Later today, my older son Adam is going to be in the school-wide spelling bee.

If you have any concerns about the quality of public education in America, then you should really see the list of spelling bee words they think it’s reasonable for a 4th grader to know. 






Actually, I can totally see why a child of mine would need to know the word enchilada

Last night we were practicing, and I called out the word wanton.

"Wanton," he said, and then he paused.  "Could you use it in a sentence, please?"

(Um, since it means "sexually lawless or unrestrained; loose; lascivious; lewd", I’d rather not, if it’s all the same.)

Anyway, my boy is a little anxious, but he’s well-studied, and he’ll do fine.  I, on the other hand, am a nervous wreck, because I’m carrying with me some spelling bee baggage from junior high. 

I was only in a spelling bee once, in the seventh grade.  After many rounds, it was down to my best friend (the smartest kid in our grade), and me.  We kept going.  Round after round.  It was a dramatic face-off of epic, pimply-faced proportions. 

Finally, when it had gone on so long that the cool kids had started sighing and rolling their eyes, they gave us one last word.  It was my turn.


I went blank.

The clock on the cafeteria wall ticked madly.  A boy in the front row snickered.  The earth trembled. 

And I opened my mouth.

"Glycerin.  G-l-i-c-e-r-i-n.  Glycerin."

"I’m sorry, that is incorrect," said the judge, and my moment of spelling bee glory was shattered in an instant. 

(The fact that I just used the words "spelling bee" and "glory" in the same sentence should tell you something about my degree of coolness in the seventh grade.)

Since that moment, you can bet I’ve never once forgotten how to spell the word glycerin.  Although ironically, except for that one moment, I have never needed to spell the word glycerin.

Well, until this post today, of course.  The same day my boy stars in his first spelling bee.  I guess you could say my universe has closure.

Sorry, you were probably expecting a more dramatic story than thatIt’s as good as I’ve got on a nervous day like this.  It takes a lot of mental energy to project all your adolescent insecurities on your kid. 

Wish us luck.

Posted in: Fun

73 thoughts on “Nerves

  1. Rain says:

    Oh my gosh this had me laughing so hard. You are a great writer with a real flair for storytelling. I was in a few spelling bees in my day, and although I am a good speller, I always went blank and wound up out by the second or third round!

  2. Stretch Mark Mama says:

    Oh! I’m a spelling bee LOSER (oops I mean “runner up”) as well. But unlike you, I have blocked all memory to the word I completely and utterly FAILED on. It’s just too painful.
    But what *I* want to know is, how were you at “Round the World?” Or dictionary drills??!?! Huh??!?!? I TOTALLY ROCKED AT THOSE GAMES!!!
    But that was third grade when I was the essence of cool, sporting a tight senior-citizen-like perm that dear granny had bestowed upon my head.
    Bless her heart.

  3. Krista says:

    I was actually a pretty good speller (comes from all that reading I did pre-baby!) and had a similar situation. I was in a school wide spelling bee doing fairly well, but not down to the last round. I got the word mosque and totally blanked. I spelled it moske. Ugh. Then when I got home that afternoon guess what was on the front page of the newspaper waiting on my doorstep? Some article about an uprising as a – you guessed it – mosque somewhere. Now why couldn’t have article have printed the day before?

  4. Jean Stockdale says:

    It is amazing to me the many ways God allows us to enter into our children’s world through our own childhood experiences and how vivid some of them remain to us, even in our adult life. And since I am a terrible speller, I will join you in your angst over your son! Blessings.

  5. karen says:

    I hope all goes well. I never did understand those spelling bee lists. I know they’re not teaching them how to use those words.
    Have fun!

  6. Bizzymom says:

    4th grade.
    School wide.
    Missed ‘beginning’…started B-E-G-G (buzz). You can be sure I have never missed it since (and I am 51). Some things you just never get over. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Good luck Adam!

  7. Edi says:

    I still remember the word my dad messed up on in his Spelling Bee glory days – chocolate.
    One day as I child I asked him how to spell it – and he told me. He also told me how he remembered…b/c it was “the” word he missed on a school spelling bee.
    I wonder how many other adults out there have a “special” word they’ll never forget how to spell b/c it was “the” word they missed a spelling bee!

  8. Mary B says:

    There are certainly some things in life you never forget. Mine was the 5th grade spelling bee, the word “excellent”, which I spelled excellant.
    Everytime I spell that word, I remember the day.
    Praying your son does well.

  9. Dana says:

    I hope he did well!!! You’ll have to let us know. You do have a knack for storytelling. Or is that N-A-C-K? (just kidding)

  10. jp's mom says:

    my how times have changed. My 5th grade district spelling bee:
    Did they really just give me memo? How easy.
    I stand up and say Memo… M-O-M-O
    What?! Did i really just say that?
    I wish him much luck!

  11. Sabrina says:

    Here’s how my mind works: wanton came after enchilada, and I guess I was expecting a food theme to start because I read it as won ton. As in soup. Guess we know where I need to go eat today. Good luck to Adam, he’ll do great.

  12. Lisa B says:

    You are a great story teller Shannon!
    Wanton — I was seriously thinking wanton soup?!? I know I would not have given that definition to him ๐Ÿ™‚
    Good luck Adam!

  13. Liz says:

    Whoa, brings back memories! I pride myself (or at least used to) on being able to spell well. I was in a spelling bee in the 6th grade and came in 3rd place. I blanked out on the word “owe”. How humiliating is that? Seriously, even when the lady used it in a sentence, it was as if I had never heard the word before in my entire life.

  14. pam says:

    8th grade
    Nerves cracked.
    Forgot which syllable I was spelling and missed
    Praying for Adam this morning. Take him out for enchiladas, win or lose!
    Thanks for the meander down memory lane this morning.

  15. fullheartandhands mama says:

    I almost didn’t participate in the seventh grade spelling bee for fear of looking like a dork. Who was I kidding? I was already a dork. I went and don’t remember at all how I did. It certainly wasn’t runner-up! Good luck to your son.

  16. Michelle-This One's for the Girls says:

    It *is* nerve racking!!!! My oldest daughter won our school’s spelling bee back in the 7th grade. Next she won the county spelling bee. I was a nervous wreck at regionals. I have to say that I was almost relieved when she was buzzed out on the 4th round. The pressure was off!
    Good luck!!!

  17. Cindy says:

    “Tomb” did me in. My mind went completely blank like I’d never heard that word before! Surely I was the laughing stock of Cedarbrook elementary.

  18. Summer says:

    We have similar stories. In the eighth grade spelling bee I came in second because I mixed up the A and U in Guard. GUARD! How pathetic is that! If you can’t tell I still feel some angst over it.

  19. kellie says:

    Your opening line made me get the jitters! I get nervous watching those kids on the Nat’l Spelling Bee, almost to the point where I occasionally have to walk out of the room to calm down.
    Sending “good spelling” prayers for your son, and “calm Mom’s nerves” prayers for you!

  20. Debs says:

    Good luck Adam ๐Ÿ™‚
    And Shannon, will you tell us what you decided to do with the DVD cases, or are you going to leave us in suspense?

  21. Susan says:

    Lots of luck! Funny. When your son asked you to use “wonton” in a sentence, I immediately thought of the food wonton. Well, it’s a piece of dough that is wrapped around meat and fried. ha-ha, clearly not the same wonton that the sheet was referring to.

  22. MaryLu says:

    Let’s hope he doesn’t get stuck on wanton, that word will forever be burned into his memory.
    Or depending on how you think of it, that could be a good thing…

  23. Brooke says:

    HILARIOUS! Love your blog!
    Your son will do fine! You on the other hand may need some Starbucks or a massage or something when it is all over!

  24. Jenn says:

    I feel your pain…I spelled ‘because’ wrong in a class spelling bee in elementary school. The teacher made fun of me. I never got over it. But I did become a very good speller later…just for spite ๐Ÿ™‚
    Good luck to Adam!

  25. Teah says:

    Good luck! I remember bombing out of the spelling bee in 3rd grade, on the word, “stopping.” (s-t-o-p-i-n-g). I wrote the word on my little name tag from the bee, stuck it inside my jewelry box to hide my shame, and you can bet it stayed there for the next 6 years. But I’ve never misspelled stopping again!

  26. chanelireli says:

    Ha ha ha! After enchilada when I read wanton I thought wonton. Then I thought, gosh I didn’t know wonton had a second definition. Then it occured to me. My sentence…
    Wonton…We order wontons when we get Chinese food.
    Good luck to your son!

  27. Jill says:

    Wow, and I thought my 4th grader’s standard spelling list was hard.
    Maybe now might now be the best time to tell you that there is an alternate spelling for glycerin: glycerine. Don’t shoot me for it, but the added E is the british means of spelling it.
    My word that was my downfall in the 7th grade spelling bee was copacetic.

  28. Reformed Grits says:

    Our school had theirs today also and my son was in it.
    Go figure. A 3rd grader won over all the kids even through 8th grade. (Yeah but her mom is the English teacher for the upper school so she has the good genes.)
    Hope your little man does well!

  29. Mrs. Who says:

    Who knew there were so many people who bombed out of spelling bees and JUST CAN’T LET IT GO. Let it go, people. Actually, I’m just kidding because I still agonize over making it as an alternate instead of a regular as a flag twirler in high school. And that was 30 years ago!!!

  30. Shalee says:

    Good luck!
    I’m glad I’m not the only one who remembers the date, time, weather, room temperature and word that kept us from Spelling Bee Fame.
    How ironic that my word was “misspell”. That’s pretty much set the tone for the rest of my life.

  31. Melissa says:

    I too had a moment of spelling bee glory. I remember it as if it were yesterday… I was in the sixth grade, and our class was having a spelling competition. It came down to me and one other boy. None of the words the teacher gave us could stump us. After the class got bored watching us spell words, the teacher told us (the spellers) that we could give each other words to spell to try to stump one another. Do you know what word my competition gave me? Checkoslovakia. I cried and pleaded that this word was unfair, but to no avail. I failed the spelling bee that day, and I still feel bitter when I think about it.

  32. kimberly says:

    I had a similar drawn out spelling bee experience in 5th grade…me and another girl for the longest time in front of the entire school. I eventually won and went on to the District Bee. Can you believe I misspelled SEPARATE (I spelled it sepErate) and was completely devastated. Utterly bereft. Sadly, I don’t remember the word with which I won the first bee, only the one I lost!

  33. MommyLane says:

    In the sixth grade I won the school-wide spelling bee and then the county bee. Next: the state spelling bee. It remains one of the most nerve-wracking experience of my life. The word I bombed? Sayonara, meaning “goodbye” in Japanese. I thought it was a fitting end.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Fun. We used to do mini-spelling bees in class when I was in 4th and 5th grades. My goal was always to go out in the last 1/3, but not be in the top 2. I never wanted to set myself up for failure, and I guess I feel like I fail more by being 2nd than being 5th.

  35. jenny says:

    Good luck to your son. Those are some pretty tough words. I was in a spelling bee in the 3rd grade. My misspelled words were dairies and nickel. Hope your son did great!

  36. Beth says:

    Who knew there was a “p” in raspberry??? That was the word I lost on. But can I just say, I have decided I don’t like spelling bees. Spelling is one of those gifts you either have, or you don’t. My husband is really, really, smart. Much smarter than I am! He has a master’s degree in English, and had to choose between law school and getting a Ph.D. in English. And he can’t spell. Not well at all. My daughter is a voracious reader–has been all her life. And she is not a natural speller. I am a terrific speller. My husband will call me from work to ask me how to spell something. I really think you have a spelling gene, or you don’t. My son is a good speller, and was in the spelling bee at school year after year, but I’ve decided that the time he spent studying words would have been better spent practicing his violin. Spelling bees are one of those things you can put lots and lots of time into, and then just happen to get a word you’ve never studied or even seen! If you spend that much time practicing an instrument, you’ll have something tangible to show for your work. Anyway, just my thoughts!! I hope your son wins!!

  37. Ewokgirl says:

    I won first place in the school spelling bee when I was in 4th grade. I was on top of the world!
    In fifth grade, I won first place in our little class spelling bee in the first 9 weeks. I wasn’t allowed to compete again until the last 9 weeks when all the top placements from the previous quarters went up for the big prize.
    I was feeling good, especially when I was given the word Connecticut. That’s a hard state to spell, and I knew I nailed it. And yet, I was disqualified because… I forgot to start it with “Capital C.”
    Early elimination was so humiliating.

  38. Staci at Writing and Living says:

    Good luck to your son.
    I was one of the last three in the SCHOOL spelling be my eighth grade year. The word I went out on is “taut.” I asked the announcer to use it in a sentence. He said, “An eagle can hold his talons taut.” That’s a miserable sentence, when ropes are more often held taut than eagles’ talons. It wouldn’t have made a difference, since I didn’t know that word then (I certainly know it now), but I didn’t like the teacher doing the announcing anyway, so it makes me feel better to blame his lousy sentence.
    Not that I’m bitter or anything.

  39. Need A Nap2 says:

    Good luck! I’ll never forget in 11th grade when our teacher spelled sep A RAT e (separate) on the board. I was one of the kids who was not spelling it correctly (we didn’t have spellchecker back then!!).
    If you think your junior high coolness is bad you should have seen me on our cruise. My husband was busy with something else so I went to the Spelling Bee “competition” activity. I finished out of the top 3 so I didn’t get a prize but I think many were impressed that I got kaleidoscope correct! ๐Ÿ™‚

  40. Autumn Dahlia says:

    I was in a spelling bee once…. and only once. I spelled “angel” as “angle”…. sigh, I haven’t been the same since.
    I hope you don’t mind me living vicariously through him tonight ๐Ÿ™‚ Lots of luck!

  41. Valerie says:

    I have a story similar to yours, only the word to decide my fate was
    I knew it wasn’t the popcorn, but blanked out on the right spelling. Never will get it wrong now, ever! I like to tell everybody that that cost me my future as a spelling bee advisor.

  42. Proverbs31 says:

    Lol!! I can totally relate. Only my spelling bee story ends much earlier in the process. I went up for the spelling bee in sixth grade and for some reason (I still don’t understand) the preliminary step (the main weeding) was being done in the hallway with a long line of kids, chattering, and lots of noise. So when it was my turn at the head of the line and the lady asked me to spell “spinet” I could have sworn she said “SPINACH.” I asked her to repeat it a couple of times because not only was I not certain but I couldn’t believe she was asking me to spell “spinach” because it seemed too easy. I STILL swear it sounded like SPINACH with all the racket that was going on in the hallway. And I still think it was unfair to hold a spelling bee in the hallway in the first place.
    But mostly, to this day, I still wonder why in the world I did not ask her for a definition. Because then I would have mostly certainly known that she was not, in fact, asking about the green and leafy vegetable that is oh-so good for you.

  43. Proverbs31 says:

    Lol!! I can totally relate. Only my spelling bee story ends much earlier in the process. I went up for the spelling bee in sixth grade and for some reason (I still don’t understand) the preliminary step (the main weeding) was being done in the hallway with a long line of kids, chattering, and lots of noise. So when it was my turn at the head of the line and the lady asked me to spell “spinet” I could have sworn she said “SPINACH.” I asked her to repeat it a couple of times because not only was I not certain but I couldn’t believe she was asking me to spell “spinach” because it seemed too easy. I STILL swear it sounded like SPINACH with all the racket that was going on in the hallway. And I still think it was unfair to hold a spelling bee in the hallway in the first place.
    But mostly, to this day, I still wonder why in the world I did not ask her for a definition. Because then I would have mostly certainly known that she was not, in fact, asking about the green and leafy vegetable that is oh-so good for you.

  44. Andrea says:

    I think I was in the 7th grade and I was gunning to out-spell the school spelling champ who was in the 8th grade and competing for the last time. The word that did me in was “macrame”–like the person who misspelled “memo,” my slip of the tongue caused me to say “macrEme.” I was sick about it because I wanted to beat the other kid so badly! In the 8th grade I did go on to win the school spelling bee and advanced to the county bee. When the announcer called out the word “picaresque” I knew it was over. Though the sentence he gave me should have clued me in, his unusual pronunciation threw me off and I totally froze. If only I’d thought about “picturesque!” Anyway, I spelled the word “picaresk” and was humiliated for months afterwards. Congratulations to Adam for holding his head up high and taking it all in stride!

  45. kelli in the mirror says:

    I love spelling bees! I won in eighth grade with megalopolis. And I’ve never needed to spell it again until now. ๐Ÿ™‚

  46. Thea @ I'm a Drama Mama says:

    Oh my goodness…winning isn’t all that great, either. I won a school wide as a 4th grader (I beat a 5th grader) and I was pretty dang proud of myself. The only memory I have of it was hearing how loudly the 5th grader’s class cheered from him when he came back. My class didn’t speak to me. The consequences of my smugness stayed with me much longer than the word I spelled…

  47. Mary says:

    You could tell your son, “The graffiti on the beautiful wall of the museum was an act of wanton recklessness” Hope your son did well. Spelling and proper grammar was about the only thing I was good at in school and is still important to me today. Reading the newspaper is an exercise in self control for me. =-) Everyone has their gifts from God.

  48. Beth says:

    I was in several spelling bees. I won it for the whole county in the 4th grade! I still have my trophy somewhere…
    The worst part of it? When I was in 6th grade I was competing at the county level again, and it was being covered by our teeny-tiny published-3-days-a-week newspaper. I finished second. The paper came out the next day, and the HUGE picture that they published? MY REAR END! I was walking away from microphone back to my place in line at the rear of the stage. The picture was supposed to be focusing on the contestant AT the microphone, not my backside leaving it! I.WAS.MORTIFIED.
    Come to think of it, I believe that picture is in my scrapbook. Thanks, Mom. Saving my posterior for posterity…

  49. Jen says:

    I had a similar experience in about 5th grade. Went to the bathroom about 8 times before noon, and I had studied HARD! When it came time for my first word, it was “mame”, and I thought the “m” but said “a”….UGH!

  50. Rebecca says:

    In eighth grade, I won the school spelling be. At the “next level” (whatever that was), I misspelled anise.
    I knew it wasn’t a-n-u-s, but heck if I knew how to spell it.
    I think I left off the “e.” But I’ve never forgotten how to spell the word.

Comments are closed.