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Time-shifting

(this perfectly symbolizes the path we’ve been on lately)

As I’ve mentioned, there are a number of changes coming in my job, including one that’s pretty significant — a new schedule.

Starting Monday, I’ll be working Monday through Friday, 2-10 p.m. That arrangement has its pluses and minuses, both personally and professionally, but the best parts of it are:

— I’ll be able to see the boys during the day, before I come to work.

— I’ll have Saturdays off, for the first time in eons.

Those are a couple of pretty big positives, so I’m going to focus on them for now.

Adjustments? There’ll be plenty. But in the big picture, I’m ready to roll with them.

Let’s see what the world does with 2-day weekends!

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The refrain of David Bowie’s classic 1972 single continues with this:

“Turn and face the strain.”

How appropriate, as we deal with a classic three-headed monster: Recovering from last year’s catastrophic flooding, an overall economic downturn, and the struggles of the newspaper industry to remain relevant and viable.

The economy’s tough, and will probably get tougher (at least in employment terms) before it gets better. And we’re feeling that right now, as a family.

Some of the ch-ch-ch-changes, surprisingly, might end up being for the better in the long run. But as the kids listen to us discussing the future, they become concerned, because they don’t fully understand.

“Just gonna have to be a different man”

“Why are people losing their jobs?” our 8-year-old wondered recently. Ah, such a simple question with such a complex answer. It’s not something he, or any kid, should have to worry about. But kids are more perceptive — MUCH more perceptive — than we’re often willing to admit. And as we transition and adjust, our kids are paying attention.

“Changes are taking the pace I’m going through.”

Yes, indeed. Preach on, Ziggy Stardust.

More to come, particularly on the positives …

Worker bees

beesMy parenting revelation for the week (and it’s been a long time coming) …

The kids can actually be useful. They really can work around the house. And depending on the day, and the task, they might actually enjoy it.

It’s like chores, but even better, somehow.

Do they get paid? Sometimes, and certain amounts. Another topic for another day.

But I welcome this new chapter of dad-hood. Now, to avoid the perception of exploitation …

Spelling? FAIL

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.)

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.

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.

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.