Read A Confession, Part I
About a week after the art exhibit started at Pacific Northern Academy, Ms. Jaeger invited Ethan and me to model for Kyra’s class.
“Are you sure my terrible two is going to stay still for the class?” I asked Ms. Jaeger.
“Don’t worry. It will be fine.”
I leaned in close so only she could hear me, “So, do kindergarteners know how to sketch from live models?” Note: I’m asking a teacher that had fifth graders create artwork for the film, Everybody Loves Whales, and seventh graders design four 54-piece dish sets and two tea sets with ceramic artist Ade Waworuntu.
“Oh yes, light and shadow on a live person is the best way to learn how to draw for artists just starting out. Plus,” she peered at me over her glasses, “there’s something about a living being that reverberates.”
I could see what Ms. Jaeger meant. Just as we sat down in the center of fourteen kindergartener artists, Ethan stood on my lap, threw both arms into the air, and sprang off my thighs shouting, “I’m Buzz Lightyear!”
The kindergarteners giggled hysterically. “Ethan,” they cheered. Some of them clapped and chalk dust flew from their little hands.
Ethan tossed his Buzz toy at his audience and three of them retrieved it for him.
Always the crowd pleaser, Ethan, then twisted in my arms as if he were ending a complex salsa routine and dipped dramatically across my lap. He closed his eyes and threw his arms and head back toward the ground for a final flare.
Meanwhile, I watched nervously as some of the kindergarteners, who had already started to sketch him in the Superhero flying stance, frowned.
But Ms. Jaeger reassured me, “Moving models are a fun challenge for artists.”
And she was right. Catherine recovered by turning her paper upside down after she finished Ethan’s figure.
Charlie concentrated on designing his own outfit for Ethan and making sure Buzz appeared firmly in his hand.
Emily gave me extra long eyelashes and captured my earrings perfectly.
The twins, Mark and Sierra, imagined Ethan and me in their own fantastical world.
Hannah focused on Ethan’s face, taking extra time to blend in his hair by rubbing tissue paper over her brown chalk lines. When she noticed me peeking, she said proudly, “My mommy taught me how to draw.”
My chest tightened when I heard that. Her mother was an artist too, who told me she never taught Hannah how to draw. She simply had a lot of art materials lying around the house and Hannah enjoyed watching her work. Lilly and Maya’s mother, who used to be an art teacher agreed, “Yes, sometimes, I’ll just throw down a tarp outside and let my girls go wild with paint.”
Lilly confidently accessorized my persona on her page. She gave me fancy pants and a figure I wish I had.
Her twin, Maya, had entirely different aesthetics.
Go wild with paint sounded messy to me and it was something I’ve never tried, but with school ending next week I made a mental note to take my art supplies down from the top shelf of my closet and make them more accessible to my kids.
Fortunately, Kyra and Ethan seemed to be born with plenty of swagger. “Look what I did!” Kyra waved her rendition of Ethan an inch from my nose.
“That’s me,” Ethan said, beaming at his sister.
“That’s my DeeDee,” Kyra said. With the back of her hand, she brushed her hair from her forehead and a red streak appeared like an exclamation point.
“It’s beautiful,” I praised Kyra. After that, every kindergartener excitedly presented their artwork to me for flattery. Ms. Jaeger told me that every child is an artist. She said, “Encouragement is all kids need to be creative because when they get older inevitably they will have a habit of being self-critical."
In truth, the Kindergarteners learned quite a deal this year. They worked on the elements of design: line, shape, value, texture, overlapping, modeling, linear, aerial, and color perspective. They experimented with pencil, charcoal, chalk pastels, india ink, tempera, acrylic paint, printmaking, book arts, still life, landscape and figure drawing. They even explored clay techniques, creating an Alaskan Animals Tile Table.
In addition, they taught me a great deal too. Armed with fourteen masterpieces, I went home that day dazzled by these passionate, confident five and six year olds. Most importantly, they reminded me to throw self-criticism to the wind.
Road trips in Alaska mean lots of time in the car, RV, or family minivan, traveling highways and bi-ways that sometimes seem endless, especially to kids. While we adults are usually content to simply gaze out the window, letting our minds wander and our bodies relax, children are less inclined to follow this prescription for car contentment. “He’s hitting me!” and “I’m starving/ bored/ have to go to the bathroom!” followed by a “Do you want me to pull over!?” scenario has played out time after time after time, both in my own family and via stories from friends.
Since we spend a lot of time on the road, in the air, or upon the water, AK Fam has made it a priority to test certain products that seem to, at least for a while, entertain, educate and, frankly, shut down the whining and yelling, at least for a little while. Below are AKontheGO’s favorites, ranging from toddler to teen and everywhere in between. You’ll notice I’m not big on electronic gadgetry in this episode of KTDontheGO. There is a time and a place for allowing kids their DS or DVD player; long lines, flights over two hours, driving through Kansas. But since we are currently promoting travel in one of the most beautiful, scenic, and utterly breathtaking states in our fair Union, I usually pay homage to the plug-in things somewhere else. That said, I always have them ready, hidden in the rear of my car on the not-so-off chance we become stuck in a hours-long wait to follow a pilot car along some torn-up section of Alaskan highway. Then all aforementioned rules are null and void. I-Pod, anyone?
Games: Camp Travel Edition. This is a smaller edition of a board game where families need to answer nature/conservation-related questions about all 50 stats to move along the cute little game board that comes in its own box. Suitable for older preschoolers and up, Camp is a winner for everybody, and fits neatly in a backpack. Yep.
Drawing/coloring: Go to a local craft store like Michael’s or Joanne’s and wander their $1 bins. Word games, coloring books, you name it, and it’s all $2 or under. Our new favorite among this category is the Doodles series of books by brilliant authors Deborah Zemke and Harriet Ziefert. Doodes for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, and To-Go are hot, hot, hot items with our son, and any kid we’ve talked to from age 5 through teenager. No kidding. Tear-off placemats with step-by-step drawing instructions for different creatures and things make travel and/or waiting for food at a restaurant way more fun.
Books: We like to stick to stories representing our intended destination. Alaska has a wealth of talent in the children’s book department and it is worth it to buy some on sale and stash for trips. AK Kid knows he’ll receive a new book for a road trip, and I scour Value Village or Title Wave for cast-off books, and trade with other parents. Oh, and I love books-on-CD, as long as they come with a companion book to actually read. These we take everywhere.
Hands-on: Oh boy, was I happy to stumble across The Robots at a local bookstore a few months ago! This handy metal box (in photo) houses magnetic pieces for kids to build their own robots (also cowboys and fashion) on four separate scenescapes. The box flips open so AK Kid can have two scenes going at once, and we’ve been known to have contests to see who can make “a robot with two legs and three heads,” or some such thing. At $15, it is not cheap, but worth it in my book.
Nature: The REI Kids’ Adventure Journal is an incredible little book packed with outdoor-based themes and activities to help kids become more aware of their natural surroundings, wherever they might be. Part of REI’s “Family Adventure” program, kids can receive a certificate upon completion of their journal. Teaching kids to record everything from weather to animals to noises, the Adventure Journals are easily carried in a backpack or pocket and come with cool stickers and riddles. There’s even a scavenger hunt. Best of all, they’re FREE. Just go to your local REI store and ask for one.
We’d love to know your best strategy for managing kids and their activities while traveling! What works? What doesn’t?
IT TURNS OUT too much lazing around during the warm summer months can add up to some big losses in learning - as much as 2 months of literacy skills gained during the school year.
KTD Contributor Jessica Cochran has a look at some of the numbers behind the “summer slide.”
Learn more by visiting SummerLearning.org, and by reading Daniel Hernandez's report: Double Jeopardy: How Third-Grade Reading Skills and Poverty Influence High School Graduation published in April, 2011.
This story originally featured in Show 32: Summer Reads.
WHEN YOU WERE young did you love being read to by a favorite adult, or did you read under the covers with a flashlight until well past your bedtime? Perhaps there was one title that you read over and over, and maybe now you've passed on those well-worn pages to your child so they too can solve the mysteries, go on pirate adventures and live on the prairie?
In this new installment of When I Was Young, KTD Producer Sarah Gonzales asked the well-read attendees at last week's Alaska Professional Communicator's award lunch: "What was your favorite book as a kid and why?"
This story originally featured in Show 32: Summer Reads.
THE MOVIE STEREOTYPE of summer in America is of being carefree and happy, but for many families summer is stressful – even more so since the 2008 economic crisis.
The expense of summer childcare is a big financial hit, and many kids lose access to the free or reduced price lunches available at school five days a week. The Food Bank of Alaska is seeing to this need.
Last summer, the food bank sponsored 42 sites around Alaska, and served 65,000 meals to children – that’s about one-third of the total number of meals served to kids under the USDA program last year. This year, their goal is to sponsor 60 sites, and serve 100,000 meals. The food bank is also happy to help organizations figure out how to sponsor their own sites.
KTD Contributor Jessica Cochran spoke with Susannah Morgan (pictured), Executive Director of the Food Bank of Alaska, about the effort to help get food to kids in the summertime.
This story originally featured on Show 32: Summer Reads.
My paternal grandmother is an obsessive-compulsive cleaner. Grandma Paoli’s home always looks like a demo model that any real estate agent could literally walk into at any moment and sell the joint to the first couple with the dough.
I think she still vacuums three times a day. It was (and still is) an impossible task to not mess up her vacuum lines on the floor which ran exactly parallel to each other. It would’ve made things so much easier if she’d hired a magic carpet to ferry you to the bathroom where you’d never have to worry about a single strand of carpet slipping out of alignment.
In her family, it must have been a measure of excellence as a Stay at Home Mom to be so clean. I don’t know, but she takes it VERY seriously. An American of Italian descent, she used to joke, “You mess-a, my house-a, I break-a, you face-a.” I don’t think she was really joking, but I liked to hear her say that.
My maternal grandmother was the polar opposite. Grandma Yotti was a hoarder. One of my fondest nicknames for her was “Hobbit.” She seemed to get shorter and shorter every year until she was only 4’7” when she passed away, and I lovingly called her home the “Hobbit Hole.” She was so short that it was easier for her to stack things on the floor, than on a counter, or table. And she made these little pathways that only she could walk through. Every time I tried, my feet always kicked over her little piles of memories, and she would say, “Oh, Sugar Lumps,” but she never got mad about it. I’d feel so bad, and clumsily try to re-stack her things, but I could never reverse-engineer her designs.
One of my fondest memories as a kid was the ritual of going down to the basement of the Hobbit Hole with my brother and digging out a glass bottle of RC Cola every time we drove the 600 miles to visit my Grandma. To my 16 year old palate nothing beat the smooth flavor of ten year old cola. We had to pry the rusty lid off the bottle with the refrigerator magnet bottle-opener with the white plastic handles and daisies on it. Of course we wiped off the rust first, but it was a real honor to take the first sip. I loved the feel of that cellar-cold glass bottle and how the carbon flowed up my nose as that sweet concoction burned my throat. That was just one of the many treasures in my grandma’s house.
In my mind, summer was never complete if we didn’t get to the Paoli’s camp on Little Lake Gerald in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. (The camp was named The Three Flags by my Grandfather because on the lawn near the lake he proudly flew the flags of Italy, the State of Michigan, and of course “Old Glory,” for which he fought for in World War II). At The Three Flags, there were only two things on my mind: fishing in the morning, and fishing at night, with a splash of swimming mixed in, only because I had to ditch the mosquitoes.
Every kid should be endeared to their grandparents, and vice-versa. I think it’s important to have an awesome relationship with your grandparents. I’ve heard it said that “grandchildren are your reward for time lost with your own children.” Grandchildren are kind of a “do-over.” Grandparents get a second chance to do the things they wished they could’ve done with their own children but weren’t able to. Children get to have a full-time “buddy” that listens to them, and is sometimes more accepting of their faults than their parents.
My Grandma Yotti was able to articulate to me things that nobody else could, and I loved her for that. She and I had a very deep and strong bond. I want my children to be able to have that kind of relationship with their grandparents, but that kind of relationship takes a considerable amount of work to keep up and nurture especially from 2,200 miles to 4,000 miles away.
It’s difficult living in Alaska while our children’s grandparents live in Washington and Michigan. So many times I feel like the annual pilgrimage to Michigan isn’t nearly enough, and there is no way to compensate for the lost time.
Even though my parents visited for Christmas and were able to celebrate Isabella’s Baptism with us, they’re missing out on all the stuff in between like her toothless grins, and the way her hair curls after a bath. They’re missing out on her adorable first giggles and her first bites of tasty real food. They’re also going to miss David’s First Communion.
We try to stay in touch as much as possible. I call home and let the kids talk to Nonna and Papa using my cell’s speakerphone. Or, we’ll try to Skype once a week (usually on Sunday) but for one reason or another that plan often fails. We text and e-mail, but technology will never substitute real-life quality time.
I saw this movie once where this guy could plant an idea in someone’s subconscious in order to make it seem like it was their own idea during a dream-state. He had an Italian name too; Leonardo. Anyway, I should hire him to get my parents to move to Alaska from Michigan. That would be the inception of something wonderful.
In addition to catching up on reading this summer or attending any of the great programs that public libraries offer to kids, there are a plethora of day camps that are as educational as they are fun. These days kids are not only spending their summers canoeing and making arts and crafts as in days of old, they are making indy movies, writing the next great novel, caring for polar bears and getting a leg up on their future careers.
Well, we here at Kids These Days! think ALL camp is cool, but for today, we're highlighting five that caught our eye:
1. The RAVEN WORDS SUMMER YOUTH WRITING WORKSHOPS happen in July. There are two, day-camp sessions in which kids ages 10-14 can express themselves through writing with the aid of professionals. These week-long, half-day workshops will happen at Winterberry Charter School and are sponsored by 49 Alaska Writing Center and the Alaska State Writing Consortium.
2. ALASKA NATIVE HERITAGE CENTER TEEN MEDIA CAMPS - High school students will have the opportunity to make movies and work with professional media figures during the course of this day camp that runs for 6 weeks. There are two sessions and the first one begins May 24.
3. KINCAID ADVENTURE CAMP - Our friend and previous guest, Margaret Timmerman at Anchorage Parks and Rec, puts on this summer camp! Kids ages 6 to 14 will learn to track animals, go hiking, make rockets and maps, build a shelter and cook outside. There are nine sessions throughout the summer beginning in June.
4. ALASKA ZOO ADVENTURE CAMPS - Your child or teen can go behind the scenes and spend an entire day at the zoo learning about polar bears, big cats, reptiles, sea mammals or learning what the animals eat and how the zookeepers care for each of the zoo's critters. These camps and run from June through August.
5. SUMMER CAREER CAMPS - The Anchorage School District is offering high school students the chance to explore their future careers this summer with three-week sessions in film, fashion, engineering, carpentry, cooking and more.
Happy camping everyone!
Just because it's summer vacation doesn't mean kids should close up the books for the next three months! Especially when there are so many fun reading-related programs happening.
IN-STUDIO GUESTS: Joining KTD Host Shana Sheehy in the studio are two youth services librarians from the Anchorage Public Library system.
• Jane Henriksen Baird and Susan Sommers tell us about how to keep your families and kids of all ages reading all summer long. They fill us in on the Anchorage Public Library's many summer programs.
- Summer reading loss - It turns out too much lazing around during the warm summer months can add up to some big losses in learning - or to be specific: as much as two months of lost literacy skills that were gained during the school year. KTD Contributor Jessica Cochran reports on the causes and the numbers behind the “summer slide.” [Full story]
- When I Was Young: My favorite childhood book - From Nancy Drew to Grimm's Fairy Tales, adults tell KTD Producer about their favorite childhood reads. [Full story]
- Summer food programs - Susannah Morgan, executive director of Food Bank of Alaska is back to tell us about the lunch programs they'll be offering to low-income kids this summer when school is out. [Full story]
Two librarians from the Anchorage Public Library join host Shana Sheehy to talk about how to keep your families and kids of all ages reading all summer long. We'll learn about the many programs they offer to kids and teens and you'll be invited to the biggest lit-themed celebration of the year!
Plus, can kids lose some reading ability over the summer? New research says yes - all the more reason to get to the library! And we ask adults to remember their favorite books when they were growing up in another installment of When I Was Young.
Tune in to KSKA Tuesday, May 10 at 2 and 7 pm to listen, and also find this entire program right here on KidsTheseDays.org!
What are you reading this summer?
As long as I can remember, when it comes to art, my mother’s side of the family won awards. The artistic gene ran strong producing writers, painters, sculptors, photographers, and graphic designers. A gene which I inherited but my brother did not.
I saw over the years how this placed my brother at a disadvantage. In minutes, I could churn out an assignment with a creative twist that would wow my teacher into giving me a top grade. For hours, he would stare at me with envy as I goofed off while he still sat at the kitchen table struggling with his assignment.
When Kyra’s school, Pacific Northern Academy, launched an art exhibit on May 5, showcasing the best work from each student ranging from Kindergarten through Eighth grade, I must confess that I was nervous.
A week earlier, we had brought home Kyra’s portfolio and Drawing/Reflection Journal (one of the reasons why many parents choose PNA). With two days of art per week, the portfolio and journal is a wonderful treat offered by Ms. Brenda Jaeger , the fine arts teacher since 1996 who won the highest awards in seven exhibitions, including four All Alaska Juried Watercolor Exhibitions.
We “oohed and aahed,” of course, in front of Kyra, but later after the kids were in bed, I scrutinized her progress. Most of her artwork looked similar to the abstract stuff she did last year when it seemed like she just scribbled. Having spotted some of her classmates’ work where vases and flowers clearly appeared in their pieces, I worried that Kyra did not get the Chow family artistic gene.
Or worse, maybe I had not done enough to nurture it. Earlier in the school year I had noticed that her classmates drew people while Kyra drew “Angry Birds,” from the popular iPhone app. So, I sat her down one evening and showed her how to draw a person. Her first attempt mimicked my sketch precisely and I saw this figure pop up in her Drawing/Reflection Journal throughout the year.
Whew, I had thought: She does have the gene. And then, I think I just focused my energy on academics, ballet, and piano and forgot about art, until now.
So before Kyra got out of class, I popped my head into the art exhibit along with several other anxious parents. Sandwiched between her classmate’s watercolor of a perfect owl and a Picasso-looking chalk pastel vase, I found Kyra’s relief print of a bright yellow truck on brown paper. Not bad, I thought. She’s working in a media I’ve never tried before. Plus, Ms. Jaeger had matted each piece and included a photo of each artist so that the presentation as a whole looked quite professional. But in the distance, I could hear other parents saying to each other what I was afraid to say: “Oh my god! I wish my daughter could draw like yours.”
By the time my kids sipped their apple ciders from fancy plastic champagne glasses and snacked on salami, cheese, and melon and listened to Kyra’s classmate, Charlie Edwards, and an Early Kindergartener provide ambience with at least twenty memorized violin songs, I started to say the same thing. After all, my mother used to hear parents whisper this into her ear and it made her so proud.
That night, I asked Kyra to show me her portfolio and journal again. This time, I studied my daughter instead of the artwork. Her eyes brimmed with excitement. She also asked her dad and Ethan to listen to her story about each piece. Sometimes, she said, “I don’t know what this is?” Other times, she would shrug and laugh because she had no idea what she drew. But here are some of my favorite descriptions:
“This is a car with teeth.”
“You can’t tell what this is because it’s a sneaky U.”
“That’s me and you. I put us inside of a heart. And we are getting married.”
“That’s me! That’s Kyra.”
Ms. Jaeger reminds me that there is no right or wrong way to do art. There are many ways to create. Exploration during the learning process is an effective way to facilitate student learning. As students do the process of art, they develop their personal vision. Students learn about themselves through the process of creating representations of their own ideas. As the process of art leads them to make choices and to take creative risks, they gain confidence in their ability to solve problems and experience the joy of freedom within structure.
She says, “Art, taught well, allows a growing child richer self-expression, more varied ways of understanding the world, and opportunities to feel joy and wonder.”
MOTHER'S DAY USUALLY signals the “official” beginning of springtime in Alaska. With summer tentatively peeking from below the horizon, our family, like so many others, uses this weekend to engage in an outdoor happy dance of grateful celebration, clearing our brains of winter’s fog so we, a giddy collection of children and grownups, can see the simple reminders of what makes this place we live so beautiful.
Our Mother’s Day outings began in 2008, the day after Oldest AK Kid departed Alaska for Utah and management of Asperger Syndrome that had crippled our entire family. Wandering around the quiet house, restless and confused, AK Dad suggested a drive after watching me make endless circles through the living room. With no particular destination in mind, Dad steered the family truckster south along the Seward Highway in relative silence, bypassing the usual family fun spots, finally choosing a left turn toward Portage Valley.
I remember the sun was rather tentative that day, slipping in and out from behind thin, grayish clouds that mirrored perfectly my feelings of uncertainty. AK Kid, a preschooler at the time, woke from his drivetime nap and said “I wanta get out!”
Sighing, I looked at AK Dad who nodded and pulled over near the Trail of Blue Ice, a serene, 5-mile pathway from the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center at Portage Glacier to Moose Flats. Now a finished, multi-use trail complete with arched bridges, interpretive signs, and excellent access from both Black Bear and Williwaw campgrounds, the Trail of Blue Ice saved me that day.
Gravel crunched under our shoes as we walked, birds twittered and sang from the brushy willows that frame this lovely trail, and the spicy scent of springtime reminded me why people often refer to the earth as “Mother”. Under blue skies and the frozen gaze of Williwaw Glacier, we explored dirt and bugs, watched a lazy duck slip down a stream, and listened to the happy shouts of other families enjoying early-season fun at nearby Black Bear.
All was not right in our world, but it somehow seemed better among the mossy mountain hemlocks and gnarled cottonwood trees that signaled stability even as our personal bubble of existence seemed oh, so tenuous.
Mothers do that, you know. Quietly signaling their presence even when we’re not fully capable of such awareness, they stand as guardians to our broken hearts and addled minds, knowing that this too, shall pass. True nurturing through nature arrives not by constant talking and evaluating and planning, but through silent support and consistency of character that I as a parent often forget until standing myself in the comfort of Mother Earth’s arms, surrounded by trees swaying gently at her quiet breath, my own children gathered close.
Nature takes care of other mothers.
For more information about the Portage Valley and Trail of Blue Ice, visit the Chugach Ranger District website.
During the Free After Three season which ran from last October to last Thursday, I’ve made it a point to try and take David and Joseph to the Anchorage Museum as much as possible, however, with different family events such as Cub Scouts, (which happens to be on Thursday nights as well) we haven’t gone as much as we would have liked. Lately, David has had quite a lot of homework on Thursdays, and since visiting the Museum is a privilege, homework and his commitment to Cub Scouts come first. Since last Thursday was the last time the Anchorage Museum would be free, I thought we should do our best to visit again before they reinstated normal admission.
Going to the museum is really more for the kids than it is for me. Although I could literally spend days in awe of the Native artifacts on display in the Alaska Gallery, or imagine myself in any one of Sydney Laurence’s paintings in the Art of the North exhibit, I really need some time to do that alone.
Instead, I let the kids explore the Imaginarium Discovery Center. There, the kids can literally jump around and watch a video of their own jump in slow motion, watch sand dunes form, create hot lava volcanoes, blow “ginormous” bubbles, play with centrifugal force, study aquatic life, and experiment with tons of other exhibits designed to teach kids about science in a fun way.
There’s also an infant and toddler area, where the smaller children can play on and crawl through a “mountain” and a “pirate ship.” They can also play with an Alaska Railroad wooden train set, puzzles, and other types of games that allow children to build and explore their own imaginations.
We spent two hours at the museum. By the time our two hours were up, I was pretty beat. Isabella was already napping, and I badly needed to nap myself. By about 5:15pm, my wife, Jorie met us at the Museum and was able to help me out. She provided welcome relief by taking the boys over to some exhibits, while I held Isabella asleep in my arms.
Our plan was to visit the Mammoths and Mastodons exhibit when Mommy was through with work, but quite frankly, I wasn’t feeling up to it, and it was going to be difficult to bring the kids back down to a level of excitement that was manageable, which entailed lots of me telling them to, “Calm down.”
I still have a “To Do” list for the Anchorage Museum which inclueds attending the Guided Star Show. It’s a 45 minute presentation on astronomy in the planetarium. The cost is $10 for adults and $8 for children. Museum Members receive a $2 discount.
I also still really want to take the kids to the “Mammoths and Mastodons: Titans of the Ice Age” exhibit which runs through October 9th, 2011. The cost for this exhibit is $24 for adults, $21 senior/student/military, $17 ages 3 to 12 and free ages 2 and younger. Tickets for museum members are $10 member adult, $8 member child. (Remember, prices for exhibits and presentations are in addition to regular admission prices to the Museum.)
If you go to the museum, you could literally make a day of it. They have lockers for your stuff which is especially handy for all your baby gear. After perusing the paintings downstairs, you could grab some lunch at Muse Café then head upstairs to view my favorite, the Alaska Gallery. When you’re ready to head out, be prepared to either accept or deny requests from your little ones for cuddly wooly mammoth stuffed animals for sale at the gift shop! But, before you leave don’t forget to make a wish at the fountain in the court yard. The boys love to toss pennies in the fountain. I’ll bet their wishes were to return soon.
Whatever you do, just have fun! It’s one of our favorite places in Anchorage!
THE DESIRE TO have a child and become a mother can be deeply felt by any woman - whether she is partnered, married, in her late twenties or early forties. But what happens when a woman has the mothering desire but doesn't have the partner?
Well, some women will become Single Mothers By Choice rather than pass up the opportunity to have a baby while they still can. Turns out a large faction of Americans take issue with this decision... A Pew Research Center study from earlier this year asked Americans which type of so-called "alternative" child-rearing environment was the "most harmful" for children to grow up in. Nearly 7 out of 10 said that they thought single women raising children without a male partner was more harmful than other "alternative" family structures like gay parents, divorced parents or unmarried parents living together raising children.
We at Kids These Days! wanted to understand where this fear of single motherhood might come from, so we went to the leading national expert on the topic. Jane Mattes is the founder of Single Mothers by Choice, and the author of the book of the same name.
KTD Producer Sarah Gonzales spoke with Jane Mattes in New York.
This story original featured on Show 31: Happy Mothers.
We've all heard the adage, "If momma's not happy, nobody's happy," and chances are it's proved true in your household at one time or another. So, in celebration of Mother's Day this coming Sunday, we wanted to know how to help mom be happy and how to keep mom happy (year round!).
IN-STUDIO GUESTS: Joining KTD Host Shana Sheehy in the studio are two guests.
• Peggy O'Mara is the Editor/Publisher of Mothering Magazine, she takes a look at how motherhood and happiness are linked and how mom's mood affects the family.
• Sharon Fleck is a local therapist, she talks postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders affecting mothers' happiness.
- Single Moms by Choice - A recent Pew Research Center poll about alternative family structures in the US found that 7 out of 10 Americans thought that women raising children solo was "harmful to society". KTD Producer Sarah Gonzales speaks with Jane Mattes, author and founder of Single Mothers By Choice, who responds to these results and explains why having the choice is so important to women who have the mothering desire, but not the partner. [Full story]
- Chef KTD: Mother's Day Breakfast - Dads, this one's for you: Our own Chef KTD, Liz Madsen, returns with a recipe for the perfect Mom's day breakfast in bed. She and her son, Aiden, show contributor Jessica Cochran and her two kids how to prepare strawberry cream cheese stuffed french toast. Yum! [Story + recipe + pix]
- What Makes Mom Happy - Fourth graders at Chester Valley Elementary say they think makes their moms happy. And then hear it from the number one expert source: moms share what makes them them happiest.
THIS WEEK CHEF KTD Liz Madsen and her son Aiden showed our Jessica Cochran and her kids how to make a delicious treat for a Mother’s day breakfast in bed. Chef Liz recommends serving strawberry stuffed French toast with whip cream, powdered sugar and a fresh-squeezed glass of orange juice.
Dads out there, remember it’s your job to help the kids pull this off on Mother’s Day!
Strawberry Cream Cheese Stuffed French Toast
For the French toast batter:
Whisk the ingredients together. Dunk slightly stale bread (Chef KTD likes to use Hawaiian sweet bread or brioche and leave it sitting out overnight so it absorbs more batter). Fry in frying pan just like regular French toast.
For the Filling:
Blend the ingredients together. Spread onto cooked French toast, top with another piece of French toast and place on a baking pan (a silpat liner or cooking spray will keep it from sticking). Bake for 8 minutes at 350.
Whipped Cream Topping:
Start with the cream as cold as possible, and whip with mixer as fast as possible. Serve baked French toast sandwiches with whipped cream, more strawberries and whatever else you like!
Liz is the pastry chef Kinley's Restaurant in Anchorage. View all the Chef KTD installments to date.
In celebration of Mother's Day this coming Sunday, Editor/Publisher of Mothering Magazine, Peggy O'Mara joins host Shana Sheehy to take a look at how motherhood and happiness are linked and how mom's mood affects the family. Plus a local therapist talks postpartum depression and other peri-natal mood disorders. Also, Jane Mattes author and founder of Single Mothers By Choice responds to a recent poll that found Americans thought these moms were "harmful to society" & Chef KTD returns with a recipe for the perfect Mom's day breakfast in bed!
All this today on KSKA-FM at 2 and again at 7. Listen to the show here on KidsTheseDays.org and find the recipe and photos, too.
THIS WILL BE my sixth year as a mother, and still Mother’s Day has never felt like my day. Since 1994, the year my mother died of liver cancer, I have dreaded a holiday that used to be my favorite.
Weeks before Mother’s Day, my brother and I would start planning an elaborate multi-media handmade card, which always had to be bigger and better than the year before. We wrote poems, stitched quilts, painted watercolors, crafted origami…all hosed with plenty of glitter.
Mom made things extra difficult for us because she couldn’t wait until Mother’s Day to see what we were up to. She enjoyed sneaking up on us and trying to get a peek. And if she succeeded, then I would insist on starting a new project, even if it was the night before Mother’s Day.
When my dad begged us to stop this ridiculous game, both my mother and I simply said, “We can’t help it.”
Mother’s Day was not only an artistic challenge with a splash of espionage but the one day my mother let me pamper her, while she made the other 364 days of the year an exciting adventure. On a weekday, she might pick us up from school and drive us straight to a movie theatre where we watched two or three films in a row and feasted on buttered popcorn and hotdogs for dinner. On summer break, while Dad dozed in the passenger seat, she might drive super-duper-fast on bumpy dirt roads.
She held herself to a standard painted on a wood plaque in our kitchen:
I hope my children will look back on today
And see a mother who had time to play.
There will be years for cleaning and cooking
But children grow up while we're not looking.
She also had a way of showing up when I was in distress, as if an invisible Bat-Signal alerted her whenever I needed rescuing. When I was in college and my brother was battling cancer, I remember once waiting for the elevator to arrive and tears welling up in my eyes because a mean boss had just chewed me out. Just when I was about to give up on the elevator, the doors had opened slowly and my mother and brother stepped out, wiped away my tears, and told me to quit instantly.
I think what makes Mother’s Day tough on me now is the magnifying lens I hold over my own parenting. I wonder how my kids will see me.
I worry that they see a mom that cries all the time. Even my two-year-old has started to ask, “Mommee, are you sad?” He would rush over and kiss me on the nose and ask, “Feel better?”
I worry that they see a workaholic. My five-year-old said to me the other day, “Mommee, you go work on computer and we will watch T.V., okay?”
I worry that they might prefer an hour with the iPhone over an hour with me?
Sure, there are days when I take them on adventures like dog mushing and snowboarding, but are they enough to counterbalance the days I rely on technology to educate them?
And then I feel even worse that I recognize these faults and haven’t had time to do anything about it.
I wonder when Mother’s Day will stop reminding me of all the ways I have failed to be the mother I had. When I look through all those handmade Mother’s Day cards she had saved, I noticed how many times I raved about how this was my “most favorite” day. Maybe, I won’t start enjoying Mother’s Day until my children write me a card with that sentiment.
Unfortunately, I don’t think they will ever feel this way until I achieve mom’s standard of being the kind of mother who had time to play, a challenge made more difficult by technologies like iPhone apps, iPads, Kinect, and the Wii.
How do you compete with these technologies to be a mother who had time to play?
Exploring the diversity and cultural treasure of Alaska’s Native populations is a drum I beat frequently with visiting families. Our state’s first residents, with traditions going back thousands of years, offer so much richness and light to an Alaskan experience that anyone, visitor or resident, would be remiss to bypass their offerings.
One such opportunity to breathe in a lifelong tradition of teaching, learning, and doing is through the Native Youth Olympics, kicking off Friday morning at the Dena’ina Center in downtown Anchorage. In its 41st year of bringing together young people from every corner of Alaska for three days of spirited competition, NYO is charged with not only providing ‘tweens and teens a chance to prove their athletic ability, but their responsibility as well.
Open to any youth in grades 6-12, NYO begins in a kid’s own community, where training and local events lead up to qualifying for the Olympics (or “State Games”) in Anchorage. According to Kelly Hurd, Development Director for Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Inc., the organizing agency for the Games, some 700 youth will converge upon Anchorage for the 2011 contest. Some have never left their villages. Some have little support at home. All are enthusiastic, ready, and charged up for what might be the most exciting weekend of their lives.
With events known as the Stick Pull, Seal Hop, and High Kick, it is evident from the schedule of events that this is no ordinary athletic endeavor. Each individual effort reflects a particular skill necessary for surviving in Alaska’s rugged and remote areas, and each would traditionally be taught by an elder of the community. It is, perhaps for some Native youth, one of the last connections of their culture left in a high-tech, fast-paced, strange world of the 21st century.
NYO is open to all children, being Native is not a requirement, and youth of all ethnic backgrounds participate each year. Attributes of respect, dedication, and perseverance predominate; support of one’s teammates means success no matter the overall outcome. In fact, sportsmanship and team spirit are so deeply valued that an award is presented to the team displaying the highest form of such behavior.
The Native Youth Olympics are one of the finest events a family could attend for a glimpse into rural communities. NYO organizers have taken broad steps to create a more festival-type atmosphere in 2011, with music, a cultural and craft fair, and free admission to the entire weekend’s slate of events. While the Games themselves do provide the catalyst, it is the peripheral support from family, friends, and the tribal communities themselves that make NYO sing.
If you have the chance, pass through the Anchorage Museum, too, and wander the beautiful exhibits explaining Alaska’s Native populations, their history, and transformative efforts to retain traditions for future generations. Mark your calendar for May 7-8, too, when the Alaska Native Heritage Center hosts an opening day celebration for the 2011 summer season. Drumming, dancing, food, and spectacular costumes will provide everyone of every age the sights and sounds of Alaska. Don’t miss a tour of the authentic dwellings outside, and a children’s art area where kids can create a masterpiece explaining their point of view. Heads up: purchase a Culture Pass at either place and receive a discount on admission, or consider a membership to the Museum. At $90 per family, it’s an easy way to support exhibits and programs that benefit the entire body of our state.
Immersing ourselves and our kids into our state’s Alaska Native landscape is a valuable experience not limited to tourists. It is all of us; and whether we attend the Native Youth Olympics this weekend or attend opening day festivities at the Native Alaska Heritage Center, our kids will learn something. We might, too.
The Cook Inlet Tribal Council website has a complete schedule of the Native Youth Olympics. The opening ceremonies commence at 9:30 a.m. Friday morning and the games wrap up Sunday afternoon. All times are approximate, however, so be flexible.
APRIL IS CHILD Abuse Awareness Month. Since the Alaska Children's Trust began in 1988 it has distributed more than $3.5 million toward preventing child abuse and neglect in Alaska.
KTD Producer, Sarah Gonzales, spoke with Panu Lucier, the executive director of the Alaska's Children's Trust, to learn about how they are employing the 5 protective factors to strengthen families with the vision of being the safest state for children by the year 2030.
This story originally featured on Show 30: Suicide Prevention in Alaska.
The Family Wellness Warriors Initiative has an ambitious goal: end domestic violence, child sexual abuse and child neglect in Alaska in THIS generation. It’s a program of Southcentral Foundation, the native non-profit health care organization for the Cook Inlet region.
As KTD Contributor Jessica Cochran tells us, it’s all based on sharing stories.
This story originally featured on Show 30: Suicide Prevention in Alaska.
When I was a kid I grew up moving from place to place. By the time my parents finally settled in Erie, Michigan, it was 1990 and I was 13. I had moved 14 times, lived in 9 states, and attended something like 8 schools - including the Amish school I went to for Kindergarten. It was tough to make friends for a shy introvert. Just when I was beginning to find my groove and was making friends, it seemed like it was time to move, and I’d have to start all over again.
The great thing about moving so much while growing up was that I got to see a lot of America. And I learned how to make friends across cultures -something that served me well during my service in the Army. I also got to live in some very cool and interesting places.
One of my favorite places we lived was in the town of Plano, Illinois, which is west of Chicago, by about an hour. It was my favorite because I felt like I belonged there. It was an old homestead built in the late 1800’s by our landlady’s father. There was a tributary of the Fox River, that ran through the property and I would always go fishing after school with my little brother. We could’ve been the Mclean Brothers going down to the Big Blackfoot, as my mom would yell, “Chris! Wait for your brother!” while I tore out of the house with my fishing pole in my hand.
Nearby was Merrimack Hill, where a battle took place during the French and Indian War. Our landlords had many Native American artifacts their family had found over the years on that land. I even found an arrowhead in a freshly ploughed field, not far from our house.
On the old homestead in Plano I felt like a Frontiersman exploring and living off the land. I’ve always wanted to live in a place like that where I could raise my family and I could share some of what I learned. I wanted them to have some of the same opportunities and adventures I had.
As soon as I was able, I made the logical move to Alaska. And, this Michigan boy of French, Italian, and Native American (Ojibwa) descent married an Eskimo girl! We have three awesome children and we’re just about as diverse as any family can be.
I love Alaska, and although we live in the big village of Anchorage, It’s still a great place to live, even though I would prefer a little more space. But, living in Anchorage has its benefits. We have such a diverse mixture of culture here in Anchorage. I’m so glad my children have the ability to connect with their Alaska Native family and culture right here. This weekend they’ll be able to watch the Native Youth Olympics (NYO), and learn more about their own traditions and culture. Jorie and I are eagerly waiting for when David will decide to compete in some of the events at NYO.
In many ways I’m thankful that my children don’t have to move all over the Lower 48 to see and experience culture, there is so much to do right here. This summer we will be connecting with the land and culture by fishing, dip netting, clamming and berry picking and honing our bushcraft skills. We’ll also do some canoeing and backpacking.
I’m sure we’ll also throw in a road trip or two, for what is summer without one? Since, I’m kind of a nerd, I would really love to drive down to McCarthy and explore the Kennecott copper mine with the kids and try to find some copper ourselves. There’s also a place up about six miles north of Wrangell, on Garnet Creek at the mouth of the Stikine River where I’d like to take the kids to search for garnets. David and Joseph mentioned going back to Sutton to dig around for fossils again, and I’m definitely up for that. I’d also like to drive down to Haines just for the fun of it. And, if possible, I would really like to squeeze in a family trip up the Dalton Highway, and see if we could “catch” a caribou or two just before school starts!
Back in Anchorage, we’ll also be attending events at the Alaska Native Heritage Center, as well as the Alaska Museum of Natural History, and I’d really like to take the kids to the Mammoths and Mastodons exhibit at the Alaska Museum that began March 4th and continues through October 9th.
That’s a lot to do in just three months, but I think we can handle it! When it’s summer in Alaska, green means Go!
Teenagers in Alaska are more at risk of dying by suicide than kids in any other state. Understanding this statistic and the efforts to fight the problem is the subject on today's show.
IN-STUDIO GUESTS: Joining KTD Host Shana Sheehy are three guests.
• Barbara Franks works with the Suicide Prevention Programs for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium’s Division of Behavioral Health & Rural Services, she also serves as Vice President of the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council.
• James Gallanos is the lead suicide prevention coordinator for the Department of Health and Social Services - Prevention and Early Intervention Services, he also manages the Alaska Youth Suicide Prevention Project.
• Kimberlee Jones is the director of Careline Crisis Intervention, Alaska’s statewide suicide prevention and crisis hotline where you can also text and chat online confidentially.
Visit StopSuicideAlaska.org to learn more about statewide prevention efforts.
THREE GOOD PHONE NUMBERS TO KNOW!
- Teen-produced PSAs - Three Alaska teens told KTD Producer Sarah Gonzales what kids know about preventing suicide with their winning entries in the statewide Suicide Prevention PSA contest sponsored by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the Alaska Association of Student Governments.
- Fighting for healthy families - The Family Wellness Warriors Initiative has an ambitious goal: end domestic violence, child sexual abuse and child neglect in Alaska in THIS generation. It’s a program of Southcentral Foundation, the native non-profit health care organization for the Cook Inlet region. As KTD Contributor Jessica Cochran tells us, it’s all based on sharing stories. [Full story]
- April is Child Abuse Awareness Month - Since the Alaska Children's Trust began in 1988 it has distributed more than $3.5 million toward preventing child abuse and neglect in Alaska. KTD Producer, Sarah Gonzales, spoke with Panu Lucier, the executive director of the Alaska's Children's Trust, to learn about how they are working towards the vision of being the safest state for children by the year 2030. [Full story]
Teenagers in Alaska are more at risk of dying by suicide than kids in any other state. Understanding this statistic and the efforts to fight the problem is the subject on this Tuesday's KTD. This hour we also listen to teen-produced suicide prevention messages and we report on Southcentral Foundation’s Wellness Warriors Initiative. Also, April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. We sit down for a conversation with the director of the Alaska Children’s Trust to learn how they are helping to stop child abuse and neglect in Alaska.
Tune in to KSKA FM 91.1 Tuesday, April 26 at 2pm and 7pm to listen, or find the show posted here and listen anytime!
Even as I look forward to long summer days, picking berries, fishing, reading a book on my deck or dozing to the rush of Eagle River, I am, deep down, a winter gal.
Besides the basic comforts that winter offers (no bugs, no yard to upkeep, no need to paint my toes), I love how the world slows down beneath a coat of snow. Plus, I would much rather be cold, than hot.
April is a tough month for me, because I race against the receding snow to squeeze in some last minute winter sports.
Last weekend, we drove down to Alyeska so Kyra could finally take snowboarding lessons. As soon as she learned how to walk, every time we shopped at Target, she would pick out a skateboard and throw it into my cart. When we finally did get her a skateboard, at two and a half, she threw tricks that mom and dad never taught her and slept with it at night. When she was three, we enrolled her in ski lessons at Alyeska, since they don’t offer snowboarding lessons until a child turns five. Boy was she frustrated. She would stand on my board and pretend that it was hers.
We knew that snowboarding blood ran thick in Kyra. By the end of her one-hour lesson, she was edging, skating, even doing tail grabs with ease. I raced up and down the slope snapping photos of my daughter. My heart was laced both with pride and also anxiety that she was growing up so fast.
Through my lens, I captured the grace of her body gliding against the blinding snow. Her baby cheeks stretched by the wind and the most insane smile I’ve ever seen.
What took us off guard was Ethan’s determination to do everything that his sister could. He was too young for ski lessons so we hoped to entertain him with a sled or snow angels. But as soon as my friend lent me ski and snowboard gear for Kyra, Thomas and I knew Ethan would not be satisfied unless he was on the slopes too.
In our living room, the boy insisted on tromping around the house in snowboard or ski boots that were in Kyra’s size. He figured out the snowboard bindings and strapped himself in and then shifted his weight back and forth until he was sliding across our wood floor.
That day at Alyeska, he skied for the first time. With eyebrows furrowed, he would swipe away our hands trying to steady him and say, “No, I do myself.” Then, he would shoot straight down the slope with no expression on his face at all. During Kyra’s one-hour lesson, the boy zipped up the magic carpet and down the slope a zillion times without falling. We were shocked.
By the end of that hour, he was crouching down to increase his speed. I don’t remember the last time I had that kind of no fear, just-do-it attitude about life. It made me wonder when we all lose that courage and belief that we could do anything.
A few days later and before I returned the snowboard gear to my friend, I took pity on Ethan and let him try riding in our backyard. As I predicted, he had the same grouchy I- can-do-this attitude.
I would set him up at the top of a slope and hold him place with my left foot, while I manipulated the camera in my right hand. “Don’t step on me!” he would whine, trying to shove me away.
When I finally moved my foot, he would hammer his way down as fast as he could and throw in some jumps to increase his speed. He never cared where he headed. Sometimes, he even reverted (switched riding from fakie to forward while the board is still touching the ground) without any hesitation.
And if the board slowed to a stop, he would bend down and pick up some snow and throw it in the air. Or maybe, he’d throw in an abstract dance. The boy was completely absorbed in the present moment. He didn’t worry about where the board would take him next or the bad fall he had on Kyra’s skateboard months ago.
I am grateful that kids remind us that it is our fears and worries about the future or past that cause us to trip or stumble. The point of power is in the present moment. This is what I admired in Ethan, completely stoked, flying down the slope until he ran out of snow.
It’s on our lips daily: “Summer." Just saying it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. Time to break out the camping gear, fishing poles, and backpacks. Time to write on the family calendar that always seems to be full and squeeze in a trip here, a weekend away there. For Alaskans in particular, summer is a precious time that fades away all to quickly, and we guard May-August with a jealous abandon.
Were you here last summer? Mother Nature teased us with a gorgeous Memorial weekend full of 80-degree temperatures, then dropped us into a June mud puddle of rainstorms that lasted well into July. Or was it August? At any rate, sum-sum-summertime 2010 is now but a grayish memory, and AK Fam, like so many of you, are looking hopefully into a 2011 season of bliss, Alaska-style.
On this week’s Kids These Days! show, Scott McMurren and I, cohorts in travel mischief on the Alaska Travelgram radio show on KOAN, talked up our favorite destinations for family travel in the 49th state. My word, how could I possibly cover 586,412 square miles of real estate in one measly hour? I felt as if I was tripping all over myself trying to spit out favorite places to take the Fam.
On that note, and in the spirit of continual travel with your family this summer, below is a bit of expanded information regarding kid-friendly activities, attractions, and/or family-friendly fun in the Last Frontier. Enjoy, and do let us know about your own special vacation spot. KTDontheGO would be nothing without you!
Alaska Railroad: AKRR is indeed one of the finest ways to show kids our state without packing them in the family truckster. One of our favorite trips is along the fairly new Spencer Whistlestop route from Anchorage-Girdwood-Portage. With departures from any of the three aforementioned stops, the Spencer Whistlestop experience begins aboard the nifty DMU (Diesel Multiple Unit), an engine/car combo that scoots along at 40 mph parallel to Turnagain Arm, wowing those traveling in cars along the Seward Highway, then to Whittier to drop off cruising passengers, returning back to Portage to pick up remaining passengers (I recommend this for younger kids, those on a budget, or those who have seen enough of Turnagain Arm scenery) before heading into the beautiful Grandview area. Dropping off passengers at the new Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, with lovely restrooms, a picnic shelter and access to river rafting for a prearranged reservation, passengers enjoy a lovely two hours hiking, mountain biking, or picnicking along the calm Placer river. A wonderful crushed gravel surface makes this an accessible trip for just about any ability or age, and a U.S. Forest Service ranger offers great guided tours for flora, fauna, and history of the area. At a cost of $64/pp from Portage or Whittier, it’s not the cheapest option for a day among the glacial waters, but it’s one of the most memorable. Buy an Alaska TourSaver book and get 2-for-1 rates on this trip and more on the Alaska Railroad.
Alaska Marine Highway System: My other favorite mode of transportation around Alaska is via the ferry. A vital link between southcentral, southeast, and the rest of the world (like Washington state and Canada) AMHS is a wonderful way to show off the best of Alaskan scenery without a lot of driving. In fact, many, many people do not drive at all, preferring to hoof, bike, or boat their way around the pristine waters of the 49th state.
For an introduction into Alaskan ferry travel, start off with a trip from Homer to the little village of Seldovia, a short trip of about an hour and 15 minutes. See otters, tons of seabirds, and a whole lotta Kachemak Bay character on the ferry ride, along with some beautiful scenery. Take the kids on a hike along the Otterbahn trail to a lovely cove where we like to camp and beachcomb among the slippery rocks. Take mountain bikes and ride along the quiet roads, looking at huge sitka spruce trees so unlike our squatty black spruce in Anchorage. Visit the Seldovia Village Tribe’s headquarters and museum, and teach kids a little about the rich history of this Alaska Native group calling Seldovia home. Finally, be sure to take a walking tour of the town with its beachside homes and boardwalks, and be glad you live in Alaska.
AK Fam will be embarking on a two-week adventure via the Alaska Marine Highway System in July, visiting the southeast region of our state. Look for our exciting adventures as we pack up the backpacks, lace up the hiking shoes, and take off for the Inside Passage.