The Wolf, The Duck and The Mouse

Have you ever wondered what happened to that poor duck –swallowed whole– in Peter and the Wolf?  It is time to put your worries aside, for the answer lies in The Wolf, The Duck and The Mouse, written by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen.  If you are not yet familiar with the comedic synergy of this New York Times best-selling duo, you may want to also check out Square  (or any of their shape books), caldecott winning Extra Yarn, or one of my students’ favorites, Sam and Dave Dig a Hole.  Admittedly, I’m a fan of Barnett and Klassen, but my favorite of their partnerings is The Wolf, The Duck, and The Mouse. 

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In this tale, a wolf wanders the woods, in search of, like all carnivores, a fleshy meal.  Nothing messy, just a simple gulp takes a mouse into a world of darkness. To the mouse’ surprise, it is accompanied by a duck who was also swallowed whole.  In the wolf’s belly, the duck teaches the mouse how to live the good life, free of fear and full of dancing and dinner parties. One day, however, a belly ache and a hunter threaten the mere existence of the three animals.  Teamwork, courage and a hilariously unexpected plan save the day!

This book is perfect for 3-5 year olds and delightful for 2 year olds and older (I have a good friend who reads it multiple times a day –not because her baby loves it– but she does).  It carries with it the traditional Barnett-Klassen dry humor and whit, thoughtfulness and a Native American myth-like ending that explains a natural phenomenon in the animal kingdom.

Check it out from your local library or bookstore for a delightful read and leave a comment about what you thought of it!

 

  

 

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Wonderful Winter pt.2: The Magic of “Hygge”

What do hot cocoa, fuzzy blankets, and a fireplace all have in common?  They are elements that can turn a cold, dark winter into something warm, cozy and glittering with light.  They all have the potential to warm one person or to be shared. These tools fall into the realm of what Norwegians call “hygge”. Most closely translated into English as “cozy”, hygge also involves an element of socializing, sharing this time of year with those near and dear.

Since my first visit to Michigan last February, I’ve heard a lot about miserable winters.  The short days, gray skies and frigid air wears on people. Yet ironically, according to the latest “World Happiness Report” created by the United Nations, the five happiest countries on the planet are all north of chilly Michigan.  Topped by Finland and followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands, these are all places where people have created cultures that embrace both the indoors and outdoors during the long, dark winters.  

The movie Frozen showcases perhaps the ultimate hygge hotspot: saunas.  There’s nothing quite like sweating profusely, wearing nothing but your birthday suit as you engage with friends and family in tight quarters-right?  Admittedly, I do enjoy saunas, but I think part of what makes them such a key part of the hygge culture is the element of socialization. Though the weather is cold and the sun shines far less in winter, sharing your days and nights with those you love can make the season “merry and bright.”

So… some ideas for enjoying the great indoors during winter:20200214_161213

BAKE, EAT and ENJOY warm foods and drinks.  Decorate and eat some cookies with a neighbor.  Sip some tea with a colleague.  Each winter I tend to find one or two new soups to make along with the perrenial favorites I can’t help but return to like miso and pizza soup.  Warm up from playing outside with some coffee, cocoa, or the lovely old tradition of wassail.  Bake muffins or bread and be sure to get your first taste while they are still warm.

PLAY, PONDER and READ something new or an old favorite.  While keeping up with current events via news and blogs is valuable (and I have such cozy memories of watching my grandpa read the newspaper in his leather recliner), there is something unique and wonderful about cozying up with a book.  Play games- do you have a favorite board or card game you can introduce to someone new in your life? Maybe you want to contemplate, discuss or even journal about some deep questions pressing on your mind lately.  We all process things a little differently: some better by ourselves, some better through discussion with another. What helps you?

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LAUGH and LOVE!!!  These final ingredients I can’t emphasize enough.  Open your heart to positivity- whether you need a pick me up, someone else around you does, or you are all just working on self-care to stay positive.  Carve out spaces for laughter; it is great medicine. Take care of yourself and share with others- it will help you find greater joy and reason to respect yourself.

A large part of the nordic cultures that are so happy- they value community and care for others as well as themselves.  So as winter drags and starts to feel long, consider some hygge traditions to bring yourself and others a little more light in a dark season of life.  No need to try to save the whole world today. Just try to make a difference for someone.

Wonderful Winter pt. 1: Exquisite Outdoors

If you’re one of the 10 million Americans or 30% of British who experience Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, you’ll be happy to know that this week Punxsutawney Phil did not see his shadow, so spring is expected early this year.  That is, as long as you trust meteorological predictions from a furry rodent the size of an overweight cat. If, by chance, you are skeptical of weather prediction based on old European folkloric traditions, perhaps some reminders of what can be done to enjoy the second half of winter may prove helpful.  This week let’s focus on ways to enjoy the outdoors since getting outside can be a great mood booster  and help fight the winter blues (a.k.a. Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD-it’s a thing, it’s not just you). 

20200120_093203Step one: bundle up!  If you think it’s too cold to go outside, add a layer or two, keep your head, fingers and feet particularly well insulated and get your heart rate up.  Maybe you like to get into the mountains on the weekends to snowboard, ski or snowshoe. On a more daily basis though, go for a walk or hike near your home.  When was the last time you went ice skating, rollerblading (we don’t all get buried in snow for 3 straight months) or played hockey? You may have a snow thrower, but do you have a shovel you could break out for a little endorphin-raising exercise?

Do you have a knack for building snow forts, snow people (why do we still call them all snowmen in the 21st century?) or instigating a snowball fight?  Do you enjoy looking for icicles, tiny buds starting to grow on the trees, or taking photos of a wintery wonderscape? My 2 year old can’t get enough of eating snow (we’re working on sticking to only the freshly fallen kind).  Plenty of kids love to make snow angels, “fairies” as we call them in our household. And who doesn’t still enjoy a good sledding run?  With ski resorts now offering sledding hills, clearly it is not just for kids.

While living in Denver (where it can range from -5 to 65 degrees Farenheit on any given day in winter), I often felt it was too cold to walk my dog or spend much time with my class of preschoolers outdoors.  As my husband and I contemplated moving to the northern midwest, I was really nervous about potentially having a baby in winter.  How do I keep a baby warm enough there?  How do/can I still get outside and exercise?  Nevermind SAD, I get depressed any time of year if I don’t get regular, frequent exercise and plenty of time outside.  But people do it, so obviously it’s possible. So I began to seek advice.

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 So…as soon as we moved, I went to a local consignment store and bought a few newborn buntings –different weights and insulation levels– just to be safe.  Well, my baby was born in December. After her first week at home, I started testing out all those warm baby clothes. Now I layer up, strap the baby to my chest and together, along with my older daughter and dog, we get outside for a walk or hike almost daily and everyone stays comfortable –minus the occasional breeze or lost boot. The key: warm layers and movement. 

So carve out some time to get outside each day and if you happen to see a little crocus popping up through the frozen ground, let it stand as a happy reminder that spring is just around the corner.