How does Texas rank for working moms? Not well

Personal finance website WalletHub conducted research into which states were good for working moms and which ones were not so good. Texas ranked 33rd. We ranked 17th for child care, 38th for professional opportunities and 42 for work-life balance.

Vermont was No. 1, followed by Minnesota, Connecticut, North Dakota and Massachusetts. The bottom five were Alaska, Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama and at the bottom, Nevada. wallethub

It wasn’t all bad for Texas. Apparently, we tied for third for best day care system, but we were No. 48 for female to male executives ratio in business.

How did red states versus blue states measure up? Blue states had an average range of 21.30 and red states had a rank of 31.25.

So what was WalletHub looking at? In childcare, it looked at quality of care, the cost of care, access to pediatric services and best school systems. (Texas was 27 according to its best school system rank).

In professional opportunities, Wallet hub looked at gender pay gap, the ratio to female executives to male executives, the median salary for women, the percentage of families in poverty, the female unemployment rate and the gender gap in different economic sectors.

In work-life balance, it looked at parental leave policy, length of a woman’s work week and average commute time.

I suspect if it took a city-by-city look, Austin would present a different picture than the rest of Texas, though I bet our average commute time is bringing the rest of the state down with it, while professional opportunities, access to pediatric services and salary for women might be bringing it up.

You can find out how other states ranked below:

Source: WalletHub

Study: Most dads don’t know what to get the mother of their children for Mother’s Day


The Operator, which is a gift-giving app, conducted a survey about gift giving for Mother’s Day. It’s a gift-giving app, so take this survey with a grain of salt.

It found that

  • 60 percent of dads say they never know what to get for Mother’s Day
  • 60 percent of dads say their significant other resorts to dropping hints
  • Nearly half of all moms resort to dropping hints
  • 1 out of 3 of moms admit they have secretly purchased gifts for themselves for Mother’s Day
  • The majority of moms (85 percent) state that Mother’s Day is important to them.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a column that what I really wanted for Mother’s Day was a day off to do what I wanted that didn’t involve chicken nuggets.

But if I were in the gift-giving mood for Mother’s Day, here are some ideas with local roots:

Help a worker in an orphanage in India through the Miracle Foundation.
Help a worker in an orphanage in India through the Miracle Foundation.

Skip the physical gift and make a donation to Austin-based Miracle Foundation, which will use your gift to pay for the annual salaries and room and board for the housemothers working in orphanages in India. Find a link to the campaign

Suavs shoes is offering a 15 percent off discount on all of its white and navy shoes. Use discount code MOMSDAY15 at Suavs also have a new summer collection that ship the week of May 14, but you can preorder them now. The collection includes two new colors: light blue and

Round Rock Premium Outlets has a special Mother’s Day gift. If you spend $250 or more from now through May 8, bring your receipt to guest services for a free gift. Thursday, the outlets kickoff Mother’s Day weekend with music, food and a fashion show, 6 to 8 p.m.; and Thursday-May 8, the mall will host a sidewalk sale. 4401 N. Interstate 35, Round Rock.

Suavs navy or white shoes are on sale for 15 percent off.
Suavs navy or white shoes are on sale for 15 percent off.

Sip and shop at Hacienda Austin and the Distillery on Thursday. From 6-8 p.m. enjoy Austin Cocktails and SRSLY Chocolates while shopping. Plus learn to make paper flowers with Mia Savage. Hacienda, 204 Colorado St.

South Congress Hotel Shop recommends these Mother’s Day gifts: Barkley Sound Bags tote bag made from recycled boat sails, $165; pinstripe denim chambray robe from Finery, $175; Maison Louis Marie perfume oil, $58, and Las Bayadas striped beach blanket from recycled cotton with Mexican fabrics, $45. South Congress Hotel, 1603 S. Congress Ave.

Second Street District will be offering free two-hour validated parking on May 8 in the AMLI Downtown and AMLI on 2nd garages. Rae Cosmetics with be offering a Mother-Daughter Day of Beauty with makeup strategies, a $200 value for $75 and get 20 percent off of purchases that day. Teddies for Betty’shosts a pajama party 6 to 9 p.m. May 7 with

South Congress Hotel Shop offers Barkley Sound Bags tote bag made from recycled boat sales, $165; Las Bayadas striped beach blanket from recycled cotton with Mexican fabrics, $45, and  Maison Louis Marie perfume oil, $58.
South Congress Hotel Shop offers Barkley Sound Bags tote bag made from recycled boat sales, $165; Las Bayadas striped beach blanket from recycled cotton with Mexican fabrics, $45, and Maison Louis Marie perfume oil, $58.

20 percent off. Sikara & Co. will donate 30 percent of jewelry sales to Ballet Austin.

Viva Day Spa will be opening its new store at the Domain, at 11601 Rock Rose Ave. in June. Before then, try these Mother’s Day specials:

Super Mom package is more than three hour massage, facial, manicure, pedicure and hot towel treatment. It comes with a gift bag and hot tea, wine and chocolates, $285.

Love Your Mother package lasts almost two hours and features a sauna, massage, body butter wrap, sugar scrub for the feet and calves, dry brush exfoliation, hot towels, mint scalp treatment, take home gift bag and chamomile tea, $189.

The Sweet Mama facial is an hour and a half facial with vitamin C masque; eye and

Vintage brass vases, set of three, $58, at the Distillery.
Vintage brass vases, set of three, $58, at the Distillery.

lip treatment; neck, shoulder and arm massage; cocoa butter hand treatment; and a gift bag and chamomile tea, $159.

Pretty Hands and Feet gives you a pedicure, manicure, foot massage with warm stones, hand treatment and hot tea or wine and chocolates, $95.

Viva is at 1811 W. 35th St.and 215 S. Lamar Blvd.

Hiatus Spa + Retreat is offering The Best Mom Ever!, $299, with a facial, massage and manicure. Mom 2.0, $179, gives her a facial, massage, mani-pedi retreat, body glow revitalizing wrap and acupuncture. Celebrate Mom, $249, with a choice of a monthly retreat, a body polish, pedicure, massage and a cocktail. This month’s retreat is the Wanderlust, $195, with pomegranate powder, lime and mandarin on your skin, a massage with avocado body butter and a pomegranate cocktail. Hiatus Spa + Retreat, 1611 W. Fifth St., Suite 155.

Are your teens addicted to their phones? New study says half are

Ben Villalpando is officially attached to his cell phone. Credit: Nicole Villalpando
Ben Villalpando is officially attached to his cell phone.

Like many parents with teens, we have a love-hate relationship with our children’s cellphones. It’s great when kids need to let us know when their after school plans change, which they often do. It’s great when we need to track where they are because the bus home from school is running late or to make sure they got picked up from a friend’s house. It’s even great when we need to ask them what they want at the store or to come downstairs for dinner.

What is not great about it is without limits, they would be on it 24-7. They would choose phone use — texting, video watching, game playing — over sleep, eating, homework. It sometimes makes you wonder: Why did we give them the phone in the first place? and do they even need a phone? 

Common Sense Media surveyed 1,240 parents and their children ages 12-18 in February and March about how they felt about their mobile devices.

Half of the teens say they “feel addicted” to mobile devices. 59 percent of parents agreed that their kids were addicted.

Here are some of the key findings of the study:


  • Addiction: 1 out of every 2 teens feels addicted to his or her device, and the majority of parents (59 percent) feel that their kids are addicted.
  • Frequency: 72 percent of teens and 48 percent of parents feel the need to immediately respond to texts, social-networking messages, and other notifications; 69 percent of parents and 78 percent of teens check their devices at least hourly.
  • Distraction: 77 percent of parents feel their children get distracted by their devices and don’t pay attention when they’re together at least a few times per week.
  • Conflict: A third of parents and teens (36 percent and 32 percent, respectively) say they argue with each other on a daily basis about device use.
  • Risky behavior: 56 percent of parents admit they check their mobile devices while driving; 51 percent of teens see their parents checking/using their mobile devices when driving.

The Common Sense report stemmed from last November’s report, Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens, which indicated that U.S. teens use an average of nine hours of media per day. Of course, the American Academy of Pediatrics would like kids to not be on any screen for more than two hours a day and not before age 2. 

I’ve written a lot about limiting screen time. Here are some ideas on how to do it:

Too much screen time can take its toll.
Too much screen time can take its toll.

Don’t go cold turkey. It’s too much, too fast. Take small steps, adding a new rule or taking away something each week or two.

Quality over quantity.Instead of mindlessly watching TV, let the kids pick one or two favorites to watch each week.

Watch or play together.Yes, I know. Sometimes watching my daughter play computer games or watch her favorite show makes me want to scream. Yet, if we watch together, I’m making sure that there’s a conversation, not just mindless play or watching.

No TV, computers, gaming system, phone in the bedrooms. You can monitor what kids are watching and how much they are watching if they are not squirreled away in the bedroom. At night, you especially want the smartphones off because that’s when all of their friends are trying to text them instead of letting them sleep. It’s also when kids are not monitored and all kinds of mean or unsettling phone behavior can happen. That old saying, “Nothing good happens after midnight,” applies to electronics as well.

Set an example. If you’re constantly on the phone or computer at home, what kid is going to follow your advice? Even though we all have to work from home sometimes, try to make a point to set aside the electronics and make time for family.

One thing at a time.Multitasking might look like efficiency, but why do you need to be on the laptop and smartphone while watching TV and eating dinner? Dinner should be the priority. And that TV as background noise is not a good idea because kids will end up watching it even if they don’t realize it.

Be the boss. There are apps for setting time limits on smartphones and tablets, like Screen Time, that will physically turn off the device. You also can buy devices like BOB Screen Time Manager for the TV and computer. But the best monitor doesn’t come in an app or a device. It’s you setting the limits and enforcing them. Be the parent.

Find other things to do.Busy kids don’t miss their machines. If you’re traveling this summer, pull out a deck of cards and learn a new game. Bring drawing paper and colored pencils. Have the kids create their own board games while you are driving. When you stop for the night, it’s time to play their game. They also can set up scavenger hunts for each other. Never underestimate the power of a good game of hide-and-seek or the journey of an early morning or nighttime hike.

Get out of the house. Have the kids plan a daily field trip. It doesn’t have to be expensive — the library is free, as is a park. You can even have the kids do the research on where to go and what to do when they get there. (That kind of screen time doesn’t count if they should need the computer to do the research.)

You also might find these tips from the Khabeli School useful:

  1. Use dinnertime as a forum for discussion and storytelling. At the dinner table, tell your child a story about something that’s going on in the world. Introduce the characters, explain the conflict and then ask your child what they would do to solve the problem. Families can also participate in collaborative storytelling by having a child start a story with once sentence and the next person at the table adds another, and so on, until the story is complete.
  2. Get outside and use those math skills. Work together with your child to build a garden, fix a fence or put up a treehouse. Have your child draw a map and create clues for a treasure hunt. You can explore using math by measuring the perimeter of your yard, recording numbers and types of bugs in the yard and graphing the results, or examining volume with old containers.
  3. Encourage reading and writing. Write in a journal together as a family. Write about your favorite thing that happened to you that day and illustrate it. Draw a doodle. Have your child turn the doodle into a drawing, and then create a story about it. Start family reading time where each person in the family chooses his or her own book and reads for a specified amount of time. Start off with just 5-10 minutes a day, and slowly increase the amount over time.
  4. Schedule play dates with friends. Socialization is a key part of a child’s development. After seeing friends every day during the school year, a child can get lonely in the summer. Make the effort to invite friends over to play, and try to have a fun activity prepared that they can do together. Try to keep them away from the couch and TV by suggesting a handful of activities for the children during playtime. Write a play, make art, take a survey and turn that information into a story, a song or a graph. Play games, do a science experiment (with parental supervision) or build a tent. 
  5. Collaborate on household chores. Kids who have responsibilities around the house are more likely to view themselves as a person capable of making a contribution. Because it can be difficult to stick to the chore routines over summer, join in on chores together, even simple ones like mopping, sweeping and dusting. Provide children with practical life skills that foster a sense of self worth. Have your child prepare a meal or a side dish. Teach your child how to sew with small projects like a pillow or a button repair.

Don’t forget, that when they are on mobile devices, you need to know what they are doing. Bob Lotter, creator of MyMobileWatchdog, encourages parents to put apps (like his) on phones that help you monitor what they are doing. He suggests the apps should:

  • Control what applications kids can run.
  • Set which hours they are allowed to text or receive phone calls.
  • Monitor texts and phone calls.
  • Manage contacts to make sure they are from a real person their children know.
  • Block inappropriate websites.
  • Monitor photos taken and received.
  • Shut the camera off.
  • Set up the phone to only be able to call parents or a specific approved contact at certain hours and do nothing else.
  • Allow parents to block and unblock apps. (Think: grades are down, no Instagram for you; grades are up, you get to Instagram again or you get to Instagram only in a parent’s presence.)
  • Has anti-hacking measures that don’t allow children to remove the software.
  • Creates a report that is admissible in court.


Parenting expert Dr. Leonard Sax has his own ideas and warnings about social media and our teens.  He offers these tips:

“At 9 p.m., collect the cellphones, turn them off and put them on the charger, which goes in the parents’ bedroom, ” he says. “It has to be the parent’s job to parent, not the child’s.”

A lot of parents think they are doing a good job. They have their kids’ Facebook passwords, they look at their kids’ texts and emails. But what parents don’t realize is kids are creating two different identities. The public one that parents are monitoring is on Facebook and uses the parent-provided cellphone. The other identity is on Instagram and Snapchat and It’s posting inappropriate photos they wouldn’t want their parents to see and sharing other people’s photos they wouldn’t want anyone to see. And it’s also buying a prepaid debit card and using it to buy a second cellphone.

Parents need to be on the lookout for that second cellphone and install cyber monitoring services such as Net Nanny, which monitors their Internet use, and My Mobile Watchdog, which allows you to see your child’s text messaging and photos and block websites.

Sax also has more ideas on what we need to do as parents, beyond just controlling our kids’ screen time usage. 

As well, remember, this screen addiction applies to you, too. One study found an increase of injuries to children because of distracted parents on their phones. You’re not parenting if your on your phone.


Another reminder that laundry detergent, dish washer detergent pods are not candy

Because laundry detergent pods pose a hazard for young children, better packaging and more education about their dangers are needed, according to a new study. (Special)
Laundry detergent pods look like candy, which is a problem. 

Those laundry and dishwasher detergent pods could be one of the best recent inventions. Mark me as a fan.

The problem: If you have young kids (and probably pets, too), they probably shouldn’t be in your house or they need to be locked away every time.

The May issue of the American Academy of Pediatrics posted a study about the rise in accidental poisoning in children younger than 6 who tried to eat those laundry and dishwasher detergent pods. They looked at data from the National Poison Data System from 2013-2014. Here’s what researchers found:

There were 62 254 children younger than 6 years old exposed to laundry and dishwasher detergents from 2013 to 2014. The number of exposures to detergent increased over the study period, but the increase was greatest for laundry detergent packets (17 percent) and dishwasher detergent packets (14 percent). Eighty-five percent of children were exposed through ingestion. The odds of clinical effects, hospitalization, intubation, and serious medical outcomes were significantly higher for laundry detergent packet exposures than for other types of detergent. There were 117 children who required intubation (using a breathing tube), and 104 of these were exposed to laundry detergent packets. There were 2 deaths, and both were associated with laundry detergent packets.

So, thank you, Tide and Cascade, for making my life easier, but if I still had babies and toddlers at home, I might stick with the liquid forms for a while.

It has finally happened. No more elephants at Ringling Bros. circus shows

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus will be coming to Austin in August. Photo by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus will be coming to Austin in August.
Photo by Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey

In January, I wrote that the next time the circus comes to town, the elephants wouldn’t be here. On Sunday, the last elephant show at Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus happened in Providence, R.I.

The animals will head to Ringling Bros. elephant sanctuary in Florida to live out their days. Ringling is continuing its breeding program and the elephants will be used in pediatric cancer treatment. I’m sure that will not make the folks at PETA happy.

When we polled you in January, 67 percent said they were glad the change had been made and 32 percent said they would miss the elephants.

Austin already had outlawed the use of a bull hook on elephants last year.  You can still find elephants in the circus when the Ben Hur Shrine Circus comes to Cedar Park Center each year.


Is there a place for spanking? Experts and 50 years of research say no

Fred Roeder, Jr. 18-months, of Ridgewood, Long Island, learns the hard way about refusing his food. His mother applies a hairbrush on his backside. April, 1937 (ACME)
Fred Roeder, Jr. 18-months, of Ridgewood, Long Island, learns the hard way about refusing his food. His mother applies a hairbrush on his backside. April, 1937 (ACME)

We wrote about a new study that looked at 50 years of research that found that spanking causes emotional problems similar to abuse. The research was done by Elizabeth Gershoff, a University of Texas associate professor of human development and family sciences and the University of Michigan. You can read that story here.

And yet, Pew research study found that 45 percent of American parents have spanked a child.

Like many of us, I grew up in a loving household where my mom regularly chased us with a Ping-Pong paddle, a wooden spoon or whatever painful object that she could find at the time we angered her. The ridiculous thing about spanking was we didn’t learn a thing except to run faster than Mom and head for your room. Effectively, she was giving us a time0ut, but got us there by us running away from her Ping-Pong paddle. That, of course, was the 1970s and ’80s.

My kids have grown up in the 2000s and 2010s. I have to say, at some point in their toddler years, I tried out spanking and then remembered why it didn’t work for my mother. Fear was momentary. It didn’t make them ultimately change their behavior and the look of betrayal wasn’t one I’d like to see again.

What I want to hear from you is do you regularly use spanking and how do you use it? When is it effective and when is it not effective? And as an adult of a child who was spanked, do you still have any lingering feelings about that?

“Star Wars,” “Game of Thrones,” “The Walking Dead” all have things to tell us about parenting

geek parentingWhat can Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader teach us? Well, authors Stephen H. Segal and Valya Dudycz Lupescu of “Geek Parenting: What Joffrey, Jor-El, Maleficent, and the McFlys Teach Us about Raising a Family,” ($15.95, Quirk Books), will tell you that the “Star Wars” father-son duo is a lesson in not trying to force your kids to follow in your footsteps. E.T. and his humans give us the lesson: make sure they know to phone home and make sure you’re listening when they call.

The book is full of advice from fictional science fiction characters and how it relates to modern parenting.

Some of our favorites:

Charlie Bucket and Grandpa Joe from “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”: “We should savor life’s sweetness with or without a golden ticket.”

Michonne and Carl Grimes from “The Walking Dead”: “Don’t Wait to become the Walking Dead — be the Walking Alive. Starting today.”

Lord Eddard Stark and the Stark children from “Game of Thrones” give us this lesson in the importance of pets: “A direwolf is a Stark’s best friend.”

The kids from “The Chronicles of Narnia” teach us about imagination in this gem: “Boredom can open magic doors to adventure.”

Doctor Evil and Scott Evil from “Austin Powers” give us this important lesson: “At least frickin’ listen to them, okay?”

So much wisdom within these pages.