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Things to Do in Austin Over Winter Break

HAPPIFAMLI

Things to Do in Austin Over Winter Break

Laura Standefer, Senior Holiday Correspondent

December 16, 2019

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Seriously. The weather has cooled down and it’s time to gather with our family and friends and participate in all of the winter fun that Austin area has to offer. My son just turned five and I feel like this is the perfect age to do all of the holiday activities. My husband, who often lacks Christmas spirit, doesn’t understand why I insist on attending so many events. I have to remind him that we only really get 18 holiday seasons with our sons while they are still children. Before we know it, they’ll be grown and too old to sit on Santa’s lap. It won’t be long until they prefer to do all the fun stuff with their friends instead of their parents. If you’re like me and are looking to maximize this holiday season with events and activities with your family, here is a list of our top picks for Austin area holiday fun.

December 10-29- Austin Trail of Lights: Believe it or not, I’ve lived in Austin long enough to remember when the Trail of Lights was a chill, not-terribly-crowded, citywide event. Unfortunately, that has changed, but its amazing displays and fun activities still make the Austin Trail of Lights a holiday must-do if you live in the area.

Daily Through January 5th- Mozart’s Light Show: Every year for the past 10 years, Mozart’s Coffee Roasters puts on a spectacular light show for Austinites to enjoy with their loved ones. This event starts at 6 p.m. and ends at 11 p.m. Mozart’s Light Show features over a million lights and a show consisting of your favorite tunes to get you into the holiday spirit. 

Wednesdays through Sundays until January 4th- 2019 Holiday Model Train Exhibit: Located in downtown Round Rock, these model trains are a fascinating spectacle for people of all ages to enjoy. The best part is that admission is free! There is no excuse for missing this beautifully intricate holiday exhibit.

December 14 through the New Year- 37th Street Lights: Self-proclaimed as, “The weirdest lights you will see this holiday season.” This one of Austin’s most iconic holiday displays. 

Through December 24th- Santa’s Jingle House: This is the perfect place to take pictures with Santa, decorate crafts or cookies, and even participate in special scavenger hunts. Visit their website for tickets and a full list of activities. 

Through December 29th- A Christmas Carol: Zach Theater is one of my favorite venues in Austin for live performances. The cozy, yet ample establishment is the perfect place to enjoy a holiday play such as A Christmas Carol, so come enjoy the famous works of Charles Dickens this winter with your family. The show is recommended for everyone ages six and up.

Holiday Traditions and Rituals

HAPPIFAMLI

Holiday Traditions and Rituals

Laura Standefer, Senior Holiday Correspondent

December 9, 2019

You may have holiday traditions and rituals that are passed down from your childhood or you may be looking to start new ones with your own family. The holidays are an amazing time to spend time with family and friends, and traditions and rituals make this season even more memorable. My son just turned five and I started realizing that we should implement our own customs to make the holidays special each year. We family are considering starting Elf on a Shelf, but I’m worried I’ll regret it. Therefore, I asked a group of local moms about their holiday traditions and rituals and here is what they had to say!

“We put out our shoes the night before December 6th, since that is St. Nicholas’ feast day, and we put our Christmas lists in the shoes. Santa takes the lists and leaves a couple treats. Traditionally, he leaves us a chocolate orange.” -Cat K.

“Does drinking to survive my in-laws count?!” -Melaina W.

“The kids each get an advent calendar which I fill with some candy and little gifts, but also activities we will do during the Advent season.” -Julia M.

“We open one gift on Christmas Eve and it’s usually pajamas and a Christmas book or movie. We also make cookies on Christmas Eve for Santa. Then, during the holidays in general we watch Polar Express.” – Nichole R.

“I have a collection of Christmas/holiday books that I keep put away all year. When we are getting ready for bed Thanksgiving night, I pull out the bin and we read 2-3 Christmas books each night ending with T’was the Night Before Christmas on Christmas Eve.” -Lindsay E.

“We have Christmas Crackers and table prizes on the table Christmas Eve – and on Christmas Day we make brunch, open presents and play games.” -Christine S.

“Christmas Vacation, Charlie Brown, Die Hard and a Christmas Story movies are watched while we trim the tree. Every. Single. Year. After they’ve been watched, it’s on to listening to Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole and Mariah Carey while the rest of the house gets decorated. On Christmas eve (sometimes a day or two earlier) we leave out carrots and oats for Santa’s reindeer, open gifts from family members, eat tamales and bake cookies for Santa […]” -Laura L.

Growing up, I spent every Christmas with my extended family in Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is known to have a Christmas longer than any other place in the world. We would spend it in the mountains and we would eat slow roasted pork with rice and fried plantains. We would also sing traditional Puerto Rican songs and run around in the 75 degree whether chasing our cousins. That being said, learning about other customs such as the Christmas Pickle, or spending the holidays in the actual snow is absolutely fascinating to me. While, unfortunately, I won’t be able to spend my Christmases in Puerto Rico now that I have a child of my own, and one on the way, I wonder which customs I should implement in my own home. Feel free to share your holiday traditions and rituals in the comments below! 

Finding the Best Educational Fit for Your Child

HAPPIFAMLI

Finding the Best Educational Fit for Your Child 

HappiFamli, Senior Education Correspondent

December 02, 2019

There are lots of good public, private and charter schools to choose from, but which one is right for your child depends on what your child needs, what your family needs, and what is important to you. Well before your child enters the school system, you need to start asking questions and gathering information.  The first step is to look inward and think about your child’s individual needs and the needs of your family.  The following questions can help you explore those needs.

Step One: Consider Your Child and Family

  • Does your child have any special language or educational needs?
  • In addition to the fundamentals, what do you want your child to learn, i.e. learning a second language as a core part of the curriculum, obtaining an education through a religious lens, a focus on social/emotional learning?
  • How does your child learn best?
  • Does he/she need more structured environment or less structure?
  • Is the location of the school important to you?  How far are you willing to have your child bused?  How far are you willing to drive your child to school? 
  • Does your family need before and after school care?
  • Can you afford to pay tuition for private school?

Step Two:  Gather School Data

The second step is to search outward, gain information about possible school options and discover your child’s school match. There are several ways to gather information and address your questions. School websites are often full of information about the school and give you a good feel for the school’s values and level of  parent/family engagement.  Talking with current and past students and parents is helpful. Students and parents can speak to the quality of education offered at a school, parent involvement and how responsive teachers, staff and administration are to needs and concerns. Taking a scheduled tour of school during school hours is also valuable.  This experience can give you a feel for the culture of the school; you can see first hand how students behave, how the front office staff treats parents and gage the helpfulness and attitude of teachers. Good schools will also make time for prospective parents to meet with the principal or assistant principal and be forthcoming with information about the school’s strengths and areas for growth. Lastly, attending a PTA meeting is an excellent way to gain information, assess how parents and the school work together and learn about the school communities’ priorities.  PTA meetings are usually available to all parents at the school, as well as the general public, so a prospective parent’s’ presence should be welcome. 

If you would like to learn more about Public, Private and Charter Schools, please see our e-guide at: https://happifamli.com/product/choosing-the-best-school/

It has additional information including:

  • Overview of Public, Private & Charter Schools
  • A Comparison of Each Type of School: cost/funding, governance, teacher certification, special needs, state testing and enrollment
  • Twenty-Five Questions Designed to Help you Identify What if Important To You
  • What Makes a Good School
  • Timing on Applications