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Little Rock Family Blog

Events, activities, news, insight and opinion from the trenches of parenthood by Little Rock Family Magazine Editor Heather Bennett and her editorial staff. Share tips, news and feedback with Heather here.
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Grandparents Day: 3 Events for Kids and their Grandparents

Oh, how we love their hugs, cookies and big smiles -- grandparents are the best! Jimmy Carter agreed and signed a proclamation in 1978 declaring the first Sunday after Labor Day as Grandparents Day. Here are a few of the events in central Arkansas celebrating these special family members.

Grandparent's Day Storytime at Barnes & Noble in North Little Rock: Book readings and activities honoring grandparents are part of the fun! 11 a.m. Sept. 6. For info: (501) 771-1124, BN.com. FREE!

Grandparent's Day Storytime at Barnes & Noble in West Little Rock: Storytime and activities for grandparents and kids features "How to Babysit a Grandma" and "How to Babysit a Grandpa." 11 a.m. Sept. 6. For info: (501) 954-7646, BN.com. FREE!

Grandparents in the Garden at Hot Springs Community Gardens: Hot Springs' Community Garden Network hosts a picnic with food trucks at the Garden site, plus tours of the garden every half-hour. Noon-3:30 p.m. Sept. 7. For info: (501) 623-6400, HotSprings.org. FREE!

For more weekend events, browse our full online calendar here.

Enter Your Baby in Little Rock Family's Photo Contest

We know you have a favorite photo (or 100) of your little bundle of joy! Little Rock Family wants to see your baby's cutest moments, whether it's an angelic newborn shot, baby bath time or another photo opp for our Cutest Baby Photo Contest!

Photo submissions for the contest will be accepted through Sept. 9, 2014. Little Rock Family Staff members will then choose our favorites, and post the finalists on Sept. 11.

The winners will then be determined through a vote, open to the public! Voting will take place from Sept. 11-18 here on LittleRockFamily.com.

The winning photos will then be featured online and in the Little Rock Family magazine November 2014 edition.

Click here to get started and submit your baby's cutest photo!

Celebrating Grandparents Day with Craig O'Neill and Jane Hankins

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In every issue this year we’ve dedicated special space in celebration of our 20th anniversary. This month is no exception, except we are also celebrating National Grandparents Day which is Sunday, September 7. In honor of this beloved familial group, we’ve invited some of our community’s favorite iconic personalities who just so happen to be grandparents themselves.

Enter stage left, creative forces extraordinaire…THV 11’s Craig O’Neill (a.k.a. Randy Hankins) and artist/author Jane Hankins. Married 40+ years, the talented dynamic duo has a way of taking life to a level of Neverland heights. Just imagine being their grandchildren. In the words of another creative icon Dr. Seuss, “Oh, the places you will go.”

So get your giggle box ready and have a hankie handy as we catch up with the couple since Craig and granddaughter Bella graced Little Rock Family’s cover in 2007. They now have two grandchildren. Bella Rose Kerby, 10, has a little sister, Amelia May Kerby, 6.

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Little Rock Family: What do the girls call you and Jane?

Craig: They call me DaDoo. I wanted it to be DooDah as in “Camptown ladies sing this song. . .doodah—doodah”. I stole that idea from our good friend Robyn Dickey. I loved it, DooDah. But, once the children were born and became verbal, we had a vowel movement and it became “DaDoo.” Jane has the wonderfully easy “Na-nee.” Phoenetically, that’s “Nay-knee.”

LRF: How does grandparenting differ from parenting for you?

Craig: Grandparenting is judgment-free. As parents there is a constant nagging question that goes with every decision: “Is this the right choice? Am I doing the right thing?” But, with grandparenting, that inner critic is silenced. As a grandparent, life with your grandchild is a celebration. You lose your inhibition and revel in their constant sense of wonder and discovery. On an intuitive level, you also know, these grandchildren in some small way represent your immortality. This adds even more value to their little lives, and every moment becomes precious.

LRF: What type of grandparents would you say you are?

Craig: If there was one word that sums up our grandparenting style it would be “creative.” (Imagine that!) I am constantly presenting imaginary situations into our lives together. Example: When I would drive Bella to preschool, I would roll down the window of the front seat so that Tinkerbell could come into the car. She wanted to ride with us, and for two miles we chatted with Tinkerbell, who desposited fairy dust on us before she left, so that next time we could just fly to preschool. Jane’s exercises are a little more controlled because they take more set-up time, but just as endearing. The girls hardly ever come over to our house without painting, making something from clay, and even costuming.

LRF: How has grandparenting changed for you since 2007?

Craig: It has been amazing watching the girls change. I have read that the emotional part of the brain is completely developed by age 12, which means Bella is getting close to that age. In talking with her, listening to her inflections and subject matter, which is now all about relationships, I would suggest she is already there. Amelia on the other hand is still in that wonderful state of uninhibited imagination, where fantasy is still the rule, not the exception. I find that the older they get, I tend to linger on the childish moments, realizing they are disappearing very quickly. In talking with grandparents of teens, I get the same lament: “We don’t see them as often, but we love them just as much.”

LRF: What are your favorite aspects of being a grandparent?

Jane: My/our favorite part of being grandparents, is discovery. This means travel, new places, new things. I call it turning over rocks, which is one of our grandkids’ favorite things to do. Simply turning over rocks and seeing what’s underneath there in the garden. All grandparents have a good idea of what’s under the rock, but they don’t know how their grandkids will react, making the entire exercise one of discovery at all levels.

LRF: Do you have any advice for other grandparents?

Craig: There is no advice for grandparents. That’s like telling angels to be nice. Because just being a grandparent is enough. It is all you need. There are so many times in my life I wish I could become invisible and just watch. Just being with them is all it takes. It is, in some measure, perfection. It teaches us all that your capacity for love is limitless. I have seen very successful businessmen produce tears as they spoke of their grandchildren. Grown, learned women, accomplished and successful by every measure, become instantly childlike, getting down on the floor to become a mule. It’s why I can’t wait to see what happens to the Clintons. Watching a grandchild wipe off that political veneer.

LRF: What do you hope your grandchildren learn from you?

Craig: Living 63 years and loving conversing with people, there is one thing I noticed and realized a long time ago before my children became adults. When people remember their grandparents, their voices change. The expression softens. There is a dreaminess to the narrative that wasn’t there before. I realize now, that I have no expectations when it comes to legacy. I know it will be one they will cherish whatever it is. Jane feels that way too. My only regret is that I won’t be there to hear it. I’m sure it would be fascinating, because everything they say and do, is.

The Pratt Family Shares Their Heritage, Heart and Home

Gallery by Karen E. Segrave

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If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, then what you see across here already beautifully illustrates the idea of this story. The Pratt family is intriguing, endearing and dedicated to one another. Cedric and Adama Pratt have been married 12 years and have three sons, Christian, 8, Kaden, 5, and Ian, 1. Cedric is a doctor of ophthalmology in Little Rock specializing in medical and surgical treatment of the retina and vitreous. Their present day story began many years ago in Sierra Leone, West Africa, where their families seemed worlds apart.

Adama explains how they came from two separate tribes. “My family was from a more traditional culture, a lot more primitive. We were traditionally not as educated and were sassy, feisty. Cedric’s family was from the more westernized culture who were originally slaves from England. They were very private.” Adama’s native tongue is Temne. Cedric’s family’s language is Creole or Broken English. Both of their cultures stress the importance of family and different generations looking out for each other.

Cedric’s mother, Elizabeth Pratt shares, “I was raised in Freetown, Sierra Leone, West Africa and came to the United States in 1973, a year after I graduated from secondary school. My life growing up was strict and traditional with a mix of British and African cultures. I attended Anglican primary school and Methodist secondary school. One of the main things I share with my kids and grandkids is education. I was raised that learning is better than silver and gold. I also instill in them to respect their elders, to be kind, and for the older to care for the younger.”

“I let them know that to achieve anything in life, you have to work very hard. I also teach them to not be wasteful, especially with food. My grandmother used to say ‘willful waste makes woeful want.’ There are children in Sierra Leone who live in depressed conditions with no decent clothes or shoes to wear, food to eat or toys to play with. I let my grandchildren know how blessed they are and to be thankful every day,” Elizabeth states. Now living just outside of Houston, Texas, she visits often. She loves spending time with her grandkids doing puzzles and has a special song she sings to the Pratt boys before they go to sleep.

“Good night to you Christian, Kaden, and Ian and sweet be your sleep.

May angels around you thy silent watch keep.

Good night, good night, good night!”

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Adama’s mother, Yabome Kamara, still lives in West Africa but visits when possible. She also shares the importance of hard work and resilience with her grandchildren. She says, “Never give up and always strive for the best. Grow up having the traditions of respecting and taking care of parents and grandparents.” She loves going to the zoo and telling them stories from home.

Adama says of her mother, “She enjoys seeing us parent our kids and pass on some of the things we learned from them. It brings her joy to experience the blessing of grandkids. She loves redeeming the kids from discipline in our home by telling us to charge their misbehavior to her account. And that is something grandparents say back home. I tell her that my kids would be spoiled if I don’t make some withdrawals!”

Adama was born and raised in Sierra Leone while Cedric was born in the United States. There were times he lived in Sierra Leone, but primarily grew up in the U.S. Adama came to the States to attend college. She says, “My father always encouraged me to further my education.” They met while they were both in college at Abilene Christian University in Texas.

It was not love at first sight though. Adama explains, “My brother and I were speaking in our own language one time in the student union and Cedric just came up and joined the conversation. I didn’t know him and thought he was being nosy. It ended up that he and my brother had played soccer together.”

Cedric muses, “I thought she was stuck up at first.” After some time passed Cedric learned of war going on in Adama’s home country and asked her how her family was doing and if they were safe. The two began talking, eventually started dating, and then married.

After obtaining their degrees at Abilene, Cedric attended medical school at the University of North Texas and completed his residency in Ohio. The young family then made Arkansas their home.

The Pratts share their heritage with their young sons by speaking their native tongues at home and cooking African food. They also have their own personal traditions. Adama says, “Cedric has read the Bible to Christian every night ever since he was in my tummy. We go to the library a lot. I love the learning aspects of life. It’s rewarding to see the boys growing and the tools God has given them to be men.”

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Cedric affirms, “We want them to grow up with a heart for service and to always look for someone to help. Be mindful of who’s around you. I want our sons to grow up knowing we are very blessed. Family is very important to us. Family is the cornerstone of our community and the cornerstone of our country.”

Cookin’ with Grandma

SCOTCH EGGS
Traditional African Recipe from Elizabeth Pratt

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  • A Scotch egg consists of a hard-boiled egg wrapped in sausage meat, coated in bread crumbs and baked or deep-fried.
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2-16oz Jimmy Dean Sausages (Regular and Hot) I like my food hot and spicy and my children and grandchildren do not.
  • 2 cups of breadcrumbs
  • Vegetable oil (for frying)
  • Preparation and Directions

• Place 4 eggs in a small saucepan; add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil; remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 3 minutes. Carefully drain, then fill pan with ice water to cool eggs. Gently crack shells and carefully peel under cold running water. Place eggs in a bowl of cold water; cover and chill until cold. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

• Place breadcrumbs in a wide shallow bowl and the unwrapped sausages in another wide shallow bowl. Divide sausage into 4 equal portions. Pat 1 portion of sausage into a thin patty over the length of your palm. Lay one soft-boiled egg on top of sausage and wrap sausage around egg, sealing to completely enclose. Repeat with remaining sausage and eggs.

• Whisk remaining two eggs in a medium bowl to blend. Working gently with one sausage-wrapped egg at a time, coat in blended egg. Roll in breadcrumbs to coat. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated, uncovered.

• Attach a deep-fry thermometer to side of a large heavy pot. Pour in oil to a depth of 2” and heat over medium heat to 375°. Fry eggs, turning occasionally and maintaining oil temperature of 350°, until sausage is cooked through and breading is golden brown and crisp, 5–6 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer eggs to paper towels to drain.

• Cut eggs into 2 to 4 pieces and serve warm or cold.

Milo's Kitchen Treat Truck for Dogs Visits Little Rock Aug. 31

Image by Shutterstock

Following closely on the heels of National Dog Day, a food truck just for pups will pop up in the Little Rock area this weekend. Milo's Kitchen Treat Truck is on a national road trip, and will make stops at Murray Park and Burns Park Sunday, Aug. 31.

If you see the truck out and about, stop and snag some free chicken and beef treats for your four-legged friend. Here's what else you'll find:

  • A professional canine-ready photo booth
  • A backyard-style lapdog lounge
  • Dog beds, drinking bowls and puppy toys (for those who need a break from the dog park)
  • Take-home doggie bags of tasty treats

Here's the schedule:

Murray Park 

4301 Rebsamen Park Road, Little Rock

7:30-9:30 a.m. Aug. 31

Burns Park

2700 Willow St., North Little Rock

2-4 p.m. Aug. 31

Follow the truck on Twitter here for any last-minute location changes. For more info, visit MKTreatTruck.com.

Special Olympics' Project Unify Promotes Understanding, Acceptance

Trea Kiser, left, and Elijah Smith, right, make new friends and learn leadership skills at youth summits hosted by Special Olympics. The two Arkansas teens recently attended a gathering in New Jersey.

In 1962, the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver launched what would become Special Olympics, giving athletes with intellectual disabilities the space to compete in sports just like their non-disabled peers. The sports world was never the same.

Now, another Special Olympics initiative, Project Unify, is gathering steam. The program, which was introduced in Arkansas in 2013, seeks to go even further in eliminating stereotypes that still persist. “This is an important movement,” says Camie Powell, Director of Marketing and Corporate Relations for Special Olympics Arkansas. “This is all about leveraging youth as game changers.”

Project Unify, or Club Unify at the elementary school level, is a program that seeks to drive change in attitudes, understanding and acceptance of persons with intellectual disabilities. The program provides schools a framework of activities that focus on leadership, understanding and appreciation of others’ differences. “Every generation has their own injustice to solve,” Powell says. “For today’s youth, that means making sure everybody is included and accepted.”

This isn’t the first Special Olympics program to provide a blending of disabled and non-disabled participants on a common activity. The organization’s unified sports program fields teams equally comprised of disabled and non-disabled athletes in sports as diverse as basketball and bocce, soccer and bowling. Competition ranges from low-key, recreational play to the full competitive program which can advance to national and international competition.

While unified sports competition is one component of a Project Unify school, it’s only one tool the program employs to help educate its participants in matters of tolerance and acceptance. Whole school engagement is also stressed, with initiatives that give all students the chance to participate.

One example is “Spread the Word to End the Word,” an ongoing international campaign against the words “retard” or “retarded” as derogatory slang. Trea Kiser, a 16-year-old from Cabot, is passionate about putting a stop to the “R” word. Though non-disabled himself, he and his family have been actively volunteering at Special Olympics events for years. He is resolute in addressing ignorance head-on: “It’s embarrassing how people treat these champions,” he says. “I’ve heard my classmates say the ‘R’ word and I don’t let them get away with thinking that’s OK.”

It takes a lot of courage to stand against such thinking, which is why Project Unify’s third component, youth leadership and advocacy, provides students of all abilities the opportunity to develop leadership skills. Youth summits for leadership training attract teens from across the country. Kiser recently attended a summit in New Jersey, along with Elijah Smith, 16, of Van Buren. Smith, a Special Olympics flag football athlete, has also attended summits closer to home. “It helped me to step out of my comfort zone and take that first step to make friends” Smith says. “I used to be pretty quiet and not wanting to talk, but this event has helped me to speak first and meet new people.”

Forming new friendships is the bedrock for the kind of change to which Project Unify aspires. Partner Clubs bring intellectually disabled and non-disabled kids together to volunteer for Special Olympics events or organize pep rallies for Special Olympics athletes attending that school.

Nationally, 38 state chapters have launched Project Unify programs, boasting more than 600,000 student participants. In Arkansas, Powell says eight schools have already signed on for the 2014-2015 school year. “Everybody has a place and an ability,” Powell says, “and everybody should be celebrated for that.”

For information on bringing Project Unify to your school, call Jennifer Grantham at 771-0222.

Special Olympics Facts

  • Special Olympics began as summer camps held in the 1950s and 1960s in the backyard of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who saw how children with intellectual disabilities of the time were excluded from sports and fitness activities.
  • By 1968, the summer camps had grown to the first International Special Olympics Summer Games in Chicago, which hosted 1,000 athletes from 26 states and Canada. Today, the International Special Olympics Games hosts thousands of athletes from around the world and includes summer and winter components.
  • The Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics launched in Kansas in 1981, and is the single largest fundraiser for the organization, raising $30 million annually. All Special Olympics sports programs are provided free of charge.
  • Special Olympics Arkansas was founded in 1970. The North Little Rock-based organization hosts 240 competitions annually across the state. More than 14,000 registered athletes, unified partners and young athletes compete in 20 sports in area, state, national and international competition. The group’s programs require the help of some 5,000 volunteers annually.

Rethinking Everything Conference & Retreat for Families To Be Held at Arkansas 4-H Center

Image by 4-H Arkansas Outdoor School

The 18th Annual Rethinking Everything Conference & Retreat will converge on the Arkansas 4-H Center this weekend for inspirational sessions, workshops, and activities related to health and wellness, parenting, homeschooling, sustainability and more.

A special pre-conference appearance on Aug. 29 features Dr. Shefali Tsabary, a leader in the conscious parenting movement and author of the book, "The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children."

In addition to Dr. Shefali's private practice in New York City, the clinical psychologist has presented her parenting and family knowledge at Tedx, The Dalai Lama Center for Peace and Education, and even Oprah's LifeClass and Super Soul Sunday. Read more about Dr. Shafali and her books here.

The family conference and retreat will be held Aug. 30-Sept. 2. For more info, including a full list of workshops, speakers and activities for kids, visit RethinkingEverything.com.

Sign Up for Fit Families Challenge from Special Olympics Arkansas

Image by ML Baxley

Jessica Askins has competed in the Special Olympics Track & Field events for the past three years.

Special Olympics Arkansas will kick off a new challenge on Sept. 1, encouraging families to live healthier lives. The Fit Families Challenge is a six-week program designed for individuals with intellectual disabilities and their families or support networks.

After signing up, families will receive a packet that includes pedometers, t-shirts, a list of suggested physical activities, a nutrition guidebook, family commitment cards and a monthly health-themed newsletter. Participants are encouraged to follow a nutrition calendar and engage in 15 minutes of physical activity four times a week.

Families also track their progress in monthly submitted journals that look at weight, blood pressure and other health indicators. Each family member's success will be celebrated with incentives.

The Fit Families Challenge officially kicks off on Sept. 1, but registration is ongoing and families can sign up at any time. For more info and to sign up, click here.

(Pictured above: We featured Jessica Askins, an athlete with the Special Olympics, in the June 2012 edition of Little Rock Special Family. Read her full story here.)

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About The Author
Jennifer Pyron is the Associate Publisher and Editor of Little Rock Family magazine. She is the go-to gal for family events, activities, news and opinion. She and husband Charles are the proud, exhausted, penniless parents of Charles Jr. and Emily. Plus, should you need a pop culture lifeline on "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire," you may call her.
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