Tag Archives: spelling bee

A failure of humility

This week I let Mythankfulboy fail.

It was a measured failure; I knew it wouldn’t devastate him, but I also knew it would be meaningful, and it felt like something he needed to do.  Here’s what happened.

B has been a pretty good little speller all his life.  He reads a lot, although less so since social media and gaming (another form of social media, really) absorb so much of his time.  He came in second in the middle school spelling bee in 6th grade, and won in 7th grade (although the other finalist later told him that she let him win because she thought he wanted it more than she did – thanks?)  We studied both years for weeks.  Like baseball, it is one of those things that comes relatively easily, but he’s no savant, so he needs to work at it to be good.  He is verbally enthusiastic, and he’ll happily attend any scheduled thing that would make him better, but he doesn’t delegate any free time to his goals.

This tendency of his was already on my nerves because his grandfather paid not-a -little-money to give him 4 1:1 batting (baseball) coaching sessions.  He was thrilled, and has been very excited to go to them.  We drive 40 minutes each way to attend them, and I sit there for an hour, making this, what, an almost a 2 1/2 hour commitment on a school night?  Then he does no practicing at all mid-week, and shows up to the next session a little better than he was when he started, but not as good as when he left the last session.  I know, I know – he’s 13 – what do you expect?  Well, obviously, I expect better.  So, last week, when he came home from the gym after school on Tuesday and told me the spelling bee was on Thursday, I said to myself, “Self, how are you going to handle this?”  Then I answered myself, “Self, you’re going to let him fail.”  I asked him how long he’d known – “I just found out today”.  I told him I doubted that – “No, for real, Mom.”  I asked if they gave them words to study – “Yeah, it’s only one page”.  I told him I didn’t think that would be enough – “I think I’ll be okay.”  We got home and he went to his room and fired up the gaming system.  I said nothing.  The next morning he said, “Mom – we really have to study tonight – the bee is in 2 days!”  “Technically”, I responded, “It’s one study night away.”

Wednesday night he brought me the list and said he’d underlined the ones he didn’t know, looking hopefully at me for praise that he’d done that much.  I ignored him and his underlines and read words randomly off the page.  Turns out he didn’t know “ciao” would be pronounced “chow”.  Imagine that.  He slumped lower and lower on the couch with the weight of the number of words he didn’t know.  I told him that the lower he sank on the couch the less he focused and I told him to sit on an ottoman away from rest of the furniture.  He whined and moaned and remained slumped over on the couch.  Staring at him, I silently released the page of spelling words from my fingers and allowed it to flutter to the floor dramatically.  He gaped at me (his mouth actually fell open), and when he recovered he quickly rose and retrieved the paper, handed it back to me, and sat on the ottoman.  I continued to go through the list until it was clear he was trying but was struggling, and then I told him I thought he was pretty prepared and he should go to bed.  That night, at the chalice lighting, he was thankful for me for studying with him.  Mmhmm.

Thursday morning I noted that he was wearing his 2015 spelling bee winner t-shirt and wished him good luck on our way out the door.  He bounded out happily.  At 10:34 I got the text, “MOM I LOST”.

This was followed quickly by:

I got even messenger wrong

wow  Siri doesn’t even know how to spell it


the stupid word wasn’t even on the list

the only words that were on the list were the words that I didn’t get

I responded, “Stupid word.  I was pretty sure we should have studied beyond the list, but u didn’t seem to care very much, so I didn’t bug u.”

He replied, “yeah I didn’t that much. but still.  :(”

That night we talked about the concept of what you put in dictates what you get out.  I shared that I was frustrated that he wasn’t putting effort into baseball, either, and that it was disrespectful to his grandfather not to show that he valued the gift with a little effort.  He nodded (his sign that he’s listening and thinking about what I said).  I said, “Honey, I let you fail on purpose with the spelling bee.  You need to learn this lesson now, not later in life.”  He nodded again.  Good, I thought.  Maybe he’s gonna get this.  Then he said, “You know what was great?  When I got out, the whole room moaned, but I was pretty sure I heard the kids who kept going heave a sigh of relief.”

Parallel lesson still needed:  humility.



Leave a comment

Posted by on February 21, 2016 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Odds and ends of a weekend apart

It was a quiet, working, weekend here at the house (well, around town – I don’t get anything done at the house) because Mythankfulboy was at a friend’s house Thursday night (no school Friday) and at his dad’s for the weekend.  This did not keep me from sending him audio clips via text asking him to spell various words, but it did mean that I didn’t get my usual dose of him.  In some ways, the nights away from your kid/s, as a divorced parent, are really good breaks.  Of course, not so much when they are texting and begging to come back to your house.  Still, we worked through that, and I missed him thoroughly by the time he got home.

Today, while his dad took him for a snowboard lesson (awesome, right?), I went to the office and met my business partner and one of our precious staff, and we did some sprucing up.  This was much-needed, and I think we’ll all be happier this week for having done it.  Afterward, I had a quick, quiet dinner out and read (one of my favorite combinations of things to do), and headed over to pick up the boy.  He had so many things to tell me, he couldn’t complete a sentence.  These things ranged from what his step-brother had done when he (B) had friends over (followed them around), to his disappointment that he won something in a video game only to find he already had one, to how much his rear end hurt from falling while learning to snowboard.  We got the car washed, and the boy a milkshake.  I played (and sang) my new favorite song for him, much to his pretend chagrin (The Decemberists’ Better Not Wake the Baby).  We turned into the driveway laughing.

Once home, of course we spelled (hard words: samovar, paprika, and catkin, although the last one was easy once he heard the correct spelling…), and then the chalice lighting.  It took a little while to tear him away from his iPod, but once we got the dog on the bed and settled, he gushed that he was thankful for his new baseball bat and some Lindt chocolate he got for his birthday.  These days he also always says he’s thankful for me.  I said I was thankful for getting some things done around the office, and for the lightness and laughter there today.  And of course, for his coming home after being gone a few days.  About then, the dog knocked the boy’s iPod out of the windowsill in which he’d left it for the night, and things moved into the dull aspects of getting it back in place, blowing out the candle, turning on the lava lamp, and saying goodnight.

Except for the “I love you” part.  That’s always the best part.

Leave a comment

Posted by on March 8, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Dripping with honey

Well, the person who won the school spelling bee can’t attend the county version, so B proceeds on to the county spelling bee!  Yikes it’s a lot of words to know!  We’ve been through the French, Italian, Latin, and “Asian” word lists, but there are easily 20 more pages to go.  Among tonight’s difficult words: “bureaucracy”, “quiche” (“Keesh?”), and “parfait”.  Still, he’s on board, so I am, too.  Tonight, at our evening thankfulness ritual, he was thankful for my help in studying.  I was thankful for his excitement for learning.

I know – gag me, right?  Sometimes gratitude can just drip with honey… (get it? bee? honey?)

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 27, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , ,

The bee! The bee!

See Momma Run.  Has no momma yet written a book by this title?  Whew!  I think it was because she was too pooped.

We’ve been schooling and working and exercising and gaming and working and socializing and cleaning and working and studying for the spelling bee.  B has been a very happy camper as of late – he enjoys being busy, being home, and being with friends, and he’s doing a lot of all of them.  He also seems to be in a decent rhythm with his dad and his step-family.  These are good things.

Today, though, was the spelling bee, which we had read on the school website was at 8:15 in the morning (we had a snow day yesterday, so he hadn’t been able to ask anybody).  So, when I overslept and woke up at 7:40 and found he was still asleep, we BOOKED it to get to school in time to find out that the website was wrong and the bee was at 9:00, but, hey – thank goodness for small favors.  He did well – second place again this year – but was very disappointed, both because he’d studied so hard, and because the error he made that cost him first place was that he spelled too quickly and spelled “billabong” with only one “l” – a mistake he never made in practice.  When I picked him up from school he was hurt that his friends had been teasing him about losing – telling him they were going to send him to spelling bootcamp, and they were going to get him a Billabong sweatshirt.  He can be a fragile creature – he’s never been tolerant of teasing, which, of course, makes him that much more fun to tease.  He either didn’t think to tease them back for not getting as far as he did, or he didn’t want to hurt their feelings or be perceived as boasting, and so didn’t say anything except to ask them to stop.  Maybe we’ll replace spelling practice with witty come-back practice….

Last night, before the bee at our chalice-lighting, he was thankful for the dog (who he proclaimed was softer than his mother is), and for snow days.  I was thankful for snow days and fires, and for spelling with my boy.  I’m so proud of him.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 18, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

If I needed you

I was on gym duty today, which meant picking B and his friend up from school and driving them to the gym, then picking them up and taking the friend home.  This has recently evolved into the transport of an additional two female passengers, as well, and this was the first time it had affected my gym run.  The silence in the car was palpable.  I had been told I couldn’t gush that it was SO good to MEET them, so I asked a few basic questions (i.e., “How was school?” and “Everybody got what they need?”), and then let the silence fall.  Adorable.

Back at home, B and I went our separate ways for a while, back together for dinner, and apart again until I threatened bodily harm if he didn’t get in the shower.  He seemed very frightened.  After his shower he pushed and prodded the dog to the side of the other chair in front of the fire and cozied down into the chair with him.  We talked about his day (Me: “So, you guys were pretty quiet in the car today!” Him: “Yeah – AWKARD!”) and mine (Him: “What did you do today?” Me: “Well, my computer wouldn’t turn on for the first half of the day, so I had to get creative.”), about the Valentine’s Day cards we just bought and have to get in the mail tomorrow if we’re even going to pretend we were trying to get them to the grandparents on time, and then we studied for the bee.  Tonight we reviewed the hard words from the last week: “edification” (one “d” or 2?), “sabbatical” (one “b” or 2?), “en route” and “terra-cotta” (space or hyphen?), and “abysmal” and “hyacinth” (darn those “y”s!)  This is so fun for me, and he’s enjoying it, too.

We moved to his room for the chalice.  There, Mythankfulboy said he was thankful that I was helping him study for the spelling bee.  In a moment of quiet a few minutes later, he also said he was thankful that we had each other.  “If I were on the streets, you would take care of me, and if you were on the streets, I would take care of you.”  At the time, I said yes – aren’t we blessed to know that and to have each other.  As I write this now, I’m reminded of a song I used to sing to him when he was a baby, the Don Williams song “If I Needed You (Would You Come to Me). When he got older, he said it was too sad.  I think it’s just right.

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 11, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Momma vs. screens

Friday night at his dad’s house.  Saturday night at his friend’s house.  Then, this evening, I practically had to drag him off of his gaming system to have any discourse at all.  I can put up with the socializing, but I will not be completely drowned out by technology.  I asked him to come to a stopping point in his game and to turn it off and find something else to do.  What did he find?  My phone.  I don’t think so, buddy.  He said, “I just wanted to look up whether screens actually kill brain cells.”  I told him that, no, i didn’t think he was killing brain cells by gaming all the time, but I knew he wasn’t developing new skills in other parts of his brain, and that that was equally concerning to me.  I gave the usual alternatives to screens – the ones that were the only real choices beyond TV when I was a kid – and he balked at each as they crossed my lips.  So I told him we could study for the spelling bee, or I could find some housework for him to do.  Spelling bee it was.

When we wrapped up studying for the evening, I wrote some words that were particularly hard for him to remember on sticky notes and hung them around the house (e.g., pyrite, jettison, impugn).  Then I returned for the chalice lighting.

There is another storm predicted for this evening that is a little bit of snow (coming down currently) and a fair amount of ice, if it proceeds as predicted.  Mythankfulboy was thankful for his dog, his momma, and the chance for a two-hour school delay.  Now that he has a middle school workload, he doesn’t really wish for whole days off – it’s just work he’ll have to make up, and he doesn’t want a lengthened school year, either.

I was thankful for time with him, without screens.  He admitted, “Me too.”

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 1, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , ,

The dogs and the bees and the boy

It’s spelling bee time again.  Last year B came in second for his school, and he has a goal of domination this year, so we’ve begun a nightly study period.  This is fun for me because I love words so very much.  Plus, anytime you share a love of something with your kid, and get to spend time with them around it, the joy is multiplied.

After the spelling session last night, mythankfulboy sat, or I should say, spun, in my desk chair while I sat, propped up, in bed.  We lit the candle on the desk and began the evening thankfulness ritual.  The dog was unhappy that B and I were in the same room and not talking to him, so he wandered back and forth between us whining.  B said he was thankful for snow and for school dances, the latter of which he’ll be attending this evening.  He has the night planned; home to my house after school, dad to pick him up and take him to Crossfit, taking a change of clothes to slip into at the gym for the dance, then the dance.  Perhaps his crush will be there….  His dad harrumphs about all the driving, and while I know he doesn’t cherish that part of it (who does?), I do think he likes knowing that B is connected to his community, and takes some private pleasure in getting him to activities.

For myself, I was thankful for a dog who, despite being not-very-bright and often annoying (I’m not good with whining; perhaps I’ve mentioned this), is highly tolerant of ear and tail pulling, and is always happy to see us.  My son delivered 25 unsolicited pecks on my cheek, said goodnight, and left for bed.  I closed my eyes to remember the moment, and drifted off to sleep.

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Uncategorized


Tags: , , , , , , , ,