Austin Discovery School

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"The Hoot" :: Weekly Newsletter » Thursday, December 20, 2018

Thursday, December 20, 2018



Please contact administrators via e-mail to schedule meetings as needed.

Amity Taylor, Assistant Principal
Deborah Freeman,Registrar & Office Manager
Kelly McRee, Social Emotional Program Director
Leigh Moss, Head of School
Lydie Jessin,Business & HR Manager
Maria Martinez,Student Services Director
Taylor Young, Operations Manager

Dates to Remember

Dec 24 - Jan 7 Winter Break
Jan 8  First day of classes in 2019
Hoot Outs this week go to...

Taylor, for keeping things working smoothly on campus and being there during our power outage. - ADS staff

Lauren and Melissa, for your continued help with improving our campus. It's looking so good! Thank you so much. - Taylor and Deborah

Nisa, because you are always so kind to me. - Cami

The amazing SEL team for all of your hard work and dedication to help all our students succeed!

Alicia Fielder and all of the PTO officers and volunteers in helping to make our annual Holiday Bazaar the best every year!! We so appreciate all of your hard work and time turning crafts into cash for ADS!

Fantastic Fox parents, for feeding us yesterday!  We are feeling the love. - ADS staff

From the Front Office

ADS is always looking for good substitute teachers!  Interested?  Please contact Amity Taylor (

Yearbooks are on sale and order forms will be sent home tomorrow! Before Dec 22, they are $25; after Dec 22, they will be $30. An order form is included at the bottom of thisnewsletter.

There have been a few cases of lice in the Curious Kittens' and Wavy Dolphins' classes and a case of Flu A in the Sneaky Cheetahs' class.  

From Leigh Moss, Head of School

#GivingTuesday Year-End Giving is off to a Great Start!

As we kicked off our end-of-year giving on #GivingTuesday within a 24 hour period, we were able to reach 1/5 of our total goal of $5000 by December 31, 2018.  Any funds raised will continue to help ADS offset the lower enrollment from earlier this year so we can start the year strong in 2019.  

A huge THANK YOU to the 2 dozen families and friends of ADS who gave at this time.  If you are still interested in helping to support our end-of-year giving you can do so in ANY one of these ways:

 Go to the Austin Discovery School Facebook page and click "Donate"

2. Round up your purchases with the CoinUp app So far more than a dozen families have raised over $400 through donating their spare change through round ups.  

3.  If you're not feeling high tech, you can always donate through the old school method of donating cash or a check in the amount of your choice to Austin Discovery School.  

Together we can make this happen!  

Sign up for Arts & Movement classes for the Spring semester NOW!  Do not wait!
From Ms. Elizabeth, your Librarian
Follow the library on Twitter @ADSlibrary and if you read a good book, include us on your tweet so we all get some good recommendations.  The long vacation is coming up so I hope you and your family read some great books!

Science Fair Update
  • The Science Fair is on Friday 1/25/19 from 8 am - noon.  
  • There will be Science Fair workdays after school on 1/17 and 1/18.  These are open work days to finish up boards, print, etc.  Email Elizabeth at by the day before so I know to pick up your child from class.
  • Check out for all the info you need.
  • Your child will have a different board based on whether they are doing an experiment or demonstration/exhibit.  What should be on their board is on page 3 of the Science Fair Packet 1819 (on the Sci Fair web page).  We will go over all of this in library class in January but if you want to get ahead, check out the Science fair web page!

A Little Owl Told Kelly McRee

I had the pleasure this week of interviewing Jennette Everett, our amazing Aftercare Director and PTO Vice President.  Jennette shares an office in the administration building with Taylor.

Describe your favorite vacation. Any vacation where I’m with my family (immediate and extended) is usually a great one.  We love to travel together. We’ve done Greece, Hawaii, Train Trip across USA, numerous road trips, etc.  Currently we are planning a trip to Brazil.

What is the best advice anyone has ever given you?  “Gratitude is Riches.  Complaint is Poverty.” ~ My Grandmother.  She was a very smart woman.

What brings you the most joy? Enjoying my precious time with my son Drew.  He’s growing up so fast.

What is your favorite meal or the best meal you have ever had?  Creamed Turkey.  It’s my favorite meal in the whole wide world.  I usually get it from turkey leftovers (Thanksgiving/Christmas).  Creamed Turkey served over pastries --- delicious! The best overall meal I ever had was in Montpelier, France at a restaurant called Chez Boris - Best Cheeseburger I’ve ever tasted and unlimited fries (which were also great).  I will make it back there one day.

What do you do to take care of yourself?  I love to listen to music and dance.  Music lifts my spirits on a daily basis.  I try to go to live concerts at least 5-6 times a year and I listen to music (and dance) every single day. Music makes me very happy.

Tell us about your favorite animal.  My sweet cat, Callie.  She passed away in April 2015.  She chose me when I was visiting an animal shelter back in 2001.  She lived with me in my college dorm for a year (illegally). She was the best cat ever.  She was my favorite roadie and loved traveling by car. She loved people and everyone who met her (even those who didn’t like animals) loved Callie.

What are you reading now? I’m not reading anything right now.  My favorite author is Nicholas Sparks.  I’m a sucker for a good sappy romance.

What is your secret talent that no one knows about? I’m really good at taking photographs.  I love taking pictures.

What is your favorite family tradition or ritual? My family loves to play games together.  Family game nights are epic and include board games, card games, dominoes, etc.  Our favorites are rummikub, mexican train, gin rummy and nertz. We just learned Canasta too and have been enjoying that as well.

What is your favorite podcast or what podcast are you currently listening to right now? I don’t listen to podcasts. Too busy enjoying my music.

Social/Emotional Program Mindfulness, by Kelly McRee

Dear Beloved Parents,

I am sending you a little preview about Mindful parenting from the Gottman Institute.  I will be doing a parenting workshop in the new year on Mindfulness. We will meet on Tuesday, January 8th from 4:30-5:30; please email me to join at kmcree@austindiscoveryschool.orgor text me at 512-791-5563 that you would like to attend.

I am wishing you and yours a mindful, peaceful holiday break full of lots of connections and family memories.  Much love to you all,


What does your stress look like?

Our bodies and brains are wired to react to high stress situations as a safety net. If our brain perceives a threat, it signals the amygdala, the body’s “alarm” system, which tells our body to act without thinking. The amygdala responds to situations with the fight, flight, or freeze response. This is to protect us, but our stress receptors cannot distinguish between real dangers or false dangers. In everyday parenting, our stress response often gets triggered unnecessarily by events that are not actually life threatening. Our bodies are reacting to our kid spilling cereal all over the floor in the same way we would react if we were being chased by a bear.

Depending on your childhood experiences and memories, your stress response may be triggered more easily than another person. When our stress receptors are triggered, we have difficulty thinking clearly and being attentive to people around us. We are unable to be thoughtful in our responses, have trouble staying focused, and our ability to solve problems is diminished.

Dr. Dan Siegel, a clinical psychologist who studies the brain, explains that during stressful parenting moments we may “lose control” or “flip our lid” and let our emotions control our reactions. When we “fly off the handle,” it happens so quickly and we aren’t thinking about how our children are perceiving us. Our reactions can be very scary to kids. Also, we are modeling that this is how grown ups react to stress. If we choose to be more mindful by pausing before responding, we can teach kids that they, too, can pause and choose to respond instead of react.

What does mindfulness mean in parenting?

Managing our own emotions and behaviors is the key to teaching kids how to manage theirs. It is the reason airlines tell us to put our oxygen masks on before you put on your child’s mask. You need to be regulated before you can model regulation for your child. Unfortunately, when you’re stressed out, exhausted, and overwhelmed, you can’t be available for your child.

Mindful parenting does not mean being a “perfect parent” and is not something you can fail at. It is not easy and it takes practice, but like many aspects of parenting, some days are good and some are bad and you can always try again. You may forget to be mindful, but the second you realize you are distracted, it is an opportunity to make a different choice – the choice to be present.

Mindful parenting means that you bring your conscious attention to what’s happening, instead of getting hijacked by your emotions. Mindfulness is about letting go of guilt and shame about the past and focusing on right now. It’s about accepting whatever is going on, rather than trying to change it or ignore it.

Being a mindful parent means that you pay attention to what you’re feeling. It does not mean that you will not get angry or upset. Of course you will feel negative emotions, but acting on them mindlessly is what compromises our parenting.

Benefits of mindful parenting:
  • You become more aware of your feelings and thoughts

  • You become more aware and responsive of your child’s needs, thoughts, and feelings

  • You become better at regulating your emotions

  • You become less critical of yourself and your child

  • You become better at standing back from situations and avoiding impulsive reactions

  • Your relationship with your child will improve

How to practice mindful parenting:

Think about a situation where you got upset or angry at your child – one where you reacted automatically because that is what most of us do when difficult thoughts, feelings, or judgments arise. In stressful situations when our emotions are easily triggered, it’s hard to be the best version of ourselves. You can expect that your child will find those triggers.

In order to make the choice to change your behaviors, you first have to become familiar with your “hot spots” and emotional triggers. Hot spots are certain times of our days when we are more vulnerable and less emotionally available. We may be feeling stressed, tired, overwhelmed or helpless, or we feel preoccupied with work or marriage.

Emotional triggers are feelings or judgments from your own childhood which may arise when your child does a specific action:

  • Your child behaves in a way that clashes with your beliefs. Example: Your kid throwing food in a restaurant or grabbing all the toys in a store, which makes you feel embarrassed or shameful.

  • Your child’s behavior may evoke a childhood memory and response. Example: Your child not being on the academic level you think they should be and you feeling like you failed as a parent because when you got a bad grade, your parents said it wasn’t good enough.

  • Your child’s behavior may evoke a traumatic state or event. Example: If you broke your arm climbing a jungle gym as a kid and you are scared every time your kid goes to the playground.

  • Your child’s behavior activates the lens of fears and desires. Example: If one of my kids wakes up the other kid during the night, no one is sleeping and everyone is crying and I fear I have no adult time and I’ve completely lost the old me now that I’m a parent.

In order to feel a sense of control over your emotions, you first have to be able to recognize and anticipate what types of situations are likely to trigger hot spots and emotional responses in you.

Kristin Race, Ph.D. and author of Mindful Parenting: Simple and Powerful Solutions for Raising Creative, Engaged, Happy Kids in Today’s Hectic World states that there are key factors to mindful parents.

Three key factors to mindful parenting:

1. Notice your own feelings when you’re in conflict with your child.

Think about your most recent argument or a frustrating situation with your child. What feelings are triggered? Are you angry, ashamed, embarrassed? Try to experience your emotion or trigger as a wave – coming and going. Try not to block or stop the emotion. Don’t push it away. Don’t judge or reject it. Don’t try to keep the emotion around. Don’t cling to it. Don’t make it bigger than it already is. You are not your emotion and you don’t have to act on the emotion. Just be there, fully mindful of it. Remind yourself that you don’t need to blame yourself or your child for what happened.

Next, try to see the conflict through your child’s eyes. If you can’t see goodness in your child during a tantrum or argument, think of a time when you felt connected with your child and responded with kindness. Try to remember that version of your child when you are triggered.

As you go throughout your day, make an effort to notice when you start to feel anxious or annoyed. That may be a signal that you are being triggered. Once you figure out your triggers, you can move to the next step.

2. Learn to pause before responding in anger.

The most challenging and most important part of mindfulness is being able to find that calm space in the heat of the moment. We practice finding this space by focusing our attention on our body and breath because emotions show themselves as changes in body or breath. When we slow down and focus on our body and breath, there is a physiological change that decreases our reflexive responses and increases the abilities of our prefrontal cortex.

All of this leads to a calmer mind where you can find the space to sit with the emotion. When we are able to pause, we can experience the emotions as sensations in our body without fueling them by focusing on the trigger. In that space, we can remind ourselves to breathe and bring our thoughts back to the present moment, and then choose to respond how we want to and not react because we are out of control.

3. Listen carefully to a child’s viewpoint even when disagreeing with it.

Your child is going to act like a child! This means they won’t always be able to manage their feelings. Kids are still learning how to regulate (actually, so are most adults) and have different priorities than you do. Their behavior will push your button at times, and that is okay.

The problem is when adults begin acting like kids, too. If, instead, we can stay mindful – meaning we notice our emotions and let them pass without acting on them – we model emotional regulation, and our children learn from watching us.

Learning to pause before responding takes practice and our ability to control our emotions changes depending on what’s going on each day. That is why self-care is so important. We can’t pour out all of ourselves every day and never take the time to fill back up. Many parents feel guilty for taking care of their own needs. That is not selfish – it’s necessary. Make yourself a priority, because the better you feel, the better you will be able to manage the frustrations that arise.

It is important to learn how to help yourself and how to meet your emotional needs. Examples of self-care can range from things like taking a time-out by hiding in the bathroom when you can’t handle your kids (which I did last night), taking a few minutes of deep breathing, or putting the television so you and your kid get a break to writing in a journal, taking a shower, going for a walk, or talking to your partner or a friend.

And, sometimes, we can’t catch ourselves in time and we do react in ways we regret. In those moments, we can apologize to our kids after we yell at them because we are still learning and parents make mistakes, too.