Sunday, November 18, 2007

What would Charlotte Mason do?

I love Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education. It fits in wonderfully with our lifestyle here on the ranch and with my background in the arts. I get to incorporate the three things I love most in life into my childrens education: the Bible, nature and Shakespeare. Although my children are yet toddlers I find time in each day to read to them, create art, recite poetry, teach them a bible story, dance and spend as much time as possible outdoors.

Charlotte Mason advocated spending as much as 3-4 hours a day outside with children and so spending time outdoors is generally Daddy's department because he takes them with him to put out deer feed or to feed the cattle. It's more of a challenge for me to spend time outside with them because I'm distracted by housework, cooking dinner or various other things when I'm not playing school. However, I am trying to discipline myself enough to take the outside at least once a day. So last week I packed up our art supplies, their snacks, a blanket and some toys and headed off down to the yard at headquarters to spend our alloted time with nature. It's not fun to play in our yard yet because we just have a caliche pit for a yard since having our new house built. Spending time on a blanket in the middle of a caliche pit is no fun so its worth the effort to drive 1 mile to the ranch headquarters, where there is a huge grassy lawn with shade trees to sit under.

Once we were settled I asked my son to describe his surroundings to me with the technique Charlotte Mason suggests. He found several large branches that had been blown off the surrounding trees and began compairing them in accordance to their bark, leaves etc. Minutes went by when I realized he was red and swollen from his neck to his torso. I recognized this as a sign of an allergic reaction because he is allergic to peanuts and has had reactions before, although none this bad. I immediately gathered up our things and drove back to our house to administer Benadryl. I'm assuming that one of the branches was from a pecan tree and that he must be allergic to pecans as well which brings his food allergy count up to four: peanuts, eggs, soy and pecans.

This freaked me out for about a day and then I decided I wouldn't be detered and would start the next day with our usual outdoor activities. That morning we started seeing the Border Patrol on the ranch. It's not unusual to see the BP since we live so close to the border, but generally they don't come this far out unless there's some activitiy in the area. My husband also started getting calls from the local sector saying that there was a group of maybe eight men that the BP had been tracking over night and that they had been spotted coming over the roughest terrain on the ranch, which coincidently was only about a mile from our house. These men were assumed to be drug traffickers and not just illegal immigrants because of the route they had taken and because of the tactics they had used to evade law enforcement.

Due to the activity in the area we stayed close to our house for the next few days to assist the BP if they needed it and to also guard our house. This went on for several days. Finally we learned that the drug traffickers and their 'coyote' as their guide is called made it to the highway and they were picked up by their ride.

In addition to all this, days before I also found another large rattlesnake trying to get on the porch. This makes the fourth one in our yard this summer. I thought they had all gone in their dens by now because it's started to get colder, but I guess I was wrong. Needless to say my false sense of security living in a remote area seemingly protected from all the dangers of the world has been shattered. Granted these things I've experienced come with the territory of living on a remote ranch and I might as well get used to it. Yet I wonder, would Charlotte Mason be packing heat?

Remembering Cody

Cody, this would have been your 34th birthday, but in my eyes you will always be nineteen, or three, or twelve years old.

I have done numerous things over the years to celebrate your life on November 10th, your birthday. The first year I took the train all the way out to Brighton Beach and had a picnic by the water amongst the russian immigant families and mob bosses with their speedos and gold jewelry and watched planes fly overhead with banners advertising strip clubs. The next year I brought champagne into the Crystal Bar in Alpine and made the cowboys drink a toast to you. In subsequent years I fed the homeless in Manhatten, drove around the hill country in Texas, had dinner with friends, bought lunch for down-on-their-luck young bronc riders in truck stops that reminded me of you, and more than once drowned my sorrows in my favorite Irish bar. My favorite thing to do when I finally moved back home was to do what you and I did together, take a drive through the mountains and drink Big Red soda and listen to Tejano music.

Now I have two children, your nephew who is three and your niece who is 19 months old. I watch them fight over the same things we did, play the same silly games we invented, tell on each other, defend each other at the playground and hug each other at bedtime. They have our family's blue eyes. More than once they've looked up at me and I've seen your face and had to catch my breath. During that moment I realize that words cannot describe how much you mean to me and a book couldn't hold all of the memories of our life together, but having my kids to tell stories to will be what preserves your memory for me.

Today we're going to put in a Marty Robbins CD and drive around the ranch and look for deer, I'm going to give them a Big Red soda and immediately regret it when the sugar high sets in. I will spend the rest of the day chasing them around, watching them fight over toys and defending myself against tickle monsters. I hope you enjoy the show. I miss you everyday.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Halloween Drama

I feel blessed to be shielded from the things other mothers generally have to worry about like car jackers, pedophiles living in our neighborhood, crack dealers at the playground, bullies in class. However, I do have to worry about unusual things that other mothers never come across; for instance, we have mojave rattlesnakes, bobcats and mountain lions surrounding us on the ranch we live on, not to mention scorpions and black widow spiders. I accept these dangers as they come with the territory of living on a remote ranch and I am constantly aware of my surroundings when my children are with me. I don't have much control over these components of my life, other than to be well armed in case I'm threatened.

But one thing I do have in common with too many families is that my son suffers from a peanut allergy. Needless to say this time of year is nerve wracking for me. Right now it's not so bad because my kids are small and they haven't really caught on to the fact that kids around the country will be trick or treating next Wednesday. I can get away with not participating this year, but next year I'm afraid will be very taxing on my nerves. I can't shoot peanuts.