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August Homeschooling Journal Catch up…

This is a homeschooling photo journal of Lucy (8), Hattie (5), Beatrice (2), and Arlo (8 months). 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.

Escape to the Lake:

Photos from “camp” at Under the Radar’s Escape to the Lake – a festival Tim and I get to play at in late August.

Rock climbing wall –

Lucy helped Tim lead “Rootbeer & Hymns” on her little red ukelele

Kayaking on the lake –

Playing in the sand –

A stop off on the way home to visit Mark Twain’s boyhood home

And a little bakery education –

First Day of Homeschool and ABC’s:

The night before our first day of homeschool. I got the kids each a new library bag from Out of Print Books.

Making a set of felt alphabet cards together –

A first day of school picture on the front porch – can’t win them all 🙂

Harriet practicing her letter sounds

Farmyard:

One of our themes for August was everything Farm! We kicked it off with a really fun visit to Deanna Rose Farmstead Park in Overland Park Kansas.

Pony rides –

Bottle feeding baby goats –

Tractor racing –

Picking grapes at our own tiny farm –

Homemade farmers market –

Making their own play farm (complete with bunny pen)

Sneaky farm math –

Pig pancakes to kick off our Charlottes Web read-aloud –

Cutting practice –

“Milking” a cow –

Play at our own farm park in Greeley –

Eclipse:

All sorts of wonderful Eclipse fun since we were very close to the zone of Totality –

Eclipse paintings –

A piece of artwork I painted live at a house concert –

Viewing the eclipse –

crescent shaped shadows

Eerie light mid day –

Art/Art History:

Amazing art installation at UNC gallery –

“Cave explorers” discovering the cave paintings at Lascaux

   

History:

Before digging into our fun new history book we did a little looking back at the kids histories in their keepsake albums.

And we did an interview of Grandma Didi to look at our own family history –

Geography:

For Geography we tried out a TopMunch box (snacks, music, and history curated from somewhere in the world) – this month was all about Paris

Reading and Robots:

More robot building for this little engineer –

And SO SO many books read –

All of us enjoyed getting back to our morning tea time on the front porch with stories –

December’s Adventures in Homeschooling

This year we began homeschooling Lucy (7) and Hattie (5). 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.

December has been a full month around here learning how to be a family of six, shuttling kids to Nutcracker rehearsals and performances, doing ALL the advent things, baking cookies, celebrating Christmas, and enjoying time with family. Here are some highlights from this month of homeschooling –

ADVENT Activities:

For years, we have enjoyed the Jacquie Lawson computer advent calendars. This years was a British seaside theme.

 

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We also always love the Lego advent calendars. They have a tiny set to build every day..

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This year we purchased Jennifer Naraki’s Slow + Sacred Advent. It is an ebook that was written to guide families through the four weeks leading up to Christmas.  It includes personal stories, Biblical theology, and four weeks of creative, yet simple thematic plans. We really enjoyed it and look forward to using it again in years to come.img_7291

Advent closed with all of us at a candlelight service together at Tim’s Church – Saint Andrew United Methodist in Highlands Ranch.
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Getting MOVING:

December is always hard because weather in Colorado isn’t the best for playing outside. And, with a new baby, it’s hard to get the girls out and about. Here are a few of the fun activities we fit in –

Cosmic Kids Yoga (always a hit around here) –

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Tim took the girls ice skating –

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and sledding!

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And Lucy and Harriet had their debut in the Nutcracker Ballet as presents! They were stunning.

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Arlo missed most of the show…Grandma was just to cozy.
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RUSSIA:

One of the things we are doing this year is our Passport idea for Geography/World Cultures. We are “visiting” a different country every month – exploring the food, culture, dress, arts, and music through themed activities. This month, because the girls were part of the Nutcracker, we chose Russia. img_7139

We had a wonderful “Russian” tea time – listening to Tchaikovsky, making these delicious Russian tea scones, and drinking Russian spice tea, and reading the Nutcracker.

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Canon has a whole set of the amazing (FREE!) printable paper models of famous building. So we made St. Basil’s Cathedral! The instructions and cutting were a little too tricky for the girls, so mom and I did most of it. My puzzle loving brain had a blast. I want to make more!
img_7281img_7163 img_7175  Here are the books we read about Russia. Thank you High Plains library!img_7337

History:

Our favorite history activity this month was visiting Centennial Village’s Homesteader’s Holiday.
Centennial Village is a living history museum in Greeley (actually where Tim and I got married!).
Here are the girls making hand dipped candles in the old Carriage House –
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And Beatrice exploring outside the historic church – img_7242

STEM:

Lucy saw an experiment in The Dangerous Book for Boys on how to make a Battery. She has been asking about it for a while so we decided to try it. And it worked!

img_7426 img_7429  Battery making led to playing with our Snap Circuits Jr. kit – a great toy that teaches the basics of Electronics.img_7430

We also picked up a cool new single player puzzle game called Katamino that is quite the brain teaser. Harriet got quite into it.img_7482

Art and Handicrafts:

With the flurry of gift making and house decorating, we spent a lot of time MAKING this month.

Making foil stained glass windows –img_7152 img_7154
Making Foil star garlands and stick stars (for our Nature Pal Exchange friends) img_7324 Making Waldorf window stars –img_7346

Making handmade Christmas presents – img_7529

Making all the Christmas cookies – Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

And making a stocking for this handsome little man –

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MUSIC:

The girls have continued with their music classes at Union Colony Children’s Music Academy which they love. Tim has been working on tracking for our new album -which means we have amazing musical visitors in and out of the studio. Our friend Sigourney was kind enough to let the girls try out her stunning concert harp.

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NATURE STUDY:

For our nature study we received this super fun box of nature crafts from our nature pen-pals in Florida.img_7479

WRITING:

We did lots of letter writing this month – tons of thank you notes, pen-pal letters, and of course some super sweet correspondence addressed to the North Pole.

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On a different side, Harriet has really enjoyed playing Reading Eggs on the computer.readingeggsmap

READING:

We enjoyed so many wonderful stories this month. (Especially thanks to lots of time sitting nursing!)

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We also really enjoyed Read Aloud Revival’s Christmas Book list recommendations – img_7423

Merry Christmas everyone! Thanks for following along!

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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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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”.

A Perfectly Delicious Granola Recipe

I am not really a cereal person. At least not in the morning. Cereal is a great late night snack, but breakfast? I would much rather have something warm like toast and bacon. Cold cereal is just not a motivator to get me out of bed – with one exception – a perfect homemade granola. And of course a delicious cup of artisan coffee (we just got a monthly subscription to Ruby and are LOVING it). After trying a slew of granola recipes, I have landed on this one as my favorite go-to.

INGREDIENTS:
3 cups rolled oats
1 cup slivered almonds
1 cup cashews (my preference is to roughly chop them, but on afternoons like mine today when you are feeling lazy, just leave them whole)
3/4 cup shredded coconut (I prefer unsweetened, but sweetened works great too)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup (the real stuff please)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 teaspoon salt

Ice cold milk or plain yogurt for serving

DIRECTIONS:
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar, maple syrup, oil, and salt. Stir well.

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Pour onto large sheet pan. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes-ish to achieve an even color.
Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl.

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I let mine cool and then store it in a large ziplock bag, where I have never had it last longer than a week, but it would probably easily keep at least a month.

Note: I am sure you could easily make all sorts of modifications based on your nut preferences, level of sweetness you like, adding dried fruit etc. But, for me, this combination is quite perfect.

Recipe based on the brilliant Alton Brown’s version here.

Illustrated Birthday Invitations – an accidental tradition

This week the girls and I have been busy party planning for Lucy’s 6th birthday. A job she takes VERY seriously (“do not make jokes about it dad, I am serious!”). It is going to be a Woodland Fairy Party. Here is the invitation the girls and I drew –
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lucy 6 woodland fairy invite

Starting a couple of years ago, I started drawing invitations for each of the girls birthdays.

I love how drawing these by hand has become a little tradition around here. I thought you might enjoy seeing some of the illustrations from years past –

Harriet’s Ice Cream Anti-Social (she was very shy of everyone at the time):

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Harriet’s Quiet Elephant 2 Year Old Birthday:

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Harriet 2 year old elephant

Not one of my littles, but an invitation I did for a friend:

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Lucy’s Blue Skies & Rainbows Summer Party:
IMG_0910Lucy 4 year old birthday invite
Lucy’s Backyard Pool Party from last year:

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And of course, Harriet’s Blue Monster Party
Harriets blue monster 3 year old birthday

Travel By Train: A Photo Journal of our Most Recent Family Adventure

This last week in honor of Mother’s Day and just needing a little family get-a-way, we took an Amtrak train from Denver to Glenwood Springs, CO. I have always wanted to see the views on the train through the rocky mountains. One of my favorite memories from traveling by train as a kid is that the train cuts through areas different than the interstate highway so you get a better sense of the wilderness and beauty of the landscape. Traveling with kids, it is great because they can get up and walk around, get a snack, check out the observation car, etc. The train from Denver to Glenwood Springs is about 6 hours and is full of beautiful views and unique history. We had a blast.
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In Glenwood Springs, we didn’t have a car, so we just enjoyed exploring and walking every where.

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Harriet insisted on running across all the bridges.

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We, of course, ate lots of yummy food. And, we discovered the MOST amazing little Polish restaurant called “Polankas.” Who knew I could love Polish food so much? Pierogis, potato pancakes, blinzes….ahhhh….(Slope & Hatch’s tacos were pretty great too)

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Lots of fun was had by all playing at the hotel pool and indoor waterpark. Thank you Hotel Glenwood Springs.

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In the habit of my father, I got up early one morning and took the girls exploring. Ever since our mountain month, Lucy has wanted to go mountain climbing.
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Conveniently, the Gondolas for Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park left from the parking lot of our hotel to take you to the top of the mountain. Again, pretty epic views.Processed with VSCOcam with f3 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f2 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with f1 preset
Once we got to the top, we had all sorts of fun at the Adventure Park – which it felt like we practically had to ourselves.
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No we did not ride that swing ride. No Thank you.

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This one was Harriet’s favorite. The Giddy Up.
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This alpine coaster was pretty great – kids can ride on your lap, you control the speed, it is a delightfully long ride, you can ride as many times as you want, and it winds down the mountain through the lovely scenery very quietly. So fun.
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We toured one of the famous caves, Fairy Caverns. It was beautiful, but confirms the fact that I was not cut out to be a spelunker.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

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We had a tiny vacation practice of having an afternoon tea time every day with board games. Or, in Beatrice’s case, chewing on dominos.Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

And, lets be honest. We watched LOTS of cartoons.
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In the dining car on the train ride home, Lucy lost her very first tooth – so exciting. She also VERY animatedly told absolutely everyone she encountered from there on out about it. EVERY-ONE.Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset

Sweet Beatrice always the “Easy-Beasy” was a joy to travel with.
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Here’s to many more adventures together with this sweet family of mine.

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Naming Our Children

One of my favorite things to ask new parents is why or how they chose their child’s name. I love hearing those stories. Speaking a name over our children has been something Betony and I have taken very seriously (and with some fear, too) and I’m always excited to share with friends and family how our girls’ names came to be. I feel like it not only tells the roots of their story, but so much of ours as well.

(Alongside asking why we give our children their names it’s good to also ask what meaning do you find in your own name? Why were your parents drawn to it? Is there someone’s legacy you are embodying? A biblical story? A piece of nature that holds a memory? It’s good to ask our parents such questions.)

So, shared here are some reasons why we’ve chosen these names for our girls. Actually, choosing Beatrice, Hattie, and Lucy’s names came from a collection of several reasons, that and they just “felt right”. I’d like to share pieces of those reasons here, for each child.


BEATRICE ELAINE DIANNE

The name Beatrice means “She who brings happiness, blessed”. When it comes to our children never have Betony and I felt such completion and blessing.

The name Beatrice also means “Voyager”, which since this little one has been to Iceland and back already we thought was appropriate.

And the “beatitudes” share a common root-word with Beatrice (again, meaning blessed). This poetry from a sermon of Jesus’ is all about how God is with the broken, hurt, and empty who are giving themselves to the world. (See Matthew 5). It’s a beautiful passage.

Elaine is the name of Betony’s mother. She’s been a wonderful presence of calm and peace for us and our family. We’re excited to honor her with the name-sake.

Dianne is my mother’s name. Along with my wife (and children) I consider her one of the most important people in my life. She’s strong, resilient, and non-stop-busy loving us and her family.

One Christmas I was reading Beatrix Potter’s Peter Rabbit to Lucy while Debussy’s Claire Du Lune was playing. The wonderful memory has stayed with me as a father.

Shortening the middle names to E. D. and you get my father’s name. We’re planning on “Edie” (EE-dee) being her family nickname.

HARRIET ORCHARD

Betony’s grandfather, Harold “Hal” Snyder, was a wonderful man who passed away a few summers ago. He was a big-band drummer, a humanitarian, and a banker (Rad!). Harriet is not the true “feminine” version of Harold, but in our minds… sure it is.

Betony grew up on an apple orchard. It was a magnificent and magical place to be a child.

One of my favorite verses is from Psalm 1: 3-4, referring to a person planted by streams of righteousness:

“That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—

whatever they do prospers.”

And this picture of a tree firmly planted giving life-bearing fruit to the world around them- this has been one of the best pictures I’ve held to for my life.

In thinking of strong females in history, Betony and I thought of Harriet Tubman and Harriet Beecher Stowe immediately.

“Harriet! Harr-i-et! Hard-hearted harbinger of hagass! Beautiful, bemuse-ed, bellicose butcher.” -Mike Myers, So I Married an Axe Murderer… greatest 90′s comedy, ever!

“Harriet” means “home-maker”. If you’ve experienced the food and hospitality Betony gives, you can feel that value of ours in your soul.

Lastly, “Hattie” is a beautiful word to say aloud.

LUCY ISRAEL

My grandmother, Beulah Arnold, was a progressive, compassionate woman who’s nickname (from my grandfather) was “Lucy”.

Betony had a “Peanuts” shirt that said “Lucy” on the back when we first met.

Lucy, translated in latin, means “light”.

One out of every 15 or so people who meet Lucy quickly sing, “Lucy in the sky with diamonds!”. I wanted that to be the response in meeting my daughter: immediate song!

“O Israel, trust in the Lord!” is the chorus of a Waterdeep song that Betony loves.

Jacob “wrestles with God” and is renamed Israel. I speak this over my daughter: faith is not easy, it is something you will always wrestle with. And sometimes come away with a limp.

Instagram Games: Almanac Alphabet

Build an alphabet or word out of found materials, making an original font all your own. Take a photo of it.

Use #almanacalphabet and share
this creativity.

The alphabet was made by Betony and Lucy. We took a lovely walk around the block and gathered sticks as we went.

 

Follow Betony’s instagram here – http://instagram.com/betonycoons

Follow Tim’s instagram here – http://instagram.com/timcoons

 

Here are some other neat examples found on the web –

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Above: Daffodil flower alphabet by 
Vladimir Koncar.

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Fresh green leaves make a pretty typeface. By Vladimir Koncar.
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This folded paper font is pretty clever. By Vladimir Tomin.

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One of our favorites – Pebble Font by Clotlide Olyff. via swiss-miss