November 15 is a fine day to have the first snowfall of the winter, but we still weren't ready. It wasn't possible for me to be ready. We did some things, sure; I worked the day before yesterday afternoon getting the leaf pile off the lawn and picking up garden stakes, and yesterday morning I sent the kids out to pick up at least some of the toys scattered all over the yard. And we found at least some cold-weather gear for everyone; we had to, since the middle of the day we needed to go out to the last homeschool coop park day of the year (the first one to take place in solidly below-freezing weather!). But then when we got back from running and playing in the park we ran out of steam for serious preparations. Instead we did some reading and some deck-building and some napping, and then hosted Harvey's friend for a couple hours. Good winter activities. But nothing to make be feel ready for three inches of snow on the ground before 10:00 last night!
Well, that's not totally true; in one respect we were fully prepared. Seeing the snow in the forecast, yesterday morning we busted out the white paper and scissors and made snowflakes. They're up on the windows now. And all the scraps on the kitchen floor made a pretty convincing facsimile of fallen snow. Although they were a whole lot lighter to sweep up than the actual snow was to shovel this morning: the snow changed to rain early in the morning so clearing the front walk was like trying to move wet cement. The rain didn't slow down the kids any, though! There was a two-hour school delay here in town, so Harvey's friend Jack rang the doorbell a little after eight and, after we invited him in for a couple pancakes, the kids spent a delightful couple hours romping in the sodden snow. Now it's getting colder again, and the rain has changed back to light snow. It looks like things'll be white for a little while yet. I'm OK with that.
Rascal died on Monday evening. He hasn't featured very much in this blog since he got upstaged by kids nine and a half years ago, but that doesn't mean he wasn't a huge part of our lives up until yesterday morning. It was really hard to say goodbye to him, and the pain keeps coming in waves. When we have someplace to go and he's not there to hear my instruction to "be good and guard the house"—something I've said at least a couple times a day, every day, for the last 12 years. When we come back and I have to catch myself before saying "where's our dog?". When I cut the crusts off of Lijah's toast and have to just put them in the compost. When I walk down the steps to the yard and see his grave.
We were lucky enough to be able to let him die at home—after a terrible experience six years ago he hasn't really done vet offices, and the last thing we wanted to do was make him spend his last moments in such a stressful environment. And we buried him in our yard right by the steps, under the rhododendron bush where he spent so many summer afternoons. The boys lit candles and Harvey offered memorials he'd written on wood.
It's strange losing him. He wasn't such an active participant in our life over the last year, especially since his first stroke—or whatever it was—affected his hips and really limited his mobility. But we counted on him to always be there, and he was: attentive and loving, or at least putting up with us asking him to move from his comfy spot on the couch. And I discover I thought about him a lot. Today I was vacuuming and thought to check where he was so I wouldn't disturb him. Then I almost cried. Our family did fun things today, and argued, and worked; we mourned all day Tuesday, from the moment it was clear that he wouldn't recover, but now life has returned pretty much to normal. Except slightly emptier. He was the best dog.
We miss you Rascal.
We had a quiet day today: Zion wasn't feeling well, and he spent pretty much all day on the couch. In the early afternoon I was worrying that the rest of us wouldn't get outside at all, but before I could suggest am activity to get us moving Harvey came up with something better than anything I would have thought of. He'd been thinking of treasure maps, and yesterday and Grandma's house he found an old yellowed piece of paper that was perfect for an antique chart. So he drew a map of the yard, and then headed out to bury some treasure.
Ideally he would have had Zion to solve his puzzle: I got it too fast, and Lijah has very little treasure-finding experience (in treasure hunts as in many things he just wants someone to give him the answer; none of this process business for him!). But the two of us working together did well enough. Harvey didn't do things by half: when we dug at the spot shown on the map we found a tupperware with a piece of paper giving us clues to another spot to dig. That time we found candy, much to Lijah's delight. Then half an hour later Harvey had another hunt for us, this time with two clues before the final payoff.
I was pretty impressed with the whole thing—the map-making of course, but even more the digging! Of course as a joyless old person I tend to think that there are very few places in the lawn that should be dug up, but I tried to suppress that grumpy thought. After all, who cares about grass or perennials when there's treasure to be found!
Zion revived enough this morning for us to feel able to head out to a homeschool gathering at a playground in Lexington. It's a weekly meetup that's been going on for maybe a month or two now, and I've been wanting to go but never managed to make it happen. Today was the day!
I hear from other parents that it's sometimes a challenge getting their kids going for a "park day", as we call them in the homeschool world, but there's never any problem in our household. We're always game for a visit to a playground! The morning sun had vanished behind clouds and the damp air was intermittently enhanced by windblown drizzle and snow, but that was fine too: it just meant we had to run around in order to stay warm. And run we did, especially when the other kids got there.
We do try and get good exercise by ourselves, and we certainly walk and bike plenty (along with a little ball playing now and again). But when it's just us Archibalds we really don't have the same motivation for, say, a good game of tag. But add just one more 9-year-old, and suddenly things are a lot more interesting. Tag with five people lasted a good half hour. There was also lots of climbing and jumping challenges, and we finished things off with some soccer on the giant artificial turf field. Speaking only for myself, it was more running than I did the whole week prior. Good times. We'll do it again next Wednesday.