Monday, February 9, 2009

Itty & Bitty: Friends on the Farm

As I mentioned in my post about Itty & Bitty: Two Miniature Horses, I received two horsey picture books for my birthday after earning my M.Ed, to help me build a classroom library.

The second book is Itty & Bitty: Friends on the Farm, also written by Nancy Carpenter Czerw, but this time illustrated by Rose Mary Berlin. It is recommended for children 4 to 8 years old.

This book introduces us to some of the other animals that live with Itty & Bitty at Steele Away Farm: the dogs, Molly and Sasha, and the big horses, Troy, Splash and Scrabble. They can all be seen in a photograph on the back cover of the book. Also, it continues with the simple rhyming style from the first book of the Itty & Bitty series.

Little Itty & Bitty resume their adventures, playing with the other animals:

Troy is tall and brown and sleek,
But he's too big for Hide and Seek.
We always win - it's no surprise.
Our smallness is a better size-
To hide in bushes, barn, or garage.
And our spots are perfect camouflage.

They also dine in the barn, exercise with the dogs, and ride a moped to keep up with the big horses!

Like the first book, it is really an illustrated poem and is perfect for someone with small children and an interest in horses.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Religion of Environmentalism

Yesterday afternoon, when checking the headlines at, I came across the headline "Environmental Lesson Plans Drawing Praise, Concern":

Could environmental education be crossing into environmental indoctrination? Some critics say yes, as schools boast that such curricula simply is teaching children ways of caring for the earth.

Being a "good" student at Western Avenue Elementary School in Flossmoor, Ill., means more than just doing reading, writing and arithmetic well. It also means trying to save the planet.

"It's really important to help the earth and save the polar bears," 9-year-old Duree Everett said, as she colored a "go green" sign at her desk.

I've seen it myself, in my substitute teaching. In one school I have subbed at extensively, the entire student body, in the daily morning assembly in the cafeteria, was treated to a presentation by some 5th graders scare-mongering about global warming.

I have no problem teaching students about conservation, about not littering, about recycling and about being water-conscious, but I draw the line at pushing unproven environmental theory as hard fact.

Turn off the TV and the lights when you're leaving the room for a while. Don't go off and leave the water running. Recycling metals, plastics and papers reduces the amount of stuff we have to put into landfills, and some parts of the country are hard-pressed to get more space to expand existing ones, or to start new ones. But I just don't buy into the expansion into "people are killing the polar bears by driving SUVs" and talking about carbon footprints.

Just be aware of what schools are teaching your kids... And I say this as a certified teacher.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Itty & Bitty: Two Miniature Horses

Since I was a little girl, I have had a love of horses. My only experiences back then were the pony rides at the German fests we attended. Then, after college, when I was living here in Austin the last time, my parents give me a month of riding lessons - English saddle, hunter/jumper - at a local stable for my birthday. I look lessons, as an adult beginner, for about a year and a half before I moved to Arkansas. For whatever reasons, I wasn't able to continue with lessons. However, I made a friend through the singles group at my church who also had an interest and background in horses. Hers was much more extensive than mine, and she no longer rides regularly (I think she cut back a lot after a broken collar bone...), but she does have a sister who makes a living working with horses and riders. One weekend, we drove down to Benton, just outside Little Rock, where her sister lived and worked. I got to ride, and even jump a little, that day.

The first birthday I had after earning my M.Ed., my friend - who knew I was trying to build up a classroom library for my future classroom - sent me a couple of horsey picture books. The first is Itty & Bitty: Two Miniature Horses by Nancy Carpenter Czerw and illustrated by Dana Bauer. The book, recommended for children 5 to 8, is full of cute little rhymes about the two title characters, Itty & Bitty, who are actually real, live, horses living at Steele Away Farm in Argyle, Texas:

I'm Itty. I'm Bitty.
We're itty, bitty minis-
Pint-size, just the right size
For itty, bitty kiddies.

Although the two are both miniature horses:

Bitty is a ragamuffin-
Unkempt mane and too much stuffin'
Itty is a little vain.
Each day he combs his tail and mane.

They play and dance jigs and ride in cars, all told with the help of Ms. Bauer's sweet watercolor illustrations.

There's not a lot of text to this book - it is more of an illustrated poem. But, for anyone with little kids and an interest in horses, this book is perfect.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Resolution Update: 4 weeks

I've been working on my New Year's Resolution for 4 weeks now. Yesterday was my "official" weekly weigh-in, and I had my mom help me again with measurements. Also, following my sister's advice, I took another one of those nothing-but-my-bra-and-panties pictures. Here's the score:

I've lost a total of 10.2 pounds since I started. As expected, the rate of weight loss has slowed, and I've now been doing it long enough to get an idea of how I might expect the usual hormonal issues to affect my progress, at least when just looking at stepping on the scale.

Not all the measurements changed, but I can now wear some clothing items I haven't been able to wear in a while (at least in a fashion that I am not embarrassed for others to see me in them...). Also, there are some articles of clothing that are already set aside for Goodwill: they don't fit anymore because they are too big! And, comparing the original for-my-eyes-only photo with the new one, I can see definite improvement, improvement that isn't easy to gauge just looking in the mirror every day. So, I am seeing progress, and I am not discouraged.

And, planning ahead, I was able to allow myself to have 4 slices of a medium Papa John's "The Meats" pizza and 24 ounces of regular Pepsi on this Super Bowl Sunday, without eating more calories than I'm aiming for to continue losing weight. I just made different choices for my earlier meals: an apple for breakfast, and a bowl of cereal with a half cup of skim milk for lunch. And, I was even able to allow myself 2 Fudge Stripe cookies and another half cup of skim milk for a dessert.

So, I've been aiming for a 1000 calorie deficit each day (give or take), and I try to exercise every day. The only times I have trouble getting in the exercise are those days when I substitute teach: after I done with school, I go into the office job, so I miss going to the fitness center with my sisters, and since I work later on those days, to make up the hours, I'm not exercising when I go home. I haven't exercised every weekend day, but I'm trying. The point is, I am exercising regularly, and those days when I don't exercise, I take that into account when making decisions about what to eat. As I think I have mentioned before, looking at calorie counts on the labels doesn't mean much, unless you have some idea of your individual calorie needs...

I haven't gone shopping for any new clothes yet. I kind of get to go "shopping" in my own closet, and pick out some things people at the office have never seen me wear. I want to wait a little longer, and lose a little more weight. Plus, it might be nice to wait until the weather gets a little warmer (which won't be too long - I do live in Texas, after all). That way, I'll get more use out of any new clothes. No sense in buying new cold weather clothes I know I won't be able to wear come next fall and winter...