Alert! A Turkey Escaped!

I have failed at many things, but I have never been afraid.  ~Nadine Gordimer

Kyle-&-Aunt-Nikki-on-Ducky-Tour-Washington-DC-6-2010-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle & Aunt Nikki on the Ducky Tour of Washington D.C. 6/2010

Lately, our turkeys have become the topic of conversation.  Rightfully so.  It’s not every day someone decides to purchase peeps, build a substantial turkey coop, and raise their very own Thanksgiving meal.  Well, the Piper household took on the challenge.

How are the turkeys?  They’re doing great!  They love their new home, at least that’s what I thought, but perhaps one bird wasn’t so happy.  On Sunday, Kyle checked in on our feathery friends.  I watched him from a distance feed and water the mid-sized creatures.  It happened so quickly, it took my mind a minute to comprehend.  Somehow a turkey got past Kyle and made a break for it.  Considering there’s a single door leading in and exciting the turkey coop, how did a bird get past Kyle who happened to be in the doorway?  Watching the scene with my own two eyes, I still have no clue.  Only Kyle!

So it went something like this.  A bird darted out the front door, even though it was more like a stroll, but I’ll give Kyle the benefit of the doubt since I wasn’t in the coop at the time of the incidence, and I didn’t see if the bird actually sprinted or walked.  Kyle turned around to hear us announce a bird got loose.  The feathery animal trotted around the turkey coop, not running, not flying, not hiding, but simply strutted.

I’ll give Kyle credit, the first thing he did was close the door and lock it, so our now free range turkey wouldn’t get any visitors or spark a riot.  But what Kyle did next just amazed me.  He took a couple of steps toward the wondering bird, stopped, turned around and moved in the opposite direction.  Why?  He wanted to put his gloves on.  Why?  I have no clue, it’s not like the turkey was made of barbed wire or anything.  It’s not even a fully grown turkey!

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Scooby & Seven running around my Uncle Walter’s field. 2013

Okay, now that Kyle’s hands were protected from the killer animal covered in white soft fluffy features, my thinking was that he could scoop up the bird and return him to his home, right?  Nope!  Kyle swiftly walked up behind the strutting bird, bent down in a motion to pick it up, then threw up his hands and stopped dead in his tracks.  Was there a force field protecting the bird?  Did God just speak to Kyle?  I was sitting about a hundred yards from the live action, on the swing on my parent’s deck wondering what just happened.  I couldn’t believe it!  Kyle could have very simply captured the turkey and put this to rest, but he didn’t!  He wouldn’t touch it, even with gloves on!  I was stunned!  Well, after that close encounter, the bird took off running realizing the danger in the form of a thirteen year old boy.  Now the chase was on.

After coming to terms with reality and realizing the type of turkey wrangler, or lack there of, I was dealing with, I got off my butt to do the job myself.  I get it, accidents happen, but geez all it took was Kyle to wrap his glove covered hands around the small creature, picked it up, and walked it four or five feet to the doorstep and push it back in.  No major weight lifting required, no rabbit animal, and no special tools or skills needed.  Now we had a scared bird on the loose that was trying to fly and hide.

The turkey coop sits at the edge of the woods, perfect camouflage.  By the time I ran up the hill, that’s exactly where the turkey was headed.  Perhaps he wanted to be like his ancestors and run wild and free among the trees, or he did indeed have an escape plan.  Well, to add another challenge to the scenario, our beloved and not so obedient dogs tagged along by my side.   Seven and Avery listened pretty well, but not Scooby!  He nipped at the flying features and drove the bird deeper into the woods, ending up in a serious pile of jagged brush.  What now?

Keep in mind, Kyle was wearing jeans, a tee shirt and flip flops.  I on the other hand was wearing shorts, a tee shirt, flip flops and my body (mostly my upper legs, forearms and little bits of my back and stomach) was covered in poison ivy.  Not exactly attire appropriate for trucking through the woods in a hostile environment.  Regardless, I knew I was willing to risk bodily injury to bring the bird home.  Well, that was my thinking for that brief moment.

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Kyle & Avery watching TV … cuddling. 4/2015

I tramped down my obstacles and moved my way closer to the escapee.  Although, the turkey also kept moving forward, just out of arms reach.  Finally, I trapped the bird deeper in the huge pile of brush, which was seriously entangled with pointy projectiles.  Thinking I outsmarted the turkey, I recovered a long branch to nudge it along.  The plan?  To poke the bird and keep it moving in one direction, toward Kyle and my mom who were waiting on the opposite side out in the open.  Keep in mind, my mom was armed with a long handled fishing net, also wearing flip flops.  Seriously?  Oh, YES!  What a sight!

Did it work?  NO!  The bird laid down and remained so, even with me poking at its side.  Stubborn bird!  I did what I could until my poison ivy was ripped open so much that my legs and arms felt like they were on fire.  I even asked Kyle to put on a pair of boots and come and get the bird.  He refused!  After realizing dad was sitting on the swing, not helping in any way, I gave up.  I was the only one really doing anything and I was the one cut up and bleeding.

What next?  I told Kyle to get the bird as I walked away from the action.  What did my dad have to say?  He yelled at me!  Really?  Oh YES!  He accused me of not doing anything and letting the bird get away.  Seriously?  YES!  I was beyond mad.  I was the only one doing anything.  Before the argument heated up to match the ripped open poison ivy and scratches all over my legs,  I left the scene.  What did Kyle do?  He also retreated and sat and played video games on his phone.  Not cool.  That’s a problem.  He was the cause of this situation.  Granted, it was truly an accident, but it alarmed me to see that he so very easily dismissed it, and now it became someone else’s problem.  I’m going to have to work with him on that.

Well, the bird worked its way deeper into the brush until we couldn’t see it anymore.  We waited around for it to make its appearance, but alas it remained transfixed.

Thinking the bird wouldn’t survive the night, and it would become a turkey dinner for the local coyotes or another wild creature, I accepted its fate.  Now, fast forward to this past Tuesday, two days later.  We got a call in the middle of the day from the neighbor.  They had our turkey!  Are you kidding me?  Nope!  Apparently, the bird wondered across the street, survived the local dogs and our dogs, and all wildlife to make it into their hands.  That’s impressive!

I’m happy to say the turkey was returned safe and sound, and will be until Thanksgiving.  What an adventure!

Does Kyle know?  I texted him.  His response?  Nothing.  He probably forgot all about it, or dismissed it as it wasn’t his problem, even though I know he felt bad about the escapee.  I guess there are worse things in life.  But I did make a note to give Kyle a lesson on picking up a turkey, naturally in a controlled environment, to get a feel for it and to not be afraid.

P.S. It’s ironic I used to call Kyle my turkey and sometimes turkey jerky.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Farming & Planting,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Pets and have No Comments

Moving Day, the Turkeys Have a New Home!

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that receives it.  ~Edith Wharton

Start-of-Turkey-Coop-with-dogs-4-11-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Let the construction of the turkey coop begin! Dad was consulting with Avery, Scooby & Seven.  They were excited!   4/11/15

Since we decided to raise chickens and turkeys this year, we needed a place to house the birds.  My dad had a smoke shed, which we converted into a chicken coop, easy.  However, the turkeys needed a place to call their own, equals building of a turkey coop, and fast to accommodate the rapidly growing birds.  Needless to say, the big project of this spring was the construction of the turkey coop.

Did we go to the store to purchase wood?  Not the Piper’s!  Dad utilized the few trees that previously fell in the woods near his house, and sharpened the chainsaw blades to take down a few more trees.  We called on my cousin Mikey to drag the logs out, and Mikey and his dad cut the boards for us.

Now building time!  Dad and I didn’t start construction right away.  We waited for Kyle to assist, knowing he’d enjoy the activity and wanted to participate in the building process.  Except, every time we planned on working on the building, Kyle made other plans or the weather didn’t cooperate.  Feeling pressured from the turkeys, dad and I began the project without our number one handyman.

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The planning stage of the turkey coop. Dad was ready! 4/11/15

Personally, it broke my heart to work on the turkey coop without Kyle.  I knew he would’ve loved building it, and it would’ve been a great experience for him to spend quality time with his pap, not to mention the learning value.  But I guess Kyle’s priorities are not with us at this time.  So it was just dad and myself, the dynamic duo.

For the most part the erection of the structure went smoothly, no major incidences and no injuries, always a plus.  Dad had it in his head before starting the project that it could be completed in a single day.  Really?  That’s what he said, but dad didn’t take into consideration his age and endurance, or lack there of.  When we worked on the building, it was only for a few hours at a clip, not from morning till night like I would have preferred.  No biggie, it simply took us a few days to finish as opposed to a single day.

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The turkey coop floor. 8′ x 10′ building. 4/11/15

Kyle did help with the roof.  It took some coaxing to get him off his phone and off the couch, and let’s not discuss the argument about wearing a shirt and shoes.  Once he surrounded himself in the construction materials, with a hammer in hand, and instructions given, Kyle became genuinely enthused.  Truly!  He even got up on the ladder to nail in a few boards.  Reluctantly, I might I add, he climbed onto the roof and helped me nail a few boards in place so we had a small platform to work from.  He was a little weak at the knees being up high, only about eight feet from the ground, but he braved his environment.  Granted, it was a new experience for Kyle, for he’s never done anything like this before.  Regardless, Kyle overcame his uneasiness and helped me hammer the boards until it started raining.

Before the rain hit, I stopped production to measure the void in the roof, to know exactly how much was needed to complete the area.  I measured about forty-seven inches (nearly four feet).  I handed Kyle a pencil, hinting to write that number down and to start subtracting till we had a pile of boards to fill the gap.  I measured the boards on the ground to ensure the length was appropriate, about twelve feet long, before spouting out widths for Kyle to subtract.  At first, Kyle gave me an inquisitive look and then starred at the pencil in confusion.  If it was me, I would have used the pencil and a board to do my calculations.  I guess that method is too old fashioned for my teenager.  Once Kyle realized what I was trying to accomplish, he enthusiastically pulled out his iPhone and used the calculator function.  Brilliant!  Even though it’s good practice to maintain those basic math skills, but I wasn’t arguing.  I wanted to put this project to rest.

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Dad taking a break after we finished the floor and the corners of the turkey coop. 4/11/15

It’s a guarantee that any story involving Kyle and myself contains a comical aspect or two, especially if you add my dad to the mix.  We’re like the perfect Piper storm.  I can’t do this story justice without addressing Kyle’s working attire.  He did manage to cover his bare chest with a tee shirt.  However, the rest of his outfit wasn’t exactly conducive to construction work, especially on a roof with rough wood.  Instead of wearing his boots, he chose my mom’s winter booties.  No joke!  Why?  If I had to take a guess, it was because they were slip on boots with no laces.  Of course, why should that matter when he was wearing shiny basketball shorts.  I bet his bare knees felt good dragging across the wood boards.  Either way, Kyle helped with enthusiasm and no whining.  That’s a big plus!

Now the true funny, and slightly frustrating part of the adventure.  Once I got a few boards stabilized, I showed Kyle were to nail, to follow the seams to the opposite end.  Not paying attention while I was adding boards and nailing them into place, Kyle was hammering like a made man.  His hammering technique went something like this, a hit to the nail head, then followed by a few misses, to be proceeded by a hit.  This rhythm continued for the duration of his labors.  Although, I did appreciate his efforts, but what I mostly enjoyed was spending constructive time with my nephew.

At one point, Kyle freaked out, “Aunt Heather!  I saw a spark!”  Laughing, I responded, “What do you think happens when metal hits metal?  You must’ve been swinging hard to create sparks!”  Kyle smiled and seemed pleased with himself and continued pounding even harder, that is until dad halted production.

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That’s a wrap! turkey coop construction is completed! Turkeys have a new home. 4/2015

“Look at all the nails sticking out!”  What?  Dad was inside the turkey coop looking up at our handy work.  Before I understood what he was talking about, dad began counting, “One, two, three, FOUR!  FIVE! SIX! SEVEN!  Heather!  There’s SEVEN, EIGHT nails sticking out.  Who’s missing the two by fours?”  It took me a few minutes to realize what he was talking about.  Evidently, the nails weren’t making contact with the rafters, resulting in unsecured boards on the roof and nails sticking out of the ceiling like a torture chamber.  The light bulb suddenly came on as I looked in Kyle’s direction.  My brain was able to put two and two together.  Kyle was working hard, no doubt, however, he wasn’t accomplishing anything.  He started off good, but grew sloppy.  Instead of following the seam and making a straight line with his nails to adhere to the two by fours under the boards, he was simply hammering, sporadically.  What started out as a straight line took a hard right curve to practically end up between two, two by fours.

Almost frustrated, yet finding humor in my little man, I showed him how he strayed.  Dad yelled up to Kyle, “Buddy, if it’s not hard to drive the nail all the way in, then you’re probably not hitting the two by four and you need to move your nail over slightly.”  Kyle’s response, which almost made me fall off the roof laughing, “I thought it was all hard hammering.”  He said those words with complete sincerity.  My little gamer was experience manual labor and physically feeling it.

Did dad really care about the missed nails?  Not in the slightest, he very much enjoyed doing something with Kyle that didn’t involve electronics and his participation as a family member.

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Turkeys have a new home! 4/2015

Once I got Kyle straightened out, pun intended, I heard him comment, “Boy Aunt Heather this is hard work.  I don’t think I’d make a good construction worker.”  Yes, it is hard work but one I’m very thankful that Kyle has the opportunity to experience.  He’s right though, I don’t think construction work is his calling!  At least Kyle’s a realist, like his Aunt Heather.

Not a lot of people know how to begin to build such a structure, let alone could tackle the job.  I hope Kyle learned something from working with us.  That valuable knowledge will be forever engrained in him, like the roots he was born into.

One more funny.  While I was hammering in the floor, I hit and nail and bent it.  Naturally, I continued hamming it into the floor to get it as flush as possible.  That was the only nail I bent during the entire project.  Did you know, dad kept commenting on that one single nail?  Our of nowhere, he’d say, “These turkeys are going to have to be careful not to trip on that nail.” and “I hope our turkeys don’t get snagged on your nail” and “You already put a place for them to roost.”  It was never ending!  But pretty funny.

I’m happy to announce the turkey coop is finished and is still standing.  During construction, I kept teasing dad about his fine craftsmanship (sarcasm) and he kept reminding me that I was the one who measured everything.  To be honest, when we started out, the foundation was perfectly squared and leveled, thanks to yours truly.  But something did go awry during the building process.  It all worked out in the end.   Our eight foot, by ten foot, by eight foot height structure welcomed its new residences about two weeks ago.  To counter act the cold nights, we placed a few heat lamps and straw inside.  The turkeys seemed pretty happy.

Okay, another funny.  While I was pounding nails to build up the walls, dad was showing me how to draw the boards in tight.  He said, “Here, use my hammer, it’s better.”  You know what?  It was better!  It had a good weight and really drove those nails into the wood.  So every time dad asked for HIS hammer, I would hold onto it and point the hammer toward the sky and yell, “The Hammer!”, like I was Thor.  It cracked me up.  Dad…not so much.

While working with dad, he began to reminiscence occasionally, mostly about Ryan.  Personally, I love hearing the stories that I wasn’t aware of or I’ve forgotten.  It feels good to talk about Ryan.  We all miss him terribly.  Dad commented that he built the smoke shed in about a day or two all by himself.  He said, “Ryan wouldn’t help me build it.  He was mad at me for some reason, I don’t remember for what.”  That was so sad, but it’s called life.  It also shows how tight we really are, that dad didn’t remember the argument, only fondly remembers Ryan.  And Ryan would have been the first person in line to help dad out, for those two were buds.

Take my advice to reconnect with the family and do a major project together.  It is really worth the time and energy!

 

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

Paint Nite Fun!

Art, art of any kind, shows that folks are trying.  ~Walter Kirn

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Me & Lisa at Paint Nite in Pittsburgh (Allison Park) at Rocky’s. Great time! Lisa’s painting has so much depth! I love it! 4/10/15

My friend Lisa Zettelmayer, yes the same Lisa from Happy 50th Anniversary, had a great idea to get together for a Paint Nite!  For those of you who haven’t had the privilege of experiencing or even hearing of such an event, they’re seriously so much fun!  I can’t believe that was two weeks ago already!  I’ve been so busy.  With what you may ask?  You’ll find out in the next few blog posts.  In the meantime, I’d like to talk about Paint Nite.

Our event was held at Rocky’s on Route 8 in Allison Park in Pittsburgh.  What exactly is Paint Nite?  Simple, it’s an event whereas you purchase a ticket to paint a specific painting.  Yes, before signing up for the gig, the coordinating artist, along with the painting of choice is listed for review before committing.  These activities are held in multiple locations periodically throughout the year.  Do you have to be an artist?  Absolutely not!  That’s what makes it so much fun.  You get to hang out with friends, kick back a few brews, and listen to Ben, who happened to be our artist extraordinaire two Fridays ago.  His job?  In addition to setting up the brushes, our paints, supplying our aprons, and the canvases, yes they were very nice canvases stretched over wooden frames measuring about nineteen inches wide by sixteen inches height, he also instructed us with the steps to painting our very own masterpiece.  Ben was in essence playing Bob Ross.  He gave step-by-step instructions on how to accomplish the finished piece.  Naturally, when reviewing all the paintings in the room, about forty individuals, everyone maintained the same general theme but with their own artistic touch.  Is this fine art?  No, not in my opinion, just a neat way to introduce the arts and some culture into the lives of everyday people, while getting out and socializing and trying something new.  Personally, I loved it!

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Paint Nite at Rocky’s in Pittsburgh (Allison Park) with Lisa Zettelmayer… she’s smiling in the background. I just started my painting. 4/10/15

Not only has it been a while since I’ve seen Lisa, and it’s nice to catch up, but it was also a pleasure to meet her friends.  However, what I really enjoyed was holding a paintbrush again and being around art.  You know, my art history professor Maureen Vissat, who was an excellent teacher and a wonderful person, once told our class, “Unless you’re involved in the arts, there will be a time when you miss it.”  Paraphrasing her of course, I realize just how true that statement is!  I do miss being around art, and participating in it.  Granted, I do graphic design on the side, but it’s not the same.  I actually long for the interaction between artists and the inspiration floating in the air.  There’s nothing like it.

While we were painting, I had a feeling of déjà vu.  I knew exactly what it was.  It was being among artists, lined up in front of easels, focusing on a single piece, from way back to my days at Seton Hill University, when I had drawing class with Phil Rostek.  Only our subjects consisted of  nudes, or some sort of masterpiece projected on the wall, or a fun center display.  I used a lot, and I mean a lot of charcoal and conte crayon in that class.  Seriously, I looked like I was mining the coal mines every time I left class.  I sported charcoal on my face, cloths, ears, hair, under my nails, neck, you get the idea.

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Paint Nite with Lisa (in the background) at Rocky’s in Pittsburgh (Allison Park). My painting is about halfway done. 4/10/15

What I miss the most is getting my hands dirty in clay and sculpting pottery on the wheel.  Pottery was always a passion of mine, and I do miss that the most.  (After spending a few hours in the clay studio, I wore more of the clay than what was used in all my pieces combined!)

I don’t consider myself an artist, even though I love art, art history, I have a Fine Art Degree, which gave me the opportunity to have a gallery show My Senior Art Exhibit at Seton Hill University – ARTsylum, and admittedly, I do have an artist eye.  Perhaps, if I participated in developing art for the sake of art, then I might be able to classify myself in that manner, maybe.

Prior to the event we met at the Tuscan Inn, a few minutes away, for dinner and wine.  It was truly an enjoyable dinner with a great group of gals, delicious food, and fun conversation.  Maybe too much fun, for we were laughing and bringing the place to life.

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Another progression of my painting from Paint Nite in Pittsburgh, Pa (Allison Park) at Rocky’s. 4/10/15

This trendy paint party, has become a big thing.  I’ve heard of them before, I’ve just never participated.  And you know what?  I’m ready to do it again.  Once I posted my painting to Facebook, a few of my cousins commented that they wanted to join me the next time I go.  That sounds like a plan!  I was told the Latrobe Art Center has them occasionally and the participants are permitted to bring his/her own alcohol, if desired.  I’m in!  Hopefully, I can get a ticket from Groupon, like I did this one.

Now, my next step is to create my Thrill of the Hunt scavenger hunt Events as such a hot topic!  One day, my scavenger  hunts will be the thing to do all over the nation, at least I hope so.  I love adventure!

 

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After a hard night of painting, socializing & having a few brews… this is the result. Paint Nite in Pittsburgh, Pa (Allison Park) 4/10/15

posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Travels and have No Comments

Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt

The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.  ~Rachel Carson

Coloring-Easter-Eggs-3-26-2005-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Coloring Easter eggs with Aunt Nikki, Kyle, Pappy & me. Kyle mostly dictated what Nicole & I were to do… 3/26/05

Happy spring!  The first day of spring (vernal – Latin for spring, equinox – Latin for equal night) is one of only two days when the sun passes directly over the equator and crosses that celestial equator going from south to north.  The spring and fall equinoxes are the only two times of the year when the sun rises due east and sets due west.  Pretty interesting!

Did you also know Easter falls on the first Sunday following the first full moon after spring?  I’m no astronomer, but that’s what I’ve read.  Along those fun facts, the egg is a symbol of fertility in spring, and this time of year is also called Lent or Lenten.

With Easter around the corner, everyone is posting their fun Easter ideas and traditions, mostly on Pinterest.  I’ve read about a variety of Easter basket items, and fun activities, and so on and so forth.  These innovative suggestions got me thinking of different ways to enhance our own typical Easter traditions.

Naturally, my mind turns everything into a scavenger hunt!  Yes, incorporating the standard Easter egg hunt with a scavenger hunt!  Why not?  Actually, I wish the idea crossed my mind when Kyle was younger.  Adding another layer to the typical Easter egg hunt would’ve been the perfect challenge for my little man.  He would’ve loved the extra effort on my part, and I most certainly would’ve loved to create something unique for his Easter experience !  What fun!

When I was little, our family tradition was for the “Easter Bunny” a.k.a. mom, to hide our dyed eggs around the house.  The more I think about it, that was risky in the event we missed an egg and it remained hidden, especially with the summer heat fast approaching.  That could’ve been lethal!  I’m pretty sure mom counted the eggs to ensure none were overlooked.  Although, that would’ve made for an interesting story about a rotten Easter egg, but no such luck.

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Me, Nicole & Ryan Easter morning before church. 5/1981

With Kyle, we added another level of excitement by stuffing colorful plastic eggs with quarters and candy, and sometimes Matchbox cars in the larger eggs.  He loved each of those equally.  When the weather wasn’t too shabby, we’d hide the eggs in my parent’s orchard in the backyard.  Early Easter morning, I’m talking about 4:00 am or so, Kyle would attempt to wake everyone for his Easter morning adventure.  No one would budge, except leave it to good old Aunt Heather to give in to my little bundle of enthusiasm.  I’ll admit, it wasn’t too difficult to get up early, since I was like a kid myself, excited for Kyle to find the eggs mom and I hid the night before.

Together, Kyle and I would pull on our rubber boots, still in our pajamas (Actually, I stand corrected, I was in my pjs, while I had to make Kyle dress in some sort of pant, usually sweatpants and a t-shirt.  I was lucky if I got him to wear a coat.) and venture into the early morning hours to run around the yard looking for plastic eggs with flashlights in hand.  That was always fun, watching Kyle dart from one tree to another, looking high and low.  When the weather didn’t cooperate, we’d hide the eggs in the house, not exactly ideal but it worked.

So, back to my idea.  How does an Easter egg scavenger hunt work?  Simple.  Create a map or a serious of riddles and clues to uncover the hidden Easter eggs.  It can even be as detailed or as simple as desired, as per the age range of the participants.  One idea is to give a single clue to one egg, which contains another clue to the next, and so on and so forth.  If I was developing the Easter Egg Scavenger Hunt, I’d add scholastic questions to really challenge the child and reinforce his or her school subjects.  I’d also add religious questions to reinforce the true meaning behind Easter.  And if I’m designing the scavenger hunt in the typical Thrill of the Hunt fashion, I’d add online challenges for the child to take pictures and video along the scavenger hunt adventure.  The entire family could join in on the fun for a family fun good time!  This scavenger hunt doesn’t necessarily have to be targeted to young children (I’m thinking 4+), but could be developed for pre-teens and teenagers alike.  That’s one way to include everyone on an Easter Egg Hunt Scavenger Hunt!  This can be accomplished inside or out, or both.

Thrill of the Hunt offers many different types of themed scavenger hunts.  Check them out at (www.ThrillScavengerHunt.com).

Think Team Building … Think Scavenger Hunts
Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunt
WannaBe 80’s Scavenger Hunt & a Puppy in a Day
Scavenger Hunt – Getting Our Start At Seton Hill University & Continuing

Now time to promote Thrill of the Hunt.  If you’re interested in a unique custom scavenger hunt or just want to discuss the possibilities, email me at Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com, Heather@AuntHeather.com or fill out the form on our Contact Us page for a free quote.  We’ll get back to you within 24-business hours. I promise!

Please note, Thrill of the Hunt will be hosting our first ever Dog Gone! Scavenger Hunt in Winchester, Virginia on Saturday, May 30, 2015.  We’re also hosting our annual Doggie in Disguise Scavenger Hunts in local cities including Latrobe, Pennsylvania; Annapolis, Maryland; Alexandria, Virginia; and New Hope, Pennsylvania.  Tickets are on sale now, but are limited.  We’re still accepting local businesses to be added to the actual scavenger hunt to increase foot traffic to these locations.

Thrill of the Hunt is in the planning stages for our Singles Scavenger Hunt in Virginia.  Keep your eyes peeled.

Speaking of different areas, we are always open to hearing suggestions on scavenger hunt themes and hometowns to bring our events.  Please Suggest An Event on our website, or email Game@ThrillScavengerHunt.com.  I seriously want to hear from you!

Please make sure you’re following the hunt on our social sites. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Youtube, always using #ThrillofHunt

Remember, everyone needs to … Experience the Game!

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Don’t Judge, Everyone Has Scars – Part 2

The past beats inside me like a second heart.  ~John Banville

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Ryan & his beloved pap sitting on Pap’s porch on the ridge. Pap only had one prosthetic leg at this point. (left) c. 1979

Previously, I talked about not judging a situation and forgiving those that do.  Everyone Has Scars, Don’t Judge Part 1  Again, easier said than done.  I know.  What’s really upsetting though, or even worse in my opinion, are those that believe they don’t judge or judge others for judging.  Yikes!  Come on.  No one’s perfect.  NO ONE!  I do try to avoid such actions in general, but it’s something I need to work on too, for I’m not perfect.  It’s an ugly human behavior that needs to be addressed to be avoided and corrected.

I don’t mean to bring a heavy topic on such a beautiful Thursday, although slightly chilly, but perhaps this will get everyone thinking differently this weekend and change behaviors for the better.  In fact, I was so inspired by a friend of mine who commented on my previous post that I wanted to share it.

“Instead of judging, wouldn’t it be nice if people offered up a smile?  Or to help in little ways?”

YES!  Excellent ideas!  Since we’re in the lenten season, a time of penance and reflectance, I think this might be a step in the right direction to being a better person.  I know me personally, I will try to offer up more smiles and lend assistance when needed!  I LOVE THESE IDEAS!

Now time for an example.  Not too long ago, we ran into my third grade teacher at Saint Vincent Church, for Sunday mass.  Kyle had the privilege of meeting one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had!  (Kyle’s met her on a number of occasions but alas he was just a little tyke.)  One that I still respect and appreciate to this day.  (I’ll keep her name anonymous in case she’s not comfortable being on my blog.  I never asked permission.)  Unfortunately, when I reminisce on that part of my life, third grade, I can’t help but remember what happened to Ryan that very year.

The day started before school, early morning.  Ryan was in first grade, Nicole in fifth and I in third, at Sacred Heart School.  I believe it was spring, with the school year coming to an end, hence the reasoning for our hyperactive morning.  We were running around simply being silly.  I believe the situation initiated with Ryan or Nicole locking me out the front door, or threatening to do so.  Why?  Why not.  We were kids enjoying a bit of energy release before heading to school on a pleasant morning.

Ultimately, I had it in my head to retaliate and lock Ryan outside.  I clearly remember mom was on the phone trying to quiet us while she conversed, probably to another PTA mom.  Eventually, I succeeded in locking Ryan on the opposite side of the door as myself.  I was on the inside.  So what does a first grader do who was tricked and forced to the front porch by his older sister?  He knocks on the door with his fists, demanding reentry, of course.  Nicole, yelled at me, naturally taking Ryan’s side.  Please keep in mind, I realize I was not the initial instigator in this situation, but I certainly was guilty of continuing it.  

To add to the taunting, I stood directly in front of the door, which at the time had glass panels running from the top to the base.  Also note, this was an older door, with equally as old glass panes, each measuring about two feet wide by about eight inches height.  While taunting Ryan by waving through the small windows, he continued to pound on the bearer that separated us.  Just before I was actually going to unlock the door and run, it happened.  Something I didn’t anticipate or even considered.  Ryan pounded not on the solid wood door frame, but on a single flimsy glass panel with both hands.  In a single moment, I was faced with glass flying in my direction, and Ryan’s hands protruding through the door. 

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Ryan & Nicole Christmas … look at Ryan’s bony legs! I have no idea what’s in Nicole’s hand, but mom’s on the couch behind Ryan. I must have taken the picture because Ryan & I got her something funny. c. 1990’s

Instinctively, Ryan withdrew his hands, at the same time I looked around making sense of the mess.  My only concern?  The idea of me getting in trouble for the broken window.  Glass was shattered all over the kitchen floor, and the once whole glass panel, was now a voided rectangle with jagged shards of sharp glass protruding from the edges inward.  No one, not even Ryan, had a clue to the extent of the situation.  Not even my sister, who didn’t waste any time yelling in my ear, in stead of evaluating the scene and offering assistance.

Was I injured by the flying glass?  Nope.  Perhaps a scratch on the leg, but nothing to keep me down. Ryan on the other hand was not doing well, except the adrenaline was keeping him from feeling pain.  Either when his hands went through the glass, or upon retracting them, probably both, his wrists scrapped the edges of the sharp shards, slicing them up.  Ouch!  Within minutes I saw blood dripping from the glass.  Eventually my eyes made their way to Ryan and his wrists, were the blood was flowing freely.

My mom, who was still on the phone, had no idea what just happened.  Leave it to my sister to get mom’s attention and in the same process tattle on me.  She reminds me of Kyle!  There was a lot of yelling going on, all from my sister and mom, Ryan and I remained quite.  After reality settled in, Ryan may have shed a few tears, but certainly no whaling.  I’m not sure who mom was talking to but I know they were met with a dead line, when mom realized what happened and simply hung up.

Time went from slow motion as the glass flew, to high speed ending in a lot of blood, in a matter of seconds, matching my heartbeat.  Mom ran straight for Ryan, who stood in shock.  She’s never been a fan of blood, not the ideal candidate to deal with this terrible accident.  To assist with the bleeding and probably to cover up the wounds, mom ran to the bathroom, grabbed a towel and wrapped both wrists in the terrycloth.  Ryan pressed both wrists together against the towel to control the bleeding.  Mom yelled again, yes mom yells when things are fine, but she has more of a knack for yelling, especially in stressful situations.  What did she say?  I have no idea.  Something along the lines that Nicole and I were to go to my cousin Karen’s house down the road.  Our normal routine was to walk to Karen’s and pick up my other cousins, and walk to school as a group.  We did so minus Ryan.

The rest of the day, was a blur.  I really felt bad for my brother, even telling my third grade teacher, yes the one I saw recently in church, about the entire morning.  She was so since and caring, in fact all the teachers heard about the accident by mid-day.  I know I shed a few tears for Ryan, especially as the day unfolded and we heard no word from mom.  Later that day, we either had an assembly in the cafeteria (which also housed our stage) or we were practicing for our spring musical, either way, everyone was gathered in the cafeteria when mom finally arrived with Ryan.  Finally!

He was sporting two wrists wrapped with stark white surgical tape.  I never thought about it at the time, but he did resemble someone who tried to slit his wrists.  The result?  Ryan had to go into immediate surgery to repair the nerve damage to his wrists.  They weren’t sure if he would regain complete feeling in that area again.  However, they seemed certain he would have functionality.  Seriously?  Yes!  All because a couple of kids were screwing around and it was a nice morning?  Unfortunately, yes.

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Chad & Ryan hanging at Grams apartments. c. 1990’s

Eventually, Ryan healed up, sort of.  He was able to use his hands without incidence and hunting or fishing was never an issue.  Great!  However, his wrists told a different story.  For the remainder of his short life, his wrists were permanently decorated with laceration scars, and one wrist had no feeling at all.  How do I know?  Ryan would demonstrate the lack of nerve sensation under the scars by grabbing the skin and twisting it and turning it, without pain!  His nerves on the skin were damaged and never healed.

Over the years, as we got older, I heard some folks ask Ryan about the scars, wondering if he tried to commit suicide and slit his wrists.  Seriously?  YES!  Okay, I’ll admit, I can see that deduction, but totally wrong assumption.  Ryan was always goodhearted about the accusation.  He never got bad, in fact he would give a little chuckle before explaining.  It used to bother me a little, but since Ryan never really gave two figs about what others thought, I didn’t either.  As a well trained circus act, he would demonstrate the lack of nerves in those areas, and give a brief for them.  That always made me wonder, how many others thought Ryan tried slicing his wrists, but never said a word and just assumed.

I know very well no one can control the thoughts of anothers.  And I don’t know which is better, the curious (nosy) person who asks up front, or the one or never brings up his or her thoughts?  Regardless, there’s always at least two explanations for a situation, but the correct one it’s not always the most obvious.  Ryan and I both carried scars from that single morning, only Ryan’s were visible.

Read other entries:

Everyone Has Scars, Don’t Judge Part 1

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

Happy Birthday Aunt Nikki!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Birthday Nicole!

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

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

Don’t Judge, Everyone Has Scars – Part 1

Wounds turn into scars and scars make you tough.  ~Aisha Tyler

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Kyle’s 5th Birthday, party at SeaBase in Greensburg. He had a blast! 7/2005

Everyone knows the old saying, “Don’t judge a book …”  Even though it’s true, sometimes it’s hard not to make our own assumptions.  I know me personally, I’ve been on the receiving end of judgement, and even though I’d like to think I’m not a judgmental person, I’m sure I’m equally as guilty.  I don’t hold grudges but sometimes stories need to be told to learn from them.

Like what?  When Kyle was a baby, even until present day, I’ve had strangers give me stares and accusatory looks, assuming I’m a single parent.  Yes!  All true, no exaggeration.  I noticed, but never gave it much thought, nor did I hold it against anyone.  Why waste energy worrying over something that didn’t matter?  Also, why dwell on the negative?  Not worth it at all.  In fact, I tried to look at my situation from the opposing point-of-view.

Let me give a single example and set the stage.  At the time, I was a young single gal, who looked even younger still, sporting a five month old baby in a papoose, walking around the mall like an unemployed mall rat.  The reality was, I was about twenty-five years old, working two jobs, in college finishing up my marketing degree, and taking care of my nephew because his dad, my brother, recently passed away about two months prior.  Reality verses assumption, big difference!

Once, this very inaccurate judgement happened while at SeaBase, in Greensburg.  SeaBase is a local indoor child’s play area, where the youngsters run around, play on climbing walls, jump among padded floors and walls, and take a swing at goofy golf, that sort thing.  We actually held Kyle’s fifth birthday there.  During this particular period in my life, I was working a lot, and consequently I was always completely exhausted.  Plus, I was back in college working on my fine art’s degree in graphic design.  Did I mention, I was also taking care of my wonderful nephew too?  On one particular day, I wanted to do something fun with Kyle, as my dad would say, “To get the stink blowed off him.” and let him get out and have fun.  Kyle was about two years old and needed to socialize, and do something different to break up his repetitive day.  Seabase.

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Casey, Kyle’s godfather & me, Kyle’s godmother at his Baptism at Sacred Heart Church, the day prior we buried Ryan. 10/28/01

I remember the situation perfectly.  It was a rainy cold mid-day, during the week, hence why I chose an indoor activity.  There were no words to express just how drained I truly was, and the rhythm of the rainfall didn’t help my cause.  Why did I go?  I knew Kyle needed to get out, he really did.  He needed to stretch his legs and run around and burn off some energy, something of a luxury for him.  If I didn’t step up, then he would have missed out.  More importantly, I was long overdue to spend some quality time with my little man and give him my utmost attention.  You know, instead of hanging with him while multitasking.

While we were playing in a pit full of colorful plastic balls, I started to doze off.  Yikes!  I couldn’t help myself.  Not to mention, my appearance was a bit rough, looking like I just rolled out of bed.  Once I was able to pinch myself hard enough to keep my eyelids from drooping, something caught my eye and I saw things clearly.  Please note, this wasn’t that long after Ryan’s passing, which still felt like it just happened, much like it does presently.  So yes, I’m sure depression played a big roll for my lack of energy, and unconcern for my attire and overall physical appearance.  I didn’t care, my only concern was Kyle’s happiness.

What happened?  Well, first let ME pass judgement.  I was in close proximity to a few stay at home moms, who no doubt didn’t have to work and were able to get a good nights rest to really participate and enjoy their children.  Yeah, those women actually gave me glares.  Granted, they never did say a word to me, but it was evident in their caddy whispers and stares in my direction what they were saying.  Again, I’m sure I looked a lot younger than I was, and I know I appeared as unemployed, and I’m absolutely positive I seemed like a neglectful parent, trying to catch a few zzz’s in the plastic balls with a small child at my side graving for my attention.  Regardless, the situation wasn’t as it appeared.

Even though my scars were not visible, they were clearly there.  Did those unaware individuals bother me?  Not really, the only thing that aggravated me was my lack of energy for Kyle.  As long as Kyle never felt the passive aggressive judging demeanor of others, I never gave it a second thought until now.

Being on the receiving end of judgement, I can see how this type of unspoken treatment could effect someone, especially being in a delicate state like I was.  But again, I never let it get to me.  Also at the time, we were dealing with Kyle’s medical issues, alarmingly his ears (ear infections) and bouts of pneumonia, croup, sinus infections etc.  That’s the main reason I had to get Kyle out that very day.  Regardless of my own fatigue, Kyle wasn’t sick and I wanted him to take advantage of his health and share in his happiness.

I could go on, but I won’t, there’s no point.  Plus, I’m sure there were many more instances that I didn’t even catch.  I’d like to think someone saw me, and instead of making assumptions for my situation, they said a prayer for me instead, or more importantly for Kyle.

What made me think of this?  I passed SeaBase the other day and it just came to me.  I had a lot of great memories there, mostly when I was energized and could hang with Kyle.  However, it only takes one time, and that one in particular, I felt horrible for not giving Kyle my fullest energy potential and my undivided attention (actually any attention).

I know Kyle never remembered and if he did, he probably could care less, but I do.  I love my buddy!

So let that be a lesson, everyone is fighting their own battles, don’t judge.

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

Simply Silence

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls. ~Mother Teresa

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A view that no photo can capture… a perfect snowy night. 2/2015

Since it’s Friday, and my days have been filled with a lot of heavy, I wanted to step back and reflect.   Today, I awoke in the early morning hours to find another dusting of snow blanketing the world outside.  Gazing out the window, trying to wipe the sleep from my eyes, I was instantly warmed with nostalgic memories and a serene feeling.  All from watching the snow sit still among the darkness?  Absolutely!

It’s funny, just the other day, dad commented that he loved the late evenings, in the middle of winter, when everything is covered in snow and is at rest.  I’m paraphrasing for he probably said something along the lines of, “I always liked this.”  But I knew exactly what he meant.  He’s right, that time of day is the best!  Ever since I was a youngster, I’ve always held an affinity for those qualities to grace me with their presence.  That’s one of my favorites during hunting season, the dark hours, snow hiding all details of nature, and the silence that seems to accompany that exact moment.  I love it!

Last week, while I was trimming the blueberry bushes and the grape vines at mom and dad’s house, I let the dogs run around in the snow (mom and dad live in the country).  With the frigid days, our four-legged pals were suffering horribly from cabin fever, and I knew they needed to stretch their legs.  It was in the twenties, with little to no windchill, the sun was brightly shining overhead, and the yard had a healthy dose of snow.  All perfect conditions for playtime.

Well, naturally, I got involved in my work and unbeknownst to me, all three dogs made their escape, and decided to go on a walk about.  I never know if I should be insulted when they make plans without me, or happy because they’re getting exercise, but regardless, they made a break for it.  When the boys and Avery pull this stunt without adult supervision, there’s a 50/50 chance it will end well.  Although, on a good note, my cat, Storm, a.k.a. Lady Fluffington, had a blast running around the snow and climbing up on the grape arbor without the dogs chasing her around.  Luckily, we had the tracker on Avery, but it soon died and lost connection with our delinquents.

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Love the silence of the night, covered in snow! 2/2015

Anyway, after some time, I layered up and headed out to follow their tracks before it got dark.  Just as I approached the middle of the woods, a few miles out, I received a call from dad saying the hounds were back.  What?  It was now getting really dark and I knew dad had the fireplace blazing for them, yet, here I was stuck hiking through snow, in the middle of nowhere, while everyone warmed up and relaxed!  Did I mention, there were a ton of coyote tracks all around me, and in the distance I saw a fresh deer hide ripped to shreds?  Kinda scary, only because I didn’t have my pistol and my phone was ready to die, but then again I really didn’t care.

To be honest, I didn’t mind being in the woods, or even being in the woods with darkness hot on my heels.  Actually, it was a relaxing point in time, a moment of not worrying, for the dogs were safe, Kyle was accounted for, and I didn’t need to be anywhere, or do anything at that particular juncture.  My mind wasn’t racing and I wasn’t in a hurry.  In fact, I was were I needed to be at that point in time.  It was hovering in a state of simple silence and peace.  When was the last time you felt that?  God took a potentially bad situation, and blessed me with the complete opposite.

Did I care it was now dark among the trees?  No, actually I didn’t.  When I was little, Ryan, our cousins, some of our friends and myself (Nicole would sometimes make her appearance), would run through the woods all night long, mostly during the summer months and sometimes on the weekends in autumn, especially during Halloween.  We’d either play war and corn each other, explore and go on adventures, or simply scare each other.  It was our childhood, and the woods were our playground.

While walking back, the only sounds I heard was the soft crunching of snow under my feet, and the slight wind blowing past me, rustling loose branches and causing the treetops to clap.  The moonlight reflected just enough light from the snow to guide my way.  Everyone once in a while, I’d stop to take it all in, all the benevolence of nature.  I’d like to think Ryan was walking with me, for he too loved the woods and winter time.

Always try to look on the good side of any situation, for God always reveals a gem of delight found in silence among the noise and chaos.  Happy Friday!

 

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

Fighting For What’s Right

Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them.  ~Oscar Wilde

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This says it all!  Kyle sporting a halo at our cousin Lee’s wedding. 2011

This is not a finger pointer, but a way to realize what needs fixed for Kyle’s well-being.

I’m not a perfect person, not even close, nor did I ever claim to be.  There are many, many people who can attest to that.  Sure, usually my methods for handling certain situations are a bit abrasive and direct, especially when it comes to Kyle.  However, at least I’m not passive aggressive, and I’m always honest, usually brutally. (If the true can’t be handled then perhaps it’s time to look in the mirror and make some adjustments.)  However, it’s no secret to where I stand with Kyle, for I’m not shy about my thoughts and showing that he’s a priority.

Believe it or not, I’m actually a pretty easy going person, except when it comes to Kyle’s well-being.  I’m well aware that these young teenage years shape and develop traits to strengthen his adult character, or they can be a detriment and hinder him in the long run.  Kyle’s early learning structure is pretty stellar, but molding a kid doesn’t stop when he wants all the freedom in the world at thirteen.  I’m talking about the big three, mental, physical and spiritual wellness.

This past Sunday, which started out as me picking up Kyle for church, turned into a big, almost silly, blowout.  (It’s silly now that it’s over, but not at the time.)  Granted, Kyle wasn’t totally to blame, I played my part, as well as others.  I won’t rehash the long drawn out scenario, but I would like to point out the good that came from this potentially lethal situation, actually a few positive key points and the solutions we agreed upon.  Kyle is a good kid, and I plan on keeping it that way!

First, Kyle claims all I do is yell at him.  Probably true, but if anyone had to deal with Kyle’s attitude, and to top it off by listening to his whining and back-talking all the time, I believe even Mother Teresa would raise her voice, too.  Secondly, Kyle believes that he can never do anything right by me.  Not true, in fact I make it a point to complement him and encourage him when does good, but I won’t sugar coat his actions or behavior when the opposite is true.

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Kyle getting ready for a hike, this time minimal arguments as long as he had his iPod & his trusty walking stick. 2012

Personally, some of these issues are real, but his emphasis on the severity and number of instances aren’t.  Kyle’s pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes.  Seriously!  He’s gotten really good at playing the martyr.  He’s so dramatic!

Example, if I tell Kyle he’s kicked off of his video games for a half an hour because he played for four hours straight, he’ll respond with the usual whine and arguing.  Then, his time-out is such a traumatic experience.  He’ll poor it on thick to anyone who’ll listen to how he’s not allowed to play his videos games for the entire day!  When in reality it’s only a half an hour.  Did I mention he claims he’s not allowed to do anything during that time, even though I suggest a game of chess or a walk.  Yes, according to Kyle, he’s in prison serving hard time.  Think I’m kidding?  Not even close.  This is what Kyle does to get his own way, and work everyone to the dark side.  Who wants to deal with this?  It’s not right, and I won’t tolerate it.  Sadly, no one sees his stunts or if they do, they continue to cater to his whims to avoid an argument.  Not me!

Let’s discuss Kyle’s grades.  They’re not terrible, but I know he can do better, and I won’t stand back and accept skimping by.  I hold him accountable.  Why?  Because I believe in him, and I know he’s smarter than what his grades reflect.  However, he’ll argue and claim other.  I have faith in my little man and praising his grades is basically saying, “You’re not that smart, and I accept your half-way attempt.”  Nope!  Did you know he told my sister he knew he was slacking a little, and he needed to buckle down?  Yes!  Those were his words after he made excuses for his grades.  I appreciate his honesty, but I knew it!  There are so many more instances, I won’t even elaborate on.

When discussing my situation with a good friend of mine, who has a nephew a few years younger than Kyle, it was discovered that she had the exact same problem, almost word for word.  While describing Kyle’s behavior, she said it was an exact replica to her own behavioral situations with her nephew, exactly, down to every drama moment.  What are the common denominators to this behavior?  Both kids eat junk, play hours upon hours of videos games, get no exercise, and basically have little to no structure.

Trying to get this under control and do right by Kyle, I don’t assume I have all the answers, but I will find an expert who does.  I  consulted another friend of mine, who’s a school psychologist!  Perfect!  She handles children’s behavioral problems on a daily basis.  I explained the entire scenario.  Her solution?  Reward with good behavior.  I agree!  If Kyle does good, then a reward is called for.  But what?  My initial friend, mentioned earlier with her nephew, and I tried to brainstorm ideas.  You know what conclusion we came to?  There’s nothing!  No, seriously.  These kids have way too much, and that takes away the opportunity to treat them, or surprise them.  Ultimately, they are rewarded all the time for bad behavior.

This is a poor example, but one that came to mind.  When I was a kid, we were never allowed fast food, only when we went to the doctors as a treat.  Not that fast food or even food should be a reward, but I can’t even use that because his off days, Kyle’s usually filled with junk. (We always cook three meals a day and most of it is raised or butchered by our own hands.  Although my parents do sneak in garbage every once in a while.)  If I gave Kyle another video game, I’m fueling the fire for spending more time on those mind sucking animations that create laziness, and that started this miserableness with the kid.  (I try to teach moderation.)  Money?  Forget it!  I tried to have Kyle work for my company, Thrill of the Hunt entering data, and I paid him.  He wanted nothing to do with it.  Why?  Because if he wants money to go to the movies or to buy something, he simply asks for it and it appears.  He’s not stupid, he’s working the system.

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For Kyle’s 9th birthday, I bought him flying lessons. It was a fun day! 7/24/10

Yes, at this point, anyone with any common sense is realizing the real problem at hand.  It may result with Kyle, but it doesn’t stem from him.  This is what’s causing friction between us.  I don’t, and I will never buckle to the kid, even if it’s not totally his fault.  Sure, I do make compromises, but I won’t tolerate all this, and he knows it.  Hence, his reason for ignoring my phone calls, pushing my buttons and then claiming I’m always yelling, and trying to avoid hanging out with me because I expect him to do chores.

Let’s get this straight.  He does chores maybe once a month, more in the spring and summer months, but I don’t ask him to break his back, or to consume his entire day.  Well, actually it usually does take the whole day, about five hours of arguing, whining and moving at a snail’s pace, and then a half an hour of actual work.  Do I give in?  NOPE!  Why?  Because I want to do what’s right for Kyle.

Kyle’s biggest complaint about me?  You’ll love this one!  I make him take walks (less than a mile, to three miles total) with me and the dogs in the woods.  It’s good for him to get off his iPhone (yes he has an iPhone 6 loaded with video games) and stretch his legs, while recharging his battery in God’s country, and giving the dogs some exercise.  Kyle’s response nearly EVERY time, results in crying for at least an hour, taking another hour to get dressed, and complaining the entire walk, at least until he breaks a sweat and then he’s good (sometimes).  Yes, once he starts clearing his head, he’s happy and enjoys himself.  Granted, it’s getting harder and harder to get to that point, but I won’t give up.  Why?  Because I want to do what’s right for Kyle.

How about other activities?  I’ve tried these and then some, but are denied as the ideas passed my lips.  Shooting at the gun range?  No.  Roller skating?  No.  Shopping?  No.  Playing a board games or chess?  No.  Going to the comic book story. (used to be his hang out)  No.  Walking around a park?  Hell no!  Movies?  Maybe.

So back to my original story, what good could come from our blow out on Sunday and all this tension?  A lot!  I was able to justify my true intentions, so Kyle really understood my point-of-view.  I explained that I’m willing to fight for him.  I’m willing to fight to my last breath for his well-being and his long-term happiness.  I will fight all the video games in the world, and preservative filled foods, and anyone trying to sabotage his natural goodness for their own self satisfaction and easy parenting.  I’m not doing this for myself, but for him.  I won’t give in to him or give up on him, not because I enjoy the fights or I have nothing else to do or it’s the easy way.  NO!  On the contrary, I’m taking the difficult path.  Sometimes doing what’s right isn’t easy, but I will fight for Kyle every step.  I also explained to Kyle that no matter what happens in life, I have his back and I will fight for him every time.  I will fight the devil if I have to, to make sure he’s following in the way of the Lord.  My actions won’t be halfway, or passive aggressive, I will fight for him head on.  Why?  Because Kyle’s worth it, every difficult argumentative whiny moment of his existence is worth trying to do what’s right by him.  That’s how much I love that little guy.

His response?  A few tears were shed, but nothing said.

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Kyle & Aunt Nikki hiking up the hill with their trusty walking sticks. Look who’s pulling up the rear? 2012

My job as his Aunt Heather and godmother, isn’t an easy one, but one I’ve been completely dedicated to since he was born.  Ryan trusted me these responsibilities and he knew, when it came down to it, I would always fight for what’s right by this little boy.  I know if Ryan was alive, he’d have my back and agree with me, for he wouldn’t have tolerated a bratty kid either.  And he would believe in Kyle like I do, and know he’s a better kid than his actions are portraying.  Kyle’s not bad, just spoiled, and a kid who’s becoming a teenager, a difficult stage in itself without compounding it with other issues.

The solution to all this?  I agreed to never raise my voice to Kyle again (even though that’s how I was raised), as long as he promises to keep his attitude in check and listen to me when I tell him to do something, no more whining and complaining.  Begrudgingly he murmured, “Yeah.”  I did blatantly explain, to avoid confusion, that I love him wholeheartedly and I’m not trying to be a roadblock or an opposing force, but one that’s trying to guide him to being a good person and to keep him on the path of righteousness for his own sake.  We’re a team, we’ve always been a team, and we’ll always be a team.  I will never give up on him!  No matter what.  That’s family, and that’s love.

On a side note, my cat Storm, a.k.a. Lady Fluffington, and my dog, Seven hate it when I’m yelling, they really get upset and I don’t enjoy it either.  I’m kind of relieved over our new compromise.  It will force me to stop and think, in turn making me a better person.  I told you, we learn from each other!

I believe this was a good stepping stone, one long over due.  I have faith in Kyle, and don’t expect perfection from him, but only good intentions and everything for his own well-being.

It was also brought to my attention that this blog is hurting Kyle and his adolescents.  I disagree, for I never divulge everything, and I still keep Kyle’s privacy, more so than most.  This blog is the same as other “mommy” blogs and those who post on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or Vine etc. I don’t regularly go in that direction, instead I choose a well thought out blog post.  If I thought this blog was truly hindering Kyle, then I would delete it immediately.

Unbeknownst to some, I get a lot of private messages giving me guidance and sharing personal stories to assist me with Kyle, or others take my advice for his or her own personal dilemmas.  This blog has been a learning experience for me and my readers.  Plus, it’s a way for my family and Ryan’s friends to stay in touch.  Let me get back to the real reason I write.  It’s for Kyle, to have an account of his life stories, something to read when he’s older.  I want him to always know his dad and his family.  A minor point, but I do use this blog for my company, Thrill of the Hunt.  Perhaps, I might cut down on the Kyle stories, and focus on his dad and other activities.  Time will tell.  God speed!

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Hiking & Outdoors,Hunting & Fishing,Milestone,News,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Fiber One Memories

In a way, looking back, it seemed a long, long time since she had been eighteen, but in another way her memories were so clear and vivid that it seemed like yesterday.  ~Helen Hooven Santmyer

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Planinsek Fishing Derby. Kyle hanging with is pap, probably tying another hook that he yanked off. I’m in the background talking to Ryan’s friend Jesse Planinsek & his dad, Fred. 5/10/14

I’m not sure what made me think of this story, but here it is.  I was probably rehashing recent events involving Kyle, and it came to me.

Regardless, a few years ago, I recalled Kyle’s first Fiber One experience.  Fiber One Discovery  Yes, that single moment in history, which changed Kyle’s life forever, and started his short term obsession with the quasi healthy snack bar.  True Story!  Kyle LOVED those General Mills Fiber One bars, not to be confused with the Kellogg’s Fiber Plus bars.  Branding the Next Generation  He tried both, only because I wasn’t paying attention when making my selection.  After sampling each and making very valid comparisons, Kyle proudly announced that he preferred the first rather than the later.  He spoke of those Fiber One bars fondly and often, with an almost reverence.   From that accidental chance in history, Kyle had a favorite snack.  It only increased in popularity, when he found out that the product line expanded to include Pop Tarts.  Love at first bite.  This was such a hot topic, it became a big joke among family and friends, Kyle and his fiber passion.  How could it not?

In recent times, Kyle hasn’t really requested those trusty fiber snacks.  Perhaps, they did a number on him, and the number I’m referring to is TWO (pun totally intended).  Maybe it’s because I haven’t purchased the Fiber One bars for him, or he wasn’t exposed to the brand every time we ran through the grocery store (my money is on Kyle paying too much attention to his video games and not his surroundings) and it’s now become a thing of the past.  No clue.  Unbeknownst to me, we would come full circle with his fiber talk.

About two weekends ago, we found ourselves back in WalMart grabbing a few grocery items.  Yes, back to where it all began, about six years later!  Again, normally, I don’t shop at that constantly crowded, patience required store, especially in the middle of the day, at the height of craziness, but there I was, with Kyle at my side.  While rushing past the isles, we were halted by a sight in the near distance, no more than four feet from us.  Equipped with bright lights, and a familiarity to stop the heart and cause an uncontrollable smile to surface, was a vision of the past.  Almost dreamlike, the way it flooded me with memories, stood the Fiber One sample cart!

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Casey, Kyle & me in a cave while visiting Casey in West Virginia for a snowboarding trip. I know we brought Fiber One bars to snack on! c. 2007

Immediately, the sign caught my eyes, and my mind recalled conversations upon conversations of my little man talking about fiber and the Fiber One bars, way before becoming a teenager.  I know what made me put on the breaks, but I thought Kyle was simply following my lead, for he too stopped.  Instinctively, I turned toward Kyle, ready to make a comment and see if he remembered his Fiber One infatuation, when he did the same, giving me this expression to steal my words.  His look said,  “The Fiber One display!”  He didn’t need to say a word, for we had a universal understanding between us.  After the initial shock, we did a double take toward the display, watching the worker for only seconds that seemed like an hour, while she prepared her samples for a busy Saturday.  Our eyes paused momentarily, lost in the past, before we looked back at each other and busted out laughing.  Kyle did remember his love of Fiber One!

I was cracking up!  I don’t know why Kyle’s realization of his past love meant something to me, probably because it was a memory that began with the two of us.  Then, Kyle flashed me that ornery grin, pointed, and said, “Hey Aunt Heather!”  Too funny!  All I could muster was, “Yes buddy, I see.”  He never did ask me for a sample, or if we could buy a box.  I don’t know if he wasn’t hungry, because usually that’s when all the snack foods seem to jump into the cart, even the little red plastic basket hanging from my arm, or I was moving so fast, Kyle thought we’d wreck if he’d speak up.  Looking back on it now, I should have grabbed a box for old time sake.  That would have made his day, but as usual I was in a hurry.

It may seem silly, but it was one of those precious, although a little odd, moments that can never be planned.  A funny memory that brought with it many, many humorous stories and conversations about all things fiber.  Kyle is the coolest ever!

 

 

 

 

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

Communication! Keep Me Posted!

In the absence of information, everyone assumes the worst.  ~Robert McClelland

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Peddling trip around Pittsburgh bars with the Acusis team. Bob McClelland, me & Penny Patch-Sobehart Pittsburgh, PA 7/18/14

A good friend of mine, Robert (Bob) McClelland who happens to be an outstanding leader, once said to me, “In the absence of information, everyone assumes the worst.”  You know he’s right!  He was referring to work and client projects, but it holds true with family, especially kids.

Typically, I’m an easy going person, except when it comes to Kyle.  Well, that’s not completely true, as long as he’s keeping me in the loop, and opening the lines of communication, then life is good.  I’m reasonable and understanding, to an extent, depending on the situation.  Typical for someone who truly cares for her little man.

This weekend, Kyle really frustrated me, to the point of total anger and caused me to hit a fifty on the old tension scale (reference to the movie The Burbs).  On the contrary to Kyle’s current belief, I’m not a fan of yelling or getting bent out of shape.  But when I’m intentionally blown off, and taken advantage of, without an ounce of respect and consideration, then my inner demon will surface.  It’s not pretty.  “Come on buddy, this could have been avoided!”

Saturday’s the perfect example.  I get it, Kyle’s thirteen and he’s pushing boundaries and wants to hang with is friends.  I’m totally fine with that, but be a little considerate of my plans and my time.  Friday night, Kyle was hanging with his friend, they went to the movies.  Great!  I’m happy for you, even though we still need to discuss his report card.  Regardless, sounds like fun.  Keep in mind, pulling this information from Kyle was a task in itself.  Okay, I’m still working with the kid.  Assuming Kyle wanted to hang with his friend Saturday morning, I didn’t bother him.  That is until mid-morning, and I still haven’t heard a peep from Kyle.  I texted him, trying not to be too pushy, but I wanted to know the plans of the day.  Kyle got back to me, and said he wasn’t sure of the plans.  Okay, I get it, two teenage boys, hanging around, probably playing videos games.  No worries.   I’ll wait.  I still haven’t talked to him, only via text.

Keep in mind, I didn’t make any plans or work on anything too consuming, expecting Kyle to do his usual, and call last minute expecting me to pick him up.  That’s Kyle’s standard process, which I don’t usually mind.  Now the day is fast approaching mid afternoon and still no word.  I want to know what’s going on!  After several calls and texted messages, no word, not a single peep.  At this point, I’m starting to get worried, what is going on?  Are two teenage boys home alone, left to their own devices?

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Kyle’s band concert. I love him dressed up! That looks screams 13-year old! 12/2014

One hour turned into two, and then three, no word.  Finally, Kyle responded to me, via text message, informing me he’s no longer with his friend.  What?  I asked why he didn’t call.  He simply stated, “‘Cause I don’t know what’s going on yet?”  What does that mean?  He’s not a business man with a tight schedule.  He’s a kid, that’s suppose to be under my supervision.  He’s the one changing our routine.  I agree, giving him a little freedom, sure, but not all the freedom in the world to do whatever he desires.  Plus, he’s been keeping me hanging ALL day.  It’s basically a blizzard outside, and I didn’t know if he’s on the road or who he’s with.  I wasn’t happy!

I called Kyle, he wouldn’t answer, I texted him, no answer.  This was a few hours later, from the previous communication.  He texted me and said he was at dinner.  What?  With whom?  Who drove in that white out?  Where was he at?  I called him immediately knowing he had his phone in hand, no answer!  I texted him stating to call me asap and that I was getting mad.  No answer.

Now I’m boiling!  There’s no reason for any of that, none, very disrespectful and inconsiderate at the very least.  Kyle did eventually call me, making sure to set the stage, having all the company sit around listening to me yell at him, like he’s some martyr.  Of course, no on one the other end knows the games he played with me ALL day, and the stress and worrying I’ve been experiencing.

All Kyle had to do, was let me know he was going to dinner, and who he was with, and where he was dining, so I wouldn’t wait any longer and worry.  He needed to inform me of the plans.  Even if he didn’t know them, he should have called me to see what my plans were, or tell the other party that he needed to give me a heads up.  Something!  Anything!  Not ignoring me like I was a nuisance.  I was so mad!  When I asked Kyle again, trying to be flexible, what his plans were for the evening, he said, “I don’t know, maybe Jeff might come over.”  No that’s not a plan, that’s Kyle saying, “Leave me alone, I’m doing what I want.”  Nope!  I don’t think so.

Naturally, by this point, which was early evening, I’ve lost it.  My patience ran out the door and was now lost in the snow.  I was also sensing something was up because he was being so sneaky and secretive.  Yes, I yelled at Kyle, but he did bring it on himself.  He could have excused himself from the table to speak with me.  Instead, he welcomed a big old audience.  Let’s face it, I wasn’t shy about informing Kyle about his rudeness and inconsideration, and how I was worried.  Nope, I let it all out.  Hours, upon hours of all day waiting and concern, exited my mouth via cell phone.  Of course, Kyle clammed up and had no explanation for his actions.  He said maybe two words, again like he’s an innocent victim here.  I’m onto him!

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The Planinsek Fishing Derby. Shooting the breeze & having a good time. Dad, Kyle & me. 5/10/14

What happened next?  After I yelled and told Kyle to be ready at 6:45 am, the next morning for Sunday mass, he begrudgingly agreed and sulked on the phone.  Before closing the line of communication for the night, I did tell him that I loved him.  He murmured it back to me without conviction.

Shortly after that, I get a phone call from my sister, yelling at me!  What?  First of all, she’s three hundred miles away, and she had the audacity to step in the middle, and give ME an earful, over a situation that she wasn’t even a part of, nor is she ever around?  Then, to take the word of a teenage boy, who was completely in the wrong, over my actions, without gathering all the facts?  Are you an A$# or what?  Apparently, Kyle called Nicole after we hung up.  I guess he finally learned how to make a call on his phone.  Basically, he tattled on me to my sister, and probably laid it on thick, like I was being unreasonable.  I can’t believe she fell for it!  Whatever!  I hung up.

We took Kyle to church on Sunday and things calmed down.  I warned him, the next time that happens, I will be in my car, tracking him down and then he would have an even bigger problem.  He snickered at me like I was joking, but we all know, I mean it.  He’s a good kid, and I plan on keeping it that way.  He did ruin by entire day, but Kyle’s safe and healthy, so I can’t be too mad, in the grand scheme of things.

Looking back on it now, I know Kyle was treating me like a parental figure, and that should bring a little comfort to me, but it’s still unacceptable.  If I wasn’t any sort of adult figure, I would’ve let him run wild without any explanation to his whereabouts.  Nope, I know he needs to seek independence, for I too did at that age, even though my dad held tight on the reins, but he also needs to be guided through his freedom and pulled back at times for his own safety and well-being.  I would do anything for that kid, and he knows it.  He also takes advantage of me, and tries to play us against each other.  That’s down right wrong, and it will stop now!

 

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

Laughing About Nothing … Hitchhiker

Make your mistakes, take your chances, look silly, but keep on going. Don’t freeze up.  ~Thomas Wolfe

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Kyle riding a motorcycle at Idlewild Park, Ligonier for the Gutchess picnic. 8/2004

Kyle always surprises me, especially with what he knows.  This time it’s what he didn’t that took me completely off guard.

Okay, I’ll set the stage.  Sunday night, I picked Kyle up from his youth group meeting and we proceeded to drive through Latrobe.  It was later, probably about 8:00 pm or so and definitely dark.  Why is this pertinent?  It is!  As we drove along, I barely noticed an older gentleman, who practically jumped into the street sticking his thumb in the air.  His white or silver hair  juxtaposed against his entirely black attire scared me.  I know smart right, head-to-toe in solid black, lurking in the shadows of the night, while practically playing chicken with moving vehicles.  I swerved into the left lane to miss him, before I stopped at our red light about ten yards away.  Yeah, I checked to make sure our doors were locked.  Check!

During this ordeal, Kyle was jarred a little from my fancy footwork behind the wheel, as well as me saying something like, “Whoa, buddy!” and “What the heck ?”  It really happened so fast.  While waiting for the light to turn green, I kind of reiterated the scene.  That’s when I found myself baffled and yet humored.

I made a comment about the hitchhiker and Kyle asked, “What’s a hitchhiker?”  What?  Yep, I’m totally serious!  He truly didn’t know what a hitchhiker was.  Then the conversation went something like this.

Me:  “He wants a ride somewhere, that’s why he’s hitchhiking or trying to, I almost hit him.”
Kyle:  “How do you know he was trying to hitchhike?”
Me:  Slightly sarcastic, “Because his thumb was in the air.”
Kyle:  “Does that mean he needs a ride?”
Me:  “Well, yeah.  You know, you’ve seen people walk along highways with their thumb sticking in the air, basically screaming, “Pick me up”, they’re hitchhiking.”
Kyle:  “I’ve never seen that before!”
Me:  “Really?  Well, that’s what he was doing.  Although, they’re usually not that aggressive.  He practically jumped up on the hood of my car.”

Let the silliness begin!  There’s always one moment with us that sends us over the edge to the land-of-no-return humor.  That was it.  Kyle looked at me with wide eyes, and a huge ornery grin.  So the ridiculous story unfolds!

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Kyle driving his bumper car around at Idlewild Park, Ligonier for the Gutchess Picnic 8/2004

Yes, we started laughing.  I’ll take the blame for initiating this one when I said, “What would you do if he jumped on the hood of the car and held on?”  Kyle and I busted out laughing.  Then, I started to make noises like a car while I faked me driving erratically from side to side, to shake the imaginary hitchhiker from the hood of my car.  Instantly, Kyle joined in adding to the sound effects and mimicking my motions.  He said, “Can you image Aunt Heather?  That would be so funny!”

Now, I’m taking it a step farther by adding, “Want me to pull over and have him ride in your lap?  What would you do?”  I was trying to get a rise out of Kyle, however he turned the tables on me with his wit.

It took Kyle merely a moment to concoct his own scenario,  “No Aunt Heather, we’d put him in the backseat.”  Laughing trying to properly express his thoughts to me, he adds, “With all three dogs!  And I’m in the front seat.”  Yeah, that made uncontrollable roars of laughter erupt straight from my gut.  Kyle really painted the picture when he described the scene.  “Can you imagine?  Our boys would be walking all over him and he wouldn’t have any room to sit.”  Kyle’s now really humoring himself, as well as me.  He even added my cat, Storm, a.k.a. Lady Fluffington, to the story.

Playing off of Kyle’s new direction, I declare, “Scooby would be in his face growling and the guy would be too afraid to move.”  I motioned with my hand toward my face, where Scooby’s face would be in relation to our fake hitchhiker.   “Avery would just sit there and drool all over him, and Seven would pay no attention and tramp him down as he pranced back and forth on the seat.”  That’s our dogs, exactly!  Kyle found this story hilarious.  He buckled over laughing.  Actually, we both did.

Now, the crème de la crème, I blurted out, “No!  We pull over, with you sitting in the front seat, and all three dogs in the back.  I open the hatch and tell him that’s his seat.”  We died!  “He might say, “No thanks, I’ll wait for the next ride.”  I love that moment of pure hilarity, whereas you can’t event catch your breath.  In fact, not a sound could be heard.  You know it’s gut stretching!

South Carolina Fort Jackson Summer 1969 Bootcamp Terry, Dad, Charlie Ferry-Pap-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Fort Jackson Bootcamp, South Carolina – Terry, Dad, Charlie Ferry, Pap. Summer 1969

Yes, all this excitement was going on while I was driving, but at least I got Kyle off of his video games to engage with me, even if it was imaginary.  We re-played that entire situation for the duration of the ride, changing things here and there and laughing at each new discovery.

I did explain that hitchhiking was more commonplace in his Gigi’s day.  I explained it to him, as I was told, especially with war veterans who came home and didn’t have a vehicle, so they hitchhiked.  I continued to explain that back in that day, most families only had one car, and sometimes not even that, and sometimes they needed a ride.  I also told him, since the olden days, it’s became less acceptable and now dangerous.  “So don’t ever pick up a hitchhiker or hitchhike yourself!”  Even though he didn’t appear to be listening, I know he was.

I’ve said it before, Kyle is the coolest!  I love being around him and under his thirteen-year old attitude, and general sluggishness brought on by poor eating and mind sucking video games, he has a strong personality and is really very funny.  His sense of humor still reminds me of his Aunt Nikki, very Saturday Night Live “esk”.  Nothing wrong with that!

Catch all the ridiculously funny stories!

Laughing About Nothing
Laughing About Nothing … True Story

Laughing About Nothing … Cats!
Laughing About Nothing … Truck Horn!
Laughing About Nothing … Dog in Space!
Laughing About Nothing … Our Dog vs. A Robber

posted by auntheather in Church,Common Sense,Family,Observation & Imagination,Pets,Travels,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Singing to Kenny Rogers

One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.  ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Yes I was singing with deodorant … back in the days when I wore a watch… this was my first apartment in Pittsburgh after graduating. 1994

Silly story time!  Last week, while leaving the gym with my friend Holly, I heard Juice Newton sing Queen Of Hearts.  She was shocked to find out that I liked country music.  (I’m not sure if Queen Of Hearts constitutes country music but for this conversation, it does)  I stand corrected, when I was a kid, I liked THAT country music, from THAT time.  The Charlie Daniels Band, Crystal Gayle, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, Barbara Mandrell, Dolly Pardon, Johnny Horton, and Willie Nelson were among some of my favorites.  Yes, when I was young some of the artists were already dead or pretty old themselves, regardless, that’s were my interest rested.  Keep in mind, I also loved Boy George and the Culture Club, the Go-Go’s and the Bangles.  I even enjoyed listening to country gospel tunes.  My music interests were certainly eclectic.  Presently, I’m not a country music fan, nor was I even in high school.

So it’s really no surprise that I’m a fan of Kenny Rogers, or I was.  I loved Kenny Rogers!  The movie The Gambler was one of my favorites.  (That reminds me, I need to introduce Kyle to that one!)  It ranked up there with Mary Poppins, Sound of Music and Singin’ in the Rain.  (Every once in a while, I also bust into one of those show tunes.  My family appreciates those moments. sarcasm)

So, it’s not so far fetched that when the Geico commercial came on, and Kenny Rogers began singing, I joined in, and then some.  Yep, I know all the words, forwards and back!  I couldn’t help myself.  While Making Deer Bologna & Deer Jerky on Saturday with Kyle and mom, I busted into song.

Admittedly, I went on for hours singing, the same song, over and over and over again.  Please note, I can’t sing, which made it even better!  At times I started at the chorus, sometimes at the beginning, and others I sang the last part and stomped my feet like the original song.  And somewhere in the darkness, the gambler he broke even, and in his final words I found an ace that I could keep…

At first Kyle ignored me, then he started protesting with his usual, “STOP!”  “STOP!”  “STOP!”  I can’t believe he thought that would really make be cease and desist.  After about an hour or so, (it truly did go on for a while) he found me a tiny bit humorous, even though he wouldn’t admit it.  Kyle, trying to be good humored about my stage act, started to tease me with a chorus of “Boo”, accompanied with silly smirks and motions of a thumbs down.  Now he found himself funny.  Kyle giggled and made sure I didn’t miss his gesture of thumbs down.  No worries, I know artists are sometimes misunderstood.  I held my ground, and continued singing the song of my soul.  Seven, my Black Labrador, even joined in by jumping around barking.  He was my back up singer, a supporter of the arts.  It was a fun family time in the kitchen!

What made the situation even better?  Every time that commercial came on the rest of the weekend, before Kenny Rogers was spotted on the television screen, I’d turn my heard toward Kyle, shoot him an ornery look, and sing.  As if on cue, Kyle would chuckle, roll his eyes and do his best to ignore me, which provoked me even more.   He continued giving me his standard thumbs down.  I love getting a rise out of that kid!  It makes life entertaining and keeps him on his toes.  We all know he LOVES it!

It was all in good fun, typical Aunt Heather style.  I bet I got that song stuck in Kyle’s head!

 

 

posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Cooking with Kyle,Education & Learning,Family,Hunting & Fishing,Observation & Imagination,Patience and have No Comments

Making Deer Bologna & Deer Jerky

I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.  ~Julia Child

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Close-up of the deer bologna, made with cheddar cheese. 1/24/15

On Saturday, we finally had the chance to make deer bologna and deer jerky.  Is it hard?  Nope, not even close.  The hardest part is monitoring the cooking, or in the case of the jerky, the dehydration machine.  As long as you keep a close eye on the meat, perfection!  A healthy snack!

Way back in December, during hunting season, which seems like a lifetime ago now, we ground up the deer meet into hamburger.  Yes, we have a grinder to grind our own meat.  Believe it or not, we use it during the winter months, not only for deer, but also if we’re butchering a cow (ground chuck) or pig (sausage).  By next year, I’m going to raise my own turkeys, and make ground turkey meat. (I love turkey burgers!) We weighed the meat, sealed it in plastic wrap, wrapped it in freezer paper, labeled it, and froze until ready to use.  We use the ground deer meat for burgers, taco meat, and meatloaf, among other recipes.  This year, we set some aside specifically for the bologna and jerky.

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Deer Bologna ready to be snacked on … made with cheddar cheese! 1/24/15

Before beginning, the weighed meat needs to be removed from the freezer, at least a day or two in advance to slowly defrost.  I wouldn’t suggest using a microwave to assist with this process, because even though the microwave “defrosts” the meat, it still cooks the edges slightly, and that’s no good.  Do yourself a favor, and take the time to let the meat thaw naturally.

In the past, we’ve made deer Salomi, but from what my parents said, they didn’t care for it as much as the bologna.  So bologna it is!

We purchase our bologna mix at Gander Mountain, and sometimes Cabela’s.  There’s a certain brand my parents like, although I can’t remember the name (It’s in an orangeish bag).  You can purchase bologna kits, that contain the pertinent spices, as well as the casings.  We prefer the fat casings, as opposed to the thinner ones.  The thinner ones tend to dry out fast, especially when cooked alongside the fat ones.  So cook them separately, if you choose to use a combination of fat and thin casings.

Starting with the bologna, since it takes a while to cook, we dropped the thawed weighed ground deer meat in our hand crank mixer.  Using dad’s homemade red wine instead of water, we diluted the spices in the liquid.  Simply follow the directions on the package for exact measurements.  Now, it’s really as easy as adding the diluted spice mixture to the meat, mixing, and then stuffing.  Make sure you soak the casings in warm water prior to stuffing.

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Close-up or our deer bologna, made with cheddar cheese. Perfect snacking goodness! 1/24/15

To assist us a step further, we added the meat mixture to our hand crank stuffer, typically used to stuff sausage.  It works wonderfully with the bologna casings, as long as you use the smallest tube and keep the air out by holding the end into the meat.  Simply, crank the mixture into the casing, leave a little room at the open end to twist, and seal.  Lay the long cylinders together ready for baking.  I wouldn’t recommend adding the bologna rods in the oven one at a time.  Save yourself some frustration, and confusion and add them all together, on the same rack.   Again, use the cooking directions on the package.

On a side note, during the mixing stage, we added chunks of cheddar cheese to the meat.  My family is partial to the meat and cheese mixture, but you can add, jalapeno peppers, spicy cheese, or garlic pieces.  Experiment to find out what your family likes best.  Keep in mind, when another ingredient is added to the meat mixture, it will increase the amount of bologna, in turn increasing the number of casings used.  So, have an extra casing or two handy, you’ll need it!

I do want to call out, during this process, Kyle would not touch the raw meat with his hands.  That cracks us all up!  He simply just can’t do it.  Knowing this, I couldn’t help but smear a little meat on his cheek or hand.  Kyle snickered and played along for a while, until he had enough.  He’s not the adventurous or traditional type of cook.  He’s more the, stand-on-the-sidelines and dictate direction.  I love that kid!

Nicoles-Ramen-Noodles-Stockpile-2014-Aunt-Heather-Piper

This picture is just hilarious…as I opened my sister’s hallway closet, I saw these Ramen Noodles. Apparently, she purchased them as part of her doomsday prep!  Gross!  The best part?  She bought them on Craig’s List! I was dying! 2014

Okay, funny story, yes besides me grossing Kyle out.  It’s always an adventure in the Piper household, especially when Kyle and I are involved.  While Kyle was cranking the meat mixture into the casing, he was struggling a bit.  Toward the bottom of the metal container, it does get tough to crank.  Smarty pants me, told Kyle to step aside, thinking he was being dramatic.  When I began cranking, Kyle sarcastically commented, “It’s not that easy is it Aunt Heather?”  In a way, he sounded just like his dad, Ryan, when he was trying to prove a point.  While I was flexing my muscles, literally, I too wanted to prove a point.  My point?  That there was still plenty of cranking room.  While doing so, we heard a huge BOOM noise.  Everyone looked at me, like I had a clue what that noise was.  I back peddled the crank to find that I was pressing the mixture so hard, it created a vacuum and blew the cheese cubes flat to the bottom of the metal container.  Keep in mind, there was still meet mixture in the tube leading to the casing.  During the back peddling process, the space beneath my sealed top, where there was a void of air, it pulled the meat mixture back into the container.  It was amazing, it happened so fast we just stood dumfounded.  The force was so great, the meat gathered in a large single mass in the center of the container.  Science, too cool!  It’s little moments like that, that make this so much fun!  We were giggling, and having a good time.

While the bologna cooked, we started the deer jerky.  Same process really, take the thawed weighed ground deer meat, and the spices diluted in dad’s wine, and mix well.  Instead of using the stuffer, we added the meat mixture to a press, which resembles a cookie press, or an odd looking firearm. (fitting)  Anyway, we used the thin narrow tip to squeeze the meat directly onto our plastic dehydration racks.  Since the racks are circular in shape, we lined up the meat strips from outer ring to the center, giving it a wheel appearance, leaving space between strips for air circulation.  Then, on the next row, I staggered the meat strips, compared to the rack below.  This continued until all the meat was used.  One batch filled our machine, almost perfectly (I believe we have extra trays).  We placed a timer on the machine, and let modern technology do the rest.

With each, the deer bologna and deer jerky, it’s prudent to constantly check the progress, and not let the oven or the timer on the dehydrator dictate when the meat is done.  Nope, you be the judge.  Check the temperature of the bologna, and check the texture of the jerky.  Also, keep in mind with the dehydrator, some trays will finish sooner than others.  Don’t over do it.

Once you’re done, sit back, and enjoy the fruits of your labor.  It’s totally worth it!  Gathering as a family, and passing along cooking traditions such as this one with Kyle, makes it a truly memorable experience.  Kyle loves his deer meat, and he enjoys cooking, but he loves being a part of the family the most.  Even at his thirteen years, I could tell he likes to be included in our traditions, as much as we adore including him.  Happy snacking!

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

Happy Birthday Dad! – 64 Years

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

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1950

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Dad as a baby with Uncle Sonny. 1951

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy 64th Birthday Pap!

 

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

Our Avatar Adventure

All the world’s a stage we’re going through.  ~Lorrie Moore

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A book I purchased for Kyle, Avatar 3-D, includes a sleeve, hardback book with images & 3D glasses. c. 2011

While writing TAKEN by Movies, I was reminded of the time I took Kyle to see Avatar.  Another day at the movies in December 2009, January 2010.  A day I had to defend my actions to a little tyke.

It was a Saturday, late morning, and it was raining none stop.  It started the day prior, and continued into the next, without a sign of letting up.  It was a typical, dreary, foggy, rainy, dark, cold Western Pennsylvanian day.  The kind that makes a person want to curl up on the couch with a blanket, in front of a roaring fire, and read a book or watch a movie.  If it was a little colder, we could’ve played in snow, but alas no such luck.  So going anywhere was a brave move, and forget about playing outside.  Kyle and I watched some television during the morning hours, and we played with Thomas the Tank Engine and his Matchbox cars.  However, the day was dragging along without the sign of promising fun.

Kyle came to me and said, “Aunt Heather (I believe I was Aunt Heather at that point, but I could have still been Aiya) I have an idea!”  He had such excitement in his eyes!  Kyle always did beat around the bush when suggestion anything, but his ideas were usually really good.  He continued, “Since it’s a rainy day, and we can’t go out, and you said during rainy days, it’s a good time to go to the movies.  Let’s see a movie!”

First, I was cracking up, because that kid never forgets ANYTHING!  I do remember saying that very thing, almost word for word.  Rainy days are perfect for staying inside and watching a movie!  I must admit that was a great idea, and I told him so!  We jumped on the computer, and I looked up the list of movies playing and showtimes.  Naturally, in addition to the movie titles, advertisements with the cover of the movies appeared in bright colors, as well as an option to watch the trailer.  Kyle, having a keen eye, was stopped at the image of Avatar.  He also pointed out the button to watch the trailer, which we did.  Okay, I’m hooked.  Even though I was interested in that movie prior to this.

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A page out of the Avatar book. There are layered images for the 3D effect. c. 2011

For a change of pace, I decided to take Kyle to Lowe’s theater in Pittsburgh’s Waterfront.  They were playing Avatar in 3D!  This would be Kyle’s very first 3D movie.  I was excited for him.  Since it was going to take us about an hour, just to get to the theater, plus parking, getting in line, and finding our seat before the movie began, we had to leave straight away!

It was a miserable rainy ride, but the idea of seeing Avatar, a movie we really wanted to see, and in 3D, kept us both focused.  The theater was packed!  Kyle commented that perhaps others had the same rainy day idea.  I concur!  We stood in a long line within the velvet rope area.  When we hit the midpoint in line, I looked at the time to realize our movie was about to being.  Still, no worries, I knew they would play a half an hour of previews, I thought we were still good.  I thought.

During this time, Kyle thinking ahead, suggested that he go and get us popcorn and water while I waited in line, to keep things moving along.  I must admit, that was another great idea, however a scary one.  Kyle was only eight years old.  Yes, I trusted he would not go off with strangers, yet he was young enough to have that decision taken from him.  Reluctantly, I gave him money and instructed him to go to the one counter, where I was able to watch him from my position, and not stray away.  He did as instructed.

Just as I got to the ticket counter, still craning my neck to watch Kyle, I noticed he too was done and headed back.  I asked for two tickets, for the 6:00 pm or 6:30 pm showing (I can’t remember the time).  Sadly, she informed me it was sold out, and the next showing was around 8:00 pm or 9:00 pm (Again, I can’t remember the exact time, only that is was too late).  They didn’t even have an opening for the non 3D movie!  Not wanting Kyle to wait that long to see a show, and then have him try and stay awake while watching, I asked my big screen buddy if he wanted to see another movie.  Naturally, there wasn’t a movie open, at least not appropriate for him, or one he wanted to see.  Plus, he insisted on Avatar.

Okay, okay, I purchased two tickets to the later showing.  I had a plan!

With popcorn and water in hand, Kyle and I made a beeline for the Avatar theater, the earlier showing that just begun.  I handed the ticket person our receipts and entered.  Yes, I know what I did. I entered the wrong theater according to our tickets, but I wasn’t’ going to wait that long to see a movie, especially with a little tyke, and being an hour away from home.

Upon entering the theater, Kyle looked at me with worry in his eyes and said, “Aunt Heather, this isn’t our movie, we’re in the later one!”  O, no I was breaking the rules.  Yes, I kind of was and I didn’t care.  I told Kyle my reasoning and I also added, “There are always empty seats, and I’m willing to stand or sit on the steps to watch the movie, making way for those who purchased tickets for this showing.”  I also told Kyle that I was aware of my wrong doing, and if we got in trouble and got kicked out, and I lost out on the movie, that was a price I was willing to pay.

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Avatar book opened showing the beautifully colored images, & sleeve with 3D glasses. c. 2011

Kyle was stressed over my actions and was torn, he wanted to see the movie, and he didn’t want to call me out on our criminal activity, especially since he was now my accomplice, yet didn’t like breaking the rules.  He reluctantly agreed and followed me in.

The previews were almost done.  At that point I figured the general public was seated.  I spotted a couple of seats close to the front, not my favorite seat, but I had no right to be picky.   I grabbed them, again if we were told to leave I would have without incidence, or if someone didn’t have a seat, I would have immediately offered mine.  Neither happened, and besides, we only needed one seat, Kyle continued to sit in my lap, especially when the action consumed the big screen.

Before the movie started, we got cozy, started munching on our popcorn.  It was actually perfect timing.  At the time, Kyle was wearing glasses.  He couldn’t make up his mind, if he wanted to wear his 3D glasses over his glasses, or watch the movie without his glasses, and just wear the 3D glasses.  I never thought of such an issue, me never wearing glasses.  Eventually, Kyle opted to watch the movie wearing his 3D glasses over his glasses.  (He was instructed by the eye doctor to wear his glasses when he watches television or for reading.  Kyle could not have handled breaking two rules in one night!)  It looked a bit awkward, but he managed.

About mid movie, Kyle leaned into me and said, “Aunt Heather, I feel a little dizzy.”  The 3D glasses made the kid seasick!  Seriously?  Yes, and I couldn’t resist chuckling to myself.  I too was a little off balance, but I think it was because we were so close to the screen.  Eventually, Kyle took his red rimmed 3D glasses off, to never wear them again.  In fact, to this day, he prefers NOT to watch a movie in 3D.  (Partially because he hates to layer up the glasses, not that I blame him, and partially because it gives him a headache.)

Well, the movie was a success, and by the time it ended, it was bedtime for us both.  We left rainy Pittsburgh to arrive in rainy Latrobe.  Loving all things Kyle, my parents wanted to see our little man and hear about our movie adventure.

Kyle was all smiles when we walked into the living room.  (That was mostly for the excitement of seeing my parents, which he didn’t see all day)

The story that Kyle told them, had me flabbergasted.  He didn’t focus on the movie, but instead on my quasi illegal activity.  He told a story of how we sneaked into the theater, leaving out that I did indeed paid.  He continued to inform my parents, the theater was full, yet we grabbed two seats.  Correction, we grabbed the seats no one was sitting in.  He also stated that he went off by himself to get our popcorn and water, again leaving out that I had my eyes on him the entire time.  Boy, his story made me out to be a thief and bad parent!  His story was quite colorful and full of adventure.  I guess Kyle has my talent for storytelling.  I didn’t mind, until mom brought it to my attention that he may tell others his story.  I really didn’t want anyone to think I set the example for a kid by sneaking into movie theaters, or letting an eight year old run wild in a busy public place.  I did have to correct him, before he continued to tell my parents about the movie.

Regardless of the rain and a few roadblocks, I had a great time, as did Kyle!

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

TAKEN by Movies

Movies can and do have tremendous influence in shaping young lives in the realm of entertainment towards the ideals and objectives of normal adulthood.  ~Walt Disney
Kyle-all-smiles-7-28-10 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle all smiles in celebration of his birthday! Mr. 9 yr old. 7/28/10

This past weekend, Nicole, Kyle and myself went to the movies.  The movie of choice?  TAKEN 3.  Was it good?  Being a Liam Neeson fan, in my eyes, he could never do no wrong.  But seriously, it was a good movie!

Spoiler alert!  At the end of the movie, while Liam Neeson was fighting the bad guy in a shootout, the vilian was running around in his underwear.  Yep, his “tighty whities” (briefs).  Kyle was sitting beside me cracking up, knowing I would never be caught running around anywhere, in my undergarments.  Please note, Kyle is not shy about sitting around the house in his underwear, not in the slightest.  In fact, that’s his preference.  During this fight scene, yes a fight scene with a man in his underwear, I kept saying, “I can’t believe he’s in his underwear, in the middle of a shootout!”  Kyle was cracking up!  I commented, “I would never be caught dead (pun intended) running around in my underwear.”  Kyle’s response?  “But if you’re already dead, who cares?”  Too funny!  “Yeah, I’d still want someone to cover me up!”  Kyle thought that was such a funny response, he was giggling the entire way up until the end.  

We had dinner at the movie theater, which serves sandwiches and such.  Kyle’s stable?  He always eats the Miss Piggy (pulled pork sandwich), plus other items such as a soft pretzel, ice-cream, popcorn etc.  It’s not always a junk food fest, but sometimes that does turn into the case.

On a side note, Kyle continues with this behavior that he won’t eat anything until the movie starts.  I’ve mentioned it time and time again, but it still amazes me.  Especially, on Saturday, when he was truly hungry.  Nope, he would not touch a thing until the movie started.  Can you say Rain Man?

While waiting (not so patiently) for our movie to begin, I was reminded of the first time I took Kyle to the cinema.  Yes, I introduced him to the world of big screen pictures.  How old was he?  He was definitely walking, I’m guessing around three or four years old.  I know, he was a bit young to be attending the movies, but I knew he’d love it, and have a great time.  It’s true, I was worried his attention span would pucker-out mid movie, but then I was prepared to leave if needed.  What movie did we see?  Honestly, I can’t remember.  Originally, I thought it was a Winnie the Pooh movie, but Nicole corrected me saying she took him to that one.  I’m guessing it was The Incredibles, after all, a year later, I made us The Incredibles costumes for Halloween.  It could have been The Polar Express, Shrek, or Finding Nemo.  All great movies, all Kyle’s favorites at the time, and all seen in the theater. 

Kyle & Scooby, camping.  Yes, that's Kyle in his underwear & his Aunt Nikki's flip flops.  What a look! 8/21/10

Kyle & Scooby, camping. Yes, that’s Kyle in his underwear & his Aunt Nikki’s flip flops. What a look! 8/21/10

Whatever movie we saw, I took Kyle to Carmike Cinema 15 in Greensburg.  It’s not a huge theater compared to those in the D.C. Metro area, or even the Lowe’s Theater in Pittsburgh, but nice enough.  Upon entering the doors, Kyle was mesmerized.  We went mid-day on a Saturday, only because it was an ugly day out.  There wasn’t a line, so I ducked under the velvet rope, to get to the ticket window quicker.  What did Mr. Play-it-by-the-rules do?  He walked the entire length of the roped off area.  I waited for him to finish his trek before getting our tickets.  I remember, Kyle stated his age to the young person working behind the window.  Why?  Rules!  He wanted to clarify he was a child.  Again, what a cutie!

Once we walked around the ticket window area, Kyle’s olfactory nerves picked up on the smell of popcorn.  His eyes were wide from the lights and the colorful interior, and his mouth watered from the smell of butter and popcorn and candy.  Did I get him a bag of popcorn?  You bet I did!  I wanted him to have the full movie experience.  And you know, he never waited for the movie to start to dig into the buttery bag.  That has been a recent event as of the last couple of years.

Kyle held my hand while we watched the monitor in the lobby, waiting for our theater to open.  Back then, Kyle was always attached to me by the fingers.  I’m not sure when that era ended, but it wasn’t for many years later.  Thank goodness!

While standing in the lobby, Kyle intently examined his surroundings and took it all in.  I could tell he was a bit overwhelmed, but not in a bad way, just in a “something very new” way.  As we proceeded back the large carpeted hallway, looking for our door, still hand-in-hand, Kyle looked up and simply said, “Umm this is nice, Aiya (Aunt Heather).”  I was cracking up!  Believe it or not, I bet I had a better time watching his facial expressions and listening to his comments, than he did with the movie.  I thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience, still remembering it to this day (except the movie we watched).  On our journey back the hallway, Kyle examined the life size posters and standup advertisements for future and present movies.  He pointed and smiled, especially with recognizable characters.

Upon entering the theater, Kyle’s eyes practically shot out of his head with excitement!  Sporting a huge grin, he pointed and proclaimed, “Loot (look) Aiya (Aunt Heather), loot at that big TV!”  That hooked him!  He was all smiles, and so excited for this new experience.  Little did I know, this single outing would become one of our shared interests, even presently.

Kyle-in-underwear-with-flip-flops-8-21-10 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle’s favorite look… simply underwear & his Aunt Nikki’s flip flops! Kyle loves cloths (sarcasm) Camping 8/21/10

During most of the movie, Kyle sat in my lap, especially after the lights dimmed to a dark room.  I didn’t mind, it was nice to cuddle with him, and I never missed a reaction.  ALL THE WAY THROUGH the movie, he added his own commentary, talking at full volume, a trait that still holds true today.  I tried to get him to use his “inside voice”, but that was futile during actions scenes.  Kyle also kept asking questions about the movie, while watching it, another trait that holds true today.  Sometimes, he stood up, sometimes he retreated to his own seat or my lap.  It seemed like the musical chairs helped him stay focused.

Can you tell I paid more attention to Kyle, than I did to the showing?  Hence, the reason I truly can’t remember what we saw that day, the one that changed Kyle’s life forever.  (It’s really bothering me!)

Kyle had such a great day!  I equally did as well.  On the way home, we called my sister, who lived in Arizona at the time.  Kyle talked her ear off about his adventure.  I know Nicole couldn’t really make out what he was saying, but she shared in his enthusiasm.

It was after that, that Kyle started to take notice of new movies coming out.  He would request to see certain feature films.  It also didn’t take him long to realize that he was prohibited from watching rated “R” movies.  How do I know?  He would tell me he wasn’t allowed to watch those movies.  My Kyle, always playing it by the rules and never wanting to get in trouble.  Later on, I did take him to see “PG-13″ movies before he was  thirteen, but he also knew he was allowed since I was accompanying him.  Kyle is all about the details.  Perhaps, one day, I’ll tell our movie experience with Avatar in the theater.

Together, we’ve seen so many movies thus far, I couldn’t even begin to count.  Some were in the theater, and some at the drive-in.  My sister also adopted this form of entertainment, especially on “Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun.”  It’s a fun way to spend time together, as long as the picture of choice is age appropriate.

As a kid, I too loved the movies.  However, back then, it was more a luxury item, than a rainy day staple.  The Latrobe movie theater, the very one we take Kyle to, is the same one I went as a kid.  Back then there were other movie theaters at Gee Bees, Greengate Mall, and at Westmoreland mall, but we rarely went up the highway.  Times have changed, but the love of movies has always remained!

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

Good Intentions

The minute you become conscious that you are doing good, that’s the minute you have to stop because from then on it’s wrong.  ~Paula Fox

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Kyle loving his Aunt Nikki’s dog, Avery. 12/24/14

As usual, we made it through another Christmas and New Years without any major issues.  It was a bit warm for my tastes, I would’ve preferred a white Christmas, but it was a blessed time all the same.  (I am loving the snow now!)

Kyle had another successful Christmas.  This year’s theme?  Warmachine.  (Warmachine Tournament, Painting Warmachine)  He received new figures and played a mean game with his Aunt Nikki.  Most of Christmas consisted of him gluing, and admiring the new additions to his army.  I can’t tell you, how many times he asked me to get him Loctite Super Glue, to keep his assembly line moving.  Kyle recieved a few unconventional gifts from me, one being a red laptop messenger bag, the latest Wimpy Kid book (I know he’s too old, but he has the whole collection so I thought, Why not?) and Percy Jackson The Blood of Olympus (I found out upon Kyle unwrapping the book, that he already read it in the school library.  Kudos to the school for supplying kids with current reading material.)  We also managed to go to the movies to watch, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies.  Great times!

Sometimes, I believe Kyle is aware of how fortunate he is, yet I’m not always so sure.  I do remind him, and bring it to his attention about those less fortunate in the world.  Does it sink in?  It has been my experience, that children do indeed get it and hear what is said or preached to them, but never let on.  So, I guess the next question is, does he care?  I believe Kyle’s participation with his youth group, and the community service they partake in, is a step in the right direction.  Of course, these actions mean nothing unless it’s done from the heart.  Who am I to say it’s not?

I worry about Kyle and his character and the man he will become.  Sometimes, I worry so much, I don’t realize I can set by example, which in my opinion is the best way to teach.  I’ve always tried to demonstrate being a good person, at least to the best of my ability, even though I fall short.  I’m not a perfect person, so when I mess up, I take responsibility, and try and make things right.  I don’t hide my mistakes, I explain to Kyle why I was wrong, and how to fix it.  I’m always encouraging him to continue to be a good person and make decisions with good intentions, no matter what happens in life.

What brought this up?  On Tuesday, this past week, I was at my sister’s in the D.C. Metro Area.  We had to get up early, to go to the hospital for her to have outpatient knee surgery.  Nothing major, just a simple routine to address her torn meniscus.

On a side note, it was a simple procedure.  However, to my sister, she had MAJOR surgery and she acted as such.  I bet her blood pressure was through the roof!  After surgery, the doctor said he placed a band-aid on the entrance wound.  Later this week, Nicole would defend her actions by saying, “Heather!  I had major surgery!” and I would correct her by saying, “You have a band-aid on your knee!”  Typical us.

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Kyle posing with Avery, his Aunt Nikki’s dog. 12/24/14

We woke early morning, allowing enough time to make it through the fresh snow and traffic.  I would like to clarify, the Pittsburgh area is pretty good about clearing the roads, especially when they have warning of a snow front coming through.  However, in Virginia, they must have a shortage of salt trucks.  No joke.  We were on major Interstates, and the roads were completely covered.  During our travels to and fro, we spotted one truck.  One!  I was flabbergasted!

Anyway, as we moved along, getting ready to make a left hand turn, there was a car in front of us not moving at the green light.  Then, we saw the vehicle’s four-way lights begin to flash.  Nicole, simply went around the car, and we were on our way.

Just then, it dawned me, when did we, referring to every human being, abandon our concern for others in roadside distress?  I was not faulting my sister, or anyone else, because we’ve all done it.  We assume the other motorist has a cell phone and has someone to call for help, or roadside assistance.  When in reality, that might not be the case.  Perhaps we’ve become callous to these instances because of our assumptions with our own electronic devices?  Or we simply don’t care?

I believe people are innately good, and I believe they are genuinely concerned for his or her fellow neighbor.  It has always been my experience, ever since I started driving, that people have helped me, or offered to do so, for one reason or another.  Always! Playing Chicken with a Drunk Driver.  So why don’t I now?

Believe it or not, when I’m driving I do.  However, if I have Kyle with me, I tend not to, for fear of trouble seeking me out with my little man present.  Regardless, I try to have good intentions, behind everything I do, even though it might seem like I don’t care.  I believe the same goes for a majority of the population.

Perhaps we can all make a change for the better, in the new year!  Even among all the hostage and terrorists situations taking place in Paris now.  God Speed!

Happy New Year!  2015!

 

 

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

Santa Took My Bottle!

The reality of what we really are is often times found in the small snips, way down at the bottom of things.  ~Jean Shepherd

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Ryan, me & Nicole with Santa at mom & dad’s house.  On the mantel is mom’s nativity scene from her mother & the same stockings we’ve always had.  12/1980

‘Tis the season for Christmas and Christmas memories!  Reading stories of friends and family reminiscing about Christmases past on Facebook, brings me back to my very own Christmas tragedy.  In all honesty, most of my childhood memories during the holiday season are very positive.  Actually, all of them, except one.  However, this story has stuck with me since I was in my single digits and funny enough, doesn’t take place around the holiday season, but in the dead of summer.  Yes!  Let me explain how it has everything to do with Christmas.

When I was little, I had this purple bottle.  Yes, a baby bottle.  Who got it for me?  No clue.  When did I get it?  No clue.   Do I really remember my bottle?  I do!  That bottle and my “banky” (blanket) were the only two things I cherished most as a kid.  (One day I’ll explain the horror story regarding my blanket)  Sure I had other toys, but for some reason, my memories are always focused on those two items.  Next in line would be my beloved Morticia (cat) and Jill (dog), both very sad stories.  Today, I’ll only explain the bottle, which isn’t a horror story, put a heartbreaking one.

This all started when I was about three or four years old.  Sure, I was probably too old for a bottle, but it’s not like I sucked on it day and night.  In fact, I usually drank out of my sippy cup.  I just really loved carrying around my bottle.  Where was the harm in that?  It wasn’t any different than a plastic doll.  Apparently, according to my mom and gram, I should not have been toting around such a baby item.  That’s where the story really begins.

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Kyle helping take down the Christmas lights after the 2013 Christmas. 1/2014

For many years, my pap would dress up as Santa and stop by the house to visit us.  I know there were other people who dressed up as Santa, but this time I know it was pap.  How?  I’ll get to that.

One evening before Christmas, Santa stopped by to pay us a visit, checking in on Nicole, Ryan and myself, as well as my cousins, to see if we’ve been good.  It was awesome, having a real-life Santa in our living-room!  He always sat in the rocking chair, a detail to be used later for solving this riddle.

Well, anyway, we took turns sitting in Santa’s lap, telling him how good we were and what we wanted for Christmas.  You know the standard procedure.   While it was my turn, after rattling off what I wanted, Santa gave me a small gift.  Yeah!  But there was a catch.  With Santa?  Well, not exactly but with my grandma and mom.

Before I left Santa’s lap, gram stopped me and posed a question, “What are you going to give Santa since he gave you a gift?”  I didn’t know what to say.  In the back of  my mind, no one else was giving Santa a gift, nor were they asked, so why was I?  Guess what item was so graciously suggested by my mom and grandma to give Santa?  Yes, MY bottle!  Coincidentally, I was cradling my bottle, as I always did.  I don’t want to say my bottle was forcefully taken from me, but guilt was certainly used by the adult figures to aide them in me forking over the precious item.  Does anyone else smell a set up?

Being a good little girl, at least at Christmas time in the presence of Santa, (no pressure) I reluctantly gave Santa my beloved purple bottle.  He took it and gave me a big smile and a hug to match, thanked me for his “present”, before he tossed it in his sack.  What?  It should never have been tossed anywhere!  That was a priceless gift, at least in my eyes.  Truth be told, I was excited to get something new, but yet I felt bad I made the trade with my bottle like I betrayed an old friend.

Fast forward.  Months passed by and summer arrived, never really thinking about my bottle, in fact I almost forgot about it, ALMOST.  Back then, every summer we took turns going to gram and pap’s house to spend a week.  During one of those weeks, while gram was napping, I decided to play in the basement.  It was an unfinished cellar, divided by the stairs going up to the kitchen and a stone wall.  Usually we never went on that side of the basement, only because there wasn’t anything interesting over there.  It housed gram’s ringer washing machine (the kind that you had to crank the cloths through the rollers to squeeze out the excess water before hanging) and a ton of cloths lines were strung back and forth, to be used in the winter or rainy days.  Along the perimeter of the walls were shelves of canned goods.  I believe there was also a deep freezer in the corner, but not much of anything else.  Well, for no particular reason, I ventured to that side of the cellar to play with my barbies, cars or a toy of sorts.  I’m not sure how long I was in there before something on the shelf, among the jars, caught my eye.  Yes!  My beloved purple bottle!  I jumped up like lighting, and without thinking I gravitated toward the object of my past.  (keep in mind I was only about four or five years old at this point)  Funny enough it wasn’t out of my reach, at least nothing a chair couldn’t solve.  That beautiful purple plastic bottle was in plain sight, like it was absentmindedly placed there.

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Nicole with Santa at mom & dad’s house. No that’s not my bottle, but looked very similar … foreseeing the future? 12/24/1974

Upon removing the bottle from the shelf and getting back on the concrete floor, I began inspecting the authenticity of what I was seeing, to ensure it wasn’t an imposter.  It was not!  How did I know?  There were scratches on it from years of abuse.  It was in deed my bottle!

At first, I was ready to get gram and wake her, letting her know Santa returned my bottle.  But then it hit me, what was MY bottle doing in gram’s basement after I gave it to Santa?  Yes, even as a young tyke I was thinking this through and I wanted to solve the mystery and get to the truth.

What did I do next?  Believe it or not, I was going to question my gram, but waking her in the middle of a nap was pure suicide.  So I went upstairs and raided my pap’s closet.  Why?  I have no idea, but it seemed like a good place to start, since gram was in her bed in her room and pap was working in the sawmill.

At the very top shelf, again not that far out of my reach with the assistance of a stepping stool, I found a big box.  Believe it or not, I didn’t open it.  That is until I was moving things around haphazardly and the lid popped open.  Instantly, my eyes were drawn to the bright red velvet suit the box was concealing.  A Santa suit!

Then my world came crashing down. (Not me, I was always a climber)  My pap was impersonating Santa Claus!  Truly, it never occurred to me that Santa wasn’t real, not  until my mom dropped that bomb on me years later.  No Santa?!  At Least There’s an Easter Bunny!  I couldn’t believe my pap would do something that cruel to me, ever!  Trying to get my mind around this discovery, flashes of pap sitting in our rocking  chair, his favorite seat, shot through my mind.  I almost started replaying that very tragic Christmas day, and I remembered, it was my gram’s idea to offer up my sacrificial bottle.  Mom was standing by and second the gesture.  It was all planned out!

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Me & Ryan (background) at Christmas at mom & dad’s. In the background to the left is the toy chest I fell asleep in &  on the right is grandpap Chester’s cedar chest he made. 12/1977

After uncovering the facts, I quickly placed the suite back up in the closet, put the bottle back on the shelf downstairs and went out in the backyard to deal with my own personal dilemma.  I needed a moment of silence, for I was really upset over this conspiracy against me.  I couldn’t believe it!  Funny enough, I never did blame my pap, for he was the greatest!  I knew he would never ever, do anything to upset me or any of the grand kids.  Pap always treated us with love and respect and was an innately good person.  It was my grandma I didn’t trust, eventually the Morticia story adds to my ill feelings toward her, among other situations.  (Again a story to be told another day)  My mind was racing toward my mom, again there is a “banky” story behind her too.  With each of these I don’t remember which came first, but over the years they compiled and resonated in my mind, each bringing a sickening feeling to me, and perhaps a little bit of bitterness.

Did I confront my gram, pap or mom?  No.  Was my dad involved?  At the time, he didn’t seem to be a participant and I excused him from the suspect list.  I simply went outside and spent the rest of the day in the backyard, taking refuge in the barn and exploring the woods behind grams house.  Feral cats ran rampant on the ridge.  As a pastime, I would sit patiently and catch the cats to tame them.  Seriously?  Yes, I did it all the time.  (I have no patience except for cats for some reason)  They were used to me, plus I was quick and fearless, with the help of a very thick towel.

That night I went to bed early, which wasn’t unusual for me.  By the next morning I don’t remember how I felt.  But I do know that I remembered the entire day.  It left a scare on me that ran deep, one I still reflect back on to this day.

Even though that is one isolated story, one the adults were ignorant to for I buried it deep down inside, it still stuck with me.  However, I am blessed, for that is my only Christmas horror story from my childhood.  I could have had it worse, and I know others did.

I hope Kyle only has great Christmas memories, for we’ve gone out of our way to ensure that’s the case.  And if he doesn’t, perhaps he too will write about his tragedies as a therapy session.

Merry Christmas! 

 

 

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

Christmas Equals Childlike

I think you should be a child for as long as you can. I have been successful for 74 years being able to do that.  ~Bob Newhart

Aunt-Nikki-&-Santa-1970s-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Nicole & santa, late 1970s.

Recently, I was talking to a friend of mine, who’s kids are now grown adults.  Let’s keep it into perspective, they’re only in their twenties.  We were laughing at how, especially boys, are sometimes grown and yet, they are still kids.  He called them man boys.  That about sums it up.  It’s those moments when they act like little adults and impress the heck out of you, but then turn around and make the stupidest or most immature decisions.

Example time.  The other week when we put up the Christmas tree at my parent’s house, Kyle was a huge help!  The Christmas Tree  He basically took the reins and screwed in the base of the tree by himself, and did it right and swiftly, without being asked.  It saved dad from laying on the hardwood floor and contorting his old out-of-shape body from doing it.  Dad and I were a bit astounded.  Literally, dad just stood there and asked if he needed help.  Nope.  None was needed.  Kyle even gave me direction on how to move the tree around to assist him and have it set correctly and sturdy.  Excellent job!

While we were adding the lights, I was jumping from couch to stool to recliner and back again.  On one of my trips, I caught the edge of the recliner, which caused it to tilt, into the tree, with me on it, out of balance.  During this seemingly slow motion event, Kyle instinctively reached for me, but threw himself on the recliner to counter the weight.  Eventually, I came crashing down on the edge of the recliner and into Kyle.  First, we both looked at each other in shock, and then I said, “Did you try saving the tree over me?”  Kyle snickered and said, “Well, it looked like the entire chair was going into the tree and I didn’t want it to fall over.”  Well played buddy!

Now for the mind of a kid.  After decorating, Kyle was going on a tangent about getting toys to build and play with.  Granted, he is thirteen and his interests now include Warmachine as well as his videos games.  However, he was getting excited like he was two years old again!  A few weeks before that, he comprised a list of what he really wanted and called my sister to review the items, just like he always has since before he was able to read and write. (Either mom or myself would write up the list as per his dictations)

Ryan-at-Gram-&-Paps-1984-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Ryan at gram & pap’s. As far as I can remember, they always had a fake tree, which I never liked. 1984

This one is mind blowing!  Within the last few months, Nicole hurt her knee.  When Kyle found out that my sister was out of commission and was having a difficult time getting around, he exclaimed “What?  Well, can Aunt Nikki send my presents home for Christmas?”  That was his big concern.  Not for her, but for his gifts.  He also called her to remind her to order his presents so they will arrive in time for Christmas.  He is too much!

Recently, Kyle found out that his Aunt Nikki has to work a half day on Christmas Eve Day.  We always celebrate Christmas the day before, a tradition that has always been since I can remember.  That way Christmas Day is not so rushed and can be more relaxed.  Well, once Kyle got word of his Aunt Nikki’s schedule, he freaked!  “Can we still open presents throughout the day before she gets here?” he asked.

You see, ever since Kyle was a little tyke we set up Christmas Eve Day in that fashion so Kyle would enjoy each of his gifts, and more importantly so he wouldn’t explode while staring at the pile of wrapped packages under the tree.

It goes like this, once Kyle gets up, which is usually around 5:00 am or 6:00 am, he gets to pick one present to open.  He always staked out the presents before hand and had a plan of attack walking into the day.  That kid always knew the shapes of the boxes and the sounds made upon rattling.  He would play, or put together, or whatever needed applied to the first gift, then by the time he was done with the first toy, it was time for him to pick the second, not necessarily every hour on the hour, but whenever it was all agreed upon.  This continued all day, even after church into the evening.  It was a great way to spread out the fun of Christmas and allowed Kyle to enjoy and play with each gift, not that all of them were toys.  Nope, not with his Aunt Heather on the case bearing the unconventional gifts.

Anyway, Kyle was still holding this pre-arranged plan to heart for this Christmas Eve Day.  He was also walking around talking about the items he was going to put together.  I know he’s getting some Warmachine figurines that are little models to be glued and painted, but no one was getting him Legos or such.  What is going on in that mind of his?  He really wants to build something!

Another quick story.  About a week ago, I was picking Kyle up off of the bus.  I knew I was cutting it close, either the bus dropped him off or was on its way.  I called Kyle to inform him that I was waiting for him in the driveway.  He updated me that he was in the house.  Great!  In my mind, perfect timing.  Well, I was told differently.

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Pap playing with Chad at gram & pap’s house. I have no idea who is sitting by pap with the barrel of the rifle pointed up. I bet that’s Chad’s rifle from pap! 1973

Kyle was not happy with my early arrival, questioning me why I was so early.  I simply responded that I was and I told him to get his stuff together so we can leave.  His response?  “Well, can you wait I wanted to play this video game for a little bit.”  Seriously?  Are you kidding me?  My response?  “So you want me to sit in the driveway (in the cold) and wait for you to play a video game, that you play during the week?”  Kyle’s response?  Crickets.  Then he said, “Well, ya, I really wanted to play this game and you weren’t suppose to be here till later.”  Kyle’s tone was whiny and mine was getting angry.  “Kyle!  Are you suicidal?  I can’t believe you actually expected me to sit in the car and wait for you to play a VIDEO game!  Let alone ask me!  Who do you think you are talking to?”  More crickets.  Then he proceeds to inform me,  he still needs to get his stuff together, like that put me in my place, until I responded.  “You’re not even ready?  And yet you planned on playing a video game first?  NO!  You have five minutes!”

Needless to say, Kyle made it in time, not very happy with me, but almost realizing the mistake he made, almost.  Yes, I did give him a good talking to.

I was telling another good friend of mine about this man boy phenomenon, while on the way to the gym.  Her one nephew is going through the same stage, although he is a few years younger than Kyle.  Her nephew is claiming to be nearly a teenager, (he’s only ten or eleven) and that he can watch “R” rated movies and he’s practically an adult.  Yet, his actions scream child.

Sometimes I wonder if my brother was the same way, for I truly don’t remember or never paid attention.  Ryan was always mature with his work ethic and drive.  He could always work on cars, like adults, but sometimes would construct the strangest contraptions, the imagination of a kid.  Who Does Kyle Favor More, His Dad?

I guess I should just face facts, Kyle is in deed a Piper, through and through.  Maturity is secondary to us and sometimes never achieved.  I love Kyle’s enthusiasm for Christmas, even though it’s about his gifts.  Regardless, Kyle always did say “Christmas lights make the whole world beautiful.”  Lighting Up the Holiday I also know Kyle does know the true meaning of Christmas, even though he doesn’t let on.

Kids do make Christmas!

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