What’s ahead for YMCA of Austin’s new overnight camp? We have details

YMCA of Austin announced  the name of the overnight camp it is building on 85 acres along Onion Creek in northern Hays County. It will be called Camp Moody after a $6.25 million gift from the Moody Foundation.

YMCA of Austin is planning to open Camp Moody in Summer 2020.

YMCA of Austin is finishing out a $18.3 million capital campaign, which includes a $500,000 challenge grant from the J.E. and L.E. Mabee Foundation. It has about $2.8 million to go.

The goal of the new camp is to get more kids outdoors and provide more kids in the Austin area a chance to go to an overnight camp.

“Too many of our kids are spending too much time indoors, inactive, and in front of screens,” said Ellie Falcao, Co-Chair of the YMCA’s capital campaign, in a press release. “But YMCA Camp Moody will help get thousands of kids into the outdoors.”

The YMCA of Austin says it has been doing outdoor activities at its day camps since the 1970s, but it has been the largest YMCA in the country without an overnight camp.

The Camp Moody treehouse cabins.

The camp, which is expected to open the overnight portion in 2020, will be designed to be accessible for all. The first phase will include a dining hall, treehouse cabins, two bunk cabin villages, a 15,000-square-foot enclosed aquatics center, 700-foot dual zip lines, a climbing wall, archery range, ropes course, entertainment amphitheater, open-air sports space and accessible trails.

The zip line at Camp Moody.

The camp is designed to house 240 kids in its overnight program. Most sessions will be a week long, but there might be shorter camps offered for younger kids. The overnight camp will be for kids age 7-17. In addition, kids 4-14 will have day-camp options, and the hope is that the YMCA will be able to provide buses to and from camp.

Camp Moody aquatics center will be used by Hays Consolidated Independent School District.

The aquatics center will support the swimming program for Hays Consolidated Independent School District. The swim center is expected to open in September 2019.

“There is a clear need to preserve more natural spaces in Central Texas where kids can be physically active, connect with nature, and just play and explore in a safe environment,” said James Finck, YMCA of Austin president and CEO, in a press release. “We’re addressing a need to provide an accessible overnight camp experience; one that is closer to the city, affordable to all families, and welcoming to people of all abilities.”

The eventual pavilion at Camp Moody.

The property already is being being put to use by school groups. This summer, week-long day camps will be offered starting in June for $210 a week for nonmembers and $150 a week for members. Some financial assistance is available.

Here is this summer’s lineup: 

  • Week 1: Kids vs Nature, ages 6-8 (June 11-15)
  • Week 2: Kids vs Nature, ages 9-13 (June 18-22)
  • Week 3: Canoe 101, ages 8-13 (June 25-29)
  • Week 4: Canoeing Adventure, ages 8-13 (July 9-13)
  • Week 5: Aim High, ages 8-12 (July 16-20)
  • Week 6: STEAM Camp, ages 8 -12 (July 23-27)

Busing is not available this year. You can register by clicking this link.

The dining hall at Camp Moody.


Plan your Mother’s Day weekend with the kids with these family events


It’s going to be a beautiful Mother’s Day Weekend. There’s a slight chance for rain, but it’s going to be in the upper 80’s, low 90’s.

We’ve got plenty of kid-related activities for the weekend. Hint: Dads, consider finding something on Sunday to take the kids to while Mom gets a well-deserved break!


Balloon maker Teddy Kim has a sword duel with Khoi Hoang, 2, after he outfitted the youngster with his choice of weapon during CelebrASIA Austin. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2015

Field Day. Waller Creek Conservancy hosts this event to get you moving, help you learn about healthy food and more. Free. 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday. (Rain day is May 19.) Palm Park, 711 E. Third St. wallercreek.org

CelebrAsia Austin Asian Pacific American Food & Heritage Festival. See cultural performances, taste different foods and enjoy kids’ activities. This year it’s five spice-themed. Free; food for purchase. 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Asian American Resource Center, 8401 Cameron Road. austintexas.gov/aarc

Contemporary Austin. Saturdays Are for Families: Recycled Robots. Enjoy a nautical-themed art-making day. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Free. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St. thecontemporaryaustin.org

Thinkery. Parents’ Nights Out. Go see a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse or go out to dinner nearby while your kids play. Children must be 4 and up and potty-trained. 5:30-10 p.m. Friday. $45 first child, $25 each additional child. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Wildflower Center. Garden Bug Trackers. Find bugs in the wild as a family and create tools to find them in your yard. Noon, Saturday. $15 each parent/child. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. wildflower.org

Williamson Museum. Hands-on History. Learn about Texas wildflowers during National Wildflower Week. Free. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Williamson Museum, 716 Austin Ave., Georgetown. williamsonmuseum.org



Kids Night Out at Color Me Mine! Play games, paint and have pizza. $35. 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday. Color Me Mine! 13500 Galleria Circle, U-110, Bee Cave. beecave.colormemine.com.


Thinkery. Baby Bloomers: Away We Go. Learn about things that take flight. 9 a.m. Saturday. For birth to age 3. $5. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Thinkery. Birdhouses. Ages 4 and up. 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. $8. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

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

Zach Theatre presents “Goodnight Moon.” The classic children’s book comes to the stage. 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through May 27. $18-$24. Kleberg Stage, 1421 Riverside Drive. zachtheatre.org

Pollyanna Theatre. “The Secret of Soap & Spin.” 10-year-old Vic finds magic in the laundry map as his mother goes missing. For grades second through fifth. 2 p.m. Saturday- Sunday, and May 19-20. $10.50-$12. Long Center, 701 Riverside Drive. pollytheatre.org

Ballet Austin’s final production of the season is the family-friendly “Peter Pan,” featuring all the characters you know from J.M. Barrie’s story. Ballet Austin

Ballet Austin. “Peter Pan.” Watch as Ballet Austin sprinkles a little pixie dust on the story. 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday. $27-$99. Long Center, 701 Riverside Drive. balletaustin.org

BookPeople 10:30 a.m. story times: Author Mary Sullivan, Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Barnes & Noble 11 a.m. Saturdays, story times at all locations: Mother’s Day Story Time.

Tech Connect:  Robots in the Library, 2:30 p.m. Friday, Yarborough Branch. Digital Drawing for Kids. 3:30 p.m. Friday, Carver Branch, 11 a.m. Saturday, Pleasant Hill Branch. Stop Motion Animation. 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Teen Book Club: “Falling Kingdoms.” 3 p.m. Saturday, Central Library.

Friday Movie Matinee: “The Last Jedi.” 3:30 p.m. Friday, Carver Branch.

Friday Movie Matinee: “Rio 2,” 3:30 p.m. Friday, Old Quarry Branch.

Perler Bead Saturdays. Noon Saturday, University Hills Branch.




Austin Ukestra Ukulele Group. 1 p.m. Sunday, Recycled Reads Bookstore.



Austin family puts Smartwatch Embrace that detects epilepsy seizures to the test

Our smartwatches are fun. Our smartwatches are cool. Our smartwatches could save a life.

Yes. Now a special kind of smartwatch can send a text message, place a phone call, as well as make a record of every time someone with epilepsy has a seizure. Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration approved Embrace, a smartwatch that does just that.

Austinite Elaina Cione, 15, has been wearing an Embrace since February. She was first diagnosed with epilepsy when she was 8 and began having seizures. With medication she went about two years without a detectable seizure, but that ended about a year ago.

For her parents Todd and Elizabeth Cione, the fear is that Elaina will have a seizure in her sleep and her airway will be blocked by a pillow or the mattress, or that she will have a seizure and hit her head without anyone knowing it. One time they went upstairs, woke her up for the day, gave her medicine, went back downstairs and within minutes they heard her collapse on the shower floor. Epileptics also die of something called sudden unexpected death in epilepsy, which is similar to sudden infant death syndrome. They are just found dead in bed.

There’s no warning with a seizure and Elaina doesn’t know what’s going on. She has no memory of them and loses track of time. “It’s a terrible experience to see a loved one have a seizure,” Todd Cione says.

Austinite Elaina Cione, 15, has been wearing an Embrace smartwatch since February. It alerts her parents when she’s having an epileptic seizure. Family photo

Since Elaina began wearing the Embrace, some of that fear has subsided. Easter weekend, Elaina was in another room of their house when the Todd Cione’s phone rang and alerted him that she was having a seizure. She ended up having nine more in a 12-hour period. “Had I not been alerted, with five of those seizures in night hours, I may have never known about it,” Todd Cione says.

On the first seizure, he found her, in bed with the covers pulled up around her. “It was a little alarming,” he says, because he knows she can’t do anything to push away those covers from her face.

The Embrace detects rhythmic arm movement that signifies the motion of a seizure. It also measures body temperature. It then uses Bluetooth to send a signal to an app on Elaina’s phone. Her phone then calls her parents and texts them this message, “Elaina needs your help,” signifying that the Embrace detects a seizure. The Ciones have it set so that those messages will break through the silent or sleep modes on their phones. It also tells them where she is, which will be helpful when she leaves home for college or if she’s doing an after-school activity.

Another app logs information about the seizure such as length of time and when it started. That will provide valuable information for how well or not well medications are controlling her seizures.

There has been at least one false alarm. One time, when they were all driving in the car, it went off, but she was fine. “At that point, I thought it might be a wasted effort,” Todd Cione says. And then the night of the nine seizures happened.

“Within a couple of weeks, it’s proven invaluable to us,” Todd Cione says.

They see it as an extra monitor, like an extra set of eyes, especially when she’s asleep or taking a shower. Each day after school, Elaina charges the Embrace, which has a battery that lasts about 30 hours each charge.

Austinite Elaina Cione, 15, has been wearing an Embrace smartwatch since February. It alerts her parents when she’s having an epileptic seizure. Family photo

“I like wearing it a lot,” Elaina says. Her friends just think she has a cool watch until she tells them what it does.

“It’s piece of mind for parents and family,” Elizabeth Cione says. “For giving her more independence, it’s hugely helpful.”

When Elaina is wearing the Embrace, “I won’t have to be on edge,” Elizabeth Cione says.

The Embrace cost the Ciones $249, plus there’s a $20 a month monitoring fee. They haven’t tried to go through their insurance yet, but because it is FDA-approved, that is a possibility.

Embrace isn’t for every person with epilepsy, though. It probably won’t work for people who have non-convulsive seizures, says Dr. Karen Keough, pediatric neurologist at Child Neurology Consultants of Austin. For those patients, other monitors are in the works, she says.

One thing that can be great about the Embrace or another product like it is if it can accurately log the number of seizures and their length, Keough says. Patients and their parents aren’t always the best about writing down every seizure.

Seizures in the moment also can feel like forever, and sometimes families don’t give accurate information about the length of the seizures. To have actual data about when the seizure started and when it stopped can be helpful to determine how well medications are working. It also can help parents know if they need to give the rescue medication when the seizure has gone on for more than five minutes. Lengthy seizures have been linked to brain damage.

“The ideal goal of treatment is that they don’t have any seizures at all.” Keough says. “The majority of patients do get that with treatment.”

20 favorite TV moms and what they’ve taught us

Who among us hasn’t wished for a different mother, like the ones you see on TV? And for moms, who among you haven’t wished you could be more like those moms on TV? Steady and kind, funny and smart, always with the right answer to any problem.

For Mother’s Day, we give you 20 of our favorite TV moms. None of them are perfect, all of them have some definite flaws, but they are endearing, people we can relate to and they make us think. Deep down, they are just like real moms — but with better hair and wardrobe.

Carol Brady’s love was at the center of “The Brady Bunch.” FILE

Carol Brady

“The Brandy Bunch”

Carol Brady taught us that there didn’t need to be a difference between the love she had for the children she birthed and the love she had for the children who became hers through marriage. She’s the ultimate step-mom, and she quietly fought the notion of what boys and girls can do in her own house. “Camping is for boys and girls,” she told the kids.

June Cleaver loved her boys in “Leave It to Beaver.” File

June Cleaver

“Leave It to Beaver”

June Cleaver came to represent the bygone era of moms of the 1950s. Moms that always had a piping hot dinner on the table, while wearing a dress, heels and pearls. Yet, June Cleaver could be no-nonsense, and you definitely knew she cared about both of her boys and even neighbor Eddie Haskell. She was forever saying, “Ward, I’m very worried about the Beaver.”

Jackie and sister Roseanne might be different, but you know they love one another in “Roseanne.” ABC

Roseanne Conner


Roseanne Conner said the things all moms think with plenty of sarcasm thrown at you. Things like, “Excuse the mess, but we live here.” Roseanne and husband, Dan, don’t put on any airs. They are real Americans and they don’t care if you love them or loathe them. The great thing about Roseanne Conner is we’ve gotten to grow up with her family and see them 30 years later, and guess what? They are exactly the same.

Linda keeps the family going while Bob makes the family business happen in “Bob’s Burgers.” FOX

Linda Belcher

“Bob’s Burgers”

Linda Belcher loves her babies intensely. She’s fun, she’s a bit wacky. You just have to love her. And she’s very real, even if she’s a cartoon. She has real quips on parenting, like: “Raising you kids is a two parent, two-bottles-of-wine-a-night kind of job.”

Dre and Rainbow Johnson have been through a lot as a couple in “Black-ish.” ABC

Rainbow Johnson


We’ve gotten to watch Rainbow go through many things including most recently postpartum depression and conflict in marriage. She is the rock to the gregarious Dre, plus we love how she handles the in-laws and the teenagers, factions that could make any mom lose it. This family feels real because of her. As her husband announces that he’s figured out a way to save Halloween, she says, “Oh that’s great. I found a way to save a guy that was at the bottom of a pool for twenty minutes, but you go.”

“Speechless” is all about family and overcoming challenges. The parents just come up with different approaches. ABC

Maya DiMeo


Raising a child with differences makes you resilient. Never has there been an example of this like Maya DiMeo. She’ll pick up the whole family and move if she doesn’t get the services she wants for her kids. As she tells her son Ray, ““I’m not going to apologize for taking care of your brother. He got the right mum.”

Clair Huxtable always wore big hair, big earrings and big shoulder pads, but she also wore a strength that moved mountains. FILE

Clair Huxtable

“The Cosby Show”

The creator aside, this show taught us that women can be both a professional and a mom. They could be smart and sexy. They could be strong and vulnerable. They also could stand up to their husbands in a way that was not passive or offensive. “No, Cliff. You don’t understand, Honey. You did not have that child. I had that child. I was the one who was on that table screaming, ‘Take it out!’”

Mrs. Garrett was at the heart of “The Facts of Life.” FILE

Edna Garrett

“The Facts of Life”

Yes, Mrs. Garrett isn’t technically a mom to the girls under her care, but she definitely mothered those girls. She played the straight woman to their zany, and she always saw them for who they are, counseled them on all their troubles, and delivered consequences with a firm, loving stance. She always knew the right thing to say, “Oh honey, your decision to stay a kid is the most adult thing you’ve ever done.”

Marie Barone wouldn’t get out of son Raymond’s life or trying to control husband, Frank. CBS

Marie Barone

“Everybody Loves Raymond”

Marie Barone firmly believes that a mother’s work is never done, which is why she continues to mother both her adult sons. She mothers with guilt. She mothers with food, which is how she shows love. She is always the straight woman to husband Frank, who always got the best lines. Instead, with Marie, you knew exactly where she stood because she always let you know. As she often says, “I don’t like that.”

Ma made everything OK in “Little House on the Prairie.” FILE

Caroline Ingalls

“Little House on the Prairie”

Life on the American frontier was hard, yet Ma always kept her children fed and clothed and imparted wisdom that worked for any age, like this gem: “When you love somebody, it’s worth putting your pride behind you.”

Marion Cunningham “adopted” more than a few wayward strays in “Happy Days.” ABC

Marion Cunningham

“Happy Days”

Marion Cunningham loved her children and their friends, and she had a special place in her heart for the Fonz. “I hope you weren’t offended when I got a little peeved at you the other day … You did a wonderful job, Arthur. Shall we make up?”

“The Simpsons” never seem to age, but Marge becomes more and more central to the way that family works. Fox

Marge Simpson

“The Simpson”

Without Marge this family (and this show) wouldn’t work. While we often forget about her as the rest of the family is going through one round of high-jinks after another, she often knows the right thing to say to bring her children back to reality. Sometimes, it’s just a groan or a look, or a sigh that follows, “Oh, Homie.”

“The Addams Family” has had different incarnations like this movie version. Annie Lebovitz

Morticia Addams

“The Addams Family”

Morticia Addams celebrates her family and their uniqueness in fierce ways. She shows love and cleverness and feminism in the 1960s. “I’m just like any modern woman trying to have it all. Loving husband, a family. It’s just… I wish I had more time to seek out the dark forces and join their hellish crusade.”

The Keaton family in “Family Ties” learned how to love despite different political views. NBC

Elyse Keaton

“Family Ties”

Elyse Keaton had four very different kids, plus a Skippy. Yet, she loved every one of them, even Alex who was a Republican to her former hippie self, and Mallory, who was more interested in clothes and boys than school, something hard to understands as a woman with a career in architecture. Yet, she met every kid where they were and tried to help them be better. As she tells Alex, “You’re pushing yourself too hard.”

Lucy and Ethel were a package deal in “I Love Lucy.” FILE

Lucy Ricardo

“I Love Lucy”

Nothing ever went right for Lucy. Somehow she always messed something up, which made her very human. She taught us the importance of moms having friends. She and Ethel were thick as thieves, as with this exchange:

Lucy: I’ll get even with him!

Ethel: What are you gonna do?

Lucy: I’ll leave him! No. That’s probably what he wants.

Ethel: Yeah, stay married with him. That’ll teach him!

Coolest mom ever, Shirley Partridge let her kids form a band in “The Partridge Family.” FILE

Shirley Partridge

“The Partridge Family”

Shirley Partridge taught us that moms can rock and they can go on the road with their kids and form a rock band! She was the ultimate stage mom, but not in a creepy way, and with her magical tambourine, she allowed her kids to follow their dreams. She also gave us real insight in the struggle of being a single mom, “Let me explain something to you. I’m your mother, and in that way I’ll always belong to all of you. But I’m also a woman. And even with five children whom I love very much, and who I know love me, there are times when I still feel lonely.”

Michonne from “The Walking Dead” provides a lesson in love after loss. Gene Page/AMC


“The Walking Dead”

Michonne as the katana-wielding superheroine of the zombie apocalypse lost her own son to the apocalypse, but she took on the role of mother to Rick Grimes’ children. She’s become the voice of reason, after starting out with so much anger about her own child’s death. As she says to Grimes’ son Carl, “I can’t stop you, but you can’t stop me from helping you.” She’s the epitome of a strong woman making the best of a difficult situation and doing it with love.

Lois seems to always be yelling at someone in “Malcolm in the Middle.” Deborah Feingold/FOX


“Malcolm in the Middle”

Lois is an every mom. She’s working a bad job, trying to raise four boys, one of whom is already a delinquent and one of whom is a genius she doesn’t know what to do with. Plus she’s got a husband with some pretty wackadoodle ideas. She always comes back with a good quip: “Once upon a time, there was a little boy that made his mom so crazy she decided to sell him to a circus.”

Tami Taylor might think her husband’s approach needs softening and she’ll let him know in “Friday Night Lights.” NBC

Tami Taylor

“Friday Night Lights”

Tami Taylor as the school counselor/principal/football coach’s wife mothered a whole team, really a whole town. There’s a sweetness to her and a toughness. She’s always the voice of reason and compassion. As she says, “I believe in you with every cell of my being.”

Daenerys Targaryen is the Mother of Dragons in “Game of Thrones.” If you can mother dragons, you can do anything, right? HBO

Daenerys Targaryen

“Game of Thrones”

Motherhood can be elusive. Daenerys loses her unborn baby in the first season of “Game of Thrones,” yet she grows an empire and three dragons. She is the mother of dragons and so much more. As she says, “No one will take my dragons.” And yet, we now know she is vulnerable.

New book ‘The Stepmoms’ Club’ reminds us: Don’t forget stepmoms this Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day can be the loneliest holiday for stepmoms. The children they are helping to raise are with their mothers. They’ve often helped create something special for the children’s mother and often the work they do is not acknowledged.

“You go to Starbucks and they don’t know you’re not a mother and they wish you a Happy Mother’s Day,” says Kendall Rose. She along with three friends formed The Stepmoms’ Club and now she writes about becoming a stepmother and the challenges of this unappreciated role.

She wrote the book as a girlfriends’ guide to this role, as a way for women to find answers about what other women weren’t talking about.

In “The Stepmoms’ Club: How to be a Stepmom Without Losing your Money, Your Mind and Your Marriage” ($15.99, Source Books), Rose shares stories and wisdom learned after 15 years of helping to raise her husband’s children from another marriage. Rose, which is a pen name she chose after her’s and her grandmother’s imaginary tea names, uses that name to protect her stepchildren. All the names in the book are not real names, but they are real women with real stories of how hard it is to be in this role.

How do you overcome the “wicked stepmother” stereotype perpetuated by Disney and make it work? The biggest rule is to always focus on the children and their needs.

“When parents don’t get along, they’re not focus on the issue at hand what’s going to be be most beneficial for the child or children,” she says. “That’s when we see the strife.”

Sometimes you have to put your needs last and take a step back. “There are times when the children really want you to be involved,” she says. “And there are other times looking for mother and father to be in that situation, even if it’s difficult as a stepmom that wants to be involved.”

You put the kids’ needs first, which is always the right answer.

That might mean that the mom, not you, shops for the dress to the dance, or that you sit with the mom in the bleachers at the game so that the kid doesn’t have to look for two different sets of parents. It might mean that there are times when you take a step back and let the biological parents get all the public acknowledgement.

Rose recommends entering into the relationship slowly and with knowledge. It will take some time to decide what this relationship is. “Making it into a big deal turns it into a big deal,” she says.

Instead, do more informal introductions, slowly start spending more time with them rather than launching head-first into part-time or full-time mom.

She recommends waiting until it’s very clear that this relationship is going to be permanent.

“In a new relationship, you’re still learning about one another, and then you’re learning about another family’s dynamics,” she says.

Once you do enter into the relationship, fill yourself with knowledge. That means you’ve read the divorce decree and all the custody documentation. You know what the rules are for how much time the children will be with their father, how holidays are divided and how much child support is each month.

This and a conversation with your partner will help you figure out what your role as stepmom will be. “Don’t make the assumption that you’re jumping full feet into the water, and you’re taking on the role of the mother,” she says. “They have a biological mother. Know where you fit within the family dynamics.”

You also have to figure out what your house rules are, which might be very different than Mom’s house rules. And then you have to figure out if it makes sense for you to be the main enforcer of these rules, for their father to be or for you both to be.

“There is something so important about letting go,” Rose says. “It sounds so much easier than it is. It’s about not getting caught up in what happens elsewhere.”

Often, the kids won’t be so welcoming to you. After all, this wasn’t something they got a choice in. “Tread lightly,” Rose says. “Try to connect with them on some level. Ease into it.”

Recognize that they might blame you for the breakup of their parents’ marriage or they might feel like liking you is a betrayal to their mother. You also don’t know what they’re being told at their other house.

“You have to let it play out over time,” she says. “Don’t try to be everything to everyone.”

Stepmoms have to recognize that there’s a lot they are not in control of: the terms of the divorce, the way the other parent parents. “There are things you can’t change, but you can change how you react to things,” Rose says.

Stepmoms are often the last to know important details like what’s going on at school because the teachers often primarily communicate with mom, maybe dad. You can make sure that you’re on the emergency contact list, that you’re on the teacher’s email that goes to all the parents, that you are in contact with any coaches or after-school activity provider. Rose also suggests giving the teacher a box of self-addressed stamped envelopes for them to mail to you a copy of any papers that might be going to home to the other house.

Recognize that there are parts of the children’s life that you’ve missed and are going to miss. And yes, they will talk about that time when they were little and said the funniest thing or their favorite stuffed animal, and you won’t be able to tell them more about that. “You have to let it go,” she says. “You weren’t there, as much as it hurts.”

There are some wonderful things, too, about being a stepmom. Often they come at unexpected times when you get a nice note or a card and you know that you mattered. “The smallest thing has the biggest impact,” she says.

And when a blended family works, it’s incredibly rewarding, Rose says.

“Parents can love multiple children; children can love multiple parents,” she says. “Sometimes it’s just a little bumpy, but they can get there.”

The Austin moms who made us think since last Mother’s Day

As the Raising Austin columnist, I get to share the stories of some pretty incredible moms.

Moms who are creatively changing Austin. Moms who have nerves of steel when it comes to supporting their kids through difficult struggles. Moms who are dealing with their own struggles. Moms who have made us laugh, made us think. Moms who are just real.

Today, I share some of my favorite Austin mom stories from the past year. Click their names to read their stories again.

Andra Liemandt created The Kindness Campaign.

Andra Liemandt brought kindness to kids when she started The Kindness Campaign. The in-school curriculum teaches kids how to be kind from a young age with the hope that a generation of kind kids will prevent bullying and lessen the amount of teen suicide.

“At first, I really wanted to know how to connect with my own kids,” she says. “I was just doing this because I was scared.”

The Kindness Campaign turned into the play, “Las Aventuras de Enoughie (The Adventures of Enoughie)” from Zach Theatre, Teatro Vivo and Glass Half Full Theatre this January.

Liemandt also started The Mrs. band. They sing songs to uplift women, sometimes with humor, always with a strong dose of reality. “We’re writing songs with purpose,” she says. Their biggest hit, “Enough,” reiterates the theme that we all are enough.

Michelle Houp created Prep U line of body care products for boys. Prep U

Michelle Houp started Prep U, a line of personal care products for young boys.

She found herself saying to sons her Carson and Colton when they got in the car: “Do not take your shoes off any more because I’m going to vomit.”

That stench extended to house, too. “I can’t get rid of the smell,” she says. “We live in a frat house. There is something funky happening.”

Now, that boy stink doesn’t have to be a part of parenting boys.

Maruxa Murphy spends time with her daughters Maya, 8, Isabella, 4, and Selah, 2, on the balcony of their South Austin home. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

Maruxa Murphy also has the entrepreneurial heart. She started Austin Moms’ Network in 2014 to connect moms together through a Facebook group with in-person events. Now she’s explored another passion of hers — coffee — as the owner of Perky Perky Coffee.

Coffee became even more important to her when she became a mom. She remembers once when she had just had a baby and a well-meaning friend brought her a cup of 7-Eleven coffee. She wanted to cry. “All I wanted was a good cup of coffee,” she says.

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

Catia Hernandez Holm, author of “The Courage to Become: Stories of Hope for Navigating Love, Marriage and Motherhood,” says, “I wanted other women to know they weren’t alone.”

She writes with honesty about the struggle to become pregnant, the struggle of her first pregnancy and the first year of motherhood.

Nalie Lee-Wen grew up an refugee without a country before coming to the United States.

Nalie Lee-Wen takes the lessons she learned as a refugee and applies them to her business as the founder of a real estate investment firm and her role as mother.

“Wherever my parents were from stayed with us for a very long time,” she says of her journey from refugee camp along the border of Laos and Thailand to settling in Utah, then California, then Seattle and finally Austin.

The PPA Group has five core values: We care, we are exceptional, we are teachable, we speak to inspire, we are bold.

That boldness means that she does things like take her children out of their comfortable life to have them struggle at a horticulture camp for the summer.

“You’re not going to be the same person five years from now,” she says. “No matter what career you will go into, you will know who you are.”

Dr. Andrea Campaigne with daughter Nina.

Dr. Andrea Campaigne’s profession is to help women through their pregnancy, labor and delivery and beyond. The obstetrician gynecologist had her own health crisis after giving birth to her daughter. She began to hemorrhage and had to trust in her medical team to get her through.

“The work that I do takes healthy woman to the brink on a really difficult day,” she says. “You can recover from it, but it’s a big day.”

She reminds us that even though we think we can control everything in our lives, even the doctor can’t avoid a medical crisis.

Baxter Wilson-Rul is 13. He has autism and is nonverbal, yet he’s found a way to advocate for himself. His moms Monica Rul and Tiffany Wilson have helped him learn to communicate. Family photo

Tiffany Wilson and Monica Rul are the parents of Baxter Wilson-Rul, a 13-year-old with autism who became verbal using a letter board. He writes about the time when a school didn’t believe he had anything to say, but his moms knew differently.

They knew that Baxter was intelligent if they could just figure a way to connect to his thoughts.

“He sees things we don’t understand about,” Wilson says.

They kept going until they found the right person to teach Baxter how to use a letter board and the right school environment for him.

He wants everyone to know: “I can do everything.”

Dr. Nilda Garcia is the new surgeon in chief at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas. She’s been at Dell since 2010. Seton

Dr. Nilda Garcia is leading the way when it comes to how children in trauma are treated. She’s changed some of the protocols, in fact. The chief surgeon at Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas has done a lot in her career, but she’s still Mom at home.

Motherhood has made her a better doctor in many ways because she’s been on the other side of the gurney. She makes it a point to include both parent and child in their care. “It makes them feel part of it,” she says. “It makes them feel good.”

Shamsah Momin, with her daughter Samayra, had an aneurysm that ruptured last September. Doctors were able to repair it using a Pipeline Flex embolization device. Family photo

Shamsah Momin reminds us all that moms need to take care of themselves. She had an aneurysm Labor Day weekend 2016. One possible cause was not controlling her blood pressure.

Her family had to help her for a while, doing everyday things like taking her daughter to school and other activities. “I really became dependent,” she says. “I had always been supermom.”

Jeannie Ralston and Lori Seekatz have started NextTribe, an online magazine for women who have raised their kids and wonder what’s next? Nine Francois

Jeannie Ralston and Lori Seekatz are proof that even after the kids leave home, you still have an identity as a woman, as a mom. They started NextTribe online magazine for women of a certain age after they couldn’t find a magazine that spoke to them. Their tagline is “Age Boldly” and that’s what they plan to do and to encourage other women to do.

The magazine is like having a group of friends tell you the truth about what life post-kids is all about. “We want it to sound the way women really do talk to each other,” Ralston says.

When Kristin Schell moved a brightly painted picnic table into her front yard, she didn’t realize how much it would change her life. Now, hundreds of these tables are in front yards across the world. Contributed by Kasandra Keys

Kristin Schell knows the power of connection. She started the Turquoise Table, which has become a movement and is now a book. From putting out her own turquoise-colored picnic table in her front yard in 2013 to tables popping up all over the country, Schell found an easy way for people to find that connection we all crave.

Paint a table turquoise, put it in the front yard, sit at it and see who comes by to chat. “When I was in it, I didn’t fully see it,” she says of the growth.

“It just unfolded,” she says. “I can’t believe it myself.”

Don and Sara Hogan hold Mary Margaret in these photos by a Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep volunteer.

Sara Hogan lost her daughter Mary Margaret to Turner syndrome. After Mary Margaret was stillborn, Sara and her husband Don wanted to spend as much time with their daughter before they had to leave the hospital. It wasn’t possible because of the natural deterioration of a body.

“It was hard for me to hear that by holding my daughter that I was accelerating the process,” Hogan says. “It was hard for the nurses to tell a family going through it. They are going through a horrible experience.”

They later learned about CuddleCots, a bassinet that is refrigerated for just this purpose. They have donated six CuddleCots and have a goal to put one in every hospital in Austin.

Lucia Facundo and Mindy Croom retired as high school counselors at McCallum High School after 40 and 33 years in education. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

Mindy Croom and Lucia Facund0 shared their wisdom on their retirement as school counselors at McCallum High School last year. Between them they had 70 years of experience.

“We have had wonderful kids all of my years,” Croom says.

Often, kids didn’t change, but their problems seemed to grow and the pressure on them sure did.

Croom and Facundo had great wisdom to share. Gems like:

Drink in the beauty. Take time to notice the beauty and details around you.

Accept the gift of education. Be like the refugee students who come to school for the first time: Be in awe of all the opportunities that are in front of you.

Life is a journey, not a race. If you make a mistake, all is not lost.

Confession: Croom has been seen at local high schools filling in for counselors on leave. She just can’t get enough.

Khris Ford is the founder of The Austin Center for Grief & Loss. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

Khris Ford is one of those angels who figures out how to make something wonderful out of a tragedy. A decade ago she started what is now Austin Center for Grief & Loss. She was inspired by her own struggle after the death of her son Stephen in a car accident in 1989.

“Life happens,” she says. “That’s part of my philosophy. It’s not what was before. You have a choice. You can linger on death or you can let it be your teacher.”

The center offers one-on-one counseling and support groups for people of all ages who are dealing with the loss of a loved one.

“I kind of have to shake my head every time I’m here,” she says. “It’s beyond what I dreamed, and I still have dreams of where it will go.”

Casey Barnes was almost 10 years old when she died. Her parents Tim and Marty Barnes started Casey’s Circle as her legacy with the hope more families will be able to give their children typical childhood experiences. Barnes family photos 2012

Marty Barnes and her husband Tim, also know what it’s like to lose a child. Their daughter Casey, died just before her 10th birthday from multiple diagnoses because of a traumatic birth injury. They started Casey’s Circle to give kids who are medically fragile or have special needs normal events like birthday and Christmas parties, movie outings and more.

The goal of Casey’s Circle is to “focus on their kids being kids first and not patients,” she says. “It’s our goal to help families make sure that they are creating the memories and having the childhood that the kids deserve. We did that as best as we could with Casey, and I think it’s good to try to give back and help other families do that.”

Austin’s Jen Hatmaker returns with “Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight Out of This Wild and Glorious Life.” Amy Melsa Photography

Jen Hatmaker is as real as it gets. The author, social media presence isn’t putting up a public front in anything she does. Her newest book “Of Mess and Moxie” is all about embracing the mess that is life and having the moxie to get through it.

“The thing about real life is that if you don’t know already that life is messy and hard and full of failure and loss and disappointment, then you need to live longer,” she says. “That’s just true.”

The book is written after a particularly hard time in her life. “Everything felt like it was imploding all at once. … We couldn’t catch our breath from one thing, then the next domino hit,” she says. “I remember thinking, ‘We can’t recover from this. Even if we move on, we can’t undo what had happened.’”

And yet, somehow, we pick ourselves up again. “Even in the very worst things,” she says, “even then, the sun will rise again.”

What’s Mom really worth? How the job of mother translates in salary terms

If you had to give Mom a salary for all the work she does for the family, you probably couldn’t afford her.

Insure.com figured out just how much she’s worth in dollar figures for the job she does. Her wage is up 1.9 percent this year to $68,875.

Blanton docent Gary Kattner, right, reads a book for (left to right) Mandy Kutz, and daughter Effie, 3, Cate Bowman, 3, and mother Jillian Bontke Bowman during a story time tour in the Blanton Museum of Art in 2014. Julia Robinson/ FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN.

What’s Mom’s job’s worth?

Here’s how Insure.com broke it down by wage for each job based on the number of hours Mom does that job each year:

Cooking $7,935

Taxi driver $5,300

Teacher, tutor $8,200

Childcare worker $24,648

Licensed vocational nurse $488

Housekeeper $5,707

Meeting and convention planner $1,702

Social services provider $9,492

Hairdresser, cosmetologist $339

Personal shopper $1,868

Accountant $693

Landscaper $683

Interior designer $963

Private detective $963

Think about that this Mother’s Day.




Where’s the best place to be a working mom? Hint: It’s not Texas

Wallet Hub released its annual ranking of best states to be a working mother, just in time for Mother’s Day.

Texas ranked No. 42. Idaho was the worst out of 50 states and the District of Columbia. Vermont was No. 1.

Is Texas a great place to be a working mom? (Credit: Eric Doggett)

What do moms in other states have that we don’t? They have a better work-life balance. Texas ranked No. 49 in that index. Only Maryland was worse.

We also didn’t do well in the female executive to male executive ratio index. We were No. 47.

In two indexes, we do OK: child care cost (No. 29) and professional opportunities (No. 31).

Women in the United States make up about half of the work force and about 70 percent of women with young children work. Yet, we have some work to do. Women earn about 82 percent of what men earn. Only about 5.2 percent of the head of the S&P 500 companies are women.

Find the rankings here:

What moms really want for Mother’s Day can’t be bought

Just six more shopping days to Mother’s Day. Have you gotten your gifts yet?

Wait, let’s take a step back. Put down the wallet and realize that there’s more to this day than can be wrapped up in a bow.

Sometimes Mother’s Day feels like a day that Hallmark invented that never will measure up to that standard. No matter how perfect a day you plan for yourself or the mother in your life, something will happen. Someone will get sick. Someone will whine. Someone won’t be able to find the mayo in the fridge when it’s clearly in front of their face. And someone will treat it like it’s any other day.

Nicole Villalpando celebrates her daughter’s bat mitzvah last year with her mother, Tina De Stephen. Carol Calvery/For American-Statesman

My expectations for Mother’s Day have slowly diminished with each passing year of being a mother. It started with the first year when my husband didn’t realize that hey, our 4 month old couldn’t really go out and buy me something, much less say, “Happy Mother’s Day.” It was all on him. And boy, did he blow it. He’s much better now. Breakfast in bed? Yes, please. A quiet day with nothing that I have to do. Sure thing.

And I’m much better now, too. I set my expectations incredibly low. It’s not about the day. It’s about the life, the kids who sometimes remember to say, “I love you” or “Thank you, Mom.”

When in doubt, there’s always the pets who have unconditional love for me. After all, I’m the thing that’s between them and death because I show up and feed them and love on them, even if technically they are all my children’s pets.

So, I reflect on this old column that I wrote in 2012, six years ago — before the kids were teenagers. So much is still true, but, of course, I have a few more thoughts to add. It comes with the gray hairs brought on by having kids in middle school and high school.


Greatest gifts to give can’t be bought
This Mother’s Day, after breakfast in bed, give Mom something she really wants


What I really want for Mother’s Day isn’t material:

I want peace in our universe. Could you please stop fighting over things like TV time, computer time, who breathed on whom, who touched whom, who is annoying by merely existing?

Give me the gift of open conversation. Know that my door is always open no matter how busy I am. Know that there is nothing that you cannot tell me. A grunt or a shrug doesn’t really count as talking. And, please, leave your room every once in a while.

Be the best you can be. You don’t have to win a Nobel Prize or an Olympic gold medal, but you do need to find something you love and do it.

Give me the gift of a vision of the future. Let us all understand that right now is right now. Middle school and high school will soon pass. All the heartaches of these teen years, the struggles, the frustrations won’t be forever. What will be forever is our relationship. Help us remember that as we’re arguing over whether or not Algebra is something you have to do.

Do not embarrass me or yourselves. I hope I have done my job and raised you to be moral people with common sense. Please don’t do anything stupid that ends in a phone call from jail.

Grow up to not need me. Honor me best by becoming self-sufficient, honorable members of society with jobs you love and eventually families you love.

Want to be with me. I want our time together to be meaningful and enjoyable now, and, in the future, I don’t want you to only visit me because you feel obligated. And, when the time is right, please, put me in a nice facility and don’t feel guilty because you can no longer care for me at home.

Most importantly, love me. Know that I will always love you, and that’s not just a song. Please appreciate the choices I have made with your father to give you the best start in life we could give you. Know that we are human and surely disappointed you, but we really, really tried. When you become parents, you’ll understand that we did our best.

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week. What do teachers really want?

All across schools in Central Texas, parents are planning their week around the tokens that their school is suggesting students bring each day to show their appreciation for their teachers … or they are scrambling to bring whatever token they’ve been assigned, the food item for the teachers’ lunch or some other gift.

While these teacher tokens of appreciation, I know are appreciated, they are just that, tokens. And, I hear from teachers that often, it’s all too much — especially when it comes to food and unhealthy food at that.

Instead, the teachers I know talk about getting chocked up every time a student brings her a box of sharpened pencils. Another loves that one of her students brings her some hard-boiled eggs for her snack because she knows she loves hard-boiled eggs.

Kettisha Jones, assistant superintendent with the Pflugerville school district, assists second grade students in Susan Davidson’s classroom at Wieland Elementary with a math lesson in measurement as she helps size their arms.

What do teachers really want? Here are five things you can give them this week, but more importantly throughout the school year.

  1. Your support. Active parents who are partners, not skeptics, micro managers, road blocks. Being an active parent means that you read the teacher’s notes. You engage with your child about what they are studying and reinforce it. You read to your child regularly or encourage them to read. You make sure the homework is done, but you don’t do it for your kids.
  2. Your help. Not everyone can sign up for the field trip or to be room parent, but you can  volunteer to do something at home to bring to the classroom. I remember one teacher needed someone to cut out paper hearts for the next day’s activity. Easy, peasy. I felt good and it was one less thing on that teacher’s to-do list.
  3. Supplies. This is the time of year when schools are running out of everything: pencils, paper, tissues, hand-sanitizer. Often, teachers supplement using their own funds, which is wrong. Ask teachers what they are running low on and pick up some the next time you’re at the store. Better yet, let fellow parents know as well and organize a supply drive.
  4. Gift cards. Stock them with gift cards to H-E-B, Target, Walmart. If they do run low on something, even if it’s for next year, they won’t have to use their own funds. Or gift cards to places that are just for them — a favorite restaurant, a coffee spot, a bookstore.
  5. Notes of encouragement all year long. If your child came home filled with knowledge or particularly enjoyed a lesson, let your teacher now. So often our emails to teachers are all about what they aren’t doing or logistics about who is sick, when you’re picking up kids for what activity or how your children are getting home. Wouldn’t it be nice to start their day with a nice note from a parent that wasn’t about all of that?

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week. We appreciate you all year long.