Our First Month’s Adventure in Homeschool: August Abacus

For a lot of reasons that I am not going to dig into here yet, we decided to homeschool this year. I am so excited to share our monthly explorations and adventures here with you. I will keep everything under the tab “Abacus”.  I have been nerding out on everything “home education” – reading all sorts of parenting books, learning about all the different approaches, coming up with monthly themes, etc. I have been particularly inspired by Elle Garrels blog The New Domestic, ambleside online, and everything Charlotte Mason. That said, we are starting by exploring a mix of different approaches and mostly just exploring and having fun with it. We have also done a whole space “redo” of our dining room as our homeschooling space, that once it is fully done I promise to share pictures of here as well.

Part of my purpose of sharing our monthly activities and themes here is to keep a record for myself. Especially for those days when it feels extra hard to get anything done – and to be able to look back on for fun.

Here is our photo journal of our August:

The “First Day” photo:

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All our goodies set out on the work table for our first day + a garden bouquet with tansy and chamomile:
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The girls looking very studious:
It’s funny, because we got some math books to just “play around” in. At first Harriet did not want anything to do with it. But now, I can’t get her to stop. Not sure what caused the switch, but I’m not complaining!

One of the things I am excited to do this year is our Passport idea for Geography/World Cultures. I picked up some of these play passports on Amazon . We are going to be “visiting” a different country every month – exploring the food, culture, dress, arts, and music through themed activities. We also got this really great giant map of the world and the plan is to slowly color it in as we visit the different countries.

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Thanks to the Olympics, we chose Brazil as our first country to visit.

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For our Brazil themed activities for the month, we watched The Boy & The World (a beautifully animated Brazilian film), listened to Brazilian music and tried our hand at Samba beats, ate Brazilian food for our monthly cooking club, watched the Brazil olympics opening ceremony, and made our own gold medals out of Clay.
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For our outdoor/P.E. activities, we practiced lots of swimming, learned how to slack line, and went on a glorious family adventure bike ride along the Katy Trail in MO.

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For our nature/science explorations, we are going to be doing a once a week nature day where we mostly just have a lot of time outside to explore and follow our curiosity. But, the plan is also to always bring nature journals and field guides and see what sparks our interest. This last week we spent a peaceful refreshing morning at Homestead Nature park in Greeley.

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No week at the Coons’ house would be complete without art projects and painting.

 

 

 

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For writing, we created our second issue of “The Coons Delivery.” This funny family newspaper is completely conceptualized and written by the girls. All I do is type up there dictation. They even have a hand in the fonts and layout. All the photos and pictures are taken/drawn by them (with the exception of the comic which Lucy insisted I drew but she described everything how she wanted it to be).

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Here were our reading books for this month –

The Blue Fairy Book for Literature (we read Beauty and the Beast), Leif the Lucky for History (we are following Beautiful Feet History’s Early American List), and Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy just for fun.

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For our reading time, we have a new favorite ritual. We bring tea, blankets and a snack on the front porch. We have been trying out the Charlotte Mason idea of living books/narration – really loving it so far.

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August Free Calendar Desktop and iPhone Wallpaper

Happy August!

August is a month for enjoying the bountiful farmer’s markets, eating picnics in parks, and getting excited for everything “Back to School.”

We are packing to head off to Kansas for family fun and Indiana for the wonderful Escape to the Lake this month and then we will be diving into the adventure of officially starting homeschooling our kids + new work for Tim.

Enjoy!

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 iphone images. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen.

High Resolution Desktop Wallpaper:

AUGUST 2016 desktop

iphone_August 2016_3 iphone_August 2016_4

An Update on Beatrice & on Us

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How’s B doing?

A few weeks ago our 1 and a half year old, Beatrice, caught a stomach bug and threw up all night and the next day. The following day she had four seizures in about 20 hours.

After the third seizure Betony and I found ourselves driving to the Children’s Hospital emergency room at 4am. We watched an incredible moon-setting and sunrise on our drive. I remember humming a hymn and Betony praying. I’m sure we were quite sleep deprived as we cried and felt so much fear for B.

They let us know at Children’s that this was actually normal; that when a child is coming out of a stomach virus it can cause a seizure or cluster of seizures to occur. We’d never heard that.

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Since then the CT-SCAN, EEG, and EKG have all come back normal. We are watching to see if B has these continued problems after stomach bugs or it also could be linked to her getting really upset and holding her breath.

The important thing- she’s doing great and feeling better.

We are so relieved.

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How We are Doing 

This medical emergency actual came at the end of a really difficult month for the Coons family. While readying everything for Easter (I’m a church worship director) we found out two big things: the pastor I work for was leaving so my job’s future was uncertain and we were pregnant with our 4th child. In the midst of this uncertainly and these hard discussions is when B had her seizures.

So everything has somewhat come to a halt for us. All our energies have gone towards these big things: Making sure Beatrice is okay, coming to grips with a new future and processing having a fourth little one, and vocational questions. (Another good update: it looks like I’m remaining at St. Andrew, continuing the work of the church service we’ve started but also getting involved in other areas too!)

When this year started we decided we were going to choose a theme each month and let that guide our exploration of belief, the subject of our next music & art project for Giants & Pilgrims.

This month’s theme we’ve chosen? Re-awaken. After so much to process, figure out, and re-imagine, we are simply letting ourselves re-awaken to dreaming the new future. It feels a little like we’re just about to leave a holding pattern.

We are taking our time and I, personally, am beginning to feel those great warmths of hope and optimism.

An ending note: We’re SO thankful for all of your prayers and well-wishes and calls and encouragements and Facebook comments during this time! The care and concern for Beatrice and the Coons family was so tangible. It was humbling.

Thank you.

Here’s to this May being about “re-awakening”.

May Free Calendar Desktop and iPhone Wallpaper

Happy May Day!
This desktop is inspired by antique seaweed scientific illustrations. Aren’t they so delicate and lovely? The complexity of the smallest things in our world is so beautiful. Just some interesting info about red algae – they makes up the largest group of algae in the plant kingdom, with more species accounted for than brown and green seaweeds combined. They are almost exclusively marine plants. Although generally found in shallow waters, these seaweeds are able to withstand deep water and low-light conditions.

So here is to searching out light even in the darkest moments just like these beautiful plants.

Some May inspiration for you –  our May Day tradition around here,  a tiny poem about May, a School’s Out playlist, and possibly my favorite dessert of all time.

And of course, here are some new visuals for your screens!

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

High Resolution Desktop Wallpaper:
MAY 2016 desktop_v2

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.

iPhone Wallpaper (I like to use one for my lock screen and one for my home screen):
iphone_may 2016 iphone_may 2016_v2

April Practice & Process: “Converse”

In creating our new project, Bellwether (an art series and album due winter 2016) we’ve decided to share what we’re doing each month before it’s released.
We’re calling these posts “practice and process“.

They will detail the spiritual/life practice we’re doing,
give a look at our in-process art that we’re creating in response,
and then include a whole host of resources and activities! (like the new desktop wallpaper, book/music/movie lists, recipes, explorations for kids, etc. This is so as an entire family we can engage in this year’s exploration of “belief” we’re calling Bellwether. 

APRIL Theme: CONVERSE

March was actually a difficult month (and we weren’t very good at doing our “practice & process”)! A lot is going on that’s going to bring change in the coming year. So Betony and I have chosen the theme of “converse” for April. (I started the week after Easter “conversing” with God with some rhythmic daily prayers, just needing recovery!)

So, Betony and I hope to get away a little bit and find some spaces to talk about everything- life, spirituality, future, etc!

Practice:

This month we are

  1. Getting babysitting once a week and going out to talk about life!
  2. For our Table Alter this month we’re continuing to set up little pots and planting seeds – we’ll water and watch the slow progression of growth, again hitting on the death and resurrection truths we find in the world around us. This is an ongoing conversation we hope to have with our kids.

Process:

Betony has hit some big finish lines last month regarding ongoing art projects. Then Tim is song-writing this month with Charla Bultman, continuing to add some more songs to the Bellwether project.

The other process is going to be exploring this big idea: there seems to be spiritual archetypes that happen all over our favorite stories. In movies, books, all sorts of art, you’ll find baptism scenes, out-to-the-desert scenarios, resurrection pictures… Betony and I are looking in to these universals to better inform our own belief.

Resources for “April”:

APRIL Dates to Take Note of:

April = National Poetry Month
April 1st – April Fools Day (we love to freeze our girl’s breakfast cereal…)
April 22nd – Earth Day (which if you happen to live near a Ben & Jerry’s is also Free Cone Day)
April 29th – Arbor Day
April 30th – International Jazz Day

Local: Greeley, CO events:

April 10th – Handel’s Water Music UCCC
April 23rd – Arbor Day Celebration at Lincoln Park, 9:00 am
April 27th – Greeley Children’s Chorale Spring Sing (at Northridge H.S.)
April 27th – Ballet West at UCCC, 7:00pm
April 30th – Copelia at Niwot High School

Let me know if you have other fun Greeley events I should add to this calendar!

RESOURCES/EXPLORATIONS :
(from Betony…)

POETRY:

April is National Poetry Month so this works perfectly with our theme “converse”! We hope to read some poems with the girls and work on writing too!
For kids, we LOVE this book –
Outside Your Window by Nikola Davies. The Illustrations by Mark Herald are just gorgeous.
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Speaking of Mark Herald, I have been drooling over this wallpaper of his. I’m thinking I might need to dive into wallpaper design some time soon.
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For myself for poetry month, I am going to read Felicity by Mary Oliver. I bought it a few months ago at our favorite book shop in Hutchinson, KS and I have been saving it just for this occasion.
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READING LISTS:

How to talk so your kids will listen by Adele Faber & Elaine Mazlish
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What we talk about when we talk about God by Rob Bell
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LANGUAGE:

We felt like with this theme it would also be a great month to explore different languages. Lucy has loved this app that teaches Spanish.
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This Frida ap also looks pretty great –
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 What language learning programs have you used? Any fun games language games for kids that you would recommend?

THE ARTS:

Conversing does not always have to be verbal. I am planning on taking the girls to several ballet productions this month.
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MAKE:

My front door is needing a new spring wreath. I am thinking I will make something simple like this twig flower beauty.
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I also like this Square one from Megan Brooke Handmade
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MUSIC:

Curate a Tree themed Arbor Day playlist
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April Free Calendar Desktop and iPhone Wallpaper

 

April is here! Spring oh lovely springtime. Fresh air and sunshine. Here is a favorite spring recipe,  an April Showers playlist to dance in the rain to, and if you haven’t checked it out yet, go take a look at my newest Silkscreen Print and Tim’s gorgeous song that goes with it.

And here is some new artwork for your screens!

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 iphone images. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen.

High Resolution Desktop Wallpaper:

april desktop_large

iphone April 2016_v2 iphone April 2016_v3

March Practice and Process: “Ground”

In creating our new project, Bellwether (an art series and album due winter 2016) we’ve decided to share what we’re doing each month before it’s released.
We’re calling these posts “practice and process“.

They will detail the spiritual/life practice we’re doing,
give a look at our in-process art that we’re creating in response,
and then include a whole host of resources and activities! (like the new desktop wallpaper, book/music/movie lists, recipes, explorations for kids, etc. This is so as an entire family we can engage in this year’s exploration of “belief” we’re calling Bellwether. 

MARCH Theme: GROUND

We are approaching this March theme in lots of ways: asking “what grounds you?”, actually digging in the dirt AND metaphorically digging in the dirt, finding foundations, and setting ground work.

Practice:

This month we are

  1. Reading then gardening! We’ll be setting aside a specific time for reading spiritual writings right before heading out to work in the garden. As a whole family we’ll be reading from the psalms, from poetry, children’s books, or any host of passages we find resonate with us. We’ll pair this with gardening in hopes to dig our hands into the Spring season.
  2. For our Table Alter this month we’ll be setting up little pots and planting seeds – we’ll water and watch the slow progression of growth, again hitting on the death and resurrection truths we find in the world around us.

Process:

Betony hopes to hit some finish lines on art projects she’s been working on so she can set the “ground” work for this new series. Tim has a tour in the Chicago area he’ll be recovering from in the beginning of March.

The other process is going to be exploring this big idea: there seems to be spiritual archetypes that happen all over our favorite stories. In movies, books, all sorts of art, you’ll find baptism scenes, out-to-the-desert scenarios, resurrection pictures… Betony and I are looking in to these universals to better inform our own belief.

Resources for “GROUND”:

MARCH Dates to Take Note of:

March 13th – Daylight Savings
March 14th – Pi Day – You can’t go wrong with this recipe.
March 17th – Saint Patrick’s Day – Irish mix to listen to, yummy pub food to make, and a touch of poetry
March 21st – World Poetry Day – Here’s one to get you started
March 25th – Good Friday
March 27th – Easter

Local: Greeley, CO events:

March 19th – Poudre River Friends of the Library Spring Used Book Sale
March 21st – Seed Swap and Garden Talk – Riverside Library – 6:00 pm
March 22nd – Perilous Plants – 12pm at the Farr Library – Botanist Dr. Kathy Keeler

Let me know if you have other fun Greeley events I should add to this calendar!

RESOURCES/EXPLORATIONS:

We are planning on getting Chickens next week!
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The girls and Betony have been hard at work building them an enclosure and a chicken coop.
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(A painting of Bet’s from a few years back that seems appropriate, obviously she has been dreaming about them for a while)
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We discovered a parcel of land adjacent to our yard that we thought belonged to the city actually belongs to us. We are going to turn it into a secret garden of sorts – after we dig up all the sumac and poison ivy and weeds – the labor of clearing this neglected land will be part of our spiritual practice for the month.

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Betony is finally ready to start the groundwork on my new series of paintings. She has been playing around with monochromatic under paintings (as explored through the Book of Job)

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MAKE:

Bet might just have to start making some of these hanging chairs for our back porch to lounge in.

Start the seeds we ordered from rareseeds.com (it is also time to plant peas out in the garden already!)
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READING LISTS:

The Little Gardener and Wild by Emily Hughes (LOVE her illustrations)
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The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (haven’t read it yet, but have had it recommended by several people we trust)
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The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes
by Du Base Hayward (really loved this one as a kid)
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ART:

Play drawing with Opaque markers on brown eggs

Bet is also enjoying these rubber cement resist died eggs and rubber band wrapped ones. Definitely on her list to try this year.
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ADVENTURE:

Go on lots of bike rides and explorations along the Poudre river trail

We are not going to tell you quite yet what we have planned for this giant box of keys, but we’ll give you a hint that it is something in the category of this epic city-wide adventure we facilitated a few years ago…

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Find some greenhouses to visits

TECHNOLOGY:

A friend recommended this online reading ap, we thought it would make a fun Easter-month game, especially for Harriet (4) – Reading Eggs Game
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LISTEN:

On the first spring rain, listen to this mix.
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“There is a Balm in Gilead” Song and Silkscreen Print

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For February we’ve explored the theme of “balm”, asking what does it look like to be a healing balm within the world and serve places as a family.

We thought this would be the perfect month to release one of our favorite new songs. Here is the fully produced, beautiful “There is a Balm in Gilead”. You can listen below (and feel free to share it with folks!):

Using the lyrics from the song, Betony has designed a limited edition of 50 silk-screened posters. With metallic-gold ink on heavyweight, navy-blue paper, it will be an incredible and framable 12×16 print.

Because of the silk-screen process we are only taking orders until March 7th! If you’d like one you can order it now by clicking right here (it’ll take you to our store).

About Bellwether and Our February Theme

At the beginning of the year Betony and I announced we’re working on a new project. Titled Bellwether, it will be an album and art series that explores belief (to be released November 2016).

Instead of just keeping the creative process to ourselves, we’re making it a bit more open; hoping to explore belief each month in ways that contribute and form the project being released.

So every month we’re doing a Practice & Process, choosing a spiritual practice and, in response, sharing the creative process.

For February our theme is Balm and we wrote all about the Practice we took on

Our plan is to continue releasing songs and posters throughout the calendar year- an ongoing process to these practices. Keep watching for more as the months progress!

February Practice and Process: “Balm”

(image is from a Chinese cloisonné painting factory we visited in China 2008)

In creating our new project, Bellwether (an art series and album due winter 2016) we’ve decided to share what we’re doing each month before it’s released.
We’re calling these posts “practice and process“.

They will detail the spiritual/life practice we’re doing,
give a look at our in-process art that we’re creating in response,
and then include a whole host of resources and activities! (like the new desktop wallpaper, book/music/movie lists, recipes, explorations for kids, etc. This is so as a entire family we can engage in this year’s exploration of “belief” we’re calling Bellwether. 

FEBRUARY Theme: BALM

February is in the heart of winter, close to the edge of a hope for spring. And with Valentine’s Day sitting in the month we’ve often treated February as a time to put into words the way we feel about the ones we deeply love. It’s a way to warm up the cold. We’ve chosen our theme of “balm” with some of these lines drawn.

Practice:

The very definition of balm is “something that has a comforting, soothing, or restorative effect.”

This month we are

  1. exploring what service looks like for our family. We want to start being restorative in an intentional way. For us that looks like partnering with a local charity called “Turn Around Bikes”. They restore donated bikes and give them to people in need. Honestly, since having children we’ve had a hard time being consistent and feeling effective when it comes to giving of ourselves in this kind of way. We’re open to getting better at service. Furthermore, it’s our hope to instill a great sense of compassion in our children. This is at least a first step.
  2. For our second spiritual/life practice we’re setting up a table altar like we did last month. This time before dinner we’ll be praying for people in need of “balm” or some extra love and care. Then on Mondays we’ll be writing and mailing postcards, sending that love out in words.

Here is a really cool free printable postcard designed by our friend Kyle Steed, if you’re needing a great design:

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Process:

Tim is working on recording a song called “There is a Balm in Gilead” this month while I’m gathering ideas and paper tidbits for the overall series.

Resources for “Balm”:

FEBRUARY Dates to Take Note of:

February 7th – Superbowl 50 (with the *ahem*, Denver Broncos! Bake these, I promise you won’t regret it.)
February 8th – Chinese New Year (year of the monkey!) – We love to celebrate by ordering Chinese takeout and reliving our China trip 🙂
February 9th – Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday – we love to listen to this sweet mix curated by Starbucks
February 10th – Ash Wednesday
February 14th – Valentine’s Day
February 15th – President’s Day
February 17th –  Random Acts of Kindness Day
February 28th – The Oscars

Local: Greeley, CO events:

February 5th (and up through the end of the month) – Soundscape a group art show at the Atlas Theater that pairs music and art (right up our alley don’t you think?)
Soundscape Art Poster
February 27th – Tim and Charla are opening for the lead singer of Everclear at the MOXI theater!
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Let me know if you have other fun Greeley events I should add to this calendar!

EXPLORATIONS:

Here in Greeley, CO we have had just buckets and buckets of snow. We haven’t seen the ground since December 1st. I don’t even remember what it looks like. During winters like this, I think the best possible plan of action is to find a warm tropical greenhouse to visit. Usually we make a trip to the Butterfly pavilion. This year, I am thinking we are going to visit the Orchid Showcase (Jan. 8-Feb 22) at the Denver Botanical Gardens.
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Participate in Turnaround bikes workshops this month and other service related activities.

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Make a visit to the Cranford Cove to get a new selection of looseleaf teas to enjoy this month.

Speaking of tea, the girls and I are planning a lovely Valentine’s tea party with lots of tiny delicacies, fancy china, and, of course, hats and dresses.
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ART:

Spend some time digging into Picasso’s works and share with the girls.
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Their are some really fun art activities in this book.
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Make all sorts of homemade valentines

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READING lists:

Here are some of the kid’s books I have on reserve at the library this month. I was looking for books that deal with Compassion. I would love to hear your recommendations if you have any.

The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, The Invisible Boy by Patrice Barton, The Lion and the Mouse,  and A Sick Day for Amos Mcgee

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I am also reading The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane out loud to Lucy. It is an absolute favorite of ours. The themes are nested in kindness and compassion and the journey of self-discovery. It’s a good one for adults too.
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Mary Oliver poetry books – these are ABSOLUTELY balm to my soul.
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As a little personal “balm” against the dreariness of February, I love to order my garden seeds. (my favorite is Baker Heirloom Seeds – just reading their catalog is therapeutic)
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LISTEN:

Oxygen by Willy Mason. The video is only ok, but the song is so good.

This Great Valentines Mix curated by Personal Practice

A New Song and a Silk-Screen Poster!

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In response to our January theme of “Clearing” we have created a fully produced, beautiful song for you called “Empty”. You can listen below (and feel free to share it with folks!):

Using the lyrics from the song, Betony has designed a limited edition of 50 silk-screened posters. With silver ink on heavyweight, forest- green paper, it will be an impressive and framable 12×16 print.

Because of the silk-screen process we are only taking orders until February 7th! If you’d like one you can order it now by clicking right here (it’ll take you to our store).

About Bellwether and Our January Theme

At the beginning of the year Betony and I announced we’re working on a new project. Titled Bellwether, it will be an album and art series that explores belief (to be released November 2016).

Instead of just keeping the creative process to ourselves, we’re making it a bit more open; hoping to explore belief each month in ways that contribute and form the project being released.

So every month we’re doing a Practice & Process, choosing a spiritual practice and, in response, sharing the creative process.

For January our theme is Clearing and we wrote all about the Practice we took on (you can see some crazy pictures of our house-clearing too!)

Our plan is to continue releasing songs and posters throughout the calendar year- an ongoing process to these practices. Keep watching for more as the months progress!