Thursday, February 28, 2013

My forensics experiences in school

As a preschooler, you always liked to play act and participate in plays whenever we went to theater programs at the library or at any of the many great places we visited (especially Disneyland). That you weren't much afraid of speaking in front of others doesn't surprise me much!

Why? Because when in school I often participated in speaking contests. During high school, I was in debate and took part in a number of FFA and other agricultural speaking contests.

Once I got to college, I competed in intercollegiate forensics. You give speeches in front of others and then judges decide who gave the best one - you or your competitiors. I excelled in speeches that you had to make up on the spot; they were called extemperaneous and impromptu speaking. My college also had an honorary forensics society - Delta Signma Rho-Tau Kappa Alpha - of which I was president!

Maybe one day you will go out for forensics or theater, too!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My favorite book about spaceships

You might have gathered from all of the astronaut and space stuff I always purchased for you and all of the cool space and air ports that we visited when together, that I really like spaceships! That's why today I'm sharing with you the cover of one of my favorite books.

It came out in 1977 or so, and I begged my mom to order it for me. It was called "Starlog Spaceships" and had pictures of cool spaceships that appeared in movies and TV shows. It also included a little information about each one.

Why did (do?) I like spaceship so much? Well, I grew up at the time when we were trying to reach the moon, so rockets and spaceships like Gemini and Apollo (and then the space shuttle) always were on television. My favorite TV shows were "Star Trek," "The Six Million Dollar Man" and "Planet of the Apes," and they all had spaceships in them (Or did I like the shows because they had spaceships in them?).

One of your favorite books as a toddler was "Spaceman Sam", which was about a little boy who pretended when he got up in the morning that he was in a spaceship! It had all of these wonderful tabs that could be pulled so you could pretend you yourself were running the spaceship just like Spaceman Sam. I still have the book and can't wait to show it to you!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

RVs, So Cal roads/hikes and Seve Austin

Last night I watched a DVD of "The Six Million Dollar Man" and was taken back to all of the drives and hikes we took around Southern California. The episode involved Steve Austin driving around an RV, and bad guys were trying to capture him.

The countryside they drove around looked alot like the area around Agua Dulce, Calif., near Vasquez Rocks (though the "Kirk Rocks" never were shown) and the an area north of Santa Clarita in San Fransquito Canyon. We've driven and hiked both areas! But the episode was filmed in 1977, and the area has changed a lot in the past 35 years!

The RV also brought back memories of you. I'll always remember how much you liked to go to RV shows and check out those cool "homes on wheels"!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Today is George Harrison's birthday

Bugstock, March 25, 2012
Today is the birthday of George Harrison, who used to be your favorite Beatle. He would have been 70 years old!

Although Paul's songs ("Til There Was You" and "Love Me Do") first interested you in the Beatles, once we started listening to their CDs, you always wanted to hear George's songs. I'm not certian why! Not that they're bad songs at all (They're actually quite good!), but some of his tunes are a little far out compared to what Paul and John wrote.

By about hte time you turned four, though, Ringo became your favorite Beatle, and you'd always ask to hear his songs! I even made a compilation of his Beatles and solo songs that you often listened to on my computer.

Who is your favorite Beatle these days?

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Going on to college (in 12-1/2 years!)

Award I received in college.
Where will you go to college?
Today is the first full day that you are six years old! You ae growing up very fast. Soon you will be in junior high and then high school and then on to whatever you choose to do in adulthood.
I hope that your first choice will be to go on the college. You are a very intelligent and creative young boy, and those are the very characteristics one needs to do well in college and to succeed in life.

These days, there are very few jobs one can have or dreams one can achieve without a college education. What you study there does not matter so much as you study something that you feel passionate about.

I thoroughly enjoyed going to college and have two degrees. My first is a Bachelor's degree from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in which I studied English, journalism and education. About a decade later, I earned the next higher degree, a Master's Degree, from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in English and education.

College may seem like a long way off, but I'm looking forward to that day when you walk across your university stage and are given your degree (also known as a diploma). I will be so very proud of you!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

My email to you on Feb. 23, 2013

Here’s the email I sent to you on Feb. 23, 2013, just in case you do not receive it:

Happy birthday Kieran!

Congratulations on turning 6 today! Do you have any big plans – a birthday party, maybe going to Chuck E Cheese for dinner? Don’t tell anyone your wish after you blow out your birthday cake candles or you’ll jinx it!

I remember the day you were born very well. I was working as the editor of the newspaper in Crescent City, Calif., where we lived at the time. Your mother had a doctor’s appointment in Eureka, Calif., the next biggest town which was about 80 miles away down the coast. She called me around 5 p.m. and told me she was being admitted to the hospital there and you probably would be born that night!

I was all giddy yet nervous as heck about being a new father! You’ll understand one day when you grow up and become a father yourself. So I went home and changed and got a bag of clothes and started driving toward Eureka. It was dark by the time I hit the road, and as the highway between Crescent City and Eurkea skirts the ocean, we were getting rain. Then, as the road climbed to some higher elevations through the coastal mountains, it started to snow! I had to drive super slow. Did you know that the night I was born, my father also had to drive through snow on his way to the hospital?

Finally, I reached the Eureka hospital close to 8 pm. We waited and waited for the doctors to decide what to do. Around 11:30 pm, they wheeled your mother into the delivery room.

You just missed being born on Feb. 24 by one minute! You came into the world at 11:59 pm, about 10 inches tall and weighing 7 pounds, 7 ounces. You had a tuft of dark hair with reddish tints to it and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen!

After a few minutes, they wheeled your mother to the recovery room, and I held you for a whole hour while I waited for the nurses to bring back your mother. I talked to you, and you listened very intently, and feel asleep a couple of times. I guess you’d had a big day!

That night I wore a very special shirt that I still have and am keeping for you. It was a gray T-shirt with a patch for Gemini VII, the spaceship that was in orbit around the planet the day I was born. My mother says she remembers that being in the news. The big news the day you were born was a train derailment in England and the U.S. Army agreed to give up control of the South Korean Army. The No. 1 song was “Glamorous” by Fergie.

I look forward to seeing you in just a few days – we get together next Friday on March 1! As Easter comes before we get together again in April, I will bring your Easter basket. Please bring your report card with you on March 1. Since it has not been emailed to me, I presume your mother does not have the hardware/software to scan it into her computer. But a photocopy of it can be made at a library.

I miss you very much!



Friday, February 22, 2013

My very first model kit ever

While going through lots of old photos, I found this one that brought back lots of good memories from my childhood - and reminded me of you!

It's the cover for the box to my first ever model that I bought and put together - the "Star Trek" exploration set. It included a communicator, a phaser and tricorder that you could put together. They were great toys to play with as a kid (I was 10 and bought it the summer of 1976)...except eventually my communicator flip top broke, my dog took the phaser in his mouth and carried it off (crushing it in the process), and the tricorder I later put a radio in.

Later in life I replaced all of those toys with better quality models - models that you also loved to play with as a toddler and preschooler! You'd pull the tricorder over your shoulder and carry around the phaser in one hand and the communicator in the other. We'd go on a "landing party" of our own and play "Star Trek" in the house!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

My service in the Army National Guard

My name tag (top), rank (bottom left) and
unit insignia (bottom right) from my uniform.
You might remember from our days of playing with toy soldiers that I mentioned I was in the Army. I think you once even used some Army stickers to create a picture of me!

I joined the Wisconsin Army Naitonal Guard in December 1982, when I was just a junior in high school! The following summer, I went to boot camp in Fort Benning, Ga. When I came back, I did my senior year of high school in 1983-84 and after graduating went back to Fort Benning in summer 1984 to complete boot camp with my Advanced Individual Training course.

My job - or "MOS" - was 11Bravo, meaning infantryman. I served at the armory in Menomonie, Wisconsin, and eventually reached the rank of sergeant. For a couple of years, when I lived in New Mexico, I served in the New Mexico Army National Guard in Deming. I got out in July 1997.

I am very proud of my service and of all others who've served, no matter what branch (Though the Army is the best!). Should you one day decide to serve in our nation's armed forces, I will be very proud of you, too!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A rose of hope from our cherished past

Here's another old photo I stumbled upon, one of a blooming rose in a row of flower bushes that grew in front of our house when we lived in Lnacaster, California (You always called it the "green house" because it was painted green!). I believe htis photo was taken in September 2010.

For me, this blooming flower is a symbol of hope of when we'll be able to see one another again, unfettered by the lies others have told. We've shared a lot, my son, and though some hate me so much that they're willing to hurt you by keeping us apart, I know that one day truth and justice will prevail.

When that day finally arrives, the first place I will take you is to where I grew up, so you may meet your Grandma and Grandpa Bignell, who also have suffered from other peoples' hatred because they have not been able to see you. If we are there in spring, summer or early autumn, one thing you will notice are all of the wonderful flowers your grandma has planted. It is quite impressive, and the varieties all are native Wisconsin plants that attract quite a number of birds and butterflies. There are no roses, but the blooms are beautiful nonetheless.

I love you, Kieran!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Remember seeing SpaceShipTwo?

Standing on front of SpaceShip Two,
"a pretty cool spaceship" as you described it.
Two years ago today you got to see what probably will be the first privately owned spaceship to take people into space!

Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo was on display at the Mojave Air and Space Show in Mojave, Calif. This event was a monthly air show and fly-in that we usually tried to attend.

It was a very cold day, though! We didn't stay very long because we both were freezing (as the picture above shows).

Still, I couldn't pass up on the opportunity to see such a historic craft. SpaceShip One became the first prviately owned spaceship to carry people into space and was laucnhed from this air and space port several years ago.

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

Monday, February 18, 2013

Birds and other animals on Grandma's farm

I remember how much you like birds when growing up - you loved to hear them sing and watch them fly whenever we went on hikes or into our backyard. Perhaps it was just because your were a toddler and preschooler, but I suspect we share a love of nature.

You would like visiting Grandma and Grandpa Bignell's. They have a lot of bird feeders, and so there are birds galore in their yard, even during the winter. We have a dozen red cardinals, a dozen bluejays, a woodpecker, and a bunch of smaller birds that I think are called junkos. In the fields surrounding the house are red-tailed hawks and bald eagles.

There are lots of other animals, too. We have a family of bunny rabbits that live in the yard. Deer also come up to the house and during the warm season can be seen in the fields The gold of sunset makes their brown bodies almost glow in the distance. For a while, we even had a woodchuck living nearby (Can you say "How much wood can a woodhcuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood" three times really fast?)!

I can't wait to show you all of this and enjoy watching all of these animals with you!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

'Star Trek' book makes me think of you!

This past week I've been reading a most wonderful book about a mother and her two sons who all became "Star Trek" fans and the lessons in life they learned from the TV show. They discovered a lot about themselves, their love for one another, and the world around them as they watched the show together and went to places like "Star Trek" conventions to enjoy their newfound common interest. The book was called "Love Letters to Star Trek."

In many ways, their adventures reminded me of stuff we had done together. For example, we'd go to Vasquez Rocks (which you called the "Kirk Rocks") and climb around where the Gorn and Captain Kirk fought or where our intrepid captain fought the Klingons. Another time we went to the air show in Mojave and met the actor who played Worf (He signed your Worf action figure!).

And of course we played and played "Star Trek," taking our action figures on adventures, sometimes playing "monster" that attacked our crew members, other times having them explore strange new worlds.

I can;t wait until you're a little older so we can discuss the finer points of "Star Trek" and go on even more adventures together!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My email sent to you on Feb. 16, 2013

Here is my email sent to you today, just in case you are not allowed to see it:

Hi Kieran,

How are you doing? I’m doing fine, though I miss you terribly. I can’t wait to see you again on March 1!

Did you have a great Valentine’s Day party at school? Did you to exchange valentine cards and have fun snacks? What kind of valentine cards did you hand out? When I was a little boy your age, I always wanted to give out “Star Trek” valentine day cards, but they didn’t sell any…highly illogical, if you ask me.

How is school going? What kinds of things are you learning about? Kindergarten today is much different than what it was like when I went to school. Back in my day, most of our time was spent playing with only maybe an hour or so actually doing school work. We also had nap time. I didn’t always like nap time because it interrupted my playing!

When we did art projects, especially painting, we had to wear “aprons” so we didn’t get paints on our clothes. Do you know what we used for “aprons”? We got to wear one of our dad’s old shirts that he no longer wanted! We’d put the shirt on backwards so that it entirely covered the front of our clothing.

Have you had a chance to visit places like the zoo, museums or amusement parks in Minneapolis-St. Paul? I would love to hear about your adventures. I have not really done any of that as I’ve been going to lots of book stores and coffeehouses where I promote the books I’ve written.

I bet you are very excited about next week as it’s your birthday! I can’t believe you’re six already! Do you have a birthday party planned? Last year we celebrated your birthday at Chuck E Cheese in Lancaster. You might recall that you received a Transformer and an art supply set for gifts. We had lots of fun playing all of the games. When we are together again, we’ll have lots of fun celebrating your birthdays. Grandma and Grandpa Bignell always throw special birthday parties for their grandchildren in which they invite over the whole family, make a special meal, have a big birthday cake, and exchange presents. Your cousin Bryan just had a birthday a couple of weeks ago. He turned 13 and got a wallet, Legos, cash and cards galore.

Before closing this letter, I want you to know that I love you very much. I always have loved you and always will. I know this is a very difficult time for you, and I am working very hard every day to resolve this situation. I always have enjoyed our time together and look forward to the many, many fun days we have ahead together.

One way to help us through this time is for us to exchange emails. Unfortunately, I have not received any emails from you for the past seven weeks. I know you want to write emails back. Perhaps this week your responses to my emails will be sent to me as you wish.



Friday, February 15, 2013

Getting together on Wednesday nights

One year ago today we got to spend the evening together. It was a Wednesday night, and I picked you up after preschool. I was living in the house off of Avenue K in Lancaster at the time.

We had a great time playing with all of the new toys we'd picked up since Christmas; I remember us having adventures with the "Star Trek" action figures and the Sheriff Jack cowboy set we got at the Hart Ranch gift shop. We also built play lasers out of the old wooden and plastic tool kits I'd bought for you long ago.

While being with you always brightens my day, that night us getting together was particularly nice. Jane had just spent the previous week with me, and I dropped her off at the airport that morning so she could head home. It was a bittersweet morning, but at least I had you to look forward to later in the day. Thanks for being such a wonderful son!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day, Kieran!

I hope you're enjoying the day. I bet there's a big Valentine's Day party at school today!

Here's a Valentine's Day memory from when I as close to your age (in first grade). The weekend before our school Valentine's Day party, I was so excited about it that I took the valentine cards I was to hand out to my classmates and started filling them out in secret. My mom wanted so much to do them with me and was so mad - mainly because rather than useing the class list the teacher sent home, I just started writing names, misspelling a bunch of them and not making out cards for some of my classmates (I forgot they were in my class!). So my mom had to go through them, sort them all out against the class list, make me finish filling out cards to some and rewriting the names correctly on others!

I wish we were together for Valentine's Day! I love you!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Early morning drive to your preschool

A year ago today you woke up in a hotel room in Santa Clarita! You'd spent the weekend with Jane and me (We were staying in Santa Clarita so we could visit sights in L.A.), and we had to get you to preschool because Monday had arrived!

While I went down to get us all breakfast, Jane woke you up. I came back and got you all washed up, and we enjoyed some muffins and juice (well, I enjoyed coffee) while Jane got ready. While I loaded up the car, she dressed you for school. You looked like the coolest kid that day in preschool!

On the drive to Lancaster, you fell asleep in the car. We had to get up really early because your school was an hour's drive away! When we left, the sun was just beginning to come up.

After dropping you off at school, Jane told me what a great little boy you were and how much fun she had with you. I think she felt like the luckiest woman in the world that morning.

I know I certainly felt like the luckiest man, for I had a great girl friend and the best son one could ever wish for!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Our trip to cowboy museum, L.A. Zoo

One year today we took a trip with Jane from our Santa Clarita motel to the Autry National Center of the American West and to the Los Angeles Zoo at Griffith Park in L.A. While you and I had been to both places lots of times before, this was Jane's first big visit to California, so we had a grand time showing her around.

At the museum, we spent a good amount of time playing on the Old West set (a picture of the area where you can apper in a film is shown here). Then we had fun playing in the bungalow house and the Chinese restaurant in the museum's lower level. You made Jane and me "lunch"!

After that, we went to the zoo, where we we saw flamingos, gorillas, zebras, giraffes, tortoises, chimps and spent some time at the playground.

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

Monday, February 11, 2013

Our big weekend in Santa Clarita

A year ago today (Feb. 11, 2013), we spent the weekend in Santa Clarita staying in a hotel with Jane. We had a grand old time playing "Star Trek" with one another at the hotel, which had doors opening to the outside and was on two levels. You and I snuck around the floor and down the stairs looking for Klingons as we played with our phasers.

That evening, we went to Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurant where the three of us enjoyed a big Italian meal of lasagna and your favorite, tiramisu. You might remember that we had a long wait, but you and Jane (who you'd just met for the time the night before though you'd spoken several times with her on the phone) got along swimingly and kept each other entertained. Watching you guys get along so well was a lot of fun for me!

One of my favorite photos ever was one taken of the three of us at the dinner table - you made the silliest face for it! The photo on this posting is the seocnd photo taken in the series; I have to unpack the actual photo and get it scanned in one day.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Recall your Imaginext space robot?

Do you remember your Imaginext space robot? It was a toy you had as a preschooler when we lived in the green house in Lancaster.

It was a tall figure in which you could place an astronaut who then would manuever the robot around, usually when exploring a planet!

Typically we played with this space robot when playing with the Imaginext space station. Our astronaut in his robot suit would go out and exploring only to be attacked by a space alien! Sometimes our astronaut won, sometimes he didn't.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My email to you on Feb. 9, 2013

Here is a copy of email sent to you on Feb. 9, 2013, in case you do not receive it.
Hi Kieran,

How are you doing today? I’m doing fine, but I miss you very much! I wish we could spend the day together. Unfortunately, I did not receive the response to my email, though. Please have your mother resend it, along with your emails from the previous six weeks that have yet to arrive. I also would like to see your report card, so please make sure that comes with your email. If your mother is unable to send emails, perhaps she could simply snail mail your responses to me. I look forward to reading them!

What are you learning about in school? The last you told me, you were studying letters and the sounds they made; I think you were up to the letter “L”. I bet by now you are up to the letter “S” or “T”. You are in a very smart class – when I went to school, we didn’t learn letters and their sounds until first grade!

What kind of math stuff are you learning? In kindergarten, we learned how to count to 10 and about shapes. But I taught you to count and about shapes long ago, so I bet you must be learning something different now – either that or you must be finding you math class very easy!

You also said you were studying the solar system. Did you know that in just a few weeks something from the far reaches of our solar system will light up our skies? In mid-March, we should be able to see a comet at sunset. On March 12, look to the west where the moon will be. Then look to the left of the moon. The comet will look like a streak of white cloud. Hopefully March 12 won’t be cloudy!

Have you read any good books lately? I finished editing the book in which the mean captain stole his old submarine in San Diego so that no one else could go on it. But another guy sneaked on board the submarine and stopped him! The submarine was returned where it belonged.

Another good book I have read is “The Biggest Valentine Ever,” by Steven Kroll. It’s about two mice, named Clayton and Desmond, who decide to make a valentine for their teacher. But they start arguing about how to make the valentine! Will they ever be able to get along so they can finish the valentine? You will have to read the book and find out. I bet either your school or city library has the book.

I have purchased some card games, like Old Maid and Go Fish, that you asked if we could play the last time we are together. We next get time we get together, on March 1, I will bring them. I’ll also bring the fun sticker board game we had with the rooms and family. I also have that replacement birthday present for you!

That is all for now. I love and miss you very much! Happy birthday on Feb. 23!



Friday, February 8, 2013

Our 'Six Million Dollar Man' DVDs

I have been spending the last few nights watching old "Six Million Dollar Man" episodes on DVD. I'm up to season 4, having started to watch the show when we were still together in the green house in Lancaster.

You were utterly fascinated by the box that the DVDs came in. Besides having a hologram on the top of the box that showed the Six Million Dollar Man running toward you, when you lifted the lid a recording went on that recited the show's opening words: "Steve Austin, astronaut, a man barely alive...(etc.)" You loved to open that lid again and again and puzzled over exactly how words could come from a box!

One other "Six Million Dollar Man" memory I have of you: Whenever the opening sequence ran, there are a couple of seconds where a doctor, with his back turned to us, is watching Steve Austin run on a set of monitors. You'd always ask, "Who is that guy? Why is he doing that?!" and get really exasperated by it!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Recall your Imaginext helicopter?

Do you remember your red Imaginext helicopter toy? We had hours of fun playing with it when you were a preschooler!

It came with two guys who had the letter "R" on their shirts. Though it stood for "Rescue", you thought it meant "Robin" of Batman fame because Robin had an "R" in a circle on his shirt just like our helicopter pilots! So you always claled it "Robin's helicopter"!

The neat thing about the helicopter was that it had a string on a winch that could hang from the door and attach to a gurney. When one of our characters was injured in a "fire," we could place that person on the gurney, pull them into the helicopter, and then take off to the hospital! Usually this character was a girl from a Playmobil set whose hair we lost, so she looked like she had a head injury!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Recall your 'Hikes with Tykes' hoodie?

Wearing your Hikes with Tykes hoodie.
Remember your cool Hikes with Tykes hoodie? In summer 2011, I published my first book, called "Hikes with Tykes," which was a guide to hiking with children. To help promote the book, I had some shirts made up with the book's title over the left breast.

I had a black T-shirt and sweatshirt. For you, I got a gray hoodie.

It was a perfect little item to keep you warm - it had pockets in the front that you could tuck your hands into and a hood that you could throw up over your ears in case there was wind.

I shall have to order a new hoodie or some other shirts with my book title or cover on it for you to wear!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Recall the Peter Pan book reading?

A year ago today, we went to Disneyland together. Since we'd gone so many times before, we both were in the mood to find something different to do. And we did!

For the first time ever, we went to the robot show which was near the House of Tomorrow. Then we went to the house of Tomorrow itself and played some video games we'd never done before.

But then we fell back on some old standbys., most notably participating in the Peter Pan show. Do you remember playing with the cannon on the ship-shaped bed they had in the Peter Pan room (see the picture at right)? We'd gone so many times to the show that you virtually had it memorized!

And, of course, you participated in the Jedi Academy training and got to battle Darth Vader! That was such a constant of our Disneyland visits that often the rides and shows we went to revolved our the Jedi Academy show schedule.

Here's a whole bunch of pictures from our visit that day!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Recall your Mystery Machine toy?

Since you loved Scooby Doo so much (You always asked to watch the DVDs!), I tried to find toys from the series for you to play with. One of them that we had was the Mystery Machine!

The action figures we had from Scooby Doo (I still have them, btw!) fit into the Mystery Machine. We usually would have it roll up in front of the haunted house and then have the gang disembark from the van and explore the creepy old house, where they'd run into all kinds of problems and hijinks!

The back of the van opened up and had a net in it to capture monsters and ghosts. It didn't work very well, though, so we often dispensed with that.

Another thing we did with Scooby Doo was print out monsters from the series and tape them to blocks so that our gang had baddies to battle! 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Remember your yellow submarine?

Do you recall your Imaginext yellow submarine? We had lots of fun playing with it when you were a preschooler. It was yellow jst like the submarine in the Beatles song!

The submarine shot "missiles" and had a sliding door so we could put people inside it. Putting your hand inside the sub to set people, though, was a little difficult because the door was so small.

We often used the submarine as a "spaceship" when playing, mainly because there really was no way to get it to "underwater" when pretending.

The submarine was one of many "sea toys" you had. You also had a fishing boat and lots of ocean animals. The guys and their diving gear from the submarine were great for playing with our our "sea toys"!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

My email sent to you Feb. 2, 2013

Oct. 4, 2011, San Diego, Calif.
Here is my email sent to you on Feb. 2, 2013, in case you do not receive it:

Hi Kieran,

How are you doing today? I had so much fun with you on Friday! It was great making the animal puppets, sharing some of Grandma’s baked goods, and playing with all of the toys. I am sorry that I did not bring any of the card games with me, but I will do so next time we get together, which is scheduled for March 1.

One way we can keep in touch until then is through email. As we discussed on Friday, you have the right to email me each week. I look forward to your response to this email. In that email, please send me a copy of your report card. It is very important that both of your parents know how you are doing in school.

Wacky Week at school sounded like a lot of fun! My elementary school didn’t have dress up days, though we got to do them when in junior high school (That’s when I was 12!). One of my favorite days was “Twin Days” when you and a friend dressed in the same kinds of clothes so you both looked alike! Believe it or not, coordinating all of that with a friend was very complicated. It sounds like the costumes and fun hats you and your friends wore took some creative thought, too!

I’m glad you liked the new stickers and play mats of the family’s house. I shall bring that back the next time we meet. We’ll have to come up with some names for the family members. Playing with our old cowboy gang of Sheriff Jack, his horse Luke, the Deputy, Calamitous Jane, and Baby Kieran (Whaa!) was a good time, too.

Do you remember the Russian submarine that we used to go into at San Diego? It was the one where people called each other “comrade” when talking to one another in it (I’ve attached a picture of you standing next to the sub). Anyway, I am editing a book now about the submarine. In the story, the submarine’s former captain decides he wants his old ship all to himself rather than allowing others to visit it, so he and a few mean guys steal it! I can’t wait to find out how the good guys get the submarine back.

Have you read any good books lately? I have. It was called “One Zillion Valentines” by Frank Modell. It’s about two friends who decide to make a valentine card for everybody in their neighborhood in hopes that people will send them back a valentine. Their goal is to receive one zillion valentines! I bet your school or city library has the book if you want to check it out.

Are you enjoying Minnesota’s snow? I understand that we are supposed to get some more this week. I bet you’ve gone sledding, maybe at school? Where I went to elementary school, we had a sledding hill behind our building and went sliding every recess during winter – except climbing the hill took a lot of energy, so we were all tired when we went back to class!

Well, that is all for now. I love you and miss you very much. I look forward to reading your email to me this week!



Friday, February 1, 2013

Foreign countries I've visited

West Germany, January 1986
One of the things I've not done as much as I would like to as an adult is to travel to other countries. There are many great sights to see and experiences to be had across the world. In addition, I'd like to visit the places our ancestors lived and visit locations that have greatly influenced our thinking.

I hope you will have the chance to travel to other countries when you are older, and I encourage you to do so when you have the opportunity to in college.

What countries would I like to visit? Just about every one! But topping the list are England, France, Italy, Greece and Australia. Spain and Canada would be cool, too.

Here's a list of the countries I have been to. All were with the Army in January-February 1986 except for Mexico, which I visited in 1992-94 and then again in 2006:
>>Azores (Portugal)
>>West Germany (got to see the East German border, though!)