The It List

Everybody loves secrets, right? So every year, as summer kicks off, we like to let you in on ours — the people and places around Portland that we think deserve your attention and applause. And if our picks are already on your radar screen (because, let’s face it, you’ve probably heard of The Unipiper), then we hope we’ve help you see them in a whole new light. (Betcha didn’t know the aforementioned Unipiper has a mini-me!) Discover your family’s new favorites, right this way. And share your favorites with us via Facebook or Instagram — just tag it as #PDXParent #MyItList.


[ It Takes a Village ]  » Because art should represent. Artist and illustrator Alex Chiu, inspired by being a stay-at-home dad to his oldest daughter Mazzy, had a vision for a Trimet-commissioned mural on 82nd Avenue that would represent the East Portland/ Montavilla community. “I understood the importance of raising [Mazzy] amongst a caring, supportive and culturally diverse community. I wanted to reflect that community and pay homage to the people who are making a difference in the area,” he says. Chiu, who lives in East Portland’s Powellhurst-Gilbert Heights neighborhood, says the mural reads like a comic book, with each of the nine panels showing Mazzy interacting with her community. She’s watching clowns Olive & Dingo, learning how to write her name with Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon’s youth leaders, playing the piano with local piano teacher Mike Dean and his son, learning how to breakdance with Kevin Le and Carlos Chavez of the Morpheus Youth Project, participating in a sage smudging ceremony, eating at a picnic, being read to by Chiu and his wife A’misa, and finally catching bubbles at Glenhaven Park. Mazzy is quite accustomed to being in the limelight. Chiu shot a series of YouTube videos starring Mazzy cooking and otherwise being adorable called The Mazzy Show. The channel is on hold since little sister Trini has joined the family. “I paint Mazzy a lot,” says Chiu. “She always expects herself to be in my work. For her, it’s just a normal thing. I assume she thinks that everyone gets to paint and be painted in murals.” — Denise Castañon  



[ Blazer Babies ]  » Because our stars really are just like us. If you’ve got Blazers fever, you’re not alone. That shot, in game 5 of the first round of the playoffs, from 37 feet away. The teamwork. And not to mention the playoff win after a history-making quadruple overtime. At presstime, the team was headedto the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, doing Rip City proud. But when they are not on the court, some of the Blazers’ biggest superstars are busy being PDX parents. Team MVP Damian Lillard and partner, Kay’La, have a 15-month-old who is a shoe fiend just like his daddy, and made national headlines this spring when he was caught on camera imitating his father’s signature “Dame Time” wrist-tapping gesture. (Follow Kay’La on Instagram for adorable peeks of Dame Jr. at @kay_lamariee.) Lillard apparently swaps tales of parenting woes and triumphs in the locker room with teammate Rodney Hood, whose twin boys are just over a year old now; Hood and his wife also have a 3-year-old. And small forward Al-Farouq Aminu and his wife have a 4-year-old daughter together. Who knows? You might run into one of them at Music Together or Book Babies or the playground. Just in case, you might want to show off your own offspring’s Rip City spirit in cute togs like this. — Julia Silverman


[ As Seen on TV ]  » Because going back to work after having a baby is a big transition for any mother, but waking up every weekday at 2 am and being camera-ready an hour and a half later? That’s supermom territory. And that’s just another workday for KGW news anchor Ashley Korslien. And did we mention she’s got twins? Korslien started back at KGW’s Sunrise Show 12 weeks after having Isla and Grant, now 11 months old. With saved vacation time, she was able to start back slow with half-days. Still, she says no one really ever gets used to waking up at 2 am. “The only reason I am able to make it all happen is that we have a huge support network of family members who watch the babies throughout the week,” says Korslien. “My husband is a police officer and has an irregular schedule, but is the most hands-on dad ever! It’s true teamwork in every aspect of the word.” Both grandmas live nearby and help care for the twins, as does her nephew, who covers the night shift when Korslien is working. Her advice for new moms returning to work: Do what works best for you, and don’t get bogged down with guilt. “It’s OK not to go to every social event or meetup,” she says. “And it’s OK not to check work emails once you’re home from the day.” She’s also clear-eyed about the myth of “having it all.”  “I have days where I feel on top of the world, like I can do it all. I feel accomplished in what I do at work and at home. And other days I forget to feed our dogs, can’t get the babies to stop screaming, and I cry for no reason. I’m learning to embrace the chaos.” — D.C.



[ Next Adventure  ]  » Because your next great outing is just around the corner. If you’re looking for a Portland-area family adventure, but are in a tl;dr mood, check out the Instagram feed @momwhatsnext. The feed is grassroots (anyone can contribute) and — since it’s Instagram — is all about the pictures. Scroll your way through photos of families out and about in various parks, art studios, restaurants, and gyms until you find one that appeals. When you click on the image, you’ll find just enough details to get you started on your next adventure. You can also sort by different types of fun, like nature, rainy day, or water play. After scrolling, I’ve added a few to our family’s will-do list: Hoffman Farm Store for milkshakes, Staver Locomotive for my little train enthusiast, and Richardson’s Rock Ranch (note: digging currently closed, check their website for the latest updates) for an epic road-trip adventure. Site owner Olivia Carter’s favorite family activity is a tried-and-true favorite: the Hoyt Arboretum. She likes how simple and easy it is to explore, and the flexibility. “You can make it a long or short adventure depending on the time you have that day, adding in a walk through the rose gardens or to play on the structure at the Washington Park playground.” — Alison Wilkinson


[ Westley + Buttercup 4Ever ]  » Because they had us at Inconceiva-bowl. And yes, that word does mean what you think it means. Portland has countless coffee shops, many of them perfectly kid-friendly. But only Guilder, a Princess Bride-themed shop tucked away on a quiet stretch of Northeast Fremont, has the aforementioned bowl, which includes white bean salad, farro, radish, roasted beets, hummus and avocado (basically, everything but ipecac). There are also kid-friendly options like the Buttercup Toast, with almond butter and fresh fruit on the side. Cafe owner Caryn Nelson says they’ve slowly incorporated more and more of the beloved family flick into the cafe over time, including their t-shirts, which feature the legendary six-fingered man, nemesis to one Inigo Montoya, pouring a latte. But Nelson says that they’ve made a conscious choice to “not overuse the theme based on what we what see as missing from the story that we don’t wish to replicate in our cafe values — a lack of racial/ethnic diversity of characters, gender stereotypes, and heteronormative romantic partnerships.” Now that’s true love, just as we wish. — J.S.


[ Go Play in the Street ]  » Because the block party can last all summer long. Our kids wait all year for our block party, and with good reason — there’s a joyful thrill that comes from riding a bike, playing hopscotch and having water balloon fights in the middle of the street, without fearing that you’ll have to scatter for an oncoming car. One Southeast Portland street is keeping that block party vibe going every week, through the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s Play Streets program. Come to Southeast Grant Street between 35th Place and 37th Avenue on Thursdays from 3:30 pm-4:30 pm,  Saturdays from 9 am-2 pm and Sundays from 3 pm-8 pm, and you’ll find the street blocked to all except local access traffic. That leaves room for everything from hopscotch to obstacle courses to bubble blowing. Everyone’s invited, no matter whether you live in the neighborhood or not, and it is BYO-props, so don’t forget your hula hoops, sidewalk chalk and croquet sets. Noah Rappaport, a Grant Street neighbor who helped get the play street program up and running, says that there are about 35 kids under the age of 12 in a one block radius, making the turn-outs on play street days “quite spectacular. It gives both the kids and parents a new and easier way to socialize and engage in outdoor play.” Sound good? If you want to start up your own Play Street program, get in touch with PBOT at — J.S.


[ Radio Ga Ga ]  » Because from babies to their grown-ups, music makes us all better. The radio station All Classical Portland recently launched a new HD and online station just for kids, The International Children’s Art Network (ICAN). The station is not all soothing Brahams. (Although it does spin nothing but lullabies for an hour starting at 11 am, just in time for morning naps and again at 6 pm to wind down for the night.) But during the rest of the day, ICAN is a joyful mix of energetic international music, lively classical, storytimes and poetry — all interspersed with voices of kids discussing the pieces they are playing or exclaiming, “This is what music sounds like in South America!” Tune in at — D.C.


[ Next-Gen Science Standards ]  » Because there’s a solution for the gender gap in STEM jobs. Southwest Portland mom Sarah Foster, an engineer with degrees in both chemical and biomedical engineering, is the mom to two boys, now in kindergarten and second grade, but when she went to volunteer at their neighborhood elementary school, she was struck by how, by third grade, girls had started hanging back during the science lessons she taught, not raising their hands. So she started STEM Like a Girl, a three-hour workshop series aimed at girls in third to fifth grade and their parents. Attendees might warm up by making their own bath bombs, with a focus on acids and bases, then build their own rocket ships out of paper to dissect the physics of movement. Girls have also extracted their own DNA and been asked to build a robotic hand that can pick up a cup without crushing it. All projects are done with household materials — no expensive kits here — to show caregivers how easy it is to do science projects at home with their girls. So far, more than 100 Portland-area girls have taken part in the three-hour workshops, which cost $25 per adult/child pair, a fee that can be waived based on need. But Foster and her team have big plans for expansion in the months ahead, including a partnership with Portland State University’s College of Engineering. Sign up for future workshops at


[ Camping 101 ]  » Because camping with the family doesn’t have to be a slog. Especially not if you let the kind folks from Oregon State Parks do most of the prep work. For just $30 per family, a seriously screaming deal for up to 8 people, you can sign up for their Let’s Go Camping weekends at state parks around Oregon, aimed squarely at camping noobs, or maybe former camping warriors who haven’t figured out how to get back in the groove with kids in the picture. They bring all the gear you’ll need, and will even teach you how to set up a tent, and provide basic lessons in campfire cooking and fire tending. (Though you’ll have to provide the groceries.) Plus, outdoors instructors lead fun activities, like star-gazing, fishing, nature hikes, craft projects and disc golf. This summer, programs are scheduled at several Portland-adjacent state parks, including L.L. Stub Stewart, Milo McIver and Silver Falls. Sign up and find out more at — J.S.


[ Bike City ]  » Because if you’ve got #lifegoals about lightening your carbon load, getting more exercise, or spending more quality time with your kids, a Portland-area mama has the blog for you. On her blog,, Portland mama of two and family biking advocate Madi Carlson explores the ins and outs of biking as a primary means of transportation. Yes, that includes trips to the grocery store, Ikea, and even pumpkin patches — along with all the loot that accompanies you on the ride back home. Her blog is full of practical tips to get you riding, even if you’re a no-car novice — for instance, how to bike in the cold, or — if you’re more adventurous — how to go bike camping. You’ll finish her posts feeling empowered and ready to take on the world on two wheels — even (especially?) with kids in tow. Madi’s biggest piece of advice for biking with kids? “Snacks, snacks, snacks.” Done, done, done.A.W.


[Stand Up, Speak Out ]  » Because Tig Notaro and Ali Wong have a soul sister in PDX. Kirsten Kuppenbender (Kupp to her friends) is a staple of the Portland comedy scene, and the founder of the show Lez Stand Up, which focuses on bringing queer, feminist comedy to the stage. And now she’s adding another facet to her set — parenting. Her partner gave birth to a sweet little baby about a year ago now. And that means new parenthood is a focus in Kupp’s recent work. Her shows are always hilarious, truthful and even, as a parent, a little cathartic. It should be noted that you don’t have to be a parent for Kupp’s magic to hit you, and it isn’t “parent comedy” — it’s just comedy that happens to include a perspective on parenthood. Follow Kupp on Twitter at @kupptastic for smart snark and the skinny on where to catch the act. — Amy Conway


[ Going Green ]  » Because as Oscar the Grouch knows, trash can be beautiful, too. Portland nonprofit Trash for Peace is looking at trash in a new light — seeing it not just as part of the 14 million tons of junk making it into our oceans every year, but as a resource for positive change. The organization partners with affordable housing communities and schools to provide activities focusing on practical ideas for how to reduce, reuse, and recycle the trash in our parks, yards, and bins. Sustainable activities include building a greenhouse out of water jugs, a flower garden out of old tires, or recycling bins out of empty plastic bottles. Through its programming, the organization has helped increase recycling rates and divert trash from landfills and our oceans. If Trash for Peace isn’t in your community, you can still get your kids excited about recycling. Founder and Director Laura Tokarski recommends making a game of it — for instance, by playing “trashketball” or, as a family, painting and decorating an old trash can to become a fabulous recycling bin or trash monster. You can also check out their resources page, which includes dozens of ideas for recycled projects, at — A.W.

13, 14 & 15

[Baby Got Books]  » Because Amazon doesn’t run this town. Maybe you’ve heard that the independent bookstore is a relic? Not in these parts, especially not when it comes to the endlessly expansive world of children’s literature, which manages to be transportive, nostalgic and thoughtfully inclusive.  In just the last year, three new stores have opened around the Portland metro area, joining old friends like A Children’s Place and Green Bean Books. Maggie Mae’s in Gresham offers not only a well-curated selection of books but a fantastic roster of events, from author signings to storytimes that pair with yoga or hiking to books-themed summer camps. Also in Gresham, the adorable Books Around the Corner hosts everything from drag queen story hours to all-ages craft-making parties (Pro tip: They sell grown-up books here, too.) And over in Vancouver, Dickens Children’s Books and Publishing Lab has the coolest side hustle ever: An onsite, fully functional publishing lab where budding authors can write, type, print, illustrate and bind their own books and zines. “When I was in elementary school, my school had a Publishing Center, and I loved to write and illustrate my own stories,” says owner Kari Ferguson. “When I thought about opening a children’s book store, I knew that I had to include a publishing aspect because being able to write and create my own stories at a young age fueled my dreams to become a writer and lover of literature.” Kids can use one of the store’s vintage typewriters, or a computer, or chose to handwrite their story. So far, Ferguson’s seen everything from an illustrated story on unicorns to a third grader’s tale about an orphaned child. Who says print is dead? — J.S.


[Ice Cream for All ]  » Because alternative ice cream is a dream come true for kids (and adults) with allergies. It seems improbable: Dairy-free, vegan, nut-free, soy-free and gluten-free ice cream and cones that actually taste delicious. But on a recent visit to Micah Camden’s Little Bean in the Pearl, my family became believers. (Camden is the force behind such Portland institutions as Blue Star Donuts and Little Big Burger.) My husband is allergic to cashews and walnuts, so dairy-free alternatives are often something he has to avoid. But Little Bean’s “ice cream” is made from chickpea, aka garbanzo bean, milk. It tastes much lighter than traditional dairy-fat ice cream, but nevertheless has a pleasing, creamy texture and mouthfeel. And my kids’ scoops of Triple Chocolate and Orange Caramel vanished just as quickly as when we visit Salt & Straw. The ice cream is also sustainable, with the leftover “milked” chickpeas becoming flour for the shop’s gluten-free cones and baked goods, which (hallelujah) don’t have the dense, gritty texture associated with many gluten-free breads. We’re already planning our return trip. — D.C.


[ We Love Weird Dads ]  » Because can you really imagine Portland without the Unipiper? Brian Kidd, aka The Unipiper, or the guy who rides a unicycle through the city while wearing a Darth Vader mask and playing the bagpipes, is one of us. He’s a dad to 17-month-old Scarlett. By day he’s works for Portland-based remote sensing and data analytics firm Quantum Spatial, but his side gig has landed him on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, The Gong Show and America’s Got Talent. The Unipiper came to life after Kidd found a unicycle in the trash while learning to play the bagpipes. “The costumes started as a way for me to keep things interesting,” says Kidd, “but I soon found that they really took the act to a new level.” He’s also started incorporating Scarlett, or “Pipette,” into his act. So, what’s easier: playing the bagpipes, or holding a baby while unicycling? “Holding a baby is easier! Babies naturally fit in your arm, while bagpipes are stiff and awkward. Plus, I don’t have to strap a propane tank to my baby for maximum effect. On the other hand, I’ve never had to change a diaper blowout on the bagpipes before, so there’s that I suppose …” We’ll take his word for it. Kidd recently founded a nonprofit dedicated to preserving Portland’s reputation for rewarding quirkiness. “I want Portland to remain a place where everyone is afforded the same opportunity I had to stand up and be recognized for their own wacky talents,” he says. For more info on Weird Portland United, visit — D.C.


[ New Zoo For You ]  » Because our zoo is giving animals even more room to stretch out. In the next year or two, three huge new expansion projects will open at the Oregon Zoo, putting the zoo at the forefront of a global movement to have zoo spaces mimic natural habitats as closely as possible. The polar bears will get some serious real estate, with a dedicated new area of rolling meadows and rocky outcrops and specially built saltwater plunge pools. Next, the sociable chimpanzees will get to jump around on the area’s coolest new play structure, with design features that can be swapped out daily to keep them guessing. And finally, rhinos are getting more room to roam, as a first step in an eventual co-op situation with the zoo’s giraffes and gazelles, since they are natural neighbors back in Africa. — J.S.


[ Magic on Wheels ]  » Because dreams do come true. Keizer-based dad Ryan Weimer has been making magic happen since 2008, when he asked his son, Keaton, what he wanted to be for Halloween. Keaton, who was diagnosed at 9 months with spinal muscular atrophy and uses a wheelchair to get around, wanted to be a pirate — so his dad built him a tricked-out pirate ship that fitted over his wheelchair, like a personal carnival float. That night, the other trick-or-treaters didn’t see Keaton as the kid in the wheelchair. They saw him as the kid with the coolest costume on the block. From there, Magic Wheelchair was born, and now wheelchair-bound kids from all over the country can put in a request for the nonprofit to build the rocket ship/unicorn/Batmobile of their dreams, free of charge. The kid gets to design their costume, but once the frame is built, they can’t see it again until it’s finished. The idea has spread internationally and caught the attention of makers everywhere, from Mythbusters host Adam Savage to Justice League superstar Chris Pratt. Halloween is their Super Bowl,  but ComicCons are a close second, says executive director Christine Getman. “The moment the kid and their family see the costume for the first time … it never gets old. It’s amazing,” she says. Want to help out? Sign up at — J.S.


[ A New Kind of Superhero ]  » Because girls of color deserve a superhero who looks like them. The new DC comic series, Naomi, written by Portland-based comic book writers Brian Michael Bendis and David F. Walker, takes place in the fictional small town of Port Oswego. (We see what they did with the name!) Naomi suspects there’s a secret behind her adoption, but when Superman comes to her town, she knows it’s time to follow her hunch. So she sets out to uncover the truth of her birth and how she ended up with her parents. Both authors play off their experiences, one as a white parent who adopted children of color and the other as a biracial man who grew up in areas that weren’t super-diverse. In an interview this spring, Bendis told Oregon Public Broadcasting that he wanted to create an of-the-moment character that kids would claim as one of their own. “It’s very clear what [young] people aren’t seeing in the real world,” he told the station. “The bad guys aren’t being defeated. There’s a real sense for young people, they want hope. They want that sense of the good guys will win. So leaning into that in our books lately has not been difficult. Because I want it too.” There are only four issues out so far and we’re hooked, as it seems is everyone else because Naomi is selling out everywhere. But digital copies are available on the DC site, at Once you get started, you won’t be able to stop reading. — A.C.

21 & 22

[ Pod People ]  » Because the fourth trimester is real, and you don’t have to go through it alone. Go ahead, Google “postpartum” and see what word the Interwebs suggests should follow it. We’ll wait. For the record, when we tried it, the choices were “depression,” “hemorrhage,” “preeclampsia” and “hair loss.” Good times! But it’s not all that bleak. Just ask Nkiru Shevitz and Krista Kahmann, local moms who met at a Fit4Mom Stroller Strides class in Cedar Mill and hit it off right away. “We started getting together all the time for fun adventures with our kids and would always have deep conversations about motherhood, the struggles and successes. We shared the same frustration that postpartum seemed to be primarily weighed down by negativity,” Kahmann says. They decided to start their podcast, So You Had a Baby to get real about all things postpartum, from what you might think your first year with your baby will look like (picture-perfect!) versus the reality (not always) to how to deal with shade thrown your way by judgey mamas. The vibe is like you’re chatting with your besties, if your besties were super empathetic and fluent in the wellness-tinged lingo of modern parenting. Shevitz is a nutrition coach and Kahmann a massage therapist, so they know their stuff, as do the curated guests they invite on the show from around the PDX parenting scene. Tune in wherever you find your favorite podcast, or find them online at — J.S.

23 & 24

[ Nature Play All Day ]  » Because Portland isn’t the only place where nature playgrounds are the next big thing. The city may have been first to make a splash with nature play areas with the much-loved Westmoreland Park, but now the ‘burbs are getting in on the act. Nature play loving parents and kiddos are advised to make a trip to West Linn this summer, where a spectacular new nature play areas will be coming to life. At the reimagined Sunset Park playground, opening later this summer, look for a massive timber climbing structure that resembles the tree fort of your kid’s dreams, a loose parts building zone where kids can construct their own hideaways, a water and sand play area and, especially for kids with sensory issues, peaceful willow domes for quieter play, observation and downtime. Bigger kids, who can lose interest in traditional playgrounds as they grow, will love the Euro-style zipline. There are even plans for “tree decks” — benches built around several old-growth trees, perfect for leaning your back against the trunk and reading a book aloud in the shade. Unsurprisingly, the woman behind the design of this and so many other of our area’s nature playgrounds, Michelle Mathis, is a mom herself, to a 4- and 7-year-old. The founder of Portland-based Learning Landscapes, Mathis is also developing a series of kits aimed at preschools, after-care programs and parks departments that want to experiment with the nature play concept before spending the $40,000 or more it can take for a full build-out. She’s got prototypes of three different kits — sand and water, fort-building and loose parts — that she’ll be debuting at Sunday Parkways events and the Pickathon music festival this summer. Find her on Instagram at @learning_landscapes_design.

PDX Parent Staff
Latest posts by PDX Parent Staff (see all)
Scroll to Top