Playroom September 2016

Take Five: Helen Anderson
Getaway: Oregon Wine Country
TOP 5 … new kids’ stores
We Recommend
Apps We Love: Special Needs
Gear Guide: Keeping Time
Kids to Know: The Innovators
Playlist: New School
Chalkboard: Get the Lead Out
Ask Dr. Corey: Lead Testing


Take Five: Helen Anderson


Helen Anderson has many titles: ER nurse, mom, inventor and Mrs. Oregon 2016. In 2008, this McMinnville mother of three built a company called Milkies and created the Milk-Saver, a product that helps breastfeeding moms save every drop of milk. After selling the company in 2013, Anderson went back to school to earn a Master of Science in Nursing. She continues to blog and oversee product development for Milkies.Play_Room_-_Take_5

Q: What was your inspiration for creating the Milkies Milk-Saver?

A: I worked 12-hour shifts as a nurse in a busy emergency room, so I needed a good freezer stash of breast milk. One day I noticed how much I leaked from the non-nursing breast when my son was breastfeeding. I started balancing a bottle under my breast to collect the milk and realized I was wasting two ounces at every feeding. I looked for a product that could collect my milk during the breastfeeding session and nothing existed. After a few false starts, I designed a prototype, tested it and it worked.

Q: How did you take the next step and turn Milkies into a worldwide brand?

A: I was fortunate to have formed relationships with other moms who were building companies. We partnered up to promote each other, share the costs of advertising and divvy up the cost of public relations campaigns. The mom-entrepreneur community is extremely welcoming and supportive.


Q: Do you have some tips to help moms keep breastfeeding after they go back to work?

A: Nurse on demand to get your milk supply off to a good start. Start pumping and storing milk about four weeks before returning to work. Don’t worry if you don’t pump much at first. At work, try to pump as often as your baby eats, or at least every three to four hours. Lactation works on supply and demand, so the more you empty your breast, the more milk you will make.

Q: What has been your focus as reigning Mrs. Oregon?

A: Service as a family activity. We volunteer together in our community with our Cub Scout troop. It’s a great way to instill a strong work ethic and get kids in the habit of giving back.

Q: How do you achieve a healthy work-life balance?

A: In the early days of Milkies it was a one-woman show. I had no balance and I am so grateful my husband Brian stuck with me and helped out. Now I have a much better balance. I have a to-do list with the time each task will begin and I put my phone and laptop away when my kids get home from school. My workday has an end time.

For more from Helen, including her tips on how to get your boss on board with breastfeeding, check out

— Denise Castañon

Getaway: Oregon Wine Country


No need to leave the kids behind when you head to wine country. There’s plenty for them to do amidst the rolling hills. Bring your binoculars and hike the trails at nearby Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge, a noted stopover for migratory birds of all stripes. Or detour to Champoeg State Park in St. Paul, to check out a log-cabin replica of a home built by Oregon pioneers, and cruise the wide bike paths.

But let’s be real: You’re here for the wine. Our pick is Brooks Winery in Amity, for its family-friendly vibe, from the sprawling lawn to the badminton court to the regular pizza nights and concerts they host.

Or visit Stoller Family Estates, with a tire swing and a frisbee golf course on the premises. For dinner, get down and dirty with the fare at Storrs Smokehouse on Newberg’s main drag — think ribs, brisket, pulled pork— meat heaven, basically (but with ample sides for the vegetarians in your group).

Take in a double feature at the old-school drive-through movie theater in Newberg, then drift off to sleep in a tricked-out throwback trailer from the folks at The Vintages, with a prime location between Dundee and McMinnville— peep the fleet at— Julia Silverman

TOP 5 … new kids’ stores

  1. The focus is on thoughtful toys and building strong community at Hammer + Jacks. Your kids will love the awesome in-store play structure. 6416 SE Foster Rd.
  2. Cute as a Button Baby Boutique has a new brick-and-mortar location to complement the online store started by Wilsonville mom Kayti Graham. 2170 8th Court, West Linn.
  3. Ignite your kid’s passionate for science, technology, engineering and math with a stop at iSpark Toys. 925 NE Orenco Station Loop, Hillsboro.
  4. Hello! Good Morning! packs a world of cuteness — Japanese miniatures, Mexican ceramics and locally made mice toys — into one store that appeals to kids and their grown-ups. The littles will love the “please touch everything” attitude. 2419 NE Broadway.
  5. Eden and Faith Boutique offers up adorable selections for fashionistas who love frills. 13175 SE Sunnyside Rd., Happy Valley.

— D.C

We Recommend
The totally delectable Great British Baking Show, now streaming on Netflix and PBS. Oh, to live in a world where cake is referred to as “sponge,” cookies are “biscuits” and dessert always goes down a treat.— J.S.

Apps We Love: Special Needs

Maybe you have a toddler who doesn’t make much eye contact, or a preschooler who has real trouble picking up on playground social cues or can’t settle down at circle time, or a child who is on the autism spectrum.

Apps can be a great tool for your family, but choose carefully. You’re looking for choices that feature people, instead of abstract concepts, plus plenty of time for a child to respond, audible positive reinforcement and not too much action that might be overly stimulating. Here are two of our top picks.PlayRoom-AppsWeLove-SettleYourGlitter

Settle Your Glitter: This dreamy snowglobe of an app is a sneaky emotion-regulation tool that’s especially good for kids who struggle with hyperactivity. The app invites them to name how they are feeling, rate the strength of their feeling and then focus on their breath to calm down as glitter drifts and settles in the onscreen snowglobe. For iPhone, iPad and Android. Free.




Touch and Learn Emotion: Special needs kids often struggle with reading cues from teachers and their peers. This app can help— kids are shown pictures of people in all different kinds of situations and asked to identify their emotions, facial expressions and body language clues. Best of all, it can be customized with your own photos. For iPhone and iPad, $1.99.— J.S.


Gear Guide: Keeping Time

Sigh. No more summer means back to alarm clocks and schedules. Your kids will be on time and in style with our picks for awesome wristwatches designed just for them. (Because they are too young yet for their phones to be their timepieces, right?)

— J.S.



Lego Kids’ Watch: If you let your kids pick, dollars to donuts they’ll go for this one. They get to build the watch strap themselves, and it even comes with a cool detachable mini-fig (Yoda, Batman, various Lego friends.) $25. At Kids at Heart, Powells.



FlikFlak: Remember when Swatches were all the rage? Well, they’re back with their kid-approved FlikFlak line — think hip, new styling, but the same trusty Swiss machinery. $50-$65.




WobL: A digital face, for those who haven’t quite got the hang of telling time — but even better, this watch can be set for alarms to vibrate discretely. If you’ve got a school-bound kid who still needs reminders to use the potty, this could be just the ticket. $36.




Kids to Know: The Innovators

Play_Room_-_Kids_to_Know-ko-1You’ve probably seen the meme: Sitting is the new smoking. And while standing desks are a big hit in trendy, fitness-conscious Silicon Forest workplaces, they haven’t really made inroads in U.S. classrooms yet. Three Catlin Gabel students want to change that. Seniors Allie Rosenfeld and Angela Liu, and recent graduate Claudia Bueerman (who heads to Whitman College this fall) started StandTall desks.

All three worked on the prototypes of lightweight desk additions that allow students to stand in the classroom while doing their work. (The theory is that standing helps kids concentrate in the classroom, though medical studies on the long-term health benefits of standing are mixed.) In April 2016, they took their company idea to PitchFestNW and earned a spot as one of five finalists. “It was initially a little intimidating to be in a room among adult CEOs, but empowering to know that we stood among them as equals,” says Liu. “We were thrilled by the positive response we received.”

Over the summer Liu and Rosenfeld snagged a coveted spot working in Traction Labs office space in Silicon Valley. There, they’ve received invaluable mentoring and networking connections. They’ve sold about 20 desk additions so far, but have big plans for the company. “We truly believe that standing desks are the future, and we ultimately hope to give every school in America the ability to provide their students with standing desks,” says Liu. Visit their website to learn more:— D.C.

Playlist: New School

Play_Room_-_PlaylistWhen kids’ music has you boppin’ your head and swaying to the beat while your kids are listening, you know it’s something special. And there’s so much to love about the Alphabet Rockers new album The Playground Zone. First off, it really brings me back to junior high when I listened to (now) OG hip-hop from Young MC, Queen Latifah and Dr. Dre. But what I love most is the positivity flowing out my speakers from duo Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Shephard, Jr. Tracks Gimme Some Skin, Oddball and Change the World provide timely and much-needed messages about the beauty of diversity to the generation who will be the (next) ones to change our world. And finally Players’ Life is the perfect opportunity to embarrass (or delight) your kids by bustin’ out some old-school moves of your own.— D.C.

Chalkboard: Get the Lead Out

Sept16_Chalkboard_GetLeadOut copy

Administrators at Portland Public Schools dropped the bombshell last May, late on a Friday afternoon before a holiday weekend: Tests of the drinking water in the fountains at two eastside schools — tests that the district only did after pressure from parents at each school — had revealed high lead levels, beyond what the Environmental Protection Agency considers acceptable. Moreover, the district had known about the testing for more than a month without notifying families.

The reaction was immediate: Drinking fountains around the district were shut down, system-wide testing began and parents all over the city flocked to get their kids tested for lead, which can cause serious damage to the developing brain and nervous system. Tests this summer have found that nearly all Portland area schools have lead issues.

So what’s next? The state is considering a mandate that districts around Oregon must regularly test their water and submit an annual public report of the results. Meanwhile, voluntary tests have found scattered elevated levels in Beaverton and Lake Oswego, among other districts. Private schools and preschools across the metro area, many of which are in older buildings that might have lead fixtures, are ordering their own tests. And an independent investigation found evidence of mismanagement and lack of oversight on the lead issue at PPS.

In the wake of the report, longtime school superintendent Carole Smith stepped down immediately. Drinking fountains remain out of commission at PPS schools; there will be filtered water dispensers instead.— J.S.

Ask Dr. Corey

Q: I’ve been reading the news about high lead levels in the water at local schools and getting concerned. Should I have my kids tested? What happens if the tests show a problem?

A: It seems as if each day brings another disturbing news story of environmental pollutants, heavy metals and toxic ooze. It’s no small wonder then that parents are left questioning what all this means for their children. Almost as disturbing to me, however, is the lack of easily accessible, high-quality information that is available to parents. So let’s try to shed some light on this complicated problem.

Lead exposure happens in all sorts of ways. (The most obvious source in the Portland area is old, lead-containing paint.) Routine lead screening for children has been recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics since 1991. However unless a specific risk factor is found, testing children older than 3 is not recommended, because it’s highly unusual to see elevated lead levels in older kids.

The good news is that in 1991, around 9 percent of children had a lead level higher than 10 (all lead levels in this article are expressed as micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood). Today, only 2.6 percent of children have a lead level greater than or equal to 5, which is the current cutoff value for a “safe” versus “unsafe” lead level. That’s because of changes in consumer safety standards, plus more awareness among lawmakers, businesses and consumers.

The average lead level in U.S. children ages 1-5 is less than 2. For levels between 2 and 5, your child’s health care provider should retest the lead level in six to 12 months if there is high risk of increase (defined as a renovation of an older home or if the home is poorly maintained). A more detailed discussion of management of levels greater than 5 should be handled by your child’s medical provider.

Unfortunately, there is a mounting body of evidence that suggests there may be some negative health effects at levels less than 10 and possibly less than 5. Of course other variables can be contributing to these same effects, and it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint lead as the culprit. But take heart— a lead level of 1 or 2 is not likely to doom your child to a lifetime of underachievement.

In terms of the local situation, as of June 2016, out of 539 lead tests performed at two Portland Public Schools, a total of two children required further diagnostic testing. The conclusion is that despite the lead found in the water in the schools, the likelihood that your child will have a level high enough to cause concern or do anything about is quite small.

Here’s hoping that we can use this evolving issue as a jumping off point for further dialogue about responsible living and what it means to be good stewards of the environment.



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:

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