I recently overheard a conversation between parents discussing home phones, cell phones and emergencies. Who was still using a home phone? Do kids of today even know how to use them? Here’s how the conversation went:
Mom to group: “I actually made my son go into another room and use our home phone to call me on my cell, because he didn’t even know how to use it in an emergency. He kept yelling back to me, AFTER I DIAL THE NUMBER, WHAT BUTTON DO I PUSH? I had to explain to him that after you dial the number, that’s it. There isn’t a big button to connect like on your cell phone. He was totally oblivious.”
Everyone laughed. But when the chuckles stopped, you could tell that a “hey, wait a minute, my kid may be like that too” feeling really began to sink in amongst the group.
Then Dad to group: “I don’t even know where my cell phone is half the time, so in an emergency, we would probably be out of luck. Even if we did find it, my phone probably wouldn’t be charged and it would take too long to find my wife’s phone in that big old purse of hers.”
The conversation made us all stop and think about the what-ifs. The truth is, like many of these parents, we rarely think about or prepare for an emergency. Disaster planning seems to always come down to knowing where the flashlights are located for a power outage and checking your smoke alarm batteries twice a year. But real disaster planning is about going through the details and practicing. Practicing even the small, not so obvious stuff, like using a regular home phone, without the big button.
As we enter the turbulent spring weather season in Arkansas, it’s good to think about these things and have a plan of action for your entire family. Here’s some quick advice:
Use toys as a conversation starter about emergencies. As a dad with a boy and a girl, I can’t tell you how many ambulance, fire and police cars we have scattered alongside Barbie dolls. Sometimes we use the emergency trucks to respond to Barbie and her friends who had a little damage to their dream condo during a flood or a wind storm. While my daughter always says, “Daaaaaad, that didn’t really happen!” I always come back with, “Well, it coooouuuuld.” It seems like this type of play always opens up a conversation about what we would all do if something like this were to happen to our family in the real vs. toy world.
Make a game out disaster planning. Even though my daughter has long since outgrown her Little Tykes red plastic car with the yellow roof, she still seems to squeeze into it and play “the medical alert game” with her brother on his bike. They usually are headed to a scene where someone needs help, and they’re on the way to provide it. It’s great to see them incorporate some of our real disaster talks and training into their imaginative game of response.
Build a kit as a family. A disaster supply backpack and a first aid kit are essential needs during times of emergency. The American Red Cross gives details on all the standard items that should be in your kits, but make sure you’re helping your kids be a part of the planning as well. Ask each of your family members to pick out things that bring them comfort. Include items like camo or cartoon bandages for first aid kits or a copy of their favorite book or snacks for your disaster backpack. I love Everlasting Gobstopper candy, so my kids knew I was going to throw that into our kit. While it’s great to have energy bars and nutritious snacks, it’s perfectly fine to have comfort food as well. Anything to ease the fears and calm the nerves.
Talk about real facts. Tragic and serious things sometimes happen in a disaster. But, I’m always fascinated by the wild stories and imagination of kids when it comes to discussing emergencies. It seems like it’s either blown completely out of proportion, or it’s so big they don’t fully understand the consequences or impact. Make sure that your conversation is both realistic and manageable. Don’t make things more dramatic than they actually are, but at the same time, make sure kids know the power of rising water, swirling clouds or fire in the house. Give real facts when you talk about tragedy and make sure that the facts are appropriate for the age of your kids.
Ensure that you’re prepared. Your kids will be looking to you during times of disaster and they will more than likely reflect your actions. If you react with alarm, your kids are going to get scared. You’re the parent and the adult in the situation and your family needs a prepared leader. It’s too late to have a family disaster meeting when the ground is shaking from an earthquake. It’s too late to figure out what do to with your pet fish when you’re trying to swim out of the house yourself. Build a kit, have a plan and always stay informed.
And finally, when you’re in the middle of it, make sure you hug and kiss a lot. Nothing says we’re all going to be ok like a good family hug and kisses all around. Oh, and since we’ll probably all be in our safe place with our cell phones and not our home phones, make sure you download the award-winning tornado or first aid app at RedCross.org/Prepare/Mobile-Apps.
Darren Irby just celebrated his 20th year working for the American Red Cross. He helps the national office of the Red Cross respond to disasters around the world, collect more than 1,000 units of blood each day and prepare families for emergency situations. He lives in downtown Conway with his son, Hart and daughter, Belle.
The President of the United States of America, Barack Obama, proclaimed April 6-12, 2014 as National Volunteer Week. In the proclamation, the President stated: "Across our country, volunteers open doors of opportunity, pave avenues of success, fortify their communities, and lay the foundation for tomorrow's growth and prosperity. They are often equipped with few resources and gain little recognition, yet because of their service, our country is a better and a stronger force for good."
How will your family celebrate National Volunteer Week? Here are a few ideas!
Heart of Arkansas United Way -- This program provides opportunities for both youth and adults, whether your interest is tutoring students, assisting seniors, caring for animals, and more. Click here for more information.
Arkansas Foodbank -- Help the Arkansas Foodbank celebrate 30 years of feeding our neighbors. In 2013, the organization distributed 20.9 million pounds of food. Contact Volunteer Outreach Coordinator Polly Deems for family volunteer opportunities at PDeems@ArkansasFoodbank.org. Contact Food Drive Coordinator Erica Mcfadden, at EMcfadden@ArkansasFoodbank.org for food drive information or collect food as a family. Key items include canned meats, peanut butter, cereals, canned veggies and fruits, pasta and sauces. Click here for more information.
AR Kids Read -- Join this literacy initiative and help central Arkansas children learn to read at grade level. Volunteers are asked to commit one hour a week for 12 weeks. Can't make a time committment? Donate to help with costs associated with volunteer recruitment, training and more. Or, contact AR Kids Read to ask how your family can help host a book drive to benefit the children in their programs. Click here for more information.
Youth Home -- This organization helps emotionally troubled adolescents become healthy members of the community. Families can help by volunteering at numerous fundraising events throughout the year, including the International Greek Food Festival this May. Click here for more information.
I Can! Dance and Community Connections -- Assist children with special needs in dance classes at I Can! Dance, and recreational activities with Community Connections, including football, cheerleading, soccer and more. Both youth and adults can volunteer. Click here for more information about I Can! Dance. Click here for more information about Community Connections.
It was an idyllic day for an outdoor photo shoot—Todd Yakoubian’s cheery family, grateful for a rare warm day during the otherwise sub-freezing month of February, played in the sunshine at The Terry House in downtown Little Rock. Four-year-old Blake made a “house” under the branches of a magnolia tree, while two-year-old Preston played peek-a-boo with mom, Andria.
When it came time for a family photo, Todd and Andria settled onto a blanket in the grass and attempted to calm the kids with a storybook. “What if…what if it stopped raining?” Andria read aloud. “Well then Daddy wouldn’t have a job anymore!” she joked.
It’s true that the Yakoubians’ lives revolve around the whims of Mother Nature much more than your average Arkansas family. As the weekend meteorologist on Channel 7, Todd Yakoubian forecasts weather for television, writes for the Arkansas Weather Blog, and keeps local families informed through Facebook and Twitter.
And when the weather goes crazy, so does the family schedule: “When there’s bad weather, I’m the guy on the weekends,” Todd says. “My normal weekend is to work a split shift on Saturday. If there’s severe weather or snow, it’s not out of the question that I work around the clock from when I get in at 6 a.m. in the morning, all the way to 11 p.m. at night.”
“There are things that we miss out on—being able to ‘go’ on our weekends as a family and see the Old Mill or visit some of these Arkansas places,” says Andria. “He’s got his days with the boys. He’ll call me and they’re out gallivanting and going to Starbucks and getting cake pops. We just sometimes have to do things separately. I think a lot of families have to do that.”
The couple agrees that Todd’s work schedule has its advantages, too. While Andria works typical 9 a.m.-5 p.m. hours during the week, Todd has been able to stay home with their young sons. “Working weekends at Channel 7 has given me the opportunity that I think a lot of dads don’t have, and that’s getting to spend a lot of time with your kids,” he says. “I call it Daddy Daycare. At one point, I was taking care of the kids for three days a week. I’m in a unique position with my job to be able to spend so much time with my boys.”
Family is what brought Todd and Andria to Little Rock, when they relocated from Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2005. A Little Rock-native and Catholic High School graduate, Todd says he feels lucky to be have landed a job in his hometown—a difficult feat in the broadcast industry. After attending the University of Oklahoma for college and moving to locales like Missoula, Montana, he snagged a job in Chattanooga, where he and Andria met.
“After meeting Andria, I decided I wanted to get home close to family,” Todd says. “I don’t talk about it much, but when I was in college, my dad had a heart attack and a stroke all within two weeks. He lived for almost 10 years after that. During that time, I was in Oklahoma going to school, then Montana and Chattanooga. I didn’t spend much time with my dad in the last years of his life. That played into why I wanted to come home—that was time that I missed with my dad and I don’t want to miss time with my family, especially my mother.”
When the family is able to carve out time together, Blake and Preston play with their cousins, visit Pinnacle Mountain or enjoy the spring daffodil festival at Wye Mountain. “I’ve taken Blake fishing,” says Todd, who loves to fish the Little Red River. “There are so many things you can do here in Arkansas that are so close and make great memories.”
The city has likewise embraced the Yakoubians. Since Todd has a strong Facebook and Twitter following, the family is also in the public eye. He posts cute pictures of the kids on his social media accounts and even gave a play-by-play of Preston’s birth on Twitter. “I was comparing his birth to computer weather models, like ‘Baby Model shows he should be here within an hour,’” Todd says, laughing.
The experience can be fun, but also embarrassing, Andria says. “I’ve been at the grocery store with no makeup and my hair in a ponytail, alone with the boys and people have come up to me and asked, ‘Are those the Yakoubian kids?’”
Ultimately, Todd and Andria are glad that Little Rock is tuning in: “It’s pretty cool to be in the town I grew up in,” Todd says. “For your goals in life to come true and people to recognize you and give you a pat on the back—it’s very satisfying and gives me a sense of accomplishment.”
Little Rock Family: Is there a lot of pressure to “get it right” when you’re forecasting severe weather?
Todd Yakoubian: I hate severe weather with a passion. There’s nothing good that comes out of it for anybody. I’ve seen the devastation that tornadoes cause, so I take it very seriously but I don’t see it as pressure. In the broadcast industry, you always want to be right. But when it comes to severe weather, it’s always about watching the radar, seeing the dangers on the radar and where the threats are, and getting the warning out however you can—social media, on the blog or on television. Television and reporting the weather has evolved into a 24-hour-a-day job, and you better be on it. People are looking for information. If there’s a storm in the middle of the night, you better be on social media or on the air warning people ahead of it. It’s not so much pressure, but it is a lot of long hours—but I’ve wanted to be a meteorologist since I was 6-years-old, so I enjoy it.
What is your favorite season?
My favorite thing to cover is snow, by far. Snow can be dangerous, but people choose to go out on the roads. I don’t tell them what to do and what not to do. Snow is beautiful and you can play in it…as long as you don’t have to drive in it.
Do your boys understand your job?
I’ve tried to explain the weather to Blake and he thinks I make the weather. I tell him, “No, I try to forecast the weather, Blake.” Sometimes I use it to my advantage. Just a few weeks ago, he was having a temper tantrum and I said, “If you don’t behave, I’m going to take the snow out of the forecast!”
||The Purple Cow|
|Family Attraction:||Playtime Pizza, The Wonder Place, Jump!Zone|
|Children’s Book:||“I read “Love You Forever” to the boys,” says Andria. “I remember it from when I was small. Blake knows the little song now, so he sings it for me.”|
|Arkansas Getaway:||“We haven’t been able to get away in Arkansas with the kids yet, but I do want to take them to a cabin in Eureka Springs when they’re a little older,” says Todd.|
|Date Night:||Bruno’s Little Italy. “Their Spaghetti Carbonara is the absolute best,” says Todd.|
We're so excited for this weekend, and not just because we're hosting our 20th Birthday Party at the Little Rock Zoo! Spring fever has truly hit central Arkansas, and there are tons of family happenings to prove it. In addition to visiting a farmers market, kicking off your Easter celebrations or popping over to the zoo to wish Little Rock Family a happy birthday, here are our top five events for families this weekend:
1. Family Health & Wellness Fest at The Promenade at Chenal -- This free community event includes over 25 vendors with advice on exercise, skincare, dental health and more. Plus, you can hear from St. Vincent experts on immunizations, heart health, prostate health and breast cancer. Participate in a blood drive with the American Red Cross, and snack on free nibbles from Whole Foods and Bravo Italian's light menu. From noon-2 p.m., lululemon, 10 Fitness and Wellness Revolution will give hourly fitness demonstrations. Plus, kids can climb a rock wall, meet reptiles and animals from the Museum of Discovery, sign up for giveaways and more. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. April 5. For info: ChenalShopping.com. FREE!
2. Laman Library Argenta Branch Grand Opening -- The Laman Library opens their new branch in downtown North Little Rock on Saturday, and the opening day celebration will include tons of free fun for families. The Grand Opening Ceremony kicks off at 10 a.m., and will be followed by a performance at 11 a.m. from Arkansaw Toothpick Theater presents "The Front Porch Jubilee." At 12:30 p.m., kids can practice their reading with help from pups in the Tail Waggin' Tutors program. The day will also include drop-in crafts and live music by Rodney Black and The Real Music Lovers. See our article about the new location and opening day here. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. April 5. For info: LamanLibrary.org. FREE!
3. Miracle League Spring Season Begins at Miracle League Baseball Field -- Batter up! Opening day weekend for the Miracle League in Little Rock will be April 4-5. Miracle League's mission is to provide opportunities for all children to play baseball, regardless of the ability and special need. The season runs for seven weeks. See our article about the program here. For opening weekend schedule, see the Miracle League Facebook page. FREE!
4. Tinkerfest at Mid-America Science Museum in Hot Springs -- Dive into the art of tinkering with 12 stations of hands-on activities that celebrate science, technology, engineering, art and creativity. Visitors' creative spirits will soar as they collectively make a mixed media mini city, experiment with making paper circuits, construct rip-snorting roller coasters from Keva planks and enjoy the hands-on activities. This is an all ages activity so everyone can enjoy the fun. Included with general admission: $10, seniors ages 65 and older and children ages 3-12 $7. 10 a.m.-3 p.m. April 5. For info: MidAmericaMuseum.org.
5. Star Party at Pinnacle Mountain State Park -- Join amateur astronomers at the visitor center for an evening with the stars and other celestial phenomena. As twilight settles in, the Central Arkansas Astronomical Society will provide telescopes for viewing objects in the night sky. If cloudy skies prevent observation, an indoor program on astronomy will be presented at 8 p.m. 8-10 p.m. April 5. For info: ArkansasStateParks.com/PinnacleMountain. FREE!
For even more family-friendly events in central Arkansas, see our full online calendar here.
Little Rock Family turns 20 in 2014 and we're celebrating all year long. So far, we've caught up with former cover subjects, posted our fashion flashbacks and even recreated our very first cover from 1994.
Now, families are invited to join the celebration at our 20th Birthday Party at the Little Rock Zoo! The full day of birthday fun begins at 9 a.m. on April 5, and continues throughout the day with special performances, animal feedings and more -- all free with regular zoo admission.
Families can start the day at the Little Rock Family table, where you can pick up a special zoo map and full schedule of the day's events. Plus, sign up for cool giveaways, like a weekend getaway to Lake Ouachita's Mountain Harbor Resort or a painting made by the zoo's penguins.
Meet some new animals friends as you explore the zoo, including the brand-new tiger cubs and the elephants Sophie and Babe, who moved to Arkansas in October. Plus, families can watch animal feedings at the Alligator Exhibit, Laura P. Nichols Penguin Pointe Exhibit and more (schedule below).
In between animal visits, visitors can browse the Family Expo, located at the Elephant Exhibit from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. to make crafts, discover art, or learn about local programs for your family. At the Civitan Pavilion, kids can participate in animal yoga with Barefoot Studios and craft critter masks with the CALS Hillary Rodham Children's Library. Or, watch performances from I Can! Dance, Cheer City United and Rock City MMA. (See the full schedule below.)
Last, but not least, join Little Rock Family in the Elephant Exhibit at noon as we blow out the candles on our birthday cake, with a little help from Zina the elephant. Families will be treated to complimentary sweets, including ice cream from Hiland Dairy, cake balls from The Cupcake Factory and animal cookies from Sweet Love Bakes. Gluten-sensitive children can nibble on goodies from Gluten Free Cookies by Stephanie Reeves.
Little Rock Family's 20th Birthday Party will be held from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. April 5 at the Little Rock Zoo. All activities and performances will be free with regular zoo admission ($12, children under 12 $9).
Schedule of Events
Family Expo at the Elephant Exhibit, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., includes:
Special Performances and Workshops at the Civitan Pavilion
Our family recently watched the award-winning blockbuster, Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. It’s an excruciatingly intense space drama about the mid-orbit destruction of a space shuttle and the astronauts’ attempts to return home to Earth. I’m not going to spoil anything for you if you haven’t seen it yet. Suffice it to say there are mishaps and mayhem at every turn. Bullock’s character constantly puts out literal and figurative fires, and is often left fighting for air. Getting back home could not come fast enough for her.
Sorry for any melodrama, but for me this winter has made me feel a little at times like Bullock’s character. Suffocating, gasping for oxygen. Things would settle down briefly and BOOM another winter weather event. Be honest. Tell me you weren’t frustrated for even a minute or two when you were iced in with cranky, bored kids, and you’d exhausted everything in your “Mommy’s Inclement Weather Arsenal.” Spring could not come fast enough for me and my brood. (Yes, I know I’ll rethink my statements in the dog days of summer.)
So, I am beyond thrilled about our April issue, because it means spring has finally sprung! What better way to celebrate the beautiful weather and nature than with popular KATV Channel 7 meteorologist Todd Yakoubian and his family. There wasn't a cloud in the sky during our photo shoot, so The Crown Shop on North Rodney Parham let us borrow an umbrella for Todd's son to hold while he "made" rain.
It's also the perfect time to get cracking on planning your child’s summer fun and enrichment with our colossal 2014 Guide to Summer Camps & Classes! Keep the good times blooming this April with our awesome Ages & Stages section and Family Fun Calendar. Meet our 2014 Mom's Day Off winner Jennifer Ferguson, too. She's a real ray of sunshine.
As you know, Little Rock Family celebrates 20 years of strengthening families in central Arkansas this year. You are ALL cordially invited to our ZOORIFIC birthday bash at the Little Rock Zoo, Saturday, April 5. You don’t want to miss this fantastic family event.
Let’s stick together this spring and make the most of every breath of fresh air fun we can find. Our Little Rock Family is here for you.
An entire day of fun begins at 9 a.m. on April 5 and will include performances, giveaways, yummy treats and more. Here are 20 things you can do to celebrate 20 years of Little Rock Family!
1. Meet the tiger cubs. Liem, Eko, Olan and Asmara were born at the Little Rock Zoo in November 2013 to mom Suhana, a five-year-old Malayan tiger. After spending the cold winter inside, the sweet cubs made their public debut in mid-March.
2. Sing the Birthday Song. At noon, Little Rock Family blows out the candles on our birthday cake—Zina the elephant will help make the party a “smash” with her very own cake.
3. Snack on free treats. Stick around after we blow out our candles for yummy cake balls from The Cupcake Factory, animal cookies from Sweet Love Bakes and scoops of ice cream from Hiland Dairy. Gluten-sensitive children can nibble on goodies from Gluten Free Cookies by Stephanie Reeves.
4. Say hello to Sophie and Babe. You may not have seen these older elephants on your last trip to the zoo: They relocated to the Natural State from Illinois last October. Interesting fact: Though both elephants traveled with the circus for many years, the star shape on Babe’s rump was put there by a foreign logging company before she was sold to the United States in the 1970s.
5. Move like an animal. Make your way to the Civitan Pavilion to play yoga games with Barefoot Studio at 10 a.m. Instructors will dress as animals and teach moves that mimic the inhabitants at the zoo.
6. Snap photos with the Travs mascot. From 10 a.m.-noon, catch a glimpse of central AR’s brand-new baseball mascot. The Arkansas Travelers character was penned by Pixar and crafted by the same company that builds the familiar pals you see at Disney Theme Parks.
7. Don’t miss meal time. Watch as caretakers feed the animals in their habitats throughout the day. Penguins will be fed at 9:30 a.m. & 3:30 p.m. The great apes gobble down lunch at 1:30 p.m. and the alligators chomp, chomp, chomp at 2 p.m.
8. Craft a critter mask. At 1 p.m. at the Civitan Pavilion, staff from the Hillary Rodham Clinton Children’s Library & Learning Center will help kids make an animal mask—elephant, snake or frog—complete with party blowers for tongues or trunks. They’ll also encourage children to act out with animal puppets on a small puppet stage. Or, if kiddos need some quiet time, they can sit down for storytime.
9. Explore the Artmobile. Step inside the Arkansas Arts Center’s traveling gallery, currently housing the exhibit “The Art of the Story.” Visitors are introduced to an artist’s tools, such as expression, props, shape, and color in an attempt to “read” the stories and reveal the artist’s power to both interpret history and create new narratives.
10. Win a penguin painting. That’s right: Penguins like making art, too, and they’ve crafted one especially for our party. Sign up for your chance to win the masterpiece at the Little Rock Family table.
11. Ride the Arkansas Carousel. Restored in 2007, this antique carousel is one-of-a-kind and will delight little riders ($3 per person).
12. Discover mystic creatures. Stop by the Garvan Woodland Gardens booth to learn about their amazing summer event Mystic Creatures—a display of giant sculptures made from living plants.
13. Name a mini golf course. Submit your name suggestion for Big Rock Mini Golf & Fun Park’s new putting courses. If your name is chosen by the celebrity golf panel, you’ll win a year of free mini golf at the new family hotspot.
14. Win a weekend getaway. Don’t miss your chance to win a relaxing trip to Mountain Harbor Resort on Lake Ouachita. We’ll choose one lucky winner from those who sign up at the Little Rock Family booth.
15. Dance, dance, dance. Performers from both Cheer City United and I Can! Dance will pump up the party at the Civitan Pavilion. First up: At 11 a.m., the I Can! Dancers perform to “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?).” Then, at 2 p.m., Cheer City United will rock the zoo.
16. Decorate a visor. The ICM (Independent Case Management) booth will help kids decorate wearable visors with stickers, markers and hole punches, while parents of children with special needs can learn about the company’s unique programs.
17. Visit the butterfly garden. Head to the Children’s Farm area and sniff out the blooming flowers. The fragrant beauties are planted to attract a variety of butterflies, which you can try to spot with your little ones.
18. Get energized with martial arts. At 3 p.m., jump into the ring with the trainers from Rock City Mixed Martial Arts, who will entertain families in the Civitan Pavilion.
19. Learn a little. Swing by the AEDD (Arkansas Enterprises for the Developmentally Disabled) booth for valuable parenting tidbits on early intervention and diagnosis, early childhood services, day treatment and therapy services. Plus, the kids can pick up coloring sheets and crayons, candy and other freebies.
20. Observe construction of the new train. The zoo plans to open a brand-new train ride at the end of spring. After more than 50 years, the former train—owned and operated by an outside concessionaire—is unable to provide service to the zoo. The new train ride will be owned and operated Little Rock Zoo, with revenue directly benefitting the zoo and its programs.
Little Rock Family's 20th Birthday Party will be held April 5 at the Little Rock Zoo. Click here for a full schedule of events and activities.
Get ready to enjoy the fresh air and relax to the sounds of jazz this week.
Jazz in the Park kicks off its second season this Wednesday (April 2). The music festival will feature jazz musicians every Wednesday in April from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the History Pavilion in Riverfront Park. This year, the event will be split in two sets, spring and fall. The fall festival will take place in September.
Here's the lineup for April:
The event is completely free, but no coolers are allowed. Beer, wine, soft drinks and water will be available for sale, with a portion of the proceeds going to benefit Sculpture at the River Market. Lawn chairs and blankets are welcome, and there will be seating in the natural stone amphitheater at the History Pavilion.
**In case of rain, the West Pavilion will be the alternate location for the event.
Get additional information about this event here or call (501) 375-2552.