Novel booklet records cherished memories

There are numerous books to record baby and childhood milestones but there is nothing quite like, I Did, I Love, I Am, a colourful and comprehensive family notebook devised by a loving mother to record forever a little one’s precious moments, imagination and unique personality.

HELEN PERRY took time to explore the book and talk to its creator, a former Howick local.

Jo Petersen moved into her brand new, Waiau Pa home, started her son at school and picked up the first copies of her inspirational family notebook all in the same week – “it was just a little bit overwhelming,” she recalls.

That was November last year. Since then she’s juggled parenting commitments – three year old Myka keeps her busy when son Chad is at school – with finishing touches to her new home and trying to market her ‘book of childhood memories’ without that intruding on time with her children.

So far she has sold more than 200 copies mostly online to parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, caregivers and others inspired by her vision for not only parents to remember their children’s growing up but also for youngsters to record their own thoughts and feelings, skills and experiences during their formative years.

“We were living in Perth when our son Chad was a pre-schooler and I remember being so taken by his imagination and his view of the world. We were always writing things down on bits of paper then losing them. We thought we’d never forget this funny saying or that special moment but then so many slipped away. People kept saying you mustn’t forget this or that but we did.”

It wasn’t until after the family had returned to New Zealand that Jo began re-thinking of ways to ‘capture the moments and the memories’.

“I’m a Kiwi girl at heart and was homesick for New Zealand. I grew up in Howick and went to local schools including Macleans College but then, when we returned, the idea of living in the country really appealed and Waiau Pa provided the rural lifestyle we, as a family, were looking for.”

During the house build, Jo began toying with ideas to record all the fascinating aspects of her children’s lives. “Lying in bed I thought why don’t I just create a book.”

Keen to write down her ideas Jo leapt to but had no substantial paper. At that point she might have let her ideas to slide, but not, Jo. “I raced over to a neighbour, filched some paper and started writing down ideas before I forgot the concept that was forming.”

And, what a concept it was – a place to record all the glorious ‘things they say’, designed to capture those enchanting childhood imaginations that will never be the same again, created by ‘a mum who never knew where to write these things down.’

I Did, I Love, I Am, includes 10 sections which follow the colours of the rainbow and covers the likes of ‘my day’, ‘my day out’, ‘my holiday’, ‘this is me’, ‘things I say’, ‘questions and answers with me’ plus several more. Some are for daily use; others for different occasions.

“It is designed to promote self-worth, family time, quiet time and the ability to share and reflect together,” Jo explains. “Throughout there is a focus on promoting self worth; it’s important that children learn from an early age to love themselves and who they are.”

However, before this well planned journal could come to fruition, Jo consulted a design company and came away ‘totally deflated by the estimated cost of getting the project up and running.’

“When I was told it would cost thousands of dollars for a graphic designer and illustrator, it seemed inhibitive but then I reach out to old contacts and, wonderfully, I was able to employ a former kindy friend to do the graphic design and another friend as the illustrator. Then I had about 100 copies printed to test the waters.”

Whether by luck or because people recognised the worth of this sensible notebook, orders started to flow in through Facebook and Instagram pages set up by Jo. She has since established her own website from where books can be purchased.

“I’m now working on some retail outlets but I don’t let the project consume me.

“This book is a reflection of my personality, my desire to spend time with my children, to be involved in their growing up and having it remembered. Therefore, I don’t want it to become contradictory to my personality – that is, less time for the children, more time on the business. That’s not what this is about.”

So, as it stands, Jo spends as much time with her children as possible but says with Myka having just started kindergarten, she hopes to take more time for marketing.

“Ultimately, I hope that families will love using the notebook with their children. It’s easy to start with toddlers who are forming their first sentences and then go through to upper primary school children who can complete pages themselves.

“Children provide such wonderful narratives on their lives and can catch us all off guard with the quirky and comical things they say, so much so that you sometimes have the answers without even asking questions.

“These organic ‘real’ answers, with no need for embellishment from parents, are so essential to capture and remember.”