Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Random Explanation

Practical help and ideas are so important to new Primary choristers. The whole reason I decided to blog, in the first place, was to make my primary chorister "file" available to my daughters-in-law and my daughter who might someday receive this assignment. It occurs to me that I should try to explain what's going on in my head with this blog. It might then make a whole lot more sense to those of you who are currently trying to use it. So here is my attempt to explain what I'm doing here.

Blogging technology makes it so easy for me take something out of my primary music box, show it and explain how to use it. I can easily take the notes in my "file" and make them digital. In my posts, I try hard to show how to find an idea or how to take an idea and adapt it to be what it could be in another circumstance. In my own, humble way I am trying to give my sweet daughters the benefit of my primary chorister experience, sometime in the future when they might need it and I might be unavailable. My children tell me that this blog will be available forever. Hmm. That is kind of a scary thought.

Because I'm currently in the calling I try to use the current outline and themes as the vehicle for my explanations. And I enjoy showing what I'm currently using and doing. But, in actuality, my investment in this blog is really more in trying to show how the material can be adapted and used in different circumstances and with different content. I'm trying to show how to look beyond the current content for the "skeleton" of an idea or activity. If one can develop eyes to do this, almost any idea can be made to work for you.

I may have mentioned that I keep a master list of these idea skeletons, basic activities that can be adapted to almost any subject. I review and usually choose from this list as I prepare my singing times each week. Years ago, the church published a Sharing Time Manual and in the front was a grid with a list of basic sharing time activities on the left and where those activities were illustrated in the manual. This is how I learned how to keep and use such a list.

My posts are largely based on my master list and the post titles will often reflect this. I tend to think in terms of three main categories: methods for how to present and teach songs, ideas for song review, and ideas for teaching the gospel through "choose and review" singing times. You'll find these categories reflected in the labels. I am also trying to methodically show the musical aids I have found or made and how I use them. And then there are random thoughts and the encouragement thoughts because I so want to encourage. People who have never filled this assignment cannot imagine what it takes - it's not for sissies!

So this is where I'm coming from with this blog. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that so many people, other than my family, would be interested in this information. I realize that there are many of you who are new and inexperienced right now and need help and encouragement. I am deeply grateful that this blog might be of use to you as well.

An unexpected benefit to me, in this blogging effort, is that your comments help me know what my daughters really might want and need in the future. Your questions and comments help me refine and clarify my thoughts and so this blog might actually become what I want it to be. It might really end up filling the measure of it's creation. In your comments you are always thanking me, but in reality, these feelings are prompted by the Spirit that is in the common work we do, so I thank you back. I especially thank you for leaving comments. I can feel your faithfulness in your words and this encourages me also.

I hope you will continue to help me by asking questions and giving suggestions and ideas. If something I write about doesn't make sense, I hope someone will point it out. My daughters (and I and everyone else) will benefit greatly from you as well.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Choose and Review - Picture Match

A picture match is a simple way to create a singing time that helps connect the children to the principles taught in the primary songs. The pictures can easily be chosen to correspond in some way with whatever the monthly theme is. Taking July's theme as a sample, I have chosen 16 pictures, eight of the teaching and example of Jesus and eight more of children today who are following his teachings and example. I would choose a review song for each picture match and try to use songs that either fit the pictures or choose pictures that fit the songs I need to review. I hope that makes sense.

I would post these pictures randomly on the board and ask the children to study the pictures to find those that match. Sing the song after each match is made. Depending on the length of the songs, we might not have time to get through the whole list, but having more pictures and songs than I need gives flexibility. Experience has taught me to plan for more than I need and the children can still match the extra pictures at the end of singing time. There are many pictures and songs that would work. Here are some that illustrate the idea:

Baptism = Baptism of Jesus / Child baptism = “Baptism” (CS-100)
Scriptures = Jesus in the temple / Child studying scriptures = “Seek the Lord Early” (CS-108)
Prayer = Jesus praying / Child praying = “I Pray in Faith” (CS-14)
Temples = Temple in Jesus’ time / Temple in our time = “I Love to See the Temple” (CS-95)
Sacrament =The Last Supper / Child taking the Sacrament = “Reverently, Quietly”(CS-26)
Work = Jesus working with father / Child working with father = “Do As I’m Doing” (CS-276)
Love One Another = Jesus washing feet / Girl holding rattle = “Love One Another” (CS-136)
Reverence = Jesus cleansing temple / Reverent boy = “I’m Trying to Be Like Jesus (CS-78)

Increase the variety by listing the title of the review song on one picture and a way to sing it on the matching picture.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Sparkle Tip #4 - Work is Work

#4 - I know I have an attitude problem when I say to myself “I’m not getting a thing out of this calling. I wish I could do something else.”

I used to feel this way more when I was younger - not so much now. Now that I’m grown up I have learned a truth that you probably won’t want to hear. This is a simplified, mother-talking-here version. Callings in our church are not designed with you in mind. Rather, callings in our church exist because there is work that needs to be done. Work, especially prolonged work is usually not what we think of as fun. Work is work. It just is what it is.

Yes, I understand that work can be satisfying, fulfilling and gratifying. But sometimes it is simply work. So, don’t expect to get something out of it every week. I can find the satisfaction, gratification and fulfillment that I need in my personal gospel study and in simply rendering the service. When I begin to feel bored in a calling, I remind myself to view the calling for what it really is, a chance to serve our Heavenly Father and to build the Kingdom.

During one period of my life I relied on our three teenage boys for their help with my household work. None of them liked to do dishes. However, because they were boys and liked to eat, lots and lots of dishes needed to be washed. The design of our kitchen and our hard water did not allow for a dishwasher. I tried to teach the boys that doing dishes was no more work than sweeping floors or cleaning the toilet or washing windows or scrubbing the tub or weeding the garden. Eventually they all understood that work is work whatever you are doing. The point is that you are willing to put the time in.

I had an experience a number of years ago that helped me understand this concept in terms of my own work for Jesus. My husband was newly called as our Branch President and we live about 40 miles away from our church building. We could afford to take but one car to church. My husband had to be there early on Sunday mornings and was not ready to leave until late afternoon and sometimes into the evening. So, we went together and had to stay all day. This situation was difficult in the beginning as we all tried to adjust to it. One day I was visiting with members of the branch as they waited to speak to the Branch President. I was fretting about what I was not getting done at home. I knew the boys were tired and hungry and I was also worrying about taking care of them. Into my mind came a very strong thought. Sunday was Sunday, all day long, no matter where we were. Right then and there I decided to give Sunday to the Lord, all day long. I realized that I could do this at the church building as easily as I could do it at home. Work is work.

This change in my attitude totally changed how I felt and I think it influenced the attitude of our whole family. Consecration is a sacred thing. I no longer felt frustrated that I couldn’t be home doing Sunday things. I could still do Sunday things, different maybe, but necessary work that the Lord needed to have done. I gave up thoughts of a nice family dinner in the early afternoon and made do with simple food, like granola bars. :O) We never managed a comfortable family time in our own living room. Instead, I became a kind of “hostess in the hallway” and simply enjoyed visiting with the people who were there. We tidied the church and emptied the diaper pails and maintained the bulletin board. The boys were available to take the sacrament to shut-ins or as a companion on a visit to someone. There was time for personal study and lots and lots of time to ponder and think. After the last person left the building, we gathered in the office and visited together as my husband picked up his things. These were special teaching times for my husband and our boys, along with the long drive home, talking and visiting together. I am so thankful for that sacred time in our lives. Our family was blessed by it. At the time, I could not have identified anything that the boys and I were really “getting out of it.” But I can now.

I know that it is cliche to say that you get out of a calling that which you put into it. But really, if you are getting nothing of substance out of being the primary chorister, perhaps you need to put something more substantial into it. I have learned that even though a calling may feel like the same old dress I’ve worn for 10 years, it really is the sincere smile on my face that counts. Consecration is high-powered sparkle. I promise.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Music Aid - Category Cube

A category cube is another favorite music aid for singing time. On each side of the cube is a picture representing a category of primary songs, such as Action, Gospel, Jesus, Family, Seasons, etc. A child tosses the cube and then the children are challenged to think of a song to sing from that category. You can ask the child who rolled the cube to think of the song or open it up to the whole group. Younger kids nearly always need help.

You could adapt the idea simply by labeling pictures with the categories and then laminating them. Put the pictures in the pockets of an apron or a sack to draw from. Or, put them face up or face down on the floor and toss a bean bag to choose one. In an emergency you could just write categories on slips of paper and choose them from a basket or can, but the pictures really seem to help the kids. Rolling the cube makes the choosing more random. The same category comes up frequently when rolling the cube, but that's okay because there are so many songs still to choose in each category. If you want to remove that randomness, use either of the adaptations. This way you are sure to have each category chosen.

I have two of these 6-inch cubes with different categories. I keep one handy for when the kids have had enough of my planned activity. The cubes are also useful when I have extra time.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Choose and Review - "One Happy Girl"

In the May 2008 issue of The Friend there is an appealing article on page 20 called “One Happy Girl.” The article describes Gabriella Willson (who is now 11 years old) and how she, along with her family, is following the example of Jesus. The article is divided into paragraphs under these headings: Helping Hand, Baptism Day, Family Home Evening, Start the Day Right, and School and the Gospel. There is an additional introductory paragraph that describes Gabbi’s beautiful smile.

I have printed out the information in the paragraphs, cut them and pasted them onto the back of big yellow Smiley faces. I’ll choose an appropriate song for the subject of each paragraph. I’ll explain to the kids that we’re going to meet someone who, like them, is trying to follow the example of Jesus. They can choose one of the cards and we’ll read the brief paragraph. Then we'll sing the song. I’ll also explore with our children the things they do to follow Jesus in similar ways. And, since there are only six paragraphs describing Gabbi, I have made two of the cards ask the question “What can you do this week to follow the example of the Savior?”

This is an easy plan that I have put together ahead of time. July is usually my busiest month so I’m doing myself a favor to have things planned and prepared.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sparkle Tip #3 - Plan to Improve Yourself

Last week I posted a quote by President James E. Faust: “The Lord can do remarkable miracles with a person of ordinary ability who is humble, faithful, and diligent in serving the Lord and seeks to improve himself. This is because God is the ultimate source of power.”

#3 - When I notice that I am in need of serious sparkle, the only tangible option I have is to make a plan to improve myself. After I have taken the necessary steps to prepare spiritually, on a continuous basis, then I need to assess what my actual weaknesses might be and to find actual strengths to emphasize.

The prophet Moroni, under extremely difficult circumstances, accepted an assignment to complete the abridgement of the record which we now have as the Book of Mormon. Although Moroni accepted the assignment and had total faith in the worth of the project, he felt insecure in his own ability to do it adequately, especially compared to the abilities of others whom he perceived as having done a better job. And he worried what others would think of his work. Moroni discussed his fears with the Lord. He said to the Lord, “I fear...” Then he reports that the Lord spoke back to him and said “my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness; And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:26,27)

This promise extends to all of us who are engaged in the work of the Lord. I can sincerely think about how I can improve as a primary chorister and then decide how to begin. I can think about those skills that would make me more effective. I can try to identify people or resources to help me learn these skills.

My very favorite resource for learning how to be a primary chorister is the old training video “How To Teach a Song to Children”. I hope that it might still be available to you in your meetinghouse library. In my humble opinion, this video is simply the best. Once you know the method for teaching a song, other chorister skills can build on this foundation. I’m sorry that I don’t know if it was ever available in languages other than English. Sadly, this video is no longer available in the materials catalog. An abbreviated version called "Teaching Children to Sing" is available online.

Teaching, No Greater Call
is another favorite resource that I use in my efforts to improve my abilities. There is so much to think about and ponder in this manual. I love to just read it. It might seem that the content is really focused on classroom teachers, but I don't find that to be true. As I consistently ask myself "How does this apply to my calling as chorister?" I always find the information to be of value to me. Sometimes it seems that we choristers cannot control many of the variables that affect us, like discipline and environment, that are suggested in this manual. But I find that I just need to think a bit out of the box and take some proactive measures like enlisting the help of the primary presidency.

Many stakes plan training for music leaders in the scheduled auxiliary training so don’t miss whatever instruction is offered. If it seems that nothing is planned for your calling, ask for it. The choristers in the other units in your stake will benefit from the help as well. Some stakes even have a Stake Music Leader who could work with you or at least offer helpful suggestions.

However I go about it, as I recognize my own areas of weakness and have faith in the Lord to help me, then He will strengthen me as He did Moroni and I will teach in ways that please him.

Friday, June 18, 2010

An Invitation to Sing

Zechariah prophesies: “Sing and rejoice, O Daughter of Zion, for, lo, I come, and will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord.” (Zech 2:10)

Would any of us refuse such an invitation by the Lord to sing? If the act of singing will bring the Lord to dwell with me I want to be the first in line! See me waving my hand for a turn! Oops, wrong thinking. There is no line, no turns. We can all sing together. Lets do it now and bring him quickly.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Choose and Review - Case Studies

The 4th of July falls on the first Sunday and we usually have many of the children missing on holidays. So I'll postpone teaching "Come Follow Me" until the second week. I may try to do something patriotic on the 4th, but I know our children don't know many, if any, of the patriotic songs in the book. Because I've spent so much time lately teaching new songs, I'm just not sure I want to take the time to teach new songs on this week as well. So, I have a plan for a choose and review based on the monthly theme. But, I'm still open to other ideas, like finding a way to use that cute marching band hat I posted about yesterday.

Case studies are situations that are fictional but realistic. They help children think about what they could do if they were ever in a similar situation. I like to use case studies in singing time because they so easily connect to the Primary songs and show how the principles taught in the songs connect to real life. I will write case studies that ask “What does Jesus want me to do?” on footprints and post these footprints leading to a picture of Jesus. This will help strengthen the footprint visuals I’ll use the following week to teach “Come Follow Me.” I’ll choose an appropriate review song to sing with each situation. On two or three of the footprints I’ll simply write “What does this song tell you Jesus wants you to do?” I'll invite a child to choose a footprint, read the case study and offer an idea about what to do. Then we'll sing the song.

I could write something like (1) "Your big sister thought that you wrote in her book and was really angry at you. She found out that you didn’t do it and now feels sorry. What does Jesus want you to do?” (2) "You left the milk sitting out on the cupboard all night and no one wants to drink it now. Mom is not happy about this. What does Jesus want you to do?” (3) "You see a mother pushing a stroller and trying to open the door to the library. What does Jesus want you to do?” The Savior wants us to be happy, kind, loving, forgiving, helpful, obedient, honest, and thankful. Our primary songs teach us about all of these things.

This plan is pretty easy. But, you know easy is good. Especially in the summer.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Marching Band Hat - A Link

The July 1987 issue of The Friend magazine has a cute pattern to make a great marching band hat. Wouldn't it be fun to make one to use for singing time on the 4th of July? I, or one of the children, could wear it to lead patriotic songs. We could even use rhythm instruments and have a marching band. The nursery kids and junior primary would love doing it, but the older kids don't seem to like to march. Or, I could simply set it on the table and let the children choose songs from inside the hat.

I'm not sure that our kids even know any of the patriotic songs. Are any of you planning to do anything patriotic on the 4th? I would welcome suggestions.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Song Presentation - "Come Follow Me"

I like the suggestion for this song in the Sharing Time Outline and will use it with only a minor adjustment. I'm going to prepare footprints with the words to the song as directed, but I will arrange them randomly on the board so that they are pointing in different directions. I'll sing the song and ask the children to listen and help put the words in the proper order, arranging them so that they lead to the picture of Jesus. Then I'll use the echo method to help them sing the song. We can remove the footprint cards one or two at a time as we repeat.

I can reuse these footprints on a review week by posting them randomly on the board, facing in. I can invite a child to choose one and ask the primary to sing the phrase that comes before or after the phrase that was chosen. The footprints can again be arranged in order on the board.

At some point, after the children know the song, I can use the footprints for a third review by randomly numbering the back of the phrase. Be sure to have the pianist mark these numbers on the music. I'll put the footprints face down on the floor and have a child toss a beanbag to choose one. The pianist can play the music to that phrase and the children can guess it and then sing it together. This works because each of the phrases are musically different.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sparkle Tip #2 - Take Your Thoughts Captive

#2 - I know I have an attitude problem when I say quietly, only to myself, in the softest of voices, something that sounds like “I’m not any good at this. The kids don’t like what I do. The teachers can’t wait for it to be over. The presidency just wants a job done.” I am way short of sparkle with this attitude.

This problem also stems from forgetting. When I feel this way I have not remembered that I don’t have to be “good at it.” I need to remember that Christ can take my efforts and magnify them to be what they need to be. I recognize that other people may be disappointed, but I can live with that when I remember to have faith in promises such as this one from President James E. Faust. “The Lord can do remarkable miracles with a person of ordinary ability who is humble, faithful, and diligent in serving the Lord and seeks to improve himself. This is because God is the ultimate source of power.”

There are many such promises given by those who recognize that they ask us to do hard things, things that we may not have a natural ability to do well, things that truly stretch us. I try to collect these kinds of quotes and read them often. I need to work on believing them and no one can help me with that.

So, my practical sparkle tip #2 is to quit telling yourself negative things. Simply arrest those kinds of thoughts and hold them captive within the truth of Jesus Christ. Paul told the Corinthian saints to “[Cast] down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and [bring] into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (Corinthians 10:5) Even though we live in this world and are indoctrinated in worldly thinking, because we belong to Christ, our thoughts have to stand up to Christ’s truth.

Focus on your strengths, on those things that matter the most. Did it ever occur to you that you may not have been called because of your musical ability, but rather because of your testimony of Jesus Christ? Maybe the Lord and His children need the love that shines through your eyes more than cute visual aids. It might be that your faithfulness is of more value to the presidency than the quality of your voice or your creativity. Even if you are inexperienced, you can love the Lord and the children in primary. You can share your faith and testimony. The truth of Jesus Christ declares that these are the things that matter the most.

President Faust did mention that a person of ordinary ability also seeks to improve himself. That will be sparkle tip #3.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Role of Music in Testimony

In an article entitled “Praise to the Man” in the August 1983 issue of the Ensign magazine, President Gordon B. Hinckley described how music played a role in his gaining a testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He states:

“Many years ago when at the age of twelve I was ordained a deacon, my father, who was president of our stake, took me to my first stake priesthood meeting. . . .Together these men lifted their strong voices, some with the accents of the European lands from which they had come as converts, all singing these words with a great spirit of conviction and testimony: “Praise to the man who communed with Jehovah! Jesus anointed that Prophet and Seer. Blessed to open the last dispensation, Kings shall extol him, and nations revere.” (“Praise to the Man,” Hymns, no. 27) They were singing of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and as they did so there came into my heart a great surge of love for and belief in the mighty Prophet of this dispensation. In my childhood I had been taught much of him in meetings and classes in our ward as well as in our home; but my experience in that stake priesthood meeting was different. I knew then, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet of God.”

I have experienced the same thing with a number of hymns and Primary songs. This great surge of love and belief that President Hinckley described has swelled my heart also. I know that the Spirit is close by when we sing, to testify of the truth of spiritual things. It is such a responsibility to foster the situation that can bring this about. It is such a responsibility to learn how to balance fun and sacred time, to be careful that our activities don’t divert attention away from what might be a sacred experience. I don’t have to wonder that President Hinckley would not have had the same experience if they had been playing a noisy game with the song.

I’m not against games in singing time, really I'm not. In fact, I’m always on the lookout for a good review game. Primary ought to be fun and is about the only place at church that you can play a game. But the fact remains that the Spirit is very sensitive. I think it doesn’t hurt for us to be reminded that our responsibility might include, but certainly extends beyond finding a great game.

The Outline for Sharing Time strengthens the Primary Handbook when it restates: “Music in Primary should establish a reverent atmosphere, teach the gospel, and help children feel the influence of the Holy Ghost and the joy that comes through singing.” If you give this more than a casual glance, the charge is weighty.

I want our Primary children to have fun in singing time, but more than that, I want to create an atmosphere where the Spirit will be there to testify. I need to carve out time and space for the sacred - for the Spirit. It seems that it is not always an easy thing to balance. How do you all handle this?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Music Aid - Flower Spinner

Everyday items can sometimes be put to good use in Primary music. This is a lawn decoration that I found in Hobby Lobby that works very well as a spinner to choose songs. This is a good time of year to look for something similar. I'll assign a review song to each color and have a child spin it. The color that points to the black band on the stem will tell us which song to sing.

I spent several minutes checking all the pinwheels in the rack to find one that was well balanced and random. This is important since you don't want to be stuck singing the same song again and again if the same color keeps coming up. Still, even with a well balanced spinner, the odds are high that we'll spin the same color at least a couple of times. I can bring the surprise sack and sing the same song using a different musical aid, such as the slinky or the bell or the baton with a fancy on it. Or, I can assign additional review songs to the color and sing a different song. If we spin the same color three times I could ask the child to choose a favorite song.

If I am reviewing a song that I have recently taught, I could also use the spinner to choose different ways to sing the song such as boys/girls sing, teachers only, sing/hum, stand to sing, etc.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Sparkle Tip #1 - Personal Spiritual Preparation

My sparkle problems are usually based in my attitudes or emotional state and there are three or four attitudes that seem to recur for me from time to time.

#1 - I know I have a attitude problem when I loudly ask myself “Why am I doing this!”

One of the biggest mistakes I have made over and over again is to forget that everything I do in my life is done in the context of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Right now I prepare and teach music to children, but remembering the context of the gospel affects my motivation, desire, and attitude toward this work I do. The pressure to be ready with a singing time each week is pretty real. I understand the urgent need to find an idea and gather the paper and scissors. But overlooking the more fundamental step of personal spiritual preparation is like skipping the primer coat in a painting project. The paint might be a pretty color, but it won’t lay right or look right without that underlying primer.

Personal spiritual preparation, such as praying and pondering, studying the scriptures, and living gospel principles is important because this process teaches us the context of who we are and why we do what we do. I do what I do because I’m in a covenant with Jesus Christ to take upon me His name and to love Him and to serve Him. When I remember this context, my actual ability or competence or skill is less important than my capability. Because of my covenants, I am capable. It is as simple as that. Really.

The term ability denotes actual skill. The term capable has other implications. To be capable means to possess attributes or traits or features that permit accomplishment. Whatever my own skill or performance might actually be, my capacity is infinite through the ability of Jesus Christ. I can tell you this and you can hear it, but until you live the process of personal spirituality, this knowledge will not make any difference to you. When we actually live the process of prayer, when we actually study and ponder the scriptures, and as we actually live gospel principles, we have the Spirit with us. He will teach us the truths of the gospel all the way down to our cells! This is important because an intellectual knowledge of the gospel will not take us through the heat of the day. When things get tough, I need to know why I am doing this, and it needs to be real, emotional understanding. The only way that understanding comes is through personal spiritual preparation.

It might be true that praying and reading scriptures may not have much to do with the mechanics of teaching a song to children, but I’m here to testify that these have everything to do with my ability to do that in the context of the Church of Jesus Christ. And, they have everything to do with my ability to keep teaching through the heat of the day when the gnats swarm and sweat drips into my eyes.

I have a testimony of Jesus Christ and a desire to serve Him. This much makes me capable of doing so. This testimony and desire come from personal spiritual preparation. When I am tired, unhappy , frustrated and uninspired I know that I need to redouble my efforts to study the scriptures, to ponder and pray, and to live more fully the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then, with such a primer coat, the paint will lay better and look better. Sure-fire sparkle!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"Eensy, Weensy, Spider" Puppet

This is my “Eensy Weensy Spider” puppet. I use this most often when I sing with the nursery and the kids are fascinated by it. They don’t usually want to use the puppet at first, but after they become familiar with it, everyone wants a turn. Be prepared for them to want to pull the eyes off - they are nursery kids after all.

I first made a loose, flat pompom of black yarn. Then I cut a length of black elastic to fit over my hand and sewed it together in a circle. I used a hot glue gun to glue the elastic securely to the bottom of the puppet and glued a circle of black felt over the seam. This also helps to secure the elastic to the yarn and creates a bit of a finish on the bottom. Then I simply glued a large black pompom on the top of the flat pompom and glued wiggly eyes on. Slip the elastic on your hand and the spider is ready to “crawl up the water-spout.”

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sparkle Please

I had a nice conversation the other day with a close friend of mine about my recent post "Just Shabby - No Chic." She told me that she enjoyed it very much, "But I wish you would have been more specific about how to bring back the sparkle." Perhaps I am guilty of loudly defining a problem and a little weak on offering a solution. Don't you just hate people who do that?

But my only defense for being hesitant is that I really don't feel qualified to offer a solution. What works for me may not work for you. Attitudes are such a personal thing, just as style is. I love shabby chic, but you all may be "Traditional Home" kind of folks. I do recognize, however, that we all come from the same place when we want to make a beautiful offering. This is a context that we all share, a testimony of Jesus Christ and a desire to serve him. I certainly don't think that my experiences and attitudes are representative of all primary choristers! But, I have been around long enough to know that I share some basic fears and perhaps some attitude problems with more than a few other people. These also become part of the context. I do sincerely and humbly want to help someone else if I can. So, in spite of the risk of exposing more of myself and my thoughts to the world, I'm taking the advice of my friend. I will try to expand my thoughts in that post and tell you more specifically what has worked for me when I find myself at the bottom of one of these attitude cycles.

I'll try to post these thoughts on Mondays for the next few weeks to separate them from the regular "idea" posts. Sometimes we just need to be reminded of things we already know, but you should feel free to skip over my advice, if you wish. Monday posts will give you that opportunity. If you just want to come by for a peek into my ideas, these are usually posted on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

I think what draws me to shabby chic as a decorating scheme, in the first place, is the idea that there is beauty and function in old things. Not only elegant, well-preserved antiques, but items with missing parts and peeling paint as well. I love the idea of repurpose. When you put things together in a certain context, the context makes them beautiful again. Just so with each of us. I may or may not be shabby, but I can still be chic! It is the context that counts. Join me for the next few Mondays for some "sparkle" ideas.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

"Smiles" Puppet

This is my “smiles” puppet. He has been in my box for many, many years and is a little worse for all the wear. He used to be on a stick, but it was broken off years ago. I’ve been going to redo him for a long time, but he still works so I haven’t gotten around to it. I originally made him to go with the “Smiles”song (CS-267), and still use him that way to sing with the Jr. kids and in the nursery. I have to take some care with the nursery kids as they always seem to want to pull the mouth off.

You can see that he is made with felt, glued onto a cardboard foundation. The foundation is simply two pieces of poster board, cut into a head shape. The mouth is made separately so that it can twist up for a smile and down for a frown. I cut a mouth shape out of poster board and put a brad through at the center. Then, using plain white glue, I glued two pieces of red felt on the mouth shape, covering the brad on the front of the mouth and allowing the brad to poke through the felt on the back. After the glue was dry I trimmed the felt to the shape of the mouth. Use enough glue so that it covers the felt completely. The dried glue will strengthen both the felt and the cardboard. Then I glued the rest of the face and the hair to the front of one of the cardboard head shapes. Again, spread the glue so that it covers the felt in an even layer. After the face was dry, I poked the mouth through at the proper spot and spread the brad loosely at the back so that the mouth would twist. Then I glued the second head shape on for a backing, carefully leaving a space around the brad so that it could move freely between the two pieces. I also originally put in a popsicle stick to hold the puppet, but would now use a tongue depressor at least, or even a paint stirring stick which would be even more sturdy. Just don’t put it too near the mouth so that it doesn’t interfere with the movement of the mouth.

The kids love to use this puppet and he really isn’t too hard to make. If my directions don’t make sense, please let me know and I’ll try to update the post to be more clear.

I’ve also used this puppet with questions or statements in singing time with both Jr. and Sr. Primary. For example, if we were singing about reverence on a week with a choose and review, I would write on a slip of paper “Jeremy was in such a hurry to be the first in his classroom that he ran out the door and down the hallway. Is this being reverent?” I would invite the children to choose the scenarios one at a time, answer the question and turn the mouth. Then sing an appropriate song about reverence. The activity works with all kinds of themes.
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