Thursday, January 8, 2015

Allyson's First Spelling Bee

Today was Allyson's first spelling bee. Shortly before Christmas break, she had qualified by taking a written test. Over the last few weeks, in the middle of Christmas celebrations and a trip to Canada with Daddy, she spent her spare moments studying a list of very challenging words.

Last night, while I quizzed her over dishes, she began to lose her nerve as she missed word after word: journey, university, apologize, vineyard. Each time, she was so close, but missed it by a letter or two.

"Would you pray for me before bed?" she asked.

Of course I would!

As we snuggled in her twin bed, I prayed that God would give her courage and confidence, and help her remember what she had studied. Most of all, I prayed that she would have fun.

This morning in the car, Allyson asked me about my own elementary spelling bee, back in fourth grade. "What word did you miss?"

I smiled ruefully. Funny how I can still remember that awful moment over 30 years later. "Kiwi."

"How did you spell it?"


She chuckled.

"I had never heard of a kiwi back then," I said.

As we pulled into the turn-around, Allyson admitted that she didn't expect to do very well. She'd be up against fourth graders, and she hadn't had enough time to study. Still, she was excited to have this experience and was determined to do her best.

Long before her big moment, she had already made her mama proud!

Waiting, Cool as a Cucumber (#19)
Twenty-six kids took their places on the stage. Allyson was number 19, and I wondered if that had been her rank on the written test. "Oh, Lord," I prayed. "Please don't let her get knocked out on her first word.... Even so, not my will, but yours. Please let her have fun, and let her get what you want her to learn from this experience."

They started with a practice round, in which no one missed a word. The word for contestant #1 was "gum." All the kids seemed to breathe a sigh of relief. This wasn't so hard!

Four kids were eliminated in the first round, including some in the front row, so I figured my hypothesis about ranking must have been wrong. My heart went out to them.

When Allyson stepped up to the mic, my heart was pounding and my palms were sweaty. I quietly removed my coat.

"This word has a close homophone," the moderator said. "The word is daze. Verb. To stun or or stupefy. Daze."

"Oh, Allyson," I telegraphed. "We practiced this one. Remember, it's not days."

"Daze," Allyson repeated in a strong voice. "D-A-Z-E, daze." She pivoted on her heel and returned to her seat on the back row. Yes!

By the end of round two, about half of the contestants had been eliminated. But not Allyson. "Coach," she said clearly. "C-O-A-C-H, coach." Whew!

Her word in round four gave me a shudder; she had missed "journey" just last night. "Don't forget the E!" I thought to her.

She caught my eye and smiled. "Journey. J-O-U-R-N-E-Y, journey." That's my girl!

Number 23 missed her word, so it was on to round five, with only six contestants left. Allyson was the only one left in the last two rows.

By the time Allyson's turn came around, it was down to her and numbers 1 and 3, both fourth graders. I was beginning to wonder. Could there be a chance? Might she go all the way?

"Ingot," the moderator said.

Uh oh. I didn't remember practicing that one. It must have been on the second page that I told Allyson they probably wouldn't get to in the first spelling bee. Tough word! I wasn't sure how to spell it myself. Did it start with an I? Or was it an E?

"Could I have a definition?" Allyson asked.

"Ingot. Noun. A mass of metal cast in a convenient form for shaping, remelting, or refining."

Well, that didn't help.

Allyson took a deep breath and pursed her lips. "Ingot. E-N-G... I-T. Ingot?"

Ding! went the bell.

"Thank you," the moderator said softly.

Allyson smiled politely and walked off stage.

The last two boys battled it out for six more rounds, spelling words like "abominably" and "devotee." Even though I was anxious to get to work, it was pretty riveting. In the end, number 1 won, just as I had predicted from the beginning. Turns out, all the kids in that family have won all the spelling bees they've entered, at all grade levels.

Allyson on Far Left, Wearing Her Participant Ribbon

After they posed for pictures, I gave Allyson a quick hug and told her how proud I was. She was pleased, having done far better than she expected, and she was happy for her friend Elijah, who will be advancing to the district final.

Tonight at bedtime, Allyson prayed, "God, thank you for helping me feel confident and do well today. I was so nervous last night, but I gave my whole day to you, and you helped me do my best and have fun."

That's my girl!

Maybe next year I'll get to tell you about Allyson winning her first spelling bee.

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