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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

Family Traditions Through Sauerkraut

When publications like the Baltimore Sun run headlines like ‘Seafood, tea, sauerkraut in food spotlight,’ you know that sauerkraut has arrived in the national consciousness and has spiked in popularity. We’ve seen our sales climb pretty rapidly in the fourth quarter of 2005 as people have learned about the health benefits of sauerkraut and continued eating it because of its versatility and flavor.  ~Chris Smith

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Kyle’s 8th Birthday Party at the Tin Lizzy with Chef Dato. They made pizza’s & pretzels. Great party! 7/2009

Yes, we do make our own sauerkraut, about once every couple of years.  We make a big batch, and then when it’s ready, we freeze it and it lasts a long time.  No joke!  Great for the crock-pot with kielbasa and hot dogs! Anytime of the year.

It’s funny, as we were getting things prepped and ready on Sunday for the deed, Kyle was super stoked!  He was so excited to participate with the family on such a tradition.  I even said to him, “Kyle you’ve only done this once before.”  He corrected me, and informed me he’s participated a few times with making sauerkraut.  My bad!  I didn’t realize this meant so much to him, and it really did!

Actually, I’m pretty happy about that, learning to make anything is a good lesson, not to mention keeping up family traditions is the best.  My sister didn’t join us this time, but maybe next.

So why would one make sauerkraut?  It tastes so much better than store bought out of a can!  Way better!  Tell me if this makes sense, but growing up with a half Polish mom, you’d think I would have a taste for the aged cabbage sustenance, but alas I never really cared for it.  In fact, when mom would cook sauerkraut, I would gag at the smell, literally dry heave.  Luckily, over the years I’ve grown accustomed to the potency, and developed a mild craving for sauerkraut, only mom’s.  I still don’t care for the canned or store bought.  Probably because mom and dad’s sauerkraut simply contains cabbage, salt and water.  Whereas, if you read the ingredients on the packages, it contains a lot more than that, which I feel taints the taste.  Yep, homemade or nothing.

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The kids made pizza’s & pretzels for Kyle’s 8th Birthday Party. Tin Lizzy with Chef Dato. Kyle’s on the right. 7/2009

How does one start to make sauerkraut?  It’s really easy actually.  Dad always gets about eight large heads of cabbage or so, from the farmers market.  Then, we peel off the outside leaves, chop the heads in half to remove the heart, then the real fun begins.   We have a professional grade meat slicer we use to slice up the cabbage.  Before our lives were made easier, we would use mom’s food processor set to slice, and then before that we would use a hand mandolin or micro-plane, whichever you prefer to call it.  Now that uses the arm muscles!  No wonder the Polish women are buff!

After each head of cabbage is sliced, then it is placed in a large ceramic crock, ours holds about fifteen gallons.  Add about one of dad’s handfuls of course Kosher salt, and begin pounding the sliced cabbage down.  This action helps to generate the natural juices from within.  Where does one buy a sauerkraut pounder?  No clue.  Dad made ours.  It’s simply a wooden cylinder head attached to a long wooden handle.

This process is repeated after every head of cabbage is shredded, and added to the ceramic crock.  While the pounding continues, tons of juices come to the surface till your arms are ready to fall off.  Dad and I took turns pounding.  Mom was in charge of adding the cabbage to the ceramic crock, while Kyle was on the meat slicer.  Yes I know, not a safe job for a munchkin, but he did help with the other jobs and begged us to let him on the meat slice.  It does have the safety features and Kyle was instructed on the consequences of what could go wrong.  When Kyle is scared, he is always overly cautious.  Knowing that, we still meticulously watched him and made sure he was safe.  Dad’s only comment was, “Kyle this thing could take off your finger easily and that hurts, trust me!”  As dad showed him his finger.  Kyle about turned white from hearing and envisioning the reality.

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Kyle rolling out his dough for his personal pizza at his 8th Birthday Party with Chef Dato. Tin Lizzy 7/2009

It’s true, a couple of years ago dad was slicing deer meat on the band saw and took off the tip of his finger.  It’s still missing, gone!  Did he go to the doctors?  Nope!  He wrapped it up, and washed it out until it healed.  It’s still sore for him, but he manages, and uses it now as a learning lesson.  That’s taking a negative and turning it into a positive!

Once the sauerkraut was pounded and done, we placed a glass plate facing down on top of the soon to be aged saurerkraut, with a gallon jug of water to weight it all down, allowing the cabbage to soak in all the salty juices.  Then, we placed several layers of garbage bags down in to seal it off from contaminants.  Yes, the bags are clean and no, I don’t know what they used in the olden days.  Probably some sort of burlap, which we don’t have a supply of laying around the house.  Then, as a final step, we dumped more water into the garbage bags, which resided on the gallon jug, glass plate and the sauerkraut, to really keep the weight pressed down on the future goodness.  That’s it!  Let it alone for about eight weeks and enjoy!

Since we make so much at a go, we divide it into freezer bags, label them and send the sauerkraut to our own arctic in the garage, awaiting our next meal, or for New Year’s Eve morning.  Yes, that’s another tradition I know most people share, hot dogs, kielbasa and sauerkraut for New Years.  I love it!

While we were making the sauerkraut, I do recall the last time.  Kyle was giving everyone positive reinforcement.  You know, “You’re doing good Aunt Heather, keep it up.”  or “Wow, pap pap, good job!” as he gave my dad a thumbs up.  He was in that cheering stage, which was way too cute!

Love that kid!  I hope he never changes and I hope he is always available to make sauerkraut with us for years to come!

P.S. it’s such a whirl wind when making sauerkraut, I never thought to stop and take pictures.  It actually happens so fast and we get into such a rhythm.  Maybe next time, I’ll be sure to snap a few pics for my records.

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

Another Milestone – 7th Grade

Some may try and tell us that this is the end of an era.  But what they overlook is that in America, every day is a new beginning, and every sunset is merely the latest milestone on a voyage that never ends.  For this is the land that has never become, but is always in the act of becoming.  Emerson was right:  America is the land of tomorrow.  ~Ronald Reagan

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Kyle’s 1st Birthday. Great milestone with me & pappy! 2002

Watching Kyle grow up and being an integral part of his life has been a delight.  I mean that with all sincerity.  Some milestones have been easier to take over others.  Example, when Kyle graduated from diapers to the potty.  Score!  That was time to celebrate!  However, this most recent milestone is bittersweet, the seventh grade.

Kyle is in the junior high school!  He is twelve and he is a preteen.  Where has the time gone?  In conjunction with this milestone, we also hit another, independence.  Yes, for the last couple of years Kyle has been showing baby steps towards maturing and showing subtle hints of  independence, but this one threw me off guard.  Every year since Kyle was in kindergarten, actually I think preschool, I have watched him get on the bus.  So naturally I thought this year will be no different.  To be honest, I thought this might be the last year, of course I believe I’ve said that about the previous year too.  Regardless, I was planning on hanging out with him early in the morning and seeing him off to the seventh grade.

Boy was I wrong!  I asked Kyle what time the bus was picking him up and what time I should be there.  He just kind of gave me an awkward grunt, the kind you do when you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings yet you’re not backing down of your plan of action.  He said, “Umm that’s ok Aunt Heather, I’m good.”  What?  That’s what I say to someone when I don’t want to say ‘no’ yet say ‘no’!  It was just used on me?

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My little man, trying out his new walking technique at the Planinsek Pavilion. 2003

Well, that was early on this past weekend.  I thought, surely he would think this through and change his mind.  Naturally, not letting the topic go, I said, “You sure buddy you don’t want me to be there to watch you on your first day of school?”  Then, I went into a dissertation of how his Aunt Nikki, his Gigi and me all paid for him to go to preschool for two years.  And how I’ve been a driving force for him and his grades, as well as my family, for all these years.  I also stated that it’s been tradition for me to be there to see him off for his first day of school.  I even tried to assure him that I would stand a side and not be an embarrassment.  He probably didn’t believe that, even though I meant it to the best of my ability.

Nope, Kyle would not budge.  All he replied was, “Umm that’s ok, I’m good.”  Yep, Kyle made a decision and was sticking to it.   That I can respect.  How can I not, when he is showing that he is maturing and wants to be responsible for himsel?.  Ok, buddy I get it, kinda.

But again let’s be real, I’m his Aunt Heather and the understanding is in the details.  I went down the checklist, “Who’s getting you up?”  Himself.  “Who’s seeing you onto the bus?”  Himself.  “Who’s getting you breakfast?”  He said that he can get something at the school, which I advised him to grab a banana, apple or make himself at least cereal to ensure he has something in his tummy.  That is the last thing he needs, to be hungry all the way till lunch!  Everyone knows that wouldn’t fly with me!  Not a good way to start off the day, skipping out on fueling up the body.  Kyle, being Kyle, also had to work out the details as to not break any rules or get in trouble with the breakfast situation.  He commented, “Ya I guess I can eat on the bus to school, I don’t think the bus driver cares.  I can just toss my peel out the window.  Or I can eat some of pappy’s ribs!”  That gave me a chuckle!  Only Kyle worries about such small details.  Helping to put his mind at ease, I said “Just pitch your peel in a trash can in school.  If you choose to eat the ribs that will help you go till lunch, not a bad idea!”  He thought about that and was fine with my advice.  Then the ultimate question, “Who’s planning out your outfit?”  Himself!  Now that scares me more than anything.  As much as I pride myself on my ability to dress cute, stylish and couture, Kyle does not have that knack nor does he care.  Even dad, who is strictly a jeans, under shirt and plaid shirt type of guy, always has his top tucked in, belt on and never dresses sloppy.  Kyle on the other hand, has a different style to himself all together.  One I have yet to fathom!

Maybe that will be Kyle’s next milestone.  Seriously, I can’t wait for that one!

Regardless, Kyle has a full schedule already, going into advance math, taking a language, hope it’s French, and whatever else the day brings.  I’m sure Kyle will have a great first day of school, after all he is equipped with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King book to keep him entertained throughout the downtime.  I hope to see many more milestones from Kyle!  He is a bright and caring young man with a future of possibilities.

Milestones have their place in life.  Even if they appear to be initially bad, there is always something good in them, a lesson or a pathway made for more milestones.  I guess I just need to be here to help him through any rocky paths and guide him in the right direction.  Love you buddy!  Enjoy seventh grade!

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

Family Cooking Raises Healthy Lego Building Kids

I think careful cooking is love, don’t you?  The loveliest thing you can cook for someone who’s close to you is about as nice a valentine as you can give.  ~Julia Child

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Kyle hanging with the Star Wars Boba Fett or Janko Fett at LegoKidsFest 2012 in Pittsburgh

My family is like many who enjoy cooking and cooking together.  We really don’t eat out a lot, hence the congregation in the kitchen when hunger pains arrive.  Seriously, we don’t even really eat fast food.  In fact, the only fast food joints I support when I am in a pinch, or if the graving takes is Chick-fil-a, their service and friendly demeanor is always awesome and contagious, not to mention I love their chicken; or SubWay, when I need serious food and I want to control what is put on my sandwich; or Panera, when I’m looking for better tasting quality food, quickly; or Jioio’s when I want my thin, slightly sweet crust pizza; or any other pizza joint for that matter.  Every now-and-again I will make my appearance at a 5 Guys Burger & Fries or a Sonic or a Dairy Queen, but again that’s rare.  Nope, eating out is a rarity not a daily choice.  I was raised that way, and so I continue to keep the tradition.

I’ve said it before and the same still holds true, I enjoy cooking, especially with Kyle!  No matter if we are talking about breakfast, lunch, dinner or a simple snack, cooking together always makes it more fun!  Kyle really likes being in the kitchen, but he prefers to develop his food with the assistance of others.  Not that I can blame him, cooking together is way more fun and sometimes exciting when we start experimenting with ingredients.

In the past, cooking was a way for me to reinforce Kyle’s reading and his math by making him read the recipes to me and forcing him to figure out the measurements himself.  (Inner Conflict, Egg Sandwich Spectacular, Healthy Smoothie Sunday) Not to mention it was a great way to introduce him to different dishes, expanding his pallet and to teach him about the health benefits of specific foods, or lack there of in some cases.  Yes, I don’t always make the healthiest of dishes, but at least I am aware of what goes into the items I consume.

Kyle-&-Pap-Mentor-Deer-Hunting-10-2012 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle & his pappy getting ready to mentor deer hunt. We eat a lot of deer meat throughout the year. 2012

Same goes for Kyle.  I have always stressed the importance of eating healthy, however I have also demonstrated the moments of weakness and giving in to temptation.  When I splurge and steer clear of nutritious foods and swap them with junk food, I am also aware of how much I consume and how often.  Not to mention I have always lived by example to burn off the food through various exercise.  I’m not saying I am the poster child for physical fitness, but I do try and make a conscientious effort to demonstrate good healthy behaviors to Kyle.  I’m not saying he completely listens to me, but I know the information is being stored up in his cranium cavity…somewhere.  It’s my job to guide him in the right direction, even if I’m pushing him up a very steep hill.

This week has been wonderful, spending every day with Kyle.  For his birthday, I bought him two Bricks 4 Kidz Lego Camps at Saint Vincent College.  He’s been going all week with a morning session and an afternoon session, allowing us to hang out together for lunch.

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A rare treat at IHOP. Kyle wanted caramel hot chocolate. He was reading the Hunger Games while enjoying his dessert drink! c. 2011

All week we’ve been doing breakfast, lunch and dinner together!  And you what?  He has been eating healthier.  I’ve seen his improvement over these few short days.  When we cook together and eat together, Kyle is making better choices with his nutrition.  Plus, having the right foods on hand is a big part of it.

Everyday, he gets to help pick out what he wants for lunch and every day we make the meal together!  Like I said he loves being in the kitchen, helping to prepare the food, cut, stir and flip.  When we’re done, he is truly proud of what he’s made and knows I approve of his eating choices.  This situation just makes everyone happy!

Speaking of happy, Kyle has been seriously energetic and upbeat!  Keep in mind he’s been building Lego’s every morning and night, and this week, one of his rewards for his great report card came in the mail, in the form of another Lego.  So those certainly can sway a child’s attitude, but it also has to do with what is digesting in his gut.  When y0u eat right, you feel right!

Example, Kyle used to like vegetables when he was little.  Then all of a sudden he refuses to eat them, even though I know he doesn’t hate certain veggies.  One day this week, Kyle and I made a huge salad, per both of our suggestions.  He helped me chop up the salad stuff including the carrots and mushrooms.  More importantly, he was excited to make the salad large enough so his Gigi and pappy would have some for dinner.  He not only ate one salad for lunch, but he ate two and then one for dinner!  Granted it was coated in French dressing (low fat), but it wasn’t covered in cheese and no croutons made their appearance.  Just good old fashioned vegetables.  He LOVED the salad and was proud of what he made and his choice for consumption.

I am still amazed over what a difference a few days make, when choosing to eat correctly!  Granted, he does eat pretty good on the weekends, but a lot of the time, that’s our cheat days, which unfortunately is just a continuation of Kyle’s normal week.

Sometimes Kyle tells me what he’s had during the week, and although it sounds fine, the food items he eats are all processed crap.  Full of fat, sodium, not to mention the extra junk they throw into food bought off the shelves that alter our natural body’s chemistry.

The more I learn, the more I’ll continue to teach Kyle and try to live by example.  After all, it’s my job to fight for his health as much as it is for his spiritual well-being and his brain development.

Wander what he wants to eat for lunch today?  I can’t wait to pick him up!

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,LEGO's,Milestone,Observation & Imagination and have No Comments

Who Does Kyle Favor More, Gigi?

Becoming a grandmother is wonderful.  One moment you’re just a mother.  The next you are all-wise and prehistoric.  ~Pam Brown

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Mom & Kyle 8/12/01

Gigi and her Kyle.  When there needs to be a negative comparison it’s usually between these two, for those seemingly unfavorables, appear to stand out.  Yet there is more than meets the eye.

Kyle has always pointed out that he shares Gigi, his Aunt Nikki and his dad’s blue eyes.  I was told, “Ya not you Aunt Heather, you and pappy have brown eyes.”  Yes that’s certainly true, but I didn’t realize his blue eyes made him royalty.   Regardless, Kyle does have really pretty blue eyes and I’m glad that is a shared trait between him, his dad, his Gigi and his Aunt Nikki.

Does Kyle and Gigi both share their aversion for physical activity?  You bet they do!  Even so much as to mope around with their heads down when they have to do a little bit of work, or walk an extra two feet.  It’s complete torture for them.  They both drive me crazy when it comes to that.  Do they both like to complain?  Again, a big YES!  It’s actually kind of funny.  When neither one wants to do something or they disagree, they sort of grunt and make noises.  Dad calls it “Letting the air out of the tires.”  Just to share in this trait, so does Aunt Nikki.

Is that all the similarities between mom and Kyle?  Nope, not even close.  Even though he tends to favor my sister more, and there is no secret that Nicole and mom are a lot alike too, sometimes too much, Kyle did pick up more from his Gigi.

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Kyle & his Gigi hanging out c.2003

Besides the physical traits of having the blue eyes and lighter hair color, Kyle also shares some personality traits as well as behavioral ones with mom.

On a side note, I do want to call out that Kyle shares mom’s, dad’s and his dad’s talent for having a sense of direction.  The department Nicole and I miserably fail in.  What a great quality!

Let’s start with innovation.  Yes, mom is such an innovator, if that’s the right word for her.  This goes on all aspects of life.  When it comes to cooking she doesn’t need a recipe, or specific ingredients.  Mom can make a great meal out of cupboard items and miscellaneous food found in the refrigerator, on the fly.  No preparation, no research, just mixing and matching and voila!  A unique meal, that is favorable to the taste buds (as long as she doesn’t burn it).  Kyle is following mom’s knack with food experimentation.  He is certainly taking her lead when he is mixing items together, even something as simple as a smoothie.  Kyle is already breaking away from the standard and the ordinary and is creating his own.  That, I must say takes, guts, talent and skills, maybe a little adventure, which I completely support and encourage.  There has been many a time when I wouldn’t have a said ingredient and mom would say, “Ahh just use this instead.  Not as good but it should be alright.”  The word “should” throws me every time, but I always trust the Gig (our shortened term for Gigi or mom).

Mom is also innovative with everyday household items and situations.  If something is broke or missing, mom can adjust accordingly on the spot to make it work.  Yes sometimes it involves the use of duct-tape.  Her substitutions, however crazy they may appear, usually work.  Kyle can also think out of the box and adjust to to solve a much larger problem.  What really cracks me up, both, mom and Kyle usually think this way to eliminate additional work.  They truly love to take the easy route.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, except if you will not carry on with an activity because of the perception of it being too difficult due to the laziness mind set.  Once when Kyle was a much smaller tyke, maybe four or fives years old, he said, “I want to build Gigi a robot to help her do housework, so she doesn’t have to.”  Yep, somewhere the Olczak engineering gene resides in both of them.

Usually accompanying innovation are details.  Yes, the smallest part of a plan or story.   When mom is telling a story she will give every minor detail before she gets to the point at hand, always having to prod her along.  Now I know where I get it!  At least my details reside in the form of writing and event planning, another trait of mom’s.  Kyle follows all details, no matter how small, especially when it comes to putting his Lego’s together.  Yes again, that must be an Olczak thing, the tiniest of all details is never overlooked.

Mom is also a passive aggressive person, which is not my favorite by far.  Instead of getting to the point or spitting it out, she will go around and around till you figure out what she wants.  Not me!  I would rather just say it or have someone do me that favor.  I do tend to appreciate candor more than politeness.  Can you guess who else does this?  Yes!  The one and only Kyle Piper.  He will go around and around on a topic or subject without just asking the question or getting to the point.  There have been so many times I’ve said, “Kyle what do you want?!  Just spit it out, I can’t read your mind!”  I’ve always encouraged Kyle to ask, but also not to expect him to get his own way.

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Gigi & a little bumblebee Kyle 11-18-03

There is one topic that will get Kyle and his Gigi to spit out their feelings, that’s blood and gore.  Yep, both have a really weak stomach for such things including needles, surgery and even a pronounced scratch.  Can’t say that I understand.  The only thing that really gets to me is feces, which can I be blamed?  I’m talking about real life and not TV drama.  Mom could never stand it when we got hurt, including dad.  Every time one of us broke our leg roller skating (Nicole), nail stuck up the foot (me), sliced our head open from the debarker at the sawmill (Ryan), mom would never look in our direction.  She would either call my cousin Paula who is an RN, or my cousin Karen, who doesn’t mind, or another one of the our family friends in the medical field to inspect the damage, seeing if it was hospital worthy.

Side story.  When I was around five or so, my grandparent’s dog, Lady, bit me along the side of the head, just missing my eye.  Not to mention scratched up my chest pretty good.  Naturally I had to get stitches, without Novocain!  As the doctor had my head turned sideways to apply the stitches that I could see go into my head, I also saw mom in the near distance.  She was sitting in the corner of the emergency room, with her legs crossed, bouncing her one leg up and down, and looking away from me.  Wouldn’t even come near me to hold my hand!  She kept her distance even after all the crying for her.  Yep, mom can’t deal with emergency situations!

Kyle on the other hand, is the exact same!  Last summer I got a bad case of Taking On Poison Sumac.  I had to go to the MedCare to have it looked at.  Yes, it was that bad!  The entire time Kyle, who was trying to be supportive said to me, “Boy Aunt Heather I hope you don’t have to get a shot!  I hate shots.”  Guess what?  Yes, they needed to give me a steroid shot.  Kyle took one look at that needle and about turned green.  It’s not just for other people he has no stomach for blood, for himself too.  If he flosses his teeth too hard and they draw a little bit of blood, forget it!  He’s in complete panic mode.

Maybe it’s the idea of pain that scares them.  Mom and Kyle are both babies when it comes to pain.  Pain upon themselves as well as others.  I’m not saying I like any physical discomfort, but I know I can take quite a bit.  I would rather have pain inflicted on myself than to watch another suffer.  Mom and Kyle, can’t deal with either.  If Kyle gets a scratch he is wailing and thrashing around with perceived pain and agony.  Even from a small one inch long thorn scratch.  Maybe they both have extra sensitive skin.

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Dad, me, mom, Nicole & Kyle at Kyle’s First Holy Communion at Sacred Heart Church

Of course, dealing with real life situations are usually accompanied by chaos and panic, I get it.  Neither mom nor Kyle can handle such stressful situations.  They don’t respond to pressure.  But to see it on the big screen?  Even when it’s fake?  Nope, neither one has a stomach for it.

Usually gory and graphic is accompanied with suspense and thriller.  Words that most certainly are not accompanied with mom or Kyle.  Scary movies?  Forget it!  I’ve seen Kyle nearly rip the arm off of the couch when he’s watching a show, and it doesn’t have to be a thriller, any show that causes tension.  Kyle will almost get so engrossed into what he’s watching, it’s like he’s living it.  Mom on the other hand, will bury her face in a pillow like an Ostrich and cover he ears so she is as far removed from the sights and sounds around her.

I don’t get it really.  Mom and Kyle both have a flare for the dramatic.  Remember when I was talking about pain?  Yep that’s usually when their theatrical performances take center stage.  Even if something doesn’t go accordingly, and let’s face it, in life when does it ever, that is their time to drip in drama.  I’m sure many can say the same for me, however I am able to keep a level head in a crisis situation, at least the ones I have experience thus far.  Although, I won’t deny my love of the theatrical arts.

We may seem like we’re being mean because we are blunt and able to call out each others faults, however, I’m glad!  No person is perfect and to truly see another, even a family member, for who they really are is a rare quality.  No ego stroking in the Piper family.  We don’t put on disguises, or act like something we’re not, we accept each other for who they are, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Read more comparisons

Who Does Kyle Favor More, His Dad?
Who Does Kyle Favor More, Pappy?
Who Does Kyle Favor More, Aunt Nikki?

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

Aiya! Kyle’s Name of Endearment

What’s in a name?  That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  ~William Shakespeare

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Me, Kyle & Nicole at the Gutchess Picnic at Idlewild 8/2004

I don’t know how most people are, but our family is big on nicknames or childhood names continued throughout life.  When Kyle was just able to speak he would call me Aiya, pronounced \ī-yuha/.  I’m guessing it was a combination of Aunt and Heather.  No matter, it was Kyle’s word for me and I loved it.  ‘Heather’ is a bit difficult for children to say and then to throw in the ‘Aunt’ can cause a little difficulty.  Not to mention for the first few years of Kyle’s life, he was hard of hearing due to all of his ear infections, respiratory problems, tonsillitis, phenomena and such.  Kyle created Aiya, I understood it to refer to me, I answered to it, and that was my name!

When Kyle was three months old, my sister and I started calling him Narrow.  Evidently, the name ‘Kyle’ comes from the Gaelic origin, meaning a place-name referring to the narrows.  When Kyle was a little tyke he was nothing but narrow.  He had a wide neck, wide feet and legs and a big head, yet he was compact and short in length.  To humor ourselves, we used to say “Our little Narrow” because he was the opposite of slim and narrow.  Then, the name just stuck.  That was nearly twelve years ago.  When talking to Kyle, I usually refer to him as Narrow, but when writing about him, it’s easier to write Kyle.  I love both names and intermix them equally, after all the name Kyle, which I love, was given to him by his dad.  Now his Aunt Nikki and I gave him another name of endearment.  Similar to all his other nicknames I’ve used such as:  ‘Stinker’, ‘Turkey’, ‘Turkey Jerky’, ‘Little Man’, and my favorite, ‘The Package’.

I used to ask Kyle, “What do I call you?” and he would reply “Narrow.”  Then I would ask “What is your name?” by which he would reply “Kyle”.  Then I would continue our interrogation by asking  him “Why do I call you Narrow?” At first he would get this confused look on  his face and sincerely say, “I don’t know”, with which I would reply, “‘Cause I love you!”  He would simply smile and know I was speaking the truth.

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Aunt Irene, who is really my cousin & godmother, yet I call her Aunt Irene. She’s holding a little Kyle & her daughter Katie is peeking over her shoulder. c. 2002

Over the years as Kyle’s speech improved, once we got him into speak therapy classes to get him caught up to children of his age, he learned to say my name.  I remember the first time he really tried it out and enunciated it with complete perfection.  It brought tears to my eyes.  As I was sitting there, Kyle walked up to me, held my face in his hands to get my complete attention, looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Look I can say Aunt Heather!”  He said it very slowly and deliberately, to catch every syllable.   He was so proud of himself, and as was I.  All I could say was “Wow buddy!  That’s really good!  You’ve been practicing!  But what do you call me?”  Instantly he smiled and said “Aiya!”  As much as I loved hearing my name release from his lips with crystal clear precision, I will admit I loved my little nickname.

While Kyle continued saying my name appropriately and eventually abandoned Aiya, I continued to call him my Narrow.  It’s funny, when people mistaken Kyle for my son and call me mom, Kyle will correct them with pride and say, “That’s my Aunt Heather!”  Love my little man!

Every once in a while we share or re-share Kyle’s childhood stories with him.  Stories he really fancies.  Not long ago I brought up the time when he used to call me Aiya and when he started calling me Aunt Heather.  Not remembering that far back, keep in mind it was only a few years ago, I told Kyle the evaluation of my name through his eyes.

Then the strangest thing happened.  He has now reverted back to calling me Aiya.  Keep in mind it’s more of a conscience effort, but I can tell he still wants to use it.  It’s almost as if he likes the name, or more our tight bond we have, and he wants to display it out loud.

Do I care?  Nope!  Not one bit!  I am his Aunt Heather or his Aiya or whatever he chooses to regard me with his love and affection.  After all, my mom has been named Gigi by Kyle and that has stuck ever since.  He only references mom as ‘Grammy’ when he is speaking to other people so they understand.  In fact, we all use Gigi to refer to my mom, trying to keep a piece of Kyle with us at all times!  Love my Narrow!

 

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

Denied! No Dance For You!

There’s things that happen in a person’s life that are so scorched in the memory and burned into the heart that there’s no forgetting them.  ~John Boyne

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Yep, that’s Kyle among a sea of kids, dancing around at his school’s Folk Festival. He was hiding from me after I busted a move to YMCA. Sometimes you just have to get it out. 6/3/13

It’s true, sometimes there are events and situations that occur, which can never be forgotten.  For those pessimists out there, I don’t believe these episodes are all bad and I believe any situation we encounter in life shapes us one way or another.  Heck, sometimes they are even really funny and will be brought up around the dinner table or campfire from time to time, just for a good laugh.  This is one of those stories, witnessed by many, remembered by me.

Yesterday was Kyle’s folk festival.  His very last assemble of elementary school!  Yes it was a bittersweet event.  In fact, Kyle, knowing I would want to see him and knowing that I would come, called me to remind me of the shindig.  He called me while I was meeting on the Chad Delier Scanlon Memorial Golf Outing. The Chad Delier Scanlon Story.  While I was confirming the date and time with my little man, this crazy thought popped in my head. The Heel Toe dance!

The Heel Toe dance is a dance, done every year during their Folk Festival after the students perform their required practiced square dance or line dance.  When they announce the Heel Toe dance, the students go running into the audience to select a parent, sometimes a teacher or a friend to partner-up with.  It always looked like so much fun!  As the memories of this dance come rushing into my head, the excitement was already building.  I mentioned the dance to Kyle, to plant the seed, as I do every year.  He just ignored me.  When I asked him again if I could dance with him, he just sort of laughed and then moved off of the subject before getting off the phone.

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Kyle with his other friend Logan. Logan danced beside me at the schools Folk Festival, while Kyle ran… Surely he wasn’t embarrassed? 6/3/13

On a side note, I new nothing about the Folk Festival until Kyle called to remind me.  Thanks buddy!  It’s a good thing I’m working for Thrill of the Hunt, a division of The Piper Corporation or I wouldn’t be able to take off work, on such short notice.  Although I’m glad he included me!

Mom and I made our appearance, armed and ready to take video and pictures and to clap and cheer him on.  It was a nice cloudy day and the Folk Festival was held out in the school yard.  All the parents and onlookers circled the kids in the lawn chairs.

Slowly, the show moved along until we got to the long anticipated for, sixth graders!  At this point it was nice to see the kids do their square dance and to pull their loved ones out of the audience to dance the Heel Toe Dance, but my patience and interest was fading with every grade.  That is until Kyle and his class took center stage among the trampled down blades of grass.

Instead of a typical square dance, they did a line dance, which didn’t seem to amuse Kyle, at all!  He was barely moving through the motions and seemed annoyed at the assembly.  Keep in mind this was a child who called me a few days prior, excited to tell me about the festival and wanting me to be there.  Kids!

Then came the big moment I was waiting for, the Heel Toe Dance!  Yes!  After coming to all his assemblies and watching years worth of Folk Festivals, I wanted to be the one picked to dance the Heel Toe dance with Kyle!  I will confess, I sort of practiced it prior to, only from watching others perform it and paying attention.  I’m ready!

Naturally, as the kids move around gathering up their partners, it was pretty noisy.  I stood on the sidelines waving my hands yelling to get Kyle’s attention to show him where I was standing.  (Just in case he didn’t see me.)  Then mom chimed in and said, “Go up to him so he can see where you are.”  At that point, we both thought Kyle would dance with me, and let’s face it, I was excited!  So like an idiot, I went running across the lawn, in front of parents, teachers and the entire school of kids, with my arms flailing around as I was yelling “Kyle! Kyle!”

Just as I reached Kyle, in-the-nick-of-time before he chose someone, I wrapped my arms around him, startling the little package.  Granted, I know better, hugging him in front of the entire school was not accepted, but I couldn’t help myself.  Beside shooting me a big surprised look, he did give me one of his ornery grins.  Admittingly, I was sporting a huge smile on my overly energetic body.  I said, “Kyle are you going to let me dance with you?”  Like an idiot, I had it all planned out in my head, mom was on standby to take the video, and my dreams have finally come true.

Until he looked me square in the eye and said as a matter of factually, “No.” then he elbowed me to get away from him!  What?  Denied!  Are you kidding?  I was instantly removed from my fluffy dream of running through the green fields toward Kyle, only to end up spiraling down a black pit!  Did I take the wrong road?  Pick the wrong kid?

Nope, it was all true and was witnessed by some.  One being Kyle’s friend Luke’s mom, Sue.  Kyle picked his friend Logan, right in front of me!  Not knowing what to do next, I walked away with my head held low, in utter shock.  As I got to my mom all I could say was, “He told me no!”  Just then Sue busted out laughing.  Not that I can blame her.  I mean I looked pretty ridiculous running out there among the kids yelling, to only get turned down.

After the shock wore off, I found the humor in the entire situation, that I incidentally created for myself.  After all, Kyle never agreed to dance with me and there wasn’t anything in the rule books on the subject.  So, excepting the situation for what it was, I join Sue in the laughter.  By then, she was really busting a gut.  Of course, so was I when I did a play-by-play account of the last few minutes of my life, adding in the part when he elbowed me.  We were both dying!

This was a good story for the books!  No matter, if he wasn’t going to dance with me, I was going to make him.  Just to pay him back, as the entire class danced in the grass to YMCA, I got up and ran behind Kyle to bust a move.  He had no idea I was there until his friend pointed to me and Kyle turned around, with a mix of humor and horror on his face.  He did get a little red in the cheeks, but he couldn’t help laughing at me dancing and throwing my arms in the YMCA letters.

Putting this silliness aside, I am very proud of Kyle.  He just receive a letter from the school stating that after an evaluation of his work and test scores, he was going to move into advanced math next year.  Yep, so he will be a seventh grader taking ninth grade math!  I guess those flashcards I got him and worked with him when he was two, paid off.  Although that may have been a start, he always had the interest and intelligence to do math.  He worked hard for that accomplishment and it is all his.  Way to go buddy!  God Speed to you in junior high!

Maybe one day, the Heel Toe Dance will be mine!

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

Life’s Not Fair

I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.  ~Mother Teresa

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Life’s Not Fair… sometimes you get a bloody lip from your walking stick. Kyle & Nick were acting like Jedi Masters…my little Yoda 2013

“That’s not fair!” has been exclaimed from Kyle’s mouth time and time again.  In fact, I heard it proclaimed this past weekend at the fishing derby Gone Fishing!.  “Why is everyone else getting fish?  That’s not fair!  Why am I the only one?”  and on and on.  It’s fishing, no one ever in the history of the world said that every fisherman was suppose to catch the same amount of fish, let alone at the same time, all being the same size.  It’s called life!

I know, I’m guilty of muttering those words too, for various reasons, mostly from my youth.  Being an adult, I really don’t care to keep tallies and to track fairness.  I realized long ago, everyone has their cross to bear and what may seem unfair, is ultimately in the hands of the Almighty One.

Is life suppose to be fair?  It was never promised, by anyone at any time, not even in the bible.  Yes, it’s true it talks about being fair and just to others but that is instructed of us, the ones with free will who sometimes stray from what’s right.  Even with dictatorship rulings and socialist countries, everything is seriously not fair.  There are always going to be those born into wealth or have status and opportunities that others don’t.  Some are more intelligent and have great ideas etc.

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Dodge Ball, sometimes you win… sometimes you loose… sometimes you get smacked in the face. Kyle did twice! Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/11/13

Two Friday’s ago Kyle lost his molar.  Yep, poor kid will be going into the seventh grade and is still loosing baby teeth.  Maturity is not a strong trait in the Piper family.  Anyway, we went to see Iron Man 3, which was great!  He always has to get popcorn, except this missing tooth threw a monkey wrench in his behavior.  He said, “O man, now I can’t have popcorn with the movie!  Not with my sore gum.  That’s not fair.”  My parents said, “Just eat to one side.”  He wouldn’t hear of it.  That’s not the way you are suppose to eat, and he would not do it.

On a side note, Kyle is a bit of a weakling, putting it mildly, when it comes to any sort of physical pain.  No matter how minor.

As we drove to the movie theater, he commented again on how that wasn’t fair.  Really?  With all the poverty, starvation and lack of proper nutrition in the world and him not eating popcorn for a movie on opening night is not fair?  Someone needs to reevaluate his position.  Better yet, let good old Aunt Heather put it in perspective.  Keep in mind, this whole conversation was based on the fact he couldn’t eat popcorn!  He could very well eat the snack, he just needed to adjust his chewing.  That too ticked me off.  Before the whining could begin, and before I seriously lost my temper, I go into one of my rants of how children are starving and don’t have the opportunity to go to the movies, especially on opening night.  Kyle quickly dropped it, only because he didn’t want to listen to my ‘Everyone has it worse’ dissertation.  I stopped because I didn’t want to hear his ‘Poor me’ arguments.

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Kyle at the Friday night showing of Iron Man 3, we are big fans! 5/3/13

That got me thinking, life just isn’t fair.  And I’m grateful for that!  God made each and everyone of us unique in our way.  Every person has strengths and weaknesses, which means there will never be complete “fairness”.  He made us that way on purpose so we rely on each other to exist, to socialize, to be his children, his family.

Let’s discuss physical traits that can and cannot be helped.  Some people are short, some are tall, fat, skinny, fair skinned, dark skinned, and the list goes on and on.  Some may say, that’s not fair she has prettier eyes or a better smile than I have.  Those, ‘That’s not fair’ comments is what makes us all unique and different.  It brings variety to life.

Since the physical traits are all different, doesn’t the same principal go for all other aspects of life?  Example time.   Does everyone need to have the same amount of money as their neighbor?  I don’t think so.  I love the fact that I always worked, and worked hard for what I have, never accepting hand outs.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve received assistance in one form or another, but isn’t that what life’s about?  Helping our neighbor when they’ve earned it or in time of need?  I also don’t believe a ‘time of need’ is every minute of every day.  Sometimes you have to stand on your own two feet and pave your own path.  After all, how can you feel a sense of accomplishment, a sense of purpose, a sense of giving, when you are always taking?

Since everyone is different, and to the best of my knowledge that is a very true statement, wouldn’t each person treat all situations differently?  Maybe some people need to be driven or they can never accomplish anything or learn.  You always respect and appreciate the rags to riches story.  The person who came from nothing and made a better life for themselves.  Maybe that person needed to be put in a poor scenario to establish drive and motivation.  If that was taken away because of even distribution of wealth, then how would that life have ended?  Also wouldn’t the starting out in humble beginnings allows one to appreciate the flip side of life?  It may or may not instill a humility, but the option is now there,  as well as all the other lessons of life.

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Sometimes you get the toy you want… sometimes you give your turn up to another kid with only 1 prize. Way to go Kyle! Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/11/13

That’s what drives and motivates me, knowing I can reach a goal and be rewarded for it.  When I see a challenge I want to tackle it, taking it on ten fold.  If I have a goal to reach, I will work myself silly trying to reach it.  However, if I was just handed “things” and never felt the sense of pride or contribution, then I would not respect the handout as much, if at all.  I would never want to strive for what I think is better.  Worse, if what I worked for was taken from me, not by my choice, and given to someone else.  How would my actions change?

Sometimes lessons of life do not create a fairytale ending.  Sometimes they are just horrible and tragic.  But doesn’t that give us the opportunity to turn such darkness into light?  It’s not fair my brother died so young and sudden, for no apparent reason except God said it was his time.  It’s not fair that my nephew will never know his dad or grow up without a father.  Our family has made the most out of the cards we were dealt.  We never walk around saying, “It’s not fair.”  Never!  Instead, we’ve all stepped up our game, as with other friends and family.  I’ve been blessed to witness and be apart of such acts of kindness and sincerity over the years from others.  Sometimes it was just a pat on the back or words of encouragement and sometimes it came in the form of action and activity.  Even a simple invite or inclusion into an activity makes a world of difference.  I’m blessed in my life, and no it’s not fair but I’m fine with that.

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I made Kyle pose in the Monster’s Inc. display before we saw Iron Man 3. I was cracking up! 5/3/13

This is a bit silly and simplistic, but I think it’s just the story to put my thoughts into plain English, common sense.  My cat, Storm believes she is one of the dogs, our Labradors.  She want’s to do everything they do, including taking hikes through the woods.  Alas, this would not be safe for her if she ever wondered off while we were hiking, or worse, adventured off on her own at night.  She meows at the door and angrily flips her tail to show her disdain for the situation.  It’s just not fair.  Nope, it’s not but it’s the way it is.  Storm is allowed to do things the dogs can’t, like being on the furniture and she gets to take more car rides than the dogs and so on and so forth.  The dogs get to take hikes but get more attention than the cat.  I understand I am making a rather feeble attempt at an Aesop’s Fable (I have no idea if there is one similar to this story) but certainly worth the calories burnt to ponder the simple thought.

Instead of focusing on “Life’s not fair”, shouldn’t we be exclaiming the obvious question?  ‘What can I do to help my fellow brother or sister?’

My CCD teacher told us this story and I always come back to it.  Forgive me for butchering it, but the lesson is the same.  He was in a very poverty stricken area, I can’t remember where, maybe South America doing missionary work.  He told us of this small child who was bouncing a ball.  Just playing with this rubber ball up a dirt road, which overlooked a very steep bank filled with garbage, sewage and rats.  As the child was self entertained, the ball happened to hit a rock sideways and was projected out of control.  Yep, you guessed it, the fun bouncing ball made a direct course of action for the filth down in the ravine.  Lost forever!  Did the child whine or cry?  Nope!  The young person, wearing only rags, continued on their route toward their straw hut with a dirt floor.  That was the only toy the child had, and now there was no more.

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Sometimes you win the race & sometimes you take it slow and enjoy the sights & conversations! Me & Holly at the Great Race 2012

My teacher was actually on the way to visit the family, helping with the child’s sick sibling.  That’s how he knew the living conditions.  What my teacher witnessed made an impact on me.  I can’t even imagine the thoughts that would have erupted, if I witnessed this story first hand.  Is it fair that some live in extreme poverty?  Nope but that’s why we are called to reach out with what resources we have, to make a difference.

Mother Teresa is a perfect example of that.  She wanted to make a difference.  She never said, “It’s not fair” that no one is helping me with the sick, or no one is giving me money.  Nope, she took the resources she had and made a difference.  Is it fair that she had such a strong relationship with God and I’m not that tight with him?  If I want that, then I need to work for it.  God gave us plenty of opportunities to establish and build that relationship.  Each one of us have a different purpose in life and are called for specific reasons.

So really, maybe ‘Life isn’t fair’ should be tied directly to respect?  If we truly respect one another and respected all the things we have, then we wouldn’t be saying ‘Life isn’t fair’.  We would be more willing to lend a helping hand or give generously.

If a friend bought me something, more often then not I would take extra special care of it.  However, if I was given the same gift without a face or a reason behind the charity, then it would loose some of its value and not be treated with equal importance.  Charity and giving is all about the intent.  Not the notoriety and certainly not for selfish reasons.

It’s our job to help our brothers and sisters far and wide.  To help, from one person to another.  That’s what really makes the impact.  Not being forced to give my money in the form of taxes or some other undercover way, even if it is to assist those in need.  Yes, helping others is the end game, but the road traveled to get there is equally as important.  Giving, should be benefiting both parties involved, those that gave and those that received.  Naturally, the rewards are very different, yet equally as important.

So I guess, when I see that something “is not fair”, that really means, there’s an opportunity there to make a difference.

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments

2.2 – Temper Tantrum

A quick temper will make a fool of you soon enough.  ~Bruce Lee

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Casey, holding Kyle & Nicole at Kyle’s Baptism 10/28/01

When Kyle was just a baby, he would throw the typical child temper tantrum.  Nicole used to say “2.2” every time this happened.  Meaning, Kyle’s attitude would change from pleasant little boy to screaming little demon in about 2.2 seconds, literally.  It was actually hilarious.  Kyle would be a happy baby one minute, then he would get this wrinkle between the eyebrows just before the tears flowed.  2.2!  This behavior didn’t last very long, usually, nor did it happen frequently.  But enough to notice the signs and recognize the storm brewing.  Of course, it was a very short window of detection, if at all.  Then again, sometimes I provoked the winds to start brewing.

Certainly, once the tantrums started, I couldn’t help but antagonize the clearly upset child.  Not so much when he was an infant, but definitely by the time he was able to walk.  Then, there were those other occasions, when I would nudge his behavior just to get a rise out of him.  Not to be mean.  No!  I was teaching Kyle valuable life lessons, early.  Sort of.

Example time!  I know, I’ve talked about this before, but it warrants another pass.  Kyle loved his matchbox cars.  Yes, he would drive them around but mostly he would line them up on the coffee table, very precisely bumper to bumper, trunk to hood.  He did this in long perfect, well thought out rows, until the entire coffee table was covered in cars.  It was quite amazing watching him spend all that time creating a used car parking lot.  Every now and again, just to throw him off his game, I wait for him to turn around to retrieve another car to add, and my foot would happen to tip the coffee table over so all the cars rolled off.  Now it’s not as bad as it sounds.  Yes it was hilarious, especially the first time when he was in utter shock and didn’t understand what had happened.  Then he got wise to me.  2.2!

On a side note, what was the life lesson for tormenting the child?  I wanted him to get used to things disrupting his perfection, his obsessive compulsive behavior.  I wanted him to be able to handle things not going his way, and throwing a monkey wrench in his system so he would learn to adjust.  Did it work?  Yes and no.  I’ll talk about that one day.

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Nicole holding our bottle lover while I took a picture at Chad’s wedding

It would be completely inaccurate to say that most tantrums were not caused by me, or involved me to some degree.  But I will admit, they were not all started because of my antagonistic personality.  Kyle played a role and lent a helping hand to bring on the 2.2.  But then again, I may have prolonged the fit of rage, a bit.  Especially when the tantrum involved his bottle!

You see, Kyle loved his bottle, much like myself when I was a baby.  When he would get mad, to show his disdain, he would get up, walk out the front door onto the porch and toss that bottle as hard as he could into the yard.  This was done with a permanent scowl look on his face.  We would all laugh, just because he was too comical.  Seriously!  I would say, “I guess he’s mad” and then Nicole would turn to me and say, “2.2”.  Usually that was my cue to torment a little.  He was way too adorable to pass up and hilarious.  I couldn’t resist!  Always retrieving the discarded milk vessel, I made sure it eventually made its way back to Kyle.  If he was really upset or angry, he would show me, with a glare that could have melted ice, while going back whence he came, and tossing the bottle off the porch returning it to the grassy plain.

What caused such behavior?  Usually, it was due to a misunderstanding between me and Kyle when we were playing.  He wanted me to play a specific way and he misunderstood me for someone to follow his orders.  Hence, I wouldn’t play the way he wanted me to, usually with his cars or Thomas the Tank.  In not bowing down to his direct orders, I was teaching him to play with others, learning to take turns and share in the fun and not being such a bossy little boy.  Actually, let’s get to the heart of the matter.  I was not going to have a two year old tell me how to play cars, I didn’t care where he threw that bottle.

If  there was a second demonstration of his attitude, I would again retrieve the bottle out of the yard and put it up on the mantle where he could see it.  That ticked him off even more, especially when I would act like I was drinking from it.  Ok, that’s a bit of teasing but he needs to learn to deal with all kinds of people and situations throughout life.  I was giving him a head start.  More than not, this action ended with mom and dad yelling at me to stop teasing the baby.  Who was the child and who was the adult?

It was all in good fun and he was just so stinking cute, I couldn’t stop myself.

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Kyle wasn’t happy at his Baptism 10/28/01

Luckily, we have gotten past the bottle throwing demonstration and moved into the most annoying, not even slightly cute, world of whining and back talking.  If this was a kingdom, Kyle would rule over it.  Don’t get me wrong, Kyle is a great kid!  He truly and genuinely is, except for that part of him.  It’s a minor part, but it will devour us all if left untreated.

After we participated in the Ropes Course at the Ligonier Camp & Conference Center for Kyle’s youth group, last weekend, dad said he needed our help.  I will admit I was tied too, after all we were there from 9:00 am till around 12:30 pm.  But when there’s chores to be done, we need to get them tackled.  My motto, dive in and get it over with as quickly as we can.  Kyle’s motto?  Whine about it and complain the entire time, and let’s not forget move as slowly as humanly possible.  It was a long morning and the afternoon was going to get longer.

Dad wanted to chop some firewood and stack it.  Ok, not an easy task for Kyle on a normal day, not to mention he was physically tired before we even started.  But he just wouldn’t stop with the attitude and the back talking.  All you hear is “Why do I have to do that?” Whhhhyyyyy?”

Let’s also get this straight, I have no issues with Kyle asking questions and understanding what is being asked of him and why.  But what I can’t handle, is when you give him an answer and he continues asking the same question over and over.  Plus you add in the whining, only for the sole purpose of being irritating.  Now that I can not deal with!  He only asks and asks again because he doesn’t like the answer.  Tough!  Sometimes I believe Kyle thinks he’s going to get his own way if he continues on the same course.  Nope!  Not on my watch.  I’ve always told him ‘I invented stubborn.’

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Joel holding Kyle at the Planinsek Pavilion

For part of the day, Kyle was a real treat, especially on the ears.  I truly hate it when he doesn’t appreciate what he has and what he gets.  Would you believe, during his whining and back talking, he had the audacity to ask me to take him to the store to get some of his playing cards?  Seriously?  I don’t know what person in their right mind would do such a thing after his behavior, except Kyle!

Helping to raise Kyle since he was just three months old, I know for a fact, that I, nor my family have ever tolerated such acts, completely spoiled.  Does he genuinely think this tactic is going to work?  Loving Kyle with my whole heart, I can not in good faith allow this to happen.  Yes, that’s my way of saying he got in big trouble. No video games, no computer, nadda and he still had to continue with the work, no matter how slow he was moving.

It’s weird, sometimes, not all of the time, this happens on Friday and Saturday, but by the time Sunday rolls around again, he is back to being a normal child.  Manageable.  Odd. I’ve actually noted this for some time now.

Kyle has been whinnying for years now, and I am at a loss of how to stop it.  Even mom said that none of us have ever whined.  We would have most certainly gotten the belt.  Plus, it really was not in our nature to act like that.  Back talking?  Yes.  I will admit I did participate in that activity when I was younger, but certainly not at Kyle’s age and not to the persistence that he does.  Even then, mom would literally wash my mouth out with soap.  Maybe I should try the bubble method?  Although softy pap pap would probably stop me.

I’m going to have to get crafty and come up with a new method to conquer his madness, before I go mad.  Hopefully this weekend brings a new attitude with our little man.  After all, Iron Man 3 came out today and we both really want to see it.  Plus, we’re ordering Jioio’s Pizza, bonus!!

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

Boston Marathon – Running for Your Life!

Terrorism has once again shown it is prepared deliberately to stop at nothing in creating human victims.  An end must be put to this.  As never before, it is vital to unite forces of the entire world community against terror.  ~Vladimir Putin

Boston Marathon 2013 - Fox News Aunt Heather Piper

Yesterday was a typical Monday.  I went to work, got things done, maneuvering through the day like any other, waiting impatiently to leave and pick up my little man for piano lessons, then the Breaking News alerts went off on my phone.  Boston Marathon bombing!  What?  Are you kidding me?

Pulling up the news on my laptop, there were already articles and news stories of this horrific event.  Seriously, I was in awe and my mind was colliding with reality.  I know the tragedy off 9/11 was not that long ago, but I guess I got into a safe zone, I got comfortable with daily life, secure.  I’m really not sure why that is, I mean I know North Korea is itching to launch a nuclear weapon at us and let’s face it, the war in the middle east is far from over.  But as I read on, my security turned into uncertainty, then horror, especially when I found out it was an act of terrorism.

Yesterday, Monday April 15, 2013, the day when most American’s are rushing to get their taxes post marked, the world was stopped by an unnecessary affliction, to again innocent people.  At the finish line of the Boston Marathon, a shrapnel-studded bomb was planted and another 50 to 100 yards away.  The first explosion happened at 2:50 pm, roughly five hours after the marathon began.  Then, as I read through the uncovered information being uploaded as it was made available to the general public, there was a third explosion occurring near the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, several miles southeast of the marathon’s finish line, in Columbia Point Sector of Dorchester, around 4:15 pm.  What is going on?

All the eye witness reports were gruesome, commenting on missing limbs from the victims and reports of someone’s leg flying past them.  What a horrible sight!  As far as I’ve read, three people perished and 144 were injured.

At that moment, I just wanted to talk to my family, especially Kyle.  We are roughly 550 miles, about nine or ten hours from the incident, so it was not personal fear we were in any immediate danger, but it does makes you realize just how vulnerable we are and how quickly life can change.  I am a walking testament to that, that life can change drastically in the blink of an eye whether you want it to or not.  God’s the only one in control and I respect that.

Soon after taking in the news, I received a text message from Kyle saying he wasn’t feeling well.  My poor little man.  I called and talked to him, which is not the same as seeing him but I will take what I can get.  He said he had a headache all day in school and he felt nauseous.  Hearing his misery, I ended the conversation shortly after it started, allowing him to get rest, even though I wanted to continue talking to him.

After I hung up the phone, I wondered how I would explain this to Kyle?  How am I to convey the importance of physical fitness and the fun of a race in the face of this horror?  Kyle used to like to run, when he was too little to know any better I guess.  But times have changed and he has told me he doesn’t like to run and wants nothing to do with it.  I’ve been trying to sign him up for small races locally for years now, and he has been resisting.  He will certainly use this in his favor, not be smart, but sincerely because he would be afraid.  Living in fear is not one of my traits, but I’ll admit this will definitely stick in the back of my mind.  Considering the next big marathon is the Pittsburgh Marathon.  Maybe that’s what the bombers wanted, to just cause sheer fear and chaos.  They never asked for a ransom or voiced a political cause.  What is the reason?

Even this morning as I was reading the news and looking to see what new information was released, I found out that yesterday marked the 238th annual Patriot’s Day, commemorating the anniversary of the Battles of Lexington and Concord at the beginning of the Revolutionary War in Boston.  Was this the reason for the demonstration?  Or was it completely unrelated?

The read the FBI raided an apartment of a suspect in the bombing, but nothing concrete yet.  In fact, no one is taking credit for the bombing, not even Pakistani Taliban, who has threaten to bomb the United States in the past.

As I was writing this blog post, I received another Breaking News alert on my phone, “At Least 40 Reported Dead After Massive Iran Quake.  And so another day begins.  Prayers and thoughts go out to anyone facing tragedy, friend or foe.  God Speed!

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

Music For the Eyes & Ears

Music is a moral law.  It gives soul t the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.  ~Plato

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Kyle hanging out on the Big Piano FAO Schwarz. ‘Aunt Nikki & Kyle’s week of Fun’ in New York City, NY 2011

Yesterday was Kyle’s sixth grade music recital.  Yes, it was his last music assembly of elementary school.  He sang and played the trumpet along with the rest of the sixth grade class.  He’s grown up so much in many ways, and yet he is still truly just a kid.

Mom and I were in the second row enjoying the musical theme, From the Inside Out.  Dad and Nicole were both working, so I did my best to video tape some of the assembly, giving them a glimpse of what was presented.

As Kyle mounted the stage, I caught his eye.  He gave me one of his trying-not-to-smile smiles.  Naturally, I had to give him a wave to confirm my presence, and to instigate a bit.  I was sincerely excited to see him sing and play!

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Kyle with his friends at his 6th Grade Music Recital 2/21/13

As he was clapping and singing and stomping and playing his trumpet, all the memories of Kyle’s love of music floated in my head like a painting.  Kandinsky’s theory came to mind.  Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) said he could see sound as color and visa verse.  The music I heard came across my mind as images of Kyle over the years, like I was seeing a symphony of pictures tied to their memories.

Always having an adoration for music, even as a tiny five month old baby that could barely hold himself up, Kyle would keep the beat and sway to music, or at least try.  Either for Kyle’s first or second Christmas, my grandma got him this stuffed musical penguin that played Jingle Bells.  On a side note, maybe that’s why Kyle has such a bond with that song.  When we played the penguin, Kyle’s eyes would light up, he would smile and his body would go into motion.  The best part, the penguin moved from side-to-side and Kyle would try and mimic the motion.  It was too funny!  I have no idea what ever happened to that beloved piece of entertainment, but Kyle’s love of music prevails.  I’m not talking about just music on the radio or pumping from my iTunes.  Any music or rhythms coming from anywhere and everywhere picked up by his ears.

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Kyle’s 6th Grade Class. “From the Inside Out” 2/21/13

Watching Kyle view a movie is hilarious.  The best part is usually the end while the credits are rolling and the theme song is playing.  Without knowing he’s being watched or without a care, Kyle inadvertently busts a move to the tunes.  Actually, that goes for any show or commercial.  While sitting on the living-room floor either assembling or playing with his Legos, sometimes certain tunes will project from the TV.  Kyle’s body is automatically swaying to the music as if he’s a puppet on strings.  He loves music!

At the very beginning of last semester’s piano lessons, the instructor asked Kyle to bring in his old practice books so he could review and brush up on the basics.  During the lull in time while Kyle didn’t have piano lessons he got rusty, like anyone would.  So to ensure Kyle was learning properly and advancing, David his piano instructor, reinforced his foundation.  Great idea!

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Kyle bust’n a move on the dance floor 2003.  Proof I did get him in a shirt & tie!

I remember that first lesson so well.  As we sat in the Seton Hill common room waiting for Kyle’s turn, he started to read through the piano book, a piece he hasn’t looked at for literally years.  Of course what’s old is new again, and Kyle being such an astute student, started looking thr0ugh his music books recapturing knowledge from the first songs that started out his piano training.  Always coming prepared with a book to read, I couldn’t focus on the words on the page for the distraction in front of me.  Kyle was flipping through the pages and humming the songs to reacquired himself with his old friends, the music.  Yes, he was actually humming to himself turning the pages rapidly as if cramming for a test.  His actions were not intended to bring attention to himself, but to prepare for his piano lesson.  He was so engrossed in his own thoughts, he really didn’t notice everyone in the room smiling in his direction.  As I sat there and stared at him, thinking he would notice me, he continued with his train of thought and didn’t break concentration.  I was ready to bust a gut and laugh out loud, that is until he was saved by his piano teacher.  David’s appearance interrupted Kyle’s focus and brought him back to reality.

We used to laugh and say music would sooth the savage beast, referring to Kyle.  It did!

I love seeing the joy and inspiration that music brings to Kyle.  For the sixth grade field trip this year, the students went to Heinz Hall and listened to the symphony.  He came home and told us all about it with sheer excitement.  In fact, while we were driving, Kyle remembered his trip to Pittsburgh because he started searching the radio for a specific channel.  He was trying to find the classical music station on the radio.  He said, “Aunt Heather, they told us we could listen to the music on the radio.”  Once he found it, he beamed with delight!  Since then, Kyle has been listening to the classical music station when we are on the move.  Nice change of pace!  Good thinking Kyle!

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

Facts About Farting

I didn’t want to do a throwaway, mindless movie with fart jokes just to make 6-year-olds laugh.  I want to provide my children with some substance.  ~Fred Durst

Fart Facts Aunt Heather PiperI’m not normally the slap stick, stupid humor type of writer…well sometimes I am, but this one is silly yet educational.  My family is going to kill me for sharing this humor, so I will keep it general and not give too much detail.

First, I want to comment on how tight our family is.  Probably too close according to some.  Not only do we speak our minds, anything that appears up in the cranium cavity exits our mouths; but our rear-ends are free to speak as well.  We are not shy about belching and we certainly are no strangers to flatulence.  Some may say we are simple honest open people, while others may say we are gross and improper.  Now don’t get me wrong, we don’t act like barbarians in public and around others.  We do practice our manors, but I’m talking about behind closed doors in the privacy of our own home among family.

To be honest, I thought everyone was like us, well maybe not as dedicated, but certainly open.  Nope!  I was just recently talking to a good friend of mine who commented that her and her husband do not fart around each other and they’ve been married for over a decade.  Having to confirm what was just declared, I had her reiterate that they do not fart around each other.  Seriously, I was in shock!  Really?  I just couldn’t believe it!   You don’t fart around one another?  To make a comparison from my point-of-view I explained the general Piper practices.  I’m sure there are others who agree with her, but that wouldn’t be my family.  And come on, EVERYONE farts!

Now sticking to the theme, I want to tell you about a joke in our house.  My dad was watching something on TV, probably Dr. Phil since dad has this infatuation with him, I don’t know why but I’ll move off of that topic.  Dad said “I heard on TV when someone farts they are lowering their blood pressure.”  The minute Kyle heard this he busted out laughing.  Moving forward, every time there was an exchange of gas Kyle would say, “I guess you’re lowing your blood pressure.”  It’s actually too funny!  Once, Kyle passed gas and shot me an ornery grin and said, “I just lowered my blood pressure!”  I died!  It really was so spontaneous and funny, I shared it with the rest of the family.  Dad especially got a kick out of it.

So back to why am I sharing this very personal stories?  Mom sent me this email titled Fwd: Facts about farting…very educational.  You know the emails that have been forwarded ten thousand times, literally.  Evidently, my cousin Ray emailed it to her, then it ended up in my inbox.  Mom knows I hate those generic forwards.  I pretty much delete them right away, however, this one mom made it a point to call it out to me.  She wanted to make sure I would read it.  Ok, I thought, this must be a good one, I’ll bite.  When mom was asking me about the email, Kyle happened to be standing in close proximity actually paying attention.  He looked over at my mom with curious eyes and very quizzically asked, “What Gigi?  What’s it about?” as he joined my mom, sporting a huge grin.

Farting Text Aunt Heather PiperNeedless to say, mom showed Kyle the email, upon his request and he intently read through it.  During the entire weekend and flowing over into the following week, Kyle kept quoting from the information he read.  Out of no where I would hear, “Aunt Heather I can’t believe termites are the top farters and they give off more methane gas than cows!  How can that be?”  How do you respond to that?  I would laugh and nod my head and say, “I have no idea buddy.”  Then he would bring up vegetarians saying, “Vegetarians fart more than people who eat meat.  I love meat so I must not fart as much as them!”  That’s a pretty good deduction and one way of looking at it!

From vegetarian to dog, Kyle compared his new found statistics with Seven’s flatulence history.  Poor dog resides in the group of silent yet deadly.

Through all this, Kyle’s number one favorite fart fact, was the information on farting after death.  He just thought that was amazing and funny at the same time!  He said, “Aunt Heather a person can fart after they died!  Can you believe that?!”  Yep, we are a wealth of knowledge around the Piper household.  I wish I could say this was the strangest conversations we’ve had, but alas I don’t think it was.  I guess it goes to show that anything can be made into a conversational piece.

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

OMGmother

Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.  ~Abraham Lincoln

My blog was created as a way to record Kyle’s life, his learning experiences, interaction between family and friends, and funny things he’s said and done.  It’s a way for everyone to stay-up-to-date with all things Kyle and whatever else is going on in the land of Piper’s.  It’s weird, but this blog has also become a therapeutic outlet for me.  I’ve found that I enjoy writing and going through old photos and scanning them in the computer, cleaning them up and uploading the digital memories for all to share.  Not to mention, I do enjoy rehashing stories from the past and recording these tales so that they can be relived and discovered by others.

Since starting my blog, I’ve learned that other family members have faced similar situations that we have encountered with raising Kyle.  Some of my viewers have reached out to me offering their experience, advice, encouragement, support and guidance.  With all the feedback, privately or publicly, I sincerely appreciate it!  I get so engrossed in my digital world of all things Kyle, I forget this is public information and I am not alone with helping to raise a little one!  It is a great relief to have outside eyes encouraging me and reinforcing the efforts that me and my family have done throughout Kyle’s life.  I guess I look at it like it’s a confirmation that we are not screwing him up and we are raising him in the best way we know how.  It’s a very real and scary situation, but one worth it!

OMGmother Aunt Heather Piper

Now it is my turn to give advice and a heartfelt suggestion.  Before starting this blog I didn’t realize there is another way to maintain communication between me and my family and my nephew, besides starting up a blog.  The answer is  OMGmother!  I have been following them on Twitter (@OMGmother) but never really explored their efforts until they opened up the lines of communication.   Recently, the good people from OMGmother reached out to me to guest write a couple of blog posts.  Throughout our interactions, I’ve found I too share their passion for family.  They are sincerely wonderful and supportive people!

While telling the story of how I became such an integral part of Kyle’s life is difficult to put into words, I felt very honored to be included in their efforts of bringing godparents, aunts and uncles together with their godchildren, their family.  Everything I do for Kyle is for his benefit and that’s exactly the purpose of OMGmother.  Let’s face it, everyone benefits when a child knows how much they are loved.  It’s a blessing to watch that child succeed in life and be so happy.  To be apart of that process is priceless.

I want to give a big shout out to OMGmother for acknowledging those that make a difference in the lives of children and helping to maintain that bond and interaction between the little ones and their family members and influential figures, all for the benefit of the youngsters.  This group of people are great to deal with and are making wonderful strides with their efforts.  Great work and keep it up!

Please take the time to review the OMGmother Blog.  I admire their direction and their passionate efforts, all for the betterment of children!

Read my blog posts written specifically for OMGmother.
Becoming a True OMGmother in the Face of Tragedy. 
OMGmother Heather Piper Helps Children Play to Win

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

Checkmate – Game of Chess

You sit at the board and suddenly your heart leaps.  Your hand trembles to pick up the piece and move it.  But what chess teaches you is that you must sit there calmly and think about whether it’s really a good idea and whether there are other, better ideas.  ~Stanley Kubrick

Aunt Heather Piper

Aunt Heather & Kyle Piper playing a game of chess at Fort Ligonier Days. 2009

Kyle has been really back on a chess kick lately.  I’m the same way, sometimes I just want to play the game and sometimes I forget all about it.  When Kyle was three years old, I remember sitting down with him and teaching him to play chess.  I never had any reservations about this young man learning the game.  At that point in his life, he already mastered Candy Land, Chutes n’ Ladders, and Monopoly Junior.  Pushing for Excellence  He was also working on puzzles with at least a thousand pieces and he knew his addition flashcards.  Again, going back to my same theory, “What’s it going to hurt?” SpyRing is Born – Education Unlocked!

I remember the day, very distinctly when I introduced Kyle, to what will be his longtime love of Chess.  I asked Kyle if he wanted to play a game with me and naturally he was all for it.  He went through his list of standard games trying to figure out which one was on my mind.  Mentioning the game as I passed him to retrieve the box, he gave me a look of ‘What is chess?’ before asking me about the game.  I sat down without saying much only “You’ll see” and I gave him a smile and a wink.  I went straight to work, placing the pieces on the board.  His eyes were wide and curious while examining this intriguing game that he’s never seen before.  I will admit that my mysteriousness was making this new experience more dramatic and exciting.  Even I was falling prey to it, becoming more excited to play.

Kyle was squirming in his seat with anticipation when I started the role call, introducing him to each of the pieces.  First, I unveiled each figure by name and then I followed up with the maneuverability instructions for each piece.  Kyle sincerely got it!  I even remember letting him go first, which has become an unspoken rule with Kyle over the years.  As we moved around the board I would reiterate the moves of some of the pieces, but overall he seemed to understand how to play.  Now the strategy behind the game came a little later, but the love of chess was immediate.

Grandpap Chester's table Aunt Heather Piper

Grandpap Chester made this table c. 1937  Refurbished by Mike Olczak (cousin)

In fact, my cousin Casey who is Kyle’s godfather, called and asked me what Kyle wanted for Christmas.  I usually try and give him different options and one was a chess game.  That Christmas, Kyle received his first chess set and he was excited!  I think I played more games of chess than I ever did in my entire life during that time. Casey certainly got his money’s worth.

Now the love of the game never disappeared, it was just stored away for a rainy day.  Every once in a while, we would pull out the game and play but Kyle’s video games started to take priority.  Then a month ago, while we waited to pick up our take-out dinner, Kyle took my iphone to play a game.  This is standard behavior when he thinks he’s “bored” for the whole five minutes of waiting.  I asked him, “What are you playing bud?” followed by his response of “Chess.”  I said, “Wow Kyle, we haven’t played a game of chess in a long time.”  As he remained focused on his game he lifted his head to give me a smile and a head nod.

After dinner, Kyle decided he didn’t want to play against the computer anymore, he wanted to play a game with me on my phone.  Now I was a little rusty, but graciously the game highlighted options for my potential moves.  That was helpful at first, but then slowly started to irritate me.  I will need to look into turning off that feature.  It was nice reengaging myself in the game and I really enjoy seeing Kyle using his cranium cavity for more than sending a stick person down a hill in a shopping cart.  (Shopping Cart Wars).

Grandpap Chester's Table 2 Aunt Heather Piper

Side view of Grandpap Chester’s checker table. c. 1937 Refurbished by Mike Olczak (cousin)

Recently, chess has become Kyle’s game of choice.  That’s all he wants to play, no video games, no ipod, no Nitendo DS, it’s all about the game of chess.  Last weekend my sister was home for her class reunion, Go Wildcats!, and he made her play against him too.  Would you believe that more than not, Kyle won against us?  Friday night, I played him a game, and I will admit that I was only half paying attention, clearly not taking my opponent seriously.  Yep, that bit me in the butt when he crushed me!  He didn’t just win, instead of finishing the game when he had me in checkmate, he decided to continue the game to capture as many of my pieces as he could.  He displayed his killings proudly, even telling my dad, “Look pap pap, it’s my trophy room.”  What a stinker!

When we did a rematch, I reminded Kyle of the dangers of arrogance and cockiness.  I could feel it leak through his pores, and I don’t like that at all!  He needs to remain respectful and composed.  I’ve even explained to him that those traits destroy people and causes them to fail, in everything they do in life.  Sometimes I like to take opportunities presented, even a simple situation, and use it as a life lesson.  This one was the best example.  As we continued with our game, I played like a champ; no more under estimating Kyle, no more distractions and absolutely no mercy!  Finally I won!  He smiled like a good sport and understood that I knocked him down a peg or two.  You know what?  Kyle didn’t care.  He didn’t get mad, he didn’t make excuses, in fact he commented on how he could improve his game next time.  Very impressive!

Every game we played, Kyle was definitely getting better and better.  He would even sacrifice certain pieces and set me up for traps to devastate my army.  An example, which was flawlessly executed, involved me taking Kyle’s pawn with my queen.  It looked like a no brainer, but after his move, I learned it was a set up!  Again I under estimated that child, he was learning strategy before my eyes.  I wasn’t paying attention to his knight, that is until he rode the horse in to capture my queen. What?  Very clever!  Great move!

Grandpap Chester table Aunt Heather Piper

Grandpap Chester signed the inside drawer of the checker table. Made in 1937 Mikey found this when he was sanding.

On Monday night after school, while we were eating Kyle set up the chess game again.  We started to play before his piano lessons, until we ran out of time.  Unfortunately, when I got back to the house, I came to the conclusion that Storm wanted to play too.  All the pieces were scattered all over the table, which she is not allowed on, and some pieces were on the floor.  As I gathered up the crime scene, I noticed I was eight pieces shy.  After I cleaned the house on Wednesday, I found four of the eight missing pieces, which leaves four chess pieces MIA.  Where could they have gone?  Maybe they are with the mouse and sticky pad? Of Mice and Me…Part 3  Kyle is not going to be happy about this!  I’m actually upset for him and kind of nervous to break the news.  Maybe it’s time for a new set!

 

Check out Mikey’s other furniture creations on his Facebook.  He is a true artist with wood!  He doesn’t do refurbished wood projects, although he made an exception for me, since it was my grandpap Chester’s table, Mikey’s uncle.

Send Mikey a message…  http://www.facebook.com/mike.olczak

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

Scavenger Hunt – It’s the Thrill of the Hunt! … Continued

There are no mistakes, no coincidences. All events are blessings given to us to learn from.  ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Thrill-of-the-Hunt-Team-9-22-12-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Rachel Berger-Gregg, Aaron Fish, Sarah Rosenbaum, Alaina Fisher 9/22/12

This past Saturday was the SpyRing Scavenger Hunt, hosted by Thrill of the Hunt in Latrobe Pennsylvania.  Not only were the proceeds donated to help rebuild Playland, but the event was to give the local children a fun activity through the reinforcement of scholastic subjects.

I am no stranger to working with munchkins on educational advancement, well really just Kyle.  Over the years I’ve helped to be an integral part of his learning process and I’ve helped to push him towards excellence.  Not to say he didn’t do a lot on his own, and let’s face it he’s a smart little man, but I’ve had to nudge him a time or two.

In addition to expecting good grades, I’ve also tried to reinforce the importance of community service.  Giving back to make a difference is a great and admirable quality.  Thinking of others and their well-being, especially if the recipients are children, is vital to oneself and our fellow neighbor. It’s a great feeling.  This type of volunteer involvement comes in all shapes and sizes, from money donations, to property or items, to giving time and even intellectual contributions. No matter how small or large the donation or how it came to be, it’s always appreciated and worth it.

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The kids had a great time! SpyRing Scavenger Hunt presented by Thrill of the Hunt 9/22/12

My sister and I started the company Thrill of the Hunt based on this type thinking and behavior.  Please note we are a profit based business, not a not-for-profit, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of our situation and help out when the opportunity arises.  Also being apart of something potentially bigger, from its infancy stages is exciting.  Not only that, but also making the most of it and doing the best job or task given at hand.  Being apart of the something to help make a difference all while being apart of a new business, it’s a win, win.

Now, let me discuss the Thrill of the Hunt Team.  They were stellar!  I mean, a great group of kids!  Building the company on these values of having fun and community involvement are all qualities exemplified naturally by my team.  They truly care for children and the support of family.  I am excited to have them on board and look for good things to come from each of these young adults.  They were not only very attentive to the kids during the event, but they were very helpful and supportive.  This is my sincerest shout out to Alaina Fisher, Rachel Berger-Gregg, Aaron Fish, and Sarah Rosenbaum.  What a great group, whom I want to employ moving forward with all my scavenger hunt events!  You know, I also want to help them out however I can, either for networking, work experience, as a reference or just to help them out with a job.  They are all intelligent, good, honest kids.

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Lovely day for a SpyRing Scavenger Hunt – presented by Thrill of the Hunt 9/22/12

Since Kyle couldn’t attend the event, due to his hunter’s safety class, he managed to call and check in.  He wanted to know how things were going at the time.  It’s funny talking to him makes me feel like I need to justify my actions, like he was my boss.  Kyle always seems to step into businessman mode, asking ‘How much money was made?’, ‘How many kids showed up?’, ‘Was everyone having fun?’.  My Kyle, there’s the reason we made him the consultant.  I will give him credit, no matter how pre-occupied or busy he is, he can still separate himself and go into business mode.

Success can be defined in a number of ways.  The SpyRing Scavenger Hunt was a success in terms of going through the process of putting it together and setting up the event.  That in and of itself, is a big task and knowing what to do the next time is invaluable.  Also getting the feedback from parents and the children who participated is extremely important to me.  With respect to the parents I really want to know if these events are favorable with them, if they agree with the layout and the focus of the scavenger hunts, to reinforce education and to get the kids out and moving around.  During the event, I was able to hear what the youngsters had to say about the challenges, and the game in general.  I went through the typical questions, ‘Are the questions too easy, too hard?’, ‘Was the game too short or too long?’, ‘Was it more fun to go through the game individually or as a team?’ and the list went on.  I made my notes and I’m ready for the next scavenger hunt, making it even better and exciting.

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Rachel Berger-Gregg, me, Alaina Fisher, Sarah Rosenbaum, Aaron Fish, Nicole Piper… Thrill of the Hunt 9/22/12

As the day unfolded we were able to brainstorm with parents.  At this time, we tried to think of the next big event,  Halloween of course.  Nicole and I decided to look into this theme for the next scavenger hunt event.  So again please check back for this event and get your kids involved.  I am always open to suggestions and ideas.  After all, I want the kids to benefit.

 

 

 

www.ThrillScavengerHunt.com

Scavenger Hunt – It’s the Thrill of the Hunt!

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

SpyRing is Born – Education Unlocked!

The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.  ~Aristotle

Kyle-Piper-smile-SpyRing Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle sporting his SpyRing Gear c. 2011

Kyle, my nephew has always had good grades for the most part, specifically having a fascination and an attachment for math. When he was a little tike, around three years old, I bought him addition and subtraction flash cards. My thinking was, “What’s the harm? So he might learn something”. He did! Kyle loved those flash cards and he loved to learn.  He wanted to push his knowledge and show it off. Subtraction was a little more challenging but he certainly enjoyed the attention he was receiving from me and the idea of learning. What a little a sponge! I know I’m probably being bias, but Kyle was always pretty bright. He’s a logical thinker, which I still see to this day.

When Kyle was in second grade, his report card grades dropped across the board one quarter. I knew he was smarter than that, and I was not going to stand back and let this situation become his new standard, nor was I going to idly stand-by while his future education was being compromised.  Really?  Did anyone think I was going to accept his grades as they stood?  Did Kyle really think he could fool me when he said he was “Trying his hardest?”  Nope, nope and heck no!  I knew better and I believed in Kyle! Unfortunately, being Kyle’s aunt I don’t have complete privilege to his teachers or daily homework, only once a week and on the weekends.  Roadblock!

To be honest, I was utterly sick over the situation. It was that bad! Not to mention I had no idea why. There had to be a reason for such a sudden change. I asked Kyle if things were good in school, or if there was bullying going on, or anything. He really had no idea what I was talking about.  He felt bad that I was really upset over his grades but he was also basically saying “O well, I tried my hardest.”  That is until I grounded him.  Boy did he change his tone.  It’s amazing what taking away video games and TV time will do to an attitude.  I never did find the reason for the sudden downward spike in grades, but we did get past it.

Aunt Heather Piper SpyRing Trade Show CA

Me at the CA Baby & Kids Expo, LA CA 1/21/12

Granted I know the days of Kyle learning for fun were over, or wore they?  Now me being me, I decided to take this upon myself and help this child out. I’ve always purchased workbooks for Kyle and helped him uncover the knowledge in the pages.  He used to love them, but the times-were-a-changing, he was giving me resistance with workbooks and flash cards. Yikes! It started to build up fights between us, unnecessary ones.  The last thing I wanted was for Kyle to really hate school and learning.  I also didn’t want there to be constant struggles with our time together, which was a huge concern of my mom’s.  Mom was the one who kept saying, “You need to make it more fun for him.”

Since Kyle is a logical thinker, usually explaining things to him helps to turn on his light bulb.  Not this time.  I explained why I was requiring him to do the extra work.  I even threatened him saying the school was going to hold him back if his grades didn’t improve by the next quarter. And to be honest, if his grades kept up in that direction, it could have happened, especially since he was the youngest in his grade.  For the school, that would have been a logical step.  Nope!  Not on my watch. He was bright and he certainly could do the work without much effort.  I will admit Kyle was lazy when it comes to school work, only doing what is needed and going through it half way. I’m guessing he’s not alone in that manner, but I’m not responsible for other children, or so I thought initially.

SpyRing-CA-Baby-&-Kids-Expo-1-21-12 Aunt Heather Piper

Nicole at the CA Baby & Kids Expo LA, CA 1/21/12

During this time, we went to visit my sister, who lives in the D.C. Metro area. Like every visit, we always do something new in Washington, D.C. This time we decided to go into the Spy Museum. Wow, that was cool! I really enjoyed reading about the spies and seeing the spy “tools” or what I like to call them, spy toys. My sister, dad and my mom walked through, reading and taking in the knowledge displayed everywhere, while Kyle and I acted like spies ourselves. The museum had an air-duct type of display, allowing visitors to climb in and spy on the people below.  We had a field day!  When possible, I would read the information displayed on the walls.  Sometimes Kyle would stand still long enough for me to read to him and explain the story at hand.  I must say Kyle made the museum more exciting.

Well, needless to say that visit sparked an idea, unbeknownst to me at the time, that would turn into something a lot bigger.  From that moment on, the wheels were in motion for the birth of SpyRing.

SpyRing was originally created as a scavenger hunt for Kyle.  I designed it to reinforce school subjects in a fun and interactive way.  Kyle and I would take Scooby up in the woods, (Seven was not apart of the family yet) and we packed our book bags with the spy essentials and headed out on our missions.  We would make our way through the woods and track our progress by creating a map of our travels.  Along the way, I made up questions that led to other questions.  Kyle answered the trivia and occasionally he would pull out his binoculars or something he brought along to really play out the spy story.  We both had a blast!  The scavenger hunt not only reinforced what was being taught in school, but it also got Kyle off his backside to stretch his legs.  This relatively simple action with a little effort, not only helped  to create the SpyRing scavenger hunt, but it helped to build our bond.  I was no more, ‘Mean Aunt Heather making me do all this extra work’.  I was ‘Fun Aunt Heather who loved hanging out and learning was something fun’.

Ethan-Kyle-Piper-enjoy-SpyRing Aunt Heather Piper

Ethan & Kyle playing with the SpyRing cards 2011

It wasn’t until my cousin Casey and I took Kyle snowboarding that the idea to take SpyRing to the marketplace really became a serious thought.  I remember distinctly Casey saying, “Why don’t you sell the game?” At that point it was a custom scavenger hunt made specifically for Kyle. I knew I needed to develop it into a game for all kids no matter where they lived. My goal was to allow other kids to reap in the benefits of learning in a fun and interactive way.  During this time, it was interesting to run into other parents and listen to them discuss their child’s struggles and challenges in school.  This is when I knew I could help.

Suddenly it hit me like a ton bricks! I woke up one morning and I knew how to make the game assessable for all children with a reasonably low cost investment. God must have been working overtime to plant these ideas in my head.  Knowing initially it was going to be a card game, I went to work on actually developing the structure, build the contents and establish the design.  Kyle worked with me on the development of the game, even helping to create some of the questions.  Throughout the process I tested Kyle’s skills on ALL the information.  Pretty amazing, I set out to help Kyle with his schoolwork and we were doing just that, intensified.  I must say it was a fun process.  Kyle was apart of something bigger.  He knew it and he loved it every step of the way.  This is when Kyle’s business side of the brain was revealed.

By the next report card, Kyle’s grades had jumped.  Some grades where back to where they began and others were slowing moving up.  Kyle was proud of himself and now understood what needed to be done and how to do it.  Or least what I expected from him.  I believe without setting expectations, children will not know what to strive for and the right direction they need to move towards.  You see I believe parents are like coaches.  They know how to push their players to get them to strive for excellence.  That is their job as coach, to never settle for average or ‘just ok’.  They need to know the limitations of their players, but also know how to overcome them.  However, coaches also know how to work with their players and set them up for success.  It certainly takes effort from both parties to make this happen but when the game has been won, everyone benefits.  Children should be respected and shown they are important and smart.  They should also be given the opportunity to learn, excel and shine in this world.

SpyRing logo w BP Aunt Heather Piper

Sometime during the developmental stage of SpyRing, I was discussing the game with my sister.  She instantly loved the idea and believed in the goal, to help reinforce education for children. She went to work and started The Piper Corporation with the flagship product being SpyRing. As of now SpyRing is an interactive card game of questions and answers, however we are now developing the SpyRing scavenger hunt, as it was originally created.  Thrill of the Hunt, another division of The Piper Corporation will be hosting a SpyRing scavenger hunt called Your Passport to Education this Saturday at Legion Keener Park in Latrobe, PA.  A percentage of the proceeds will be donated to help rebuild Playland!  Stop by!

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

Last Weekend Before School – 6th Grade

He who opens a school door, closes a prison.  ~Victor Hugo

Kyle-first-day-of-6th-grade-Aunt-Heather-Piper

First day of 6th grade…his fashion sense hasn’t gotten any better… 8/27/12

Kyle is officially in the sixth grade!  Wow!  I know to expect these milestones, but every year I’m taken off guard and it’s still a surprise.  This past weekend I kept reminding Kyle about school on Monday and I kept teasing him of all the homework. He kept grunting and giving me the look of ‘O No!”.

On Friday night we just hung out, kicking back, relaxing.  Kyle went to the grocery store with me to pick up a few items for dinner.  We finally agreed on steak, since we were having corn on the cob, cooked on the grill.  While at the grocery store, we ran  into my cousin Karen, coincidentally the one who gave us the corn from her garden.  Yep, Friday set the stage for the rest of the weekend, the theme of laid back.  Usually Friday’s are all rush, rush, rush till bedtime.  Nice change of pace.

Saturday morning we loaded up the truck with the pistol, Kyle’s .22 rifle and a couple of dad’s rifles and headed out to the shooting range.  Which reminds me, I need to get a new set of headphones like the ones dad and Kyle wear.  I don’t like the foamy ones that are placed in the ear.  I’d rather have my ears engulfed in padded protection.  Anyway Kyle mostly shot his .22 rifle at a target about 50 feet away, while dad was shooting at 100 yards, testing out the different mixtures he loaded in the bullets and the accuracy of the rifles.

My job, to keep an eye on Kyle.  There was another group of guys there who were shooting clay pigeons.  I had to make sure Kyle didn’t get in their way, stayed out of his pappy’s danger zone, and didn’t put anyone in danger through the reinforcement of proper rifle handling.  Shooting is fun, but it’s certainly an activity of responsibility.  I gave Kyle all the shooting time he wanted.  Dad hooked us up with a full box of .22 bullets.  Every once in a while, I would sneak in a few shots.  Kyle like to share his rifle and time behind the trigger. I think he enjoyed the togetherness of the activity, not to mention I think Kyle liked to see who was the better shot.  Plus it gave him a break, he’s not really die hard with anything except his marathon of playing video games.  He didn’t do too bad at all.  He shot standing free hand and sitting, but his favorite was using the sticks and sitting on a bench.  He hit some dead on!  Way to go buddy!

After a few hits to the target, I could tell Kyle was getting bored, so I got out the .22 pistol.  It’s a neat little pistol that I’ve shot countless times, one that I’ve always favored since I was little.  As I loaded the clip I showed Kyle where the safety was, how to line up the sights and how to load the chamber.  As I handed the pistol to Kyle, he almost leaned away from me, as if saying ‘I don’t know’.  Picking up on his body language I said, “Did you want to shoot the pistol first?”  With the beginning of an inquisition, he said, “Does it have a kick?”  I simply stopped him from going down his list of questions and debunked his anxiety by saying, “How about I’ll shoot this clip first and then if you want to take a turn you can, but you don’t have to.”  Happily he nodded his head and presumed his position behind me.

How did I do?  Well not very good free hand.  Actually, very disappointing.  Shooting off of the sticks or a support I’m alright, but shooting free hand was nothing to brag about.  Kyle was the same.  I guess we need serious practice.  After I shot in a clip of about eight or nine rounds, I think Kyle felt a little more comfortable with this foreign firearm.  You know I always forget, I’ve grown up around guns so there was never a fear of them.  In fact, I don’t remember the first time I shot.  I was little, in fact, thinking about it, there was never a time where I didn’t know how to shoot a gun.  As a family, we would go up on the ridge and target shoot pretty frequently with other family members and friends.  During that time,  I was able to see what each firearm sounded like and how it handled with the shooter.  That’s knowledge that Kyle has not really been privy to, at least not consistently.  I don’t think he has ever seen my dad clean the guns either.  When we were little, I used to complain about the smell that accompanied that action.  Now don’t get me wrong, being a part of the Piper household, by default Kyle has been exposed to firearms since we was born, the result of a hunting family.  However, Kyle’s exposure was not in the same way that me, Ryan and Nicole were.  Actually, I was always a decent shot.  Even to this day, I still enjoy shooting.  I wish I would have kept it up over the years, frequency means accuracy, but alas life gets in the way.  From what dad has told me, mom used to be a dead on shot.  She doesn’t really shoot anymore, but Nicole is getting back into it again.

Kyle-&-Pap-at-shooting-range-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle with his pappy at the shooting range. 8/25/12

After a few hours at the shooting range we headed back to the house for lunch.  It was a hot one on Saturday, so the desire to be outside was not there.  Instead, we decided to plug in a couple of movies, Hunger Games and I Am Number Four.  Mom and dad didn’t like Hunger Games.  What?  How can that be?  Maybe they should have read the books first and then they would have understood the movies better.  I took Kyle to see that movie in the theater when it first came out.  Eventually he wants to read the books.

Sometime during admission, I ran to the Dairy Queen (DQ) to pick up some cold treats before retreating back to the cool insides of the house and starting the second movie.  Now that was my idea of a near perfect day, eating DQ, hanging out with the family, spending time with Kyle and watching movies!

Alas, now the day was escaping us and we waited till the evening to take the dogs for their weekly hike.  The entire way, Kyle talked about the movie I Am Number Four.  He wanted to see if there was a sequel.  He said, “They have to have another movie, so they can finish the story.  They have to find number five and seven, eight and nine.  They just can’t end it, we have to know what happened.”  I was cracking up.  I told him, “I don’t know buddy, maybe they will.  But if they didn’t make enough money on the first movie, then they probably won’t make a second.”  A little concerned over that comment he said, “They have to finish the story!  Did they find number five?”  While I was laughing, I said, “Honey, I don’t know.  I don’t even know how old the movie is.”  Not accepting that answer he asked me how I know about up coming movies like Iron Man 3 and Avengers 2?  “I know that because I read it online, different articles and news feeds.”  He couldn’t stand it that he didn’t know anything about a part two of I Am Number Four.  He even started to name the sequel, saying “I Am Number Four, two”  Naturally I started laughing just as Kyle realized what he said.  He then decided that since Aunt Nikki was the one who suggested the movie, she would have the skinny on the sequel.  He said, “I’m going to ask Aunt Nikki about it, I’ll have her look it up.  She would know.”  Kyle is too much, very persistent!

Kyle-at-shooting-range-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle shooting in his .22 rifle, we also shot in the .22 pistol 8/25/12

The rest of the weekend was pretty uneventful.  Church on Sunday morning and a lot of loafing around for the majority of the day.  It was another hot one, so Kyle and played with Seven, Scooby and Storm inside.  I was actually going to take him to the movies, but the idea didn’t hit me until it was too late.  Sunday was a perfect “nothing” day before Kyle had to be back to the responsibility of school.

Did I mention that Kyle was gathering loose change and counting it all weekend?  That kid, if he doesn’t become a banker then he might be missing his calling.  He also talked nonstop about this Lego chess set he saw online.  I think he thought since I have no issue with him playing chess, either online or the actual physical board game, which I actually encourage, he feels that it’s a shoe in for him getting the game for Christmas.  Yep, Kyle is already prepping for Christmas!  He kept searching different sites for different Lego chess sets and different price points to give me options.  Oh, it’s never a day with Kyle without at least the mention of Lego’s.

Yesterday morning I saw Kyle off for his first day of school.  I kept that tradition ever since he was in kindergarten and this year will conclude it.  Watching him grow up has been fun and helpful to my own personal growth.  He is going to like sixth grade, I just know it.  I called him last night to see how his day went.  He didn’t seem enthused, but I was probably interrupting cartoon watching, since I’m sure he was going through withdrawal.  Sixth grade, his last hooray before junior high…I have a feeling this year will fly by FAST!

 

Kyles-target-.22-rifle-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyles target… he started hitting the center the more he shot… even though the rifle was not shooting accurate as we later found out. 8/25/12

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,LEGO's,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Pets,Reminiscing and have No Comments
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