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May 23, 2007

"Life books"

Lifebooks I've gotten lots of emails over the last few weeks asking if everything was okay since my presence, on line, has been really sparse.  I appreciate all of the love and concern and I *am* sorry to have been so absent!  I've just been really absorbed in some BIG PROJECTS. 

Pictured here are two of the projects: 
Madeline's Life Book & Gwendolyn's Life Book.

I finished Maddy's last week and I'm really proud of the result.  It took hundreds of hours to do this but it was fun to work on it in all of my spare moments.  Naturally, my spare moments are few and far between so it meant that something else had to be sacrificed and (unfortunately) that meant my on line friendships, reading and commenting on blogs and participation in adoption forums -- including my own forum (which I horribly neglected during that time).


Here are all 130 pages of Maddy's finished book! (click on the image to see a larger view of the thumbnails).

I was so excited about Maddy's book.  I even started it first so hers would be "best".  From experience, I know that the 2nd child always gets the hand-me-downs and the 2nd rate baby book (if any book at all).  I wanted her to have the best life book so I did hers first.

I started by asking her Yahoo SWI group to email me any high resolution photos they had of her orphanage and her city of birth (Qinzhou).  The photos in the albums on the Yahoo Groups are very low quality and won't print nicely in a book.  You can use them but they'll only be about 2 inches wide, at most.  Lots of people were happy to help me out and sent me some good photos.  One family, traveling to Qinzhou on vacation, offered to stop at her finding location and take pictures for me!   I can't tell you how grateful I am for that since we weren't able to visit Maddy's city when we adopted her last summer.

Then I sent off for her finding ad from Brian Stuy. Then I contacted Asia Threads to get a CD of photos from her city. 

The finding ad cost around $35 and the CD of city photos was about $45.  The finding ad photo was very good quality but the CD of photos from the cities (I also got a CD of Gwen's city) were pretty horrible.  Still, they were MUCH better than nothing at all!  The resolution wasn't bad but the images were faded and almost always crooked.  Also, each photo has their site name (which is acceptable) but also an imprint of the name of the photo.  I didn't need that since I planned to add captions to the photos in the book.  So those imprints had to be removed.

I do recommend that you scour Google Images for as many photos are you can so you can supplement what you get from Asia Threads.   I was able to use their photos in the lifebooks because I have good photo editing software and I was able to enhance, straighten, fix perspective, and remove the photo name from every single image before uploading it to the book publishing software.

Then I combed through every single picture I had of Maddy and put everything in chronological order. I used an online book publishing company to make the book.  They don't think my blog's 500 hits per day is worth their time so they won't make me an affiliate (so I won't link to them).  Their software is free and very easy to use and you can research "online publishing" and probably find them.

Okay, so what's in her life book?

There are lots of resources to help you make a good Life Book for your adopted child and I don't think anyone can do the wrong thing when it comes to this particular project.   As usual, I didn't consult any of the experts.  I just plowed straight ahead into the project without fogging my mind with advice from anyone!

Here's Maddy's Table of Contents:

Page   4:  Earliest photos of Maddy
Page   9:  Finding location
Page  11:  Birth note
Page  12:  Finding ad
Page  14:  The Orphanage
Page  21:  What does Maddy's name mean
Page  22:  The City of Qinzhou
Page  39:  Referral pictures
Page  42:  Our Paperchase
Page  43:  Our Timeline
Page  45:  Quarterly reports from GHC
Page  52:  "Gotcha" day
Page  66:  Adoption day
Page  69:  More Nanning pics
Page  73:  Guangzhou:  Six Banyon Tree Temple
Page  74:  Guangzhou:  Red Couch Photo
Page  75:  Guangzhou:  Shamian Island
Page  77:  Guangzhou:  Pearl River Cruise
Page  79:  Guangzhou:  Maddy eats an apple
Page  81:  Guangzhou:  Tomb of Nanyue King
Page  82:  Guangzhou Zoo
Page  83:  Home
Page  85:  September photos
Page  91:  October photos
Page  96:  November photos
Page 100:  December photos
Page 106:  January photos
Page 107:  February photos
Page 112:  Maddy (and Gwen's) room
Page 114:  March photos
Page 122:  April photos
Page 129:  May photos

I didn't add any bunny rabbits or baby graphics or soft pastel colors or try to sugar-coat anything.  I *did* enhance the photos to make them more clear and colorful and less dull.  I want her to have good feelings about the place she came from and not assume that the horrible photography represents the "true colors" of her birth city.  Yes, there is horrible poverty in Qinzhou but there are also lovely flowers and smiling children there too!  The book was written directly to Maddy and we purchased an extra copy for her keepsake box since one of the copies is likely to get lots of use over the years.  We even purchased one soft-cover copy for her foster parents in China and we plan to have a Chinese friend transcribe, in Chinese characters, some of the pertinent text of the book so her foster family in China can understand it.

Maddy's books should arrive in the mail any day now.  Gwen's book is still a work in progress.  Her situation was quite different than Maddy's since she was never in foster care and we have no photos (other than referral photos) from before Gotcha Day.  But we adopted her at 14 months (instead of 25 months, as was the case with Maddy) so we have plenty of photos from that day forward. 

I'm so proud of these books!  I hope other families will consider doing this.  It's not only good for your kids but it's incredibly satisfying to your own soul too!


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