That time my son high-fived a cactus.

The actual cactus Ris grabbed, “bunny ears cactus”.

The call.

I was running late, leaving work when I received a FaceTime call from my husband. This was nothing unusual. I always get a call or two during the workday, especially when running late as he wants to know my ETA and when he’s relieved from duty (kidding, kidding he loves spending time with our child). This call however, was different. An incredibly stressed husband appeared on the screen with a wailing toddler attached to his hip. “Ris grabbed a cactus! When are you coming home?! Did you hear me? (signal started breaking up).” “Yes-I’m on my way.”  I turned to my boss and said Ris grabbed a cactus I need to go. He, having three kid of his own, nonchalantly said, “he’ll be fine” with a shrug, as I walked out the door.


When I got into the car, I called my husband back. Ris was still screaming his head off and I was now in full on momma bear mode. I wanted answers. I told my husband I was on my way and asked what happened. He replied, “Ris grabbed a cactus, I don’t know I wasn’t there.” SEEING RED I thought, where the hell was my husband when our 1 year old grabbed a cactus and who the hell was watching him? (I mean the options were basically family, but still…) I then sternly stated, “I want to know WHEN, WHERE, WHAT and WHO”. At this point my husband realized I should not be on speaker phone and said everything would be explained once I arrived.

The guilty parties.

Luckily, I work five minutes from home. When I pulled up, my husband met me outside on the stairs and our family friend, Ris’s adopted fairy god mother, was by his side trying to get her shoes on. (I know, I know Cinderella loses her shoes not the fairy god mother.) Evidently, Ris was with FGM when it happened, and she was frantic. Maybe even more upset than Ris. She quickly showed me which plant it was and told me what she remembered happening with a lot of “it all happened so fasts” in between. Ris now was starting to cry out for me, it was time to inspect the damage and treat the patient.

How to remove cactus spines from hand- a DIY project.

I took a deep breath when I saw my sons’ hand. There were hundreds of tiny hair-like cactus spines (aka glochids) in his thumb and three adjacent fingers as well as a few on his palm. I immediately told my husband to start googling “how to remove cactus spines from hand”. After sorting through the bullshit, we realized there weren’t many answers and none beyond the obvious of tweezers and plucking out the spines. Before I arrived, they had soaked Ris’s hand in olive oil, followed by brushing his hand with cotton to try and get the spines out. This did not work. This is an old school, Greek village method that my father-in-law insisted would have worked if we had the cotton balls and not cotton pads. I’m not sold on that but in the moment, you try anything, right? My mother-in-law had also tried tweezing his hand before I arrived and removed the larger clumps of spines but Ris got really hysterical during this and started clenching his hand. He had been making a fist to pull his hand away from her which just pushed the spines deeper in his hand making it worse for himself. This is when I received, “the call’.

Thank god for eyebrow tweezers.

I brought Ris out on the balcony, so I had bright sun light to see. I sat him on my lap and lucky for us I am still breast feeding, Ris latched on and immediately started to calm down. This allowed me to get to work on his hand and to my relief, he soon fell asleep. Once he was asleep it was much easier to manipulate his hand and get it in the optimal position and lighting to remove the spines. Thank god I have a good pair of eyebrow tweezers! I started the job with the pair of tweezers that were at my in-law’s house. They were big and chunky, and I very quickly sent my husband to our house to fish mine out of my make up bag. (We all live on the same property.) To all you mommas out there, if you do not own a good pair of tweezers for yourself, get some in case this happens to you. Take my word for it! With my tweezers it was much easier to remove the spines and they were coming out but there was so god damn many of them! It took me a solid 20 minutes, longer when you tack on the time my mother-in-law worked on him, to get as much as I could out. I had removed probably 99% of them, then Ris woke up. At this point he wasn’t having it anymore and I was satisfied with my work. He soon after started using his hand normally again and when he was asleep that night I would comb over his hand once more to remove any of the stragglers.

Greasy Thursday.

This incident happened on “Greasy Thursday” a day you eat A LOT of meat before the Lenten fast for Easter. Our family was gathered, a lamb was roasted on a spit (duh, we’re in Greece) and while I was performing surgery on Ris’s hand everyone had sat down to eat with the exception of his FGM who sat diligently by my side holding up his little wrist. Not five minutes after we joined the table, Ris had a lamb bone in each hand and was gnawing at them. He, like my boss said, was fine.

The wisdom.

You can’t control everything. Accidents will happen and accidents will happen to your kids when you are not with them. Bumps, bruises, cuts, and Band-Aids are all a part of them growing up and learning, and it’s all a part of parenting. Keep your cool, put on a brave face, bandage them up, kiss them on the forehead and send them out into the world again. With any luck, they’ve learned from what they did and won’t do it again. You better believe we marched Ris out to that cactus the next day and said, “Remember?! Ouch!” My husband went to put Ris’s hand towards the cactus and Ris immediately pulled it away. He DEFINITELY remembers AND learned a new word, “ouch”.


While writing this post I did some further research into how to remove glochids from your skin. (This is when I found out those hair-like spines are actually called “glochids”.) Without the stress and time sensitivity of getting the spines out of my son’s hand I was able to find some useful information. The following two articles I found to be the most helpful and informative as well as this infographic from REI, which is also humorous.

How to remove cactus spines (including ones stuck in your throat)

Prickly Pear Encounters: Removing Glochids


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