Love is always number 1

By Mir
January 22, 2009

I love how many of you remember your own Spelling Bee come-to-Jesus moment. And I even love how many of you were so concerned that I was going to use my kid to make a statement, to buck the law, man, like I regularly trot around using my offspring as body armor as necessary. Heh.

Sometimes I vent, people. Like when I’m given two days to come up with an outfit because the school said it was optional-compulsory-required-justkidding!

We found a mostly-blue skirt in the back of Chickadee’s closet (purchased when she was 7, and yes, this size 7 skirt is STILL too big around on her), and—yes, put down the phone, no need to call DFACS—I bought her a white blouse. We played by the rules. Like the good conformers that we are. Woo. I was only a TEENSY bit bitter when we arrived at the Spelling Bee and most of the kids were wearing (forbidden) jeans.

Twenty-eight kids were assembled on the stage, in various states of excitement and panic. Chickadee caught sight of us and first waved, then remembered that she was probably too cool to wave, and ducked her head for a second before checking to make sure we were still smiling and giving a thumbs up in her direction.

First there was a practice round. A few kids got words wrong, but everyone got to stay.

During the first round, about half the kids were eliminated.

During the second round, about half again.

By the end of the third round, they were down to the final two who battled it out for the title and the chance to go on to County.

Chickadee was speller number 19, which meant she was in the back row. After the first round, the front row had enough chairs for everyone, so she got to move up to the second block of front row chairs. After the second round, the first block of front row chairs was enough, so she got to move over into those.

She was the last speller to be eliminated before the final two.

She came out into the audience to sit with us, and she tried to put on a brave face, but she was crushed and no whispered congratulations on coming in third or having spelled a couple of really hard words would soothe her. (And, quite frankly, it didn’t help that the caller’s pronunciation of MANY of the words was… interesting. Hey, Georgia! You talk funny!)

When a minute had passed and she was clearly still not feeling better, I pulled her close and asked her if she had noticed that I was wearing my prayer box.

“Do you know what prayer I put into it this morning?” I whispered to her.

“That I would win?” she answered, glum.

“Nope.” She gave me A Look. “I prayed that you would be proud of yourself, no matter what.”

She leaned back into me and we watched in silence for a bit. Then she turned to whisper, “I really didn’t want to go to County, anyway.”

I patted her knee, and then took out my camera.

19th, 3rd; whatever. I know what I know. All I want is for her to know it, too.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone.


  1. StephLove

    Congrat.s, Chickadee. Third’s a really good showing.

    I’m sure it’s hard for her, though. We watched Spellbound recently and I remember one of the kids saying coming that close can be harder than being eliminated early. I remember coming in 4th or 5th in a regional (two counties) essay contest in 10th grade and being crushed because only 1st, 2nd or 3rd went on the the state level. Close can really suck.

  2. nil zed

    re: the kids in jeans, that’s what always irritated me in these situations, the people who did the explicity forbidden thing when I’d managed to come up with something suitable. I was a single mom pinching pennies & scraping by, if I could manage then surely those people in nice houses & new cars could!

    Now I’m one of those nice house people though, and you know what, it doesn’t really help much on short notice like you got anyway.

    By middle school, go ahead and invest in a nice outfit like this, probably with a black skirt. If you don’t think she’s had her final growth spurt by 7th grade, get it a little big and you should be set through graduation. I can’t tell you the number of times my girls needed this semi-uniform in the last 6 years of school.

  3. Lylah

    Happy Love Thursday! Adjusting my own prayer box now… :)

  4. Katie in MA

    Happy Love Thursday! Chickie, I guarantee that you spell better than half of the people in my office, and you aren’t even through with your schooling yet! Don’t worry – you’ll rock the show next year.

  5. Megan

    Snerk. I remember insisting to my mother that I absolutely, positively, definitely NO KIDDING had to have a new outfit because it was Teh Law for a particular activity. I might, just possibly, have exaggerated a teensy bit on the hopes that I would actually get a whole entire brand new store-bought outfit (not a hand-me-down or a Thrift Store special) just for me. Backfired though – she found something in HER wardrobe that just happened to fit all the requirements and, having made the fuss, I couldn’t back track and thus had to wear my mother’s clothes to that particular activity. Damn karma – or whatever!

    Good for Chickie. I was third in mine as well, felled by “scissors” which I still think is totally overdoing things on the ‘s’ front.

  6. Memawcas

    HI Mir,
    This has nothing to do with todays post although it is a love issue! Not sure if Nightengales’s family knows about this website, but thought I would send to you to forward to them if you want. It is a wonderful site that has all kinds of sick kids stories on it and they ask for people to send cards, messages, small gifts to the sick child and thier siblings. It seems wonderful and the kind of thing that I would be so thankful for, should the need ever arise (God forbid). Thanks, MemawCas

    PS I tried to e-mial this to you, but for some odd reason, it won’t work from my office.

  7. Sharon

    I was going to commment yesterday about the mandatory spelling bee uniform. It took me a while to learn that whenever I obsess about the required clothing for school events, we show up and no one else spent their time worrying, buying new clothes, etc. So funny with the jeans.

  8. the domestic fringe

    Wow! 3rd is GREAT! I’d be dead last in a spelling-bee.



  9. Michele

    Mir, your such a good Mom. I love how you always know the right thing to say. Love it!

  10. Debbi

    Mir, you ROCK! You are a great mom!!

  11. divrchk

    Congrats Chickadee! 3rd is just awesome.

  12. exile on mom street

    You are my inspiration to try and say the right thing.

    ‘Cause today, dealing with our third ear infection in as many months, I’m not doing such a good job.

  13. Melissa

    3rd is fantastic – congratulations to Chickadee!

  14. Tatiana

    I still remember coming in 2nd in a spelling bee when I got “electricity” wrong… then my opponent spelled that and “smile” (wtf? smile? after ELECTRICITY? for a second grader?!) and won. I am still angry about it!

  15. Heather

    3rd is great! Especially where people talk funny ;)

  16. Christina

    Congrats to Chickadee! She did great! (And so did you, Mom!)

    I still remember coming in 5th place at the spelling bee for misspelling mathematics.. Who knew it had an “e”?

    Well, I’ll never forget that, now. :-)

  17. kath

    constantinople … see it comes up with a red line under it no matter how hard I try, hey, is it even a legal word for a spelling bee??? It was grade four, some forty years ago so I should probably let it go.

    Third is great for your chicky …. I love the prayer boxes.
    Happy Love Thursday Mir & family

  18. Annie

    congrats for a job well done by Chickadee! I always wanted to be in a spelling bee when I was a little girl, but I realize now that I would have been WAYYYYYY too nervous to spell properly with all those people watching me.

  19. Megumi

    You always know just what to say, congratulations to Chickadee for a wonderful job :)

  20. Kayt

    Yay Chickadee!

    My school only did geography bees. Every year, I would make it to second place, then get a ridiculously hard question. The winner would always get incredibly easy questions. Even the winners’ mothers would be offended that their child won over me. In sixth grade, it was, “In which state was the second city that served the United States capitol?” The winning question was, “In which state is the Iditarod, the dogsled race that ends in Anchorage, held?” I’m still furious about it, because the guy that won bombed out of state on his first question.

  21. Em

    Didn’t Jennifer Hudson come in 3rd? And she is almost as awesome as Chickidee so… really, who does want to go to county anyway? Close calls do suck though, it almost hurts less to be one of the first eliminated. Not a goal, to be sure, but less of that dangling carrot feeling. I’m sorry Chickidee felt this disappointment but I hope she learns that she rocks as much as everyone else knows she does.

  22. All Adither

    I once won a spelling bee unfairly (I thought). And it still traumatizes me. Better to be 19. Good goin’!

  23. Nancy

    What a wonderful mom you are. Perfect words.

    I remember my daughter spelling her first word wrong in the bee – “treasure” – and she so knew how to spell that. Just nerves.

  24. jennielynn

    I still say she should’ve rocked the AC/DC shirt.

  25. Nancy

    Way to go Chickadee! I was eliminated from my bee much sooner than she was – I forgot the second ‘h’ in shepherd.

  26. ChristieNY

    Wow, I’M proud of your little Chickadee! I hope your prayer comes true, Mir – she deserves to be proud! :)

  27. Frank

    Be interested to know what word she slipped up on…

    My arch-nemesis was “onomatopoeia”. Same word got me 2 years in a row at the Post Standard qualifiers. :) what are the odds hat one person gets the same word in consecutive years? And further… what are the odds that some dumb-ass (me) would get it wrong again!!??

  28. Audrey

    Yay, Chickadee! I still very clearly remember my first (and only) spelling bee. The first round, I was knocked out by either the word quiet or quite (I can’t remember which) and I spelled the wrong one. I wasn’t too upset until the next year, when my younger brother -won- the spelling bee and got a nice shiny trophy.

  29. Karen

    What word stumped her?

  30. Cele

    Third place, excellent. congrats Chickee!

  31. O.G.

    3rd is awesome! And a great bit of parenting. I’m taking notes. I got knocked out on barbeque…I mean come on you could spell that 8 different ways.

  32. Brigitte

    I was just afraid you’d make her wear YOUR qualifying outfit, and we see how traumatic that was for commenter Megan!

    Ah, now poor Chickadee will be remembering the word that felled her, 40 years later. ;-)

  33. laurie


  34. Aimee

    Third is something to be proud of! Great job, Chickadee!

  35. Katie

    Yay for Chickadee! Yesterday was my 5th grade son’s spelling bee and he placed 7th out of 40-ish, making it to the 4th round. “Quiche” caught him up. We’ve had it for dinner but never made him spell it, lol. (He said Q-U-E-E-S-H, I was proud he got the QU part right).

    As for my personal spelling bee memories I don’t really have any because I purposely misspelled a word in the classroom part. I can’t stand spelling aloud and hated spelling bees. It’s the only time in my whole over-achieving life that I called it quits early on.

  36. Michelle

    Man, I would be super-proud of myself to make it to third! That’s a big deal!

  37. margie

    lesson learned, it’s not what you are wearing it’s whether you show up or not.

  38. Swistle

    Ooooo, that kind of clothing situation is EXACTLY what cheeses me off THE MOST! I seethe about a late notice, then I decide to just swallow my seethe and comply with what the school wants and be nice about it, so I go to a certain amount of trouble/expense/fret—and then it turns out no one else is doing it and the school doesn’t even care. ACK. I wish they’d either MAKE A RULE or NOT MAKE A RULE, but not make a SUGGESTION and let people GUESS if it’s a rule.

  39. just beaux

    What a wonderful mom you are. And you must be very proud of her. And you made me cry again.
    I have also been thinking of Nightgale & Chickadee. I do hope that things are better these days.

  40. annette


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