The Great Christmas Tree Trauma of 2010

Christmas 2008

The 20 Prospect clan put up our Christmas tree this past weekend. I guess it has become tradition that the tree goes up over Thanksgiving weekend in an effort to stop Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect, and 20 Prospect Jr. from begging to put up the Christmas decorations. Seriously, they started begging the day we took down the Halloween ones.

We had been planning to get a “real” tree this year, something that we haven’t done in about 8 years. As much as we like the smell, and the look of a real tree, Mrs. 20 Prospect and I are pathetically pragmatic, and don’t like the hassle and the expense. So we have had a fake tree that we bought at a K-Mart in about 1996, aside from one year when we went out and cut down our own tree with the kids. Lil Miss 20 P. was about 4 at the time, and 20 Prospect Jr. was around 3. I still have a photo of us standing next to the unlucky tree, with 20 P Jr. holding a saw and grinning from ear to ear, while Lil’ Miss 20 P. is in my arms sobbing that we are killing a tree.

Yes, the fruit does not fall far from the tree.

So our plan was to go out and cut down a tree on Saturday, until we decided to stay an extra day in Eau Claire and spend more time with our family. So began the trials and tribulations of the Great Christmas Tree Trauma of 2010.

While we were in Eau Claire we helped both Grandma, and my Brother in Law the Father, put up their fake trees. My BIL had just purchased a pre-lighted fake tree from HOM furniture, so that got Mrs. 20 P. and I to thinking. Our old K-Mart special has been shedding branches for years, and has never been an easy tree to put together. Watching my BIL put his tree up in 30 minutes sure looked like a much better way than thaking 3 hours to assemble the erector set Christmas tree we have. So on the drive back to Minnesota on Saturday we offered to the kids to go out and get a new fake tree.

So began the negotiations…

Lil Miss 20P – “But I thought we were going to get a real tree this year?”

20P Jr. – “Yeah, why can’t we get a real tree?”

Mrs. 20P – “Look kids, it’s already Saturday afternoon. If you want to go out and cut a real tree, we can’t do it until tomorrow, and then we won’t have any time left to decorate it this weekend.”

Lil Miss 20P – “Can’t we just put up our old one instead?”

Me – “Honey, our old tree is falling apart. It really is time to replace it.”

Lil Miss 20P – (tearing up) “But I like our old fake tree. It’s our tradition”

Mrs. 20P – “Honey, it’s a fake tree. It will be the same tradition to put up a new one.”

20P Jr. – “Can I have the cardboard box from the old tree?”

Me – “No. Why do you want the box?”

20P Jr. – “To make an airplane”

Me – “No. We need it for the tree”

20P Jr. – “But aren’t we giving it away?”

Me – “Yes, but we’ll give it away in the box.”

Lil’ Miss 20P – (wailing) “You can’t give our tree away! It’s our tree!”

And so the conversation went for the hour and a half drive home.

Lately the two of them can’t agree about anything, and neither of them can agree with us. So it wasn’t really a surprise that by the time we left to go to the store it was now 20P Jr. insisting that the old tree was too dear to part with, and Lil’ Miss 20P who was excited to get to pick out a new one. It didn’t get any easier in the store.

Lil Miss 20P -“I want one with short needles”

20P Jr. – “I want one with long needles”

Me – “Kids, let’s just see what they have.”

20P Jr. – “I want one with white lights”

Lil Miss 20P – “You’re color blind, what do you care?”

20P Jr. – “I just like white lights!”

Mrs. 20P. – “We are getting colored lights. Your father and I like colored lights.”

20P Jr. – “I want the black one”

Me – “No. We are not getting a black tree. Now the silver one, that one is beautiful. I would love to have a silver tree like my Grandma did when I was little…”

Mrs. 20P, Lil Miss 20P., & 20P Jr. – (in unison) “NO!!!!!”

Lil’ Miss 20P – “Please can we have this one”

20P Jr. – “No, that one’s ugly. I like this one.”

Note to self. Leave the kids at home when shopping.

After 30 minutes of deliberation, we decided on a tree that 20P Jr. loved, and Lil Miss 20P called “The ugliest Christmas tree that ever was”. In the end we bought her off with the promise of a revolving tree stand.

By 9pm on Saturday night it stood in our front window in all its revolving, multi-colored glory. It’s a nice looking fake tree, there’s just one small problem.

I don’t like it.

I have to admit our old K-mart tree was prettier. In fact, I’ve yet to see any tree that I liked more than our old K-mart tree. Well, with the exception of that glittering aluminum jet-age tree of my youth. So unless I go out and buy an aluminum tree, or go back to using the old Kmart one, it’s going to continue to bug me.


Caution: Mojo at Work

This is the point in the year when life goes into warp speed. The carcass of the Thanksgiving Turkey is still in the garbage bag, but already Christmas seems mere days away. School functions, work, kids sports, business trips and a myriad of other obligations will drop like snowflakes from the leaden sky. Add to it all that I signed up to teach 2 courses concurrently in December and January, and it is likely to be February before I come up for air.

I’m not saying that I won’t be posting as much on the blog, but I’m not, not saying it either.

Lately I’ve been working hard to get my mojo back, but I’m not really sure what mojo is, or if it comes in different sizes and flavors. If I does, I’d like a Grande Double Fudge Chocolate Mojo. Or maybe a Maple Nut Mojo. Maple always tastes better at the holidays.

Sorry, digressing…

There was a spell near the end of summer where writing became very hard. However, as the frequency of my posting this fall had shown, the joy of writing has returned in a big way. So even though I will be stretched thinner than Phyllo dough (mmm… strudel) I have a feeling I will be making time to post.

When the mojo is working, you just can’t help but let it out. Just ask Muddy Waters…

Happy Turkey Day

Happy Thanksgiving from cold and windy Eau Claire, Wisconsin where the 20 Prospect clan is snug and warm inside the rectory of my Brother in Law the Father. Well, not the Brother in Law with kids, even though technically he’s a Father too. I mean the Father who is my wife’s brother. Not her Dad. This isn’t Kentucky.

Shit, I’m confused myself. Who opened the wine before dinner?

No, not the sacramental wine. That’s Jameson. I mean the red wine.

Oh forget it and pass the Jameson already…

Ten things I am thankful for

It'll nearly be like a picture print by Currier and Ives... (Copyright Library of Congress)

Over the river and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go…

No really. We do go over a river, and through a woods to get to Grandmothers. How cool is that?

In honor of the National Day of Prayer and Thanksgiving, I offer up the standard Top Ten Things I am Thankful For. (#11 – Top Ten Lists for Blog Post Ideas)

In no particular order;

10.) Purple Ghosts, obviously… wocka…wocka…wocka…

9.) Keeping You Awake for introducing me to the strangest, and funniest gang of misfits on the interwebz.

8.) That Patricia Marie Punker ‘s Irish Temper has never been directed at me.

7.) subWOW’s protective “Grizzly Mom” presence keeping the trolls away from my front porch.

6.) That if subWOW doesn’t deter them, Kernut can set me up with a good P.I.

5.) Wickedshawn’s sweetly corrupting influence

4.) Duffmano’s Décolletage (Because, who isn’t thankful for that?)

3.) Elly & Herbert the Ukulele

2.) Vapid’s Cashmere Cat Suit

1.) My new bloggy friends! (even the 300 lb. serial killers) You make me #furiouslyhappy

Whether you like to hang out in the comment box, or just sit quietly rocking and enjoying the banter, Happy Thanksgiving to all 20 Prospectors!

The Story of Buck

photo copyright The Rabbit Patch

We had been living in our house for less than a month when we first saw him. I had to rub my eyes to make sure I wasn’t imagining him. A big floppy eared, orange bunny rabbit, the color of a tabby cat, sprawled out in our back yard, lazily munching away on the clover. He seemed like a character from Alice in Wonderland come to life in our little suburban paradise, someone’s pet rabbit that had heard the call of the wild, and decided to go native. So I named him Buck, after the dog from Jack London’s “Call of the Wild”.


He became a constant presence on our street that summer, hopping through the bushes with the wild rabbits that overran the neighborhood. The little girl next door used to set out carrots and lettuce for him. I would sit on our patio in the evenings, and watch him as he lounged about our beds of clover. Back then, most of our “grass” was clover. He liked the white blossoms the best, and would move about chewing on them without a care in the world. I wondered what thoughts ran through his little brain. I wondered if he knew that he was in any way different from the other bunnies. If he knew he was somebody’s pet store Easter Bunny, now living in the wilds of suburbia.

Buck brought a fairy tale quality to that summer, as we went about taming the wilds of our overgrown yard, and settling into our new home. He became a comforting presence, a sort of omen that our life together was going to be nothing but rainbows and unicorns.

As summer slipped by, and fall loomed in the distance, we got busier and busier with our wedding planning. When there were wedding showers and parties to be hosted, Buck would always make an appearance. It was as if he loved the attention. I was always more than happy to tell the tale to friends and family as they marveled at the site of him hopping across the yard.

As summer, was ending, and fall was approaching I began to wonder how he would handle the winter. Would he snuggle into a den with the wild rabbits, and live the winter out in cozy, Beatrix Potter style warmth? I would never find out the answer to that question. One afternoon, we looked out our front window and saw him lying in the driveway, twitching. I ran out to see what was wrong. There was no sign of a wound, or of any injury. He just lay on his side with one eye looking up at me, wild with fear. I put my hand down onto his furry belly, and felt the quick beats of his heart.

I didn’t know what to do. He was shaking with fear, and his legs were twitching, I tried to lift him up onto his feet, but he couldn’t stand. I was distraught. He wasn’t a pet, he wasn’t my rabbit, but I could feel a knot in my throat. As he lay on the pavement, fleas began crawling out of his fur, like rats from a sinking ship. Nature knows the smell of death.

I put on a pair of work gloves, and carried him into the shade of the pine tree. He was dying, and there was nothing I could do. I knelt on the ground by him, watching, and waiting. I knew that he was suffering, and I knew that the humane thing to do would be to end it. But I couldn’t. It tore me up. I have never willingly killed another creature. It was ridiculous. I am a man. It is my job to be the killer. It is my role to be death when nature will not do the job.

I am ashamed to say it, but I couldn’t do it. I felt so sick I wanted to throw up. It gutted me to see him suffering, and yet I was helpless in my cowardice. In the end, a close friend who was visiting that night, took him out back, and ended it for me. I felt so emasculated. In the morning, as a misty rain fell, I took his lifeless body and buried it beneath a patch of clover in the yard. He lays there still, a reminder of my own mortality and domestication.

Life in El Norte

Last night was 20 Prospect Jr.’s first hockey game of the season. As I have mentioned before, this is his first year playing “squirts” for the El Norte “Droogs”. (Up here in the North Metro, we likey the Ultra Violence).

Squirts is the 10-11 year old age group, where the sport becomes truly competitive for the first time. So this was the first “real” hockey game, with “real” uniforms, actual rules, penalties, and a referee.

Well, except for the referee part.

We discovered as we took the ice that our District does not supply referee’s for the Squirt games. This was news to us, and the coaches on the other team. So there we were, two full teams of kids excited to play hockey, a rink, a scoreboard, a timekeeper, and a bleacher full of parents and grandparents all excited to see their little Wayne Gretzky’s play hockey. No referee.

After about five minutes of confusion, and searching for someone with a pair of skates that would be willing to ref the game, one of the dad’s of a kid on our team stepped forward. I was relieved, since if he hadn’t I would most likely have been the guy to do it. The only thing holding me back being that I can’t skate nearly as good as the kids, and I don’t really know all the rules. Still, that hasn’t stopped me from being a coach.

I shouldn’t have worried. As the kids were going through their warmups our volunteer referee stepped out onto the ice, dressed in a purple Minnesota Vikings Jersey, and blue jeans, then promptly fell flat on his ass. Now, I assumed that this was purely nerves, since I have seen this Dad help out at a few of our practices and I know for a fact that he can skate. He’s not even one of the older Dad’s, I’m guessing late 20’s, maybe 30 years old at the most. So he’s also in pretty good shape.

So when the volunteer ref struggled to his feet, we called the boys in and got ready to start. As our ref got within about 10 feet of the bench, I could smell the booze rolling off of him like a cloud. He stopped by the boards to talk to the coaches, and his eyes looked like two piss holes in a snowbank. This guy was beyond drunk. He was blotto. I looked at the other coaches, and they looked at me and shrugged. So we said what the hell, and tossed him a puck. He dropped it, and when he bent over to pick it up, he went down for the second time. And so began the now infamous “Game with the Drunk Referee”.

I suppose we should have been appalled, and outraged. We probably should have intervened, and covered the children’s eyes. At the very least we should have taken his car keys away from him, and called a cab. If we had lived in Edina, or Eden Prairie or some tony rich suburb to the south, we’d have had the police escort him from the building. Instead, we let him skate it off for the next hour.

This is what happens when you live in the North Metro folks. It’s still 1984 up here. Get a mullet, a snowmobile, and a blaze orange hunting jacket and you will fit right in. I preferred to think of it as a teaching moment for the boys. “See? This is why we don’t want you kids drinking before the game! Save the beer, and whiskey until the after the game.”

Drunk Ref Dad fell so many times I lost count. Half of the game he was flat on his back, or pulling himself up on the boards. We should have charged extra for the entertainment. It was like having the San Diego Chicken out there. Minus the Cocaine, and the Chicken Suit.

As a proud Dad, I am happy to report that 20 Prospect Jr. now leads our team in scoring. He scored our one and only goal. Unfortunately, our El Norte Droogs were beaten soundly by the Ex-Urban McMansions. It’s tough for us older, inner ring suburbs to compete with those 5 year old towns full of three car garage, multi level homes on treeless lots. Until we start recruiting our Hispanic and Somali kids into hockey, the demographics are in their favor.

But we still kick their ass at Quarters, and Beer Pong.