Friday, January 17, 2020

A new family alphabet

As if I didn't have enough projects to work on this week, Shutterfly sent me a "free book" promotion. Y'all know I can't say no those things, right?! I feel like I just finished one (I just checked and I did—I ordered it on December 30!) but I went ahead and made up another one because we enjoy having them around.

Luckily, Miriam and I had begun brainstorming a new idea for a Shutterfly book before I'd even finished the last one. My very first Shutterfly book (this is beginning to sound like an advertisement, but it's not) was an ABC book of my kids for my kids, but it's woefully outdated (Alexander and Zoë aren't even featured (because they weren't even thought of when I made it)), so they've been wanting me to make an updated alphabet book. But thinking up a new alphabet sounded hard.

Plus we were silly and ended up with an Alexander and an Andrew and a Miriam and a Mommy so I didn't really know where to put everybody. If I put Andrew under D for Daddy, it would be weird to put myself under N for Nancy, wouldn't it?

I've been told I overthink these things.

But whatever.

Because I was dragging my feet on the project, Miriam went ahead and made up a new family alphabet, which she put on the bookshelf beside our ABC book. So I pulled that out a couple of days ago and Miriam and I have spent quite a bit of time revising the items on her list, picking out pictures, and laying out pages. And we're finally finished!

I won't share the whole book here, but I will share the poem because sometimes I'm a little vain and think what I write is terribly clever, so clever that perhaps someone else will think it's entertaining, touching, witty, or valuable in some way.

First of all, you should know that the title of the book is Heflabet: A Heiss Family Alphabet.

Because what do you get when you cross the Heiss family with the alphabet? A real party!

Hafla is Arabic for party. And I think this is a rather hilarious portmanteau/spoonerism.*

Here's that poem (because of course it's a poem, even though poetry is sometimes weird), or at least a version of the poem** (I may have changed a few words here and there on the final copy of the book):

A's for Alexander, our sweet little caboose (ironically presented at the start of this pursuit).
B is for his brother, by name of Benjamin. If you're looking for a good kid there's no finer specimen.
C is for our cousins; they're in number not a few.
D is for our dad, a professor at the U.
E's for education and how smart we all will be.
F is for a complicated fecund family tree.
G is for grandparents; we love them all, no joke.
H is for the Heiss line where you'll find our dad's kinfolk.
I is for "I love you!" I say it 'cuz it's true.
JK is for "just kidding" and for joy and kindness, too.
L is for the Laytons, our mother's family line.
M is for sweet Miriam, her music is divine.
N is for "no nonsense"; we're a serious family (not).
O is for origins,
P—the places where we got.
Q is for a daring quest; we like a good adventure.
R's the eldest, Rachel. She's amazing. Have you met her?
S is seasons: sun and rain and playing in the snow.
T's for testimony and the things that help it grow.
U is for united. We're one in heart and mind.
V is for 5 children, who are each one-of-a-kind.
W is for MOM (if you turn it upside down). We want her to be happy, to smile and not to frown.
X marks the spot exactly where I keep (Y) YOU in my heart.
Z is for Zoë. In our zany home she's a fundamental part.

It's not perfect*** but we're all rather satisfied with it and are excited to get a copy into our hands.

Now, stop it, Shutterfly!**** I've got work to do!

* Heiss + alphabet would really be Hefabet, which isn't funny at all, but if you metathesize the /l/ and /ph/ in alphabet suddenly you get Heflabet and that is me.

** Sometimes I like to involve my kids in my drafting process because it makes them feel better about rewriting their work. First we had Miriam's list. Then my list. Then we rearranged things to make it all fit into 19 pages (this is a free over but only for 20 pages (19 pages + title page); it gets less free if you go over the page limit). Then we turned our simple list into sentences. Then we flushed them out into poetry. Then we edited the poem. And then we put it into a book...and edited it as we read through it a few times. 

*** I'm not a perfectionist. I'm a precisionist.

**** But not too long, okay? Because we really love these photo books.