SpyRing is Born – Education Unlocked!

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

Kyle-Piper-smile-SpyRing Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle sporting his SpyRing Gear c. 2011

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

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

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

Aunt Heather Piper SpyRing Trade Show CA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ethan & Kyle playing with the SpyRing cards 2011

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

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

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

SpyRing logo w BP Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

Lego Obsessive or Driven

One essential to success is that your desire be an all-obsessing one, your thoughts and aim be coordinated, and your energy be concentrated and applied without letup.  ~Claude M. Bristol

At-work-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle & mom at Gutchess working 6/2/12

Last weekend Kyle decided he wanted this new Lego. Of course, he is all things Lego and forbid if he didn’t have ALL the Lego’s.  I picked Kyle up after school on Friday and from the minute he walked out the door and got into the car, he started talking about this Lego he wanted, apparently it just came out in May.  Now I will give Kyle credit, as we were in route, my mom called and said a tornado just touched down in Ligonier, not far from where we would be intersecting.  Leaning on the side of cautious, I wanted to be prepared in case a wind cyclone decided to explore the Greater Latrobe area.  Actually, our drive was kind of eerie, there was no wind at all.  Usually with light rain and the warning of a tornado, I would think there would be some wind.  Nope, I was even examining the tree tops, nothing.  No swaying or motion of any kind.  It almost felt like the car was moving faster than reality, or like everything around us was in slow motion.  Now, if there were no cars on the road I would have been a little geeked out, but since there was traffic I felt safer in the numbers.  At one point I thought about deviating to my house, which was closer, to wait out the tornado warning, but eventually chose to maintain our course of action.

Kyle was a trooper, being a worry wart that he is, he kept his cool.  He would toggle between talking about Lego’s and building with his friends and watching the sky for a twister.  What cracks me up, between everything going on in Kyle’s mind, he would randomly manage to say, “Ok Aunt Heather the speed limit is 45, I think we should go 40.”  I wasn’t speeding or coming close, but he wanted to call it out.  Then he started asking me about hydroplaning.  Deviating from the Lego conversation long enough, we talked about driving in snow and rain and uncontrollable dangers.  I told him, “Wait till you start driving, I’ll teach you to drive in the snow and ice like Gigi taught me.  She took me to the mall late at night when the weather wasn’t great and let me speed through the parking lot and slam on my breaks and slide around till I gained control.”  He gave me a shocked looked.  I said, “Doing that taught me how the car feels when sliding and how to counter act the steering wheel.  There wasn’t anyone in close proximity and we had the space to slide around without getting hurt or doing damage.  That was the best lesson I’ve had on driving.”  Then I probably went into too many details, cause I mentioned “You will have to react in a car situation, whether it be sliding on ice, snow or hydroplaning and I want you to be as prepared as possible to react without freaking out.  It’s unavoidable, it will happen to you a least once.”  He looked like a deer in headlights.  So maybe that’s why every time we turned onto another road, he informed me of the speed limit.  At one point, there was no designated sign and he said, “O no Aunt Heather I’m just not sure what speed we should be at?”  I smiled and told him “Sometimes you just have to use common sense.  I think since it’s raining, the roads are slick and there is a possibility of a twister, let’s be safe and take it slower.”  He concurred.

Once we made it home safe and sound, and he was ensured his Gigi and Pappy were safe, Kyle started again over the Lego’s.  It went on ALL night.  In fact, at one point he started pouting because he couldn’t see how he could possibly raise enough money over the weekend to pay for this $100 Lego that he had to have on Monday, for the last day of school.  Now me being me, and not a sensitive person, especially talking about a kid who has way too much, I kind of ignored him and reiterated that most kids don’t have as much as he has, not to mention the amount of Lego’s he’s acquired over the years.  In fact, I yelled at him to stop pouting. Ya right, I don’t know what good that did, it’s like asking a kid to sit still, it will never happen.  Well, it didn’t, Kyle continued to mope and sit in his own self pity, which really struck a cord with me.

Kyle-counting-money-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle counting his money for the new iPod Touch 64 GB

However, by the next morning Kyle must have had an epiphany, because he was on a mission to find or earn that money, no matter what.  He was driven, starting at 6:00 in morning.  I think I’ve mentioned it before, we are morning risers, so I was up around 5:00 am or so and his early morning rise is not shock me.  Actually, he usually asks me to get him up as soon as I get up, knowing I don’t let my head stay on the pillow for too long after the sun rises.  From the minute we turned on the lights and made our way to the couch, he stared plotting and planing out his mission.  He began to fulfill his quest by outlining the work he wanted to do and by digging up money, from everywhere.  Even the good old pig got a shaking, where he found another $30.  My sister asked me how can that be, and to be honest I have no idea.  I thought he wiped out the pig when the iPod Touch…Mission Accomplished! was purchased, but I guess he kept some money in reserves.  If only our government could learn a lesson from my ten year old nephew, so when the money is needed the pig isn’t drained dry and earning the money through good old work isn’t out of the question.

Kyle approached my mom and dad regarding work to earn enough resources for the Lego.  Ironically, mom was going into work on Saturday to get caught up and she had a ton of filing that needed addressed.  Perfect job for Kyle, learn the workings of an office, spend some time with his Gigi and get my mom organized!  On a side note, I have no idea why there is so much filing, I guess they never heard of digital files and servers verses paperwork, but whatever.  He even learned what an adding machine was, although I’m not sure who still uses those.

Throughout the day, Kyle did dishes, dusting, sweeping, and he even offered to stack wood.  In the rain no doubt!  That I had to speak up and say no, not while it was raining.  But I’ll tell ya what?  He did it!  Between earning and finding the money he had enough for his Lego.  Now starts the true obsessing.  First of all, ALL day long on Saturday that’s ALL I heard about and moving into Sunday.  Kyle went with me to take the dogs for our weekly hike through the woods.  For three miles that’s all I heard about, the Lego he wanted, and how he planned to bring it to the last day of school on Monday, for him and his friend Jacob to build.  I’m glad he was excited, but come on Kyle!  He seriously couldn’t focus on anything else. Nothing!  So for an hour and a half of our hike, plus the remainder of the day Kyle talked about this Lego and all it’s parts and how much money he had and how much he needed.  I was getting tired of it.  I’m not saying that I don’t get excited about things but even mom had to agree, that as kids we were never this obsessed.

Lego-cake-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle's Lego ice-cream cake when he turned 10 7/2011

Finally by Sunday morning, I started to loose it.  I said, “Kyle we are not a family that is revolved around money and I don’t want to hear it any more.  You have enough Lego’s and you’re lucky I’m entertaining the idea of you spending the money for this toy!”  He instantly said, “Ya I know Aunt Heather but I just really want to build it and show Jacob my new Lego.”  He mentioned that Jacob got a new Lego too, but he couldn’t imagine how he got the money for the purchase, he said, “He must have earned the money some how, but I don’t how.”  Really?  Was that his concern?  I don’t think so, it was the idea of a new Lego.  Again, I’m happy for his happiness but give it a rest already.

Kyle even planned out when I was going to take him to the store on Sunday.  This was my last straw.  Except, I stood corrected when mom and I were waiting for Kyle in the car after church, he had to serve.  She mentioned that if he was good, she would run him over to the store to see if they had the Lego.  So now I was forced to fulfill mom’s promise to encourage her grandson’s fixation.  Using church to prove my point is not the right thing to do, but I wanted to prove a point.  Once Kyle got in the car I asked him “What was the reading about?”.  I’ll be darned, he told me about the Gospel, in detail, paraphrasing of course.  I was truly impress, assuming his one-tracked mind was focused on all things Lego during the entire mass.  I must admit I was very impressed, and proud of him!  Kyle was able to focus when the opportunity arose, either that or he was in cohorts with God to prove me wrong.

Once we walked the isles of the store looking for THE Lego, Kyle’s face turned into one big frown.  They didn’t have it.  But did that stop Kyle? No!  Once we got home he began to do his investigation and found which stores locally had the toy.  Not only did he get the skinny on the whereabouts of this coveted piece of plastic pieces, but he also started to check prices and print coupons.  O my goodness, nothing was going to stop him and he was going to save money while he was at it!

We’ll needless to say my mom did eventually take him to the store and alas to his disappointment,

Logan-Kyle-&-Seth-Aunt-Heather-Piper-

Logan, Kyle & Seth first day of school - 5th grade 8/2011

Toys-R-Us didn’t have it.  Mom had to place an order and have it mailed to the house.  So when they got back, Kyle started to worry if it would rain on the day the box arrived, in case no one was home to receive it.  He said, “The directions would get all wet and would be ruined.  Then I won’t be able to put the blocks together as per the instructions.”  O my!  I rolled my eyes, sighed and walked away, all patience spent for a year.

I wonder if Kyle is just driven or is he obsessed?  He most certainly has drive to him, that much I will admit but he seems to go overboard.  Of course, driven and successful people seem to have this quality when they are passionate about something.  Now I have to figure out a way to hone all this energy and drive that Kyle exudes, and put it towards good.  Maybe he is in training to work for Lego someday.

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

Information or Tattling – Truth or Fiction

I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.  ~Abraham Lincoln

Kyle-on-his-bike---Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle on his beloved tricycle. He's wearing the Polar Bear book bag I got him in Alaska. c. 2003

Two Sunday nights ago, I finished reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  It’s a period piece written during the early 1960’s dealing with segregation and civil rights in Jackson, Mississippi.  Now I never saw the movie yet, but I can tell you the book spoke volumes.  There are so many conflicts I can’t even begin to count, husband verses wife, maid verses bossy white lady, inner struggles, and struggles between right and wrong.  With all this going on and the changing times, what bothered me the most were the lies.  The main character had to lie to her family, boyfriend and best friends about all the time she spent on the typewriter.  Not only that, people lie to themselves about situations when they turned a blind eye, or just sit back and did nothing in the face of injustice.  I think that’s the worst, standing by while someone tells a lie and not even interjecting or rectifying the untruth.  Lies can come in many forms and fashions such as exaggerations, ignorance, silence or skirting around the truth.

The Help Aunt Heather PiperAs I read, I couldn’t help but feel this overwhelming pride for Kyle.  He has shown to be an ethical young man.  Of course how can he not, since we don’t lie in our house.  In fact, we are pretty brutally honest, probably to an extreme.  Now, I am not naive enough to not realize that Kyle can be and will be, influenced by others, but through the eyes of my family, being caught in a lie would be the worst disappointment ever and Kyle wouldn’t be able to handle that kind of stress!  Now I’m not saying I never told a lie, I’m no Abraham Lincoln.  But I will say that I’ve never directly lied to my parents.  I may have not mentioned everything and chose to leave out key details, but I will say with confidence if they ever thought to ask me, I would have told them the truth.  Off the top of my head, I remember when I was in high school I wasn’t allowed to go to concerts.  I really wanted to go and see The Cure with my friends, Tree and Maggie.  Well, I fixed that.  I had my parents drop me off at my friends house and their mother took us to the concert, which by-the-way rocked!  All I told my parents was that I was spending the night at Tree’s.  Case closed!  No questions asked, no issue.  What was funny and kind of stupid on my part, I walked around the next day in my new Cure concert T-shirt, but no questions were raised, probably because mom and dad don’t pay attention to things like that, and at the time my sister was in college.  She would have busted me for sure and called it out to my parents in a heartbeat.  Even though I was being slightly reckless, I always told my brother where I was going and what I was up to, just in case of an emergency.  Making that pack, we would never tell on each other, we actually would brag about what each one got away with, that’s another story.  Does this make the situation right?  No!  But you live and learn.

pap-kyle-spitting-at-Idlewild-2004-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Pap was teaching Kyle to spit. Idlewild 8/2004

I would never want Kyle to act as I have, but if that’s the worst he could ever do, then I think he’ll be just fine.  Admittingly, the worst lie that I have ever been involved in, was merely my presence of just standing by, letting someone tell a lie and not correcting them or making the real truth known.  Unfortunately, this has happened to me more times than I truly care to admit.  Either I didn’t say anything because I didn’t want to stir up trouble, or the lie was a mix of truth and exaggeration, or I didn’t want the person committing the infraction to be called under the carpet.  What’s worse, and I have been known to do this a time or two, is my re-iteration of an “exaggeration” initially told by someone else.   I sometimes bring it up again to give that person a second chance to rectify themselves , it’s kind of my way of making fun, and calling out that I know, they are full of crap.  Regardless, it’s not right, even if the other party doesn’t even realize the taunting.  It’s actually very sad.

Although, Kyle kind of takes telling the truth to an extreme, meaning he will throw you under the bus in a heartbeat.  Example, dad and Kyle went to the grocery store and came back with some goodies.  You know, Nestle’s Drumsticks, apple pie and a mini cupcakes.  I said, “We don’t need these! Dad why did you get pie?”  Kyle flew around the corner to address my question before the sound of my voice reached the living-room where dad was sitting.  He answered me as if he had rehearsed what he was going to say in anticipation of the question.  He proceeds to speak very deliberately and directly to me saying, “I told pap we didn’t need these and he said we could have a little treat.  Aunt Heather I didn’t pick them out, pappy put them in the cart”  As I was digesting Kyle’s attempt to isolate dad’s shopping decisions, I began cracking up!  As I walked into the living-room, I noticed the look on dad’s face and realized he heard the entire conversation.  Dad just sat there chuckling over Kyle’s account of the situation.  Laughing, dad said rhetorically, “Ya you didn’t want cookies either?”  Then looked at me and said, “I guess I’m in trouble.”  We found it extremely funny while Kyle was still very serious in his confession and was willing to stand by it.  You go buddy!  Fact is fact.

Informing Tattling Aunt Heather PiperI’m glad Kyle has developed this innate desire to always keep the facts straight and the truth told.  However, I do feel that much like me, he might stand by and let an “exaggeration” slip through, or worse a downright lie.   If I know Kyle, this will eat at him, but he also doesn’t like conflict or issues, especially if it directly involves him.  Sometimes Kyle does tend to exaggerate a bit when telling his accounts of a story.  Or the opposite, when he runs and taddle-tails like he is the justice police.  Now-a-days, mom picks Kyle up off of the bus on Friday’s, however I used to pick him up at daycare to bring him home.  Once he told my mom, “Gigi, Aiya drives a race car.  She goes back and forth.” all while making a side to side motion as if demonstrating my changing lanes.  Now on my defense I have always been extremely careful driving when my little Narrow is in the car. He’s always been the precious package. Of course I should never Under Estimate What a Child Knows or what they perceive to be reality.

I guess I can only pray for Kyle to always do the right thing, and in the meantime I will continue to try and set a good example for him.

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

ipod Touch…Mission Accomplished!

If you’re not learning while you’re earning, you’re cheating yourself out of the better portion of your compensation.  ~Napoleon Hill

Kyle-at-Apple-Store-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle with is new ipod Touch, Apple Store Shady Side 5/2/12

Nothing is as rewarding as working toward a goal and reaching it.  Kyle has been working hard to collect, earn, and find enough money to upgrade his ipod Touch 4th generation 8GB.  Well, needless to say he did it, in record time might I add, within a week’s time frame.  Kyle saved the four hundred dollars, plus the tax for his new ipod Touch 4th generation 64GB.  He had his eyes on the prize and saw the finish line.  As of this past weekend Kyle re-counted his money to show me he was ready to go shopping.  He even said, “Aunt Heather could you count the money too to make sure it’s all there?” I said, “Nope, you are pretty good at math and I trust you can count accurately.”  He looked at me and nodded in a confident way with his little smirk.

On Saturday morning, my sister called and started to negotiate with him for his current ipod Touch.  Being on speaker phone, I heard the deals fly.  His mission was to get one hundred dollars for the 8GB device, while my sister’s mission was to teach Kyle about dickering back-and-forth.  I could tell he wasn’t quite getting it, then I had to step in and help the poor little guy out.  Nicole said, “Ok does the case come with it?”  Kyle looked down at his three dollar case and didn’t know how to answer her.  I stepped in and said, “The case is yours.”  He looked at me shocked! I said, Kyle I’ll get you another case, it’s minimal.  He nodded in agreement.  Nicole retorted, “Are there scratches?  What kind of shape is it in?”  Kyle tried by saying, “It’s in good shape, there are some scratches on the back.”  I couldn’t help myself, Kyle seemed like a sinking ship.  I said, “It’s the new 4th generation ipod in the coveted white.  The ipod just came out this past November and he got it for Christmas, so its only five months old and in great condition.”  That was an understatement, Kyle took very good care of his ipod.  Nicole started laughing and said, “I’m suppose to be negotiating with Kyle!”  I interjected again, “He needs a little help” as I gave Kyle a wink and a grin.  He takes the cue and said, “Ya Aunt Nikki, I looked online and I can get up to one hundred fifty dollars for the white one like mine.”  I heard her giggling in pride and amusement.  Nicole gave Kyle one last effort, “Ok does it come with a cord and wall charger?”  Kyle looked at me like ‘Help I don’t know what to say?’.  You see I got Kyle the wall charger separately, like his case.  Giving him the biggest ornery grin I had in me, and speaking very deliberately into the phone, I said, “You send us a hundred dollar check and get it to us by Wednesday we’ll give you the ipod, the case, the cord and the wall charger.”  Then Kyle interjected by saying, “Ya Aunt Nikki or cash.”  That’s my buddy!!!  I about died laughing when I heard that came out of his mouth.  I told Kyle we can take a check from Aunt Nikki since she’s mailing it and she’s a trusted source.  Nicole wrapped it up by saying, “Alright deal.”  Kyle smiled ear to ear, being excited about his negotiation skills and the thought of that new ipod in his hands by this past Wednesday.

Kyles-final-tally-sheet-Aunt-Heather-PiperNow Kyle wanted to know when I was going to take him to get his new device that was going to give him freedom to store eight times the ‘stuff’ in the palm of his hand.  Since he’s going into surgery this Saturday, he wanted his new ipod before he goes under.  I don’t blame him, that’s something good to look forward to, in the face of the hospital and doctors.  I also didn’t want him to take swimming this past Wednesday, right before surgery, so that’s when we both concocted the plan of ipod shopping.  How could I say no to all his efforts and hard work.

Obviously we could have ordered the ipod online, went to Best Buy, Target, Wal Mart or any of the local stores, but instead I wanted him to have a true apple experience.  I took Kyle to the Apple store in Shady Side, Pittsburgh.  I don’t really get to go into the city very often and I know Kyle has never been to Shady Side, so I thought it might be a nice little trip, something different.

On the way down, I had to stop and get gas in the car, treating this like a true adventure.  As we were at Sheetz fueling up, with overpriced gas might I add, Kyle decided he wanted an MTO.  We sat at the picnic tables outside the convenience store.  Kyle ate and I continued quizzing him on his history homework, knowing we wouldn’t be getting back till later and he had a Social Studies test the next day.  Also keep in mind, before this point, I had Kyle reading over his questions in the car.  Then that brings me to what happened next.  After he ate his wrap and smuffin, I kept quizzing until he looked a little green.  I said, “What’s wrong buddy?” and he placed his hand over his stomach and said, “I’m just feeling a little sick. Kind of like I’m going to throw up.”  Wow!  This happened quick, one moment he was fine all excited about our trip and now he is ready to blow chunks.  Kyle made a very good observation that it was pretty hot out and I tend to get sick too in the heat too.  “Ok, let’s get in the air conditioned car, please throw away the garbage and I’ll get you some cold water.” was all I got out before I turned toward his direction and saw the same food that was just ingested being upchucked into the trash can.  Yikes!  I ran and got him water and eventually moved him into the air conditioning.

Kyle-with-ipod-Touch-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle opening his purchase, Apple Store Shady Side 5/2/12

Now it was time to make some hard and fast decisions.  “Kyle are you ok?”, he quickly retorted with a “Ya, I’m alright, I think it was the heat.”
“Do you want me to take you home?”
“Ya, maybe. Can we get my ipod before Saturday?”
“No Kyle, we have your baseball game tomorrow night, (referring to Thursday) and then you have guitar and piano lessons are Friday.”
“O, Ok, well then let’s just go now, I’m feeling better.”
“No, if you’re not feeling well, we can get it another time, you have an ipod to play with, I think you’ll be fine.”
“Um, ya but let’s just go now.  I’m feeling a lot better Aunt Heather.  I think it was also me reading when we were driving.”
Now that I know he was feeling all right, I did mention, “Kyle do you chew your food?  It looked like the entire smuffin in the trash, like you didn’t even bite into it.”  He gave me the Kyle grin and we both laughed.  I said, “Ok I guess the Battle at Tippecanoe and the War of 1812 are going to have to wait.”

After I made Kyle go in the bathroom and wash his hands and rinse out his mouth, I also had him get a piece of fruit to eat.  We got back in the car, cranked on the a/c and headed west toward out destination.  He was fine after that and started to become really excited the closer we got.  Naturally like a proud aunt, I video taped the experience and took a few pictures while I was there.

As we approached the store, Kyle saw the apple logo hovering over the doors welcoming us into our very own apple experience.  I let Kyle lead the charge; after all it was his money, his purchase, and his choice. As always the apple employees are seriously the nicest and most helpful, welcoming us as if we are their most cherished customers.  Kyle gave the young lady direction on what he wanted and they went right to work.  He picked the white one, fitting to replace his last one.  I tried to stay out his way and let him make the complete transaction.  But then I noticed after he gave Ashley, our personal apple assistant for the time being, all the details, he started to play a game on one of the demo models like no body else existed in the store.  What?   Like he’s never played a game on an ipod before!

Eventually, I managed to peel him away from the game long enough to pick out a new case and sign the receipt.  We were even going to have them set Kyle up, but he never backed up his purchases to the icloud and he forgot his ipod at home, which is strange because he drags that thing around with him everywhere.

After we walked around and got some answers to my questions, we exited the store in the same friendly fashion as we entered.  Then we decided to walk around Shady Side.  Kyle decided he was hungry, well naturally he really didn’t have a dinner.  We saw a few different places, one being a frozen yogurt place and I convinced Kyle to get some real food first, then if he wanted we could come back.  Kyle picked the place, Cappy’s.  Through dinner Kyle was talking to my sister and he she must have asked were are we eating because all I hear Kyle say, ‘Crabs, no I mean, crepes’ followed by some serious laughing on his part.  Then he looked at me and said, “Where are we?” and I quickly answered, knowing what he was trying to get to, “Cappy’s”.  He thought that was the funniest thing, he couldn’t stop laughing about being tongue tied Tim, even after he hung up the phone.

After dinner I fulfilled my promise and took Kyle to Happy Berry for his make-your-own frozen yogurt sundae.  We sat there sharing the bowl, that he made to reach the ceiling, and studied his homework.  He did a great job answering the questions.  Some lady overheard us and told us that she remembers missing the trick question, ‘What year was the war of 1812?’  Kyle just smiled like ‘really lady?’ but was polite and didn’t say anything.

We eventually made our way back to the car and headed in the opposite direction we came from.  Kyle played with his new ipod Touch the entire way.  You know I had an absolutely delightful evening with Kyle.  He is a great kid indeed!

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

Influence and Association

Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.  ~Napoleon Hill

Kyle-in-hospital-11-18-03 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle playing cars in Latrobe Area Hospital 11/18/03

Sometimes I forget how much our actions and unconscious decisions influence Kyle.  Not to mention he is a bit of a habitual person. Example.  It seems now Sunday nights have become our time to sit and read at my house. I mean no TV on, no distractions, just enjoyable reading time, squished in a chair in my living-room.  Another Example. Going for a walk doesn’t generally mean going down the hill.  It means traveling up the hill with the dogs for a walk through the woods. Another example. Me picking Kyle up during the week, means heading straight to swimming lessons, then to my house for dinner and work on homework before returning him.  I’m sure there are many more scenarios, but I couldn’t help but notice that this has always been Kyle’s way.

Did you know that up until about a year or so ago, when we would make a trip to Giant Eagle for groceries, Kyle instantly thought of the Eagle’s Nest and playing in the kids room? That was his hang out.  In fact, he would beg us to take him to Giant Eagle so he could play in the designated area, which was monitored and very safe so a parent didn’t have to worry while grocery shopping.  All the workers knew him by name, even when they’d run into us locally, completely unrelated.  Once my sister was home with Kyle, and she called me at work to say she doesn’t know what to do.  You see, she didn’t need anything else at Giant Eagle but she was told, by one Mr. Kyle Piper, to take a long time in the store.  Nicole’s solution, to call me at work since she was bored and didn’t want to rush Kyle.  We still laugh about that one to this day!  Giant Eagle did a great job with their Eagle’s Nest and their employees!  Kyle has since outgrown the age whereas he is not permitted in the Eagle’s Nest, but I do see him checking out the room every-now-and-again.

While I’m thinking about it, I’m going to step back in time when Kyle was just a little guy.  When he would play with his matchbox cars and Thomas the Tank train sets.  Kyle had this blue metal truck that was slightly larger than a matchbox car.  I don’t know where he got it, but he loved playing with that truck.  Actually, that truck would always make its appearance on the sidelines of Kyle’s play activity, usually while playing with Thomas the Tank.  He would specifically seek out the truck and have it sit there to watch all the other toys act out the imagination of Kyle.  You see, when dad become sick and couldn’t work for a short period of time, dad would pick Kyle up every Thursday and we’d keep him throughout the weekend till Sunday night.  Since I was in school during the day and mom was working, dad would spend all day Thursday and Friday with Kyle, who was still in his diapers.  Wow! I can’t believe he has gotten so big!  Anyway, one of their favorite pastimes was to go to Latrobe Airport and watch the planes take off and land.  I know Kyle would look for the helicopter, since again he was a fan of Thomas the Tank.  Harold the helicopter was a character on the show and Kyle just loved him.  Ironically, dad and Kyle sat in dad’s blue truck watching the activity while the day flew past.  What is really interesting about his weekly ritual, is the impact it had on Kyle.  Even years later Kyle looked favorably on that little metal blue truck.

By the time Kyle was around three or four years old I got him a Finding Nemo toy cell phone.  He always loved my phone so I thought he might like his own.  One time when I was driving and he was in the backseat, at the time in his car seat, he opened his Nemo phone and started talking.  I laughed so hard listening to him have an imaginary conversation with my sister.  He even said, “Ya I’m good, I’m with Ahia in her car.  When [are] you coming home?”  I couldn’t help but ask him, “Who are you talking to?” and then I heard him speak back into the phone, saying “Aunt Nitti, hold on” He moved the mouth piece of the phone out of the way to respond, “Aunt Nitti”.  Of course what was I thinking.  He even concluded the conversation by saying, “Ok talk to you later. Bye.”  You see at the time, my sister lived in Tucson, Arizona and similar to today, she called Kyle a lot to stay in touch.  Plus, I’m sure it made my sister feel closer to home through the conversations with Kyle.  I mean how she could she not?  Kyle always brightened up our days, even through a simple phone call.

Kyle-YMCA-drawing-Aunt-Heather-PiperAs Kyle got older, actually for his fifth birthday, being the practical one, I got him swimming lessons.  Taking him to swimming lessons once a week, every week throughout the year, even to present day.  Kyle was not a kid that drew a lot but when he did, sometimes he would draw me pictures of the swimming pool and him at one end and me watching at the other side, just like he sees it.  He always drew a blue square and placed a letter ‘K’ on one side, later it was his full name as he got older, and a letter ‘H’ on the other side of the blue square.  Over the years he’s made me dozens of those pictures, which I’ve kept, being my prize possessions.  I loved it!  I guess those swimming lessons and our time together really mean something to Kyle.  You know, I believe they still do to this day.

Even in the face of an emergency, Kyle still makes a clear association with specific places.  One summer about four or five years ago we were cutting down trees and clearing out brush from my backyard.  Of course Kyle was there, “assisting”.  The night before dad bought a new hatchet.  Keep in mind, for some reason Kyle was instantly infatuated with the brand new hatchet.  That morning, dad decided to teach Kyle about safety with the tool, using both hands on the handle so he doesn’t chop off a finger, not running with it, setting it down correctly etc.  I agree with dad, you can’t just expect kids to know how to do something as an adult, you have to teach them and ease them into experience while they are monitored.  Well, we just dropped an oak tree, which was covered in leaves and branches.  It was a beautiful tree that I would have kept, except it was too close to my house.  It was fun walking through the mighty oak as it laid on the ground like a maze inviting others to join in.  At that moment, Dad was sharpening his chain saw to prepare to chop it up in manageable sizes for firewood.  Kyle decided to adventure through the branches of the fallen tree with the hatchet.  Now on Kyle’s defense he was not doing anything he wasn’t allowed to do.  He decided he wanted to help his pappy out by chopping at a branch.  But what no one ever anticipated was the variable of Kyle’s sweaty hands.  You see it was in the middle of August in the middle of the day. HOT!  As Kyle chopped, the hatchet flew out of his sweaty little palms and it landed in his shin.  Yep, Kyle gave himself a nice big gash.  Not life threatening, but scary no doubt.  As dad and I drove him to the emergency room for stitches he began to worry that he was going to have to spend the night.  What?  You see for the first few years of Kyle’s life, he was in and out of the hospital with ear infections, pneumonia, tonsillitis and the list goes on.  So in his mind the hospital trip meant not just a visit, but a stay.  That broke my heart!  I think he only got about five stitches.  After the stitches were in place Dad shook Kyle’s hand and said, “Welcome to the club.”  At that moment Kyle smiled and was kind of proud, later bragging about his stitches.  Dad and I are both in that club and Kyle knew it.

Kyle continues to surprise me with this association to specific actions or activities.  About a month ago, Kyle was not feeling well, in fact he was up all night, I could tell he was achy.  I thought since he was perking up a bit, it was a good time to take an easy walk up through the woods, getting him out of the house, stretching his legs and taking in some fresh air.  Well about halfway through the trip, Kyle was clearly not well.  In fact, he said he felt like he was ready to vomit.  I could tell he was weak and dehydrated, since he was not sweating in the slightest, very unusual for Kyle.  I got him home and started to push water in him, to remove any dehydration issues and to alleviate his headache.  Would you believe that the very next weekend when we began on our weekly voyage through the woods, Kyle brought up that trek?  He said, “Aunt Heather, I don’t think that was a good idea to go hiking last time since I was still feeling sick.  I thought I was better, but I wasn’t.”  I still feel horrible for misjudging his state of health, and I would have to agree with his assessment of the previous adventure.  In fact, Kyle still brings that day up to me, not holding it against me, but just remembering it and making it known.

My little man, I pray that I never do or say anything that Kyle associates with me in a truly negative manner.  I hope he always thinks of me with happiness and love, even if I do royally screw up, which is inevitable.  But everything I do, I try to do with Kyle’s best interest in mind and out of love and respect for him.

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

Teaching with Patience

If the child is not learning the way you are teaching, then you must teach in the way the child learns
-Rita Dunn

As with any child, sometimes they can really truly impress you… and sometime not… and sometimes both.

Kyle was great this past weekend, except for the usual sock argument (no sock fits him perfectly to his liking) before we went hiking through the woods. He read a chapter in his Bionicle book, he completed two pages in his grammar workbook, practiced his piano and guitar and annihilated his multiplication flash cards. I took him roller skating and we watched a couple movies, Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief and Alvin & the Chipmunks the Squeakquel. Kyle even let me work with minimal interruptions while I built a website. Sounds like a nice relaxing weekend with my little man- well it was!

However, more my fault than his, Kyle did mention that he had a little bit of studying to do for Social Studies. To be honest, he told me on Friday night and I totally forgot. So I didn’t think to get his book bag out on Saturday while we were doing his other homework assigned by me. Well, lo and behold, Sunday came, Kyle had CCD class and we went to church. Then, mid-way through the day, I asked him to get out his book bag, thinking that his homework was a quick review. I was wrong! He had 12 states and their capitals to memorize along with worksheet questions. Normally Kyle is ahead of the game and when he says he has a little bit of studying, it means a quick review. Well, note to self, that’s not always the case…

I started to quiz him on the states and capitals, and nothing! He really had no idea, like he’d never heard of the capitals before. Well, considering it was 5:30ish on Sunday afternoon and we had to leave by 7:30ish to get him back, plus he needed to take his nightly shower, I started to stress and get frustrated. Yep, PANIC, which I usually don’t do because I believe children can pick up on it and I don’t think it’s healthy. I was stressed because I didn’t want him to do poorly on his test and it was my fault for not being more proactive. What made the situation more frustrating was Kyle’s lack of focus and screwing around and not paying attention. Yikes! I know I’m not one to talk about being focused, but it wasn’t my grade that was on the line. There are some traits and habits that I have influenced Kyle with, which make me proud. Then, there are those bad habits or personality traits he possesses and I wish I could hit the delete key on his DNA file. Focusing is one of them.

I started to go through the list asking him the states and expecting to get the capitals as a response – nope. I had him continue to repeat after me, but then he was mumbling under his breath, which was making me mad. Then I decided to change it up and I started to ask him the capitals, expecting to get the states – nope. He was just huffing his breath and being a bit of a smarty-pants, cocky child, which made me even more mad. Then he would look around and be distracted with something he picked up, etc. This happened until my dad yelled. Then Kyle was like, “What? I don’t know what the answer is pap pap.” Dad was getting mad too. But Kyle was in the mood to be difficult. Granted, it was late on Sunday and he was ready to retire for the day, not worry about capitals.

Then I started to choose the first three states and kept quizzing him on those three, back and forth, state, capital, capital, state. He started to get better, but I could see it was not clicking. I made him stand there and give me the answers. I have found in the past that when Kyle is having difficulty concentrating, standing gets the blood moving to the cranium cavity and makes him more alert. Did it work? NOPE! I was at my wits end. I realized there had to be another way to get through to this child to help him out, without the yelling, without taking away privileges, to accomplish what’s important, educating Kyle.

Then God must have felt my pain, because I got the idea to write down the states and capitals as flash cards. You see, I don’t just quiz Kyle on the states and have him answer me on the capitals; I make him know it both ways. I’ve always been like that with his homework to ensure he really understands the material. Well, as soon as we went through the flash cards once, he was on fire! In Kyle’s true fashion, he likes a little bit of competition. I had my mom sit there to yell out the answers too and I told Kyle I wanted to see who was going to have to do the dishes… Gigi or him. He was so focused and on it!

Sometimes, it’s not just the child, or their focus or their intelligence, but the teacher. And it is my job as the “teacher” to help him the best way that benefits him. I am thankful that I didn’t completely lose my patience or give up on him. In fact, while he was being difficult, I would reiterate that I loved him very much and I want him to succeed. I also said that this was very uncharacteristic of him, he usually gets his homework on the first try. I told him I knew he was more than smart enough to memorize the capitals and their corresponding states.

I must say, through this exercise, Kyle cracked me up. Every time he would say South Dakota’s capital, Pierre, he would say Perrier, like the sparkling water…LOL and even better every time he would say Iowa’s capital, Des Moines he would say Des Money, Des Moinmoneys etc. I couldn’t help myself, he was just too cute. I would politely correct him and then an even better version of the capital would come from his mouth. But he was being serious and wanted to do well.

I did call Kyle on Monday, usually we have swimming lessons after school but it was snowing pretty hard and the roads were slick. I asked him how he did. He said, “I may have missed one, but except for that, it was perfect.” I told him how proud I was of him and that I would pass the word along to Gigi, Pappy, and Aunt Nikki. He then said, “Ya and I got 3 A’s on my reading too!” I said, “Wow, you had a great day!” He was proud of himself, he was also thinking he should be expecting some sort of toy or game from the family for his efforts… I know how that child operates. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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