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Christmas cards are often bearers of family photos and newsletters along with festive greetings. Some military spouses have found that a personalized weblog delivers family news all year long — and crosses one item off the holiday “to do” list.

“My Christmas letter turns into a New Year’s letter … then an oops-maybe-next-year letter,” said Air Force wife and family blogger Jen Parrott of Spangdahlem, Germany.

“One of the beauties about the blog is that — for the people I want to know about us — I can list our blog address in their Christmas card and invite them in for some good reads,” Jen said.

“I don’t send out a Christmas letter because I do regular updates on the Web site,” said Amy Beeman, an Air Force wife in Hawaii. “I do send out Christmas cards, though.”

A blog also provides more space than one newsletter, said Hillary Baggett, a Marine wife in Stuttgart, Germany, who also maintains a family blog.

“There is so much that happens overseas, there is too much info to include,” Hillary said.

Blogs and e-mail can supplement without replacing traditional correspondence.

“We have a personal Web site that we update for friends and family,” said Air Force wife Tammy VenDange, stationed in Australia. “We still send out a Christmas letter every year — often by e-mail these days — too.”

A family blog brings details of life to faraway loved ones and crosses time zones with ease.

“I have several other friends that also have blogs, and I love this method of keeping up to date with them,” said Jen.

“When you are spread all over the world — you can never seem to find just the right time to call,” she said. “You have to consider the eight-hour time difference, what is going on at home, and then you have to touch on the big things because time is always too short.

“Our family in the States can look (at the blog) and see all the little things that may not make it into our phone conversations,” said Jen.

Family blogs need not be expensive or technically challenging. Blogger.com, Blogspot and Web sites for Heroes, which offers sites especially for military families, are free and offer ready-made formats. Users plug in their own photos and information.

Some, like Multiply and Shutterfly, offer photo sharing, prints and tools to create scrapbooks. The blog is free, but the products are not.

Experienced bloggers offered some caveats:

• Be Safe, said Deb from Washington D.C., whose site has a customized protected list for visitors.

“I select ‘friends only’ to be able to see our photos,” said Deb, who preferred not to use her last name. “Security is very important to us, especially our children’s info and photos.

“My husband is a social worker, so we are mindful of what kind of creepy people can lurk around — everywhere or on the Internet.”

• Be Real: “The Web site paints an idyllic picture of life overseas with the travel and adventure,” Hillary said. “Few people back in the States see the culture and language challenges, the loneliness and isolation we can feel back here, not to mention the everyday life that is not so glamorous.”

• Relax. “Have fun with it and use it like a diary,” said Amy. “You don’t have to be good at writing. Your family just wants to know what’s going on in your life.”

Jen agreed: “Don’t worry about making it fancy, just get the information out and then worry about the cute stuff later when you have more time.”

See more about blogging on — you guessed it — the Spouse Calls blog.

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three. She lives and writes in Germany. Contact her at spousecalls@stripes.com and see the Spouse Calls blog here.

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