Monday, December 31, 2012

Remember New Years Eve at Legoland?

One year ago today we were at Legoland in Carlsbad, Calif., celebrating New Years Eve!

Although I'd moved back to Lancaster just a couple of weeks before, I still had stuff at the storage shed in Encinitas, so we quick stopped there to pick up some totes. It was a long drive!
Then we went to Legoland, as we had year-round passes. The big problem was a heavy fog off the ocean, though, which really obstructed the fireworks.

The foreworks were held a bit early - shortly after 6 p.m. or so when it is dark during winter. We wore special glasses so that the fireworks looked like Lego bricks in the sky!

Here's a couple of pictures from our trip!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Always tell the truth, no matter what

I'm very proud of you, Kieran, because during the past year you told the truth, a very important principle that I'd always tried to instill in you before others decided to cruelly keep us apart. Thanks to you being honest, we likely will be able to again be with one another.

Unfortunately, you will find yourself surrounded by people who believe telling the truth is only important if it serves their selfish purposes. While lying may benefit them in the short term, over the long haul one's lies have a way of catching up with you. The result is that more harm comes to them because on balance more people than not believe in telling the truth.

Why is telling the truth so important? Because our reputation is our worth in society. Once we lie, our reputation suffers, sometimes to the point where we lose things important to us. The heartache of losing what we value always is worse than the trouble we might get into if we are truthful.

Being honest is important because lying is unfair to others. People make decisions based on the assumption that what we've told them is the truth. We should not be unfair to others because it violates the Golden Rule - "Do unto others as they would do unto you." We would not want others to be unfair to us, so we should not be unfair to them.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

My email sent to you Dec. 29, 2012

Here is the email I sent Dec. 29, 2012, in case you don't receive it:

Dear Kieran,

How are you doing today? I miss and love you very much!

I hope you’re enjoying winter break from school. Sometimes winter breaks can get awful long as you don’t get to see and play with your friends every day, but having free time to play with your own toys is fun, too.

What did you receive for Christmas? Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Chris and Aunt Suzy, and I had lots of fun picking our Christmas gifts for you. We still have a couple left to give, and I’ll be sure to bring those when we get together next Friday – which is in just six days!

I bet you’re having fun playing in the snow. Have you made a snowman yet? You always enjoyed going out into the snow in the mountains when we lived in California. We’d go sliding, make snowmen, and toss snowballs.

What do you plan to do for New Year’s Eve? A lot of people stay up until midnight so that they can say they were awake during the first minute of the new year. That’s staying up really late! Last year on New Year’s Eve, we went to the fireworks at Legoland. It was held at 6 p.m., and you fell asleep in the car on the way back home!

Have you read any good books lately? I have. It was “The Big Snow,” by Berta and Elmer Hader. It’s all about how geese, rabbits, deer, raccoons and chipmunks in a forest got ready for the first snowfall of winter. There are some very beautiful illustrations of animals in it. I bet your school library has the book; if not, your local city library probably does.

Well, that is all for now. I can’t wait to see you on Jan. 4, and in the meantime I look forward to receiving your email responding to mine.



Friday, December 28, 2012

My next teaching job

After working in New Mexico for two years, I came back to Wisconsin looking for a better paying job. I landed one in Merrill, Wisconsin, where I taught from fall 1994 to January 1999.

My first year was spent teaching English to eighth and ninth graders, The next year, our junior high became a middle school, and we changed to a "team teaching" concept. I taught English to eighth graders on the Delta Team, a five-teacher team, which I headed for four years.

During this time, I went to school during evenings at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and earned a Master's degree in English. I spent two years of night classes and summer school from fall 1996 to spring 1998 getting it done.

I also wrote a lot of short stories and even a couple of novels during this time! None of them are anything I'm particularly proud of, though each of them have their moments. It was more a lot of "practice" as I learned the craft of writing.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Photos from Christmas 2013

Here's a collection of photos of our time together for Christmas 2012. I want you to know that each day I pray we will be together on Christmas 2013, and that every day I work hard to rectifying this cruelty done to the two of us. There is not an hour in a day that passes in which I do not think of you. I love you very much!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Seeing the statues at Western University

A year ago today we stopped off to see some life-sized art with a visit to the bronze statues by internationally renowned sculptor Seward Johnson on display at the Western University of Health Sciences campus in Pomona, Calif.

We'd seen the statues before during the many times we'd visited the campus. Your mother was enrolled in an FNP program there while you were a preschooler. You always were fascinated by them, especially the one of two painters (see photo at above right).

I remember that we were on on our way to Disneyland that morning, and you asked if we could stop to see the statues! We were driving just a few miles away from them, so I said, sure.

Here's a whole bunch of photos of our visit to the bronze statues.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Some pensive thoughts about time...

Today, my son, I'm struck once again by how fast life moves and how we cannot waste a single minute of it. Looking back at photos of us and of myself with others, the memories seem as if they were just made yesterday, though they happened months if not years ago. All too often, we let time flow by thinking that there's always tomorrow. But now that tomorrow is here, we can't recapture those'll never be a preschooler again, we don't live in California, we're no longer with a person we love.

I'm glad that when with you I tried to make every minute count. We did do a lot of fun things together, went on a lot of adventures, explored many new places. Those days will come again, and we'll find new ways to have fun, hatch new adventures, and explore new locales. For the moment, though, without you here to do that, all I have is my memories, and they will have to be sweet enough to counter emptiness' bitter taste.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas photos through the years

Christmas 2011
I am very sad that we do not get to spend Christmas together this year. We've had lots of fun Christmases together through the years, and I've included some photos of them (The link takes you to the 2011 photos).

We always started our holiday season by putting up the Christmas tree and decorating the house on Thanksgiving day. You always liked to help with that, especially putting the ornaments on the tree. Once the tree was all finished and the lights turned on, you'd stare at it in awe of its prettiness.

We also went to lots of different places to celebrate the holidays. Among them was Disneyland, of course, but in 2011 we also did Legoland a couple of times. Legoland was neat because it created a a special snowy area to play in - and we's go into it wearing shorts because the temperature was 72 degrees in San Diego!

I love you and miss you very much - Merry Christmas, Kieran!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Rainbows and waterways in Lancaster

You might recall that a waterway ran behind our green house when we lived in Lancaster, California. A tall brick wall separated the waterway from our yard, but every once in a while I'd lift you up high so you could see over.

Living in the desert, we never got too much rain, so there wasn't much of a flow in the waterway. You can see from one of the pictures here how little water there was, even after six days of rain (and 5 inches total!) this time in 2010!

But what's really neat about these photos is that two years ago yesterday (or on Dec. 22, 2010), the sun finally came out after those six days of rain - and we got to see some great rainbows together!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

My email to you from Dec. 22, 2012

Here is my email to you sent Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012, just in case you do not receive it:

Hi Kieran,

It was so good to see you yesterday! I had a lot of fun and am very happy you enjoyed all of the presents from Grandma and Grandpa, Uncle Chris and Aunt Susie, and Santa!

I received your email as well yesterday. It was a little odd, though, as it appeared to be written earlier in the week though the date stamp was Friday night.

Thank you for the birthday wishes. I remember very well the night that you were born, and based on what Grandma and Grandpa have told me, the days we were born were very similar! I had to drive through snow to get to the hospital where your mother was, and so did my dad have to drive to the hospital to where my mother was! It also was nighttime when we drove, so it was very dark.

I appreciate that when we were together you sang the songs you did in your Christmas program. You have a wonderful voice, and I’m very impressed that you were able to remember all of those words! I am sorry I was not able to be at the programs this year, but hopefully I will be at them next year. I bet getting on the stage to sing was a lot of fun!

It is great to hear that you like the snow. You always did when we went into the mountains after a snowfall. Do you have your own sled? My school had a sledding hill behind it that we always got to use during recess, so every year I got a new sled. All of my classmates and me always decorated our sleds with magic markers, drawing cool flames or airplane symbols on them.

I’m so glad you and your classmates brought toys to the TV station. There are many children who are less unfortunate than we are and so get very little or even nothing at all for Christmas. You helped to make many other kids’ Christmas very special rather than a sad day. Giving always is more fun than receiving, though it may not seem like that at first. I wish I would have known about your school’s plans, as I would have donated toys, too, for you to deliver.

You have a wonderful Christmas, and I hope you receive all that you ask for. I miss you very much and can’t wait to see you in just a couple of weeks!



Friday, December 21, 2012

It was so good to see you again!

Opening Transformers present, Dec. 21, 2012.
I had so much fun with you this afternoon, Kieran! I'm glad we had the opportunity to play, and I'm so happy that you liked all of your presents.

The Hot Wheels cars you liked so much were from Uncle Chris and Aunt Susie. The got one more present for you, but I ran out of room for it in the tote I was carrying and I need to get batteries for it! I will bring it when we get together in January. The Imaginext superheroes, game cards, and Christmas cookies were from Grandma and Grandpa.

I really enjoyed hearing you sing the Christmas songs you did for your school program. You have a great voice, and I'm very impressed that you could remember so many words!

In a few days, I will post our Chistmas pictures online with this other set of photos, which are of our Christmases past.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Recall going on the aircraft carrier?

Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011: Manning the control center.
One year ago today we went to downtown San Diego and visited the USS Midway aircraft carrier. We'd gone there several times before, and by this time you were starting to really know your way around that old naval vessel! Among your favorite parts of the ship were:
g Conning tower - The two big areas here that you liked were the operations room where war operations were tracked (and where you liked to pretend you were a naval officer ordering the jets and other ships) and the captain's office, where a mannequin of the captain talked to you!
g Flight deck - Kids could sit in the cockpit of several jet planes and pretend to be flying them!
g Helicopters - On top of the carrier where the planes would take off were static displays of several aircraft; you always loved the helicopters because you could inside them and have pretend adventures.

There were lots of other sections we went to, including engineering, the brig, the store, and the deck for lunch.

Here's a whole bunch of pictures from our trip!

I would love to see your drawings

One of your favorite things to do when we were together was to show me your drawings - often we'd even draw or paint or color together. Seeing your artwork also was one of my favorite things to do! I remember how you liked to draw pictures of "Star Trek" characters and Army soldiers when you were four and five; I've kept many of them.

I mention this now because your cousin, Rebekah, likes to color pictures and show them to me. Last night, she drew a whole bunch of pictures and aksed me to come up with a story about them! It made me lonely for your drawings and for you.

What kinds of things to draw and color now? I'd like to see them!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Your picture graces covers of two books!

I'm proud to say, Kieran, that your picture graces the bookshelves of many homes and bookstores across the North American continent and even overseas. As you may know, I write (as well as edit) books for a living, and inspired by our many great hikes we took before you began going to school, I wrote a couple of hiking books about our journeys. Both of those books, Hikes with Tykes: A Practical Guide to Day Hiking with Kids and Hikes with Tykes: Games and Activities, include a picture of you on the cover.

The photo on Hikes with Tykes: A Practical Guide to Day Hiking with Kids was taken in the Angeles National Forest on the Manzanita Trail, just off of State Hwy. 2. It's a neat area, the site of an old faultline. You can see wher the faultline used to ran because one side of the trail is red, the location of old clay deposits only a few tens of thousands of years old, while the the other side of the trail is white, the location of old granite that is at least 70 million years old!

The photo on Hikes with Tykes: Games and Activities was taken when you were four years old at Vasquez Rocks in Southern California. You used to call it the "Kirk Rocks" because the "Star Trek" episode in which Captain Kirk fought the Gorn was filmed there. In fact, "Gorn Rock" is behind you in the photo.

I mention this because earlier this week Seattle Backpackers Magazine ran a nice review of Hikes with Tykes: Games and Activities, and I was remined how you played such an important role in helping me create those books - mainly by giving me the experiences to write them. I've dedicated both boths to you as well!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Our Trip to Legoland one year ago today

A year ago yesterday (Dec. 17, 2011), we spent the day at Legoland in Carlsbad, Calif. This would be one of the last times we visited Legoland. In another month, I'd move back to Palmdale/Lancaster so that I could be closer to you.

We began the morning with our usual breakfast at Denny's in Encinitas and then went to Moonlight Beach. The day at Legoland was spent doing our usual activities: building Bioncles together, several rides on the Aquazone, running through the Medieval play castle, and some time spent at the Legoland town playground!

Among the highlights was going on the DuneRiders slide. I was so proud of you as you overcame your fear of going down the tall and high slide and went on it for the first time! Once you realized how fun it was, you wanted to go on it over and over and over again!

There's a whole bunch of pictures of us enjoying the day together!

Monday, December 17, 2012

My birthday wish

Today is my birthday, and I have only one wish: That I could see you. Even a phone call or an email would be okay. Unfortunatley, several people who have very sick minds have prevented us from being together today or even being able to communicate with one another. I do not feel angry toward these people, though, and I hope you do not either, for the sickness of their minds prevents them from knowing right or wrong, prevents them from understanding the deep hurt they have caused. In any case, we shall prevail, and should dedicate our energies today to realizing our wish for the day that did not come true.

Last year on this day, we drove to San Diego together to pick up some of my belongings at my trailer. I had moved earlier that week back to Lancaster/Palmdale so that I could be closer to you. After we filled my car full of totes, we spent a few hours at Legoland and then on our drive back, stopped at Chuck E Cheese's in a suburb north of San Diego - I think it was Vista - where we had a great time playing games and eating pizza. I even have a picture of us taken where you sit in a booth and a machine draws us.

For me, the past 12 months truly lived up to Charles Dickens' oft-quoted words, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." But I hold a strong belief that during the year ahead we will be reunited, and then it truly will be a time "of wisdom...a season of Light...the spring of hope" in which we have "...everything before us."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Don't call other people bad names!

It’s about this time in life, Kieran, that you may run into the problem of name-calling. This is when someone calls you a name that is hurtful or perhaps you call someone a name that makes him or her feel bad. They might call you a “slowpoke” or a made-up word like a “dweeb”. Or you might hear other children telling a classmate that she’s “fat” or “stupid.”

People call each other names because they are hurting inside. They don’t feel good about themselves, and the only way they can feel “better” is by make others feel bad.

And while they may feel better for a little while, they are not a “better” person. No one who hurts another person is a “good” person.

I don’t believe you’re the kind of boy who would call other kids names, for I always taught you as a child to respect others’ differences. Still, sometimes as young people, we get caught up in what our friends are doing and so we fall into a bad habit of calling others names. Sometimes, we see important adults around us calling others names and so we think it’s all right.

It’s never all right to call another person a name. If we have done so, we should tell them we’re sorry and promise not to do it again. Then we should keep that promise. And if we hear others calling people names, we should find a way to get them to stop; at the very least, we should not participate.

If you are ever called a name, do not let it bother you (though I know it does hurt!). When others call people names, they really show how immature and mean they are. Their words only can hurt you if you let them hurt you – and it’s only in your own mind that you think their words are of any value.

OK, enough of my lecture. Go have some fun!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

My email sent to you on Dec. 15, 2012

Sledding in the Angeles National Forest,
December 2010.
Here is the email I sent to you on Dec. 15, 2012, just in case you do not receive it:

Hi Kieran,

How are you doing? I’m doing well though I miss you quite a lot and every day. I am very concerned, though, that I haven’t received an email responding to any of my three previous emails. Please confirm that you received this one with a response and have your mother send the previous emails as they have not arrived.

I am very excited because I get to see you next Friday on Dec. 21! We should have lots of fun playing games and playing with toys as well as reading a book or two, and just plain catching up on all that you’ve been doing. I’ll also be bringing lots of Christmas presents from me, Grandma and Grandpa, your Uncle Chris and Susie, and one or two that Santa left at my house for you!
Have you enjoyed all the new snowfall? It’s great for building snowmen and snow forts. When I was a little boy, we’d go sledding during winter. My school had a big hill behind it that we could take sleds up and slide down. I bet you remember the times we drove up into the mountains and went sledding together – my schoolmates and I used sleds just like the one we used.

What do you plan to do for Christmas vacation? While getting an extra day or two off of school was fun, I always missed my friends when I wasn’t in class and so wished for vacation to end! What do your friends plan to do during vacation?

Are you having a big Christmas party at school? I always liked the Christmas parties when I went to school because we exchanged presents, and everyone brought in fun foods that their mother’s or father’s made. It was neat to taste cookies and bars and other sweets other kids’ parents baked!

Have you read any good books lately? I bet you have, knowing how much you like to read and have stories read to you. This past week I read “Reindeer Christmas” by Mark Kimball Moulton. In the book, two young children and their grandmother find a hungry and lost baby deer in the woods. So they take in the fawn, feeding and nursing it back to health. Except when the deer grows up, they find it’s not exactly a deer! Can you guess what the baby deer grew up to be?

That is all for now. I love you and miss you very much and can’t wait to see you on Friday – and to get those missing emails!



Friday, December 14, 2012

My first teaching job in New Mexico

In August 1992, I switched careers and moved to New Mexico! It was quite a monumental year!

I had been in newspapering for three-plus years and with the economy hurting was having difficulty finding a job at a larger newspaper. A college friend of mine who lived in the Southwest convinced me to apply for a teaching job there, and I did. The school principal interviewed me by phone on a Thursday, offered me a job on Friday, and told me school started on Tuesday!

So I packed up everything and drove to my new home - Deming, New Mexico. It is very close to the Mexico border and in the desert. It was quite a culture shock!

I taught English and journalism there. The first here, I taught grades 9-12 at both the middle and the high school. The second year, I taught grades 8-9 at the middle school.

I am still friends today with many of the students I taught all those years ago!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My afterlife experience

Did I ever tell you about my afterlife experience? I was in the University of Minnesota Hospital for lyme's disease in July 1991. While a nurse was putting in a new IV, I started to get woozy and fainted. My heart had stopped!

I felt as if I were floating above the nurse's station and could see myself walking really quickly past it toward an incredibly bright white light. While the light wasn't blinding, I couldn't see through it. Then a voice said, "It's not your time."

I woke up, laying on a hospital bed with all of these people desperately scurrying around me. I had no idea where I was or how much time had passed (I initially thought three weeks had passed!).

When I told the nurses and doctors what happened, they just smiled - but I was the talk of the hospital floor for the next week!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

My very first job after college

After college, my first big job was with the newspaper in Red Wing, Minn. I was offered the job in April, about a month before I graduated from college, and I actually started before I'd finished taking my final exams!

I got my very first apartment in Red Wing. It was very large - two bedrooms - and there was a small farm with horses next to it (the apartment building was at the city's edge). In the morning when I'd wake up, I could hear the horses neighing in the background while I enjoyed breakfast.

At the newspaper, I covered Wisconsin news for the paper, which meant writing about Pierce and Pepin counties, where the Red Wing paper was circulated. I also was a copy editor once a month, working on Friday nights editing and designing the Saturday edition.

Interestingly, I can't seem to find any pcitures of my time in Red Wing!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Remember visiting 'the cowboy museum'?

A year ago today we visited the Autry National Center of the American West in Los Angeles. You always called it "the cowboy museum"!

The autumn of 2011 and through the early winter of 2012, you were very interested in the Old West. I bought you some cowboy play figures that you named "Sheriff Jack", "The Deputy", "Calamitous Jane", "Baby Kieran", "Baby Kieran's Mom" and so on.

In the photo at above right, you pretended to be Sheriff Jack riding his horse "Luke" while at the Autry National Center.

I was The Deputy. No name, just "The Deputy." I'm honored to have served with you, Sheriff Jack!

Here are a whole bunch of other photos from our trip.

Monday, December 10, 2012

My teaching, journalism internships

While in college, I studied journalism and English but also took many courses about teaching. My college degree actually is a Bachelors of Science in Education.

This allowed me lots of flexibility when I graduated. With my journalism and English majors, I could go into communications - such as newspapers, magazines, book publishing, public relations, etc. With my education degree, I could teach English or journalism to grades 7-12.

In fact, I spent a semester of my college years (Sept.-Dec. 1988) teaching English and journalism to high school students! I did my "student teaching" at Park High School in Cottage Grove, Minn.

I also did an internship at a newspaper. The summer before I student taught (June-Aug 1988), I worked as a copy editor at the Duluth (Minn.) News-Tribune.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Highest UWRF honor: Chancellor's Award

One of my proudest achievements during my college days was receiving the Chancellor's Award in spring 1988 at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

It was the highest award given each year to campus, and only a few students received it. You have to good grades in your classes and be involved in campus leadership to qualify for the award.

For the award, I received  a big, heavy medal on a ribbon to wear around my neck. I got to wear it at my graduation ceremony (of which I led the march of graduating students to the amphitheater in spring 1989).

Unfortunately, I no longer have the medal (though I do have the cerficate). Somehow in all of the confusion when Jane moved out of the condo, some of my personal belongings - including that medal - were in the boxes that ended up in her moving van.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

My email sent to you on Dec. 8, 2012

Here is the email I sent to you on Dec. 8, 2012, just in case you don’t receive it:

Hi Kieran,

How are you doing? I hope all is going well for you. I miss you and love you very much. Unfortunately, I did not receive a response to either of my last two emails. Perhaps you could ask you mother to resend your responses to me.

How is school going? What new things are you learning there? When we were last together, you said you were learning about letters. Have you got to the letter “m” yet? Since we’re getting close to the middle of the school year, you might be there (or must be really close!).

Is your school putting on a holiday program? I wish I could be there to see it! Your cousins Bryan and Rebekah had a holiday program at their schools. They sang songs with their classmates. What is your program called and what do you get to do in it (If you school is having a holiday program that is!).

My schools always had holiday programs, but we called them “Christmas Programs.” Today, though, there are many people who are not Christians that attend schools, so they do not celebrate Christmas. They may celebrate other holidays though; for example, if you are Jewish you would celebrate Hanukkah at this time of year. Many of us, even if we’re Christian, try to show our respect for other people’s religions and beliefs by referring to it as a “holiday program” rather than a “Christmas program.”

Have you written your letter to Santa yet listing what you want for Christmas? What is on your list? Be sure to leave cookies and milk for him on Dec. 24 so that you get lots of presents when he comes to your house (In Wisconsin, children leave him cheese, so they get even MORE presents!)!

How are your friends doing? What do they want for Christmas or other holidays their families might be celebrating? Have you done any fun things with them?

Have you read any good books lately? I did. It was called “Morris’ Disappearing Bag,” by Rosemary Wells. Morris got a disappearing bag for Christmas. Nobody believes it works, until he jumps into the bag and becomes invisible! Everyone then wants to play with Morris and his disappearing bag, but first they have to find him because he’s still invisible! It was a very humorous book to read.

That is all for now. I’m to see you on Dec. 21 and am looking forward to it. I have all kinds of fun presents that your grandparents, aunt and uncle, cousins, me and even Santa have left for you. Be a good boy – and don’t forget to tell mom to resend those missing emails!



Friday, December 7, 2012

Elected Winter Carnival King in 1988

Dad (me) on right and Billie Jo on left
in Winter Carnival competition.
Did you know that in college I was the Winter Carnival king? In early 1988, I was living in the upperclassman dorm, and a bunch of my dormmates convinced me and a friend, named Billie Jo (she was an exchange student from Nebraska), to run for carnival king and queen to represent the dorm. A vote was held in the dorm, and we won!

The winter carnival theme that year was "Hooray for Hollywood," so we had to do all kinds of skits and competitions related to that theme. The posters we made matched that used on the "Top Gun" movie posters, and we did a skit from "Revenge of the Nerds".

We received points for the skits and contests, and then a campus-wide vote was held. We won again!

The week was a lot of fun. Maybe one day you'll also run to be a carnival king at your school!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

"3, 2,1, Blast off!"...Playing "Countdown"

When you were a baby, one of my favorite things to play with you was "Countdown". I'd hold you in front of me and then count backward from 10, and after reaching one would go "Blast off!" and lift you really fast above me then hold you up there and say "And baby is on his way to the moon!" You'd laugh gleefully every time!

After a few times of playing the game, though, when I'd get to three in the countdown you'd shut your eyes really tight and tense up in anticipation of the quick blast off! Once I got you in the air, though, you'd open your eyes and giggle as wiggling your hands and feet in the open air!

You always were disappointed when I brought you back to Earth - I think you wanted to fly!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Campus literary magazine editor

In addition to being the editor of the campus newspaper when I was in college, I also was the editor of the campus literary magazine, called Prologue, for three years. When I was a freshman and a sophomore in college, I'd gotten writings published in them, and I was an English major, so I was a natural for the job! The magazine published short stories, poems and essays.

As editor, I changed the look of Prologue so that it was the size of an actual magazine. Then I got artwork for the cover, which ran in color, something we'd never done before. To keep costs low, I lowered the quality of the paper within the magazine.

We produced the magaine at the campus newspaper office, which made it very easy to do, as I became lit mag editor after I was the newspaper editor.

Would you believe that I'm still friends with people I met while working on Prologue?

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

My involvement in college forensics

While in college, I was actively involved in forensics - or speaking contests (Not the science of how people died, which is another definition of the word!). I participated in forensics during the first four years of college.

At first, my big events were prepared serious speeches, such as communication analysis, informative, and persuasive speaking. My speeches included an analysis of Carl Sagan's "Cosmos", toothpaste, and bilingual education.

But my biggest success came in making up speeeches off the top of my head, specifically extemporaneous speaking and impromptu speaking. In extemp, you're given a political question and have 30 minutes to write a speech about it; you can use one note card. In impromptu speaking, you're given a quotation and have up to 2 minutes to come up with a 5 minute speech about it. In both categories, I took second place in state during spring 1988 and went on to nationals.

I also was president of my campus' honorary forensics society, Delta Sigma Rho-Tau Kappa Alpha.

Monday, December 3, 2012

My work as campus newspaper editor

Campus newspaper offices
During college, I was the editor of my campus newspaper. The paper was called the Student Voice.

I began just helping the newspaper staff on Wednesday nights during my freshman year. Then I was asked to be the Arts and Entertainment editor, which I did during my sophomore year. In March of that year, I was named editor, a position I held for the next 12 months.

While the editor, I oversaw a staff of 72, redesigned the newspaper, and expanded its size to include more stories. It was a lot of work, and I had to cut back on my class load to make time for it all!

It also was a lot of fun. Many good friends were made during that time, and I learned a lot about newspapers, my abilities, and how to be a leader.

Maybe one day you would like to work on a publication, like a newspaper or a magazine?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Where I went to college in 1984

Freshmen Academic Honors I received in May 1985.
After graduating from high school in 1984, I went off to college at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. My original majors were going to be broadcast journalism and political science (I wanted to be a radio news reporter/announcer). I was on the campus radio station as a DJ and announced news my first year of college.

But I found the political science classes a bit dull and liked working with the people at the campus newspaper (which I also participated in during my first year of college), so I switched my majors to print journalism and English! Then I added an education degree to it so I could be a teacher.

I lived in the dormitory Hathorn Hall my first and second years of college. Then  I spent the next two years in the upperclassman's Prucha Hall dormitory and my final year lived off campus across the street from the college.

I had lots of fun at college and achieved many things there; I'll tell you more about them in future entries!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

My email sent to you on Dec. 1, 2012

Here is my email sent to you on Dec. 1, 2012, in case you don’t receive it:

Hi Kieran,

Hope you are doing well. I miss and love you very much! I was surprised to not receive a response to my last email, which I sent Nov. 25. Quite a number of your email responses somehow are not getting to me! Perhaps you could have your mother resend all of them, especially your one from this past week.

How is school going? What kinds of things are you learning about? I recall you telling me that you were studying the phases of the moon. Have you moved on to other space topics?

The last time we were together, you mentioned that the guinea pigs in your classroom were looking for a new home. Did they find one yet? Where did they go?

Christmas is coming up - it'll be here in a little more than three weeks! What presents have you put on your list to Santa? What presents do your friends want? When I was in kindergarten, for Christmas I got a GI Joe doll and the "There's a Monster at the End of this Book" storybook. I got other toys and books as well, but those are the only two gifts I remember!

Speaking of books, have you read any good new ones lately? I did - it was called “Santa’s Secrets Revealed” by James Solheim. It's about this boy named Stevie who doesn't believe Santa could possibly deliver toys to so many boys and girls in just one night. So Santa takes him on a tour of his high-tech facilities and shows him how the elves and reindeer really get the presents to everyone! It was a very humorous book.

We are scheduled to visit one another on Friday, Dec. 7. I can't wait to see you - and I'll be bringing some Christmas gifts that Santa dropped off at my house for you!

Be a good boy, and I'll see you soon!




Friday, November 30, 2012

Announcing sports in high school

Another activity I did during high school was announce sporting events. When they were held at our school, I got to sit with the scorekeepers and over the PA system emcee the game.

I started by doing wrestling in my sophomore year then added boys and girls basketball as well as boys and girls track my and junior and senior years. I had a notebook in which I worte out my script for the game.

During this time, I also wrote wrestling stories for the sports section of the local newspaper.

When I graduated, I received a "leadership award" from my high school for my promoting sports and school spirit in part for the announcing gig.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

My friends during high school

Who our friends are change over time. One of the reasons, as you know, is because sometimes when parents move, the child ends up in a new school or neighborhood.

But our friends also change because we as people change. Sometimes we find that we have more in common with new people we meet and so start hanging around them more. That can be very sad if you're the one losing a friend.

In much the same way, my friends changed over time when I was in high school. Carl Tilseth, Mike Gansberg and Dave Almquist were my closest friends in ninth and tenth grade. That began to change, though, in tenth and eleventh grade when Darcy Brown - Dave's friend - became one of my best friends. By the end of eleventh grade and through my senior year, I wasn't hanging out much with Carl, Mike or Dave but with Darcy and a couple of his friends, Mark Fenton and Joe Dahl.

And then when I graduated and went off to college, I got a whole bunch of new friends!

Who are your friends?

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

My involvement in the FFA

Did you know that I went to high school I was in the FFA or the Future Farmers of America? I lived on a farm, and my dad was very involved in FFA when he was in hgih school, so I was sort of obligated to be involved!

I entered all of the speaking contests. I want first pace during during eleventh grade in the conservation district's speaking contest and went on to sectionals I think in my senior year.

Another kind of speaking I was in was the FFA's parliamentary procedure team. A group of five of us would demonstrate how to use parlimanetary procedure in a meeting! I know it sounds kind of boring, but it was a real challenge to learn it and use it as a team, and that made it a lot of fun!

And yes, I even wore one of those blue FFA jackets.

The picture above shows an award I received as a graduating senior year for my involvement as a speaking contests.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Remember going on the swings?

One of my fondest memories of us together is when being able to push you on a swing when we went to parks. Oddly enough, for me it was very relaxing and seeing you have so much fun brought great pleasure to me.

Often you'd pretend you were a fighter pilot or were one of the Rebel pilots trying to shoot down the Death Star. You'd be making all kinds of fire and explosion noises and talking in your mic to the other pilots. I didn't mind it a bit - I did the same thing when I was a little boy!

A fun ritual we always had when you wanted to get down from the swings was that I'd pretend to try to catch your legs but would miss and say "Too high!" Then I'd pretend try to catch your legs again but would miss and say "Too low!" Then I'd connect with your legs but not grip them so you'd slip right through. Finally, as you were now going slow enough, I'd actually grab your legs but pretend that you were dragging me as you swung back, and go "Oh no! I'm going to go airborne!" You always had a big smile on your face and would laugh as I did that.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Going out for debate in ninth grade

During the past several entries, you may have noticed that I've been telling a little bit about me as growing up. As I don't know how long we'll be kept apart - and especially if something should happen to me in the meantime - I want to share with you the story of my life so that you may know me a little better.

After junior high, in the fall of 1980, I entered ninth grade at Menomonie Senior High School in Menomonie, Wis. That autumn I went out for the debate team!

My debate partner was Suneel Arora, who is now a successful attorney in downtown Minneapolis. We were the "negative" team on a four-member team (The other two were partners who argued the "affirmative"). In short, Suneel and I argued against proposals that the other team made.

Our four-member team took first place at three tournaments - St. Croix Falls, Durand and New Richmond! Unfortunately, our school district cancelled the debate program after that year, so that was the last season the program was offered at our school.

Would you like to go out for debate or forensics when you;re in high school?   

Sunday, November 25, 2012

My time in junior high school

After attending Knapp Elementary School, I went to Menomonie Junior High School. Our school district had nine different elementary schools in it, and when students reached seventh grade, they went on to the junior high school. That was the fall of 1978.

In seventh grade, I went out for track in spring and in eighth grade I went out for football in fall. Ultimately, though, I decided sports wasn't for me! I also ran for student council but didn't get elected.

Maybe the most exciting thing I did in junior high was wrote a petition in seventh grade asking for more student dances and then in eighth grade led a boycott of school lunch! I was into politics and very interested in national and international politics at the time. I guess I was a very serious young man!

My best friends in seventh grade were Brian Lindo, Kirby Quinn (who I went to elementary school with), and Troy Hathaway. In eighth grade, my friends gradually changed, and my two best friends were Carl Tilseth and Mike Gansberg.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My email sent to you on Nov. 24, 2012

Here is the email I sent on Nov. 24, 2012, just in case you do not receive it:

Hi Kieran,

Hope all is going well for you. I miss and love you very much.

I’m glad to hear you had such a fun week! Sky Zone sounds like a good time, especially with all of your friends were there. What did you get Milo for a birthday present?

I have not seen “Penguins of Madagascar III” yet, though I remember us watching the previews for it when we went to the movie theaters in Lancaster. Was the penguin Ringo in the movie? What was your favorite part of the film?

A black lab sounds like a great dog to play with, especially fetch. Your Uncle Chris has a black cocker spaniel that always brings me a small football to me to throw. Though she chases after the football and gets it, she doesn’t always bring it back to me – sometimes she runs back to me and looks up at me wondering why I’m not throwing it again for her to chase! Cocker spaniels don’t have a reputation for being the brightest dogs in the world.

Did you have turkey for Thanksgiving? I did. I also had mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie (well, two pieces of pumpkin pie). I also read a really great book called “Mousekin’s Thanksgiving,” by Edna Miller. The story is all about how a wild turnkey helps a little mouse and all of his friends find something to eat. That’s because a mysterious creature has eaten of the mouse’s food that he stored for winter!

Now that Thanksgiving is over, Christmas is rapidly approaching. Have you made a list of presents you might like for Christmas?

That is all for now. I miss you!



Friday, November 23, 2012

My best friends in elementary school

One of the best things about going to school is that we get to make new friends. Often when before going to kindergarten, we don't have many friends at all, maybe just the next-door neighbor child, as we typically spend most of our time around our parents.

My best friend in Elmwood was Ronald Wolfe. He lived next door to me, and we were in the same grade. In first grade, we weren't in the same classroom (We had two first grade classrooms in my school), so we couldn't wait to see each other at recess and lunch time!

After moving to Knapp, my best friend for a couple of years was Marc Livermore. We played lots of games together at recess, and he introduced me to "The Six Million Dollar Man."

Marc and his family moved, though, and Jim Falkofske became my best friend in fourth grade. We both loved "Star Trek" and got to sleep over at each other's houses. But he was a year younger than me, so we didn't go to junior high together when I entered seventh grade. More on that in an upcoming entry!

Who are your best friends? What kinds of fun things do you like to do together?

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, Kieran!

Happy Thanksgiving, Kieran! I hope you're enjoying the holiday with a big turkey dinner.

Thanksgiving was a wonderful holiday in our house when we were together. We usually spent the morning putting up and decorating the Christmas tree. You always loved to help. Usually the Disney parade and then the football game played on the television in the background.

One year you discovered a bunch of little snowmen ornaments that we had for a small Christmas tree that we no longer out up. You started to play with them, and as they didn't have any hooks on them, I just let you keep them in your toy box.

The highlight always was when tuned on the Christmas tree lights. You always were so impressed by them and would gaze in awe at them forever.

We also always went out to eat for Thanksgiving dinner. Making a meal for just us - though I did it one year - was just too much work with a lot of wasted food.

I can't wait to spend Thanksgiving with you again in the years ahead!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What are the best movies ever?

Tonight I went to see the James Bond movie "Skyfall" at the movie theater. It was a lot of fun to watch, and because it was the 50th anniversary of James Bond movies, the film made a lot of references to past Bond flicks.

The James Bond movies certainly are among my favorite movies (I especially like "For Your Eyes Only"). So , of course, are the "Star Trek" movies and because of all the times we watched the "Star Wars" films together, so were they.

Last winter we started seeing a lot of fun movies together, going to see "The Phantom Menace 3D" and "Journey 2 the Mysterious Island" together. You really liked "The Lost Island", and we even played it and made up stories about it afterward!

What movies are your favorites? I can't wait to find out and to take you to tons of them in the years ahead!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Our elementary school basketball team

Do you like to play sports? When I was a boy, I did. In fact, I even went out for basketball in elementary school.

Actually, I got our school to start a basketball team! The girls in our school had a team but the boys didn't. So I convinced a bunch of boys to promise they would go out for the team and to speak to the principal with me about starting one! I was in sixth grade.

As most of the boys on the team were only in fifth grade, we had to play in the fifth grade league. Grandpa Bignell helped coach the team. Our nickname was the "Cardinals."

We were lousy! We won only one game all season out of the six or seven games we played. But boy did ever we celebrate when we won! And we still had lots of fun and made some great memories along the way!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Going to a new school in Knapp, Wis.

Just as you had to switch schools from California to Minnesota, when a little boy I also had to switch schools! When I was in second grade many years ago, my parents bought a new farm outside of Knapp, Wis. We moved there from Elmwood in March 1974.

Switching schools was very difficult. Not only did I leave all of my friends behind and not know anyone in my new school, but it also was very small. There were only 10 or so kids in my class at Knapp by more than 25 in my Elmwood class! The teacher at Knapp also was teaching different things than I was learning in Elmwood.

The Knapp school building was very old while the Elmwood school was brand new or only a few years old. To reach my classroom, I had to go up a long flight of stairs to the second floor. The Knapp school I attended isn't there anymore, as it was replaced by a new building.

But I made new friends and figured out all of my lessons, and it all worked out!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Moving from Elmwood to Knapp, Wis.

In March 1974, my parents moved from Elmwood, Wis., to a new farm outside of Knapp, Wis. Grandma and Grandpa Bignell still live there today!

They moved because the farm was much larger and could better support us. While I was little anxious about going to a new school, I was excited because I got my own room in the farmhouse we lived in (Though during winters I had to move back in to the room with my brother because it was better insulated and so warmer).

The farm was very large with a road running through it, so the barn and farm buildings were on one side while the house was on the other. It also was surrounded by woods, which were very fun to explore.

I do not have many pictures of the farm because our farm house burned down in 1985. But here's one for you of my brother (your Uncle Chris) and me (I'm on the left) sitting on the front lawn with the camera looking roughly northwest; the girl in the middle was a neighbor's daughter, and her name was Missy.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

My email sent to you on Nov. 17, 2012

Here is my weekly email sent on Nov. 17, 2012, to you, in case you do not receive it:

Hi Kieran,

Hope you had a good week. I miss you very much and think about you every day. I did not receive your email response to my Saturday, Nov. 10 email. Perhaps you could ask you mommy to resend it. In addition, your mommy hasn't sent the responses to a number of my previous emails - perhaps you could ask her again to resend those emails, too.

How are the guinea pigs doing in school? What do they eat? I bet you have some funny stories to tell about them!

What new things are you learning in school? Have you learned any new things about space? Right now you can see the planet Venus in the morning. It is the brightest light in the sky (other than the moon), and you might spot it on the way to school.

I had lots of fun building Bioncles and taking them on adventures with you when we got together last week. Have you taken them on some new adventures? I would love to hear about them!

There is a new movie called in the theaters called "Lincoln." It is about Abraham Lincoln, who was a very important president a long time ago. He helped free slaves and keep our country together when it looked like it might fall apart. Maybe you read about him in your presidents book?

Have you read any good books lately? I just read “This is the Turkey” by Abby Levine. It is about a little boy named Max and his family as they prepare a Thanksgiving meal. Dad stirs the cranberries, Max plays with his cousins, and guests bring all sorts of good food to eat.

You have a fun Thanksgiving on Thursday. I love and miss you!



Friday, November 16, 2012

My family's house near Elmwood, Wis.

You might recall a few entries ago that I mentioned I went to kindergarten, first grade, and most of second grade in Elmwood, Wis. Well, I just found a picture of the house I lived in outside of Elmwood (see photo at right)!

The photo was taken from the living room and shows your Uncle Chris (on the left) and me sitting at the kitchen table. The front door is beyond us.

The house was very small - just a kitchen, living room, master bedroom, bathroom and bedroom with a half-basement. My family lived there from March 1971 to March 1974.

I shared a room with Uncle Chris. It was painted a light, turquoise blue. We also got very few television stations - two to be exact!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Where I went to kindergarten

Do you know where I went to kindergarten? When I was a little boy your age, my family lived on a small farm, and I went to kindergarten in Elmwood, Wis.!

Kindergarten was only a half-day, and I went in the morning. We had a class of 25 children, and there were two teachers. My best friend, Ronald Wolfe, who lived next to me, walso went to school there. Unfortunatley, I don't remember the name of my kindergarten teachers (Though I think my teacher was Mrs. Thompson.)! That's pretty bad, isn't it?!

I do remember my first grade teacher's name, though. It was Mrs. Rheil.

I liked going to school in Elmwood. My dad took me to lots of high school basketball games there. We had a very good team that won a lot of games. Our team name was the Raiders, and our school colors were red and white.

In second grade during March, my family moved to a new farm, outside of Knapp, Wis. (Grandma and Grandpa Bignell still live there!). At that time, I stopped going to Elmwood Elementary School and went to Knapp Elementary School!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Recall Charlie Brown Farm's dinosaurs?

Do you remember visiting the huge ceramic dinosaurs in Little Rock, Calif.? Three years today after a long hike, we stopped at the Charlie Brown Farms fruitstand in Little Rock to get a close look at the giants.

Each dino was nicely fenced in for our safety. Among the dinos was a nine-foot tall velociraptor, an apatosaurus, a flying pteranodon.

Charlie Brown Farms was a great place to go, as it was full of fun junk to look at it, lots of candy to pick out (and we always pigged out!), and all kinds of cool sodas to choose from. We usually grabbed a root beer!

Here's a whole bunch of photos from out visit to the roadside attraction!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Remember hiking Piute Butte?

Watching a bug cross the trail on Piute Butte.
Two years ago today we hiked the base of Piute Butte, the site of ancient Indian villages and the Antelope Valley Indian Museum, during the early afternoon. The butte is in the Mojave Desert, a few miles from where we used to live in Lancaster, Calif.

One of the neat things about the hike was the musuem, which was built into the side of the butte. So when we weent inside, we actually got to walk up and across boulders that were "inside" a building!

You were fascinated by all of the Indian artifacts that had been collected and were on display in the museum. During the hike, you looked for the numbered markers that told what was at specific viewpoints and made a game out of finding the next one!

Here's a whole bunch of pictures from our hike!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Remember visiting the 'Star Trek' bridge?

Kieran takes command.
Three years today (Nov. 12, 2009), we visited the "Star Trek: The Exhibition" presentation in Hollywood, California. A traveling exhibition, the exhibition featured costumes, props, ship models, video footage and stage sets from the the show's various incarnations.

While I was really into the "Star Trek: The Original Series" displays of costumes and props, you were really into the mock-up sets of the Enterprise-D from "Star Trek: The Next Generation." How could you not be? It was like a cool playground! In fact, you didn't want to leave when we got to the Enterprise bridge set and wanted us to make up an adventure together.

You might recall that we got "Star Trek" shirts and hoodies there. Sometimes I wore the hoodie, and you always asked if you get one like that, too! Unfortunately, they didn't have a shirt that was small enough to fit you, so I bought one that you might later wear. Sure hope you still have it!

Here's a whole bunch of pictures from our adventure.

Recall visiting Museum of Man?

A year ago today we visited the Museum of Man in San Diego's Balboa Park. I admit, a month before I was a little concerned about taking you there, worried that you might not find it very interesting. Boy, was I wrong! You had a blast and literally begged me to take you back there!

We began the day with a trolley ride to the park's central square. Then we walked through the park's arcade to an open area at the art museum where we had lunch and looked at the sculpture garden. Then we went into the Museum of Man itself.

A good amount of time was spent at the Egyptian exhibit. You loved looking at the mummies and playing in the kids' learning area about Egypt.

The museum also had a neat exhibit on bones and a permanent exhibit on the evolution of man that you enjoyed. It was a long car ride there from Palmdale, though, plus you had a cold, so you were awful tired but still made the best of it!

Here's a whole bunch of photos from our visit.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

My email sent to you on Nov. 10, 2012

Here’s a copy of my email sent to you on Nov. 10, 2012, just in case you don’t receive it:

Hi Kieran,

I had fun seeing you, too, and am glad you liked the toys and candy. I will bring the Battleship game and some Christmas presents from Grandma and Grandpa Bignell the next time we get together.

I’m glad you got a chance to “vote”! Did you know that you actually voted for President Obama when he ran for office in 2008? I took you to vote with me and let you push the “buttons” on the screen for the candidates I wanted to vote for! Voting is very important and something we should do every election, so I’m glad you’re getting into the habit.

I can’t wait to see your Ninja costume pictures. I bet you looked cool! In the past, you’ve gone trick or treating as a Jedi knight, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, a doctor, Elmo and as Tigger (when you were a baby).

Speaking of Jedi Knights, I believe I mentioned that three new “Star Wars” movies will be coming out. The first one will be in movie theaters 2015, or three years from now. That’s a long time to wait, isn’t it?! A “Star Trek” movie comes out next year in 2013.

I’m glad Como Park Zoo has refurbished its kids’ area. When I was a little boy your age and went there, they had a cool kiddie roller coaster. My cousin Barry always got sick whenever he went on it, so his dad would take me instead. I always held my hands high up in the air when we went over bumps. In fact, I think your mommy and I went on that kiddie roller coaster together just before they closed it down.

I am a little concerned about this bully Logan you told me about. You should tell your mom about him so she can bring it up to the teacher or principal at your school, okay?

I had fun building and playing Bioncles with you on Friday. I hope you take them on lots of adventures! And I can’t wait to see your new skateboard. You always liked to watch the older kids do skateboard tricks when you were a toddler and we went to the park in Santa Clarita.

I love you and miss you very much! Have fun this weekend!


Friday, November 9, 2012

Recall your shuttlecraft Galileo toy?

Do you remember the fun shuttlecraft toy with Captain Kirk action figure that you used to have? Here's a picture of it at right.

When you were two, you discovered that in the garage at the green house (in Lancaster) that I had all of these old Star Trek action figures and toys in totes. You begged me to let you play with them, and I figured there was no need to keep them in packages anymore, so I let you have one a day. Among the larger sets was the cool shuttlecraft and Kirk figure from The Original Series.

We'd often take them on adventures to other "planets" - namely the beds and tables in the house - where they'd have to fight off pillow monsters and strange alien action figures. Often you put your Star Wars action figures in the shuttlecraft for a Clone Wars adventure!

I don't have the shuttlecraft anymore, but I'm fairly certian that I still have your Captain Kirk action figure.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Photo shoot of you in Santa Clarita

Here's an old picture I found of you from 2009. We were at the mall in Santa Clarita, Calif., when walking past a photography studio and were asked if they could take pictures of you with no obligation that we purchase the photos. Of course, we took them up on the offer.

Some of the photos taken were of you sitting on a toy car, playing with a green frog, and looking at the flower (see photo at left). You actually had a lot of fun being the center of attention in the photo shoot!

Of course, we bought the package of pictures anyway! One of the photos of you was turned into a black and white and framed; I had it hanging in my office at our green house in Lancaster and in the trailer I rented in Encinitas. I still have that great picture of you, so you'll soon see it hanging in my new place once we are together again!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

What is your favorite color?

When you were a little boy, you always told me that you liked green the most. When you were old enough, you'd even ask me to put you in a green shirt when I dressed you! The picture here, taken in 2009, shows you wearing one of those many green shirts you liked so much!

Once you got into preschool, you told me that you like blue the most. That's my favorite color, too, though I also like burgundy and forest green. Actually, I like lots of colors - it's how they're used together that's interesting!

You learned your colors from a very early age. When only a year old, I'd point out the colors of cars to you, and eventually you'd start telling me the colors of cars everytime we passed one as driving down the road!

What is your favorite color?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Recall laying on a bed of nails?

A year ago today we visited the California Science Museum in Santa Ana, Calif. The day was a bit cold and wet still had lots of fun.

The first part of the expedition was spent indoors exploring and playing with the cool science exhibits. One of them was a bed of nails that you bravely laid upon! There also was a sand/water tp demonstrate erosion. We then watched a large IMAX showing of a dinosaur movie that kind of freaked you out, but by the end you wanted to see more!

We then went outside to the dinosaur part of the exhibit. I'd last taken you there about two years before, so I was neat to see how big you'd grown since then!

Here's a whole bunch of pictures from our visit.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Remember dressing up as a knight?

Sir Kieran, a brave Knight of Ni.
A year ago today we got in touch with our Medieval selves at the Escondido (Calif.) Renaissance Festival.

I dressed you up in knights costume I found at Target and let you carry around a stiff cloth sword we purchased a year before at another Renaissance festival that you used mainly as a light saber!

We had lots of fun at the Escondido festival. We played games and on the playground (including a relaly cool tire swing), watched a huge battle, and found a great cloth pirate set to play with. All fo the Renaissance Festival participants thought you looked so cool being all dressed up!

Here are some pictures from the festival.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

The first place I remember living

I suspect the first place you remember living in is the "green house" (as you called it) in Lancaster, Calif. Well, the first place I remember  living as a little boy was a farmhouse in rural Plum City, Wis. The picture at right is of me as a four-year-old in the living room of that farmhouse at Easter 1970.

All of my toys fit in a cardboard box and were kept in the living room, where I spent most of my day playing. My bedroom was upstairs on the second floor.

I had a dog named Scotty when I lived in the farmhouse. We went on lots of adventures together! But winter in the Midwest is long, so I only got to go outdoors for maybe five months during the year!

The house is still standing, though the garage, small barn and various trees that were there when I was a little boy are gone. When we are together again, I will show you the place!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

My email sent to you on Nov. 3, 2012

Here's a copy of the email I sent to you on Nov. 3, 2012, just in case you don't receive it:

Hi Kieran,

It is wonderful to hear from you! I hope you are doing well. I love you and miss you very much!

I am very glad Mom has got the email all worked out.

Freeze tag is a very fun game to play! I played it in school, too! We also played dodgeball and kickball a lot. I bet you are very good at freeze tag!

The guinea pig sounds like a fun classroom pet. What does the guinea pig eat? What color is it?

I used to go to the Como Park Zoo, too, when I was your age. They didn’t have a Minnesota Zoo back then! I always liked to see the chimpanzees and the giant tortoises. I heard that the carnival rides have been remodeled and are now open again. They have penguins, now? Cool!

I bet the Halloween party at school was fun. Which costume did you decide on?

Skippy Jon Jones books are the best. His group of imaginary Chihuahua friends is very humorous. Speaking of a book about presidents, there is a big election Tuesday! Who do you think will win?

That is all for now. Write back soon!





Friday, November 2, 2012

Watching splashdowns on television

One of my favorite things to watch when a little boy your age was the return of the astronauts from space. We were sending people to the moon during those days, so when they returned from their expedition, it was big news and on TV!

The astronauts would come back to Earth in a capsule that sort of looked like a cone. They would "land" in the ocean - which is why it was called a splashdown - where a helicopter would pick them up and take them to an aircraft carrier.

As the capsule descended toward the ocean, three parachutes would hope up to slow its descent. Once the capsule hit the water, the astronauts would bail out and then grab a life preserver attached to a rope and be pulled up into the helicopter. It was quite exciting to watch!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The importance of 'self-development'

Every once in a while in these entries, I like to discuss with you some important "values" to possess. Values are a sort of "rule" or guideline that you try to follow and live by so that you can lead a meaningful, happy life. A couple of values I've already mentioned are honesty and persistence. Another important is self-development.

A person never should think of himself as "finished," meaning that they've learned all that they need to know. The world is constantly changing, and we always meet new people. Because of that, we have to personally evolve or we will find ourselves isolated and left behind.

There are a lot of ways we can "self-develop" or "grow." For example, we should always keep learning about the world. We should always keep mastering new skills. We should always keep trying to understand ourselves and others (rather than limit ourselves to just being with a few people who we've known for a long time).

I know this is a heavy topic for a five year old! But I'm also writing these entries in case something ever should happen to me and we're unable to talk. When you're older, hopefully they will be useful guides and reminisces.

In what ways will you try to grow and evolve today and in the months ahead?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween costumes you've worn

Halloween 2009
Do you remember all of the Halloween costumes you've worn through the years? I've made a list of them for you:
>2007 (8 months old) - Pumpkin
>2008 (1 year old) - Elmo
>2009 (2 years old) - Doctor
>2010 (3 years old) - Luke Skywalker
>2011 (4 years old) - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle
>2012 (5 years old) - Fireman

Sometimes you wore different costumes in a year as we attended different Halloween celebrations during October. What's listed above is what you wore on Halloween itself while going trick or treating.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

One year ago today: S.D. Safari Park

A year ago today we visited the San Diego Safari Park. It's a second "zoo" near San Diego, where they keep all of their large animals that there isn't enough space for at the main zoo in the city's heart.

I remember that you didn't want to go to the safari park, but once we arrived and walked through the cool main gates and you saw the park was landscaped like a lush semi-tropical African village, you went "Oooh!" and started having a good time.

Probably the two things you had the most fun doing was the pond we walked around in which you could feed the ducks (We spent a bundle on pellets!) and then feeding the lorikeets (We spent a bundle on lorikeet nectar!), which landed on your arm as they drank from your cup.

We also each had one really giant ice cream cone in a waffle cone that left us both super full!

Here are a bunch of photos from our time at the safari park.

Monday, October 29, 2012

One year ago today: Brick or Treat!

One year ago today we attended the Brick or Treat Halloween celebration at Legoland in Carlsbad, Calif. You went dressed up as a Jedi knight, and I let you carry a fabric sword as a light saber!

Among the highlights was going through the Legoland candy line, where you got to get all kinds of free goodies at different stations. At each station you had to say "Brick or treat!" We then looked through it all in the middle ages part of the park where you got to run about on the big wooded castle playground.

We arrived late in the afternoon, stopping along the way at the Barnes and Noble in Temecula, where we read a lot of Halloween books. That's because we stayed for the Halloween fireworks that were held that evening!

Here are a whole bunch of pictures from our visit to Brick or Treat.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Recall our hike at the dry lake bed?

Two years ago today, we hiked across the El Mirage Dry Lake Bed near Palmdale, Calif. It's a low point in the desert where water collects in spring as snow melts off the mountains, but it quickly evaporates in the heat and dry air. At one time, when the climate was more wet, it probably was a real lake.

There was a neat nature center at the dry lake bed that we went to before going on the the hike. I purchased a roadrunner stuffie for you there! You loved your roadrunner and often took it many places with you.

You were just getting old enough that you liked to walk on our hikes, so you went all the way out to the dry lake bed on your own. I was so proud! But alas, that really tired you out. I wore the child carrier on my back, however, so I hauled you back to the nature center (which we then went into to buy the roadrunner stuffie!)

Here's a whole bunch of pictures from our hike!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

My sixth email sent to you!

Here is a copy of my sixth email, sent to you today (Oct. 27, 2012), just in case you do not receive it.

Hi Kieran,

Hope you are doing well. I am doing fine, though I miss you like crazy and can’t wait to see you!
Which brings me to some good news: We should get to see each other in just a couple of weeks, the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 9! We will get to spend a couple of hours together. I have a fun afternoon of games and toys and books for us. Would you like me to bring anything special for you?

I did not receive your email responding to my last email (from Saturday, Oct. 27). Perhaps your mother sent it to the wrong address when she changed the email name. Hopefully you will be able to send the email to me Sunday (Oct. 28). Also, I have yet to receive your emails to my second and third emails to you. Perhaps you could resend those, too?

Have you decided if you will be Anakin or a firefighter for Halloween? Your cousin Rebekah is going as a witch for trick or treat. Your cousin Bryan, however, is in seventh grade and too old to go trick or treating, so he doesn’t have a costume. Is your school planning a Halloween party? What are some of the costumes your friends plan to wear?

I wish I could be with you this Halloween. Last year we had lots of fun at Halloween celebrations, going to Disneyland, Legoland, Sea World and the pumpkin festival in Santa Clarita. We even got to see the Halloween fireworks at Legoland! Here are a whole bunch of pictures from our Halloween celebrations we went to last year.

This afternoon I got to hear a Beatles radio program, “The Beatles Year,” that we sometimes listened to Sunday mornings last year on our way to various places. The program told how the Beatles came up with some of songs from their CD “With the Beatles” and then played those tracks. When we first got the CD and listened to in the car, you thought it was called “Breakfast with the Beatles” – which actually was the name of a radio program we sometimes listened to – and you would get frustrated with me because you asked to listen to “Breakfast with the Beatles” but I’d tell you the radio show wasn’t on. You’d say “It’s not a radio show!” Eventually we figured out you really wanted to her the CD “Meet the Beatles”!

Have you read any good books lately? This week I read “Oh No, Not Ghosts!” by Richard Michelson. It’s about a brother and sister who after going to bed at night keep hearing strange, scary sounds – like the floorboard going creeeeeak – and see something wriggling, sniggling, and slithering in the shadows. Except they don’t want to wake up their daddy, who is sleeping in the other room, because they don’t want him to know they’re scared. Guess what was making the sounds though? It was their daddy snoring!

Well, that is all for now. Be sure to have your mother recheck the email address and resend your emails! I love you!