10 years ago, when my first child was a baby, I was introduced to Creative Memories scrapbooking, and I had a wonderful time putting together his baby album, one or two pages a month throughout his first two years. I was able to keep up the creative work for my second child, and she too has gorgeous, personal albums to chronicle her early days. After the twins were born, I hit a wall, I didn’t have time, and the process became something I had to do, or planned to do, rather than a relaxing way to spend an evening. I got far behind, overwhelmed by paper and sticker choices, and I finally just sort of gave up.
My twins have albums which begin when they are born and go up to their trip home from the hospital, two days later. When I cleaned out my closet last month I finally threw away the rest of the matching papers and stickers for those albums — that seven year old project is just not going to happen, it is taking up mental and physical space in my life, and I need to find another way to get it done.
As I have mentioned before, Leo has asked about his baby book (or rather, lack thereof). My pictures are all stored in Picasa, so I thought that making an album using that software would make sense, until I realized that I really don’t have the time or patience to learn another process. After some quick online research about print quality, I decided to do a super easy album with Shutterfly. I spent three evenings sorting pictures (my Picasa albums are by year, so I just pulled “best of Leo” from each year. I loaded the pictures to shutterfly and over the last two nights I have created the album. I used some of the “custom” features, but mostly I just plugged in pictures to pre-existing baby boy layouts, forcing myself to keep it simple and to stop at a reasonable time each night to go to bed.
The first year, from Leo’s birth to his first birthday (when he was already a big brother!) is complete, and this morning I proofread, entered some coupon codes and ordered it.
The key, for me, was that anytime I started to agonize about which picture or background to use, or get sad when just one picture of his baptism didn’t fit on the layout, I remembered that he would never see the work in progress, never know about the cute embellishments I didn’t add or the special font I didn’t upload. For Leo, the book will arrive complete and perfect as it is.
Since a computer printed book seems a bit impersonal to me, I also plan to write Leo a letter to put in the last page of his book, telling some things about his first year, the sorts of things that I chronicled in scrabook journaling for the other children.
Now that I know that this process can be simplified, I hope to do another album for Leo’s toddler years and also do Jimmy’s baby album over the next few months. After that, I will start over with John and Mary and do digital albums for them. This seems like a perfect playoff-football activity for me.
The point of these albums is not that they be perfect works of art or graphic design, it is the time that I will spend sitting on the couch with a child, telling them stories of their childhood and letting them see and feel how much I treasure each of them individually. Years from now, it is that same time that they will spend showing these same pictures to their spouses and children. I remember being engaged when Len showed me old Christmas pictures of his family, how I treasured that as I was trying to get to know and understand everything about him.
Those pictures are in 1980′s velveteen albums with browning adhesive, but they are perfect snapshots in time, they inspire conversation and draw happy memories to the surface, and I hope that my simple albums will do the same.