Saturday, January 19, 2013


This week introduced our family to the wondrous world of The Spelling Bee. I thought it would be fun (or at the least, interesting) to register the girls for this right of passage in the world of the elementary-school-aged-child.

So I did.

And then I thought, (approximately 5 seconds after hitting the send button on the registration form), that perhaps I may have gotten myself into more than I could handle. Maybe. What did I know about studying for a Spelling Bee?

The school sent us the lists from which we were supposed to study. 400 words for them to be "very familiar" with. (Oh my.) First through Fourth grade level words. Words that ranged from "red", "many", and "can" all the way to "wordiness", "receive", and "disassociate".

I loaded the words on the handy-dandy spelling practice site we favor, and let them go at it. 7 lists they worked through on a daily basis. 7 lists filled with words that they knew well, and those they'd never heard of.  For 4 weeks they practiced. We practiced. I double checked that they were completing their on-line practice. We spent hours in "mock" Spelling Bee run-throughs.

Say the word. Spell the word, (SLOWLY). Say the word.
Say the word. Spell the word, (SLOWLY). Say the word.
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

As the big day drew near this past week, they were all spelled out, and I had grown weary of forcibly turning every moment into a Spelling Moment around our house. We were f-r-i-e-d. Collectively.

It was with absolutely no expectations that I entered the Bee that day. We signed in and took 3 seats in the front row. Me in the middle; the girls on either side. "Just have fun, sweetie," I encouraged them, answering their questions of worry with smiles.

"But mom, I think all these kids look like better spellers than me," Ashlyn fretted, snuggling deeper into the side-hug she'd burrowed into.

"I think everyone looks excited to be here, sweetie," I soothed, trying to calm. "I think you all look ready to go up there and have fun and spell some words." She nodded; unsure.

On my other side, Caedance looked equally daunted, but ready to go. Get it started. Get it over with.

The Bee got underway and I sent my littlest angels up to do their best. Whatever that would be. I was unsure how they would handle the pressure of being up there, in front of everyone. Unsure if they'd be able to spell the word they were given. Unsure if they'd be still. Be quiet. Stay in line. All the worries that come with first experiences of anything.

I just wanted them to have fun.

I didn't realize I was figuratively "holding my breadth" until the end of the fourth round. They were still in there. Not out yet. They were confident. Clear in their spelling. They were standing in line. They were still.

They were smiling.

I exhaled and smiled too. They were on their own and loving it.

Caedance eventually went out by beginning the word "Last" with an "A". She caught herself right away...more meaning that "A" to be like a filler..."umm". But rules are rules and she was out. Even when being announced as Out, she smiled as she made her way to me.

"Oops!" she laughed as she took her seat.
"Oops," I agreed as I snuggled her close. "Good job, sweetness. I am so proud of you."
"Even though I made a mistake?"
"Oh yes," I held her closer, "Even so."
We continued watching the Bee.

Ashlyn soldiered on up there. Round after round. Until there were just two spellers left; Ashlyn and another little girl. Word after word these two spelled; round after round; another and then another.

And then she misspoke the "W" in "wordiness" as more like "ubYOU" and was out. She spelled it right, but was out for that mispronunciation. She sighed and sat down. Slightly annoyed, but (I think) happy with herself.

She came in second place.
Not too shabby for a first time out, I think.

They each got ribbons for their accomplishments. And a My Little Pony from me.

They had worked hard. And did better than I could have hoped. And they had fun.

And they're already asking about when next year's Spelling Bee is. :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Raindrop In The Deluge

You know that old saying, "When it rains it pours"? Have you ever wondered why it seems to only apply to mildly to excessively stressful situations and not to happy and exciting things?

You just never hear anyone saying, "Boy oh boy, I just got a new job that pays 10 times my old salary. And guess what? Yesterday I got a phone call that said all my student loans were forgiven. I know right? And then today...TODAY...I won a brand new car."

Listen for it all you want, but generally these are not the sort of events you'll hear strung along under the tag line, "When It Rains It Pours". Though don't I wish they were.

We recently had a deluge of mechanical failures at our house. In the span of 3 short days, our van (our dear family truckster) broke; our microwave caught on fire and expired on us; and our dishwasher decided (mid wash) it could no longer go on. 3 days: 3 separate events.

It started to feel as though our house had caught some appliance/machine disabling disease and everything was at risk. It also felt like we would be better served standing with our wallets open so all the money could fall out.

When it rains, it pours.

But there are bright sides in even the nastiest of storms, aren't there? Moments to be had. Memories to be made. Lessons to be learned. If only you look closely enough. Right? If only you can see each raindrop for what it can be, rather than what it seems like it is.

As we debated the cost and wisdom of getting our van fixed versus replacing it with a New To You sort of vehicle, I realized how much that old red thing meant to me after all; how many memories I have tied to it. It's the vehicle I drove while pregnant. It's the one that rushed me to the hospital in preterm labor. And it brought my babies home safely for that first time. Though it may be categorized as "Just A Car", that great Red Barron in the garage spans the Before & After in our "Family" memories: from picking up cribs, lugging home baby shower gifts, and hauling one tired pregnant lady from one doctor appointment to another; all the way to that first drive home with them---with all those nervous glances in the baby mirror, and that first family vacation, and onwards to today. I didn't appreciate how much that all meant to me, silly though it may seem, until we had to look at perhaps moving on. I can't tell you how happy I was to be able to get it fixed in the hopes of driving it around until it just falls apart.

And the glimmer of happiness in the failure of my kitchen appliances is two fold. Firstly, (and I mean...really, now), who doesn't want new appliances? Shiny and new with scores of buttons with unknown purposes, just waiting to be discovered. (And if you happen to decide to begin the switch over from black to stainless steel, that's all the better, right?) Another lesson gained from my 4 days minus a microwave and 7 days without the dishwasher is that Dan is no danger of my up and deciding to go Pioneer Gal on him. Nope; he can cross that right off his list of worries. Turns out, I'm a modern girl with an extreme love for modern conveniences. (Secretly, I've always suspected this to be the case, but at least now I have the data to back it up).

For the moment we're settled with the new shiny things in the kitchen and the well-running thing out in the garage. The calm between the rainstorms, you might say. And not that I'm asking for it to happen or anything, but if my refrigerator keeps acting up, I think the lesson there might be that a stainless steel fridge with water & ice through the door is the right thing for a happy kitchen. (I'm just saying).