Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Remember 'Caillou' books and programs?

Do you remember watching "Caillou" on television? You started really paying attention to it when you were in your two's and then fell absolutelyin love with it during your three's and just as you turned four (mainly because Caillou himself was four - in fact, you used to say, "I'm four just like Caillou!").

We had quite a few Caillou books that I purchased for you or checked out from the library. You always enjoyed reading them, especially those you could interact with by pulling tabs or lifting flaps (Flap books by far were your favorite books as a toddler and preschooler!).

Because Calliou was made in Canada, not all of the programs were available in Southern California. So I sometimes would go on YouTube and find new episodes for you to watch!

Caillous toys were just coming out as you were starting to outgrow the series. And they were darn expensive! So I made Caillou "action figures" for you by printing out pictures of the characters and taping them to old blocks you no longer played with.

OK, time for some "Caillou" trivia:
1. Which character narrated the program?
2. What was the name of Caillou's cat?
3. What color hair did Caillou's mommy have?
4. What was the name of Caillou's sister?
5. What stuffy did Caillou once lose at a museum?

Monday, July 30, 2012

The top rated Beatles songs

Listened to my usual schedule of Sunday radio programs, and one of them played the Top 20 charting Beatles songs. I know you would have loved listening to it, too, while we played together and enjoyed breakfast. I didn't catch the first part, but here is the "countdown" of the top songs:
7. Help!
6. I Feel Fine
5. Yesterday
4. Get Back
3. Can't Buy Me Love
2. I Want to Hold Your Hand
1. Hey Jude

A good list, but I wouldn't say so those are my seven favorite Beatles songs. Of course, the countdown was of songs that made the Top 40 charts (so they had to be 45 rpm singles), and there are a lot of great Beatles tunes that only appeared on albums (or what you call now CDs). Here's my list of favorite Beatles songs:
7. Come Together
6. She Loves You
5. I Want to Hold Your Hand
4. Let It Be
3. Hey Jude
2. Strawberry Fields Forever
1. Yesterday

What are you favorite Beatles songs?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

County fair memories of dad

Yesterday your cousins Bryan and Rebekah went to the county fair; sure wish we were together so I could take you there as well. It's a small little thing, really, nothing so fancy as Disneyland, but it's still a lot of fun.
As a little kid, it's about the only place I ever went to go on carnival rides! For me, a kid living on a farm miles away from anyone else, during summer the fair also was a rare chance to see other children and possibly even friends. One day should you ever read my fiction, any scene set at a fair almost certainly is a memory of mine from the county fair.

I remember that one year I saw a booth in which they had iron-ons and could make T-shirts for you. They had this great Beatles iron-on of the "Let It Be" cover. This was in the days long before the Internet, and Menomonie (the town outside of which was my parents' farm) had few stores, none of which would carry such stuff. So I saved up money the next summer before the fair arrived in hopes that the same booth would return with the same iron-on and T-shirt. It did, and that T-shirt was my pride and joy!

Maybe next summer we'll finally be together for the fair!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

So you want to know what you should do

One of my regrets in being kept apart from you, my son, is that I'm not there to listen to you when problems arise. You're rapidly approaching that age when other people's seemingly inexplicable behavior leads you to wonder what to do and why they behave that way, when the black and white ethics of childhood that says what one's parents dictate as right all so often proves inadequate. I myself am facing that difficult choice today about someone I deeply love and care about.

You'll notice that I didn't say "answer your questions" when you face such problems, because often after explaining them to someone you love and trust, you'll ask, "What should I do, Dad?" or "What should I do, Grandma?" If dad and grandma are wise, they won't give you a lecture about what to do but instead will ask you a series of questions to help you wrap your head around the problem. You're a good, intelligent kid, and you probably have the answer inside you; you just needed someone to help you think through it and listen to you, just to show that someone cared. That's what you really wanted - and needed - after all.

I wish I could be there to listen to and help you think through the problem. In my absence, let me simply ask you, "What would you want someone to do to or for you if you were in that situation?" The answer probably is what you should do for that person. It's basically the Golden Rule: Do unto others as they would do unto you. Treat others as you expect to treat them. To wit, if your friend is getting robbed of his lunch money by the school bully, and you're wondering what to do, ask yourself what you want a friend to do if you were the kid getting robbed of his lunch money.

I don't know if that really helps. A problem almost always is more complicated to resolve than what I've described. But it's a good question to ask. Just look at a picture of me, tell me what's on your mind knowing that if I really were physically there I'd listen with as much attentiveness, and know the first question I'd ask is "What would you want someone to do to or for you if you were in that situation?" I'm betting that you probably know what is the right thing to do.

Friday, July 27, 2012

You're in the newspaper again!

Your name and picture again appeared in a newspaper this week, this time the Hudson (Wis.) Star-Observer. It was a story about my new hiking book. Of course, your picture is on the cover of my two hiking books, and your name appears in the article.

You've been in a lot of newspapers and articles since being born. Guess it has something to do with me being in journalism and promoting my books, but it also has something to do with you being one damn cute kid.

When I was the editor of the paper in Crescent City, Calif., your picture appeared twice, once with an article I wrote about hiking a trail there and the other as part of a lifestyles story about parents getting help with thier children. You were an infant in both instances. Later that same year, your photo appeared in the Halloween contest section of the Eureka, Calif., newspaper.

When we live in Palmdale, you got in the the local paper, The Antelope Valley Press, with us looking at planes during a monthly Mojave air show.We also appeared a couple of times in the California City, Calif., paper that covered the air show.

And you've been in tons of newspapers (and on blog sites) in association with my hiking books. Among them is the Dunn County (Wis.) News and the North County Times out of Esconido, Calif.

I've saved all the clippings I could find. Can't wait to show them to you one day!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Excerpt from essay I wrote about hiking, fatherhood and you

I've been going through my files and found a wonderful essay, "Leap into the Void," that I wrote in January 2010. It is to be the lead essay in my book "Trails and Trials: Tribulations of Being a Father" in which various hikes I go on with you serve as metaphors or analogs for the insecurities and growth one undergoes in fatherhood.

Other matters have sidetracked me from working on the book, but I have each of the essays outlined; this is the only one that is finished. I plan to eventually complete the other ones. For the moment, though, I'd like to include a bit of it here for you:

We stepped over boulders that diverted the creek away from the cliffside, then headed right up to the wall. I placed my hand upon it, realized how delicate the formation really was as sandstone rubbed off beneath my palm. Wind and rain – though more of the latter than the former in the desert – over millennia had picked holes in the Narrow’s walls, like my hand hollowing out the canyonsides a few grains at a time. I grinned like a child making a new discovery. Up close, the rock really was more gray than white; the gleaming bright walls were another optical illusion. Still, there were plenty of white splotches, or leached calcium carbonate, which water easily had flushed between the formation’s individual sand grains down through the ages.

Kieran pressed against my back, stretched his hand toward the canyon wall. I turned to the side so he could reach it. His fingers ran against the siltstone, and he squealed with delight.

My eyes followed the canyon wall upward past the pockmarks and the barren tops. The moon, as white as the sunlit rock above us, hung motionless in the turquoise sky. Now there would be a hike to take, I thought, a walk on the moon, bounding gleefully at the edge of ancient craters, the stars above sharper than any man had ever seen them before, on a fantastic journey in which humanity finally left its womb called Earth.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Recall reading 'Do Not Open This Book!'?

At the library, I checked out a bunch of children's books that I am reading to your cousin while visiting her family; most of the books are ones that I once read to you and that you liked. Sure wish you were here to enjoy them, too.

One of the books was "Do Not Open This Book!" It's about a pig who's writing a book, except you the reader keep turning the pages before he can get it written! The pig tries to keep you from bothering him. There's one neat page where you get to fill in the blank with your name, and the pig insults you to make you go away. In the end, though, the pig realizes you've actually helped him write a book!

It's a big derivative of "The Monster at the End of the Book" (I'll have to write an entry for that one another day) but is unique and fun enough that it stands on its own.

When we're finally together, I'll have to check it out for you so we can read it once again!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Remember our many Play-Doh sets?

You always loved Play-Doh when a preschooler. What kid doesn't, though? As an adult, its aroma is the scent of childhood, in an instant can flood the head with a thousand wonderful memories of its innocence.

You had four wonderful Play-Doh sets that I purchased for you - one to make hamburgers, a second to make Star Wars figures, another to make ice cream cones, and a fourth to make Transformers characters. You loved each one in turn and could spend up to an hour rolling the Play-Doh through your tiny hands and squishing it into the casts that came with each set.

We also had lots of Play-Doh colors and implements that I purchased separately for you. With them, we could make penguins and sharks and turtles as well as spell out your name. You always liked the orange plastic scissors and would cut up the Play-Doh slabs into smaller pieces.

As you grew older, you'd make me Happy Meals with the hamburger set, create an army of Transformers to battle one another, and pretend you were one of the Beatles making ice cream for another of his band mates. I think we had more fun playing with your Play-Doh creations than you did making them!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Our hike into an extinct volcano

As I promote my new hiking book, I find myself thinking a lot about all of the great hikes we've gone over the years. One of my favorites is at Amboy Crater, an extinct volcano in California's Mojave Desert, that we hiked in spring 2009. I've got a photo album of it at my Facebook site.

I carried you on my back in a child carrier to and from the volcano (in the photo at upper right, you can see the cone on the right side of the horizon), but once we got inside the cinder cone, I let you out. You had a blast running around the crater floor, which was covered in soft clay and hard black basalt. You'd pick up the basalt rocks and throw them and look at every bug that moved around.

It was quite a neat thought to think our playground for the afternoon was the center of a volcano that a few thousand years ago had spewed lava for miles around!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Your favorite CD as a preschooler

Whenever we drove someone, we invariably listed to a Beatles CD (Unless you were napping, then I might slip in something else.). The one CD of theirs you always asked for was "Please Please Me." It was the Beatles' very first record, and the melodies are fairly uncomplicated but certainly memorable.
Oftentimes you'd sing along to the CD, and once or twice I caught you humming one of the melodies.

You actually had memorized what number was what song, so if you asked to hear a specific title, and I fiddled around trying to find it, you'd say something like "It's No. 8"!

Your favorite tracks changed through the couple of years we had the CD and were together, but through it all you preferred No. 5 the most - "Boys" sung by Ringo. Here are the lyrics:

I been told when a boy kiss a girl
Take a trip around the world
Hey, hey (Bop shuop, m'bop bop shuop)
Hey, hey (Bop shuop, m'bop bop shuop)
Hey, hey, (Bop shuop) yeah, she say ya do (Bop shuop)

My girl says when I kiss her lips
Gets a thrill through her fingertips
Hey, hey (Bop shuop, m'bop bop shuop)
Hey, hey (Bop shuop, m'bop bop shuop)
Hey, hey, (Bop shuop) yeah, she say ya do (Bop shuop)

Well, I talk about boys
Don't ya know I mean boys
Well, I talk about boys, now
Aaahhh, boys
Well, I talk about boys, now
What a bundle of joy!
[Alright, George!]

My girl says when I kiss her lips
Gets a thrill through her fingertips
Hey, hey (Bop shuop, m'bop bop shuop)
Hey, hey (Bop shuop, m'bop bop shuop)
Hey, hey, (Bop shuop) yeah, she say ya do (Bop shuop)

Well, I talk about boys
Don't ya know I mean boys
Well, I talk about boys, now
Aaahhh, boys
Well, I talk about boys, now
What a bundle of joy!

Oh, oh, ah yeah boys
Don't ya know I mean boys?
Ooh, boys
Ah ha
Well I talk about boys now

Can't wait until we're together again to listen to the CD again!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

New book has your picture on its cover

Wish we together today, Kieran, so we could go out and celebrate: Your picture is on the cover on my latest book, "Hikes with Tykes: Games and Activities," which was released yesterday (Friday, July 20, 2012). The picture was taken in April 2011 when you were just barely 4 years old during a hike we took to Vasquez Rocks (which you called the "Kirk Rocks") near Agua Dulce, Calif. There are lots of pictures of our hikes there in my Facebook photo albums.

Anyway, the new book lists all kinds of games and activities parents can so with their children before, during and after a hike. In fact, if you read the book, you'd probably recognize most of the games in them - mainly because we tested almost every one of them in the car and or when out in the wilds!

During the enxt few weeks as I promote the book, your picture probably will appear on lots of different newspapers and on plenty of websites. I'll be sure to save copies of them for you to look at later in life and will note them on this blog for you.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Your favorite: 'The Book That Eats People'

"The Book That Eats People" by John Perry had to be your favorite book growing up. You liked the one we checked out from library so much that I had to buy it for you.

The book is apparently a monster that likes to eat people - and the story tells of all the kids it ate and how it was captured. It's full of warnings about what you should do to remain safe whenever with the book.

You loved the safety tip that says we should grind up the page's book in your "daddy's coffee grinder." You were only 3 or barely 4 when you told me "We should do that, Daddy!"

Another part of the book tells how it swapped covers with the book "All About Dolphins." I once checked out a book about dolphins at the library (when you 3 or barely 4), and you got scared because you thought hidden under the cover it might be the real book that ate people!

The last line of the book was "Because this is a book that eats people!" and whenever I finished reading it, I'd snap the book at you like it was going to bite. You'd jump back and roll in laughter and ask me to read the book again.

Can't wait to read the book to you again - and to give the copy of the book to you to keep forever!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Do you remember going to the beach?

Ventura city beach, Feb. 2012
One of your favorite places to go when you were little was to the beach. There were a couple of ocean beaches in particular that we uusally went to - the Ventura city beach next to the pier in Ventura, Calif., and Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, Calif.

We spent a lot of time building sand castles - which you then always liked to knock down in some large imaginary battle! You'd usually help me build a couple of turrets, play with the sand toy vehicles for a bit (Sometimes you'd bury the vehicles in the sand and ask me to find them!), and then ask me when I'd be done with the castle so that you could knock it down! Sometimes you;d let me bury you in the sand, too.

Next we'd head down to the water, where we'd play chase and avoid the waves. You loved to get wet and splash in the water. Sometimes I think you were pretending it was a great monster trying to capture you.

Both beaches also had playgrounds, and we'd usually spend a little time there to warm up after going into the cold water. If we were lucky, there usually was an open food stand nearby so that we could enjoy a snack!

I'm afraid the water bodies here in the Midwest aren't quite as exciting as the Pacific Ocean, but there are some neat beaches on the St. Croix River that I can't wait to take you to.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Your picture is on another online article!

My article “Hiking with Kids – Avoiding Common Summer Injuries” appears in the latest edition of Seattle Backpackers Magazine - and pictures of you from hikes we've taken together appear with it!

The article examines how to avoid and treat sunburn, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Seattle Backpackers Magazine is an online magazine focusing on backpacking, hiking, climbing and camping.

The top picture is of you enjoying water during a rest break we took before entering Nightmare Gulch at Red Rocks State Park north of Mojave, Calif.

The next photo down is of you at the southern edge of the Mojave Nature Preserve in Southern California, just off the I-40. I believe the Providence Mountains are in the background. It was taken in March 2011.

The bottom photo is of you playing with my trekking pole on Ritter Ranch Preserve near Acton, Calif. You're standing on rock that's half a billion years old!

There are photo albums of all of these hikes/travels on my Facbeook site.

I can't wait to go hiking with you again - there are some great trails in northwestern Wisconsin for us to hike!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Remember our Batman shows, action figures and books?

Alfred Pennyworth,
Batman's butler.
Remember when we used to watch Batman on TV and DVD? There was a nightly Batman cartoon on cablem and we'd sometimes watch "Batman: The Brave and the Bold" on DVDs. We sometimes also watched "Justice League." The series were great introductions to all kinds of comic book superheroes from Plastic Man and the Green Lantern to Aqua Man and the Green Arrow.

We used to collect all of the action figures from these comic books series. You had a great Batcave playset that we often used as part of the set when we played with our Star Wars action figures.

We also had a bunch of Batman and other superhero books that we'd read before bedtime. One was about how a young boy name Bruce Wayne overcame his fear of the dark; you really seemed to be inspired by that one.

I was able to save some of your favorite superhero toys from those days. Wish I could have saved more. When you're allowed to see me again again, I will have to get you a new Batcave with superheroes for it.

The picture is a cartoon cutout of Alfred Pennyworth from the Batman cartoon series we watched. Since we couldn't purchase Batman's butler as an action figure, we printed this on the computer and pasted it to a block!

I always was so glad that you liked Batman. He definitely was my favorite superhero when I was that age.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Got new glasses this weekend

Got a new pair of glasses this weekend so I might look a little different the next time you see me. You might recall that I also shaved off my goatee just before we were forced apart. So I suppose the look of the dad you remember probably will be a lot different when we next see one another! I know that you'll look much different, too, as you're growing up so fast. Missing out on watching you grow kills me every day, Kieran, but I know no matter what either one of us looks like, we will still have fun together, and no matter how many years we're apart, we'll still have that bond we forged in those first minutes after you were born.

I wonder if one day you'll have to wear glasses. I've worn them them since fifth or sixth grade - well, actually I was supposed to wear them since fifth or sixth grade but didn't take it seriously and only started wearing them regularly when I began ninth grade. They were uncomfortable to wear, and I thought I'd be picked on for wearing them. My school work in junior high in part suffered for it, though, and I decided I needed to quickly remedy that.

During college, I did wear contacts for a couple of years, so some of my pictures from that era will show me eyeglass-less or in sunglasses. But thanks in part to mild allergies I often get dry eyes, so that wasn't very conducive to wearing contacts, and I went back to glasses.

I won't moralize by telling you to wear your glasses should you need to get them (Though I guess I just did!). Every one has to make their own choices - and I know you're smart enough to make the right one.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

What you wanted to be when you were little

You always loved to play dress up and roll play as a preschooler. You also always were changing what you wanted to be when you grew up - which is not unusual for little kids!

I myself wanted to be an astronaut when I grew up. But I was a kid during the late 1960s and early 1970s when moon launches were the norm. Then like so many other in our family, I had to start wearing glasses somewhere around fifth or sixth grade - unfortunately, at the time you couldn't be a pilot (or an astronaut) if you wore glasses, so I passed on the dream and went on to become a writer/editor (which I enjoy quite a lot, by the way).

Here are some of the things you said you wanted to be when you grew up:
g Doctor
g Fireman
g Policeman
g Jedi knight
g Football player
g Guitar player
g Drummer
g Navy sailor
g Army soldier

I wonder what you want to be now?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Musical instruments you had as a toddler

Do you remember all of the neat musical isntruments you had as toys? The drum was your favorite. You also had a flute (actually it was a recorder) that you liked to play as well. Sometimes you'd take them in the car (the recorder in particular) and play them to the Beatles DVD we listed to. There also was a harmonica and a whistle, if I recall correctly.

My guitar was your favorite, though. You always were fascinated by the different strumming sounds it made and would hold that big acoustic instrument in your lap and create your own songs off the top of your head. Sometimes you'd line up the stuffies and give them instruments to play and pretend you were a rock band. You'd even have me sit and listen to some of your numbers! Sometimes I'd "join you on stage" for a song or two.

You also had a play guitar I bought at a festival near San Diego, but it was cheaper than it looked, and the strings all broke. When playing it, you'd make up Beatles songs and have me guess who was singing them - John, Paul, George or Ringo - and then play a whole album full of songs for me. Some of the songs were quite clever in their wording. I should have written down some of the words.

I wouldn't be surprised if one day you take up a musical instrument of your own. I suspect you'd be quite good at playing it, too! You'll be one heck of a songwriter, that's for sure.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Summer fun: the Weekly Reader

One of my favorite things to receive in the mail when I was a little boy like you was the summer Weekly Reader. I don't know if they still have Weekly Reader, but if they don't, they should!

The Weekly Reader usually was just four to six pages of fun articles and games for kids to read and play. The articles were about interesting places, animals or people. We got them every week in school.

In the summer, they came every couple of weeks. A new issue could keep me busy for a couple of hours - so my mom was happy to subscribe to them for me!

I was able to find a few copies online of the Weekly Readers that I got in the mail. I included a picture of one here. Doesn't it look like fun? Maybe you can make a copy of it, print it out, and have your very own Weekly Reader page.

What kinds of things do you like to read?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Your height and weight through the years

In a previous entry, I mentioned that I kept track of all kinds of stuff about you as you were gorwing up: first words, favorite songs, TV shows you liked, and so on. Of course, I also kept track of how much you weighed and how tall you were, too!

Here's a list of those measurements that I stumbled across as going through my computer files. It's a little incomplete because I have your height listed on a wall poster (which is packed away somewhere):

Feb. 23 – Weighs 7 pounds, 7 ounces

Feb. 5 –
Weighs 20 lb., 14 oz.
June 5 – Weighs 23 lb., 6 oz.

Jan 26 –
Measures 3 feet, 10 inches tall

Jan 10 –
Weighs 41 pounds
Jan 21 – Measures 3 feet, 11.25 inches tall
Apr 21 – Height is hair under 4 feet

How much do you weigh and how tall are you today?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Remember the songs we used to sing at bedtime?

Listened to the Beatles' CD "Rubber Soul" and thought about some of the songs I used to sing you at bedtime to put you asleep, as some of those tunes are on that album.
The songs I sang changed through the years, with a lot more childrens' songs, such "I've Been Working ont he Railroad," "The Muffin Man" and "Row Row Row Your Boat" early on. But I always had Beatles songs on the playlist, especially "Ticket to Ride," Drive My Car" and "Nowhere Man."

I'd also try to sing you some of my other favorites, like "California Girls" and "California Dreamin'." I remember once when we were at California Adventure, "California Dreamin'" was playing over the loudspeakers and you asked me, "What is this song? Where have I heard it before?" Guess my singing wasn't quite like the Mamas and Papas, but you didn't seem to mind.

Sometimes you would get really upset with me, though if I didn't sing the songs in the same order that I'd done the previous few nights! I guess three and four year olds appreciate consistency. Eventually it got so that I knew when I'd reach a certian song (usually after "Yesterday"), you would be asleep!

As you grew older, you always wanted me to exclusively sing you Beatles songs. I had to go memorize some of their song lyrics just so I could sing enough of them to you.

That you wanted me to sing you asleep meant a lot to me. It meant so much that you loved the same songs as I did. It also meant a lot that you even wanted to hear me sing. I never considered my singing voice very good, but you and Jane always said you loved to hear it. Thanks for those sweet memories, Kieran.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Radio shows highlighted your favorite Beatle - Ringo!

I'm very sad that we didn't get to spend time together this past weekend so that we could listen to the various Beatles radio programs together. Sunday marked Ringo’s 72nd birthday, so all of the programs played Ringo songs galore, and of course, Ringo was your favorite Beatles the past couple of years!

“The Beatles Years” was particularly good as it told stories about how he and his father were separated (like us) when he was a little boy, how he became a Beatle, how some of his most famous Beatle songs (like “Yellow Submarine”) came to be, and his acting career.

After that, "Breakfast with the Beatles" played lots of rare Ringo songs.

Unfortunatlely, none of them played "Boys," your favorite Beatles song when you were a preschooler!

Especially when I lived and worked in San Diego, we use to listen to the Beatles radio programs whileon our way to and from museums, zoos, parks, and more. Hopefully now that you know your way around the computer, you can find some of those programs online (try TuneIn) - and know that I'll be listening to some of those same Beatles programs, too!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Two months now since we've last spoken to one another

Exactly two months have passed since we've last talked with one another. It feels like that sad day was years ago. We were counting out quarters so we could buy some ice cream at the stand across the street from our condo. I will keep this entry short because recalling that day makes me very sad. The next time we are together, we will get ice cream if you should like - a mint chocolate chip for you (if that is still your favorite) and a vanilla chocolate chip for me. It will be the best ice cream I'll have ever had, I am sure of that.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The real reasons we're being kept from speaking to one another

Another weekend has pased in which we didn't get to see - or even talk to - one another. I'm sorry, Kieran, that your mother is putting you through this. Under court order, you have the right to talk to me nightly by phone, so long as you initiate the call. Not surprisingly, your mother has not called once me during the past two months so that you could speak to me.

She will tell you that I am a danger and threat to you, but everyone who knows me will tell you this is just a cover argument, for they have trusted me with their children and have seen what a close, deep bond we have. I am no threat or danger to you and never have been. The unfortunate reality is that your mother is angry and bitter, bearing much resentment to me for my relationship with Jane, for our close bond, and for refusing to be with her anymore in marriage (When we are together again and you are old enough, I will explain why to you why your mother and I cannot be together - and know that the issue never was that I didn't love her when we were together). So, preventing you from speaking with me simply is her way of punishing me, as she knows you are the most important person in the world to me. The way to hurt me the most is to keep you and me part. What bothers me, though, isn't her anger toward me but how she is hurting you, denying you a relationship with your father who loves you so very much and who I know you love so much as well.

One day, though, you and I will be together and able to talk freely about all that has happened. Just as I instictively understand what your cries meant mere minutes after you were born, I am confident we will instantly connect again, providing each other with the love and nurturing we always gave the other. Today is difficult, for we are apart when we could be enjoying one another's company at the zoo or a museum or playing with toys with one another or me reading a book to you or us just talking with one anothr as we amble down a hiking trail, but know that I always will keep you close to my heart.

If your mother disagrees with my assessment as to why we she keeps us apart, then I ask her to prove me wrong. Allow us to speak with one another. After all, how can I be a danger or threat to you by merely speaking to you on a phone?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Remember your book 'Spaceman Sam'?

Was looking through some of your old children's books that you loved so much and came across "Spaceman Sam," a book you loved me to read to you even when you were an infant and couldn't understand the words. Part of the book's appeal was that pieces of it could be moved as Sam went through his adventure of taking a rocket into space, and you always enjoyed moving all of the controls around and opening the spaceship's door. The big surprise came at the end, though, when a you could press a button and release a spring that shot a mini rocket-shaped version of the ship into space! You would do that over and over. Some of the interactive parts of the book are a little ripped and broken, but I'll try to tape them back together for you. Maybe one day either you or I will get to read it to your children!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Your favorite TV shows as a little boy

Curious George
As you know, Kieran, I raised you during most of your toddler and preschooler years. During that time, I kept track of just about everything I could about you: your height, weight, favorite songs, favorite books to read, etc. etc. I thought one day you might want to look at such lists, to jog your memory as you recalled childhood, a period that dims over time as we find ourselves preoccupied with schoolwork, careers, lovers and eventually children of our own. Today I've included a list of your favorite TV shows - those programs you loved to watch when a toddler and preschooler.

My own favorite shows when your age included "The Flinstones," "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," and "Star Trek," all of which were shown back-to-back every afternoon beginning about 3:30 p.m. when I was five or so. In the morning, I'd usually watch with my mom "Bewitched," "I Dream of Jeannie" or "My Three Sons." I also liked "Daniel Boone" and "The Wonderful World of Disney" during primetime and "Dark Shadows" during the early afternoon. "Casey Jones' Roundhouse" and "Captain Kangaroo" were early morning favorites (They didn't have a lot of children's shows like they do now; "Sesame Street" first went on the air when I was four!).

Anyway, here were your favorites.

Age 1
Elmo’s World (Sesame Street)
Curious George
Sid the Science Kid

Age 2
Curious George
Super Why
Fireman Sam
Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Franny’s Feet

Age 3
Curious George
Star Trek (TOS, TAS)
Batman (Brave and the Bold, The Batman)
Justice League
Scooby Doo
Fireman Sam
Star Wars movies/The Clone Wars
The Six Million Dollar Man (late)
The Bionic Woman (late)
Samarai Jack
Ben 10 (late)
Beatles cartoons (late)

Age 4
Callious (early)
Phineas and Ferb
Scooby Doo

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fireworks we've seen together in the past

Lat night was the Fourth of July fireworks, and I was very sad that we weren't able to be together for them. This was supposed to be my year to have you for the Fourth of July.

We've seen a couple of fireworks shows before - most notably the Halloween fireworks at Legoland in 2011; we also saw the New Years Eve fireworks on Dec. 31, 2011, but a fog rolling off the ocean made watching really difficult (remember how they gave us 3-D glasses to wear so that the fireworks would look like exploding Lego bricks?).

You always begged me to take you to the Disneyland fireworks, and I promised I would when you were older - the fireworks were late at night,  and I'd knew you'd be too sleepy to really enjoy them, plus getting out of the theme park is very difficult after the fireworks, making for an extremley long night for both of us. How I wished last night that I would have taken you to those fireworks at least once...

But don't worry, Kieran - we'll see lots of fireworks in the days ahead, I promise.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Places to show you in Wisconsin

I've arrived back in Wisconsin today, Kieran, so that I can better continue the legal battle to regain custody of you, to ensure you are protected, and so ensure that we can see one another again. While I will miss California and all we could do there - Disneyland any day we like, the ocean beach, Legoland, the mountains, the many aquariums and museums, the desert hikes, the festivals galore - so long as I am with you, it doesn't really matter where we are.

I always planned to take you back to the Midwest just to show you where I'd grown up but had hoped to wait until you were a little older so it all might be a little more meaningful. I grew up on three different farms in Wisconsin - one near Plum City, another near Elmwood, and the other close to Menomonie (this is where I spent most of my childhood, from second grade until I graduated fromhigh school, and is where your grandparents still live). I'd love to show you those places and the main streets and stores in Plum City and Durand and Menomonie where my parents shopped when I was a child, and to show you the "ancestral valley" where your great-great-great-great-great grandfather and his two brothers came to Wisconsin; they being among the first pioneers in the state. I want to show you where I went to school - elementary school in Elmwood and another in Knapp,  junior high and high school in Menomonie (yes, Jane went to school there, too), and on to college in River Falls. I'd like to show you the dorms I lived in during college and my first apartment in Red Wing, Minn. (where I held my first full-time job out of college, as a newspaper reporter covering Wisconsin news), and the newspapers I worked at in Red Wing and Prescott. I'd like to take you to all of the carnivals and festivals I went to as a little boy - the Durand Fun Fest and the Dunn County Fair and the Minnesota State Fair. I'd like to show you a thousand other places that I've been to and always wanted to go to but never did.

We will do all that and more one day. Don't be discouraged, my son - time is on our side.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Building Bioncles at Legoland

Remember how we used to build and then play with Bioncles at Legoland in San Diego? Sometimes we'd spend an hour there trying to construct the robots and then would make up these elaborate stories as our good and bad guys battled one another (Usually ending with my bad guy falling into the trash compactor if I recall!).

The last time we were at Legoland was New Years Eve for the fireworks. That day, we sat at a table with another father and his two children, all constructing and playing with the Bioncles together. Anyway, yesterday he sent us pictures of you and me that he took that night. More than seven months had passed sinced then, and I figured either the photos didn't turn out or he'd lost my email address. I've posted a couple of the photos here.

One time I purchased for us two set sof Bioncles that we could. When we got back to our trailer in Encinitas, you wanted tobuild them, and so we each started on a package. I was certianI would have to help you, but you followed the directions all on your own and constructed the Bioncle in no time flat! I was so proud of you, of how you looked so closely at the pictures, and even after making a mistake, backtracked and relooked at the instructions, only to put it together correctly all on your own.

I can't wait until we're together again to build (and battle) more Bioncles. This time Lord Zoltar will be victorious and conquer the Earth!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Do you still love 'Star Wars'?

Heard a report on NPR about an effort to "Save Tatooine" and instantly thought of you! The sets for Tatooine, specifically Luke Skywalker's aunt and uncle's homestead and the area where the Jawas and the Sand People attack the droids, were built in and filmed in Tunisia. Some "Star Wars" fans often go there to see those sights. But recently a fan found that the house was rapidly falling apart - and so he started an effort to raise money for fixing Luke Skywalker's house. He succeeded, too! A very admirable man, he is, for helping to save something that is so important to so many people.

You were a big "Star Wars" fan as a preschooler. Remember how we used to collect "Star Wars" action figures? Watch it on TV and DVD together? Have light saber battles? Or you'd dress up as a Obi-Wan Kenobi when we went to California Adventure and together we'd pretend to fight battle droids inthe Redwood Creek obstacle course? One Halloween you even went as Luke Skywalker and I as Darth Vader for trick or treat!

I saved some of the action figures as well as some of those comic books for you. I also have our two light sabers - many great "battles" for control of the universe await us!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Some advice for you, my son

I know, Kieran, that you must feel a great emptiness not having a father in your life. I certainly feel a great emptiness without my son in my life.

When one feels such emptiness, often bitterness sets in, and to release those feelings, we lash out at others or their property. By doing so, though, we only hurt ourselves far more than we do the other person. That may not be apparent at first as the other person cries or their possessions lay broken, but in the long run we lose the love and trust of them when we behave this way. I speak from personal experience, and when we are together again, I will explain all of those incidences to you should you wish. The one example I'm sure you will be familiar with, though, is Jane, who we both loved very dearly but who through my anger I drove away.

Do not harden your heart, Kieran. I know that is easier said than done. But I will be there again to fill the void  that our forced separation has temporarily created in both of our lives - and I emphasize the word temporarily because each and every day I and your grandparents are working within the limits of the law to correct this egregious error that others have committed to harm our well-being. So remain strong and remain kind and loving to others - even to those who have done you wrong - for in the long run that will serve you far better than taking the easy way out, which is bitterness, anger and a hardened heart.