I’ts the Little Things that Count to a Child

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

posted by auntheather in Learning and have No Comments

I Don’t Need a Coat, It’s Not Cold

Give the children love, more love and still more love – and the common sense will come by itself.  ~Astrid Lindgren

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Kyle in his sled, about 2 years old. c. 2003

Sometimes I wonder if the common sense is present in any kid today?

Now that the temperatures have plummeted into the negative degrees, I keep thinking of Kyle and his aversion to winter coats and long sleeves.  Yes even long sleeve T-shirts!  Seriously, it drives me crazy when he whines, “Why do I need a coat?  I’m not cold, I’m hot.”  Come on back to reality, buddy.  Even when the temperatures reach the teens, we all know that statement could not possibly be true!  But he’ll swear to it and put up a fight like his life depended on it.

Getting Kyle to wear a coat has been an onward struggle for years.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time he wore a coat, except for hunting season.  What really worries me, is Kyle’s not the only child acting like this.  There are other children who argue about the same thing.  So you mean to tell me,  this new generation has some super human heat source radiating from the core of their bodies?  They are the walking sun?  Because that’s what they act like.

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My bundled up little man! Miss those days when I knew he was completely cover & seemingly warm. Christmas Story?  c.2003

Kyle informed me yesterday when I talked to him that school was already canceled.  First of all, I don’t completely agree with that.  What do the children who experience these frigid temperatures as a norm do?  They don’t stop their life.  Granted, those kids are used to the cold and that’s a big difference.  Regardless, when he told me about the cancellation, I was kind of upset yet glad.  I instantly had a vision of Kyle, exposed, out in the cold, waiting for the bus with his hoodie on, no hat, no gloves, no scarf getting frost bite.  Not a pretty picture!

Not that I want this to happen, not in the slightest, but it would be something for Kyle to experience the results of his poor choices.  Now don’t get me wrong, I would do everything in my power to ensure that child is always kept physically, mentally and spiritually sound, but I sure do wish I could prove my point without it permanently damaging him.

As I discuss this phenomenon with my parents, I came to a pretty sound conclusion for this behavior.  Now I’m going to sound like an old timer, so bear with me for a moment and indulge me if you will.  Kids today have never really experienced winter.  I mean the brutal cold, the feet of snow, the constant snow storms and ice storms, the results of being stranded and snowed in.  I’m talking about true survival instincts taking over.  At least not in my part of the world, these kids I’m referring to.  Nope, this generation of kids arrived when winters started to become milder, and not as sever.  Plus, road crews seem to be more frequent, as opposed to the days when they would just shut down roads and wait till the weather passed before attempting to clear the way.  That’s one point, and another point would include coddling.

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Me & Kyle sled riding in my cousin’s field. Yes I wear my snowboarding goggles .. I don’t like the sun or wind in my eyes. 1/4/14

To no fault of their own, kids now-a-days are well taken care of, at least in some ways, in others there’s a big gap.  I guess that’s an entirely different conversation so I’ll just stick to the cold issue.  Kids don’t walk to school (I did from first grade to sixth grade, almost a mile one way), kids don’t even walk to the bus stop anymore.  Nope, either the buses go out of there way to add stops or the parents drive them.  Again, to catch the bus in high school, we had to walk about seven tenths of a mile, one way.  (Kyle knows this route, for I have made him walk it with me to stretch our legs)  Then, instead of standing and waiting for the bus, the kids sit in the warm car.  This generation, generally speaking, goes from a warm house, into a heated garage, into a warmed up car with heated seats, into a heated bus and into a heated school building, to only repeat the process in reverse.  No wonder they think they’re hot!

They don’t know what it’s really like to have to bundle up or freeze to death.  The little bit of cold they experience is quickly removed from a contained heat wave within shelter.  They don’t get that things could happen, like a freak snow storm leaving one stranded alongside a roadway, power outage, lasting for more than a few hours or any combination of these instances.  Mom always did teach us to be prepared and I guess I’m trying to teach Kyle the same.

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Close-up of our view as we sled ride in my cousin’s field. Perfect day! 1/4/14

I remember when I first started driving, mom always had us pack a blanket among other provisions in the car, just in case.  For the longest time, I would keep a pair of winter boots, they usually were my snowboarding boots but regardless, in the car JUST IN CASE.  If I ever got stranded with Kyle now, what would I do?  Granted, everyone has cell phones and there always seem to be road crews out and about, but things could happen very quickly.

How can I get this through Kyle’s head?  Wear at least a winter jacket and hat!  The kid continues to get ear infections, one would think it would be second nature to wear a hat.  After all, we’ve engrained it in him since he was little, but I guess if it’s not reinforced by all parties, then it will not become habit.  I miss the days of old when I could bundle him up as I saw fit, and he didn’t have an opinion one way or the other.  I get it, kids are pretty resilient, yet they do have limitations.

Are all kids in the late and preteen age like this?  Is it just Western Pennsylvania?  In a way I truly hope kids are just warmer naturally, and no child is out freezing in the cold.  In a way, I kind of feel ashamed for Kyle, for he has warm clothing to his disposal and he snubs his nose at it, when there are kids without that luxury.  I wish he would at least appreciate what he has more and not take it for granted.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education,Family,Learning,News,Observation,Patience,Reminiscing,Snowboarding Fun and have No Comments

Sweet Sounds of Music

Where words leave off, music begins.  ~Heinrich Heine

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Kyle’s 7th grade band recital. My little trumpet player (yes when he stood up, that clip on tie came to the middle of his chest!) Yikes! 2013

On Sunday Kyle had his youth group Christmas play.  His role?  The light man of course.  Yep!  He stood at the light switch and turned it off and on.  Remember there are no small parts and everyone has a role to play, just like life.  Everyone can’t be the star and in Kyle’s case, over the years he played a shepherd and one of the kings.  He had his fill and wanted to participate backstage.  Nothing wrong with that!  He did a great job!  Even with his not-so-center-0f-stage-role, Kyle attended all the practices and always gave his best.  That’s my buddy, if he’s going to do something, he will give it his all.

As I was sitting there, watching the kids get situated and ready to perform for their parents, a family friend, who was also Kyle’s second grade Sunday school teacher, Mrs. DePalma (Kyle loved her to death!) came over to me to chit chat.  On a side note, Mrs. DePalma is such a sincere, friendly, warmhearted person!  The kind who instantly spreads joy and good cheer to everyone around her.  Knowing her is a true blessing.  Her one daughter Angie, married one of my cousins.  So I guess we are related!

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Sacred Heart/Saint Cecilia’s Youth Group Christmas play. Kyle was the lighting technician. 1/5/13

Anyway, as we sat there talking, she informed me that she just talked to Kyle, admitting she drew a blank with his name, as he did with hers.  Too cute!  I’m sure Kyle was thrown off his game, since he always did like and respected Mrs. DePalma, and she gave him the little extra attention he craved.  She asked me what role Kyle was playing and we both giggled a little at our lighting technician.

As we sat there, I noticed they had a keyboard set up to play music throughout the play.  I commented that Kyle could have played a few songs.  Mrs. DePalma was intrigued asking me about his piano playing.  Naturally, like a proud mama (aunt) I told her, “He’s been playing the piano since he was six years old.”  Her eyes perked up and she was really impressed.  So I continued, “Yep, he’s really pretty good.  He doesn’t have the drive to practice at home, but he loves playing with is instructor and in front of family.”  Then, I informed her that he briefly took up the guitar and he plays the trumpet in school.  Of course, I couldn’t stop.  Normally, I don’t like bragging, well that’s not true when it comes to Kyle, but I couldn’t help myself.  Informing Mrs. DePalma that Kyle is in band class at his school, and he tried out and made it for jazz band.  Her face lit up!  And you know what?  It was in all sincerity and pride.  She loves to see kids doing well, not to mention she new Ryan and she knows what Kyle means to us.  (Her daughter Angie, the one I just referred to, was in Ryan’s class all the way from Sacred Heart Elementary School to Greater Latrobe High School graduation).

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Kyle playing the trumpet for his 7th grade jazz band. (look how short that clip on tie is? YIKES!) 2013

Kyle is musically talented, there is no denying it.  Now, I’m not saying he is a musical genius or a child prodigy, because he’s not.   But he does enjoy music, always has, and he seems to enjoy playing (except when I make him practice).

This past fall, Kyle had a band assembly at his school and mom and I attended.  One another side note, Kyle just expects us to be there at a moments notice.  He called us the day of the event, two hours before hand to be exact, and informed us of the activity.  On Kyle’s defense I guess he told my dad, but that’s like telling Kyle.   No fear, mom and I were there!  It was held in the school’s gym and the seventh and eighth grade students performed as well as their high school marching band.  You know what?  I was quite impressed!

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Sacred Heart/Saint Cecilia’s Youth Group Christmas play. Kyle handled the lights! 1/5/13

First of all, Kyle had on a nice pressed white button down shirt (sleeves rolled to the elbows), nice dress slacks, black socks, black dress shoes and a black tie.  Mom and I were floored!  He looked so grown up!  The only comment we both made was his tie.  It stopped at the middle of his chest.  Yikes!  It looked ridiculous.  So I made my way down to the horn section to offer assistance with the tie tying, thinking it just needs retied.  Low and behold, it was a clip-on tie!  What?  Ok, no point in making it into a bid deal, especially since the rest of him looked spot on.  As to not break the positive comments toward Kyle, I will not get into our shopping experience during Christmas for a real tie, not a clip-on.  I’ll save that one for a rainy day.

As we left, mom mentioned about buying the kid a nice tie.  Good idea mom!  However, we forgot until his next assembly right before Christmas.  Now it was too late!  This assembly was held in their auditorium and the kids were on stage.  While mom and I got settled in, we read over the program book.  Funny thing.  Kyle’s name had an asterisk by it.   We both looked at each other and at the same time said, “What did he do?” half joking.

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Kyle playing trumpet for his 7th grade jazz band. Look’in good! 2013

Mom and I were front and center, focused on Kyle.  As the program began and we started intently watching the kid.  He did something too comical, not intentionally.  As he started to play, that little man dropped his sheet music and he began to scramble to retrieve it.  Mom and I gave a bit of a chuckle since it was too cute.  Plus, let’s not forget his lack of flexibility reaching for the pieces of paper while sitting and trying not to disturb his neighbors, all while trying to continue to play.   Yep!  He’s definitely my nephew!

After the kids in his grade played a few tunes, they gathered the jazz band to the side of the stage.  Incidentally, the same side mom and I were residing.  Boy we know how to pick our seats!

Kyle completely ignored us the entire way through, which is fine because besides being too cool to have an aunt and a grandmother (Gigi) I know he gets nervous.

Both assemblies were very impressive, especially the marching band for the earlier musical assembly.  It’s funny, we never knew Kyle was in the jazz band.  Now don’t get me wrong, he did a great job!  I could also tell he seemed to enjoy it.  It wasn’t till after his second assembly, did we find out that he had to audition for said activity.  Wow!  That’s great buddy!  Good job!

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7th grade – Kyle playing the trumpet … looking good, staying focused!   Also looks like that kid is holding onto the sheet music!  2013

Kyle, that kid never ceases to amaze and impress me.  He is also surprising, in all good ways.  Apparently, he is planning on joining the marching band when he’s older.  Being very ecstatic over this comment, I told him I’ll be a band parent (aunt)!  Ya, Kyle just rolled his eyes and was like ‘O boy’.   I ensured him it would be a great time and I’d make it really fun.  Plus, if they don’t do band trips, I’ll help to get those kids traveling.  That didn’t entice him, at ALL!  We’ll see.

I am really happy he found his interest, and that it’s in music!  I hope it’s very rewarding for him!

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

Ringing in the New Year

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes…you’re Doing Something.  ~Neil Gaiman

Well here we are, 2014!  Happy New Year!

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Me & Kyle celebrating New Years! Storm photo bombed us from her perch. 12/31/13

Kyle and I rang in the New Year like we always do.  We made our rice crispy treats, (actually I made them while Kyle watched Despicable Me 2).  Thanks to my friend Tree for helping to make that a New Year’s tradition!  We were making the delicious sticky treats when we were in high school and it stuck!  We ate our pork and sauerkraut and hot dogs, brats, and kielbasa.  Yep, the same sauerkraut we just made Family Traditions Through Sauerkraut in November.   Another tradition started by my mom when I was little, was the meat and cheese tray.  Usually, it’s complete with a variety of crackers, carrots and celery, olives and such, but this year we just nibbled on the meat and cheeses.

Keeping ourselves entertained, we played Trouble and a little Wii, even though I didn’t give Kyle hours on the game, we did play a few rounds of shooting and fishing and horse riding.  Since then, Kyle has a renewed interest in the video games.  Maybe this weekend we’ll bust out the Michael Jackson Experience and dance to a little MJ action.

We watched Dick Clark’s Rockin’ Eve as many do.  Mom and I were reminiscing days of New Year’s old.  One New Year’s, my sister went to New York and rang in the new year in Time Square.  That was fun having Kyle try and find his Aunt Nikki among the sea of celebratory people.  That is until he spotted the Lego store in the background.  Yes!  Only that kid would hone in on the Lego store among the crowds and crowds of people and on-air activity.  I remember he immediately called my sister and instructed her to go into the Lego store and take pictures and send them to him.  What a card!  He wanted the mission completed at that very moment, while my sister was corralled into limited space with millions of others.  Nicole was not able to tackle such fetes, but later that summer or the following one (I can’t remember) Nicole took Kyle to New York so he could experience the Lego store for himself on the ‘Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun’.

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Seven celebrates New Year’s in style… Happy 2014! 12/31/13

Around 11:30 pm or so, we really humored ourselves by making the dogs wear party hats.  Once midnight hit, we blew our party horns and blasted our party favors till we covered the living-room with streamers.  Naturally, we took pictures and sent them to Aunt Nikki, keeping her in touch with all things Kyle.  We had a really good time!

New Year’s day we took the .22 and the 20 gauge out squirrel hunting.  We didn’t see any signs of life, but maybe that’s because of our invited guests, Seven and Scooby.  They had a blast running through the snow in the woods and jumping around.  This was the first walk I took them on since this past fall, when Seven broke his leg.  Great way to ring in the New Year!

Yep, it was a pretty good 2013.  I mean, I was able quit my nine-to-five office job at the ad agency and start working on Thrill of the Hunt full-time.  Thrill of the Hunt is going into our seventh month of business, full-time.  Technically we started Thrill of the Hunt in September of 2012, but it was only a part-time gig.  Even though the company is not self-sustaining, it is picking up notoriety and popularity.  My goal for the New Year is to make the company profitable and organize our finances and database.  Sounds simple enough, yet I know the challenges and I am ready to take them on ten fold.

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Scooby receiving his New Year’s attire… Happy 2014! 12/31/13

Kyle is now in the seventh grade, taking advanced science and math classes and doing pretty well.  Nicole and I discussed it, and this year we’ll start training Kyle to take over all finances including entering expenses, accepting checks and possibly creating invoices in Quickbooks for The Piper Corporation.  Yep!  You heard that right!  I trust Kyle explicitly, and finances and dealing with numbers is kind of his thing.  Plus, I feel it gives him great work experience and exposure to business and will build good work ethic and character.  Not to mention he will truly be a part of the company.  He is now, especially with all his help promoting scavenger hunts and working the events, but he will be an integral part of the company.  Did I mention, I will follow-up on the information entered?  You bet!  I can’t very well expect Kyle to not make mistakes or do things incorrectly, at least not until he really learns the program and gets into a routine.  My accountant will also be aware of our unofficial employee and keep an eye out to ensure all is entered correctly.  How else is he going to get this experience and learn?  He’s worth the extra time!

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Me & Seven celebrating New Years! 2014! 12/31/13

Nicole and I discussed Kyle’s new role with him over Christmas and he was truly excited!  Excited to be learning something new, excited to be dealing with numbers, exciting to be helping us out and excited to be getting paid.  I think the later was more important to him.  He called me yesterday asking when he was going to start working in Quickbooks.  Apparently, he wants to buy something.  What a stinker!  But a very ambitious one!

I asked Kyle, as I always do, what his New Year’s resolution was?  His reply?  A dismissively “Umm I don’t know.”  He could care less, but I guess that will come over time, although when I was his age I made resolutions.  I mean it’s good to set goals, right?  This year mine includes, blogging at a minimum of three days a week, finally writing my book (not sure about that one, but why not), branching out Thrill of the Hunt into Virginia, Maryland and Ohio, in addition to Pennsylvania and building the company to a profitable state.  I’m not looking for millions, just enough to say we’re profiting.  But I guess in time all things will work out the way they are suppose to.

The snow has been falling all day yesterday and all night long.  It’s beautiful out!  Even though we have my Uncle Ray’s funeral tonight, Uncle Ray – Passing of a Piper Legend it’s a bittersweet beginning to a new year.  I have faith that God will bless us with an extraordinary 2014!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Cooking with Kyle,Education,Family,Learning,Milestone,News,Observation,Patience,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt and have No Comments

Uncle Ray – Passing of a Piper Legend

Whether you like it or not, you’re forced to come to the realization that death is out there. But I don’t fear death, I’m a fatalist. I believe when it’s your time, that’s it. It’s the hand you’re dealt.  ~Clint Eastwood

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Uncle Ray & Kyle. We stopped in for a visit… glad Kyle got to know his great Uncle Ray! c. 7/2011

Today is  bittersweet.  As we move from one year to the next, God has brought home another one of His blessed sons.  It saddens me to talk about the passing of my Uncle Ray and yet I am very proud of the man I knew and shared the surname Piper.  I am also very happy he is no longer suffering and reunited with my Aunt Clemmie.  I bet Ryan is showing him around!

My heart goes out to my cousins who lost their grandpap, great grandpap and father.  Also to all of my cousins, family and friends of the family everywhere, may you be comforted to have simply known Uncle Ray and the truly upstanding man he was.  Stories of Uncle Ray will be told for years to come, for he was one of the good ones who lived a very full life.

Naturally, everyone on Facebook is sending their thoughts and prayers to the family.  My cousin Brook, one of Uncle Ray’s grand kids commented on Facebook that Uncle Ray was shot in the chest at age 19 in France while fighting with Patton’s 3rd Army.  What?  Really?  Wow!  I had no idea!  I’m sure over the years, I’ll probably learn more about Uncle Ray then I could ever have guessed, certainly more than my little world ever knew.  So let the stories begin!  Uncle Ray has earned center stage!

Uncle Ray was my pap’s brother on my dad’s side.  Yep, Uncle Ray was a Piper through and through.  Of course, I cannot speak of Uncle Ray and exclude his late wife, my Aunt Clemmie.  They were two peas in a pod, and admittedly a couple of my favorites.

It’s funny, but most of my memories of Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie included Halloween.  No joke!  My family grew up on a ridge, not the one Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie lived, but a connecting one.  It’s great living away from town except for the fact there are no walkable neighborhoods to trick-or-treat during Halloween.  Minor downside.  Mom would always take care of that situation by driving all of us ghosts and ghouls around to collect our share of sweet treats.  In addition to acquiring more candy (because you know there is never enough) and extending the Halloween fun, trick-or-treating the Piper ridge was a great excuse to see family, aside from the Piper Reunion in July.  Me, Ryan, Nicole, Casey, Joel, and Elizabeth, and later Mikey would pile in the car.  Usually mom took us because Karen had Marla and later Stacey.  We would make our pit stops all along the ridge, hitting up family and friends of the family.

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My cousin Sonny (Ray), his dad my Uncle Ray & dad at the Piper Reunion 2012

Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie’s stop was a favorite, also one of the last ones.  I loved going back to their house.  It was always so creepy in the darkness and among the trees.  Perfect for Halloween, loved it!  Uncle Ray always made us homemade potato chips in the barn.  To this day, I can still smell the grease and taste the crunchy starchy goodness of the chips.  Growing up, mom and dad never kept junk food among the cupboards, so the homemade potato chips were a real treat!

As a kid, I hated to wait for chips to finish bathing in the oil, and let’s not discuss the patience I had to demonstrate while they cooled.  (I was never very patient)  When Uncle Ray added the salt, I knew it wasn’t long before I would get a taste!  Looking back on it now, how many kids were blessed with freshly made potato chips made from a real cowboy?

Throughout the summer, me, Ryan and Nicole would take turns spending a week with my gram and pap on the ridge.  Ryan was lucky, he usually got to go to the sawmill with pap, while I was stuck with gram.  Nicole never did mind laying around grams house, which I still don’t get to this day.  Although, to break up the time, gram would drag me around to visit local family.  Usually, it was uneventful, except when I would hang with my Uncle Ralph and of course, my Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie.  My days were spent in the barn or in his fields.  Uncle Ray would help entertain me by letting me help him with small chores.  Seriously the best!  I loved helping out around the house and spending time with Uncle Ray.  He always wore that cowboy hat!  I used to think he was so goofy.  Naturally, I would tell him so and he would always pick back.  Loved him!

One more quick story.  Periodically, throughout the winter, my parents would fire up the snowmobiles and take us for rides back through the woods.  Those trips were a blast!  You see back then, winter really was winter.  Snow laid on the ground from about November or December till about March or April.  It was great!  There wasn’t just a dusting either, there was consistently piles and piles of snow all winter long!  So going through the woods was a non-issue, especially when you’re racing above the ground with a feet of snow between.  The ridge my parents live on connects to the Piper ridge, via the Butina ridge (these are most certainly not technical names but it was how I was grown up to refer to such places and most people understand these directions).

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Aunt Clemmie at the Piper Reunion 2002. Totally miss her!

Mom would ride with Nicole and dad would take me and Ryan.  (Ryan always got to ride upfront and steer while I was stuck behind dad.  Just like Kyle, always a stinker.)  Mom would call a few relatives to let them know we were heading up, to be ready for us.  Sometimes mom and dad’s neighbors, the Davis’ and the Ferry’s would fire up their snowmobiles and ride along.  We always left when it was dark, adding to the excitement!  In my mind, it was midnight, when in reality it was probably around 6:00 pm or so.

By the time we got to Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie’s, which was always a stop, Aunt Clemmie would have hot chocolate ready to bring me back from my frozen state.  I always got really cold, even when I ate ice-cream, so riding in the cold wind didn’t do me justice, even though I loved every minute of it.  We always hung out at Uncle Ray’s, shooting the breeze and gold old fashion visiting, before calling it a night and making our departure back down the ridge.

I can still see Uncle Ray and Aunt Clemmie’s faces.   They never seemed bothered by us kids running around and always welcomed us!  I think Aunt Clemmie loved being my hot chocolate savior!

I am truly grateful that Kyle got to meet and hang out with Uncle Ray.  Even though the meetings were short and didn’t mean much to my little man at the time, I am certain over the years he will learn more about his family and appreciate them as much as I have come to.

Rest-in-Peace Uncle Ray and God Speed!

This video cracks me up.  How many conversations are going on all at once?  This is what it’s like when you get a room full of Piper’s together. c.7/2011

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

Perfect Gift – Chestnut Trees

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.  ~Roy L. Smith

Continued…. Perfect Gift – The Ugly Quilt

roasted chestnuts Aunt Heather Piper

Roasted chestnuts popping out of their shells.

Now the next perfect gift of the 2013 Christmas season goes to … dad.  Mom came up with the idea and me, Nicole and Kyle were totally on board.  It was truly brilliant!  So what was this perfect gift?  Easy, it was two chestnut trees to be delivered this spring.  What?  Yup!

Dad loves chestnuts!  When he was younger my gram and pap had chestnut trees that dad would pick and roast and eat.  My pappy loved these seasonal nuts too, as do I.  Well, maybe not as much as dad.  They used to roast them in the fireplace, (on an open fire) but in modern times, mom pokes the chestnuts with a knife, sprinkles water and covers and microwaves them for a couple of minutes.  Voila!  Chestnuts ready to eat!  Not as good as fire roasted, but not bad.

On a side note, this story must be told.  Mom came home from the grocery store a couple of weeks ago with a really funny tale.  She said, while in the check-out line, the girl ringing her out asked mom what type of nuts was in the bag.  Naturally, mom replied “Chestnuts.”  As mom continued with the story, she was toppled over with sheer laughter.  Ok?  What is so funny about chestnuts?  Apparently, the girl asked mom in a very serious tone, “Are you going to roast these over an open fire?”  Ok, I’ll admit I lost it, I didn’t see that one coming.  Me and mom were rolling with gut stretching laughter.  Mom said, she didn’t want to be mean to the girl so she tried not to giggle and explained that she used to roast the chestnuts that way and you most certainly can, but now she just nukes (microwaves) them.  The girl was so enthralled she kept asking my mom about this newfangled method of cooking chestnuts.  She wanted to share your knowledge with her grandpap who apparently loves chestnuts too.  Great!  I hope we brought back the popularity of chestnuts!  They really are a unique treat.

young-chestnut-tree-Aunt Heather PiperYes, now-a-days, mom makes the chestnuts in the microwave, even though she complains about it every step of the way.  You see, if you leave them in for too long they explode, just like any other food item and obviously makes a mess all over the interior of the microwave.  To ease mom’s pain with this process of making dad happy, I got her a plastic cover to use, but she still chances it without the cover and grunts about making the chestnuts for dad.  Now on the opposite side, can dad make his own chestnuts?  Sure.  Does he know how?  Yep.  Will he?  Nope.  It’s just like making coffee.  Mom and dad have a Keurig, so basically it’s a matter of popping in the coffee pod and pressing a button, but dad won’t touch it.  Of course the man’s never used an ATM machine or touched a computer either in his life.  Ever!  Mom might always yell and complain about waiting on dad hand and foot, but who trained him to be like that?  Certainly not me.  That behavior has been going on since I can remember.  I guess that’s another blog topic.  Maybe one for the couch, one for the professionals.

Back to the chestnuts.  Since we didn’t have the actual chestnut trees on hand to place under the Christmas tree, we had Kyle read the receipt to dad.  Dad was totally surprised and excited!  I even added, “Yes dad and me and Kyle will help you dig the holes and plant them.”  In dad’s eyes, he was given the perfect gift!  Immediately, he started to discuss his ideas for placement of the chestnut trees.  Only dad!  I have a feeling this will be a whole adventure in itself.  Mom said she ordered two of the six or seven foot chestnut trees.  Yikes!  I have a feeling this one is going to make me sweat.  Although I don’t know what variety they are.    Merry Christmas to dad!

Aesculus_hippocastanum_fruit chestnuts Aunt Heather Piper

Chestnuts off of the tree … they are messy! Hence why I wanted to plant them far away from the house.

Dad is so stoked about his gift, he already started to ask when the trees would be coming in and when he would expect to harvest the chestnuts.  Sorry to burst dad’s bubble, but alas I guess we have a three year wait.  Or I should say, I have three free years before I have to go and pick chestnuts for dad.  I guess it doesn’t matter, that was truly the perfect gift!

On another side note, as I’ve mentioned I too like chestnuts, clearly not as much as dad, but regardless.  One year dad insisted that mom put chestnuts in her stuffing for Thanksgiving.  Why would anyone mess with mom’s stuffing  perfection?  No clue, but mom did as suggested.  No doubt someone saw an episode of chestnuts on the Cooking Channel and got the great idea.  The verdict?  Not a favorite.  It was just ok.  Even dad had to admit he didn’t like the buttery nuts mixed among his stuffing.  First, it was definitely the size of the nuts that threw us off.  Mom doesn’t believe in chopping food items up, so they were pretty whole throughout.  Luckily it was easy for me to pick them out and eat them separately. Lesson learned.  Eat stuffing or eat chestnuts.  Don’t combine them.

Naturally, Kyle got a bunch of Legos courtesy of Aunt Nikki and Gigi and pappy, which is always the perfect gift in his eyes.  I got Kyle the Chronicles of Narnia books, The Book Thief and the last Diary of a Wimpy Kid book.  Those were also perfect choices, just not for the immediate play time.  Although he already started to dive into the books.  I also got him for his Jazz Band concerts a new Calvin Klein tie.  Since I don’t want to spoil the good cheer in this blog post, I’ll save that story for later.  That one was a fight to the finish.  Spoiler alert, I won.  I think.

Yep, we are truly blessed!  Hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas as we did!

posted by auntheather in Cooking with Kyle,Family,Learning,Observation,Patience,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Perfect Gift – The Ugly Quilt!

Do give books – religious or otherwise – for Christmas. They’re never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal.  ~Lenore Hershey

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The Ugly Quilt, made from Nicole’s old quilt & my old childhood quilts originally made in 1976. Perfect Christmas idea! 12-24-13

Like many others, we go through the same list of questions every year for Christmas, ‘What do we want to get Nicole?” and “What should we get dad?”  Naturally, if we had unlimited resources, it wouldn’t be so difficult but let’s come back to reality, most people have budgets, at least I do.  Every year, generally speaking, some great idea takes shape to give the perfect gift.  Me, mom and Kyle were blessed with two great ideas.

Giving is great, I truly mean that!  However, I don’t like to give because I have to, or it’s the thing to do.  Nope, if I’m giving someone something, it’s because I mean it and I’m excited to surprise them with usually an unconventional gift.  That’s my favorite, the perfect gifts or practical ones.  I am very much a practical and simple type of gal.  Yes, I love receiving socks (the Under Armor running socks or good wool hiking socks etc) and blenders and books and running shoes and so on and so forth.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love frivolous too!  Such as jewelery or collectables, but I’m also equally happy with practical presents.

Last year, we got mom framed pictures.  Not just any pictures, but an old photo of all the cousins (close ones) and a recent shot of the same picture taken at the same location as the original, Twin Lakes Family In A Photo – Looking Back showing us all grown up.  Boy was she surprised!   Perfect!

Close-up-of-Nicole's-Ugly-quilt-Quilts-by-Reese-Aunt-Heather-Piper-12-24-13

Close up of Nicole’s quilt courtesy of Quilts by Reese. Perfect Christmas gift! Nicole never suspected it! 12/24/13

Who got the perfect gift this year?  There was a tie.  Dad and Nicole owned it!

First, lets start with Nicole.  What to get a gal who gets herself basically what she wants, when she wants it?  That was easy, something she wants and forgot she had.  This past summer while cleaning out mom and dad’s house, we came across Nicole’s old quilt.  Nicole and I both had matching quilts of different color schemes, given to us for Christmas in 1976.  They were nice twin sized quilts that kept us warm and cozy throughout our childhood and even into our twenties.  Nicole however, LOVED her quilt and drug, literally drug it around with her EVERYWHERE!  As a kid, she would drag it to the living-room to watch TV, through the kitchen, out on the porch and into the yard.  She would eat with it, sleep with it, and I bet she even drug it into the shower a time or two.  That quilt was like her giant “blanky”.  She even took it to college with her!  That is until it really fell apart.  I mean about half of it was MIA.  Over the years pieces of it would rip off, but she kept dragging it along.

Aunt-Nikki's-Ugly-Quilt-front-&-back-Quilts-by-Reese-Aunt-Heather-Piper-12-24-13

Front & back of the Ugly quilt… combination of mine & Nicole’s old quilts from 1976. Nicole loved her quilt & now she kind of has it back! Perfect Christmas gift. Thanks Quilts by Reese! 12/24/13

What to do?  Call upon my friend Holly who makes quilts on the side Quilts by Reese to aide me in this perfect Christmas gift idea of course.  No, her thing is not to revitalize old torn up and extremely used quilts, but she agreed to help me out as a favor for a long time running friend.

Where to begin?  No clue, I delivered the pile of scrap fabric, which is what it basically was once it was washed one last time.  Holly took it from there.  Since finding fabric to match, texture and color wise, proved to be problematic, I gave Holly my old quilt, which was almost in perfect condition (you could tell I didn’t have such an affinity for my quilt like Nicole did hers) to tear up and use as needed.

Eventually, about a third of the quilt was Nicole’s original and the rest was mine.  It worked out perfectly since both quilts had the exact same fabric and patterns, just different color schemes.  The backing needed to be completely replaced as well as the trim, but it turned out nicely!  Better than expected actually!  Holly did an amazing job on such a difficult mission!  And she had it done well before Christmas!

With everything I do, it’s always an adventure.  As the quilt was being torn apart and assembled again, Holly would give me updates on the “ugly” quilt.  From what I gathered, it was a bit of a bugger with the thick seams and old seventy’s stretchy fabric.  Personally, I loved the name, ugly quilt and so it stuck!  Holly hated the quilt, that is until the end.  She said, “It’s so ugly it’s starting to look cute and wear on me.”  Yep that’s what happens when you put your heart and soul into something.  The fondness grows.  Now granted, Holly wasn’t so attached to it that she couldn’t give it back, but I could tell she sewed herself into the Piper quilt.

Aunt-Nikki's-Ugly-Quilt-Quilts-by-Reese-Aunt-Heather-Piper-12-24-13

Combination of my old quilt & Nicole’s originally made in 1976. Perfect Christmas gift – Quilts by Reese 12-24-13

On a side note, one text message I received from Holly include a very close-up shot of the quilt fabric.  The text message asked me if Nicole had a bird?  Why yes she did!  How did Holly know?  Apparently, there was bird seed embedded in some of the fabric.  Only my sister!  That sounds about right.  Not to mentioned all the food stains all over her fabric.

It’s funny when I look at the quilt, I don’t see an ugly old seventy’s patchwork quilt.  Nope, I see our childhood!  And I know Nicole feels the same way.

Now the most important questions.  Was Nicole surprised?  And did she like the quilt?  Yes and yes.  She had no idea, none, not an ounce with respect to her Christmas gift.  Of course, it’s easy to keep things a secret from her when she lives two hundred miles away.  Kyle couldn’t wait to give her the blanket, although I could tell he didn’t see the importance and feel the true excitement like me, mom and dad, (well maybe me and mom) but it was still fun.

Quilts by Reese Facebook Post Ugly Quilt Aunt Heather PiperHolly wanted to see tears in Nicole’s eyes and urine on the floor from the surprise and happiness.  Well, neither happened and I’m personally more grateful for the later not occurring, but Nicole was presently surprised.  (Avery peed on the floor and that counts!)  I would love to show a picture of the original quilt, however I couldn’t find any pictures.  Actually, that’s not entirely true, I did find one, but since then I misplaced it.  I’ll look for the darn thing.

Now dad’s perfect gift.  Mom came up with the idea and me, Nicole and Kyle were totally on board.  Great idea!  So what was this perfect gift?  Easy it was …to be continued.

posted by auntheather in Family,Learning,Milestone,Observation,Patience,Reminiscing,Traveling and have No Comments

First Day of Hunting – Ryan’s Story

When some of my friends have asked me anxiously about their boys, whether they should let them hunt, I have answered yes – remembering that it was one of the best parts of my education – make them hunters.  ~Henry David Thoreau
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Ryan’s buck, 10 pts about 19″ spread. 1st buck! 12/2/92

Since it’s Christmas Eve day and we are all missing Ryan terribly, and since I was recently reliving our hunting tales from 2013, I thought I’d continue.  I never told the stories of Ryan’s hunting expeditions, especially his first year.

Ryan practically grew up in the woods, exposed to hunting since he was two years old.  No joke!  Ever since he was potty trained and able to walk around, dad took Ryan with him hunting.  So even though Ryan never shot a deer until he was twelve, he had a decade of experience in the woods tracking, gutting, dragging and skinning deer.

Ryan went with me and Nicole on our first hunting adventures, walking around pushing deer with dad.  Wherever you found dad, Ryan was attached to him.  Seriously, almost all the time.  So by the time Ryan found his way to heaven, it made dad’s favorite hobby, (for a lack of better term, even though hunting is more of a way of life with dad then a side hobby) that much harder to enjoy.  Well, that is until Kyle became of age and I got back into hunting.  Now hunting is truly enjoyable again.

This year, more than others, dad started telling all the Ryan hunting tales of years past.  I mean it, dad could drive by some hillside in Green County or Westmoreland County or even Cortland, New York, and comment ‘We shot a lot of turkey up there.’ or ‘Ryan shot a nice size doe over there.’ and so on and so forth.  He did it the entire time!  It was nice seeing all the hunting areas dad and Ryan trekked together.  To be honest, I had no idea just how many hunting adventures and how many different spots Ryan and dad ventured.  Definitely more than I could ever correctly repeat.

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Ryan’s 1st buck, 10 pts, about 19″ spread. Deer hunting was on of his favorite activities 12/2/92

While me, dad and Kyle were hunting this year, Kyle took a shot at a small buck, and dropped it on one shot!  The adrenaline was working its magic, because Kyle wanted to plug it with another bullet.  Apparently, dad said, “Nope, you got ‘er buddy!”  Dad said it was a great shot in the shoulder, it looked like he took a sledge hammer to the deer, quick and painless, hopefully for the deer.  That deer gave us a nice supply of deer meat for the freezer.

Ryan-Buck-deer hunting 12-2-1992-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Close-up of Ryan’s 1st buck. 10pts, 19″ spread 12/2/92

The first year Ryan went hunting, naturally dad took him.  Alas, at that point I had already turned in my license or the year after, to only return many years later.  Dad said, “When your daddy shot his first deer (doe) I had to laugh, it was full of holes!”  Kyle and I both laughed at that comment.  Ryan must have been so nervous to drop it, he shot the deer up.  Dad commented, “I had to throw away the hide, I couldn’t sell it ’cause it was so full of holes.”

That statement intrigued Kyle, our little banker.  I totally forgot, dad used to sell the deer hides from the season.  In recent years, he has since retired that action.  Probably without the extra help of Ryan, it’s a lot of work.  Maybe that might be something I’m willing to get back into again.  I do believe Kyle would enjoy selling the hides.

Ryan-Piper-Buck-sideshot-12-2-1992-Aunt-Heather-Piper deer hunting

A side view of Ryan’s 1st buck. 10pts, 19″ spread, way to go! 12/2/92

Now the best story ever!  Ryan’s first buck.  Do I remember it?  You bet!  Only because it was such a prize.  Dad had my cousin’s Jeremy and Chad with him, as well as Ryan hunting.  I’m not sure if anyone else was present.  But the story goes, dad instructed Ryan to reload his gun, whereas my cousins did not, just in case they saw something.  Never question my dad, Mr. Grizzly Adams himself.  Like I’ve said before, he speaks deer.  Well, wherever they were hunting, no clue, but out pops this buck and since Ryan was locked and loaded, he took it down.  I remember that day, crystal clear.  I recollect the guys all coming back to mom and dad’s house to skin their deer and for their photo ops.  Ryan was beaming, but not nearly as much as dad.  Boy was he happy and proud of Ryan!

Ryans-horns-&-gun-rack-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Those are Ryan’s horns from his first buck! Below is the gun rack Ryan made in high school. The feature was from our trip to Cortland, NY to move dad’s tree stand. Taken 12/24/13

Later, dad had Ryan’s horns from his prize buck mounted, which now resides in dad’s office across from his loading desk, above the gun rack Ryan made in high school and right beside the gun cabinet Uncle Walter made for dad one Christmas as a gift from mom.

I do wish Ryan was around to take Kyle hunting.  There’s no doubt, that Ryan would have treated Kyle like dad treated Ryan.  But Kyle is very blessed to have his pappy around to show him the ropes of hunting, fishing, loading, tracking and even trapping (Kyle has expressed an interest in, even though dad hasn’t trapped for a really long time).

Christmas always carry’s a different type of tradition, an almost unspoken one.  You see, since deer season is so close to the holidays, most of the tales within the woods are fresh on everyone’s minds.  Usually when we get together with family, all the hunting stories come to life.  All of them!  Silly, serious, unbelievable and all true.  Deer hunting is more than killing wild animals, it’s more than proving meat for the family, it about family time too.  Priceless, quality time together in nature!

Read other adventures in Hunting

Deer Hunter, Kyle’s First Deer
Hunter’s Safety Course – Passed!
Hunting – Survival or Sport?
First Day of Hunting- Kyle’s Story

First Day of Hunting – My Story

Hunting Adventures of 2013

Our Hunting Adventures … New York
Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued
Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Green County
Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Westmoreland County

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

Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Westmoreland County

Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.  ~L.M. Montgomery

Cabin-my-brother-&-cousins-built-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Another shot of the cabin, hanging out, relaxed & peaceful. I sat on the steps for a few minutes watching deer & remembering the stories that surfaced from this place…. 2013

… Continued Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Green County

On Wednesday, dad and I hunted on a friend of mine’s property.  My friend Susan was kind enough to let us take a shot at some new surroundings.  Pun totally intended!  Her kids shared the knowledge of a few buck sightings.  Why not?  We haven’t had any luck at this point, at least not in Pennsylvania.  Did we see anything?  Dad did!  But he said it wasn’t a legal buck, so no shot.  If Kyle was with him, Kyle would have been able to shoot, since he is not limited to the number of points.  Even though we came back unsuccessful, we found our new hunting spot for next year.  Dad and I both LOVE the area.  There are plenty of deer and it’s really a nice piece of property.  Not the cliff of death with spiderweb brush to get caught up in, like Green County.  And not that far away, maybe forty-five minutes.  Dad can also get around on his quad safely and I must admit, walking was a lot easier and very enjoyable.  Can’t wait for next year!

By Saturday, Kyle joined us back in the woods by my parent’s house in Westmoreland County, on my cousin’s property.  Finally, we were blessed with a fresh coating of white fluffy snow!  It really was so peaceful and pretty.  Early that morning dad and I saw a couple of deer running down through the woods, but no shot was obtainable at that angle.  Saturday opened up doe season.  We were permitted to shoot buck (three points on one side) and doe.

I’m beginning to think it’s not me that causes our adventures, it’s Kyle!  While sitting on a log, Kyle wanted to walk back to the house to use the restroom and grab a quick bite.   Anyone and everyone who knows dad, is well aware he doesn’t stop hunting for anything, not for food, not for drink, for nothing unless he drops a deer and is dragging it out of the woods.  Kyle was in shock over this revelation but wouldn’t give in.  Naturally, I was elected to head back with our halfway hunter, even though I wanted to stay and hunt.

While Kyle was doing his business I made a thermos of hot chocolate for us and I made dad a thermos of coffee.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, the hot chocolate might not have been the best decision.

Party-Cabin-in-the-woods-Aunt-Heather-Piper

As I was pushing deer for dad during hunting season, I walked past the cabin (a.k.a. the party shack) that my brother & cousins built. Why? For no reason … very peaceful 2013

When I finally got back to dad, taking a different route to try and push the deer in his direction from lower on the hill, I gave dad his coffee to warm him up a bit.  Dad asked “Where’s Kyle?”  Replying while I rolled my eyes, “No clue, probably a mile down the road.  You know how slow he moves and he knows the way.”  A few minutes later dad said, “I’m going to walk over to the other side of the road to look to see if anything is moving.”  Just then, here comes our great white hunter, dragging his feet up the road.  Dad turned to me and said, “Never mind.  If there was anything, they’re gone.”  That was so funny!   I did give a chuckle, as dad rolled his eyes and grinned.  We love our Kyle to death, but he can be challenging.

So we sat, and sat, waiting for movement.  Nothing.  Then Kyle takes out the thermos of hot chocolate, clicks the cap to get the liquid rolling, blows (loudly) to cool it down, then slurps up the warm drink.  Dad turned to look in our direction with a look of, ‘What is going on over there?’  It was Kyle drinking his hot chocolate as loudly as he drags his feet.  Dad was starting to loose his cool.  As per reading dad’s body language, I told Kyle to put it away and don’t get it out again.  I couldn’t believe how loud he was!  Of course looking back on it now, we can laugh over the situation, but not when the pressure was on and no deer dropped in Pa.

Dad and I continued to hunt on Monday and Tuesday.  No luck, but a lot of snow!  We went around my parents house.  I walked a few miles each day, trying to push deer, but nothing.  I love those woods, I am very familiar with them and it’s really nice stepping out the door and walking or riding the quad to our hunting spots.

Dad continued to hunt Wednesday morning.  It was more of an adventure when the dogs got out and decided to go on a day trip.  It was even better when dad and I saw them head up through my cousin’s field and they ignored dad yelling, turned and headed up through the woods.  Dad was like lightening on the quad after them, like he was the lone ranger.  Those stinkers eluded dad all the way up onto Frosty Lane.  The chase was on.  Even Gigi was calling from work while she was tracking them, as was I.  While this was going on, I would call and give dad the valuable intel of their location.  Dad said once he rounded the bend and saw Scooby, he dropped his head like ‘We’ve been discovered, our fun has come to an end.”  You see during hunting season, it’s happened when hunters will shoot the beloved four-legged friends, especially if the dogs were chasing deer.  Mean, I know!  Something none of us would EVER do, but it has happened and we desperately didn’t want to experience it for ourselves.

While tracking them I realized our boys went a lot further than we’ve ever seen them.  They also seemed to follow my lead, the same course I was pushing deer for dad from the day prior.  Obviously the dogs were mad because we kept leaving them in the house while we went through the woods hunting.  What a pair of spoiled dogs!

All in all, it was a pretty good year.  God blessed us with a buck and a doe, dad shot and a buck Kyle shot.  That meat is already butchered, wrapped and awaiting to be called upon from the freezer to be made into a meal.  Yes we gut, skin and butcher our own deer, every year.  That way you are certain it is done right and it’s your deer, no question.

Even though it was an unsuccessful hunting year for me personally, it was a great year!  Kyle and dad filled their tags and we all had a great time hanging out with each other.  Family time, nothing beats it!  There’s always next year.

Read our hunting adventures of 2013

Our Hunting Adventures … New York
Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued
Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Green County

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education,Family,Learning,Observation,Patience,Traveling and have No Comments

Our Hunting Adventures … Pennsylvania – Green County

One eye sees, the other feels.  ~Paul Klee

Kyles-buck-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle’s buck, way to go buddy!! 2013

…Continued Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued

New York hunting always starts before Pennsylvania hunting, which increases our odds of filling the freezer with meat.  In Pennsylvania, the first day of buck is the first Monday after Thanksgiving.  The day of excitement!  Generally speaking, most schools in Western Pennsylvania give kids that Monday off, simply because a lot of kids hunt, including Kyle.

The Saturday before hunting season started this year, dad had me and Kyle went to the property where dad hunts in Green County.    What town?  I have no clue where I was except we had to pass through Waynesburg to get there.  All I knew, we had to take down yet another tree stand, and move it up hill.  Up this steep hill.  Up the steep hill with no clear path.  Did I mention it was up hill and the hill was steep?  Plus the ground was soft and muddy, which didn’t make the move easy.  Once dad picked his new spot, (sometimes that takes a while for him to evaluate his surroundings and pick the perfect tree) I had to get back in the tree stand and secure it.  I’m actually getting pretty good at it especially after What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand and What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand … Continued.

Now for the directions to my pre-chosen hunting spot, courtesy of dad.  The old man wanted me to find the tree stand before hunting so I was acclimated to the area.  Actually, great idea!  He also wanted me to physically sit in the tree stand, ensuring it was stable and secure.  Ok, good thinking!  Now for the directions to the Directionally Challenged, Dad said:

Follow this path up and at the large poplar tree make a left, go up the hill and off to the left you’ll see the tree stand facing uphill.

Again, there wasn’t really a clear path.  And, in a forest full of trees, which I’m sure there are more than one poplar tree, I had to find a big one.  What kind of directions are these?  Granted, it was daylight this time, but still sometimes looking for a black camouflaged tree stand can be tricky.  Again, Ryan must have came down from heaven to point out the tree, because when I saw it, I knew that was the one dad was referring to.  At one point, Kyle trekked up to see what I was up to, and I could  tell he was given the same instructions.  Luckily, he saw me in the tree and made a straight path for my stand.  When we left together, Kyle questioned, “Is that the big poplar tree pappy was talking about?”  I laughed and said, “I guess so.”

You think these types of directions are rare?  Nope!  Even up by my parents house dad’s directions include, “Out by the big poplar tree.” and “Over by the huge oak off the bank.” and “Beside the birch trees” and so on and so forth.  Dad’s lucky I usually can identify the trees, but not always.  I didn’t work in the woods my entire life like he did.  To dad, each tree is as unique as a street sign.

Monday, the first day of buck in Pa.!  I will admit, it was a long day.  Not only did it take us about an hour and a half to get to our hunting spot in Green County, plus the return trip, but we had to basically make our way up a cliff in the mud to get to our tree stands.  With every step uphill, we slid back two.  My tree stand, which used to be Ryan’s was furthest up the hill, past dad and Kyle’s hunting spot.  I’ll give dad credit, I’m in reasonable shape and my breath was labored walking up the path through the woods and handled the trip like a champ.  Good old Kyle was huffing and puffing along the way.

Usually the first day of buck is exciting, not this time.  There was almost no one hunting, which means no one pushing the deer either.  I did see a couple of doe up further on the hillside, but again we were only allowed to shoot buck and they had to have two points plus the brow point.  Dad and Kyle saw NOTHING!  Boring!

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Kyle & his hot chocolate.. I’ve never heard someone make so much noise with their drink before! 12/7/13

On a side, there were a bunch of turkeys making another ruckus.  Not as many as Our Hunting Adventures … New York but enough to bring a smile to my face.

Kyle always seems to make the days interesting.  One of the trips to see me, he came straight up in my tree stand, pushed me aside and plopped himself down.  It look like he just set up camp!  We were both cracking up, just because he seriously is so funny!

Then, I could tell he couldn’t wait to share his experience with me, probably because he knew I would get a kick out of it.  Which I totally did!

Kyle started by saying, “Well, Aunt Heather let me tell you about my morning.”  Seriously?  What a trip!  He continued, “First pappy knocked my bag, with all of my food off the tree stand onto the ground.  Then, I got deer poop on my hand.”  As he was showing me his hand (cleaned).  What!  What?  “Kyle, how on earth did you get deer poop on your hand in a tree stand?”  I was seriously wondering what the heck those two were doing.  Kyle said dramatically, “Well, when I was climbing up the ladder to get back in the tree stand, pappy must have tramped in deer poop and got it on the ladder and I put my hand in it.”  Gross!  Even worse, he knew I was totally grossed out and he continued on about the deer poop story.  “Ya and pappy had to pour my water onto my hand so we could get it out.”  I’m trying not to fall out of my stand laughing at this kid!  Then, the ultimate, he kept touching my arm with THE hand.  I said, “Stop touching me with the poop hand!”  He must have thought that was an invitation because he began patting me on the head with THE hand.

Later, dad retold the story and said, “That kid!  And how did he know I was the one who tramped in the deer poop, the deer scat?  No, it couldn’t have been him?” (sarcasm) On a side note, we find humor in calling the deer poop, scat.  So we exaggerate that word every time we see it or reference it.  Dad elaborated, “Ya we had to use all the water and you should have seen him scrubbing his hand and wiping it on me.  That kid!”  That’s our Kyle.

After, we calmed down, Kyle decides he has to go to the bathroom.  What?  Now the truth comes out.  He didn’t just visit me to see how I was doing, he came up so I would hang with him while he went to the bathroom in the woods.  You see dad said, “If you have to go to the bathroom, you’re walking back to the truck and doing it there.  I don’t want you going [to the bathroom] around our tree stands and hunting areas.”  Reiterating dad, I said, “You’re not going here! Go back to the truck, it’s not that far.”  Hesitantly, “Ya but I’ll probably get lost, I’ll just go around here.”  What?  No!

So what did I do?  I walked him up and over the hill, which happened to be the property line and let him use that area.  “Kyle I’m going back to the tree stand, when you’re done, go back the way you came, OK?”  He also commented, “Don’t tell pap until we get back to the truck.”  With my reply, “Ya right!   I’m tell him as soon as I see him.”  In my mind, I’m also telling his Aunt Nikki and Gigi about the situation.  Obviously he didn’t want to tell pappy and have to walk to the truck.

A little while later, I thought I saw Kyle at the top of the hill, walking down the wrong side, but then he disappeared.  Only to reappear again, standing at the top of the hill looking around.  I was cracking up, the kid got lost!  Finally, he was looking in my direction and I waved.  Kyle waved back!  Too funny!  Seriously, how can he not see me?  I’m up in a tree, probably close to his eye level, just a little distance away, wearing bright orange!  I stand out like a sore thumb.  Whatever.

Once he made his way back, he jumped up in my tree stand to confess the obvious.  I couldn’t resist asking, “Did you get lost?”  He smiled and confirmed my suspicion while we giggled over his actions before heading back to hang with his pap.

Leaving the day defeated, but having a truly fun day, we headed home.  Later on, we found out there wasn’t any action going on around my parents house either.  No one was seeing deer this year and especially not bucks.  How can that be?  There are at least a dozen or so dead deer along side the highways?

Dad and I went back to Green County to try our luck on Tuesday.  The same old nothing, however I did see the same couple of doe in about the same location.  But aside from that, zip!   I even hiked the hillside trying to push the deer out for dad.  Let me tell you, my butt and quads were burning!  That is one steep hillside and it was full of thick brush, which makes it really hard to walk through.  Tuesday heated up a bit and no movement from the deer.

Actually the only excitement came from dad.  Some hunter on the adjacent property, which apparently dad had words with in previous years, cut through the hunting area were dad and I were sitting, to try and push deer onto his property.  Dad yelled at him to stay on his own property and that was the last of it.

Read our hunting adventures of 2013

Our Hunting Adventures … New York
Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued

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

Our Hunting Adventures … New York Continued

One day in the country
Is worth a month in town  ~Christina Rossetti

Kyles-buck-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle’s buck of 2013 .. Good job buddy!

… Continued Our Hunting Adventures … New York

It’s always an adventure with the Piper clan.  On Sunday morning, November 17th, when it was still pretty dark, I saw an animal with a very bright white, almost glowing fur coat, sneaking around the forest floor below me.  It was kind of the size of a squirrel, but didn’t move like a squirrel.  In fact, it moved more like a ferret.  Keep in mind it’s still pretty dark, but I could see the critter clearly.  Being completely intrigued I watched it move around for a good fifteen or twenty minutes with my flashlight, seeing what it was up to and trying to get a good look at it.  I really wanted to identify the unknown animal.  After it moved on, I forgot all about the creature until we were back at the motel room and I described it to dad.  Apparently,  I saw a weasel.  Too cool!  This is a perk about hunting, not to mention the sounds of nature, being out in the fresh air, seeing the beauty God has provided, harvesting meat for the table, but also seeing these creatures, which I would normally never see.

We were blessed on Saturday with mild weather.  Actually, a perfect hunting day.  Sunday was a mix of rain and rain and wind.  Monday wasn’t too bad, just windy.  We were all hoping for snow, but it wasn’t in the cards.  Why snow?  It makes it so much easier to see the deer and to hear them.  Plus, the woods are so pretty when it snows, especially when the branches catch the white powder appearing as if the snow is held in mid air.  I love the outlining effect of the trees in white, like the snow stretched up from the ground to fill the tips of the trees.  Love it!

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Dad & Kyle hunting in Green County. Kyle was probably dragging his feet through the leaves…our little Peeta! 12/2/13

On Saturday, I had a chance at a small buck in the brush.  As I lined it up in my sights, I remember dad saying, “If your gonna shoot, make sure you have a good shot and shoot it in the shoulder to take it down.  We don’t want to have to track the deer.”  You see dad doesn’t believe in unloading your gun on one deer.  Line up your target and then take your shot.  If you need a second bullet then use it, but not your entire arsenal.  He feels you should get it on one shot, which usually he does!

As I watched the buck move swiftly through the brush, I looked ahead to see an opening in a direct line with his path.  Perfect!  I thought I’ll wait for the deer to walk into the clearing and then take it down with one clean shot.  As I watched the buck go behind the trees, I noticed it never came out to my preplanned drop zone.  As I tracked it in my scope, I saw the buck turned and walked up over the hill!  What?  When I saw this, the only shot I had was between the trees, through the brush and at its rear-end.  Not good!  That’s not an appropriate shot and one I would never take.  If I’m taking a shot it’s to drop the deer and not have it suffer and run off.  Can you believe it?  Apparently, the buck didn’t get the memo to keep walking straight into my line of sight!  O well.  Looking back on it now, dad and I both agree I should have just taken the shot in the brush.  Dad commented, “You never know unless you try.”  Good point old man!

When it comes to deer hunting, there is no one I trust more than dad.  He has dropped hundreds of deer from the time he was nine years old.  Plus, he’s been a woodsman most of his life and he seems to speak deer.  Really!  He has this sixth sense about them, like he can read their minds.  He is a truly great hunter!

Once Saturday came and left, Sunday arrived.  After sitting for most of the morning seeing nothing, to break up the day, I headed down the hill toward dad and Kyle.  Once I got there, dad had us walk around to see if we could push the deer.  Finally, dad gets me!  He’s starting to catch on to Kyle too, realizing we can’t sit for too long, we get antsy and silly and loose focus.  All the things dad is not keen on in the woods. He takes hunting very seriously, rightfully so.

On another side note, in New York it is legal to hunt on Sunday, not like Pennsylvania.  So we were able to hunt all weekend into Monday.

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Dad hunting in Jim’s woods … we finally got snow! 12/7/13

Did we see any deer on Sunday?  Nope, but with my little man making a herd of noise, I couldn’t image why not.  I was watching Kyle walk through the leaves.  Instead of picking up his feet, he was dragging them through the forest floor!  What?  Eventually, I started to loose my patience snapping at the kid, “Pick up your feet Kyle!”  With a response of “I am Aunt Heather!”  After walking a few feet and standing there waiting on my slow poke noise maker to catch up, Kyle started to chuckle and said, “Call me Peeta!”  I was dying!  That was too funny!  Perfect reference to The Hunger Games.  Unbeknownst to my friend Kelly, she texted me that night asking how Katniss, referencing me, was doing on my hunting expedition.  Later I told her, perfect timing of her text and seriously how funny it was.  Good one guys!

After leaving dad and Kyle and heading back up the hill, the very steep and butt burning hill, and after getting slightly twisted around, I had another opportunity in the form of a doe.  I was on the ground and was getting situated when I saw a doe approach.  It was standing between trees without a good shot.  To be honest, during hunting season the deer are a bit skittish, rightfully so, and any movement will spook them.  Bringing my rifle up and resting it back down was out of the question.  I had to hold my rifle up until she walked into sight.  By that time my arm was shaking all around and was exhausted.  Then, I took the shot… and missed!   I reloaded immediately, but again her butt was facing me as she darted out onto a different property line, leaping out of sight.  I went to the scene to see if I could start tracking some blood, but nadda.  Nothing.  No hit.  Dang!  Seriously, nothing would make me happier than to be able to provide deer meat for the family freezer.  Not to mention, it would make dad very proud and happy to see me get a deer.  That’s fine, we still have the rest of the season in Pennsylvania.

After the excitement of the day, I made my way back down to dad and Kyle, where we all jumped on the quad and headed out for the day.  This road, I was totally familiar with, since it was the same one we used in the summer when we were here moving dad’s tree stand.  What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand, What It Takes to Move a Tree Stand… Continued This road, or I should say quad path, was like a roller coaster ride, straight up the hill, uneven and washed out in some areas, and topped off with obstacles.  Let’s not forget the roads were extremely muddy from the rain and slick.  Kyle and I loaded on the back of the quad with our feet hanging over while dad drove.  Dad keeps his rifle around his neck and normally I sling mine around my body and wear it on my back, but that would mean the barrel would be pointing in Kyle’s direction.  Not good!  So Kyle positioned his rifle around his neck facing the woods and I held onto mine, pointing toward the ground.  Where they loaded?  You bet, in case we did see any deer.  It wasn’t dark yet and we had a nice little trek to get back to the truck.  Granted, we had the safety on to not chance any accidents, but the opportunity was there to take a shot at a run away deer.

Just as we got on the back of the quad, both me and Kyle, at the same time, leaned in toward each other and said, “Hang on!”  We cracked up!  Kyle said, “Pappy thinks he’s driving a tank and he’s invincible on this thing.”  I was laughing!  He was speaking the truth, yet it was seriously funny coming from his mouth and straight from his very own observation.

The entire ride on the back of the quad was a bumpy, hang on, white knuckle ride.  At one point we were so vertical, my feet could touch the ground and I had to pick them up before I scrapped mud.  Dad didn’t admit it, but I truly think we had a least one wheel off the ground.  Then, let’s discuss the swimming pool sized mud puddles.  Every time dad went through one, I thought we were going to sink to China.  Yet we made it safely through with every pass.

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Later day view from my tree stand… hunting in Cortland, NY 2013

I  hunted for half a day on Monday, before saying bye to dad and heading home.  Kyle had school and I had work to get done and dad was planning on staying until the weekend.  We had so much fun, both Kyle and I wanted to stay with dad, if for anything else to give him some company.  Even hanging out in the motel room was fun, joking around and discussing the days events.

Dad told a lot of deer hunting stories and talked about Ryan a lot.  It was therapeutic for dad and good for Kyle to hear about his dad.

Hunting in New York for years, dad and Ryan used to go up there all the time.  As we drove to and fro in the woods, dad would point out who shot what, when and how big it was.  Can dad remember that?  You bet he can!  He has no idea how old I am, but when it comes to hunting, his memory is pretty spot on.  Especially, his hunting trips with Ryan, they are his special memories.

Either that Tuesday or Wednesday, dad shot a four point buck and a doe.  The buck was pretty large, supplying us with good deer meat for the freezer.  Dad was planning on coming home Saturday night but instead pulled up Thursday mid-day.  He missed sitting in the tree stand with Kyle, his buddy.  I don’t blame him, it’s always more fun to hunt with family than by oneself.

Thanks to Larry and the New York crew for their hospitality and the adventure.  Can’t wait for next year!  I will be prepared this time.

Our Hunting Adventures … New York

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

Our Hunting Adventures … New York

This is an interesting planet. It deserves all the attention you can give it.  ~Marilynne Robinson

Aunt-Heather-Piper-&-Kyle-in-Green-County-Hunting-12-2013

Me & Kyle in Green County hunting… we saw nothing! Yet had fun hanging out with dad a.k.a. pap 12/2/13

As I’ve mentioned it a time or two, we are a family of hunters and recently was our prime season.  Deer season!  Yes, there is more to hunting besides deer, but deer season seems to be the most exciting and gets those not-so-diehard hunters out and about.  It’s really a lot fun!  Not the idea of killing but the idea of family time, getting back to nature and helping to supply the household with good, healthy, natural deer meat for the freezer.  Plus keeping the deer population down to help eliminate bad car accidents as a result of deer.

On Friday, November 15th, Kyle and I drove up to Cortland, New York to meet up with dad, who drove up earlier that morning.  Why did we make the six hour trip?  Deer hunting!  Yes, we got our New York tags in addition to our Green County and Westmoreland County tags in Pennsylvania.  What is really cool about New York, you are allowed to shoot buck and doe on the first day.  As opposed to Pennsylvania, where you are only allowed to hunt buck on Monday till Saturday, then anything brown is down until the season is over.  Well, actually that’s technically not the case.  Depending where one is shooting, some rules state there needs to be two points on one side plus the brow point to be counted legal, and other cases three points on one side, not including the brow.  But if you really want all the details, it’s in the Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping book.  Dad’s bible throughout the season.

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The elusive tree stand Cortland, NY 2013

On a side note, I picked up Kyle from school on Friday and we headed out.  About halfway into our trip Kyle mentioned he had to relieve his bladder.  Well, so did I!  We did the thing you do alongside a dark desolate highway, in the mountains, we pulled over and watered the ground.   I let Kyle go first.  He positioned himself between the passenger door and the back passenger door facing a patch of woods.  Great idea!  Once he was done, I had him switch sides with me, while I grabbed a swatch of paper towel and followed suit.  As we proceeded to switch back to our right sides, I joked and said to Kyle, “Watch out, don’t stand where I went to the bathroom.”  as he saw the discarded paper towel on the ground.  No!  I am not typically a litter bug, but this time, with a paper towel, which will disintegrate in a heavy rain, I could live with.  As Kyle walked past my spot of nature, he asked “You wiped up the ground?”  As if he was missing some sort of etiquette.  I about died!  It never dawned on me that he didn’t know, girls take an extra step in the bathroom.  He thought I cleaned up the ground!  I was laughing!  By the time we got home I told mom.  We both lost it and laughed at Kyle’s innocence and ignorance.  LOVE that kid!!

We got up to Cortland late Friday night, about 10:00 pm or so and went straight to bed.  Dad was already sawing logs when we walked in and Kyle pretty much joined him before we arrived.  Love my side kick, but when he’s tired, he’s down!

Then, back up at 3:30 am.  Only dad!  Daylight wasn’t until 6:30 am or so and we were only about a half an hour away from our hunting destination.  Granted, we did need to make our way back to the tree stands, but getting up that early was a bit silly.  Dad was so excited, he was like a kid on Christmas morning.  He truly looks forward to hunting in New York every year, and then to have me and Kyle join him, he was elated!  It was like the old days when Ryan hunted with him.

We stayed and hunted up until Monday, around noon and had a blast every step of the way!

On Saturday, when dad was giving me direction where I was to be stationed, this was how he described it to me.  Keep in mind, I was only ever in a different part of those woods once, never in the area I was to be hunting, and it was pitch black and it was 5:00 am and I had little sleep!  Dad said:

Heather, we’ll all ride the quad back the path and then you’ll get off and walk to your tree stand.  Follow the path to where it bends towards the left about a half a mile or so until it slopes down slightly.  Keep going until you see a log down, about six inches in diameter along the side of the path.  Walk a little further down, there should be a ribbon around a tree.  On the same side is your tree stand.  You’ll see the ground is all tore up where the turkeys were scratching.  Go ahead and get in the tree stand, we’ll be down over the bank from you.  If you think the tree stand is too high and you don’t feel comfortable, then find a place on the ground to sit.  Make sure you get out of the brush.

OK, so let me get this straight, I am suppose to stay to the left, look for a log down in the woods among other trees down and find turkey tracks in the mud, in the pitch black under all the fallen dead leaves and find a black tree stand in the dark?  Right!  I just nodded and said “Alright dad.” thinking in my head, if I don’t find it in the dark, then I’ll find a nice stump and wait till it gets light to see where I’m suppose to be positioned.

Would you believe, I found the tree stand?  Yes!  In fact, it was as if Ryan came down from heaven and tapped me on the shoulder making me look toward the right.  Seriously, that’s what it felt like, to make me all of a sudden turn my flashlight toward the tree containing the deer stand.  No joke!  I totally missed the ribbon, which later I saw very small and kind of obscured.  The tree stand was higher than what I am used to, but it didn’t bother me.  To be honest, it was nice of Larry, dad’s friend who allows us to hunt on the property, to get me set up.

Early-Morning-View-from-my-Tree-stand-in-Cortland-NY-Aunt-Heather-Piper

1st day of deer hunting in Cortland, NY. Perfect early morning view! 2013

The first day was crazy.  Did we see deer?  You bet!  But what really cracked me up, there was about thirty turkeys behind me in the brush having a party.  They were scratching up the ground and gobbling like crazy!  At one point, I turned over my shoulder and I saw a conga line of four more turkeys joining in on the party.  They were making such a ruckus.  I kept thinking there were deer walking around me, but nope, it was the turkey party.  I couldn’t see them through the thick brush, but there was no mistaken.  I must have crashed the turkey party pad.

Now, let’s discuss the angry squirrel.  First, I’d like to state that I don’t care for squirrels, at all!  To me, they are large rodents and not appealing in the slightest.  I have no qualms shooting them during small game season.  Dad loves squirrel potpie, which is okay, not a favorite of mine like deer meat.  Well, me and this squirrel got into it.  Really!  It kept trying to climb up my tree.  I yelled at it saying “No!  You are not coming up my tree.  There is a whole forest of trees to choose from and you can’t join me.”  Apparently, the wrong thing to say, because that squirrel ran up the tree opposite to me, turned to face downward and gave a loud almost scream.  Then, it ran down the tree and across the path back towards my tree, where I slapped my hands on my lap and yelled No!  This situation continued on the same course a few times before the squirrel buckled, gave up and left me a lone.  Alone, with me and my turkey party.  That is until the next day and we went through the same routine again.  You should have heard it scream.  It was like a lady with a high pitch screech!  I’ve never heard anything like it.  It kind took me back.

It’s always an adventure with the Piper clan.  On Sunday morning, …

… to be Continued

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

The Hobbit: It’s Always an Adventure with Kyle

I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.
I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!  ~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

the-hobbit-the-desolation-of-smaug-Aunt Heather Piper

Yes, this past Saturday I took Kyle to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, in complete anticipation since we saw The Hobbit:  An Unexpected Journey.  Did I read the book?  You bet!  As did Kyle and we both loved it!  Kyle read all The Lord of the Rings books.  I, myself, am on the last of the series, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.  Truly great reads and a really cool, adventurous world to get lost in.

So what did we think of the movie?  LOVED IT!  I’m not sure what I loved the most: the integrity of the book brought to the big screen, the characters and their consistency, the excitement of the entire adventure, or the company I keep?  I have a feeling it’s a little bit of all of the above with an emphasis on the later.

Since it was a busy day, we attended Holy Family Church, the four-thirty mass.  Yes, we rearranged our day just so we could go to the seven o’clock showing of The Hobbit.  Going any later wouldn’t have sat well with me since I am an ‘early to bed, early to rise’ type of gal.  I suppose we could have gone to the traditional Sunday morning mass, but I knew we still had to get the Christmas tree and it’s nice not rushing around on a Sunday morning, yet knowing we made time to visit God in His house.

As the hours approached, the snow kept falling.  Snow, was really not the issue but the temperature.  It was teetering between freezing and rain.  That makes for less than desirable driving conditions, especially at night.

The-Hobbit-The-Desolation-of-Smaug-Tauriel Aunt Heather PiperNormally, I take Kyle to the Carmike 15 Cinema behind Westmoreland Mall in Greensburg, which is only about ten miles from my parents house in Latrobe.  However, I really didn’t feel comfortable driving, mostly the return trip, with the roads on the brink of becoming an Olympic sized luge track.  I mentioned this to Kyle and he about fell into an immediate depression and despair.  I know I agreed, but it wasn’t worth putting us both in potential harms way.  Trying for an immediate solution that we both could agree upon, I mentioned that we could go to a Sunday matinee.  Kyle’s response?  “It came out this Thursday and we have yet to see it!”  Keep in mind it was only Saturday, not a month after being released.  What to do?  What to do?  When you need answers, turn toward the internet.  Low and behold, Latrobe 30 Theatre & Cafe was playing The Hobbit!   It was only a few miles away.  What time?  Seven-thirty, perfect!

See, even before getting to the movies, it’s always an adventure!  Once we arrived, now comes a few of our standard arguments.  Normally, I’m on the fence about the popcorn, but I already agreed to let Kyle have his snack.  This movie theater offers slightly more options such as sandwiches and, yes, soft pretzels.  In a very pensive voice, speaking really only to himself said, “Now do I want a pretzel or popcorn?”  Then, turned to me as if confirming his conclusion by saying “Both?”  “Umm, no, pick one or the other buddy.  Kyle why don’t you get the pretzel since they usually don’t have those at the other theater?”  He opted for the popcorn and I am ashamed to say I buckled and got junior mints. (always remembering the Seinfeld episode).

Now ready for argument number deux?  Where to sit?  This movie theater is a lot smaller than the ones we normally attend, but I still like to sit toward the back, while Kyle likes his nose touching the big screen.  Since he picked our seat the last movie,  Thor 2:  The Dark World, I got my own way.  That is until my mind was changed for me.  As we sat there, a large man sat directly in front of me, and for the life of me, I could not see over him or around him.  Within a matter of seconds of this happening, Kyle turned toward me with this ornery look on his face like, ‘See, we should have sat where I wanted to.  Are we going to move?’  We did!  Kyle was happy, I didn’t really care.

The Hobbit The Desolation of Smaug Dwarf in a BarrelNow, are we settled to watch the movie?  Nope.  Kyle decides he’s hungry for real food, not snacks.  He left and ordered himself a pulled pork sandwich.  Not a bad choice!  But now the real fun begins.  Kyle will not eat anything, nothing not even his popcorn before the movie starts.  Seriously, it’s like this thing with him, this irritating thing that I don’t get and kind of drives me crazy.  All the while I polished off my junior mints before there was picture on the screen.  Kyle said, “Now you don’t have anything to eat during the movie.”  Almost in a superior type of tone.  I said, “I don’t care, I would rather focus on the movie.”  Not Kyle, he sat there with his sandwich and popcorn lined up perfectly in front of him, waiting patiently to be devoured.  He would not even sample one kernel of popcorn!  Forget it if I tried to sneak a snack.  He must not have been too hungry.  That kid!

So now the movie right?  Yes!  What makes a movie is Kyle’s commentary.  He is sometimes so quick witted and sarcastic, it cracks me up.  At one point Bombur the one dwarf, the really fat one, was in a barrel and the barrel got loose and took off, taking down rows of orcs.  Classic stupid humor but totally cracked us up, especially when he ended up in a partial barrel encompassing his enormousness body,  still holding his ax and getting ready to fight.  We died!  Trying not to create too much for a ruckus in the theater, we were laughing so hard, there was no sound coming from our mouths.

Also, every time the orcs would call Tauriel the “She-Elf”, we both thought that to be hilarious. (Even though that was not original to the books)

The-Hobbit-An Unexpected Journey Aunt Heather PiperThen, came the best comment of the movie.  Legolas was shooting arrows into the orcs and he shot two orcs in the head with one arrow.  Kyle leaned in to me and said, “That’s Gigi’s shot!”  I was rolling in my seat trying to stay afloat.  You see, once years ago when my mom hunted, she accidentally shot two deer with one shot.  She shot the one closest to her and the bullet went through to the second deer standing directly behind the first, totally unbeknownst to her behind until she walked up on her kill.  Kyle loves hearing that story and apparently it has resignation with him.

What was really funny, was our reactions to the end of the movie.  Prior to seeing the second installment, we both read that they were making The Hobbit into a three part series.  Yet, for some reason we both thought it was only going to be two parts.  Then comes the end, and it abruptly stops.  Kyle, with this surprised look on his face said, “What?  It’s not over!  How are they going to make a third movie when there’s only a little bit left?”  I said, “That’s the power of Hollywood, they will probably embellish it a bit to stretch it out.”  Then, in pure disbelief Kyle asked to use my phone.  He looked it up and yes, the third movie is scheduled to come out next December of 2014.  How can we wait that long?

Yes it was truly a splendid evening with my little man.  Kyle was happy to see the movie, as was I.  Although I think he was more excited to see it before his Aunt Nikki.  That made his night!

posted by auntheather in Education,Family,Imagination,Learning,Observation,The Church and have No Comments

One Month Flew By – Time Does Fly

But meanwhile time flies; it flies never to be regained.  ~Virgil
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Kyle & Nicole exchanging gifts at Christmas 12/24/10

Everyone finds themselves saying this at least a few times in their life, ‘Where did the time go?’  These fast few weeks, actually past month has been a whirlwind.  Just to recap, mostly for my own sanity, there was hunting in New York, then I was on set for a couple of days for a new television series shot in Pittsburgh, then Thanksgiving came and went, then hunting season for two weeks locally, then my parents Wedding Anniversary, then the Discovering Portage Scavenger Hunt, and Christmas tree shopping with the family.  Those are just the highlights.  I’m sure I’ll elaborate on each of these as I find the time in my schedule, but I wanted to get my thoughts organized to what seriously has been going on.

This past weekend alone was busy, busy, busy.  I guess this time of year most people find that the case.  Administering to the Discovering Portage Scavenger Hunt, in Portage, Pennsylvania took up a better part of my Saturday.  Of course the days leading up in preparation for an event, is also equally time consuming.  The Portage Winterfest commissioned Thrill of the Hunt to develop and administer to the Discovering Portage Scavenger Hunt for their Winterfest.  Great idea!
Discovering Portage Scavenger Hunt Thrill of the Hunt Aunt Heather Piper
The weatherman was forecasting a huge blizzard, which really wasn’t the case, but the snow did randomly fall.  Seriously, it was so pretty!  Portage is about sixty some miles from Latrobe, Pennsylvania, about an hour and half to get there, opposite direction of Pittsburgh.  Not a huge commute, but a little bit of a challenge with snowy roads.  Now don’t get me wrong, I have no issues driving in the snow, at all.  But as common sense dictates, I am not invincible on the white covered roads and I needed to adjust my speed to reflect the weather, so it became a little more of a road trip.
As we were driving along, I couldn’t help but reflect on my sister’s Penn State University years.  Picking her up, bringing her back and visiting Nicole at Penn State forced us to drive past Portage with every trip.  So this little coal mining town was not foreign to me, but a familiar sign along the roadway.
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Finishing up the SpyRing Scavenger Hunt in Latrobe, Pa! Proceeds were donated to rebuild Playland! — Lain Marie Fisher, Rachel Berger-Gregg, Sarah Rosenbaum & Aaron Fish at Legion-Keener Park. 9/22/12

It was great having MaRissa accompany me on this job.  However, it was bittersweet not having my little helper right beside me.  Where was Kyle?  He had to work the soup kitchen in Latrobe for the Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia Youth Group, and it was the last day of hunting in Pennsylvania.  Making the most of the opportunity when Kyle can’t assist me, I like to bring on new blood.  It helps me to train others and prepares me for future expansion of Thrill of the Hunt.  I’m not saying anyone that has worked for me will make Thrill of the Hunt their career choice, or maybe they will, but it does give them working experience and extra moola.  Plus it gives me an extra body and assistance.  Win, win for everyone.

When I finally rolled into town, Kyle was putting the finishing touches on with respect to the Christmas decorations at my parent’s house.  He did a great job, even lighting the candles so I had the full ambiance when I walked in the door!  It’s nice walking into a home that is decorated in the spirit of Christmas, with the fireplace on, snow covering the ground outside and still falling and my little man truly enjoying himself.  Perfect home feeling!
Shortly after settling in, we went to Saturday mass at Holy Family.  Why going out of our norm?  We chose that church because they offer an early Saturday mass.  The evening was promised to Kyle and a night in the movie theater.
Discovering-Greensburg-Scavenger-Hunt-Thrill-of-the-Hunt-Greensburg-Pa-9-21-13-v4

Elliott, MaRissa & Chris participating in the Thrill of the Hunt, Discovering Greensburg Scavenger Hunt for the Seton Hill University Homecoming weekend. Great job! 9/21/13

That was the moment Kyle was waiting for, literally for months, The Hobbit:  The Desolation of Smaug.  I must say I was in complete agreement with Kyle.  I too have been waiting to see this movie with much anticipation.  We both loved The Hobbit the book and the first movie and couldn’t wait for part deux.
Usually I take Kyle to the Carmike Cinema behind Westmoreland Mall off of Route 30, however I wasn’t too keen on driving up the highway with the roads in question.  They were a mix of snow, rain and slush, teetering on brink of freezing into sheets of ice.  So we went locally to the Latrobe 30 Theatre & Cafe.  To us, we didn’t care either way, we both wanted to continue the adventure of The Hobbit.  I just wanted to do it safely with my precious cargo.
Was it worth it?  Heck yes! I’m sure I’ll talk about it later, but Kyle and I had a great time watching that movie.  Now we can’t wait for the third and final Hobbit series, scheduled for release in December of 2014.  A year from now!
On Sunday, my family went to get a Christmas tree.  Yes, we’ve never had a fake Christmas tree and will never own one.  There is nothing like the smell of fresh pine in the house.  It’s presence alone brings nature indoors and really feels good on the soul.  Plus it’s a nice continued tradition of picking out the focal point of the living-room for the Christmas season.
Later on that day, Kyle had Christmas play practice for his youth group.  Apparently, Kyle is running the lights.  While he was doing that I was getting a jump on my next scavenger hunt, Heart & Soul Scavenger Hunt.  This one if for a work Christmas party in Annapolis Maryland.  Yes, it’s outdoors!  And yes, it’s for a company that manages and administers to kidney care.  No, I didn’t call it Heart & Soul on purpose.  The title was to reflect the caring nature of these workers and the great job they do and the joy they bring to others who are sick.  I can’t wait to administer to this scavenger hunt on Tuesday!
Lots happening, lots going on, lots to look forward too.
posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education,Family,Learning,Milestone,News,Observation,Patience,Reminiscing,The Church,Thrill of the Hunt,Traveling and have No Comments

Mr. & Mrs. Piper Add Another Year – Happy 44th Anniversary!

The secret of a happy marriage is finding the right person. You know they’re right if you love to be with them all the time.  ~ Julia Child
I’d like to give a big shout out to mom and dad, a.k.a. Gigi and pappy.  Today marks their forty-fourth wedding anniversary!  They were married in 1969 at Sacred Heart Church in Youngstown, Pennsylvania.
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Mom & dad in Germany in the early 1970s. The caption read at Carol & Lynn’s Party … looked like they had a good time!

Besides my parents getting married, which six years later became my birthday, what else was going on in 1969?  According to Google, Wikipedia and all other “reliable” internet sources, 1969 was a full year.
  • Richard Nixon was our 37th president
  • 1st man landed on the moon on the Apollo 11 mission by the United States – Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin – 1st humans to set foot on the moon
  • In August, more than a half a million people gathered in the small town of Bethel, in upstate New York better known as Woodstock
  • 250,000 marched on Washington in protest against the Vietnam War
  • The US institutes the draft lottery to determine draft into US Forces for Vietnam War (dad just signed up for the Army)
  • The very 1st United States troop, withdrawals are made from Vietnam
  • The FCC banned all cigarette advertising on television and radio (good thing!)
  • Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) established
  • Top movies included Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Wild Bunch and Easy Rider
  • One of the top books was Mario Puzo’s Godfather
  • On August 9th, members of a cult led by Charles Manson murder 5 people (I read the book Helter Skelter a couple of times, scary interesting)
  • Hurricane Camille hits the Mississippi coast killing 248 people
  • Militant black students at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York use force to take over Willard Straight Hall demanding a black studies program
  • Cost of new house $15,550.00
  • Average income per year $8,550.00
  • Average monthly rent $135.00
  • Average cost new car $3,270.00
  • Gas per gallon $.35  (That’s a huge change at about $3.45 per gallon now)
Aunt-Heather-Piper-Christmas-1979

Me (4 yrs old) in my cute little Christmas outfit. Check out the plastic clip on earrings! Dad was holding Ryan (3yrs old) & Nicole (6 yrs old), like usual was cut off from the picture. We were at gram & paps house on the ridge. 1979

 

Yes, on the exact same day only six years later on December 12th, in 1975 I was born.  I guess it’s no surprise that I really enjoy winter and the snow, after all I came into this world with that as my backdrop.  At this point mom and dad moved back to the United States after living in Germany for two years while dad was in the Army.  They lived in the same house that my grandpap Chester built, the same one they live in, to this very day.  What else was going on in 1975?

  • Vietnam War ends as Communist forces take Saigon and South Vietnam surrenders unconditionally
  • The United States carries out Vietnam “Operation Babylift” bringing Vietnamese orphans to the US
  • The United States pulls out of Cambodia
  • New York City avoids bankruptcy when President Gerald R. Ford signed a $2.3 billion loan
  • The unemployment rate in the US reaches 9.2% and recession is recognized by President Ford
  • Jimmy Hoffa (ex teamsters boss) disappears never to be seen again
  • Patti Hearst becomes most wanted and is arrested for armed robbery
  • Margaret Thatcher defeats Edward Heath for the leadership of the opposition UK Conservative Party (Thatcher was 49 and Britain’s 1st female leader of any political party)
  • Average cost of new house $39,300.00
  • Average income per year $14,100.00
  • Average monthly rent $200.00
  • Average cost new car $4,250.00
  • Cost of a gallon of gas $.44 (an so the spiking gas prices begins)
  • The UK implements the Sex Discrimination and Equal Pay Act
  • Construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System begins
  • Bill Gates and Paul Allen develop a BASIC program for the Altair 8800
  • Motorolla obtains patent for the first portable mobile phone
  • The name “Micro-soft” (for microcomputer software) and Microsoft becomes a registered trademark
  • Sony introduces Betamax videotapes and Matsushita / JVC introduce VHS
  • Cray-1, the first commercially developed supercomputer, invented by Seymour Cray
  • Volkswagen introduces the Golf
  • Wal-Mart incorporates as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc
  • Charlie Chaplin is knighted by Elizabeth II
  • The Rocky Horror Show opens on Broadway in New York City
posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education,Family,Learning,News,Observation,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,The Church,Traveling and have No Comments

Nothings Better Than a Great Personality!

Always be yourself, express yourself, have faith in yourself, do not go out and look for a successful personality and duplicate it.  ~Bruce Lee

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Ethan Kramer & Kyle playing SpyRing Both boys are such characters! c. 2010

Okay, there are other traits that are equally as important as a great personality, but not many.  A great personality can get you further in life, I really do believe that wholeheartedly.  Sure, you need to be intelligent and your moral compass needs to point north, but I believe having great charisma is the key.  Usually, this goes hand-in-hand with good social skills and communication skills and I know it’s a stretch, but leadership skills.

Some people were just blessed with a double dose of great personality, who are easy to converse with and are witty.  Then, there are those who seemed to have missed out altogether and were blessed with other great qualities, personality not being one of them.

Why a dissertation on great personalities?  As Kyle grows, his personality strengthens and is really shaping his character.  And you know what?  He has the best personality!  It’s a little sarcastic, a little bit of humor, intelligence mixed with a little bit of “knuckleheadedness” and most importantly, sincere and respectfulness.  Kyle has a good, scratch that, GREAT personality!

Now, this isn’t a news flash, by no stretch.  Kyle’s personality has always been strong, even as a tiny little baby, but it’s neat watching him mature and grow.  Our little man has blessed us in so many ways and I am very thankful he has such a strong personality.  I would love him the same if he was a slug, but it sure does make life more interesting with his sense of humor.

Pokemon Twitter Converstation Aunt Heather Piper 10-2012

A screen shot of my twitter feed… 10/2012

Last weekend, I seemed to pick up on his humorous side more than normal because it seemed like every time I turned around, that kid was cracking me up.  We went to see Thor 2:  The Dark World.  Funny movie!  Kyle and I both picked up on all the subtle and not so subtle humor in the movie.  Love it!  That kid understands and appreciates humor and sarcasm and playful words.  It made the movie that much better!  If you want to know how Kyle and I are similar, that’s it!  So I guess it helps we get each other.

Perhaps, Kyle was giggling so much, just out of sheer exhaustion.  You see he earned that movie It’s Called Hard Work For A Reason.  Not to mention, early Saturday morning and the better part of the day, dad had us clean out his garage, getting ready for hunting season.  Regardless of the reason, hanging with Kyle is fun and almost addictive, unless we’re talking about whining.   Then you just want to run!

It was a busy weekend.  On Sunday morning before church, we went to the gun range to shoot in our rifles one last time before New York hunting.  Even while Kyle was knocking down the bowling pins (shooting mine) he was full of spirit.  Especially, after dad suggested that they swing by Dunkin Donuts to pick up a sweet treat.  I did not participate, but I gave a one donut blessing.

Kyle-at-Idlewild-Gutchess-Picnic-2004-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Me & Kyle at Idlewild for the Gutchess Hardwoods Picnic. My little man! 2004

Between Kyle spending time with my parents, practicing his piano and playing with his Legos, we had a whirl wind of activities.  Then, let’s not forget we were scheduled to join in on the hayride at Stoner Farm for Kyle’s youth group.  The hayride was scheduled for 6:30 pm, which means it was dark.  Being somewhere out by the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport, finding one specific dark farm among many fields and farms was a bit difficult.  Once we found the road to take us back to the bonfire and hay wagon, we drove on.  We continued back on the road, and back and back and back.  Until we noticed, we were driving in the field!  We must have missed our turn.  Kyle found the situation to be the funniest thing ever!  He was laughing so hard, as I’m dodging major potholes and ruts in the field, that I began to join suit.  Then he started cracking comments like “Maybe we’ll run into the hayride.”  What a funny kid!

Just as we both agreed to turn around, Kyle looked over his shoulder and said, “Umm Aunt Heather, the bonfire is over there!”  We both busted out laughing before heading back in the right direction.

Once we got there safe and sound, Kyle was still living in the moment and telling everyone what we just did.  Yep he can find humor in the simplest of moments.  Great quality buddy!  Just like your dad!

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education,Family,Imagination,Learning,LEGO's,Observation,Patience,The Church,Thrill of the Hunt and have No Comments

It’s Called Hard Work for a Reason

It isn’t ever delicate to live.  ~Kay Ryan

Kyle-sleeping-6-9-12-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle crashed… 6/9/12

Two weekends ago, well actually that entire week, I was working in my yard.  Yes, the very same yard work I should have done in the spring, or even the summer and yet here I am, trying to get it done before winter sets in and hunting season starts.  Luckily, we’ve had a pretty mild fall.  We’ve even been blessed with nice temperatures in the 50′s and 60′s and overcast with some sun.  Perfect for outside work.

I’m glad I got my work done because as of today,  the snow rolled in.  Only a few inches but still a pleasant sight.  I love snow!

You see spring always seems to sneak up on me and then I miss the boat with respect to tending to the lawn.  Then summer rolls around and I don’t handle the heat and the sun too well.  Literally!  Being outside in the sun makes me sick to my stomach.  I get really bad headaches and let’s not forget about my sun sensitive skin.  I have to be pretty well covered and protected from the harmful rays at all hours of the day, especially in the summer.  And those summer months, I am usually busy with Thrill of the Hunt events.  So there you have it, back to fall work in the yard.

What needed done?  The usual, mowing and weeding and trimming, which I have elected to do about once a month now-a-days.  I’m sure my neighbors love that sight.  Actually, they should be thankful, for I make their lawns look perfect!

Last Thursday night, early Friday morning we had one heck of a windstorm roll through.  It resulted in a tree branch taking down a power-line, right down the road from my parents.  Guess what?  I couldn’t work on my company stuff nor my freelancing work, since my “office” is in the corner of their kitchen with my desktop and my external drives.  Don’t worry, I always have something to do.  No free day for me!

Aunt-Heather-Piper-backyard-steps-landscaping

This was the beginning of my backyard steps… 2011

On a side note, I purposely set up my “office” in my parents house, as opposed to my house, to get me out, dressed and moving.  I want to make sure I never get lazy, especially with The Piper Corporation.  So I force myself to travel to my work station.  It’s perfect actually, I have a great view of my Uncle’s farm and a view of Saint Vincent College out looking through the picture window in the kitchen.  The best office space ever!  Plus my office companions aren’t too bad either, Scooby, Seven and Storm.

I recruited Kyle to assist me on Saturday at my house, since my parents were still without electricity.  I took this as a sign from God, telling me to get in the yard and finish it up.  After all I couldn’t work on the computer.

Starting my day as soon as the sun rises, around 6:00 am, Kyle and I went to work.  Yes it was not light duty chores.  It was hauling mulch and river rock, pulling weeds and walking up and down my back steps around my landscaping.  Truly hard work even for a professional landscaper.  So how did Kyle fare?

Well, at first it was a big argument.  He didn’t want to do the mulch and was seriously exaggerating his motions in such a way, I made him carry the river rocks while I took over the mulch job.  I knew I could get it done faster, making better progress than Kyle.  Then, I caught him trying to do the job half way, cutting corners that sort of thing.  I was livid!  There are few things I really truly can’t stand and detest, beside smoking, and that’s laziness.  I just can’t understand making that choice to wimp out, especially on something that is benefiting oneself such as my house.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-Backyard-Landscaping

My backyard while we were just getting started… before the steps. c. 2009

After about an hour of me loosing my patience, yelling and Kyle dropping his attitude and getting acclimated to the job of the day, he really began to work.  And I mean he worked!  That kid was on fire!  Really after, we got moving and he started to get into a rhythm and saw progress, he was such a hard little worker.  He was even proud of himself saying, “Wow Aunt Heather I think I’m getting stronger with each rock!  Soon I’ll be even better in the weight room!”  What a cutie!  I had to concur with his reasoning, because he was right.  The more work he did, the stronger he was getting.

You see, for the next few weeks Kyle is in the weight room at school for gym class.  They are teaching him how to lift and such.  He seems to really like it.  Kyle even asked me, “Hey Aunt Heather, how much can you do on the leg press?”  Truly not remembering I said, “Probably around 100 pounds or so.  Why how much can you do?”  With a victorious and ornery grin, Kyle responded proudly with “I can leg press 240 pounds!”  Wow!  Holy smokes buddy!  That’s great!  I really was proud of him.  He is a strong little compact bugger!  He said only one other kid did more than him and he did 260 pounds.  Still all very impressive.

With the weight room talk, it gave Kyle another incentive to keep on truck’in.  He was great!  All the way up until it started to rain on us.  I was almost done with the mulch, when I turned around to see my little man with his hoodie up, soaking wet carrying buckets of river rock and looking defeated.  We had to leave soon anyway.  Kyle was serving mass at 6:00 pm that night.  After seeing the look on his face, I said, “Go jump in the shower, we’re done for today.”  Shear joy fell over him.  Not to mention a sense of accomplishment.  Kyle did remark, “Wow Aunt Heather it’s actually looking nice.  We got a lot done!”  Yes we did buddy, especially with all his hard work.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-Backyard-Before

My backyard while in the progress of landscaping… ton of brush! c. 2009

As it turns out Kyle wasn’t done working, not by a long shot.  You see he had off of school on Monday for an in-service day.  So I took advantage of that fact and asked him to assist me again to try and finish the work once and for all.  Surprisingly, he was enthused to help me wrap up the yard.  That morning, we first helped my dad by stacking some wood before making our way to my dreaded lawn.

On another side note, sometime on Saturday I must have weeded out poison ivy and proceeded to scratch my face and my eye.  Yes my eye!  By Sunday, my face was all swollen, itchy and my eye looked like a big marshmallow.  Not believing in doing actual work on Sundays, I try to honor the Sabbath Day as much as possible, I took a few Benadryl pills and fell into a sleep coma.  By Monday, my eye was even worse and we had to make a pit stop at Med Express to get me on steroids again.  I really hate those things!

Yes, I worked like that with basically one eye since I could only see out of it with a sliver.  I figured, I would rather get in contact with the poison ivy again, now that I was on medication, rather than later when I was healed and had to go through this again.  Plus, I wanted to stay away from people with all my ugliness.  I even avoided the gym in the mornings.  But lucky for Kyle, I had no qualms about hanging around him.  I would even tease my little man by leaning in with my bulging eye and saying, “Go ahead and touch it.  Feel how squishy it is!”  He was grossed out and would squirm around me.  Eventually, we made a joke out of it saying “Don’t make me give you the stink eye.”  And then I would point my eye in his direction.  That cracked us both up! If you can’t laugh at yourself, then what’s the point in living.

While we were talking and working Kyle mentioned again about getting an apartment and buying land to build his house and huge fish tank on.  I said, “O buddy between me and your Aunt Nikki, we will probably have enough rental properties for you to live in so you don’t have to worry about it.”  Kyle took that as a sign that he will take my house.  It’s yours buddy, you earned it through sweat equity!

While wrapping up some of the work on Monday afternoon, Kyle started to comment about hard work and how hard our activity was.  Then, he started to get a bit sarcastic and threw out the attitude again.  He said, “This is suppose to be my day off from school and I’m not suppose to be doing work.”  Really?  Says who.  I retorted with, “What do you think most people do Kyle?  They work all week and do yard work in the evenings and weekends.  Welcome to reality.”  He had nothing to say on that note.

I get it, he was tired and not used to working that hard for that many days in a row.  I completely understood.  But I still won’t tolerate an attitude.

After that came the fury of Aunt Heather.  I asked Kyle to dump a couple of buckets of dirt up by my back fence in a mulch pile of leaves and branches.  Not wanting to walk up the hill, we both kind of laughed at the thought of making another trip there.  Finally, Kyle did what I asked and made the first trip, promising I’ll make the second.

Cow-Toilet-Found-on-a-Walk-Aunt-Heather-Piper

No this was not in my yard! Me & the boys saw this while on one of our walks… I LOVE IT!!

When I made my trip, to help him out and show he is not doing all the hard work, I noticed he dumped the dirt right in the yard, not even coming close to the pile!  Fiery anger shot out of me and resulted in a lecture on laziness.  I wanted him to understand that he has to train himself now, NOT to be lazy and to NOT take shortcuts, for it will always bite him in the butt in the long run, especially in a professional environment.  I went off explaining how I trusted him to do a job and I expected it to be done right and not to have to redo it.  Then, I went into a tangent about how he doesn’t want the reputation of being a lazy kid.  And so on and so forth.

When teaching a child to NOT be lazy, you’re actually teaching them more than hard work, you’re teaching a sense of worth and self-accomplishment, good foundation structures that I fully believe in to create a solid character.

Okay, granted I was tired too and it was a long few days, plus with all the poison ivy irritating my skin, I’m sure my nerves where just a little bit sensitive.  He felt horrible and kicked it up a notch until he was out of steam.  Seriously, I haven’t seen a kid his age work that hard in forever!  I was really proud of him, and maybe I was a little too hard on my man.  But I wanted to make a point, that it’s not just about my yard.  I am training his character, the man he will hopefully grow to be.  The one I hope him to be, minus any laziness.  And you know what?  I believe he will get there.  It was only at that moment, he was being a kid and a tired human.

Thanks buddy for all your hard work!  You earned every muscle you worked out and you earned both movies and popcorn.

This past weekend I took Kyle to see Thor 2: The Dark World and I believe the second movie of his choice is The Hunger Games – Catching Fire.  I even told him he earned popcorn, which he gave me a victorious smile.  I love paying this kid in movies.  It makes for a well deserved date night.

I never thought to get finished pictures of the yard, so once the snow disappears I will take pictures and do a comparison.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education,Family,Learning,Milestone,Observation,Patience,The Church,Thrill of the Hunt and have No Comments

Family Traditions Through Sauerkraut

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t Bite the Hand That Feeds You!

People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them.  ~Eric Hoffer

Nicole-&-Kyle-hanging-out-at-Christmas12-2003-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle hanging with his Aunt Nikki after another successful Christmas. 12/2003

Kyle is notorious for asking for stuff.  I’m not talking about cloths or necessity items, but the complete opposite.  He doesn’t just want Legos, he wants all the Legos ever made.  He doesn’t just want Pokemon cards, he has to have nearly five thousand cards.  And now his newest kick, he doesn’t just want Dungeons and Dragons.  He wants every board game, every piece, every item ever made associated to Dungeons and Dragons.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m happy he likes building Legos and playing board games and cards, and I am very happy he has interests.  But sometimes too much is too much!

However, that’s not the subject at hand.  O no!  Kyle is also notorious for hitting my family up for all sorts of stuff to feed his interests, especially my sister.  Granted, Kyle does exceptionally well in school and Nicole hooks the kid up for his “A”s, and she picks up the tab for shortages when he’s worked off money doing chores around the house.  Unlike myself, Aunt Nikki buckles to his pleas and is always mailing packages Kyle’s way.  Great!  That’s their thing and I couldn’t be happier and supportive.

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Aunt Nikki giving Kyle a good push to get started! What a team! 7/2004

So one would think, one would like to stay in the good graces of gift giving Aunt Nikki and keep buttering her up.  Nope not this time.  This time Kyle screwed up, BIG time!  This past Monday and Tuesday, Kyle had off school for some in service days, which I think is insane, do the meet and greet in the evenings so the kids don’t have to go to school all the way into the middle of June, but I guess that’s for another blog post.  Anyway, Monday, Kyle was helping me in my yard and Tuesday Kyle’s friend Duncan came over to hang.  Great!  Kyle did work REALLY hard all weekend, and I’m certainly glad he had an enjoyable day playing with his friend of like interests.  No big deal.

Well, it wasn’t a big deal, not until Nicole reached out to Kyle to touch base with our little man.  You see, we miss him when he is not directly beside us, and when there’s an opportunity to communicate with our little package, especially on an off time, we seize the chance.  Apparently, Kyle thinks he has immunity from our wrath, and respect is optional while communicating via phone.  Wrong!

Kyle-with-Basketball-hoop-7-2003-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle playing with his new basketball & hoop, courtesy of Aunt Nikki for his 3rd Birthday. 7/2003

What happened?  Nicole called Kyle to see what he was up to, and I guess Kyle didn’t want to talk to his Aunt Nikki because his friend was there.  So how did he handle it?  He hung up on her!  What?  Yes!  When Nicole called me to tell me the story, maybe unbeknownst to Kyle but we do talk and communicate among ourselves like families are suppose to, I was livid!  Furious!  Once Nicole got the words ‘He hung up on me’ out of her mouth I was ready to head over there and grab him by the scruff of his neck!  Lucky for Kyle, good old Aunt Nikki handled the situation before I could intervene.

Nicole said, she was mad and texted him to call her right back.  She said within a matter of 1.1 seconds after the text message was sent, Kyle rang up his trusty money supplier to apologize.  Nicole explained that she was aware he was busy with his friend, but what he should have said was ‘Aunt Nikki, my friend is here and we are busy.  Can I call you back?’  Kyle must have caught her drift and realized the severity of the situation and repeated that sentence back and said he was sorry.  Nicole asked him, “Kyle, are you really sorry?  Because I don’t think you are.”  Again, Kyle apologized and said he was truly sorry.  You know what?  I bet he was scared S%$#less.  Aunt Nikki usually doesn’t make a fuss over some things and rarely gets mad at our little package.  She put him in his place.

The entire time she was rehashing the story, I was fuming!  Nicole felt she handled it, and I believe she did.  She also feels it will never happen again.  Let’s hope not, because if that very situation happened with me, I would have headed straight for Kyle and spoke to him face-to-face.  Not to mention I would have totally embarrassed him in front of his friend and made an example out of him so all his friends knew all about respect demanding Aunt Heather.

Naturally, I told my parents.  Dad was not too happy, to say the least.  But it was handled, however this will not be forgotten, in case it comes up again.

What cracks me up, Kyle knows there’s a package in route to his house as we speak, from his Aunt Nikki for some lame reason.  You know, something like he helped my mom with dishes or he was thinking about dusting the living-room.  Again, those deals are between Kyle and his Aunt Nikki.  I stay out of them totally.  If I was Nicole, I would cancel that order if possible, or I would refuse to let him open it up.  That would bring pure torture to the kid, and really make him pay for his poor choice of inappropriate behavior.  He wouldn’t be able to stand seeing something he wants, sitting there, in a box, and not allowed to open it and play with it.  Pure torture!

Come on Kyle, you are a smart kid!  Think first!  Don’t blow a good thing you have going for you.  For what?  For showing off in front of your friend, or worse, just because you felt like it?  Not cool buddy!  Not only does it benefit you, but your Aunt Nikki truly enjoys sending packages your way, to continuously be apart of your life from a distance.  She loves making you happy!  I hope you learned your lesson and will think first and use your manners.  I would hate to hear you ever spoke to anyone else like that.  That’s not how Piper’s operate.  I know you’re a pre-teen, but if you keep this up you wont hit your teenage years.

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

Halloween? Not This Year

Acting is like a Halloween mask that you put on.  ~River Phoenix
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Matt, me, Kim & Glen. What a crew! c.1996

This was the scariest of all Halloweens, combined!  Something happened that actually took my breath away and caused my heart to skip a few beats.  It was truly horrible!

What was my Halloween nightmare?   Kyle didn’t want to dress up!  The horror of it all!  He didn’t even want to go trick-or-treating!  What kid doesn’t want free candy?  I don’t even know an adult who wouldn’t pass up candy.  Granted, I know Kyle is in the seventh grade, and he is twelve years old, but to not participate in Halloween?  I am saddened.

It started a few months ago when I asked Kyle what he wanted to be for Halloween, not thinking he didn’t want to be apart of it.  He just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Umm I don’t know.”  Basically, Kyle was blowing me off.  After all these years of Halloween planning and sewing and gluing and painting.  It’s over!

I knew the day would eventually come, but I didn’t mentally prepare myself.  If I was really smart and caught onto his procrastination and avoiding the topic when I mentioned Halloween costumes, I wouldn’t have been faced with my fear.  At the very least it wouldn’t have blindsided me.  Kyle is growing up and fast!  Actually, I had a backup plan for this occasion, but this scenario took me completely by surprise, I didn’t have time to react.  And now Halloween is upon us.

Halloween-at-Toads-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Cara Mia as Prince, Mike Howell as Charlie Brown & Melissa Lincoln as a nurse at Mr. Toads in Greensburg c. 1997

I guess there is always next year.  I did get to watch Sleepy Hallow, the one with Johnny Depp.  Out of all the Halloween characters and stories told from old to young, I love the story of the headless horseman the best.  My favorite!  Ever since I was a little girl, I loved any cartoon or show that involved Ichabod Crane and the headless horseman.

Anyway, what was my mystery plan?  Bagging, of course!  What is bagging you may ask?  It’s as simple as corning!  You know when you get field corn and throw it at passing cars and houses.  I know I’ve mentioned corning a time or two before, but I’ll reiterate.  Bagging is done usually by kids or young adults who want to participate in trick-or-treating but are frowned upon because they are too old.  Hence, bagging!  Really a genius way to keep the Halloween spirit for the older in number, yet young at heart.

To participate in said activity, one must get a brown paper bag, you know the kind they used to give out at grocery stores.  Then, one must decorate the bag and be clever with their Halloween message.  Example: Please feed the hungry ghosts.  or  Place all candy inside the bag. or  I’m a monster who’s afraid of the dark, feed me! and so on and so forth.  What doesn’t get you the candy is ‘I’ll kill you if you don’t give me your candy.’  That might land you a night in jail instead of an evening sorting candy and falling into chocolate bliss.  And profanity is never an appropriate option.  So yes, decorate your bag tastefully but have fun with the project.

Now what?  First, one must dress in ninja form.  Yes, all black to blend in with the shadows.  Wearing a stylish yet functional black beret can be an option, as well as black combat boots to handle the terrain and to avoid sprains.  Nothings worse than a injured bagger.  It holds up the entire group and does not make for an enjoyable Halloween experience.

How do you get candy in said bag?  Sneak up on porch with a light on, indicating they are armed with candy and place decorated brown paper bag in front of the door.  Be sure to take into account the swing of the door so your bag is not knocked over, yet make it easy enough for the gatekeeper of the candy to pass along their sugary gold.  Then, the part that causes the most excitement.  The moment of the adrenaline rush.  The moment you’ve been waiting for, ring the door bell and run!

Halloween-Crew-Silly-Aunt-Heather-Piper-c1996

Matt, me, Kim & Glen… what a bunch of freaks! But we had a blast! c. 1996

Run?  Really?  O YES!  Hide in the local bushes so you can monitor your carefully decorated bag.  This is where the professionals stand out from the amateurs.  A good bagger already has their hiding place mapped out prior to ringing the doorbell.   Tip number one, scout out the area before moving in.

Do you always get candy?  Well, no not really.  There have been times I’ve received toothpaste, scotch tape, fruit (which I’m fine with) and sometimes nothing at all.  There have been times the worst happens, they take your bag!  But again, if you are a professional, you would have come with a spare.  Tip number two, bring back up bags.

As you move along through the night, you might want to protect the treasures you have already collected.  After all, one house could result in total loss of booty.  Tip number three, bring a bag to place all goods in before bagging a house.  The most efficient would be a book bag, keeping your arms free and your treasures zipped in tight to your back.  One should always bag a house with an empty bag, in case of a capture, as previously stated above.

Holding a bag hostage or just plain stolen is a very real concern!  Think it won’t happen to you?  Guess again!  Never under estimate the old lady or perfect little family down the street.  They all have the ability to throw a monkey wrench in your Halloween candy collecting fun.  For all you know, behind that perfectly inviting front door could be a stack of confiscated bags from baggers of all walks of life.

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Me as a geek for Halloween! I pulled it off pretty good! c. 1996

Another concern, that has happened a time or two.  The people in the house may chase you!  Yes, there have been times when bagging has cause high speed pursuit throughout the shadows of the night.  Tip number four, always have a meeting place in case of separation due to a crazed tracker.

Yes, this year I should have planned better and Kyle and I could have gone bagging.  The only problem, I’ve only ever heard of bagging in the Latrobe area, and that was years ago in my bagging days.  No one else will know what we were doing or what to do.  Maybe we should start up the tradition in surrounding locations.  We could place specific instructions on the bag until everyone became accustomed to the idea.  Or even better, I could create a direct mail campaign alerting the neighborhoods of the activity and how to appropriately address the bag left on the doorstep.  The wheels are turning!

Everyone should keep the spirit of Halloween alive and try bagging!  It really is a lot of fun!

Happy Halloween!

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