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Back-to-schoolStaples delighted parents when their commercial featuring a Christmas classic admitted that for adults, back-to-school really is the most wonderful time of the year—but anyone who’s dealt with the late-summer blues knows that most kids decidedly do not relish returning to the classroom.

And while your kids may never skip toward the school bus on that first morning back, taking part in back-to-school rituals can make the process a little less torturous. Whether this is your first time sending a little one toward the hallways of a new school or you’re looking for a way to wring some enjoyment out of a process that’s proven difficult time and again, these small moments can become back-to-school traditions that make the season a little more exciting for kids.

Shopping (of course)

Buying back-to-school supplies isn’t exactly thrilling—and it can be a real hardship for some families when schools begin to require them to buy more and more stuff—but turning it into a day-long event, including choices for the kids and maybe even a treat (second-hand is perfectly acceptable, too!) can give them something to look forward to.

Whether it’s something small, like a fancy new pencil box, or an element that’s a little more exciting, like a new pair of shoes, new supplies can help kids picture what the first day will be like—especially if their supplies aren’t to be used or opened until they’re finally back in the classroom.

Writing a letter

For a no-cost back-to- school ritual, look no further than the Letter to Your Future Self. In the week before school starts again, help your kid write a letter to themself to open on the last day of school. Set out goals for the year, ask questions about what happened, or write down something they wished they’d done this summer but didn’t get a chance to do. If you like, this is also a great time to draw a picture or put a photo or memory away for later—then, at the end of the year, you’ve got a great piece for an AwesomeBox of that school year.

Seal up the letter and put it somewhere safe that it won’t be forgotten, whether it’s in a drawer or on a shelf with the date of the last day of school on it. This helps your child picture what it’ll be like when school is out and it’s summer again—which is a great reminder that just because back-to- school feels like the end of the world, it’s really not!

Preparing for autumn

Summer is fun for kids because school is out—but that’s definitely not the only reason it’s such a popular season. Leaving behind the trappings of summer (sunscreen, days at the pool, baseball, and the smell of barbecues and freshly cut grass) can feel sad to a child. To help cheer them up, try getting pumped about the new season.

Switch from cotton to flannel sheets, start thinking about Halloween costumes (it’s never too early) or look at photos from last year’s trip to the pumpkin patch. Make warm apple cider (yes, even if it’s still hot outside!) and talk about what your kid likes about the fall. Give them something to look forward to!

Meeting the teacher

One of the most classic back-to-school rites of passage is walking through those big doors when it’s still summertime to go visit a new teacher. That’s for a good reason, too; checking out the classroom and getting to know the person who they’ll be spending so much time with can calm anxieties about what it might be like, and might even get them excited about what they’re going to learn.

If you can, take a trip to meet the new teacher in the weeks before the school year begins in earnest. This gives your kid a taste of the new year—while they’ve still got a little bit of summer left to enjoy.

Sitting down for family dinner

As a child, nothing makes you feel more special than time set aside to just be together as a family. Borrow a page from the Best Birthday Ever handbook and host a special family dinner the night before the big day. Not only will it help take their minds of any nervous feelings, it’s also a time to talk through what they may be worried about. Dinner doesn’t have to be fancy—it just needs to include everyone at the table, eating and talking.

Measuring growth

If your family keeps a growth chart—even if it’s just pencil marks on the wall in the hallway—there’s no better time to take annual measurements than on the first day of school! Before your little one heads to the bus or hops on their bike, have them pause for a height measurement, then compare it to how much they’re grown since last year.

This is also a great exercise with siblings—letting the bigger ones measure the little ones shows that you trust them and that they’re ready for new challenges.

Taking a photo (and looking at old ones!)

School photos are great for a laugh later on, but before your kid sits in front of the laser beam backdrop, consider snapping a First Day of School photo. Not only is this a great way to commemorate the day itself, it also gives you and your family a wonderful keepsake to remember every first day by—which can be helpful if your child starts to get glum as the school year approaches.

Looking back at other first day photos, take note of the outfits (remember those shoes? You’d never fit into that skirt anymore!), the appearance of the room, and any other changes you can see. Ask your child what they think next year’s will look like, or how different it’ll be.

Then, considering turning these first day photos—or any of the photos you took this summer—into something to help you and your child remember all of the memories they’ve made. A summer or Back to School AwesomeBox could be just the thing to help your kids (of any age!) feel like they’re ready for the challenges of the new year—even if you’re having the best time ever.

If you were scrolling through Instagram or Twitter on July 30 and noticed a lot of mention of Friendship Day and kicked yourself for not getting a small something for your BFF, don’t sweat it. Unlike National Ice Cream Day (which is always celebrated on the third Sunday of July) or National Dog Day (firmly on August 26), Friendship Day—either National or International—can and is commemorated on more than one day of the year.

Friendship Day

Image: Brynn’s AwesomeBox

That means you’ve still got time to do something special for your friend by Friendship Day, which is sometimes celebrated on August 7—or that you can pick whichever day you like to celebrate your special bond. Whatever day you decide the celebrate, the important thing is taking a moment to tell your friends just how much they mean to you.

But they may be more surprised on some days than others, depending on which country you’re in!

The Many Faces of Friendship Day

When was the first Friendship Day celebrated? It depends on who you ask—and which country you’re in!

Hallmark takes credit for the first Friendship Day, which was initially commemorated in 1919. The day was “intended to be a day for people to celebrate their friendship by sending each other cards,” according to the experts on the subject at Days of the Year. Then, in 1935, the United States Congress designated the first Sunday in August to be “National Friendship Day.”

 

By 1940, though, Days of the Year notes that “the market had dried up, and eventually it died out completely.”

In 1958, though, the first day of friendship was revived when several South American nations, especially Paraguay, celebrated the first World Friendship Day.

Since then, there have been numerous days designated for the celebration of friendship—but only a few have been made legitimate through recognition from governing bodies.

For example, since 2011, July 30 has been the official date of International Day of Friendship, when “the UN encourages governments, organizations, and community groups to hold events, activities and initiatives that promote solidarity, mutual understanding and reconciliation.”

July 30th isn’t necessarily the international standard, though. In Peru, the first Saturday in June has been commemorated since 2009. Meanwhile, Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina celebrate Día del Amigo on July 20, while folks in Portugal celebrate both on the 20th and on April 18.

And many nations—particularly India, but many others, as well, including the United States—still stick with the first Sunday of August as International Friendship Day (also sometimes called Best Friends Day).

That means, even if you missed July 20 or 30, there’s still time to plan something for the August

7 International Friendship Day.

How to Celebrate Friendship Day

Friendship Day

Image: Jennifer’s AwesomeBox

Regardless of what day you pick for your celebration of International Friendship Day (or Best Friends Day, or the Day of Friendship, or Take Your Friend to Work Day, or whatever other day you may choose), the most important part is celebrating it!

The General Assembly of the United Nations encourages people to engage in public action on Friendship Day, spreading goodwill throughout their community and generally raising awareness about the ways in which friendship and friendliness can shape a neighborhood, city, or even country.

Some friends may choose to give flowers, make cards, or even present small gifts to their chosen family on this day; though it may be difficult to find a Friendship Day-specific card, you could always make your own just for the occasion.

However, many people simply stick with social media, posting memories and photos of their friends and thanking them for all they’ve done. These posts can be extremely meaningful—but also fleeting.

We may be biased, but we think an AwesomeBox, created between groups of friends (whether they’re international or all live on the same block!) could be a particularly special way to celebrate Friendship Day 2016.

With so many different days to choose from when it comes to celebrating National Friendship Day (or International Friendship Day!), it’s clear that the emphasis isn’t so much on the day itself or who’s sanctioning it—it’s about taking a moment to pause your busy life and really, truly express your gratitude and appreciation for the people who are there for you when you need them, who have seen you through good times and bad, and who always keep things interesting.

Travel pictures as souvenirs

Image: Andrea Y.’s AwesomeBox

If your grandmother always brought you a stuffed animal, a hat, or (horror of horrors), a pair of socks whenever she took her annual Hawaiian vacation, you’re not alone. According to a 2014 report, the “gift, novelty, and souvenir store” industry in the United States is estimated to be worth a whopping $18 billion—with a “b!”

What is it about our travels—particularly those summer adventures that take us to far-off places (or sometimes, familiar locations) that make us want to not only snap photos of each and every stop, but also, make sure we have something physical to show for it and gift to friends and family when we get back?

Why we buy souvenirs and other travel gifts

Before there was Instagram or even slide carousels, small trinkets were the best way to remember your carefree days of beating the heat—which, according to PBS, was the real reason behind the standardization of summer, as opposed to the much-held misconception that we take a break because of a holdover from our agrarian days.

Additionally, a hat or a shirt is also typically considered the lesser of two evils; peoples’ travel photos have long been viewed as a kind of torture, rather than a fun way to share memories.

Looking through slides of someone else enjoying a beach isn’t really the most engrossing way to spend an afternoon—and yet, a good travel story can be a delight. We just tend to need something more physical than a photo to go with it.

There’s also, of course, a kind of nostalgic aspect to the acquisition of summer gifts and travel trinkets. Chiefly, writes one journalist for the Entrepreneur, it’s to make up for the fact that not everyone gets to go on every trip. From his article: I can’t stop buying: from a college bookstore here, a minor-league ballpark there, a colorful barbecue joint, even a generic sports bar.

The reason, I suspect, has to do with validating my travels. Being away from family and friends week after week can lead to feelings of displacement and loss. These are days I’ll never get back. Even if I tweak my schedule to never miss a game or a recital, my boys will be a year older before I know it. And then another.

Buying up T-shirts can’t change that. But it can provide a tangible benefit to travel–as well as tangible evidence that I’ve actually been someplace. If I don’t come home from Milwaukee with at least a T-shirt, it’s almost like I didn’t go there at all.

And therein lies the thrust of our need for souvenirs: We want to make sure everyone knows we went, we want to remind ourselves what a good time we had, and that we were thinking of them the whole time.

But can a mug or a pair of socks really do all that?

DIY Your Summer Souvenirs

Photos of your trip are still the best way to remember the room, the view, and the people you met along the way—not to mention the hairstyles and Bermuda shorts you’ll want to look back on with laughter—but there’s a better way to share them than with a snore-inducing slideshow. In addition to the postcards and the pool toys you bring back, consider capturing your summer travel with a kind of photo album that incorporates both images and stories with an AwesomeBox. By combining the most engaging photos from the trip, along with the memories and moments you hope to cherish forever, you and your travel partners can create a souvenir unlike any you’d find on the boardwalk.

Pull together the photos from everyone on your trip, as well as your favorite memories to create one tangible reminder of the best times from your summer trip.

Even when we’re not the ones sunning on the beach or waiting in line for a TSA scan, we still like to take part in the travels of others, and share our experiences with our family and friends. And instead of boring them by flipping through every photo (“here we are on the golf course. Here we are on the golf course again!”), we can create our own summer travel memories that capture the best of the best—and leave the mugs and magnets for the rest.

Baby book

Brynn Sch.’s Graduation AwesomeBox

A yearbook is a treasured artifact. Even if your experience in junior high and high school wasn’t the best (hello, braces!), you may still find yourself flipping through your old yearbooks from time to time, remember the classes you took, the inside jokes you shared—and old friends’ faces that you may have forgotten.

What’s so magical about yearbooks is that they capture a very specific period of your life with photographs from that time. Whether it’s that terrible photo of you as the class secretary or your favorite picture of your best friend singing her big solo in “Oklahoma!”, cracking open a yearbook feels a bit like opening a time capsule.

Unfortunately, most of us only have a handful of yearbooks from high school and maybe before—but wouldn’t it be great if you had a kind of yearbook for every single year of your life?

When Kodak brownies and Polaroids dominated the photography market, many parents created baby books for the first year of their child’s life. We think it’s time to bring that back.

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Lyle L.’s 50th birthday AwesomeBox

Bye Bye Baby Book? 

Back in the days of film (and even before!), baby books were extremely popular ways to save, organize, and present photos, stories, and moments of a baby’s first year. As early as the late 1800s, parents (mostly mothers) were taking notes about their babies from day one—some of them are even stored in a university archive at UCLA, where it’s clear that the love between a mother and child really is timeless.

Once a child was older, their parents would share this book with them, allowing them to not only take part in the memories of their earliest days, but also ensuring that those photos weren’t lost in boxes or filing cabinets, never to be seen again.

Now that most of our treasured photos are on Facebook and Instagram though and we do much of our note-taking in the form of baby blogs, baby books have become less and less prominent—which is a shame, because, as any parent can attest, childhood passes in a blur, and often, there are few tangible objects to remember it by.

Kids Say the Cutest (and Strangest) Things

For as long as there have been kids, there have been parents who have delighted in the things that come out of their mouth. Whether it’s the old TV show or, more recently, blogs like Reasons My Son is Crying, there’s a certain kind of joy that arises from making note of the adorable (or sometimes inscrutable) ways that children behave and exist in the world. These moments often become the stuff of family lore and inside jokes, but if you don’t make note of them as they happen (and a tweet doesn’t count!), they can slip away forever.

Durham

Durham’s AwesomeBox

Not only that, but saving those special—and sometimes truly strange—moments makes for great fodder once they’re old enough to hear about them. Who doesn’t want to have a stack of their favorite funny (or embarrassing!) kid quotes to share during a wedding toast 25 years later?

Kids Want To Feel Special, Too

Though we mostly talk to parents, we’ve heard from that kids who have seen their mom or dad get an AwesomeBox that they’d like one, too! And who could blame them? Not only is seeing portraits of themselves and their families good for a child’s self-esteem and sense of place in the world, the look of gratitude and joy on the face of an AwesomeBox recipient is something that everyone can understand.

One of the true joys of parenthood is watching your child grow up—and it’s especially great when you can share those moments (you know, the ones they were too little to remember) with them through photos and stories.

Sure, having an Instagram feed full of cute baby pictures may be fun for your little ones when they’re old enough to swipe through an app, but you know from flipping the pages on your old yearbooks that something tangible—something filled with memories and moments—is a true keepsake.

Long before your baby dons a cap and gown, why not create a kind of yearbook for her to look back on for years to come?

We continue to love the feedback we get from AwesomeBox users and have just put the finishing touches on 3 highly requested features: Instagram photos, multi-photo uploading, & purchasing another copy of an AwesomeBox.

Instagram is the newest place you can go to find the perfect picture for an AwesomeBox card. The Instagram button appears right next to the the other photo options you’re use to. Just select the IG option, authorize, and all your square-cropped, filter-y goodness will be at your fingertips.

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Many of you who created solo boxes asked how to add more than one photo at a time. Sheepishly, we had to tell you “you can’t yet.” But that’s all changed with the addition of multi-photo upload. Now you can simultaneously create multiple cards by dragging and dropping photos right onto the AwesomeBox page.

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And finally…an answer for everyone who has wanted get an additional copy of an AwesomeBox. You may already know that the digital version of each AwesomeBox remains available online. When you visit next, you’ll see a new link that allows you to purchase another copy. That’s it. Just click it, check out, and we’ll send you another copy.

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More features are on the way in the coming weeks. Stay tuned! In the meantime, don’t let us stop you from celebrating that big birthday, summer vacation, or baby’s first year with an AwesomeBox.

Dana