PDX Kids

PDX Kids
Online resource for fun activities, free ideas, and business resources for families in Portland and beyond

Monday, December 14, 2009

Zoo Lights

The Oregon Zoo's Zoolights is a really fun place to take your kids.  The zoo is open at night and some of the animals that are normally lethargic during the day are a little more playful...especially the tigers.  You can take the train around the zoo loop and they even bring out the steam engine for zoolights.  All of the trains are even decorated with Christmas lights.  There are Christmas lights everywhere at the Oregon Zoo for Zoolights!  There are two things to keep in mind if you visit the Zoolights: weather and crowds.

The number of people that go through Zoolights is amazing.  The parking lot fills up and the Zoo offers a shuttle from the Sylvan area over to the zoo.  Trimet is also a great option for getting to the Zoo and avoiding the nightmare of the parking hassle (it will also save the $2 per vehicle parking fee).  The best way to avoid some of these crowds is to show up at 4:15 or 4:30.  The Zoolights officially opens at 5 pm but if you have small children it will take you a while to get out of the car, bundle everybody up, and buy your tickets.  Plus, once you do all of that the immediate need for a bathroom break seems inevitable.

If you decide to ride the train you will definitely want to get there early.  While you are waiting in line the sun will finish its descent and the train ride will still be completely enjoyable and in the dark.  Don't forget that while you are waiting in line for the train you are pretty much standing still which means the cold feels even colder.  Hats, coats and gloves are an absolute must to keep warm.  Scarves and blankets would not be a bad idea, either.

Also, the Zoo sells hot chocolate and coffee but they do not provide lids or straws for their drinks as the lids and straws pose a health risk to the animals.  If you think you might invest in some hot chocolate for your young children (or if you have a drinking problem like I do) you might want to bring your own travel coffee mug to transfer the drink into and avoid some spills.

Our family has been lucky enough to have a Zoo membership so the Zoolights has been free for us.  With this advantage we have even done the Zoolights in two different nights because it was so cold after waiting for the train (riding the steamy was a HUGE priority for us) that our kids were miserable so we left.  There was a different evening that was a little bit warmer so we decided to brave the crowds a second time and had a wonderful time walking around, looking at the animals and enjoying the lights.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cookie Bake Fundraiser

This weekend my neighbor introduced me and my kids to a great event in Portland.  Every year about this time Safeway hosts a fundraiser for Dornbecher's Children's Hospital.  They open up a portion of their facilities off Hwy 224 in Clackamas and provide all of the materials for a cookie bake.  This cookie bake is so popular that some people have been attending for 20 years.  They don't advertise this event because they are already at capacity.  Every penny goes to Dornbecher's which is a very worthy cause.

So here's how it works:

You RSVP for a specific time slot.  Your reservation costs $35 and you get 10 pounds of cookie dough and 1 hour and 45 minutes at a table to roll out and cut your cookies.  Safeway provides cookie trays and after you fill the tray you can label it and they will bake the cookies.  There is plenty of frosting provided and you can then move to a decorating table where you have an unlimited amount of time to decorate your cookies.

There were tons of people there but it was all very organized and efficient.  Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance where you could have your picture taken with them for $1.  There was also a cookie contest for the best decorated cookies.  There were many people there who shared a lot of insight with me while we were there but our neighbor's preparation definitely helped make the experience wonderful for our first time there.
I want to share some tips for you in case you go for the first time:
1.  There are no chairs so you could bring a stroller or stepping stools for smaller children.
2.  Bring your own cookie cutters, rolling pins and anything you want to use to decorate the cookies with.  Some people brought stuff to bake into the cookies, others brought stuff to decorate the cookies with afterwards.
3.  We were there for 4 hours and many people brought food and/or drinks to help tide them over.
4.  You can purchase containers with lids for $2 which worked really well for carrying baked cookies.
5.  Expect to get dirty!  We had flour everywhere (the flour fight didn't help our cause but it was definitely worth the battle!).  Aprons or changes of clothes might be worth bringing.  They do sell aprons for the event so you can have you official cookie bake apron with the year printed on it as a souvenir.

 In the end this was a great experience and we donated some of our cookies to different events that our church is hosting so we weren't really stuck with the sugar cookies made from 20 pounds of cookie dough!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Christmas Tree Hunting

When I was a kids we grew up in California.  There aren't as many Christmas tree farms in California as there are in Oregon.  In California you would drive up to the Kmart parking lot, wander around and pick out a tree.  If my parents had their way the tree was probably still wrapped up and we would just pick one where the base looked straight and it was a good height.

Now that I'm older I want to have the experience (for myself and my kids) of picking out a tree and chopping it down.  What this means for my family is that we dredge ourselves out through a muddy (and once snowy) field to find a good Christmas tree.  Once we find a good one we promise ourselves we will remember where it is but keep looking to see if we can find a better one.  We almost never do so we go back to where we thought we found the first tree we liked only to find that it seems to have been moved.  After we finally settle on a tree for sure then my husband has to kneel down in the mud underneath the tree with a borrowed hand saw thingy and try to chop down the tree while holding onto it so it doesn't land on his back.  By this time the kids are cold and miserable so I have to hold all three of them to keep them happy.  Yes, this version is slightly exaggerated but it's still quite comical.

Finding and cutting down your own Christmas tree can really be a lot of fun but there are a few things that we have learned over the years that could have really helped out along the way.  I will share those with you here:

1. Remember it does actually get dark at 5pm now.  If you show up at the Christmas tree lot at 4:30 pm, you are going to get stuck using your headlights to try and find a tree.

2. Bring some extra clothes, hats, gloves, and blankets to bundle the kids up;

3. Garbage bags are extremely helpful to put all of the muddy stuff in afterwards.

4.  Bring twine or something you can tie down the tree with.  Most places have it available but just in case it's much better than having to cut your tree and leave it there while you drive to Home Depot.

5. Having your own saw is also a good idea.  Again, this is something most Christmas tree lots have on hand but it's better to be prepared.

6.  Use something to mark your tree if you find one you are considering.  Many places will have something like this or you can use a piece of twine but this will prevent you from having to find the perfect Christmas tree twice.  Also, you should remove the twine from a tree if you decide it's not the right one so that someone else doesn't think it's still taken.

7.  Bring cash because sometimes all the tree lots have are a cash box and you can make change but they do not accept cards.

8.  Know where the closest coffee shop is so you can grab hot chocolate for everyone who is cold and cranky at the end of your Christmas tree adventure.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Christmas Book Day

Yes, I already said it...Christmas.  I was sitting at Starbucks tonight working on my school work and the employees had a mini party while setting out their Christmas stuff.  When I got home I had a very exciting package in the mail because the Christmas books for my kids had arrived.

When I was growing up, Christmas book day was something we all looked forward to.  On December 1st we would all sit on the couch with my mom and my dad and they had a book that my mom had picked out for each one of us.  Mostly they were Christmas books but as we got older they were sometimes not.  We would read each persons book and the inscription on the front cover that was in my mom's trademark handwriting.  It was such a fun time because it almost felt like time had frozen while we read.  We took turns sitting in my moms lap as it was our turn to have our book read.  Me and my two brothers and my sister all loved kicking off the holiday season with Christmas book day.

To this day we still demand that my mom honors the tradition that she started because we love having her pick a book out for us.  This tradition is one that has definitely carried on as I have really loved picking out books for my kids.  Now if I could just figure out what to write in the cover...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sick Kids

Today was a typical Sunday.  We were in the car a few minutes early headed to church and about 3 blocks away from my house my youngest throws up.  We turned around.  Days like this aren't typically too bad because all of my kids have been good patients.  She was her normal feisty self the rest of the day so I don't think its anything too serious but it was serious enough that we were cooped up inside all day.

The hardest thing about sick days is trying to balance two healthy kids and one who is slightly under the weather.  How do you entertain them all while maintaining any shred of sanity?  We love to curl up with a book or 36.  When we are home for a long period of time my kids will have me read so many books I fall asleep.  This is a trait I'd like to encourage in them but its hard when you are literally wiping away tears of boredom!  Sometimes we bake cookies or something equally as fun.  Yesterday we cleaned.  The kids even helped me mop until it was their quiet time and I "doubled checked" for them.  Games are always a great way to go.  We just got the Wii Fit Plus where there is a multi-player option.  My two year old got up on the Wii fit board and started flapping like a chicken to make her character fly.  She actually outflew the older two and gave me the best 45 seconds of video anyone may ever see.

When I was little my mom always made me applesauce from fresh apples.  I remember how much I loved to stay home simply for eating applesauce and popsicles while watching Matlock.  Boy those were the days!  It's almost funny how nostalgic it was taking care of sick child for the day.  We had a lot of fun with the cabin fever but I have to say I am now officially wiped out and headed to bed!

What was your favorite childhood memory of sick days?  What do you most enjoy doing with your kids?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Can it rain any harder?!?

I sat yesterday watching it rain.  I love a good downpour as much as the next person but this was CRAZY!  We had a small pond in our driveway from the sewer grate plugging up with leaves.  The kids wouldn't take their quiet time because there was one clap of thunder and they were freaked out for the rest of the afternoon (maybe it was just a ploy).  I had promised pumpkin pie for a family get together that evening and I had 2 great pumpkins on my front porch just waiting to be broken into and cooked.  So, despite the rain, we took to the front porch where we mutilated two huge pumpkins.  After the mutilation we had to squeeze them into the oven for cooking.  My oven wasn't big enough so in the middle of what seemed like a torrential downpour I raced over to a neighbors house and asked if he would kindly let me use his oven.

While the pumpkins baked the kids and I had a lot of fun examining the different types of seeds.  We compared seeds from a candy pumpkin, cinderella pumpkin, cheese wheel pumpkin and a jack o' lantern pumpkin.  The kids were very excited about this and my son actually wanted to make a chart so we could check off which pumpkins had specific features.  We managed to label sandwich bags and, after they dried, we put the seeds in their own bags in hopes that we will be able to find the bags in the spring to plant a few pumpkin seeds.  This prospect is very exciting to the kids as we had grown sunflowers this summer and those were a huge hit.

Once the pumpkin was done I was surprised.  I thought for sure I would have all sorts of help in the kitchen but the kids did not want to touch the pumpkin.  They were really grossed out by it so I ended up doing all of the work by myself.  I started out on this endeavor thinking I had a great project to last all day and I ended up spraying pumpkin chunks all over my kitchen while my kids destroyed the rest of the house.  Boy did that ever backfire!

I remember one time on another stormy day when I went shopping at IKEA with all three kids.  I pulled into the parking lot and it was raining so hard I was going to turn around and all of a sudden it stopped.  Then a parking spot opened up right in front and I thought this was a sign from God that I was supposed to go into IKEA that day.  The shopping trip was quick but then I had to wait 20 minutes in line with a brand new and very hungry baby, an impatient two year old and a four year old who climbed better than most monkeys.  The clerk had the audacity to ask if they could switch cashiers right before me.  I actually told her no.

Have you ever had any ideas backfire?  There have been too many "Katie"-did moments in my history where they have seemed like great ideas but never panned out.  Share some of your great moments where you thought you were going to earn your Super-Mom award but instead it went down in infamy as dinner-time comedy.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

I hope you all have a wonderful time this evening with your kids.  Make sure you stay safe and bring a flashlight if you are going out after dark.

Also, there is expected to be a rather large group of drunk drivers on the roads to night so be extra careful driving.

If you are going out without your little goblins tonight then PLEASE be sure to use a designated driver.

Sunday, October 25, 2009


I love a good adventure.  There is something exciting about leaving the house open-minded and care-free.  When I take my kids on an adventure I want to explore something new.  I want to see something I have never seen before.  A friend once said that if I had an inkling for a margarita I would just go to Mexico.  I like to think that if I actually drank margaritas that we would headed to cross the border!

An adventure to me can be anything from finding a new ice cream shop to feeding ducks.  It doesn't need to be incredible, just FUN.  Taking a hike on a beautiful day in a forest, walking along the waterfront and counting bicycles, or playing games while walking through the mall can all make wonderful adventures.

One of my favorite adventures we took recently was going on a photo scavenger hunt.  We walked a few blocks around the Willamette area of West Linn while searching for things that were in the shape of letters.  In about an hour and a half we probably walked 8 blocks and found every single letter in the alphabet.  We are now working on turning this photographic artwork into a photo album with samples of the kids' writing alongside each picture.  Chloe (age 4) is writing the letter and Conner (age 6) is writing a word that begins with each letter.

What is your favorite adventure?  Post a comment and share your ideas with other moms desperate to entertain!