See how YouTube sensation Caine’s Arcade inspired new Zach Theatre, Teatro Vivo play ‘JJ’s Arcade’

Diego Rodriguez plays Jose Joaquin Hernandez in “JJ’s Arcade,” produced by Teatro Vivo and Zach Theatre.

Almost 6 million people watched a YouTube video of a 9-year-old boy who built an arcade out of cardboard boxes in his father’s auto parts store in East Los Angeles. One of them was playwright José Casas, who was from Los Angeles but spent two years in Austin working on a master’s of fine art at the University of Texas before getting a job at the University of Michigan.

Cases began creating  a bilingual play for family theater called “JJ’s Arcade,” and elicited the help of  Zach Theatre’s director of education Nat Miller to bring the play to the stage.

The play was one of six chosen for the 2016 Kennedy Center’s New Visions/New Voices workshop and festival. Last May, Miller and Casas spent a week in Washington, D.C., working with provided equity actors on refining the script and staging the play.

Now in a bicycle shop-turned rehearsal space next to Zach’s theaters, an Austin cast and crew is getting “JJ’s Arcade” ready for its world premiere three-week run at the the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center April 14-May 7.

In the New Visions/New Voices workshop, “JJ’s Arcade” was the only bilingual play. And, says Miller, there just aren’t enough bilingual plays for families available to theaters who are interested in staging them. “I have all the scripts I can possibly find,” Miller says. The list isn’t long, filling only a page. “Our purpose is to be able to add to that canon.”

Zach has made it a priority to stage at least one bilingual play a year and has been working with producing partner Teatro Vivo on that mission. Together they have staged “Mariachi Girl,” “Salt & Pepper,” “Tomás and the Library Lady” and “Cenicienta” Cinderella story. “JJ’s Arcade” is the third new work Zach and Teatro Vivo have created. They developed “Mariachi Girl” for the stage and helped it get published so it could be presented by other children’s theaters. Two years ago they created “Cenicienta” with Glass Half Full Theatre. They also made “Salt & Pepper” bilingual for the first time.

The commitment to producing more bilingual works extends into the future. Zach, Teatro Vivo and Glass Half Full Theatre will team up again next year for a show being developed by Glass Half Full’s Caroline Reck:  “The Adventures of Enoughie: A Story of Kindness.” It will also be staged at the MACC.

While the bilingual theater shows often don’t make money, Miller says, it’s important to have plays reflect the audience that Zach serves, especially the 55,000 school children who visit a Zach show every year.

“JJ’s Arcade” actors are all bilingual and have helped add more Spanish to the play as they reflect how their families would say things. They add it where it will make sense for English-only speakers as well.

While teachers love bringing their kids to bilingual shows, Miller says, sometimes it’s harder to convince the public audience to come. More known stories like “Elephant and Piggie,” which is currently on stage, and “Good Night Moon,” which is coming next year, is an easier sell. English-speaking audiences might might think they wouldn’t understand what is happening or that they wouldn’t be able to identify with the characters. That just isn’t true.

“Bilingual theater is more interesting,” says Teatro Vivo’s Executive Artistic Director Mario Ramirez, who also plays the father in “JJ’s Arcade.” “Even more people feel welcome.”

In the play, J.J. — short for Jose Joaquin — has lost his mother and is having trouble in school. A meeting between his teacher and his father and J.J.’s fantasy conversation with his late mother reveals that J.J. should probably be tested for dyslexia. J.J. gets suspended from school for fighting, and while he’s home, he hangs out in his father’s auto parts store, turning boxes into arcade games.
“The play deals with a lot of real issues,” Miller says — death, trouble connecting with his father, learn disabilities. And while struggle is part of it, “There’s a lot to celebrate in the play.”

JJ’s father’s employee Oscar sets up a surprise. He gets the story of J.J.’s arcade posted on Facebook and suddenly there’s a line out the door waiting to play J.J.’s arcade.

“It’s really about celebrating imagination and intelligence,” Miller says. J.J. is the kind of kid who might not excel in school, but he’s got a different kind of intelligence. He needs to be encouraged and supported to help him find what he’s good at. “It’s a metaphor for the arts in general.”

It’s also a testimony to how important fathers and father-figures are. It reflects the Mexican-American culture of men being taught to be strong and to take care of themselves, but it also teaches a lesson of needing to ask for help and rely on one another.

“He has really positive male characters in his life,” says Martinique Duchene-Phillips of Teatro Vivo, who plays the mother and teacher. “It doesn’t have a lot of stereotypes of the deadbeat dad.”

Just like people lined up to play Caine’s Arcade, people will line up to play “JJ’s Arcade.” All of the cardboard games created for the show work. If you come to one of the public shows, you can play JJ’s Plinko, labrynth or another game. At a rehearsal for press and donors, the cast and crew had trouble getting the adults to stop playing.

“JJ’s Arcade.”

For ages 7 and up.

When: 7 p.m. April 14, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays except April 30, April 14-May 7. 2 p.m. April 29 sign-language-interpreted and sensory-friendly performance.

Where: Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St.

Tickets: $13-$15.



What do you do when you think you or someone else might harm a child? Follow this advice to prevent child abuse

Deacon Garay was killed by his mother’s boyfriend when he was 2 years old. Deacon’s Superman costume was used to make a teddy bear after he died. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2014

It’s so easy to lose your cool with your kids. We know that, right? We all have regrets about the time we yelled too much or we grabbed an arm just a little bit harder than we intended to get a child to move where we needed her to go.

April is child abuse prevention month, but really every month should be child abuse prevention month, every day child abuse prevention day.

The Children’s Hospital Association of Texas offers this advice when you get angry or frustrated with your kids:

  • Take a deep breath and count to 20 slowly.
  • Put your child in a safe place and WALK AWAY. The crib is usually a good choice for children who have not yet learned to climb out. For older children, walk out of the room but remain within hearing range to make sure that the child is safe.
  • Now that your child is safe, take the time you need to calm down. This could just be a couple of minutes. If you need more time, reach out to a family member or friend to babysit for a while. Let them know how upset you are and that you need some help.
  • Call for help! Never be afraid to call for help. Reach out to family, friends, your church, or a trusted adult. If you can’t get help and feel like you might hurt your child, call 911. They will help make sure you and your child are safe.
  • Get rest. We are NOT at our best when we are over-tired and over-stressed. Just like airlines tell us, we must put on our oxygen first and then care for our child. Take care of yourself.


But what if it’s not about you and your children. What if it’s about that child down the street, your child’s classmate, the child you saw at the grocery store?

Here are 10 things the hospital association recommends you do:

  • Know what child abuse is. In addition to physical and sexual abuse, neglect can also be an issue. Neglect includes the failure of parents or other caregivers to provide a child with needed food, clothing, and care. Children can also be emotionally abused when they are rejected, berated, or continuously isolated.
  • Know how to recognize it. Unexplained injuries are just one sign of abuse. Habitual absence from school, depression, fear of a certain adult, difficulty trusting others or making friends, sudden changes in eating or sleeping patterns, inappropriate sexual behavior, poor hygiene, secrecy, and hostility can be signs that indicate a child is being neglected or abused.
  • Educate yourself and others. After-school activities, parent education classes, mentoring programs, and respite care are all great ways to keep kids safe. Be a supportive voice for these efforts in your community.
  •  Volunteer your time. Get involved with community groups or other parents near you. Help vulnerable children and their families by starting a playgroup.
  • Discipline your children thoughtfully. It’s never good to discipline a child in anger. Give yourself time to calm down, and remember that discipline is a way to teach your child. Use privileges to encourage good behavior and time-outs to help your child regain control. There is a substantial amount of literature that spanking, hitting, and other forms of physical punishment are not effective. Children disciplined in this way are more likely to be aggressive and have low self-esteem.
  • Examine your behavior. Abuse can reach far beyond the physical. Words as well as actions can inflict deep, lasting wounds. Be a nurturer. Actions show children and other adults that conflicts can be settled in a healthy way, without hitting or yelling.
  • Teach children their rights. When kids understand that they are special and have the right to be safe, they are less likely to think abuse is their fault. Then they become more likely to talk about potential abuse.
  • Support prevention programs. Research options in your community that have been proven to stop abuse before it occurs—such as family counseling and home visits by nurses who provide assistance for newborns and their parents.
  • Report abuse. If you see a child being harmed or witness evidence of abuse, call the local police or make a report to Texas Child Protective Services. If you’re talking to a child about suspected abuse, be sure to listen carefully, assuring the child that he or she did the right thing by telling an adult. Always affirm that he or she is not responsible for what happened.
  • Invest in kids. Be an advocate by encouraging community leaders to support children and families. Ask employers to provide family-friendly work environments. Ask your local and national lawmakers to support legislation to protect our children and to improve their lives.

How do you know when you need to call the Texas Abuse Hotline at 1-800-252-5400?

The Texas Department of Family and Protective Services recommends calling that number for these things:

  1. Serious injuries.
  2. Any injury to a child 5 years or younger.
  3. Immediate need for medical treatment including suicidal thoughts.
  4. Sexual abuse where the abuser has or will have access to the victim within the next 24 hours.
  5. Children age 5 and under are alone or are likely to be left alone within the next 24 hours.
  6. Anytime you believe your situation requires action in less than 24 hours.

You can find out more at DFPS website, or Prevention and Early Intervention programs.




Could breastfeeding reduce hyperactivity in children? Maybe, says new study

Nursing moms can talk to a lactation consultant through Doctors on Demand and UpSpring.

A new study that of 8,000 children that were part of the Growing up in Ireland data collection survey looked at behavior and cognitive abilities of children who were breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life compared to children who were not. It specifically looked at the children at age 3 and at age 5. Would breastfed babies be the  “smarter,” “better behaved” children as other studies have seemed to indicate?

What it found was not what it expected.

The only factor that was scientifically different was that the breastfed children at age 3 had less hyperactivity than those who weren’t breastfed. By the time all the children were 5, there wasn’t a statistical difference.

Also unclear was whether it was the breast milk itself or the close skin-to-skin contact that breastfeeding affords.

The study is out this month in the April issue of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Pediatric’s journal.

It’s a study that makes many scratch their heads. Isn’t breast milk best?

I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise Dr. Amy Tuteur, who wrote the book “Push Back: Guilt in the Age of Natural Parenting.” When we talked to her last year, she gave us this:

She wants women to stop beating themselves up about not breast-feeding. In “Push Back,” she offers  chart after chart of research that shows little difference between breast-fed and formula-fed babies with access to clean water. “The benefits are a few less colds over the first year,” she says. “That’s it.” All the other stuff — obesity rates, diabetes, IQ — “That’s not true,” she says. “That’s been debunked.”

She worries about women feeling like bad mothers when their milk doesn’t come in or babies have trouble latching. She’d rather they switch to formula and feed their babies rather than stick to breast-feeding with a hungry baby as a result.

I have to say, I nursed both kids exclusively until they turned 1 and am a big fan of breastfeeding. Both have IQs, but so does my husband who was a bottle baby and so do I who was breastfed. One kid has ADHD and one doesn’t.

What I do know is that they were hardly ever sick as babies, and I have to think nursing probably helped.

Jump into April this weekend with fun for the family inside and out, March 31-April 2

“All Aboard” is on stage with Pollyanna Theatre Company at the Long Center.

Oh, it is going to be a thunderstorm-filled Saturday and Sunday. Brace yourself if you’re planning on going outside, especially at the Wildflower Center’s events. Dodge the raindrops and enjoy these fun events:


“All Aboard.” Pollyanna Theater presents this story for children 18 months to 4 years old about everything on wheels. 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. Thursday-Saturday, plus April 4-8. $6.50. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive.

Drop the kids off next door at the Thinkery and check out the Alamo Drafthouse Mueller Cinema for Parent’s Night Out. RICARDO B. BRAZZIELL/AMERICAN-STATESMAN


Wildflower Center. Sprouts. Hands-on preschool program. 10 a.m. Friday. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave.

Thinkery. Parents’ Night Out. Ages 4 and up. The kids get to play while the parents go to the new Alamo Drafthouse next door. 6-10:30 p.m. Friday. $40 first child, $25 for sibling. (Alamo Drafthouse tickets separate). Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.

Texas Museum of Science & Technology. Star Party. Look at the stars. 8 p.m. Friday. Texas Museum of Science & Technology, 1220 Toro Grande Drive, Cedar Park.

Barnes & Noble celebrates “Beauty and the Beast” on Saturday. Disney


“Junie B’s Essential Survival Guide to School.” Barbara Park’s character comes to life. $15-$12. Noon Saturday. One World Theatre, 7701 Bee Cave Road.

Baby Bloomers for kids infant to 3. Study the the sky. 9 a.m. Saturday. Special guests throughout the month. $5. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.

Nature Play Hour. Play in the Family Garden. 11 a.m. Saturday.

BookPeople events. Cynthia Leonor Garza reads “Lucía the Luchadora,” 11:30 a.m. Saturday; BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.

Barnes & Noble Saturday story times at all locations: Celebration of “Beauty and the Beast,” Saturday.

“Moana” is playing at the library. Disney.


“Elephant and Piggie: We Are in a Play!” The Mo Willems story comes to the stage. 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through April 30. 11 a.m. Saturdays. $16-$21. Zach Theatre’s Kleberg Theatre, 1421 W. Riverside Drive.

“Jungle Book Jangal Ki Kahani.” Enjoy the original “Jungle Book” Bollywood style. $8-12. 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sunday through April 30. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St.

Thinkers Workshop. Get Pumped! For ages 4 and up. Learn about the circulatory system. 11:15 a.m., 1:15 p.m., 3:15 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, April 14-16, April 29-30. $8. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.

Badgerdog Writing Workshop. 10:15 a.m. Saturday, Twin Oaks Branch, Yarborough Branch.

Bow Wow Reading with Bonnie the Dog. 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

Saturday Family Movie “Moana.” 2 p.m. Saturday, Windsor Park Branch.

2 O’Clock Tunes: The Southsiders featuring Marcus Tharpe. 2 p.m. Saturday. Twin Oaks Branch.

The Bullock Texas State History Museum is free on Sunday. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


Bullock Museum. H-E-B Free First Sunday: Texas Tunes. Celebrate Texas music with hands-on activities. Noon-5 p.m. Sunday. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave.

Neill-Cochran House Museum. Sunday Funday: Simple Machines. Learn about simple machines and make some. 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Free. Neill-Cochran House, 2310 San Gabriel St.

Birds that Boogie. Learn more about birds. 1 p.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Free. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave.

Autism Ride/Run. Bike 9, 24, 42 or 68 miles or run/walk a 5k. Plus educational books and activities after. 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Georgetown High School, 2211 N. Austin Ave., Georgetown. Race entrance fees vary.


Kids love butterflies? Add them to your garden for free

If you take a pledge to plant a garden that offers a food source for butterflies and pollinators at your house, your school or in your neighborhood, the National Wildlife Federation will give you a Butterfly Heroes Garden Starter kit, if you’re one of the first 45,000 people to take the pledge.

The kits include native seed packets provided by Botanical Interests Inc. that are right for your area and and a step-by-step guide to building a butterfly garden.

Take the pledge at You also have to upload a photo of yourself making the American Sign Language sign for butterfly.



What’s happening in April for Austin families? Check out our calendar

Grace Miller (from left), Aiden Carney and Anabelle Aranda and receive large Easter baskets after being prize-egg winners for 3- and 4 year-olds at the Lakeway Eggstravaganza on March 28.

April showers us with many outside activities, smart science opportunities and an Easter basket full of themed events. Check out what’s coming to museums, movie theaters, stages, libraries and more near you. Did we miss something? Let us know at


Autism Ride/Run. Bike 9, 24, 42 or 68 miles or run/walk a 5k. Plus educational books and activities after. 7:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 2. Georgetown High School, 2211 N. Austin Ave., Georgetown. Race entrance fees vary.

Domain Northside Kids. Come to the lawn at the Domain Northside for activities for kids 18 months to 6 years old. Free. 10 a.m.-noon April 5.

GirlStart: Starry Nights. See the indoor planetarium. Free. 5:30 p.m. April 5. GirlStart, 1400 W. Anderson Lane.

Bridging Cultures Storytime: Tom Thumb tales from Asia. With a treasure hunt and story time. 10 a.m. April 7. Asian American Resource Center, 8401 Cameron Road.

Dell Children’s Medical Center 5K and Family Fun Fair. With fun health information booths and activities. 7:45 a.m. to 11 a.m. April 8. 4900 Mueller Blvd.

Zilker Park Free Day. The Austin Nature and Science Center, Barton Springs Pool, the Zilker Zephry, the Zilker Botanical Garden and the Umlauf Sculpture Garden will all be free in celebration of  the 100th Anniversary of Zilker Park. April 9

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. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Girls in STEM Conference. A day filled with science, technology, engineering and math activities from GirlStart. $35. 10 a.m. April 22. Travis High School, 1211 E. Oltorf St.

Afternoon in the Garden: Faeries, pollinators and their wildflowers. Learn about pollinators, wildflowers and magical faeries. $2 adults, $1 children 3-12. 1-4 p.m. April 23. 2220 Barton Springs Road.

Monster Jam. Seriously big trucks crush other trucks. 7 p.m. April 22, 1 p.m. April 23. $15-$35. Erwin Center, 1701 Red River St.

Dragon Boat Festival. See the dragon boats race in this 2,000-year-old Chinese tradition. 9 a.m. April 29. Festival Beach.

Y at the Park: Family Play Day. Join the YMCA for activities. Free. 10 a.m. April 29. Mueller Lake Park, 4550 Mueller Blvd.

“Never Grow Up: A Disney Art Show.” Mondo Gallery presents this show April 28 through May 13. Opening reception, 3-10 p.m. April 28. “Mondo Clubhouse” Kids Party,  10 a.m. to noon April 29. Mondo Gallery, 4115 Guadalupe St.

Easter events

Teen Flashlight Easter Egg Hunt. 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. April 7. Dottie Jordan Recreation Center, 2803 Loyola Lane.

Dove Springs Recreation Center Easter Eggstravaganza. For toddlers to age 12. Free. 10 a.m. to noon April 8. 5801 Ainez Drive.

Community Easter Egg Hunt. 10 a.m. to noon April 8. $1 a child. Metz Recreation Center, 2407 Canterbury St.

Search for the Lost Eggs. Noon April 8. Free. Dittmar Recreation Center, 1009 W. Dittmar Road.

Bunny Bonanza. For toddlers-5-year-olds. $2.50 per child. 10:30 a.m. April 12. Northwest Recreation Center, 2913 Northland Drive.

Huston-Tillotson Easter Egg Hunt. Free. 4 p.m. April 13. 900 Chicon St.

Givens Easter Camp. Ages 5-12. 7:30 a.m.-6 p.m. April 14. $20. Givens Recreation Center, 3811 E. 12th St.

Toddler Egg Hunt. Toddlers to Age 4. Free. 11 a.m. April 14. Gus Garcia Recreation Center, 1201 E. Rundberg Lane.

Givens Easter Egg Hunt. For ages 4-12. Free. Noon-3 p.m April 14. Givens Recreation Center, 3811 E. 12th St.

Spring Eggstravaganza Event. 10 a.m. to noon. April 15. South Austin Recreation Center, 1100 Cumberland Road.

David Peña as Gerald the Elephant and Amanda Clifton as Piggie in the 2017 production of “Elephant And Piggie: We Are In A Play!” at ZachTheatre. Photo by Kirk Tuck


Junie B’s Essential Survival Guide to School.” Barbara Park’s character comes to life. $15-$12. Noon April 1. One World Theatre, 7701 Bee Cave Road.

“Elephant and Piggie: We Are in a Play!” The Mo Willems story comes to the stage. 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through April 30. 11 a.m. Saturdays. $16-$21. Zach Theatre’s Kleberg Theatre, 1421 W. Riverside Drive.

“Jungle Book Jangal Ki Kahani.” Enjoy the original “Jungle Book” Bollywood style. $8-12. 11 a.m. April 1-2, 8-9, 15, 22-23, 29-30. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St.

“Love that Dog.” A play about a boy who hates poetry, but with the help of his teacher and his dog, he learns to love it. $16. 3 p.m. April 9. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave.

“The Imaginators.” Austin Playhouse presents a story of a make-believe adventure, monster included. Free, but make reservations. 2 p.m. April 15 and 22, Noon April 21. Austin Playhouse at Austin Community College’s Highland Campus., 6001 Airport Blvd.

JJ’s Arcade.” Zach Theater and Teatro Vivo present this play about a boy who builds an arcade out of leftover cardboard. For ages 7 and up. 7 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays except April 30, April 14 through May 7. 2 p.m. April 29 sign-language-interpreted and sensory-friendly performance. $13-$15. Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St.

“All Aboard.” Pollyanna Theater presents this story for children 18 months to 4 years old about everything on wheels. 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. March 30-April 1, April 4-8. $6.50. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive.

Kids run in the Nature’s Spiral at the Luci and Ian Family Garden. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN


Bullock Museum. H-E-B Free First Sunday: Texas Tunes. Celebrate Texas music with hands-on activities. Noon-5 p.m. April 2. Living History Days. Texas historical figures wander the museum. 10 a.m. April 6. Little Texans. For ages 2-5. 10 a.m. April 13. Science Thursdays. Hands-on activities from Central Texas Discover Engineering including boat races. 10 a.m. April 20. Story time. For ages 2 to 5. 10 a.m. April 27. Bullock Museum, 1800 N. Congress Ave.

Neill-Cochran House Museum. Sunday Funday: Simple MachinesLearn about simple machines and make some.. 1-4 p.m. April 2. Free. Neill-Cochran House, 2310 San Gabriel St.

Thinkery. Little Thinkers Club: Art Start: Upcycle! 9:45 a.m. Wednesdays for 1-year-olds, 10:45 a.m. Wednesdays for 2-year-olds through May 24. $20 per class. Tinkering Tots: Mini Music Makers! 9:45 a.m. Fridays for 2-year-olds; 10:45 a.m. Fridays for 3-year-olds through May 26. $20 a class. Baby Bloomers for kids infant to 3. Study the the sky. 9 a.m. Mondays and Saturdays. Special guests throughout the month. $5. Get Pumped! For ages 4 and up. Learn about the circulatory system. 11:15 a.m., 1:15 p.m., 3:15 p.m. April 1-2, April 14-16, April 29-30. $8. Seed Surprises. Ages 4 and up. Make your own seed-spreading devices. 11:15 a.m. and 1:15 a.m. April 8-9, April 22-23. $8. Biomes in a Bottle. Ages 8 and up. Engineer a seed. 3:15 a.m. April 8-9, April 22-23, $8. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.

Contemporary Austin. For the BirdsCelebrate birds, make art and play games. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. April 8. Free. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St. Teen Create: Rooftop Justus. Make art inspired by sculpture. 6-9 p.m. April 7. Jones Center, 700 Congress Ave. Young Artists Portfolio Celebration. See what young artists are doing. 3-4 p.m. April 29, Jones Center, 700 Congress Ave.

Hill Country Science Mill. Homeschool Day. See special demonstrations. April 12. Hill Country Science Mill, 101 S. Lady Bird Lane, Johnson City.

Texas Museum of Science & Technology. Wee-Searchers for children 5 and younger. Learn about science through song, play and stories. 9 a.m. April 12 and April 26. Science Saturday: Earth DayLearn more about ecology. Noon-4 p.m. April 22. Star Party. Look at the stars. 8 p.m. April 7, 14, 21, 28. Texas Museum of Science & Technology, 1220 Toro Grande Drive, Cedar Park.

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

Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum. Family Day. Celebrate Zilker Park at 100. 10-4 p.m. April 9. Free. Kids Kraft Eco Arts. 9 a.m. April 22 kindergarten through second grade; 11 a.m. April 22 third through fifth grade. $15. Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum, 605 Robert E. Lee Road.

Wildflower Center. Sprouts. Hands-on preschool program. 10 a.m. Wednesdays and Fridays. Nature Play Hour. Play in the Family Garden. 11 a.m. Saturdays. Birds that Boogie. Learn more about birds. 1 p.m.-3 p.m. April 2. Free. Botanical Art Drawing. For budding artists ages 10 and up. 9 a.m. to noon. April 14. $40. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave.

Austin Nature & Science Center.  Austin Nature Day: Bees and Trees. Free. 9 a.m. to noon April 22. Austin Nature & Science Center, 2389 Stratford Drive.


Movies in the Park: “Batman Returns,” 8 p.m. April 6, Pease Park; “Fern Gully,” 8:30 p.m. April 20, Palm Park.

“The Wizard of Oz” Movie Party. 3:45 p.m. April 8, noon April 9, Alamo Drafthouse, Slaughter Lane. 7 p.m. April 8-9, Alamo Drafthouse

“Jurassic Park” Movie Party. 6:45 p.m. April 11, Alamo Drafthouse Ritz; 7:45 p.m. April 19 and 7:15 p.m. April 25, Slaughter Lane; 7 p.m. April 25,

PBS Kids “Explore the Outdoors.” With an episode of “Wild Kratts.” Noon April 22-23, Alamo Drafthouse Lakeline; 10:30 a.m. April 22-23, Slaughter Lane.

“Cassandra and the Night Sky” (Bright Sky Press, $19.95) by Amy Jackson, who will be at BookPeople, April 23.


BookPeople events. Cynthia Leonor Garza reads Lucía the Luchadora,” 11:30 a.m. April 1; Drew Daywalt reads “The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors,” 6 p.m. April 7Cinda Williams Chima reads Shadowcaster,” 2 p.m. April 8; Dan Hanna reads “Pout Pout Fish Far from Home,” 11:30 a.m. April 9; Kelly Jensen reads “Here We Are,” 5 p.m. April 9; Andy Griffiths reads “The 65-Story Treehouse,” 6 p.m. April 12; Margaret Petersen Haddix reads “In Over Their Heads,” 7 p.m. April 19; Chelsea Clinton reads “It’s Your World,” 6:30 p.m. April 22. Amy Jackson reads “Cassandra and the Night Sky,” 3 p.m. April 23; Liz Garton Scanlon and Audrey Vernick read “Bob, Not Bob!” noon April 22; Adam Bray and Tricia Barr “Star Wars The Visual Encyclopedia,” 6 p.m. April 26. Story times: “Not Quite Narwal giveaway story time, 10:30 a.m. April 4; Baby Signs, 10:30 a.m. April 5; Mary Sullivan, 11:30 a.m. April 8; Poets Who Know It, 10:30 a.m. April 11; Ms. Staci Gray, 10:30 a.m. April 12; “Happy Birthday Larry” giveaway story time, 11:30 a.m. April 15; Armstrong Community Music School, 10:30 a.m. April 18; Tiny Tails Petting Zoo, 10:30 a.m. April 19; Pets are the Best, 11:30 a.m. April 22; Preposterous Puppet Show Players, 10:30 a.m. April 25; Chakra Kids story time yoga, 10:30 a.m. April 26; Feminist Baby giveaway story time, 11:30 a.m. April 29. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.

Barnes & Noble Events: Cathy Nickell reads “Arthur Zarr‘s Amazing Art Car,” 1 p.m. April 9, Arboretum. Saturday story times at all locations: Celebration of “Beauty and the Beast,” April 1; “The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors,” April 8; “Too Many Carrots,” April 15; “We are Dinosaurs,” April 22; “The Wonderful Things You will Be,” April 29.

Maui (voice of Dwayne Johnson) may be a demigod—half god, half mortal, all awesome— but he’’s no match for Moana (voice of Auli‘i Cravalho), who’’s determined to sail out on a daring mission to save her people in “Moana.” Disney

At the library

Badgerdog Writing Workshop. 10:15 a.m. April 1, Twin Oaks Branch, Yarborough Branch.

Bow Wow Reading with Bonnie the Dog. 11:30 a.m. April 1, April 8, April 15, April 22, April 29, Yarborough Branch. Read to Aussie! 3:30 p.m. April 13, North Village Branch.

Saturday Family Movie “Moana.” 2 p.m. April 1, Windsor Park Branch. “The Magnificent Seven.” 2 p.m. April 8, University Hills Branch. “Sully.” 2 p.m. April 15, University Hills Branch. “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” 2 p.m. April 22, University Hills Branch. “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens.” 2 p.m. April 29, University Hills Branch.

O’Clock Tunes: The Southsiders featuring Marcus Tharpe. 2 p.m. April 1. Twin Oaks Branch.

Crafternoon. 3:30 p.m. April 3, Manchaca Road Branch; 3 p.m. April 6, Carver Branch; 4 p.m. April 13, Twin Oaks Branch; 3:30 p.m. April 18, Howson Branch; 4 p.m. April 18, Cepeda Branch; 3 p.m. April 25, Terrazas Branch; 4 p.m. April 25, Windsor Park Branch.

Literature Live! Presents “Little Peep.” 4 p.m. April 3, Howson Branch; 10:30 a.m. April 6, Willie Mae Kirk Branch; 11 a.m. April 8, Ruiz Branch; 6 p.m. April 10, Carver Branch; 3:30 p.m. April 13, Pleasant Hill Branch, 1 p.m. April 15, Recycled Reads Bookstore.

The Contemporary Austin Presents: Preschool Art Hour. 11 a.m. April 4, Cepeda Branch.

Sew Happy. 5 p.m. April 4, Manchaca Road Branch.

Learn Computer Coding. 6 p.m. April 4, April 11, April 18, Carver Branch.

Art Smart: Rain Art. 6:30 p.m. April 4, Willie Mae Kirk Branch. Drawing Dragons. April 11. Green Man Leaf Art. April 18. Celtic Sun. April 25.

Music & Movement. 3:30 p.m. April 5, Hampton Branch; 11 a.m. April 6, Howson Branch; 11 a.m. April 7, Milwood Branch; 11:30 a.m. April 12, Manchaca Road Branch; 11 a.m. April 27, Howson Branch.

Million Mile Month 2017. 3:30 p.m. April 6, Southeast Branch; 3:30 p.m. April 12, Windsor Park Branch; 3:30 p.m. April 20, North Village Branch; 3:30 p.m. April 25, Milwood Branch.

Learn to cast spells like Harry in “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”

Hogwarts Spring Training Camps: Magic Maker Fair. For ages 7 and up. 5 p.m. April 6, Yarborough Branch. Advanced Potions. 5 p.m. April 13, Yarborough Branch. Hogwarts Sports. 5 p.m. April 20, Yarborough Branch. Magical Creatures. 5 p.m. April 27, Yarborough Branch.

Made with Code. 1 p.m. April 8, Manchaca Road Branch. 1 p.m. April 29, Terrazas Branch.

Austin Ukestra Ukulele Group. 1 p.m. April 9, Recycled Reads Bookstore.

Storybook Dance Making. 2 p.m. April 9, Recycled Reads Bookstore.

Free Play Gaming. 3 p.m. Terrazas Branch.

Family Movie Night: Pete’s Dragon. 6:30 p.m. Twin Oaks Branch. “Field of Dreams.” 2 p.m. April 14, Old Quarry Branch. “The Lorax.” 3 p.m. April 18, Terrazas Branch. TBD. 5:30 p.m. April 26, Carver Branch.

NBTween Book Club: “Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase. 4 p.m. April 12, Howson Branch; “Finding Winnie,” 6 p.m. April 19, Yarborough Branch. “When the Sea Turned Silver.” 6 p.m. April 20, Twin Oaks Branch. “Goodbye Stranger.” 6 p.m. April 26, Spicewood Springs Branch.

Teen Manga Book Club 5:30 p.m. April 13, Little Walnut Creek Branch.

Teen Book Club. “Code Name Verity.” 6:30 p.m. April 13, Spicewood Springs Branch. “Island of the Blue Dolphins.” 7 p.m. April 13, Yarborough Branch. “Snow White.” 6:30 p.m. Howson Branch.

T(w)een STEAM Lab. For ages 7 and up. 3 p.m. April 19, Carver Branch.

Mother Daughter Book Club. “Where the Mountain Meets the Moon.” 6 p.m. April 19, Hampton Branch.

Juntos Online Tech Scavenger Hunt. 2 p.m. April 20, Carver Branch.

Perler Bead Palooza. 3 p.m. April 22, Faulk Central Library.

Edible Austin Children’s Picnic. 1 p.m. April 23, Rosewood Park.

Open Mic Night. 1 p.m. April 29, Carver Branch.

Pecan Street Brass. 4 p.m. April 30, Recycled Reads Bookstore.

NerdWallet says: Would-be parents have no idea how much a baby costs

This baby costs more than $1,000 or $5,000 a year. Andy Sharp / For the American-Statesman.

Surprise, surprise, parents-to-be have no idea how much a baby costs.

A new survey by NerdWallet of people expecting to start a family within the next three years found that 18 percent of these would-be parents think a baby will cost about $1,000 for the first year; 44 percent thought it would be less than $5,000.

Yet, NerdWallet found that the cost of raising a baby in that first year is … between $21,248 to $51,985, depending on parents’ income level. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that it’s about $233,610 to raise a child through his 17th year.

NerdWallet’s survey also found that


  • 3 of 10 parents had no money saved before having their baby
  • 57 percent of parents regret not taking more financial action
  • one-quarter of Americans (and 42 percent of millennials) expect friends and family to contribute more than 20 percent of the first-year parenting costs

One of the biggest ways that these parents underestimated the cost was in child care. Childcare Aware of America found that in Texas, the average cost for $9,207 a year, which is about the same as college tuition.


NerdWallet does have a tool to help you estimate the cost. I used the calculator for our area and kept everything simple rather than deluxe for food, clothing, toys, daycare and it estimated I would spend $24,609 a year that first year on that baby.

And now, parents, you understand why you have no money.

Get ready, STAAR tests are back

This week, kids in Texas will be sitting down with their No. 2 pencils and opening up a fresh round of STAAR tests and end of course exams.

Here’s the schedule:


Grade 4 Writing

Grade 7 Writing

Grade 5 Mathematics

Grade 8 Mathematics

English I


Grade 5 Reading

Grade 8 Reading


English II


All makeup exams for this round have to be given by this date.

Then we start again in May.

May 1-5

Algebra I


U.S. History

May 8

Grades 3–4 Mathematics

Grades 6–7 Mathematics

Grade 5 Mathematics (retest)

Grade 8 Mathematics (retest)

May 9

Grades 3–4 Reading

Grades 6–7 Reading

English III

Grade 5 Reading (retest)

Grade 8 Reading (retest)

May 10

Grade 5 Science

Grade 8 Science

Algebra II

May 11

Grade 8 Social Studies

May 12

All makeup exams for this round have to be given by this date.

Testing is something nobody loves: Not parents, not teachers and definitely not students — except there’s a lot of down time and snacks.



My daughter’s assistant principal gave some great advice to parents and students in the weekly school email. In addition to the key elements everyone will tell you:

  • Get a good night’s sleep the night before.
  • Have a nice, healthy breakfast.
  • Brink a healthy snack for during testing.

She also offered this:

“Remember, there’s no point in cramming since we have been covering what we will be tested on since August.”

and this strategy:

“As for the test, it’s imperative you take your time. Multiple choice tests are the easiest tests we can take because the answer is on the page. You just have to figure out which one it is. Make sure to read the question first, then try to come up with your own answer before you see the choices. After you read through all the choices, eliminate the ones you know aren’t right. Then, make your best educated guess with the remaining choices.”


So, when your kids are stressing out tomorrow morning … or not seeming to care, give them that advice.


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: 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.

Get your tickets to Parents’ Night Out at new Alamo Drafthouse, Thinkery

The new Alamo Drafthouse at Mueller will have family-friendly activities, including in the Barrel O’ Fun, but it turns into the Bar O’ Fun at night.

One of the exciting things about the new Alamo Drafthouse in the Mueller neighborhood is that it is next door to the Thinkery children’s museum.

When we toured the new Alamo before it opened earlier this month, we talked with Amy Averett, director of family and community engagement nationwide for Alamo Drafthouse, who was excited about the possibility of partnering with the Thinkery for Parents’ Night Out events and was in the process of firming up the details.

Now the first one is happening March 31 — that’s next Friday from 6-10:30 p.m. Your kids have to be 4 and up and be potty trained.

Your kids could be building things at the Thinkery while you are seeing a movie. Nicole Villalpando/American-Statesman

Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Go to the Thinkery website,, and buy tickets for your children to attend Parents’ Night Out. You’ll pay $40 for the first kid, $25 for siblings.
  2. Once you buy your Thinkery tickets, you’ll be sent a notification about when you can buy your Alamo Drafthouse tickets, which won’t be available until 5 p.m. Monday.
  3. If you’re a Thinkery member, you’ll get a free popcorn or cookies at the theater.
  4. Do this by Wednesday, and really do this ASAP, before it sells out.

Hopefully, this will be such a success that more Parents’ Night Out events will be scheduled.

Get free tickets to Pollyanna Theatre’s “All Aboard”

“All Aboard” is on stage with Pollyanna Theatre Company at the Long Center.

Austin family theater group Pollyanna Theatre Company will be presenting its newest play “All Aboard” beginning next week at the Long Center. “All Aboard” explores different modes of transportation. Your kids who love things on wheels — trains, cars and the like — will especially love it.

This production is geared toward children ages 18 months to four years and is part of its “Play and Play” program.

I’ve got a pack of four tickets to give away. Email me at by Tuesday, March 28 at noon with your name, phone number and which performances you can attend to enter to win.

“All Aboard”

9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. March 30-April 1, April 4-8

The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive