Monthly Archives: December 2011

Stop and Smell the Gingerbread

I built a gingerbread house with my children last week.

The first step was to cement the house walls to the base and hold securely to give the icing time to solidify.  Next, cement the roof pieces to the walls with some more icing.  This step was very defining.  We added the 2 roof pieces and held them together for a few minutes and when we thought we were set we let go!


It was supposed to be the big unveiling of the lovely house we just built but instead it was the collapsing of the house we clearly hadn’t built well at all.  The whole thing collapsed right before our eyes.  My 5-year-old gasped in horror.  My 2-year-old shrieked.  I just sat there dumbfounded and wondered what happened.  I followed the instructions step by step, putting the pieces together in the correct order.

It didn’t take me long to realize I had been working quickly without enough patience.   I hate to admit it, but I was trying to sqeeze this project in to appease my children’s constant pleas when I actually had a number of things on my own agenda that I wanted to do.  And admittedly, I was not being patient, thinking I could build the base of the house with less time and effort.  Clearly, it didn’t work.

How often do we try to hurry things along to the detriment of the overall outcome?  I find myself doing this all the time.  Stop and breathe, Michelle.  Unplug.  Relax.  Live in the now.  Look at your children.  Enjoy this moment, you will never get it back.

I can certainly apply this to my personal life.  It can also apply to Primary.

I like to plan, do you?  I like to have things tidy and organized and carefully thought through.  Add children to the mix, and tidy, organized and carefully planned don’t always work.  What happens when I am teaching a lesson and a child asks a pertinent yet unexpected question?  Do I take the time to stop?  Answer the question thoughtfully?  Look at the children, feel the Spirit?  Enjoy the moment?  Or do I find my spot in my lesson plan and continue onward telling myself that I need to get through this material to feel fulfilled?

Funny how building a gingerbread house can make you stop and think.  What has made you stop and think this week?  We’d love to hear your stories!


You’ll be happy to know we finally got it right!


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Filed under Life Lessons

Overheard in Primary – Jesus can do that?

“And what else did Jesus do while he was alive?” asked the sister teaching Sharing Time.

“Teach people,” said the girl with the flower in her long hair.

“Right. What else?”

“I know. He healed the sick,” said the boy with his scriptures in his lap.

“Yes. What else?”

“He raised people from the dead,” said a nine-year-old  boy in a three-piece suit.

The boy next to the teacher stopped doodling and looked up with wide eyes.

“Jesus can do that? Raise people from the dead?”

“Of course he can.”

“Wow,” he said, and put down his pen and listened.

I forget what it feels like to learn about Jesus for the first time. What a personal privilege to see children’s faces light up as they get acquainted with Him and simply believe.


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Filed under Overheard in Primary

Children’s Choir, 60 strong

The idea to form a Stake Children’s choir was born and the result was beautiful!  Like waiting for the birth of a new little one there are details to take care of, issues to resolve, and bumps along the way, but in the end, the result was a beautiful coming together of heavenly voices singing with power and spirit.  It was a memorable day!

“We are as the army of Helaman, we have been taught in our youth.  And we will be the Lord’s missionaries to bring the world His truth!”  Their voices were like a beacon on a foggy night directing us to the clear and simple truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It was obvious by the smiles on their faces that the children felt the joy of it all, and the Primary leaders, well,  we were grinning from ear to ear (when we weren’t holding back tears from the beautiful spirit those children shared).

We began early with the planning stages about 9 months before we wanted to perform.  First we wrote up all the details like what age groups would be invited to join the choir, the date we would be performing, and the songs we would choose from in the final performance (choosing songs they would already be learning for their fall Primary program) and presented this information to all the Primary presidencies at our January leadership meeting.  We also included a music workshop during this training meeting to teach the Primary leaders the new song with American Sign Language (ASL) signs to help them hit the road running.  Since we were including the new song in our plans for the choir performance we wanted to be a resource in making it possible to teach the children the song in the individual wards; and let’s admit it, we love using ASL signs to teach music!

Once this part of the planning was all set we got to sit back and relax a little bit and wait.  The idea was that the children throughout the whole stake would be learning the songs in their regular ward singing time and there would be no unecessary rehearsals; instead we would just come together the morning of the stake conference and unite our voices in praise!

About 2 months before the performance date we sent out a poll to the ward Primary presidencies asking them how well they knew the songs (how many verses etc.) we had chosen.  We also asked the individual wards to find out how many children from their ward would be participating as well as which adult from their ward would be sitting with the children on the stand throughout the meeting (we suggested that the music leaders sit with the kids when possible and if not then a member of the presidency).  This information was very helpful to us in determining what our final musical numbers would be and how many seats we would fill on the stand.  It turned out that the majority of the children had learned the first verses of these five songs really well and less so on subsequent verses.  In thinking about this we decided that we wanted the children to feel comfortable on the stand and not worry about whether they knew all the verses to any particular song.  Therefore, we put together a medley of the first verses of a few songs and connected each with a simple interlude played on the piano.  It turned out beautifully and the children were comfortable with these verses. They knew which song came next because they simply listened to the piano playing the introduction.

There was an inclination to make things more complex than necessary.  A few times we found ourselves getting carried away with our good intentions and had to pull back on the reigns.  We considered making treats for the kids or a card to give them at the end of the performance, as well as creating a page or packet of diversions to keep them occupied on the stand during the meeting.  In the end we decided that the experience of being part of a great culminating achievement would be all the reward they needed.  The simplicity of it allowed the children and leaders to enjoy the feeling of the spirit that was present without worrying about other less important details.

“But as I search the scriptures I can hear His words of peace, And if I listen with my heart I hear the Savior’s voice.”



Filed under Music

Bullying in Primary

Several years ago my son started seeking me out immediately after church ended.  I would barely dismiss my Primary class when he would come bursting in through the door of my class sometimes with other children on his heels.  After several weeks he told me why.

My son, who had a difficult time sitting still and tended to talk about things that interested him regardless of whether anyone else was interested or not, frequently annoyed another boy in his class.  And whenever my son annoyed this boy, he would hold up a finger.  He added another finger each time he felt it was warranted.  The number of fingers he held up equaled the number of times he was going to hit my son after church.  And worse yet, he recruited two other boys to hold my son’s arms while he hit him!

It’s hard to believe isn’t it?

I talked to the boys’ parents and the threats and bullying ended.  It’s disheartening for bullying and unkindness to happen at church — a place that we want to be welcoming and safe for all.  But unfortunately sometimes it does.  And needless to say my son hated to go to church.

Bullying, and if applicable, retaliation, needs to be addressed immediately and firmly.  It is completely inappropriate in any setting!  The most effective way to stop bullying is to tell the bully their behavior is wrong and will not be tolerated.  Tell the child’s parents about the incident (hopefully they will reinforce an anti-bullying message) and watch vigilantly to make sure the behavior does not continue.

Teachers and leaders need to be especially vigilant in looking out for children with special needs.  Especially watch out for children with social skills deficits because often those children do not read social cues and can inadvertently annoy or offend other children.  Often other children wait for a time to bully others when they are less likely to be caught.

Fortunately, bullying in Primary is uncommon because children are actively being taught to follow the example of Jesus.

Useful Websites:

From the Friend magazine: “Stop Bullying Now” and “Scriptures and Bullies
StopBullyingNow  Please check out What Doesn’t work, What Does Work, A Summary of Best Practices
Data from the Bullying Prevention Program at the James H. Bean School



Filed under Bullying, Discipline, Special Needs