A Christmas Tree Adventure

The one thing we can never get enough of is love. And the one thing we never give enough of is love.  ~Henry Miller

Pap at Christmas 1970s Aunt Heather Piper

My Pap at Christmas. c. 1970s

This past weekend was another family adventure.  Saturday was the last day of hunting, so I took off work Friday to join Dad both days.  I could tell that made the old man’s day.  He was happy to have me tag along.

Sometimes when Dad and I are sitting together in a tree stand, Kyle comes up in conversation.  Usually it consists of, “If Kyle was here” or “Remember when Kyle did this or that?”  We both miss hunting with him in the worst way.  Kyle really made the season fun.  Maybe one day he’ll rejoin us before Dad get’s too old.
While hunting on Friday, Dad mentioned we were getting Kyle on Saturday, as well as the Christmas tree.  I was surprised.  It wasn’t that long ago we were hanging out for Thanksgiving.  The idea of getting to see Kyle again without extended periods of time passing was a Christmas miracle.  Kyle usually spaces his appearances months apart, unless it’s a Holiday.  So here we were.
By the time Dad and I got out of the woods and back to his house on Saturday, Kyle was there.  Nothing brightens my day like seeing our teenager.  We had a lovely evening of relaxing and movie watching.
On a side note, I always ask Kyle if he wants to join me for church.  I want him to know the invitation is always open and I’m hoping one day he’ll surprise me.  Kyle politely turned me down, but I’m still going to keep trying.  I even offered to go to a later mass.  No dice.  Maybe next time.
Lord Fluffington 2017 Aunt Heather Piper

Lord Fluffington a.k.a. the Nugget in all his royal glory 2017

Right after church, I stopped by my parents to get the skinny on the events of the day.  Dad was already on the move and got a groggy teenager up and semi dressed.  It was during this time I was informed we had a situation.  What kind of situation?

Evidently, Kyle fell asleep the night prior on the couch, which I specifically asked him not to.  He was to retire to his own bed.  Problem number one.  My cat, Lord Fluffington, who was at the house, supposedly knocked Kyle’s glasses off the back of the couch.  His glasses should have been placed on an end table or his night stand if he would have gone to bed as instructed.  Problem number two.  The glasses rolled off the back of the couch onto the cushion, which wouldn’t have been tragic, except Kyle rolled over on them while sleeping and bent the frame and the screw came out, releasing the arm.  Problem number three.  Although, if that was the worst part of our Christmas then we were doing alright.
Using a paperclip and needle nose pliers we bent the frames back and attached the arm temporarily.  During this time, I was informed that I had to take Kyle to the mall to get his glasses fixed.  No problem.
First things first, we needed to get a tree.  Me, Dad and Kyle piled in the truck and headed out to retrieve the Piper family Christmas tree.  For some odd reason, Dad didn’t let Kyle drive there, but he let him drive home with a pine tree in the back.  Makes no sense, but that’s how the story rolled.
While on our way, Kyle kept teasing Dad about his driving.  Kyle was cracking himself up and in tern, I was finding pure amusement with Kyle’s instigating.  Sometimes I forget how much he’s like me.
Kyle:  “The speed limit is 35 mph Pap.”
Dad:  Rolled his eyes
Me:  “Oh snap he told you old man.”
Kyle:  Laughing said, “That wasn’t a proper stop.  You should have stopped for three full seconds.”
Dad:  At the next stop sign, Dad hit the breaks and sat for about a minute with an ornery grin on his face.
Kyle:  Sporting the same ornery grin, “Okay Pap that’s good you can go. It only needs to be three seconds”. Like Kyle was instructing Dad on driving.
Me:  LOL
Heather New York Hunting 11-2017 Aunt Heather Piper

Me hunting in New York with Dad. 11/2017

On the return trip, Kyle got his Pappy back.  When approaching a stop sign, Kyle hit the brakes hard and sat for a minute.  He was totally cracking himself up.  Dad was just grinning.  It’s been a while since we three hung out together.  It was a simple car ride, but one to last me a lifetime.

Once we got home, Dad fired up the chainsaw to trim the trunk and the lower branches.  Kyle gave his Pap a hand.
Kyle helped setup the tree and assisted in decorating.  I used the term “assisted” lightly.  Typical Kyle, he assumed the role of a manager and dictated what needed to happen as opposed to doing the actual work.  I personally didn’t care, he was there and I was happy.
Funny story.  Dad went out in the garage to grab the ratchet to bolt the tree trunk in.  Kyle dragged the tree in the living-room and was holding it upright waiting for Pap.  I was getting the decorations and the lights out.  Not paying attention to how long Kyle was standing there holding the tree, he finally said to me, “Aunt Heather where’s Pap?”  I started to laugh because it just hit me.  “I bet he got side tracked with the deer meat hanging.”
To find answers, I made my way to the garage to witness Dad cutting steaks for dinner.  Yep, deer season consumes that man’s mind.
After the tree was secured, I switched gears to embellish Ryan’s Christmas wreath for the cemetery.  Before heading to the mall to get Kyle’s glasses fixed, I thought it would be a good time to swing by the cemetery to decorate the headstone, since I had Kyle and before the roads got bad on the ridge.
Another funny story.  Naturally, Kyle jumped in the drivers seat, which I’m all for more practice but not being sidetracked.  Kyle was in the car messing with the radio before I got there.  Once I seat belted myself in, Kyle put the car in reverse to back out of the driveway.  Almost instantly, he said, “Something’s wrong.  It’s really hard to steer.”  I looked at him in disbelieve until I pulled on the steering wheel.  It was!   I had no idea what was wrong but I thought it must be the power steering.  My cousin Chucky who’s also my mechanic was on the way to the cemetery.  Informing Kyle of the added stop we needed to make, Kyle barely paid attention before loosing sight of the driveway.  He began to descend down over the bank before stopping the car.  (Which actually a piece of wood Dad cut got wedged behind the wheel to bring us to a stop)
Like a seasoned driver, Kyle put the car in drive to straighten it out, except he found he couldn’t go forward.  What the heck?  He said, “Aunt Heather, it won’t go forward.”  I was dumbfounded.  What was going on with my car?
Dad and Kyle c. 2004 Gutchess tour Aunt Heather Piper

Dad & his sidekick, Kyle touring the Latrobe Gutchess plant. c. 2004

Finally, I had Kyle put the car in park and get out.  I walked around, sat in the driver’s seat, and thought, let’s start again.  I turned the ignition completely off and turned it over again.  Instantly, Kyle’s lightbulb came on as he realized when he turned the radio on but he forgot to do the same with the engine.  We both laughed so hard.  The car was never on!  We were basically drifting in neutral.  That became the joke of the day.  Step 1: Turn on the car.

Kyle drove us to the cemetery on the ridge and to the mall.  He did a good job.
LensCrafters ultimately replaced Kyle’s frames, which were “looking a bit rough” as the lady pointed out.  He’s a teenager, what would one expect?  We were fortunate they had the same frames on hand.
Kyle can take any opportunity and make it work for him.  The eyeglass place was right across from Auntie Anne’s, his pretzel heaven.  He made sure we picked up pretzels for the family before exiting.  Whatever makes my little man happy.  He always did love getting a pretzel when I’d take him to the mall.  How could I refuse tradition?  Plus, it’s been ages since I was there with him.
Once the tree was all decorated, we used the remainder of Sunday to relax, before I took Kyle back.  That’s the hard part about spending time with Kyle, he leaves.  I just love him to pieces.  I’m glad he still participates in Christmas traditions with us.
posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Respecting A Seemingly Wrong Decision

There are no wrong turnings. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.  ~Guy Gavriel Kay

Kyle Wed Competiton 9-21-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle before a Competition on a Wednesday. 9/21/2016

After Kyle’s birthday celebration I found out that he was quitting the marching band. What? Unfortunately, yes.  I was beyond devastated for many reasons. Fear he was going to sit at home and play more video games and not get any exercise, miss out on travel and friendship opportunities plus miss out on all the other benefits marching band offers. Those are my fears but they’re also reality.

How did I find out? Sadly, not through Kyle, which really upset me knowing how much I was involved with the marching band and how much I loved and supported his activity. I tried to put aside my own personal hurt to think rationally and understand what’s best for Kyle. Honestly, marching band came to the top of the list with every thought.

When Kyle didn’t show for the Memorial Day parade I had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. But according to his fellow band mates and everyone else involved, Kyle was continuing his marching band experience. Kyle told me he was sick and that’s the reason he wasn’t in attendance. Now, I believe it wasn’t the truth or maybe not the entire truth.

A good friend of mine used to say, “In the absence of information everyone assumes the worse.” Heck yes! I wanted to know what made Kyle to an about face. Is he involved with the wrong crowd? Is he having depression issues? Did someone do or say something to him to make him go the other direction? Was he as a spiteful pawn piece? Is he getting lazy? Health issues popped into my head too. In fact, a huge array of possibilities came to the forefront. Now, which one or ones were true? I might never know.

Without getting too upset, I tried to convince Kyle other. Although during my strong arguments, I realized he was remaining steadfast to his discussion no matter what. But like I told him, “If I wouldn’t care for you, I wouldn’t point out what you’d be missing out on and explain your decision from all angels.” Kyle was a good sport and let me get it out without resistance. He really is maturing.

First and foremost, I stated the obvious, in case it wasn’t apparent to him. Once he quit he’ll never ever get that back. Ever. He can’t go back and gain his junior year experience. That point truly broke my heart. I loved being in band and so did Kyle. What changed? I have no idea. He was so dedicated to the band, loved bringing home the medals and spending time with those students. He respected the instructors and the parents.

Piper family pic at DeNunzios for Kyle's bday 7-30-17 Aunt Heather Piper

Family pic during Kyle’s birthday brunch at DeNunzio’s. 7/30/2017

To drive my point home, I exclaimed, “Kyle, if you said to me, ‘I think I’m going to take a year off before going to college. I’d say, okay buddy, do your thing.’ because you can get that back. You’re not missing out on anything, only postponing it. Quitting the marching band is lost forever.” Kyle rebutted with a simple, “I know.”

One of his excuses was he wanted to spend more time on his studies, very admirable and totally full of crap. Marching band basically consumes the first quarter, notoriously the easiest quarter of the entire year. That’s the best time to be involved in an activity. Now I want to see straight “A”s.

Next I moved onto college. I stated, “You know colleges want to see extra activities in addition to good grades. They want to see a well-rounded student and he’ll need letters of recommendation.” I asked him what he planned on doing in place of marching band. He said, “I don’t know yet. I don’t know what’s offered.” Confused I said, “What do you mean? School activities aren’t a secret, what do you want to get involved with?” Kyle shrugged his shoulders and I knew that was code for he wasn’t planning on doing anything. It was just an excuse.

Another good point, Kyle mentioned that he was planning on staying at home and going to college locally to save money. Nicole and I both agree he should move out and get the full college experience. After all, Kyle still gets money every month from my brother, which I guess was kept a secret from him until I spilled the beans and Dad backed me up recently. It’s one thing if he doesn’t have the money, but he does and that money was meant for Kyle, no one else. I retorted, “Kyle you’re worrying about saving money for college when you could get a scholarship from marching band?” Kyle’s response, “I know.” Really? Things aren’t adding up.

Kyle said he was told to get a job to pay for car insurance. What? Who told you that? While I respect making Kyle earning his way through life and taking responsibility for privileges like driving, but not at the expense of his high school experience, especially one that’s so good for him. Again, it’s one thing if he didn’t have the money, but he does. Again, that money is solely for him, to directly help him out, not to support anyone else for any reason. I hope he has money set aside for college.

Wondering if that was another excuse, I offered to pay for his car insurance. Did he bite? Nope. If I were his age I would have. Now I’m realizing that he was not budging and he really didn’t want to be involved in the band. I was getting worried. What made him do a three-sixty overnight?

Greater-Latrobe-Marching-Band-Pirates-of-Penzance-1993-94-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Greater Latrobe Marching Band Theme: The Pirates of Penzance. I was the blue pirate on the far left. Great times! 1993

To paint the picture even further, I explained how marching band was your extended family and you’ll have those friends forever. All of the memories and experiences are invaluable. I told him he’s a part of a team and they needed him. He was essential to the quality of the marching band. He just shrugged again.

Quitting was another point that really bothered me. He was in marching band for two years and then quit halfway through? I don’t want Kyle to learn to be a quitter. I want to see him stick a commitment through. Also, he quit pretty much right before band camp. Which means, the drills were outlined and they were counting on him. He was letting down the instructors and his classmates. I don’t want Kyle to be that kid yet he was.

Now the biggie, I moved around my events for Thrill of the Hunt to accommodate his band schedule, so I could be involved and support him. Did I tell him? I did, but I prefaced it with “Now I know this isn’t your fault at all but I did move around my events to accommodate your band schedule.”   He seemed shocked and worried, like I was going to use my decision against him. That wasn’t my intent. Again, I wanted to further show how important band was and demonstrate my full support for his activity.

As a last ditch effort, I asked Kyle if he would stay in if I stopped chaperoning?  (Even though I really enjoyed it) He said that wasn’t it. I reiterated that I didn’t mind and it wasn’t a big deal.   He said that wasn’t the reason.

Well as it turns out, I’m not chaperoning without Kyle.  I wouldn’t mind, but it would tear me apart seeing him miss out.  However, if they need me to help out, I told them I would oblige. I’m still helping to manage their social media.

A few weeks ago band camp was in full swing. It tore me in two knowing the hard work and all the fun the students were having without Kyle. Instead, he was at home probably lying around playing video games. That truly bothered me. If he was reading, or doing research into his potential field of study or working to save money, I can accept that, something constructive. But being lazy and waiting for an activity to strike his fancy doesn’t sit well with me. I mean, even if he said, he really wanted to get involved in XYZ activities, that’s a plan and I get the trade off. Going from something to nothing is never a good idea.

Kyle is at the age where he wants to control his life and make his own decisions. Understood. However, he’s still too young to see the bigger picture, realize consequences and see good and missed opportunities. This entire situation is very frustrating and honestly nauseating.

When I spoke to friends and mentioned Kyle’s decision, they all got the same shocked face I once sported, now mines just confusion and upset. Everyone knew how much he loved and was involved in the marching band and to turn his back on all that was a confusing. Everyone also got the same sick feeling things weren’t right. Something underlying was wrong.

On the other hand, I’ve always tried to respect and support Kyle’s decisions but when it seems to be the wrong choice, it’s really hard. Granted, no one knows the future. All we can do is sit back, pray, and let life unfold and be as supportive as possible. Maybe Kyle chose correctly and maybe he didn’t. As long as he doesn’t have any regrets and he’s happy, then so am I.

I was told from a very wise retired teacher, the best way to teach a kid is to let them fail, essentially fall and then help them get back up with love. I would rather Kyle make his mistakes now with minor instances than big ones later in life. I hope the words “I told you so” never escape my mouth, for mistakes are sometimes the best lessons and sometimes offers the greatest opportunities.

Kyle started school on Thursday.  I texted him and called  him to wish him luck.  No response.  I do miss the days I’d see him off for the first day of school and he was excited to see me.  Kyle loved going to school.  I think it was the combination of learning, socializing and simple structure and authority figures, something he was in short demand.

God Speed Kyle, I’m always here when you need me.

 

Note about the quote:

Guy Gavriel Kay was a Canadian fantasy author. Christopher Tolkien hired him to help edit his father J.R.R. Tolkien’s unpublished work.

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

The Open Roads With a Driving Permit

When you set sail for Ithaca,
wish for the road to be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.  ~
Constantinos P. Cavafis

Kyle-on-his-Home-Depot-car-for-his-1st-birthday-7-2002-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle on his Home Depot car for his 1st birthday.  My cousin Heather in the background. 7/2002

It’s no secret I’ve been sneaking Kyle short drives here and there on back roads for a few months now.  Not to mention, over the years, I’d let him steer, shift and start the car.  I never wanted driving to be a totally foreign concept to him.

Kyle got his permit last Tuesday, August 8, 2017.  He passed on the first try!  Way to go buddy.  He’s officially allowed on the open roads with a legit driver.

It’s amazing how many rules and regulations have changed since I took my driving test, a few years ago.  (insert wink)  Like what?  Well, first of all the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) is in a different location in Greensburg.  That’s right, it used to be closer to downtown Greensburg off Pittsburgh Street.  Now it’s in a strip mall leaving Greensburg on the outskirts.  Back then we were allowed to get our permit at fifteen and take our test the day we turned sixteen.  Or get our permit one day and the next take our test.  There was no waiting period.  Now the students have to be sixteen to get their permit, log so many hours of driving in all sorts of weather conditions and wait six months before taking the driving test.  At first I was sort of irritated over the new rules, but after I thought about it, if this process proves safer for our young drivers, I’m on board.

Last Tuesday, I actually got to meet Kyle at PennDOT before he took his test.  Somehow I was the possessor of his social security card.  Naturally, he needed it, Aunt Heather to the rescue.  Seeing him, even for a brief moment and wishing him luck made my day.  Not to mention receiving a text message shortly after, stating he passed his permit test made me even happier.

A week ago today, my cousin Stacey got married.  Congrats Stacey!!

I picked Kyle up early and asked if he wanted to take over the wheel.  He smiled, shrugged his shoulders and said, “I guess.”  While backing out of the driveway Kyle remarked, “I’ve never gone over 20 miles an hour.”  What?  It was then I realized he never logged time behind the wheel. No one took him out at all.  None. Zero. Zip. Now we were on our way up busy route 66, to get onto even busier route 22, then through town and finally back roads.  Pretty aggressive travel plans for a newbie.  My comment?  “Well, go slow.  You’ve got to learn to drive these roads some day, so I guess it’s today.  I’ll help.”

Stacey's Wedding 8-12-2017 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Stacey at her wedding! Bridal dance 8/12/2017

Kyle seemed excited, yet a little nervous.  He was lucky it was me instructing him. (Ask Tree when I took her driving in my stick shift. She hit the curb at Legion Keener.) I’m really calm and patient in these situations, and I’m good at supplying detailed instructions, the way Kyle responds best.  I wanted to show him I had faith in his abilities, as well as use the opportunity to give him valuable intangible lessons.  There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance.  I wanted Kyle to gain experience and build that confidence, while shying away from arrogance.  Plus, the more road time he got with an experienced driver, the better.

How did he do?  GREAT!  He did stress when cars passed us on the opposite side of the road going the other direction.  He was also uneasy when cars went around us on route 22.  Understandably.  Throughout the entire trip, I reiterated, “I know buddy, it’s stressful.  For now, just stay to your side and focus on the road.  Let everyone else wait or go around us.”

While we were on route 66, before reaching Delmont, not even a mile into our trip, a car passed Kyle illegally.  Yikes.  He looked at me alarmed, not knowing what to do.  I told him, “Stay on course.  Let them go around.”  Typical Kyle called out, “That’s illegal!”  My response?  “I know buddy but are you going to arrest them?  Let them get in trouble and focus on the road.”

Once we got to the point where a left turn was necessary to merge onto route 22, Kyle was forced to change lanes.  He was uneasy.  I found out he couldn’t turn his head to look, use the mirrors, drive, and turn on the turn signal.  We’ve all been there.  He did manage to use his side mirror without drifting into the other lane. I craned my neck to double check for oncoming cars.  In fact, I did that entire way just to play it safe.  We made a good team.

At the red light a lady in the passenger seat beside us spotted me giving Kyle hand motions in preparation for the turn left, to avoid sideswiping our neighbors and without driving headfirst into the opposite traffic making their turn.  At this intersection, if a driver isn’t careful, paths could cross resulting in devastation.  Our temporary neighbor lady was sweet.  She smiled and gave Kyle thumbs up.  Kyle grinned and remained focused on the red light.  I told him, “She knows you’re a new driver and she’s wishing you luck.  People are generally kind and understanding.”  Kyle kept his eyes on the road in anticipation of the left turn and zoned out of our unspoken conversation.

While making the successful turn, I explained we had the right away from merging traffic on our right.  Before I could get the words out, a car that was going too fast, cut in front of us without yielding.  I guess these are all good lessons for Kyle to learn and to know what to watch out for.

As quickly as that happened, we had to get onto route 22, merging left.  Now we were the yielding party on a busy road with cars in front, beside and behind us.  This time Kyle strictly kept his eyes on the road ahead.  To make a safe transition, I was his lookout spouting instructions regarding fast approaching traffic.  Kyle merged gracefully, while seemingly not sweating it.  However, upon closer inspection his knuckles were bright white.

Eventually, I’ll have Kyle practice changing lanes on route 22, but I didn’t want to give him added anxiety or press our luck.  He handled the road like a champ.

Kyle's Text Message 8-8-17 Aunt Heather PiperI did find Kyle was already driving like me, too fast.  More than a few times I caught him going 60+ miles an hour. All I said, without yelling or freaking out as to not startle my inexperienced driver was, “Kyle let off the gas.”  The first time I said it, Kyle looked surprised because he wasn’t doing it on purpose.  He glanced at the speedometer and said, “Oh” then did as instructed.  After it happened a few times Kyle admitted, “I’m just trying to keep up with the traffic.  Everyone is speeding!”  I had to laugh, he is so me.

To put things into perspective I said, “Kyle, you don’t have the experience they do.  Plus, you don’t have your driver’s license and I don’t know the consequences of getting pulled over for speeding with a permit.  And if I get in trouble for your speed, you’re in double trouble.”  His reply?  Typical me comment, “I don’t think anything would happen to me.”  I smiled and retorted, “You don’t think?  I bet the cop will make an example of you and take away your license for a year.  Maybe even make you retest for your permit.  Plus, I’m sure I’ll get in trouble too.”

On a side note, it would be funny for Kyle and I to take our driving tests together.  Not an ideal situation, but a good story for later.

Kyle pondered my words and soon after I noticed a big change in him. He kept asking me the speed limit and would confirm his speed out loud, more for himself than for my benefit.  He’s so funny.  He gives the exact speed.  Example:

Kyle:  “What’s the speed limit here?”
Me:  “Umm, I’m not sure, I bet it’s 45, just go slower to play it safe.”
Kyle:  “Yep, it’s 45. (I never saw the speed limit sign).  Okay, I’m going 46.”
Me:  “You’re doing good buddy.  Just don’t go over the speed.”
Kyle:  “Okay, I’ll let off the gas a little. Now I’m going 44.”

Kyle never slammed on the breaks when he realized he was going to fast or when he was easing into a stop sign or red light. Sometimes his stop was a little rushed but not totally abrupt.  I did explain about people rear-ending him and trying to avoid collisions, his fault or not.  His advance was sometimes a rushed.  I told to relax with the gas peddle, we weren’t in the Fast and the Furious.  We weren’t drag racing anyone.  He laughed.

Lilia at Stacey's Wedding 8-12-2017 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Lilia sharing a smile at Stacey’s wedding. 8/12/2017

There were a few times cars looked like they were going to back into us, or they stopped without using their turn signal.  Every time, Kyle’s reaction was to let off the gas and I saw he was ready to use his breaks. All without panicking. I reiterated my observations to give him constructive praise.

Kyle did crack me up at four way stops.  He waved everyone on so no cars would be around when he turned or went through.  I remember those days too.  I reassured him, “I know it’s a little stressful going around other cars, just take your time.  If you use your turn signal and go slow, most people will see you’re a new driver and be patient.”  Sometimes cars waved Kyle on.  He grunted every time with distress but made it through unscathed.

During the entire 45-minute journey, there were only two scary instances.  One was making the right turn onto route 981 from route 22 at the light.  Kyle was going a little too fast and didn’t cut the turn tight enough.  I told him to slow down and tighten the turn.  He responded with, “I know, I am.”  Umm.  Not really.  I had to grab the steering wheel before we grazed the line of cars sitting at the red light.  He realized what had happened and I believe he learned from it.  Prior to that, when Kyle was in the passing lane in Delmont, he kept creeping toward the centerline.  He wasn’t used to that side of the road.  Again, minor instances.

During our trip I noticed when Kyle was off center, too close to the side of the road or the double line or he was speeding, he corrected himself before I called it out. Again, each time I gave him positive comments to reinforce good habits.

Kyle drove the rest of the weekend, to the store, the wedding and back home.  Each time, I could tell he was doing better and more comfortable around other cars on the road, slightly.

Kyle was also faced with unusual instances. While driving through Latrobe, he had to pull around a person on a bicycle.  I could see the fright in his eyes as I told him to go into the other lane to get around.  He didn’t like that scenario yet skirted past our bicyclist easily.  He also had to go around a parked truck that was unloading.

Finally, let’s discuss parking. Ironically, his issues were mine. I had Kyle pull up to the sidewalk while I ran into a store. I was half expecting him to scrap the sides of my tires. He didn’t and inquired, “How close am I? I need to be within 12 inches.” Not to burst his bubble but to be honest I stated, “Umm. It looks more like 18 inches buddy.” He retorted, “Well that’s the first time I parked like that.” I get it. It takes practice.

Kyle was forced to park at K-Mart, I spared him by not going to Wal-Mart. Playing it safe, he attempted his park job away from other cars, unsuccessfully. Laughing, I told him church people do a better job. He reiterated that he never parked before. No worries, I told him I’d take him out to practice a day of parking. I was never good at it either. We lived in the country and never had lines to park within, or other cars to park between. He’ll learn.

Fun Story. I’m notorious for never putting gas in my car, nor paying attention to how much is in the tank. Ever since I started driving, that task was never a concern to me. Did I run out of gas? You bet. Usually, I’d walk to the closest house and call Ryan to bring me gas. He always had some on hand, probably for me. Did it bother me? No. Maybe that’s why I never paid attention.

Kyle get’s in my car and immediately looks at the gas tank to exclaim I only have less than a half a tank. In my eyes, it’s nearly full. Kyle was not so blasé about the situation. As we were driving, the gas tank must have bothered him because he stated, “I know what I’ll do. When the gas hits the halfway mark, I’ll fill it up.” Yeah, now I’m not so sure we’re related, although, he did sound like my Dad.  I told him he can borrow my car any time he wanted.  I got a kick out of that comment!

One more funny story. Someone moved my car in my parent’s driveway, close to the side of an embankment. Directly behind it was a burn pile they burn boxes and papers but sometimes other items like nails and such get mixed in. I didn’t want Kyle to run into the pile for fear of puncturing my tires. I stood outside the car and had him cut the wheel into the driveway. He was seriously on edge (pun intended). Making sure he was in reverse (yes if he hit the gas in drive, it would not have been pretty) I gave him instructions. He kept the drivers door open. If I know Kyle he had an escape plan. He yelled at me, “This is illegal you know!” I told him to relax, he’s got it, and he did. If I thought he couldn’t handle it, then I would have taken over the wheel.

Okay, last funny story. Kyle drove us to the wedding. We had to park in a field with all the other guests. I was going to change places with him but he stated he could back into the parking spot. Okay, why not. As I gave him instructions to arch wide to give him enough room to straighten the car so he was backing straight, he misunderstood me. He drove in a big circle in the field. I was dying. The guys directing traffic were confused, as were the line of cars behind us. He did freak out on me, “You told to me to go this way!” I told him, “Calm down. It’s okay.” He managed to back up, with my help guiding the steering wheel.

He drove us home at night too.

Since Kyle was born, there wasn’t a day that’s gone by when I haven’t thought about him (and his Dad) and prayed for his well-being. The older he gets, I find myself adding to his prayer list. I could never handle Kyle meeting the same fate as his Dad. Maybe that’s why I’ve always insisted he gets experience behind the wheel. Ironically, Ryan was a great driver and that situation still doesn’t make any sense. God always has a plan.

 

Added:  8/27/17

On Monday August 21, 2017 was a solar eclipse.  Pretty cool.  It took place around 2:00 p.m.  I texted Kyle and told him he needed to go out and drive around during the natural phenomenon so he could write down in his ledger about the weather conditions.  His response.  Nothing.

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

Don’t Hide Behind Love

Whatever it is you’re seeking won’t come in the form you’re expecting.  ~Haruki Murakami

trump-house-2016-aunt-heather-piper

Trump house Youngstown, PA 2016

I believe, respecting the opinions of others is the first step to living in peace and understanding.  I’m not saying accepting morally wrong choices and actions, or approving criminal activity.  No.  Those are simply wrong and should not be tolerated or even considered.  There are many opinions and different ways of handling situations, some better than others.  Everyone working for the betterment of the people with truly good intentions, needs to be given a chance.  Let’s face it, the best way to handle a problem is to work together to find a solution, not create more problems.

Sure everyone has a right to protest and speak their voice, but when it’s done as a temper tantrum with complete disrespect, and then done alongside criminal activity, it’s simply wrong.  It’s abuse of a right.  Naturally, I’m referring to all the riots surrounding our President Elect Donald Trump.

The protesters are speaking for women’s right, immigration reform, and healthcare issues, among others.  At least that’s what their signs say and it appears on the surface.  Yes, those are some problems plaguing our country and certainly hot topics.  Agreed.  However, those topics are going to be addressed from our new president, at least that’s what’s promised.  It’s certainly not going to happen through violent and anger.

When it comes down to it, the protesters are displaying a complete lack of respect for our voting process, its citizens, and the American way.  Let’s cut to the chase, the protesters, are only mad because their candidate didn’t win.  End of story.  There wouldn’t be any riots if the outcome were different and yet, we’d have the same problems.  In fact, no one was rioting regarding those issues with our current administration.  These problems didn’t just surface.  They’re the same issues our president elect will be inheriting because our past administration didn’t address the problems properly or successfully.  Donald Trump didn’t cause them.   Sure his solutions seem a bit unconventional, but maybe that’s what we need turn our country around.

american-flag-taken-in-texas-aunt-heather-piper-2016To make things worse, Trump supporters have been attacked and physically beaten nearly to death.  Is that right way to handle your opinion?  No.  That’s taking those voters’ rights, and their right to basically live freely in the United States, the land of the free.  That’s just plain wrong.  Now to add more to this injustice, the protesters are looting and destroying personal and commercial property.  This is insane.  How are those actions solving any problems?  It’s not.  It’s only creating more problems without solutions.  Common sense needs to be reviewed and noted.  Those actions are hidden under one reason, but are really for selfish, destructive and disrespectful reasons that resemble anarchy, not what this nation stands for.  Get the irony?

The sad part?  Many of the protesters interviewed didn’t even vote!  What is wrong with these people?  Fighting for rights is good.   Leading with emotion is not wrong, but it is when it takes over common sense and breaks laws.  The protesters are basically saying my vote was not important, and only their opinion should be heard.  That’s also saying those that give respect and obey laws shouldn’t have a vote, or be bullied for different opinions?  I thought we lived in a Republic and not a dictatorship?  That’s not only disrespectful for the winner, Donald Trump, who won fair and square, but it’s also insulting to those who supported and voted for him, which was the majority.

It’s also a shame that we live in a society that doesn’t know how to loose and take it gracefully.  Basically, a society that’s never been told NO.  They think they have the right because they can scream and shout, throw a punch and steal at random.  No one is benefiting from their wasted energy, and they’re only showing they’re a bunch of spoiled brats.  I personally know those types of people, that throw a tantrum when they’re told NO or proven wrong.  They’re also the type that needs to be humbled and never given power, because if they do, they abuse it.

Personally, I didn’t vote for Obama, neither time, but I gave him the benefit of the doubt, both times.  I was willing to work with our new leader for the betterment of our country.  There wasn’t major chaos when he was voted in, and yet he wasn’t liked by everyone.

A few months ago, I read the book The Girls by Emma Cline.  Just to give an overview, it’s a fictional book interweaving a young girl, Evie, among the actions of the Manson family.  Really a neat twist.  It’s told through Evie’s eyes as an adult, recollecting those days.  I’ve also read Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry.  Both books tell the accounts of the Manson family and their facade of being peace loving children.  However, what really happened?  That love was disguised as pure hate and selfishness.  Manson came across as loving and free at first, yet his underlying true nature slowly worked its way out, in the form of hate, resulting in murder, control and abuse of youngsters.  If Manson got his own way and became a rock star and was praised in the media, like he wanted, then possibly history would’ve been written differently.  Instead, Manson threw a temper tantrum, an extreme one, and he was the louder voice to recruit others, who followed him without using common sense.  Sound familiar?  Mason wanted attention like a child and wanted his own way.

american-flag-hanging-taken-in-texas-aunt-heather-piper-2016

The American flag standing proudly. Taken in Texas, 2016

Instead of wasting energies for negative rioting, vandalism and violence, use it to support a good cause, comfort someone who lost a family member or friend to a terminal illness, adopt a pet, volunteer with the elderly, or spend your Saturday mornings picking up trash to make America beautiful and clean instead of being the cause of the trash.

Our soon to be president is already moving in a positive direction.  It’s no secret our country and it’s people are in a financial rut, to put it mildly.  Donald Trump has already announced he will take office without a salary.  That alone says a lot to his true purpose of wanting to help our country.  The stupid, and I meant that, rioters should be happy.  Mr. Trump is already becoming a solution.  Did any other president ever deny a salary?  It’s not like Mr. Trump was pressured, he voluntary gave up it up.   The rioters are so self-centered, they don’t even want to hear positive aspects of our future.

I’m not a very loud person, figuratively speaking.  (I can be loud when talking and joking around.)  I prefer to show my stance through actions, not words, ironic since I’m writing this.  (I totally see the humor).  But it’s true, I’ll support a candidate or a cause, I’ll join The Race for the Cure and I’ll join any fundraiser, as long as my actions help a cause.  I don’t ever want to be a problem or the cause of a problem.  I try to make a difference through my actions, which do speak louder.

I’ve said this before the election, it really appears that history is repeating itself.  These events remind me when Abraham Lincoln was voted into office.  Not that I was alive during that time, but I’ve studied the Civil War in depth in college and I’m a big history buff.  The south did the same thing, with riots, vandalism, violence and even disrespecting our great country enough to secede.  Let’s learn from our past.  It didn’t end well for anyone back in 1860s, and if this action continues, it won’t end on a positive note for anyone presently.

President Obama and Hillary Clinton have both stood up and publicly and sincerely announced they are standing behind the vote of the American people.  They’ve all asked for a stop to the violence.  This goes to show those rioting simply want to have something to yell about with no respect to anyone, even their candidate.  They want to say something, but don’t have anything to say.  Is this generation so attention starved?

What is unfolding before my eyes is exactly the behavior I’ve always taught again with Kyle.  However, I started to teach him these lessons when he was a little tyke.   Maybe, the protestors need to be schooled and scaled like a child.

When it comes down to it, I’ve always said a prayer for our president elect, and for the people of the world.  I’m not blind to know he’s just a man, who’s made mistakes and will continue to do so, but he does deserve our respect until proven to not act in our best interests.  I bet a moment of silence and prayer would move more mountains than yelling and destroying.

God Bless the U.S.A.!

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

Vote Informatively – Election 2016

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

trump-house-11-7-16-aunt-heather-piper

Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

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

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

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

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

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

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

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

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

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

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

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

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Me & Kyle at the Sarah Palin rally Latrobe Airport 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Behind the Kiski Area Marching Band

Better a cruel truth than a comfortable delusion.   ~Edward Abbey

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Kyle (center) giving his all during the performance of Nemesis – Kiski Area Marching Band 2016

Last night, Kiski presented the showcase of bands, whereas the seventh through twelfth grade students in band, performed, including the marching band.  What a great talented group.

Mr. Robert Traugh is the Kiski Area Marching Band Director.  Watching him instruct his students and seeing how they truly respect him is very refreshing and a relief to me.  In fact, Mr. Traugh is a true leader.  Besides being musically talented himself and very creative, he never accepts passing the blame, he gets straight to the heart of a problem to find a solution, he pushes his students towards excellence and beyond, and he holds each and every band member accountable.  Like I said, a true leader and a good role model.

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Kyle (left) at practice before Bands of America in Newark, Delaware. 10/12/16

How do I know?  Simply watching from a distance, as well as a brief encounter not long ago.  Unbeknownst to Mr. Traugh, I was a bystander in the back of the room during one of his speeches to the entire band, after the Gateway Competition preliminaries when they first lost.  I heard the talk in the halls, the students where blaming the program and wanted to go back to last year’s Origins show.  Some where pointing fingers to this group, that person and so on.  It was upsetting to me because I’ve never tolerated such behavior from Kyle, and there I found him among it.  However, enter Mr. Traugh stage right (literally, the band members were on the stage in the auditorium) to put out the fire.

He must have heard or sensed the same negativity and gathered the students in the auditorium between performances for a little talk.  Since it was a long day of chaperoning, I brought my iPad to work during down time.  Coincidentally, I was seated among the spontaneous gathering site.  I thought about moving, but I was right in the middle of a few thoughts I wanted to jot down first.  Then, I didn’t want to bring any attention to myself by walking past the kids to exit during Mr. Traugh’s speech.  So I stayed put.

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Kyle napping on the bus before a competition after practicing all day. 9/17/16

He got straight to the point.  Calling out specifics during the performance for the band’s low score and placement.  In contrast, he pointed out the good aspects of their show, too.  Mr. Traugh humbled the students, in a good way, and really turned their attitude around.  Then, he drove it home by having the kids place themselves in the winners shoes and stated how good those kids must be feeling, especially since they haven’t placed first in a very long time.  I believe it was Norwin or Moon that beat them.  (Sorry I can’t remember)

Let me step back a few hours to right before Kiski’s first performance at Gateway.  I don’t want to say they were arrogant, but overtly confident with an air of privilege.  After all, in their minds, they swept last year’s first place seats time and time again, which they earned.  After the students didn’t place this year, they had a reality check that was evident on everyone’s faces.  Now, they were ready to fight for first place and earn their top spot again.  On a side note, I thought they had a wonderful performance.

The way the kids responded to Mr. Traught’s lecture and encouragement made me proud.  The kids are really a great group, and they wouldn’t be without proper leadership.  Not only from Mr. Traugh but from all the instructors and the band parents alike.  While the students are the face of the marching band, the parents and staff are the backbone.  Without that structure, the band wouldn’t be able to rise to greatness.

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Kiski Area Marching Band performing Nemesis 2016

During that day, which I believe was Saturday, September 24th, Ryan’s birthday, Kyle’s dad,  Kiski school was home base to Moon between performances.  Our kids were very welcoming and respectful, as was Moon.  In fact, Moon ordered enough frosties from Wendy’s for the entire Kiski Band, as a thank you to hosting them between performances.  Can you believe it?  What a nice gesture!  I’m guessing they have pretty stellar leaders too.

In fact, I’ve noticed during all performances, the Kiski Band has shown respect for all other bands.  Watching the band stand and clap for performances, cheering on other kids, simply showing good comrade.  They’ve also shown respect by they actions before, during and after performances, pitching in as a team to assist their own, and others and remaining quiet when needed.  Yes, I can’t be happier to have Kyle surrounded by this group and the Kiski leadership.

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Kyle on the move performing Nemesis for the Kiski Area Marching Band 2016

Last Saturday, October 15, 2016, Kiski Area Marching Band competed in Bands of America in Newark, Delaware.  How did they do?  Fantastic!  They took first place at preliminaries and second place overall, out of 27 top bands from the east coast.  That’s what happens when instructors listen to constructive criticism to make the students better, the students humble themselves to do their best, and everyone works hard.

Way to go Kiski!  Your show is really fantastic and you guys are very talented!  Great season!

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

I Met Leigh Bardugo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leigh Bardugo Website:

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

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

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

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

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

Is Kyle Aware?

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

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

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

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

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

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

How does this prove Kyle is a good kid?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now onto funny number two.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dealing With Loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full Obit Aunt Heather Piper June 2016

Kiski Facebook post Aunt Heather Piper

News Article Aunt Heather Piper 6-18-16

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

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

Escape Room Experience

Shut your eyes and see.  ~James Joyce

Escape Room Latrobe 5-29-16 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pittsburgh – Night Out in the Big City! Vol. 2

Stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold.  ~S.E. Hinton

Gary-Aunt-Heather-Piper-at-Cure-Concert-Mellon-Arena-Pittsburgh-PA-7-17-96

Me & Gary & not sure at the Cure Concert at the former Mellon Arena (now Consol Energy Center), Pittsburgh, Pa. 7/17/96

Let me recap.  I was reminiscing from my high school days, actually about one night in particular.  A night that is so outlandish it sounds like it was made fictionally for television, but it’s entirely true!  Pittsburgh – A Night Out in the Big City!  Vol. 1

I took my old car, 1976ish Buick Limited, into Pittsburgh for a concert, when I wasn’t allowed, especially with a group of teenage friends.  We got lost in a bad section of Pittsburgh, illegally parked my car at a shady convenience store, to only find the night got worse when my car wouldn’t start.  Then, we accepted a ride to an auto parts store to purchase a new battery from a homeless man living in his car, which he may or may not have stolen.  We made it to the auto parts store and headed back to my friends who stayed behind with the broken down vehicle, in the middle of the ghetto, in the middle of the night.  Oh yeah, the homeless man’s car had no breaks.  He used his emergency break to stop.  I think that about sums up the last post.  It only gets better from here.

Our homeless man, or more accurately, the man living in his car, drove a little fast, as per the speed limit signs, and definitely too fast considering we had no real means to stop.  Suddenly, another obstacle struck us, or I should say we struck her.  What looked like a woman, dressed in stilettos, a micro mini skirt, and big hair, staggered in front of us.  Naturally, what else could make my story more colorful than a stranger appearing out of nowhere, to make contact with a moving vehicle, with no breaks!  Granted, we weren’t cruising at top speeds, but we were certainly in motion, and remained there despite the pedestrian.

Our driver used his emergency break to come to a stop, but not before we nudged her.  I know it wasn’t right, but we barely grazed this unconcerned night walker, who just walked in front of a moving vehicle.  Well, she wasn’t have having any of it, and showed her disdain by punching the hood of the car.  Then, our driver pushed the gas peddle, throwing her up on the hood, before using the emergency break again, throwing the stranger from the car.  What?  YES!  Can you imagine my shock?  I was mortified!

Tree-Tracey-Aunt-Heather-Piper-Graduation-from-Greater-Latrobe-High-School-6-1994

Tree, me & Tracey, graduation day from Greater Latrobe High School. 6/94

Please understand I never grew up around any alternative lifestyle, let alone knew what an alternative lifestyle was, or witnessed actions such as this one, meaning yelling out of a car at someone!

Again, what I thought was a lady, correction, I thought she was a prostitute, was not.  I sat there speechless, craning my neck to look over the hood of the car, trying to find life, hoping she wasn’t dead.

Eventually, what seemed like an hour later, the night walker got up, looked around, and stumbled a little.  To add to the terror, our angry driver began honking the horn and yelling out the window to get her to move.  Then, he started muttering a few words, one being transvestite.  Transvestite?  What?  Again, I’m a small town gal from Latrobe, who believed that a transvestite was a fictional character on television like a vampire, or an urban legend.  Instantly, my attention left our driver, my eyes grew three times the size, and I began to really examine the lady/guy standing in front of us, in the middle of the road, completely forgetting she/he was just hit by us.

Still staggering, she/he appeared to be either completely intoxicated or on drugs, or both.  The gal/guy stumbled to the passenger side of the door, where Sefo sat with the window down (allowing me to get air before I puked).  Why that side, and not the side of the verbal driver?  No clue. Aside from the staggering, which was evident before impact, our hit and run victim seemed unscathed.  The next thing I remembered, she/he tried to punch Sefo!  What did he do?  Sefo leaned into me, to put some distance between his shoulder and the staggering fist.  Luckily, our driver’s reflexes were quicker.  The homeless man, correction, the man who lived in his car, hit the gas, leaving my first transvestite encounter in the dust.  I mean Bruce Jenner (Caitlyn) wasn’t all over the news.  My heart was racing and never slowed down.  I looked at Sefo with wide eyes, expecting him to tell me all will be fine, that is until I saw his reaction.  It was exactly like mine!  Maybe a little more since he was in the line of direct fire.

Lori-Beanner-and-Justin-Baldonieri-at-Strip-District-Pittsburgh-Pa-early-1990s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Lori Beanner & Justin Baldonieri at a concert in the Strip District. I’m not sure why SCREAM was written on Lori’s leg. Pittsburgh, Pa. early 1990’s

Our unconventional hero of sorts, the homeless man who lived in his car, held true to his word and took us back to our friends and my broken car, almost safely.  We had a battery, now what?

It appears the craziness is nearly behind us, right?  That’s what I thought.  How could it get worse?

Would you believe we never thought about tools!  I didn’t have any, and our homeless man didn’t either.  Personally, I thought with all that junk in the car, he’d at least have a screwdriver?  Nope.  Now what?

While we were off hitting, literally the night life, (pun intended), my friends took a walk to a local hangout to use the restrooms.  They traveled down the street and came upon a gay bar.  Again, please keep in mind, times were very different back then, and my innocence was not ready for the reality of the world aside from my own personal corner of Latrobe.  My friends told me all about the sights they saw.  What did they witness?  No idea.  I wasn’t paying attention in the slightest.  It was at that moment, I started to hear ringing in my ears and I felt lightheaded.  I was breathing heavy and the world was in slow motion.  It was so surreal.  The last thing I wanted was to put my friends in any sort of danger or crazy situation.  Although, I will admit, they didn’t seem to mind and weren’t bothered by anything at all, except Sefo, rightfully so.  I can’t imaging hitting anybody, let alone a transvestite with a car was normal.

Friends-in-Art-Room-at-Greater-Latrobe-High-School-1993-94-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Not sure, Vanessa Vadas, me & Erin Butina in the art room at Greater Latrobe High School 1993-94

Sefo told our tale to everyone, and it was at that point, I knew changes needed to made, immediately.  What did I decide?  I instructed a few of my friends to call their parents to come and get them, while I stayed with the car and figured out how to get it home.  The idea of a tow truck did lurk in the back of my mind, but remember, I was about 30 to 40 miles away from Latrobe.  I probably could have called a tow, but to travel that distance would have cost me a fortune, and I didn’t have much cash left. Reality, I didn’t even have that much cash in my bank account.  Well, naturally my friends wouldn’t leave, so we all pulled up a seat along the curb discussing our next plan of action.  Sometime in there, our homeless man who lived in his car departed without incidence.

Please note, it’s now probably about two in the morning and I had my Cinderella driver’s license.

Just then, a beat up truck pulled into the parking lot.  Remaining consistent with our seemingly poor judgement, someone got up and asked the gentleman for assistance.  This time, we simply asked for tools to install the brand new battery.  He had tools!  Now we’re in business.

Giving this new stranger, who was obviously drunk, a few bucks to change out the battery, he did so, with the help of our candles.  One might wonder just how I was going to explain a brand new battery to my dad, and I thought about that.  I’d tell him the truth.  I had to have a new one installed since the old one died.  Done!

Feeling hopeful, I jumped in the driver’s seat to turn over the engine.  Nothing!  Are you kidding me?  No almost.  No turning over and grinding.  No attempt at trying.  Nothing.  Oh doubly crap!  It wasn’t the battery after all!  Now what?

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Me on some sort of flippy ride at the Cure Concert at the former Coca-Cola Star Lake Amphitheater (now First Niagara Pavilion) 5/23/92

Our situation got even worse, and I didn’t have the money for a tow the whole way to Latrobe.

Now a second minor problem.  What was I going to do with a brand new battery?

Take it back of course!  Keep in mind, I had no idea where this auto parts store was located, or how to get there.  Personally, after the situation with the staggering transvestite, my mind was wiped clear of all awareness and reality.  How would we know where to go?  I got it!  I had the receipt containing the name of the auto parts store.  Would it be open?  It was worth a try.

Unbeknownst to our drunk driver, he was about to be added to our nightly events.  Sefo asked him to give us a lift back to the auto parts store.  Not knowing if the store was closed or not, me and Sefo jumped back into another stranger’s vehicle, this time we knew his full story, or at least the pertinent details, he was clearly drunk.  We took a ride from whence we came, for a small fee of course.  Driving like a manic, actually like a blind man, we departed, not knowing if we’d make it back, leaving our friends in the ghetto.  Who was safer?

To be continued…

 

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Travels 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!”

Kyle-&-Chad-at-Idlewild-Gutchess-Picnic-c.-2003-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

Playing As Kids – Building Forts & Making Gold

All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.  ~Pope Paul VI

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Our cousins, Casey holding Marla, Joel in the back, Michael & Elizabeth. Stacy has yet to come. c. 1986

Trying to teach Kyle that you don’t need money or the latest and greatest video games to have fun, is surprisingly a really hard lesson to teach.  At least with my little stubborn man.  I can’t say it enough, he is a good kid, a truly good hearted person, but he only sees playing and having fun as an activity that has been dictated by his generation of video games.  He is not accustomed to good old fashion playing outside, unless I demonstrate and participate of course.

This past weekend, Kyle wanted to play a game with me.  Great!  I suggested a game of chess.  Denied!  I suggested a game of Battle Ship.  Denied!  I suggested a game of Trouble (love that mindless game.  We used it to reach Kyle how to count when he was wee little.)  Denied!  He wanted to play a few games with me on the Wii.  Ok, I’ll give him that since we haven’t busted out the Wii for a while.  His compromise was to play the hunting games and the Wii Sports Resort (Swordplay, Fruit Ninja, Wakeboarding).  I wanted to dance to Micheal Jackson, denied!   I gave in and we played, having a pretty good time.  But after so long, I didn’t have the patience to sit in front of the television and play games anymore.  I would rather get up and move around.  Not Kyle, he wanted to continue for hours upon hours.  Denied!

I pretty much have to force Kyle to undertake any activity before he realizes he’s actually having fun or enjoying himself.  Time and time again this has happened.  Perfect example would include his perceived dreaded hikes with the dogs, which he does enjoy while on the hike.  Even after we come back from having a nice time, he still won’t admit to it.  I guess it’s not cool.

As kids we made up some pretty crazy games and undertook some unusual activities to keep ourselves entertained.  One of the stories I’ve shared with Kyle was the fort building.

Let me step back to state, I grew up with my brother and sister and my cousins around.  So there was never a shortage of kids to play with.  For Kyle, not so much.  I know that has a lot to do with the way he plays and his interests, but I do try as best I can.

Anyway, when we were kids, we used to chop down trees, yes with a hatchet, smaller trees, probably about six inches in diameter and stack them on top of each other to form a fort.  Yes, a real fort with four sides, nestled back in the woods.  We would play in and around this fort all day.

Near this location were these large vines that hung over a small creek.  We would take turns swinging back and forth on the natural ropes like Tarzan and Jane.  It was so much fun.  We did all this with our dog Jill hanging around, without parental supervision, while everyone was getting along and getting dirty and exercise.

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Cousins playing at Twin Lakes for Lisa’s birthday. L to R Nicole, Tim, Lisa, Ryan, Casey, me, Elizabeth & Mikey behind trying to claim a spot on the swings. c. 1986

Let’s be realistic, I don’t really have a desire to build another fort anymore.  However, if Kyle really wanted to, I would, but since manual labor is not at the top of his list, we never relived those good old days.

Instead, dad decided he wants to raise chickens.  Apparently, I’m going to construct a chicken coop, correction, Kyle and me are going to build a chicken coop soon.  I guess that’s close enough to a fort.  At least he’s doing something productive, in real life.  I Need To Build My House – Video Games.

As far as the whole experience including the vine swinging goes, I’ve actually taken Kyle in the woods and we have done just that!  He even enjoyed himself!  Although for me it seemed more fun as a kid, but for Kyle, who is still a youngster, it was a new experience.  There is something about swinging past trees that is so relaxing and fun.

Now onto the gold.   Another quick story of how we used our imagination and every day items to create our own pastimes.

One day Ryan was tinkering around in the garage, yes I believe we were still in elementary school. He was always in that garage.  Anyway, he came running out yelling, “I’ve found gold!  I’ve found gold!” as he darted down the driveway toward my cousin Casey and Joel’s house.  What on earth?

Ryan found a can of gold spray paint and took some rocks and spray painted them.  They did look like nuggets of gold.  Yes we added that to the items we played with as kids, simple rocks.  We even fought over the rights to the “gold nuggets” and made up war games with the “gold” as the booty.

Really it shouldn’t take much to have an imagination and to be entertained.  At least not with us as kids.  We found fun in everyday life, with every day things, even rocks!

Read other related blogs

Playing As Kids – Tire Rolling
Playing As Kids – Chasing Cars

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

Playing As Kids – Car Chasing

Compassion is the basis of morality.  ~Arthur Schopenhauer

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Ryan holding Jill, our 1st family dog, on our front porch. She was part collie & part coonhound. She was named Jill after our cousins’ dog, Jack c.1984

As I’ve mentioned before in Playing As Kids – Tire Rolling, as these crazy stupid memories of entertainment come rushing back to me from my childhood, I will record them in a blog entry for Kyle’s later enjoyment.

Two weekends ago we had the dogs out and about since it reached forty degrees, before the anticipated winter blast from the northwest rolled in.  My mom decided to take the boys for a ride, their favorite activity after eating and sleeping that is.  While mom drove them up and down the road, it reminded me of another stupid/fun activity we invented.

What was this crazy pastime?  From the blog title one might assume we acted like dogs and literally chased cars.  Not exactly.  Let me first explain about my first dog, Jill.  She was named Jill because my cousin’s, who lived down the road from us, had a dog named Jack.  We thought it was humorous to say Jack and Jill (went up the hill to fetch a pail of water…).  Anyway, we received our beloved Jill for Christmas one year, circa 1981.  I was about six or seven years old in the first grade, Nicole the third and Ryan wasn’t in school yet, going into kindergarten the following year.

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Jill enjoying the fall foliage under the grape harbor. 1980s

We had mom’s dog Baby in the house, but Jill was our very own dog, our first one.  The dog we were suppose to share among the three of us, and we did.  Jill was a beautiful mix of Coonhound and Collie.  Basically, she was a blond collie with black fur outlining her features, especially around her ears and eyes.  To us as little kids, she was a huge dog, but in reality she was a medium to large size dog, with a few extra pounds, as many of the Piper dogs sport.

Jill had this bump on the top of her head where her skull came to a point.  In my eyes as a youngster, that meant she was really smart.  Let me tell you, she wasn’t stupid in the slightest.

Jill loved all of us kids, cousins included.  Never, ever, did she nip or snap at us, even when we’d lay on her, chase her around, give her baths, cut her hair and all the basic things kids would do to a dog they adored.  She followed us everywhere, for bike rides, running through the woods, and she’d stay on the porch at my cousin Casey’s (and the crew) while we played in the yard.  Yep, Jill was the best dog who lived.  She stayed with us for a good long while, until I was out of high school sometime.  (Scooby and Seven are pretty good too!)  Jill even hung with Ryan’s dog Jake for many years, but she never got to meet my late cat Pudd’in, but she did have friends who were cats.

Jill LOVED car rides too, like all of our dogs after her.  (Mom’s dog Baby, Jill’s predecessor hated car rides).  Naturally as little kids we couldn’t exactly take the car out for a spin to fulfill her adventurous wish, so I got creative one day.

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A close-up of our beloved Jill. Part collie & part coonhound, she was one of a kind! 1980s

How could a kid roughly ten years old at this point, satisfy the dog’s hunger to feel the wind in her ears and feed her wild side?  Simple.  We acted it out.  I remember this day all too well, probably because it was seriously the silliest thing we’ve done, or close to it, to date.

It started with a beautiful sunny Sunday.  I remembered coming home from church and changing into my play cloths.  Since it wasn’t too hot, I would peg the season to be spring.  These crazy adventures always  started with Ryan and me looking for some trouble to get into.

Opening the door to the car, we thought it was all too funny Jill jumped in and sat down, thinking she was going for a ride.  That’s when I felt terrible for misleading her.  Knowing, mom and dad had no plans of getting in the car and taking her for a ride, I improvised.

I had an idea!  Instructing Ryan to get in the driver’s side and act like he was driving, I stood beside the car and ran back and forth to simulate motion.  Thinking back on this situation now, I truly laugh at that sight!  Ryan really got into it too.  He was motioning like he was shifting gears (mom’s car was a manual transmission) and making loud engine noises.

We even wound down the windows, while Jill sat in the backseat with her head hanging out like she was cruising along.  It even became a race, once Ryan would “rev up the engine” I would run slower behind the back passenger door, like the car was passing me.  Then Ryan would act like he was slowing down, taking that as my cue to speed up to be parallel to the hood of the car, never going too far in either direction.

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Ryan, me & Nicole in the living room. Yes I believe we were fighting over the baton c. 1983

Oh but that was not all!  Ryan turned over the key to get juice to the car without turning on the engine, putting it in accessory mode.  With the electrical components working we were able to add to our quasi driving experience.  Ryan turned on the radio to give me some running music, and him and Jill some driving tunes.  We even thought it was funny to blast the music.  Sometimes Ryan would switch on the windshield wipers.  Great idea until he hit me with over spray with the windshield wiper fluid, although that caused giggles to erupt from both parties.  I bet Jill thought we were a bunch of idiots.  Yet I know she appreciated our sense of humor and our passion for having fun.

Nicole must have heard our ruckus and decided to investigate, finding this unusual behavior exciting.  Being so wrapped up in our activity, all we heard echoing from the porch was “What are you guys doing?” in that same authoritative brush voice of hers that still rings true today.

Would you believe even Nicole got in the car, granted she wouldn’t take turns like Ryan and me running beside the car, but she would sit and pretend to be a passenger or drive.

We were out there for hours, doing the same thing, that is until mom checked in on us and realized we’ve been draining her car battery.  That ended electronic entertainment but the car fun continued.

Eventually, we had to come in for dinner.  Jill jumped out of the car with such enthusiasm and satisfaction it made us all happy.  She loved playing with us, even though the car never left its spot.

Using the imagination is the best way to play!  At least Jill thought so.

Read About Our Other Activities

Playing As Kids – Tire Rolling

 

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

Communication Skills Need Some Work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ts the Little Things that Count to a Child

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

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

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

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

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

Landon-Christmas-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Family Traditions Through Sauerkraut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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