Tasty Fall Food Specials Around Portland

The leaves are turning colors, the days are getting shorter, and fall cravings are in full force here in PDX. Between hitting up pumpkin patches and taking full advantage of harvest season at the vineyards, you’re bound to get hungry and thirsty along the way.

collage with fall food specials

So, where should you go this year to fulfill those cravings? This list will help you answer the call for seasonal ciders, pumpkin spice lattes, fall cocktails, fresh autumn dishes with seasonal vegetables, and desserts. 

These specials are great for date nights, family days out, and catching up with friends. And many of these offerings can be picked up and enjoyed at home, which makes it easy to enjoy fall treats in today’s very upside-down times.

So, without further ado, here is the fall bucket list for Portland foodies. Check out the linked Instagram pages for the latest updates and new specials throughout the fall.             

Fall pear Martini

Bergerac’s festive fall martinis

When you want some decadent French food – made by a French native chef – Bergerac in SE Portland is where you want to go. A few years ago, I did a behind-the-scenes interview with the chef who then shared a cooking demonstration of duck confit and a few other French dishes. 

For family take-out, try their new Italian pastas to-go. 

And for date night, try a fall cocktail special. The new fall pear martini is made of pear-infused vodka, cinnamon simple syrup, and lemon juice. If you’re in a pumpkin mood, try the spiced pumpkin martini. It hits all the notes for pumpkin fanatics.

@bergeracpdx

Nicholas Restaurant’s Halloween treats

First, a disclosure: I have been a longtime fan of their Lebanese food, and in recent years, I’ve also been their social media manager. Nicholas Restaurant is a great place to take the whole family for a meal out. Keeping the family-friendly vibe going strong, this year they are inviting diners to celebrate Halloween weekend with them.  

Kids will be treated to a free bag of candy on both Friday 10/30 and Saturday 10/31.  So, you can skip a night of cooking PLUS get treats for the little ones. Win-win.

@nicholasrestaurantgrand / @nicholasrestaurantgresham

Blue Star Donuts is serving cidermosas and fall donuts

Well here’s some fun news: Blue Star serves mimosas! And any day, they’ll launch a new cidermosa (yes, that’s a cider mimosa – – genius!) along with some festival fall donuts in their shops. Plus, they just launched a few new flavors, including a marionberry donut.

The great news is that you can try the donuts right from the grocery store. That’s right – ALL Portland-area New Seasons will carry Blue Star Donuts by the end of October. Plus, you can find them at some other grocers including Market Of Choice (West Linn, Belmont, Cedar Mill locations) and Green Zebra (Division, Kenton). 

@bluestardonuts

Pumpkin spice cider from Portland Cider

Catch up with friends or pick up drinks to go from Portland Cider. While they serve delicious varieties of ciders all year long, they have some new fall specials, including a pumpkin spice cider.

The pumpkin spice cider is semi-dry and tastes like your favorite holiday pie. Yup, all of the spices are in there including cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and ginger. It is made from the fruit of 100% Northwest apples. This cider is a hit, but it is almost sold out, so swing by a taproom to grab a crowler while it’s still on tap.

Another cider to get excited about is the 2020 PDX Community. This cider is now on tap in both taprooms and will be available to local Portland retailers very soon. This cider is  unique because 10 percent of sales will be donated to Hunger-Free Schools, a segment of Partners for a Hunger-Free Oregon.

@portlandcider

Fall Sushi Burritos at Rollin’ Fresh NW

First, huge congrats to Rollin’ Fresh NW for opening a new brick and mortar location this year (in addition to running three fabulous food carts). I met the owner, Ryan, years ago when filming an interview on his sushiritto food cart. They’ve also recently been featured on Food Network.

Anyway, if you haven’t tried a sushiritto yet (sushi + burrito = sushiritto), then you must be living under a rock. Get out and try one! Basically, it is a generous amount of sushi rolled into a giant burrito served with amazing sauces and dips. You can also get them in poke bowls and as salads.

On the side, try one of their new fall specials, the salmon kama. It’s the meaty and fattier collar of the salmon, fried and served with a side of poke sauce.

There are also a few specials you can get at the new Glisan location including the soft shell crab salad and wheel of fortune sushi burrito. 

While you’re there, try a side of the sea-v-chay pictured below (himachi and shrimp marinated in lime juice with avocado, pico, and seasonings served with a side of crispy chips). 

@rollinfreshnw

Outdoor Dining and Ciders At Food Cart Pods

Local Portland cook and mom to two teenagers, LaRae Burk, suggests visiting food cart pods with the family during those sunny fall days. It’s a great way for everyone to get exactly what they’re craving for lunch or dinner. Plus, since we’re in Portland, many of the pods serve adult beverages in fall flavors.

LaRae says, “Cartopia and Hawthorne Asylum are pods in SE Portland that serve incredible fall ciders.” Follow along as she makes seasonal food and checks out local establishments on Instagram @chezlarae.

Gourmet fall coffee at Caffe Umbria

Bringing some serious flavor to the fall coffee lineup is Caffe Umbria. I’ve had the opportunity to work with the friendly folks behind this brand while promoting my cookbook and was so excited to hear about their fall drinks.

When my husband was working in downtown Portland (you know, when working in an office was a thing), we would meet up at the end of the day Caffe Umbria for a coffee served with a perfect chocolate square on the side. The shops are cozy and great for catching up with friends or grabbing a coffee to go for a walk in the park.

They have a number of locations in the PNW, and some exciting fall flavors… caffè al pepe, lavender latte, and pumpkin spice latte.

Now I know PSL (pumpkin spice latte) is all the rage during October-November, but I’m head over heels for the idea of that lavender latte. While you’re there, pick up a bag of coffee beans to go. May I suggest gusto… it’s a really creamy coffee my husband and I love.

@caffeumbria

Pie, milkshakes, and ribs at Bark City BBQ

Even local BBQ joint, Bark City BBQ is getting in on the fall flavor action! This food cart has some tasty things heading your way

Enjoy a side of pumpkin cornbread with your apple cinnamon baby back ribs and finish the meal with a pumpkin pie or pecan pie milkshake.

@barkcitybbq

Pie photo
Pie photos credit: Emily Stocks, for Grand Central Bakery

Grand Central Bakery’s fall pies, drinks and sandwiches

One of the best places to get crusty breads and U-bake pies is helping Portland celebrate fall, starting with breakfast. Grand Central Bakery is a great spot to grab a coffee with a friend and head out for a socially distanced walk.

For a warm beverage, try the new pumpkin spice lattes – they’re just right and not “too sweet”. Enjoy it with a pumpkin oat muffin filled with warm fall spices and dried currants, and topped with heirloom pumpkin seeds and streusel.

For lunch, try their seasonal Bristol Bay salmon sandwich with scallion cream cheese and crisp fennel slaw. Or go for the new vegetarian happy goat sandwich which has chèvre, roasted veg, chimichurri, and more.

pie from Grand Central Bakery
Pie photos credit: Emily Stocks, for Grand Central Bakery

Plus, don’t forget to pick up pre-made u-bake apple pies featuring juicy fall apples. You’ll thank yourself later!

@grandcentralbakery

Fall Golden Valley Brewery drinks

This brew pub is one of my family’s favorite spots for burgers. The Beaverton brewery is connected to an Oregon ranch that supplies seriously delicious beef.

For fall, Golden Valley Brewery has the Oktoberfest brew featured in the photo above. They are also celebrating the change of seasons with some tasty cocktails including The Autumn n’ Rum. It’s made with spiced rum, cinnamon simple, lemon, cranberry, egg white and spice.

And then there is a new earthy, savory drink to try. The Beet Goes On has organic arugula, farm beets, fennel, spiced fall squash, whipped feta, sunflower seed brittle, pomegranate vinaigrette.

@goldenvalleypubs

Treat your sweet tooth with Nacheaux Foodcart

It’s a food cart that’s mystical and magical – with colorful, flavorful treats based around a unicorn. Nacheaux Foodcart is definitely giving us something to smile about in 2020!

As fellow PDX foodie and dad, Fernando Amaro puts it, “One of our fam’s favorite spots is Nacheaux Foodcart, a Mexican-Southern fusion food Cart in SE Portland!”

“Chef Anthony has already whipped up some mind-blowing creations this fall like a pumpkin cake donut French toast, pumpkin Oreo pancakes and pumpkin spice beignets with pumpkin spice caramel!” (follow Fernando for his latest PDX explorations @amaroeats)

Visit this fun food cart with the family, or go on a foodie day date with your S.O.

@nacheauxfoodcart

S’mores, to go…

And for one last suggestion, Fernando Amaro says, “The pumpkin s’mores kits from @1927smores give us those cozy fall feels! This seasonal kit features handcrafted cinnamon grahams, pumpkin-infused marshmallows, and fresh whipped cream cheese spread. Perfect way to enjoy a fall evening!”

collage of fall food specials in portland

So, where are you headed?

Now you have a complete list of fall food specials around Portland to go check out. While you’re out at a local Portland eatery, don’t forget to take a picture and tag them on social media. Getting the love and support is keeping all of our favorite Portland establishments open during this time.

Have suggestions for Fall specials to add to the list?? Share below.

See where I’m headed next @sipbitego.

Couples In Crisis

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In “The Art of Surrender”, I talked about this unprecedented time; the deep fear, grief and pain that is surfacing for so many at this time. The new normal of working from home, managing distance-learning, and being faced with the feeling of needing to do all the things.

Woman with head in handsFor many couples, this is the first time they’ve been without a break. Constantly together. With the addition of kids at home and the dynamic of distance-learning, on top of the collective anxiety, it feels like we’ve reached a breaking point. Which makes sense, as our two biggest mirrors are our children and our partners. And being face-to-face with a mirror of our pain in one of the most collectively painful times leads to an almost combustible situation.

Understanding Why

At this time, all of our shadows are coming to light. All of the deep pain that we have carried for so long, whether it’s childhood pain, a chronic painful story (like “I’m not good enough” or “I don’t belong”), or just a lifetime of masking our feelings, is coming up to be seen, felt, and healed.

In this pressure-cooker-like situation, we are being asked to take on more than we can bear within a constantly stimulated environment, so it’s no wonder that all of our pain is spilling out. Unfortunately, for those with deep pain or without the proper healing tools or support, it is spilling out onto our loved ones. We are being shown our deepest pain and darkest shadows through those that we love.

For some, the pain of their partner is being projected onto them. For others, they are seeing their biggest fears played out through their partner (either real or perceived). And for others, it feels like constant turmoil with no end or a constant state of feeling almost ready to burst; impatient, irritable and overwhelmed.

You may be seeing a painful side of yourself or your partner that you have never seen before, or it may feel like one of you is an entirely different person, which may leave you questioning your relationship or your future together.

Finding Relief & Healing

First, understand that pain can be healed, and no situation is permanent. This is a truly unprecedented time where we are dealing with events and situations completely unlike anything we’ve ever known, so it makes sense that this would uncover wounds within us never before seen. Even if you or a loved one is in deep pain, or your relationship is at the breaking point, there is always help and there is always a possibility of healing if both people are willing to heal. Find a healer, a mentor, a therapist – individually and/or together. 

Second, find space. Whether this is only 5 minutes alone in the bathroom several times a day, a quick 10-minute meditation in the morning, or an evening bath, take space for yourself. Make it a priority to check in with yourself several times a day and give yourself what you need, setting appropriate boundaries for those in your life. You cannot pour from an empty cup, so make sure you take care of yourself and fill your cup first, even if you have ten people waiting in line behind you. Everyone else can wait; they really can.

Setting Boundaries

Boundaries are important, and it needs to be said that if you are in a dangerous or abusive situation, do not wait for healing. Get into a safe space and then see if healing and a healthy partnership is possible from your safe and separate space. It takes two people to create a healthy partnership and both of you must be willing to do the emotional work necessary to create a healthy partnership. No one can do enough healing work to make up for another’s lack of healing.

If you are not in a dangerous situation, but your partner is not treating you with respect or care and they are taking their pain out on you, set immediate and strong boundaries. The moment they start spewing pain onto you, let them know you are not available to be treated like that and you will continue the conversation when it can be done in a healthy way, then remove yourself from the situation (even if it means hanging out in the bathroom for a few minutes while they calm down). Do your best not to engage with them when you are not both calm.

Shifting Perspectives

One of the most helpful things for me has been to shift my perspective of the person or situation. To realize that hurt people hurt people. If someone is spewing pain at you, it’s because they are in great pain. This is not to excuse what they are doing, as it’s their responsibility to heal their pain and not transfer it onto others, but it does allow us to have compassion for them and it makes it easier to show up with love in response to pain.

Also, every situation, experience or person that triggers us (makes us feel angry, sad, irritated, upset) is like a neon sign pointing to the next layer of our own healing. It may seem like your partner is to blame or your kids are constantly misbehaving, but if you can shift your perspective to look at what it’s bringing up within you, you will find a call for healing instead of just pain. This is not to say that no one else is doing anything “wrong,” but that if it triggers you, there is also healing there for you.

Everything is always happening for us. Always. This pain is a call for deep healing and this can be a time of great growth and a return to wholeness if you allow it, both individually and within our partnerships.

New to PDX: Hassle-Free Photoshoots with Shoott

Many thanks to our partners at Shoott for introducing us to their service. We loved what they had to offer and think you will, too. Don't forget the promo code at the end of this post for extra savings!

For professional photos, some people enjoy the search for the perfect photographer, the creation of Pinterest mood boards, and the hunt for the ideal location. I, however, do not. Everything about booking photo shoots stresses me out, yet they are a necessary part of my existence as a small business owner and mom.

The taking-the-pictures session is not the hard part; my challenge is in sorting out pricing, finding the right fit, and nailing down a date and time. The logistics get tricky quickly: for example, if organizing a shoot for 20 people, but only 15 show up, does the price change? What if we take 200 photos and I don’t like a single one? What happens then???

I’ve often thought that if there was more of an a-la-carte photo service, I’d be game. Book a slot, whoever shows up gets some photos taken, and you pay for whatever photos you want to keep. Done.

Enter Shoott, a new-to-Portland photography service. Their system is simple: 

  • Book a 30-minute session. Plenty of dates and times are available at locations throughout the Portland area; Shoott sets you up with a photographer.
  • Meet and take your photos. Shoott does essentially any style: maternity, business, family, you name it. If you need something other than the dates and locations offered, you can make a custom request which is charged at an hourly rate.
  • Receive a link to an online gallery of 40+ photos within 3-5 business days.
  • Pay only for the photos you love! Current pricing is $15 per photo, though discounted rates start kicking if you purchase ten or more.

Kids Jumping Photoshoot with Shoott30 Minutes in the Pearl

Intrigued, when Shoott reached out to see if Portland Mom Collective would like to try out their service, we booked a Sunday afternoon session at Tanner Springs Park in the Pearl.

Sign-up was simple; it took maaaaaybe three minutes. The online calendar displayed availability at seven different locations, from Lake Oswego to Camas, and a few central Portland options. Booking headshots for our group, Shoott said to plan on allowing 5 minutes per person.

The day before the session, Shoott sent a text message with details on meeting location (down the the specific corner) and the photographer’s name, with a reminder about the booked date and time. 

Upon arrival, there was no question about where the meeting point was and our photographer, Fernando, was even a few minutes early. Enthusiastic and friendly, he introduced himself and got to work straight away. 

Though Fernando had been told we were focused on headshots at the outset, contributor Karen brought her children along, and we had less people make it than expected to the shoot. This ended up being a happy accident, as it were. It gave us the opportunity to switch gears to a mini-family shoot partway through the session, since we had a bit of extra time and two willing models. Fernando effortlessly adapted to the modified shoot; he eventually had the kids doing superhero poses and demonstrating their incredible jump skills (see above!).

It’s worth noting that Shoott currently plans on having all sessions outdoors, rain or shine. Fernando wore a mask throughout the session, and removing masks for those getting photos was optional. Thanks to the magic of zoom lenses and typical photographer positioning in photo sessions anyway, maintaining COVID safety precautions was essentially built-in to the process, making it feel very safe to remove one’s mask for the limited window.

Pay for What You Like

Photoshoot with ShoottPhotoshoot with ShoottA few days later, a link to the Shoott gallery arrived in my inbox. It was simple to forward onward to those photographed so that favorites could be selected, then added to the cart. From there, online payment is fast and the pictures arrive in a zip file (watermark removed) within minutes! Totally seamless.

It’s so simple, and a quick, cost-effective way to do a professional photos shoot without any hassle. In anticipation of fall photos, Shoott is offering a special promotion to Portland Mom Collective readers for 10% off a purchase of 5+ photos. Use code: PORTLANDMOM (easy, right??!) at sign-up!

How to Talk to Your Older Kids About Voting

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Some kids love politics and civic engagement and some kids don’t care. For the kids that don’t care, I still think it’s important to engage in the discussions, albeit briefly so their minds can digest it.

I struggle with this a bit as I remember the dread I felt when my parents made me watch debates. It wasn’t unlike the boredom I felt when going to church and I knew there was no getting out of it. Like many things I dreaded as a child I eventually embraced them as an adult (see: vegetables). 

There are many reasons to love the mail-in voting we have here in Oregon, and one of them is that it allows us to involve our kids in the process. They can see the ballots, they can read the voting pamphlets, and they can learn about candidates and proposed measures.

Like many families, we spend the bulk of our political discussions talking about the national races. They are aware of the presidential candidates and can name the more widely-known Supreme Court Justices. We have started incorporating local news into our digital diets (anything to get away from Fortnite), and it has been raising some good questions about local politics. My kids know who the Mayor of Portland is, but they don’t know who his opponent is. We are learning.

Make It Relatable

Local news helps start a discussion, as does simply picking up on the topics close at hand. For example, there are some homeless camps near our house, and when we discuss our feelings on the matter, we can incorporate what each candidate proposes as solutions to the problem. When my kids heard TikTok was becoming a political issue, it got their attention. 

This election season, when the ballot arrives in the mail, I will talk with my kids about the candidates and the measures we are voting on. There are always some measures I didn’t know about and I have to educate myself on the issues. I plan to have each of my kids pick something that might be interesting to them, and we can research it together. My middle schooler is learning about media literacy; it has been interesting watching him process the idea of bias – he’ll get to put his work into action as we review the issues on the ballot. 

Another topic I plan to bring up at the dinner table is voter engagement. There are lots of charts and statistics on voter participation; I anticipate my kids will be surprised when they find out that less than 50% of people age 18-29 voted in the last national election. I plan to ask them why they think that might be the case, why they think it is that the older you get the more likely you are to vote. If I’m feeling very adventurous, I might suggest we compare voting participation in other countries. However, I won’t make promises; I’m still re-learning decimals and that’s taking up a lot of my time lately. 

From Joy to Terror: The Emotional Toll of a High Needs Child

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Raising kids is hard. They reveal areas needing growth, challenge us to the very core, trigger past trauma, and threaten our sanity every day. 

Then when you have a high needs child, it adds another layer of intensity.

And yet, most parents suffer quietly.

I know; I’m one of them.

From Joy to Terror: the Emotional Toll of a High Needs Child

Some days it feels like I’m too tired, overwhelmed, and just plain heartbroken to even complain.

I simply don’t have time or energy. I’m too busy problem-solving, trying something new, getting help with my head bent in fierce determination to help my child, thinking:  “There HAS to be something I’m missing.”

And. It. Is. Exhausting.

But I know I’m not the only one.

He’s a Joy

For anyone who has met my sweet, inquisitive, clever, loquacious, adventurous 7-year old, you would agree: he’s a joy. He is kind, caring, empathic, and affectionate.

And… he’s also a terror.

Most would not believe that I’ve had to take him to the emergency room because he was so violent that I felt mine and my other son’s lives and safety were in danger. 

I have to think about someone calling the police when he explodes so violently the neighbors can hear. It would seem wildly insane if I were to tell others he has threatened to murder me in explicit detail, or that I’ve had to hide knives in my house. Most would not ever guess that he’s been in therapy and on medication since he was three years old.

The emotional toll of a high needs child can feel intensely overwhelming.

And when someone witnesses it for the first time, it’s a startling reminder that this is NOT normal.

Nothing about this is normal.

It is not normal for my child to suddenly act like a demon has taken over his body and mind.

And It’s Still Hard

I’m blessed to have health insurance, a supportive family, a loving and dedicated co-parent, and a team of doctors, and a therapist working with us. I’m way beyond guilt, shame, or self-blame, and I have no problem asking for and accepting help.

And it’s still heartbreakingly painful, not to mention lonely. It’s like a never-ending grief that gets triggered every time he screams at or attacks me. And it’s so discombobulating because his lid flips so quickly. 

I know him to be a sweet, kind, and loving person; yet so often I witness the very opposite. I grieve the time lost with him when he’s stuck in his tornado, the impatience that has started bubbling within me, and the fear that I won’t be able to help him. 

I’m endlessly resentful for COVID taking away so much that helped me be a better mom. I hate that I cannot take my child to school and rely on that community, I’m angry that virtual therapy doesn’t work for a 7-year old, and I’m frustrated that we can’t see our friends. 

Never Alone

But I do know this: I am not alone. YOU are not alone.

Can you relate? Are you feeling the emotional toll of a high needs child?

Let us commit to not suffering in silence. 

Reach out. To me, a friend, a pediatrician, a therapist, anyone really.

This is too hard to do on our own.

—–

Resources:
APA Children’s Mental Health

NIMH Children and Mental Health

NAMI Oregon resources list

 

The Productivity Myth: How My To-Do List Haunts Me During Distance-Learning

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Every morning starts the same way. I wake up before my children and brew a round of delicious, warm coffee. I breathe in the energy of a Pacific Northwest morning, and I meditate on the wonderful day that awaits me. With all these hours of at-home learning and more flexible schedules, it feels we can conquer the world.

Sometimes, I even make a list of my goals before my small humans surface. Today’s example: write two articles, attend three conference calls, make blueberry pancakes using hand-milled almond flour, take my children on a scenic hike to collect local plants for later study, go on a 6-mile run, and sew myself a capsule wardrobe using only sustainably-harvested organic cottons.

What a glorious list; I can’t wait to start the day.

To do list, journal, coffeeI open my journal for some reflective time in the calm quiet of morning. Sigh. These are such challenging times, I should start a gratitude journal; I am thankful for so many things despite the world falling apart around us.

My youngest stirs from her slumber, looking at me through half-opened eyes: “Mom,” she mumbles, “Can I have some tacos?”

Oh, what a love. She experiences a rude awakening as I explain that we don’t have tacos for breakfast. Tears ensue. No problem, none at all. Let’s scrap this gratitude task and start our day! Good timing, too, as I spot my second-oldest is emerging from his lair.

“Hi, honey!” I exclaim, and, suddenly aware of the time, I realize online classes somehow start in just 40 minutes. “Would you like some breakfast?”

“I don’t want to deal with any of this; I hate online school,” he growls, as he drops onto the couch and falls back asleep.

So much joy in his heart on this wonderful day. I make a mental note to include this moment in the gratitude journal that I will certainly start tomorrow.

Looks like it’s time to wake up the other two kids so we can all prepare for our day of family togetherness. Hand-milled almond-flour blueberry pancakes, amirite? There’s still time.

blueberry pancakesOne of them refuses to wake up and the other won’t put on pants, hindering our collective progress. The youngest is still a little teary about the tacos and, as the pantsless one helps himself to a bowl of Rice Krispies, she requests some, as well. Yes, cereal is great; we can do pancakes tomorrow right after the gratitude journal.

The kid on the couch is still deep in sleep when I realize it’s somehow now two minutes to log-in time, so my voice gets a little shrieky as I ask him why he is sleeping. “It’s time log in!”

He stumbles and grumbles to the desk, getting online a moment behind schedule and with the camera off, suddenly self-conscious about his bedhead situation.

Two more kids still need to log in and we’re batting 50% for those who have put food in their stomachs, but I plop them in front of their devices all the same. The two who ate apparently left their bowls on the table; it looks like the dog is now helping himself to leftovers. I will get to that in a minute; I am busy helping one of the kids with login troubleshooting. The child without pants still remains without pants.

Ok! Yes, three kids are all logged in and the dog only toppled over one bowl in the process. I’ve got the youngest set up with a craft project that she can manage fairly independently. All four kids are engaged and doing their thing.

Ahhh… this is a magical moment. Who ever said online learning was difficult? The kids are learning from the comfort of their own home! I might even re-heat my coffee in celebration.

Time for me to get cracking on that first article, the top item on my list. The one that is due in about 24 hours. I know what I want to say, just need the time to write it…

“Moooommmmm!!” yells one of the kids from the other room. I can’t even tell them apart anymore in the blur. “My headphones are broken!”

Quick jump up to fix that situation, no sweat! Yep, all taken care of now, fantastic. As I slink away, my teenager asks for help with his math homework.

Ten minutes later, he has all the evidence he needs that he is smarter than me. I had been hoping to make it a few more years. I will be sure to make note in my journal of how grateful I am to have made it this far.

I settle back in front of the computer and peek at my email to see 423 messages letting me know assignments were submitted or schedules have been modified. Check, check, check, ok… a quick skim reassures me everyone is mostly on-task. Oh, except this one, here, from the school counselor about discussing strategies to help one of my kids focus during online learning. I make a mental note to respond.

Rut right now, the youngest is frustrated because she doesn’t know how to use scissors yet. Wonderful to have this opportunity at home to share life skills with her! Another entry in the gratitude journal.

It turns out that teaching a lefty to cut with scissors is new to me and more challenging than I had thought. We persevere, trying to cut out the fancy leaf she just made from a template I downloaded at midnight. Leaf-cutting requires more than entry-level scissors skills can handle; I take over so she can continue onward with next steps.

“Mom! Am I done for the day?” yells the nine-year-old from his Chromebook, who still has three live sessions to attend and a sea of work remaining on Seesaw.

It’s 9:30 a.m.

“Um… no.” I answer from the other room, still cutting out the leaves, mulling over the emails, and working on my article in my mind. My various mental notes are now morphing into a second to-do list I have started alongside my initial goals for the day.

“What do I have next???” he asks.

“Look at your schedule,” I say cheerily, hoping my enthusiasm spills over into his class meeting, as he rolls his eyes at me.

Is it already time for the breaks and the transitioning of 2/3 of my online-learners?

Welp, now it’s 9:45 and my conference call is at 10:00, and I need to swap duties with the husband who has been hiding in a quiet room so he can hold his own early morning calls.

Hustle, hustle over to the other room, still cutting out the leaf shape, as I set up my computer and ask the husband to emerge for child management. It took some complicated coordination well ahead of time to allow me 30 uninterrupted minutes, as this call is being recorded.

Thirty minutes later I emerge with a longer list of work-related tasks and I still have not started the capsule wardrobe. I will also have to put my family guided botanical hike on the backburner, as the article deadline is now several hours nearer and, somehow, I have not made any progress towards getting my thoughts on “paper.”

“Mom!” says the pantsless one, “This room is freezing!”

“Mama???” asks my daughter, “Can you help me glue the leaves?”

“Hey, Mom,” chips in my teen, “We’re out of milk.”

“Mom,” says the fourth-grader, again, “Am I done for the day?”

It’s 10:30.

New and Fun Ways to Engage with Your Child at Home: Let’s Get Cooking!

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Sometimes, being at home can be a real drag, and that was back when things were “normal”! We are staying home more often and it can be extremely stressful — especially when you have young children at home! So, instead of freaking out and letting your stress level skyrocket, sit back and check out some super simple ways to engage with your child through cooking!

Cutting Board, food prep, cooking

Cooking is something that is super simple to do because you are already doing it!  Plus, children really love to spend time in the kitchen cooking, which has been well-documented in homes everywhere.

The Benefits of Cooking with Kids

Not only do children really enjoy being a part of cooking a meal, they can learn so much from it, as well. These types of activities can teach and strengthen a ton of great and important life skills. For example, when you ask your child to help you create a menu of dinners for the week, you are helping them to think critically. Or, when you have them assist you in creating a  weekly menu (even just a few days on a chalk board!), you are encouraging their love of words and what they mean as well, as developing their fine motor skills.

How to Involve Children in Cooking

Here are some ideas on how to involve your child in the cooking process (and why it is good for them!):

  • Invite your child to help you create the shopping list for the week or specific meal. This is a really great way for your child to work on their critical thinking as they wonder and decide what things they will need to create meals. It also is a great way to help your child learn responsibility and life skills. If we want to eat, we need to go grocery shopping and purchase what we need. Another great thing about this is that children love feeling responsible for something important, and this certainly fosters that feeling.
  • If you choose to go to the grocery store in-person (or even if you order your groceries online), invite your child to assist you in choosing what you need from the list. You can create their own list that they are responsible for finding or have them help you. This is a really great way to engage them and help them learn! You could give them all items that begin with a certain letter or sound, or all items that are a certain color or taste. By doing this, children can learn how to shop for food which is an important life skill. They can also learn about counting and money. Walk them through how much items are and how much money you have to spend. Talk with them about the difference between cash and using a debit card. These are all simple things that you do every day, but they can be turned into amazing learning opportunities for your child. Plus, once again, they will feel so important that they will probably brag to everyone in the family about how they helped with the shopping, and it is always great to see your child feeling confident. 
  • When it comes time to prepare the meals, this is an awesome time to involve your child as well! Allow them to help you gather ingredients, measure them out, cook and serve. They will learn so many great mathematical and life skills through this simple chore.  Your child will be so engaged in this that you may even find a new-found sense of fun in what may otherwise have become a mundane task. 

Spoons of Spices

We all know that it can be tough to try to find  new ways to engage with your children. Especially during times like this, we are all searching for ways to become more connected. Think of it this way: we know that food brings people together, and the preparation of food and spending time in the kitchen also brings people together, which is something that we all need more of right now. So, use these daily chores as a way to connect with your child. Not only will you and your family feel closer, you will be helping to support your child’s development in so many ways. A win-win!

 

How to Create Calm at Home with a Teen in Quarantine

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The life of a teen parent is full of small quibbles, loud noises, and messes that may never get cleaned up. With distance learning, we fall into the trap of reminding them to turn in their assignments and nag them when they do not. Even as an educator, I fell into this trap. The strain on the relationship with my kid began to mount and I had to create a plan for calm at home with the teen.

Life at home with a teenager can be unpredictable, and challenging. The calm at home starts with us letting go of the things we cannot control. In turn, keeping true to one simple rule: give them choice and intervene when needed. Spoiler alert: most of the time it’s not needed.

The social contract. Setting up expectations for everyone in the house is necessary for calm at home with a teen. A social contract allows everyone to understand what is expected of them, and why. It also gives a clear outline for parents to turn to if expectations aren’t followed. This is especially important for teenagers, as they are needing to exercise their own choices as much as possible. Giving them the ability to choose many aspects of their day will provide more opportunity for asserting our opinion as needed. 

Chores are important! People are at home, and the house is dirty. We can enlist help to save our sanity by breaking up the tasks and putting everyone to work. How do you do this? Braindump all the tasks and ask everyone which jobs they prefer. This provides a choice and starts to cultivate the practice of teamwork. We can strengthen teamwork by pitching in when possible. For instance, in our home, when someone forgets to wash their dishes – we may step in and wash them one time. In another exchange, we may ask for some help with tasks as well. Over time, this creates cooperation and calm in the home.

Don’t forget social interaction! The social piece has been a struggle for many teens. Following precautions and regulations is the first priority. However, it is also important for teens to have social interaction in this stage of their development. This may be through video game communication, face time calls, or supervised social distancing. A plan can be created together using conversation opportunities in the car, mealtimes, or just by request. Something to also consider in the creation of these boundaries is to be flexible enough, if broken, it will minimally impact others.

teen girl and calm at home distance learning

The role in distance learning. Distance learning is something teens can take a primary role. In the first six weeks, we do need to help establish healthy habits – that means being clear in our expectations, creating systems that take you out of the equation, and following up when expectations are broken. Our daughter woke up late one day for school. Instead of rushing around and helping her, we empathized with her and asked how she was going to solve the problem. We then had a conversation at dinner about what we would do if she continued that behavior, instead of focusing on following her around and preventing her from doing it again. When the problems and solutions belong to the teen, we are only needed as guides. This keeps the house calm. 

Keep it fun! Lastly, it is important to schedule a fun time together with choice. It is up to us to find opportunities to spend time together in a meaningful way, even when they aren’t excited about it. However, we give our daughter one veto per day to opt-out of time with us in an activity. Our teens need interaction, praise, and to hear that they are doing things right more than they are doing things wrong. It’s easy to fall into the trap of criticizing and we still do it sometimes. That said, with open communication opportunities at dinner or in the car, this can be conveyed.

Life in quarantine can pose new challenges, but it is possible to create calm. Remember that time together, choice, and giving the solvable problems back to the teen is important.  As we do this, we create calm in our home with a teen. We also have more opportunity to step away and do the things we need to do as well.

PNW Adventures: Vancouver Waterfront

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I grew up in a town in New Jersey that was 10 minutes from the ocean. Any inch of property with a water view was occupied by homes, beaches, marinas, parks, or restaurants. Since moving to Portland 10 years ago, I’ve always wondered why Portland doesn’t use it’s waterfront better. I may never know the answer, but Vancouver transformed their waterfront into a lovely family-friendly area.  If you haven’t taken the kids to the Vancouver Waterfront lately, go check it out! 

Vancouver WaterfrontWhat you will find is a beautiful space with a wide walkway, perfect for a socially-distant walk with strollers or bikes. Bring the mask along as it can get crowded, especially on weekends and during warm weather.

Other highlights include a sand play area, climbing structure, and viewing platforms.  There isn’t a full playground, but what is available is plenty to keep the kids moving.

Our kids’ favorite is the water zone. The water cascades down a large wall, over steps, and ends in a knee-deep wading pool. It’s architecturally beautiful and tons of fun for the kids. Parents can sit on nearby benches while watching the kids run, jump, splash and giggle with excitement. The view of the Columbia is not necessarily something to write home about, but the bridges and water make for a cool backdrop.

Nearby Food and Drink

If hunger strikes, there are many eateries with outside seating. One great option a walk-up fish and chips window that also has soft-serve ice cream. There are a few wineries open now, most of which also have outdoor seating with ample space for physical distancing. Parking is on the street or in free lots.

Further Exploration

If you still have time left in your day, you can wander along the waterfront on a long walkway under I-5 and watch boats go by. There is a nice beach area to the east of I-5. This one definitely fills up fast on the weekends and on hot days. We were lucky and snagged a spot with plenty of space on a weekday.

Standard COVID advice still applies: bring masks, hand sanitizer, snacks, water, wipes and a portable potty. There are public restrooms at the renovated area of the Vancouver Waterfront, though it’s worth double-checking to see if they are open, as that situation changes. Most of the restaurants have restrooms for customers only.

If you are looking for a place to escape the heat, grab a bite, and get the legs moving, the Vancouver waterfront is an excellent option. 

 

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