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Saturday, April 30, 2011

More pages from the bright pink lifebook

I keep meaning to post more information about Ro and Ree’s lifebook, and then, well, life just gets crazy. It’s actually finished (at least for now), and the girls tote it all over the place. They like to say "It tells the story of how we were born in China and how we became a family," which pretty much nails it. And they frequently look through the binder, point out fave areas, and ask new questions, which is exactly what we hoped.

Ro and Ree’s lifebook is just under 50 pages now. After procrastinating on this project for four years, I just had to do it already and stop obsessing about design choices and how to make it look perfect. So I wrote it in Microsoft Word and printed the pages out on our computer. And the funny thing is that it ended up being absolutely perfect for us. Each page is in a plastic sheet protector, so Ro and Ree can enjoy the book, girlhandle it, spill on it, take it outside, basically do whatever they want with it. If any page gets ruined or they want additional information added, I just print that one out again.

Hey I’m by no means a lifebook expert, but when you’re writing this kind of book don’t forget:
- This is your kiddo’s story, so start it with his/her birth, not your adoption process 
- Make sure this is the story of your child, not the story of your adoption experience (Eg: Say what your child was doing/wearing/saying/ eating/holding on family day, don’t just say how you felt about becoming a family)
- Include at least one picture or graphic on each page (trust me, the text-only pages will be totally ignored) 
- Include interactive items and questions throughout the book (questions about maps, calendars, or photographs are fun)

Here are some close-up pages from our book, in case anyone needs some ideas. Feel free to use any of this wording, the folks who shared lifebooks with me and the forums I joined were so helpful and I appreciated every single person who said “Use this, it works.” The pages aren’t consecutive (they’re just a few highlights):DSC_5082LRps

Here’s the outline I ended up with. The girls love scanning the TOC to find what they’re looking for and then flipping to the right page:DSC_5286LR3DSC_5086LRps-2LR3

Another adoptive parent sent me the wording for this page and it was so simple and perfect for this age:DSC_5282LR3

We have a world map page and also this country page:DSC_5090LRps

This is Ree’s favorite page. She brought the lifebook to school for sharing, showed everyone this page and explained about Hubei, then passed out sesame treats:DSC_5090LRps

One of my favorite blog comments ever was when I was asking how to approach this subject and one commenter said something like “The first time I ever used the term birthmother I almost fainted, but it gets easier, I promise.” And boy was she right.DSC_5092LRps

You can google any date and find a calendar image to use like this one. The girls get a kick out of it:DSC_5092LRpsDSC_5094LRpsDSC_5363LR3

We were so lucky that the disposable camera we sent to China came back filled with pictures from the foster family. Priceless:DSC_5098LRps

I didn’t have a photo for this page and thought sticky-note images would jazz up an otherwise text-heavy page. Now it’s one of the girls’ faves:DSC_5102LRps

If you’re stuck on making a lifebook for your kiddo, hopefully these sample pages, or some of this wording, or even the idea that you can do a binder instead of a daunting graphical book will help. Thanks to everyone who helped in this project by sharing your lifebooks and your words with me – your help was invaluable.

PS: If you’d like to see more posts on this, click Lifebooks in the menu bar at the top of this page. Also, this is an extremely personal book, so if you don’t like our wording, our layout, or our content choices, please keep your opinions to yourself and just use them to make your own lifebook wonderful.

SpringFling_thumb2_thumb1Post #30. Holy moly, I actually did 30 posts in 30 days!!!!! Thank you so much for checking in on us this month and for all the wonderful comments. This spring fling has gotten me out of my blog funk and I will definitely be posting more often now. Thank you also to the other rockin’ spring fling bloggers who joined me in this quest. If I’d been doing this on my own there is no way I would have hit 30 posts: And babies make four…, Another Journey, Birdie and the Queen Bee, Catherine’s Chatter, Diary of a Nouveau Soccer Mom, Dragonflies, Journey to Motherhood, Koprowski Kids, Life with L and M (julialaine.net), Love and a Little Craziness, Mindful of Mine, Moments with Maisie, No Ordinary Family, One Plus One Equals Four, Our Boy and His Cricket, Searching for Sophie, Spectacular S, Three Kids = Chaos, To Vietnam and China, We’re Here.


  1. Beautiful! I did Alayna's similar but then had it bound and printed through Shutterfly. She loves her book about her and sometimes excerpts will be her before bed book. Isn't it a relief to have it done? :)

  2. wow, this is GREAT! thanks for all the ideas. i love the idea of putting each sheet in a page protector so it can be looked at over and over again by a young child. thanks for the post...even though i almost cried when you wrote how you got pics from their foster family...my disposable camera came back with every shot overexposed. :(

  3. Well, this settles it! You are a genius. :) I think all of my hoarded scrapbook "stuff" that I was planning on getting around to using is getting donated to my kids' craft cupboard. Enough with the guilt of not doing it perfectly. I'm ready to get these 3 books done!

  4. Love it! The ideas, wording, inspiration. Will have to get started soon on Tate's book.

  5. THANK YOU! Just getting ready to start Eva's and this post was SO HELPFUL, especially the "it all started" page! love it!

  6. I love it! I think the slipsleeves are genius. No single page can ever be ruined, as it can replaced. Perfect. Congrats on the 30 posts too!

    My sister and I traveled to Wuhan in college. We visited the Olympic training center...and then I think we sang in front of like 1000 people? Wow, that was forever ago! Thanks for bringing back some neat memories.

  7. I put a map of vietnam in lulu's what i forgot was a world map. she needs to see where she is not and where she was then!!! I am not redoing hers until she is 5 but jeesh i could have never known

  8. I think what you've done with the LB is fantastic. Such a positive way to present essential information to the girls. I would think they would grow up with a strong sense of who they are in part because of what they can learn in their LB.

    My SIL made a beautiful book all about Michael for Michaela. Different circumstances, but still a needed reference point for a big part of her life.

  9. I think the book wonderful and I still need to put one together for Maisie. I still remember the night that Julie, you and I were together on the phone playing the name guessing game.

    Congrats on 30 posts, it was fun.

  10. thank you so much for giving us a peek into your book. I have been putting it off as well and now I need to do 2 and soon a third one. I like the simplicity of the wording and history of China. GREAT ideas! thanks for giving permission to copy. :)

  11. Anonymous5/01/2011

    Oh my gosh you are so awesome. Thanks for posting this. I will have to "borrow" from you.

    Jamie S

  12. Thanks again for bringing this up....I remember when you first started this "simplified" lifebook...I LOVED IT...now you have given me renewed vim and vigor to start again.

    Are your photos pasted on the photos or did you add them to the document when printing?

    You are such a good helper to me..thanks

  13. Amanda5/01/2011

    Do you have separate lifebooks for each girl, 2 copies of the same lifebook, or just one lifebook that they share? Just curious how you would handle that with twins. What you have done is just beautiful!

  14. Thanks guys!!!

    For the questions:

    Copperdog: Oh my gosh YES, a huge relief. I knew I needed to do it, but just kept putting it off because I had such grand plans to make it perfect. Now, ahhhhhhhh. Although Ro has already said (multiple times) "OK, that's great for our first year, now I want books for when we were 2, 3, 4, and 5." And she's not even kidding. I told her I just had to print the blog for those ones and she wants to know why I don't just hop to it!

    Single PAP: Oh that would have made me cry too...

    Shelley: The photos are imported into the Word doc (electronic cut and paste works too). Then I just formatted them a tiny bit inside of Word if needed (sometimes I changed how the text ran around the photo).

    Amanda: I've got one book that they both share. Originally I was writing two completely separate books, but after 10 or 15 pages it seemed silly because the information was all the same. The only thing I was doing was changing names. So I scrapped the idea and did one book, figuring if they had any problems sharing I'd just make two. No problems yet though.

  15. Anonymous5/01/2011

    Congratulations on making the 30 posts. I had so much fun reading them every day. The lifebook looks wonderful. I need to do one for April, too.


  16. Anonymous5/01/2011

    I imagine that you are fulfilling the dreams that the birthparents have for these girls.

  17. Wow this is such a wonderful thing for you to share with all of us. I love to follow your blog and see your great ideas! I have also really wrestled with how to start the life book. Thank you so much for your wonderful example!

  18. How awesome! What a treasure and a keepsake.

    You did a great job.

  19. Anonymous5/01/2011

    Oh what a superb job! My girls are 7 and 11 and I am still struggling to get thru it.. you've helped me with ideas tremendously..I was making it to hard for myself..
    Your girls are beautiful.


  20. I think you did an AMAZING job on this. I truly appreciate all that you have shared on this subject. Thank you.

  21. this. is. BRILLIANT. absolutely BRILLIANT. i am like in tears over here. tears. happy tears. bittersweet tears. good tears. and what an amazing labor of love. you have given me such inspiration to really get to work on this, and we have so much already to go on- as Hope gave us a book they put together for her and I want to incorporate those pages into her final book. what a wonderful idea to use sleeves and print the pages. i need a word program pronto for my Mac- no idea how i've survived for so many years without one!

    your advice, keeping focused on this being THEIR story is so important. i didn't think i needed to hear that, but we all need to hear that. it's easy to lose focus. i would really love to see samples from your adoption day or the day you met your precious girls... i will see if you have those in the link you posted. thank you so much for sharing this.

    and sorry to have been such a stranger. life. it gets in the way of blogging and blog reading :)

  22. Thanks so much for this post. It's just the kick in the pants I needed to get my 4 yr old's LB finished. I have a skeleton model similar to yours - but too many blank pages...I'm definitely stealing some ideas from you. Thanks!

  23. I have loved being included in your 30 posts challenge - it was so great! Thanks!

    I did the Lifebooks when the girls got home and I think I may do another set (I did them on Shutterfly so the photos are already there.) the language that I use with the girls kind of seems to evolve as they make it their own. We started out with birthmother and have moved quickly to the girls' "Guatemala momma" and also use her name or her name and momma.

  24. Hi Amanda, I keep their names off anything that could be searchable later on -- anything written I guess.

  25. Anonymous5/01/2011

    LOVE this idea! You are brilliant! I'm no scrapbooker, and this binder Life Book looks so much easier, less stressful, and more kid-friendly than some that I've seen in which a super talented mommy has labored over the books for months and months, making the book "too precious" for the child to hold while eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I also like that this idea can "grow" easily with each new child we adopt, so that we can keep some continuity from one Life Book to the next while incorporating new ideas as we find them.

    I'm in a quandary, though, about how to present our kids' varied family background situations, some "happy and loving" and some "not so happy and definitely not so loving." For some we have newborn pictures and birth parent /foster parent pictures and month-by-month pictures, and for some we have no pictures of anything from before six years of age.

    I'm not worried so much about the kids knowing that one child comes from a loving family and others don't, as I am about how to present the less-than-loving situations in a book format. Any ideas on that? Thanks so much for this post.

    Love, love, LOVE your blog! For the past year it's been my "happy adoption blog" destination at the end of long, sad evenings spent reading blogs about adoption of children from traumatic situations (some of our little ones have big challenges).


  26. Love, love, love absolutely everything about this! I have learned so much from reading your posts about writing a lifebook for Hannah. The simplified format was a huge eye-opener.

    I'd never thought about what order I'd put the pages and am almost positive and would have put my adoption story first. Oops! Not now!

    The way you wrote the page about the girls' birthparents is beautiful, especially the way you tied it together with you and TD.

    Thank you for the offer for us to use your ideas and wording. Someday when I post pics of Hannah's lifebook (when I make it, haven't even started) you'll feel like you're reading a version of your book. Do you send out templates? ;o)

    What a precious gift this is to Ro and Ree. A gift that will last a lifetime.

  27. Thanks for sharing this ~ you did an awesome job! I am inspired to finally get this done and really appreciate your sharing ideas, especially the chapters. The calendar page with the birthdate is a great idea too!

    We love your blog and have been reading you for years :-) Loved the 30 days of posts!

  28. Am I seeing things, or does Xiao Shuang look a whole lot like Tubadad in the michelin-man-on-tummy photo?

  29. Congratulations M3! You sure helped me get over the Winter blahs, and I think I might actually make it. :)

    Now it's time for me to start SS's lifebook, but I am neither crafty nor creative. However, as we reach our third year home with her, I find that I am a pro at telling her life story. I am glad I started so soon after we met. Maybe that's it, all I have to do is write it down for SS.

  30. BTW, our daughter's name is Ruby! We love the name. Had a big list ourselves, but that one just stuck. Love Ree and Ro too. Cute names and fit all the personality your girls have.

  31. Thanks so much for putting all of this information together! I didn't think I was going to do a life book for Z, but after reading your posts, how can I not? I really appreication that your made it a point to say this is 'their' story, not ours.

    I have been reading and enjoying your blog for MANY years. I am a terrible commenter, though. I have learned so much from you ~ Thank You!