Strangers and germs and bears... Oh my? Are parents these days too worried, or not worried enough? What's your parenting style? Do you let the kids roam free-range or do you hover like a low-flying helicopter? Where do you draw the line between caution and fear; encouragement and pressure; and healthy exposure and over-protection?
IN-STUDIO GUESTS: Joining KTD Host Shana Sheehy are two guests, both mothers with a lot to say on this topic.
• Lenore Skenazy (aka "World's Worst Mom") is the author of Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children Without Going Nuts With Worry joins us from New York.
• Right here from Alaska we've got Michelle Mitton in the studio - you may already be a fan of her hugely popular mommy-blog Scribbit.
- When I Was Young: How free-range were you? - Adults remember how things were different back in the day in a new segment of When I Was Young.
- Alaska parents talk freedom and BEARS! - Parents from all over the state weigh in on how free (or not) they are with their children. [Full story]
On Tuesday, June 7 we'll be discussing free range vs. helicopter parenting on Kids These Days! with two insightful and humorous guests. In the studio with host Shana Sheehy are Lenore Skenazy (aka World's Worst Mom), author of Free-Range Kids: How to Raise Safe, Self-Reliant Children Without Going Nuts With Worry will be joining us from New York; and right here from Alaska we've got Michelle Mitton in the studio - you may already be a fan of her hugely popular mommy-blog Scribbit.
PLUS, adults remember how things were different back in the day in a new segment of When I Was Young; from all over the state Alaskan parents talk about how free (or not) they are with their children; and a new Power of One with the hip-hoppin', don't-stoppin' Junior Gisa of the after-school program AK PRIDE.
Tune in to KSKA at 2 and again at 7 to listen. This show will be posted right here, too, on KidsTheseDays.org on Tuesday, June 7.
Ethan wakes as soon as we spot the toe of Root Glacier, a sticky mile and a half hike along the lateral moraine of Kennicott Glacier. Eyebrows furrowed, he peeks at the glacier suspiciously from behind his sun, rain, and mosquito protection screen. Kyra bounces excitedly ahead of our guide, Kate, who reminds me of the carefree life I had before having kids.
Kyra orders, “Come on guys, let’s go.”
I wink at Thomas, relieved that we can finally hike this distance without carrying both kids.
Kate points at the moat running along Kennicott Glacier and says, “There are all these caves and under ice pathways people can explore at the end of the summer. And once the deeper ones open up the surface water disappears and you can walk through the tunnels.”
The photo I had hoped to capture of the four of us encircled by swirls of blue ice is not going to happen. I try not to display any disappointment on my face. Tomorrow, we are driving back to Eagle River and this “Alaskan adventure,” which took us several years to plan, will be over. Since we had kids, “Alaskan adventures” seem expensive, brief, and unpredictable. With every step I take on this trail, I worry that things might go horribly wrong like the snowmachine trip we took in March where our truck slid on a patch of ice resulting in damages we are still paying for today. (See Love + eMotion: Hike, not Mush.)
When Kate announces that it’s time to put on our crampons, Kyra starts to dance, “Oh yeah! Oh yeah!”
I did too when Gaia first told me over the phone that they could outfit young kids with crampons. Gaia, who rode in a bail bucket at the front of a raft at age two, understood my frustration that my kids are too young for adventure travel. St. Elias Alpine Guides does not have an age limit for their glacier hikes, simply a guideline that young children can either hike for at least five miles or be carried by sure-footed parents.
Fortunately, Gaia had also paired us with Kate who believes that helping kids connect with nature is her job. “Having kid-sized crampons is a way to help kids do this. The earlier a person can experience nature and enjoy being in the wild, the more they will value all of the things that nature teaches: serenity, self-reliance, finding personal limits, recognizing the finite nature of life and the infinite cycle of nature. Showing kids how to use crampons also increases their responsibility and sense of autonomy.”
But the doubt that trickled into my belly early this morning had drowned my wild side. I tighten my crampons nervously as Kate arms my children’s feet with steel daggers.
Kyra gets 10 spikes, because she had on Kahtoolas with extra short bars. Ethan gets 4 because he had in-step crampons, designed to sit in the middle of an adult-sized foot.
Eyeing her crampons mischievously, Kyra asks, “Can I go anywhere I want?”
“Yes, there are no trails,” Kate says, “But you have to be careful. Walk slowly. Step up higher and step down harder. More spikes in the ice, the safer you are. Also, walk like a cowboy or cowgirl. And that’s all there is to it. A little higher, stronger, and wider.”
“Follow me!” Kyra commands, then steps onto the glacier. Grabbing her hand, Kate says to me, “I love her bold attitude.”
Together, they march up the glacier. Ethan, seeing how easy his sister handled her crampons, waves off our anxious hands and runs up the glacier.
“Ethan’s pretty fast on those crampons, huh?” I say to Thomas.
Ethan corrects me, “I’m Superman!”
“No, I’m Superman. You’re Buzz Lightyear!” Kyra yells from the ridge.
When we all get to the top, Kate says, “Wow, Ethan, you’re the youngest person I have ever seen walk on a glacier!”
Kyra complains, “Hey, what about me?” She starts to do a dance routine, a bit of popping, a glide, and a swivel.
“You are so awesome!” Kate laughs.
“Kyra, please don’t kick yourself or your brother.”
“I won’t!” Kyra sighs. Her dark sunglasses shield her eyes from me, but her tone suggests that she is doing a teenage “no duh, Mom” eye roll.
After exploring blue pools and moulins, we had lunch beside a developing crevasse, where glacier melt shoots down like a water slide.
Kate hands us each a red Twizzler and explains that if we bit the ends off we could use them like straws. Kyra sticks her head in the ravine and after a while complains, “It’s not working.”
Ethan demands a Twizzler too, but simply stands in the same spot sucking air. After a few minutes, he says, “Mine’s not working either.”
The glacier water cools my insides and I down a whole pint before eating lunch. I wish I could just lie down and take a nap and admire the view of Stairway Icefalls (according to Kate it’s the “second largest one in the world”) but the kids are rapidly adapting their jean ripping, dirt digging, rock throwing techniques to the melting glacier surface.
They stomp around with their crampons as if they are barefoot in a tub of grapes, making wine. They seem completely at ease, balancing on their spikes, and stepping into blue icy pools of water which they measure with Kate’s ice pick.
Keeping a firm hold on her ice pick, Kate shakes her head in disbelief and says almost to herself, “I love this family.”
Has this ever happened to you? You hear something on the radio while driving and then make a mental note to look it up when you get to a computer. Later on you sit down to search and - nope, completely gone - you've forgotten.
We here at Kids These Days! realize that sometimes you just can't remember what it was you wanted to search, and because we have so many great shows on various topics that maybe you didn't know about, we put them all together in a simple, easy-to-browse list here.
Now you can find what you're looking for or look until you find something else.
"HIGH SCHOOL IS a time when people push the limits, experiment and build a foundation for the rest of their lives," says KTD teen reporter Aviva Hirsch. She asked her peers at West Anchorage High School to tell her what kinds of examples they see in adults and the media, and what kinds of choices they are making for themselves when it comes to drugs.
Listen below to hear what teens really think about drug use.
This story originally featured on Show 35: Drugs These Days.
When I was a teenager, vacations with my parents meant schlepping along the boom box, a huge “portable” stereo that took six batteries to bring it to life. It played the radio and cassettes, and if we were lucky, would make it from Seattle to Montana with a stash of mixtapes and a couple of John Denver’s greatest hits (to appease my mother). Ah yes, traveling with big kids.
I always felt as if my folks were compromising on a long-held principle of actually conversing with each us while road tripping I-90. They allowed music at a reasonable decibel, and we didn’t argue about being bored (this was before Walkmans, even). These days, however, kids and their nano-technology allow them the luxury of plugging in, tuning out, and missing a potentially great vacation with their (ick!) parents. Alaska is one of those places that naturally seems to engage kids despite their age or stage of development, and sometimes parents need to simply pack up and head out to a place where the cell phone won’t work, the iPod won’t charge, and the best sounds come from Mother Nature instead of Justin Bieber.
If wilderness-with-luxury fits your family’s budget and comfort level, try Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge on beautiful Fox Island near Seward. A mere hour’s boat ride aboard one of the Kenai Fjords Tours vessels, passengers receive both a wildlife tour and chance to unwind before settling in one of eight comfy cabins with stellar views. A three-day Fox Island Escape offers time for sea kayaking, exploring the island, visiting with a National Park Service ranger, and eating the incredible food prepared in the Wilderness Lodge’s dining room. Even teens can’t argue with an experience like that. Plus, the absence of anything electronic allows for parent-kid time while paddling around or skipping rocks. A trip to Fox Island and Wilderness Lodge isn’t the cheapest three days one will spend with the fam, but it can be one of the most memorable.
For a more rugged experience, head down the Sterling Highway to Homer, where a short water taxi ride across Kachemak Bay delivers guests to Across the Bay Tent and Breakfast. Nestled in a secluded cove is an adventure waiting to happen, and the owners of ABTB truly have discovered a niche in the “almost camping” genre of eco-tourism.
Not just any tent, ABTB accommodations are solid, safari-style tents with carpeted floors, fluffy mattress-covered beds (guests bring their own sleeping bags), and a platform base from which to ogle the scenery or, as teenagers put it, “hang out”. A lodge hosts meals, and activities range from guided kayak trips where one might visit with sea otters or eat lunch on one of the tiny Herring Islands. Guests can also opt for a day trip to nearby Seldovia and explore the fascinating Native Alaskan history of the Kachemak Bay area. Mountain biking is huge in this area, and rental bikes make it easy to cruise the logging roads and trails near the lodge or for a longer ride into Seldovia. Tide-pooling is also fantastic anywhere in K-Bay, with all sorts of sea creatures making an appearance during low tide.
Ready, set, go! Teenagers, especially, need a nudge to inspire a family vacation, but once on the road can be enthusiastic and welcome travel companions. Take a chance and take a teen.
ONE OF THE tools the people in the drug and alcohol prevention world use in their work is the Youth Risk Behavior Survey; it’s an assessment developed by the Centers for Disease Control. The survey asks high school students to self-report on their risky behaviors in six different areas, including drug and alcohol use. The data is presented to show how many youth engaged in “risky” behavior: for example, in 2009, 33% of youth in Alaska had at least one alcoholic drink in the month before they filled out the survey.
But as KTD Contributor Jessica Cochran reports, a couple of Anchorage high school students turned the numbers around - 67% didn't have a drink - to show how many youth are making healthy choices.
Learn more: Summary of 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey results for the Anchorage School District The Strength of our Youth report done by Ariel Zlatkovski, Tanner Lyon and Michael Kerosky The survey students filled out this year.
This story originally featured on Show 35: Drugs These Days.
THE IDEA THAT marijuana is not as bad as other "harder" drugs has been circulating for years, and with modern marijuana more potent than the pot smoked in previous generations, this idea is even more harmful today - but this message is not getting out. As marijuana becomes legalized in certain areas, dispensed to treat a host of medical issues, and permeates modern movies, music and online - kids are increasingly conditioned to believe that using pot is "normal".
With recent studies showing a link between the early use of marijuana and increased chances of developing psychosis, these "social norms" surrounding pot use are especially dangerous for children and teens.
Here in Alaska, campaigns addressing alcohol and tobacco use are actively engaging teens and youth, yet there has been no such anti-marijuana campaign. Until now. The Anchorage Youth Development Coalition, a group of over 60 youth-serving organizations, is in the planning stages of a new campaign that will address these social norms surrounding pot use by youth and teens.
KTD Producer Sarah Gonzales spoke with Youth Development Specialist Thomas Azzarella about how this campaign is coming together.
This story originally featured on Show 35: Drugs These Days.
Whether it’s something like “Spice” you can get over the counter, pills swiped from the bathroom cabinet, today’s marijuana or another substance – let’s face it – the Drugs These Days are different than when adults were growing up. Ever heard of “bath salts”? They’re not what you think… So on today's program we’ll learn what’s out there today, talk about how parents and caregivers can keep an eye out for drug use and find out what efforts are being made statewide to address contemporary problems.
IN-STUDIO GUESTS: Joining KTD Host Shana Sheehy in the studio are three guests.
• Rick Pawlak is an Alaska State Trooper in the narcotics division – he knows what’s out there and how it gets into the hands of youth.
• Tech Sergeant Jennifer Theulen is a prevention educator from the Alaska National Guard’s Drug Demand Reduction (DDR)program; she tells us what works and what doesn’t when it comes to stopping kids before they start.
• Tad Sumner is the clinical director of Volunteers of America's ARCH residential program for addicted teens; he walks us through recovery.
Duncan, the narcotics K-9,
goes into classrooms with AK State Trooper Rick Pawlak
Did you know? Each day, approximately, 2,500 teens use prescription drugs to get high for the first time according to the Partnership for a Drug Free America. Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including the home medicine cabinet. Prevent this by locking your meds while in use, and then properly disposing of unneeded or expired prescription drugs.
- Is marijuana use "normal"? - The idea that marijuana is not as bad as other "harder" drugs has been circulating for years, and with modern marijuana more potent than in previous generations, this idea is even more harmful today - but this message is not getting out. The Anchorage Youth Development Coalition, a group of over 60 youth-serving organizations, is in the planning stages of a new campaign that will address these social norms surrounding pot use by youth and teens. Youth Development Specialist Thomas Azzarella spoke with KTD Producer Sarah Gonzales about how this campaign is coming together. [Full story]
- How teenagers really feel about using drugs - Teenage reporter Aviva Hirsch returns with another excellent and candid collection of high school voices. This time they tell us what their parents have told them about using drugs, if they've ever used, if they ever would and which drugs are circulating in their world. [Full story]
- The strength is on the flipside! - So, 19% of Anchorage teens have used pot in the last 30 days according to the most recent results of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey administered in 2009. Well, a couple local teens flipped all those numbers, and presented the "Strength-Based" version which you can read here. That's right, 81% of Anchorage teens haven't used pot recently. KTD Contributor Jessica Cochran brings us the story. [Full story + graphic]
ANCHORAGE DAD OF three, Chris Paoli, considers the dynamics of being a dynamic man of the house - dad to his children, David, Joseph and Isabella, and husband to his wife, Jorie. It took him a while to warm up to the "Stay-at-home Dad" label, but he's getting there. Join him on this journey...
Whether it’s something like “Spice” you can get over the counter, pills swiped from the bathroom cabinet, today’s marijuana or something else – let’s face it – the Drugs These Days are different than when adults were growing up. Ever heard of “bath salts”? They’re not what you think…
Guests from the law enforcement, prevention and rehab areas join us Tuesday, May 31 to talk about what is out there, how to stop youth before they start using and how to treat them if they do become addicted.
Plus, we'll hear some very candid thoughts on drug use from teens themselves, we'll have a look at the upside of risk behavior reports, and we'll find out about a new campaign that will address the harmful "social norms" surrounding marijuana use. All that and more at 2pm and 7pm on KSKA Tuesday, May 31.
Tiptoeing out of my warm room, I slip onto the porch and brave a few daredevil mosquitos at 4:30 a.m., hoping that the other guests at Kennicott Glacier Lodge would still be in bed.
A large raven zips by, followed by a curious violet-green swallow. In a nearby spruce, a veery trills a ripple sound. The first explorer to discover this area must’ve held his breath like me, enjoying a private moment with this view. Now the largest national park in the United States, six times the size of Yellowstone, Wrangell-St. Elias contains nine of the sixteen highest peaks in North America and the nation’s largest system of glaciers, superlatives that seem inappropriate for exploration with young kids.
For Memorial Day weekend, even at this hour, I am pleasantly surprised that I can’t hear a whisper of human activity. Apparently, this is a good time of the year for locals to enjoy McCarthy-Kennecott before the tourist season. There is a relaxed attitude at play, where it is easy to erase from the scene the restored mine buildings painted in red with crisp white trimmings, the “No Parking” sign, the half-buried giant metal wheels that once crushed copper ore, even the windows that I peer through occasionally to check on my snoring family.
Kennicott Glacier sweeps down from 16,390 foot Mt. Blackburn to carve this U-shaped valley. Rocks and debris from the surrounding army of peaks and valley walls coat the jagged ice in shades of blacks, grays, and browns.
Barely visible against the white clouds in the north, Stairway Icefalls, a massive frozen cascade feeds Root Glacier. St. Elias Alpine Guides co-owner, Gaia Marrs, suggested that it might be fun for Kyra and Ethan to hike with crampons on this glacier later today.
I am a firm believer that having kids should not change your life. However, pacing the porch this morning, I worry that I am a bad mother for equipping my five-year-old and two-year-old, who crash into each other and do face plants every few steps, with crampons.
Yesterday, I didn’t see any other kids staying at the lodge. I got the feeling from chatting with locals that parents with kids around the age of mine usually don’t vacation here. IIt could be due to the eight hour drive from Anchorage with the last sixty miles rumored to be a 3 hour ordeal negotiating a graveled McCarthy Road sprinkled with washboard, potholes, and railroad spikes. A neighbor of mine who has a six-year-old and four-year-old twins thought that you still had to cross the Kennicott River by hand-operated cable tram.
So far, I am happy to report that our adventure to McCarthy-Kennecott offers a mother with young kids:
• Rest. In 1997, a footbridge replaced the hand-operated cable tram allowing more visitors to access Kennecott and McCarthy. However, most visitors stay put, since there are limited shuttles that run between Kennecott and McCarthy and it costs about $5 per person, one way.
Last night, relaxing on lounge chairs just outside the lodge while my kids played nearby on a plastic adventure playset, I realized that nearly every day we are driving back and forth between Eagle River and Anchorage for school, swim, or ballet lessons. We never really pause to enjoy our surroundings. And even when we do, there’s always the rev of engines rushing by.
On our porch in Eagle River, I often ask my kids to close their eyes and tell me what they hear. Before they mention the river or a bird or squirrel, they answer “car” or “airplane.” Here, the birds and insects drown out everything but the soothing roar of National Creek and Kennicott River.
• Assessment. While some of my friends dread being trapped in a car for eight hours with young kids, I actually enjoy getting to know them better. Kyra wooed me by singing her own rendition of Bruno Mars' "Marry You."
It’s a beautiful night,
We’re looking for something dumb to do.
I think I wanna marry Mommee.
Is it the look in your eyes,
Or is it this dancing juice?
Who cares baby,
I think I wanna marry Mommee.
Out of more than 200 games on our iPhones, my kids spent most of McCarthy Road snapping photos of each other.
“Smile,” Kyra ordered.
“Say Cheese!” Ethan said.
And when Ethan fell asleep, Kyra stared at the landscape speeding by and then quietly typed away on the Notes app. When I asked her what she was doing, she said, “Mommee, I’m writing about our trip. How do you spell Copper River?”
• Reflection. At Chitna before we started the McCarthy Road, we lost cellular service. With no computer, television, phones, or Internet access in Kennecott, I could finally hear my own thoughts. The kids didn’t bombard me with questions or demand that I play with them. Nature occupied them with unlimited stimulation and, best of all, absorbed their squabbling. They spent hours hopping after a Junco or battling each other with sticks, or throwing rocks into the river.
Being disconnected from the rest of the world also forces me to turn inward. Without emails to check or phone calls to make, memories of my summer working at Glacier National Park return, reminding me that I had once thought rangers and expedition guides had tempered the best quality of life. Most importantly, I found time to check-in with the wild part of myself that had to take a backseat when I became a mom and gave it some room to breathe.
As we talk hunting and gathering with our kids this week on KTD, talk turned in our house to the annual appropriation of our AK Fam State Parks Pass and subsequent trip to the Alaska Public Lands Information Center in downtown Anchorage.
Did you know 80% of Alaska’s real estate is held in public ownership, making up a whopping 300 million acres of land made for you and me? Alaskans should count themselves among the fortunate, with Forest Service, Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and State Park opportunities right here at our doorstep.
With so much landscape to navigate when exploring Alaska’s wildness, the four Public Lands Information Centers scattered throughout the state are a welcome addition, indeed. Operated by the above agencies and staffed by same, the Anchorage, Fairbanks, Tok, and Ketchikan buildings provide everything one needs to safely and appropriately enjoy public lands in the 49th state.
From interactive exhibits to maps to a well-stocked bookstore operated by Alaska Geographic, a visit to your closest Public Lands building can mean a stellar beginning to any trip, local or visitor. I am proud to say AK Fam has visited each of the four facilities, and is always impressed by the depth and breadth of information and people skills evident in the seasonal staff. It’s fun, too, for the conglomeration of agencies in one building creates a unique atmosphere of discovery for kids and adults. The Fairbanks facility, for example, is housed on Dunkel Street in the same building as the Fairbanks Visitors’ Bureau and has a fantastic series of displays profiling the history of Interior Alaska. Ketchikan’s building sits right on the waterfront and outlines the beauty and splendor of the woodsy southeast region. Tok is the gateway to the Interior and a link to Outside, and Anchorage combines urban and rural wilderness with a rich look at Captain Cook’s inaugural stop in 1776 to the inlet named for him.
AK Fam loves to show off Anchorage, and the Information Center on 4th Avenue is the perfect spot to begin. Every day at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., a Public Lands ranger will lead a walking tour of the downtown area with a particular emphasis on Captain Cook. Even for those who think they know everything about Alaska’s largest city, this tour is a must, for how many local families have really stopped at the Captain Cook statue at the end of 3rd Avenue and thought about how tough it must have been for good old Captain C. to get here in the first place? The tour is free and appropriate for kids age 10 and up, and might even be a great way for scout troops to earn merit badges. Meet at the corner of 4th Avenue and F Street and bring your walking shoes, appropriate clothing, and an adventurous spirit! Tours are offered seven days a week during the summer months, so grab visiting relatives and friends and make it a downtown sort of day.
Stick around for the Music in the Park as well, for just across the street at Peratrovich Park is a daily concert from Noon-1 p.m. Sponsored by the Anchorage Downtown Partnership, Music in the Park is a wildly popular series of musical interludes for the lunchtime business person, families, cruise ship passengers, and anybody else who wants a little al fresco tune time.
Take the time to safely explore your public lands this summer. From that ribbon of highway to the endless skyway, Alaska offers more than the eye can see.
HUNTING IS ON the rise in Alaska - unlike in other states - and maybe that’s because hunting is a family tradition for many in the Last Frontier. For one Wasilla family, the Adamses, the tradition of hunting - and gun safety - has been passed down through the generations.
KTD Producer Sarah Gonzales spoke with this family at the shooting range in Birchwood and in Wasilla, and also spoke with Jerry Soukup, the coordinator of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game's Hunter Information & Training (HIT) Program for this story.
This story originally featured on Show 34: The Hunting, Gathering, Fishing Family.
Merriam-Webster defines for us the word, “subsistence”, as it pertains to Alaskans as :” means of subsisting: as a : the minimum (as of food and shelter) necessary to support life b : a source or means of obtaining the necessities of life”
Alaska Native Peoples exemplify what the dictionary strives to define. They obtain their food, shelter, and clothing from the land. The land provides everything they need to sustain their lives, their existence.
In my mind, the word “subsistence” conjures images like an Iñupiaq hunter waiting for hours poised over an air hole ready to strike a seal (oogruk) with his harpoon, or a whaling crew hunting bowhead. I think grandmothers and grandchildren gathering eggs from migratory waterfowl in woven grass baskets.
I think of the Athabaskan families on the Yukon River harvesting fish from their weir and putting up fish for the winter. I think of Athabaskans hunters in moose hide mukluks on snowshoes hunting hares.
I am always comparing my life to that of a subsistence culture, because that is what I have always gravitated towards, and the life I value most. Unfortunately, the life I desire is not the life I lead.
Our family is not the poster-child for the subsistence lifestyle. However, we are the picture perfect example of an Alaskan Family living in the “Big Village” of Anchorage, with one foot in our fast-paced city life, and the other foot trying to keep a toe-hold on our cultural subsistence life of hunting, fishing and gathering.
Life in Anchorage is like that. Our “Big Wild Life” lies on the fringe of wilderness and concrete and we do everything we can to preserve our traditions, but unfortunately our life does not center on a subsistence lifestyle. We do what many families do, and we supplement our subsistence lifestyle with our Safeway lifestyle, or vise-versa, depending on your point of view.
My wife is Iñupiaq Eskimo (Unalakleet, AK). She works for a non-profit corporation that works to advance Alaska Natives through social, economic, and educational means. Though she Alaska Native herself, she works in downtown Anchorage. It’s hard for her to find the traditional foods she loves like herring eggs, salmon strips, and her grandmother’s caribou stew.
Though Jorie is Iñupiaq, she has spent her entire life living in Anchorage aside from a few summers spent in Unalakleet, and at her grandparent’s cabin on the Unalakleet River. She only possesses relics of information passed on to her from her mother, uncles, and grandparents.
Living a subsistence lifestyle takes knowledge and skill. Nearly everything I know about hunting, fishing, and gathering edible plants, I have learned on my own by studying, talking to people, and trial-and error. Hunting, fishing and gathering in Alaska is different than it is in Michigan where I grew up.
The challenges of new species, terrain and climate prove difficult and much of the time I am not successful hunting moose or caribou, but I keep trying. Even so, I pass on things that I have learned about hunting, fishing and wild plants to my children and even my wife. It’s really hard to teach your children something you don’t know yourself. Subsistence is no exception.
Preserving your fish and game, and plants is also hard work. It takes a lot of time to prepare fish to be canned, dried, smoked, frozen, and pickled. It takes time to butcher game meat into steaks and roasts, grind it for hamburgers and sausage.
Because of the time commitment, I find very difficult to balance with our lifestyle here in the city. Most of the time, the demands of our life in town with work, school, extracurricular functions, and child-rearing, take precedence over subsistence.
Still, we strive to do what we can. Though we missed gathering fiddle head ferns, and Devil’s Club buds this year, there are still plenty of other opportunities for gathering this year. Morel mushrooms will be out in just a couple of weeks, and Shaggy Manes come out in late August and early September. This will be Isabella’s first year to come with us to pick blueberries, salmon berries, and cranberries.
In the next few days, I’ll be taking the boys down to ship creek to flog the water alongside everyone else hoping to land a King Salmon. As each successive wave of salmon species begin to return to their home streams, David, Joseph and I will be trying to catch them. And, when the Alaskans-Only dip net fisheries open up on the Kenai, and Kasilof, we’ll be out there too! I’ll be holding the net, and the boys will be doing the dirty work dispatching those beautiful Reds.
This fall will be the first year I take David and Joseph hunting for small game like Snowshoe Hare, and Ptarmigan. And, if things work out, I’ll drive up the Dalton Highway, AKA: “The Haul Road” to bow hunt for caribou again this year. Although last year I got skunked, I learned a LOT, and I’m confident I can return successful this year.
My most cherished time of year are the few days I get to hunt for moose. Those days belong to me, and whether I harvest a moose or not, isn’t really the point. In the next year or two, when I think David is ready I’ll start taking him with me. I’m really looking forward to the day when I have both boys (and Isabella if she wants to) by my side hunting moose.
In our family, subsistence is a choice. We don’t have to hunt, fish, or forage for our food. In a way we’re very fortunate to have that luxury. However, if I had my way, I would live by the land. It’s difficult, but I think it’s the way we were meant to live.
On this extra outdoorsy episode of Kids These Days! we're celebrating Alaska's amazing bounty by speaking with those in the know about fishing, gathering and hunting in Alaska. Does your family do any of these activities together? If so, you know that they're about more than harvesting food -- picking berries, taking a moose or landing a halibut also mean quality family time spent together!
KTD Host Shana Sheehy speaks with award-winning author Seth Kantner. He wrote Shopping for Porcupine and Ordinary Wolves which won a Milkweed National Fiction Prize. In addition to writing, Kantner is a commercial fisherman and wildlife photographer. He spoke to us about living a gathering life in a modern world from Kotzebue where he lives with his wife and daughter.
Unlike in other states, hunting in Alaska is on the rise - maybe that’s because hunting is a family tradition for many in the 49th State. For one Wasilla family, the Adamses, the tradition of hunting - and gun safety - has been passed down through the generations. KTD Producer Sarah Gonzales spoke with this family and also with Jerry Soukup, the coordinator of the Alaska Department of Fish & Game's Hunter Information & Training (HIT) Program. [Full story]
Also speaking to us from Fish & Game, Tony Kavalok the Assistant Director for the Division of Wildlife Conservation, and the former Palmer Area Wildlife Biologist for the division, speaks with us in-studio about the many programs ADFG offers for young people to help get them out fishing, hunting, participating in shooting sports and into conservation camps.
Christina Salmon was born and raised in Igiugig, Alaska (pop. 64) to Dan and Julia Salmon, she is the eldest of 5 children and has lived back at home since 2007 where she now works as the village's Environmental Director. She has 3 children: Aiden, Keilan and Dannika, 6, 4, and 2. She says, "I wanted to raise my children in rural Alaska so they could experience life as I did when a child, living off the land, subsistence hunting, fishing and berry picking. Enjoying the simple things in life."
And last but certainly not least this hour we have a new installment of KTDontheGO with Erin Kirkland. This time she's exploring the special connections and memories that happen when fathers and daughters go fishing together.
After a serious show about caregiver stress, we'd thought we'd wrap last week's topic with a light and happy way for families to relieve stress: Laughter Yoga! Meet Laura Gentry AKA "Laughing Laura" - She's a bright light in the world and we're happy to introduce her to the KTD! crowd because her laughter yoga and music CD's and DVD's are so much fun.
Laura directs the Iowa School of Laughter Yoga. She is a Laughter Yoga Master Trainer and has been named a Laughter Ambassador by Laughter Club International. Laura and her husband are the producers of a number of educational resources including the film “Laughter Friends: A Laughter Yoga Workout for Kids,” which has been recommended by the American Library Association and sent to US miltary bases around the world to support healthy families a part of Operation Military Kid. She has led laughter yoga around the US and in 3 foreign countries (so far). Also known as the Reverend Gentry, she is an ordained minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. We interviewed her last week:
Kids These Days!: Laura, what is laughter yoga and how did you become "Laughing Laura"?
Laura Gentry: Laughter yoga is a simple method of laughing and doing deep yoga breathing. It is used throughout the world by people who seek to enhance the health of their mind, body and spirit.
I became Laughing Laura almost 5 years ago by taking a two day class to become a certified laughter yoga leader. I loved it so much that I went on to become a teacher of the method and produce laughter yoga resources. My first such resource, was a film for children. Just for fun, I called myself "Laughing Laura" and the name has really stuck!
KTD!: What are some of the benefits of laughter yoga; why do you find that people practice it?
LG: Laughter yoga has many benefits! Here are some things it does:
• Improves overall sense of well being
• Boosts happiness
• Strengthens and balances the immune system
• Releases endorphins to naturally relieve pain
• Decreases the level of stress hormone
• Lowers blood pressure
• Nurtures creativity
• Reduces risk of heart disease
• Floods the body with a natural "happy hormone"
• Helps manage and overcome depression
• Deepens inner peace
• Breaks social isolation and fosters new friendships
• Develops self-confidence
• Alleviates the discomfort of specific physical challenges
• Cultivates your childlike playfulness for a happier you
I think people do it for overall stress management and wellness. It is just plain fun and you can feel the positive effects immediately. You breathe deeper and feel joyful and at peace. :)
KTD!: You've produced a DVD called "Laughter Friends" and a CD "Today is a Laughing Day" which is a collection of fun songs - both for children - what was it like making those and what was it like working with the kids?
LG: It was an absolute delight producing these resources for and with children. My intention was to encourage the natural playfulness of kids and kids at heart. Play increases imagination and can even increase emotional intelligence. So the process of creating them was all about big fun! The kids jumped right in and helped invent laughter yoga exercises and the collaboration was quite exciting.
KTD!: Why might laughter yoga be something that is especially suited towards children, and is this something that parents and kids can do together?
LG: Laughter Yoga induces laughter through playfulness, not jokes. So even though your sense of humor is different from that of your child's, you can laugh together. It actually helps children develop emotional intelligence by opening up their expressive nature. And because of the release of endorphins, that makes you feel good, laughter yoga creates a special bond among the laughers that cannot be understated. What a wonderful activity for parents and grandparents to share with their kids!
KTD!: Do you plan on coming to Alaska anytime soon to do a laughter yoga retreat?
LG: If you want me there, I'll come! I'd love to teach a certified laughter leader class sometime soon. It is a two day class.
KTD!: What is your favorite aspect of working with children?
LG: What I love most about working with children is their creative imagination. When kids are encouraged to think creatively, they really shine. Their inventiveness inspires me.
KTD!: Thanks, Laura!
Hunting, fishing and gathering – for many Alaska families these activities are a regular way of life. That’s the subject on next week’s program: families in Alaska that hunt, gather and fish together, teaching their kids these skills from a very young age.
Award-winning Alaska author Seth Kantner talks about a gathering lifestyle in the past and in the present; a Lake Illiamna-area Mother talks about passing on a traditional, Alaska Native subsistence lifestyle to her children; one family from the Mat-Su tells us why hunting trips are about more than hunting for them; the Alaska Department of Fish & Game tells us about some of the programs that agency offers for kids to get out and into the out-of-doors. All this and a new installment of KTDontheGO.
Be sure to tune in to KSKA-FM at 2 and 7pm Tuesday, May 24 for this all new, outdoorsy episode of Kids These Days!
With sprinkles of water from gray skies cooling my cheeks, I followed in Auntie Rita’s footsteps along the shore of what she called, “A secret spot.”
Kyra and Ethan’s giggles echoed in the wind whipping across the ocean. At the moment, they had no interest in what Auntie Rita and I were doing. Ethan sunk his fingers into the sand and massaged it into his hair. Kyra tunneled her Zhu Zhu Pet Hamster. And if they weren’t both marinated enough in the earth, Kyra shoveled it into their laps. They simply couldn’t believe that they could play on a beach in Alaska.
I couldn’t believe that Auntie Rita wanted to spend Mother’s Day with us. Some people call her Grandmother Rita of the International Council of Thirteen Indigenous Grandmothers. Others call her Dr. Blumenstein, Alaska’s first certified “tribal doctor.”
Over a decade of being part of her life, I am still in awe that this internationally renowned and revered woman, who has three kids, ten grandchildren and ten great grandchildren, loves me like one of her own.
Tightening her bright blue hood around her wizened face, she broke out into a mischievous smile and beckoned me close. She stretched out both hands, leaned down towards a round low shrub, and closed her eyes. Her lips moved and I wish I could have heard what she said to that plant.
She pulled out a plastic bag from her backpack and said to me, “Take just a little from each.”
Then, she snapped off several stems and whispered to the plant, “Thank you.” She brushed the leaflets against my nose. I inhaled a cilantro-like fragrance. “Petrushki!” she announced and hurried off to the next shrub with the speed of a child collecting candy that scattered from a piñata.
As we harvested, Auntie Rita taught me about some of the other plants growing in the area. She pointed out the ones to avoid. She kept saying to me, “I just love you so much,” filling the emptiness that my mother’s death had left within.
We snacked on crisp petrushki and paused frequently to inhale the wind laced with the breath of the plants and sea animals and ocean.
When my kids tired of their hard labor on the beach, they each drifted towards me on their own time. I repeated what Auntie Rita taught me. To respect the plants. Talk to them. Say thank you.
Ethan gently stroked the shrubs and asked, “What’s that?” He patted his belly and asked, “For me?”
I placed a petrushki leaflet on his tongue and he crinkled his nose and spit it out. “Mommee, this is for Daddee. I pick for Daddee.”
“Okay,” I laughed. He was right. Thomas loves cilantro, so I knew he would like petrushki sprinkled on his pasta and stews.
Kyra approached each shrub with all her masculine energy, which Auntie Rita had sensed when Kyra was still in my belly. “This one is a boy,” Auntie Rita had said. “I am never wrong.” So the first time Auntie Rita met Kyra, she had bounced the lively four-month-old in her lap, shook her head, and laughed. She said something in Yupik and explained that she gave Kyra her mother’s name. It means something strong like penetrating rock.
Auntie Rita watched in the distance as I instructed Kyra not to grab fistfuls of petrushki but just a stem at a time.
“Like this Mommee?” she asked, waving three stems bristling with leaflets in my face. Her cheeks flushed pink from the past hour on the beach.
“That’s better. Now, what do you do?” I asked.
She shut her eyes and said, “Mommee, I have to go pee.”
“Can you hold it, please?” I whispered, glancing nervously at Auntie Rita who had her back turned to us.
“No,” Kyra howled and started to twist her legs together.
Hoping we weren’t contaminating any food source, I rushed off deep into the woods with my naughty daughter. About a half an hour later after we resolved her business, we slipped quietly back to our harvesting spot. Kyra grabbed the plastic bag out of my hands and stuffed some leaflets roughly in. Then, she punctuated each stem-bending-pat on each shrub with “Thank You.”
Auntie Rita thanked me many times too. She said that she couldn’t have thought of a better Mother’s Day gift.
I told her the feeling was mutual. Ever since I became pregnant with Kyra, I wanted to raise my kids with a traditional lifestyle and diet, which research proves has tremendous nutritional, spiritual, and physical benefits.
However, subsistence is not easy if you aren’t born into these traditions. Hunting and fishing has been expensive and risky. Even the simple act of harvesting plants can be potentially dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing.
Glancing to my left where Auntie Rita bent low over the ground and to the right where my kids rolled in the sand, the weight on my shoulders lightened as the task I set for myself about a month ago in Dandelion Killer came into fruition.
It was not easy to arrange this day or find the right words to share this special moment with Auntie Rita but I hope this post resonates with KTDontheGo: Alaska’s Very Own Secret Garden, Daddy Dynamic: The Classroom in the Backyard, and tomorrow’s show The Hunting and Fishing Family.
I live just around the corner from the Alaska Botanical Garden, and yet it took me almost six years to visit. Bad me.
Wrongly assuming that a garden would do nothing to either appease or amuse my children and me, the Garden remained an elusive plot of land I merely passed on my way to someplace else. Last spring, however, with sunshine streaming through my front window, a boring flower bed lying desolate and bare, and a kid just itching to go outside, I called some friends and made tracks for the Botanical Garden’s front gate, located just off Tudor Road and Campbell Airstrip Road.
Lush, green, and gorgeous, even from the driveway, ABG beckons visitors of all ages to its 110-acre swath of land carpeted with growing things of the Alaska native variety. Everything that could possibly propagate in northern climates does so here, with a perennial garden, herb garden, rock garden and, I discovered, a family-friendly nature trail winding peacefully in and around the entire property’s boundary. Ahhhh.
Open daylight hours all year (this was news to me, too), the Botanical Garden also promotes healthy living through its many programs and services to the public. A Junior Master Gardener day camp modeled after the adult version shows kids from 1st-6th grade the wonders of growing and maintaining their own gardens, cultivating a lifelong passion for dirt and seed and plant. Weekly Yoga in the Garden sessions provide a quiet place for participants to commune with the outdoors while practicing this ancient art of centeredness. Storytime in the Garden happens weekly, too, and parents and kids regularly attend the evening sessions June through August (bring the bug spray, though). A family can even borrow “Discovery Duffels” packed with everything a kid needs to explore this wonderland of birds, bugs, and blooming things.
One of our favorite events, though, is the popular Garden Fair, happening this year June 11-12. A wonderful weekend for the whole family, Garden Fair promotes gardening, art, and music through tours, activities, and tons of vendors scattered throughout the property, encouraging a walk into the woods to find food and fun. A Children’s Village provides hands-on activities for kids, including planting seeds, creating masterpieces from wood scraps, and reading stories together in the trees.
The important message is clear; gardens are good. They are quiet reminders of a simpler time, when we grew our own food and didn’t wonder where it came from, or planted wildflower seeds and enjoyed their nodding blooms outside our windows “just because”. Kids catch on quickly here. They wander the trails, smell the roses, and listen to Mother Nature’s ebb and flow.
Visiting the Alaska Botanical Garden at different times throughout the year is a wonderful way to connect kids with the changes occurring in their natural world. Spring and summer mean new life; Fall means preparing for winter; Winter means a different kind of quiet. Each are connected, and each relies upon the others. Beautiful.
MILLIONS IN THE United States are caring for aging parents, as well as raising children at the same time. This group of people who are caring for family members on both ends of the age spectrum are called The Sandwich Generation.
This story originally featured on Show 33: Coping with Caregiver Stress.
Summertime in Alaska is SHORT. When it's summer, all I want to do is enjoy the outdoors. Unfortunately, I have obligations, chores, and a never-ending “To Do” list that ranges from the day-to-day stuff - like making breakfast and changing Isabella, to the “ginormous” - like getting the driveway re-paved, rebuilding the deck in the back yard, building an arctic entrance, and painting the house and storage shed. Oh, I forgot. I also have to install gutters.
We were supposed to plant seeds early this year for our garden starts, but life happened and we were too busy, and then forgot. Now it’s May and, because we still want a garden this year, we have to buy our starters, which I think is lame. Before we can even plant the starters though, I need to turn the soil—with a shovel.
While I’m talking about the garden, I need to build a three-stage compost bin, since now we only have a compost pile which is highly inefficient. But before I build a compost bin, I need to move the rhubarb plants to where the compost pile is now. I need to move them out of the garden where they are now, because they get so much sun and nutrients that they grow HUGE and overshadow the smaller vegetables like the onions and rutabagas.
Another ongoing backyard project is the procurement and preparing of firewood for the winter. I usually “procure” my firewood from the Municipality of Anchorage’s woodlot. It’s a great place for a guy like me (with a trusty pickup truck and nothing but time on my hands), to wait for homeowners to drop off their unwanted logs. The woodlot opens mid May, and usually closes sometime in September. A great time to get wood is a day or two after a big windstorm. The nice thing about getting firewood there is that it’s free. You can also get mulch for landscaping at no charge as well. However, if you need to discard organic material at the woodlot, there is a small fee.
I already have ½ to ¾ of a full cord of wood (4’x8’x4’), and I’ve already split and stacked the wood that I’ve already cut into fireplace size logs. My Husqvarna chainsaw needs some chain and bar maintenance before I can saw any more logs. Once I get the logs cut to length, it’s time to throw down the maul and split them into fire-size portions. After splitting the logs, I also prepare a large quantity of kindling to help get the logs burning.
The middle birch tree in our back yard needs to be cut down. It has developed a solid fracture that resulted from the last big wind storm a couple of weeks ago. The fracture separates the live wood from the rotten wood that developed from the lack of proper care from a previous owner after a de-limbing. The trimmed limb should have been sealed with an arborist’s tree wound dressing/pruning sealer, but wasn’t and is now rotten. Unfortunately, birch trees seem to suffer from this condition anyway. I’m still hesitant about cutting this tree because it provides so much shade, we hang our hammock on it, and most importantly, a pair of woodpeckers have had their eyes on it as a suitable nesting tree.
I also need to address the hay bales making up my backyard archery target, which won’t really take long at all. I just need to keep the kids from tearing down the hay bales.
The raspberry plants that David hacked down last year aren’t budding, so I’ll have to have to re-colonize them, which shouldn’t be too difficult as there are many healthy runners to choose from.
With all the projects I have to do, there doesn’t seem like there’s time for the kids, however… as a stay-at-home dad I get to work with my kids to accomplish those projects and see them through. At times, having your children with you all the time while trying to accomplish anything can be more exasperating that anything, but with the right attitude, working on projects can be such a valuable experience for me as a father, and to my children. There are so many ways for the boys to help and get their hands dirty, and have “Daddy time”. There are so many “teachable moments”.
In our backyard, they learn about hard work and have a sense of satisfaction in working with their hands.
They learn a sense of order, as they help stack wood, pooper-scoop doggie-doo, transplant vegetable starts, turn compost, and try to heed the words of their Daddy to, “take pride in what they have, and in what they do”.
The kids get hands-on experience and learn about how their environment works. They learn where their food comes from, and that worms aren’t just good for fishing, but that they’re good for healthy soil, which makes healthy plants, which keep us healthy. Everything is connected, and that one thing cannot be changed (for better or worse) without having an effect on other things as well.
Some things the kids help with are just work, and aren’t fun, but they still need to be done. The back yard is a good place to for children to learn that lesson, and I would rather they learn it from me than have to learn it the hard way—after they leave home and go off on their own.
But, even though we have a highly scaled down “operation” in our backyard, I really believe that it is an excellent environment for teaching my children to be better men, and learn to take care themselves, each other, their family, and the earth.
Now, to get going on those projects…
PARENTS MAY BE unaware of how the way in which they handle stress (or don’t) is being observed and absorbed by their kids. The Early Life Stress Research Program at Stanford University studies kids and stress, then develops methods to help stressed kids become more resilient. Current research is working in San Francisco Bay area schools with kids who have been involved with or witnessed interpersonal violence – teaching them methods to deal with the trauma and the reminders of that trauma that pop up in every day life.
KTD Contributor Jessica Cochran spoke with the program's lead researcher, Hilit Kletter, to learn more.
This story originally featured on Show 33: Coping with Caregiver Stress.
As part of a family, caring for ill or aging parents, siblings, children, spouses or grandparents is often a reality for people of all ages and it’s not an easy job. There is much emotion wrapped up in seeing to the everyday needs of someone you love. This time on KTD we're looking at caregiver stress from three different angles: caring for the chronically ill, caring for aging parents and caring for a mentally ill family member.
IN-STUDIO GUESTS: Joining KTD Producer Sarah Gonzales in the studio to discuss caregiver stress are three guests.
• Gary Barg is the founder of Today's Caregiver magazine.
• Francine Harbour is the director of the Anchorage chapter of the National Alliance for Mental Illness.
• Sandra Kerns is the program developer and manager for Oncology Support Services at Providence Alaska Medical Center where she also oversees the Susan Butcher Family Center, The Healing Arts Program, and Clinical Support Groups
DID YOU KNOW? 40% to 70% of family caregivers have clinically significant symptoms of depression with approximately a quarter to half of these caregivers meeting the diagnostic criteria for major depression. [Source: National Family Caregivers Assoc.]
- Kids & Stress - Parents may be unaware of how the way in which they handle stress (or don’t) is being observed and absorbed by their kids. KTD Contributor Jessica Cochran reports on some interesting findings from Stanford. [Full story]
- The Sandwich Generation - Millions of Americans are caring for aging parents, as well as raising children at the same time; this group of people who are caring for family members on both ends of the age spectrum are called The Sandwich Generation. KTD Producer Sarah Gonzales spoke with journalist, columnist and speaker Carol Abaya whose Sandwich Generation Survival Course has been supporting this demographic for many years. [Full story]
On Tuesday, May 17 - we’re talking about Caregiver Stress, discussing the kinds of pressures people young and old are under when they’re responsible for the health and well-being of others. We’ll learn about local resources and support for those caring for aging, sick or mentally ill family members.
Also this hour we’ll explore the Sandwich Generation - a term to describe the growing number of adults who find themselves caring for the children in their lives while they’re also caring for aging loved ones. Plus, we learn about how little kids cope with stress in their young lives.
All this tomorrow on KSKA-FM at 2pm and 7pm, and as always - right here 24/7 on KidsTheseDays.org!