Lately Peeper has been on a mystery/spooky story kick—a predilection I could attribute to my own childhood love of scary stuff but is mostly due to her Grandpa Shempy’s long made-up mysteries about something called the Monkey’s Paw. So when I had a free morning and the kids miraculously ate their breakfast on time and without protest, I decided to try hiking Portland’s Witch’s Castle with the kids.
I originally heard of Portland’s Witch’s Castle in Forest Park from my blogging friend Renee. She wrote about hiking to the castle with her teens, and I’ve wanted to do it myself ever since then—but with my littler kids, of course.
Since the day’s forecast called for some rain, I wanted to choose a forested hike so we wouldn’t get totally drenched if it did drizzle. Forest Park, with its immense Douglas firs, provides quite a bit of shelter from the Oregon rain—but as luck would have it, the skies stayed mostly clear. (Thanks, weather!)
Rain or no rain, though, the hike was gorgeous—and the Witch’s Castle lived up to its spooky, and awesome, reputation!
This summer I’ve fallen in love with street art. I think it started when two blogging friends and I hit up some of our favorite murals in Southeast Portland, Oregon. Lisa from This Beautiful Day, Jenni from A Well Crafted Party and I caught up (and goofed off) in front of some of the city’s most dramatic street art. Just about every chance I’ve gotten since then, I’ve made detours and special trips to visit Portland murals—and have been bringing my kids along, too. One of my favorite trips was a mini mural crawl in North Portland that both kids joined me for.
This mural crawl for kids was one of the most fun family activities I’ve done recently, partly because it was even more enjoyable for me than it was for the girls. (Pretty sure I’m not alone in planning 99% of our family activities around what the under-5 set wants to do—but not this time!) That said, Peeper and Kiwi really got into the kid-friendly mural crawl in North Portland. (See the photos for proof!)
Part of the fun was the novelty of the family activity: We’d never done something quite like this. Peeper loved directing me and Kiwi so she could take a photo. (She has a good eye, doesn’t she?) Plus, the girls were fascinated by street art. Their wide eyes seemed to say, “Wait, you mean artists can paint giant pictures outside? I thought you said we couldn’t paint on walls!”
Uh-oh, I might live to regret this Portland, Oregon mural crawl. Oh well, it was worth it!
“Vacations are so relaxing and easy!”—said no parent of young kids. Ever. We recently spent four days in Newport, Oregon, which was lovely but not restful in the least. On top of all the prepping and packing and passing back of 18 varieties of snacks on the drive to the central Oregon coast, neither kid sleeps that well away from home. Somehow, though, despite feeling a bit run down on vacation, my creativity remained intact, and I am now obsessed with the parenting hack I pulled off to make my kids sleep on vacation.
Like on most vacations we take, I couldn’t make my kids sleep on the first night. Although I had brought noise machines and loveys and special blankets, we didn’t have the blackout curtains we rely on at home. Once morning dawned, with both kids wide awake, I knew I had to try something different.
My protests of “it’s too early” didn’t cut it.
Peeper opened the blinds and begged to differ. “Look mama, it’s sunny!” She said. “It’s not too early!” So we spent the early-early morning semi-conscious on the couch, praising the geniuses who invented Saturday morning cartoons.
Then on my way to the drive-through coffee shop (OMG CAFFEINE THANK YOU), I stopped at the dollar store down the street. I’m not sure where the idea came from, but I dropped $2 on aluminum tin foil and pulled off one of my best parenting hacks yet—which not only helped make my kids sleep on vacation but also stopped me from swearing off family vacations entirely. (Win!)
Having a bunch of blogger friends is the best. They’re like a combination of the hive mind, Yelp, google and a travel agent, except with really awesome photo skills. When I need recommendations on where to eat or what to do in Portland, Oregon, I ask my Portland bloggers buds first; ditto where to stay at the coast, or what to cook for an upcoming BBQ. So when I wanted to collect a bunch of must-do family and kids activities in Portland, I knew who to ask.
I posed this question in a handful of Portland bloggers groups I belong to:
When friends and their family visit Portland from out of town, where do you send them?
Lucky for me (and you!) they sent a bunch of responses. Read on for insider tips, recommendations and curated travel plans for the best Portland family-friendly spots and kids activities!
While visiting the Central Oregon Coast, I never plan activities ahead of time—I figure we’ll stay on the beach nearly every waking moment, since the coast is my (and my family’s) happy place. But on our most recent trip to Newport, OR, I found myself looking for a family friendly outing that didn’t involve throwing sand or chasing toddlers who were splashing in the freezing Pacific. My dad and I ended up going to Yaquina Head Lighthouse with the kids—an incredibly scenic stop just a few minutes north of Newport, OR.
When my mother-in-law was visiting recently, I wanted to take her out to dinner as a thank you for watching Kiwi and Peeper while I worked. She loves sushi but lives in semi-rural Michigan—not exactly a mecca for delicious combos of rice, nori and raw fish. So I suggested we go out to a local sushi restaurant with the kids—something I was semi-terrified to do, considering they are picky eaters.
I am actually shocked at how well sushi with kids went! The girls ate (a bit), and my mother-in-law ate a lot. (“You don’t like roe? More for me!”)
If you’re feeling brave, I have some advice, dear parent of fussy eaters. Here are my suggestions on how to get picky eaters to try sushi!
We are getting a handful of summery days in the forecast—my weather app is looking positively perfect—and all this sunshine is making the blooming rhododendrons outside look even more gorgeous! When I was looking for fun springtime family activities in Portland while my mother-in-law was in town recently, I found the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. We made plans to go.
I woke up that morning not feeling well. The girls hadn’t slept much and were fighting over a pair of Anna and Elsa figurines. “Are you sure you still want to go?” Eric asked me as I brushed my teeth. “WE’RE GOING,” I said. And I’m so glad we did!