Ziplining Into 16-Years

Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.  ~Ian Fleming

Aunt Heather Piper & Kyle pre ziplining 8-2-17

Me & Kyle … pre-zipline prep. Seven Springs. 8/2/2017

On Wednesday, I surprised Kyle with an adventure to the Laurel Mountains. What did we do?  We ziplined at Seven Springs!

I’ve never done it before but I always wanted to and I guessed Kyle concurred with this bucket list item.  While it wasn’t as exotic as ziplining in the Amazon, it was a lot of fun.  Pennsylvania has a lot of venturesome nooks and crannies worth exploring.

Kyle’s birthday is always a celebration, one we all look forward to every year.  The gifts have always varied in price, practicality and complexity, yet the goal has always remained the same, to introduce Kyle to new adventures and opportunities for personal growth.  My gifts may not all be extravagant, but they’re always unique and given from the heart.

Kyle unhooking ziplining 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle sticking the landing & getting unhooked to zip another line. Seven Springs 8/2/2017

Sunday was Kyle’s actual birthday and I didn’t tell him his birthday surprise.  To keep him on his toes, I simply informed Kyle he was spending Wednesday with me.  Instantly, Kyle’s interest was peeked and I gave him a hint to wear tennis shoes and comfortable cloths.  It didn’t take long for the gears in his head to begin churning.  He enjoys surprises but he can’t handle them.  He gave me a look and I stated, “Kyle, have I ever disappointed?”  He didn’t answer but knew I always brought my best game.

Missing Kyle in the worst possible way, I picked up my little man midday Tuesday.  Pleasantly, I found him in a good mood and not being difficult.  We hung out at my parents, since their house was closer to Seven Springs.  We ate, watched movies and enjoyed each others company, like the old days when he was a kid.  A perfect evening if you ask me.

Funny story.  As habit has recently dictated, I switched seats with my new driver midway up the ridge.  Instead of having Kyle pull into mom and dad’s driveway, I had him put the car in reverse to go up the hill for additional practice.  He certainly found it more challenging.  We snaked around a bit and kicked up stones.  As I was sitting in the passenger seat, I thought, Dad‘s probably watching and wondering what’s wrong with me?  I was right.  When we got out of the car, (that was parked very crooked) I saw Dad take note Kyle was the driver.  Dad started grinning and said, “I was wondering what the hell was wrong?”  Kyle cracked a smile thinking it was funny to fool his pappy.

Kyle hanging from a zipline 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle ziplining! Seven Springs. 8/2/2017

On Wednesday, Kyle rose from his beauty sleep around 7:30 am.  Without prompting him, he jumped in the shower, ate and strapped on his tennis shoes and was ready for his day of fun.  He still didn’t know what I had in store for him but he was game for anything.

On our way up the mountain, Kyle started guessing our activity.  His first assumption was Caddy Shack for Go Cart riding.  Nope.  Then, I saw the light bulb.  With conviction he said, “Oh, I know, where we’re going.  Seven Springs!  That’s the only thing up here.”  I retort, “Not necessarily buddy, there’s other things to do in the Laurel Mountains.”  I must not have been convincing because the next thing I knew, I was unwillingly participating in 20 questions.

By the time we made the right at Sarnelli’s and then the left to take us directly to Seven Springs Kyle knew our final destination, but he didn’t know what we were doing.  That stinker pulled up the Seven Springs website and began naming all the activities to get me to bite.  Funny enough, the ziplining was on a separate page, which I knew but he didn’t.

While parking the car and on our way to our render-vous point, Kyle kept saying, “I named everything, it has to be one of those.”  Maintaining my excitement, I smiled and responded, “Well, that’s not what we’re doing.  You didn’t name everything”  To only have Kyle retort, “Yes I did.  It has to be one of those!  We’re going hiking aren’t we?”  I laughed.  He didn’t say hiking with disdain like he usually does, but not with excitement either.

Kyle wouldn’t let it go.  Once we entered the offices to sign in, it dawned on him, he was missing an adventure.  Seeing the sign for the Canopy Laurel Ridgeline Zipline Tour his face lit up and confidently he stated, “The only thing I didn’t say was the Canopy tours.”  Ding. Ding.  You got it!  I only smiled and he couldn’t resist giving me a smile back.

Kyle ziplining 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle getting ready to stick the landing… ziplining at Seven Springs. 8/2/2017

Throughout the offices were large wall sized photographs of ziplining experiences.  Kyle was pleasantly surprised.  Actually, he was seriously excited and couldn’t contain it!

We met the rest of our group and they were very cool people from the Penn State area.  In fact, when they heard this was Kyle’s birthday present they joined in wishing him a happy birthday and expressing what a perfect birthday present.  We also found out Kyle and this lady (Karen) shared the same birthday.  What a neat coincidence.

Normally on the weekends, the ski lift takes the adventure seekers to the spot to begin, unfortunately, we had to take a van.  The drive was like riding dune buggies over treacherous terrain, there and back again.  After ziplining and on our way back down the hill, Kyle laughed and said, “Did you see him spin out on the gravel around the turn?”  It was funny.  I said, “You should give him some driving lessons.”  Kyle laughed!

At the first platform, the last person up the ladder was to zip first.  Kyle, who normally likes to be first, moved slowly and stayed toward the back of the line.  I turned to him, “So, you want to go first?”  It really wasn’t a question but a confirmation.  The rest of the group noticed and cheered for the “birthday kid.”  Like I said, great group of people.

Before we took the plunge, I whispered to Kyle, “Watch, I’ll probably project myself into a huge patch of poison ivy.”  Kyle snickered and snapped back, “Or a tree.”  What?  I said, “Why would you say that?”  Kyle giggled and the others heard us and chuckled.

Kyle ziplining through the Laurel Mountains 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle ziplining! 1st one to go… 8/2/2017

I felt like a monkey zipping from one platform to another.  The first few were shorter and they progressively got longer and faster.  The longest was 1,500 feet and the second longest was 1,400 feet.  Because of the way the lines were located on the second to the longest line, it slightly assended to the platform.  Meaning, anyone light needed to cannonball their way to keep their speed going to the end.  I thought I weighted enough so I was good, not really.  I left my legs dangling which slowed me down.  I did have to pull myself about 10 feet, while Kyle on the other hand had to pull himself a bit further.  He came up about 30 feet short.  I’ll give him credit, he never panicked and pulled himself up like a champ.  Of course, it helped the group cheered him on.  He smiled over the jokes they made, “Kyle did you want more of an adventure?” and “Kyle did you want to get in another workout?”  He was good about the teasing.

The course consisted of ziplines, naturally, but also two suspension bridges.  The first one, we had to propel ourselves off a platform to access another platform and the bridge.  It was made of half logs that were fairly spaced out.  The guide instructed us to stay at least three log lengths apart.  Granted, we were strapped in, but I didn’t want to slip and get road rash down my legs so I took my time.  Kyle, who was behind me.  He tried to rush me and stressed me out.  He thought he was funny.  That stinker!

Kyle getting his zipline instructions 8-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle getting instructions before taking the plunge.. our first zip liner! 8/2/2017

All in all, we had a blast.  I love that Kyle has my adventurous spirit and is fearless.  I truly believe he had a great day and enjoyed himself.  Of course, it was perfect blue skies and warm weather.  How could anyone not have a great time zipping 150 feet in the air over trees and spending a day in nature?  Not possible.

Our instructors, Kiarra and Dan, were fabulous.  They maintained safety regulations, yet were entertaining and personable.  They really made the day special, in addition to our group.

Who was this mysterious extension to our ziplining crew?  There was a husband and wife, their 18-year old son, and the wife’s brother and their 79-year old Dad.  The grandpap was in better shape than all of us combined.  He was amazing.  Again, great group.

Now, what to do for Kyle’s 17th birthday?  I better start planning now.  In the meantime, I asked Kyle is he wanted to come back this fall to do the course again.  Yes, of course he does.  I thought it would be beautiful with the Autumn leaves.

I did manage to get a couple videos.  One of Kyle propelling himself off the platform and one of him ziplining (very short).  Enjoy.

 

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Kyle! Sweet 16!

Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time.  ~Marie Lu

Baby-Kyle-8-12-01-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle as a little man. Ryan carried him around in this seat everywhere. 8/12/01

Can you believe Kyle is 16 years old today?  Seems like these milestones are becoming more frequent and harder to accept.

Happily, I was there when Kyle was born, all 6 pounds 10 ounzes of him.  Ryan was ecstatic over the arrival of the new package and I was nervous, yet thrilled to be an Aunt.  Kyle was a blessing, and it was only over the years did I really understand just what a blessing he’s been and continues to be.  Ryan would be proud, as am I.

Sixteen years later, Kyle turned into a smart, kindhearted, wonderful young man anxious to get his permit and tackle another stage in his life.  Finally, he’s excited to drive and gain a little more freedom.  Kyle mentioned he has to get a physical and then it’s off to get his permit, this Friday. Friday!  As much as I want him to be independent, I’m nervous.  Add another item to the prayer list.

Kyle at the Movies 7-29-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Nicole & Kyle at the movies to see Valerian. We took him for his birthday celebration. 7/29/2017

What have we been up to for the big birthday weekend?  Not much of anything.  Kyle stated he wanted to hang out.  Fine by me, I could always use some uninterrupted Kyle time.  Nicole came home to join in on the celebration too.

Yesterday, we went to the movies to see Valerian and afterwards headed to my parents house for some DQ ice-cream cake and a bonfire.  My favorite way to spend the day.  Chilling on the deck gave us some time for Kyle to catch us up on his recent activities.  Surprisingly, he did.

Before heading to the movies, Nicole and I had Kyle back Nicole’s SUV out of the driveway and partially down the ridge.  Kyle stated, “Too bad it’s not a week later, then I’d be driving us to the movies.”  Yes, he would have.  

Kyle's 16 Birthday 7-29-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle’s 16! 7/29/2017

I spoke of Kyle going to Northwestern University for a week in the previous post From February Till Now, A Summary of Kyle.  He told us about his adventure.  He was given the opportunity to build a few items using PVC pipe and ductape (I have no idea exactly what he was talking about) with the engineers, attended a lecture with the Dean and another lecture from a seasoned professor.  Kyle even toured the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)!  How cool was that!  He received a letter of recommendation from the school and is one step closer to finalizing his future endeveorus.

Today we went to brunch at DeNunzio’s at Latrobe Airport and continued hanging out for the rest of the day and enjoyed Kyle’s company, which is becoming a rarity.  

What did I get Kyle?  You’ll see. I’m picking him up Tuesday night for a Wednesday fun surprise, just the two of us.  He seems excited over his surprise and stated, “You’re not taking me to a Lego’s thing are you?”  I’m not sure why he thought that.  I am aware he is sixteen and not a little tyke.  At first, I couldn’t tell if he was in favor or not of a Lego’s thing.  Reluctantly, I said, “No. Why?”  He sighed with relief and said, “Oh, good.  Cause I don’t want to.”  Even though Kyle likes his Legos decorating his room, I guess partaking in Lego fun is now out of the question.   My response?  “Kyle, have I ever disappointed you for your birthday?”  He snickered and never answered.  More to come on Kyle’s birthday.

Happy Birthday Kyle!  I love you!

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing and have No Comments

From February Till Now, A Summary of Kyle

Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.  ~J.D. Salinger

Planinsek Fishing Derby Kyle & a hug Aunt Heather Piper 5-13-17

I love my little man, who is now as tall as me! Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/13/2017

I can’t believe how long it’s been since I released a blog post.  The end of January.  Yikes!  I’ve thought about it, then got sidetracked or ran out of time.  Where have I been?  Bombarded with work, that’s where.  Marketing has kept me a pretty busy lady.  But the bigger question is, what’s Kyle been up to?

Let me give a monthly recap.

February

I really don’t remember what went on in February.  At least nothing so monumental that it warrants a call out.  We didn’t have much of a winter.  When snow did fall, I asked Kyle to go snowboarding, but my invitation was quickly declined.  He had other plans.  (Probably nothing)  He stated that he still likes snowboarding but wasn’t interested when asked.

Originally, I wanted to take Kyle and a few of his friends to Seven Springs.  However, the way the snow landed, or lack there of, I wasn’t given much notice to plan a trip to the slopes.  Personally, I want to see if Kyle remembers how to snowboard.  I also want him to feel comfortable again on the mountain without fear of him hurting himself.  I guess there’s always next year.  Maybe I’ll plan a trip out west. It’s been a while since I’ve ridden any real mountains and Kyle’s never had the chance.  Making a mental note.

March

First Day of Fishing Kingston Kyle 4-16-17 Aunt Heather Piper

First Day of FISHING! Kingston 4/16/2017

Again, another month without the steady presence of Kyle.  I do miss my little man.  This is in such contrast to when Kyle was a youngster.  He was around all the time.  I could count on him to answer my calls, my text messages and even Facetime me, talk and hang out.  He never passed up an opportunity to do something fun together.  Actually, it didn’t need to be fun, he was game to do anything as long as I was there doing it with him. (Yes that included cleaning)

It just goes to show, appreciate what you have when you have it.  I guess fifteen is the rejection age.  Although, this has been going on for about a year and a half since he was thirteen – fourteen.  Now I want to know when will it end and I get my buddy back?  Of course, I wouldn’t want to hang around a family that yells and argues all the time either.  I know he gets enough of that at home.

April

Kyle Derek Logan Band Concert 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle, Derek & Logan watching the other band performances. Lookin’ good guys! 5/2/2017

Holidays are always a great excuse to see friends and family.  Kyle can’t escape hanging with his aunt for Easter.

A Saturday in either March or April
I got a call that Kyle wanted picked up.  Great!  Did I mind it was last minute and I had to change my plans to accommodate him?  Never.  I was excited to see my guy.

As recent history dictated, Kyle was quite on the ride.  When I asked him questions, he either shrugged his shoulders or gave his typical answers, “Good”, “No”, “Fine” or “I don’t know.”  Good talk buddy!

As we were driving to my parents house to visit, I got a great idea.  Knowing Kyle would be turning sixteen in July, I thought I’d surprise him with a little driving lesson.  For a change, we weren’t in a hurry and it was a lovely day.  Why not?

I pulled into the cemetery near my parent’s without informing Kyle of my plan.  I put the car in park and got out and walked around to the passenger side.  Kyle began to freak out like he was in trouble.  I definitely sported a snicker.  I opened the passenger door to find Kyle getting defensive and not willing to leave his seat.  I told him my plans and his response?  “But I’m not sixteen yet, I’m not allowed to drive.”  Kyle was always like that, never willing to break the rules, no matter.  My reply?  “Do you think you should wake up on your sixteenth birthday and be allowed to get behind the wheel on the highway without a little practice?  Besides, I’ve already had you driving since you were little.”

Kyle at Fishing Derby 5-13-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle waiting for the big one at the Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/13/2017

Believe it or not, Kyle argued with me.  What kid does that?  Most teens would be all too excited to take the wheel, especially with me, who’s not going to freak out if he hits something.  I did mention, “This is where I learned to drive, of course I drove a stick on the hill.  But it’s a good place, no one’s around and everyone’s already dead.”  He gave me an uneasy look.  “The most I’ll have to do is owe someone a new headstone, so try and stick to the road.”  I was graced with a smirk for my candor.

After a little attitude, I got Kyle to drive.  I enforced using his turn signal (good habit) and showed him other basic car features.

He was pretty steady, although, Kyle did give me a fright when he approached a turn, that if not addressed properly would have resulted in us flying down over an embankment.  He was going to make the left turn but he was moving a bit too fast (not that he reached 10 miles an hour, but it was still too fast for the situation, especially a first time driver).  I grabbed the oh S#@$ handles and used my imaginary break.  My actions received me a full blown smile from my young driver.  Let it be known I never yelled.

Kyle by fire at Fishing Derby 5-13-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle playing games by the fire at the Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/13/2017

As we began our decent down the grade, after he made the bend without launching us over the side of a cliff (large gully), it resulted in another sharp left turn.  This one I wasn’t so worried about.  The most Kyle could do was run into the grass.  As we approached the turn, it went something like this:

Me:  Better go slower.
Kyle:  I got it.
Me:  Left turn signal and you better slow down.  Cut your wheel sharp at the bottom.
Kyle:  (He used his turn signal) I know.
Me:  Kyle, you’re going to run off the road if you don’t go even slower and tighten your turn.
Kyle:  I’m good.
Me:  We’re going off the road.
Kyle ran off the road mid turn into the grass.  No damage but I did give him a look of listen next time.
Kyle: Oh, I guess we’re off the road.
Me:  Umm (I wasn’t mad in the slightest, infact I started to laugh at his funny expression)
Kyle chuckled and did as I instructed to give a little gas as to not dig up the grass.  He got back on the road and continued.

We ended up doing a couple loops around the cemetery.  The second, he clearly showed more confidence and skill.  He did a great job.  I even had him pull onto the road and drive into my parents driveway.  More to come regarding Kyle driving.

Friday, April 15, 2017 – Sunday, April 16, 2017

Fishing Derby Prizes 5-13-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle hanging out with cousins at the Planinsek Fishing Derby, waiting for the prizes. 5/13/2017

Easter weekend.  We actually got Kyle on Friday, which was a nice surprise.  Me, Dad and Kyle caught up on our Fast & Furious movies, watching the marathon on television.  True to Kyle, he turned out all the lights to create the optimum movie watching environment.  It was a nice relaxing evening.  My sister came in late Friday night with Acorn.  The house was alive with activity.

On Saturday, we got up early for the first day of fishing.  Me, Dad and Kyle went to Kingston to fish our limit in trout.  We caught a few rainbows but mostly brook trout.  I was stuck cleaning a majority of the fish.  Kyle did lend a delicate hand, but he’s still not a fan of guts and blood and reluctantly assisted.  Dad sat there and critiqued my fish gutting abilities.  Although, I’ll give Dad credit, he did scale the rainbow.

Fishing was a blast, I saw Kyle smile and enjoy himself on a number of occasions.  He even put his phone away to focus.

Planinsek Fishing Derby Kyle Fishing 5-13-17 Aunt Heather Piper

My fisherman! My job was to catch the fish & bait the hook. Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/13/2017

Funny story.  Dad caught this HUGE trout, I mean BIG.  I’m surprised it didn’t break his pole.  We added the fish to our cooler of ice along with the other catches.

Kyle happened to be standing by the cooler when all of a sudden the monster sized fish, that was on ice for at least fifteen minutes, tried to make its escape.  The fish jumped out of the cooler.  (Yes the lid was closed and it still was able to project itself out) Kyle jumped.  He thought I threw something at the cooler, I was startled, thinking Kyle knocked the cooler over.  Dad focused on his fishing and only gave us a curious glance.  When Kyle looked down to see the behemoth fish flopping around, the truth dawned on us.  We looked at each other in shock and began laughing.  Kyle’s hands were full, I believe he was reeling in another trout, so I scooped up the slimy vertebrate and placed it back in the cooler.  It was a great fishing day!  (Secret: I’m still the worst fisherman in the family.  Dad remains at number one and Kyle is a close second.  I’m by far last, even after Nicole.)

Later, after we cleaned up and ate, Nicole, me and Kyle went to the movies to continue where we left off the night before with The Fate of the Furious, the most recent movie.

Earlier, I cornered Nicole to suggest we leave early and head to the cemetery for a little more practice in a different vehicle.  I said, “Just pull into the cemetery and don’t say anthing.”  Nicole giggled and was excited to join in on this milestone.

Once Nicole put the car in park, Kyle smiled knowing what she had in mind.  Without insidence Kyle changed seats with his Aunt.  I was in the backseat like Driving Miss Daisy.  In fact, Kyle seemed exctied to be practicing.  He did better than before and Nicole’s SUV is a lot bigger than mine.  Great practice.

We had a good time at the movies.  Hearing Kyle laugh out loud totally cracked me up.  His humor lights up my world even in the middle of a dark movie theater.  Those moments are most precious to me.  He has a great laugh.  It reminds me of his Dad’s.  Even the way he rolls his eyes, or grins, I see Ryan.

Kyle Band Concert 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle at his spring concert sporting a tuxedo! Handsome guy. 5/2/2017

Would you believe Kyle ordered his usual, the Miss Piggy sandwich?  It’s nice to see some things never change.  He is definitely a creature of habit.  Now I have to get him out of the habit of ignoring us and we’re all set.

Once Sunday rolled around we went to church and came home to grub up.  Kyle stayed for most of the day before asking to leave.  I took him home.

While heading out to the driveway, I ran past him and darted for the passenger side.  Kyle stood there stunned.  He said, “I can’t drive all the way home.”  Oh, goodness no.  I told him I wasn’t suicidal.  I wanted him to practice backing out of the driveway.  If he can master mom and dad’s driveway and then my Uncle Walter’s, he was good to go in reverse.

While backing out, he snaked the straight path slightly, but overall did a great job.  On the one side of the driveway is the front yard, no big deal.  However, on the other side, it slopes down into my Uncle’s field.  To reassure Kyle in case of a lapse in reverse judgement, I said, “Don’t worry, if you go down over the bank, you won’t be the first, Pappy did it with the Honda once.”  That cracked me up and Kyle seemed relieved.  He tried to use the turnaround at the bottom of the driveway, but I wouldn’t let him.  I wanted him to get a feel for looking both ways, pulling out onto the road and not running into the ditch.  He drove us partially off the ridge back to the cemetery where we changed roles.

On our ride home I busted out laughing.  Curious, he asked, what?  I said, “You back up better than your Aunt Nikki.”  He found humor in that very true statement.  My sister backs out of the driveway live she’s trying to purposly miss the road, and she’s been practicing since before she was sixteen.  I guess she’s pretty consistent too.

Another true to form, Kyle fell asleep in the car.  He did that as a young tyke and is taking up the habit again.  I don’t mind.  I’m still hanging out with him, even if he is unconscience.

May

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Kyle smiling at band concert 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle trying not to smile Spring Band Concert. Great job buddy! 5/2/2017

About mid-day, I get a call from mom telling me Kyle called and he had a band concert that evening at school, which is over an hour away.  A little inconvenient, but I was excited he called to inform us, knowing I’d be upset if I missed it.

I shut down work early, canceled my evening plans and got ready.

Kyle was first tuba chair!  What a pleasant surprise.  AND he was wearing a tuxedo!  He looked so handsome, I just wanted to squeeze him and never let go.  (That would have been when hell froze over, the day Kyle would let me do that, especially in front of all his friends and their parents.)

I enjoyed the evening of music and special honors for the seniors.  I came home with a permanent smile on my face.  Seeing Kyle simply made me happy.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

First Day of Fishing Kyle & Dad Aunt Heather Piper 4-16-17

Kingston fishing for the first day, Dad & Kyle leading the way. 4/16/2017

Mother’s Day, which also marks the weekend of the Annual Planinsek Fishing Derby.  The kids are permitted to fish from sixteen years and younger.  Kyle has one more year.

He didn’t want to stop up for the bonfire on Friday night but requested we be there for 7:00 am breakfast.  I believe we made it by 7:30 am since Kyle had a hard time getting up.  He is certainly going through a growth spirt and he needs to learn to go to bed earlier.

He had a nice time fishing and playing dodge ball with the kids.  I enjoyed socializing and relaxing.

At the end, they fill picnic tables of toys and stuff for the kids.  I wasn’t sure if Kyle wanted me to purchase him tickets or not, so I did.  The first couple of times Kyle’s name was called, he took a variety of items, then he began to give away his turns to his cousins, Grant, Olivia, Piper, Owen, Lilia, Hailie, Mattox, Caleia and Kelsey.  That was nice seeing Kyle think of them.  Not only that, he also walked each child up to the table to help them pick out a prize.  Kyle’s a good kid.

Another funny story.  Kyle insisted he wasn’t going to be cold, even though it was chilly in the morning and the ridge is always colder.  Just in case, I packed an extra hoodie, socks and a change of cloths for Kyle.  Next thing I know, I saw Kyle zipping up the extra hoodie, that is until the sun peaked around noon.  When it comes to dressing and preparing for the weather, he never listens.

Monday, May 29, 2017
Memorial’s Day.  I was asked to chaperon the parade in Vandergrift for Kiski Marching Band.  Looking forward to seeing Kyle, everyone was asking me where he was.  I honestly had no idea.  I texted him and surprisingly he anwered me back.  He was sick.  I felt bad and offered to bring him ice-cream.  He declined.  I missed him terrribly.

June

June 25, 2017 – June 29, 2017

Kyle Playing in Band Concert 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle playing the tuba at his spring band concert. Lead chair! 5/2/2017

This was Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun trip.  Where to?  Iceland.  Kyle seemed pretty excited, or at least as excited as he gets.  Nicole said they had a great time but it was cold.

Another funny story.  Kyle is notorious for not being prepared for the weather, specifically the cold, as mentioned above.  Before he left I asked him, “Are you good with packing?  Did you need me to get you anything?  Did you pack a pair of jeans and hoodie?”  Kyle’s entire response, “I’m good.”  Of course you are…

Nicole said when they got there it was around 40 degrees and the wind made it colder.  She said it was at that moment Kyle, who was obviously shivering (although he would never admit to it) informed her that he didn’t bring pants, only shorts.  Are you kidding me buddy?  You were going to ICELAND.  I’m guessing the irony had no effect on him. Nicole took our frozen package shopping and spent a lot of money to keep him comfortable.  I guess we’ll forever have a funny story.

When they got back, Nicole told us about the unplanned shopping trip.  I looked at Kyle half joking and said, “You suck at packing and being prepared.”  Kyle shrugged his shoulders.  He didn’t care.  I suppose I’m okay with him not sweating the small stuff and I guess shopping for jeans was minor.

Over the course of the weekend, Nicole and Kyle shared stories about their adventures.  I’ve always been happy to see Kyle explore the world and enjoy life.  He definitely has the Piper travel bug.  A good quality to have.

July

Spring Concert Band Booklet 5-2-2017 Aunt Heather PiperNow my rough timeline brings me up to last week.  Kyle, my Mr. Traveler, was at Northwestern University.  Yes, the college on the other side of Chicago.  Why was he there when he’s going to be junior in high school?  He’s smart.

Proudly, Kyle was informed that he was selected to represent Kiski at the National Student Leadership Council.  Way to go buddy!  Because of his interest in engineering, they outlined a select number of schools with that focus to include: Northwestern, UCLA, California at Berkley, Harvard Medical (biotechnology), Yale, Georgia Tech, Rice, American, Georgetown.

Kyle chose Northwestern.  Why?  I have no idea.  The last I heard he was thinking about Georgetown.  I would have chosen Yale or Harvard.  Why not?

Kyle got to spend a week on campus touring the facilities and studying his chosen specialty.  At the end he was to recieve a certificate of achievement and a letter of recommendation.  How cool is that?

I tried calling him to see how it went.  Nothing.  Crickets.  I hope he had a wonderful time.  What a great experience.

Well, those are some of the highlights for the first half of the year.  I also did some traveling to Salt Lake City, but only for work, nothing too exciting.  This week begins Kyle’s week long celebration for his birthday.  I hope I get to spend some good quality time with him. He’s a good egg and I love him to pieces.

Spring Concert Band Cover Booket 5-2-17 Aunt Heather Piper

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

Happy Birthday Dad! 66-Years!

The best teachers impart knowledge through sleight of hand, like a magician.  Kate Betts

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

Dad U Sonny Pap Gram Aunt Heather Piper

Dad, Uncle Sonny, Pap & Gram (plus a mystery person) at a mystery location during a mystery year.

Just to reiterate, Dad despises me talking about him online. (So don’t say anything)  I rarely do, at least he’s not the focus of most of my stories, except for today.

Dad’s added another digit to his age.  He’s still moving forward, a lot slower, but still going.  I couldn’t live without the old man.  It’s funny, I never realized it until recent times just how much Dad loves us, all of us.

Dad’s a unique individual, in more ways than one.  He truly loves us and always wishes the best for us in a selfless manner.  His heart is true.  He reminds me of my Pappy, Ryan and Kyle in that respect.  His definition of success isn’t the type of car a person drives or any other superficial means.  Nope.  His definition of a good person is how well they can shoot a gun.  (Half joking)  Dad looks at a person from the inside first, except when watching television, then he’s not so kind with his words.  I’m not saying Dad’s some holy person, not even close, but he is a decent guy.  A bit opinionated, and a many times irritating when he wants something done, but I’ll take that over someone who’s spiteful, materialistic and out for themselves any day.  I’m aware of Dad’s shortcomings and they’re trumped by his good qualities, in my opinion.

This past year we had a great hunting season.  I personally, had a record year, and Dad was excited about it.  Truly.  He’s so proud when I harvest a deer, I hear him telling EVERYONE.  Not only that, but when I’m a good shot and his friends witness it or even if they don’t, boy does Dad beam with delight.  He’s genuinely happy for me.

Dad & U Sonny on Ridge building grams house c.1953 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad & Uncle Sonny. Gram & Pap’s house being built on the ridge c. 1953

Before rifle season started, Dad went bow hunting and muzzle-loader.  I’m glad he has something he looks forward to doing and it keeps him moving.

As history dictates, we went hunting in New York, where I harvested a buck, and poor Dad didn’t see a single deer.  A week later, the Monday after Thanksgiving, we went hunting in Pennsylvania.  I filled most of my tags and Dad filled a couple.  The best part?  We had a great time together, especially sitting in a small tree stand with the big guy.  Sometimes he gets on my nerves and is a bit too serious, but other times he totally cracks me up.

During the hunting season, most of our conversations focus on Ryan and Kyle.  We all miss Ryan, but hunting season heightens Dad’s longing for his son.  That was their time together.  Every once in a while Dad would comment “Boy, Ryan would be enjoying himself”, or he’d say “I wish Kyle was here.”

We did more than hunt deer this year.  For the first time ever, I got to go pheasant (ringneck) hunting.  We had a blast!  When I was little, Dad used to bring home a pheasant periodically, so it’s not like I was unfamiliar with the birds but it was neat to be directly involved.  Dad and I went a couple of times and filled our limit of two birds each, both times.  Dad didn’t stop talking about it for weeks.  The first time we brought home our pheasants Kyle was home.  Without hesitation, Kyle helped up skin the birds.  Kyle wouldn’t gut them, but he did wash them out.  The best part of that day?  Kyle sat with me and Dad during the process and hung out, plus he learned the trait.  It was a nice time together.

Dad’s been doing a lot of goose hunting this year.  I joined him a few time and I know nothing would make him happier than if I’d go with him every day, but like I’ve told him, repeatedly, “I have to work.  I’m not retired.”  Occasionally, I sneak out but I can’t do it day in and day out like he wants to.  Even if I could, goose hunting doesn’t excite me that much.  Perhaps it’s because I’m not a fan of goose meat.  While we’re on it, I don’t even really like duck.

A funny trait about Dad?  He doesn’t look at himself as an old person.  In fact, he gets irritated with elderly people.  In many cases, they’re the same age as Dad!  Doesn’t that just crack you up?  I find such humor in Dad calling a person driving beside us “old”, when clearly they’re the same age.

One a side note, I have a funny story.  The other day I was walking through a store and this lady stopped me and asked if I was Ron Piper’s daughter.  Believe it or not, this has happened to me many, many times over the years.  She couldn’t remember my name, but she knew exactly who I was.  I’ve always been told I look like my Dad and more than not, I was told, in a negative way, that I act like him too.  I’m okay with that and I’m proud to be like Dad.  As it turns out, the lady was Shirley Achhammer, another relative.  How funny!

Happy Birthday old man.  Keep kicking and doing what you do!

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posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Family,Milestone,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Age Is a State of Mind

It’s not denial. I’m just selective about the reality I accept.  ~Bill Watterson

grandpap-risher-glen-barb-mom-dad-buddy-jocye-u-sonny-carol-chad-1972-aunt-heather-piper

Glen & Barb, Mom & Dad, Buddy & Jocye, Uncle Sonny & Aunt Carol & Chad at Grandpap Risher’s 1972

My parent’s 47th anniversary was yesterday, as was my birthday.  While the old people are adding to their years (not me), my Dad doesn’t seem to notice his age, at least not mentally.  Sure he knows he’s getting older.  He moves a little slower each year, and his endurance has dwindled.  Yet, it doesn’t stop Dad from going outside, firing up the chainsaw and chopping firewood, which he never complains.  He still goes traipsing through the woods during hunting season, even though his traipsing requires less walking and more riding the quad.  Regardless, he stays active.  Don’t get me wrong, Dad’s no athlete, but he enjoys life and living it.

What really cracks me up is his perception of his age.  I’ve lost track of how many times we were going somewhere and I heard him say, “Come old man, get out of the way.”  or “Look it’s an old lady.  She needs to get off the road.”  Okay, that’s not really funny, in fact it’s kind of annoying, but the real humor lies in the fact that the “old” people Dad is referring to are his age!  One would think he’s talking about crypt keepers or those on the verge of death, nope.  Everyone one slightly younger than him and up, are old people in his eyes.  You should hear him in the grocery store!  He’ll comment about the old people getting in his way with their shopping carts, or taking forever in the checkout line because they can’t see the screen.  Isn’t that a hoot?  He has a hard time reading the credit card machine too.

Every time I hear Dad spout out about an “old” person, first I laugh, usually out loud, then I reply, “Dad!  You’re probably the same age!”  Sometimes he snickers and other times he ignores me, truly irritated with the person in question.  He means no harm.  He’s simply impatient, but it’s hilarious.  The pot calling the kettle black always comes to mind.

Now my own revelation.  I just noticed it this past year while chaperoning one of Kyle’s band competitions.  I don’t really pay attention to “old” people but I do have a skewed sense of age reality.  When speaking to someone, there’s never an age differentiation, for the most part.  If I’m conversing with someone in their twenties, there’s no age gap in my mind.  If I’m speaking to someone in their teens, my mind only registers that I’m slightly older.  Does it go the opposite for older people?  Depends.  When I’m at the gym talking with someone a decade older, then nope, we’re the same age.  But if the person shows or acts their age, and they’re older, then in my mind, I’m simply younger.  However, no matter the age in the room, it’s usually a guarantee I still act the youngest.

nicole-chad-heather-1976-aunt-heather-piper

My birthday with Nicole & Chad. 1976

Dad and I are the same!  In our minds, we really don’t have a clue to our own age or it doesn’t register.  I mean we’re not delusional, we’re well aware of how old we are, it just doesn’t change our thinking or perspective.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say, this is a good way to be.  I’m sure it could be considered a mental defect, but I like to think of it as a fresh approach to life.  After all, the mind is very powerful.

When I was in San Diego a few months ago, I shared my age related story in Adventures in San Diego on a Dog Scavenger Hunt.  Let me rehash.   While walking along the boardwalk I kept seeing people riding bikes and skateboards, unusual for the Latrobe scene but not for San Diego.  As a youth, I loved skateboarding, particularly the skateboarders.  Between the sound of the crashing waves and people milling around, I’d hear skateboard wheels and the clapping of the skateboard decks on the cement boardwalk.  I truly enjoyed revisiting this sound from my youth.  Eventually, I paid attention to the actual person riding the skateboard.  It occurred to me they were older people, for the most part.  Honestly, in my mind I kept thinking, Wow, they’re older.  This thought kept up until reality smacked me in the face.  I’m their age! 

You know, I think Kyle shares the same perspective on age?  He adapts to the ages of people around him.  I’ve seen it.  Whether or not he has a grasp on his own age, even though he’s only fifteen, I have no idea, but he has the ability to blend with older and younger persons.  Plus, let’s not forget, he’s a Piper and we tend to mature late.  I’m guessing, Kyle will always remain young at heart, at least I hope so.

In fact, the more I think about it, I bet my Pappy was the same way.  He never really treated his disability as an issue and I bet his age was never one either.

On a side note, I’ve never wanted to get older.  Ever.  Most teens can’t wait to turn sixteen to drive or turn 21 to drink.  Not me.  I’ve never said the words, “I can’t wait till I’m…”  Nope.  In fact, I remember the summer before I went into sixth grade.  I was depressed knowing it was my last year at Sacred Heart and I had to go to junior high school.  I wasn’t thrilled at all.  In my mind, it meant I was getting older and there would be added responsibility and expectations.  Did I want to get out of high school?  Not in the slightest.  I loved my high school days and I didn’t want them to end.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad for all the milestones in my life but I never had an urge to rush time.

God has blessed me and is keeping me young, at least at heart.  Cheers to all those young at heart!

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

Happy Birthday Ryan!

Each of us has a unique part to play in the healing of the world.  ~Marianne Williamson

Happy 39th Birthday Ryan!

piper-cousins-piper-siblings-1981-aunt-heather-piper

Me, Ryan, Nicole, Jeremy & Chad Piper Easter 1981

Today, Ryan would have turned 39 years old, and his son Kyle, is a teenager of 15 years.  I can honestly say, I miss Ryan today like I did when he passed.  Maybe a little more, just in a different way.

It’s weird, talking about a person’s birthday and in the same breath their death.  Like it or not, I guess that’s the circle of life.  Although, Ryan’s life circle was a bit shorter than anticipated and there are so many holes missing,  I can only guess or imagine how they would have unfolded.

Since Kyle was Ryan’s everything, it would have been fun to watch Ryan parent and influence Kyle in all his activities, including band.

I bet Ryan would have been a band chaperone or at the very least helped in some way.  Would I have been a band chaperone if Ryan was alive?  You bet I would!  With or without Ryan, I’m there to support my little man, and in turn I would have supported Ryan too.  In fact, Ryan probably would have leaned on me to be involved, especially since I was as in band myself.

Ryan would have encouraged Kyle in school to keep up his grades, and he certainly would have welcomed my assistance.  Ryan would have played a huge influence in Kyle’s hunting and fishing activities, not that my dad doesn’t now.  It would be nice to go hunting with Ryan again, or even sit on a river bank and cast a few lines.

Usually when it’s one of our birthday’s we get a hold of Kyle to call the celebratory person to wish them a happy birthday.  However, with Ryan, it would only be a reminder of someone not present, at least physically.  Someone Kyle only knows from stories.  Kyle is the one who lost the most when Ryan passed away.

Kyle’s a busy boy, but I hope he always remembers his family and his dad.  While Kyle never remembered meeting Ryan, Ryan loved Kyle more than anything and would have done anything for that kid.  I hope Kyle realizes that one day and knows who truly is there for him.

Happy Birthday Ryan!

Leave Ryan a birthday wish.  Kyle would love to see it one day.

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posted by auntheather in Church,Family,Milestone,News,Reminiscing and have No Comments

A Visit to Google Pittsburgh… Continued

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

Google Pittsburgh Tour 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

Floors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Cafeteria”

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

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

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

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

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

The area is spacious and clean and very inviting.

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

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

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

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

Details

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Kyle! 15 Years!

I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change… I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back….   ~Erica Jong

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

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

Turning the page to another year, I’m happy to arrive at my little man’s fifteenth birthday!  As Kyle ages, one of my biggest fears is the person he will become.  However, in actuality, he’s already been a huge success and I couldn’t be more proud.

What stresses me about his character?  You see, when he’s with the family, he’s a bit of a smarty pants, curt, sarcastic (which I appreciate), stubborn and even a bit negative.  Granted, this isn’t a constant, and it seems to be more heightened when he hit his teenage years, but a fear regardless.  I don’t want Kyle to act disrespectful with his friends, friends’ parents, teachers or even strangers.  I don’t ever want Kyle to be labeled as such (I’m not concerned about the stubbornness unless it’s a hindrance), and I want him to be happy and have friends and experience life with love in his heart and a positive outlook.  However, while investigating Kyle’s behavior, I’ve been proudly informed time and time again, he’s a kind, polite, and a typical teenage boy. (Yes, I do constantly check up, things change and quickly.)

How do I know?  Simply, I ask and pay attention.  Really?  Yes, I do care for Kyle that much that I take the time to inquire, and I’m not talking about a passing comment.  When I get the chance to speak with a parent Kyle recently spent time with, I ask how he’s acted.  Usually, you can get a feeling when a parent is telling you the straight up truth or whether they’re sugar coating.  Asking the right questions also helps.  While chaperoning the band, I watch from a distance.  Again, my observations with the way he interacts with friends and fellow band members shows a lot about Kyle’s outside behavior and the real person he is.

You see, I was told once that teenagers need a means to get it out.  They’re hormonal and finding themselves, and they need a safe place to act out and dump everything from the inside, out.  I was also told a child will only do this with those he loves and is one hundred comfortable with.  Yeah for us. (sarcasm)

What would I do if I saw appropriate behavior?  Tell him.  As his aunt, and anyone who loves and respects him, it’s our job to call him out.  Perhaps he’s not aware of his actions, or if he is, it’s our job to correct bad behavior.  It’s in his best interest to shape into the person he will one day be. I know no ones perfect, we’re all  human, but it doesn’t mean we don’t try.

I am very proud of Kyle.  He’s always been my inspiration, and even if he longer believes it, we’re still a team.  I’ve always got his back no matter what.

Happy Birthday buddy!

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

A Visit to Google Pittsburgh

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

Google Pittsburgh Tour 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Dad! – 65 Years Strong

Years fly by, but the heart stays in the same place.  ~Harlan Coben

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

Dad U Sonny 10-1956 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad & Uncle Sonny, I think on a school field trip. 10/1956

I’m well aware Dad despises me talking about him online, not that he ever reads anything I write.  Why?  Because the old man’s never touched a computer in his life, let alone knows how to use a search engine. (He’s never even used an ATM machine.)  So how does he know I talk about him online?  I’m usually ratted out by people who read my blog and follow my social media sites, usually my Mom.  However, since Dad’s getting up there in years, he needs to have each and every year recognized and recorded, at the very least for Kyle to remember his dear old Pap.  My rule when reading my blog: read it to enjoy but never tell Dad where you heard the stories about him, or even those of Kyle.

Anyway, Dad added another year to his resume.  What’s been going on with my retiree?  Not much, he’s loving his simple life on the ridge.  His typical day consists of hanging with the dogs, Seven and Scooby, sneaking in a nap or two, sometimes cutting firewood or doing yard work, and visiting his ladies at least four times a day.

Ladies?  Who are the ladies?  That’s what Dad calls his chickens, which totally cracks me up!  He loves those birds.  Recently, they started laying eggs, which has now become the big excitement of each day.  No joke!

Sure, I still help Dad with our hobbies.  We have our honey bees, and up until this past fall, we were raising turkeys, who are now tucked away in the freezer.  Summer always brings a renewed interest in fishing and trapping snapping turtle, too.

Is Dad still hunting?  You bet!  In fact, he took the muzzle-loader out this year, and he participated in the senior citizen season.  Time for a true funny story.  Late October is the youth hunt or mentor hunting, coincidentally it’s also senior citizen hunting, prior to the standard deer season.  Every time I heard Dad recount this past hunting season with anyone, he talked about the youth hunt.  He always called it the youth hunt, not the senior citizen hunt.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, gave Dad a very inquisitive confused look when Dad, an old man, talked about hunting during the “youth hunt”.  In Dad’s head he knew he was legal, but most people were taken back by the term “youth hunt” in reference to Dad hunting.

Nowadays, Dad’s interested in purchasing a crossbow for archery season.  I’m okay with that!  Seriously, whatever keeps him active and happy.  He was even trying to nudge Mom (Gigi) back into hunting, to get her moving around since she too is retired as of the first of the year.  Personally, I think Dad has a better chance of shooting a 24 point, with an arrow that ricocheted off of a tree trunk, and a large rock before hitting the buck directly in the lungs, dropping it immediately.  Could happen, but highly unlikely.

What did we do today?  We butchered a 620 pound pig.  Seriously?  Yes!  Only in the Piper household.  Dad should have been a butcher for he loves harvesting his own meat.  Kyle even came over early to spend the weekend, although he passed on helping with the pig.  Instead, Kyle assisted me in making his pappy a pound cake.  We spent the day together, and had a really nice time.

Happy birthday old man!  I hope you keep going for another 60 years.

posted by auntheather in Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Pets and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Ryan!

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… ~Henry David Thoreau

Happy 38th Birthday Ryan!

Believe it or not, Ryan would’ve been 38-years old today!  He just turned 24 when he pertinently went to his grand woods in the sky.

Ryan with his boss 1996 Aunt Heather Piper

Ryan joking with his old boss at Ryan’s graduation party. Like me, Dad & Kyle, Ryan carried the sarcasm gene & the sweet tooth. 1996

A fun fact, something I’ve noticed more recently, I use Ryan’s birthday as our birth date for Thrill of the Hunt.  Really?  Yes, not the year, but I always claim September 24, 2012 as the beginning of Thrill of the Hunt.  To be honest, it was September of 2012 that we sold our very first private scavenger hunt.  I could probably find out the true date, but in all reality which date do I credit?  When we received our first proposal, the approval for the quote, or when the scavenger hunt took place?  We also held our very first public scavenger hunt on September 22nd of that year.  In fact, I believe our corporate paperwork went through in 2011, not that we did anything with the company until later.  September became our breakout month.  So yes, Ryan and Thrill of the Hunt share the same date of birth.  It’s my way of including Ryan in our adventures.

To be honest, I got the idea from another event.  This might be silly, but the town of Forks, Washington, holds September 13th as Stephenie Meyer day, actually, they call it “Forever twilight in Forks.”  You know the lady who brought Twilight to the masses and brought a little unknown town to the world.  In the book, September 13th is Bella’s, the main character’s, birthday.  In honor of Stephenie Meyer, the town holds this day, and the days surrounding it, as a time of celebration and to pay homage for everything the author did to their dying town.  I liked that idea, and wanted to include Ryan in on Thrill of the Hunt in a subtle way, besides Kyle’s involvement in the company.

I’ve had some ask me if Kyle knows who Ryan is?  Yes he does.  But Ryan, his dad, doesn’t mean the same to Kyle as Ryan meant to us.  It’s a shame, considering between Kyle’s birth and nearly three months, Ryan already showed traits of being a stellar dad.  Perhaps down the road, Kyle will feel a connection with Ryan, maybe one unique to them.  I hope so.  I’d like to think Ryan’s always with Kyle, and Ryan’s looking out for our little teenager.

Happy birthday little brother, you’re still remembered and in our hearts, always.  One day we’ll run through the woods together again, this time no mosquitos!

 

 

 

posted by auntheather in Church,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Kyle! 14 Years!

Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time.  ~Marie Lu

Happy 14th Birthday Kyle!

Kyle-with-dolphins-on-cruise-6-2015-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle fulfilling a life goal, swimming with the dolphins from his cruise with his Aunt Nikki. 6/2015

Kyle has really taught me about life.  It amazes me how one little boy, although he’s not so little anymore, can teach me about life and people and behaviors and the list goes on.  It’s great!  I love seeing the world through his eyes and his perception, especially now that he’s a young adult.

Now we’re working through the teenage years.  I’ll admit, it’s trial and error, I’ve made some mistakes and Kyle has made some, but we’re still tight.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for for that kid, and I know he truly cares for me, and my family.  I’ll always be his Aiya (Aunt Heather) and he’ll always be my Narrow.  We are associated by blood, but bound by love.

Thinking back on these fourteen years, I’m amazed at how much learning and activity has been packed into each year.  What a ride!  One, I would never trade, ever!  Kyle has been a blessing and continues be so.  Since reaching teenager status, he’s been spreading his wings and pushing boundaries.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending on how he goes about it.  I’ve always encouraged Kyle to be independent, yet responsible.  Although, I’m adjusting to the idea of not being cool anymore, or a desired companion for fun activities.  However, I’m hoping one day, Kyle will revert back and I will be here with open arms.

Kyle-at-Seabase-for-5th-birthday-7-2005-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle celebrating his 5th birthday at Seabase in Greensburg! He was a king that day, & every day since… 7/30/05

Now for my biggest surprise from this year.  Besides shaving, Kyle has really stretched up.  I only have about a head on him now, then he’ll surpass me.  I’m about five foot six inches, so Kyle is slightly under that.  He keeps eyeballing me up when standing next to me, and displaying that ornery grin.  His feet are already bigger than mine, which isn’t saying much since I have small feet.  We pretty much wear the same size shirts and jeans, except I need a little bit more length to mine.  There was a time when Kyle thought he was being a stinker wearing my cloths and enjoyed doing so.  I warned him, the tide will be changing soon enough, and now the high tide is in.  The other day, Kyle said, “Hey Aunt Heather, that’s my tee shirt.”  I simply looked down and said, “Umm, yes it is.  Payback time!  And it only goes downhill from here.”  He didn’t say much.  He just snickered and continued playing his video game.

Kyle is showing to be a goodhearted and honest young man, just like his dad.  Ryan would’ve been very proud of him.  Kyle’s not presently aware, but Ryan, his dad, would’ve been a very hands on, interactive father.  That’s the only part of Kyle getting older that saddens me, not having his dad interact with him and experience every milestone.  I guess Ryan’s here in spirit, and always in our hearts.  Although Kyle would’ve benefited tremendously to have Ryan in his life.

Kyle’s a happy child and is blessed with a good life.  That I am thankful for!

Happy Birthday Kyle!  I hope you enjoy your day.  I look forward to many more birthdays.

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

Unconventional Gifts

Good books tell the truth, even when they’re about things that never have been and never will be. They’re truthful in a different way.  ~Stanisław Lem

Kyle-in-plane-7-30-2010-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle taking the controls of a Piper, getting ready to hit the open skies for his 9th birthday. 7/30/10

The other day, I was speaking with a few friends of mine.  About what exactly?  Well, you name it, we covered most standard topics, but this part of the story was about Kyle and my belief in giving him unconventional gifts.  In honor of his birthday tomorrow, I thought this was appropriate.

I’ve mentioned it previously, as a child, Kyle always had way too much.  Too many toys, toys of all varieties, and he most certainly didn’t need anymore, especially from me.  Now that he’s a teenager, he has too many video games, and spends way too much time on them.  Do you see a pattern?

Since the birthday gifts I get Kyle are never the standard, go to the store and wrap them, type of presents, they need a fair amount of planning.  My goal here?  To get others thinking about gift giving in a nontraditional way, like I do.  Here are a few gift givings of years past.

So what do you get a child that is spoiled and flooded with their desirable material goods, at that particular moment in life?  Easy, spoil them with attention, love, knowledge, and opportunities.  How does one do this?  Simply with unconventional gifts.

First, what do I consider an unconventional gift?  In my eyes, unconventional gifts come with some sort of bonding or learning aspect.   They may also include life experiences to be engrained in the child forever, or skills to be used later in life.  Of course, these are very subjective, but it’s a place to start.

When Kyle was a tiny, tiny little baby, it’s true, I did get him toys.  One in particular was a large metal Optimus Prime transformer.  It was really cool!  It even spoke when a button was pushed, with a serious of prerecorded standard phrases including the noise the transformers make when changing from vehicle to robot or visa verse.  I believe that was the last toy I purchased Kyle.  He played with it for a short period of time, and I don’t think I saw it after that.  In fact, I have no idea what ever happened to it.  That’s when I decided to think of gifts for him differently.

Kyle-on-bumper-cars-Seabase-7-2005-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle celebrating his 5th birthday at Seabase in Greensburg. Bumper car fun! 7/2005

Wanting Kyle to have every opportunity in the world at his fingertips, and to be exposed to all things to help him grow as a goodhearted honest person in every aspect, I knew there was more value in gift giving then instant gratification.  It was time to pull out the thinking cap.  And I did in a big way!  I wish I recorded my gifts to Kyle when he was younger, but alas, I did not, so I’m not always exactly sure which gift went with which celebration, but not really relevant to this post anyway.

Secondly, what constitutes a celebration worthy of gift giving?  Of course, there’s the standard birthdays and Christmas.  However, I also give Kyle a gift for Easter, and I’ve been known to give him something for summer or for no particular reason.  Well, actually the reason would include a good deed, or good behavior, or to cheer him up due to illness, or sometimes just to surprise him.  That’s about it.  I don’t believe in turning every occasion into an excuse to spoil our little man more.  I don’t ever want him to grow up to expect material items from anyone, ever!

Please note, Kyle’s a great kid, he truly is!  So when I talk about spoiling him, it’s out of love.  He is certainly apart of this instant gratification generation, not waiting in anticipation or really working for things.  Who’s fault is that?  The family, me included, but I’m certainly not the main culprit.

Finally, what gifts have I given Kyle that fell under the classification of unconventional?  Here’s a brief list.  The items range in entertainment value, quality time, fundamental learning aspects, and some just plain different, or a combination of all things.

Athletics

Swimming.  Kyle took swimming lessons once a week, all year long at the local YMCA from the time he was five years old to about ten or eleven years.  It was our time together and now he’s a great swimmer, and has no issues with being in water of all depth levels.

Gymnastics. He stayed in gymnastics for less than a year.  Even though Kyle was not the athletic type, it was great for him to run around and learn certain skills, such as doing jumping jacks and tumbling.  Again it was our bonding time, and I loved it.  Plus, he was able to socialize with other kids.

Soccer.  Kyle was really little when I had him in soccer, probably about three.  He never did understand the game, not that I could have helped him.  As a general rule, everyone knows I have no clue about sports.  He had the opportunity to have fun, socialize with other kids, and gained a great cardio workout.

Basketball.  I signed Kyle up to play on a basketball league, again through the YMCA.  My sister once asked me why?  I remarked, “I don’t expect him to get a call from the NBA, but if he ever wants to go shoot hoops with his friends, he would be familiar with dribbling and shooting baskets.  So he’s not singled out.”  Small skills that could be most invaluable to Kyle later in life.

Snowboarding.  When Kyle was four, I purchased him snowboarding lessons, which he loved!  Then, for a few years after that, I’d purchase him his season tickets for the slops, along with his rental and accessories (coats, pants, helmet etc.)  Again, it was always something we did together and enjoyed being outside in God’s country up in the mountains.  Neither one of us have been able to hit the slopes in the last couple of years, but I think we’ll both get back into it, maybe next year.

Music

Piano-Recital-5-17-09-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle’s piano recital.  Yes I made him wear a suit, the one he wore for his 1st Holy Communion  5/17/09

Piano lessons & Keyboards.  Kyle received a keyboard to practice at my parent’s house, and one for his mom’s house, since his time was equally split.  This was for his sixth birthday, I believe, and the lessons continued until last August, right after he turned twelve.  Again, it was our quality time together, or whoever took him.  He also showed an interest in music early on, so I complied.  I believe this education really fine tuned his brain, and gave him an appreciation for music.  Since that time, Kyle took up the trumpet in school, joined the jazz band, and now started playing the tuba in the marching band.  He’s very accomplished at reading music, too.

Guitar and lessons.  Originally Kyle wanted to rock out on the guitar.  I made a deal with him, if he learned to play the piano, I’d get him guitar lessons.  He kept up his end of the deal, as did I.  For Christmas one year, I bought him a guitar and lessons.  He took to it very well, but never practiced enough to really be able to play.  He could strum the strings without looking at his fingers and follow along in his music books.  He took lessons off and on for a few years, and then called it quits.  He continued with the piano lessons at this time.  Most would say, playing both instruments at the same time, at a young age was too much for Kyle.  I completely disagree.  He had the talent and the knowledge to do so.  However, Kyle doesn’t like doing anything alone.  If I could have played with him, and practiced along side my musician, he would have excelled.  Alas, I have no music ability.  Hence why I want him to be so much better than me, at everything!

Entertainment/Culture/Education

Lion King tickets and dinner.  For one Christmas, I purchased Kyle and the family tickets to see the Lion King at the Pittsburgh Benedium Theater.  It was a nice way to spend an evening with the family, while being exposed to culture.  Prior to this, Kyle loved the cartoon, The Lion King, as well as the music.  So therefore, I thought he’d enjoy the musical.  He did!  In a big way.  Although when asked about it in his early teens, Kyle doesn’t remember going.  Sad.  Kyle and I actually spent the entire day in Pittsburgh together, hanging out at the Carnegie Museum (mostly among dinosaurs) before meeting my parents and my sister for dinner and then off to the theater.

LegoFest Tickets.  Anything to do with Legos used to be the thing to get Kyle.  So when I saw LegoFest was planning on making an appearance in Pittsburgh, I jumped at the chance to get us tickets.  As expected, it was a hit.  Everyone gave Kyle money to purchase Legos, which only added to his experience and made it complete.  We were there all day, before returning to get a few hours of hunting in.

Kyle's-Pig-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle’s Piggy Bank. A ceramic pig I made for his fourth birday. It has a cork in the belly area to remove the moola, & a slot one its back to add the cash. Teh eyes are plastic shaking eyes, & it’s equipped with the a metal squiggle tail. 2005

Bricks 4 Kids Lego Camp.  I purchased Kyle two different Lego Camp sessions, one morning and one afternoon, at Saint Vincent College, for a week each.  He was able to socialize with other Lego lovers, and he enjoyed learning about different ways to build certain items.  He was exposed to other ideas and possibilities with Legos, all brightening his week.  Kyle was in heaven!  It also gave him something to do in the summer, instead of playing video games and watching television.  He stayed with me for the week, and I dropped him off, took him lunch, and picked him up at the end of his hard day.  This was a suggestion from Lori Planinsek!  Perfect!

Flash Cards.  One Christmas when Kyle was two years old, I decided to purchase him addition flash cards, as well as workbooks.  Did he put his nose up to them?  NOT AT ALL!  He loved working with me on the workbooks and he would ask me to quiz him on his math flashcards.  Everyone thought that gift was a bust, but in reality, it turned out to be a big hit.  So by the time he was three years old, Kyle was easily adding all numbers.  Soon after that I got him subtraction flashcards.  He did have a little more trouble learning, but not much.  It’s no surprise that math is one of Kyle’s beloved classes that he’s in the advanced program, at least he was until this past year.

Books.  It was always tradition with my family to receive books in our Easter baskets.  I took it a step further and began giving Kyle books for almost all occasions.  Some books I knew he wanted to read, and others I got him to expand his horizon.  Those books became our shared interests, for I read most of them or I wanted to, before purchasing them for Kyle.

Written Books.  With Kyle becoming a teenager, I noticed his interest in reading has become relaxed.  I don’t ever want Kyle to loose his love of reading, especially since it was a struggle getting him to this point.  I get it, he loves his video games, but reading is important too.  So what did I do?  I wrote Kyle a book.  Seriously?  Yep!  It’s roughly a 400 page survival book that takes place in a post apocalyptic world.  It includes hunting, fishing and snowboarding, all things we both love.  I added elements of education and fun trivia to make it informative.  It’s slightly sarcastic and witty and the main characters travel by foot from Colorado to Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  Surprisingly, the book is finished, and the second in the serious has begun.  All that remains is to have it professionally edited for accuracy, and then I’ll have a book printed.

Really?  Yes!  I truly enjoyed writing the book and I thought it’d be something Kyle would enjoy.  What a better way to encourage reading, than by writing a book specifically for my young man.  Once the book is at a point to publicly talk about, I’ll write a post on it. (I also started two other separate books, I’m getting into this writing thing!)  I hope to give Kyle the book for this Christmas.  I’m also planning on designing the cover too, with my own photography.

iPod Touch.  Originally, the iPod Touch was a way for the family to keep in touch with Kyle since he didn’t have a phone yet.  It was also a means to begin working him into a little bit of freedom with electronics, music and the internet, while being monitored.  I setup Kyle with face-time, which he occasionally did with the family.  I also setup his own iTunes account (and some credits) and of course I gave him the iPod with an engraving on the back.  I did place parental controls and a tracker on it.  All of which I explained to Kyle, as well as my reasoning.  I wanted him to be safe, but I never wanted to be sneaky about it or deceitful.  He accepted the terms of the gift, and almost appreciated my concerns.   Of course, he was simply excited to get an iPod Touch!  Since then, it’s been replaced and he’s been hooked up with a laptop and an iPhone 6.  He did get a lot of mileage out of that gift and we benefited too!

Out of the Ordinary/Adventure

Kyle's-quilt-7-2002-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle’s King sized quilt I made for his 1st birthday. 7/2002

Quilt.  I wanted to do something really special for Kyle’s first birthday.  I mean the kid was turning one, without knowing his dad, nor would he ever remember his dad.  Ryan passed away nine months prior.  It was a difficult time, but I wanted to help celebrate this every special milestone with Kyle.  I was given the idea to use all of Ryan’s cloths to make Kyle a quilt.  I did!  It ended up being a king size quilt, made from Ryan’s flannel shirts and tee shirts!  To this day, I think that was the best gift I’ve ever given!  It was a long road to making this gift, with the help of friends, but one worth it.  Since then, I’ve never made another again.

Clay Pig.   I’ve always taken clay / ceramics classes, in high school and college.  I love working with clay!  So it’s no surprise that I gave my love of clay, to my beloved nephew, and made him a very unique gift I knew he’d love.  I made him a piggy bank!  Everyone in my clay class knew the pig was for Kyle, for his birthday gift.  At the time Kyle was about four years old and he was learning to count, particularly money.  I was also trying to teach him to save, and to earn enough money to buy himself whatever large gift he wanted.  This was also the time I taught him about tax.  That kid got it.  He could figure out the total of our purchases, including tax before the register would display the answer.  Truly amazing!  To this day, Kyle still stores his moola in the pig, and he knows I made it for him for his birthday.  I’m always thinking of my little man.

On a side note, Kyle mentioned he wanted to go to England and that’s what he was saving his money for.  Good choice! That was about the time Nicole and I traveled abroad.  We spent a lot of time in London.

kyle-in-plane-9th-birthday-7-30-2010-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle getting acclimated to the Piper, before his flying lessons. 9th birthday 7/30/2010

Flying Lessons.  For Kyle’s ninth birthday I thought it’d be fun to get him flying lessons.  YES!  Again, not that I planned on him being a pilot, but it was the experience.  He always mentioned how he was never in a plane, so I thought for his first time defying gratify, we’d do it right and let him fly the open skies, with an instructor, naturally.  Result?  Kyle remembered that experience, and looks at it fondly, almost brags to others about him flying a plane.  I was so happy for him!  It was a fun day.  I even hired a photographer to capture the experience.

Train ride.  I purchased Kyle, my sister and myself train tickets.  We took the train from Latrobe to Johnstown for the day (only about a forty-minute trip).  Granted, it wasn’t exciting, but it was something different.  We rode the incline and explored the town of Johnstown, took a tour of the Flood Museum, and even caught a movie. (Maleficent)  When we got back, we surprised Kyle and celebrated with an ice-cream cake at my parent’s house.  Prior to that trip, I purchased him companion books to the Lord of the Rings.  He began reading one of the books on the train.

Over the years, I’ve had many ideas for gifts, but sometimes it wasn’t the right time, or it was too expensive, or I chose another path, or I haven’t used the idea, YET.  Regardless, I hope others can take my ideas for unconventional gifts and run with them, or get back to me other ideas.  I’d love to hear them!  Here are a few:

  • Hot air balloon ride
  • Surfing lessons
  • A plane ride to Vermont to snowboard for the weekend
  • Helicopter flying lessons or a ride
  • Movie passes (which I’ve done but not for a special occasion)
  • Museum passes
  • Bike trip on the Great Allegheny Passage and camping along the 400 miles (I thought it would be fun to bike to Washington DC and have my sister meet us and take us home)
  • Volunteer – Instead of getting Kyle anything, we’d spend a day or a week together volunteering somewhere, maybe not local to get us both out of the area and find a new adventure.
  • Membership to my gym to participate in the kids class
  • A robotics camp or some sort of geeky week with others like him

I know I gave Kyle many, many more gifts, and I’ve had a ton more ideas, but alas they’ve escaped me.  I already know what I’m getting Kyle when he graduates high school.  Really?  You bet I do, and it’s really good!  I’ve had this idea since he was a toddler.  It’s a two part gift, and Kyle’s going to LOVE it.  When the time comes, which is around the corner, I’ll let everyone in on the secret.

Here are a few blog posts about my choices for unconventional gifts:

Good Intentions
Gift of Music – The Final Piano Lesson
Bricks 4 Kids, Kyle’s Lego Camp Birthday Surprise
Family Time Through an iPod Touch
Flying Back to Kyle’s Ninth Birthday

Discovering Our Own Backyard – Johnstown
Memories Sewn Into a Quilt

 

 

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

Happy Birthday Aunt Nikki!

The thing about getting older is that you don’t need everything to be possible any more, you just need things to be certain.  ~Monica Ali

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Nicole’s birthday. Our cousin Chad looks like he beat Nicole to the candles.  My pappy is in the background. c. 1975

Nicole is officially in her forties, forty-one to be exact.  What could have possibly happened in a year’s time worth mentioning?  A lot, besides family fun and normal wear and tear.

Let’s discuss Nicole’s midlife crisis called Avery, a.k.a. Acorn, a.k.a. Dobby.  (Dobby is the free elf that worked at Hogwarts from Harry Potter.  Dad made the connection that Avery looks like Dobby.  Kyle and I are in complete agreement with Dad’s assessment, either that or Yoda.)  I won’t even get into Nicole aliments, for there are too many in my opinion.  She’s not a youngster anymore.

When I think of Nicole getting older, the Golden Girls instantly comes to mind.  (Kyle used to watch that show with us until Dad commented that he didn’t like it.  Ever since then, Kyle “claims” he hates the Golden Girls and won’t watch it.  However, I’ve caught him giggling at the old ladies a time or two.)  Especially the episode when Dorothy had a mysterious illness and the doctor thought it was in Dorothy’s head.  Her mother, Sofia came to her rescue by commenting …

My daughter may be no spring chicken, and her jaw might crack when she chews! And she may have noticeable trouble digesting raw vegetables! …

That’s Nicole!  There’s no denying how very different we are in many, many, many ways, but we’re both big fans of the Golden Girls, even to this day.  I thought the quote was very fitting and appropriate.

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Aunt Carol & Uncle Denny, Nicole’s godparents. Nicole’s First Holy Communion at Sacred Heart. c.1981

I know there will be a time when we’ll live together in mom and dad’s house, sitting on our rocking chairs, on the front porch, bickering as two old ladies.  Well, I’ll be in my mid-youth because I’ll always be able to do laps around Nicole, while she’ll be ancient.  Kyle will reluctantly visit his two old crazy aunts who love him more than anything.  Just don’t expect me to change Nicole’s clothes or wipe her butt.  It will NEVER happen!  I nominate Kyle!

The best part about Nicole’s birthday is the fact that I’ll always be younger than her.  And if you count my lack of maturity and my hyperactive nature, I’m decades younger still.

Nicole has accomplished so much thus far, and still has so many more adventures ahead of her.  Perhaps a bucket list is in order, after all she’s at that ripe old age.

Happy Birthday Nicole!

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Just for the fun of it… check out the comparison between Avery & Dobby… remarkable!  This is hilarious!

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

Happy Birthday Dad! – 64 Years

A party without cake is just a meeting.  ~Julia Child

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

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Dad as a baby with Uncle Sonny. 1951

Dad is still kicking it into another year, slowly but surely.  Sure his bones creek, his muscles sore, and his hearing is sporadic, yet I’m glad the old man is hanging in there and is a big part of Kyle’s life.   He may not be as fast, or as intense as he once was, but he still continues his passion for all things he loves.  Like what?

Dad LOVES hunting.  I can’t even stress that enough.  I mean everything about hunting.  He enjoys loading shells, and more importantly having Kyle and me load with him.  He enjoys shooting in the guns at the range, again having the family tag along.  He enjoys scouting out hunting areas in the spring and fall, and watching hunting shows ALL year long, day and night!  He can still make his way through the woods if there’s a chance of loosing a deer, and he can still climb into a tree stand (ladder stand), not gracefully, but he manages without incidence.  Yet, the most unbelievable, Dad can still shoot with amazing accuracy, up to about three hundred yards, outside.  Pretty impressive!  Yes, I would say that Dad is an experienced hunter, hunting since he was nine or so.

Then, there’s his love of fishing, which happens to be more of Kyle’s passion.  Dad lives for taking his rickety old fishing boat out on Loyalhanna Lake in the summer, especially when Kyle and I, and sometimes mom join the voyage.  He continues to make traps for catching snapping turtles.  A little known fact for some, but Dad can’t swim, and is very uncomfortable in a shaky boat (ask Kyle).  Dad does however, like being on the water, and reeling in the big ones.

Anyone who really knows Dad, knows his love of wood.  Yes, remember Ingrained In Wood? He loves walking among the trees, chopping down trees, and splitting firewood.  Being Dad’s right hand gal with all outdoor activities, I can attest to that hard work, yet, one Dad enjoys.  He just moves a little slower, and somehow faster than Kyle.  Seriously!  Unintentionally, dad is always checking out timber, making note of trees that should come down and ones that are worth money, or areas that were cut down in the past.  I’ve even caught Dad, several times I  might add, ogling other people’s firewood stock pile.  Yep, Dad was born a woodsman, and one he will forever be.

Lastly, I can’t leave out Dad’s favorite love of all time, Kyle and the dogs.  Believe it or not, I bet they run equal nowadays.  Sounds silly, and in truth, Kyle always ranks supreme, but Seven and Scooby, and now Avery have won over Dad’s heart many times over.  Dad would be lost without our dogs, (maybe not Storm, my cat).  Even though Dad lost one of his loves, Ryan, at least in physical form, Ryan remains in Dad’s heart, as he does all of ours.

Later today, Kyle and I plan on making Dad a pound cake, one of his favorites.  Perhaps we’ll cook down some strawberries for a little sweet sauce and call it a birthday cake.

Happy 64th Birthday Pap!

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination and have No Comments

Happy Anniversary Mom & Dad! 45 Years Strong

To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.  ~Rainer Maria Rilke

 Happy 45th Anniversary mom and dad!

Mom-Dad-wedding-announcement-in-paperWhile going through pictures, I found mom and dad’s original wedding announcement from the newspaper.  How cool is that!  I’m guessing it was either from the Latrobe Bulletin or the Tribune Review, our local papers.  (I was amazed at the detail the paper described mom’s wedding dress!  While dad only got an honorable mention!)  How times have changed, from when the printed paper was one of the biggest sources for news that everyone read daily.  Now, newspaper circulation is nearly extinct and online and television news is the go-to source.  Just think, when mom and dad got hitched, the internet didn’t exist, neither did email, nor did social media sites, and certainly not blogging.

Well, mom and dad are still kicking with 45-years of marriage.  I bet my grandpap Chester would have never guessed it.  Mom and dad have come a long way since December 12, 1969.  I’m sure they’d both agree it has been, and still continues to be an adventure.  I know it has been from where I joined the crazy train, December 12, a few years later.  Yes, every year since I was born we’ve celebrated both mom and dad’s wedding anniversary and my birthday together, for I graced them with my presence on their anniversary.  (not the other way around)  There for a while, it was also the first day of doe season, which used to take priority with dad, but that’s a minor note.

This past August, good friends of mine celebrate their 50th Anniversary.  Happy 50th Anniversary!  It’s neat to think, that that will be mom and dad in just five short years.  With all of mom’s positive attitude (sarcasm) she claims they’ll never make it that far, not due to divorce, but to death.  Yes, I’m sure the old folks are amazing and astounding their doctors for just being alive.  Personally, I think they still have a fight left in them, if Kyle and I have anything to do about it.

Forty-five years is a long time, almost none existent today.  Mom and dad are a rare breed, in more ways than one, so I guess their anniversary is fitting.  Because of their commitment to each other, we’ve all had a wonderful and stable family life, including Kyle.  I’m not saying it was perfect, only typical for such a tight knit family.  It says a lot about mom and dad’s character for having maintained their marriage, raised a family and dealt with outside forces, good and bad, for nearly a half a century.  Their anniversary (not their eating habits nor lack of exercise) should not be taken lightly, but only celebrated and viewed as a goal for others to strive towards.  I am blessed to be apart of their legacy and I am proud they have set the example for Kyle for what it really means to be married.

Happy Anniversary Gigi and pappy!

 

Since I’m discussing celebrations, I never got to write mom a blog post, formally celebrating her birthday from October 26th, this past year.  At the time I was visiting my sister in Virginia, helping her get her rental property ready for new tenants.  The week escaped me.  I planned on being home in time for mom’s birthday, but alas that didn’t happen.  I wanted to give mom a shout out for her 65th birthday too!  Happy Birthday late mom!

As we’ve always done, mom, dad and I exchange celebrations between us.  Dad asked me with an ornery grin, the same one Kyle gives me from time to time, “So do you feel old?”  Fat chance!  Acting young, some may say immature, is my thing!  It’s what I truly believe allows me to stay youthful at heart and in appearance, that and I drink a lot of water and stay out of the direct sunlight.  I guess there’s a lot to celebrate today!  TGIF!

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Milestone,News and have No Comments

Looking for Construction Sites

Never say ‘no’ to adventures. Always say ‘yes,’ otherwise you’ll lead a very dull life.  ~Ian Fleming

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Nicole’s 1st Holy Communion. Front: Casey, Ryan, Me. Back: Tim, Jeremy, Chad & Nicole. In the back, to the right is were our huge sandbox was placed. looks like it was in the works. c. 1983

When most people see a construction zone they try to avoid it, or they begin spouting off feelings of frustration or even anger.  I don’t like the headache of  roadwork or construction areas either, the waiting to take a turn to proceed or the smell of tar, or the loud disrupting noises or worse, having to drive in slow motion for miles.  Nope, those aren’t my ideas of an enjoyable ride.

However, to this day, when I’m in close proximity to a building construction site, those that require the large trucks to move dirt or flatten an area, it brings a smile to my face.  Not from the idea of progress or the anticipation of something new, but simply from the memory of one little enthused child and how he was just like his dad.

Before Kyle could speak, he loved trucks and large vehicles, just like Ryan.  I can’t say this interest has sustained over the years, but there was a time when Bob the Builder was his main man.

On a side note, I bought Kyle a pair of Bob the Builder boots and he LOVED them!  He strutted around in those things everywhere.  Even when the snow cleared, he wore them for as long as his little piggies would fit comfortably.

What made me thing of this?  I was in Latrobe the other day prepping for the Latrobe Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt and there’s a section of town under construction for the new Westmoreland County Community College (WCCC) branch.  They have the orange cones out to direct traffic away from potential debris and the caution tape up.  I didn’t see any giant real-life Tonka trucks, but I’m sure they were there at one point.  Taking a moment, I stood to watch the activity, which cracks me up and takes me back a few years.

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Kyle’s 1st sandbox, yes he actually had 2! If you look closely among all the toys, you’ll see a bee to the right, that’s Kyle! He was a bee for Halloween & he decided to take a break & play. 2003

When Kyle was just a little tyke, still riding around in his car seat in the backseat of my car, he would become mesmerized by construction vehicles.  I mean that, he LOVED watching them!  I would drive extra slow past development activity and he would point and giggle and watch with wide eyes.  It was quite funny.  Sometimes he would say, “Slow Aiya.”  All I could say was, “Ok, buddy!”  What’s really ironic, Kyle has proven to NOT be the blue collar type, yet there was a time when he was all about construction work.

Seriously!  Many times when we weren’t in any particular hurry, I would intentionally go out of my way to drive Kyle past a work zone.  Lucky for us we live in Western Pennsylvania where there is no shortage of roadwork.  I would slowly creep along letting him take in as much as he could.  Allowing him to get the full effect, I would wind down the windows, yes even in the dead of winter, so he could smell the air and really hear the sounds.  He LOVED it!

Kyle didn’t even need to be in a car.  He would act the same while standing there observing the workers in the distance.  I know I’ve talked about the Seton Hill University construction site previously Who Does Kyle Favor More, His Dad?.

Kyle was so excited about these little adventures, he couldn’t wait to tell his gigi and pappy and Aunt “Nitti” (Nikki).  Personally, I had a blast watching the enthusiasm erupting from the kid.  Usually, after the stories of all the construction vehicles were told, he would get out his own CAT or Tonka trucks and hang out in his sandbox or build in the living-room.  He would drive those realistic looking toys around and mimic the sounds of the trucks and the engines roaring to life.  He was so stinking cute!  I just wanted to gobble him up!

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Kyle’s 3rd birthday… check out the trucks on the cake & his t-shirt! He LOVED trucks! 7/2004

On a side note, Kyle’s sandbox wasn’t one of those small plastic structures purchased at Toys R Us.  O no!  He had a custom deal, similar to the one we had as kids, dad made sure of it.  Both sandboxes, even though they were about twenty years apart were very similar, both built from boards and both required a dump truck full of sand to fill up the space.  Kyle’s was smaller, for there was only one of him and three of us, measured to about a four or five foot square.  Ours, unlike Kyle’s which was placed front and center in the front yard, resided on the side of the house, but was somewhat shaded by the trees.  It measured about four or five feet by eight feet or so.  Dad even made us little seats at the corners.  Dad’s logic?  He felt it gave us enough room to move around and really play, which we did as did Kyle.  The sandbox was the best idea ever!  Nicole, Ryan and myself played hard in our sandbox for years.  I joined Kyle in his too.  He also loved his designated play space.  To be honest, and I know Kyle would agree with this, the best part was building and preparing the sandbox for the sand and then to have the big dump truck back into position and dump all that sand.  It was intense!  I loved it as a kid and it was equally as exciting watching Kyle get a kick over it.

During those years Kyle really reminded me of Ryan.  Kyle’s dad was the same way, except he never EVER outgrew his love of trucks and cars.  Perhaps it was an environmental thing, Ryan was always around dad, especially when they had the sawmill and they worked together in the garage, building and tinkering around.  Kyle was never exposed to any of that.  Poor guy, he didn’t really get to hang with his dad much before Ryan moved on, only three months.  Then Kyle was stuck with me to help out.  It’s true my dad was always around, almost never leaving Kyle’s side, but not like he was when Ryan was little, and certainly not the same before Ryan passed away.  I guess time changes us all in different ways.

Regardless, Kyle was all his dad for those few shorts years and I’m glad I was there to witness it and to help him enjoy the simpler things in life.  I hope he never looses that spirit and always remembers his roots!

 

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

Happy Birthday Ryan!

It matters not what someone is born, but what they grow to be.  ~J.K. Rowling

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Ryan’s 3rd birthday party. Upfront: Nicole’s big head, then cousins: Tim, Chad, Jeremy & the birthday boy, Ryan. 9/24/80

Ryan would have been celebrating his 37th birthday today!  He would have loved waking up to his son, Kyle, who is now thirteen and probably went to work, stopping for a beer on the way home, never thinking much of the day.  Like me, Ryan never cared much for birthdays.  Unlike Kyle, who takes the entire month of July to celebrate his.  Granted, Kyle’s a kid, but regardless, Ryan and I still weren’t that interested in our birthdays, except to get our driver’s license and to legally drink.  Although, I was pretty stoked to vote.

Now that my company Thrill of the Hunt is really starting to make some traction, I wonder what Ryan would be doing?

You know, I truly believe Ryan would have started a company too.  He moved on before he had the chance, but Ryan would have been a great businessman!  How do I know?  Easy, Ryan possessed all the qualities of a great entrepreneur, the passion, the ideas, the know how, leadership and most of all the ability to work hard and stick it out, no matter what.  Ryan was never a quitter and there is no one that can say he wasn’t a hard worker.  No one!

Granted, Ryan’s interests in business were very different from mine, but still the same concept regardless.  Early on, Ryan showed an interest in starting a deer butchering business.  Dad told me once, Ryan really considered doing this as a seasonal job.  It’s true, Ryan and dad, heck the rest of the family are very experienced in gutting and butchering deer, plus other game and farm animals.  Yes, we do it all ourselves, every year, even the wrapping and preparing of the deer meat for the freezer, canning it, or making Bologna and/or deer jerky, usually all of the above.  And yes, we have all the equipment to cut up the deer, make ground meat etc.  I believe I knew of Ryan’s idea, but during high school, yes Ryan was in high school and wanted to start the business, I was so involved in my own activities I probably didn’t care much.

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We always hung on pap. Left: Nicole, me, Ryan (sucking his finger but trying to hide it), cousins Jeremy & Chad. c. 1980

Why didn’t he do it?  Easy, dad talked him out of it.  Not because dad didn’t think he couldn’t handle the work or make the business a success, nope not at all!  It was quite the opposite.  Dad knew Ryan would have made it into a flourishing business and he would have enjoyed it too.  Yet, dad was being realistic and pointed out that if Ryan was butchering other people’s deer, when would he have time to hunt himself?  Very valid point dad!  You can’t let a deer hang around too long, especially if it’s not gutted and skinned.  Dad’s theory the sooner the better for both.  The butchering and packaging can wait a few days if needed, as long as it’s cold out (our deer hang in the garage).  But sooner or later this needs to be done, and it couldn’t be done with Ryan in the woods hunting, not to mention he was still in high school.

In a way, I wished Ryan would have started the business. I would have most certainly helped!  Actually, at the time I stopped hunting myself and I could have picked up the slack, when it worked with my band and Winterguard schedules.  Ok, perhaps dad was right!

Ryan’s ideas and drive didn’t stop there.  For years, in high school and out, Ryan mowed lawns when he worked for Lester.  In fact, just the other day, dad pointed out Lester’s place as we passed.  I totally forgot Ryan worked for him!  When Ryan lost his driver’s license (a whole separate story) I had to drive him to and from work.  One time, I even gave his dog Jake (he was a beagle that I always fought with) a ride when picking Ryan up.  Anyway, years after Ryan passed, mom said she ran into Lester.  You know what he said about Ryan?  He said that if Ryan would still be living, and decided to start his own lawn business, he would have put Lester out of work.  Seriously, what a compliment!  You know, Lester’s one hundred percent right!  Like I said, Ryan was made to be an entrepreneur.

Sometimes, I think having the ability to start a business is in the DNA.  Ryan was so much like my pappy in many ways.  He was a good person, a truly warm soul with a big heart with drive and a solid work ethic, much like my pappy who started his own business,  a sawmill, Walter Piper & Sons Lumber.  Pappy started the business on a fifth grade education!  Yep!  Basically, pappy knew the timber industry and practically lived in the woods his whole life, but he also would pay attention and made most of the business decisions purely off of gut instincts.  He was even big into marketing, before he knew what marketing was.  Granted, that’s a tough industry and it lasted for years, even after my pappy’s death, but it did eventually come to an end.  Like Ryan, pappy had the entrepreneur spirit in him and he also possessed all the same qualities.  I couldn’t imagine how successful pap would have been, if he had an opportunity to finish high school, let alone further his education.

Would Ryan have paired up with Nicole and myself for Thrill of the Hunt?  Probably not, for it wasn’t really his gig.  But I would have loved to work with Ryan!  There is no doubt he would have helped out if needed.

Ryan never got the opportunity like I did, to start a company.  When he passed away, he worked at a Aggressive Grinding Machine Shop, furthering his career in his trade.  Just like my grandpap Chester, Ryan was a machinist, and from what I was told a very good one.  No matter what, Ryan always did the best he could and took pride in his work.  We all missed out by Ryan’s passing and he is still missed by many, very much!

Happy Birthday Ryan!

posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts 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

Discovering Our Own Backyard – Johnstown

There is no past or future. Using tenses to divide time is like making chalk marks on water.  ~Janet Frame

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Celebrating Kyle’s 13th birthday! Great day taking the train to Johnstown & now ice-cream cake! 4/26/14

This year Kyle’s birthday lands on a Wednesday.  What does that mean?  It means Kyle believes both weekends are open for birthday celebration, in addition to his actual birthday. I guess we’re getting better, I remember the days when the entire month of July was dedicated to Kyle’s birthday.

This year?  It was a last minute decision.  I planned an adventure to Johnstown, Pennsylvania.  How far away is that?  Only about thirty to forty minutes from Latrobe, Pennsylvania.  How is that exciting?  Let me tell you, sometimes it’s the journey that makes the adventure.

This past Saturday morning, we started the day off with a train ride from Latrobe to Johnstown.  Yes!  A train ride!  I knew Kyle was never in Johnstown, nor was he aware of the great flood of 1889.  It’s true, Kyle was on a train when we went to Strasburg, Pennsylvania to see Thomas the Tank Engine when he was three or four.  We actually rode on “Thomas” and we took another train ride around the area.  It was more an old fashioned train, with the windows down, chugging along at a slower speed for sightseeing.   This time, Kyle was riding a transport train with other travelers.  It had cars for overnight passengers and food and beverage cars.  Granted, none of those interested us during our forty minute ride, but it still was neat to say we rode a passenger train.

The Amtrak train station is located off of McKinley Avenue in Latrobe, behind DiSalvo’s Station Restaurant.  Of course it’s not the hub of all transportation for the masses, but it was neat sitting on the platform awaiting our scheduled train.  Naturally, I kept making comments like, “Kyle, where is platform nine and three quarters?”  and such in reference to Harry Potter.  Being nearly thirteen, he only found me mildly humorous.

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Kyle & Aunt Nikki waiting at the Latrobe Amtrak Station to board a train to Johnstown for the day. 7/26/14

Just as we were parking our behinds on the bench Kyle commented, “Umm this is a little run down.”  Nicole and I started to laugh.  He was right, but again this was about the adventure not the aesthetics of our environment.  Then, in true Kyle fashion, he added, “It could use a fresh coat of paint.”  Ok, now we were dying at his observation for renovation.

Now came the real excitement, a train rolled at high speed past us.  While we were sitting there, a container train shot past us, only a few feet from our seats.  I’m sure it wasn’t moving at top speed, but it still stole our breath at the massive locomotive whizzed past.  There is a yellow line, signalling to go no further toward the track, but that simple yellow line doesn’t quite do it justice like a high speed moving death vehicle to signify danger.  Perhaps, it was due to our lack of experience riding trains, but I concurred with Nicole when she said, “Kyle’s right, they could use a fresh coat of pain to mark the yellow line.”

Did I mention this was all a surprise for Kyle?  Yep, he had no idea we were riding a train and he had no clue where we were heading.

Once we boarded the train and settled into our seats, Kyle begin reading the book I got him for his birthday, The Children of Húrin by J.R.R. Tolkien (companion book to The Lord of the Rings).  I was excited to see he was enjoying his newly purchased literature.

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Aunt Nikki getting out of our pink taxi in Johnstown … Kyle hates pink or so we’ve been told. 7/26/14

We arrived in Johnstown around 9:15 am.  There was a few main attractions on our schedule for the day, including the Flood Museum and the incline.  Before we tackled the day’s activities, we headed to a small diner for breakfast and to waste some time before the museum opened.

Johnstown is an old town, very quaint but not the hustle and bustle of activity, pretty low key.  While walking through the streets, we read the land markers attached to buildings and those highlighted in designated areas.  Most were focused on the flood, sharing information such as the height of the water and the number of people who perished.  This was one of those history lessons that was sad, but very interesting.  I am a true believer of learning the past as to avoid repeating it.  One wish I hope to pass along to Kyle.

Ok, I get it, going to a flood museum and walking around a dead town was not on Kyle’s top list of things to do for his thirteenth birthday.  Regardless, Kyle should be aware of the events that have taken place in his own backyard.  Did I mention it was a last minute plan?  We didn’t think we were going to have Kyle this past weekend, so it was a last minute plan, something different.

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Pan of Kyle getting ready to board the Amtrak train in Johnstown after a day outing for his birthday. 7/26/14

We walked around the museum and made time to watch the documentary video on the flood.  A truly great video production!  Very informative and really takes a person back to the time, to feel the impact and the devastation of the flood.  It was even Kyle approved, keeping his attention and peeking his interest on a part of history he was not aware of.

From the Flood Museum we took a taxi (pink) to the local movie theater to see Maleficent (the only movie playing at a good time to fit the day).  It was also a cafe and movie theater, so Kyle ate his lunch while watching the movie.

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Kyle getting ready to board the train in Johnstown after our day excursion… next stop Latrobe, Pa. 7/26/14

On a side note, while riding in the backseat of the taxi, Kyle leaned into me to whisper, “I hate pink”.  What a funny kid!

After the movie, we headed back into the town of Johnstown and made our way to the incline, the world’s steepest vehicular inclined plane.  At the top, there’s not much to do but hang out on the observation deck and stare down at Johnstown.  We were blessed with a lovely day.  Nicole helped us to get our perceptive by pointing out specific buildings of interest, such as the Flood Museum, the train station and the streets we traveled.  That was quite a view!

Eventually we made our way back down to ground level to stop for an early dinner/snack.  We tried to tour the War Memorial Arena, but alas the doors were locked.

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Me & Kyle on the Johnstown Incline! Steepest vehicular incline plane in the world! 7/26/14

Taking our time, we walked back to the train station to complete our round trip.  Since the train was delayed slightly, we sat on the benches and read, or in Nicole’s case, napped before boarding our train headed for Latrobe.

On another side note, while riding the train, I couldn’t help but sing The Gambler by Kenny Rogers.  When I was a kid, I loved that song and movie!  It just seemed appropriate.  Neither Nicole nor Kyle thought so.

When we were nearing Latrobe, I called mom to let her know we were in route.  I had her hang a Happy Birthday banner and light the candles on the ice-cream cake to surprise Kyle.  My cousin’s Paula, Pete and John were also on the deck waiting to sing.

Was Kyle excited?  You bet he was!  Maybe not totally thrilled and blown away, but he certainly enjoyed himself.  Although we did have to hear about going to the new comic book store in Latrobe, every thirty minutes or so throughout the day.  I guess to be thirteen!

How did I think of such a fun and educational day?  Simply, mom.  When I was in the third grade (I think) mom was heavily involved in the PTA and she helped plan our field trips for Sacred Heart School.  Saturday was pretty much a repeat that year in the eighties, minus the movie.  During our school field trip, we got to pack our lunches and eat in the park in the center of town, exciting for a group of young kids.

To this day, in my eyes that was the best field trip ever!  An experience I always wanted to repeat and share with Kyle.  Maybe next time when I have more of a notice, we’ll repeat it with one of Kyle’s friends.  I bet he’d enjoy that!

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Travels and have No Comments
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