That Doll Ain’t No Lady

We have a lot of orchids. Thirteen in all, but we used to have more. Now their leaves emit more anxiety than oxygen, on account of them watching us give away their peers to Orchid-newbies (read: certain death. Or we’ve slowly killed the others out of neglect now that we have children. But somehow they bloom. I have a theory that by keeping them in a constant state of distress they bloom out of desperation in a futile effort to reproduce,kinda like the way salmon so selflessly do: laying their eggs and promptly keeling over. Unfortunately the long-nosed hawk moth of South Africa or whatever is never to be found fluttering inside our house at night so their flowers eventually drop, unfertilized, to the floor, waiting to be grabbed by the drooly hand of a passing baby and promptly gummed into oblivion. Fortunately none of them are poisonous…that I’m aware of.

I do have a favorite: Phragmipedium Sunset Glow 4N. Phragmipediums are the South American version of the more familiar Paphiopedilums native to southeast Asia. You probably know them better as lady slipper orchids, and indeed that is what they look like. So when this particular orchid, which has been reliably blooming for months, dropped its final bloom, I scooped it off the floor and gave it to my daughter. She asked me what it was, and in hindsight I don’t know why I didn’t tell her its latin name, since this is the three year-old who will drop “Pachycephalosaurs” or “Parasaurolophus” without blinking, but I said, “It’s a lady slipper orchid.”

She climbed out of her chair excitedly, and ran for her toy box. Confused, I watched her return and then realized what she was doing.


Adorable right?

But you don’t know this doll. If you knew this doll, you’d see one of Cinderella’s bitchy step-sisters – the one who skanks around in seedy clubs, goes home with the guy in the fishnet top, and is the bread and butter of Saturday morning cabbies – trying to fit her foot in a slipper, far too pretty for her cheap pedicure.

I smiled and, in my best, Clark Gable impersonation, made the comment, “I don’t know Josie. From what I know of that doll, she ain’t no lady.” And this is the problem with being a comedian to toddlers: they’re literalists, and even if they weren’t, they focus on words they’ve never heard their dad say before, like ain’t, and miss the punchline anyway.

I have my good friend Matthew Martz to thank for this and another doll’s personality, because one night he channeled their thoughts to the delight of Josie. Apparently they were quite catty that night, and ever since when I catch Josie playing with the two of them, they are just as evil as the night Matthew gave them voices. None of her other toys are like this. Every stuffed animal she has is an angel she loving tucks in at night with a napkin. These two though…they’re like the douchey spawn of Snooki and Kevin Federline. I have fears that someday Josie will catch a clip of Miley Cyrus twerking on TV and later that night, while I’m cleaning up the toy wreckage in the living room I’ll come upon one of these girls bent over, in front of her stuffed Eeyore, who for all intents and purposes, will appear to be giving it to her doggy style.

Thanks a lot Matthew.



Josie with Gigantic Fruit and Vegetables

Like many parents, it’s important to me that my kid understands where her food comes from.  There’s not a day that goes by during the growing season when Josephine doesn’t pick and eat something from our backyard.  One of my proudest moments as a new father happened when Josie was one year-old and still signing for most of her language.  She went to the door that leads to the garden and gave me the sign for “food.”  She was hungry, so I let her out to feast upon the strawberries.  Success.

A year has passed and the strawberries and and now the cherries are waning.  I’ve turned the snap peas under, but soon the raspberries will peak, and then it it will be carrots, gooseberries, currants, blackberries, tomatoes, pears, apples, and grapes.  She’s two and a half-years old and may not be able to count past four, but she can identify the difference between a garlic and an onion, spinach and lettuce, or kale and swiss chard.  I’ve also tricked her into thinking that she’s playing with water by watering the raised beds

Like a fisherman with his catch, it is hard not to fall into the temptation to glorify your blue-ribbon winners with photos.  Being a fisherman, as well as a grower of vegetables, I know a thing or two about how to pose with a two-pound trout: namely at arm’s length toward my buddy’s camera to make it look like an 18-pound steelhead.  So I’ll admit it: posing my diminutive daughter beside these fruits and veggies does flatter my gardening prowess with an optical illusion of gigantism.  But seriously folks: those bunny ears of hers are spinach, not swiss chard.  And that turnip-induced hernia of hers?  I’ve never heard such screaming.

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I Dream of Carrots

The garden certainly does not look like this right now, but it’s nice to be reminded of summer when all you look out upon are beaten down broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel spouts, mizuna, salad and beets.  My east coast wife will be sure to remind me though that it is no small miracle to be able to pick a salad in January (while in the same sentence wistfully wishing for snow).  We may not be able to grow tomatoes well every year, but what we lack in heat, our maritime climate makes up for in moderation.

This is about the time the Territorial Seed catalog arrives, and I pour over it weighing the pros and cons of this carrot variety over another.  I sketch out a diagram of the garden beds, penciling in the names of vegetables, their approximate planting dates, working out their rotation and placement according to height, where last year’s crops were, and light requirements.  I’ve already top-dressed everything with horse manure (a guy I found on Craislist delivered approximately eight yards of the stuff until I finally had to say no more) and planted my garlic in October.  I’ll be putting my sugar snap peas in the cold wet soil around Valentine’s Day like always, and all those brassicas I started way back in July will hopefully go bonkers in the early spring.  Till then the winter is beating them with the ugly stick and Clover’s not helping as she tears around the yard.

This year will be a little different, since a toddler will be walking(!) around the garden with me.  So anything sweet you can eat hand to mouth will surely be featured more prominently than usual.  There’s probably nothing more fun than carrots, cherry tomatoes and sugar snap peas to make a little kid like their vegetables, and I have a feeling that after I point out which plants are the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries I’ll have more than the birds for competition.