Prairie View

Monday, October 30, 2017

Quote for the Day 10/27/17

In Language Arts 10 Class--

Me:  No one missed any on the Roots test [the weekly quiz on Greek and Latin roots].

Cedric:  Must be all that cursive writing.


I have indeed begun to require that the sentence combining exercise in the Grammar Ultimate lessons be done in cursive--two sentences each day on the first three days of the week.  Before I started that, I handed out a recent article that asserted that cursive writing improves brain function--and created a vocabulary and spelling word list from the article.  Until then, I almost never saw cursive writing from any student.  It turns out that some of them actually hardly know how to write cursive, so I handed out a third-grade-style cursive letter chart to tape inside their books. 

I learned from Joel that one school of thought suggests that cursive is actually easier to master than manuscript writing and should be initiated at the very beginning of learning to write.  Hilda is less convinced; having to deal with a perfectionist four-year-old who is intent on learning to write is her evidence.  My take on that is that nearly all four-year-olds will find any kind of writing challenging.  I would minimize it as much as possible and move on with other easier skills.  Fine motor skills will develop with maturity and play. 

Writing manuscript letters can be part of learning to recognize them when they encounter them in published materials.  This can be done, however, written very large on plain paper, without lines.  Many multi-sensory ways can work too.  The children's favorite  might be drawing letters in jello powder sprinkled on a cookie sheet.  At the end of the exercise, they get to lick their fingers.   Teaching sanitation would obviously not be a major part of using this method. 

Picking up and placing the pencil properly multiple times to create some letters is part of the complication of manuscript writing, with multiple starting points for the various letters.  Each lower-case cursive letter starts on the baseline.  Having to make straight lines and round circles in manuscript writing also requires precision not needed in cursive writing.

Because the first few years of handwriting practice is prime time for developing the skill, some  educators believe that it makes no sense to shift from manuscript to cursive style in third grade as usually happens when both are taught. Generally starting with cursive and continuing throughout school results in far more beautiful cursive writing than does learning a new handwriting style midstream. 

Everyone agrees that handwriting develops a very different part of the brain than does keyboarding, so handwriting should never be completely neglected. 

The fastest way to write is apparently a combination of cursive and manuscript writing.  I assume that many students will continue to do this when cursive is not required. 

I have not implemented this yet this year, but I also hope to provide a chance to practice a legible cursive signature.  Students are fond of declaring that a signature need not be legible.  If it's too standard, it's too easy to copy.  I counter this logic by noting that if you sign a guest register for a wedding or funeral, for example, no one has any durable evidence that you were present if your signature cannot be deciphered. 

For better or worse, for one brief exercise during this year in my classroom, students will all have a chance to develop their cursive skills.  I think it's possible that students studied more for the last Roots quiz than they sometimes do, and it helped that fewer words appeared on the quiz--thus explaining the improved scores this week.  But I'm happy to give cursive writing part of the credit.  This effort needs all the help it can get.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Animal Tales and More Important Events

Life on our little property has trended toward the wild and crazy side, of late.  It involves pesky wildlife more than frisking senior citizens. 

Hiromi likes them.  "It,"in this case, since we've seen only one at a time.  We wonder where it came from, since the nearest trees are nearly a mile away.  Did this one really run all the way over here from a neighbor's yard?  No Barney to chase him off, so the squirrel has his way with the bird feeders.  When a gable-type roof rotted and blew off one of our feeders, Hiromi decided to replace it with a Walmart feeder with a copper-colored metal top over a clear cylinder-shaped feeder.  The squirrel has left that feeder alone. 

Everything has left that feeder alone.  When Hiromi set it on the ground in the middle of where the sparrows regularly congregate to flutter and feed, even the sparrows stopped coming to any of the feeders.  For now we're hoping that familiarity will breed comfort, not further contempt.  Silly birds.

Yes.  Inside the house.  Well almost.  Inside the utility room.  "Triple homicide," Hiromi announced happily after one foray to check and empty the traps.  Today it was "double homicide." They have indeed been unusually cooperative with our murderous intentions.  I've never ever heard of catching three in one snap of the trap.  We've lost track of how many we've caught in the last 48 hours or so.  There have been two or three traps set all the time, and we've emptied them all several times a day.  That is, Hiromi has emptied them.  I go only so far as to check the traps periodically.  I think the cat food and the bird seed in paper bags out there draws mice like a magnet.  They  must have been multiplying, since some of the mice we caught were definitely juveniles.  My best guess on number of mice caught is 12 or 15. 

These encounters have been the most stress-inducing of all.  We'd been getting whiffs of skunk scent occasionally and seen fresh dirt where something was digging under concrete slabs, etc., but last Wednesday things escalated fast. 

The other morning when my sister Linda wanted to borrow a canning kettle, Hiromi obliged by retrieving it from the cave cellar where our canned goods are stored.  He brought it up and she went her merry way while Hiromi returned to the cellar to place some empty jars on the shelves.  While he was there he smelled a faint skunk smell, and then soon, a more powerful smell.  He was also hearing some rustling in the stairwell that opens into the main part of the cellar in one corner.  When he walked over to investigate, he saw a furry black and white body moving about in the dirt behind the open stairway--which was his only escape route out of the cellar.  He pondered the options for a moment and then decided his best bet was to go up the steps at a measured pace, trying to avoid alarming the skunk.  After he had made it out safely, from the top of the stairs, Hiromi saw the skunk walk right down the stairs into the main part of the cellar from its stairway hideout.

He had briefly considered hollering out to me to bring him a gun, but he heard me drive off to school, oblivious to his predicament.  I think I'm glad he didn't have a gun in his hand while he was down there, and glad that he didn't holler, for that matter. 

Hiromi next called Vincent, the community skunk  musk extractor, to ask for advice.  Vincent recommended that he just leave the door open and hope the skunk leaves on its own.  After I got home and heard what had happened, we decided to spread a layer of flour on the top landing in hopes that we could see footprints leading out, thus determining when it was safe  to close the cellar door.  That flour layer never did reveal anything, but yesterday Hiromi finally had the time and motivation to check the cellar.  No skunk.  Whew!  Or is that Phew!?

Hiromi threw all his clothes into the washer and did some emergency laundry.  Even his shoes needed washing.  I wasn't here to incorporate some of the odor absorbing methods I had used with washing clothes from Dwight's burned house, so he did the best he could with multiple washings using regular soap. 

Yesterday Hiromi discovered that the frame on which the cellar door rested while closed was missing its bottom piece, so there was a narrow opening there.  Also, the honeysuckle growing rampantly in the dirt on top of the cave cellar had overgrown the long edge of the door where it opened, so some of it got caught when the lid came down, keeping it from closing all the way.  That must have given just enough room for the skunk to squeeze through at the bottom of the frame.  He installed a two-by four to complete the frame, and trimmed back the honeysuckle vine.  Problem solved, we hope.

Great Horned Owl
I haven't seen this guy recently, but I've been hearing him.  I had hoped that he was cleaning up on the skunks around here, but if so, he had obviously missed at least one.

Wednesday evening when our small group gathered at LaVon and Twila's place for a fireside chili supper and taffy pull, It was a lovely, brisk, clear, and fun evening, in gathering dusk, in view of a gently glowing sunset and then a sparkling, starry sky.  Lowell's family saw a bobcat on their way to LaVon's house.

The most exciting thing I saw on my way to their house was the Oatney Farms crew and equipment busily bringing in the soybean harvest.  A tractor and grain cart on the road unloading into the grain trailer on a semi allowed no space for me to pass. I waited happily and watched the combine churning along in the field nearby.  Farm activity is close to my heart, and I know something of how much work and investment has gone into getting the crop to this stage.  I'd be a real chump if I complained about a small travel delay when the farmer's return on investment is finally almost within reach.


Many far more momentous events than animal tales have taken place recently.  Last weekend I attended a wedding (Frieda and Christian's), a funeral (my aunt Fannie Miller--Mrs. Mahlon), and an ordination (Dwight Miller was chosen by lot to be our new bishop). 

In the past few weeks there have been three deaths in the Smith family--Hiromi's sister Chee's family--for her, a sister-in-law, and daughter-in-law, and a great-granddaughter.

Yesterday we had a Skype conversation with our son and his family in Asia.  Arwen read one of her books to us.  She will be five next month. Her other grandparents are planning an extended stay in Asia, leaving early in November and staying till around Christmas.

There's another grandbaby expected next April.  This one will either break the single-gender streak in our sons' families or be the fourth member of a future Iwashige Brothers quartet. Either way:  wonderful!


Hiromi is busy pickling the fall harvest of Japanese vegetables--leaf mustard (takana pickles), Chinese cabbage (kim chee), and daikon (takuan).  He routinely shares them with family and a few others who will enjoy them.


After feeling his toe grow more and more sore throughout the day Friday, Hiromi discovered when he got home that he had an infected ingrown toenail.  He's been soaking it regularly in Epsom Salts water since then and it feels much better.  He expects to see a doctor some time this week to find out if further treatment is needed. 


Our youth group had their annual retreat this weekend.  With a number of the ministers gone, and several other families missing, it was an unusually small crowd.  LaVerne and Gary were in Oklahoma (Zion had communion), Arlyn was speaking at the Word of Life Church Camp weekend, and Julian was at our young people's retreat. 


Yesterday was the second day since school started in the middle of August that I have been able to stay home for an entire day.  Often I had to return to work at school on Saturday.  I'm still working at whittling down my work week to more reasonable hours.  Others are helping, and I'm grateful. 

I guess "reasonable" is a matter of perspective.  A 31-year-old's death from overwork recently has focused attention on a common problem in Japan.  She had worked 160 hours of overtime in the previous month.   

The system and the individual both carry some responsibility in the workplace.  Figuring out my responsibility as an employee is the main thing I need to focus on.  Others have more responsibility for figuring out the system.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


My students and I have been having fun with a Facebook thread on mondegreens.  As I learned in this sequence of funny posts and comments, a mondegreen is a misunderstood or misinterpreted word or phrase resulting from a mishearing of the lyrics of a song.  This usually happens for either a non-reading child or an adult hearing an unfamiliar song without being able to read the words simultaneously. 

I split up the comments on Dorcas Smucker's Facebook post and gave each student about ten comments.  From those comments they were to write a little story on mondegreens, to be read aloud to the rest of the class.  They could also include any that they either heard themselves or experienced themselves. 

We had a merry time in class today. 

Serena told about her little brother Charles, who was listening to Shalom's (a local men's quartet) rendering of "Come, Come, Ye Saints" over the time of being potty trained.  The phrase "No toil nor labor fear . . . " in his interpretation became No toilet paper fear. . .
One of my students used to hear "Menno Simons, What a Name . . ."instead of "Man of Sorrows, What a Name . . . "  She gets the award for most pointed cultural appropriation of a song.

From Facebook, probably the most outrageous misunderstanding was from "Lead On, O King Eternal"--mangled to say Lead on O Kinky Turtle.  Turtles also appeared in "A turtle's life is better" (Eternal life is better). 

Dorcas led off by asking if anyone else used to pity Ferman Deep, who was always grounded.  (From "We Have an Anchor"--"grounded firm and deep in the Savior's love").

The mother of several of  my students (one who shares my given and maiden name) used to hear "hard eggs, broken pieces, ruined lives . . . "  Switch out eggs for aches and you have the original.  And can't you just see those eggshell fragments from peeling hard-boiled eggs--broken pieces of course. 

Annette Stoltzfus (the local one?) used to sing "the half has never yappentoe . . . " (yet been told).  Coming right up:  new word for the updated version of Merriam-Webster Colliegate.  Yappentoe.

There is raaaspberry pie instead of "there is rest by and by."  "Give us this day our gravy bread."  "Fair is the sunshine, fairer still the moonshine. . . Oh no!   Teetotalers all--singing that song, no doubt.  Talk about incongruity.

A visitor to a Mennonite church service once thought "Just As I Am" was making a statement about the peculiar style of "home-sewn dress she observed:  "Dressed As I Am Without One Pleat."

At the sewing circle one day a little Pennsylvania-dutch-speaking girl heard the ladies singing "Bringing nae [sewing] machines . . . " (Bringing in the sheaves).  Sure enough.  That's just what the ladies had done--brought their sewing machines. 

Those poor shepherds on the Judean hills who had to "wash their socks by night, all seated on the ground. . ." An uncomfortable position for a distasteful job--done in the dark, to boot. 

Cedric's sister was listening to a song with ear buds and singing along when she must have come to  the phrase "Don't let my system blow" and caroled out "Don't let my sister know."  I can't for the life of me think what the original message of that song might have been.  Redneck version of "Keep me safe till the storm passes by?"

It's probably a mercy that I can't remember my own mondegreens, but I'd love to hear more of them from my readers.  If you've implored others to "Rescue the parachute" or announced "Rex chewed the paraffin" please tell us all about it. 

Sunday, October 01, 2017

The Onion Report and Other Trivia

Because of the great success of this year's onion crop, we have been enjoying never-before-attempted onion delicacies.  The latest was Blooming Onions.  They're always available at the state fair, and when Hiromi saw them there, he decided to learn how to make them at home.  His second attempt was a great success.  We've also have good homemade onion rings, and I've enjoyed sauteed onions on top of everything that seemed remotely appropriate--casseroles, sandwiches, scrambled eggs, etc.  I also made an onion casserole or two.  I liked the casseroles better than Hiromi did. 

My onion growing report is as ready as it will ever be probably.  The plants were all ordered from Dixondale Farms, a wholesale onion plant supplier from Texas.  The Master Gardeners pooled their orders and got good quantity price breaks.  The onions were delivered around April 10.  Some of the same varieties are available at Stutzmans.

I have become a trumpeter of the virtues of planting intermediate-day onions in our Kansas gardens--because we live in the north-south middle of the United States.  Although how they're grown makes a difference (high fertility and lots of water are good), selecting onions matched to your latitude location is the single biggest factor in insuring big onions.  South of us they should plant short-day onions, and long-day onions are most successful north of us.  Intermediate-day onions begin to size up when the days of are intermediate length. 

The goal is to have many leaves before the sizing up begins, since there will never be more than one ring for each onion leaf.  More leaves equal bigger onions.  In Kansas, a second goal is to grow the tops large before hot dry weather arrives and growth of all plants slows.  Soooo, big plants before the days get too long and the weather gets too hot and dry--that's the goal.

Here's what we planted:

Intermediate Day Onions (harvest on July 21)
1 bunch Candy
1 bunch Intermediate Day Sampler (Candy--yellow, Sierra Blanca--formerly Super Star--white, and Red Candy--red)

Short Day Onions (harvest on about July 10)
1 bunch 1015Y--yellow

Long Day Onions
Long Day Sampler (Walla Walla--yellow, Ringmaster--white, and Redwing--red)

The biggest onions of all were the Super Stars, with one weighing 1.3 lbs.  These were from the Intermediate Sampler pack.  Seven of them weighed over 1 lb. each.

The bunch that yielded the largest harvest was the Candy, with a 50 lb. total.  Most of the onions were large and nice. 

The most surprising result was the size of the red long day onions--Redwing.  The size far exceeded the Red Candy intermediate day variety.  These were part of the long day sampler pack, which also sported some nice-sized Walla Wallas--one of them at .91 lbs.  These did not dry off as soon as the others did, and by the time I harvested them later in the summer August 10???), the outer layers had some greening and sunscald. 

The 1015Y variety was just as mild and sweet as advertised, but the total produce from one bunch was only 27.4 lbs.  These can be stored for only one month.

The Intermediate Day Sampler total yield was 35.96 lbs.  The large Super Stars couldn't quite compensate for very small size of the Red Candy.

The fact that there is no Intermediate Day variety that is a good keeper (storage onion) is always a disappointment.  Candy reportedly lasts about three months, and that's the longest keeper. 

It's also disappointing that sweet onions are never good keepers.  High pyruvic acid content is part of what makes onions strong-tasting--and long-lasting in storage.


Trivia:  Shane's first business was selling onions from the company that was the predecessor to Dixondale Farms--Piedmont Plants.  He took orders from neighbors and friends and then ordered the onions at wholesale prices and sold them with a slight markup--still cheaper than local sources. 


Today's paper had a story about the Dwight and Karen Miller family having just moved into a new house that stands in the same spot where their former home burned to the ground three months ago.  Here's what I posted on Facebook:
My brother Lowell, my son Shane and my grandson Cedric are all mentioned or pictured in this article--not to mention the main characters, my cousin Karen's family.  

Read the article at this link.  In the picture, Cedric is making a snooty face, for unknown reasons.  He loves Cindy and had apparently gone with Shane to help with the moving process but stayed parked beside Cindy.  You might also enjoy the comment thread under Shane's post of a link to the same article:

Clarissa Iwashige Oh Cedric. Posing for the paparazzi.
LikeShow more reactions
7 hrs
Shane Iwashige Right!? You can tell he's thinking about all the people he could charm and seized his moment in the spotlight.
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6 hrs
Miriam Iwashige Cedric, ever the unfazed and in-charge. Not too sure though about all those people interrupting his time with his beloved Cindy.
LikeShow more reactions
Reply5 hrs
Clarissa Iwashige It's a middle child thing.


Shane's business has outgrown the building that Hiromi used to own and live in, and they're getting ready to move into new quarters on West 4th Street, across from the Co-op.  Rainbow ???? used to be the business in that building. 

He's advertised recently for someone to join the Rock team in construction.  He posted a copy of the Rock Group's Core Values, and hinted at them in the original post:

Rock Renovation is looking to add a full time team member to our construction team. The successful applicant will be a person of integrity, self motivated, and a good cultural fit in our organization that values: Business as Mission, Community, Shared Abundance, Quality, Improvement, and Integrity. Basic construction experience preferred, but we will consider training the right person. Contact me if you're interested in more information!

Joesph Hershberger's "I am coming" response is probably not a serious response.  Shane worked for Joseph until he left to work at Rock, and I don't think either one is looking for a complete role reversal right now.