Showing posts with label Wisconsin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wisconsin. Show all posts

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Your Lego Star Wars Rancor pit

This past weekend (Feb. 8-9, 2014), we purchased and put together the Lego Star Wars Rancor pit. It's from a scene in "Return of the Jedi."

We found the Lego set at Target in Eau Claire. I had intended to buy some Legos for you and spotted this one on sale. You were excited to put it in the shopping cart!
You started putting together the kit when we got back that afternoon to Grandma and Grandpa Bignell's. I finished it off while you worked on your fire truck Lego set.
The set had a gate that moved up and down and two secret compartments. It came with Luke Skywalker, the Rancor, the Rancor's keepr, and one of Jabba's guards as Lego people.
You took the Lego character swith you back to your mother's place but I kept the Rancor pit!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Our Saturday, Feb, 8, 2014

I had a great time with you today, Kieran! After picking you up at Caribou Coffee, we made a quick jaunt to the Dollar Tree in Hudson for sports books stickers then headed to your cousin Bryan's house for his brothday party. Shortly thereafter, we went up to Action City in Eau Claire (where the Terminator game unfortunately was broken) and then over to Target.

At Target, we picked up a Star Wars Lego set, among other items, and headed back to Grandma and Grandpa's. We spent the rest of the afternoon putting together the Lego set and playing games, including chess! I'm impressed with how quickly you're picking up the game, specifically how the pieces move!

We also listened to lots of oldies, particularly my collection of songs from 1964-66. I remember how after hearing the TV theme to "Car 54, Where Are You?" you hummed the tune for the rest of the afternoon!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Our day together on Jan. 25, 2014

Playing with the new racetrack toy, Jan. 25, 2014.
I had so much fun with you on Saturday! We began the day by stopping in Hudson, where we stopped at the Dollar Tree and picked up football/basketball/baseball stickers, then at Target where we picked up BeyBlade tops and Lego kits, then at Culvers for lunch, and finally at Walgreens for football cards!

Then we went back to Grandma and Gandpa's where we looked at all of the football cards, put together the Lego sets, and placed stickers in our NFL book. Then we put togther and played quite a while with our racetrack set!

We also took some time to look at your report card. I am very proud of you - your grades and conduct improved across the board from first to second quarter!

While enjoying an early dinenr of hand sandwiches, we played Trouble and Hi-Ho Cherry-O. On the ride back, you watched the opening episode of Jonny Quest on my Kindle Fire.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Our day together sledding and playing

Playing Beyblade
I had so much with you on Saturday, Kieran! Our few hours together went by so fast!

We started the day snow tubing on the bunny hill at Badlands Snow Park near Hudson, Wis. You might recall they had these all ropes you could use to ride up the hill. After that, we went inside the warming house and played foosball.

Then we went to Target and picked up some Beyblade materials and basketball cards. We disccovered during lunch at Culvers that the basketball cards cube we got was a rip-off, so we went back to pick up a big pack!

We spent the afternoon at Grandma and Grandpa Bignell's and played games, went through our NBA cards and NFL stickers, enjoyed a Star Trek phaser adventure on a derelict alien ship, and opened up a pack of Star Wars action figures (the making of Darth Vader set).

I can;t wait to get back together with you!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pictures of us when we were 6 years old

On my Facebook page I recently posted a retro photo of myself - my first grade picture, taken in autumn 1972 for my elementary school picture. I was 6-3/4 years old.

I posted the retro picture because my cover photo is of you ... from autumn 2013 during our visits, when you were 6-1/2 years old.

We look a lot alike - even have the same early Beatles mop top hair cuts, don't we?

When I was six, I lived on a small farm east of Elmwood, Wis. I attended Elmwood Elementary School. My first grade teacher's name was Mrs. Rhiel. I shared a room with my brother, and the room was turquoise,. My favorite football teams were the Miami Dolphins and the Green Bay Packers! I loved to watch Star Trek, and would catch each weekday after school from 4 to 5 pm on WKBT-TV out of La Crosse, Wis. My best friend in school was Ronald Wolfe. When my parents went out for the evening, usually our next door neighbor, whose name was Hazel, babysat us.

I am very proud of you and love you more than anything, Kieran!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Our time together on Saturday, Nov. 16

At Grandma and Grandpa Bignell's,
Nov. 16, 2013
I had so much fun with you today, Kieran, as did the rest of the family. Everybody was so happy to see you again after all of this time. I thought I would take this entry to recap our day together.

We started with Uncle Chris and me picking you up at Caribou Coffee in Woodbury. Then we stopped in Hudson, Wis., where we went downtown to the bookstore. There you got some "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" notebooks and a football book. After that, we went to KFC and picked up lunch.

Following that, we went to Grandma and Grandpa Bignell's farm, where you got to meet the entire family and where we had lunch. We spent the afternoon playing games with your cousins Bryan and Rebekah and coloring. After they left, we played with Hot Wheels cars while listening to the Beatles and wrapped up the afternoon with dinner while playing Battleship.

From there, we traveled back to Woodbury and while waiting for Grandma Deb to pick you up put stickers in your NFL sticker book!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My time as a first grader

I'm so proud of you that you're in first grade! You've just started a great adventure in your education. Though it doesn't seem that way now (And won't for a long time!), this time in school will go very fast, so make the most of it.

I went to first grade at Elmwood Elementary School in Elmwood, Wis. My first grade teacher was Mrs. Rheil. We had about 60 kids in my class, so there were two classrooms of first graders. My best friend, Ronald Wolfe, was in my class!

Everybody in our classroom had to put on a sock puppet show, with a classmate, about what our dads did for a living. Ronald and I were partners. He got really nervous when our turn came, as we hadn't written or practiced anything, like some of the other kids had. I told him not to worry and to "just follow my lead"!

We did great! We just each pretended to be our dads and had the class entranced. The teacher even called both of our parents and told them what a great job we did with the sock puppet show!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Your visits to the state of Wisconsin

You and your Uncle Chris at your birthday party
at Grandpa and Grandma Bignell's in 2008.
One other state that you've been to - and after California and Minnesota is the state you've spent the most time in - is Wisconsin (My home state!).

You've been to Wisconsin twice. The first time, from Dec. 11, 2007, through early September 2008, you lived with Grandpa and Grandma Bignell on their farm in Knapp, Wis. I have lots of pictures of your stay there!

Then, in October 2008, we drove on I-94 from the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport to Baldwin, Wis. Along the way, we stopped at the visitor center in Hudson, Wis. (The center no longer exists.), and I got some Green Bay Packers football cards for you there!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

My email for week of July 14-20, 2013

Here is my letter to you for July 20, 2013, in case you do not receive it.

Hi Kieran,

How are you doing? I am doing fine, though I miss you very much! I did not receive your email this week – could resend it to me, please?

How has summer school been going? What kind of things are you studying? Have you finished learning about the presidents and which ones are on money? There are a lot of presidents to learn about, aren’t there?! In a previous email, I told you about my favorite president, Abraham Lincoln. Do you have a president that you like or admire more than the others?

What kind of stuff have you been doing for fun this summer? When I was a little boy your age, I lived on a farm near Elmwood, Wisconsin, and spent my summers playing outside. We had a big pile of sand that I could run my trucks and construction toys through all day long! I also liked to check out all of the animals on our farm, which were kept in different buildings. We had cows in the barn, two pigs in their own little shed, chickens in the chicken shack, and cats in our hay mow. Sometimes I also visited my best friend, Ronald, who lived next door. We thought it was amusing that both of our names started with the letters “Ro”!

Do you have plans to go to the State Fair later this summer? It doesn’t start for another month or so. It always is a lot of fun – there are carnival rides, farm animals, interesting displays, and lots of great fair food like cotton candy and corn dogs. I have not been to the State Fair in many years, and I hope you get to go since you live so close to it. The fair is held in St. Paul, and it’s much bigger than the Los Angeles County Fair that we used to go to in Pomona…you may not remember that fair, though, as the last time we went you were just three years old. Here are some pictures of it. 

Another great event in Minnesota held each summer is the Renaissance Festival. That is when people dress up like they live in the Middle Ages in England. People back then had castles, and there were knights! The festival also has lots of fun shows you can go to and neat costumes and toys you can buy. We went to a few Renaissance festivals when we lived in California; at one of them, you got a Robin Hood cap. At another one in San Diego, you dressed up in a knight costume! I hope you can go to the Renaissance Festival in Minnesota!

How is your baseball throwing and catching coming along? If you like, I will pick up a softball for us to toss to one another when we get together. The visitor center has a playground area outside that we can go to and safely throw the ball without worry about breaking windows. Just let me know!

We now get to see each other every other week, and we next get together on Friday, July 26 – that’s in just six days! I can hardly wait to see you again! I’ll bring the tote full of new stuff for us to do and with some of our old favorite standbys in it as well. Let me know in your next letter if there’s anything special toys or books that you would like me to bring.

Well, that is all for now. I love and miss you very much! I’ll see you on Friday!



Friday, July 5, 2013

Playing on pirate ships at parks

Pirate ship at the Maritime Museum
in San Diego.
A few days ago I was in Cumberland, Wis., to give a book reading, and while driving past the park there, saw a cool looking pirate ship among the playground equipment. That immediately made me think of you!

Pirate ships often were a staple of our playgrounds. There was one at the City Park in Lancaster, Calif., though the one in Cumberland looked cooler as it looked more like an actual ship.

Often when we played on the regular playground equipment, we'd pretend it was a pirate ship. One memory that really comes to mind is us doing that at Cottonwood Creek Park in Encinitas.

And of course there was the pirate ship inside a sailing ship at the Maritime Museum in San Diego! That had a helm and a pulley to lift cargo on and off the ship.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Grandma and Grandpa Bignell's anniversary

Today is Grandma and Grandpa Bignell's anniversary. They have been married 48 years! That's a long time!

They met in spring 1964 while on a high school class field trip in Madison, Wis. They went to different schools but during the field trip ended up in the same elevator together! The next year, they got married!

They lived a few different places as getting their footing, but since March 1974 they've lived on their farm outside of Knapp, Wis.

I wish you were here to enjoy the anniversary celebration with them. They do, too. They took care of your for several months from mid-December 2007 through early September 2008. We all look forward to the day when we can be together again as a family.

Here's a link about them on our family website.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Our picture is in a bunch of bookstores!

This weekend your face is gracing book covers at a number of book stores across northwest Wisconsin!

My latest book, "Headin' to the Cabin" has been getting a lot of attention, and a number of businesses have asked to sell the book. Whenever they do, I try to talk them into also carrying my other hiking guidebooks - "Hikes with Tykes" and "Hikes with Tykes: Games and Activities" (And they usually take them!).

The two "Hikes with Tykes" books both feature a picture of you on their covers. One has a picture of you on the Manzanita Trail in the Angeles National Forest and the other shows you at Vasquez Rocks (Or what you call the Kirk Rocks!).

The books with you photo on the cover are on sale at Wisconsin book stores or outfitters in Hudson, Eau Claire, Cumberland, Spooner and Cable! I also have books on sale in Stillwater and Menomonie, but they don't carry the "Hikes with Tykes" books. :(

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Your name/pic is in the newspaper!

Your picture and name appeared in Wednesday's (May 15's) St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper! The newspaper ran article about my recent hiking book, "Headin' to the Cabin."

The article included a picture of us when you were just two years old when we were hiking Red Rock Canyon State Park in California. It also describes how to came to write my hiking books because of our experiences together and notes that the book is dedicated to you.

In just a couple of weeks, I'll be reading a hiking essay, which includes you in it, at three bookstores. The stores are in Stillwater, Minn., and Hudson and Menomonie, Wis.

I've saved a copy of the newspaper article for you to have one day. But the article also appears online.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Going to Germany with Guard in 1986

During college, I took three weeks off and went to Germany! It wasn't a tourist, though; my National Guard unit went there on a three-week training mission called REFORGER in January 1986.

The idea of the training was for us to go through the experience of being called to active duty and serving in Europe in case of a suspected Soviet invasion of western Europe. At the time, the Untied States and its allies in the West were engaged in a Cold War with the Soviet Union.

After spending a couple of days at Fort McCoy, Wis., we flew from Camp Douglas, Wis., on a C-130 to Belgium. Along the way, we stopped at an airport in Maine and in the Azores!

From Belgium, we were flown to our base in Grafenwoehr, Germany, and then sent into the field. Our position overlooked a pass through two low mountains near the West German-Czechoslovakia border that would be a major invasion route for the Soviets if they entered the West.

We also got a day off to tour a town. We went through an old castle that was several hundred years old and walked through a German town.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

You having fun with Grandma Bignell

You might remember that I earlier wrote that Grandma Bignell gave me a whole bunch of pictures of when you spent the winter and summer with them during 2007-2008. You also might remember that I couldn't find any pictures of you and Grandma (probably because she was the one behind the camera).

Well, I found one! It was buried behind another picture in the photo album. So I've posted it here!

I'm not certain when it was taken, but it would have been between mid-December 2007 and early September 2008. That's when Grandma and Grandpa Bignell raised you at their farmhouse in Wisconsin.

I'm not sure what you two were doing, but you sure looked to be having fun!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A picture of you and Grandma Bignell

In all of the pictures Grandma Bignell gave me of the time you lived with her and Grandpa Bignell, there weren't any photos of you and her together! That's probably because she took all the pictures!

I finally remedied that oversight on Friday. Here's a picture of her with you from that day.

Grandma Bignell was born after the Second World War in Eau Claire, Wis. She grew up in rural Fall Creek, Wis., and graduated from that village's high schoool in the mid Sixties. She married your Grandpa Bignell about a year after graduating; they were married in Arkansaw, Wis.

She spent most of her life as a homemaker and running with farm with Grandpa Bignell. She did earn a CNA license later in life, though. She loves to gardan and some of her most pleasant memories are of you helping her in the garden by wearing the plants when you stayed with her.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

States that you've visited so far

As you've gone through these pages, you've probably noticed that you've been to a lot of places. So today I've made a list of all of the states you've been to (and tried to include the dates you were there, if I could remember). The list doesn't include states you flew over in an airplane - you had to actually touch the ground and go into a building that was sunk into that state's soil!

Here's the list:
>>Arizona (Sept. and Oct. 2008)
>>California (Feb.-Dec. 2007; Sept. 2008-May 2012)
>>Colorado (Sept. and Oct. 2008)
>>Iowa (Sept. and Oct. 2008)
>>Minnesota (Dec. 2007; Sept. and Oct. 2008; May 2012-current)
>>Nebraska (Sept. and Oct. 2008)
>>Nevada (Sept. and Oct. 2008)
>>Oregon (Aug. and Sept. 2007)
>>Utah (Sept. and Oct. 2008)
>>Wisconsin (Dec. 2007-Sept. 2008)

You've been to 1 in every 5 states so far, and you're only six!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Photos of you when you were a year old

Over Easter, Grandma Bignell shared with me all kinds of pictures she had of when you were about 10-17 months old! You lived with Grandma and Grandpa Bignell from December 2007 to September 2008 on their farm outside of Knapp, Wis. In September 2008, you came back to California to live with me in Santa Clarita.

At above right is a picture of you with Grandpa Bignell and your cousing Rebekah. She is six months older than you and in kindergarten, too! The picture was taken at Grandma and Grandpa Bignell's house.

I am so glad to have all of these pictures of you. While I had a few, I now have tons of them!

Grandma Bignell also shared with me old family pictures of her grandparents and other ancestors. I have a website listing your family tree, but it's only of your grandpa's side of the family - researching that has been so time-consuming that I haven't had time to post your grandma's side!

Friday, March 29, 2013

Sorry that we won't see each other today

I was looking very forward to seeing you this afternoon, Kieran. I don't think I can express enough to you how much I miss you and long for the times when we are together. You're the kind of a son that every father wants, and I've always been very proud of you.

You need to know that I did not cancel our planned visitation today. You also should know that no reason was given by the visitation center as to why our visitation was canceled, and no offers were made by the canceling party to reschedule it.

Did you know that one year ago today I called you from Wisconsin! I had flown back to the Midwest to move Jane out to California. Jane and I spent the day getting together with people we hadn't seen in a long time, including Grandma and Grandpa Bignell.

They so wanted to see you, and Jane and me had tried to come up with a way to bring you on the trip. But we ultimately decided that it would be awful complicated to do, and the long drive back to California would get boring very quickly for you.

But I did promise Grandma and Grandpa Bignell that I would bring you back to Wisconson on vacation to see them. It's a promise I have yet to fulfil, but it is one I will keep - after all, I also promised you that one day I would bring you to their farm to meet them. And I always keep my promises!

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!