Monday, January 27, 2014

Some Personal Thoughts...

1905 photograph taken by Gertrude Käsebier of Beatrice Baxter Ruyl

Well, I'm getting ready for my fifth child to come into the world. I, like always, am overwhelmed by the love I feel as I ponder why God trusts me as a steward over these precious and beautiful little souls.

I'm grateful for a little... and I do mean little... experience under the belt now. I don't feel like I even know a half of a half of a half about being a good parent, but I definitely have had experiences in the 9 years of being a mother where the spirit has taught me.

My mom, a full fledged Greek American, called me up the other day and asked if I'd heard what the Pope said about breastfeeding. HERE is what he said. What a good man. He truly is a man of God.

You might be gearing up in your head.... OK, here's another one of those crazy breastfeeding people who always has to shove their boob and opinion in people's faces. Please, please, please.... let me state that is NOT my intention! I was just reflecting on the miracle of life and what a privilege it is to be a mother and wanted to share a couple of thoughts.

The reason I wanted to share is because:
1. One day my children will read this.
2. When I had my first child, I would have loved to know more than I did.

I was curious if the church had anything to say about breastfeeding... here's what I found! 

An Ensign Q&A from Sept. 1981, found HERE, says,
"Q. What are the pros and cons of breast feeding and bottle feeding?      
A. Breast feeding really is better than bottle feeding, but it is important to remember that some women have difficulty breast feeding and such women should not feel inferior as mothers.
Breast milk and feeding has many advantages:
1. Breast milk is an ideally balanced food for baby, and formulas are only an attempt to approximate breast milk.
2. Breast milk is clean. There are no sterilization or storage problems.
3. Breast milk has disease preventing qualities.
4. Iron in breast milk is more easily absorbed and beneficial to the infant.
5. Upset stomach, intestinal difficulties, and allergies are less frequent in breast-fed babies.
6. Breast feeding helps the uterus of the mother to return to its normal state more rapidly.
7. Breast feeding is much more economical and usually more convenient.
8. A bond is formed between mother and child during nursing.
9. Breast feeding has other emotional benefits as well. Mothers who feed their infants often report, “I
feel more like I’m giving my baby what he needs.” “It helps me feel fulfilled as a woman.” “It forces me to relax and take time with my baby. I love breast feeding and I need the rest.” “It makes me feel important because I know the baby needs me.” “It helps me appreciate more the sacrifices my mother made for me.” “I feel closer to my Father in Heaven and the role I play in creation.”
A pediatrician or other physician should be consulted regarding the appropriate formula for the baby who is not breast fed."
      Another source, The Latter Day Saint Woman Manuel HERE says,
"Our Heavenly Father made the mother’s body so it could produce milk. This milk is made especially for human babies to drink. It is better for babies than milk from animals. The first fluid that comes from the mother’s breasts after a new baby is born is also important. It contains substances that help protect the baby from diseases for the first few months.... A mother should breast-feed her baby if she can."
I don't usually link to sites that have advertising, however, I really loved the scriptural examples and art used HERE (Women in the Scriptures by Heather Farrell)on mothers in the scriptures who nursed. Did you know that Rebekah had a wet nurse?
HERE is a blog post with a bunch of  LDS artwork of women breastfeeding... I thought the one at Temple Square was really interesting! I never knew there was a woman breastfeeding on the Seagull Monument!
I know we all have different perspectives. I'm not telling anyone what to do.
I'm just speaking to that mother with a newborn in her arms who feels overwhelmed, confused, and not sure. I too have been there. I understand what you are going through.
I felt prompted to share my story.
My sweet Christina.
We lived in DC and it was winter and I'd never been so cold in my life! We didn't have a car and all of a sudden I started getting sick. I paid attention in S.H.A.R.E but was a little surprised still, when I got the news. I was in love with her the moment I knew I was pregnant. I felt this extreme blessing and humility. My parents had always been open with me about their struggle with infertility and I developed early on a reverence for the sacredness of motherhood.
I had just graduated and my husband was finishing up his last semester. I remember calling up for health insurance, happy as a lark, and the brutal reality setting in... pregnancy is a beautiful experience, but a pre-existing condition. The joys of worry began. How would we ever pay? What if something went wrong?
Fortunately, we qualified for government help.
And I'm not ashamed to say thank you to all the gracious tax payers who helped us out during that time in our lives!
Christina was born in the fall after we moved back to friendlier weather conditions in the good ol' silver state. The trees were alive, bursting it seemed with the color that our sweet daughter would fill the world with.
When she was born, I was overcome with love but also an insanely intense worry. What had I done!!
I received a little help with nursing at the hospital, but it didn't seem to go that smooth.
In fact, I had developed a small hole that (I know graphic... sorry) had started turning green and oozing. I was told that she needed formula. Over and over. I gave her a little, but I was completely uneducated. My whole life breastfeeding experience was my mom telling me that Greeks breastfed. My Yaya had 10 children. 2 died, but the other 8 she breastfed 2 years each. My mother breastfed me 2 years. And that was it.
I was pretty panicked that I wouldn't be able to feed her, but fortunately I met with a lactation consultant who told me that I just needed to relax.
So I tried my best to relax and what do you know, within a few weeks we were doing good! Christina breastfed for 2 years.
I never pumped any milk or gave her expressed bottles.
I guess I just wanted some leverage when she's a teenager, getting ready for a date... "Your curfew is 9PM and I don't want any lip. I breastfed you 2 years... no one else ever fed you. I was up every moment at the night, there for you. You owe me. 9PM."
I'm hoping this tactic might work?
My sweet Maria.
Oh man. I was ready. I was an EXPERT. We would have no trouble this time around.
And we couldn't latch right.
Maria lost quite a bit of weight until a friend suggested a shield.
I tried that little sucker, and by golly! It worked!! We used it for about 5 weeks and then I was able to get her to feed without it, just trying each time. We breastfed for 2 years, again no expressing bottles or formula.
I also discovered Mastitis. Wow. Really, there are no words.
For me personally, we are in the most blessed circumstances for me to stay home. I know that not everyone is in the same situation.
The way the spirit guided me personally, was that I needed to be the one to feed my child. It was a privilege, and never a sacrifice, to be the one to comfort and provide for my baby... at 1AM, 3AM, 3:20AM, 6AM... etc.
So when Maria starts dating... same story. She owes me.
My perfect Joe.
My first little boy. I had been on Pitocin and dilated to a 9 before I finally got an epidural... the last 10 minutes to push. But hey, I'll take it. At that point I felt a deeper understanding of the Atonement. This pain, this terrible pain that I wasn't prepared for... and yet, God gave me comfort. And that was just a foreshadowing.
I don't know how, but as I look back, I knew. I have videos of me at the hospital just going on and on about how perfect he was. I was overwhelmed and I remember having a blessing that scared me, but I chose to kind of just block out my feelings... I had the direct impression that death would be near.
He was completely healthy.
But, of course, struggled breastfeeding.
We tried the shield, and I truly believe that if I didn't have so many medical professionals trying to shove the bottle down his throat, that our experience would have been more peaceful. But I know that God's plan is perfect and I know that I'll have that much more joy when I do breastfeed him in the resurrection.
He was about 1 oz. under his birth weight when my pediatrician told me that he was "not thriving". That I "didn't have enough milk". That I had to "supplement or he would starve".
I panicked. Completely.
Hormones. Stress. We were 1 month from moving into a new house.
I had no clue how formula worked. Some good friends were very supportive and helped me.
I still insisted on being the only one to feed him.
I tried breastfeeding. I tried pumping. I tried fenugreek.
I pumped every 2 hours for 1 1/2 months. Day and Night.
We were out at a restaurant and everyone was happy. Except for me. I felt so blessed... however, I was feeding my Joe a bottle and it didn't feel right.
I wish I had never listened to my pediatrician. I wish I had never listened to the nurses in the hospital.
One day... I hope you don't mind me sharing this personal day. But one day, it was nap time and Joe was crying. I was pumping, but I didn't want him to cry, so I rocked him on my knee while I pumped. I did that quite a bit. I was trying to just do my best. I was trying to do everything possible that I could for him. I was able to feed him some expressed milk in a bottle. I kissed him and set him down for nap.
And he didn't wake up.
One time, we had gone to a park and it was summer time. A little rain storm kicked up out of nowhere.
I'm so happy that in his short life he got to feel rain on his cheek.
To all my friends that have loved and lost, we will hug each other. We will embrace each other. And we will have one kick a** mother's group in the resurrection. Assuming I make it, because I do use a** on occasion when I'm feeling hormonal.
My sweet Elijah.
Jittery. Nervous. Peaceful. Trusting.
God blessed me. I doubted myself. Maybe I was just a horrible mother.
But every time I thought this, I heard my angel baby's voice.
"No mommy, God just needed me."
So my 2nd born son came. I couldn't eat.
I was so happy. I was so worried.
We were about ready to go home when there was a terrible event. At the Fallon Air Races, a plane had lost control and crashed into crowd. There were a lot of serious injuries.
Not a good sign.
All the doctors and nurses left us for hours. Finally, we were able to go home late at night.
We drove home, a 25 minute drive.
The pitch black sky taunted me.
The tiny lights of homes glimmered hope.
At the hospital Elijah was having trouble latching.
A nurse squeezed me so hard I thought labor was easier.
Another nurse said, "You shouldn't use a shield. That's horrible."
But I did, and he nursed.
I had a new pediatrician this time around.
She was my angel. She knew how scared I was.
And let me just state. I wasn't scared of death.
I know God lives. I know He loves me.
I was just scared that I might have to live without.
Living without is sad.
But you know what she told me... he's gaining weight, who cares if there is a piece of plastic helping him latch? I tried weaning him off the shield, but it didn't happen right away.
We breastfed 8 months with that thing! One day, he grabbed it and threw it and then started breastfeeding "normal" quote on quote.
So in my own personal experience, shields have been life savers. They aren't something horrendous.
Elijah continued to breastfeed until 2. Again, no expressed milk or formula.
However, I probably won't use that against him. I think it'd be weird for a 16 year old boy.
Instead I'll use the time I had to change his diapers after he drank a whole carton of muscle/protein milk at papa's... thank you grandpa... Scarred. For. LIFE.
My Sweet Ella.
3 more weeks and she'll be here.
I'm pretty prepared that breastfeeding will not be easy.
But I know that for me personally it's worth it.
Hebrews 10: 35-36 "Cast not away therefore your confidence, which hath great recompense of reward. For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise."
My thoughts today are this, if you don't feel confident, it's OK. God will help. He will help you find the confidence and the patience.
Whether it's breastfeeding or bottle feeding, the spirit will guide you personally.
If you need someone in your corner cheering for you and saying you can do, I'm shouting out

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

March 2014 LDS Primary Sharing Time Helps and Ideas

Christ and Child by Carl Bloch 1873
Monthly Theme: Jesus Christ is Our Savior.
Monthly Scripture: "We have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world." 1 John 4:14

Week 1 I can gain a testimony of Jesus Christ.

* "In conferences we can receive the word of the Lord meant just for us.... On a computer, phone, or other electronic device, we can read, listen to, watch, and share the teachings of the prophets. Anytime, anywhere, we can enlarge our knowledge, strengthen our faith and testimony..." Elder Robert D. Hales Oct. 2013 General Conference "General Conference: Strengthening Faith and Testimony"
     This quote was very recent. If we want to strengthen our faith and testimony of Jesus Christ, we should study the words of General Conference!! Divide into groups and give them stories to read from the talks in conference. You can give them highlighted portions of the talk. How do these words help us to believe in Jesus?
Some great stories include:
       Brother Moses Mahlangu HERE (He wasn't able to attend church because of the laws of the country, but still listened by the windows outside. How did he strengthen his testimony in Jesus?)

       Elder Dube HERE (He had to pull weeds with his mother and she told him to always look forward to what needs to be done. He also made a comparison with the Saints when they left Nauvoo. What does faith have to do with testimony of Jesus?)
       Elder Neilson HERE (A little boy thinks the prophet has called on the phone! What has the prophet called us to do in life? How can we develop our testimony with missionary work?)
      Thumb through the talks and pray for the spirit to guide you!

* HERE is a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful!!! article from by Mindy Raye Friedman. I especially like her section where she talks about a large fire comes from small kindling (she has a great picture too). Of course, you'd have to preface your lesson that WE NEVER PLAY WITH MATCHES!!!!!! As a visual though, you can bring in some small sticks and let the children add them to a pile (maybe ask some scouts about a good wood formation to start a fire!) As they add a stick they have to say something they can do to gain a testimony of Jesus. They can also add sticks by reading scriptures about testimony or singing a song as a primary about testimony. We want a bright burning testimony always in our hearts of The Savior, and it's the little things we do in life that will add to the flame!
     And just for you teachers, a good reminder with this fire theme, ""Keep the fire of your testimony of the restored gospel and your witness of our redeemer burning so brightly that our children can warm their hands by the fire or your faith." Boyd K. Packer (Ensign, May 2003, pp. 84)

* "How does one gain what we call a testimony? The first step in gaining any kind of knowledge is to really desire to know. In the case of spiritual knowledge, the next step is to ask God in sincere prayer...
      As we desire and seek, we should remember that acquiring a testimony is not a passive thing but a process in which we are expected to do something...
      Another way to seek a testimony seems astonishing when compared with the methods of obtaining other knowledge. We gain or strengthen a testimony by bearing it...
      A personal testimony is fundamental to our faith. Consequently, the things we must do to acquire, strengthen, and retain a testimony are vital to our spiritual life. In addition to those already stated, we need to partake of the sacrament each week (see D&C 59:9) to qualify for the precious promise that we will “always have his Spirit to be with [us]” D&C 20:77. Of course, that Spirit is the source of our testimonies."  Elder Dallin H. Oaks Testimony May 2008 Ensign
      This is a good visual to draw on the board. At the bottom we write a question mark, then we draw steps to Testimony of Jesus at the top. You'll need 5 steps. Use scripture stories or personal stories and ask the children to share any thoughts as you go over each step he mentioned: desire to know, pray, do something, bear testimony, partake of the sacrament each week.

Week 2 Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ I can repent and be forgiven of my sins.

* Everyone LOVES Matt and Mandy!! HERE is a great illustration of Mom doing wash. Read it to the children and show them the pictures. In the third box, you're going to have to briefly "expound" on when mom says, "When we're baptized our sins are washed away." This is absolutely true when a person is baptized after age 8. Before age 8, children DO NOT have sins that are washed away by baptism. After 8, because of baptism, their sins can be washed away! Click HERE for more information.
     With that out of the way, continue on to the beautiful analogy of the Atonement being the only way possible to live life and do our wash!!
     You could make a washing machine on a piece of paper with a cut out for children to insert a dirty shirt. Make a small whirring noise and shake the paper a little. Do you feel goofy doing this? Get over it, be a fun person! Smile! Hold a clean shirt up behind the washing machine and let the child reach in and get the clean paper shirt. Each time you do it repeat the weekly theme, "Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ I can repent and be forgiven of my sins!"
     Do this about 10 times and have the children answer questions about The Atonement and repentance. Some questions could include:
     Where did The Atonement take place? (The prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, and the final Sacrifice on the cross... have pictures!)
     Why do you think Heavenly Father and Jesus went through with The Atonement?
     What do we need to do to repent?
     Will we be forgiven if we truly repent?

* Ben Davis was a brave little boy! His story, HERE, was featured in The Friend. You could share this with the children. Have a white paper snowman and let a couple children tear it a few times, maybe into 8 pieces. We ALL make mistakes!!The Atonement makes repentance possible. When we repent, we are forgiven.
The little boy couldn't give back the snowman, but he did what he could to make it right again. Have a small/mini candy bar (IF THE SPIRIT PROMPTS YOU THAT IT IS OK, and please be aware of allergies!!!! I don't believe in sugaring up kids, it just goes with his story. We're using the sense of taste to reinforce the teaching.) for each of the children. Invite them to come up and choose a piece of the torn snowman to give to you and answer a question about The Atonement or repentance. Tell them not to eat the candy bar until after a special song. After the 8 children have gotten a candy bar, sing Repentance (CS pg.98). Tell the children you're watching for good singing and reverent manners... then pass out the rest of the candy bars so every child can have one. Now they can eat and reverently throw out wrappers.
     When everyone is back in their chairs, bear testimony of The Atonement, repentance, and forgiveness.

* This is a little visual I made taking examples from the Book of Mormon. Bad choices were made, but because of The Atonement and their willingness to repent, they were able to then make good choices and be forgiven. Have the children tell you what these choices were.
    After looking in depth at these examples, going over the stories with the children, what does The Atonement mean for me? We all make mistakes. Is it better to stay away from sin so we don't make serious mistakes? Can anyone think of examples from the scriptures of people who didn't understand the Atonement and repent.... what happened to them?

Week 3 Jesus Christ was resurrected, and I will be too!

* HERE is a reader's theater I wrote for OLDER children.

* HERE is the Bible Video for Jesus is Resurrected.

* HERE is the scripture story of Jesus Resurrected. It has 12 parts/pictures. If you feel like the children in your primary do NOT know the story or need it reviewed, then you can cut up the 12 parts and put them in numbered envelopes under chairs. Have the children come up front and bring their part when their number is called.

* HERE is a visual children can make of the different witnesses of Christ when He was resurrected.

* This idea is from Sister Elizabeth Ricks (April 2007 Friend) "Display three shoe boxes, and ask the children to raise their hands if they like to try on new shoes. Explain that you want them to imagine trying on some other people’s shoes, but more important you want them to imagine what it would be like to actually be that person. One by one, take out a pair of shoes from each box. (You can also display pictures or drawings of shoes.) Show a pair of boots to represent the soldiers who guarded Jesus’s tomb. Use detail to tell the story in such a way that the children can imagine being there when Jesus Christ was laid in the tomb. Next, use a pair of sandals to tell the story of Mary Magdalene. Ask the children how it might have felt to have been at the garden tomb when the resurrected Savior appeared. Last, show a pair of shoes that children in your area commonly wear. Ask how it feels to be a member of the Church and to have the knowledge that you will be resurrected because of the Atonement and Resurrection of Jesus Christ."
       Sing “Did Jesus Really Live Again?”‍ (p. 64), and bear testimony that the Easter story is the most glorious story in the world. Testify that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died and was resurrected.
Recycled Ideas from previous posts:

* Have a picture of a sign "Dead End". What does this mean? Have a plastic toy bulldozer. How is Jesus Christ like a bulldozer? To some it may seem like when we die, there is no where else to go. But we know that there is more beyond the grave and Jesus has cleared the way because of His atonement and resurrection! Have the bulldozer run over the dead end sign!

* Have a teacher or another adult come to the front to help. Tie their hands together. What does that feel like? Can they do as many things with their hands tied? Mosiah 15:20 "But behold, the bands of death shall be broken, and the Son reigneth, and hath power over the dead; therefore, he bringeth to pass the resurrection of the dead." Cut the string. The teacher's hand is free now. How does that feel?
How does it feel to know that we aren't tied down to sickness, pain, and sorrow that comes from this earth life? Can you feel the spirit bearing truth, it's a peaceful happy feeling, that we are free! We will live again!!

Week 4 I can show respect for The Savior by being reverent.

* THIS is a must read in preparation for the week's topic. I'm going to highlight the part "What is my demeanor during a sports event?" and send it to my hubby. Sometimes he gets a little riled when it comes to his Seahawks. And can we all get an AMEN to , "Many problems with reverence can be defused with a well-prepared lesson in which the students participate."

* HERE is an article/activity from The Friend. They have a reverence jar that you could easily adapt to a sharing time. You'd be surprised, but sometimes simple things make a big impact and can be fun. They have a list of reverent things you can do to show respect. Cut those into strips and then make a list of about 10 things that are NOT reverent and cut those also into strips. Have children choose from a bag and decide whether it should go in the reverent jar... if it's not reverent, then it's not showing respect for Jesus! Have the child crumple up the paper and shoot it like a basketball into the garbage!

* "It is not enough to understand the gospel and value it. Reverence is an active, not a passive, feeling. It is not a mere “Shush!” It requires that we become thoughtfully and spiritually involved in our worship services, recognizing the importance of the Savior’s sacrifice in our behalf. " (Children Can Learn Reverence Ensign Feb. 1984 HERE)
     Play a game of "SHUSH!!!!" Invite a primary friend to come up front to answer a question or read a scripture about reverence. Then have them turn around and cover their eyes. Tap 4 friends in the primary to stand up, one of the friends you tap hold your finger to your mouth. They are the friend that will go "SHUSH!!!". Then the one who is up front turns around and gets to guess who said, "SHUSH!!!" Have about 10-12 questions on reverence prepared.
      Some questions could include:
     Why is walking in the hallways of church, even on a weekday, important and showing respect for The Savior?
     What are some ways you can show reverence during Family Home Evening?
     What does it mean to be "spiritually involved in our worship services"?
     How would you describe the reverent feeling you get at the temple?
     Why is dressing modestly showing reverence?
     Can you name someone in the scriptures who showed reverence?

* "The more one loves God, the deeper will be his reverence for Him." (President Romney Ensign Sept. 1982)
    Have a bunch of paper hearts! A lot! A lot! A lot!! Let children have as many as they want to write down reasons why they love Jesus. Some examples could include: He died for me, He created fish, He healed people, He helps me, He gave me my family, He sacrificed.... Have a big bucket to put the hearts in.
     Have green squares with paper clips. On these green squares you can have quotes, questions, scriptures or songs about reverence. When we love Jesus, we have reverence there too!! Love and reverence go hand in hand!! Invite a friend to fish out a reverence square and do what it says. Invite them to also choose a heart to read. Keep on repeating the quote, "The more one loves God, the deeper will be his reverence for Him." Sometimes leave out words and see if the children can fill in the blank!! For a fishing stick, just have a good magnet on the end of the string to pick up the paper clipped squares.

* Exodus 3:4-5 "And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.
 And he said, Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground"
    Have a picture of Moses and the burning bush. Have paper footprints scattered throughout the room. In this sacred occasion, Moses was standing on holy ground. We don't always stand on holy ground and we don't always have to take off our shoes to show reverence. But as we look at this example from the scriptures, we need to remember that when The Lord asks us to do something, we listen and show Him respect and love by being reverence.
     On the paper footprints throughout the room you can have examples of people from the scriptures or stories of primary friends showing reverence!
     For example: Enos knelt in prayer all day and all night. How does kneeling during prayer show reverence? Can someone tell me a little more about what he did?
    Daniel refused to eat the King's meat and wine. He showed obedience. How does obedience help a person to be reverent? Later in life he refused to pray to other gods and was thrown into the lion's den. How does reverence protect us?
     Suzy gave a great talk on faith last week. She showed reverence by being prepared and ready to teach by the spirit. She showed reverence by having a smiling face while she spoke- because reverence invites happiness!
     Harold is always respectful of people's space. He doesn't poke others and keeps his feet to himself. More importantly, he is always listening and paying attention. You can tell he loves to learn about the gospel. Reverence is more than quietly sitting, it's thinking of Father above!!
       If you do decide to do examples out of the primary children, PLEASE PREFACE and make it positive! Tell the children that you are going to highlight some great reverence you've seen in primary, but everyone needs to know how special EVERY PERSON in primary is!! If they aren't on the footstep, that's OK, come to me after primary and I'll tell you a time that was noticed when you were being reverent. We are so blessed to have such a wonderful primary with children who show love and respect for The Savior by being reverent!!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

February 2014 LDS Primary Sharing Time Helps and Ideas

This Plan of Salvation Chart is by Rich Allred. He also has a detailed scripture list to accompany the parts of the plan found HERE. This chart is my go to with my own kids because it's specific yet simple!!
Monthly Theme: Heavenly Father Has a Plan for His Children.
Monthly Scripture: "O how great the plan of our God!" 2 Nephi 9:13
Week 1 Heavenly Father has a plan for His children.

* Have signs labeled: Premortal World, Earth Life, Spirit World, 2nd Coming/Resurrection, Millennium, Final Judgement, Celestial, Terrestial, Telestial. Each sign can have a picture on it to correspond. Invite students to hold the signs and see if they can get into the right order. Have clues (about 15-20... always have more than not enough!) about the different parts of the plan and invite a primary friend to come up front and stand by the person holding the sign they think is the right part for the clue. Have sign holders hold their signs for about 3 clues, then they can switch with another friend who hasn't had a turn. Each time they'll need to get in the right order!! Have primary children say the parts of the plan each time!!
Some possible clues could include:
The highest kingdom of Glory, compared to what? (Celestial... the sun)
We might be able to ride T-Rex's during this time because animals will NOT hurt each other (Millennium)
Our time of testing (Earth Life)
1/3 of Heavenly Father's children rejected His plan here (Premortal World)
This place is where we go RIGHT after we die (Spirit World)
Jesus is in charge of this event, hope we made some good choices!!! (Final Judgement)
Here we experience sickness, pain, and suffering (Earth Life)
This place is compared to the stars, and even though it's nice we don't want to end up there (Telestial Kingdom)

* “Some of us at one time or another let the pressures of life or the false teachings of men cloud our vision, but when we see with clarity, the difference between the plan of God and that of Satan is unmistakable” (Richard G. Scott, Ensign, Nov. 1981, 11).
    Bring in a large piece of wax paper, a piece of foil, and a piece of very CLEAR saran wrap. Which one is easier to see through? God's plan is very clear and when we follow it we will have happiness!! Have the primary divide into groups and come up with 5 things they know about the plan of salvation. Have them share with the primary.
     Satan presented his plan. What did he want? Hold up the foil!! That plan would have been complete darkness. Sometimes men come up with ideas, "Eat, drink & be merry!"... yes, it's good to have happiness, but true happiness comes in following Jesus. Hold up the wax paper! Once again, hold up the saran wrap and repeat the quote by Elder Scott. Bear testimony of how the Plan of Salvation helps us see clearly.

* If you wanted to go on a special picnic, what would you have to do? Would you just go to the park and eat berries on the bushes? You'd have to carefully plan and prepare! You want enough food, drinks, napkins... you'd have to decide the best time to go. Do you need a blanket? And that's just for a picnic!!
"The worth of souls is great in the sight of God." D&C 18:10
     Heavenly Father loves us. He didn't just toss us into a park and say, have a great picnic. He carefully planned a way for us to have happiness and return to Him!
     Have a picnic basket with different picnic items and attach scriptures, questions, and songs to sing about the plan of salvation to these items- for children to come up, pick, and then answer.

* HERE is a sharing time by Margaret Lifferth with a booklet for children to make. Full of EXCELLENT ideas for teaching this week's theme.

* HERE is a sharing time link by Vicki Matsumori with a cool Plan of Happiness viewer. You could easily have the tube, point it at a blank wall and ask children what they see. Not much? Fortunately, the plan of happiness helps us to see our purpose and meaning in life. Pop in the pictures and have the children discuss the parts of the plan they see.

Week 2 Heavenly Father commanded Jesus Christ to create the earth as a home for His children.

* CS pg. 92 "Home" is a wonderful song! It's an easy and catchy melody and the words are simple and full of truth. Punch Boards are really fun!
This is a punch board in the shape of a heart. You can have cups behind also, if you want a flat front. Now to tie the 2 together. Make a home with windows/doors to punch into. Sing the song Home and then invite a child to come learn about the home that Jesus created for us. Have in each window/door that a primary friend punches into, a picture of the creation! Have the children put the pictures in order of the creation. Because you probably don't want to make 2 boards, bring in extra tissue paper to glue during break for the 3rd hour.
* Play a game of I spy!! Have a bunch of pictures about earth and the creation taped around the primary room. Demonstrate how to play first. You will give 3 clues and then you will call on someone who is raising their hand to answer. "I spy something Jesus created/organized. I spy something that is the color yellow. I spy something that is very far away." Take a couple guesses... need a few more hints? " I spy something in the sky. I spy something in the dark." That's right, STARS!!! How do we feel when we look into the night sky? Aren't we grateful that Heavenly Father loves us so much that he would give us earth for home! Invite primary children to come up and give hints about something they see in the room. Be prepared to help them!!! They can whisper in your ear and you can whisper back to them clues!

* Your music leader has appropriately decided to sing Heavenly Father Loves Me (CS 228). Of course, you are always going to have "the one" child who notices things... e.g. my quick, beautiful, sharp as a needle daughter, "Why does the song say Heavenly Father created for me but then our lesson is Jesus created the earth?" Aren't you glad you came prepared! Just turn to the scriptures... Ephesians 3:9 " And to make all men see... which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ".  We also have "God the Father is the Supreme Being in whom we believe and whom we worship. He is the ultimate Creator, Ruler, and Preserver of all things." (True to The Faith Manual 74-76) Heavenly Father is our ultimate creator and He had Jesus create too! All that wouldn't fit into the rhythm of the song, so that's probably why. :)

* Chores!! Why do we need to take care of our homes?? After you've gone over the creation, talk about the home we all have in common now... our beautiful earth!! In our personal homes we have certain responsibilities! Have the children come up and act out some chores we do at home for other children to guess. What are some chores we could do for our home, mother earth? Children can out things like : pick up trash, plant trees and flowers, bicycle/walk instead of driving so much, turn off lights, save water, take care of animals. Challenge the children to remember to thank Heavenly Father for 3 things about the earth they are grateful for in their prayers this week.
     “It is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures. I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine. And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine” D&C 104:13–15

* HERE is an excellent general conference talk, The Creation by Elder Russel M. Nelson. (April 2000)
I LOVE his quote, "Without our grateful awareness of God’s hand in the Creation, we would be just as oblivious to our provider as are goldfish swimming in a bowl." You could easily have a bowl full of goldfish crackers and small cups. As you do an activity to learn about the creation, scoop out cups of goldfish to give to the children to eat. We are NOT like goldfish! We know who created us and our beautiful earth and we are grateful!!!! You could also have a real goldfish (if you are a super star and want the kids to remember!!) named "Swimmy" who the children could teach the different parts of the creation! They hold up a picture and tell Swimmy all about it! Watch your reverence level soar as you remind the children those who want to teach Swimmy have to be extra well mannered. If someone doesn't get a chance to say hello to Swimmy, they can come after church and look!!!
Week 3 My body is created in the Image of God.

* THIS is a beautiful story and a must read by President Monson. You can paraphrase the story to the children in your own words and end with this quote:
"The world is filled with yellow canaries with gray on their wings. The pity is that so precious few of them have learned to sing...We are sons and daughters of a living God, in whose image we have been created. Think of that truth: “Created in the image of God.” We cannot sincerely hold this conviction without experiencing a profound new sense of strength and power, even the strength to live the commandments of God..."
Draw a large tree on your chalkboard and have about 10 paper yellow canaries in it's branches. On the back of the pictures have scriptures, questions, and songs about how we are created in God's image. Have children choose canaries!
    Like President Monson said, the world is full of canaries with gray on their wings. People are all created differently, but no matter what.... we can be who God wants us to be!! We were created in His image.

* Break out the art supplies. Let children draw self portraits and write why they are special. Our bodies are created in the image of Heavenly Father!! This can fulfill a Faith in God Activity under Developing Talents. My recommendation- for good art results- is to use heavy construction paper, pencils, sharpies to trace pencil lines and crayons. The contrast between the color and black really defines the work. They can do just face or whole body, but make sure they use the WHOLE space of the paper. Children tend to draw small/microscopic scale unless they are directed otherwise!

* Invite a child up front and stand behind them. Hold up a picture of an appropriate body part or you could even point to something on your body. Tell the primary children who see the picture to NOT SHOUT OUT. The child up front will call on Primary friends who are raising their hand reverently and who can give them a clue to help them guess the picture/part they didn't see. Our bodies are created in Heavenly Father's image. Now when you hold up pictures, children need to give clues that involve ways they can use that body part to serve and help others!! Make sure you have plenty of pictures!!!

* FYI- In the last session of General Conference, Elder Russel M. Nelson gave a talk Decisions for Eternity. He talked about the blessings of having a body and asked 2 important questions. Have we taken the time to really ponder these questions? Now might be the time to do so and write down our thoughts!! It could even be a challenge for children to go home and talk with their families.
       1. How will you choose to care for and use your body?
       2.What spiritual attributes will you choose to develop?

Week 4 Agency is the gift to choose for myself.

* "My dear brothers and sisters, each day is a day of decision, and our decisions determine our destiny. One day each of us will stand before the Lord in judgment. We will each have a personal interview with Jesus Christ. We will account for decisions that we made..." Elder Russel M. Nelson Decisions for Eternity, General Conference Oct. 2013 (linked in the idea above)
      Sometimes we need to take time to really reflect. Often days go by and we don't consider/account what we've done to really honor the gift of agency. Can you imagine what it would be like to meet with Jesus and talk about all we've done? Have paper for the children with the title "Decisions Determine our Destiny!" What is a decision? Have the paper divided into 4 sections.Think about yesterday.... have children draw choices they made, or write down, that were good in one section. Were there any choices made that could have been better? What is a good choice they can make tomorrow? 10 years from now?? What is a good choice they can make today!??!! Have children share their work.

* President Harold B. Lee said, “Next to life itself, free agency is God’s greatest gift to mankind.”
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee (2000), 4
     Since Heavenly Father has given us this great gift... among many.... how can we use our agency as a gift to Him?? Have a large wrapped box and invite children come up to draw out case scenarios from it. Have them think of the best way to use the gift of their agency in that situation.
Some case scenarios could include:
     You are in the car and a song with questionable lyrics comes on.
     You are at school and there are people using bad language.
     Your brother keeps taking your toys.
     Someone asks you why you go to church.
     You broke something valuable at home, no one saw.
     A bully at school keeps picking on someone.
     You have a sporting event on Sunday.
If time permits you could have envelopes for children to write a choice they will make this week as a gift to Heavenly Father. Let them color and add a fancy bow!

* "Men and women receive their agency as a gift from God, but their liberty and, in turn, their eternal happiness come from obedience to His laws." Elder Perry April 2013 General Conference Obedience to the Law is Liberty
     Sing Choose the Right Way (CS pg. 160) Our freedom to choose is a gift from Heavenly Father. What we do with our choices will either make us eternally happy or unhappy!
    Have some gum for the children!! Woah... back up... did I just say gum? Let me rephrase that. VERY CLEARLY STATE YOUR EXPECTATIONS that you have some gum for our lesson today, but if the gum comes out of our mouth, it GOES IN THE TRASH. We're not going to mess around with our gum because we are in The Lord's House and we want to show respect. After sharing time, ALL GUM WILL GO IN THE GARBAGE. All who are willing to do so can raise their hand and we can begin. And gage your primary! Are they good listeners? Will this enhance the spirit or take away from it? Pray about it!!
     Today we are going to talk about "Chews"ing the Right and Agency!!! Invite a child up front to blow a bubble. Have a posterboard of a large drawing of a child's head. Have a pink balloon blown up and taped to the mouth. Have questions, scriptures, and songs in envelops on the posterboard. Let the child who just blew a bubble "chews" an envelope.
     End with repeating Elder Perry's quote. We can choose to be happy by choosing the right! Bear Testimony!! Before children leave the room, they will throw out their gum in the garbage that a teacher is holding.

* THIS talk is a MUST READ for the week!!! by Wolfgang H. Paul (April 2006 General Conference)
     "Some time ago, as I was driving, I had to stop at a red light. The vehicle in front of me caught my attention. A sticker read, “I do what I want.”
     I wondered why someone would choose to place such a statement on his vehicle. What was the message he wanted to send? Perhaps the driver of this vehicle wanted to express publicly that he has achieved total freedom by just doing what he likes to do. As I thought about this, I realized that our world would be quite chaotic if everyone would just do what he or she wants to do."
     Have some scriptures on agency for the children to look up in groups and discuss. Have a child come up front from that group and talk about the scripture. It could even be scripture stories of people who have wisely or unwisely used their gift of agency!
     Give the children a picture of a car and have them make up a bumper sticker that is better than "I do what I want". Bear testimony that agency is a gift and we should treat it as such!!
If anyone would like a copy of the above picture, just email me and I'll get it to you as quick as I can.