When Things Don’t Go As Planned

Our Car on the Tow Truck

At least a dozen Bob’s Red Mill products grace the shelves of our pantry.  Steel cut oats, buckwheat flour, gluten-free pancake mix, and garbanzo bean flour to name a few. The company’s founder, with his glasses, silver hair and beard also reminds the kids of their dear Grandpa (affectionately known as BaBa). That resemblance plus our appreciation of his fine products has made Bob a welcome face in our home. When I found out that the Bob’s Red Mill factory is located just outside of Portland and they give tours daily (M-F) at 10am, it sounded ideal. Besides once touring the Tillamook Cheese Factory, the closest my kids have come to understanding what happens in a factory is reading Richard Scarry’s What Do People Do All Day. Touring Bob’s factory seemed like a great opportunity to help the kids understand where their food comes from and what it takes to turn stalks of wheat into a bag of flour.

Our plan was to first stop at the Bob’s Red Mill Whole Grain Store and Visitors Center for breakfast then head over to the factory. The plan came to a screeching halt (quite literally) when my slightly old but otherwise well-cared-for car died right in the middle of the Milwaukie Expressway. Thankfully we were already in the left turn lane at a light as cars were speeding past at 55mph but my car simply stopped and wouldn’t start up again. Kind locals didn’t even honk at us but I was still unnerved with my Mom and her dog in the front with me and both kids in the back and not sure what to do. Glancing to the side of the highway and down a hill, I saw three guys outside of an office building — they were my best hope at that point. After hollering to ask for help they quickly drove up behind me with hazard lights on and proceeded to push my car out of the busy intersection. By this time my girl could sense my nervousness and was starting to cry. Strangely, having three guys run while pushing our car snapped her right out of it and her tears quickly turned to laughter. Gotta love her quirky sense of humor, especially at a time like this.

If not for the kindness of strangers, this story could have turned from bad to worse but once our three heroes got our car into a safe place we were able to walk to breakfast at Bob’s Store to figure out our next move. (Sorry no photos of the Bob’s restaurant, I was a tad bit distracted. It was just OK, by the way, not really worth a trek to Milwaukie unless you plan to stock up on Bob’s products and/or take a factory tour, something we didn’t get to do but still hope to someday.) While we were munching on stacks of pancakes, I got a call from a car repair place. Not only did those nice guys help us move the car to safety, they researched mechanics in the area and had one call me directly. Did I mention that they were my heroes?

After talking to the mechanic, we called a towing company and were told to look for a big rig with flames on it. Could we have custom-ordered anything more appealing for a 6-year-old-boy? I think not. To make a long story short, we piled ourselves and the cooperative little Happy Dog into the noisy (“awesome”) tow truck, got our car loaded (also “awesome” according to the kids) and went to the repair shop only to find out that my timing belt had broken. This is not a quick fix or an affordable fix. Oh, and did I mention that this was the week that my husband was on a business trip on the other side of the globe and therefore not reachable? So many things were not going our way on this day yet we were safe and everything was getting figured out so we were grateful for that.

Auto Shop

Finally, once the car repairs were all lined up, we rented a car and made the 3+ hour drive home. Along the way, the kids couldn’t stop talking about the tow truck, the repair shop, and those nice guys who pushed us off the highway with their bare hands (Portland’s incredible OMSI plus other museums and staying in a really nice Hotel room were now ancient history compared to the excitement of our day).

Now that the car is fixed, back in our garage (thank you, kind husband for driving back to retrieve it), and paid for (also thank you for going to work every day, kind husband) it’s easy to see all the teachable moments along the way:  Keeping calm in a stressful situation, understanding the mechanics of a car and all the possibilities of engine failure, looking on the bright side, and gratitude for everyone’s safety (and awesome flame-decorated tow trucks). It’s days like this one that are remembered forever.

Do you have a travel fiasco story that you’d like to share?

Laughing Planet Cafe

Portland offers a fabulous mix of healthy living, inventive cuisine, and eclectic fun. One of our favorite restaurant stops was at the Laughing Planet Cafe where they put the FUN in Portland’s Funky.

Bright artwork and old Godzilla movie posters, retro toys in a display case, and plastic dinosaurs scattered around on the tables provided ample fun for the kids and a cheerful atmosphere for all of us. Nutritious whole-foods are the specialty here and the modern-Mexican menu features inventive burritos, quesadillas, and salads plus plenty of gluten-free, vegetarian, and/or vegan options. The lack of mac and cheese and French fries on the kid’s menu was impressive, in fact the kid’s menu here is one of the healthiest I’ve seen. Of course, my kids still wanted a cheese quesadilla but pairing it with beans and guacamole for dipping made it relatively nourishing.

There is a casual outdoor seating area with picnic tables behind the cafe if you’re in the mood to dine al fresco (and it’s not too cold). Consider stopping here on your way to OMSI, it’s not too far out of the way.

Lunch and Dinner served daily, 3320 SE Belmont Street, Portland, OR 97214, (503) 235-6472 (there are also 6 other locations in Portland, 2 in Eugene, and 1 in Corvalis, see their website for more information).



OMSI is Out of This World

OMSI sign

The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI) in Portland is truly amazing. We didn’t have nearly enough time to see everything but general admission to the main sections of the museum provided ample interaction, entertainment, and learning for all of us. If you have more than just one day to explore, you’ll also want to check out the Omnimax giant 5-story-screen theater, multimedia Laser Light shows or vivid high-tech presentations about stars and space in the Planetarium. You can also tour a real Submarine in the water (the USS Blueback is parked in the Willamette River), or experience a Motion Simulator for an additional cost.

Options for Admission Prices
OMSI Submarine tour

We started in the Turbine Hall where you can witness the power of rocket propulsion, earthquakes, electricity, and more. Multiple interactive exhibits give kids a chance to harness that power for themselves, starting with a water rocket and air-propelled shooting bottle.

Water Rockets
Water Rocket
OMSI air pressure rocket

Holograms and fiber optics are displayed and explained in a room off to one side while another area offers hands-on physics experiments including a hair-raising static electricity ball.

Hair-raising Static Energy
Controlling a real robot

Kids can play Connect Four with a real robot or test their speed in performing very specific actions compared to the abilities of a robot.

Next we experienced the feeling of an earthquake in a small house that shakes and rattles when you press a button or build your own structure to test whether it will withstand a shaker.

In the Earthquake House
Building a tower to test the stability in an earthquake

There are too many exhibits to list them all but we also loved the boat building station where kids build a variety of boats then test their speed and the Inventor’s Ball Room where pipes can be connected in infinite ways to send balls flying in every direction.

Building boats to test their speed
Inventor's Ball Room

As if there wasn’t enough to keep us engaged on the first floor, we headed upstairs for more interactive fun and learning.

Escalator Ride
Learning About Nanotechnology
Learning About Consuming and Burning Calories

Who knew that information about calories and nanotechnology (separately) would intrigue a 3 and 5 year old so? OMSI knew and they executed all of it beautifully. There were places to jump, spin and balance to show the way the body uses calories and enlargements of the body using marbles to show the way nanoparticles can move into the bloodstream. Several exhibits highlighted the intelligence of animals then the kids got to see some up close in the Life Sciences room.

"Is This Thinking?" Yes
Bird Brain exhibit with Crows using tools
Using The Powerful Microscope

One of the halls was closed during our visit (they were taking down an exhibit and putting up a new one) so there is usually even more to explore.

For us, the Science Playground designed for kids ages 6 and younger was the perfect way to end our visit there. A little more low key than the other areas, we all enjoyed winding down pretending to be squirrels searching for acorns, using a pulley to move bean bags, playing with blocks, and sifting and moving some sparkly sand in a big sandbox area.

Pretending to Store Nuts for the Winter
Pulley Play
Playing with Sand
Playing in Sand that Sparkles

Extra Fun:  Before or after your visit, check out OMSI’s great interactive activities online http://www.omsi.edu/for-kids

Food & Snacks: Fuel up before you dive into this wonderful interactive world, you’ll need your energy. Food and drinks are available at the OMSI Cafe or Galileo’s Coffee Bar but I doubt my kids would have been able to sit still for a meal once they were there. We opted to drive a little bit further South, into the Belmont neighborhood for a healthy and hearty lunch at the Laughing Planet Cafe, totally worth the slight detour.

Family-Friendly and Pet-Friendly Hotel Vintage Plaza

I’m not sure if it was the complimentary glass of wine that was offered upon arrival (they host a daily wine reception from 5 to 6pm in their stylish and welcoming lobby) or the friendly valet who volunteered an easy, affordable parking option rather than selling us on the Hotel’s valet service but Hotel Vintage Plaza in Portland had me at “Hello.” READ MORE

Road Trip: Portland, Oregon

Officially the City of Roses, Portland has many nicknames:  Stumptown (referring to the city’s rapid growth in the mid-1800s when development was happening so fast there was only time to cut trees without clearing their stumps), Bridgetown (this one is obvious since multiple bridges cross the Willamette and Columbia rivers within Portland’s city limits), and Beervana (Portland boasts more brewpubs per capita than any other US city) to name a few. READ MORE