Christmas photo books and wishes

My holiest of holidays is right around the corner and yes, friends, I again made books for the grandchildren. I photographed them, collected little pictures they made for me, and wrote down funny things they said or did. Then, as I have done every November since their consecutive births, I published a book showcasing their shiny new teeth, imaginative artwork, and adventuresome exploits.  

I was most apprehensive this year about making a book for Colin — his first, since my daughter recently married his father. He’s an intelligent little chap, 8, a wee bit shy. Last Christmas he saw Patrick’s book collection and asked if he’d be getting a book, too, when I became his nana. Of course, I told him, but I secretly wondered how I would get enough photos, when I only see him sporadically.

His wonderful family came to my rescue in the nick of time. His dad emailed photos going back to Colin’s infancy, and his grandparents mailed photos, too. Then, to give the other kids a reason to clamor to see his photo book (a family ritual during the holidays), I added age-appropriate jokes on every page. Here’s a sample photo of Colin with stepbrother Patrick, to which I added the joke: “Question — What sounds like thunder and smells like rotten peanuts? Answer — Elephant farts!” They’ll think that is really, really funny. Ho, ho, ho!

Grandson Nathanial is also 8 years old. My son’s son loves to play games, so each photo page features an “I Spy” quiz or a suggestion to the adult reader to ask him to teach them a game, etc. I also included the lyrics to the song “What Does The Fox Say?” with the instruction that he sing it aloud. He’ll get a real kick out of that, and his sister Natalie likes to dance, so their annual Christmas performance promises to be a hoot.

Natalie’s pages invite the reader to make up a story about what she was photographed doing, from baking to gardening to spelunking, and to ask her to make up stories about the baby dolls in the pictures. She’s 7, and learning to read. Too many of us flip by the photos too quickly for her to fully enjoy the splendor of seeing herself in print, so this year I installed some brakes on the pages.

Alexander is 5. He recently came with us to our second home, in downstate Illinois, where we had great fun. He confided during that visit that his mom (my youngest daughter) was worried that I was taking him back to hillbilly land to get to know our Duck Dynasty side of the family (versus her father’s side of the family, which ponied up sophisticated lawyer and doctor influences). Sensitive to her urban sensibilities, I bought him a camouflage tent, toy rifle, and a Duck Dynasty hat and then texted her a photo and message: “Don’t worry! Honey Boo Boy is in good hands with us all here.”

That photo made the back cover of his book this year:

(I swear, these kids’ books are gifts that keep on giving!)



Patrick, 12, entered into his serious phase this year. His books have likewise evolved from simple A-B-C photo books into deep philosophical treatises, with his urgings throughout 2013 to “remember to put that thought in my Christmas book.” Here, he borrowed my glasses to achieve a more serious posture during one of those discussions about the meaning of life — which we shared during a family party. “Use that picture for my book,” he suggested, and so it’s his cover shot on the 2013 edition.

Nice to know that we’ll all easily remember his serious searching-for-answers pose, since I maintain a family library with copies of all the books. We’ll also, collectively, always recall when Nathanial lost his front teeth, what Natalie planted in her first garden, and what Alex wore his first day of kindergarten. We’ll now also share the look on Colin’s face when he gets his next karate belt, because someone will have a camera … and will send me a picture.

My greatest gift this year will be the sound of children laughing at stupid jokes and singing silly songs. I don’t take that for granted, not for one minute. I hope your holiday season, too, is a time for making and recalling special memories. And I would be remiss if I did not note that my holiday also includes worship and reflection, and so my wish for you all, regardless of spiritual affiliation or non-affiliation, is that you love, and know love … this day and all the days of your own very special, lovingly chronicled life.

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