Best ways to beat the heat with the kids in Portland
Is it hot enough for you? Portland is smack dab in the middle of the kind of heat wave that has many of we mamas wilting (especially those of us who grew up in temperate climes, and/or don't have air conditioning in our homes). It's hard enough when you're just you and have to decide how to deal with the discomfort and short tempers of extreme heat; and then comes motherhood and the testiness is compounded. And if you're the mama of three, like me, somehow hanging out beside a pool seems the very least relaxing thing in the world -- you're the lifeguard to three little ones and, eek! Talk about water torture.
There must be a better way! We've talked before about ways to beat the heat, so I've developed a list of some of my favorite antidotes to the hotness. What are yours?
1. The Multnomah County Library. Branches are air conditioned and you can catch up on your Summer Reading if you haven't already sped through the "map" -- or start now if you haven't already! Most branches have computers set aside just for kids with educational games and books; here is a link to story times. Or just sit in a corner and read. Woodstock and Belmont are our neighborhood faves.
2. Wading pools in Portland Parks. While the wading pools' days are numbered (state regulations and concerns about chlorination standards mean that standing-water features are being phased out as of last year), the people at Portland Parks & Recreation work hard to extend hours and open as many wading pools as possible when it's hot. I know from the neighborhood listserv that Creston Park's wading pool is open 11 to 7 through the heat wave; is yours open more hours, too? Let us know!
3. Solpops and make-your-own popsicles. Inspired by Solpops, the fruit-positive popsicles that are sold at many farmer's markets and now New Seasons, I made my own popsicles the other day. Convenience food it wasn't, but I loved the process and the promise of super-concentrated fruity iciness. I made mine by rinsing and pitting (if appropriate) fruit -- I used cherries, blackberries and currants -- and simmering it with a cup or two of water and a half-cup of honey for about 20 minutes. Then I pushed the mix through a sieve (if you don't mind seeds or have fruit that is already peeled, like bananas, you could just mash or blend or Cuisinart it) and poured into shot glasses, putting sticks in once they started to freeze up. When I was a kid we had our own popsicle mold and we froze Kool-Aid: a much quicker and easier method.
4. Spray water features at Irving Park and Essex Park. These are just my two favorite; it's fun to get wet, wet, wet and not have to worry about the dangers of standing water. Be sure and bring a towel or two if you come by car or bike with absorbent seats, and sandals or other shoes that are good in the water are a better bet than bare feet.
5. Bike rides to the river. It may not be exactly cool, but the breeze off the river is at least less hot than the one through my window. And there are plenty of shady spots on the Eastbank Esplanade, my favorite for biking. And one great part about the heat is that it keeps lots of people off the road. Who wants to sit in a car and have the heat magnified? All the better for family biking; you can generate a little wind going down hills and cars and other bikers are going slow, anyway, so no one minds if you're taking your time. We wear lightweight longsleeved shirts in the sunniest parts of the day to reduce the effects on our skin.
6. Jamison Square. This cascading water feature is a favorite of many Portland parents; it's not my favorite as it can be frenetic when it's hot, and it's big enough so it's hard to keep track of multiple children. Also, many of the neighborhood's permanent residents are childless, and sometimes it shows. Even given its drawbacks, I've spent many a fun hour splashing with kids here. [Note: I just talked to the Portland Water Bureau, which says the fountain is on, and not to worry if you see the fountain off; it won't be off for long.]
7. Sauvie Island picnic. My Twitter friend Rebecca recommends a picnic at Sauvie's Island for older kids; get more of that breeze-off-the-water effect and, if you're feeling up for it, maybe a few pounds of pick-your-own peaches on the way home?
8. Park Blocks. If you must get out of the house and fear your children won't do well in a place requiring quiet, the Park Blocks provide lots of shade and great stretches of sidewalk for happy running. On Wednesdays from 10 to 2, the Portland Farmer's Market sets up shop behind the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, so you can grab lunch or some berries to take home and make into popsicles.
9. Bake a pie. OK, so this may be just for me, but sometimes I just have to embrace my inner Southerner (I lived in the South for several of my single adult years) and just revel in the heat. Why not? Could I really be more uncomfortable? So I get out my lard and my flour and my favorite calico apron and, hey! at least in an hour I'll be hot but I'll have pie.