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Friday, February 5, 2010

Let's talk lifebooks, shall we?

Have you made a lifebook for your child? You know, the kid-friendly book that tells her whole story in words and pictures—it tells about her birth, her country, what adoption is, information about her birth parents and the reason for leaving them, foster parent information, information about your family and how she joined your family, etc.

Well I hate to admit this, because I am a huge believer in lifebooks, but I still haven't started them for Ro and Ree yet. I know how valuable they are, I know that working on them is a great way to get comfortable with the questions your child is going to ask and the answers you want to give, and I know what a great tool they can be for instigating meaningful conversations and for helping your child feel comfortable with her story. I know all that, have known it for at least a year now, and still I've managed to neglect this important project.

Well this procrastination is now ending. Y'all are my witnesses, I WILL start those lifebooks now, and I WILL finish them in an expedient fashion. No more excuses. And I welcome any help you can offer, whether you've already finished a book, are just working on a lifebook right now, or are thinking of starting one someday. Maybe we can help each other. I've added Lifebooks as a topic to the navigation bar that runs across the top of this page. If you click on that tab, you'll be able to see any posts I've done about lifebooks (starting with this one measly post), and I plan to add information to that section about resources, outlines, tips, and any other things that might be helpful. I'd also like to get your advice on one to two questions/topics per post (I've got a million questions, but will try to focus).

So today's questions are:  

1. What resources have you found to be helpful in working on your lifebook? Web sites, books, newsletters, classes, Yahoo groups, sources for graphics, etc.  

2. What format did you use for your lifebook? Did you go with a service that assembled everything for you and provided the outline, graphics, layout, and printing (and if so, who?); or did you do the layout yourself, using your own words, photographs, and home printer; or something else entirely? This might seem like a small thing, but deciding this is one of the first steps for me—I get so dang paralyzed by the small decisions that I end up taking no action at all.

Next topics for discussion, and things that I'm working on right now, will include an outline of content and age-appropriate definitions of adoption, but those are posts for another day. Thanks for your help!

48 comments:

  1. Lulu's lifebook is terribly simple. (she is 2) I would be glad to send you c digital copy (though i would have to make it)

    I made lulu's by following a guide in beth omalleys lifebook book, there is a section in the back that tells you EXACTLY how to do it

    Ours is not beautiful and people have commented on how there are not enough pics of her, however, i was going for getting it done and NOT worrying about keeping it perfect. I just wanted the story there so she could read it.
    We rotate toys and books and this is the only thing that does NOT get rotated. She loves hers, even though I am not sure she understands it.

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  2. Oh man - the lifebook! I am so with you on this. I write for a local parenting website and did a post all about this several weeks ago myself! Have I done anything about it...er, um...no. But I have GREAT intentions - does that count?!

    Before we left for China in 2006 (!) I even got Kay Graap's Lifebook guide and, well, it's in the "life box" with all of the other stuff that I've collected for the lifebook. Sheesh.

    After much research, I decided I am more of a digital scrapbooking girl and found a digital lifebook set called Bright Jade that's based on the topics Kay covers in her book. You provide the story and the pictures, but the design and the topic pages are provided.

    Plus, profits are donated to Love Without Boundaries & Half the Sky. You can find it at Digital Scrapbooks.com

    I haven't purchased it yet - I fear commitment ;-) - but maybe we can have some kind of online "support group" and do this thing together! Better yet - can we all meet at some fun resort for a lifebook weekend?! Now THERE'S an idea I can get behind!

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  3. Add me to the slacker list. I have a photo album of our trip in China that she can look at but she never wants to.

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  4. Mer (Lulu's Mommy): Yes please!!! I would love to see it. My email addy is in the sidebar.

    Sweet Potato Pi: A resort getaway to work on lifebooks?! That's genius!!! That would SO motivate my slacker butt.

    Kim: Alrighty, I'm adding your name right underneath mine on the list! :-)

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  5. You know, I've done all the required reading on Lifebooks but I was (and still am) a scrapbooker and did many albums for my bio boys. Oldest has all Royal Blue albums, Middle has Evergreen and now my little girl has Red in honor of her birth country. I prefer to scrapbook and journal the photos we have of her instead of using a lifebook format. I've only gotten through "the wait" and "the trip" and "the first week home" but she LOVES it! Since it's in progress, she asks me to pull it out and look at it and points to the pics of her in the orphanage and says "that's my baby, FeiFei" meaning that's me when I was a baby and was called FeiFei. I feel that anything that they have to remember their past is invaluable, despite the label.

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  6. I'm doing Sarah's using my Mac and the program built into iPhoto. The layouts are simple and easy to manipulate and allow me to focus on the text which is the important part. I wrote the text a month or so ago and am still sitting with it - tweaking a word here and there so that I can get it where we want it. I am also planning on giving a couple of copies to my aunt and mom so that they know "the official story" as Sarah's was an in-family adoption and that could lead to miscommunications. This way they'll have our story as well.

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  7. Andrea2/05/2010

    I used Kodak Gallerys and they have some pre-done formats with backgrounds. It turned out great - for only $40 - and it is saved in our online Kodak account so if something happens to it, we can just re-order it.
    My advice? I cleared my calendar during preschool hours for a full week and didn't allow myself to do ANYthing else besides Lifebook. Also - my mantra was - "doesn't need to be perfect... better to have a mediocre lifebook than none at all". Hope this helps. : )

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  8. Andrea2/05/2010

    One more thing.... My daughter LOVES her lifebook and now "reads" it (from memory) to all of her stuffed animals and any human who enters our house. It takes some time, but it will be worth it!

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  9. having just passed court for my 20mo old daughter - WOOT!!! - i am very interested in this topic! thanks for making it a focus on your popular blog. i am sure i will get lots of tips. unfortunately i don't have any yet. :)

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  10. k1polzin2/05/2010

    I too have good intentions for starting this for my two daughters......seem to get lost as what to do! I will be following this link very closely.

    You could be our teacher :)

    Week one students we will
    work on ...
    Week two students will be....
    Week three OK....you get the picture :)

    C'Mon get us slackers motivated!

    Kim Evans

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  11. At this age, your girls may be interested in "helping" a little bit. Might make the book even more meaningful to them.

    Here is a link to some digital scrapbooking supplies for China adoption lifebooks:
    http://tinyurl.com/yzm9ovw
    I helped make a couple of the quick pages available.

    Here is a members-only forum that helps with writing the lifebook:
    www.asialifebooks.org

    Here is a members-only forum that helps with the graphics side of things:
    www.chinadigitalscrapbooks.com

    I still have the best of intentions too with nothing to show for it except a toddler-friendly ABC book. I'll send you a link as soon as I pay my Flickr bill.

    Happy writing!

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  12. I havent adopted so know nothing of lifebooks.. but like another commentor on here.. I have a mac laptop and have made books on the iphoto programme and then had them published. We did this with our wedding photos instead of an album. The advantage of this is that you can choose hardback or paperback, they are inexpensive, you can add pages to make them bigger than the standard for an extra cost, and people want to look at them!!! Ro and Ree would be able to actually read them all the time without damaging precious photos. If you dont have a mac there is a similar website http://www.bobbooks.co.uk/ that you can download a programme from and is basically the same thing.. then you can do it on a pc. Hope that helps

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  13. Anonymous2/05/2010

    Simple, simple, simple. Really. And, as a twin, try to make one for each girl... sharing our "baby book" as an adult is near impossible.

    You have a great story already documented for them to enjoy!

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  14. I have the Beth O'Malley book...it's helpful. I think lifebooks are intimidating, though...such a big project! I decided just to jump in, and make a book that was like a storybook...so I used Blurb (www.blurb.com). Little Bit LOVES her book, and we read it often. In fact, I have a whole series of books that I've done for her...Becoming a Family (the one that's like a lifebook), Off to Disney World, At the Zoo, etc. I figure as she gets older and there's more that she can understand and question, I'll add another book to the collection. She loves reading the books where she is the star!

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  15. I have not done on ether and I need to get working on it. I am a little paralyzed by some of the info coming out about stealing, trafficking, buying babies (and my daughter's orphanage is on the list).

    I am anxious to see other's advice.

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  16. I have not done on ether and I need to get working on it. I am a little paralyzed by some of the info coming out about stealing, trafficking, buying babies (and my daughter's orphanage is on the list).

    I am anxious to see other's advice.

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  17. Shutterfly.com also allows you to make digital scrapbooks, with different layouts for photos, text, etc. I made one for my dad for Christmas, and it turned out absolutely beautiful. I ended up paying about $70 for it, but it covered our 4 week trip through Europe, and is very high quality. Just another idea!

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  18. Huge fan of Shutterfly. I do an annual scrapbook at Christmas for extended family. They have lots of options and allow for a great deal of freedom.

    There is another outfit called One True Media that will allow a digital scrap book to be on DVD. But I haven't used them recently.

    ~ cheers

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  19. I also started doing "research," looked at many websites and other lifebooks as a guide, and then started writing out the text and choosing potential pictures in a rough draft. It was hard to not get bogged down in how to word things and what to include, etc. My daughter was 2 at the time and I realized it was way over her head and geared more toward a 7 or 8 year old. Initially I was planning on only making one lifebook, so I thought I would just read it to her at a lower level while she was young. Then I saw a posting where someone mentioned they made a super simple one for their toddler with 1 picture and 1 or 2 sentences per page. It was my eureka moment and I decided to make a very simple one. My pages ended up having 2 to 4 pics and 2 to 5 sentences per page. It ended up being SO much easier to just tell her story very simply. The 8 year old version will have to wait until she’s 8  She’s 3 now and loves her book and honestly understands her story at a level that sometimes surprises me. I used FotoFusion to format my own pages – that way I could put the pics and the text anywhere I wanted on the page. And because I wanted her to be able to look at her “book” whenever she wanted and I didn’t want to be freaking out about her wrinkling the pages, etc., I decided to put the pages in 8.5 x 11 page protectors in a 3 ring notebook. I just had the color pages printed for $.49 at Office Depot. Someday when she’s older and not a page-wrinkler I’ll have the pages printed more professionally or upload them to a Shutterfly book or something. Sorry for the super long comment…

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  20. Another slacker coming clean...I did a digital take off on Max Lucado's "In Case You Ever Wonder" for my daughter, but that is it. It just basically tells her about the day we met. I can send you a link (I think), if you are interested. I do need to make 2 different lifebooks. So, I am all for the idea of working through it week by week.

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  21. Well I actually have 3 lifebooks in various stges.

    1. ABC life book- this was first one, I thought I would do life book in this format to help with ABCs. But there are some letters I struggled with and then I decided I did not like that it was not a linear telling. I think I am still going to finish it- just becuase it is cute.

    2. A babybook life book. I took the Creative Memories babybook templates (I was a CM consultant at the time) and adapted it to Bug's adoption process. I have about 5 pages of extras to finish up. This one goes through the referral period to his first birth home (12 weeks after homecoming).

    3. A month by month life book of the months from referral to homecoming. This is more the pictures my agency sent each month (15 months) and the 2 visit trips I took (Guatemalan adoption). This book is done.

    I need to work on the memory books since he came home through this year- becuase he starts school in the fall and means I need to start the school memory books.

    I have say, having a been a Cm consultant, I am way behind in terms of what I think I need to have done. But I also recognize that Bug needed me to be with him during the last 2.5 years, not working on memory books or other things. he neede me present. Yes, the memory books, quilting, etc give me a mental break, but he was not at the stage where he could occupy himself while I did other things in the same room. We seem to have turned that corner recently, but I still feel guilty about working on other things when I should be with him since I am single parent.

    I have thought about doing a digital based book, but I like journeling and like the idea of Bug having my writing to look back at years from now. It just seems a little more personal than typing into a book template. I also like that I can add to the books through the years if need be.

    My biggest issue has been making the book about Bug and not about my experience of the adoption process. I have to remember to write in terms of how I felt seeing him and how he looked and his reactions, what he was doing in the pictures.

    Scrapntell is a great site for adoption related scrapbook items. She has items for nearly every country, include digital items.

    The other thing is that in many cases my blog has become the lifebook for Bug. There is another adoptive family that will take your book and turn it into a book for you- which is something I am intending on doing in the next few months.

    Good luck,
    Deb

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  22. Well I actually have 3 lifebooks in various stges.

    1. ABC life book- this was first one, I thought I would do life book in this format to help with ABCs. But there are some letters I struggled with and then I decided I did not like that it was not a linear telling. I think I am still going to finish it- just becuase it is cute.

    2. A babybook life book. I took the Creative Memories babybook templates (I was a CM consultant at the time) and adapted it to Bug's adoption process. I have about 5 pages of extras to finish up. This one goes through the referral period to his first birth home (12 weeks after homecoming).

    3. A month by month life book of the months from referral to homecoming. This is more the pictures my agency sent each month (15 months) and the 2 visit trips I took (Guatemalan adoption). This book is done.

    I need to work on the memory books since he came home through this year- becuase he starts school in the fall and means I need to start the school memory books.

    I have say, having a been a Cm consultant, I am way behind in terms of what I think I need to have done. But I also recognize that Bug needed me to be with him during the last 2.5 years, not working on memory books or other things. he neede me present. Yes, the memory books, quilting, etc give me a mental break, but he was not at the stage where he could occupy himself while I did other things in the same room. We seem to have turned that corner recently, but I still feel guilty about working on other things when I should be with him since I am single parent.

    I have thought about doing a digital based book, but I like journeling and like the idea of Bug having my writing to look back at years from now. It just seems a little more personal than typing into a book template. I also like that I can add to the books through the years if need be.

    My biggest issue has been making the book about Bug and not about my experience of the adoption process. I have to remember to write in terms of how I felt seeing him and how he looked and his reactions, what he was doing in the pictures.

    Scrapntell is a great site for adoption related scrapbook items. She has items for nearly every country, include digital items.

    The other thing is that in many cases my blog has become the lifebook for Bug. There is another adoptive family that will take your book and turn it into a book for you- which is something I am intending on doing in the next few months.

    Good luck,
    Deb

    ReplyDelete
  23. I made one for each of my daughters and love them. I got them online at www.thedreamkidz.com They feature beautiful Jinshan and Huxian folk art and the pages said what I wanted them to say. And if they didn't, it was easy to adapt as the pages you don't need can be removed and different ones added. Check them out.

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  24. I used Beth O'Malley's lifebook workbook too. Loved it. Talked about how to write about the unknowns. Talked about how to create conversations and questions and how to give as much information as you can, without sugar coating it, or making it up. I made them through Shutterfly. The girls read them often and I can always order another one. If you want to see them, I can send you the log in to my Shutterfly site.

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  25. I'm with ya, sister. Before traveling to China, I joined a local lifebook group and made great progress. I was SO excited to finish everything in record time.

    And then we got Em.

    Haven't touched it since.

    And it makes it worse that online resources are so much better now and most of what I have done is with paper products, so now I'm torn.

    I think I will make a toddler version on scrapblog or shutterfly and then finish the more adult friendly version for when she is older and that version will have every document, etc.

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  26. Hi,

    Thanks for blogging about this topic. I have gotten as far as selecting many of the photos and thinking about what I wanted to say about different topics.

    Then I was talking to another adoptive mom about life books. I realized after our conversation, that I hadn't really been writing my daughter's life book, instead I had been writing "my" parenting story (wanting a child/family, waiting for you, referral, trip to China, days/months home).

    I had to sit back and think about the purpose of this life book (I hope to provide my daughter experiences to think/question/ponder her identity and story). So now I am centering it on "her story" as the focus.

    I also realized I did not have much of her story before referral, but her story does not start at referral - although I have seen many life books where this is the beginning page. Obviously this is difficult because of limited details and pictures. So now I am trying to determine how to tackle this in "her" book.

    I will be eagerly looking forward to further posts you have on this topic.

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  27. Didn't read through all the comments so sorry if this is a repeat but asialifebooks.com is now working on each page one week at a time I believe and will walk you through the process. I started mine digitally and followed their process and it's so simple and a lot of great resources on that site. If you do the books digitally through photoshop or some other program, you can go to shutterfly and download their template so you will have the template for each page for when you go to have them printed.

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  28. Well, my older daughter has been with us for about 2 weeks less than Ro and Ree have been home with you and I am finally(!) finished with her lifebook and starting on her little sisters (who has been home for over 19 months herself!).

    I purchased a template from someone who created one on Shutter*fly and since I'm very familiar with S*fly and have made many books with them, I was sure I could do it -- and the moment I got the template I started -- it took me about 1 week to get it done and I am THRILLED that it's done!

    Now, I just have to get our younger daughter's done, hit "print and we'll be in business!

    I did buy Beth O'Malley's "creating a lifebook" book but can't find the darn thing anywhere! So frustrating!

    If you're interested in a link to the gal who made the lifebook template, let me know and I'll send it to you.

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  29. I used The Story Of Me albums at myperfectmemories.com to create a 'first year home'
    book for our daughter (which revolves primarily around photos)...and a second one that includes everything from the second year on up (for school photos, other firsts, etc.).
    We also have the My China Workbook by Beth O'Malley. I've managed to get the workbook into a 3-ring binder (with the W.I.S.E Up Powerbook tucked inside the pocket) but, that's the extent of that one. Our daughter is 4 and I'm not sure she's quite ready for it yet...I'm thinking next year.
    M.

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  30. I'll keep this short because if I drag it out, I'll surely head down on a shame spiral. We're getting ready to celebrate our 4 year anniversary of being a family. Unless you count the one, lone "class" I went to, then I've started it. But if you won't count that, well, it's a fail.

    Glad to know I'm in good company, though :)

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  31. Anonymous2/05/2010

    As a social worker I have the awesome opportunity to see the benefit to the child when adoptive parents cherish the life books that their children started prior to arriving home. That said, no pressure to get one completed!! Just start the process; I urge everyone to consider a life book to be a tool that allows for the child to add to it as they mature and their adoption story matures. Both the kids I work with and their parents LOVE to see their artwork and written life story in their handwriting from three years ago. Life books are such a great tool. Don’t feel pressured to get them completed and perfect – they are meant to be a work in progress.

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  32. I will be very interested in what you find out and what is said... I have not started Tate's yet. I really do not have time right now .... but hope to knock it out in the summer when teaching and University classes off for the summer. Hmmmmmm, may be something we can work on in our Utah bloggy bash???

    Hugs
    Lisa

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  33. I know what you mean by getting stuck on the formatting. I was going to make a blog book and then a lifebook, but couldn't even pick a format for the blogbook. And then our picture of the FedEx guy was missing, so I got even more stuck. Then I got stuck on the lifebook too.

    I need a babysitter to come one day so I can work on it.

    I've made tons of books for friends on Shutterfly and Snapfish, and even one for Casey about her night night routine. But I'm just stuck on the lifebook. I do have the Beth O'Malley book and I like it a lot (thank goodness it's short). And I get an email with monthly tips from her.

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  34. So, I haven't done a lifebook. I have printed off my blog (used Blurb) and LOVED it! It is so great. I am too tired to think really of doing more. So, once you do all the work, let me know how it went and then I will decide if I will attempt one too. :)

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  35. Anonymous2/06/2010

    fashion friday?

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  36. I've been slacking on the full blown version for as she gets older with all of the appropriate information. We did do 2 age appropriate ones

    1. ABC book all about Maddie

    2. Toddler lifebook with age appropriate info and wording

    I did use templates and they're printed on shutterfly in 8X8 books

    Something I've wanted to do more of but have yet to have the time is following along on asialifebooks.org they just recently started up the writing schedule

    Users share their text and look for suggestions for wording, etc

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  37. Ok- you've gotten great advice already!

    I can only say that for my girls this has been a HUGE thing for them. Grace reads hers every day. Pearl also reads hers and looks at the photos of her friends in China. She is much more private about reading hers, but also loves to have it read aloud to her.

    For Kai, I haven't done the hard bound book yet. I use a small book of photos only for him to look at as we read it.

    I just read from Lisa's comment that you are headed out to see us! I'd love to share my books with you when you are here!

    Kim Brown

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  38. I LOVE Shutterfly. It is really easy, they have a ton of layouts and the books are beautiful when printed. I did my daughter's(from Guatemala) and scanned in all important documents. I even have a photo of she and her birth mother and photos of her birth mother alone. It helped me a lot to put together a book and to really collect my thoughts and feelings. Good Luck.

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  39. Anonymous2/06/2010

    I would try Snapfish...I have not made a lifebook, but have made a book using thier program as a gift. It was incredibly easy and it turned out soooooo fantastic. You can choose the format you want your book to be (hardback, page layouts etc) and then you put whatever you want at the bottom of each page just like a real book. (It can be one word or several sentences) All you do it upload your pics to snapfish into an album and then you have it make a book out of that album. Then you can go through and arrange the order, layout, and add words. The coolest part is that this book looks like a real book that was published for you! It can be hardback with a glossy "book protector" cover and all! Its worth checking out for sure! I loved mine!! Snapfish is free to join as well so all you pay for is whatever you order.

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  40. I haven't started Jammer's lifebook either but I've got most of the supplies. I'm going to do traditional scrapbooking for it. I am so a texture and feel type of person and want all the different elements traditional scrapbooking offers.

    We did do a Shutterfly "1st year home" book for him and I like the way it turned out.

    I've got the outline/topics all drafted out but need to wait until we have the new house so that I have the space to work. Right now I'd have to put it all away each evening and that doesn't make for good progress. If you want my list of topics, just email me and I'll send it your way.

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  41. I used to teach about lifebooks.

    I guess my first suggestion would be to write the "older" books now - very detailed - because, as the years pass, you forget specifics. Once you get the whole thing written, then you can quickly edit the girls' stories to be more age-appropriate, going through Shutterfly or something to create two simple toddler books.

    I also highly recommend the two members-only forums Asia Lifebooks and China Digital Scrapbooks.

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  42. This is so been on the back burner for me too. I just don’t know how to start. I have 22 pages and pictures from Half the Sky her memory book do I add this in or do I make 2 different books. You have me thinking about this again. Thanks for all the cool links.

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  43. I'm doing Sophie's book on Shutterfly so it'll look like a real book. I've been at it for 2 years and it's almost done.

    I've targeted at her age for now and then I'll do one later for when she's around 10 with more info that she'll be ready for by then.

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  44. I wanted to follow up on my comment. You got me thinking and I pulled out the ABC book. Bug loved it tonight. We had a good talking through the pictures and the story. So I guess I like it and will continue to work on it.

    One of the reasons that I did the ABC lifebook is that I wanted something differnt. I did not want a cookie cutter looking lifebook. I am not discounting or knocking anyone that does use the suggestions in books and templates out there- it just did not work for me. Even the baby book templates from CM, I customized them so they were not so cookie cutter.

    I was thinking about your dilema with twins- you might conside one book now, with pages for both Ree and Ro that can be removed and put in their own books as they get older or if they really want seperate books now.

    The important thing is that the books reflect you and the grils- be simple, be itcovered in color- what is important is the story that needs to be told.

    Love and hugs,
    Deb

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  45. I think that the best thing to do is to NOT get lost in all of the little details. When I look through my baby books, what I like the most are the pictures and my mom's little stories about my favorite foods, the funny things I said, etc. I think that if you incorporate telling their story in an age appropriate way, pics from China, referral photos, what it was like when you got "the call," etc. PLUS all of those things that make each girl special, it will be a treasure for them and you will be so glad that you took those first few steps. I bet you'll get rolling on this and realize that it wasn't nearly as difficult as you thought it would be.

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  46. haven't started ours yet either, though she came with one from Hope Foster Home (what a treasure that is), of her time there. I want to somehow incorporate that into her lifebook I'm doing- you know, the continuation of her story. but i am hoping to do it all on-line (m-pix, or use my mac program to make a book- can scan some of her stuff from china and add in our own).

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  47. Hi M3- I used Little Lotus Creations to make a toddler lifebook for my now 4 yo. It is beautiful, you can customize it and Kristi, the woman who makes them is a dream to work with. Plus, I believe she donates some of her profits to Love Without Boundries. My daughter loves hers.
    Good Luck with yours.

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  48. I made an overly simplistic one for my DD's 2nd birthday. I think it has maybe 8 pages...I also was very paralyzed in wanting to do it "right" and "perfect", but decided one weekend that it needed to get one and to just do it. I don't care for it...but it works for now. I have a page for us pre-referral, referral pics, pic of orphanage, pic of first time we saw her, pic of us as a family, pic of foot stamp, a misc pic in China, pic at airport, pic at re-adoption. A few sentences on each page is all I have.

    I put them in a small 6x6 (I think) scrapbook album so the pages are removable. Of course, this has caused issues with pages being taken out, but its not her forever one. It's what has worked for us.

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