How Tutoring Influences My Teaching

A colleague in the field of learning assistance is doing research about how the experience of running a tutoring center has influenced my teaching. This what I wrote for him.

I managed a math tutoring center for twelve years. Prior to that I was an adjunct math instructor. As a math teacher, I felt it was my job to clearly explain the mathematics to the students and it was their job to learn it outside of class. I had a sense that the more clearly I explained it, the more easily the students would understand it. Since I was really good at explaining math clearly, I felt my students were understanding it quite well. Until it came time for them to take a test. They seemed to have trouble remembering everything they clearly understood in my class. One time a student told me in frustration that he understood everything just fine until he sat down to take the test and then his mind would go blank. I knew I was out of my league with this kind of problem, but I also knew there were people somewhere on campus who might know how to help him. I told him there was a Learning Enrichment Center, “somewhere on the other side of campus” and he should go there and talk to someone who could help him.

When I started managing the math lab, I had no idea there was a difference between tutoring and teaching. (at least, the kind of teaching I was doing.) But, thanks to great professional development from the learning assistance community, I learned quickly. I was especially challenged by Bob Hackworth (I’m pretty sure), who told me through the list serve that the “hit-and-run” tutoring done in my math lab was actually remedial and not very helpful, as opposed to a more developmental approach taken in appointment-based tutoring. I took his challenge and eventually developed a very developmental “hit-and-run” tutoring program. Eventually I was teaching my tutors mantras such as “the person doing the talking is the person doing the learning” and “never say anything a student can say.” I challenged them to tutor without a pencil — not something to do all the time, but a great exercise on occasion. During this time, I was introduced to Rita Smilkstein’s “dendrite theory,” trained tutors on it, and it became a major theoretical foundation of our program. In the meantime, I continued to teach one class a year. I realized that real learning doesn’t happen in the kind of classroom I was running. I started by implementing one new technique that opened my eyes to what really had been happening in my classroom. I would demonstrate how to solve a problem, then I would give the students an example to solve on their own. I walked around the room (not an easy thing to do in a room set up for lectures) and looked at the students’ work. Shocking. I had just demonstrated exactly what to do on the board and half the students in the class couldn’t even do the first step. The first few times I did this really rocked my world. I couldn’t understand how these students couldn’t even do the first step by following the example on the board. Over time I came to understand the value of group work, recognizing the need for the students to teach and talk to each other. Another lesson realized by working with students and tutors in the math lab was the lack of conceptual understanding that students had. I had no control over the curriculum, but I recognized the need to move away from the mile-wide-and-inch-deep curriculum being used. Now that I’m the director of a developmental math program, I am able to do that. I immediately recognized the value of the new pathway courses that developed conceptual and contextual understanding along with procedural fluency, and we have implemented such a course. We are now working on our STEM path courses, so they also develop conceptual and contextual understanding. I know now that when my students couldn’t follow my example on the board and do the work themselves, they lacked much, much more than the ability to follow a procedural example. They lacked a positive belief in their ability to do that. They lacked a belief that they belonged in that math class. They lacked a growth mindset. They lacked conceptual understanding. They probably lacked interest. After all, who would want to learn math that way???

What a Difference 5 Years Makes

2009 was a pretty good year:
Van Wagoner Family
Post-Christmas Letter

As we are now on the down hill side of the Christmas season, I have a few minutes to report on the happenings of the Van Wagoner Family in the year 2009.

First, I would like to report that the entire family wishes for all our friends and family the greatest blessings from heaven. We know of the redeeming love of Jesus Christ in our lives. May you all feel the love of our Savior whose birth we celebrate at this time and may you carry that love in your heart through out the upcoming year.

The Year of the Revolving Door
As children grow up it becomes more difficult to squeeze a bunch of them into one room – even if it is a big room. We’ve solve that problem with our revolving door. Children are always moving in and out of our house. We started the year with 4 children at home: Cameron, Michael, Alisha and Jonathan. In April, Jon moved to Orlando, Florida to sell security systems. Alisha moved to Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico in May to be a wrangler. Then Jon moved home in June, when his dreams of financial independence were not coming true. Alex and Chris triumphantly returned home from their missions in July. Alisha came home from New Mexico in August. And for a few short weeks we had the entire family living at home again for the first time in three years. Then … Alex moved across town to live in Grandma & Grandpa Van Wagoner’s basement. Alisha went to Europe for a month. (And lest you think the room of someone who leaves home for a month sits undisturbed whilst they are away, I should point out that it does not. Michael moved into Alisha’s room over the summer, was shoo-ed out of it when she came home and he moved right back in when she left again.) Alisha returned home just 10 days before Jon got married (details to follow) and Jon, of course, moved out after he got married. (Notice it does not say “when” he got married.) So we are back to 4 children again. And I think it is safe to say that we are done switching bedrooms for a while – like a few months.

Beginning a New Stage of Life
“In-law” carries such a negative connotation to it – especially “mother-in-law.” So it is with some chagrin that I announce that I am now a mother-in-law. But it is only the negative connotation that chagrins me, as Jonathan has found his soul mate and our new daughter-in-law is a perfect fit for him and for our family. Just a few days after Christmas, last year, Jon met Lenzi in the lift line at Park City. He was there with his little class of snowboarders and she was there with her little class of skiers. The kids started talking and brought their instructors into the conversation. Upon learning that Lenzi was driving up from Provo all by herself, he gallantly invited her to carpool with him. Within a week, the two were inseparable. And there was talk of marriage very soon after that. (Chris brought it up in his letter the Monday after J & L met, and Dirk repeated it while Lenzi was standing just outside the room. Oops.) They were engaged during their visit to Florida and married in the Twin Falls, Idaho LDS temple in November. Now, they are living “in the house Jonathan grew up in,” as Lenzi puts it. (I think that sounds so much better than “in the old house.”) Lenzi loves the outdoors as much as Jon does — and she does snowboard, in addition to skiing. Her family has introduced Jon to river running, and I am promised an opportunity to join them in the future. Lenzi will graduate from BYU this year with a degree in exercise science. Jon is pursuing a career in criminal justice. He’s working at the front desk of the UVU Math Lab while he’s in school.

Returning Home
Alex is working on general education requirements and trying to decide what to do with his life. After returning from Panama, he happily went to work for Dirk, basking in the hot temperatures that he loved so much in Panama. I am not being sarcastic. Alex loved the heat. He also loved the country and the people, and they loved him. Alex adapts. He only complained about the cold weather once or twice, but I notice him wearing his coat around the house quite often. He is always cheerful and serving. Alex recently completed training at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center (aka hospital) as an interpreter and now spends a few hours a week volunteering. Every chance he gets, Alex goes rock climbing.

Chris is finishing up his Automotive Technology degree this year. What he’ll do next is still TBD. What is foremost in his mind is trying to figure out how to get back to Chile. Chris had some remarkable experiences on his mission. One extremely challenging experience brought him particularly close to a family and other church members in Cauquenes. Thanks to Facebook, he contacted the family after he returned home. Long story short, they have a 20-year-old daughter, and she can be seen on Chris’s computer just about every night thanks to the miracle of Skype. Chris and Scarlet have been “dating” via internet and cell phone for a few months now. (Cameron says they should each take their laptops to a local restaurant, and then they can go out to eat together.) Chris was promoted to manager of the lube rack at Brent Brown Toyota. He’s also serving as an associate Venturing advisor. Stayed tuned to find out where Chris will be living in the future. Chile? or USA?

The Adventures of our World Traveler
Alisha should write her own Christmas letter. She’s gotten into a pretty sweet set up. Work long hard hours at Philmont in the summer and at Sundance in the winter. Play in the spring and fall. Alisha and some friends from Philmont spent 3 weeks on an island off the coast of Spain in an archeology course. They helped excavate an ancient Roman city. Alisha personally found 7 bronze Roman coins, as well as a lot of pottery shards. (No, she didn’t get to keep them.) From Menorca, they traveled to Italy where they spent a week exploring Rome, Pompeii, and Venice. They spent a night in Munich while traveling to Paris and then home. Every one loves Alisha. She has friends all over the world. And she’s making some very good connections at Sundance. She got a personal ski lesson from the head of operations recently, and she learned that her name was brought up in an executive meeting as an example of the model Sundance employee. Alisha is kind to all (except, maybe, her little brothers) and right now, all she does is work and sleep.

The Not-So-Little Boys
Cameron is a junior at Provo High. He started this year on the JV football team and quickly moved up to Varsity, earning his Varsity letter. I don’t know if PHS uses the term scholar-athlete, but Cameron would qualify. He’s an excellent student. Now that football season is over, he can turn his attention to his other favorite sport – snowboarding. He is first assistant in the Priest Quorum and loves to study the scriptures with his Dad. Cameron’s quick wit helps us keep a smile on our face. At 6’ 1” he is the tallest member of the family. We are hoping he’ll cut his hair soon, but then again, we find Cameron’s hair to be rather intriguing.

Michael narrowly escaped junior high and is now learning how to navigate high school. He is thoroughly enjoying his metals class, as well as ballroom dance and choir. History, English and science – not so much. Michael’s talents and interests lie in technology. This summer, he shot some footage of his friends long boarding and put together a short video. He designs all sorts of interesting things in SketchUp. His most recent nephrology (kidney doctor) appointment was very positive. This year I finally realized there is a name for Michael’s condition – Chronic Kidney Disease. I am proud to announce that we bought size 16 jeans for Michael this week. That means he’s managing his health well and GROWING!

Well, here we are on page three and I’m not done yet. Sorry about that.

Dirk figures he has less than 2 years left in the bishopric and he’s starting to get the hang of it. Sunday is NOT a day of rest. Dirk is our children’s cheerleader, encouraging them to follow their dreams and occasionally financing their adventures. He continues to build and maintain beautiful gardens. He excelled as the director of a Wood Badge course (scout leader training). We recently heard one participant share this story (I’m paraphrasing): “I rode home from the first weekend of the course with some guys from my ward. I told them I didn’t want them to feel bad, but I felt like Dirk singled me out as his favorite person on the course. My companions told me they didn’t want me to feel bad, but that they all felt like Dirk had singled them out as their favorite.” Few people have the ability that Dirk has to make personal connections. I also served on that course, and we were both blessed by many of the personal connections we made at Wood Badge. Dirk does Seminary-follow-up discussions with Cameron and Michael, who appreciate the further insights they get from their father’s knowledge. Dirk lovingly supports me in my many interests.

I’m Determined to Keep this to Four Pages (by adjusting the margins)
I suppose I need my own Christmas letter, too. But fear not. I’ve started writing a blog in which to chronicle my many adventures. If you are a blog reader, please come visit. You’ll have to comment, so I’ll know you were there. I’d like to have more than two readers: I haven’t been doing this long, so it shouldn’t take you long to catch up on all my posts. ☺

At church I have gone from nursery leader to Primary chorister to stake primary 2nd counselor in 6 months. As of a couple of weeks ago, I am now responsible for supporting all seven Cub Scout packs in the stake. People keep saying enthusiastically, “So you’re back in cubs!” And I’m in denial. I’m just SUPPORTING the cubs – I’m not IN cubs. This new calling means I will probably have to quit my position as the leader of the Scoutmaster section at Roundtable. I’ve been doing that for 1½ years and will miss it very much. I continue to help with the merit badge pow wow and the council’s centennial committee, as well as ward Venturing committee chair and, of course, Wood Badge.

My summer adventures included mountain biking, day hiking, sailing and rappelling, as well as the regular four-wheeling and camping. (See photos on Facebook.) Right after the twins came home from their missions, we whisked them off to our favorite camping spot in the Uintas and spent a wonderful week together. I highly recommend this transitional activity for all returning missionaries. Dirk and I enjoyed a quick weekend in California where we attended my first ever high school reunion. I was disappointed to learn that I had missed many previous reunions. Surely, I can’t have been THAT hard to find? Perhaps my most challenging accomplishment of the year was curating an art exhibit for Math Week at UVU. Infinite Beauty: Mathematical Art included pieces from artists across the country. I’m ready for another ski season, and I have to say that having Alisha on the Sundance parking crew has had its perks for me. Having three boys in school at UVU means I get to share my office. It is fun to have Alex, Chris or Jon pop in during the day and hang out for a while, or commandeer my computer to print a paper, or just use my office for storage space.

Every day brings a new adventure to this family. Sometimes it’s just a romp with the new dog that I was gullible enough to allow Alisha to bring home last spring. (But he is REALLY cute). And sometimes it’s something big. Sometimes good. Sometimes bad. We just keep on doing because that’s what we are good at. Next year is sure to have some great new adventures. We wish you many happy adventures in the coming year and the strength to survive the not-so-happy ones. With the love and atonement of our Savior, we are all certain to find joy in the journey.

Lots of love for a Happy New Year,
The Van Wagoner Family

Adventures in Missing the Train

If I catch the 7 am train, I get to work by 9 am. (We’ll skip the marveling at my 2+ hour commute, ok?) In order to catch the 7 am train, I need to get up at 5:30 if I’m going to get my 25-minute workout in (which really lasts more than 25 mins with the cool down, but we won’t go into that either.). This morning I woke up at 5:50. Oh, well. It’s not a big deal if I take the 7:30 train. As I’m finally ready to walk out the door, I notice it is 7:30. Oh, well. I guess I’ll take the 8:00 train. And in the meantime, I’m going to sort through these papers for my research study and save having to carry a huge pile of papers with me. Well, by the time I got the papers I needed sort out, I was cutting it kind of close. I just missed the light at the intersection before the train station, and figured I’d missed the train. But just as the light turned green again, I have hope as I see the train just coming to the station. I screamed into the parking lot and it’s looking like I might just make it. I grab my purse and my bag of food for the week’s lunches and run. Then the avocado rolls out of my food bag, and I scoop it up as I continue running – noticing that it is feeling pretty mushy now. And as I straightened up with the mushy avocado in hand, I heard something hit the ground. I stopped and turned around, scanning the ground. Nothing there. It’s now or never on catching the train. Go? No. I HEARD something hit the ground. I walked a few steps back and saw my keys laying on the ground about 2 feet in under a parked car. I dropped to my knees and reeeaacched under the car and came up running. But hesitant, because the train should have been pulling out by now, and I don’t want to run all the way to the train just as it is pulling out. But it was still sitting there. So I ran. A little bit. And I paused and looked at the conductor – like “are you going to wait for me? or are you toying with me?” The bells started ringing and the steam blasted and I watched it pull away. I turned around and walked to my car. Ok. Taking the 8:30 train will work. I don’t have any meetings until 11:00. I sat in my car and read Michael’s email and looked up the location of the tornado that hit eastern Tennessee yesterday (far away from Alisha, thankfully, or sadly, I’m not sure which.) I checked Facebook and wrote a comment on a post. And I gathered up my belongings. More carefully this time and walked to the train platform. Wait a minute. Is there an 8:30 train? There are some people coming to the platform. Hmmm. I got my answer as I looked up to see when the next train would arrive. “To North Temple – 3 mins” That’s right. There is an 8:30 train, but it only goes to Salt Lake. I have to wait until 9:00 for a train that goes to Farmington, where I keep a car parked to drive in to WSU. And as I write those words — I remember. The car is parked in Salt Lake at my husband’s office. Crap. I could have – should have taken the 8:30 train. Or I could have ridden in with my husband. Oh, geez. This day just keeps getting better.

And after sitting at the train station for an hour, I decided to drive to work, as I recalled that when I drove the other car to Salt Lake, the check engine light came on. I wasn’t confident that I could jump in that car and rush to Ogden in it. Not a stellar start to my week.

Call the Movers

Got a good letter from Michael this week.


So a few weeks ago, a man walks up to us and tells us that he’s moving out and would like some help. He lives on the 3rd floor in the building that’s next to us. As we talked more, he told us that he couldn’t take everything with him, so what ever if left we could have.

So Tuesday we went over and took some of the stuff that we knew we wanted. His whole house was pretty much not in any shape to have anyone move anything… His paperwork was everywhere! So we took a couple of things. It took us about 3 hours. We had to move it from his apartment to ours, which is also on the 3rd floor. Then Wednesday he had other movers come who got everything he wanted to take. We told him Thursday we would come over and get everything else out.

We showed up over there about 11am and started going at it… We
when’s through and cleaned out as much trash we could. Then started moving big stuff. He had so much jone! I can’t even tell you…. I have pictures of our apartment filled, then the front of his building was covered in it stuff. The mission office told us that they wanted pretty much everything… So we got everything. About 9:30 rolled around and we told him we’d come back Friday and finish it. Dan wanted to be out of the house early Friday morning. Friday we went over and he gave us his keys to the apartment then took off. We spent the morning moving more crap out and throwing away jone. At 12 we went to C.’s and he made us a ton of food. We started off with: tamales smothered in bean sauce and El Salvadorian sour cream (SO GOOOD!!!) I normally don’t like tamales but it was amazing… After those, we Had the burrito. This burrito was huge!!!! So we downed that. Then we had C.’s style octopus. After that we had a fresh fruit pie. Oh that was good! About 2:30-3:00 pm the mission office had their truck and trailer at the apartment, so Elder F and Elder G headed over there and helped load that up. Elder E and I stayed there and helped C with his computer. The internet kept going out and we were the geek squad. So it took about an hour. We got it fixed! As we left, my tire had a flat… So we got enough air into the tire to make it to a bike shop. I had to replace the tire and tube. Not cool… Then headed over to best buy so Elder E could get a speaker. We got home about the time the truck had left.

That night, we went to that ballet at the visitors center. It was with a ton of kids, that didn’t dance that well…Which is fine, it was cute. But then the teachers jumped in and danced also, and I understand why the kids weren’t that good. Not trying to be mean or anything. But it was really bad.

Saturday we woke up, had studies. Then we get a call from a restricted number. A man in a middle eastern accent started to yell at us and ask how our number got on his sons phone. Then told us that he’s a minor and we are never to talk to him again. We tried asking his name but he hung up on us. A few moments we received a text message. “I am the father of ______, my son is a minor do not try to text him again.” We replied, “Alright, Sir.” Then a few moments after that we received a voice message. He told us never to talk to his son. He has our number and is going to contact the FBI and some other stuff… So we call president and ask what we should do. He told us not to worry. After a few more calls from the man, and quite a few swear words later, he stopped. During all of that we got a call from the boy and his mom telling us sorry on behalf of the father, he doesn’t live with them and they’re divorced. So we can come over…

After lunch, Elder G and I headed over to another persons house… To help them… MOVE!!! You guessed right! From
11:30am-8:45pm we help this lady move all of her stuff from a storage unit, into her house. By the end of it, they loved us and invited us over for dinner later. They’re from the Dominican Republic, also really cool! We got home and then finished moving the rest of D’s stuff out and dropped the keys off. So he’s completely done!

Sunday was good. It was fast Sunday. We had church then from church, we headed over to C’s and had a BBQ. We stayed at his house until it was time to head to the visitors center. We had practice at 6 then a concert at 7:00. The performance was amazing! There was a Japanese singer, Sister Eyring (violin), her brother (piano), then another lady on flute and another piano player. I pretty much recorded the entire show. But my iPad ran out of memory so I couldn’t record the last few pieces…. Which were amazing!!!! 😦 but oh well. It was still great!
We got home about 10.

So jumping back to Monday. We had a zone activity. It was a blast! We played capture the flag/paint fight in the woods! The paint was mixed with water and we had a ton of fun. I’m going to be sending a lot of pictures and such.

Well that has been my week. It’s been long, but the blessings are
amazing. My back is hanging in there and I was able to help all these people. That was one of the biggest one I’ve noticed.

Well, love you all!
-Elder Van Wagoner

Don’t Let the Skirts Fool You.

The latest letter from Alisha:


So this Easter didn’t feel like Easter at all… We pretty much just did the same things we usually do except this week as we knocked on less actives doors we asked if we could share a brief Easter message. The message was a brief story/trick that Brother G. up in A. shared with me. It was a fun day. Most the people were nice and the ones we didn’t get to visit with because they were too busy invited us to come back. When Sister H. and i got home we enjoyed a good Easter supper of steak nacho’s. Have i ever told you how much i love Sister H? I might even move to Texas to be her trailer neighbor… I told her that she’d get to hear me complain all the time. To that she asked why because you’re living in a trailer? I then informed her no because i’m living in Texas… she laughed. She didn’t know i was serious. 

I sent this to Aunt Jen today thought you might like it also:
This week we were out at this little homestead. Interesting family… a third of them are non active members… a third are excommunicated…. and a third are non members. Not sure why i shared that with you. But anyways they had a “cookie” set up and let me throw tomahawks. It was funny I was actually in the outfit you sent and when i asked if i could throw johnny looked at me and gave a brief little tutorial and said good luck…. I nailed the first throw… he was taken a back. My companion then gave a brief rundown of my pre-mission life. He then asked where my rope was. I informed him it was at the apartment. He then laughed and walked off to fix fence. I offered my help and he politely declined. 
Often when we offer our help to people they look at us with a “you pretty girls wouldn’t want to get all dirty” look. We then say “hey don’t let the skirts fool ya. she has a construction background and i have a ranching one. our hands haven’t ever been this clean.”
I think one of my favorite parts of missionary life is doing random service. The words of Mosiah ring so true. “when ye are in the service of you fellow men, ye are only in the service of your God.” Last week we were able to convince the husband of an investigator to help us come shovel some manure into their garden. His wife told us that he doesn’t easily accept help but he was touched that we wouldn’t take no for an answer. We hope he will begin listening to our lessons when we go over. He now stays for the prayer so that’s great!
Oh We also got to help our ward mission leader and his wife do some work, they trenched and laid some tile (piping) the other day. I was thinking that i should be a church maintenance worker. I love to fix things… I think i’ve fixed something in each apartment i’ve lived in. 
On a different note. I sent this to another friend today. You might like it also:
 How is the New Testament? That is something i would like to read and study more of when i return home.  As i sit in this little computer lab at a small Presbyterian College many students are coming in to write some paper on stories from the bible. A rough draft of one was left behind at the desk i sat down to. The student was talking about the story of the good Samaritan. The understanding they had of those scriptures was very simple. This led me to think about how I have come to love the story of the good Samaritan while out on my mission. One thing that added to my understanding and love of it was James E. Talmage’s teachings in his book Jesus the Christ. As he talked about the Priest and the Levite he talked about how they may have been in a hurry or they didn’t have the time or means to help but then he said this “Excuses are easy to find; they spring up as readily and plentifully as weeds by the wayside.” He then began to tell us about the good Samaritan and these words stuck out to me, “He had no excuse for he wanted none.” 
Often when i think up an excuse to get out of doing something i don’t want to do those words spring back into my mind. This week at district meeting we talked about repentance. One of the initial questions that were asked is “what is sin?” I had written this answer in my Preach My Gospel some time ago it says “Sin is knowingly doing wrong or not to do right.”  This then leads to “every thought is a prompting of the spirit until proven otherwise.” So when i pick a “weed” up by the wayside to get out of a thought or prompting i am knowingly not doing right so hence i’ve sinned. I know that the Savior helps us achieve the things he commands us as we seek to build his kingdom and i know that He forgives us when our natural man wins. Isn’t the Lord just wonderful?! 
I don’t have much else to say except sister H. and i have been on a deep cleaning mode. Each night we come home and continue on our project. All base boards, lights and fans, and other random surfaces have been scrubbed down. I’m not sure why i told you that but oh well. 
I love you much!
Sister Van

Sometimes I don’t know what to write because there is too much to say and I just sit grinning like an idiot in front of the computer… I wonder what people think when they walk past. 🙂 

First I’ll start with my companion. We get along so great I just love her. It’s really funny because when we get home at night we end up sitting in the car and talking/planning for the next day then we just chat about the people we are teaching and other gospel and non gospel related subjects. Also when we’re emailing we can’t not talk to each other so we just email back and forth so we don’t interrupt others. If you don’t know this already I hurt my back and she just lovingly tells everyone “I can’t wait for her to get better so I can beat her up again.” She has been serving me as much as I’ve been trying to get better, and I still tuck her in every night. 🙂 

Second. My time in Abingdon is ticking down… it’s almost been 6 months. I really, really don’t want to be transferred but we’ll see what happens. Transfers are on the 12th of Feb. I realized that I love knowing the area and knowing the people and I begin to feel a part of everything. And we have so many great people we are teaching and helping. I love to see the joy that comes into people’s lives when they allow the Spirit into their lives. 

Third. Sister L. and I are going to go get a puzzle today and do it. We’re loners and don’t like district unity time…. but we love puzzles. 🙂

Fourth. I love the scriptures. They are so great to read. We went to some investigators’ house the other day and read 2 Nephi 31-33 with them. So there were 5 of us there and [one person] wasn’t going to read aloud and so we were rotating through the 4 of us reading and talking about it. There was a pause then all of a sudden [he] jumps in and just starts to read. I smiled. So at the end of the visit we asked who’s turn it was to say the prayer, and [another person] tells us that it’s [the one person’s] turn to pray. He declined and we pulled our “we won’t look at you as you pray.” So we folded our arms, bowed our head and he prayed. The Spirit was so strong. I loved it. I still can’t stop smiling and that was 4 days ago. The scriptures are so great!!!

Fifth. We taught [other investigators] the plan of salvation last night. Such a great lesson. I love how she pulls up a chair and takes notes while we teach her. She was so happy yesterday, and it made me so happy. [One of them] set a date to be baptized. It will be so great. But another fantastic thing about that is that a member came out with us and I feel that it really built her faith

Sixth. Well that’s about all I have time for. I love you all SO SO much. This Gospel is so wonderful!!!!!!!! 

Love, Sister Van Wagoner

Welcome to the Neighborhood

A couple years ago, or so, Misty rented her house to Jessica, and emailed a few ladies from the ward to introduce us to Jessica.  I saved the email conversation. (I remember asking everyone’s permission.) When you read it, you’ll know why.  Oh that every new member of the ward could be welcomed this way. I think.

The Conversation:

Apr 17, Misty wrote: 

ladies – I’d like you to meet jessica, our new renter who is moving in on May 15th.

jessica – here are the links to rachel, kristen, kathy, and natalie’s blogs:  (kathy d. my dear, do you blog nowadays?)

{omitted in case there are privacy issues}  

a good way to get to know these ladies – they are FABULOUS!!!  a handful of my favorite human beings on the planet!  🙂

thanks gals –


Apr 17, KRandle wrote:

Jessica  – All right, I have to admit that I am disappointed that you are not going to be Misty; I had a lot invested in hoping Paul would come back home here and be the resident lawyer for all the squabbles that plague this bummy neighborhood.  But no. He won’t.  And that makes him stink.

However, that said – perhaps it will be BETTER having you guys than the jump-ship Coxes, because you WANT to be here, and we are delighted at the prospect of fresh meat – wait, I mean – neighbors that we can get to know and invest in and love and who will STICK AROUND.  Besides, we have no Jessicas on this street  – or, I think, in the other part of the ward.  Do we? Can anybody think of one?

You will live across the street from us and I guarantee the dogs will drive you wild (they drive us wild) and you will think that we are all crazy, unless you are crazy too, in which case, you will not notice a thing.  I think that last bit is your best strategy and probably your only hope for survival.

This is a very dull neighborhood.  No, really – it is.  (You guys – stop laughing.)  And annoying, as all those leaves in Fall keep getting all over the place and turning colors, and there are all those happy kids in the street on the summer nights (wait – I’m remembering when the COXES were here).

And the ward – well. You’ll see.  You’ll see when you get here.  You’ll think, “What the devil have I gotten myself into?”  Except, of course, that  you will be at church when you think this, and you won’t be allowed to actually think the word, “Devil.” So before you come, do some thinking and come up with an acceptable euphemism that will allow you at lest a modicum of rhetorical satisfaction in that regard.

When you move in, don’t be shy about hollaring for help or advice (if you want THAT kind of advice) or asking for drinks of water, or borrowing the water closet or any of those kinds of things.  We don’t bite hard.  And neither do the dogs, although they badly want you to think they will.

Anyway, I hope you are excited to come, because you might as well start off with hope.  And don’t be fooled by our blogs; we always put a brave face on everything.

Looking forward to seeing your truck roll in,


April 17th, Rachel Rubow wrote:

Oh!  My!  Crap! KRISTEN!!!

You are going to SCARE HER AWAY!!!!!

Sigh……….  get to know me, I am FAR more civilized than your neighbors across the street.  I live on the OTHER side of center street where we are much more proper.   

Ummm, do me a favor.  Don’t read my blog post today about toilet papering my garden.  Or the time I pooped in a strangers house because I was out running and needed to poop!  Or……….  well………. best not read my blog because I’m the civilized one of the bunch and I need you to keep thinking and believing that.  What it would do to this ward if they thought other wise…………  


The Oiser of the neighborhood.  You’ll recognize me by my overalls, All Star tennis shoes, and straw hat.  

April 17, Kathy V wrote:

Oh. Dear.  

Jessica, are you wondering, already, what the “devil” you have done?

As the Bishop’s wife (a rank I rarely pull), I would like to officially welcome you to the ward.  And let you know that you will acclimatize to Kristen and Rachel eventually – it might take a few months.

Thankfully, you have an insanely SANE next door neighbor in Michelle Tuinei.  She is kind, peaceful, brilliant and loving. (And I’ll bet her girls babysit, too.)

Actually, you are moving into a wonderfully loving neighborhood – one that has had few changes in members over the years. They are a close group and all very watchful of one another.

I, with Rachel, live on the other side of Center Street – a more loosely organized group of people, but we’re getting there. Since I work full time and am going to school, too, I maintain mostly a virtual relationship with my friends and neighbors.  I am highly grateful for this blessing of technology. 

(Hey, Gals, do I sound Bishop’s-wife-ish enough???)

Yeah, the truth is I am as nuts as K & R, but in a completely-stressed-out-of-my-mind sort of way. In case you haven’t noticed, not a one of us is shy.  Hope we haven’t overwhelmed you yet.

We do manage to sneak off together to the Provo Farmers Market on the occasional Saturday morning.  Pretty soon Rachel will be taking me shopping there because she’s going to lose our sugar bet and have to buy me something fun.

Do we know when you are moving in yet? (I’m usually the clueless one.)

See you soon.


Apr 17, Misty wrote:

For crying out loud – THIS is why I didn’t want to leave!!!!!!  

Oh. Dude. Seriously though – have u ladies seen the movie Cranford?  Get your hands on that movie and watch it together until at least midnight. You will thank me for it. 

I PROMISE.   Lace pooping cat. Jammie wearing cow named Bessie. You will DIE laughing. 



Apr 17, Rachel wrote:

We live in Cranford!  Did you not know that Sister Holioak (Did I just spell her name wrong??) has a naked chicken that she knits outfits for???  If that isn’t Cranfordish I don’t know what is!

As for the Bishop’s wife introducing herself as ‘the bishop’s wife’…………..  that was pretty darn brave of her to do so since she just told you an untruth!  I won’t be buying her anything from the Farmer’s Market!  It will be she who will be buying me fried pickles down in Payson!!!

Kathy, I had a thought………..  this whole sugar thing we’ve got going.  I do think we should add something along the lines of on our birthday we’re allowed to cheat for that one day………………….  Yes?

And P.S.  I deserve pickles now because I am an emotional eater and this has been an emotional day with the two boys getting their tonsils out and me listening to little children in the recovery room screaming and crying and not knowing if it was my child!!!!!!  I DESERVE SOME SUGAR TODAY but nooooo, I haven’t cheated cuz I WANT SOME PICKLES!  

Someone?  Please bring me some pickles……..   and bring some to Jessica too.  It would be the neighborly thing to do……..

Misty!  I declare it thus that you come home right now!!  Hey!  The Bunker’s house is for sale!!!  😀  You could move in there!

Apr 17, Misty wrote:

No sugar?  Maybe I am safer in Arizona!  :):)

Someone – get that woman a pickle!!!! 

Apr 17, Kristen wrote:

Cranford is a PBS series – charming and quiet and I loved it.

Jessica, if she has any sense at all, is running for the hills.

Apr 17, Rachel wrote:

What?   Where did you get that we didn’t like Cranford?  We love Cranford?  Which is why we live in Cranford and can relate so well…

No sugar yes because we both know our health will be better if we go off so we are trying to help each other.  Really. 😀

My birthday is in June.  June 22 y’all.  Take note.  It is my last year being in my THIRTIES!  

And yes, listen to Misty.  GET ME SOME BLASTED PICKLES!

Jessica?  Honey?  Don’t be shy.  We don’t bite.  Just Kristen’s dogs…………  HAHAHAHAHA!

Apr 17, Kathy V wrote:

When is your birthday, Rachel?  I’m thinking mine comes before yours. Truth is, if we last until mid-June, you’ll probably win. I can’t imagine not eating sugar while I’m doing my residency in Logan — but you never know..

So tonight the stake primary president planned their next temple trip in a few weeks and we are going to Sub Zero for ice cream afterwards.  Yikes!

Drug those children and they’ll stop crying. Or go ahead and have some chocolate to make your self feel better.

Misty – the funky blue house next to Marrott’s is for sale, too. Wouldn’t you love living next door to the Marrott’s?

Where do you get this Cranford movie?

(Is anyone concerned that we haven’t heard from Jessica yet?)


Apr 17, Natalie wrote:

Oh my. I didn’t know this was going to Jessica, too. And, yes, I think we should be concerned that we haven’t heard from her. 

But since I didn’t officially welcome her in my prior response, WELCOME JESSICA. I am the normal one in the bunch- which translates into “I am the boring one”. I also am excited to have some new people in the ward who may just stick around awhile. (Unless, the rest of you crazies have scared her away. 😉 And, due to the Bishop’s wife’s stressed out brain she failed to mention that I, too, live on THE OTHER SIDE of Center St. But, that being said I have no problem crossing over from the dark side; it is closer to the river and all of your lovely neighbors. 

And, you two on the whole no sugar thing….just go get some pickles to eat while you both spend gobs of money at the Farmer’s Market and eat some chocolate already! 😉 Love you.


Apr 17, Kathy D wrote:

Oh. my. gosh. why do we not get together more?  Who would not love us?  We are like the ones everyone feels better about themselves after they are around us for a few minutes.  HA!  I don’t even like pickles but now I want one, albeit dipped in chocolate 🙂

Apr 17, Kristen wrote:

I read all of these.  Responses? (and why do we need Facebook?  We can say everything in a reply all and not have third cousins of people we knew in high school butting in):

Pickles dipped in chocolate is probably the most HORRIBLE IDEA EVER. ptewy ptewy. But I echo the sentiment behind it. Honest.


We are not funny.  We are quaint and quirky.  There’s a difference.

Kathy V: she did not escape with her sanity intact.  Where did you get THAT impression?

Okay. Back in the saddle (oh, don’t I wish I were?). Please tell me that dust doesn’t count just legacies of literature, photographic history and genealogy do.  Please. Tell.  Now.  And while you’re at it, tell me what month it is.

love to the chicks – 


Apr 27, Jessica wrote:

Oh dear! What have I gotten myself into!! LOL! You gals are so funny! I’m excited. I’ll be sure to stock up on toilet paper for Rachel, we buy two ply, so you won’t have to sandpaper your bottom!

We get the keys on the 15th and I will be there that day doing some painting and waiting for Comcast. We are doing the big moving on Saturday, the 19th.

Our wonderful Missionaries at our current place are going to help load the Uhaul on the 19th but they won’t be able to help us unload. Are there any in our neighborhood that are just dying to lift my sofa and such? I have a few friends and family that are coming to help us too.

It was really nice receiving emails from you!

See you soon!


Apr 27, Rachel wrote:

You bet!!  There are many here ready and willing to help.

I’m SO excited that you are prepared to pamper my bottom.  😀

Girls!!!  Remind us all of the 19th so we can be sure and have many hands to help make light work!!

Apr 28, Misty wrote:

Ahhhh – there she is!


Apr 29, Jessica wrote:

Wow! You are very sweet! Thank you! We have some friends and family coming to help us move, but the more people we can get to help, the faster it will go! I had a major surgery not too long ago, so I won’t be of too much help. I’m not allowed to lift anything over 12 pounds. But I will pack alot of light boxes that I can lift.

I’m so excited to move into a nice neighborhood. You’ll have a blast watching me attempt to ride a skateboard and hulahoop. I’m a kid at heart. I also love Stampin’ UP! I love to make cards and crafts. My husband and I are into photography. Nothing professional yet, more of a hobby.

You will be laughing at me for sure. I have chronic pain/fatigue (not the funny part), but I constantly wear pajama bottoms and skateshoes. I like to be as comfortable as possible!!! LOL!!

I’m sure that we are all going to have a great time!!!

See you soon!


Apr 29, Rachel wrote:

Oh you’ll fit right in!!!!!  You and I can sit in the sun in our jammies and laugh at the neighbors and when we’re done laughing at the neighbors we can put on a show so they can laugh at us!

Apr 29, Kristen wrote:

Jessi – there isn’t a person among us who isn’t wonderful, silly, dealing with underlying challenges, slightly self-apologetic and excited about life.  I can’t say this about everybody in the neighborhood and ward – but these women, most of whom are older than you are, by the way, are not the kind of people who talk about other people behind their backs, who are unkind, unwilling to see the best where they can. And they all are very thoughtful and serious about the gospel.  They return what they borrow. They have a deep foundation of hope and respect for others.  And they all work very hard.  They stand up straight.  They laugh like crazy. They cry when they are moved spiritually, or lovingly.

We don’t get together very often because we’re going six-ways-to-Sunday.  Many of us live demanding lives (that would not be me – the oldest and the empty nester).  But being in the same ward, and neighbors keeps us connected.  And the internet does – our words connect us.  Some of these people are the bravest women I know.  I am the least among them.

You won’t have us dropping by every day or hanging out much.  But we’re always running in the background, like virus software, keeping each other honest.

And summer nights (assuming this isn’t the worst year for mosquitos ever) are nice in the front yard.  You’re lucky to live next door to Tuinei’s.

Apr 29, Kathy V wrote:

Wow. Kristen. That was beautiful. Or I should say, “love”ly, cuz it made me cry.  Of course you are not the least. You are the lead.

Apr 29, Rachel wrote:

Listen to her!  Listen to Kristen going on and on about not being brave and the least among us!  I am so going to come over with a baseball bat and whip your little butt!!  Honestly!!!  Grrrrr!  You are downright impossible!!!!

Apr 29, Kathy V. wrote:

You know. We might as well address this now…

Jessica, Do you play the piano?

Apr 29, Rachel wrote:

LOLOLOLOL!!!  I just fell off my chair.  

Apr 29, Misty wrote:

I just fell off my rocker. Oh. Wait. To hear Kristen talk it should be her falling off the rocker. DOH!!