Jill Burke

We parents are often left to wonder if any of the words of wisdom we impart to our children sink in. If there's any evidence that such lessons aren't wasted, it's Anchorage high school student Michael Martinez. The 16-year-old Service High School sophomore just won the Emperor Science Award , a prestigious science research award offered through PBS Learning Media and Stand Up to Cancer . Even when Michael was very young, his mother, Mary Martinez, knew something was different. When other children were scrambling to climb and tumble, Michael would stay to the side, push his glasses into position on his small face, cinch up the shoulder straps of his backpack and go find a spot to read or play with his toys. This disciplined, observant kid seemed to be an old soul. “I provided enrichment, a...Jill Burke
A great astronomical event is now taking place in the predawn hours of the winter sky. Five planets -- Saturn, Venus, Mars, Mercury and Jupiter -- are visible simultaneously. That is, unless you live in Alaska. Gazing to the heavens from the 49th state we get slightly cheated, left to admire a four-planet phenomenon. Our far northern latitude delivers the dawn before Mercury, the last planet in the sequence, peeks over the horizon. Still, it’s a great opportunity to grab the kids, bundle up and head outside. Not to mention that we’ve had a stunning run of northern lights, which is probably worth the trade-off of missing out on what's now the littlest planet in our solar system. Remember, Pluto had that distinction until 2006 , when it was demoted to a “dwarf planet.” “Seeing at least four...Jill Burke
More than once I have lingered, parked in the driveway, delighting in a few extra minutes of uninterrupted quiet. Like a thief who has stolen something precious, I’ll sit there without letting my family know I’ve come home from the grocery store or other outing. I might play a game on my phone or listen to the radio. Often, I just sit in total quiet, enjoying this indulgent getaway until I realize how sad and somewhat pathetic it is that my aging Honda Pilot is my go-to respite from a noisy, vibrant home filled with the sounds of all those I love. I do not love that once I cross the threshold and make my way inside, the other effective tool I have for cutting through the chaos is a big, booming voice. This is the curse of mom vigilance, of being hyper-aware of all that is happening. It is...Jill Burke
This column is for the couch potatoes, the overweight, the timid, the tired, the too-busy. Within all of us lies an athlete waiting to get into motion. One of the best ways to get moving is to set a goal. Although it may seem daunting, a great goal is to complete a triathlon. If you’ve ever dreamed of completing a multisport event, now’s the time to summon that adventurous spirit and try something new. Start now and you can be ready for the women’s Gold Nugget Triathlon on May 15 or the Eagle River Triathlon June 5. Both are sprint triathlons, which means they are shorter races than an Olympic-length event. Expect a 500-yard swim, 12-mile bike ride and 3- to 4-mile run. The Eagle River event even has a shorter course just for kids. Volunteers are abundant, friendly and encouraging, and...Jill Burke
Bullying and harassment come in many forms. They may be overt or subtle, intentional or unintentional. According to the nonprofit research group Child Trends, “bullying commonly means aggressive behavior in the context of a power imbalance that is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.” On average, 28 percent of 12- to 18-year-olds are bullied each year. Boys and girls alike are susceptible to becoming victims or aggressors. In my family, our children have been on both sides of the bullying spectrum. None of the situations has been easy. Our values about how to treat others are clear and discussed often. “You are not allowed to be bullies,” we firmly remind the children. “Do not tolerate bullying from others. You deserve a safe and comfortable school environment. If...Jill Burke
Some 69,000 Alaska families have an open case with the state child support agency. Of those, nearly 60 percent, or about 41,400, are past due at any given time, according to Carol Beecher, director of Alaska’s Child Support Services Division. About 67 percent of the past-due cases are successfully collected, Beecher said. Child support is intended to ensure that money is available to the parent or family raising a child, or to help reimburse the cost of care when a child ends up in foster care or living with a third party. Also, if a family seeks public assistance for food and living expenses, the non-custodial parent has an obligation to make support payments to the state. As soon as an application for welfare is filed, Child Support Services opens a case. Parents with unpaid child...Jill Burke
There is no escaping death. Sometimes it arrives unexpectedly and swiftly, as with a car crash, heart attack or aneurysm. Other times it descends slowly, pulling us through to a painful end. Given the opportunity to choose how and when we die, should we? What role, if any, should the state have in helping us cease to exist? This divisive and complicated issue, which grinds at our collective moral and ethical beliefs, is currently in the hands of the Alaska Legislature. May they rise to the occasion. When I was pregnant a few years ago, I became worried that in the midst of an unlikely catastrophic medical event, my wife would prematurely “pull the plug.” I’d become deeply moved by stories of medical outliers -- people who’ve come back from a dismal prognosis, defied the “no hope”...Jill Burke
School's back in session, and in our home that means trying new things. Each child has their own set of goals for Spring 2016. For the toddler, it's saying "please" and "thank you" and learning to share. For one child, it's doing extra math. For another, it's making sure the homework comes home, gets done and is turned back in. Others are working on personal responsibility and organization. Everyone, from the 2 1/2-year-old to the college students, has something to work on this go-around. Even the adults. My homework is to have awkward conversations, like those about sex and puberty, and to make them seem like no big deal, as though they are just another part of daily life. In the make-believe-home of my imagination, I glide through the house, cool, calm and collected, ably managing any...Jill Burke
Managing responsible pet care with a busy family life can be an awkward balancing act. When meeting the daily needs of the pets begins to feel like a nuisance, it's time to re-evaluate whether they're raising or diminishing the quality of life in the home, and whether your home is likewise doing the same for them. More than once in my home, our poor pets have been reduced to one more thing to check off the daily “to-do” list every morning and night. This dilemma has exposed me to yet another dimension of mom guilt: pet guilt. We have two dogs. With an aching heart, I've patiently explained to our 10-year-old that he will, one day, be a great dog owner, but that our family doesn't have the capacity to add another dog. “It's important that we have the time to care for and train a dog," I've...Jill Burke
Even before the start of his decades-long teaching career, Chuck Strauss had fallen in love with math, an infatuation so strong it would come to define his life and help shape the lives of thousands upon thousands of Anchorage students. Across the span of a 34-year career Strauss managed to make calculus a varsity sport, pushed students to excel, was an omnipresent helping hand for other teachers, and lead all those who loved him into the mysterious world of math and beyond. “He didn't only teach math, he taught time management and decision-making skills, as well as how to maintain optimism and a positive attitude in the midst of challenges,” said Matt Ha, a former student of Strauss who now lives and works in San Francisco after graduating with an economics degree in from the University...Jill Burke