Reflections on Joseph’s Alphabet

Reflections on Joseph’s Alphabet

With our older son now started in his first year of mechanical engineering, I thought it was high time to write down the “references to things he loved at the time” of his second birthday before I forget them!

The poem we created for Joseph’s second birthday was based on a poem from the classic children’s book, Bedtime for Frances. We completed it with details from his life and books that he loved too. Today, before too much more life happens and I forget, I simply want to reflect on the meaning and purpose of each of the lines we added to complete the poem.

A Little Poem About the Alphabet

The poem started by Frances in the book begins with the stanza:

A is for apple pie,
B is for bear,
C is for crocodile combing his hair.

We then follow that same format through the remained of our creation, which begins with the first line of the next stanza given by the book:

D is for dumplings,

E is for eggs,

This line was chosen to setup the next rhyme, but it turned out that Joseph came to hate eggs as he grew up. Which makes this a little bit ironic, don’t you think?

F is for fish, that don’t have any legs.

Certainly we often ate fish, but between the grandparents’ cottages, even by 2 years old, Joseph had also been around a lot of Great Lakes water. He really enjoyed looking for fish along under the dock, around the boat, and all along the shore. He was also fascinated by the idea of catching them.

G is for giant,

One of the reasons that Frances can’t fall asleep in the Bedtime for Frances story, is that she thinks that there is a giant in her room. For the first stanza we were composing on our own, this was a great place to start.

H is for hay,

This is another line chosen for the rhyme it would facilitate next. We had no idea at that time that Joseph would spend a semester during the pandemic at St. Martin’s Academy and would have to feed some animals hay as part of his chores!

I is for ice cream on a hot day.

What 2-year-old (or 42-year-old!) doesn’t love ice cream on a hot day? The need for “Daddy clean-up” of the ice cream along the sides of ice cream cones is well-known in our family. I still ask the boys if they need the service 😉

J is for jet plane,

By 2 years old Joseph had traveled on airplanes to visit great grandmothers in Manitoba and retired grandparents in Florida. Of course he was fascinated with airplanes! Airplanes were also things that Joseph would judge as either huge or large, words which had some clear distinction in his young mind 😀

K is for kite,

Continuing with the flying theme, we’ve always had kites, and have never flown them as much as we wanted. If I recall correctly, Joseph got his first kite for his first birthday, and we got it hopelessly caught in a tree shortly after.

L is for ladybug on her first flight.

This relates to another favorite book of Joseph’s. Indeed, he loved it SO MUCH that by the time he turned one his copy was falling apart! So for his first birthday we had laminated and bound his copy of The Very Lazy Ladybug!

M is for mommy,

Of course a two-year-old loves his mommy!

N is for nest,

My mother has kept bird feeders and watched birds for years. Joseph picked up her interest and was fascinated by the birds and their babies.

O is for orangutan banging his chest.

Another book we had about the alphabet—we spent a lot of time enjoying books with Joseph—had a very vivid picture of an orange orangutan that he would take his time looking at (as he did with many images in that book).

P is for puppy,

His grandparents always had dogs, rarely puppies, but this was a great opportunity to reference that.

Q is for queen,

Yes, we all grew up under Elizabeth II, Queen of Canada, but this is really another one to setup the next rhyme…

R is for riverboat heading upstream.

Clearly, even by two years old Joseph had had many great experiences with boats on the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Grandpa and Grandma’s cottage was on one of the Thousand Islands, and everyday a tour boat from Kingston would pass by heading up stream. And when it did, we’d have to go watch and wave! Preferably from the dock 😉

STU from the book

S is for sailboat,
T is for tiger,
U is for underwear down in the drier.

(And since “drier” and “tiger” didn’t really rhyme, Frances started thinking about tigers, thought she had one in her room, and needed to go see her Father.)

Interestingly, while these lines were given in Bedtime for Frances, part of what Joseph did to celebrate his 18th birthday was to crew a sailboat in race. That said, these lines are now starting to be a concern: Joseph forgot several pairs of underwear in our drier at home so that we had to buy a new pack for him to have at school. Hopefully the “tiger” simply turns out to be his mother.

V is for van,

There was nothing Joseph enjoyed more than sitting in the driveway at his grandparents and “driving Gong Gong’s van”. (“Gong Gong” being Cantonese for “maternal grandfather”.) He’d spend hours there, and would have spent more if allowed, driving that van all over the (imaginary) town. There was no doubt that “V” was for “van”.

W is for wagon,

This line, is a setup for the rhyme in the next, but also a rhyme borrowed from a poem in one of Joseph’s other favorite books, A Giraffe and A Half. (It took me a moment to get this straight because I was trying to think which poem in Joseph’s most favorite Shel Silverstein book, Where the Sidewalk Ends, that it was from.) In the rapid unwinding of the “pyramid” of things the Giraffe has acquired in A Giraffe and A Half, the Giraffe leaves “the Dragon ’cause his wagon was saggin’.” Which leads us to …

X is for xylophone played by a dragon.

Of course, “X” is for “xylophone”, but most importantly we conclude the connection to the dragon and the wagon from A Giraffe and A Half.

Y is for yo-yo,

Joseph couldn’t use a yo-yo yet, I don’t think, but I know we had one that I would play with for him.

Z is for zoo,

While the zoo was always a fun trip, I think that some pandas had recently come to stay at the Toronto Zoo, so there was a bunch of extra interest and cache with the zoo. I don’t remember going to see them in Toronto, maybe his mom and grandmother took him, but when we visited Hong Kong two years later, I took Joseph to see the pandas there.

and that’s the end of the alphabet sung in rhyming twos.

This is the ending I originally wrote, and the one I posted on this blog, however, now that Joseph has gone off to college, I want to publish the revision my wife made which we published in the copy we printed for him:

and that's the end of the alphabet written because we love you.

Joseph, congrats on your new start. Apply yourself and do your best and we know you’ll be successful; you’ll become the person you’re meant to be and have joy and happiness. We do love you, and miss you!

Sean Kennedy

The creator of "Whatever The Heck That Means" can usually be found with his wife and younger son in their adopted home of North Carolina. (His older son is now an adult and away studying mechanical engineering.) From there he is the Founder and President of Simbiotrek (sim-bē-'ä-'trek -, and makes occasional digital imprints on LinkedIn ( and Twitter (, as well as on the Be Action YouTube channel (


Suzanne Simourd Posted on1:52 pm - September 1, 2022

Really wonderful to read and brought back many memories.
Too bad there was no way to include the “Hungry” poem Joseph loved to recite at 18 months!

Michael Chiarelli Posted on10:44 pm - August 31, 2022

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and all the love behind it, Sean. Congrats Joseph! You too Sean and Emily!

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