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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The lifebook: “good enough” is great!

I haven’t posted about Project Lifebook in a while, and I’ve made a whole bunch of progress on it recently, so here’s an update.

The book is 90% done and the simple binder format (the one I picked so I would focus on actually working on the project rather than obsessing endlessly over design) is the cat’s meow. It’s cool because I can change things easily and also because as soon as it was “good enough” I could print it out and let the girls start manhandling it. TubaDad and I have read it to Ro and Ree over and over again (at their request) and each time they ask for different things to be added (usually more pictures). I also keep seeing areas that I want to add to, and it’s simple to just write a new page and slip it in the binder. And the girls really enjoy seeing new pages pop up.DSC_1475LR

Anyhow, they both love it and want to bring it to school for sharing day. I think it helps them to ask questions that wouldn’t otherwise come up and to feel more secure about their beginnings, which were two of our main reasons for wanting a lifebook for Ro and Ree. The other reason was to help TubaDad and I get comfortable with their story, the words we wanted to use, and how to communicate tougher concepts. (Concepts like birthparents, which, I’m happy to say, I can now talk about without stammering and stuttering and sounding like a nervous idiot. So practice really does make perfect in this area.)

I ended up with this outline, and included simple titles that the girls can read. They’re already adept at scrolling through this table of contents to find what they want and then turning to the right page. The titles in the table of contents are also repeated as page titles inside the book for easy skimming:DSC_1483LR

The items in red in the TOC (and throughout the book) are pieces I’m still working on. And all of the information and writing is geared toward five-year-olds, specifically OUR five-year-olds.

They like the pages with interactive details, or things that they can do, like the world map page, the 2005 calendar page, or naming who’s who in this page:DSC_1478LR

And they quickly notice the areas I’ve left in red saying “scan from original referral doc” and the like. Oops. Ro likes to point out how long the red sentences have been there (she’s counting) and suggest that I really need to just get it done.

They like to hear minute information – details about the country they were born in or what they did when we met. They never tire of repeating the tiny details that I’ve tried to capture like favorite foods, funny things they did, etc. Here’s the first page of the Family Day section:DSC_1479LR

They think it’s hilarious to point to this picture below and say that we couldn’t believe they didn’t nap until landing time on the monstrously long trip home from China. And it makes TubaDad and I laugh to point to the “Welcome to the United States” picture that my dad snapped illegally in the airport when we all landed. Hm, I’m noticing a typo or two in the below page – good thing I can just rip that one page out of the binder and replace it! Heh.DSC_5104LR3

Anyhow, if you want to do a lifebook for your sweet kiddo, but are overwhelmed thinking about where to begin, you’re not alone. It’s a hard project to get your arms around. The only advice I have is to just start writing, whichever part you feel most comfortable with. And you’ll be surprised at how it just comes together. It really is worth the time and effort. Ours isn’t going to win any design or writing awards, but you know what? It’s just fine. And, most importantly, in Ro and Ree’s words:

Ree: I like that it has mostly all the stuff that’s true about us.
Ro: I like that it shows everything that we did in life.
Ree (when asked why other kids would want lifebooks): Maybe it’s because they want to know how their family became.

Wow. That last sentence? Well I really couldn’t say it any better than that.

* PS: I originally planned to write two completely separate lifebooks, but almost all of the initial information, pictures, etc was identical, so it didn’t make sense. Once completed, I’ll make two copies (with some personalization).


  1. Awww! I love it. Will you just send me a copy and I'll cut and paste Eliza's info ;)?! I'm inspired. Maybe this will be my summer project?

  2. Anonymous1/19/2011

    What a great idea for your little girls!
    However, I was sorta skimming the table of content and saw the very last thing on the list as "The End", which felt a little "uh.." for a lifebook. Maybe "..To be continued" instead? Sorries if I had offended you in any way.

  3. Love it and oh how I should get my act together and do one for Maisie. Glad that the girls love their story and their book, good job Mama!

  4. This is great! I really need to get going on Tate's lifebook! I love the advise from the girls...

  5. Have you thought of transferring those pages to a permanent book like Shutterfly, Apple, Blurb? What you have done is amazing and your kids will love it forever. I always make birthday books for my 8 grandchildren. Since everyone has digital files these days we tend to not print photos too much. When kids get older they love to look back and see what they have done in the past. Good luck, you've done a great job!

  6. The life books are wonderful! I should do that for ours twins. I've saved all the emails from that time too to print out for them. Just need to do it.

    Thanks for being such an inspiration and for sharing the info.

  7. Love it, and I REALLY love the page of other people born in China! AWESOME!

  8. You have created a beautiful keepsake for them....memories are so important & this will mean much for them later in life. Great job!!!

  9. Great job!

    I was so relieved when I got my older daughter's Lifebook done, and thought doing my younger daughter's would be a piece of cake with the template already written...eh, not so much. I still have that lovely chore ahead of me. Must get it done.

    What a weight off of your shoulders!!

  10. Anonymous1/20/2011

    This is just great.

    Flying Home--should be a very long time--word missing.

  11. Wow, that's great! I have wanted to do one too but kept thinking I had waited too long. Thanks for inspiring me.

  12. Excellent! I have got to get working on these. The question is when?????

  13. Anonymous1/20/2011

    Nice job! I started our lifebook, but gave up. I will have to dig it out again. I did that same thing as you did, using the sheet protectors.

    Thanks for the inspiration!


  14. Great work! Were they really that little???? :-)

  15. Great book! I really must make one for Tahlia. Jazzie has one, but I never took the time to make one for Tahlia. This looks like a perfect project to do together.

  16. very neat- well done! thank you for sharing!

  17. I'm with Eliza2006...hehehe...

    You go girl!

  18. Anonymous1/20/2011

    Great job! As you know I'm big on documenting the facts and memories.

    I'm always emphasizing to Tess that there are many other girls we know just like her. It is so important. Loved that page.

    We're honored to have Tess be in your book. ; )

  19. Oh M! This just gave me goosebumps. Reading even this little bit has reminded me how important it is to write a Life Book for Hannah. I clicked your 'Project Lifebooks' link and got as far as the title 'the first step is a doozy' and that's where I am. Overwhelmed but longing to do this. I must do this...and I WILL!

    Thank you, thank you for sharing this. It is absolutely beautiful and I love the kid friendly format you chose.

    Must admit to goose bumps too when I saw the pics of the girl's friends who were also born in China. So thankful for the precious friendship we share and cannot wait to see the girls in action together this summer!

    Beautiful....beautiful! Well done!!

  20. It's really beautiful, M3!!! I'm sure the girls are so proud of "their story".

  21. Anonymous1/20/2011

    Hi - Your life book is wonderful. I have two little girls from China, now 5 and 9. From day one of the adoption process I journaled and then continued with a journal of our trip through China, and now home. I write in a book for each girl and often include photos. Here is my question on the life book...did you address birth parents? My 9 year old has not connected up the whole birth parent issue and I am not sure how to handle it when that day comes. She recently mentioned that if she had a "finger prick" (like in the movie "Elf"(!)), it would say that they are not sisters...because they came from different places. Yes, I told her, that is true, you are not biological sisters but you certainly are sisters through adoption. She was fine with that...so the question is - how have you dealt with questions on birthparents? Thanks.

  22. Anonymous1/20/2011

    I love it!! You did a great job. I'm inspired to complete mine :)


  23. I think you did an AMAZING job with this, and you definitely have inspired me to get crackin' ! Thank you so much for sharing a glimpse into their story. Well done!

  24. Anonymous1/20/2011

    Thanks for sharing - love it! Must have taken a long time - how do you find time to do it? Wondering what type of paper is it printed on? Are the photos printed on or glued/taped on? Thanks!

  25. I am in NO WAY an expert...but I can say that I have found these books to be invaluable to my kids. It is something tangible that is all their own. Their early story is very important to them, but somewhat abstract and 'foreign', and it certainly didn't begin in a government building in China or an airport in America {where the family photographs generally begin}. I think the lifebook helps answer questions and keep the conversation going as new quesions arise.

    I'll step off my soapbox now.

    Great job, Mom!!


  26. Super Salsa Mom!!! Every month I say I'm going to get crackin' on this same project. You have inspred me.

  27. That is awesome!!! I love love love it. I will have to get going on those for my girlies.

  28. Anonymous1/20/2011

    FYI - limousine! Figure the Twinadoes will point it out before long!

  29. I"m tearing up sweetie ... thinking about that day at lunch when you told us that you and TubaDad were going to adopt, and all the waiting (and waiting) and how much incredible joy those little girls have brought to your lives. And then suddenly thinking about TubaDad's taxi adventure and how incredibly precious these memories are and ... getting sappy so need to go walk the dog, snuggle my sleeping little one and get to bed. See you this weekend & get ready for a huge hug!

  30. Anonymous1/21/2011

    am inspired by u..THANK U :):)

  31. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU! You just gave me permission to toss all that scrapbook paraphanelia that I have been hoarding in the hopes of creating something amazing. Now this I can do! And thank you for the index page photo. I am printing off your post in order to remind myself that I can do this. My kids keep asking. And the saddest part? When our SW came to do our hs update for this third adoption, the thing I was most dreading was her asking (AGAIN) if I had completed our other children's life books yet. sigh... Perfectionism rears its ugly head once again.

  32. This is so fabulous! I'm sure you've inspired a ton of people with this post- me included!

  33. Oh thank you for posting this. I did one for Ava several years ago and haven't done one for Olivia yet. Ugh, second child syndrome. I'm determined to get on it though this winter so they will both have one.

  34. Wow! I'm motivated to complete albums for our girls. Thank you so much for some ideas I hadn't even thought to include!

    R Jones
    Edmonds, WA

    adopted 2 sisters from Guizhou in 2009

  35. I really want to thank you for sharing this. I am not a "scrapbooking" type person. Some of the lifebooks I've seen are just plain intimidating. I look at what you have made and it is very accessible and achievable.

  36. this is amazing. REALLY amazing. i feel inspired to get mine done. again. it's tedious work that takes patience. like crafts.

    you understand. :)

    but this i can do.

  37. That is fantastic! I love how you put it in a regular binder so you can have it as a "work in process" without fussing about making it perfect in a scrapbook. This might inspire me to tackle the boxes of photos of my son's adoption (five copies of each: one for my son, myself, grandpa, grandma and my friend who travelled with us). I have been following your blog since before you adopted or shortly after. Sorry I haven't visited often.

  38. hi dear! i'm new to your blog, but you and your family are close to my heart...we are adopting our little lady from china...waiting for our LOA anyday now...praying praying praying it comes soon :)

    i LOVE this lifebook...i've scouted to find pretty ones, but they were either not pretty enough, or didn't allow for customizing...i love this idea - so it's even more kid friendly and you can keep adding and changing and making it more and more personal. i think i will do something similar.

    we have 2 awesome little boys...foster is 4 and rowan is 3...my hubby and i lived in china shortly after we were married and i got pregnant with foster while we were there :) he loves knowing he and his sister were both in their mama's bellies in china!

    anyway, now that i am writing a book...i'll go now...blessings to you and the girls!