When Birmingham is Far From Home :: Three Simple Ways to Stay Close with Family and Friends 


Like so many other young couples in Birmingham, my husband and I are not Alabama natives. And while we love the convenience and opportunities we’ve gained from living here, and it is truly the perfect place for our little family to grow, we are often reminded of how far we are from grandparents, siblings and all of that wonderful, free babysitting! 

For us, Birmingham is approximately 500 miles south of my parents and 500 miles north of my husband’s parents, not exactly ideal for a quick visit. We also have 17 siblings between the both of us and a shared 25 nieces and nephews. Now that is a lot of people and yes, if you’re wondering, Christmas is a blast! With so many loved ones, I’ve found that I need to be intentional about keeping up these relationships and at the same time look for ways to connect our son to his huge, crazy family. Here are my three best tips for loving your people well. Beyond parents and retired grandparents, these also apply to little sisters away at college, best friends living abroad, and more. And did I mention that they’re almost all free or inexpensive?!?

The Post Office Is Your Friend

I love sending and receiving snail mail! Birthdays and holidays are great, but there is nothing like the surprise of getting a handwritten note. It can be something simple like a cute card, a photo, or a piece of your child’s artwork, but keeping postage stamps on hand will make mailing little things almost effortless. If you want to send something big or bulky, the post office has free flat rate mailing boxes available. You can stuff them full of almost anything you like, and they ship at a discounted rate. These boxes are perfect for birthday gifts or for sharing baby clothes with a friend! A fun thing the younger brother does is send quirky little gifts to us through Amazon. I borrowed this idea from him, so if I find myself raving about a product or a great movie or book (since I’m on Amazon Prime all of the time anyway) I’ll order one and have it mailed to that person’s address. I try to keep it small and the cost around five dollars, but I promise if you love Magic Erasers, so will your sister-in-law who has two toddlers!

Thank Goodness For Technology!

Smartphones have made the world a smaller place in the best possible way, one of the easiest being FaceTime or phone calls! As a bonus, FaceTime can help your child learn to put faces to the names, and you can even use it to outsource bedtime stories to grandma! Texting a video takes only seconds, and aunties will probably love watching the one with your baby saying “cracker” for the first time just as much as you do. Older relatives often miss out on the constant stream of photos through social media, so taking the time to print photos for them is very kind and meaningful.  Apps like Chatbooks and TouchNote make it easy and inexpensive to send hard copies right to their door, and they will love having these little mementos to share with friends. On days when I’ve forgotten a birthday or when a friend needs cheering up, I will use my Starbucks app to send a coffee or treat and let them know I’m thinking of them. The gift card goes right to their email inbox, and they can use it instantly.  

Show Up

It isn’t always possible, but I try my hardest to be physically present for my people. I know that schedules are busy, budgets are real, and babies get crabby, but sometimes the best thing is to do is show up. It usually requires a little extra creativity, but jumping in the car or taking a late night flight is often worth it to say, “I love you”.  Just being there to hold a friend’s hand, or wash dishes after she’s had a baby, or to attend her dream wedding are all major investments into your relationship. I remember how much it meant to me when my mom came to Birmingham when I was sick during my pregnancy and then again after I experienced a traumatic birth. As I began writing this post, my mom called to tell me that my grandfather had been admitted into hospice. It was clear that I needed to be in Wisconsin with her and the rest of my family. Gratefully, my schedule was open with my husband having a heavy travel month. I was able to book a flights the next morning and fly there with my son. Life has been put on hold as we wait, but having this extra time with family and my grandpa has been really sweet, and I’m thankful to have had this real-time example of “showing up” over these last two weeks.  

What are some of your favorite ways to stay close to far away family and friends? I would love to hear any and all of your ideas. Leave a comment below!


  1. Love this! We’re in the same boat. We love the free app Tinybeans. It is a way to upload photos and videos for only those family and friends you invite. They can either look at them through the app or get a weekly email with all of the pictures like my grandfather does! They love it. And I love it because it’s nice for going back quickly to a specific date to see when the boys were doing different things. Big fan 🙂

    • I will have to check this out! My dad doesn’t do social media so he misses out on a lot of things like that, but he would totally read an email. Thank you!

  2. This is great! We have shared photo albums on our iPhones. Relatives have done recordable books for my daughter, so she can hear their voices. And we got a photo frame that allows me to upload photos and videos from my phone, and it shows up at the frame in their living room immediately. It’s a fun surprise! We also make a photo calendar that stays in my daughter’s playroom, and she can see different family members each month. Shutterfly offers lots of free photo gifts. My SIL made a matching game with photos of our family. It’s so cute!

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