May is the cruelest month. May.

It’s May Day. Happy Stupid May Day!  May Day is for celebrating the hope and renewal of spring.  Don’t leave me a May basket because my only hope is that this month passes as quickly as possible.  I don’t like this May person I have become.

Let me tell you, I have become something I never thought I would become.

I’m a cheerleader.

I know.  Few things are sadder than the image of a 43-year-old woman who checks off “three live births” on an intake form at the doctor’s office being a cheerleader.  But I am one.  An old, weathered, discouraged cheerleader who (I have been told) does not drink anywhere near enough for this job.

I’m in charge of keeping morale high high high and shorts long long long.

I’m in charge of rallying the players when they lose focus or turn on each other.

I’m in charge of getting the whole team and sideline spectators to retain their enthusiasm.

I need to smile and have good hair. All the time. Nobody wants a haggard, negative, nochancewearegoingtomakeit cheerleader.

Normally this cheerleading gig, it doesn’t bother me too much.  I’m actually pretty energetic about it. But I hate May.  Seriously.

May needs to take a long walk off a short pier. All the months are my favorite next to May.

rah. rah. rah. 

Some of my cheerleading is coaxing, encouraging, suggesting, begging them to do ALL OF THE NORMAL THINGS that I am supposed to get them to do. And I am supposed to do it in a nice way. rah.

(cue sing song voice that I don’t wear well) “Let’s pick up all of our nice things.  We treat our toys with respect.”  In other words, if I step on this Spider Man Super Hero Smasher one more time I am going burn it in the fire pit when you are at school.

“Let’s eat our vegetables so you will grow up healthy and be able to learn all the wonderful things at school.”  In other words, I can’t even believe you grow at all since most of your calories involve drinking things out of pouches and a rotation of 3 other foods.  I made it. Just eat it. If you don’t eat it now, you’ll have to bring it in the car.  I don’t want to bring a fajita in the car.

“Let’s get that homework done.  We have come this far. Don’t give up now.”  In other words, I have literally spent DAYS cheering you on this far.  If you give up, I will end you.  We are NOT throwing in the towel now-we are closing in on the final seconds of this season. Stare at the polynomials.

“Let’s just somehow get through the week so we can just sit down this weekend for a minute.” This one is for my husband.  It’s literal.

It’s a tough business…cheerleading in May.  My pom pom muscles are weary now, my voice hoarse and May could use a good high kick to the face. In addition to all the standard things,  are things unique to this month.

(continuing with my ironic sports reference)

My team this year has got their issues.  I’m not going to comment directly on specific player personality issues since I’m just the cheerleader (I was just given this team to root for-I didn’t hand pick them in a draft) but here are a few of my key players and you can draw your own conclusions.  I have a 13 year old girl finishing off the 8th grade.  I have an 11 year old boy finishing off the 5th grade. I have a 6 year old boy finishing off Kindergarten. Yeah. It’s an eclectic mix. We aren’t really unified right now as a team. They all think they are free agents.

Apparently because of my diverse team, it means a deluge of testing (requiring eggs for breakfast?), fieldtrips, celebrations, graduations, year end gifts/cards, spring sport practices/games, activity pictures (which is so stupid as I have documented nearly every waking day of their lives-do I need a picture holding a soccer ball in front of a fake ominous cloud backdrop?),  school choir/orchestra concerts, extra before and after school ‘opportunities’ and mandatory meetings for high school transition, middle school transition, activities in the fall that I have not yet signed up or paid for yet.  These all have to take place in 30 days? Why? Why?

I take that back.  I want the soccer magnet.  The tiny cleats.  The mini shin guards. I need it.  But why for the love of everything do we take the pictures in May?

Oh and my anniversary is in May.  Oh and Mother’s Day.  Mother’s Day which coincides with the fishing opener 21 out of 25 years here in MN.  I’d like to speak to the man who made that decision. I’m betting he is single.

This team is getting tired.  They are ready for the off-season.  And they are so sick of my loud, incessantly determined occasionally cheerful  ‘YOU’VE GOT THIS” voice. I’m sick of it.

I say, “Go!”  They say, “NO!”  Or  “Why?” Or “Now?” (with eye roll)

Go. NO. Go. NO. Go. NO. (you get the picture)

They like summer me.  I like summer me.  Let’s just sleep in and drink lemonade and go to the beach and listen to the birds and have ice cream and play badminton in the backyard and see how the day unfolds.  That is the best me. I miss her. She can be fun. She never is screaming, “YOU HAVE FOUR MINUTES TO GET YOUR BUTT IN THE CAR!”

I just found out on May 21st our family is supposed to be in five different places at the same time.  I want to vomit.

rah rah rah.

It’s the end of the school year and I know it’s spring and May flowers (oh yeah…I should put in some flowers)  and all that crap but I feel like I’m doing an army crawl, in the mud under the barbed wire, with all 3 of them on my back and we are draaaaaging ourselves to June 8th.

Wait, that was a military metaphor.  Mayday. Mayday.  See.  A distress signal.

Ok-back to sports.  I feel like we are doing one of those amazing teetering cheerleading pyramids.  Except it’s upside down, and I’m the single cheerleader on the bottom and I’m holding all of them up and their ripped end-of-the-year-getting-too-small-tennis-shoes are precariously balanced on my head.  And I’m supposed to be smiling.  With good hair. Full of hope.

June. Sweet June.  I’m going to do a double back flip in my shortest skirt and french kiss you when I get to you.

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Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails and violent themed art projects: That is what boys are made of

Preface:  Before anyone freaks out and gets defensive or sensitive on her behalf or on behalf of girls-I have a daughter. I love my daughter and it’s an incredible privilege to have her and she is goodness and light but in my own limited experience it has been different raising a girl than raising boys. Different. I want to talk about boys because I’ve been thinking a lot about the raising of my boys. Look away if you don’t want to read it because it offends you.

Boys. I just love boys. Living with boys is like living with an overflowing bucket of puppies. Loud, fun, unpredictable. Like puppies, they require so very little to be happy. I can boil it down to one on one attention, food, decent tennis shoes and fresh air for my sons. A lot of the classic boy stereotypes that people talk about, complain about, warn about have proven true in my experience…

Like- DSC00367

There is high energy. There is bathroom humor. There is unabashed nudity. There is filth. There is the mysterious stench of the shoes/mittens/bedrooms/soccer bags/feet.

Pictured below: My son washing his feet to gain couch access. IMG_9033

They break my things.  Things that previously survived three generations in my family-undone in five seconds by one of my sons.  Below: Christmas ornament from 1970’s. Now garbage. IMG_4057

One uses a general clumsiness method to destroy family heirlooms, the other uses brute force and a penchant for flinging things through the air to destroy things. Equally effective. There is the requisite arguing with me about how they should be able to wear the  “nice warm up pants” to a wedding or to church or to a nice dinner. They leave wet towels on the bathroom floor and step over messes never considering the damage to the floor or the bacteria that might be multiplying. They bring me art projects that I do not understand.  My daughter brought me drawings of rainbows and butterflies.

Yesterday I got this: IMG_4062

I did the ‘good mom’ thing and said, “Tell me what is happening in this picture?”  (instead of what the hell is this?)  My son says, “Oh…See there are these guys in a garden with flowers and the guy on the ground got shot with a tranquilizer gun.”    Nice. Falling off of their chairs when someone else uses the word “balls” in a sentence happens a lot lately. Any sentence. Any context.  It is beyond the giggles…it’s downright mirth. Also on the “cannot be uttered list”: Nuts.   I’m serious. We can’t say balls or nuts anywhere close to bedtime right now. It can derail this entire household for over an hour. But I think a lot of the best in them; the very best things about raising boys have been things that nobody told me. It is their sweetness, their charm, and their easy humor. Their levity and how it brings out levity in others. My boys have very different personalities (what children don’t?) but they share those things I mentioned and it makes me better for having them. They are a pure and simple fun and they draw it out in me-they loosen the reins of control.  Oh…they probably stole the reins, tied them into an Albright Knot, lit it on fire and buried in the backyard. They get me to do things that I wouldn’t have done otherwise. Below: Ran a 5k in sub-zero temps.

Why? Why would anyone want to do this? IMG_2232

There is the old (and albeit archaic) saying, “A son is a son until he takes himself a wife but a daughter is a daughter for the rest of your life”. Okay, horribly outdated but the sentiment here seems to be that if you have girls they’ll visit you in the nursing home but if you have a son…he’ll be with the in-laws at that nursing home. So I guess if that holds true to any degree I’ll put in the time with the boys right now. I play the video games (and I really suck at it and they let me know). I play basketball in the driveway. I wrestle with them.

There is a LOT of wrestling.  Some of it is super hero wrestling. IMG_3061 IMG_9875 IMG_8045IMG_4060

I fish. I read to them. I play tic tac toe. I light things on fire with them. I listen to them recount their day at school.

The recollection of their school day is straightforward with little nuance. Bliss. We snuggle. IMG_3763

And I feel the urge to hug them and bite their faces out of pure love and awe for what God has made and let me borrow for a short while. And even in the happy I feel a tiny bit melancholy sometimes-they are just 6 and 11 and they have already been told to “walk it off”, “quit their crying”, “toughen up” “act like a man”.   Girls of this age are not told this. Society saves their “Get over yourself” messages for girls for adolescence…but with boys…it starts so early. Way too early and from too many different sources. When little girls do things that fall outside of traditional girlness (like prefer baseball to ballet) they just have girl power or are modern, independent, full of personality. When little boys do things that fall outside of traditional boyness (like prefer ballet to baseball) the world can be cruel. I have one son that just doesn’t get the intensity of sports. He can’t understand the competitive fire playing sports or the hype of watching them. It’s not his thing. He was on a 40-degree football field at practice one time (his rookie and retirement year all at once) and the coach told the boys to “dig deep.” I was watching from the warmth of my car and I had to laugh. Dig deep. He was 8 years old. Where was he going to dig? The worst things that had happened to him up until that point were either circumcision or eczema and I’m fairly sure he doesn’t remember the circumcision. It wasn’t much to draw on. I guess now that he is older I can tell him to ‘dig deep’ and he can recall the adversity he felt on the chilly football field.

In general, adults aren’t yelling at 8-year-old girls to tough it out and build some character. IMG_4058

I hope that I can cultivate their unabashed zest for life before the world beats it out of them. Before they walk it off. I can’t lie, I would love it if they were polite and used table manners and I toil toward that end (it is NOT going well-we just had to review the merits of wearing shirts to the dinner table) but I would love most if they just held fast onto their love of life. The way they are drawn to joy and relish fun with no concern with what happened before or what will happen after. Their days are full now with the richness of being present minded. It’s hard but wonderful and important to remember that our fathers, uncles, husbands, stepfathers, grandfathers, brothers, step brothers, half-brothers, neighbors, co-workers and male friends were boys. Boys.  They are all still boys with the spirit of a boy in varying degrees in each of them. So mothers of boys are a little nuts (see what I did there) because they see the spirit in their boy, no matter the age and they don’t want that spark to ever go out. And now I’m one of them. The crazies. Keep your sparks protected my beautiful sons. And forgive me world when I forgive them everything…because I will always be able to see the wild spirit of the boy because I was there when it all began. IMG_0945