How to celebrate New Year’s Eve with the kids

Oh, the revelry of New Year’s Eve: the drinking, the debauchery, the first kiss of the new year. Perfect for kids, right? Not so much.

If you’re looking for something family-friendly to do with the kids, we have two local events designed for that:

Austin’s New Year. A family-friendly New Year’s Eve party with events throughout the day beginning at 3 p.m. Fireworks are at 10 p.m. Step into the Kids Magic Forest for the Bike Zoo, Dark Stack Media’s liquid light show, a giant Austin piñata, a stop-motion animation station, a crafting station, a magical fairy world and a train. Auditorium Shores, 900 W. Riverside Drive. austintexas.gov

New Year’s Eve Balloon Drop & Bubble Wrap Stomp! Ring in 2018 with crafts, snowball fights and balloon drops at noon and 2 p.m. Tickets required: $12. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Jonathan Davis dances with his 8-year-old daughter, Gigi, at Austin’s New Year at Auditorium Shores in 2013.  JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

You also can create your own memories at home.

Here are some ideas:

  1. Look through all of your photos from the year with the kids and create a collage together. You can go to photo printing sites or even drug stores with photo printing capabilities (like CVS, Walgreens, Walmart), and create the collage and then have it printed for framing or for a scrapbook. You can even turn them into New Year’s cards if you didn’t get around to the holiday cards this year. The important thing is to remember all the good (and bad) times you had.
  2. Create a ritual of letting go of the past. If your kids are young you can write down or draw  the bad memories of the past year and tear up those papers into pieces. If they are older, light a fire and throw the pieces of paper into the fire. Roasting marshmallows afterwards could be an added bonus.
  3. Create a family resolution. Do you want to spend more time together? Eat dinner together? Have screen-free times? Do the laundry better? Or maybe you want to finally do something fun you’ve been putting off.
  4. Take a New Year’s Eve walk around the neighborhood. This is your last chance to see the Christmas lights around the neighborhood.
  5. Party at home. Make hors d’oeuvres, watch a movie and toast the new year with sparkling grape juice. Get noise makers and hats to really make it a party. Dance around at whatever you decide your midnight is (could be 8 p.m., maybe even 9 or 10) and count down with gusto.

Happy New Year!

Meet the American Girl doll of the year with ties to NASA

American Girl is headed to space with its 2018 Girl of the Year, Luciana Vega. What’s her story? She’s an 11-year-old girl who dreams of being the first person on Mars.

Luciana, the American Girl doll of the year, has a space playset.

American Girl consulted with Ellen Stofan, former NASA Chief Scientist, Deborah Barnhart, CEO and executive director of the U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Maureen O’Brien, manager of strategic alliances at NASA, and Megan McArthur Behnken, a NASA astronaut.

Luciana will have products such as a Mars habitat and a flight suit. She’ll also launch a science, technology, engineering and math-based educational program from Scholastic and Space Camp.

To celebrate the launch, stores including the pop-up shop at the Domain will host science demonstrations, crafts and giveaways on Jan. 1. American Girl dolls typically sell for $115. Find out more at AmericanGirl.com

 

Austinite offers guide for journey into motherhood in thoughtful way

“I wanted other women to know they weren’t alone,” says Austin mom Catia Hernandez Holm on why she wrote the book “The Courage to Become: Stories of Hope for Navigating Love, Marriage and Motherhood.”

In the months leading up to motherhood, everyone tells you what kind of stroller to get, says Holm, 34. They don’t really prepare you how to be a mother and the mental gymnastics that come with it, she says.

Catia Hernandez Holm writes “The Courage to Become” about becoming a mother.

“We don’t really prepare for the plunge that is going to be motherhood,” she says.

Her book is about the process she went through to become a mom. She went from being “a career girl” with two jobs — one doing the marketing for her parents’ South Texas orchard business and one managing the bar at ACL Live — to being at home with her daughter. “I was at home with no interaction to people on the outside,” she says. It was a real change in the rhythm of her day.

Her daughter Alexandra is 3 now. Daughter Luciana is 11 months. She had postpartum depression with both girls.

“I’m going through different changes this time, but I just kind of know how to roll with it more,” she says. It’s about finding something to grab onto when it gets bumpy. Even when you think you have your “mama legs,” it changes, Holm says.

Each chapter is about a period in her life before pregnancy, during pregnancy and once the baby is born. She tells her story in those periods of time, then includes a “Just Between Us” section that is the confessional of all the things that weren’t perfect; “Hope for Navigating” section, which offers resources and thoughtful quotes from prominent thinkers; and the “Trail Journal,” which asks three questions to the reader to create a personal journal. Some of the Trail Journal questions she had never asked herself before. “You stop and think, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’”

“I wanted to share my story,” she says, “But I wanted it to be about the reader’s story.”

She summarizes the message in her book in three words: worth, grace and hope. “We’re all worthy of the lives we seek, which can sound kind of hokey, but we really don’t believe that,” she says.

She wants to guide readers gently to be more intentional, to have more self-awareness about their lives. “Once we’re clear on our intentions, about where we’re going, what we’re thinking, where we’ve been, it’s much easier to determine our next step,” she says. “When we’re unclear is when our choices get garbled.”

She sees that women put pressure on themselves and feel the pressure to be something, not to just be. “What if we were just ourselves?” she says.

Holm wants readers to know that she’s here for them. She sees them. “I’m really for them enjoying life,” she says. “All the things we do are in an effort to enjoy life, but sometimes we lose the joy in it. We’re trying to raise children well, but we forget to enjoy them. We try to diet, but we forget to enjoy the food.”

For her, it’s about being intentional with her children and her decision to stay at home with them. “When I became a stay at home mom, I would have been bashful in admitting it,” she says. “Now I’m proud at admitting it.”

She says she would give herself an A in motherhood. “It’s not necessarily because the end result is the best but because I try really hard to be present,” she says. “I try to look after their emotional well-being.”

For her that means in the way she talks to her daughters about their lives. “That she knows she’s valued and loved and that she’s special and has gifts to share,” she says of her daughters.

Getting an A in motherhood, she says, “is not because I make the best Pinterest recipe or have matching clothes.”

Being a good mom is also about taking care of herself. “Is she cultivating her gifts, giving her time and space, feeding her body and her mind well, and taking girls’ nights?” she says. “All of that is part of being a good mom.”

She’d like her next book to be about confidence. For Holm, she found confidence after she became a mom. “It was really her,” she says of becoming a mom to her daughter Alexandra. “It was unbelievable. It really changed my life.”

“For so long, I was insecure,” she says. “It paints everything. Now that I’m comfortable in who I am, I can celebrate other women.”

“There are things I do now, say now, that I never would have before,” she says. “It’s a nice place to be.”

 

 “The Courage to Become”

Catia Hernandez Holm

$14.99, Catia Hernandez Holm

Gene Ames Jr., Boyd Taylor, and Catia Hernandez Holm read and sign “A Wildcatter’s Trek,” “Necessities” and “The Courage to Become”

7 p.m. Jan. 5

BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Save these events on your family calendar for January

January tends to be slower after the hubbub of December, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of fun events for families to try next month. Check out these:

Events

Whole Foods Skating on the Plaza. Go ice skating 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. through Jan. 15. Closed Christmas Day. $10 per person. Whole Foods Market, 525 N. Lamar Blvd. wholefoodsmarket.com

Car seat check. HaveAustin- Travis County EMS check your car seat. 9 a.m. Jan. 5, Montopolis Recreation Center, 1200 Montopolis Drive. 9 a.m. Jan. 8, CommUnity Care Clinic, 211 Comal St. 9 a.m. Jan. 17, Gus Garcia Recreation Center, 1201 E. Rundberg Lane. austintexas.gov

Safe Baby Academy. Learn baby safety with Austin-Travis County EMS. 9 a.m. Jan. 6. Seton Southwest Hospital, 7900 FM 1826. 9 a.m. Jan. 13. Seton Northwest Medical Center, 11113 Research Blvd. 9 a.m. Jan. 20, Seton Williamson Medical Center, 201 Seton Parkway, Round Rock. 5 p.m. Jan. 26 in Spanish. CommUnity Care Clinic, 2901 Montopolis Drive. austintexas.gov

Martin Luther King Jr. Day March and Parade. The parade starts at the Martin Luther King Jr. statue at the University of Texas campus and goes around the Capitol to Huston-Tillotson University. 9 a.m. Jan. 15. mlkcelebration.com

Austin Weather Fest. The Austin Meteorological Society explains the weather to you. Free. Noon–4 p.m. Jan. 7. Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St. annual.ametsoc.org

Circus Chickendog takes on “The Nuttcracker” in “The Muttcracker (Sweet).”

Theatre

“The Muttcracker (Sweet).” Circus Chickendog reenacts “The Nutcracker” with rescue dogs. 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Jan. 1, Jan. 4-7. $35-$15. Vortex Theatre, 2307 Manor Road. chickendog.net

“Go, Dog, Go.” See the book come to life. 2 p.m. Jan. 14. $19-$15. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org

“Pete the Cat.” See the book become a live action show. Noon and 2 p.m. Jan. 20. $9-$12. One World Theatre, 7701 Bee Cave Road. oneworldtheatre.org.

Zach Theatre presents “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.” Head to Narnia in the C.S. Lewis tale. 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through Feb. 10. More shows through Feb. 10. $18-$24. Whisenhunt Stage, 1510 Toomey Road. zachtheatre.org

“The Adventures of Enoughie (Las Aventuras de Enoughie).” This bilingual puppet show teaches kids about kindness and is a collaboration between Zach Theatre, Teatro Vivo, Glass Half Full Theatre, and The Kindness Campaign. 7 p.m. Jan. 19, 2 p.m. Jan. 20, Jan. 21, 11 a.m. Jan. 27, 2 p.m. Jan. 27 and Jan. 28. More shows through February. Sign language, visual captions and sensory friendly show Jan. 28. $14-$16. Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St. zachtheatre.org

Hideout Theatre Presents:Improv for Kids. Join the cast in creating the story. 11 a.m. Sundays. $5. Hideout Theatre, 617 Congress Ave. hideouttheatre.org

Harlem Globetrotters World Tour. Watch the Globetrotters do tricks with the basketball. 7 p.m. Jan. 26. $19-$130. Frank Erwin Center, 1701 Red River St. uterwincenter.com

Family programs at Zilker Botanical Garden include fairy tea parties. Zilker Botanical Garden

Museums

Bullock Museum.H-E-B Free First Sunday: Musical. Free family fun around the museum with the theme. Noon-5 p.m. Jan. 7. Living History Days. Re-enactors stroll through the museum. 10 a.m. Dec. 7. Little Texans: Choo Choo. 10 a.m. Jan. 11. Science Thursdays. 10 a.m. Jan. 18. Storytime Dance. Create stories with dance. 10 a.m. Jan. 25. Pop-up Exhibit:Bullock Arcade. Play vintage video games. Jan. 26-28. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com

Umlauf Sculpture Garden Family Day. Learn different forms of exercise as a family, plus make art. Noon-4 p.m. Jan. 14. Free. Umlauf Sculpture Garden, 605 Robert E. Lee Road. unmlaufsculture.org.

Neill-Cochran House Museum. Bright Ideas: The Light Bulb and the Electric Motor. Re-create an early lightbulb and motor. Recommended for ages 8 and up. 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Jan. 7. Free. 2310 San Gabriel St. nchmuseum.org

Wildflower Center: Winter Tree Fest. Kids activities include tree climbing in a safe way. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Jan. 27. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. wildflower.org

Winter faerie tea parties. Dress for the fairies and drink tea, eat mini cakes and go explore the fairy lands. 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Jan. 14. $20. Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road. Register online at https://austintexas.gov/parksonline

Garden Party with Spunky Kids. It’s an indoor garden party with edible gardens, tea, sensory play and more. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 11. $10 per child. Daddy and Me Playdate. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 13 and 20. Frozen Party. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 17. $10 per child. Mad Science Daddy and Me Time. 10:30 a.m.-noon Jan. 27. $12 a child for ages 3-5. Toybrary Austin, 2001 Justin Lane. toybraryaustin.com

Thinkery. Community Night. Get a sneak peak at Paramount Theatre’s “Go, Dog, Go.” 4 p.m. Jan. 3. Free. Art Start: Super Sculptors! 9:45 a.m. Wednesdays 1-year-olds, 10:45 a.m. Wednesdays, 2-year-olds. Jan. 3-Feb. 21. $20 per class, $140 for the series. Exploring Seasons. 9:45 a.m. 2-year-olds, 10:45 a.m. 3-year-olds Fridays, Jan. 5-Feb. 23. $20 per class, $140 for the series. Early Learners: Silly Science. 9:30 a.m. 1-year-olds, 10:30 a.m. 2-year-olds, 11:30 a.m. 3-year-olds January 15. $20 per class, Baby Bloomers. Boogie on Down in January. 9 a.m. Mondays and Saturdays, except Jan. 1 and Jan. 15.For birth to age 3. Petri Dish Art. Ages 4 and up. 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. Jan. 6-7, Jan. 20-21. $8. Art Bots. Ages 4 and up. 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. Jan. 13-15, Jan. 27-28. $8. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Hill Country Science Mill. Snow Day. Play in the snow and do snow science. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Jan. 20. Homeschool Day. All day, Jan. 11. Hill Country Science Mill, 101 Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City. sciencemill.org

Contemporary Austin. Families Create: Hit the Road.Make auto-themed art and listen to Austin musicians. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 13. Free. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St. thecontemporaryaustin.org

Austin Nature and Science Center. Nature’s Numbers. This exhibit is all about how math is everywhere in Numbers. Jan. 20-May 6. Austin Nature and Science Center, 2389 Stratford Drive. austintexas.gov/ansc

“Despicable Me 3.” Universal Pictures.

Movies

That’s My Face Film Series: “Something the Lord Made.” 6:30 p.m. Jan. 12, Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St. carver-museum.org

Alamo Drafthouse PBS Kids “Odd Squad.” 11 a.m. Jan. 13-14, Lakeline. drafthouse.com

Books

Children’s Book Fair. Meet Peter Rabbit, Froggy and Ladybug Girl and hear stories. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 6. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. wildflower.org

BookPeople events. Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spoon read “Unearthed.” 7 p.m. Jan. 11. story times. Things that Go. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 2. Snow Day. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 3. Paramount Theatre: “Go, Dog, Go.” 11:30 a.m. Jan. 5. All in the Family. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 9. Ms Staci. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 10. Author Cristee Cook reads. 11:30 a.m. Jan. 13. Armstrong Community School. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 16. Tiny Tails Petting Zoo. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 17. Matt Del La Peña and Loren Long read “Love.” 11:30 a.m. Jan. 20. Kids Book Club with Austin Allies. 12:30 p.m. Jan. 20. Baby Signs. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 24. Yoga Signs. 11:30 a.m. Jan. 25. Mother Goose. 2 p.m. Jan. 30. The New Year for Trees. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 31. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Barnes & Noble Events: 11 a.m. Saturdays story times at all locations: “What Do You Do with a Chance?” Jan. 6; “Paddington,” Jan. 13; “You!”, Jan. 20; “Fancy Nancy: Oodles of Kittens,” Jan. 27.

At the library

Tabletop Tuesday. Play games in the children’s area and teen area. 5 p.m. Tuesdays. Central Library.

Bow Wow Reading with Aussie. 3:30 p.m. Jan. 3, North Village Branch. Reading with Bonnie. 11:30 a.m. Saturdays, Yarborough Branch. Read to George. 3:45 p.m. Jan. 10, Pleasant Hill Branch. Mornings with Moxie. 10 a.m. Jan. 13, Manchaca Road Branch.

Music and Movement. 11 a.m. Jan. 5, Old Quarry Branch. 11 a.m. Jan. 8, Pleasant Hill Branch. 11 a.m. Jan. 11, Manchaca Road Branch. 11 a.m. Jan. 11, 18 and 25, Howson Branch.

Family Movie Matinee: “Alice in Wonderland,” the 1951 version. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 6, Twin Oaks Branch.

Express Yourself through Media and Technology. For ages 8 and up. 1 p.m. Jan. 6, Jan. 27, Ruiz Branch.

Saturday Family Movie: “Despicable Me 3.” 2 p.m. Jan. 6. Windsor Park Branch.

Crafternoon. 3 p.m. Jan. 8, Dove Springs Branch. 4:30 p.m. Jan. 11, Twin Oaks Branch. 3 p.m. Jan. 22 and Jan. 29, Dove Springs Recreation Center. 3:30 p.m. Jan. 23, Windsor Park Branch. 3:30 p.m. Jan. 23, Howson Branch.

NBTween Book Club. “The First Rule of Punky.” 4 p.m. Jan. 10, Howson Branch. “Circus Mirandus.” 6 p.m. Jan. 18, Spicewood Springs Branch. “Amina’s Voice.” 6 p.m. Jan. 18, Twin Oaks Branch.

Ukulele Club. 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays beginning Jan. 10. Manchaca Road Branch.

Pajama Story time. 6 p.m. Jan. 10, Windsor Park Branch. 6 p.m. Jan. 25, Spicewood Springs Branch.

Art Smart: Native American Celebration. 3:30 p.m. Jan. 11, Twin Oaks Branch. 2 p.m. Jan. 13, Howson Branch. 6 p.m. Jan. 22, University Hills Branch. 4:30 p.m. Jan. 23, Little Walnut Creek Branch. 6:30 p.m. Jan. 31, Willie Mae Kirk Branch.

Teen Book Club “Beauty Queens.” 6:30 p.m. Jan. 11, Spicewood Springs Branch. “Speak.” 6:30 p.m. Jan. 16, Howson Branch.

Night Builders: Family Lego Lab. 7:30 p.m. Jan. 11, Hampton Branch.

Saturday Movie Matinee: “Moana.” 2 p.m. Jan. 13, University Hills Branch.

Austin Ukestra. 1 p.m. Jan. 14, Recycled Reads Bookstore.

Book Circle. 3:30 p.m. Jan. 16, Twin Oaks Branch. 3:30 p.m. Jan. 30, Twin Oaks Branch.

Free Play Gaming. 3:30 p.m. Jan. 16, Windsor Park Branch.

Mother Daughter Book Club: “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.” 6 p.m. Jan. 17, Hampton Branch.

Family Craft Night. 6:30 p.m. Jan. 17, Howson Branch.

Saturday Movie Matinee: “The Lego Batman Movie.” 2 p.m. Jan. 20, University Hills Branch.

Yoga Story time. 10:15 a.m. Jan. 25, Ruiz Branch.

Saturday Movie Matinee: “The Emoji Movie.” 2 p.m. Jan. 27, University Hills Branch.

What will you do this winter break when kids are out of school? Follow our tips

The kids are out of school. Often, day care centers closed down between Christmas and New Year’s. How are you going to cope? We have fun things you can do during winter break.

Around Austin and Central Texas

Light shows

Head to these light shows around Central Texas, or go for a strolling around your own neighborhood or one nearby.

 

People explore a light tunnel during the Winter Wonderland event at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Austin Trail of Lights. 6-10 p.m. through Saturday. $3 Zilker Park. austintrailoflights.org.

Zilker Tree. The tree will be lighted every night from Through Dec. 31. Zilker Park. austintexas.gov/zilkerholidaytree

Trail of Lights. 6:30 p.m. 6-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 6-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, through Dec. 28. Free. EmilyAnn Theatre 1101 Ranch Road 2325, Wimberley. emilyann.org

Mozart’s Christmas Light Show. 6-11 p.m. nightly through Jan. 1. Mozart’s Coffee Roasters at Oyster Landing, 3825 Lake Austin Blvd.

Winter Wonderland at the Circuit of the Americas. See lights, go skating, enter the petting zoo and Santa’s workshop and more. 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Dec. 30, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. $16, plus additional fees for some activities. circuitoftheamericas.com/winter-wonderland.

Outdoor activities

When you can, go outside and get some exercise.

Whole Foods Skating on the Plaza. Go ice skating 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. now through Jan. 15. Closed Christmas Day. $10 per person. Whole Foods Market, 525 N. Lamar Blvd. wholefoodsmarket.com

Evergreen Christmas Tree Farm. Buy Christmas trees through Christmas Eve, when it closes at 3 p.m. Noon to dark daily, except Saturday, when it opens at 10 a.m. Weekends there’s s’mores making and pinecone painting, too. 242 Monkey Road. evergreen-farms.com

Plus, try a new playground in our playground guide on austin360.com/raisingaustin or go for a hike. We love the trails of Mayfield Park, Mary Moore Searight Park and behind the Austin Nature and Science Center.

Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez), who struggles against his family’s generations-old ban on music, creates a secret space where he can play his guitar and soak up the on-screen talent of his idol, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt), in “Coco.” Contributed by Disney/Pixar

Movies

Family Movie Night: “The Muppet Christmas Carol.” 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, Twin Oaks Library Branch.

Alamo Drafthouse Kids Camp. “The Peanuts Movie,” 10 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, Lakeline, Mueller and Slaughter Lane.drafthouse.com

Plus see these new movies in theaters: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” Disney’s animated “Coco,” the updated “Jumanji” with the Rock; “Wonder” with Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, and the animated “Ferdinand,” based on the children’s book.

Ballet Austin’s production of “The Nutcracker.” Choreography by Stephen Mills. Photo by Tony Spielberg.

Theater

This year we have a few holiday theater possibilities to see during winter break. Check out these offerings.

Hideout Theatre Presents: “Monster Holidays.” 2 p.m. Saturday and Dec. 30. $5. Hideout Theatre, 617 Congress Ave. hideouttheatre.org

Ballet Austin’s “The Nutcracker.” 7:30 p.m. through Friday and 2 p.m. Friday and Saturday. $15-$98. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org

“Disney Live! Mickey and Minnie’s Doorway to Magic.” Noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday. $20-$55. Frank Erwin Center, 1701 Red River St. uterwincenter.com

“The Muttcracker (Sweet).” Circus Chickendog reenacts the “Nutcracker” with rescue dogs. 4:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, Dec. 27-Jan. 1. $35-$15. Vortex Theatre, 2307 Manor Road. chickendog.net

“A Christmas Story: The Musical.” The classic Christmas movie comes to life. We double dog dare you to go. 8 p.m. Dec. 29 and 30; 11 a.m. Dec. 30, 3 p.m. Dec. 30, 1 p.m. Dec. 31. $26-$86. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. TheLongCenter.org.

A topographical sand map allows you to create mountains and watch the topography lines change.
Hill Country Science Mill.

Museums

Often museums have holiday programming to keep kids busy. If you can, buy tickets in advance and go early in the day.

Thinkery Gingerbread House Workshops. Traditional or Tot (ages 5 and younger) 9:30 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 10:45 a.m., 11 a.m., 2:45 p.m., 4 p.m., Saturday; Wednesday-Saturday and 9:30 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 10:45 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 p.m. Sunday. $12 per person plus $20 house kit. Gingerbread Art and Architecture for ages 7 and older. 10:45 a.m.–1:15 p.m. daily through Saturday; 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Sunday. $12 per person plus $30 house kit. Candy Chemistry for ages 7 and up. Make candy to go on your house. 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. daily through Sunday. $12 per person plus $30 house kit. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Austin Nature and Science Center. Family Climbing Day. Go rock climbing as a family. 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesday. $5 per person, ages 5 and up. Family Archery Day. Explore archery. 9 a.m. to noon, Thursday. $5 per person, ages 7 and up. Family Planetarium Day. 9 a.m. to noon, Friday. Free, ages 3 and up. Austin Nature and Science Center, 2389 Stratford Drive. austintexas.gov/ansc

Bullock Museum.Maker Faire. Create things at the museum. Dec. 28-30. Story time at the Museum: Brrr! 10 a.m. Thursday. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com

Hill Country Science Mill. Special activities around a theme all week: Imagine Yourself as a Biologist, Tuesday. Imagine Yourself as an Inventor, Wednesday. Imagine Yourself as a Computer Scientist, Thursday. Imagine Yourself as an Engineer, Friday. Hill Country Science Mill, 101 Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City. sciencemill.org

Thinkery Baby Bloomers. Kids birth to age 3 learn about a winter wonders. 9 a.m. Saturday. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Elizabeth Kahura, of Austin, originally from Kenya, holds up a figurine as an example of teamwork during a Kwanzaa workshop held at the Carver Public Library. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2013

Special Events

Night Before Christmas Break. Enjoy reindeer game and treats. 5:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday. Free. Metz Recreation Center, 2407 Canterbury St. austintexas.gov

Kwanzaa Celebration of Ujamaa with Elizabeth Kahura. 6:30 p.m. Dec. 29. Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St. austintexas.gov

Austin’s New Year. A family-friendly New Year’s Eve party with events throughout the day beginning at 3 p.m. Fireworks are at 10 p.m. Step into the Kids Magic Forest for the Bike Zoo, Dark Stack Media’s liquid light show, a giant Austin piñata, a stop-motion animation station, a crafting station, a magical fairy world and a train. Auditorium Shores, 900 W. Riverside Drive. austintexas.gov

Books

BookPeople story times. “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” story time 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Last Story Time of 2017. 10:30 a.m. Dec. 27. Things that Go story time. 10:30 a.m. Jan. 2. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.comBookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Barnes & Noble 11 a.m. Saturdays story times at all locations: “Santa’s Magic Key,” Saturday; “The Story of Ferdinand,” Dec. 30.

Bow Wow Reading with Bonnie. 11:30 a.m. Saturday and Dec. 30, Yarborough Public Library Branch.

NBTween Book Club Keeper of the Lost Cities.” 6 p.m. Wednesday, Spicewood Springs Branch. “The Nameless City.” 6 p.m. Thursday, Twin Oaks Branch.

Family Craft Night. 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Howson Branch.

Plus find out when your local library is open and check out some new books to bring home with you.

Bradley Tredway, 7, made a colorful gingerbread house at the Bastrop Public Library open house event in 2013. SARAH ACOSTA/AUSTIN COMMUNITY NEWSPAPERS

To Do at Home

Here are 10 things you can do at home during the break:

  1. Decorate gingerbread houses. Don’t have a kit or don’t want to make the gingerbread? Use pretzel sticks or graham crackers and connect them using frosting, cream cheese or peanut butter. Use cereal and different snack foods as decorations if you don’t have candy.
  2. Play a board game. Even if you don’t get a new one for Christmas, there’s something very satisfying about even the classics like Candy Land, Life or Sorry.
  3. Learn a new card game. Yes, you can start with Go Fish, but you also can branch out to Spoons, Swindle Your Neighbor, B.S. or Poker.
  4. Make your own movies/plays. Let the kids write the script, create the costumes and direct one another. You also could have an evening of improv or charades. You also can’t go wrong with shadow puppets.
  5. Make goop or play dough. ”
    DIY Natural has this recipe for play dough:
    1 cup of flour (whatever kind you have on hand)
    ¼ cup of salt
    ½ cup of water
    3 to 5 drops of food coloring
    Mix together the flour and the salt.
    Mix together ½ cup of warm water with a few drops of food coloring.
    Slowly pour the water into the flour mixture, stirring as you pour. Stir until combined, then knead with your hands until the flour is completely absorbed. If the dough is too sticky, add more flour until it doesn’t stick at all.
    For Goop:
    1 part water
    2 parts corn starch
    Mix it in a zippered bag. Throw in some food coloring and get to playing.
  6. Make a meal together. We love make-your-own pizzas or tacos or tostadas, but winter break is also a great time to teach life skills like how to make spaghetti and meatballs.
  7. Throw a dance party. You can turn this event into dance party cleanup time, or it could just be a dance party in the living room. Crank up the music, practice your best air guitar and get to rocking.
  8. Make art. You’ve got supplies you didn’t even know you have. All that wrapping paper from Christmas makes great scraps for collages. All the boxes can become dioramas or dollhouses or spaceships. Use the back of the wrapping paper as drawing paper.
  9. Go outside and start exploring. See what amazing rocks you can find in your yard or on a hike. Hunt for different insects. Look for different signs of animal life in your yard or the park nearby. Pick out different leaves for making leaf rubbings. Or if you have sports fans, create your own Olympic Games, play a game of basketball or soccer, tennis or golf.
  10. Start a new book. You’ve got more time to read bedtime stories. Start a new series like “Harry Potter” or “Magic Treehouse” or “The Lightning Thief” and read a little aloud each night. You can even build a blanket fort in their bedroom or living room for reading time.

Keep kids safe this holiday season around decorations

It’s a beautiful time of year to be a family and celebrate being together. Grandparents come over, cousins reunite, aunts pinch kids’ cheeks.

Don’t let your holiday turn tragic. The American Academy of Pediatrics offers these tips of how to keep your kids safe from holiday decorations.

Be careful that ornaments are safe and the breakable ones are kept out of reach. Karla Held/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

THE TREE

  • When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. The needles should be hard to pull off, and should not break when you bend them. When you tap the tree on the ground, only a few needles should fall off. Cut a few inches off the bottom of the trunk before putting it in the stand, and be sure to keep the stand filled with water.
  • If you have an artificial tree, make sure it’s labeled “Fire Resistant.”
  • When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces, radiators or portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
  • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree.
  • Check all lights before hanging them on a tree or in your home, even if you have just purchased them. Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets or loose connections.
  • Be cautious about trimmings that may contain lead. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded materials. Light strands may contain lead in the bulb sockets and wire coating, sometimes in high amounts. Make sure your lights are out of reach of young children who might try to put lights in their mouths, and wash your hands after handling them.

OUTSIDE

  • Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use. To hold lights in place, string them through hooks or insulated staples, not nails or tacks. Never pull or tug lights to remove them. Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.

INSIDE

  • When lighting candles, remove flammable materials from the area, and place the candles where they will not be knocked over. Never leave a burning candle unattended. Do not use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. For more fire safety tips, listen to “Holiday Fire Safety” on HealthyChildren.org.
  • In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable. Keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to prevent them from swallowing or inhaling small pieces. Avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a young child to eat them.
  • Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass “angel hair.” Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
  • Remove all wrapping papers, bags, paper, ribbons and bows from tree and fireplace areas after gifts are opened. These items can pose suffocation and choking hazards to a small child, or can cause a fire if near flame.
  • Keep potentially poisonous holiday plant decorations, including mistletoe berries, Jerusalem cherry, and holly berry, away from children.
  • For our Jewish friends, keep the menorah candles  up and away from little hands when they are burning. (Or, shhh, don’t tell anyone, blow them out.) Never leave the room where the candles are burning.

Mothers’ Milk Bank of Austin reaches 5 million ounces donated

As of Thursday, Mothers’ Milk Bank of Austin officially has distributed 5 million ounces of breast milk to preterm and medically fragile babies since it opened in 1999. The milk has been donated by more than 8,000 mothers, and been given to more than 29,000 babies from around the country.

 Katrina Hunt, milk processing coordinator, mixes milk from several donors at the Mother’s Milk Bank in Austin. The milk is poured into bottles, then pasteurized, and then dispensed.  American-Statesman 2010

“Every ounce of milk dispensed represents a compassionate gift from a donor, and a lifesaving gift to a recipient. Over the past 18 years, with the support of our community, we have expanded
our impact to serve babies in need across Texas and 22 other states,” said Kim Updegrove, Milk Bank executive director said in a press release. “We couldn’t save lives without the dedication of the mothers who donate their milk, the financial supporters who make sure that we have the resources to never turn someone away, and the volunteers who make our work possible.”

This has been a big year for the bank. It moved into a new 15,000-square-foot facility, its forth location in 18 years and the first one it owns. That facility will allows it to process even more milk as well as do more community outreach such as breastfeeding and parenting classes.

This year, it also added more milk donors than any year previously — more than 1,000 new donors.

Find out more about Mothers’ Milk Bank of Austin at milkbank.org.

20 things to do this weekend in Austin with your family, Dec. 15-17

It’s going to be a great Friday and Sunday to enjoy some holiday fun. Warning: There’s a 100 percent chance of rain on Saturday. Watch out! Here are 20 events you can try this weekend:

Ballet Austin’s production of “The Nutcracker.” Choreography by Stephen Mills. Photo by Tony Spielberg.
  1. Ballet Austin’s “The Nutcracker.” See the holiday classic. 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $15-$98. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org
  2. Austin Trail of Lights. Wander through Zilker Park’s lighted trails. 6 to 10 p.m. through Dec. 23. $3. Zilker Park. austintrailoflights.org
  3.  Zilker Tree. The tree will be lighted every night through Dec. 31. Zilker Park. austintexas.gov/zilkerholidaytree.
  4. Winter Wonderland at the Circuit of the Americas. See lights, go skating, enter the petting zoo and Santa’s workshop and more. 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday. $16, plus additional fees for some activities. circuitoftheamericas.com/winter-wonderland.
  5. Trail of Lights. 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday,  through Dec. 28. Free. EmilyAnn Theatre, 1101 Ranch Road 2325, Wimberley. emilyann.org
  6. Mozart’s Christmas Light Show. 6 to 11 p.m. nightly through Jan. 1. Mozart’s Coffee Roasters at Oyster Landing, 3825 Lake Austin Blvd. mozartscoffee.com
  7. Whole Foods Skating on the Plaza. Go ice skating 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. now through Jan. 15. Closed Christmas Day. $10 per person. Whole Foods Market, 525 N. Lamar Blvd. wholefoodsmarket.com
  8. Teddy Bear Tea. Tea, carolling and a reading of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” with Santa. Bring an unwrapped new teddy bear to donate to Dell Children’s Medical Center. While you’re there, don’t miss the gingerbread village. $30-$45. Saturday and Sunday. Four Seasons Hotel Austin, 98 San Jacinto Blvd. Make reservations by calling 512-685-8300. fourseasons.com/austin
  9. “A Christmas Carol.” 10 a.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. $8-$10. EmilyAnn Theatre, 1101 Ranch Road 2325, Wimberley. emilyann.org/productions
  10. “Junie B. Jones in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells.” Junie B. is ready to take on her nemesis May in this holiday story. 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $10-$15. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St. scottishritetheater.org
  11. Hideout Theatre Presents: “Monster Holidays.” 2 p.m. Sunday. $5. Hideout Theatre, 617 Congress Ave. hideouttheatre.org
  12. Thinkery Gingerbread House Workshops. Traditional or Tot (ages 5 and younger) 9:30 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 10:45 a.m., 11 a.m., 2:45 p.m., 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. $12 per person plus $20 house kit. Gingerbread Art and Architecture for ages 7 and older. 10:45 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $12 per person plus $30 house kit. Candy Chemistry for ages 7 and older. Make candy to go on your house. 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $12 per person plus $30 house kit. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org
  13. Gingerbread House Workshop at The Candy Jar. 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $50 per house; children younger than 6 must have an adult with them. The Candy Jar, 12700 Hill Country Blvd. Suite 110. Register at thecandyjartx.com.
  14. Meet & Greet with Santa. Come meet Santa at the Hill Country Galleria. Noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, 4 to 8 p.m. Friday, noon to 8 p.m. Saturday. Plus a synchronized tree lighting every half hour 5 to 10 p.m. daily. Hill Country Galleria, 12700 Hill Country Blvd. hillcountrygalleria.com
  15. The Carver’s Christmas Special. Celebrate Christmas with Santa at the Carver Museum. Noon to 3 p.m. Saturday. Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St. austintexas.gov.
  16. Cookies and Crafts. Get a picture with Santa, plus make crafts and enjoy cookies. 4 to 7 p.m. Friday, Catch Air Austin, 13450 U.S. 183 Suite 107. Free with admission. catchairparty.com.
  17. Zach Theatre presents “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.” Head to Narnia in the C.S. Lewis tale. 11 a.m. Saturday. More shows through Feb. 10. $18-$24. Whisenhunt Stage, 1510 Toomey Road. zachtheatre.org
  18. Wildflower Center. Winter, Wonder, Land. Find out what happens to a garden in winter. $15 adults, $10 children. Noon-2 p.m. p.m. Saturday. $15. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. wildflower.org

    Austin-based children’s performer Ms. Staci Gray entertains at a room packed with kids and their parents as they try to burst bubbles during story time at BookPeople. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
  19. BookPeople story times. 11:30 a.m. Saturday story time benefiting BookSpring, which donates books to schools that can’t afford them. 12:30 p.m. Saturday Kids Book Club for ages 8-12. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com
  20. Barnes & Noble 11 a.m. Saturdays, story times at all locations: “River Rose and the Magical Christmas.

Five years after Sandy Hook: What has changed, what has not

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., at Sandy Hook Elementary, when 20 students and six school employees were killed by shooter Adam Lanza.

It has changed what happens in our schools. Students now do drills for fires, for severe weather and also for a lock down — when a school needs to close its doors because the students are in danger. The scenario that the students are told they are preparing for is the Sandy Hook scenario: a stranger comes into the school and wants to hurt someone. It’s on everyone’s minds that it could be someone like Adam Lanza, someone waving a gun and firing indiscriminately.

State police personnel lead children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in this handout picture from the Newtown Bee, in Newtown, Connecticut, December 14, 2012. (Shannon Hicks/Newtown Bee/Zuma Press

They don’t really talk about the fact that it could be a fellow student. It could be a teacher. It’s always someone they don’t know who got onto the campus and wants to hurt them.

RELATED: ARE SCHOOL LOCK-DOWN DRILLS MISSING THE POINT?

Last month, I got caught in a lock-down drill at my daughter’s middle school. We were told to turn off all the lights and hide somewhere away from the doors and preferably on the sides of the room. We sat there, trying to be quiet, while school officials walked the hallways, checking that doors were locked and students were quiet and hiding.

My kids are very aware that someone could come into their school and harm them. When Sandy Hook first happened and the drills started happening, my then third-grader, who was in a portable, told me how stupid these drills were: After all, anyone could just bust open the door of the portable and kill her. She was very aware that there was the possibility she wasn’t safe at school.

What schools don’t talk about as much is the need to be aware of their fellow students or school employees. They need to speak up if someone seems to be agitated or withdrawn. There’s danger, there, too.

And what we don’t talk about — especially in Texas — is that our gun laws haven’t changed to add more restrictions. In fact, we’ve made it easier to openly carry a gun in more places, though still not in schools.

Like most parents, I want my kids to go to school every day, worry about what they are learning, worry about finding good friends, and not about guns or bombs.

What has changed since Sandy Hook? Our kids have a level of fear they didn’t used to have. Our kids added another drill to their school year. Maybe that makes them more safe. Maybe it does not.

Is there a perfect way to be a parent? New Kraft video asks

For Mother’s Day, Kraft gave us the gem “How to swear like a Mother” from swearing expert Melissa Mohr, author of “Holy Sh*t: A History of Swearing.”

Kraft

Now for Christmas time, the mac-and-cheese maker gives us a more sentimental gem, a video that declares, “There’s no one perfect way to do this.”

It cites this statistic:

“8 out of 10 parents feel pressure to be “perfect.” ”

A mom says “Everybody wants to be the best parent. Everybody wants to raise this perfect kid.”

And then Kraft reminds:

“It’s an impossible standard to live up to.”

The parents the video interviews talk about whether they’ve “done enough” for their kids every day, are they pushing them too hard or not hard enough, and feeling like their child deserves more than they can give.

A more experienced parent says, “You’re never going to feel like you’re doing it right.”

It asks parents the question:

“What if there’s something better than being perfect?”

Then it shows these parents’ children talking about what great parents their parents are.

It tells these parents and all of us:

“To all the parents out there who are hard on themselves, Kraft wants you to know, you don’t have to be perfect to be great.”

We’ve talked about Mommy Burnout before as well as how to reshape your life to focus on what’s important, not on perfection. 

What are you doing to embrace your imperfections and shed the mommy guilt?