Recently I enjoyed an afternoon at our house with my friends and their daughters. We were 5 girls and 3 mommies. That afternoon is now fondly refered to as Wig Stock. The girls revved up slowly by trying on every dress-up outfit, accelerated quickly with each girl donning a crazy wig, and hit maximum velocity when the girls offered us a Jackson 5 tribute performance in full drag while the mommies drank wine and laughed hysterically. It was adorable, discordant, silly, and fun. When the girls returned to Olivia’s bedroom after several standing ovations their energy became very different and the silence coming from the bedroom was… how should I say… intriguing. We mommies decided to investigate. The 3 of us snuck on tip-toe to the door and tried not to get caught spying in the room only to see the girls were all seated on the floor quietly playing with Olivia’s souvenirs from Saudi Arabia.
I had purchased dolls from the countries we traveled in an effort to create a long-term memory of Olivia’s travels at 4 years old to some spectacular places. I figured if she played with these dolls from time to time she would think of the experience or it might allow me an opportunity to jog her memory about her travels. Not to mention the added very important benefit of having dolls that represent the worlds faces, clothing and cultures. Saudi Arabia had the most wonderful dolls called Arabian Friends. One night in Jeddah we were locked INSIDE Toys R Us during the long evening prayer time (archive post sept 12, 2008) where Olivia and I were elated to see a doll named Dunya that actually looked like my friend named Donya. We had to have it! Needless to say, before we left Saudi Arabia we had been back for the entire set which included Dunya’s friends Amal, Ahlam and Muna. The dolls came with fabulous outfits, shoes, purses and most uniquely important the fancy Abayas and headscarfs.
Our girls were all gathered on the floor with the 4 Arabian Friends dolls and also the Fula doll, a very popular Arabic version of Barbie with a decent outfit. Olivia’s friends loved the dolls with their Abayas. When I told the mommies about the dolls they had to get an up close look at them too and jumped in with the girls to the play circle that had formed. Once I began talking with the Moms about the dolls, it offered opportunity to discuss Saudi culture with the girls in a simplified way. I was able to hold up the dolls clothing and tell our girls that by law in the country of Saudi Arabia every woman must wear the Abaya when they go outside their home and that I thought I personally would really dislike it but found it to be no big deal, it was much like putting on a light jacket and I didn’t mind it at all. I was able to explain the Abaya is part of their strong religious belief and that many women want to wear the Abaya regardless of the law. I wouldn’t have had those views if I had not traveled to that country. I also explained that in Egypt it is not the law to wear the Abaya but many women wear it there also out of choice.
Many people I have spoke with have such strong negative opinions of the culture of Saudi Arabia. They have never been to Saudi Arabia. I love to be able to discuss the culture in a positive way and share the cultural knowledge I gained by having the rare and wonderful opportunity to travel there, see for myself and have amazing conversations with women of all ages. The dolls may feel fun and familiar to my daughter, but they give me a great opportunity for me to share these women’s views.
In the end my mission to expand my young daughters memory, cultural acceptance and cultural diversity extended itself to the four young daughters of my friends. Each time the girls get together their Arabian friends join them. And the mommies loved them too!
Remember all the gifts that flood in after your child is born? There are all the tiny little onesies and the soft Daily Tea. In the midst of the sea of pink we received the sweetest gift that we will keep forever. Olivia’s namesake came up with the ultimate gift for her. A book called My Very Own Name from www.iseeme.com. The title page on the inside cover is printed with a special note to Olivia from Uncle Drake and Auntie Brandi (she’s a fine girl). In the story, the animals are in search of a name for the baby in the bassinet. Each page has an animal that brings a letter to the other animals. For example the Antelope brings an A. One by one the animals choose a name for the baby. In the end it spells out the child’s name and the animals rejoice. The bonus is that the children learn to recognize the letters and spell their names. The bonus for the parents is seeing the pure happiness of your child when they read that the special book is about them. The illustrations are beautiful and now they offer other books which I have purchased for Olivia such as My Very Own Fairy Tale which was signed by the author. I recommend joining their website at www.iseeme.com and watching for specials such as book signings.
Back by popular demand! Lori Chaplin wrote this article back in October 2008 and we were reminded of the importance of safety while families are out traveling and enjoying the wonderful summer weather. Keep a watchful eye as you venture out on your travels this season!
Have you ever “lost” you kid? Maybe you haven’t admitted it publicly but it happens to many families. It happened to us at Disneyland last weekend. I was parking the stroller and asked our daughter to hop out and get in line with Dad. A cast member told me I would need to move my stroller to “stroller parking.” I followed a path to stroller parking far removed from the ride which we were waiting. I quickly parked the stroller and did a brisk walked back to the Astro Orbiter in Tomorrowland, almost a jog. I was unaware that my daughter had followed me. I returned to the ride with my husband in line. We looked at each other simultaneously saying, “Where is Olivia? I thought she was with you!” Quick expression of panic and we both take off running.
This is the part that saved us. Every time we go to a public place like Disneyland, Del Mar fair, Legoland, Sea World, San Diego Zoo, San Francisco zoo or any of the other places we would never had been found 6 years ago….we take pictures of our daughter on our cell phones. Front, side and back view pictures AT the site. This would allow us to show a picture of her in the outfit she was wearing and the hairstyle she had on the same day if she got separated from us. We always figured if we had a current picture on our cell phones we could easily show it and forward it to others if needed.
And we needed. Within seconds of missing Olivia at Disneyland, I showed the picture to the man who made me move the stroller and he began pointing and saying “Ohhh the little girl with pigtails. She is right there with another cast member!”
Slump of relief.
She did all the right things, found a “manager” and stayed put once she felt she couldn’t find us. But having the picture expedited the situation. Once back at Astro Orbiter, another family asked us if would like our place back in line and confessed they had a stomach ache too from the sympathy pains. I told them how I found Olivia and they immediately took out their cameras and took a picture of their 7 year old. I am sure that will become part of their “public place” routine. I can now personally recommend it to all parents.
Posted by: Lori Chaplin
Time: 10:36 AM
Traveling around the world with your child is a gift that keeps on giving. Our little citizen of the world has continued to amaze us with her adoption of other cultures into her ways. I adore that she kisses friends hello and goodbye on both cheeks. It pleases me when she answers the question “how are you?” with “nos nos” which is Arabic for so-so. It is entertaining when she looks to a pointy sculpture and exclaims “hey, an obelisk!” It is silly when she adamantly refuses ever returning to Mexico because there are “too many mosquitoes.” A recent conversation with Olivia validated all our past travels and all future travels.
First, let me tell you, fighting for a kindergarten school in San Francisco is quite a battle. Private schools require you participate in a specific tour prior to applying. We, of course, were out of the country for the tours. This left us with the choice of public or catholic schools as our only options. My husband and I are recovering Catholics. That left us with public school. Currently, kindergarten at Olivia’s public school is nearing an end and I felt it was time to shop around for the potential of other school’s 1st grade. Test the waters and see if there was a better option. I woke Olivia up on a Sunday morning and said, “lets go check out St. Brendan’s!” She moaned and groaned and very clearly but politely told me “I really don’t want to go to a Church school.” Perhaps it had to do with my teaching her to say the pledge of allegiance with a “one nation, under science” and ending it with a giggle to each other. Yes, I am thinking that may have been a catalyst. What never occurred to me is that she has absolutely no idea what Christianity is about.
I took her, against her will, that morning to the Catholic School’s open house. Olivia is a very calm, go-with-the-flow kind of girl. On the drive to the school, I was hit with an uncharacteristic barrage of question after question with moments of contemplation between. “Mommy. Do church people go to lunch?”
“Yes Sweetie, people who go to church are like everyone else.”
“Mommy, do church people play outside?”
“Of course Honey, church people are people.”
“Do they study science at Church schools?”
“Yes Darling, it is a school like every other school except for the whole evolution part.”
I could tell I wasn’t communicating to her the normalcy of “church people.” She had a fear of the unknown and every answer I was giving her was making no progress so I went another angle and said to her, “Baby, remember when we were in Saudi Arabia and Egypt? Remember how they went to the Mosque five times everyday and prayed, remember the voices over the loud speaker calling to prayer? Church people are the same as that but they don’t go to a Mosque, they go to a church and they usually only go one time a week.”
With a tone of complete understanding, a true “why didn’t you say so sooner” moment, Olivia said with her voice rising and falling, “Oooohhhh. Like Muslims!” It was all clear to her at that point. And in my mind with a tone of complete understanding, I thought… Wow, how special is it to briefly explain religion that is evident daily and everywhere in our own country with an explanation from a culture so radically different such as the one she experienced in Saudi Arabia. The only way she understood that christians are just people like everyone else was in terms of Islam. I love that. Olivia is truly a citizen of the world.
As I was feeling a inner sense of pride for being able to parent such a unique way, we drove up to the school located next to the Church and Olivia said, “Wow Mom, Church people have nice flowers.”
If you have ever traveled to Hawaii you have experienced Aloha Spirit from the locals. It can’t be missed. Aloha Spirit is thought to elevate and empower its people and keeps Hawaii the unique place it is. If you have not been to the islands, I can assure you that you have still experienced Aloha Spirit. After all, President Obama is from Hawaii. Aloha Spirit is difficult to put into words. It is a feeling and a way of life.
There is an actual law encoded in the Hawaii Revised Statutes, section 5-7.5. It acknowledges Aloha Spirit as “the working philosophy of native Hawaiians and is presented as a gift to the people of Hawaii.” According to the law, The Aloha Spirit is the coordination of mind and heart within each person. Each person must think and emote good feelings to others. Character should express the charm, warmth and sincerity of Hawaii’s native people. Aloha spirit is thought of as a mutual regard, affection and an extension of warmth in caring with no obligation in return.
Although these definitions come from “the law books” I am confident Hawaiians do not spend much conscious thought on Aloha Spirit or it’s definition. It is just there within them.
Picking a name for our baby was easy for us … until we found out it was a girl. We both loved the name Drake for a boy. The main reason was our good friend and one of the nicest guys we know is named Drake. The other reason was that he is Hawaiian and we hoped one day our child would ask about his namesake. We would be able to tell him it was because we love Uncle Drake, he has Aloha Spirit and please go learn what Aloha spirit is all about. When we asked our friend Drake if we could name our baby after him, he happily said yes and asked the due date. “June 21st,” we told him. He shocked us by saying June 21st was also his birthday. That was it, divine intervention, we were certain it was now a boy. It had to be.
Both my husband and I have been heavily involved in athletics all our lives and we immediately began daydreaming of the cushy retirement package rewarded to the loving, supportive parents of a professional baseball player.
Three months later I had my ultrasound. We would finally get to have our suspicions confirmed regarding the sex of our new baby boy. The doctor’s office split my appointment that day so that I was to have a procedure, a lunch break and then the ultrasound. During our lunch break I insisted we eat at Top Dog, a hot dog stand in Berkeley … just to seal the deal. Sadly, it was not open. Not a big deal, I don’t even like meat by-products and I was just taking one for the team. An insurance policy. After passing the closed sign we switched up our plans and ate at Shen Hua, delicious Chinese food. At 1:30 pm we excitedly returned to the doctor’s office to find out the good news.
The doctor squirted the freezing cold ultrasound goo on my basketball-sized belly…hey, maybe a professional basketball player. The doctor circled the wand around and around and then exclaimed, “IT’S A GIRL!” I turned to my husband and said “I told you we should have eaten lunch at Top Dog. We ate at Shen Hua and you know what a fortune cookie looks like!” It was just a joke between my husband and I but as a resultant the doctor could no longer look me in the eye and felt personally obligated to softly mutter “well, I have both a boy and 2 girls and I can assure you they are both wonderful.”
When we returned home it was a struggle to find a girl’s name. We ultimately decided on Olivia. I lobbied for not giving her a middle name, deeming it really not necessary. My husband was adamant about having a middle name. In his words, “you have to give your child a middle name, it is Industry Standard.” It was also my husband who came up with the idea of using Drake’s last name, Parker. Really? Could we name our daughter with someone else’s last name? Isn’t that supposed to be the mother’s maiden name? And what does “Industry Standard” say about that? It all seemed a little stalker-ish to me. However, at that time Parker was listing in the popular girls names so that took away the stalker feeling I was having. In addition, it would sound beautifully professional should she have to use her full name such as a lawyer or CFO. Above all and most importantly, Olivia can still one day ask why she was named after a large Offensive Lineman and we will send her in search of Aloha spirit.
Ironically enough, I think most if not all who have met Olivia Parker Chaplin in the last 5-1/2 years would say she has already found it.
Is there not a mother alive that is not simultaneously amazed and disgusted by both the frequency and interval with which a child can touch every surface in a public bathroom? Have we not all experienced saying in our begging yet sing-song voice, “Now honey, don’t touch ANYthing…okay?” while entering the tiny stall of a public restroom and once you are both inside the cramped stall you wiggle-turn around to see your child opening and closing the small “door” on the tampon disposal container? “Baby! I told you don’t touch ANYthing!” “Oh sorry Mommy” is the casual reply while moving on to explore the butt-gasket dispenser. “SWEETIE, STOP IT!”
I discovered I am way too Aries to be having that particular experience over and over. I came up with a solution that has generated many a kudos amongst eavesdropping stall-mates. Often times it was mothers of older children that wished they had thought of it too. When Olivia was very young I would say “Can you touch your eyes?” A young child’s natural response is to put both hands on their eyes. There in lies the beauty of the task. “Can you touch your ears?” Both hands touch her ears. And my personal favorite “Can you touch your elbows?” which was just funny to watch. This goes on and on until we make a clean exit and leave E-coli Central.
Once Olivia learned the names of all her parts, I panicked. The game was over for her and she was now touching everything again. I had to do something and do it quick. Spanish! I began asking “Donde estan tus ojos?” “Where are your dedos?”
Once Olivia learned the names of her parts in Spanish, I again panicked. I don’t know French. What will I do? Anatomy! Ah, thank goodness for Anatomy! I began asking “Where your femors?” Where are your phalanges?” “Honey, where is your mandible? Tell me?”
Now Olivia is 5 and a half and squeezing around in the stall becomes increasingly more like a Cirque du Soleil audition. We no longer have to play the game because she is old enough now to understand. I meet far less new friends at the sink now that we don’t have the neurotic-mommy method to discuss but Olivia now knows the names of her parts in English, Spanish and proper Anatomical terms. That is all a bonus.
I can remember some of the foods of my childhood. There are others I have consciously blocked out. Some of my favorites at the time were cheese from a can as well as a rectangle blue box of American cheese. Neither refrigerated. Also there were breakfast cereals called Sugar Smacks and Sugar Pops, which are now called Smacks and Corn Pops in an effort to balderdash. A can of Kool-Aid was a great improvement over the small “add sugar” packets enabling kids to stick their finger in it and lick it off. Also known as a fake pixi-stix at my house. And we would never, NEVER eat our vegetables.
We are in a different era. Kids now are happy to eat their vegetables and I can report there are a few kindergarteners in Olivia’s class that are vegetarians. Perhaps it is only in my happy little California bubble that this level of nutrition is so. Or should I further qualify it to be happy little San Francisco bubble. In a time where our nation is under a serious concern for elevated levels of childhood obesity and children diagnosed with diabetes (an adult disease) at near epidemic levels, it is common place for healthy eating at our San Francisco schools and homes. Parents do their part by modeling healthy eating for their children and the children become healthy eaters. We tend to feed our children “children food” like Chicken Nuggets when we should be feeding them chicken dipped in yogurt, rolled in planko bread crumbs and baked. Fabulous. It takes about the same amount of time, a tiny bit more, but it is worth it. It is so important to allow our children to experience quality food with a wide variety options. Olivia experienced her first Chicken Nugget at the neighbors house when she was 5. I am sure it was organic and baked not fried but none-the-less it was a Nugget. She took one bite and refused the rest. That made me happy when I heard about it later. She has developed a taste for quality food and no interest in “fast” food.
We were invited to our good friends house when my daughter was 3. They have 2 daughters, ages 18m and 6 years. We sat down for a lovely dinner and after some time Olivia asked Sam, the father, to please pass the bread. Sam asks while passing the bread, “Olivia, would you like butter too?” Olivia replied “No thanks. But….do you have any Brie?”
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.
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:
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!
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.”