Forgetting the Hard Parts of Parenting

I AM PROUD of my memory. Forgetfulness is something that I have always thought was a liability, but then parenthood happened and I now understand what a useful coping mechanism forgetting could be. Our family is in the teething-phase 2.0 and I am quickly remembering similar experiences that I had forgotten. But the fact that I forgot it once before makes me hopeful that I’ll forget it once again.

It truly amazed me how quickly my partner forgot most of the discomfort and inconveniences of pregnancy not long after our first son entered the world. She and I both remember some of moments and struggles with six-months of postpartum but we forgot about its true intensity until we relived it with another child. I forgot about the true discomfort of being sprayed with urine, catching feces escaping the catchment area or being enveloped in projectile vomit until frequent costume changes were again a common occurrence of our days. All bodily fluid-related incidences that I was happy to forget!

Projectile vomit - who me?!

This recent experience with cutting first teeth has been a reminder of some sleepless nights and endless screams of our first son’s experience. It was uncomfortable when it happened and I forgot about most of the hours lost to sleep until we are all now losing sleep again.

It is now my firm belief that forgetting many of the struggles of parenting accounts for why humans reproduce and why some humans want to do it multiple times. Has my forgetfulness been newly enhanced with parenthood? Is it possible that there are just too many good memories and positive feelings about our offspring that I do not have the capacity to remember all of the negatives?

Like grains of sand on a beach, so too do the memories of the difficult times wash away... 

I don’t know the answer to these questions but maybe I will discover better answers as parenthood progresses. What I do know is that when I think about our sons I think about their cute faces and their soft, fresh skin. I think about the sounds of their voices and the instant warmth their laughs create inside me. I think about their hugs and cuddles. I think about their accomplishments and how they amaze me. I think about my goals for them to be always safe, successful, and happy. I think about how I would do anything for them and how dedicated I am to their healthy growth and development. Yes, I am forgetting about so many of the challenges that I have had with being a parent, but now I see that forgetting is an asset.

Here's a not unpleasant reminder: you can keep up with Steve and his bunch over at his personal blog,



Shakespearian Pork Roast

UNQUIET MEALS MAKE ill digestions. - William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

Do you ever get tired of the same-old same old? We have been suffering from the mealtime blahs at our house - feeling uninspired in the kitchen, none of our standby favorites sounding good lately. Maybe it's the change of season? When this happens it helps to fetch out the cookbooks and look for something interesting and new.

The whole family joined in the search for inspired eats and we agreed on a few dishes in a book of recipes from Shakespeare's time, Shakespeare's Kitchen: Renaissance Recipes for the Contemporary Cook by Francine Segan. We had fun all crammed together in our tiny kitchen, searching for new - old - recipes and found a pork roast stuffed with herbs and fruits. Though bacon adds a little richness, the herbs and fruits make it fresh and surprisingly lighter than it ought to be, hence most perfect for spring.


  • 1 4-pound boneless pork loin
  • 8-10 strips of thick-cut bacon
  • 1/2 each seedless red and green grapes cut into quarters
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary leaves + several sprigs with strong central stalks
  • 1/2 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped thyme
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1 Tbs salt
  • 2 Tbs fresh ground pepper 

Preheat the oven to 450.


Butterfly the pork loin (see photo below) and use a meat pounder to flatten it out a bit. Put it in a baking dish large enough that it can lay open.  

Combine the fruit, herbs, pepper and salt in a large bowl except for the rosemary sprigs. Spread the mixture evenly inside the loin, leaving a little space along the outside edges.  Carefully fold the loin closed and use either lengths of kitchen twine or toothpicks to hold it closed.  Drape the bacon strips over the top of the loin and hold it in place by using the rosemary sprigs to tack the bacon down.  

Place the loin in the oven at 450 degrees for 12- 15 minutes or until the bacon just begins to get the slightest bit crispy, then turn the temperature down to 350 and cook the loin for about an hour. It is best to use a meat thermometer and begin checking the roast at around 45 minutes. Check it every 5-10 minutes until the temperature at the middle of the meat (careful not to pierce through to the filling) is 140 degrees. Remove the loin from the oven and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Remove the twine pieces or toothpicks before slicing. Enjoy!




Show 74: The Cultural Education Debate

Storytime during family night in Mekoryuk

Place-based education means learning about a student’s immediate environment and their cultural history and heritage, too. Some educators say this is an essential part to a student’s overall education, while others think that teaching culture doesn’t matter to succeeding in college and beyond. This time on KTD we speak with educators who hold opposing opinions on whether or not to include cultural curricula in the classroom.

IN-STUDIO GUESTS: Two Alaskan educators, Dr. Paul Ongtooguk and Lynda Prince, join host Shana Sheehy in the studio to talk about the philosophy behind the cultural education movement and to explain its origins. We’ll also hear from Dr. Ben Chavis, a school choice supporter who is critical of the idea that schools should teach culture.

• Dr. Ben Chavis is a Native American educator who took the helm of an underperforming, inner city school in Oakland, California and through his controversial teaching methods the American Indian Charter School became the top middle school in California. He is the author of Crazy Like a Fox: One Principal's Triumph in the Inner City.

• Dr. Paul Ongtooguk is an Education professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage and co-founder of Alaskool, an online source of Alaska Native history, language and culture. He previously joined KTD on Show 58: The Giving Show.

• Lynda Leal Prince grew up in Grayling, Alaska and holds a Master's degree in Education from Harvard University. She currently teaches World History and Alaska Studies at Bartlett High School in Anchorage.

  • A man is a man in every part of the world. It has nothing to do with race. It has to do with the culture and education that each man has received since he was a child, in his home. It has to do with how he was raised. - Alicia Machado
  • Culture is an instrument wielded by teachers to manufacture teachers, who, in their turn, will manufacture still more teachers. - Simone Weil

An outdoor classroom in Nanwalek


- Alaska Native Culture in Real Classrooms - In rural Alaska, one of the big questions about education is how to engage kids, how to make the academics they learn in school seem relevant to their life outside of school. KTD contributor Jessica Cochran learned about two efforts – a private school in Kotzebue and the North Slope Borough school district based in Barrow – that are working to do that by integrating culture and academics.

Images via



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KTD Awarded "Best Ongoing Public Affairs" Program 2 Years in a Row


WE ARE HAPPY to report that Kids These Days! was selected as the "Best Ongoing Public Affairs" program for the second year in a row. We received the honor last night at the Alaska Press Club awards hosted at the Alaska Dispatch hangar at Merrill Field - fun party and thank you for this great recognition!

Three Kids These Days! contributors also received awards last night and we couldn't be more proud! Congratulations to:

Aviva Hirsch, 2nd place Education Reporting for her story "Advertising in the Schools" for "KTD Show 57: Advertising to Kids"

Jessica Cochran, 3rd place Education Reporting for her story on "The Impact of Charter Schools on the Neighborhood" for "KTD Show 22: School Choice"

Erin Kirkland, 3rd place Online Commentary for her weekly blog KTDonthGO appearing Fridays right here at

Congratulations to all the winners this year!


Next time on KTD!: The Cultural Education Debate

PLACE-BASED EDUCATION means learning about the immediate environment and cultural history and heritage, too, as part of a student's overall education. Next time on KTD our in-studio guests, educators Paul Ongtooguk and Lynda Prince, talk about the philosophy behind the movement and explain its origins. And we'll hear from Dr. Ben Chavis, a School Choice supporter who is critical of the idea that schools should teach culture.

PLUS, hear a special report on how educators are incorporating Alaska Native traditions and language in to their classrooms and curricula - we take you to Kotzebue and Barrow to learn more.

Find your station day and time here!




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Show 73 Excerpt -Therapy Animals Helping Kids with Autism

THE BOND BETWEEN a child and his dog are well-documented in literature and movies and now more and more people are realizing how working with animals can benefit people with autism. Sometimes, an animal can provide a kind of support that other people can’t.

KTD contributor Jessica Cochran met some people working with children and dogs, and learned about the benefits for both humans and canines.

Links from this story: 4 Paws for Ability Alaska, Alaska Assistance Dogs 


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5 "P's" of Traveling With a Child With Autism

AS ALL PARENTS of children on the autism spectrum know, consistency and structure are mainstays toward success. Travel, on the other hand, is full of inconsistency and free-flowing schedules, causing many moms and dads to remain at home. Compounding the issue is the characteristics of such “hidden disabilities” like autism; children do not appear, at least from outward appearances, to be disabled, and many, many trips have been tainted by thoughtless comments or unwillingness to accommodate. 

Times are changing, however. Parents who used to sit on their hands in frustration are now creating their own criteria for travel with autistic children, and they’re winning the hearts of travel industry professionals and businesses the world over. While Alaska isn’t quite ready to pull out all the stops from a travel industry perspective, I will say the state as a whole is accepting, loving and generally willing to help whenever possible. That said, parents who choose to visit or explore the Last Frontier with their youngster should heed a few guidelines, since Alaska, for its awesome vistas and charming cultural experiences, is remote, rugged and sometimes not fully-equipped to handle every situation. Our suggestions? 

1. Plan ahead, way, way ahead. If your child is on a higher-functioning level, engage their interest through maps, DVD’s, visitor bureau information and interactive websites (our oldest adores computer time, and we’ve finally found a way to use it in a positive manner). Let he or she be the one to request information and receive it in the mail (in the parents’ names, of course) and allow your child’s interests to drive the planning process. 

2. Pack wisely. Allow your child to bring familiar items, from comfortable clothing (children on the autism spectrum often resist new clothes, or the itchy, scratchy fabrics of outdoor duds) to the same soap, toothpaste and toothbrush they use at home. We also threw in the pillow from our son’s bed, and added a sleeping bag to the packing list; the cozy softness helped our son feel secure and warm, all the time. In our rented RV, he stayed in it all day.


Exploring the treasures of the gift shop

3. Practice traveling. Before jetting across the country, start by exploring your own community, using the above strategies. Reserve a hotel room in your city, and show your child how people act when away from home. Explain there can be lots of noises, strange textures, and different foods (but do bring some familiar favorites from home). Talk about how someone may assist with bags and parking, and that some people from other cultures may not appreciate an open-mouthed stare from a curious kid. Take along a map and walk around the city, discovering what types of attractions appeal to your child, and which ones are a pass. Typically, history museums, hands-on exhibits (the El Dorado Gold Mine in Fairbanks was hit with our son), and the like are big winners. Each child on the spectrum has a different level of tolerance, so knowing what scenarios trigger meltdowns or anxiety is crucial to future travel expectations. Also consider regular routines of sleeping and eating, two very important aspects of traveling with children, never mind those on the autism spectrum. 

4. Be purposeful. You are the parent and you know your child best. If, for instance, you are certain your son or daughter will not tolerate a 9-hour day cruise, speak to staff ahead of time for shorter experiences that may bring more smiles and less frustration. Ask for pre-boarding of airplanes, cruise boats, and motorcoaches. Consider printing information cards (business cards) to hand silently to naysayers, stating your child’s disability and your appreciation of their patience. Remember, you are your child’s best advocate (as you’ve heard over and over), and people can’t assist you if you don’t assist them, first. 

5. Probe with Questions. Want to be sure you’re choosing the right experience for your child? Ask for clarification, reinforcement, and above all, understanding. It is a good idea to speak to a company representative in person rather than relying upon websites or email. Connecting names to voices or, in the best of circumstances, faces, can garner a whole lot more support. 

Travel is not only possible for families with autism, it’s the perfect way to help prepare your child for their future.

For more resources and some excellent testimonies from other parents, visit Autistic Globetrotters or Aspie Travel. Authored by mothers of sons with autism, these two sites are a treasure trove of information.




Show 73 Excerpt - How the Autism Diagnosis Will Change in 2013

image via NeuroLove

THE RATES OF autism are on the rise. A recent report released by the Centers for Disease Control put the prevalence rate at 1 in 88 children, up from 1 in 110 in 2006, and 1 in 150 in 2002. Some point to better screening, public education as being responsible for the increase, while others say that it's simply better record keeping.

Dr. Shubu Ghosh is an Alaskan child psychiatrist who is currently helping to redefine the diagnostic criteria for autism as a participant in the 5th revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (or, DSM-5). We asked him to help us understand why this increase is occurring and what to expect when the new diagnostic criteria are released in 2013.

Dr. Ghosh spoke with KTD producer Sarah Gonzales...



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All Kids Are Inspiring

OUR CHILDREN CONTINUE to show me how amazing all children are.  They also continue to make me more sensitive to children’s issues and youth stories of success.

Thanks to NPR and my local radio station KTOO I recently heard a feel-good story about Caine, the 9 year-old with imagination, a can-do attitude and a cardboard arcade that’s gone viral in the last week. I was happy to hear an uplifting story, which can be rare in the media world driven by negativity and sensationalism. This story gave me warm fuzzy feelings but did not prepare me for the ten-minute movie that it introduced.

Halfway through this short video my eyes were fully pooled and by the time the credits rolled, more tears were flowing down the path of previous tears.

This inspiring nine-year-old boy has imagination, passion, and creativity to create what he enjoys. And beyond Caine, the primary subject of the film, there are so many others involved that make this story amazing, too.

I want to know more about Caine’s father George. He says that the cardboard arcade keeps Caine “out of his hair” but his influence is clear. I can see pride in his face when he talks about this son. I am sure that Caine’s father purchased the shirt that Caine designed for his arcade continuing to encourage his endeavor as a young entrepreneur. He is shown checking in with his son and his fledgling enterprise.  Good work George. You deserve some credit for Caine’s success.

This sensation would not have happened without the good hearted efforts of Nirvan Mullick. He is the filmmaker who literally stumbles into Caine’s world and thrusts the story of Caine and his arcade out into the You Tube universe. Nirvan deserves credit for his recognition and an appreciation for the creations of this kid. Nirvan’s ideas and positive efforts have undoubtedly changed the trajectory of this boy’s life. 

The final credit belongs to the 2.5 million plus people who have viewed this film and donated to the scholarship fund to send Caine to college. To date over 150K has been donated to the scholarship fund to send Caine to college! Additionally the support has been so overwhelming that a foundation for other creative children like Caine has been created in his name.

Yes this story is unique and Caine is special, but so are all children! I am in constant amazement of my own children and their growth and accomplishments. They have fully opened my eyes to how amazing all children are. This story is a good reminder to be supportive of the future endeavors and ideas they have.  At the same time this shows how much of a difference I can make in the lives of other children around me by noticing, encouraging and promoting their efforts as well.










Show 73 Excerpt - Kindergartners Teaching a Community About Autism

image via wikipedia

AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER can be complex, even to the professionalswho study it. But it's not so complicated to one group of kindergarteners in Southeast Alaska. We visit a classroom where the kids are helping the adults learn about autism.

Haines contributor Tara Bicknell introduces us to Alex and his friends.



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Pecan Pie

YOU SAY PECAN.  I say pecan. Hmm. Somehow that just doesn't work in writing. But any way you slice it, that little jewel of the south sure does make a great, nutty pie. Here is my recipe with an international twist - instead of corn syrup as used in many recipes, I use Golden Syrup, a British import. This is the main ingredient in treacle tarts and can be found in many specialty or import food stores. The Golden Syrup makes the pie smell even more amazing as it bakes, and the slightly caramely flavor of the syrup matches beautifully with the star of the pie - the pecans, of course.

  • 1 pie crust (use a pre-made one or your favorite recipe)
  • 2 cups pecan halves
  • 1 454g can Golden Syrup (available at specialty food stores) 
  • 2 Tbs molasses
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs (slightly whisked)
  • 3 Tbs melted butter
  • 1Tbs vanilla

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Mix the Golden Syrup and molasses in a medium sauce pan. In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, flour and salt, and then, add them to the syrup. Stir thoroughly. Slowly add the eggs, stirring gently until the eggs are fully incorporated into the mixture. Finally, add the vanilla and melted butter. Put the mixture on the stove over low heat, stirring occasionally, until it is warmed just enough to be less thick and sticky. This will make it easier to remove from the pan and spread easily in the crust. Place your crust in a pie pan and spread the pecans evenly across the bottom. Pour the syrup mixture over the pecans as evenly as possible, giving it a little shake and tap to encourage it to spread.

Put the pie in the oven for 20 minutes, then tent the crust with foil or a pie shield to avoid burning it. Cook it for another 15 - 20 minutes or until it begins to bubble and the pecans are ever-so-slightly toasted. Allow to cool for at least and hour and enjoy!

Eighteen With Autism: a Mom's Perspective

THE AFTERNOON MY oldest son turned eighteen, I cried. Nose-running, chest-heaving crying, with wretched tears that froze on my cheeks as I ran across snowy trails near our Anchorage home. It was a day that I had dreaded with uncertain anticipation. Suddenly, it was here, and I was still not ready. 

My son, like so many children, suffers from and fights with an autism spectrum disorder frequently referred to as Asperger Syndrome. Characterized by an overdose of impulsive behavior and an under-dose of social skills, my son, MJ, is nothing if not the Weirdest Kid on the Block, a label his stepfather and I have mostly been able to shield him against with all our parental powers. 

At eighteen, MJ and thousands of Alaska children are considered officially “adults” in an academic sense. They can vote, boys must register for the Selective Service, and a flurry of college information fills the mailbox. It is a time of independence, either real or perceived, and our son is no different in his zeal for all the honors and benefits of finally becoming “old enough.” 

But MJ has no idea what “old enough” really means. A resident of an out-of-state treatment facility since 2008, MJ has struggled to learn the most basic of social skills; from merely parroting a “Hi, how are you?” phrase, to practicing regular hygiene and grooming habits. It is an agonizingly slow process, filled with false starts and backward steps, and little, tiny inches forward. Staff at his current residence are infinitely patient, yet firm; they know better than we how the world sees young adults like MJ, and they want him to get this right. 

It was almost easier to manage MJ as a young child; at least then I could reinforce with the authority of a typical Aspie Mom. But at eighteen, a difficult decision awaits parents of children with disabilities. Along with figurative independence also comes the literal and legal meaning of the word, and MJ, for better or worse, was now able to make decisions regarding his health and well-being. He could, in effect, sign his name on the dotted line of discharge forms and go about his business in Denver, Colorado with no one lifting a finger to stop him. 

The decision to establish guardianship was made shortly before his birthday, after hours of conversations and meetings and prayerful discernment. Guardianship was granted shortly after his birthday, with little resistance but not without confusion on the part of MJ, although we explained over and over our reasons for wanting to keep him healthy and safe. What we didn’t tell him was our intention of saving him from himself, because for a young man today to appear “odd” or “looking funny,” statistics of violence and police intervention almost immediately stacked the deck against our 6-foot, two-inch tall young adult. 

To his credit, however, MJ is finally pushing back at the darkness which has threatened to consume his soul as a younger teen. He sees, if however tenuously, the connection between how one looks and acts, and how people treat each other accordingly. He will graduate from high school with a fairly high grade point average, an amazing feat considering he has had so little success in other aspects of his life. Our family is working with a team sent from heaven at The Arc of Anchorage, who do not shake their heads in the negative when I mention potential roadblocks. Arc staff will teach him how to ride the bus, be successful at a job, go shopping, exercise and be happy with who he is

With so much left to learn, I sometimes look at this man-boy during our internet face time and wonder how he has managed to hang on for so long. Perhaps it is my husband and I who need to step back, recognize his courage, and allow him to own his future, instead of asking ourselves for the millionth time, “Why did this happen?”  

One of my literary heroes, Norman Maclean, author of A River Runs Through It explained it perfectly to me one day in his book, as I sat on an airplane, whizzing through the sky after a particularly meaningful visit to MJ: 

“...And so it is those we live with who elude us. But we can still love them - we can love completely without complete understanding.” 

Perhaps this journey of maturation has not only occurred in our son. Eighteen is, after all, only a number, and we have a lifetime yet in which to grow. 


Erin Kirkland is a regular contributor to Kids These Days!, posting weekly at KTDontheGO. You can read more about her family’s journey through Asperger Syndrome at “Elituq: She is Learning”.




Show 73: All About Autism

Autism is being diagnosed with more and more frequency; recent reports say 1 in 88 kids in the United States have it. So this time on Kids These Days! we’re talking about autism spectrum disorders. We’ll learn about screening, supports and resources for Alaska families with loved ones on the spectrum, and we'll find out what the future holds for those who are diagnosed with it.

IN-STUDIO GUESTS: Joining host Shana Sheehy in the studio are two guests who work all over the state of Alaska helping families understand and live with autism. 

• Kris Green works for the State of Alaska as the Autism and Parent Service Manager and Rural Pediatric Neurodevelopmental Outreach and Autism Screening Clinic Manager. Working in the Division of Public Health, she oversees autism program services and coordinates the statewide screening clinics, held in 10 rural Alaska hub locations. She is a member of the Governor’s Council Autism Ad Hoc Committee which focuses on implementing the 2006 State of Alaska Autism Plan, whose goal is to improve access to care for Alaska children and youth with autism and their families.

• Teresa Hirst is a certified Advanced Practice Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, specializing in new or follow-up patient assessments and evaluations of children with neurodevelopmental and autism conditions from birth to age 18 years. She works with the State of Alaska, traveling to regional hub communities to conduct assessments. She routinely provides patient, family, and staff education on pediatric neurodevelopmental disorders in communities throughout Alaska.


Alaska-specific resources -

National resources -

Articles/Reports -


- Rising Rates and Changes to Autism Diagnosis - Dr. Shubu Ghosh is an Alaska-based child psychiatrist who is currently helping to redefine the diagnostic criteria for autism for the DSM-5. We asked him how the diagnosis will change when the new manual is released in 2013, and why the rates are going up now. He spoke with KTD producer Sarah Gonzales.

- Our Kindergarten Classmate with Autism - New contributor Tara Bicknell takes us into a kindergarten classroom in Haines where the kids are helping the adults learn about autism.

- Therapy Animals Helping Kids with Autism - Sometimes an animal can provide a kind of support that other people can’t. KTD contributor Jessica Cochran met some people working with children and dogs, and learned about the benefits for both humans and canines.


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Next time on KTD!: All About Autism

AUTISM IS BEING diagnosed with more and more frequency; recent reports say 1 in 88 kids in the United States have it. So next week on Kids These Days! we're talking about autism spectrum disorders. We’ll learn about screening, supports and resources for Alaska families with loved ones on the autism spectrum.

PLUS, a classroom of kindergarteners in Haines tell us about their classmate who has autism; we'll learn about effective therapies that use the healing power of animals; and we'll learn why the rates of diagnosis are on the rapid rise and what's new for autism when the DSM-5 is released in 2013. 

Find your station, day and time here!



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Family Road Trip on Alaska's Scenic Byways

EVEN THE NEWEST Alaska visitor will quickly spot the lack of major freeways running through the state. With a mere handful of options available for a true road trip, Alaska nonetheless presents a wealth of destinations for those hardy souls who believe in seeing the state from the ground up. Driving is one of our favorite modes of travel, because we are in complete control of our itinerary - when we stop, how long and where. Even today, with gasoline prices choking wallets and bank accounts, the quintessential family road trip remains a signature summer event for many, many families. 

Alaska’s road systems are a bit unique, requiring drivers to be prepared, vigilant, and flexible. We utilize the Alaska Department of Transportation’s 5-1-1 system, a comprehensive map and click-by-click description of road conditions and delays around the state. A quick check of the website lets us know how many DVD’s or books to pack so we can wait out construction-season delays. Additionally, our family travel “backseat kit” includes food, water, a sleeping bag, first aid kit, bug spray, a lighter and cash. In the event of a major delay, breakdown, or other incident miles and miles from the nearest repair station or town, we won’t starve, die of thirst, freeze, or be eaten by mosquitoes. And, when we do need help in a small, remote Alaska town, we’ll have cash to pay for goods and/or services in a place that doesn’t have credit card capabilities.

Gorgeous scenery around every corner

Where does our family like to roam? Anywhere and everywhere, but we do have favorites. Below are a few excellent choices for families, broken down by geographic area: 

Southcentral: Anchorage to Seward, Homer, and/or the rest of the Kenai Peninsula. What I like about this trip is the bounty of options for stops along the way. The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Turnagain Pass hiking, the little communities of Hope and Moose Pass, while the destination cities of Homer and Seward, themselves, offer plenty of family fun. A nifty companion to this road trip choice is utilizing the Alaska Audio Guides’ Seward Highway CD and companion map, through which kids can learn a ton of interesting information, mile-by-mile, and thus drive parents nuts with this knowledge forever after (kidding).

Dirt, wood or pavement, Alaska's roads are great for summer  family cruising

Interior: Fairbanks to Denali National Park. Attention northern parents! Denali NP is not just a drive-by. Yes, we know the Park’s periphery, better known as “Glitter Gulch” can be full, full of tourists, but there are many quieter options for wild Alaskan family fun. Stop in to the Murie Science and Learning Center and take a guided nature walk, let the kids complete their Junior Ranger Badge, then perhaps take a rafting trip down the mighty Nenana River. While you’re driving around, take time to stop and let the kids photograph their impressions, or sketch the landscape in their journals.

Hop on the ferry for a watery road trip! 

Southeast: Take the ferry. That’s right, the ferry. The Alaska Marine Highway is the only designated water National Scenic Byway in the United States, so why not take advantage of the incredible opportunity for a little family togetherness while experiencing some of the 1,500 islands making up the Inside Passage, or taking time to investigate ancient Native Alaskan culture and the Gold Rush of the late 1800’s. Leave the car at home and take advantage of AMHS’s summertime “See Alaska Pass,” picking three destinations from among several, saving 25% of the usual ticket price. Kids under six are free, and children 6-11 are half the adult fare. Not a bad deal. 

Explore your state this summer, and do visit for more road trip facts and tips. 



A Child's Birthday is a Parenthood Anniversary

ABOUT THIS TIME, four years ago, my partner and I were holed up in a hotel room waiting to meet our first offspring. We were excited and uncertain about this next stage of our lives. Parenthood. The car seat was installed in the car, our birthing comfort supplies were staged; we were ready to move at a contraction’s notice.

Our son was born at 3:07 pm April 14th. After ten active pushes this hot, wet, crying, beautiful boy arrived in my waiting hands! It was the best Monday of my life.

I have known for most of my adult life that I wanted to bring a child into the world.  There was nothing to prepare me for the power of another human that was partially made of me and my partner. There is no collection of words that can describe my feelings, love, connection and adoration for this human, all of which I felt immediately. When he arrived into the world he was perfect and he completed my existence.

Four and counting!

Since these first moments of his life our firstborn continues to daily entwine his existence into my life and being. The sound of his voice brings warmth to my heart and his laughter is infectious. His humor is complex and enjoyable. His thoughtfulness, concern and sensitivity seem unreal for a being that is this young.  At night his laughter in his sleep or a simple yawn is my comfort that he is still here.

Watching our son I see attributes of myself in his mannerisms and thankfully not too many of them are the negative ones I possess. His wit, sense of humor and sideways glances are similar to mine.  I also see aspects of his mother in his personality. They both enjoy order and can be stubborn; he is sensitive and kind like her as well. Yes there are similarities between him and his parents but this being is undeniably his own person.

Happy birthday boy

It has now been four years since this human has been a daily part of my life. This period of time has not been challenge free but it is amazing how quickly I have forgotten many of the negative moments after learning from them.

Birthdays are events that are markers in lives. We will celebrate our son’s fourth birthday with his friends and our family. We will remember how his first moments of life firmly connected him to us and how this connection is strengthened daily. I also celebrate every day of his life as an enhancement to my own. 

Happy fourth birthday son! You are an amazing being and I feel fortunate and blessed to be one of your guides on your journey.





Shifting, Stalling and Learning to Drive

I WAS A very precocious young driver. I went to the DMV on my 14th birthday, scored a passable 17/20 on the written exam, and drove home. Of course, it wasn’t ACT that easy.  My parents only drive cars with manual transmissions, so by the transitive property of equality, I would learn how to drive a manual. It all rolled along smoothly until I was less than a mile away from my house. Someone was tailgating me up Rabbit Creek Road and instead of shifting into 3rd, I shifted into 5th, stalled the car and gave up. I got out, walked around to the passenger side and made my mom drive the rest of the way home. I didn’t drive for a month after that.

Six months later, I felt confident enough to take the full license test. The only problem was I had another 18 months to wait until I could pass the first requirement - “Must be 16 years of age.”


My sweet wheels

So, just three days after my 16th birthday, I barely passed the road test and was granted my provisional. The "provi" (as it’s known to the young'uns) is sort of gray area. Some parents, like mine, enforce it's provisional status requirements (a teen may drive without a parent in the car, but only with family members who are of age - no friends allowed. No driving between the hours of 11 PM and 5 AM, unless it's for work), while other parents totally disregard these rules, most likely because they’re just glad they glad they don’t have to be a kid chauffeur anymore. I’m not going to say whether I gave people rides during that 6-month period for legal reasons, but I can say that when I finally got my full license, I breathed a sigh of relief.

Although those rules seemed to be the bane of my existence for six months, I know without them I would’ve gotten at least a ticket, if not worse. Driving with friends is a complete distraction, even if they aren’t trying to be one. So while these restrictions are a real bummer for newly minted young drivers I'll bet they've saved a few lives.




Show 72 Excerpt - Alaska's Alcohol-restricted "Red Stripe" License Law

WE USE OUR driver's license for many things beyond legally operating a vehicle. They come out when we go to vote, for some credit card purchases - and for buying alcohol. For people clearly older than 21 - those with a little gray hair, maybe - getting carded used to be a rare, and flattering, event. But these days, it may be the clerk or server isn’t looking to check your age, they’re checking to see if your driver's license sports a red “alcohol restricted” stripe.

KTD contributor Jessica Cochran has more…



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Deviled (Easter) Eggs

HERE COMES PETER Cotton Tail, hopping down the bunny trail... and Peter is bringing 3 dozen hard boiled, multi-colored eggs. What to do with them all? Well, there are egg salad sandwiches, hard boiled eggs for breakfast or snacks and... and... deviled eggs! My grandmother made this simple recipe when I was a child and it couldn't be easier.

  • 6 hard-boiled eggs
  • 1 Tbs mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbs sweet relish
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of paprika

Peel the eggs carefully and cut them in half. Remove the yolks and put them in a small mixing bowl.

Add the mayonnaise and salt. Using a fork, smash the yolks and mix them with the other ingredients until the mixture is creamy and smooth. Add the relish and mix it thoroughly.

Put the mixture into a small sandwich bag and push out all the air before sealing it. Cut a small hole in one corner. Squeeze all of the yolk mixture into the corner with the hole and carefully pipe it into each of the egg-white halves.

You may garnish each with olive rounds, pimiento pieces, a small bit of relish or other decoration. Finally, sprinkle the deviled eggs with a dash of paprika. Chill and enjoy!

Show 72 Excerpt - 'Forget Me Not Mission' to End Drunk Driving in Alaska

Bidwell's daughter, Shelly Reed, was killed by a drunk driver in 1983, just before her graduation from West High School in Anchorage.

IN 1983 NANCY Bidwell lost her teenage daughter in a drunk driving accident. When she and her husband retired years later, they started Forget Me Not Mission in 2005, a statewide educational effort that exists to continue spreading the message that almost everyone has heard, but many people still don't understand. That message is: if you drink alcohol, then don't drive a car. It bears repeating and so Bidwell and her group of teen educators go into schools all over the state with this message. They are about to publish their second book - a volume featuring the contributions and thoughts of teens in Alaska, and the stories and photos of teens who've lost their lives because of drunk driving, and "distracted" driving, too.

[Read sample pages and see photos from the forthcoming book: Soul Shaking Grief: The Teen Edition.

KTD producer Sarah Gonzales spoke with Nancy Bidwell to learn more about their efforts in Alaska...




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Show 72: License to Drive

Car, boat or snowmachine, driving is a reponsibility, a privilege, a rite of passage, a danger and a freedom - at any age! This time on KTD we’re exploring all the facets of what it means to be young with a license to drive in Alaska. We’ll discuss safety issues, driver’s ed, licensing, preventing drunk driving and why modern teens aren’t getting their licenses as early as teens of yore (hint: studies stay it’s because of texting and social media). 

IN-STUDIO GUESTS: Joing host Shana Sheehy to discuss all things driving in Alaska are two guests. 

Don McDermott is a retired educator who has been teaching driving to Alaskans of all ages for nearly 20 years. McDermott came north to be a professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage where he was the first Dean of the School of Education. He retired in 1988 and has since taught at the AARP - Alaska's driver safety program... he also taught his own son to drive.

Lieutenant Arthur "Tom" Dunn is the Deputy Commander for the Alaska Bureau of Highway Patrol, a division of the Alaska State Troopers. Lt. Dunn was a police officer in Whittier and Homer before working for the Troopers in Palmer, Kodiak, Sitka, Homer and Anchorage.


Statewide resources:



- When I Was Young: First Car - Beaters or brand new, every adult has a fond story about their first set of wheels.

- Drive or Surf? - Teens tell us if they’d rather use a car or a computer to connect with their friends.

- Forget Me Not Mission - A statewide anti-drunk driving effort tells how they are getting out the well-worn message in new ways. [Full story is posted here with links to book excerpt.] 

- AK's New Red Stripe License Law - Wondered why you’re getting carded when you’re obviously old enough? It’s the controversial new “red stripe law” that aims to prevent alcohol sales to certain past offenders.



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Next time on KTD!: License to Drive

CAR, BOAT OR SNOWMACHINE, driving is a reponsibility, a privilege, a rite of passage, a danger and a freedom at any age! Next time on KTD we're looking at all the facets of what it means to be young with a license to drive in Alaska. We're joined by a retired-educator-turned-driving-instructor, and the deputy commander of the Alaska Highway Patrol to look at safety issues, driver's ed, licensing, preventing drunk driving and why modern teens aren't getting their licenses as early as teens of yore (hint: studies stay it's because of texting and Facebook).

PLUS, beaters or brand new - adults remember their first cars; teens tell us if they'd rather use a car or a computer to connect with friends; we'll meet the parents of a young man who died in a drunk driving accident; and wonder why you're getting carded when you're obviously old enough? It's the controversial new "red stripe law" and we've got details.

Find your station, date and time here!



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Show 71 Excerpt - Technology Boosts Rural Learning Opportunities


IN ALASKA THERE are more than 140 public high schools with fewer than 20 students. So how do a small number of teachers offer all the different classes a student needs to graduate? Some think the answer lies in teaching more courses online – and a new statewide consortium is figuring out how to offer them.

KTD contributor Jessica Cochran has more.

Links from this story: Consortium for Digital LearningAlaska’s Learning NetworkSLED - Alaska’s virtual library and digital archive; National standards for on-line learning




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Kids, Technology & Traveling: 4 Tips for Parents

PASS THROUGH ANY crowded airport these days, and it’s highly likely you’ll witness a toddler manipulating mom or dad’s smartphone. These pint-sized techies are part of a new generation of traveling kids who, for better or worse, have amusement at their fingertips. 

Big kids, too, have their own new set of standards for travel fun; from iPads to the latest hand-held video game, children today are able to manipulate their own brand of quiet fun. But is it a good thing? Certainly, say some parents, harkening back to their own childhoods spent in the family station wagon with nothing more than “License Plate Bingo” to play during a 12-hour drive to grandma’s house. Apps and maps do provide kids and parents a positive travel experience - no whining is good, right? But other moms and dads are in the camp of uncertainty, wondering if perhaps the family travel experience is sullied by the lack of family interaction, engagement, and ultimately, time.

It’s a tough decision, one in which my husband and I discuss quite frequently. Regardless of your own position on the matter, there are guidelines and limits, along with a wealth of options for application. Here are a few of our thoughts on bringing technology into the backseat: 

1. Set limits. Remember when your dad would demand a shut-down of the television because he said your brain would turn to mush? Yep. Same rule applies in our family for hand-held games and such. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with actual conversation among family members all traveling together. Also remember that some kids do get headaches after staring at a small screen for extended periods of time, so breaks are good for a physical recharge, too. 

2. Choose participatory apps or games. A few great apps, like Viator (suitable for older children and teens), provide cool history and trivia about thousands of destinations around the world. Put a child in charge, and keep the dialogue going with searches, question-and-answer sessions, and the like. Google Maps is also fun, and teaches valuable navigation skills, something many of tend to forget in this world of GPS. Smaller kiddos may enjoy the excellent PBS Kids app, with familiar faces and games that appeal to the 2-5 year-old set. 

3. Try a multimedia approach. All smartphones today come with a handy still or video camera, and of high quality, too. Hand it over to the kids and ask them to create a slide show of their day, or offer up a theme for a family video you can all view together at the end of your trip. YouTube is an excellent venue for sharing family vids, and settings are easy to tweak for privacy. Even small children can click the camera button! 

4. Encourage writing and reading. iPads and other tablets are fabulous ways to encourage journaling among your elementary or middle school child. iPad’s “notes” even look like notebook paper, and the keypad is large and simple to operate. Combine daily journal entries with photos, and you’ve got a pretty fancy vacation scrapbook. 

Involve your kids in the technology discussion well before the trip commences. Decide together how much is too much, and establish rules for sharing devices. Technology is a wonderful addition to family travel, but it shouldn’t be the only one. 

For more tips and travel thoughts, visit




Volunteering for Kids' Sake

MY FIRST EXPERIENCE of living in Alaska was in a community with a population of less than 1,000 people. Living there for ten years taught me many new lessons and reinforced many of the priorities that I already had in my life. The importance and power of volunteerism was one such reinforcement that occurred during this period of my life.

I volunteered at the school, with the local chapter of Alaska Travels Industry, Fraternal Order of Eagles, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and at many other community organizations and events. I could see the positive effects of my volunteerism. These experiences made me feel good and more invested in the community.


Tiny bowler for kids sake...

The opportunities to volunteer were endless, overwhelming, and at times demanding. One of the first opportunities for volunteerism I participated in was the building of a café business. This led to a job opportunity at this café and 5 years later it led  me to my life-long partner.

Teaching our boys the importance of volunteerism and advocacy is a priority for my partner and me. At the ages of four years and eight months this is a challenge. Our working approach to impart values and priorities to our boys is to just do it - and as a family - when we can.  We know that they will only absorb a portion of the value but we think that it is important to start these experiences now.

Knocking 'em down with dad...

This weekend our family is teaming up with another family to Bowl-For-Kid’s-Sake, which benefits Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska. Big Brothers Big Sisters provides positive and safe adult mentors to youth in many communities around Alaska. Our family believes strongly in this mission and we contribute in a variety of different ways. My partner, our son and I have all solicited donations for our team. At our son’s daycare we provided a pledge sheet for parents and emailed parents of his classmates to tell them about our team and our son’s involvement. This week our son and I toured my workplace together talking with co-workers about the Big Brothers Big Sisters mission and soliciting donations for our team. He was very tentative about the activity at first but warmed-up very quickly. Plus, the guilt of disappointing such a cute kid by not pledging was a powerful motivator!

Our son understands that our team is raising money so children can have special and meaningful friends in their life. I know he does not fully understand what we are doing but I feel like we are off to a good start to imparting a spirit of giving, volunteerism, and advocacy.


Talking about raising Alaska's future today!

Mental Health & the Alaskan Family

Being Young in Rural Alaska





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