Saturday, June 30, 2012

Discovering some true glories of nature

Drove through the Rocky Mountains in Colorado today, Kieran. We went through them together twice, in September 2008 and then a few weeks later in October, when you were just a toddler. I remember the first time you saw the mountains - we had just driven off the horrendously flat Great Plains and you were amazed at how the rocks and hills shot straight up, seemingly forever, into the sky. I sat next to you in the back seat (you were in your car seat), and you kept looking wide-eyed at me and pointing to the vertical rock faces then would crane your head to try to see their tops. It was a joyous moment for me, to share your awe with you and to watch you discover one of the true glories of nature. That day I, too, seeing you, got to watch one of the true glories of nature as well.

Our Sunday breakfasts at Denny's

Ate breakfast at Denny's in Cedar City, Utah, Friday morning and had our favorite - the country fried steak and eggs. Remember when we used to eat Sunday breakfast at Denny's in Encinitas? We'd often split the country fried steak and eggs. You so loved the gravy! No matter how much I gave you, you always wanted more, too!

While waiting for the meal to come, we'd play together with some toys, usually something we'd purchased the day before at wherever we went (often it was Disneyland) or something we'd dug out one of the many totes of your toys I had in the storage shed. We usually had a waiter who also was a father of young kids, and even if we weren't at his table, he'd stop by to see where we'd been the day before and were going that day. You'd usually show him your new toys.

The last time we went there was in December 2011, just before I moved back to Palmdale/Lancaster. I remember you asking me, "Is that the last time we'll ever eat there, Dad?" and when I said "Probably it will be," you were so sad.

Well, I was sad that you weren't with me at breakfast today. One day, though, we'll be together again, and I've got a plate of country steak and eggs at Denny's with our name on it!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Wishing you could join me for this hike

Traveled through Valley of Fire State Park today in Nevada, and sure wish you would have been with me. You would have loved it - there were cool red rocks to clamber over (see picture at right), a petrified tree, and a great visitor center with live snakes, lizards and tarantulas (all safely kept behind glass) that you so much liked to see when we stopped at park visitor centers on our hikes. The Valley of Fire also is where they filmed the famous scene from "Star Trek VII" in which Captain Kirk dies. It would have been hot - it was 106 degrees - but with the air conditioned car, I think you'd have been okay.

You actually have been to Valley of Fire State Park before - It was in September 2008 when you weren't quite 1-1/2 years old, so I don't imagine that you remember it. The day was unbearably hot, and the wind kept sweeping sand into our eyes, so you didn't much like it. I carried you that day outside the vehicle to see some formation.

When we're together again, I will add the Valley of Fire to the list of places we must visit together. Perhaps it can be tour of "Places We've Been Together Out West" that lasts a couple of weeks. I'm sure we'll have lots to catch up on!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Six Millions Dollar Boys

Remember watching DVDs of old "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "The Bionic Woman" episodes with me? You particularly liked "The Bionic Woman," especially one in which Jamie Summers went on this dune buggy race across the desert. You'd take three little Matchbox cars and reimagine the race, pretending one car was driven by Steve Austin, another by Jamie Summers, and a third by Oscar Goldman. I'd then introduce a fourth car driven by some baddie that was trying to stop Steve, Jamie and Oscar from winning the race. I can't wait for us to be together again so I can show you that episode; I have all of "The Six Million Dollar Man" and the first season of "The Bionic Woman" on DVD.

Sometimes I'd print out coloring book pages I'd found online, and we'd color the sheets while watching the episodes! I've included here my favorite coloring page, of Steve and Jamie running together.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

'Lullaby (Goodnight My Angel)'

Today a song for you, Kieran, that I heard on an old cassette tape of mine. It instantly reminded me of you...of us. I wish you were here so I could sing them to you tonight, just as I sang so many other songs to you each  night that you went to sleep:

Disneyland, April 2012
Goodnight my angel, time to close your eyes
And save these questions for another day
I think I know what you've been asking me
I think you know what I've been trying to say
I promised I would never leave you
Then you should always know
Wherever you may go, no matter where you are
I never will be far away

Goodnight my angel, now it's time to sleep
And still so many things I want to say
Remember all the songs you sang for me
When we went sailing on an emerald bay
And like a boat out on the ocean
I'm rocking you to sleep
The water's dark and deep, inside this ancient heart
You'll always be a part of me

Goodnight my angel, now it's time to dream
And dream how wonderful your life will be
Someday your child may cry, and if you sing this lullaby
Then in your heart there will always be a part of me
Someday we'll all be gone
But lullabies go on and on
They never die
That's how you and I will be

- Billy Joel

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Your photo is online again, Kieran!

A picture of you appeared online today, Kieran - a pic of you on the cover of my first book "Hikes with Tykes: A Practical Guide to Day Hiking with Kids" in an article about that book for a Canadian magazine. The book cover photo is of you all ready to go on a hike at the head of the Manzanita Trail high in the San Gabriel Mountains of the Angeles National Forest. The trail starts at the location of an old fault line that's no longer active. On one side of the fault line is red, sedimentary soil (like what you're standing on), and on the other side is white granitic rock that is tens of millions of year old. It made for a great pic, especially with your terrific smile!

All of the anecdotes in the interview are about you. I'm specifically describing a hike you and I took through the redwoods in northern California (the diaper stuff) and one we took alongside Lake Piru (the bug crossing the road stuff). Photo albums of both hikes on on my Facebook page.

I remember well the telephone interview for this article. Jane and I had just spent the day before in Anaheim and were heading to Palmdale on the Pearblossom Highway. We were to pick you up that night for the weekend, and she was so excited to meet you for the first time! The sun shined brilliantly in the blue sky with the San Gabriels to our left ... the very same mountain range where this picture of you had been taken. The future held so much promise. It is a day I never will forget.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Your first words

I recall you being only five months old, and I'd carry you through our house in Crescent City, Calif., singing songs as puttering about. You'd listen so intently and try to mimic what I was doing, moving your mouth about, so confused at why words weren't coming out! I was so incredibly proud of you for trying so hard and so incredibly flattered that you wanted to do just what I was doing!

Your first three words were "baba," "dada" and "mama." Not too surprising given those were the three most important things to you! After that, you'd say other words, but never seemed to use them again or remember them. 

By about October 2008, your ability to speak really started to take off. Each month you mastered more and more words. I kept track of them, but within a matter of a few months, you were learning and using several words a day, and I couldn't keep up anymore!

But here's a list of words you were able to correctly say and indicate in some way that you knew what they meant:
g Oct. 2008 – moon
g Nov. 2008 – bye, bird, pickup (as in truck), truck, plane, playing, pink
g Dec. 2008 – okay, all right, why, hi, blue

I wonder what new words you're now using...

Sunday, June 24, 2012

'Life is what happens to you/While you're busy making other plans'

Let me share with you the lyrics to a song written many years ago by ex-Beatle John Lennon for his son, Sean, who was almost five years old at the time. It's called "Beautiful Boy", and whenever I hear it, I always think of you. I wish I could sing it to you before you go to sleep tonight. For me, the most beautiful line of the song comes near the end in the advice John gives his son; I've found it particularly true in my own life and hope you also take it to heart: "Life is what happens to you/While you're busy making other plans." Here's the words to the song:

Close your eyes
Have no fear
The monster's gone
He's on the run and your daddy's here

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful
Beautiful boy

Before you go to sleep
Say a little prayer
Every day in every way
It's getting better and better


Out on the ocean sailing away
I can hardly wait
To see you come of age
But I guess we'll both just have to be patient
'Cause it's a long way to go
A hard row to hoe
Yes it's a long way to go
But in the meantime

Before you cross the street
Take my hand
Life is what happens to you
While you're busy making other plans


Before you go to sleep
Say a little prayer
Every day in every way
It's getting better and better

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Your first football 'coach'

A couple of the neighbor boys were playing football outside with one another last night. It made me think of all the times we played football together. We didn't really keep score, just practiced skills, like tossing the ball to one another. As a father, I must tell you there's something quite relaxing about playing catch with your son inthe backyard.

Do you remember how I taught you to catch? You hold both hands out in front of you, and then when the ball arrives in them, you pull it into your chest. You got pretty good at it!

And then there were the tackling "drills," which I think you liked best. I would sit on my knees (atop a pillow if we were indoors), holding the ball in my hands, and with your shoulder you'd bash into me, wrapping both arms around my waist or chest, and knock me backward. Sometimes you'd wrap your arms around my neck, and I'd call you for a horse collar tackle penalty! You couldn't get enough of those tackling drills, and you always wore me out!

Other times you;d get to carry to ball and run at (or more smartly around) me, and I'd tried to catch you while still sitting their on my knees. You loved that, too.

I also taught you how to place kick a ball, which I held (as we didn't have a tee). And then I taught you take a handoff and to handoff the ball. Those weren't too exciting for you, though we always made it fun.

I wasn't trying to turn you into a football player (In fact, with your imagination and play acting skills, I figured you'd end up in theater or forensics as a high school student, and that's cool, too - I was in forensics and had a lot of friends in theater), but I figured every boy should know how to play football. My dad didn't have a lot of time to teach those skills to me, and I wanted to make sure you never were left out or at a disadvantage once you got to elementary school and the other boys wanted to play football.

Sure wish you were here right now to play some football. I think we could challenge those two neighbor kids to a game - and I'd bet we win!

Friday, June 22, 2012

How I miss your voice, Kieran!

Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes I've made these past five years is not recording your voice, Kieran. I have hundreds of pictures of you, but not a single audio recording of your voice, other than a brief, 10-second video of you as nine-month-old.

Oh how I miss that voice today! And your laugh. And the songs you'd sing and little sound effects you'd make as playing.

The sad irony here is that I'm actually allowed to talk to you every day - but the courts have decided that only you may initiate the phone calls. You're barely 5 years old! You don't know how to use a phone let alone have access to one. With decisions like that, is it any wonder so many people have lost their faith in the American "justice" system?

And certainly your mother and her family aren't going to suggest to you that you can ask to speak to me by phone! No doubt they've decided that it's in your "best interest" to not speak with your father.

When you are old enough to use a phone and can access one, call me. I will talk to you as long as you like. There is so much I want to tell you and so much I want to hear about you. My phone number is 661-233-2692.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A little about myself

So far, most of the entries here have been about my memories of you. But I thought you might like to know a little but more about me.

I run and own my own business in which I edit people's writing and help them get published. I edit all kinds of things but mainly novels and nonfiction manuscripts. I also write books, which help other people become better writers, get published, and sell their books; another set of my books is about how to hike with children (which is largely based on my experiences hiking with you when we were together!).

My company "logo."
Helping other people write better books brings me real pleasure. First, I like to read, so someone paying me to read their book is a lot like someone paying a person who likes to fish to spend his whole day fishing! Secondly, I like to teach and mentor others; it gives me a lot of joy to see others achieve their goals in part thanks to the help I gave them (In much the same way, I so enjoyed helping you learn and master new skills when growing up, from learning your colors and counting to using a scissors and throwing a great spiral pass).

I also like to write, but most of my efforts these days are on nonfiction pieces rather than fiction - though I've got plenty of short stories and novels started. They are just very time consming (albeit fun) to write, and I find penning nonfiction and editing others' works more lucrative. Scan through my blogs and websites, and you're certain to come across my published writing.

The first story I ever wrote that wasn't a class assignment was in second grade. I wrote a "Star Trek" tale for a friend of mine, who was an Asian-American. Mr. Sulu was his favorite character, and he always complained that there were no episodes in which the helmsman saved the day. So I wrote a story in which Mr. Sulu rescues Captain Kirk on a dangerous planet!

You always loved to make up and to hear stories when we were together. I have a confession to make: I'd always guide your storytelling and teach you terms of the trade in hopes that you'd become an excellent writer one day yourself! In fact, in one story you were going to have our main character die, and I said, "But you can't kill him! He's one of our lead characters!"

Like a typical writer, you weren't too keen on having someone else tell you how your story should go, but after a while, you relented!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Garbage trucks: Your fave Matchbox cars

When  you were two years old, Kieran, little Matchbox cars by far were your favorite toy. Should we go to Target or Wal-mart or Albertson's supermarket, you were certain to want to look at them and get one.

You most liked the garbage trucks. I'm not certain why, for you were deathly afraid of real garbage trucks whenever they came to our house each week! If you heard one on the street, you'd come running and crying to me for protection. Then I'd take you outside and hold you as we watched the garbageman pick up the neighbor's bins and then our own. They didn;t seem so frightening in my arms. You always waved at him, and usually he honked his horn back.

Another favorite Matchbox car of yours was the street sweeper. That you never were afraid of when it made its way once a month down the street. We also went out to wave at the driver, and he almost always waved back, and then we'd go inspect how he'd cleaned the curb of leaves and detritus.

Just a couple of quick memories for you. The picture at above right is of two of your Matchbox garbage trucks. A little fuzzy (my apologies), but pehaps one day if you ever want to collect the toys of your past, you'll now know what they look like.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

I love you, Kieran

I hope you're able to tell by the entries on this blog that I love you, Kieran. I'm certain you are; you've always been very intuitive and quick to pick up on others' emotions. Still, sometimes the words simply need to be said. And that's all this entry is about. I just want you to know: I love you, Kieran - I always have, I do now, and I always will.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Some places we built some memories of

Yesterday, I saw a lot of places, probably for the last if not for a long time, where we once spent time together. The Twin Cities where you now live offer its own great sights and events, yet it was with some melancholy that these places of our past our not vanquished to memory alone.

There were the famous "Kirk Rocks," as you liked to call them, where Captain Kirk fought the famous Gorn. It's really Vasquez Rocks County Park, and we went there quite a few times (the picture at left is from April 2011), hiking the same trails Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock did, often playing our own "Star Trek" and later cowboy adventures.

Speaking of cowboys, do you remember the McDonalds in Acton that had a horse atop it? Everytime we drove past it while making up cowboy stories, we'd joke about how it was Sheriff Jack's horse, Luke, and say "Get down from there, Luke!"

And as far as McDonalds go, we stopped many times at the one in Santa Clarita next to the new Kohl's along Hwy. 14. Whenever heading into Los Angeles, it was a certain pit stop for a snack or bathroom break.

Maybe one day we'll be able to go back to all of those places again. I hope we don't have to wait so long that you will have a son of your own who we take on the trip - though I can't wait to meet my grandchild!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Fathers Day 2012, RIP

Unfortunatley, we weren't allowed to spend Father's Day with one another today. This is the second of five Father's Days in your life in which we were denied that; the other time was in June 2008 when your mother took you away the first time from me and the two of you lived with Grandma and Grandpa Bignell (my parents). At least you got to see your real grandfather that day.

We spent Father's Day 2011 at Disneyland. You participated in the Jedi Academy, we rode some of the rides in Fantasyland, went into Tarzan's Treehouse, and skipped on over to California Adventure top watch the Green Army Men band. We also got to watch a Beatles tribute band, Paperback Writer, perform at Downtown Disney. It truly was a great day; the only thing sad about it was that I had to bring you back to your mother's that evening, and for me the drive back to San Diego was unbearably long and lonely, as they always were.

I have since learned that Paperback Writer played at Downtown Disney on Father's Day 2012. Oh how I wish I could have taken you and Jane there so we could have watched it together as a family!

Rest assurred, Kieran, I am working night and day to be able to see you  again soon. Hopefully, we will get to spend Father's Day 2013 with one another. We'll be a long way from Disneyland, but I will find something fun for us, guaranteed!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Can't wait to show you some old westerns

Just before we were forced apart, Kieran, you'd taken a real interest in the Old West. You had cowboys and Indians play characters, a cowboy hat and pistol/rifle set we bought at Disneyland, and liked to visit the cowboy heritage museum in Los Angeles as well as Vasquez Rocks where some old westerns were filmed. This all comes back to me today because I'm spending the day with your grandpa and grandma, and grandpa is watching an old western ("The Rebel," I think) on television.

In March/April when I was moving Jane out to California to live with us, along the way I found a DVD with 150 old western TV shows, including "The Lone Ranger," on it.  You never got to see it as it was stuck in one of the many totes we never unpacked, but after Jane moved out, it fortunately was left behind. I can't wait to watch it with you when we are together again!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Remember our many hikes together?

I've started writing a new book about hiking trails, Kieran, this time focusing on those in northern Wisconsin and Minnesota. Sure wish you could join me on some of those trails. While not quite as dramatic as the mountains and deserts we've climbed in Southern California, they're still scenic in their own right, and we still can find rock to touch that is more than a half billion years old.

We did some fantastic hikes together in your preschool days, Kieran, walking beneath 15-story high redwoods, scaling mountain peaks almost two miles about sea level, traipsing miles across bone-dry deserts and dried-up ancient lakes. I'm sure you remember some of them, especially the Kirk Rocks (as you called them), which really is Vasquez County Park. Check out my Facebook photo albums to see if any of the pics jog your memory at all.

I've kept topo maps from all of the hikes we've been on together, so if one day you ever wish to do them again for yourself, you'll be able to. I've also got a box of gems, fossils and cool rocks we've collected over the years on our many hikes. When you're on your own, I'll be happy to give them to you. I've got many stories to share with you about them.

Hopefully we'll soon be together again and once again can get back into the wilds. I'll be thinking of you everytime I step on a new trail this summer.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ask me about Jane when you see me

Well Kieran, today is the last day in my life that I'll see Jane. I'm sure you remember her; the two of you got along so well. Unfortunately, I messed up that relationship, and in doing so failed not just Jane but you. I so desperately wanted to provide you a real home with two loving parents, one where you could see what it was for a husband and a wife to love one another. I thought it would be so simple, that so long as the woman I was with wasn't like your mother that it would all work. In many ways, I wanted to prove to myself that I wasn't at fault for the broken marriage with your mother, to make up for my failing to provide you with what I always wanted to give you. But I let me pride get in my way; I wasn't capable of being the kind of man who provided all that I 'd promised in my heart to you and Jane. For that, I apologize to both of you.

I really did love Jane; I didn't want her in my life just to be your proxy mother or my proxy wife. As I write this, I must admit that I still do love her. The two of you provided my life and all I did with meaning and purpose. But now you're both gone, and I've lost the two most important people in my life, all within a matter of a day.

Jane must despise me for being dishonest with her, and I know she never wants to return to my life. That will take me a long time to deal with. My only hope now is that one day you will return to me.

If we do meet again, ask me about Jane. I want to tell you stories about what how the two of you had so much fun together. I want to tell you about what a wonderful woman she was, and how I was a fool to push her away. I want to tell you this not so you will be my confessor but because I want you to never make the mistakes I did and so suffer the emptiness that I feel today.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Justice unserved in Minnesota today

I lost another major effort today to be able to see you, Kieran. The family court in Hennepin County, Minn., decided that I would not be able to see you for two years (until June 13, 2014), and when that time comes I'll have to fight for the right to see you. They were willing to limit me to two visits a month that were supervised by your mother's step-dad, an obvious set-up. All he'd have to do is make up a story that I hit you, and I'd lose all rights to see you. So I had to pass up on that until I get an attorney who will fight for our rights to be with one another. The court also said you and I could talk to one another, but only by a telephone call that you initiate. Like at five years old you can use the phone or your mother's family ever would let you use it!

Part of the judge's decision came from false stories that I hit you with a closed fist and knocked you to the ground at Disneyland because you wouldn't go on a scary ride. My God, what idiots the court is to believe this! If I'd ever hit you at Disneyland, Disney security would be all over me, not to mention some parents who wouldn't find such abuse acceptable (I certainly wouldn;t find it acceptable and would step between parent and child). It's a sick story that your mother has coached you to say, and I want you to know that I am not angry with you or hold you responsible for repeating this story. I know that you're very afraid of not being able to see your mother again if you don't say what she tells you to. Do not worry, though, Kieran; I will work night and day to pay for the attorneys to stop this travesty of justice so we can see one another again.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Remember our paper doll characters on blocks?

While writing my new book, "Hikes with Tykes: Games and Activities for, before and after the Trail," I suggested an activity that I quickly realized was something I'd pulled from our time together, "Paper Doll Friends": "For preschoolers, create a hiking family as well as animals seen along the way that they can use to relive their adventures or to make up new ones, getting them excited about the next hike. Paper dolls and cartoon animals easily can be found through a search engine for images, printed and cut out. Have your kids help select the paper dolls to print. To get the paper dolls to stand, glue or tape them to blocks that your kids easily can hold in their small hands."

Do you remember when I used to do that with you? Whenever you came to like a new television show, and we couldn't find action figures to buy, I'd locate pictures of the characters online, print them out, and tape them to blocks. I did it at least for "Johnny Quest," "Fireman Sam," "Scooby Doo" (the villains anyway), and "Caillou." Since the ink on the paper always had to dry, and I'd always glue the paper to cardboard so it would hold up longer, there was this terribly long wait for you, and you'd always ask me if the pieces were ready yet!

One day after I'd taught you to use a scissors and glue, you started cutting out Peanuts characters from the Sunday comics and taping them yourself to blocks! I was so proud of you, and so moved that you loved these paper dolls so much that you would make them yourself, just like daddy did.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Don't feel shame or anger, my son

I suspect as the years have passed, Kieran, that you feel intense anger at me for not being a part of your life. With no father to talk with, to play with, to help with homework, or just to hang out with, you no doubt are angry because of missed opportunities and and because of the big hole in your life that never can be filled. Perhaps you've felt like you were on your own and lacked the secure feeling of knowing that your father loves you and would look out for you if things got to be too much for a young boy to handle.

Possibly you even feel ashamed of having these emotions.

Don't feel shame or anger, my son.

First, I understand your emotions. I grew up feeling the same way about my own father. Though he always was there in the house or in the fields of the farm I grew up on, the demands and intensity of his work often left him too tired to interact meaningful. For years I felt nothing but insecurity about myself and anger at him and at the life the fates apparently had woven for me. It is these insecurities and anger that caused me to destroy a relationship with a wonderful woman for whom I felt a love deeper than I'd ever experienced for any other woman. It is these insecurities and anger that led to a great unraveling in my life that ultimately caused our ties to be broken.

Secondly, I do not stay away from you through any choice of my own. While my pride and foolishness may have led to our separation, I never desired being apart. In the time we were together, I tried to be the father to you that my father could not be to me, and I have no greater desire in life than to continue being that father to you that I'd always wished I had myself. The powers that be, alleging that our separation is necessary for your "safety" have built their arguments on thier own unaddressed fears and on falsehoods with the intention of punishing me for failing them. I did indeed fail them, but neither I nor you should be punished for this.

Do not make the same mistakes I have. Once we are together again, I will better explain all of this to you should you like, and maybe it will be clearer. But if you feel anger or shame or insecurity, seek help from someone that can be trusted. I will continue the good battle to be able to see you again, and when that time finally comes, I will be there for you.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Father's advice to son: It's ok to disagree

I don't know why, but for some reason I though this weekend was Father's Day, Kieran; it's actually next weekend on June 17. On the plus side, that means there's hope we'll be together for Father's Day 2012.

As I think back to my own father, I must say that my four biggest mistakes in life were decisions I made to contrary to his advice (The fifth biggest mistake I made was contrary to my mother's advice, but that's another holiday.). In my pride, I ignored my father's experiences and breadth of years observing what had occurred to others. To my youthful way of thinking, his advice often didn't make sense, running counter to rationality and to the heart. I suppose every boy at one time or another thinks this of his father; it's part of growing up and establishing your identity as your own man.

But let me tell you a story that I often repeat to others (and stole from Mark Twain): When I was 16, my old man was the dumbest person in the world. But then I went off to college, got married, became a father myself. And every year when I'd come home, I'd noticed that my father had got smarter and smarter, and right now he's damn near as smart as me. I'm really proud of how far he's come.

I'm not saying you always should follow your father's advice; it is a son's prerogative to do what he feels is best. And should you decide to one day not follow my advice, you should know that I will emulate my father's behavior when I did the same to him: I will not hold it against you and still will help and accept you, as my love for you is unconditional.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What I had planned for us on Father's Day

Father's Day is tomorrow (at least as I write this), and I've missed another weekend with you. More than a month ago, before you'd been taken from me, I'd planned a fun weekend for us going to the Thunder on the Lot in Lancaster, Calif. (the link is to photos of when we attended the event in 2010) and to the JPL Open House in Pasadena, Calif. (the link is to photos of when we attended the event in 2010).

There's a neat photo of us at JPL in which our picture was taken with an infrared camera and another one that is a 3D picture of us "on" Mars (at upper right)! At the Thunder on the Lot, you fell in love with going through RVs and went over and over on this fun house obstacle course - I was surprised you had so much energy (You didn't when you were done with it!).

At least we got to go to those events when we were together. Maybe once you find me and we're together again, we can go once more. I love and miss you, Kieran!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Games we used to play: Chess and cards

A couple of days ago I was at a coffeeshop in Palmdale where they have various board games available for children to play. A couple of boys, probably only only a year or two older than you (if that), were playing cards, and one asked his dad to teach him chess.

In the weeks before your mother stole you away from me, you also asked me to teach you to play chess; I did, and I also began to show you all kinds of cards games like War and Old Maid. You so loved to play the games, and while chess was a bit complicated, you delighted in just learning the piece's names, where they were placed on the board, and how they moved in all of these different ways. And you usually beat me at cards - without me even letting you win!

You even tried to make up card games of your own to "teach" me. Though the games didn't always make sense (They never seemed to have a goal or a way that one could be a definitive winner!), I always was flattered how you emulated me and always was amazed by the complex set of game rules you'd develop.

When we get together again, I definitely want to play cards with you, Kieran, and to finish teaching you how to play chess. And I won't care who wins any of those games, for so long as I'm with you, I'll be a winner.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

How You Can Reach Me, Kieran

Along the right side of this blog are different ways that you can reach me, Kieran. I always will keep them updated. You always may call me, your grandparents or your Uncle Chris collect. Should your mother abuse you in any way, get protection immediately by calling the number listed; after you have protection, contact me, and I will be there as fast as I can drive.

Currently (as of July 3, 2012), this is how you can reach me:

g My Tel.: 661-233-2692
g My Email:
g Grandma/pa's Address: E1120 700th Ave., Knapp, WI 54749
g Grandma/pa's Tel.: 715-665-2440
g Uncle Chris' Tel.: 715-665-9295
g If Your Mother Abuses You Call 612-348-3552

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

How you used to love Thomas the Train!

Everywhere I go, Kieran, I'm constantly reminded of you and find myself fighting back tears. Last night while at Barnes & Noble in Palmdale, Calif., I saw a little boy playing with a Thomas the Train playset just like you had. The box came with a plastic mat of Sodor Island (compelte with railroad tracks) and small little pieces representing the various trains from the show - Thomas, Percy, Harold the Helicopter, James, Mavis and others - and a storybook as well.

By the age of 5, you'd long since outgrown Thomas the Train, but at one time you were utterly fascinated by it. In fact, though you didn't know how to tell time, you knew when it would be on the air just be memorising the shows that came on before it, and you were certain to let me know that Thomas was about to be on! At 3:55 every afternoon, you'd sit in my lap, and we'd cuddle as watching Thomas' latest adventure together. I'm so sorry that your mother forced you to leave behind all of your Thomas the Train stuff. Tonight I shall look through what toys I have of yours and see if there are any Thomas the Train pieces I can save for you. I love you, Kieran!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Your Bignell family heritage

For more than a quarter century, I've been researching our Bignell family heritage, Kieran. Shortly after you were born, I created a website called Kieran's Family Tree. It's my legacy to you. On the website, you'll find a page for each one of our direct-line ancestors (father-mother-grandfather-grandmother, etc.) as well as for each of their siblings. It's a work in progress, so if you look at it today and then again in another month, you'll see that it's probably changed a little (or at least some of the entries have!).

You boast a proud Bignell family heritage, Kieran. Our family was among the first to pioneer Wisconsin in the 1850s. The ancestors of women who married into the Bignell family takes you ancestors back to the founding of this nation - our ancestors were among the first to colonize New England in the 1600s and fought in the Revolutionary War to gain independence from Britain. Our family also boasts ancestors who fought in the Civil War. One even appeared in the famous book "Caddie Woodlawn."

So far, I've been able to take our family history back to the mid 1500s - which is before Shakespeare bagan writing his famous plays.

I suppose my interest in geneology began in 1977 when an impressive miniseries, "Roots", ran on television. Like the author whose book formed the basis of that television series, I began to wonder, too, where my family came from. Answering that question is like solving a difficult puzzle. But in solving in, I began to understand who I am, for I certainly am a product of my genes as well as the environment I find myself in. Sp should it be surprising that I (we?) suffer from the same ailments, such as allergies and sinus issues, as did our ancestors? That I find attractive women who hail from the same regions as our ancestors did? That the very same fears and outrages that drove our ancestors to immigrate are exactly the same fears and outrages that bother me most today?

Along the way, I've made some friends who are third or fourth cousins and some who live across the oceans in New Zealand and England. One from England even once sent you a set of postcards showing the sites of London. You were only four at the time, and when I told you she was from England, you said, "Wow! Does she live with the Beatles?"

Monday, June 4, 2012

My little ornithologist...

A hummingbird has taken up residence in the tree overlooking our condo's stairwell. It's an impossibly tiny creature, too small one might think to be a bird yet clearly far too large to be an insect. Its long, stylus-like beak must stretch an inch and a half from its barely visible head. As you may remember, we have a number of flowers, ranging from roses to irises, growing on the grounds, and the hummingbird can be spotteed fluttering about them during the early morning hours, its wings beating so fast that it looks like an image out of a cartoon when some character wants to run.

I watched the hummingbird for a while, thinking of you, and though it acted nervous at first that some really large crature was tracking its movements, after a while it must have decided I meant it no harm, for it now ignores me when I walk past and when in the tree goes about its business as if I'm not even there gazing at it. You always liked little birds when a preschooler, found them fascinating to watch, and while I'd indulge you for a few moments, often I was too quick to rush us off to our destination, whether it be for groceries or the next carnival ride or into the bank. How I wish now I'd given you more time to watch those birds, and how I wish you were here with me today so we might watch that hummingbird together.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Are the Beatles still your favorite band?

Sunday, June 19, 2011: Kieran dances to the Beatles tribute band's final number, "Twist and Shout" at Downtown Disney. He thought they were the real Beatles!
Listened to "Breakfast with the Beatles" radio shows this morning, Kieran. Remember how we always used to catch them on Sunday mornings when you were with me in San Diego? The Beatles always were your favorites, and whenever tribute bands appeared in the area, I'd take you to their concerts. Your favorite Beatles album always was "Please Please Me" - you'd always ask me to play the CD when we were driving somewhere, with "Boys" your favorite Beatles song ... well, your favorite one most of the time, for if you heard a Beatles song for the first time, you'd ask for me to play that one over and over! This morning's breakfast shows were about the making of the album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and the movie "A Hard Day's Night". Wish you were here to listen to them with me...

Saturday, June 2, 2012

My little baby who just wouldn't sleep

This morning was going through old cassettes I had and stuck in one by the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary. The songs were special to me growing up - "Puff the Magic Dragon" as that passing of childhood song, "Leaving on a Jet Plane" when you must say goodbye to a loved one even though you don;t want to, "500 Miles" when you finally leave home and travel cross country for a new life and fortune. But I soon found all of those memories supplanted by an even stronger one, of you as an infant, no more than a few weeks old.

You always liked to stay awake and were difficult to put asleep, even when tired! I think you were just so stimulated by all that was around you that you didn't want to miss a thing. So I came up with the idea of playing lullabyes to you in hopes that your eyelids would soon feel too heavy to keep up. The closest thing I had to lullabyes was Peter, Paul and Mary, so I put in the tape.

My plan backfired. You found the voices so beautiful and the harmonies so wonderful that you actually became more alert as you listened to their songs! When I turned off the tape to rock you in hopes of putting you asleep, you started crying and didn't stop until I turned the music back on! And then you kept listening to it, all happy and content and so utterly fascinated by what you were hearing - but still awake!

Friday, June 1, 2012

My little botanist...

As writing this, I'm living in the high desert overlooking Los Angeles, in a city called Palmdale. You lived here (or in the neighboring city of Lancaster) as well for some four years. Earlier while walking and thinking of you, I came across two flowering desert bushes, one with sun yellow blossoms and the other in a brilliant purple. They looked beautiful upon their green stems against the clear blue sky. I know you would have appreciated them as well, Kieran. We made many hikes together over the years, across the desert, to mountain peaks, along the ocean ... and you always were interested in the trees and flowers and pine cones, always examined them up close. My little botanist, I jokingly called you, though I'd have been proud if you grew up to be a scientist. Well, I'll be proud of whatever you decide to be, because I know you'll approach your career with an incredible passion and will succeed at it. Just don't forget to stop and smell the flowers along the way, okay?!