IT IS A STRONG HOPE of mine that sooner rather than later, my children will become fairly self-sufficient in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, I like to cook, but I’ll also be happy to share the daily responsibility with two more people. They have always helped with special stuff – like baking bread and of course, cookies. We recently added their own “dinner nights” – they each help plan and prepare a meal once a week. But it was the constant requests for snacks and water that were really getting to me: in our small kitchen, they couldn’t reach the things they needed themselves. So we did a few things to make it easier.
1. Non-breakable dishes. We’re not fond of plastic, so we got some very-hard-to-break Corelle dishes - dishwasher safe, microwave safe, kid safe.
2. Within arm's reach. Our fridge on top, freezer on the bottom set-up makes it a little harder to keep things the kids need within reach. We keep milk on the lowest shelf of the door…and aspire to keep containers of carrots, cheese, etc. on the lowest fridge shelf where they can reach them. Sometimes it actually happens.
3. The stool is now always out. Yes, it annoys me and I frequently knock my shins on it, but I can kick it out of the way, and they can reach the sink handle and hoist themselves up to the countertops to find things when necessary.
4. DIY snack station. The best innovation was this little shelf (pictured above). It keeps cereal (my kids’ favorite snack) and crackers within reach, and also bowls, cups, even a small container of silverware. The top surface is just the right height for my 4 year old to use as a countertop. On it sits a water jug (since we don’t have a fridge that dispenses ice and water). And the whole thing is on wheels – so we can move it out of the way (or next to the dining room table as a sideboard.) I built ours, but most any small shelf would work, with wheels added or not.
I still spend a lot of time serving snacks and packing lunches, and most mornings I DO get up to make breakfast. But this holiday weekend, I’m definitely looking forward to sending the kids out to the kitchen to take care of it themselves - at least once.
I’d love to hear any more ideas!
Check out another post full of great DIY ideas for kids by Jessica Cochran: 7 Ideas for 7am - or, how to keep kids busy when you want to sleep in.
With the winter holidays just around the corner many of us are already making gift lists, shopping, planning parties and making travel arrangements to be with family. This is also the time of year when many families could use a little extra help with their holiday celebrations.
At KTD! we've rounded up a (helping) handful of local resources where you and your family can get involved and make a difference this holiday season.
1. Help the Homeless: Catholic Social Services' Helping Holiday project collects funds for their community outreach projects like the Brother Francis Shelter and Clare House.
2. Feed the Hungry: The citywide Neighborhood GIFT Program, co-sponsored by the Foodbank of Alaska, needs volunteers to deliver meals to homebound individuals in the Anchorage area on Monday, Dec 19 and to do foodstamp outreach at 6 different locations on Tuesday, Dec 20.
3. Dress an Interviewing Teen: Covenant House Alaska has an immediate need for adult-sized, women and men's business attire. Donate your lightly-used professional clothing at their downtown Anchorage location.
4. Shop at a Non-Profit Bazaar: Congregation Beth Sholom is hosting the 4th Annual Mitzvah Mall where all the vendors are local not-for-profits and charities selling items from $5-$30. Sunday, December 4, 1-4pm.
5. Give a Gift/Wrap a Gift: AWAIC (Abused Women's Aid in Crisis) has many opportunities for holiday helping this year - donate gifts or gift cards that will go directly to the many women, teens and children that they help, or sign up as an individual or as a group to wrap these gifts.
6. Choose Your Own Charity: The United Way of Anchorage's 2011 Guide to Holiday Giving and Volunteering Opportunities (opens as a PDF) is a comprehensive catalog of ways that your family can help this season by donating items like clothes, food, toys, bus passes and even services.
7. Keep a Homeless Child Warm: The Children in Transition/Homeless program at the Anchorage School District has an immediate need for children's snowpants and snowboots to distribute to the kids in their program. Call their office to find out where to donate: 742-3833.
Write us with more ways to give back and we'll add them to this list.
TIME: THE UNAVOIDABLE constraint that we all get to live within. From morning until night and even into the early morning, time is something that we are constantly tethered to.
When talking to other parents about time, time management, and endless things to do there seem to be two common responses:
1. “Oh, the time passes by so quickly so enjoy it."
2. “I never have enough time!”
Response #1 inevitably comes from those parents who no longer have children at home, while response #2 almost always comes from those parents with children that are still at home. There is truth in both of these statements about time. It does seem like yesterday that I was holding our first-born for the first time and he is now 3 ½ years old! There was also the planning and preparing for child number 2 and he is already 3 months old. Unfortunately in a household with two young children and two working parents I would whole-heartedly say; “My partner and I never have enough time!”
They grow up so quickly, don't they?
Recently I have come to the realities of active and involved parenting - there will never be enough time. I often hear other parents wishing for more hours in the day and I wonder why they would want to do this to themselves? If there were more hours we would find the activities and commitments to fill those hours too.
Weekends seem like a good time to catch-up so for months I would actively put together a long list only to be disappointed on Monday that because of the family hike, grocery shopping, surprise guests in town, two hours of sunshine, and a birthday party only two things had been completed.
Making time for the outdoors!
Here is how I have hit my Father-stride and come to terms with the realities of time:
1. Accepting that there is never enough time is the foundation component to stop being frustrated about the lack of time.
2. Prioritizing tasks into the must dos and the it-would-be-nice-to-get-done things. Realizing that realistically the must dos will probably be the only things that will get done.
3. Looking at commitments outside of the family and downsizing them. There will be time to fill when the home is kid-free.
4. Realize that not everything can be done as a family and sometimes it is best to divide and conquer. Mom and child do one thing and Dad and other child do another.
5. Get some help with responsibilities. Hire someone to do some home cleaning or trade-out a play date with a friend to provide some time to focus on important tasks.
6. Take some time off work to get caught-up on project that may not be able to be fit into the daily and weekly schedule.
7. Everything else gets planned so don't forget to plan fun events often!
8. Always remembering what is ultimately important: spending time with children, as a family, and finding some time to have focused conversation and time with partner.
Until next time….
One of our guests this week, Katharine Huffman, spends her days training professionals, parents, groups, schools and individuals about how to speak to the children in their lives about healthy sexuality. She brought a stack of books with her to the studio and although we didn't have time to include her talking about these books on the air, we have her recommendations right here for you!
SUMMER IS NEARLY gone, taking with it good weather and everyone's "take it easy" summer attitude. With the end of summer comes school, stress, and mandatory early wakeups. But I'm not bitter. As I reflect, it's hard to narrow three months of fun down into something that doesn't include 3 months of fun. This is my attempt at last summer's highlight reel- my top 5.
5. Flattop Hikes. From April to August, I've summitted Flattop at least 20 times. That doesn't sound very impressive, and it isn't (my original goal was 50). But the reason I liked it so much was the variety of ways I climbed it. I sometimes started at 8 A.M., sometimes 11 P.M. It was really nice, because no matter when or where, as long as I was going to Flattop, I'd always see at least one other person on the trails. They were always friendly, because all hikers are friends with each other on trails. Watching the sun set and rise wasn't too shabby either.
4. Volleyball. If you tell someone to imagine a typical summertime probability states that they would picture one of two scenes: a pool party, or a beach volleyball game. Since the former is impossible due to Alaska's pool shortage (excluding Hidden Lake), we Alaskans can only play volleyball to fill the American kid summer square. Fortunately for me, Service High has 2 sand courts open to the public. On many nights you could've found me knee deep in the sand, having a great time reenacting the Top Gun volleyball scene. And as an added bonus, the backdrop of the Chugach set us apart from the rest of America's volleyball playing youth.
3. Sun's Out Guns Out Tennis. When I look back on all my high school summers, one thing stays constant - Shirtless Tennis in the hot sun. It's something that's essential for my summer to be complete- along with my tan. I might not be at John McEnroe's level (yet), but I can still have fun on the courts, just like anyone else with a racket, ball, and a friend.
2. My morning at the Louvre. On my last day in France, I had a morning alone in Paris. Since I had visited the Louvre when I was too young to appreciate it, I decided it was time to go back. The whole morning was as perfect as it could've been. The journey was without incident, and I wandered among the various halls for hours. As long as I stayed away from the Mona Lisa, I could avoid the crowds. Though, after 3 hours, I was arted-out but I got my fill of fine art without getting more than my fill of Japanese tour groups.
1. The Summertime Attitude. My favorite part of this summer wasn't just one instance or event. It was my and my friends' outlook on life in the summer. I can't remember how many times I told someone "It's all good, we've got all summer." To me, the best times I had were when I didn't have anything to do, anywhere to be, and nothing to worry about. The weather was nice, so just chilling outside and talking to friends was perfect for the occasion. Even though the days are getting shorter, I'll try to keep that carefree attitude to make my life a little less stressful.
Balancing our heavy five-foot-diameter dipnet on my right shoulder, I plunged one foot at a time into the gooey mudflat. It was low tide at the mouth of the Kenai River and the mudflats had already killed Ethan’s talking Finn McMissile and petered out Thomas.
Every step was a gamble. I could fall flat on my face or sink so deep that I got stuck. As I plunged into the ocean with all my strength, the net whipped in the current and nearly knocked me over. Licking my lips, I tasted the spray of saltwater, the thrill of not knowing what was going to happen next.
The icy waters cooled my feverish excitement of being an Alaskan as I fought my net and tried to tame it against my ribs. To my right in one deft move, a neighbor knocked a salmon out with his club and hung it on a string tied to his waist.
It was our third year dipnetting and still I felt like a novice. Here are three tips that made this year’s fishing easier.
1. Bring the proper gear: The shore is often littered with fish guts, seagull droppings, and puddles that kids can’t resist touching. Last year, Kyra and Ethan were drenched and miserably cold five minutes after we started fishing. So this year, I invested in waterproof jackets, pants, and gloves. Check the label and make sure that it states the product is 100% waterproof and not just water-resistant.
Bog boots or something comparable that stays warm down to -30° F keeps socks dry, toes warm, and shoes on! (My kids love any excuse to go barefoot.) Those easy-on pull handles also saved Ethan’s boot several times when it got stuck in the mudflats.
Kid-sized camping chairs surprisingly act like an invisible leash. Last year, Kyra and Ethan couldn’t climb into the adult-sized chairs easily, so they drifted and complained that they were tired, and eventually buried themselves in the wet sand. We didn’t even bother bringing adult-sized chairs this year because we could squeeze our bottoms into their chairs if we really needed to rest.
Finally, it’s all about the toys and snacks. Supply them with easy snacks that they can open and dispose of on their own and make sure they eat first before they start playing. Check their pockets and make sure that they don’t sneak their favorite toy down to the beach. My kids each have a set of waterproof beach safe toys that they only get to play with when we go fishing.
2. Engage your sidekick: There’s something about the title “sidekick” that my kids love. Maybe, it’s because lately Batman and Robin are their favorite bad guy fighting pair. Or maybe, at this age, they want to feel like a member of the team.
Ethan was frustrated that he couldn’t fish and I had to keep a close eye on him because he kept trying to walk into the ocean like Dad. His hands would get caked with mud and he would start to wail. I asked Kyra to get a bucket of water to wash his hands and this evolved into their job. They never tired of lugging buckets of water to our side so that we could clean tools or fish.
Although Kyra can’t wait to cut fish, I told her she could start by helping me to vacuum seal them. She took this job very seriously and knocked aside my hands if I hovered.
3. Create teachable moments: The Alaska Sport Fishing Regulations guide came in handy when Thomas cleaned the salmon. I taught Kyra about the five different salmon species found in Alaska and asked her to identify each salmon. She then tried to teach Ethan who was much more interested in swatting away the flies.
With Ethan, I also played the “I spy with my little eye” game to review his numbers, colors, and alphabet. But unlike his sister, Ethan runs away if he thinks he’s being tested or educated.
What lessons have you learned about fishing with young kids?
MY YOUNGER SISTER and I grew up in Alaska for most of our young lives, but we'd regularly divide our summers between Kodiak or Homer (playing in the woods all day) and Los Angeles (playing in the pool all day) with our grandparents. Of all summer reminisces, the foods of summer bring back the sharpest and strongest seasonal memories. Below are my top 5 summer treats; what are your favorite summer foods from childhood?
1. Freezer Popsicles. As a kid there were maybe 3 things that tried my patience like nothing else: waiting to open birthday presents, waiting for my turn on the swing/ride/diving board, and waiting for popsicles to freeze. But, oh, did the wait ever pay off when it was finally time for each of these things! We had a set of plastic popsicle molds from Tupperware, and a quick search on Amazon reveals many new styles, colors and shapes available now.
Here's a delicious recipe for Strawberry-Yoghurt Popsicles.
2. Hand-Scooped Ice Cream. We went to Thrifty's when I was a kid - it's a Southern California thing - cylindrical ice cream scoops from the drugstore. But going out for ice cream with Grandpa (his: butter pecan, mine: gumball) is a treat the country over.
Try Gelato Kudrino in Wasilla, Hot Licks in Fairbanks, and The Ice Cream Shop in Girdwood.
3. Peanuts in the Shell. Every summer meant Major League Baseball games (Go Dodgers!), and no game was complete without a big bag of roasted and salted peanuts. Wait! What? You mean we get to throw the shells on the ground and just leave them there? Awesome! Recently I went looking for peanuts at the market - super hard to find it turns out - but there are usually some in the bulk bins.
Alaska Baseball League games run through the beginning of August.
4. Watermelon. Grandpa was a truck driver and when he got home in the summers, we'd jump out of the pool and run to the front yard to greet him where he'd almost always have a watermelon (or honeydew, cantaloupe or casaba) brought home from work. Grandma would cut up the melons in cubes and later, we'd all sit on the front porch to have a seed spitting contest.
Best place for a seed spitting contest? Your own back yard (or front yard).
5. Salmon berries. In the late summer and back in Alaska to start school, it was so cool to find and eat berries in the woods. We knew exactly which ones were edible and our favorites were tart, hairy salmon berries, followed by smooth, slimy watermelon berries as a close second. The best thing about salmon berries is that since their insides are hollow, they fit on little girl fingertips - a perfect way to line 'em up before popping them in your mouth.
Check out Alaska Trekker for a handy guide to Alaska's berries.
WE ALASKANS PACK a lot into our short Alaskan summers…and sometimes, getting out for a hike or getting to soccer practice takes precedence over a sit-down family dinner. With a little time to make something ahead of time, you can still have a healthy dinner together – on a picnic blanket, the tailgate of your car, or wherever you find yourself. Here’s a few we’ve tried, please share your ideas for other no-silverware, low-mess picnic dinners! - Jessica Cochran
1. Everything dipped in hummus. You can make your own hummus or buy it at the store. Scoop it up with chopped veggies (yellow and orange peppers, broccoli, and carrot sticks are favorites at our house), cut up pita bread or crackers and dip away! No plates, no silverware, and no double-dipping please!
2. Egg Salad. A batch of egg salad can be spread on bread for sandwiches, or dipped with crackers, carrot sticks, etc. Note: you might not want to try this in the car, unless you like ground-in egg salad on your seats.
3. Pretend you are French. Buy a baguette, some cheese and salami or other lunch meat, and make mini sandwiches. Just tear the bread – it's more fun that way! Accompany with sliced cucumbers, those little “grape” tomatoes, and some fruit for a balanced meal.
4. Leftover Salmon spread. Take that little bit of salmon left over from dinner last night, mix with cream cheese and olives or capers, and voila – another spreadable, dip-able “main dish”.
5. Tortellini. Some pasta salads require forks, but pre-packaged tortellini, cooked and tossed with a tiny bit of butter or olive oil and parmesan cheese, can be eaten with fingers. Don’t forget to add some veggie-sticks and fruit to round our your meal.
Ok, let’s face it – all those newspaper ads with pictures of kids splashing in plastic outdoor pools sometimes get me down in the summer - because a lot of the time, it isn’t even warm enough here for a quick run through a sprinkler. Still, there are plenty of fun ways to play with water that don’t induce full-body goose-bumps. Just think smaller scale. - Jessica Cochran, KTD! Contributor
1. Mud Pies. Yup, embrace the messiness and go with this old-fashioned favorite. At our house, we have a raised garden bed dedicated to that purpose. Equiped with empty yogurt containers, little watering cans and shovels (and a fair share of chickweed, too), it is kid heaven for a surprisingly large age range.
2. A water table. There are some commercially available with little water wheels, an upper and a lower “pool” to float boats in. Or bring your kid-height table outside, and put lots of pots and pans of water on it. Maybe try using ladles, or an old medicine dropper, to move water from one container to another. Color different containers with food coloring and see what happens when you mix them.
3. Go “Fish”. Use a butterfly net, or a little net for a fish tank, or even a kitchen strainer and dip into the water until you find something cool to look at. Try it in lakes, creeks, or even a deep puddle. If you have a magnifying glass, you can take an even closer look at your finds.
4. Float home-made “boats” down the creek. One very rainy day last summer (remember how many there were?), we dove into our recycling bin for cardboard and other treasures, used as much duct tape and packing tape as we wanted, and made little cardboard boats. After tying a string on each one, we donned full rain gear and headed to the creek to water test our creations. (Helpful tip: bring a large garbage bag to put your disintegrated creations in, and another to carry home the dripping-wet creations that survived.)
5. Water the plants. My 4-year old son can spend many an hour doing this. With the spray nozzle on the hose, he fills containers, then pours them into the watering can, then waters something. And then repeats. And repeats. And repeats...
6. Dam the stream. Keep an eye out for a neighbor over-watering their grass or washing their car, and sending a stream down the edge of the street. Use rocks, chunks of wood, grass clippings or whatever else you can find to make a dam. Then, take it down when you’re done so the water can drain. (Safety notes: only try this on quiet streets, with parent supervision, and take a bath when you’re done!)
7. Go ahead and get that plastic kiddie pool, why not? Mix hot water with the hose water to fill and just pretend it’s warmer than it is!
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