Thinking ahead to summer camp: Save the dates for when to register for popular camps

January often feels too early to think about summer camp, right? It’s not.

Some of Austin’s most popular summer camps open their registration this month or next month and are full within days, sometimes minutes after opening for registration.

Here are four that tend to sell out quickly:

Kids learn can learn to do all kinds of engineering skills at Thinkery camps. Photo by Hunter Douglas

The Thinkery

Science, technology, engineering, art and math-themed camps. Themes include designing and engineering a storybook problem, exploring STEAM in our city, engineering with sound, flight, robots and Minecraft.

Ages: 4-12

Location: The Thinkery camps are at four locations, including at the Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.; (East);  National Instruments, 11500 N. MoPac Blvd. (North near Domain); Magellan International School, 7938 Great Northern Blvd. (North Central); International School of Texas, 4402 Hudson Bend Road (West near Lakeway); Emergent Academy, 1044 Liberty Park Drive (Southwest).

When: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., or 9 a.m.-1 p.m. for part-day pre-kindergarten-kindergarten sessions.  Extended care beginning at 8 a.m. and going until 5:30 p.m. for $50, but not available at National Instruments. One week sessions June 4-Aug. 17

Cost: $330 for members, $365 for non-members for first-graders-fifth-graders, $350 for members, $385 non-members for pre-kindergarten-kindergarten full-day, $80 off for part-day.

How to register: Registration for Thinkery members is happening now through Jan. 15. Non-members can register Jan. 16. Register online at or over the phone at 512-469-6201. You have to pay the full price to reserve your spot.

What if you don’t get in: The Thinkery does not maintain a waiting list, but you can check back on the website to see if a spot opens up.


Dylan Hoover, 9, John O’Farrell, 9, and Cosmo Nixon, 9, get ready for a canoe adventure  as part of a Austin Nature & Science Center camp. AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2005

Austin Science & Nature Center

Nature and science-based camps based on a theme each week. Some camps include off-site campouts.

Ages: 4-11 (half day for ages 4-5, full day for ages 5-11)

Location: 2389 Stratford Drive

When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for full day in one or two week sessions, June 11- Aug. 17. Before care beginning at 7:15 a.m. and late care until 6 p.m. is also available.

Cost: $200 standard price for one week, $150 for half day camp, $250 for a camp with camp outs

How to register: Go to and select online registration. Select the camps you want. Registration is open to Austin residents 10 a.m. Feb. 10 and 1 p.m. Feb. 10 to non-residents. You pay a deposit for 20 percent of class price. If you don’t know your user name or password or have other questions, call the center at 512-974-3888 before Feb. 10.

What if you don’t get in: Complete registration and ask to be put on the waiting list.


Micah Baldwin, 6, cleans his paint brush during the Summer Arts Adventure Camp at the Dougherty Arts Center.  Jay Janner/American-Statesman 2012

Dougherty Art Center

The City of Austin art center offers affordable art camps.

Ages: 5-12

Location: Dougherty Art Center, 1110 Barton Springs Road

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday in two-week sessions, June 11-Aug. 3, you can also add a before camp and after camp session

Cost: $432 for two weeks, $50 additional for before camp and $50 for after camp

How to register: Go to and select online registration. Select the camps you want. Registration is open to Austin residents 10 a.m. Feb. 17 and 1 p.m. Feb. 17 to non-residents. You pay the full amount of the class at the time of registration. If you’ve created an account before and don’t know what your user name and password is, contact the office in advance to get it reset, 512-974-4040,

What if you don’t get in: Call the office or email and ask to be placed on the waiting list.

Crenshaw Athletic Club

A full-day camp with gym, computer time, field trips, swimming, games.

Ages: 5 1/2 to 10

Location: Crenshaw Athletic Club, 5000 Fairview Drive

When: 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday in three weeks sessions; dates to be determined, but tentatively June 4, June 25, July 16 and Aug. 6 (two weeks).

Cost: $720-$750 for each three week session

How to register: Fill out the registration form on and put it in the mail on March 1, not any earlier. Include a $100 deposit. Or you can register in-person beginning at 6 a.m. on March 5, but the mailed registrations postmarked March 1, 2, and 3 will be taken before you. Mailed registrations with an earlier date will be taken after the March 5 registrations.

What if you don’t get it: Asked to be put on the waiting list.

You can get more summer camp ideas by checking out last year’s camp guide, We’ll be introducing this year’s guide on Feb. 16.

You can also get inspiration at Austin Family’s Summer Camp Fair: 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Jan. 20 at Palmer Events Center.

Know of another camp that frequently fills up that you want us to investigate when and how to register? Email

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.

Zilker Tree. The tree will be lighted every night from Through Dec. 31. Zilker Park.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Plus, try a new playground in our playground guide on 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

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.

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.

“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.

“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.

“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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Thinkery Baby Bloomers. Kids birth to age 3 learn about a winter wonders. 9 a.m. Saturday. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.

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.

Kwanzaa Celebration of Ujamaa with Elizabeth Kahura. 6:30 p.m. Dec. 29. Carver Museum, 1165 Angelina St.

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.


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.

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.

Five years after Sandy Hook: What has changed, what has not

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the shooting in Newtown, Conn., at Sandy Hook Elementary, when 20 students and six school employees were killed by shooter Adam Lanza.

It has changed what happens in our schools. Students now do drills for fires, for severe weather and also for a lock down — when a school needs to close its doors because the students are in danger. The scenario that the students are told they are preparing for is the Sandy Hook scenario: a stranger comes into the school and wants to hurt someone. It’s on everyone’s minds that it could be someone like Adam Lanza, someone waving a gun and firing indiscriminately.

State police personnel lead children from the Sandy Hook Elementary School in this handout picture from the Newtown Bee, in Newtown, Connecticut, December 14, 2012. (Shannon Hicks/Newtown Bee/Zuma Press

They don’t really talk about the fact that it could be a fellow student. It could be a teacher. It’s always someone they don’t know who got onto the campus and wants to hurt them.


Last month, I got caught in a lock-down drill at my daughter’s middle school. We were told to turn off all the lights and hide somewhere away from the doors and preferably on the sides of the room. We sat there, trying to be quiet, while school officials walked the hallways, checking that doors were locked and students were quiet and hiding.

My kids are very aware that someone could come into their school and harm them. When Sandy Hook first happened and the drills started happening, my then third-grader, who was in a portable, told me how stupid these drills were: After all, anyone could just bust open the door of the portable and kill her. She was very aware that there was the possibility she wasn’t safe at school.

What schools don’t talk about as much is the need to be aware of their fellow students or school employees. They need to speak up if someone seems to be agitated or withdrawn. There’s danger, there, too.

And what we don’t talk about — especially in Texas — is that our gun laws haven’t changed to add more restrictions. In fact, we’ve made it easier to openly carry a gun in more places, though still not in schools.

Like most parents, I want my kids to go to school every day, worry about what they are learning, worry about finding good friends, and not about guns or bombs.

What has changed since Sandy Hook? Our kids have a level of fear they didn’t used to have. Our kids added another drill to their school year. Maybe that makes them more safe. Maybe it does not.

Is there a perfect way to be a parent? New Kraft video asks

For Mother’s Day, Kraft gave us the gem “How to swear like a Mother” from swearing expert Melissa Mohr, author of “Holy Sh*t: A History of Swearing.”


Now for Christmas time, the mac-and-cheese maker gives us a more sentimental gem, a video that declares, “There’s no one perfect way to do this.”

It cites this statistic:

“8 out of 10 parents feel pressure to be “perfect.” ”

A mom says “Everybody wants to be the best parent. Everybody wants to raise this perfect kid.”

And then Kraft reminds:

“It’s an impossible standard to live up to.”

The parents the video interviews talk about whether they’ve “done enough” for their kids every day, are they pushing them too hard or not hard enough, and feeling like their child deserves more than they can give.

A more experienced parent says, “You’re never going to feel like you’re doing it right.”

It asks parents the question:

“What if there’s something better than being perfect?”

Then it shows these parents’ children talking about what great parents their parents are.

It tells these parents and all of us:

“To all the parents out there who are hard on themselves, Kraft wants you to know, you don’t have to be perfect to be great.”

We’ve talked about Mommy Burnout before as well as how to reshape your life to focus on what’s important, not on perfection. 

What are you doing to embrace your imperfections and shed the mommy guilt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She is now almost blind and has seizures.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What should you give a teacher for the holidays?

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

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

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

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

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

RELATED: Think ahead to teacher appreciation week with these ideas

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

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


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

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

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

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


Winter Wonderland at the Circuit of the Americas. See lights, go skating, enter the petting zoo and Santa’s workshop and more. 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. $16, plus additional fees for some activities.

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

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


Ballet Austin’s “The Nutcracker.” 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $15-$98. The Long Center, 701 W. Riverside Drive.

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

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

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

Trail of Lights. 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 6 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, through Dec. 28. Free. EmilyAnn Theatre, 1101 Ranch Road 2325, Wimberley.

Mozart’s Christmas Light Show. 6 to 11 p.m. nightly through Jan. 1. Mozart’s Coffee Roasters at Oyster Landing, 3825 Lake Austin Blvd.

Go skating at the ice rink at Whole Foods downtown.

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.

Zilker Tree. The tree will be lighted every night from through Dec. 31. Zilker Park.

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



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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

Zach Theatre presents “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.” Head to Narnia in the C.S. Lewis tale. 11 a.m. Saturday. More shows through Feb. 10. $18-$24. Whisenhunt Stage, 1510 Toomey Road.

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

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

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


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

Teddy Bear Tea. Tea, carolling and a reading of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” with Santa. Bring an unwrapped new teddy bear to donate to Dell Children’s Medical Center. While you’re there, don’t miss the gingerbread village. $30-$45. Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 17. Four Seasons Hotel Austin, 98 San Jacinto Blvd. Make reservations by calling 512-685-8300.

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

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

“Junie B. Jones in Jingle Bells, Batman Smells.” Junie B. is ready to take on her nemesis May in this holiday story. 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Sunday, Saturday. $10-$15. Scottish Rite Theater, 207 W. 18th St.

Thinkery Gingerbread House Workshops. Traditional or Tot (ages 5 and younger) 9:30 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 10:45 a.m., 11 a.m., 2:45 p.m., 4 p.m., Saturday and Sunday. $12 per person plus $20 house kit. Gingerbread Art and Architecture for ages 7 and older. 10:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $12 per person plus $30 house kit. Candy Chemistry for ages 7 and up. Make candy to go on your house. 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $12 per person plus $30 house kit. Thinkery, 1830 Simond Ave.

Gingerbread House Workshop at The Candy Jar. 3:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. $50 per house; children younger than 6 must have an adult with them. The Candy Jar, 12700 Hill Country Blvd. Suite 110. Register at


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

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

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

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





Buying toys for Christmas? Follow these safety tips

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make sure all toys say “nontoxic.”

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

Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission for recalls.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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



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




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

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

Find more tips at





Uterus donation offers new hope for women to get pregnant

Just up the road in Dallas, a family is celebrating the birth of a new baby. That baby lived for nine months inside a uterus in her mommy’s abdomen, just like most babies, but that uterus originally lived in another woman.

Will more women be able to become pregnant with a transplanted uterus?

You see, Baylor University Medical Center, has a uterus transplant program for women who were either born without a uterus or have a severely damaged one. The trial was called the “absolute uterine factor trial” and was mostly for women who have Mayer-Rokitansky-Küster-Hauser syndrome.

Time magazine gives the details in this story.

What’s really cool is that this new mom got her uterus from a mother who knew that she wouldn’t be using hers any more. The donor was done having kids, but wanted to help another woman carry a child.

The doctor, Robert T. Gunby Jr., who delivered the baby by Caesarean section remarked to Time: “When I started my career we didn’t even have sonograms. Now we are putting in uteruses from someone else and getting a baby.”

Fertility science has come along way. We recently wrote about what doctors at Texas Fertility Center are doing here in Austin, including genetic testing of embryos before implanting them, figuring out when the best day for implanting embryos is, rethinking the viability of some embryos, figuring out when the uterus takes over feeding the baby from the sack around egg follicle and more.

We’ve also written about pregnancy by surrogacy, miscarriage, egg donation, and a couple who wrote about their infertility struggle.

A uterus transplant seems magical, but just like all fertility treatments, it isn’t 100 percent. Baylor University Medical Center has done eight transplants out of the 10 it plans. Three have failed, it told Time, and one more has resulted in a pregnancy.

The procedure wasn’t inexpensive either. Time reports that it costs about $500,000 and the hospital got donations for the study participants.

Would this be something you would do? Would you donate your uterus?

Would you pay extra for a stamp to benefit Alzheimer’s disease research?

The U.S. Postal Service has released a new stamp, which will benefit Alzheimer’s disease research. You’ll pay 60 cents for the first-class stamp, a 11-cent increase from the typical first-class stamp rates. Funds raised will go to the National Institutes of Health to distribute them.

“The Postal Service is proud to issue this stamp today to help raise public awareness of Alzheimer’s,” said Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan in a press release. “Proceeds from its sale will help support urgently needed medical research into this incredibly debilitating disease.”

The stamp is an update of the 2008 Alzheimer’s Awareness stamp.

This is the first stamp to raise funds for a cause. Last year, the Postal Service got approval to create the Semipostal Stamp Program. The next stamp will support post-traumatic stress disorder causes and be released in 2019. The Postal Service intends to release a total of five stamps before 2023.

Would you pay extra for a stamp that supports a cause?

RELATED: How close are we to a cure or better treatment for Alzheimer’s?

RELATED: Dell Medical School, Seton receive research grant to study Alzheimer’s

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