Rec’s and Reviews: “Mr. Peabody and Sherman”

written by Alexandra Wade

A reboot of the classic Rocky and Bullwinkle characters, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” is a sweet, simple story, despite hinging on time travel. Rushed but enjoyable, this film can open the door to discussions about history, families, and being a good friend.

The "Mr. Peabody and Sherman" poster from

The “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” poster from

Now available to rent or buy, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” focuses on a dog genius and his adopted human son, Sherman (Max Charles). Mr. Peabody (an excellent Ty Burrell) has been using a time machine he built, the WABAC, to educate and bond with Sherman since he adopted him as a baby, and Sherman’s first-hand knowledge of historical events gets him in trouble when he corrects another student. The girl, Penny (Ariel Winter), resorts to bullying Sherman, and the two fight. This leads to Peabody’s parenting skills being questioned.

In an attempt to prove himself and smooth things over, Peabody invites Penny and her parents (Stephen Colbert, Leslie Mann) over before his evaluation by the school guidance counselor, Ms. Grunion (Allison Janney). Penny’s parents and Peabody hit it off, but Sherman still cannot win Penny over. Penny convinces him to power up the WABAC, setting off a chain of events that results in a time rift.

Peabody and Sherman’s relationship is a strong point throughout. The duo value and enjoy their time together, and even when disagreeing, they clearly love each other. The historical sequences are a high point as far as humor goes, but do not offer much in the way of accuracy. The fast pace makes it difficult to get facts in around the humor. The movie offers an opportunity to discuss the true stories behind the people shown (Leonardo da Vinci, Marie Antoinette, and King Tut, to name a few), as well as revising history and why it happens.

Penny’s character creates a chance to talk about another important issue: bullying. Though she eventually reforms, Penny is a spoiled, bratty bully for most of the film. In a movie dominated by time travel and a talking dog, Penny’s behavior and Sherman’s reactions bring something real and relatable to the discussion. Other topics that could be discussed are the movie’s representations of “nerdiness” (overwhelmingly pro), women and girls (disappointingly flat), and diverse families (see dog adopting a boy).

Sherman, Penny, and Mr. Peabody travel to Ancient Egypt. Photo credit: DreamWorks Animation/AP.

Sherman, Penny, and Mr. Peabody travel to Ancient Egypt. Photo credit: DreamWorks Animation/AP.

The humor is a good mix of jokes for parents and jokes for kids. Some humor is obviously targeted toward parents only, with physical comedy and mild bathroom humor mixed in for kids. Peabody’s signature puns run rampant. There are also some scary or dangerous situations, but the rushed nature of the film is actually a benefit here. Frightening sequences fly by as fast as the rest of the film, and scary images are mostly of the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it variety.

“Mr. Peabody and Sherman” is an enjoyable mixed-bag that will be appreciated by the entire family and offers opportunities to talk about history, families, and friendships. For more detailed reviews, visit:

Monthly Motivation: Saving Your Sleep Cycle

Last week was National Sleep Week, and daylight saving time started early Sunday morning. Even though it was a few days ago, many people are still feeling the effects. The biggest part of adjusting to the time change is keeping your sleep routine regulated. To help you get a good night’s sleep, the National Sleep Foundation has ten tips for better “sleep hygiene”:

  1. Stick to a sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.
  2. Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual. Separate sleep from wakeful and exciting activities by engaging in some quiet time before bed.
  3. Avoid naps, especially in the afternoon. Many people love naps or rely on “power naps,” but they may disrupt your sleep in the long run.
  4. Exercise daily. Even light activity can be helpful, so fit in exercise whenever you can — but not at the expense of your sleep.
  5. Evaluate your sleep environment. Check that your room is the right temperature and has good noise and light levels for sleeping.
  6. Sleep on a comfortable mattress and pillows. The average good-quality mattress only lasts nine or ten years, so make sure your bed is still supportive and inviting.
  7. Use bright light to help manage your circadian rhythms. Sunlight or other bright light can help wake you up in the morning while keeping things dark can help you fall asleep at night.
  8. Avoid heavy meals and other sleep-disrupting substances in the evening. Things like caffeine and indigestion can make it hard to fall asleep, even when you feel tired.
  9. Wind down for an hour before bed. Participate in a calming activity, like reading, for an hour before you need to sleep. It helps you shift into “sleep mode.”
  10. Do something relaxing if you are having trouble falling asleep. Make sure your bed is associated with sleep, not work or TV or the computer. If you have to work on something, keep yourself relaxed, and do it in another room.

The National Sleep Foundation also has tips for learning to relax:

Find out more about these tips, healthy sleep, and different sleep strategies on the National Sleep Foundation website.


Monthly Motivation: Avoiding Illness

written by Alexandra Wade

The CDC announced Dec. 4 that this season’s flu vaccine does not seem to be as effective as it had hoped, due to variant drift in strains of the virus. People are still encouraged to get a flu vaccine, as vaccinated people may have a milder form of the illness, even if they do still get sick. Those at high risk of the flu—children younger than 5 (especially those younger than 2), adults 65 or older, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic diseases—are especially encouraged to get vaccinated if they have not already.

To help motivate the WDMCS community to stay healthy during this potentially-severe flu season, Community Education wanted to share some tips on staying healthy and stopping the spread of germs. To fight the flu, the CDC recommends three steps:

1. Take time to get a flu vaccine.
2. Take everyday preventive actions to prevent the spread of germs.
3. Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

The CDC also recommends some good habits to follow to prevent the spread of the flu.

1. Avoid close contact.
2. Stay home when you are sick.
3. Cover your mouth and nose.
4. Clean your hands.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
6. Practice other good health habits.

Many of these good habits can also prevent and protect people from the common cold. Hopefully, these easy-to-follow tips will motivate you to stay healthy this season!

With all this hand-washing going on, it could also be a big season for paper towel use. As a bonus, here’s a video from Joe Smith, lawyer and “powerful advocate for proper paper towel use,” teaching viewers how to cut down on the number of paper towels they use and still end up with completely dry hands.

Rec’s and Reviews: A Book About Giving Thanks

written by Alexandra Wade

The cover for Steve Metzger's "Give Thanks for Each Day."

The cover for Steve Metzger’s “Give Thanks for Each Day.”

With Thanksgiving taking place later this week, we thought it would be a good time to recommend “Give Thanks for Each Day” by Steve Metzger. Metzger is a former teacher of young children and a bestselling children’s author who has penned “Five Little Sharks Swimming in the Sea,” “The Mixed-up Alphabet,” and the Dinofours series, among other books. “Give Thanks for Each Day” was written for preschool- and kindergarten-age children and is a great way to start a discussion about being thankful for the little things.

Metzger’s story is accompanied by colorful illustrations by Robert McPhillips, a children’s illustrator since 1994 and illustrator for the “Kingdom of Wrenly” series. The illustrations are warm, but playful, and will catch readers’ eyes.

Check out “Give Thanks for Each Day” with young readers as soon as possible to get them in the Thanksgiving spirit!


Rec’s and Reviews: “The Book of Life”

written by Alexandra Wade

A new family movie, the mystical “The Book of Life”, is fun, original and beautifully animated. Featuring a journey from the Mexican town of San Angel through two different parts of the underworld, “The Book of Life” is a fun celebration of Mexican folklore and pop culture.

"The Book of Life" poster, from

“The Book of Life” poster, from

The story centers on the sassy, independent Maria (Zoe Saldana) and her friends, Manolo (Diego Luna) and Joaquin (Channing Tatum). Manolo is a passionate guitarist who comes from a long line of champion bullfighters. Pressured by his father, he becomes an accomplished toreador as well, but is too gentle to ever kill the bull. Joaquin also tries to live up to his family’s legacy, becoming the town’s hero.

Unknown to the three friends, Xibalba, creepy king of the underworld and La Muerte, the underworld’s colorful and vibrant queen, made a bet over which boy Maria would marry when the three friends were children. When Xibalba cheats to win the bet, he unwittingly sends Manolo on a journey through the underworld and starts a series of events that will change the friends’ lives.

The highlights of the movie are the visuals and the soundtrack. The animation seems completely new, full of eye-popping colors and textures that draw from Mexican culture. Familiar radio hits are arranged into new, but just-as-catchy, tunes that will entertain kids and draw laughs from adults. The cast is also well-formed and fun.

Some of the movie’s themes are serious, as it uses the Day of the Dead and a trip to the underworld as major plot points, and there are some potentially-scary moments scattered throughout. But love, family, and doing what is right are what the movie is truly about, and it’s a great chance to learn more about Mexican culture.

“The Book of Life” is rated PG for mild action, rude humor, some thematic elements and brief scary images. For more detailed reviews, visit Common Sense Media and Rotten Tomatoes.

Monthly Motivation: Ziauddin and Malala Yousafzai

written by Alexandra Wade


Ziauddin Yousafzai, a Pakistani educator and activist, teaches his students about equality and independence from a young age. In this TED talk, he speaks about his relationship with his daughter, Malala, who became world-famous when the Taliban tried to end her campaign for education by assassinating her in October 2012. She made a full recovery and has continued her activism on a global scale.

The circumstances that inspired the Yousafzai’s bravery may be unique, but people everywhere admire Malala’s actions and the way her father has supported her. What are some things you can do to empower the children in your life?


Feeling motivated? Check in with the Community Education blog the second week of every month for more inspiration and wellness posts!

Rec’s and Reviews: New Parenting Book!

written by Alexandra Wade


The cover of "No-Drama Discipline."

Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, the team behind The Whole-Brain Child, want to make discipline more effective for both parents and children. Their brand new book, No-Drama Discipline, provides strategies for dealing with all type of misbehavior without causing a scene. It features tips for guiding your child through a tantrum, candid stories, and fun illustrations that bring the authors’ suggestions to life, all highlighting the link between the way parents react to misbehavior and neurological development in children.

Published on Sept. 23, this book aims to teach parents “how to work with your child’s developing mind, peacefully resolve conflicts, and inspire happiness and strengthen resilience in everyone in the family.”

The Authors

  • Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., is the executive director of the Mindsight Institute, clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine, and the founding co-director of the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center. He is the author of several books and a Harvard Medical School graduate.
  • Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D., is the director of parents for the Mindsight Institute, a pediatric and adolescent psychotherapist, and the child development specialist at Saint Mark’s School in Altadena, California. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.

Interested in more reviews and recommendations? Community Education will be featuring a book or movie on the fourth Tuesday of every month. Keep up with our blog to see what’s new!

Tips To Prevent Holiday Stress and Depression

relax_stress_words_on_compass_conceptual_imageSubmitted by Gabe Carlson, Wellness Coordinator


When stress is at its peak, it’s hard to stop and regroup. Try to prevent stress and depression in the first place, especially if the holidays have taken an emotional toll on you in the past.

  1. Acknowledge your feelings. If someone close to you has recently died or you can’t be with loved ones, realize that it’s normal to feel sadness and grief. It’s OK to take time to cry or express your feelings. You can’t force yourself to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.
  2. Reach out. If you feel lonely or isolated, seek out community, religious or other social events. They can offer support and companionship. Volunteering your time to help others also is a good way to lift your spirits and broaden your friendships.
  3. Be realistic. The holidays don’t have to be perfect or just like last year. As families change and grow, traditions and rituals often change as well. Choose a few to hold on to, and be open to creating new ones. For example, if your adult children can’t come to your house, find new ways to celebrate together, such as sharing pictures, emails or videos.
  4. Set aside differences. Try to accept family members and friends as they are, even if they don’t live up to all of your expectations. Set aside grievances until a more appropriate time for discussion. And be understanding if others get upset or distressed when something goes awry. Chances are they’re feeling the effects of holiday stress and depression, too.
  5. Stick to a budget. Before you go gift and food shopping, decide how much money you can afford to spend. Then stick to your budget. Don’t try to buy happiness with an avalanche of gifts. Try these alternatives: Donate to a charity in someone’s name, give homemade gifts or start a family gift exchange.
  6. Plan ahead. Set aside specific days for shopping, baking, visiting friends and other activities. Plan your menus and then make your shopping list. That’ll help prevent last-minute scrambling to buy forgotten ingredients. And make sure to line up help for party prep and cleanup.
  7. Learn to say no. Saying yes when you should say no can leave you feeling resentful and overwhelmed. Friends and colleagues will understand if you can’t participate in every project or activity. If it’s not possible to say no when your boss asks you to work overtime, try to remove something else from your agenda to make up for the lost time.
  8. Don’t abandon healthy habits. Don’t let the holidays become a free-for-all. Overindulgence only adds to your stress and guilt. Have a healthy snack before holiday parties so that you don’t go overboard on sweets, cheese or drinks. Continue to get plenty of sleep and physical activity.
  9. Take a breather. Make some time for yourself. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may refresh you enough to handle everything you need to do. Take a walk at night and stargaze. Listen to soothing music. Find something that reduces stress by clearing your mind, slowing your breathing and restoring inner calm.
  10. Seek professional help if you need it. Despite your best efforts, you may find yourself feeling persistently sad or anxious, plagued by physical complaints, unable to sleep, irritable and hopeless, and unable to face routine chores. If these feelings last for a while, talk to your doctor or a mental health professional

Checkpoints Will Keep Your Teen Organized

checkingBefore an airplane takes off, the pilot runs through a checklist to make sure everything is ready. Even pilots who have flown thousands of flights still go through their checklist every time they fly.

Your teen can develop his own checklists to make sure he has what he needs:

  • In the morning. What do I need for school? Book bag, homework, lunch, gym shoes, a signed note.
  • Before class. What do I need for my first class? Textbook, homework, pencil, paper.
  • In class. What is the assignment for tomorrow? Do I understand it? Are there long-term projects? When are they due?
  • Before leaving school. What books do I need to bring home for homework? Check assignment sheet.
  • At home. What are the most important projects? What is my study schedule?
  • Before bed. What do I need for school tomorrow? Place all items by the door.

Reprinted with permission from the October 2013 issue of Parents Still make the difference!® (High School Edition) newsletter. Copyright © 2013 The Parent Institute®, a division of NIS, Inc.

Reading Aloud Together

Build the Habit of Reading Aloud Together

Man and two children sitting in living room reading book and smiWhat’s one simple thing you can do to help your child do better in school this year? Read aloud with her often.

Reading aloud is a way to introduce young children to the world of books. It is also a way to encourage children to make reading a daily habit.

And studies show that even long after children learn to read for themselves, they still enjoy read-aloud time.

Here are some tips to make your read-aloud time at home more successful:

  • Make reading aloud a priority. Plan for it. Set aside time for it every day, and then just do it.
  • Read books you both enjoy. There’s nothing worse than having 100 pages to go in a book neither of you can stand. If you have any doubt your child will like a book, skim it before you start.
  • Read some books that are a little too hard for your child to read alone. This is a great way to increase your child’s vocabulary.

Reprinted with permission from the September 2013 issue of Parents make the difference!® (Elementary School Edition) newsletter. Copyright © 2013 The Parent Institute®, a division of NIS, Inc.