Great gardening gear, the lowdown on car seats and tips on cleaning out the clutter from a local blogger.
In 2015, Southeast Portland’s Chris Routly, a stay-at-home dad to sons Tucker and Coltrane, was voted President of the National At-Home Dad Network, a nonprofit that provides support and education to fathers who are primary caregivers. He also keeps busy blogging and jamming with the kindie music group Micah & Me.
Q: You’ve taken a big stance against the image of the “bumbling dad” that’s often portrayed on TV shows and commercials. Why is it important for our kids to not buy into this stereotype?
A: People often underestimate how much we are all influenced by media. The message is almost always that caring for children is not something men do, and that it’s something women are better at. It sets a very clear expectation for what a boy’s role will be someday when he is a father — that he will always be, at best, a secondary parent. This hurts everyone — not just boys who feel they cannot express their nurturing side, or new fathers who are valued only for their paycheck, but moms who will continue to carry extra societal parenting expectations and burdens.
Q: You organize the PDX Dads Meetup group. What kind of get-togethers do you hold?
A: We have regular meet-ups at local parks, story and music times, and even a “Dad Jam” where guys can come with their instrument and play along. We also do monthly “Dad’s Night Out.” (More info at pdxdadsgroup.com.)
Q: Do you have any favorite play spots in Portland that are specifically geared toward stay-at-home dads?
A: I have been a big fan of Hopworks Urban Brewery ever since we were new to town. I just happened to take my boys on the day that they were doing their monthly “Tot Tuesday” story and craft time. It’s now one of my favorite PDX Dads Group events.
Seahorses PDX has been a great addition to the scene. It’s a baby boutique geared toward dads, but it has also been set up as a great place to just go hang out. There is a secure play area set up for little ones, free coffee, and they host lots of fun events.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your book, Sometimes You Need a Jellyfish?
A: My son inspired me with a great idea for a funny kid’s book about jellyfish. He helped me write it, then I illustrated it. I ran a successful Kickstarter to finance printing it this past year. You can find it locally in stores including A Children’s Place Bookstore or online at JellyfishBook.com!
Q: The National At-Home Dads Convention will be held in Portland in the fall of 2017. What type of events are slated?
A: So we’re very excited to be bringing it here in 2017. It’s the first time coming to Portland, and only the second time in its 20-plus year history that it’s come to the West Coast. We’re still in the early planning stages, but the At-Home Dads Convention is sort of a hybrid of a professional development conference for dads who have taken on the role of primary caregiver, and a retreat for those same dads. Speakers and breakout sessions are not set yet, but tend to be about educating and equipping men to be better dads and caregivers. Find out more at AtHomeDad.org. — Denise Castañon
Seattle gets all the love, right? But here’s the deal: Sister city Tacoma is closer to Portland, significantly cheaper, way less crowded and full of kid-friendly attractions to explore. Start at the city’s world renowned Museum of Glass, featuring amazing works by favorite native son Dale Chihuly, like his 500-foot-long bridge of glass. The museum hosts regular family days, including an Easter egg tack fusing project set for March 12 and 13, but even without that, it’s fun and fascinating to watch real glass artists at work in the museum’s “hot shop.” Or head down to Point Defiance Park and check out Fort Nisqually, once the first European settlement on Puget Sound and now a living history museum. Volunteers in period dress are ready to take your kids’ questions at the blacksmith’s shop and down by the stockades. Nearby, take in the views of towering Mount Rainier at Owen Beach. You can fly a kite, rent a kayak, or even hop a ferry to Vashon Island. When it’s time to eat, hang your hat at local icon Harmon’s Brewing Company, and top it off with a scoop or two from Ice Cream Social, Tacoma’s answer to PDX’s Salt and Straw. Book a room at the hip Hotel Murano in downtown Tacoma and check for special family-friendly packages, like discounted museum tickets.
— Julia Silverman
➊ Southeast’s Warehouse Café offers live kindie entertainment five days a week at 10 am. (And they very smartly stock squishy packs at kid height.)
➋ Catch Mr. Ben on Wednesdays at 10 am at POA Café in NoPo.
➌ Third Fridays of the month, drop in at Sellwood’s Pied Piper Play Café for the Micah and Me show.
➍ Hit up Sub Zero Ice Cream & Yogurt in West Linn, for a scoop and storytime with Olive and Dingo Thursdays at 1 pm.
➎ Insiders know to hit Mississippi Pizza from 5 pm-7 pm on the second Thursday of the month to hear the Mo Phillips/Red Yarn/Johnny & Jason super group, The Soggy Buns.
Imagine that the ’90s alternative girl band Veruca Salt released a kid-appropriate rock album and you’ve got a good idea of what The Not-Its! new album Are You Listening? sounds like. Not surprising, since the Seattle’s group lead singer, Sarah Shannon, fronted the ’90s indie-pop band Velocity Girl and the drummer, Michael Welke, was a member of Harvey Danger. This contagiously high-energy album rocks from start to finish with in-your-face guitar licks and head-banging beats. Plus the tracks feature lyrics to crack up moms and dads like this one from Done with the Science Fair: “Looking up potato clocks online, mom says she needs another glass of wine.” Standout tracks also include Granddad Is a Spy and Don’t Fear the Dentist. Catch the Not-Its! on Sunday, March 13 at 4 pm at the Village Ballroom, $8 in advance, $10 at the door. woodlawnswapnplay.org/fallwinter-family-concerts.
The old rhyme says it best: Make new friends/But keep the old/One is silver/And the other’s gold. Here are six great books about friendship from Kim Tano and Richard Corbett, the children’s book buyers at Portland’s iconic Powell’s Books.
My New Friend Is So Fun! An Elephant & Piggie Book by Mo Willems
Good news: Piggie has a new friend! Bad news: Gerald the Elephant feels left out and jealous. Follow along as Gerald learns that three can be a magic number. Part of the wonderful Elephant & Piggie series, this one teaches a valuable lesson about friendship with humor and creativity. $9.99.
Stick and Stone by Beth Ferry, illustrations by Tom Lichtenheld
When Stone is bullied by a prickly pinecone, Stick comes to his defense using his words, because that’s what friends do. Lovely illustrations and rhyming text make this book a charming read. $16.99.
Ivy & Bean Book One by Annie Barrows
This is the first one of the popular chapter book series about Ivy and Bean, two 7-year-old neighbors on fictional Pancake Court who are as different as can be, but manage to become best buddies anyway. $5.99.
Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel
No kid should grow up without the stories of the adventures of these two besties, optimistic, sunny Frog and cautious, loyal Toad. You get five short stories in one, including our personal favorite, “The Letter,” in which Frog, rather unfortunately, chooses a tortoise to deliver a letter he has written to Toad. $3.99.
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
Older kids will be moved by this YA novel about overcoming the sudden death of a friend. The novel’s narrator, Suzy, is seeking answers — from why her friend Franny had to die to why her parents had to get divorced. In the end, making new friends helps her find her way forward. $17.
Phoebe and Her Unicorn by Dana Simpson
Fourth grade Phoebe skips rocks in the pond and — as one does — accidentally hits a unicorn. The unicorn (named Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, natch) grants Phoebe one wish. No fool Phoebe, she wishes for Marigold Heavenly Nostrils to become her best friend. The first of three graphic novels by a witty, feminist comic who was born in the Pacific Northwest and now lives in Seattle. $9.99.
Spring in Portland means it’s time to get busy in the garden — and what’s more natural for a kid than digging in the dirt? Get them started on their own patch with our picks for great kiddo-sized gardening gear.
Toysmith Kids Big Tool Set: We’re big fans of the sturdy, wooden garden tools made by Sumner, Wash.-based Toysmith. These are just the right size for little hands, and won’t break or splinter easily. The set includes a hoe, a long-handled shovel and two rakes — and bonus, all of this will easily double as sand toys come summer. $26.99. Kids at Heart and Portland Nursery.
Melissa and Doug Be Good To Bugs Gardening Gloves: They don’t call us the Rose City for nothing, so protect your kids from thorns and other garden ouchies with these cute, primary-colored gardening gloves from American staple Melissa and Doug. They make cute butterfly printed gloves, too! $8.99. Amazon.com and Dennis’ Seven Dees Garden Centers.
Green Toys Watering Can: Famously made in the United States from 100 percent recycled plastic milk jugs, this watering can will come in handy when the spring rains peter out. Note the easy-pour spout (so the water won’t gush out and drown tender seedlings.) This set includes a small rake and shovel, too, and is equally fun in the bathtub. $16.99. New Seasons Market.
If you feel like toys have taken over your house, you’re not alone. Blogger Valerie Cooper, a work at-home mom and a recent transplant to Portland’s eastside, started 20mugs.wordpress.com to keep track of her mission to minimize the stuff in her life. And that means fighting the good fight against her 15-month-old son’s overflowing toy chests. Her list of ideas include investing in multi use toys like Legos or blocks, and rotating toys in and out of storage so they feel like new again. She doesn’t consider herself to be a true minimalist, simply an explorer of a “Less is More” lifestyle. And sometimes that’s hard, like when she had to scale back on her prized collection of sticks. “I don’t know what it is about sticks, but I love them, and I collect them,” she writes in a post. “I have in fact used said sticks for a craft. ONCE. … As we packed up for Oregon, I came across my beloved collection. … I really did NOT want to let go of them. Mitch witnessed me having this moment of introspection and with a stifled chuckle said, ‘You can’t take those.’ I pouted and briefly disputed, but he followed up with, ‘Val … We’re moving to OREGON. Oregon probably has BETTER sticks than California.’ So I only packed 5 of them.”
If you’ve ever packed up the kids to go to the grocery store just to get out of the house, then Store to Door is the nonprofit for you. Volunteers with Store to Door gather the grocery lists of homebound seniors and people with disabilities, do their shopping for them and then deliver the groceries, household items and prescriptions. If you sign up as a volunteer shopper, you can bring your kids. Volunteers can commit to weekly hours or just one-time shifts through Hands On Portland. Additionally, Store to Door is a partner with the Multnomah County Gatekeeper program, so a delivery volunteer can report if a client needs helps to continue living safely and independently. For more information visit storetodooroforegon.org.
Some babies hate riding in the car, and start to scream as soon as it comes into view. Some are out like a light the second they are strapped into a car seat. (Must be all that traffic white noise.) But no matter what, kids need to be in some form of a car seat from birth until at least age 8. It’s a matter of safety: According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, in 2013, 638 children ages 0-12 were killed in car crashes across the country, and a shocking 38 percent of those kids were not in any kind of safety restraint. So here’s our rules to live by for all things car seat: Face them backwards until they are at least 2, per the AAP’s guidelines. Turn the car seat around after that (though you can hold out longer if your kid doesn’t protest), but keep your child in a seat with a five-point safety harness until they are at least 4 years old or 40 pounds. Plenty of car seats will hold kids up to 60 pounds, but as kids hit elementary school they may want to switch to a booster seat. Keep them in there until they are at least 57 inches tall or around 80 pounds. Statistics also show that plenty of car seats are incorrectly installed, so make a point of stopping by one of the handy free clinics offered by Kohl’s at OHSU’s Doernbecher Children’s Hospital. Call to make an appointment during normal business hours, or hit up one of their monthly come one, come all events; this month’s is Saturday, March 5, from 9 am-11:30 am, at the Bethany Doernbecher Pediatric Clinic, 15220 NW Laidlaw in Portland.
Q: I’ve been following the new research that suggests that infants be given trace amounts of peanut products at young ages, to ward off nut allergies. What’s your take on this?
Prior to 2012, before the last major re-hash of the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology (say that three times fast) guidelines, advice around introduction of solid foods had been pretty stagnant for some time. The usual advice included such things like no nut products until after a year of age and no shellfish until 2 years old.
The most major change included in the 2012 guidelines, in my opinion, was around introduction of solid foods. It turns out that beyond introducing solid foods at 4 to 6 months and, for mothers able and choosing to do so, breastfeeding exclusively for the first 4 to 6 months of life, there isn’t much to be gained from an allergy standpoint on waiting to introduce some of the “classically” allergenic foods.
A recent analysis of the Learning Early About Peanut allergy (LEAP) study data has shown that there may be a decrease in peanut allergy for babies given nut products between 4 to 11 months old versus children given these products after they turn 1. (Obviously we’re talking about nut butters here, as whole nuts constitute a pretty major choking hazard for babies that young.)
Given the concerns over the rising levels of nut allergies, this data represents an exciting development for parents to try to minimize their child’s chances of nut allergy.
As always, if you need more information about this or have specific concerns, please discuss them with your child’s physician. And don’t forget that honey and whole milk should still absolutely be avoided before a year of age for reasons other than potential allergy.
Dr. Corey Fish, a Pacific Northwest native and graduate of the University of Washington School of Medicine, is a pediatrician at Sellwood Medical Clinic. When he is not at work, he likes backcountry skiing with his wife and their border collie/Australian shepherd mix, and playing his guitar. For more info: sellwoodmd.com. Got a question for Dr. Corey? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll pass it along.