Kyle’s Christmas Scavenger Hunt

It’s true that adventures are good for people even when they are very young. Adventures can get in a person’s blood even if he doesn’t remember having them.  ~Eva Ibbotson

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This year, I had grandiose plans for Kyle’s Christmas gift, but alas they fell through.  So I found myself scrambling for his gift.  Keep in mind, I was up against time constraints and a 15-year old who has way too much in terms of stuff.  I was at a loss for last minute Christmas gift ideas.  Reluctantly, I turned to the ever popular and safe bet, gift cards.  Yes, I buckled.  However, my gift cards were strategic.  I got him iTunes (which I found out he has Google play, so money took that place), a movie card, since he likes to frequent the movies with his friends, and a Seven Springs snowboarding gift card, something we haven’t done in the last couple of years, but something we’ve always done together.

Instead of simply handing the kid the gift cards, because where’s the fun in that, I got creative.  I wanted Kyle to work for his gifts, plus have a little adventure and fun.  I made Kyle a custom scavenger hunt.  Why not?  I make them all the time for Thrill of the Hunt, and I’ve yet to do one for Kyle.

The idea rocked!  At least from my perspective, and from the enthusiasm and smiles that radiated from Kyle’s face, I’d say my assumption was correct.

There’s so many different ways to create a scavenger hunt.  This one, I added a lot of items that mean something, heirloom furniture, inside jokes, Kyle’s dog and so on.  Truth be told, I had a blast creating the scavenger hunt, and I had an even better time watching Kyle go through it.

I started off making Kyle a Christmas card that was placed under the tree.  I knew he thought he was getting money or gift cards, he was correct, but not that easily.  The front of the card gave Kyle an overview of what was happening, that he had to follow the clues exactly, how many clues were given, and how many gifts:

Get ready for a Christmas adventure of fun & prizes
Follow 10 clues to find your gifts of all sizes
But be warned, follow the instructions to a T
Hints are few, your Christmas gift rewards are 3

Let’s get started.  Good luck Buddy!

On the inside of the card, I gave Kyle his first clue, which had multiple steps.

Clue#1

Venture out to see the ladies
Also stop by House of Hades
Collect the clues at each spot  
They’re hints for your next trot

The first part “ladies” is a joke in our household referring to our chickens in the chicken coop.  The second part “House of Hades” referred to the 4th book from Rick Riordan, Heroes of Olympus series.  Kyle was a big fan of the books.  Each location contained a clue, the chickens housed the clue – Bowl, and the book contained the other clue – Punch.

You got it.  Kyle had to look in our punch bowl, which was brought back from my parents when they lived in Germany while my Dad was in the service.  Our family tradition is to bring out the punch bowl every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Over the years, Kyle has taken over the punch making responsibilities.

Clue number three was a blast, literally.  Dad just got me a new .12 gauge shotgun.  I figured I’d work it into the equation.  Plus, it’s been a while since Kyle shot a gun and I thought he might have a little fun blowing apart a milk jug.

Clue #3

Your next clue points to a gift
Remember backyard safety -be swift  
Any shotgun holds the key
Shoot the jug to set it free

In the backyard, I had a plastic milk jug filled with water and a clue floating inside (wrapped in a sandwich bag).  Kyle went straight toward the gun safe, pulled out my .12 gauge shotgun and shot at the jug, a few times for fun.  Once he was satisfied that the jug was pulverized sufficiently, he pulled out the clue Behind the guitar!  Not only did this location contain another clue, a rebus which was a little harder to solve, but he also received an iTunes gift card. 

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The answer to the rubus was a bit tricky, but I couldn’t make it too easy on my guy.

The answer was, Aunt Heather’s Gravy Boat.  I made the gravy boat out of clay when I was in high school.  Since that time the gravy boat, like the punch bowl has made its appearance at the holidays.  The gravy boat housed a black light.  I wrote messages and some clues in invisible ink along the way.  Kyle loved that!  It added another element of excitement and adventure to the scavenger hunt.

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Throughout the scavenger hunt, I included a Christmas ornament Kyle got my Dad in 2013, which held another clue hanging in the Christmas tree.  I included Kyle’s guitar, our punch bowl (mentioned above), a few books, a chess table built by my Grandpap Chester (a family heirloom piece, and Kyle and I like to play chess) and naturally Scooby, Kyle’s dog, who carried a clue around his neck.

Here’s the clue I placed around Scooby.  I didn’t place it on the dog until Kyle was close to the clue, for fear Kyle would jump ahead or worse, the dog would scratch it off.

 

Clue #5

Take a selfie with me Kyle!

Take me for a walk, let’s stop at the apple tree
Let’s take Seven, we’ll both run & be free

Kyle and I used to take the dogs (Seven is my dog) for walks all the time, and every Easter was spent in the orchard in the backyard collecting Easter eggs.  Kyle has also helped plant many of those trees on the property.  Not only was this location significant, but I also wanted to test Kyle’s tree knowledge.  He found it no problem.  Of course, I heard him ask my Dad which tree was the apple.  I had no problem with Kyle phoning a friend, so to speak.

In Kyle’s room, I hung one of my old snowboards as a shelf, and recently I added another snowboard to the wall.  Kyle and I have been snowboarding together since he was 4-years old, except for the last couple of years.

Clue #7

Under the Lamar, under the Ride
Another gift is found on the backside
For you & a friend to crush the slopes
You might have to show your friend the ropes

The one snowboard was a Lamar and my old snowboard was a Ride.  I got Kyle a gift card to Seven Springs for him and a friend.  I told Kyle I’d take him up alone so he could get his feet back on before going up with a friend, and I’d be tagging along.  Of course, I plan on riding the slopes, but I doubt I’d be welcomed with the young duo.

During the entire scavenger hunt, I had Kyle complete easy and difficult clues and challenges.   He even allowed me to shoot video clips of his excursion.  That really made my Christmas Eve day!  I’m sure Kyle won’t remember the gift cards or when he used them, but I’ll bet he’ll remember the scavenger hunt for ever.

Here’s my video montage of Kyle’s Christmas Scavenger Hunt adventure.

Great job Kyle!  I hope you enjoyed it.

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

Happy Birthday Dad! 66-Years!

The best teachers impart knowledge through sleight of hand, like a magician.  Kate Betts

Happy Birthday Dad! January 16, 1951

Dad U Sonny Pap Gram Aunt Heather Piper

Dad, Uncle Sonny, Pap & Gram (plus a mystery person) at a mystery location during a mystery year.

Just to reiterate, Dad despises me talking about him online. (So don’t say anything)  I rarely do, at least he’s not the focus of most of my stories, except for today.

Dad’s added another digit to his age.  He’s still moving forward, a lot slower, but still going.  I couldn’t live without the old man.  It’s funny, I never realized it until recent times just how much Dad loves us, all of us.

Dad’s a unique individual, in more ways than one.  He truly loves us and always wishes the best for us in a selfless manner.  His heart is true.  He reminds me of my Pappy, Ryan and Kyle in that respect.  His definition of success isn’t the type of car a person drives or any other superficial means.  Nope.  His definition of a good person is how well they can shoot a gun.  (Half joking)  Dad looks at a person from the inside first, except when watching television, then he’s not so kind with his words.  I’m not saying Dad’s some holy person, not even close, but he is a decent guy.  A bit opinionated, and a many times irritating when he wants something done, but I’ll take that over someone who’s spiteful, materialistic and out for themselves any day.  I’m aware of Dad’s shortcomings and they’re trumped by his good qualities, in my opinion.

This past year we had a great hunting season.  I personally, had a record year, and Dad was excited about it.  Truly.  He’s so proud when I harvest a deer, I hear him telling EVERYONE.  Not only that, but when I’m a good shot and his friends witness it or even if they don’t, boy does Dad beam with delight.  He’s genuinely happy for me.

Dad & U Sonny on Ridge building grams house c.1953 Aunt Heather Piper

Dad & Uncle Sonny. Gram & Pap’s house being built on the ridge c. 1953

Before rifle season started, Dad went bow hunting and muzzle-loader.  I’m glad he has something he looks forward to doing and it keeps him moving.

As history dictates, we went hunting in New York, where I harvested a buck, and poor Dad didn’t see a single deer.  A week later, the Monday after Thanksgiving, we went hunting in Pennsylvania.  I filled most of my tags and Dad filled a couple.  The best part?  We had a great time together, especially sitting in a small tree stand with the big guy.  Sometimes he gets on my nerves and is a bit too serious, but other times he totally cracks me up.

During the hunting season, most of our conversations focus on Ryan and Kyle.  We all miss Ryan, but hunting season heightens Dad’s longing for his son.  That was their time together.  Every once in a while Dad would comment “Boy, Ryan would be enjoying himself”, or he’d say “I wish Kyle was here.”

We did more than hunt deer this year.  For the first time ever, I got to go pheasant (ringneck) hunting.  We had a blast!  When I was little, Dad used to bring home a pheasant periodically, so it’s not like I was unfamiliar with the birds but it was neat to be directly involved.  Dad and I went a couple of times and filled our limit of two birds each, both times.  Dad didn’t stop talking about it for weeks.  The first time we brought home our pheasants Kyle was home.  Without hesitation, Kyle helped up skin the birds.  Kyle wouldn’t gut them, but he did wash them out.  The best part of that day?  Kyle sat with me and Dad during the process and hung out, plus he learned the trait.  It was a nice time together.

Dad’s been doing a lot of goose hunting this year.  I joined him a few time and I know nothing would make him happier than if I’d go with him every day, but like I’ve told him, repeatedly, “I have to work.  I’m not retired.”  Occasionally, I sneak out but I can’t do it day in and day out like he wants to.  Even if I could, goose hunting doesn’t excite me that much.  Perhaps it’s because I’m not a fan of goose meat.  While we’re on it, I don’t even really like duck.

A funny trait about Dad?  He doesn’t look at himself as an old person.  In fact, he gets irritated with elderly people.  In many cases, they’re the same age as Dad!  Doesn’t that just crack you up?  I find such humor in Dad calling a person driving beside us “old”, when clearly they’re the same age.

One a side note, I have a funny story.  The other day I was walking through a store and this lady stopped me and asked if I was Ron Piper’s daughter.  Believe it or not, this has happened to me many, many times over the years.  She couldn’t remember my name, but she knew exactly who I was.  I’ve always been told I look like my Dad and more than not, I was told, in a negative way, that I act like him too.  I’m okay with that and I’m proud to be like Dad.  As it turns out, the lady was Shirley Achhammer, another relative.  How funny!

Happy Birthday old man.  Keep kicking and doing what you do!

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posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Family,Milestone,Reminiscing and have No Comments

Our Marvel(ous) Bond

It is better to arm and strengthen your hero, than to disarm and enfeeble your foe.  ~Anne Brontë

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Kiski Marching Band performing Nemesis! Kyle is the left trombone in the trio. 10/2016

Life contains those subtle special moments that can be easily overlooked.  Personally, I love those moments, and this one really melted my heart.  I’d thought I’d share.

I had Kyle this past Sunday.  Actually, I also spent last weekend with him too!  When I picked Kyle up he seemed a bit cranky, but even toned for the most part.  I didn’t make a big deal of his attitude because I was excited to spend the day with him and I chalked it up to being tired.

Honestly, we don’t get Kyle too often anymore, not like when he was kid.  Kyle spent a lot of time with us, more than half time.  When his presence graces us nowadays, I can’t stop smiling.  Just having Kyle around puts me in such a good mood (as long as his attitude is subsided).  I miss my busy little teenager.

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Me in Bella Italia Restaurant in Port Angeles, Washington 5/2012

Kyle didn’t really want to do anything in particular.  I offered to take him for a hike, rollerskating and to the movies, but he wanted to hang out, mostly to play video games on his phone.  Not my idea of a fun day, but we were both vegging on the couch and catching up on a little television.  Still a nice bonding time, especially since I wasn’t going to see Kyle until Thanksgiving since Dad and I were going hunting in New York this weekend.

First we started to watch Mysteries at the Museum.  One of my Sunday favorites.  I loved watching Kyle pause his game to give his full attention to the history taught in the form of a half hour show.  I can’t remember what other shows we watched, but it was a nice relaxing start to our day.  Eventually, we agreed upon Iron Man, especially since we caught it at the beginning.

I took Kyle to see all the Iron Man movies in the theater, in addition to most of the Marvel movies.  We’re both big fans of movies and we love our superheros.

Sadly, like an old person, I started to doze off, to be abruptly awakened by Kyle.  What happened?  Kyle spotted Stan Lee, as he always makes his cameo appearances in the Marvel movies.

It wasn’t a passing comment.  No. Kyle actually paused the movie, got up to walk over to me, to shake my shoulder to get my fullest attention.  He wasn’t malicious in any way, but excited to show me his findings.

In a daze, I blinked and followed his finger as he pointed toward the television screen.  It was perfectly paused on Stan Lee.  I smiled and said, “Yep, there he is!  Good eye buddy.”  Kyle continued, “Yep, I saw him in Dr. Strange too!”

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Kyle helping to plant the Paw Paw tree at Gigi & Pappy’s 12/6/2015

Okay.  Is this really a big deal?  Maybe not to anyone one else but it was to me.  You see, I’ve always told Kyle to look out for Stan Lee, ever since we started watching the Marvel movies.  I taught him who the man was and his importance to the comic book world.  I’ve always pointed the guy out with every movie and commercial.

Kyle’s gesture showed that he does pay attention to what I say, even though it’s pretty trivial.  It also showed me that our bond is still as tight as ever and he wanted to share his movie night with his friends with me.

Recently, Kyle went to the movies accompanied with his friends to watch Dr. Strange.  I wanted to take Kyle, as tradition dictates, but alas my teenager had other plans.  No problem. I get it.

It was really neat to hear Kyle excited to tell me he spotted Stan Lee in the Dr. Strange movie.  Why didn’t he tell me earlier when I asked him how the movie was and who he went to the movies with, when I picked him up?  My guess, he didn’t think of it and I think he was still rubbing sleep from his eyes.  Once he saw Stan Lee in Iron Man, it triggered his memory and Kyle couldn’t wait to tell me the news and interest we share together.

As silly as this story sounds, it really means something to me.  Kyle and I are still a team, and those roots can’t easily be ripped up and destroyed, by no one.  He’s a good kid and I’m very blessed to have him in my life!

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posted by auntheather in Books, Movies, Shows,Education & Learning,Family,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Vote Informatively – Election 2016

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

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

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

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

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

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

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

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

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

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

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Trump House, Youngstown, PA 11/7/16

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

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

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Me & Kyle at the Sarah Palin rally Latrobe Airport 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pumpkin Guts, No Thanks

Tis “the witching time of night”, / Orbed is the moon and bright, / And the stars they glisten, glisten, / Seeming with bright eyes to listen  ~John Keats

Happy Halloween or technically All Hallows’ Eve!

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Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane, courtesy of Aunt Nikki at Gigi & Pappy’s house 10/2004

Did you know the root word of Halloween is ”hallow,” meaning ”holy?”  The suffix “een” is an abbreviation of “evening.” Halloween refers to the Eve of All Hallows, the night before All Saints’ Day, the Catholic Holy day that honors saints of the past and a time to pray for those in purgatory.  Note, anyone can pray for anyone, living or deceased at any time.

Just for a reference, All Saints’ Day is November 1st, followed by All Souls’ day on November 2nd.

It’s always this time of year, when I see the pumpkin patches full of kids and Jack-O-Lanterns light up doorsteps and windows that I can’t help but chuckling.  Why?  Kyle of course.

When Kyle was a little tyke, and into the recent few years before he gave up on the trick-or-treating tradition, pumpkin carving was always an issue.  Really?  You bet!

Kyle loved searching the pumpkin patches for the perfect pumpkin.  He loved selecting the largest pumpkin imaginable, even when he couldn’t pick it up.  Kyle truly loved the idea of Halloween and the activities that went with the holiday, event pumpkin carving.  However, Kyle never liked the actual carving of a pumpkin, not in the slightest.  Don’t believe me or think I’m exaggerating?  Not even close.

Halloween activities were never the same since the first time Kyle tried carving his pumpkin.  The moments leading up to this point where exciting and eventful.  It was all good and dandy until Kyle actually put his hand in the pumpkin.  As standard protocol dictates, I cut the top off of our pumpkins, Kyle wanted me to have a pumpkin too, and I showed him how to pull the guts out.  Kyle looked down into the center of his pumpkin, sniffed it, and hesitantly reached in.  What happened next took me by surprise and honestly baffled me a bit.

Kyle proclaimed he didn’t like the feeling of the guts on his hand and he wouldn’t continue.  Instead, he looked toward me to do his dirty work for him, literally.  At first, I thought he was being silly, but he was serious.

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Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane, Karen’s house 10/2004

After my shock wore off, I tried to work with Kyle and his pumpkin gut issue.  I gave him a long handled metal serving spoon to scrap the guts.  I thought this would get him past the beginning stages of the pumpkin carving activity and move him toward the actual carving fun.  Something I thought Kyle would enjoy.  Wrong.

Eventually, after I gutted my pumpkin, Kyle abandoned his and took ownership of my project.  He had a good time carving, but certainly not complete excitement like I was expecting.

Every year since, Kyle remembered that faithful day, and reiterated his disgust for pumpkin guts.  It really left an impression on him.  Kyle would prompt our pumpkin patch activity by telling me I had to gut his pumpkin.  Seriously!  Yes.  While walking through the pumpkin patch and making his selection, which always had to be bigger than mine, Kyle would state I was gutting his pumpkin for him.

Trying to get creative, I even had Kyle wear gloves one year, which worked out fine until his bare arms hit the side of the inner pumpkin wall and that ended that.  I should also add, Kyle never liked long sleeves, or cloths for that matter.

I even tried bribing him, yet he would not budge.

Another tradition is taking the seeds and roasting them with a little salt.  Kyle would not even entertain the idea of sorting through the pumpkin guts to retrieve the seeds.  He did eat the roasted pumpkin seeds, but that was about it.

Eventually, we would purchase pumpkins and Kyle would draw faces on them, and watch me carve my pumpkin.  Although, that didn’t really keep his interest for too long.  But I will say, Kyle loved watching the lit pumpkins sit on the porch banister at night.  Standing outside at night, staring upon the flicker light in the shape of a face would creep him out, but he loved it  That is, as long as someone stood with him.

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Kyle as Jay Jay the Jet Plane. 10/2004

This time of year makes me laugh out loud, every time I think of Kyle carving a pumpkin, or more accurately passing the carving buck.  Kyle was never shy about telling others about his pumpkin gut aversion.  Too funny!

As for the rest of the commercially celebrated Halloween celebration, Kyle adored.  The selecting a costume, getting dressed and receiving bag fulls of candy he could handle.

I say that, but there was a year that wasn’t exactly true.  The year when Kyle was Jay Jay the Jet Plane.  Would you believe Kyle wouldn’t put his costume on?  Why?  He thought he was going to take flight.  Seriously?  I’m not making this up.

My sister bought him that costume and it took a few attempts before he would put it on.  The first few Halloween activities we did that year, I had to walk around holding Kyle’s hand on my one side, while I carried his costume in the other hand.  That was one of those situations when I couldn’t stop laughing.  Eventually, he did wear the colorful costume, but it took a while, and I think it was after Halloween pasted.

My little guy, he has his quarks, which makes life interesting and fun.

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

15 Years of Missing Ryan, Another Year Closer to Him

Life seems sometimes like nothing more than a series of losses, from beginning to end. That’s the given. How you respond to those losses, what you make of what’s left, that’s the part you have to make up as you go.   ~Katharine Weber

September 24,  1977 – October 23, 2001

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Ryan’s confirmation at St. Vincent Basilica with his godfather, our cousin Jim Olczak. c. 1990

Every year it’s the same pattern of celebrating Kyle’s birthday in July, then observing Ryan’s birthday in September, then the reminder of Ryan’s death in October.  Not that I think of the later during Kyle’s month long birthday celebration, but I do reflect on it this time of year.

Kyle’s fifteen years old, the same number of years we’ve been trudging through life without Ryan.  The two will forever correlate, which I guess it’s fitting for Kyle to be tied to his Dad in an unconventional way.

Sometimes I wonder how Ryan would have adapted to the present world.  A lot has changed in fifteen years.  Ryan used a computer, only when needed, but would he have a smart phone?  Would he be in business for himself?  Would he be bald at the age of thirty-nine?  (My own little joke.  I always teased Ryan about going bald.  Not that I cared, but he did.)  Those are the thoughts that will never be turned into reality, merely kept as thoughts.  Although, I do know for certain, Ryan’s world would have revolved around Kyle, and Kyle would have greatly benefited from being raised by Ryan.

Recently, I had to give cliff notes of our family situation.  While chaperoning the band for the Latrobe football game at Latrobe, it wasn’t making sense to the band parents how Kyle and I knew the area so well.  Kyle actually told a few parents he lives in Latrobe, which he always did halftime.  It’s been a while since I had to give the family tree of how Kyle’s my nephew.  Sadly, yet proudly, I always state Kyle’s my brother’s kid.  Then, after a quizzical stare, I have to slightly elaborate that my brother passed away and my family is from Latrobe.  Do I mind?  Not really, I’d rather people know the truth.  Not that it changes anything, but it fills in the gaps for others and it shows just how important Kyle is to me.  Only if asked do I get into details, which again I don’t mind because fact is fact and it’s the way it is.

Sometimes I find peace thinking about the “What Ifs” and writing about Ryan and remembering my only brother, yet, sometimes it’s extremely difficult.  Which is it this time?  It’s a well guarded secret, but every day is a day I miss Ryan, and some are still harder than others.  Admittedly, it was difficult getting out of bed today.

I sit here wishing Kyle would call me to spend the day together, but I know he had a busy weekend of band, and I’m sure he’s tired and wants to loaf around.  Kyle has always been the one constant that eases my grief, even when he’s not in close proximity.  Although, today I’m missing Ryan AND Kyle.

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

A Visit to Google Pittsburgh… Continued

My life is like tofu—it’s what gets added that makes it interesting.  ~Angela Johnson

Google Pittsburgh Tour 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Our Google Pittsburgh Tour. Kyle, Duncan, Barb & Me Bakery Square 7/27/16

Last Wednesday, I took Kyle and his friend on A Visit to Google Pittsburgh to tour the facility as a birthday surprise.  Now I want to share my surprises and the details of the Google offices!

Yes, I knew the office would be Googled up, and fun, and unique, but what I saw blew me away.  First, I didn’t realize the size of Google Pittsburgh.  They employ about 500, and are planning on doubling that with the expansion of the new building.  Perhaps I had it in my head this office was the same office they originally occupied near Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).   Not that I was ever there, but I knew it was smaller.  Things have changed.

Google Pittsburgh is located in Bakery Square in Pittsburgh at the old Nabisco plant.  The office consists of seven floors of sheer fun.  There are no other words to describe it.  In addition to all the branding, which Google does it right, and the attention to detail, they’ve really honored Pittsburgh with the themes and designs.  Each floor has a different theme.  While I don’t remember which floor was which, and I don’t remember everything I saw, I’d like to give a general overview.

Floors

Kyle at Google Pittsburgh Candy bowl 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle helping himself to the candy bowl at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

As I mentioned each floor has a different theme.  There are seven floors total.  When you arrive in the Google lobby, you’re on the seventh floor and once you pass a secure door, the awesomeness is reveled.

One floor pays homage to Nabisco.  Each room is named for one of their products.  They even have a huge original mixer on the floor they kept from the old plant.  It sits near the pool table and pinball machine.

Another floor is dedicated to Kennywood.  There’s an actual roller coaster car in the lobby facing down the stairwell, enough said!  While walking about, they’ve incorporated ramps and railings and Kennywood styled signs to give it the feel of being in Kennywood.  It worked for me!

Another floor is dedicated to the bridges of Pittsburgh, again naming the rooms for each bridge.  There are design elements everywhere representing our beloved bridges.

One floor has the parks and trails theme, with bamboo dividers, rough cut wood paneling and total nature theme.  I mean they even have a live tree stretching up through one of the stairwells that connects two floors interrupted by an occupied floor.  Me coming from a family of loggers and woodworkers, I fell in love with that idea instantly.  I’d love to have a live tree for Thrill of the Hunt one day.

One floor captures the essence of our tunnels with hallways resembling the archways of a tunnel, the textured walls of cement and even the lighting gives you the feel of the Fort Pitt Tunnel or the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.  As you’re walking through the hallway, you almost feel like the cityscape of Pittsburgh should appear before your eyes at the end.

I wish I could remember the other details of the themes and the floors, perhaps it’ll come back to me.  I was in complete aw during the entire tour.

“Cafeteria”

As I mentioned before with A Visit to Google Pittsburgh, the cafeteria is a huge beautiful space with snazzy chairs, booths, real plates and silverware, and food stations.  All complementary for all employees and visitors.  They have a quality chef on payroll with a full kitchen staff.  Google doesn’t take this job lightly.  I heard it’s no easy task becoming a chef for Google.

Google Pittsburgh Roller Coaster ride 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Duncan, Kyle, me & Barb in the roller coaster on the Kennywood floor at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

In the corner of the kitchen they grow select fresh vegetables and herbs, to be used by the kitchen or the employees can help themselves.  One the roof of one of the levels, they even have laying chickens and more herbs growing.  Yes, real chickens someone takes care of and picks the eggs.  All the fresh ingredients are used in making the grub.  Great idea!  In fact, every food item at each station is labeled with the ingredients.  They’re even color coded according to taste and nutritional value.  The goal is to feed the employees healthy food, without it appearing or sounding healthy.

They have stations for hot foods and cold.  The kitchen staff is even on hand during the lunch hours to mix up your personal salad or serve your hot meals.  You can help yourself to fresh fruits, vegetables, water infused with a variety of healthy organic ingredients, desserts or even simply peanut butter and jelly.  They’ve got it all!  And it’s all unlimited for zero dollars!

The area is spacious and clean and very inviting.

During the tour we walked past not one, but several smaller kitchens and coffee shops scattered throughout.  You’re never more than a few feet away from a kitchen stocked with a variety of drinks (healthy and not so much), snacks, cereals and so on.  The kitchen staff stocks those smaller kitchens and coffee shop style areas of the building every day.  The Google employees are seriously hooked up.

No employee ever has to worry about bringing their lunch or snacks.  Google is also ensuring its employees are eating a lot healthier, at least that’s the goal.  It’s a proven fact that individuals who eat healthier are more alert, think better, have more energy and in turn can give back to their job.  Plus, Google just removed a major stress out of the day, what to eat?

Upon entering the lobby into the front desk area, I did notice (how could anyone miss it) a huge candy bowl.  Again, it’s a help yourself area.  When we walked in, Kyle immediately helped himself to some candy.  I gave him an “are you kidding?” look stating, “Did you ask before you helped yourself?”  His response?  “No, it’s here for anyone to eat.”  Trying to ensure he always uses good manners, I said, “Still, you should always ask first and don’t assume.”

Google even holds cooking classes in their test kitchen area for the employees.  They sometimes bring in celebrity chefs.  Wow!

Details

Google Pittsburgh lobby with Kyle Duncan Barb 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle, Duncan & Barb in the lobby at Google Pittsburgh Bakery Square 7/27/16

During our tour, Andrew, our tour guide, pointed out little corners of the offices, and side conference rooms to be used by anyone who needs a change of pace from their desk, or to meet up with fellow co-workers to discuss work.  It seemed like at every turn there was a sitting area or a mini escape from the daily grind.

While walking past a cubical section of the floor, watching our Google workers hard at making our lives searchably easy, Andrew pointed out a large hammock / jungle gym structure hovering over a corner of the work space.  He took us up there.  It was literally a huge hammock, suspended a floor above for anyone to sit and relax, take a nap or stretch your legs.  It lead to another private corner with a massage chair.

Speaking of massages.  They have a massage therapist on staff as another perk.  Another great idea!

Keeping with the theme of relaxation and exercise, in yet another area, they have a room with walking treadmills overlooking Bakery Square.  The employees can plug in and work while putting on mileage.  Although, traveling through the offices will certainly give you extra steps on your pedometer.

They have a couple lecture halls to keep up with continued education and to introduce new visitors, staff members and such.  Since they have so many visitors, they have a room containing several washers and dryers for anyone to use, especially for those out of town guests.  They’ve thought of everything!  Google is certainly very considerate.

Google even has their own tech support.  Sure that would make sense since they have not only enough computers for each employee, plus.

A few additional perks include, a fully equipped gym, a music room to jam out at the end of a day, and naturally it’s a dog friendly office.

Stories

While on tour, after walking through a vault style door, we came to a hallway sporting an enlarged image covering the entire wall.  Andrew shared one of his Google experiences with us.  It was a distant shot of a building with railroad tracks in the foreground.  The building held special significance to Andrew.

Google Pittsburgh lobby sign 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

This starts our tour of Google Pittsbugh Bakery Square 7/27/16

One of his first visits to Google Pittsburgh, when the office was near CMU, he said he came to the front desk, who asked him what size t-shirt.  While the front desk chick had her back to Andrew, she placed the t-shirt over her shoulders and was messing with something in the corner.  He said she all of a sudden turned around pointing Nerf guns at him and said “This office isn’t safe.”

Apparently, a few times a day the trains passed and literally shook the entire building for three minutes.  In that time, no one can get any work done.  So instead of the disturbance being a hindrance, they took advantage of the downtime with Nerf wars.  I love it!  Andrew even said that as per Amazon, a person is only permitted to purchase so many of the same product, for fear of that person reselling the product.  His friend is forever banned for life from buying Nerf products on Amazon because of their daily recreation.

Andrew also told us that Google employees get credit for visiting other data centers and offices, when they swipe their badge.  What do they get?  Simply a virtual trophy or some sort.  I love how Google encourages its employees to go above and beyond, in a fun and productive way.  Now that’s a vision the company mastered.

Keep in mind this is all just in Google Pittsburgh.  Can you imagine the headquarters?  Which is now on my list to tour.  I thoroughly enjoyed by visit to Google Pittsburgh.  They have taken their success and done right by their employees and customers alike.  Great job Google!  I’d love to build a scavenger hunt in any Google office.

I can’t wait for Kyle’s next birthday.  It’s a big one, sixteen!

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posted by auntheather in Education & Learning,Family,News,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Happy Birthday Kyle! 15 Years!

I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change… I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back….   ~Erica Jong

Kyles birthday celebration at Google Pittsburgh 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

We celebrated Kyle’s 15th birthday at Google Pittsburgh, Bakery Square 7/27/16

Turning the page to another year, I’m happy to arrive at my little man’s fifteenth birthday!  As Kyle ages, one of my biggest fears is the person he will become.  However, in actuality, he’s already been a huge success and I couldn’t be more proud.

What stresses me about his character?  You see, when he’s with the family, he’s a bit of a smarty pants, curt, sarcastic (which I appreciate), stubborn and even a bit negative.  Granted, this isn’t a constant, and it seems to be more heightened when he hit his teenage years, but a fear regardless.  I don’t want Kyle to act disrespectful with his friends, friends’ parents, teachers or even strangers.  I don’t ever want Kyle to be labeled as such (I’m not concerned about the stubbornness unless it’s a hindrance), and I want him to be happy and have friends and experience life with love in his heart and a positive outlook.  However, while investigating Kyle’s behavior, I’ve been proudly informed time and time again, he’s a kind, polite, and a typical teenage boy. (Yes, I do constantly check up, things change and quickly.)

How do I know?  Simply, I ask and pay attention.  Really?  Yes, I do care for Kyle that much that I take the time to inquire, and I’m not talking about a passing comment.  When I get the chance to speak with a parent Kyle recently spent time with, I ask how he’s acted.  Usually, you can get a feeling when a parent is telling you the straight up truth or whether they’re sugar coating.  Asking the right questions also helps.  While chaperoning the band, I watch from a distance.  Again, my observations with the way he interacts with friends and fellow band members shows a lot about Kyle’s outside behavior and the real person he is.

You see, I was told once that teenagers need a means to get it out.  They’re hormonal and finding themselves, and they need a safe place to act out and dump everything from the inside, out.  I was also told a child will only do this with those he loves and is one hundred comfortable with.  Yeah for us. (sarcasm)

What would I do if I saw appropriate behavior?  Tell him.  As his aunt, and anyone who loves and respects him, it’s our job to call him out.  Perhaps he’s not aware of his actions, or if he is, it’s our job to correct bad behavior.  It’s in his best interest to shape into the person he will one day be. I know no ones perfect, we’re all  human, but it doesn’t mean we don’t try.

I am very proud of Kyle.  He’s always been my inspiration, and even if he longer believes it, we’re still a team.  I’ve always got his back no matter what.

Happy Birthday buddy!

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

A Visit to Google Pittsburgh

Being a nerd, which is to say going too far and caring too much about a subject, is the best way to make friends I know.  ~Sarah Vowell

Google Pittsburgh Tour 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Andrew Widdowson, Barb Planinsek, Kyle Piper, Duncan Jones & Me at Google offices in Pittsburgh at Bakery Square 7/27/16

This past Wednesday, I wanted to surprise Kyle and do something for his birthday, which is tomorrow.  Summer is nearly over, especially when Kyle begins bandcamp and I’ve hardly seen my little vacationer since school let out.  This weekend he’s heading to Virginia, deep south with my parents and family friends to go catfishing, at night.  (Actually, they left a few hours ago.)  Skirting around all the plans, Wednesday felt like the most opportune time to spend a day with Kyle.  Done.

With the help of a family friend, Barb Planinsek, we made arrangements to tour the Google offices in Pittsburgh.  You see Barb’s nephew, Andrew, is employed by Google and chose to work in Pittsburgh this summer. (Nephews are the best!)  He travels all around the world for his job, but is headquartered in Mountainview, California.  Of course I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.

Unbeknownst to Kyle, the plans for Wednesday were made months prior, when I met Andrew at the Fishing Derby in May.  Naturally, upon hearing who Andrew’s employer was, I instantly thought, Touring Google Pittsburgh would be a great experience for Kyle and a perfect birthday activity!  I’m not one hundred percent sure, but I think I was right.  Although, trying to get excitement out of that kid is hard, but by golly I saw it during our tour!

Unfortunately, because of everyone’s schedules, Wednesday was planned on Tuesday.  Not ideal but it worked out.  My goal was to surprise Kyle with an experience most don’t have, give him an educational activity he’d enjoy, and begin networking him for his future.  Bonus!

Kyle & Duncan at Google Pittsburgh 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle & Duncan tour the Google offices in Pittsburgh as a birthday surprise! 7/27/16

Andrew kindly moved his day around to accommodate us.  Barb and I were on board from the beginning.  Now came the hard part, Kyle.  I tried calling, to let him know I arranged a surprise for him, but he never answered the phone. I thought about texting, and chose another route.  Initially, I was toying with the idea that Kyle might enjoy the experience more with a friend.  During the planning process, I got a hold of Jennifer, Kyle’s good friend Duncan’s mother.  (If you can follow that.)  She was more than happy to lend us her son for the day.  In fact, Duncan was in on the secret and helped me align Kyle.  Plus, Duncan was excited about the adventure too.

All day Tuesday, Jennifer kept me posted to Kyle’s responses to Duncan.  Duncan called Kyle and said he was coming over Wednesday morning around 7:30 am for a surprise.  I was told Kyle’s response was, “If I’m getting up early I want to know why.”  Boy is that kid stubborn!  Duncan remained steadfast and never told Kyle who was picking them up, and what they were doing.  Eventually, later in the day, I was told Kyle was intrigued about the surprise.  I believe he was excited because when I showed up on Wednesday, he was ready to roll.  He even tried to hide a smile from his lips, though I’m quick and I saw it!  I too was grinning from ear to ear ready to jump out of my skin.

Heading west, we eventually made our way to Bakery Square in Pittsburgh.  We stopped and had breakfast, figuring the boys would be hungry before our ultimate activity.  We actually had time to waste, since I didn’t know what traffic was going to be like, and we were so close to Shadyside, we headed to the area for some exploration.  What did the boys do with their freedom to shop and money in their hands?  They played Pokemon Go.  At least I got Kyle out moving around and he seemed to be in a pretty good mood.

Duncan & Kyle playing Pokemon Go in Shadyside 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Duncan & Kyle playing Pokemon Go in Shadyside before our Google Pittsburgh tour 7/27/16

Once we made our way back to Bakery Square and entered the lobby, Kyle read the list of companies on the elevator wall, while I told the guard we were heading to the seventh floor.  Even Kyle couldn’t miss the bright bold letters that read “Google”, seventh floor.  Then, suddenly without warning it happened again.  True happiness in the form of a smile left Kyle and was spotted!  Kyle’s smirk is like the elusive Sasquatch, it has been rumored to make its appearance and then vanish before your eyes.  Now I can say I was a first hand witness!  The facial gesture was something between ornery, knowing the secret, and being truly excited.  It was at that moment, I was honestly happy.

We get to the lobby and naturally I want to start snapping pictures.  Kyle wasn’t pleased about this part of our trip, but complied with minimal resistance.

Andrew met us at the front door and passed out our name tags, while I did the formal introductions.  Would you believe Kyle didn’t remember meeting Andrew at the Fishing Derby?  I made it a point to introduce him and of course his employer.  That kid cracks me up.

Andrew did a great job with the tour!  He shared his own personal stories and fun facts about Google, especially Google Pittsburgh.  I knew Andrew was the perfect tour guide, but what I didn’t expect is what I saw in the offices.  Wow.  In a separate post, I’ll explain later.  You would not believe.  Now it was my turn to be surprised.

Once the tour came to a close it was lunch time.  We joined Andrew in the “cafeteria” which resembled an upscale restaurant, with stations of gourmet food, real plates and utensils, a variety of infused waters, and restaurant quality tables and chairs, and booths.

Our lunch was fantastic!  Plus, it was all free.  Google has a full kitchen staff, including a quality chef to prepare these, nutritious (mostly aside from the desserts), delicious meals for all its employees as a perk.  There was so much, Andrew had to walk us around and show us everything, including the corner of the room where they grew some fresh vegetables and herbs.  Seriously?  Yes!

Not to downplay the tour, which is impossible, but the best part of the day was our conversation during lunch.  Andrew continued telling us about his job and sharing stories, always projecting enthusiasm.  You can tell he genuinely loves what he does, and is proud of his accomplishments at Google, which he should be.  Kyle and Duncan even stepped out of their comfort zone to ask questions, but mostly they listened.

Kyles birthday celebration at Google Pittsburgh 7-27-16 Aunt Heather Piper

We celebrated Kyle’s 15th birthday at Google Pittsburgh, Bakery Square 7/27/16

After we ate lunch, we sang Happy Birthday to Kyle and celebrated with cupcakes.  On Tuesday, during the planning stages, I ordered cupcakes from a local bakery and had them delivered for another little surprise twist.  I knew we were eating lunch there and I thought it would be fun to celebrate Kyle’s fifteenth birthday at Google Pittsburgh.  Yes, I even brought candles!  (Although, I forgot the matches, which Barb reminded me of when we were in Shadyside.  I bummed a pack from a smoker who worked in a bar.)

On a side note, I didn’t realize there are roughly five hundred employed in Google Pittsburgh.  I was going to order a sheet cake, thinking we’d share with everyone in the office.  Nope.  Besides, they’re well stocked with sweet treats, I’m sure they didn’t miss the cupcakes.

During the course of the Google experience, I noticed Kyle and Duncan were never distracted by their phones or video games (at least not that I was aware of).  They listened to Andrew and seemed interested in what he was saying, even during lunch.  I think the day was a success.  Now I’m starting to make plans for Kyle’s next birthday.  It’s a big one, his sixteenth.

After we said our goodbyes, we headed to Station Square to get on a Ducky Tour of Pittsburgh, keeping with the theme.  Unfortunately, the next ride was booked up.  I did make reservations the day prior, but I cancelled for fear we might not make the departure time.  I didn’t want to rush us out of Google.  It was a hot day and I could tell the boys had enough anyway.  We headed home.  It didn’t take them long to fall asleep.

On a side note, besides giving Kyle a memorable experience, there was just an equally great part to the adventure.  It was rubbing our personal tour of Google in my sister’s face, and continuing my claim to the coolest aunt!  At least that’s what I told her.

I hope Kyle and Duncan had a great day.  Happy Birthday Kyle!

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

Dealing With Loss

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full Obit Aunt Heather Piper June 2016

Kiski Facebook post Aunt Heather Piper

News Article Aunt Heather Piper 6-18-16

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

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

Escape Room Experience

Shut your eyes and see.  ~James Joyce

Escape Room Latrobe 5-29-16 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hello Mary Kay Andrews!

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.  ~C.G. Jung

Mary Kay Andrews Book Signing 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Mary Kay Andrews book signing for The Weekenders Great lady! Oakmont, PA 5/22/16

I love meeting authors.  Who doesn’t? (perhaps none readers, maybe?)  Especially ones I’ve followed and are very familiar with their work, not to down play meeting new and upcoming authors.  Nope, that’s a different kind of fun, the finding of a new book, a new author, especially one unheard of in the mainstream, and becoming one of their original fans and spreading the word on their new work.  On the other hand, meeting accomplished authors carries an intrigue and excitement with the encounter.  Plus, it tends to carry a celebrity status.  I’ve met a few authors, some mainstream and some nearly unheard of (not as many as I’d like), and they were all really amazing and down to earth people, just like my newest encounter.

Let’s talk Mary Kay Andrews.  She’s a New York Times Bestselling Author, of Hissy Fit, as well as other novels.  She’s also the author of one of my favorites, Summer Rental.  Currently, she’s on her book tour promoting her 24th novel, The Weekenders.

I was introduced to Mary Kay Andrews by a good friend of mine, Kelly Berger.  Yep, she was shopping and came across one of her books, and was instantly drawn to the idea of a story taking place at the beach.  Kelly’s a HUGE beach fan, especially the areas around Hilton Head, Cape Hatteras and the Outer Banks.  I don’t have to tell you, Kelly read Summer Rental and was an instant fan, purchasing all published pieces by Mary Kay Andrews.

Book Signing at MLB Mary Kay Andrews 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Mary Kay Andrews during a Q &A session at Mystery Lovers Bookstore in Oakmont, PA  5/22/16

Since Kelly and I have always swooped books, and discussed authors and new releases, it was only a matter of time before Mary Kay Andrews would remain a staple on my bookshelf, too.  Kelly and I mostly have similar tastes when it comes to reading material, although her interest stops shy of fantasy.  Summer Rental happened to be a story fit for both of our personalities, and once I’m hooked on an author, I’m hooked.

I met Kathy Hogan Trocheck, a.k.a. Mary Kay Andrews this past Sunday, May 22 at the Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont. (514 Allegheny River Blvd. Oakmont, PA 15139).  What a cute little bookstore!

The day started out rainy and kind of ugly, you know a typical Pittsburgh day, perfect for staying inside and getting acquainted with an accomplished author.  Since I had Kyle, I thought this was the perfect opportunity for him to meet an author too.  I didn’t think it mattered if he read her works or not.  At least that was my thinking.  Kyle had a different opinion.  I guess it would have been a better time for him if he knew the author, but regardless it was a good experience.

Mary Kay Andrews The Weekenders 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

My signed copy of The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews. 5/22/16

All the ladies who showed up were fantastic!  I enjoyed the company as much as I did the purpose of my visit to MLB.  Mary Kay Andrews discussed The Weekenders and answered questions about her books, her influences, her family and so on.  It was great!  She’s so down to earth with a touch of sass!  I loved listening to her!

While waiting in line to get my book autographed (I got one for Kelly too), I struck up a conversation with the lady behind me.  We began talking about books, naturally, and somehow I mentioned I’ve written a book (plus a few started).  Let me step back, during the Q & A session, Mary Kay Andrews asked if we had any authors in the audience.  I didn’t raise my hand, only because my book still needs to be edited and isn’t published.  Well, by the time it was my turn, this wonderful lady, stepped in and informed Mary Kay Andrews of my secret.  You know, Mary Kay Andrews seemed very interested, and asked me questions about my book.  She told me to keep writing and go for it.  What an inspirational lady!

Mary Kay Andrews at MLB Oakmont 5-22-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Mary Kay Andrews discussing her newest novel, The Weekenders at MLB in Oakmont, PA 5/22/16

The entire day rocked.  Not only did I get to meet Mary Kay Andrews and get to purchase her latest book, and have it autographed, but spending the day with Kyle was much needed.  Granted, he played his video games during the entire book signing, but when it was my turn, Kyle jumped up and snapped a picture of me and Mary Kay Andrews.  Thanks buddy!  I really wanted a picture with all three of us, but Kyle already put his foot down in advance.  I didn’t want to push the issue and so I let it alone.  I simply happy to spend some time with Kyle.

During the Q & A session I learned a number of fun facts about Mary Kay Andrews.  Second to my addiction of reading, is my love of random fun facts.  Here are a few to wet your whistle.

Career

  • Mary Kay Andrews is a pseudonym for Kathy Hogan Trocheck
  • Received a B.A. in newspaper journalism from The University of Georgia in 1976
  • Began her career in newspaper journalism, working at the Savannah News-Press 1976-77
  • Worked for the Marietta Journal 1977-79
  • Reported for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution from 1980 until she left in 1991 to write books
Family
  • Born July 27, 1954, in Tampa, Florida
  • A native of St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Married her high school sweetheart
  • From a big Catholic family
  • Mary Kay Andrews is a combination of her children’s names—Mary Kay for her daughter Mary Kathleen, and Andrew, for her son, Andy
  • Self proclaimed “junker”
  • Owns two restored beach cottages on Tybee Island, GA, both of which named for fictional locations in her novels

I can’t wait to begin this book!  Check her out!  She’s a southern hoot!

Happy reading everyone!

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

Fishing & Fun

Every moment happens twice: inside and outside, and they are two different histories.  ~Zadie Smith

Kyle Aunt Heather Piper Planinsek Fishing Derby 5-7-16

Yep that’s the attitude I’ve come to know & almost tolerate from my 14 year old. My batman was trying not to smile, he had to look unfazed by his Aunt Heather…. ya right! Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/7/16

Yep, we survived the 27th Annual Louise Planinsek Fishing Derby, two Saturdays ago on May 7th.  Did Kyle go?  Of course.  Did he really want to go?  You know, I believe he did!  After all, he asked me about it, and dictated the time we were to get up and be there for breakfast, although he never expressed an interest in camping out Friday night.  Let me translate, that’s fourteen year old code for “I’m really excited about the fishing derby and I can’t wait!”

Kyle has always seemed to enjoy fishing, much like his dad and pappy.  Since the first day of fishing this year, Kyle’s been going with my dad nearly every weekend.  Let me tell you, that makes dad extremely happy, to spend time with Kyle, and to fish.  If I had to choose, I’d pick hunting over fishing, but I do love a fresh caught trout.

Kyle’s allowed to participate in the fishing derby until he’s sixteen.  It looks like he has another two years left.  He can always join in eating and drinking (nonalcoholic beverages), and I’m sure everyone would love to see him regardless if he fishes or not, but the rules state he can’t fish past sixteen.  However, he’d be really good at assisting the youngsters, if he’s still interested in attending the fishing derby by then.  Of course, I’ve learned with a teenager, you never know.

On Saturday, Kyle did just that, he fished, naturally, but he also helped his cousins with their bait and casting.  Kyle was surrounded by Hailey, Lila, Owen, Grant, and Olivia.  In addition to keeping the lines untangled and the hooks prepped for a catch, I gave Kyle another responsibility, a huge one at that.  What else could I possibly have expected from him?  After all, his attitude was stellar and pleasant, and he was having a great time.

I told Kyle to be on the lookout for kids falling into the pond.  It seems like every year one child manages to become submerged in pond water.  Especially since Kyle was within arms reach of the little ones, he had to keep his eyes peeled.  You know, I don’t believe I had to say anything.  Kyle acknowledged my request with an “Okay” and continued fishing, yet I sensed he knew trouble is a real possibility and he was ready for it.  Boy is that kid growing up!

Abby her boys and her dad Planinsek Fishing Derby 5-7-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Abby handing with her boys & her dad. Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/7/16

Was there a child to fall in?  You bet.  This year, Grant, Casey’s step-son.  He was okay and it didn’t seem to phase him.  This happened on the opposite side of the pond from us, Kyle was off the hook (pun intended).

It was at that moment, I saw Kyle’s maturity take shape.  He knew he was the older kid, not that adults weren’t all around at every two feet.  Kyle also trusts his swimming skills, as do I.  He was keeping an eye out for more than himself while fishing.  He was helping more than himself.  He was truly a little mature man.

To be honest, spending the entire day at the fishing derby from 7:00 am till about 9:00 pm was a long day, one I really didn’t want to go without getting some work done, yet, I’m glad I did.  There were times I thought about bugging out to work on my dog scavenger hunt events for Thrill of the Hunt, but then I thought, I never get to hang with Kyle and He only has a couple of years left to fish.  Plus, my parents weren’t there, again not that I didn’t have friends and family at every step, but staying was my way of showing Kyle we’re still a team, and I’m there to support him because he’s that important to me.

Boo and Bennet Planinsek Fishing Derby 5-7-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Uncle Boo with his nephew, Bennett at the Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/7/16

It was nice to see Kyle hang with his local friends.  They kept the tradition of dodge ball alive.  I did have to interject once.  I watched Kyle hurl the ball at a few slightly younger kids.  He certainly wasn’t trying to be malicious, Kyle was having fun and didn’t realize he’s gotten a lot taller and stronger than he used to be.  I simply asked him to not throw so hard and certainly not at anyone’s face.  He did give me a crappy little grin, like, “That’s how the game is won.” but after that, I never saw him face shot again.

We’ve had some ups and downs with these teenage years, but I’ll admit Kyle is a good kid!  He’s a nice guy, a little sassy, but his heart is still much like his dad’s and great grandpap Walter’s, good and sincere.

As Kyle was waiting around watching the seasoned gentlemen make breakfast, someone spoke up and asked who was going to do the french toast.  Kyle offered his hand and went to work.  The guys were impressed.  I wasn’t, I know what a good cook Kyle is and he knows his way around a skillet.  Unbeknownst to that crew, I’ve had Kyle cooking since he was little.  He did a great job and seemed to enjoy himself.  They all joked around, and said Kyle was now expected to help with breakfast next year.  I hope he does.

Lori Raffling off flowers Planinsek Fishing Derby 5-7-16 Aunt Heather Piper

Lori with flowers to raffle. Planinsek Fishing Derby 5/7/16

Now time for a funny, slightly scary story.  While I was among Kyle and the kids along the pond’s edge, I was helping Grant bait his hook.  To set the scene, Kyle had placed the earth worms on his seat directly behind him.  Just as I migrated into Kyle’s space, I bent over to retrieve a fat juicy warm.  I was met with something squishy and wet that hit me squarely in the forehead.  Just a fraction of a second beforehand, I saw and heard a few people jump and yell “Watch out!”  What was going on?  Kyle instantly turned around in confusion too.  What happened?

Kyle cast his line, without looking behind him, just as I moved in the exact location of the flying bait, causing it to hit me in the face with live, pond water covered group of warms strung on a hook!  The nearby witnesses thought I got a hook in the eye, but by the Grace of God, I was only smacked with grossness.  It took me and Kyle a minute to understand what happened, while everyone around looked upon us with freight and amazement.  Kyle laughed, as did I, even though it was a serious offense.  I know he didn’t mean it, but it’s true he could have taken out my eye.  It was a lesson for all the kids and a rather unpleasant one for me.  It was also partially my fault, I should have paid attention to Kyle, since I invaded his territory unannounced.

At the end of the night Cindy and Dave Planinsek, plus the rest of the Planinsek gang, who worked hard to organized this annually anticipated event, purchased a variety of toys and fishing gear for the kid’s raffle.  Tickets are purchased and each ticket contains the name of a child.  The booty is placed on several picnic tables for the children to see.  Names are drawn and the children, with major excitement, approach the table to select a prize.  This continues until all the items are claimed.  I wasn’t sure if I should add Kyle’s name to the list or not, so I chose to purchase tickets, better play it safe.  There were other items in addition to toys, such as fishing poles, tackles boxes and bags, hats, and such.  Why not?

Kyle Fishing Pose c. 2003 Aunt Heather Piper

How my little man has grown… He always did love to fish, real or plastic fish. (about 2 years old) c. 2003

While all the kids settled down under the pavilion, I looked for Kyle.  I asked around were that kid was located.  Only because everyone was in one central location under the pavilion, where he was suppose to be.  I eventually found Kyle hanging out by the volleyball / dodge ball court, talking with a few kids his age.  Boy how times have changed!

Kyle used to be the first one, up front, ready for the drawing to begin.  Now he was very blasé about it.  I told him to join the crowd, which he was hesitant, but did so.  I stood in the back, nervously waiting for his name to be called, knowing it was either a good or bad decision to purchase him tickets.

Finally, I heard, KYLE PIPER.  He didn’t seem to hear his name.  I walked over and tapped him on the shoulder letting him know he should go and get a prize.  His response?  He rolled his eyes at me and shrugged his shoulders like, “There’s nothing I want.”  To assist and keep the once exciting part of the day in momentum, I pointed to the fishing poles and such.  Without much effort, he selected a fishing pole.  Kyle’s name was drawn a few more times, which he graciously gave to his little cousins to take his spot.  At the end, I asked him where his fishing pole was?  His response?  “I gave it to Grant, he wanted it.”  Okay, buddy, that was a nice gesture!

I love that kid!  I’m already looking forward to next year, as I believe Kyle is.  It’s days like that, that I’m grateful to have taken the time to spend with Kyle and to appreciate the little man he is and mature man he’s turning into.

Did Kyle catch any fish?  He did, a very small blue gill.  Now that was a definite laugh out loud moment.  Aside from the three inch killer whale, Kyle had no other luck.

On another side note, Kyle woke up Sunday morning in a rather crabby mood.  Maybe he had too much excitement and needed more sleep.

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

Happy Birthday Ryan!

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… ~Henry David Thoreau

Happy 38th Birthday Ryan!

Believe it or not, Ryan would’ve been 38-years old today!  He just turned 24 when he pertinently went to his grand woods in the sky.

Ryan with his boss 1996 Aunt Heather Piper

Ryan joking with his old boss at Ryan’s graduation party. Like me, Dad & Kyle, Ryan carried the sarcasm gene & the sweet tooth. 1996

A fun fact, something I’ve noticed more recently, I use Ryan’s birthday as our birth date for Thrill of the Hunt.  Really?  Yes, not the year, but I always claim September 24, 2012 as the beginning of Thrill of the Hunt.  To be honest, it was September of 2012 that we sold our very first private scavenger hunt.  I could probably find out the true date, but in all reality which date do I credit?  When we received our first proposal, the approval for the quote, or when the scavenger hunt took place?  We also held our very first public scavenger hunt on September 22nd of that year.  In fact, I believe our corporate paperwork went through in 2011, not that we did anything with the company until later.  September became our breakout month.  So yes, Ryan and Thrill of the Hunt share the same date of birth.  It’s my way of including Ryan in our adventures.

To be honest, I got the idea from another event.  This might be silly, but the town of Forks, Washington, holds September 13th as Stephenie Meyer day, actually, they call it “Forever twilight in Forks.”  You know the lady who brought Twilight to the masses and brought a little unknown town to the world.  In the book, September 13th is Bella’s, the main character’s, birthday.  In honor of Stephenie Meyer, the town holds this day, and the days surrounding it, as a time of celebration and to pay homage for everything the author did to their dying town.  I liked that idea, and wanted to include Ryan in on Thrill of the Hunt in a subtle way, besides Kyle’s involvement in the company.

I’ve had some ask me if Kyle knows who Ryan is?  Yes he does.  But Ryan, his dad, doesn’t mean the same to Kyle as Ryan meant to us.  It’s a shame, considering between Kyle’s birth and nearly three months, Ryan already showed traits of being a stellar dad.  Perhaps down the road, Kyle will feel a connection with Ryan, maybe one unique to them.  I hope so.  I’d like to think Ryan’s always with Kyle, and Ryan’s looking out for our little teenager.

Happy birthday little brother, you’re still remembered and in our hearts, always.  One day we’ll run through the woods together again, this time no mosquitos!

 

 

 

posted by auntheather in Church,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Random Fun Facts,Reminiscing,Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunts and have No Comments

Congratulations – Mikey & Mary Beth Got Hitched!

… when it comes down to it, that’s what life is all about: showing up for the people you love, again and again, until you can’t show up anymore.  ~Rebecca Walker

Mr. & Mrs. Olczak

Olczak-Couple-Wedding-8-1-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Mikey & Mary Beth got hitched! Congrats! 8/1/15

This is a celebration worth writing about, the union of my cousin Mikey and his new wife, Mary Beth.  On Saturday, August, 1st, before God, they married in a small Catholic church in New Derry, Pennsylvania.  The reception?  The best venue ever!  The Planinsek Pavilion!  Yes, the very same location of the Fishing Derby (25th Annual Louis Planinsek Fishing Derby)!

It was a traditional, yet simple ceremony.  There wasn’t a lot of frills or fluff, they kept the wedding to the meat and potatoes, the important things, close family, caring friends, and the loving couple.  It was perfect!  After mass, everyone migrated to the Planinsek Pavilion for a good old-fashioned celebratory dinner and dancing.

It was a lovely sunny day with bright blue skies, low humidity, and we were even blessed with a light breeze. Like I said, perfect!

Now for some of the wedding details.  Be prepared, these little touches added to the wedding will pull on the heart strings.  A few years ago, the bride’s father passed away.  However, Mary Beth wanted to include him on her special day, in a subtle way.  He was known for wearing this red baseball cap with white polka dots.  Really?  Oh yes!  When I picture the man, that’s exactly how I see him, and that’s how he was always described by others.  The bride and bridesmaid, one of Mary Beth’s sisters, incorporated a red ribbon with white polka dots at the base of their bouquets.  The sweetness didn’t stop there.  Mikey’s dad, walked Mary Beth down the isle, and Mikey walked Mary Beth’s mom down the isle.  That’s true family unity from the beginning.  Told you, too sweet!  Again, perfect!

Olczak-Family-Mikeys-Wedding-8-1-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Front Row: Mary Beth (now Olczak) Stacey, Marla, Elizabeth, Karen   Back row: Joel, Mikey, Casey, Jim Olczak 8/1/15

Favors were not offered, at least not in the traditional sense.  Since Mikey’s a woodworker by trait, he made cutting boards for each table.  Yes!  His hand-crafted wooden cutting boards were the vehicle to serve the fresh fruit, cheese and crackers for each table.  Then, at the end of the night, designated guests were given the custom Red Barn Woodworking pieces to take home.  What a great idea!  Mikey also made the card box and personalized it.  Now that’s a way to add details and a special touch.

Mikey and Mary Beth’s reception was very different from ones I’m accustomed to.  One big aspect of a typical Western Pennsylvanian wedding is the cookie table!  Oh, yes, this is truly a thing, and a big thing.  Weddings in this area are judged by the cookie table.  Mikey and Mary Beth did not disappoint!  However, aside from the cookie display, and their first dance, they didn’t keep with wedding tradition.  There was no polka music or polka dancing, no bridal dance, no formal cutting of the cake, no formal introduction of the bridal party.  Although, keep in mind, the bridal party consisted of our loving couple, and the bridesmaid and the best man.  Both respected siblings, and both individuals where known by all of the attendees.

Mikey-and-Aunt-Heather-Piper-8-1-15

Mikey & Me … had to have a cousin picture! Congrats Mikey & Mary Beth 8/1/15

Did I miss all these standard aspects to a typical wedding?  Not at all!  I loved how the evening unfolded!  I simply loved it!  There was no pressure, no expectations, no stress, from the guests or our newlyweds.  Like I mentioned, perfect!  The love and simple attitude from Mikey and Mary Beth spilled out over onto everyone.  Now that’s a real power couple!

To be honest, the reception was more like a huge family reunion.  Everywhere I looked, I was related to someone in one way or another.  This wedding, combined the large families of the area, the Olczak’s, the Piper’s, the Planinsek’s and the Butina’s, into one big party.  I’ve always been friends with the Butina’s.  My best friend in elementary school was a Butina, and so I was an adopted Butina, like many of my cousins.  Naturally, I’m related to the Piper’s and the Olczak’s.  The Olczak’s are related to the Planinsek’s, and now were all related to the Butina’s.   One big ridger family!

On a side note, a ridger is a person who lives on the ridge.  What’s a ridge?  The top of a hill or elevated area in a rural area.  A ridger is slang around Latrobe and Ligonier.

We danced the night away to the band, Life of Brian, friends of the happy couple.  They rocked the night away, and got everyone up and moving!  That was the first time I’ve heard them, and I was impressed!  They’re really, really good and made the evening even more enjoyable

Chef Mark’s Palete catered to the party.  Talk about eating like kings!  Chef Mark was on hand to carve the smoked roast beef, as well as serve the multi-layered wedding cake, not courtesy of Chef Mark.  His staff was very attentive to the guests and kept things moving smoothly.

Life-of-Brian-Mikeys-Wedding-8-1-15-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Life of Brian… a great band!

It was great mingling among everyone and catching up.  Knowing Mikey and Mary Beth, I would have expected nothing less.

I had a great time and I wish them all the happiness in the world!  Mikey and Mary Beth are perfect examples of what happens when two people are raised with morally strong families, and are just all around good people.

Congratulations Mikey and Mary Beth!  I look forward to witnessing your unity over the years.  I know it will be full of happiness and fun.  You guys are a great couple!  Cheers!

 

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

Happy Birthday Kyle! 14 Years!

Each day means a new twenty-four hours. Each day means everything’s possible again. You live in the moment, you die in the moment, you take it all one day at a time.  ~Marie Lu

Happy 14th Birthday Kyle!

Kyle-with-dolphins-on-cruise-6-2015-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle fulfilling a life goal, swimming with the dolphins from his cruise with his Aunt Nikki. 6/2015

Kyle has really taught me about life.  It amazes me how one little boy, although he’s not so little anymore, can teach me about life and people and behaviors and the list goes on.  It’s great!  I love seeing the world through his eyes and his perception, especially now that he’s a young adult.

Now we’re working through the teenage years.  I’ll admit, it’s trial and error, I’ve made some mistakes and Kyle has made some, but we’re still tight.  There is nothing I wouldn’t do for for that kid, and I know he truly cares for me, and my family.  I’ll always be his Aiya (Aunt Heather) and he’ll always be my Narrow.  We are associated by blood, but bound by love.

Thinking back on these fourteen years, I’m amazed at how much learning and activity has been packed into each year.  What a ride!  One, I would never trade, ever!  Kyle has been a blessing and continues be so.  Since reaching teenager status, he’s been spreading his wings and pushing boundaries.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, depending on how he goes about it.  I’ve always encouraged Kyle to be independent, yet responsible.  Although, I’m adjusting to the idea of not being cool anymore, or a desired companion for fun activities.  However, I’m hoping one day, Kyle will revert back and I will be here with open arms.

Kyle-at-Seabase-for-5th-birthday-7-2005-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle celebrating his 5th birthday at Seabase in Greensburg! He was a king that day, & every day since… 7/30/05

Now for my biggest surprise from this year.  Besides shaving, Kyle has really stretched up.  I only have about a head on him now, then he’ll surpass me.  I’m about five foot six inches, so Kyle is slightly under that.  He keeps eyeballing me up when standing next to me, and displaying that ornery grin.  His feet are already bigger than mine, which isn’t saying much since I have small feet.  We pretty much wear the same size shirts and jeans, except I need a little bit more length to mine.  There was a time when Kyle thought he was being a stinker wearing my cloths and enjoyed doing so.  I warned him, the tide will be changing soon enough, and now the high tide is in.  The other day, Kyle said, “Hey Aunt Heather, that’s my tee shirt.”  I simply looked down and said, “Umm, yes it is.  Payback time!  And it only goes downhill from here.”  He didn’t say much.  He just snickered and continued playing his video game.

Kyle is showing to be a goodhearted and honest young man, just like his dad.  Ryan would’ve been very proud of him.  Kyle’s not presently aware, but Ryan, his dad, would’ve been a very hands on, interactive father.  That’s the only part of Kyle getting older that saddens me, not having his dad interact with him and experience every milestone.  I guess Ryan’s here in spirit, and always in our hearts.  Although Kyle would’ve benefited tremendously to have Ryan in his life.

Kyle’s a happy child and is blessed with a good life.  That I am thankful for!

Happy Birthday Kyle!  I hope you enjoy your day.  I look forward to many more birthdays.

posted by auntheather in Church,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing,Video Games & Games and have No Comments

Getting A Handle On the Teenage Years

I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot.  ~J.D. Salinger

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Uncle George, Gram & (not sure) 1980s

Evey time I catch myself huffing and puffing over Kyle’s behavior, or worse his attitude, everyone tells me he’s a typical teenager.  I guess so, but does that mean I have to tolerate it?  Perhaps I expect too much from him, maybe more than I should.  I just want Kyle to be a respectful, hardworking (non-lazy) young man who’s moral compass points North.  I’m not asking a lot.  (I’m quietly laughing to myself.)

Monday was a bit of a rough day with the focus being Gram’s funeral.  It’s true, Kyle didn’t fight me on his attire.  He wore dress slacks, nice brown shoes and his navy woven top with clusters of anchors.  The very same outfit he sported on his cruise.  He looked nice and appropriate, and he didn’t argue when it was time to get ready.  He was off to a good start.

However, during the visitation, Kyle sat in a corner and wouldn’t get up to acknowledged the visitors and accept condolences.  Okay, maybe that was asking way too much from a thirteen year old, soon to be fourteen.  Personally, I found it rude, especially when others made it a point to talk to Kyle and include him in the conversation.  Kyle’s response?  He did smile occasionally but barely look up from his seat.  I addressed that immediately.  “Get your butt up when someone is talking to you and shake his or her hand.”  I guess that’s also a maturity thing, as well as learned behavior.  Everything considered, Kyle was pretty good.

On a side note, there was no casket, which I didn’t understand.  I asked Kyle to walk around and find Gram because “The guest of honor has to be here somewhere.” as I so plainly stated.  Kyle snickered at first, and then gave me a horrifying look.  Feeling a bit awkward with my request, Kyle tried to ignore me and continued starring at the floor while sitting in his seat, playing his video game periodically.  Letting Kyle off the hook for my unusual request, I went seeking the answer myself.   What I didn’t know, was Gram chose to be cremated and then buried by my Pap.  A bit of information that would have gone a long way with me before walking into the funeral home.  That took me completely off guard, and the fact that we weren’t going to the cemetery, which is very unlike Piper funerals, really threw me for a loop.

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Dad & Uncle Sonny building Gram & Pap’s house on the ridge. c. 1953

Then, while at the brunch after the funeral services, Kyle sat on his iPhone and played video games.  At one point he left the American Legion, which is where we met in Latrobe, to sit on the Legion’s front steps to either text, play video games or whatever he was doing on his iPhone.  I was so embarrassed.  Seriously?  Good friend’s of the family, and relatives wanted to talk to Kyle and try and get to know this mystery man they never get to see.  Kyle was quiet and almost distant.  What was his problem?  Again, I knew it was a rough day of funeral services, but still.

On Saturday, two days before the funeral, I stopped down to mom and dad’s house.  I pulled in the driveway to find my dad, who is in his sixties, outside in the dead of the heat, splitting and stacking wood, by himself.  Upon entering the house, I found my sister and nephew playing a board game sitting in the air-conditioning.  I think it was great Kyle was off his video games and spending time with my sister, but come on, help an old man out!  Naturally, my sister yelled at me and very tactfully stated they were playing a game and I was to “Shut Up!” as my sister so respectfully demands.  Now that doesn’t help Kyle’s attitude or his unwillingness to do actual work and get off his phone.  I was floored.  That’s no way to teach a young man to respect his family, very poor example, but moving on.

This past Tuesday, Kyle actually agreed to help me and dad build the chicken run.  Really?  He did!  He was almost enthused about it.  That is until we started working.

We needed an area for the chickens to run around outside, while being safely enclosed, so critters don’t have an opportunity to eat chicken for dinner.  Sure, it wasn’t easy digging holes to set the posts, hammering boards together for the door, and tacking the chicken wire fence in place, etc.  It was a beautiful day, but very sunny and HOT.  We worked from 9:30 am till about 7:00 pm.

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Gram, Aunt Kaye, her husband John, Uncle George, his wife Rhea. 1990s

I’ll give Kyle kudos, he was trying, but I could also tell he’s out of shape and was having a tough time.  Then, the attitude made its appearance.  What’s better is when dad or myself calls Kyle out on it.  Kyle will actually challenge us with a stare down and blatantly deny his attitude and insists, “What?  What did I do?  I didn’t do anything!” (And repeat that over and over again even after we told him what he did)  When we all know, including Kyle about his attitude.  He wasn’t terrible on Tuesday, but that snotty behavior is working my nerves big time.  He treats me like I’m his parent, which is funny because I’ve always played that role with him.  Maybe I should take it as a compliment.

About midway during the day, when we were about halfway done with the project, we decided to stop and refuel before continuing.  While eating lunch, I heard the shower running.  What?

Me:  “Kyle, why do I hear the shower?”
Kyle:  “Because I’m going to take a shower and go home.”
Me:  “What?  No you’re not.  You purposely work as slowly as you could this morning, to stretch out the work, and you think you’re going to abandon us?  Without saying a word?  Then, you think I’m going to stop what I’m doing to take you to your mom’s house?  Seriously?”
Kyle:  crickets…
Me:  “No, you said you’d help.  You need to finish what you started.”
Kyle:  Huffs as he walks away and turns off the shower.

He did help us, and as soon as we gave him an easy project, tacking the wire fence to the door, Kyle’s mood changed.  I could tell he was proud of the work he put into the chicken run and felt a sense of accomplishment.  Granted, Kyle didn’t stick around to help clean up, but I did ask him to pick up two quarts jars and a pint jar (used for drinking water) laying in the grass.  What did Kyle grab?  One quart jar and one pint jar.  Did I let him get away with that?  Nope!  This kid needs to be held accountable for his behavior and learn to follow direction, even for something as simple as collecting the jars.  Again, I addressed this with Kyle and he headed back up to the yard to retrieve the other jar, while rolling his eyes slightly and pouting along the way.

Please note, it’s not like we ask Kyle to do much.  In fact, he does very little around the house.  We’re always offering to take him fishing, and we build fires and make mountain pies and s’mores.  Supposedly, we’re going fishing this weekend, I hope Kyle doesn’t blow us off again.  It really upsets my dad, and after loosing his mother last week, dad needs a good day of fishing without an attitude.

On another side note, the quote above cracked me up, thinking about the Catcher In the Rye!  I loved that book!

Below is a screen shot from Gram’s obituary.

Grams Obituary Aunt Heather Piper

 

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

Gram, I Hope You Finally Have Peace

I like living. I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.   ~Agatha Christie

Alice M. Piper 

July 24, 1930 – June 30, 2015

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Gram & Pap at the Harbor Inn.

My 84-year old Gram, Alice Piper passed away today, Tuesday, June 30, 2015 sometime mid-morning.  (It’s kind of ironic, since she hated the mornings and never got up before noon.)  To some, it may come as a surprise to honor this lady with a blog post.  Reality?  She was my Gram, actually my only grandmother I ever knew.  My maternal grandmother passed away, long before my parents even met.  It’s true, we don’t get to pick our family, but we should try and support each other, at the very least, wish them well, and pray for them.  This is my opportunity to do that for Gram.

Gram is survived by two great grandchildren, which I think is pretty special, Kyle and Cheyenne, among the rest of the family, minus my Pap, Walter and my brother, Ryan.  I also believe Gram was the last surviving sibling in her full-blooded family.  She had half brothers and sisters, some still living.

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Dad, Gram & Uncle Sonny. 1990’s

There’s no doubt to anyone who spent any sort of time with Gram, knew she was a true firecracker in every sense of the word, even up to her last breath.  It’s no secret that Gram wasn’t your typical loving, nurturing, old lady that baked and was a saint.  No!  She was a loud, opinionated, trouble maker, who used to chain smoke. (for much of her life until she was placed in a nursing home)   I could tell many tales of disrespect and meanness.  However, thinking more on this, those are stories that have been told and retold all throughout Gram’s life, and I’m sure will be retold in the future.  Besides being an embarrassment, they only display the negative side to my grandmother.  What many don’t know, is that Gram actually had a positive side.  Granted, it was buried deep down, and only appeared very sparsely at random times, but she did in deed have a heart.  Those are the stories that really need to be told.

Unbeknownst to some, Gram had a rough childhood including living dirt poor (complete poverty), a mother abandoning all her children and leaving them to a mean and violent man, who drank, was lazy, didn’t work and was supported by welfare.  First hand accounts of this man were never positive, so I can only image what it was like living in that household.  No wonder all the women desperately tried to get out.  Years after Gram’s mother ran away, her dad remarried a women who was slightly older than my Gram was at the time, and they had kids together.  Right about now, I hear the dueling banjo’s playing in my head from the movie Deliverance.

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Uncle Sonny, Gram, Pap & Dad 1965

Long before suffering the loss of a grandchild, my brother Ryan, Gram lost her first born.  In addition to having my uncle and dad, Gram’s first offspring was a still born baby boy, a situation that was common back then, but I’m guessing equally as devastating.

Believe it or not, Gram was pretty active in her church when I was a youngster.  She taught bible school every summer at Bethel Lutheran Church, and I believe she helped out with Sunday school too.  Helping the church, and God’s children is always a good thing.

Because of Gram’s insistence on spending time with her and my pap on the ridge, every third weekend (Nicole, Ryan and myself alternated weekends) and staying very third week in the summer, I was also able to keep in touch with some of my cousins.  Otherwise, I would’ve only seen them once a year at the Piper Reunion or occasional family gathering because they went to Ligonier, and I went to Latrobe school.

Did you know Gram loved going to the movies?  She did, and so my interest in the big screen came to be.  Granted, Gram loved westerns, not a favorite of mine, but she also watched thrillers and comedies and such.  Again, she wasn’t the typical grandmother who baked and taught her grandchildren to do so.  She considered homemade, opening a box of cake mix and adding the oil and eggs.  She was a less than par baker, and a borderline editable cook.  She didn’t garden or sew, at least not with consistency that I can remember, and she definitely didn’t knit or croshay.  So after my pappy died, what do you do to not be alone?  You hang out with your grandchildren.  What do you do with them that didn’t require much effort in terms of physical activity or interaction?  You take them to the movies!  Did I mind?  Not at all, in fact I loved going (still do)!  I see this interest in the big screen continuing with Kyle, for he too loves going to the movie theater.

Gram loved to play cards and board games.  Every evening in the summer, we’d sit on the front porch on the ridge, she in her rocking chair, and I on a plastic fold up chair (that latter collapsed on me, sending me down the cement steps head first), in front of a card table and we played games.  Pappy watched us from his glider.  What did we play?  We played Three of a Kind, Go Fish and Uno.  (My pappy taught us to play poker.)  She also loved board games like Trouble, Sorry, Connect Four, Candy Land, Checkers, Chinese Checkers, Backgammon, Clue, Battleship, Chutes and Ladders, Life, Yahtzee, Scrabble and Operation.  Sometimes we’d sit and fill out crossword puzzles together or word searches.  All of this I did enjoy, minus her cigarette smoking.  Again, Kyle has always showed an interest in playing cards and boardgames, a trait he genuinely shared with his great grandmother.

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Gram & Nicole at Nicole’s college graduation from Penn State University 1996

Gram tried to stay involved in our activities.  All throughout school Gram and pap attended our spring musicals at Sacred Heart, every sacrament received, and every function, even after pap passed away.  Gram joined us at Penn State College to witness my sister receiving her college diploma.  Nicole was the first in our family accomplish a formal education.  Gram honestly loved and cared for us.  Many years later, when Kyle graced us with his presence, Gram always requested his presence at her apartment for visits.  She loved our little man equally as much as we do.

Did you know my Gram never had a birthday party?  (Now Harry Potter pops into my head.)  Nope, never as a child or even as an adult.  So by the time Gram was ready to celebrate her sixtieth birthday in July of 1990 (I believe), mom planned a big surprise party.  Me, Ryan and Nicole took her to see Pretty Woman (obviously we didn’t know what it was about) while all the guests arrived at mom and dad’s house.  We showered her with gifts and cake and ice-cream.  I remember how honestly surprised she was and truly happy!

A few years after my pap died, Gram became an in-home caretaker to an elderly person.  She took classes to get certified and that was her very first job, ever.  She was in her sixties.  To be honest, I was proud she went to school and began working.  Perhaps that experience carried over to her ending days in the nursing home.  I was told by some nurses that Gram actually helped calm a dementia patient at times, another good deed nearly gone untold.

I’m certainly not making excuses for Gram, or her behavior over the years, but I am saying we are all God’s people.  There is good in every single person.  Gram lived a life, keeping us on our toes and everyone one around her.  I hope she finally has the peace I think she’s always needed.

Gram, Pap might be hiding from you, so let him know you’re ready for peace and quiet, and give it to him as well as yourself.  Make sure you look for Ryan, I suspect he’s hanging with Pap, you know those two were always so tight.  Tell Pap and Ryan how much we miss them and let Ryan know Kyle’s getting big and is a great kid! God Speed Gram!  Until I see you again.

 

Grams Obituary Aunt Heather Piper

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

Cruising the Open Seas

The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.  ~Kate Chopin

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Kyle finally got to swim with the dolphins! One of the many activities on his cruise trip with Aunt Nikki. 6/2015

Summer has arrived and has consumed all of my time.  Between Thrill of the Hunt and my scavenger hunt events, the garden, the bees, the chickens and the turkeys, and trying to wrangle in a 13-year-old to spend quality time with me, there’s little time to do anything else.  Personally, I wish I’d open my schedule for more leisurely reading and writing, and I will, but until then, busy, busy, busy.  Those are my days, which are clearly very different from Kyle’s.

Kyle seems to be enjoying his summer thus far.  He’s in the marching band, practicing one day a week.  He’s also trying his hand at the Tuba.  I’m glad he’s challenging himself and I’m very proud of that young boy, who still hasn’t shaken his attitude (partially).  However, that’s not all, besides fishing and mostly laying around playing video games, Kyle recently added some miles to his life experiences.

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex 6-10-15 Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle and his Aunt Nikki set sail for Kyle’s first cruise.  Seriously?  Yes!  It was the annual Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun trip(Please note, I’m still not invited on these trips, which would make them even more adventurous and fun, just saying.  We could call it Kyle and the Aunts’ Week of Fun!)    I can’t believe the trip was nearly a month ago now.  To be honest, it started a few months back when Nicole and Kyle began discussing this year’s “Week of Fun” trip ideas.  Then, the anticipation grew even more when Kyle’s passport came in the mail.  What 13-year-old kid has a passport and has used it?  I’m sure some kids, obviously Kyle, but I never did until I reached my twenties.  He is blessed!  Then, the true excitement, when Nicole came home the weekend before departure to pick up the package, a.k.a. Kyle.

On Sunday, June 7th Nicole and Kyle drove to Baltimore, Maryland to jump aboard their cruise liner and set sail for a memorable week.

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“Aunt Nikki and Kyle’s Week of Fun” … this year a cruise. 6/2015

Where did they go?  They went to the Bahamas, stopped off in Florida and visited NASA and the Kennedy Space Center, and they participated in activities on the cruise ship while at sea, including the hairy chest contest.  Nicole won!  Just kidding! (That totally made me laugh out loud!)

These were all firsts for Kyle, including the hairy chest contest!  I’m glad my sister was able to introduce him to new experiences.  Like what?  Kyle got to swim with the dolphins!  Did he love it?  You bet!  He also got to explore the Bahamas, something I’ve never even done.  In fact, whoever his tour guide was left an impression on Kyle that lasted long after his trip.  Unbeknownst to the tour guide, he knew how to speak Kyle.  Basically the language of Kyle is through statistics and numbers.  Nicole and Kyle came home on Sunday, June 14th.  I was in Arlington, Virginia on Friday administering to the Singles Scavenger Hunt, so I occupied Nicole’s house until my world traveler arrived, so I could bring our precious cargo back.  On the four hour ride home, Kyle kept rattling off trivia regarding the Bahamas.  “Aunt Heather, do you know how someone can become a citizen of the Bahamas?” (one is to purchase a house on the island) and “Aunt Heather, did you know they don’t pay taxes?” and “Aunt Heather they only lost eight people with the last hurricane, so it’s really not that dangerous.”  Yep for most of the ride, Kyle was simply spouting off facts and figures, mostly about the Bahamas and some regarding NASA.  That’s my Kyle!

Week of Fun Cruise 6-10-15 Aunt Heather Piper

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Kyle insisted on meeting the captain of their cruise ship. Aunt Nikki, Kyle & the Captain. 6/2015

While sitting in Nicole’s living room, listening to the two reminisce about their trip, I was reminded just how much Kyle is like me.  Apparently, while waiting to take the elevator, they had to, well… wait.  Then, the elevator stopped at every level before arriving at their room.  Patience wasn’t strong with Kyle.  As the story goes, Kyle made my sister, who has an aversion to exercise, take the steps.  The agreement was, if it was more than two floors they’d take the elevator, if less the steps.  Now that’s my Kyle!  In general I usually take the steps, a habit Kyle has certainly picked up from me.  It’s that little extra effort that can make a world of difference to a person’s health.  While Nicole was commenting about the steps, I jumped into the conversation to defend Kyle, reminding Aunt Nikki that taking the steps was a wise choice considering all the food consumed.

Nicole said Kyle literally ate a burger a day, and treated himself to an ice-cream a day throughout the trip.  When bringing this fun fact to light,  Kyle gave me an ornery look as if saying “Ya Aunt Heather, I ate whatever I wanted and not healthy.”  I smiled and said, “Good for you buddy, I’m glad you enjoyed yourself.  That’s what vacations are all about.  I’m glad you got some protein in your system and not all sweets.”  He seemed pleased with himself.

There’s no doubt Nicole and Kyle had a blast and created memories for a lifetime.  Like I’ve always told Kyle, I want him to take every opportunity to travel and see the world, explore every inch and enjoy life.

During our ride back, Kyle mentioned that he could live in the Bahamas.  I’d visit him, but that’s about it.  That comment kind of surprised me, since Kyle doesn’t like being in the sun, and hates the heat, and really hates to sweat.  Who knows, maybe the Bahamas will be his favorite vacation spot.

On a somewhat side note, while driving home with Kyle I looked down to see he changed his iPhone cover.  What is it?  The NASA logo.  I guess he did have a great time and was very influenced by his experiences!  After pointing out the case and telling him it was nice (it really is), I told him about his Aunt Nikki’s childhood obsession about working for NASA.  He seemed intrigued, yet I’m sensing he picked up on this little known fact during their visit to Florida.

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Kennedy Space Center. NASA 6/10/15

The annual tradition of Aunt Nikki’s and Kyle’s Week of Fun has been in existence since Kyle was a small tyke, growing in wow factor, mileage and expense year-over-year.  I hope it never stops and always continues for those two!  Personally, I love hearing the stories.  Wonder what next year will bring?

 

 

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

What’s All the Buzz?

Okay, I’ll admit it, I totally cracked myself up with this headline!  If you didn’t get it, read on.

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This is my first look at our bees, they’re buzzing around, even though it’s a bit chilly (high of 50’s, low 60’s) 6/1/15

On Monday, my new hobby arrived.  It’s no secret I keep myself pretty busy with my eclectic interests and hobbies.  Such as what?  I love to read and I really love to write.  In addition to my blog and my freelance work, I’ve also written a book for Kyle (I thought it’d be neat to write a book for him that includes his interests, minus the video games.  Perhaps one day I’ll give it to him) and began a few others, but that’s not the big news.  Unbeknownst to some, I’m an outdoorsy person.  I spend a great deal of my summer mornings and evenings in the garden, and tending to the fruit and nut trees, and raising our chickens and turkeys, but that’s not the big news.  I enjoy fishing and during the winter months, I snowboard and hunt.  With all this rugged activity, I do have an artsy side to me.  I enjoy photography, mostly shooting nature and documenting family traditions through imagery.  In my past life, high school and college, I used to express myself through pottery, throwing on the wheel was my favorite, but that’s not the big news.  I do try and be active, either going to the gym, running, or hiking with the dogs, but that’s nothing new.  And everyone knows all these activities are usually spent with Kyle and my family, except the exercising part.  So what else could I possibly add to my hobby portfolio?  Bees!

Yes, honey bees!  I’m a beekeeper!  How on earth did I get into bees?  Along with my dad, I’ve always had an interest in bees, being a huge fan of honey, especially honey on the comb.  I LOVE honey!  Maybe not as much as Kyle, but regardless, it’s a staple in our household.  Ironically, I wrote a blog post about these buzzing pollinating creatures in 2013 Random Fun Facts:  Bees.

How does one become a beekeeper?  Well, I’m very blessed to have my cousin Pete, who is a beekeeper, who tends to about eight hives of his own.  Not only did he give us our first hive from a swam he gathered locally, but he’s been teaching dad and myself everything he knows about bees.  He even introduced us to an organization of beekeepers that he belongs to, in this area.  They hold monthly meetings to inform and educate local beekeepers on bees and everything associated with this activity.  There’s an organization dedicated to beekeepers?  In the Latrobe area?  Oh, YES!  Unfortunately, I missed the first meeting this year, but I’ll bee (pun intended) sure to attend the next one, which is around the corner.

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The bees arrived Monday thanks to my cousin Pete. Even though the bees were slightly ticked off from the car ride there, I just had to lift the lid to the bee box and look inside… 6/1/15

How much is there to learn about bee keeping?  A lot!  First and foremost, bees are very delicate creatures.  We can’t use anything unnatural on the garden or fruit tress for fear of killing them.  Mites are also a very real danger.  Believe it or not, they can wipe out an entire hive!  Dad’s been doing a lot of reading on bees and our new hobby.  He found a natural remedy for the mite problem, dust the bees with powered sugar.  Seriously?  Yes!  Well, the bee knowledge list goes on and on.  Similar topics are addressed and discussed at the bee meetings, to learn from the experienced beekeepers.  Very exciting if you ask me!

Did you know consuming local honey actually helps the body build up an immunity to local allergens?  That’s the word on the street.  I know I’ve mentioned it before, but ingesting honey over long periods of time, will decrease allergies.  At least that’s what I read in an article.  In a way, I wish our bees would hang around the poison ivy, to build up my immunity.  Regardless, how can anyone go wrong with such a natural sweet treat.  It’s great for all meals in just about anything.

On a side note, did I mention I’m allergic to yellow jackets?  Not terribly, I’ve never gone into anaphylaxis, but I guess there’s always a chance.  I do swell considerably and get huge, I mean huge, three inch diameter hives, all over my body.  I know it sounds silly for me to be a beekeeper, but bees are so very interesting, and nothing beats fresh honey.  I’ll just have to be cautious.  Who knows, I might not even have a reaction to the bee sting.  After all, bee stings are said to be good for arthritis and those suffering with multiple sclerosis.

Bee (again pun intended) prepared for more bee talk in the near future.  I have a feeling this is going to be quite the adventure!

Happy Beekeeping!

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