Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Time in Cafe

Thanks for a good morning with Mei and Kelly. Here are some highlights before Morgan got jumped by a 18 month year old boy. She is fine.

Disappointing Reply

I woke upo to Jon's kind very very short email
"very lovely note, Jon"

Well I think that is the end to my fan mail for awhile. But the letter made me feel good to write.
Scout told me it was a bad idea anyway, I will listen next time.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An Open Letter to Jon Katz


Until recently, I have never been a blog follower of anyone I did not
personally know, I have never written a letter to someone who did not
know me (but Santa). Yet I have been thinking about writing you for
some time. I was moved when you wrote that you would read all the mail
that came your way. And so I hope my words find you well.

Your name first entered my home in Bellingham, Washington when The
Dogs of Bedland Farm was given to my then one and half year old twin
daughters Morgan and Addy Baye. It was the first book they had with
photographs rather than illustrations and instantly became a family
favorite. We have all the read the book so many times the binding is
bent and the pages have been taped together—several times.

At the time our family had two dogs Laverne and Scout. Laverne was my
fourteen year old Springer Spaniel. I had gotten her when I was twenty
and my husband and I know her age had caught up with her. There is so
much I could tell you about Vern (if you are truly interested her
eulogy is on my blog
but all you really need to know is that she was my first dog and my
best friend.

On November 9th Vern died. Her death was quick, but not unexpected.
None-the-less it was so hard.  My husband and I had rushed her to the
vet when her body opened up. We left our girls with a friend and with
the heaviest hearts we returned to the enviably questioning of two
year olds “Vern home?.”
How was I going to explain to two year olds what I did not understand
myself? How was I to hide the stabbing pain I felt? How was I going to
tell them my closest friend of fourteen years was gone? Yet, how could
I hide my hurt? I could not and if I tried they would see right
through me. So I held them and cried reading All Dogs go to Heaven (a
book my thoughtful Mother had hid in the closet, knowing I would need
it sooner than later). “Vernie has gone to play with friends in
heaven” was the explanation I offered them, and the one I hoped was
true. “Play with Rose?” Morgan asked. And without thinking I answered

A few days after Vern died I left on a trip for work with a library
edition of your recent book in my carry on. As I traveled from one
coast to another I read it cover to cover through my tears. I am a
university professor often writing and reading thick theory but the
simplicity of your type and depth of your teaching nurtured my heart.
Through your words I believe I understand Vern’s purpose and will
always be grateful for her gifts.

To this day the questions of my twin two year olds keep coming “Vernie
home?” “Vern play?” “ I draw Vern?” and the my mantra continues “Vern
is in heaven playing with Rose.” Yesterday I heard the girls
whispering to one another in the early dawn. Addy Baye asked Morgan
“Vernie home?” “No” Morgie replied “Vern run and play with Rose. .
.Vern in heaven.”

I am sorry for your recent lose, thankful for your words, and hopeful
Rose and Vern find one another on their journey.

Rae Lynn Schwartz-DuPre
Bellingham, WA

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Swiming in the Winter!!

How about a fish

Morgan, Addy, and Justin seem sold. I am more hesitant.

Breakfast with the crew

Monday, December 26, 2011

Vacation Time

Here are some of the things we have done:

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting Lighter

My title is both literal and figurative. Today Bellingham had three more minutes of daylight then it did last night on the solstice. Twenty-one minutes a week is alot to gain.

I am going to resist apologizing for not posting, although I want to.  More than anything I want to apologize to my future self for leaving big gaps. Really I have not posted before now because the act of writing this blog, as I see it, is not present. Rather it is about recalling for friends, family, but mostly my future self what was. The journey I am on is so amazing I do not want to miss anything. So readers missed the girls second birthday, great family visits from Grandmothers, Papa, Granddaddy, Diane, Mica and Rich. In the time that I have not written the girls have started preschool, developed a vocabulary, been potty trained, stopped sleeping in cribs, stared drinking from cups, feel in love with Elmo, smoothies, animals, and in general have grown up. While they have a ways to go, not documenting these mile stones is what has kept me from writing. I feel so bad to have missed writing about them I think, how I can write about today when I missed last week. Yet in retrospect I did not write because I was living them. I know from my yoga practice, one I have just started revisiting (a big thanks to Sara Greenwood), that I should focus on the present. So I will.

Scout and I took a big walk yesterday (ok maybe not exactly present but close). It was the first long walk we have had in a while. The girls where with Nancy (our beloved Nanny sent by angles), Justin was at work, and I left the office to spend some time with Scout. I had no guilt for not doing work, caring for the girls, cook dinner, I was free to be in the woods with Scout and it felt so good. We hiked off to find a geocaching sight (which we did not find do to extensive leaf cover) and I realized how much I missed just walking the dogs. Not that I would trade it for time with the girls or Justin but that life has changed so much. Scout is such a quite simple guy, much like Justin (before kids). I felt good about bonding with Scout because I had never really spent time along with him. It was always the three, four or six of us. 

I miss Vern everyday but I am proud to say that I have come to peace with her death. Much credit goes to the writing of Jon Katz. If you have ever lost a friend like Vern I truly recommend his book Coming Home. In his book and his blog ,which I am now a religious follower of,  he talks about animals as service. They pay service to individuals in ways we might not understand while they are there. In exchange for their service we give them a good life of love and care and a good just death. I am at peace with Vern because I now know the service she paid to me and I know I did my best (as did Justin) to give her a good life and just death. 

Vern took me from 20 to 34. In that chapter she helped me find my family.—first, just the two of us, then Justin, Scout, and then Morgie and Addy Baye. And when our family was solid, secure and full of love she felt her job was done and we let her go. The house is so quite without her tipping around. Scout is a quite sole and many have asked about him. He is well, we are all well. And I know where every she is Vern is well. The girls still ask about her. “Vern home?” It is hard to teach them what I do not understand. When one asks, usually Addy, before I can answer Morgan reminds her she is playing ball in heaven with her friend Rose (a dog they read about in Jon Katz’s children book The Dogs of Bedland Farm)

With are all on vacation now. We are gearing up to cook a big dinner for friends. We miss family but are content to be with family as well. Morgan and Addy are such a gift. Most of you know getting pregnant was not easy for me. I like to be open about that because so many people struggle with infertility and fell as though it should be a secret. But Justin and I are proof that if you want children you can have them. They may come from your body, your biology, or neither. But when they are the people your life revolves around, they are your children. My thoughts are with Kim and her family as they return from China having officially adopted their two year old son Kai and a case of the chicken pox. You can follow their blog at

As I type the girls are upstairs sleeping, the Beatles lullaby plays throughout the house and sound of rain taps. The Hanukah candles are flickering in the kitchen, the Christmas tree lights in the living room and I am in the rocking chair near the fire. Scout is dreaming on the couch and Justin in finishing making dinner (poor guy I am not a great cook and do not eat meat). Morgan and I are fighting the never ending cold, I and all is quite. I know I will miss the girls at this age. They amaze me everyday.

Last night Justin and I laid them to sleep at 7:30 and at 8:15 when I could still him them chatting I went to up to encourage them to rest and found them both naked and giggling. Addy was quick to tell me it was Morgan’s idea and Morgan proud to report that her bed was dry. There is little more I want in life them for them to be at peace and comfortable with themselves. A few months ago Justin and I were asked by the girl’s teacher to pick three things we want for the girls. As always I took our homework very seriously. Justin and I word shopped, sought suggestions, and final came up with three wishes. We wish them to be compassionate, honest, and courageous.

We get a lot more sleep them we did last year and as the New Year approaches I have a few goals in mind but one overarching challenge to myself. I want to be present without guilt. When I am playing with the girls, I do not want to think about work, when I am at yoga or running I want to be in my body, when I am working I want to be focused on teaching and writing a career I really love, and when I am with friends and family I want to enjoy every moment rather this wish Bellingham was closer to them.

Below are some pictures from the last two months. I hope to keep you updated but make no promises and have no guilt. Happy holidays and thank you for reading.

 Learning how to make meatballs with Papa 

 A visit to san fran to see Aunt Sara

 The Greenwood and DuPre Mama's and Kids

 Aunt Mica (baby in belly), Rae, and Addy at the beach

 Mica and Morgan

 Mica, Rich, and baby in belly

 A ride on the bus

 Grandmothers and girls picking wild berries

 September 17th, Morgan and Addy's second birthday trying out their first bikes

 Nana and Morgie

 The girls and Grandma

 Morgan, Freyja and Addy
 Rae running the Bellingham marathon

The next few images where all taken on Taylor dock with Bellingham bay in the background

 Addy is hiding

 Morgan hiding

 Pumpkin picking at Stoneybrook farm

 A visit from Granddaddy John

 Halloween goes great with Hawaii

 Good friends and a last bit of fun in the cribs before turning them into beds

Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Dearest Laverne

Last night Justin and I were forced to let Laverne go. It might have been the hardest thing I have ever had to do. We both knew it was for the best. But we miss her so. For those of you who knew Vern you new what a happy dog she was. She walked, played, and brought love to our home until the day she passed.

Vern was born in Michigan in March of 1997. She lived with my mom and I until I went to college. She played in dog parks, had a wonderful sister Shirley (who I am sure was waiting to welcome her home) and knew all the dogs on the block, Emma, Buster, Pepper and Sonia. When I left for Vermont Laverne took care of my mom. She provided companionship, comfort, and slept next to her every night. When Vern got sick my Mom took her to and from the New York Vet Hospital until they got every last pine cone out of her nose. Mom even took care of her when Vern tried to play with the local skunk. Mom took her on road trips throughout the northeast and she came to vitis me for sleep overs.

After college I moved to Winston Salem NC and Vern came to live with me. It was there she met my love and her father, Justin. From that moment until last night Justin took amazing care of her. He walked miles with her, though parks, beaches, and trails. I will never forget the smile on her face when she smelled salt water. One day, we took her to the Outerbanks of North Carolina, missed the ferry and had to smuggle her into a hotel for the night. She loved to run on the beach and play in the ocean. On holidays we took Vern to Justin's mother house and his grandfather would give half of his dinner to her under the table. Everyday, no matter what the weather (and trust me Iowa brought on some weather) Justin and I cared for Vern and she cared for us. In North Carolina Vern learned to walk off the leash, run on the beach, and fell in love with an amazing Golden Retriever King. When I traveled for debate Laverne and King would play ball, chase goose in the lake, and cheer on their Dads at poker.

In 2002 Vern and I moved to Iowa. It was just the two of us at first and she took great care of me. She laid with me through every required reading, stayed up late while I wrote papers, and ran miles in Hikery Hill park with Sarah Allen and I. We walked every day in the pint-a-crest (aka Vern-a-crest) where she took sandwiches from innocent students with no apologies. In the fall Vern and I loaded up in a rent a car and drove to Louisville KY to reunite with her Daddy and meet her new brother Scout. Scout is King's biological nephew and he and Vern hit it off. They played, wrestled, and he licked her like a lollypop. The next day we all got in Justin's  red pickup (Vern's favorite) and road home to Winston. It was cold in the back with no heat but Vern and Scout snuggled close and became best friends. For the next year and a half Vern traveled back and forth from Iowa to North Carolina with Justin and I. The four of us where a family and we took camping trips, beach visits, and began what is now our loving DuPre family.

In June 2004 Justin and Scout rolled into Iowa City trailer in tow. The four us moved into a small apartment with big windows and lots of love. Each day the dogs went for two 1 hour walks to the park. In the winter Justin and I wore crampons through the ice and brought sleds through the snow to play with Vern and Scout. Vern loved sledding. She would runing up and down the slope after us. In the summer we took walks to dairy queen and Vern got her own scoop of vanilla.  When the heat was too much we went to the water plant or the lake so they could cool off and chase the goose. In the spring Vern and Scout raised money for charity at the annual dog wash. And in August of 2005 we all jumped in the truck and when to the lake where Justin asked me to marry him. Vern and Scout cheered (or jumped around and swam) and our family moved forward.

In the spring of 2006 Vern and Scout huddled together as the great Iowa City tornado rolled through our building. Safe and sound, we all moved into the nicest hotel in town (and the only one that would accept dogs). We lived with our camping gear for a few months. Vern liked the idea our bed on the floor because it gave her easy access to the down pillows she grew to love (and took from me every night). And in July of 2006 we all piled into the subaru (we sold the pickup before leaving town) and drove cross country.

We survived a storm in the badlands, Vern tried to make friends with the buffalo in Yellowstone, we braved 100 degrees in Montana and spent our last night on the road in Eastern Washington. Scout played in the water as Vern floated the rapids, again and again. Tuckered out they both passed out in the tent. The weather in Bellingham was great for Vern and Scout. No ticks, no heat, and no ice. After renting for a while we moved into our for-ever-home (we think) in Sudden Valley Washington. The yard is big and had lots for Vern and Scout to do. The porch is big and made a great place for squirrel watching. With nearby swimming spots and lots of off leash logging roads near by, it was all a dog could ask for.

When I was 7 months pregnant Vern laid in bed with me respecting my bed rest orders. We snuggled and I read her Go-Dog-Go a book that lead to Morgan's first sentence "Go-Dog-Go." When Morgan and Addy came home from the hospital Vern snuggled with them too. She tried to share their pack-in-play. The girls loved her. They shared their food , gave her rubs and read her books. In the last two summers we went to the lake together, swam, and played as a family of 6.

While still running and playing Justin and I knew Vern was getting older. Her body was not as strong as it use to be. We had a 6lbs cyst removed from her side this summer giving her another four months of playing. Just monday she rolled in the grass. Yesterday after Justin played with Scout and Vern in yard she came inside for dinner. She ate the whole meal and then her cyst began to slowly open up. With heavy hearts Justin and I drove Laverne to the doctor. She laid in the back with me resting. When we arrived it was clear that her time had come. It was not fair to force another surgery that would cause pain for her and just a little more time for us. She was tired and we had to say goodbye. We laid together on the floor, I softly whispered her amzing grace, and we thanked her for all the love she gave us.

Today we had to explain to the girls that Vern went to dog heaven. She is reunited with friends and we miss her deeply. But she was and will always be my first baby girl and life long companion. Scout is sad but we will all heal, not forget, but move foward with time. Where every she is, I know she loves us and will be at peace. Thank you Laverne you will always have a big part of my heart.   -your mama and friend.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The days of summer

While summer might have been slow coming- it has arrived. It is why we are all willing to tolerate the rain and clouds for so long. 75 degrees, sun, no bugs, and cool nights. 

Here are some of the things we have been upto:

pool parties at Morgie and Addy's friend Henry's house

Picnics with friends

Berry picking at the lake

Playhouse in the yard

Twin outings in the park 

Playing in Hovander Park

Addy in the garden 

Addy checking out the farm animals

Morgan and Matilda gossiping 

Miss Morgan at the barn

Patty and Uncle Steven came to visit and it was awesome to see them. 

We took the girls for walks in the woods 

Can you believe I live less then 5 miles from this amazing spot

Miss Addy Baye playing in the trees

Miss Morgan following her sister

More wild berry picking
Watching the water fall

back to hovander park

loving my Addy

Miss Morgan

Addy checking out the flowers

So amazing

Morgan getting a ride back to the car

So sweet

Playing in the lake