Misinformed tree brings thorns to chainsaw fight

We have this annoying tree near the corner of our house. I think it might be a Hawthorn Tree, but I don’t know for sure. What I do know is this tree is trying to take over the world, or at least our back yard, which is a good part of the world to us.

This tree is evil. It runs its woody little finger along the boys’ bedroom window at night to convince them Freddy Krueger is coming for them in the dark. If you attempt to prune it, it will pull a knife on you. Its thorns are three inches long and they are expert at locating any human flesh within reach.

The tree thrives in wet, dry, cold, hot, seasonable, and unseasonable weather. It has been laid on its side by ice and bounced back without a groan. Three other trees in our yard have been killed by disease or insects in recent years. This tree hasn’t so much as sneezed. It laughs at the weakness of the other trees.

Laid on its side by ice, but the ice couldn’t finish the job.

Some believe Hawthorn branches were selected to make Christ’s crown of thorns. I don’t buy this. I think the branches volunteered. Folklore says it’s berries can treat high blood pressure, which is exactly what the rest of the tree will give you when you try to mow around it.

Last Fall, as the tree made its final attempt of the year to mug me, I vowed I would give it a respectable haircut in the spring, before it could conceal its armaments behind a canopy of leaves. Last week, I made good my promise.

With chainsaw, loppers, ladder, and my best helper (Big Man, a.k.a. “I can help you!”), I took the offensive. The tree put up a stiff fight. As I hacked away at the big branch touching the house, there was some question as to which of us would lose a limb to the saw, but the human skill of running from danger prevailed. The fruits of my victory were a lawn full of dismembered, prickly branches and a thorn tip lodged in my thigh.

My best helper sizes up the opponent.

It rained for several days after, and I was still limping a bit, so it took a week for me to get back to the lawn full of downed branches. My best helper was napping at the time, so that probably saved me a good half hour of extra work. The thorns were many, and sharp, even in death. About two hours after the cleanup was done, I pulled the final fragment out of my heel – the last desperate thrust from a defeated foe.

By June I will be kicking myself for not cutting more.

I hope this miscreant tree has been chastised enough to learn its lesson about running amok. It should be mindful that next spring is just one short year away, and next time I might not stop at taking a few limbs, now that I have a taste for blood.

The affection police are coming to hug you away

Some things from your youth flow into becoming part of the family culture you build with your children. From earliest childhood I was taught to stay out of the way. Doctors have their “first do no harm” principle and farm kids have their “first get out of the way” maxim. You don’t have to be doing the most important chore so long as you aren’t hindering the person who is. My boys aren’t farm kids, but I try to stress this awareness. I can’t teach staying out of the way as well as an 800 pound bull can, but I try.

Other parts of your upbringing you reconsider with your own children. I grew up in a non-huggy, non-kissy environment. My wife, who has far fewer Germans in her lineage, is all hugs all the time. While I am still not a confident hugger of adult people, I’ve adopted her system with our children.

I can’t imagine not hugging and kissing our children every day; it’s become so routine now for me to do it. Also, our children will not suffer themselves to be robbed of their rightful hugs and kisses. Mommy’s warm blood seems to have conquered my aloof genetics within them.

They are the affection police.

At bedtime I have to give three hugs and three kisses to make the world right for sleeping. Big Man’s kiss is actually a carefully choreographed series of kisses. He takes my head firmly between his hands and stamps my lips upon his face as he turns his head side to side. If I pull away before the process is complete, we have to start over. The same goes for Mommy.

This old picture of them kissing each other is more appealing than a new picture of them kissing their crusty old dad.

At 3 a.m. one morning I awoke to a boy standing beside my bed. I expected to hear the sad tale of a bad dream. Instead I heard mournful reality. “You didn’t hug me when I went to bed,” Buster lamented. That is, I didn’t hug him to his satisfaction. The midnight raid was just so I understand who is privileged to interpret the law.

Going to work is another ripe occasion for hugs and kisses. There is a program for this as well. Big Brother gets his at the table where does his reading. The little boys go to the door. Big Man is very particular about where he gets his hug and kiss. He will position me at the threshold if I am lax in my staging.

Mommy is last to get her kiss. Once, when I gave her only a quick peck, Big Man stepped forward, giving me a stern glance. “And a hug,” he demanded. I gave Mommy a proper hug and was allowed on my way.

Big Man isn’t always pro-hug. If I hug Mommy too long when neither of us is going away, he steps in to break it up. He doesn’t know where it might lead, but as reigning baby of the family, instinct tells him it could be dangerous.

There’s a Take Your Child to Work Day that has nothing to do with the babysitter not showing up

According to the posters on the walls at work, April 27 is Take Your Child to Work Day. I guess it’s nice there’s an official day for this, but I celebrate my own Take Your Child/Children to Work Days. This is what it’s called when both parents need to be at work and there is no babysitter to be had. Fortunately, I work in a child-safe environment and have supervisors who don’t care how many members of my family it takes to do my job so long as it gets done.

Per the fliers, our official Take Your Child to Work Day festivities are intended for children aged eight and up. This year I finally have a child who is old enough to celebrate the official holiday. Even so, I think we will be celebrating Leave Your Kid in School Day on April 27.

He’s much better off in school. He might learn something useful there and he will be allowed to hold on to a childlike optimism for the future.

Once upon a time, every day was Take Your Child to Work Day. The excitement of working without safety regulations was too much for the children, so they limited it to one day a year.

I infer from the guidelines that the organizers of Take Your Child to Work Day have studied the situation carefully and determined age eight is the time when children can really begin to understand the nature of grown-up work. This is a good piece of science to know; it tells me I should never bring any of my children who have reached this threshold to work with me again.

My under-eight children are still okay to bring, unofficially, of course, because they don’t have the capacity to understand just how unexciting my work is. They still believe whatever Daddy does on his keyboard in his little cubicle sets events in motion to save the world. Small children are delusional like that. It’s cute.

My eight-year-old son is now at the point where he can detect the pedestrian nature of paperwork and feel the repetitiveness of financial reports. Many jobs have a certain amount of repetitiveness in them and I’m not saying mine is worse than any other. I’m just not sure it’s the best end result to show a 3rd grader if you want to inspire him to reach for the stars in school.

I’ve tried to think of how I could make my job seem exciting to a kid. So far, the most enticing fact I could come up with is it brings home the money that buys the Cool Ranch Doritos. I’m still working on it.

The fruit of my toil.

All around my building are buildings filled with scientists. I’m holding out hope somebody will come up with Send Your Child to Work with a Nearby Scientist Day. Then the boy could maybe see how it feels to be a scientist discovering new isotopes. The only thing I can think of that might be more inspiring to him is knowing how it feels to be a scientist who discovers new video games.

If young animals whined like human children

Zebra Mom: “Eat your grass, Jimmy.”

Zebra Kid: “I don’t like this grass. I like that grass over there.”

Zebra Mom: “There’s a lion over there.”

Zebra Kid: “Can you ask him to move.”

Zebra Mom: “No. I’m not asking a lion to move so you can have grass that’s exactly the same as this grass.”

Zebra Kid: “Just ask him.”

Zebra Mom: “No. I’m not asking. This is the same grass. Just eat it.”

Zebra Kid: “His grass is in the shade. I don’t like this sunny grass. It’s too hot.”

The grass is always tastier on the other side of the lion.

Zebra Mom: “How would you know? You haven’t even tried it.”

Zebra Kid: “Come on, Mom! Can you just please ask him. He’s not even eating grass.”

Zebra Mom: “If you don’t start eating, so help me God!”

Zebra Kid puts the tip of his tongue on one blade of grass: “This grass is way too dry. It’s like desert grass. You expect me to eat desert grass? Aw, man! Now I need a drink. I’m going to the watering hole.”

Zebra Mom: “You stay right here. There are crocodiles at the watering hole.”

Zebra Kid: “Ack. Ack. This dry grass is burning a hole in my throat. I’ll die if I don’t get a drink fast. Oh, there’s Dad. I’m gonna tell him what you’re doing to me.”

Zebra Mom: “Be sure to show him the hole in your throat.”

Zebra Kid approaches Zebra Dad: “Dad, can I go to the watering hole?”

Zebra Dad: “What did your mother say?”

Zebra Kid: “Nothing really. I think it’s okay with her if you let me go.”

Zebra Dad: “Oh. Okay then.”

FIVE MINUTES LATER

Crocodile Mom: “Ethan, eat your zebra.”

Crocodile Kid: “I don’t like zebra. I want gazelle.”

Crocodile Mom: “It’s all mammal. It tastes the same. Carcass is carcass. Now eat it.”

Crocodile Kid: “This one has stuff on it.”

Crocodile Mom: “What stuff?”

Crocodile Kid: “Look. It has all these black lines.”

Crocodile Mom: “All zebras have black lines. It’s just how they’re seasoned. You won’t even taste it.”

Crocodile Kid: “It’s disgusting. I can’t eat that. It makes me wanna hurl just looking at it.”

Crocodile Mom: “Eat around the black lines then. You’d better eat it before it gets cold. It’s not gonna be any good cold.”

Crocodile Kid: “The lines are touching all the other parts. Their gross juice is gonna be all over everything.”

Crocodile Mom: “Ethan, there are starving crocodile children in the next water hole who would give anything to have food half this good.”

Crocodile Kid: “They can have it.”

Crocodile Mom: “Don’t you dare come to me in an hour and tell me you’re hungry.”

TWO MINUTES LATER

Vulture Dad: “I can’t believe somebody just left all this delicious carrion here. Animals are so wasteful these days. Well, they’re loss is our gain. Dig in, Judy.”

Vulture Kid: “Um. You know I don’t like the kind with the white stripes.”