If you think you know a child who might be transgender, read “Raising Ryland”

Hillary Whittington writes with raw honesty in her book “Raising Ryland: Our Story of Parenting a Transgender Child with No Strings Attached.” (William Morrow, $15.99)

RaisingRyland_COAUTHORWhittington writes about how she and her husband Jeff helped daughter Ryland transition into their son when he was 5, three years ago. The family, who live in the San Diego, Calif., area, first got attention in 2014, when Ryland spoke at the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast. They later released a video of Ryland’s life to YouTube that got 7.7 million views. The video was originally made to help educate the school district about Ryland, before he went to kindergarten, but it takes you through his life.

Transgender has attracted media attention with celebrities like Laverne Cox and Caitlyn Jenner. “It has helped gain awareness that this is happening,” Whittington says, “But I think that people think of Caitlyn Jenner as being a publicity stunt. It’s really frustrating that they don’t understand, that they have closed their minds.”

“Raising Ryland” is Whittington’s way of trying to educate people about what her family and many others are going through.

HIllary and Jeff Whittington with baby Ryland.
HIllary and Jeff Whittington with baby Ryland.

In addition to being transgender, Ryland also was born deaf. The deaf diagnosis came when he was 15 months, long after it should have been picked up on a newborn hearing screening. The shock of that diagnosis caused Whittington to question herself as a mother. While family members were beginning to wonder why this baby slept through noises or didn’t turn his head when called, Whittington, as a first-time mom, couldn’t process the signs that were there.

Yet, she immediately armed herself with information, taught herself and Ryland how to sign, found a support group and figured out how to work through the medical profession to get Ryland cochlear implants. The deaf diagnosis prepared Whittington to become the advocate for her son as both a deaf child and later as a transgender child.

Ryland wore gender neutral clothes, but still ponytails before he transitioned to a boy.
Ryland wore gender-neutral clothes, but still ponytails before he transitioned to a boy.

While transitioning Ryland from girl to boy was much harder on the Whittington family than the deaf diagnosis, Whittington learned through that first diagnosis to stop dwelling on what she had missed and move forward with how to best support Ryland.

She says by phone, that “one of the biggest reasons I didn’t kick myself, was because of the deaf diagnosis.”

The deaf diagnosis also taught her to find resources, do her research and the importance of a support group.

One of the biggest questions people ask Whittington is how does Ryland know he should be a boy.

Shortly after Ryland’s implants were activated, Ryland announced that he was a boy. He became insistent on being a boy by drawing self-portraits as a boy, by refusing to wear any clothes that looked like they came from the girl’s department, by always choosing toys that many would deem “boy” toys, by insisting on wearing boy underwear and boy swimsuits, and even urinating standing up. Ryland never wavered and his increasing insistence sent Whittington into looking up more and more information about gender and transgender identification.

Ryland transitioned to living as a boy when he was 5.
Ryland transitioned to living as a boy when he was 5.

She learned there that  people typically align with a gender when they are between ages 3 to 5. She learned the four signs that indicate a child might be transgender: bathroom behavior, swimsuit aversion, underwear preferences and type of toys chosen. She also learned that the transgender people raised without support for their identity attempt suicide at 41 percent, compared with a national average of 1.9 percent. She didn’t want Ryland to be in that 41 percent.

Ryland, who at this point was wearing mostly boy or gender-neutral clothes, but still had long blond hair, continued to give her clues on what they had to do. He asked “Mom, when the family dies … can I cut my hair so I can be a boy?”

And “Why did God make me this way? Why didn’t He make me a boy?”

Today the Whittingtons -- Jeff, Brynley, 3, Hillary, and Ryland, 8 -- no longer think of Ryland as a girl. Vikki Dinh Photography
Today the Whittingtons — Jeff, Brynley, 3, Hillary, and Ryland, 8 — no longer think of Ryland as a girl. Vikki Dinh Photography

They saw a therapist specializing in gender identity, who confirmed what the Whittingtons suspected, and encouraged them not to wait to make the transition.

In 2013, when 5-year-old Ryland came back to school from winter break, he came to class as a boy, instead of the girl he had been at the start of the year. There would be no more fighting every day about wearing “girl” clothes or hair bows and no more trying to find gender-neutral clothing in the girl’s clothing section. “It would take me hours to shop for Ryland and I’d be spending hundreds of dollars we didn’t have,” Whittington remembers.

“When I allowed him to be who he is, our life is finally calm and normal — whatever normal is,” she says with a laugh.

The Whittingtons wrote a letter to close friends and family explaining their decision to transition Ryland to a boy that gave a lot of information about Ryland’s experience as well as facts about transgender identity. She also kept copies of it in her purse, so when she ran into people who knew Ryland before, she would just hand them a copy of the letter and ask them to contact her if they had questions.

The first year, they sought help from a support group. They took their cues from Ryland, who requested that they remove any pictures of him before where he looked more like a girl. They adjusted their pronouns from she and her to he and him, which took some time.

Now, Whittington says, “my brain is so adjusted to looking at my child and seeing him as my son.

“The only time I get emotional is if I look back on pictures and think about what we’ve been through.”

She took cues from Ryland, who was very eager to stand up and talk about being a boy, at a transgender conference. “He really had this pride in the beginning,” she said. She also took cues from him after the video came out and after they did a CNN special, to take a step back. They had offers for their own reality show, but she says, “We wanted to educate people, not satisfy a gross obsession to badmouth us,” she says.

By writing the book, she could control the message and “really tell people how hard this was for our family.”

Jeff Whittington, who had been a firefighter, no longer felt comfortable in a career that had many colleagues who he didn’t feel would be accepting of Ryland. He later went into real estate.

And, they did lose friends, who didn’t understand. They have also heard from friends and neighbors who didn’t understand at first, but now do.

“I had to do something to help change the 41 percent,” she says. “The idea that people are killing themselves because of this.” She points to the story of a 7-year-old girl that ran out into traffic when her mom wouldn’t let her wear a princess dress for Halloween.

Now that Ryland has been a boy for three years, they face some new challenges. Many of his classmates only know him as a boy, but their parents know that he was born a girl. “He’s struggling with a way to come out to his friends,” Whittington says.

It might have been worse if they had decided to leave him as a tomboy. Whittington believes that he would not have fit in with the boys he now hangs out with who accept him as a boy, nor would he have fit in with girls. She also would still be running interference at events like birthday parties to get him the boy sticker instead of the girl sticker or the boy toy instead of the girl toy.

Whittington knows there will be many challenges ahead. Middle school and high school will come with  hurdles like sports and locker rooms and kids being cruel. She has tried to prepare Ryland for those days with responses. She’ll ask him, “What would you say if one of your friends found out?” And wait for him to teach her again.

Ryland is already used to people staring at him all the time. With his short hair, he cannot hide his cochlear implants, but she says, “I’m hoping and praying he has the strength to stand up to people.”

One of the biggest lessons Whittington wants to impress is not to judge people without understanding where they are coming from. “It’s easy to say that that family is crazy liberals, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I was raised in the church, in a very conservative family. There’s nothing I could have done to change it. I didn’t push this on my son.”

Having daughter Brynley, who is 3, made it even more clear to Whittington the difference between Ryland at that age and Brynley. Being a girl is very innate with Brynley, Whittington says. “She comes to me and says, ‘paint my nails.’ She only wants to wear a dress. … Children are born this way.”

People also always want to know about Ryland’s genitalia and whether he will undergo a sex change. That will be a decision they will leave up to Ryland. “The only person that is going to matter to is Ryland — and his partner one day,” Whittington says.

At the first signs of puberty, Ryland will take hormone blockers, the same drugs doctors give people who have early-onset puberty. Those drugs will stop the process of puberty.

Then when Ryland is 14, if he still is presenting the same way, he will begin taking cross hormones to give him male characteristics. Until then, everything they have done can be undone if Ryland were to decide that.

People also want to know which sex Ryland is attracted to, and that’s still unclear. “My mind is so open,” Whittington says. “What is clear is his partner will be one of the luckiest people on Earth. Ryland is the kindest, sweetest, most empathetic person I’ve ever met in my life.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What would you do if you had an extra day? 10 things to do on Leap Day

Leap Day, that once-every-four-years day we call Feb. 29, is Monday. Oh, how we wish it were a Saturday or a Sunday, or better yet, a paid day off. What’s the point of an extra day, if it’s going to be a Monday?

I’ll be spending it at the dentist, so that makes it even more special.

Kindell Pedersen takes time out to read and enjoy her lunch break on a hill facing Lady Bird Lake Friday. Courtney Dudley AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Kindell Pedersen takes time out to read and enjoy her lunch break on a hill facing Lady Bird Lake Friday. Courtney Dudley AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN

If we can’t take the day off, here’s some little things we could do to make it feel extra special.

  1. Get the homework done early or skip it if you can, and rent or stream a movie with the family.
  2. Actually take a lunch break. Go on a walk, eat lunch in a scenic spot nearby or have lunch with the kids at school when it’s not their birthday.
  3. Stop off for a latte, a breakfast taco or something special on the way to work.
  4. Paint your toe nails.
  5. Wear the dress or the outfit that makes your feel your best.
  6. Splurge on what’s for dinner. If you can go out and that’s still relaxing, do it. If not, buy that expensive cut of meat or that piece of salmon. Buy something decadent for dessert.
  7. Make a list of everything you’re grateful for in your life and post it somewhere. You can even have the kids do the same.
  8. Do one good thing for someone. My daughter and I have been handing out our extra boxes of Girl Scout cookies to the homeless people we pass driving around. She feels so good about doing this that if we stop and we don’t do it, I get a talking to. It could just be that you open a door for someone who has their hands full.
  9. Our traffic is not fun. All of Austin knows this. On at least this one day, be the bigger person and let someone in. Lay off the horn. Take deep breaths. Listen to some fun music or a cool book on tape and will the drive to be relaxing.
  10. Go for easy breezy. Don’t rush things. Be late if you need to be. Take some more deep breaths and choose this one day to not worry about whatever you’ve been worrying about. Save it for another day.

Share what you’re going to do on Twitter and Instagram #LeapDayATX.

 

Quick, where are your kids going to summer camp? Don’t know? You need our guide

campguideEach summer, while your kids are exploring camps in Austin and further a field, Pam LeBlanc and I are exploring camps, too, in anticipation of next year’s Summer Camp Guide. It came out today. Find it at campguide.austin360.com.

In it you’ll find a lot of listings of local camps, but you’ll also see how I learned about the Maya culture at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center and how Pam  got a taste of the X Games at ATX Action Sports Camp.

I also offer my 15 things to think about when choosing a camp.

We also have sponsored camp articles from local camps, touting what they do, as well as listings of local camps.

Check it out.

 

New in children’s books: A Simon & Schuster division for Muslim themes, authors

The new Salaam Reads imprint logo.
The new Salaam Reads imprint logo.

This morning, Simon & Schuster announced it will start a new imprint: Salaam Reads. It will have focus on stories that have Muslim characters or stories with Muslim cultures.

Some of the first books and authors will be:

“Salam Alaikum,” a picture book celebrating peace, community, and love based on the popular song of the same name by global social media sensation and Awakening Worldwide recording artist Harris J.
 
“Musa, Moises, Mo and Kevin,” a picture book introducing four kindergarten best friends who share their favorite family holiday traditions for Eid, Christmas, Rosh Hashanah, and Pi Day, written by H. A. Raz, a pseudonym for husband-and-wife writing team Huda Abdul-Razzak and Azhar Sheraze.
 
“The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand,” by Karuna Riazi, a middle–grade adventure about 12-year-old Bangladeshi American Farah Mirza from Queens, New York, and her quest to save her brother from a supernatural board game.
 
“Yo Soy Muslim,” a lyrical picture book in which a parent shares with their child the joy and pride in having a multicultural heritage, written by Mark Gonzales, HBO Def Jam poet and TEDxRamallah speaker.
Salaam Reads plans to release its first book in 2017 and at least nine a year.
Of course, there are Muslim-based independent publishers like Happy Books and Kube Publishing, but this is the first major publisher to create such a line.
We’ve written a lot about the lack of diversity in books offered to children before. My hope is that this new imprint allows children who aren’t Muslim to also read about Muslim children, and not just at “World Cultures Day” or around Christmas time, when teachers also throw in Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.
After all, isn’t this one way we can bring peace in our time: when kids are exposed to a lot of different people who are different than themselves, but then realize that their stories aren’t really all that different.

 

See dinosaurs and more inside the new “Genesis Exhibit” at Texas Museum of Science & Technology

A T. rex skull is part of "The Genesis Exhibit" at the Texas Museum of Science & Technology. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman
A T. rex skull is part of “The Genesis Exhibit” at the Texas Museum of Science & Technology. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

A sabertooth cat ready to pounce. A Tyrannosaurus rex skull ready to bite. A coelophysis tiny dinosaur ready to scamper away.

These are just some of the things on display at “The Genesis Exhibit” at the Texas Museum of Science & Technology in Cedar Park. The entire exhibit came to the museum earlier this month by moving truck from the El Paso home of collector, curator and playwright Marty Martin.

The museum will spend months cataloguing, repairing and displaying the hundreds, maybe thousands of pieces that trace the history of life on Earth from early invertebrates to dinosaurs to humans. The exhibit contains some fossils, but also casts of some of the finest fossils from museums around the world.

Somewhere in a box is a cast of Lucy, a 3.2 million-year-old early human. And somewhere is a full T. rex, too, that will stand on the floor and a quetzalcoatlus that will fly through the air.

This is not the collection’s first stop in the Austin area, but it will be its last. Martin gifted it to the museum, which opened last spring. Previously, in 1989, the exhibit lived in a museum Martin created known as the Texas Museum of Natural History, which was at 100 Congress Ave. downtown and then at 600 Congress Ave. downtown. Later in 1994, the exhibit popped up at Northcross Mall. In recent years, it had been at the Insights Science Center in El Paso, where Martin moved to after living in Austin. Parts of it also had been loaned out to museums around the world.

The exhibit was meant to be set up like a timeline of animal and human life.

Tanya Laird, director of collections management for the museum, holds up two similar looking casts. “These gals are related right,” she says, “but you can see that one is more amphibian like and one is more reptile like, and we have an ancestor of these guys on display out there,” she says as she points to the exhibit floor from the room where she is unpacking boxes.

“That was something that Marty (Martin) expressed in his story, that at a certain point as you go through the fossil collection, there is one from ‘Hey, I have a face,’ that’s the first animal with a face, it has a front, it has two eyes and then you can follow the story of the face … and eventually you get to us,” says Tovald Hessell, executive director of the museum.

A sabertooth cat. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman
A sabertooth cat. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

Laird has had the task of slowly unearthing the exhibit contents from a sea of boxes that are in a large space behind the exhibit floor. Some boxes are clearly labeled. Others say things like dishes or towels, though much more important things are inside.

“Each box literally is a surprise,” Hessell says.

“We feel like we are something between ‘Indiana Jones’ and ‘Jurassic Park,’” Hessell says. “We have a T. rex!”

The exhibit has not been fully catalogued. It was estimated 20 years ago that it was 200 pieces worth $3 million. Because it’s never been fully catalogued and because some of the pieces need repairs, Laird says she can’t just unpack a box and put something out on the exhibit floor.

And even after all of it is unpacked, Martin is still shopping for unique finds and shipping things to the museum.

This gifted permanent exhibit just strengthens the case for a new, bigger permanent space for the museum, which is now housed in a former indoor soccer field. “We need a bigger boat,” Laird jokes, making a “Jaws” reference.

Hessell says the plan is to move to a more permanent, designed-as-a-museum space within five years. Right now, the museum offers a planetarium, 30 interactive exhibits from San Francisco’s Exploritorium as well as the growing “The

Torvald Hessel looks at one of the finds in "The Genesis Exhibit." Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman
Torvald Hessel looks at one of the finds in “The Genesis Exhibit.” Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

Genesis Exhibit.” On March 20 it will begin hosting a microscopic photography exhibit from Nikon.

“Genesis Exhibit”

Where: Texas Museum of Science and Technology, 1220 Toro Grande Drive

Hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. -6 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $15 for adults, $13 for seniors students, and $11 for ages 3-17

Information: txmost.org

Rated R? No worries. Alamo Drafthouse will let teens in to see Michael Moore’s “Where to Invade Next”

Michael Moore’s new documentary “Where to Invade Next,” is rated R for strong language, drug use, violent images and nudity. In the movie, Moore travels the world trying to invade country after country in the name of America.

Director Michael Moore in a scene from his documentary, "Where to Invade Next."
Director Michael Moore in a scene from his documentary, “Where to Invade Next.”

Tim League, founder of the Alamo Drafthouse, thinks teens should see it, though.

League says in a press release that  “If your kids come to see this, they will experience:
– Some swear words
– Students enjoying free college education
– Children eating healthy school lunches
– Happy Italians on vacation
– Real violence in American prisons
– And… a brief moment of a naked German guy coming out of a hot tub.”

Alamo Drafthouse is allowing it’s Victory Vanguard members to see it, even though they are ages 15-17. Victory Vanguard is a free rewards program only for this age group that  allows them to attend any Alamo Drafthouse film without a parent or guardian and gives them $5 tickets to 2-D movies except those on Friday and Saturday after 6 p.m.

League does note, rightfully so, that he is part of the distribution force for the film, “but this is not about selling tickets; it’s about this film’s message reaching the next generation of American voters.”

So will you let your teens see it? Mine can’t get off the couch away from the Japanese Anime they are watching on YouTube.

Looking for something to do on Saturday? Pollyanna Theatre at LBJ Library

“Liberty! Equality! and Fireworks!” is at the LBJ Library.
“Liberty! Equality! and Fireworks!” is at the LBJ Library.

This Saturday, Pollyanna Theatre is presenting its “Liberty! Equality! and Fireworks!” at the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum. The play celebrates the history of the Civil Rights Act for elementary school-age audiences and was written with the help of the LBJ Museum. We wrote about the play in 2014 when it debuted.  The play is about a group of fourth-graders visiting a museum and learning about the struggles of the 1960s. The characters in the photographs come to life and explain their story.

The performance on Saturday is free. Find it at 2 p..m in the LBJ Library Auditorium, 2313 Red River St.

Don’t have ADHD? Don’t take Adderall unless you like the ER

I’ve written a lot about Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder. In fact, this weekend, my Raising Austin column in the paper is about the 30 percent rise in the diagnosis in the past 20 years. You can read that story here.

New today is an article published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology . The National Survey on Drug Use and Health and the Drug Abuse Warning Network, found that between 2006-2011 the misuse of the ADHD drug Adderall that lead to a trip to the emergency room increased by 67 percent in adults from 18 to 25.

Misuse of prescription drug use is actually the second highest drug use. Marijuana is the first.

APPROVED---Sonia Krishna 2014_MG_0242
Dr. Sonia Krishna is a child and adolescent psychiatrist at the Seton Mind Institute.

Dr. Sonia Krishna, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, says the study is a reminder to talk to your kids about not giving their medications to anyone else. Or not taking anyone else’s medication.

Adderall, which is a very effective ADHD medicine, has side effects such as heart palpitations or high blood pressure in people who don’t have ADHD.  Often they are taking Adderall to increase attention, to be more productive, to pull an all-nighter for school.

For people who do have ADHD and are prescribed a drug like Adderall, the effect will be the opposite. Instead of reving them up, it actually calms them down. So, this new study is not a reason to stop taking Addrall if your doctor prescribes it.

Planning ahead: Family events for March not to miss

I’ve spent the day putting together my calendar of family events in March. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far. Missing something? Email me at nvillalpando@statesman.com.

Theater

“James & the Giant Peach.” The Roald Dahl book comes to life in musical form. 11 a.m. March 5, 12, 19, 26; April 2, 9. 2 p.m. March 5, 6, 12, 13, 19, 20, 26, 27; April 2, 3, 9; and 4:30 p.m. April 10. 11 a.m. $29 adults, $26 children. Zach Theatre’s Kleberg Stage, 1421 W. Riverside Drive. zachtheatre.org

“Jamie Doesn’t Want to Take a Bath.” For children ages 2-4, see what happens when Jamie refuses to bathe. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. 9:30 and 11 a.m. March 31, April 2, 6-9. pollyannatheatrecompany.org.

Museums

Thinkery Workshops: Forensic Investigators for ages 8 and older. $29 adult and one child. 10:30 a.m. March 5 and 2:30 p.m. March 6. Silly Seuss for ages 2-3. 10:30 a.m. March 5. $29 one adult and child. Spark Club: Exploring Arduinos for ages 8 plus. Four-week class beginning March 2, $80 each child. Screenprinting for ages 8 and up. 10:30 a.m. March 12 and 2:30 p.m. March 13. $29 one adult and child. Wet Weather for ages 1-2, 10:30 a.m. March 12. $29 one adult and child. Soap Making for ages 4-7. 10:30 a.m. March 19 and 2:30 p.m. March 20. $29 one adult and child. Frankentoy Shop for ages 4-7. 10:30 a.m. March 26 and 2:30 p.m. March 27. $29 one adult and child. Little Builders for ages 1-2. 10:30 a.m. March 26. $29 one adult and child. The Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org.

Bullock Museum. Free First Sunday: Texas Independence Day. Noon-5 p.m. March 6. Play historic cames, encounter costumed interpreters and make your own vintage photograph. Living History Days. The museum comes alive with historical characters. 10 a.m. -2 p.m. March 2. Science Thursday. Try some science activities. 10 am.-2 p.m. March 10. Spring Break at the Bullock. Each day explore different activities. March 14-18. Bullock Texas State History Museum. 1800 Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com.

Art Free-For-All. See the Contemporary Austin’s educational offerings with an open house. Free. Noon-4 p.m. March 12. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St. contemporaryaustin.org.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden Family Day. Enjoy free activities including art making, stories, yoga and more. Noon-4 p.m. March 13. Umlauf Sculpture Garden, 605 Robert E. Lee Road. umlaufsculpture.org.

South by Southwest

SXSW Creates. Make things and learn about the makers spirit. 11 a.m.-6 p.m. March 13. Free. Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road. sxsw.com/exhibitions/sx-create

EJSgamin01
Mark Anthony, 13, plays a virtual reality light saber simulator made by Sixense at South by Southwest Gaming last year. Efren Salinas/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

SXSW Gaming Expo. This is one free event where you can try out all kids of games and watch people play games. noon-8 p.m. March 17-19. Free. Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St. sxsw.com/exhibitions/gaming-expo

All The Children Boogie: A Tribute to David Bowie. Family radio show Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child, LiveMom, and the Austin Scottish Rite Theater are presenting this show, which includes musicians Jon Langford, David Wax Museum, Riders Against the Storm, Nakia, Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, The Deedle Deedle Dees, Rockaroni & Cheese, Joe McDermott, Groundwork Music Orchestra, Hey Lolly Band and more. 11 a.m.-4:30 p.m. March 18. Free. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St. scottishritetheater.org

Events

Girlstart Starry Nights. Learn Maya skies in a mini-planetarium. 5:30 p.m. March 3. 1400 W. Anderson Lane. girlstart.org

Daniel McLean, 7, gets excited as he runs behind a kite with Julian Martinez during the 86th annual ABC Zilker Kite Festival on Sunday, March 1, 2015. Doug McLean, Daniel McLean’s father says that his son has charge syndrome and loves bright colors and the kite festival. (RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN)
Daniel McLean, 7, gets excited as he runs behind a kite with Julian Martinez during the 86th annual ABC Zilker Kite Festival last year. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Zilker Kite Festival. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. March 6. Free. Zilker Park. abckitefestival.org

Spring Holidays Fair. Learn about Holi from India, the Taiwanese Dragon Festival, Merrie Monarch Festival, 1,000 Cranes, Tet, the Lantern Festival and more. Noon-4 p.m. March 5. Free. Asian American Resource Center, 8401 Cameron Road. austintexas.gov/aarc.

Cowboy Breakfast. 6 a.m. March 4. Free. Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. www.rodeoaustin.com.

Explore UT. Explore the university, its museums and hands-on demonstrations and experiments. Free. March 5, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. exploreut.utexas.edu

Rodeo Austin. 10 a.m. midnight Monday-Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays March 12-26. Fairgrounds admission $8 adult, $5 kids, free children 2 and younger; $10 parking. Travis County Expo Center, 7311 Decker Lane. www.rodeoaustin.com.

Mother-Son Adventure. Go kayaking on Lady Bird Lake. 10 a.m. March 12. $15. Camacho Activity Center, 34 Robert T. Martinez Jr. RVSP: barbara.garcia@austintexas.gov.

Under the Springs. Meet a mermaid. See a new exibit: “One Square Foot of Barton Springs. Enjoy kid-friendly activities and more. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. March 16. The Splash Exhibit, 2201 Barton Springs Road. austintexas.gov/splash.

Flashlight Friday. Explore the Wildflower Garden at night and learn about nocturnal animals. For kids 5-12, 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m. March 18. $10 adults, $5 child. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. wildflower.org

Easter Eggstravaganza. 10-1 p.m. March 19. Dove Springs Recreation Center, 5801 Ainez Drive.

Search for Lost Eggs. Crafts and egg hunt. Noon March 19. Dittmar Recreation Center, 1009 W. Dittmar Road.

Family Wildflower Cave Tour. Explore the Wildflower Cave with the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department. for ages 10 and up. 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. March 26. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Cross Ave. wildflower.org.

Movies

"Fantastic Mr. Fox." Fox Searchlight
“Fantastic Mr. Fox.” Fox Searchlight

Alamo Drafthouse Kids Camp. “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” 10:30 a.m. March 11-17, Lakeline. “Batman: The Movie,” 4 p.m. March 11, 10 a.m. March 12-17, Village; 10:30 a.m. March 18 and March 20, 10 a.m. March 19, Lakeline. $1-$3 donation. drafthouse.com

Dr. Seuss Film Festival. 3:30 p.m. March 3, Yarborough Branch.

Preschool Drive-in Movie. 11 a.m. March 3, Yarborough Branch.

“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2,” 6:30 p.m. March 8, Twin Oaks Branch.

“The Peanuts Movie,” 4 p.m. March 15, Cepeda Branch.

Books

BookPeople events: Obert Skeye reads “Lost & Found.” 6 p.m. March 4. Carmen Oliver reads “Bears Make the Best Reading Buddies,” 2 p.m. March 6. Cassandra Clare reads “Lady Midnight” at St. Edward’s University. 7 p.m. March 16. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com.

Barnes & Noble. Saturday 11 a.m. story times at all locations. “Wonderful World,” March 5; “Too Many Carrots,” March 12. “When Spring Comes,” March 19, “What to Do with a Box,” March 26.

Lego Event with Expert builder Stephen, 6:30 a.m. March 8, Sunset Valley. Batman v. Superman Day for teens. 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 19, Round Rock.

Library

“Literature Live! Presents: The Selfish Gardener Puppet Show,” 3:30 p.m. March 1, Pleasant Hill Branch; 10:15 a.m. March 2, Dove Springs Recreation Center; 10:15 a.m. March 3, Windsor Park Branch; 3:30 p.m. March 7, Howson Branch; 10:15 a.m. March 8, Cepeda Branch; 3:30 p.m. March 10, Little Walnut Creek Branch; 2 p.m. March 13, Faulk Central Library; 6 p.m. March 14, University Hills Branch; 11:30 a.m. March 17, Ruiz Branch; 3:30 p.m. March 22, Twin Oaks Branch; 10:30 a.m. March 23, Terrazas Branch; 3:30 p.m. March 29, St. John Branch; and 6:30 p.m. March 31, Manchaca Road Branch.

Sew Happy, learn to sew for ages 10 and up. 5 p.m. March 1, Manchaca Road Branch.

Crafternoon, 4 p.m. March 4, Spicewood Springs Branch; 3:30 p.m. March 7, Manchaca Road Branch; 3:30 p.m. March 8, Terrazas Branch; 4 p.m. March 10, Twin Oaks Branch; 4 p.m. March 17, Cepeda Branch; 3:30 p.m. March 22, Terrazas and Howson branches; 3:30 p.m. March 28, Manchaca Road Branch.

Felt Friends. Make a fleted bluebird. 4:30 p.m. March 8, Howson Branch.

NBTween Book Club for ages 8-12. Read “The War that Saved My Life,” 4 p.m. March 9, Howson Branch; “El Deafo,” 6 p.m. March 16, Yarborough Branch; “The London Eye,” 6 p.m. March 17, Twin Oaks Branch.

Preschool Crafty Kids, 11 a.m. March 10, Yarborough Branch.

Maker Mania: Meet a Scientist and Make Something for ages 5-12. 3:30 p.m. March 10, Faulk Central Library.

Circuit Break, for ages 10 and up. 7 p.m. March 11, Ruiz Branch.

Art Smart, ages 5 and up, 6:30 p.m. March 15, Willie Mae Kirk Branch; 6:30 p.m. March 22, Wilie Mae Kirk Branch.

Art Lab for Littles, ages 3-6, 11 a.m. March 24, Terrazas Branch.

Book Circle: Lite Brite, Games and Bowling, for ages 5 and up. 3:30 p.m. March 24, Yarborough Branch.

Family Craft Night, 7 p.m. March 24, Hampton Branch.

Mother Daughter Book Club, “The BFG.” 6 p.m. March 16, Hampton Branch.

Rethink kids’ baby teeth: protect them now before the Tooth Fairy comes

February is National Children’s Dental Health Month. About two years ago, I wrote a guide with some good advice to parents of young children about how to keep their baby teeth, and eventual adult teeth, healthy and strong.

St. David's Foundation has mobile dental vans to treat children.
St. David’s Foundation has mobile dental vans to treat children.

Drs. Patrice Coons, clinical director of the St. David’s Foundation’s dental program, and Lisa Jacob, chief of pediatric dentistry at Dell Children’s Medical Center, gave us this advice, as well as some interesting details about certain diseases and medications that can affect dental health in children:

Clean their mouths out. Before babies have teeth, take a wet washcloth and rub the gums.

Avoid baby bottle tooth decay. Try to avoid having your baby fall asleep drinking a bottle or breast-feeding. (I know, it’s really hard, especially in those sleep-deprived first months.) Instead, rinse their mouths with water before they go to sleep.

Keep track of fevers and antibiotics and other medications. You can help your pediatric dentist find problems early by alerting her of your child’s medical history. Because a lot of antibiotics and medications in liquid form are really sugary to taste good, rinse your child’s mouth with water afterward or brush their teeth.

See a dentist by age 1. The dentist will help you find the right oral care regimen and detect potential problems.

Embrace the fluoride. Even young children can use toothpaste with fluoride in it. You are just going to use a small, pea-size amount until they can spit it out. Get regular fluoride treatments at the dentist, which can be either the fluoride tray or the more effective painted-on fluoride varnish. If your insurance will let you, put sealants on their teeth, especially those 6-year molars.

Don’t avoid city water or try to filter it. Children whose parents give them bottled water are not getting the fluoride in tap water. Also, children who drink filtered water, especially with a reverse osmosis filtering system, might not be getting the fluoride.

Limit the sugar and junk food. Your teeth are exposed to everything you eat and drink. Avoid sugary, sticky foods. (Fruit snacks send these dentists over the edge. Not a fruit, really a candy, they say.) Children should only have about 4 ounces to 6 ounces of juice a day. If you are going to have juice, it should be 100 percent juice and diluted with water. Chocolate milk is not a good choice because of the sugar. Regular milk is fine but should be chased with a glass of water or teeth brushing. Crystal Light is also OK, but diet sodas still have a lot of acid despite the lack of sugar. The best drink: tap water.

Create a teeth-brushing routine. Know that this isn’t something young children should be doing without adult supervision. A 3-year-old cannot really do a good job; even some older kids struggle. Brush the teeth at least twice a day, and yes, it’s true, you have to floss, too. Brush the teeth for at least two minutes, which is the equivalent of a favorite pop song. You can find all kinds of YouTube videos as well as toothpaste company websites to show them how to brush, but you also can have kids brush your teeth so they can see all the teeth in the back of the mouth that need attention.

Look for abnormalities. If you see signs of tooth decay such as discoloration or your child complains of pain that’s not regular teething, consult a dentist to so the problem doesn’t get worse.

In Austin, we’re lucky that many kids have access to good dental care through the St. David’s Foundation. In 2014, the foundation provided dental care to 5,500 children at their schools.

Now another foundation is helping kids. Capital Area Dental Foundation, which has given dental care 800 people throughout central Texas by working in partnership with Statesman Season for Caring, Goodwill Industries, Health Alliance for Austin Musicians and St. Vincent de Paul.

Now the foundation is going to help Austin-based HeartGift, which brings children from around the world to Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas to give them life-saving heart surgery. Each year, HeartGift helps about a patient a month from countries including Algeria, Belize, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, China, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Ghana, Haiti, Honduras, Iraq, Jamaica, Kenya, Kosovo, Liberia, Macedonia, Malawi, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Nepal, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Palestine, Panama, Philippines, Republic of Kiribati, Somalia, Syria and Uganda.

Capital Area Dental Foundation will give HeartGift’s recipients the dental surgery they need before their heart operations.

“What a great opportunity for the Capital Area Dental Foundation to partner with HeartGift,” says Alan B. Moore, DDS, CADF Chairman.  “Our volunteer dentists look forward to providing essential oral health care and removing any infections that might exist to help these medically fragile children go on to have a successful heart surgeries.”