Home Away From Home – Parker Dam

Home is where the heart is.  ~Pliny the Elder


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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Read other adventures at Parker Dame

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

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

Gone Fishing!

Each time you step off your path and give someone an act of kindness…then your road to happiness just to a little smoother.  ~Donna A. Favors


Marty, Jenny & Jimmy Singer beating the rain at the Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/11/13

This past weekend, yes Mother’s Day weekend, was the 24th Annual Louise Planinsek Fishing Derby.  This much anticipated event, is talked about and prepared for all year long.  It’s one of those activities that is automatically added to the calendar and you plan around, taking priority over everything else.

On a side note, happy late Mother’s Day to all those mother’s, guardians, role models, and anyone who has nurtured, raised and helped make a difference in the life of a child.


Kyle trying to crack a smile at the Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/11/13

Friday night, me, mom and Kyle headed up to the Fishing Derby with our covered dishes.  I made brownies and Kyle requested my pasta salad.  We sat around the bonfire eating, drinking and chit chatting with everyone.  Some individuals I see every week in church, and some I see once a year.  Regardless, it’s always a good time with a great group of friends and family.

At this time, we usually pitch the tent, set up our camping gear and get out our fishing stuff.  However, this year I did not brave the rain and thunder storms.  I wimped out and broke the news to Kyle that we were going to be sleeping in our warm beds, under the protection of the roof.  He didn’t seem very thrilled with arrangement, but when he saw most others had the same idea, he reluctantly went along with the game plan.  Originally, Casey and his family invited Kyle to stay in their tent.  But with the threat of high winds, severe rains and thunder and lightening, camping indoors became the trend.  I can handle camping out when it’s cold and such, but when the skies are screaming and barreling in like a freight train, and the electricity is turning night into day, camping under trees on the ground is not not my cup of tea.  Although, Beth Planinsek informed me that everyone is instructed to camp out for the 25th Anniversary Fishing Derby next year.  For a special occasion like that one, I’m game and I’m sure Kyle won’t complain.


Dave (Boo) Planinsek, Shaun Rodgers, Jimmy Singer at the Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/11/13

The kids ran around playing dodge ball until it got dark, then they started playing tag.  Kyle came up to me and said, “Boy Aunt Heather, it gets hard to play tag in the dark, especially when I don’t have my glasses on.  Sometimes you have to tag someone even if you’re really not sure if they are playing or not.”  I laughed at that statement thinking, ‘Wonder who he tagged that wasn’t playing?’  I love seeing Kyle running around, playing with other kids, and I mean playing hard.  Abandoning all electronic devices and games and running in the mud and dirt with a game of old fashion tag.  That is what being a kid is all about!


Kyle finally caught a sun fish. Pappy is always on hand to help. Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/11/13

Bob Dowler, longtime neighbor of the Planinsek’s, (his parents owned Sugarbush restaurant) made the popcorn in the big iron kettle on the fire.  The best popcorn ever!  Kyle assisted him in years past, but this year he was burning off a year’s worth of energy.  Eddie who was seated by mom administered the bag and Lori managed the salt.  They cracked me up!  That family is too much!

Before long, mom and I wanted to call it a night, yet we didn’t want to put a damper on Kyle’s fun, so I took mom home and had Kyle call me when he was ready.   Sure enough, as soon as I got home, which was only a five minute drive, Kyle called and said he was ready.  So back up over the ridge I drove, to pick up my little package.  Not that I mind at all.  He was getting out in the fresh air and hanging with a good bunch of kids.


Jimmy, Nina & Lisa hanging out at the Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/11/13

While winding down for the evening, Kyle instructed us that we, were to be up at 6:00 am, allowing us enough time to get ready and be back at the Planinsek Pavilion when breakfast was served at 7:00 am.  No worries, we are all morning people and usually I get up between 5:00 am and 6:00 am every day, anyway.  The hardest part of the evening was getting my “cruddy” nephew into the shower before he fell asleep in front of the fireplace.


Kyle pouting while Olivia looks on. Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/11/13

Reluctantly, Kyle got up a little after 6:00 am, with some assistance from my dad and the dogs.  He was tried!  All the cool air and running around really knocked him down, in a good way.  Slowly but surely, we packed up the car and headed to our all day destination.  Mom and dad, who were really slow moving, met us later.

Earlier in the week, dad purchased Kyle’s bait so once we packed up the car we were good to go.  Before departing, Dad gave Kyle direction where to set up his fishing spot, to the left of the pond.  We were ready!

Once 8:00 am rolled around, all the activity from the night before resumed, kids buzzing around, adults gabbing and shooting the breeze, people eating and setting up their fishing spots.    Love the Fishing Derby!


Casey holding son Owen Olczak. Dave (Boo) in the background at the Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/11/13

The Derby officially starts at 9:00 am.  As part of the announcements, they gave a moment of silence to Robert Scavnicky, “Bobby”.  He pass away on December 15, 2012 at the age of 60.  They gave a very nice heartfelt account of Bobby’s life and his contributions to the Fishing Derby.  Being a member of Sacred Heart Church, and living on the Planinsek ridge, I knew Bobby.  Mostly in passing and to see him at the Fishing Derby and other local events.  He was always a truly nice guy.  That’s what I can sincerely say, he was a nice guy, very warming and welcoming and laid back.  Mom and dad knew him well and have always talked highly of him.  I can see why.  In fact, technically Bobby was my mom’s step brother, if you will.  His mom was married to my grandpap Chester for a brief period of time before he passed away in 1980.


Kids are braving the rain to catch their trophy rainbow trout! Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/11/13

Bobby’s sister Michele was part of the attendance.  At one point, Michele and mom were talking and mom commented that Michele used to babysit me when I was little.  Michele said with conviction, “O I remember this one, I don’t really remember the other ones but I remember Heather!”  Yikes!  Was I that bad?  Michele said I would cry a lot and I never wanted to be separated from my mommy.  That’s too funny, I was a mommy’s girl!   Mom said it wasn’t until about second grade did I become independent and I remained that way since.  I guess the big bad scary world was a bit too much for me to handle at first, until I got used to it.

While I’m still on the subject of Bobby, Friday night while sitting around the campfire, Mick, mom and me were shooting the breeze and we started talking about dates of those who have passed.  Fun topic of conversation I know, but it is what it is.  Lori interjected with dates that no one could remember.  Boy she is good!  We talked about my Uncle Walter and Aunt Mary Olczak, Casey’s grandparents, who passed in 1993 and 2002 respectively.  My Aunt Mary was a Planinsek, so that’s another branch of the tree that intertwines the Planinsek’s through marriage.


Ryan Hiles accepting his trophy from Dave Planinsek, for the largest rainbow trout at the Planinsek Fishing Derby Congratulations! 5/11/13

Naturally, Ryan always comes up in these conversations.  He passed away on October 23, 2001, being 24 years-old.  Mom commented to Mick that Nicholas, Bobby’s son, came to Ryan’s burial and stopped up at the house to help unload food and such, wanting to help out.  Really?  You know, sometimes I think I completely stepped out during that time, because there was a lot that happened and a ton of people around that I truly don’t remember.  Mom said he came down to the house right after we left the cemetery.  Sincerely, I have absolutely no recollection of him being there.  Still, I am grateful for the support!  Little acts of caring and sincerity can really make an impact on a person, even nearly 12 years later.  Thanks Nicholas!  I guess Bobby was able to instill some good attributes in his kid.

Now, getting back to the announcements.  Just before reviewing the rules of the fishing derby, it started to rain.  They blew the bugle and then it was a downpour.  In all honesty, I thought all the kids were going to take off for shelter and skip the fishing.  Nope!  These are tough ridgers!  All the kids stood in the rain, along side their parents, friends and relatives fishing.  It went on for a few hours because before I noticed it, it was around noon!  The rain was cold and continued off and on for most of the morning.  No one really cared how muddy they were getting, or how wet.  They were catching fish and having fun!

Casey’s family fished to our right including Grant and Olivia.  Little baby Owen was nearly a year old, so maybe next year little Olczak can participate.


I handed dad my umbrella. The pink polka dots really make it! Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/11/13

Dad mostly helped Kyle, who as tradition dictates was difficult at first.  He keeps making excuses for not casting right, and not catching anything and on and on and on.  At one point, I thought dad might throw Kyle in the pond.  Not literally, but he was pushing our buttons.  Saying Kyle was being difficult is me being nice.  His attitude was out of control, he needs to listen to what he’s being told and not assume he knows everything.  Plus he needs to be patient!  He has to realize that every time you cast your line in the water, you might not get a fish.  Apparently Kyle didn’t get the memo but I’m here to say, that’s part of the sport!

A little while later, Lisa Singer or her Sister Nina Enfinger came up to me to check in and shoot the breeze.  She said, “It would be nice if Kyle won.”  What a sweet comment, after all, almost all of the kids present, were her nieces, nephews and cousins.  To be concerned for Kyle was way too nice!   I turned to her and said, “I don’t, not with the way he’s acting.”  She understood where I was coming from, no judgement placed!  I certainly want Kyle to do good and win, but I don’t want him to be rewarded for acting like a spoiled brat.

Eventually, Kyle did manage to catch a small sun fish.  He was more thrilled that he was no longer in the category of ‘not catching anything’, over actually catching the fish, even if the fish was not impressive, not even good enough for the frying pan.  I’m was just happy he was happy.

I will admit, later after dad had enough of Kyle’s complaining and attitude, and once we took a lunch break, Kyle tried his had at fishing again.  This time he was like a different person.  He was being good, listening and fishing better.  His casting was getting pretty good, his patience was stabilizing and his attitude was now sportsmanlike.  Maybe it had something to do with me telling him, his pappy left because he was fed up with his behavior.  Kyle was in shock.  It never occurred to him that dad wasn’t going to listen to him all day.  Maybe that’s what he needed to straighten him up.

The day moved along as it always does with a lot of food, drinks and conversation.  In order to cover all costs, ensuring the Fishing Derby continues year after year, they raffle off prizes and such.  I won a ceramic 2013 Planinsek Fishing Derby mug, which I realized as I was writing this blog that I left it there.  Note to self, I will need to try and retrieve it!


Kids are anxiously waiting for their names to be drawn to pick a prize! Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/11/13

There is a 50/50 raffle and the day doesn’t come to an end until the children’s raffle.  Throughout the day, parents and kids alike put a ticket in for a kid with their name on it.  All the prizes are on display.  Once a name is called, the child claims their prize until all the toys and such are gone or all the tickets have been drawn.

During this time, I will shout of my pride in Kyle.  With all that went on during first part of the day, Kyle really redeemed himself.  Without me saying anything and only noticing through observation, Kyle began to pick out toys for Grant.  He wanted to get him prizes that he would like.  Kyle even told Grant to go to the table and pick something out, on Kyle’s turn.  I stood there off to the side, unbeknownst to Kyle and watched the giving pour forth from my little man!   Boy that kid can act like an ungrateful spoiled child one minute, and a sincerely giving little man the next!  Maybe he is listening to us after all.


The rain couldn’t deter these fisherman from their trophy rainbow trout! Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/11/13

Then to really steal my heart, as his name was called yet again, Kyle looked around and gave his turn to one of the Enfinger kids because at that point the little boy only had one prize.  What?  Love was just overflowing from my heart toward Kyle’s small actions.  As I’ve always told Kyle, it’s the thought and the intent that really count!  Personally, I was just impressed that he thanked Casey for putting in more tickets on his behalf.

Then, the acts of kindness don’t just stop there, he picked up this kitchen utensil, brought it to me and said, “This is for Gigi”.  What a sweetheart!  He also assigned a few prizes for others, beside himself.  That’s what being part of a family is about.  That’s also what good sportsmanship and being a good person means!

The day was a success!  This year the new record came in the form of a brother and sister team.  Ryan Hiles caught a 23 inch rainbow trout and his sister Jenny, who was fishing right beside Kyle, caught a 12 and three quarters inch large mouth bass.  Great job guys!  Can’t wait for next year!  The 25th Annual Louise Planinsek Fishing Derby!

Read about last years Fishing Derby Want to Go Fishing? 




posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have Comments (2)

2.2 – Temper Tantrum

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Joel holding Kyle at the Planinsek Pavilion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Negative Attention is Still Attention

Children need boundaries and ground rules.  When children don’t have structure, they makeup their own rules and negative behavior is what they use to get your attention.  ~Jo Frost


Kyle wouldn’t walk around when we first trimmed the fruit trees… he would only help by driving his quad…check out the flames on his quad!

It’s no secret that I like attention, that is only when I want attention.  Actually, I  probably lived for this type of recognition more so when I was younger, and now I could care less.  Sometimes I wish I could blend into the shadows, even though it never works.  Especially if I’m running around in my jp’s (jogging pants) with an old T-shirt and boots.  Now that’s a look!  In general, I must stick out like a sore thumb.  I know I do wearing an outfit like that.  Well maybe not, if I’m in Walmart.  But I’m not here to discuss my attention gaining personality, nor my attire.  I want to discuss my sidekick, Kyle Piper.

Kyle is the same way!  He loves attention!  No matter what kind of attention, positive or negative.  I know he’s just a kid, but he thrives on it something awful.

When Kyle was a little tyke, around a year old, maybe a little younger he would do this thing that absolutely upset everyone.  I’m guessing he felt like he was being ignored.  Now come on!  Seriously?  A cute little baby boy, the only grandchild in our family and the son of my recently deceased brother, ignored?  Now I’m not saying that is or isn’t the case, but certainly not from my family.  In fact, we probably were the opposite and gave Kyle too much attention, if there is such a thing.

What was this horrible act?  If I would set Kyle on the floor or if he was just sitting there playing and he noticed we weren’t paying attention to him, he would drop his head down to the floor, stop it before it hit, and then lightly bang his head.  Then, he would cry and hold his recently bumped noggin.  At first we would immediately respond to the unusual act that unfolded before our eyes.  One of us would run over and pick him up and consul this traumatized child.  That is until this happened too frequently to count.  Eventually, we would make it a point to ignore our center-of-attention-deprived child.  As he would continue playing the same show, we noticed he would look for our reactions, not getting much from us.  I take it that was his cue to maneuver his way over to our always open arms.  Naturally we would pick up the “wounded”, but no one ever dared mention the head banging.  I remember one time, I said to Kyle as he was holding his head and crying crocodile tears, “Then don’t hit your head and it won’t hurt.”  Even though he couldn’t talk, I knew he understood what I was saying.  Smart little kid, the whole thing was a set up.

The first time my sister saw one of Kyle’s performances, she gasp so loud and raised her voice to say, “Ahh O no!  Aunt Heather!”  as she pointed to the self destructive child.  I saw what unfolded and realized Nicole never witnessed this behavior before.  In a very blasé manner, I replied, “Nicole, don’t watch him!  He’s been doing that.  It doesn’t hurt him, he stops himself before he really hits the floor.  Without him knowing, watch next time, his head barely touches the carpet.  Just pay no attention or he’ll keep doing it.”  Nicole, clearly upset did as instructed but was not happy.  To reinforce what we were doing was right I told her, “When Kyle doesn’t get his own way or what he wants, he’ll go straight to the floor and act like he hit his head.  I don’t care, he’s not getting his own way.  He doesn’t dictate orders and he’s not seriously hurt.”


Kyle hanging with his pappy at Jim’s sawmill

On a side note, that’s almost too funny.  I actually remember saying that, and look at us now, Kyle does dictate orders.  We don’t always abide by them, but he does own us.

This act of getting attention has evolved over the years, but the goal remains the same.  Now it’s not always negative attention, even though that does consume the majority of the time.  Sometimes he goes out of his way to really be good.  When he does this, he always points it out.  There is no fear of missing Kyle doing something good because he always states the case.  He likes being praised and recognized for his work and efforts.  Example time!

A few years ago mom and dad were making sauerkraut and Kyle and I were helping.  The entire way through the process Kyle kept saying, “Am I doing good pappy?  How am I doing Aunt Heather?”  This is where Kyle really differs from the family.  We don’t need constant positive reinforcement.  In fact, we really don’t give it very often, only when a job is done and done well.  My theory is, if I’m doing something wrong, I will be told about it.  We are not a shy family about blatantly spitting out the truth or our opinions.  I guess Kyle is different, not about spitting out the honest truth or sharing his opinions.  He does plenty of that, but in regards to needing positive reinforcement.  Even while we were butchering up dad’s deer from this past season, Kyle would say the same thing, “Pappy how am I doing?” and so on and so forth.  Admittingly, I will say I have no patience for that need of constant appraisal.  Now I am not a tyrant, I do respond to Kyle, calling out his good work, but I have limits and I have no issue with saying “Kyle!  Yes buddy you’re doing a great job and we appreciate your help.  I don’t need to tell you that every two minutes.”  Sounds harsh, but I want Kyle to be secure when he’s doing anything and not always needing someones approval.

Sometimes I swear Kyle moves so slow, not really to get on my nerves, but to get my attention.  I know for a fact, that he moves like a snail when getting dressed to take the dogs for a hike, because he doesn’t want to go.  And let’s not forget two weekends ago when Kyle and I were both helping my dad trim back the fruit trees.  It was snowing on us as we worked, only because a cold day is needed so the fruit trees don’t bleed out.  I get it, it’s not the most exciting way to spend a Saturday morning but responsibilities come first.  Once dad cut down the branches, all we had to do was drag the manageable sized trimmings about 50 feet to a burn pile.  Granted we did need to help dad load up the quad with the saw and supplies, but really it wasn’t too taxing.  Completing the job in about three to four hours total, for this long overdue project was not a horrible sacrifice.  Would you believe all Kyle wanted to do was stand by dad and oil his saw when needed, which wasn’t very often, while I dragged the brush?  Are you kidding me?  I even told him if he really worked hard I would omit the hike with the dogs for the day.  Even when making a deal with him, that kid complained the ENTIRE time and walked as slow as he could, trying to do as little as possible.  I swear if he moved any slower he would have been standing still.  Literally, I walked circles around him, going back and forth with the brush.  Boy, his dad would have NEVER tolerated such behavior!  Ryan was an extremely hard working person, and I mean manual labor.  And to have his son, be the complete opposite while the rest of the family picks up for his slack would have never gotten past the first whine.


Mr Stickerhead… Kyle always loved stickers! 11/18/03

As we moved through the day, Dad even tried to lighten the mood by calling him a Sasquatch, and teasing him about the speed in which he moved, like molasses.  He continued on c0urse, except I did catch Kyle snickering, as if he was really enjoying this attention that we were giving him by joking around.  I about lost it and grounded him from cartoons, the computer and his ipod.  If he picked up the pace and stopped moping, I told him he could redeem himself.  Nope!  He continued at a snails pace, with a miserable ‘poor me’ attitude.  Once we got back to the house, Kyle pouted about his punishment, but it was almost as if he wanted to be separated from his electronics.  Whether he enjoyed the sulking or that was his way of showing me he needed attention and restricted from those devices, I have no idea.  There is one thing that I know for sure, even though he was in trouble, he was truly enjoying the attention.  Naturally, everyone was lecturing him on hard work, and pitching in and helping out the family, the standard speech.  He is too much!

A few weekends ago, and come to think of it, this past weekend Kyle was on this kick of making really annoying noises.  The clicking or tapping kind.  He even started doing it in the car, just subtle repetitive knocking, while he would give me a sideways glance.  He didn’t think I saw, but I did.  I let it go, until steam is escaping my ears.  Kyle’s getting good, he knows my limit for patience and tolerance.  He was being annoying the other day and I went to backhanded his shoulder or gut and didn’t realize he was bending over.  I made a direct hit with his forehead.  We both got a chuckle out of that one.  That’s how I know his behavior is more about the attention then the item in question.

You know it’s funny, but I remember doing the same thing as a kid.  Once I had this juice cap top.  The kind that would pop up when the seal was broken.  It might have been from Snapple or some other juice.  Regardless, it had this unique sound that I loved.  I would walk around clicking it and clicking it.  Sometimes, if I didn’t want to listen to Nicole while she barked orders at me, I would just click the bottle cap at her and walk away.  Clicking it in Ryan’s face was just fun to get a rise out of him.  He was like Nicole pretty laid back, until seriously pushed.  Although, even though I really enjoyed clicking it to be irritating, sometimes my intent wasn’t to get on everyone’s nerves but to enjoy this unique sound it made.  That is until one day it went missing.  I know Ryan or Nicole had something to do with its disappearance.  These little moments show me how much Kyle and I are really alike, except he did and still does get ALL of our attention.


Kyle playing with is cousins at Bruce’s picnic.

Surprisingly, or maybe not so, Kyle’s attention grabbing behavior is just a way to show he misses us and wants to spend time with the family.  This past weekend, my sister was home.  Kyle was up her butt and needed her to do everything with him all weekend.  She couldn’t just sit and relax because he was like a leach, a whining one.  Other times, I think Kyle is just board and wants some activity, even though I do keep him pretty busy.  He gets on these kicks of playing chess, which I encourage.  No one else will really play with him except me, only because my parents don’t know how to play and my sister really doesn’t like playing.  Yet he will walk around nagging everyone, because that’s what he wants to do, and he wants the interaction of the family.  Usually if we’re talking about chess, I’ll bite.  Kyle knows I enjoy a good game.  Again, I get it, he’s just showing us how much he loves us.  We truly love having Kyle around and spending time with him, even on the irritating days.

Even when Kyle is not seeking attention, he gets it.  Like anyone needs to fuel this already blazing fire.  I will admit, it’s almost always due to a good dead or a thoughtful action.  Others notice his behavior and want to praise him.  I guess I should be proud of that attention, which I always am.  I just don’t want Kyle’s already large round head to grow anymore.  My fear of Kyle failing in life because of his own ego or attitude is very real.  That’s why I try to knock him down a peg or two, just to keep him in check with reality.  No matter what, I love him very much and I’m so proud of the little man he’s become.  Maybe he’ll grow out of this need for attention.  It took me a while but I did, well kinda.

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

Checkmate – Game of Chess

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

Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

Grandpap Chester's table Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

Grandpap Chester's Table 2 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

Grandpap Chester table Aunt Heather Piper

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

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


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

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

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

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


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 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.


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 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

Little Acts of Kindness

That best portion of a good man’s life, his little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love.  ~  William Wordsworth

Over the years I have been blessed by random acts of kindness directed toward my family and myself. I’ve always said it’s those little things that make a world of difference.

Kyle Piper mowing the lawn.  Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle was showing us his mowing technique

Kyle is a self professed oatmeal guru and, you know, his oatmeal is really pretty good! We both like it plain with honey. Recently I read somewhere that honey ingested over a period of time can help counter the effects of pollen and other allergens in the spring. Well, I guess Kyle was listening when I was talking about the honey because I was not feeling well all weekend and, when I woke up this morning, I felt like crap. I asked Kyle if he would make me some oatmeal before we left for CCD class and church and he did so happily. However, when I began to eat it, it seemed very very very sweet. He said, “Like it, Aunt Heather? I added a lot of honey so you are not effected by the flowers this spring.” You see, I kept sneezing and my nose was draining all weekend. I did say to my mom, “It’s kind of like I have an allergy, cause I’m not achy like I have the flu.” Well, I guess Kyle heard that comment too and took it to heart. What a thoughtful young man. Come to think of it, every time I sneezed over the weekend, he would bless me, even if he were in another room. He would yell out, “Bless You!” and I would mumble, “Thank you.” What a polite and amazing little man. He brings a smile to my face.

Later on today, he left to go to the mall with my parents and I heard him say he wanted a pretzel at Auntie Anne’s. Just about every time Kyle and I go to the mall, I always get him a pretzel. As they were leaving, I over heard him talking to my dad, saying, “I want to get a pretzel at Aunt Annie’s, and let’s get Aunt Heather one too, cause she likes them. Maybe we can get one for Aunt Nikki, except she’s going home, so maybe not.” What a nice, sincere plan of thoughtfulness!

You know, these instances are not rare, in fact they are pretty plentiful, I just don’t remember them all the time. Since today is my dad’s 60th birthday I do remember a very sincere act of kindness…

Kyle playing in coal - Aunt Heather Piper

Sometimes I can't tell if Kyle's working or playing...

Kyle is not much for physical activity nowadays, but he does enjoy helping out around the house when everyone else is helping. This past fall, dad had wood that needed stacked, among other chores. Kyle did help me for a while, with minimal reluctance, at least until a piece of wood rolled back on his fingers, bending them back. Of course, that does hurt and I don’t blame him for stopping and taking a break, but he left me. So I finished up what I needed to and helped dad get the furnace ready for the winter, cover the fishing boat, etc. Kyle eventually made his way around to us and was basically in the way. He couldn’t understand why we weren’t entertaining him. He said, “Pap pap what’s wrong?” and dad simply said, “I’m tired and thirsty and I want to finish this.” Kyle walked away and we didn’t think anything of it, until he came out of the house with a glass of water for dad. All he said was, “Here pap pap, I brought this for you.” Can you believe the kind thought? Without being prompted or expecting anything.

Kyle makes me so proud!

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