Lights, camera, action!
Life’s in constant motion for kids entertainment entrepreneur Lori Holton Nash
Wednesday, February 21, 2007
For Lori Holton Nash, life revolves around kids.
She teaches them through the recreational company she founded, visits them via satellite as the host of a nationally syndicated morning program on PBS KIDS TV and sings to them as a recording artist.
Then there are those three kids who call her "mom."
So it’s not surprising that Lori—known as "Miss Lori" to everyone below eye-level—is starting the day downing a giant tumbler of water spiked with Airborne. With her multiple roles and jam-packed schedule, getting sick is simply not an option.
In between bites of scrambled eggs, Miss Lori calls out vocabulary words for her 5-year-old daughter Kaiann’s spelling bee and gauges the seriousness of the stomach pains her oldest child, 8-year-old son Skyler, is complaining about. (The verdict? Not bad enough to skip school.) "My favorite word is simultaneous," she jokes, taking a final forkful of her now-cold breakfast.
Meanwhile Jaedyn, the youngest at nearly 4, darts back and forth between her cereal bowl in the dining area and the living area, where the television sits. Chords from the Curious George show suddenly fill the family’s art-filled home, and Miss Lori implores her to press the volume button.
It’s around this time that Miss Lori breaks out the family calendar for a last-minute consultation. Here, on this oversized, spiral-bound tablet, she carefully notes the obligations of everyone in the family. In pencil.
She also carries a wireless-enabled PDA to check her e-mail and make calls from the road. She has vowed to figure out what else the device can do to streamline her life—once she finds the time, that is.
Today husband Larry Nash, a personal trainer, is dropping off Skyler at his school, so she only has to worry about getting Kaiann to her school. Jaedyn is just along for the ride—her preschool’s only a few hours, a few days a week. Otherwise, there are no regular sitters who help Miss Lori, just a whole lot of juggling, erasing and re-scheduling.
After the school drop-offs, she and Jaedyn meet up with Larry at a small neighborhood workout studio for a stint on Larry’s latest favorite workout tool, the Power Plate machine. She does sit-ups on the vibrating machine while he spots Jaedyn on a mini-trampoline.
Core strength has been a focus for Miss Lori lately. She hopes the Power Plate time, coupled with her new Pilates classes, will make it easier to maintain her posture—and her stamina—while taping her PBS show, in which she co-hosts a block of programming including Curious George and Dragon Tales with an animated Guinea pig named Hooper. She has only a couple weeks before she’s off to New York City, where she’ll again help create an entire season’s worth of episodes during a single, marathon month of production.
Last year, she was away for two months taping the show’s debut season, calling on friends, family and sitters to hold down the fort. "It was very much, ‘OK team, what can you do, how can you help out?’ " she recalls. She has pulled together this year’s team in much the same way. There’s a morning sitter, an afternoon sitter, a best friend to stay overnight so her husband can work with clients who have late and early training sessions, plus her mom is coming from Milwaukee.
After exercise, it’s on to a South Loop community center with Jaedyn, where Miss Lori leads a local playgroup in an hour of exercises, fingerplay and songs. Here she dons her educational persona, "Miss Lori."
Many of the little ones will see her again later in the week as students of dance, drama and fitness classes offered through her company, The C.A.M.P.U.S. Inc.
Miss Lori started The C.A.M.P.U.S. Inc.—which stands for Celebrating Artistry Musicality Physicality United Successfully—two years ago. It grew from a class she developed for an onsite daycare at a local business. "I wasn’t approaching it so much as a business as I was just trying to fulfill what I perceived as a need," she says. "With many activities offered to young children, the kids seemed to be on a track, but they didn’t seem to be empowered. I wanted to teach children to explore, to be able to dibble and dabble in different activities, whether or not they had any talent, so they could experiment and experience and find their own voice."
Today’s class at the Fitness Formula Club–South Loop certainly keeps her on her toes—and on the floor—as she marches, jumps, crawls, swims, slithers and rolls around with 20 or so toddlers and some babies. Many of the songs she sings are her own, rough cuts from the album she’s recording called "Miss Lori: Music ‘n Movement TOGETHER," set to come out this month. (For more information, song samples and pre-order information, visit www.misslori.tv.)
After taking Jaedyn home where Larry will supervise lunch and a nap, she pops over to Joe’s BeBop Café and Jazz Emporium on Navy Pier where she’ll host a giant free concert to launch the album Sunday, March 18. She makes sure the space will accommodate face-painting, coloring and lots of dancing. Miss Lori has also created a theatrical version of the songs from her album that will be produced at a local theater this fall, and she scouts the stage area with an eye for accommodating that production, too.
After a quick salad, she’s back on the road, headed to a downtown recording studio. She’s spent months of nights and weekends laying down tracks for the CD here, and she and her producer, renowned composer (and parent) Ira Antelis, are still hard at work.
In the booth, Miss Lori belts out different takes on the same song so Antelis can mix and match different versions of her voice with the music he wrote and arranged, along with vocals laid down last winter by an ad hoc chorus comprised of her children plus nine friends, family members and some of her students.
The songs are upbeat and infectious, and Miss Lori—a working stage actor since age 9—is thrilled with it. "I’ve done little pieces of lyrics for years, writing them down on bits of paper here and there, but I’ve never put them together into songs," she says.
The day’s almost over, but not before Miss Lori returns to Fitness Formula to cover a class for a teacher who called in sick just an hour earlier. She stops at home first to pick up all three kids.
By day’s end, it’s bath time, then a family dinner. (The menu was decided by consensus on the ride home.) After stories, it’s bedtime and sleep, for the children at least.
Miss Lori’s work is never quite done, but that’s OK. "It’s not about the trip, it’s what you do with the knowledge you gain from your trip," she says of her approach to life. "You can’t be successful unless you are doing something you love, and I love what I am doing. I really love it."
Jenny B. Davis is a freelance writer and mom living in Chicago.