April 2015 Desktop and iPhone Wallpaper

Last year Tim wrote this about April –

April is a smile
a spark
an epiphany
a new dawn

These days are given to
the pranksters

the believers
the early risers
Bright mornings, bright ideas, bright souls
Because with every rain there’s a clearing
And a new sun to enjoy

Here is a “bright” new desktop for your computer and iphone. A toast to new “Growth.” Click the small thumbnail below to download the large sized file. For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the iphone images. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen. Enjoy!

For iPhones:

iphone april
Click the thumbnail below to download the large sized desktop wallpaper:
april 2015 desktop

Abacus: “Spectrum”

Giants and Pilgrim “Abacus” is a creative home curriculum centered on a monthly theme. This month’s theme is Spectrum!
Read all about how to use this list and our heart behind this project here.

Below is our comprehensive activities list! Choose a couple to do with your kids to enrich the month or try to accomplish the whole thing!

Also, a few March Dates to keep in mind as you are scheming fun activities-

Pi Day = March 14th (3.14…)
St. Patricks Day = Mar. 17
First day of Spring = Mar. 20th

March: Spectrum

Listen:

Ludwig Von Drake – The Spectrum Song (disney)

Red Roses for Blue Lady by Jack Morgan

Our Spectrum playlist! (coming later this month…)

This podcast on Spiral dynamics (For adults – not kids)

Movies:

Any of these films with an intensely distinctive color palette: Amelie, any Wes Anderson film, Nanny McPhee, Hero
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For St. Patricks Day:
The Secret of Roan Inish, and The Book of Kells
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The Wizard of Oz (For its transition from black and white to color)

Science:

Play with prisms

Learn about plants and how they process light

Steve Spangler St. Patrick’s Day Science Kit (we bought this a few years back and now get it out every year. It was super fun. I would highly recommend it. We are needing a few refills, but mostly it lasts quite a while)

Bees, Ultra violet and other colors off our visual spectrum – we are hoping to take a field trip out to Illuman Apiary’s bee hives if it gets warm enough.

This Cool Density “rainbow in a jar” experiment
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Take a trip to the Denver Natural History Museum – specifically to play with their infrared camera body scan
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Learn about eyes – Anatomy, Rods/Cones, etc

Adventure:

Make a Treasure Map  – Participate in our Isles of Green Adventure at the end of this month! (Here is last years)
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Books:

Adult Reads:

Red: The Red Tent by Anita Diamont

Orange: A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Yellow: The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Green: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Blue: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Purple: The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Kids:
Older kids –
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Giver by Louis Lowry
Younger –
Mix it Up by H. Tullet, Do You Know Colors by Katherine Howard, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do You See? by Eric Carle, The Day the Crayons Quit by Oliver Jeffres
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Art:

Freezer paper “Favorite Color” shirts
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Paint Color wheels/Learn about color mixing/Spin art
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Find some where to do a color coded Trash art installation like this –
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Make dip dyed cloth or paper (or tie dye!)
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Make layered paper jewelry

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Garden/Outside:

Make Garden cold frames (or as I like to call them, “mini-greenhouses”)

Seed Starts
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Visit the Wichita Botanical Gardens

Play with this:
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Kitchen:

Make homemade play dough – recipe coming soon 🙂

Eat the Rainbow – this could make a fun grocery store trip that maybe helps convince my kids to try eating a few vegetables.
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Make these edible rainbows –
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Play with rainbow foam
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Sort all the things by color (oh wait, I do that already…)

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Love & Arrows: Some Valentines Playlists

Love songs can be pithy, schmoltzy; full of sentiment and cliche’. We’ve tried to avoid all that with these playlists.

Here are two  “mixtapes” full of earnest, beautiful, and creative songs that strike to the core of love in such a way that we can believe it.

The first playlist “Love & Arrows” is on Betony Coons’ spotify and available for listen below.

The second playlist is from just throwing the question out there on Facebook, “What song would you/ did you play at your wedding?” The answers were really beautiful to hear! The long playlist called “Our Song” and is below as well!

 

Featured Artist: Joni Lissak

Joni Lissak

Artist & Lover of Elephants

Joni teaches art at a charter school in Greeley, CO with an undergrad from the University of Northern Colorado. She produces intricate, beautiful, and interactive art shows. (One being a narrative thread of paintings inspired by a Regina Spector song.
Gallery goers could listen, touch, and contribute to the show).

Click the download button below to get the high resolution 5X7 file. Print it out and place the music jar somewhere it will “play” for you.

[purchase_link id=”233″ style=”button” color=”white” text=”Purchase”]

 

(Note: click the download button, then the purchase button – it will be $0.00, then click “download now” to get the high resolution file)

 

Contact Joni for art commissions:

box.of.paints@hotmail.com

Complete Set of Almanac Booklets Now Available!

The Coons family spent good time creating these all last year, enjoying the curating of everything creative we put in there.

The 12 booklets are full of provision and navigation for your season. They read like a “Life Almanac” and include recipes, playlists, songs, paintings, Instagram games, suggested adventures, free downloads and more. Pick up a set for yourself here and enjoy a deeper sense of the seasons with friends and family!

We only have 6 collections left, so invest quickly!

 

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“Mountain” January Projects Round Up

I don’t know about you, but we have been loving having a theme this month for our Abacus project. All sorts of “mountain” projects have been created around here. To see the whole list of projects we came up with (and resources!) check out our original post, here. Below is a summary of what we have been up to so far this January.

We have done quite a few mountain painting projects. I suppose that’s what you get when you have an artist for a mom 🙂

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This second set we used torn paper edges as a stencil which was a fun variation. (The idea came from the book “Make your Mark” by Margaret Poet)

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We have been listening to lots of these two albums – The Secret Life of Walter Mitty soundtrack (we haven’t actually watched the movie yet) and the Mountain Goats “The Sunset Tree” album (I especially love “This Year”)
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Tim came up with an awesome treasure map activity where he hid a box with trinkets in it and Lucy had to learn how to read a compass to find where it was located. (Isn’t this the coolest compass you have ever seen?!)IMG_1528

 

It took about a week to finish it, but we all watched and LOVED the Sound of Music (Lucy says her favorite part was the puppet show)

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Had a whole week where “In the Hall of the Mountain King” was stuck in all of our heads because we watched several videos of it, Tim told the girls the story of it, and we marked it out on the piano so Lucy could learn how to play the melody.

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We have been loving our “Adventure Logs” (We bought some basic sketchbooks that we decorated to use throughout the course of this whole Abacus year).
We wrote mountain shaped poems in them one peaceful morning.

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I have been enjoying a guilty pleasure of my own as well: a jigsaw puzzle. Miraculously, I have had it set up in our dining room and my kids have not decimated it! They seem to have forgotten about it. I have no idea how that happened, but I’m holding my breath that I “might” actually finish this one!

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One of the COOLEST Christmas presents we got this year was from my ever science-minded father. He got us a dissecting scope! It is seriously awesome. We looked at salt, sugar, glitter, snow, leaves, and rocks. Pretty cool. Can’t wait to look at some pond scum in the spring.

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We sewed mountain shaped pillows.

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We erupted an awesome plaster volcano we made from a kit and watched a video of a seriously cool lava expedition.
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I have almost made my way through “Born to Run” (Ironic since I preach about how much I hate running). But, even I will have to admit it’s a fascinating read and it does have me itching to get out and give running a fresh start.dsc_0138

I found some geodes at Hobby Lobby. Which were a short but sweet discovery change-up after a long afternoon.

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Phew, that seems like a lot when I list it all out like this! In reality, I have been loving these quiet days with this sweet family of mine. Still have 10 days in January for a few more. Hoping to head to the library today for some books, on the 29th we have a family climbing night scheduled at “The Rock” which we are all super excited about, a couple films still (Heidi, Unsinkable Molly Brown), and I’m still hoping to take a drive up to the actual mountains – since we do live so close to such a beautiful wonder. Happy Mountaineering to you and yours – Betony

If you want more info about this whole Abacus project, start here.

To jump in and connect with other families and share what you are working on, join our Abacus facebook group.

Or, to connect see our whole list of mountain project suggestions and resources list, head over here.

 

Update 2/17/15 – Here are our egg geodes – We used this tutorial

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And here are some pics from our awesome family climbing night at “The Rock” – We did the pizza and family climbing night here.

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MLK Day Playlist: “In Protest”

The first time I realized that there is such a thing as a “protest” song was in high school. One of the films they were showing about the civil rights movement kept coming back to people belting out “We Shall Overcome”. As a young man, I was so moved. That people can use music to rally around an idea that brings about change- that’s powerful.

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we made a playlist filled with songs about changing the world around us for the better (curated by Betony, myself, and many other contributors). Here’s our current list. What would you add? Feel free to put song suggestions in the comments.

 

Why Did We Get a Live Tree? (Needing What’s Real pt. 1)

From Giants & Pilgrims artist Tim Coons:

Every year about this time I question why exactly we get a live tree. The picture above says it all. This is a pine needle I found in our bathroom… upstairs. How in the world did this tiny piece of our Christmas migrate up the stairs and into our restroom?

Much of having a real tree over the holidays is hard work. It takes a trip out into the cold to purchase the tree, you have to water it (it still dries up),  you have to clean it up with remnants of its branches being found throughout the year (and years to come), you can’t just throw it away, and it costs more money every season.

I truly don’t judge my friends when they’ve got a fake tree in their living room. I think it can be quite wise.

So why do Betony and I do this to ourselves every year? I’ve been thinking about this over the last couple weeks while we’ve been in full clean up mode and I think I have an answer.

We do it because, every once in a while, we need something real.

It sounds strange, but I think it makes since. Surrounded by so much plastic, so much comfort, and so much insolation from everything… I, personally, need something real and alive and very messy. It helps me feel alive and connected to the world around me.

Getting a tree every year means tramping through the cold and snow with my kids. It’s uncomfortable but invigorating, like most adventures. Then I bring this sticky, live thing into our home and it’s smell is wondrous and speaks everything holy of the season to me. In the work of the constant watering I’m reminded of the great and terrifying responsibility I have in raising children, being married, owning a home.

I think this is why people run 100 mile races or head to the mountains,
have a natural child birth, laugh at plastic surgery,
tear up the carpet for hardwood floors,
work a fulfilling job rather than a lucrative one.
It’s why people demonize fast food or raise chickens.

It comes with this need to do things the hard way as long as it means doing things that make us feel more alive with every range of emotion there is, good and bad.

Like I said, this isn’t about judging people on whether they have a fake tree or a live one. This is about recognizing those places where we sense the disconnect; where we’re tired of the medicine that numbs it all, because we just long to feel something… joy and pain and warts and all.

I’m blessed I’ve married my wife, Betony. She’s constantly pushing me into this place. I’m much more easily prone for comfort and ease, for sure. Then she challenges me to do these real things, these adventures. And it’s like I’m waking up. A lot of the writing on our album Almanac No. 1  has this theme running through it. It’s been a constant exploration since becoming a family.

So, where do we long to experience more “real” this year? Because here’s the truth- it will be a “real” pain.

The Christmas tree can be a metaphor in that way. It will be messy and take more energy than the easy way and it will take upkeep and you’ll wonder why you went this route and people will question you on why you’re doing it the hard way.

But in the end…

in the end you’ll experience something real. And in all that fullness you’ll realize it was all worth it.

Let me say that again.

You’ll realize it was all worth it.

The Story Behind the New Comic Book

Illustrator Rick Destree has created something special: the world’s first comic-book-video.

Using the lyrics of “Paint Your Tigers Gold” as an esoteric launching point, this comic features the trials and tribulations of “Lucy the Mouse”. Will she be able to face her fears and take on the cat that stalks her home? With the help of her friends and great courage she just might.

You can support the work of the Coons Family (Giants & Pilgrims) by picking up a booklet or two of this new project here:
https://s28969.p27.sites.pressdns.com/store/

Here’s the full story of how this comic came about and what’s at it’s heart:

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Bedtime is filled with rhythm and routine at our house.

Every night that we put the kids to bed is a liturgical cadence of repetition-
bathroom, bath, brushing teeth, jammy-fying, gathering comfort objects, stories, lights out,
a hug,
a kiss,
and a high-five,
and a verbal goodnight paragraph that is a benediction in and of itself:

“Good night, sleep tight, don’t let the bedbugs bite.
I love you for always and forever.
No matter what, no matter when, no matter where,
I will always love you.”

In the thick of the litany there was a year or two when I told “Lucy the Mouse” stories. This little mouse found a home in the body of an acoustic guitar and every time she left for an adventure she would pluck a couple of the strings on the way out and make the instrument sing.

When our oldest daughter started having night terrors, these stories were filled with moments of courage and bravery for Lucy the Mouse.

It seemed fitting that when artist Rick Destree pitched that we make a comic book for the song “Paint Your Tigers Gold” we should simply tell a “Lucy the Mouse” story.

The song “Paint Your Tigers Gold” was written in the same year, when our daughter, Lucy (then 2 years old), was having these night terrors. She would erupt into screaming and crying anywhere between midnight and 4 AM. And we couldn’t wake her up to calm her down.

Being in that helpless place and not being able to fix the problem was extremely hard for me as a dad. Exhausted, I would hold my frantic daughter and be completely unsure what to do.

After several weeks of trial and error, turns out she just had to go to the bathroom as a part of the bedtime routine. That was a tiring lesson to learn and best remedied at 7 PM rather than 2 AM.

I wrote the song as a prayer- processing what it means to come alongside someone (when that’s really all you can do… just be with them) when they experience darkness. There’s such strength in coming alongside them to tell them you are with them; that they are brave and can do it.

The sound of the song is purposefully both circus/ kaleidoscope joy and vesper/lullaby hush- a call to courage and a calming comfort. And all that wrapped up in hope.

With the purchase of this comic book you will receive a download of “Paint Your Tigers Gold” for FREE..

And we hope this artwork and song become somehow a part of your routine this season. And that all the deep plays of courage and bravery would be stirred in the encounter.

Here again is the link to pick yourself up one:
https://s28969.p27.sites.pressdns.com/store/

Here’s to a brilliant new year,
Tim Coons
Giants & Pilgrims

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Introducing Giants & Pilgrims ABACUS: a creative home curriculum centered on a monthly theme!

I’m so excited to introduce one of Giants & Pilgrims new projects for 2015: ABACUS
Creative home curriculum centered on a monthly theme.

Isn’t that a fun word? Abacus. One of the things I have wanted to do for a while is to come up with a list of themed activities to center our home study/projects around. As a stay at home mom, I feel like our lives and days can get so scattered. Just this morning, in the course of 10 minutes I was asked 53 different questions. I seriously started counting. Can I have chocolate milk? Can I have two cereals? I want a cup! Can you pick me up? It’s amazing how much of an energy-drain parenting can be at times. Sometimes just getting everyone dressed and fed uses up all the energy I have. Trying to come up with creative engaging activities in addition to the normal chaos of life can feel like too much.

But, we want to live “the good life”. I want to tell a better story with our days. For me, ABACUS will be about focusing our projects and days into a cohesive journey. It’s about tying all the little bits and pieces together to create something beautiful.

The second inspiration for this project was my sister, Katie. She and her beautiful family, who we love so much, live in Canada- way too far away to visit as often as we would like. She is homeschooling her kids (Luca 5, Rose 3, and Remi 1). We wanted to find a way to connect as families and sisters by sharing our activity experiences. So, the idea of Abacus was born.

Essentially, the plan is this. Each month we will pick a theme and then create a whole list of activities that correspond to it – which will also coordinate with our Almanac theme. This first month’s theme is “Mountain.”

As we brainstorm our whole list of activities that correspond to the theme – hopefully you’ll add ideas as well on our new facebook page. We will publish a whole list for you to use however you see fit. For our family, we will be hanging a poster of the list with check marks in our family room. As we need activities to focus our days, we will choose projects off the list. No need to try to do everything, and they do not need to be completed in any particular order. Essentially, these are meant to be project “sparks.”

Finally, as an explorer of the world. I want to come along side my kids. I want to get excited about what we are working on and playing with together. So, within this list are some items and things that are for me (and parents). I’ve included books like “Into Thin Air” and “Born to Run” on our Mountain curriculum for myself, which have been on my reading list for a while. I plan on reading these during the month as my own little “Mountain” study.

Another piece that as a teacher I believe is very important is the journal. We’re calling these Adventure Logs! Starting this month, we bought simple blank sketchbooks for the kids. I keep these separate from the rest of their collection of notebooks and papers, because they are special. Any time we do something off the list, I try to incorporate a journal activity or reflection. So far its looked like sketches of mountains, Lucy’s visual interpretation of “the hall of the mountain king”, and a sketch of her pattern for a mountain pillow. Harriet’s has a page of practicing drawing “J’s” for “January. We make sure to date each entry. My hope is that these will be great pieces to come back to and remember our adventures by.

Oh, and one last thing. I made a sweet pinterest board to keep track of some of the fun, Mountain-themed projects I have come across in my research.


Ready to get started? Here is the first list –  
January 2015 “Mountain”