The Play Room Column of the PDX Parent magazine

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Kid to Know: The Artistic Genius

Seventeen-year-old Ester Petukhova sees clearly where she’s come from and where she wants to go. And all that understanding gets translated into her astounding painting and artwork. She immigrated to America as a toddler and her status as an immigrant has shaped her art. Over the summer, the David Douglas High School senior flew to New York City to receive one gold (Best Artist in Grade 11) and three silver awards for her painting at the national Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards held at Carnegie Hall. (Spending 30 to 40 hours a week on her art, she’s the embodiment of the old joke, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.”) “Being able to say, ‘Hey, we did this, with the very little we had in this foreign country, and we deserve to be here just as much as everyone else does’ was an incredibly powerful experience for both my mother and I,” says Petukhova.

This summer, she also attended a prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) program for young artists. How she got there is rather remarkable, too. She’d been accepted into the program, but not given a full scholarship. Petukhova knew there was no way her mother could afford $10,000 plus airfare to send her to the summer intensive. Then The Oregonian published a story about her paintings and the awards she had won. “After The Oregonian’s article was published, I started to receive a flood of emails from different individuals who wanted to help fund my trip,” says Petukhova. “I sold over a dozen different works, and after about 19 days we had come up with almost all of the money needed to pay for the program’s expenses. Some individuals made donations directly to RISD in my name to help pay for the program. It was insane to me how many strangers were dedicated in getting me to this program.”

Petukhova made of the most of her time at RISD, stretching her creative muscles by choosing to study sculpture instead of painting. “I for sure was NOT the best student in the class and I think that was a good thing,” she says. “It taught me as an artist to always seek to challenge myself in all mediums, to not reside in a comfort zone.” And meeting other students from much wealthier backgrounds, seeing them as artistic equals, and calling them friends also had a profound impact on her. “Yes, you do have to work harder than some of the other students because they do have the upper hand in education and finances, but surrounding myself with these students inspired to me work to my fullest potential, to break through and really scrape my way up to the top,” she says. And she wants to bring fellow students from lower-income brackets with her. She hopes to study at NYU, not only because she feels their art program is especially strong, but because she can also take classes that’d be useful for working for a nonprofit someday, perhaps one that specifically helps lower-income kids pay for things like summer art intensives. Follow Ester on Instagram @esterpetu to see more of her work and learn about upcoming shows. — Denise Castañon

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TOP Not-too-crowded Pumpkin Patches

Sure, Sauvie Island offers, great (and often very crowded) pumpkin farms close to home, but these slightly farther afield patches also earn high marks from families.

 The Patch in Woodland, Wash., is a smaller-scale pumpkin patch that focuses on specialty varieties. Hay rides and snacks available on weekends only. Avidgardener.webs.com

➋ Liepold Farms in Boring has a corn maze and “corn pit,” plus beer for the grown-ups. Liepoldfarms.com. 

 Don’t miss the apple cider doughnuts at Bauman’s Farm in Gervais. The $6 admission price (for ages 3 and up) covers a slew of activities, including a hay ride and trip to the animal barn. Two more pricing options include even more bells and whistles.Baumanshf.com

 Bushue’s Family Farm in Boring lets you pick and choose your activities. Little kids will love getting messy making “dirt babies.” Bushuefarming.com

 Families highly recommend Lakeview Farms in North Plains for the friendly staff. Another plus? A train and a boat ride are included with your $5 ticket. Thelakeviewfarms.com. — D.C. 

Bookshelf: Read it again, Mom 

Sometimes, you just can’t take reading The Berenstain Bears at bedtime for one more night, amiright? Here are some new favorites for reading aloud from Kim Tano and Richard Corbett, the children’s book buyers at Powell’s Books, Portland’s legendary independent bookstore.

The Word Collector by Peter H. Reynolds

Some kids collect baseball cards. Some kids collect chewed-up gum (gross, but true.) Jerome, the hero of this sweet picture book, collects words. He loves to look at them, categorize them, and make them into new songs and poetry. Ages 5 and up will respond to this meditation on the power of words and creativity; see if your kids want to start their own word collection when you’re done. $17.99.

Zog and the Flying Doctors by Julia Donaldson, illustrated by Axel Scheffler

From the author and illustrator of Room on the Broom comes the exciting adventure of Princess Pearl and Sir Gadabout, a trusty knight and expert surgeon. Unlike most princesses of her time, Princess Pearl wants to be a doctor, much to the chagrin of her uncle, the king, who thinks princesses should embroider pillows all day. Enter Zog the Dragon, who rescues the princess and Sir Gadabout to fly off to heal magical creatures! Great for ages 4 and up. $17.99.

I’m Just No Good at Rhyming And Other Nonsense for Mischievous Kids and Immature Grown-ups by Chris Harris,  illustrated by Lane Smith

I took this home to my son to read just a few poems, but we couldn’t put it down until we had read every one! Don’t miss the misnumbered pages that can only be sorted by a certain code-cracking poem. It’s a modern-day version of Shel Silverstein and illustrated by a Caldecott honor artist to boot. Great for ages 8 and up. $19.99.

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Told from the point of a view of an urban red oak, this poignant story centers on a neighborhood where people write down their deepest wishes and tie them to the branches of the sturdy tree. But when a new Muslim family moves in, the neighborhood turns against them — can the wishing tree help put things right? $16.99.

Firefly Hollow by Alison McGhee

A treat for all those who are fans of inter-species friendships, à la Charlotte’s Web and The Wind in the Willows. In this novel, a firefly, cricket, vole and a boy named Peter are drawn together one summer, despite familial concerns about mixing with the unfamiliar. This story can be easily read aloud to children 5 and up. $9.99.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

A powerful autobiography told in lyrical verse that explores what it was like for an African American girl to live in the 1960s and ’70s. The heroine deals with struggles of the Jim Crow era, and her growing awareness of the burgeoning civil rights movement. This is a novel that begs to be read aloud. Ages 10 and up. $10.99.

Pay Attention: Giving Kids the Mic

Kids will get the chance to grill Governor Kate Brown and her two challengers Knute Buehler (R) and Patrick Starnes (I) during a televised gubernatorial debate. Children First for Oregon is the debate’s sponsor and has enlisted the help of a youth steering committee. While KOIN-TV anchor Jeff Gianola and Portland Tribune reporter Shasta Kearns Moore will facilitate the debate, all the questions were sourced from kids from around the state. “Students can often bring new ideas and solutions to challenges that previously seem unanswerable,” says 17-year-old Amelia Ernst, a senior at Grant High School and a member of the steering committee. “When youth are given respect and a platform, partnerships between students and politicians can yield amazing results.” Watch the debate on Tuesday, October 2 from 7 pm-8 pm on KOIN 6. — D.C.

We Recommend

Berkeley, California’s Adventure Playground has long been the stuff of legends. Now Portland is following suit with its own version, at a former organic farm site at 13949 SE Stark St. Dubbed Portland Free Play, its organizers envision a space where kids can take risks, try out tools, and generally let their inner wild child roam free. Find out more at pdxfreeplay.org— Julia Silverman

Ask Dr. Doug

Q: We have a very rambunctious 3-year-old. I know that’s pretty normal for this age, but he doesn’t seem able to really focus on things, even bedtime stories. I’m wondering whether there are any early warning signs for ADHD that I should know about — should I have him tested at this age? What can we do to support him besides medication if he does have ADHD? Would behavior therapy help? 

A: Three is exhausting, isn’t it? In addition to all that energy, 3-year-olds add a dose of independence and negativity. “No!” enters their vocabulary more and more. Attention spans are short and tantrums can get more intense. The behavior you’re describing sounds developmentally normal to me (which I know doesn’t make the tough days easier!), but I would encourage you to meet with your pediatrician to discuss your concerns and think of some helpful supports.

ADHD is a specific grouping of behavioral symptoms that includes impulsivity, hyperactivity and inattention — often with big emotional responses and trouble shifting from one thing to the next. Think of ADHD as less “not able to pay attention” and more “trouble regulating attention and emotion.” Kids with ADHD can even get “hyperfocused” on engaging activities, but often have a hard time showing regulation in other situations.

At the same time, I often worry we’re too quick to label behavior a “disease.” Children demonstrate a remarkable level of neurodiversity. That means developmental differences exist along a spectrum and, in many cases with the right supports, can function as strengths in life. In my practice, I approach behavioral concerns by considering whether it is causing impairment or distress. What usually matters more than labels is supporting families to ensure a child’s highest level of functioning with a growth mindset. This means considering a child’s history, environment, nutrition, and sleep when thinking about treatment. Evidence-based therapies such as parent-child interaction therapy can be very helpful. Medication may play an important role, but should never be a knee-jerk response.

A few other thoughts: Kids are not robots, so normal behaviors vary considerably based on age and gender. I often see kindergarteners with summer birthdays get mislabeled as “problem kids” when really they just need a bit more time to develop. And keep in mind, the behaviors we see in children with ADHD overlap substantially with anxiety, learning disabilities, trauma and mood disorders, requiring a thoughtful approach to diagnosis and treatment.

At Metropolitan Pediatrics, I’m lucky to practice with an integrated behavioral health team that includes a psychologist, social worker, and care manager, which allows us to support preschoolers with tantrums and toileting issues all the way up to teens with anxiety, depression, and ADHD. And if your 3-year-old is bouncing off the walls and melting down within minutes of waking up, remember you’re not alone (and maybe put that second pot of coffee on)!

Dr. Doug Lincoln practices general pediatrics at Metropolitan Pediatrics in Happy Valley. He is board certified in both pediatrics and preventive medicine, with special interests in helping parents meet their breastfeeding goals, caring for neurodiverse children with behavioral health needs, and advocating for children via teaching and policy. As a dad of two boys, he understands the joy and hard work that comes with parenting. Find out more about Dr. Doug and Metropolitan Pediatrics at metropediatrics.com.

PDX Parent Staff
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