January 2018 Adventures in Homeschooling

Two years ago we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (6), Beatrice (3), and Arlo (1). We’re including this on our Giants & Pilgrims blog as all our family adventures seem to impact our art & music so much! Also, we just like sharing the stories. So we’ll be sharing posts on the themes we’ve been covering each month and calling the adventure “ABACUS”! Our hope is that these posts will help spark creative direction and inspiration for your family as well as giving us somewhere to be document and record our experiences.

JAPAN:

We continued our world tour this month with a “trip” to Japan. This was definitely one of our favorite countries/cultures yet! I surprised the girls by setting up a Japanese style low table in the middle of our dining room with zen inspired decorations and gave them each a silk kimono (twelve dollars on amazon!).

We had a Japanese tea party –

We practiced calligraphy and mark making with these lovely Teagas water scrolls –

We played with origami –

And REALLy loved getting to try all these yummy Japanese snacks from our TopMunch box!

  Watched fascinating videos about silkworms and zen gardens –  

We of course went out for sushi at the end of the month!

SNOW:

A reoccuring theme for January for us is “Snow”! Thanks Colorado!

A day at the best sledding hill –

All the snow books –

Building a funny snow man (snow deer?)

Painting snowy scenes

READING:

Lots of letter play for this little one –

The two big girls joined the Secret Society of Letter Writers

And for Harriet this month we worked REALLY hard to read every day. She has been doing so great!

Polymer Clay and Stop Motion:

We had lots of fun making some little stop motion videos with my iphone and also made lots of oven bake figures.

IMG_7713

 

ART:

So many fun art projects this month. Buzzy helping me do the underpainting on a canvas –

Painting owls inspired by Owl Moon

Painting our to-do list clip boards

Face painting fun

And a really cool art show up at the university

BOOK CLUB:

For book club this month, we read Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin

We got to experience Chinese Hot Pot

 

Went on a journey to find the Old Man of the Moon

Had a great discussion

And celebrated the Year of the Dog

DINOSAURS:

Our Natural History Museum at a really cool touring exhibit of dinosaur skeletons, so we adventured to Denver to check it out.

Digging for dinosaur fossils

HOMEMAKING:

Some days, when the chaos is winning, it is best to take the morning off from normal homeschool and learn about the lost arts of homemaking. Headphones and fun music help (Annie soundtrack all the way for these girls)

Harriet came up with her own recipe for Orange Cake. Turned out pretty tasty!

A dinner Lucy and Harriet made.

One day Lucy really wanted to build something. So they designed, built, and painted this shelf with a cup holder for next to their bed.

Bellwether, Our Newest Full-Length Album, is Released

A few years ago, Betony and I had a chance to go to the Grand Canyon. The view was transformative in its expansive nature. As we were taking everything in a storm began to form on the southern rim. We watched the dark clouds roll toward us with a constant display of lightning. It was unimaginatively beautiful. It took our breath away in that same way entering a cathedral can.

This last Thanksgiving we spent in our own home. We usually travel to parents but Arlo was a newborn so we stayed close. The table was set, some family joined us, and the time was so simple and grounded. It felt like a sacred space. Not quite as drastic as a cathedral experience, but sacred non-the-less.

In the spring when Beatrice was 2, she had a series of seizures. After the third one in a day we took her to Denver Children’s Hospital at 4 AM under a harsh, bright moon. We prayed and we cried in fear. I remember humming “All Creatures of Our God and King”. We later found out the seizures were normal post-stomach bug. They stopped after we did a regime of medicine. It may be strange to call this space sacred, but the pain and unknowing of the situation broke something open in us. There’s something holy in that.

The guiding themes in writing this album for me was “sacred space”. In the midst of writing I realized songs were falling into 3 distinct areas: cathedrals, tables, and dark fields. We are somehow formed by these spaces.

We hope you enjoy our new album, Bellwether, and find yourself familiar with the resonating of these transforming spaces.
Listen/Purchase:

Spotify
iTunes
Bandcamp

March 2018 Desktop Wallpaper

We almost bought a house last week. We put an put an offer in, dreamed about flipping a dusty ugly place into something beautiful, had our offer turned down, put another offer in, cried a lot about the emotion of leaving a house we love, started the process of getting ready to list our house, talked to the kids about moving, talked the kids down from both crazy excitement and mourning, worried about all the money bits, and worried more. And then, after all that, had our offer turned down in favor of a lower one (without a contingency).

Still not sure why we had to go through all of that emotional wreckage, or where it will lead. Obviously my hopelessly optimistic heart would like it to mean there is something better out there waiting for us… But that is yet to come.

So this months image is about homes – past and future. The bones that we live within. Our migration of moving. Packing our belongings and moving from one structure to the next. Taking and making home where we land.

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

The poem this month is one that Tim found while running when we were first married. It was taped to an overpass on a scrap of paper. It was only recently that we discovered that it was from a Jewel lyric.

Joy, Pure Joy, I am

What I always wanted

to grow up and be

Things are becoming

more of a dream with

each waking day-

The heavy brows of Daily Life

are becoming encrusted

with glitter and the shaking finger

of consequence is

beginning to giggle

Grumpy old men

have wings

Burns sport Halos

and everyday dullness

has begun to breathe

as I remember the

incredible lightness

of living

Jewel lyrics from “On Moving into my Van”

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers:

 

And don’t forget! Our new album is finally available for preorder – here!! 

A Song About Anxiety

I don’t want to sensationalize the story, but I want to be truthful in how it felt. 

Last year in May, Betony was admitted to the emergency room for the second time that week. We were at a loss as to what was going on and we were really damn scared.

It started earlier in the month, where she would feel a sensation that was hard for her to subscribe. Often this would come on at night as we were going to bed. It was like a quickening of the heart or like she was falling. At least that’s how she tried to describe it to me. Then she’d shake violently for 20 or 40 minutes after the rushing feeling left her. This was also accompanied by really dark thoughts, uncharacteristic for her.

She didn’t think it was anxiety, because her mindset really wasn’t in a place of feeling overwhelmed or mad or anxious. So was it her heart? Or some strange sickness we hadn’t placed?

Like I said, we were damn scared and symptoms were getting worse rather than better.

And during that second visit, the emergency room doctor, an eccentric personality mix of kindness and blunt force, sat down with us. He told us all the tests had come back clean again for this second time- heart, blood work, thyroid, etc. It all looked fine. So we have to consider anxiety. He said it several times. We HAVE to consider anxiety.

Betony was upset at this. Anxiety felt like a non-answer or catch all. In that old show “House”, the brilliant doctor would figure out what strange disease the patient actually had… the colleagues he outsmarted always thought it was lupus. A designation of anxiety felt like a sloppy, semi-educated guess of “lupus”.

In the same way I don’t want to sensationalize the story, I also don’t want the following to feel prescriptive either. What is working for us might not translate for someone else’s anxiety symptoms. But I want to share our process of the last year.

My wife approached the diagnosis as scientifically as possible. She gave the different medicines they prescribed trials and tests. She settled on a beta-blocker and half a sleep aid at night and took both of those for about 3 months. 

She also read everything she could about anxiety; what is known and what is being discovered and followed the threads she trusted. Ideas she found helpful, though may in the end NOT be proven scientifically, she held loosely to see if results followed.

One of these ideas is that perhaps her anxiety was attached to a fight or flight scenario. In this season of life she’s raising four kids and one is a baby who sleeps lightly at night and she also is a part time artist and is also homeschooling…

That’s a full life and there are moments of intensity that can happen. These moments can trigger the brain in ways we don’t fully understand yet. For example, driving all the kids home from Denver by herself and two of the kids are screaming for an hour and it’s past everyone’s bedtime, including her own. If the brain goes into crisis mode and sends adrenaline and other chemicals to her muscles and systems… there has to be some negative effects on body and brain in these scenarios. 

So alongside her medication she’s also been working out a little more, getting her heart rate up in case there is extra adrenaline or other things happening in her body she needs to move through. And perhaps this helps with the shaking as well.

With medication and working out we also added counseling. For Betony’s personality this was difficult but good. (That could probably be counseling’s tagline- Difficult but good.)

Since August of last year she went off of medication and has not been symptomatic. She’s had some rough days, but for the most part things have been better thus far. And at the very least we’re out of that place of deep fear.

Now, Betony is an immensely private person. We haven’t really shared this story publicly on social medias, though we’ve talked about it with friends and family and church communities.

We offer the story now alongside a song. While working through this season together, Betony and I were surprised at just how many stories of other people suffering from anxiety came to light. It remains fairly mysterious and scary and unexplored. It can come across like a catch all or a diminishing of something that is truly happening in our brains and bodies.

As I processed all of this I wrote this song called “Settled Down”. So we offer this story alongside this art for a since of solidarity. We hope you find the conversation we’ve offered helpful and open and caring.

Pre-Order Bellwether now and receive the single “Settled Down”

Lyrics for “Settled Down”

I’ll keep my hand here on your back
I won’t move it while you sleep
The shaking hours have settled down
Take all the help that you need

I put it on just like an evening dress
Parade to the right, sway to the left
In the morning everything is spent
And I make my way back home

What the wires couldn’t catch
Fails to give a certainty
And the world stirs around
On the edge of all you see

We can put blankets under the leaves
We can fill pages and keep on the dream
I set a good table, take all that you need
I can set more if you come back to me

We can keep sleeping, be late on the rise
We can stay novel with every surprise
I set a good table, take all that you need
They all remain open, you see what I mean

We will blur edges and rid every cage
We will push candles and feel every blaze
We set a good table, take all that you need
We set a good table, take all that you need

We will see colors that wonder and burst
We will raise glasses that rid every thirst
We set a good table, take all that you need
We set a good table, take all that you need

You put it on just like a hiding place
With three separate acts, that ends in disgrace
In the morning everything is safe
and you make your way back home

I put it on just like an evening dress
Parade to the right, sway to the left
In the morning everything is spent
And I make my way back home

Our New Album is available for Pre-Order!

Hey Friends,
Our new full-length album, Bellwether, is now available for pre-order.
It releases on March 13th, but it’s half off during this time.
I’m thrilled with how it turned out and hope you find the music to be soul-striking and soul-soothing and soul-full.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/bellwether/1349371004

February 2018 Free Desktop and iPhone Wallpaper

This year I am following the theme “Migration” for my desktop backgrounds and sharing a piece of writing or poetry that inspired the image.

This months wallpaper speaks of blankets piled high, snuggling in for the night under layers of stitches, and of tiny footsteps migrating in the dark hours, coming in to find warmth and safety in your arms. The arrow patterned quilt is called “Migration” or “flying geese.”

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

The Hundred Names of Love by Annie Lightheart

The children have gone to bed. We are so tired we could fold ourselves neatly behind our eyes and sleep mid-word, sleep standing warm among the creatures in the barn, lean together and sleep, forgetting each other completely in the velvet, the forgiveness of that sleep. Then the one small cry: one strike of the match-head of sound: one child’s voice: and the hundred names of love are lit as we rise and walk down the hall. One hundred nights we wake like this, wake out of our nowhere to kneel by small beds in darkness. One hundred flowers open in our hands, a name for love written in each one.

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers:

December 2017 Adventures in Homeschooling

Last year we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (6), Beatrice (3), and Arlo (1). We’re including this on our Giants & Pilgrims blog as all our family adventures seem to impact our art & music so much! Also, we just like sharing the stories. So we’ll be sharing posts on the themes we’ve been covering each month and calling the adventure “ABACUS”! Our hope is that these posts will help spark creative direction and inspiration for your family as well as giving us somewhere to be document and record our experiences.

Cardboard Fun:

With all the Christmas shipments (and a couple of new tool purchases for art projects), we found ourselves with an awesome stash of large cardboard boxes.

As well as revisiting this favorite book –

We made all sorts of fun structures.

A castle with multiple rooms and a draw bridge –

A gingerbread house –

Handmade Gifts:

We had a lot of fun making homemade gifts this year. For grandparents, the kids designed and made wood cut out paintings. It was neat listening to them decide what image to make for each person. A fish for grandpa ed because he loves painting, a pie for grandmama because she is the queen of pie making, a girl with a dress for grandma DiDi because she loves buying little girl’s dresses, etc.

As part of our science club, we made bath bombs. So easy and fun! Next time I want to try hiding little surprises in the middle!

Bookclub! A Step back in History…

Our homeschool bookclub is turning into this magical much anticipated event. This month we read Benjamin West and his cat Grimalkin by Marguerite Henry. A historical fiction story about the father of American painting.

We experimented with making our own colors our of clay and charcoal, made quill pens out of turkey feathers, and practice life drawings of cats.

We feasted on homemade porridge at the “Door Latch Inn”

And even tried Peas with Honey (a funny reference from the books)

And learned how to play Blindman’s Bluff

Some Tinkering Engineering Play:

Hydraulics, robotics, and engineering. What a fun world we live in. So many cool topics to explore and neat things to make. And so thankful for grandparents gift subscriptions, uncles sending cool robots, and libraries sharing their resources.

Homemaking & Home Baking:

We have started having one day a month of learning about simple home making skills – how to fold laundry, how to iron, things like that.

We didn’t make huge batches of Christmas cookies for neighbors this year because our kitchen was torn up for most of December (an unexpected dishwasher replacement) and an expected and much anticipated new countertop and backsplash!

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

But when it was finally done, we broke the new kitchen in with a glorious sugar cookie explosion of awesomeness with the help of Grandma DiDi.

Snapshots of Christmas Goodness:

I love this time of year so much it makes my heart hurt. Here are a few moments from December that I want to remember.

   

New Years Eve:

Instead of heading to KS this year, we had a little staycation (and played ALOT of Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey) and then had a fun night with friends on New Years Eve

Happy New Year Friends! May your 2018 be as fresh and beautiful as these paper whites, but hopefully not nearly as stinky.

January 2018 Free Desktop and iPhone Wallpaper

 

Happy New Year friends! It’s a new day. A whole new year. Everything is waiting for you.

I am going to try something a little different this year for my desktop wallpapers. The theme of “MIGRATION” keeps coming back to me, so I am going to try out having a connecting thread for the wallpaper artwork.  I love this idea of movement from one place to another, of traveling great distances, of coming back home. Each desktop this year will be exploring that theme.

Secondly, I want to include a poem/writing that inspires the artwork – a centering writing to reflect on for the month. We heard this piece by David Whyte on the On Being podcast. It is a beautiful piece for a new year.  “Or the window latch grants you freedom” is the line that inspired my artwork.


For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.


“Everything Is Waiting for You”

 Your great mistake is to act the drama
 as if you were alone. As if life
 were a progressive and cunning crime
 with no witness to the tiny hidden
 transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
 the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
 even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
 the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
 out your solo voice. You must note
 the way the soap dish enables you,
 or the window latch grants you freedom.
 Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
 The stairs are your mentor of things
 to come, the doors have always been there
 to frighten you and invite you,
 and the tiny speaker in the phone
 is your dream-ladder to divinity.

Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into the
 conversation. The kettle is singing
 even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
 have left their arrogant aloofness and
 seen the good in you at last. All the birds
 and creatures of the world are unutterably
 themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers:

November 2017 Adventures in Homeschooling

Last year we began homeschooling Lucy (8), Hattie (6), Beatrice (3), and Arlo (1). We’re including this on our Giants & Pilgrims blog as all our family adventures seem to impact our art & music so much! Also, we just like sharing the stories. So we’ll be sharing posts on the themes we’ve been covering each month and calling the adventure “ABACUS”! Our hope is that these posts will help spark creative direction and inspiration for your family as well as giving us somewhere to be document and record our experiences.

Writing and Letter Forms:

As part of our history reading, we learned about Cuneiforms which then led to making our own fonts and lettering.

Harriet had her first show and tell at her Homeschool Access kindergarten class. She worked very hard filling out her “Read All About Me” Poster.

Arlo’s 1st Birthday:

On November 18th, this handsome, ornery, little dude turned One!! I can’t even believe it. He has discovered the joy of food.

He always seems to have a mischievous little twinkle in his eyes.

His tiny makeshift snowman birthday cake made out of cake pops.

Enjoying his cake pop under his new name banner (a one year old tradition for all the kids)

And another birthday celebration with grandparents in Kansas.

Playing with a birthday gift from his Aunt and Uncle. 

Around the World:

To learn the continents, we made our own fun version of pin it maps, really enjoyed this Hopscotch song about the continents, and played map games.

We kept adding to our museum of world monuments by making a great wall of China, a Statue of Liberty, and a Sphinx.

http://s28969.p27.sites.pressdns.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/IMG_5268-2.jpg


We took the Statue of Liberty downtown to visit our own tiny Statue of Liberty (right after reading Her Right Foot – which was so great).

We enjoyed another Top Munch box – this time from Germany!

Science Club:

We started an impromptu science club. Our first experiment was to remove the chlorophyll from leaves, then we did some experiments with old Halloween candy, and finally we made lungs out of old plastic bottles and balloons! So fun!

Art and Crafting:

Lucy immediately decided our house was not festive enough and added tiny hats, trees, reindeer antlers, and presents to all the photos/artwork.

 

We made handprint turkeys

Someone got over her fear of the hot glue gun.

I made a ridiculous thing. Peg dolls for days….

Lots of late night sketching

Decorating paper christmas trees

 

Gaming:

I like for November to be our family game night. So I usually add a few new games to our collections. This year I found these beautiful spectrum cards.

This silly but awesome game called “There’s a Moose in my House”

And my current favorite, Qwirkle

In the Kitchen:

Would it even be November without lots of wonderful goodies to bake?

Two books really dominated our kitchen decision making this November. Baking Class for the kids, and Bravetart for me. Both are great.

   

Homemade graham crackers from Bravetart.

Practicing knife skills

Lucy baking braided bread

And Lucy making her first original contribution to the Thanksgiving feast

And Music:

Music always together. Usually with a little brother crowding in on the fun.

In the Prairie and Great Outdoors:

We got to go home to Kansas for Thanksgiving this year which meant lots of beautiful walks on the farm/prairie.

 

 

A couple of woodworking projects –

we built a teeter toter just for fun out of random scrap boards.

 

And I worked on cutting pieces for an upcoming project in Houston

Thanksgiving:

We feasted and celebrated. It was beautiful. We are full.

Matching Thanksgiving outfits from Grandma DiDi and Grandpa Ed

 

Discovering and Rediscovering the magic of Calvin and Hobbs together.

Our thankful tree

And an adorable pilgrim girl

 

Much love from us,

December 2017 Free Calendar Desktop and iPhone Wallpaper

The inspiration for the wallpaper this month comes from our newest project – Imago Divina: The Joyous Mysteries – an incredibly beautiful advent collaboration with several other artists/creators (The Liturgists!)

Watch/Listen/Enjoy all of that goodness here.

And then put some new wallpaper on your screens and breathe in all the Christmas goodness that is coming in the door this month.

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

 

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers: