Playroom March 2017

Kid to Know: The Educator

The issue of transgender-friendly bathrooms has been a flashpoint topic around the country. But that didn’t stop Lincoln High junior Leah Burian from spearheading a project to convert one of her high school’s existing lavatories into a multi-stall, gender-neutral bathroom. (According to a national survey by GLSEN, a nonprofit seeking to improve the education system for LGBTQ students, 59 percent of trans students have been denied access to restrooms consistent with their gender identity.) After Lincoln’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance proposed the project, Burian started making presentations to phys ed and health classes about gender diversity. “I was driven by the opportunity to educate people on the issue and create a more accepting and supportive school community,” she said. After Portland Public Schools approved the project, Burian educated parents, staff and the student body about the need for a gender-neutral bathroom by making speeches, writing press releases, and planning an all-school assembly. The bathroom was completed in November 2016. “Every time trans/GNC [gender nonconforming] students walk by this bathroom, they will be reminded that they are accepted and valued at Lincoln,” she said. But her plan was more ambitious than one bathroom in one school. Burian also provided a working model for other schools to use. Burian’s commitment has earned her the Prudential Spirit of Community Award as Oregon’s high school honoree. She’ll receive $1,000, an engraved silver medal and a trip to Washington, D.C., where she’ll join other honorees from around the country. — Denise Castañon


Getaway: Under-the-Radar Seattle

We all know about Seattle’s Greatest Hits (™) — Pike Place Market, the fish-throwing guy, the Space Needle, Seattle Center. But if you’ve been there, done that and still want to explore the Emerald City and environs with kids? The area’s got plenty of more tucked-away charms to offer. Just getting to the all-new KidsQuest Children’s Museum in Bellevue is an adventure — you get to drive across Lake Washington over the I-520 floating bridge. The light-filled space includes a two-and-a-half story climbing structure and a mini-replica of the Seattle skyline in blocks. Next, make like the locals, pack a picnic and head out for a spin on the Burke-Gilman bike path, a nearly level bike path that runs for miles through the city’s neighborhoods and past its waterways. For food, our Seattle-based friends with kids recommend Wunderkind Cafe in NE Seattle, with almost 1,000 square feet dedicated to Lego play for kids of all ages, plus tasty, healthy treats and even a wine bar for the grown-ups. If you’ve got the time on day 2, hit up Carkeek Park in West Seattle for great views of Puget Sound and the Cascade mountains and miles of relatively uncrowded hiking trails. Hotels in Seattle are expensive; a good alternative could be Airbnbs in family-friendly neighborhoods like Phinney Ridge or Greenwood. Or check out for hotel deals.— Julia Silverman

Good Deeds: Rolling Out the Welcome Mat

Every holiday season, Portland-area sisters-in-law Alysson and Adrienne Enriquez and their families adopt a refugee family, to help them get through their first winter in a new land. This year, they decided to go bigger — much bigger. Right after the November 2016 election, the two started up Butterfly Boxes PDX, to make “welcome kits” for refugee families who were coming to Portland to escape instability and chaos in the Middle East, Africa and beyond, nearly every day.


The backpacks and reusable bags are filled with essentials, from toothbrushes to warm socks, and include a welcome card (a great job for a kid to take on) and given to nonprofits working with these newest Oregonians. But then came the January 2017 ban on refugees from majority Muslim countries from the new administration in Washington, D.C., and the subsequent legal challenges. Alysson and Adrienne say the news of this religious persecution left them reeling, but also made them even more resolute. So for the next few months, at least, they’ll shift to helping the refugees who are here settling in to our communities make certain that they know that they are welcome and safe. There’s a shopping list on their website at that outlines what you’ll need to fill a kit — get together with a group of friends to increase your giving power and organize the backpacks. Every bag sends a powerful message, the founders say: “You are welcome. You are wanted. You are safe.” — J.S.

Gear Guide: Wonder Undies

Parents who’ve potty trained all use the same reverential tone to discuss “big-kid underwear” with their kiddos. Here are a few fun picks for your newly minted “big kid.”

Ultra-soft cotton blends and classic colors and styles make Lucky & Me undies the perfect combo of comfy and cute. We love the lace detailing and sweet rose on the girls’ Ava panties, $30 for a 6 pack. At

Portland-based Hanna Andersson delivers up high-quality, organic underpants in cute styles. The soft cotton and encased elastic make these a smart pick for kids who hate anything scratchy against their skin. Boys unders, $22 for a 3 pack. NW 10th Ave. (Or score a deal at the outlet store, 327 Monroe Pky., Lake Oswego.)

Guess what? They still make Underoos! The top-and-undies sets still feature the good old superheroes you loved as a kid (Wonder Woman, Batman) and some new additions like the Minions. These beloved underpants just might be the motivation your toddler needs to potty train. $19.99. At — D.C.



TOP 5 …Spring Break Jaunts

➊ Pilgrimage to Disneyland, in Anaheim, Calif. Because you’re going to go there at some point in your kid’s life. Surrender to the magic of Mickey, already.
➋ Catch some sun in Tulum, Mexico, seeking out spider monkeys, iguanas and beaches galore.
➌ Hit the slopes at Schweitzer Resort in Sandpoint, Idaho for miles of great terrain in the rugged Selkirk Mountains.
➍ Go urban in breezy Vancouver, B.C., and maybe even catch a glimpse of dreamy Canadian PM
Justin Trudeau.
➎ Take the high road in Sante Fe, N.M., where you can hike the high desert and eat your way through the best in southwestern cuisine. — J.S.

Playlist: Spinning Red Yarn

Portland-area musician Andy Furgeson, aka Red Yarn, has created a whole world of folk-rock and puppetry in his intricately imagined Deep Woods and we love him for it. Soulful and heartfelt, his fourth album, Born in the Deep Woods, isn’t the only recent arrival in Red Yarn’s world; he and wife/singing partner, Jessie Eller-Isaacs, and their son, Lewis, welcomed a baby girl, Mira Ann, last October. Many of the songs (not to mention the cover art featuring a pregnant Jessie) relate to the themes of birth and new beginnings, most notably Little Baby Born Today and the soothing, steel-guitar lullaby, Old Black Dog. And some of the tracks are a departure from Furgeson’s Americana roots and explore the genres that grew out of American folk music, like the Springsteen-esque storytelling rock of Born in the Deep Woods. Or queue up Deep Woods Revisited with its rolling electric guitar that harkens back to the 1969 hit Spirit in the Sky. Another track, Old Mother Goose, will have your kids movin’ like Jagger singing Brown Sugar. Also not to be missed: the precious accompaniment from 3-year-old Lewis on the song Mockingbird. Available at — D.C.

Apps We Love: Podcast Mania!

It just so happens that we are living in a golden age of podcasts for kids. It’s the perfect thing to keep ’em occupied during your spring break road trip. Here are a few of our faves.

The Radio Adventures of Eleanor Amplified: Our heroine, Eleanor Amplified, is Brenda Starr for the 21st century. From WHYY in Philadelphia, each episode follows the plucky Eleanor as she attempts to get to the bottom of a Pulitzer-level story, from locales as varied as outer space and the halls of Congress.

Got a kid who wants to know how the Internet actually works? Or how whales communicate? Or even why we burp? Try Brains On!, a science bonanza aimed at the elementary school set, from the smart folks at Minnesota Public Radio.

Kids can make podcasts, too. Take the teens and tweens behind the Radio Rookies podcast from WNYC. They tell their stories, opening a window onto their worlds. Your kids will be glued to their every word, and you
will too. — J.S.

Ask Dr. Corey: BMI GUY

Q: My 7-year-old is in the 85th percentile for weight and 88th percentile for Body Mass Index (BMI), but only the 62nd percentile for height. But he’s very active and strong, eats reasonably well, and doesn’t appear overweight. Should I be concerned?

A: Great question! According to the Centers for Disease Control, the percentage of children with obesity (BMI > 95th percentile for age and gender) has tripled since the 1970s. A BMI between the 85th percentile and the 95th percentile is generally considered overweight and a BMI less than the 85th percentile is considered healthy.

However, the important thing to realize is that the BMI is a screening tool and not necessarily a firm diagnosis. For example, muscle is generally more dense than fat, meaning that it weighs more for a given volume. It is not uncommon to see highly muscular children with BMIs that are slightly elevated compared to their less muscular peers.

The reason we get so concerned about BMI (aside from the fact that elevations are so much more common these days) is that having an elevated BMI is a risk factor for all sorts of unpleasant health outcomes, including diabetes and heart disease.

What I always tell my patients and their parents is that the most important things you can do to prevent unhealthy outcomes are to limit screen time, promote daily physical activity, and eat a colorful plate with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

In your particular case, I would continue to focus on a healthy lifestyle and follow the BMI over time to make sure it doesn’t continue to climb faster than it should.

Chalkboard: Clean Air Update

A year after news broke that a glass-making facility in inner SE Portland was emitting toxic levels of cadmium and arsenic into surrounding residential neighborhoods, a much broader effort is underway to clean up the air that Oregonians breathe statewide. Officials from the state Department of Environmental Quality have sent letters to almost
1,300 industrial facilities statewide, requesting information on the levels of chemicals they are emitting into the air. The goal is to develop a database of what’s happening where, so that state officials can better regulate industrial emissions, based on potential human health hazards. And Oregon’s casting a wide net — based on prior legislation in Washington, California and at the federal level, a wide variety of potentially harmful toxics could be curbed. Current regulations don’t cap the total amount of contaminants that a facility may release, and don’t factor in the potential effects of industrial pollution on those who live nearby. It’s not a quick fix process — new rules won’t be proposed until the end of this year. But here’s hoping all this change brings a breath or two of fresh air. For more info, visit — J.S. 

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