Our A-Z year
When you think of the alphabet, sweet-faced five year old’s singsong voices and Sesame Street come to mind. What we did was something else altogether.
In an attempt to sidestep the rut that inevitably comes from soccer practices and dinner at six, our family decided to devote two weeks of the year to each letter. This allows us to get through all twenty-six in one year and to have a broad range of new experiences.
We broke down our plan into categories: music, movies, food, fun and learning, chores/household/health.
At the start of each fortnight we brainstormed activities to fit into the two weeks ahead. We made play lists, sifted through our DVDs to find ones with titles or actors with the right initials and skulked through the grocery store aisles looking for the letter perfect ingredients.
Suddenly our life was full of possibilities.
This alphabetic emphasis led us down many unexplored paths. Instead of going to our usual pizza hangout, during B we went to Brick Oven and invited our friends the Bellows. M was a mish-mash of movies, mini-golf and visiting a nearby mine. S was a sweet surrender to Snickers, Skittles and Starburst. During D we baked donuts and tried duck and disco dancing. When planning our summer vacation, our boys suggested forgoing the usual theme parks and inquired if London was a possibility, being L fortnight, and if not, maybe Las Vegas.
We also read by letter. For years I have had a reading list and the accompanying guilt of never getting through it. H heralded my success - I managed to read Hemingway. My kids saw me struggle with not getting into a story but making the effort to read it anyway and learned a lot from my satisfaction, and I admit, enjoyment that came from entering into that particular “great conversation”.
We scheduled annual necessities on the calendar by letter as well: C was for check up, D for dentist and diet, G for garage, O for optometrist, S for stocking our emergency supplies - you get the picture. This spread the chores and maintenance over the year and freed up my mental space, as I no longer needed to worry about putting off activities that are vital to our health and welfare.
Another bonus of the A-Z year was connecting with long distance friends and relatives. I admit, we fell down a bit on this task but our intention was to contact the folks whose last name falls during the current fortnight. People loved getting letters and cards outside of the usual Christmas/birthday time frame and it felt wonderful to nurture those relationships.
I bet you’re thinking, “ That sounds like a lot of work and I’m already pretty busy.”
I can assure you that you can spice up your routine without making too big a dent in your mental bandwidth, honest!
During F week, ladle your famous tomato sauce over farfalle instead of the usual spaghetti. (Pasta is an A-Z Goldmine. You can get from ‘acomo pepe’ to ‘ziti’ without any trouble and it really helps to have Udon and Quadrefiore in the back of your mind when those tricky letters come along.)
During S rent Sleeping Beauty and Spy Kids, sing in the car, send email, smile at everyone, and spend time together.
It can be as simple as filling out this list every two weeks and trying to make it happen:
Here are some ideas to get you started:
A: Anne of Green Gables, Aladdin, Amazing Race, artichokes, astronomy, anagrams, acrostics, alfredo sauce on angel hair pasta.
B: Benji, bowling, billiards, beef and broccoli, the Beatles, baking, bananas, baba ganoush, baklava.
C: cinema, camping, cookies, Cranium, chess, checkers, clean closets, costume party, charades, calzone, coc au vin, corn dogs, crepes.
D: Dim sum, Dumbo, Dippin’ Dots, duck, deep dish pie, deep-fried ice cream.
E: Eggs, Ever After, Eragon, ecology, emergency phone list, edamame, elephant ears, eel.
F: Fishing, flossing, fair, Ferris Beuller’s Day Off, fire drill, fossils, fondue, fudge.
G: Gardening, gallery, Geocaching, games, gingerbread (it is so fun to make a gingerbread house “off-season” you should try it.), graham crackers, german chocolate cake, goldfish.
H: Hockey, hiking, hair cuts, Harry Potter, home show, clean your house, hook-a-rug, hot dogs, honeydew, horse riding.
I: ice cream, Internet, insects, ice-skating, Italian food, icing.
J: Jam, jelly beans, Juggle, Jungle Book, jacks, johnny cake, jicama, jerky, jambalaya
K: Knot tying, kite flying, Kit-Kat, karaoke, karate, knock-knock jokes, Klutz books, knitting, knead bread, kegels, key lime pie.
L: Little House on the Prairie, linguine, lasagna, library, Lego, lemons, limes.
M: Museum, make a mobile, plan a menu, marshmallows, Malomars, mints, macaroons, magic, Monopoly, manicotti, marmalade, maple syrup.
N: Make a newspaper, New England Clam Chowder, nuts, noodles, newtons, nachos.
O: Octopus, observatory, origami, organize, Operation, orchestra, oranges, Oreos, orzo, oatmeal.
P: Pie, pizza, puppets, Pirates of the Caribbean, make paper, pap test, painting, picnic, polka, pumpkin, pork, penne.
Q: Queen Latifah, quiche, Quincy Jones, quesadillas, quilting, quick breads, quiz shows, quarters.
R: Risk, road Trip, recycle, redecorate a room, romance, Redwall, roller coasters, river rafting, read, red licorice, ravioli, rice pudding, risotto.
S: Scrabble, Solitaire, simplify, sushi, Star Wars, scavenger hunt, SuDoku, Sleep over, swimming, salsa dancing, scrapbooking, salmon, Saganaki.
T: Tango, table tennis, teepees, typing, tap dancing, tic tac toe, tie shoes, trampoline, trek a trail.
U: Ugli fruit, unpack, Uptown Girls, Untamed Heart, Uno
V: Vin diesel (The Pacifier), vineyard, vermicelli, vacuum.
W: Water park, wash windows and walls, write a letter, walk, wink, wrinkles.
X: (e)xercise. X-men, X games, (e)xtreme sports, roman numeral for ten.
Y: Yahtzee, yo-yos, yogurt, yakisoba.
Z: Zoo, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Zaire, Zoom.
Don't forget about the adults in the house, this idea works equally well for mom and dad as it does for the kids. Watch the sunset for S, give each other a massage for M, have a candlelight dinner for C. Weave alphabetic romance into your life, your whole family will benefit.
Be sure to start a journal, blog or scrapbook recording your adventures, You'd be amazed at how many people will be interested in joining you as you celebrate the year from A-Z. Our online journal became another way for us to keep in touch with friends and family.
Try it; an alphabet of experiences is waiting for you.
This week I'll be posting updated suggestions - more adult pursuits like crafts, reading lists and even some sexy ideas to make this year great for your relationship too.
Please sign up in the comments section and let me know if you're interested in playing along with us. If enough people decide to join in the fun I'll start a little community for us with weekly email and ideas plus chatting and discussions. Don't stress, this is actually really easy. For example, the week I have surgery we'll probably set our iPods to the appropriate letter and call it done. YOU CAN DO THIS!