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Using Your Local Austin Library for Summer Fun

HAPPIFAMLI

Using Your Local Austin Library for Summer Fun

Cecily Sailer, Guest Blogger

June 24, 2019

Summer presents a daunting childcare puzzle for parents: How do you keep kids engaged, learning, and having fun (for the whole summer!) without blowing the family budget?! For parents of toddlers and teens, the puzzle gets more puzzling, since many youth programs cater to the K-5 crowd. Look no further than the Austin Public Library, a fantastic resource for families seeking quality learning programs in various disciplines—for youth of all ages.

It’s worth noting that the Austin Public Library hosts a robust Summer Reading Program for children, teens, and adults—one that ventures light years beyond reading to encompass astronomy, theater, opera, film, nature, gaming, pop culture, and more. Anyone can attend Austin Public Library programs for free, though popular programs require advanced ticketing. You do not have to be an Austin Public Library card-holder to attend a program. (But if you live within the city limits, there’s truly no good reason not to have a library card.)

Library Programs for Toddlers

Kick off the summer with a parent-toddler dance party! Latin Grammy winners 123 Andrés will perform at the Central Branch on Sunday, June 9, at 1pm in the special events center. Enjoy beats and rhythms from all over Latin America!

https://www.123andres.com and http://library.austintexas.gov/event/123-andr-s-590417

The library’s Toddler Storytime series includes performative readings of favorite children’s books and early readers, but also songs, finger plays, and games for ages 18 months to 2 years. These programs can fill up, so it’s best to arrive early. Storytimes happen regularly at branches across Austin. Here’s the full schedule: http://library.austintexas.gov/event-tags/toddler-storytime Also check out Books and Babies, which meets June 4 and July 2 at 2pm at Milwood Branch.

If you have bilingual dreams for your little one, check out the library’s Dual Language Storytime in Spanish and English. This program isn’t specifically for toddlers, but caters to the 5 and under crowd. Storytellers speak in Spanish and English, and these events happen throughout the summer in branches across Austin. Here’s the full schedule: http://library.austintexas.gov/event-tags/spanish-dual-language-storytime

APL Studios helps teens learn how to write a screenplay, produce, film, edit, and market a movie. Led by Austin Film Society experts and guest instructors.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/apl-studios-594250

The Super Smash Bros. Wii U Tournament invites gamers to throw down in a summer-long seeded tournament that culminates with championship finals at the Central Library on August 14. Definitely pay attention to sign-up instructions if your teen wants to compete.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/super-smash-bros-wii-u-tournament-591520

K-Pop fans will go bonkers for the library’s K-Pop Idol Parties this summer. Learn dance moves, make K-Pop inspired crafts, and enjoy Korean snacks.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/k-pop-idol-party-594260

Cooking for the Cosmos allows teens to learn a simple dish and taste-test their creations.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/cooking-cosmos-594269

Problem-solvers and puzzle-lovers should grab tickets early to Library Escape Room: Return of the Demogorgon. Players must stop the Upside Down from spreading in pressurized game inspired by Stranger Things!

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/library-escape-room-594279

At the library’s Silent Rave, teens can slip on headphones and transform the quietest space in town into their own unique dance party—and switch between multiple DJs to create the perfect, personalized musical vibe.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/silent-rave-594283

Teens can also begin prepping for their future as a Twitch-streaming celebrity! (Look out, moms and dads!) Twitch Lab helps teens think about their online persona, build an audience, and develop a personal style.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/twitch-lab-594285

And don’t forget: Your Austin Public Library hosts an incredible number of programs that serve all of us in so many ways—whether we’re small business owners, kiddos seeking the perfect book, or parents wanting to expand our child’s experience of the world. If you want to learn it, the library probably can show you how!

Cecily Sailer is the programs and events director for The Library Foundation, which supports the Austin Public Library by raising money and awareness, and by offering unique programs within the library. The Library Foundation also hosts the Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp, which serves rising 3rd through 12th-graders.

APL Studios helps teens learn how to write a screenplay, produce, film, edit, and market a movie. Led by Austin Film Society experts and guest instructors.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/apl-studios-594250

The Super Smash Bros. Wii U Tournament invites gamers to throw down in a summer-long seeded tournament that culminates with championship finals at the Central Library on August 14. Definitely pay attention to sign-up instructions if your teen wants to compete.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/super-smash-bros-wii-u-tournament-591520

K-Pop fans will go bonkers for the library’s K-Pop Idol Parties this summer. Learn dance moves, make K-Pop inspired crafts, and enjoy Korean snacks.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/k-pop-idol-party-594260

Cooking for the Cosmos allows teens to learn a simple dish and taste-test their creations.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/cooking-cosmos-594269

Problem-solvers and puzzle-lovers should grab tickets early to Library Escape Room: Return of the Demogorgon. Players must stop the Upside Down from spreading in pressurized game inspired by Stranger Things!

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/library-escape-room-594279

At the library’s Silent Rave, teens can slip on headphones and transform the quietest space in town into their own unique dance party—and switch between multiple DJs to create the perfect, personalized musical vibe.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/silent-rave-594283

Teens can also begin prepping for their future as a Twitch-streaming celebrity! (Look out, moms and dads!) Twitch Lab helps teens think about their online persona, build an audience, and develop a personal style.

http://library.austintexas.gov/event/twitch-lab-594285

And don’t forget: Your Austin Public Library hosts an incredible number of programs that serve all of us in so many ways—whether we’re small business owners, kiddos seeking the perfect book, or parents wanting to expand our child’s experience of the world. If you want to learn it, the library probably can show you how!

Cecily Sailer is the programs and events director for The Library Foundation, which supports the Austin Public Library by raising money and awareness, and by offering unique programs within the library. The Library Foundation also hosts the Badgerdog Creative Writing Summer Camp, which serves rising 3rd through 12th-graders.

 

How to Pack for Overnight Camps

HAPPICAMPR

How to Pack for Overnight Camps

HappiFamli, Senior Camp Correspondent

June 17, 2019

It’s summer, which, for many of you, means it’s time to send your kids to camp. If this is your first time sending your child to overnight camp, I’m sure you’re feeling nervous and overwhelmed. Heck, even if they’re going for the tenth time, these feelings are completely understandable and normal for parents. Here are some tips to help your child pack and, hopefully, relieve a little bit of the stress that comes with preparing for overnight camp. 

Use Ziplock Bags to Pack Outfits for Each Day

An organized suitcase or trunk can drastically help children feel less overwhelmed when they first arrive to a new place or an overnight camp. Filling plastic Ziplock bags with a complete outfit and labeling it with the day of the week can help your child keep their trunk or suitcase organized. Bundling outfits in these bags allows clothes stay folded and compact, leaving room for other essentials. In addition, this will help your child to not stress over what they will wear that day and they are less likely to get confused about which clothes are clean or dirty. Which brings us to our next suggestion…

Include a Laundry Bag and Hangers

If you include a laundry bag for your child to put their dirty clothes in, you decrease the chances of having a smelly suitcase or a smelly kid. It’s not a huge deal since summer camp usually involved a certain level of smelliness, but laundry bags can help your child stay a little more organized and prepared. Plus, including a hanger or two can provide a place for wet clothes to dry instead of being shoved back into the suitcase or laundry bag and creating that all-encompassing mustiness that will be almost impossible to get rid of.

Pack Proper Footwear

Recently, on a family adventure, I learned my lesson regarding shoes. My son fell into a koi pond and his fabric shoes were soaked and stinky for the remainder of our trip. From now on, I will always pack athletic shoes AND shoes that can get wet without much consequence, such as water shoes, Crocs, or Natives. These can also be worn in while in the shower to maintain better hygiene and prevent athlete’s foot!

“An organized suitcase or trunk can drastically help children feel less overwhelmed when they first arrive to a new place or an overnight camp.”

Label Everything

I don’t know about you, but I buy my son clothes from the big box stores. Their outfits are cute and affordable, but this also means that several of his friends have the exact same t-shirts, shorts, and bathing suits. Labeling items with a fabric or laundry marker that can be found here can help you make sure that your kiddo’s clothes don’t get lost…or that they don’t end up wearing someone else’s skivvies for the entire trip. 

Pack Extra Socks and Underwear 

Shirts, shorts, and bathingsuits can often be reworn a few times, but socks and underwear….not so much. Packing twice the amount of socks and underwear needed for overnight trips can help your child stay fresh and comfortable for the rest of their adventure.

Make a Shower Lanyard

When I saw examples of these on Pinterest, I immediately wished I had thought of this in college. To make a shower lanyard, you simply add labeled clip on bottles filled with shampoo, conditioner, body wash, toothpaste, etc., then add a loofah, hairbrush, and, if possible, a toothbrush container. Then, all they need is their clothes, towel, and shower shoes. This will make it incredibly easy for your child to grab all of their toiletries and use the bathroom/shower quickly before the warm water runs out.

Include Something that Reminds Them of Home

Since your essentials are packed in an organized and compact fashion, this leaves room for you to include something that reminds them of home. A blanket, stuffed animal, pictures, or their favorite pillow. You can also include notes in their daily outfit bags to help remind them that you’re thinking of them every day.

A Guide to Disney with a Special Needs Child

HAPPIFAMLI

A Guide to Disney with a Special Needs Child

Andrew Wan, Million Mile Secrets

June 10, 2019

Disney:  The happiest place on Earth.  It’s no wonder that kids always end up having a wonderful time at these parks!  And it’s super easy to save big on a trip there using rewards earned from the best travel credit cards. But if you’re a parent of a child with certain health or medical needs, you might be wondering if Disney parks can still be an enjoyable experience for them.  Fortunately, because of the care and accessibility Disney offers its guests, children with medical or health needs can absolutely have a fun and stress-free time at the park!

If you’re a parent of a child with a disability or health needs and are planning a trip to Disney, we’ll dive into everything you’ll need to know to ensure your child is able to experience the park to its fullest! It should be no surprise that Disney has been ranked by a number of sites as being the most accommodating theme park in the US.

Photo © Simon Cory  (cory.dk )

“The Magic Kingdom Can Be a Joyful Experience for Everyone, Regardless of Their Health Status!”

Disability Access Service (DAS) Pass

When it comes to theme parks, we all know it’s inevitable to have to deal with lines for various rides and attractions.  Depending on your child’s health needs though, waiting in long lines throughout the day may not be an option.  Fortunately, there is a solution!

Disney offers a Disability Access Services pass, or DAS for short.  With the DAS pass, you won’t need to actually wait in line for an attraction.  Instead, you’ll be given a return time.  After a return time is issued to you, not only will you not have to wait in line, you’ll be able to enjoy the rest of the park!  It’s a great way for you and your child to make the most of their day, because you’ll still have a virtual spot in line at an attraction, and in the meantime still be able to meet characters, grab something to eat, or visit another ride or show!

In fact, one of my favorite YouTubers who goes by the handle “Chronically Jaquie” battles multiple chronic illnesses on a daily basis.  Yet that doesn’t stop her from living life to its fullest, including enjoying the Epcot theme park at Disney World!  She has documented many of her trips here and uses the DAS pass because it helps accommodate her disabilities.

The DAS pass is good for one return time.  Once redeemed, you can then receive a return time for another attraction.

If you think the DAS pass is something you’ll need, here are the steps to obtain one!

 

Obtaining a DAS Pass

Step 1.   Stop by a Guest Relations Main Entrance Location

Once you arrive at the park, stop by a Guest Relations Main Entrance location and let them know you’re interested in obtaining a DAS pass.  You won’t be able to obtain a DAS pass beforehand, so plan accordingly!

Note that everyone who will be accompanying the person with the DAS pass must be present!

Step 2.   Present Your List of Reasons a DAS Would Help

Inform the Cast Member(s) the reasons a DAS pass is needed.  Instead of telling them the specific health needs or disability your child may have, it’s more helpful to describe how waiting in lines negatively affects them.  So a few examples that might be helpful:

  • My child cannot stand in line for more than 5 minutes in this weather, otherwise they may pass out
  • My child has difficulty with loud noises, and standing in lines for too long could cause them to _____

If you’re told you’re not eligible for a DAS pass but you’re sure it would be beneficial, try explaining it in a different way.  I found a report online from a user named Adrienne who spoke with 2 different Cast Members and had 2 entirely different outcomes!  Her husband was initially denied a DAS pass and told to rent a wheelchair after explaining he had issues with balance when standing.  But after explaining that the wheelchair was a last resort, a 2nd Cast Member seemed to agree that asking an already-disabled individual to use less of their remaining abilities to qualify for a DAS pass simply didn’t make much sense.

Step 3.   Registration

Once the Cast Member determines a DAS pass would be beneficial, they’ll walk you through the registration process.

You’ll need to provide a valid ticket to the park and have your photos taken.  A Cast Member will then review the DAS process with you and have you sign to accept the terms and conditions.

DAS passes are valid for up to 60 days, so you won’t have to go through the registration process every single time if you’re planning multiple trips to the park within that time frame.

Preparations for Disability / Medical Needs

Depending on your child’s specific health or medical needs, taking precautionary and preparatory steps before your trip to Disney can make the whole experience much more enjoyable.  Fortunately, Disney offers a wide host of services to help you in this area!

Cognitive Disabilities

If you’ll be planning a visit to Disney and your child has any type of cognitive disability, like autism, there are a number of services to help you enjoy the park at its fullest!

  • Advanced ticket purchase
  • Stroller / wheelchair rental
  • Rider switch
  • Break areas
  • Companion restrooms
  • Attraction guides
  • Dietary accommodations
  • DAS

If your child has autism, the DAS pass can really come in handy!  When you are applying for the DAS pass, just make sure you explain the specific circumstances of what happens when your child stands in lines.  For instance, do they get really loud or are physically unable to stand still in a line for extended periods of time?  Explaining these items will help you get the DAS pass more easily, as opposed to simply stating what cognitive disability they have.

Forum user magic1106 reported success using this exact method!  When asked why her daughter needed the DAS pass, instead of stating what disabilities they were dealing with, she simply explained that her daughter gets anxiety and panic attacks in closed areas where there are a lot of people and no easy way to get out.  There was no hesitation in granting her a DAS pass!

Personal stories can also help Cast Members better understand why and how the DAS pass will help you.  For example, online user stenmarks shared that when they visited Disney for the first time, her daughter managed to get her leg stuck between the rails of a ride and needed Cast Members to help get her out.  This was because her daughter tends to fidget in large crowds with lots of noise.  After being equipped with a DAS pass, they report it has made a world of difference in allowing them to better enjoy the park! 

Early preparation beforehand can also come in handy.  Bringing along items like a sensory toy or stress ball can be useful as a calming item in case the unexpected happens.  Earphones and earplugs can also be helpful to block out noise if it gets to be too much.  Finally, creating a schedule beforehand of attractions to visit, when to take breaks, etc. can help take the pressure off everyone and help you feel more organized.

Visual

Disney offers a number of services to help those with visual impairments, such as:

  • Audio description devices
  • Braille guidebooks
  • Stationary braille maps

Audio description devices provide supplemental audio information and narration at certain attractions.  They’re available at Guest Relations when you first arrive at the park at no charge, although you do have to place a $25 deposit which will be refunded to you once you return the device.

A number of braille guidebooks are also available for each theme park, attraction, and multiple restaurants.  There are a limited number of these available to rent if you prefer, and they also require a $25 refundable deposit.

ADHD / Behavioral / Attention

For children with ADHD, preparation and practice beforehand can go a long way in helping them enjoy the day.  In the days and weeks leading up to the trip, it can be helpful to:

  • Practice waiting in line in case they are not able to obtain a DAS pass
  • Choose a spot on the Disney map in case you get separated
  • Create and review the schedule of attractions to visit

Having a schedule to follow as far as which attractions to visit, when to eat, and when to take breaks can really help in keeping everyone’s mind from wandering.

And because unplanned things happen, make sure to designate a meeting spot in case you get separated!

Diabetics

You’ll definitely want to do some planning and preparation before your trip to Disney if you will need to be managing a family member’s diabetes!

Perhaps first and foremost, it’s a great idea to wear some form of health alert identification while you’re at the park, such as a bracelet.  In the event of an emergency, it can help first responders more quickly and accurately treat your condition.

Also be aware that a number of factors can affect your insulin requirements at the park.  Exercise, heat, and adrenaline can all change your typical insulin needs.  So it’s a good idea to check your blood sugar levels more frequently than you normally would.

Plan ahead of time as far as figuring out how you’ll be managing your medical equipment as well.  Make sure everything is labeled, and that you can keep it relatively mobile in a bag that you can take with you on rides.

First Aid stations at the parks can be used to keep your medication refrigerated.  But if you want to avoid having to constantly go back to a First Aid station, you can keep some cool packs for at least some of your medication on the go.

Finally, when it comes to your diet, you’ll want to think about what snacks to bring with you.  Many experts, including the American Diabetic Association, recommends sticking to your regular eating schedule as much as possible to keep your blood sugar even.  Full service restaurants may be your best bet, because you can always request that the chef come out to discuss your specific dietary needs.  Sites like Allergy Eats can also be helpful in planning a trip to Disney!

Service Animals, Equipment Rentals, and Accessible Restrooms

If you’ll be bringing a service animal with you to the park, you’ll be glad to know that they will be welcomed at most locations.  There are however, some restricted areas where your service animal may not accompany you, simply because of the nature of those attractions.  Disney publishes a list of those restricted locations here.

 

Those with mobility challenges can also rent an electric conveyance vehicle (ECV) or wheelchair when they arrive at the park.  Wheelchairs are available for rent for $12 per day, and ECV rentals go for $50 per day.

Wheelchair and companion-assisted restroom facilities are also available at various locations in each theme park.

Bottom Line

Health or special medical needs don’t have to stand in the way of enjoying The Happiest Place on Earth, and Disney makes sure of that with the number of accommodations available!

The DAS pass can be extremely helpful, especially for kids who are unable to wait in lines for extended periods of time.  And depending on your family’s specific health and medical needs, there are a number of accommodations available to you, such as equipment rentals, First Aid stations, break areas, and more.

 

 

Tips for Creating an Awesome Indoor Fort

HAPPIFAMLI

Tips for Creating an Awesome Indoor Fort

HappiFamli, Senior Fort Building Correspondent

June 3, 2019

When was the last time you built a fort? It’s been quite a few years for me. I remember making them as a kid and how much I loved having my own little “house” that no one else was allowed into. If you didn’t grow up building them, or if it’s just been a long time, here are some tips to making an awesome fort! 

Pick the Right Spot 

If your fort is awesome, you’re going to want to keep it up for at least a few days and you’ll probably spend quite a bit of time inside of it. You won’t want to build it at the dining table if you’re going to have to tear it down at dinnertime. You also won’t want to build a fort covered pillows and blankets somewhere that can get too warm, like the garage. Pick a spot that’s comfortable and out of the way!

Get the Right Building Materials

For a good old-fashioned fort, you’re going to need pillows, blankets, clips, rubber bands and a sturdy foundation like a couch, table, or some chairs. You can even buy large clamps at Home Depot or Amazon for added support. If you’re not able to build off of furniture, simply tie a string (something thick like nylon or wine) from one wall to another and put large, lightweight blankets or comforters over it! An example of this can be found on Pinterest here! 

Make it Cozy 

The more comfortable your fort is, the more time you and your kids will be able to to stay and enjoy it. My son has a store-bought teepee fort that I am currently boycotting because it’s made out of thick canvas with no windows. I can’t stand the heat and stuffiness, so I’d rather just make a homemade fort with him! We make sure to leave small openings for ventilation and use mats, couch cushions, sleeping bags, or rugs to make the flooring super comfortable. And of course, the more pillows the better.

 

“And of course, the more pillows, the better.”

Equip it for its Purpose   

Think about what you’re going to do in your fort. This could be your new hangout spot or reading nook. Make sure you have plenty of room and grab everything you need so you never have to leave again. My son’s forts usually contain every stuffed animal he owns and books. However, if we’re having a sleepover with our cousins, we make sure to include an air mattress, sleeping bags, flashlights, a food tray, snacks, drinks, board games, nerf guns (to protect them from possible intruders, of course!), and, sometimes, a laptop for movies.  

Make it Your Own 

There are several ways you can personalize your new cozy hideout. Have your kids name the fort and design a sign or a flag to let everyone know that it’s their territory now. You can build your fort with old, light-colored sheets and just grab some fabric markers to decorate it all over! Kids will love the fact that their fort expresses their personality and it will keep them busy too! 

 Create an Ambiance That You’ll Love 

I’m a sucker for string lights because they can instantly transform some place boring into a place that’s cute, trendy, and relaxing. They’re perfect for pillow forts since they remind us of being outside under the stars, without having to actually be outside. Kids will also enjoy hanging up their art and lining up the walls with their stuffed animals to remind them that they are in good company. If you’re looking for a more sophesticated and chic fort, use colorful patterned sheets and pillows, or hang up a few bohemian-style garlands and, of course, some string lights.