Teenager vs. Aunt Heather – Part 1 Math Tutor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kyle’s 14th birthday cake! 2015

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

A Teenager! Happy Birthday Kyle!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully Standing Up For Yourself

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

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Kyle digging into his basket on Easter Sunday morning. 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Communication Skills Need Some Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ts the Little Things that Count to a Child

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

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kyle's-8th-Birthday-at-Chef-Dato-Tin-Lizzy-7-2009-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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.

Pizza-8th-Birthday-Party-for-Kyle-at-Tin-Lizzy-Chef-Dato-7-2009-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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.

Kyle's-8th-Birthday-Party-at-Chef-Dato-Tin-Lizzy-7-2009-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

Kyles-First-Birthday-Aunt-Heather-Piper-helping-2002

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?

Kyle-at-Planinsek-Pavilion-1-2003-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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.

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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

Home Away From Home – Parker Dam

Home is where the heart is.  ~Pliny the Elder

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Mom, Kyle & dad are packed & heading to Parker Dam. The boys (Seven & Scooby) are in the back. 6/13/13

Making another voyage to Parker Dam this past weekend, proved to be as nice of a time, as our other trips.  It was funny though, for some reason I really payed attention to my neighbors.  First, I’d like to explain that we always camp in the area approved for dogs.  Our favorite spot is lot number 90.  A nice little section out of the way, just outside the woods and near the restrooms and not far from the showers.

On Saturday, when Kyle and I were coming back from the Parker Dam beach, while riding my bike waiting for Kyle to drop his attitude and catch up to me, which incidentally he was moving so slow he could have grew moss, I people watched.  On a side note, I was reminded of something said to me last time we were riding our bikes at Parker Dam.  Kyle said, “Aunt Heather, we are on self propelled two wheel transportation devices.”  I have no idea where that came from, but it shot out of his mouth and almost made me fall off of my bike.  Anyway, as I peddled along, for some reason I really paid attention to the eclectic group of individuals staying on the camp grounds.  Some visitors only stay a night and move on, while others set up camp for what seems like a lifetime.   As different and unique as our fingerprints, same goes for the camp site setups and their dwellings.

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Sunday morning it rained at Parker Dam. Look at Nicole heading to the restrooms! I was dying when I saw her…yep she blends. Is she going to the bathroom or hunting? 6/16/13

Looking around at the different types of campers, meaning the vehicle they reside in while camping, not a reference to the person, I was utterly amazed!  Some camp sites are very rugged, getting back to the basics with a simple tent on the ground, while others set up a second home complete with satellite TV and a name plate posted in front of their temporary residence.  To be honest, I never noticed everyone else before.  We tend to stay to our own little rented out corner until it’s time to depart.  Personally, I really don’t care what everyone else it doing.   I, like my family, enjoy a little solitude and peace with nature, however as I peddled along my eyes were wide open.  I couldn’t believe what I saw!  I mean lights strung up in all shapes and sizes including chili peppers and ice-cream cones; a neon palm tree stuck in the ground with pink flamingos positioned all around; potted plants hanging from awnings; and huge tents to fit a wedding party staked to the ground.  Can you believe others take all that extra time for such embellishments while camping?  You better believe it!

I’m a pretty simple traveler no matter the destination Traveling Habits, only taking the essentials, not extra stuff.  That certainly holds true for camping.  Before we left and started packing up the camper, I thought to myself, ‘Boy this is a lot of work just for one weekend.  Is this really worth it for a two hour trip, a three day stay in a camper?’  I can’t imagine how long it takes those elaborate campers to pack up for their weekend stay, let alone set up camp.

You know, at first I can sit back and kind of make fun and laugh, but the more I looked, the more I noticed something, these little pieces of grassy lots holding all this stuff, is a home.  It certainly is that way for us.  In fact, there was a couple of times mom would say, “When we get back home”, meaning our camper.   It’s true what they say, ‘Home Is Where the Heart Is’.  And as I watched everyone have a great time, their heart was fully into camping, maybe not so ruggedly but the experience was there.  It almost made me feel like I was a part of something bigger.

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Seven & Scooby are packed & ready to head out to Parker Dam. They love the ride! 6/13/13

My parents had a neighbor, the Davis’ who used to take their RV camping.  They even had an electric golf cart so they could drive around the camp grounds visiting friends and socializing.  We are not that outgoing, but we did manage to break away for our isolation to chit chat with a few of our neighbors, who were nice and very interesting.  The one lady was in a wheelchair, yet she liked to camp, so their beast of a camper called the Wolf Pack folded down in the rear, allowing her to drive her motorized transportation up into her safe haven.

There was another lady walking her dog and kitten.  Yep!  Kitten!  A cute little tiger striped eight week old kitten.  The fury feline walked alongside the lady and her husband, while he walked their dog.  Now that kitten got me to stop and make a friend, as did Kyle.  He was obsessed with the fur ball!  When I told her I also brought my cat, she said, “O ya!  I had to, she’s still on the bottle and I didn’t want to leave her with my other cats.  I thought people would think I’m weird, camping with a cat.”  I totally laughed and said, “Cats are as much apart of the family as dogs are!”  Yep, we were surrounded by interesting and really down to earth people.

The weekend turned out to be another enjoyable trip.   It started off on Thursday night.  Kyle rode up with mom, dad, Seven and Scooby and the camper packed full, while Nicole and I left Friday during the day.  We were suppose to leave Latrobe around nine, however my sister convinced herself it was Saturday and apparently she wakes up later on the weekends.  Me?  I prefer to get up the same time all week long so my body is used to it and it becomes habit. Now I’m not saying I do wake up at 5:00 am every day of the week, but I do set that alarm to keep me in the rhythm.  Anyway, Nicole didn’t get up until around 8:00 am and she had a four hour drive to get me.  What?  Really?  Yep!  She finally got to the house at 1:00 pm and we made it to camp around 3:00 pm.  Not bad, even though I was looking forward to fishing with dad and Kyle in the morning, but no harm done.  Dad said the fish weren’t biting anyway.

Throughout our time at Parker Dam, we did a little biking, a little swimming and playing in the sand at the beach, we traipsed around with the dogs in the creek, made mountain pies and s’mores over the camp fire and relived the last time we were at Parker Dam.  Somewhere between Kyle’s need of an attitude adjustment and the fun and pleasant young man I know, he was singing uncontrollably.  All sorts of songs, including Christmas tunes.  What really brought a smile to my face and a song to the my lips, is when we were cautiously walking around in the creek and Kyle started singing Señor Don Gato!  I love that song!  I taught it to Kyle when he was just able to speak.  What brought that on?  I have no idea, but it was the perfect song for singing, while splashing around in a creek, in the middle of the woods.

Saturday night they had movie night!  They played Brave at their outside amphitheater.  It was really cool watching a movie in the middle of the woods outside in the nice cool air, while sitting under a blanket.  I loved it!  Almost like the drive in, only better!  While we were there we met a lady who was originally from Latrobe.  Incidentally, she was good friends of my parent’s neighbor, who were also friends of the family, the Ferry’s.  What a small a world!

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Check out the Piper bonfire! We never do anything small, not even hanging around a campfire at Parker Dam. 6/16/13

Funny story:  Sorry I can’t remember her name, but she is a manager of the park.  She also previously came across my blog, finding it on her Google alerts for Parker Dam.  She read my last few blog posts about our camping experiences at the park.  Smart lady, doing her homework and hearing first hand what others are saying.  I can only say good things about Parker Dam.  The facilities and amenities are very clean and really nice and the park rangers are very pleasant and respectful.  I’m not the only one who thinks so.  I have a friend who goes there twice a year, they’ve been doing since she was a little girl.  Well done!  Two thumbs up for Parker Dam!

Sunday morning rained.  Did we care?  Nope not at all!  We were in our very own dry safe haven.  It was just like being at home.  Nicole, Kyle and I played card games, Three of a Kind was the game of choice, although sometimes we broke out a mean game of war.  I brought the chess set, however it never made its appearance.  Kyle and I both read, I was working on Lord of the Rings The Fellowship of the Ring and his journey took place in Lord of the Rings The Two Towers.  Mom, dad, the dogs and Storm?  They laid around and nodded off and on.

With all this “stuff”, guess what also managed to make its appearance?  Yes you guessed it the Legos!  On Saturday night I sat with Kyle on our big rock by the camp fire and helped him set up the battle and played a little.  Funny story!  Kyle thought me and his Aunt Nikki were taking my car to camp so right before he departed on Thursday night with mom and dad, he loaded my car up Legos.  I mean loaded!  They covered the backseat, the passenger seat and the floor of all three places.  When I opened the door I thought I was at war.  Kyle said, “Ya that’s so when you get there, I would have already set up my battle and you can bring the reinforcements.”  Naturally, that’s exactly what I was thinking for our camping trip, to drag around a ton of Legos.  Only a few made the trip.

Now looking back on the weekend, and realizing what I am remembering are now memories, memories of fun, memories of togetherness, memories at our home away from home, I realize all the packing and hulling stuff, setting it up and tearing it down, ‘YES it was totally worth it!’  Can’t wait to do it again!

Read other adventures at Parker Dame

Fishing Towards Independence
Just Had to Take It to Parker Dam
Parker Dam State Park Story
Lego Love

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Travels 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

The Journey Begins

Elrond: So that is your purpose? To enter the Mountain?
Thorin Oakenshield: What of it?
Elrond: There are some who would not deem it wise.  ~J.R.R. Tolkien The Hobbit 

The-Hobbit-An Unexpected Journey Aunt Heather PiperIronically, I just stared reading The Hobbit.  Kyle read that book and has since proceeded in the subsequent books and is now currently reading The Lord of the Rings the Two Towers.  I got Kyle that series for Christmas I believe.  Partially because he was interested in the books, certainly a big fan of the movies, and secondly because I always wanted to read them myself.  Win.  Win.  Kyle loves it when I read books he’s already read or visa versa.  He loves discussing the stories, the characters, the events.  As do I, but I really enjoy hearing the story come to life through his eyes and straight from his imagination.

On a side note, Kyle has really come a long way with reading.  With his love of books, not only is he escaping into his own adventures, but the activity has certainly reinforced his schooling.  Reading class goes without saying, but also spelling and I believe social studies.  Looking back, all the trying to get Kyle to read and the arguments were well worth it!  I’m glad I never backed down and just accepted the situation as it was, of course with the help of my parents and my sister.  Not to mention the draw of movies helped assist me in my quest.

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Kyle reading Hunger Games at the IHOP. He wanted breakfast for dinner before piano lessons 2012

The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey was made into a movie and was released December 14, 2012.  That I know for certain, because that weekend happened to follow my birthday.  Kyle said he wanted to take me to the movies in celebration.  Let’s get real, he really wanted to see the movie, much like myself, birthday or not and it was an excuse.  I’m fine with that!  Great reason!

On a side side note, Kyle is finally trusting my judgement in books and taking my books suggestions seriously.  Without questioning me, he will take any book and open the pages, knowing I would never steer him wrong. Love him!  As I’ve always told him, we are team!  Enough with the pats on my back, on with the journey.

Yes reading a book, especially a highly acclaimed children’s novel written in the 1930’s can certainly be an adventure.  Most books are to me, and I love every page.  But this journey is different, this is real life, a real leap of faith.  My life is moving in a new direction, an unexpected journey if you will, and I am extremely excited to partake.

It really hit me this past weekend and certainly all week.  Last Friday, was my last day at the office, last day of employment.  What now? Being there nearly eight years,  I walked out those doors, never looked back and was set on a new course of action.  The destination?  Virginia, to meet up with my sister.  Yes, all without a job.  So why head to Virginia?  You see, we sold one of our Thrill of the Hunt birthday scavenger hunt packages to the Falchetta family, who also happen to be my sister’s friend.  I was there to administer to the birthday party, as part of the purchased package.

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I guess Storm wants to read the Mortal Instrument Books & the Infernal Devices Books by Cassandra Clare. My favorite is the City of Fallen Angels & Clockwork Princess

The family bought the Thrill of the Hunt Discover Scavenger Hunt for their daughter Isabella’s fifth birthday.  This package was designed specifically for children of five years and up.  Suitable!

It was a perfect day!  Chilly and windy but certainly sunny and pleasant.  The party was a hit, with the children and parents alike.  It was sincerely my pleasure to join in on the fun and share in the celebration.  I look forward to many more Thrill of the Hunt scavenger hunt events.

Ok enough of my Thrill of the Hunt plugs.  Seriously, God has always taken care of me and led me in the right direction (or helped when I made bad choices).  I know He will continue to take care of me and lead me in the right direction, on my new memorable journey.  I guess everyone has a different journey, I see it on the news every night.

I found this blog with very insightful comparisons between The Hobbit and Entrepreneurship.  Enjoy… 9 Quotes From ‘The Hobbit’ That Social Entrepreneurs Can Relate To

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Travels 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

God Bless Pope Francis

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.  ~Matthew 16:18-19

Pope Francis Aunt Heather Piper 2013

Pope Francis 2013

Yesterday, the announcement of our newly chosen pope came in the form of white smoke exiting the Sistine Chapel.   That was the first sign the conclave chose our successor to St. Peter.

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Buenos Aires  has accepted his elected position as our new Catholic leader at the age of 76.  He has taken the name Pope Francis.  Immediately, upon hearing his new identification, with which the world will refer to him, I wondered as many have, why the chosen name of Francis?  The Huffington Post commented:

It’s unclear if the pope’s name is a reference to St. Francis Xavier, a 16th-century priest who was one of the first Jesuits, or St. Francis of Assisi, a 13th-century friar who founded the Franciscan order of priests.

In addition to making history as being our 266th Pope, Pope Francis is also the first Latin American Pope as well as the first Jesuit priest.

The secret voting of the sworn in cardinals, concluded within just two days of the conclave meetings.  There were five rounds of voting, resulting in Pope Francis receiving 77 votes out of the 115 eligible cardinals in the conclave.  This was the minimum two-thirds required to become pope.  A little comparison, Pope Francis’ predecessor took two days and four voting rounds before former Pope Benedict XVI was elected in 2005.

The Pope is walking into office with a lot of upheaval, unrest, scandal and transformation.  Really?  I don’t think this election is unlike any previous one, unfortunately.  There are always issues to address and sin to worn against and debase.  I am very happy to hear that Pope Francis is upholding the conservative and traditional views and doctrine of the Catholic church.   As long as he holds true to the word of God, he can’t go wrong.

Pope Francis’ actions have already exemplified his chosen position of God’s servant.  I read on the Huffington Post:

But Francis, who was rumored in 2005 to be the runner-up to Benedict, also brings a more pastoral sensibility to the church, said the Rev. Raymond J. Kupke, an adjunct professor of church history at Seton Hall University. As archbishop of Buenos Aires, he reportedly rode the bus to work, did his own cooking and visited the poor in Argentine slums. Instead of living in an archbishop’s palace, he chose to live in a small room in a downtown Buenos Aires home.

The Rev. James Martin stated, “The name Francis is a clear indication of his desire to focus on the poor.”

Pope Francis is expected to uphold and maintain the Catholic values and doctrine of the church including topics on sexuality, abortion, marriage and contraception.

He has also shown compassion for people with HIV and AIDS; in 2001, he visited AIDS patients in a hospice where he washed and kissed the feet of 12 patients.

On Tuesday at 4:30 pm Rome time, during the feast of St. Joseph, Pope Francis will formally take the position of the Pope, even though he is technically considered Pope presently.

As with tradition, Pope Francis will descend to the grottos of St. Peter’s Basilica, where the first Pope St. Peter is buried.   In front of the cardinals he will recite “I leave from where the apostle arrived.”  Then, he will lead a procession to St. Peter’s Square and begin the installation Mass.  During mass, Pope Francis will receive the Fisherman’s Ring, the ring of the pope.  Of course, part of his immediate responsibilities will include meeting other members of the clergy, becoming acclimated in his new surroundings and such.

There is a lot do to turn this world around.  God Speed to Pope Francis!  I pray we see good things from God’s mediator and our chosen apostolic successor.

posted by auntheather in Church,Education & Learning,Milestone,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!

Kyle-dancing-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2003

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

Loyal Traveling Television

When I got my first television set, I stopped caring so much about having close relationships.  ~Andy Warhol

With Christmas behind us, many people are putting their new gifts to use, especially the electronics.  This year, my sister got me the iPad3 with retina Display.  Boy was I surprised!  I didn’t expect that at all, and a really gracious gift it was.

Ryan & Aunt Heather Piper with old TV

Me & Ryan with Ryan’s “new” TV- not my sister’s.  He eventually blew it up when he decided to take it apart to see how it worked, he forgot to unplug it.  1980’s

While I was online reviewing accessories for my new toy, I got into talking to my friend Kelly.  She was helping me pick out the perfect messenger bag for toting my iPad.  I have no idea what made me think of it, but the memory of my sister’s dedicated television set just shot in my mind, no doubt due to the sheer humor of it.  Perhaps this walk down memory lane is so amazing because of the world of disposable goods we live in, but regardless it’s a tale worth sharing.

On the previous thought, let me rant for a few.  Everyone is used to getting rid of what they have for the desire of something new.  Personally, I think that’s a shame in most cases.  What really cracks me up, are those individuals who purchase the items that are old because they are retro and now the trendy thing to have again, when in fact, they probably had the same thing years prior and paid a lot less for it originally.  I will admit I have fallen into this trap a time or two, but for the most part I’m pretty content with what I have and I never feel the need for the newest, or something perceived as better or bigger or flashier or whatever.  I’m a pretty practical person and I love items that will be of use.

As with everything there are exceptions to the rule.  If I had serious loot, I mean Mark Zucherburg moola or Warren Buffett’s checkbook, I would have the grandest of all art collections.  Even though I am simple, I do appreciate the finer things and especially those that represent beauty and history.  A Caspar David Friedrich would certainly be at the top of my list since he is one of my favorite artists.  Admittingly, one of my biggest indulgence wishes would be to own a piece of Elizabeth Taylor’s jewelery collection.  I do love jewelery!  Did I mention it’s an investment piece that has longevity?  So in my mind a practical one.  Perhaps that’s the secret formula to my justification of purchases, will it have longevity?  Maybe, but what about items that are not suppose to last for decades, literally?  Again that’s why God made us all different, so we have to rely on one another to survive.  Plus I think it makes the world more interesting.

Now I’m back on track to outline my sister’s loyal TV story.  Way long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, Nicole and I received a color television set for Christmas.  Who’s TV set it really was, I have no idea, but we did get it sometime in elementary school, mid 1980’s.  Back then, it was a special thing to have a color television in our room, at least in our family.  We loved it!  The screen was probably a foot square and maybe 18 inches long with rabbit ears and no remote control.  Believe it or not, it was fresh off of the store shelves and represented a new shiny toy for us.  It meant more than something new, it mean TV freedom!

We only had the one large television set, which resembled a piece of furniture in the house.  It resided in the living-room.  The actual TV set was color, encompassed in a fake wooden box with rabbit ears sticking out of the top.  Only having a single TV unit in the house made watching our choice of shows far and few between.  Not that there was a lot to watch on TV back then, but the evenings were owned by dad.  The shows included the news and I’ve seen every episode of National Geographic and Marty Stouffer!  Reflecting back on it now, I really did enjoy those shows.  I am a big fan of the NATGEO channel, Animal Planet and the History Channel, as is Kyle.  But being young and not having an option, I didn’t welcome such shows into my list of favorites and put my nose up to them.  To not make it sound like we were always chained to undesirable shows, I must give a shout out to Saturday morning cartoons.  That was our time to watch whatever we wanted, up until noon.

Nicole-Penn-State-Graduate-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Nicole graduates from Penn State with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering 1997

Nicole and I set the TV up on our desk and pointed it toward our twin beds, which ran parallel to the room.  We made sure we both had full access to the small screen while stretching out.  In our minds, this was the life!  We struck gold!  Now in the evenings or anytime mom and dad were watching something we didn’t want to view, we could retreat to our room and change the channel.  The TV was not beneficial when Nicole and I couldn’t agree on anything, but again lucky for us there weren’t a lot of choices.

That TV brought whole new worlds to our small corner of the globe.   Nicole introduced me to Saturday Night Live, she was always a night owl in the summer, perfect timing for the show.  To this day I remember watching Love Connection hosted by Chuck Woolery over our summer vacations.  We loved that show and would take most of the afternoon to plan for it, preparing snacks and making sure the TV was on the channel so we wouldn’t miss a beat.  Before MTV came to fruition, we would watch a music video show that was on late at night, can’t remember the name.  This was as hip as we could get, still about a decade behind everyone else, but we didn’t care.  Sometimes, Ryan would accompany us, pick a bed, and join in on the fun.  That was the perfect rainy day, lazy day, sick day, avoiding work day, gift.

As time passed, the TV would be moved around in our bedroom, but always positioned in plain sight.  That is until we reached senior high school.  Nicole was involved in her activities and I had colorguard, winterguard and my Friday Night Bonkers’ plans.  So no one had time for the now outdated and too small TV, but we always kept it.

Once Nicole went to college, she decided to take the TV with her.  This rejected but once loved piece of electronic, accompanied Nicole for two years at Penn State McKeesport before lugging it all the way up to main campus.  Come to think of it, I believe I was the one who physically moved it.  Then, while at Penn State main, the TV followed her to her different apartments before she graduated in 1997.

After that, Nicole moved home for a brief period, getting a job in her field locally.  I couldn’t believe my eyes when she brought the TV back!  It made a full circle over the course of five years.  I wanted her to get rid of it but she refused and that trusty TV was still working.  At this point that television set was roughly 15 years old!  What name brand?  I have no idea, but I was sincerely impressed.

Mom-&-Jake-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Mom & Jake… check out the old TV & VCR behind

Then, within a months time, or so, Nicole got a job in Maryland.  Yep, you guessed it, the TV set traveled with her!  Being in shock, that first of all the TV still worked was one thing, but that my sister wanted to haul this outdated television set with her, was another baffling thought all together.  She did, with pride!  Having your first apartment outside of college and your first real job, I get it.  After all she really didn’t have anything, she was basically just starting out her life.

Then Nicole moved to Tucson, Arizona, where she remained for around five years.  Did I mentioned she moved there on a job promotion?  Staying with the same company all that time and making her way up the corporate ladder, Nicole kept her roots.  Let’s take inventory.  TV set still working and with Nicole?  YES!

Now I’m going to fast forward a few years, when Nicole lived and worked in West Virginia before landing to present day Virginia in the D.C. Metro Area.

First Nicole live in a townhouse, where her TV set had a place to call home.  By this time, we’ve all gotten used to this television set, so when visiting Nicole, wherever she resided, we started to look for the TV.  It’s funny but once when mom was talking to Nicole, dad yell out, “Ask her how her TV is doing?”  I cracked up over that comment.  Good one dad!

In recent years, now that we’ve hit the twenty first century and Nicole bought a house, one would think she would have dropped all dead weight, especially since her purchase of a brand new flat screen TV was welcomed in her living-room.  Nope!  Nicole kept that TV around.  But I’m not talking about putting it in storage.  It always had a shelf and was still used!

On my first trip to stay at Nicole’s, after moving into her house, I must say I was completely dumbstruck, as were mom and dad who were with me.  Kyle didn’t seem to think anything of this TV or our confusion.  Nicole seriously had this television set sitting on a shelf in her bedroom.  I was dying!  We all stood around and gazed at it as if we were in a museum and weren’t allowed to touch it.  I swear I saw the TV give us a defiant grin.  If you would have seen me, mom and dad standing there staring at this ancient piece of electronic, which projected entertainment from the eighties, you would have thought we just witnessed a miracle.  Dad even rolled his eyes!  Too funny!  Nicole laughed and showed us how it still worked, although the on/off switch was no longer there so she had to plug it in and unplug it to power off.  It still had the rabbit ears!  Now, that was dedication on my sister’s behalf for keeping this old TV around.

Eventually, the inevitable happened.  We got a call informing us the loyal television set, fired up for the last time and then turned off forever!  Wow, I must say mom and dad got their money’s worth.  That happened a few years ago, so I would have to guess the TV set was about 28 years old when it retired.  Not too shabby!  Maybe we should have given it a proper burial, but at least we always have the memories!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,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

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
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