Follow Alice down the rabbit trail that takes audiences all over Zach Theatre grounds

The Red Queen and Alice face off in "Alice in Wonderland" at Zach Theatre. Kirk Tuck
The Red Queen and Alice face off in “Alice in Wonderland” at Zach Theatre. Kirk Tuck

Zach Theatre’s “Alice in Wonderland” is organized chaos and that’s not really a bad thing. Audiences become part of the show like no other theater for family show Zach has done. This “Alice,” which is produced in partnership with Underbelly Theatre, has audiences moving in and around the grounds of Zach’s campus as well as in and out of classrooms, back stage at the Whisenhunt theater and sometimes in the theater.

That’s where this “Alice” begins. Modern day Alice (Trinity Johnston) has numerous things that are making her frustrated. Her parents are too busy to play with her, make promises to take her to the brook to float the paper boat she made and then don’t keep them, seem uninterested in anything but her grades, which aren’t that great, according to them. You see, dreamer Alice, has been born to workaholic parents.

To cope, Alice created Wonderland in her imagination. There the Red Queen (Madison Weinhoffer) is also very frustrated. Someone (Alice) has taken her cookies and she wants them back. Of course, she’s not interested in hearing what really happened. She’s ready for an execution.

We first see Alice interacting with her parents  at home and then she heads down the rabbit hole — the place her parents say she goes when she gets frustrated. In the rabbit hole, Alice meets Mouse (Oktavea Williams), Tortoise (Sommer Neugebauer), Dodo (Robert Di Donato) and Lizard (Malyssa Quiles). And then Alice runs off with the threat of the queen’s henchman, Rabbit (Joseph Urick), coming.

Mouse, Tortoise, Dodo and Lizard recruit the help of the audience to find Alice. Each animal takes a fourth of the audience on a fast-paced trip through Wonderland. In Tortoise’s group on Wednesday morning, we first met Humpty Dumpty, who spilled his guts, of course. Then we took a magic pill (a mint) to shrink ourselves down to fit through a tunnel to find Alice and the Cheshire Cat, which is animated on a theater screen. Soon we’re getting a puppet show from the Knave of Hearts and meeting the Paper Queen in the garden. The other groups are doing the same, but in a different order.

We return to the theater where we meet the Red Queen, who threatens to execute the Knave of Hearts. Then we’re off looking for Alice again. We play a game of croquet with the Red Queen, then get our visas from the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. We visit the Sheep Duchess and the Caterpillar, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, until we’re back with the whole group again.

Finally, Alice is moved to fess up to stealing the cookies and she returns home to her parents, whom she finally convinces to put down their work and take her paper boat sailing.

This “Alice” is smart. The school field trip audience we saw it with were completely engaged. They voted for beheading or no beheading. They talked back to the characters on stage and to their guides. They had no time for fidgeting with the constant movement and all eyes were on the action. The rabbit does sneak up on kids, and we saw one child visibly shake. This “Alice” is best viewed by an early elementary school-age audience.

Their adults, though, were a little frazzled at the constant need to count children, track children, seat children and quiet children. Sometimes, some of the lines were missed when groups of children were still being seated or still catching up to the rest of the audience, while the action continued on stage.

Zach took a big chance by stepping way out of the theater box in this production, and it mostly pays off. Most of the acting is very fun and engaging. The musical numbers other than “Happy Unbirthday,” which the audience sings, were distracting. In fact, Alice’s first song was painful become of pitch problems. That is not what audiences have come to expect from Zach’s family for theater team.

At almost an hour and a half, this was the longest theater for family show we have seen at Zach, but it didn’t feel that way. We kept wondering where we were going next, whom we would meet and what was going to happen. And, yes, at times we were just trying to play catch up as we quickly moved through Wonderland and through Alice’s imagination. Kids, though, had no problem figuring out Alice because she was so like them.

Alice in Wonderland.” See Alice, the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, Caterpillar, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum and more as they move throughout the Zach Theatre property. 6:30 p.m. Fridays through April 15; 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays through May 15; 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through May 15. 11 a.m. May 1 is a sign-interpreted performance. $23 adults, $18 children. Whisenhunt stage, 1510 Toomey Road.




Are you ready for this? STAAR testing again

dyc staar 05STAAR testing is once again upon us with fourth- and seventh-graders doing the writing portion today, fifth- and eighth-graders doing the math portion today and the reading portion Wednesday. I have a ninth-grader taking the end of course English exam today and I know some 10th-graders who will take the English II test on Thursday. In early May, a whole new round happens. You can find the testing calendar here. Good luck everyone.

I think I’m like many parents and teachers who cringe at the idea of these tests and wonder about whether they actually reflect what our kids know. Yet, I dutifully made sure my son at breakfast today and packed his lunch because the testing schedule somehow requires me to do so.

A few years ago, I wrote about kids who were having stomach issues and other ailments because of the pressure of STAAR testing. You can read that story here. 

Some of the best advice from that article was Principal Amy Kinkade’s advice to kids:

■ If you get stuck, instead of getting frustrated skip the question and go back later.

■ Relax and take some deep breaths. Give yourself little breaks and stretch.

■ Take questions a few at a time to avoid getting overwhelmed by the number of questions.

■ Read the questions aloud to yourself.

■ Drink lots of water, chew gum and have protein snacks during the test. It’s all about keeping the brain fed and active.

■ Think of taking the test as cracking the code. Every question might have an element of trickery, so try to understand what the test is really asking.

■ Do positive self talk: I can do it. I’m smart. I know this. I’ve learned this.

The best advice to parents. Try to get kids to sleep the night before, have kids eat a healthy breakfast and above all else, don’t put too much pressure about the test on your kids. Give them encouragement, but don’t make it a thing.

You can read other blogs I’ve written about the testing here and here and here and here and here.

If you haven’t yet read our story about the alternative test for children in special education, read that here.

You can read our editorial about the STAAR, here.

Are there real kids behind KidzBop? Yes, we talk to Grant Knoche before tour kicks off in Austin

Grant Knoche is part of  KidzBop, which comes to town April 23.
Grant Knoche is part of KidzBop, which comes to town April 23.

For years, you might have seen the KidzBop commercials on children’s television networks. KidzBop is up to album No. 31, which features songs such as “Same Old Love,” originally sung by Selena Gomez; “Sorry,” made famous by Justin Bieber; “Wildest Dreams,” a hit for Taylor Swift; and “Hello,” Adele’s mega hit. The difference from the originals is that the songs are sung by kids and any objectionable lyrics are cleaned up for an elementary school-age audience.

The albums and the accompanying music videos are all made by four kids, ages 12-15. They will kick off their tour in Austin April 23 at ACL Live.

Two of the KidzBop kids are from Texas. Sela Hack, 15, is from San Antonio, and Grant Knoche, 13, is from Dallas. We talked to Grant about how he became a KidzBop kid and what it’s like being one.

Grant has been singing since he was 7 and playing the piano since he was 9. Grant was 10 when he answered the KidzBop casting call by making a YouTube video. Then producers asked semifinalists to sing and dance on a Skype call. That lead to a two-day boot camp and audition, which happened to be in Dallas. He was chosen and signed a three-year contract.

Grant is both home-schooled, a student at the online K12 and KidzBop has a teacher as well. Currently, the kids are in rehearsal for the tour, which means they have have 90 minutes of school, followed by rehearsal and lunch, more rehearsal, then another 90 minutes of school, and then the rest of their schooling they do individually at night.

They’re also recording album No. 32 and making music videos for that.

There’s no drama between the kids, Grant says. “On the tour, we can’t get enough of each other,” he says. “At night, it’s ‘who’s room do we want to go to?'”

Once the tour kicks off, Grant will be home a few days in the middle of the week and then at shows on the weekends. Typically, his father, who was a project manager before KidzBop came calling, travels with him on tour. They travel both by airplane and this year by KidzBop bus, inside which each kid has a bunk. Sometimes his mom comes with him, but she’s a vice president of a mortgage processing company.

Grant’s favorite song to sing so far has been “Uptown Funk,” originally by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, but he really also like the dances they do, including the dance to “Break Free,” originally sung by Ariana Grande. It involved strobe lights and different formations.

What he really loves is watching the young fans in the audience singing with him. “They’re jumping up and down, and we sing to them. Sometimes we bring them up on stage,” he says.

KidzBop isn’t all about singing cover songs. The group has its own songs as well, which the kids all know because of the music videos KidzBop makes. This year the new, original song is “Life of the Party,” after which the tour is named.

Grant won’t talk about the money that comes with this gig. “We’re not allowed to talk about it,” he says. “I love to be really humble about it.”

When his contract ends at the end of this year, Grant plans to concentrate on building a solo singing career. KidzBop already has helped him with that, he says, because he’s gotten to meet venue managers and other artists while on tour.

Grant isn’t the only Knoche to chase stardom.His brother Hunter, 18, who is a drummer in the band Fly Away Hero, was on “The Barney Show” and a Smucker’s commercial.

KidzBop “Life of the Party” tour

When: 6 p.m. April 23

Where: Austin City Limits, 301 W. Second St.

Tickets: $60-$25


Want to see Pollyanna Theatre Company’s “Jamie Doesn’t Want to Take a Bath”? I’ve got tickets

"Jamie Doesn't Want to Take a Bath" will be on stage at the Long Center through April 9.  Pollyanna Theatre Company
“Jamie Doesn’t Want to Take a Bath” will be on stage at the Long Center through April 9.
Pollyanna Theatre Company

Pollyanna Theatre Company‘s latest show for very young children (recommended for ages 18 months to 4 years) starts this week. “Jamie Doesn’t Want to Take a Bath” is about what happens when there’s a standoff at bath time, something we’re sure never happens in your house. The show, which has is done for a small audience of 35-people at most, involves play while watching the play to keep young kids involved.

We’ve got two family four packs to give away — one for April 2 and one for April 9. Enter to win by emailing by noon Thursday, March 31, and letting us know which weekend you could attend. We’ll let the winners know on April 1.

“Jamie Doesn’t Want to Take a Bath.” For children ages 2-4, see what happens when Jamie refuses to bathe. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. 9:30 and 11 a.m. March 31, April 2, 6-9.

Looking ahead: Family events in April


I’ve spent the day putting together my list of family events for April. Have an event I’ve missed? Email me at Find my March events here.


"Peter Rabbit Tales" will be at the Paramount Theatre on April 3.
“Peter Rabbit Tales” will be at the Paramount Theatre on April 3.

“Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat.” Thing 1 and 2 and a mischevious cat cause all kinds of problems. $10. 10 a.m. April 2, 9. Georgetown Palace, 810 S. Austin Ave.

“Peter Rabbit Tales.” On the 150th anniversary of Beatrix Potter’s birth, this production shares some of her best stories. $16. 2 p.m. April 3. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave.

“James & the Giant Peach.” The Roald Dahl book comes to life in musical form. 11 a.m. April 2, 9. 2 p.m. April 2, 3, 9; and 4:30 p.m. April 10. $29 adults, $26 children. Zach Theatre’s Kleberg Stage, 1421 W. Riverside Drive.

“The Town Musicians of Mumbai.” Scottish Rite Theatre collaborates with Sacred Cowgirls Indian Swing Band with a Bollywood adaptation of a known tale. $8-$12. 11 a.m. April 2, 9, 16, 23, 30; 1 p.m. April 3, 10, 17, 24, and May 1. Scottish Rite Theatre, 207 W. 18th St.

“Jamie Doesn’t Want to Take a Bath.” For children ages 2-4, see what happens when Jamie refuses to bathe. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. 9:30 and 11 a.m. March 31, April 2, 6-9.

“Alice in Wonderland.” See Alice, the Cheshire Cat, the White Rabbit, Caterpillar, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum and more as they move throughout the Zach Theatre property. 6:30 p.m. Fridays through April 15; 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays through May 15, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through May 15. 11 a.m. May 1 is a sign-interpreted performance. $23 adults, $18 children. Whisenhunt stage, 1510 Toomey Road.

“Where the Wild Things Are.” Growl with Max as he sets off on an adventure in this Maurice Sendak book. $17-$22. 11 a.m. April 13-14, 4 p.m. April 13-17, 7 p.m. April 15, 10 a.m. April 16 and 1 p.m. April 16-17. Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive.

IMG_1118“Sesame Street Live: Make a New Friend.” Chamki is far from home, but the Sesame Street friends find ways to help her out. $15-$70. 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. April 8; 10:30 a.m., 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. April 9; and 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. April 10. Erwin Center, 1701 Red River St.


Thinkery Workshops and events: Discovering DNA, for ages 8 and older. 10:30 a.m. April 2 and 2:30 p.m. April 3. $29 one adult and child. Early Learners Workshop: Let’s Experiment, for ages 2-3. 10:45 a.m. April 2 and April 4; for ages 1-2, 9:45 a.m. April 2 and April 4; $29 one adult and child. Spark Club: Radical Radio, for ages 8 and up. 3:30 p.m. Wednesdays through April, $72. Family Night: Second Annual Bricks & Blocks Bonanza. Learn science through Legos. 6:30 p.m. April 8, $15. 3-D Printing Part 1, for ages 8 and up. 10:30 a.m. April 9 and 2:30 p.m. April 10; $34 one child and adult. Dairy Discoveries, for ages 4-7. 10:30 a.m. April 16 and 2:30 p.m. April 17. $29 one adult and child. Paper Lanterns, for ages 4-7. 10:30 a.m. April 23, and 2:30 p.m. April 24. $29 one adult and child.  The Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.

Bullock Museum. Free First Sunday: Our Global Kitchen. Explore this new exhibit as well has enjoy hands-on activities. Noon-5 p.m. April 3. Living History Days. See the museum come to life. 10 a.m. April 7. Science Thursday. Explore science exhibits. 10 a.m. April 14. Bullock Texas State History Museum, 1800 Congress Ave.

Double Vision: Teens Create. Be inspired by “Myopia” by Mark Mothersbaugh and create your own inkblot art, take mutant portraits, make a postcard and sing karaoke an dplay games. 6-9 p.m. April 2. Contemporary Austin Jones Center, 700 Congress Ave.

Enjoy the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
Enjoy the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Families Create! Flags and Forts. Make your own flag and help the Contemporary austin create a giant fort. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. April 9. Free. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St.

Umlauf Sculpture Garden Family Day. Enjoy free activities including art making, stories, yoga and more. Noon-4 p.m. April 10. Umlauf Sculpture Garden, 605 Robert E. Lee Road.


Fishing with a Ranger. Learn the basics of fishing. 6-7 p.m. Fridays in April, and Saturdays in April, attend a Night Sky Party, 8-10 p.m. Inks Lake State Park, 3630 Park Road 4 West, Burnet.

Zilker Garden Fest. Many family activities at this fest. $10 adults, $4 children, younger than 4 free. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. April 2-3. Zilker Botanical Garden, 2200 Barton Springs Road.

BizGlam Workshop with Glamtrepreneur. Learn how to be lead a business at this workshop for girls third-sixth grades. $60. 2 p.m.-5 p.m. April 3. Austin Jewish Academy, 7300 Hart Lane. Register on Glamptrepreneur’s Facebook page.

Go Fish! Learn to Fish Event. 9 a.m.-noon April 9. McKinney Falls State Park, 5808 McKinney Falls Parkway, Austin.

glamtrepreneurGirlstart Starry Nights. Learn about the moon in a miniplanetarium. 5:30 p.m. April 7. 1400 W. Anderson Lane.

Friend or Foe Insect Walk. Find out what lives in the Wildflower Center Gardens with an entomologists. 9-11 a.m. April 10. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave.

Girls in Stem Conference. For girls fourth-eighth grades. Explore many hands-on workshops with Girl Start. $35, includes lunch and a T-shirt. 9:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. April 16, Travis High School, 1211 E. Oltorf St.

KidzBop Kids in concert. Yes, the CD-series has a concert tour. 6 p.m. April 23. $25-60. The Moody Theater, 310 W. Willie Nelson Blvd.

Afternoon in the Garden: Faeries, Pollinators and their Flowers. Explore Zilker Botanical Garden with family activities, including planting flowers that attract fairies and pollinators. Free with admission. 1 p.m.-4 p.m. April 24. 2200 Barton Springs Road.


BookPeople events: Ally Condie reads “Summerlost.” 7 p.m. April 4. Kathi Appelt and Janet Fox read “Maybe a Fox” and “The Charmed Children of Rookskill Castle.” 2 p.m. April 24. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.

Barnes & Noble story times. 11 a.m. Saturday story times at all locations: “I Wish You had More,” April 2; “Let’s Play,” April 9; “Don’t Touch This Book!” April 16; “Where’s the Party,” April 23; and “Night at the Stadium,” April 30. Other story times: “How to Put your Parents to bed,” 11 a.m. April 6, Lakeline; “Puddle Pug,” 11 a.m. April 13, Lakeline; “We are in a Book,” 11 a.m. April 20, Lakeline; “Strickly No Elephants,” 11 a.m. April 27, Lakeline; “When Spring Comes,” 7 p.m. April 1, Round Rock; “The Fintastic Fishsitter,” 11 a.m. April 5, Round Rock; “Little Cloud,” 7 p.m. April 8, Round Rock; “Ella and Penguin Stick Together,” 11 a.m. April 12, Round Rock; “No, No Gnome!” 7 p.m. April 15, Round Rock; “Fitz and the Beautiful Horses,” 11 a.m. April 19, Round Rock; “Violet and Victor Write the Most Fabulous Fairy Tale,” 7 p.m. April 22, Round Rock; “There’s a Giraffe in my Soup,” 11 a.m. April 26, Round Rock; and “Ah-Choo!” 7 p.m. April 29, Round Rock. Lego workshop. 2 p.m. April 24, Sunset Valley.


Crafternoon. 4 p.m. April 1, Spicewood Springs Branch; 3:30 p.m. April 5, Terrazas Branch; 3:30 p.m. April 12, Howson Branch; 4 p.m. April 14, Twin Oaks Branch; 3:30 p.m. April 19, Terrazas Branch; 3:30 p.m. April 25, Manchaca Road Branch; and 4 p.m. April 28, Cepeda Branch.

Music in the Park. 2 p.m. April 3, Austin History Center.

Felt Friends World Tour. Make a pocket ninja. 5 p.m. April 5, Manchaca Road Branch.

“Star Wars: The Force Awakens” screening. 6:30 p.m. April 5, North Village Branch; and 6:30 p.m. April 26, North Village Branch.

Art Smart. 6:30 p.m. April 5, April 12,  April 19, April 26, Willie Mae Kirk Branch; and 1 p.m. April 23, Willie Mae Kirk Branch;

Literature Live Presents: “The Selfish Gardner.” 3:30 p.m. April 7, Carver Branch; 9:30 a.m. April 12, Whole Foods Market at the Domain; 6:30 p.m. April 26, Willie Mae Kirk Branch; and 3:30 p.m. April 27, Old Quarry Branch;

“Día Science and Literacy Day.” Ballet Folklorico and activities, plus a free book. 1 p.m. April 9, Ruiz Branch.

Family Movie Night: “The Peanuts Movie,” 6:30 p.m. April 12, Twin Oaks Branch.

Art Lab for Littles. 11 a.m. April 14, Terrazas Branch.

Book Circle: Legos and Duplos. 3:30 p.m. April 14, Yarborough Branch; Straws and Connectors, 3:30 p.m. April 21, Yarborough Branch.

Maker Mania: Día de los Niños. 3:30 p.m. April 14, Faulk Central Library.

Día de los Niños. 4 p.m. April 14, Little Walnut Creek Branch; and 10 a.m. April 22, Willie Mae Kirk Branch. With a Cinco de Mayo celebration, 11 a.m. April 30, Dove Springs Recreation Center.

Family Movie Matinee. “Hotel Transylvania.” 4 p.m. April 19, Cepeda Branch.

Family Craft Night. 7 p.m. April 28, Hampton Branch.

Elizabeth Kanura: Sounds of Africa. 10:15 a.m. April 29, Pleasant Hill Branch.

Sarah Barnes’ book “Meredith & Me” wins Barbara Jordan Award

30_Barnes_BrendaLaddPHOTO_CMYK_5x7 copy
Sarah Barnes writes about her daughter, Meredith Hemphill, in “Meredith & Me.” Credit: Brenda Ladd Photograph

Sometime American-Statesman columnist Sarah Barnes received notice yesterday that she has won the 2016 Barbara Jordan Media Award in the book category for “Meredith & Me,” her book about raising her daughter Meredith, who was born with several brain abnormalities.

The award is presented by  the Governor’s Committee on People with Disabilities and Barnes will receive it in Arlington on April 23.

I interviewed Barnes last November about the book. You can read that interview here.

You can also read her past “A Different Road” columns here. 

Barnes is not the only connection to win a Barbara Jordan Award. Statesman photographer Rodolfo Gonzalez and videographer Kelly West won in photojournalism for their work on this piece: Team Manager Inspires Georgetown Eagles to Soar.

“Peter Rabbit Tales” production comes to Paramount Theatre for 150th birthday of Beatrix Potter

"Peter Rabbit Tales" will be at the Paramount Theatre on April 3.
“Peter Rabbit Tales” will be at the Paramount Theatre on April 3.

“Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were — Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail and Peter.”

Once upon a time, 150 years ago, the woman who wrote those words was born.

Beatrix Potter gave us Peter Rabbit and his siblings, as well as Benjamin Bunny, Squirrel Nutkin and more.

Now in honor of her 150th birthday, Enchantment Theatre Company is bringing her stories to the stage in “Peter Rabbit Tales,” which will be at the Paramount Theatre on April 3. It’s the only production that has the blessing of the Beatrix Potter estate.

Enchantment Theatre spent two years working on this production, including a trip to London to work with the licensing department of Penguin Books. Enchantment’s production designer also visited Potter’s archives in the Victoria & Albert Museum and her digital archives to create the scenery as well as the costumes and masks.

Enchantment, which is based in Philadelphia, specializes in family theater that focuses on movement rather than on words. A narrator provides the explanation while the actors on stage pantomime Peter and Co.’s adventures. The narrator is almost like the voice in your head that reads the storybook, while the actors are the pictures on the page that come to life.

At the beginning of the play, you see all the actors ensemble, bringing their costumes and all of the props for the show. They are surprised to see the audience, which the audiences loves. They help each other into their costumes, which are clothing and masks that only cover part of their faces. When they turn around, their whole body goes into character.

Peter RabbitAs any parent who has ever taken a child to Disneyland knows, larger than life animals can be scary, but “Peter Rabbit Tales” takes away that fear by having kids see the transition from human to animal. “It’s not a scary thing,” says Landis Smith, the artistic director for Enchantment. “It’s a magical kind of thing.”

Beatrix Potter’s stories are not without their scary moments. After all, death is always a possibility at the hand of Mr. McGregor, his cat or Mr. Todd, the badger.

“These stories are not warm and squishy,” Smith says. “They have nature in theme.”

In this production, the narrator tells us that Mr. Todd likes to eat frogs and worms and sometimes baby rabbit pie. Mr. Bouncer, Benjamin Bunny’s father, has been babysitting his grandchildren, but he falls asleep and Mr. Todd kidnaps them. The rest of the play is spent trying to rescue the baby bunnies.

Through flashbacks, the tales of Peter Rabbit and Benjamin Bunny get told because Benjamin calls on his cousin Peter to help him. It provides lessons in courage and forgiveness. And while a bit dark, the whole thing ends in a comical chase between a badger and a fox.

“I love being able to bring these classic stories that people know and love and bringing them to life in new ways,” says Jennifer Luck, the director of education and outreach at the Paramount Theatre.

This won’t be the only story from Beatrix Potter you might hear about this year. In September, a long lost manuscript of hers is being published by Penguin. “The Tale of Kitty in Boots,” starts with “Once upon a time there was a kind old lady who had a serious well-behaved young black cat.”


“Peter Rabbit Tales” 

When: 2 p.m. April 3

Where: Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave.

Tickets: $16


Paramount Theatre at BookPeople

Paramount Theatre reads from Beatrix Potter’s “The Tale of Peter Rabbit” during story time. 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Book People, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.

Talking to your kids about Sea World

Sea World San Antonio will add "natural orca encounters" in 2019.
Sea World San Antonio will add “natural orca encounters” in 2019.

Today Sea World announced that it will end its breeding program of orcas as well as end the live orca shows as they now exist. Instead it will offer “new, inspiring natural orca encounters.” Those encounters will start in San Diego, but not happen in San Antonio until 2019.

That “new, inspiring natural orca encounters.” language brings a lot of questions to my mind. First of which is, how can it be a natural encounter with a mammal in captivity? Larger questions: If Sea World no longer breeds animals, does this mark a real phase out of orcas at Sea World or will it just go to other shows that breed the animals or will it go back to the wild to find orcas, which was an underlying problem with the animal highlighted in “Blackfish.” Sea World, of course, has refuted a lot of what is in “Blackfish.”

Sea World has been a serious talking point in our family since my 12-year-old daughter watched “Blackfish” more than a year ago. She used to love Sea World. She went with her preschool; our Girl Scout troop went when they were kindergarteners and first-graders; we even went as a family a couple of times. No more.

Last year, when her Girl Scout troop was exploring where to go for the end of the year trip, Sea World came up and Ava gave a point by point argument on why they should not use their cookie money to support Sea World. Nothing Sea World can do can change her mind, and this is a kid that at times has wanted to be a marine biologist.

If your child is too young to see “Blackfish,” what do you say about the change in Sea World’s show if you should happen to go to Sea World San Antonio in 2019 when Shamu will no longer splash you? Can you even say that an orca killed a trainer and Sea World needed to make this change? How do you even explain that? And how do you explain that the orca show had to change, but that the sea lions, dolphins and beluga whales are fine in their tiny tanks? Can you even go back to Sea World since “Blackfish” came out?

Kids are incredibly perceptive. I’ve been with young kids at zoos who have asked why the animals were in cages. I, as a parent, have long explained that the animals are endangered in the wild, but that by being in a cage here, we get to protect them to make sure there are still lions and tigers and bears. I’m not even sure I fully believe my own explanation. “Blackfish” has made me rethink all of it.

The truth is that kids love to see animals and these are animals they would probably not get a chance to see in the wild. But the whole animals in captivity is a difficult thing to explain to young kids,  especially as kids get older. So do your research about the zoo or aquarium you plan to visit. Make sure they are accredited through the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Of course, you’ll find Sea World San Antonio on that list, too, so a good Google search might be needed to see if there were any reports of cruelty recently. And you can look at groups like PETA and the Humane Society for guidance as well to see if they have any current action regarding the zoo or aquarium you plan to visit.

Let’s hope that one day, your kids get the opportunity to see an orca in the wild instead of Sea World.




Obama wants you to make sure no baby is without diapers

Thursday, the White House started an initiative to provide affordable diapers to the 1 out of every 3 families that cannot afford them. Along with and Cuties Diapers, it launched the Community Diaper Program, in which nonprofit agencies can buy diapers that cost about a third of what the name-brand diapers cost through You also can give a donation there to the National Diaper Bank Network, of which the Austin Diaper Bank is a partner.

Huggies countered today with a program to donate 20 million to 22 million diapers to the National Diaper Bank Network in 2016. In fact, it just donated 10,000 diapers to the Austin Diaper Bank. Parents who use Huggies can cash in their rewards points to donate additional diapers to this cause.

Here are some facts from the White House about the diaper scarcity:

  • 1-in-3 American families lack sufficient access to diapers and report not changing their child’s diaper as often as they feel they should.
  • The poorest families in America pay twice as much for diapers as wealthier ones do.
  • For low-income families, high diaper prices at local corner stores force them to choose between buying diapers versus other essential items.
  • Not changing your child’s diaper can expose them to serious health risks like diaper rash and infection.

The Austin Diaper bank has donated more than 300,000 diapers since it began in June 2013 to local nonprofits, who distribute the diapers.

Even more reason to feed your baby peanuts

We wrote about the original peanut and infant study last year, but a followup study found that if a baby was originally exposed to peanuts and then didn’t have peanuts for 12 months, the risk to develop a peanut allergy did not go up.

It's safe to give babies peanut butter once they start eating food. It might also help prevent them from developing a peanut allergy.  Delores Johnson/Kansas City Star
It’s safe to give babies peanut butter once they start eating food. It might also help prevent them from developing a peanut allergy.
Delores Johnson/Kansas City Star

Here’s what we know according to the study:

18.6 percent of children who were in the avoidance group from ages birth to 6 developed a peanut allergy. 4.8 percent of children who ate peanuts developed a peanut allergy. And when the peanut-eating kids stopped eating peanuts from ages 5 to 6, only 3 out of 270 developed a new allergy during that time. Coincidentally, the same number, 3, of the never-eaten-a-peanut-in-their-life group also developed a peanut allergy between ages 5 and 6.

“Among children at high risk for allergy in whom peanuts had been introduced in the first year of life and continued until 5 years of age, a 12-month period of peanut avoidance was not associated with an increase in the prevalence of peanut allergy.”

What does this mean to you? Don’t worry about avoiding giving kids peanuts until after they turn 1. That’s old thinking. The restrictions of what you could introduce when were lifted in 2008.

Dr. Bradley Berg, medical director of pediatrics at Scott & White Hospital in Round Rock, told us last year. “If you give them peanut butter earlier, the body sees it and incorporates it into the immune system,” he says. They don’t develop the allergic reaction.

He recommended that you start slowly with peanuts or eggs. First give them a lick off a spoon or a bite off your plate. Then give a pea-size amount for a day or two; move up to half a teaspoon; then stop worrying about how much you’re giving.

A reaction will typically look like lip swelling or hives, which are raised welts on the body that look like mosquito bites. It can also result in vomiting — not just spit up, but emptying the contents of their stomach, Dr. Elizabeth Knapp, a pediatrician with Austin Regional Clinic, told us last year. That’s when you would call the doctor or taken them to the emergency room if it was severe.

Knapp recommended introducing a new food that might be an allergen, like peanut butter, in the morning on a day when the parents will be around to watch their babies. Don’t give it to them when they are about to go to sleep or on a day when parents are sending them off to day care.

The only thing parents should wait to introduce until after babies turn 1 year old is whole milk. Dairy products are fine, but whole milk has too much iron for babies to process, Berg told us.

The more different foods parents are introducing, Knapp says, the more they’re ensuring that kids don’t get stuck in the one- or two-foods-only rut that sometimes happens during the toddler years.

So eat some peanut butter, baby, and strawberries and eggs. Enjoy.