In 2010 we celebrated our one year anniversary as a family. Each of the children received their own Shutterfly book chronicling our magical time in China. I customized the book for each child. Noah's had images of our two-day whirlwind tour of Beijing which Arwyn's featured images of herself in the orphanage. I had every intention of making an actual "life-book" for Arwyn that tells her story, really I did. But here we are....nearly five years later....and still no life-book.
In the spring of this year I encouraged our FCC board to host a life-book class on our "Moms on Monday" nights. As president of the group, I had an "in" and could make these types of suggestions. I'll be honest. I suggested this topic for selfish reasons. I thought maybe it would prompt me to begin this important task of writing Arwyn's story. It didn't. And, then....it did. Now, I am halfway (okay, 1/3) of the way into this project.
You see, the Shutterfly book I made in 2010 was really a book about OUR time together. It was not HERstory. It was OUR story. In the back of my mind I knew this wasn't enough. I have no excuses really, but now I have something else. Time. Not because I have more time. Okay, I guess I technically do as I have shaved two hours of commuting off my schedule each day. But I have made time.
How do you begin? What is important? How do you tell their story without making it about you? Where does their story begin? How do you fill in the blanks? I had so many questions and like anything I have questions about I do two things.
Do the research (talking to BTDT moms, read books, do Google searches and spend ridiculous amounts of time on Pinterest)
Jump in with both feet
My research began with the FCC meeting. BTDT moms brought in completed lifebooks and those of us who (red-faced) admitted we have not worked on this gift to our children. At the meeting, one mom brought a stack of lifebook guides that she gifted to those of us not in the BTDT category but in the SLACKER mom section. Armed with examples and my handy book, I promptly came home and began Googling lifebooks and made a Pinboard for my favorite examples.
A quick survey of my on-hand supplies and a fun trip to Michael's and I was soon on my way. I don't mind telling you that pulling out the pictures and the journal pages, playing with the stickers and embellishments and finding other mementos of our journey TO her gave me the desire to carve out the story ABOUT her. What did I know? What did the medical reports say? What were the reports from the ayis? Is there anything these notes can tell me about who she was before she was mine? If there is one thing I know about my daughter before she came to us, it is this:
She has history that has nothing to do with us.
The first page in this 12x12 book is quite simple. A map of China (duh) and from Project Life (love this stuff) an index card on which I wrote her given name, birthdate and birthplace.
This page contains photos of her province and region. It has a very detailed description of where she is from that I pulled from a travel site. Note the index cards again. My mother passed away in 2010. I love ANYTHING with her handwriting. I wanted to use my own hand in most of the narrative. The page from the travel site is printed from a document. Other thoughts about the region were written by me.
Now things get interesting. You can see our daughter's finding ad on the top left, photos of the orphanage, images of her during that time and a written account of some of what I know about how she came to be there.
More images of life in the social welfare institute and more narrative from me of what I was told about that time in her life.
This is her story. Her story includes the time when she leaves the SWI and becomes part of our family. Again, in my script, I actually talk about this, about the challenge of when her story becomes our story. Also included here is the announcement from our agency that we have been "matched".
Finally, the page with our official acceptance from the Chinese government giving us permission to adopt our daughter. I say "finally" though this is meant only for this post. This story goes on and I have several pages remaining to be made. I have been consistently doing one per day for the last week and it has moved along quite quickly. She is anxious to see it and I am anxious to sit down with her and with my hubby and son to tell the story.
I'll write more on this and chronicle my quilt journey as well. (I guess I forgot to mention I'm making her a quilt.)