What to get my son for his twenty-first birthday?  I had been thinking about it for quite a while when I remembered the great gift one of my sisters gave her kids for Christmas one year.  She had used a web-based image publisher to create some beautiful hard cover photo books.  I remember thinking what a great gift it had made and how much her kids loved them.  I decided that would make a really great twenty-first birthday gift for my son.  It’s a great way of preserving the memories of his first twenty-one years and hopefully something he will share with his own child someday.

I decided to make the theme of my son’s book about his life-long passion for dirt bike racing.  He has been racing and riding dirt bikes since the age of three.  It was the only sport he was interested in as a child, following in Daddy’s footsteps or, should I say tire tracks?

His dad started racing as a child.  When we met in our twenties, I soon found myself spending weekends chasing him through the woods, snapping pictures and cheering him on.  He was very talented and we saved a lot of the articles from racing magazines with his name splashed across the pages.

When our son was three years old his dad bought him a dirt bike (with training wheels!) and by the ripe old age of five, he started racing.  My son got faster over the years and eventually, father and son raced together at the same level.  It wasn’t long before my son began placing ahead of his dad.  They formed a close bond over the years, and we have quite a collection of photos, articles and trophies.

One of the unique things about this gift is that my son was born on his dad’s birthday.  By incorporating photos and articles that included his dad in the photo album, it was a gift they could both enjoy!

I started my project by gathering all the photos and articles I wanted to use and began the tragically time-consuming task of trying to sort them by year.  It took a lot longer then I imagined to select and sort the photos.  Most of the older pictures I had were prints.  I didn’t start saving digital pics to my computer until about 2010.  Then my scanner decided this would be a good time to stop working so I had to find a place in the house where the lighting was perfect so I could take pictures of those prints with my camera and then upload them from my camera to my computer… ugh!

I have to say it was kind of bittersweet going through all those old photos.  It brought back a lot of wonderful memories of my son when he was just a boy and  knowing it is all behind us now is a little heartbreaking.  I knew how much this book would mean to my son though, and that made it worth it!

Once I had all my photos and articles organized it was time to choose the publishing website I wanted to use to upload photos and create my project.  After comparing prices and reading customer reviews, I decided on Shutterfly for this project.  I have no affiliation to Shutterfly, it just sounded like it was fairly user-friendly and the pricing was comparable.  For someone who has never used a photo publishing website before, it wasn’t too difficult to figure out how it worked.  I did have to use Shutterfly Support for a few technical questions I had along the way.

After deciding on the size of my book, I was ready to start uploading pictures to my project.  I organized my book by years, starting with the most recent photos and working my way back through the years, devoting two or three pages of photos to each year.

The next step was selecting the Shutterfly templates that would work with my photos and getting everything placed in the book the way I wanted.  Sometimes the photos I wanted to use wouldn’t work with a certain template.  Sometimes Shutterfly would notify me that the photo I was using had low resolution and may not print well.  Sometimes placing it in a smaller template corrected the problem but occasionally I had to just remove the picture altogether.  I spent quite a bit of time shuffling pictures and templates around to get things just the way I wanted them.

Being the procrastinator that I am, I managed to put this project off long enough that I really had to work some long hours to get it completed by the deadline I had set for myself.  I wanted to make sure there was plenty of shipping time to get the book here before my son’s birthday rolled around.  If I had to do this over again I would start this project at least a couple of months earlier than I did.  I knew for a year that this is what I wanted to give him for his birthday but true to my nature, I waited to start it until I only had a month to get it completed.  If I would have had three months it would have made it a little less stressful that is for sure!  If you have digital images of all your pictures then this project wouldn’t be nearly as time-consuming.

It didn’t take long before my neck was jacked, my back was aching and my eyes were burning.  And let’s not forget the emotional distress brought on by seeing all those pictures of the past and realizing how old I actually am!  I had plenty of wine on hand to get me through the emotional stuff but I thought for sure I would be blind and hunch-backed from sitting at that computer for all those hours!  My son will never know the agony I suffered for his gift!

It took about ten days from the time I ordered my finished book to the time it arrived in the mail.  I selected the 11 x 14 book and it had 53 pages.  I was worried about the cost but there are so many coupon deals going on at Shutterfly I had no problem getting a 40% off coupon code.  I chose the hard cover book and it turned out beautifully!  It looks like a book you could buy right off the shelf at Barnes & Noble!  I hope it is something that will be passed down through the family for generations to share.  This book is full of memories, not only from my son’s childhood and racing stories, but his dad’s as well.  It was definitely worth the effort!

Happy Birthday to my son and his dad on their special day!