Before there was Raising Austin, there was Doublescoop, a column that ran in the Statesman several times a week. The goal was to give kids ideas of what to do during the hours between the end of the school day and dinner time.
Now author Jane Manaster is looking to connect with the kids, who are now in their 40s, who read her column. She wonders if any stayed in touch with the penpals she encouraged. Do they still have the same hobbies or collections? Was there a particular column that was memorable to them?
Austin might be one of the best places to raise a family, but the same survey producer, Wallet Hub, now has a new study that found Texas to be one of the worst states to be a woman. We were No. 42, but what’s more shocking is we are 51st with the highest female uninsured rate. We also were 43rd in women’s preventative health, 36th in quality of women’s hospital, and 30th in women’s hospitals.
Our best numbers: We were 17th in unemployment rate for women and 22nd in high school drop out rate for women.
Even though our unemployment rate was low, we were 38th in the share of women in poverty.
Another striking thing: 46th in the percentage of women who voted in the 2012 presidential elections
Where does Wallet Hub get these numbers?
Here are its sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Educational Statistics, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Violence Policy Center, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Council for Community and Economic Research, U.S. News & World Report, Measure of America and WalletHub research.
It is going to be a perfectly beautiful weekend — a perfect weekend for going on a hike with the family.
To inspire you, take a look at “Families on Foot: Urban Hikes to Backyard Treks and National Park Adventures” by Jennifer Pharr Davis and Brew Davis ($17.95, Falcon). It’s from the American Hiking Society.
The book gives you a step-by-step guide on how to start hiking with your kids and even gives guidelines of fun things to do based on what age they are.
Perhaps some of the best information is the state-by-state directory at the back of different hikes to do. In Texas, it recommends the Summit Trail at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area near Fredericksburg and The Lone Star Hiking Trail, which covers 144 miles between Dallas and Houston in the Sam Houston National Forest.
Closer to home, we love to head out on the trails of Mayfield Park, Mary Moore Searight Park and Zilker Park behind the Austin Science & Nature Center.
Where are your favorite trails to hike with your children?
If your kids love the “Elephant & Piggie” books by Mo Willems, they will be rolling in the aisles of Zach Theatre’s Kleburg Theatre for “Elephant & Piggie’s: We are in a Play.”
The play explores themes of friendship. What happens when a friend breaks a toy? Do you stop being their friend? Of course not. Should you share your ice cream cone with your friend? Probably, though the mother in me that isn’t a fan of sharing germs, would have said, probably not.
It’s all done with larger-than-life movements and silly musical numbers. David Peña as Gerald the elephant has Gerald’s anxiety-filled personality down. Amanda Clifton as Piggie has fun with her carefree spirit.. Rounding out the cast is Megan Richards Wright, Jessica O’Brien and Kelly Petlin as the Squirelles, a girl group made up of squirrels.
The action is going along with Gerald and Piggie filling their day with fun games, going to a party and learning to dance, and then something happens. They look out and realize … They are in a play!!!
Who are those people out there? Why, they are the audience! Soon, they have the audience clapping on cue, saying “banana” over and over again and then doing silly hand motions.
The kids in our audience were eating it up, especially, when they had the grownups do the hand motions.
The musical, directed by Abe Reybold and under the musical direction of Allen Robertson, isn’t deep, thought-proving theater, but it is fun and familiar. Kids preschool through early elementary school will have a ball.
We know this show will pick up a big audience because it’s based on well-loved, familiar books. We just hope that the same audience will also go see “JJ’s Arcade” in April. The bilingual show is written by University of Texas playwright José Casasand being produced by Zach Theatre and Teatro Vivo. Zach’s education department has become the best in town for theater for families through its pioneering bilingual productions. We look forward to seeing what it will do with “JJ’s Arcade.”
“Elephant and Piggie’s: We Are in a Play” 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through April 30 (except March 11). 11 a.m. Saturdays April 15, 22, 29. Sensory-friendly and sign-language interpreted 2 p.m. March 4. $16-$21. Zach Theatre’s Kleberg Theatre, 1421 W. Riverside Drive. zachtheatre.org
Aileen Passariello-McAleer and Christia Madacsi Hoffman wanted their children to learn Spanish at a young age, and they bet that they weren’t the only moms who wanted to create a bilingual environment at home. The Austin moms created the MamaLingua app, which offers real phrases a mom would actually use with her child.
The phrases are things like: Do you have to go to the bathroom? ¿Tienes que ir al baño?, or Do you like this book? ¿Te gusta este libro?
“We’re giving them basic stuff that is relevant,” Passariello-McAleer says. It’s in the context of their everyday life, making it more likely to be memorable rather than learning words and phrases that don’t apply.
The app allows you to set it as English or Spanish as your primary language, and you don’t just read the phrase. It pronounces it for you. There’s also a vocabulary tab of words commonly used. You can select favorites that you personally use often and sort by category or alphabetically.
MamaLingua has a free version as well as a premium version for $7.99 on iTunes and on Google Play. The free version has just a taste of the phrases the premium version has.
New phrases get added to the app, and on MamaLingua’s Facebook page, new offerings are posted regularly. The app is geared for young children birth to age 3, but can extend through early elementary school age.
“It’s straight-forward,” Passariello-McAleer says. “It’s for parents to learn and to teach.” And it’s on a device that parents often have around them — the cellphone.
Passariello-McAleer and Hoffman have backgrounds in language. Passariello’s parents are Venezuelan and she grew up in a bilingual home and speaks only Spanish to her children who are 3 and 6, but her husband speaks English to them. Hoffman studied French in college and lived for a time in her childhood in Hungary.
Passariello-McAleer previously worked at IBM and has a masters of business at University of Texas. Hoffman is a writer and graphic designer, but recently has gotten into acting and can be seen in TV and magazine ad commercials. They connected through their mutual interest in raising bilingual children at a meetup group Passariello-McAleer had started.
Even if Hoffman had studied Spanish instead of French, she says, she wouldn’t have learned the phrases that she would need to speak to her daughter, who is 5.
Other programs, Hoffman says, “It’s one word at a time,” and that’s not how kids pick up language. The early years are when kids are most likely to find it easier to learn a second language, plus their brain in constantly developing the pathways to make language acquisition easier later in their lives. Being bilingual has been show to improve intelligence as well as critical thinking skills.
Passariello-McAleer and Hoffman are working with schools that are either bilingual or have a strong Spanish-speaking population to get them the app. Parents can use it to learn English and their children, who are learning English in school, can use it to help their parents.
They also are working on selling Spanish books for parents to read to their children.
The bluebonnets are coming. Sometime in the next weeks, you’re going to want to take pictures of your family in the bluebonnets. It’s tradition, after all.
6 tips for photographing wildflowers
• The quality of your pictures has more to do with the quality of your lenses than any other factor, including the type of camera you are using.
• Take closeups with a tripod.
• Go early; stay late. Wind is one of the greatest challenges for the wildflower photographer — late afternoons and early mornings are less windy than midday hours.
• Get low. Position your camera at the level of the wildflower you are photographing.
• Check out the background and foreground — and do some minor gardening if necessary.
• Auto settings can be a good starting point, but experimenting with camera speed and aperture settings can yield creative results.
— Joe Marcus, collections manager and native plant information specialist at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
We also would add:
Make sure everyone is well-rested and fed before you go. Don’t try to create magic when magic isn’t possible.
Look carefully where you step. Snakes like to hide among the flowers.
Try to avoid damaging too many flowers. Look for bare spots among the flowers to step and sit.
Be safe by the roadside. We know you like to stop on MoPac Boulevard and Loop 360, but that’s not the greatest place to stop, unload your children, take a picture, and then get back in the car. It’s better to go to a park and walk a little.
Don’t forget sunscreen and bug spray.
Watch out for bees and fire ants and other stinging things.
Watch out for feces — both the dog kind and the wild animal kind.
Think about replanting the wildflowers you damaged. We know you’re going to hurt at least one flower in this process. Clear your conscience by planting seeds in fall. You can even make seed balls with the kids. Here’s the Wildflower Center’s recipe:
Compost (dry humus)
Sand or fine crushed granite
Dry red clay, finely powdered and sifted (not gray or white clay)
Seeds of native plants
Put 1 spoonful of fine or sifted compost in your mixing tray or bowl. Add 1 spoonful of sand. Add 3 spoonfuls of dry red clay.
You may choose one or more kinds of seeds. Pick up the seeds by pinching them between your fingers and place them in a spoon until it is full, and add the spoonful of seeds to the mixing tray.
Mix all the dry ingredients, turning and sifting to coat the seeds with sand, clay and compost.
Slowly add 1 or 2 spoonfuls of water, a little at a time, until the mix is sticky like cookie dough, but not watery.
Roll the “dough” into marble-sized balls. The clay will make the balls sticky and slimy to help them hold their shape.
Repeat to make as many seedballs as you desire.
Let your seedballs dry undisturbed for at least 24 hours.
Seedballs may be stored in a cool, dry place until you are ready to spread them.
When you’re ready, select a sunny spot in your yard. Scatter at least 10 seedballs per square meter (about 11 square feet). You do not need to bury them or water them. They will lie dormant until the right amount of rain falls. The rain starts the germination of the seeds, and when the plants are mature, your yard will explode with beautiful native flowers.
Tinkering Tots: Build the City! 9:45 a.m. Fridays for 2-year-olds; 10:45 a.m. Fridays for 3-year-olds through March 31. $20 a class. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org
Wildflower Center. Sprouts. Hands-on preschool program. 10 a.m. Friday. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. wildflower.org
Literature Live! Presents: “Little Bo Peep.” 3:30 p.m. Friday, Hampton Branch.
Friday and Saturday
Art Workshops: Shaping Spaces. 4 p.m. Friday, Southeast Branch; 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Twin Oaks Branch; 2 p.m. Saturday, Little Walnut Creek Branch.
Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day and Girl Day STEM Festival. Become an engineer for the day. 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday. Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station. girlday.utexas.edu
Hill Country Science Mill Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day. Additional Hands-on activities to try. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Hill Country Science Mill, 101 S. Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City. sciencemill.org
Baby Bloomers for kids infant to 3. Study the garden this month. 9 a.m. Saturday. $5. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org
Wildflower Center. Nature Play Hour. Play in the Family Garden. 11 a.m. Saturdays. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. wildflower.org
Kite Workshop. Make a homemade kite to fly in the Zilker Kite Festival in March. Free. 1-3 p.m. Saturday, Northwest Recreation Center, 2913 Northland Drive.
Texas Museum of Science & Technology. Science Saturday: Ancient Tech. Noon-4 p.m. Saturday. Texas Museum of Science & Technology, 1220 Toro Grande Drive, Cedar Park. txmost.org
BookPeople events. Natalie Grigson reads “Just Call Me Is.” 2 p.m. Saturday. Story times.I Can Do Anything, 11:30 a.m. Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com
Barnes & Noble Events:“The Lego Batman Movie Event,” 2 p.m. Saturday, Sunset Valley, Round Rock. Saturday story times at all locations: Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss, Saturday.
Eat! A Feast in Four Courses: Dessert. Noon, Saturday, University Hills Branch.
Saturday and Sunday
“Puff, the Magic Dragon.” You know the songs and the story. $12-$18. 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St. scottishritetheater.org
“Elephant and Piggie: We Are in a Play!” The Mo Willems story comes to the stage. 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $16-$21. Zach Theatre’s Kleberg Theatre, 1421 W. Riverside Drive. zachtheatre.org
Art Bots. Make recycled robots. For ages 4 and up. 11:15 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. $8. For ages 8 and up. 1:15 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $8. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org
Perler Bead Palooza, 3 p.m. Sunday, Faulk Central Library.
We’ve written a lot about Alzheimer’s and dementia, and we share some of our best stories below.
This weekend Riverbend Church and Alzheimer’s Texas will present its annual GPS Roadmap for Family Caregivers workshop. You’ll learn how to talk to people with Alzheimer’s, what senior living options and home health and hospice options are available and what legal documents are necessary to have.
The event is free and breakfast and lunch is provided. It’s 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Riverbend Church. Register at txalz.org.
This month the companion workbook, “Blueprint to Age Your Way,” is out. It offers fillable forms that cover things like medications, personal wishes about medical care, favorite things, fears, concessions you agree to make when the time comes, service providers and business contacts, friends, financial accounts, real estate and business holdings, insurance, logins and passwords to accounts, funeral and burial wishes, obituary and more.
You can find it at Amazon.com for $39.95.
If you’re facing caring for a family member with Alzheimer’s or dementia, find these stories online:
Austin mom Laura LeMond has two boys ages 14 and 16 who grew up playing flag football. She remembers having to ask a fellow parent, “Who’s that kid who just scored?” When they got older in middle school and high school, she would get a paper roster of the team to try to use to follow the game.
We previously featured LeMond as the founder of Mosaic weighted blankets. Now’s she’s created the app Name the Teammate.
The app allows an administrator to plug in the roster of kids and then give access to the parents on the team. The coach can post the schedule and link to Google maps to get to each field or court. Come game day, the coach can send out email notifications of player positions or record stats and share them. Parents can follow the game and see who just did what. The opposing team can also opt-in and see who the other team’s players are.
LeMond says, as a parent, she has “spent hours of sitting at different sporting events, and I just didn’t know who the kid who was scoring.” The app allows teams to decide what level of information they want to provide.
It does take parent or coach involvement, but LeMond believes many parents would be willing to do it. As any parent who has a kid in sports knows, “it takes a certain amount of dedication to drive the kids and get there. It’s completely self-organized.” Now parents can have a more enriched experience following those games from the bleachers, sidelines or from elsewhere, if they can’t be there.
The app is free on iTunes and Google Play, but eventually there might be a premium version with additional features.
It also looked at the body mass index of the couples and compared non-obese women and men to the most obese men and women in the study who had a BMI of 35 or greater. What it found was that it took the obese couples 59 percent longer to get pregnant.
The study proved what fertility doctors were experiencing in their offices.
We talked to two fertility doctors, brothers Parviz Kavoussi, who specializes in male infertility, and Shahryar Kavoussi, who specializes in female infertility, both at Austin Fertility & Reproductive Medicine, about why obesity would affect fertility.
It’s often about the hormone levels and what extra fat does to those levels, they say. In men, a hormone imbalance can cause more testosterone to be converted to estrogen and fat. “The more that’s converted, the more it’s bad for sperm production and function,” Parviz Kavoussi says.
The other problem is that the excess fat, especially around the abdomen, might cause the testicles to be too warm. Testicles need to be 2 to 4 degrees cooler than the rest of the body for good sperm production.
In women, the problem is the estrogen to androgen ratio. That ratio has to be correct in order for a woman to ovulate. Those hormones don’t even have to be imbalanced for less ovulation, says Shahryar Kavoussi. “Just because they are obese, for some reason they do not achieve pregnancy.” More research needs to be done on why that is.
The Kavoussis like to look at the whole health picture in their patients. Is there a reason for the extra weight such as a hormone imbalance, which also might be causing the infertility? Can they solve that problem and by doing so increase fertility?
If it’s not something easily correctable with hormone replacements and more about lifestyle, then the Kavoussis would counsel their patients to work on that and give them time to lose the weight and be the healthiest they can be in order to get pregnant and have a healthy pregnancy.
“It’s better to have a healthier lifestyle and try to lose weight through diet and exercise,” Shahryar Kavoussi says, but he’s also very aware that the decision to lose weight is very personal.
In women who are older, though, waiting to lose weight might not be a good thing. “We don’t have time to take three months to six months for her to lose weight,” Shahryar Kavoussi says. “Time can take a toll on eggs.”
The study proves what the Kavoussis already knew, but more needs to be known about why obesity and infertility are linked and what can be done beyond improving hormone levels and beyond losing weight.