By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Barb Johnson, Little Falls, and her sister Beth Schwarz, Apple Valley, put their heads together about a year ago, and came up with and idea to help children with deployed soldiers in their family.
“It’s hard for a child to understand time,” said Johnson. When a child is told something will happen in six months or a year, it means the same as forever to a child.
To overcome that, the two created a children’s calendar, with more than 500 stickers, making it easier for a young person to know when an important event is going to happen. It could be when a parent comes home from deployment, how many days before the family goes on vacation or the number of days to a birthday. It’s also a great calendar for the expectant birth of a sibling.
Before Johnson’s son, Travis Erickson, was deployed from Camp Ripley, she went to a Family Readiness Group meeting. There she learned about helping her grandchildren cope with their uncle’s absence.
“My concern was how they were going to cope with the length of time he was going to be gone,” she said. “Even though the Family Readiness Group’s class was availabe to help children, I was still concerned with how they would deal with the separation.”
Schwarz’s son-in-law is also deployed and she had the same concerns.
“That’s when we got the idea for a calendar for our grandchildren,” Schwarz said.
It took more than a year to get the project off the ground, with the input of many family members, grandchildren and friends.
The calendar is put together like a book, with a page for each month. The stickers, with pictures of animals or clip art, fit perfectly in each square, representing a day.
Daily, as stickers are added to the calendar, it’s another day closer to the event.
“There are special stickers for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, birthdays and more. Those special days in a child’s life can be marked in advance,” said Schwarz. “The calendar will also help teach children the days and months of the year.”
Each page may be tailored to the events in the child’s life. There is no right or wrong way for the calendar to look and both Schwarz and Johnson have found the older children are thrilled to help their younger siblings create their own calendars.
“Kids love stickers,” said Johnson, who said there are stickers for all sorts of activities.
“Our grandkids love the calendars,” said Johnson, who took all the pictures for the stickers.
Schwarz said she has heard her grandchildren say, “Only two more stickers until mommy comes home,” when the mother was away.
“They can see how many more stickers are needed before the day has arrived,” said Schwarz.
The name of the book is “Marking the Date Helps Me Wait.”
The calendar was first published in December and the sisters have just begun to market their product. They will have a booth at the Minnesota Association of Christian Educators in St. Paul April 13-14, and they plan to speak to the Family Readiness Group at Camp Ripley on the calendar’s benefit for children of deployed soldiers. They will also promote the calendar with special education groups and early childhood education classes.
The name of their company, “Before I Forget,” came about when Schwarz wanted a one-page calendar to be seen at a glance, showing her the birthdays of everyone in her family. As their families grew, she knew it would be harder and harder for her to remember the important dates.
“That’s when Barb and I came up with the large wall calendar with pictures of family members inserted in the square representing each birth date,” said Schwarz. “And the name.”
The calendars are available Online at www.beforeiforgetcalendars.com.