Author Archives: Lori Chaplin

About Lori Chaplin

Lori Chaplin lives in San Francisco and San Diego with her husband and her 5 year old daughter Olivia. She is an Exercise Physiologist by trade and a travel bug at heart.

February 27, 2009

super baby food recommendation

Back in the days when there was just my husband and I, we took turns with “cooking” dinner and by “cooking” dinner I mean walking to the kitchen drawer where we keep the take-out menus. “I’m cooking tonight. Do you want Thai food?”

Nothing like a baby to make you behave in oh so many ways. Luckily for baby Olivia, our granola-Berkeley friends sent over an amazing book called Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron. Initially I flipped through it and it looked too complicated and utterly impossible to follow so I put it aside. Somewhere along the line I picked it up again for a quick reference. Our pediatrician told us that she was not getting enough iron so I referenced “the book” and found good food sources. I then found useful information after more useful information. This book is like having an elder at your fingertips. It is chock full of knowledge which ranges from how much should your baby eat, what should a 5 month old eat, a crash course in nutrition, play ideas, homemade silly putty and toddler (and grown-up) recipes…to name a few. Tonight I pulled out “the book” because I couldn’t remember how long to microwave corn on the cob while in the husk. Viola. 3 minutes and turn halfway through. Today, Yaron’s food index is the most valuable part of the book for me at this point in my 5 year olds life.

In the end, I never bought baby food from the store. I followed Yaron’s suggestions to puree, pour into ice cube trays and freeze. It was easy, it felt good and I saved money.

January 28, 2009

my daughter is the mona lisa

This is #9 of an on going dialog of our travel, which includes 5 countries and a 4 year old. Please check the prior archives for the previous sagas.

On a cold Sunday winter day last January, 2008, my husband Mike and 4 year old daughter Olivia walked with me along Rue de Marignan between the Champs-Elyees the fashionable Avenue Montaigne on our way back to our hotel. We had walked along this sidewalk many times but this time I happened to look up and notice a marble plaque on the building situated next to our hotel. In gold stamped writing, the plaques said:

MARY CASSAT

American Impressionist Painter

Friend & Colleague of Edgar Degas

Lived in this Apartment from 1887

Until her death in 1926

THE AMERICAN CLUB OF PARIS

We felt obligated to take a few pictures of Olivia and I with respect to Mary Cassat who painted so many pictures of Mommies and Babies. There we stood in the drizzling rain of Paris snapping pictures and hoping to get a good one. A French couple strolled up and stood behind Mike watching with interest. After a few more shots we finished and they asked why we were taking a photo there. This was a perfect exit time for Mike to duck into the hotel with Olivia following after him hop-scotching on the sidewalk while counting her hops une, duex, trois…ocho, nueve, DIES! So I stood in the rain telling them that my daughter loves the mommy/baby paintings of Mary Cassat and that we were excited to find this hidden treat on our walk home. I went on to tell them that we were also in search of the Mona Lisa and that we would be going to the Louvre in the following week. They told me their favorite museum (Musee de l’Orangerie) to visit and then they both got the look of “aha!” on their faces at the same time. “Zee Louvre ez FREE t’day. All zee museums are free on zee first Sunday of zee month. You must go RIGHT NOW! Eet will close in a few hours.” I merci beaucoup-ed them and went to quickly gather my family to hustle over to the museum.

When we arrived at Musee du Louvre, there was the very long line, which one would expect to see on a Free Musee day. Depressed, we got into line and began the long wait. Olivia was in her usual seat on Mike’s shoulders…luckily. A man tending the front of the line saw her, left his post to collect us and point us through the special children’s entrance. Two lucky breaks in one day! Free Musee and head of the line. This must be our lucky day.

Once inside we found the map (see previous blog post) and headed for the Mona Lisa. There is a lot to see on the way to the Mona Lisa, let me tell you. Side tracked over and over. Wrong turn again and again. Stopping for explanation of painting of the dark bloody dying man….and then…we saw it. A room directly off of the corridor we were in. The room seemed to have glow emanating out of it. Was that angels we heard? Laaaaaa! It must be her. Could it be we at last found The Mona Lisa?

We entered the room and the painting was hanging on the backside of a small divisional wall. We went around the corner and to our amazement there it was……a huge crowd in front of the Mona Lisa

The museum was obviously expecting this as they had velvet-roped off a perimeter to keep adults behind. Then we noticed the most wonderful velvet rope. There was an inner velvet rope to allow children an unobstructed close-up view of the art piece. We asked the rope wrangler if Olivia could go in and she was allowed but not with an adult. Off she went, alone, to stand right in front of the Mona Lisa. I was feeling a bit disappointed in not being able to talk to her and give her information about the artist and the painting as we often do. I wondered if she would even look at it more than a brief second. I wondered if she would be too scared to be one of two children in the special area with a horde of a crowd standing behind her seemingly looking right at her. Neurotic Mom.

When she was done looking, she returned to us and Mike immediately suggested we take a picture with the Mona Lisa behind us. I swooped her up in my arms and we took our photo. Only when we returned home and uploaded the pictures did I notice that Olivia was posed EXACTLY in the same pose as the Mona Lisa. The ½ smile, the slight turn of the head, and the arm placement were identical. I guess she did just fine on her own with such an important piece of art.

So in the end, if you were traveling to Paris with a child, I would HIGHLY recommend the following:

Hôtel Marignan Champs-Elysées: http://www.hotelmarignan.fr/

Looking up while walking down the rue in the rain.

Le Louvre on the 1st Sunday of the Month: children’s entrance, children’s velvet rope.

And lastly, allowing your child to experience art without supervision!

 

 

January 17, 2009

a pious effort to locate the Mona Lisa

This is #8 of an on going dialog of our travel which includes 5 countries and a 4 year old. Please check the prior archives for the previous sagas

When Olivia was 3 we had stayed in the penthouse of a hotel in Mexico. We climbed into bed, all three of us, and she looked out the window to see Jesus. Not figuratively or a revelation … but a steel one. Not just any Jesus but a giant Jesus with his arms outreached, face looking to the sky and robes flowing on the hill across from the hotel. So giant was this Jesus that he had a blinking red beacon on his head so aircraft would avoid crashing into The Jesus. Olivia opened her eyes wide and said, “Hey Daddy! Who is that boy?” My husband said, “It’s a man and his name is Hey-soos.” (phonetic for Jesus said in Spanish) Days later we were returning home on the airplane and the flight attendant announces on the p.a., “Will Jesus Morales please ring your call button?” My daughter was sitting in the row across the aisle and one row forward from me. She swivels in her seat and looking over her shoulder gives me a thumbs up with a smile and a nod while saying “Heeeey-sooooos.” And thus was the introduction to Jesus for the pagan daughter of two fallen Catholics.

A year later, my husband, my now 4.5-year-old daughter and I were in Saudi Arabia. Naturally, I was emailing home to the States the amazing adventures we were having while my daughter Olivia was first standing on the chair next to me marching in place, then laying across the table behind the laptop, then spinning in circles next to me on the floor while humming Dance of The Sugarplum Fairies, culminating with rock-climbing up the back of my chair and slithering onto my back. While she was there and I was pretending she was not, she looked over my shoulder and saw one of the AOL Latest News pictures. She states matter-of-factly (remember she is 4), “Oh, huh. The Mona Lisa.” For the first time in 15 minutes she found a way to actually get my attention. Freak-of-knowledge usually is the winning hand for her. I stopped emailing (her mission accomplished) and craned my neck to look the monkey on my back in the eye and say, “WHAT? How do you know about the Mona Lisa???” “Little Einsteins”, she replies … again as if to say duhhh. We were soon to leave the kingdom of Saudi Arabia and travel to Paris, France. I said, “Olivia! Did you know the Mona Lisa is in the Louvre? We can go see it in Paris if you want?” She thought that was a more than fabulous idea and that was going to be our plan.

We arrived at the Louvre the first week of January, last year. We quickly looked for a map and found exactly where the Mona Lisa was kept. Getting to it was a tad more difficult. Sidetracked with the humongous art in the amazing Napoleon room, Olivia and I wandered off from Mike and found another room. We walked right into a face-to-face meeting of a huge, dark, scary painting of a dying man. Olivia says, “oh yuck Mom, that is really not a pretty paining! Who is that man?” I replied, “Oh that is Jesus Christ” to which she nodded her head yes while mulling over the notion and said, “ah, right. I’ve heard you say that before.” While I was trying my hardest to quickly determine if I should laugh or not, my husband Mike walks up to us, oblivious to what we were talking about, and calmly looks at the painting and says “Oh look Olivia, Hey-soos!” Olivia then has a manifestation of divine truth and replies “ohhhhhh Hey-SOOS. Why didn’t you say so Mom? I know who that is, we saw him in Mexico with a red light on his head.”

 

 

 

January 3, 2009

does your child know the heimlich?

Around this time last year I learned to never underestimate the brainpower and clarity of a 4 year old. Regressing in this story 2 years prior, my daughter Olivia (2 years old) was crawling around on the floor while my husband and I were going through the CPR recertification process. We didn’t realize that she was watching all the training until we went to take the written portion of the exam and we heard an odd grunting from her. We turned around to see her performing CPR on Resusci-Anne with an accuracy that nearly warranted a card of her own. If only they would have allowed her use of a pink crayon in place of the No. 2 pencil. That was her only downfall.

In the many months to follow Olivia and I played CPR on her dollies, on each other and on the Jack Russel Terriers. Poor dogs. For my own entertainment, which is the root of nearly all of her aberrant doings, I also taught her the international sign for choking. If you are unaware there was an international sign for choking, it is placing one hand on top of the other at your collar bone/neck level much like you are choking yourself yet not actually grabbing your throat. We then added the international sign for choking to our CPR routine on Barbie and the dogs.

Now I bring us back to Olivia at 4 years old. Half her life has passed since she first learned CPR and the international sign for choking. The novelty of it all has worn off for me and we had forgotten about it. I had moved on to other modes of pediatric entertainment for myself

Last year at this time, we found ourselves sitting around the teppanyaki bar at a Sushi Bar in Cairo, Egypt. Earlier in the day we gave Olivia the choice between riding camels to the pyramids, taking horse and carriage or riding horseback. She opted for camels. We walked to the Great Sphinx from the pyramids because my husband was claiming some sort of camel-groin injury by then and refused to get back on the camel. In the evening we gave Olivia the choice of food for dinner. Of course, wouldn’t every 4 year old would pick sushi in Egypt. As we sat on the high bar stools around the rectangular cooking surface, Olivia states, “Mom. I’d like to have Taco.” I replied to her, “Oh no honey, Tako is Octopus…not a taco.” My cute little 4 year old daughter leans over to me and says, “I know…I really want to eat the suckers” and then made her hands shaped into suckers while making a slurping noise that still turns my stomach just thinking about it. So she ordered Tako nigiri.

Our food arrived and we all dove into our plates. I felt Olivia tapping me on my arm and when I looked at her she was doing the international sign for choking. I told her, “Please don’t ever do that when you are not choking because I won’t believe you when you really are.” Her eyes got very large and she shook her head yes and did the sign again. She really was choking on the Octopus. I do not order Tako and had forgotten how rubbery Octopus is. She couldn’t chew it and it became stuck in her throat. I patted her a few times on the back. Nothing. So I did the Heimlich maneuver on her and it popped right out. She started crying and we, along with everyone sitting around the teppanyaki bar, were very relieved. The waitress who had rushed over said, “I’ll just take this away.” Olivia screamed, “NO! I’m not done.” This time I cut it up for her and she enjoyed every last bite.

Later that night I gave her a big hug and told her how smart she was for properly using the international sign for choking and also for remaining calm. She looked so proud of herself. That dissipated when I then explained now that I saved her life she was to remain my indentured servant forever or until she saves my life at which point she would be free. She looked blank for a moment, a bit shocked and stunned. Then she laughed hysterically and said, “Ok Mom, I’ll stay with you forever.” Pediatric entertainment.

December 19, 2008

an amazing heirloom you can create

I walked into my friend’s house one day and noticed a huge wonderful oil painting of a mother and a father standing with two children standing in front of them and a small child on peeking over the shoulder of the father. I told my friend Liz, “Wow I love that painting, is that new?” She replied “No. That is my family; I am the one on my dad’s back. We had it done when we were little and my mom just gave it to me.” I thought how wonderful that piece of art was and how nice to have it passed down.

Recently I was in a business in San Francisco that had an installation of local artists paintings and I fell in love with one of the artists style. I initially thought it would be great if he could do a portrait of my 5-year-old daughter, Olivia. That is when I had my epiphany. I contacted the artist and commissioned him to do a family portrait. The key was that he is a local budding artist so he is affordable. While I was creating a memory for her I decided to incorporate a fantastic family journey we experienced, hoping to further instill her experience in Egypt from her then 4-year old mind. Now she sees the painting on a daily basis and couldn’t possibly forget sharing a camel with her father while riding next to her mother on her camel in the Sahara desert past the Pyramids of Egypt and the Great Sphinx. I can visualize 40 years in the future, my daughter explaining to her friend “that is me, the little one sitting in my dad’s lap.”

December 12, 2008

souvenirs and little citizens

This is #5 of an ongoing dialog of our travel which included 4 countries and a 4 year old. Please check the prior archives for the previous sagas.

We flew across the Red Sea leaving Saudi Arabia and landing in Egypt. After having worn my abaya for nearly a month, I must admit I didn’t want to take it off. It becomes comfortable … oddly enough. There is something comforting in being able to keep to yourself and be private. There is something nice about losing the button off your pants prior to a fancy dinner and it not mattering in the least because you are wearing an abaya anyhow. I was told that women often leave the house in their pajamas because no one can tell. I did not remove my abaya and headscarf until we landed in Luxor which included one prior stop. I figured I would be ripping it off first chance I got but it didn’t turn out that way.

The tombs and temple complex Karnak at Luxor were amazing and we preferred it to Ciaro and the pyramids. If it is even possible for one super amazing city can be topped by another even more super amazing city. We were repeatedly informed that our 4 year old would not remember any of our trip. One male friend who had traveled there recently informed me that “Egypt would be a little dry for her, no pun intended.” None taken. We hoped that she would remember this once-in-a-lifetime experience that she was having at 4 years age. We did not have a plan to help us force the experience into her long-term memory but a serendipitous plan slowly unfolded.

As a side note I must explain I have spent the last 20 years working with people with Acquired Brain Injuries (ABI). One man I worked with was an alcoholic and a roofer which is a really bad combination. Odds are you’ll slip off the roof eventually. People with ABI have very little or no short-term memory but can happily discuss anything in that happened years ago because it is in their long-term memory. Every day I would tell my client the roofer the same joke which goes like this, “My dog can talk. I asked him what was on top of the house and do you know what he said?” And every day my client would shake his head no. I would tell him the punch line and he would laugh like he had never heard it before. One day, as usual, I told him the joke and when I said, “do you know what the dog said?” my client then blurted out with a hearty laugh and replied “Roof!” I had made it into the long-term memory somehow. This is the principle I am using to help my young child remember a fabulous travel experience. Although I am not repeating it every day, I am sure she is thankful, I incorporate information from time to time and ask her open ended questions that makes her pull up information from her experiences to answer the questions. Hopefully I am slowly placing it into her long-term memory.

Olivia stuck out like a sore thumb in Egypt just as she did in Saudi Arabia. Although there were plenty of Americans and Europeans in Egypt, they were all Grey-Hairs as Egypt is a vacation destination reserved for AARP-ers. Olivia learned to yell “No Touching!” in Saudi Arabia as the men ran to her ready to pinch her cheeks. In Egypt it was different because they ran to her giving her presents. This was especially odd in that every person we came across in Egypt had their hand out wanting to be paid. Luckily for us, the man who rented us camels to ride to the pyramids fell in love with her immediately. He instructed us to “wait right here” and ran off returning with a statue of the pyramids and sphinx. He gave it to Olivia and told us that he was also going to give us his son to marry her and that he, himself, was a Texan. Texas was a big theme in Arab countries. Many people asked if we were from Texas because we had a Texas accent. My husband is from San Francisco and I am from Northern California.

This little statue was the building block for us to create a long-term memory for her. We created a shelf in her room with one souvenir from each country she has traveled so that she sees it often but subtly. This is where the pyramid and sphinx sit. She began reading a book series from the library called The Magic Tree House so we purchased the one in the series called Mummies in the Morning for her personal collection. It is amazing how much Egypt stuff (for lack of a better word) is available. So we integrated a little here and a little there…Egypt playing cards, Egypt action figures, Little Einstein’s Egypt play set. Just enough to intermittently jog her memory. It lends many opportunities for discussion and open-ended questions such as “remember when you woke up in Dad’s arms and you were in front of King Tut’s Mask in the Egyptian Museum?” Or “I remember that mommy mummy that had her baby mummified with her” to which Olivia quickly corrects me and says “No Mommy, that wasn’t a baby it was her pet baboon!”

 

 

December 5, 2008

mommy’s personal princess boycott

My daughter was born on the last day of spring. When she was about to turn 4 she gloriously announced she would like to have a “Princess Party…you know…Snow White. Ariel. Sleeping Beauty.” I took a deep breath trying to cope and conceive of the fact that I could actually be further immersed in Princess. This was when I had my epiphany. I replied to her “Sure. No problem. But why not a REAL princess. Like….say… Nefertiti?” She agreed that was a WONDERFUL idea and I was off the “Disney” hook. We went to the library checking out everything we could find with regard to Queen Nefertiti, mummification, tombs, Egyptian children and all things Egypt.

 

On the last day of spring in 2007, twelve little citizens of San Francisco arrived at our house for the celebration after having deciphered their invitations written in hieroglyphics. They wrapped each other up like mummies using toilet paper then I taped a world map on the wall and they played Pin the Pyramid on Egypt. We spray painted cigar boxes gold and the kids glued gems on them prior to searching for treasures in the back yard such as pencils with cat images, rubber snakes, gold coins and colored Lucite rings. The kids also had an archeological dig in the sandbox for small plastic dinosaurs (it is really hard to find bones when it is not October so dinosaurs had to do.) The grand finale was the amazing golden pyramid cake. The children went home with their “goodie bag” consisting of the golden boxes filled with their new Egyptian treasures and a DVD of The Prince of Egypt.

 

Who knew 6 months later we would be in Saudi Arabia just across the Red Sea from Egypt. My husband and I decided we would be remiss if we did not actually show Olivia the real pyramids since we were so near-by (6 hour flight) so we made a left turn on our way out of Saudi en route France landing in northern Africa.

 

To be continued…