What are you going to do with the kids this rainy weekend in Austin, Sept. 21-23

The rain is back! Saturday looks to be the worst of it, so plan your weekend events accordingly. It should clear up Sunday, fingers crossed.

Here are some events happening this weekend (some are indoors, too, to avoid the rain):


Kidz Bop Live! You’ve heard them coming from your child’s room and in your car in the carpool lane. Now you can hear them live. 7 p.m. Friday. $30.25-$50.25. H-E-B Center, 2100 Avenue of the Stars, Cedar Park. hebcenter.com

Wildflower Center. Sprouts. Hands-on preschool program. 10 a.m. Fridays. Free. Wildflower Center, 4801 La Crosse Ave. wildflower.org

Thinkery. Namaste & Play: Get Into Shapes. 9:45 a.m. for 1-year-olds, 10:45 a.m. for 2-year-olds and 11:45 a.m. for 3-year-olds, Fridays. $20 per class. Parents’ Night Out, 5:30-10 p.m. Friday. Kids must be 4 or older and potty-trained. $45 first child, $25 each additional sibling. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Briana So-Morris, 5, Alec Blondin, 13, and his sister, Ashley Randall, 5, uncover a Mastadon at the Dino Pit at the Austin Nature and Science Center. American-Statesman 2004

KUTX Rock the Park. The show “Spare the Rock, Spoil the Child” curates this monthly free show. Hear Mobley and Groundwork Music Orchestra. 6:30 p.m. Friday (Sept. 28 rain date). Mueller Lake Park. kutx.org

Kidz Bop Live! You’ve heard them coming from your child’s room and in your car in the carpool lane. Now you can hear them live. 7 p.m. Friday. $30.25-$50.25. H-E-B Center, 2100 Avenue of the Stars, Cedar Park. hebcenter.com


Wizard World Austin. Meet the stars of TV and movies as they talk about their roles in comic book-inspired movies or sci-fi. 4-9 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday. $39.95. Kids 10 and younger are admitted free with paid adult. wizardworld.com

Sweet Berry Farm. Hay rides, corn mazes, pick your own pumpkins and more. 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays. Open Saturday-Nov. 4. Pay per activity. 1801 FM 1980, ​Marble Falls. sweetberryfarm.com


Back to the Future. Austin Council of PTAs invites parents and students to this event and find their resources. 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. AISD Performing Arts Center, 1500 Barbara Jordan Blvd. Free. austincouncilpta.org/backthefuture/

Third Annual Austin Skipathon. Skip around Mueller Lake Park while helping Foster Angels of Central Texas. $25 per person, $10 kids ages 4-10, free for children younger than 3. 8:30 a.m. to noon Saturday. Mueller Lake Park Browning Hangar, 4550 Mueller Blvd. austinskipathon.com

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

Smithsonian Museum Day. Explore one of the participating Austin museums by printing out a free ticket for Saturday. Some of the museums participating include South Austin Museum of Popular Culture, Neill-Cochran House Museum, Texas Military Forces Museum and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Find the museums by searching for your ZIP code at smithsonian.com/museumday.

Thinkery. Baby Bloomers for kids age birth to 3 learn about Color this month., 9 a.m. Saturdays. $5. Spark Shop Sewn Circuits for ages 4 and older. Learn to sew with conductive thread and circuits. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. Free. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Flix Jr. Flix offers $2 children’s movies. “Annie Sing Along.” 11 a.m. Saturday. 2200 S. Interstate 35, Suite B1, Round Rock. flixbrewhouse.com

Texas Book Festival Books and Breakfast. Celebrate the Texas Book Festival and hear Cate Berry read “Penguin and Tiny Shrimp Don’t Do Bedtime!” at 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. 8:30-10:30 a.m. Saturday. 25 percent of all breakfast sales will go to the fest. Hat Creek Burger Company, 5902 Bee Cave Road, West Lake Hills. texasbookfestival.org

Barnes & Noble events. 11 a.m. Saturday story time at all locations: “Princess Saves the World.”

Bow Wow Reading with Bonnie the Dog. 11:30 a.m. Saturday. Yarborough Branch. With Roo the Dog. 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Little Walnut Creek Branch.

BluePrint 3-D Printing and Design Bootcamp. 3 p.m. Saturday, Central Library.

Perler Bead Saturdays. Noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, University Hills Branch.


Robinson Family Farm Pumpkin Patch. Wander through a corn maze, go on a hay ride, pet the goats and pick a pumpkin. 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Saturday-Nov. 4. Free, but pay for each activity and pumpkins, or get a $10 wristband for everything. 3780 White Owl Lane, Temple. therobinsonfamilyfarm.com

“Tortoise and Hare” at Zach Theatre. The Aesop fable becomes a musical for ages 5 and older. 2 p.m. Sunday and Saturday. $18-$24. Kleburg Stage, 1421 W. Riverside Drive. zachtheatre.org


Austin Museum Day. Tour some of Austin’s most well-known and little-known museums for free Sunday. Museums also host special events such as fossil, bones and more identification day at Texas Memorial Museum. Get the full list at austinmuseums.org.

BookPeople events. Ngozi Ukazu reads “Check, Please!” 2 p.m. Sunday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Alamo Drafthouse events. “The House with A Clock in its Walls” Family Party. 11:45 a.m. Sunday, Lakeline.

Thinkery. Slime Time workshop for ages 4 and older. 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. Sunday. $8. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org


How to plan your estate when you have a child with special needs

Estate planning. It’s not something parents really want to do. You have to face your own mortality, and the fear that you might not live long enough for your children to become adults.

For parents who have kids with special needs, they know their kids might outlive them and need a support system to handle everything from finances to personal care.

Last summer Down Syndrome Association of Central Texas hosted a seminar for its parents with Justin Blumoff, a trust and estate attorney from Sharpe & Associates. Estate planning for families with someone with special needs does have some of the same elements as families with neurotypical children. You still need to think about these things:

  • A will
  • A living trust
  • Medical power of attorney
  • Financial power of attorney
  • Advance healthcare directive
  • HIPAA authorization

“One of the misconceptions is that (having a kid with special needs) really changes everything,” Blumoff says. “”It really doesn’t.”

One thing is different: Parents of children with special needs do have to take care that their estate plan doesn’t disqualify their child from receiving government assistance like Social Security disability, Blumoff says.

Blumoff helps families set up a special needs trust that includes language that will allow the children still to get assistance.

“If you use a traditional plan, you may disqualify them,” he says. Housing is a particular concern as far as who inherits a house and what money can go toward the person’s housing.

Jon and Connolly Lees and their children Breda, 4, and Henry, 6, now have an estate plan in place. Breda has Down syndrome. Lees family

When Blumoff meets with families, he asks them to think about their assets as well as what the needs will be now and in the future. Sometimes that means having a person who is the guardian and a different person that has the fiduciary responsibilities. Blumoff does recommend contacting whomever you choose to make sure they are willing to take on these responsibilities. Some families even write a letter to the people they name in the trust to pass on more information. Often that letter is “This is how we live our life and these are the people we want them to have contact with,” he says. “Some people go through it and are very focused on investments; some people do pages and pages of pouring out their love.”

Often, when estate planning with families Blumoff will have an initial 10 minute phone call.

He’ll ask families to consider who would be the first person they would call other than a spouse for medical decisions, who would be the first person other than a spouse for financial decisions? Who would they generally want to take care of their children?

After families make those decisions, they’ll have a 30 minute to an hour meeting to go through it with Blumoff, then schedule a time to come back and sign the documents. Families can expect to spend $2,000 to $4,000 based on the complexity, Blumoff says.

“It seems a lot more overwhelming than in reality,” he says. Often people will tell him, they have been meaning to do it for 10 years, but then they thank him with how easy it was.

“Planning for special needs families is not a complete wipe of the board and do something different, it’s include a few extra provisions.” It took Blumoff two years to get to doing his own estate planning.

Once you’ve gone through the process, you should revisit it every three to five years, Blumoff says. He keeps a watch on legislation and how it might change the wording that might need to be included the documents.

Jon Lees and his wife Connolly did their planning for their children Henry, 6, who is neurotypical, and Breda, 4, who has Down syndrome. They had to consider what would happen now if something were to happen to them as well as in the future and what role Henry might play eventually in Breda’s life. They set it up the document with provisions in place to grow with the children as they age, but Lees also learned a lot about revisiting it as the children age and Henry is given more control.

“We want to do everything we can that when we’re gone, she’s going to have a team of family members to care for her and help make decisions alongside of her, but also centered around her needs and happiness,” Jon Lees says. “We’re thinking of that for our typically developing son as well,” he says.

Special Needs Family Jamboree

Casey’s Circle is planning this free event with more than 20 organizations coming to inform families about available resources.

10 a.m. to noon Saturday

Play for All Abilities Park, 151 N. A.W. Grimes Blvd., Round Rock.

Register at caseyscircle.org to attend

Celebrate Minecraft and more family fun for the weekend, Sept. 14-16

Minefaire is in town. For all you parents of Minecraft players, you might have been alerted to this convention happening at the Austin Convention Center.

Minecraft has its own convention called Minefaire, which is in town this weekend.

If your kids aren’t into that or you’ve said, “No” to going, there are plenty of other fun things to do in Austin this weekend. Check the weather (It’s going to rain all weekend) before you go.


Namaste & Play: Get Into Shapes. 9:45 a.m. for 1-year-olds, 10:45 a.m. for 2-year-olds and 11:45 a.m. for 3-year-olds, Fridays. $20 per class.Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

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

Animanga Club. 3:30 p.m. Friday, Carver Branch. 3:30 p.m. Friday, Ruiz Branch.

Sewing after Dark for Teens. 5 p.m. Friday, Central Library.


Thinkery. Baby Bloomers for kids age birth to 3 learn about color this month., 9 a.m. Monday and Saturdays. $5. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

BookPeople. 10:30 a.m. Saturday story time. Lazy Morning, Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Flix Jr. Flix offers $2 children’s movies.“Sing.” 11 a.m. Saturday. 2200 S. Interstate 35, Suite B1, Round Rock. flixbrewhouse.com

Barnes & Noble Events: 11 a.m. Saturday story time at all locations: “Goodnight Goon: A Petrifying Parody.” Check out the website barnesandnoble.com for future story times.

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

Batman Day. 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Little Walnut Creek Branch.


Minefaire. The largest convention for a single video game is in Austin on Saturday and Sunday. $49-$69.50, but kids younger than 2 are free. Austin Convention Center, 500 E. Cesar Chavez St. Minefaire.com.

Slime Time workshop for ages 4 and older. 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. or 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $8. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

“Tortoise and Hare” at Zach Theatre. The Aesop fable becomes a musical for ages 5 and older. 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $18-$24. Kleburg Stage, 1421 W. Riverside Drive. zachtheatre.org

Alamo Drafthouse. PBS Kids at the Alamo: “Odd Squad.” 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Lakeline and Slaughter Lane. drafthouse.com

Find your family fun in between the raindrops in Austin this weekend, Sept. 7-9

The rain is going to keep on coming all weekend. Plan accordingly when you’re considering what to do with the kids this weekend. You’ll still find plenty of fun things to do in Austin.

Check out our list:

Vanessa Roeder will be reading a story at Toybrary Austin on Friday.


Thinkery. Namaste & Play: Get Into Shapes. 9:45 a.m. for 1-year-olds, 10:45 a.m. for 2-year-olds and 11:45 a.m. for 3-year-olds, Fridays. $20 per class. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.thinkeryaustin.org

Toybrary Austin. Story time with Vanessa Roeder. 10:30 a.m. Friday. $7. Toybrary Austin, 2001 Justin Lane. toybraryaustin.com

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

Early Learner Playtime. 10:30 a.m. Sept. 7. Central Library.

Music & Movement. 11 a.m. Sept. 7, Old Quarry Branch.

Friday Matinee: “A Wrinkle in Time.” 3:30 p.m. Sept. 7, Carver Branch.

Lego Lab. 4 p.m. Sept. 7, North Village Branch

Learn how to sew with circuits at the Thinkery. Contributed by the Thinkery


Thinkery. Baby Bloomers for kids age birth to 3 learn about Color this month., 9 a.m. Saturday. $5. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.thinkeryaustin.org

Spark Shop Sewn Circuits for ages 4 and up. Learn to sew with conductive thread and circuits. 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. $6 for a kit. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org

Contemporary Austin. Families Create: Sink or Swim. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Free, but reservations required. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St. thecontemporaryaustin.org

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

Learn about Girl Scouts on Saturday. Photo by Fran Hunter.

Girl Scouts Kickoff. Make 3-D printed prosthetic hands, visit with service dogs, do science experiments, learn about Girl Scouts and more. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. Girl Scouts of Central Texas Kodosky Service Center. 12012 Park Thirty-Five Circle. gsctx.org

Flix Jr. Flix offers $2 children’s movies. “All Dogs Go to Heaven.” 11 a.m. Saturday. 2200 S. Interstate 35, Suite B1, Round Rock. flixbrewhouse.com

BookPeople events. Events: Sonia Sotomayor reads her new children’s book. (This event is sold out and at First Baptist Church.) 2 p.m. Saturday. 10:30 a.m. Saturday story time. We Love Our Grandparents. Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com

Barnes & Noble Events: 11 a.m. Saturday story time at all locations: “Corduroy Takes a Bow.” Sept. 8.

Bow Wow Reading with Bonnie the Dog. 11:30 a.m. Saturdays. Yarborough Branch.

Saturday Movie Matinee: “Despicable Me 3.” 2 p.m. Saturday, Yarborough Branch.

Literature Live, “Tales from Graves.” 2 p.m. Saturday, Howson Branch.

Weekend Builders Family Lego Lab. 2 p.m. Saturday, Twin Oaks Branch.


“Tortoise and Hare” at Zach Theatre. The Aesop fable becomes a musical for ages 5 and up. 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $18-$24. Kleburg Stage, 1421 W. Riverside Drive. zachtheatre.org

Alamo Drafthouse. PBS Kids at the Alamo: “Odd Squad.” 10:30 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Mueller. drafthouse.com


Neill-Cochran House Museum. History Lab: Making Folk Art. Make a whirligig and more. 4 p.m. Sunday. Free. Neill-Cochran House Museum. 2310 San Gabriel St. nchmuseum.org

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

Tween and Teen Anime Club. 3:30 p.m. Sept. 28, Twin Oaks Branch.

Read It, Sing it, Let Us Hear It Open Mic! 1 p.m. Sept. 29, Carver Branch.

Help shy, socially awkward kids head back to school

For those extroverted kids, going back to school can be exciting: Tons of friends to see again. New ones to make. Things to look forward to like school events, hanging out before and after school, the cafeteria at lunch.

For those kids who are naturally introverted, are socially awkward, on the autism spectrum, anxious, geeky or shy or whatever label you like, it can be very stressful.

 Joaquin Badgley-Finan is starting kindergarten; E.J. Ocampo is starting middle school. Those can be tough transition times, especially if your kid is an introvert. LYNDA M. GONZALEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Cheryl Perera, a licensed clinical social worker for Baylor Scott & White Outpatient Mental Health in Round Rock, is the mother of two such children herself. First she wants kids to know that it’s OK to be an introvert. It’s OK to be anxious about returning to school. It’s OK to feel awkward. Parents should honor their feelings and invite them to continue to share their feelings with you.

She has some suggestions on how to make the transition easier:

Before school starts

Go to orientation or Meet the Teacher. It’s a relaxed setting for kids to make connections before school starts.

RELATED: Things to ask on Meet the Teacher

Sign up for activities. If they can start before the school year begins, it can give kids a chance to start interacting and slowly build relationships before school is “on” and they have to sit at the lunch table.

Give kids talking points. Have them figure out their hobbies or interests so they have something to talk to other kids about.

Have a party and invite other kids. Make it an active party where the kids are doing something. Communication will happen naturally if they are active.

Hang out in the neighborhood park or pool. Your kids will find other kids that will be at their school. School won’t feel so awkward if they’ve seen some of their peers before.

Prepare for the first day of school. Know that as soon as you leave or as soon as they get on the bus, they probably will be fine. If it’s a big transition year like kindergarten or the first day of middle school or high school, know that it often looks worse than it is. Help by packing the backpack and lunch the night before and picking out what to wear.

RELATED: Teachers recommend doing these things right now

All year long

Model how to communicate. Give kids strategies about what to do when you meet someone new. Some tips she shares are pay a compliment to the other person or ask a question about what they like to do to help find some common ground.

Be supportive, but not a “fixer.” If they have a rough day, sympathize with them, then ask open-ended questions to get them talking. Ask them what they think theycould do differently the next day and have them come up with their own ideas.

Honor their feelings and invite them to continue to share their feelings with you. You can even share a time when you felt awkward or nervous.

Have a 504 plan or and individualized education plan if you need it. Things like autism and anxiety can qualify your child for special services. Schools often have social emotional learning classes for kids who struggle with talking to their peers.

Have an emotional safety plan. Help them anticipate what could happen with friendships and what their response will be. Give them strategies for what happens when they are feeling anxious or overwhelmed. Where will they go? What will they do? Which adult will help them?

Find a supportive other adult. For kids, they might need a psychologist to talk to, but they also could have a trusted teacher, scout leader or parent of a friend to talk to as well.

RELATED: Find more back-to-school tips

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

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

Find something fun


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

Families create events play with different media at Laguna Gloria.

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

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

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

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

“Daniel Tiger.” (PBS)

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Get kids with food allergies ready for back to school with these tips

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When your kid has a food allergy, diabetes or another life-threatening condition, back to school can be stressful. What will happen if your kid with a peanut allergy accidentally sits next to the kid with the peanut butter and jelly sandwich and gets exposed to peanut butter? What will happen if your kid with celiac disease is offered a birthday cupcake or is told something is gluten-free and it’s not? Or if your kids with diabetes has a low blood sugar moment?

Maplewood Elementary School students eat lunch in the cafeteria. If your child has a food allergy, talk to the school ahead of time to negotiate how to avoid that food. Tamir Kalifa for American-Statesman 2015

Dr. BJ Lanser, who is the director of the Pediatric Food Allergy Program at National Jewish Health, offered these tips about managing food allergies, that could be applied to other conditions as well:

  • Meet with school staff members: Set up meetings with principals, teachers, nurses and cafeteria staff. This ensures that everyone is informed and prepared and allows a parent to understand how a child’s school manages food allergies.
  • Create a written plan: Work with an allergist to develop an action plan that outlines all necessary information on your child’s allergy, including how to prevent accidental exposures and how to recognize and treat symptoms of an allergic reaction.
  • Post pictures: Tape pictures of your child to the classroom wall with information on their allergies to alert anyone that comes into the room. You can also post one on your child’s desk, which can serve as a secondary reminder when snacks are served.
  • Make safe snacks: Pack allergen-free snacks for your child in case someone brings in a treat for the class. Send the snacks to school with a label specifying that they are safe, or leave some with their teacher so your child won’t feel left out during classroom celebrations.

I’ve also written about how to handle school issues when you have a child with a gluten intolerance or Celiac’s disease. A lot of the same principles would apply to any food allergy or intolerance. Some of the suggestions:

  1. Have approved snacks at school for the teacher to give out if there is a cupcake day.
  2.  Educate the teacher and the classes’ parents about why your child can’t have the cupcake and offer parents solutions of what they could bring for your child.
  3. Empower kids to be their own advocate and understand what they can and cannot have.

We’ve also gathered tips from chef Amy Fothergill, who has kids with gluten allergies and has a gluten-free cookbook. She suggests:

Have good communication with teachers and other parents. Be vocal about what your child’s food needs are and be proactive about finding solutions. However, don’t expect that the teacher or parent will change what they are planning to suit your child. It’s nice when it happens, but not realistic to depend on that.

Try to pre-plan with similar food alternates. Fothergill finds out ahead of time when there will be a party at school or what a birthday party host will be serving. If it’s not what her children can eat, she will make her children the gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free equivalent if that is possible. A teacher even asked her to make the whole class gluten-free spaghetti for an event so that it wouldn’t be an issue.

Try to always have food on-hand. Fothergill keeps a freezer of food, especially baked goods for parties. She also sets up teachers with either pre-packaged cookies or frozen cupcakes they can keep in the freezer at school for when parties happen. Of course, on the occasion when her kids don’t have access to an alternative, they learn that “they can’t always get what the want,” she says. “Sometimes you have to wait.”

Eat before an event. If her kids are headed to a play date, she has them make a gluten-free sandwich beforehand. If there aren’t good choices at the event, they won’t be hungry.

Bring something with you. She also tries to have snacks on-hand wherever they go.

Learn where there could be cross-contamination. They stopped eating things like corn chips and fries because of the cross-contamination that happens when a restaurant fries the onion rings or the chicken nuggets in the same fryer as the chips or the fries. She’s also learned to always ask questions even if you would think something like a risotto would be gluten-free, but you find out that that particular chef puts flour in his risotto. She’s also learned to look at beauty products as well.

And again: Empower kids to be their own advocates. It gets easier with time, but her kids have learned how to talk to adults and their friends about their food needs. “It makes them independent,” she says.

Halloween, which is really only two months away can be a difficult time for kids with food allergies or intollerances.

Marty Barnes, founder of Casey’s Circle, supporting medically fragile kids had these suggestions for handling things Halloween:

  1. Encourage neighbors to stock non-food items in their trick-or-treat basket, such as glow bracelets, stickers, tattoos, noise makers, bouncy balls.
  2. Put a sticker on your child that says “non-food items only.” That way you don’t have to explain at every door why you can’t take the candy.
  3. Place a sign on your door that reads “Non-food items available here.” Or paint a pumpkin teal. The Food Allergy Research & Education group created the Teal Pumpkin project to represent that you are food-allergy friendly by having non-food treats at your house. You can download a Teal Pumpkin sign here. 
  4. Take the candy if you don’t want to be impolite, but take it to an orthodontist participating in the Halloween Candy Buy Back program. I searched my ZIP code and found three locations nearby.

There are a lot of great things happening in the world of food allergies. ‘Specially for Children, which is affiliated with Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas, is now a FARE site.  This means that kids who are at ‘Specially for Children can participate in research studies, like a peanut allergy study.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.


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.


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


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.

15 things to do with the family this weekend, Nov. 10-12

It should be a beautiful weekend Friday and Saturday with a chance of showers on Sunday.

Pollyanna Theatre Company’s “Chicken Story Time.”

Here are 15 family-friendly events to check out:

  1. Veterans Day Parade. Celebrate veterans while the parade goes down Congress Avenue downtown. 8 a.m. to noon Saturday. austinveteransparade.org
  2. Contemporary Austin. Families Create: Action Painting. Learn how to make art by throwing paper pulp. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday. Free. Laguna Gloria, 3809 W. 35th St. thecontemporaryaustin.org
  3. Jack Hanna’s “Into the Wild Live!” America’s zookeeper 2 p.m. Sunday. $30-$57. Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress Ave. austintheatre.org. See our interview with Jack Hanna. 
  4. ATX Think Bilingual Fair. Learn about programs and resources for bilingual education. 1-4 p.m. Sunday. Asian American Resource Center, 8401 Cameron Road. austin.thinkbilingual.org
  5. Harry Potter Fest. Friday see “Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Chamber of Secrets.” Saturday see “Prisoner of Azkaban” and “Goblet of Fire.” Various prices. Blue Starlite Mini Urban Drive-In. 12419 Lowden Lane, Manchaca. bluestarlitedrivein.com
  6. Alamo Drafthouse has a double shot of cartoons: PBS Kids “Wild Kratts.” 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, Lakeline. Cartoon Network Presents “Ben 10: Omni-Tricked.” 10:30 a.m. Saturday,  Slaughter Lane. drafthouse.com
  7. Ballet Austin’s Creative Movement free classes. 2:45 p.m. Saturday, ages 18 months to 2; 3:30 p.m. Saturday, age 3; 4:15 p.m. Saturday, ages 4-5. Ballet Austin Studio Theater, 501 W. Third St. balletaustin.org
  8. Storytelling with Ozobots. Make your own costume. For ages 4 and up. $8. 10:30 a.m., noon, 2 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave. thinkeryaustin.org
  9. Pollyanna Theatre Company presents “Chicken Story Time.” Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to story time. Hear stories with a lot of chickens. For ages 2-4. 9:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. Friday and Saturday. $6.75. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive. thelongcenter.org
  10. Zach Theatre presents “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.” Head to Narnia in the C.S. Lewis tale. 11 a.m. Saturday; 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $18-$24. Whisenhunt Stage, 1510 Toomey Road. zachtheatre.org
  11. Hideout Theatre Presents: “Block Heads,” improv based on Minecraft. 2 p.m. Sundays. $5. Hideout Theatre, 617 Congress Ave. hideouttheatre.org 
  12. “The Diary of Anne Frank.” 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 2 p.m. Sunday. $18-$10. EmilyAnn Theatre 1101 Ranch Road 2325, Wimberley. emilyann.org/productions
  13. BookPeople events. Paramount Theatre: “Mr. Popper’s Penguins.” 11:30 a.m. Saturday. BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd. bookpeople.com
  14. Barnes & Noble Events: Mini Maker Faire. Noon, Saturday and Sunday, Arboretum. As well: Paramount Theatre story time. 11 a.m. Saturday, Arboretum and 11 a.m. Saturdays story times at all locations: “A Loud Winter’s Nap.” Saturday.
  15. “The Elves and the Shoemaker.” For ages 5 and up. 6:30 p.m. Friday, Manchaca Road Branch.