Theirs was a complicated relationship, for sure. The public really only knows about it from pictures of taken when Carrie Fisher was growing up as well as from Fisher’s own writing in books like “Postcards from the Edge.”
Their relationship — or at least the public persona of it — reminds me of some of the unhealthy relationships I see as a fellow parent and as a Girl Scout troop leader:
Parents living vicariously through their children.
Parents not allowing their children to make their own choices.
Parents who speak for their children instead of teaching their children how to talk to adults.
Parents not allowing their children to suffer the real consequences of their actions.
Parents waiting hand and foot on their children and not requiring their children to have any responsibilities in the forms of chores.
Parents checking the online grading system every day.
Parents emailing the teacher and fighting their children’s battles for them.
Parents doing their children’s homework for them — especially when it comes to science fair projects.
Parents who post on Facebook all the achievements that Johnny did that day, and yet never post that Johnny also stole a friend’s iPad and was in detention.
Parents who give in and give in and give in to whatever whim their children want.
Parents who are going broke doing so.
Parents who haven’t taught their children basic life skills such as how to manage money, how to load and unload a dishwasher, how to do the laundry, how to cook a few basic meals, how to drive.
Parents who want to be the cool mom or the cool dad rather than the parent who sets expectations, limits and consequences.
Parents who don’t really want to parent.
And so, if you have observed all of those things, or have perhaps done all of those things, what is a parent to do?
In the past year, we’ve really taken a hard look at some of the parenting skills or lack there of we’ve observed, and talked to a few experts about it.
By the way, I’m not perfect either. I’ve probably done every single one of those things I listed and I’m currently waiting for my 13-year-old daughter to announce what food I need to fetch her for dinner because she can’t stand the food currently available to her.
Tooth fairies and sisters Bella Donna and Stella Donna came to visit my children on a regular basis. They left detailed notes in flowery writing — often in green or pink pen. They did the usual tooth fairy things — remind kids to brush their teeth and floss — but they also knew things about my children such as their favorite pajamas or TV show. They had their own personalities based on the children they visited.
It was a great ruse until my daughter lost a tooth at summer camp and the counselor just handed my child the note and the treasure as soon as the tooth fell out. On the car ride home, the gig was up — not only for then 8-year-old Ava, but also her 11-year-old brother Ben, (really, Ben?) both of whom truly believed in Bella and Stella.
I’ve kept Bella and Stella’s notes in a box in my closet. It’s a toss up of who had more fun — me writing the notes or them receiving them. Occasionally we still talk about Bella and Stella — especially Stella, who by the time she came on the scene for Ava, sometimes forgot what her name was. (Sorry, kid, this mom was really tired by then.)
Creating a magical world for your children, whether it be the tooth fairy, the elf on the shelf, the friendly monster under the bed, creates lasting memories, treasured stories that only your family shares. It’s some of that great glue that binds you together.
If you don’t have some family magic that is only yours, make 2017 the year you do it. Write your children letters and save them, or if you deliver the stories in spoken form, make sure to write them down somewhere. As the saying goes: the days are long, but the years are short. The things you think you’ll remember forever — like Stella’s name — get forgotten.
Austinite Mauri Jane King, 29, took the stories her father left for her each morning and turned them into a children’s book, “The Adventures of Pootsey the Wonderbug.” Her father, lobbyist Wayne T. Franke, started leaving Pootsey notes when King was 9 turning 10. Most mornings when her father was in town, he’d leave a note from Pootsey by the cereal bowl. It was a way for him to connect with his daughter.
“He found little ways that were actually really big to make sure that I knew that I mattered,” King says.
Each note had a story of Pootsey’s adventure living with a girl named Mauri Jane and a cat named Tippy (King’s real cat when she was that age).
King and Franke don’t even remember why he started the Pootsey notes or why he stopped writing them about five months later. “My dad is one of those people who makes a decision and does it,” she says. “It’s pretty normal.”
King kept the stories in a box in her room. At some point during school, she create an illustrated album of the Pootsey stories. The Pootsey letters and the illustrated album then sat on a shelf for years, but they never went away.
Her father kept encouraging her to turn them into a book, but she was busy with college and then graduate school.
Then two years ago, when King’s daughter Elizabeth was 2 months old, King looked at the Pootsey stories in a new light and started working on turning them into a published book.
Many of Pootsey’s adventures from 20 years ago made it into the book. King turned them into a cohesive story and added more humor. She teamed up with illustrator Katrina Misley, who created an illustrated world that looks exactly like King’s house did when she was 10. Originally, King was going to keep the main character’s name Mauri Jane, but thought that might be weird with the author and the main character having the same name. Instead, she used her daughter’s name, Elizabeth, but the Elizabeth in the book looks like King did as a 10-year-old, not like the real Elizabeth.
The book is now available on the websites for Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Westbow Press as well as on pootseythewonderbug.com. King hopes to grow the Pootsey brand into more adventures, more books. Franke even envisions a stuffed toy of Pootsey.
“Every parent should be so lucky,” Franke says of his daughter turning his stories into a book. “I learn as much from her now as she ever learned from me.”
Franke has continued the tradition of writing to the next generation. A few months before Elizabeth was born, he encouraged King to get an email for her. A couple of times a week he writes to Elizabeth. King plans to print out grandpa’s emails and put them in an album for when Elizabeth is older.
King also has been keeping a journal for Elizabeth since she was pregnant and plans to continue writing to Elizabeth and her sister, who is due in February.
“This came from something that was really little,” King says about the book. “It took five minutes a day and turned into a family tradition.”
We’re looking ahead to next month with our list of family-friendly events. Did we miss something? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Ben Hur Shrine Circus.” Kick off the circus’ arrival with an elephant brunch noon Jan. 13. . Watch the elephants eat, see the clowns and more. Free. Then see the circus.7:30 p.m. Jan. 13-14, 11 a.m. Jan. 14 and 16, 3 p.m. Jan. 14, 1:30 p.m. Jan. 15, 5:30 p.m. Jan. 15 and 4 p.m. Jan. 16. , $9-$35. H-E-B Center 2100 Avenue of the Stars. hebcenter.com.
Child Passenger Safety Car Seat Check Event. Get your car seats checked. Free. 9 a.m. Jan. 3. Dove Springs Recreation Center, 5801 Ainez Drive. 9 a.m. Jan. 9. CommUnity Care Clinic, 1210 W. Braker Lane. 9 a.m. Jan. 19, Gus Garcia Recreation Center, 1201 E. Rundberg Lane. austintexas.gov.
“Mutt-cracker (Sweet).” Circus Chickendog does “The Nutcracker” with rescue dogs. $25 adults $15 children. 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 1-3, and 6-8. Vortex, 2307 Manor Road. vortexrep.org.
“Disney’s The Little Mermaid.” The story of Ariel comes to the stage in this musical. $19-$30. 7:30 p.m. Jan. 6-7, 13-14, 2 p.m. Jan. 8, Jan. 15. Palace Theatre, 810 S. Austin Ave., Georgetown. georgetownpalace.com.
“Charlotte’s Web.” Aerial artists Sky Candy bring the spider to life. 11 a.m. Jan. 7, Jan. 14, and 2 p.m. Jan. 7-9, Jan. 14-15, $16-$21. Zach Theatre’s Kleberg Theatre, 1421 W. Riverside Drive. zachtheatre.org.
“Call of the Wild.” Theater Heroes brings Jack London’s story comes to life using projected illustrations as part of the Paramount Discovery series. $18. 2 p.m. Jan. 14-15 and 7 p.m. Jan. 14. Stateside at the Paramount, 719 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org.
“Odd Squad Live.” The PBS Kids show comes to the stage and Ms. O needs you to help solve the mystery. 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Jan. 15. $15-$32. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org
“The Thing in Grandma’s Closet.” Pollyanna Theater presents this story of two siblings finding something mysterious in their grandmother’s closet. Best for third- to fifth-graders. 2 p.m. Jan. 28-29, Feb. 4-5. $10.50-$13.50. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org
African Children’s Choir. Hear this choir from Uganda. 7 p.m. Jan. 4. Free. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org
“Pokémon Symphonic Evolutions.” Hear the music of Pokémon cartoons and video games in symphony form. 7:30 p.m. Jan. 7. $29-$89. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org
Bullock Museum.Little Texans. Drop in and play for ages 2 to 5. 10 a.m. Jan. 12. Science Thursdays. Hands-on activities from Central Texas Discover Engineering including boat races. 10 a.m. Jan. 19. Story time. For ages 2 to 5. Learn about the new year. 10 a.m. Jan. 26. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com
Neill-Cochran House Museum. Sunday Funday: Hot air balloons and gliders. Create your own flying machine. 1-4 p.m. Jan. 8. Free. Neill-Cochran House, 2310 San Gabriel St. nchmuseum.org
Thinkery. Early Learner’s Workshops: “A Snowy Day.” Play with “snow.” 9:45 a.m. Jan. 2 (1 year olds); 10:45 a.m. Jan. 2 (2 year olds); and 11:45 a.m. Jan. 2 (3 year olds). $20. “Things that Glow.” Investigate things that glow in the dark. 9:45 a.m. Jan. 16 (1 year olds); 10:45 a.m. Jan. 16 (2 year olds); and 11:45 a.m. Jan. 16 (3 year olds). $20. Little Thinkers Club: Art Start: Discovering Color, Lines and Shapes. 9:45 a.m. Wednesdays for 1-year-olds, 10:45 a.m. Wednesdays for 2-year-olds through Jan. 25. $20 per class. Tinkering Tots: Let’s Create a Soundscape. 9:45 a.m. Fridays for 2-year-olds; 10:45 a.m. Fridays for 3-year-olds through Jan. 27. $20 a class. Baby Bloomers for kids infant to 3. Study light this month. 9 a.m. Jan. 7, 9, 14, 21, 23, 28 and 30. Special guests throughout the month. $5. Petri Dish Art. For ages 4 and up. 11:15 a.m., 1:15 p.m. or 3:15 p.m. Jan. 7-8, Jan. 21-23. $8. Plush Pillows. Sew a pillow. For ages 8 and up. 11:15 a.m. Jan. 14-16, Jan. 28-29. $8. Digital Bling. For ages 8 and up. Sew a creation with bling. 1:15 p.m. or 3:15 p.m. Jan. 14-16, Jan. 28-29. $8. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org
Contemporary Austin. Families Create! Hoop Around. Make art using circular fabric dyeing technique. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 14. Free. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St. thecontemporaryaustin.org
Hill Country Science Mill. Snowy Day. The outdoor Science & Art Park at the Mill will be transformed into a winter wonderland. Launch snowballs with the catapult, build a snowman, play an ice xylophone. Bring your mittens. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Jan. 14. Hill Country Science Mill, 101 S. Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City. sciencemill.org.
Zilker Botanical Garden. Winter Faerie Tea Party. Dress in your fairy gear and learn about fairies as well as make fairy crafts. $16. 11 a.m. or 2:30 p.m. Jan. 15. Faerie Luminaries. Create glass luminaries for fairies. $16. 11 a.m. or 2:30 p.m. Jan. 22. Zilker Botanical Garden: Auditorium, 2220 Barton Springs Road. zilkergarden.org.
Wildflower Center. Sprouts. Hands-on preschool program. 10 a.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. Nature Play Hour. Play in the Family Garden. 11 a.m. Saturdays. Freaky Friday. See what creatures live in the Wildflower Center gardens. 7-9 p.m. Jan. 13. $10-$15. The Amazing Family Race. See if you’re up for the challenge. 1-3 p.m. Jan. 14. $15 per family. Winter Tree Fest. Celebrate trees and climb one in the arboretum. There will be s’mores. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Jan. 28. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. wildflower.org.
PBS Kids at the Alamo. “Ready! Jet! Go!” Watch episodes of this PBS Kids show. $1-$3 donation. 10 a.m. Jan. 14 and Jan. 15. Slaughter Lane Alamo Drafthouse. drafthouse.com
BookPeople events. Alexandra Bracken and Susan Dennard read “Wayfarer” and “Windwitch.” 2 p.m. Jan. 8. Chandler Baker, Kim Liggett, Neal Shusterman read and sign “Teen Hyde,” “The Last Harvest: and “Scythe.” 7 p.m. Jan. 13. Pascal Simon, Bake Austin Kids. 2 p.m. Jan. 21. Cynthia Levinson reads “The Youngest Marcher.” 2 p.m. Jan. 28. Kat Kronenberg reads “Dream Big,” 4 p.m. Jan. 29. Story times. Let it Snow. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 3. Milly McSilly. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 4. I’m in the Mood for Story time. 11:30 a.m. Jan. 7. A Very Knightly Story time. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 10. Ms. Staci. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 11. Tea Time for Story time. 11:30 a.m. Jan. 14. Armstrong Community Music School. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 17. Tiny Tails to You Petting Zoo. 10:30 am. Jan. 18. Color Me Crazy. 11:30 a.m. Jan. 21. Imagination Station. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 24. Preposterous Puppet Show Players. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 25. Paramount Theatre. 11:30 a.m. Jan. 28. All the Little Things. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 31. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com
Barnes & Noble Events:Lego Skyline London and Chicago building event. 7 p.m. Jan. 5, all stores. 11 a.m. Saturday story times at all locations: “Clifford’s Good Deeds,” (with sign-language interpretation, Sunset Valley), Jan. 7; “How do Dinosaurs Choose Their Pets?” Jan. 14; “Nanette’s Baguette,” (with sign-language interpretation, Sunset Valley), Jan. 21; “I’ll Never Let You Go,” Jan. 28.
At the library
“Sew Happy.” 5 p.m. Jan. 3, Manchaca Road Branch.
The Contemporary Austin Presents: Preschool Art Hour. 11 a.m. Jan. 5, Hampton Branch; 11 a.m. Jan. 6, North Village Branch.
Each year, I offer this primer on explaining Hanukkah to your kids.
How long does Hanukkah last?
In 2017 Hanukkah, starts on the evening of Dec. 12 and goes through the day of Dec. 20. It’s eight nights total.
Why does Hanukkah always seem to skip around the month of December?
Hanukkah follows the Hebrew calendar. It’s always the 25th day of the month of Kislev. Because the Hebrew calendar is lunar based and includes leap months instead of leap years, it doesn’t line up with the solar calendar the secular world uses, but in general Hanukkah usually starts sometime in the month of December. Occasionally it starts as early as the end of November and goes as late as the first week of January. In 2013, it just happened that the first day was Thanksgiving, creating the new holiday of “Thanksgivukkah.” Last year, the first day was Christmas, the first night was Christmas Eve, but that’s just a coincidence.
What’s the story?
It’s a war story that’s been romanticized. Judah Maccabee and his four brothers led a revolt against the Assyrian Greeks, who had taken over Jerusalem in the second century BCE. The Maccabees won and regained control of the Temple. It had been trashed. They cleaned it up and went to light the ritual menorah lamp but could only find enough oil to last one night. The miracle was that it lasted eight nights, giving the Maccabees enough time to make more oil. We celebrate Hanukkah for eight nights because of this story.
Is it Hanukkah or Chanukah?
It’s Hebrew, so the correct spelling is in Hebrew letters. There are many transliterations. None of them are wrong or right.
Is Hanukkah a major holiday?
Nope. Yom Kippur and Passover are much more important. Hanukkah only became a big deal in the last century as Jews and Christians lived side by side, and Jewish children felt left out. (But don’t tell that to any Jewish children; they love this holiday.)
What do you do with a menorah?
In the modern tradition, each night a special menorah for Hanukkah called a Hanukkiah is lit. The Hanukkiah holds nine candles, one for each night, and the Shamash, a helper candle that lights the other candles. On the first night, you light the Shamash first, and one candle on the far right side of the Hanukkiah. Each night you add a candle and light the newest candle first, moving left to right.
There are blessings in Hebrew or English to be said:
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who performed wondrous deeds for our ancestors in days of old at this season.
For first night only: Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shehecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higianu laz’man hazeh.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this season.
What about presents?
Each family has a different tradition, but the most common is kids get a present a night for eight nights. The presents only happen after lighting the menorah.
Is there a Hanukkah Harry?
No, that’s a “Saturday Night Live” skit. Kids receive presents from their parents, grandparents, friends, etc.
Is there a Hanukkah bush?
Not really, but some Jewish families do decide to have a small tree because they want a tree like their Christian friends.
What do you eat?
Well, on Hanukkah, it’s all about the oil. There are two traditional foods. The first is sufganiyot, which are jelly doughnuts. The second is latkes, potato pancakes. You mix grated potatoes, diced onions, salt and pepper together, and add egg and matzo meal (or flour) until you can form a patty. Fry in a frying pan with about an 1/8 inch of oil in it. Tip: Use shredded hashbrowns to skip the grating.
Need something more challenging. Try latkes made out of sweet potatoes, zucchini or squash, or skip the latkes and make sufganiyot. Here is our favorite recipe:
Sufganiyot (Israeli Jelly Doughnuts)
1 (1/4 ounce) package of active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup milk
6 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, softened
3 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon table salt
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
5 cups vegetable oil
1 cup jelly
Confectioner’s’ sugar or granulated sugar for dusting
Dissolve the yeast in the water. Stir in 1 teaspoon of sugar and let stand until foamy, 5 to 10 minutes. Blend in the milk, remaining sugar, butter, egg yolks, salt, nutmeg and 2 cups flour. Beat in enough of the remaining flour to make a smooth, soft dough.
Cover and let rise until double in bulk, about 1 1/4 hours.
Punch down the dough. Fold over and press together several times. Let stand for 10 minutes. Roll out the dough 1/4 inch-thick. Cut out 2 1/2- to 3 1/2-inch rounds. Place in a single layer on a lightly floured surface. Cover and let rise until double in bulk, about 1 hour.
Heat at least 2 inches of oil over medium heat to 375 degrees. You can use a fryer or a large saucepan.
Using an oiled spatula, carefully lift the doughnuts and drop them, top side down into the oil. Fry 3 or 4three or four at a time without crowding the pan, turning once, until golden brown on all sides, about 1 1/2 minutes per side. Remove with a wire mesh skimmer or tongs and drain on a wire rack.
To fill with jelly, pierce one end of each doughnut with a thin knife. Place jelly in a cookie press or a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch hole or nozzle tip and pipe through the slit. You can also use a small spoon. Roll the doughnuts in sugar. Yields 16 medium doughnuts.
— “The World of Jewish Desserts” by Gil Marks
Of course, we also like to hit the prepared doughnut circuit, too. This year, we’re in Pittsburgh, so we hit Peace, Love and Little Donuts, which offers everything skips the plain Jane doughnuts and goes for unusual ones like maple bacon (so not Kosher) and salted chocolate.
What do you play?
Dreidel is the most common game. Each side of the dreidel has a Hebrew letter that stands for the phrase: Nes Gadol Haya Sham (A great miracle happened there). You can play with as many players as you want. Each player should start with the same number of pennies, M&Ms, raisins or the traditional chocolate coins called gelt. Each player puts one penny into the pot in the middle. You take turns rolling the dreidel. If it lands on a Nun (which looks like a blocky backward C) you get none of the pot. If you land on a Gimmel (which looks like a blocky backward C with a tail), you get all of the pot. If you land on a Hay (which looks like an upside down L with a small line to one side), you get half of the pot. If you land on a Shin (which looks like a W), you put one penny into the pot. You keep playing until someone has all of the pennies or until it’s time for bed.
Like many kids, 7-year-old R.J. Arnold and his little sister Lauren, 4, wanted a Hatchimal for Christmas. His mother Geneva Arnold wanted to make that happen. So, before the Christmas shopping season even began, Geneva Arnold was looking for Hatchimals.
She had gone to stores. She was even looking on eBay. R.J. saw his mother looking on eBay and told her, “Look, there’s a ton of them right there.” Ahh, but he didn’t understand the prices that were coming with the normally $80 toy.
R.J. sees it this way: “For some reason, the black market is not being nice on Christmas. It’s not having the Christmas spirit. It’s making higher prices ,which is wrong.” Yes, 7-year-old R.J. knows about the black market.
Geneva Arnold, though, was determined to get her children Hatchimals, and not at the eBay prices. The Salado mom went
into Walmart every morning. She left her name with some of the supervisors to call her if a new shipment came in. She was able to get the two she was looking for, and then she was able to get four more on Black Friday.
R.J. helped her decide that instead of selling them and turning around and making a profit like other people were doing on eBay, they should donate them to the Baylor Scott & White McClane’s Children’s Hospital in Temple.
“It’s just not fair that some kids don’t get as much toys as I have,” he said. “It would be nice if they can get something. They won’t have a good Christmas if they are stuck in the hospital.”
On Friday, they did just that. They donated four Hatchimals to children in the hospital.
R.J. likes Hatchimal because you can teach them things. He’s already told his mom that if Santa brings him one, he plans on teaching it how to clean.
I’ve got free tickets to a free screening of “A Monster Calls.” The movie is based on the book by Patrick Ness and stars Sigourney Weaver as the grandmother, Felicity Jones as the mother, Toby Kebbell as the dad, and Lewis MacDougall as 12-year-old Conor. Liam Neeson is the voice of the monster. Conor is struggling with his mother’s illness when a monster shows up at his bedroom window one night. It’s rated PG-13 and there’s a few scary bits.
The new Alamo Drafthouse in the Mueller neighborhood was pitched as one that would be more family-friendly than some of the other, more adult ones. While the schedule is a bit murky of when it’s going to open (early 2017, we’re told), we do know about one cool new feature: The Barrel O’ Fun.
By day, this carnival-themed event space will be like a vintage boardwalk with carnival games, kid-friendly activities and entertainers. By night (after 5 p.m.), it switches to an adult space called the Bar O’ Fun. The carnival games will fold into the ceiling and you’ll be able to see a selection of liquors and craft beers. Bar O’ Fun will offer live music, karaoke and carnival night. Great for when you have a baby sitter.
“This is going to be a great new play space for Austin’s next generation of film and fun lovers,” said Amy Averett, director of family and community engagement in a press release. “In the great Alamo Drafthouse tradition, we are pushing ourselves to design and program this location in a whole new way.”
It’s no fun to be sick far away from home. On the 2003 Cross-Country Great-Grandmother Tour, Benjamin Villalpando started the first leg of the trip to California throwing up on the plane. That continued all through California. Then when we flew from San Francisco to West Palm Beach, Fla., the diarrhea set in. By the time we flew back to Austin, he was fine, of course. I was a wreck and felt like I could never get the smell out of all of my clothes.
That really clued me in that I needed to always have a change of clothes for the kid and a change of clothes for myself as well on any airplane flight. It also made me very well-versed in finding the 24-hour pharmacy in any town as well as calling the nurse helpline. This was, or course, before the days of the urgent care centers on every block.
Baylor Scott & White’s Dr. Bradley Berg offers these suggestions for traveling with children. They are even tips he uses himself:
Diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and Meclizine (Dramamine) for nasal drainage and travel sickness.
Ondansetron (Zofran) for nausea or vomiting. Dr. Berg always tries to convince or ask his pediatrician nicely for this prescription during a well-check or sick visits during the year. That way he always has it on hand.
We also like to have a small first aid kit with us at all times: Something to stop the blood, something to clean a cut, something to wrap an ankle.
3. Get a list of the pediatric urgent care clinic and hours at the locations you’re traveling to, in case things happen and you need to take your children there.
For example, if your children have high fevers, multiple episodes of vomiting or diarrhea, Baylor Scott & White pediatricians advise having them evaluated within 24-48 hours. And if they test positive for flu, then it’s within the 48 hour time frame to have Tamiflu prescribed.
Also don’t forget to have your insurance card and a list of regular medications your child takes as well as food or drug allergies. That information are some of the first things the triage department will ask you for.
4. Always supervise your children to minimize risk for injuries and children being lost. Older children should be taught to memorize their parents’ phone numbers and home addresses. (We were also known to write down our cellphone numbers on their arm in permanent marker whenever we were going to a crowded place. We also drilled in to find another mom with children or an employee in a uniform if they got lost.)
This is also a time where kids are getting new toys. Be aware that the most dangerous toy — the one that sends the most kids to the emergency room — is probably not one you would think about. Nor are a lot of the toy dangers. Read this story on what to watch for in toys.
5. Use sunscreen, even though we’re in winter. Moisturize skin daily and use lip moisturizers, too. Ask me about the time my whole Girl Scout troop had wind burn. I think I can still hear the whining two years later.
Whether your kids are already on vacation or getting out on Tuesday, you’ll need some things to do. Here are some family-friendly events for the next two weeks.
Elgin Christmas Tree Farm. Hayride, pick your own tree, crazy maze, playground and more. Open 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. through Dec. 21. 120 Nature’s Way, Elgin. elginchristmastreefarm.com
Evergreen Christmas Tree Farm. Cut your own tree and play old-fashioned games or roast marshmallows. 10 a.m. to dark through Dec. 24. 242 Monkey Road, Elgin. evergreen-farms.com
Trail of Lights. See Zilker Park all lit up. 7-10 p.m. Dec. 18-23 for ages 12 and older.$3, $15 parking passes or ride the shuttle for $5, which includes admission. Shuttles leave from Burger Center, 3200 Jones Road, and Republic Square Park, 422 Guadalupe St. austintrailoflights.org
Teddy Bear Tea at the Four Seasons. Enjoy a traditional tea service, reading of “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” and a visit with Santa. Bring an unwrapped new teddy bear for Dell Children’s Medical Center. $45, must make reservation at 512-685-8300. Noon and 3 p.m. Dec. 18. Four Seasons, 98 San Jacinto Blvd. fourseasons.com/austin
Thinkery.Little Thinkers Club: Art Start: Discovering Color, Lines and Shapes. 9:45 a.m. Wednesdays for 1-year-olds, 10:45 a.m. Wednesdays for 2-year-olds through Jan. 25. $20 per class. Tinkering Tots: Let’s Create a Soundscape. 9:45 a.m. Fridays for 2-year-olds; 10:45 a.m. Fridays for 3-year-olds through Jan. 27. $20 a class. Baby Bloomers Winter Fun for kids infant to 3. 9 a.m. Saturday. $4.50. Candy Chemistry Gingerbread Workshop. For ages 7 and up. 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Dec. 18-23. $12 per person plus $30 per kit. Tech Gingerbread Workshop. For ages 8 and up. 2:30-5 p.m. Dec. 18-23. 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Dec. 24. $12 per person plus $30 per kit. Traditional Gingerbread Workshops and Tot Gingerbread Workshops (for ages 5 and younger). 9:30 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 10:45, a.m. 11 a.m., 2:45 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Dec. 18, Dec. 19-23, Dec. 24, plus noon Dec. 19-23, and 1:30 p.m. Dec. 19-23. $12 per person plus $20 per kit. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org
Hill Country Science Mill. Mosaic Artwork. Be part of creating a holiday mosaic. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Dec. 19-23. Hill Country Science Mill, 101 S. Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City. sciencemill.org.
Ballet Austin’s “The Nutcracker.” 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20 and 2 p.m. Dec. 18, 20-23. $15-$89. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org
Tapestry Dance Company’s “Of Mice & Music.” See “The Nutcracker” in tap.2 p.m. Sunday. $34-$13.50. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org
“Wassail 2016: A Solstice Christmas Celebration.” A variety show featuring music, magic, dance and poetry. Benefiting Kids for Kids to help children in Darfur. 2:30 p.m. Dec. 18 (shorter version), 5:30 p.m. Dec. 18. $5-$15. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St. scottishritetheater.org.
“Petra and the Wolf.” Mother Falcon and the puppetry of Glass Half Full Theater tell this “Peter and the Wolf” adaptation. 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Dec. 18. $22. Stateside at the Paramount, 719 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org.
BookPeople events. Story time. Armstrong Music School. 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com
At the library
NBTween Book Club: “Gregor the Overlander,” by Suzanne Collins. 6 p.m. Dec. 21, Spicewood Springs Branch.“Ghosts” by Raina Telgemeier. 6 p.m. Dec. 21, Yarborough Branch.
Family Movie Matinee: “The BFG.” 4 p.m. Dec. 20, Cepeda Branch.
A Magical Holiday Party. 5:30 p.m. Dec. 20, Southeast Branch.
Mostly Manga Bookclub: “My Hero Academia.” 5 p.m. Dec. 21, University Hills Branch.
Harlem Globetrotters. Start whistling now. The twirling basketball stars are back. 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Dec. 28. $17-$130. Erwin Center, 1701 Red River St. uterwincenter.com
“Mutt-cracker (Sweet).” Circus Chickendog does “The Nutcracker” with rescue dogs. $25 adults $15 children. 4 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 28-Jan. 8. Vortex, 2307 Manor Road. vortexrep.org
Thinkery.Not a Box! Use your imagination based on the book by Antoinette Portis, “It’s Not a Box.” 9:45 a.m. Dec. 26 for 1-year-olds; 10:45 a.m. Dec. 26 for 2-year-olds; 11:45 a.m. Dec. 26 for 3-year-olds. $20 one child and adult. Little Thinkers Club: Art Start: Discovering Color, Lines and Shapes. 9:45 a.m. Wednesdays for 1-year-olds, 10:45 a.m. Wednesdays for 2-year-olds through Jan. 25. $20 per class. Tinkering Tots: Let’s Create a Soundscape. 9:45 a.m. Fridays for 2-year-olds; 10:45 a.m. Fridays for 3-year-olds through Jan. 27. $20 a class. Baby Bloomers Winter Fun for kids infant to 3. 9 a.m. Saturday. $4.50. New Year’s Eve Balloon Drop and Stomp. Noon and 2 p.m. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org
Hill Country Science Mill. Mosaic Artwork. Be part of creating a holiday mosaic. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Dec. 26-30. Hill Country Science Mill, 101 S. Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City. sciencemill.org.
BookPeople events. Hanukkah story time. 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. Holiday Catalogstory time. 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com
Barnes & Noble Events:11 a.m. Saturday story times at all locations: “Hap-Pea All Year,” Dec. 31.
Warning, parents. When your kids are out of school, their potential to gain weight goes up. Paul T. vonHippel, an associate professor at the Center for Health and Social Policy at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas, worked with Joseph Workman of Nuffield College at the University of Oxford. They crunched the data using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study and published their findings in the Obesity Symposium this fall.
The longitudinal study measured the heights and weights of 18,170 U.S. children in the 2010-2011 kindergarten class. It took measurements in fall and spring through their second-grade years.
What the number crunching told vonHippel and Workman might surprise parents. We think of our kids as being more active in the summer. They swim, they run around, they might even be outside more than in the winter. Yet, they also gain weight. In fact, the numbers showed that the only time the prevalence of obesity or being overweight rose among these 18,170 kids was the summer between their kindergarten and first-grade years and the summer between their second-grade and first-grade years.
What this study seems to point to is that kids’ behaviors change in the summer. “The out-of-school influences are affecting obesity,” vonHippel says. He points to things like unlimited access to food all day long and more time spent on sedentary activities such as watching TV or playing on the computer, as some of the possible factors.
These rises in obesity or being overweight also suggests that the emphasis on school-based healthy eating education is not working.
“Obesity rates are still where they were in 2004,” vonHippel says. That was the time where more concern about what kids were being served in school cafeterias and how much exercise they were getting in school lead to some changes in cafeteria menus and schools adding more teaching of health values such as Go, Slow and Whoa Foods and the importance of exercise.
VonHippel has some ideas of what can be done to limit the effect summer vacation, winter break and spring break can have on children.
He’d like to see more summer activity programs for kids to be active, as well as families exercising together and eating better during breaks. When he looks at the role TV might be playing, it might not just be the sedentary activity of it. It could also be the amount of food marketing directed toward children.
All eyes are on Chile right now. It recently banned food marketing to children, including television commercials, for foods that are high in sugar, sodium, calories and fat. Sugar cereal boxes there also come with warning labels.
Researchers will study Chile’s obesity rates and see if they go down with these changes.
There are things parents can do right now to reduce the weight gain during these breaks.
This might mean you check your pantry and refrigerator for what foods you are keeping on-hand. Are they healthy or are they the junk food we all crave that tends to multiply this time of year? Sub out the candy, cookies and chips for more fruits and vegetables.
You also can encourage water drinking by filling stockings with cool water bottles or adding pitchers of water with slices of cucumber, lemons or limes to your refrigerator.
Winter break also doesn’t have to mean unlimited screen time. Shut off the TV, the tablets, the computers, the phones and head outside for a walk to see the neighbors’ Christmas lights or play a pick up game of basketball, tennis or soccer as a family