Friday, August 31, 2012

Jobs your dad has held

While sprucing up some of my websites about my background (important to do because it's information that people interested in hiring me as an editor often look at), I thought you might like to know what kind of jobs I've held. You can check out my resume online at anytime, but that just really lists the places I've worked.

Growing up, I worked on my parents' dairy farm. I milked cows and generally took care of the animals. I didn't do much field work; my dad and brother (your Uncle Chris) typically preferred to do that while my mom and me liked the animals.

In my junior year of high school, I joined the Army National Guard, which I stayed in until 1997. I served in an infantry unit, where I handled a number of different weapons from grenade launchers to machine guns. I rose to the rank of sergeant.

In college, I studied to be a journalist and a teacher (grads 7-12). Upon graduation, I worked as a reporter for a daily newspaper. After three years, though, I made a career change and went into teaching. I taught English and journalism, primarily the former, to grades 7-12, but mainly to eighth and ninth graders.

After seven years of teaching, I went back into journalism, working as a copy desk chief (we proofread and design the newspaper), as a editorial page editor (writing the newspaper's editorials), and as a managing editor (I headed both a weekly and a small daily newspaper). I also was the manging editor of a suite of business magazines in San Diego for a while.

After newspapering, I started my own business, which is what I do now: editing and proofreadingother people's books and helping them get publish. I also research and write my own books (mainly about hiking and writing), but I've also penned a book of poetry and a novel (both of which are coming out this autumn at the time I write this entry).

Do you like to write? What kind of job do you want to have when you grow up?

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Journal entry from Nov. 10, 2009

A few days ago I wrote an entry about you taking a bath - well, I found this old journal entry from Nov. 10, 2009, in my journals (the actual event happened a few days earlier):

As the water fell from the faucet swirling into the pool below, you placed bath toys onto the tub's side, delicately examining each one as if it were some priceless ancient artifact. There is a monkey in a life raft, a rubber train engine, a plastic sailboat. Bubble bath clings to the monkey's face, and your eyes pause on it for a long moment, and a finger wipes off the foam. Your eyes suddenly brighten as you grin. You dip your hand into the foam-covered water and swooping up a mound of bubbles, pat them against your chin. Two fingers push some of the bubbles up around the mouth until you have a goatee of your own, white and fizzing. You gaze at your reflection in the bathtub faucet, let out a gleeful laugh, and continue to place the toys upon the rub's rim, the bubbles upon your face fizzing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Journal entry about you hearing the wind

Here's another journal entry I wrote on Oct. 31, 2009, about you; the events described occurred a few days earlier, on Oct. 19 or 20:

The wind blew fiercely, so much that it drew your attention just when I hoped to put you down for an afternoon nap. For several minutes, you stared into the empty space between my lap and the ceiling, then you sat up, tucked yourself against my side, listened to the chimney flue rattle and the backyard gate jangle. On occasion, the gusts even pressed the picture window in with a whump! But you heard more than this, I suspect, for your ear lay against my heart, it going lub-dub, lub-dub, lub-dub with each rise and fall of my chest, and soon you fell asleep.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

What your dad does for a living

The thought crossed my mind that you might wonder what I do all day for work (Sometimes I wonder myself!). Well, I edit and write all day.

Most of my income is made by editing other people's writing. They send me their novels, nonfiction books, short stories, dissertations, academic papers, letters, legal documents, website text and more, which I proofread (correcting for spelling, punctuation, capitalization and grammar errors), comment on, specifically about the content (such as the story's plot and characters if a novel), and coach them on their writing style. I mostly do novels. In fact, you can go to my Inventing Reality Editing Service blog and see the covers and read plot summaries of all kinds of books that I've edited and that have gone on to be published.

I also write a lot, mainly my own stuff. Every day I pen blog entries about hiking and writing, which then are turned into books. I also write a little on the side, mainly novels and short stories, but I've also got a book of poetry published (or is about to be published as I write this entry to you). Currently, I have seven books planned for publication, six of which should come out during the next year (a novel, three books about writing, and two books about hiking).

I work mainly out of my house on a computer. In addition, I spend a lot of time in coffee shops working from my laptop, as being by yourself in a house all day with no one around can drive you a little batty after a while!

I stay quite busy - at any given moment I have three or four books that I'm editing, and as you can see from above I have a lot of books I'm writing as well. But I love what I do, and the income is more than sufficient to keep me going and ensure that I have plenty to spend on you when we are together (and we'll be together soon again, trust me).

Monday, August 27, 2012

Remember your drum set?

One of the many things I wanted to do for you as a parent was expose you to as much of the world as possible, just so you could fully explore to it and not miss out on opportunities dur to underdeveloped skills. So we played different sports, read books one every subject, did tons of crafts, and played lots of musical instruments.

While the guitar was among those instruments you most played with, I suspect your favorite was the drums!

You had a blue and black drum set with skulls and bones on it, as well as two drumsticks. It was part of a set that I think included a harmonica, tambourine and a whistle. You also had a flute (technically it was a "recorder") and a toy guitar.

You'd pretend to be Ringo and would sing all kinds of tunes while banging on the drums at all different beats and levels of intensity. I've always had a little trouble hearing in my left ear, so as long as you practiced on the drums to the left of me, I had no problem with you playing to your hearts content!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Will I write back to you?

As we've part for so long now, you might wonder if I received a letter/email for you, if would I write back. It's a common question that many children have when separated from a parent. Maybe you're not asking it, but I'd like to answer anyway, just in case.

The answer is "Yes, I would." Depending on what you write, I might take a day or two to answer, as I need to consider your safety in how I get the response to you. There are people who do not want us to be together, and should they discover that I've emailed or written you, I fear that you might be wrongly punished.

What will I write? I will tell you all what I'm doing for work, where I'm living, my personal projects, if I'm involved with someone. I will answer your questions, all of them, to the best of my ability. I will tell you how you can safely reach me/get into contact with me (even though this website conains that info). I will ask questions of you - where you are living, what you like about school, what are your favorite hobbies/sports/activities, who your friends are, what you hope to be when you grow up, and more based on your age.

Most importantly, I will try to assure you that I love you - that I always have, that I do now, and that I always will.

So yes, go ahead and write that letter or send that email. I am waiting for it.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Remember all those fun bathtimes?

One of the thousands of great things about you as a preschooler was that I never had trouble getting you to take a bath. Of course, I made sure it was lots of fun!

First, we had lots of bubbles. Bubble bath always was on my list of items that had to stay in stock in the house. And I wasn't stingy with the bubble bath, either - we went through a bottle a week! We'd fill up the bathtub with water, and good couple of inches of it were bubbles!

Next, I made sure you had lots of bath toys to play with. There were foam letters and numbers that you could stick to the wall when they were wet. There also were plastic Star Wars characters that you you could have adventures with. And there were some Thomas the Train engines, a crocodile, and a Little Einsteins rocket ship that all were water-worthy.

In addition, though I'd ask you over and over not to do it, I let you splash water all across the bathroom floor. I was only really concerned if the water got onto hallway carpet, which is why I had to keep you from "oversplashing." Usually I just cleared the rugs out of the bathroom befor eyou got into the tub and let you splash to your heart's content - it was a good excuse for me to scrub the floor (actually, I was just drying it!).

Finally, I didn't waste a lot of time fussing over you with a good cleaning. We quickly washed your hair and then I'd have you close your eyes while I took care of your face. But you spent so long in the bubble-filled bathtub splashing around that the dirt just came off you all on your own accord!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Sports I participated in as a kid

Now that you're off to kindergarten, there are all kinds of little league and intramural sports you might be interested in participating in: soccer, basketball, flag football, softball, and who knows what else?

Living out in the country on the farm when growing up, I didn't take part in too many sports. I liked to play football and basketball during recess and in the backyard with my little brother. During sixth grade, we did have a basketball team at elementary school, but with it being our first year, we didn't win many games! Your grandpa helped coach the team.

In seventh grade, I participated in track and field during spring. I ran the 100 yard hurdles and did some pole vaulting. I think I did some broad jumping as well.

Then in eighth grade I was on the football team. I mainly played linebacker, though sometimes I was an offensive lineman (usually a guard or tackle) or a defensive lineman.

Once I got into high school, though, I didn't participate in sports, opting instead to joing the debate team. I did announce the high school's wrestling, basketball (both boys and girls), and track meets, though.

What kinds of sports do you like to play?

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Your name and picture are in another article - again!

Your name and picture are onlien again! Wisconsin Outdoor Fun ran an article about my latest book, “Hikes with Tykes: Games and Activities” on Monday, Aug. 20. The article includes an excerpt from Chapter 3 of the book, listing nature-oriented games that can be played on the trail with children.

Wisconsin Outdoor Fun is owned by Gannett, which operates several newspapers in central and eastern Wisconsin, including Green Bay, Appleton, Wausau, Sheboygan, Oshkosh, Fond du Lac, Manitowoc, Wisconsin Rapids, Stevens Point, Marshfield and Door County. It covers a range of outdoor news from ATVing and boating to hunting and fishing, from cycling and skiing to hiking and camping. I should note that I worked as news editor for three years at the Manitowoc paper during the early 2000s - I'll have to tell you all about he places I worked in a future entry.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Journal entry from 2009 about carrying you

Today, a journal entry from my autumn 2009 journal, about you becoming too big to be carried.

Yesterday I carried you during the entire Seaside Highland Festival, an act on my part that demonstrates a continued obsession with the pasing of days (Sounds like a great title for a book, doesn't it - "The Passing of Days"?).

On one hand, carrying you was simply a practical matter - you;re getting much too large for the stroller, and unbuckling you from it each time you want to walk or see something is burdensome. But my real motivation is carrying all 30 pounds of you was to savor these last few weeks while I still can. There is something powerfully comforting in having your body tucked against my side, in having your arm wrapped about my shoulder.

You enjoy being carried, of course, likely because you're able to see better when your eyes are at the same level as mine, but I believe you also find being close to me comforting as well. I suppose, practically speaking, that walking all that way is burdensome for you, so that is motivation as well. But even when in a stroller you want tobe held and carried at times, even if you have na unobstructed view before you.

I must admit thanks to all of this carrying, my arms have never been so thick and well-toned since the last time I regularly worked out years ago. But even an athlete must take a break or his workout will backfire. Such pain is nothing, though, compared to what I felt today: At the park, you walked to the playground and then back to the Keep all by yourelf - a bittersweet moment of pride for me as a father... (Oct. 12, 2009)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Recall reading 'Knuffle Bunny Free'?

And now for the last installment about the suite of Knuffle Bunny books we read together in early 2012: "Knuffle Bunny Free." In this book, Trixie and her parents travel to Holland to visit Oma and Opa - except Trixie leaves Knuffle Bunny on the plane. Trixie learns to live without Knuffle Bunny ... then when she returns home, she finds him on the plane. In an act of altruism, she gives Knuffle Bunny to a crying baby.

There are some great pictures in the book. Among my favorite is Trixie sticking out her tongue after she tries Opa's coffee at the cafe. There's also a great line in which the baby to whom Trixie gives Knuffle Bunny says "Aggle Plaggie?" when she first offers him her stuffie.

It's a tearjerker book, really. The epilogue shows Trixie growing up and receiving Knuffle Bunny in the mail for her own toddler. I can't express enough to you the mix of deep, powerful emotions a parent feels watching their child grow up, and I certainly miss every minute we're apart in which I do not see you mature and learn about the world. When you're a parent yourself on day, I'm certain you'll understand.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Recall reading 'Knuffle Bunny Too'?

After reading the previous entry about enjoying "Knuffle Bunny" together, you're probably saying, "Hey, what about the other books in the series?" There were indeed two more books. The second one was "Knuffle Bunny Too."

Trixie is now older and in pre-K. Upon bringing Knuffle Bunny to school, though, she finds that a classmate, Sonja, ALSO has a Knuffle Bunny. When Trixie and Sonja fight all morning about their bunnies, the teacher takes the stuffies away. She gives them back at the end of the school day, but the bunnnies are switched - something Trixie doesn't realize until the middle of the night.

I always liked the section near the beginning when Trixie lists who she's going to show Knuffle Bunny to when she gets to pre-K. My name, Jane's name (who I was going out with when you and I first read the book), and the names of your two cousins (Rebecca and Brian, though your cousins spell their names differently) are among those Trixie lists! You always liked that Trixie had to play escape the Mommy and Daddy robots from planet Snurp!

Tomorrow: "Knuffle Bunny Free"

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Remember 'Knuffle Bunny' book?

One of the last books we enjoyed together before your mother took you away was the "Knuffle Bunny" series by Mo Willems. We read it when I'd moved from Encinitas to Lancaster (into "Drew Breezes'" house). You loved the book so much that you had me read it over and over to you.

You even memorized some of the lines, and we'd play act them out when together:
YOU: "Aggle flaggle klabble!"
ME: "That's right, we're going home."
YOU: Aggle flaggle klabble!! Blaggle plabble! Wumpy flappy?! Snurp."
ME: "Now don't get fussy."
YOU: Waaaa!
And we'd both laugh.

The book was a lot of fun for me in some ways you might not realize. It shows Trixie playing with the clothes at the laundromat and her daddy picking her up so she can put money in the washers. That's just like what we did when you were oneyear-old and we lived in an apartment with a laundry room.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Recall playing Hungry Hungry Hippos?

One of the games you most enjoyed playing as a preschooler with me was Hungry Hungry Hippos. I'm certain you remember it: Players could shoot out a marble (or more) and then had to try to capture it by "eating" it with a hippo.

You always like to change which color hippo you played with each round. I never put the stickers on the gameboard as the picture at right shows, but otherwise it's exactly what our game looked like.

I always loved playing games with you - not only were you good at them so I didn't have to worry about "throwing" them to give you a handicap (You'll understand the need to do this when you're a daddy.) - but I didn't really have many games to play when I was growing up, especially when your age. I had no siblings until I was 4-1/2, so he wasn't old enough to play games until I was in third grade or so. My mother wasn't a game player either; competition wasn't her thing. So playing games with you was like getting to be a kid all over again!

The game did make lots of racket as those springs for the hippo mouths and the chomping of their jaws were quite loud, so sometimes I had to say "No more!" - especially when I started getting a headache!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Yes, you're in yet another article!

Yep, your picture is in yet another article: This time Seattle Backpackers Magazine ran my article “How to Select a Good Trail for a Child” in its Tuesday edition.

The article examines factors to consider – such as length, elevation gains and dangers – when identifying a trail to day hike with kids (All lessons I learned from hiking with you!). It contains a picture of you playing with your cowboy rifle at the Mormon Rocks near Victorville, Calif., I think from late 2011 (There's a photo album of it on Facbeook) plus another pic of the trail we walked.

Seattle Backpackers Magazine is a popular and well-respected online magazine focusing on backpacking, hiking, climbing and camping. Your picture has been in it a couple of times before when my articles ran in it!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What’s your favorite color?

More than three months have now passed since your mother has let me see or speak with you. I find myself wondering how you've changed during that time - Are you taller? Have you lost your first tooth? What new books have you read? What is your favorite color?

When you were a toddler and during most of your preschool years, green was your favorite color. I'm not certain why. Perhaps since we lived in the desert, green was a rare color and so the novelty excited you or the prettiness of some places we visited where green was omnipresent (like the mountains or ocean coast) left an impression. But if given a choice of clothing, Matchbox cars or some other item, you inevitably picked the green one!

Once you turned four and started attending preschool, blue because your favorite color. Again, not certain why, though I'd agree with your taste for blue is my favorite color, too! And perhaps not as much with green, if given a choice of clothing or toy, you inevitably picked the blue one!

What is your favorite today?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Song lyrics from when you were a baby

Kieran, Halloween 2007, in Eureka, Calif.
Some song lyrics for you today - a song that was quite popular when you were a baby. I always think of you whenever I hear it, especially when you'd crawl in my lap and face me while we lived in Eureka, Calif., where lots of rain fell.

(Colbie Caillat)

I've been awake for a while now
You've got me feelin' like a child now
'Cause every time I see your bubbly face
I get the tingles in a silly place

And it starts in my toes
And I crinkle my nose
Wherever it goes
I always know
That you make me smile
Please stay for a while now
Just take your time
Wherever you go

The rain is falling on my window pane
But we are hiding in a safer place
Under covers staying safe and warm
You give me feelings that I adore


But what am I gonna say
When you make me feel this way
I just mmmmm

And they start in my toes
Makes me crinkle my nose
Wherever it goes
I always know
That you make me smile
Please stay for a while now
Just take your time
Wherever you go

I've been asleep for a while now
You tuck me in just like a child now
'Cause every time you hold me in your arms
I'm comfortable enough to feel your warmth

And it starts in my soul
And I lose all control
When you kiss my nose
The feeling shows
'Cause you make me smile baby
Just take your time now
Holdin' me tight

Wherever wherever wherever you go
Wherever wherever wherever you go

Wherever you go
I always know
'Cause you make me smile
Even just for a while

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Your picture, name appear in article

You've made the web once again, Kieran - this time in an article at the Brave Ski Mom blog. It includes a picture of you when we went hiking in April 2011 at Vasquez Rocks (the famous "Kirk rocks" with "Gorn Rock" behind you), and you in arms at the Vetter Mountain lookout tower in August 2009, as well the "Hikes with Tykes" book covers that you're on. The article also mentions you a few times! I've printed a copy of it for you. Can't wait for us to be together ahead so we can do some great hikes!

Monday, August 13, 2012

My journals that you may inherit...

The last couple of days I typed entries about you from my journals of October 2009. As someone who's loved to write since he was in second grade and to make up and tell stories even before I went to school, I have a lot of journals and folders - both paper and on computer - containing my writings. Many are just loose notes and descriptions of places and items, done more to practice and master the craft of writing. Some are short stories, with quite a few of them in desperate need of a rewrite and others waiting to be finished. You'll also find inthere three or four novel manuscripts, some poetry, a couple of starts to plays, and lots of outlines, especially for essays.

I've asked your grandma to keep all of them for you should anything ever happen to me. The writings probably are of limited monetary value, but they do contain my thoughts going back decades before you were born, so in some small way they will provide a connection to me. She will give them to you when you are old enough; should she pass before them, Uncle Chris will keep them for you.

I do imagine that one day you'll become a writer - not out of my personal vanity - but because you have all of the makings of a good writer: an active, creative imagination; a love of stories; a way with words. Should you come across some striking image in my journals that would fit your story or decide that you know exactly how to finish one of those many stories, feel free to use it as your own. It is my small gift to you, my way of being there for you though the fates have conspired against us.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A description of you sleeping in my lap

Looking through the journal I kept from autumn 2009, here's another entry about you, dated Oct. 10, 2009. You were only two at the time but closing on three:

This afternoon you slept in my arms as I sat in the living room recliner, reading Marilynne Robinson's "Gilead." Though the time for me to begin dinner had passed, I could not bear to rise and wake you; you looked so peaceful with your head crooked into my arm and side tucked against my waist. Regardless, we will not have too many more days like this, for you already are just a bit too long to fit comfortably on my lap in that chair, but you're still able to manage it with the bending of legs and slight contortion of the torso.

Upon finishing a section of the novel, I gazed down at you to relish the sweet moment, only to find sweat beaded upon your temple and bove your upper lip. You could not have been hot, for a cool breeze swept through the open windows on this mild autumn day. "He must be having a bad dream," I thought, and this worried me for there really was no way to make the dream stop other than wake you, and - perhaps more worrisome to me - I had no way of knowing what frightened you so in your sleep. You are beginning to imagine the world in way I cannot fathom.

I gently brushed the beaded sweat away with a finger, first the temple, then above the mouth, and finally along your sideburns where new drops had formed. You twitched, but it wasn't enough to wake you, though I must have broken the dream for you did not sweat again.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

A description of us spinning around

Found an old journal entry I wrote about us, dated Oct. 9, 2009, and thought I'd share it with you today:

We spin around, my arms stretched out, yours close to your sides, and golden sunlight streams through the window across us. First there is the dining room table then the doorway into the kitchen, then the window, then the bright glint in your eye, and you giggle - most likley from the deleriousness that spinning brings, but I also like to think from the gleam of sunlight in my eyes.

Then I deliberately collapse - in part, I tell myself, to ensure you do, too, so you don't fall from dizziness and bump your head against the oak bookcase or a table leg. As I lay on the floor, the ceiling above twirls, and for a split second I close my eyes to stop the motion. You're still spinning with a child's constitution - or maybe you just don't know the danger that total inebriation from such spinning can hold, Or maybe you're fully aware of it and inviting it, testing your limits as children are wont to do. You've become too complex for me to really know the answer. I guess you're finally becoming your own person.

Then you're atop me, collapsing acros my stomach, bracing your fall and laughing heartily, and the slap of your torso against mine breaks me from my reeling as my eyes shoot open. "Do again? Do again?" you shout, and we rise back into the sunlight, my arms stretched out, yours close to your sides, and spin again.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Remember 'War Between the Vowels ...'

This certainly had to be among your three or four favorite books as a preschooler: "The War Between the Vowels and the Consonants." In addition to the wonderfully colorful pictures, it was the kind of story that even an adult could enjoy reading over and over.

The book centers on two classes of letters - the stuffy vowels and the rough and tumble consonants - who don't get along very well with one another. Their differences soon spiral out of control into a war. The y's are a house divided.

Eventually, though, chaos appears on the horizon. The vowels and the consonants alone can't stop chaos. But working together, they form words and sentences and tell chaos to "STOP". The youngest y came up with the great idea.

You loved the book so much that it was one of the few I made sure to save when forced to move back to the Midwest. I can't wait to read it to you again!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Visiting Mojave Space and Air Port

Remember our many trips to the Mojave Space and Air Port? Every month they held a fly-in in which we could get a close-up look at planes and sometimes other vehicles. We usually went to seven or eight of them a year; photo albums of them are posted on my Facebook site (Here's the last one we went to.).

The space and air port was a unique facility where a lot of research into going into space occurred. It's best known as the airport that launched SpaceShip One, the first non-government craft to carry a civilian astronaut into space. And it was just 20 miles from where we lived in Lancaster/Palmdale!

We started going to the fly-ins in 2009, so here's a list of some of my favorite memories of the fly-ins over the years:
10) Watching the robot battles during a special competition there
9) Touring the hangars and research facilities on the flightline
8) Getting to ride a garden train a local club set up one weekend
7) Seeing SpaceShip Two up close
6) Eating at the diner (and later Denny's or McDonalds) after visiting all of the planes
5) Playing in an APC on display there one year
4) Getting our names and pictures into the newspaper (This occurred many times  - and I have all of the copies!)
3) You getting to sit in the cockpits when owners were near their planes
2) Taking tram rides around the airport
1) Meeting Michael Dorn, who played Worf on "Star Trek" (He autographed a Worf action figure for you!)

One day we'll get to go to air shows together again - I can't wait!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Drawings found in my backpack

Was cleaning out my backpack - the one I used to carry all of our stuff in when we went on weekend trips after we gave up the stroller - and found some neat things of ours tucked in an interior pocket, both from our time at Disneyland last winter.

First were two puppet bats that we could color when we visited Woody's ranch house. They were both ones I colored - a Captain Kirk and a Mr. Spock bat! The wings are the colors of their uniforms and have their rank braids on the tips.

Second was a color picture you'd drawn there of the three stars in our cowboy adventures - Sheriff Jack, Lone Ranger and Bad Bart. They're stick figures, but I notice you colored Bad Bart in a black clothing. The picture is dated Feb. 5, 2012 (I always dated your pictures!); that would have been the Sunday before Jane came out to visit the first time (You met her later that week at Barnes and Noble and we spent a couple of days in Santa Clarita).

I need to get a new printer/scanner as my old one doesn't allow me to scan pictures into my laptop (my laptop's operating system is too advanced!), but rest assured, I have the items in a tote for you to look at one day!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Recall your Scooby Doo haunted house?

One of your favorite toys to play with as a preschooler was a Scooby Doo haunted house playset. The doors opened on it, and to roam the hallways we could bring in the Scooby Doo action figures - yep, we had all five of them - on a scary adventure. Sometimes a hand would reach out from a trap door, and in another instance, the door would snap open, revealing a creepy clown.

We also had a game that was a cardboard Scooby Doo haunted house that was fun to play, but we'll do a different entry about that on another day.

The one bad thing about the haunted house playset was that it came apart easily but didn't go back together so well! We were pretty rough with our toys, so not surprisingly, it came apart often!

Among the accessories we had with the haunted house were: the five action figures of Fred, Daphne, Velma, Shaggy and Scooby; the mystery van; and a motorcycle Shaggy could drive. I also made some of the monsters/villains by printing them out and pasting them to blocks.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Some fatherly advice: Do not judge others

One day you may find yourself angry - at a bully on the playground, at a teacher who put you down, at a neighbor or relative who seems to treat you unfairly. I'd ask you to let go of your anger, for it only will serve to harm you.

"How can I 'let go' of my anger?" you're probably asking. I'm afraid there's no easy answer to that. You probably feel justified in your anger.

This justification is based in your beliefs about how people should behave, Kieran, and these "shoulds" lead you to judge. If you always remember not to judge others, you can maintain your beliefs but lose your anger.

If you insist upon judging others, though, then your will find your anger growing so that almost no one ever can live up to your values or expectations. As others will judge you (rightly or wrongly), should you judge them in return, you soon will find yourself at odds with them - and soon, you will find yourself at odds with everyone and everything.

No one is perfect, and the world is flawed. Yes, it could be improved, and we have a duty to make the world a better place to live. But we cannot hold others in low esteem for it. Indeed, doing soonly makes the world an even worse place.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Remember our old acoustic guitar?

Was listeneing to an old encore edition of "American Top 40" from my teen years and heard the old hard rocking guitar-heavy song "My Sharona" by The Knack. Rather than think about those awkward, clumsy teen years, your love of my guitar came to my mind.

I unfortunately don't have that acoustic guitar anymore; a string broke on it, and when forced to move back to the Midwest to fight for custody of you, I had to leave a lot beyond. With a broken string on it, I decided a better guitar awaited me in the future (It was just a cheap Adam Levine acoustic guitar bought at Target - very pretty looking, a good guitar to learn on, but not one to play at a concert!).

You always liked to strum it and make up songs, pretending to be one of the Beatles! I bought you a play guitar that was more your size at a festival near San Diego during summer 2011, but alas, its string broke, too, as it was more of a toy than anything.

When we get together again and I settle into my place, I'll have to pick us up each an acoustic guitar to play. Though I know some very basic chords, I'm not much of a guitar player, never having made the time to learn it all too well. Maybe we'll have to figure it all out together. Sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon (or even a few of them!)!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

A poem about penguins for you

Read a poem today and instantly thought of you - it was Pablo Neruda's "Magellanic Penguin." Usually Neruda writes passionate love poetry (I can't wait to see what you think of it when you're older - much older, BTW!), so his penguin poem isn't particularly well known.

The reason it reminded me of you, of course, is because you really loved penguins after you turned five or so. I bought you toy figure penguins and a penguin stuffie; in fact, I think we even went to the Aquarium of the Pacific once just because I knew they'd have penguin stuffies there (Or did we get a stuffie seal pup there? I can't remember.). There also was a pegnuin video from the library that you really liked; one of the penguins was called Ringo, I think.

Anyway, here's the penguin poem:

Magellanic Penguin

Neither clown nor child nor black
nor white but verticle
and a questioning innocence
dressed in night and snow:
The mother smiles at the sailor,
the fisherman at the astronaunt,
but the child child does not smile
when he looks at the bird child,
and from the disorderly ocean
the immaculate passenger
emerges in snowy mourning.

I was without doubt the child bird
there in the cold archipelagoes
when it looked at me with its eyes,
with its ancient ocean eyes:
it had neither arms nor wings
but hard little oars
on its sides:
it was as old as the salt;
the age of moving water,
and it looked at me from its age:
since then I know I do not exist;
I am a worm in the sand.

the reasons for my respect
remained in the sand:
the religious bird
did not need to fly,
did not need to sing,
and through its form was visible
its wild soul bled salt:
as if a vein from the bitter sea
had been broken.

Penguin, static traveler,
deliberate priest of the cold,
I salute your vertical salt
and envy your plumed pride.

- Pablo Neruda

Friday, August 3, 2012

Recall reading 'Slide and Find Trucks'?

Am unpacking and repacking a number of your childhood books and belongings as I settle into my new place, and came across what had to be your favorite book as a 2 year old: "Slide and Find Trucks."

It was a great book in which I could ask you questions like "Which truck is red?" and then you'd look on the next page and choose among one of the four colors and slide a piece of cardboard to see if you'd selected the right truck! On another page, you had to decide which closeup of a truck was a cement mixer, car transporter, etc.; on another page you got to select the truck's name, and then finally decide which driver drove which truck.

You loved the book, and it was a wonderful way to teach you basic colors, letters, and other cognitive skills. Sometimes I had to help you pull the slider as they were a little stiff for such small hands to (Trust me, we moved those sliders so many times that none of them are stiff now!).

Eventually you memorized all of the answers, and you be the little jokester that you were deliberately picked the wrong answer! I always played along with you or would pretend to be all exasperated at your wrong answer, causing you to laugh to no end!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thinking about our parents' lives before we were born

Your picture on the cover of my hiking books (All of which are dedicated to you.) and your name as my son continues to appear all over the place. This time, the cover for my first book is in my college's English Department newsletter. I attended UW-River Falls from 1984-89, graduating with a bachelors degree in education, double major in English and Journalism. At UWRF, I was the campus newspaper editor, the literary magazine editor, the Winter Carnival King, and was a national qualifier on the forensics (intercollegiate speaking) team. They were very happy days indeed - but never so happy as the days I spent with you.

For most children, thinking about their parents' life before them is both odd and fascinating. It's difficult to imagine your parents without you as part of their lives. But just as you are growing up now without children, learning how to be an adult, so your parents also had to grow up and learn what making your own way through the world involves.

I look forward to seeing what you will enjoy doing and will excel at when in high school and college. There will be much experimentation with different activities and interestest as you try to determine what you like and don't like, but ultimately you'll settle on some path that brings great joy and meaning to your life. Then you'll settle down with a beautiful woman or man and raise children of your own. And they'll then wonder with fascination about the life you once led before they were born!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The first time you ever had hot chocolate

Dec. 28, 2010: Kieran and Dad
prepare to take the sled for a ride down
an incline on the Pacific Crest Trail.
As researching material for my upcoming hiking books (which includes a section on winter hiking), I recalled a time we'd gone up into the Angeles National Forest so you could play in the snow - something we rarely got to see or do when in Southern California's desert (Though you'll soon be playing a lot in the snow now that you're in Minnesota/Wisconsin).

I premade hot cocoa/chocolate for us to keep warm when up there and put it in the equivalent of a Thermos bottle. We didn't open it until back in the Jeep Patriot for the ride down the mountain. By then, you were a little chilled, so I changed you into warm, dry clothes.

And then I offered you a cup of hot chocolate. You took a sip, and your face absolutely lit up! You drank it quickly and asked for more. Though only 3 years old, you were so careful not to spill it lest you no longer have any to drink!

I think you enjoyed three whole cupfuls that drive down the mountain. And then, tuckered out from a day of playing in the snow, the warmth of the Jeep's heater, and all of the hot chocolate in your belly, you slipped off into the most peaceful-looking sleep I'd ever seen you enjoy.

OK, answers to yesterday's "Caillou" trivia:
1. Grandma
2. Gilbert
3. Brunette (black or dark brown, though the books showed her with red hair)
4. Rosie
5. Rexy (his blue T-rex dinosaur)