Bring your young superheroes out to play this weekend in Austin, Aug. 24-26

We’re all adjusting to this back-to-school thing. Spend this weekend catching up on sleep, staying cool, and enjoying fun activities as a family.

Here are some of the family events we found:

FRIDAY

Back-to-School Dance, 6-9 p.m. Friday, Givens Recreation Center, 3811 E. 12th St. austintexas.gov

Toybrary

Austin. Unicorn Swimming. 10 a.m. Friday. 2001 Justin Lane. toybraryaustin.com

“Rise of the Black Panther.” Meet author Evan Narcisse. 7 p.m. Friday, Carver Branch.

Spider-Man fights off the Green Goblin in a demonstration at the Erwin Center for “Marvel Universe Live.” RALPH BARRERA / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

FRIDAY-SATURDAY

Heroes in a Half Shell: A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Celebration. Mondo Gallery offers art of the cartoon. Noon-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday. Mondo Gallery is located at 4115 Guadalupe St. mondotees.com

FRIDAY-SUNDAY

Marvel Universe Live! Now you can see your favorite action heroes live. 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday, 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday. $25-$90. Erwin Center, 1701 Red River St. uterwincenter.com

“Beauty and the Beast” at Zach Theatre. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. $25-$150. Zach Theatre, 202 S. Lamar Blvd. zachtheatre.org

Alamo Drafthouse Kids Club. Kids movies for a $1-$3 donation. “Kung Fu Panda.” 10:20 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Mueller. 11 a.m. Friday, 10:35 a.m. Saturday, 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Slaughter Lane. “Paddington 2.” 10 a.m. Friday-Sunday, Lakeline. drafthouse.com.

SATURDAY

Zach Theatre Open House. Try out some of the classes for children age toddler to fifth-grade. 10 a.m. to noon Saturday. This week it’s at the Downtown Austin location, 1510 Toomey Road. RSVP on a link on zachtheatre.org

Thinkery. Splash Into Summer this August for Baby Bloomers, 9 a.m. Saturday. $5. Tinkering Take Home. For ages 4 and older. Make a sewn circuit. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. $5. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.thinkeryaustin.org

BookPeople events. 10:30 a.m. story times. Coloring story time, Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Barnes & Noble. 11 a.m. Saturday story times. This week hear “We Don’t Eat Our Classmates.” barnesandnoble.com

Minecraft Club. 1 p.m. Saturday, Ruiz Branch.

Sherwood Forest Faire brings stories of Robin Hood to Scottish Rite Theater.

SATURDAY-SUNDAY

“The Legends of Robin Hood.” Directly from Sherwood Forest Faire, Robin Hood and his merry band of outlaws are bringing mischief to Austin Scottish Rite Theater. 12 and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $8-$12. Austin Scottish Rite Theater. 207 W. 18th St. brownpapertickets.com/event/3527404.

SUNDAY

Hideout Kids: “Mission Kid-Possible.” Enjoy a kid-centric improve. $5 11 a.m. Sunday. Hideout Theatre, 617 Congress Ave. hideouttheatre.com

Come Dance 2018. Ballet Austin’s annual free day of dance allows you to sample a variety of the organization’s community dance classes, including ballet, Bollywood, hip hop, Brazilian, African, Irish dance and more. No RSVP is necessary — just get yourself moving. 1 to 5:45 p.m. Sunday. Butler Center for Dance & Fitness, 501 W. Third St. balletaustin.org.

Austin Symphony Hartman Concerts in the Park. 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Free. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org

BackYard at Waller Creek Sunday Funday. Games, face-painting, bounce house and more. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Free for kids younger than 12, $5 adults. 701 E. 11th St. backyardbaraustin.com

Save these dates: Trail of Lights will return

I know we just sent kids off to school, but Tuesday, The Trail of Lights announced the dates for the 54th running of the Christmas lights spectacular.

The official grand opening will be Monday, Dec. 10 and will be free that day.

The famous Trail of Lights tunnel of lights will shine again in December. American-Statesman

The lights will continue 7-10 p.m. Dec. 11-23 in Zilker Park. Children younger than 12 are always free. Seven out of the other 14 nights also will be free. The Trail will offer fast passes, and parking and shuttle passes for an extra fee and available in advance. Ticket availability will be released in October at austintrailoflights.org.

What will be new this year?

  • A 13-foot lighted carriage
  • 12 7-foot lighted guitars
  • A 25-foot spiral holiday tree

The Trail expects to feature 2 million lights, more than 65 displays, 30 food trucks and three stages. It also will host interactive experiences and  50 private holiday parties.

The Trail of Lights season begins on Nov. 25 with the lighting of the Zilker Holiday Tree. 

The Austin Trail of Lights Fun Run is planned for Dec. 1. It’s a way to see the lights before the trail officially opens. It’s a 2.1-mile run.

The fundraising preview night will be Dec. 8 and will include activities such as food tastings not available during the rest of the Trail’s nights.

Once again, the Trail of Lights Foundation Board is hosting STARS at the Trail, private viewing of the trail by local nonprofit organizations’ clients Dec. 2, 3 and 4, as well as during the public nights. Organizations can apply by Sept. 18 to be considered at austintrailoflights.org/stars-application.

Heroes Night on Dec. 11 will honor first responders and current military and veterans and their family.

The Trail is also looking for entertainment for its stages. You can apply at www.austintrailoflights.org/performer-application by Sept. 28.

 

Celebrate bats, beasts and mutant turtles this weekend with the family, Aug. 17-19

Guess what? It’s still going to be hot this weekend with temps hitting 100+. Make the best of it by exploring these family events:

Katherine Van Hook, 10 hung out at the Austin Bat Fest in her bat hat. American-Statesman 2007

FRIDAY

“My Little Pony: The Movie,” 3:30 p.m. Friday, Carver Branch. library.austintexas.gov

Early Learner Playtime. 10:30 a.m. Friday, Central Library.

Teen Videogame Free Play. 1 p.m. Friday, Central Library.

Lego Lab. 2 p.m. Friday, University Hills Branch.

Kids Create Fidget Spinners. 2:30 p.m. Friday, Yarborough Branch.

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

Art Smart “We Read” Community Mural Project. . 1 p.m. Friday, Pleasant Hill Branch.

FRIDAY-SATURDAY

Cedar Park Rodeo comes to the H-E-B Center. See the ropers and riders inside an air-conditioned venue. 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday. $12-$27. H-E-B Center, 2100 Avenue of the Stars, Cedar Park. hebcenter.com

FRIDAY-SUNDAY

“Beauty and the Beast” at Zach Theatre. 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. $25-$150. Zach Theatre, 202 S. Lamar Blvd. zachtheatre.org

Alamo Drafthouse Kids Camp offers morning movies for a $1 to $5 donation.  “Despicable Me.” 10:20 a.m. Friday-Sunday, Mueller. 10:20 a.m. Friday, 10:30 a.m. Saturday, 10:40 a.m. Sunday, Slaughter Lane. “Kung Fu Panda.” 10 a.m. Friday-Sunday, Lakeline.  “Space Jam” Cereal Party. 1 p.m. Lakeline. 1:45 p.m. Saturday, Mueller. 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Slaughter Lane. drafthouse.com

SATURDAY

Austin Bat Fest. Celebrate everything bat. Congress Avenue Bridge, 100 S. Congress Ave. 4 p.m. to midnight. Saturday. $15, kids 8 and younger free. roadwayevents.com/event/bat-fest.

Heroes in a Half Shell: A Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Celebration. Mondo Gallery offers art of the cartoon. Family Day Party. Pizza, treats, face painting, photo booth and more. 10 a.m.-noon Saturday. Regular hours noon-6 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays Saturday-Aug. 25. Mondo Gallery is located at 4115 Guadalupe St. mondotees.com

Bullock MuseumYippee Yay! The rodeo exhibit comes to life with trick roping. 2 p.m. Saturday. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com

Thinkery. Splash Into Summer this August for Baby Bloomers, 9 a.m. Saturdays. $5. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

BookPeople events. 10:30 a.m. story time. Back to School, Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Barnes & Noble 11 a.m. Saturday story times. This week hear “The Dinosaur Expert.” barnesandnoble.com

Girl Scout Girl Power story time. Bring a book to donate to BookSpring. Free. 2 p.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. Westoak Woods Baptist Church, 2900 W. Slaughter Lane.

Tumble podcast records “The Surprising Story of Sea Stars’s Sticky Feet.” 11 a.m. Saturday. Science Mill, 101 S. Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City. sciencemill.org

SATURDAY-SUNDAY

Felt Food workshop. Kids 4 and older learn to sew by making food out of felt. 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

SUNDAY

Austin Symphony Hartman Concerts in the Park. 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Free. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org.

Minecraft convention Minefaire coming to Austin in September

Minecraft fans rejoice! The largest convention for a single video game is coming to Austin Sept. 15-16. Minefaire is expected to bring 15,000 people to the Austin Convention Center to celebrate the game.

What’s the big deal about Minecraft? If you have a kid in elementary school, you know. 

See a video of the convention:

Here are some of the things you can expect to see at Minefaire:

  • Minecraft Virtual Reality Experience: Play Minecraft with virtual reality.
  • Learning Lab: Learn from Minecraft Education Global Mentors who use Minecraft in the classroom.
  • Build Battles and Challenges: Compete in live gaming arenas, code within the game and learn to solve problems in creative ways.
  • Minecraft Costume Contest: Dress up, dance and have fun on stage as your favorite Minecraft characters.
  • YouTube Meet & Greets: Meet Minecraft YouTube superstars who will share their favorite tips and tricks.
  • Nonstop, Live Stage Shows: Multiple stages will show different Minecraft experiences for different skill levels.
  • World’s Largest Official Minecraft Merchandise: Of course, there will be shopping.

Tickets are $49-$69.50, but kids younger than 2 are free. Find them at Minefaire.com.

 

Before school starts, find family fun in Austin, Aug. 10-12

For some of you, this is the last weekend before school starts. Others of you have more time, yet still the summer is dwindling.

Find something fun

FRIDAY

That’s My Face, Youth and Young Adult Film Series continues with “The Mask You Live In,” 6:30 p.m. Friday. George Washington Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St. austintexas.gov

Art Smart Public Mural Project.  1 p.m. Friday, Pleasant Hill Branch.

Lego Lab. 3:30 p.m. Friday, Hampton Branch. 2 p.m. Friday, Carver Branch.

FRIDAY-SATURDAY

Zilker Botanical Garden Woodland Faerie Trail. The trail is full of homes people have created for the fairies. Open through Friday. Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road. zilkergarden.org

Summer Stock Austin’s “The Music Man.” 7:30 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Friday. $26-33. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org

Summer Stock Austin’s “Rob1n.” Musical by Allen Robertson and Damon Brown explores what if Robin Hood was a girl. 10 a.m. Friday and Saturday. $9-18. thelongcenter.org

Jessica O’Brien, left, and Riley Wesson perform in the musical “All Shook Up” at Zilker Hillside Theatre. Stephen Spillman / for American-Statesman

FRIDAY-SUNDAY

Alamo Drafthouse Kids Camp offers morning movies for a $1 to $5 donation. Plus you can collect stamps for prizes. “Prince of Egypt,” 10 a.m. Friday, 10:15 a.m. Sunday, Mueller. 10 a.m. Friday-Saturday, Slaughter Lane. “Despicable Me,” 10 a.m. Friday, 10 a.m. Sunday, Lakeline. 

Zilker Summer Musical’s “All Shook Up.” 8:15 p.m. Thursday-Sunday through Aug. 18. Free, but donations are welcome. Zilker Hillside Theatre, 2206 William Barton Drive. zilker.org

“Beauty and the Beast” comes to the stage at Zach Theatre. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $25-$150. Zach Theatre, 202 S. Lamar Blvd. zachtheatre.org

SATURDAY

Splash Bash. Free community event with swimming, bounce house and more. Learn how to prevent drowning as well as have fun. 1-4 p.m. Saturday. TownLake YMCA, 1100 W. Cesar Chavez St. austinymca.org

The Austin Humane Society Teddy Bear Surgery, 1 p.m. Saturday. Free, but you must register, austinhumanesociety.org, 512-646-7387. Austin Humane Society, 124 W. Anderson Lane

Families create events play with different media at Laguna Gloria.
RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Create Ice Paintings during Contemporary Austin’s August free Families Create event, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St. thecontemporaryaustin.org

Thinkery. Baby Bloomers, for birth to age 3. Splash into Summer in August. 9 a.m. Saturday. $5. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

The Williamson Museum offers Hands on History. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. 716 S. Austin Ave. williamsonmuseum.org

Paramount Theatre’s summer series. “Grease,” 1 p.m. Saturday. $6-$12. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org

“Daniel Tiger.” (PBS)

Alamo Drafthouse Events. “The Karate Kid,” 1 p.m. Saturday, Village. “PBS Kids: Back to School with Daniel Tiger,” 10 a.m. Saturday, Lakeline. 10 a.m. Saturday, Mueller.  drafthouse.com

The Bullock Museum is offering its Summer Family Film Series: “Toy Story,” 2 p.m. Saturday. $5. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com

BookPeople events. Vanessa Roeder reads “Lucy and the String.” 2 p.m. Saturday. Story time. All in the Family, 10:30 a.m. Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Barnes & Noble Saturday 11 a.m. story times at all locations. “A is for Astronaut.” barnesandnoble.com

Gods and Heroes Party. 2 p.m. Saturday, Howson Branch.

Bianca Serra, 4, visited the Umlauf Sculpture Garden with her family where she prayed with a bronze statue of a nun. LAURA SKELDING / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

SUNDAY

Austin Symphony Hartman Concerts in the Park. 7:30 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 26. Free. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum remembers President Lyndon Baines Johnson during Family Day, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, 605 Robert E. Lee Road. umlaufsculpture.org

Get Curious with Tumble! A Science Party for Kids. 2 p.m. Sunday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Family Matinee “The Nut Job 2.” 3 p.m. Sunday, Little Walnut Creek Branch.

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

Back to school: Teacher recommend doing these things right now

We asked Austin-area teachers to help us prepare for the upcoming school year. They offered advice for things to do before school begins:

Julian Knox, sixth-grader, and Emma Ocampo, second-grader, get ready for the first day of school.  LYNDA M. GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Starting a new school? Check out when the transition camp might be. If you’ve missed it, call the school to see if there is another opportunity for you to walk the halls before school starts.

Read. Read as a family as well as read independently. Find books you love, but if they have a science or social studies-theme that can be helpful. If you know you’ll be studying U.S. history this school year, maybe find a fictional book based on an event in U.S. history. If you don’t love reading, consider putting the closed captioning on the TV and reading that.

Start putting the phones, tablets and video game systems away for longer periods of time. If you’ve been attached to electronics all summer long, time to break yourself of that habit.

Go on educational field trips. Check out the new downtown library. Go to the Thinkery or the Austin Nature & Science Center or the Science Mill.

RELATED: Eight fun things to do before school starts

Keep a journal. Write down what you did this summer before you forget. It can be an online journal or a physical one. Attach photos or drawings.

Rediscover math. Yes, we know you haven’t thought about math in two months, but try reviewing some math facts or find a math game to play. Kids can even test their parents to see if they know their times tables or how to subtract 25 from 57. Make it fun so it doesn’t feel like math. Do activities like make cookies to practice fractions.

Establish a routine again. If you haven’t been going to bed or getting up at school-time hours, start doing that again. It will help you not be as exhausted that first week — and when we say “you,” we mean both students and parents.

Check the school website’s calendar and announcements. That’s where schools will put up important information like Meet the Teacher, the plan for the first day, changes from last year and Back to School Night.

Attend the Meet the Teacher event as a family. It sets the tone that school is important and it lets teachers know that you’re active participants in it. You can even consider bringing the teacher flowers or another small acknowledgement.

RELATED: Things to ask at Meet the Teacher

Talk about the upcoming school year. Parents, be encouraging about what a great school year this is going to be. Build up how much fun your kids are going to have and some of the things they can look forward to. If kids have fears about the upcoming year, listen to them and help them plan how to deal with those scary things.

Go school supply shopping together. It helps get everyone excited. Even if kids share supplies with the rest of the class, a new backpack can be a fun find.

Reunite with school friends. It will help to build the excitement if you plan something fun with the friends you’ve been missing.

Sources: Inez Flores, Mills Elementary; Erica Green, Kiker Elementary; Juli Naranjo, Cowan Elementary; Beth Ann Cole, Boone Elementary; Lori Pearce, Fulmore Middle School; Nancy Stewart, Cedar Park Middle School; Katherine Ratcliffe, Kealing Middle School; Jo Patrick, Fulmore Middle School

Fill your weekend with fun, events to get ready for school, Aug. 3-5

School is lurking. Some of this weekend’s events are helping you directly get ready for school. Others keep the brain active, which is a good thing as we get closer and closer to the school bell ringing.

Check out our weekend calendar of fun family events in and around Austin:

 

Explore the Thinkery without your parents during Parents Night Out. RESHMA KIRPALANI / AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2013

FRIDAY

Parents’ Night Out, 5:30-10 p.m. Friday. Kids must be 4 or older and potty-trained. $45 first child, $25 each additional sibling. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Toybrary Austin. Henna Fridays. 10 a.m. Friday. $5. Toybrary Austin, 2001 Justin Lane. toybraryaustin.com

Teen Videogame Free Play. 2 p.m. Friday, Central Library.

Music and Movement. 11 a.m. Friday, Old Quarry Branch.

Teen Book Club. “Uglies,” 10:30 a.m. Friday, Cepeda Branch.

FRIDAY-SATURDAY

Summer Stock Austin’s “Rob1n” musical by Allen Robertson and Damon Brown explores this possibility. 11 a.m.  Friday. 10 a.m. Saturday. $9-18. thelongcenter.org

FRIDAY-SUNDAY

Zilker Botanical Garden Woodland Faerie Trail. The trail is full of homes people have created for the fairies. It’s open through Aug. 10. Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road. zilkergarden.org

Zilker Summer Musical “All Shook Up.” Zilker Summer Musical returns with the music of Elvis. 8:15 p.m. Thursdays-Sundays through Aug. 18. Free, but donations are welcome. Zilker Hillside Theatre, 2206 William Barton Drive. zilker.org

Summer Stock Austin’s “The Music Man.” 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Friday. 2 p.m. Sunday, Saturday. $26-33. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org

“Beauty and the Beast” comes to the stage at Zach Theatre. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday through Sept. 2. $25-$150. Zach Theatre, 202 S. Lamar Blvd. zachtheatre.org

Alamo Drafthouse Kids Club offers movies for a $1-$5 donation. Plus you can collect stamps for prizes. “Paddington 2.” 10 a.m. Friday 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Slaughter Lane. “Prince of Egypt.” 10 a.m. Friday-Sunday, Lakeline. Events: PBS Kids Back to School with “Daniel Tiger,” 10 a.m. Saturday, Slaughter Lane.  “Christopher Robin” Cereal Party. 10:20 a.m. Saturday, Lakeline. 10:45 a.m. Sunday, Mueller. drafthouse.com

Last year Bryan Mondragon, 7, yells for his mother and siblings to wait up as he packs his new backpack with more school supplies during the Austin Independent School District’s Back to School Bash. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2015

SATURDAY

AISD Back to School Bash. Get free backpacks and supplies, medical screenings and vaccinations with shot record, and haircuts and more. Noon to 3 p.m. Saturday. Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Road. Buses leave from Guerrero Thompson and Summitt elementary schools; Bedichek, Martin, Mendez and Covington middle schools; and Lanier and Reagan high schools. austinisd.org/bash

Heart screenings for student athletes. Call ahead at 512-478-3627, or visit StDavids.com/YoungHeart to schedule your screening. 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. Heart Hospital of Austin, 3801 N. Lamar Blvd.

Nordstrom and the Kindness Campaign Back to School Bash. See the fashion show, meet Enoughie and the magic mirror. Noon to 3:30 p.m. Saturday. $15 VIP tickets. Barton Creek Square. tkckindness.org

Hey Lolly Music Sing-Along. 10 a.m. Saturday. $3. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St. scottishritetheater.org

Thinkery. Baby Bloomers for children younger than 3. 9 a.m. Saturday. $5. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Dr. Kold. Watch what happens when you play with liquid nitrogen. 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday. Science Mill, 101 S. Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City. sciencemill.org

Toybrary Austin. Unicorn Swimming. Swim in the unicorn pool. 10 a.m. Saturday. Toybrary Austin, 2001 Justin Lane. toybraryaustin.com

BookPeople. 10:30 a.m. story times. Shapes and Sizes, Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Barnes & Noble events. 11 a.m. Saturday story time. “Cece Loves Science.” barnesandnoble.com

SATURDAY-SUNDAY

Felt Food, for kids 4 and older. Learn to sew by making food out of felt. 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday. $8.  Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

From top left, Jennifer and Kevin Miller react as their daughter, Laurel, 4, center, takes part in an inertia game at the Bullock Texas State History Museum. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

SUNDAY

Paramount Theatre’s summer series. “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” 1 p.m. Sunday. $6-$12. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org

Bullock MuseumFree First SundayFriendship. Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com

Austin Symphony Hartman Concerts in the Park. 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Free. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org

Ever been told to slow down? Mom Brooke McAlary tells you how she did it in new book

Brooke McAlary’s young adulthood and first years of parenthood were anything but slow. She had an active career and then became a working mother.

Then, about seven years ago, she was diagnosed with postpartum depression after the birth of her second child.

“I just thought that what was what parenthood was,” she says. “I thought it was exhaustion, numbness, anger and darkness.”

She remembers a time when her son was six weeks old. “I found myself looking at my reflection in the mirror and saying over and over again, ‘I hate you. I hate you,’” she says.

Thankfully, a voice in the back of her head recognized that she didn’t really hate herself and that she needed help. She called her husband and began getting professional treatment.

Her psychiatrist mentioned that maybe she needed to slow down.

At first, she wanted to laugh. After all, she was that person who needed to seem as if she was coping and doing well. Then she Googled “slow down,” and the germ of an idea began to take hold.

“I never got to enjoy anything because I was so busy,” she says.

What would slowing down look like? Could she really do it? How would she start?

She turned her search for answers into the blog “Slow Your Home,” and the podcast “The Slow Home: Podcast.”

On Tuesday, she’ll be at BookPeople talking about her new book, “Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World” ($25.99, SourceBooks).

 

In the book, McAlary, 36, chronicles her journey from a fast-paced life to figuring out how to slow it down. This idea of being too busy is not just an American thing. McAlary is Australian.

Her first step was to rid her house of all the stuff that her family didn’t need. For McAlary, that seemed easier and more achievable than simply doing less.

“My head space at the time was terrible,” she says. “I was in a fragile emotional state.”

People would tell her to meditate or “do less,” but she says, “I could not meditate if I had tried to do it. My head would have exploded.”

She knew she wasn’t prepared to ask herself difficult questions, but she could focus on whether or not she needed something in her house.

She did it one small area at a time. She tried the Marie Kondo method of putting everything in a pile and then asking herself if that thing made her happy. But when she tried to declutter her entire garage at once, she left a pile of junk in the middle of the garage for a year. Instead she shifted to doing small things consistently, such as tackling clutter one drawer at a time.

Then she picked up the book, “642 Tiny Things to Write About,” hoping to spend a vacation restarting her creative writing. An assignment that appealed to her was “Write your eulogy in three sentences.”

It was a tough assignment. She thought about it and considered what she wanted her family to say about her when she was gone. None of the stuff that made her so busy seemed important.

“It was so instrumental in all the decisions I’ve made since,” she says. “It was pretty powerful.”

It’s an exercise she recommends more people do. “It gives us that idea of our central core values,” she says.

For McAlary, slowing down meant being present in her children’s lives.

“The biggest shift was that I was present for the first time, paying true attention to what I was doing, the way I was parenting them, the way I was spending time with them,” she says.

On the surface, it might not have looked much different, but it was. Her kids didn’t notice the change at first, but then one day they asked her to play hide-and-seek, and she gave her traditional response that she was busy. Then she came to them and asked them to play hide-and-seek. “I remember the look on their faces, that I was choosing to play with them,” she says.

Living “slow” doesn’t have to always be about parenting. It can be different for everyone. “We have this idea of what slow should look like,” she says. “That’s just something we’ve made up. It doesn’t have to look like other things. It’s about how it feels rather than how it looks.”

When she first started living slow, it felt like she would never be able to live as slow as others were, but then she realized that everyone starts somewhere, not where they are currently.

“Doing small things every day has such a big impact,” she says. “It always starts with one small step.”

Parents, especially, don’t need to be told what they’re doing wrong. Instead, she offers reassurance to parents: “Hey, you’re doing a good job. … You’re in the thick of it, and you’re doing a great.”

McAlary says she knows, for her, there are keys to living her life in a slow way.

She has to meditate every day, even if it’s just for five minutes before the children wake up.

She has to set boundaries when it comes to technology. If she wants to sit down and write, the phone cannot be on. She also does no screens at dinner and no screens in the bedroom.

She’s not always perfect. Some days are more slow than others. It’s about long-term balance, she says. “Over six months, do I pay attention to the things I need to pay attention to?”

At times, she’ll catch herself slipping and life suddenly feels too complicated again. “One of the most unexpected shifts was increased self-awareness,” she says. “I am able to acknowledge when I’m slipping back into fast. I’m able to put a stop to it before it becomes full-blown fast.”

It’s too much pressure. Instead, she offers her story and invites people to experiment with how they can get to the core of what’s important.

Brooke McAlary reads and signs “Slow: Simple Living for a Frantic World”
7 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 7.
BookPeople 603 N. Lamar Blvd.
bookpeople.com

Back to school: Sign up for free heart screenings

University of North Texas cheerleader Skyler Sanders, 21, was a junior at Hays High School when doctors discovered that she had a hole in her heart: officially an atrial septal defect.

She had started having heart palpitations in middle school. She would get short of breath and feel like she needed to sit down. At first she was having one episode every six months; then by high school, she was having about one a month. “They were very random,” Sanders says.

Skyler Sanders has won numerous awards for cheerleading.

Sometimes palpitations would happen in cheerleading practice, but sometimes they happened when she wasn’t exercising.

She thought she was having anxiety, but her primary care doctor directed her to a cardiologist as soon as she mentioned the shortness of breath.

The cardiologist did an echocardiogram and ultrasound and saw the hole. The defect was enlarging her heart slightly, she says. She also had a leaky mitral valve.

Doctors told her that it wasn’t something she had to fix right away, but she says, she was told she needed to get it fixed before she turned 24 because that would be when problems would start arising. If left untreated, it could have caused a stroke or congestive heart failure.

Sanders decided to have surgery in May 2017 and was back cheering again two months later. Doctors were able to minimize scarring and shorten recovery time by making incisions in between her ribs instead of cracking her chest open.

Sanders’ heart problem is one of the problems that doctors can detect through screening. On Aug. 4, Heart Hospital of Austin will be offering free screenings for teens age 14-18. During the screening, technicians will do an echocardiogram and an EKG to look for heart defects such as atrial and ventricular septal defects and hypertrophic cardiomyopathy — that’s the one you sometimes hear about in seemingly healthy athletes. It can lead to a dangerous arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death.

The screenings are a great resource to the community, says Dr. Faraz Kerendi, surgical director of the Heart Valve Clinic at Heart Hospital of Austin and cardiothoracic surgeon at Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgeons. “It allows young student athletes, young students in general, to find conditions that may otherwise be totally asymptomatic that could be life threatening. This allows them to get an echocardiogram, and an EKG, basically at no cost to them, to detect things that could otherwise show up in a bad way.”

The Heart Hospital does screenings two times a year, typically before school starts and in February. Out of those screenings, a few kids get diagnosed with one of these conditions. “For those few, it could be devastating if not discovered,” Kerendi says.

The screenings are for any teenager age 14-18, but it’s especially important for student athletes because of the exertion their hearts go through. Sometimes, if something is found, teenagers can continue doing their sport, like Sanders did. Sometimes, though, they might need to switch to a less-strenuous sport.

Dr. Faraz Kerendi

One of the people who will be doing a screening on Aug. 4 is Sanders’ sister Ryan, who plays volleyball. Even though Sanders’ condition is not genetic, Ryan still wanted to get screened and Sanders’ helped Ryan by signing her up.

Sanders wishes that she had taken advantage of the screening program when she was in high school. She might have chosen to do her surgery in high school instead of waiting. “That would have been easier,” she says.

Kerendi wants to remind teens and their parents that you don’t have to think something could be wrong to do a screening.

“There are conditions that are unknown and asymptomatic, and people shouldn’t assume that everything is fine,” he says. “You never know when one of these things could cause a problem until it does.”

Free heart screenings

8 a.m. to noon Aug. 4

Heart Hospital of Austin, 3801 N. Lamar Blvd.

Call ahead at 512-478-3627, or visit stdavids.com/youngheart to schedule your screening.

 

Shark Week, African safaris and more family adventures in Austin, July 27-29

With temps hovering around 100 this weekend, it might feel like a break from the 108 earlier this week. What will you do with the kids this weekend?

Check out our list:

FRIDAY

Teen Turn Up. Teens ages 11-17 enjoy teen parties all summer long at Austin’s recreation centers. Pool Palooza, 6-9 p.m. Friday, Dittmar Recreation Center, 1009 W. Dittmar Road. austintexas.gov

Elizabeth Kahura will be at the Toybrary Austin for an African Safari program. RODOLFO GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Toybrary Austin African Safari Programs. Folk tales, drumming, dancing, singing and more. 10:30 p.m. Friday, $12 per child. Toybrary Austin, 2001 Justin Lane. toybraryaustin.com

Blanton Museum. This is the final week for the Blanton’s children’s programs. Deeper Dives for ages 8-10, 10 a.m. Friday; Free Diving for ages 11-14, 1 p.m. Friday. Blanton Museum. 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. blantonmuseum.org

Music at the Austin Public Library. The Telephone Company. 2 p.m. Friday, Yarborough Branch.

Teen Videogame Free Play. 2 p.m. Fridays, Central Library.

Lego Lab. 3 p.m. Friday, Cepeda Branch.

Art Smart “We Read” Community Mural Project. 1 p.m. Friday, Pleasant Hill Branch.

It’s Shark Week next week at the Science Mill. Discovery Channel

FRIDAY-SUNDAY

Zilker Botanical Garden opens its Woodland Faerie Trail now through Aug. 10. The trail is full of homes people have created for the fairies. Maybe you’ll see a fairy. Zilker Botanical Garden, 2220 Barton Springs Road. zilkergarden.org

Science Mill. Shark Week. Celebrate all things shark with movies, a fossil dig for teeth and more. Science Mill, 101 S. Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City. sciencemill.org

Zilker Summer Musical “All Shook Up.” Zilker Summer Musical returns with the music of Elvis. 8:15 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. Free, but donations are welcome. Zilker Hillside Theatre, 2206 William Barton Drive. zilker.org

Summer Stock Austin’s “The Music Man.” 2 p.m. Sunday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Friday-Saturday. $26-$33-$26. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org

Summer Stock Austin “Rob1n.” This modern retelling of the Robin Hood tale puts a girl in the starring role in this musical by Allen Robertson and Damon Brown. 11 a.m. Friday-Saturday, 3 p.m. Saturday. $9-$18. thelongcenter.org

“Beauty and the Beast.” The Disney movie comes to the stage. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $25-$150. Zach Theatre, 202 S. Lamar Blvd. zachtheatre.org

Alamo Drafthouse Kids Club.  “Sing,” 10:15 a.m. Friday-Saturday, Mueller. 10:15 a.m. Friday-Saturday, Slaughter Lane. $1-$5 donation to benefit local charities. “Teen Titans Go! To the Movies” Family Party. 9:15 a.m. Saturday, Slaughter Lane. Teen Titans Go to the Movies,” Family Party. 9:45 a.m. Sunday, Lakeline. drafthouse.com

Try a dance class at Ballet Austin on National Dance Day. Contributed by Ballet Austin

SATURDAY

National Dance Day. Ballet Austin offers $10 classes all day Saturday, to benefit Ballet Austin’s Pink Pilates program for breast cancer survivors. Classes are available for people ate 10 and up. 9:45 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. 501 W. Third St. Sign up at BalletAustin.org

National Geographic’s “Symphony for Our World.” Hear music by the Austin Symphony Orchestra while watching scenes from nature. 8 p.m. Saturday. $29-$59. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org

Gustafer Yellowgold. 11 a.m. Saturday. $10-$6. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St. scottishritetheater.org

Bullock Museum. Yippee Yay! The rodeo exhibit comes to life with trick roping. 2 p.m. Saturday. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com

Thinkery. Baby Bloomers for children younger than 3. Learn all about Animals. 9 a.m. Saturday. $5.  Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Book People events. Samantha M. Clark reads “The Boy, the Boat and the Beasts,” 2 p.m. Saturday. 10:30 a.m. story time Saturday. Spread the Joy, Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Barnes & Noble events. Kids Book Hangout. Meet other avid young readers. 2 p.m. Saturday, all locations. Story times. Each Saturday all Barnes & Noble locations offer 11 a.m. story times. This week: “Doll-E 1.0.” barnesandnoble.com

Pollyanna Theatre Company’s “If Wishes Were Fishes.” 2 p.m. Saturday, Manchaca Road Branch.

SATURDAY-SUNDAY

Thinkery. Tinkering Take Homes: Scribble Bots, for ages 4 and up. 10 a.m. Saturday-Sunday. $6. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Robin Hood.” The children’s version of the classic story. 10 a.m. Saturday. 2 p.m. Sunday. $10-$8. EmilyAnn Theatre & Gardens, 1101 FM 2325, Wimberley. emilyann.org

Small ensembles from the Austin Symphony Orchestra perform free, casual concerts on the Long Center City Terrace for the Hartman Concerts in the Park series.

SUNDAY

Austin Symphony Hartman Concerts in the Park. 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Free. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org

BackYard at Waller Creek Sunday Funday. Games, face-painting, bounce house and more. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Free for kids younger than 12, $5 adults. 701 E. 11th St. backyardbaraustin.com

Paramount Classic Summer Movies. See “Superman.” 1 p.m. Sunday. $6-$12. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org