Your first child makes you a parent. There’s nothing like it and there’s really no way to explain it. You are changed forever. I absolutely love being a mom, but making the adjustment was not the easiest. Just keeping up with life was a lot to figure out, there was really no time to document it fully. As Georgia’s first birthday approached we quickly threw together a scrapbook of her life. It was one of those pre-formatted books with blanks for you to fill in and places to put photos. It’s nice and it has all the info, but it didn’t fully depict what that year was actually like.
When I got pregnant with my second child I started to realize that the year and a half I just experienced was some of the best times of my life. Georgia and I spent practically every single day together. It was such a significant time for me… and for her… and most likely she won’t really remember any of it.
How much of your first year can you actually remember? Probably only what you have photographs of and, even then, are you remembering the memory or the story of the memory? I wanted Georgia to have a place where she could always look back on how awesome life was from the very beginning. Even if it was just the stories of the memories she remembered, I wanted there to be a place for these stories to live. That’s when I decided to create a SMASHbook for her.
Making a book a couple years after the events have happened can be a little bit of challenge, but with some patience the process can be very rewarding. Collecting the photos and stories I wanted to tell helped me remember things I had, in only two years, already forgotten. The book organically turned into a journal of sorts as I wrote to her about the things we did together. Below I will share with you how I tackled this task, tips to help you execute a book of your own, and ideas to inspire you to create something special for yourself or someone you love.
I started the process with photos. Since so much time had passed, I had to dig out my old hard drive and go through folders categorized by month in “preview” mode to select the ones I wanted to include. I purposely chose photos that told more of our story, even if they weren’t the best quality. There were many “selfie” photos I took of the two of us that never got emailed or uploaded to Facebook because I figured no one really wanted to see me in my pajamas with unbrushed hair and no makeup…but for this book I included them.
After I chose the photos I sorted them into new folders according to the size I wanted to have them printed (4x6, 3x4, or 2x3). Next I gathered all the memorabilia I had saved to someday put into a book. There were greeting cards from family members, sketches I made of our renovation, and even the McDonalds fry carton from Georgia’s first Happy Meal.
Once I had everything in one spot, I started categorizing them. One of the reasons I chose to do this in SMASHbook form was because it naturally lends itself to being more free-formed. By laying the book out thematically rather than chronologically I didn’t have to remember the order everything happened. That first year was a little bit of a whirlwind; I knew trying to remember the sequence would only stress me out and I wanted to enjoy the process. In a SMASHbook the pages are both beautiful and permanently attached. Choosing themes works best because you can optimize each pages background without worrying what order it “should” be in.
My technique when it comes to organizing the categories is very simple. I put the elements for each subject matter in a homemade pocket. To create this simple pocket, rip out pages from a standard school notebook, fold each one in half, and staple the sides shut. You could also buy pocket folders, but this method is extremely inexpensive and takes hardly any time. Since you throw them away when you’re done, we say “why waste the money?” I then labeled each pocket with the category, storing both the photos and memorabilia in it.
When I first started making the book I did one page at a time. Laying out the photos, pasting them in the perfect spot, adding thoughtful memorabilia, and carefully handwriting my memories for Georgia complete with cute embellishments. I am not going to lie… this took FOREVER! I ended up spending roughly 2 hours on each 2-page spread. I was 8 months pregnant at this point and I knew I would never finish before baby #2 was born if I continued this way. So after only 6 pages completed I switched up my method. Going forward I focused on the photos and the memorabilia. I fit everything on the pages, leaving room to write a story or some captions. This allowed me to be more productive. Once I had all the pages completely filled, I went back and wrote down my memories (with tissue box close by) and added some cute stickers where applicable.
You may remember the Brooklyn SMASHbook we made for our friends Melanie & Caleb. I used many of the same techniques this time around. The one major difference was not mapping out the book entirely beforehand. This allowed me to make decisions as I went based on the beautiful pages I already had to work with and decide what story I would tell, taking inspiration from the image in front of me.
The key to a good memory book is including meaningful details. This is your opportunity to record history as you saw it. By using several types of elements and not limiting yourself you can paint a beautiful picture of what your life was like at a certain time. Here are several ways we did just that.
The day Georgia was born was one of the best of my life. How often have you heard a parent say that? Yeah, yeah, I get it - you had a baby…but, seriously, that day is incredibly significant and we used multiple elements to illustrate why.
Well before I went into labor, I drafted an email that I could send to all our family and friends. I hadn’t had the easiest pregnancy and I wanted to thank everyone for being so supportive. We also wanted to let everyone know the big news so they could send some extra prayers our way. I printed out the email I sent on one page then copy & pasted (and shrunk down significantly) all the amazing replies we received (both to the news we were in labor and the news Georgia arrived). It’s a great time capsule of who was in our life at the time and how genuinely happy they were for her birth.
I went with a blue accent for these pages, pulling from our scrubs, the nurses gloves, and the hyperlink color of everyone’s email addresses. I made a panel of photos using translucent paper and washi tape. In the next couple pages (not pictured, but in the video for you to see) I included the letter my mom wrote to Georgia about her experience, notebook pages of what I wrote down about it, our first family photo we emailed our friends – which flips up to reveal our actual first family photo that was not photo-approved because I looked like jabba-the-hut having pushed a baby out of my body (seriously where did my collarbones go?), notes Chad wrote down documenting every time Georgia ate, pooped, or peed (we were first time parents after all), and some paperwork I had saved from the hospital. It all collages together to tell a pretty well rounded story of her birth.
WHEN WE GOT HOME:
This is a perfect example of how I chose photos that might not be the best, but tell the story the most accurately. The snowy view from our window, a silhouette picture of Chad and I kissing after he finally shaved his beard, a picture of some presents we received, and a wide shot of our living room. This is what life was really like when we got home. The photos you choose don’t have to be perfect (or even include people) to tell the story of your life. This is also where I included the list of songs we used in the “Georgia Mix” I made when we brought her home. It’s fun to include the other senses in your memory keeping…what were you listening to, what did the air smell like, how did the food taste? By writing this down, it’s amazing how quickly your memories will flood back.
This started because I wanted to share our days with my husband while he was at work. I knew Georgia’s grandparents would also like seeing these photos and I wanted to share them with my best friends too. Next thing I knew I was creating an actual distribution list and there was a mandate to email a photo out daily. (For the record, this was far from an easy task…especially considering this was before I had an iPhone). The benefit was now I had a typed up snapshot of our life. I could use all these photos to create their own photo book (in fact, for my 30th birthday Chad did pretty much that), but in this circumstance the goal was to highlight it. If you try to record every memory in life, it would be too much work – at least for me. So your take-away here is…don’t overdo it or get mad at yourself for not doing enough. Recording something is better than nothing.
When Georgia was born our home became even more “a home.” It went from a place where we slept and threw the occasional dinner party to a place I spend 90% of my day. That being the case, I immediately knew we had to re-do our bathrooms. The process of the renovation is not generally the thing you think to document, but for this book it was perfect. Besides the fact we thought it was a good idea to do both bathrooms at one time, the entire process lasted way longer than we had thought, so it truly impacted the way we lived on a daily basis. (did I mention I spend 90% of the day there!) To help these pages tell the story I included my sketches for the tile layout and photos of what a mess our apartment became during that time.
I knew her room wouldn’t always look like it did in that first year, so I gathered as many photos of each angle as I could. If I was smarter, I would have taken photos of the room itself, but I wasn’t thinking about it at the time. Fortunately I was able to find photos of Georgia and I that could be pieced together to show off the entire room. I also included a scrap piece of fabric I had used to cover her changing table. Earlier in the book I used another scrap of fabric (from the curtains I made) to create a pocket to hold the note my mom wrote. Including fabric adds another element of texture and allows the memory to be stimulated by the sense of touch.
When people ask me what is my best advice I have for transitioning into mom life, it’s always - “Find some mommy friends!” Once I did this, it changed my whole “mom” experience. Plus, my mommy friends are awesome and we started giving themes to our meet-ups! If you know me, you know I love a theme! Besides, what is cuter than babies piled on a couch? Oh wait, babies piled on a couch in coordinating outfits! This book would not be complete without these photos. I used fun pop-ups so I could show the entire group and then close-ups of Georgia and those sitting around her. Every once in a while I’d snap a shot of the other moms with their cameras. This really helps tell the whole story.
What this page says is true….one day Chad asked me if I liked getting Georgia dressed. I literally laughed out loud because not only did I like it, it was one of my favorite parts of being a mom. I had to include some of my favorite outfits. These pages took a good deal of work, but by having the photos printed small I was able to include a ton of outfits!!
COOKING AND EATING:
Everyone would brag about how Georgia was such a good eater, so I wanted to include this in our story. She has also always loved cooking with me. I used the SMASHbook page featuring a photograph of spoons to showcase this element of our life. On occasion I would snap some shots of us cooking, the food we made, or even us eating it. I also found a photo of the inside of our fridge that I thought was very interesting (Omaha Steaks we got as a gift, frozen breast milk, and pretty much nothing else). Grouping all these photos together with a list of some of Georgia’s early food favorites gave a pretty good picture of our eating habits.
As with our Brooklyn SMASHbook, I had to include a page about Miss Nina. For this one I printed out the blog post I wrote, which pretty much summed it all up. I was also able to include the autographed CD that I had previous stashed in a drawer somewhere. Putting it in the book guaranteed we’d have it forever.
Also in that same drawer were several different “Love Jac” memorabilia that I had been collecting. I wasn’t quite sure what I would do with it, but I knew I couldn’t throw it away. (the Hank & Jojo post card featuring my cards on display, an advertisement from the Brooklyn Public Library highlighting me as a speaker, and an encouraging card from my in-laws) If you’ve seen the SMASHbook video advertisement you know putting it in a SMASHbook is exactly what I should do with it. Since Georgia’s birth is the catalyst that made “Love Jac” a reality, I knew her book would be the perfect place to save these things.
The holiday season is so much fun for us. Starting with Halloween, going into Thanksgiving, and ending with Christmas. This was another case where I had to remind myself to just highlight the memories and not worry about showing every single photo (because there are a lot). I wanted to record what the holidays mean to our family and show Georgia what her first experience was like. Even now (she’s 2.5 years old) her favorite photo to find and story to hear in the entire book is the one where she sat on Santa’s lap. I explain to her how she loved Santa and that we went to Macy’s to see him – then went to McDonalds where she had her first Chicken McNugget. She usually replies with “I don’t like Santa now.” Did I mention she’s two and a half?
The thought of making a scrapbook can be extremely overwhelming, to say the least, but don’t be afraid of it. Just start. Keeping memories can be a very rewarding process and the outcome can lead to cherished time spent with your loved ones. We hope sharing our personal pages with you has given you some ideas of your own and inspired you to make something soon. We love the SMASHbook format and have a couple ideas on our “to-do” list. However – the next scrapbook we plan to tackle is using The Project Life format. It’s a genius idea developed by Becky Higgins. I was so inspired by it, I even took an online class. We are doing our book starting with Conroy’s birth and even though we are already almost 3 months behind, we have been collecting elements and jotting down memories! We look forward to sharing that process with you soon!! Happy memory keeping!!