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

Jury Duty

There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors.  ~Adrienne Rich

Juror badge Aunt Heather PiperLast week I was called to do my civil duty, jury duty.  Actually, I was mailed a questionnaire that I either had to fill out and mail back, or get online to complete.  I chose the later, 1) because it was easier and 2) it said I needed to return it in seven days, and I honestly had no idea how long it sat in a pile of mail I didn’t get to sorting.

I remember in my early twenties I received a similar notice, of course there wasn’t an option to fill out a form online.  In fact, I had to call a supplied phone number the night before to see if I was required to attend.  This time, the night before, I received a text message and an email telling me to appear at the Greensburg County Court House at 8:30 am., no other instructions, simply the report time and location.  It might have been my wild imagination, but it had a James Bond feel to it.

Was I excited.  To be honest, no.  I had a ton of work to do for Thrill of the Hunt and my dog scavenger hunt events, and it really was inconvenient, but I guess such is life.

Upon walking up the sidewalk to the courthouse doors, I saw a small crowd of individuals holding their paperwork for jury duty.  Wondering why they were standing around and not going inside to report, I asked the one guy in line.  He told me, we weren’t allowed in yet.  Really?

Well, it wasn’t much longer after that, that we made our way through metal detectors monitored by armed police officers, to a large room prepared for the jurors.

What an interesting process.  There were about sixty of us, and we each had a bar code name badge we were required to sport and move around in groups like branded cattle.

Juror Handbook Aunt Heather PiperSomething that struck me as odd, no one asked to see my drivers license or any form of identification.  In fact, when I walked in the ground floor room, designated to host us for the majority of the day, they scanned each of our ID badges.  Out of curiosity, I quickly glanced at the computer screen once my tag was scanned.  Honestly, I thought I’d see a picture of me with my name and address, at the very least.  I didn’t think they’d have my facebook profile picture, but I thought maybe my driver’s license or even my gun permit picture.  Neither showed up, not even my address.  What I did see in a very ancient type of font and minimalist computer font in green coloring on a dark background, was simply my name.  It did include my middle initial, which I never use.  How did they know I was Heather Piper and not a stand in?

I know this is a bit far fetched, but I was watching The Big Bang Theory earlier in the week and it was the episode where Sheldon paid Stewart to fill in for him with Amy, and later to wait in line at the movies or something.   Instantly, I thought, I should pay someone to take my place for jury duty.  Not that I would do it, but the idea did cross my mind, especially after seeing the lack of authenticating for each individual.

Once in our large basement room, we were given instructions on restroom facilities, vending machines and what we were aloud to do and not allowed.  I was surprised they had two television screens for us, (as long as it wasn’t local news), a rack of magazines, a coffee and tea area (no water) and the seats weren’t completely awful.

A local judge came in to give us the run down of the day’s itinerary and to make a statement what jury duty is all about.  He did comment that most people try to get out of it, guilty, and don’t want to be there, guilty, and yet they’re the most important part of our judicial system.

Believe it or not, completely by happenstance, I was reading To Kill a Mockingbird for the thousandth time. (One of my most favorite books ever!)   I was at the part when Atticus Finch was in the courtroom and the lawyers were cross examining their witnesses.  I love the line at the end of chapter 21, page 242, when Revered Sykes said, “Miss Jean Louise (Scout), stand up, your father’s passin’.”

That actually made me stop to consider what jury duty really meant.  Before I walked into the courthouse that day, I was given all sorts of advice on how to get out jury duty, and what to say, blah blah blah.  It all sounded good to me until two things happened.  After listening to the judge, I began to wonder what it would be like to actually sit through an entire trial and be one of the deciding voices.  Then it hit me, what if I was on trial one day?  I’d want a group of my peers, those with reasonable common sense and good moral judgement, sitting there to rein on my verdict.  I soon began to think differently about the process and my call to civil duty.

Soon they organized us into the small groups, and escorted us upstairs via the elevator, to courtroom number five.  Being an art major, my eyes tend to get drawn into the architecture and artistry of my environment.  This room certainly sucked me in.

The courtroom showed its years of character with the dark stained wood finished trimming and pews.  The walls and columns surrounding the judge’s chair were painted a mint green matte finish.  Yes, it was a monochromatic mint green mess.  My first thought was a nice stone or taupe color would do the room some justice (pun totally intended).  There were three main murals on the ceiling each labeled Justice, Moderation, and Mercy.  Instantly, I understood the first and last, but the Moderation threw me for a loop.

It was a mural, I’m not sure if it was fresco or simply acrylic or oil painting, containing a nude younger man, forcefully holding a chain attached to the collar of a Boxer type of dog.  He was also holding something in his left hand, but it wasn’t quite clear.  Keep in mind he was laying face up on steps.  Odd.  I’m sure the meaning is very clear to those in the legal field, but it struck me as an enigma, especially since it was placed in the center sandwiched by Justice and Mercy.  I could go on and on about the decor but that would take me several blog posts to really capture the essence of the room.

Soon the judge arrived and introduced us to the witnesses, and the legal staff for both sides.  Everyone turned around and gave awkward smiles and nods to us.  Honestly, I was half paying attention.  The judge also gave us instructions on what to expect through the the day and stressed the importance of this process and the extreme importance of the jury.  He brought up a good point.  He said something along the lines of, “The jury is so important that’s why they’re seated toward the front so they can hear the trial but also see the facial expressions and body language as well.”

Everyone was given a clipboard with a questionnaire to fill out, to be signed and turned into the officers present.  Not trying to pry, but the guy beside me, who was probably in his late fifties early sixties, took Forever to fill his out.  It was a list of questions and we had to mark yes or no.  No essay involved, no major thought provoking questions, pretty basic simple straightforward stuff.  My first thought was, this man can’t read very well.  I don’t know that to be true, perhaps he had a dyslexia or a reading comprehension issue, or he was just a slow reader.  Either way, he was the last person, out of all sixty of us who turned in his form.  The last.  Is that important?  Not really, not in my eyes, that is until what happened next.

Eventually, we were asked to sit in silence (without food or drink, did I mention it was fast approaching lunch?) while they called each and everyone of us to be interviewed.  Are you kidding?  Nope.  I wasn’t expecting that at all.

On a side note, I tried to make the most of my unplugged quite time with To Kill a Mockingbird.  Within minutes of pulling out my book and getting comfy in my seat, the guy beside me, yes the questionnaire guy, began fidgeting.  I don’t mind being restless, because I can be the same way, but I don’t like the huffing and puffing and the comments said to himself, yet purposely loud enough so his neighbors could hear, type of behavior.  It’s true, misery does loves company.

He kept mumbling about making money, and huffing and puffing his breath, like it was going to speed things up.  Then, after they’d announce another number, he’d huff even louder, and under his breath say, “This is going to take all day.”  or something along those lines.  He was one of those people who wanted to get others joining in on his complaints.  He wanted everyone to feel his attitude and express it.  You know those types of people, who are simply miserable.

I almost got past all that, except he wasn’t allowed to wear his baseball camp in the courtroom.  He kept capping his knee and with each huff and puff he’d uncap it and recap it again, making subtle suction types of noise mixed with fabric rubbing together.  He’d cross his legs, resting his ankle across the opposite knee, cap and recap his hat.  Then, switch legs to continue the adjustment process of the hat.  It was simply irritating.  I looked around, and everyone else brought something to occupy their time, except him.

I could even get past all that, but the constantly making comments about our number in line was too much.  I mean, our numbers were in the twenties, not the sixties and I think they moved through the potential candidates rather quickly.

They called us by our numbers into another room where the key players, including the judge was seated at a large conference table ready to ask us questions.  I’m sorry, but that was intense, even though everyone was very nice and cordial.

Eventually, I was released without being chosen.  Honestly, it was bittersweet.  Perhaps, I wasn’t the best person for the case.  Maybe next time.

On a side note, I was very much surprised to find a court stenographer working her typing magic.  Seriously, with all this technology of recording voices and video, which is probably more accurate then a stenographer, why continue to use one?  Then, add all the apps and technology and services for transcribing the court case.  That one threw me for a loop.  Can anyone tell  me why the court systems haven’t moved along with technology?  Or perhaps it’s only the local court systems? 

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

Go Fly a Kite

There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.  ~Robert Louis Stevenson

Kyle-&-Goat-at-the-Auction-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2014

Kyle with a goat at the auction in Maryland. 2014

Last Saturday dad asked for assistance in getting the garden ready to plant.  What needed done?  He wanted to add sand to loosen the soil, peat moss and yes manure.  Cow manure to be exact.  Our garden isn’t exactly a small rinky dinky plot of land and yet it’s not an acre large area either.  It’s a relatively nice size roughly twenty-five feet by fifty feet garden.

Naturally, we expected Kyle to help gather the material required for good soil and spread the ingredients on the ground before my cousin Jim plowed it to mix it all together.

Was my almost thirteen year old excited to participate?  Nope!  Was my little man helpful?  Kind of!  Does Kyle need the exercise and the work ethic?  You bet!

Lately, Kyle has been a bit “lippy” with us and sporting an attitude.  Yes, I am well aware he is nearly in his teenage years, but it’s still not right.  Especially for Kyle to give his pappy such a hard time.  He does so much for that kid, going above and beyond.  Come on, it’s not like we were asking him to run a marathon.  We just wanted a little bit of good old fashion hard work and nice family time together.  Win win in my opinion.

Another-Fall-Day-on-the-Ridge-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Great fall day on the ridge. Uncle Walter’s field to the right. 2013

After the feet dragging and moaning to get dressed and out the door, we started to have a nice time running around to the different lawn care stores, picking up things here and there.  Dad has a one ton dump truck we road around in, squeezed in the front seat.  It was never a dull moment and I thought we might just have a nice time finishing up our tasks.  I was wrong.

On a side note, while getting the sand at the Kingston Supply Company, dad spotted this little forklift for sale.  It reminded me of Guido and Luigi from the movie Cars.  “I’d like to have that!” dad blurts out.  Kyle and me bust out laughing picturing dad driving that little forklift around for no reason.

Aunt-Heather-Piper-taking-a-pic-of-Kyle-photoing-sun-2012

Kyle asked me to stop so he could get a picture of the sun shining through the trees. I took the opportunity to snap a picture of him getting a picture. 2012

Once we got back to the house and started to unload everything, Kyle started his whining and complaining.  Just like he does before our hikes.  You have to fight with him and push him in a direction before he comes around.  Personally, I hate arguing with the kid, but insisting he gets some exercise by doing real work and spending quality time with the family and learning how to farm are all good enough reasons to push back when he starts his crap.  That’s how much I truly care for Kyle, I’m willing to get a headache for his own good.

What did he do?  The usual.  He didn’t want to walk the few yards to the garden.  He didn’t want to help shovel the sand.  He didn’t want to help spread the peat moss.  Then, when he did help with the peat moss, he spread the material in the most inefficient and slowest moving method known to man.  That’s Kyle’s way of being difficult.  He knows very well it drives me crazy and ticks me off.  Yet, I tried to hold my cool, well after I had to yell a number of times for him to do something.  It just isn’t right, here is my nephew who is three months shy from turning thirteen, having my dad who is in his sixties do most of the work and the heavy lifting.  Not to mention me, who is also out performing the kid.  Not right!  He needs to step it up.  His dad, Ryan was not like that at all!  He was a really hard worker, from at least the age of nine, he was working in the sawmill.  I guess that’s another story.

Fall-Day-at-Mom-&-Dad's-2013-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Perfect fall day at mom & dad’s. 2013

On another side note, that Sunday we stopped out to a friend of dad’s.  He owns a farm.  The perfect place to load up the truck with fresh wet ripe cow manure for the garden.  We got into talking to Dwayne and offered Kyle’s services for any work needed on the farm, free of charge of course.  Dad and I both agree Kyle needs to learn to work, or he’ll never appreciate anything.  Dwayne couldn’t have agreed more.

Believe it or not, once we worked Kyle a little, just enough to get his blood pumping, his attitude changed.  Then he even surprised me.  Once finished, we both headed back down to the house.  Kyle actually grabbed his kite mom got him for Easter and began to put it together to take outside.  What?  He didn’t just jump on his computer and play games or flop himself down on the couch in front of the television?  Nope!  It was a beautiful sunny day and Kyle must have felt good and wanted to fly his kite.

Seven-&-Scooby-Running-Aunt-Heather-Piper-2013

Seven & Scooby running free in the field… enjoying the fall day. 2013

On the third side note, when Kyle was a little tyke of about three or four, I took him out in my parent’s front yard to fly a kite he received for Easter.  Always carrying on the family traditions!  At the time, we had Jake’s (Ryan’s beagle) wire run strung up across the yard.  The kite slipped out of my hands and was captured by the wire run to loosely remain there with the wind whipping around it.  Quickly, I grabbed a chair to give me some height so I could retrieve our entertainment.  Kyle was so stressed out, he ran in the house, woke up my dad who was napping, to blurt out, “Pappy, quick!  It’s Aiya.  Quick pappy she needs help!”  Poor dad probably thought something happened to me.  Just then pap surfaced on the front porch to see me reaching for the kite.  Kyle was below my feet, trying to push me up.  It was so stinking cute!  He was trying to lift me up by my ankles.  Dad and I got a kick out of him!

For this past Easter, Mom got Kyle two kites.  So I joined him in the kite flying fun.  We all stayed outside in the perfect sunny mild temperature day and watched the multicolored birds (that’s what the pictures were on the plastic kites) sore through the air.  We were out for hours.  In fact, I had to go inside before getting a sunburn and Kyle continued guiding his kite to the sky.  That is until it landed in a tree and broke free from Kyle’s string.  Who cares.  The kid was having a blast being outside and enjoying nature and spending time with the family without distractions and the toxins of electronics clouding his brain.  His muscles were moving and I’m guessing releasing endorphins.

He was so mild tempered when he eventually came inside, he was the good kid I knew he could be.  In fact, Kyle reached for his Guardians of Ga’Hoole books and began reading!  It’s true, he loves to read, but he actually gave up playing Minecraft to read on a Saturday afternoon with me saying a word.  I was so happy for him!

So when in doubt.  Go fly a kite!  It will make your day.

 

 

 

 

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

Planting the Trees of Memories

Aragorn: Gimli, lower your axe.
Legolas: They have feelings, my friend. The elves began it, waking up the trees, teaching them to speak.
Gimli: Talking trees. What do trees have to talk about, hmm… except the consistency of squirrel droppings?  ~Lord of the Rings J.R.R. Tolkien

Kyle-&-Scooby-Easter-Morn-4-20-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle going through is basket, Easter morning…. Scooby helping. Keeping tradition with the books & kite! 4/20/14

Being sick now for weeks, I am finally on the road to recovery, even though these rainy windy days like today, make it hard to get out of bed, sick or not.  Recently, I was thinking back to what had happened over the last several weeks, while I was under the weather.  Actually, a lot went on.  Over the next few days, I will start to document the stories.

Sunday, April 20th was Easter!  A day I slept most of the daylight hours.  I did get to play Kyle at Quarto, a strategy game I purchased for him for Easter from a store in the Mall of America in Minnesota.  Naturally, Kyle won the first game.  I truly thought I had this game in the bag, but alas I was proven wrong again by a twelve year old.

On Saturday, however, it was a beautiful sunny day and I was feeling well enough to help dad in the yard.

The event of planting trees actually started way back in December over Christmas.  We purchased Chestnut trees for dad and had them mailed this spring.  Perfect Gift –  Chestnut Trees  Guess what?  They came in!  Boy was dad elated! He was looking forward to this day since he heard about his perfect gift.

What really makes these trees significant to plant around Easter, is that the orchard was always a big part of our Easter celebration.  Every year since Kyle was a wee one, we would fill multi-colored plastic eggs with money and candy and hide them around the orchard.  Yes mom and I would go out in the middle of the night after Kyle went to bed, usually late, and hide the eggs with the help of flashlights.  Then, it never failed, Kyle would wake up at 3:00 am, sometimes 4:00 am and want to go out and hunt Easter eggs left by the Easter bunny.  Even though the rest of the family remained in bed, I always got up with him, wrapped a blanket around me, slipped on my rubber boots, grabbed the flashlight and trotted out to the backyard.

Kyle always had a blast!  It was nice seeing the kid so excited in the morning, even though it was usually so dark it was hard to see him at all.  My job, was to count the findings to make sure no egg was left behind.  Although, it never failed, while mowing in the spring we would always find an egg or two.  I guess I didn’t do such a great job at counting.

This year that tradition didn’t take place, since Kyle is nearly thirteen, but it didn’t mean we couldn’t go outside and sit among our trees and freshly planted crops.

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Seven in front, Scooby behind him, Avery to the right, Gigi, & Aunt Nikki enjoying the shade while planting fruit trees. 4/19/14

That orchard holds a lot of memories, memories when Ryan was still with us.  Ryan helped to plant some of the original trees and he always mowed and weeded the area.  It was nice to have Kyle a part of that tradition and have his roots grow among the memories and stories of dad’s orchard.

When I say the family participated, I mean the entire family.  Nicole and Avery were home; the boys, Seven and Scooby; Storm and naturally the rest of us.  We all joined forces to plant the trees.  I couldn’t think of a better way to spend a pretty day, especially before Easter.

We dug up a couple of trees that had died over the years.  Dad was hoping each year would bring renewed life back into the brittle dead branches, but no such luck.  We pulled those out, believe it or not with the help of the pick-up truck.  Digging up the dirt around the roots to loosen the deceased cherry tree, dad wrapped a chain around the trunk and attached it to the truck, then gave it the gas.  With the help of Kyle and me loosening the dirt and pushing on the tree, the roots surfaced and we drug it to the burn pile, leaving a new hole for another life to flourish.

The day consisted of planting new trees, including finding a home for dad’s elephant ear tree and another chestnut tree.  There are about twenty fruit trees in dad’s orchard, ranging from paw paw to plum and peach and naturally apple.  He’s very proud of those trees and his blueberry bushes.

The weekend before Easter, I was in Minnesota for my good friend Davey’s wedding.  Congratulations Mr. & Mrs. Seminary  That’s when Kyle helped dad plant the original two Chestnut trees purchased over Christmas.  They also planted a couple of mulberry bushes and a mystery tree that lost its tag.

During the day of playing in the dirt and hauling saplings back and forth, Dad kept saying to Kyle and the inadvertently the rest of us, “When I kick off, now you can go out and have a piece of fruit and think of me.  You’ll always have food with these trees.”

He’s right, it is nice having fruit trees in the back yard.  I enjoy them too, not only for the fruit but also for shade and the beauty of the trees, but more importantly for the memories of planting the trees with the family and watching them grow.  Perhaps that is the most valuable part of dad’s orchard.

Dad-&-Kyle-Planting-trees-4-19-14-Aunt-Heather-Piper

Kyle using the digging iron to open the hole where we pulled a dead fruit tree, to only replace it with another. Dad was supervising. 4/19/14

On a side note, during the day the neighbor boy Philip was out walking his dog Thor.  They stopped over to say hi and visit.  Avery was excited to see another dog, as was Seven.  Scooby on the other hand, had to be placed in dad’s truck for the duration of the visit, he’s not very nice.  We call him the enforcer or the grumpy old man.  While in the front seat of the truck, which he usually rides shotgun, no one would have thought Scooby, would do what he did.  He jumped out the window!  Yes!  He pulled an underdog and flew out the open window and charged Thor.  Dad broke up the little altercation without incident.

Personally, I stood in shock.  Our nonathletic, clunky and slow moving dog jumped out of a truck window, down on the side of a hill and was able to speed past us like the breeze.  Truly amazing!  I guess he meant business when he barked, ‘No one on our property’.

It was a great Easter weekend.  I continued the tradition mom started when we were kids by giving Kyle books in his Easter basket.  This year it was the rest of the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series by Kathryn Lasky.  Kyle started to read them and seemed to be enjoying the books, so I fueled his journey.  I love his love for reading!  Every chance I get, I reward him in books, and he’s excited about it!  Mom continued the tradition of receiving a kite, or two in Kyle’s case.

Can’t wait to enjoy the shade of our newly planted trees and pick the fruit they produce!  I was also told by Mr. Kyle that I would enjoy reading the Guardians of Ga’Hoole series and he wants me to read them too.  I guess I have a new series to start!

Happy Belated Easter!

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

I Need To Build My House! – Video Games

This generation is so dead. You ask a kid, ‘What are you doing this Saturday?’ and they’ll be playing video games or watching cable, instead of building model cars or airplanes or doing something creative. Kids today never say, ‘Man, I’m really into remote-controlled steamboats.’  ~Jack White

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Kyle with his cousins, Olivia & Grant at Twin Lakes for a picture day. Kids should get back to nature & hang out with each other more often  8/2012

I know I’ve talked about video games, Gamers Start Small & Grow & Gigi Our Original Gamer – Pac-Man, and the issues and arguments that seem to accompany them, No Video Games? Running?  Why Do I Have To?.  So it should be no surprise to me that Kyle’s video games are not falling by the wayside, in fact they are advancing at a rapid rate!

Again, I’d like to reiterate, I have no qualms with video games, I do like to play a game or two, but I do have a problem with video games consuming your entire life.  If I’d let Kyle, he would play his Minecraft or whatever game he’s on, ALL day.  No joke!  Not taking a break, not getting tired, not thinking about anything else, not even getting distracted.  Maybe I should be giving him kudos for his dedication to this discipline.

However, I can’t get past the detox I have to go through every time I ask Kyle to wrap it up to do something else, or when he has to stop because he exceeded his video playing limit.  (Yes for the record I do try and monitor and reasonably limit how much time he plays video games on his computer – the only thing he uses it for.  No schoolwork!)

Yes the detox.  Telling Kyle he has “five minutes left” or “wrap it up buddy, your done for the day” or “take an hour break” is almost devastating to his ears.  He’ll give me a look, like I’m talking Chinese, as if he doesn’t comprehend what I said to him.  Or even better, he instantly starts to whine and grumble like a tiny child.  But the absolute best, the one action that really gets my goat, is when he doesn’t even lift his eyes to look at me when I’m talking to him, and he continues playing as if I’m not even in the room, then to appease me with an “Ok”.  I know he may think my instructions are negotiable, but I have news for him.  Nope!  That laptop is closed, permanently.

Sometimes it feels like I’m peeling that electronic device from his fingers.  I imagine this is what it would be like to pull drugs from a user.  He really does get addicted to these games, like many other kids his age.

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Kyle sitting with his pappy sporting a rifle at my cousins, Connie & Skip’s house. Uncle Ray (RIP) is in the background. 7/2011

Fortunately, Kyle knows when I mean business, I mean it and there’s no messing around.  Granted, I do give him his time to play and allow him the chance to save whatever he’s on before shutting down his operation, but the minute the attitude comes and the arguments surface, I loose it. Especially when I hear, “Why do I have to?” and “Why can’t I play a little longer.” and my favorite, “Why do I have to take a break?”; that’s when the computer is completely taken away, to not make its appearance until the following day.

This week while walking with a friend of mine, Holsters, the very same topic came up.  Her nephew has the same demeanor, and he’s two or three years younger than Kyle.  She’s beside herself.  Plus she doesn’t have the same authority I do, to enforce what’s right.  These kids just want to be slugs and sit around with their head in fantasy land, not facing reality.  Young people are not going to be able to cope with real life if they don’t start taking baby steps toward it now. (I’m not even going to get into the diet that accompanies the hour long stents of video game madness.)  No wonder they are whiny and miserable and tired all the time.

Seriously, I wish more parents would stop using video games as a babysitter and get involved with their kids.  And I’m not talking about joining them on the controls, although in moderation, that could be a good bonding experience.  I’m talking about building a cabin or a chicken shed, or dig up the earth looking for dinosaurs.  I know I’m going to extremes and being silly, kinda, but there is so much to do!  Do it.  And get creative, it will entertain all parties.

Kyle-reading-Hunger-Games-at-IHOP-2012-Aunt-Heather-Piper

At least reading is another one of Kyle’s addictions, besides the video games. He does love to read, even at the IHOP – Hunger Games! c. 2012

Video games are a bit of an enigma with me.  Last weekend Kyle made a comment that he had a lot to do.  “Really what do you have planned for today?”  Silly me, he had to finish building his house in Minecraft.  What?  I said, “Kyle building an imaginary house in a video game is not considered work, nor should it ever be a priority.”  He gave me the “whatever” grin.  I believe he even rolled his eyes at me!

This was my time to sound like an old timer.  I told Kyle, “Now if you go out and build an actual house, that someone could live in or a play area, now that’s considered work and worth your time.  I would also help you build it, but not a digital house that doesn’t benefit anyone.”  His response?  “My people need somewhere to live!”  Yikes!   I should have stopped there, but I didn’t and I began to explain how we built a fort (yes we took small trees chopped them down and build ourselves a fort to play in, in the woods) and a cabin.  Seriously, we did this when we were in elementary school.   I didn’t mention that we were unusual kids for our day, I didn’t find it a need when I was trying to make my case.

Not taking the hint Kyle didn’t seem to care or really comprehend what I was saying, I continued, “Look, your dad and Casey and Joel (cousins) build the party shack just to hang out in when they were in high school and not to play video games.”  Again, I didn’t get into what they did up there, nor do I even want to know, but that’s not relevant to my argument.

Kyle knows the cabin very well.  We sometimes hunt around there and when Kyle was younger, Casey would come home and take him for a walk up to the permanent structure, remembering Ryan,  The cabin is equipped with a wood burner, windows, a porch and a shingled roof.  Definitely no dive.

Quick story.  I don’t know how many times this happened, but I do know it was at least once.  The guys, Ryan, Casey and Joel, plus whoever else was hanging around, called to have a pizza delivered.  They actually gave directions to the edge of the woods and told the driver to wait there, someone will meet them.  To me that’s the funniest story.  First of all this took place late at night and secondly, no delivery driver would even do that today for fear of being jumped.  Lastly, who just orders a pizza to have it delivered to the woods?  I would have walked to my parents house to wait for it and then carried the pie back up.  Not those guys.  They got hungry and ordered a pizza to be delivered in the woods with no real address.  Too funny!

Now back to my video game rant.  On Monday Kyle text me asking for an apple pie recipe we recently made.  I had mom type it up and email it to him.  I text him back letting him know it was on the way to check his emails, no response.  Again, I reached out to him via text message to ensure he did indeed receive the requested information, no response.   I tried calling, to only be put into his voicemail.  Fine, it must not be that important, even though I believed he needed it for school.

Kyle & my text he needs work on his spelling- Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle texted me for an apple pie recipe, obviously he needs work on his spelling

The next day I got a text saying “Got it”.  Ok a day late but whatever.  Then yesterday, just after he got home from school, he CALLED  me, not texted or emailed me but he picked up the phone to make the call, asking for his password on Minecraft.  Don’t get me wrong, I love hearing from Kyle, no matter the reason, but seriously?  Evidently, he updated the game and it logged him out, therefore his password was not saved.  Crisis! He wanted me to jump up immediately to access our password list to give him his login information.  Fat chance kid!  I told him I’ll get to it later, after asking if he had homework and if he practiced his piano.

I guess it doesn’t feel so good to be blown off, because the next thing I knew, I saw an email come through resetting the password. (Yes I have all his emails copied to me so I can monitor his activity.)  That kid is something else!  Instead of waiting for the info, he had to have it right then and there, immediately.  So he reset the password to play his game.  Funny thing, he never gave me the updated password.  I see another issue in the near future.

Not to be all negative about Kyle and those stupid video games because he sometimes does pretty good with playing in moderation, sort of.  Granted, I do need to tell him to log off when the hours have been racking up.  By no means does he usually volunteer to be released from the video game addition, but once he’s off, he’ll play other board games, go to the movies, sled ride, cook, or my favorites, play the piano and reading.   He just needs to be guided toward other activities. I’ve noticed he really doesn’t pay attention to the hours spent on the computer.  I suppose that’s my job.  I’m very thankful he does have other interests, even though they tend to take a backseat to the video games.

I’m hoping this is still a faze, but maybe I’m the one living in the imaginary world.

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

Gamers Start Small & Grow

There are people who are very dismissive of games and gamers.  ~Jane McGonigal

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Me & Holsters at the Latrobe Turkey Trot Race. It was a cold one! 11/28/13

Kyle loves his video games, a fact I’ve reluctantly accepted for a few years now.  As the days pass by, Kyle seems to exude more passion for these video games.  His choices in digital entertainment are also more advanced and are taken to the next level with each new video interest.  I mean, unbeknownst to mom, Gigi Our Original Gamer – Pac-Man she paved the way for our little gamer.

My sister is also a video game fan, as are many of her friends.  She plays the Wii and Sony Playstation (PS3).  I don’t believe she has an XBox 360, but for all I know, she could.  I really don’t get into gaming, nor do I have an interest except for the dance games.  Yes I LOVE dancing around to the video games.  My favorite?  The Michael Jackson Experience!  Love his music, love his dance moves.  That’s as far as my gaming interests are peeked.

When I was younger, I loved Atari.  My game of choice?  Frogger!  Even as much as I loved that game, I still was not a typical gamer, investing large stents of time into the virtual world.  Not then, and most certainly not now.

This past New Year’s, I told Kyle I’d play him a few video games, you know moving me out of my comfort zone and sacrificing a small amount of time for Kyle’s happiness.  I tried to get excited and I wish I really wanted to play, but alas, I could not.  One would think the shooting games would keep my interest, but nope.  Not even my beloved childhood friend, Frogger could build my yearning to play.  There was absolutely no desire.  Truly, I just wanted to watch a movie, read a book, write or do anything else.  I kind of felt bad for Kyle, for all he wanted to do was play video games, and not just play, but play with me.  That’s his favorite way of spending time with us.  We did agree on a few exciting games of Trouble and the good old stable, Chess, but I retired the video games after a a few rounds.  Kyle is lucky to have his Aunt Nikki, for she is the only one who shares video game enthusiasm.

Yes, Nicole can sit there for hours and play video games, and she enjoys it!  Sometimes Kyle and Nicole play each other online.  Kyle does get a kick out the time spent online with his Aunt Nikki, and will literally plan evenings with my sister.  Granted, she is a busy person, so those evenings are far and few between, as least in Kyle’s eyes, but she does try to hang in the virtual world with our little man as much as possible.  In fact, this past Sunday night, Kyle was all excited to play my sister online.  He called her all weekend, nudging her along, making sure she downloaded said game, I believe it was Mine Craft, and re-confirmed his reservation to ensure there was no miscommunication.  Too funny!  While I was sick all weekend, he was planning for his big night online with his Aunt Nikki.

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This is what Kyle does while in the car… playing video games…. & he wonders why he gets headaches in the car? 2012

A couple of weekends ago, Kyle and I stopped in to Best Buy to purchase a camera for my company Thrill of the Hunt.  As I was speaking to the sales associate,  Kyle mentioned he was going to peruse headsets, whatever that meant.  He came back with this simple headset containing a movable microphone.  Being elated over his find, Kyle went off on how much he loved it and needed the piece of equipment, at least that’s what he told me.  Great! (I was happy for him, but not really that excited.)

Next thing I knew, Kyle pulled out his own chain wallet, courtesy of his pappy (my dad) and proceeded to get in line to pay for his purchase.  My little man is growing up too fast!  At the same time, he took my phone and proceeded to call my sister letting her know he was now in business.  I looked at the young sales associate assisting me and said, “Do you play video games?”  Without hesitating and giving me a confused look, he replied with confidence, “O yes!”  Great, I’m the minority.  Of course I was in Best Buy, the hub for computer geeks.  I should ask that question when I’m in Barnes and Noble and see what kind of answer I get.

What did he need the headset for?  Apparently, Kyle has graduated from simple playing video games on his laptop and iPod, to playing online with his friends.  On a side note, he is not permitted to play with anyone he doesn’t personally know that either goes to school with him or is a family friend.  Kyle doesn’t really understand my reasoning, but he respects my instructions, at least for now.

This past Friday, Kyle arranged to play Mind Craft with this friends.  What?  He scheduled a time to play video games online?  Yep!  I’m glad Kyle has an interest, and I’m very happy he has friends to share that passion, but I can honestly say, I don’t get it.  I would be happier if he was socializing with his friends at someone’s house and happen to be playing video games, but he’s enjoying life and I’m happy for him.  And the headset?  It’s to talk to his friends while they play.  I guess I should be happy for that line of communication too.

Kyle gets into reading as much as he does his video games.  That’s our shared interest, books, as well as snowboarding!  Maybe the gaming is just a minor difference in interest.  I wish he would get into running or hiking like I do, but I can’t have everything.  After all, he’s not me, he’s his own person.  And fine young man he is!

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

The Hobbit: It’s Always an Adventure with Kyle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Milestone – 7th Grade

Some may try and tell us that this is the end of an era.  But what they overlook is that in America, every day is a new beginning, and every sunset is merely the latest milestone on a voyage that never ends.  For this is the land that has never become, but is always in the act of becoming.  Emerson was right:  America is the land of tomorrow.  ~Ronald Reagan

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Kyle’s 1st Birthday. Great milestone with me & pappy! 2002

Watching Kyle grow up and being an integral part of his life has been a delight.  I mean that with all sincerity.  Some milestones have been easier to take over others.  Example, when Kyle graduated from diapers to the potty.  Score!  That was time to celebrate!  However, this most recent milestone is bittersweet, the seventh grade.

Kyle is in the junior high school!  He is twelve and he is a preteen.  Where has the time gone?  In conjunction with this milestone, we also hit another, independence.  Yes, for the last couple of years Kyle has been showing baby steps towards maturing and showing subtle hints of  independence, but this one threw me off guard.  Every year since Kyle was in kindergarten, actually I think preschool, I have watched him get on the bus.  So naturally I thought this year will be no different.  To be honest, I thought this might be the last year, of course I believe I’ve said that about the previous year too.  Regardless, I was planning on hanging out with him early in the morning and seeing him off to the seventh grade.

Boy was I wrong!  I asked Kyle what time the bus was picking him up and what time I should be there.  He just kind of gave me an awkward grunt, the kind you do when you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings yet you’re not backing down of your plan of action.  He said, “Umm that’s ok Aunt Heather, I’m good.”  What?  That’s what I say to someone when I don’t want to say ‘no’ yet say ‘no’!  It was just used on me?

Kyle-at-Planinsek-Pavilion-1-2003-Aunt-Heather-Piper

My little man, trying out his new walking technique at the Planinsek Pavilion. 2003

Well, that was early on this past weekend.  I thought, surely he would think this through and change his mind.  Naturally, not letting the topic go, I said, “You sure buddy you don’t want me to be there to watch you on your first day of school?”  Then, I went into a dissertation of how his Aunt Nikki, his Gigi and me all paid for him to go to preschool for two years.  And how I’ve been a driving force for him and his grades, as well as my family, for all these years.  I also stated that it’s been tradition for me to be there to see him off for his first day of school.  I even tried to assure him that I would stand a side and not be an embarrassment.  He probably didn’t believe that, even though I meant it to the best of my ability.

Nope, Kyle would not budge.  All he replied was, “Umm that’s ok, I’m good.”  Yep, Kyle made a decision and was sticking to it.   That I can respect.  How can I not, when he is showing that he is maturing and wants to be responsible for himsel?.  Ok, buddy I get it, kinda.

But again let’s be real, I’m his Aunt Heather and the understanding is in the details.  I went down the checklist, “Who’s getting you up?”  Himself.  “Who’s seeing you onto the bus?”  Himself.  “Who’s getting you breakfast?”  He said that he can get something at the school, which I advised him to grab a banana, apple or make himself at least cereal to ensure he has something in his tummy.  That is the last thing he needs, to be hungry all the way till lunch!  Everyone knows that wouldn’t fly with me!  Not a good way to start off the day, skipping out on fueling up the body.  Kyle, being Kyle, also had to work out the details as to not break any rules or get in trouble with the breakfast situation.  He commented, “Ya I guess I can eat on the bus to school, I don’t think the bus driver cares.  I can just toss my peel out the window.  Or I can eat some of pappy’s ribs!”  That gave me a chuckle!  Only Kyle worries about such small details.  Helping to put his mind at ease, I said “Just pitch your peel in a trash can in school.  If you choose to eat the ribs that will help you go till lunch, not a bad idea!”  He thought about that and was fine with my advice.  Then the ultimate question, “Who’s planning out your outfit?”  Himself!  Now that scares me more than anything.  As much as I pride myself on my ability to dress cute, stylish and couture, Kyle does not have that knack nor does he care.  Even dad, who is strictly a jeans, under shirt and plaid shirt type of guy, always has his top tucked in, belt on and never dresses sloppy.  Kyle on the other hand, has a different style to himself all together.  One I have yet to fathom!

Maybe that will be Kyle’s next milestone.  Seriously, I can’t wait for that one!

Regardless, Kyle has a full schedule already, going into advance math, taking a language, hope it’s French, and whatever else the day brings.  I’m sure Kyle will have a great first day of school, after all he is equipped with The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King book to keep him entertained throughout the downtime.  I hope to see many more milestones from Kyle!  He is a bright and caring young man with a future of possibilities.

Milestones have their place in life.  Even if they appear to be initially bad, there is always something good in them, a lesson or a pathway made for more milestones.  I guess I just need to be here to help him through any rocky paths and guide him in the right direction.  Love you buddy!  Enjoy seventh grade!

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

My Turn to Strike Out!

Temper is a funny thing; it spoils children, ruins adults, and strengthens steel.  ~Unknown

Kyle at Chad's Wedding 8-31-02 Aunt Heather Piper

Me & Kyle at Chad's wedding. I dressed him in a suit. 8/31/02

Well, usually when Kyle acts up and I have to get mad, he straightens up.  But then again, not always.  I will say, Kyle has not been feeling well, with the ear infections and his allergies kick’in out of control, but that’s no excuse for being difficult.  But when I am in the wrong, I will call it out and show that Kyle’s Whining, Stubborn, Difficult – Strike Out! is not the only one who can strike out.  Two weekends ago Kyle continued where he left off from that Wednesday.  Well, to be fair to him, not entirely, but it was I who was still simmering.  My fuse had already been partially burned.  Kyle was pretty good, he even walked to the local store with me on Friday night and he took a walk with me and the dogs on Saturday morning.  Now I’m not saying he started off walking with speed and gusto, but he did make the effort.  We went through the usual complaining about the socks, and then he complained about his boots, and he didn’t want to wear his hoodie, even though it was in the 40s -50s on Saturday.  This is all pretty standard, but when my fuse is already almost non-existent, it doesn’t take much.  I will say I did make a resounding observation during our journey.  Across the board, during our expeditions, especially the longer the walk, Kyle’s attitude straightens up.  Maybe it’s the endorphins or maybe the quality time, or just being around nature.  Whatever the reason is, I love it and it makes for a more enjoyable walk.

When we got back to the house, we made lunch for everyone including roasted vegetables.  Kyle volunteered to help, he was a peeling machine.  The rest of the day went pretty straight forward, we watched the Green Lantern, ran to the store to pick up a birthday gift for Kyle’s friend, he worked in his workbooks when I asked, and later in the evening Kyle went to the grocery story with dad to help him out. Kyle and I even had the opportunity to start the next Harry Potter book, The Half-Blood Prince book.  Now was Kyle the perfect child, no, but when asked by my mom to load and unload the dishwasher he ignored her and he didn’t practice his instruments.  However, in the scope of things, he really impressed me.

Now moving into Sunday and how I completely struck out.  Since mom was not feeling well, actually most of the weekend, Kyle and I went to early mass, followed by CCD class.  He was really good in church.  Before hand, we did have an issue with buttoning of one of the buttons, which by no means was even close to his neck.  Then there was the standard argument about wearing his hoodie, which he always drags along beside him as if he’s so completely tortured by the piece of clothing.  This time Kyle didn’t serve mass and he was very attentive and the most reverend child sitting in the pew.  He participated in the hymns and when I asked him what the reading was about, I was surprised by Kyle’s attentiveness to some of the details recited in the literary.  Impressed!

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Kyle's First Holy Communion. He was allowed to pick out his tie, but he had to wear a suit.

As lunchtime crepted upon us, I knew we had to leave around 1:00ish so I could drive Kyle to his friends birthday party, a good 45 minutes away.  Not that I mind, not at all, but when Kyle doesn’t appreciate and expect things, it sometimes wears on me.  He was getting ready to leave and the one thing that really bugs me is Kyle’s appearance.  It has drove me crazy for years now.  He always looks so sloppy and unkempt.  He can wear a variety of cloths and still not look so sloppy.  Not to mention, there are appropriate cloths needed for different occasions.  Now I was the one who was insisting on him wearing nice slacks.  Ok, I was going overboard since I already knew Kyle doesn’t like buttons and zippers on pants and this was a birthday party for boys who were planning on playing outside.  Well, he just had a complete melt down by my mention of the slacks.  I told him I would take him to the store to get new, “nice” pants and a matching shirt for his birthday party, but he just sobbed.  Later, I found out that he thought I was going to make him wear church cloths.  I mean the absolute horror of the thought. (sarcasm)

Once we got to the store I was still completely ticked.  In fact, I told him, you’re on your own, you find your own cloths.  He was excited and nervous by the gesture and now the time was flying past us and he didn’t want to miss any part of the party.  Not that I blame him, considering the boys were planing on having a Nerf war in the birthday boy’s backyard.  As I was acting like him, and walking extremely slowly I realized, ‘Now who is acting like a spoiled kid.’  Yes, I’m embarrassed to say I was acting like Kyle just to show him how it feels.  As he was trying to make small talk with me, I was just saying “Ya, No, I don’t know.” etc. just like Kyle does.  I was kind of being mean, certainly not one of my finer moments.  He was even being considerate and went to the sell rack, he said “Aunt Heather this way if I get dirt on them it really doesn’t matter.”  Now what a sweet kid, which you would think would melt my stone cold heart, but nope not yet.

Then as we drove to our final destination, I started going below the speed limit, which anyone who really knows me is aware of my led foot.  But then I realized Kyle might be late, and that bothered me more than making a point.  You see, I had being late even if it’s not for me.  I can’t stand tardiness, no matter what.  Then I noticed the excitement in Kyle’s eyes, knowing he has been waiting for this party for a few weeks now and it was a beautiful day.  Not to mention the patience Kyle was exemplifying.  Yikes!  How could I be so mean?  Well, I got him to the party just on the money and gave the house mom my cell phone number  just in case they needed to get a hold of me.  I left and found a local park, since I lived about an hour away and the party was only two and a half hours long, I decided to do laps, making the most out of the beautiful day.  When I picked up Kyle, I heard he was polite and well behaved, but he clearly didn’t want to leave, as he slowly worked his way to my car.

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Kyle watching Scooby as he found a bone c. 2012

Kyle was such a happy boy the rest of the day and I apparently was not.  We usually leave my parents house around 8:00 or so on Sunday evenings to go back to my house.  This particular Sunday I was working on SpyRing and Kyle came to me bugging me to leave, I said, “It’s only 6:00?” and then I went into a rant saying “O I have to leave when Kyle says so, everything is revolved around Kyle and when he wants to do things, without taking others into consideration” and so on and so forth.  What I didn’t realize Kyle just wanted to spend some time with me and he wanted me to sit and read with him.  Ok, totally my turn to strike out!  After I collected my thoughts and started thinking like a rational person, we left.  In the car I apologized for my behavior.  To lighten the mood and not make him feel so bad, I found a few fun songs on the radio, turned them up really loud, and sang along in the worse tone imaginable, while I threw up my hands around and poked Kyle in the side.  He just sat there and laughed, probably thinking, ‘There’s something wrong with my Aunt Heather.’

The minute we walked in the house, Kyle quickly grabbed the book and directed me to the chair to commence reading.  He sat along the side of the chair, partially leaning on me and reading along as he always does.  I’m glad he suggested the reading, it gave us much needed peace and time together.  When we read like that the TV is never turned on, we get completely engrossed in the story.  After all Reading Brings Generations Together.  That’s the joy of a family, after all is said and done, a little quality times makes everything perfect again and all is forgotten and forgiven.

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

Imagination, Completely Into It!

Logic will get you from A to B.  Imagination will take you everywhere.  ~Albert Einstein

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Until his ipod, you couldn't pry Kyle's Nitendo DS from his hands... (T-shirt courtesy of Aunt Nikki)

Kyle is definitely a logical person, very uniformed and structured in his thinking and habits.  He thinks things through, and in order to accept the way something is dictated or presented to him, he has to have a full understanding and it has to make logical sense.  If not, he has no trouble questioning, anyone!

Although, I am happy with this level of logic Kyle exemplifies.  I am also happy to have observed his inner creativity on a number of occasions from Listening to a Child’s Thoughts and Afraid of a Story.  Kyle does have a very vivid imagination!  This is so true for movies, books, video games and even walking back the hallway to his room.  Granted, I get it, Kyle is after all a kid, and majority of children have imaginations to some degree, but Kyle physically feels the story.  However, the opposite is true, when something doesn’t capture his attention.  He is not interested and doesn’t give it the time of day.  But, once Kyle’s mind is engrossed in the subject, he is mentally and physically committed.

While watching cartoons, movies and playing video games, Kyle brings the action to life through his verbal and animated gestures.  It seems the natural course of action goes like this:  Kyle sees the subject of interest, the visual enters through his eyes and ears, it makes its way around his brain, then exists through his mouth and arms.  Kyle will literally makes the gun and car sounds, his version of a running noise, or mimics the background music, especially if it emphasizes tension or suspense.

During his video game battles when things  start heating up, Kyle throws up his hands and begins rubbing his head, as if in a stressful motion, and his whole body tenses.  It’s rather funny!

When Kyle was probably around five or so, he would ride around in the shopping cart in the store, usually playing his Nintendo DS.  One time, just out of curiosity, mom and I pushed the cart containing Kyle, to the middle of the isle and we proceeded to hide at the other end, peeking at Kyle from around shelved merchandise.  This was my experiment, to see how long it would take Kyle to leave his game, come back to reality, and realize he was alone and not moving anymore.  Just as we started to execute the experiment, one guy in the isle watched us and wondered what the heck we were doing.  That is until he gave us a devilish grin and saw the kid in the cart intently playing his video game.  It took Kyle close to ten minutes before he realized he was along and we were gone, well actually hidden out of immediate sight.  Mom and I almost fell over laughing as we peeked around the isle to watch him.  He first just happened to look up, then to his surprise he was alone, no one was in the isle.  All we heard him say was, “Hello?” like he was answering a telephone!  No screaming, no immediate panic, kind of just curious.  It was too much, mom and I busted out laughing and came walking toward Kyle.  He sat there with the biggest grin ever!  He said, “I was wondering where you went?”  I said, “You didn’t even notice we were gone.”  He just smile, knowing the point I was making.

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Kyle's dinosaur drawing 9/18/11

This past weekend was really rainy, cold and dreary.  The ingredients for a perfect book weekend, well the perfect time to do some baking too.  Kyle was almost done with his Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix book, so we sat and read it together.  I really enjoy creating intensity while reading, through the rhythm of the words, the pace the sentences are read, and the proper use of enunciation and exclamation.  On Sunday night, we both squeezed in the chair in my living-room and picked up where we left off from earlier.  It was pretty intense.  Every time I turned the page, Kyle was rubbing his head, throwing up his hands in an excited motion, and letting out squeals.  He truly makes reading fun, and brings the excitement of the stories to life!  I hope Kyle keeps that intensity through life!

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

Singing Alleluia!

A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.  ~Maya Angelou

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Kyle sport'n Nicole's Turbie Twist 2001

Everyone knows I can’t sing, plain and simple.  I wish I could, but alas I was not blessed with the gift of music.  In fact, I think I’m slightly tone deaf, but regardless, I do love music and sometimes I just have to belt it out.  I am also a bit of an instigator, no big surprise there.  Sometimes I need to fulfill my need to sing and antagonize, what better way than through the repetition of rejoicing through song.  Then when you put the need to squeak out, off beat musical lyrics, with my natural ability to push someone’s buttons, you get a lot of irritation.

There are times when I am just inspired by great music and I want to sing.  I feel happy and joyous and I certain let it out to let the world know!  For example, when we leave church and they play my favorite songs, it truly makes my day!  I can’t help it, when you hear the organ kicking How Great Thou Art, America, or Amazing Grace, you just want to continue singing those songs all day long.  There are a number of other tunes I adore that are played in church, but alas they are escaping me at the moment.  Not only are they great songs that rejuvenate the soul, but they also take me back to my childhood.  I remember listening to the same songs, sitting in the pews of the same church, with my family and my classmates from Sacred Heart.  Then when we get home, just like I was a kid, I’m still singing the songs.  Sometimes very slight and subtle and sometimes you’d swear I was on stage performing for an entire arena.

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Kyle's play at daycare was a hit! c.2004

What really cracks me up is Kyle.  He does the exact same thing!  Out of no where I’ve hear him repeat a song or a line of a song and bellow it out like he was an opera singer.  Especially when we leave church, just like me.  He will continue singing the song or Kyle’s favorite, Alleluia.  Yep, that’s his old stand by for anything, especially if something goes his way or turns out right, like a Lego creation, you’ll hear Kyle sing, ALLELUIA!  ALLELUIA!  He even uses his hands as if he’s a conductor or lifts them in a fashion as if the light of God was shining down on him.  It’s hilarious!  I even join him in his jubilation.

Then there are times when it’s not a song, but a word or a phrase, usually heard in a movie or on a show.  I can’t help myself, I just have the urge to keep repeating it.  My sister will appreciate this one.  When we were in Los Angeles, on our way to our hotel room, I all of a sudden I started saying, “Hey you what’s your dream?  Hey mista, what’s your dream?, everyone’s got a dream.”  If you didn’t know it’s a line from Pretty Women, from a side character without a name.  Nicole knew instantly where I got that from.  She laughed at first and then said, “You better not do this the entire time we’re here.”  You know what?  I did!  I just felt like it.  The funny thing is, I do it when you least expect it.  Although, even Nicole has to laugh over that one.  As I think back on it now, my brother used to repeat that line too! But he was much funnier.

Sometimes there’s no reason for the outburst, just to do it.  One weekend a few months ago, Nicole was home and out of no where I walked around saying “Watcha self!” with complete gusto.  Where I got that phrase, I have no idea.  But I thought it was so funny.  So at random times throughout the entire weekend, you’d hear me project, “Watcha self!”  With small giggles to appease me, Nicole would say, “Yes Aunt Heather.”  Even Kyle thought it was funny, or he enjoyed me tormenting my sister.  Either way, he decided to join in, to get a rise out of Nicole no doubt.  She just laughed and I believe I saw her roll her eyes at us.

That following weekend, I was at the computer and Kyle was playing with his Lego’s behind me, then all of a sudden Kyle said, “Hey Aunt Heather, Watcha Self!”  That was a classic!  I instantly stopped and started laughing as I turned around.  Then to get him going, I belted it out, “Watcha Self!”  Then of course taking the most of the situation I said, “Hey let’s get Aunt Nikki on the phone.”  Kyle, with this devilish grin, nodded his head and instantly agreed.  I love my buddy, he is truly the coolest cat!!  Sometimes it little stupid moments that show we are related and cement our bond further. What’s your Alleluia?

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

Reading Brings Generations Together

Books are the treasured wealth of the world and the fit inheritance of the generations and nations.  ~Henry David Thoreau

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Me & Nicole ready for Easter mass, holding our new books c.1979

As Kyle continues on his journey through Harry Potter (Order of the Phoenix), he seems to also be interested in what I’m reading.  It’s no secret that my sister and I have read The Hunger Games, a couple of times, and we did anticipate the movie launch with much excitement.  Kyle was certainly interested in the books and asked me about them on a number of occasions.  Nicole and I have discussed letting him read the books.  I told him when he finishes his Harry Potter books, he can certainly start The Hunger Games.  Once, when we were talking about the movie coming out, Kyle said to me, “You know I’ll wait to see the movie first to see if I want to read those books.”  Yikes!  No that’s not the way it’s suppose to be.  I told him, “Kyle the books are ALWAYS better than the movies.  You miss so much if you just see the movie.  You get to use your imagination and escape when you are reading. I promise you, you will love these books, they are easy to read and will keep your attention.  Plus the fun part about getting so involved in a book is the excitement you share with other fans when movies are released based on books.”  First let’s step back to analyze this.  Nicole and I weren’t sure if Kyle was old enough to read the books, and just because of his reaction, my logic was turned completely around to the point where I was now pushing the books on him.  Ummm, he is a smart little man!

Regardless, it’s neat to see Kyle’s interest in what Nicole and I are interested in.  It’s no secret Kyle hears us talking about a new book coming out, a book being turned into a movie, or simply the stories themselves.  Nicole and I both still purchase the old fashioned words printed on paper.  Neither one of us are really interested in reading electronic books, at least not just yet. We still enjoy swapping books back and forth, which I think gets Kyle intrigued and influences him by our actions.

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Me on Easter morning, probably really early in the morning c.1979

Sometimes when Kyle is working on his homework, I’ll sneak in a few pages of whatever book I’m on, while waiting for him to finish up, to check his work.  A little while ago, I was reading The Millennium Series, better known as The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy.  Kyle came over to me and asked, “What are you reading?”  He inspected the cover of the book, which is the original, plain with a canvas type of cover, not the movie cover.  He flipped it over and there was a very yellow inside page with a map of Sweden on the inside.  He instantly said, “Wow, look at that! What’s the book about?” I tried to generally explain it’s a mystery thriller and one of the main characters is a hacker who is a genius and the other main character is an investigative journalist.  He was really intrigued by the plain book.  He gave me a look of ‘Do you think I would like it?’, until I read his thought and instantly jumped ahead of the question by saying, “This is an adult book.  It’s really very good, but a little too violent for you.”  That satisfied him and he omitted the thought from his mind.  At least for now.

You know, two weeks ago Kyle pulled out his Harry Potter book and was sitting there reading in the living-room.  The TV was blaring but it didn’t seem to bother Kyle, he was pretty engrossed in the words on the page.  Just then dad turned to Kyle and said, “Whatcha reading buddy?”  Kyle responded with a very brief, “Harry Potter.”  It seemed as though now at that moment, dad wanted to have a conversation with Kyle, which I knew was not going to happen.  He was too involved in the story, but that didn’t stop dad.  Sometimes my dad is so thick, he never pays attention, yet sometimes he is so intuitive that it’s almost shocking.  Anyway, this is one of those times when dad was just being thick and didn’t notice Kyle didn’t want to be disturbed.  Dad proceeded to ask, “Is it good?  Do you like those books?”  Kyle not even looking up from his book gave him a very short, “Ya”.

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Ryan Easter morning. He always had a sweet tooth! c.1979

Guessing those short comments didn’t satisfy dad, because he decided to talk about his old reading habits.  I knew my dad was a reader, but I had forgotten.  Ever since dad’s eyes needed the assistance of reading classes, he really doesn’t read much.  Regardless, dad went on to say, “Yep Kyle you don’t know it, but your old pappy used to read all the time.  There wasn’t a book in the library that didn’t have my name on it.”  Just then I saw Kyle break away from the imaginative world he was visiting, to listen.  Dad went on, “Yes and even Gigi was a reader.  We both liked to read.  I’m glad to see you like reading too.”  Kyle nodded and was now giving dad his attention, but with a ‘Really?’ look.

My parents love of reading seems like a thing of a faint memory, but I absolutely remember it.  My mom would read poems and short stories to us.  For some reason the only author that comes to mind was Edgar Allan Poe, specifically the poem Bells!  She would read it with such great rhythm and timing, you couldn’t help but get excited and get wrapped up in the ringing of the bells.  Another book that sticks out was North and South, and I remember her talking about some book on drug wars and discussing it with her friends.  That’s funny, but looking back on it now, I see things from Kyle’s perspective.  You know, growing up around such an interest in books does stays with you.  Believe it or not, I remember thinking, I would like to read that book on drug wars.  It seemed so interesting, that was before I knew about drugs or even where Columbia was located, but I knew I wanted to read what mom was talking about.  Now dad’s reading choice consisted of mainly history books, specifically wars.  I was never a big war buff, but I always liked hearing about history, still do.  I guess I was pretty lucky to have parents who indirectly influenced us.  I mean it was a given that every Easter we would have new books in our Easter baskets.  A tradition I have adopted for Kyle.

Kyle mentioned that some of his friends had already read through all the Harry Potter books.  I know he can’t wait till I read them.  Finishing the first one with Kyle when he went through his I HATE READING! phase and the follow up, Harry Potter Made Me Do It!  He told me that his friends are always asking him what part of the book he’s on.  I’m sure they discuss the books, just like I do with my friends.

It’s amusing, but it’s true, books create a different type of interest and communication that literally spans generations.  Well, sometimes Reading Brings Generations Together…Or Not?.  Whether its fiction or some other type of genre, there is always a reason to discuss or give an opinion, and there is always so much to learn.

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

Reading Brings Generations Together… Or Not?

Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor! Effie Trinket, p. 19

While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.  ~Unknown

There is nothing like getting excited about a good book and looking forward to retiring for the evening and curling up on the couch or in bed with the story that has consumed your thoughts.  What makes it better is when you can share that excitement with others of equal interest.  My sister and I tend to steer toward the same genres and book themes, for the most part.  Nicole doesn’t like my political or art history books, and she used to like her suspense, horror, which I never really cared about.  But we both love fiction.  Regardless, when we get into books, we REALLY get into them!  Nicole lent me a helping hand to join the Twilight bandwagon.  Sad to admit it, but I read each book three times.  Then to give my contribution, I brought Nicole into the Mortal Instrument world and the most recent craze, The Hunger Games.

Now bringing me to my point.  I’ve always said, reading closes the gap between generations and opens up communication.  Very true!  But what if confusion is caused because of a lack of information or interest?  Well then, it can be hilarious and make for a great story, or at the very least a ‘Comment’ on Facebook!  Well before today, the release of The Hunger Games movie, I will admit I did partake in the hype and countdown as with many other fans.  Nicole and I talked about it endlessly and Nicole even purchased her gear for the premiere last night.  Yes we both read the books twice already and I’m sure Ill read them again before the next movie, Catching Fire comes out in 2013.

The Hunger Games Facebook- Aunt Heather Piper

Ok I’m making this very funny short story, long.  I wish I would have recorded the date, but alas I didn’t think of it.  I could go back in Nicole’s Facebook timeline, but that would require a lot of unnecessary work, since it won’t effect the the story.

As I was reviewing my Facebook wall, naturally my sister’s posts are at the top of my feeds.   I almost died when I read this…. LOL.  Mom cracks me up!  She couldn’t understand what my sister was volunteering for?  What really brought tears to my eyes and made me fall out of my seat, is the lack of inquiring of what exactly is District 12?  In fact, at the time this unfolded, I was at work.  Without hesitation, I quickly called out the post to Kelly to read.  We were both completely laughing out of control.  Just then I was a bit quicker on the response to my mom, which I guess Kelly wanted to post that quote.  Thinking about it, she may have added another quote, but I must have been to quick with the screen shot to capture it.

When I finally got to talk to mom about this, she mentioned my sister had already called her to explain.  Yep, leave it to Nicole to make sure there is understanding and peace in the world, while I would rather just sit back and laugh.  Mom said she thought Nicole was volunteering for something but she couldn’t quite understand what?  I asked her, “What did you think District 12 was?” and she responded, “I thought it was a section of Washington, D.C.”  I said, “Mom what do you think Nicole and I have been talking about for months?”  Mom replied, “O I don’t get into all those vampires.”  Umm, strike out again mom!  I said, “The Hunger Games isn’t about vampires, it’s about kids killing kids.”  She gave me a confused look.  No wonder, putting it that way, she probably wonders what demented tastes we have in books.

Well, mom’s all straightened out, not that she was really concerned.  So please take a minute and enjoy the communication gap between generations and between interests in book genres.  I truly found humor in the entire conversation and post conversations.

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

Missing A Story Creates Your Own

Nothing is more expensive than a missed opportunity.  ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Recently Kyle has been getting bloody noses.  Please note, I’ve never had a bloody nose, nor have I had a broken nose.  In fact, my nose is my favorite feature.  Kyle and I have the same perfect noses. I like to take this opportunity to say that everyone can say millions of  things they’d like to change about themselves, but I think it’s important to recognize and name your good features too.

Aunt Heather Piper and Kyle Christmas 2003

Me & Kyle Christmas 2003

Anyway, back to the dreaded bloody nose.  This was the first bloody nose Kyle’s ever gotten.  At first I thought maybe he scratched the inside of his nose and there was a little bit of blood on the tissue (he does have a history of exaggerating and making a mountain out of a mole hill) until he told me they couldn’t get the bleeding to stop and he had to go to the nurse’s office.  I must say, I was alarmed when Kyle told me about his bloody nose situation in school.  I even twittered it and a few friends responded out saying to not worry, the air is dry and it happens.  My sister called me mentioning she had a bloody nose recently too and it’s nothing to get all excited over.  Actually, before we spoke on the phone we were bantering back and forth via twitter.  I guess that’s a new one for us.  I can only imagine those following us and what they thought of our comments back and forth through the twitter feeds.  Of course, no one dared to join in on the conversation, not that I blame them.  But to reinforce my point, I’ve never had a bloody nose, on the contrary to what my sister thinks.

Aunt Heather Piper at work 2011

Surprise! Me at work 2011

Kyle seemed really upset.  I told him not to worry, it was the dry air and that we would get him a humidifier, if needed, to get the moisture back in the air.  Then I was struck with awe because he was really upset over missing story time!  Can you believe that?  He was upset over missing his teacher read to the class.  He said, “Ya, I missed the entire story.  They made me go to the nurses office and sit there until the bleeding stopped.  I missed the entire story!  And I wanted to hear it.”  My has he come a long way, being upset over a book.  I was not happy he missed his story time and I certainly wasn’t happy he got a bloody nose, but I was very happy to hear he enjoys story hour.  I told him to get the name of the story and I will read it to him.  He responded by saying, “Ya, but it’s not like hearing it in school.”  I said, “No buddy I guess not, but at least you get to hear the story too.”  He shrugged his shoulders in a dismissive ‘man I missed the entire story’ gesture.

Since then Kyle has gotten several bloody noses, mostly at school.  Then I realized he could get one while he was with me!  I don’t think I could handle seeing blood pour from my Kyle’s nose!   But I guess I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.  Maybe Kyle’s bloody nose will create a story for me too.

To really understand why I am so happy Kyle loves story time, please see I HATE READING & Harry Potter Made Me Do It!

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

I HATE READING!

The things I want to know are in books; my best friend is the man who’ll get me a book I ain’t read.  ~Abraham Lincoln

Kyle and Aunt Heather Piper reading 11-18-03

Me & Kyle reading the dinosaur book. He was mimicking me with my own sunglasses. 11/18/03

There was a time when getting Kyle to realize the true adventure and the worlds of fun contained in books was like climbing Mount Fuji, it was a struggle.  Not to mention getting him to understand the importance of reading and the education that comes through books was an even bigger challenge.  I will admit I tried and I tried and I tried.

From the time Kyle was a tiny infant till about the age of five or six, he loved having someone read him stories.  My mom and I would read him poems, books, magazine articles, you name it.  We would sit on the rocking chair, cuddle and read.  He loved it!  He would get a book and bring it to one of us to read to him.  In fact, that’s how I found out that I can no longer read while riding in a car. I once tried to read Kyle his dinosaur book in the backseat and almost lost my weeks lunches, dinners, breakfasts and snacks.  I think you get my drift.  I remember when I was putting myself through college and I worked two jobs, one was the midnight shift at UPS.  By the time I would get to my parents house, it was around five in the morning and I was dead to the world.  The minute Kyle would wake up, he made a bee line to my bed.  Sometimes he would crawl in bed with me (with a little sleepy nudge from my hand to get him in bed).  He was usually dragging one of his music books with him.  He would flip through the book and pretend to read to me.  I wish I was more awake, but getting three hours of sleep a night sometimes would catch up with me.  Yep, the love for books and reading was instilled in him at a young age.

That is, until he was old enough to read.  Then Kyle decided he HATED reading.  Yep, he would say it day in and day out.  I must say those words really upset me.  Well, me being me, I decided to get creative to help develop a love for reading and the ability of getting lost in books.  When he had a book he had to bring home from the school library, I would pull it out and get really excited about his book selection, even when it was about bats, spiders, or the time he brought home a book on the most poisonous snakes.  Gross!  But regardless, I would try.  Sometimes I would just sit there reading a few pages until he asked me what I was doing.  Then I would just blurt out saying, “Wow, that’s incredible!” or “Holy smokes, I didn’t know it could do that!”  Yep, anything to get his attention.  Sometimes that would spark his interest enough to sit with me and at least entertain me.

Kyle with his Lego Book from Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle with his Lego book I got him. I tried to get him interested in any type of literature.

I even went as far as to make a deal with Kyle, when he was reading the Goosebumps stories, which did not contain pictures and were his first chapter books.  To Kyle those books were his Mount Fuji.  I told him I would take turns with him reading.  He would read a page and then I would read a page.  At the end of two pages I would act out the scene.  I noticed at this time Kyle was not really comprehending what he was reading.  He was just saying the words out loud, not really computing what was going on.  I thought me acting would help to bring the book to life.  We had a blast!  Once he was done with a page, he would stop, even in mid sentence and say, “Ok Aunt Heather now it’s your turn to read.”  Then I would read my page and sometimes I would forget and turn the page.  Kyle would stop me saying, “No Aunt Heather, go ahead and act it out.”  As he sat there in anticipation, I jumped around the living room and creeped up from behind the couch.  Kyle would really get into the book.  He would sit and squeal with every motion as if he was in the story.  Sometimes I couldn’t help but laugh at his reactions.  That method worked for a while.  But Kyle would not sit and read a book by himself.

Every Easter has always been a tradition for my mom to get us books, hence became my tradition with Kyle.  I tried the Warrior books and other books.  Nothing.  Finally I got him the Wimpy Kid books.  He begrudgingly would read them to me, and examine the illustrations.  He didn’t really get into those books until his daycare made a mandatory reading time for the kids.  They had to bring in a book of their choice and read for a half an hour every day.  Once they completed a book, they received a coupon for something free at McDonald’s.  I’m not a fast food fan, but if this was getting Kyle to read, I was all for it.  Not to mention it helped that other kids in his class had already read the books, and I found out, in their own way, were encouraging Kyle by getting him excited for the adventures.

Aunt Heather Piper and Kyle at Christmas 2003

Me & Kyle playing with one of his puzzles. Christmas 2003

Kyle has never had the most perfect grades when it came to reading and language.  Now if we were talking about math, science and even music that was a different ball of wax.  I really wanted to help him out.  Now I’ve used other ploys such as bribing him, threatening him, and even ignoring him.  I even developed SpyRing (www.SpyRing.com) to assist in reading and reading comprehension as well as all school subjects.  This helped Kyle in terms of practice for reading and getting into the spy theme.  He loved the challenge of the questions and the interaction with another person.  Great!  But since SpyRing was not a book, YET, I needed to try another method that was successful at least in terms of getting him excited about reading books.

At this point, I decided to go back to the basics.  I always wanted to read the Harry Potter books, but I never got around to them.  So I purchased the entire seven book set for Kyle’s tenth birthday.  When he opened up the gift I was shot a look of, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me’.  I told him the deal was that I would read them to him.  That was it.  Kyle loved the movies so I thought, what the heck, at least I’ll be able to hang with Kyle and finally read the books.  Kyle also knew that when I said I would read to him, he knew I would do it with total enthusiasm,  expression, complete emotion, excitement and all the pizazz I could muster.  Now that appealed to him and so the stories started to unfold and I loved every minute of it.

Never give up! Just as books expand and occupy the mind, explore your mind to gain access to the books.  When you’re doing what’s right, you are never wrong.  Happy Reading!

 

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