Sunday, January 31, 2010

February 2010 Happenings

These are my monthly event listings for the Portland metro area for February. Normally I expect I will be posting them on the first or second day of each month, but this month I was able to make a listing that is more or less finished a few days early. Please bear in mind that this is not intended to be a complete list, this is the list of events I pick as being of interest to my homeschool group. We like events that have some cultural or educational value, are free or low cost, and are suitable for younger kids roughly 3-7. We can be picky. Also please note that although I am making every effort to be accurate, you should confirm listings yourself to be on the safe side. I use about 30 sources (and counting!) and mistakes can happen.

Tadpole Tales are naturalist lead stories, followed by nature walks, with fun activities for the kids. They did these last fall at Whitaker Ponds (NE 47th Avenue just north of Columbia Blvd.) and I thought they were excellent, with a wide age appeal. And they are rather inexpensive, at $3 per child over age 3. The differences this spring are that they will be at Whitaker Ponds only for February and then will be moving to different locations each month. Also they are requiring preregistration, by calling 503-281-1132 or emailing They will be each Wednesday from 10 to 11:30, beginning February 3.

Continuing through March 19, every Friday at the Multnomah Arts Center in SW, from 6-8:30PM they are having Family Clay Night, which is $10 per hour for one adult and child pair, $4 for each additional child,and includes glazings, firings, and 5 lbs of clay. This would be a great way to introduce your child to real clay, without the commitment of a series of classes.

Friday, February 5, from 7 to 8PM, the Hillsboro Main Library is hosting Asia FantAsia. Here's their description: "Master storyteller Robert Kikuchi-Yngojo of Eth-Noh-Tec delights his audience with folk tales and myths from Asia: Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Afghanistan and other Asian cultures. His engaging performances take his audiences of young and old on an adventure of the imagination, weaving a variety of traditional tales with music, movement and wild facial gestures to bring the characters and places to life. A few examples from his repertoire include: "Firedog" (Korea), "Rainbow Mudbabies" (Philippines), "Mr. Pepper Peel and the Parrot" (China), and "The Bird of Happiness" (Tibet)."

Here's a cool library program the weekend of Feb. 6-7 “From the Inside Out: An Introduction to the Human Body”. Here's their description: "What happens to french fries after you eat them? How do you lift, throw, run and jump? What helps you think and learn? Answer these questions and more in a hands-on look into the human body. Students explore the skeletal, digestive, nervous, muscular, respiratory, and circulatory systems, and learn how to take their vital signs and stay healthy. Saturday, February 6, 11 a.m.–noon,North Portland Library
Saturday, February 6, 3–4 p.m., Woodstock Library, Free tickets for seating will be available 30 minutes prior to the program.
Sunday, February 7, 3:30–4:30 p.m., Midland Library (and what struck me about this one is that Feb. 7 at 3PM Pacific is the Super Bowl! A fabulous day for many of us to get out of the house with our kids! It may be at capacity so get there early...)

If, on the other hand, you are interested in seeing the Super Bowl with your child, and want company, a more welcoming choice than a sports bar might be a movie theatre! Offhand I know the Baghdad Theatre in SE and the Venetian Theatre in Hillsboro are both showing it on the big screen for free. So will the Tigard Public Library. Check your local theatre to see if they're going to be in on the fun too. Please note that the Venetian Theatre is known to be haunted, and the employees say the paranormal activity only gets crazier the more crowded it is.

Tryon Creek State Park is having Family Flying Squirrel Night on Saturday, February 6 from 6:30- 8:30 PM. "Families will have the opportunity to learn about how flying squirrels are adapted to survive in this forested habitat, make a flying squirrel craft and join one of our nature guides on an evening hike in the forest." Cost is $6 per person. Preregistration is required and can be done online.

Portland Center for the Performing Arts has their monthly free noontime showcase on Monday, February 8 with live music, Gerado Calderon and Grupo Condor. "Gerardo Calderón is an accomplished musician who performs traditional folk music of Mexico and South America. He plays a variety of Latin American string instruments as well as turtle shells, zampoñas (pan flutes), and water drums. His performance will lift your spirits and leave you energized. It is appropriate for all ages." This takes place in the lobby of the Hatfield Hall Rotunda Lobby at 1111 SW Broadway in downtown Portland. Getting there early is highly suggested.

Wednesday February 10 at 7PM at the Tualatin Public Library, they are hosting a free, all ages performance of the Tears of Joy Puppet Theatre, Raven Steals the Sun, based on a Native American folktale. Tears of Joy is always worth checking out.
That same evening, Feb. 10 from 5:30-7:30PM, at the Holgate Library at 7905 SE Holgate Blvd, there will be a Vietnamese New Year celebration with a Lion Dance performed by the students of Van Lang School, a local Vietnamese school. There will also be crafts and traditional food.

The Great Backyard Bird Count begins on Feb. 12, more info here: In order to participate, you have to commit to tallying for 15 minutes each day for four days, the total number of birds you see- the catch, of course, is that you must be able to positively identify the species.  More info here:

Looking for something on Valentine's Day weekend that's fun to do with the whole family, but still oh so romantic for you and your true love? How could you do better than this... monster trucks at the Rose Quarter!!! It's February 13th and 14th, with 3 shows and a pit party. Here is their description of this extravaganza: "Monster Jam, sanctioned by the United States Hot Rod Association, is the most popular monster truck tour, performing to over 4 million fans annually at the most prestigious arenas and stadiums throughout the world. Monster Jam shows consist of three main fan-favorite elements – the pit party, racing and freestyle. Approximately 12 feet tall and about 12 feet wide, monster trucks are custom-designed machines that sit atop 66-inch-tall tires and weigh a minimum of 10,000 pounds. Built for short, high-powered bursts of speed, monster trucks generate 1,500 to 2,000 horsepower and are capable of speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. Monster trucks can fly up to125 to 130 feet (a distance greater than 14 cars side by side) and up to 35 feet in the air. The Built Ford Tough Party in the Pits on Saturday, February 13th from 11:30 –1:00p gives fans the opportunity to get a view of the trucks up close and meet the drivers of the massive monster trucks." Tickets start at $20 for adults and $10 for kids. Now, don't tell me that doesn't sound entertaining!

Saturday Feb. 13 and Sunday Feb 14 at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Hillsboro is the NW Family and Kids Festival. The cost will be $10 per family but there is a $2 off coupon on their website They don't have much information posted on this yet. When they have their list of exhibitors posted, I will have a better idea if it sounds like something I would recommend, or if it's mainly an opportunity for marketing to families...

The Chinese New Year will be celebrated at the Portland Convention Center on Sun Feb 14 from 10AM- 6PM with a Chinese Cultural Fair. Here's their description: "The 2010 Chinese New Year Cultural Fair -Year of the Tiger - will showcase both traditional and contemporary Chinese cultural activities including Chinese folk dances, Chinese instrumental music and popular oldies, Kung Fu and martial arts demonstrations, Chinese puppet show and the most important entertainment for Chinese New Year the Lion and Dragon Dance! There will also be around 80 booths featuring different products and services. These attractions will thrill both the young and old. Come to watch the exciting show and sample the exotic Chinese delicacies we offer! The Chinese New Year Cultural Fair will bring in the Chinese New Year, new fortunes, and prosperity. In recent years, the festival has been one of Portland’s most celebrated festivals and is entertaining for the whole family!" Children under 6 are free and adults are $6 at the door, $4 in advance at More info at

On Sunday, February 14, from 12-4, the Audubon Society of Portland is having an open house at their Wildlife Care Facility. This is free and open to all ages. (For some reason, various media outlets have this on their event calendars, but the Audubon Society does not have details on their own website. This is a problem I encounter fairly often with all kinds of event listings. I'll try to update here as well but I advise calling them at 503-292-6855 to confirm before making definite plans to attend).

Naturally the Lansu Garden (Portland Classical Chinese Garden) will be celebrating the Year of the Tiger in style, from Feb 14-28, 10AM- 5PM every day. For a complete calendar of events, see All events are free with admission, which is $8.50 for adults, $6.50 for children 6-18, and free for ages 5 and under.

Tuesday, February 16, from 5:30 to 7:30PM, at the Midland Library at 805 SE 122nd Ave, they will celebrate the Chinese New Year with drumming, Chinese opera singing, a fashion show, crafts and snacks.

Wednesday, February 17 from 5:30PM to 7:30PM, at the Woodstock Library at 6009 SE 49th Ave, they will be celebrating the Chinese New Year with a Lion Dance, songs, music, crafts, and treats.

Another cool library program: Signs of Animals- "Animals are all around you, but you have to look for the clues. Be an animal detective and learn about snake sheds and spider molts. Figure out what an owl has been eating and what animal left his antlers behind. Fur, feathers and zoo poo can tell you a lot about the animals they came from."
Saturday, February 20, 2–4 p.m., Gregory Heights Library
Tuesday, February 23, 4–6 p.m., Hillsdale Library
Saturday, February 27, 3–5 p.m., Holgate Library
Free tickets for seating will be available 30 minutes prior to the program.

Tryon Creek State Park will be having their excellent monthly Kids in Nature program on Sunday, February 21 from 10- 11:30AM. This month the topic is nesting owls. "Owls are nesting in the park! Join us to learn about these special winter residents including a walk to one of their nesting sites. Learn the sounds to listen for to find owls in your neighborhood." Cost is $10 per child over 4 and the required preregistration can be done online

Has your child ever seen a magician? Mine hasn't. This is wrong. I'd better do something about this right away! Presto the Magician will be performing for free at the West Linn Library Tuesday February 23 at 6:30PM for ages 3 and up.

Walking With Dinosaurs will be at the Rose Quarter in February, and while this is not a low cost event, having seen it several years ago I can say it's so superfabulously cool that I'm going to mention it anyway. More info at

The Unique Animal Expo is at the Washington County Fairgrounds Saturday Feb 27th and Sunday Feb 28th. There will be all kinds of pets on display. Last time there was a pet lion, a camel, and a potbellied pig, as well as many many cool pets actually for sale. Adults are $8, kids 5-12 are $4 and under 5 are free. This is a marvelous chance
to see all kinds of animals and ask questions about their care.

As always, I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for updates and will post them here.

Friday, January 29, 2010

The ABC's and All Their Tricks

Yesterday my son wanted to make a gas station for his Lego race cars. He built it but then wanted to make a sign for it. He asked me to help him write "Shell Gas Station". Usually I write on his blackboard and he copies, but this time I realized that if he knows all his letters, it makes more sense for him to write on the blackboard himself. Well, also there was the fact that he wanted most of the letters to be lower case, but wanted the "E" to be upper case. That way there can be extra "legs" added to the "E" to make his favorite letter, the "millipede E". I tried to explain the rules of capitalization, but they didn't stand a chance against millipedes! I was thrilled to discover that he was able to begin sounding out the letters. But when we got to "tion", what was I to do?

Thank goodness I have this handy book! It deserves a special Valentine. "The ABCs and All Their Tricks" by Margaret M. Bishop, goes through all the letters and offers a quick explanation for any and all weird phonics issues that arise in the English language. I was able to quickly explain what is going on with this letter combination, show him a bunch of other words with the same pattern, and add that they are all Latin words. Voila! He may not have understood much of that, but the vital thing for me is that I made it clear that learning to read English is not an impossible task full of daunting hurdles of unexplained phenomena, but a complex rhythm of patterns that can be observed. I sense that my confidence in teaching reading has to be awfully important, because if I, as a grownup, look dazed and confused, how helpful is that? This book is strictly a reference book for teachers, not something you would want to read out loud to your child, but it's truly amazing and very useful. It must have taken a herculean effort to compile all this information in one handy paperback, and it's only about $10. I bet your library has a copy- check it out!

Taare Zameen Par

This is an amazing film! It's about an 8 year old child who is failing miserably at school. His father sends him to a boarding school hoping that they will straighten him out. Things only get worse. Then, a new art teacher reaches out to him.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Bollywood, Aamir Khan, who produced, directed, and costars in this film, is now so famous that he can pick his projects very carefully and work with the best in the business. His name on a film is basically a guarantee the film will be wonderful, which is definitely a good thing as he does not have a release every year. Bollywood movies as a rule are never done with synch sound; the sound and dialogue are dubbed afterward. This enables stars like John Abraham and Katrina Kaif, whose Hindi was quite poor when they started acting, to have other actors dub all their dialog. The DVD included an option to see an "English" version, as well as an option of subtitles. I was curious about the English version, and if it would simply be English dubbing. It turns out that if you select it, you are treated to a totally separate film, shot simultaneously, with the actors speaking their lines in English. This must have been a horrendously expensive addition, although much of the Hindi version is actually in English. (When the child in the film is shown struggling to read and write, it's always in English.) The songs, thankfully, have been preserved in their original Hindi, and unlike some Bollywood films, subtitles are available for the songs. The songs are wonderful and blend into the action rather than being lavishly choreographed dance segments. This film was a huge commercial success, and swept the 2007 Filmfare Awards, winning Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Screenplay. The child actor who had the lead role, Darsheel Safary, was nominated for Best Actor, and won the Critics' Award for Best Actor. These awards are the most important film awards for Bollywood, and instead of a shadowy "academy", the public is invited to vote. I have heard them criticized by crustier armchair critics than myself, but I find them a vastly better gage of an enjoyable film than the Academy Awards.

I was expecting this film to have something inspiring to say about teaching. It certainly did, but I found what it had to say about parental love was really moving. If you can keep a dry eye during the song, "Maa", you're made of sterner stuff than I! It was interesting to me to see a film in which a teacher forms a personal relationship with a student, something which is actively discouraged in our culture. The movie also really emphasizes the importance of creativity. You've probably heard it said that students these days are studying technology that is obsolete before they graduate, and that practically the only marketable skill we can be sure our kids will need in the future is creativity. (At the same time, public schools are often finding in these tough times that there's no room in the budget for art and music, and there rarely ever was for drama or dance.) This film serves as a reminder that both teaching and learning can really be approached creatively. This is a subject that must be dear to Mr. Khan's heart, since he tackles a similar theme in his latest release, "3 Idiots", which takes place at an engineering college (also not to be missed!).  Netflix has it, or pester your library to add it to their collection!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Northwest Agricultural Fair

Jasper and I went to the Ag Show today. As we were oohing and aaahing at the outrageous machines, with tires taller than mommy, our eyes alighted on a machine that from the front reminded me a lot of an automatic car wash, with strange rotating brushes inside. "What the heck is that???" I said. Imagine my astonishment when I saw a seat on the top, and wheels underneath! No need to pick things like berries, coffee, jatrophas and saskatoons manually anymore! Just drive your harvester right over the bushes! While asking yourself, what the heck are jatrophas and saskatoons and what kind of market is there for huge machines to pick them? What about all the soon to be out of work jatropha pickers? My heart goes out to them. I guess you learn something new every day...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Learning Our Colors

Yesterday we had a Hindi lesson with a dear friend and her children, and learned some colors. After we came home, Jasper and I made a color chart together and played a color game together. I would read the names of the colors, then name just one of them. If he could remember which one it was and point to it, he earned a chocolate chip! Who says my wiggly boy won't sit down for formal lessons? The whole family will be trying it again tonight.

Jasper told me he doesn't want to speak in Hindi, he wants to use English. I said, "but so few people around here speak it- it will be like a secret language we can talk to each other in! In fact, the way I'm likely to speak it, even if someone hears me who does understand Hindi, it will still be like a secret language!" That helped him see it in a new light.


Spring is almost here, and my little boy is already making a birthday list for his 5th birthday! Where did the time go? Here's a little movie as a tribute to Jasper and springtimes past.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

New Hand-Painted Shirts!

I have listed some brand new hand painted shirts! They are all hand dyed in eye popping colors and painted with rambunctious critters! The dinosaur is a favorite of mine...He's really cute running from a kid's back to their front. EEEEEEK! Check them all out on Etsy at