Play Room March 2018

Take Five: Erika Probst

Erika Probst, a mother of two, felt right at home when she moved to Hillsboro in 2009. Her neighbors were friendly and welcoming — and came from across the globe from Barbados to South Korea to Mexico and Hungary. After the 2016 election she was saddened to hear that her friend who wears a hijab was scared to walk down the street. So she wrote a children’s book, Friends on My Street, to show the value of love and acceptance. It’s available on Amazon. For more info on cultural celebrations, visit:


Q: What’s so special about your street in Hillsboro?

A: Washington County is the most diverse county between Vancouver, B.C. and San Francisco. With Intel and Nike, we have a lot of people moving to this area from other countries. When a new neighbor moves in, we welcome them to the street, introduce ourselves, and invite them to our neighborhood get-togethers. This in turn has allowed all of us to get to know each other and feel connected. Our commonality is that we all are connected as neighbors who have become friends.

Q: You’re a nurse educator, not a writer by trade. Why did you want to write a children’s book about your neighborhood?

A: I have always enjoyed creative writing. But in 2016 at our annual 4th of July street BBQ, one of our neighbors, who is from Nigeria and had just moved to our neighborhood, stood in awe. He kept repeating things like, “I can’t believe you do this, you just have everyone come!” “This is the best street ever!” “Everyone needs to see this street, it is what truly represents America!” His words resonated with me and I really did want to share the beauty of our street.

Q: You self-published. What was that process like?


A: I looked around at several companies that worked with authors who self-published. Ultimately, I went with Gatekeeper Press. Their prices were reasonable, and I was familiar with their work. In March of 2017, I was one of 80 women who had an essay published in a collection of essays and poems written by women from 48 states across the country. Because the proceeds of that book went to a non-profit, Gatekeeper Press published that book pro-bono. That showed me the integrity of the company, and I wanted to support that.

Q: What do your neighbors think about the book?

A: My neighbors have all been so excited. Many from different countries are also touched that I took the time to write about them. My neighbor from Nigeria told me that everyone needs to read this book to see what our country is really about.

Q: What do you hope kids take away from your book?

A: I hope children see the beauty of our differences. I hope they celebrate that the world is beautiful in its diversity. I hope this also lets children who may be feeling unaccepted due to their culture know that they are special. — Denise Castañon

TOP 5 …Easter-basket treats

➊ Moonstruck Chocolate Co. never fails in the cute department and their spring offerings of eggs and farm critters are no exception (and they are much more reasonably sized for kids). But if you are set on a big, beautiful chocolate in an Easter basket, we are smitten with their solid milk chocolate spring chicken, $15.

➋ Food allergies are no match for vegan chocolatier Missionary Chocolates. All of their Easter bunnies and eggs are dairy, gluten and nut-free. They even have soy-free and sugar-free offerings. Sold in sets of 2 ($6) and 5 ($15). 2712 NE Glisan St.

➌ Love all things retro? Check out the throwback Easter bunnies from Woodblock Chocolate. The dark chocolate or milk chocolate treats were made in vintage molds.

➍ Just want some plain truffles (that you can steal after the kids go to sleep)? Creo Chocolate’s award-winning truffles fit the bill. 5-piece box $12.50. 122 NE Broadway.

➎ No foil wrappers here. For the ultimate fancy chocolate bunny, go for Alma Chocolate’s 23-karat, edible gold leaf rabbit. 140 NE 28th Ave.— D.C.

Getaway: Granger, Washington

Dino-obsessed kids will go crazy for this tiny Yakima County town in central Washington, which is packed with inventive, life-sized dinosaur sculptures. Make it a scavenger hunt, and seek ’em all out, from a green velociraptor to a brown triceratops. Most of the lifesize models (and yes, the kids can climb on them — in fact, it’s encouraged) are in Hisey and Raptor Parks, but some spill into the quaint downtown, from city hall to the public library. Pick up souvenir dinosaur regalia at the Dinostore at the park (open weekends only). If you happen to be visiting the first weekend in June, you can help the locals construct the latest dino model (They’re currently at 32 and counting.) Last year, they added a Megalosaurus, which now stands by the entrance of Hisey Park. That area is also home to a manmade pond which is stocked for year-round fishing, as well as a boat launch to the nearby Yakima River. Granger is too small for hotels, so you’ll most likely stay about 20 miles away in Yakima — try the boutique Hotel Maison, where they can help you plan a tour of area wineries, once the kids are done with the dino-inspired adventures. — Julia Silverman

Bookshelf: Great Graphics

The graphic novels genre for kids is exploding with new series, engaging storylines and eye-popping art. We asked Kim Tano and Richard Corbett, the children’s book buyers at Powell’s Books and our regular Bookshelf contributors, to choose this season’s most notable graphic novels for young readers.

Catstronauts: Space Station Situation by Drew Brockington
The third entry in this super-fun series has chief science officer Pom Pom rejoining the Catstronauts on the International Space station. But what will happen when pilot Waffles is forced to orbit the space station in nothing but his space suit? Ages 6 and up. $16.99 in hardcover.

Narwhal & Jelly: Peanut Butter & Jelly by Ben Clanton
Narwhal likes peanut butter. So much that he wants to change his name to (you guessed it) peanut butter. Sensible Jelly, his best friend, is dubious — but both buddies learn some great lessons about trying new things in the third in this popular series by Tacoma-based Clanton. Great for ages 6 and up. $12.99.

Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel by L.M. Montgomery adapted by Mariah Marsden, illustrated by Brenna Thummler
L.M. Montgomery’s spunky and timeless heroine is enjoying a renaissance of late, with a new Netflix series based on the books, and now this delicately illustrated adaption. Montgomery’s original text is full of passionate descriptions of the beauty of Prince Edward Island in Nova Scotia; here, younger readers can get a visual of Anne’s Avonlea. $10.99.

The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag
In 13-year-old Aster’s family, the girls are all raised as witches while the boys are raised as shapeshifters. But Aster is fascinated with the forbidden art of witchcraft in this warm graphic novel that challenges gender roles. Perfect for ages 8 and up. $12.99.

Misfit City by Kirsten Kiwi Smith and Kurt Lustgarten
From the screenwriter of Legally Blonde comes this awesome, Goonies-inspired adventure tale set in a Pacific Northwest coastal town where nothing ever happens … until our heroes find a mysterious treasure map. Best for ages 10 and up. $14.99.

Playlist: Up the Beanstalk

What happens when you take a classic fairy tale and turn it into a folk-rock opera for kids? Something magical. Beanstalk Jack, from the Paper Canoe Company, musically tells the tale of poor daydreamer Jack who trades his mother’s cow for some magic beans. While Jack is on solid ground, the tunes adhere to folksy bluegrass and country styles (my 3-year-old son loved the fiddles on Let Me Be and Lucky Jack). But once Jack climbs up the beanstalk, he discovers the castles of giants, where they have electric guitars … and rock ‘n roll. The track Lonely Boy, sung by Paper Canoe co-founder Tami Stronach (who you may remember as The Childlike Empress from the ’80s classic movie The Neverending Story) reminded me very much of The Hollies 1966 hit Bus Stop. And both my kids especially liked the giant’s song Fee Fi Fo Fum. This album is so unique in today’s kid’s music landscape and truly something special. On iTunes and Amazon. — D.C.

Good Deeds: Kinship House

After years in and out of foster care, many kids struggle with traumatic mental health issues. Clinicians at Northeast Portland-based Kinship House help them navigate those feelings, and learn how to process them, using many tools, including art as a way to express things for which kids can’t find the words. But helping about 350 kids a year means a lot of art supplies are needed — you can help! Throw an art supply drive potluck for friends and neighbors, and ask everyone to bring new art supplies for the Kinship kids — think blank scrapbooks and journals, stickers, colored pencils, scissors, and glue sticks. (Tip: Make a spreadsheet beforehand and share it with the party guests so that everyone can see what’s already been bought. An Amazon wishlist would work, too.) You can drop off the supplies any time at Kinship House, and find out about other volunteer opportunities while you are there, too, including cleanup days at their onsite play room and garden space. — J.S.

Ask Dr. Corey:

Q: I need to talk to someone about poop, or lack thereof. Specifically, my 4-month-old has not had a bowel movement in over a week. She’s exclusively breastfed. I’m kind of panicking — is there anything I can do to move things along, so to speak?

A: Constipation is an incredibly common issue in children. Most of the time it is pretty easy to treat, often by just modifying diet, but if left untreated it can become a big problem.

Before we go any further, it’s important to define constipation based not on how often a child has a bowel movement, but the firmness of the bowel movements they do have. It’s not that uncommon for breastfed infants to go up to a week or sometimes even a little more between bowel movements. As long as the stool is soft, however, it’s typically fine.

If you sense that it’s been several days since the last bowel movement and you think your child is in discomfort, you can always try adding a few ounces of prune or pear juice daily for a few days to see if that gets things moving. In my opinion, it’s safe to try this method if the baby is at least 4 months old, though some providers suggest waiting until 6 months to introduce sustenance beyond breast milk or formula. The other option for babies is to simply take a rectal temperature. Sometimes just the gentle stimulation of this will be enough to trigger a bowel movement.

For babies, if it’s been a week or more since the last bowel movement, an appointment with a health care provider is usually a good idea to make sure there’s not some reason for the infrequent stools.

When it comes to constipation in older children, the common culprit is a combination of picky eating and holding stool when they feel the urge to go. The holding behavior can be due to fear of having a bowel movement or because the new Lego set or book is just too darn good to put down and they can’t be bothered to use the bathroom when they need to.

For older children, changing the diet a bit can also work wonders. I typically recommend adding a handful of dried prunes at breakfast in addition to lots of water and some prune or pear juice. Fiber gummy vitamins are available over the counter and are a great option for added fiber in kids who are old enough for these types of medicines to not present a choking hazard.

As with babies, for older kids who continue to have problems despite the recommendations above, an appointment with a health care provider is a great idea. It’s usually not advisable to start using suppositories or other over the counter constipation remedies without first consulting your child’s care provider.

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