Tag Archives: 12News

Post-Halloween wrap-up…and some inspiration for next year

I spent part of Saturday night at Tempe Marketplace with my cousin’s daughter Andrea, who is a junior at ASU. She’d been invited to a Halloween party and didn’t have a costume.

As a pre-dental student, her first idea was to be a “killer tooth fairy” with wand and wings and a bloody mouth. But fairy gear options at the much-picked-over Halloween Superstore were either sized for 8-year-olds or over-the-top sexually suggestive.

So we moved on to Target, where we put our imaginations to work. (Not that easy when they were playing Christmas carols in  the Halloween section.) By then, Andrea had changed her mind and decided to be a hobo. We found an extra large brown plaid shirt in the men’s department that already had a tear in the shoulder (an extra 10% off!). She bought hair products and makeup and we parted ways.

A little over an hour later I was at home on the couch when I got a text with this photo attached. Once she got back to her apartment, her costume idea had morphed again. With the help of her roommates and a pair of lab glasses, she’d become “a lab experiment gone horribly wrong.”

At Stage Mom blogger Lynn Trimble’s suggestion yesterday, I posted a message asking RAK Facebook friends to send us pictures of Halloween costumes.  Here are some of my favorites.


Lisa Geyser sent this photo of her son Jackson as Elvis.

Scary and sweet

Danielle Arcadi sent a photo of “my little Darth Vader and my twins as Mickey & Minnie Mouse.” In real life, the kids are Bella, Braeden and Beau Arcadi.


Barbie Best-Jones sent this picture of her 3-year-old daughter, Isabella Hyde Jones. “We actually stumbled into this costume at Hissyfits, a local children’s resale store on 7th St. & Glendale. I laughed so hard that [she] had to wear it home.”

DIY Dalmatian

Michelle Zerth sent this photo of her 7-year-old son Eddie. “This costume cost very little money and he helped make it,” she wrote. “He wanted to be a Dalmatian for Halloween. He colored the spots on the shirt and I made his ears out of paper and stapled them to a hat. I did buy the makeup pencils at Walmart for $3. He loved it and [wore it] on Saturday the 30th; on Sunday the 31st he changed his mind after finding his old Spiderman suit in his drawer. He went as Spiderman instead. Even though the outfit was like three years old, he didn’t care a bit.”


Avondale mom Shelly Hightower sent this pictures of her son Zane, who dressed up as a box of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese for Halloween. “It is his favorite food, and is on the menu at our house every day!” Shelly wrote.




News12 anchor and longtime friend Lin Sue Cooney visited the Raising Arizona Kids website for inspiration. (Or, as she put it, “Stole your YouTube idea for my costume tonight!”)

This idea originally came from our former community relations manager, Katie Charland (above). Nice variation, Lin Sue!

Have a photo you’d like to share? Please send it to me at karen@raisingarizonakids.com.


Day 4 after the flood – the mystical aspects

Our kitchen, as it looked yesterday.

I always hated that linoleum. It was an icky 1970s gold and no matter how many times it was cleaned it still looked dirty. Several times during the past three years I’ve kicked myself for not insisting the landlord replace it when we first moved in.

And now it’s gone.

J&M Restoration Inc. pulled it up to get to the water that had seeped below it during last Wednesday’s flood. Replacing the flooring is one of several construction projects that will have to be addressed in the coming weeks.

As devastating as this experience has been, it has brought a lot of good things to the surface. Least significant, perhaps, is the fact that I’m done with that old linoleum.

Metaphorically more powerful, I have new flooring under my feet.

The flood drew a line in the sand that I needed to confront. Am I still in this or not? Am I moving forward or not?

This would be a perfect time to quit. To throw in the towel. To admit that after 21 years of challenges I could never have imagined, it’s all just too hard. I’m exhausted. Spent.

The past year and a half has been particularly discouraging. When the recession hit, we lost every source of the retail advertising that had largely kept our company afloat. Even subscription revenue dropped off as parents tightened their belts and gave up discretionary spending.

We responded with what we called “Plan A.” Budget cuts were made. We started printing our magazine on lighter paper to save costs in production and mailing. We cut our freelance payments in half. We cut our mileage reimbursements in half. We took a lot of other small but significant steps, each time wondering about the larger implications: Will staff members quit? Will writers stop submitting? As I held my breath it suddenly dawned on me that nothing had changed. It was business as usual.

A few weeks ago, as we perused budgets for June, July and August, I had to face a harsh reality. Advertising revenues were still sliding. We had to move to “Plan B.” Staff would now be affected in a much more dramatic way.

My voice was shaking when I called my staff together to share the news that, like many media companies (including the Arizona Republic and 12 News), we were going to have to implement furlough time this summer to make up for anticipated losses. It sickened me to even say the words. I saw the faces of these people I’ve grown to love turn serious, stricken. I could barely breathe as I choked out explanations about how it would work.

I was afraid everyone would blame me — hate me. But that’s not what happened. They understood. They rallied.

The sense of renewed energy in our office was palpable as my team strengthened their bonds to each other and their commitment to our work. New creativity crept in, new sources of revenue appeared. June furloughs, it appeared, might not be necessary. July also was looking hopeful.

The ceiling of our conference room as it looked Wednesday morning.

And then the rainstorm from above hit our office. We were once again victims of something completely beyond our control. I started to feel like the very heavens were screaming at me to give up.

But the bleakest day in our company’s history turned out, in some mysterious way, to be the best day ever. As I watched my staff squish-squash past me on sopping carpet in their bare feet, as they frantically rescued computers and files, as they ate pizza in an area that looked like a hurricane had hit, as they triaged tasks and priorities to make sure the core business was protected,  I realized something.

They will do this. Not me. I don’t have to cross a line in the sand because they’ve already done it. They decided. We’re still in this — stronger and more committed than ever.

A Facebook friend posted a message on my wall yesterday: “…hoping there will be a rainbow at the end of your flood.”

I already see it.

A gracious group of mercenaries and rebels

12 News multimedia journalist James Wulff gets to know a few Star Wars and other movie/comic book characters who will be on hand at this weekend’s Phoenix Comicon event.

It’s probably not a good idea to keep a dozen or so mercenaries, rebel troopers and recon commanders waiting.

So I was a bit nervous when I finally showed up at the Phoenix Convention Center with 12 News multimedia journalist James Wulff, more than half an hour late for our scheduled shoot. (We were delayed by rush-hour traffic on our way from a prior shoot in northeast Scottsdale.)

Some of the characters had already been there for several hours, getting into costume to promote this Memorial Day Weekend’s Phoenix Comicon event . Like petite “Poison Ivy,” a.k.a. Victoria Paege, who wore full body makeup (it took her makeup artist two hours to apply it all), a wig and, well, a few strategically placed strands of artificial ivy.

Victoria Paege.

Paege is the official spokesperson for Phoenix Comicon. She’s also a working actress who bounces between Phoenix and Los Angeles. She’ll appear in the upcoming film “Piranha 3D,” which hits theaters in August. “I’m in all of the spring break scenes,” she told me. “In a pink bikini.”

While James conducted his interviews, I talked with some of the intricately costumed characters. I learned that each costume was custom-made. Some start with pieces you can buy. Carol Duckworth, a student at Phoenix College, visited an Army/Navy surplus store to get started on her Rebel Fleet Trooper costume. Phoenix resident Mike Little’s Rebel Pilot costume started with “a standard orange jumpsuit” but Little, who works for an insurance company, created the helmet, gadgets and attachments.

Lee Palmer of Phoenix  had an advantage when he started from scratch to build and mold his Biker Advanced Recon Commando (BARC) costume: He’s the superintendent for a construction company, so he’s used to building things. But James Ayers of Phoenix (Sandtrooper), does private security for Blackwater-type organizations. I’m not sure where he developed the skills (or how he found time) to build his molded-plastic costume while he’s been to and from Afghanistan in recent months.

Palmer told me he had “a couple thousand” invested in his BARC costume. He also has a Darth Vadar costume that cost closer to $6,000.

When you put that much effort into a costume, you want an excuse to wear it. So these people spend a lot of time doing appearances for charity. Their biggest annual event is the annual American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.

It’s not all fun and games. Many of the suits are so form-fitted they can be extremely uncomfortable. “I will have blisters and bruises when I take this thing off,” Lee said.

As we were wrapping up the shoot, James packed up his equipment and took it out to his vehicle. I’d just met him that day, so I didn’t know this soft-spoken, methodical professional is somewhat of a performer himself. As he returned for his tripod, he tipped his ballcap at the group and said (in a spot-on Yoda imitation), “May the force be with you!”

You can watch James’s interview with Paege, along with some action shots he took of a mock Star Wars battle, tonight on 12 News, during the 5pm broadcast. We’ll post the video clip on our website tomorrow.

Phoenix Comicon is open to the public Friday through Sunday this weekend. Some of the proceeds benefit Kids Need to Read. Learn more at phoenixcomicon.com.

Watch our 12News report about Phoenix Comicon.

From left: Thomas Boyer (Mandalorian Merc), Carol Duckworth (Rebel Fleet Trooper), Lee Palmer (BARC), James Ayers (Sandtrooper) and Mike Little (Rebel Pilot); all are residents of Phoenix.

The blossoming of a media pro

I wish I’d had a crystal ball back in the day, when Mala Blomquist first became our Calendar & Directories Editor. I would have loved to have seen her face when she looked into the future and saw herself…on television.

When Mala first joined our staff, she was a stay-at-home mom experiencing that first bit of restlessness that often kicks in for creative, energetic mothers when their children start reaching school age. Mala loves being a mom — but she also loves being busy, productive and engaged in something she really believes in.

She first came to us as a freelance writer. As she explored the Valley with her two young daughters, she wrote a monthly column we called “Going Places with Generation ‘Why?'” As the girls got older, she indicated that she was ready to do more. She started coming into the office on a regular schedule and eventually assumed the role she has today.

Mala is the person responsible for filtering thousands of emails and Web sites each month to provide a comprehensive calendar of family events for our magazine and our Web-based eZine. Most months she also must process and make sense of thousands of questionnaires she initiates to fill our print and online resource directories. She’s a master of minutia and though I often wonder when she’ll come to me and say “Enough!” she loves her job and just keeps getting better at it as she goes along.

But there’s one part of her job Mala could never have anticipated when she first came on board. For a couple of years now, Mala has appeared regularly on the Friday 1pm Arizona Midday show on 12 News. She’s there each week to share her top picks for the weekend’s local family events. Sometimes she also participates in the show’s “Coffee Talk” segments.

Mala was plenty apprehensive when this opportunity first arose — and very nervous the first few times she appeared on live TV. Now she’s a real pro.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of my job as mother hen over this brood is the pride I feel when they surprise themselves and stretch beyond early self-perceptions to blossom in confidence at the mastery of new challenges and skills. I’m sure that Mala could never have imagined, when she first joined our team, that she’d face her weekly TV gig with so much pleasure and aplomb. — Karen

Today at RAK: June cover shoot at Attorney General Terry Goddard’s home in Phoenix!

In the "garden" behind the 12News studios last Friday: Mala (right) and Toni Purry, president of Purry Communications Group in Los Angeles. Toni handles the media/public relations for Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa. She and her crew had brought everything to make it look like the beach — even the sand!

RAK’s “work husband”

Lin Sue Cooney and "work husband" Mark Curtis.

In our April magazine, 12 News anchor Lin Sue Cooney writes about the remarkable relationship she has with co-anchor Mark Curtis. She calls him her “work husband.”

No disrespect to her strong, happy, real marriage to freelance sports cameraman Sean Cooney. Lin Sue simply acknowledges a reality of today’s workplace: that most of us who work outside the home spend more time with our “work families” than we do our real ones. Which is why happiness at work depends as much on whom you work with as it does the actual work you do.

It’s no secret that most of the staff members at RAK are women. Which makes the role of our lone male employee, Writer/Photographer Daniel Friedman, so extraordinary.

As the community “work husband” (we joke that he’s a polygamist), Dan is a placid and welcome ballast in our estrogen-infused office.

Dan grew up with two sisters, so maybe that’s why he “gets” women. He is completely comfortable being the only guy around (though he did enjoy it when Calendar & Director Editor Mala Blomquist’s husband, Evan, used to come in once a week to do IT work for us). He is unperturbed when lunchtime talk centers on diets, shoes and popular women-targeted TV shows. Sometimes he weighs in with his own unique spin on things. Sometimes he just keeps his head down, focused on his meal.

Dan provides terrific photography for our magazine covers and features, and writes some downright insightful, witty and interesting pieces for our print and daily online “Did You Know…?” features. He’s one of our most prolific writers and bears the pressure of photo shoots, which often involve unpredictable children (and overly anxious parents) with ease.

On top of all that, he’s the amiable recipient of the collective “honey do” list at work. One day, he fixed a broken latch on my point-and-click camera. Another day I saw him heading out the door with Community Relations Manager Katie Charland’s bicycle tire, which Dan, an avid cyclist, planned to repair.

Lin Sue says the label “work husband” doesn’t apply to just any guy who happens to work in your office. “That label is reserved for the rare business relationships that click on both a professional and personal level,” she writes.

Our collective work husband clicks on both accounts.

Dan Friedman surrounded by some of his "work wives" (from left): Mala Blomquist, Debbie Davis, Susie Drake and Katie Charland.

Walking to prevent child abuse

Is someone bringing coffee?

I have to admit. I kind of felt like this guy on the right when I dragged myself out of the house at 6:30am to walk in today’s Children’s March on Child Abuse. But the beautiful morning and the energy of the crowd that was gathered at the entrance to the Phoenix Zoo was invigorating — and so was the nippy temperature hovering well under the 60s.

The walk was organized by Phoenix Children’s Hospital to build awareness about child abuse, and raise funds to prevent it. Many of the 200 or so people in the crowd were there with children. Given the nature of the event, I found my eyes drawn to the many examples of loving connections between adults and children waiting to walk. Here are two of my favorites:

Love that transcends generations.

Time with daddy.

12News reporter/anchor Tram Mai showed up about 7:45 to give some opening remarks and thank the event’s sponsors, which included Raising Arizona Kids, Honest Tea and E&J’sDesigner Shoe Outlet. She read a moving essay by Sassha Motz of Surprise, whose daughter Lily was a victim of Shaken Baby Syndrome inflicted by a trusted family member. (Lily and her dad, James, are featured in our April cover story, “Casting Light on the Shadow of Abuse.”)

Tram Mai reads some opening remarks; watching is PCH pediatric nurse practitioner Amy Terreros.

Then it was time to walk. With a quick thumbs up…

Thumbs up!

…we headed through the gates to the Nina Mason Pulliam Children’s Trail. Several members of the Raising Arizona Kids family walked today, including Marketing Director MaryAnn Ortiz-Lieb (Happy Birthday!) and her daughter Juliann (a senior at Xavier College Preparatory), Assistant Editor Mary L. Holden, Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams, Account Executive Catherine Griffiths, my husband Dan (who writes our Sports Roundtable blog when he’s not too busy lawyering) and me.

Off we go!

The walk was a nice way to start the weekend and a reminder that we all need to spend more time at the beautiful Phoenix Zoo.

Enjoying the zoo.

And now? Breakfast!

Storytime at RAK

We’ve started something new during Thursday morning editorial meetings: storytime.

No, I don’t pull out pillows and Dr. Seuess books to read to my staff. (Although, who knows? Maybe we’d all benefit from that.) Instead, I ask them to share their stories with me.

“What did you do this past week?” I ask. As we go around the table, each person weaves wonderful tales of the people they’ve met and the experiences they’ve had. I type like crazy on my laptop, trying to preserve these cherished moments in the history of the Raising Arizona Kids family. Here are two. More to come!

Rocky rocks Vicki’s world

Vicki Louk Balint

Multimedia journalist Vicki Louk Balint loves horses. So when it came time to schedule interviews about summer camps for the Monday evening “Raising Arizona Kids” segment she co-produces with 12News, she jumped at a chance to visit the Hunkapi horse therapy program in Tempe.

“I love horses so much but I don’t have them in my life,” Vicki said, “When I walk into a barn and breathe in the smell…I wonder what’s wrong with me that I don’t spend more time around horses.”

Hunkapi (pronounced hoon-KAH-pee) is a Lakota word that translates to “I am related to everyone.” The program was founded as an ASU research effort in 1996. When compared to other sports, the research showed, horseback riding was the most positive intervention for children with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Autism.

Vicki saw it for herself. She told us about Ray, a child with autism, who was grooming a horse named Spirit. “Here is this child who doesn’t relate well to other people [because of his autism]. He’s grooming this horse and you can just see the connection. It would make you cry.”


She also saw Jordan, a 6-year-old with developmental delays. He got up on Rocky, a quarter horse who’s been doing this kind of work for 23 years. “This is an elderly horse!” Vicki said. “He was plodding along, his tongue hanging out. But he has this wisdom” — and a palpable connection with the young child on his back.

The first time Jordan visited Hunkapi, he didn’t stop talking about horses for a week. “I want to see the horse, I want to go to the horse,” he said. His mom says she’d never seen a bigger smile on his face.

Vicki, who volunteers as a reader for the blind at Sun Sounds of Arizona, is pondering the number of hours in her day and wondering if she could find some time to volunteer at Hunkapi.

Maybe it’s time to honor her inner horsewoman.

Mala: the show must go on

Mala Blomquist

Calendar & Directories Editor Mala Blomquist is the face of Raising Arizona Kids each Friday on the 12News Arizona Midday show, where she shares her picks for the upcoming weekend’s family events.

But last Thursday, she had a problem. She went to see her dentist, Kathi Mansell, DMD, because she had a tooth that was bothering her.

“You broke it in half,” Kathi told her. “It needs to come out.”

Kathi jumped on the phone to call the oral surgeon’s office. The scheduler wanted to know if Mala could come in the next day at 10:30. Mala was a bit hesitant because she had to appear on Channel 12 at 1. “You’ll be fine by then,” the scheduler assured her.

The tooth came out at 10:30, but Mala was still a bit numb — and changing bloody gauze pads in her mouth — as she drove to the Channel 12 studios to appear on both the “Coffee Talk” segment and her regular weekend update.

Her husband, who watched her appearance, reassured her with the classic-Evan sense of humor those of us who know the Blomquists have always appreciated and enjoyed. “You were fine,” he told his wife. “You just looked like you’d had a mild stroke.” — Karen