooklyn Bridge Pop-Up Pool, we'll let them take pictures to their hearts content. All photos will go into the family cloud, and then they will organize and edit them in Snap My Life. They're going to write 100 words about each of their favorite activities, pick photos to go with them and Photoshop it all together in an image. Then we're going to do something really retro -- we're going to PRINT them. While I've been using graphics software to print scrapbooks for years, I feel like I'm the last person I know to actually print photos you can hang on the wall! I recently printed our Christmas card photo on Fracture, which made the process so much easier.

I'm excited about this project. We're going to have some amazing experiences and the kids will get their screen time, but they'll also have to write, edit images and do a little graphic design. At the end, they'll have a lasting memory to hang on their wall so they never forget this summer. We'll have something real and tangible out of our digital shoebox, and the summer free time is no longer frightening. Though I'm sure I will still share most of it online. Feel free to call me out on Twitter if I don't!