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.”

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!

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.

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.

Austin boy trying to raise $1 million for Batten disease treatment for sister

When his parents set out to raise $6 million in two years to fund a Food and Drug Administration clinical trial for a possible treatment for Batten disease, Garland Benson, 13, decided last March he was going to raise $1 million of that to help find a treatment for his sister, Christiane. He would do it, he decided, by asking 100,000 people to give $10.

Garland Benson is trying to raise $1 million for a treatment for Batten disease, which his sister Christiane has.

“One day I was like, this takes $6 million. That’s a lot. It’s too much for me to ask for. Let’s start at a million,” he says. “If I can raise $1 million, everyone else can come up with $5 million.”

Everyone else has raised $3.3 million since Sept. 2016 for Beyond Batten Disease Foundation’s Be Project. “They’ve been doing a pretty good job,” Garland says. He’s raised $169,000 for his Be a Hero project. People donate through his website page on BeyondBatten.org or by texting “Hero” to 501501.

He’s had donations from as far away as France. Friends and family have shared it with their friends and family. He and his friends at Hyde Park Middle School have formed a group called Brothers for Batten, which raises money by doing different things including an upcoming garage sale.

“We found a treatment,” he says. “We just need to fund it. It will help a lot. Maybe after that, we could try to find a cure. We haven’t gotten that far yet.”

His sister, Garland says, really loves skiing and playing golf. She loves cooking and painting and Harry Potter, both the books and the movies. She loves to walk her dogs.

“Her personality is so determined,” mother Charlotte Benson says. “She’s so strong-willed. She does not quit trying.”

Christiane was 5 when she was diagnosed 10 years ago. Batten disease is a rare genetic disease in which both parents are carriers of a genetic mutation. It’s a disease in which the lipopigments, which are made of fat and protein, build up in the brain and the person doesn’t have the ability to clear the cells of them. It causes kids to become clumsy, and then become blind, have seizures and become developmental delayed. In Christiane’s type, the life expectancy is sometime in late teens, early 20s.

She is now almost blind and has seizures.

Her parents were told there was nothing they could do when she was diagnosed. There were no treatments. They were told to go home and make their child comfortable.
“This is one of those rare orphan diseases that falls into the abyss,” father Craig Benson says. There wasn’t the funding or attention for research to be done.

The Bensons weren’t going to accept that. “We’ve got to do something to change this,” Charlotte Benson said.

At the time of her diagnosis, Craig Benson was the CEO of Rules Based Medicine, a life science diagnostic company. He had connections to the pharmaceutical industry and to researchers.

They founded the nonprofit Beyond Batten Disease Foundation and hired a chief science officer. They began raising money to start doing research into Batten disease and partnered with other foundations in similar diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s that had more funding and more publicity. Because, Batten disease didn’t have a lot of dollars or energy going toward it, they had to start from the beginning.

“We found ourselves as the global quarterbacks,” Craig Benson says. “We had to fund the tools to be able to allow research.”

They found neurologist Dr. Huda Zoghbi at Texas Children’s Hospital, who knew some Italian researchers, who had  promising treatment possibilities. Beyond Batten funded bringing those researchers to Houston to work with Zoghbi.

The proposed treatment is two components: one an oral medicine and the other a food additive that is given in an IV injection. It’s not a cure, but they believe it could delay the progression.

The Garlands have accepted that their daughter may not live beyond her 20s. They believe, though, that they “were the right people at the right time” to create a change in the treatment for Batten. Charlotte Benson remembers a fellow Batten parent coming up to Craig Benson at a conference after they first formed the foundation. “She said, ‘We’ve been praying for you. We’ve been praying that someone would come along that could do something to help this disease,'” Charlotte Benson says.

One of those right people, is son Garland. “I’m so glad for him that he like us can feel like he’s doing something,” Charlotte Benson says. “He’s just naturally a sweet kid.”

For Garland, he wants to raise $1 million and believes he can. After that, he plans on joining the NBA, or opening up the next Cabela’s, or investing in the oil and gas industry, or possibly become an architect. He’s got time. He just turned 13.

What should you give a teacher for the holidays?

There are certain times of the year when teacher gifts are kind of the thing to do. Think: Teacher appreciation week in May, end of the school year and the Christmas/Hanukkah/winter holidays.

You don’t have to, but it’s good etiquette to do so. Even if you don’t love your child’s teacher or teachers, it’s nice to thank them for putting up with your kid.

Sixth grade teacher Sarita Lakey, left, greets student Brayan Lopez, as he arrives at Austin Achieve public school for the start of a new school year in 2015. RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

We hear from our teacher friends about what they are given and what they’d really like to receive. Here are some ideas;

  1. Not food. Why? You might not know if your kid’s teacher has an allergy or is trying to lose weight or be healthier, or just doesn’t like the food item you have provided. (Confession: We break this rule every year when my kids show up with Girl Scout chocolate covered pretzels in December. So, let me apologize right now. The pretzels are doing a good thing, though: This year, the money raised by us buying the pretzels has helped my daughter build a butterfly garden at her school as her Girl Scout Silver Project, which is akin to the Boy Scout Eagle Project.)
  2. Gift cards to something that is not school-related. Think about opportunities for them to pamper themselves. Find out what their favorite restaurant is or favorite store. Try not to make it something utilitarian. The teachers in our life have a tendency to do things like buy supplies for their class rather than pamper themselves.
  3. A pamper-yourself basket: Try to avoid hand lotion and candles because like the food items, teachers get a ton of that and they can be really smelly. Think about some fuzzy socks, a fun magazine, some playing cards or a game — anything your teacher likes to do.
  4. A germ-protection basket: This is the time of the year when your kids are the most germy and think about that times 25 in a class. Fill it with some antibacterial wipes or gel, a funny mug with some tea and honey, cough drops, Airborne gummies, some oranges, tissues, a gift card to CVS or Walgreens. Include a funny apology note in advance if your kid makes them sick.
  5. A thank-you note from you and from your child: That means even more than any material item. Make sure it’s sincere, though. Highlight all the ways they have helped your child and all the things your child has learned. They will keep these notes forever. My mom still has many of the ones she received. The dearest ones to her: The ones that came from the especially difficult child or parent — especially the ones that came years later. These notes are a reminder of how much of a difference she made to that child.

RELATED: Think ahead to teacher appreciation week with these ideas

A perfect weekend for finding some holiday fun in Austin, Dec. 8-10

The sun will come out again this weekend and the weather will be warmer. There’s so much to do this week: many trails lined with lights, holiday plays, Santas to see. How will you choose?

Friday

Pictures with Santa. 10:30 a.m. Friday. Toybrary Austin, 2001 Justin Lane. toybraryaustin.com

Friday Movie Matinee “Home Alone.” 3 p.m. Friday, Old Quarry Branch.

Little Thinkers Club. Amazing Animals. Make art and do yoga inspired by animals. 9:45 a.m. for 2-year-olds, 10:45 a.m. for 3-year-olds, Fridays through Dec. 15. $20 per class, $140 for the series. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

People explore a light tunnel during the Winter Wonderland event at Circuit of the Americas. NICK WAGNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Friday-Saturday

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. $16, plus additional fees for some activities. circuitoftheamericas.com/winter-wonderland.

“The Elves and the Shoemaker.” For ages 5 and older. 3:30 p.m. Friday, Howson Branch; 2 p.m. Saturday, Hampton Branch.

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

Friday-Sunday

Ballet Austin’s “The Nutcracker.” 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

Luminations. It’s back. See the Wildflower Center outlined in luminarias. 6 to 9 p.m. Friday-Sunday. $15. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. wildflower.org

Elgin Christmas Tree Farm. Ride a hay ride to the Christmas tree grounds and select your tree. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Elgin Christmas Tree Farm, 120 Nature’s Way, Elgin. elginchristmastreefarm.com

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

Trail of Lights. 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 6 to 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 to 11 p.m. nightly through Jan. 1. Mozart’s Coffee Roasters at Oyster Landing, 3825 Lake Austin Blvd. mozartscoffee.com

Go skating at the ice rink at Whole Foods downtown.
RALPH BARRERA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN

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

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

Meet & Greet with Santa. Come meet Santa at the Hill Country Galleria. Noon-6 p.m. Sunday, 4-8 p.m. Monday-Friday, Noon to 8 p.m. Saturday. Plus a synchronized tree lighting every half hour 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Hill Country Galleria, 12700 Hill Country Blvd. hillcountrygalleria.com

 

Saturday

Story time with Mrs. Claus. 11 a.m. Saturday. Hill Country Galleria Central Plaza Pavilion. hillcountrygalleria.com

Winter Fest. 10 a.m. Saturday, Yarborough Branch.

Baby Bloomers. Learn all about winter. For infant to 3. 9 a.m.  Saturdays. Special guests throughout the month. $5. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Holiday Open House. 11 a.m. Saturday, Willie Mae Kirk Branch; noon Saturday, Pleasant Hill Branch; 1 p.m. Saturday, Howson Branch; 2 p.m. Saturday, Manchaca Road Branch.

 

 

 

 

Blanton Museum of Art. Holiday Family Day. Road trip-inspired activities. Free with admission. Noon to 2 p.m. Saturday. Blanton Museum of Art, 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. blantonmuseum.org

Toybrary Austin. Date night babysitting. For ages 1-5. $25 first child, $10 siblings. 5-8 p.m. Saturdays. Toybrary Austin, 2001 Justin Lane. toybraryaustin.com

“Holiday Heroes” at Zach Theater has become a holiday tradition. Kirk Tuck

“Holiday Heroes.” Zach Theatre’s annual Christmas family tradition. 11 a.m. Saturday. $18-24. Topfer Theater, 202 S. Lamar Blvd. zachtheatre.org

Contemporary Austin. Families Create: Gingerbread Villas. Make your own candy home. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Free. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St. thecontemporaryaustin.org

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

Harry Potter Fest. “Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Deathly Hallows Part 1.” 6 p.m. Saturday. Various prices. Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In. 12419 Lowden Lane, Manchaca. bluestarlitedrivein.com

Barnes & Noble Events: 11 a.m. Saturdays, story times at all locations: “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure Big Golden Book.” .

Bow Wow Reading with Bonnie. 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Yarborough Branch; Mornings with Moxie. 10 a.m. Saturday, Manchaca Road Branch.

Saturday-Sunday

Austin Trail of Lights. The annual tradition begins. 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Free admission Saturday. Zilker Park. austintrailoflights.org

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. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 17. Four Seasons Hotel Austin, 98 San Jacinto Blvd. Make reservations by calling 512-685-8300. fourseasons.com/austin

“A Christmas Carol.” 10 a.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 17. $8-$10. EmilyAnn Theatre, 1101 Ranch Road 2325, Wimberley. emilyann.org/productions

Alamo Drafthouse events: Kids Camp: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Lakeline, Slaughter Lane. PBS Kids Holiday Mix. 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Lakeline. drafthouse.com

“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. Sunday, Saturday. $10-$15. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St. scottishritetheater.org

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.-1:15 p.m. Saturday and 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. Saturday and Sunday. $12 per person plus $30 house kit. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

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.

Sunday

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

An Afternoon with Santa. Take photos, make crafts and eat cookies. 3 p.m. Sunday. Driskill Hotel, 604 Brazos St. driskillhotel.com.

Holiday Cookie Decorating Class. 6 p.m. Sunday, Windsor Park Branch.

Austin Ukestra. 1 p.m. Sunday. Recycled Reads Bookstore.

 

 

 

 

Buying toys for Christmas? Follow these safety tips

In the 1983 Christmas movie “A Christmas Story,” everyone warns Ralphie: “You’ll shoot your eye out,” when he asks for a Red Ryder B.B. gun. And so, when he wakes up on Christmas morning and he is given a Red Ryder B.B. gun from Santa, what happens? He shoots his eye out … well, not really, but he does injure himself and break his glasses.

Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) visits a department store Santa (Jeff Gillen) as part of his campaign to find a BB gun under his tree in the classic holiday film ‘A Christmas Story.’ MGM

Want to avoid that this Christmas morning or Hanukkah night? The American Academy of Pediatrics offer these tips:

Make sure the toy is age-appropriate and fits the child’s abilities. Can they play with the toy by themselves?

Choose toys that work on building skills such as fine motor skills and cognitive abilities.

Read warning labels on the toy and the age level that is on the box.

Make sure all toys say “nontoxic.”

Make sure all electronic toys say “UL Certified.” The UL is a company that evaluates products for safety, including for choking hazards and toxicity.

Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission for recalls.  

Show your child how to use the toy the right way. 

Take off tags and strings before giving a toy to a child.

Avoid toys that are too loud and could affect their hearing. If they really want that toy, disable the sound mechanism if you can or remove the batteries.

Prevent choking by making sure all the toys and parts are larger than your child’s mouth. Children younger than age 3 cannot have parts less than 1 1/4 inches in diameter and 2 1/4 inches long.

Avoid toys that shoot objects in the air. Remember “You’ll shoot your eye out.”

Be cautious about toys containing button batteries or magnets. Kids eat them, and they can cause stomach and intestinal problems, even death.

Children younger than age 10 should not be given toys that need to be plugged in. Instead choose toys with batteries that have a battery case that they cannot get into.

Make sure stuffed toys are well-made. The seams and edges are secure, there are no loose ribbons or seams, the stuffing is not the small bean-like pellets. It should also be machine washable.

Make sure toys with pull-strings do not have strings that are longer than 12-inches. 

Do not give children younger than age 8 broken or uninflated balloons. They are a choking hazard.

 

Make sure plastic toys are sturdy and not made of thin plastic that will break easily.

Skip the hobby kits and chemistry sets for children younger than 12 years old. Do you want your 5-year-old around chemicals and things that can set the house on fire?

Skip the crib toys. All crib toys need to be removed from the crib as soon as your baby can push up on his hands and knees or is 5 months old.

If you’re thinking about giving kids screens, follow these new guidelines:

 

 

  • Children younger than 18 months of age: Avoid the use of any screen media except video chatting (with grandparents, for example).
  • Children ages 18 months to 24 months: Introduce high-quality programs or apps, but do it with your children to create a dialog about what they are seeing and how it relates to the world around them.
  • Children ages 2 to 5 years: Limit screen time to one hour a day of high-quality programs that you view with your children.
  • Children ages six and older, place consistent limits on time spent using media, the types of media and make sure that the use of media does not take the place of sleeping, exercise and other healthy behaviors.
  • Designate media-free times together such as during dinner or while driving as well as media-free locations at home such as bedrooms.
  • Have ongoing conversations about what it means to be a good citizen and be safe online and offline.

 

 

 

Store toys in a designated location and by age. Make sure the younger kids cannot get into the older kids’ toys.

Avoid toy boxes with lids that locks or a lid that is heavy. Use an open bin or open shelves in a bookcase that is anchored to the wall. If you do use a box, make sure the box has ventilation holes.

Find more tips at healthychildren.org.

 

 

 

 

Winter isn’t coming to Austin, but holiday fun for families is, Dec. 1-3

The weather isn’t going to feel like the holidays this weekend — more like spring — but there are still many festive events to put on your calendar. Be aware, it might rain on Sunday, so if you’re looking at something outside, opt for Friday or Saturday instead.

Get your children’s picture taken with Santa. You can reserve your spot.

Friday

Thinkery. Parents’ Night Out. Kids ages 4 and up play at the Thinkery while you see a movie at the Alamo Drafthouse Mueller. 5:30-10 p.m. Friday. $40 for first child, $20 each additional child. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Little Thinkers Club. Amazing Animals. Do art and yoga inspired by animals. 9:45 a.m. for 2-year-olds, 10:45 a.m. for 3-year-olds, Fridays through Dec. 15. $20 per class, $140 for the series. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Barnes & Noble Events: “Polar Express” Story time. 7 p.m. Friday, all locations.

Bow Wow Reading with Bonnie. 11:30 a.m. Friday, Yarborough Branch.

Friday-Saturday

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. $16, plus additional fees for some activities. circuitoftheamericas.com/winter-wonderland.

Friday-Sunday

Elgin Christmas Tree Farm. Ride a hay ride to the Christmas tree grounds and select your tree. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. Elgin Christmas Tree Farm, 120 Nature’s Way, Elgin. elginchristmastreefarm.com

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

Trail of Lights. 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. mozartscoffee.com

Whole Foods Skating on the Plaza. Go ice skating 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. now through Jan. 15. Closed

Whole Foods’ skating rink is back at the downtown store. Jay Janner/American-Statesman

Saturday

Paper Airplane Day. See demonstrations on how to make a paper airplane. 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. and learn more about flight with workshops 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Hill Country Science Mill, 101 S. Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City. sciencemill.org.

“The Muppet Christmas Carol.” See it in IMAX. 1 p.m. Saturday. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com

Elf Academy. Train to be Santa’s best elf. 3 to 5 p.m. Saturday at the Domain. Reserve your spot at simonsanta.com.

Santa in the Garden. Find your favorite jolly old elf among the plants. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Zilker Botanical Garden. 2220 Barton Springs Road. $1-$3. austintexas.gov

“The Muppet Christmas Carol.” See it in IMAX. 1 p.m. Saturday. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com

Holiday Ornament Workshop. Make ornaments with things found in nature. Noon-2 p.m. Saturday. $15-10. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. wildflower.org

Skate with Santa. Yes, Santa ice skates, and you can skate with him. Noon-2:30 p.m. Saturday. Skating and admission is $14 per person. $2 pictures with Santa or bring two non-perishable food items for the Capital Area Food Bank. Chaparral Ice, 2525 W. Anderson Lane. chaparralice.com

Breakfast with Santa. A light breakfast, crafts, a singalong and Santa. 9-11 a.m. Saturday. Dittmar Recreation Center, 1009 W. Dittmar Road. austintexas.gov

“Holiday Heroes.” Zach Theatre’s annual Christmas family tradition. 11 a.m. Saturday. $18-24. Topfer Theater, 202 S. Lamar Blvd. zachtheatre.org

Baby Bloomers. Learn all about shapes. For infant to 3. 9 a.m. Monday. Learn about winter. 9 a.m. Saturday. $5.  Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

DeSTEMber Fest. Celebrate science and holidays with activities for the whole family. 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturday. Free. Girlstart. 1400 W. Anderson Lane. girlstart.org

Nina Martinez watches as Jimena Gonzalez rolls a marble down a roller coaster the girls and others built at the GirlStart rockin’ roller coasters workshop. Celebrate science at DeSTEMber at GirlStart. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Date night babysitting. For ages 1-5. $25 first child, $10 siblings. 5-8 p.m. Saturdays. Toybrary Austin, 2001 Justin Lane. toybraryaustin.com

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

Barnes & Noble 11 a.m. Saturdays story times at all locations: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

BookPeople story time. Modern First Library. 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and 11:30 a.m. Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Saturday Movie Matinee: “Rogue One.” 2 p.m. Saturday, Windsor Park Branch.

Saturday-Sunday

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 Saturday. Four Seasons Hotel Austin, 98 San Jacinto Blvd. Make reservations by calling 512-685-8300. fourseasons.com/austin

“A Christmas Carol.” 10 a.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 17. $8-$10. EmilyAnn Theatre 1101 Ranch Road 2325, Wimberley. emilyann.org/productions

Alamo Drafthouse events: Kids Camp: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Lakeline. 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Slaughter Lane. drafthouse.com

“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

Sunday

Caring Santa. Meet Santa in an autism-friendly way. 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Barton Creek Square; 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Sunday, Lakeline Mall. Reserve your spot at simonsanta.com

Neill-Cochran House Museum. History Lab: A Historic Holiday. Make pomanders, putz houses and historic board games. 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Free. 2310 San Gabriel St. nchmuseum.org

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

“Mr. Popper’s Penguins.” See the book come to life. 2 p.m. Sunday. $18 and up. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org

Bullock Museum.H-E-B Free First Sunday. Free family fun around the museum with the theme “Bundle Up.” Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave. thestoryoftexas.com

Storybook Dance Making. 2 p.m. Sunday, Recycled Reads Bookstore.