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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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Sign Up for Miracle League's Fall Baseball Season

Image by Shutterstock

Registration is now open for The Miracle League's fall baseball season, which officially kicks off on Sept. 5! The league is open to any player 4 years and older who has a physical or developmental diagnosis, including children on the autism spectrum, those with auditory or visual impairments, and kids who use walkers or wheelchairs.

The special Miracle League field is made from recycled tire product and designed to accommodate wheelchairs, walkers and crutches, and children who have visual impairments. The diamond is located in Little Rock's Riverdale area near the Junior Deputy Fields (2500 Cantrell Road).

If your player is new to The Miracle League, she will start out in the "Single A" Original League. In this league for beginners, each child will play side-by-side with a Buddy, or volunteer, so that parents can cheer from the sidelines. Single A games are played on Saturdays.

Other leagues are also available for older players who have advanced from the Original League. For more info, click here.

The Miracle League fall season will run from Sept. 5-Oct. 18. Click here to see the full schedule; you can register your child here. Volunteers can also sign up for the season; click here to learn how you can be a Buddy with The Miracle League.

Tickets are also on sale for the Miracle League's annual fundraiser, Miracle League Double Header. The fun will begin at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 8 at Dickey-Stephens Park. Tragikly White will play, as Miracle League supporters bid on live and silent auction items, hang out with local celebrities and Big League players. Click here for more info.

For more info, visit MiracleLeagueAR.com.

Family Chatter: 15 Things You Can Do To Keep the School Year Smooth

Image by Hannah Alexander

Growing up during the ‘70s and ‘80s in rural Arkansas was a glorious time of simplicity. Oh, I didn’t know it at the time. The biggest choice I had to make heading back to school each year was what kind of lunchbox I wanted to get. My favorite was an old metal one with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves on it. I wish I still had it!

We weren’t required to have five different binders filled with specifically branded tabbed dividers or an expensive calculator for every type of math we took each year. There were no school supply lists as long as your arm or summer reading assignments. Summer reading assignments would have sent me completely over the edge.

There was no flood of school emails. There was no email at all. Back then, a note sent home from your teacher or school was not considered to be a good thing. Now, school notes are a weekly or daily occurrence filled with nuggets of knowledge about the business of learning.

Education has grown and expanded with the times. Children are learning more and more things earlier and earlier to keep up with the vast expanse of information needed to make it in this world. Our teachers and schools are a critical part of us helping our children grow and flourish. What they share with us is very important. As parents, we need to take this partnership very seriously and give it respectful consideration.

The following quotes are from a group of central Arkansas teachers who work with a variety of age groups. They’ve shared tips and tidbits they’d like us parents to really take to heart in order to help our children and families have a fantastic school year. What these teachers say is as important as reading, writing and arithmetic!

  1. Take time to really read the information sent home (newsletters, notes, etc.) This keeps communication healthy between parents and teachers.
  2. Support your child’s teacher with a positive attitude.
  3. Try not to linger around the classroom. Let little ones walk in on their own to encourage independence and resiliency.
  4. Use email to contact teachers. Also, talk to teacher first before talking to an administrator. Follow the correct chain of command.
  5. Have appropriate bed time routines, so children will be well rested for the school day.
  6. Reinforce correct behavior and respect for adults.
  7. Remember there are two sides to every story.
  8. Attend school events, parent/teacher conferences, and have lunch with your child occasionally.
  9. Learn school procedures and rules. Be familiar with curriculum as well.
  10. Dads are great volunteers too. Kids love having their dads at school.
  11. Help your child be a problemsolver and learn responsibility.
  12. Provide good nutrition in lunch boxes.
  13. Inform teachers and school officials of trauma in the family or anything with which your child may be dealing that could impact their behavior or school performance.
  14. Don’t be afraid to ask teachers questions or ask for help.
  15. Remember even older students need guidance and help with study skills, organization, preparation and social situations.
  16. Life is a journey. Children need a guide.

Score Pizza Deals at Mellow Mushroom This Wednesday

Though Mellow Mushroom has only been slinging pizza pies in Little Rock for a year, the national chain has been in business for 40 years! These days, you can find over 170 locations in the United States, but the first Mellow Mushroom was a humble, hippie haven in Atlanta.

The popular pizza spot will celebrate the company milestone this Wednesday, Aug. 20 by rolling prices back to 1974. That means that visitors can snag a small cheese pizza for $2.50, coke products for 30 cents, and Michelob, Budweiser or PBR for 75 cents. Sounds groovy to us!

The west Little Rock Mellow Mushroom is located at 16103 Chenal Pkwy. For info, click here.

Children's Programs Kick Off at Whole Foods This Week

Image by Shutterstock

The Little Rock Whole Foods Market will kick off its Whole Kids Club at 10 a.m. this Friday, Aug. 22. At the free, dinosaur-themed event, kiddos can enjoy storytime, crafts and healthy snacks. Children can make dinosaur puppets, dig for fossils and create organic snacks.

The Whole Kids Club offers activities on the fourth Friday of each month at 10 a.m.; during the busy holiday season in November and December, the Whole Kids Club will be held on the third Friday of each month.

The national grocery store chain will also launch the Whole Kids Foundation campaign next month. Through the nonprofit, local schools can apply for the 2015 School Garden Grant Program from Sept. 1-Oct. 31, 2014.

In partnership with FoodCorps, the gardening program provides a $2,000 monetary grant to a K-12 school (or a non-profit working in partnership with a school) to support a new or existing edible garden on the school grounds. According to the website, "since 2011, Whole Kids Foundation has invested over $4 million to support over 2,100 school gardens across the United States and Canada."

The nonprofit also works with Let's Move Salad Bars to Schools, a nonprofit organization that donates salad bars to U.S. schools. The goal is to provide students access to fresh fruits and vegetables every day, and so far more than 3,500 salad bars have been granted by the organization.

A bee hive grant is also in development. Learn more here!

Community residents interested in contributing to the Whole Kids Foundation causes can donate at registers in the Little Rock store from Sept. 1-30. To learn more, donate or register for a grant, visit WholeKidsFoundation.org.

As Startup Culture Grows in Arkansas, Student Entrepreneurs Get Down to Business

Startups are big business in Arkansas these days, especially those of the tech-based variety, and the kids are starting to notice. While Arkansas is just beginning to emerge onto the national tech-based startup radar, the state is helping blaze a trail in one aspect of the startup scene: student entrepreneurship.

Over the past year, several resources and outlets devoted specifically to youth entrepreneurship have successfully launched in Arkansas, and recent momentum suggests youth entrepreneurship will get even bigger.

Noble Impact, a Little Rock nonprofit working in partnership with the Clinton School of Public Service, recently hosted the country’s first-ever Startup Weekend devoted to high school students. Held at the Clinton School in April, the conference attracted more than 80 students in grades 9-12 from across the state. Students brainstormed ideas, formed teams and pitched their new ventures before a panel of national judges. Winning ideas included a program to help high school students who fall behind in their school work, portable storage lockers for large outdoor events, and a nail polish pen that delivers both polish and remover.

In addition to the Startup Weekend, Noble Impact’s youth entrepreneurship curriculum aims to introduce students to “the intersection of public service and entrepreneurship.” The curriculum has been adopted by the public charter eStem High School in downtown Little Rock. A version of the program was even introduced to eStem third graders over two weeks this spring.

Noble Impact’s Institute program was its first initiative, launched in the summer of 2013. Then, it introduced 32 central Arkansas students to public service-influenced entrepreneurship. This summer, it moved to Fort Smith and welcomed 47 area students to the Noble curriculum.

Sydney Brazil, a rising junior at eStem, is a Noble student who hatched the idea for a gourmet donut “holery” with her mom in the car on the way to school. She nurtured her idea through her Noble class, and The Hole Thing now operates out of the kitchen at Little Rock downtown restaurant Copper Grill. Its gourmet holes—such as birthday cake and lemon poppy seed—can be found on the dessert menu there. Plus, Sydney caters, plans to bring her treats to the Farmer’s Market at the River Market, and is negotiating a deal with Little Rock’s Loblolly Creamery.

More programs are being introduced around the state, too. The Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce has hosted an entrepreneur boot camp for high school students for the past three summers. Participants are taught startup basics with a focus on tech-based entrepreneurship. Teams are formed and students develop a business model that they pitch to a panel of judges that includes local entrepreneurs. The winning team receives cash to help start their business venture.

The Youth Entrepreneur Showcase (YES) from the Arkansas Economic Acceleration Foundation has been around for several years, and gains traction each year. What started as a business-plan competition for students in grades 5-8 has expanded (YES 2.0) to grades 9-12. Plus, the Donald W. Reynolds Governor’s Cup from AEAF recognizes the top collegiate business plans in the state.

Noble Impact co-founder Chad Williamson knows firsthand that students can identify issues and find solutions. He led a contingent of Noble students from eStem to last year’s Startup Weekend Northwest Arkansas. Competing against college students and seasoned adult entrepreneurs, the Noble students won the award for best teamwork.

All they need, Williamson believes, is a nudge: “In my opinion, the momentum around entrepreneurship in high school is in direct relation to giving students different opportunities and avenues to express their ideas, creativity and talents,” Williamson says. “In essence, we want to introduce real world opportunities and then act as facilitators and mentors in the process from pitching to a press release.”

Student Josh Moody of Overwatch took that nudge and ran with it. A recent graduate from Little Rock’s Catholic High, Josh is delaying his entry into college to focus on running Overwatch, the startup built around the combat gaming app he created. While conducting many of his senior-year classes remotely, Josh teamed with software developers Joe Saumweber and Michael Paladino of Bentonville’s RevUnit to launch Overwatch at the prestigious 2013 ARK Challenge accelerator in Fayetteville. Josh led Overwatch to a win that included a funding round of $150,000.

“Josh, in many ways, represents a new generation of technology leadership,” Saumweber says. “We were blown away that a 17-year-old kid was hanging with us on conversations around software development and the hardware limitations of current mobile devices. He had put a lot of thought into the value he wanted to bring to users, and it was evident that he would be a capable partner. We walked away from our first conversation with him excited about Overwatch and scared to death that we would be irrelevant in 10 years as Josh and more like him grow into their careers.”

Hometown Advantage

Two brand-new programs in central Arkansas provide even more business opportunities for local youth.

  • The Arkansas Venture Center, launched this spring, facilitates “grassroots growth of entrepreneurial activity” in greater Little Rock, and that includes resources for student entrepreneurs. AVC holds young CEO panel discussions and plans to partner with the nonprofit Sparkible to offer entrepreneurship education sessions for high-school students.
  • The Arkansas Regional Innovation Hub opened the Argenta Innovation Center this summer, and includes a maker space for students to tinker; an after-school, entrepreneurial arts component; and in partnership with EAST Initiative, the STEAM Room—a classroom/lab devoted to science, technology, math and the arts. The idea is to provide local students with the resources—3-D animation and CAD design, for example—that could help entice them to stay in Arkansas and launch their startup ventures and careers at home.

First Look: Fudge, Ice Cream and Candy Shop Opens in Downtown Little Rock

Gallery by Tyler Rosenthal

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A brand-new sweets shop will open in downtown Little Rock this Saturday, Aug. 16! Kilwins will offer a variety of toffee, ice cream, fudge, caramel apples, truffles, caramel corn and more--and many of the treats are made in-house every day. In fact, the next time you stroll by the Arcade Building, you'll probably see the candy-makers through the front window, pouring fudge from the copper kettles and dipping candy apples into gooey caramel.

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The first Kilwins opened in Michigan in 1947, and has grown into a national brand. Little Rock's franchise is owned by local couple and parents of four boys, Leroy and Michelle DuBre. Michelle, who is an Arkansas-native, says they started the business for their children.

However, it was Michelle's pregnancy cravings that led to her initial interest in the brand. During a two-year stint living in South Carolina, Michelle says, "That's where I found Kilwin's. When I was pregnant with my first, I made my husband drive an hour to get me the New Orleans Praline Pecan ice cream!"

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The shop is sure to be a family favorite; Michelle says they will eventually offer birthday parties and field trips, in which the kids can craft their own treats, such as dipping apples or pretzels in their favorite toppings. Ice Cream Cakes are available in a variety of flavors and can be custom-decorated on top.

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The shop will have its soft opening at 10 a.m. Aug. 16. A grand opening celebration will be held sometime in September.

Kilwins Little Rock is located at 415 President Clinton Ave. in downtown Little Rock. For more information, call (501) 379-9865 or visit Kilwins.com.

Little Rock Family stopped by the store before it opened. Here are some of the treats we saw!

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The store will eventually carry 12 flavors of fudge, including Peanut Butter, Sea-Salt Caramel Chocolate, the Signature Turtle, Toasted Coconut, Double Dark Chocolate and more. Plus, customers can order even more specially-made flavors for the holidays.

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The Sea Salt line includes everything from caramel topping to sea foam truffles.

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High-end chocolate lines from different countries change with the season. The current line sources cocoa beans from Peru to produce candy bars and caramels. Another specialty line includes adventurous truffle varieties, such as Stout Beer Truffles, Blue Cheese Toffee Truffles and Sea-Salted Bacon Truffles.

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Two ice cream cases hold a variety of flavors, including the top two sellers, Sea Salted Caramel and Toasted Coconut. Other flavors include Blueberry Waffle Cone, Razorback Mud (vanilla swirled with caramel and chocolate chunks), Key Lime Pie, Cake Batter, Superman (rainbow) and more. The scoops can be dipped into the house-made waffle bowls, or made into sundaes, malts and milkshakes.

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5 Events for Weekend Fun: Head of the Class at Clinton Center, Comic Expo and More

Image by Mark Friedman

2. Mallary and Madalyn Bailey

Super heroes fly into Little Rock this weekend at two events, a comic book expo and Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey performance of "Super Circus Heroes."

Families can also visit the Clinton Presidential Center at no charge and receive free school supplies. Or, have an action-packed weekend at Magic Springs or a walk to support breastfeeding workshops and education. Have a super weekend!

1. Head of the Class Bash and Free Admission Day at Clinton Presidential Center: Celebrate President Clinton's birthday with free admission to the library and audio tours all day long. What's more, commemorate the new school year with the fourth annual back-to-school celebration, which includes fun games, activities, giveaways and more. The first 1,000 students to arrive will receive a free backpack filled with school supplies. Plus, children will receive coupons for discounted haircuts at local salons and free immunizations from the Arkansas Department of Health. Kaplan Test Prep will be giving away free online ACT and SAT/PSAT prep courses for high school students. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. free admission day; 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Head of the Class Bash. Aug. 16. For info: ClintonPresidentialCenter.org. FREE!

2. River City Comic Expo at Clear Channel Metroplex: Everyone is welcome at this fun event with special guests Kevin Maguire and Michael Golden. The day will include lots of vendors, artists and special guests. Plus, participate in demonstrations and activities all day long, including weapons and fighting demos, a magic show, costume parade and contest, and more. $5, families $10. 10 a.m.-6 p.m Aug. 16. For info: RiverCityExpo.com.

3. Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Presents "Super Circus Heroes" at Verizon Arena: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus brings together performers with extraordinary human athletic abilities and unbelievable animal talent in an all-new production. The Super Circus Heroes perform real, amazing feats--there are no special effects, no stunt doubles and no computer generated animations. Ticket prices vary. Performance Schedule: 7 p.m. August 14 & 15; 11 a.m., 3 p.m., 7 p.m. August 16; 1 p.m. & 5 p.m. August 17. For info: Ringling.com.

4. Peppa Pig Character Day and Dive-In Movie Night at Magic Springs Water & Theme Park: Spy Peppa Pig as the popular character makes an appearance at the park. Then, stick around for the dive-in movie in the water park. Guests can stay in the wave pool for a pre-party; when the sun sets, a movie is shown on the big screen. This Saturday, families can watch "Smurfs 2." Aug. 16. For info: MagicSprings.com.

5. Milk Run 5K at Murray Park: Don your running gear for a timed run across the Big Dam Bridge. Everyone is welcome, including skilled runners, walkers, those with strollers and kids. The funds raised will benefit local breastfeeding support groups and education programs in central Arkansas. $25, children under 12 free. 7-10 a.m. Aug. 16. For info: ARBFC.org.

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

Love Letters: Little Rock Family's First Editor Looks Back

Kelly Ford, the first editor of Little Rock Family, with her daughter, Drew.

It was a warm, sticky summer evening, and my daughter, Drew, 23, called and invited me to join her at Buffalo Grill for a cold beer after work. Her best friend of 20 years, Lucia, joined us, as did Lu’s mom. The talk, of course, turned to Lucia’s upcoming wedding. Drew was asked to be the maid of honor and there was much to discuss. A wedding…hard to believe.

Drew and Lu were three years old when I edited the first Kids Kalendar that soon morphed into Kids! and then Little Rock Family. I had the true pleasure and privilege of writing a column for the publication for the first five years of its existence—roughly 60 dispatches from my office desk, many written very late at night.

Often Drew would wake and wander into my office, rubbing her eyes against the light. With her, she’d drag a blanket, a pillow and her stuffed rabbit Sarah, and lie down on the carpeted floor at my feet to fall back asleep. When I would finally get the words right, I’d nudge her awake and carry her back to her bedroom.

Sleepily, she would ask, “Did you finish your story, Momma?”

“Yes, darling, I sure did. Thanks for keeping me company.”

“You’re welcome”

At Buffalo Grill, over a second round of brews, Drew asked how this column is coming. She knew that I had been invited to write the piece as part of the magazine’s look back over its first 20 years. I could almost hear her saying, “Did you finish your story, Momma?”

Before answering, I leaned back in my chair. The frosty beer mug dripped cold, wet spots on my work clothes, and I thanked God for these two young women. They are beautiful, smart, full of life and bring such joy into mine. It was just yesterday—wasn’t it?—they were swinging in a backyard hammock with their baby dolls and helping plant tulip bulbs in our front yard with their pudgy toddler fingers. Now here we were sharing happy hours and planning a wedding. I admit my eyes filled with tears, and one dripped off my cheek, creating another wet spot on my linen skirt.

I told Drew I was having a surprisingly tough time deciding what to say in this column, and she and Lu started reminiscing about some of their favorite ones…the time we helped the lost little boy at Silver Dollar City find his family, the time she lost her first tooth and the tooth fairy left an IOU (seriously), the time we were driving to the beach and my car keys got flushed down the toilet at a McDonald’s in Hattiesburg, Mississippi (WHOOSH! People still come up to me and remind me of this one).

You see, these 60 or so columns were—are—effectively an extension of Drew’s baby book. I am forever grateful that I have them (now preserved in a 3-ring binder and on a disk). New moms, if you are reading, WRITE THIS STUFF DOWN! It’s frightening what we forget.

My column was officially called Kidstuff, but I always called them “Drew stories.” By sharing her tales, I hope I shared some universal truths, too, for example: to savor the mundane as well as the extraordinary moments, and don’t be too hard on ourselves as parents—we will make mistakes and are not superhuman. Once, when I remarked to Drew that I was sorry she had seen me make certain mistakes, she replied, “I don’t see them as mistakes, Momma; I see them as lessons.”

Talking with her hands, waving a chip bound for a bowl of salsa, all of a sudden Drew exclaimed, “You know what those columns were, Momma?”

(Yes, she still calls me that. That is how she spells it, so I spell it that way, too.)

“They were love letters.”

Again, for emphasis: “They were love letters.”

So here we are 20 years later. I still have people ask about Drew because they “watched” her grow up in these pages. I’m happy to say she graduated from the College of Charleston where she had a terrific four years. She spent last year as a traveling consultant for her sorority and now is back in Little Rock as an Americorps member working for Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance. She got her driver’s license at the age of 20! She’s a trivia buff, collects vinyl records and has turned into quite the bachelorette party planner.

A lot has stayed the same, too, such as Drew and Lu’s friendship, my pride in the person she is, and the pleasure I take in her company, maybe even more so now, as we learn to relate as adults. I still live in the house where I wrote my columns the last two years or so they ran. And this is funny: Drew is now living in the small garage apartment of the house where we lived when I started writing the column in 1994! It’s all good. Life is good.

Oh, one more thing that’s stayed the same….that night at Buffalo Grill? I picked up the tab.

Kelly Ford is currently the Director of Development at the Arkansas Arts Center.

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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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