Playing As Kids – Building Forts & Making Gold

All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.  ~Pope Paul VI


Our cousins, Casey holding Marla, Joel in the back, Michael & Elizabeth. Stacy has yet to come. c. 1986

Trying to teach Kyle that you don’t need money or the latest and greatest video games to have fun, is surprisingly a really hard lesson to teach.  At least with my little stubborn man.  I can’t say it enough, he is a good kid, a truly good hearted person, but he only sees playing and having fun as an activity that has been dictated by his generation of video games.  He is not accustomed to good old fashion playing outside, unless I demonstrate and participate of course.

This past weekend, Kyle wanted to play a game with me.  Great!  I suggested a game of chess.  Denied!  I suggested a game of Battle Ship.  Denied!  I suggested a game of Trouble (love that mindless game.  We used it to reach Kyle how to count when he was wee little.)  Denied!  He wanted to play a few games with me on the Wii.  Ok, I’ll give him that since we haven’t busted out the Wii for a while.  His compromise was to play the hunting games and the Wii Sports Resort (Swordplay, Fruit Ninja, Wakeboarding).  I wanted to dance to Micheal Jackson, denied!   I gave in and we played, having a pretty good time.  But after so long, I didn’t have the patience to sit in front of the television and play games anymore.  I would rather get up and move around.  Not Kyle, he wanted to continue for hours upon hours.  Denied!

I pretty much have to force Kyle to undertake any activity before he realizes he’s actually having fun or enjoying himself.  Time and time again this has happened.  Perfect example would include his perceived dreaded hikes with the dogs, which he does enjoy while on the hike.  Even after we come back from having a nice time, he still won’t admit to it.  I guess it’s not cool.

As kids we made up some pretty crazy games and undertook some unusual activities to keep ourselves entertained.  One of the stories I’ve shared with Kyle was the fort building.

Let me step back to state, I grew up with my brother and sister and my cousins around.  So there was never a shortage of kids to play with.  For Kyle, not so much.  I know that has a lot to do with the way he plays and his interests, but I do try as best I can.

Anyway, when we were kids, we used to chop down trees, yes with a hatchet, smaller trees, probably about six inches in diameter and stack them on top of each other to form a fort.  Yes, a real fort with four sides, nestled back in the woods.  We would play in and around this fort all day.

Near this location were these large vines that hung over a small creek.  We would take turns swinging back and forth on the natural ropes like Tarzan and Jane.  It was so much fun.  We did all this with our dog Jill hanging around, without parental supervision, while everyone was getting along and getting dirty and exercise.


Cousins playing at Twin Lakes for Lisa’s birthday. L to R Nicole, Tim, Lisa, Ryan, Casey, me, Elizabeth & Mikey behind trying to claim a spot on the swings. c. 1986

Let’s be realistic, I don’t really have a desire to build another fort anymore.  However, if Kyle really wanted to, I would, but since manual labor is not at the top of his list, we never relived those good old days.

Instead, dad decided he wants to raise chickens.  Apparently, I’m going to construct a chicken coop, correction, Kyle and me are going to build a chicken coop soon.  I guess that’s close enough to a fort.  At least he’s doing something productive, in real life.  I Need To Build My House – Video Games.

As far as the whole experience including the vine swinging goes, I’ve actually taken Kyle in the woods and we have done just that!  He even enjoyed himself!  Although for me it seemed more fun as a kid, but for Kyle, who is still a youngster, it was a new experience.  There is something about swinging past trees that is so relaxing and fun.

Now onto the gold.   Another quick story of how we used our imagination and every day items to create our own pastimes.

One day Ryan was tinkering around in the garage, yes I believe we were still in elementary school. He was always in that garage.  Anyway, he came running out yelling, “I’ve found gold!  I’ve found gold!” as he darted down the driveway toward my cousin Casey and Joel’s house.  What on earth?

Ryan found a can of gold spray paint and took some rocks and spray painted them.  They did look like nuggets of gold.  Yes we added that to the items we played with as kids, simple rocks.  We even fought over the rights to the “gold nuggets” and made up war games with the “gold” as the booty.

Really it shouldn’t take much to have an imagination and to be entertained.  At least not with us as kids.  We found fun in everyday life, with every day things, even rocks!

Read other related blogs

Playing As Kids – Tire Rolling
Playing As Kids – Chasing Cars

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

Lessons From a Cell Phone

Technology can be our best friend, and technology can also be the biggest party pooper of our lives. It interrupts our own story, interrupts our ability to have a thought or a daydream, to imagine something wonderful, because we’re too busy bridging the walk from the cafeteria back to the office on the cell phone.  ~Steven Spielberg


Me as Iron Man in Toys R Us. Kyle snapped my picture on my phone. We sent it to Aunt Nikki! 1/11/2014

Kyle’s had a cell phone for a little over a year now.  It’s nothing fancy, no smartphone but it works to send and receive calls and text messages, perfect for a twelve-year old.

However, Kyle loves my iPhone!  He has for as long as I’ve had one, and he’s been itching to get his hands on one too.  Right before I got the iPhone 5, Kyle looked at me with wide eyes suggesting that I should give him my old one and I get the new one.  Great thinking kid, but NO!  At the time Kyle was eleven.  To be honest I thought about it, putting the extra cost aside, which was a big factor considering I knew how much data time Kyle would use; and putting aside the security I would need to put on the phone similar to his iPod to try and remove inappropriate content from reaching Kyle’s eyes and permanently taking up space in his mind; I was stopped at the idea of Kyle getting everything he wants and having too much.

Yes, the later really weighed in on me.  It’s not that I don’t want Kyle to have everything and every opportunity in the world, because I do and yet I don’t.  I want him to appreciate what he has and work toward better, like life should be.  It shouldn’t just be a hand out, especially for no reason.  That’s a huge lesson in itself that even adults have a hard time accepting.  I want Kyle to be better, to be a better person.

Aunt Heather Piper as Iron Man Kyle texting Aunt Nikki 1-11-2014

Kyle texting his Aunt Nikki 1/11/2014

At the time of my phone purchase, it wasn’t his birthday or a special occasion and Kyle hasn’t impressed me with all his volunteer work (meaning none, except being an alter boy at church) nor has he gone out of his way to be an exceptional child.  Not that he’s a bad kid, absolutely not!  He’s a great kid, but again I want him to learn these lessons now to be an even better adult.  Nope, all reasons for my decision not to give him his own iPhone.

Granted, I know other children, probably younger than Kyle have smartphones.  Great!  That’s none of my business nor do I care.  I’m sure the parents have their reasons, like I have mine and I’m happy for the child.  However, in my particular case, it was not going to happen, at least not yet.  Did Kyle did mention about his friends who have iPhones?   You bet that stinker did, and he tried to sell me on the idea that he already knows how to work one.  Yes, it’s true not the reasoning, as I tried to explain.  Honestly, that single comment about his friends brought a smile to my face, not because I’m a cynical person, which sometimes I am, but because it helped and continues to help me teach Kyle.

What are these lessons?  Simply humility, Kyle doesn’t have to have the best and flaunt it (not that he really does); patience, good things come to those who wait; appreciation, so he never takes what he has for granted, which he does like most kids, so I feel this is a much needed lesson; adaptability, learning to use what you have at ground level, if you can do that you can work with anything; minimalism, I didn’t want to clutter Kyle with too many electronics, even though it’s too late.  The list goes on and on.  I want to give Kyle an opportunity to live life and enjoy it for what it is, not through the eyes of electronics.  I don’t want him to be the person who is only focusing on his or her smartphone that they don’t pay attention to their children crying for their attention or the world around them and truly missing life, or the man who literally walked into a bear while texting.  (Yes it was caught on camera somewhere.  A bear was running a muck in a neighborhood and they needed to tranquilize it and the guy was so focused on texting he ran into it then quickly ran away.)


Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia’s Youth Group 1st meeting of the year. They participated in a Thrill of the Hunt Scavenger Hunt Meet & Greet. 9/2013

Please don’t mistake my opinions and dissertation for a hatred toward mobile devices, because it’s not.  I love my phone and I use it probably too often.  I also love being able to call or text Kyle and reach him whenever, except when it’s not charged or when he’s playing video games.  However, if he wants something he will call and call and call and text and text and text till he reaches me.

Then, there are those cases when the phone gets Kyle in trouble.  Yes, this one is really not Kyle’s fault.  This one comes straight from Kyle’s mold, his Aunt Nikki.  A few weeks ago, trusty old Aunt Nikki decided to call Kyle in the middle of the day, thinking he was home from school due to the snow.  Guess what?  He wasn’t, he was sitting in the middle of class when his phone rang.  I asked Kyle why he didn’t have it turned off and he confessed, “I thought I did, I must have sat on it and it turned on.”  I totally believe the kid because nothings worse to him than getting in serious trouble with authority figures, especially being sent to the principal’s office.  He did the dreaded walk down the hall into the unknown trouble, giving that kid the worst anxiety.  Kyle said, “We were just about done with class when the phone rang and I knew it was Aunt Nikki!”

Kyle's youth group meeting text Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle’s youth group meeting text message to me.. cracked me up! 2014

What did Aunt Nikki have to say?  She laughed and called me to tell me she got Kyle in trouble.  It’s true, I did giggle along with her, knowing how devastated Kyle was over the situation and knowing he doesn’t like to break rules and get in trouble, but it was all in good fun.  Nicole said the next time this happens, Kyle gets detention.  Boy that will just kill him!  Sorry bud, but that was funny!

Now for a positive note regarding Kyle’s cell phone.  Keep in mind most of my pictures and video of me and Kyle, as well as records of his daily life are streamed from my phone keeping friends and family updated on the package.  Good thing!  There are also so many, many more great reasons for Kyle to have a cell phone, especially in his particular case.  I won’t get into all that but I would like to share a funny story that had me cracking up!

About a month ago, Kyle had a youth group meeting at Sacred Heart School for the Sacred Heart / Saint Cecilia’s Youth Group.  They asked the parents and guardians to be there because they were discussing major events that involved all parties.  As they were throwing around ideas and discussing them, they were asking for volunteers to spearhead specific items.  I did volunteer to for a specific job.  After it was discussed and agreed upon, I heard my phone beep with a text message.  Knowing it could be anyone for Thrill of the Hunt, my clients or my family, I looked down to see one Mr. Kyle Piper’s name across the screen.  Sitting across the room from me was that little critter smiling while holding onto his phone.  The text read, “That means u.”

While the meeting was going on, I busted out laughing and looked right at Kyle.  He gave me an ornery look with this cute little mischievous grin.  I was smiling from ear to ear, now not paying attention to the meeting and getting sucked into his silliness.  Naturally, I began to text him back.  It was seriously so much fun and worth the distraction.  It was our own inside joke that humored both of us equally.  Love that little man!  Sometimes his communication skills scare me and sometimes he has the best personality and is so quick witted.

I guess with everything there is good and bad, all depending on the user and the intent.  Everything in moderation, taking away extremes helps to create a full and balanced life.  Like it or not, cells phones are here to stay.

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

Checkmate – Game of Chess

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

Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

Grandpap Chester's table Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

Grandpap Chester's Table 2 Aunt Heather Piper

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

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

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

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

Grandpap Chester table Aunt Heather Piper

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

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


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

Send Mikey a message…

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

SpyRing is Born – Education Unlocked!

The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.  ~Aristotle

Kyle-Piper-smile-SpyRing Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle sporting his SpyRing Gear c. 2011

Kyle, my nephew has always had good grades for the most part, specifically having a fascination and an attachment for math. When he was a little tike, around three years old, I bought him addition and subtraction flash cards. My thinking was, “What’s the harm? So he might learn something”. He did! Kyle loved those flash cards and he loved to learn.  He wanted to push his knowledge and show it off. Subtraction was a little more challenging but he certainly enjoyed the attention he was receiving from me and the idea of learning. What a little a sponge! I know I’m probably being bias, but Kyle was always pretty bright. He’s a logical thinker, which I still see to this day.

When Kyle was in second grade, his report card grades dropped across the board one quarter. I knew he was smarter than that, and I was not going to stand back and let this situation become his new standard, nor was I going to idly stand-by while his future education was being compromised.  Really?  Did anyone think I was going to accept his grades as they stood?  Did Kyle really think he could fool me when he said he was “Trying his hardest?”  Nope, nope and heck no!  I knew better and I believed in Kyle! Unfortunately, being Kyle’s aunt I don’t have complete privilege to his teachers or daily homework, only once a week and on the weekends.  Roadblock!

To be honest, I was utterly sick over the situation. It was that bad! Not to mention I had no idea why. There had to be a reason for such a sudden change. I asked Kyle if things were good in school, or if there was bullying going on, or anything. He really had no idea what I was talking about.  He felt bad that I was really upset over his grades but he was also basically saying “O well, I tried my hardest.”  That is until I grounded him.  Boy did he change his tone.  It’s amazing what taking away video games and TV time will do to an attitude.  I never did find the reason for the sudden downward spike in grades, but we did get past it.

Aunt Heather Piper SpyRing Trade Show CA

Me at the CA Baby & Kids Expo, LA CA 1/21/12

Granted I know the days of Kyle learning for fun were over, or wore they?  Now me being me, I decided to take this upon myself and help this child out. I’ve always purchased workbooks for Kyle and helped him uncover the knowledge in the pages.  He used to love them, but the times-were-a-changing, he was giving me resistance with workbooks and flash cards. Yikes! It started to build up fights between us, unnecessary ones.  The last thing I wanted was for Kyle to really hate school and learning.  I also didn’t want there to be constant struggles with our time together, which was a huge concern of my mom’s.  Mom was the one who kept saying, “You need to make it more fun for him.”

Since Kyle is a logical thinker, usually explaining things to him helps to turn on his light bulb.  Not this time.  I explained why I was requiring him to do the extra work.  I even threatened him saying the school was going to hold him back if his grades didn’t improve by the next quarter. And to be honest, if his grades kept up in that direction, it could have happened, especially since he was the youngest in his grade.  For the school, that would have been a logical step.  Nope!  Not on my watch. He was bright and he certainly could do the work without much effort.  I will admit Kyle was lazy when it comes to school work, only doing what is needed and going through it half way. I’m guessing he’s not alone in that manner, but I’m not responsible for other children, or so I thought initially.

SpyRing-CA-Baby-&-Kids-Expo-1-21-12 Aunt Heather Piper

Nicole at the CA Baby & Kids Expo LA, CA 1/21/12

During this time, we went to visit my sister, who lives in the D.C. Metro area. Like every visit, we always do something new in Washington, D.C. This time we decided to go into the Spy Museum. Wow, that was cool! I really enjoyed reading about the spies and seeing the spy “tools” or what I like to call them, spy toys. My sister, dad and my mom walked through, reading and taking in the knowledge displayed everywhere, while Kyle and I acted like spies ourselves. The museum had an air-duct type of display, allowing visitors to climb in and spy on the people below.  We had a field day!  When possible, I would read the information displayed on the walls.  Sometimes Kyle would stand still long enough for me to read to him and explain the story at hand.  I must say Kyle made the museum more exciting.

Well, needless to say that visit sparked an idea, unbeknownst to me at the time, that would turn into something a lot bigger.  From that moment on, the wheels were in motion for the birth of SpyRing.

SpyRing was originally created as a scavenger hunt for Kyle.  I designed it to reinforce school subjects in a fun and interactive way.  Kyle and I would take Scooby up in the woods, (Seven was not apart of the family yet) and we packed our book bags with the spy essentials and headed out on our missions.  We would make our way through the woods and track our progress by creating a map of our travels.  Along the way, I made up questions that led to other questions.  Kyle answered the trivia and occasionally he would pull out his binoculars or something he brought along to really play out the spy story.  We both had a blast!  The scavenger hunt not only reinforced what was being taught in school, but it also got Kyle off his backside to stretch his legs.  This relatively simple action with a little effort, not only helped  to create the SpyRing scavenger hunt, but it helped to build our bond.  I was no more, ‘Mean Aunt Heather making me do all this extra work’.  I was ‘Fun Aunt Heather who loved hanging out and learning was something fun’.

Ethan-Kyle-Piper-enjoy-SpyRing Aunt Heather Piper

Ethan & Kyle playing with the SpyRing cards 2011

It wasn’t until my cousin Casey and I took Kyle snowboarding that the idea to take SpyRing to the marketplace really became a serious thought.  I remember distinctly Casey saying, “Why don’t you sell the game?” At that point it was a custom scavenger hunt made specifically for Kyle. I knew I needed to develop it into a game for all kids no matter where they lived. My goal was to allow other kids to reap in the benefits of learning in a fun and interactive way.  During this time, it was interesting to run into other parents and listen to them discuss their child’s struggles and challenges in school.  This is when I knew I could help.

Suddenly it hit me like a ton bricks! I woke up one morning and I knew how to make the game assessable for all children with a reasonably low cost investment. God must have been working overtime to plant these ideas in my head.  Knowing initially it was going to be a card game, I went to work on actually developing the structure, build the contents and establish the design.  Kyle worked with me on the development of the game, even helping to create some of the questions.  Throughout the process I tested Kyle’s skills on ALL the information.  Pretty amazing, I set out to help Kyle with his schoolwork and we were doing just that, intensified.  I must say it was a fun process.  Kyle was apart of something bigger.  He knew it and he loved it every step of the way.  This is when Kyle’s business side of the brain was revealed.

By the next report card, Kyle’s grades had jumped.  Some grades where back to where they began and others were slowing moving up.  Kyle was proud of himself and now understood what needed to be done and how to do it.  Or least what I expected from him.  I believe without setting expectations, children will not know what to strive for and the right direction they need to move towards.  You see I believe parents are like coaches.  They know how to push their players to get them to strive for excellence.  That is their job as coach, to never settle for average or ‘just ok’.  They need to know the limitations of their players, but also know how to overcome them.  However, coaches also know how to work with their players and set them up for success.  It certainly takes effort from both parties to make this happen but when the game has been won, everyone benefits.  Children should be respected and shown they are important and smart.  They should also be given the opportunity to learn, excel and shine in this world.

SpyRing logo w BP Aunt Heather Piper

Sometime during the developmental stage of SpyRing, I was discussing the game with my sister.  She instantly loved the idea and believed in the goal, to help reinforce education for children. She went to work and started The Piper Corporation with the flagship product being SpyRing. As of now SpyRing is an interactive card game of questions and answers, however we are now developing the SpyRing scavenger hunt, as it was originally created.  Thrill of the Hunt, another division of The Piper Corporation will be hosting a SpyRing scavenger hunt called Your Passport to Education this Saturday at Legion Keener Park in Latrobe, PA.  A percentage of the proceeds will be donated to help rebuild Playland!  Stop by!

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

Round Up the Math at Idlewild Park

For the things of this world cannot be made known without a knowledge of mathematics.  ~Roger Bacon


Kyle at the Potato Patch, getting our fries. Idlewild Park 8/15/2012

Last Wednesday, I took Kyle to Idlewild Park in Ligonier, Pennsylvania.  Every year I try to take off of work and spend the entire day with Kyle, just having fun, usually around his birthday.  Since we haven’t been to Idlewild in a couple of years I thought it might be a nice change.  I picked him up Tuesday night after work and we headed to mom and dad’s house, since it was closer to leave from there.  Not to mention I already planned on taking the dogs for a walk in the morning before heading out, reaping in the benefits of me being off work too.  Plus I new we weren’t going to have Kyle on Friday and Saturday so I thought of making up some lost time with the family in advance.

Quick side story.  Naturally that night, I was among a full bed and it was a restless night.  At one point me, Kyle and Seven all moved ninety degrees to the side of the bed, while running parallel to each other.  In unison!  I only noticed this when my feet were hanging off of the side of the mattress and when I went to push myself up, to what I thought was the head of the bed, my head fell over the side.  What the heck?  I shimmied out of this confusion to what I still thought was the foot of the bed.  I didn’t realize I was on standing on the other side of our sleeping quarters.  Standing there in pitch black, in the middle of the night, not understanding my position I was sincerely baffled.  I couldn’t find my phone, unbeknownst to me was on the other side of this obstacle.  Being slightly out of it, due to a sudden awakening from dangling off of a ledge, I actually had a bit of a panic attack.  I couldn’t figure out where I was in the room!  Living in that house pretty much my entire life, you would thought I could at least find the light switch.  Nope!  It was as if I was still in a dream or I was in the Twilight Zone.  I’m telling you what a weird experience!  I literally started to walk blindly, with my hands out trying to understand the layout of the room and where the furniture was located.  My initial thought was to yell and wake my mom up.  But what was I going to yell?.  ‘Mom I can’t get out of the room’?  Seriously?  Could you imagine mom, laying there sleeping and all of a sudden hear me yelling to come and open the door because I can’t find my way out?  Actually that would have been hilarious from mom’s point-of-view.  Eventually, I found the closet light, after what seemed to be an eternity, and I turned it on to get my bearings straight.  Just then, I felt like the room was spinning because I was so disoriented.  Would you believe that Seven and Kyle both laid there sleeping the entire adventure?  After I had the situation figured out, I went on another impossible mission.  Trying to move those two to get things straightened out was a workout.  Meanwhile, neither one moved or woke up.  Kyle did manage to mumble something like, “What Aunt Heather?”  Although he didn’t remember it.

Anyway, as I digress back to Idlewild and the math lesson.  Usually Kyle is an early riser like the rest of us.  I’m guessing due to the up-and-down all night long, sleeping beauty  was tired and rose from his chambers a little after 8:00 am.  Me being up around 5:00 am, I worked on the computer and watched GMA (Good Morning America- always was one of my favorite shows, even as a kid) until Kyle came back to the land of the living.  Once I got him some breakfast, I decided to continue with my plans of taking the dogs for a quick hike.  I told Kyle, “It’s a treat for them that I am home in the middle of the week and we have time to take them for a walk.”  Kyle started to complain, but his usual throwing a temper tantrum was not as potent.  My guess is that, he knew I would have no qualms about not taking him to Idlewild, if he was misbehaving.  So we got dressed, some a little slower than others, and headed out.


Kyle on the Merry-Go-Round. Idlewild Park 8/15/12

After the dogs stretched their legs, and Kyle walked as slow as humanly possible, we came back to the house to shower and get dressed.  It was at this point Kyle was now alive with energy and excitement.  No arguments about taking a shower and he was like lightening.  That’s also the fastest I think I’ve ever seen him get dressed, putting aside the fact that I had him pick his cloths out the night before.

Once we darted out of the house, we ran to Giant Eagle to get our tickets.  They are sold there at a discount and I was all about getting through the gates as fast as possble.  Next stop, Idlewild Park!

The gate opens at 10:30 am and rides don’t start until 11:30 am.  In my opinion, that’s too late in the day. I wish parks would open so much earlier.  Riding the rides in the cool morning air, as compared to the stale heat of the day, would be so much better. But that’s the way it goes.  We got there around noon and we were both HUNGRY!  Sincerely, stomach growling, on the verge of a headache, HUNGRY.  Way back when the decision was made to take Kyle to Idlewild, I had a craving for Potato Patch Fries.  Yep, the hand cut potato slices that are loaded up in a paper boat dripping in cheese.  Kyle and I shared an order with chicken fingers.  In fact, all day long we shared all of our food, never getting two orders or something.  We would get an order share it and move along till we wanted something else.  It was a good thing.  My stomach isn’t used to all that fried heavy food and I’m sure Kyle’s isn’t either.

Once our belly’s were full, our feet hit the gravel and proceeded toward the rides. We rode the Paratroopers, Merry Mixer, Tilt-A-Whirl, Howler, Roller Coaster, Ferris Wheel, Merry-Go-Round, Bumper Cars and THE Round Up.  Since it really wasn’t that crowded, we were able to ride some the rides back-to-back.  Kyle is just like me, we both brave everything, but naturally we have our favorites.  As we stood in line for the Paratroopers, Kyle spotted the Round Up.  He looked at that ride with amazement and asked, “Have I ever rode that before?”  with my quick reply of “Yep”.   He didn’t remember that, as he looked a little reluctant about the spinning giant in the near distance.  Not long after he watched the ride, while standing in another line, he chose to get on the Round Up.  This is a spinning ride that you stand with your back to the outside of the circle.  It lifts you up on its side all while spinning before setting you back.  Your feet stay on the platform and the centripetal force holds you in place.  After we got off, he was ranting and raving about the ride and how cool it was and how he wanted to ride it again.  I said, “We can but I want to hit up every other ride too, at least once.”  With a little bit of a pout, he agreed.

As we made our way through the park, we would stop and get more junk food including corn dogs and funnel cake.  We even drank Fruit Punch, which neither one of us do, usually we both only drink water, never soda.  Eventually we made our way back the the Round Up.  As we walked up the ramp, Kyle said, “Let’s ride this ride until we throw up!”  We were both laughing at that comment, that is until we rode it a second time, in the a row.  Since there was no line, so we were able to board the ride again.  Yep, that second time both did us in.  Kyle turned to me and said, “Ahh Aunt Heather, let’s just sit a little, my stomach is a little upset.”  I couldn’t deny that mine was any different.  We walked around and soon we were ready for action again.

I’ve said it over and over again, Kyle is a businessman.  He totally cracks me up.  First I do want to say, that with every ride and I mean EVERY ride, Kyle immediately counted the number of passengers allowed on a ride and then he instantly counted the crowd in front of us.  Next, he always gave me the estimated number of turns before it was ours.  Now this didn’t happen too often since the lines weren’t long and sometimes not at all, but when there was a line, he was on it!  Then, the next thing out of Kyle’s mouth was his estimated thoughts on how much it costs to run the ride.  He pointed out that specific rides cost more to run.  “This ride wouldn’t be as much to run Aunt Heather because you don”t need seat belts and it holds more people.”  He went off with these types of comments without being prompted.  They were totally free flowing from his own thinking. Too much!

Potato-Patch-Idlewild-Aunt-Heather-PiperAt one point when we were in line for the roller coaster, Kyle turned to me and said, “All the wood used for the roller coaster was cut on Idlewild property.”  I said, “Where did you come up with that?”  He said, “No it did!” with my know-it-all response of “Kyle I doubt they cut down the trees, haul them out to be debarked, cut into 2 x 4 pieces, kiln dried them and then treated to withstand the weather.”  Just then Kyle pointed to a sign in front of us with this fun fact on it.  As my eyes followed his finger to the words as I read the information semi out loud.  Kyle turned his head toward me and gave me such as a smarty pants, crappy grin, like ‘I’m right’.  What a stinker!  Every time I was wrong throughout the day, he gave me that same grin and then started to give me a number, which I found out represented how many times he was right.  I will admit, it was funny at first, but then got old and I stated, “Do you see me counting every time I’m right?  No! So cut the crap.”  Kyle was pretty good with that nearly threatening statement and dropped it.

Throughout the park, there were fun fact signs, which Kyle would take notice and read.  I forget how much he is like a sponge.  He even took notice to all the banners advertising Idlewild was voted the number one kid friendly park.  He even saw a sign on the 125th anniversary, in 2002.  He said, “Wow, this place is old!”

As we rounded out the day, I will admit the lack of sleep was getting to me and I was tired.  We went through a few more rides in rapid fire, leaving Kyle’s coveted Round Up for last.  Once the ride started to spin, a girl began to cry and the ride attended yelled in asking if she wanted him to stop.  He did, to let the frightened youngster off, and not only did that girl get off, but also another girl exited stage left.  Kyle commented that he was not afraid and he just LOVED this ride.  Then he did it again.  He said, “There are 37 brave people riding this ride.  Hey Aunt Heather 37 BRAVE people!”  That was too funny!  He stressed the word BRAVE and gave a number to those bearing the title of BRAVE.  Only Kyle, thinks to count the number of people riding a ride.  Almost as if he was bothered not knowing what the difference was, when both girls exited.

When we stopped in to see my parents before heading out, Kyle was sure to tell them about the ’37 BRAVE people’ who rode the Round Up.  All my dad said, “Was that right?”  I had to explain to my mom that Kyle counted the people on every ride.  We were both cracking up!

I wonder if every child counts everything like Kyle?  I just love to hear his thoughts and insights on the most obscure things.  I’m very blessed with such a little thinker and I love it that he shares his thoughts with me.  Kyle is a lot of fun!

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

A child can bring common sense to reality.

If you really listen and see the world through a child’s eyes, you’re at least smart enough to realize they have a lot to teach us… like common sense. ~ Heather Piper

Let me first set the stage…  About a week or so ago I dropped my iPhone.  Well, I guess I didn’t just drop it, I dropped it twice in a row within a matter of seconds directly on the blacktop.  Now I must say, the first time it fell, the front of the case snapped off and the phone was fine.  But the second time it fell, both sides of the case flew off and the phone ended up face down on the blacktop of the parking lot at work. Yes, it was around 7ish am and I was really tired that morning.  The phone had a nick taken out of the bottom left corner and a hairline fracture across the lower half of the face.  Really not bad for such a fall or really two back-to-back falls.  This has been known as The Fallen (I’m a fan of Lauren Kate’s Fallen Series)

Kyle Piper, Nicole Piper and Aunt Heather Piper at Gutchess' computer

Me, Kyle & Nicole in mom's office at Gutchess Hardwoods. Notice Kyle's hand on the mouse.

Let me take you back about a month.  I noticed there was a chip out of my phone case, exactly at the corner where it snaps to hold the case on.  I’m not sure how this happened but I should have known it was certainly a prelude to trouble ahead.  But me being me, I just ignored it and figured, if its still working then leave well enough alone.

Well, occasionally Kyle likes to download games (only free ones) to my phone and play while he’s in the car.  I don’t mind him playing on my phone for a number of different reasons. One: he’s better at operating the phone than I am, two: he has always shown respect and responsibility for the phone and his DS etc. and three: I believe in introducing children to everything and teaching them from the start.  I’ve even had Kyle on my lap and let him steer the car up the driveway.  And when Kyle was just able to speak, I showed him how to make calls on my old flip phone.  I showed him where my parent’s and my sister’s phone numbers were and how to dial 911, just in case of an emergency.  Now I’ve never just handed the phone over to him and expected him to understand how to work it, although now-a-days I bet he could figure it out.

Kyle Piper building blocks

Kyle loved to build! But he was always attentive to things going on around him. He was even watch George W. Bush on TV.

Well, since “The Fallen” I didn’t want extra wear and tear on the phone, just in case it would damage the electronics under the glass.  So when I picked Kyle up for swimming, he reached for my phone.  I showed him the crack and told him I didn’t want him playing on the phone until I got it fixed.

He asked me how it happened, in an almost authoritative manner.  Then I felt like I had to explain myself like I was in trouble.  When I started telling him the story, he laughed so hard.  Apparently he thought it was funny or it was my explanation that brought on the humor.  I said, “Kyle, I was getting my things out of the car for work and the phone was like a slippery fish. I couldn’t get a hold of it and it dropped the first time.”  He said, “You mean you dropped it more than once?”  Yikes!  What was I going to say?  I couldn’t lie about it, so I told him how I dropped it twice – in a row.  I said, “And then right after I picked up the phone and made sure it was ok, I swear it sprouted wings and flew out of my hands and ended up face down on the blacktop.”  He laughed saying, “Slippery fish, ya Aunt Heather your phone was like a fish you had to pull out of the water!” and then he said, “It grew wings and flew out of your hands, ya Aunt Heather I could see it just flying around you and taking a dive for the ground.”  He was saying this all while he was demonstrating with his hands and making swooshing and zroomering noises.  He found such humor in the story and started to make me laugh.

Kyle Aunt Nikki Piper

Kyle with his Aunt Nikki figuring out how to use the camera. He was always wondering how things were built.

After swimming, I either get him his dinner or I make it and we hang at my house.  While we were at the house discussing the news, he took my phone and was examining the crack.  He turned to me and said, “Aunt Heather you should back up everything on the phone so you don’t lose it.”  I was flabbergasted!  First of all, for him to think of that and secondly, that I did not.  He said so sincerely, “Ya Aunt Heather you can use my DS since it has the card and you can save everything on there and download it to the computer.”  I thanked him profusely for the idea, and I meant it!  I also thanked him for the offer of using his DS.

You know, these are the stories when I realize how smart and grown-up Kyle really is – that and how much he REALLY knows me!  He is always thinking ahead, planning and preparing.

Kyle Piper studying art history with his Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle reviewing my art history books

So later on that week, I made my voyage to the Apple store in Shadyside.  One of the first things my Genius asked me, “Did you back everything up?”  I smiled from ear to ear, and said, “My nephew suggested that I back everything up, so I did this morning.”  He said, “Wow, smart kid!”  You know what? He most certainly is!  Maybe there’s a direct correlation between Kyle and my Apple “Genius”.

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Observation & Imagination and have Comments (2)

Under estimating what a child knows

Ya, Aunt Nikki and I’m the package! ~ Kyle Piper

Kyle Piper starting to drive Aunt Heather Piper

Kyle would get his Kung Fu grip on the steering wheel and not let go. Ryan and my dad built this truck from a frame - '78 GMC.

You know, throughout Kyle’s life, my family, including myself, was pretty clever with using code names when having adult conversations around Kyle.  You know, sometimes you just don’t want a child asking questions about a conversation that doesn’t pertain to them or you don’t want them worrying about something they don’t need to.

The Greensburg police pulled me over this past week for not having my car registered.  Now please note, I really was not aware that the car didn’t have registration, that is until the nice officer brought it to my attention.  I’m not being sarcastic; he was a very understanding and nice guy who was just doing his job.   So yes, I sat in my car along the side of the road in town with the police car all lit up behind me, while the officer proceeded to run my license and plates through his system.  “Unfortunately, this was not my first rodeo”, at least that’s what I said to the cop when he asked me if I’ve ever gotten a ticket.  This kind of took me off guard because we all know that once he ran my license in his system, it showed at least three or four pages of traffic violations on me.  Now I’m no hardened criminal, but I’ve gone through phases where I’ve been ticketed for speeding, failure to stop at a stop sign, speeding, driving without my headlights on, speeding, not using turn signals, and did I mention speeding?  Yep, I’ve paid more in tickets than what my car was probably worth.  Now, believe it or not, most of those tickets were pre-Kyle.  Once that little man was born, I tend to be more attentive and cautious.  Now I can’t say that when he’s not with me, but I must say maturity has started to take over and I’ve cut my violations down considerably.

Ryan Piper and his 67 Chevelle Aunt Heather Piper

Ryan Piper and his '67 Chevelle. Speed is in the family...

Well back to me sitting in my car along the side of the road with the Fourth of July lights behind me.  Now don’t get me wrong, things like this don’t really bother me and I’m certainly not losing sleep over it.  But out of all the times I was pulled over and sat in that very position the one incidence that came to my mind was the only time I got a ticket with Kyle in the car.

Kyle Piper with his cousin Jeremy

Kyle with his cousin Jeremy Piper and his Mustang

I was actually with my mom, who normally calls out if I’m approaching an illegal speed limit.  We were just coming into Latrobe at dusk and Kyle was probably around five or so, still in a car seat, then the lights and the siren were in full swing as we entered the city.  As it turns out, that stretch of road went from 55 to 45 and all the way down to 35 miles per hour.  I can honestly can say I was not paying attention.  Mom and I were just gabbing on our way home.  Well, the last thing I wanted was Kyle telling everyone that I was pulled over, especially with him in the car.  The incident was pretty seamless and we never mentioned it in front of him, hoping he’d forget about it.  You have to understand that that was about the same time Kyle told my mom that I drive like a racecar driver, which I don’t, at least not with him in the car! But in Kyle’s mind, it must have appeared as so.

I wanted to break the news to my sister before she overheard it from my mom, I didn’t feel like having her lecture me about our precious cargo, like I’m not aware, and at the very least I wanted to diffuse an argument before beginning one.

Kyle Piper at Idlewild Park- the cars

The next generation of Piper drivers. Idlewild Park Gutchess Picnic 2004

Completely forgetting about the ticket until one night when Nicole came home, I remembered I wanted to tell her before I forgot again.  We, and I mean Nicole, myself, and Kyle were all piled in Kyle’s queen size bed in his room ready for some ZZZs.  I started to tell her that the “fuzz” pulled me over and I had the package in the car.  Just then, Kyle, who was wedged between us, turned to my sister and said, “Ya, Aunt Nikki, and I’m the package.”  I was in a mix of total shock that he was so much smarter than us, and pure gut stretching laughter from the sheer honesty of the comment.  Nicole and I both laughed so hard.  From that moment, we would sometimes refer to Kyle as “The Package”.  It was at that moment I realized he was onto us and the code words had been uncovered!

I guess that was a turning point when I realized Kyle was growing up.  Ahh another mildstone… isn’t it funny what comes to mind in certain situations?

posted by auntheather in Common Sense,Education & Learning,Family,Milestone,Observation & Imagination,Patience,Reminiscing and have Comments (4)
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