26 February 2019

First Birthday Book

When it comes to gifts, I tend to err on the side of very practical (i.e. food, cleaning supplies, educational materials, etc.) or entirely sentimental. This is one of the sentimental ones.

I had the idea, for Cyrus's first birthday, to make him a book about his first year of life. If you've ever spent much time with kids, you may have noticed that they often have a slight streak of narcissism. When my youngest sister was a toddler, she didn't like seeing any family photos that she wasn't in, and would insist that she was merely sleeping or in a different room when the photo was taken, never believing that she didn't yet exist in photos taken of the family years before she was born.

Now, the narcissistic streak isn't necessarily something we ought to encourage all that much, but still, I thought it would be very fun to be able to read to him, as he gets older, a book about the beginning of his own life.

I drafted out the words for his pages, not an actual story, but more along the lines of highlighting different moments from our first year with Cyrus, and then got my sister on board for painting illustrations. We toyed with the idea of making the book digitally--scanning the illustrations in and combining hand-drawn art and typed words and making an actual bound book...

...but that seemed like it would take too much time. Since this was such a short little story, and we only needed one copy, we took the easy way out and I hand-lettered the words of the story onto the pages that MaryGrace illustrated. Then we laminated the pages and bound them with a couple metal rings.

This was an easy project that will be a fun keepsake that we can read together as he grows older! Now that MaryGrace is nearing the end of her high school career, she has finished all of our traditional curriculum and is doing project-based skill-building until she starts college. So, this project can count as a school project as well as a birthday present--double bonus points for her! If you'd like to see more of her watercolor art experiments, you can follow her on instagram @mgsillustrates. She's planning to go to college and study art in some form, possible a degree in fine arts or art education, as she's very interested in using art in a classroom setting. In the meantime, I come up with a variety of ideas for her to expand her drawing portfolio and abilities--like birthday books for my baby! One of my favorite parts is that we purposely decided to include "real" details in the paintings--his toys are the real toys that he has, the rug pattern is our actual rug, Cyrus's clothes are inspired by his actual clothes, Dad is shown wearing a blue plaid shirt just the way he always does...

What birthday traditions does your family have? Do you do parties, practical gifts or sentimental gifts? My family's birthday traditions are asking the birthday person what they've learned this year, and my parents telling the story of the day we were born.


  1. I love how real this is! The illustrations are amazing!

  2. This is such a cool idea, and it looks awesome! We don't really have many birthday traditions, except the birthday person gets to pick what we make for the meal and dessert.

  3. This is the sweetest thing ever! I love it.

  4. This is AMAZING! I agree with you gift philosophy. Practical or sentimental are the best.

  5. That's such a gorgeous gift, I'm sure he'll treasure it forever.

  6. Definitely a great keepsake, and something personal. I have so many photos saved for eventually creating photobooks for my kids, but let's face it, scrapbooking is not high on the agenda. Maybe I should just print a few and do something handmade, nevermind trying to figure out the perfect format.