Towards the end of last year, I shared with you my elite status as a spelling bee prep consultant (How Do You Spell Amazing)? There are many things one must do in order to get their clients in fighting form. In addition to being able to read a list of words out loud (gasp!), it is paramount as a consultant to live a varied and rich life. Through your life adventures, it will help expose your clients to words that may have otherwise slipped past them.
Well over a decade ago I must have had a premonition that I would need to grow the vocabulary of my life to further the academic excellence of my children. When Full Speed was 8 months old, Mad Dog and I had our first weekend away. As a mom who struggled with the all-consuming role of caring for an infant, this weekend was a revelation. Simply walking down a hall unencumbered felt foreign and liberating. Getting a chance to eat a meal and engage in an actual conversation warmed the depths of my soul. During this outing, Mad Dog and I also spent some time at our resort’s bar. Having recently stopped breastfeeding, I was happily free to indulge in a glass of wine. I’m not sure if it was the headiness of my new-found (and short-lived) freedom, but that first glass of wine there was transcendent. To this day, I wonder if it actually is as good as I think, or if it simply reminds me of that formative slice in time of being footloose and kid-free. You may wonder where I’m going with this, but you’ll see how it plays out later.
As I continued raising my little family and expanding all of our horizons and vocabulary, I came into my own as a spelling bee prep consultant. The result was Full Speed’s exciting win as a fifth grader and lo and behold, T.Puzzle followed exactly the same path!
So, there I was in the audience, watching my handsome and brave T.Puzzle compete in his school’s spelling bee. Each time it was his turn, I couldn’t even watch him. I stared at the paper list of contestants held tightly in my hands. I proceeded to crumple that paper to shreds as I locked it in a death grip.
The first rounds were easy for the most part, but soon the words took a complicated turn. He hung in there round after round. Then, he got to the word:
Immediately, I relaxed my hands and shot my mother-in-law a huge grin. I knew my baby had it. It wasn’t for the win but I rest assured that he was safe for another round.
‘Conundrum’ happens to be the name of the very wine I drank all those years ago. It remains one of my favorites and has graced our table, our fridge and my outstretched hand on many occasions.
He spelled it without an ounce of hesitation.
As a mom, I pledge to do whatever it takes to help my children succeed.
As a mom I wear many hats. Personally, my favorite is a Cubs baseball cap, but here are a few others that I inhabit:
– Chinese leftover reheater
-Dog walker and trainer (the latter may be easily disproved in a court of law or more likely, upon meeting our wildly energetic adopted dog, let’s just say, girl gets by on her looks…a lot).
-Extremely empathetic validator of the universe’s feelings
-Friend, mother, writer, sister ….and the list goes on and on.
Now the hat that many don’t know about and that I keep a closely guarded secret is…
-Spelling bee prep consultant
I have a track record of helping one young man place second in the whole county….
Cool trophy, right?
Anyway, given my illustrious track record, it only makes sense now that this young man’s brother is going to compete at his school’s spelling bee, he would reach out to an elite spelling instructor such as myself. So, that’s where we are at. I am now helping T.Puzzle prepare for his grade school spelling bee. Truly, the only special skills I am bringing to the table are the ability to read words from a list (out loud, no less!) and patience. I don’t mind the sometimes repetitive process as long as my spelling padawan is focused. So far, T.Puzzle has that in spades. Here is a recent example of the elite-type of training that I offer.
Me: “Correct” (as in, he is correct, not please spell correct, I think you get the idea, so let’s move on to a word in which more elite spelling instructing is needed for clarification)
T.Puzzle: “Use it in a sentence, please.” (he didn’t really say please, I just added it in for my own creative spin as moms-who-love-manners are wont to do)
Me: “Little brothers are pesky to their older brothers.” (see what I did there? I made it relatable to my subject…genius).
Well over a decade ago, the girl had her First Little Buckeye.Even though she was of an age that society deemed her to be a responsible adult, she didn’t feel very grown-up and worried she wasn’t going to mother him correctly.The first time she held him in her arms was transcendent.Her worry and her fear left her.All she felt was peace.Peace for the girl is highly unusual.This is why she remembers it so vividly.She looked down into his tiny, baby face and felt comforted by him.She thought that was odd.How was a tiny baby going to take care of her?She didn’t know, but she was thankful he was here.She was grateful he was healthy.She holds that memory in a pocket close to her heart.On her hardest days, as life can be hard, she reaches into this pocket and remembers that love.That memory of peace reminds her that no matter what shows up in her world, everything is going to be okay.
Now, enough about the girl, let’s get to the fun stuff.Let’s learn a little bit more about the FLB.He loves life.He loves learning.He sometimes loves his Little Brother, but sometimes he only tolerates him.It depends on his mood and how much his Little Brother is annoying him on that particular day.
The girl tries to stay out of the way. It’s hard to believe that their relationship and their lives in general aren’t really her business. She’s working on staying out of the way. She doesn’t always succeed at this. At least she is trying.
A couple months back, the FLB’s love of learning earned him a spot in the county-wide spelling bee. He managed to beat out all the other 5th and 6th graders at his school. It was a pretty amazing day. That meant over holiday break and beyond, he had to study, study, study to get ready for the Big Show at county. It was a lot of work but he didn’t mind it. He actually kind of liked the challenge of learning all these new, almost-impossible-to-pronounce-yet-harder-to-spell words. The girl remembered to stay out of his way. She told him she trusted him completely. If he wanted to study all the time or not at all, she was going to support him. He chose somewhere in between all the time and not at all. It was a good, steady balance of studying that kept his attitude good, steady and balanced. That’s all the girl cared about. She wanted him to feel good about the process and he did. So, she felt good about the process, too.
About a month before the night of the Big Show, the girl needed to have a serious talk with her FLB.She wanted him to know something very important about what her expectations were for him regarding the competition.This is what she said to him:
“I want you to remember that you are awesome.The amount of awesome you have inside you is static.That means it doesn’t change.There is nothing you can or can’t do to change this fact.At the beginning of the spelling bee you will be awesome.At the end of the spelling bee you will be awesome.And during the middle, you will still be equally awesome.Winning or losing can’t change your awesome-ness.If you wonder how I know this it’s because when you were a baby and I held you in my arms for the very first time I loved you instantly.I kind of already loved you before I even knew you.Why?It wasn’t because I thought to myself, ‘someday this kid is going to be great at spelling.’No, itwas because you were awesome.You were then, you are now and you always will be.”
Most of the time the FLB is polite when the girl goes into one of her ‘Love-You-As-You-Are Lectures’ because let’s face it, there are SO MANY of them.The girl can’t help it.It’s who she is.The FLB knows this about her so he is respectfully quiet. The girl is never quite sure if he is actually listening to her but she lectures anyway. However this time, the girl felt like maybe this Love Lecture penetrated his soul a little.He seemed a little more sure of himself and seemed to have even more relaxed fun in his study preparations.The girl was relieved that he believed her.Sometimes as children we don’t believe the good our parents tell us about ourselves even though it is a proven fact that the good is ALWAYS TRUE.We only have to be brave enough on the inside to believe it.Thankfully, the FLB is brave enough. At least the girl hoped he was.
On the actual day of the Big Show and right before the spelling bee started, the girl’s eyes swept over the mass of talented spellers selected from each school in the county.Sure, she felt proud the FLB was included in this group but she also felt something else.This isn’t something the girl talks about very much, but growing up she kind of never really fit in anywhere.She stills feels that way. She thinks most of the whole world feels this way but no one ever says it out loud. So, as she watched those amazing, nervous kids, she could see herself in them.She could see the shy ones, the awkward ones, the ones who looked like they might pass out from nerves and she could relate.She saw the FLB way in the back row, he’s kind of small so she had to strain her neck and there he was.Yes, he seemed a bit nervous but he owned that stage.He was all confidence and class.It was if he understood he was among peers and while they may not be the considered the ‘coolest’ when in the mainstream of school life, he seemed perfectly fine about it.He is who he is and he knows he’s enough exactly as he is.The girl’s heart was full.She already won even before the first letter was spoken.She won because the FLB had already won.
He remembered he was awesome.
When he happened to place 2nd in the whole county the girl thought to herself, ‘isn’t that an embarrassment of riches?’