Sunday, December 2, 2012


If you've enjoyed the post about the Branson Merry Miss Primary Class and the giant Teddy Bears that represented their future children, Eleven Year Old Girls Anticipate their Children this is at least ANOTHER PART of that story.

Far from home with a daughter about the same age --teaching that Primary Class was an inspiration!

A lesson about Heavenly Father's survival kit began to form in my head. I ended up at the Branson Walmart and bought several little flowered zippered make up cases--the kind that eleven year old girls carry all sorts of things in.  Using my toy trade at the local outlet toy store, I gathered several inexpensive walkie talkies and put one in each case with fresh batteries.  I also included a clear plastic cannister with several apple seeds, a piece of bread in another cannister, a clear plastic sacrament cup and a little plastic ruler.  Four components of His Survival Kit.  (Part of the fun of this discussion was to find out who had your OTHER walkie talkie.  Primary was at the end of the there was no danger of interrupting Sacrament Meeting!)

To prompt their thought and our discussion in class, I  started the class with a description of the basic principles of the gospel--then I passed each zipper case to members of the class, explaining that each case was identical in design and contents....and held symbols of his heavnely Survial kit.

APPLE SEED: "I'm fresh out of mustard seeds, but what do you suppose the seeds represent?"  We talked about what it takes to plant and nourish the seed, grow the tree and harvest the fruit....after a few more hints our class guessed FAITH correctly--as a principle that provides the energy to power FAITH and good works.

SMALL PLASTIC RULER:  Its a challenge to represent repentance--but a ruler represents standards.  As we repent we measure ourselves against His standard and commandments.  

BREAD and WATER represents the Sacrament ---and we talked about how taking the sacrament is a way of renewing the covenants we make at the waters of baptism to always have his spirit to be with us.

WALKIE TALKIE is our half of the conversation with the Holy Ghost.  I put my Salt Lake address in a little recessed area, inviting each girl to keep in touch and years later a letter arrived from my dear friend Diana Hinnin.  She was the girl I sent post cards to in the Teddy Bear Post.  She had found the address cleaning out a jumble drawer and wrote to tell me she had qualified as a National Merit Scholar. 

This was in 1997.  By now all those girls are 15 years older--26 and old enough to be wives and mothers of their own sons and daughters. I hope they remember our discussions--the Teddy Bears and Survival Kits.  That's what these Teaching Moment Boosters are all about, after all!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

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CHASTITYLifesaving Purity 
CHOICEA CTR Youth Leadership Lesson
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CLUTTERWhat You See Is What You Do! 
ADVICEGratitude For Counsel 
ETERNITYEternity Is A Piano Wire 
FILTHChoosing The Best Media 
GENEALOGYWho Shall Say His Generations 
GOALSCome, Dream With Me … Outloud! 
GODHOODWhat Does God Do For A Living?
HOLY GHOSTThe Holy Ghost As A Comforter 
HOLY GHOSTParable Of The Conductor’s Baton 
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KINDNESSThe Man In The Muffler 
MISSIONARIESSome Advice For My Brother
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MISSIONARIESMissionaries: Enthusiastic Creativity!
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REPENTANCESalt & Pepper: Repentance and the
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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Eleven Year Old Girls Anticipate their Children

Ideas like favorite toys and children
Your Own are always Wonderful!
One of the greatest teaching moments for me was in Primary in the then Branson Branch when I worked as Santa and Emcee for the Osmonds in that Missouri Resort town.

Soon after arriving in town, I went to the affable Branch President and told him I needed a job.

"Don't you already work for the Osmonds?" he asked with a quizzical smile.

"Of course." I replied.  That's what I do 9-5 (or more accurately from about 3 PM to 10 PM every day) but the job I was referring to was a church assignment.   The next week I was called to teach the Merry Miss (Eleven year old girls) in Primary.  I must mention that the Osmond Brothers and I were the shock troops--the first to arrive in August of 1998 in time to write and produce the end of the Summer Show and turn around and do it all again for the  Christmas Show to open in September.  The wifes and kids came later.  It was a busy time..but on Sunday I was alone, praying for a dinner invitation from the locals--that never came until the very end.  (more about that later)

Turns out the five girls were typical LDS Tweens with one exception:  Diana Hinnen, a bright daughter of a recently widowed art teacher at Branson High School who also taught the gospel doctrine class.  Diana's dad had been, well, me-- chubby, jolly, faithful (the former Branch President) and victim of a sudden heart attack.  I came to know that I was called in Primary to take his place in her life for an hour a week.

As Santa (and a former marketing director for a couple of radio stations) I had learned the value of "trade"  I got approval from the Osmonds to work out arrangements with the wholesale toy store in the Duty free Branson Mall to trade toys to give away on stage as part of my Santa exchange for a little referral card taped to the bottom of the chairs at our theater.   It worked great for both of us:  Santa and the toy store.  I got great props and they got foot traffic.

On one of my first "buying" trips I noticed a dozen GIANT white teddy bears high above the display floor that didn't seem to be moving.   Most customers came to Branson on the bus...and the three foot something bears were not flying off the shelves  because there was limited seating and luggage capacity on the 48 seat busses that streamed in and out of town every day.   I took 'em all; freeing up the space...and stored them in an unfinished loft that eventually several seasons later became Jimmy's office at the theater.  We spread the giant bears over the Christmas season as giveaway "stage decorations" under two big Christmas trees on either side of the stage...and Jimmy once in a while would award them as after show prizes to little kids, often smaller than the bears themselves.    We worked to ration the bears...and finally gave away the last one on the closing night of the first season as Branson closed up shop in anticipation of the show stopping ice storms that closed down theaters from January to March every year.

Much like President Monsen did when he was Bishop, writing persistently to a young serviceman with barely a hope of reply, I sent post cards to Diana Hinnen inviting her to our class.  It worked and she showed up, returning to activity in the gospel after many months away.

With six girls and a great opportunity to build testimonies and mold motherhood, I had the idea of a special lesson on anticipating mortal children...and what needed to be done in these eleven year old lives to prepare for that day--likely some ten years away.   The big white bears seemed like the perfect props.

Back in the day, Primary was at the end of the block...and kids went home afterward, not to other meetings, so I had the luxury of being able to set up my classroom early and use the element of suprize.  I sat six identical white bears opposite six empty chairs and waited at the door until all six of my students had gathered outside after opening exercises.  I chuckled a warning that there were for each little sister inside, but they could not touch them until I gave them the signal.

My own daughter was a year younger at 1- so I mailed a bear with a summary of the lesson to her by parcel post...and the result was as expected...all warm and fuzzy.  Her great mom, Rosie led the discussion at a family home evening and I hopefully came off a hero within my own family.

The lesson followed a simple outline:

"Dear little sisters,  Over the next ten years you will become the next mothers in Zion.   Right now your children are waiting in the spirit world for you to get ready for them to arrive.   What are some things you can do now to be ready when that time comes?  The discussion progressed with a little more serious tone...and the anticipation of taking home a giant bear, just like everybody else in the class.

Under most normal circumstances such a lesson might be costly--but even a small bear from a dollar store to each member of an all girl primary class will yield great benefits.

See the post about the SPIRITUAL SURVIVAL KIT for more information on this class of Merry Misses and now National Merit Scholar Diana Hinnen!


Monday, July 9, 2012

Easy Marshmallow Blow Dart Guns

Winter and Lee Redd publish a wonderful day to day record of their adventures under the title REDD PARTY.  Heres a guest blog post from Winter about a Girl's Camp theme that included home made marshmellow guns!  (I use Marshmellow Guns in my Santa routines--and found a new wrinke:  Including crafty fuzz balls and ear plugs.  Winter is a pharmacist at the Unversity of Utah and a former student at Highland Community Ed Web Design and Marketing several semesters ago.   I subscribe to her blog and she follows mine.  This is the first time I've copied and published her material. Hope this is a enough credit, where this unique activity is involved.:  

(As a matter of safety, I've included some clear goggles like the ones you use in a woodshop to protect your eyes from flying sawdust or wood chips.  It actually  beats paint balls for little kids...and it's delicious!)

NOTE:  Always plan to give a prize to participants to pick up the stray projectiles that aren't already confiscated or consumed! (YUK! under the five seconds on the floor rule!!!)  Here's Winter's story, pictures and videos:
As I mentioned earlier, I was at Girls Camp a week ago. The theme for camp was "Sweet is the work of a daughter of God" and they played up the "sweet" part by making it Willy-Wonk-aesque and candy-focused.

All the girls had different colored shirts indicating their "sweet" group.

I was asked to help with a field day activity at camp; there are fun races and games that are set up as "Candyland" on a big field. Lee suggested a game with marshmallow blow dart guns.

Excellent idea!

(For those of you who may not know, it's a blow dart gun made out of PVC pipes and marshmallows are used as ammunition. More on technique later.)

It's really easy to make these blow dart guns. Head on over to Home Depot or Lowes and go to the plumbing aisle. You want the 1/2 inch PVC pipes.

$1.63/pipe--that's cheap entertainment and fun!

Oh dear! They are 10 feet long and I needed about 10 to 12 inch pieces, but I don't own a pair of pipe cutters. Thankfully the Home Depot does (plus a hacksaw or two for bigger pipes) and let's you use them at the store.

Feeling all handy cutting my pipes at the HD.

Because of the candy theme, Lee helped by "candy cane-ing" them with red, green and yellow electrical tape.

Lee did a great job making these plain white pipes look like candy canes.

I wanted to tie the blow dart to the candy theme, so we came up with a game called The Peppermint Ninja Pow! (Note: We're into ninjas.)

I think my sign turned out pretty cute!

Then we made these targets with varying hole sizes and point values from foam core.

Easy to make and looks pretty good!

Okay, now let's talk ammunition. Marshmallows are the best in my and Lee's opinion, but I needed to think of something different since we needed to re-use the ammo at camp. Marshmallows are not awesome if you need to re-use them.

So I tried out a couple of other things:
  1. Foam ear plugs (purchased at Home Depot for about $3.00 for 7 pair) and 
  2. Fluffy craft pompoms (purchased at Walmart for about $3.00 for a pack of 250 varying sizes of poofs).

Lee tested all of these options.

I opted for the fluffy pompoms for the activity since I could buy them in bulk for pretty cheap. The activity turned out pretty well and the girls had a lot of fun.

During the Candyland field day activity

Lee, of course, had to show me the superiority of marshmallows, especially in machine-gun mode!

Gross! I always put the marshmallow in the gun then blow. Boys and their spitting skills--sheesh!

Anyway, I think this would be an awesome large group date or mutual activity if you don't mind getting hit with slightly sticky marshmallows.

Have fun!

Marshmallow Blow Dart Guns

10 to 12 inch long pieces of 1/2 inch PVC pipe
Marshmallows (or foam earplugs or fluffy craft pompoms)

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mormon Movie Night (Redux) Youth Activity idea

Click Link for YouTube Preview

Remember the adventure of Johnny Lingo and the 8 cow wife, the discovery of meaning in Man's Search for Happiness, or the zany fun of Singles Ward? 

The Holladay Stake is planning a look back at Mormon Movies (with a twist) and you are invited to come see how the youth in our stake think they could be updated.

It's a Mormon Movie Night REDUX at Olympus Junior High School on Saturday night, October 27, 2012 at 7:00 PM for a look back at six of the great old Mormon Movies updated by the Youth of the Salt Lake Holladay Stake.

This summer, each ward is working to produce a brief five minute video to remind us all of the message of some of these great old Mormon movies and here's the twist: a live action finish on stage.

It's a popcorn and nachos night this fall for the whole stake --- Home Grown Video, Live Action, Fun and Food...all of us together enjoying the messages and fun of classic Mormon films through the lenses and the live action and updated endings by the Youth of our Stake---and you're invited.

Mark your calendar, October 27th, Saturday night starting at 7:00 PM for fun and food at the Mormon Movie Night REDUXl.

And you get to choose between Popcorn and Nachos or maybe even both!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Anniversary Questions & The Final Judgement

President David O. McKay

Yesterday, June 27, 2012 Rosie and I quietly celebrated our 39th Anniversary (Lace and Coral are the appropriate gifts!  That's not a's a fact)  We had a wonderful pot roast and settled in for a chat in which I asked some important questions (found below the note on President McKay and the Final Judgement)

NOTE:  In 1965, President David O. McKay made the following statement to a group of Church employees: Let me assure you, Brethren, that some day you will have a personal priesthood interview with the Savior himself. If you are interested, I will tell you the order in which he will ask you to account for your earthly responsibilities. (In some versions these questions were explained to a group of temple workers in the chapel of the Salt Lake Temple.)

First, he will request an accountability report about your relationship with your wife. Have you actively been engaged in making her happy and ensuring that her needs have been met as an individual?

Second, he will want an accountability report about each of your children individually. He will not attempt to have this for simply a family stewardship but will request information about your relationship to each and every child.

Third, he will want to know what you personally have done with the talents you were given in the preexistence.

Fourth, he will want a summary of your activity in your Church assignments. He will not be necessarily interested in what assignments you have had, for in his eyes the home teacher and a mission president are probably equals, but he will request a summary of how you have been of service to your fellow man in your Church assignments.

Fifth, he will have no interest in how you earned your living but if you were honest in all your dealings.

Sixth, he will ask for an accountability on what you have done to contribute in a positive manner to your community, state, country, and the world.

(Reported by Cloyd Hofheins in a talk to the Seventies Quorum of Provo Utah Oak Hills Stake, May 16, 1982

In that same spirit, Rosie and I ended our quiet day of anniversary celebration (the 39th) on June 27, as I asked her a series of questions to help me figure out how I’m doing on the way to that moment with my Father in Heaven.  If these help any husband to re-establish ties, it will be worth the few minutes I slaved over a hot keyboard

By the way, one of my favorite Priesthood Meeting addresses from General Conferences came from Joe J. Christensen, emeritus member of the seventy and former President of Rick’s College (now BYU Idaho):  “If you want a revelation, brethren, go home tonight and ask your wife what you can do to improve as a husband and father…and then listen carefully.   Our Father in Heaven will “reveal” an earful and more of specific things you can do.”
Here are the questions that I listened to Rosie answer last night before the altar of a quiet TV screen:

1.    1.  What are your favorite two or three memories of our 39 years together?

She recalled times with our family, from my enthusiasm at her bedside as she delivered our first son, Jeffery Glen Howe and our first daughter, Sally Ann Howe (Sally doesn’t use her middle name much any more)  

We remembered Jeff’s cub scout mastery of Good Sportsmanship at his first pinewood derby and the blue and gold marble cake in the shape of a hot air balloon and basket-load of family and friends.  

We looked back to Sally’s fifth grade report on Ireland that involved a lovely little blouse and skirt, posters—even a few sixpence coins to make the emerald isle more memorable to her and the whole family.  

We both smiled at Jeff’s winning seventh grade science project on earthquakes and the orange jello bowl and balsa wood houses used to demonstrate liquefaction (that report plays on YouTube as the first story on the first edition of our pre-fiftieth anniversary video project called:   COUSINS MAGAZINE!)
    2. What are two or three ways you have changed as a result of this 39 year old friendship with me?

1)      She is more at peace with herself than she ever was with her previous husband, Kenny Cool (Michael’s biological father, now 46)

2)      She has developed trust in her own abilities to do projects without a recipe, pattern or plan.  Our marriage and family life has given her the courage to do things on impulse and risk time and occasionally a little money on ideas she develops herself or as she describes: as a result of “The nudge”

3)      Rosie said that as a result of our  time together she has developed a much closer relationship with her Father in Heaven, Jesus and the Holy Ghost than she had ever done in the years of marriage to her Michael’s father.  

      We often talk about practicing the gospel with a BIG “G” and the gospel with a small “g”.  Though we live half a block from our LDS ward and stake center Rosie’s teeth, her knees, her gimpy tummy have all conspired to keep her from regular church attendance.  But when a little family knocked on our door a few months ago in need of help, Rosie cleaned out our larder of peanut butter, a loaf of bread, canned fruit—enough to fill their little red wagon to give them strength to walk to Provo from our Holladay area after their old car fell apart.  That’s the kind of little “g”  soul growth that powers a truly Christian lifestyle away from the associations that regular church attendance brings.  That summarizes Rosie's sense of being and some terrific soul growth.

3.    3. What changes have you noticed in me as your husband in the last 39 years?

1)      You are more accepting of change—the gay life style in our daughter and her friends, the need for a little mood medication in your own life—and careful following of VA doctor’s instructions and medication to keep your diabetes and other bodily ailments under as much control as you can.

2)      You are more patient now than you were, for example, with Michael when we first got married.  (Michael –who actually did the proposing for me as Uncle Jon to become his daddy--was always moving in church and I got more than a little frustrated—and wasn’t shy about calling that to the young 8 year old’s attention.  The marital situation was never good between Rosie and her first husband…and when Kenny came to Utah on vacation and took Michael home with him and filed papers with the court in Virginia to change the child’s custody arrangement and declare Rosie an unfit mother for making Michael do “little girl work” like cleaning his room and doing the dishes, we all but lost the youngster.  He's called a couple of times, but for all intents and purposes he is :apart".

We toddled off to bed around midnight after prayer and another chorus from me of “Happy Anniversary” to the tune of an unknown Can Can rhythm: bu-bu-bu-bu BUP BUP BUH! etc. ended our celebration day.

How I do love that woman.  Our celebration meal featured roasted garlic in the creamy mashed potatoes and a scratch pudding cake for dessert. (and I was true to my trust at the VA—and ate measured amounts as slowly as I could, savoring every delicious bite. I am the poster child for her great cooking. 

BY THE WAY:  A few months ago, Rosie envisioned her dream job and went to Spoons and Spice to apply to sell their wonderful kitchen implements, sharpen knives as an additional service to the store etc .   On the application the question was asked, "What could you write to demonstrate that you know your way around the kitchen?  With a spunky little glint in her eye and showing me the form as she filled in the answer she wrote:  'When we were first married, my husband's waist line was a tight 36 inches.  Now, some 30 something years later he measures nearly 55 inches around.  That should count for something.

The "suck a pickle" woman who read her answer didn't crack a smile---and Rosie was glad she didn't have to go to work there every day with such a humorless boss!  On we go laughing and enduring to the end...which as you may know according to Elder Glen Pace's quoting M. Russell  Ballard, "It isn't over until a Latter-day Saint is safely dead with his/her testimony burning brightly!"

May your first 39 years be as happy as ours have  been.  Here/s to 39 more just like them!!


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Renting to The Opposition!

Daryl Parker was just released as a Bishop in Green River, Wyoming.  He's a dentist; former missionary to Korea and husband to Nancy, a lovely Korean bride of nearly forty years he met at BYU's Asian Branch when we were all students there in the seventies.

He has a few years to go to retire as one of Green River, Wyoming's dentists.  We grew up together in Scouts in Laramie, Wyoming.  His scholarships from Wyoming to Creighton Dental School sent him to Green River and he hopes to move back to Laramie into a home he's owned for several years and put out for rent.

My brother Thomas chuckled that former Bishop Parker has a challenge--that he's cheerfully facing.  A few years ago, after he bought the home, he put it up for rent...and an older couple with good references applied, were approved by the Parkers and moved in.  They've been near perfect tenants...and, by the way, did I mention: They are full time Catholic Missionaries who pay their rent on time and have taken excellent care of Dr. Parker's retirement home.

I've never brought this interesting circumstance up to my good friend, Daryl.  He was kind to come to our mother's memorial service in far away Worland, Wyoming and we spent some time catching up after near 40 years of toiling away in separate spots in the vineyard.

There'll come a day when Daryl and Nancy will move their empty nest-quarters into their retirement Shangrila in the Gem City of the Plains (Laramie)...and the Catholic missionary couple will likely have to find new digs.   Until then, the Parkers are fortunate to have such great renters--and an opportunity to practice tolerance and loving their neighbors of another faith from a distance.