Stink Bugs Do Have A Natural Enemy!

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.  ~John Muir

Stink bug close up Aunt Heather PiperI’m no expert on stink bugs, but I’m certainly no stranger to them either.  The weather in western Pennsylvania has been fluctuating lately, from snowy cold days, which is normal for January, to sunny abnormally warm days reaching the 60s.  Sometimes this temperature range happens within 24-hours.

Besides unfavorable road conditions, the up and down weather is tricking the stink bugs into an early spring.  The warmth draws them out to make their appearance in droves.

Annoyed with these stinkers, literally, I was curious about them, since I don’t remember the critters from my childhood.  Evidently, the stink bug were accidentally introduced into Pennsylvania, Allentown to be exact, in the mid-1990s.  They’re native to China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan.

Presently, the stink bug can be found in most states and are now posing a real problem with the fruit and vegetable farms.  The stink bugs feed on these plants as well as weeds and tree leaves.  Okay, now we’ve gone from annoying to a true issue.  Stink bugs don’t scare me as per say, but the thought of their ultimate damage doesn’t settle well with me.

Now some fun facts.  Stink bugs can lay 20 to 30 eggs, leading to developed adults within 35 to 45 days, in optimal conditions.  In the lifespan of a female stink bug, she can lay four hundred eggs.  That explains a lot.

From what I’ve read, these pests are impervious to insecticides.  Although, I’m not a fan of toxic remedies, especially when pesticides are harming the bee population.  I’m also not a fan of distributing the ecological structure of an area to deal with a single pest.  Sure, there’s more natural solutions such as soapy water, however, I don’t think that’s a reasonable solution for large farms.  What to do with the stink bugs?  I guess that’s the ultimate question.

Stinks bugs in mason jar Aunt Heather PiperI read an article on the consideration of introducing a parasitoid wasp, which is a primary predator to the stink bug, to solve the problem.  NO!  That’s not a solution.  That’s a recipe for an even bigger problem.  Instead, I have an idea.

Chickens!  Really?  Yes.  Since you can’t squash, frighten or even disturb a stink bug without it secreting its foul-smelling order, which seriously turns my stomach, I started collecting them.  Well, not in the collectible coin fashion, but rather for a food supply for my feathery friends.

Idiotic solution?  No more than using toxic chemicals and infesting the area with wasps.

Sure, stink bugs have always been a nuisance, but when they started flying into me while I slept, disrupting my sleep and freaking me out when I felt them walk across my skin, I had enough.  Using basic common sense,  I began capturing the smelly buzzing bugs in a pint size mason jar with a lid.  Originally, I started trapping them with the intent to kill the bugs behind glass doors, so to speak.  However, I realized they served a better purpose.  The chickens LOVE the stink bugs.

They do!  The chickens are now accustomed to the jar and flock toward the little protein crunchies.  It almost makes me want to find more stink bugs to deliver.

I’ve never read about chickens as a solution to stink bugs, but why not?  Now’s the time to get creative, through natural means.  Perhaps find safe traps for the stink bugs and deliver the tasty meal to some farm animal.   There could be other stink bug predators that are native to each area to use.  I don’t know if chickens could be the ultimate solution for farmers, but it might be a nice try.  This would also ensure we no longer have an egg shortage like we did a couple years ago.  Now that’s solving two problems at once, productive.

Anyone have a better solution?

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posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts and have No Comments

Honoring a Fallen Friend With Music – Please Donate

Music, once admitted to the soul, becomes a sort of spirit, and never dies.  ~Edward Bulwer-Lytton

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Kyle & his fellow sousaphone members performing Nemesis 2016

I’ve talked about Chaperoning the Kiski Area Marching Band and being a band chaperone.  I truly love being apart of this organization, not only for Kyle’s sake but for all the students who work so very hard.  They’re a great group of students, staff and parents.

A few months ago, I was asked to take over the Kiski Bands social media.  Did I accept?  Of course.  I was honored to use my marketing experience and skills to help promote this talented and dedicated group.  Even though I’m still in the process of systematizing their online efforts, I was able to finalize a press release, one that needs to be shared far and wide.

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Kiski Area Marching Band performing Nemesis 2016

This past June, I addressed Dealing With Loss, the tragic accident that claimed the life of Nicholas Ursiny, a member of the Kiski Area Bands and a friend of Kyle’s.  I’m no stranger to tragedy, loss or grief, and I know nothing can truly ease the sadness when dealing with this emotionally powerful trio, but there are numerous ways to work through the heartache.  Many times God presents opportunities to help us heal and cope, and this one comes in the form of music.

The band directors and the student leadership collaborated to present a unique and truly inspirational opportunity for everyone to be involved and honor a young man, taken too soon.  How?  Through music of course.  The Kiski Area Bands is in the process of collecting monetary contributions to commission an original piece of music to honor Nick.  Once the music is completed, the bands will present this tribute in concert, open to the public for all to hear and enjoy.

This memorial will last a lifetime and beyond, and could touch the lives of countless souls, even those unaware of its origins.

Please help the Kiski Area Bands fulfill their mission of honoring one of their own through music.  All donations, made in any increment, may be made to:

KAIB (Kiski Area Instrumental Boosters)
c/o Nicholas Ursiny Memorial Commission
P.O. Box 124
Vandergrift, PA 15690
www.KiskiBands.org

I hope the next time I talk about this personal tribute, it will be while listening to the piece of music written specifically for Nick.  This gesture, however original and appropriate, won’t heal the hearts of those effected by Nick’s death, but it does give the students, teachers, staff and parents a goal to work towards and night of celebrating Nick’s life for all to hear.

Below is the original press release.  Please contact me at Heather@AuntHeather.com with any questions, suggestions or inquires.  Thank you in advance for taking the time to hear this story.

Kiski Band Raising Money for Nicholas Ursiny Memorial Commission

Nick Ursiny, a Kiski Band Member Passed Away In a Tragic Accident

December 14, 2016 – The Kiski Area Bands from Vandergrift, Pa. need help to complete their goal of raising $5,000 to commission a new piece of music composition in memory of Nicholas Ursiny, a Kiski Area Band student who tragically passed away in June. Thanks to generous donations, the Kiski Area Bands have raised approximately $3,500 and is asking to help close the gap for this unique memorial. Donations may be issued to KAIB (Kiski Area Instrumental Boosters) www.kiskibands.org/contact.

Nicholas Ursiny, a student at the Kiski Area High School, was going into his sophomore year. He was a member of the horn/mellophone section in the Kiski Area Bands and played French horn in the concert bands before a tragic accident claimed his life this past June. To keep the spirit of Nicholas alive, the Kiski Marching Band student leadership worked with directors, Robert Traugh, Chad Heiny and Shawn Pityk, to develop the idea of honoring Nicholas through a piece of commissioned music.

“This project is simple and heartfelt, offering the opportunity for all who were shocked by this tragedy to create a lasting memorial through music to a life lost too soon.” said Robert Traugh, Band Director of the Kiski Area Bands. “Nick was a valuable part of our organization and was truly missed this past season.”

Donations from friends, family, students and faculty have been gratefully received. Neighboring bands, Norwin, Gateway, Connellsville, Highlands and Mars, have paid their respects and generously donated to the Nicholas Ursiny Memorial Commission.

“The band is a close-knit community of passionate and talented individuals. While we compete against each other; we’re all family and we fully support each other.” Traugh replied. “We’ve been blessed with many donations and we hope to begin the process for this musical tribute and engage a composer soon.”

Information on the commissioned composer will be available as soon as the completed funds are available. Members of the Kiski Area Bands will premiere the piece of music in concert, open to the public.

For more information on the Kiski Area Bands including a list of events, concerts and competitions visit www.kiskibands.org.

About Kiski Area Bands

Kiski Area Bands, apart of the Kiski Area School District is from Vandergrift, Pa., about 35 miles northeast of Pittsburgh, Pa. Kiski Area Bands is a student organization lead by Band Directors Robert Traugh, Chad Heiny and Shawn Pityk and is comprised of students from grades five through twelve. The Kiski Area Marching Band is a division of the Kiski Area Bands consisting of students from grades ninth through twelfth.

KAIB (Kiski Area Instrumental Boosters)
P.O. Box 124
Vandergrift, PA 15690
www.KiskiBands.org

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posted by auntheather in Church,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Patience and have No Comments

Vote Informatively – Election 2016

Love lights more fires than hate extinguishes.  ~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

Our country is torn in two, at least that’s what it seems.  Although, is it really that different from the 1860 election when Abraham Lincoln ran against his opponents Breckinridge, Douglas and Bell?  As much as we honor and respect Abraham Lincoln, he didn’t carry the popular vote.  In fact, he wasn’t liked by many people, hence his assassination.  However, in present day, most agree he was honest and tried to do right by all the American people, even though it wasn’t acknowledged until much later in textbooks.  Did you know Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president?  Fun fact.

Now, going back in time, to the near past, one that I remember when George W. Bush ran against Al Gore in the 2000 election.  That was a very close race.  I’d like to say the 2016 elections reminds me of those days, yet the attitude is very different.  We seem to be truly divided down the middle, desperately in need of a leader to unite us.  Although, that doesn’t worry me.  In fact, it seems to be a repeating theme throughout history, regarding war, politicians, laws and even art.  What is disturbing, are the verbal attacks, lies and disrespectful actions of our candidates, some more than others.  That’s what makes this election classless and in poor taste.

As a nation, we’ll never have one hundred percent agreement on anything.  That we can to agree on, that and the idea of simple respect needs to be practiced more.  I’m not talking about compromising morals and what’s right as to not hurt another person’s feelings.  I’m talking about being honest, direct, listening and reacting with truly good intentions and selfishness.  Tall order right?  It is, but not impossible.  I’m referring to our candidates toward each other, the candidates toward the people (becoming humble and always being honest and truly doing what’s right) and the people toward each other including the media.

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

On a side note, when did reporters stop doing their research and begin believing rumors and bringing their own personal opinion to the front page?  Reporters need to be held accountable for their work and their actions.

What I’d like to see is a responsible and honest election.  Let the people actually have a vote.  I guess I should correct that statement with saying living people (yes that’s not such a subtle dig on those who are using our deceased to sway the election).  Again, disrespect for the deceased, the families, and our country as a whole.  I personally don’t like my rights being taken away by such actions.  We have an obligation to show the rest of the world what a true republic is and how good honest actions prevail.

After this election, history will be remembered slightly differently, depending on the outcome.  Why does time change a situation?  Or does it allow us to reflect and learn?  I remember studying history in school and being taken back when I learned our soldiers returning from the Vietnam War, after risking their lives for our country (most drafted), were treated with hatred and anger and disrespect.  Of course that’s not in fashion now, thankfully.  Now my next biggest question, is it because it’s what’s trendy and popular or because it’s what’s right?  Again, I see history repeating itself and instead of using common sense and respect, the trendy path is chosen.

Evey person has the ability to change history and change the path of our future.  Every person.  Every person has a choice to do what’s right and to think of others before themselves.  Everyone.  I’m not trying to sway anyone.  I’m simply asking people to stop lying for others, stop being deceitful, and stop any illegal actions (that’s another tall order), starting with election fraud.  Stop the violence when you don’t get your own way, stop the disrespect and start working together for a better future.  No one wins when hate takes the reins, but we all win when love is in our hearts and actions.

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

On another side note, without pushing one candidate over another, I’ve found this pretty neat.  The Trump House in Youngstown, Pennsylvania.  Little old Youngstown, Pennsylvania has made major news for their part in the election.  Perhaps there’s a Hilary House somewhere, and if so I’d love to hear about it.  Since I’ve never heard of any, I’m going to focus on what I know, the Trump House.

I love the involvement and dedication that resulted in the Trump House.   The Trump House owners spent their personal money for signage and other promotional pieces to give away.  Now a days, people expect reimbursement or compensation for such actions.  The owners of the house are not pushy or loud, except the house decor certainly makes a statement.  They really want to educate and do what’s right for America.  That I can respect.  Again, perhaps there’s a similar place dedicated to Hillary.  If so, wonderful.

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Me & Kyle at the Sarah Palin rally Latrobe Airport 2012

How can anyone not appreciate the effort in this house?  I mean, they have a fifteen foot tall (I really don’t know how tall it is) picture of Donald Trump!  What a fun idea!  Since the creation of the house, they’ve had nonstop traffic from supporters visiting, getting their pictures taken and honking when passing by.  This is what America is about, freedom to choose and freedom of expression.  This is what makes election season exciting, certainly not all the bashing commercials on television, the radio and online.

Not to end on a negative note, but the Trump House has every right to decorate their building any way they want and to support any candidate they choose.  So why did they need to hire personal security to deter violence and vandalism at the Trump House?  Why did they get major backlash from people criticizing the way they spent their money?   This is what I’m saying, no respect.  If it was for Hillary, I’d think it was equally neat.

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Kyle standing in line at the Sarah Palin rally. I actually took him out of school to join me. Latrobe Airport 2012

The house has been dedicated to the Trump campaign since I believe this past summer, and it took the Tribune until this past week to write a story on them, hidden among the pages.  I always thought the news was to be unbiased, but all I’ve heard are opinions running through the media, for both sides, again some more than others.  The majority of the news is obviously swayed to one side.  It’s still not right and basic propaganda, similar to Hitler’s tactics.  He used media to reinforce his ideals and he targeted children and the younger generation who were easily swayed.  Let’s get back to practicing respect, the truth, common sense, and good old-fashion morals.

Personally, I’ve always tried to involve Kyle as much as I can with the news and historical milestones, trying to avoid negativity and reinforcing good moral decision making.  In the past, I’ve taken Kyle to rallies.  I’ve even taken him into the voter’s booth with me.  I wanted to show him what to expect when he got older, and I tried to set the example of having an educated and sincere voice.

On Sunday night I asked Kyle if he wanted to come vote with me this year.  I was denied before I even got it out of my mouth.  He’ll come around with his own opinions when he’s older.

I’ll certainly be voting tomorrow, and I’ll be praying tonight for God to lead this country in the right direction.

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posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Chaperoning the Kiski Area Marching Band

Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.  ~Ursula K. Le Guin

Great job Kiski!  Everyone worked really hard and it showed.  I knew you guys could do it!

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A very drenched Kyle on the bus after the football game at McKeesport … boy does he remind me of his Dad 10/7/16

Saturday, the Kiski Area Marching Band participated in the Bands of America competition in Newark, Delaware.  How did Kiski do?  They took first place at preliminaries and second place overall, out of 27 top bands from the east coast.  They brought it and then some.

While I chose not to chaperon the Delaware trip, I’ve been honored with chaperoning pretty frequently throughout the season for football games and competitions.  Do I mind?  Not at all!  I love being involved with Kyle and supporting his interests and activities.  Plus a big bonus, the band kids, the band parents and the staff are wonderful people who are working to make this group the best it can be for each and every child.

Does Kyle want me chaperoning?  I really don’t think so, but the more I’m around the band, the more he’s acclimated to my presence, and the more he seems to accept it.  I try to give him his space, but sometimes I just can’t help myself, I want throw big hugs and kisses his way.  Trying not to overstep my bounds, I’ve ambushed him with a few hugs and a few waves, and certainly many shout outs during performances, but that’s it.  Anyone who knows me, knows I’m showing restraint.  I just love my sousaphone player and I’m very proud of him!

Now that Kyle’s older, sometimes it’s hard to see his Piper family influence.  Then, a situation happens that shows his roots. Once being the Latrobe verses Kiski football game.  It was at Latrobe.

I met the band at the Latrobe Memorial Stadium, which saved me a lot of driving.  As I waited around, waited around, waited around, I had a sneaky suspicion they got lost.  Knowing Kyle wouldn’t answer me, I texted him asking to give them some guidance to the stadium.  Just then, I get a return text saying We’re here.  While reading the message, the buses rounded the corner, everyone except for the equipment truck, who went to the high school.

Later I found out, during their travels a bus broke down and they got a late start.  It happens.

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Kyle in the Kiski Area Marching Band – performing Nemesis at Deer Lakes High School 2016

To offer a very rare assistance, (I’m very directionally challenged) I let the parents know I’m a Latrobean and I know the area very well.  In fact, I’ve traveled the route from Delmont to Latrobe too many times to count.  In addition, I informed them they had a secret weapon among their group, Kyle.  I made sure the parental crew was aware Kyle knows his way around Latrobe with absolute certainty, and if needed, they could lean on him to bring the entire marching band into Latrobe.  That’s when I received news that melted my heart.

The one mom told me Kyle was on her bus offering his assistance letting her know he’s from Latrobe.  That’s my little man!  Naturally, she was confused until I explained that I’m from Latrobe and Kyle has always lived with us half-time, until the band consumed his weekends.  (That brought a laugh from everyone.  It’s true the band is very dedicated and they practice a lot, which builds good character.)

I’m glad Kyle is apart of this group, but I do worry about him.  Not only in band, but in all aspects of his life.  During the beginning of the season, a few parents mentioned to me that they were concerned for Kyle.  Since the tragic passing of his friend Nick, Dealing With Loss.  Kyle took it hard.  Understandably.  What really melted my heart, besides the idea of Kyle suffering inside, was the heartfelt thoughts and concerns from these parents that I hardly knew.  They also stated an unknown fact, Kyle and Nick always sat together on the bus.  My poor Kyle.  What a constant reminder of the passing of a friend.  A few parents confessed to trying to talk to Kyle about Nick, but Kyle brushed them off.  I greatly appreciate their concern , and trying to ease Kyle’s pain.  Thank you!

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A very pensive Kyle on the bus to a Wednesday Competition. 9/21/16

Moving past the sadness, now a funny story that might have indirectly helped Kyle.  While I was in the auditorium between performance for the Gateway competition, I happened to stumble onto a conversation with a group of students in close proximity.  Being a nice bunch, I couldn’t resist, I showed them my wallpaper of me and Kyle at Legofest on my iPad.  The kids didn’t make fun of Kyle, but they were very excited to discover his childhood.  Ironically, the one student took a picture of Kyle earlier on the bus sleeping.  Naturally, I couldn’t pass it up, so I asked him to text it to me.  That was my little man, he looked exhausted.

The following week for a Wednesday competition, I received another mysterious text message, another picture of Kyle.  It kind of broke my heart.  He was sitting by himself, not talking to anyone, simply looking out the window.  It was almost a lonely picture.  Granted, every student on the bus could have been in that mood, or it was for a brief moment, or Kyle needed some quite time, but it still emotionally got to me.  I thanked the band member (I’m trying to keep names out) for the picture, saved it, and moved on.

Since my first encounter with those band kids, they’ve been calling me Aunt Heather, respectfully, and have been sharing stories about Kyle.  Nothing malicious, simply fun interactions with Kyle, stories they knew I’d appreciate.  Shortly after the previous picture was taken, the one kid told me he sat with Kyle on the bus.  Smiling and acknowledging his actions, I was grateful.  I don’t know if that’s what Kyle wanted, and I’m sure the student spoke of me during their bus ride, which Kyle probably wasn’t keen on, but it was a nice gesture.

Week after week, pictures began beeping across my phone showing a very different Kyle.  He was sincerely enjoying himself.  Several of those pictures of Kyle smiling and having a good time has since become my favorite.  I don’t know if one action is tied to the next, but if Kyle’s happy, who cares?

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Me & Sharon at the McKeesport game… chaperoning in the rain. 10/7/16

Without chaperoning, I wouldn’t have known about the bond with Nick and Kyle, I wouldn’t have those behind the scenes pictures, and I wouldn’t be apart of Kyle’s life that means so much to him.  Driving an hour to chaperon (plus going home), those long nights getting in late, and all day competitions were all worth more than I can verbally express.  Plus, I’ve gotten to know some stellar people, band chaperons and band staff.

Keep in mind, I’m not the chaperone superhero, not even close.  Those band parents, moms and dads, are really dedicated to their child(ren) and the band.  They go way above and beyond, making soups, arranging lunches, back and forth to practices, fundraising, helping with the equipment, even assisting with field setup and exiting.  They are extraordinary people.  I’m blessed to know them and to have them around my beloved Kyle.

Thank you!

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posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Travels and have No Comments

I Met Leigh Bardugo!

When people say impossible, they usually mean improbable.  ~Leigh Bardugo, Siege and Storm

Anything worth doing always starts as a bad idea.  ~Leigh Bardugo, Siege and Storm

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Me & Leigh Bardugo at the book signing for Crooked Kingdom – South Euclid-Lyndhurst County Public Library, OH  9/28/16

This past Wednesday, I had the honor of meeting Leigh Bardugo.  Who is she?  If you have to ask, you just don’t get it, and you’re probably not into young adult fantasy fiction.  If that genre strikes your fancy, then I suggest diving into her world straightaway.  You’ll thank me later.

Leigh Bardugo is the New York Time’s Best Selling author of the Grisha Series (Shadow & Bone, Siege & Storm, Ruin & Rising) and the Six of Crows.  She was doing a book signing for her newest release, Crooked Kingdom, the sequel to Six of Crows.

How did I find out about this book signing?  When I heard Crooked Kingdom was being release this September, I immediately went to Leigh Bardugo’s website.  There, I reviewed her events and books signing gigs.  It was at that moment, I started plotting my adventure.

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Leigh Bardugo book signing for Crooked Kingdom – South Euclid-Lyndhurst County Public Library, OH 9/28/16

Where was she?  There were only a few locations in which she’d be in close proximity to me, Ohio, Maryland and Pittsburgh.  To be honest, I actually looked at all the states and their corresponding dates, to see if I was doing an event with Thrill of the Hunt around the same time.  Alas, nothing was easily working in my favor.  Pittsburgh would have been ideal, however she was one of several speakers at the YALSA event at the convention center on November 4th, and it wasn’t a book signing. Incidentally, I would like to attend the weekend activities with YALSA.  That might be a near future possibility, and a last minute decision.  Next on the list was Ohio, only because the date was a day before the release of Crooked Kingdom, and I couldn’t wait.  I was acting like Kyle, my nephew, when he was a kid and a new Lego was being released.

Initially, when I Googled the location of the book signing, it informed me that it was going to be about an hour and a half trip.  I can handle that.  However, on Wednesday, I called to confirm the evening’s book signing activity, and to ensure they did have copies of Crooked Kingdom for purchase.  I also retrieved the address to GPS.  That was when my jaw dropped.  Keep in mind, I was excited beyond words and I was leaving in plenty of time without rushing or stressing.  What happened?  The GPS said it was going to take me three and a half hours to get there!  What?  I must have previously Googled the branch location.  Yikes!  I was already going to be late.  Did my newest obstacle stop me?  Nope! I darted out the door and put the peddle to the metal.

Where did I go?  I ended up at the South Euclid-Lyndhurst County Public Library in South Euclid, Ohio, across from Notre Dame.  It was a long trip, but one worth it.

I arrived without incidence, but was ten minutes late.  Anyone who knows me, knows I absolutely detest being late, for anything.  Regardless, I scurried into a room full Leigh Bardugo fans without missing a beat.  It was an eclectic assortment of individuals, mostly young adults, but also a variety of ages and genders.  Naturally, Leigh was on time and was in the middle of talking about the book and other projects as I crossed the threshold. Crap!

Prior to Wednesday, I read that DC Comics was teaming up with some writers for a four book collection based on superheros.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw Leigh Bardugo was writing the Wonder Woman book.  Can my days get any better?  I love reading her books and now she’s writing a book about my childhood idol!  Life is just getting better and better every minute!

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Leigh Bardugo speaking to her fans & answering questions for the release of Crooked Kingdom – South Euclid-Lyndhurst County Public Library, OH 9/28/16

Before meeting someone of influence and highly respected, there’s always a bit of anxiety.  Let’s face it, we’re all human, and no one is perfect.  There’s that slight chance that person may not be what was envisioned.  Was that the case with Leigh?  Not at all.  The minute I caught up to her conversation, I felt like she was already a friend.  I know that sounds a bit stalker, but it’s true.  She’s saucy, sarcastic, colorful, straight forward, and hilarious.  We’re practically sisters!  She’s the friend you call to go out for a drink, take a road trip or when you need cheering up.

After Leigh spoke and answered questions, we moved into the signing stage of the evening.  As I walked toward the table, I saw the heavens opened up and light streamed down onto Leigh with Crooked Kingdom in hand, like the heavens were pointing the way.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t a religious experience, but I did feel like a kid meeting a rock star.  Seriously?  Yes.  It was a mix between meeting this very cool chick I just heard speaking to the room full of fans, and the desire to jump back into the world of Kerch and Ketterdam, its capital. (Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom)  Yes, her books are that captivating!

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Leigh Bardugo signed my copy of Crooked Kingdom (plus Shadow & Bone & Six of Crows) 9/28/16

Naturally, I grabbed a few of my books for Leigh to sign.  I was going to take them all but I chose against it, I didn’t want to seem like a super fan, even though I just drove three and half hours to meet an author I praise without reservation, even when no one asks.

Believe it or not, after reading the Six of Crows, I reached out to Leigh’s literary agent, to see if I could obtain copyrights to do a Grisha/Six of Crows themed scavenger hunt.  I was instantly and nicely denied.  But in my eyes, that doesn’t mean forever.  Before taking on my midweek road trip, I meant to grab some literature on Thrill of the Hunt to give to Leigh.  Well, I left in such haste I forgot.  I did have a business card, like any good business owner.

During my own personal two minute encounter with Leigh, I mentioned that I reached out to her literary agent.  And you know what?  She seemed very excited, and then asked if I was a writer.  Leigh’s comment actually threw me for a loop.  Of course, for normal people that would be a typical reason for reaching out to a literary agent.  Actually, I wrote a couple books, but nothing published.  Now it was my turn to throw her for a loop.  Briefly, I informed her that I own Thrill of the Hunt and I make theme scavenger hunts.  I mentioned I would like to do a scavenger hunt based off of her books.  For a second time, she had a twinkle of intrigue in her eye.  Then discreetly, (actually not so discreetly) I pulled out my business card and slid it across the table to her, where she graciously tucked it with her purse.

Will anything come from this meeting?  Who knows, but it sure was fun.

Just before I turned into a pumpkin at midnight, I stumbled into my bed.  I was exhausted, yet really excited to crack that book and jump into the twisted and yet exciting story of Kaz Brekker.  I really don’t have an addictive personality, and I can’t say I have any vices, except maybe my books.  Actually, only certain stories can capture my attention and chain my hyperactive antsy bum to a chair.  Leigh Bardugo is one such author.

I was going to take Kyle along, even though he never read Leigh’s books.  If I can get that Kyle off of those video games long enough to read her books, I know he’d really enjoy the story and enjoy the Grisha world.  Why didn’t I take Kyle?  He’s very busy with school and band, and I didn’t want to keep him out late on a school night, especially to meet an author Kyle will only appreciate down the road.  One day when Kyle returns to the land of enjoyable reading, and not just for school, we can hit up a few book signings.

Taking on adventures in made up worlds is so very relaxing to me and keeps me energized.  I have an addiction to traveling to these mysterious lands, and fighting for the good in people and for simple love.  Fantasy keeps me in check with reality.

Now I seriously can’t wait for Wonder Woman.  On a side note, I should have worn my Wonder Woman shirt!

Leigh Bardugo was donating 10% of her book sales from the Troublemakers Tour (9/29 – 10/10) to GEMS, and Macmillan Publishing was matching her donation up to $3000.

Leigh Bardugo Website:

Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (GEMS) mission is to empower girls and young women, ages 12–24, who have experienced commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking to exit the commercial sex industry and develop to their full potential. GEMS is committed to ending commercial sexual exploitation and domestic trafficking of girls and young women by changing individual lives, transforming public perception, and revolutionizing the systems and policies that impact sexually exploited youth.

10/3/16 –  As I was wrapping up Crooked Kingdom, which is a great book, I had papers shoved in the book that fell out and made me think of an addendum to my story above.  While Leigh Bardugo was opening my books to sign, a few receipts and papers fell out.  Naturally, I apologized and then I felt like I should explain, so she didn’t think I was a junk collector.

Whenever I’m reading a book I tend to drag it along with me wherever I go.  Typically, during that time, I find myself taking care of daily activities that sometimes require waiting, such as getting an oil change, sitting at the veterinarian’s office, flying to a new location, and so forth.  Usually, I collect paperwork from those instances.  I intentionally place certain documentations among the pages of my book.  Granted, I can’t leave everything, or it would be a big pile of miscellaneous papers, but I do add a few select items, sometimes.  Why?  Those unrelated pieces of information are record keepers.  My books record my history in a sense, of what I was doing when I read them.  So the next time I re-read the book, it’s like a walk down memory lane.  Plus, one day if Kyle decides to take adventures into my books, he might find it interesting to see my past, even though it’s usually nothing exciting.

I’m also the one who likes to write in the margins of my books, especially if I know someone is going to read it after I do.  I like to make silly comments, or add inside jokes based off of the story.  It’s another way for others to share in my adventure, and I in theirs, because no matter what it, these entries stop a person in their tracks and sparks conversation.

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Family,LEGO's,Milestone,News,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

Is Kyle Aware?

To truly be committed to a life of honesty, love and discipline, we must be willing to commit ourselves to reality.  ~John Bradshaw

kyle-in-band-football-game-9-2-16-aunt-heather-piper

Yes, that’s Kyle with the backwards baseball cap! Go Kiski! 9/2/16

Kyle is a full blown teenager.  And with that status, there are certain acceptable and some non-acceptable aspects to that age and stage in life.  I get it, I do.  However, how do you know when the line has been overstepped into disrespect, not only because of the teenager status but due to outside influences?  And how do you correct it, especially since it’s being disguised and hidden as a teenager?

Personally, I can handle Kyle and his attitude.  He’s human, and a growing young man who’s trying to find his own path in life, and searching to adulthood.  I respect all of that, and I always make myself available to Kyle for guidance and support, whether he likes it or not.  My love for Kyle surpasses all that and beyond.  Granted, I don’t tolerate disrespect, but I do forgive and love unconditionally.  It’s no secret, I’ve reiterated these thoughts to Kyle a time or two, or three or four.

Is Kyle aware he likes to be difficult?  I guess all teenagers do to a certain extent, or at least they will.  I did, maybe not at the moment, but upon reflection, I did.  Again, normal growing pains, I understand and accept but shear snottiness I don’t.  Honestly, Kyle is a good kid.  How do I know?  I have proof!

Last Friday was the first football game of the season.  I was asked to do my “parental” duty and chaperon the band.  Gladly!  Keep in mind, I don’t do this for myself or for any other reason other than to spend time with Kyle and support his interests.  Driving an hour to and from the school is not my ideal way to spend a Friday night, plus being responsible for a group of teenagers.  I do it because I enjoy seeing Kyle happy, as well as the other kids.  I do it because family is important and sometimes that means going out of your way to being apart of it.  I don’t get paid, I don’t want recognition and I don’t need any special perks.  I love volunteering and being of assistance.  (I had to go into that dissertation because I was accused of such things when I became a band chaperone.)

How does this prove Kyle is a good kid?

Taking the long way to get the point, I have an example.  Trying to give Kyle respect and keeping my distance, I didn’t bother him at all on Friday, until just before the game was ending.  My Dad asked to see if Kyle would come home with me and I’d take him back the following day after a party he was invited to, near his house.  When I made my way to the top of the bleachers to talk to him, Kyle was just plain snotty and miserable.  He was a little crapper.  In fact, I had to look him in the eyes and say, “Be nice Kyle.”  I never yelled, or caused a scene, but I was stern to show not to push me.  Kyle’s response?  He continued with the major attitude, rolling his eyes and putting up walls.  Again, I repeated, “I’m asking you to be nice.  Just be nice.”  Kyle didn’t say anything but he certainly pouted and had a major attitude.  Not to stir an argument, I left him alone and retreated back to the band parent section.

Upon my return, the one mom, whom I’ve known since Kyle was little, (her daughter and Kyle have been in the same grade since elementary school) ask me how my talk went.  Now it was my turn to roll my eyes.  When I reiterated the conversation, she chuckled, knowing this teenage stage, but was also in a little shock.  She told me that Kyle is a very respectful and polite young man.  She’s never seen anything to the contrary come from him in public and towards parents or authority figures.  That I can live with!  I don’t want him to grow up to be a jerk to people.  I guess some influence has worn off and landed on Kyle.

Is Kyle aware he’s a pawn, and he’s being dramatically influenced, not for good?  That’s my bigger question.  The one question that truly keeps me up at night.  With teenagers especially, it’s easier to take the path of least resistance and the one that offers freedom, no accountability and less work.  Normal.  It’s not in Kyle’s best interest to support such actions, but understandable.  I know it’s also a normal response to want to dump added stress factors to make others happy, especially for a kid.  I get it.

How do you combat all that, not for ego, but simply for the betterment of a child?

I’m really not sure.  I guess me showing Kyle love, understanding and support.

close-up-of-kyle-in-band-football-game-9-2-16-aunt-heather-piper

I tried to get a pic of Kyle, but he wouldn’t let me. I had to sneak this one… Kiski Band 9/2/16

Recently, I had the honor and privilege of being offered some very good advice from a retired school teacher. (Once a teacher always a teacher)  She told me to keep doing what I’m doing, no matter what.  Keep loving Kyle and being there for him.  She also advised me to let him fall, metaphorically speaking.  She said if no one is supporting you and Kyle’s giving major resistance, let him crash and burn, even with school.  She continued, “He has to fail to figure out how to grow.”  She also commented that it’s hard to stand back and let this happen.  I completely agree with her logic, but it’s not easy.  My heart breaks when Kyle is upset, or messes up, or doesn’t do well in school or has a hard day.  I’m happiest when he’s succeeding, and content in life, and simply happy with God in his life.  I wonder if Kyle’s aware of all that?

I’m glad Kyle has the influence of the band.  They’re a great group of kids and the parents really care for them.  All their actions are selfless and out of love.  Seeing Kyle surrounded in that environment puts me at ease.

On another somewhat related but side note, I don’t know what it is about me that puts seriously insecure people’s insecurities into overdrive.  Is it because I’m not a nurturer and I don’t coddle or baby others?  Maybe because I don’t tolerate excuses and finger pointing, but instead offer solutions?  Is it because I set my standards high and expect the same from others?  Maybe it’s because I call people out on their lies and ulterior motives?  Either way, I know Kyle has struggles in making certain people happy for their own arrogance and control.  I wish I could help more.  Now onto the funny.

The funny?  You bet, it’s never a story from me without a bit of humor and adventure.  This time I have two funnies.

While the band was practicing, before marching to the stadium for the football game, the parents where helping tape up gloves, pour water and be of assistance.  Just before leaving, the band director was going through the songs and having the band rehearse.  As our yellow shirt group chatted among ourselves, watching the Big K (that’s what they call Kiski Band), the band director announced, “Cold Water”.

kiski-band-practicing-before-football-game-9-2-16-aunt-heather-piper

The Kiski Band practicing before the football game at home. 9/2/16

Just then, a few parents did an about face and headed for the area where the water was poured into cups, waiting to be passed to out to parched band members.  At that very moment, Diane, the head of the band chaperones, called over, “No wait, that’s the name of the song!”  What?  I about died laughing.  The band was playing Cold Water by Major Lazer and Justin Bieber .  To be honest, I was ready to head for the water too.  I couldn’t stop laughing.  It was too comical.

Now onto funny number two.

The band goes out before the game and plays the National Anthem and the school Anthem before returning to their seats in the bleachers.  Then, they do a few songs for halftime, plus they’re in the stands playing for every touchdown and for encourage.  All this playing builds up a thirst.  The band boosters serve cups of water.  Usually, we tray up the water and pass it out while the kids are entering the bleachers, and sometimes we wait and pass out refreshments while the students are already seated.

During this process, I made sure I stayed to my side of the bleachers, while Kyle was on the other.  Although, I couldn’t resist a funny idea I had.  I started to hand cups of water to kids who didn’t ask for it, and instructed them to pass it to Kyle.  I’m not talking about one or two cups, I asked Kyle about eight cups of water.  I don’t know why I thought that was so funny, but it was.  Some kids looked confused upon my request, until I flashed them an ornery grin (which I’m sure resembled Kyle’s).  Some students giggled, knowing what I was up to.

I told a couple of parents what I did and they started laughing.  I said, “Can you imagine him sitting there and everyone handing him a cup of water?”  I thought that was so funny.  I added, “Next time I’ll bring a marker and label his cups with a big old KYLE, LOVE AUNT HEATHER on it.”  The parents about died at that comment.  I thought that was clever, especially since Kyle wouldn’t talk to me.

I don’t want to embarrass him, but I do want Kyle to know I’m there for him and I love him deeply.  Believe it or not, the water is very symbolic with me and Kyle.  I’ve always encouraged him to drink water, and I’ve always made sure he was hydrated, his entire life.  His health was always important to me.  I love that little guy!

Good luck this weekend at the band competition.  It’s at Kiski.  Proud of you buddy, you look great!

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posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

A Visit to Google Pittsburgh… Continued

My life is like tofu—it’s what gets added that makes it interesting.  ~Angela Johnson

Google Pittsburgh Tour 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Our Google Pittsburgh Tour. Kyle, Duncan, Barb & Me Bakery Square 7/27/16

Last Wednesday, I took Kyle and his friend on A Visit to Google Pittsburgh to tour the facility as a birthday surprise.  Now I want to share my surprises and the details of the Google offices!

Yes, I knew the office would be Googled up, and fun, and unique, but what I saw blew me away.  First, I didn’t realize the size of Google Pittsburgh.  They employ about 500, and are planning on doubling that with the expansion of the new building.  Perhaps I had it in my head this office was the same office they originally occupied near Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).   Not that I was ever there, but I knew it was smaller.  Things have changed.

Google Pittsburgh is located in Bakery Square in Pittsburgh at the old Nabisco plant.  The office consists of seven floors of sheer fun.  There are no other words to describe it.  In addition to all the branding, which Google does it right, and the attention to detail, they’ve really honored Pittsburgh with the themes and designs.  Each floor has a different theme.  While I don’t remember which floor was which, and I don’t remember everything I saw, I’d like to give a general overview.

Floors

Kyle at Google Pittsburgh Candy bowl 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle helping himself to the candy bowl at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

As I mentioned each floor has a different theme.  There are seven floors total.  When you arrive in the Google lobby, you’re on the seventh floor and once you pass a secure door, the awesomeness is reveled.

One floor pays homage to Nabisco.  Each room is named for one of their products.  They even have a huge original mixer on the floor they kept from the old plant.  It sits near the pool table and pinball machine.

Another floor is dedicated to Kennywood.  There’s an actual roller coaster car in the lobby facing down the stairwell, enough said!  While walking about, they’ve incorporated ramps and railings and Kennywood styled signs to give it the feel of being in Kennywood.  It worked for me!

Another floor is dedicated to the bridges of Pittsburgh, again naming the rooms for each bridge.  There are design elements everywhere representing our beloved bridges.

One floor has the parks and trails theme, with bamboo dividers, rough cut wood paneling and total nature theme.  I mean they even have a live tree stretching up through one of the stairwells that connects two floors interrupted by an occupied floor.  Me coming from a family of loggers and woodworkers, I fell in love with that idea instantly.  I’d love to have a live tree for Thrill of the Hunt one day.

One floor captures the essence of our tunnels with hallways resembling the archways of a tunnel, the textured walls of cement and even the lighting gives you the feel of the Fort Pitt Tunnel or the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.  As you’re walking through the hallway, you almost feel like the cityscape of Pittsburgh should appear before your eyes at the end.

I wish I could remember the other details of the themes and the floors, perhaps it’ll come back to me.  I was in complete aw during the entire tour.

“Cafeteria”

As I mentioned before with A Visit to Google Pittsburgh, the cafeteria is a huge beautiful space with snazzy chairs, booths, real plates and silverware, and food stations.  All complementary for all employees and visitors.  They have a quality chef on payroll with a full kitchen staff.  Google doesn’t take this job lightly.  I heard it’s no easy task becoming a chef for Google.

Google Pittsburgh Roller Coaster ride 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Duncan, Kyle, me & Barb in the roller coaster on the Kennywood floor at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

In the corner of the kitchen they grow select fresh vegetables and herbs, to be used by the kitchen or the employees can help themselves.  One the roof of one of the levels, they even have laying chickens and more herbs growing.  Yes, real chickens someone takes care of and picks the eggs.  All the fresh ingredients are used in making the grub.  Great idea!  In fact, every food item at each station is labeled with the ingredients.  They’re even color coded according to taste and nutritional value.  The goal is to feed the employees healthy food, without it appearing or sounding healthy.

They have stations for hot foods and cold.  The kitchen staff is even on hand during the lunch hours to mix up your personal salad or serve your hot meals.  You can help yourself to fresh fruits, vegetables, water infused with a variety of healthy organic ingredients, desserts or even simply peanut butter and jelly.  They’ve got it all!  And it’s all unlimited for zero dollars!

The area is spacious and clean and very inviting.

During the tour we walked past not one, but several smaller kitchens and coffee shops scattered throughout.  You’re never more than a few feet away from a kitchen stocked with a variety of drinks (healthy and not so much), snacks, cereals and so on.  The kitchen staff stocks those smaller kitchens and coffee shop style areas of the building every day.  The Google employees are seriously hooked up.

No employee ever has to worry about bringing their lunch or snacks.  Google is also ensuring its employees are eating a lot healthier, at least that’s the goal.  It’s a proven fact that individuals who eat healthier are more alert, think better, have more energy and in turn can give back to their job.  Plus, Google just removed a major stress out of the day, what to eat?

Upon entering the lobby into the front desk area, I did notice (how could anyone miss it) a huge candy bowl.  Again, it’s a help yourself area.  When we walked in, Kyle immediately helped himself to some candy.  I gave him an “are you kidding?” look stating, “Did you ask before you helped yourself?”  His response?  “No, it’s here for anyone to eat.”  Trying to ensure he always uses good manners, I said, “Still, you should always ask first and don’t assume.”

Google even holds cooking classes in their test kitchen area for the employees.  They sometimes bring in celebrity chefs.  Wow!

Details

Google Pittsburgh lobby with Kyle Duncan Barb 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle, Duncan & Barb in the lobby at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

During our tour, Andrew, our tour guide, pointed out little corners of the offices, and side conference rooms to be used by anyone who needs a change of pace from their desk, or to meet up with fellow co-workers to discuss work.  It seemed like at every turn there was a sitting area or a mini escape from the daily grind.

While walking past a cubical section of the floor, watching our Google workers hard at making our lives searchably easy, Andrew pointed out a large hammock / jungle gym structure hovering over a corner of the work space.  He took us up there.  It was literally a huge hammock, suspended a floor above for anyone to sit and relax, take a nap or stretch your legs.  It lead to another private corner with a massage chair.

Speaking of massages.  They have a massage therapist on staff as another perk.  Another great idea!

Keeping with the theme of relaxation and exercise, in yet another area, they have a room with walking treadmills overlooking Bakery Square.  The employees can plug in and work while putting on mileage.  Although, traveling through the offices will certainly give you extra steps on your pedometer.

They have a couple lecture halls to keep up with continued education and to introduce new visitors, staff members and such.  Since they have so many visitors, they have a room containing several washers and dryers for anyone to use, especially for those out of town guests.  They’ve thought of everything!  Google is certainly very considerate.

Google even has their own tech support.  Sure that would make sense since they have not only enough computers for each employee, plus.

A few additional perks include, a fully equipped gym, a music room to jam out at the end of a day, and naturally it’s a dog friendly office.

Stories

While on tour, after walking through a vault style door, we came to a hallway sporting an enlarged image covering the entire wall.  Andrew shared one of his Google experiences with us.  It was a distant shot of a building with railroad tracks in the foreground.  The building held special significance to Andrew.

Google Pittsburgh lobby sign 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

This starts our tour of Google Pittsbugh Bakery Square 7/27/16

One of his first visits to Google Pittsburgh, when the office was near CMU, he said he came to the front desk, who asked him what size t-shirt.  While the front desk chick had her back to Andrew, she placed the t-shirt over her shoulders and was messing with something in the corner.  He said she all of a sudden turned around pointing Nerf guns at him and said “This office isn’t safe.”

Apparently, a few times a day the trains passed and literally shook the entire building for three minutes.  In that time, no one can get any work done.  So instead of the disturbance being a hindrance, they took advantage of the downtime with Nerf wars.  I love it!  Andrew even said that as per Amazon, a person is only permitted to purchase so many of the same product, for fear of that person reselling the product.  His friend is forever banned for life from buying Nerf products on Amazon because of their daily recreation.

Andrew also told us that Google employees get credit for visiting other data centers and offices, when they swipe their badge.  What do they get?  Simply a virtual trophy or some sort.  I love how Google encourages its employees to go above and beyond, in a fun and productive way.  Now that’s a vision the company mastered.

Keep in mind this is all just in Google Pittsburgh.  Can you imagine the headquarters?  Which is now on my list to tour.  I thoroughly enjoyed by visit to Google Pittsburgh.  They have taken their success and done right by their employees and customers alike.  Great job Google!  I’d love to build a scavenger hunt in any Google office.

I can’t wait for Kyle’s next birthday.  It’s a big one, sixteen!

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posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

A Visit to Google Pittsburgh

Being a nerd, which is to say going too far and caring too much about a subject, is the best way to make friends I know.  ~Sarah Vowell

Google Pittsburgh Tour 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Andrew Widdowson, Barb Planinsek, Kyle Piper, Duncan Jones & Me at Google offices in Pittsburgh at Bakery Square 7/27/16

This past Wednesday, I wanted to surprise Kyle and do something for his birthday, which is tomorrow.  Summer is nearly over, especially when Kyle begins bandcamp and I’ve hardly seen my little vacationer since school let out.  This weekend he’s heading to Virginia, deep south with my parents and family friends to go catfishing, at night.  (Actually, they left a few hours ago.)  Skirting around all the plans, Wednesday felt like the most opportune time to spend a day with Kyle.  Done.

With the help of a family friend, Barb Planinsek, we made arrangements to tour the Google offices in Pittsburgh.  You see Barb’s nephew, Andrew, is employed by Google and chose to work in Pittsburgh this summer. (Nephews are the best!)  He travels all around the world for his job, but is headquartered in Mountainview, California.  Of course I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

Unbeknownst to Kyle, the plans for Wednesday were made months prior, when I met Andrew at the Fishing Derby in May.  Naturally, upon hearing who Andrew’s employer was, I instantly thought, Touring Google Pittsburgh would be a great experience for Kyle and a perfect birthday activity!  I’m not one hundred percent sure, but I think I was right.  Although, trying to get excitement out of that kid is hard, but by golly I saw it during our tour!

Unfortunately, because of everyone’s schedules, Wednesday was planned on Tuesday.  Not ideal but it worked out.  My goal was to surprise Kyle with an experience most don’t have, give him an educational activity he’d enjoy, and begin networking him for his future.  Bonus!

Kyle & Duncan at Google Pittsburgh 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle & Duncan tour the Google offices in Pittsburgh as a birthday surprise! 7/27/16

Andrew kindly moved his day around to accommodate us.  Barb and I were on board from the beginning.  Now came the hard part, Kyle.  I tried calling, to let him know I arranged a surprise for him, but he never answered the phone. I thought about texting, and chose another route.  Initially, I was toying with the idea that Kyle might enjoy the experience more with a friend.  During the planning process, I got a hold of Jennifer, Kyle’s good friend Duncan’s mother.  (If you can follow that.)  She was more than happy to lend us her son for the day.  In fact, Duncan was in on the secret and helped me align Kyle.  Plus, Duncan was excited about the adventure too.

All day Tuesday, Jennifer kept me posted to Kyle’s responses to Duncan.  Duncan called Kyle and said he was coming over Wednesday morning around 7:30 am for a surprise.  I was told Kyle’s response was, “If I’m getting up early I want to know why.”  Boy is that kid stubborn!  Duncan remained steadfast and never told Kyle who was picking them up, and what they were doing.  Eventually, later in the day, I was told Kyle was intrigued about the surprise.  I believe he was excited because when I showed up on Wednesday, he was ready to roll.  He even tried to hide a smile from his lips, though I’m quick and I saw it!  I too was grinning from ear to ear ready to jump out of my skin.

Heading west, we eventually made our way to Bakery Square in Pittsburgh.  We stopped and had breakfast, figuring the boys would be hungry before our ultimate activity.  We actually had time to waste, since I didn’t know what traffic was going to be like, and we were so close to Shadyside, we headed to the area for some exploration.  What did the boys do with their freedom to shop and money in their hands?  They played Pokemon Go.  At least I got Kyle out moving around and he seemed to be in a pretty good mood.

Duncan & Kyle playing Pokemon Go in Shadyside 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Duncan & Kyle playing Pokemon Go in Shadyside before our Google Pittsburgh tour 7/27/16

Once we made our way back to Bakery Square and entered the lobby, Kyle read the list of companies on the elevator wall, while I told the guard we were heading to the seventh floor.  Even Kyle couldn’t miss the bright bold letters that read “Google”, seventh floor.  Then, suddenly without warning it happened again.  True happiness in the form of a smile left Kyle and was spotted!  Kyle’s smirk is like the elusive Sasquatch, it has been rumored to make its appearance and then vanish before your eyes.  Now I can say I was a first hand witness!  The facial gesture was something between ornery, knowing the secret, and being truly excited.  It was at that moment, I was honestly happy.

We get to the lobby and naturally I want to start snapping pictures.  Kyle wasn’t pleased about this part of our trip, but complied with minimal resistance.

Andrew met us at the front door and passed out our name tags, while I did the formal introductions.  Would you believe Kyle didn’t remember meeting Andrew at the Fishing Derby?  I made it a point to introduce him and of course his employer.  That kid cracks me up.

Andrew did a great job with the tour!  He shared his own personal stories and fun facts about Google, especially Google Pittsburgh.  I knew Andrew was the perfect tour guide, but what I didn’t expect is what I saw in the offices.  Wow.  In a separate post, I’ll explain later.  You would not believe.  Now it was my turn to be surprised.

Once the tour came to a close it was lunch time.  We joined Andrew in the “cafeteria” which resembled an upscale restaurant, with stations of gourmet food, real plates and utensils, a variety of infused waters, and restaurant quality tables and chairs, and booths.

Our lunch was fantastic!  Plus, it was all free.  Google has a full kitchen staff, including a quality chef to prepare these, nutritious (mostly aside from the desserts), delicious meals for all its employees as a perk.  There was so much, Andrew had to walk us around and show us everything, including the corner of the room where they grew some fresh vegetables and herbs.  Seriously?  Yes!

Not to downplay the tour, which is impossible, but the best part of the day was our conversation during lunch.  Andrew continued telling us about his job and sharing stories, always projecting enthusiasm.  You can tell he genuinely loves what he does, and is proud of his accomplishments at Google, which he should be.  Kyle and Duncan even stepped out of their comfort zone to ask questions, but mostly they listened.

Kyles birthday celebration at Google Pittsburgh 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

We celebrated Kyle’s 15th birthday at Google Pittsburgh, Bakery Square 7/27/16

After we ate lunch, we sang Happy Birthday to Kyle and celebrated with cupcakes.  On Tuesday, during the planning stages, I ordered cupcakes from a local bakery and had them delivered for another little surprise twist.  I knew we were eating lunch there and I thought it would be fun to celebrate Kyle’s fifteenth birthday at Google Pittsburgh.  Yes, I even brought candles!  (Although, I forgot the matches, which Barb reminded me of when we were in Shadyside.  I bummed a pack from a smoker who worked in a bar.)

On a side note, I didn’t realize there are roughly five hundred employed in Google Pittsburgh.  I was going to order a sheet cake, thinking we’d share with everyone in the office.  Nope.  Besides, they’re well stocked with sweet treats, I’m sure they didn’t miss the cupcakes.

During the course of the Google experience, I noticed Kyle and Duncan were never distracted by their phones or video games (at least not that I was aware of).  They listened to Andrew and seemed interested in what he was saying, even during lunch.  I think the day was a success.  Now I’m starting to make plans for Kyle’s next birthday.  It’s a big one, his sixteenth.

After we said our goodbyes, we headed to Station Square to get on a Ducky Tour of Pittsburgh, keeping with the theme.  Unfortunately, the next ride was booked up.  I did make reservations the day prior, but I cancelled for fear we might not make the departure time.  I didn’t want to rush us out of Google.  It was a hot day and I could tell the boys had enough anyway.  We headed home.  It didn’t take them long to fall asleep.

On a side note, besides giving Kyle a memorable experience, there was just an equally great part to the adventure.  It was rubbing our personal tour of Google in my sister’s face, and continuing my claim to the coolest aunt!  At least that’s what I told her.

I hope Kyle and Duncan had a great day.  Happy Birthday Kyle!

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posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Dealing With Loss

What we remember from childhood we remember forever – permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen.  ~Cynthia Ozick

Honestly, I’ve been toying around with this blog idea since last week.  The Aunt Heather blog may come from my perspective, but the stories are really for Kyle.  These accounts of Kyle’s life from my point-of-view are more important now than ever.  Since Kyle’s fully embraced his teenage years, I’ve seen less of him.  I always want Kyle to know how important he is, and not having him by my side is my own personal loss.

It is with a very heavy heart I talk about Kyle’s friend, fifteen year old Nick Ursiny.  He passed away last Sunday, June 19, 2016 from an accidental gun shot wound to the head.  The incidence happened on Friday, June 17th around 5:00 pm.

Kyle called on Sunday to tell us he was going to the hospital to visit his friend, that’s when we heard the news,  Shortly after speaking with Kyle, we received the news Nick passed away.  I spoke to Kyle on the phone, and naturally he seemed a little distraught.  I could heard the tears swelling in his eyes, which instantly broke my heart.  Not only for the pain Kyle was facing, and at such a young age, but for the family and all of Nick’s friends.

When I heard about the incidence, it really hit home with me.  My family target shoots pretty frequently, for fun and in preparation for hunting season, and Kyle’s been apart of that tradition since he was a little tyke.  My heart broke for Kyle, yes because of a tragic loss of his friend, but also because of Kyle’s reality.  Unlike some, he knows the sound, the smell, the feel of a fired weapon.  He knows first hand the damage it does, at least with respect to hunting.  Kyle’s awareness of this accident is so much more acute than many of his fellow students, those who have never fired a weapon.  I couldn’t imagine dealing with that situation, and the complete grief and feeling of accountability.

These thoughts have been rushing through me all week.  It’s weird how that depression from a very real experience of loss creeps back, and settles into your soul, even when you’re not completely aware.

Nick was in Kyle’s class and he was also a member of the band.  Even during my chaperoning experiences, I personally didn’t know Nick, nor his family, but I know the helplessness and sorrow that’s overcome them.  And worse, I know the road they’ll be facing and the healing process, which does not get easier as time passes, they”ll only learn to adjust.

The band visited the funeral home last night as a group.  I did reach out to Kyle and ask if he wanted me to go to support him.  His text response?  “I’m fine.”  Okay.  I know everyone handles grief in their own way, and I respect that.  I was still going to go, but I wanted to give Kyle his space, and let’s face it, that would have been hard even for the toughest of people.  Instead, my thoughts and prayers were focused on that family and Nick.

Accidents do happen, no matter how minor or major, even though you try to avoid them.  It’s such a shame, this accident cost the life of such a young promising person.  If anything else, I hope children and adults alike, learn from this story and are more careful.  I don’t know the details behind the accident, but addressing safety is always a good practice.

God speed to Nick’s friends and family.  Rest in peace Nick!

I grabbed a few screen captures of online stories, for reference.

Full Obit Aunt Heather Piper June 2016

Kiski Facebook post Aunt Heather Piper

News Article Aunt Heather Piper 6-18-16

News Aunt Heather Piper 6-20-16News Article Aunt Heather Piper 6-20-16

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posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Escape Room Experience

Shut your eyes and see.  ~James Joyce

Escape Room Latrobe 5-29-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Me, Kyle & Aunt Nikki at Escape Reality in Latrobe, escape room. We nearly had it… 5/29/16

I’m a little late in telling about our escape room experience two weekends ago, but I believe it’s never too late to tell a good story.

Why am I so late?  Between Thrill of the Hunt, my garden, the bees, and just keeping up on every day life, the hours are limited and the days run together.

On May 28th I had the Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Winchester, Virginia.  It was a great event!  Shortly after wrapping up, I headed back to Latrobe, knowing my sister came home and Kyle was hanging out for the weekend.  My parents were camping, so it was an eventful weekend of the three of us.

Saturday night Nicole, Kyle and myself went to see X-Men: Apocalypse.  Nicole wanted to see Captain America: Civil War, however I took Kyle the weekend prior, which was his second time seeing the movie anyway.  Regardless, we had a nice time.

Now the big highlight of the weekend, Sunday, Nicole made reservations for us at Escape Reality in Latrobe.  You know those increasingly popular facilities that create a mystery to solve, and riddles and puzzles to figure out, in order to escape a locked room?  None of us had ever participated in an escape room, and certainly not in Latrobe.  Why not?

At this particular facility, six people were permitted in a group.  No one else signed up to join our trio, so the pressure was on.  We had the room to ourselves!  They had two different experiences, The Discovery or The Experiment.  We chose The Experiment, whereas we were captured by a doctor who spent his life trying to find a cure for the common cold.  Sounds good!

Four square check in Aunt Heather Piper 5-28-16

This was my check in on Four Square when we went to the movies… I thought this was hilarious! 5/28/16

Upon arrival and check in, we were given safety instructions and basic overall goals of the event.  They informed us no one has yet to escape the room without the assistance of clues.  During our hour long mystery experience, we were permitted to ask for clues to move us along.  How did we ask?  Simply by saying, “We need a clue.”  Each room is equipped with security cameras, as well as a monitor.  The wall mounted monitor displays the remaining time through a countdown.  It also communicates with the participants by typing messages to us or giving us clues.  The monitor also keeps a tally of the clues requested and those left.  I believe we were permitted to ask for six different clues.

Upon entering the relatively gloomy windowless room,  I immediately felt like I was placed in our story.  It was fairly chilly and almost creepy.  The facility stated that anything not bolted down is permitted to be moved and investigated and used for clues.  Great.

Surprisingly, Kyle wasn’t shy about digging in a getting started.  He was the first to really go to town, opening up drawers and digging through papers.  Nicole and I simply laughed at his sudden enthusiasm.  Prior to arriving he was very blasé and didn’t seem to care about hanging out with his aunts.  He was also very adamant about his plans later in the day, the typical Kyle.  Well, all that changed the minute we were locked in the room and the clock started ticking.

Honestly, I was the one who wasn’t aggressively looked through the supplied material.  I felt like I was prying in someone’s person stuff and it took me a while to get past that aspect.  Once I did, I was totally on board.

At first we didn’t really work as a team, but instead scattered independently trying to find the first clue or something that pointed toward a clue.  Kyle surprised us by literally crawling all over the floor, digging in every drawer, and even pulling out a variety of coins from a bowl and counting the change to see if the total dollar amount was a clue.  He was on a mission and he did a great job!  Kyle was able to look at the room from a different perspective that scored us our first major clue, a notebook of clues hidden under the desk.  Nicole and I looked at each other with wide eyes and the biggest surprise ever.  The funny part?  Kyle missed the clues leading him to the notebook, he only found the leather bound note pages stuffed under the desk.  While he was down there digging under the desk, I commented, “You look like your in National Treasure.”  Kyle didn’t care, he was focused.

Eventually, we found a few more clues that lead us to others and others.  Kyle scored us with another major breakthrough, without the aide of a previous clue.  He actually found words written in invisible ink on the baseboard around the room!  Seriously!   Among the phrases were missing letters, which contained letters to another clue.  Soon we opened a lock box that housed the black light.  A little late, but the fun of turning out the lights and using the black light to read the glow-in-the-dark letters was worth it.  It really made the experience and Kyle beamed with excitement.

At one point there were two lock boxes with four digit number combinations.  We found a four digit number that we hoped would unlock one of them.  Kyle tried the one lock and I the other.  However, due to Kyle’s due diligence, we realized that even with the correct lock combination, I still couldn’t open a lock.  After Kyle checked my work and realized I failed the test, I got the famous Kyle eye roll and ornery grin.  That’s my buddy!  Apparently, I’m lock challenged too.

I swear the entire time Nicole was stressed out and couldn’t handle the countdown of the clock, while Kyle was anxious and very energetic.  Those two cracked me up.  Eventually, we began working as a team, as we found more clues and answers were revealed.  That was exciting, getting closer to solving the riddles.

Did we escape?  Nope.  We were told we were about half way, using all six of our clues.  At the end, they asked us if we wanted to know the answer.  In unison, all three of us said, “NO!”  Actually, at first Nicole asked, “How often do you update the rooms?”  When they commented, “About once a year.” we chose to make plans to come back, take on the challenge and figure it out ourselves.

One the way home, we even recapped our discoveries and how we came to them, committing the event to memory to be later called upon.

Everyone was very nice and energetic.  I was impressed how they created the clues and guided us from one clue to the next.  They were very mindful of details, which really made the experience.  I hope we turn this into a yearly tradition, if not more often.  Maybe we can start hitting up different locations.

Nicole and I agreed that Kyle was the biggest surprise.  He basically mopped the floor, and really dove in without reservation.   I highly recommend trying an escape room.  Being a scavenger hunt enthusiast, I love solving puzzles and the adventure of it all.  I’d love to incorporate an escape room to one of my scavenger hunts.  Maybe in the future.

All that fun spoiled me.  The following weekend Kyle didn’t grace us with his presence at all.  I know he wanted to do his own thing, but I do miss him terribly when I don’t see him.  Maybe now that summer is upon us and school is out, he’ll surprise us by wanting to do more, or not.

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Hello Mary Kay Andrews!

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.  ~C.G. Jung

Mary Kay Andrews Book Signing 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Mary Kay Andrews book signing for The Weekenders Great lady! Oakmont, PA 5/22/16

I love meeting authors.  Who doesn’t? (perhaps none readers, maybe?)  Especially ones I’ve followed and are very familiar with their work, not to down play meeting new and upcoming authors.  Nope, that’s a different kind of fun, the finding of a new book, a new author, especially one unheard of in the mainstream, and becoming one of their original fans and spreading the word on their new work.  On the other hand, meeting accomplished authors carries an intrigue and excitement with the encounter.  Plus, it tends to carry a celebrity status.  I’ve met a few authors, some mainstream and some nearly unheard of (not as many as I’d like), and they were all really amazing and down to earth people, just like my newest encounter.

Let’s talk Mary Kay Andrews.  She’s a New York Times Bestselling Author, of Hissy Fit, as well as other novels.  She’s also the author of one of my favorites, Summer Rental.  Currently, she’s on her book tour promoting her 24th novel, The Weekenders.

I was introduced to Mary Kay Andrews by a good friend of mine, Kelly Berger.  Yep, she was shopping and came across one of her books, and was instantly drawn to the idea of a story taking place at the beach.  Kelly’s a HUGE beach fan, especially the areas around Hilton Head, Cape Hatteras and the Outer Banks.  I don’t have to tell you, Kelly read Summer Rental and was an instant fan, purchasing all published pieces by Mary Kay Andrews.

Book Signing at MLB Mary Kay Andrews 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Mary Kay Andrews during a Q &A session at Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA  5/22/16

Since Kelly and I have always swooped books, and discussed authors and new releases, it was only a matter of time before Mary Kay Andrews would remain a staple on my bookshelf, too.  Kelly and I mostly have similar tastes when it comes to reading material, although her interest stops shy of fantasy.  Summer Rental happened to be a story fit for both of our personalities, and once I’m hooked on an author, I’m hooked.

I met Kathy Hogan Trocheck, a.k.a. Mary Kay Andrews this past Sunday, May 22 at the Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont. (514 Allegheny River Blvd. Oakmont, PA 15139).  What a cute little bookstore!

The day started out rainy and kind of ugly, you know a typical Pittsburgh day, perfect for staying inside and getting acquainted with an accomplished author.  Since I had Kyle, I thought this was the perfect opportunity for him to meet an author too.  I didn’t think it mattered if he read her works or not.  At least that was my thinking.  Kyle had a different opinion.  I guess it would have been a better time for him if he knew the author, but regardless it was a good experience.

Mary Kay Andrews The Weekenders 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

My signed copy of The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews. 5/22/16

All the ladies who showed up were fantastic!  I enjoyed the company as much as I did the purpose of my visit to MLB.  Mary Kay Andrews discussed The Weekenders and answered questions about her books, her influences, her family and so on.  It was great!  She’s so down to earth with a touch of sass!  I loved listening to her!

While waiting in line to get my book autographed (I got one for Kelly too), I struck up a conversation with the lady behind me.  We began talking about books, naturally, and somehow I mentioned I’ve written a book (plus a few started).  Let me step back, during the Q & A session, Mary Kay Andrews asked if we had any authors in the audience.  I didn’t raise my hand, only because my book still needs to be edited and isn’t published.  Well, by the time it was my turn, this wonderful lady, stepped in and informed Mary Kay Andrews of my secret.  You know, Mary Kay Andrews seemed very interested, and asked me questions about my book.  She told me to keep writing and go for it.  What an inspirational lady!

Mary Kay Andrews at MLB Oakmont 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Mary Kay Andrews discussing her newest novel, The Weekenders at MLB in Oakmont, PA 5/22/16

The entire day rocked.  Not only did I get to meet Mary Kay Andrews and get to purchase her latest book, and have it autographed, but spending the day with Kyle was much needed.  Granted, he played his video games during the entire book signing, but when it was my turn, Kyle jumped up and snapped a picture of me and Mary Kay Andrews.  Thanks buddy!  I really wanted a picture with all three of us, but Kyle already put his foot down in advance.  I didn’t want to push the issue and so I let it alone.  I simply happy to spend some time with Kyle.

During the Q & A session I learned a number of fun facts about Mary Kay Andrews.  Second to my addiction of reading, is my love of random fun facts.  Here are a few to wet your whistle.

Career

  • Mary Kay Andrews is a pseudonym for Kathy Hogan Trocheck
  • Received a B.A. in newspaper journalism from The University of Georgia in 1976
  • Began her career in newspaper journalism, working at the Savannah News-Press 1976-77
  • Worked for the Marietta Journal 1977-79
  • Reported for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1980 until she left in 1991 to write books
Family
  • Born July 27, 1954, in Tampa, Florida
  • A native of St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Married her high school sweetheart
  • From a big Catholic family
  • Mary Kay Andrews is a combination of her children’s names—Mary Kay for her daughter Mary Kathleen, and Andrew, for her son, Andy
  • Self proclaimed “junker”
  • Owns two restored beach cottages on Tybee Island, GA, both of which named for fictional locations in her novels

I can’t wait to begin this book!  Check her out!  She’s a southern hoot!

Happy reading everyone!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts and have No Comments

Report Card. How Do I Help?

But Montague is bound as well as I,
In penalty alike, and ’tis not hard, I think,
For men so old as we to keep the peace.  ~Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare (1.2.1-3)

Kyle Christmas Eve 12-24-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle opening gifts on Christmas Eve 12/24/15

Kyle is such a stinker, and he’s driving me absolutely batty!  Granted his attitude has certainly taken a slightly uphill turn, but there are issues lurking in the shadows that everyone one seems to turn a blind eye to (except me), yet need addressed, immediately.  I am somewhat laughing over the details of the situation, even though it’s not really funny.  What now?  Kyle’s ninth grade second quarter report card.

Over the summer, we made a deal, if he brings up his math grade, then he wouldn’t need a tutor, one I paid for. A Dip in the Grades / Teenager vs. Aunt Heather – Part 1 Math Tutor.  Being the reasonable Aunt Heather that I am, I agreed, even though he moaned and complained about going, every time, and only gave half effort.  Whatever.

The moment of truth was revealed last Monday.  On a side note, I love how Kyle still tries to hide his report from me, like I can’t find out or perhaps I’m going to forget, not probable.  I don’t forget, and I won’t waiver when it comes to Kyle’s well-being.  The verdict?  His Geometry grade did come up slightly, as did his Biology.  Great!  That’s a step in the right direction.  It’s wasn’t by leaps and bounds, but I’m still happy and a deals a deal.

Now what’s the problem?  A few other subjects dropped.  When I told him to bring up those problematic subjects, I didn’t mean sacrifice the other subjects to do so.  My heart is truly broken.  Why?  The subjects that dropped, and I mean considerably, were US History II and Honors English I, two my favorite subjects.  First of all, history doesn’t change!  Read the material, memorize a few details and done.  It should be an easy grade.  Kyle loves reading, what could be so difficult?  When I asked Kyle about said subjects, he simply shrugged his shoulders.

How Kyle views his Aunt Heather Piper

Teenage years are a struggle for us all! Since I’m always fighting an uphill battle, this is what it feels like every time I need to discuss anything of importance with Kyle….

Honestly, I never took note that all of Kyle’s classes were honors classes, which I do give grace.  However, I will never accept below average.  I about fell out of my seat when I saw the English grade, especially when it originated from a solid B.

Even better, Kyle informed me he was getting a little extra help.  Obviously, that wasn’t working.  In a very calm yet confused voice I asked, “Kyle, why didn’t you call me for help?”  His response, “I don’t know.”  There was more to it than that, but my blog isn’t about pointing fingers and I don’t need additional family drama.  The gist of his explanation included a college degree, although not specialized in English or literature.  It’s true, I don’t have my masters degree, but I do have two undergrad degrees from Seton Hill University.  Not to mention, I write, that’s what I do.  I’m in marketing and I write, ad copy, television and radio scripts, press releases, articles, stories, testimonials, website copy, I ghost write blogs in addition to mine and the list goes on.  I’ve even written books!  Although, unbeknownst to Kyle (a surprise for later).  Wanting to find the root problem, Kyle informed me he’s required to write a lot of papers.  To prove my worthiness, I explained my qualifications and I even explained I was on the deans list.  I’m not just talking out my butt and making a claim I can’t back up.  If I don’t know something, I’ve always been honest with him, and I’ll gladly admit to it, hence the math tutor.   How frustrating!  What does that kid think I do all day?

With sincerity and confidence, I told Kyle I can help him get his grade back up by the next quarter.  I asked him to please call me with the next assignment.  Kyle’s response?  He shrugged his shoulders and clearly wasn’t about to ask me for help.  Why?  I have no idea.  Again, I believe there’s more issues lurking in those shadows that he’ll never admit, it’s called ego, pride and self-esteem, not on Kyle’s behalf.  Personally, if I was a teenager with an attitude, I’d want to see my aunt take the challenge, either to fall miserably to rub it in, or to assist me with my grade.  Either way, Kyle wins!  Not Kyle, he doesn’t want to succeed if it means I’m helping.  He should at least call my sister.  She may not be a creative writer, but she’s an excellent technical writer and elegant with the written word.

Kiski Band getting ready for Bands of America 2015 Aunt Heather Piper

This picture was online in the paper showing Kiski Band getting ready for Bands of America 2015

All his grades weren’t bad.  In fact, his Band and P.E. remained at an A+ status.  Times have changed, in elementary school, P.E. was Kyle’s only class he didn’t excel.  I even told him, “Kyle just look like you’re sweating and I bet you’ll get an A.  Run around and show a little effort.”  Since Kyle’s in the marching band, I would hope his Band grade would be nothing less than stellar.

I know all grades are important, especially keeping up his GPA for college, but I’m picking my battles with the Video Game Design I class.  It too dropped a letter grade.  I’ve asked Kyle what they’re working on, and he never did give me a real answer.  Perhaps, that’s why his grade dropped, due to a lack of attentiveness.  Moving on.

Now one class I’m in a little shock, yet I’m very proud of, a class his grade increased, Chinese I.  At one point in the conversation, I said something along the lines of, “Your English tanks, but your Chinese gets better?  How is that possible?”  I know I said it as a half joke.  I was a bit confused and yet astounded.  I’ll admit we both laughed over that revelation.  Come one, how can you not?  His native language is English, yet he’s improving in Chinese?  My guess?  He needs to work at it, and chose not to give up.

This past week I contacted his tutor, who is a great lady and I’d highly recommend her, to cancel our tutoring until the next report card.  She understood and was very kind about giving me requested advice.  She simply said Kyle has to want to bring up his grades and has to want to earn them.  She also stated the obvious, that he needs to mature.  Little does she know, we Piper’s mature late, ever.   She’s right on all accounts.  But how can I just sit back and accept this?  The answer.  I guess I need to do some heavy praying.

Honestly, I don’t have a problem with who’s helping Kyle, as long as it’s working.  If not, then it’s time to consider another option.  It’s about what’s best for this young man.  I don’t care if Kyle chooses the family dog over my help, as long as it works.  I wish they’d give out grades for stubbornness and blasé behavior because Kyle would ace those every time.

Kyle during a band performance 10-23-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle getting ready for a Kiski Band performance on their home field. 10/23/15

I love Kyle so much, I want him to succeed at anything he does.  He’s already expressed an interest in going to Carnegie Mellon University for engineering and I want to see that come to fruition.  Perhaps the tutor is right, he needs to find his own path.  Of course, that doesn’t mean step back entirely, because he still needs guidance and help along the way.

Am I pushing too hard?  If you could see what I’ve seen, you wouldn’t think so.  When Kyle was around four or five, he could add up a few items at the store and figure out the tax before the register gave the total.  By that age, I got him a wooden puzzle of the United States.  He could tell the state by the shape, show where it was located, name the capital and give a fun fact about each.  No he’s really bright, he just needs encouraged by the right people.

This quote was not by happenstance.  Kyle was working on Romeo and Juliet this quarter during English class.  Basically, Lord Capulet comes to terms with his age and doesn’t want to be apart of the family feud any longer.  He remains a peacekeeper from here on out.  Not saying that I’m old, not in the slightest, but I’m saying perhaps I need to assist from the sidelines.

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Teenager vs. Aunt Heather – Part 1 Math Tutor

Some people care too much. I think it’s called love.  ~A.A. Milne

Kyle's-14th-birthday-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2015

Kyle didn’t want his picture taken… I made him suppress a smile. Happy 14th Birthday Kyle! 2015

Where to begin.  How about in chronological order.  To be honest, I’ve been so upset as of lately, I didn’t feel like rehashing these events in writing until now.  I figured I record the good, so to be realistic I should record the bad, so to speak.

I know Kyle is growing up, and he’s finding himself, his likes and dislikes, and he wants to be his own person, and have his own voice.  All of that I’m very happy about, truly!  However, he can’t possibly think he should be allowed to do whatever he wants, when he wants, how he wants to do it.  Nope!  A little independence, sure, complete freedom with a bad attitude and disrespect, never, ever.

Kyle has been giving me a big attitude for some time now.  His newest thing, is to ignore my phone calls and text messages.  Something I’m sure is a learned behavior and will be addressed in a big way down the road unless corrected.  That’s the first item of disrespect.  Then, he was only visiting my parents when he wanted something, strike two.  Again, we love Kyle with all of our hearts, and we love seeing him, and spending time with him, even if it’s only for a short period of time.  But to take complete advantage of our generosity and kindness, not cool.

Moving on.  Everyone who knows me, knows there are two topics I NEVER budge on, church and school (showering and brushing teeth are also a couple others, but in my eyes those are mandatory acts of living that sometimes causes arguments and we work through them quickly).  I learned long ago to pick my battles, and those are it.  Whether Kyle likes it or not, in addition to being his aunt by blood relation, I’m also his godmother and an adult figure who’s been an integral part of his life from the beginning.  I was specifically chosen by my brother, Ryan, to raise him Catholic and it’s my job to carry out Ryan’s wishes.  A part of that is to keep Kyle on the path of moral responsibility and goodness, which I’ve been trying to do.

Next topic of conversation is school.  I’ve talked about that before, many, many times.  I worked with Kyle to get him into kindergarten at a young age, I helped pay for his preschool, and I’ve always made him accountable for his report card and homework, at every grade.  My intent was not to be mean but the opposite.  I care so much for Kyle, I only want the best for him, and if that means not taking the easy way, I’m there.  Seeing Kyle reach his potential and having no regrets has always been my goal.

I’ve never really said too much on Kyle’s clothing, music, hobbies or anything allowing him to be self expressive.  I do get on him about his video games, only because he spends way too much time in those mind sucking virtual worlds.  Speaking up and creating balance is for his own good.

Kyle-&-Cheyenne-posing-2005-Bethal-Church-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle with his cousin Cheyenne. Kyle was trying to get her to smile for the picture. What a great little guy! Bethel Church 2005

About three Sunday’s ago, August 23rd to be exact, I wasn’t in the area to take Kyle to church.  Next in line is my mom, who was suppose to be my voice and presence when I’m working.  What did Kyle do?  Knowing very well my mom is a push over, he basically told her he wasn’t going to church, and my mom didn’t argue!  I was livid!  Now take that a step further, when I called and texted him about the first day of school, on that Monday, he didn’t reply.  I simply wanted to wish him good luck and to hear his voice.  Would that teenager give me two seconds of his time, even through a text message?  Nope.  Ignore.  Here we go.

Now after a week of no word from Kyle, Saturday, August 29th rolls around.  The Olczak family reunion.  My sister came home, as did Kyle.  I had work to do on the computer so I skipped out, but from I was told, Kyle helped my mom make the Haluski and assisted with the setup.  Cool deal buddy!  That’s what I like to hear.  See how this roller coaster ride is going, down and up, and it continues.

Once he came home from the reunion, Kyle carried a small bit of an attitude, but nothing serious.  I talked to him for a few minutes, which went fine, even though he tried to avoid me, knowing I would bring up church sooner or later.  It was at this time, I knew I needed to break it to him what his official birthday gift was.

A math tutor!  You got it, remember A Dip In the Grades.  Yeah, well I didn’t forget.  In passing, I simply told Kyle, “We’re going to 9:30 am church.”  He rolled his eyes, and then I heard my sister chime in, “Why do we have to go so early?”  She’s never been like the rest of the family, minus my mom. We’re morning people.  Anyway, with conviction, I replied, “I don’t care what mass you go to, we’re going to 9:30 and then he has his tutor meeting.”  Kyle’s face was priceless.   Immediately I added, “Instead of taking you to Cedar Point and spending money on a day in Pittsburgh with your friends, because of your attitude and your grades, I decided to buy you a math tutor.  Happy Birthday!”  It was only for a split second, but I definitively caught a grin on Kyle’s face after announcing “Happy Birthday”.  Naturally, I sported a huge smile myself.  It was kind of funny.  What melted my heart was Kyle’s grin that looked exactly like Ryan’s.  For a split second, Ryan was standing before me.  Then Kyle opened his mouth and Ryan disappeared.

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Kyle’s 14th birthday cake! 2015

Sincerely, I didn’t expect Kyle to get upset about the tutor, nor did I care, but he did.  In fact, he was really mad!  He kept grunting and whining about the tutor and arguing with me.  Another funny.  Kyle, nearly raising his voice inquired, “Why do I need a tutor?”  I gave him a sideways look and said, “Come on buddy, I think you’re smart enough to figure that one out on your own.”  For a second time, he turned his head so I couldn’t see, but I did, and a grin surfaced.  Now that’s the Kyle I know and love.  He was somewhere in there, but the dark side wouldn’t let the old Kyle out.  Yikes, the internal temporal.

Kyle really took the news of a tutor hard.  Again, something I wasn’t expecting.  I watched him storm around the yard, and it looked like he was texting or calling someone.  I didn’t give a fig.  He screwed up, and I wanted to help him out of his wrong turn.  I mean that’s why he has adults in his life, so when he messes up, someone is there to help him out.  Right?

At one point, during an argument about the tutor, which incidentally continued ALL night, Kyle started to give me his list of excuses.
Kyle:  “I didn’t care about my grades because I knew they didn’t count for college.”
Me:  “If that’s true, then why was math the only subject you tanked in?”
Kyle:  No response.
Kyle:  “I only got a bad grade because I wasn’t doing my homework.  There was too much and I didn’t want to do it.”
Me:  “Then you really don’t know the subject, which is the foundation for all your future math classes.”
Kyle:  “I do!  I know Algebra II.  Why do I need a tutor?”
Me:  I turned toward Kyle, looked him squarely in the face before admitting, “Kyle!  Because I seem to be the only one who seriously cares about your future!  I want you to have a choice of anything you want to do in this world.  I want you to choose whichever college you want to attend.  I don’t want you to struggle with your future subjects.  I want you to feel good about yourself and show everyone just how smart you are!  I love you dearly, that’s why.”  I couldn’t resist, I added, “Happy Birthday buddy!”  That’s the instigator in me.
Kyle:  No comment.  Maybe a slight smile but he was holding strong.
Me:  “Kyle it took me a while to find this tutor, I especially chose her.  She’s a Greater Latrobe High School math teacher!”
Kyle:  His eyes got big and the look of “O crap” appeared across his face.
Me:  “That’s right buddy, I’m not messing around.  I didn’t get you a student, I got you someone who can handle your teenage attitude and really knows the subject.”
Kyle:  Still holding strong.  “Why do I need a tutor.  I know math.”
Me:  “Buddy, if that’s true, then prove it.  Let the tutor tell me that you really know the subject.  I’m not doing myself any favors paying for a tutor, I’m not benefiting from this.  I’d be happy to cancel the lessons.
Kyle:  No comment.

Kyle sighed, grunted and stormed off.  I know deep down, he thought he would win, yet he knows I’m not being unreasonable and he’s in the wrong.

Now onto Sunday.  First things first, church before the tutor.  The saga continues…

 

P.S. I carefully chose this quote, it wasn’t by happenstance.  You see, A.A. Milne authored the Winnie-the-Pooh books.

When Kyle was a tiny tyke, he had this teething ring Winnie-the-Pooh, which contained a button to play music.  Kyle loved that toy!  I believe that’s when I first realized how much he loved music.  He would bounce his head to the sweet tune of the plastic key chain.  Sometimes, we’d simply sing, “Winnie-the-Pooh… Winnie-the-Pooh…”

A little bit of trivia.  A.A. Milne’s son, Christopher was given a teddy bear on his first birthday.  For Kyle’s first birthday, he received a king sized quilt I made him out his of his dad’s (my brother) tees and flannels shirts.  Anyway, Christopher called his bear, Edward Bear, before renaming the stuffed animal, Winnie-the-Pooh.  The first Pooh story was published four years later.  Children do make the world of difference in the lives they touch.  They’re also great inspirations!  I too wrote a book, young adult, for Kyle.  I guess there are others out there as blessed as I am, to be inspired by such love.

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

A Teenager! Happy Birthday Kyle!

When we are young, the words are scattered all around us. As they are assembled by experience, so also are we, sentence by sentence, until the story takes shape.  ~Louise Erdrich

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Kyle & his beloved pappy… there’s a team! Kyle’s 1st birthday 7/30/02 (I was in Korea)

I can’t believe it, our little man is now officially a teenager!  Kyle is a thirteen year old, even though he’s been displaying a teenage attitude for about a year now.  Not constant, but every once in a while the attitude has slipped out of his mouth or through his body language.  I guess that’s typical growing pains.

Kyle is a great kid, he really is.  Yes he has his quarks and Sheldon Cooper (The Big Bang Theory) tendencies, but overall, Kyle is a good person.  I’ve really enjoyed watching him grow up and more importantly I really enjoy being an integral part of his life and influence.  He is my best bud!  We’ve always been a team.  Even though he is finding different interests and venturing out on his own with his friends, we are still as thick as thieves, at least for now.

In honor of such a milestone birthday, below are a few key funny moments in Kyle’s life we all remember and love and some are still in effect today.  I hope these instances are as bad and as stressful as Kyle’s life will ever get!   

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Kyle & Gigi for Kyle’s 1st birthday! 7/30/02

As a baby, Kyle was always strong willed.  ALWAYS!  I would never have it any other way.  But his attitude would change in a blink of an eye.  My sister called it the 2.2.  He would go from happy little baby to upset child in 2.2 seconds.  I hate to admit it, but it was kind of funny, especially when we would laugh at him and say 2.2.  He didn’t find it humorous in the slightest, not when he was an infant nor later in life.

Kyle was never shy about sharing his feelings or his grievances with us, at any given moment.  I remember clearly one day, Kyle got made at me, I’m guessing I was instigating the little package, and he showed me.  He walked out on the porch and chucked his beloved bottle over the bannister into the front yard.  The snarly look he gave me was way too cute!  Me being me, I found complete humor in the situation.  Mom witnessing the entire thing, yelled at me to stop picking on the kid.  He was adorable, even when angered.  At least at that age.

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Kyle working hard in the strawberry fields. Pollock’s Strawberry Farm Bush Valley 6/28/14

I always did love observing Kyle with his activities.  He would spend hours upon hours lining up his matchbox cars.  Thanks to my sister he owned hundreds of them (no joke).  They always had to be perfectly in line, front to back, front to back, covering the floor or coffee table.  He would concentrate so hard, he blocked out the world around him.  Did I mention his focus included his tongue sticking out like my Uncle Sonny?  I always did find him fascinating, wondering what was going on in his little head.

When Kyle was around two and three years old, and a banana was requested, we had to peel it for him.  The banana had to be stripped down all the way.  Yes, we had to hand him a naked banana and if it broke, well, that was the end of the world.  He would throw a fit and not accept the fruit to eat and demand another.  I’m guessing he felt he couldn’t eat a broken banana or it wouldn’t taste the same or something.  It was a complete tragedy!  Usually I ate the broken pieces, which ticked him off even more.  I never gave in on this one.  He had to learn not to waste food and he wasn’t going to always get his own way.

For a few short years, Kyle would walk around the house with his Scooby-Doo slippers, which were initially three sizes too big.  He loved those things, asking to wear them every waking minute.   Surprisingly, he made his way around the house with minimal trip-age.  After he outgrew those slippers, wearing them until they were too tight, mom and I decided to take him to the store to get another pair.  He picked out ones that looked like a car, even with stuffed wheels on the side.  Letting him try them on to ensure we had a proper fit, Kyle’s mind surprised us again.  After placing the plush cars to his feet, Kyle stiffened up.  He held himself so still and hung onto my arm with all seriousness.  Why?  He thought the wheels were going to shoot him across the floor like roller skates and he was going to roll away!  Mom and I died!  We were laughing so hard, we couldn’t help the panicked kid.  He had no idea what was so funny.  Needless to say, we bought the slippers.

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Kyle’s cakeface for his 1st birthday! Pappy was under that hat … He always did love his sweets! 7/30/02

For years, Kyle believed that the sock manufacturers were making uncomfortable socks with a large seam at the toe just to irritate him.  He believed he was the center of everyone’s attention, even the sock manufacturer and they were out to make his life miserable!  Solution?  We learned that if you turn the sock inside out, the bulky seam was on the outside and didn’t really bother his little piggies.  Believe it or not, there were plenty of other sock issues, including touching his ankle, and the heel of the sock not matching up EXACTLY with his heel etc.  Unfortunately, even though these problems have toned down a notch or two, only because he wears flip flops in the summer, it’s still an argument.   He also believes socks and shoes make his whole body sweat and makes him too hot to wear cloths.

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Kyle lining up his Legos for the ultimate battle! c. 2013

When Kyle first started to wear walking shoes, getting them on with assistance, he would tell us the shoe didn’t fit if his big toe wasn’t able to be lifted comfortably in the confined space.  Yes!  He wanted his big toe to stand up in the shoe, all the way!  To this day, he won’t properly tie his tennis shoes and his hunting boots are about two sizes too big.  Although he is getting better, letting his pap lace up his boots for hunting so he doesn’t trip in the woods.  His tennis shoes still hang off of his feet, making it appear that he will walk out of them at any given moment.

While we’re on the topic of cloths, let’s discuss jeans.  Yes that basic article of clothing that everyone posses, at least a single pair.  Yes, that item that can be dressed up or down and is accepted at most venues.  Kyle HATED jeans.  From the time he was able to give his own opinion on his wardrobe, first grade or so, till he hit the junior high in seventh grade, Kyle never wore a pair of jeans.  EVER!  What did he wear?  Sweatpants or shorts.  Sometimes his sweatpants were the cotton kind and sometimes the shiny pants (which he still wears to this day)  For church, he was and still is never ever permitted to wear sweatpants.  Clothing of choice?  He has to wear dress slacks and in the summer, nice dress shorts.  At the time they had to have the elastic waistband.  Kidding?  Nope!  That always about killed him, but we worked through it, kind of.  He still hates cloths, and getting dressed for church sometimes poses a problem.

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Kyle being held by the Hulk at Legofest 2012 … Kyle’s humor!  Yes that’s made entirely out of Legos!

Switching gears a bit, train gears that is, let’s move onto toys.  No matter who played Thomas the Tank Engine, as instructed by Kyle, they had to be Diesel.  Kyle never did like Diesel, I really don’t know why?  I decided early on, this rule did not pertain to me.  I wouldn’t have a three year old tell me what I was playing with, which always resulted in little temper tantrum, sometimes a big blow up.  He would also dictate how I was to play, which direction to move and what I was doing.  Again, nope!  Kyle had to learn early on that he didn’t always get his own way and others had the freedom of choice.  I reinforced the ideas of compromise and sharing.  It was a struggle, but one learned, kind of.

Around two years and up, Kyle LOVED puzzles.  By the time he was walking till about three years, he was putting together some thousand piece puzzle sets!  Did I mention I hate puzzles?  However, I would turn over the pieces so they were facing up and sit with him while he matched piece after piece to create the picture represented on the box.  He said, “Loot pappy, I’m puzzle boy!”

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Chad Piper (cousin) & Kyle at Gutchess Picnic, Idlewild. c. 2003

Then, after the puzzles came the Legos!  Lego Love Kyle’s Lego Dream @LegoFest 2012 Bricks 4 Kidz, Kyle’s Lego Camp Birthday Surprise Another Lego Christmas  Happy Lego Birthday Kyle – 11 Years Old! Lego Obsessive or Driven Going Retro With Star Wars Legos etc. That phase lasted the longest thus far.  Once he discovered Legos there was no going back.  When Kyle was five, we made a bet at his peewee football ceremony and naturally he won.  The prize?  He wanted a Bionicle man, which needed to be assembled, for ages seven and up, I believe.  Kyle always loved a challenge and began putting those pieces together and eventually graduating to a thousand plus piece Lego sets, with movable parts.  I never let the suggested age restrict him.  EVER!  I always encouraged Kyle, especially when it was a challenge!  He knew it and was always proud of himself and his accomplishments.  So was I!  Did I mention he called himself Lego Man? Yes!

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Kyle’s Lego army about to do battle! c. 2011

One last walk down memory lane.  One that we are all grateful he grew out of and did a complete one eighty, reading!  I HATE READING! Reading Brings Generations Together Reading Brings Generations Together…Or Not? Harry Potter Made Me Do It! etc.  Kyle started off loving books.  He would always drag a book to our lap and have us read and rock him in the rocking chair.  LOVE IT!  Then, came the time he had to do the reading, which didn’t go over so well.  In fact, it pushed him to hate reading, which saddened me beyond imagination.  Though, I tried many tactics to change his perception of reading, my sister remembered one method, bribery!  Yes, for a very brief stent, we would pay Kyle in cold hard cash to read to us.  Judge us if you will, but it worked and the benefits of him reading outweighed the idea of bribery.  Of course, I tried may avenues including yelling, grounding, sharing the reading, acting out the story while he read etc.  In the end the most effective was reading to Kyle, Harry Potter Chamber of Secrets, with the most gusto and the best British accent I could muster.  After that book, Kyle chose on his own to continue reading the rest of the series.  I was very proud of him.  Since then I kept up his interest in reading by buying him books anytime he needed one, getting them for him with every holiday and special occasion and sometimes reading the same books so the lines of communication were open.  Yep, that was a struggle but again one well worth it!

In addition to reading, Kyle still loves to hunt, shoot his .22 and his 243 (his dad would be proud), fish, sled ride and snowboard, build (anything), and he loves his dog Scooby (plus Seven, Avery and Storm a.k.a. Lady Fluffington).  Over the years his interest in movies have grown, being a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings (movies and books) the Avengers (all superheros), video games (mostly Minecraft) and now he’s taken an interest in fantasy games such as Summoner Wars, Dungeons and Dragons, and WarMachine.

One of Kyle’s piano lesson songs happen to be Happy Birthday. I thought it be appropriate to record it for all to share on his birthday!

Happy Birthday Kyle!  I hope you have a blessed and exciting journey!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Church,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,LEGO's,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Respectfully Standing Up For Yourself

Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.  ~Anne Frank

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Kyle digging into his basket on Easter Sunday morning. 2011

The one thing I learned quickly when Kyle was just a little tyke, was that he was indeed a person.  Not a half person, not a non-person, but a real life living and breathing person.  Just because he wasn’t a full grown human being and he had a lot to learn, didn’t make him any less of an individual.

Before Kyle could speak, he knew what was going on and remembered things, even though I’m sure he can’t recall those memories today.  My point is, children of all ages should be respected for who they are, and the person they will become.  Any and all interaction kids have with the world shapes them for the future at any age.  So my question is, why aren’t children treated with as much?

Maybe some are, but Kyle keeps having these situations of disrespect and dismissive behavior pop up, and they are truly upsetting me.  Kyle is being overlooked or worse, totally ignored by adults, complete strangers, in retail outlets.  Yes, I get it he’s a kid, but that doesn’t make what he’s doing any less important, especially if he’s trying to help me out by standing in line or retrieving items.  Common sense should dictate that the kid is twelve and obviously didn’t drive himself to the store, so one would think he has been asked to undertake a task for an adult.

I know these situations seem trivial, and they are, but there’s a lesson I want to teach Kyle now and that’s not to be taken advantage of or walked all over.  However, teaching a kid to stand up for himself, respectfully, which is the keyword, is a bit of a challenge.  At least one I’m facing.

This happened a few times in Giant Eagle.  To help my mom out, Kyle and I will get her groceries.  Great!  Nice gesture.  So in turn, Kyle will help me to expedite our order even faster by standing at the deli counter to get dad’s beef pastrami and cheese.  There has been countless (though not all the time) times adults would overlook the kid, obviously holding a ticket, and jump the line.  Not cool!  I bet they wouldn’t do that if I was standing there, or perhaps they would be that rude.  That’s one situation that annoys me, but the one that really gets me fired up, was the deli guy at Giant Eagle and his blunt disrespect for Kyle.

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Kyle at the Fort Ligonier’s Day Parade, in front of the Shriner’s Band. Ligonier, Pa. 10/2010

I was in the check-out isle and I totally forgot dad’s lunch meat.  Yikes!  So what does a gal do?  You guessed it, I volunteered Kyle to go and stand at the deli counter to retrieve the processed salty meat.  My hope was that Kyle would return with the goods before I paid.  However, knowing how notoriously slow they are, I accepted the fact that I was going to have to give Kyle money to go through the check-out while I take the groceries to the car.  No big deal.

Well, in Kyle’s eyes, I’m going through the check-out and he needed to hurry.  Nice gesture buddy!

He stood in the deli line like anyone else, pulled the ticket, like anyone else, and when it was his turn, those waiting in line respected my little man and accepted it as his turn.  Good so far, until the deli guy said to Kyle, “That’s ok, someone else will get you.”  and proceeded to skip over him totally and take the next customer in line.  Are you kidding me?  I was ticked beyond belief!  I didn’t know what had happened until we were out the door.  That was one of those times I wished I was standing right there!  The nerve.

You know people loosely talk about discrimination, well that’s exactly what happened!  I’m guessing he was discriminated because Kyle’s a kid, or perhaps for being a boy or maybe the deli guy knew what Kyle was going to ask for and didn’t want to get it?  I’m not sure the reason but it wasn’t right.

I’m actually a pretty relaxed person, and I don’t even care if people jump in front of me in line, especially if I’m not in a hurry, for perhaps they are.  But I will never stand for obvious disrespect toward me or my family.  Kyle was beside himself and didn’t understand the mean gesture.  He came back all stressed trying to hurry for my sake.

Taking this negative and trying to turn it into a positive, I want to use it as a lesson.  I’ve tried my best to tell Kyle, “Without an attitude you need to stand up for yourself and say, ‘Excuse me but I’m next’ or ‘It’s my turn’, but say it respectfully.”  In general, Kyle is not an assertive person and I get it, there’s a fine line of what a kid is allowed to say, but he needs to stand up for himself!

This didn’t just happen at the grocery store.  O no!  This past weekend, Nicole, Kyle and me went to see Divergent.

On a side note, I loved it!  They really stuck to the book.  I can’t wait for Insurgent!  Kyle and me are fans of the book series (Aunt Nikki didn’t finish reading Insurgent or Allegiant yet).  Kyle actually read them all before me.

That particular movie theater, offered food items, one that caught Kyle’s eye was the soft pretzel.  I gave him money about eight bucks for his pretzel, while Nicole and I sat in our seats.

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Ryan, Kyle’s dad bathing in Gram’s tub. Look at that face! c. 1981

Kyle came back a little upset.  Apparently, someone cut in front of him in line.  That was the first thing.  Then, the cashier never gave him his change, correction my change.  My first thought was, “Well, Kyle did you say, “I’m sorry but it’s my turn in line?”  Of course he didn’t.  Then the money thing.  “Kyle didn’t you ask for your change?”  Of course he didn’t.  What is so wrong about that?  I don’t think I was over stepping my bounds of what I expect from Kyle.

Time and time again I keep telling him if there’s an issue come and get me.  Heck, he could have called me on his cell phone from the line and I would have been out instantly.  So basically I paid eight bucks for a soft pretzel with cheese, which really wasn’t the point.

While getting caught up on the pretzel situation, Kyle looked at me, like it was now my job to go out and fix it.  In my eyes it was too late.  Perhaps it wasn’t and I could have helped him out or showed him what to do.  Maybe I too was being too passive.  It wasn’t the loss of money, it was Kyle not standing up for what’s right that really gets me.

Kyle’s dad, Ryan was the same way.  Very nice, too nice to people and many, many, many people walked all over him and took advantage.  Not only as a kid, but more so as an adult.  One day, I’ll call out those who wronged Ryan, you be surprised for they are closer than you think.  Maybe it’s a family trait, for my pappy was the same way.  Just too nice and trusting, if there is such a thing.

I hope one day, and soon, Kyle learns to stand up for himself and always demands respect, as well as gives it.

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

I Need To Build My House! – Video Games

This generation is so dead. You ask a kid, ‘What are you doing this Saturday?’ and they’ll be playing video games or watching cable, instead of building model cars or airplanes or doing something creative. Kids today never say, ‘Man, I’m really into remote-controlled steamboats.’  ~Jack White

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Kyle with his cousins, Olivia & Grant at Twin Lakes for a picture day. Kids should get back to nature & hang out with each other more often  8/2012

I know I’ve talked about video games, Gamers Start Small & Grow & Gigi Our Original Gamer – Pac-Man, and the issues and arguments that seem to accompany them, No Video Games? Running?  Why Do I Have To?.  So it should be no surprise to me that Kyle’s video games are not falling by the wayside, in fact they are advancing at a rapid rate!

Again, I’d like to reiterate, I have no qualms with video games, I do like to play a game or two, but I do have a problem with video games consuming your entire life.  If I’d let Kyle, he would play his Minecraft or whatever game he’s on, ALL day.  No joke!  Not taking a break, not getting tired, not thinking about anything else, not even getting distracted.  Maybe I should be giving him kudos for his dedication to this discipline.

However, I can’t get past the detox I have to go through every time I ask Kyle to wrap it up to do something else, or when he has to stop because he exceeded his video playing limit.  (Yes for the record I do try and monitor and reasonably limit how much time he plays video games on his computer – the only thing he uses it for.  No schoolwork!)

Yes the detox.  Telling Kyle he has “five minutes left” or “wrap it up buddy, your done for the day” or “take an hour break” is almost devastating to his ears.  He’ll give me a look, like I’m talking Chinese, as if he doesn’t comprehend what I said to him.  Or even better, he instantly starts to whine and grumble like a tiny child.  But the absolute best, the one action that really gets my goat, is when he doesn’t even lift his eyes to look at me when I’m talking to him, and he continues playing as if I’m not even in the room, then to appease me with an “Ok”.  I know he may think my instructions are negotiable, but I have news for him.  Nope!  That laptop is closed, permanently.

Sometimes it feels like I’m peeling that electronic device from his fingers.  I imagine this is what it would be like to pull drugs from a user.  He really does get addicted to these games, like many other kids his age.

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Kyle sitting with his pappy sporting a rifle at my cousins, Connie & Skip’s house. Uncle Ray (RIP) is in the background. 7/2011

Fortunately, Kyle knows when I mean business, I mean it and there’s no messing around.  Granted, I do give him his time to play and allow him the chance to save whatever he’s on before shutting down his operation, but the minute the attitude comes and the arguments surface, I loose it. Especially when I hear, “Why do I have to?” and “Why can’t I play a little longer.” and my favorite, “Why do I have to take a break?”; that’s when the computer is completely taken away, to not make its appearance until the following day.

This week while walking with a friend of mine, Holsters, the very same topic came up.  Her nephew has the same demeanor, and he’s two or three years younger than Kyle.  She’s beside herself.  Plus she doesn’t have the same authority I do, to enforce what’s right.  These kids just want to be slugs and sit around with their head in fantasy land, not facing reality.  Young people are not going to be able to cope with real life if they don’t start taking baby steps toward it now. (I’m not even going to get into the diet that accompanies the hour long stents of video game madness.)  No wonder they are whiny and miserable and tired all the time.

Seriously, I wish more parents would stop using video games as a babysitter and get involved with their kids.  And I’m not talking about joining them on the controls, although in moderation, that could be a good bonding experience.  I’m talking about building a cabin or a chicken shed, or dig up the earth looking for dinosaurs.  I know I’m going to extremes and being silly, kinda, but there is so much to do!  Do it.  And get creative, it will entertain all parties.

Kyle-reading-Hunger-Games-at-IHOP-2012-Aunt-Heather-Piper

At least reading is another one of Kyle’s addictions, besides the video games. He does love to read, even at the IHOP – Hunger Games! c. 2012

Video games are a bit of an enigma with me.  Last weekend Kyle made a comment that he had a lot to do.  “Really what do you have planned for today?”  Silly me, he had to finish building his house in Minecraft.  What?  I said, “Kyle building an imaginary house in a video game is not considered work, nor should it ever be a priority.”  He gave me the “whatever” grin.  I believe he even rolled his eyes at me!

This was my time to sound like an old timer.  I told Kyle, “Now if you go out and build an actual house, that someone could live in or a play area, now that’s considered work and worth your time.  I would also help you build it, but not a digital house that doesn’t benefit anyone.”  His response?  “My people need somewhere to live!”  Yikes!   I should have stopped there, but I didn’t and I began to explain how we built a fort (yes we took small trees chopped them down and build ourselves a fort to play in, in the woods) and a cabin.  Seriously, we did this when we were in elementary school.   I didn’t mention that we were unusual kids for our day, I didn’t find it a need when I was trying to make my case.

Not taking the hint Kyle didn’t seem to care or really comprehend what I was saying, I continued, “Look, your dad and Casey and Joel (cousins) build the party shack just to hang out in when they were in high school and not to play video games.”  Again, I didn’t get into what they did up there, nor do I even want to know, but that’s not relevant to my argument.

Kyle knows the cabin very well.  We sometimes hunt around there and when Kyle was younger, Casey would come home and take him for a walk up to the permanent structure, remembering Ryan,  The cabin is equipped with a wood burner, windows, a porch and a shingled roof.  Definitely no dive.

Quick story.  I don’t know how many times this happened, but I do know it was at least once.  The guys, Ryan, Casey and Joel, plus whoever else was hanging around, called to have a pizza delivered.  They actually gave directions to the edge of the woods and told the driver to wait there, someone will meet them.  To me that’s the funniest story.  First of all this took place late at night and secondly, no delivery driver would even do that today for fear of being jumped.  Lastly, who just orders a pizza to have it delivered to the woods?  I would have walked to my parents house to wait for it and then carried the pie back up.  Not those guys.  They got hungry and ordered a pizza to be delivered in the woods with no real address.  Too funny!

Now back to my video game rant.  On Monday Kyle text me asking for an apple pie recipe we recently made.  I had mom type it up and email it to him.  I text him back letting him know it was on the way to check his emails, no response.  Again, I reached out to him via text message to ensure he did indeed receive the requested information, no response.   I tried calling, to only be put into his voicemail.  Fine, it must not be that important, even though I believed he needed it for school.

Kyle & my text he needs work on his spelling- Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle texted me for an apple pie recipe, obviously he needs work on his spelling

The next day I got a text saying “Got it”.  Ok a day late but whatever.  Then yesterday, just after he got home from school, he CALLED  me, not texted or emailed me but he picked up the phone to make the call, asking for his password on Minecraft.  Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing from Kyle, no matter the reason, but seriously?  Evidently, he updated the game and it logged him out, therefore his password was not saved.  Crisis! He wanted me to jump up immediately to access our password list to give him his login information.  Fat chance kid!  I told him I’ll get to it later, after asking if he had homework and if he practiced his piano.

I guess it doesn’t feel so good to be blown off, because the next thing I knew, I saw an email come through resetting the password. (Yes I have all his emails copied to me so I can monitor his activity.)  That kid is something else!  Instead of waiting for the info, he had to have it right then and there, immediately.  So he reset the password to play his game.  Funny thing, he never gave me the updated password.  I see another issue in the near future.

Not to be all negative about Kyle and those stupid video games because he sometimes does pretty good with playing in moderation, sort of.  Granted, I do need to tell him to log off when the hours have been racking up.  By no means does he usually volunteer to be released from the video game addition, but once he’s off, he’ll play other board games, go to the movies, sled ride, cook, or my favorites, play the piano and reading.   He just needs to be guided toward other activities. I’ve noticed he really doesn’t pay attention to the hours spent on the computer.  I suppose that’s my job.  I’m very thankful he does have other interests, even though they tend to take a backseat to the video games.

I’m hoping this is still a faze, but maybe I’m the one living in the imaginary world.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Gamers Start Small & Grow

There are people who are very dismissive of games and gamers.  ~Jane McGonigal

Heather-&-Holly-Turkey-Trot-11-28-13-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Me & Holsters at the Latrobe Turkey Trot Race. It was a cold one! 11/28/13

Kyle loves his video games, a fact I’ve reluctantly accepted for a few years now.  As the days pass by, Kyle seems to exude more passion for these video games.  His choices in digital entertainment are also more advanced and are taken to the next level with each new video interest.  I mean, unbeknownst to mom, Gigi Our Original Gamer – Pac-Man she paved the way for our little gamer.

My sister is also a video game fan, as are many of her friends.  She plays the Wii and Sony Playstation (PS3).  I don’t believe she has an XBox 360, but for all I know, she could.  I really don’t get into gaming, nor do I have an interest except for the dance games.  Yes I LOVE dancing around to the video games.  My favorite?  The Michael Jackson Experience!  Love his music, love his dance moves.  That’s as far as my gaming interests are peeked.

When I was younger, I loved Atari.  My game of choice?  Frogger!  Even as much as I loved that game, I still was not a typical gamer, investing large stents of time into the virtual world.  Not then, and most certainly not now.

This past New Year’s, I told Kyle I’d play him a few video games, you know moving me out of my comfort zone and sacrificing a small amount of time for Kyle’s happiness.  I tried to get excited and I wish I really wanted to play, but alas, I could not.  One would think the shooting games would keep my interest, but nope.  Not even my beloved childhood friend, Frogger could build my yearning to play.  There was absolutely no desire.  Truly, I just wanted to watch a movie, read a book, write or do anything else.  I kind of felt bad for Kyle, for all he wanted to do was play video games, and not just play, but play with me.  That’s his favorite way of spending time with us.  We did agree on a few exciting games of Trouble and the good old stable, Chess, but I retired the video games after a a few rounds.  Kyle is lucky to have his Aunt Nikki, for she is the only one who shares video game enthusiasm.

Yes, Nicole can sit there for hours and play video games, and she enjoys it!  Sometimes Kyle and Nicole play each other online.  Kyle does get a kick out the time spent online with his Aunt Nikki, and will literally plan evenings with my sister.  Granted, she is a busy person, so those evenings are far and few between, as least in Kyle’s eyes, but she does try to hang in the virtual world with our little man as much as possible.  In fact, this past Sunday night, Kyle was all excited to play my sister online.  He called her all weekend, nudging her along, making sure she downloaded said game, I believe it was Mine Craft, and re-confirmed his reservation to ensure there was no miscommunication.  Too funny!  While I was sick all weekend, he was planning for his big night online with his Aunt Nikki.

Kyle-playing-video-games-in-car-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2012

This is what Kyle does while in the car… playing video games…. & he wonders why he gets headaches in the car? 2012

A couple of weekends ago, Kyle and I stopped in to Best Buy to purchase a camera for my company Thrill of the Hunt.  As I was speaking to the sales associate,  Kyle mentioned he was going to peruse headsets, whatever that meant.  He came back with this simple headset containing a movable microphone.  Being elated over his find, Kyle went off on how much he loved it and needed the piece of equipment, at least that’s what he told me.  Great! (I was happy for him, but not really that excited.)

Next thing I knew, Kyle pulled out his own chain wallet, courtesy of his pappy (my dad) and proceeded to get in line to pay for his purchase.  My little man is growing up too fast!  At the same time, he took my phone and proceeded to call my sister letting her know he was now in business.  I looked at the young sales associate assisting me and said, “Do you play video games?”  Without hesitating and giving me a confused look, he replied with confidence, “O yes!”  Great, I’m the minority.  Of course I was in Best Buy, the hub for computer geeks.  I should ask that question when I’m in Barnes and Noble and see what kind of answer I get.

What did he need the headset for?  Apparently, Kyle has graduated from simple playing video games on his laptop and iPod, to playing online with his friends.  On a side note, he is not permitted to play with anyone he doesn’t personally know that either goes to school with him or is a family friend.  Kyle doesn’t really understand my reasoning, but he respects my instructions, at least for now.

This past Friday, Kyle arranged to play Mind Craft with this friends.  What?  He scheduled a time to play video games online?  Yep!  I’m glad Kyle has an interest, and I’m very happy he has friends to share that passion, but I can honestly say, I don’t get it.  I would be happier if he was socializing with his friends at someone’s house and happen to be playing video games, but he’s enjoying life and I’m happy for him.  And the headset?  It’s to talk to his friends while they play.  I guess I should be happy for that line of communication too.

Kyle gets into reading as much as he does his video games.  That’s our shared interest, books, as well as snowboarding!  Maybe the gaming is just a minor difference in interest.  I wish he would get into running or hiking like I do, but I can’t have everything.  After all, he’s not me, he’s his own person.  And fine young man he is!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Snowboarding,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Communication Skills Need Some Work

Take advantage of every opportunity to practice your communication skills so that when important occasions arise, you will have the gift, the style, the sharpness, the clarity, and the emotions to affect other people.  ~Jim Rohn

Aunt-Heather-Piper-at-the-Seton-Hill-University-Alumni-Panel-11-12-13

Brenda Shaffer, Michael Fecik & me speaking at the 3rd Annual – Customer Centricity: Serving Clients & Employees Panel at Seton Hill University for Dr. Giunta.  Q & A Session!  11/12/13

Talking to Kyle yesterday on the phone, made me realize something, the kid has no verbal communication skills, at least not on the phone.  I know this is no revelation, but worth noting and addressing.   After all he is my pre-teen and has to learn to proper communication.

Face-to-face, Kyle is not a shy person, not in the slightest.  He has no qualms asking for assistance in stores or asking anyone, for anything to get what he wants at any time.

When family members or any adult figure speaks directly to him, asking about school or Christmas or some general topic of conversation, he usually just spouts out, ‘Good’ or something very brief, to the point and simple, with maybe a head nod.  I get that, he’s a kid and really doesn’t want to be participating in the conversation where he has no vested interest.  For when he does have a stake to the claim, he can rule the words to make himself and his purpose known.  So I never would peg Kyle as needing direction when speaking on the phone.  But it’s true!

Keep in mind we are too used to Kyle, and take him for who he is, which every child should be accepted!  But what I’m talking about, is coaching and assisting him throughout his journey of life, making him a better person for whatever his future endeavors might be.   Plus, let’s not forget sometimes his cryptic sentences drive me crazy!  This kid is twelve years old and his communication skills need to grow and mature with him.

Now back to the matter at hand, yesterday’s conversation.  I called him to see what he was doing, if he practiced his piano, how school was, you know the standard run of the mill questions.  Kyle initially said “Hi”.  Good we are off to a great start.  We might need to work on his influction and ease of his voice, but nevertheless, good.  Then after starting my conversation, trying to prompt some response from him, Kyle just said, “Ya, can you get me Saturday?”  As if he could care less about the questions and dismissed me, completely!  Immediately I retorted, “That’s great buddy, but how about ‘Hi Aunt Heather school was good.  I still have to practice my piano.  So I was thinking, would you mind picking me up on Saturday?'” As I reiterated a ‘normal’ conversation back to him he just made an ‘ok’ noise and was pretty dismissive as usual.

Then I said, “Kyle you are going to have to work on your verbal communication skills.  No more it’s all about you and what you want.  You need to participate in a nice conversation, Not one where I have to solve a riddle to understand it.”  Then, all I heard was “Ok” with a little chuckle.  He’s a smart kid, he knows what I’m talking about.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-speaking-at-Alumni-Panel-Seton-Hill-University-11-12-13

Yours truly, speaking at the 3rd Annual Customer Centricity: Serving Clients & Employees Panel for Seton Hill University. Talking about The Piper Corporation & Thrill of the Hunt. 11/12/13

I don’t get it, I really don’t?  Is it generational?  Is it his personality?  Is it just with my family?  Is it maturity?  Whatever it is, I don’t give a flying fig.  He is going to learn to correct his poor communication skills.  Kyle cannot think he can walk around speaking to people with only his agenda on his mind and a cryptic one at best.  Nope, not no my watch!

Seriously, he wasn’t always like that.  Or was he?  All I remember is this little two year old, who was just learning to speak (after getting his ears checked and the problems temporarily fixed) sitting in the backseat of my car, talking into his Finding Nemo toy phone.  He loved that thing.  I got it for him because he expressed an interest in phones, usually he had his eye on mine.  So I told him he could have one of his own that had lights and made noises.

One day we were driving and he was talking.  I mean carrying on a conversation.  I said, “Hey buddy who are you talking to?”  He said, talking into the phone as a real person was on the other end, “Hang on, Aunt Heather is talking to me.”  What?  Then he replied, “I’m talking to Aunt Nitti, what you want?”  Too cute!  All I could do was feel embarrassed I interrupted him and said, “O, sorry buddy, tell her I said hi and to call me later.”  That little munchkin turned back into the phone and said, “Ok, I’m back, Aiya said ‘Hi’ and to call her later.”  Then, to really play out the conversation how it would be in real life, he turned to me and said, “Aunt Nitti said, Ok”.  I was dying!  My heart melted!  That’s one of those moments when you wish the entire world was watching and enjoying it with you.  At least my family.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-Speaking-at-Seton-Hill-University-Alumni-Panel-11-12-13

Me speaking at Seton Hill University for 3rd Annual Customer Centricity: Serving Clients & Employees Panel. Starting off with The Piper Corporation & Thrill of the Hunt! 11/12/13a

He continued on this “conversation” for a while, pausing every now-and-again to answer a question and to ask a question like, “When are you coming home?” or “What presents do you have for me?”.  Once he was tattling on me and said, “Ya Aunt Nitti, Aiya drives like a race car driver.”  What?  Even in his imagination world he tattled on me!  At the end of his conversations,  I always heard him say, “Ok, I’ll talk to you later, bye.”  before closing this bright blue plastic flip phone and putting the antenna down.   Too much!

Now I know the kid knows how to carry on a normal conversation, at least an imaginary one.  That’s a start!  So why doesn’t he?  Is is because he’s being lazy?  Or is too used to us and knows no matter what, we love him and will do anything for him so he cuts to the chase?  I can respect that, for I am too impatient with responses and I like to get to the point when I’m in a hurry.  Now that I’ve admitted my behavior, is Kyle like me?  Is he picking up my candor?  Yikes!  I better watch it!

However, the difference between my communication skills and his, besides years of experience is the quality.  I know how to carry on a conversation, I know how to give pleasantries, I know how to be “normal”, kind of.  I’m not that convinced with him, not just yet.  Until then, I think Mr. Kyle is going to get a lesson on phone etiquette until it sticks to his brain and falls out his mouth and becomes secondary to his communication skills.  After all, parents, or in my case Auntie has to be the life coaches for these children.  Kids don’t know what is not taught.  So I’ll take the time and usually the headache that accompanies these lessons, to teach him as best as I know how.  Not that Kyle has to be like me, not in the slightest, I want him to develop his own style, but there needs to be a foundation for him to build on.  Here we go!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

I’ts the Little Things that Count to a Child

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.  ~Frederick Douglass

Max,-Landon-Jordan-Aunt-Hot-Dogs-Crew-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2013

Max, Landon, Jordan, hanging with the cousins! Aunt Hot Dogs is the chauffeur 2013

With New Year’s resolutions set into motion, I hope everyone makes it a point to be more loving to their fellow neighbor or family member, especially children!  Little gestures truly do matter!

It’s funny, everyone now-a-days, well maybe not EVERYONE that would be a grossly generalized statement, but many feel the need to spend money on their children.  Why?  To show love I guess.  Sometimes I’ve found myself falling into that trap, but then I step back and realize Kyle is happy even just picking rocks (yes no joke, he’s like his dad whereas they will search for cool looking rocks to collect) as he would be participating in a shopping spree.  Kyle is truly happiest when someone is doing something with him, giving him attention, showing him love, and learning something new.  Even if it’s cleaning.  Now, if it’s perceived as exciting through his own mind, even better!

Landon-Christmas-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Little Landon celebrating Christmas… not as great as a parking garage, but a close second! 2013

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with spending money on a child, because my family has cornered the market with that action over the years.  But I also believe it’s the little things, sometimes the smallest gestures that mean the most to a youngster.  Those minor actions, that don’t take that much energy, and sometimes acquire no cost, are remembered and cherished above all.

I do try to live by this rule.  That’s why I take Kyle for walks in the woods, (one reason, second for exercise and third to get him off of those video games) not only do I try and get him to appreciate God’s artwork, but I try to spend those extra few minutes with him, without distraction.  (Well once he’s stopped complaining)  It’s true, sometimes playing a game of Chess or War means the world to that kid.

Mentioning it a time or two, when Kyle was a toddler of about two or three years of age, he loved sitting with me practicing his addition and subtraction flash cards.  Loved it!  Not only did he like to test his knowledge and get correct answers, but he also liked the little bit of attention and positive reinforcement.  Not much has changed since those days, and I’m happy for that!  So now, that makes me wonder how different some kids would be if they only had that little extra?  Or if they were held with love?

Landon-Aunt-Hot-Dogs-Nephew-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2012

Little Landon, a.k.a. Peanut sportin’ a suit. Looking good buddy! c. 2012

Before Kyle could speak, he would show us what he needed.  Sometimes, he simply wanted to be held, being so content sharing hugs and being in human interaction.  Seriously, no joke!  By the time I’d pick him up on Friday, that’s all he craved.  By Sunday, he was more independent, not needing as much direct affection, but the need for attention never lessened!  How many other kids are in that same boat?  I bet the true numbers are astounding.

Without dwelling on the negative, I want to share a story, almost an allegory, about a couple of great people.  When this tale was being relived to me, I was overwhelmed with joy and excitement for the child and I felt the sheer love for the toddler by the couple.  This is one of those unspoken stories that mean the world to all parties involved, even a bystander like myself.

Forgive me for any inaccuracies, for this story was told to me this past fall, not out of bragging but out of pure love and wanting to share the experience.  A good friend of mine, let’s call her Aunt Hot Dogs was spending time with her nephew, Landon (actual name, which in English means “long hill” – this is relevant).  Good old Lando, also known as Peanut (which is funny because that’s what my dad used to call me) was three years old.  So far, in his short, yet very important life, he has shown an affinity for parking garages.  Yes!  He is infatuated with the ramps on parking garages.  You have to admit, that makes him even more of a cutie!  Seriously, a precious little munchkin and to have that as an interest just melts your heart.

Landon-in-building-gear-Aunt-Heather-Piper-c-2013

Looks like Landon is ready to go & work on those parking garages! c.2012

Anyway, Aunt Hot Dogs and Uncle Mike live near a hospital.  Naturally, near a parking garage, Landon’s golden kingdom.  One day, as a treat Aunt Hot Dogs decided to push him in his stroller up the ramp of the parking garage.  Can you imagine?  It was like a kid going to Disney World!  His eyes probably were bulging out of his head with excitement over seeing his dream come true.

Without having to say it, but I will, the kid was thrilled!  Then, to top it off, to really add to the moment and make it so much more special,  Aunt Hot Dogs and Lando peered out over the railing.  In the distance they could see Aunt Hot Dog’s and Uncle Mike’s homestead.  With the steady arm of Aunt Hot Dogs, she pointed out her house in the distance, and who was sitting on the front porch?  Yep, Uncle Mike!  To add to this thrill ride and to participate in the little man’s moment, Uncle Mike waved to the two parking garage attendants.  Those little gestures helped to make this event even more special and memorable!  What a fun time!

When me and Aunt Hot Dogs went running that very afternoon, she couldn’t wait to tell me about her feature story.  She was so excited about Landon’s perfect day and being a part of it, she was beaming from ear to ear and laughing.  Let’s face it, it is kind of funny for a kid to be entertained by walking through a parking garage.  The point was, everyone was elated!  That little Peanut pulls on her heart strings, but I can certainly see why.  He is a gem!  I was excited about the activity, it even made my day!  Those small moments, the unplanned ones, the basic simplicity of life is just plain awesome!

Granted, Landon probably will not remember the incidence, at least not in long-term, but the feeling associated with his Aunt Hot Dogs and Uncle Mike will always be there and strengthen with each activity.  It just took a few minutes to mean the world to this little three year old, and to shape that child into an even better young man.

I wish I could do that with Kyle, but alas those days are gone.  Parking garages don’t mean nearly the same to Kyle as they do for Landon, I don’t think they ever did.  Plus, I hate to say it, I get claustrophobic and I probably wouldn’t have been able to do that.  So major cudos to Aunt Hot Dogs and Uncle Mike!  Now, if we were on go-carts, maybe!  Nope, I’ll leave the parking garage dream to Landon!

Let Aunt Hot Dogs and Uncle Mike be the example of what family and bringing love is all about!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

It’s Called Hard Work for a Reason

It isn’t ever delicate to live.  ~Kay Ryan

Kyle-sleeping-6-9-12-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle crashed… 6/9/12

Two weekends ago, well actually that entire week, I was working in my yard.  Yes, the very same yard work I should have done in the spring, or even the summer and yet here I am, trying to get it done before winter sets in and hunting season starts.  Luckily, we’ve had a pretty mild fall.  We’ve even been blessed with nice temperatures in the 50’s and 60’s and overcast with some sun.  Perfect for outside work.

I’m glad I got my work done because as of today,  the snow rolled in.  Only a few inches but still a pleasant sight.  I love snow!

You see spring always seems to sneak up on me and then I miss the boat with respect to tending to the lawn.  Then summer rolls around and I don’t handle the heat and the sun too well.  Literally!  Being outside in the sun makes me sick to my stomach.  I get really bad headaches and let’s not forget about my sun sensitive skin.  I have to be pretty well covered and protected from the harmful rays at all hours of the day, especially in the summer.  And those summer months, I am usually busy with Thrill of the Hunt events.  So there you have it, back to fall work in the yard.

What needed done?  The usual, mowing and weeding and trimming, which I have elected to do about once a month now-a-days.  I’m sure my neighbors love that sight.  Actually, they should be thankful, for I make their lawns look perfect!

Last Thursday night, early Friday morning we had one heck of a windstorm roll through.  It resulted in a tree branch taking down a power-line, right down the road from my parents.  Guess what?  I couldn’t work on my company stuff nor my freelancing work, since my “office” is in the corner of their kitchen with my desktop and my external drives.  Don’t worry, I always have something to do.  No free day for me!

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This was the beginning of my backyard steps… 2011

On a side note, I purposely set up my “office” in my parents house, as opposed to my house, to get me out, dressed and moving.  I want to make sure I never get lazy, especially with The Piper Corporation.  So I force myself to travel to my work station.  It’s perfect actually, I have a great view of my Uncle’s farm and a view of Saint Vincent College out looking through the picture window in the kitchen.  The best office space ever!  Plus my office companions aren’t too bad either, Scooby, Seven and Storm.

I recruited Kyle to assist me on Saturday at my house, since my parents were still without electricity.  I took this as a sign from God, telling me to get in the yard and finish it up.  After all I couldn’t work on the computer.

Starting my day as soon as the sun rises, around 6:00 am, Kyle and I went to work.  Yes it was not light duty chores.  It was hauling mulch and river rock, pulling weeds and walking up and down my back steps around my landscaping.  Truly hard work even for a professional landscaper.  So how did Kyle fare?

Well, at first it was a big argument.  He didn’t want to do the mulch and was seriously exaggerating his motions in such a way, I made him carry the river rocks while I took over the mulch job.  I knew I could get it done faster, making better progress than Kyle.  Then, I caught him trying to do the job half way, cutting corners that sort of thing.  I was livid!  There are few things I really truly can’t stand and detest, beside smoking, and that’s laziness.  I just can’t understand making that choice to wimp out, especially on something that is benefiting oneself such as my house.

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My backyard while we were just getting started… before the steps. c. 2009

After about an hour of me loosing my patience, yelling and Kyle dropping his attitude and getting acclimated to the job of the day, he really began to work.  And I mean he worked!  That kid was on fire!  Really after, we got moving and he started to get into a rhythm and saw progress, he was such a hard little worker.  He was even proud of himself saying, “Wow Aunt Heather I think I’m getting stronger with each rock!  Soon I’ll be even better in the weight room!”  What a cutie!  I had to concur with his reasoning, because he was right.  The more work he did, the stronger he was getting.

You see, for the next few weeks Kyle is in the weight room at school for gym class.  They are teaching him how to lift and such.  He seems to really like it.  Kyle even asked me, “Hey Aunt Heather, how much can you do on the leg press?”  Truly not remembering I said, “Probably around 100 pounds or so.  Why how much can you do?”  With a victorious and ornery grin, Kyle responded proudly with “I can leg press 240 pounds!”  Wow!  Holy smokes buddy!  That’s great!  I really was proud of him.  He is a strong little compact bugger!  He said only one other kid did more than him and he did 260 pounds.  Still all very impressive.

With the weight room talk, it gave Kyle another incentive to keep on truck’in.  He was great!  All the way up until it started to rain on us.  I was almost done with the mulch, when I turned around to see my little man with his hoodie up, soaking wet carrying buckets of river rock and looking defeated.  We had to leave soon anyway.  Kyle was serving mass at 6:00 pm that night.  After seeing the look on his face, I said, “Go jump in the shower, we’re done for today.”  Shear joy fell over him.  Not to mention a sense of accomplishment.  Kyle did remark, “Wow Aunt Heather it’s actually looking nice.  We got a lot done!”  Yes we did buddy, especially with all his hard work.

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My backyard while in the progress of landscaping… ton of brush! c. 2009

As it turns out Kyle wasn’t done working, not by a long shot.  You see he had off of school on Monday for an in-service day.  So I took advantage of that fact and asked him to assist me again to try and finish the work once and for all.  Surprisingly, he was enthused to help me wrap up the yard.  That morning, we first helped my dad by stacking some wood before making our way to my dreaded lawn.

On another side note, sometime on Saturday I must have weeded out poison ivy and proceeded to scratch my face and my eye.  Yes my eye!  By Sunday, my face was all swollen, itchy and my eye looked like a big marshmallow.  Not believing in doing actual work on Sundays, I try to honor the Sabbath Day as much as possible, I took a few Benadryl pills and fell into a sleep coma.  By Monday, my eye was even worse and we had to make a pit stop at Med Express to get me on steroids again.  I really hate those things!

Yes, I worked like that with basically one eye since I could only see out of it with a sliver.  I figured, I would rather get in contact with the poison ivy again, now that I was on medication, rather than later when I was healed and had to go through this again.  Plus, I wanted to stay away from people with all my ugliness.  I even avoided the gym in the mornings.  But lucky for Kyle, I had no qualms about hanging around him.  I would even tease my little man by leaning in with my bulging eye and saying, “Go ahead and touch it.  Feel how squishy it is!”  He was grossed out and would squirm around me.  Eventually, we made a joke out of it saying “Don’t make me give you the stink eye.”  And then I would point my eye in his direction.  That cracked us both up! If you can’t laugh at yourself, then what’s the point in living.

While we were talking and working Kyle mentioned again about getting an apartment and buying land to build his house and huge fish tank on.  I said, “O buddy between me and your Aunt Nikki, we will probably have enough rental properties for you to live in so you don’t have to worry about it.”  Kyle took that as a sign that he will take my house.  It’s yours buddy, you earned it through sweat equity!

While wrapping up some of the work on Monday afternoon, Kyle started to comment about hard work and how hard our activity was.  Then, he started to get a bit sarcastic and threw out the attitude again.  He said, “This is suppose to be my day off from school and I’m not suppose to be doing work.”  Really?  Says who.  I retorted with, “What do you think most people do Kyle?  They work all week and do yard work in the evenings and weekends.  Welcome to reality.”  He had nothing to say on that note.

I get it, he was tired and not used to working that hard for that many days in a row.  I completely understood.  But I still won’t tolerate an attitude.

After that came the fury of Aunt Heather.  I asked Kyle to dump a couple of buckets of dirt up by my back fence in a mulch pile of leaves and branches.  Not wanting to walk up the hill, we both kind of laughed at the thought of making another trip there.  Finally, Kyle did what I asked and made the first trip, promising I’ll make the second.

Cow-Toilet-Found-on-a-Walk-Aunt-Heather-Piper

No this was not in my yard! Me & the boys saw this while on one of our walks… I LOVE IT!!

When I made my trip, to help him out and show he is not doing all the hard work, I noticed he dumped the dirt right in the yard, not even coming close to the pile!  Fiery anger shot out of me and resulted in a lecture on laziness.  I wanted him to understand that he has to train himself now, NOT to be lazy and to NOT take shortcuts, for it will always bite him in the butt in the long run, especially in a professional environment.  I went off explaining how I trusted him to do a job and I expected it to be done right and not to have to redo it.  Then, I went into a tangent about how he doesn’t want the reputation of being a lazy kid.  And so on and so forth.

When teaching a child to NOT be lazy, you’re actually teaching them more than hard work, you’re teaching a sense of worth and self-accomplishment, good foundation structures that I fully believe in to create a solid character.

Okay, granted I was tired too and it was a long few days, plus with all the poison ivy irritating my skin, I’m sure my nerves where just a little bit sensitive.  He felt horrible and kicked it up a notch until he was out of steam.  Seriously, I haven’t seen a kid his age work that hard in forever!  I was really proud of him, and maybe I was a little too hard on my man.  But I wanted to make a point, that it’s not just about my yard.  I am training his character, the man he will hopefully grow to be.  The one I hope him to be, minus any laziness.  And you know what?  I believe he will get there.  It was only at that moment, he was being a kid and a tired human.

Thanks buddy for all your hard work!  You earned every muscle you worked out and you earned both movies and popcorn.

This past weekend I took Kyle to see Thor 2: The Dark World and I believe the second movie of his choice is The Hunger Games – Catching Fire.  I even told him he earned popcorn, which he gave me a victorious smile.  I love paying this kid in movies.  It makes for a well deserved date night.

I never thought to get finished pictures of the yard, so once the snow disappears I will take pictures and do a comparison.

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments
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