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Frankly, I don’t have any great words of wisdom to share as we prepare to emerge from the 2000s, or the “aughts,” as they’ve become known.

I do realize, though, that as parents, we tend to operate in the short term. Which practice is on the schedule tonight? When’s the Pinewood Derby car need to be done for Scouts? (soon, actually) Where’s the gear for the upcoming season, whether it be snow boots or swim trunks?

I took some time today to reflect on all the changes we’ve experienced, as a family, since the decade began. The big picture, as it were. What’s changed?

Everything.

Both of our kids were born in this decade. That’s change enough for anyone, with the routine of life turned upside down.

Other changes have been substantial, too: Settling into the house we had recently purchased in 1999, a new car bought in 2000 (the car we’re still driving, in fact). And that’s to say nothing of the Clinton-Lewinsky affair, 9/11 and the myriad of world events that have been chronicled endless on the decade-retrospective lists.

But in our little corner of the world, it’s been the kids that have shaped our decade. We’ve gone from decorating a nursery to solving algebra equations. From bottle-feedings, to hospitalizations and surgeries, to the first successful bike-ride and the family traditions we’ve begun to establish.

What did we do with our time before we had kids? I know we were busy, but I can’t imagine we were busier than we are now. Sometimes it’s a little much, but we’re on the path now. No turning back.

At this point, nearly a decade into our parenting journey, I’m not sure we’d even know which direction to go.

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Have you ever watched a game show — “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” for example — when a contestant incorrectly answers a question, and you say to yourself, “Jeez! Come on! I knew that! Who doesn’t? What a joker.”

Here’s one of those moments:

Catch that deer-in-the-headlights look on the kid’s face? Seems pretty clear he knew the answer, but rushed to respond and couldn’t take it back after his irrevocable “final answer.”

I’m guessing I was sporting that same look Wednesday night at the Catherine McAuley Center’s fourth annual CMC Spelling Bee at Xavier High School.

I was the official speller for The Gazette (read: “the person who talks into the microphone”). And we were sailing along, nailing words like “catechism,” “privilege” and “adjournment.”

No problems. I was feeling positively giddy about our chance to repeat as spelling bee champs.

Then came our moment of truth.

The word came: “Tragedienne.” It means “an actress especially noted for performing tragic roles.” I have a moderate background in theater, so I was instantly familiar with the word, but I had a moment’s hesitation on its spelling. (Another Gazette staffer, Rae Riebe, pointed out that the pronouncer’s sentence for “tragedienne” referenced pinup girl Betty Grable, hardly an actress specializing in tragic roles. She was correct, and that could have been our first sign of trouble.)

Anyway, our team — newsroom chief Steve Buttry, Faith and Values reporter Molly Rossiter and myself — huddled to clarify the spelling. We came to our conclusion (fairly confidently), and just as I prepared to step to the mic, someone told me, “It’s basically just the word tragedy with an -ienne ending.”

Uh-oh. I think that threw me. For some reason, I’ve always struggled to pronounce the word “tragedy.” A real tongue-twister, it is. That shouldn’t have meant I couldn’t spell it, or “tragedienne,” for that matter, but I made the mistake of saying it to myself under my breath.

I then stepped up and stumbled over the pronunciation once again, this time out loud. Then I blurted out my letter-by-letter whiff: “T-r-a-d-e-g-i-e-n-n-e. Tragedienne.”

Um, no. That’s not it. Gazette goes down.

We finished, I believe, fifth of the 10 teams entered.

It’s hard not to feel like a fool when you err on something you know. I felt I let my teammates down, too. But it happens. I suspect it happened to the other teams at the bee, too, when they missed their words.

It’s the glare of the spotlight. The heat of the moment.

Ah, well. Shake it off, Steve tells me. “Next year we reclaim the championship,” he said.

True enough. We had our fun, and benefitted a fine cause in the process. Plus, our kids and I had some fun bouncing words back and forth Wednesday night, a la “Akeelah and the Bee”:

True, my pride was wounded Wednesday night. But this, too, shall pass. And we’ll return.

We’re newspaper people, after all. We spellz real gud.

(Props to the winning team, too — a legal crew from Shuttleworth & Ingersoll. Runners-up last year, they deserved the crown in 2009.)

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Less than 24 hours to go before the big showdown, and the heat’s on. Ready for a real challenge? Here’ s the word for today:

Mitrailleuse. Definition: “A machine gun.”

Now, THAT’S how to win a spelling bee, right?

Seriously, though, if you’re not busy tomorrow night (Wednesday, April 22), drop by Xavier High School at 6 p.m. for the bee. And bring a canned food item with you.

Cheer, or jeer. It’s good just to have an audience.

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Our bee is just days away, so here’s the latest installment of our spelling list, from my own challenge list:

Amygdaline. Meaning: “of, pertaining to, or resembling an almond.”

Yum. These things can be both fun and tasty.

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drahthaarToday’s word of the day is:

Drahthaar. Definition: “One of a German breed of wirehaired pointing dogs.”

Not particularly cuddly, but appealing nonetheless.

Happy Easter.

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Today’s entry in the spelling bee sweepstakes:

“Sublittoral.” Definition:Situated, occurring, or formed on the aquatic side of a shoreline or littoral zone.”

Aquatic, shoreline — sounds like somewhere I’d like to be with the crew right about now. Spring’s arrival could be hastened, just a bit.

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For the second straight year, I’ll be participating in the Catherine McAuley Center’s annual CMC Spelling Bee.

spellingbeelogoThe big event is Wednesday, April 22 at Xavier High School in Cedar Rapids, and as you may be aware, The Gazette is the defending bee champion. (We even have the trophy to prove it.)

The event is a fundraiser for the CMC. Founded by the Sisters of Mercy, the CMC “promotes the well-being and dignity of individuals in need by providing basic education for adults and a transitional housing program for women.” So no matter the outcome, we’ll be spelling for a good cause.

Just for fun, I showed the Spelling Bee Guide to our 8-year-old, and he correctly picked out at least a half-dozen words on the first page alone. He’ll be a champ some day, mark my words.

And speaking of words … I thought it’d be fun to put a few of the bee words out here, just to see what we’re facing. I’ll try to post one each day, leading up to the bee itself.

Here’s word #1: “Conduit.” Definition:A natural or artificial channel through which something (as a fluid) is conveyed.”

Another one tomorrow. Put on our spelling cap, kids. You might actually learn something here.

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