Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Girl's Room

My daughter's have been taking ballet lessons
since they were just three years old.

They both love going to ballet each week,
dressing up for their ballet dance recitals each June
and each Friday night the girls dance for the Lord
when we have our family worship time.
So, to think of a 'room theme' wasn't hard at all.

We painted the walls a pretty bright green and
put bright, hot pink accents throughout the room.
In the center of the largest wall
I designed the following:

The canvas you see at the top
I designed and painted.

I painted the cross in the center with the colors to match the room.
(I bought this wooden cross from the Dollar Tree store).

I then placed their ballet recital pictures 
around the canvas and added a new photo each year.

I'm not a photographer =( 
I couldn't seem to get the right picture.

Next, I searched and searched for Ballet Curtains
I found nothing I liked.
So, once again I decided to make my own.
(No, I didn't actually 'make' the curtains-
I just decorated the ones I bought).

I bought a sheer curtain and looked for ballet iron-ons.
 I found just what I wanted at Jo-Ann's.
I used their 40% coupon week after week
until I had gathered about seven of these beautiful 
ballerina iron-ons.
I also found a flower ribbon that had the 
green and hot pink colors that matched!

I laid the sheer curtain out on my bed
 and began to hot-glue them all onto the curtain.
(I was unsure about putting a hot iron to a sheer curtain).

Isn't this iron-on just so pretty?
The ballet dress iron-on
 happens to have the green and the pink colors
on it that are in the room!

I wish I was a better photographer so you can 
really appreciate how well all the colors match.
But what is more important to me, whether
the colors match in real life or in pictures
is that my children walk into their room 
and think on Jesus.
That they remember Who they are dancing for and
Who it was that gave them their gift, talent and love for dance.

I love their room and I believe they do too.

Children's Pillowcases!

A few Christmas' ago I remember seeing 
 personalized pillow cases for $24 each.
As darling as they were
I, at the time had four children, and was unwilling to spend
$96 on pillow cases just because it had my child's name on it.
So, I ventured out into the unknown-
personalizing and painting pillow cases myself. 
I bought white pillow cases and fabric paint markers.
(That was the easy part).

I have tried to fill my children's room
with Scriptures and a thought came to me-
'How about Scriptures on their pillow cases?'
I studied different Scriptures that I wanted for each child.

I found one Scripture that I wanted  
at the top of each pillow case:

"I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O LORD
make me dwell in safety." (Psalm 4:8)

The pictures that I uploaded to the blog are
actually the pillow cases I made more recently for my
dear friend's children. 

This pillow case was for my friend's son Logan.

The Scripture I chose for his pillow case says:

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified...
for the Lord you God goes with you,
He will never leave you nor forsake you." 
(Deuteronomy 31:6)

As for the pictures I drew onto the pilllow cases

I had searched the internet them. 
(I could not draw the kind of ideas I had in my head-
so, I googled 'cartoon pics of knights,' princesses, etc).

I made this next pillow case for her daughter Alexis. 

I didn't just put their name on the pillow,
I put,
"God Loves You, Alexis!" 

I was looking for a picture of a little girl sleeping 
and I found it in a Christian Board book I own.
This particular book means alot to my children and I
and when I saw it 
 I just knew I had to copy it for this pillow case.

I would show you the pillow cases I made for my own children,
but I failed to take pictures of the cases when they were new.
Now the cases are worn out and stained-
not much to look at.
But they have memorized their scriptures, 
and hate when I have to wash them!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Best Job of All

I have held one job or another since I am ten years old. It sounds ridiculous, but it's true. Each 'occupation' taught me something new whether it was some form of trade or just how to manage people. All of it together has worked much good in me. Here is the 'ridiculous' list of jobs:
  • I started babysitting at ten years old for a little boy who lived about twelve doors down from me. I babysat him every Thursday and Saturday night for about a year.
  • During the summer I 'sat' (not babysat) for an elderly woman all the way at the end of my block. I would go into her home every morning at 8:30am, clean her breakfast dishes, wake her up from her morning nap, make her lunch and sit and talk with her until 2pm. (I would also do her food shopping, via my bike, once a week). 
  • My next job was babysitting a little girl and her baby brother, who lived across the street, the same two nights of the week, Thursdays and Saturdays, for the next three years.
  • During the summers I worked at a beach club babysitting a particular family from 9am - 5pm, two days a week.
  • After that I worked as a cashier at a local supermarket, Dan's, for a year, while continuing to babysit. (Both wonderful and horrifying tales to tell from the Dan's experience). 
  • During the summer I worked at an ice cream shop called Carvel. Now that was fun! I learned how to make the ice cream, lolliploozas, flying saucers, and how to decorate ice cream cakes! The best part was when little kids would come in with change for an ice cream cone or cup to share. I would go the soft ice cream machine and spiral the ice cream as high as I could before it would fall over. Nothing was better than seeing those kids eyes huge with excitement.
  • During my Junior and Senior year of High School I worked at a supermarket called Waldbaums with my best friend Marla. (Now, there were some funny stories!)
After I graduated from High School I worked for the department store Sterns part-time while attending college. But soon the commute to school in one direction and my job in another was too much so I decided a job en-route to college would be more efficient. I landed Domino's Pizzeria as my second home. This job was great fun too. I was hired to be just the receptionist to this little pizzeria, but soon that bored me so I had them teach me how to make the pizzas and on slow nights how to deliver them. I was noticed by management and the "higher-ups' and soon they had me teaching classes on how to multi-mange: the phone, the ovens and the drivers! (I seriously had a real future with Domino's- they begged me to stay!)

During the summer I always tried juggling school, and two jobs for extra money. I was paying my way through college and used the time to work. I worked with a temp agency and tried alot of different things. I was a receptionist for Chrysler Credit Corp., Citibank, law firms-you name it.  I loved it! I loved getting to know the city better, meeting new people, managing people, organizing, filing, etc. Everything I put my hands to I loved. I loved that I, Ellen, could do something and something worth payment! I loved that I could go to school. I loved that I was going to graduate without any debt. I loved learning so much from every job.

I graduated college in three and a half years and landed a teaching job in the Catholic schools a few months later. I worked in education for seven years. During those years I also worked summer school and summer camps. After having my first children I began creating my own Pre-K 4 Christian curriculum and soon after opened up a little school, Joy School, in my home. I have been teaching Joy School since 2004.

Once I became a Christian I got involved in ministry.

  •  In New York I was the Bible School teacher during the years that I was in college.  
  • After college I began my own ministry called, "Beautiful Feet" with a friend. Two Saturdays a month we took a group of people from different churches into Manhattan to share the gospel. We also went to different ministries in Manhattan to help out. 
  • After that I became one of the Youth Group leaders at my church and worked in that ministry for at least five years. 
  • When I came to the South I was a leader in the Mother's Group, a Craft and Children's Coordinator in M.O.P.S., Nursery Directory, Kingdom Kids teacher, VBS Director and Mpact Girls Director.

I have worked for many years and have found it all thrilling. One funny story:  I remember, after working for two weeks at my first teaching job, finding an envelope in my school mailbox. I opened it up and there was a check for $372.00. I walked over to the secretary and handed it to her and told her someone must have put this in my box by accident. She said, "No, dear that is your paycheck." I was honestly confused for a few moments. I loved what I was doing so much that I forgot that I was getting paid for it!

For me I love the challenge of learning something new and trying to make it great. All my jobs had their difficult moments, but by and by and all in all I felt very special at each job and very grateful to be hired.

My most recent job, a job that I will hold on to until I go home to be with Jesus, is my mommyhood job.  This has been the best job of all. There are times when I really can't believe that I am some one's mommy. Sometimes I feel and have felt too young to be a mom - and I'm not particularly too young, but I have asked myself, 'what do I really know about raising children?'

With all my other jobs I had a manager or a boss that directed me and told me what to do. I was trained and excelled. But with mommyhood- it's hubby and me. People can share their experiences and ideas for your parenting, but ultimately you have to hear from the Lord and  make the decision for your own lives.  I have felt alone at times, wishing I had a mother or a grandmother in my life that lived two doors down or so. A mom who could come and sit in my home, advise me, teach me, talk with me. A mom who would fold clothes with me, organize the drawers, closets, paint bedrooms and bathrooms, furniture. Someone to go clothes shopping with or food shopping with, someone to share my mommyhood days in and days out with. The Bible talks about how the older women should train the younger, but I haven't had that in my life and many times it has felt hard.

One thing I have learned to do is pray. I'll say, "Lord, come into my home and show me what you would do if you were right here."  I know it might sound crazy, but He has shown me how to organize, change furniture around, how to order my day, how to have courage to try new recipes, how to handle being dogged in morning sickness and still homeschool, how to manage my home, how to lead a life of righteousness and integrity that my children will follow. I have had the honor of seeing five of my six children love Jesus and ask Him into their hearts. I have learned more in this one job than all the others combined. I have learned who Jesus really is and how to rely on Him. I have learned how to surrender my will and desires for God's will. I have learned the beginning of dying to self- I still have a lot to learn. My children have pushed, just about every 'button' I have and it has forced me to deal with my 'issues' so I can be a Godly role model for my children. I have learned how to be humble and how to laugh even when life is tough. The rewards of this job of motherhood are never ending. It truly is the best job I have ever had and it is a job that will never end-and I couldn't be happier about that.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A Honeybee Baby Shower

I love my sister-in-law April and
I had the honor of hosting her baby shower.
Honestly, I just couldn't wait!

As soon as she was pregnant, April and her hubby Jesse, 
started calling their little baby
They did not know what the Lord was giving them-
boy or girl,
so, the name "Honeybee" was given for either.

Choosing the theme for the baby shower was easy:

Here's the cake: 

I searched different "cake" sites and combined two
different cake ideas to make this one.
(I placed a 'pink' and a 'blue'  honeybee on the cake
to represent April and Jesse
a yellow honeybee on the beehive to represent the new baby). 

I actually found honeybee cookie cutters 
BEE HIVE cookie cutters! 
They were a must for the party.
(I found them at the local craft store Ben Franklin).

I found baby bottle and rattle cookie cutters there too!

Then for decorating the house-
I used wrapping paper as the banner paper,
drew, copied and colored in the bees,
typed up and cut out the words and
 attached it all to the banner.
It read:
"Welcome Honeybee!
You're just as cute as can bee..."

The presentation:

Decorations were everywhere!
(I know many of you are so much more talented than I am,
but this was the best that I could do and it was a gift from my heart).

How can you not CELEBRATE the arrival 
of a gift from God Himself.

Here she is, my precious sissy.

There just is nothing like family!
I love this girl!

Yes, it took time, thought and planning.
I started planning and searching for ideas
about a month before the event-
that way there was not as much pressure and stress.

Planning is key.

Baking the cookies days before and freezing them-
even baking the cake parts and freezing them
is helpful so that the day before all you have to do
is ice the cookies and frost the cake.

Decorations for the house I planned and prepared
during the day, but colored, cut out and arranged
at night when the children were sleeping.
I cannot stress enough that: Planning is key!

I was blessed to have been given the opportunity to bless them.
They have blessed my husband and I and all our children
for so many years- this party was an overflow
of the love I hold for them and their little Honeybee.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Piggy Banks!

Personalized piggy banks that I designed and painted myself.
I had never worked with ceramic paint pens before,
but I thought, "How hard can it be?"

First I looked for different kinds of  'piggy banks.'
I found a cow, a chicken, and sheep at Michaels.

Next, I went on-line and searched for specific pictures 
that I wanted to paint on the banks.
(I am not a real artist- I just copy really well).
(I am also not a photographer, drats). 
That said, I wasn't sure if I could come up 
drawings that would be really cute so
I googled 'cartoon pic of turtles' and 
other animals that my children love and copied them.

Here are four 'piggy banks'
I decorated for my children.

I found specific scriptures I wanted for each child.
"Whatever you do,
work at it with all your heart
as working for the Lord,
and not for man."
(Col. 3:20)

The next bank was filled with a soccer ball,
a knight and scriptures.

For my daughter I made a 
mommy sheep and a baby sheep bank.
One for savings and one for spending.
(My children have a 'church shaped bank' for tithes).

She loves dancing and hedgehogs and so they had to 
be on the 'piggy.'

"Our God is a God who saves."

For the mommy sheepy
the scripture from Proverbs I used was,
"Give her the reward she has earned
and let her works bring her praise."

And the last piggy bank I decorated was an
actual piggy bank!

I found the most adorable picture of an angel
and painted it on.
(While pregnant with our first daughter
 the Lord had given me the scripture
from Psalm 91
"He will command His angels charge over you
to guard you in all your ways."
I painted the scripture on her wall and angels about the room).

This daughter also loves penguins
So here they are!

This was a mommy craft that I did for my kids.
They love their banks and it was fun 
seeing them opening them up on Christmas Day.

A few months later,
I made piggy banks for my dear friend's children.

For her son I found a car shaped bank.

He used to love 'Thomas the Train,'
so I painted him on the back.

For her daughter I found a regular piggy bank 
and dolled it up.

She loves swimming so I painted a swimmer on one side.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Homeschooling...How I Got Started.

If you have followed my blog at all you will have certainly figured out by now that I have not been one to dream about my future, let alone think about the future. All that to say homeschooling was never a dream of mine nor had I thought much about it until my first child was born.

I had been a elementary school teacher for about seven years in New York City. I worked both in the Catholic schools and in the Public Schools. Not that these institutions are the alpha and omega in education, but from what I had seen on the homeschool front I was not impressed with that either.

There were a few families in my Northern church that were homeschooling their children and honestly, I saw more neglect than what I had expected. I thought the homeschooling family would be energized, focused, learning above and beyond what I was doing in the NYC public schools. I thought there were field trips and learning never ended. What I saw, not so much. Not only that, when the teenagers of these families graduated high school they had no ambition to do anything with their lives. None of them went off to college, pursued the sciences, or had dreams or visions of changing the world, or for that matter touching the neighborhoods in which they lived. Needless to say, homeschooling my children was not going to be an option after the example I saw first hand. And if you're sensing that I held a judgement toward homeschooling, well, all I can say to that is- you're right. I was judgemental towards homeschoolers after that experience and critical too, I might add, that it could be done right. But like with everything in my life when I tell the Lord, "THAT is not for me," He finds a way to tear down my judgements, and my fears, so I could walk in obedience to His calling.

When I became pregnant with our first child and I knew that I was to stay at home and raise him I began thinking about his future. It's funny how he was only a few months old and I was already thinking about his future education. It didn't take me long to change my tune, mostly because of my experience in the varied school systems, I knew that I had to homeschool my son.

When my son was only eight months old we left New York and moved to the south. Upon arriving here I thought, "Well, I won't have to homeschool now. First of all there will be no 'waiting list' to get into a Christian school (Christian schools are everywhere!) and secondly, everyone down here is a Christian! It's the Bible belt!" (Silly me). He can get a great education in any one of the Christian schools down here." BUT again, that was not what God had for me and my family. I really tried to get out of it. It wasn't that I didn't so much believe that homeschool was a good choice of education anymore, it had become more about my own inadequacies. I did not believe that I could raise a Godly child let alone a smart one! The task was waaaaay too big for me- I shuddered at the thought.

When time came for our boy to go into Pre-K 3 my husband and I looked at the schools and their prices. We simply couldn't afford it. My husband asked me if I could homeschool just for Pre-K 3. I said yes. I taught our son that year and it was really and truly wonderful. My little boy was reading! So, Pre-K 4 registration was coming up-it was still too expensive. So, I said, "I'll home school one more year." That year I taught Joy School for the very first time and fell in love with having my children around me all day long and with homeschooling too.

Well, you may think the rest is history, but it is not. I told my husband and God, "I cannot teach fifth grade." (I have no idea why that grade made my knees buckle, but it did - for Pete's sake, I taught fifth grade in the Catholic Schools and did great).  I felt confident to teach the grades up to and including fourth grade, but not fifth grade. As my eldest entered fourth grade we again looked at the cost of the schools and saw that financially we just couldn't do it and still have more children. That year of prayer my eyes were opened to a  DVD homeschool service and my heart rested.

Well, it's still not over-I then went to my husband and told him, "I can not teach high school and so I think that we should put our first born in the schools at eighth grade to give him the chance to make friends and learn how a school day works." Once again I felt a renewed sense of confidence to keep my oldest home for a few years, but was determined to win this last time. I know you all know the end, but once again, through prayer and surrender we believe the Lord would have us homeschool our children up through high school. (Yikes!) I am still very nervous about it and will pray for the Lord to change His mind each year! But for now I am a homeschooling mommy of six! Pre-k 3-------all the way to 7th grade! I am still alive. I am still breathing. I am still making it and making it with JOY.

I have wrestled God for years, but in His gentleness He had only revealed His will one step at a time. I never could have accepted the charge of homeschooling all my children to the high school level when my son was just three years old. I would have bucked and run. I've grown into homeschooling. I've grown into loving it. I've had to work at not be afraid of people's judgement of me. I remember how I judged others and many times I feel others judging me. And I've had to work at not being afraid that my very own kids will turn out ---well, not so good.

I'm sitting here typing with tears in my eyes because of the wonder and goodness of our Lord. He is so gentle and good. He knew what was best for my children even before I ever did. He also knew what has been best for me. He worked with my hard heart towards homeschooling and has made it supple in His hands. I am still on my knees with homeschooling because in many ways it still scares me. Can I really prepare them for the world? Can I really prepare them for college, a career? Can I really prepare them to answer God's calling for their life? It is such a big responsibility and I am humbled that God would believe in  me enough to shoulder this task with Him.

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The First Day of School

I was a teacher for many years,
all primary grades,
and with that comes decorating the windows,
doors, bulletin boards-you name it.

Well, I've still got some of that in me...
Here's a picture of the bay window in my kitchen.

Every year I decorate the windows with pencils and apples.
When September is over I take the pencils down
and tape them onto a new page in my children's scrapbooks.
(These pencils now act as kind of a page marker
of a new school year in their scrapbooks).

On the first day of school,
while the children are showering and putting on their "first day of school outfits,"
 I prepare a most delicious breakfast!
I prepare scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits, and fruit.
We sit together, pray not only for our breakfast,
but for a blessing on our new school year.

After breakfast, well, it's picture time! 

My youngest is now in Pre-K 3!

Among her supplies
is her trusty binky...

and her blankie!

My second youngest is in Kindergarten!

He is quite proud of his lunch bag =)

And for the boy who LOVES animals-correction- JUNGLE animals...
He wants to be Zoo Keeper when he grows up!

My sweet twins are now in the fourth Grade!

(You cannot imagine how much this blessed me!)

And what a great doctor he will make!

Here is my now 6th grader!

 And lastly, my oldest child! 
He is in eighth grade!

When we finish taking pictures
the children run inside and open their backpacks
to see their new books, new supplies, and little gifts I have hidden away in their bags!

Make the first day of school fun and exciting!
We love it and look forward to it each August!
Hope you have a very blessed school year!